Archive for the ‘football’ Tag

Gays, NFL, Dogs Prevent Suicide

This is a really nice article containing a few of my favorite things: football, gays and dogs

Former NFL lineman Ryan O’Callaghan comes out in moving profile

Ryan O'Callaghan

Ryan O’Callaghan played for both the New England Patriots and the Kansas City Chiefs. Jeff Taylor

 

 

 

 

 

 

Former NFL lineman Ryan O’Callaghan, who played for the New England Patriots and Kansas City Chiefs, has come out of the closet in a moving interview for Outsports.

O’Callaghan, who spent five years in the NFL, never expected to have a post-football life. He was deeply closeted, unable to imagine living as an openly gay man. Instead of coming out or continuing to live with the pain of life in the closet, he planned to commit suicide after he retired from the game.

“I wrote a letter,” he said. “I was close.”

“If it wasn’t for some good friends, a couple of good dogs, I’d be gone,” he added. “I’m just glad there were people that were looking out for me, pushing me in the right direction to actually get help.”

He also struggled with drug addiction.

“I was abusing painkillers, no question,” he said. “It helped with the pain of the injuries, and with the pain of being gay. I just didn’t worry about being gay when I took the Vicodin. I just didn’t worry.”

Ryan O'CallaghanRyan

Ryan O’Callaghan with his dogs.

He credits a small group of people within the Chiefs organization with helping lead him to a better place, including the team’s general manager, Scott Pioli. He reassured O’Callaghan that he still had Pioli’s support, who shared that he had many gay people in his life and had previously counseled other gay NFL players.

Related: These NFL teams just became the first to sponsor a pride celebration

O’Callaghan said he hopes his coming out will show others that it is safe for them to do so as well, including some more recognizable names.

A handful of NFL players have come out after retirement, including running back Dave Kopay, cornerback Wade Davis, defensive tackle Esera Tuaolo, guard Roy Simmons, offensive tackle Kwame Harris, and running back Ray McDonald.

Defensive end Michael Sam was drafted into the NFL, by the St. Louis Rams, as an openly gay man, but was cut before the season began.

O’Callaghan recalled growing up in Redding, California, in an environment where gay people were not readily accepted.

“If you’re a gay kid and you hear someone you love say ‘fag,’ it makes you think that in their eyes you’re just a fag too,” he said. “That got to me a lot.”

But when he went home to come out to his family, he was pleasantly surprised.

“All the people I was most concerned about were fine. It was so much easier and better than I ever imagined,” he recalled.

He said he thinks the NFL is ready for an openly gay player.

“I think teams are ready. Guys just have to understand he’s gay. It doesn’t mean he wants to date you, he just wants to be your teammate,” he said. “It’s not a big deal, it’s really not.”

Related: NFL documentary profiles closeted gay player

He added that he hopes his story will lead to “someone else much higher profile coming out.”

He said he is in a much better place since coming out.

“I’m having a great time. I love life now, I absolutely love life now.”

He went to school at California and played for four years in the NFL. His career is captured here: http://www.pro-football-reference.com/players/O/OCalRy20.htm

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Book Compares NFL Players to Strippers

Yesterday in the newspaper opinion section, Rick Maese, a sports writer for The Washington Post, provided an analysis of two books on experiences in the National Football League (NFL).  The two books are: “Collision Low Crossers,” Nicholas Dawidoff and former tight end Nate Jackson, who looks back on his six-year career in “Slow Getting Up.”  I’ll let you read the reviews to get the gist of his review.

Most interesting to me is that despite 500 pages, Dawidoff provides little insight into the sport’s locker room and its culture. Yet, we learn something we know already, that room is Y-chromosome world with few social boundaries, where teasing is a principle of communication. This kind of humor and teasing comes across in Jackson’s book. It’s a place where one ponders the on-demand adult movies available in hotels and daydream about Playboy models. The reviewer bemoans the lack of substantive discussion Jackson offers regarding the bullying or the use of stimulants and other illegal drugs to maintain one’s career. Maese does mention that Jackson likens being a football player to being a stripper:

“Both strippers and professional athletes live on the fringes of a society that judges them for their profession, based solely on stereotypes. These stereotypes are nearly impenetrable. Both stripper and athlete stand alone behind them, and often find solace with those who know what it’s like to be there.”

Maese found the comparison intriguing and wished the book had more of this kind of thought and insight. I agree that this is intriguing but don’t necessarily accept the comparison. First, I question whether being in a life of the NFL is on the fringes of society. Really, when most men in the game have homes with nuclear families to return to during the season and afterwards as well. Can the same be said of the majority of strippers? I used to live with two women who danced and they were always hoping to find some man who would take them away from the business. Would any NFL player feel that way?

While a stereotype might be guiding the way people view both professions, is the stereotype of the NFL player, such as the dumb jock, that much different than the stereotype of a basketball player, or  a baseball player. Isn’t there a lot of camaraderie that exists among athletes from different sports. They have their pro-am golf events among other places to play and exult with one another.  Does the stripper have a similar situation? I think she and the hes that perform, stand more alone and isolated.

I do agree that the “real person” behind the player or stripper many not be seen. I also see a comparison that Jackson does not mention, that each has a short-term career, that their careers are based upon physical fitness and performance of physical tasks that become harder as one ages. Both are pieces of meat, and are in such specialized professions that it cam be hard to adjust to a different work experience.

Indeed, as one ages, it is quite likely that the owners of the team or the clubs and bars, may find it easy to replace the player or the stripper. It’s then that I see the most potent similarity to their situations. Both will lose the bonding in their single-sex world; in the locker rooms, or back stage. They feel cast off and lose the strong sense of inclusion in a team/group and the identity that goes with their profession: football player and stripper. That loss is what Jackson identifies and observes is a powerful feeling to lose that disturbs many retired players.

America’s Team: Dallas Cowboys Star Has CTE

If you grew up in the 1970s, you knew a family member or friends who loved the Cowboys, with Roger Staubach as the quarterback and Tony Dorsett as the key running back. Both were Hall-of-Famers and legends in the NFL. Before that the running back played for the University of Pittsburgh and won the Heisman Trophy in 1976.

The latest report is that Dorsett has the problem that has plagued many veteran football players and some younger football players as well: chronic encephalopathy. Dorsettt figured in among the veteran players who sued the NFL and won the court settlement without the NFL admitting any responsibility to the players for injuries. (One of the principal terms of the settlement is that the agreement “cannot be considered an admission by the NFL of liability, or an admission that plaintiffs’ injuries were caused by football.”)

As noted in a Sports Illustrated article, former NFL players union president Kevin Mawae that Thursday’s concussion litigation settlement was an even-handed resolution to the most contentious and significant issue facing the sport as the NFL’s 2013 regular season looms. Mawae, a retired 16-year NFL veteran and two-term NFLPA president, said only the ex-players in the most dire need of financial and medical assistance truly won a victory with Thursday’s announcement of a $765 million mediated settlement. “I think the league won big on this, because the players settled for a pittance,” Mawae told SI.com, on the phone from his home near Baton Rouge, La. “It’s a relative drop in the bucket. I’m not going to say the players caved, because it would do an injustice to the older men who really need the help now, but at some point in time, the collective body of players, retired and active, have got to be willing to go all the way to the wall with this issue. But the settlement is a setback for players in the long run, Mawae said, because it keeps the NFL from having to release information in court about what it knew in regards to the connection between brain injuries and football, and when it knew it. And that opportunity lost represents a discovery process that can’t have a dollar value placed upon it. “Because in the end, settling it for however much money is a whole lot better for the league than giving up everything they have as far as information and potentially harming the shield for good. There’s too much potential for information that could have done damage to the NFL, and it’s better to just pay it off with $765 million, plus court costs.”

According to the settlement, $675 million of the $765 million would be used to compensate former players and families of deceased players who have suffered cognitive injury, including the families of players who committed suicide after suffering from chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). Other money will be used for baseline medical exams, the cost of which will be capped at $75 million. The NFL also will fund research and education at a cost of $10 million.

That $10 million is wisely spent. If the league can continue to spend the money for research into the issue then it can claim that the link between football and concussions has not been resolved. In order to continue this research effort, they convinced the family of star linebacker Junior Seau to send his brain for testing to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), which the NFL gave $1 million  to become the brain research center. But wait, wasn’t there already a research center on brain concussions that the NFL sponsored? Why didn’t they receive Seau’s brain. There was, the Boston University’s Center for the Study of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE). The Center notes on its website: recent reports have been published of neuropathologically confirmed CTE in retired professional football players and other athletes who have a history of repetitive brain trauma. This trauma triggers progressive degeneration of the brain tissue, including the build-up of an abnormal protein called tau.  These changes in the brain can begin months, years, or even decades after the last brain trauma or end of active athletic involvement.  The brain degeneration is associated with memory loss, confusion, impaired judgment, impulse control problems, aggression, depression, and, eventually, progressive dementia. Might be a problem for the NFL. Better stop working with that group and direct football player’s brains to another location. So what will happen to Dorsett?

 

 

Discuss Gays in Sports

While thrilled about Jason Collins’ announcement, I saw a problem arise that bugged me. A large number of people shouted down Miami Dolphins receiver Mike Wallace because of his tweets. The man asked why is Collins attracted to men. He threw in no curses, accused no one of sin, let alone going to hell. Yet, the media, the Dolphins public relations, and others called him ignorant and basically said, Sit down and shut up!

I’m not for a totalitarian system, whether liberal or not. Gay males announcing that they play big-time professional sports is a new phenomenon. We need to create an environment that promotes discussion, no matter how basic. Start with Freud, and his basic-object choice. Explain chemistry flowing inside a body that sees someone who they find attractive. Liken the feeling to his own feeling when he spots a particular type of woman. Explain other similarities.

We have a chance to talk and show who we are. This can only happen when you talk to people.

Discovering Through Crime

The story of a former National Football League offensive lineman assaulting his boyfriend caught my eye. As a huge sports fan and gay man, it is always interesting when someone who played at the highest level turns out to be gay. Even after retiring, most former players do not make their sexuality public, even if they self-identify as gay.

As a historian of sexuality I know that criminal proceedings are one of the significant tools that help us find homosexuals and lesbians in the past. Either people were put on trial for their sexual choices, caught in a sting operation, or because they had a fight with their lover, the veil is lifted from who they love or have loved in the past.

It’s terrible that the two men got into a fight and that assault occurred. But it is an interesting window into professional sports and into gay relations.

 

Hollywood Oscars 2013

Since the nominations for the awards came out, I’ve been trying to see as many of the movies as possible. Last night, Silver Linings Playbook was sold out at the first theater I went to so I rode my bike across the city to a much smaller cinema and had a great time.

The critics and audiences have loved this movie. Stars Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence received nominations. So did Robert De Niro and Jackie Weaver for their supporting roles. David O. Russell got a nod for best director too.  The movie is a romance for our times.

It’s great to see a movie that features working-class people and does not make fun of them. Usually diseases and mental instability are in a Lifetime, movie of the week problem film, or the ill person is a killer or sociopath. This movie tries to deal with the struggles honestly. I don’t think his being bi-polar would have manifested itself as it did in the movie but that’s a minor issue. I also thought Lawrence was a little young for a woman with the amount of experience in life that her character was supposed to have.

What intrigued me the most is how the characters acted out on their issues. Cooper’s character expresses violence, a culturally acceptable behavior for males when expressed in certain environments, like a boxing ring or football field. Lawrence’s character has sex with people, attempting to get them to like or at least accept her. In both cases, the character is acting out of frustration and their actions only enhance their frustration and alienation.

 

Scott Walker Gets It

Even if you care not one whit about sports, this is pricelessly ironic: anti-union Governor calls for return of union referees.
http://msn.foxsports.com/nfl/story/wisconsin-governor-scott-walker-calls-for-return-of-union-referees-092512

Hey Governor, maybe now you can see that union workers are the best at what they do!!!

Stop your fights with the teachers, policemen, firemen, ambulence EMTs and other government workers. Let people join together and bargain collectively. For God’s sake, let people earn a living that they can actually live off of instead of having to work two jobs and sacrifice in a variety of ways.

Theater J’s Strong Body Awareness

Fall season means children return to school, football starts in college and the NFL, and the theater season begins anew. This year’s off to a great start with Annie Baker’s comedy Body Awareness. Washington, DC theater goers saw her play,  Circle Mirror Transformation, at Studio Theater in the fall of 2010. Body Awareness was written a few years before Baker’s hit, Circle Mirror, but held my interest much more than the latter.

It’s Body Awareness Week at Shirley College, and the non-traditional Vermont family members Phyllis, Joyce and their possibly autistic son Jared are rocked by a visiting photographer and his ‘male gaze.’  I’d heard about the play through the Jewish Community Center’s Gay Lesbian group, GLOE. They liked that the play simply featured a lesbian couple without making it the center of the action. It’s true that the couple is respected and not made a central part of the story.

What makes the play so strong is that the dialogue is crisp and believable and the performances of all the actors are very natural. In addition, the play allows its characters to grow and for audience members to come to understand them and even like them.

The play raises questions regarding interpreting truth, when to use logic and when to go with instincts, and how to appreciate others who may be quite different from you. The jibes to PC are accurate but seemed a little too easy sometimes, as the US culture has begun to move away from the PC police era of the late 1980s and 1990s.

The playwright’s interview which appears in the program, noted that she wanted to complicate the things that we think of as “stupid.” One method was to have her least mature character call everything that he didn’t like “stupid,” illuminating that it takes a high degree of maturity to give credence to things that you either do not like or strongly disagree with. The Republicans are testing my patience this week.

Our Block’s Progressive Party

A few of us talked about it last month. Five people met ten days ago and figured out the host houses and their part of the meal. Using Evite, people responded if they were coming and what kind of food they would be contributing on Sunday.

Fourth Street in Washington, D.C.’s Shaw and Truxton Circle neighborhood is part of Old City II. The group of twenty four houses on one side of the street dates from the early 1870s and are a number of small houses, ranging from 1200 to 1500 sq. feet on two to three floors. The other side has bigger houses of three stories, erected near the beginning of the last century.

Our house would be the second stop: appetizers. We saw who planned on bringing appetizers from a glance at the list. My husband made stuffed mushrooms and stuffed grape leaves. I waited until the last minute to grill chicken sausages so that they would be as fresh and hot as possible. Starting at 2 o’clock people came from around the street to drop off their appetizers. We laid them on our circular dining table.

Washington had ice and a little snow the evening before. We’d gotten rid of most of it but a chill remained. At 4 in the afternoon, the party started up the street in one of the larger of the smaller houses. The open floor plan enabled guests to stand around in the living room and dining room. Drinks and cocktails sat on a long table in the dining room. Two of the children made name tags for the guests as they walked in. Around 35 people enjoyed their drinks and conversations. I found our Dutch host’s art very interesting. She made one photo collage of a bull licking his private parts in different colors that gave me a smile. I asked where her cats were and discovered she put them in a room upstairs because the big one might have wanted to lay in the middle of the party.

I left early to get to my house and finalize preparations. Then as the appointed time to arrive past I grew nervous. Our cat Lila, a 16-year-old all-black domestic short hair, gave me a few meows as if anticipating something. My husband came home first and told me to relax. The first crew came in and I took their coats upstairs. Our cat remained downstairs to the joy of an 18 month old girl who couldn’t wait to pet her.

As more and more people came we piled the coats on the upstairs bed. I announced that the AFC Championship Game was on upstairs in our office. However, almost all the people crowded around our kitchen. Downstairs is only 400 square feet so all these people somehow found a space and could communicate.

As we showed people around, highlighting our African safari pictures of a leopard in a tree and a baby hyena to some of the other children who came, Lila needed to get away. She moved outside but as it got colder I wanted her to come in. I showed the children how Lila eats shrimp out of my hand then let her try to escape.

The football game between the Patriots and Ravens came down to one final drive in the fourth quarter. I announced to people who had an interest the circumstances and all eight of us squeezed inside the office to watch the Ravens’ final drive. One of the our good neighbors announced that the partiers intended to move across the street for the dinner. I said fine, thanks we’re watching the game. She laughed. We watched until the missed field goal.

Before I left I looked for Lila. As owners know, when the cat does not want to be found, you will struggle to find her. I made sure that she was not outside the house and went across the street to enjoy the dinner. The family had done a ton of the organizing of the event.

The feast included three sets of chicken, vegetarian dishes, assorted other specialties. The family dog waited under the table. Good, quiet but hopeful.  The walls contained a nice collage of family photographs. While some people watched football and mingled in the kitchen, groups clustered all around the sofa, series of chairs near the dining table and the hallway. I discussed trips, my books, people told me about their relationships, children, interests.

On the way to desert and coffee back across the street and down to the end of the block, I checked in on our cat. Lila felt relaxed and ate from her bowl. The newlywed hosts for the last stage have a house close to ours in size. Their settee proved comfortable for many on this last leg. The central table near the kitchen counter bar area held towers of cupcakes, a cheery cobbler, ice cream, chocolate pudding and chocolate chip cookies. Urns with drinks filled most of the counter space. Many of us clustered around the table and kitchen finishing conversations, or adding new elements, or maybe trying to meet someone new until groups went off home one by one.

Navy Again Bests Army

The Naval Academy won the big game of the year defeating the Army yesterday afternoon.

Navy won a down to the wire game 27-21 at Fed Ex Field, in suburban Maryland.

Different takes include this complaint by fans of New England Patriots who play the Washington Redskins at Fed Ex Field today. The White House offers this one as President Obama attended the game.

Washington, D.C. is the biggest winner. The city has tried for over 1oo years to get the Army-Navy game played in its area and failed. Back in the early 1900s they offered to build a stadium in Potomac Park.

The one hundred years of effort is in the book, Capital Sporting Grounds.

Potomac Park Army Navy Stadium