Archive for the ‘sports’ Tag

Steelers’ Fans and Terry Bradshaw

Podcast about my Terry Bradshaw: From Super Bowl Champion to Television Personality Book: Part of the Steel City Underground Fan Group:

The discussion ranged from his playing days with the Pittsburgh Steelers to acting in Burt Reynolds movies, to his efforts today as a studio analyst with Fox and also in the television shows, Better Late Than Never and his latest movie, Father Figures.

http://www.steelcityunderground.com/podcast/2017/12/different-perspective-terry-bradshaw-author-historian-brett-abrams/

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Novak Djokovic’s Special On and Off The Court

Novak Djokovic has clearly shown himself to be one of the best men’s tennis players in history. Yesterday’s ninth Grand Slam title moved him into fifth place among title winners in the Open Era and

I find Djokovic attractive physically and as a person. He has demonstrated a great sense of humor and I enjoy that he respects tradition and people and likes to enjoy himself as this video at the Wimbledon party demonstrates:

http://www.theguardian.com/sport/video/2015/jul/13/serena-williams-novak-djokovic-dance-wimbledon-video

They have danced before: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xnen1RzgzFc&feature=player_detailpage

Is So You Think you Can Dance too far off in Novak’s future?

Five-Ring Circus

The cycle of national group bids to host the Olympic Games usually has not generated the type of openly negative discussion that occurred this year in the United States. From newspaper articles to blogs, to “Olbermann” on ESPN, Boston’s winning bid to represent the U.S. as a potential Summer Olympic site generated a firestorm of criticism and even some incredulity.

Sports historians, social scientists and other academics have written extensively regarding the cost of constructing stadiums Early books, such as Dean V. Baim’s The Sports Stadium As a Municipal Investment, used economic analysis to demonstrate that the stadiums cost significantly more than their projected cost. Few stadiums built from the 1960s through the 1980s ever earned a net positive financial gain.

One prime example was the Olympic Stadium in Montreal, built for the 1976 Summer Games and used by the Montreal Expos baseball team. According to Robert C. Trumpbour’s New Cathedrals, the stadium left the city with a $ 1 million debt. Paying the debt through the mid-2000s, according to Garry Whannel in Culture, Politics and Sport marred the memory of the games in the minds of citizens. The memory and current circumstances regarding the stadium have not improved as the stadium has basically been empty since 2005,

The books on stadiums have focused on stadium proponents main argument: that stadiums generate economic growth. Andrew Zimbalist, an economist at Smith College has written extensively about the falseness of this purported reason for supporting public financing of stadiums. He and Roger G. Noll’s book Sports, Jobs and Taxes concluded that sports teams and stadiums were not a source of local economic growth and employment and that the public financing provided to the team far outweighed the new jobs and taxes that the team and stadium provided the city or state. The message about the economic viability of stadiums started to reach more of the public.

In some cities, opponents of publicly financed stadiums made pitched but unsuccessful efforts to stop these expenditures, In 2004, Kevin J. Delaney and Rick Eckstein captured these battles in their book, Public Dollars, Private Stadiums. Intriguingly, stadium proponents downplayed the economic gain argument, and adopted two others to win the financing in cities ranging from Pittsburgh and Cincinnati to Denver, Phoenix and San Diego.

The Olympic Games offered two key assets to the hosting city and nation. The first, particularly important during the Cold War, centered on national pride. The second, promoted the economic gains that the Games reportedly brought. Proponents asserted that economy of the host country attained growth spurred on from new construction that occurred before the start of the Games. The gains continued during the games from event and visitor spending during the event.

Montreal showed that the economic gains often still leave a debt. Ferran Brunet’s study, “An economic analysis of the Barcelona’92 Olympic Games: resources, financing and impacts,” offered a somewhat more positive example. The author observed the typical underestimation of the cost to the Olympics, “In the development of the Olympic project the forecasts went from 237,000 million pesetas in April 1985, to an estimated 768,368 million in March 1991, to the final figure of 1,119,510 million pesetas in July of 1993.” The city and national governments and private partners invested this money and actually generated $ 2.2 million in profit. The Games provided a rise in employment and a stronger sense of confidence and world presence for the city and nation. However, when I visited a decade later, much of the Olympic area in the city appeared empty and devoid of people and games.

Do cities in the United States need the Games for similar reasons? Atlanta won the 1996 Summer games and sought to use them to promote tourism and attract businesses to the region. Again, pre-Olympic projections expected the creation of 77,026 jobs and $5.14 billion into the state economy. Despite Barcelona’s success, it’s jobs total capped out at less than 67,000. According to Steven P. French and Mike E. Disher in “Atlanta and the Olympics,” Atlanta spent over $200 million each for an indoor stadium and Olympic stadium. Much of the money came from private sources and very little public funds.

At the close of the Games, the estimate of economic benefits from the Games fell over a billion dollars below initial projections. What organizers either did not consider or perhaps include was the Olympics would not bring new spending. The games shifted spending away from other entertainment activities and other revenue-generating activities could not occur in Atlanta because of the presence of the Olympics. Additionally, visitor spending on food and lodging totaled less that expected.

In their book Olympic Dreams: The Impact of Mega-Events on Local Politics, authors Matthew J. Burbank, Gregory D. Andranovich and Charles H. Heying analyzed how three US cities fared in their attempt to use the Olympics as an approach to economic growth. They argued that the Atlanta region benefited from the tourist, employment and construction windfall. City officials replaced aging infrastructure, although residents paid double the cost for water and some other utilities since the changes. Their chapter focused on urban development aspects that did and didn’t happen with the Olympics. That will be the focus on the promises and deliveries for US cities with hosting the Olympics.

LGBT Athletes

A new study regarding lesbian, gay, and bisexual athletes throughout the world indicated that the U.S. ranks far behind many other countries in the acceptance of gay and lesbian athletes. An overwhelming number of gay and lesbian athletes remained afraid to indicate their sexual orientation to teammates, coaches and others.

 

A new study estimates that 83 percent of gay male youth athletes in the United States are keeping their sexual orientation hidden from some or all of their teammates. Lesbian athletes in the same age group (under 22 years old) were more willing to be public about it — 63 percent said they were hiding their orientation.

The reason for the secrecy — even in an age when polls show that acceptance has been increasing — is often fear. Nearly half of gay men and 44 percent of lesbians around the world who kept their sexual orientation hidden said they did so in order not to be bullied. In addition, fear of discrimination from coaches or officials was mentioned by 32 percent of gay men and 28 percent of lesbians.

The survey found that 80 percent of the respondents, both gay and heterosexual, had witnessed or experienced homophobia in sports.

Titled “Out On The Fields,” the report was based on a survey of nearly 9,500 gay, bisexual and heterosexual people and claims to be the largest-ever study on homophobia in sports. (The questions only related to sexual orientation, not gender identity, so the study offers no information about transgender athletes.)

After publicizing the anonymous online questionnaire through various media outlets,1 the researchers received answers from several English-speaking countries. The highest numbers of responses came from Australia (3,006), the United States (2,064), the United Kingdom (1,796), Canada (1,123), New Zealand (631) and Ireland (501).

The United States received the lowest overall “inclusion score” of all the countries analyzed, with a high number of respondents saying the U.S. was not accepting of gay athletes. (Though because of the small sample sizes for respondents from New Zealand and Ireland, it isn’t necessarily fair to say that the U.S. ranks worst.)

In a phone interview, the survey’s lead author, Erik Denison, said attitudes about privacy among athletes are often related to the perception of homophobia in sports.

“I made that decision myself when I kept in the closet,” he said. “Implicitly it is about discrimination, though. The straight men can talk openly in conversations about what you did at the weekend, the women they met. If you’re gay though, you either have to make up stories or be excluded. It’s not the same.”

The large scale of the survey, though, doesn’t mean that it is the definitive word on homophobia in sports. Even in countries that had a high number of respondents, it can be difficult to tease out more detailed trends because the subgroups are far too small. Responses were split into youth and adult sports (i.e. under age 22 and over age 22) but also broken out by sports played and the sexual orientation of the respondents.

What’s more, not everyone even said they played sports — among U.S. respondents, for example, 81 percent of gay women and 75 percent of gay men said they participated in youth sports, while 63 percent of gay women and 42 percent of gay men said they participated in adult sports. As a result, the finding that 83 percent of gay male youth athletes keep their sexuality hidden from teammates is based on just 114 individuals.

Denison and his co-author, Alistair Kitchen, both members of Australia’s first gay rugby team, said they were are aware of those limitations. Their international approach was partly informed by the fact that past smaller-scale studies on homophobia in sport have been dismissed for being too limited in scope. The final methodology and findings were reviewed by seven academic experts prior to publication.

Overall, these results should be treated as estimates in an under-researched area filled with speculation, rather than definitive numbers about gay athletes.

Gay respondents were more likely than heterosexual ones to say that homophobia was more common in team sporting environments than in general society. But LGB athletes also related positive reactions to revealing their orientation to their teammates. In its write-up of the report, the gay sports site Outsports.com acknowledged many of the issues cited by respondents but added that “people in sports behave very differently when an athlete actually comes out,” often welcoming the LGB athlete and apologizing for language used in the past.

Denison also described what he called “the snowball effect” — the notion that the more LGB athletes there are who are open about their sexual orientation, the more accepted gay athletes will become in sports. As evidence for that, Denison pointed to the higher share of lesbian athletes in the U.S. who are open about their sexuality with their teammates and the fact that lesbian athletes around the world are more likely to say teams offer them a “supportive and safe environment.”

Because of their visibility, LGB professional athletes are likely more influential than amateurs in getting the snowball effect rolling, but few seem comfortable speaking publicly. The survey allowed respondents to submit detailed stories about themselves — around 1,600 did so. Denison said that about three dozen of those who provided narrative accounts were professional athletes, including at least two on their respective countries’ national teams.

Last year, after the professional football player Michael Sam told ESPN and The New York Times that he is gay, he said he received messages from many fellow athletes who “had the courage to tell me that they were also gay, but they do not have the same courage as I do to come out.”

So far, Sam’s decision has not created a snowball effect in the U.S. — partly because there will need to be other outspoken gay athletes before the sport reaches what Denison describes as “a critical mass.”

popular-teams-harris-poll-and-the-big-4-sports

I recently completed my first article on the blog of Sports in American History, a group blog with other academics who are interested in Sports History. I’m researching right now on fans in Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Washington, DC, Detroit and Chicago. This article comes out of a discussion with the people who conduct the Harris Poll.

 

http://ussporthistory.wordpress.com/2014/10/16/popular-teams-harris-poll-and-the-big-4-sports/

Tough Being A Fan

Although athletes have to play the sport, putting their physical and mental prowess on the line, fans have it tougher. All I fan can do is watch, helplessly. It can be grinding on a person and fandom has been known to set some people off to do stupid, sometimes criminal, things.

At the US Open, I felt that agony. Am a big fan of Novak Djokovic, and from what I see, I believe that I like him as a person as much as an athlete. But today’s loss disrupted my support. If the sport were boxing, my first question would be who bet on his opponent. The play stunk and the commentators on television provided little insight. They praised Kei Nishikori, and that was appropriate some of the time, but often Novak hit shots that Kei could make into winners.

iI don’t want the commentators to drag a player through the mud but they could have stated the honest truth, Djokovic played inconsistently. My main question would be, how could Djokovic dominate a set like he did in the second set, then not exploit that in the next set?

Yes, Djokovic said, “He was not himself today,” and that happens sometimes. I still wonder where his fight was, particularly after watching Roger Federer come back from two sets down to win two night ago. I also can understand when someone says that the sport will not be their main focus in life. That is a nice position to be in, as most people don’t care for their work and only work so that they can afford to live. Yet when it comes to winning one of the top tournaments in your sport, a fan expects the player to leave it all out on the court/field, and if a fan questions that, that disrupts the feeling of fan support.

Thorpe Comes Out

Good for Ian Thorpe. Strange that so many people like myself always believed that he was gay despite his recent (2012) autobiography in which he categorically denied ever having anything other than heterosexual experiences. Sometimes, the most interesting thing is to read the comments afterwards. So many people write that they are sick of articles like this and don’t care to hear about the athlete’s sexuality. However, the miss the point about how the lies and secrets effect the person/ the athlete.

Ian Thorpe reveals he is gay

Updated: July 13, 2014, 9:12 AM ET

Associated Press

SYDNEY — Five-time Olympic swimming gold medalist Ian Thorpe for the first time publicly confirmed that he is gay during a television interview on Sunday, ending years of speculation about his sexuality.

Thorpe, who had long denied that he was gay, told British talk show host Michael Parkinson in an interview broadcast on Australia’s Channel 10 that he just recently realized the truth about himself.

“I’m not straight,” Thorpe said. “And this is only something that very recently — we’re talking in the past two weeks — I’ve been comfortable telling the closest people around me exactly that.”

For years, Thorpe took great pains to hide his sexuality. In his 2012 autobiography, “This Is Me,” Thorpe wrote, “For the record, I am not gay and all of my sexual experiences have been straight. I’m attracted to women, I love children, and aspire to have a family one day.”

Thorpe, 31, said being asked about his sexuality by journalists when he was just a teenager forced him to adopt a defensive attitude toward the issue. He was too young to know whether he was gay or straight, and said he responded that he was straight to avoid teasing from classmates. Things spiraled from there.

“I felt the lie had become so big that I didn’t want people to question my integrity,” he said. “And a little bit of ego comes into this; I didn’t want people to question … have I lied about everything?”

Now, he says, he wishes he had come out sooner.

“I’m comfortable saying I’m a gay man,” he said. “And I don’t want young people to feel the same way that I did. You can grow up, you can be comfortable and you can be gay.”

Part of his reluctance to come out, he said, was fear of letting his family and his fans down.

“I wanted to make my family proud. I wanted to make my nation proud of me. And part of me didn’t know if Australia wanted its champion to be gay,” he said. “But I’m telling not only Australia, but I’m telling the world, that I am.”

Ian Thorpe, a five-time Olympic gold medalist, ended years of speculation about his sexuality, saying “I’m comfortable saying I’m a gay man.”

Thorpe added that he is looking forward to living his life openly, without the burden of carrying a secret. He wants to find a partner, he said, and start a family.

Thorpe retired from swimming in 2012 after winning five Olympic gold medals, three silvers, and one bronze, and setting 22 world records.

Known to fans as “the Thorpedo,” he was just 14 when he was first chosen to represent Australia, and became swimming’s youngest world champion at that age when he won the 400-meter freestyle at the 1998 worlds in Perth.

His career peaked at the 2000 Sydney Olympics where he won three gold and two silver medals. He retired after the 2004 Athens Olympics, citing a lack of motivation, but made an unsuccessful comeback when he tried to qualify for the 2012 London Games.

In the interview, Thorpe also spoke at length about the often crippling depression he has struggled with since he was a teenager, which led him at one point to contemplate suicide. When antidepressants failed to help, he said, he turned to alcohol to ease his pain.

“I kind of felt that it was unfair, that I was doing the right thing, taking the antidepressant, and I’m still miserable,” he said. “So I tried drinking.”

“How hard?” Parkinson asked.

“Well, I didn’t have to try that hard,” Thorpe responded with a laugh.

Meanwhile, Thorpe said he is still struggling with a broken shoulder. He contracted a serious infection when he underwent surgery earlier this year and said he still faces the prospect of more operations.

“I have to be realistic with my expectations, that I may not be able to lift my arm above my head, which would mean that I may never swim again,” he said. “It’s tough. Because I want to be able to swim.”

 

Sam I Am a Ram

My favorite pro football team drafted the first openly gay player in yesterday’s NFL draft. Yes, Michael Sam went in the 7th and final round of that draft to the st. Louis Rams. His landing as the 34th pick in that round, meant that only seven other men were drafted after him. Two teams, the Cincinnati Bengals and the Oakland Raiders, chose not to select anyone in that round before the Rams selected Sam.

One commentator noted that the SEC Defensive players of the year for the last decade, all were drafted in the first or second rounds. Still, a quick review notes that not all warranted such a top selection.

Sam ranked number 19 among the draft’s defensive lineman. This rating by NFL experts, indicated that it was possible he night not have gotten drafted at all. That would have provided the NFL with a public relations challenge. There are a total of 256 slots to pick players in the draft and defensive line is but one of ten groups of positions on a football team. Simply put, there were 18 players ahead of Sam in the ranking of defensive line and another 18 that might be considered “better” athletes in each of the nine other positions as well.

This is so powerful and worth seeing:

 

http://www.cnn.com/2014/05/12/us/michael-sam-nfl-kiss-reaction/

Each team weighed its needs at each of the ten groupings of positions and who among the athletes left to be drafted had the most athleticism and the character best suited to their team, during each round. The Rams selected an outstanding defensive lineman in the first round, and already have several outstanding lineman on their team. However, the NFL has changed many rules of recent years to open up the passing game. The idea is that fans like offense and the game is more entertaining this way. So many teams are acquiring top defensive lineman to put more pressure on the quarterback to reduce the time that they have to throw the ball and find open receivers. Sam can be a reserve lineman, coming in on certain downs to spell other players and add his particular dimension to the pass rush. Hopefully he can succeed. Below is an article about the fit between Sam and the Rams!

http://espn.go.com/nfl/draft2014/story/_/id/10915199/michael-sam-great-opportunity-succeed-st-louis-rams

Death of an Owner

When I wrote my latest book, The Bullets, The Wizards and Washington, DC Basketball,  I was able to speak to one of the owners of the Baltimore Bullets. Unfortunately, another had died and I was unable to reach the third, Arnold Heft. Two days ago I read that he died.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/obituaries/arnold-a-heft-owner-of-horses-nba-team-dies-at-94/2014/03/26/fc810a4a-b501-11e3-8020-b2d790b3c9e1_story.html

Wish I had spoken to him about the Washington Bullets and owning the Capital Centre.

Sports Fans

I wrote The Bullets, The Wizards and Washington, DC Basketball partly because I was amazed at the issue of fans and their support of the DC teams over the years.

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Even when the Bullets were good, the numbers of fans were not as great as you’d expect. And when the Wizards were bad, man, fans had it tough.

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I’m working on two papers that I’ll be giving at the Popular Culture Association in Chicago and the North American Society for Sports History in Glenwood Springs, Colorado early this year.

Crunched some figures about numbers of fans who are linked to certain sports teams on Facebook. I looked at cities in the US that have teams in the four major US professional sports (baseball, football, basketball and hockey). These cities are Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Washington, DC, Miami, Detroit, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Phoenix and San Francisco. I divided the number of fans on Facebook into the population of the metropolitan areas from the 2010 Census to determine the percentage of the population showing fan interest for each team.

The results show that Washington has the lowest percentage of its population involved with its teams and Phoenix has the second lowest. Boston has the highest. The data appears below organized by sport.

By Sport: (ranked by percentage of population)

Baseball

Red Sox  4,185,683 (92%)
688,605

Yankees  6,651,882 (68%) #1 in the New York area
1,034,752

SF Giants  1,866,243 (43%)
544,563

Cubs 1,874,234 (39%) #1 in the Chicago area
296,564

Detroit Tigers  1,404,184  (33%)
364,344

Texas Rangers  1,648,160 (26%)
345,642

White Sox  1,117,960 (23%)
166,165

Phillies  1,368,839 (23%)
792,530

Rockies  579,638 (23%)
110,404

Diamondbacks  371,803 (9%)
109,457

Mets  711,431 (7%)
222,596

Marlins  349,337 (6%)
102,530

Nationals  270,473 (5%)
154,611

Football (ranked by percentage of population)

Patriots  4,346,695 (95%)
777,350

Cowboys   5,896,128 (92%) #1 in the Dallas area
762,964

Broncos  2,014,604 (79%) #1 in the Denver area
420,029

49ers  2,332,133 (54%) #1 in the San Francisco area
562,706

Eagles  2,277,997 (38%) #1 in the Philadelphia area
414,192

Bears  3,062,435 (32%)
414,020

Giants  2,883,522 (29%)
538,485

Dolphins  1,496,534 (27%)
282,758

Lions  1,089,921  (25%)
304,469

Redskins  1,270,765 (23%) #1 in the Washington area
271,865

Cardinals: 667,826 (16%)
81,230

Jets  1,568,587  (16%)
618,924

Basketball (ranked by percentage of population)

Heat  9,483,777 (170%) #1 n the Miami area
2,111,279

Celtics 7,351,417 (162%) #1 in the Boston area
1,333,231

Nuggets  1,252,113 (49%)
255,361

Mavericks  2,756,809 (43%)
378,697

Knicks  4,148,183 (42%)

Suns  1,061,293 (25%) #1 in the Phoenix area
237,829

Warriors  929,247 (21%)
325,560

Pistons  714,206  (17%)
223,643

Nets 1,403,669 (15%)
366,964

Sixers  539,415 (9%)
264,650

Wizards  286,115 (5%)
195,223

Hockey:

Red Wings  1,492,132 (34%) #1 in the Detroit area
374,117

Bruins   1,516,883 (33%)
482,948

Avalanche  460,522 (18%)
148,098

Black Hawks  1,568,115 (17%)
480,212

Flyers  914,211 (15%)
300,810

Sharks  608,476 (14%)
185,226

Rangers  1,081,743 (11%)
279,517

Capitals  536,195 (10%)
198,594

Coyotes  148,657 (4%)
98,771

Stars  216,058 (3%)
137,717

Panthers  102,193 (2%)
93,960

Islanders  142,380 (1%)
101,573