Sports Doing Good Newsletter, #113

May 25 – May 31, 2014

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

  1. Pitching for Manipur: Documentary Sheds New Light on Northeast India Through Baseball
  2. Blind Football Player Makes Top College Team, Proves ‘There’s Nothing You Can’t Accomplish’
  3. The Science of the One-Inch Punch; Physiology and neuroscience combine to explain Bruce Lee’s master move.
  4. Pat Tillman and Rob Moore: A friendship worth fighting for
  5. Former Stanford stars Ogwumikes out to make a difference
  6. Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Announces Finalists for 2014 Steve Patterson Award for Excellence in Sports Philanthropy
  7. Popovich: Division III Coach at Heart; Revered in N.B.A., Spurs’ Leader Remembers His California Ties
  8. Disabled Brazil fan shows David Luiz his juggling skills and makes Neymar cry
  9. Albany’s Thompson Brothers Share Top Lacrosse Award
  10. Sceptics of the old adage “sport changes lives” need look no further than England footballer Fara Williams.

We were contacted by a sports industry veteran a few days ago regarding a special project that she is working on. The project, a new documentary called The Only Real Game, takes a look at the birth and long-term development of America’s pastime, baseball, in a most unusual place, Manipur, a remote state in northeast India that is one of the most heavily militarized areas in the world.

Coming out on the heels of Disney’s Million Dollar Arm, this documentary builds itself as the real story of baseball in India. And it is hard to argue with that sentiment. The film features the relationship the Manipuri people have with the game and how that relationship helps define them as individuals, and even more importantly, as a community. The story is at times sad and uplifting and commands the viewer’s attention and empathy from start to finish.

The film comes out this Friday, June 6 in New York City. We encourage everyone to read Jaime Lubin’s review of the film, the first story in this week’s newsletter. (it includes the 2-minute movie trailer) We also encourage everyone to think about their history with sports and how they may be able to help out others who do not have similar types of experiences.

In addition to the story about The Only Real Game, we are happy to feature stories including: Aaron Golub, a young blind man looking to play Division 1 football; a letter by a friend of a true American hero, Pat Tillman; the Ogwumikes, sisters who are using their fame from the world of college basketball to impact lives in their native Nigeria; San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich; Native American brothers Miles and Lyle Thompson, who were awarded the top individual honor in men’s college lacrosse; and English footballer Fara Williams; amongst others.

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So enjoy. And have a good week.

Pitching for Manipur: Documentary Sheds New Light on Northeast India Through Baseball
In The Only Real Game we learn the unusual history of Manipuri baseball, which was adopted during World War II from American Army Air Corps pilots who flew the Himalayas out of Manipur to support the Allies in China. But as the tale unfolds in the present day, intercut with Axel Baumann and Bona Meisnam’s gorgeous slice-of-life shots, we realize the game isn’t just a borrowed pastime, but a way for Manipuris to redefine themselves, to reclaim joy and a brighter future from the jaws of political darkness.

Blind Football Player Makes Top College Team, Proves ‘There’s Nothing You Can’t Accomplish’
Golub says he isn’t wild about all the attention his accomplishments have drawn, telling the Tulane Green Wave he considers himself “just another one of the guys.” But he’s happy to serve as a model to “show other kids what they can do, too.” “If you set your mind to it, then you can do it,” he told CBS Boston, adding, “There’s nothing that you can’t accomplish if you really want to do it.”

Boston Globe via Getty Images

The Science of the One-Inch Punch; Physiology and neuroscience combine to explain Bruce Lee’s master move.
Because the punch happens over such a short amount of time, Lee has to synchronize each segment of the jab—his twisting hip, extending knees, and thrusting shoulder, elbow, and wrist—with incredible accuracy. Furthermore, each joint in Lee’s body has a single moment of peak acceleration, and to get maximum juice out of the move, Lee must layer his movements so that each period of peak acceleration follows the last one instantly. So coordination is key. And that’s where the neuroscience comes in.

Pat Tillman and Rob Moore: A friendship worth fighting for
Their friendship became one of substance, not just of hard-hits and gridiron aggression. They learned from each other on those plane rides, diving deep past the surface, and surely past what their counterparts two seats over were discussing. “I remember distinctly, one of the conversations we had was how disappointed he was in himself because his exact words were, ‘I haven’t done a damn thing. My grandfather fought in a war and his dad fought in a war and I’m just a football player. I haven’t done anything and that doesn’t sit well with me.’ We had that conversation.

Former Stanford stars Ogwumikes out to make a difference
The juxtaposition of their own lives in the United States is not lost on either sister. They were educated at Stanford while the kidnapped girls in Nigeria were targeted for pursuing education. And the Ogwumikes — only the second set of siblings in American sports history to be No. 1 draft picks in a professional sports league, joining Peyton and Eli Manning in the NFL — are products of a culture that has fostered their success and achievement. They have a unique platform and understand the obligation to use it.

Chiney Ogwumike, left, and Nneka Ogwumike are Nigerian-Americans who were both All-Americans at Stanford. AAron Ontiveroz/The Denver Post via Getty Images

Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Announces Finalists for 2014 Steve Patterson Award for Excellence in Sports Philanthropy
In the milestone 10th year of the Steve Patterson Award for Excellence in Sports Philanthropy, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) has selected seven organizations as finalists in three categories. The winners will be announced on September 18, 2014, at an exclusive event in Princeton, N.J., where RWJF will host award applicants, past winners and the review committee for a day of learning, networking and celebrating excellence in the field.

The Patterson Award is a tribute to Steve’s legacy, celebrating and promoting the selfless effort of those within the world of sports who make a difference in the lives around them.

Popovich: Division III Coach at Heart; Revered in N.B.A., Spurs’ Leader Remembers His California Ties
Coaches in the Sciac said they could not help but see a little Division III in the Spurs. They cited the same characteristics in their teams that the Spurs were often lauded for — the sound fundamentals and the ever-present discipline. But they also noted that in recent blowouts, the players at the end of the bench played the same way as Duncan, Parker and Manu Ginobili. Mostly, though, they observe how everyone relates to one another.

Gregg Popovich, coaching the Spurs in April, won his third N.B.A. Coach of the Year award this season. Credit Steve Dykes/Getty Images

Disabled Brazil fan shows David Luiz his juggling skills and makes Neymar cry
Brazilian TV personality Luciano Huck brought a guest to the national team’s training session on Thursday — 17-year-old Leonardo Marques Tome, who suffers from arthrogryposis. The team gathered around Leonardo and listened intently as he read a letter about his life and his love of football. His words clearly had an impact on the players, even moving Neymar to tears.

Disabled Brazil fan shows David Luiz his juggling skills and makes Neymar cry. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)

Albany’s Thompson Brothers Share Top Lacrosse Award
The Thompsons — whose cousin, Ty, had 41 goals and 12 assists to help make Albany the highest-scoring team in Division I for two straight seasons — were born on a Mohawk Indian reservation in northern New York and relished the breakthrough because it was something very special. “It is the best feeling to share the award with my brother and be the first Native Americans to win it,” Miles said. “No words can express this feeling. We grew up together, we stuck together throughout high school, and it shows how close we are.”

Sceptics of the old adage “sport changes lives” need look no further than England footballer Fara Williams.
It is clear during a training session at Manchester United’s Cliff Ground that Williams enjoys her role. A smile rarely leaves her face as she delivers a session on ball control. The homeless players respond to her instructions with gusto, a few even attempting cheeky Cruyff turns to impress her. “To have the opportunity to help these girls is something that I didn’t want to turn down. I wanted to share my story with them and show them that there is a pathway to get out of the situation they’re in,” Williams explains.


The Big Interview – Arsene Wenger: Pride not prejudice
I think football is there to provoke moments of happiness, excitement and positive experiences in people, no matter where they come from, what colour skin they have, what religion they are or what their preferred sexuality is. It’s very sad that some people think that this sport should only be reserved for those who have certain characteristics. It’s open to everybody who loves football and when that doesn’t happen, it’s not acceptable.

Eyes on Stats, Players Hire Help to Crunch Them
Zormelo’s rise reflects a broader shift in the N.B.A. toward an embrace of “Moneyball”-style analytics — such as player efficiency ratings — that did not exist a generation ago. Intangibles like a player’s “killer instinct” or his “clutch performance” have given way to mathematical equations that quantify every aspect of the game. Zormelo’s career took off three years ago when he began working for Kevin Durant, the league’s leading scorer and most valuable player.

Justin Zormelo, second from left, working with the prospect Rion Brown. “If my players lose, I take it personally,” Zormelo said. Credit Max Reed for The New York Times

Eagles players try their chess skills against Philly students
“Elite athletes are competitive,” said Sarah Martinez-Helfman, Executive Director of the Eagles Youth Partnership, “they don’t like to lose.” She said the Eagles passionately support after school programs because after school is the most dangerous time for young students. She said that chess programs, especially, teach kids to think ahead about risks and consequences.

Eagles face students at chess. ‘I’m telling you bro, don’t lose,’ says Eagles lineman Mike Bamiro (right) to teammate and cornerback Bradley Fletcher, (left). The football players lined up against Philadelphia school children at the 11th annual Eagles Chess Tournament. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

For Palestine, a Final May Be Just the Start
It is a hugely significant moment for Palestine. Not only is the match the team’s first final in its 16-year history, but a victory would also mean a place in next year’s Asian Cup, the continent’s equivalent of the European Championship or the Concacaf Gold Cup, which would be Palestine’s first major international tournament. “This is the biggest moment in the history of our national team,” Jarun said in a telephone interview from Malé, the capital of the Maldives. “It is a huge game for us. Everyone in Palestine, and all the Palestinians around the world, will be watching.”

The American defender Omar Jarun, center, is playing for Palestine at a tournament in the Maldives. Credit James Montague

DeAngelo Williams: Wear Pink For My Mom, Who Lived to Love
My mother’s decade-long battle with breast cancer is over now, but mine is just beginning. To honor her, and my four aunts who died from the disease, I want to ask one small favor of you. Well, two actually…First, wear a pink shirt at least once a month, and make it a point to tell people that you’re doing so to help remind everyone that breast cancer awareness is 365 days a year. Second, it’s true that early detection is the best prevention, so please call, text, email, tweet or Facebook five women you care about (in honor of my mom and her four sisters) and ask them if they’ve gotten a mammogram lately. Do this for five people, and ask them to do it for five more, and then five more after that. Keep it going, and keep doing this for all of the women around the world who live with and die from this disease—and for my mom, who lived to love.

Female refs deserve their shot
Last week, the NFL released its list of officials for the 2014 season. Two women are on that list, Sarah Thomas and Maia Chaka, and are in the final stage of the development program. The stage may last several years. “Once an official is in that group, that’s really make-or-break. You’re either going to come into the league or finish your career in college,” NFL’s vice president of officiating Dean Blandino said. Although the league didn’t intend to pair Thomas and Chaka, sometimes milestones like this may be more easily shared than carried alone. Thomas, left, and Maia Chaka chat during the Fight Hunger Bowl at AT&T Park in San Francisco in December. The pair are on the NFL’s list of officials for the 2014 season. Larry Placido/Icon SMI

Shawn Bradley – 30 for 30 Shorts: Posterized
Former center Shawn Bradley is mostly known for being one of the tallest players in NBA history and for being on the wrong end of many dunks. But for Bradley there was more to life than basketball, as his success was not defined solely by the sport.

MLS Insider: Family fuels the fire for Philadelphia Union’s Maurice Edu
The latest installment of the Emmy-nominated series offers an emotional look at the family life of Philadelphia Union midfielder Maurice Edu, the son of proud Nigerian parents devoted to his development both on the soccer field and in the classroom. The episode also offers a closer look at Edu’s relationship with his father –  a former soccer player in Nigeria himself –  and how it influenced him as a young player in California, and tracks Edu’s rise from a promising youth player to college star, then a top MLS draft pick and rising star in MLS.

President Obama Applauds Commitments to Address Sports-Related Concussions in Young People
The President believes that we can and must do better.  Raising awareness of and better protecting children and student athletes from concussions, and better identifying and treating them when they do occur, requires a team approach and we must work with the professional sports community, youth sports programs, parents, school administrators, researches, athletes, coaches, trainers, military service members and other stakeholders to make this effort successful. We all have a role to play in helping to prevent, identify and respond to concussions so that young people can remain active and healthy.

President Obama applauds Victoria Bellucci, a 2014 graduate of Huntingtown High School in Huntingtown, Md., during a May 29 White House summit on concussions. Bellucci suffered five concussions playing soccer.  Charles Dharapak/AP

Pioneers to This Ish: The Black Fives and the Birth of Basketball as We Know It
A solitary figure meets visitors just inside The Black Fives, a newly installed exhibition at New-York Historical Society. A “well-dressed basketball player” sporting flannel shorts, belted shorts, high stockings, and kneepads, he’s equipped for a game played out of the limelight, contested on floors with inconsistent floorboards and the occasional exposed nail. He embodies an era (the 1920s) in which basketball was still new and, like the rest of this country, still decidedly segregated. Surrounding the cutout, ephemeral documents and photographs illuminate a forgotten recent history.

Photo of the Dayton Rens (New York Rens) basketball team, from the 1948 National Basketball League Yearbook. Courtesy of the Black Fives Foundation

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