Miracles and Firsts

We’ve all heard the story a million times, and if you are watching TV during the Olympics you are bound to see a few Visa or Coca Cola commercials telling the story again. The story of when the United States beat the Soviet Union in the 1980 winter Olympics at Lake Placid. Its by far one of the most inspirational sports stories in American history, and the story is retold in the 2004 movie “Miracle” which was shown at one of this semester’s themed events in November (side note: I had no idea who John Bacon was but everyone should look him up he’s honestly so cool). While watching the movie, I couldn’t help but think about how it related to when we learned about A. Bartlett Giamatti’s idea about spectators and sports. Read More

Why the term “Michigan Man” should continue

Brady Hoke - Former University of Michigan Football Head Coach

Brady Hoke – Former University of Michigan Football Head Coach

Tradition is one of the core principles the University of Michigan prides itself on. From apparel to the fight song, following in the footsteps of the ones who came before us is the norm here. And to be honest, there is a part of me that enjoys it. I do support the progression of this university academically as well as athletically, however, I believe that we can achieve this without completely altering the traditions and customs in which we carry.

Last week, Jim Hackett, the interim athletic director that replaced the recently resigned Dave Brandon, fired Brady Hoke, from his position. This was unfortunate, but probably the best decision given Coach Hoke’s track record since he arrived at the university. With that being said, Jim Hackett was quoted at one of the preceding interview sessions and said, “I want to get rid of the word Michigan Man.

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eSports?

The logo for StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty

“The rise of the professional cyber athlete” reads the tagline of Ben McGrath’s article. The topic is StartCraft, a virtual game that has one of the largest followings in the world. The game is dominated by South Korean’s, but has recently been expanding to other parts of the world, including North America. The most talented players gather to compete in tournaments featuring large cash prizes and many opportunities to gain sponsorships. There is a common question that arises, and the topic has been debated for a long time: What is a sport? (And are eSports actually sports?) Read More

Aspiring To Our Role Models

Elders are commonly role models through their actions and words, they help shape who we become, influence our personalities, and enable us to mature. They set examples for us and we do as they do, reflecting the way they talk, the way they walk, and the way they interact and live their lives. In addition to our elders, role models are often friends, coaches, professors and others with whom we interact every day. These people are continually teaching us something new, good and bad. We can also learn from people we don’t know, like celebrities and athletes we see in the media, to develop an electronic relationship. But what happens when role models withhold information from us, or are prevented from sharing information with those who regard them highly? Does that do more than restrict the sources of information on important topics? Younger members of the current population are less active on political and social issues than prior generations. This may be the result of the treatment given to public role models who tried to send messages to those who looked up to them.

Smith and Carlos Statue

Smith and Carlos Statue

Tommie Smith and John Carlos were two very successful Olympians who protested against racism while accepting their medals on stage and during the national anthem at the 1968 Olympic Games. This act was heavily criticized by the general population and caused many problems for Smith and Carlos. Similar action by athletes have been minimal since then because lots of people would associate political actions by other outspoken athletes in the same light as Smith and Carlos. Public role models have tried to assist struggling parts of society in other ways, such as visiting hospitals, creating or participating in youth exercise programs, and rebuilding communities destroyed by natural disasters or political conflict. Don’t get me wrong, all of those efforts are admirable, necessary, and help raise awareness on important topics, but they aren’t controversial and not equivalent to supporting a minority viewpoint in a very public way. When it comes to political dissent, few speak out on big issues like war or sweatshop labor. All role models, even those aren’t well-known athletes, have the right to and should express themselves more freely, just because they can. Their specific opinions aren’t important, but our role models, especially if well known, must remember they’re setting an important example by demonstrating how to be an active member of society.

Political agency uses ideas and theories to influence actions by individuals or groups to achieve political goals. College students and other young adults are not sure if they can find their place in political activism. Criticism of public figure role models deters students and others from becoming political agents of change. For example, Steve Nash once wore a t-shirt to a press conference, which there was a strong anti-war message. His critics responded “just shut up and play,” implying that his views on social issues were unwanted. Surprisingly, the censoring comments came from others involved in pro sports. Nothing is ever going to change unless people take action. Yet when someone like Nash, an athlete and worldwide celebrity, tries to speak up about what he believes in and gets shot down for it, other athletes are going to be cautious of their actions. An example of why they don’t feel “safe” speaking out about issues is because “You get to the NFL and you’re just trying to get your head above water and float and survive in the NFL, let alone take on (serious political issues),” Brendon Ayanbadejo, the former Baltimore Ravens linebacker who started advocating for marriage equality in 2009, said. “I started speaking out in 2009. I was in my 30s already. It’s so hard just to make it in the NFL, you’re not going to start talking politics and controversial things until you’re comfortable in your career.” And, even if you do, it becomes a distraction. Athletes minds have to be clear the minute they step onto a field.”  If Mill were asked his opinion, he wouldn’t think it was a big deal because it doesn’t violate his view on harm: “The liberty of the individual must be thus far limited; he must not make himself a nuisance to other people.” Celebrities speaking out about views don’t harm others. In a way, it’s a celebrity’s job to both be good in their talents as well as be educated about society. They’re the ones that can influence change on the greater population. Their fans look up to them, and if they think certain laws are unjust, they should be able to speak up about them and be praised for it.

“Athletes are, obviously, human beings with opinions and causes and issues they care about, and unlike many “ordinary” people, they stand on a platform that gives them major influence in American culture. The relative rarity of the athlete who speaks publicly on major social, political, and cultural issues would only seem to add to the influence they can have when they do.”

Aaron Rodgers

Aaron Rodgers

Aaron Rodgers is a great example of this. He got 2,000 people to attend a speech he gave on Congo and conflict materials, which is his newly started political cause. Only because Rodgers is so accomplished in his career that controversy was minimal as a result of this speech. Much of this crowd was probably fans and had no interest in hearing about his cause, rather solely interested in seeing him in person. Yet, that’s the point of the platform they stand on. Everyone that is a fan of Rodgers will listen, and thus this engages more conversation, more awareness, and more educated people. “I’ve been given a platform based on the success that we’ve had as a team and that I’ve had individually,” Rodgers told ThinkProgress after the event…“What am I going to do? I have a voice, I have an opportunity to tell people what I care about. And I care about this deeply, I care about making an impact in this world.”

John_Stuart_Mill_by_London_Stereoscopic_Company,_c1870

John Stuart Mill

Values change every day because opinions and views of right and wrong are influenced by what we read, the things we hear, the people we talk to, and our role models.  Mill believes, “I am harmed if my ability to pursue my life as before is significantly curtailed.” Our elected officials, athletes, artists and celebrities have the ability to influence our views and inspire us to take action, yet their ability to do so is decreasing. The same way that the best athletes seem to get the best calls by referees and umpires, only those considered to be the best at what they do are able to speak openly, yet this is not appropriate. Athletes and other role models who are well informed, even if not the best at what they do, should not be restricted from showing us how to take action or speak out if the topic is important to them. Role models have the responsibility to speak to those who will listen. Perhaps we need to look at the way role models are measured; instead of labeling a good citizen by a stated viewpoint on a topic, their willingness to be politically and socially active, influencing change of any kind, is more important.

The Consequences of Activism in Athletics

Chris Kluwe, former Minnesota Vikings punter

Chris Kluwe, former Minnesota Vikings punter

From 2005-2012, Chris Kluwe played football with the Minnesota Vikings as a punter. Kluwe holds a number of team punt records for the Vikings, and at one point was one of the ten highest paid punters in the NFL. During his time with the Vikings, Kluwe was an outspoken supporter and activist for LGBT rights, which in his opinion, is the reason he was fired.

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Extra Blog Post: Miracle and Taylor Branch

Since I was a kid, my favorite movie was (and still is) Miracle. I was ecstatic to hear that on November 13th, there was a showing of Miracle in a North Quad. The movie Miracle is a documentary-based drama that highlights the United States men’s hockey team and their road to victory at the 1980 Winter Olympics. The coach at the time, Herb Brooks, is the one of the many reasons that the team won the gold metal, but in the eyes of many sports analysts, reporters and fanatics, he was the sole reason. His intense, strategic and balls to the wall coaching style made him a coaching icon far beyond the sport of hockey, but throughout the athletic community. Kurt Russell, the actor who plays Herb Brooks in the movie, does an excellent job portraying the legendary coach’s extraordinary personality, which leaves audiences with inspiration, appreciation for hard work and in my case, the dream to win the gold metal for the United States. Unfortunately, I chose to play a sport that is not cared about nor offered at the Olympic level… lacrosse. But that’s beside the point.

United States win gold medal in 1980

United States win gold medal in 1980

No matter what your athletic background is, I believe it is impossible to not relate to this movie. Some of the challenges that this team was presented with are challenges that can be easily related to real world. For example, the team was comprised of 20 men that came from all over the country. They were thrown together and expected to win a gold medal for the United States in a matter of about two months. Many people can relate to being placed with a group of people with different backgrounds and contrasting methods, while still expected to construct an impressive production. Whether it is group home works in high school, group projects in college, or a sales team for the company you work for in 10 years, the same roadblocks are run into. The interesting part is that the teamwork and dedication to complete these tasks remains the same throughout every scenario and if everybody within the group isn’t on the same page, then the desired goal will not be achieved efficiently. Coach Brooks introduced this same concept to his team after a tie with the Norwegian National team.

A few weeks before the Norwegian game, Coach Brooks asked each member of the team whom they play for. Each and every one of the players responded with the college they attended. During the game against the Norwegians, Coach noticed that a few of his players were distracted by some smokin’ blondes in the stands, and not playing up to their full potential, Coach Brooks held the team throughout the night conditioning them to the point of sheer exhaustion. The conditioning continues for hours until a player named, Mike Eruzione, shouted, “I play for the United States of America.” Once the players realized that they needed to come together as one unit to achieve their main objective, things began to click within their chemistry. I can personally relate to this bond that the 1980 Olympic team had with each other because the bond that my teammates and I have sparked in similar ways to this Hockey team. It is an indescribable bond that is created when you are in a conditioning session, covered in sweat, moments from collapsing due to exhaustion, demanded to get on the line by coaches, and run another set of sprints. The unity that is shared once the conditioning session is over and the team comes together in a huddle to holler, “Go Blue,” is an unforgettable feeling; and definitely one I will never forget.

Taylor Branch believes all collegiate athletes should be paid

Taylor Branch believes all collegiate athletes should be paid

The day after the sowing of Miracle, November 14th, I also had the opportunity to attend Taylor Branch’s presentation about the relationship between student athletes and the NCAA. Taylor Branch is an author, historian, public speaker, campaigner, and advocate for the rights of student athletes across the United States. Two years ago, freshman year, I took a Sociology course that focused on sports within our society. One of the readings we had for that course was one of Taylor Branch’s most famous pieces, “The Shame of College Sports.” The piece was published in an issue of The Atlantic in October of 2011. In this article, he sheds the light on how collegiate athletes are just as overworked and taken advantage of as employees in the workplace. The “unjust” part of the situation, Branch believes, is how the overworked employees get paid for their services and the athletes do not. It was also interesting to hear Branch hypothesize that the NCAA banned the ability to pay their athletes because they want to keep the profits for themselves.

I would definitely agree with Branch that the NCAA should pay their athletes, but only to a certain extent. Where my opinion differs from Taylor Branch’s is that I believe that the athletes who play sports that create revenue for their school should deserve to get paid. In my case, getting paid for being on the lacrosse team doesn’t make much sense seen as how we are not making money for the University. Think of it as a bonus for the athletes. If they perform to the best of their abilities and their program starts making money for their school, they should deserve to get paid x-amount. With this being said, I also think it would be a good idea to merge the incentive to getting paid with meeting a certain GPA to keep them also focused on their studies. This way, the student athletes would stay focused on getting a good education as well as having the incentive of making money for themselves.

Overall, these two days were an outstanding opportunity to learn more about our society and how sports plays a crucial role within it.

Hands Up, Don’t Shoot?

On November 30th, five players on the St. Louis Rams entered the field with their hands in the air referencing the “hands up don’t shoot” gesture that has been receiving a lot of attention in recent weeks. This salute began after the recent events of the Michael Brown Case. For those of you who might not be informed of the Michael Brown Case (I’d be surprised if you aren’t), I’ll give you a quick recap.

NFL: Oakland Raiders at St. Louis Rams

St. Louis Rams demonstrating hands up, don’t shoot

Michael Brown was an 18 year old from Ferguson, Missouri. On August 9th, Michael and a friend robbed a convenience store a few blocks away from Michael’s house. On the walk back, Darren Wilson, a Ferguson Police Officer, is responding to the robbery call and stops Michael because he fit the profile of the perpetrator. Read More

Around the World: How Gender Disparities Still Exist in Sports—Everywhere

The world of sports is a challenging place to navigate, and for women, this world can be downright ruthless. But depending on where in the world women are, the challenges posed in the world of sports can be very different. I attended two theme semester events: one was a documentary of how women are portrayed by the American media, and the other was a documentary about teenage girl boxers in Kabul trying to make it to the Olympics. The women in each respective documentary have drastically different relationships with sport: in the former, women and girls are encouraged to participate in sports from a very young age and practice and compete in safe, sterile environments. In the latter, girls are highly discouraged from competing, and their coach is often threatened with physical violence.

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Women and Sports: Outside of the Literal Playing Field

I was lucky enough to have the chance to attend some of the LSA Theme Semester Events at the Hatcher Library Gallery. These speakers are meant to overlap the ideas that are in our Political Science class, which this semester is based off of Sports and the University. On October 30, I was able to listen to Andrea Joyce, a women sports reporter who was able to succeed in the world of male sport reporters. Then, on November 14 I was able to listen to Amy Perko. Perko has been an executive director of the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics since 2005. While being an executive director of the Knight Commission, she mainly focused on the treatment of student athletes. 

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