Monday, July 25, 2011

Friday, July 22, 2011

The Role of Swagger in Sports

A New Phenomenon

     "Swag" is a phenomenon that has been influencing sports since the beginning of time, but not until recently has it become known as the most important trait of a perennial winner. For years, there has always been that special "thing" that carried Joe Namath to victory in Superbowl III, or the "icy veins" in the clutch that propelled Michael Jordan to 6 championships, but in all honesty, it was their swag. Webster would define swag as an inner confidence that one exudes in everyday life. However, it is more than that. 

     Swag is what makes Tom Brady spike the football in the Steelers endzone. It is the reason Tiger Woods does this after his winning shot at the 2008 US Open. It moves Tim Thomas to, instead of  making a conventional save, knock this guy onto his butt while saving the puck during the Stanley Cup Finals. Gets Brandi Chastain to not only score the biggest soccer goal in US history, but also rip her shirt off during a wild celebration in the middle of the field during the 1999 Women's World Cup. All these examples show how a combination of cockiness and confidence, also known as swag, can go a long way to ensuring success.  

     Although this is a new term, its not only used by the new generation. ESPN is embracing it, as people like Merril Hoge consistently praise those players that "Have that Swagger". The NCAA gives out gifts to each player on FBS football teams that play in bowl games. What do they call these collections of gifts? Swag Bags. The only downside to swag is that those who are lacking tend to suffer. For example, LeBron James. He has terrific showmanship, and did all he could to prove himself a 'clutch' player throughout the 2011 NBA playoffs. However, when the time to be great came upon him, his turn to take over, his chance to silence his doubters once and for all, he took a backseat to two of his teammates. He lacked the internal fortitude necessary to consistently and comfortably be in control. In other words, he was lacking Swag. Another guy, Roger Goodell. Over the past year, he's received increasing amounts of criticism that have turned into public humiliation, and he's letting the Owners control his every move during this NFL Lockout. When it comes down to it, Goodell isn't capable of leading people in the way his position asks: he needs more swagger. 

     Swag is not something that can be earned, bought, or achieved, rather it is something that lies within the heart.  Those that have it will continue to shine, while those that are without it will continue to falter. 
The million dollar question is: Do you have swag?

Monday, July 18, 2011

Blocking The Lockout

Block The Lockout

     For the past week, there has been growing speculation each day that the NFL Lockout will come to an end. The question is: WHEN? Major issues dividing the Owners association from the Players Association are being resloved left and right, yet there still has not been a tentative agreement, or final resolution. When the lockout began, there were 5 main issues the the two sides could not agree upon: Season Length, Player Salaries, Revenue Sharing, Financial Information, and Rookie Salaries.

     Over the past 128 days, the owners essentially gave up on their coveted 18 game season, and the two sides agreed on a Salary Cap and a Rookie Wage Scale. That leaves two things, arguably the two main issues: Revenue Sharing and Financial information. In an event at the NFLPA headquarters, I personally asked Dee Smith what needs to be done to end the lockout. He simply told me that they have to see the NFL team revenue books, or they can't agree to anything regarding revenue sharing. The NFL owners are claiming that they were losing money(link) in the previous Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA), and need to take a larger percentage of the NFL revenue. 

     Although they have publicly stated this, they are yet to show any evidence that this is the truth. As a result, the negotiations have been intense, with no love on either side. Carolina Panther's Owner Jerry Richardson insulted Peyton Manning and Drew Brees during earlier negotiations Roger Goodell was booed horribly at the NFL draft. James Harrison said this about Rodger Goodell last week. The list goes on and on. The only way to solve these problems is for both sides to make concessions. Desperate times call for desperate measures, and with the deadline to preserve the 2011 Hall of Fame Game approaching rapidly, the everyone is desperate. 

     Owners are desperate, because every week the NFL misses out of the preseason is another $ 250 million less revenue. Players are desperate, because many of them will not have the means to support themselves or their families without football. Fans are desperate, because no NFL means no going to games, no cheering on their favorite team, no Superbowl, and worst of all, no Fantasy Football. The end-goal here is just to make sure we have professional football this year. Most believe its simply a matter of time before that happens. The question is: How much time?

Monday, July 11, 2011

An Anniversary of Greatness

Women's World Cup 

     12 years ago yesterday, Brandi Chastain scored the winning penalty kick in the World Cup Final vs China. In the 2011 world cup, that same greatness appeared in the American team as they defeated Brazil in 5-3 in penalty kicks. Although this win was not in the finals, it was in some ways a more dramatic win. Twists and turns dominated the game late, and players showed their true colors. Buehler got a Red Card in the 65th minute. On Marta's penalty kick, Hope Solo made the block, but it was called back because of an encroachment penalty. On the second try, Marta converted the kick and tied the game 1-1.  

     In the Extra Time, Marta scored again on a beautiful kick in the 92 minute. After 30 minutes of back and forth between the two teams, a beautiful cross by Rapinoe and an even more amazing header by Abby Wambach in the 122nd minute tied the game at 2-2. What's next? Penalty Kicks. Up first: Boxx. Her kick is blocked, but encroachment is called on the goalie. Next kick is good. The teams go back and forth until the US goes up 3-2 with  Daiane (Brazil) up. Hope Solo reads the shot perfectly, and easily saves the goal. Two shots later, the US moves onto the semifinals. By playing man-down for 55 minutes, scoring the latest goal in World Cup History, and winning in penalty kicks, the 2011 game proved to be even more dramatic than the one in 1999. 

     However, that day in 1999 was significant for a different reason. Not only was it a World Cup victory, but it set the tone for a new age in women's soccer in America. Women came before in the men in any discussion regarding American soccer. Mia Hamm was featured on a commercial battling against Michael Jordan. Little girls across the country looked up to Brandi Chastain. Abby Wambach and Hope Solo have a chance to be just as iconic as the faces of the past. The question is: Will they do it?

Monday, July 4, 2011

Athletes and Social Media

     Social Athletes

     This past week, Donovan McNabb brought up a hot-button topic that has really been buzzing in the world of sports as of late: Athletes on Social Networking sites. Most notably, Twitter. Time and time again, those that are in the public eye have been criticized for comments posted on the Internet,  most recently Congressman Weiner of New York. Because of the Lockout in the NFL, and now the NBA, athletes have too much time on their hands, and are adding to the problem.  Rashard Mendehall questioned whether Bin Laden was actually guilty of crimes against the US. LeSean Mccoy unnecessarly criticized Osi Umenyiora during a time the players are supposed to be banding together. Maurice Jones-Drew killed two birds with one stone by calling Urban Meyer a quitter, and indirectly doubting the toughness of Jay Cutler. 

     These are just a few of the people that have gotten too loose with their words, and tweeted about topics they have no business commenting on. As professional athletes, these men are expected to set a good example for the next generation, which are the same people that follow them on twitter. However, there is a difference between the fan's expectations, and the mind of the athlete. Fans expect their favorite players to be at their best at all times: on the field and off the field. Athletes, on the other hand, choose to speak their minds, just like every other person in the world. 

     The difference is, their opinion matters to a lot more people than that of the average person. For example, take Dwight Howard. He has more than 2,000,000 followers on twitter. When he tweets this, more than 2 million people immediately see it. Once they see it, it gets retweeted.. And retweeted... And retweeted even more, until eventually it ends up on the news, and tens of millions of people know about it. Something that was originally intented as a joke, now ends up being a nationwide media catastrophe. These types of occurrences are happening more and more often in the world of sports, and people like Donovan McNabb are trying to find a way to put a stop to it. His message to athletes: Delete your twitter.

 My question to the world: Is speaking your mind to the world worth jeopardizing your public image?