Sports Podcast

The ReCap by Rachele Lena: 11.28.18 by HWTP Sports Talk

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This week HWTP Sports Talk were joined by Kareem Copeland from The Washington Post, A.J. Perez from USA Today and Marcel Louis-Jacques from the Charlotte Observer. After a week of hot sports news, including the Washington football club’s signing of Reuben Foster,  a nail-biting match between Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson and Eric Reid’s random drug testing.  

Kareem Copeland joined us to discuss Reuben Foster’s addition to the Washington football club after his dismissal from the San Francisco 49ers after a second domestic violence occurrence. Copeland tells us that Washington players are in a strange position when it comes to answering questions regarding how they feel about Foster’s addition to the team. He explains that, “this is someone that could be their teammate and they don’t want to get off on the wrong foot, but at the same time, no one wants to condone the allegations.”  Reuben Foster played college football at Alabama and Kareem Copeland tells us that four other players on the Washington team also have roots in Alabama spoke very highly of Foster and gave him “glowing recommendations.” When asked why Copeland thinks the Washington team took a risk on a player that is on the Commissioner’s Exempt List as opposed to a player like Colin Kaepernick who is known for being “outspoken, but not with the law” he explains that, “from a pure football standpoint it makes sense” and that “he’s a first round talent and does not need to be paid a lot since he is being kept on his first contract.”  Copeland describes this as “purely and clearly a business decision” instead of a decision that was made with taking public relations into account.  

Our second guest, USA Today’s A.J. Perez, joined us to discuss the golf match between Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson that lasted 22 holes. This match, which was a pay-per-view event, faced streaming difficulties and other technical issues. These technical difficulties have led to a public outcry from those that paid to watch the match and were unable to stream it. Perez explains to us that, “this event was supposed to be a trial event” and that he has received multiple messages from people that have yet to receive their refunds for the match that they played for.  

Our third guest, Marcel Louis-Jacques from the Charlotte Observer, joined us to discuss the “random” drug tests that are being administered to Eric Reid, a player known for kneeling during the national anthem. Louis-Jacques claims that, “it is a 1 in 500 chance that a player is tested 5 times in 8 weeks out of a 72-player pool”. Despite Eric Reid being continuously tested for performance enhancing drugs, Marcel Louis-Jacques claims that “Reid has never registered a positive test and has never shown evidence of using these drugs.”  He also explains to us that the independent administrator of the tests, Dr. John Lombardo, “has the sole discretion to decide what players are tested, when they are tested and is not allowed to override the random computer program”.  In response to whether or not these random drug tests are affecting Reid’s play out on the field, Louis-Jacques states that, “Reid is arguably the best member of the secondary so far this season except for their corner Dante Jackson.”

The ReCap by Rachele Lena: 11.7.18 Podcast by HWTP Sports Talk

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This week we were joined by Emily Giambalvo from The Washington Post who covers the University of Maryland athletics news. We were also joined by author and professor Andrew Billings who co-wrote Mascot Nation: The Controversy Over Native American Representations in Sports.  

Emily Giambalvo joined us this week to discuss the reinstatement and subsequent firing of Coach DJ Durkin for the University of Maryland’s football team. Durkin was originally taken out of power due to allegations of inappropriate behavior including a toxic culture of intimidation and humiliation against players. Once Durkin was reinstated on Wednesday, there was a major outcry from the players and the community. Giambalvo states that players using their voices to protest against policies and those in power, “is not something that we usually see in college sports.” 

Giambalvo states that on a college football team, “the head coach holds a lot of power,” and believes that now that Durkin has been removed there will be major changes for the team. She states that much of the pressure and criticisms against DJ Durkin stem from his inability to control the strength and conditioning coach, Rick Court. Those on the athletic board claimed that DJ Durkin was a good man and simply did not receive the correct training, which Giambalvo claims “may have swayed their decision heavily”.  

We were also joined by author and professor Andrew Billings who spoke about the use of Native American culture in sport team’s mascots. Billings claims that the controversy over Native American mascot use is based on various questions, asking “is it the name, is it the image or logo, or is it the rituals that go along with it?” Billings also discusses the backlash against those that are told they “have” to change their actions. He explains that when people are asked, “Should someone do something?” the answer is most usually yes, but when the question is phrased as, “Should someone have to do something?” the answer is most usually no.  

Andrew Billing’s claims that many that oppose the changing of these team’s names do so on the basis of the worry that the fandom of the teams may change. Billings explains to us that it is possible for many teams to drop the most offensive aspects of their teams, including name, mascots, or rituals, and still maintain their history and pride while remaining inoffensive. The public has begun to take part in a practice called “de-mascoting” that removes the offensive aspect from team regalia while maintaining a person’s ability to show team pride.

Listen to the entire episode below. Don’t be shy! Send us your questions and/or comments!

 

The ReCap by Rachele Lena: 10.24.18 Podcast by HWTP Sports Talk

 “We still need due process to play out…and that the claims of a cover-up [from] USA Gymnastics don’t really hold up when you consider ...” Will Hobson, Washington Post

“We still need due process to play out…and that the claims of a cover-up [from] USA Gymnastics don’t really hold up when you consider ...” Will Hobson, Washington Post

This week HWTP Sports Talk is joined by Will Hobson from the Washington Post to talk about the recent arrest of former USA Gymnastics President Steve Penny. This scandal comes after the Larry Nassar case regarding sexual assault allegations in USA Gymnastics hit the headlines, placing the spotlight on USA Gymnastics in the news.  

Steve Penny, the ex USA Gymnastics president, was arrested and indicted last week on state tampering charges. Penny is alleged to have taken and hidden documents that the ongoing investigation occurring in Texas would have benefited from. Hobson claims that, “law enforcement did a preliminary investigation [of the USA Gymnastics training center outside Huntsville, Texas] two years ago when Larry Nassar was initially arrested and determined that no crimes had occurred other than Nassar’s abuses,” but then went on to tell us that due to backlash from Nassar’s victims, the case was reopened. 

David reminds us that it is unclear whether the evidence that Penny is accused of tampering with has been destroyed or if these documents are hidden in an office somewhere. The question remains on whether or not we are rushing to judgement on the guiltiness of Steve Penny without getting all of the facts and discovering what information is contained within those hidden documents. Will Hobson claims that, “we still need due process to play out…and that the claims of a cover-up [from] USA Gymnastics don’t really hold up when you consider [that USA Gymnastics] did report Nassar to law enforcement”. Suspicions do rise when it is considered that despite Nassar being reported to law enforcement, USA Gymnastics still asked victims not to speak publicly about the abuse.  

Hobson reminds us that, “there are a lot of different organizations and institutions that had the chance to stop this sooner and they didn’t”. Due to the fact that it is unclear what information these documents contained, it is difficult to determine the guilt of Steve Penny in this investigation.  

This investigation has made it difficult to find another person to fill this position as president of USA Gymnastics and the most recent president, Mary Bono, resigned after four days on the job. Will Hobson describes that, “the turmoil [we] are seeing at USA Gymnastics…speaks to the tunnel vision that the Olympic committees have had.” We are also reminded that these type of sexual assault cases have occurred multiple times throughout the years and these organizations have been able to easily keep these issues out of the spotlight, but since the Nassar cases, these stories have been given more precedence.

Full episode below.

The ReCap by Laina Stebbins: 8.22.18 Podcast by HWTP Sports Talk

This week, Sister Mary Jo Sobieck dials in from Chicago to talk about her perfect first pitch at last week’s White Sox game that made headlines across the country. We are also joined by Washington Post sports reporter Roman Stubbs, who discusses the ongoing controversies surrounding the University of Maryland’s athletic program following the sudden death of one of their football players in June.

Sister Mary Jo Sobieck on her “nun-believable” first pitch and deep love of sports

  Sister  Mary Jo at Guaranteed Rate Field; (Melissa Ferrara, Iron + Honey Photography)

Sister Mary Jo at Guaranteed Rate Field; (Melissa Ferrara, Iron + Honey Photography)

Last week, Sister Mary Jo Sobieck became a trending topic on Twitter thanks to virally-shared videos of her show-stopping first pitch at a Chicago White Sox game.

For most people, a Dominican nun with such impressive pitching skills is not something you see every day – but for Sobieck, playing sports has been a lifelong passion. Her students at Marian Catholic High School in suburban Chicago, where Sobieck teaches theology, know this very well.

“In the classroom, I have some credibility with the athletes. They knew that I had the skills, so to speak,” Sobieck tells David, adding that she is very active in the school’s team sports and with their student athletes.

“They’re really not surprised,” Sobieck says about her students’ reaction to her now-famous first pitch. “To them, this is just kind of a natural occurrence.”

Indeed, Sobieck is a skilled former college athlete who played softball as shortstop and center fielder.

“I would say my God-given gift has been my athletic ability, so a lot of it does come naturally for me,” Sobieck says.

“But I haven't thrown the ball in a long time like that. So I did practice...I had to get that angle right.”

Sobieck, who turns 50 later this year, grew up in a large, active family in which she was the youngest of ten children.

“I’ve been playing ball with my brothers and sisters since since I could walk,” Sobieck says.  “That competitive spirit in me, it came from sport, but also because I'm the youngest of ten. I had to, you know, keep myself strong and agile with all those brothers and sisters coming at me.”

In addition to softball, Sobieck also played volleyball throughout high school and college. She was even an assistant varsity men’s volleyball coach for Marion Catholic during her first year at the school, but her focus has since shifted.

“As much as I love sports, as much as I enjoy being active and staying physically fit, my spiritual exercises are more important to me,” Sobieck says, explaining her reasoning for giving up coaching.

“My love for sports has transcended into a love for God and community,” she says.

“I hope people can see…beyond just the fact that I'm a girl and I’m a sister and I can throw the ball, [and also see] that I'm motivated by my love for life and my joy for the Gospel,” Sobieck adds.

WaPo’s Roman Stubbs on Maryland football

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Roman Stubbs is a Washington Post sports reporter who has covered University of Maryland athletics and national college sports since 2014. Read his article regarding Jordan McNair's death and Maryland's inability to overhaul athletes' healthcare here.

Jordan McNair was a freshman on Maryland’s football team. In late May of this year, McNair collapsed during a team practice and died two weeks later on June 13.

It has been reported that the 19-year-old was showing signs of exhaustion and additionally suffered a seizure before being taken to the hospital. McNair’s cause of death was listed as heatstroke.

An external review of the school’s athletic department concluded in early August and resulted in multiple staff members being put on administrative leave. Shortly after, an in-depth exposé by ESPN revealed a “toxic,” borderline abusive culture underpinning the school’s football program, leading to even more questions surrounding McNair’s death and how it may have been prevented.

Now, Stubbs’ reporting reveals that a health care overhaul for Maryland’s athletes was on the table a year before McNair died, but was shot down by the school’s president, Wallace D. Loh. Had the NCAA-recommended medical model gone through, would McNair still be alive today?

Stubbs says there is no way to know, but there is plenty of speculation that the proposed health care model would have at least improved the culture of the athletic department.

“If you create this independent model...the system might not be manipulated by coaches,” Stubbs says. Maryland’s current model, on the other hand, has many doctors housed inside the athletic department, which Stubbs says may lead to conflicts of interest and other problems.

“We don't know how much that contributed to the culture of Jordan McNair maybe not feeling like he could speak up when he was struggling,” Stubbs says, “and so the thought is that maybe an independent model would have helped that culture…[but] the president completely mixed it.”

Maryland’s athletic scandal doesn’t end there, as Stubbs says there remains plenty of legal liability and more potential for Maryland to come under fire for the circumstances contributing to McNair’s death. There is at least one lawsuit pending against the school and three separate probes into the program.

“They're looking at not just the program itself, but the trainers who are out there. There's some liability on the line from them,” Stubbs says.

As for those at the top – “We don't know the fate yet of the jobs of the president, athletic director [Damon Evans] and the football coach D.J. Durkin, but there's a notion...by a lot of the community that none of them will potentially survive this,” Stubbs says.

“I think it’s a chaotic time at the University of Maryland,” Stubbs says. “My sense is that they need to not only do a thorough job [with the investigations], but they need to act quickly, or it’ll only get messier and messier.”

Listen to the entire show below.

The ReCap by Laina Stebbins: 8.8.18 Podcast by HWTP Sports Talk

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This week’s guests include Cindy Boren (Washington Post), David Berri (Forbes), and Brett Baldeck (FOX 46 News).

Topics include President Trump’s continued attacks on activist-athletes, whether now is an economically advantageous time to invest in a professional sports team like the WNBA, and what the recent arrest of NASCAR’s CEO could mean for the future of the company.

WaPo’s Cindy Boren on athlete activism, Trump criticism

Cindy Boren is a reporter covering sports, with an emphasis on politics and national stories for the Washington Post. Boren is also the founder of Early Lead, the Washington Post’s sports blog.

She joins the show to discuss her recent article: “When Trump attacked LeBron James, it had an unintended effect: other athletes speaking out.”

ICYMI: Last weekend, LeBron James sat down for an interview with CNN’s Don Lemon to discuss James’ recently-opened I Promise School in his hometown of Akron, Ohio. The school will serve at-risk, low-income, students in the third and fourth grade.

At one point during the interview, James made it clear that he would sit down with President Obama, but never with Trump.

President Trump responded to the interview with a tweet attacking James, questioning his and Lemon’s intelligence, and comparing James to Michael Jordan:

“Lebron James was just interviewed by the dumbest man on television, Don Lemon. He made Lebron look smart, which isn’t easy to do. I like Mike!”

Boren notes that James had also previously called Trump a “bum” over Twitter, in addition to briefly campaigning with Hillary Clinton during the 2016 election – “and if there's one way to get under President Trump’s skin, it's to align yourself with Hillary Clinton,” Boren says.

But publicly condemning athletes who choose to voice their disagreement with his administration or demonstrate in a certain way has become a frequent line for Trump. Since Colin Kaepernick first started kneeling for the national anthem to protest police brutality in 2016, Trump has continued to make very clear his opposition to anti-Trump or so-called “unpatriotic” behavior.

Presumably, Trump’s eagerness to loudly and publicly criticize comes with the hope that doing so will silence activist-athletes.

Boren argues, however, that the opposite is becoming true – that these attacks are only going to keep this issue at the forefront of the national conversation and further give athletes a reason to speak out.

“It seems to me that this is just a fight that's going to do nothing but bring more and more athletes to the forefront,” Boren says.

“If he wants incredibly popular people to be active and vocal, he's accomplished it…he’s probably not going to like their message, but it's one that's not going to go away.”

Indeed, when the NFL’s 2018 preseason began this Thursday, many players continued to protest during the national anthem. Some refused to take the field, some knelt, some raised their fists. It is clear that the so-called national anthem protest will not slow down for the President.

Enforcement of the new NFL rules, which required players to stand during the national anthem, was suspended last month. It is not clear how the league will ultimately decide to proceed, and Boren has no predictions about what the NFL and NFL Players Association will end up deciding.

“Trying to come up with an intelligent, reasonable national anthem policy that everyone can follow and that will keep the president quiet” is “probably not a realistic goal,” since Trump is likely to find reasons to critique the NFL either way, Boren says.

But Boren says she has been witnessing athletes like LeBron James, for example, becoming “increasingly vocal and active” about issues plaguing marginalized communities.

“With each each time a young black person is shot to death by a member of the police…[James] speaks out,” Boren says.

Additionally, she adds: “He was incredibly active, he and other NBA players, when Donald Sterling was pushed out…for his racist comments when he owned the Clippers.”

“I don't think athletic activism is going to go away, and I don't think LeBron James is going to be shy about sharing his opinion from now on either,” Boren says.

Read Boren’s Washington Post article here.

Forbes contributor David Berri on the ideal conditions for investing in a sports team

David Berri is an author, a professor of economics at Southern Utah University, and a Forbes contributor. He joins the show to discuss his latest Forbes piece about why he believes now might be the economically ideal time to invest in a women’s professional sports team like the WNBA.

As Berri writes in his article – “you probably need to be worth billions” to buy an NBA team today, whereas the same teams cost very little to purchase less than a century ago. Those who invested in professional sports teams back then likely could not have predicted how immense of a payoff they would experience many decades later.

A similar phenomenon may be happening now, Berri says, with women’s professional sports – simply because the women’s franchises are so much younger, and perhaps have yet to find their true value.

“I want people to think about women’s sports today in the way you would think about men’s sports...30, 40, 50, 60 years ago,” Berri says.

For example: in the 1960s, “the NBA was exactly like the WNBA today. It was a minor sports league; their attendance was extremely low,” he says.

Because of this, investments in the NBA at that time would have been relatively inexpensive – but ultimately very profitable down the road.

“Let's say you could go back in time…if you went and bought the Boston Celtics in 1965, I doubt it would have been a very expensive investment. It was not a very big league,” Berri says.

“If you held onto that investment and you kept the Boston Celtics, 50 years from now you have something that’s worth a billion dollars.”

The same context applies to today’s younger professional sports franchises. Namely, women’s sports, since the two oldest organizations in women’s professional sports – the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) and the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) – are still younger than the NFL, NBA and MLB. Since women’s sports teams are not yet as established as the men’s, but they are on track to be, now is the time to invest in them.

“It takes time for a history to be written, for a context to be established,” Berri says. “Until that happens, your sport is not going to be tremendously popular.

“But when it does happen, your athletes...have a much bigger demand, have a lot bigger audience they're going to generate a lot more revenue. And so again, the time to get involved is before that happens.”

 

FOX 46’s Brett Baldeck on what Brian France’s arrest means for NASCAR

Baldeck is a news and motorsports reporter at FOX 46 Charlotte in North Carolina. He speaks with David about the recent arrest of NASCAR’s CEO Brian France, and what the unfolding situation could mean for the company and the sport. Read Baldeck’s latest reporting on it here.

Brian France, the CEO and Chairman of NASCAR, was arrested last Sunday for DUI and possession of oxycodone. His blood level was reportedly more than twice the legal limit.

France was released on his own recognizance after being held overnight for a morning arraignment. He then released a statement that included an apology, along with an announcement that France will be taking an  “indefinite leave of absence” to focus on his “personal affairs.”

According to Baldeck, most NASCAR fans would like him to stay gone.

“From the fans’ perspective, they would like to see him go. They kind of see him, unfortunately, as a villain. That's how most fans feel,” Baldeck says.

“Now that this has happened, they’d like him to step down and get away from NASCAR – that's most of the fans’ perspective.”

NASCAR has been seeing notable declines in both ratings and attendance in recent years. There is the argument that this is simply an industry-wide problem, not the fault of Brian France’s leadership, but Baldeck says there are certainly those for whom France’s presence alone has soured the sport.

“He was making poor decisions with the sport,” Baldeck says. “He rarely would actually even be at a NASCAR race, and fans were pretty upset about that…[and] a lot of fans are upset with Brian France for all of the changes that he’s made over the last ten years.”

Baldeck says that ousting France as CEO could be an opportunity for NASCAR to shake things up and improve how they do things – and hopefully “bring some new life into the sport” – but it is rather unlikely, given the fact that NASCAR has been owned and operated by the France family since it was founded in the 60s. The decision will therefore be a family one.

“NASCAR is a privately-owned, family-run business, so they can make whatever kind of decision they want…it's really going to be up to the France family about what they want to do with the future of him and his involvement within the sport,” Baldeck says.

Since France only said that he is taking a leave of absence, and not that he is stepping down, Baldeck says that he will likely come back as CEO once things are sorted out for him.

Listen to the entire show below.

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The ReCap by Laina Stebbins: 8.1.18 Podcast by HWTP Sports Talk

HWTP Sports Talk’s first guest is Brandon Steiner, CEO of Steiner Sports, who offers his insight into the changing field of sports collectibles and how today’s landscape is different from when he first started his company three decades ago.

David also speaks with author Josh Birnbaum about his book, "Dream Shot: The Journey to a Wheelchair Basketball National Championship.”

Brandon Steiner, on sports memorabilia then and now

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“I’m not sure what the future of the trading card business is..."

- Brandon Steiner

Brandon Steiner is the founder and CEO of Steiner Sports, a sports marketing company best-known as a producer of memorabilia. He is also an inspirational speaker and has two books.

Steiner has led the company over several decades to make deals with the New York Yankees, Notre Dame University, the Dallas Cowboys, and The Madison Square Garden Company to create and sell collectibles and historical artifacts. Although Steiner sold his company to Omnicom in 2000, he has kept his CEO title and still maintains control over Steiner Sports’ daily operations.

His conversation with David begins with a pressing question: After collecting so many sports cards as kids, why are so few (if any) of them worth millions today?

“You just probably got in the game a little late,” says Steiner, who describes himself as an “old-school” trading card collector. “You need the cards from more of the 50s and 60s.”

Steiner adds that many people don’t take good enough care of their cards for them to be worth much, although his company’s auction platform will try to get customers good money for them.

But perhaps the biggest reason why so few cards have much value nowadays, according to Steiner, is simply that there are so many out there. Starting in the late 70s and early 80s, “they started making a lot more cards, and you had to be really savvy to know which ones to collect,” he says.

Steiner says this has made today’s trading card gig “a little wobbly.”

“I’m not sure what the future of the trading card business is, unless you're sitting with a lot of vintage cards from the 40s, 50s, 60s, and a little bit of 70s,” he says.

“There's just so many cards out there, and I'm not sure the kids these days are looking at cards the same way we did.”

Steiner and David talk about how today’s kids turn to Internet and sports video games to get sports information and connect with their favorite players, rather than having to collect trading cards like they did decades ago.

But David points out the new collectible craze that today’s kids have picked up instead: basketball sneakers.

“What's happening is the kids have found the market for it,” Steiner agrees. He says he is not sure how long this particular business will be booming, but sneaker companies are enjoying great success for the time being.

“Some sneakers are cool, they're definitely a statement – they’re a social statement,” he says. “You walk on a court with, you know, some nice Jordans…it's a statement, [it] says something about your game.”

Steiner says there are certain ways to set up a product to be a collectible, which the most successful sneaker companies have evidently been capitalizing on.

“The whole key to a great collectible is to under-produce, [to] not have enough for your demand,” Steiner says. This “[sets] the tone for those sneakers, that particular brand, that model…to be highly collectible.”

For example, big-name companies like Nike and Jordan will create very limited editions and special colors and initially run out of them. Hopeful buyers will have to enter contests and jump through other hoops for a chance to get their hands on more.

But for the average fan interested in sports memorabilia without breaking the bank, Steiner says it can be relatively straightforward and inexpensive through sites like www.SteinerSports.com  and others – “if you know what you’re doing.”

“It’s buyer-be-educated,” Steiner says, adding that fans can also still get autographs from their favorite players in person if they approach them the right way.

Having been in the collectibles business for decades – Steiner Associates was launched in the late 80s – Steiner says much has changed between then and now.

“I think the collectibles business is ten times more organized than it's ever been – and safer,” he says.

Steiner says his company “really set the tone” in both categories, most prominently through his company’s partnership with the Yankees in 2009.

All things considered, Steiner says the business today is “healthy,” albeit “a little flat” simply because of its expensive nature – but the good news is that players are more involved now, and at least recognize that what they wear has market value (regardless of whether or not they choose to capitalize on it).

Steiner’s advice for modern collectors: if you’re in it just for the money, you have to be savvy about it. “You gotta get educated and understand how the market works and what's what,” he says, adding that the market is fast-moving and complicated.

But for the casual collector who simply want to obtain sports memorabilia because they love a certain sport, team, or player, Steiner advises to focus on collecting around that, rather than worrying about something’s potential value down the line.

“Even if it doesn't necessarily go up in value…you have some stuff to remember a memory, an experience you have,” Steiner says. “You keep that forever, and it's more valuable than whether it went up or not.”

He adds: “I always like to say collect with your heart, not with your pocket. Have fun with it. Collect stuff that you're passionate about.”

Josh Birnbaum on his book chronicling a wheelchair basketball team’s championship journey

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Birnbaum is a photographer, lecturer at Ohio University, and the author of "Dream Shot: The Journey to a Wheelchair Basketball National Championship."

“Dream Shot” features over 100 color photographs chronicling the story of the first collegiate wheelchair basketball team in the country – the University of Illinois men’s wheelchair basketball team – as they set out to win a college national championship in 2008.

Though primarily a photographic essay, David says there is a lot more to the book than just the photography. The pictures and narrative are curated in such a way that the reader feels like they are along on the journey.

Birnbaum says he didn’t initially plan to create a book about the team, but that it was “sprung upon him” and become something of an “unintentional adventure” that turned into something much more meaningful.

“In 2005, my first assignment was just to photograph a wheelchair basketball game,” Birnbaum says. But “when I went to the game, I immediately saw that there was so much more potential to dive deeper into a story.”

Over time, he says, “I realized that someday I wanted to make a book out of it, that it deserved a broader audience.”

Birnbaum says he wanted to capture the experience in such a way that people would be able to understand what being a disabled athlete is like without relying on stereotypes, and to bring more awareness to the sport of wheelchair basketball.

“I hope that the photographs can help people empathize a little bit with other people’s experiences,” he says, and “create a new narrative that lets people see for themselves the complexities of these individuals’ lives.”

Birnbaum followed the players around both on and off the court for years, learning about them and building relationships with them.

“I had to embed myself with the team and show them that I was willing to do everything that – almost everything – that they were willing to do, and that I would be there for everything and show them the dedication that they were putting into their sport and to their team,” he says.

In time, he had essentially became a part of the team – so much so that one day, the coach even gave Birnbaum a hard time for showing up to practice a little late.

“The coach yelled at me. That made it clear to the whole team – this guy’s one of us, and he’s held to the same standards as everyone else.”

Birnbaum says that although the team did have an enthusiastic core group of fans who showed up for nearly every game, they still did not see the same level of attendance as the able-bodied men’s basketball teams. He says lack of awareness of the sport was likely to blame, and was one of the reasons he decided to pursue this project so diligently in the first place.

“I think if there was more awareness, people would definitely come there,” Birnbaum says. “It’s incredible to watch these guys on the court, they’re very talented, very athletic. The game is just as exciting as able-bodied basketball to me.”

Wheelchair basketball in America began in 1948 by Dr. Tim Nugent, who was known as a visionary for disabilities rights and established University of Illinois as the very first collegiate team in the country. Nugent died in 2015 at age 92.

At the time Birnbaum was following the team, he says he was fortunate enough to meet and photograph Nugent on a handful of occasions.

“When you meet him, you just feel this warmth,” Birnbaum says. “Everyone he met he would talk to and give them time and listen, and he was just that kind of person that affected people.”

“Everybody had the highest respect for him because he started wheelchair basketball in America...at a time when if you were in a wheelchair, you probably couldn't go to college.”

Birnbaum continues: “I think that's why this sport is so symbolic – because it's not just a sport, it's also something that has enabled people who historically have been discriminated against to get an education and move up in the world and do all the things that everyone else gets to do.”

Today, Birnbaum says there are more than a dozen collegiate teams that compete regularly, as well as many more smaller intramural leagues at other universities. Not all universities have the kind of support necessary for running such a team, he explains, but the sport is growing nonetheless with new teams coming up every year.

Birnbaum says he has also kept in touch with many of the players he photographed more than a decade ago, and contacted almost all of them while the book was in production last year to update them on the project.

“Some of them are Paralympic athletes now, one of them just won the ESPY Award for best male disabled athlete [Steve Serio won the award in 2017], and some of them are coaches, and...a lot of them still play – even if it's just recreationally in their local team,” Birnbaum says.

“A lot of them stay connected to wheelchair basketball, but also they have lives just like the rest of us.”

You can purchase “Dream Shot” from the IU Press, Amazon and more.

Listen to the entire show below.

 

 

The ReCap by Laina Stebbins: 7.18.18 Podcast by HWTP Sports Talk

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"...

what if the US had qualified for this World Cup?"

On this week’s HWTP Sports Talk podcast, Slate’s Mike Pesca joins us to discuss his new book that explores “the greatest what-ifs in sports history” – namely, how history may have been altered if certain moments in sports had played out differently. His interview with David starts at 45:57.

A.J. Perez of USA Today also joins the show to discuss recent happenings in the NHL and MLB, and Monroe News court reporter Caitlin Taylor speaks with David about the texting and driving trial of MSU basketball strength coach Todd Moyer.

Mike Pesca on the greatest sports ‘what-ifs’ (45:57)

Mike Pesca is an author and the host of “The Gist,” a popular daily podcast by Slate. His new book is called "Upon Further Review: The Greatest What-Ifs in Sports History,” which consists of a collection of short essays from 31 different contributors – hand-picked by Pesca – which seek to explore how the fabric of history may have been altered, had just one moment in sports history gone the other way.

While writing the book, Pesca says he cast a wide net, reaching out to clever writers with good ideas who “understand what excites the imagination.” The result is a collection of short essays that proves enjoyable for sports fans and historians alike.

"As sports fans, we always engage in 'what-ifs' on a casual level...But is it so exciting for the person who’s not invested in it? So that’s why we had these rules [for the book],” Pesca says.

“‘Engage in a history lesson' is one of [them]. Or, 'tell me about a sporting event that actually had much larger societal implications.' Or, 'take one of these classic what-if conundrums and really prove your case.”

Pesca also hosted a limited edition Slate podcast based on his book, aptly named “Upon Further Review.” In it, Pesca brings certain chapters of the book to life by way of audio storytelling.

One notable chapter adapted for the podcast was written by former NPR host Robert Siegel, who imagines an alternate universe in which the Dodgers had never left Brooklyn in 1957. In the audio episode, Siegel narrates a (very convincing) faux NPR-esque radio story based on the scenario.

"Just to hear Robert Seagull pretend that the Dodgers were still in Brooklyn...He spends 30 years building up his credibility and ruins it with this one story,” Pesca jokes.

On the last podcast episode, Pesca says, listeners can hear a fake Boston sports talk radio show set in a different alternate universe: “These two loudmouthed guys from Massachusetts debate the ‘horrible’ Patriots...because in this scenario, Tom Brady never takes over the Patriots because Drew Bledsoe never gets hurt,” Pesca says.

There is one scenario that Pesca wishes he would have added, however.

"The best ‘what-if’ happened after the book went to publisher,” Pesca says, “which is – what if the US had qualified for this World Cup?"

“Upon Further Review” is available for purchase on Amazon. You can also delve into one of the book’s case studies on Slate, in article form: "What If Richard Nixon Had Been Good at Football?"

Caitlin Taylor on felony trial of MSU coach (14:52)

 Todd Moyer

Todd Moyer

Caitlin Taylor is a staff writer at the Monroe News. Her reporting this week follows the trial of Todd Moyer, a Michigan State University basketball strength and conditioning coach, who is charged with two counts of reckless driving causing death. Both charges are felonies which carry a maximum of 15 years in prison.

The trial began Monday morning and is expected to continue until the end of the week.

NOTE: The end of this section contains a post-show update about Moyer’s trial.

Prosecutors allege that Moyer’s texting while driving was the contributing factor to a high-speed crash last summer in which a mother and her 5-year-old daughter were killed. The fatal crash occurred on US-23, a two-lane highway near Dundee, Mich.

The posted speed there was 70 mph, Taylor says, but drivers were starting to “drastically reduce their speed” as they drew closer to construction zone up ahead.

But Moyer’s pickup truck did not slow down – even after passing a number of large road signs that warned motorists of the upcoming work zone.

“He was traveling about 78 miles per hour when his pickup truck rear-ended the two victims, and he did not brake before impact,” Taylor says.

Moyer’s phone records were extracted by Monroe County sheriff’s Detective Jeff Hooper, who was brought in as an expert in cell phone investigation. Taylor says the phone records show that Moyer sent or received 23 text messages prior to the crash. Included in those texts was a website link to a strip club in Ohio.

Moyer’s defense had hoped to show that he may not have been looking at his phone the exact moment of the collision, and that Moyer was not the only driver to blame for the crash.

From what she has seen, Taylor says the jurors have “really maintained their composure throughout this trial so far, despite some of the really gut-wrenching photographs and testimony that have been presented.”

It’s unfortunate that it takes such a tragic accident to underscore the importance of paying attention to the road while driving, Taylor adds.

UPDATE: On Friday afternoon, Todd Moyer was found guilty of both charges after several hours of deliberation by the jury. His sentencing is set for August 30.

AJ Perez on recent NHL, MLB news (26:33)

AJ Perez is a reporter for USA Today. His wide-ranging discussion with David included the topics below; for the rest of their conversation, listen to the podcast episode.

NHL – tragic death of former goalie

Ray Emery.jpg

“The details haven’t fully come out...there’s a lot of unanswered questions so far.”

Last Sunday, news broke that former NHL goalie Ray Emery had died while swimming with friends at Hamilton Harbour in Lake Ontario. Emery was just 35 years old.

“It was kind of shocking,” Perez tells David. “...35 years is way too young.”

According to Hamilton Police in Ontario, Emery was reported missing early that morning. His body was recovered later that day close to where his friends had last seen him in the harbor. The cause of death has been ruled as drowning, although questions still remain. The coroner’s investigation is ongoing and may take months to reach a conclusion about why exactly Emery drowned.

“We're still trying to figure out what he was doing in that harbor...that waterway is one of the most polluted in Canada,” says Perez, who finds it surprising that anyone would be swimming in that area.

“The details haven’t fully come out...there’s a lot of unanswered questions so far.”

Emery played for the Ottawa Senators, the Philadelphia Flyers, the Anaheim Ducks and the Chicago Blackhawks. His last season on ice was 2014-15 with the Flyers.

Emery took up the sport that is Canada’s national pastime, played for 11 seasons in the NHL with a number of teams, and eventually got to hoist the Stanley Cup, David says – he was “a true Canadian.”

MLB – Wash. Nationals promo goes awry

At the 2018 MLB Home Run Derby on Monday night, Washington Nationals star player Bryce Harper put on an impressive performance that landed him a trophy win – although it appears that his team’s financial department may need to count this as a loss.

Before the event, the Washington Nationals tweeted out a promotion for a Home Run Derby discount. With the discount code “DERBY,” each time Harper hit a home run at the event, $1 would be knocked off the price of tickets to see the Nationals play.

Harper ended up hitting 45 of them – translating to a whopping $45 discount on Nats tickets. This means fans can now pay as little as $1 to watch them play.

But is this really such a big financial loss for the Nat’s as it appears to be? – Perez says not to worry.

“They’ll still make the money...they’ll re-coop,” Perez says, noting the long lines for concessions and expensive parking at Nat’s Park.

The normal ticket prices are “insane” anyway, Perez adds; “baseball is having the challenge of reaching the younger demographic, and I think a big barrier to that is how costly it is.”

After Monday’s event ended, the Nationals acknowledged the discount situation with a cheeky tweet, reading: “brb ... apologizing to our finance department”.

MLB – Machado and ‘the big trade’

David and Perez discuss speculation about the expected –though not yet finalized [as of Wednesday’s show] – high-profile trade of All-Star shortstop Manny Machado to the LA Dodgers.

As Machado’s contract with the Baltimore Orioles was set to expire at the end of the season, the Orioles have been in talks with several teams, including the Dodgers, about a potential trade deal.

“The Dodgers are going for it,” Perez tells David. “After last year, getting so close, getting to game seven [and] being one game away from winning it…they’re going for it.”

UPDATE: As expected, Machado was indeed acquired by the Dodgers Wednesday night. According to ESPN:

The last-place Orioles decided against negotiating an expensive, multiyear extension because they have too many holes on the roster as the team moves into rebuilding mode.

Baltimore received five prospects for their end of the deal.

On Friday, Machado made his debut on the LA team with a 6-4 win against the Milwaukee Brewers.

Listen to the entire show below.

The ReCap by Laina Stebbins: 7.11.18 Podcast by HWTP Sports Talk

SW.jpg

David is joined this week by New York Times reporter and author Karen Crouse to have a discussion about sexism in sports, and Crouse’s article, "At Wimbledon, Married Women are Still 'Mrs.'" Later in the show, Jesse Dougherty of the Washington Post comes on to discuss a college basketball corruption case that now involves the University of Maryland.

NYT’s Karen Crouse on sexist traditions in sports

Karen Crouse covers sports for the New York Times. She is also the author of “Norwich: One Tiny Vermont Town's Secret to Happiness and Excellence.”

One of her latest articles for the Times explores Wimbledon’s apparent fixation on the marital status of female players, with the case study being Serena Williams – who is now being referred to as “Mrs. Williams” by chair umpires, after getting married last year but not taking Alexis Ohanian’s last name.

“If you are a woman competing at Wimbledon, you are either a ‘Miss’ if you are single, or you are a ‘Mrs.’ if you are married,” Crouse says.

“But when you have the case of someone like Serena, who is recently married but has not taken her husband's name, they just call her ‘Mrs. Williams’ – so it makes it sound as if she is married to her father.”

This particular way of addressing players according to their marital status does not extend to men, however.

“If you are Roger Federer – [who is] married with four children – you are simply ‘Federer,’” Crouse says. “So, the married men do not have the courtesy title in front of their names.”

Is this just a case of the British being overly proper and fond of tradition, or something more malicious?

“I’ve heard the ‘tradition’ side of it as it relates to Augusta National,” says Crouse, who also covers golf for the Times. “I'm getting to the point where when I hear the word 'tradition,' it's feels like it's synonymous for sexism or prejudice. I just don’t buy it.”

She points to the fact that women at Wimbledon have had equal pay for 11 years now.

“They've been able to get past…the idea that women don't need money because they're married to men who make the money,” Crouse says. “They've gotten over that tradition, so maybe it's time for them to recognize women as their own people, and not who they are married to or…whether they're married or single.”

“It has the impression, at least, that you just see women as appendages of men,” she says.

Crouse says that in an over-600-page compendium about Wimbledon, you can find the detailed marital history of every semifinalist and finalist on the women’s side, both singles and doubles: “It has the date of when you were married, the place, and the full name of your husband,” Crouse says.

“That's how I found out that Serena's husband, Alexis Ohanian, his middle name is Kerry because this was listed in the Compendium. It is so crazy.

“None of this is done on the men's side,” she says, adding: “If you're going to have this kind of information and the women are going to be recognized in terms of their relationships, you should do the same for the men.”

WaPo’s Jesse Dougherty on college basketball corruption

Jesse Dougherty is a staff writer at Washington Post who covers college sports and University of Maryland athletics. He speaks with David about a developing story that now involves both of his beats.

An FBI investigation into corruption in college basketball has now led to more subpoenas for the University of Maryland, even after the University handed over records after being initially subpoenaed in March.

The new subpoenas request information regarding one unnamed former player at Maryland, the team’s assistant coach, and a recruit who ultimately attended Kansas.

“The company line from everyone is that ‘this happens everywhere.’ Of course, that's not entirely the case,” Dougherty says.

“There are over 300 schools in college basketball, so it can't be everywhere – but I don't think any school’s really in the clear, even if the trials are looming.”

Back in March, it was reported that Diamond Stone, a former Maryland player, was implicated in improper payments that were meant to steer him to sign with sports agency ASM after college.

“He was one of a long list of players that was sort of roped into this whole federal investigation,” Dougherty says.

When that happened, Maryland announced that they were conducting an internal investigation. “Given the fact that...Maryland was looking into some matters on their own front…it didn't seem like Maryland was totally in the clear of this kind of thing,” he says.

The March subpoena, in part, requested communication records between Maryland employees and Christian Dawkins. According to the Washington Post: “Dawkins is facing charges, including wire fraud, under accusations he arranged payments for the families of several top recruits to ensure they attended certain schools and eventually signed with preferred agents and financial advisers.”

The initial subpoenas were then followed up, less than two weeks ago, with more that request additional information regarding communications with another player.

So far, the University of Maryland’s reaction to the new subpoenas has been “pretty close to the chest,” Dougherty says, but “I can’t imagine Maryland’s feeling great about that.

“It's not something you want connected to your program. And [with] about a dozen now that have been implicated or sort of tied into this…morale can't be a hundred percent, that's for sure.”

Since there are few connections between Maryland and Silvio D'Souza, the recruit who ended up attending Kansas, Dougherty says it's “not totally surprising to see Maryland at least come up in a subpoena” – although, he and David agree that the case might not necessarily track back to Maryland.

“It could just be that they're trying to gather more information…I think Maryland’s roped in just by association in this,” Dougherty says. “They’re sort of tangentially connected to the Silvio case. And as you said, if there is some glass half-full, it could be that – that it's not actually going to crack down on [Maryland], but just sort of an information gathering for a trial that could unfold in October.”

Until then, “things are going to bubble to the surface, and it’s going to be a fun thing to follow and report on,” says Dougherty.

Listen to the entirety of both conversations below.