Draft Day

This weekend 253 lives changed as the 32 NFL teams selected their 2017 draft picks.

For three days, hundreds of athletes waited waited nervously, hoping that they would get that phone call that would determine their future.

They had already put in all of the work that they could. They played fiercely in college (most of them), they attracted the eye of the scouts and they performed well in the combine. Now, they wait.

Wait to hear their name called on the stage in Philadelphia.

As school winds down and graduation day looms over the heads of many students (including myself), one can’t help but think of graduating and applying to jobs as a draft.

For years, we students have been training for the moment that we graduate and can use our skills in the real world. We sharpen our skills in classes, we put them to the test through internships, and then we send out our applications to the recruiters who hold our futures in their hands.

And then we wait.

And wait.

And hope that we get picked.

images
This is real life

But once that coveted job offer comes in, the work is only just beginning.

Next, comes the task of separating yourself from the pack, proving that you were worth the chance that the recruiters took on you.

253 young men may have gotten drafted over the weekend, but will they all make the coveted 53-man roster come September? Only time will tell.

Many corporate companies have programs that recruit recent graduates. I myself was a lucky recruit of such a program out of undergrad. My company hired over 500 recent graduates that they trained and invested in to become the future of the company.

Or so I thought.

The reality is that companies that hire like this are often looking only for the top talent. They figure the more the hire, the more chances they have to find what they really want. They hire in bulk and gradually trim the fat until they are reduced to only their Grade-A meat.

imgres-2.jpg
This is all you are until you prove yourself otherwise

This is the reality that these young football players now face. They must prove themselves worthy of their rookie contracts, lest they do not make the final roster, or get relegated to the practice squad.

But if they do succeed and prove their worth in their rookie years, then they have the option for a massive payday further down the road.

Just like in the real world these athletes must start from the bottom and work their up.

Athletes do not simply get drafted into the starting lineup. They have to prove that they are ready for it though extensive training camps.

Young graduates do not simply get recruited to upper level positions. They have to prove that they are ready for it by first succeeding in their entry-level positions.

The draft is a day on which many dreams come true for athletes who have worked towards this moment for most of their lives.

Graduation day is that same day for the rest of us not blessed with super speed, strength, or height (thanks mom and dad). It is the day that we get into the real world and have to begin to prove to our employers that we are worth their investment.

imgres-3.jpg
Draft day for the Plebeians aka non-athletes

Getting to draft day takes hard work and determination, but the real work starts the day after.

 

 

 

Advertisements

One of the Greatest FEMALE Athletes of All Time

This week tennis superstar Serena Williams revealed that she is twenty weeks pregnant with her first child.

A quick check on the calendar shows that she probably conceived her baby around the first week of December (don’t act like you weren’t curious).

But wait, she played in the Australian Open in January. More than that, she won the Australian Open in January.

She did it while she was pregnant.

Let me say that again, in case you missed it.

Serena Williams won the Australian Open while she was seven or eight weeks pregnant. 

For those readers who are familiar with the crazy workings of the female body, you know that the first trimester of pregnancy is generally considered the most dangerous. This is the time that miscarriages are the most prevalent.

Some critics might say that it was irresponsible for Serena to play in the tournament, especially with the extremely hot temperatures that accompany the Australian Open and can fatigue even the healthiest athletes. Some might say she was putting her baby at risk. But to such critics I would say, who cares?

serenawilliamsmain-960x540
Would anyone have guessed she was pregnant here?

Williams was simply doing her job. It is her career to play tennis. Many women have extremely stressful jobs, but they can’t stop working when they are pregnant. That’s a luxury most women don’t have, so why should Serena quit her job before she has to? Granted she is no longer playing competitively for the remainder of her pregnancy, which is understandable because at a certain point it’s not physically possible for her to play on the competitive level she would need to. Let’s not get carried away here. But if Serena was able to compete at an elite level and not compromise her baby’s health at the Australian Open, then more power to her. It doesn’t matter that she’s out for the season. She already made a statement for women everywhere.

She won the Australian Open while she was pregnant.

She showed women they don’t have to sacrifice their careers when they are pregnant. Pregnancy is not a weakness. It is simply a part of a woman; it does not define women.

Serena Williams is internationally recognized for her strength and power. She has famously said that she does not want to be considered one of the greatest female tennis players of all time, but rather one of the greatest tennis players of all time.

Most people would agree that she is one of the greatest tennis players of all time. She has twenty-three grand-slam singles championships. That’s more than any other tennis player male or female. Ever.

However, this week Serena reminded us all  that she is a woman. Not only is she a woman, she is one of the strongest women. She is showing women that it is possible to have it all- a successful career and a family.

Some people might be thinking, “She was only seven weeks pregnant. The baby is the size of an almond at that point. She probably couldn’t even tell.”

imgres-2.jpg
It sure isn’t going to stay this size

To which I would say, Williams is a professional athlete. Her body is quite literally her living. Even the tiniest change will be noticeable to any athlete who so carefully maintains their body and everything that goes into their body. Yet, she was still able to carry on and make it work.

Former world-ranked #1 men’s singles player Novak Djokovic is notorious for calling medical timeouts during his matches when he has “ailments” such as foot cramps, or blisters. Curiously, these timeouts always seem to come when he is in a slump during his match (coincidence? I think not).

I’ve always found Djokovic’s “timeouts” to be weak and annoying. So has former mens singles champion and color commentator John McEnroe, who has more than once called Djokovic out for violating the on-court rules of calling a medical trainer.

imgres.jpg
Oh you poor thing.

Well Novak, I’d love to see you call a medical timeout for a blister on your foot now. I’m sure it’s painful. Anyone who has played tennis regularly, or any sport for that matter, has most likely experienced some gnarly blisters.

But, it is not the equivalent as having a human growing inside of you.

In juxtaposition to Djokovic, some women are also known for playing up their “female bodies.” Say the word menstrual cycle or cramps to a man and they will flee as though they just discovered that you have the plague and tell you to go do whatever you need to do. Easy way out of work or school.

But is this right?

I had quite a few friends in high school who would stay home when they got their periods or complain to their teachers so they could get out of class. Was it that bad? Somehow I doubt it.

Women who cry wolf over their “cramps” are part of the reason why female bodies can be viewed as weak. Suck it up. Very few women actually have the luxury to take a day off because they have cramps. Women need to stop using it as an excuse. Pop a Midol and carry on.

So the next time anyone complains about cramps or blisters on their feet, I invite them to remember- Serena Williams won the Australian Open while she was pregnant.

I Got It From My Mama

To a lot of people sports are still seen as a great opportunity for father/son (some progressives will say father/daughter) bonding time. The quintessential picture of American “family time” is of a father and son basking in the sun at a baseball game, eating hotdogs and sipping an ice-cold lemonade (maybe I’ve watched too many movies set in the 1950’s).

But for me that is not the case.

My love of sports was given to me by my mom. Growing up, I can recall a steady lineup of sports being on the TV on the weekends.

But I don’t think I was always very appreciative of it. I remember Sundays where my mom would want to watch football, but I wanted to watch Lizzie McGuire or whatever preteen Disney show was on TV at the time. To compromise, my mom would simply record the games she wanted to watch so I could watch my shows…and then we would watch football later (it felt like I was winning the battle at the time). Gradually, I began to see reason and would just watch the games live with my mom.

lizzie_mcguire_ver2
I still consider this one of the best Disney shows of all time

These Sundays almost always included a New England Patriots game. My mom and I both love Tom Brady. Let’s face it,  I was a teenage girl, there was never any hope not to like Tom Brady circa 2004.

Growing up, I felt like my mom’s interest in football and sports was normal. It never occurred to me that not everyone is into sports, and especially not all girls.

When I went to high school I was excited for Friday night football games. Our school’s team was good- small Catholic school, people care, or at least act like they care. My friends and I went to all of the football games…except I was usually the only one actually watching the game. Don’t you know high school games are about socializing and not watching the game? I did…but I didn’t care. If it was a good game I wanted to watch it.

Flash forward to college and beyond when I now help explain rules to my friends who want to know more about sports because now it’s “cool” if girls know sports. I would always much rather be the girl who knows what she’s talking about, rather than the girl who wants to ask a boy to explain something.

imgres
Goals

A couple of months ago, my mom and I were in an Uber on a Sunday in the middle of the football season. We’re all dressed up because we are going to the theatre. My mom starts chatting to the driver (it’s what she does) about the games going on that day and recent trades and coaching decisions in the NFL. After about ten minutes of this conversation, the driver says, “Wow, you really know your football.”  The tone of surprise is never quite absent when males realize that girls can know about sports too. But at this point I’m used to it. Girls like sports. It’s not a weird thing anymore.

But my mom really does know what she’s talking about (sometimes to my dismay).

Everything I know about sports started with my mom… and sacrificing the Disney channel for football on Sundays.

Mike Trout and Co.

April.

The field is newly painted, the grass freshly clipped and the uniforms crisply pressed.

It’s the end of spring training and the beginning of a brand new season.

For Anaheim Angels fans (I don’t mess around with this Los Angeles of Anaheim thing), April signals the beginning of hoping for the best while preparing for the worst.

 

imgres-1
Preach

The Angels have been in a serious slump since 2010. The high from the glorious year of 2002 is now just a distant memory for Angels’ fans. Those three consecutive AL West Titles between 2007-2009 are now merely a fond remembrance so that fans can say, “We were good for a few years there.” The Angels have been in the playoffs one time since 2009. Just once. And they lost in the first round division series.

The front office has been one step removed from a joke for the past several years, with snafu after snafu and bad deal after bad deal. Need we say more than, Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton? Pujols’ whopping $240 million 10-year contract (signed on the back-half of his powerhouse career) was deemed by ESPN as the “worst contract in baseball.” Congrats Angels, you really showed up the St. Louis Cardinals!

Today, the Angels should not even be considered a team. One may as well rename them “Mike Trout and Co.” since that’s all the franchise seems to truly care about.

The Angels have had misguided management for several years. Arte Moreno seems more concerned with showing the public that he has a ton of money to spend on big names, rather than with taking the time to put together a team that will mesh well and oh I don’t know…WIN.

The end result- “Mike Trout and Co.”

The irony is that Mike Trout happens to currently be the best player in baseball and the fact that he’s an Angel is a pure coincidence. I’m willing to bet the Angels didn’t know his true potential when they signed him to their rookie minor league team. He wasn’t a big name with a low-burning career, so there’s no reason the Angels would have thrown their recruitment team at him. But this time the Angels had their own guardian angel looking over them.

imgres-1
Unfortunately he’s already been caught

To be clear. I love Mike Trout. He’s a great player, and I am a big fan of the Trout hat (of course I have one).

But one player does not make a team.

If this were not obvious, just look at the Angels’ track record with Mike Trout. As I said above, the Angels have made the playoffs once in the five years Trout has been on the team. Trout is a 5x All Star. He’s the 2012 AL Rookie of the Year. He’s the 2014 and 2016 AL MVP. He’s what is keeping the Angels in business.

And they know it.

The Angels have been capitalizing on Trout since he showed his potential in his rookie season in 2012, and the Angels’ front office started realizing that the “big names” they had signed weren’t magically making them win either. Walk into the Angels team store and it’s becoming increasingly difficult to find merchandise for anyone other than Mike Trout. Follow the Angels on social media? It’s hard to find content on their page that is anything other than Trout. I challenge anyone who is not already an Angels fan to name three players on the team who are not Mike Mike Trout (and I already gave you the freebie of Albert Pujols).

At the new year, the Angels’ official Instagram account posted a collage remembering 2016. The collage featured nine images. One was a picture of the team standing for the national anthem with their backs turned (with Trout centered), one was an image of a box score of the Angels 21-2 victory over the Red Sox, one was a picture of Jose Fernandez (the Marlins pitcher who tragically died), and the remaining six- that’s TWO/THIRDS- of the images were of Trout exclusively. I know the Angels as usual had a rough season last year, but surely the marketing team can come up with a little more variety.

IMG_0537.PNG
I’m not making this up

Even Trout seems over himself at this point.

Mike Trout is the rare type of player who comes around every few decades. He has been compared to the greats like Micky Mantle. Trout has the fame, the endorsements, the dedicated fan base, the kids who want to grow up and be just like him.

What he doesn’t have is a team. A team that wins.

This is not his fault. It’s not the players’ faults either. This is a branding and marketing faux pas that the Angels have been committing over and over again. Yes, you have the greatest player in baseball, but as I said before, one player is not a team.

How about the Angels start marketing Trout as part of a team and give some face time to the rest of the team. Then maybe they will finally be able to play like a team and, maybe, one day, they’ll even start winning again (2002 wasn’t that long ago). If you bill one player as being than all the rest (even if he is), then that becomes a turnoff for the rest of the team. The Angels have already experimented with paying a lot of money for a bunch of high-profile names that don’t play well with others. The Angels front office needs to go back to the drawing board and start crafting a team that will play for each other.

One day I’d like the “year in review” page to show pictures of a whole team…preferably winning.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s Time to Ball Out

Parents.

We all got ’em.

Sometimes to our advantage, other times to our detriment.

Parents always think they know best, whether they do or not. Parents can be loud and outspoken when they believe they are advocating for their kid. Lonzo Ball is well-versed in having a loud, outspoken parent.

Now, I can relate…a little. My mother is extremely vocal when she believes she is right. She was my biggest advocate growing up (still is), always voicing to others my accomplishments and what I was capable of doing. One time in high school I wanted to take AP Art History, but it conflicted with AP Latin. The school told me that I couldn’t do it, so my mom marched down there and told them that not only would I take the class, I would also pass the AP test. A little context for this, AP Art History had only been offered at my school for a couple of years at this point and no one had ever passed the test. But that didn’t stop my mom, according to her I would pass the test. Surprise surprise, my mom won. I ended up being able to take the two classes (and I did pass the test).

As much as I love my mom for standing up for me, she is also the reason I tend to be a rather quiet person. Who needs to do all the talking if your mom is just going to do it for you?

Lonzo Ball is going through a similar situation. Except this isn’t a high school AP class; this is his career.

Lonzo Ball is clearly a very talented student athlete who will most likely thrive in the NBA. Scouts have been looking at him at all season and he is a projected top pick for the draft. But, his father, LaVar Ball, is starting to become the more famous member of the Ball family, or perhaps infamous is a better word. It is clear that LaVar Ball has always been extremely outspoken. As a quiet kid with a loud parent, I totally understand why Lonzo is seemingly so quiet to the media. I shudder to think what LaVar was like on the sidelines of his kids’ youth basketball games.

LaVar is clearly the type of parent who enjoys living vicariously through his kids. He was a professional football player in his youth who never quite made it. But lucky for him, he has three kids that will give him three more shots at celebrity status. And this time LaVar is not going to miss it.

imgres-2
Don’t be this guy

He’s done everything he can to market his kids. I mean their last name is even “Ball” is that really a coincidence?? He’s even created a company that markets merchandise with his kids’ names on them. All three Ball brothers are known throughout the sporting world. Even the youngest brother, LaMelo, who is only a sophomore in high school, has made a name for himself, after scoring 92 points in a single game. All three Ball brothers have committed to UCLA, which as it turns out is actually a 3 for 4 deal because LaVar also seems to have committed.

But what if no one wants LaVar Ball?

At first Lavar’s color commentary during the basketball season was amusing. He told the media his kids are the best. They are better than Steph Curry, Kobe Bryant…you name a player, the Ball kids are better. But now, LaVar’s commentary is starting to anger people- people who have powerful positions in the basketball industry and can decide whether they want to sign Lonzo, LiAngelo or LaMelo. LeBron James is one of the most recent basketball players to speak out against LaVar saying he has no business to talk about James’ family. This is after LaVar told the media that he’ll be able to coach his kids better than James will coach his son. “Under promise, over-deliver” is clearly not the Ball family motto.

Poor Lonzo is the guinea pig in this whole situation. He is the eldest child which means he gets to do everything first. If his father messes up with his career there still two more kids that he can try to get it right with.

images
You’ve only got three chances

This may sound like good news for youngest son, LaMelo, but this is a double-edged sword LaVar is wielding. If he continues to be as obnoxious as he has been, by the time it is LaMelo’s turn at a hot-shot career, the NBA may just be sick of the Ball family altogether.

Is all of this fair to Lonzo (or any of the Ball kids for that matter)?

Lonzo is a great player. He has proven that. He’s going to get his shot in the NBA, if his father doesn’t mess it up for him.

At every point in a child’s life there comes a time when the parent finally has to sit back and let the kid do it on their own.

imgres
You’re not the star LaVar

That time has come LaVar.

Lonzo has made it. He made it to a Division 1 college basketball team and now he’s declared he’ll enter the NBA draft. But only if you give him the chance to do it on his own. NBA teams will want to sign Lonzo Ball, but they might not want to sign Lonzo/LaVar Ball. LaVar Ball needs to gracefully bow out and let Lonzo take it from here. Somehow I don’t think that’s in LaVar’s DNA, but if he truly wants what is best for his kids, he will recognize that his place is in the stands…as a silent onlooker.

The Elite Swimsuit Edition

Last weekend I had lunch with my mom.

These visits tend to take a rather ritualistic form. We each drive an hour to meet in the middle (usually at our favorite mall South Coast Plaza), we have lunch and my mom brings me random things she thinks I need, like socks.

This visit, she brought me a piece of Americana- the Sports Illustrated: Swimsuit Edition. 

images
What else is February for?

Now, clearly I’m not exactly the demographic that this magazine appeals to, but I do love sports and my family has a subscription to Sports Illustrated, so the swimsuit edition is just part of the package. I have an open mind- female empowerment, own your body and that type of thing. OK.

So I took a look through the magazine. Christie Brinkley with the center spread- yeah she looks good, but why? Model, model, model, are there any athletes in this issue at all? Hannah Jeter- does she count as an athlete now that she tamed Derek Jeter?

On page 84, I finally come across some actual athletes- Olympic gold medalists Aly Raisman and Simone Biles. And I promptly wished that this issue actually was just full of professional models.

The spread with the two of them was a little shocking, to say the least. Aly Raisman looks like she is trying to remind the world that she’s a grown woman who goes on dates with football players as she posed topless and in other rather indecent poses. Simone Biles just looks plain uncomfortable. I feel you Simone, I am uncomfortable as well.

imgres
This is not what was in SI

Reason number one I am uncomfortable- I still think of these gymnasts as kids.

Obviously, Raisman and Biles are both technically adults now, Raisman slightly more so at age 22. Yet, the thing about gymnastics is that you watch the sport as these athletes are growing up. Many gymnasts hit their peak performance between ages 16-18. The Olympic qualifying age is 16, and gymnasts are often left disappointed when they qualify on skill but do not make the age cut-off. Elite junior gymnastics ranges from ages 11-15, and from there gymnasts can turn elite and make the national team at 16. From the age of 11, gymnasts can be under media scrutiny if they are really good. Personally, I don’t want to see someone I watched maneuver through their adolescent years do a spread in a magazine that is only a slightly more covered version of Playboy.

imgres-4
So young, so innocent

Simone Biles is 19 years old. She’s old enough to make her own decisions, vote, live by herself, etc. But she’s also been a superior competitor her whole life. Her life has been consumed by schedules and competitions. In turning pro, she is also consumed by endorsements and sponsors. 19 years old is still very young. I would not have been ready for any of this when I was 19. At 19, I was still bringing home my laundry and calling my mom to cry about how creepy boys can be (I still bring home my laundry and boys are still creepy). I imagine Simone led an even more sheltered life, consumed by training and competition. Is she really ready to be in the swimsuit edition? I can only hope Biles has a support system to tell her she doesn’t need to accept every media deal that comes her way and she doesn’t need to sell her body to stay relevant. She’s already gone down as one of the greatest athletes of all time.

Reason number two I am uncomfortable- has anyone read the news about the major gymnastics sex scandal going on?

Now, this spread would probably have made me uncomfortable either way, but it is in just very poor taste to do a spread as provocative as this one amongst the allegations of sexual abuse in USA gymnastics.

imgres
I really hope they didn’t know

For those of you who might not know, several national gymnasts have come forward about alleged sexual abuse at the hands of a team doctor. Furthermore, the courts just released 5,600 pages of documents that detail how USA gymnastics did not properly ban coaches convicted of sexual abuse. If true, these allegations reveal decades of sexual abuse. As mentioned above, these gymnasts are competing at the elite level from the age of 11. They go through puberty with their team and coaches. It should be a safe space for them, but that appears to have been taken away.

The Sports Illustrated spread just feels like incredibly bad timing. I’m sure when the photos were taken the scandal hadn’t escalated to what it is now, but SI had plenty of time to pull those photos when the allegations were made public in December of 2016. Would it have cost them money? Sure. Would it have been the right thing to do? Absolutely.

I am a gymnastics fan and I have a ton of respect for both Aly Raisman and Simone Biles. However, I don’t think this spread was the right move for their public image or for Sports Illustrated’s.

Very Supertitious

I come from a “basketball” school.

What does that mean?

Apparently that we’re supposed to be good at basketball.

We have 11 national titles. We have 31 conference titles. We have 45 seasons with over 20 wins. John Wooden (I don’t think I even need to say anything more other than John Wooden).  “We,” if you haven’t figured it out, is UCLA.

imgres
The man, the myth, the legend

As for myself, I personally haven’t witnessed a good basketball game in the eight years since I became a UCLA Bruin. And by “good” I mean they win.

I’ve sat through a lot of bad games. Two of the four years I was at UCLA as a student we didn’t even make the NCAA tournament. For a “basketball” school this is a big deal. In 2013, my senior year, I did the unthinkable and got my hopes up when UCLA surprisingly won the Pac-12 tournament after missing the tournament entirely the previous year. I learned quickly from that mistake as the team decided they were tired of winning and instilling hope in their fans, and lost in the first round of the NCAA tournament to 11th-seeded Minnesota.

imgres-1 But this year- this year we are supposed to be good.

We opened the regular season undefeated. We knocked off #1-ranked Kentucky on the road (although apparently now everyone has knocked Kentucky off this year). We held a no.2 ranking for a few weeks. This is the best I can remember us being since 2008 when we made it to the Final Four (one year before I became an official Bruin).

You can imagine how excited I was then to get tickets to the UCLA vs. USC game at USC this year. A small aside- I currently attend USC for graduate school (yes, yes, I’m in enemy territory, I’m a traitor, I am the enemy now- I’ve heard it all from both sides). But my loyalty for my Bruins remains intact.

imgres
Should have known this high wouldn’t last

This year has been a little rough to be a UCLA fan going to USC and working in the USC athletics department (yes, I’ve really crossed some lines in grad school). Luckily, football season is over now and I can just put that small hiccup behind me. After all, I come from a “basketball” school.

I’ll admit, I was maybe a little cocky when game day rolled around on January 25th. I may have said some things to my USC colleagues (all in good fun of course). I even wore bright blue into the office (what? it’s a nice color, brings out my eyes). This was our year.

Well, I don’t think I need to go into the gory details, but UCLA lost that game in dramatic fashion. Actually, it wasn’t very dramatic. They never really showed up to play. They got whooped by USC 84-76. USC is not a “basketball” school.

images
I got free tickets to this?

I, for my part, went back into the office the next morning quietly, with my head down.

Last night, was the highly anticipated rematch at Pauley Pavilion. This time UCLA soared. They killed USC by 32 points, 102-70! Four game losing streak against USC snapped! All five starters hit double-digit points for the night.

imgres-3
This is what I imagine the game was like

 

And before you ask- no.

I did not watch the game.

I fully intended to, until I realized the night before that it was on the Pac-12 network. The dreaded Pac-12 network. Call your cable providers now because odds are you don’t get the Pac-12 network. No one does (sorry Colorado). One of the most highly anticipated games of the season (at least within the Pac-12) and the Pac-12 took the broadcasting rights for themselves.

I’ll hand it to them- that’s savvy business sense for the Pac-12 to keep the TV rights for the game. But from a fan perspective it’s kind of terrible. It’s hard enough to find millennials who are actually willing to pay for cable these days (I am actually one of those unicorns), much less pay for the Pac-12 network (my mystique stops there).

imgres-1
Could be the Pac-12 Network for all I know

So instead of watching the game, I worked on homework (I am in grad school after all), and saw the occasional ESPN update about the game.

Do I think UCLA won because I wasn’t watching? I won’t count out that possibility. Sports are nothing if not superstitious. Let’s just say for once I am OK with being a hostage to the television networks.

All’s well that ends well. I can go into the office with my head held high on Monday and finally have proper bragging rights (which I fully intend to do). No one needs to know I didn’t actually see the game.

63738581
Forever true