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.

The champion of the world is from Ferguson

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Tyron Woodley was born and raised in Ferguson. Yes, that Ferguson.

He graduated from McCluer High School.

Woodley is a former two-time All-American wrestler and Mizzou graduate.

He and his wife, Averi, have four beautiful children and they own and operate ATT Evolution, a fitness and performance center in St. Louis County.

Woodley couldn’t be more “St. Louis” if he had a wardrobe full of those t-shirts we wore in the 90s with the city’s name on them. Some of you remember. There was no team affiliation, arch or any other logo. There was just St. Louis across the chest.

That’s Tyron Woodley.

He is the reigning and defending UFC Welterweight Champion. Woodley won the title at UFC 201 in Atlanta on July 30, 2016. He knocked out Robbie Lawler in 2:12 of the first round. Even those of us who watch all of his fights and cheer him on regularly weren’t expecting that.

Woodley has a nearly lethal right hand. At welterweight, he carries heavyweight punching power. The conventional wisdom was Lawler would avoid Woodley’s right and make it a wrestling match. Given his background at Mizzou, Woodley had more than a good chance of winning.

Conventional wisdom isn’t always followed. Lawler worried more about Woodley’s wrestling than the legal dynamite in his right hand and got blown up. If you haven’t seen the fight’s ending, think about Deebo at the end of Friday. That’s how hard Woodley hit Lawler.

Woodley followed up his title victory with two hard battles against top contender Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson. Their first fight ended in a draw, but Woodley came back to win by majority decision in March.

This Saturday, he puts his welterweight crown on the line for the third time as he takes on Brazilian challenger Demian Maia. If he wins, Woodley will have held his championship for a full calendar year, which is no small feat given that the Maia fight will be his fourth in this timeframe.

When boxing legend Floyd Mayweather takes on UFC star Conor McGregor this August, it will be Mayweather’s fourth fight since 2014. UFC fighters tend to be more active than boxers and also assume a greater risk in the octagon. A fighter can get knocked out, choked out, submitted or lose by decision.

Woodley has been able to keep his hands up and his limbs intact, though. Along with his Mizzou degree, this has afforded him other opportunities when he’s not ducking roundhouse kicks.

He trades in fight trunks for a tailored suit as a regular analyst during Fox Sports’ UFC studio broadcasts. Hollywood has come calling as well. Woodley’s résumé includes nine feature films, most notably as T-Bone in 2015’s Straight Outta Compton. He’ll also star opposite Sylvester Stallone and 50 Cent in the upcoming Escape Plan 2: Hades.

Woodley’s nickname is ‘The Chosen One.’ In Star Wars lore, the chosen one is destined to bring balance to The Force. Maybe Woodley is destined to bring balance to his hometown of Ferguson and the wider St. Louis region.

Ferguson has had more than its share of pain and protest. St. Louis has been ranked number one on all the wrong lists. Right now, we are number one in the world of mixed martial arts because he is number one.

In John 1:46, Nathaniel asked Philip, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Those of a certain belief system know the answer to that question. A similar question could be asked of Ferguson. Can anything good come from there?

Yes, it can and yes, he has.

UFC Welterweight Champion Tyron Woodley takes on Demian Maia this Saturday, July 29 live on pay-per-view from the Honda Center in Anaheim, Ca.

 

Everything I need to know I learned by watching O.J.

OJ

O.J. Simpson was paroled on Thursday. He’ll be granted his conditional release from Nevada’s Lovelock Correctional Center in October. As interested as I am in Simpson’s story, my reaction to his release is much different than it was in 1995.

I was a little more than a month into my sophomore year at Rockhurst University in Kansas City. The school placed a big screen TV in the Rock Room (commons) so everyone could see and hear the verdict clearly. A group of black students crowded together on one side of the room and a group of white students huddled together on the other.

Rockhurst, like America, was more than black and white. There were students from all different backgrounds on-campus, but race has a clear line of demarcation. It’s black or it’s white. A part of me always wondered what my Asian, Hispanic, and international classmates thought about the exercise.

Did they pick a side to fit in or did they think we were fools to retreat to superficial corners when times got tough? Everyone stood as the original O.J. verdict was read: “On the above entitled action, we, the jury find Orenthal James Simpson not guilty…”

The black side of the Rock Room erupted in cheers. We hugged, slapped five and celebrated like we’d won a championship. Our white classmates, on the other hand, looked something like Atlanta Falcons fans after this year’s Super Bowl. Their mouths were agape, some cried and others stormed from the room yelling four-letter words unbecoming of our fine institution.

Were we celebrating the acquittal of a murderer? No, Simpson’s innocence was never in question for us. At 19, given my personal interactions with law enforcement, those of my friends and the reputation of the L.A.P.D., you couldn’t pay me to say O.J. did it.

I’ve been in hundreds of arguments over the years about the case. The wall no one could crack for me was the incontrovertible fact that the lead detective in the Simpson case is a racist. That’s reasonable doubt for me every day of the week, week of the month and month of the year.

Thank God you don’t stay 19 forever. You learn things over time. Reasonable doubt does not equal innocence. A  racist detective, a mistake-prone lab and a group of the greatest living litigators at the time on Simpson’s team made the case impossible to win for the prosecution, but it doesn’t mean O.J. is innocent.

After reading articles and books on the subject as well as viewing countless documentaries on the evidence, I’ve evolved from my previous position. I wouldn’t bet the farm on Simpson’s innocence as I would have at 19. In that time, I also learned about Simpson’s disdain for the black people who supported him during his trial and the general discomfort he has with being black.

I was done with O.J. at that point. Do I think the nine-year sentence he’s served for robbery and kidnapping is bogus? Yep, but those are the consequences of arrogance and a life spent getting what you want, when you want without much regard for anyone else.

Seriously, why didn’t Simpson just call the police and tell them some guys have some of his valuables? They probably would have settled things without the situation turning into a rumble between geriatric versions of the Greasers and the Socs.

Yet, there are lessons, and the lessons I’ve learned from O.J.’s travails are plentiful:

  1. Money plays a huge role when you’re in legal trouble. Simpson got out of a case he shouldn’t have because he was loaded. He went to prison over some nonsense when he was comparatively broke.
  2. Celebrity life is a constant cycle of rising and falling.
  3. Domestic violence litigation is basically a set of Blue Laws.
  4. No one trusts the justice system as much as they might say.
  5. Revenge can even be served in another state.
  6. Sports connect us to people we’ve never seen play. O.J. retired from football when I was three-years-old.
  7. No matter how well-educated I am, no matter where I work, no matter who I marry and no matter who my friends are, I will always be black. And at some point in my life, I will be reminded that I am black and my blackness will be challenged in a very real way. I must be ready when the time comes.

O.J. Simpson will be released soon and I’m sure he’ll have much more to teach. Grab your pencils. Class is in session.

 

 

As the father of a girl, you have one job…

Black Girl Magic

This isn’t the punchline to a Chris Rock joke. As the father of a girl, you have one job.

Protect her.

That’s it. You have a simple, yet burdensome task.

Protect her.

Your job is to protect her – not like a fragile piece of jewelry or art – but like an invaluable resource you can’t live without. She’s not a diamond. Our daughters are more like water. We need them to live right now. The world needs them in order to live on.

I know we love our sons, but send the young man outside to practice his free throws for awhile. Our daughters need us at the moment. Disrespect for them and disdain toward them may be at an all-time high.

And I’m not talking about the threat of the hormonal teenage boy. He’s no threat. We can see his game coming a mile away. We used to be him. Silly rabbit.

This isn’t about the existential threat of song lyrics and movie content, either. We pay for cable and the data plan. We can restrict her phone apps to Bubble Breaker and Extreme Sudoku if we want. Same goes for TV. If push comes to shove, might I suggest the Sprout channel.

We must protect our daughters from the monsters we helped create. It’s not OK to say to a young man he’s so talented, he can have any woman he wants. Our girls are not the pickup truck that comes with an MVP award. They are not trophies, accessories or swag.

Her increased prowess as an athlete doesn’t make her a man. She’s a stronger young woman and that’s plenty in and of itself. Encourage the development of her speed, strength, intelligence and accuracy.

Institutions designed to support our girls are under attack. Our society has elevated those who blatantly disrespect them. As their fathers, we must push them to be their best selves, not the female version of the son we wish we had.

We must protect them from obvious harm and the harm coming from those who think they are helping. Everything is not for your daughter, although it may be perfect for someone else. It’s up to you, her father, to be the gatekeeper.

Look for a moment at the picture included in this post; it’s of my Junior and her Dance Plus teammates. What you can’t see behind those megawatt smiles is the future they will face and the enormous pressures they will endure.

Children will one day look to them to ease the pain, a friend will ask them for advice on an abusive situation, and they’ll lead groups to fight injustice and help those less fortunate.

All while being football, soccer and dance moms themselves.

But what about love? Aren’t we supposed to love our daughters, too? Yes, however, the protection part is what we’re best suited to do naturally. They’ll teach us to love. It’s what they do best.

And when your daughter shows you how to love a flawed person unconditionally, do what you do when her mom picks an outfit for you to wear:

Repeat it and pretend it was your idea.

 

Conor McGregor injects racism into megafight with Floyd Mayweather 

During the first of what will surely be many pre-fight press conferences, undefeated boxing legend Floyd Mayweather and UFC megastar Conor McGregor traded verbal jabs at one another on Tuesday to promote their bout this August. 

This is customary before any big fight. Each man does his best to excite fans with descriptions about the pain he will inflict on the other during the match. It’s also not out of the ordinary for a boxer to do a little shadowboxing on the dais to show off his speed. 

Channeling Muhammad Ali, Sugar Ray Leonard and many other greats before him, Mayweather stood up and began shadwoboxing mere feet from his opponent. What happened next is neither customary in the fight game nor should it be tolerated. 

As Mayweather shadowboxed and moved about the stage, McGregor said, “Dance for me, boy.” Here’s the video:

Wait, what?! The press event, the fight and the day should have ended with that statement. McGregor’s words were straight out of the racism handbook. 

Telling a black man to dance for you on command and calling him a boy is racist. Full stop. No qualifier. Ignorance is not an excuse.

Black slaves were treated as animals and made to serve and entertain their masters. Black men were called “boy” regardless of age as a means of stripping away their manhood.

Commanding a black person to dance for you hearkens back to a time when our country thought all we were good for was labor and leisure. “Dance for me, boy” has been said to black men with malice since the founding of this nation.

McGregor’s defenders say he’s not a racist and he and Mayweather are just doing what’s necessary to promote the fight. Besides, you can’t know what’s in a person’s heart. Who are any of us to say who’s racist and who isn’t? 

If racism is necessary to build interest in a fight or anything else, then the event should be canceled. Selling hate may make dollars, but it doesn’t make sense.

And let’s settle the whole you-can’t-know-what’s- in-a-person’s-heart-when-it-comes-to-racism thing once and for all. The heart is a muscle with no intellectual or emotional capacity. It’s used as an artistic and literary device to make songs and poems sound better.

Singing about loving someone with all your brain doesn’t have the same ring to it, but that’s where love, hate, kindness, malice and compassion all originate. The same brain that could have produced four words like “We’ll see in August” in response to Mayweather’s shadowboxing, instead produced the virulently racist “Dance for me, boy.”

Mayweather himself said he didn’t think the statement was racist, but that doesn’t matter. Either Mayweather doesn’t know much about the history of racism in the United States or he’s ignoring it for the sake of selling the fight.

Mayweather and McGregor will each earn a purse upwards of $100 million. For some, this justifies sowing the seeds of hate. The problem is trees grow from those seeds.

And many of my ancestors hung from those trees. Selling racism for profit bankrupts us all.