Football from a Football Fan

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http://www.fanhouse.com/

I chose fanhouse because it does not look or feel like the average fan sports blog yet you get the writing and opinions of amateurs. The site has a very ESPN-like feel to it. They cover nearly every American professional sport while providing live box scores.

In Good Company

What do Bill Clinton, Colin Powell, Oprah Winfrey, Sandra Day O’Connor and Nnamdi Asomugha have in common? They are all recipients of the Jefferson Award. The Jefferson Award is essentially the Nobel Prize of public service. Asomugha created the Asomugha College Tour for Scholars program (ACTS) where each year Nnamdi selects various inner city high school kids from the Bay Area and takes them on college tours across the country while providing them with the means to get to these colleges. Now these are not your run of the mill college tours, after all being a millionaire All-Pro cornerback has it’s advantages. When Nnamdi takes his students to tour college in Washington D.C. they meet Bill Clinton, go bowling at the White House, and meet Alicia Keys backstage at a concert. Nnamdi hopes that with the creation of ACTS he can give back to his community and help students that have similar backgrounds.

Being an Oakland Raider fan automatically makes Nnamdi Asomugha my favorite player. Aside from our punter Shane Lechler (and who in there right mind likes the punter) Asomugha is our only Pro Bowler and All-Pro. He is generally regarded as one of if on they top cornerback in the NFL. In fact Nnamdi commands so much respect from opposing quarterbacks that last he was thrown at only 28 times all season. For those of you that don’t understand how incredible that it, it means that on average he has to defend less than 2 passes a game, he is that feared. Asomugha’s talent essentially shut down an entire side of the field.

Yet being a die-hard Raider fan and being and admittedly obsessed football fan I did not hear a single Sportscenter or NFL Network story on the philanthropic activities my favorite player was performing. Instead of hearing news on a professional football player winning the Nobel Prize in public service, my summer consisted of stories about Ben Roethlisberger, Vince Young, Michael Vick and other players violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy and behaving irresponsibly off the field. Nnamdi is notorious for being overly humble and when it comes to his public service but if the Jefferson Awards Committee knows about his program shouldn’t his fans know as well? It is rare if not almost unheard of to hear a story about an athlete off the field that is not negative. As a sporting community why are we obsessed with pointing out the flaws and deviant exploits of athletes while only commending them for their work on the field? Nnamdi gets his recognition on the field, but his responsibility and public service off the field go almost unnoticed. We are quick to blame athletes for their mistakes, yet we seem unwilling to commend them for their acts of charity. Nnamdi is the perfect example of a role model, a player that is one of the best on the field as well as off.

His Whole Life Was a Lie

Rewind the clocks to 2006, Michael Vick was a three time Pro Bowler and one of the most entertaining and loved football players the NFL had ever seen. Despite his raw talent and his ability to win games the thing that made Vick a household name was his behavior off the field. In August 2007 Vick plead guilty to federal dog fighting charges and was sentenced to 2 years in Leavenworth Penitentiary. Overnight Vick had become one of the most hated men in The United States.

Fast-forward to week 1 of the 2010 NFL Season and Michael Vick was called upon to step in after a Kevin Kolb injury and lead his team to victory. While Vick was unable to salvage the game, he played as Head Coach Andy Reid said, “out of his mind.” Vick’s play won him the starting job and in week 3 essentially secured him the title of NFL Comeback Player of the Year. While his on the field play has started to win back the admiration of the football community, many still wonder if Vick’s off the field demeanor has truly changed. The answer: Yes, Yes he has.

In a recent interview with his former head coach Jim Mora Michael Vick discusses everything from his introduction to dog fight to his eventual rise as the Philadelphia Eagles starting quarterback. This is an interview that no one but Vick’s former coach could have done and the result is one of the most honest and true interviews you’ll ever see from an athlete. Vick holds nothing back as he tells Mora how his “whole life was a lie.” He tells Mora that he continuously lied to him while playing for him. He consistently let Mora down by being dishonest and failing to live up to his potential as a player and as a leader. Many blame Vick for Mora losing his job as the Falcons Head Coach and after witnessing the betrayal Vick openly admits it’s hard to argue. Vick is looking the man that he essentially screwed in the eyes and telling him straight up that I lied to you and I lied about a lot of stuff.

Vick was immature in Atlanta, he did not take his role as a leader seriously and even apart from the dog fight did not behave responsibly off the field. He admits this and confesses that he is now a family man. Instead of going home every night to a house full of former friends, Vick returns every night to see his fiance and children. Vick has gotten rid of the bad influences in his life and given the circumstances did so rather easily.

One of the most subtle yet telling aspects of the interview is when Vick tells Mora that he now watches film at home every night. Mora’s response? “Did you ever watch those DVDs in Atlanta?” And Vick without a moment of hesitation plainly says “Them DVDs just piled up in my car Jim.” Vick is telling Mora to his face that film was a waste of time in Atlanta, but not anymore. It is by no means an easy thing to look someone in the eye and tell them you’ve been lying to them for 5 years. Call it honesty, call it frankness, call it stupidity, but whatever you call it it is clear the Vick is done lying and he is done deceiving.

Despite being a 1st round pick, going to 3 Pro Bowls and an NFC Championship the best thing that ever happened to Vick was going to prison. Vick openly admits it, “other than [prison] I wasn’t gonna change… I wasn’t gonna stop fighting dogs… There was nothing nobody coulda done.” Vick claims that it was divine intervention that changed him. According to Vick it was the Man upstairs who took him away from everything he had in this world and forced him to get his priorities in order. And if Vick’s word isn’t enough redeem him just look at his play on the field. In two and a half weeks Vick has shown that he is not only the best athlete on the field but can also stand tall in the pocket and deliver a bomb downfield. He is reading coverages and defensive schemes better than he ever did with Atlanta. Bottom line, Vick has changed and is a better player because of it so watch out opposing defenses because Vick is not just raw talent now, he is a humble student of the game. Once he gets healthy he will be a force to be reckoned with.

Always a Fan Never a Player – Danny Solow

“Hey son can I help you?”

The coach looked at me as if I was lost. It was my first day at the Football Junior Player Development Camp.

“I’m here for the camp.” I told him

The coach tried to hide his immediate look of surprise after examining my 120 pound frame. He tried to mask his surprise with a sense of caring as he led me to pickup my equipment. It was my first experience on a football field. I was a die-hard Ravens fan and after watch Jamal Lewis rush for over 2,000 yards and become the NFL offensive MVP I had what one might call delusions of grandeur. I figured that as I was about to enter high school I should try to make Lewis proud and attempt to play running back.

On the first day of camp we were divided by position. I ran over to join the running backs and was greeted with puzzled looks as if they thought I had thought I was a kicker that wandered over by accident. We split up into 2 groups and practiced angle tackling. I was paired up with the largest kid in the group. He easily out-weighed me by 50 pounds. I will never forget what he said to me as he leaned in before the drill and muttered, “I’m gonna kill you.” The image is seared in my mind and haunts me to the day. Needless to say he hit me harder than I had ever been hit before. It was then that I began to question my destiny as a running back, but I was still determined to be like Jamal Lewis.

The following day we ran through dozens of drills, everything from pass blocking to ball security. I found that because of my lesser size and strength I was forced to play in a manner that was not received well by the other player. When working on pass protection I chopped blocked, when attempting to secure the ball I simple ran away from defenders. If this wasn’t enough of a sign that I wasn’t meant to play football my reaction was. As one would expect players did not appreciate being chopped blocked or refusing to run through the line of potential ball strippers. Instead of holding my ground, I found myself constantly apologizing for my inability to properly do the drills. I became known at the kid who would apologize for everything. This was simply not a mentality that suited football. That coupled with my small stature finally showed me that football was not now nor would ever be my sport. I would be a student of the sport, I would envy the players, I would love it, but I would never play it.

Marcus Allen

The autobiography as a whole was exactly what I had expected. This does not mean it was poorly written it simply lacked a certain sense of surprise that many other autobiographies include. Many chapters read a lot like stat sheets depicting Allen’s statistical success, which when one considers Allen’s humbleness is surprising. Allen says that the thing he is most proud of in his college career was not being the first running back to rush for over 2,000 yards or winning the Heisman trophy. Allen’s proudest moment at USC was playing fullback his sophomore year and leading the way for Charles White to win the Heisman trophy.

The book begins with an excerpt from the autobiography. Marcus Allen was sitting in his locker room devastated over a loss he blamed himself for after fumbling in a crucial moment of the game. His fellow teammate reassured him that the loss was everyone’s fault that everyone was to blame. At that moment he looked up to see Al Davis standing over him bright red and furious. Davis opened his mouth and said “I shoulda traded ya.” before he turned around and never again said a kind word to the man that led the Raiders franchise to prominence.

One thing the autobiography did very well was conveying Allen’s voice and motivation to be as good as he was. When he was finally let go by the Raiders after being declared past his prime and picked up by the Chiefs was one of the defining moments in his already impressive career. Allen comments on those days saying that being called washed up was one of the most motivating experiences in his life. As a fan, and an Al Davis hater there was something immensely satisfying reading Allen’s description of his first game against his former team. For the first time in a long time Allen was out to prove something on the football field and as a reader his description of the game built up a sense of anxiety unlike anything I’ve read in an autobiography.

Sports Journalism that Moves Me

When I first discovered that NFL Films had an exclusive interview with Brian Dawkins I was immediately excited. Dawkins has been one of the most dominant defensive players in the last decade and brings a feeling of enthusiasm to the game that few other player do. I have always been a Brian Dawkins fan, regardless of my feeling for the Eagles or Broncos I alway find myself rooting for Dawkins, watching his games to see when he’ll deliver his next game changing hit.

I first saw this interview in my senior year in high school. As my football team’s defensive captain I drew inspiration from star defensive players from the NFL. I took it upon myself to raise the morale of the defense by delivering that pre-game pump-up speech or game changing hit to change the momentum of a game. Dawkins was my biggest influence. His on the field alter-ego “The Wolverine” is infamous in the NFL. Brian Dawkins helped to define what an impact player on defense really was. An impact player was not only someone who would score a touchdown or intercept the ball, Dawkins showed that a big hit in a critical moment in the game can send a powerful message to both sides of the ball.

Most fans who know who Brian Dawkins is know these things about him. The interesting part of the interview to me was the ability to describe Dawkins off the field. This is a side of him that most have never seen before. It is something that only a NFL Films interview can reveal. He is able to be one of the most mild-mannered religious men off the field throughout the week and then come game time he has the ability to turn it on and unleash “The Wolverine.” Of all the lessons I tried to learn from Dawkins this was perhaps the most important. The story is able to illustrate that from Monday to Saturday one can be the most mild-mannered man in the world but come game day when you buckle that chin strap you have the ability to change into a different person.

The interview could have left it at that, Dawkins is a nice guy on the field and a monster off of it, but they go a step further to show that while on the field he retains his composure and morals. The clips of Dawkins on the field performing his pre-game ritual was especially interesting. I found it almost strange that as a religious man he chose to speak in tongues before a game. Even more enlightening is the chance to see someone like Dawkins, a man that fan and players look up to get injured while his has a microphone on. As fans most of us are used to seeing players get injured and have to leave games, but rarely to we get to hear how the player reacts the the injury (this is probably due to the the fact that most players swear when injured another aspect that makes Dawkins unique). Seeing Dawkins go down while hearing him wincing and crying is one of the most emotional clips I have ever seen in an athlete expose. The interviewer is able to depict a man who flirts with the boundary of star athlete and superhero and bring him to a very human level that is extremely vulnerable. The piece moves me not only because of Dawkins, but the ability to make him very relatable to his fans as well as fans of the game.

What Makes for Good Sports Journalism

1. Writing – If an article is poorly written it makes it very difficult to not only get through it but to extract the information you want out of it. Journalism is about writing that needs to be the first and foremost important aspect in any for of journalism.

2. A big event – Journalism needs big events. The morning after a Super Bowl championship, a record setting home run, or game 7 of the NBA finals is a fans favorite day to read everything from ESPN to the cover of every major newspaper in the country. Big events are what is so appealing to sports fans and they are essential to journalism.

3. An interesting story – If an article is well-written and engaging, it is engaging for a reason. The writer is able to illustrate an interesting story no matter who or what is the subject matter.

4. Good quotes/interviews – Most people don’t read sport journalism for the opinions of the writers. (some obviously do) The reason sports reporters are legitimized is that they have access to the players and coaches are are able to get exclusive quotes and interviews from them.

5. A recognizable/high-profile character – While I admit this is still an integral aspect of sports journalism, to me its the least important out of these 5. While simply the name Lebron James in an articles title is sure to draw thousands of views, it doesn’t make the journalism any better in my opinion. While most people care more about high profile characters I do not believe it adds anything to the quality of the piece.

Bennett Gets the Win Against Trojans

Spartans center fielder Chris Johnson homered off Torrez in the first inning with no one on and no outs. The lone run would be all that was needed to seal the game as the Spartans went on to beat the Trojans 3-0 on Wednesday night.

Spartans Chris Johnson (2), Jose Hernandez (1), Mike Davis(1), Kevin Hoch(1), Jim Trotto(1), and Yordany Latty(3) all recorded hits on the night. Trojans Mel Williams(1), Paul Perez(1), and Steve Clardie (2) also got hits but could do no more to keep the Spartans from winning.

After giving up 3 runs on 6 hits in his 6 innings pitched Torrez was followed by Chad Fisher and closer Yao Li. The 3 combined to give up 9 hits, 6 walks, and 7 strikeouts on the night.

The Spartan pitching fared much better as Bennett (7 IP), George (.1IP), Evans(.2IP), and Simms(1IP) combined for 4 hits, 2 walks, and 6 strikeouts to solidify the win for the Spartans.

With 30 at bats the Trojans had trouble getting any sort of offense going as 12 men were left on base. After right fielder Yordany Latty brought 2 runs in the 3rd the Spartans essentially put the game away and out of reach for the struggling Trojans.

Closer Dave Simms was able to put the game away in the 9th and record the save giving up only 1 hit to the Trojans.