July 3 – July 9, 2016
Welcome to week two hundred and twenty-one of the Sports Doing Good newsletter. This week’s 10 stories include:
- In Iceland, soccer strength found in modest numbers
- White Sox announcer with cerebral palsy finds his calling
- Jackie Bradley Jr.’s path to being All-Star a story of perseverance
- This Olympic Athlete Is Sick Of Being Told She’s ‘Too Pretty To Wrestle’
- ‘Food was my drug’: Michael Sweetney’s struggles in NBA give way to passion for helping others
- Meet the 30 Most Powerful Women in Sports
- Athletes of Valor aims to turn military veterans into college athletes
- In Paris, A Chance to Play Brings Smiles
- Olympic Hurdler Isn’t Letting Disease Stand in His Way
- Carmelo Anthony Calls On Athletes To Put Morals Over Money In Response To Recent Shootings
Pele Unveils Unique Shell-installed Player-powered Energy Challenge (Beyond Sport)
Grinding for a 10-Day Contract (by Lance Thomas) (The Players’ Tribune)
One of the great things about sports is the fact that the unexpected happens (just when you least expect it.) That element of surprise awakens us from our sometime slumber from the large amount of sports we are exposed to each and every day (we are not complaining!) and just the overall routine that makes up life. Therefore, we long for the beauty of the unexpected. We featured that recently with the story of the amazing season of 5000-1 longshot Leicester City as it captured the EPL title. We have such a story this week as well with the national soccer team of Iceland, which surprised most everyone by not only making the European Championships but progressing all the way to the quarterfinals (fyi, the women’s team did the same a few years ago. Bravo to them as well!) But there is somewhat of a dark side to this idea of the unexpected and that comes from when we stereotype individuals and groups.
Let’s face it, almost everyone does this. We see someone doing the unexpected and we are surprised, not just that the individual is doing it, but anyone else in the same situation or with the same characteristics would be able to do it. Thankfully most don’t have this feeling every time nor do they allow this soon-to-change perception impact how they treat that individual. That is where the problem arises. So what that someone who wants to be a Major League Baseball announcer has cerebral palsy – one of our stories this week. He can do it. So what that a woman wants to excel at wrestling – another story we feature this week. She can do it. At the very least we should allow these individuals the right to chase their dreams. In a best case scenario, we are there to support their efforts in any way possible, just as we would support anyone else. You will no doubt see a bevy of stories next month coming from the 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games.
The other stories that we are proud to feature this week include a look at: young MLB player Jackie Bradley, Jr. and his not-so-smooth journey to becoming an All-Star; former Georgetown basketball star and NBA player Michael Sweetney, whose early battles with depression and weight combined to end his NBA career but his more recent efforts has him embarking on a new life with a beautiful family and a commitment to help others who are facing their own obstacles, including issues of mental illness; Adweek’s inaugural listing of the 30 most powerful women in sports (great list but of course there are a host of others who are worthy); Athletes of Valor, an effort to give U.S. servicemen and women an opportunity not only to go back to college but to participate as a student-athlete as well; a wonderful effort in Paris to give kids more and better opportunities to play; Olympic champion hurdler Aries Merritt who is working hard after his kidney transplant to be able to defend his title; and a call to action by NBA All-Star Carmelo Anthony for athletes to make their voices heard and to do more in the face of this national epidemic we are facing when it comes to race, equality, and gun violence.
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In Iceland, soccer strength found in modest numbers
Iceland is a remote and sparsely populated place, full of raw scenic beauty and friendly locals. It has as many people as Santa Ana, Calif., or around 150 times fewer than England, the opponent it embarrassed Monday. Logic would suggest that Iceland should not have qualified for the tournament for the first time, let alone made it to the last eight, where it meets host France on Sunday. However, another key piece to the conundrum of the triumphant underdog is turning a weakness into a strength. “Our team are like brothers,” said Magnus Magnusson, whose soccer agency Total Football represents 10 Iceland squad members. Magnusson is no relation to the strongman. In a small country, such confusions are common. “One of the disadvantages of being so small is obvious — you have less players,” the agent added. “But the big advantage is these guys have played together since they were young, for club teams and national youth teams.” That unity has been picked up upon by the army of traveling supporters.
White Sox announcer with cerebral palsy finds his calling
“We gravitate towards the things we’re good at,” he said. Benetti went on to graduate from Syracuse University with bachelor’s degrees in broadcast journalism, economics and psychology and earned a law degree from Wake Forest University. He worked a long list of sports announcing jobs to make a name for himself, including serving as the lead announcer for the Syracuse Chiefs Minor League Baseball team and covering various sports for ESPN. “When I started doing TV, there was a worry of, will people want me on TV because I can’t look directly into the camera,” he recalled. Benetti has a lazy eye and walks with a slight limp. “I actually forget how I walk until I walk past a mirror. And then I think, ‘Why did we invent mirrors?’ ” he joked. “There were some hurdles there, and people helped me get through it. Now, it’s really not an issue.” Benetti said the way cerebral palsy affects him today is perception. “If I walk into a room and people don’t know me, there might be a belief, still: ‘Hey, can he do this? Can he do that?’ The hope is that we get to a time where people are thinking first, ‘What can this person do?’ not ‘What help do they need?’ ” he said.
Jackie Bradley Jr.’s path to being All-Star a story of perseverance
“I went through a lot — physically, mentally, emotionally,” Bradley said. “Those kind of things you can’t forget, so you can either use it to your advantage or you can sulk. I didn’t think [sulking] was an option for me.” In many ways, then, Bradley’s path to redemption — and to becoming a first-time All-Star at age 26 — began in January 2015 in a batting cage in Fort Myers, Florida. Having relocated to nearby Naples with his wife, Bradley phoned Red Sox assistant hitting coach Victor Rodriguez, who makes his offseason home in the Fort Myers area, and asked to meet at the team’s training facility. It was there, in the weeks leading up to spring training, that Bradley worked to shorten his swing and regain the all-fields approach that made him so successful in college and the minors. Bradley batted .308 with six homers and an .815 OPS through the All-Star break last season at Triple-A Pawtucket, but still got only two perfunctory call-ups. It wasn’t until late July, after Betts suffered a concussion, that Bradley got another extended look. And it was under interim manager Torey Lovullo, who filled in after Farrell was diagnosed with lymphoma, that Bradley turned into a force, batting .446 (37-for-83) with 13 doubles, four triples and seven homers in a 23-game stretch from Aug. 9 through Sept. 7. “To see Jackie emerge and grow to this point, I think is rewarding for all of us,” Farrell said. “We’ve been patient with him. He’s responded to the challenges when he first came to the big leagues, where I would venture to say at that point in time back in 2014, maybe his confidence might’ve been shaken a little bit. But he’s come out the back side of it. He’s a mentally tough, young player and an extremely talented guy.”
Chris Young, Jackie Bradley Jr. and Mookie Betts celebrate after a victory in May. The joviality between teammates Bradley and Betts — both first-time All-Stars — keeps them “playing free,” said Red Sox manager John Farrell. Adam Glanzman/Getty Images
This Olympic Athlete Is Sick Of Being Told She’s ‘Too Pretty To Wrestle’
Adeline Gray is a three-time world champion wrestler — one who would like everyone to focus on her athletic accomplishments rather than her gender. The 25-year-old athlete sat down with ESPN for the magazine’s Body Issue, which hits newsstands July 8, to talk about wrestling, her unstoppable work ethic and her upcoming Olympic debut in Rio this summer. “Women’s wrestling is a great sport that a lot of people don’t know about. I still get that sideways tilt of the head, like a puppy is looking at me: ‘Women wrestle?’” Gray told ESPN. “It’s almost disheartening, because I work very hard and it’s a very competitive field internationally, and people in our country just don’t really know about it.” Standing at 5’10” and weighing in at 165 pounds, Gray is all muscle in her ESPN Body Issue shoot. The 25-year-old, however, says people expect more of a “Helga type of women,” who’s “obese and going out there on the mat to try to smash people’s heads.” “It’s so much more than that,” Gray noted. “The weight is really low, so it’s about technique. It’s skill, strength, power and executing that in a very precise way.
“Women’s wrestling is a great sport that a lot of people don’t know about. I still get that sideways tilt of the head, like a puppy is looking at me: ‘Women wrestle?’” Peter Hapak for ESPN The Magazine
‘Food was my drug’: Michael Sweetney’s struggles in NBA give way to passion for helping others
Which takes us to last summer. Therapy helped control his illness, and a better diet and exercise helped Sweetney lose about 70 pounds from his peak weight of about 390. He returned to the public eye by playing in The Basketball Tournament on a team with several other local standouts. The group’s success led to that interview with the New York Post, in which Sweetney suddenly decided it was time to go public. He didn’t even tell his wife; she found out when she read the story. “I just said, ‘Hey, you know what? At this point, why not just tell what was going on?’” he said. “Sometimes, everything is not perfect. And athletes go through that a lot, where they’re forced in front of a camera to be happy, to be a certain person. But sometimes stuff will be bothering them and they can’t talk about it, because they’re forced to be this strong, ‘masculine’ person.” After the interview, Sweetney heard from scores of athletes, who had their own struggles with depression, or who had family members with mental illness, or who just wanted to reach out. Among them was former GW standout Chris Monroe. Monroe had become friends with Susan Rosenstock, whose son Evan played basketball at Churchill High before his stunning suicide in 2013. That led to the formation of umttr, an education and prevention project founded by Susan Rosenstock and several of Evan’s friends. Monroe wanted Sweetney and Rosenstock to meet, and they bonded instantly. Sweetney now calls Rosenstock one of his best friends, and they’ve talked on the phone almost daily in the past year.
Meet the 30 Most Powerful Women in Sports
There was a time when sports was considered a man’s world—but that’s ancient history now. Whether it’s breaking records, influencing thinking, making money or striving past what were once thought to be the limits of human ability, these women represent the best in the game—whatever that game happens to be. Tennis ace Serena Williams is synonymous with winning, the NFL’s Dawn Hudson has helped her league persevere through some of its darkest days, and Hannah Storm has set gold-medal standards for TV sports journalism. A handful of our selections in Adweek’s inaugural 30 Most Powerful Women in Sports have been Adweek Brand Geniuses of years past. It’s the first of hopefully many more years of showcasing the best of the best, as the playing field fills up with more success stories every year. Congratulations to this year’s winners, who will be celebrated during the Clio Sports gala in New York on July 7.
Athletes of Valor aims to turn military veterans into college athletes
Athletes of Valor’s grand vision of the future is to have one veteran on every college sports team. “I thought it was an incredible mission, a great idea, and something that should exist,” Fliegel says. He expects that the platform can catch on in large part due to the positive nature of the concept. Who wouldn’t want to help American military veterans? “We’ve been very fortunate to have great people not just from sports, but also from the military and public office, who have reached out to us and said they’d love to help,” he says. Stone tells Yahoo Finance that some 50 college coaches are already involved and testing out the web site. One of Kevin Plank’s favorite business mantras is something that will fuel the company, Stone says: Find a way. “Kevin says that all the time,” Stone says. “The reality is, there are men and women out there today that want to go back and play sports, and right now they don’t have a streamlined option to do that. The reason why I started this business was: We need to find a way.”
In Paris, A Chance to Play Brings Smiles
Play International, Nike’s partner in helping to create Active Schools in Paris, is founded on the philosophy that when kids play sports, it’s not only their health that benefits. “We know from our experience that you can tackle real issues through sports and games,” notes David Blough, director of Play International. “It’s a community builder, and bringing that kind of innovation to schools in countries like France and the UK is how we met Nike — we make a great match for bringing physical activity into French schools.” This morning’s activities are in fact a test-run for a program that will launch in September in five schools around Paris. “We recognize that this is the least active generation of children in history, and the potential negative impact on individuals and society is huge,” comments Dan Burrows, Senior Director, for Community Impact at Nike. “We hope to reverse the trend of inactivity by delivering a quality and memorable experience of sport to kids age 7 to 12, so that sport and being physically active can rival all the other leisure options that kids have today.”
Olympic Hurdler Isn’t Letting Disease Stand in His Way
Beginning Friday, Merritt will attempt to qualify for another Olympic team at the national track and field trials, with the aim of winning a second gold medal in August at the Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro. He has seldom raced this season. His speed has not fully recovered, and each time his trail leg clears a hurdle, his right thigh slaps against his abdomen, leaving him with a numbing, tugging feeling and the occasional spasm. The pain was so sharp in the winter that he could not compete in the indoor season. Still, Merritt, who will turn 31 on July 24, said: “I need to go to Rio. If I can run, I need to be able to defend my title. I need to make a way out of no way.” He has joined a relatively small group of athletes who have returned to the top of their game after having kidney transplants, including the former N.B.A. players Alonzo Mourning and Sean Elliott. “In my line of work, I feel like I see a lot of amazing things,” said Thomas, who heads a division of rare kidney diseases at the Mayo Clinic in Phoenix. “This one really takes it. It’s incredible that somebody who has a kidney transplant is doing what he’s doing.”
Carmelo Anthony Calls On Athletes To Put Morals Over Money In Response To Recent Shootings
We need to steer our anger in the right direction. The system is Broken. Point blank period. It has been this way forever. Martin Luther King marched. Malcolm X rebelled. Muhammad Ali literally fought for US. Our anger should be towards the system. If the system doesn’t change we will continue to turn on the TVs and see the same thing. We have to put the pressure on the people in charge in order to get this thing we call JUSTICE right. A march doesn’t work. We tried that. I’ve tried that. A couple social media post/tweet doesn’t work. We’ve all tried that. That didn’t work. Shooting 11 cops and killing 5 WILL NOT work. While I don’t have a solution, and I’m pretty sure a lot of people don’t have a solution, we need to come together more than anything at this time. We need each other. These politicians have to step up and fight for change. I’m calling for all my fellow ATHLETES to step up and take charge. Go to your local officials, leaders, congressman, assemblymen/assemblywoman and demand change. There’s NO more sitting back and being afraid of tackling and addressing political issues anymore. Those days are long gone. We have to step up and take charge. We can’t worry about what endorsements we gonna lose or whose going to look at us crazy. I need your voices to be heard. We can demand change. We just have to be willing to. THE TIME IS NOW. IM all in. Take Charge. Take Action. DEMAND CHANGE. Peace7
Carmelo Anthony is interviewed during a press conference at Dunleavy Milbank Center on June 27, 2016. Nathaniel S. Butler via Getty Images