Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Roberto Alomar and the Sexual Abuse of Athletes

Many of you have probably already seen the article covering the claim that Roberto Alomar had AIDS. I first learned about it from Deadspin's coverage. But a less salacious, more depressing detail was also tucked into the lawsuit. Roberto's ex-girlfriend said that Roberto had once been raped by two men when he was a minor playing ball in the Southwestern United States.

In addition, TheBigLead and WithLeather have linked to stories over the years where various coaches/teachers have sexually abused their players. Just today, Matt of WL ran a headline that yawned at how ubiquitous these stories have become. A high school coach seducing a student is nowhere near as scandalous as it once was--it's sadly become commonplace.

I really didn't want to write about this issue. But what spurred me to talk about this is an acquaintance who played sports at the college level who mentioned in passing that a coach was physically abusive to some of the players. It's amazing what schools will let coaches and other authority figures get away with. The problem is that athletes are so vulnerable to abuse in their pursuit of an athletic career. Take just 3 examples, which I tried to write as PG-ish as possible while still making my point. Who does an athlete turn to if they are taken advantage of in these situations?

Scenario 1: A teen hockey player is approached by a fan after a road game. "Kid, great job in that game! Come up and see me in room 325 tonight, I got beer for you and a couple of your friends. We'll celebrate! Did I mention my cousin helps scout for the Maple Leafs?".

Scenario 2: A college volleyball player is struggling to transition to the college game and doesn't seem to be ready to compete at the Division I level. She needs the scholarship, else she can't pay for school. Her coach has been threatening her with taking away her scholarship.

Scenario 3: A high school basketball player from Indiana accompanies his team to one of the highly regarded big time tournaments in Vegas. He's excited because he met a girl on-line from Vegas, and she's promised that they can meet in person. She told him where she lives, and says to sneak out after curfew and see her after tonight's game. Problem is, he can't find her name on Google, and now that he's at the house, it looks abandoned...

An abused athlete unfortunately has two additional problems in reporting what happened. If it's a guy, he faces embarrassment either way, whether it was a man or woman who abused him. Also, many times those athletes are abused by people who seem to have power over their athletic futures. What does a financially disadvantaged player hundreds of miles from home do without their scholarship? Worst, how can they prove what happened? Many sports are conducted in isolation, and practice takes place in a closed gym with no witnesses around.

Anyway, let me get to the root of why I wrote this. Maybe you're an athlete, and this happened to you. You found this post via Google Search late at night as you're struggling to understand what happened to you. I just want to encourage you that you don't have to be silent. You can always play sports somewhere else. You can always get new friends. You can always find people who do understand and who will counsel you and help you get through this. I am not a trained counselor, nor do I play one on the Internet. But there are certainly many qualified people out there who you can confide in. And I hope you will do so. Yes, you may have consented, but if it was with someone who had power over you or threatened you, the person is still at fault.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

New Blogs You Should Read

Well, after my Conspiracy Theorist Monday moment, I thought I'd simmer down and take a look at some new blogs.

Because I'm a relentless narcissist and want to meet women, I started a Twitter account. Err, wait, maybe that New Year's resolution about being more honest was a bad idea. Anyway, I'm at http://www.twitter.com/mcbias . Help my feeble dreams of world domination via my Messianic complex by becoming my follower (apparently Twitter thought "disciple" and "minion" had a bad connotation. How very Web 1.0 of them!).

http://www.onthemarqueeblog.com/ is a blog specializing in old movies and the people who made them happen. Many of you may remember Kristine, who has blogged at several places including the Fanhouse. Read her entertaining post about how Marilyn Monroe was the original sex symbol here.

is a new sports blog written by Jen, who's new to sports blogging as well. I'd really appreciate it if you'd go over there and leave a comment or two--those of you who have started sports blogs know how tough it is to get those first few readers and comments.

Finally, who could forget the Cavalier, now at madpropstobakedpotatoes.com? I deliberately avoided mentioning the site as long as I could, lest he steal all my blog groupies. After realizing that I have no blog groupies, I have decided to promote him after all. His new book is available at http://superairplane.com/, and I am eagerly awaiting my copy so that I can doodle little, non-super airplanes on all the pages.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Sports Illustrated Protects Its Own: How Selena Roberts Rescued Joe Torre and Tom Verducci

When I first heard about the Joe Torre book, written with Tom Verducci of Sports Illustrated, I was a little irritated. I have a problem with coaches writing books about their players so soon after having coached them. Call me corny, but I still think of coaches as pseudo-parental figures (especially for younger players) or at least bosses. Often they seem to write such books just to make sure the team will fail without them, airing the team's dirty laundry to cripple their successor.

For once, I wasn't the only one to have problems with this, as various Yankee fans (click link to see her video take on this), former players, and columnists expressed their disgust and annoyance with Joe Torre. It's ironic that a man who preached loyalty to the team and supposedly had such a good relationship with his veteran players would so casually throw A-Rod, Clemens, and others under the bus. Funny how authority figures who are getting paid stop preaching about loyalty once they stop getting paid, isn't it?

lindsay, joe torre, and me (original pic)

However, in the midst of all this negative publicity about Joe Torre and Tom Verducci, amazingly, a distraction appears. It's ok that Joe Torre mocked A-Rod, because A-Rod is really a steroid user! (This explanation is a little bit like saying "It's ok that the police beat that one guy, because I heard that guy cheated on his taxes once." There's no connection between those facts! no causality! no cancellation!). Now, which intrepid reporter helped someone violate the confidentiality agreement on tests that happened six years ago? Why, Tom Verducci's colleague at Sports Illustrated, Selena Roberts. What a coincidence! Hmm, I wonder, could Tom Verducci have helped pass along this tip to Selena? Isn't it interesting that with the book under full-fledged attack, some news magically appears to discredit the person Joe Torre most criticizes in the book?

Me with Joe Torre

Alex Rodriguez's positive steroid tests have nothing to do with the fact that Joe Torre went out of his way to attack an emotionally fragile player just to boost his book sales. When Alex moved to New York City, he foolishly thought that Derek Jeter was a real friend who would make his transition into a close-knit team easier, and that Torre was a player's coach. (Torre seems to have only been loyal to his original Yankees from the 90's; free agent acquisitions did not get any such respect).

Joe Torre

Who hasn't made such a mistake when moving? You latch onto the only people you know in the area because you're new, only to realize that they really aren't interested in being close friends--come on, that's happened to many of us. So Alex Rodriguez got the cold shoulder from Derek and the mockery of his manager. And when Alex finally was going to get the sympathy he deserved from the public because Torre over-reached to punish him one more time, Verducci gets rescued (how convenient!) and Selena Roberts twists the knife a little deeper. Who says print media is dead? Looks like the pen is as sharp a sword as it ever was.

Yeah Thats my Grandma, And yeah She's w/ Joe Torre!

Side note: I'm fascinated that while searching for photos of Joe Torre with fans to accompany this post, I can't find one photo where Joe is actually smiling. Let's hear it for access-hungry sports reporters who turned a grouchy millionaire coach into a sympathetic, long-suffering saint. The photo below is the biggest smile I could find from Joe Torre when taking a photo with fans, and I'm sadly not exaggerating.
Joe Torre

Friday, February 6, 2009

NBA H-O-R-S-E: Free Bubbles Hawkins!

I can't believe they're bringing back H-O-R-S-E for All-Star Weekend. Yes, I said bringing back. The funny part is, the NBA has tried this before, during the 1977-1978 season. They held a tournament which included such stars as "Pistol" Pete Maravich, Bob McAdoo, and George Gervin. Videos are still up on Youtube. But there's a reason you haven't heard of it--it was boring! For example, here's Pistol Pete pitted against Bubbles Hawkins, who really deserved a chewing gum endorsement deal:

Does that excite you? Did you actually watch the whole thing without fast-forwarding? It's Pete Maravich, one of the most exciting players of all time, and it's still boring. In fact, just to prove I'm not picking on just one bad game, here's Pete's highlight reel from the event:

It's not bad--the shots at the :30 mark and the end are decent--but it's the highlight reel for a Hall of Famer, and it's still mediocre. Let's hope it's another 30 years before the NBA tries H-O-R-S-E again, because based on these 1970's videos, it's not going to be that interesting.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

A Cautionary Tale for Eagles Fans

When he became an NFL starter, he met with instant success. He quickly led his team deep into the postseason, a rare example of success among a peer group that was mostly known for failure. In fact, his skills were so great that his coaches began over-relying on him. They limited his protection and/or started to neglect the running game despite the presence of Pro Bowl talent in the backfield.

As a result, this star was hit early and often. The team's performance started to plummet, and he was injured and had to be replaced by back-ups. Strangely, those back-ups often out-performed him, because the coaches finally remembered they had running backs who could run and block, not just catch passes. Public sentiment started to move against him. Perhaps he had just been lucky, and now, as he aged, the game was passing him by? But they failed to notice the team's poor draft record in filling critical need areas, and the coach's stubborn refusal to learn clock management and switch up his offensive system as the rest of the NFL started to catch up.

The player I have described is...

Strange, isn't it? There is an odd symmetry between the careers of Kurt Warner and Donovan McNabb that you wouldn't expect. The years do not match up perfectly, but the storyline does. It's something that should give Eagles fans and Andy Reid pause. Oh, Donovan has probably earned himself a few more years by taking the Eagles to the NFC Championship game, but I thought it was worth bringing up here.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Bloggolalia: Is Sports Blogging All Grown Up?

I've been doing some thinking lately about the future of this blog. Now that it's been a little while, the truth can be told as to why I started writing here in 2006. It was mostly out of irritation that many good stories were being ignored by the top blogs. I felt like many of the top bloggers were just hanging out with each other and copying the themes in each others' work. As I've complained before, it seemed like every writer fit the same generic template: NY/DC dweller, male, aged 24-34, white, well-educated, middle-class, liberal, and non-religious. Thus, the biases and lack of diversity in writing drove me to start my own blog.

However, it seems to me that sports blogging has turned some sort of corner in 2008. Yes, many bloggers still lazily fail to get to the root of a story. Many bloggers still believe that biased snap judgments on minority (and majority) groups is their god-given right.

But I also think that the storytelling has gotten a little more balanced. Voices like MODI, D-Wil, Dave Zirin, and Michael Tillery no longer seem to be shouting into a cyber-space vacuum. Modi and D-Wil have pointed out some significant improvements in the blogosphere themselves. I would say the bottom for sports blogging was coverage of the Vick story. But the blogosphere, as a whole, did well in covering stories like Sean Taylor, the Fanhouse's attempt to supplant normal sports bloggers with fantasy sports girls, and Lebron James Vogue story. To be honest, one of the reasons I stopped writing for SOMM was that I didn't have as much fire in me anymore to write. I felt that things had improved so much that there was a lot less for me to complain about, ha, and thus my writing was dry and becoming forced.

So what do you think? Have I overstated the immaturity of the early days of sports blogging, or was there really a problem? Has sports blogging changed for the better, and what still needs to change? Or have I gotten soft and sold out to "The Man", seduced by promised links and kind words? (Understand, I hope this post doesn't read as "Oh, sports bloggers are writing more like me/my biased agenda, and that's a good thing." No way! My writing is long-winded and a bit pretentious.)