nebraskacancerkidSpending all day – every day – immersed in sports is a bit like working at Pizza Hut and eating nothing but pizza. If one is unburdened by such matters as personal health and waistline size, pizza is a wonderful thing. Unfortunately, too much of a wonderful thing is likely to leave one no longer believing the wonderful thing to be all that wonderful.

Sports are really, really great. However, the more time you spend reading and writing about a topic, the greater the chance that its ugliness will be realized. This is why our focus often becomes embittered by all of the negative aspects present in sports. We forget why sports are so great to begin with. And so, that’s where The Sports Culture Happiness Index comes to play.

Every week, I’ll present the ten things that are making me happy from the world of sports. It might be a particular article, it could be a winning streak, it may even be an animated GIF. No matter what, it’s from sports, it made me feel good inside, and I hope it does the same for you.

Without further ado, sports the good:

1. Doing Stuff For Sick Kids


The video above is of Jack Hoffman, a 7-year-old brain cancer patient from Atkinson, Nebraska, running 69 yards for the final touchdown of the University of Nebraska’s spring scrimmage on Sunday. After being diagnosed with cancer in April of 2011, Hoffman underwent two surgeries before embarking on a 60-week chemotherapy regimen, from which he’s currently on a two-week break. According to ESPN, the Cornhuskers star running back Rex Burkhead befriended Hoffman last year and became the captain of the little boy’s support network known as “Team Jack.”

2. One Shining Moment

My greatest fear is that future generations of anthropologists find footage of a One Shining Moment montage and assume that we didn’t understand its over-the-top sentimentality or appreciate it with a heavy dose of ironic detachment. Since 1987, the inspirational ditty has closed out coverage of the NCAA Men’s Division I Basketball Tournament on CBS, and this year was no exception.


I know it’s a schmaltzy presentation, meant to stir emotions in the most artificial manner possible, but every year, I’ll continue to watch post-game coverage of the National Championship game just to see this bit of closure on one of the most entertaining extended sporting events in North America.

The emotion one experiences after watching One Shining Moment is the opposite feeling one gets after learning that the NCAA won’t allow the Louisville men’s basketball team to fly to New Orleans to watch and support the women’s team as they compete for their own National Championship because it would be considered an “extra benefit.”

3. Wrestlemania Signs

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Have you watched Wrestlmania? I mean, have you watched a Wrestlemania after turning 12-years-old? Forget about championing physical violence as a means of conflict resolution. Put the fact Don’t even think about the blatant sexism. Even aside from these negative aspects, it’s incredibly boring. A number of years ago, one of my friends bought the pay-per-view and invited people over to watch. I showed up about half way through the broadcast, and was still bored to death within minutes of paying attention.

I suppose it’s not completely surprising that something so thrilling as a child could render you completely unenthusiastic as an adult. It happens with movies all the time, but at least re-watching bad films from your youth normally results in some feelings of nostalgia. The same can’t be said for Wrestlemania.

Despite this disappointment, the annual event does offer one thing that no other event in sports entertainment can top: the awesomest crowd signs of all-time ever.

You don’t even need to understand the reference to appreciate the craftsmanship.

cenassox

4. Brandon Knight’s Embarrassing Season

In only his second season in the NBA, Detroit Pistons point guard Brandon Knight has emerged as one of the better young ball-handlers in the league. However, to solely watch YouTube clips, one might come away with a different opinion on his 2012/2013 season.

First, there was Kyrie Irving breaking Knight’s ankles in the Rising Stars game:


Then, there was Knight being on the wrong side of a posterizing by DeAndre Jordan:


And now, there’s Knight missing on what has to be the easiest layup ever given in the NBA:

Knight is like a politician who wins a debate, but loses the battle of sound bytes in the most embarrassing way possible.

5. Purposeful Hashtag Fails

I often wonder about invention, and more specifically, how often things get used in a fashion for which they were never intended. The rise in popularity of social media has changed the way a great many of us consume sporting events. With Twitter, every game has the potential to become a worldwide social gathering for analysis and commentary. This is a fact that hasn’t escaped the attention of the public relations branches of professional sports franchises.

In terms of PR, it seems that create-a-hashtag-and-invite-your-followers-to-tweet-it has become the write-a-press-release-and-issue-it-through-a-news-wire-service of the sports world. Such efforts went hilariously bad last year during an Arizona Diamondbacks social media initiative which posted tweets labelled with #GoDBacks on the Chase Field video screen. Apparently, nothing is sacred in the digital age, and fans of the other team are just as eager to participate in such attempts, often with less than encouraging contributions.

It’s a target worthy of sabotage because trending topics within social media are often thought to be created in a bit more of an organic manner than that of suits gathering in a boardroom with a whiteboard and markers. Perhaps no other team-created hashtag reeks more of corporate ploy than the one created by the Toronto Blue Jays: #LoveThisTeam.

While widespread sabotage hasn’t started quite yet, Blue Jays fans have found a more creative way to comment on the ridiculousness behind attempts to market a fan’s good will on Twitter through the following hastags: #R.A.Dickey, #Let’sGoBlueJays, #Go!Jays!Go! and #I’mLovingThisTeam. Of course, the punctuation marks render those hashtags a little less than clickable for followers.

6. Athletes Without Teeth

Pittsburgh Penguins v New Jersey Devils

Just because.

Minnesota Vikings 2011 Headshots

7. Mike Trout Would’ve Had That

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It’s quite possible that Mike Trout could play out the remainder of his career, and never have another season like he did in 2012. A fun way of reminding Los Angeles Angels fans of this is to immediately follow up any Trout failure this season with a “Mike Trout would have …” and then mention whatever it was that he was trying to accomplish before his failure.

For instance, if Mike Trout flubs a catch in the outfield: “Mike Trout would have had that.” If Mike Trout strikes out swinging: “Mike Trout would have made contact.” Etc.

8. The Masters Par Three Tournament

When presented with the choice of watching curling or golf, I will typically choose curling. That’s not because I find curling particularly appealing, it’s because I find golf particularly unappealing. No sport is as elitist in its tradition or as racist and sexist in its history, and yet the only athletes godded up more than golfers by the flowery writing of salivating journalists are prize fighters.

Nonetheless, I’m making a concentrated effort this year to get into the Masters, which begins on Thursday. As part of this attempt, I’ve talked to some of the golf aficionados around the office about the tournament, and the best thing that I’ve learned so far is that on the day before the first round, tournament participants, non-competing past champions and honorary invitees compete in a semi-serious par three contest.

The mini-tournament was introduced in 1960, and is played on the par three course of Augusta National’s grounds. While obviously, the winner of the mini-tournament is the player who posts the lowest score, not every contestant competes in an official capacity. Many golfers view the event as a stress reliever before the tournament begins, occasionally inviting their caddies to tee off on a hole or attempt a chip shot.

Or, as was the case for the most adorable Masters moment, a nearby baby is eligible to tap in a putt.


According to the Masters website:

The original idea for the Par 3 Contest came from Augusta National Chairman Clifford Roberts. He conceived of it as a potentially distinctive pre-Tournament attraction, but not everyone shared his vision. Roberts had to overcome resistance from within the ranks of the Club’s members, some of whom derided the notion of a “Tom Thumb course.” Little did they know what a cherished tradition the Par 3 Contest would one day become.

9. Outspoken Athletes

Dallas Stars v Colorado AvalancheProfessional athletes are in a no-win situation when they speak with the media. If they regurgitate the PR-friendly language of their media training, they’re labelled as unimaginative and boring. If they go off on their own, and “tell it like it really is,” they’re viewed as being loose cannons who should know better than to stray from what they ought to do.

After losing on Monday night to the Calgary Flames, goalie J.S. Giguere of the last placed Colorado Avalanche sounded off on a variety of items that were apparently sticking in his craw. Backhand Shelf has the details, but my favorite sound byte from Giguere was drenched in his disgust with the anticipation of a planned team trip.

Some guys are more worried about their Vegas trip at the end of the season than playing the games, than playing every minute of the games. Quite frankly, I don’t care about your Vegas trip right now.

I love this sort of thing, mainly because it’s reminiscent of the complaint sessions in which co-workers from around the world engage, fortunately without the scrutiny of an eager-for-controversy media member recording every word. However, it’s a double edged sword, as these comments are certain to provoke leaps in logic and dreadful assumptions on the part of hockey columnists happy to have a narrative to promote.

10. And The Winner Is …

lennaykekua

The winning bracket in ESPN’s Tournament Challenge, a contest with more than 8.15 million entrants, was named after Manti T’eo’s fake girlfriend, Lennay Kekua, reminding us of the complete and utter lack of staying power for a story that seemed so relevant three months ago, as well as just how unimaginative one has to be in order to win their NCAA bracket pool.

Yes, I’m bitter.