Sports Doing Good Newsletter, #185

Oct. 11 – Oct. 17, 2015

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

  1. Mohammed Jaddou: The Syrian Refugee Who Escaped War to Emulate Ronaldo
  2. The Man Behind the Mascots Is a Character, Too
  3. Special Olympics Unified Team Represents Chicago Fire in Portland
  4. A Father, a Son and a Dream (The Player’s Tribune)
  5. Ronda Rousey’s Next Fight: Body Image in Hollywood
  6. DeAngelo Williams to Pay for 53 Mammograms to Honor Late Mother
  7. Devonta Freeman – The Grit to Take on the World
  8. How a community is mobilizing to reconstruct a flooded field
  9. Orlando Magic Players Join Amway, NBA to Host Basketball Camp for Youth in Brazil
  10. Astros bullpen catcher shows true class after Game 5 loss

Second chances. Sports is full of them. That is just one of the many things that makes sports great. Whether at the amateur or professional level, we are given another chance to make up for a past mistake, an unlucky situation, or an opportunity taken away. (Don’t worry Michigan punter, you will get a second chance one day.) It is this lack of finality which keeps us connected to sport. While it may seem the world is over with one bad play (see Michigan football), there will be another day, even if it seems that it will never come. Circumstances seem to work out so that we can right that wrong at some point. The key thing is to not give up. You must stay involved to get that second chance.

Our first story this week is about getting another chance. Young Syrian soccer star Mohammed Jaddou had to flee, like millions of others over the past few years, from his home country due to the ongoing civil war. His journey out of Syria was just only slightly less harrowing than his day-to-day in Syria. In the story and video featured, we get to learn more about Mohammed and the tremendous challenges he and his country-mates face. Mohammed’s saving grace may be his skill on the football field, which may just give him a second chance on the life he has dreamt for himself and his family.

The other stories we are happy to feature this week include: a behind-the-scenes look at the man and company behind the creation of many of the sports mascots we see at college and pro games; the partnership that led to the unified soccer team from Chicago; a father tracking the path his son blazed to becoming a professional baseball player; Rounda Rousey’s battle outside the ring, another one we are hoping she wins; DeAngelo Williams and the honoring of his mom by making mammograms accessible; rising football and academic star, Devonta Freeman; the resilience of a community in Brazil in the face of tremendous floods; the work being done by the Orlando Magic, the NBA, and Amway to bring the game to another community in Brazil; and how a member of the Houston Astros found it in himself to share the joys of baseball even after his own team just suffered a difficult loss.

Finally, we want to provide one more reminder about the great event being hosted this week by our friends at Beyond Sport. From 19th to 21st October 2015 in London, the seventh annual Beyond Sport Summit & Awards will “bring together the most powerful sport-led, social innovators and global leaders to address sport’s role in driving positive social change. Reflecting on recent events that have affected people across the world, the central theme at this year’s Summit will be Beyond the Divide, exploring how sport can be used to address conflict, reduce ignorance, and bridge religious, racial, ethnic and economic gaps in society.” To learn more about the event, please visit

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So enjoy. And have a good week.

Mohammed Jaddou: The Syrian Refugee Who Escaped War to Emulate Ronaldo
In his former life, Jaddou, who comes from the coastal city of Latakia, was the captain of Syria’s under-17 national team. But he is no longer captain of that team and likely will never play for Syria again. Despite being one of Asia’s brightest prospects and having scored the goals that qualified Syria for the forthcoming FIFA U-17 World Cup in Chile, Jaddou joined the millions fleeing Syria. “I was being threatened by both sides,” Jaddou told me in July. “When I used to travel from Latakia to Damascus—or the other way around—if the opposition caught me, I would probably die.” The Syrian government, Jaddou claimed, “used to threaten to end my career and punish me if I did not show up for a training camp. The government also threatened to call me a deserter and sue me if I ever left the team.” He claimed to later discover the entire under-17 team had been placed on a no-fly list (despite a number of attempts to contact them, the Syrian Football Association did not reply to any questions regarding Jaddou’s allegations). It was then he decided enough was enough.

The Man Behind the Mascots Is a Character, Too
American sports fans might be surprised to learn that some of their favorite mascots are, in fact, French Canadian. The factory’s alumni include Blue, the potbellied, crowd-pleasing mascot of the Indianapolis Colts, and Raymond, the resident prankster of the Tampa Bay Rays. Countless others have graduated from Creations JCT to take jobs everywhere from Switzerland to Staten Island. “Scooter is a pretty central piece of what we do,” said John D’Agostino, the director of game entertainment and event presentation for the Staten Island Yankees, whose aforementioned mascot — a 7-foot-tall cow in a stars-and-stripes top hat — was actually born here in Quebec. “Scooter’s always running into the stands, shaking his cowbell and causing a ruckus.” Creations JCT produces between 150 and 200 mascots a year, most of them for sports franchises but also for amusement parks and corporations. Televised sports are uniquely appealing to Jean-Claude Tremblay — “I watch for my characters,” he said — even as he grapples with technological innovations and the prospect of retirement.

Creations JCT created Scooter, a 7-foot-tall cow, for the Staten Island Yankees. “Scooter’s always running into the stands, shaking his cowbell and causing a ruckus,” said John D’Agostino, the director of game entertainment and event presentation for the team. Credit Tomasso DeRosa/Four Seam Images, via Associated Press

Special Olympics Unified Team Represents Chicago Fire in Portland
It was a weekend they won’t soon forget. After four months of training and team-building, the Chicago Fire-Special Olympics Illinois Unified Soccer Team recently experienced a whirlwind trip, traveling to Portland to represent the Chicago Fire Soccer Club in an MLS Unified Sports Exchange Match against Special Olympics Oregon. The group traveled alongside their Chicago Fire First Team counterparts, accompanying the Men In Red on their team flight for the Aug. 7 road match against the Portland Timbers. Under the direction of coaches representing the Fire as well as Special Olympics Illinois, the Unified Team squared off with their opposition Thursday at the adidas village in Portland. The next day, the team was in the stands to watch the Chicago Fire battle the Portland Timbers and again suited up in their official Chicago Fire kits, facing SO Oregon in a pre-match exhibition on the main field at Providence Park.

A Father, a Son and a Dream (The Players’ Tribune)
Over the years, I’ve taken thousands of images of both our children’s sports (Matt’s sister Erin was a gymnast) in a lot of venues. However, no venue I’ve ever been able to shoot at compares to one that I only thought would be possible in my dreams. Just a few weeks ago, I was given the opportunity by esteemed MLB photographer Brad Mangin to photograph our son from the photo wells at AT&T Park, and the feeling was indescribable. Matt had always been the undersized kid who was taken seriously only by those precious few folks along the way who were willing to ignore his thin frame long enough to take a second look. To see a big league stadium with 40,000 fans there supporting him was both surreal and incredible. You see, while he was growing up through the game of baseball, Matt and I never once discussed making it to the big leagues. We continually kept our eyes on a much smaller prize: getting to the next level. For the two of us, it was all about the climb, one step at a time. I’m proud to share a few of the images from our journey.

As a freshman Dirtbag for CSULB in 2010 here, Matt stops a grounder while playing 2nd base in a game at Blair Field.

Ronda Rousey’s Next Fight: Body Image in Hollywood
But Ms. Rousey, 28, a tight coil of muscle and moxie, is helping slake the entertainment industry’s sudden thirst for female feistiness. The first American woman to win an Olympic medal (bronze) in judo, she turned to mixed martial arts in need of a new challenge, and a reason to give up the drinking, smoking and pill-popping that seduced her after her success in Beijing in 2008. She trained for the Ultimate Fighting Championship even though the U.F.C.’s president, Dana White, said he would never let a woman into the league. Ms. Rousey’s prowess changed that — there are more than 50 women now — and since her 2013 debut, she has been undefeated in her weight class, overpowering and outwitting her opponents in the octagon with signature moves like the arm bar. Ms. Rousey’s specialty, which she learned from her mother, the former judo world champion AnnMaria De Mars, is designed to hyperextend her adversary’s elbow, leave her in a cast and, ideally, produce another victory.

“That’s the thing I’m worst at, resting,” Ms. Rousey said. “I have to be forced to do it.” Credit Jake Michaels for The New York Times

DeAngelo Williams to Pay for 53 Mammograms to Honor Late Mother
According to’s Jeremy Fowler, Williams will pay for 53 mammograms at hospitals in Pittsburgh and Charlotte, North Carolina, during National Breast Cancer Awareness Month as a way to honor Hill, who died at age 53. “It’s not just about October for me; it’s not just a month, it’s a lifestyle,” Williams told ESPN’s Lisa Salters, per Fowler. “It’s about getting women to recognize to get tested.”   Williams has dyed his hair pink since his mother’s death in 2014 to help raise awareness, and he discussed his decision at the time in a first-person essay for Sports Illustrated’s “Breast cancer, whether I like it or not, is part of my family’s story,” Williams wrote in May 2014. “That’s why I am so passionate about raising awareness, because I have seen firsthand how it can impact others. One time, a lady came up to me and said she was going to get examined just because she saw me wearing pink cleats during a game.”

Keith Srakocic/Associated Press

Devonta Freeman – The Grit to Take on the World
But Freeman’s story doesn’t end there. The football part of his life is good enough. The off-field part might be better. After afternoon home games, on Tuesday off-days, and occasionally at the team hotel, Freeman logs onto his laptop and posts 150-word discussion board commentary on the causes, effects and curse of stereotyping and social perception. Freeman is currently enrolled in two online courses at Florida State: Social Psychology of Groups and Intro to World Cities. Upon taking his finals—sometime around Week 13—he will be six credits away from the degree he postponed when declaring early for the 2014 draft. “Most guys are daunted when see they still need 18 credits,” LaToya Williams, his Florida State academic advisor, said this week. “They put it off until after they’re done playing. Not Devonta. He said, ‘OK, let’s begin chipping away.’”

Atlanta Falcons running back Devonta Freeman. Photo by Ronald Martinez/ Getty Images

How a community is mobilizing to reconstruct a flooded field
In moments like this a solid and united community can make all the difference and serve as a principal tool for reconstruction to occur. “Some people say that the last time something this strong happened was in the 1970s”, commented Joelma dos Anjos, member of the local commission and management committee of the field, both formed during the project. The same hands that built the walls surrounding the field, now collected debris and went about cleaning it after the flood. The management committee successfully raised money to save the playing surface, resume games on the field, as well as create a viable source of funds for the reconstruction effort. Recent weeks have seen project partners committing to supplying machinery, materials, and raising funds for the reconstruction. Meetings in the community are being organized so that people can contribute and new volunteer days are being planned. The community is, once again, the protagonists in the realization of their own dreams.

The raging flood waters wash over the Arena Massangana

Orlando Magic Players Join Amway, NBA to Host Basketball Camp for Youth in Brazil
“What I want to emphasize to the kids is school work and chasing your dreams,” said Oladipo, who gave kids tips dribbling past defenders. “I’m living proof that if you work hard enough anything is possible and that all of your dreams can come true. When I was in college, I was a great student and I did OK playing basketball. I worked hard in the classroom and I worked hard on the court. It all translates and I’m here to tell everyone that whatever you want to do – be a basketball player, a doctor, a CEO – the only way to accomplish that is through hard work.” The Magic are in Brazil as part of the NBA Global Games 2015 and will face Flamengo in a preseason game on Saturday night. The team arrived Wednesday morning following an 8 ½-hour flight and has been busy seeing the sights from Copacabana Beach to the iconic statue of Cristo Redentor. And following a 90-minute practice on Thursday, the Magic showed their commitment to giving back with new basketball equipment and the skills camp for local kids.

Astros bullpen catcher shows true class after Game 5 loss
So impressed was Dahmer with Bracamonte’s generosity and kindness — even in the wake of a disappointing defeat — that he took to Facebook to express his appreciation and admiration for the bullpen catcher’s demonstration of true sportsmanship. “Last night Javier Brackamonte #85, a Houston Astros bullpen catcher showed an unbelievable act of class and sportsmanship. After the game was over, he dug in his giant bag of gear and basically emptied it throwing stuff to all the kids. He threw them his hat, batting gloves, his chest protector, his chin guards, tootsie pops and every baseball he could find which was about 25 balls. When he was done he threw his bag over his shoulder, clapped for all of us and wished us good luck the rest of the way. It was so cool to see someone showing kids how it’s supposed to be done. I was sitting there just shocked. After getting heckled all night he showed us what he is all about. What a great guy. I’ll definitely be rooting for him from now on.” Making the story even better, Bracamonte sent Dahmer a thoughtful note via Facebook, something the Royals fan shared in the original Facebook post.

Javier Bracamonte showed some class in defeat. Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

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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.

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