Archive for March, 2012

The Beginning of a Passion…College Basketball

Posted in Sports with tags , , , , , , on March 22, 2012 by Once Unwanted Girl

ImageBy: SCF Sports Write Ashley

When I was a freshman in high school, I knew little about college sports. At this point in my life I was mostly concerned with the NFL and was only starting to enjoy college football. I really had no interest in basketball at all, let alone the unknowns of the college ranks. Then I realized if I wanted to make friends with the kids from the other middle schools in my town, I had better learn about college basketball, and fast. I started to pay attention to the basketball segment on Sports Center at night to see if they highlighted anything I had overheard that day during school. I began to casually involve myself in conversations here and there when I was sure I wouldn’t look like a shmuck for messing any detail up. Over time I began to feel confident in my growing college basketball IQ. This is totally embarrassing to admit, and realizing that these guys might be reading this blog right now is both scary and liberating, but I’m continuing on

because I promised I would always be honest…

Over the course of those few weeks I had began to pay extra attention to the University of North Carolina because that seemed to be the favorite among the group I was trying to befriend.  Watching Tyler Hansbrough and Ty Lawson were not reasons to turn away, might I add. Man were they fun to watch play! When the calendar turned to March and the NCAA tournament was fast approaching, however, conversations turned from friendly fan warfare to talks about money collections and handing in your brackets. I decided I wanted in. Even though I knew next to nothing about compared to these boys who had played basketball most of their lives, I figured what was $10 to prove that at least I was trying? So I handed in my bracket with only a certain level of confidence, as everyone who isn’t named Joe Lundari does, and hoped that UNC would win the national title. It wasn’t a difficult call to make so I didn’t win a lot of money out of that bracket challenge, but I felt I had earned some respect and that was my goal.

Now fast forward to my senior year of high school (2008-2009) and I am a full blown North Carolina fan. I have a Hansbrough Jersey, the Jordan sneakers to match, and every nationally televised game written in the same planner where I was keeping track of college visits and midterm exam schedules. If the Heels were on TV, my family knew not to disturb me. Over

the course of my high school years, I had turned into just as passionate of a college basketball fan as I was a New York Giants fan. This year when March Madness rolled around, I was ready. This time around I did two brackets, one of outcomes that I researched and statistically figured would happen, and the other of outcomes I wanted to happen based on any feel good story that surrounded a team, cool uniforms, underdogs, etc. I was confident in my picks my senior year of high school and while some of the guys I befriended our freshman year knew that I had an idea of what I was talking about, there were others in the pool that laughed when they found out I was in it to win it. At the end of every tournament game day there would be texts and Facebook messages to find out who was in the lead and at school the taunting of whoever made a bad pick was entertaining to be a part of.

I don’t remember exactly how the point system worked out, only that I needed the University of Connecticut to win in the Elite 8 (which they did) but not make it to the national championship game (they didn’t). The next thing I knew, I had won. I didn’t even need the championship game to be played, and had won the bracket challenge. I’ll never forget being at a family party and getting that text message from the boy holding everyone’s money letting me know. It was insanity. Of course a lot of people chose University of North Carolina to win it all, but the way I guessed the journey of the other teams was better than anyone else. Best. Feeling. Ever. Until of course I saw the looks on the faces of the boys involved in the pool who thought I didn’t know what I was doing when I filled out my bracket as I collected my money, then I lived a new Best. Feeling. Ever.

I suppose the moral of this story, how a girl from New Jersey ends up a die-hard UNC TarHeels fan, and falls in love with college basketball in the process, is to never doubt someone’s knowledge of subject simply because stereotypically they shouldn’t. Yes, the entry into my college basketball passion was a superficial one, but once I was in, I was, and still am, all in. I have learned to tone it down in recent years, having roommates will force a person to do that. To this day though, the emotion that comes with certain games or intriguing match ups cannot be suppressed.

So as the Sweet 16 kicks off this weekend, sick back and enjoy the ride. No need to worry about your bracket, Lehigh took care of that for you. Remember that these are 18-23 year old young men out there playing. As much as you think you’re a die-hard basketball fan, these players, that we bet on and criticize after every possession, love it even more. If they didn’t, why would they continue to play? Or even more importantly, put up with us?

Advertisements

All that Glitters is Not Gold in Pittsburgh

Posted in Sports with tags , , , , , , , on March 22, 2012 by Once Unwanted Girl

This past NFL season brought many ups and downs for Pittsburgh Steelers fans.  The ups included the win over the New England Patriots (25-17) which was quite pleasant along with the dominating wins over the Seahawks (23-0) and Rams (27-0). Not to mention the Steelers successfully were able to prove the many skeptics wrong by advancing to the playoffs despite their obvious ageing team. Hearing that you might think that ending the regular season with a 12-4 records is pretty peachy but all that glitters is not gold.

The bad began with the first game of the season against the Baltimore Raven’s.   I was in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico and made my girlfriend find a bar with the Sunday Ticket so that I could selfishly indulgence in my favorite weekend pastime.  This particular game of the season was a definite heartbreaker and the only low to my otherwise beautiful Caribbean vacation.  By the end of the first quarter the Ravens had managed to score 2 unanswered touchdowns against the Steelers. Ray Rice was the top rusher of the game with 107 rushing yards and 2 Touchdown catches.  Flacco threw for 3 touchdown passes and 224 passing yards.  The final score was 35-7 and this was a reason for concern in regards to the performance of the Steelers and the uncertainty of their season.

The problems continued with the numerous injuries that began piling up early in the season.  Willie Colon suffered a triceps injury during week 1 which resulted in season ending surgery.  Both Scott and Legursky had injuries in September in addition to the numerous other plays that sat games out. By the end of September, there were 9 players who had been suffering from some sort of injury.  Casey Hampton injured his shoulder in October. Harrison had his eye socket injury and Big Ben had an ankle sprain among the laundry list of injuries not mentioned above.  Overall this Steelers team is quickly growing older and despite the success of this veteran team it was evident throughout the season that changes were going to be made one way or another.

Week 9 of the regular season did not put smiles on the faces of Steelers fans.  Pittsburgh lost to the Ravens for the second time this season.  The score 23-20 was closer but it was not satisfying because the Steelers ended up finishing the regular season with a 12-4 record and tied with the Ravens.  However, they were not able to clinch the division because the Ravens had won more AFC North division games by beating Pittsburgh twice.

In December, James Harrison an aggressive hard hitting Pittsburgh Linebacker incurred a 1 game suspension for his hit on the Brown’s QB Mccoy.  His attempt to appeal the suspension was declined and he missed the game against the Niners.  Not having Harrison at this game and an injured Big Ben, Carter, Pouncey and Sanders did not help the Steelers against this successful Niners team. The Niners ended up beating the Steelers 20-3.

The finale of the season was the upset by Tim Tebow and the Denver Broncos.  I like to refer to this particular game as “the dreaded Wild Card Weekend” in Denver.  Going into this game the Pittsburgh Steelers were thought to have the advantage since they were facing the Broncos who finished the regular season 8-8 with the help of their novice Quarterback Tim Tebow. There were a couple issues that affected the outcome of this game.  For example, on January 6th right before playoffs Running Back Coach Kirby Wilson was injured in an unfortunate fire in his home which greatly upset the Steelers franchise.  Safety Clark was not allowed to play at Mile High Stadium due to the altitude and his condition. Big Ben was getting over his ankle injury suffered toward the end of the season which had an effect on his performance.  The game began with the Broncos dominating the scoreboard the entire first half with 20 total points.

The Steelers entered the second half with vengeance and had a comeback scoring 17 points to Denver’s field goal. This resulted in an overtime to see which team would score first and advance to Foxbourough for the divisional playoff game. On the first play in overtime Tebow threw to Demaryimus Thomas for an 80 yard touchdown. Thomas was able to get passed CB Ike Taylor and Safety Mundy to successfully end this game. This play only took 11 seconds and happened to be the shortest overtime in the history of the NFL. Max Starks and Casey Hampton both suffered knee injuries in this game and this was quite the upset for Pittsburgh fans. The Steelers finished the 2011-2012 season with a 12-5 record and many more changes ahead to be discussed in the next post! This season didn’t end as expected but it didn’t begin as expected either. This just shows that you are only as good as your last game and we didn’t bring it against the Broncos that Wild Card match up but despite the ups and downs, wins or losses I am still a die hard Pittsburgh Steelers fan for life!

Student-Athletes vs. The Media

Posted in Sports with tags , , , , , on March 7, 2012 by Once Unwanted Girl

This is an excerpt from a paper I recently wrote for my College Sports Administration class explaining the pros and cons of media intrusion on college athletes. I personally believe that the media in the past two years has started to shift its focus onto student athletes as individuals instead of the institutions they represent and that this is not a good thing.

Here is my objective view:

By Ashley 

The attention paid to college athletes by the media has steadily increased in the past ten years. ESPN, the “worldwide leader in sports,” has its own sister network completely dedicated to all things college athletics (ESPNU). CBS Sports and MSG Network also have their very own college-specific channels. In the ever changing ways of how the world receives information, it is vital that student athletes at both the high school and collegiate level understand both the positive and negative impacts that the media can have on their lives. In all three stages of a young person’s interscholastic athletic career, being recruited, making their decision, and then carrying out their commitment, they must always be aware of how they portray themselves and represent their institution in the public light.


BEING RECRUITED

High school juniors and seniors have always had the difficult task of finding the best possible way to get their talents noticed by college coaches. Within the last ten years, social media websites have evolved from a way to share funny pictures from your birthday party to the most effective way to connect with potential employers and in this case, coaches. Athletes use websites such as Twitter, YouTube, and LinkedIn to get their highlight tapes watched. In a recent ESPN.com article, Jake Trotter writes about Georgia State men’s football coach Bill Curry’s experiences in recruiting and how over the years the methods to communicate with recruits have dramatically changed. When a coach can see who a student athlete interacts with and how they conduct themselves on the internet, it helps them make the decision of whether the young person has the right attitude and demeanor for their program. By knowing what types of things the athlete is interested in and “tweets” about, a recruiter can plan the most effective official visit. “Some guys that come down on an official visit, they want to go see the town. Others want to go to an F.C.A. meeting. You need to know which is which,” Curry said in the article.


The most recent example of social media working against a student athlete on the recruiting trail is former Don Bosco Prep football player Yuri Wright. Wright was expelled from the football-dominant prep school after sexually and racially charged tweets were noticed on his Twitter account by a University of Michigan beat writer last month. After many top tier programs rescinded their scholarship offers, Wright committed to the University of Colorado last week. “Hopefully other people will learn from what happened to me and make smarter choices. My days with social media are over, I promise. No more Twitter. No more Facebook. I have a phone, and if I want to talk to someone now, I’m just calling or texting them,” Wright said in the article written by Jake Trotter. It is very sad that a young man has to complete the last six months of high school somewhere other than where he completed the first three and a half years because of something he put on Twitter. I think that if he was not a nationally recognized high school athlete no one would care what he tweeted about, in fact people would probably say that he was “just being a boy.” This is a commentary on how the media impact on college athletes is beginning to trickle down to the high school level in a negative manner.


NATIONAL SIGNING DAY

February 1, 2012 was the first day for student athletes who participate in fall sports to sign their National Letter of Intent. ESPNU dedicated over ten hours of live coverage as the nation’s top prospects made announcements of where they intended to play college football. Hundreds of thousands of fans watched television and blogged about everything from how soon a player will be able to contribute to their new team to the type of sneakers the young athlete wore during the press conference. As mentioned in Dr. Sack’s book, it is not uncommon for the athlete’s high school to host the new conference and stage a pep rally to show support and congratulations for their star player. It is great to have the support of your family and classmates on the day that you announce where you will attend college, but how much publicity is too much publicity?


During the Under Armour All-America football game, Landon Collins, the number one safety in the ESPN150, made his verbal commitment to the University of Alabama during a break in the game. Being a Louisiana native, this is did not go over well with his family. After putting on the Alabama gloves and proclaiming “Roll Tide,” his mother was obviously distraught. When asked about her visible negative reaction to her son’s commitment, Collins’ mother, with a sour look on her face, responded: “I feel LSU is a better place for him to be… LSU Tigers, LSU Tigers number one… Go Tigers!” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w6NVgm_hntI)


This is a prime example of when a student athlete probably does not want the spotlight on them. Deciding where to attend college is a conversation every young person must have with their family, and everyone at ESPN was clearly taken aback by this mother’s reaction. I personally think that it is a good thing that Landon Collins went with his heart and did not let anyone impact his decision, even if the pressure was coming from his own mother. The Under Armour All-America game is a prestigious event and to be invited to play is the highlight of any high school football player’s career. Although it was out of his control, the media coverage of his family’s reaction undoubtedly left a damper on the memories of playing in this game for Collins.


ONCE AT YOUR SCHOOL

ESPN’s College Game Day travels to the home university of marquee matchups every week during the football and basketball seasons. Fans line up as many as two days before the day of the event to guarantee themselves a seat to watch the pre-game analysis show. When not talking about the X’s and O’s of the nation’s biggest match ups, hosts of the show play trivia games with the same student athletes who in just a few hours will be playing on national television. When Game Day visited Pittsburgh for their basketball game against Louisville on January 21, 2012, Pitt players Ashton Gibbs and Trey Woodall played a “Newlyweds” style trivia game of “Know Your Teammate” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_l2A8pxBVuc). While I am sure their coach prepared them well for their game later that evening, I wonder if this was really what the two young men really wanted to be doing as a part of their pregame routine. It was refreshing to see student athletes poke fun at each other for a healthy fanfare of Kim Kardashian and to hear Jay Bilas say “Real recognize real,” it made the players seem like average teenagers for a few minutes. However, I can’t help but believe that this orchestrated event was forced on these student athletes who would have rather slept in that morning and rested their bodies. Dr. Sack was right about media orchestrated pep rallies when he wrote his book in 2008, and the show has only gotten bigger in the past four years.


Another time when most athletes, be them college or professional, do not want to be around members of the press is after a loss. After Duke’s men’s basketball team lost to the University of Connecticut in the 2006 Final Four, the post-game press conference became tense when Coach Mike Krzyzewski immediately shot down a reporter who asked a question directed at his players about a loss the previous season (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pIza5F-xG8M). Krzyzewski said that he would address that question once his players were off of the podium. During an emotional time like this, I believe there should not be obligations put on student athletes to address the media. At least give them the night to absorb the emotions they are going through and to clear their minds. Of course the media wants to know what is going through the minds of the players who missed playing in the national championship by one point, but I believe that the media would be less invasive if it was their son on the podium with microphones in his face.


Of course student athletes today are more media savvy today than in the previous decade. We give them no choice. Every week there are scheduled press conferences for coaches and players to address injuries, player issues, and anything else that may be a hot topic that day. Players must know how to handle this pressure and say the right things while still keeping with the notion that they are students just like everyone else. On a larger scale, there are conference media days before the start of every season. Coaches and selected players gather in one location and give multiple interviews in one day to the numerous media outlets that cover their region of the country. These days are also covered on multiple college sports networks for hours on end. These events take away from the time that players could be spending on their academic work or even having a social life outside of playing sports. I believe that with all of the double standards put on student athletes, the least we can do is offer them some privacy and reduce the number of media outlets constantly surrounding them and prying into their personal lives.

SCF Welcomes a new Sports Writer-ASHLEY!!

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on March 7, 2012 by Once Unwanted Girl

Hi Amarie SportsChat fans! My name is Ashley and I’ll be contributing to Sports Chat Fanatic on anything and everything in the world of sports and the somewhat obsession us Americans have developed with them. Amarie and I have had a few courses together here at the University of New Haven, and I am so excited and honored that she has invited me to share my knowledge and opinions with all of you! Let me tell you a little about myself.


Growing up in New Jersey, there was never a lack of professional sports teams to root for. My mother is a New York Giants fan. My father, being from Maryland, bleeds maroon and gold for the Washington Redskins. (Literally, the man has an obsession) Thankfully, I have turned into quite the Giants fan and have really enjoyed this past season 😉 The NBA has only recently caught my interest because of the lockout and “Linsanity,” but I am always open to watching new sports and seeing how my favorite college players are developing in the professional leagues. And that is where the fun part comes in…


During my senior year of high school I had a minor injury that prevented me from being on the cheerleading team (insert joke here, but my team and I spent a week at Disney World every December four years straight for nationals) so my friend and I decided to become stat/water girls for our school’s varsity football team. The title “water girl” brings a certain stereotype with it, I know, but if you know my friend and I personally, you would know how much it meant to us to be a part of that team and all of the doors it opened for our futures. I knew I wanted to study something related to business, but after spending a season with the team, I knew that sports management and athletic administration was something I had to make a career out of. I watched a team that got knocked out of the state playoffs in the first round a year earlier finish its season playing for the Central Jersey Group III State Championship at Rutgers University and win it all, and I even have my own ring to prove it! Over the course of that 2008 season I watched boys I had known practically my whole life mature not only as football players, but as people and leaders as well, all while handling the ups and downs of earning local celebrity status. Somewhere in those five months, I decided I wanted (and still do) to be an athletic director at a big time high school where sports are not only a way of life, but also a way of saving lives.


Fast forward three and a half years, through countless business management classes, two seasons as a student manager for the U of New Haven football team, one season with the men’s basketball program, and an internship at a junior college athletic department in New Jersey. I’ve developed a real passion for college sports, through all of the controversy and skepticism they bring. Whenever I start to feel fed up with the big time college sports drama, I’ll be reminded of a player or program that uses their position in the spotlight to better the community they represent, and I realize why I’ve dedicated the last three years of my life to learning as much as possible about the past, present, and future of college athletics.


I am a big believer in the concept of whether or not we chose to recognize it, every human on this planet was put here to make an impact, and it is up to us as individuals to decide whether it is a positive or negative one. Through my experiences as a manager for the various athletic teams I have been around, one theme has been the same. “Leave the program better than you found it.” I believe that this is something we should all strive to do. Whether you work in sports or education, on Wall Street or on Main Street, you should always try to make a positive impact on the people you are constantly surrounded by and leave their lives even a little bit better than when you found them.


Sean “Diddy” Combs once used the slogan “Life Without Passion is Unforgivable” to promote his cologne, but I took the advertisement as something more meaningful and have adopted it as one of my personal belief systems. You will never read anything here on SCF by me that I spout out in a matter of minutes simply to have another post. Anything I discuss on this blog, or anywhere else, is something I have taken the time to get the facts about and a topic that I feel has a significant impact on the sports industry, be it in the collegiate or professional rankings.  I promise to you, the Sports Chat Fanatic readers, to always be passionate and honest with this blog, because if you’re taking time out of your day to read this, who am I to waste your time with something I’m not 100% passionate about?

So here goes something !