Sports Doing Good Newsletter, #203

Feb. 21 – Feb. 27, 2016

Welcome to week two hundred three of the Sports Doing Good newsletter. This week’s 10 stories include:

  1. Breanna Stewart, UConn’s Wow Factor, Always Had a Sweep in Mind
  2. Jordanian champion to people’s champion: how one woman is using sport to build hope in the Syrian war
  3. The game before the game: Inside the managers’ matchup
  4. Anthony Zettel using NFL Combine bench press to fight rare diseases
  5. Carlos Correa – Where I’m From: Puerto Rico
  6. Fate of the Union: How Northwestern football union nearly came to be
  7. MLS: As retirement approaches, Seattle defender prepares for the start of his life, not the end
  8. Why Fans Stand by Perennial Losers
  9. UGA fans to gift Devon Gales new house
  10. Barcelona FC extend partnership with UNICEF and increase annual donation

Sport’s winning route to improving the lives of girls (Laureus)
UEFA show support to ICRC physical rehabilitation programme (Beyond Sport)
Paul Pogba to present UEFA cheque to ICRC (Sport and Dev)
Russell Wilson: The Mirror (The Players’ Tribune)
Teams on a mission (NAYS)

This year many pro baseball prognosticators are picking the Chicago Cubs to win the World Series. The prediction is somewhat uncommon for the Cubs but what makes it stand out even more this year versus previous ones are that many people really believe it, not just the team’s fans. The joke with the Cubs – who haven’t won the World Series since 1908 – is that it is always “Wait ‘Til Next Year.” Well, 2016 could be that year.

Sports fans and non-sports fans alike wonder what it is about fandom what would keep individuals like hardcore Cubs coming back to support teams that never seem to meet expectations. These folks will spend hours upon hours watching the team play in person and on TV, will spend hard-earned money on tickets, merchandise, and over-priced hot dogs and beers, and will subject themselves to sometimes devastating moments of disappointment and outright failure. This week, we highlight an article that speaks to the psychological underpinnings of such devotion, some say sickness, of such individuals. As someone who is plagued by this contagion with multiple teams, I found the article quite enlightening. I hope that you do too.

The other great stories we get to highlight this week include: UConn basketball superstar Breanna Stewart; Jordanian badminton champion and founder of SHUTTLERS Academy Dima Alardah; a look at the behind-the-scenes world of being a college basketball manager; aspiring NFL player and Anthony Zettel and his creative way to raise money for a good cause; MLB superstar Carlos Correa back in his homeland of Puerto Rico; the efforts of some courageous college athletes to secure rights for themselves and future athletes; the story of pro soccer player Zach Scott and his excitement over of his post-MLS life; the ongoing support the University of Georgia football community is providing one of its former opponents; and the renewal of the special relationship between UNICEF and FC Barcelona.

We want to make you aware of an upcoming conference that will surely be worth your time, the Social Responsibility of Sports Conference presented by NYU School of Professional Studies Tisch Institute for Sports Management, Media, and Business.

“Just as public companies are accountable to shareholders, professional sports leagues and teams are being held more accountable than ever by fans, stakeholders, and the media as to how they address issues of social responsibility. To explore this emerging field, on March 14, 2016, the NYU School of Professional Studies Tisch Institute for Sports Management, Media, and Business will bring together sports industry professionals for its first Social Responsibility of Sports Conference. To learn more and register, please visit

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So enjoy. And have a good week.

Breanna Stewart, UConn’s Wow Factor, Always Had a Sweep in Mind
With Auriemma’s standard roster of multipositional excellence beside her, Stewart has, in her time at Connecticut, indisputably qualified as one of those rare, raise-the-bar talents. She has occasionally been heralded by pundits as potentially the best female player ever. “And if you want to be considered that good, you’ve got to have those wow moments — in games, in practices,” Auriemma said. “Every day, Michael Jordan did something that made you say, What?” That is what Auriemma believes Stewart is capable of on the women’s scale of athletic enhancement. And while he does not deal in ranking individuals across playing eras, given Connecticut’s parade of elite alumnae, he did offer contextual elaboration by recounting another of Stewart’s wow moments, from this season, one with a better result, if not a perfect one… Even as Stewart and the unbeaten Huskies have steamrollered through her senior season, the ultimate team goal has steadfastly obscured all things theatrical or statistical that Stewart has done or might do on her own.

Connecticut forward Breanna Stewart is flattered by comparisons to Kevin Durant, but would prefer to be compared to other successful women. Credit Tim Clayton for The New York Times

Jordanian champion to people’s champion: how one woman is using sport to build hope in the Syrian war
According to the NRC, more than 635,000 Syrian refugees have been registered in Jordan since 2011. 100,000 of them are in the country’s three formal camps: Emirati Jordan, Azraq and Zaatari. Estimates suggest the population of Zaatari’s camp make it the fourth most-populated city in Jordan; the camp itself is only 18 miles from the southern border of Syria. Alardah’s responsibility is for children and youth, but she also places an emphasis on providing women with the opportunity to exercise and play sports. “We try to open as many classes as possible for women,” Alardah said. “We have tailoring, beautician classes, IT, computer maintenance, and the sports program. But it’s challenging for us, because we are working with conservative people in a conservative context, so it’s not easy for women to engage.” Religious and cultural influences, as well as the locked-down nature of life in camps like Emirati Jordan, keeps many women indoors. But Alardah and her colleagues are creative. In Emirati, instead of holding sports outdoors, they fill a small, private room with exercise equipment and invite the women to exercise indoors.

A girl practising her skills in the Zaatari refugee camp. The Center for Sport, Peace and Society visited the camp in December 2015. Photos courtesy of U.S. Dept. of State in cooperation with University of Tennessee Center for Sport, Peace, & Society. Photographer: Allison Davis.

The game before the game: Inside the managers’ matchup
Welcome to the manager games — lowercase m, lowercase g — the showcase for one of the lowest, yet among the most crucial, species on the college basketball evolutionary ladder. Sweat moppers by day, court mavens by night — these are the true basketball Cinderellas. They gather late, sometimes after midnight, to play the game in some of the sport’s most famous arenas — only to return to reality the next morning, with towels, not jerseys, slung over shoulders. So, yes, the game might be at Allen Fieldhouse, but this isn’t a Phog-level crowd, to put it kindly. But across the country, on courts as storied as this one, they still play, in front of bleachers just as empty. “Our record attendance, I believe,” says Ryan Lumpkin, a manager at Maryland, “is two.” So, even if you’re playing a game with no one there to see it? When you’re a manager, as long as the game tips off, it counts…On March 6, Pauga will unveil the first Manager Games Postseason Tournament Field of 64. He’s still working out the kinks, but teams will either play to advance or, if real managerial demands make actual games impossible, winners will be determined via a combination of a KPI projected score and a fan vote.

“VCU managers are currently unbeaten, with two quality road wins. Manager RPI is very good. #havoc”

Anthony Zettel using NFL Combine bench press to fight rare diseases
Penn State defensive lineman Anthony Zettel is planning to do more than help himself at the NFL Scouting Combine. The 6-foot-4, 278-pounder’s bench press numbers will translate to money raised to support the rare disease community. Zettel’s “Reps For Rare Diseases” is a campaign being run by Uplifting Athletes, a charity with chapters at many colleges across the country at both the FBS and FCS levels, including Penn State. Per a press release, the Uplifting Athletes chapter at Penn State has raised more than $1 million for kidney cancer research and to assist the rare disease community. Zettel has volunteered for “Lift For Life” every summer he was at Penn State, the release says. Zettel will not be the only player hoping to raise money for charity at the Combine as participants from Ohio State, Alabama, Auburn and Georgia will compete for military members who have been injured.

Anthony Zettel is a former All-Big Ten defensive lineman. Matthew OHaren / USA Today Sports

Carlos Correa – Where I’m From: Puerto Rico
“Puerto Rico means a lot to me. I love Puerto Rico. I love playing for these guys out here. When I came back, everybody told me, “Every time you hit a home run we scream at home and we go crazy!” For me to be able to create that impact means everything. At the end of the day, it is a sport, and they love watching it, but it really does have an impact. For me, that’s really gratifying — something really special. This offseason, everything changed. I thought it was going to be the same as when I left, but I talked to my mom right before I flew into Puerto Rico, and she told me I had to be ready. People were going to be all over me. The fans were going to go crazy. I was like, “No. mom, I don’t think so. I don’t think it’ll be different …” But as soon as I got home, I could tell. It was different. People were noticing me everywhere. At the airport. At the mall. At restaurants. People ask me for autographs or pictures everywhere I go. But I enjoy it. I have fun doing it. These fans have supported me since I was a little kid. To be able to be back home with my people and to share these moments with them? That means the world to me.”

“A lot of people come out to watch me play. I don’t big-league anybody out here. I treat everybody like I want to be treated, so it is all respect. I want to be a good baseball player, but a good person as well.”

Fate of the Union: How Northwestern football union nearly came to be
When Ramogi Huma was a freshman at UCLA, in 1995, one of his teammates, All-America linebacker Donnie Edwards, told a local radio station that he didn’t have enough money to buy food. A few days later an agent left a bag of groceries worth about $150 on Edwards’s doorstep. When the NCAA found out, Edwards, who would go on to have a long and successful pro career, was suspended for one game. The suspension had a profound impact on Huma: UCLA could sell Edwards’s jersey in the campus bookstore for $50, but he couldn’t afford dinner? The summer after Huma’s freshman year, his coaches recommended that he participate in summer workouts with the team but also told him that because the workouts were voluntary and didn’t occur during the school year, NCAA rules prohibited UCLA from providing health insurance. Huma was stunned. “It was very clear that something wasn’t right,” he says. Unlike most college athletes, Huma didn’t just let that thought pass. As a sophomore he founded the Collegiate Athletes Coalition, which in the mid-2000s would become the NCPA. Over the next decade Huma built an organization with members at more than 150 schools. He even persuaded the United Steelworkers to join his cause, leading The Wall Street Journal to christen him the “Norma Rae of jocks.”

MLS: As retirement approaches, Seattle defender prepares for the start of his life, not the end
A family man at heart, Scott’s wife will now enjoy having her husband on a more consistent schedule. A qualified math teacher, Scott is not yet ruling out remaining with the Sounders in a front office capacity. “They [the club’s owners] understand the culture of being a Sounders player,” Scott said. “It’s a unique organisation in that sense. They’re not only trying to win on the field, but they’re also trying to have players that are good people and relevant in the community. I think that’s why the Sounders have always done really well here in the northwest. I mean, that’s definitely an option but one thing about the longevity of my career is that I’ve never taken anything for granted.” Such self-awareness has been ever-present throughout our conversation. An unassuming individual, Scott has spent years accruing contacts, networking, and preparing for life away from the field. While many in the sport struggle to move on from the label of being a professional athlete, Scott seems different. Instead the Seattle defender is embracing the future, and what he sees as the start of his life, not the end.

Why Fans Stand by Perennial Losers
The idiosyncrasies differentiating attachment from allegiance are subtle. While attachment is the physical and psychological nexus at which internal importance is fostered, allegiance is the perpetuation of the process. Essentially, at the point of allegiance for a fan, a sports team can do no wrong — even if the team consistently loses. “Only 20 percent of sport fans show allegiance,” Dr. Funk said. “The majority of sport consumers are not loyal; they are fair-weather fans. A sport team cannot have 65,000 loyal fans.” But there is a term for fans’ loyalty to losing teams: Basking in Reflected Failure, or BIRFing, occurs when individuals who identify with a team that fails to consistently win maintain their in-group membership status. “People start to wear it as a badge of honor,” Dr. Serby said. In some cases, the camaraderie of losing actually supersedes the sanctity of winning. “The sport is this platform that brings that relational group together, and it keeps it strong regardless of what a team does,” Dr. Funk said. “There are people who do not even like the sport team — but they like the in-group. And that would make it difficult to leave.”

Mets fans after the Royals tied the score in Game 5 of the 2015 World Series in the ninth inning. The Mets have not won a title since 1986. Todd Heisler/The New York Times

UGA fans to gift Devon Gales new house
“House modifications aren’t something insurance pays for. As you can imagine, it’s not cheap,” said Wesley Jones, co-founder of the Triumph over Tragedy Foundation and a paraplegic himself due to a childhood accident. “We’ve been able to help several families and do modifications for homes. Unfortunately, the Gales’ home is one that can’t really be modified. So what we’re here today for is, our foundation is going to launch a campaign starting today, we’re going to raise money and we’re going to build these guys a new home. That’s what they deserve, that’s what we’re going to do.” The reaction from the Gales’ family was priceless. Devon Gales smiled broadly, his stepmother Tanisha Gales gasped and covered her mouth, and father Donny Gales briefly and silently wept. “I’m surprised,” Donny Gales said. “It took a lot or pressure off of me as far as wondering what I’m going to do or how I’m going to modify the house that we’re in. It’s a three-bedroom house and there’s five of us, and his needs are greater than my other two kids. … Hearing this has just been mind-blowing.”

Donny, Tanisha and Devon Gales react to the news Wednesday that the Triumph over Tragedy Foundation is raising money to build them a new handicap-accessible home in Baton Rouge.

Barcelona FC extend partnership with UNICEF and increase annual donation
Barcelona FC have renewed their partnership with UNICEF in a new deal that will see the Catalonian club continue their work with the charity until 2020. As part of the extension to the relationship Barcelona will increase their annual donation to UNICEF from €1.5m to €2m. The new agreement was announced today (25 February) at the Camp Nou where Barcelona FC president Josep Maria Bartomeu was joined around 50 school children to promote UNICEF’s work. Also in attendance was the club’s vice-president Jordi Cardoner, executive director of UNICEF Anthony Lake and president of the Spanish Committee of Unicef, Carmelo Angulo. Speaking at the press conference UNICEF’s Lake said the club were “an inspiration to all of us.” He highlighted some of the achievements which the two have accomplished and said that “over the last ten years we have together reached one million children.” Barcelona FC president Josep Maria Bartomeu said: “We want to continue being a club that all children admire and love so that the club is doing something else other than just playing football.”

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