Sports Doing Good Newsletter, 237

Oct. 30 – Nov. 5, 2016

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

  1. The NBA’s Plan to Go Beyond the Anthem
  2. Ernesto Escobedo living out his — and his father’s – dream
  3. This Simple Rule Change Massively Expanded Public Access To Youth Sports
  4. Golf legend Lorena Ochoa and her different course
  5. How Theo Epstein broke another curse and built the World Series champion Cubs
  6. Running a Marathon With a Daughter to Cheer Me on
  7. The Case for Athletes in Office: How women with sports backgrounds are changing the political arena
  8. ESPN Teams Up With Community Organizations To Build Safe Spaces To Play Sports Across Latin American and India
  9. Why Bears fullback Paul Lasike is so fired up about All Blacks rugby
  10. League of Legends: How one video game is on its way to becoming the next major worldwide sport

The Chirp: The Cubs Win the World Series (The Players’ Tribune)
Social responsibility recognised at the Football Business Awards (Sport and Dev)
ECB double investment in Chance to Shine (Beyond Sport)
Germany Hosts the Laureus Sport for Good Summit (Laureus)
Football: Former trainee priest finds sport is a great healer (Peace and Sport)

We have had a wide variety of sports and activities featured in the Sports Doing Good newsletters over the years. And this week we have another debut, eSports. Yes, we know the debate over whether these are really sports, and at an even more basic level, whether they are actually healthy activities, especially for kids. We are not taking sides in that debate but do feel that the world of eSports is worth watching. This is an area that has millions of participants and millions of fans. It is beginning to add corporate support in the form of sponsors and broadcasters. It is also showcasing advances in technology that may pervade our everyday lives in the near future. So whether you are a “gamer” or not, we hope that you take a look at the tenth story in this week’s newsletter.

The other stories we are happy to feature this week include: how NBA athletes, teams, and the league itself plan on engaging in this new era of athlete activism; the emergence of pro tennis player Ernesto Escobedo; an effort to make youth sports more accessible to more kids; golf legend Lorena Ochoa who is leading a post-golf career life worth our admiration; baseball executive – and we think future Hall of Famer – Theo Epstein and his work to help bring a title to the Chicago Cubs; a mother/writer who finds solace and strength in her love of running marathons; how women with sports backgrounds are changing the political arena; the ongoing success of the wonderful program being sponsored by ESPN, A Ganar, and around the world; and NFL player Paul Lasike and his, and his family’s, love for the All Blacks rugby team.

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So enjoy. And have a good week.

The NBA’s Plan to Go Beyond the Anthem
There has been a growing social consciousness throughout NBA locker rooms since well before the public awakening reached professional football. Four years ago, the Miami Heat, then powered by James and Wade, wore hoodies in a team photograph, in support of Trayvon Martin, the 17-year-old who had been shot and killed by a neighborhood watch coordinator. In 2014, a number of players—including James, Kyrie Irving and Derrick Rose—donned “I Can’t Breathe” T-shirts for pregame warm-ups in support of Eric Garner, a Staten Island man who died after an NYPD officer placed him in a chokehold. “It’s interesting now that the NFL is getting all the coverage, but the NBA has been doing this for a long time,” said former Heat forward Shane Battier, who missed the hoodie photo but supported his team’s efforts. In Chicago, the push began four or five years ago, with a series of discussions between players and team management, said Michael Reinsdorf, the Bulls president and CEO. Those talks resulted in four “pillars” for public service: youth education, youth health and wellness, military and first-responder support and violence prevention. Bulls star Jimmy Butler has been active in a local mentoring program. Rajon Rondo, who joined the team in July, immediately connected with a group of disadvantaged youth, recently hosting them at a preseason game. Today’s players “understand the power of sport,” Reinsdorf said, and that “you have an obligation to give back to the fans who are always so supportive of what you do on the court.” Escobedo living out his — and his father’s — dream
His goal is to be in the top 100 “pretty soon,” which would qualify him automatically into the main draws of Grand Slams. He said he is trying to be a more aggressive player, coming to net more often and serving and volleying. This isn’t the conventional baseline style, but Escobedo isn’t as big as some of the ATP’s other #NextGen players, such fellow American Taylor Fritz, with whom he shares coach Peter Lucassen, or Alexander Zverev of Germany…With the help of the USTA, Escobedo is getting coaching and support as he travels the world and learns the nuances of the game. His father still insists he play hard and exhibit good body language. Understandably, because of his personal experience, he is cautious. “You can’t get ahead of yourself,” Escobedo Jr. said, speaking more of his son than himself. “I’m trying not to get too excited. We don’t know what lies ahead, two, three years. “But, I’ve already done my part.” What was it like to hear that his son had won an important tournament? “Doing what I dreamed of,” he said, voice trailing off. “It’s a beautiful feeling. Beautiful. I can’t ask anything for more.”

Escobedo is coming off a first title, at an ATP World Tour Challenger event in Monterrey, Mexico. Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

This Simple Rule Change Massively Expanded Public Access To Youth Sports
Marc Berk, a health policy researcher and volunteer youth baseball coach in Maryland, published a study this month offering a solution that could balance the playing field for families priced out of youth sports. His idea: Destigmatize the process of asking for financial aid. In Gaithersburg, where Berk conducted his research, the city agrees to waive youth sports registration fees for those who request the service. Normally families must fill out forms to document their income levels and demonstrate need. But in 2009, the year of the study, the city modified its policy, requiring only that families mark a checkbox on the sign-up form that read, “I am a resident of the City, and I am requesting a waiver of all fees,” which they would automatically receive. Compared to 2008, the number of children receiving waivers in 2009 increased more than 1,200 percent. The majority of the waivers helped students attending predominately low-income (Title 1) schools.

Image via City of Gaithersburg

Golf legend Lorena Ochoa and her different course
“I focused so hard and I worked so hard in training, with the idea that one day in the future, I could retire,” Ochoa said. “I wanted to give it my best for all the time I was there, but I always had the idea to retire. It was always a motivation of mine.” She cried on the day she announced her retirement in 2010, but Ochoa charted her future away from the day-to-day grind of the tour. “I still miss the competition, the excitement around a tournament, trying to win, the emotion, the energy,” Ochoa noted. “But I don’t really think about it, because I’m focused on the things I have now, and I’m happy.” Everything indicates this is so. It’s not as if Ochoa turned her back completely on golf. She hosts the LPGA Tour every year at her Lorena Ochoa Invitational tournament, which takes place in 2016 from Nov. 10 to 13. “I want it to be a competition for all Mexicans, as well as to especially thank all those who have always supported me,” Ochoa explained. “I also hope that it’s a tournament that the players enjoy and that it keeps growing.”

Lorena Ochoa drew many fans from Mexico into the game of golf while she played, which has helped foster a new generation of golfers from that country. AP Photo/Chris Carlson

How Theo Epstein broke another curse and built the World Series champion Cubs
“We did it,” said Epstein, the Cubs’ president of baseball operations, as he hugged Ricketts, the team’s owner who had hired him five years earlier to do what he’d done for the Boston Red Sox: play rainmaker for an interminable title drought. “Got through the tough times,” Epstein said, and he started talking about when, in his first year, the Cubs took out a full-page ad in a newspaper trying to sell individual-game tickets, accidentally transposed two digits in the 1-800 number listed and ended up sending prospective customers to a phone-sex line. Ricketts laughed. Those were the old Cubs. Today they could call themselves champions. Imagine that. The Chicago Cubs, America’s saddest-sack sporting franchise, the one that had carved its identity in a mountain of failure, had beaten the Cleveland Indians, 8-7, in a 10-inning, four-hour and 28-minute display of sporting beauty that frayed the nerves and palpitated the hearts not just of the two cities that lived and died with every run scored but a country reminded why baseball is the national pastime. It may have been the greatest game ever played in what may have been the best World Series there ever was. Even if others care to stake their claims, the Cubs and Indians brute-forced their way into history. This was the most anticipated series in ages, and it exceeded each and every one of its expectations, most of all the game that started Wednesday and bled into the early hours of Thursday.

Theo Epstein gets showered in champagne by Bill Murray. (Getty Images)

Running a Marathon With a Daughter to Cheer Me on
Before I had Bee seven years ago, I ran the marathon three times. After giving birth, just getting out of bed was a challenge. I was blindsided by postpartum depression. Every time I looked in the mirror, I saw a failure. I was convinced that when Bee looked at me, she saw the same. Thanks to a combination of time, therapy, serious efforts at emotional healing and a husband with limitless patience, I’ve come light years from where I began with motherhood. Challenges remain, of course, but joy is abundant and assurance has eclipsed doubt. The same is true of my return to running. It’s been a long, tough, infinitely rewarding road I’ve had to travel one step at a time. Walk a block. Jog a mile, then two, then five. Around Bee’s first birthday, the vision formed. I was nowhere near prepared to run a marathon, but I could imagine it — and that was big. As Bee got older and our bond grew deeper, I kept imagining it, wanting it more. I didn’t know whether I’d ever get there, but slowly, incrementally, my body got stronger. My mind adjusted, surprising and delighting me, as it broadened the spectrum of what was possible. The marathon is possibility in motion.

The author, Joanna Cohen, and her daughter, Bee.

The Case for Athletes in Office: How women with sports backgrounds are changing the political arena
Bustos isn’t the only female former athlete on the campaign trail. Susana Mendoza, who was all-conference in soccer at Northeast Missouri State, is running for Illinois comptroller. Senator Kelly Ayotte (R., N.H.), who’s up for reelection, was on the ski team at Penn State, while her colleague Kirsten Gillibrand (D., N.Y.) played tennis and squash at Dartmouth. Gillibrand told The Times that sports “took the fear out of losing.” Gillibrand and Bustos formed a friendship through the Congressional Women’s Softball Team, which plays the Washington Women’s Press Corps every June in a game benefitting the Young Survival Coalition. (Gillibrand is one of the team’s pitchers; Bustos plays shortstop.) They are also tennis partners, often playing singles matches in the morning before work. It was during that time, in multiple conversations over the net, that Gillibrand, a passionate advocate of sexual assault prevention and education, persuaded Bustos to join her in working to address campus sexual assault. They’ve both been vocal supporters of the Campus Accountability and Safety Act. “At practice, you’re talking about everything: Your family, your kids, legislation,” Bustos says. “I’ve built close enough relationships with people there that it’s led to me to crossing the aisle legislatively and do things that were good for our country.”

ESPN Teams Up With Community Organizations To Build Safe Spaces To Play Sports Across Latin American and India
ESPN has teamed up with expert sports development organizations love.fútbol, A Ganar and local community programs to continue building multifunctional community sports spaces in Mexico City, Mexico; Bogota, Colombia; Sao Paulo, Brazil; and Bangalore, India. Each community will be carefully selected based on need, population and socio-economic status. Alongside local community partners INATOS and UASI, ESPN, love.fútbol installed two multifunctional sport courts in the communities of Dos Macacos in Rio de Janeiro and La Cava in Buenos Aires, which were unveiled earlier this year. These communities are now hosting a range of sports programming through the award-winning organization A Ganar, which provides communities across Latin America with training and skills that lead to employment, all using soccer as the catalyst.  A Ganar is delivering programming on the newly developed sites for the next year with the objective of empowering young people and providing them with job opportunities and pathways to work through the power of soccer. A sports space in Mexico City will soon follow suit, with local organization Street Soccer Mexico. Sport courts in Bogota and Sao Paulo will be built in early 2017, with Bangalore, India, being the site of the first ESPN safe space project outside of Latin America, in summer 2017.

Why Bears fullback Paul Lasike is so fired up about All Blacks rugby
A one-time star rugby player at Brigham Young University, Lasike made the switch to American football while in college, a decision that proved wise. Lasike (pronounced luh-SEE-kay), a native of Auckland, is currently a fullback on the Chicago Bears’ practice squad. He recently completed a stretch on Chicago’s active roster, but the team had to make room for a defensive player coming back from injury prior to the Bears’ Oct. 20 game. As luck would have it, the All Blacks will be in Chicago the same week the Bears have their bye. So Lasike plans to be front and center for the match at Soldier Field, the Bears’ home stadium. “I was so pumped to find out the All Blacks were playing in Chicago, man,” Lasike said. “My dad is coming out [from Brisbane, Australia] for the All Blacks game. He is so excited. I got box tickets, so he and I are going there. It’s going to be a blast. “I brought the family over for a game last year when I was on the Bears’ practice squad. It was their first football game. They had no idea what was going on, but they enjoyed the American culture, like the big lights and the fireworks. It’s America’s game, you know. So they enjoyed that experience.” But for the Lasikes — Paul is the ninth of 10 children in a Kiwi-Tongan household — playing in the NFL isn’t the ultimate accomplishment. “My family would be more impressed if I was an All Black,” Lasike said with a grin.

Lasike was wary of playing football when first approached about it by BYU’s strength and conditioning coach. “The culture is a lot different in rugby,” he said. “It’s a lot less hype in rugby. It’s weird, man.” Jay Drowns/Getty Images

League of Legends: How one video game is on its way to becoming the next major worldwide sport
The numbers are staggering. League of Legends, which is merely one video game in a long line of games that are streamed for viewing over the internet, said that over the course of 73 games at last year’s World Championships they averaged 4.2 million viewers watching concurrently, with the average fan watching for “well over an hour per viewing session.” The final of last year’s League of Legends World Championships had 14 million concurrent viewers, roughly the same audience size as Game 1 of last year’s World Series. Again, League of Legends is one video game. Add in DOTA 2 and CS:GO, the other two big titles in eSports viewership, you’re starting to look at audience sizes that compare to the NFL. Over the coming week, we here at For The Win will examine this growing world of eSports with a focus on one event – the Friday night semifinal match between Rox Tigers and SK Telecom T1 at Madison Square Garden, a match already being heralded as perhaps the greatest League of Legends match ever played. (The first LoL World Championship was held in 2011, so they feel pretty confident throwing around that sort of hyperbole.) We will try to answer questions: Why is this growing so quickly? Who are these people playing, and watching? Who is protecting them? And where do we go from here?

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