Sports Doing Good Newsletter, #242

Dec. 11 – Dec. 17, 2016

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

  1. Wayne Gretzky Is Still Passionate About Hockey, His Blackberry and Newspapers
  2. Megan Oyster going from strength to strength in Australia’s W-League
  3. Conquering River, Jungle and the World’s Toughest Bike Race
  4. Here’s Who ESPN Just Named Woman Of The Year
  5. Why this family from Mexico might be the Browns’ most dedicated fans
  6. This Athletic Wear Opens Up Sport To More Kids
  7. A Mexican NGO is on a mission to empower Indigenous women
  8. Why Former LA Laker Rick Fox is Betting Big on Esports
  9. UNOSDP launches new partnership with Football for Peace
  10. The NBA Will Never Forget Craig Sager

A Tribute to My Idol, Emmitt Smith (by David Johnson) (The Players’ Tribune)
Tottenham Hotspur’s stadium construction project opens up job opportunities to local people (Beyond Sport)
The secrets to developing confident young players (NAYS)
Football: Rival fans unite after Istanbul attacks (Peace and Sport)

We want to use this space to recognize an individual who passed away this week. Craig Sager, journalist/reporter extraordinaire, was a regular and wholly important part of NBA broadcasts on TNT. Often times when watching sports you are distracted or annoyed when they “throw it” to the sideline reporter. It was just the opposite, it seemed, with Sager. First off, when they went to Sager, it gave the fans at home a first look at what was inevitably something that you did NOT have in your wardrobe. Second, and more important to Sager, you would get a nugget of information that gave you a better appreciation for the game you were watching. There was of course the constant joking around between players, coaches, fans, and Sager but that was to be expected. The guy seemed to always be smiling, even when he had to interview San Antonio Spurs coach, and friend, Gregg Popovich.

So there were a lot of tears this week across the world of sports with Sager’s passing. I did not know Sager but am grateful to have had the opportunity at the ESPY’s this year to go up to him after the show. I wished him the best and thanked him for being so good at what he does. That 20-second interaction is something that I will always remember.So in addition to the 9 other wonderful stories we feature this week, we have a 10th in honor of Craig Sager.

Finally, we want to recognize our friends at non-profit Soccer Without Borders. In recognition of its 10th anniversary, the organization released a short doc highlighting its amazing work over the years. Please take a look at the description below and then head over to YouTube to watch the film.

“In celebration of our 10th anniversary, now coming to a close, Soccer Without Borders worked with Smooth Feather Productions to create this short film about our work in the USA. A huge shoutout to Director Silas Hagerty, Producer Ryan Hawke, Narrator Ethan Hawke, and the stars of the show: Hel Say, Abednego, Angel, Fatuma, and Bushra. At this point in our global history, it is urgent that we find solutions to bridge perceived divides, the kind of bridges we see every day in our programs.  Soccer- the world’s universal language- is a powerful starting point. We hope you enjoy the film and consider sharing it with others!

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So enjoy. And have a good week.

Wayne Gretzky Is Still Passionate About Hockey, His Blackberry and Newspapers
“You recently published your book, 99: Stories of the Game. Tell me about it.” “Well, you know, we’re coming up here on some wonderful milestones in the National Hockey League, the 100th anniversary of our game starts Jan. 1. Everything about the game I always loved, whether it was watching it on TV as a kid or going to my first game with my grandmother in Toronto to watch the Maple Leafs play. I just wanted to write a book about some of the great history of our game, whether it be the arenas that we play in or the teams that were formed early on, to the great stars and great players that we had in our game. So it’s my perspective of how much fun the National Hockey League is and how great it is, from the time I was a kid or before I was even born. [I also write about] being a child and growing up and watching all the games on TV and idolizing guys like Gordie Howe and Bobby Orr and Bobby Hull.”

The iconic athlete talks about his book and the game he loves.

Megan Oyster going from strength to strength in Australia’s W-League
Oyster agrees that the W-League is the perfect preparation for a new year in the NWSL, saying the competition “is definitely evolving and growing, it has so much potential and is a neat fit so it’s become very popular in the States to come and play over here.” That’s not without its own sacrifices, of course, as Oyster and a 30-strong contingent of imports in the W-League prepare to celebrate Christmas a world away from friends and family. Oyster is philosophical and, like the others, used to the nomadic lifestyle that football demands. “My boyfriend [former pro-baseballer Anthony Montefusco] was just out here briefly, we worked out that we live around 9500 miles apart at the moment,” she said. “It makes it hard to plan but at the same time, it’s an adventure…Oyster believes the Jets are on the right track. “We’ve had one more year together now, the girls are learning quickly with every week that goes by,” she added. “The focus is definitely finals and while we are looked at as an underdog — I think we own that — we will continue to get better and we will be competitive.”

The Lady Jets celebrate with Oyster, centre, after the defender netted against Melbourne Victory in Round 2.

Conquering River, Jungle and the World’s Toughest Bike Race
Fortunately, the fans and the atmosphere help push the riders along. Villages and towns along the course throw La Ruta parties, with residents gathering in front of corrugated metal houses wielding pots and pans to bang as the racers speed, roll or limp past. Schools let students out of class to cheer, too, with the groups resembling official pep squads in their colorful uniforms. One good Samaritan who had participated in La Ruta in the past followed the riders in his sport utility vehicle, which he had turned into a mobile bodega. He called out to them, offering Coke, water, oranges and Alka-Seltzer, all for free, out of empathy. He raced ahead or hung back to set up shop close to the most challenging spots on the course, and when cyclists arrived at his bumper, many looked as if they had stepped straight out of “Heart of Darkness.” They were blank-eyed, dripping with sweat and speckled, Jackson Pollock-like, with dark mud. Some were in tears.

The course includes steep climbs, choking humidity, muddy jungle trails and swift-moving rivers that may or may not contain crocodiles. Credit Scott McIntyre for The New York Times

Here’s Who ESPN Just Named Woman Of The Year
The Columbus, Ohio, native’s story lent itself to all the overwrought uplifting sports fanfare to which Olympics coverage is susceptible. Biles spent time in foster care and was adopted by her grandparents—the clumsy, insulting headlines wrote themselves—and she’s spent her career defending the value of her skill, which gymnastics traditionalists complain is unfairly privileged by a modern scoring system that weighs athleticism over “elegance,” “artistry,” and other coded language. But her charisma and athletic magic obviously survived the haters. Since the summer games, Biles has safely nestled into our hearts, charming Ellen and Colbert; taking pictures next to incredibly tall people; and covering Ebony with power and grace. Biles may go down as the greatest gymnast ever, but she will definitely go down as one of the few great things about this godforsaken year. The espnW IMPACT25 package is wonderful, featuring star-studded tributes to the year’s 24 other coolest people. Billie Jean King toasts Hillary Clinton; DeRay Mckesson honors the racial activism of the Minnesota Lynx; and a 15-year-old Seahawks fan beautifully recounts Jessie Graff’s historic run to become the first woman to complete Stage 1 on American Ninja Warrior.

Why this family from Mexico might be the Browns’ most dedicated fans
At first, Jesus Serrano gave his wife a hip fake worthy of Leroy Kelly or Greg Pruitt. “When we were sweethearts, I asked him, ‘Are you into any sports?'” Edna Serrano recalled. “And he was like, ‘No, not really.'” It wasn’t until they were married that Edna discovered her husband’s idea of heaven was a weekend in Cleveland. He’s a Browns fan to the core, a connoisseur of Bernie Kosar, Ozzie Newsome, Frank Minnifield and Hanford Dixon. He still feels the pain of Brian Sipe’s playoff interception and Earnest Byner’s fumble in the 660s and Art Modell’s treachery in the ’90s. None of that would be unusual if Jesus had grown up in Canton or Cuyahoga Falls, but he grew up some 2,300 miles southwest of old Cleveland Municipal Stadium — in Mexico City. While his friends were playing and talking futbol, Serrano was following American football. Almost four decades after first adopting the team, Serrano, 45, is more immersed in the Browns and Cleveland than ever.

The Serranos — Edna, Jesus and their children, Juan Pablo and Valantina — live in León, Mexico, but have been season-ticket holders for Browns games since 2014. Courtesy Jesus Serrano

This Athletic Wear Opens Up Sport To More Kids
Developed by a local startup called Asiya, Elmi proudly sports her prototype of the new headscarf when she plays at a local community center gym where Asiya co-founder Fatimah Hussein has been testing out the products. “They feel amazing. They keep me cool. They don’t make me sweat as much as I used to. It’s comfortable and it covers my whole neck,” Elmi says. Uniform rules regarding hijabs vary across state athletic high school leagues. In Minnesota, exceptions to uniform rules need to be requested in writing. In other words, every coach with hijab and headscarf-wearing athletes must write to the high school league to request an exemption on behalf of each athlete. While the requests seem to be universally approved, it’s a long process, Hussein says. To help expedite the process, Asiya met with the league to showcase the new hijabs, and they were given blanket permission for girls to wear them in any sport—no pre-approval necessary. “They were happy to see this need being addressed, and were impressed with the work that we had done to ensure that the sports hijabs were not only comfortable for the athlete, but also adhered to the safety and uniform requirements set by the high school rule books,” she says.

(Photo courtesy Asiya/Slam Magazine)

A Mexican NGO is on a mission to empower Indigenous women
Following the success of the football project ‘Playing for my rights’, a football tournament that gathered over 100 Mazahua girls to play and learn about the rights on the International Women’s Day, Mulyd took the global stage after winning the Cortemos La Violence prize (in English, Let’s cut violence down) as part of the celebrations of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, 25 November. The short film ‘Playing for my rights’ tells the story of Mayerlim Medina, a Mazahua girl, that sees in football an opportunity for a better life in a conservative region where violence against women, child marriage and abuse still prevail. The film was chosen amongst 70 applications from 16 Latin American countries and shows how football helps girls in processes of leadership within their communities. It was produced by the participants to fight sexism and discrimination against indigenous women. The empowering work of the organisation continued in September, when the first Mazahua women referee officiated a match of a local tournament. To Guadalupe the next steps will include opening a football academy and a centre for women victim of domestic violence.

Why Former LA Laker Rick Fox is Betting Big on Esports
This point is never more clear than when I make the mistake of asking Fox about the stereotype that holds professional gamers as less worthy of respect than “real” pro athletes. For the previous half-hour he has been effortlessly languid and unruffled. But now he uncoils from the couch. His eyes flash. The fire that took him from his childhood in the Bahamas to the pinnacle of the NBA sparks. Success as an athlete, he says, “has never been only about how high you jump or how fast you run.” What separates Kobe from the rest, says Fox, bringing his hands up to his neck, palms parallel to the floor, is “from the shoulders up.” “Mastery,” says Fox, “is established through repetition, focus, and concentration.” In other words, it’s all in the mind. And that goes for any sport – whether you are putting a ball through a hoop, hitting a home run across the fence, or getting a solo kill in League of Legends. But what he really wants to stress is even more fundamental: what could possibly be wrong about building a career – any kind of career – while pursuing your passion? Fox slaps the coffee table in front of him. “Isn’t that what you are supposed to be doing in life?” he asks, his voice rising. “Doing what you love?”

Rick Fox spots a huge esports opportunity Echo Fox

UNOSDP launches new partnership with Football for Peace
With the LOI UNOSDP and FFP intends to share their expertise concerning the area of sport for development and peace, in particular around the use of football as an effective delivery mechanism to promote peace, tolerance, and respect regardless of ethnic, cultural, religious differences. FFP holds football peace matches bringing together current and ex-professional footballers and royal patronage to play in friendly matches in order to create dialogue, unite people from different backgrounds and build awareness by working at every level from government to community. Through their other initiative Cities for Peace, FFP identifies young Football for Peace Ambassadors and equips them with life skills for the future by organizing workshops, leadership classes and peace tournaments. “It is a great honour to work with the United Nations Sport for Development and Peace, Mr. Lemke has been very supportive of my vision and both organisations share the same values” said Mr. Siddiqi. “As “Football for Peace” moves forward, I believe that having the support of global leaders and dignitaries such as Mr. Lemke is like having world class players in the team, it becomes easier for me in spreading our organisation””s message across the globe.”

The NBA Will Never Forget Craig Sager
Clothes. In all my years writing about sports media, Craig Sager was the only person who regularly fielded questions from me on wardrobe. Even when we spoke during his cancer treatment, I’d ask what he planned on coming up for couture. He’d then drop stuff well above my price range—from orange-and-white-striped linen coats to ostrich shoes—all the while keeping up good cheer. Over the last few years of a long life in sports television—his career began in 1973 when the Northwestern University speech major moved to Sarasota, Fla., where he worked as a sailing instructor, a bouncer at Big Daddy’s and a cub reporter at a radio station—Sager has become the most beloved figure in the NBA. Think about that—a broadcaster becoming the most beloved person in a sport. But it was true. On Thursday, Turner Sports announced that Sager had passed away at 65. The news is gutting. He had acute myeloid leukemia, an aggressive type of cancer first discovered in April 2014, and in March of this year he sent out a statement to the public: “The typical prognosis is 3–6 months to live, but I would like to stress that is for a patient who is not receiving treatment. Fortunately, I am receiving the best treatment in the world and I remain fully confident I will win this battle.”

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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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