Sports Doing Good Newsletter, #166

May 31 – June 6, 2015

Welcome to week one hundred sixty-six of the Sports Doing Good newsletter. This week’s 10 stories include:

  1. How NBA stars learned to love soccer
  2. 14 Badass Girl Athletes Show Off Their Game Faces
  3. NFL’s Cleveland Browns to sign 9-year old Dylan Sutcliffe through Make-A-Wish
  4. Football Match in Southampton Lasts a World-Record 102 Hours, Finishes 910-725
  5. Barcelona’s Andres Iniesta Pays Tribute to Teammate Xavi
  6. A Triathlon That Takes Friendships to the Extreme
  7. Outsider Artist: Understanding the Beauty of Steph Curry’s Jumper
  8. Chargers’ Fluker goes from homeless to graduate, NFL starter
  9. Delonte West credits LeBron James for saving him at his two lowest pro moments
  10. Women’s World Cup: What’s Next for FIFA is Right in Front of Us

This was a very big week in the world of global football (soccer for the US crowd). While the focus of much of the attention had to do with the litany of wrongdoings by members of FIFA and the subsequent (and appropriate) resignation of one Sepp Blatter, there were some quite positive happenings as well. First, the legendary New York Cosmos from the North American Soccer League (NASL) took a trip south to the country of Cuba for the first of what we anticipate will be regular sports happenings between the two long-time rival nq5ionw and hopefully going forward, friendly partners. (I was fortunate to accompany the team on this trip along with other fans and was witness to the passion of the people and the potential of the country.)

Also in the world of football, we are embarking on what should be a month of wondrous competition and wonderful stories from the 2015 Women’s World Cup tournament taking place in Canada. To get a sense of why this tournament comes at the exact right time for football fans and officials, please check out the piece below written by former pro player and Soccer Without Borders founder Mary McVeigh. Other football-related pieces include a great photo exhibit featuring up and coming football talent; a fun story that recounts the path to football fandom for many of the NBA’s biggest stars; a Guinness Book-record long football that raised money for charity; and a heartfelt tribute from one Barcelona great to another as they approach the latter’s final game with the club (yesterday’s Champions League final). What these and the other numerous stories we have featured over the past 3 years show is that there is much that is beautiful about the game and the people who are involved with it and that is what we should focus on as we deal with this crisis at FIFA.

Other stories we are happy to feature this week include: the NFL’s Cleveland Browns and one of its best player signings ever; the attraction of “friendly” triathlons; the beauty of NBA star Steph Curry’s jump shot; the lifelong perseverance of NFL star D.J. Fluker; and the strong bond between former NBA teammates LeBron James and Delonte West.

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How NBA stars learned to love soccer
“Soccer doesn’t have the same kind of stigma it had 20 years ago,” Nash says. “The connotation now is that soccer is big-time. People in America have embraced it all. The World Cup. The star players. The marketing machine. The cool uniforms. “The game’s become exponentially more visible,” adds Nash, who for nearly a decade has been hosting an annual “Showdown” charity match on the day before the NBA draft that brings together professional footballers and NBA players in an eight-a-side soccer match. “People have embraced what the sport means not only in the United States, but what it means traditionally around the world. The visibility and branding and awareness of the stars of the sport … they’re kind of global icons that have cracked the culture in America.

Thanks to the FIFA video game franchise, many NBA players are getting far more familiar with the sport. Sebastien Berda/AFP/Getty Images

14 Badass Girl Athletes Show Off Their Game Faces
“They showed up with such innocent and fierce pride,” Corradini told The Huffington Post. “They were confident, yet giggly. Independent, yet bonded with their teammates. They had no reservations about just being themselves and letting me photograph them in their most natural and authentic way.” “We wanted to show young females as they truly are — raw, powerful, beautiful,” McIlroy added, noting that she hoped the photo series would provide a refreshing alternative to the images of “young women in pink and wearing princess dresses” that seem so pervasive in today’s society. The Wildfang CEO also said she hopes other women can “see a little of themselves” in the hardworking female athletes depicted in #GameFace. “We hope they remind them to be a little bolder and tougher and ultimately be really proud of being who they are,” she continued. “Our hope is these images leave you feeling inspired to go kick ass in your day.”

Annika, 9: “When I grow up, I want to be an architect and a professional soccer player.”

NFL’s Cleveland Browns to sign 9-year old Dylan Sutcliffe through Make-A-Wish
The Cleveland Browns on Tuesday signed 9-year old Dylan Sutcliffe to a one-day contract as the team celebrates the one-year anniversary of its First and Ten volunteering initiative this week. Sutcliffe, who was diagnosed with ataxia telangiectasia (A-T), joins the Browns for OTAs today after he told Make-A-Wish Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana that his dream was to play football with the Browns. General Manager Ray Farmer made the announcement. “We’re excited to add another quality player to our roster as we prepare for the 2015 season,” said Farmer. “When we first connected with Dylan, it was clear he was a competitor who had all of the right attributes to be a contributor to our team.” Throughout the week, the Browns are celebrating the first anniversary of the First and Ten campaign, which was launched on June 6, 2014 during the Browns 2014 NFL Draft Class’ first community appearance, alongside President Alec Scheiner at Grindstone Elementary School. In the past year, the Dawg Pound has pledged to more than 500,000 hours of volunteering to help their communities, with Browns players contributing more than 900 hours of community service in Northeast Ohio this past year.

Football Match in Southampton Lasts a World-Record 102 Hours, Finishes 910-725
We are tired just reading about this match—imagine playing in it. Thirty-six brave souls in Southampton decided to play nonstop football for 102 hours for charity and have now earned themselves a place in the Guinness Book of World Records. The players from Testlands Support Project started their 11-a-side match Sunday evening at Southampton’s St Mary’s Stadium and only finished in the early hours of Friday morning once they had broken the previous record by an hour. The final score? 910-725.

Barcelona’s Andres Iniesta Pays Tribute to Teammate Xavi
“You’ve lived [through] criticism and praise, good and bad moments, thank you Xavi because you’ve made us stronger.” Personally I would like to thank you for all these years, not just for the magical moments that have been many but for the day to day, for how much you’ve helped me and all of the talks that we’ve had about things that are not about football, for being able to play together or apart, for being my teacher and teaching me. “It’s been a privilege to have you by my side, you are great, thank you Xavi for all you’ve done for this club and all still have left to give, you’ll always be with us my friend.”

An emotional farewell event at Barcelona as Andres Iniesta pays tribute to his captain, team-mate & friend’.

A Triathlon That Takes Friendships to the Extreme
For active travelers, contrived “adventure” races have become part of the journey, combining scenic locations with heart-thumping exercise. Triathlons, Tough Mudders and other endurance races, though popular, have at least two drawbacks: They’re often overcrowded and the entrance fees are steep. Nobody really wants to pay a couple hundred dollars to get shoved underwater by the flailing hordes during the swim portion of the race, or knocked to the pavement during the bike leg. So, equipped with wet suits, bikes, sturdy trail shoes and a few energy bars, my rugby pals and I decided to head into a secluded part of the White Mountains for the D.I.Y. Tri, free of charge.

Susan Viscosi and Ken MacIntosh within sight of the top of Rattlesnake Mountain, the final leg of the triathlon. Joe Klementovich for The New York Times

Outsider Artist: Understanding the Beauty of Steph Curry’s Jumper
Stephen Curry was drafted into the NBA in 2009. Since then, over the course of 7,000 field goal attempts, he has made the jump shot his own art form. In the same way John Steinbeck built masterpieces from everyday language or Robert Rauschenberg constructed artwork out of popular culture signifiers, Curry is taking the familiar mechanics of shooting to incredible new heights, and he’s turning the basketball court inside out as he does it. Maybe it’s the quickness of his release, or the way he seamlessly transitions from handling to shooting. Maybe it’s the unusually steep parabolic slope his shot cuts from his hand on its way to the bottom of the net. Whatever it is, Curry is more than just the NBA’s most valuable player — he’s also its most breathtaking.

Chargers’ Fluker goes from homeless to graduate, NFL starter
D.J. Fluker had bouts of anger sometimes, wondering how God let him and his family wind up homeless, five people sleeping shoehorned into a car. The challenges of trying to succeed in football and school – and he valued both – became daunting at times, too. But the San Diego Chargers’ right tackle, pushed by his mother and a series of coaches, managed to parlay a 6-foot-5, 339-pound frame and abundance of talent into a college degree at Alabama and a promising NFL career. ”God just does things to see how tough you are, and that’s one of those times you had to be tough,” Fluker said in a recent phone interview.–nfl.html

San Diego Chargers tackle D.J. Fluker walks off the field during an NFL football organized training activity Monday, June 1, 2015, in San Diego. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

Delonte West credits LeBron James for saving him at his two lowest pro moments
West walked to the locker room to gather his belongings before embarking on his four-hour road trip. But before he could head for the exit, LeBron James entered and asked if he could speak with him for a minute. “He sat with me in the locker room for like an hour and was rapping it up with me by giving me words of encouragement,” West said. “Keep in mind, practice was still going on. He left practice and sat with me for a while, just keeping me company. He later walked me down the stairs and said, ‘D, I don’t know where you’re going or what you’re about to do, but I’ll be right here when you get back.’ “My spirits were so high at that point. I don’t know what would have happened had I left in the condition I was in prior. It’s a testament to the type of person he is.”’s World Cup: What’s Next for FIFA is Right in Front of Us
The World Cup in Canada is teeming with stories of heroism, underdogs and breakthroughs. Players will take the world’s stage not because there are millions of dollars waiting at the other end, but for the pride of representing their country at the highest level, and love of the game they have sacrificed so much to play. Follow Team Thailand, the country’s first-ever national soccer team (men’s or women’s) to qualify for a World Cup. Support Costa Rica, the first-ever Central American women’s team to qualify. Get to know the players on Team USA, many of whom piece together their NWSL salaries with other work and homestays in order to ensure that the USA- home to thousands of opportunities at the college level- is also home to a professional women’s league. You don’t need to look far in this 24-team lineup to be reminded of why we all love the beautiful game.

(Photo credit: Kristin Gladney for Soccer Without Borders)

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