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.


All You Can Eat Progress

Due to an often height growth coupled with the large amount of calories burned by playing basketball and college aged male basketball players often struggle to gain and maintain weight. These males are always fighting to gain weight on their often lanky frames allowing them to be stronger and more solid. When done correctly the men should be able to gain mass by lifting and eating six healthy high-caloric meals throughout the day. However, this can be difficult when you do not have the resources.

Before last Tuesday, NCAA athletes were allowed to provide 3 meals a day or a stipend to pay for meals. A new possible initiative would allow Division I schools to provide unlimited meals and snacks to all athletes, including walk-ons. This whole debate on food funding has been a discussion for a good amount of time; however it was not until Shabazz Napier was interviewed in the locker room after a March Madness game did it receive mainstream attention.

“I just feel like a student-athlete, and sometimes, like I said, there’s hungry nights and I’m not able to eat and I still got to play up to my capabilities. … When you see your jersey getting sold — it may not have your last name on it — but when you see your jersey getting sold and things like that, you feel like you want something in return.

Napier is a six foot one inch college senior who plays on the UNCONN Huskies basketball team, which won the 2014 March Madness Tournament. Shabazz was also the MVP of the tournament. At this same time that Napier was talking about not having “enough money to get food” while playing basketball on one of the biggest college stages. The NCAA hauled in around $770 million in revenue  from the NCAA tournament due to their contract with CBS and Turner Sports they signed in 2010. Taking the Marxist approach on sports it is easy to see the argument about how “athletes forfeit their control over their labor power and are forced to maximize productivity” (Giulianotti, 2005:30).  It is really hard to not start to see a trend where these talented young athletes are being manipulated  and  large corporations gain power and money.  In return these athletes get worn down mentally, physically, and emotionally.  In the Marxist approach the college athletes would be the proletariat and the NCAA, Sponsors (Nike, Adidas, etc.), and TV corporations can be seen as the bourgeois.

Napier choice to speak out against the NCAA at such a moment of success which was a smart move, showing that student athletes are more than just brainwashed puppets. The rise of social media has given this generation a voice and a place to express themselves more than ever before. If student athletes want change they must use their opportunities to speak out for their rights as athletes and human beings. While there is still ways to go before the NCAA policy is perfect, this change in the policy is a step forward to having student athletes rights represented and heard.


Was President Obama correct? Moms, Football, and the Real Danger

Many parents, especially moms (not to play into heteronormativity or gender roles), spend their whole lives protecting and guiding their children from danger. Undoubtedly, there comes a point in every parent’s life when your child participates in something you think is dangerous or harmful for their well-being and future. Often parents try to counteract this danger and rebellion by implementing structure and constructive activities. For many young boys and girls this activity is organized sports.  Sports can be one way to implement that structure, and has long been championed in highly successful adults. Playing sports helps  you stay in shape, teaches you how to organize your time, boosts friendships, and builds relationships with your peers and adults. However, what happens when sports turn out to be the real thing that is putting your child at risk?

By danger I do not mean the random scratch or cut or even broken bone. This is a danger which has much longer lasting effects on the remainder of your child’s future life and happiness. This danger is called CTE. CTE is progressive degenerative disease of the brain that is found in athletes who sustain many hits to the head. CTE has been linked to many boxers in the past, but in recent years there has been a large finding in football players. These findings of CTE in past pro-football players have caused a discussion on the ethics of football as well as the responsibility of the NFL in taking care of their players. Gladwell compares the NFL to dog fighting; arguing that the manipulation of the dogs for power and money is similar to the way the NFL treats and sees their players (Gladwell 2009).  On the days leading up to the 2013 Super Bowl  President Obama said he “”I’m a big football fan, but I have to tell you, if I had a son, I’d have to think long and hard before I let him play football.” If one of the most powerful men in the country is questioning the safety of football, it seems logical that many other Americans are contemplating the dilemmas as well.

As responsible adults what are you to do?  Are you to stop your child from engaging in an otherwise positive experience, which will allow them to gain important life skills? At this point, I do not think I or anyone can tell you or your child they cannot play football. I am not arguing that no one should play football or other hard hitting sports; however as a community and a nation we must be aware.

It is essential that at this point we continue educating and creating awareness. This includes continuing the awareness and promoting proper care of concussion symptoms. This proper care of concussions is often muddled by the pressure of preforming and pleasing your coach, team, and support network.

“That’s football. You’re told either that you’re hurt or that you’re injured. There is no middle ground. If you are hurt, you can play. If you are injured, you can’t, and the line is whether you can walk and if you can put on a helmet and pads” (Gladwell 2009)

It is important to keep in mind that playing with concussions is extremely dangerous for the safety of the athlete. “At least 50 high school or younger football players in more than 20 states since 1997 have been killed or have sustained serious head injuries on the field,” according to research by The New York Times. These deaths may have been prevented if there was more education and concern for athletes who may have sustained a concussion.

The education about CTE and concussions must start with Pee-Wee Football coaches talking to parents and expressing the possible concerns. This education should not stop after Pee-Wee; it must be reinforced throughout an athlete’s career, including professional leagues. I cannot emphasize the importance of education and awareness in these families, not to establish fear but more to diminish ignorance. Once again I understand and support the idea that the sports a kid plays is a personal decision, but awareness about the real danger of football and all hard hitting head sports must be widespread and present.