The Precarious Case of Zeke Elliott (And The Plight of Women)

I’ve been toying with how to write about all that has been in the news lately. As a women there are quite a few feelings that go through my core as I read about Harvey Weinstein, Louis C.K., Ed Westwick… and since this is a sports focused blog, Zeke Elliott.

Sexual assault, rape, and domestic violence. They are all actions that can be committed by women against men and men against women. I acknowledge this. But what we have seen as of late is the uncovering of decades of abuse of men in positions of power against women… and the institutions that have seemed to hide them… until now.

Zeke Elliott’s suspension has been back and forth all season. Six games, appealed, overturned, upheld. It’s hard to keep straight. But one of the glaring issues became apparent to me about a week ago when a friend of mine said: “Wait – why was he even suspended in the first place?”

Zeke’s suspension was upheld yesterday, so I figured it’s time to write something. Here it goes.

In sports media, it has gone back and forth about Zeke’s suspension to the point where what he has done has been forgotten, somewhat. The NFL investigated accusations against Elliott by Tiffany Thompson that he committed engaged in acts of physical violence against her. After Ray Rice’s incident, the NFL boosted their Personal Conduct Policy with harsher penalties for domestic violence since a lot of people criticized the league for their soft stance on Rice (two game suspension – though Rice never played another game in the NFL).

People have questioned the accuser’s credibility, as they often do. I hope that we can step away from that for a second and look at the greater picture. I want to point out something that is very important – these punitive measures mean a lot to women who would like to see justice in some form.

Solutions to the problems of domestic violence, rape, and sexual assault certainly do not come easy, nor will they happen overnight. But what we need is to set a precedence. The NFL has done this, though Elliott has continued to play and spin the wheels of justice.

Beyond the NFL, we see women coming forward accusing powerful men of rape and sexual assault. I saw some mock the #MeToo movement, but that I sure hope, is because they do not understand it. It’s not some spammy chain letter post, but a way to promote awareness and establish a network of solidarity. There is an important message there – You are not alone.

Strength in numbers is a real thing. In this case, strength in numbers means that coming forward with your story will make it easier for other women to do the same.

The movement had helped established that sexual assault is a problem. Now it is time to figure out the mechanism for change. What is being done now is turning focus toward institutions and systems that have allowed sexual assault to flourish.

We see what is being done in the NFL. We’ll see what happens with Hollywood and the entertainment industry… and beyond.

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Say It Ain’t Joe?

At the beginning of the week, I blogged about the Yankees as their season came to a close. One of the keys to success next season, in my humble and quasi-expert opinion was to retain Joe Girardi as their manager, along with GM Brian Cashman.

It’s not official, but the return of Cashman is a done deal. Girardi, however, is out.

Sometimes it’s tough to find topics to write about. Then, something like this happens.

Three postseason teams have fired their managers – John Farrell, Dusty Baker, and now Joe Girardi.

Sure – one might be confused. Farrell’s team won the AL East, Baker’s team won the NL East, and Girardi’s team was within one game of the World Series in what was supposed to be a rebuilding year. And now all three are out of a job.

Dusty Baker was fired because the Nationals failed to win a playoff series, yet again. Despite all of their talent. It was considered “more of the same.” While Baker was not there for all of the postseason flops, the Nationals felt that they were not improving.

John Farrell was fired because though he led the team to three straight AL East titles, they lost two straight times in the ALDS along with two last place AL East finishes during his tenure.

Now, there’s Joe Girardi. It is pretty obvious that the decision to not bring Joe Girardi back was made by the New York Yankees. Joe wanted to be there, still. I think Joe Girardi is a great man, and a great human being. He is a family guy. He has a World Series ring, a winning record, stepped in to fill the big shoes of Joe Torre, had to deal with the A-Rod situation, saw the end of the Core Four…

And now Joe Girardi has a new core of young players. And he led them to one game of the World Series. In what was supposed to be a rebuilding year. And now they decide to let him go.

How do I feel about this? It’s not a total thumbs up or a thumbs down. There’s more to it than that.

I like Joe Girardi. He is a good man. A family man. I will always remember him for this season and their success, blown call in Game 2 of the ALDS aside. He is a class act who is well respected around the league. He had his flaws.

ESPN’s Ian O’Connor said that the Yankees wanted Joe to show more of a human side, and in the end he did not. And that his relationship with his players was not what it should be. Do I buy that? I am not quite sure.

I know that Cashman and Girardi were not getting along. This is according to Andrew Marchand of ESPN. And if I had to pick between the two, I’d take Cashman. Why? Baseball is a business. The Yankees are a business. It is the shrewd moves of Brian Cashman this season that helped them to get where they are. It is the farm system that they have developed that has the makings of a dynasty. It sounds cold. It sounds impersonal. But that is that.

In the end, I trust this organization to find a manager who will lead this young group of players. I doubted the Yankees 10 years ago when they decided to not bring back Torre. I won’t doubt them again.

The Only Post I Will Waste on the Knicks This Season…

…Maybe.

It’s almost Halloween, and so far it’s been scary. What’s scary is that the Knicks next game appears to be a must win before October 31st.

The Knicks are bad. Really really bad. You know it’s bad, when the players themselves acknowledge that they’re bad.

The Knicks have not won a preseason game, or a regular season game. I have to hand it to these guys – fans expected them to be bad, and they have not let us down. Jets fans have been treated to three wins this season. It’s that false hope. No, the Knicks won’t do us dirty.

It takes a blowout loss to really point out what is wrong with a team.

Porzingis said the Celtics have more talent…. True.

Tim Hardaway Jr. said that he played terrible… Also True.

He added that a lot of the players seemed to look like the don’t know what they’re doing… Scary.

Courtney Lee said that players appear to not know the plays on offense… Even Scarier.

The lack of talent falls on the Knicks front office.

The lack of preparation falls on the coaching staff.

The Knicks will win (some) games…

…. right?

A few points:

Why is Willy Hernangomez not a part of the rotation? It seems that this offense needs him. And his offense was the only bright spot against the Celtics.

I get it – the Knicks are not supposed to be good. They are in full on rebuild. But what concerns me is not the lack of talent, but the lack of effort, execution and professionalism that I have seen thus far.

 

When Thumbs Down Is A Good Thing

Less than 24 hours have passed since the New York Yankees lost to the Houston Astros in Game 7 of the ALCS. Watching Game 6 and the Game 7 was like watching a bounce house slowly deflate, ending the party that was this post season for Yankees fans.

The New York Yankees exceeded expectations this year. At the start of the season, everyone said that this would be a rebuilding year, with sights set on the future. Back in April, I had the pleasure of watching the Yankees twice in one week – first in Pittsburgh and then in a thrilling comeback in New York versus the Orioles. I then saw them come back and defeat the Brewers over the summer, right before the All Star Break. One of my key takeaways – these guys don’t quit.

All throughout this postseason, I kept saying it. This team does not quit. They did not quit against Houston – they were outlasted by a great team. The Astros pitched, they hit in the clutch, and they fielded. Justin Verlander has been lights out since he came over from Detroit, and he earned that MVP.

What I loved about watching this team was that they were an underdog that won a lot of people over. Sure – it is tough to make the Yankees a likeable franchise, if you are not a Yankees fan. But I feel like these guys made you want to root for them.

Next year, because yes, the Yankees are already focused on the future, they won’t be an underdog anymore. They will have that bullseye on their back. Let’s see how they can respond. And yes, while the dust is still settling, here is what the Yankees need to do to keep the momentum going and have a successful 2018 campaign:

  • Renew Brian Cashman’s contract. The trade for David Robertson, Todd Frazier, and Tommy Kahnle proved to be huge this postseason. Cashman makes shrewd deals, and with a lot of salary coming off the books with A-Rod and CC Sabathia’s contracts, I’d love to see what he can continue to do.
  • Keep Joe Girardi. Last Cashman, Girardi’s contract is expiring. Sure, Game 2 against the Indians was a mistake – not challenging that call. But what I loved to see was how the team rallied with their manager. Whereas John Farrell of the Red Sox lost his clubhouse, Girardi has the respect and the support of his young team.
  • Upgrade the DH position. I think they Yankees will probably DH Sanchez a bit next season to save his body at catcher, but aside from that – Chase Hedley, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Matt Holliday were not too great this postseason.
  • Introduce young new players such as Gleybar Torres, Justus Sheffield, Tyler Wade into their lineup.
  • Upgrade their starting pitching. Do you keep Sabathia if he takes less money? Montgomery showed promise, but let’s see if he can improve. Also – what happens if Tanaka opts out? The Yankees have good young prospects, but strong starting pitching goes a long way in the post season.

All in all, thank you Baby Bombers for exceeding expectations this year and bringing excitement back to the Bronx. The Yankees of the last few years did not seem to have direction, and now I feel as though they do.

People who do not like the Yankees say that Yankees fans focus so much on the past (which is easy to do  because of the historic success) but I think that many Yankees fans are now looking toward the future.

Get It Together, Stephen Strasburg

Tonight, two baseball teams will be fighting for their season – the New York Yankees and the Washington Nationals. And contrary to the name of this blog, this post is not about the New York Yankees. You’re up, Washington.

The Washington Nationals are like my second team, somewhat. I spent some time living there a few years ago. When I first moved to DC the Nationals were awful. You could count the amount of people sitting in the stands, rather than the empty seats. Yes, they were bad. Not only record-wise, but also they had no fan base.

Washington, DC is a unique city because there are very few people who are from here. One of the more common questions you get in conversation is…

Random person: “Where are you from?”

Me: “Oh, I’m from __________ (insert random neighborhood).”

Random person: “No, where are you from… originally?”

If you live there long enough, you develop a love for DC teams. I have friends and relatives who are DC born and raised, and I have an aunt who has lived there for a majority of her life. The Nationals came to DC in 2005 after being the Montreal Expos from 1969 – 2004. They started winning the NL East in 2012, right before I left our nation’s capital.

It was a cool moment, being there on the last day of the regular season in 2012 when they finished the regular season as NL East champions. It was an afternoon game, and I was there with my aunt. Teddy Roosevelt finally won the “President’s Race” and guess what… the stadium was full! The term “Natitude” was coined, and I thought that was pretty cool.

The Nationals regular season success has come from a core of young players that they drafted, most notably Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasburg. And yes, the Nationals have made the playoffs these last few years, but they have not won a National League Pennant, and therefore, they have not made it to a World Series.

I painted a picture for you just now of the Washington Nationals; a team that came to a city with a fan base that is a mixture of people from all over the country and the world who have adopted the Nationals as their team. A team (as an organization) has a responsibility to its fans to put out a great product, play hard every night, and do your best to win. And if your team stinks, well… make the experience in your ballpark a good one.

In the case of the Washington Nationals, the team has been good… from April to September.

I’m here to say that is not enough, Nationals fans. And the latest example of this is what is happening, or not happening for Game 4, an elimination game. Stephen Strasburg was the first piece of the puzzle for the Nationals success. He came in with much fanfare. He is your best pitcher. When faced with elimination, you want your best on the mound.

But Strasburg is not going to be on the mound for Game 4. Due to last night’s rain delay, Strasburg will be on full day’s rest. But he will still not pitch. Why? Because he is too fatigued, according to manager Dusty Baker. He’s under the weather. They had mold in their hotel room.

I’m sorry… what? Luis Severino got rocked in his Wild Card start against the Twins. One week later, Sev came back and pitched 7 innings when the Yankees had their backs against the wall.

And honestly, that’s nothing. Curt Schilling (and yes, this memory hurts, but I will bring up anything to prove a point) pitched in Game 6 of the ALCS in 2004 with an injured ankle. I am sure everyone remembers (or strategically forgets) “the bloody sock” game. Sandy Koufax epitomized pitching in pain for his entire career!

What I am hearing from the Washington Nationals are excuses. This is the high school equivalent of “The dog ate my homework.” You are a professional athlete. This is your job.

Stephen Strasburg earns 10.4 million dollars per year. He is the ace of the Washington Nationals staff. In a “Win or Go Home” scenario, you want your ace on the mound. More importantly, your ace should want to be on the mound.

With this decision, I am looking at Strasburg as an overhyped player with no grit. Perhaps Tanner Roark can rise to the occasion and bail him and the Nationals management out and force a Game 5. If not, we will spend the entire winter hearing about Strasburg and how he let his team down.

Most importantly, Nationals fans will have another season without a pennant or a potential World Series berth. And that, my friends, is a shame.

End rant.

“It’s [NOT] funny to hear a female talk about routes.”

I am a female that like sports and knows a lot about them. But I am not a unicorn. There are plenty of women out there who watch sports, enjoy sports, and follow them closely. And guess what, there are women out there who report on sports as well.

There are males that like sports and know a lot about them. But there are plenty of men out there who don’t watch sports, enjoy sports, or follow them closely. I know some of them. I’ve even dated some of them. That’s just who they are. And what is the big deal?

I’m looking at you, Cam Newton. I’m looking at you, every person who seems to not quite understand why a women may know a lot about sports. Or why a woman might work in sports.

Jourdan Rodrigue is a sports journalist for the Charlotte Observer. She is a football writer covering the Carolina Panthers. This week, she asked Cam Newtown a question during a presser about Devin Funchess and his route running. Cam Newton smiled and made a remark:

“It’s funny to hear a female talk about routes.”

Really, I don’t think it’s funny. There is nothing funny about a woman who is out there trying to do her job. Whether she is a football reporter, a doctor, a lawyer… she is out there earning a living the same way a man is.

Every person with a shred of motivation and aspiration in their lives strives to do better. No matter your gender, you want success in life – personal or professional. I did some research on Jourdan Rodrigue. She is 25 years old and she knows a lot about football. She is well respected by her colleagues. I am certain she will move up the ranks.

I look at Jessica Mendoza who became ESPN’s first female MLB analyst this year. Or Beth Mowins who was the first woman to call an NFL game in 30 years. Or Doris Burke who will be the first woman as a regular NBA analyst. I admire these women and respect their achievements as professionals. They’ve earned it.

Sports journalists, announcers, and commentators all get a lot of flak, no matter the gender. But let’s judge them on an even playing field. Let’s not mock the, for knowing a lot “for a female.” Or hate on them because of their voice sounding whiny. If you’re going to judge, judge them on their knowledge, body of work, tenacity and thick skin. Let’s stop with the sexist, backhanded comments. It’s time to grow up.

I know that shock therapy does not work on society, and that we cannot get used to things overnight. But women earned the right to vote in 1920. It’s about time we get used to women reporting on football games.  And women doing most, if not all, things that man can do.

On Las Vegas, Tom Petty, and How Music Can Help Heal

I’m going to take a shift away from sports for a few paragraphs because the results of the Giants game mean nothing to me at this point in time. Today, there are bigger issues.

Today was a sad day. It is hard to wake up, turn on the news and see overnight that a shooting occurred where over 50 people are dead and hundreds injured. These people in Las Vegas were killed at random while attending a concert. A concert is supposed to be a place of celebration and joy. Instead, there was terror and tragedy.

There are so many questions left unanswered. I’m sure they will be answered over the coming days. So many “why’s?” and “how come’s?”

For a brief moment, let’s not politicize. Let’s not point fingers. Let’s try to heal.

When I am lost in these thoughts and have these questions, I turn to writing. Sports help, too. But so do other things, like music.

One of music’s greats is in critical condition. Depending on what media outlet you read, Tom Petty has either passed away or is in cardiac arrest.

When I am sad, I turn to music. Seek comfort in music, listen to the words of songs. You’ll find meaning, and hopefully you’ll find peace.

I spent the afternoon and this evening listening to Tom Petty. I can remember attending one of his concerts a few years ago, and I still think this is one of the best concerts I’ve ever been to. I have been seeking comfort in his music on a day like today.

In his song “Walls,” Petty says:

“Some days are diamonds. Some days are rocks.”

Such a phrase is blunt, yet profound. And today, this couldn’t have been more true.

Sure, there are other songs that tug at the different emotions that one might feel on a day-do-day, week-to-week. “You Wreck Me” is great for when you feel jilted by love. “Learning to Fly” is for when you’re about to make a difficult decision; don’t miss out because of the potential negatives, when there could be just as many positives. “Into The Great Wide Open” makes me want to take an adventure. Every girl has jammed out to “American Girl” at a bar at least once or twice. I could go on forever.

My point is, music and lyrics can apply to every situation and every emotion that you are feeling at any given time. On a day like today, listening to “I Won’t Back down” makes you feel empowered. I need to feel empowered, and I think we all do.

“Well I won’t back down/No I won’t back down/You could stand me up at the gates of hell/But I won’t back down.”

Indeed, in times of crisis, let’s not back down. Let’s stay strong. Let’s heal.