the intersection of sports and society.

sports has always been an outlet for me. i remember as a kid, playing sports was that one escape, whether it was playing basketball or baseball with my neighbors or trading cards with my friends.

i loved the element that sports brought into my life. the aspect of teamwork, the hard work, the dedication the elite athletes have toward their craft – all of this was inspiring to me. i always thought of sports as the one area of my life that couldn’t get messed with by “real life”.

and now…

we have donald sterling.

the ncaa.

social media.

tim tebow

johnny manziel.

it doesn’t really seem like it’s really about the game anymore. it seems like it is all about the money, the fame, how to get as many “likes” and “follows”.

sports has long played a huge role in society, of course. these days, its role is even more important

 jackie robinson, muhammad ali, jesse owens, joe louis.

these names are synonymous with sports and society. you cannot really think of one without how they spurred social change, or maybe simply social outrage in some cases. but now, it seems that what is important is not necessarily standing up for social change, but standing up for social media. it’s not about what good sports does for society anymore. the way issues are portrayed these days is embarrassing. what amounts to an issue – what is considered news – is even more embarrassing.

tim tebow prayed to jesus and that was considered controversial. why? who cares?

johnny manziel loves to party. so? why do we care so much?

it’s not just about how disgraceful it is that the dallas cowboys still call themselves ‘america’s team’ or that no one truly still likes the new york yankees (even though, as a detroit tigers fan, i still respect the yankees, 27 championships is… well… 27 championships).

it’s more than that.

we have always longed for our best athletes to take more of a social standing in our communities. we begged for michael jordan to make statements and take a stance on issues. i suppose he was right when he said “republicans buy shoes too”, but is it always about the shoes? probably today he would say something like “republicans have twitter too”. 

there is still more that can be done. i respect lebron james for organizing the miami heat’s stance for trayvon martin and again lebron and chris paul for speaking so strongly against donald sterling. the intersection between sports and society is as volatile as it has ever been. with the rise of social media and the access fans have to their favorite athletes, these stars have a much more important role in society than ever before.

the notion that athletes are just sports stars and should not be involved in society is silly.

i threw out donald sterling’s name (i’d like to just throw him out entirely). i don’t really have anything to add that hasn’t been said already. i’m just curious why it took a billionaire saying a mean thing about another wealthy person for anyone to notice what a deplorable man he is. because of his role in sports, there was an opportunity to expose him years ago. i suppose the articles that have been written about him over the years about his horrendous treatment of the impoverished were not enough. who cares about the poor right? it’s not so much of a race issue as it is a issue of classes.

rich vs. poor.

as long as we aren’t poor then as a society, i guess it doesn’t matter. insult a rich black man? an american icon? then we have a problem, don’t we?

sports and society will always be intertwined of course. i hope that we don’t lose sight of the importance that it plays.

a new picture.

.

 i’ve been busy painting a new picture, not with paint but with a new city. i’ve been busy trying to plant roots that we picked up and moved to a new scenery.

recently my wife and i re-located to Chicago with a new job, a new sense of adventure and a lot of… “wow this is crazy” and “whoa, this is weird”. life is funny that way. you can dream and push and pull and hope for something to happen and when the opportunity presents itself, we better know what to do with it.

Chicago has been a dream of mine for a very long time. in general big-city living has been my goal (i also dreamed of playing in the NBA and being Michael Jordan’s replacement with the Bulls, but… whatever). one thing i’ve learned about dreams is, unless you are willing to actually do something about them, they just stay up there in your mind. dreams are nothing without a plan. without action it is pointless to dream because without action, dreams won’t get you far. people who have known me for quite a long time know that my existence in Grand Rapids was with one foot in and one foot out a majority of the time. I was usually busy day dreaming about being somewhere, sometimes, anywhere else. that’s not an indictment of Grand Rapids, it’s home for both my wife and I and it’s a beautiful city. sometimes you just have to try something new and uncertain.

so the question, is Chicago everything I dreamed it would be? well i have always been a big dreamer, and yet Chicago is still even bigger. it’s a funny sort of mix of fancy and gritty. it has it’s beauty yet knows how to flex it’s muscles when it needs to. i’m proud of my midwest roots and i’m proud to still call the midwest my home. midwesterners in general, we are down to earth, we are passionate, we maintain our values but we still love a good time. but you push us, mess with our friends or family and you have another thing coming. that’s Chicago in a nutshell. that’s why i love this city, you can get the big city feel and feel right at home.

i like this life. i like the ability we have to change our scenery if we want to. i like that we can hold on to our roots and still push for something more and different and bigger or smaller or whatever it is we want. we can re-set  when we need to, we don’t ever need to let life get stale. has this change been hard? of course. it’s never easy to flip your life upside down but that’s the challenge we get to pursue, to flip it back. or to paint a new picture. i’m not quite sure what the future holds, and for once in my life, i don’t think i’m all that concerned. i think i finally have both of my feet in the same city.

Still No Replacement for Air.

if the FANS don’t like you, neither will the sponsors. This is the difference between Michael and Lebron, Michael understood that even though he had God-given once-in-a-millennium talent, he had to portray himself as the guy who lives down the street. Heck, even Brett Favre understands that much! LeBron fancies himself as not just a basketball player, but a celebrity, an icon. No one likes athletes and celebrities who act simply because they can or simply because everyone is afraid to tell them no.

how do you replace a replace a legend who refuses to be replaced?

Michael Jordan will grace the cover of 2K Sport’s NBA 2k11 this fall… which is great for the fans, but bad if you are David Stern, Lebron James or any NBA star not named Kobe Bryant (who was on the 2K10 cover). This is a further indictment of the image problems the league continues to face. The most marketable star the 2K Sports people could find to be the lead for their product has been retired since the end of the 2002-03 season (though some could argue that the REAL MJ actually retired in 1998).

Yes Air Jordan is widely accepted as the Greatest of All Time, but we haven’t seen EA Sports come out with John Elway or Joe Montana on the cover of their hit MADDEN NFL series (though they did attempt to insert a “retired” Brett Favre on the cover before his comeback with the Jets a couple seasons ago, but that doesn’t really count does it?). 2K hasn’t produced THE SHOW with Barry Bonds (and never will) as it’s lead.

The point is,  it is incredible that the current NBA 2-time MVP Lebron James is NOT on the cover. Further proof of the lack of star power that today’s NBA athlete truly has. Clearly self-promotion only gets you so far, right “King” James?? He can self-hype himself as KING and promote one-hour specials about himself, where he looks not the least bit comfortable or happy for that matter, but the simple truth is, if the FANS don’t like you, neither will the sponsors. This is the difference between Michael and Lebron, Michael understood that even though he had God-given once-in-a-millennium talent, he had to portray himself as the guy who lives down the street. Heck, even Brett Favre understands that much! LeBron fancies himself as not just a basketball player, but a celebrity, an icon. No one likes athletes and celebrities who act simply because they can or simply because everyone is afraid to tell them no.

The moral of the story remains the same. For all of the attempted “Next Jordan’s”, there is still no replacement for Air Jordan. Until today’s athlete learns to promote their public image like Michael Jordan, there never will be another Mike. At least… According to Me…