Twitter and the Professional Athlete

Chris LongAs anyone who reads my blog regularly knows I’m a huge sports fan and being from St. Louis that means I follow the Cardinals, Rams, and Blues pretty closely. It is a story from the St. Louis Rams that caught my attention today.

Most people are aware that a number of professional athletes use Twitter to Tweet their thoughts. This can be a revealing insight into their lives although I don’t follow any athletes nor do I read many Tweets. Chris Long of the Rams was being interviewed after a practice session during what are called OTA (Organized Team Activities).

In the interview he was asked what it was like to be back on Twitter. Long took a break from using Twitter during the off-season but is now tweeting again. If you watch the interview I linked he is asked the question at about 1:00.

He started to give the boring sort of answer that athletes often give to questions of that nature but then stopped himself, thought for a moment, and gave what I thought was an incredible answer. “It hasn’t felt that great,” he said. “I was actually happier in general when I wasn’t on it.”

What was his reasoning? Happily he went on to explain with a forthright honesty that came out loud and clear to me. “It’s just sobering. Twitter is an awful reminder of what’s out there … it’s bad, it’s bad.”

Chris was talking specifically about the LeBron James situation. James, arguably the best player in the NBA and potentially one of the best in the history of the league, is in the midst of his fourth straight NBA Championship series of which his team has won the last two. The air-conditioning went out early in the game and by the last quarter James began suffering severe cramps. He was unable to finish. A lot of nastiness ensued from Twitter. James is both very popular and much hated. That’s its own story. Let’s get back to Chris Long.

“They probably think the same thing about me, but, oh well,” said Chris with a shrug. I can tell you for a fact that there are quite a lot of people out there saying extremely hateful things about Chris Long. I read comments on stories all the time. Long doesn’t “probably think” people are saying nasty things about him, he knows it. In Long’s return to Twitter he defended LeBron with supportive tweets.

As a professional athlete and as a man who uses Twitter, Long cannot claim immunity from attacks or say that people shouldn’t be cruel. People have the right to say vile and nasty things about Long and James. That being said, I can only imagine the immense self-loathing that must fill a person in order for them to spew such awful things. I know some of my readers will think I’m exaggerating the level of vitriol on Twitter. I’m not. When you read some of the comments it is an “awful reminder of what’s out there.” The hate and the anger that boils just below the calm surface of our everyday lives. In your neighbor perhaps, or the person next to you in line at the grocery store, or a co-worker. It’s sobering to think of someone so close, so filled with anger.

Would that everyone could worry more about themselves and less about others.

And that’s what Long’s little speech reminded me. What is Libertarianism all about?

It’s not getting to do what I want. It’s about having discipline, self-control, and a sense of personal responsibility so that I can do what I want and let you do what you want.

Good for you, Chris Long. A tip of the hat.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Broken Throne
Next Release: The Black Sphere

Jen Welter a Woman on the Football Field

Jen Welter FootballWhile all this Olympic stuff is going on there’s an interesting story out of the Indoor Football League 8 on 8 division.

A young woman named Jen Welter apparently became the first woman to play in a professional football game at a position other than kicker or holder. She came in at running back and ran three plays which I think can be best described in the following way.

1. Ouch!
2. Please get out before that happens again
3. Is she alive?

Video here.

I’ve played a lot of sports in my life including hockey, rugby, and water polo which are pretty “manly” games. I’m 5’7.5″ tall and currently weigh about 165 lbs although was lighter in college when playing rugby. There are a lot of women bigger and stronger than me.

The difference, of course, is that I was playing high school and college ball, not professional sports where the athletes tend to be quite big and strong.

Personally I don’t have a problem with Welter playing although after watching the video of her three plays I am concerned that at 5′ 2″ and 130 lbs she might get seriously hurt. That’s her decision though. She wants to play, apparently is good enough to play, and the league and team are willing to let her play. Maybe it’s largely a publicity stunt to get people to the games but its clear that no one is coercing Welter.

We live in an era when women are essentially treated as equals to men and this is a sword that cuts both ways. Women are employed as the CEOs at major companies. They are in the workplace at historic numbers. Fewer women want to get married and fewer want to have children.

I think this emancipation of women is an extremely good thing for society and the countries where women are largely free are clearly better for it. It relieves the population stress and will eventually end growth altogether and allow the planet to stabilize at a sustainable level.

Anyway, I have no big points to make here. No rants. No admonishment. If Welter wants to play, let her play. Plenty of female athletes get hurt playing against other women. So if she gets hurt, then she gets hurt.

What do you think?

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Spear of the Hunt
Next Release: The Broken Throne

Fellatio, Homosexual Couples, SodaStream, and the Super Bowl

Fellatio InnuendoI wrote earlier last week that Fox Network refused to air an advertisement from a company that sells soda making equipment because it referenced rivals Coca-Cola and Pepsi.

They didn’t give any explanation as to why they refused to air the ad but the assumption is that they didn’t want to offend two of their largest sponsors; Coca-Cola and Pepsi. Certainly both of those companies mention each other in advertisement and significantly more negatively than the Soda Stream ad mentions them.

However, Soda Stream is a small company that doesn’t spend millions of dollars on advertisement on many other shows; therefore Fox made their decision. Offending Soda Stream will not cost Fox potentially huge amounts of revenue. I explained in the first article why I thought Fox had the right to advertise what they wanted but that this forced alteration smacked of censorship and was certainly an example of the Crony Capitalism that is subverting the economic principles of our country.

That is not the focus of today’s blog. Today I want to talk about how it is apparently perfectly acceptable for an advertisement to state pretty openly that a man wants oral sex from the woman next to him. That it’s completely all right to have a homosexual couple in an advertisement. That a halftime show can be filled with sexually suggestive songs and dances (this year was largely bereft of such displays but I’m talking more generally). There can even be wardrobe malfunctions that are intentionally planned to expose a woman’s breast.

Personally I don’t have a problem with any of these things. I’m actually rather fond of women’s breasts. I’m not opposed to fellatio from an attractive woman, and I don’t have a problem with a homosexual couple. Let’s face reality; some people will have problems with all of these things. I have a problem with commercials where couples (gay or straight) are sticking tongues down each other’s throats. There are always going to be some things, that someone, somewhere, will find objectionable.

The question I want to explore is the remedy to this problem. The people who find these things objectionable now go to our government, namely the FCC, to try to get that agency to penalize those who create and display the content.

I don’t doubt that the FCC will see a litany of complaints this morning. To me this is the heart of the problem. We look to the government to redress grievances over which they should have no jurisdiction. You don’t like seeing a man ask a woman for oral sex and the woman apparently relishing the idea? Then organize a few friends and boycott the network or the product. It’s easy today with the internet to find like-minded people. If enough of you make a fuss, there will be changes.

If you don’t like seeing homosexual couples on your television during the Super Bowl but the majority of people have decided that it’s ok to show them? Well, don’t watch the Super Bowl.

If a friend makes a very sweet comment about breastfeeding her newborn son and that offends you, then tell your friend. If you think it’s sweet then Like the post. The internet is the age of the individual. It is a Libertarian’s dream world.

Take charge of your life and don’t look to the government to do it for you. If you empower the government to ban things, don’t be surprised when they ban something you like. Power to the people! Better yet, power to me!

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Spear of the Hunt
Next Release: The Broken Throne

Why I’m Against College Football Playoffs

BCS National ChampionshipI saw an article this morning about how Aaron Rodgers, quarterback of the Green Bay Packers, didn’t like the Bowl Championship Series in college football and would prefer a sixteen team playoff. I think he is likely in the majority. Most people would prefer to see a playoff and we’re going to get one starting next year when the top four teams will playoff for the NCAA National Championship.

The arguments for a playoff center around the possibility that the eventual NCAA football champion generally has not proven itself to be the best team on the field. There are often multiple teams with equal records and the champion is picked through a series of formulas and human driven polls. This leads to a murky picture when it comes to a single champion.

In many forms of college sports there is a championship at the end the year with the most notable being basketball with March Madness. It is the same in wrestling, baseball, swimming, and other sports so it seems perfectly reasonable to expect the same with football.

I’m not going to say that people who want a playoff, be it sixteen teams or just four teams, are wrong. I’m just saying that I prefer the Bowl Games.

My rational is simple. It’s better for the kids playing the game. The vast majority of the seniors will be playing their last organized football game. Most of them won’t be going on to a professional career. These Bowl Games give those seniors one last memory, and for half of them, one last win.

As an example; the college team I most identify with is the University of Missouri and they lost in the SEC Championship match against Auburn. If there had been an eight team playoff it’s likely Missouri would have been invited. That means that they probably would have lost the last game of their season although it’s possible they would have emerged as the National Champion.

What happened is they got a great trip down to Arlington, Texas for the Cotton Bowl and managed to win a hard-fought battle against Oklahoma State. Those kids ended their college football career on an amazing high. Many of them were playing their last game of football, as I mentioned before. I think this is a good thing. I think it’s great that a young athlete can go out with a win, a memory. It think it outweighs the public’s desire for an outright National Champion.

I realize that most people disagree with me. I realize there is a lot of money to be made in a playoff system. I realize people find the current system unsatisfying.

My reasoning boils down to the rather simple idea that the game is for the players; not the fans, not the networks, not the college presidents, not the highly paid broadcasters and sideline reporters, not the NCAA enforcement bureau, not the stadium contractors, and not for me.

Maybe the Aaron Rodgers of the world disagree with me but I’d like to think that there are a lot of guys out there, sitting in an office, who won their last game and cherish the memory and the trophy.

I guess about some things I’m just hopelessly naive.

I doubt I will make many converts with this blog and I’m certain I won’t bring about any change, but I wrote it anyway.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Spear of the Hunt
Next Release: The Broken Throne

Comparing Lopsided Scores

Blowout LossNot that long ago I wrote a post about a high school football game in Texas where one team defeated the other by a score of 91 – 0.

Now comes a college basketball game in which a Division I team beat a small school playing for the Association of Christian College Athletics league 116 – 12.

In both games it was a case of a team that was completely superior dominating an opponent. In my post about the football game between Aledo and Western Hills I noted that the coach of Aledo put into place a number strategies to limit the score. He played largely backups starting as early as the first quarter, insisted on fair-catches for punts, used simple running plays to virtually every backup on the team including wide receivers.

Aledo led 56 – 0 at halftime and then scored 35 more points in the second half.

I think what Coach Tim Buchanan of Aledo did was exactly correct for the circumstances. I think kneeling on offense instead of running plays would be more embarrassing for Western Hills. I think telling players to ease off is insulting to the other team. In those circumstances a class act does exactly as Coach Buchanan did. Try to limit the embarrassment but play the game.

Coach Buchanan and Aledo went on to win the 4A State Championship game with a 38 – 10 victory over the Brenham Cubs. Congratulations to the Aledo team and coaches.

Now to the basketball game between Southern University and Champion Baptist College. Southern scored the first 44 points of the game and led 57 – 6 at the half. They scored 59 more in the second half and according to reports engaged in a full-court press for most of the game. Coach Roman Banks of the Southern Jaguars had all five starters in the game for 20 minutes or longer. A college basketball game lasts forty minutes.

I don’t think Coach Banks is obligated to play backups, to call off the press, to insist on passing the ball five times before a shot. It’s his team and he thought they needed to work on the press for upcoming conference games. He felt his starters needed minutes.

My opinion is pretty meaningless in all of this. Coach Banks is going to run his team the way he wants, as will Coach Buchanan.

This world needs more people who display dignity both in defeat and victory. Anyway, I’ll be rooting for Aledo and Coach Buchanan to continue their winning ways.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Spear of the Hunt
Next Release: The Broken Throne

Worst Call of the Season – Misleading Headline of the Week

Worst Call of the SeasonIt’s only Sunday and I’ve got an entire week of Motley Fool articles ahead of me, but I got suckered in by a misleading headline just now and I can’t stop myself from reporting its existence to my loyal fans.

Worst Call of the Season – This Horse Collar Call blares the headline on the front page of the Sports Illustrated website. Not only was the call marginal but the writer of the article even admits that on replay it was pretty close!

I’m a football fan and my team is the long down-trodden St. Louis Rams. When you root for a bad team you get used to officials making bad calls against them. I’m not of the opinion it’s a conspiracy, just that referees have an expectation of mistakes when dealing with bad teams and fulfill those prophecies with bad calls. Also, bad teams usually don’t get the best officiating crews and this also leads to mistakes.

I’ve seen some bad ones over the years. A few weeks back, Rams outstanding interior lineman Michael Brockers was called for roughing the passer on this one which I nominate as one of the worst calls of the year!

Don’t put out headlines boldly proclaiming the worst call of the year when I’m on watch!

Shame on you, Sports Illustrated!

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Spear of the Hunt
Next Release: The Broken Throne

Is a Lopsided Score Bullying?

Football Bully ChargeThere’s an interesting case in the news and it’s really not something I’d normally write a blog post about because everyone is pretty much in agreement.

However, I do want to make a point about something in this story that bothers me. First the details.

A powerhouse Texas high school football team defeated another school 91 – 0 in a recent game. The teams play in a division which is the second highest in the state so there are no mercy rules. Usually such rules are designed to stop or shorten the game to prevent such blowouts.

The coach seems to have taken any number of steps to keep the score down but rightly refused to tell his backup players to ease off. I was a backup most of my sports career and when I got in the game I wanted to impress the coaches with my play. By all accounts there was absolutely no attempt to run up the score or to get personal records for the players involved.

Everyone seems to agree the charge of bullying, which came from an email, is unwarranted. So, why the blog?

State law requires an investigation after any charge of bullying. Coach Tim Buchanan of Aledo in the great state of Texas had to go to the superintendent’s office and explain his actions. The school is performing a mandatory investigation and a written report is required within a certain period of time.

The reason these sorts of laws come into existence is because when real bullying occurs, no one takes responsibility. If a responsible person who witnessed the bullying took immediate action there would be no need for laws of this nature. If parents stepped up and disciplined the bully there would be no need for laws of this nature. If the person being bullied socked the bully in the nose there would be no need for these laws.

The problem is that administrators are afraid to step in because parents will file lawsuits. Parents refuse to critically examine their precious child’s actions. Children cannot sock one another in the nose without risk of imprisonment.So, we end up with a state sponsored attempt to prevent bullying.

We have all these laws to prevent bullying which get the state, the school district, and the coaches involved even when the charge is clearly ridiculous. After witnessing the turmoil caused by this one report what will stop agitators from filing bullying claims constantly? It’s quite possible the claim in this story was an example of trolling or a joke gone awry.

Don’t mistake my intention. Bullying is wrong. Running up a score for personal glory is wrong. I’m just not of the opinion that getting the state involved solves much of anything, and generally ends up doing more harm than good.

I’m certain from what little I’ve read that I can call Coach Buchanan a “stand-up guy” without any chance of being mistaken. If he thought one of his players was taunting a badly over-matched opponent, well, I wouldn’t want to be that player. He’s not the sort of man who causes these problems.

Let’s pretend for a moment we have raised a society of critical thinkers who stand-up and do the right thing all the time. When a bully picks on a helpless opponent someone immediately steps in and explains that what the bully is doing is wrong. Generally we’ve stopped the problem right then and there. Let’s say the bully continues and now faces punishment from the school and the parent agrees, extending the punishment to the home. The bullying generally stops. But, let’s say it continues. Now is the time to look for legal and state sponsored remedies.

There’s a case here in Missouri where a girl was allegedly raped but the charges were dropped apparently because the school administration sided with football players. It was a fight but the case has been reopened. The Trayvon Martin case was originally dropped. I’m not suggesting that bullies don’t exist. That discipline sometimes fails to work. That bad people get away with crimes. I’m just saying that with critical thinking and personal responsibility there is need for only limited state sponsored action.

When we become a nanny-state we absolve people of responsibility and open ourselves up to institutionalized corruption. We’re better off leaving these sorts of things in the hands of those closest to the problem. If they fail in their duties then there is a responsibility for the district, county, state, and federal government to become involved.

Greater power to the state means less to the individual. Small problems become big problems. Everyone becomes paralyzed with fear.

There are no easy solutions here. People must learn personal responsibility. Lawsuits against people exhibiting such responsibility must be dismissed by a jury of their peers. People who act responsibly must be praised. The weak must be taught to stand up for themselves. The strong must be taught to behave politely. People must learn to disagree with civility and come up with compromise solutions.

Eat moderately of healthy foods and exercise and you’ll lose weight. No one wants to hear it, but the real solutions don’t fit into sound bytes.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Sword of Water ($2.99 for a full length novel)
Next Release: The Spear of the Hunt (Out very, very soon!)

Youth Football and Gambling

Youth FootballThere’s an interesting case breaking right now in Southern Florida involving youth football and gambling rings. It’s a poorly written article with an obvious bias but the story itself evokes several interesting questions.

In this case a group of coaches set gambling lines for youth football games in South Florida. This area of the country is one of the most football crazy regions in the nation. But, let’s not kid ourselves. There is plenty of gambling going on over Texas high school football. We all know about sports betting for professional and college football. It is a huge industry.

What happened in this case is that an entrepreneur found an avenue for profit. People wanted to gamble on the youth football games and someone provided an outlet. The story indicates, and it could be wrong, that whoever was controlling the gambling exerted influence to make certain that no point shaving occurred. That means they were trying to put up an honest game. An honest game is generally in the best interest of the house. It sounds strange but the house prefers an honest game. It is only the gambler that wants to cheat the house.

The problem with gambling is the ancillary harm and illegal activity it can engender. Dishonest games. Players paid to throw the game or change the final score. Referees bribed. Then of course there are those who gamble too much and must suffer for their mistakes. There are the families of those who lose all their money and must accept the consequences through no fault of their own.

It might be difficult to bribe a professional football player but not nearly as hard to corrupt someone making no money at all, a ten-year old quarterback. A coach, a player, a referee, even the ball boy could deflate a ball at a key moment. All these things are possible. I certainly understand why a state would want to make gambling illegal and they certainly have the right to do so.

I’m just not sure it’s a good idea. Generally making things illegal feeds criminals money, lots of money. This money then leads to violence as fights over who gets it occur. Do we think that once people know how much money can be made from youth football gambling that the problem will go away because of a few arrests? Or do we suspect that the underground nature of the gambling will lead to increased criminal activity?

It’s a difficult question to answer. With that much money involved there are bound to be unshady types attracted to it. I guarantee that right now, in your office, on your block, or even in your house, there is someone making an illegal bet and someone else taking it. Do we extend legal sports gambling down to youth football so that people have an outlet to make their wagers? With a legal outlet available many will choose it.

I’m of the opinion this is the only practical solution but I can see where people would disagree.

It’s a fascinating case and I’d love to see what you think! Please comment and don’t be shy about disagreeing with me!

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist
Current release: The Hammer of Fire
Upcoming Release: The Sword of Water

Sports as a Force of Good

Cards and Cubs CoupleI was watching European football (soccer) on ESPN3 this past Saturday morning and happened to see a rather heart-warming site in the Bayern Munich v. TSG Hoffenheim match. It wasn’t a particularly good match as Bayern won rather easily but at one point there was a goal that reminded me about much of what is good in sport and how it brings people together.

Bayern plays their home games in the town of Munich, Germany in the Bundesliga which is Germany’s top football league. Just to explain how it works to those not familiar with the league systems of football I’ll give a quick overview. Each country has several divisions and the top division is the most important. At the end of each season the teams that finish near the top of their division get to play extra games in special tournaments and this generates a huge amount of revenue. If they are playing in a non-top division they also are promoted up one division for the next season. In contrast, teams that finish near the bottom of the division are relegated or sent down to play the next year in the lower league.

The system is somewhat flawed but what I really want to talk about is what I saw during the Bayern Hoffenheim match. Bayern is one of, if not the, most traditional powerhouse in German soccer with a history that dates back over a century. The play in question involved a player named Arjen Robben making a beautiful pass to Franck Ribery who then scored much to the delight of the near 70,000 fans in attendance.

Why do I make such a big deal about this? Arjen Robben is a Dutch player while Franck Ribery is French. The fans are mostly German.

How can this not be a sign of the progress of humanity?

We think of nationalism and patriotism as good things and I wouldn’t disagree although perhaps the definition of both words is something I should go into detail in another blog but, sadly, those two ideas can be, and have been, used in ugly ways in the past. Love of your own country can be manipulated into hate of another group of people and this can lead to violence and ugliness. When we see sport bringing traditional enemies together it might not be saving the world but it is certainly makes it a less hate filled place. It’s hard to be a racist when your favorite player is of a different race. Not that it’s impossible but again, that’s another topic.

One imagines a world where we fight our wars on the playing field and go to the pub for a beer afterwards with the winners smiling and the losers dreaming of next year while buying each other pints.

So, for those of you who aren’t sports fans why not give your local club a chance this year by going to a few games. Even if you’re not lucky enough to live in Munich, St. Louis, or Hoffenheim you can witness camaraderie that crosses economic and possibly national lines and maybe make a new friend or two as well.

By the way, aside from the Ribery goal Bayern got a hat trick from Mario Gomez. He was born in Riedlingen and has some pretty progressive views about homosexuals in sports.

Tweet, Like, Comment, Digg, Stumble, Pinterest and otherwise share if you think your friends might find this interesting.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist