There is a “Fan” in Team

I loved sports for as long as I can remember, and I’ve been a Michigan fan since before I was even born. My parents met at the University of Michigan and bonded over their love for all things competitive. They got married and had me and my

The University of Michigan is a place that values tradition and pride in their school and their athletics above all else.

The University of Michigan is a place that values tradition and pride in their school and their athletics above all else.

brother and dressed us in “Future Wolverine” onesies. Some of my oldest childhood memories are sitting on my dad’s shoulders at the Big House or climbing up the steps to Chrisler. So when I fulfilled my familial duty (and my lifelong dream) and chose Michigan as my future alma mater, it came to no surprise that I begged my parents for season tickets to everything. For this one magical year, I’ve lived in total bliss, attending everyone men’s football, basketball, or hockey game that fit in my schedule. However, after playing and watching basketball my whole life (and attending Michigan games this season) as well as attending as many hockey games I could, I’ve noticed similarities and differences between the two sports.

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Supporting an Playing

Throughout the last few months in the united states there has been some very serious and saddening events that have taken place. From Ferguson, to Eric Garner there have been many actions resulting in the death of human lives. Regardless of your stance on the situations that have happened there is one over ruling factor that cannot be forgotten and that is that people have lost their lives for no reason. Having these very horrible events happen recently many professional athletes have been using their visibility and “star power” to bring to light that people are should take notice and care about what is going on in the current events of the united states.

Following these events Players from the Saint Louis Rams team have brought attention to these events by putting up their hands making the “Don’t shoot symbol.

Dont shoot(Rams players doing the don’t shoot before their game last week)

This brought a rather large amount notoriety to the Mike Brown and Ferguson case. Say what you may about this action; However, it brought a large amount notoriety to this case. Having said that, this case already had a huge following but when these professional football players did this it “stirred the pot” and in many people’s opinions has brought this case to a higher level of visibility then anticipated.

Another showing of protest with professional athletes is players wearing shirts that simply say “I can’t breathe” these three simple words are very simple but have an unbelivable deep meaning. This shirt is in reference to Eric Garner, who was chocked to death by cops. His last words were “I can’t breathe.” Many people believe that his death was also wrong and unjust and that is why these professional athletes are standing behind Eric and his case. Athletes like Lebron James, Kyrie Irving, Reggie Bush have all warn shirts that say these words in warm ups before their games.having said this these athletes by wearing these shirts have brought so much national attention to these cases.n-LEBRON-JAMES-large(Lebron James)

This in my eyes is a great thing. The more people that aware and are educated on a situation will make the outcome a better and more just outcome. I support these athletes standing up for what they believe in, because it not only is the freedom of speech but it also will help make better a situation that is not good at all

A Spectator’s Take

Texas v Michigan

2014 Men’s Basketball Team

Since getting to school, I have attended numerous Michigan football games, a few men’s basketball games, and a women’s basketball game.

I really wanted to see how different the same arena would look when occupied by a women’s versus a men’s team, especially because I wrote my recent essay on the gender discrimination that we see in the sports world. Women athletes have faced discrimination all throughout the past and we definitely see the impacts of that today. The difference between the two basketball teams is a perfect example of the discussions we’ve had in class about the influence of gender roles on sports.

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Miracle and Taylor Branch

1980campcov

USA winning the 1980 gold medal

On November 13, I went to the showing of the movie Miracle on North Quad. This movie documents the 1980 United States men’s hockey team, winners of the 1980 Winter Olympics. The coach at this time, Herb Brooks, is attributed to a lot of the success of this team by inspiring both physical and mental strength in his players. This movie is a great example of the intense lives of athletes. It demonstrates inspiration, hard work, teamwork, mental toughness and it will inspire all who watch it.

Coach Brooks in the movie Miracle giving a speech to the team

Coach Brooks in the movie Miracle giving a speech to the team. 

Viewers are inspired by the US team because they all came from different places and had been previous rivals with each other. They had to learn to put aside their differences in order to become teammates and play well together. In the movie, there is a well-known scene after a game in which the team lost. Coach Brooks punishes the players for not playing up to their potential by forcing them to skate hours into the night. The players could barely stand up and the coach’s assistants were telling him to stop but Coach Brooks did not let them give up. Brooks was pushing his team to their limits. He knew they needed to be pushed to see what it takes to be a champion. He kept asking the players who they played for, over and over. Finally, one player came forward “I play for the United States of America!” and Coach finally ended the drill. He wanted to get across to the team that they are all playing for a common goal and that there is a necessary mental toughness for this game. Coach Brooks stated from the beginning that he wasn’t there to be anyone’s friend but instead to coach a championship team.

I play for the women’s lacrosse team here at the University of Michigan and our coach constantly reminds us that we are playing for the Block M on our chest. We have to earn the right to wear it because it is such a privilege. When we first stepped onto campus we were given a plain white t-shirt and blue shorts with no Michigan or Block M anywhere on them. We had to earn the right to play for Michigan each day through our workouts. Every day we pushed each other to be better. The team becomes your second family. That is what Coach Brooks of the USA Hockey Team did as he made them to skate for hours. I can relate to this feeling because our conditioning sessions feel impossible but afterwards we know we accomplished so much. In order to become champions, you must push yourself to your limits with your team at your side, giving you great motivation, just like the USA Hockey team. If you do not push yourself to your limits, you won’t get better or see results.

Taylor Branch giving a talk about the NCAA

Taylor Branch giving a talk about the NCAA

On November 14, I was fortunate enough to go to Taylor Branch’s talk about athletes and how the NCAA affects them. Taylor Branch is a huge advocate for the rights of student athletes everywhere. He is an author and a speaker, and has spoken to many audiences and has written and co-written many books. He has written many pieces on sports, particularly the effect of the NCAA and the life of athletes. Right now, he best known for his pieceThe Shame of College Sports” published in the October 2011 issue of The Atlantic. This article talks about the NCAA and their strict rules and regulations it has on student athletes and universities. This article was interesting for me because he argues that all the scandals in the media surrounding college athletes cheating are not what we should be focused on. Instead, “the real scandal is the very structure of college sports, wherein student-athletes generate billions of dollars for universities and private companies while earning nothing for themselves”. He compares overworked employees in the workplace to overworked collegiate athletes, saying it is unjust for one to be paid and not the other. It is interesting how in the workplace it is exploitation for an employee to not be paid for the success and hard work they’ve done. However, for a student athlete it is exploitation if they are paid or compensated in any way for the long hours, tough workouts, revenue brought to the university, and success they have while at the university.

I agree with some of what Branch says during this talk and I question whether collegiate athletes would push themselves harder if they were getting paid. However, I also believe that the NCAA put these rules in place to make sure that young athletes first receive an education before they decide to perform their sports professionally. Branch talked about the scandal at UNC. The UNC Athletic department created classes for student athletes that didn’t even physically meet. These classes were considered ‘fake’ but the students were still awarded the credits needed to be eligible and to graduate. UNC purposely made these classes to allow student athletes to focus on their sport, however this obviously took away the educational experience. On this note, a big point of conflict that Branch highlighted during his talk was that if student athletes got money, the “student first” would be lost. The NCAA wants student athletes to put the student first and get the education needed for their life after college. Again, as a student athlete I know the pressure that is put on athletes to perform at their best. Practices and workouts are very demanding. It is hard to sit through class and not worry about the excruciating workout that you next. It is also challenging to keep focus in an 8:30am class after a 7am morning lift. Despite not being paid for playing lacrosse at Michigan, being a student athlete has helped me learn to prioritize my time, and I believe I push myself to the fullest everyday, with the help of my teammates and coaches.

What do test scores really mean?

With a graduation rate peaking above 80 percent for the first time in history, the united states seems to be emerging from its educational slump of the past decade. With test scores lagging behind those of our neighboring countries, officials, citizens, and the community alike are still worried for the  future. What many claim as ‘falling behind’, I view as something else. Being on the cutting edge of state development since our founding, I believe that the United States is in the midst of pioneering the next stage of development of first world development.

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The Jocks for Justice are Back!

In lecture this week we were talking about athletes that stood up and supported causes throughout the years. Now not many athletes participate in many political or social movements because of the backlash that people before them received. For example, The Nation Post, Where Are the Jocks for Justice? It states “Dallas Mavericks guard Steve Nash wore a T-shirt to media day during the NBA’s All-Star weekend that said No WAR. SHOOT FOR PEACE. Numerous sports columnists criticized Nash for speaking his mind. (One wrote that he should “just shut up and play.”)”. Another example is when Tiger Woods did a commercial for Nike referring to the racism within golfing clubs he was severely criticized for it.  Today that has all changed with the increase of very controversial issues more athletes are voicing or showing their opinions.

st louis rams

“Hand Up, Don’t Shoot” pose

I was reading a post on the how some members of the St. Louis Rams walked onto the field doing the “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” pose. The pose is in response to the increasing numbers of force used by police against unarmed citizen. It started with the death of Mike Brown, an unarmed eighteen year old who was gunned down by a police officer. Some people supported those members of the St. Louis Rams who participated in the very popular pose but some were very critical of their action.

Just recently Fox News host Bill O’ Reiley on air said something along these lines that the rams were too stupid to know what they were participating in. A couple of things popped into my head. One being Is he saying this because most people think that athletes aren’t the smartest people in the world? That wasn’t the case though because he continued to say, all I’m say is be careful who you sympathize with. He was calling them stupid because he believedben watson they shouldn’t be sympathizing with people who support the Ferguson movement.
On the other hand people like Benjamin Watson a football player for the New Orleans Saints has been praised for his Facebook post that responded to the Ferguson court decision.  His post has been called moving, motivation, inspiration, and other great things. In this post he voices his anger, concerns, fears, and hopefulness.  The most interesting part of the post was when he writes,

“I’M ENCOURAGED, because ultimately the problem is not a SKIN problem, it is a SIN problem. SIN is the reason we rebel against authority. SIN is the reason we abuse our authority. SIN is the reason we are racist, prejudiced and lie to cover for our own. SIN is the reason we riot, loot and burn. BUT I’M ENCOURAGED because God has provided a solution for sin through the his son Jesus and with it, a transformed heart and mind. One that’s capable of looking past the outward and seeing what’s truly important in every human being. The cure for the Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice and Eric Garner tragedies is not education or exposure. It’s the Gospel. So, finally, I’M ENCOURAGED because the Gospel gives mankind hope.”

He not only just bluntly states his opinion he brings religion into his response, something many people are not willing to voice publicly.

Different situations bring out the most unexpected response. And I have to say I was not expecting those responses to come from athletes.

Exploitation in College Athletics

Ed O'Bannon (via Grantland)

Ed O’Bannon (via Grantland)

In their 2004 article for The Nation, Kelly Candaele and Peter Dreier describe athletes speaking out against injustice. Some of the influential professions mentioned include Adonal Foyle and Steve Nash of the NBA, as well as Tiger Woods and Billie Jean King. Candaele and Dreier argue that there is a lack of athlete activism today, and I would agree that this is true. While recent events have inspired protests from athletes, like members of the St. Louis Rams, there are few athletes willing to speak out. College athletes are usually even less apt to speak out, because their futures often rely on scholarships that can be taken away.

(via USA Today)

(via USA Today)

Earlier this year, in April, members of the University of Northwestern football team broke that trend. They made an effort to unionize their team, and take their treatment into their own hands. The effort is still very much ongoing, and is being fought by the NCAA. There has been plenty of controversy in recent years over the NCAA treatment of players. Schools and the Association profit heavily off of the use of player names and likenesses, but the players themselves never see any of this money. We read earlier in the semester about Ed O’Bannon, the former UCLA

A Northwestern player before the union vote (via the Associated Press)

A Northwestern player before the union vote (via the Associated Press)

basketball player suing the NCAA over the continued use of his name and likeness. The Northwestern players represent a different situation, and a change in tone. They are current student-athletes taking aggressive action against what they see to be an injustice. Previously, most athletes to speak out on any institutional issue have been former players like Ed O’Bannon, or the NFL players suing the league over head injuries.

According to the Grantland article we read about Ed O’Bannon’s lawsuit, athletes are more or less required to help their institutions profit from the use of their images. It is hard to argue that this is not exploitation. In fact, exploitation is defined as “the action or fact of treating someone unfairly in order to benefit from their work.” By this definition, the NCAA is surely exploiting its student-athletes. They make sure that athletes create revenue for them, and they do this by playing their sports. While some have stood against it, there are too many who have not. Kelly Candaele and Peter Dreier’s call for more athletes to stand up is as relevant as ever. The more athletes to call for justice, at any level of sport, the better off everyone will be.