Aug. 21 – Aug. 27, 2016
Welcome to week two hundred and twenty-eight of the Sports Doing Good newsletter. This week’s 10 stories include:
- U.S. Women Are The Biggest Winners At The Rio Olympics
- Mónica Puig, Puerto Rico’s Favorite Daughter (and Only Gold Medalist)
- Here Are The Five New Companies In The Next LA Dodgers Accelerator With R/GA
- Kobe Bryant reveals his $100 million venture capital fund
- Harold Varner III, PGA Tour Rookie, Says, ‘I Want to Inspire Everybody’
- The Spartan Race army is at the gates
- U.S. military plays flag football in Afghanistan, courtesy of the Jets
- Orlando Pride’s Alex Morgan will warm your heart
- Carlos Ruiz leaves classy goodbye message in Phillies clubhouse
- With Skateboarding Heading to the Olympics, What’s Next for the Anti-Sport?
My Brother Brandon (by Marty Bulsworth) (The Players’ Tribune)
Innovation sits at the heart of Beyond Sport Awards Shortlist (Beyond Sport)
An unforgettable night with Bola Pra Frente (Laureus)
The Life of a Free Agent Kicker (The Players’ Tribune)
Up2Us Sports Welcomes New Americorps Vistas
For those few in the world whose day is not filled with events and news related to sports, it may seem that all the attention that sports gets is a bit overdone. Could we really talk that much, often hours upon hours, about if one quarterback has “chemistry” with a new receiver on his team? Maybe we in a sport “bubble” and the future looks to be not as secure as it has been in the past.
Well, if you think that about sports, you are probably are going to be disappointed. For despite all the time we spend on sports, including thankfully, playing it, a future involving more sports is being created now by individuals and companies that see opportunity to provide a product or service that the marketplace will like.
To create that future, time, money and expertise has to be expended now. This week we have stories that speak to this entrepreneurship around sports. For example, MLB’s Los Angeles Dodgers have taken the aggressive step to both identify great companies and then help develop them through its “accelerator” program. Instead of hoping an entrepreneur creates something that may help the franchise, the Dodgers are helping to build that company now. Another story coming out of LA in this area was the big announcement that just-retired NBA superstar Kobe Bryant will be partnering with an experienced financial colleague in the launch of a $100 million venture capital fund. Developing the “next great idea” does often take A LOT of time, money, and expertise and Kobe is aggressively trying to provide all three just months after retiring from playing professional basketball.
We also have two stories that speak to sports that have emerged on the mainstream sports landscape, skateboarding and obstacle course racing (OCR). The stories, read together, will give the reader a sense that we may be seeing a story arc of success for OCR events that we have seen for skateboarding over the past 25 years, success that will culminate in the sport being included in the 2020 Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo.
The other stories we are happy to feature this week include: the amazing performance by the U.S. women across many sports at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games; the breakthrough performance by Puerto Rican tennis player Monica Puig at those Olympic Games; the emergence of young golfer Harold Varner III and his desire to serve as a role model for all, not just African-Americans; the provision of the essentials for a touch football game, this one taking place in Afghanistan, given by the NFL’s New York Jets; and two stories, one including soccer star Alex Morgan and the other MLB veteran Carlos Ruiz and the respect they have both as athletes and people.
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U.S. Women Are The Biggest Winners At The Rio Olympics
The full American squad — both men and women — won the most medals overall, 121, as has often been the case in the Summer Games. But first in London four years ago, and again in Rio, the U.S. women have captured most of those medals. The U.S. women took 61, the men had 55, and there were five in mixed events, including equestrian and mixed-doubles tennis. How good were the American women? They won 27 of the 46 American golds. If the U.S. were divided into two countries, one male and the other female, those 27 golds for the women would tie them with Britain for most of any country, put them one ahead of China, and far ahead of the American men and everyone else. This trend became clear in London, where American women won 58 medals of all colors, compared with 45 for U.S. men, the first time the women outpaced their male counterparts. As we noted before the Rio games, American women were not always such a powerhouse.
The U.S. women’s basketball team poses Saturday after winning its sixth straight gold medal and its 49th straight game in the Olympics. The team’s success reflects the growing dominance of U.S. women in recent Olympiads. The U.S. women have won more medals than the American men in the past two Summer Games. Charlie Neibergall/AP
Mónica Puig, Puerto Rico’s Favorite Daughter (and Only Gold Medalist)
“I was stunned,” Puig said in an interview at her San Juan hotel, about a mile from her grandmother’s apartment, where she spent summers as a girl. “The support I am getting here is just indescribable. I didn’t fully understand the weight of my actions until I got here.” Puig’s impromptu parade from the airport was followed by an organized version through the streets of San Juan on Tuesday that drew thousands of supporters. It was intended to commemorate the efforts of the entire Puerto Rican Olympic squad, but without Puig, there would have been no parade. With the United States Open set to begin Monday, Puig had only a few days to soak in the appreciation of Puerto Rico and the fans who had fallen in love with her. She stood at the front of a roofless double-decker bus, her gold medal dangling over the side, singing along with Puerto Rican pop tunes and waving to a grateful island. Waving back were grandmothers and awe-struck little girls holding red, white and blue flags; gritty bikers; business people pouring out of office buildings; and truckers, parked in their rigs and honking their horns. There were teenagers in tank tops; doctors, nurses, schoolchildren in uniform; and nuns in habits.
People gathered in the streets of San Juan, P.R., on Tuesday to cheer the tennis player Mónica Puig, center on bus, who won Puerto Rico’s first gold medal, and her Rio Games teammates. Credit Dennis M. Rivera Pichardo for The New York Times
Here Are The Five New Companies In The Next LA Dodgers Accelerator With R/GA
By narrowing their focus from ten to five companies, this year’s program intends to customize their efforts and incubation with each individual company. Each of the five companies will receive specific engagement with the Dodgers’ leadership, business units, and industry network as well as with R/GA’s strategic marketing, branding, design, and technology services. Additionally, each company will be set up with “high profile external partners” that can help with their specific scaling needs. In discussing the difference of this year’s program with last year’s, Tucker Kain, CFO of the Dodgers and Managing Director at Guggenheim Baseball Management, explained that they focused on casting a wide net in a broad range of verticals and stages in 2015. But this year they narrowed their focus to companies with specific products and market traction that can potentially complement each other as they grow. “Building on the success of the first program, we saw an opportunity to evolve to be even more strategic and targeted in how we impact each of the companies in the program. This year, we’re surrounding each company with a carefully chosen group of strategic partners, advisors, Dodger resources and R/GA services teams to help execute a high impact pilot. The goal for each of these pilots is to accelerate the path to scale.
Kobe Bryant reveals his $100 million venture capital fund
Sacca said that Bryant reached out to him a few years ago to learn more about the industry. Sacca recommended Bryant learn about investing through Ted Talks, other videos and articles — and was surprised when he did. “He was bringing the same obsessive work ethic to learning about startups that he does to training… This is a very unique personality type that I only kind of see in some of our very best entrepreneurs,” Sacca said. On “Squawk on the Street,” Bryant said he hopes his legacy will be for investing, rather than basketball. “Playing basketball, the focus is always on winning — winning championships, winning championships, winning championships,” Bryant said. “Now, championships come and go… But if you really want to create something that lasts generations, you have to help inspire the next generation… That’s when you create something forever. And that’s what’s most beautiful.” Of Bryant, Stibel told CNNMoney, “We are very much equal partners.” He specified, however, that their roles differ. “Kobe focuses on leadership, inspiration, storytelling,” while Stibel primarily handles “operations, strategic directions for companies,” and growth. According to its website, Bryant Stibel aims to invest in technology, media and data companies with a focus on those in the sports and wellness fields.
Harold Varner III, PGA Tour Rookie, Says, ‘I Want to Inspire Everybody’
Only the second African-American to join the tour since Tiger Woods arrived in 1996, Varner has played down the significance of being a member of a minority group on golf’s biggest stage. He did, however, get a kick out of the cheers from the two Watson children, who have been inspired by his journey and his buoyant personality. “What’s cool is, like today, it’s not just African-American kids,” Varner said. “I want to inspire everybody, people from all walks of life.” Varner, who grew up in Gastonia, N.C., and graduated from East Carolina University in 2012, played on mini-tours before joining the Web.com Tour in 2014. He qualified for the PGA Tour after finishing 25th on the Web.com Tour money list last year. His rookie season has had its peaks and valleys — four top-10 finishes to go with 10 missed cuts in 26 appearances — but by finishing 82nd in the regular season, he comfortably maintained his exempt status for 2016-17. “This season has been exactly what I’ve expected; I thought it would be up and down,” said Varner, who missed three straight cuts coming into the playoffs. “I’ve had some rough patches where I’ve learned about myself, about my game and about life. All I’ve ever wanted to do was keep growing, become a better person, get smarter, get better on the golf course.”
Harold Varner III on the 18th green during the second round of the Barclays in Farmingdale, N.Y., Friday. He shot 67 and is tied for 10th at 139, three under par. Credit David Cannon/Getty Images
The Spartan Race army is at the gates
Among the organized OCR options, Spartan races are the most popular in terms of events (170 in 25 countries this year) and participants (1 million last year) of all skill levels. In addition to the US races it designs and organizes, Spartan will usually license its international races. Those non-US Spartan races adhere to the company’s brand, product and safety guidelines, and the company provides oversight, guidance and support. The first races were created by adventure racer Joe De Sena in the mountains of Vermont, where he designed an obstacle course in Burlington, not far from his farm. Like the Kevin Costner character in “Field of Dreams,” he built it, and they came. Soon after, Spartan Race was holding events across the country. Spartan racing can feel like more than a sport. The most passionate competitors have created a community and live the lifestyle, adopt the nutrition program, read the digital magazine and buy the books and gear. Of course, the historic Spartans are primarily known for their military strength and discipline. Spartan boys were raised to be soldiers and toughened by deprivation of basic needs. The ultimate disgrace for a Spartan was surrender, a philosophy that endures today among the tribe of OCRers who sometimes spray-paint the Spartan Race helmet logo on their cut pecs and abs.
U.S. military plays flag football in Afghanistan, courtesy of the Jets
The New York Jets helped organize the ultimate road game — a flag-football contest for U.S. military personnel in Afghanistan. The soldiers wore green and white — Jets colors — but the vibe was red, white and blue. The Jets supplied official jerseys, footballs, kicking tees, whistles and coaching clipboards to the 10th Mountain Division, and it played a competitive, 11-on-11 game on Friday morning ET. After a spirited build-up — yes, there was trash-talking — the NCOs (non-commissioned officers) defeated the officers 36-7. Afterward, they received heartfelt messages from two members of the Jets, Eric Decker and Nick Mangold, who Skyped from the team’s training facility in Florham Park, New Jersey. “I wanted to personally thank them for their service and support abroad,” Mangold said. “I admire and respect their sacrifice and dedication to service.” The idea was hatched a year ago by Steve Castleton, a military liaison based in New York. He brought it to owner Woody Johnson, who gave his immediate support. The Jets sent custom-made jerseys to Afghanistan, putting “Resolute” (green jersey) and “Support” (white) in the nameplates on the back — the name of the 10th Division’s mission in Afghanistan.
The Jets donated custom-made uniform jerseys to the 10th Mountain Division in Afghanistan. The jerseys read “Resolute” and “Support,” in honor of “Mission Resolute Support.” Photo courtesy of New York Jets
Orlando Pride’s Alex Morgan will warm your heart
But take another look at Morgan, and you’ll find that perhaps her generosity springs from something deeper. Amid her schedule for the Portland Thorns, her prior NWSL team, and the Olympic Games, she somehow cobbled together time to author a series of books called “The Kicks” aimed at middle-school girls. The first novel, Saving the Team, focuses on themes of empowerment, teamwork and believing in oneself. To date, she’s written seven books, including a 2015 memoir, Breakaway, also aimed at young women. Orlando Pride head coach, Tom Sermanni, isn’t surprised that she’s such a prolific author. “She’s extremely focused, on and off the field,” he says. “It’s one of the reasons she’s such a bomb scorer.” “If she has taken the things she has gone through — the demands and the difficulties — and used those in her books, that’s a great life lesson.” As for her 2008 injuries, Sermanni, then-coach of the women’s national team, saw first-hand what it took for her to come back to glory. “You have to be an athlete yourself to know how hard it is when you’re injured, feeling like nothing more than a spare part,” he says.
Alex Morgan, of the Orlando Pride takes a selfie for a fan after the Pride beat the Houston Dash in a national Women’s Soccer league match Thursday, June 23, 2016, at Camping World Stadium in Orlando, Fla. (Red Huber/Orlando Sentinel via AP) MANDATORY CREDIT (Red Huber / AP)
Carlos Ruiz leaves classy goodbye message in Phillies clubhouse
Ruiz had been a beloved member of the Phillies organization since signing as an amateur free agent in 1998. He was a big part of their string of five straight postseason appearances from 2007-2011, which included a World Series championship in 2008, and held a special bond with teammates past and present. Among them is former Phillies ace Roy Halladay, who shared the following quote in tribute to Ruiz on Thursday. Chooch was the little engine that could for a team loaded with big names, but no player was more valuable to the team as a whole than Carlos! He was so humble and grateful, you couldn’t help but just want to do anything for him including win! He flawlessly handled one of the greatest pitching staffs ever assembled and was just as important offensively, as well. It was nothing short of miraculous that he could handle so many different personalities and approaches on a day-to-day basis the way that he did. He was the best catcher I’ve ever thrown to and, in my opinion, the best catcher in baseball in the years I was with him. It’s going to be sad to see him without a Phillies uniform on and not seeing him sitting in his chair in the clubhouse with a smile. And just the way the fans treated Chase last week, Chooch is also deserving of that hero’s welcome. They are my two favorite players of all-time as well as favorite teammates. I was fortunate to have both of them in the clubhouse. I want to wish good luck to Carlos. Maybe one day when we’re old and gray we can come back to Philly!!
With Skateboarding Heading to the Olympics, What’s Next for the Anti-Sport?
In the skateboarding world, opinions abound as to the Olympics’ impact on skating’s future. The Berrics, a website based around a private indoor skatepark (plaza-style, natch) in LA, run by Steve Berra and Eric Koston – asked a bunch of pros what they thought, and the results vary. Berra himself said, “I just look at it this way; it’s one event every four years, Archery certainly doesn’t seem to be effected with its inclusion into the Olympics, but I’m not someone who is into archery so I can’t say that for a fact, but things change.” Sean Malto, a pro for Girl, Nike SB, Fourstar, et al, embraces the news, “I’m just trying to skate and have fun whatever setting I am in. You want to put me in the streets? Awesome. If I so happen to go to the Olympics, I am just going to skate and have fun. I don’t think you should let the Olympics ruin whatever you’re doing. I think it’s all just personal.” Braydon Szafranski, a rider for Baker, takes a somewhat different view: “Gang of misfits… not athletes!! Skateboarding is a crime, not a sport.” Meanwhile, over at Thrasher, the skate-bible magazine that most closely keeps the spirit of skating’s past, on their weekly “Skateline,” show, host Gary Rogers expressed what most aptly articulates how I feel about this whole thing: “I’m for growth, okay? Don’t get me wrong. I wanna see skaters live the life they’re supposed to. This is the hardest, most amazing, beautiful s*** on earth – it is. It’s the most fun. I don’t want to see us not being recognized by the planet. There’s just better ways.”
Skateboarding heads to the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. Alejandro Godinez/Clasos.com/LatinContent/Getty