Cahokia youth football team takes a knee during national anthem

Cahokia, Illinois is a suburb of St. Louis and one of its youth football teams engaged in a form of protest last weekend. Check out their story in the video below:

This is not about should they or shouldn’t they kneel. There are 1,000 other outlets taking one side or the other where the actual gesture is concerned. This article is about the kids. It’s a terribly overused cliché, but what’s happening in St. Louis right now and our country overall represents a teachable moment.

Kids aren’t stupid. They see what’s going on and they see adult reactions. It’s easy to accuse someone of indoctrinating a kid toward their political bent, but who can answer the hard questions kids ask? There is nothing more heartbreaking or worrying to a caring adult than when a kid asks you if he is going to die.

Your answer had better not be political. The kids on this Cahokia team are predominantly black and some may be afraid for their lives. They watch the news with their parents as most of us did growing up. The St. Louis region has a serious violent crime problem. What do you say to the kid who is afraid of both criminals and crime fighters?

Before you dismiss this as exaggeration, think about the kid in your house who is/was afraid of monsters in their room. How many times did you pretend to be a superhero and destroy all the monsters? How many times did you sleep in the chair or on the floor in your kid’s room to protect them from the monsters? How many times did you just give up and let the kid hop in the bed between you and your spouse so you could get some sleep?

And you did all of that for the kid you love most. You did all of that to ease the child’s mind about something that can never hurt him. What was the Cahokia coach supposed to do? This situation is real and his kids came to him. What would you have done?

It’s also worth noting, in youth football, everyone takes a knee when something is wrong. No matter your position on the issues of police shootings vs. protesting vs. community violence, there is no denying that something is really wrong in our country.

 

Sloane Stephens and Madison Keys remind us how powerful hugs are

Sloane Stephens won her first U.S. Open tennis title over the weekend. She did so by defeating her best friend, Madison Keys. Here is what happened after the match ended:

Of course, they hugged. That’s what best friends do, right? Well, hold on there Mr. or Ms. Cynical von HardofHeart. Stephens and Keys hugged for a full 19 seconds. Who was the last person you hugged for 19 seconds?

I don’t mean those weak side hugs or an arm around the shoulder. I mean when was the last time you gave anyone a full-on-chest-to-chest-arms-wrapped-around-their-back-hug? We really don’t hug our kids and spouses all that long when you think about it. We hug them a lot, but we don’t give them long hugs. It gets weird after five seconds or so, even if the other person shares your last name.

People get concerned about how others will view them and not consider the person they’re hugging cares more than any onlooker. Hugs physically and emotionally close the space between us. With their embrace, Stephens and Keys let each other know that nothing comes between them – not this game, not this trophy, not this check, not these people – nothing!

The world could really use a few more hugs these days.

 

 

Sights and sounds from #BizDash2017

St. Louis showed up and showed out for Biz Dash 2017. Not only was it St. Louis’ biggest office party, it was St. Louis’ biggest party, period. Thanks so much to the more than 175 organizations and nearly 4,000 runners who participated. You promoted health and wellness with your presence and your support ensures St. Louis area kids will continue to enjoy sports through the Sports Commission’s Sportsmanship Foundation.

Here’s to you, St. Louis. Thanks again…

The fastest runners on the @ksdknews #bizdash2017 team 💪🏻 … Nice hustle @jessicaksdk and @audie88

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My first 5K with my favorite human! @notsosexypodcast #dreamsdocometrue #couplegoals #LERV #bizdash2017

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Had a great time at the #bizdash2017! First 5k for me and I did better than I thought! #running #buschstadium

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At the finish line! #BizDash2017 #FinishLine

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Venezuelan team encourages Dominican Little League pitcher after walk-off win

Edward Aceta is the ace of his Dominican Little League pitching staff and he was on the mound in the bottom of the 6th inning against Venezuela. Aceta’s squad was up 2-1, with one out, runners on first and second, a 2-2 count on the batter, when this happened:

The Venezuelan coaches were certainly happy their team prevailed, but these men also know something every coach should be aware of: No matter what uniform a kid wears, they are all our kids. Aceta just lost the biggest game of his young life and was lying in a heap of emotion in the grass. Thankfully, the Venezuelan coaches didn’t let him stay that way.

Venezuela manager Alexander Ballesteros told ESPN, “It was sad. It could have happened to anyone. It could have happened to our own ‘Little Altuve’ here.” Ballesteros was speaking affectionately of his own Oscar Romero, comparing him to Venezuelan Major Leaguer José Altuve.

They did what every coach should do. They picked the kid up, dusted him off and let him know everything was going to be OK. The opposing coaches couldn’t change the score, but they did change Aceta’s experience.

Sportsmanship is about reaching out when you don’t have to. The Dominican coaches and parents surely would have comforted Aceta, but the actions of the Venezuelan coaches showed every kid on both teams that winning never trumps compassion.

 

 

Junior League softball team disqualified from national tournament for ‘flipping the bird’

keep-calm-you-ve-been-disqualified-2

The Atlee (Va.) junior softball team defeated the Kirkland (Wash.) softball team on Friday in the semifinals of the Little League Junior Softball World Series. After the 1-0 contest, a member of the Atlee team posted a picture to SnapChat of six teammates with their middle fingers raised with the caption “Watch out host.”

Kirkland was the host team, so it was fairly easy to figure out the target of the obscene gesture. To be clear, the tourney consists of 12 to 15-year-olds.

Little League International wasted no time in delivering swift and decisive discipline. The tournament’s governing body disqualified Atlee and inserted Kirkland into the championship game.

Adults associated with Atlee were not happy with Little League’s decision. Scott Currie, Atlee’s manager, told the Richmond Times-Dispatch, “It’s a travesty for these girls. Yes, they screwed up, but I don’t think the punishment fit the crime.”

Jamie Batten, president of Atlee Little League, released a lengthy statement where he issued an apology, but maintains everything isn’t Atlee’s fault and wants Little League International to conduct an investigation.

OK.

It appears the adults don’t get it. Giving someone ‘the finger’ or ‘flipping the bird’ has a two-word, profane meaning I won’t spell out here, but maybe someone should Google it for the Atlee adults.

Sports often distorts our view of reality and it’s important to place sports-related behavior in real-life situations and see how it goes over. What if the six kids had done this at school to a teacher or principal? What if an adult had done this to a coworker or their boss?

But…but all the kids didn’t do it. Why punish them all? The first lesson of team sports (or at least it should be) is that we win as a team and we lose as a team. What happens to one of us happens to all of us. This lesson seems to be lacking in Atlee.

Where were the parents/coaches/chaperones when six girls were broadcasting the bird from the team dugout? They didn’t find a secluded spot behind the outfield wall or in the locker room. Nope, they pulled this stunt where a responsible adult should have seen them.

They weren’t wearing Atlee uniforms, either. When a team makes it to any version of the Little League World Series, they sport uniforms with their region name across the front and a Little League patch on their arm.

Hopefully, the kids will learn the lesson the adults haven’t. If they don’t, they may become familiar with the harsher synonyms for disqualificationsuspension, expulsion, and termination.

P.S.

I did not include any versions of the obscene post in this article. I like my job. See how that works?

 

Photoblog: Musial Moments at The J – St. Louis

The J – St. Louis welcomed Musial Moments to its Millstone Campus on Friday. Musial Moments instills the qualities of sportsmanship on and off the field. Through a fun, interactive and impactful 45-minute presentation, we motivate students to care about sportsmanship and to be good to those around them – just as Stan the Man did during his illustrious career and life.

Musial Moments assemblies are geared toward young people in third grade through high school. To bring Musial Moments to your school or youth organization, please call 314-345-5130 or email salexander@stlsports.org. Musial Moments is also free of charge for any St. Louis area school or youth group. Click here for more information about Musial Moments and its connection to the Musial Awards.

Please enjoy the following photoblog from Musial Moments at The J – St. Louis:

Chicago Cubs to give (wait for it) Steve Bartman a 2016 World Series ring

Cubs championship ring

Steve Bartman is arguably the most infamous fan in professional sports. He interfered with Marlins outfielder Moises Alou trying to catch a foul ball during the 2003 NLCS when his beloved Cubs were trying to reach the World Series and win their first title since 1908.

The Marlins won the series and went on to win it all that year. And in true sports fan fashion, Bartman was blamed for the loss. Forget the Cubs’, pitching, hitting and fielding or even the thought that the Marlins might have been the better team.

Cubs fans, the baseball world, and most of the sports universe blamed Bartman. He and his family have suffered constant ridicule and abuse for 14 years. The Cubs broke their 108-year drought by coming back from a 3-1 deficit and winning the 2016 World Series.

On Monday, Cubs owner Tom Ricketts took the first step toward healing with the following statement:

“On behalf of the entire Chicago Cubs organization, we are honored to present a 2016 World Series Championship Ring to Mr. Steve Bartman. We hope this provides closure on an unfortunate chapter of the story that has perpetuated throughout our quest to win a long-awaited World Series. While no gesture can fully lift the public burden he has endured for more than a decade, we felt it was important Steve knows he has been and continues to be fully embraced by this organization. After all he has sacrificed, we are proud to recognize Steve Bartman with this gift today.”

Bartman responded in-kind:

“Although I do not consider myself worthy of such an honor, I am deeply moved and sincerely grateful to receive an official Chicago Cubs 2016 World Series Championship ring. I am fully aware of the historical significance and appreciate the symbolism the ring represents on multiple levels. My family and I will cherish it for generations. Most meaningful is the genuine outreach from the Ricketts family, on behalf of the Cubs organization and fans, signifying to me that I am welcomed back into the Cubs family and have their support going forward. I am relieved and hopeful that the saga of the 2003 foul ball incident surrounding my family and me is finally over.

I humbly receive the ring not only as a symbol of one of the most historic achievements in sports, but as an important reminder for how we should treat each other in today’s society. My hope is that we all can learn from my experience to view sports as entertainment and prevent harsh scapegoating, and to challenge the media and opportunistic profiteers to conduct business ethically by respecting personal privacy rights and not exploit any individual to advance their own self-interest or economic gain.

Moreover, I am hopeful this ring gesture will be the start of an important healing and reconciliation process for all involved. To that end, I request the media please respect my privacy, and the privacy of my family. I will not participate in interviews or further public statements at this time.

Words alone cannot express my heartfelt thanks to the Ricketts family, Crane Kenney, Theo Epstein, and the entire
Cubs organization for this extraordinary gift, and for providing the City of Chicago and Cubs fans everywhere an
unforgettable World Championship in 2016. I am happy to be reunited with the Cubs family and positively moving
forward with my life.”

He’s right. There’s no reason to treat anyone this poorly over trying to catch a foul ball. Sports are entertainment. How we treat each other is all that matters.