Archive for the ‘NCAA Football’ Category

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:

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As sports fans, we spend inordinate amounts of time on something that doesn’t really matter that much at all. In order to justify this we could suggest that sports offer a positive outlet for emotions that would otherwise be used in a negative fashion, or that sports can be a healthy distraction from the sometimes overwhelming plight of the lives we lead. We might even imagine that the triumphs we witness on the field, court and rink inspire us in our own lives to achieve more than we would without sports.

Personally, my favorite moments in sports are those in which the outcomes cause moments of sheer joy in the participants and spectators, no matter how arbitrary the context of whatever led to the instance of happiness might be. This, to me, is the best representation of why we carry on in our existence. The pleasure we derive from those otherwise meaningless moments makes it worth it.

Occasionally, sports can be the vehicle that transports that pleasure into the being of someone for whom the circumstances of life have caused pain, and are set to limit the amount of pleasure they’ll gain from their existence. It’s this concentrated moment of joy that makes sports, and even its more negative aspects, worth it.

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. After being diagnosed with cancer in April of 2011 and undergoing two surgeries, Hoffman is now on a two-week break from a 60-week chemotherapy regimen. According to ESPN, the Cornhuskers star running back Rex Burkhead befriended Hoffman last year and is the captain of the little boy’s support network known as “Team Jack.”

Yes, it is currently very dusty wherever you are right now.

gambling headerAt the end of February, I wrote about sports gambling. I wrote a lot of words about sports gambling. It’s an appealing topic to me, not because I particularly enjoy wagering on sporting events, but because the divide between the perception and the reality of the subject seems so vast.

Furthering my interest is the role that Major League Baseball, National Basketball Association, National Football League and National Hockey League (as well as the National Collegiate Athletic Association) have played in manipulating the public perception of sports betting away from the reality. North American professional sports leagues have collectively fought the legalization of sports gambling in the name of the integrity of their respective sports, willfully ignorant to the benefits that a regulated system would provide the sanctity they strategically want to be seen protecting. The reality is that the leagues are far more interested in protecting control over the data that their product creates.

It’s hypocrisy at its most blatant: Powerful organizations privately protecting their own interests by publicly decrying progress that would limit the very things over for they feign concern. Unfortunately, it’s taken the self-serving initiatives of another powerful authority to highlight the discrepancy between what’s said and done.

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gambling header14-years-old is an awful age to go on a family vacation. No one understands your oh-so-unique struggle to grow up. Your body’s chemistry is changing more than Barry Bonds on a regimen of Victor Conte-prescribed elixirs. And you hate everything.

You hate school. You hate your teachers. You hate your friends. You hate the person on whom you have a crush. You even hate the band that like totally gets you. You hate the world. But above all else you hate your family and you hate restrictions. Traveling and living in close quarters with your mom, dad, brother and sister or whatever combination of that set best describes your specific situation growing up is nothing short of detestable.

We’re pretty disgusting creatures when we’re 14 – old enough to be cynical, but too inexperienced to properly apply our criticisms to anything constructive.

It was at this age, on a family vacation to Florida, that my first experience with gambling occurred. On a day in which the rest of my family was going on a helicopter tour, motivated by the $100 in savings found in not having me along, I was allowed a day to myself. Of course, I spent the afternoon at a greyhound racetrack, where the adage that misery loves company is tested by the collective self-loathing making those in attendance incapable of loving anything.

It took a dozen races for me to work up enough courage to attempt to place a bet. I was underage, and if my pimply baby-face didn’t give that fact away, my complete and utter lack of confidence would have. I stood in line for less than 30 seconds before an older gentleman – a gentleman only relative to the others in attendance – pulled me aside to inform me that a greyhound had a better chance of placing a bet on himself than I did. He offered to wager for me.

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Image courtesy of South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

Image courtesy of South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

On Monday evening, South Plantation High School running back Alex Collins announced on FOX Sports South that he would be signing his National Letter of Intent to attend the University of Arkansas. Prior to this, the Florida native had committed to Miami University, but backed out of his pledge in November to consider other schools, as high school recruits are wont to do.

It was largely viewed a coup for the Razorbacks, who would be landing the top all-purpose running back in the 2013 class (according to 247Sports.com), and one of the best overall recruits coming out of Florida this year (according to Scouts.com).

But then … intrigue.

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There is something about failure that deserves to be celebrated. While our initial urge may be to mock those whose plans don’t come to fruition, a miscarriage of intent is hardly justification for the pointing of fingers and laughter that it too often inspires. Failure frequently represents a newly attempted process that doesn’t reach a desired outcome. Any measure of shame that might be felt because of disappointing results should be entirely wiped out by the courage displayed in venturing to accomplish something in a manner that hasn’t previously been tried.

Unfortunately, high school football phenomenon Reuben Foster committing to Alabama after previously committing to Auburn and getting a massive tattoo on the underside of his forearm to celebrate that commitment is nothing like what is being described in that first paragraph. It’s a failure of the most mockable variety.

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The story goes something like this: Europa is a beautiful woman from a wealthy aristocratic family. If she was around today, she’d be the subject of a reality television series, and she’d get into Twitter fights with Kim Kardashian all the time, and Lindsay Lohan would totally think she’s a bitch.

Anyway, there’s this super powerful guy, Zeus – kind of like a less benevolent version of Barack Obama, if Barack Obama was an omniscient dictator and not merely an elected official. Zeus sees her and he’s all like, “Whoa. I gotsta get me some of that.” But instead of just going up to her, and being like, “Yo, I’m Zeus, the father of gods and men. What’s up?” he decides on a different tactic.

He’s not really into the whole subtlety thing so he transforms himself into a white bull, joins up with Europa’s dad’s herd and starts stalking her from a distance as an animal. Typical. She spots this white bull, which probably looks something like that thing that the hockey player David Booth killed during the lockout. He’s unique looking, and so she wanders over to pet him. She pretty much gives him a belly rub, and then because he seems super domesticated, she jumps on his back, and is all like, “Giddy up.”

Zeus says, “Sweet,” and then he starts booking it across Greece with Europa straddling or sitting sidesaddle depending on how corrupt your imagination is. He gets to the sea and starts swimming all the way to this little Mediterranean island getaway. Once he gets there, he tells her that he’s actually Zeus – something that didn’t come up during the multi-hour abduction – and then he makes her his sex slave.

She’s not really into him at first, but eventually learns to love him, and he makes her a queen of the island and gives her lots of jewelry and cool stuff like a javelin that doesn’t miss no matter who throws it. He also aligned some stars, which in my opinion is a bit show-offy, to resemble the bull. It’s called Taurus, and I’m pretty sure that Ford calls one of their cars by that name, probably as an homage to the kidnapping rapist.

I bring this story up because there’s an important little Latin phrase that’s used in a dramatic retelling of this legend: Quod licet Iovi, non licet bovi. The phrase is translated literally as “What is legitimate for Zeus, is not legitimate for oxen,” but is more liberally translated to “Gods may do what cattle may not.” It’s a phrase often used by people who want to be thought of as smarter than they actually are to indicate a double standard.

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