Sports Doing Good Newsletter, #109

April 27 – May 2, 2014

Welcome to week one hundred nine of the Sports Doing Good newsletter. This week’s first 10 stories include:

  1. LA2015, ESPN Announce Agreement for Special Olympics World Games Los Angeles 2015
  2. New Orleans Saints owner Tom Benson donates $5 million to Team Gleason
  3. After giving up a homer, this pitcher carried her injured opponent around the bases
  4. Largest Post-Olympic Athlete Gathering in New York Helps Right To Play Big Red Ball Net $1.6 Million
  5. Chris Martin’s Incredible Journey from Hardware Store Employee to MLB Pitcher
  6. UN, Olympic Committee sign formal agreement on role of sport in development, peace
  7. TED Talk: Are athletes really getting faster, better, stronger?
  8. Scott Kazmir’s refusal to quit now paying off for A’s
  9. Afghan Female Cyclists: Breaking Away, And Breaking Taboos
  10. Dick’s Sporting Goods Backs Youth Athletics Through New “Sports Matter” Campaign

We came across a fundraising campaign by Dick’s Sporting Goods titled, “Sports Matter.” It is a simple, yet powerful, phrase. Yes, for us as individuals, teams, communities, countries and the world, it is indisputable that sports matter. It matters when it comes to testing our abilities, overcoming challenges in our lives, getting together to have a good time, inspiring others to reach their potential, and spreading a message of love and acceptance to those who may live in areas devoid of such essential ideals. The situations and scenarios in which sports matter is endless.

This week we are fortunate again to assemble a collection of stories that show that “sports matter” and “sports are doing good,” including: a momentous partnership between ESPN and the Special Olympics; New Orleans Saints owner Tom Benson; leading non-profit Right to Play; MLB pitchers Chris Martin and Scott Kazmir; the UN and IOC’s partnership; women cycling in Afghanistan; a team of Elvii running the New Jersey Marathon; women’s pro soccer player Yael Averbuch; and baseball in Alaska and Staten Island; amongst others.

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So enjoy. And have a good week.

LA2015, ESPN Announce Agreement for Special Olympics World Games Los Angeles 2015
The agreement provides ESPN with rights to the 2015 Special Olympics World Games Opening Ceremony from the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, daily competition, Closing Ceremony and other cultural activities.  ESPN will produce the Opening Ceremony live as well as a nightly highlights program and KABC-TV will also play a role in the coverage for the Los Angeles market.  ESPN will feature both English- and Spanish-language coverage of some parts of LA2015. Specific programming and coverage details will be announced in the months ahead.

New Orleans Saints owner Tom Benson donates $5 million to Team Gleason
Benson and his wife Gayle announced that they’re donating $5 million to Team Gleason, a non-profit organization named after former Saints player Steve Gleason, who suffers from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). The money will help Team Gleason fund a House for Innovative Living at St. Margaret’s in New Orleans, a house that will be designed as an independent living community where people with ALS can live on their own.

Tom Benson and his wife Gayle are donating $5 million to Team Gleason. (USATSI)

After giving up a homer, this pitcher carried her injured opponent around the bases
Florida Southern senior Chelsea Oglevie’s final pitch of her softball career was a bit too high — high enough for Eckerd College’s Kara Oberer to deposit it into the stands for a three-run home run. When Oberer’s knee locked up as she was running around the bases, however, Oglevie and teammate Leah Pemberton displayed impressive sportsmanship by helping Oberer the rest of the way.

Largest Post-Olympic Athlete Gathering in New York Helps Right To Play Big Red Ball Net $1.6 Million
“We are very thankful to those Olympians and all of our guests who joined us on this historic night for Right To Play USA,” Koss said. “Our mission is to use the power of sport to change the lives of children around the world. The incredible amount of money raised for our New York City program Play At The Core shows that we have great support in our mission, with more exciting things coming soon.”

Chris Martin’s Incredible Journey from Hardware Store Employee to MLB Pitcher
The story of how Chris Martin traveled from Lowe’s Home Improvement to the Rockies bullpen last Saturday is one of pain, agony…and varnish. It is one of persistence, AirHogs…and appliances. It is one of the coolest, best, most inspirational stories you will hear all year. And as the kid made his major league debut in Dodger Stadium on Saturday night, you couldn’t help but think of how Rockies manager Walt Weiss had hit the jackpot. With one right-hander, he gets bullpen depth and a deal on washing machines. Right?

Rob Tringali/Getty Images

UN, Olympic Committee sign formal agreement on role of sport in development, peace
The President of the General Assembly, John Ashe, also praised the power of sport, particularly now as the international community is outlining the priority agenda following 2015, the deadline for the eight anti-poverty targets known as Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). “We hope to be able to count on the voices of athletes worldwide to put the spotlight on our new development goals, as well as to set an example by embracing sustainable practices,” Mr. Ashe said. He said the virtues of sport are “an ideal match for what we hope to achieve here at the United Nations.”

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (right) meets with Thomas Bach, President of the International Olympics Committee (IOC). UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe

TED Talk: Are athletes really getting faster, better, stronger?
When you look at sporting achievements over the last decades, it seems like humans have gotten faster, better and stronger in nearly every way. Yet as David Epstein points out in this delightfully counter-intuitive talk, we might want to lay off the self-congratulation. Many factors are at play in shattering athletic records, and the development of our natural talents is just one of them.

Scott Kazmir’s refusal to quit now paying off for A’s
To understand, you would have needed to see Kazmir after some of those horrible starts in the past, explaining the unexplainable in little more than a whisper, clearly worried, trying not to be, in the squall of the evidence otherwise. He gets to compete again. He’s taking more than one pitch – or half-a-pitch – to the mound. With the fastball, that hard sinker, comes the slider, the changeup, the outs, the innings and the wins. He is one of them in the clubhouse again.

A’s starting pitcher Scott Kazmir delivers a pitch against the Rangers on Tuesday. (USA TODAY Sports)

Afghan Female Cyclists: Breaking Away, And Breaking Taboos
Whatever the equipment, Sadeqi is the linchpin. The 25-year-old cyclist grew up in Iran. She says her parents don’t even know she’s a racer. But her husband supports her career. He’s open-minded, she says. And she hopes women’s cycling can help make Afghan society open-minded, too. “Of course it has helped. … We are riding in front of all these men and I’m sure some of them, their minds have opened up,” she says. “I just want to introduce to the world the women of Afghanistan, that they are able to do anything any other women are able to do.”

The carbon-fiber the Afghan women ride are supplied by Mountain 2 Mountain, a nonprofit founded by Shannon Galpin (second from right), who trained with them last month.

Dick’s Sporting Goods Backs Youth Athletics Through New “Sports Matter” Campaign
“We’ve been working on this crowdfunding campaign for about a year,” Ryan Eckel, VP-brand marketing, tells Marketing Daily, “and while we inherently knew that massive benefits come from sports, it’s been really powerful to quantify them.” For example, he says, 95% of Fortune 500 CEOs played a high school sport, and kids who do so are four times as likely to go on to college. “But opportunities are disappearing fast,” he says, with 60% of kids participating in team sports now having to pay in order to play. And by 2020, an estimated 27% of high schools will not offer athletics.


Bill Simmons’ Big Score; How a failed newspaper writer built a new kind of media empire at ESPN
During the NBA playoffs, which last nearly two months and end in June, he’ll be a fixture on ESPN and ABC, via NBA Countdown. His 700-page Book of Basketball, despite being fatter than Eddy Curry in the off-season, debuted at Number One on The New York Times’ nonfiction bestseller list. He goaded ESPN into making documentaries, which yielded 30 for 30, an excellent, Emmy-nominated series he executive-produces. His lively B.S. Report podcast, where he interviews jocks, actors, comedians college buddies, his dad, and Barack Obama, was downloaded 32 million times last year, and to keep him from bolting in 2011, ESPN gave him his own well-staffed website, Grantland.

Bill Simmons coaching in the NBA All-Star Celebrity Game in February. Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images

A team of Elvii will run the New Jersey Marathon, for a friend and a cause
So if this was the last time that Fleming would run a marathon – and he has 32 on his ledger already – then they would run as a team. They decided to run for charity, benefiting the Les Turner ALS Foundation, and the idea took off. Their team of Elvii already has raised more than $25,000. “It’s depressing,” Fleming said of his condition. “But I just decided that I’m not just going to curl up in a ball and hide in the corner. If I’m going out, I’m going out with a bang.”

Scott Fleming (right) and his friend Dave Platz will run the New Jersey Marathon together as Elvii, one last time. (Photo courtesy Scott Fleming)

Staten Island Little League to officially reopen its field complex, with help from a $240,000 grant from the Baseball Tomorrow Fund, following Superstorm Sandy destruction
“The Baseball Tomorrow Fund is honored to assist Staten Island Little League in their recovery efforts from the devastation of Superstorm Sandy,” said Cathy Bradley, Executive Director of the Baseball Tomorrow Fund. “This league is a historic and valuable part of the Staten Island community and we are happy that it can continue to offer the successful tradition of baseball and softball to the youth of this community. Also, a special thanks to our partner, Musco Lighting, without which projects like this one would not be possible.”

From Childhood to a Soccer Career, Much Has Stayed the Same
I often write about change — the constant fluctuations in my thought process and reinvention of myself as a person and a soccer player. My environment and situation are constantly in flux. This year in the National Women’s Soccer League is no different. Yet somehow, the path of progress is strewn with markers denoting the constants. Maybe more impressive than the ways in which I have changed over the years are the ways I have remained the same as I encounter each new twist and turn of the roller coaster ride that is my career and life.

NFL teams challenged to hire strong mentor for players
Working with players off the field has expanded and evolved over the years with a number of services currently available through the NFL, including mentoring programs, job shadowing programs, continuing education, counseling and career transition assistance.

Midnight Baseball Games in Anchorage, Alaska
The locals of Anchorage, Alaska, love to take advantage of the midnight sun, and one of their favorite pastimes is baseball. The Glacier Pilots is a college summer baseball team that has played for over 40 years. They’ve launched the careers of pro players like Mark McGwire, and the team has helped over 160 other players to go on to the Major Leagues as well.

Student Gets His Act Together Thanks To Guidance Counselor — And Basketball
Something clicked during these talks. It was like discovering that we both spoke the same language. Our conversations no longer hovered around improvement plans and academic goal setting. Instead, we talked about the sanctity of basketball. As we reveled about game winning shots, no look passes, and fade-away three pointers, all of the problems in his life, and in my life, seemed to fade away. Basketball broke down those walls and brought us together.

Kids Need More Structured Playtime, Not Less
Professor McNamara’s Recess Project is akin to ventures in the United States such as PlayWorks and the Recess Enhancement Program (REP), although these organizations rely on trained adult coaches to lead schoolyard activities. (PlayWorks also has a Junior Coaches program that trains fifth graders in leadership skills and conflict resolution.) Like Professor McNamara, the directors of PlayWorks and the Recess Enhancement Program report that their interventions lead to less conflict, more physical activity and even to better behavior among students once they’re back in the classroom. 

Appreciating, without injury, the novelty of dangerous playground equipment in Canada. KJ Dell’Antonia

Not Having a Human Heart Didn’t Stop This Amazing Man from Completing Race
“I have played team sports most of my life, baseball, basketball, softball, but never any endurance events. Mountain biking is one of my passions and I think 25 miles is the furthest I have ever ridden at once. I would like to do a triathlon after my transplant, probably not a full ironman but maybe an Olympic or sprint distance.”

Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Half Marathon Runner Up Eyes The World Run
Less than a week to go before participants of the first ever Wings For Life World Run get together in Sonepat, Harayana to make history. In the sweltering heat of a May afternoon in Haryana, one would need to gather all the passion to make a dash for this cause and stay two steps AHEAD of the finish line. Many enthusiasts, including professional athletes are set to be a part of history on May 4th, we decided to catch up with a few to get some dope on how they are approaching this first of its kind run!

Michael Buchleitner and Patricia Kaiser

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Our goal is to have Sports Doing Good be a portal housing original content and excerpts from and links to the increasing number of articles, websites, video, and other media that showcase the good in sports and society. We aim to celebrate those concepts, activities, events, and individuals by highlighting them for a wider audience. Much of the news today, whether sports- related or not, is incredibly negative and increasingly polarizing, biased, and quite annoying. We are trying to refocus some of the discussion on the good, with a focus on sports.Our mission is to have Sport Doing Good be a consistent, and significant, contributor to the areas of sports, social responsibility and development. We look forwarding to partnering with other stakeholders in producing content, in creating and/or sponsoring athletic and service events, knowledge sharing, and conferences/seminars, and even having a commercial arm that could be the source of innovative social businesses.We invite you to send in news, press releases, and guest pieces for possible publication, and email us with suggestions about the content and format of the newsletter and Sports Doing Good website.
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