Thursday, July 16, 2015

2015 ESPY Awards - Arthur Ashe's Memory Deserves Better

Good Afternoon Loyal Follower! (Yes, I intentionally made that singular)

Before beginning my post, I feel as though this is only appropriate:

DISCLAIMER - The below post might be offensive if:

1. Pieces are taken out of context.
2. Not read in it's entirety.
3. Is misunderstood or the intention questioned.
4. You don't like pizza.

When I started this blog a couple of years ago, the intent behind it was to provide myself a forum to discuss my thoughts on anything sports related, and possibly engage some conversation along the way. Through my blogging journey, I have learned to take a bit of a humorous/satirical approach to my writing because it's a lot of fun and my brother seems to enjoy it. However, what I have to say below is going to lean a bit more to the original intent of my blog. I'm going to minimize the jokes (though I might toss one or two in) and really focus on how I'm feeling about the topic. As I emphasized above, if you're going to read this post, please read it to the very end so you have a full understanding of where I'm coming from.

Without further delay ...

Last night was the 2015 ESPY Awards ... the night where ESPN holds an awards show to recognize everything sports related from the last year. Think Oscars but fewer performances and more buff people who can run really fast. Unfortunately I was not home to watch it live, so I've been watching my DVR recording this afternoon to see what I missed. I'm only about two hours into the show and already I've spent at least 45 minutes with tears in my eyes. No, that's not a joke, it's legit. For those who have never seen the show, the human interest stories about athletes and their lives are as much the focus as accomplishments on the field of play. And that's what I'm here today to discuss ... the Arthur Ashe Courage Award.

Each year for the last 22 years, ESPN has selected one individual who has somehow demonstrated unbelievable courage in their lives with some type of tie-in to sports. Past winners have included active athletes (last year Michael Sam won the award for his bravery in coming out as gay while actively competing for an NFL roster sport), sports personalities (in 2013, sports reporter Robin Roberts received the award for her very public battle with cancer), and public figures (in 2009 the award went to Nelson Mandela who used soccer as a way to bring peace and understanding to his home country of South Africa). The award has been given to some of the most notable and inspiring faces of the sports world over the last 22 years including Pat Summit, Billie Jean King, Dean Smith, Jim Valvano, and Muhammed Ali. Last night the annual award was presented to Caitlyn Jenner, formerly known as Bruce Jenner. And I, for one, couldn't have been more disappointed in this choice of recipient. That's why I'm writing this post.

Let me be very clear in my stance here ... I don't trust Caitlyn Jenner. My disapproval in who won this award has nothing to do with my feelings about the transgender community, the meaning behind why this award was given to Caitlyn, or my hopes for tolerance and understanding in the Unites State and greater community. My feelings are based on the premise that Bruce/Caitlyn is an attention whore (please excuse my language) who puts his/her own stardom before anything else.

Back in the 70's, Bruce Jenner became a sporting icon in the Unites States when he won Olympic gold in the decathlon in Montreal. As the winner of this event, he became the official Greatest Athlete in the World and a face for the American people. He was known around the country as a hero and a representative of our athletic achievements in the world of sports. And then, he disappeared from the world of sports. That's not to say that he wasn't present in media, but truthfully it had very little to do with noble causes or athletic achievements. Jenner may have competed before I was born, but then again so did Ali, Mays, and Jabbar. The difference is those three individuals stayed close to their sport AND found ways to make the world a better place. I never even heard of Bruce Jenner until much later in life. That's my first reason for believing Caitlyn did not deserve this award ... she has had nothing to do with sports in the last 40 years and her contributions to the sporting community have been negligible.

My second, and more pressing reason, for being against this honor comes down to 5 words ... Keeping Up with the Kardashians. Over the last 10 years, Bruce Jenner has been a part of (and in many ways encouraged) the upbringing of one of the most dangerous families in American culture. This show, and the success that the daughters have had from it, highlight some of the most disturbing issues that we're experiencing in our society. In a time where women are doing AMAZING things across the globe (heck, we're a year away from potentially electing our first female President) the Kardashian sisters have become famous for nothing more than their appearances, clothes, and outlandish lifestyle. They have placed vanity above character and Bruce helped to support the mockery that these ladies have become. Ladies who are "role models" for millions of young girls around the country. And that's where the problem comes from ... all of a sudden, Bruce is no longer the most famous person in his family. His slut-tastic daughters have become media icons and the former Olympic champion was just becoming a footnote. So what did he do? He brought the spotlight back to himself. Over the last six months, she has once again become the shining star of the family, shining brighter than her ridiculous children. It's all about Caitlyn.

Please understand, I'm not going to sit here and claim that Bruce didn't believe he was a woman all along and only changed genders to be famous. While I am skeptical of Jenner's intentions, I will not deny that this could very well have been a lifelong battle that finally culminated in her becoming herself. However, don't you find the timing of all this a bit ... curious? Why did Bruce wait until his late 60's, when his family was incredibly famous beyond his wildest imagination, before making this decision or telling ANYONE how he felt? Why couldn't this have been done in his 30's? 40's? 50's? According to the story told during the ESPY's telecast, Caitlyn didn't want to bring any pain to her family and thus decided to wait before changing her life. She isolated herself over the last couple of years while transforming into the person we see today. I'm sorry Bruce, I'm sorry Caitlyn, I'm sorry Jenner ... I just don't buy it. Your entire life has been about fame and fortune, and I don't trust you. From the bottom of my heart, I hope I'm wrong. But since I feel the way I do, I truly wish this award had been given to someone that epitomizes courage in every facet of their life. I can think of several individuals that were recognized in just the first 2 hours of the show who would have been more deserving of this most prestigious honor: Lauren Hill, Stuart Scott, or even the person who presented the award, Abby Wambach.

Here is why it's important that you read this entire post ... it is very important that you know that I am completely in support of any individual who identifies with a gender different than what they were born with. I believe each person is born as a special and unique human being and we are not always dealt the hand we believe we deserve. If you feel you were meant to be someone different than who you are, then by all means, explore that side of you and live life as who you want to be. It doesn't matter to me if you are white, black, straight, gay, male, female, or transgender. What counts to me is who you are as a person, what you bring to the world and those around you, and how you treat other people. You be you and I'll be me.

If there is anything positive that comes out of Caitlyn Jenner receiving this award, it's the hope that there are individuals out there who will truly benefit from the spirit of the message behind the award. Abuse and mistreatment of the transgender community is a legitimate issue and if even one teenager keeps the will to live because they are inspired by Caitlyn, it will have been worth it. While I may question the individual and the motives behind the recipient, there is potentially something much bigger happening here, and that is a beautiful thing. For that reason, and that reason alone, I applaud the choice of Caitlyn Jenner as the Arthur Ashe award winner. I hope she fully understands the responsibility that has been placed on her shoulders with this honor and will use the power to make a positive change in this world, not just another reality show. Now's your chance Caitlyn ... prove me wrong.

- Fishy

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Sports in General - The Week in Review

Good Afternoon Sports Fans!

It's been almost 9 months since I lasted posted anything sports related to this blog so I figured it was about time to get back at it. Back in November I discovered I was pregnant and my physician advised me of the complications to pregnancy from blogging, thus leading me to abandon my followers for awhile. OK, just kidding, blogging cannot impact your pregnancy and will have no effect on your future children. I've just been busy/lazy. And oh yeah, I'm not pregnant because I'm a guy.

Now that you've gotten over not hearing from me in three trimesters, let's get to the good stuff ...

Win it for Wambach!?!

Congratulations to the USWNT (Unites States Women's National Team for those of you not "in the know") for winning the FIFA Women's World Cup on Sunday evening! The US women pulled off an incredible, if not shocking, 5-2 victory over defending champion Japan in the final game of the tournament. The highlight of the game was the US' 4 goals before the end of the 16th minute including this beauty by MVP (or whatever soccer people call it) Carli Lloyd:

Throughout the tournament, the rallying cry for the American women was "Win it for Wambach" as though she was a three legged pony with a bad case of malaria that had to be carried onto the field using a lawnmower because the stadium misplaced the parade float. Seriously, I did not get it for most of the tournament. Abby has scored more goals than any American soccer player in international history (yes, that includes the boys) and has a trophy case of accomplishments at home to brag about. Yes, I understand that this is likely her last WWC (Women's World Cup ... follow me people) but she's hardly had a lackluster career. Adding this last trophy would have been nice, not mandatory to give her legend-type status in the realm of Mia (Tar Heel) Hamm. However, during the Championship Game, it finally clicked for me. Wambach, realizing that she is not the spring chicken she used to be, graciously gave up her starting role on the team to allow for younger, more talented players, to bring home the trophy. She didn't whine, she didn't make a scene, she didn't call TMZ to release the video of Alex Morgan peeing in a urinal after a couple too many drinks ... she's did what was best for the team. And for once, an athlete put winning ahead of ego ... and now I get it. The team wanted to win this for Wambach because she's the ultimate teammate and deserved it. Abby could have demanded a starting role and has earned the right to request that position, but instead she played the game with her head and realized that she had more value starting the game on the bench.

In return for this unusual display of humility in sports? Star of the game Carli Lloyd had an amazing moment when Wambach was subbed in and, in front of the world, presented her with the prestigious Captain's Band to finish out the tournament. I cried almost as much as I did when King Triton finally let Ariel have permanent legs. Way to go Abby, and Carli, and the USWNT, and pizza. What? I like pizza.

PS: Of the 23 members of the USWNT, 6 of them played their collegiate years at UNC. No other school has more than 2 representatives. Suck on that Dook. Go America, Go Heels!


Dear athletes of the world ... STOP BEING STUPID. Love, Matthew.

Two big name sports stars this week suffered major off-the-field injuries by doing things that, well, they just knew better than to do.

The first one is still kind of shady ... Jason Pierre-Paul (defensive lineman for my NY Giants) managed to blow up his hand playing with fireworks on the 4th of July. The actual extent of the injury has yet to be released, but it's bad enough that the Giants decided to rescind his $60 million contract offer. Let me repeat that ... he gave up a $60,000,000 (that's a lot of bleeping zeros!) contract to play with fireworks on Independence Day! Doesn't he have like a 3 year old niece or something that could have handled the fireworks? Her hands are a lot less valuable than his.

The second one ... not shady, not as stupid, but still kinda dumb. The #1 golfer in the world (by stats, not by Tigertude) Rory McIlroy ruptured a tendon in his ankle this week playing soccer with some buddies. While I understand that professional athletes enjoy other sports and hobbies (playing with fireworks is NOT a hobby JPP, sorry), this injury came less than 2 weeks away from the British Open at St. Andrews. For those that don't follow golf, The Open Championship ... that's what the funny looking people on the other side of the pond call it ... is one of the most prestigious tournaments of the year and this month it's being played on the original golf course of the world. Like, first one. Ever. None before it.

Couldn't Rory, who btw is the defending champion of the tournament, have kicked around the black and white globe later this year when it's cold out and he's wearing long underwear by his $2 million fire place?

*Editor's Note: Here is a glossary of terms for this last section:

Tigertude - The Tiger Woods awesomeness factor by which all other golfers will be measured against.
JPP - Jason Pierre-Paul (seriously, you couldn't figure that one out on your own?)
The Pond - The Atlantic Ocean
BTW - Stands for "by the way". You're welcome Dad. PS: Happy Birthday.

What a Jerk

Earlier this week, Washington Nationals slugger Bryce Harper decided he didn't feel like participating in the Home Run Derby during next week's All Star Game festivities. Dude's just going to sit this one out. But, that's cool, I mean why would you participate in one of the most popular sporting exhibitions in the country to please millions of fans who drool over strong baseball players hitting small balls a really long way? It's not like they pay your salary or anything and allow you to lead the National League in home runs at the All Star Break. Oh wait ... THEY DO! If you haven't seen the signs already (just watch some of his previous interviews), Bryce Harper is well on his way to winning the "Barry Bonds Most Hated Player in Baseball Lifetime Achievement Award." Way to go Bryce.

On another ASG (All Star Game ... gees, pay attention) note, Alex Rodriguez did NOT make the roster for the American League this year. Despite putting up incredible numbers after missing the last year plus of baseball for doing the juice, the guy is 41 years old (ancient for a baseball player) and one of the best players in the league in recent memory. And what was the reason for his missing the team? It's not that he used to cheat. It's not that people don't like it. It's not that he hasn't washed his jock strap in 12 years for good luck. It's because the American League team manager wanted another infielder instead of a player who can hit. You ever watch the ASG? How many times does the no-name guy at the end of the bench who can't hit but catches nicely actually get on the field? Here's a hint ... I have the same number of appearances as that guy. Do you know that player's name this year? Exactly.

In Other News

Free Agency opened up in the NBA this week and there were a LOT of big names on the move and in the news. In the first 24 hours of free agency, NBA owners spent a combined $1.4 billion on new NBA contracts. The next day, they woke up and realized that still, nobody cares about the NBA.

Until next time ...

- Fishy