The Game that Fuels it All

Pine Tar is a substance found in every MLB dugout. Pine Tar is a sticky material used to by batters to give a better grip when using wooden baseball bats. However, currently Pine Tar is illegal for any pitcher to use while actually pitching. Similar to how pine tar gives a batter grip, pine tar gives pitcher grip and control of his pitches. Pine Tar has led to many scandals including the Pine Tar Game or the Bryce Harper incident. The most recent incident happened last week when Yankees Pitcher Michael Pineda was ejected from the game and suspended for ten games for having a foreign substance on his neck (pine tar).  The Yankees were playing the Red Sox’s when the Sox’s manager brought attention to a substance on the neck of Pineda. This was not Pineda’s first offense with pine tar; he was warned the earlier in the season for having pine tar on his wrist/hand while playing the Red Sox’s.

Michael Pineda is a 25 year old pitcher form the Dominican Republic who signed with the Seattle Mariners at age 16. He had his Major League debuted with the Seattle Mariners in 2011. He was traded to the Yankees in 2012.  Pineda suffered an anterior labral tear in his right shoulder in the beginning of the 2012 season. He underwent surgery during the 2012 season and was unable to play at all during the 2012 season. After a season spent in the minors, Pineda was able to make it to the Yankees starting rotation.

The Yankees and the Red Soxs have a long standing well-known rivalry to say the least. Games between the two are highly-competitive and heated meaning there is pressure on all the players to preform (or deal with the wrath of their fans).  Looking at Pineda’s relatively difficult start in the MLB it is easy to say that the man is under a lot of pressure. While Pineda has only pitched 4 games so far in the 2014 season, I do not think by any means it is a coincidence that both times the pitcher has gotten in trouble it was against the Red Soxs a high pressure game where he could make a name for himself.

According to Klein, Dominican players have extreme pressure on them to succeed in the majors due to the poverty of both their families and their community and the past success of Dominican players in the league.  This means that many players do anything possible to make their big league dreams a reality including cheat. Dominican players have been heavily linked to the usage of steroid and HGH. The rationality of cheating has been linked to pressure in recent studies. Dominican players constantly fear a premature end of their career which for Dominicans means “You’re worthless. This is a failure. He was given the opportunity and he failed” (Klein 1993). This pressure seems almost inevitable when you are in a foreign country trying to make yourself and your whole community proud and simultaneously play good baseball. In the end, I am by no means justifying cheating. I am however arguing that the baseballs biggest concern should not be a pitcher with pine tar on their hand, but a country and players who are completely dependent on the pipe dream of playing professional baseball.


“You Chickensh*t MotherF%cker”

Let’s talk politics. Let’s talk religion. Let’s talk race. With this story we got all three. By now I am sure we have all heard or at least heard of the remarks made by the L.A. Clippers Owner Donald Sterling which make him sound more like a pre-civil war plantation owner or he’s still stuck in 1978 small town Odessa, TX than that of an owner of an NBA basketball team in a 21st century metropolis.
TMZ first broke the story with an audio tape recorded by V. Stiviano, Sterling’s “girlfriend” or sugar baby, of the two arguing because The Donald was upset that she posted pictures on Instagram of herself and two black athletes Matt Kemp and Magic Johnson. What’s ironic about V. is that she too is black and Mexican who had apparently changed her name because “fully accepted because of my race.”
Donald Sterling’s is publically known for being racist. He had to settle a multimillion dollar lawsuit that he got himself in by not letting anyone but Koreans live in an apartment complex he owns in L.A.’s Koreatown. Then in 2009 he was sued by former longtime Clippers executive Elgin Baylor, who is black, for employment discrimination on the basis of age and race. The lawsuit alleges Sterling told Baylor that he wanted to fill his team with “poor black boys from the South and a white head coach”
So it’s not surprising that there is tape of Donald being racist and then some, he even brought Jews into it. Nor is it surprising that a million possibly billionaire has a “girlfriend” or archivist as she labels herself who is half his age. Nor is it surprising that the players in the NBA are protesting Sterling. Nor is it surprising that Snopp Dogg called Donald Sterling a “bitchass redneck white bread chickenshit motherfucker”, fair.
What is surprising is that Donald Sterling is still a Los Angeles Clippers owner. What is even worse is that there isn’t a whole lot that the new NBA commissioner Adam Silver hasn’t done anything about this yet. There is an investigation ongoing but does Sterling really deserve due process? NO! He’s been a known racist who’s already had multiple lawsuits filed against him because of discrimination. Clipper sponsors have been dropping at the rate of one every thirty minutes since the tape was released and his comments made public. Twitter has been set ablaze with current former and future NBA players and other pop culture icons dissing Donald and calling for his head.
There is no doubt that Donald Sterling won’t be an owner for much longer and if he still is at the beginning of next year good luck Clipper’s trying to find anyone who will play for someone like Mr. Sterling. There is no place in today’s society for someone like this especially in the NBA where 78% of its players are black. If it weren’t the playoffs I really doubt that you’d be seeing Lob City running up and down the court.


The Hypocrisy of Owners Now-A-Days

“Suspensions here, suspensions there, fines on fines on fines” this is what I see almost everyday when I am looking at recent sports news. Everyday some player is getting in trouble for fighting or breaking team rules or another action that the professional league does not tolerate. Players are held to high standards by their teammates, coaches, organizations, and most importantly their fans. But recently, I have been reading a lot about the trouble owners of professional sports teams are getting into and how the leagues are just giving them a slap on the wrist with a warning. How can the people who are enforcing rules on their players, themselves not get into trouble for actions they do. Everyone in professional sports has the responsibility to act in a manner that does not bring shame and trouble to the game itself. There needs to be a change in sports where commissioners need to start enforcing consequences on owners that truly resemble the act they committed. The penalty of not being able to attend a game or two needs to be thrown away and true consequences need to be administered.

Donald Sterling is a prime example of how changes need to be made against people in the public sphere of sports rather than just the players and coaches. Sterling made headlines this week when a recording came out with Sterling making racist remarks about African-Americans. He was recorded saying he does not want African-Americans at his games and other remarks stating that his African-American players are there on display like slaves were. Sterling is the owner of the Los Angeles Clippers and this is not his first time in the public eye for comments he has said and actions he has done. The effect of Sterling’s comments have hit the NBA like a storm with stars such as Lebron James saying Sterling should be kicked out of ownership, Magic Johnson saying there is no room for people like Sterling in the NBA and Michael Jordan explaining his disgust for those remarks. However, Sterling is sitting on his throne thinking there is nothing that will  happen because he is one of the bosses of the commissioner in a way. Nothing has been done in the past to this cocky owners who think they can not be touched. Things need to change. Sterling should be removed as owner or he will run a great organization into the ground. The Clippers who are in the midst of the NBA playoffs protested the remarks of Sterling by throwing down there warm up jerseys before the game a couple of days ago and wearing an inside out red shirt. They had no clipper logos on during warm ups to protest they remarks of their owner. Their coach Doc Rivers even stated that he is not sure if he wants to return to the team next year if this is who will be in control of the team. Oh, and by the way the Clippers only have one white player on their team in JJ Redick and reports have shown he is one of the more outraged players on the team.

Sterling is just the most recent owner to make headlines. Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay of the NFL was arrested a couple of weeks ago on preliminary charges of impaired driving and possession of controlled substances. These accusations would get a player a hefty fine with most likely a suspension on top of that. But once again the owner is above all the rules. They are who controls the league, its players and its commissioner, nothing can hurt them. There have been tons and tons of cases where owners have a sense of a god-like personality and feel as if they can never get in trouble no matter what they do. This is a call for action by me and more the fans of the sports. Changes need to be made by the commissioners on the actions of the owners. It does not matter that these guys pay your checks Roger Goodell, assert that authority you use on the players on the football field or Adam Silver make a stand that you are not running the same show that David Stern ran. Make your first big decision one to remember and get Donald Sterling out of here. Owners need to be held to the same standard their players are held to. Even if they write some more checks does not mean they are any higher on the totem pole then any one else. Time to stop the hypocrisy of the owners and hold them accountable for what they do like everyone else.


Over use or abuse: Are youth athletes being pushed too far?

If one in five children are going to the ER for treatment related to sport injuries, the question must be asked (Healy 2013). Are we pushing our youngest athletes too far?

In general, it is important for kids to stay active and play, but if it means putting their health at risk it may be time to rethink how we as a society organize youth sports. Many children starting at six are tracked into one sport or another based on preference, size, and/or ability. Not only does this tracking create specialization, but it can also lead to overuse problems and risk of serious injuries.

In total, there is an estimated 45 million children participating in scholastic and community organized youth sport programs in the United States (Nationwide Children’s Hospital Sports Medicine 2014). Just because of the shear numbers, it is not surprising that the rates of youth sport injuries are so high. Some of the most common injuries include: sprains, fractures, contusions, and concussions. These types of injuries are seen in youth athletes because of a number of factors such as sport specialization, imbalance of strength or joint range of motion, anatomic misalignment, improper footwear, pre-existing conditions, growth cartilage, and intense, repetitive training during grown periods (Nationwide Children’s Hospital Sports Medicine 2014).

Screen Shot 2014-04-27 at 1.18.32 PM

Interestingly enough, the easiest way to prevent as well as treat any of these injuries is time.

Especially for children, even though their bodies usually heal quickly, there is no reason for why they shouldn’t be able to take the time to rest their bodies. According to the Nationwide Children’s Foundation the best way to treat a child’s injury is with the RICE method of Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation (2014). In addition, it is important not to let them get back into full participation until they are completely with out pain.

So what sports are these children are playing? Could limiting the age of participation for specific sports solve this problem?

The sports that seem to cause the most injuries in young children are football, basketball, soccer, and baseball (Healy 2013). Unfortunately, these are also the most popular sports in the United States, so I don’t see them going away or limiting the age of participation any time soon. There is, however, a possibility of limiting specialization.

Screen Shot 2014-04-27 at 1.18.48 PM

It has been noted by a number of researchers that youth participation in specialized sports programs increases with the wealth of individual families (Toporek 2014). As seen in the urbanization of soccer, middle class families are becoming more and more involved in organized youth athletics. In doing so, many parents tend to urge their children into mastering one single sport (Andrews, 1999).

Keeping this research in mind, it has also been found that higher-income families are 68 percent more likely than lower-income families to experience a sport-related injury (Toporek 2014). This can be contributed to the increase in volume of training time that is expected in order to be apart of a single competitive sport. In addition, the wealthier a family is, the more money they have to spend on their children to participate in organized sport programs. In general, competitive sport programs are very expensive and consist of hard work, repetitive actions and very little recovery time to prevent injuries; which may explain this increase in injuries for wealthier youth athletes.

So what’s the counter argument? In the United States athletics is extremely valued. There is a lot of pride that goes into participating in sports as well as being an “athletic supporter.” For this reason, why shouldn’t we start our children young and have them specialize in playing a specific sport? If they can do this early on, then they can become the “best,” get recognized in high school, maybe receive a scholarship for college, and even play professionally!

Although though this plan sounds enticing, I can’t help to think of the long-term injuries that may happen. Think of all the un-reported concussions that occur in football from kids being told that winning the game is more important then their “minor” injury (Go Tigers, movie). What will that do to these young children’s futures? Plus! Think about the knee injuries in female soccer players, and shoulder injuries in sports like swimming and baseball. All of these sports are notorious for serious injures, and it is concerning to think that in possibly 20 to 30 years these children will have early onset arthritis and other problems that are completely preventable from just taking time off to heal properly.

So what can we do about it?

Some research has recently come out that says that although physical activity is instrumental in normal child development, it is actually better for children to spend more time in unstructured free play than organized youth sports (Toporek 2014). In fact, children should spend more than two-times as much time in free-play than organized activities, like sports. With this data, it might finally be time to consider an official time-out from super competitive and time-consuming youth sports, and give these kiddos some rest.



David L. Andrews (1999): Contextualizing suburban soccer: Consumer culture, lifestyle differentiation and suburban America, Culture, Sport, Society, 2:3, 31-53



Bruh Trippin’

The playoffs are arguably the best part of every season no matter what sport you are playing or watching. There is nothing that can quite match the intensity of giving all you’ve got for that game or match, and then having to do it all over again the next night or the next week. Within the past week, amid playoff basketball and some of the best games any fan has seen all year, basketball has taken a backseat.

You would expect to hear about a superstar’s dazzling performance or the underdog winning a game on the road. However, racism has been the topic of conversation of pretty much everyone involved with the NBA, from owners to players to commentators to fans. Racism.

Of the four major U.S. sports, basketball has the highest percentage of African-American players at 78 percent. More than three-quarters of all the players in the NBA are African-American. Make sure you can wrap your head around that.

Though it may not be surprising that 78% of all NBA players are African-American, this stat might: of the 30 NBA teams, only one team has an African-American majority owner, and that is Michael Jordan, arguably the most famous basketball player to ever play the game.

But this isn’t about Michael Jordan, or about what one player said to another; it’s about Los Angeles Clipper’s owner Donald Sterling and what he said to his girlfriend. Sterling, first reported by TMZ, reprimanded his girlfriend for posting a picture on Instagram of her with Magic Johnson. Sterling said that she shouldn’t be “broadcast[ing]” that she was “associating with black people.”

“You can sleep with [black people]. You can bring them in, you can do whatever you want. The little I ask you is not to promote it on that…and not to bring them to my games.”

As you can probably tell, this hasn’t gone over well with the NBA or its affiliates. The NBA and its new Commissioner Adam Silver are investigating these, and many other, racist remarks reportedly made by Sterling. The Clipper players, in the midst of a huge playoff series against the Golden State Warriors, staged a silent protest by removing their warm-up shirts bearing the team logo and wearing their practice jerseys inside out, hiding the Clipper insignia.

Many other notable people associated with the NBA including three NBA legends, also voiced their opinions.

Jordan, who I spoke up earlier, said “As an owner, I’m obviously disgusted that a fellow team owner could hold such sickening and offensive views. … As a former player, I’m completely outraged. There is no room in the NBA – or anywhere else – for the kind of racism and hatred that Mr. Sterling allegedly expressed.”

All-time scoring leader Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who was a Clippers special assistant coach in 2000, told CNN: “I know him. I know his voice. I am not surprised by this very much.” Though he said he never heard any racist words from Sterling, he admits that the recording shows a “repugnant attitude for someone to have, and for him to be an employer for so many people of color, it kind of blows your mind.”

Johnson went on to say that “He shouldn’t own a team any more. And he should stand up and say, ‘I don’t want to own a team any more.’”

The recording of the alleged conversation between Sterling and his girlfriend goes on, for approximately an hour. The woman on the tape, assumed to be his girlfriend, shares that she is of mixed race, and reminds him that most of his team’s players are African-American.

“I support them and give them food, and clothes, and cars, and houses. Who gives it to them? Does someone else give it to them? … I’ve known (Magic) well and he should be admired. … I’m just saying that it’s too bad you can’t admire him privately. Admire him, bring him here, feed him, f**k him, but don’t put (Magic) on an Instagram for the world to have to see so they have to call me. And don’t bring him to my games.”

Even President Obama weighed in. “When ignorant folks want to advertise their ignorance, you don’t really have to do anything, you just let them talk. That’s what happened here.”

Clearly, this is bad. There is no room for that kind of blatant racism in the world we live in. However, we have seen a different form of racism take place in popular sports, especially football.

Pitts and Yost (2012) highlight racial position segregation in college football, saying that African-American high school quarterbacks are among those more likely to change positions in college than their white counterparts. African-American quarterbacks who enter college are often switched to more athletic positions like wide receiver or defensive back, mostly because of their superior athletic ability.

Although racial stacking is not as obvious of a display of racism as Sterling’s comments are, both are unacceptable. The fact that Sterling owns an NBA team where four of its starting five players are African-American, and 78% of the league is African-American, makes this situation exponentially worse.

I don’t see any situation where Sterling gets out of this without some kind of repercussion. Sterling bought the Clippers in 1981 for $12.5 million. The Sacramento Kings just sold this past year for $535 million. Maybe he should take Magic’s advice and get out while he can.


Reactions to Racism: The Quenelle, Clippers, and Bananas

This past week in professional sports we’ve seen accusations of racism, fines for potentially racist gestures, and questions about how the associated governing bodies should handle such actions. In addition to the variety of  racist incidents, we’ve also seen quite a variety of reactions, from humour to silent protest. What is the best way to combat racism and discrimination in sport?

One gesture has caused an uproar, specifically in France and among French players in various countries. The quenelle is said to have been created by French comedian Dieudonne M’bala M’bala, but has contested meanings. The gesture involves one straightened arm angled down with the other arm crossing over the opposite shoulder. Some say that it is nothing more than an inverted Nazi salute and represents anti-Semitic sentiments. Its resemblance to the Nazi salute and the fact that M’bala M’bala has seven convictions of anti-Semitic hate speech strengthens the gestures racist connotations. The French comedian is a self-proclaimed anti-Zionist, not an anti-Semite, and claims that the gesture is an anti-establishment symbol. However, M’bala M’bala’s fans have been photographed making the gesture in front of sensitive sites, such as Parisian synagogues and in front of Holocaust sites.

French academic, Jean-Yves Camus has said that the symbol has become a sort of badge for the youth who do not understand its anti-Semitic origins and instead use the symbol to represent resistance and defiance against the system. In addition to the various interpretations of the gesture, West Ham soccer player Nicolas Anelka made the gesture during a post-goal celebration. Later he claimed that he slid the quenelle in support of his friend, M’bala M’bala, and agreed that it was an anti-establishment symbol of defiance.

Deciding that the gesture was too closely associated to anti-Semitism, the Football Association banned Anelka for five games, which is the most-lenient punishment that could have been given under the new anti-discrimination rules. West Brom also suspended him until the appeals and trials had been resolved, and he was fined $130,000. Instead of accepting certain terms to return to the field, Anelka chose to end his career with West Brom, wishing to “maintain his dignity.”

While the FA took action against its players’ racist actions, some anti-racist groups have criticized the governing body for imposing only the most lenient sanctions. The FA, FIFA, and other governing bodies have been struggling to handle other, more complicated situations. The most poignant of which occurred just this week in the United States when an audio recording of the owner of the L.A. Clippers was released, revealing his strongly racist attitudes. In a discussion with his girlfriend, V. Stiviano, Donald Sterling expressed his embarrassment and anger that she was associating with African-Americans. Stiviano reminded Sterling on multiple occasions that she is of Mexican and African-American descent, and that the majority of his team’s players are African-American. In response, Sterling described what some have said to be “plantation politics”; he feeds and pays the African-American basketball players, and he benefits financially.
The controversial has spread like wildfire in a matter of days. Even President Obama has weighed in on the issue: “I don’t think I have to interpret those statements for you. They kind of speak for themselves … When ignorant folks want to advertise their ignorance, you don’t have to do anything, you just let them talk.” A number of prominent current or former NBA have made clear that Sterling needs to go. Michael Jordan, now the owner of the Charlotte Bobcats said “As an owner, I’m obviously disgusted that a fellow team owner could hold such sickening and offensive views. … As a former player, I’m completely outraged. There is no room in the NBA — or anywhere else — for the kind of racism and hatred that Mr. Sterling allegedly expressed.” In the past game, the L.A. Clippers wore their warm ups inside out to obscure the team’s logo in silent protest to their owner’s actions. In addition, a number of sponsors have pulled their support from the team. The question that remains is what the NBA will do next. Most fans and players want to see if relinquish his ownership. If he NBA do force Sterling to give up the Clippers, he would be the first owner to have this done.

The Clippers have seen overwhelming support against Sterling and the presence of racist in the NBA. With the swift action taken against the Clippers’ owner, I can’t help but wonder why the European soccer leagues have had such a difficult time with racist and discriminatory actions. As we saw in the film clip from the other week, there have been countless instances of fans harassing African or Afro-European players, coaches using derogatory and racist language, and even cases like Nicolas Anelka flashing racist gestures on the field. Markovitz usings Kwame Anthony Appiah’s term “counter-cosmopolitanism” to explain the racism and xenophobia that is rampant in global sports. “Newcomers, challengers, immigrants, and “alien” languages are often met with ridicule, as well as harsh, hostile, even violent reactions by the natives” (Markovitz 207).

The global reach of soccer and the rising flow of international soccer players into Europe has led to a situation in which many migrant players experience racism, especially from the fans. Many of the players have identified their public presence and the proliferation of social media as part of the cause of the racial discrimination and hate speech directed at them, suggesting that being in the public eye and publically criticized comes with the territory of being a professional soccer player. This explanation, though, is no excuse. Clubs have struggled to control their fans, and some have been fined for their fans touting racist banners at matches and many black players, especially in Spain and Italy, have had bananas thrown at them.

This week one fan received a life ban, a fine, and a brilliant comeback from his target. As Brazilian Dani Alves went to take a corner kick for Barcelona, a banana landed at his feet. Without missing a beat, he picked it up, peeled it, took a bite, then continued playing the game. He has been applauded for his humor and quick-thinking. Later, on Instagram Alves joked that his father had always told him to eat bananas to prevent cramping. Villarreal, whose fan was the banana-throwing culprit, banned the fan for life and seemed to support Alves’ reaction: “You have to take it with a dose of humor….We aren’t going to change things easily. If you don’t give it importance, they don’t achieve their objective.”

Could it be that the NBA is not experiencing counter-cosmopolitanism? I think one big difference between the NBA and the European soccer leagues is the presence of foreign players. Whereas Europe may be experience counter-cosmopolitan responses to large populations of foreign players, the NBA has had strong associations to African-Americans for quite some time. This is not to say that there hasn’t been issues of racism and civil rights in the NBA, but, as Obama said, “Obviously, the NBA is a league that is beloved by fans all across the country. It’s got a lot of African-American players, steeped in African-American culture, and I suspect the NBA is concerned and going to be resolving this.”



Structural Violence in Brazil’s 2014 World Cup

The World Cup will be occurring in Brazil this summer, and as almost any company would do, Brazilian t-shirt company Sergio K is planning to capitalize on this event. Their idea, it seems, is to print slanderous t-shirts about players on other teams that are playing in the World Cup, and as such have sparked a lot of controversy. Some of the shirts are quoted as being “harmless”, even though printing a shirt on which one player is referred to as a “loser” still seems like a waste of time and money. However, it is the shirts which refer to players as “faggot” and “gay” that are calling people to action. One shirt the company released calls Argentinian player Diego Maradona a “maricon” which is slang for “faggot”. The other boldly offensive shirt says simply, “C. Ronaldo is gay”. According to the owner of the company, Sergio Kamalakian, since the controversy began, sales of the shirts have only increased and they are now sold out. Furthermore, he has been cited as being unapologetic about the shirts, stating they are “inoffensive”.

What these shirts, and their subsequent controversy, has illustrated is both the issues surrounding sexual identity in athletics, but also the issues surrounding the consumer nature of professional athletics, especially events such as the World Cup. As we saw in the video we watched in class a couple of weeks ago, many areas of the world are much more open about their discrimination than the United States is. In Europe, for example, multiple black players have walked off the field after being taunted with bananas and other racially charged vulgarities. Furthermore, due to the heteronormative nature of most Western cultures, gay, lesbian, and transgender professional athletes face a lot of difficulties, if they’re even given the opportunity to make it that far.

What exacerbates this issue even further, however, is the consumer nature of Western society, professional athletics in general, and internationally recognized sports events. Sergio K was utilizing this consumer culture surrounding events like the World Cup, the Olympics, the Super Bowl, etc., to communicate a negative message about LGBT community members and further the structural violence perpetrated against them daily. Shockingly, despite the fact that Brazil legalized gay marriage last year, 44% of the world’s anti-LGBT violence occurs in Brazil. While Sergio K did not see anything wrong with the shirts, whose intentions were only to morally debase the players from other teams, the 292 LGBT community members who were killed in 2013 alone could probably have benefitted from more positive reinforcement of the LGBT community. The country can pass as much legislation as they’d like to promote queer equality and equal rights for all, but the small scale actions are what truly matter. The fact that Sergio K thinks that by printing that other players are faggots or gay, they are implying that it makes them less of an athlete, and subsequently enforcing and renewing anti-LGBT attitudes worldwide.

While Sochi, Russia got away with passing anti-LGBT legislation just before the 2014 Winter Olympics, Brazil and all of those watching and buying World Cup related paraphernalia must consider the consequences of their actions. The structure cannot be changed unless everyone is complicit and active in the change. The sales of these shirts should be stopped, and the voices of LGBT athletes and advocates alike needs to be looked for, listened to, and heard.

Based on article from Thought Progress: