What An Opportunity

Posts Tagged ‘Andrew Moser’

You’d better slow down: reflecting on The 4-Hour Workweek, a bestseller by Timothy Ferriss.

In Sports on April 7, 2014 at 4:06 pm

Slow Dance

by David L. Weatherford

 

Have you ever watched kids

On a merry-go-round?

 

Or listened to the rain

Slapping on the ground?

 

Ever followed a butterfly’s erratic flight?

Or gazed at the sun into the fading night?

 

You better slow down.

Don’t dance so fast.

 

Time is short.

The music won’t last.

 

Do you run through each day

On the fly?

 

When you ask: How are you?

Do you hear the reply?

 

When the day is done,

do you lie in your bed

 

With the next hundred chores

Running through your head?

 

You’d better slow down.

Don’t dance so fast.

 

Time is short.

The music won’t last.

 

Ever told your child,

We’ll do it tomorrow?

 

And in your haste,

Not see his sorrow?

 

Ever lost touch,

Let a good friendship die

 

Cause you never had time

To call and say, “Hi”?

 

You’d better slow down.

Don’t dance so fast.

 

Time is short.

The music won’t last.

 

When you run so fast to get somewhere

You miss half the fun of getting there.

 

When you worry and hurry through your day,

It is like an unopened gift thrown away.

 

Life is not a race.

Do take it slower.

 

Hear the music

Before the song is over.

 

Timothy Ferriss presents some unquestionably revolutionary ideas in his bestseller, The 4-Hour Workweek, but his perspective is well-founded. He makes radical points, but they rise to counter a culture that is dying a cruel death from the inside out. The above poem is contained within the book, and it encapsulates Ferriss’s ideas perfectly. It rings eerily true. Don’t let life pass you by.

Who We Are

In Life on September 28, 2013 at 9:30 pm

Something incredibly enlightening happened to me tonight.

I spent some time in a group talking with two people that I hadn’t spoken to at serious length in quite a long time, and I came away from the conversation blown away by my own feelings. These two particular people are indelible reminders of my past – one of high school, the other of a past relationship – and I was flat-out rocked by the intensity of the emotions that talking with them conjured. No old flame was rekindled or new interest sparked; in fact, quite the opposite occurred. I was not enlivened, rather crushed. I felt very small. I felt unsure again.

You see, I got a late start on finding myself. I was homeschooled until the age of fifteen, an age when many have already become entrenched in their social niche and resigned themselves to it. I, on the other hand, was effectively a blank slate when I entered the world of high school. Even a tiny Christian high school, tame as a mouse in comparison with many scholastic monstrosities, was daunting to me. I had no sense of identity or place, so I tried to fit in everywhere.

May I endeavor to describe to you how miserably I failed? Senior superlatives came out in the yearbook a week before graduation, and while my classmates received humorous titles or creative labels, mine were “Biggest Tool” and “Most likely to kill a joke.” Seriously. Those are actually the two lines under my picture in the back of my senior yearbook. I’ll never forget the moment of reflection this led me to: “Well, those three years went well.”

Basically, those three years were all I had in my personal bank to define myself by. And that was how it ended… bankrupt. Time is an amazing teacher, though, and I have matured significantly since those days. I have found my identity and a well-founded confidence through my faith in Jesus and a great deal of personal growth, and I thought I was well past those high school feelings. But that leads us back to tonight. I was amazed at how I instantly time traveled during my conversation with these two girls. I literally felt like the person I was three, four, five years ago. I felt small and insignificant and flawed and guilty again. And that shocked me. But it proved a couple things to me. First, it showed me just how powerful our most significant feelings are. They never really die. So, be incredibly careful about how you make others feel. You may make them feel like I felt in high school; don’t ever do that to someone. And second, don’t ever let anyone make you feel small. You are significant, you are important, and you are incredibly valuable. Find your identity in that.

Stay strong,

Andrew

The Do’s and Don’ts of Fantasy Football

In Sports on September 17, 2013 at 8:39 am

It’s that time of year again, the time when the NFL runs the world for five months. The league so dominates American culture that some estimates indicate that two-thirds of Americans watch the NFL at some point each season. If people aren’t talking about the crazy finish to last night’s game, they’re talking about their own fantasy football team; they might even be more interested in their fantasy team. In this case, to succeed in fantasy is to succeed in reality, and here are some “do’s” and “don’ts” that will help you procure your very own championship-caliber squad.

DON’T fail to study and fully understand your league’s intricacies.

Each fantasy league has its own idiosyncratic rules, rewards, and points system. Don’t miss your opportunity to study these closely to gain an advantage over your competitors. For example, if your league awards points for catches in addition to receiving yards and TD’s, then a possession receiver who catches 90 balls for 900 yards and 6 TD’s (someone like 2011-12 Percy Harvin, for example) may be just as valuable as a deep threat who catches 60 balls for 1,100 yards and 9 TD’s (like 2011-12 Vincent Jackson). The glamorous numbers will attract your less astute rivals, and you can gain the upper hand by noticing players of value who are available in later rounds.

DO look for the intangible traits that take a player to the next level of value.

It is easy to fall into the trap of ordering running backs by rushing yards and quarterbacks by passing yards, and never wavering from this list. But a vital component of fantasy success is finding hidden value. Having a running back that runs for 100 yards per game is good. But having a running back that runs for 90 and catches passes for 40 more? Now you’re talking. Similarly, while a quarterback who passes for 3,500-4,000 yards is awesome, a QB who can dependably add in a few rushing touchdowns is even more awesome. Noticing these intangibles will lead directly to fantasy success; when you see potential for points that others may miss, you can acquire the superior players that will take your team to the top.

DON’T overvalue a receiver who is transitioning from being a #2 option to becoming a #1 option.

Anticipating a breakout season from a newly promoted receiver is a common mistake, but make a commitment to yourself to avoid this pitfall. It is easy to think that receiving more attention from his QB is bound to increase his receptions, yards and TD’s. But in reality, the extra defensive attention that a top receiver commands will often offset any potential gains. In the mid-2000’s, Peerless Price and Muhsin Muhammad personified this reality. After seasons of 94 receptions, 1,252 yards and 9 TD’s for the Bills (2002-03 Price) and 93 receptions, 1,405 yards and 16 TD’s for the Panthers (2004-05 Muhammad), these receivers changed teams to become primary options for new QB’s. The seasons that followed were tremendously disappointing, with Price and Muhammad producing just 64 catches, 838 yards and 3 TD’s and 64 catches, 750 yards and 4 TD’s for the Falcons and Bears respectively.

DO take a player’s circumstances into serious consideration, looking beyond his perceived ability.

Good fantasy management goes far beyond name recognition. To achieve success, you must go deeper than drafting someone solely based on the fact that he had a good statistical season the year before; you have to account for all the circumstances surrounding him. For example, selecting a running back because he rushed for 1,200 yards the previous season can be an excellent decision in the right situation. However, if that running back’s team just drafted a “can’t miss” RB in the first round, or signed a high-profile free agent back, then your guy’s prospects for this year have suddenly become far less promising. Make sure that your analysis goes beyond the players themselves; a potential Pro Bowler is not much good to your fantasy team if he’s stuck playing behind a potential Hall of Famer.

DON’T overvalue players on winning teams, or undervalue players from losing teams.

Because the NFL’s winning teams receive so much more attention than unsuccessful teams, players on these victorious teams often receive undue fantasy consideration. In reality, the intelligent fantasy GM realizes that a team piling up wins may be extremely counterproductive for his personal interests. In a worst-case scenario, a coach may bench your best player in week 16 or 17 because their team has clinched everything and has nothing to play for, even though those weeks are your most important of the entire fantasy season. What a nightmare. But even if you do not find yourselves in these regrettable circumstances, understand that a player on a 3-13 team may be the key ingredient to your fantasy championship. Think about it; when teams are losing, they need to score quickly, so they throw the ball. This can create a great deal of (buzzword alert) hidden value, because a TD catch by your receiver with 3 minutes left in a 24-point blowout is every bit as valuable to you as another receiver’s game winner.

DO be active and aggressive on the waiver wire.

If the NFL is renowned for anything, it is its unpredictability. On average, 5 out of 12 teams who made the playoffs the previous year do not qualify the next season… thus the saying, “Any given Sunday.” As a result, analysts have great difficulty forecasting team results in the preseason with any kind of accuracy. In a similar way, fantasy experts often struggle to identify prime fantasy performers in the preseason. Know this going in; the best drafts do not always win fantasy football championships. The NFL is constantly evolving, even from week to week, and preseason predictions are often laughably off base. A key acquisition or two early on can make all the difference for your season. Do not get discouraged and think that you are stuck with those disappointing draft picks; keep your eyes peeled, and when you notice a surprisingly stout defense or a backup RB on a team whose starter just went down for the season, hit that waiver wire hard. Who knows what might happen? Yours wouldn’t be the first team to go from worst to first in a few weeks.

All stats are courtesy of ESPN.com and NFL.com

The Verger

In Life on July 6, 2013 at 1:10 am

There was once a verger – the keeper of a church – who faithfully and diligently carried out his work, day after day. He was a simple man, however, and had never learned to read; the church board learned of his illiteracy and fired him, saying it reflected poorly on the parish. The former verger immediately left the church and paced angrily down the street; his only thought was getting a cigarette to calm himself. But though he walked for blocks, he could not find a single convenience store. He immediately began constructing an idea, and within a week he opened a small shop on that street. In a few months he opened another, then another, until he had a dozen thriving shops earning him money hand over fist. One day, after he made his sizable weekly deposit at the bank, the bank manager took him aside and advised him to begin investing in stocks and bonds that would pay a far better dividend than just a bank account. He presented a document that outlined the plan that would accomplish this, all he had to do was sign. It was then that the man confessed, “But I cannot make out a word of it. You see, I never learned to read.” The manager was floored. “But you are a millionaire! And you never even learned to read? Imagine what you could have been if you had!” At this, he smiled wryly and said, “My good man, I would be a verger.”

You just never know.

Story adapted from ‘The Verger’ by Somerset Maugham, 1929.

A Review: Barking Signals (Badly) During Goldwater

In Sports on March 8, 2013 at 11:28 pm

I

As I grow now into my twenties, I often find myself longing for the good old days when times were simpler and worries were few, the kind of days that abounded in my childhood. I ask myself why I was so much happier in my younger days, why my mood was observably lighter and more carefree. It recently dawned on me that it’s because my perspective was so limited. The world that I inhabited was so much smaller and more neatly defined. Simply put, I didn’t know what I didn’t know, and that makes for a blissfully ignorant existence. With maturity, that life passes away, never to exist again. But if we’re lucky, we can still experience little snippets, pleasurable reminisces which occasionally transport us back to those happier times. Through his novel, Barking Signals (Badly) During Goldwater, author Garret Mathews took me on such a trip.

Mathews is a renowned author, having penned over 6,500 newspaper columns, two plays, numerous novels, and an audio project called “Folks are Talking” (his extremely interesting bio can be found here). Not only is he a skilled wordsmith, but he also possesses tremendous insight into the human mind, and into what makes people tick. This exceptional perception is particularly effective and enjoyable in Barking Signals, as Mathews’s narrative voice provides us with valuable insight into the thoughts of the central character.

Mathews’s flawed hero, A.C. Jackson, is a puny, tentative adolescent growing up in a rural community in the 1960’s. The story centers on his struggles, both on and off the field, as he makes the life-altering decision to try out for his high school’s JV football team. Anyone who hearkens back to his or her days as a teenager can relate, and have a hearty laugh at the day-to-day conundrums A.C. faces. A dry humor is a mainstay of Mathews’s writing style, but he does not merely flit across the life of 14-year-old A.C. The depth of the encounters he faces – meeting the mysteries of fear, love, identity, rejection, and even death head-on – imbue Barking Signals with an exceptional sense of realism. This is no mere sports story, no 80-page tale of how little Tommy tries hard and catches the winning touchdown at the end; this is a human novel, a story that will reach deep into your heart before you even realize what is happening, and enrapture you wholeheartedly. A.C.’s situation hit eerily close to home for me, from his constant concern over his social status and his fear of the unknown to the teacher who befriends and challenges him to grow. As is the case in any good novel, A.C. is not a static character; we clearly see his development over time. When he stumbles we commiserate, when he triumphs we rejoice as well… and our investment increases as we turn the pages. As I turned the last page, I did not want it to end. I wanted to follow A.C. further on.

Mathews has set out to accomplish a difficult task, to create a work that reaches across generations. It is not easy to do, but he succeeds brilliantly.  Fathers can enjoy A.C.’s tale with their sons. This book will touch so many more people than just fans of football. I would like to see it as required reading in middle school and ninth grade classrooms. The lessons that it teaches are so readily understood and so valuable… its merits are self-evident. And it is an easy read and an engaging text. I am a hard reader to win over, but Garret Mathews has succeeded fully in earning my esteem. Read Barking Signals (Badly) During Goldwater. It will remind you, too, of simpler times. It will make you laugh, and reflect, and feel. And it will be a literary experience that you won’t soon forget. I highly recommend it.

Here is an excerpt from the novel that is sure to leave you wanting more. This dialogue takes place when A.C. is calling his crush to ask her to Fall Social… and it’s pure genius.

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With as much self-assuredness as he can muster, A.C. dials Sylvia’s number. He prays he can’t get through. Or, even better, that she put in a special request with the phone company to only let in calls from boys who don’t have to beat themselves up to get a black eye. A.C. won’t get a rejection. Just an endless dial tone. He’ll tell Mr. Wiley he wanted to ask, but technology wouldn’t let him. That wouldn’t earn the big money, but maybe the man would toss a couple of fifty-cent pieces his way.

R-ring. R-ring.

Two times. That’s enough. No sense waking up everybody in the Trice household just for a boy-girl conversation.

A.C. starts to put the receiver down.

“Hello.”

It’s her. He can’t talk. There’s a mud bog in this larynx.

“Who is this?”

She isn’t agitated. Her voice is calm. Patient. It’s like she knows the poor soul on the other end is scared to death, and she wants to give him every opportunity to collect his gumption.

“Uh, uh, uh.”

There is no surly “Just state your business.” No “Get on with it, there’s another call on Line Two.”

Just a kindly, “Gee, your voice sounds familiar.”

Of course it does. Sylvia has heard A.C. give oral reports in English class since they were seven years old.

“Uh, this is me,” he stammers.

“Oh, now I know. How is Mr. A.C. Jackson doing?” she asks pleasantly.

The kid is shaking too much to talk, so Sylvia dances lead.

“Did you hear about Aggie in world geography? Mrs. Jerrue pulled down the big map of the world and asked him to find South America. Aggie looked high and low from Australia to the Aleutian Islands. Couldn’t find it anywhere. Said the map company must’ve left it off. Everybody got a big laugh.”

A.C. can’t believe what he’s hearing. Sylvia is actually trying to make this easy on him. She’s like the tutor in remedial English. She wants him to pass the test.

A formal request is much too intimidating. He decides it will be better if he breaks it down to the lowest common denominator. It works in blocking assignments. Maybe it will in attempted dating.

“Me. You. Fall Social.”

I

Want more? You can purchase this book by sending $22 plus $3 postage and handling to:

Garret Mathews, 7954 Elna Kay Drive, Evansville, Indiana 47715.

More information can be found at pluggerpublishing.com.

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Baseball’s Sad, Unfortunate Steroid Era

In Sports on February 12, 2013 at 5:00 pm

Growing up as an American kid, I idolized baseball from the moment I encountered it. Playing Little League Baseball was the greatest joy of my young life. Watching This Week in Baseball then the MLB Game of the Week on Fox was always one of the highlights of my week. And watching the Little League World Series? Well… Williamsport, PA was just heaven on earth. There was nothing I would not have done, and no amount I would not have paid for just one opportunity to step on that diamond at Howard J. Lamade Stadium to play for the LLWS title. Baseball was my passion. I devoured book after book on the sport and its famous figures, from biographies on Jackie Robinson, Babe Ruth, and Hank Aaron to a book that recounted – in narrative form – every World Series from 1903-1985 in great detail, game by game, run by run. I love the game and the romanticized descriptions I found within the books I so readily consumed. Even though I cannot stand the modern iteration of the New York Yankees, I love and respect their previous generations for their consistent, unrelenting excellence. Baseball is just too grand and too beautiful to be marred by anything so petty as my own dislikes. It is the perfect game, classic and unchanging, standing apart from the ever-changing, cheapening world around it. Or at least that’s what I thought as a kid.

As time has passed, my illusions have been shattered. One summer, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa pounded homer after homer, and I ecstatically went along for the ride. But these seemingly superhuman sluggers of the late 1990’s – my most impressionable age – have since tested positive for and admitted to using performance-enhancing drugs. Barry Bonds came next and completely shattered the records that had been so recently set, and I was even further excited by his exploits. He, too, has since admitted to using steroids. When their magical seasons were taking place, I don’t think any of us wanted to believe they were tainted in any way. We wanted the romance of the magical run to continue sweeping us away. But then reality hit, and it hit hard.

What greater honor exists than the Hall of Fame? Middle-of-nowhere Cooperstown, NY is a legendary place because of it. The greatest figures in history are immortalized there. Stellar careers logically lead to the Hall. As such, several candidates should be voted in handily. Well, as it turns out, the 2013 Baseball Hall of Fame Class consists of… no one. Well, at least no one who is still alive. Three were elected by the Veterans Committee, all of whom passed away before 1940… meaning none of them had been involved in baseball for about 100 years. On the other hand, iconic baseball figures like Roger Clemens and the aforementioned Barry Bonds were denied admission to the Hall. How could this happen? The BBWAA (Baseball Writers Association of America) pushed back, and indicated that tainted careers would be met with cold denial. At least this year. Writers are a fickle bunch, so who knows how long this resistance will continue. It could end next year, or extend indefinitely. As more athletes continue to be implicated in reports on PED use, such as the Miami New Times report which named stars like Nelson Cruz, Gio Gonzalez, and Alex Rodriguez, the likelihood of the BBWAA permanently souring on steroid users becomes greater and greater.

So Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds, the most dominant pitcher and slugger in my era of fanhood, may never be immortalized in the Hall of Fame. But is this right? Isn’t the Hall of Fame a place to recognize excellence? It’s hard to argue with Roger Clemens’s career numbers: 354 wins (9th all-time), 4,672 strikeouts (3rd all-time), 7 Cy Young awards, 11 All-Star appearances. It’s even harder to argue with Barry Bonds’s career numbers: 762 HR (1st all-time), 1,996 RBI (4th all-time), 7-time League MVP, 14 All-Star appearances.

At the end of the day, though, it isn’t just about the numbers; sports still aspires to a certain level of integrity and decorum. Pete Rose is banned from the Hall for breaking the rules, and if the all-time hits leader is banned, then Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and others may indeed face a similar block. I am a firm believer in the innate integrity of sports. True excellence is achieved fairly and cleanly. I think that it is a sad day for baseball when zero living members are inducted, but I think that it is a sadder day when the Hall of Fame is devalued by inducting proven, admitted cheaters.

My Take on Manti

In Sports on January 18, 2013 at 6:37 pm

We have all heard some version of the story by now, a story first reported by Deadspin.com on Wednesday. Notre Dame’s poster-boy linebacker – Heisman runner-up, National Championship runner-up, national sympathy recipient and projected top-10 NFL draft pick Manti Te’o – had been involved in a hoax of staggering proportions. Deadspin revealed that his girlfriend, Lennay Kekua, who he had spoken of as an inspiration throughout their relationship and in her death of leukemia in September, never existed. She was nothing more than an online personality and an unknown voice on the phone. When this broke, Manti’s role in the hoax was unknown; did he perpetrate the story for sympathy, for attention on a run at the Heisman, or some even deeper motive, or was he simply a victim of a cruel and terrible Catfishing scheme? An anonymous source in the article said he was “80% sure” Manti was knowingly involved from the beginning. As I read the Deadspin article late Wednesday afternoon, my own head began to… ahem… spin. I felt like I had vertigo. My first reaction was, like everyone else’s, shock and disbelief. But it was the second reaction where I diverged from about 90% of Twitter users; I did not immediately point an accusing finger at Manti Te’o. This is because, having gone to school with him for three years, having several mutual friends, and working with the Notre Dame football team for an entire season, I had the privilege of getting to know Manti a little bit. And it’s readily apparent when you spend any time at all with him; he’s really a good guy. Whether that makes me biased or more qualified to judge the situation probably depends on your stance. I think it has helped me maintain perspective.

When the story broke, many rushed quickly to judgment. Twitter exploded with assessments of the situation, with tweeps calling him an attention whore who wanted the media notoriety for a Heisman run, a closeted gay who made up a girlfriend as a cover, a pathological liar, or even mentally troubled. I can see where an outside observer could draw such conclusions – it looks awful from the outside looking in – but my own personal experience with Te’o led me to sincerely doubt these as true. Nevertheless, many questions remained in my mind. There were still a great deal of inconsistencies in the story. I couldn’t believe that the hoax was his idea, but what was my alternative?

Then I watched Jack Swarbrick, Notre Dame’s athletic director, give a press conference a few hours later. He explained the idea of Catfishing, that Manti was the victim of a hoax, and that a private investigator hired by ND had discovered online chatter – “casually cruel” chatter, according to Swarbrick – between several parties who perpetrated the hoax. His sincerity, emotion, and willingness to stick his own neck out for Manti convinced me fully of Te’o’s lack of involvement in the planned perpetuation of this fraud. You see, I also know Jack Swarbrick. I have had several conversations with him, and I have been unreservedly impressed each time. He spoke to a small group of young men in my dorm last year as part of our Distinguished Speaker Series, and after sharing his personal story, he facilitated the most frank and straightforward question-and-answer time I have ever seen from any figure in sports. He also later met with me one-on-one to discuss my career prospects, and to advise me on how to move forward in my goal to become an athletic director myself one day. He was nothing less than generous, welcoming, and honest, and I really grew to admire him through these experiences. When I watched the press conference, I no longer had any doubt about how this whole hoax began. (Sources have since divulged that Ronaiah Tuiasosopo perpetrated this hoax without Manti’s knowledge, thus confirming my beliefs).

That only clears Manti to a point though. What about the many inconsistencies in his story? What about how he said he met Kekua in 2009 after an ND-Stanford game, and they had a moment where they touched hands and locked eyes? What about how she has supposedly visited him in Hawaii? How could he never have met her in a year? There are a lot of holes in his account.

And this is where I have to cut him down. He lied about a lot of things. He made it worse. He definitely handled it poorly in some ways. He REALLY needs to stop hiding out now, and just face the music. He’s making it worse for himself and for everyone who is defending him and believing in him, and that needs to stop. He and the Irish had such an incredible season, but it seems to be spoiling more and more by the day. Talk to us, Manti. Admit where you lied, where you were duped, and share the truth openly.

Now, though there is no acceptable excuse for lying as he did, I also contend that people need to get off Manti’s back a little bit. Twitter has been especially heinous. First of all, there is little to no proof that he was behind the hoax in the first place. In fact, Deadspin’s “80% sure” anonymous source is the the only actual evidence I’ve heard, despite egregious amounts of accusation taking place. So there’s that. Next, consider the stakes and the circumstances here. You have to understand the shock, horror, embarrassment, mortification and head-spinning questions caused by the phone call on December 6th. He didn’t even believe it for a while, I’m sure. Then the Heisman ceremony was December 8th; should he have said, “Oh, by the way, guys… my dead girlfriend is fake” live at the Heisman ceremony? Come on. I’m sure he needed quite a bit of time to deal with these appalling developments, and as Jack Swarbrick has recently divulged, to try to follow up on it himself. In addition, imagine the questions that arise if he comes out with this news soon after the Heisman ceremony. He would be vilified even more for playing with the voters’ sympathies in an effort to win the trophy! The suspicions of this being a hoax for attention would be even more heightened. I’m also sure that once he confirmed that he had in fact been duped, in mid-to-late December, he did want to talk to his parents in person instead of over the phone. So he waits a bit for all that to clear up… but then if he comes public with it in late December- early January, it becomes the biggest distraction of all time for the Irish before their first national championship game in 22 years. If the Irish lose and Manti has come out with this story beforehand, he takes a good deal of the blame. That seems undesirable. First he was the victim of a terrible hoax, then upon its revelation, was placed in a terrible situation where there was NO WIN for him. At all. Just judgment and suspicion from all sides, except from Swarbrick and those who actually know him. If I could see Jack Swarbrick today, I would give him a huge hug and I would probably cry on his shoulder for sticking his neck out so damn far for this great kid. Not a perfect kid… just a great kid.

You see, they’re all just kids. Manti Te’o is almost two years younger than me. And the attention and platform and pedestal is all OURS, not theirs. Sure, he embraced it; he told a story that was incredibly moving for him. He had no reason not to. But he doesn’t check his humanity or his privacy at the door when he decides to attend Notre Dame. Just because he is in this spotlight doesn’t mean he ceases to be a college student. Maybe these stakes make it more complicated than a simple, indignant “He should have told everyone immediately as soon as he got that call!”

Maybe he should have told his parents in person in New York, even if he wasn’t sure what to think yet. I think he should have gotten it out sooner. He should have never lied about meeting her or any other lies he told. He was probably embarrassed about how their relationship started and was proceeding, and I can definitely feel him there. That still doesn’t make it okay by any means.

But please, consider this as well; he has also done so much on and off the field for Notre Dame. I’m truly grateful for all that. It was an amazing season, and he overcame REAL anguish and heartbreak this year (regardless of this debacle, his grandmother did die, and he did genuinely believe that another person he had grown to care deeply about passed away as well) to play a spectacular season for a team that went on an incredible run. Let’s not discount that. Between the emotional trauma and the embarrassment and the massive amount of good he has done in his 4 years at Notre Dame, I am willing to reserve some of my vilification for the obvious wrongs he did commit. He was the victim more than the perpetrator here. Maybe he should have been more suspicious in the first place; I’m sure he will be from now on. Maybe I’m too soft. But I think he needs support and understanding more than the BS he’s getting from everyone right now.

Maybe I say this because I can understand; I’m a very trusting, maybe even somewhat naive, romanticizing person. I can easily put myself in his shoes. I would be embarrassed as hell about telling the national media how I fell so hard for someone I had never met in person. Then, if a tragedy was getting me so much attention, I’d probably run with it and exaggerate the details a bit too. It’s not right, but it’s understandable. I think he just needs a little bit of understanding. Then in a week or so, a good tongue-lashing for what he did. Maybe instead of a real, live girlfriend, he should find a good, solid mentor. He is, after all, still just a kid.

Twitter’s Indelible Impact on Sports

In Culture, Life, Sports on December 14, 2012 at 11:59 am

Since its creation in 2006, Twitter has become nothing less than a societal phenomenon. Everyone, it seems, from famous athletes and celebrities to your corner grocer is tweeting and following others, trying to share their thoughts on the state of the world, stay up-to-date on their particular flavor of news or gossip, or just trying to rub virtual elbows with the rich, famous, and influential. The sheer number of people using Twitter today inherently provides the service with a tremendous amount of power; with a great reach to a vast audience comes immense opportunity. Social media  is a profoundly effective tool when utilized correctly, and what arena could be better-suited to take full advantage of these resources than sports? No entity’s success is more dependent on its engagement of the population than a sports organization, and no entity provokes the same kind of loyalty and passion within its affiliates. Indeed, a sports organization’s very existence is predicated on a mutually gratifying relationship with the fans. As a result, any athletic brand with some semblance of forward thinking is working hard on improving its social media profile today. It is critical to winning over the fans.

Consider Notre Dame Football’s Twitter profile as an example of social media’s evolution. One of the newest practices in college sports is to essentially tweet the play-by-play of an athletic contest.  @NDFootball tweets frequent updates during Irish football games, often maintaining a furious pace. ND Football tweeted 102 times on October 13, 2012, the date of Notre Dame’s overtime victory over Stanford; this was a vital date for Notre Dame because that win catapulted the Irish into true legitimacy on their way to an undefeated regular season, #1 BCS ranking and a berth in the National Championship game. These kinds of play-by-play tweets are such a cool way for fans to connect with the team, because unlike following on GameCast or another reporting service, a team’s official Twitter account has the element of being explicitly connected to the team itself, and the game updates are presented from this perspective. All this is very important to a shared fan experience. ND Football also live tweets from Brian Kelly’s press conferences on Tuesdays and his radio show on Thursdays, sharing information directly from the source with fans who hang on every word but could have never gotten into a private press conference. These kinds of things accentuate the strength of social media by emphasizing the immediate availability of inside information for fans.

If I could define Twitter in one word from a sports fan’s perspective, that word would be “access.” Access to this inside information, access to contact with athletes, access to places that were never navigable before. The thought of interacting with one’s favorite football team is incredibly exciting for any die-hard fan; yet via Twitter, this is a very distinct possibility. In a revolutionary turn of events, anyone has the ability to interact with any other person who has a Twitter account, including famous athletes and celebrities. I just imagine if someone would have told me ten years ago that I could have insight into the day to day thoughts of my favorite NFL players, and that I could tell them exactly how much I admire or revile them, I would have said that was crazy. How wrong I would have been. Twitter has brought fan, team, and player closer together, and this is truly a great thing for both parties.

Twitter has also revolutionized the sports world and its media outlets because of the nature of news. In the journalism business, arriving first to a story is a significant victory, but social media has taken breaking news to the point of near immediacy. As a result, the watchful eye of national/local media outlets can catch what insiders on these Twitter sites are divulging, and must be quick to immediately jump on the story. The staggering impact that social media has had on the reporting of information cannot be overstated. With Twitter, you do not have to wait a day for the local newspaper to digest the game and spit out a form article covering its events; you can follow it in real time, through the lens of an official affiliate of your favorite team. It is now rare to not have access to a blow-by-blow Twitter account of any major sporting event. That is a radically different and awesome opportunity that has not been around for very long, but it is spreading like wildfire.

Indeed, the impact that social media has had on the sporting world as a whole cannot be overstated. For fans, sponsors, and media outlets alike, through its immediacy and intimacy of information, Twitter has revolutionized athletics in an astonishingly short time. Twitter feeds share a common importance to fans; inside information. Sports fans rabidly consume information that they perceive as exclusive or special, and firsthand accounts from a source closely affiliated with an athletic organization definitely qualify. News has become nearly instantaneous. We can have virtual conversations with our favorite athletes. As a fervent sports fan, this is an exquisitely beautiful world to live in. Thank you, Twitter.

What makes a leader great?

In Sports on November 15, 2012 at 10:26 am

What makes a leader great? Are the qualities of dynamic leaders tangible, or is their presence more intangibly but still keenly felt? Do personal traits carry the greatest weight, or is it simply a leader’s actions that have the most profound impact? I contend that each of these questions must be answered, “Yes.” Leadership is an all-encompassing, comprehensive state of being, which radically transforms the circumstances in which a leader lives. I know this because I had the privilege of experiencing powerful, transformational leadership on an extremely personal basis during my sophomore year of high school.

In the most impressionable time of a young man’s life, his high school authority figures often have a profound impact. Administrators, guidance counselors, and teachers all play an integral role in shaping him into the adult he is becoming. But for a high school athlete, I believe it is clear that the coach is the most influential. Consider this: in high school, while each of my teachers had me in class for fewer than forty minutes a day, varsity basketball coach Seth Edwards had my rapt attention for well over two hours. And he took full advantage of that time. Though he unfortunately left for a different coaching position after my first season of varsity basketball, his impact was profoundly felt on our entire team for the remainder of our careers. Seth was an extremely effective leader because of his competitive fire, dedication, passion, and loyalty, and I was privileged to experience his leadership as my coach.

These characteristics became apparent immediately; in our first meeting as a team, I was struck by the powerful presence that Coach Seth brought to the team. He had led the school to two conference championships in three years, including a 23-4 record the season before, and even sitting in that cafeteria, you could feel the tangible sense of just how badly he wanted to win each and every game. That competitive fire rubbed off on all of us immediately, and I know we left that meeting energized and fired up to get after it the next day. It’s a good thing, too, because that desire to win was the only thing that would help us save face at all that year. Eight of our eleven players had never played high school basketball, and that kind of inexperience often makes for an extremely long season. But Coach Seth’s competitive fire was contagious, and soon we would hate losing as much as he did. Still… that didn’t change the fact that we simply had no skill.

I’m sure that fact became apparent the first day of practice. After the stacked teams Coach Edwards had put on the court in previous seasons, I can’t imagine how we must have looked to him. But he took our severe lack of skill in stride, gulped, and started at the very beginning. From the opening tip-off of the season to the final buzzer, I was amazed at the constancy and quality of his instruction. We literally began at the very foundations of basketball skill – learning what to do with your feet on defense and how to make a proper layup – and our bunch of misfits learned a whole lot about basketball in four months. He showed up fifteen minutes early every single day for practice. Did I mention that he was twenty-six years old? He had started coaching straight out of college. Chasing awful basketball players around a gym seems like a rough way to spend your evenings as an athletic, charismatic twenty-something, but he never even blinked. In fact, I think he became more dedicated as the losses piled up… and that dedication sustained us more than anything else could have.

We started 0-9. Then we stemmed the tide of losing by beating the only team in our league worse than ours… and followed this massive step in the right direction by losing seven more games in a row. So we were 1-16 at that point, but after being laughed out of more than a few gyms early in the season, we had gradually begun to make some games close until the end. Coach Seth’s passion had more than a little to do with that. I remember we were playing a particularly poor game against a conference rival that he particularly disliked; I believe we were down 22 points at the half. As we sat in the locker room, we began to discuss what we were doing wrong until Coach entered, enraged at our lack of effort. He screamed until his face turned purple and the veins burst out of his neck, then grabbed a Powerade water bottle holder and shattered it against the wall. Plastic shrapnel flew everywhere. We played the second half as if our behinds were on fire… and almost came back. He nearly scared us to victory. But we lost, and I will never forget practice the next day. We literally wrote out our living wills beforehand in anticipation of our collective death via exercise. I could have sworn we were going to run until we collapsed. But instead of taking out his frustration at our poor effort out on us, his passion for success led him to change up our practices to create competition within the team, so each of us could make the others better in scrimmages and drills. That practice was the most fundamental, most intense, and most passionate I have ever been a part of, in any sport. His passion was rubbing off on us, and from that point on, we would be no easy out.

Make no mistake about it… we were terrified of Seth. He had a temper and he was not afraid to lose it. His competitive fury threatened to boil over at any point. He was extremely hard on us and had incredibly high expectations for our performance in every area. He expected us to dress well, arrive early, perform well academically, and hold each other accountable for these things; but if we held up our end of the bargain, we knew he would do anything for us. His fierce loyalty transformed our attitudes. You could see that he put his heart and soul into the season; everything he had was on the line for us. So we responded. He created a brotherhood out of eleven guys that had never even gotten along outside of the gym. He created an us vs. them mentality that gave us an edge and brought us more closely together. By the end of the season, we were playing some really good basketball. Our defense was fearless. We played our last regular season game on the road against the #2 team in our conference, who had wiped the floor with us in the season opener. We played our best game to that point in the season and beat them by seven points. That win eked us into the playoffs as the last seed, and as Coach Seth so aptly put it as he romped around the locker room with us, “Cinderella’s going to the dance!”

Our playoff game vs. the #1 seed in the conference was one of the most fiercely competitive games I have ever been a part of. We had not played them within shouting distance in either of our first two contests, but the playoffs were a different story. We came within a missed last-second 3-pointer of winning the game, as we played the most gutsy, hard-fought game you can imagine. Coach Seth had taken our team of nobodies, a team that had started from ground zero, and through his competitive fire, dedication, passion, and loyalty, we had come one shot away from shocking the world and taking out the #1 seed, who went on to become conference champions. Seth got a new job the next year and moved to Florida to teach and coach at a high school down there. But he had laid a foundation, and three seasons later, three freshmen members of that 2-17 team cut down the nets as senior captains in Binghamton, NY, as not only conference champs, but state champions. Though I only played one season for him, I know that I will never forget the impact that Coach Seth had on me and on my basketball career. And as I sit here six years later, still remembering so keenly how he affected my life, I think that is the unmistakable mark of a truly dynamic leader.

A Purist Opposes Collegiate Sports Gambling and Its Coverage in the Media.

In Sports on October 14, 2012 at 11:53 pm

“Ladies and gentlemen, I sincerely hope that our discussion will answer your questions on tonight’s debate topic, and cause you to rethink your perspective on the media, gambling, and collegiate athletics as a whole. Please know that my goal is not to tell you how to think, or to dictate your opinions on this subject; on the contrary, I will simply endeavor to build a case that compels you to form your own firmly held stance.”

“Let me begin by asserting something that I hope we can all agree on. In their own primal, unique way, sports are extremely beautiful. I see an allure in athletic competition that transcends even the performing arts, and the reason is simple; the unscripted nature of sports is enormously compelling. While even the most beautiful symphony is composed in advance of its performance, and the most exquisite ballet is already choreographed in detail, and the greatest musical has been scripted beforehand, the athletic contest stands out in its self-governance. Here is a medium where the players themselves determine the game’s script as it plays out, and no outcome is guaranteed, however predetermined it may seem at a glance. Once an athletic contest begins, all expectations of what was supposed to happen fade away, and the game becomes its own singular entity. Do not underestimate the importance of this self-determination; it lies at the very core of sports, and it is an ethic that must be preserved. It is on this basis that I will denounce the ethicality of the media presenting betting lines on collegiate sports.”

“If you will allow for this personification, the free will possessed by an athletic contest should be unassailably defended by fans, coaches, players, and media professionals alike. It is a quality that, if changed, fundamentally alters the nature of an athletic contest and turns the competitive struggle between players into a farce. Call me a hopeless purist, but on these grounds, I say that gambling on collegiate athletic events can be deemed fundamentally unethical. By introducing the conditional possibility of winning money based on a certain outcome, wagering on the contest has very real potential to alter the independence of the game’s result, which is the central ethic of sport. Consider the New York Times mission statement: to ‘enhance society by creating, collecting and distributing high-quality news, information and entertainment.’[1] Many other media outlets put forth similar missions to the Times, and I contend that promulgating gambling lines on collegiate athletic events does not fall in line with this purpose. They are failing to fulfill their self-defined mission.”

“Lest I be accused of overreaction, let us look at history to examine the effect gambling has had on athletic contests. Some the darkest days in sports history occurred because gamblers ‘reached’ athletes, who agreed to fix game outcomes in return for cash. Other major controversies have resulted from players or coaches betting on games, even those involving their own team! Talk about a conflict of interests! And ladies and gentlemen, these are not isolated or small-time incidents we’re talking about here. We’re talking about the World Series[2] being fixed. Outcomes of NCAA Division 1 basketball games[3] – the big show – have been predetermined. Pete Rose, baseball’s all-time hits leader, was banned from baseball for life and lost out on the Hall of Fame for betting on his team’s own games as a manager![4] In each of these cases, gambling on sports led to the complete devaluation of what takes place on the playing surface. If sports media would stop publishing the lines, it would represent a major step towards diminishing gambling on sports as a national pastime. Do you think the athletes are not aware of the weight these bets carry? Don’t be naïve. I fail to understand how gambling is illegal in nearly every part of the United States, yet I cannot escape the daily gambling lines in my local newspaper.”

“To emphasize this further, consider the effect of gambling on collegiate athletics in particular. The pure, untainted amateurism of its competitors is a central tenet of the NCAA.[5] As amateur sports, collegiate athletics are supposed to uphold the purity of the game and the wholesomeness of competition for its own sake, unadulterated by greed or self-interest. Student-athletes are intended to be perceived as their fellow students’ peers and equals, with the completion of an education as their first priority. The holistic nature of a college, its traditions, and the collaborative sharing of an athletic experience by students and alumni are all vital parts of the college football and basketball experience. Amateurism is a huge part of these qualities, which, as sports media so frequently reminds us, compose what we love so much about collegiate athletics. The love for school transcends winning; consider my alma mater, Notre Dame, and its consecutive sellout streak. The Irish have been through some lean years recently, including a school-worst 9-loss season in 2007; yet every single home game since 1973 has been sold out. [6] This is because to a collegiate fan base, tradition, education, and solidarity represent a great deal of the meaning behind college football, beyond wins and losses. The professional ranks simply do not have the same kind of idealization attached to them, because greed and self-interest run so rampant. If the NCAA places such an emphasis on amateurism, and comes down so hard on any threats to that standing, then it makes the involvement of gambling on these events all the more grievous. The media needs to stop perpetuating the double standard that it currently manipulates to its advantage, perking the interest of the doe-eyed fan by speaking of tradition, education, and solidarity, while also presenting betting fodder for consumption and even discussing college football and basketball games in gambling terms. The two perspectives cannot be reconciled.”

“I hope that I have presented a compelling case for you tonight. My love for collegiate sports moves me to defend their purity and honor, and I believe that the media’s shameless play of both sides of the coin is indefensible. I also believe that the danger of tainted competition can be greatly mitigated by a change in our fan culture. The perpetuation of collegiate sports gambling by the media as the status quo, however indirectly, should be halted to ensure the beauty of sports as we know them, and I am confident that discontinuing the unethical practice of publishing collegiate football and basketball lines would be a significant step in the right direction. Thank you.”

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