Monday, June 30, 2008

5 Questions With The Sports Dollar



Can you make money as a sports blogger? It’s something many wonder but aren't sure how to go about. One blogger is out to tell everyone how they can make money with his blog The Sports Dollar. His alter ego is the driving force behind Le Basketbawl. I caught up with this ambitious guy for five questions – I’ll let him introduce himself:

The name is actually Kellen, but I think "Kellex" sounds much niftier online. (Wow...not many people know that but I guess they will now!) I'm a 26 year old, almost full-time blogger in Portland, OR. I grew up in Whitefish, MT which is one of the most beautiful places on the planet and will one day return there but for now I'm just too young to live without a city, lights, and a professional sports team.

1. Tell me about your sports background - who do you follow, what have you played/do you play? Are you more of a participant, spectator, or both?

I definitely grew up as a sports nut playing baseball, basketball, golf, soccer, and hell; I even bowled in league as a kid. Basketball eventually took up enough time that I quit everything else to concentrate on that, plus I happened to have a decent outside jumper which I thought would get me somewhere. Of course it didn’t, seeing as I was only 6’2” and way to slow and skinny to play college ball. The possibilities of walking on to a JC were there, but I was too burned out from some controversial things during my senior year and just wanted to have fun in college. I still play competitively in tournaments and leagues, but the major sports focus for me now is golf and hitting the gym to fight off my aging 26 year old body.

2. How did you decide to start blogging? Why sports? Which came first - The Sports Dollar or Le Basketbawl? What background in writing/education do you have? How much experience do you believe someone needs in order to write online successfully?

Blogging was something that I knew of, but for whatever reason I just kept pushing it away like I was too busy to take part in it. Then this past Christmas, while on vacation, I woke up and said, “You spend all this time talking sports to everyone 24-7 (and probably annoying them)…why don’t you start a blog with all this knowledge and passion?” So a few days before New Years’, Le Basketbawl was formed and from there things have just blossomed! I now have two blogs, a blogging job board and some other things on the horizon that have me really excited.

As far as a background, I wouldn’t say that I have much. I do have a BS in Business and Marketing plus a secret love affair with technology and computers which definitely helps. To be successful as a blogger, you just have to have passion and patience. If you don’t love it, and don’t have the time to let it all play out, then you won’t stand a chance in this business.

3. How did you come up with the concept for The Sports Dollar? What are your goals with the site? How do you find material? Do you promote every money-making idea on the web or do you actually try them out before you write about them?

The idea came almost 3 months ago now while I had hit sort of a slump with Le Basketbawl. Le Basketbawl had grown into something special, but I was not seeing the rewards for all the work I had put into it. At this same time I had really started to read other types of blogs to see what the earning potential was online and realized that people are making thousands and thousands of dollars a year doing this stuff.

So I took some time, researched, tested, and learned every single thing I could about online marketing and actually started helping other blogs on the side by providing tips, tricks, and advice that I thought they could use to help monetize their blogs. The feedback was instant and at that point I realized that sports blogs needed a place to learn about making money online through the eyes of a fellow sports blogger. If I had a blog like the Sports Dollar to pick info from when I was just starting out, I really think I wouldn’t have hit that 3 month slump and things would have grown a lot faster without all those nasty sleepless nights and headaches!

As for material, I just do a ton of digging around on the internet. I definitely have my favorite blogs bookmarked in my Google Reader such as John Cow, BlogStorm, and Daily Blog Tips but you really have to get out there and do some searching. Almost everything you read now a day has been written many times over and is easily accessible.

I’m definitely not into promoting just any money making idea since many of them can be complete scams. If I really like something and have seen potential, then I will create a post on it. There are plenty of money making ideas out there that could make me some quick cash by promoting them, but that’s not what I’m about. The goal of the Sports Dollar is to help other sports blogs understand their potential so that we can all reap the long term benefits.

4. How much money do you believe an independent blogger realistically expect to make? Seriously, without working for 12-16 hours a day scouring the internet and promoting every article on the "hype" sites, is there a reasonable hourly wage to make?

Truthfully, I don’t think they should expect much unless they are willing to put a ton of hours in early on and then just try to hang on for the long run. I’ve been at this for 6 months now and am just now seeing the results of the work I put in months ago. If you really work hard early on (even though you see nothing), I promise it will pay out in the end if you can manage to keep your sanity, relationships, and 9-5.

Once you’ve made it through tough times, have gained enough of a readership, and made a ton of online friends, you should be able to spend less time on the promotional aspect of your blog. At this point your readers and friends will practically take care of this for you by loving what you do and referring their friends and readers on. I think one of the major mistakes bloggers run into is worrying about all those “hype” sites rather than writing “read-worthy” material. Good content can act as its own hype machine if it really fits your niche and readers.

5. What are your favorite sports-themed blogs to read? What do you think makes a good sports blog? What do you think is a good example?

Wow, there are so many out there that I love. Empty the Bench is a great site that includes some of the best writing and topic generation around that just doesn’t seem to get enough love. I think the respect is starting to come towards Thellie and the boys over there, but it is long overdue. I love reading Cuzoogle and the ridiculously creative posts that Cuzzy puts out every day. I also read a lot of Ball Don’t Lie. For a major site blog, Skeets and Dwyer really seem to get “it”. They seem to love the life of a blogger and take it a little less serious that someone in particular over at ESPN.

A good sports blog is easy to pick out. If you browse to a site, are not offended by advertising or half-naked women/betting sites and can laugh or get enlightened within the first couple of paragraphs of a post, then you know it is probably worth checking out. Hardwood Paroxysm is probably the best example I can give

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Sunday Sports Wrap - June 29, 2008



The biggest event today is the Euro 2008 in Vienna. Will Germany win? Will Spain win? I'm excited to see the result.

Today is a rest day at Wimbledon. I caught most of the Nadal vs. Kiefer yesterday and it was definitely worth the watch.

Stacy Lewis sits atop the leaderboard at the U.S. Women's Open at nine back. Paula Creamer is right behind at -8. Annika Sorenstam is far behind the leaders and very frustrated with her performance. Although she is under par, it isn't enough. It would have been nice to see her take this one on her farewell tour, but she's got nothing to be ashamed of.

And, as usual for this time of year, there's plenty of baseball to watch!


Today in Sports History

1990 - Los Angeles Dodgers legend Fernando Valenzuela throws a no hitter against the Cardinals. Final score 6-0.

1995 - Dodgers pitcher Hideo Nomo struck out thirteen Colorado Rockies in a 3-0 victory. This brought him to 50 strikeouts in 4 games, breaking the Los Angeles record of forty-nine 49 over 4 games accomplished 3 times by Sandy Koufax.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Having The Dodger Blues



Warning: This post is full of whining about the Dodgers. I do this every so often.

Yeah, I’m in a particularly cynical mood about the home team. Sure, they won last night against the “rival” Angels. Ho-hum. I should be excited. However, every time they play the Angels it reminds me how different these teams turned out.

Years ago, the Angels were really an afterthought in Los Angeles. They played at the Ravine, they were called the California Angels, they moved around, etc. It seems like it took the team a long time to gain a real identity. Meanwhile, the Dodgers were THE team in Los Angeles. Heck, we have Tommy Lasorda and Vin Scully in the mix. How can you go wrong with that sort of history? No matter how long it has been, I just can’t seem to get over the fact that the Angles have had more success in recent years. Don’t get me wrong, it’s great to have champions in Southern California. I just wish it was my team.

Let’s get one thing straight also – they are NOT in Los Angeles. I know this is a hard concept for some people to get, but Anaheim and Los Angeles are not right next to each other nor are they the same place. Depending on where you start, they are at least 25 miles apart and in two different counties. In addition, the culture of each county is quite different. I’ve harped on that more than once. I don’t have anything against OC, I’m just a Los Angeles native. The video I have with this post is a bit silly since it makes it seem like the Angels are here in Los Angeles. Yes, it makes Dodgers fans cringe. I’m sure the national audience is amused though. I can’t imagine what people who have never been here picture…

Anyhoo, back to complaining about the Dodgers…I’m on the team’s email list like any good fan should be and have been for years. I remember the newsletter used to talk about discounts for upcoming games, player appearances, and other team news. It seems like now I only get more opportunities to part ways with my money and plenty of it. Coming up today is a family fun 70’s Luncheon at the stadium where you can stand in line all day in the sun to get an autograph from former players for only $75. On the 4th of July, there’s a nifty event at the Hollywood Bowl with the Dodgers. I’m not sure how bringing out a few people associated with the team makes this a fireworks show worth the $12 - $149 ticket price. In all fairness, the email newsletter title was “Save up to 60% against the Angels this Sunday”. Yay, I get to sit at the top for $10.

Alright, so my beef is this – why can’t we have a team that wins? That’s all I ask. There’s plenty of revenue to have a real team. Why not do it. Imagine how much more money the fans will shell out if Los Angeles gets a World Series title!

Alright, whining and bitterness is out for now. Tune in tomorrow where I should be back to normal.

Friday, June 27, 2008

What's Up At Wimbledon?



This year’s Wimbledon is a very interesting mix of tennis and side stories. As I mentioned before, I can’t believe there was such a huge focus on the fashion of the players. Yahoo! and ESPN had features about what the players were wearing on their front pages. I guess the style thing is contagious through the world of sports lately. Heck, I’ve written about fashion twice recently myself. Something must be in the air. At any rate, Roger Federer looked very sharp in his cardigan. Apparently, this was a special edition that Nike made only 230 of. The 230 is symbolic of the number of weeks he's been at the top according to ESPN.

The matches have been quite exciting as there has already been more than one upset. The ever-popular Maria Sharapova, ranked #3 in the world, was knocked out by Alla Kudryavtseva, ranked 154th. Sharapova had a multitude of unforced errors but was “upbeat” after the loss in an interview.

Lindsay Davenport also left competition, but not because of a loss. An old knee injury is apparently inhibiting her play.

Speaking of leaving, Andy Roddick and James Blake are also gone from the tournament. Venus Williams was able to advance even though she committed 26 unforced errors.

In other tennis news, the Williams sisters and Lindsay Davenport have been chosen to represent the U.S. at the Summer Olympics. No word yet on whether Davenport’s knee will be a factor here.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Tales From The Inbox - June 26, 2008



It seems as though my inbox is becoming increasingly fat with announcements, press releases, and other sports content lately. This has inspired me to start this new regular segment – Tales From The Inbox. I hope to turn it into a weekly post that has a specific day in the very near future. For now, I’ll do it when I’ve got a good amount of content which should be at least every other week. So without further fanfare, here is the inaugural edition of Tales From The Inbox:

Homeless World Cup News: It was recently announced that the 2009 Homeless World Cup will be held in Milan.

Kicking It, the documentary narrated by Colin Farrell that features the story of HWC athletes in 2006, opens on June 27th in Los Angeles and Washington, D.C. In conjunction with this release, the Homeless USA Cup takes place in D.C. from June 27-29. The three-day event names a champion and picks the all-star squad that will represent the U.S. later this year at the HWC in Australia. This U.S. qualifier will be held at the Washington Kastles Stadium at 11th and H streets in Downtown D.C. From the press release:

Over the course of the July 27-29 weekend, 100 homeless individuals will compete on city-based teams for the US Cup. Teams will come from Ann Arbor, Atlanta, Austin, Charlotte, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, New York, Richmond, Phoenix, San Francisco, St. Louis, and Washington D.C.

Each of the participants has faced the reality of being homeless over the course of the last year. Street soccer can be used to instill a sense of pride and discipline through being part of a team and to help give players the confidence they need overcome problems in their lives. Organizers point out that over 70 percent of participants from previous tournaments have improved their lives by quitting drugs, moving into jobs, getting an education and even reuniting with their families.

The exciting 4 on 4 street soccer competitions has also changed public perception of the homeless. Worldwide there are one billion, in the USA there are 3.5 million homeless people.

The homeless players and their coaches will be guests of Major League Soccer’s DC United team on Sunday June 29, for the game against the LA Galaxy, and will be introduced to fans at halftime. The trailer for the film Kicking It will be screened for the RFK Stadium crowd at the same time.


13th Green News: Clothing retailer 13th Green is becoming involved with TWO WHEEL dRIVER in a philanthropic effort targeted against cancer. From the press release:

TWO WHEEL dRIVER, a project fusing motorcycles, golf, and music to raise money for local cancer causes, announced today that 13thGreen.com will be joining the project as its second Stage 1 sponsor.

“We are thrilled to have 13thGreen.com on board with TWO WHEEL dRIVER as a sponsor for the first leg of our journey which will take us to Utah and Indianapolis as guests of KTM Motorcycles,” says the project’s founder, Mark Augustyn. “Not only does 13thGreen.com fit in perfectly with our action-oriented concept, but the company’s founder, Chris Roberts, is unfortunately also familiar and committed to the cause having lost his own mom to cancer in December 2006.”

Check out the founder’s story, purpose, and reason for his passion for this cause on the TWO WHEEL dRIVER website.

In other golf news: You know how airlines are now charging for almost everything, including one measly bag? I dread traveling anywhere with my golf clubs as I know they’ll surely find a way to stick it to me. One course in Las Vegas is trying to make sure that you don’t miss out on a round when you stop in Sin City. Aliante Golf Club is providing a free premium rental of Cleveland or Callaway clubs when you show your airline ticket after you book a tee time and pay your green fee. I called them and found out that they have both men’s and women’s right and left-handed. With clubs for every golfer, it sounds like a fair deal. I found reviews of the course here and here.

Longboard Surfing: This weekend at Doheny State Park the Doheny State Longboard Association (DSLA) will host the 12th Annual Menehune Contest on Saturday, June 28, 2008 at Doheny State Beach in Dana Point, Calif. This contest begins promptly at 7:00 AM PDT and is open to boys and girls of all ages with divisions for 8 and under on up to 17 years of age. I have it on good authority that this is an awesome event to attend. In addition, the event has auctions, raffles, and music. The weather will be perfect to hang out all day and enjoy the festivities. Proceeds go to the DSLA charity outreach programs. The Doheny Longboard Surfing Association is an organization of individuals dedicated to the enjoyment of board surfing in a clean and natural environment. Based on that philosophy, the DLSA will act as a support group to other organizations with similar views and objectives.

Keep those emails coming everyone!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Wild World of Wednesday - June 25, 2008



Tennis is a big deal this week since Wimbledon is on! Venus Williams, Maria Sharapova, Jelena Jankovic, and Lindsay Davenport won in the first round. Andy Murray, Andy Roddick, and Rafael Nadal also took care of their opponents in the first. Roger Federer handled business against Dominik Hbarty as well. Fashion was such an important topic at the event that it was the top story on ESPN’s tennis page. Interesting.

Euro 2008 is down to the last four teams. The semi-finals are Germany vs. Turkey and Spain vs. Russia. Turkey has been the “Cinderella” of this ball but face a tough German squad. It looks like the match will be on ESPN 360, which is a great way to assure you don’t miss anything.

In the WNBA, the Los Angeles Sparks are still #1 in the West and Connecticut are #1 in the East. Oh, and in case you missed it, Candace Parker can dunk!

Speaking of basketball, Shaq has everyone in an uproar over his freestyle rap. Sure he disses Kobe – this is nothing new from him. Most people I’ve talked to about it are angry that he disrespected Kareem. That’s blasphemy here in Los Angeles.

Oh yeah, have you heard that they are going to eliminate softball and baseball as Olympic sports? The IOC president decided that the Summer Games are too bloated so 2008 is the last time you’ll see these. The decision came via secret ballot. Hmm…why is it such a secret?


Today in Sports History

1947 - The tennis shoe is introduced (not athletic shoe or sneaker, but sport-specific to tennis)

1969 - Longest tennis match in Wimbledon history takes place. Pancho Gonzalez beats Charles Pasarell in a 112 game marathon that goes on for 5 hours and 12 minutes.

1972 - Bernice Gera becomes the first female umpire in pro baseball.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Notes On Golf Style



I was reading one of my favorite golf blogs recently – Golf Girl’s Diary – and she had a post about cargo shorts on the course. This simple question of whether one thought the style belonged on the course or not garnered a veritable plethora of comments! Golfers felt very strongly about this fashion statement – both women and men. Later, Golf Girl pointed out a cool retrospective on golf style from Time Magazine. After that, I heard even more golfers discussing the whole thing about style at the range, course, pro shop, and everywhere else.

This all inspired me to test out the topic for myself. I wrote a neutral post about style for my weekly contribution at Golf WRX. Sure enough, this post has attracted more comments than my usual articles for the site. In fact, this site is one that discussions usually happen in the forums but I’ve seemingly struck a nerve with the subject and the comments keep coming. Bottom line – it seems as though fashion is at the forefront of the consciousness for golfers regardless of gender.

Alright, I am not going to magically turn into Patricia “Golf Girl” Hannigan and start blogging about style as my main forte. She does a fabulous job of it and certainly doesn’t need me putting my two cents in. You see, my golf style is a bit different than my blogger buddy’s. For example, she’s got that really cute bag in green and white with pink accessories and mine is…well…let’s just say the color scheme of mine is called “punk rock”. I’ve got that cool Ogio Edge bag with that fun print from a season or two ago. There’s nothing pink on it either. Don’t get me wrong – I like pink and it looks good on me. I even have a pink LPGA polo. It’s just that most of my golf attire just happens to be black, white, or grey.

What can I say? It’s that action sports part of me that keeps me from looking like a Brooks Brothers ad. I’m not alone. My Golf WRX post got a comment from Chris Roberts at 13th Green. This company is geared more toward golfers like me. I was a surfer, skater, and skier long before I ever picked up a golf club. Chris’ comment on my post was:

“I think golf is ready for the change that is here. Remember not long ago Aspen would not let a snowboard on the mountain, yet the X Games were just held there. Change = Progression. Now I do not believe in the “trash the course with your golf cart” guy that is more interested in a drunken stupor that sinking a long putt. But who wants to wear their grandpa’s shirt just because the course says you need a collar? Have your own style and bring it to the course. Follow the rules but never conform…unless of course you just like to be a follower. In that case you just don’t “get it” anyway. Check out 13thgreen.com Your Source Fore Style On The Course. HAVE SOME STYLE!!”

Well said. So I dropped him a line and asked him to tell me a bit more about the company. They’re completely online and are based here in Southern California. Chris wrote back and said:

“The whole idea behind 13thgreen.com is that we want to see people bringing their own style to the course. Just because you’re out playing golf, doesn't mean you have to wear some other style that you’re not used to. I believe in following the rules, I mean don't go to the course looking for attention, but just relax and feel comfortable with being yourself...not who somebody else thinks you should be. We are from an action sports background (i.e. Surf, Snow, Skate, Moto, Wake, etc.) and we feel like wearing styles that reflect that look and feel. We also love to golf and want to be comfortable while doing so. Stuffy is no fun. As they say "The only constant is change" We hope you and yours like our direction. Our target market is the action sports guys and gals that also love to golf.”

No wonder I like their style. 13thgreen.com carries Pahr 72, an awesome “trendy” label that has great fashion for everyone and Radioactive Golf Footwear.

Another very cool label in SoCal is Continental Golf Wear. I spoke to Hayes Grothe here who told me the whole inspiration behind the line is the 1960s Lincoln Continental car. Indeed, they had one at their big spread during the golf show in Long Beach earlier this year. Taking cues from that era, their line has a very cool throwback style that looks sharp. At this time they only have men’s, but Hayes assured me they were constantly working on perfecting the launch of their women’s line and should have items out by next spring. They’ll start with polos and headwear. In addition, they will soon launch their custom fitted pant program. With this you’ll be able to pick your fabrics and cuts and have a pant made to your measurements. Sure, this is available elsewhere, but Continental will do it for a more affordable price. Expect to see this in the next two months.

And, of course, I can’t mention SoCal golf style without mentioning Tattoo Golf. I often sport my baseball cap from this company when I’m out on the course and I use their tees and divot tool. It’s that cool skull and golf clubs logo that got me.

As far as the mainstream goes – I have Puma, Addidas, and Nike mixed in my golf wardrobe. Oh yeah, and I’m even guilty of some Ralph Lauren items in the mix. Puma is hands down my favorite “mainstream” line. I’ve tried Ashworth and some of the other traditional lines, but being 5’10” I find that their shirts are all cut a bit too short for me. I prefer not to have what I’m wearing turn into a belly shirt when I hit the ball. There is a time and place for that and, for me; it’s not on the course.

So what is your golf style? Are you traditional? Are you an action sports lover that now plays golf like me?

Monday, June 23, 2008

5 Questions and a Recap

video

As I reported earlier, the Southern California Breakers ended their season last weekend. The team ended up at .500 with a record of 4-4.

I was unable to attend the last game since it was in Tucson. Enrique Hernandez, the glue that keeps the whole Breakers operation together, sent me this recap of the final game:

Vanessa Santillan was out with an ankle injury and Priscilla Gardner (rookie) filled in at RB. Gardner rushed for 260 yards on 24 attempts, with 3 touchdowns. One TD was a 55-yard rush down the sideline.

• FB Suzanne Linn had the other TD and she rushed for 88 yards on 15 attempts
• QB Lori Schnaider completed 2 passes on 17 attempts (one for 20 yards to Elaine Iba and the other was 25 yards to Dorothy DeLeon)
• On the defense - LB Suzanne Linn had 15 tackles
• LB Tutu Armstrong had 6 tackles with one sack and forced fumble. LB Amanda Garcia recovered the fumble.

He added that this was an exceptional season for all players, which is especially true since they had a small roster size.


Prior to the season ending, I had a quick five questions with Coach Bartley again.

1. Your team has really evolved over the season and is really coming together as a cohesive unit. What do you attribute this to? What are the key ingredients to making a synergistic team?

Our team has put in extra time trying to learn and understand the game to the fullest. We really try to simplify the game then show them from our prospective as coaches what to expect on the field. The key to our success is heart and determination.

2. What have been the biggest surprises for you so far this season? Also, what are you most proud of so far this season?

The biggest surprise this season has been their ability to show people that they can play this game the way it is supposed to be played.

3. Looking back, is there anything you would go back and change in the first games of the season? Is there anything you would do differently?

If I could go back and make a change from the first game, well it would have to be nothing! Even though we lost that close game, we started to grow as a team.

4. What has inspired you the most this season? What do you hope inspires your players about you?

What inspired me most this season is their attitude towards family. They have really stuck together as a family and when someone was down both on and off the field, they wasted no time in helping their sister in their time of need. I hope that the girls will continue to feed off my passion for the game and ending as champions.

5. What are you going to focus on for these last games of the year? How will you approach these last games?

The last games of the season our focus is on execution and consistency.


For those of you who missed them – here are the Breakers stories throughout the season:

Pre-Season Report

Amanda Garcia

April 20 Wrap

May 11 Wrap

June 1 Wrap

June 8 Wrap

Vanessa Santillan

Becky Leetch

Coach Bartley, version 1

Related women’s football post with some Breakers

Someone put up some of the sideline entertainment from one of the games on YouTube as well. It's pretty funny so check it out. You can also find a Breakers MySpace page and photos of their first game of the season online.

It's always football season at Women's Football Talk as well. You can look in the archives of their podcasts to find another interview with Coach Bartley and talk of all teams from all leagues in the sport.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Sunday Sports Wrap - June 22, 2008



Baseball, baseball, baseball! With the NBA Finals over we can turn our attention back to the MLB. The Tampa Bay Devil Rays are still in contention at only 0.5 back of the Red Sox. Remarkable. The Yankees, on the other hand, are 5 games back from the Red Sox. You can’t really say it was Joe Torre that made the difference for the Yankees. Why? Well, he sure isn’t steering the Dodgers into the fast lane. Sure, they’re in 2nd place in the division at 4.5 games behind Arizona. The only reason they are doing that well is because the rest of the division stinks so badly. Today the Astros visit the Rays and the Indians visit the Dodgers.

The ASP World Tour is still in South Africa for the Billabong Pro Jeffreys Bay. Taj Burrow is the defending champ and once thought he saw a shark at this event. Back in 2003, what he thought was a large dorsal fin turned out to be a whale according to judges. He was never able to get his groove back to get back in contention for that year. Mick Fanning and Kelly Slater have taken this event in the past, as has Andy Irons. Oh yeah, and Slater is the current world number one and totally on fire lately.

There are four WNBA games today. Indiana will come to Los Angeles for the night game. The Sparks are currently number one in the West with an 8-3 record. Indiana is 6-5.

Only one MLS game is on today, with San Jose visiting DC United. Each team is at or near the bottom in the standings. The Los Angeles Galaxy remain number one in the West. Woo Hoo!


Today in Sports History

1994 – The United States beats Colombia 2-1 in the 1994 World Cup (soccer). This is the team’s 1st win since 1950. Brazil went on to take all the marbles.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Life Rolls On



I found another example of people not letting “limitations” get in their way of living life and participating in sports. Life Rolls On (LRO) is dedicated to assisting young people that have been affected by spinal cord injuries. Their mission is to instill that in spite of this injury, life does indeed roll on. The organization's website states the areas of focus as:

1. They Will Surf Again - Adaptive surfing program for those with spinal cord injury and a life changing volunteer experience for all.

2. Spinal Cord Injury Research - A portion of funds raised by Life Rolls On go directly towards research aimed at finding a cure to spinal cord injury and SCI related conditions.

3. Motivation and Awareness - Shifting paradigms in the general public, and amongst the disabled, that life with a spinal cord injury, does indeed "Roll On." A message of overcoming obstacles in the face of extreme adversity.


They Will Surf Again (TWSA) has several events over the summer that happen on both coasts in the U.S. In fact, today there is an event going on at Wrightsville Beach in North Carolina. Tomorrow the group will have an event in Long Branch, NJ. On July 19th, there is an event on Zuma Beach that will include Nike and Hurley. There are also stops at Bolsa Chica, Virginia Beach, and Cocoa Beach this summer.

LRO has many ways to get involved. Check their website for all of the details.


If you're in Australia, check out the Disabled Surfers Association. This group's next event will be held in October.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Wimbledon 2008 Preview



ESPN was so kind as to remind me that Wimbledon 2008 starts this Monday, June 23 and lasts until Sunday, July6. I have been lacking in my following of tennis recently and on this blog as someone pointed out to me. I usually follow the Williams sisters and Andy Roddick but alas, I am very behind on my knowledge of what they are up to so far this year. I know the Williams’ have had some issues in 2008 but I wouldn’t count them out yet.

The seeding was released this week and the top tens listed on the Wimbledon site are:

Gentlemen's Singles

1. Roger FEDERER (SUI)
2. Rafael NADAL (ESP)
3. Novak DJOKOVIC (SRB)
4. Nikolay DAVYDENKO (RUS)
5. David FERRER (ESP)
6. Andy RODDICK (USA)
7. David NALBANDIAN (ARG)
8. Richard GASQUET (FRA)
9. James BLAKE (USA)
10. Marcos BAGHDATIS (CYP)

Ladies’ Singles

1. Miss Ana IVANOVIC (SRB)
2. Miss Jelena JANKOVIC (SRB)
3. Miss Maria SHARAPOVA (RUS)
4. Miss Svetlana KUZNETSOVA (RUS)
5. Miss Elena DEMENTIEVA (RUS)
6. Miss Serena WILLIAMS (USA)
7. Miss Venus WILLIAMS (USA)
8. Miss Anna CHAKVETADZE (RUS)
9. Miss Dinara SAFINA (RUS)
10. Miss Daniela HANTUCHOVA (SVK)

Gentlemen’s Doubles

1. Bob BRYAN (USA) & Mike BRYAN (USA)
2. Daniel NESTOR (CAN) & Nenad ZIMONJIC (SRB)
3. Jonathan ERLICH (ISR) & Andy RAM (ISR)
4. Mahesh BHUPATHI (IND) & Mark KNOWLES (BAH)
5. Simon ASPELIN (SWE) & Julian KNOWLE (AUT)
6. Martin DAMM (CZE) & Pavel VIZNER (CZE)
7. Arnaud CLEMENT (FRA) & Michael LLODRA (FRA)
8. Jonas BJORKMAN (SWE) & Kevin ULLYETT (ZIM)
9. Lukas DLOUHY (CZE) & Leander PAES (IND)
10. Mariusz FYRSTENBERG (POL) & Marcin MATKOWSKI (POL)

Ladies’ Doubles

1. Miss Cara BLACK (ZIM) & Mrs Liezel HUBER (USA)
2. Miss Ai SUGIYAMA (JPN) & Miss Katarina SREBOTNIK (SLO)
3. Mrs Kveta PESCHKE (CZE) & Miss Rennae STUBBS (AUS)
4. Miss Yung-Jan CHAN (TPE) & Miss Chia-Jung CHUANG (TPE)
5. Miss Anabel MEDINA GARRIGUES(ESP) & Miss Virginia RUANO PASCUAL (ESP)
6. Miss Victoria AZARENKA (BLR) & Miss Shahar PEER (ISR)
7. Miss Alona BONDARENKO (UKR) & Miss Kateryna BONDARENKO (UKR)
8. Miss Shuai PENG (CHN) & Miss Tiantian SUN (CHN)
9. Miss Zi Yan (CHN) & Miss Jie ZHENG (CHN)
10. Miss Dinara SAFINA (RUS) & Miss Agnes SZAVAY (HUN)

There are many sources that will cover the event. For one, you can check the BBC’s Wimbledon Blog or the UK-based Times Online Wimbledon Blog. There are other tennis blogs as well including Tennis X or ESPN’s Tennis Blog.

The events are on ESPN2 and ESPN360.com, which is an excellent way to keep up if you’re stuck in the office. I watched the Champions League Final between Manchester United and Chelsea and the U.S. Open playoff this way. I’d highly recommend it if your have a high-speed connection. You can even log in and make comments with other viewers. I really don’t bother to do that since if I’m in the situation where I have it on the computer its likely because I’m busy and just want to check in on the event. I’ve got quite the week next week so I’m sure that’s how I’ll catch most of this. I want to try to catch Venus, Serena, Maria, Jelena, Andy, and Roger when they’re on. For doubles, I’d like to catch Safina & Szavay and the Bryans.

Who will you be watching?

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Los Angeles Breakers Basketball



Today’s post is brought to us today by Carolyn Hastings, basketball blogging guru extraordinaire and writer of And One. As you can tell by that name and my intro that the focus is on hoops. I really appreciate that she took the time to contribute and am a fan of her writings. Thank you, Carolyn and take it away:

We've changed the paradigm of basketball. --Farmer Pete, Half-Pints captain (Canada)

I have a giant crush on a little person. His name is David Guzman and he plays for the Los Angeles Breakers, a basketball team made up entirely of male and female athletes ranging in height from 4'0" to 4'9".

Founded in 1986 under the auspices of the Dwarf Athletic Association of America (DAAA), the Breakers are 10 time National and 3 time World Dwarf Basketball Champions. They also regularly outplay non-dwarf adult teams in local high schools, churches and other venues.

Two basic rules differ from traditional basketball:

Rebounds: Opposing team must let the ball bounce once after a shot is taken before taking possession. Breakers, however, may take the ball prior to the bounce.

Bounce Pass: Opposing team must make a bounce pass when passing the ball to other players so Breakers have a chance of stealing the pass.

If you forget either rule, it's counted as a turn over.

They don't lose often, which is why Jimmy Kimmel has a right to brag.

Before The Jimmy Kimmel Show, before (and during) the Ben Stein era, Jimmy was a radio legend in Los Angeles. The sports guy on Kevin & Bean's KROQ morning show starting in 1994, he and the "Kevin and Bean Family" once played the Breakers and lost, so when Jimmy announced his departure to devote more time to his television projects, a pre-parting rematch was only appropriate.

The game was played at Cal State Fullerton; hundreds of people were turned away due to a crowd that began lining up hours before tipoff.

Members of the Breakers are used to jokes, sarcasm, even insults. They get even on the court. Over and over and over. So, even though Jimmy enjoys referring to the team as "The Shrimpians," the Breakers went easy on him, allowing JK to leave town with a one point victory.

The LA Breakers use their games as fundraisers with the team's portion of the proceeds donated to DAAA.

Enough goodwill, let's talk about David. Prior to publication, I e-mailed DG for more information; he chose not to respond or marry me.

DG provides halftime entertainment with his fabulous dance moves (see video at top of post).

David's bio on LABreakers.net:

Actor: PUNK'D, Mad TV, Dog Eat Dog, and Best Damn Sports Show Period.

I'll let you know when he writes me back. Or calls. Probably right about the time LeBron gets around to it.

Check it out:

Eric & Jeff Manuel, twin Breakers, are friends with Zach from Little People, Big World, the TLC reality show which follows the lives of the Roloffs.

Dwarf Athletic Association of America (DAAA) is dedicated to serving the estimated quarter million Americans who are dwarfs (5 feet or less adult height) as a result of chondrodysplasia or related causes.

Dennis Rodman stars in The Minis, a "heartwarming comedy" about a dwarf basketball team asking the Rod Man to be their fifth player.

Little People of America (LPA) is a nonprofit organization that provides support and information to people of short stature and their families.

Clothing and practical tools for persons of short stature.

Little People - Learning to See the World Through My Daughter's Eyes by Dan Kennedy, award-winning journalist and father of Rebecca, diagnosed with achondroplasia, the most common type of dwarfism, shortly after birth.

By the way - you can also find Carolyn at this link, here, and here.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Wild World of Wednesday - June 18, 2008



The U.S. Open was amazing, wasn’t it? I watched the playoff between Tiger Woods and Rocco Mediate on ESPN 360 on Monday and it was as good as golf gets. What a great story either way – I couldn’t choose who to root for! On one hand, you’ve got a guy that is ranked way down in the 100s that has never won a major. On the other hand, you’ve got the World’s Best Golfer in Tiger Woods that is in his first tournament after knee surgery. Before everything started I picked Tiger to win in the Srixon forums. Some of my colleagues scoffed at this prediction. (By the way – if you aren’t a member of the Srixon True Players forum just shoot me an email and I’ll tell you how you can be. It’s a pretty cool spot to visit and they have contests and giveaways frequently.)

Speaking of golf, I just got my issue of Golf For Women today and it has some good tips from Annika herself and a big spread on fashion. This also reminded me that June is Women’s Golf Month. It seems as though women’s golf is starting to gain more attention – probably since there are so many of us that play. In fact, when I was at a recent demo day at my local Roger Dunn the Nike rep told me that the company was going to start focusing on women much more since they’ve basically ignored us for so long. I have noticed more Nike products for women lately when I’ve been in the pro shop.

If you were looking for a different sport to follow then check out the Ultimate Frisbee Tournament in Shanghai is on Friday. I’m not sure how much athleticism is involved since every picture on the site of the events seems to show the participants with what looks like adult beverages. Either way, it looks like a blast – thanks for turning me on to this one Carolyn.

I need something to keep me from getting depressed about baseball for sure. I read somewhere that in order to be in the post season the Dodgers need to play at something like .650 for the rest of the season. Nice. Thanks guys. I’m going to be ill. At least we can still vote for Russell Martin to be in the All-Star Game.

I’ve completely neglected mentioning the Euro 2008 even though I’ve been passively following it. There are still games through the end of the month so check them out.

Speaking of soccer, Cristiano Ronaldo of Man U fame and likely the best soccer player in the world is making headlines. Supposedly, he wants to play for Real Madrid, or is it Inter Milan? The latest is that the two Spanish clubs are fighting over him. A lot of fans have said that his talent would be wasted at one of these clubs and he should stay with Manchester United. Personally, I’d like to see him stay in England also. He as great in the Champions League, even though his missed shot at the end of the final game almost cost the club. If you missed that one, it was great! The score was left in a 1-1 tie but Man U prevailed over Chelsea 6-5 in the penalty kicks.



Today in Sports History

1962 - 62nd US Open won by Jack Nicklaus with a score of 283 at Oakmont Country Club.

1976 - ABA merges with the NBA to become one league. The ABA’s 4 successful teams (Nets, Pacers, Nuggets and Spurs) are now in the NBA and the others shut down for good.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Top Ten Phil Jackson Quotes



Who says these are the top ten? I do. What makes me an authority? Nothing in particular, I am simply a lifelong Lakers fan. Sure, others have compiled their lists but that doesn't mean I can't. These are my ten favorite, in no particular order. For me, they capture the essence of Phil Jackson. Always profound, sarcastic, and even esoteric; he’s certainly a colorful character.

I’m quite happy to have him as the Lakers coach. I was fortunate to be at the preseason game when he made his return to Los Angeles. Talk about a standing ovation! I don’t remember who won or who they even played, I just remember that Phil was back and a popular UCLA running back was sitting a few seats over. Some knucklehead in the row before me was forcibly yelling loudly with approval every time the Laker Girls would come out also. What made it really odd was the fact that he had an attractive girl with him. I guess some people like attention. Oh yeah, and it was Chick Hearn night. They gave fans a yellow stuffed bear that says “Lakers” on the front and “I (heart) Chick” on the back. The man in the seat next to me went around the stadium and got every extra one that he could find. By the end of the night he had two bags full of them. It was a bit creepy.

At any rate – here are my favorite quotes that are attributed to the Zen Master

1. If you meet the Buddha in the lane, feed him the ball.

2. I gave it my body and mind, but I have kept my soul.

3. In basketball -- as in life -- true joy comes from being fully present in each and every moment, not just when things are going your way.

4. Wisdom is always an overmatch for strength.

5. Always keep an open mind and a compassionate heart.

6. Approach the game with no preset agendas and you'll probably come away surprised at your overall efforts.

7. I think the most important thing about coaching is that you have to have a sense of confidence about what you're doing. You have to be a salesman and you have to get your players, particularly your leaders, to believe in what you're trying to accomplish on the basketball floor.

8. You can not teach competitiveness.

9. Winning is important to me, but what brings me real joy is the experience of being fully engaged in whatever I'm doing.

10. The ideal way to win a championship is step by step.


Tonight the Lakers are back in Boston for Game Six. For all of you that are still sending me emails and writing on my ESPN fan page – I get it. You’re a Celtics fan. Bully for you. Talking trash to a stranger does not help your team. Just because I don't make wild boasts and statements doesn't mean that I'm happy to hear yours. Again, I’ll somehow console myself if the Lakers don’t pull it out come January and February when I am going to the Staples Center in a light jacket while you’re shoveling snow to try to make it to your game. Enjoy.

Monday, June 16, 2008

5 Questions With Ocho Cinco

video

Becky “Ocho Cinco” Leetch is one of the dedicated players on the Southern California Breakers football team. A native of South Orange County, she went to San Clemente High School and the UHK (University of Hard Knocks) for her education. Today, she has a partner that believes she can do anything and supports all of her sports efforts. Indeed, as I’ve covered the team over the season it is her cheering section that I’ve become most acquainted with. I remember how excited they were to see footage I had got of Becky when we were grabbing a bite after the game. It was really awesome to see that she and the other players had so much support from family and friends.

Becky is a utility player that goes wherever the team needs her; defensive tackle, linebacker, safety, wherever. Since this is not a starting position, she feels that she really has to make the most of the playing time that she gets and prove that she can get it done. At 5’1”, her favorite saying is to “never underestimate the power of little people”. Indeed, she’s been on the right side of a fumble and a tackle throughout the season. In addition, her outlook and attitude are always positive on field and she’s so very excited to be there. Becky was so gracious to be my guest today for 5 Questions.

1. How long have you been involved in sports? What sports did you play as a child, in school, and later on before you joined the Breakers?


I’ve been involved in sports for most of my life. When I was around 7 or 8 my parents got me involved in soccer, and around 10 I started playing softball, which I stayed with up until High School. Once in high school, I was on the cross country and track teams, and started competitive weight lifting in my senior year. I now split my weekends with football (Saturday) and slow pitch softball (Sunday). … and when I find the time, I enjoy catching some waves with my brother at Doheny or San O’.

2. How did you get involved in professional football? What was your motivation? Is there anything you would change about your football career? How long do you intend to play?

I got involved with pro football after I saw an article in the OC Register about 5 years ago. At that time, I had a friend who was playing on an Oklahoma City, OK team, so I kinda already knew that this sport existed, although not in the OC.

My motivation to play, well for the love of the game, of course! Another motivation was from my partner. In her younger days she did all kinds of great things with softball, and experienced things that I could only dream of… until now. By playing football, I am now able to experience these types of things. … you know, articles in papers, and interviews like this, and being on broadcast TV. Without the Breakers, and women’s football, none of that would have ever happened. I now have “stories” to tell.

What would I change…That I would have been given more respect for my knowledge of the game, abilities, and heart instead of being always overlooked due to me being vertically challenged. I stand at 5’1” with my ¼” spikes on my football cleats.

I’m not sure how long I plan to play. Football, and training for football is very time consuming. In the off-season, I’m in the gym 2x a day (5:00 am and again after work) 3-4 times a week, and working out doing field drills 1-2 times a week. While in season, we practice 2x during the week, with practices going until 9:30pm – then my 45 minute drive home and up at 5:00am for work. Saturday practices go from 9:00am – 3:30pm and by the time you get home, you’re so exhausted the rest of the weekend is pretty much wasted. If you truly love the game, you and your family are willing to make these types of sacrifices.

3. What is the most difficult part about playing football for you? What are your fitness and nutrition routines that go along with your sport? How do those change in the off-season versus the regular season?

I wouldn’t say that the game is all that difficult… maybe more of a challenge. I primarily play defense, so you’re having to “read” the offense and in a split second, you have to read and determine if it’s a run or a pass. If it’s a run, you need to find out where they are running the ball, see who’s trying to come out to block you, and get to the ball carrier before you get blocked out of the play. If it’s a pass, you need to drop in to your zone, and see who’s coming in to your zone to cover. Then, once the ball is thrown, getting to the receiver. Eleven helmets to the ball, they say.

My fitness routines (now) are pretty much in the gym twice a day, 3-4 days a week in the off-season. In my first few seasons, I really wasn’t in the gym too much. But since I’ve seen my playing time decrease, I knew that I needed to do something… and that something was to get faster and stronger. While in-season, it’s pretty much a maintenance program and I’m only in the gym a couple of days a week, once per day, 2-3 times a week. V (Vanessa Santillan) told me about this great book during our last off-season that has helped tremendously! (The 52-Week Football training guide)

4. What have been the high points of your football career? Which are your favorite moments?

The absolute greatest highlight of my football career was the very first time that I suited up. I don’t think that anything will surpass that. My most favorite moment was in season 2 when we went 8-0. My most favorite moment which hasn’t happened yet is when I intercept the ball, run it back for a TD, and dive over into the end zone. Football is the ultimate team sport. We couldn’t have gone 8-0 without everyone working as a unit, and I won’t be able to get my pick for a TD if my teammates aren’t making blocks for me.

5. Do you consider yourself a role model? If so, to whom? If not, why? What do you think makes a good role model? What would you tell young athletes about following their dreams?

Yes, I do consider myself as a role model. Every adult should. You never know who is watching you and who wants to emulate what you do. I just need to make sure that what I’m doing is positive.

I’d tell young athletes, and just the youth in general, is to follow your dreams. Don’t be afraid to try anything. Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do something, because of “XYZ”. If you want to do it, do it!! I’m only 5’ 1”. If someone would have told me that I “can’t” play football, I’d have more of an inspiration to do better and to prove them wrong!! I cannot begin to tell you how passionate I am about believing in yourself. Again, I’m only 5’1! I may not get to play much, but when I do, I play as if I’m 5’10”. My heart, and passion for the game supersedes my small stature.

And by the way – her most favorite moment that hasn’t happened yet almost came to fruition on Saturday. She wrote me to let me know the details: It was towards the end of the 4th quarter and the Tucson Monsoon was inside of our 20. I was playing out outside linebacker on the short side of the field. Val Correa (21) was playing corner. Val picked off the pass (in the meantime, I was running in the direction of the pass). The receiver grabs Val by the back of her shirt and she was pretty much dead in the water. I was coming over to block the receiver off Val, when Val backwards laterals the ball to me. There is nothing but green for the next 80 yards!! I watch the ball into my hands, but I just couldn’t get a good grip on the ball and I didn’t catch it. Three of us ended up falling on the ball so we got to keep it. We ended up just taking a knee to run out the clock.


The Breakers won their final game of the season on Saturday by a score of 24-6.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Sunday Sports Wrap - June 14, 2008



As most every sports fan knows, today’s big event is the U.S. Open. Tiger Woods is in a good place in spite of his recent knee surgery. He’s been spotted wincing after hitting the ball a few times, but those were particularly good shots. We'll know at the end of the day whether he pulls it off.

Yes, I know the NBA Finals are on tonight. I am electing not to say much. I do have one request: could Boston fans think up a new chant please? “Beat L.A.” is tired and unimaginative. Oh well, if the home team doesn’t pull it out then I guess I’ll have to somehow console myself with the year-round perfect weather, excellent surf and ski conditions, top-quality shopping and dining, and more overall sports titles to name a few. Bummer.

The Tampa Bay Devil Rays are still close to the top. As of this morning, they are merely 1.5 games back from the Red Sox while the Yankees are 6 games back. The Rays host the Marlins today at the Trop. The Dodgers are also in second in their division. They are just a mere 5.5 games behind Arizona. Nice. This is that time of year where I miss a few games and get that sinking, nauseous feeling about the team. Yeah, I knew that simply signing Joe Torre wasn’t going to mean the team would start winning. It’s a great start and I’m really happy to have him. I just wish the team ownership was thinking more about building a winning team and not the plans for the new mall at the stadium. Being here in Los Angeles has its advantages, doesn’t it? With the large population you don’t have to really try to please the fans. When one of us gets disgusted by the team and doesn’t buy a ticket another simply takes their place. Thanks for nothing Frank McCourt. The Dodgers are in Detroit today by the way.


Today in Sports History

1926 – Don “Newk” Newcombe is born in Madison, NJ. Newk was the right-handed pitcher and lefty batter that played for the Dodgers, Reds, and Indians.

1980 - Jack Nicklaus wins the U.S. Open by shooting a 272

Saturday, June 14, 2008

The Pitcher With One Arm



No, not Jim Abbott, but young baseball players that hope to follow in his footsteps. My local news highlighted a young man in the Los Angeles area that played as a little league pitcher with only one arm. I had saved the story and research to bring you the information and it had all moved or was no longer available. In an attempt to find him, I came across several notable athletes and decided to tell you about several of them. As it turns out, there are inspiring athletes all over the country that are playing baseball in spite of only having one fully-developed arm.

Juan Guizar is the little league pitcher that inspired this post. He was born without half of his left arm but still plays the game exceptionally.

Curtis Dolezal (see video) lost his arm in a farm accident when he was only three. He plays not only baseball, but football and basketball. He plays outfield and pitcher and does pretty much whatever else he decides he wants to do.

J.J. LaSalle was profiled last year while attending St. Bonaventure High School in Ventura, CA. If you live anywhere near Ventura County, you know that this school is well-known for creating sports stars in the future (much like Mater Dei of Santa Ana in Orange County, CA). This young man is still doing well as the last season stats data also list him as a winning pitcher. This young man was born without his left arm complete but has not let that slow him down. He started playing baseball at a young age and truly loves the game.

One-armed pitchers have been in baseball nearly as long as the game has been played. I found a reprint in the New York Times from 1915 that described such a player. The paper described the feat by this pitcher, Hugh Dailey of Cleveland, which was a no hit, no run game.

Playing baseball with only one arm is not totally reserved for pitchers. Peter Gray played in the outfield with a team in Quebec. Gray lost his arm in an automobile accident when he was only six. This one-armed outfielder boasted a batting average of .300 and extreme throwing accuracy.

Another inspiring story is that of Tom Willis. Born without arms, he recalls playing baseball with the other kids by having someone hit for him while he ran the bases. He was chosen to throw out a first pitch at a San Diego Padres game and took the honor very seriously. Using his foot and leg, he worked with a trainer and practiced so that he could throw a strike.

Also found in my research was the Amputee Sports listing. Paralympic and other sports are listed here including soccer, bowling, windsurfing, golf, lawn bowling, and many more. I often find Paralympic event coverage on Fat Louie’s Women’s Sports Blog also.

I am always inspired by these stories and use them to stay motivated with my own fitness goals. Whenever my shoulder is especially achy (from an old accident), I am grateful that I have it at all to whine about. When I get my knee out of whack (same accident), I think about how lucky I am to be able to complain about it. I could have easily been in the same situation as any of these athletes but walked away from my serious accident with all of my limbs intact.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Meet Brittney Griner (The Female Athlete of Today)



Today’s post is penned by special guest Rob Mars. Rob is behind the Athletic Women Blog, which is dedicated to Amazon feminism. Not sure what that means? According to Wikipedia the definition is as follows:

Amazon feminism is dedicated to the image of the female hero in fiction and in fact, as it is expressed in art and literature in the physiques and feats of female athletes, martial artists, and other powerfully built women.

Some examples would be Wonder Woman, Sydney Bristow, or this young woman that Rob has written about for us:

I want to bring someone to your attention, someone I think you'll find pretty amazing. Her name, as I'm sure you've deduced, is Brittney Griner, and she just completed her junior year in high school. I'll let the video clip explain the rest (watch the clip above, then continue).

Yep, that's right! A young female basketball player, not even out of high school, dunking and playing above the rim NBA style. Don't be too surprised, though. While Brittney is clearly exceptional, she's just one example of an unmistakable trend--female athletes are getting bigger, faster, and stronger, and this is happening at a breathtaking pace.

But why? one might understandably ask. Which isn't really so hard to answer. We've been in a period for a while now where women have been able to explore their physical potential (relatively) unhindered. They've been reaping the benefits of strength training and athletic competition, and what's more, our society is actually starting to value athletic women. Consequently, with Brittney and many other gifted young female athletes like her, we're seeing the results of a shift in our societal thinking.

Traditionally, we've been told that women aren't sturdy enough to play certain sports, much less compete with men in them; they're just too dainty for some sports, it has been said. (Nothing more than self-fulfilling prophecy, one could argue, since only within the last few decades have women been free to develop themselves physically, their "daintiness" being the ostensible reason given for their exclusion from strenuous physical activity.) But as Laura Pappano points out, these old stereotypes are now being challenged routinely.

Women are much more robust than they've been given credit for. The survival of our species has, in fact, depended on women's ability to meet the demands of their often mutable environment, and what we value as a society becomes an important part of that environment. Thus, the more society appreciates powerful, athletic women, and the more women esteem physical strength themselves, the more we will see remarkable female athletes like Brittney.

I for one am looking forward to it.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Which One Is Your Favorite Lakers Team?



Now that the Lakers are firmly in the spotlight and the NBA finals are underway the comparison to the last champion Lakers team is turning up in conversations everywhere. How does the Kobe-Shaq champion team compare to the Kobe-Gasol team? How do the fans feel in the city of Los Angeles? I know fans outside of Los Angeles either love or hate the Lakers and have a completely different take. Being a lifelong fan, I can tell you that there is definitely a different feel to the current squad here in the hometown. Today's Lakers are a younger, grittier team than was the Kobe-Shaq combo. Not to say that it was bad - they did win three in a row! Ah, the parades on Figueroa...

At any rate, the Kobe-Shaq team became full of posturing and criticism as they progressed. Many of the die hards that I knew at the time (myself included) loved the combination of the two players as the jewels in the Lakers crown. In fact, many fans took the Shaq-Kobe conflicts as something the media has simply blown up. They didn't really have a grudge...did they?

When Shaq came to L.A. in the 1996-97 season there was reason to celebrate. Here was a popular player that could make an impact on the team and on the town. I can't tell you how many stories I've heard about what a "great guy" he was because someone approached him for an autograph and he obliged. Shaq was always charming in public and played up to the fans. He was an exceptional fit for an exceptional team. Unfortunately, he suffered injuries throughout his first season and even missed his All-Star Game appearance because of it. Also in this year, Kobe Bryant came as a rookie with high expectations. He was especially cemented as a fan favorite after his performance at the Slam Dunk Contest. Los Angeles appeared to be on the road to another legendary team. The addition of Phil Jackson in 1999 only enhanced that prospect.

It took a bit for fans to really catch on to the turmoil - at least to those of us that were enamored by the titles in 2000, 2001, and 2002. It was good to be a Lakers fan. I remember the murals on the three buildings of the Hotel Figueroa near the Staples Center that had Kobe holding a trophy in each of these years. His giant grin was exuding confidence and satisfaction.

My memories of that team (selectively) end there. That last season in the three-peat was the one before the Shaq-Kobe thing got to the point that you realized it was more than simple media prodding. This was also the time before any off-court shenanigans tarnished the reputation of our star. I know of many who longingly remember those glory days, myself included.

Again, the 2008 Lakers have a younger feel that convinces you they'll reign supreme and do so for seasons to come. The complaints are gone and players are trying to assure they stay in the City of Angels. This is not the Kobe-Shaq Lakers or anything that remotely resembles it.

As for these finals, one colleague describes this current Lakers-Celtics rivalry as lackluster. These teams don’t “hate” each other the way the old rivals did. The Lakers today have more animosity toward the Spurs, Pistons, and Kings. Don’t get me wrong, I am quite excited about this 2008 team. I’ve followed the Lakers my entire life and could never imagine ditching them. Derek Fisher is the man (and hits those tight shots the way Nick Van Excel used to), Ronnie Turiaf is a party and a half (just watch him dance), Luke Walton can get things done (he better, it’s in his genes), and Jordan Farmar is nothing to ignore either. Yeah, these players all have a “streakiness” about them, so what. I still believe the Lakers have the strongest bench in the NBA. Sure the Celtics have The Three Amigos, but the Lakers have the whole package. I haven't even mentioned Sasha Vujacic, Vladimir Radmanovic, or Lamar Odom. They aren't exactly bad players.

For me, I miss the old days. Then again, I’m getting older and I’ve noticed those who are closer to college age prefer the new Lakers. What do you think? Which Lakers team do you pine for? Magic Johnson’s? The Kobe-Shaq three-peat? Are you happy with the 2008 Kobe team?

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Wild World of Wednesday - June 11, 2008



Yes, if you haven’t figured it out – the title of the Wednesday posts around here is a play on the title “Wide World of Sports”. If you’re a lifelong sports fan you have probably heard the intro that starts out with the words, “Spanning the globe to bring you the constant variety of sport…” However, the most famous line in the intro is arguably “…the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat...”

The Wide World of Sports show started way back in 1961 and went everywhere in the world possible to bring every sport imaginable to the viewing audience. And yes, those included events that have some cynics claiming that they are not a sport. Barrel jumping, logging, hurling, and many Olympic sports were featured here. Evel Knievel and his daredevil stunts appeared on the show seven different times from 1973-1976. Only two of those stunts ended in a crash and the rest were successful. In the days before ESPN and other sports networks were ubiquitous, this was where certain athletes and sports got their publicity. The show gave audiences new ideas about places they had never been and people doing thing they didn’t normally see.

That voice that you hear in your head when you think of the show was that of Jim McKay, who passed away over the weekend. He was most noted, however, for his broadcast of the 1972 tragedy at the Olympics in Munich where athletes were taken hostage and killed. Younger sports fans, including myself, know this moment where he famously utters, “They’re all gone” from the 2005 film depiction “Munich”. Rest in peace Mr. McKay and thank you for being a part of happy sports memories in my lifetime.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Definition of Sport Revisited



I recently wrote a post explaining why I believe that MMA should be considered a sport. Nearly everyone I spoke to about it agreed with very few exceptions. Just the other day someone else informed me that they believe that golf is not a sport. Interesting. I disagree completely. To this person, sport only exists if there is a defense. They asserted that golf, track and field events, surfing, skating, gymnastics, snowboarding, and the like are not sports. Jumping in on the conversation, someone else claimed that soccer is not a sport. Their justification? It isn’t a sport to them unless you use your hands. Again, I totally disagree.

So I asked the first person if they had ever played golf. They hadn’t. This person would also not really wear the label of “sports fan”. I asked the second about the goalie in soccer. No answer. This person is a “sports fan” but only into the likes of football, baseball, and basketball.

I’ve heard each case before. Most that I have run into that think specific sports are not "real" sports have never played an organized competitive sport and would not label themselves "sports fans". One person tried to test my definition and asked if I believed cheerleading and marching band were sports. While cheer is definitely a sport the band is more of a gray area. I would venture to guess that most in the marching band don’t consider themselves athletes nor do they enjoy other sports. At least that is what I remember from high school. On the other hand, if you have a performing band that competes against others and includes athleticism, this has sport. Competition always brings a sporting element. However, actually labeling marching band a "sport" is likely a big stretch. Let me know if you disagree – I’m open to suggestions on this one.

Others, like the second person, only believe those with the most publicity are "sports" such as football, baseball, hockey, and basketball. If this is the case, why do sports networks cover so much more? Why are the Olympics and X Games made up of more individual events than team? Is poker a sport, because I see it on ESPN quite often?

Really, I think sports are in the eye of the beholder. For me, sports are a big part of life and I couldn’t imagine not having any in my days. Sports are diverse and include something for almost everyone. Simply because a cynical person proclaims that golf is not a sport will not change the definition as far as I’m concerned. I think golf is a sport. Actually, I know golf is a sport. If there’s a clock, score, winner, measure, or contest then it’s most likely a sport. I also think running, bodybuilding, cheerleading, curling, handball, surfing, swimming, football, and a multitude of other activities are sports. Heck, ping pong, lawn bowling, and badminton are sports. Yeah, there are some activities that are a stretch, but who’s to say that something isn’t? Why do we need to classify? Sports are what you make of them.

What constitutes a sport for you?

Monday, June 9, 2008

5 Questions With A Running Back



Vanessa Santillan plays the position of running back for the Southern California Breakers women’s football team. A remarkable runner, she is often seen on the field running opponents out of their shoes. Vanessa is a Southern California native that watched and played sports starting at an early age with her father. She played nearly every sport growing up and excelled in soccer, volleyball, and track.

Vanessa attended Trabuco Hills High School in Mission Viejo where she met her current boyfriend of 7 years. She took a special interest in weight lifting between high school and college. In addition, she is a 2007 graduate of Cal State Fullerton with a degree in Kinesiology with an emphasis on Sports Studies/Sports Performance. She attributes the fact that she got her degree in Kinesiology to playing football. Vanessa now works with athletes of all ages in her current job as a Sports Performance Coach for Velocity Sports Performance in Irvine.

Vanessa has been playing football for four years now. She started as and continues to play as a running back. She plays corner/safety every now and then and enjoys playing special teams as a striker going straight for the ball carrier. The talented athlete slowed down for a moment to answer my five questions:

1. How did you first become involved in sports? Have you always been athletic? What did you do as a child, in high school, college, etc. before playing for the Breakers as far as sports?

My family really enjoys sports whether playing for fun or watching games. I have been involved with sports since I was seven years old. I started out by playing soccer up until high school. In high school I was on the track team and ran in the sprints (100, 200 and 400 meter races). I always enjoyed playing sports outside of school and would usually play with the guys that were more competitive.

I worked full time as a personal trainer during college and as far as my athletic career went I worked out regularly and got into a few 5k races. I had a great time running but really wanted to join more of a team sport. I was 19 when saw an article in the paper about tryouts for a women's football team in Orange County and that's when my football career started.

2. Tell me about your training schedule - with the team and on your own. What is the hardest part about training for you? What are the specifics for your position that you work on?

Our team training schedule consists of practice 3 times a week, Tuesday/Thursday 7:00 pm to 9:30 pm and Saturdays in the off season are a long 9:00 am to 3:30pm.

Because I work as a sports performance coach, I have a great facility to train myself - just like the pros! I work out almost everyday, specifically for football but in the past few years I’ve learned to take off a day or two here and there to recover but I really do love working out. I have recently taken up Olympic weightlifting which really helps me on the football field. I work on speed, agility and quickness as well.

The hardest part about training is taking what I learn in the weight room and training floor and executing it on the field. It’s hard to turn off the "inner coach" and over analyze something that comes so naturally to most athletes.

3. What do you find to be the most challenging part about playing football? What is the most rewarding thing? What is your most memorable/exciting moment playing football?

The most challenging part about football is just playing the game. Allowing myself to forget about everything and just running the ball without thinking too much is tough. Getting into the "Zone" and just letting my instincts come out is difficult.

The most rewarding thing in football on the field is when all 11 players are in sync. Perfect plays are executed and everyone has a great time. It is also rewarding to know that we are women playing football and showing little girls that women are strong and can accomplish anything they set their minds to and believe in.

My personal favorite moment in football would have to be our first regular season game when I ran in our winning touchdown, in double overtime. No other touchdown will ever be that exciting! I don't think I stopped smiling for days.

One honorable moment that deserves mentioning was our final game last season (2007) when The Breakers, including myself had 13 players take on the West Coast Championship team. We had suffered a lot of injuries that year and knew in our hearts we could not win that game, but played anyway for the love of the game & each other.

4. What do you get out of playing for the Breakers? How has this experience enhanced your life?

I know for a fact my life would be very different. I don't think I would have the career I have now without being involved with football. I have met and become close friends with my great and crazy teammates, we are all so different but yet we share this common bond. Football has brought out qualities in me that help make me the strong person I am.

5. Do you consider yourself a role model? What would you say to young athletes about following their sports dreams?

I think anyone that works with children/teenagers should automatically be a role model whether that be a teacher or coach. I work hard physically to make sure that I can be in the best shape I can for the game and I try my best to be a good teammate and athlete for the team.

I have the opportunity to really help develop athletes on a daily basis. I see young girls and boys who are reserved at times and hold themselves back because they don't want to stand out or don't believe in themselves enough. As a coach your job is not only to help a child get faster and stronger but also to help bring out their confidence so that they can have just as much fun playing a sport as you (the coach) does.

We play sports for fun and to feel successful. Young athletes especially need to make sure that at the end of the day they are having fun. If an athlete wants to take their sport to the next level they need to take advantage of every moment to get better mentally and physically.


Photos of Vanessa in action are courtesy of Eddie Perlas.