Sports Doing Good Newsletter, #226

Aug. 7 – Aug. 13, 2016

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

  1. From Death’s Door To Rio Gold, Chris Mears Is The Ultimate Olympic Success Story
  2. I’m black and I can’t swim. Simone Manuel showed America why it must change.
  3. Welcome to Manu’s basketball familia
  4. Before her final competitive swim, Maya DiRado prepared for real world job
  5. U.S. Rugby 7s ‘Enforcer’ Jillion Potter Is the Only Help You’d Need in a Rumble
  6. Putting Politics Aside, Korean Gymnasts Pose for Olympic Selfie
  7. Spirit of Olympism Unites Us All
  8. Breaking Into Baseball’s Ultimate Boys’ Club
  9. What Happened to Nutmeg Mills? The Forgotten Story of a Sports Apparel Pioneer
  10. Handing out superlatives for the first half of Rio Olympics

How to Grind Your Way to $2 Million
Saudi Arabia Women Are Changing the Game
Golden vision: U.S. field hockey great on value of playing many sports
Olympics: Syrian refugee Mardini hails ‘amazing’ Olympic experience

First off, congratulations to Nick Keller, Adam Hall, Hannah Fowles, and the rest of the team at Beyond Sport for another excellent event this past week. Please keep up with Beyond Sport to learn of their events and news stories.

We are in the midst of a wonderful Summer Olympics experience. While not everything has been perfect – green pool anyone? – the Games have brought to us what they always do, i.e. amazing performances, big and small surprises, upsets, and records being broken. Hence, most of the stories we include this week have a connection to the Rio Games. We are sure you will enjoy them, including a review of the first half of the Games.

The non-Olympic stories are also quite interesting and we are happy to feature then. First, the Atlantic takes a look at former college and pro softball champion Jessica Mendoza and her own ground-breaking entree into the male dominated world of sports broadcasting. Despite having to deal with the unfortunate airing of undeserved criticisms, Jessica has established herself as an excellent announcer who actually adds to the telecast of the game she is working. The other story is a look back at a fun apparel brand, Nutmeg Mills, that is quite familiar to us from the 1980s and 1990s, if not by name then definitely by style.

Finally, we want to let you know of a very fun event taking place in New York City in September. The 8th Annual Kicking + Screening Soccer Film Festival in New York runs from Tuesday, September 13, through Friday, September 16, at Scandinavia House in midtown Manhattan. This year’s festival explores how this sport is really the “Game of our life,” with four feature films about the cultural impact, both personal and national, of the beautiful game. From obsessive Panini sticker collectors to fans of a brand new club in a Mexican border city, from the enduring impact of a lone World Cup goal to the momentary thrill of a famous European Championship upset, the films at K+S New York 2016 remind us how this game affects us every day in ways both big and small. For more information, please visit

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So enjoy. And have a good week.

From Death’s Door To Rio Gold, Chris Mears Is The Ultimate Olympic Success Story
Chris Mears reflected on his near-death experience after winning Olympic gold with best friend Jack Laugher in Rio on Wednesday. The pair won Britain’s first Olympic diving gold medal with victory in the men’s synchronised three-metres springboard final. It was a particularly emotional victory for Mears, the 23-year-old from Reading who had life-saving surgery to remove a spleen ruptured while diving in 2009…Mears added: “I can’t imagine what it would be like to get an individual gold, to do it with my mate is incredible.” Mears was fifth alongside Nick Robinson-Baker at London 2012, just three years after his accident, which happened in Australia and left medical professionals giving him a five per cent chance of survival. “When I went into London and competed really well there, that was really emotional for me, because of what had happened to me,” Mears added. “London changed me as a person. I became a bit more mature.” Mears and Laugher teamed up in 2014 and won Commonwealth gold. World bronze followed last year and European gold was claimed in May before the Olympic title here.

© David Davies/PA Wire

I’m black and I can’t swim. Simone Manuel showed America why it must change.
Manuel represents hope. Of all the jokes that comedians make about blacks and swimming, the most popular and depressing involve women. They’re often about not ruining hair. The stereotype is that black women would rather be cute than swim. It’s more practical than that; water wreaks havoc on black hair. Women can’t just move on and let it dry. To get to the top, Manuel has had to fight against the notion. She knew she had an opportunity to effect change, to promote a different story, to inspire a new generation that wouldn’t have to believe in long-held stereotypes. It’s a kind of pressure that she had to learn to compartmentalize. “Yeah, that is something I have definitely struggled with a lot,” said Manuel, a 20-year-old from Sugar Land, Tex., who attends college at Stanford. “I tried to take the weight of the black community off my shoulders as it is something I carry with me being in this position. But I do hope it kind of goes away. I am super glad with the fact that I can be an inspiration to others and hopefully diversify the sport, but at the same time, I would like there to be a day when there are more of us, and it’s not ‘Simone, the black swimmer.’

Simone Manuel embraces Penny Oleksiak of Canada after both clocked 52.70 seconds to tie for the gold in the women’s 100-meter freestyle. (Patrick B. Kraemer/European Pressphoto Agency)

Welcome to Manu’s basketball familia
The Spurs drafted Ginobili almost by accident with the 57th pick in 1999. Buford first laid eyes on Ginobili during the 22-and-under world championships in Australia in 1997. He was there to scout other players. He had never heard of Ginobili. “He was like a wild colt out there,” Buford said, “just doing crazy s—. Some of it made sense, and some of it didn’t.” The Spurs had won the 1999 title, and they hoped to keep a pricey roster together; they didn’t want to draft anyone with a chance of making their team the next season. They traded out of the first round, and took a flier on Ginobili only after failing to find a fair deal for their pick. They even nabbed another draft-and-stash guy, Gordan Giricek, 17 spots ahead of Ginobili. “We got lucky as hell,” Buford said. They were as surprised as anyone when Ginobili blew up. Gregg Popovich was an assistant for Team USA in 2002, and he was excited to finally get Ginobili in San Antonio. “I told Timmy [Duncan], ‘This guy is coming, and nobody in the U.S. knows how good he is,'” Popovich remembered. “And Timmy gave me that whole raised eyebrow thing he does.” “I had heard that before from Pop about other guys,” Duncan said. “I was like, ‘Whatever. We’ll see.'” We’ve all seen now, and four years after that farewell dinner in London, we’re somehow still watching — in Rio, and San Antonio.

While playing together for Argentina, Luis Scola and Manu Ginobili bonded over long road trips. Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Before her final competitive swim, Maya DiRado prepared for real world job
What a way to end it. DiRado has brainpower in spades, she skipped second grade because it was too easy, got a perfect score on her math SAT at the age of 15 and the type of position she accepted is certainly not for dummies. Scratch that, it is the kind of job that uses terms that make the rest of us feel like dummies. “I am looking forward to it and there were some things I had to do to get ready,” DiRado said. “I was going over it in the afternoon. When I sent one email in to the company, they sent one back saying ‘congratulations, it has been fun to watch you.’” It was not all work though, not yet, as DiRado also faced a battle to keep her feelings in check. While she never planned to be a career swimmer, the sport has given her remarkable memories and at these Games, four medals including two golds. This was the pick of the bunch. Hosszu is a genuine star and one of the most powerful swimmers in the world, having taken three golds so far in the meet. The Hungarian went out strong and was still ahead going into the last 10 meters. But DiRado found an extra burst to win in 2:05:99, six-hundredths of a second ahead. It had been an emotional day. ‘There were a lot of tears,” DiRado added in a press conference. “I knew that this was my last chance and at the same time I wanted to be able to enjoy all the little pieces.”

Maya DiRado on the podium with her gold medal after the women’s 200m backstroke final at Olympic Aquatics Stadium. (Photo: Rob Schumacher, USA TODAY Sports)

U.S. Rugby 7s ‘Enforcer’ Jillion Potter Is the Only Help You’d Need in a Rumble
Men’s and women’s rugby are returning to the Olympics for the first time in 92 years this summer, but rugby has miles and miles to travel before it will fire the imagination of the American sporting pubic like gymnastics, soccer or swimming. So for nearly 30 minutes, Potter sits by herself in a corner of a windowless room that is filled with reporters who are busy interviewing other Olympic athletes. “Americans haven’t been playing rugby as long as the Australians or the teams from New Zealand or England,” Potter says. “We don’t have their skills, but we feel like we are superior athletes. So we play a simpler style. We don’t do as many things on the field, but if we play to our ability, we definitely expect to win a medal in Rio and be standing on the platform.” Optimism aside, the American women’s rugby team will have a tall mountain to climb in Rio to medal. The USA sevens squad is ranked seventh in the world, according to The two favorites for Olympic gold are the usual suspects of Australia and New Zealand. “Jill gives us the ability to stand toe-to-toe with any team in the world,” says Walker, the U.S. coach. “Jill is talented enough that she could be a force on any team, anywhere. We’re lucky she’s with us.”

Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

Putting Politics Aside, Korean Gymnasts Pose for Olympic Selfie
Lee Eun-ju was not expected to be one of South Korea’s big names at the Rio Olympics. She joined the country’s gymnastics team as a last-minute replacement after another athlete was injured. Indeed, she failed to advance to the finals. But Ms. Lee, 17, has found herself in the spotlight at home and abroad, thanks to a symbolically significant selfie. Last week, before the Games started, Ms. Lee approached a North Korean gymnast, Hong Un-jong, 27, during a training session. As the women from opposite sides of Korea’s divide posed, smiling, for a photograph on Ms. Lee’s phone, journalists snapped pictures of the moment, which has since been hailed as capturing the Olympic spirit. “This is why we do the Olympics,” Ian Bremmer, president of the political risk consultancy Eurasia Group and a frequent commentator on Korean issues, wrote on Twitter.

The gymnasts Lee Eun-ju, right, of South Korea and Hong Un-jong of North Korea at the Rio Olympic Arena last week. Relations between the countries have been at a low over the North’s nuclear and missile tests. Credit Dylan Martinez/Reuters

Spirit of Olympism Unites Us All
According to the Olympic Charter, “Olympism is a philosophy of life, exalting and combining in a balanced whole the qualities of body, will and mind. Blending sport with culture and education, Olympism seeks to create a way of life based on the joy found in effort, the educational value of good example and respect for universal fundamental ethical principles.” The fact that Olympism gives us a philosophy for sport as well as daily life is valuable and can help people around the world, athletes and non-athletes alike, to have a lens for living life and a lens for viewing the world. Coubertin once said, “The strength of Olympism comes to it from that which is simply human, hence worldwide is its essence.” Learning about Olympism helps us take a different perspective and encourages a unique way to engage with the Olympic and Paralympic Games. The Olympic Charter further states that, “The goal of Olympism is to place sport at the service of the harmonious development of humankind, with a view to promoting a peaceful society concerned with the preservation of human dignity.” Olympism allows us to appreciate a bigger picture, one where sport can be seen as a much broader phenomenon that values the human condition. Sport has the potential to contribute to humanity and peace. Olympism helps us connect with a global community that believes in the values of sport and the power of sport for making the world a better place. Coubertin said, “I remain convinced that sport is one of the most forceful elements of peace, and I am confident in its future action.”

Adam Hester via Getty Images

Breaking Into Baseball’s Ultimate Boys’ Club
Mendoza still lives near her parents, outside Los Angeles. She is married to Adam Burks, a former civil engineer who, two months after their first son was born, in 2009, became a stay-at-home dad. At the time, Mendoza had been offered a spot playing professional softball in Florida, which would involve constant travel. “I was like, ‘There’s no way I can go,’?” she said. “My husband was like, ‘Let’s do it. Let’s just try this.’?” Pro ball helped secure her career at ESPN, and the family’s arrangement settled into permanence. Several years ago, at an event hosted by the Women’s Sports Foundation, Mendoza met the group’s founder, Billie Jean King. King sensed immediately that she had “jock IQ” and an ambitious purpose. “She’s not doing this just for her,” King told me. “She’s doing this for others.” Mendoza seized upon King as a mentor. At another foundation event, she wore one of King’s old tennis dresses. (It didn’t fit so well, King said. “Jessica’s better endowed than I am.”) When Mendoza started in broadcasting, King advised, “You’ve got to get organized and get power.”

Jessica Mendoza, a former athlete and MLB’s first female TV analyst, brings a player’s sensibility to her job. But she’s still subject to the routine abuse directed at women in sports journalism.

What Happened to Nutmeg Mills? The Forgotten Story of a Sports Apparel Pioneer
In the 1980s, the economic landscape of college sports apparel was still largely haphazard. If a consumer wanted a shirt from their favorite college team, their best bet was to drive to campus and go to the bookstore, where they’d be able to select something from a limited supply of sweatshirts, tees, and sweatpants. The state of the industry was somewhere between Completely Decentralized and Actual Wild West; many schools had trouble just policing their trademarks. The Jacobsons approached the Collegiate Licensing Company, which administers licensing and merchandise programs for schools, and offered up sports apparel that could be sold at retail. The brothers were offering not only royalty payments but a scalable model to sell more apparel and get colleges a larger slice of the pie. “Nutmeg was one of the first to really build a business around getting licensing,” said former CLC Senior VP of Marketing Kit Walsh. “Nutmeg had an impact on places like Starter,” the sportswear company. Title IX had allocated more funding to women’s sports, and the brothers bet that their experience in junior and women’s apparel in Tampa might help them get in the door.

Handing out superlatives for the first half of Rio Olympics
It feels like just yesterday the world was mesmerized by the Pita Taufatofua, the shirtless flagbearer from Tonga during the opening ceremony. Yet here we are halfway through the Rio Olympics with many memories—thankfully, none of them have to do with Zika or political corruption. The first Olympics in South America have been a success in providing world records and moments that wow. From the greatest Olympian at his final Games to sky-high volleyball plays, here are the best moments of the Rio Games so far: Best U.S. male athlete – Michael Phelps (USA), Swimming – It’s hard to argue with the greatest and most decorated Olympian of all-time. With his 22nd medal on Thursday night from the men’s 200-meter individual medley, Phelps broke his tie with Leonidas of Rhodes for the most individual gold medals. The previous record stood for 2,168 years, and Phelps added to it with a silver in the 100-meter butterfly. He’s said that this is his last Olympics and he’s already made it one of his greatest. Best international male athlete – Kohei Uchimura (Japan), Gymnastics – Uchimura has now won seven straight world titles in the men’s all-around and successfully defended his Olympic title—something no man has been able to do since 1972. In addition to his individual success, he also helped prevent a Chinese three-peat in the team race and delivered Japan’s first Olympic title since 2004. There’s not much left to accomplish for one that some gymnastics fans call “The King.”

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