KEVIN DURANT: A CLASS ACT OFF THE COURT

Even if you’re not a sports fan, remember the name; Kevin Durant.

     In this day and age, where we see far too much negativity and poor sportsmanship, particularly in team sports, it’s refreshing to see a major star with such class and humility.  I am not a fan of basketball.  Until this past week, I had never heard of Kevin Durant.  Now, I will never forget his name. Here’s why.

     Kevin Durant has been playing in the National Basketball Association (NBA) for seven years. After one year of college, he smartly accepted being drafted into the NBA. Now 25 years of age and playing for the Oklahoma City Thunder, he is breaking all kinds of records. Many compare him to Michael Jordan.  This year, he surpassed the great Lebron James to earn the Most Valuable Player (MVP) award. I won’t bore you with all the statistics, but rest assured they are phenomenal. 

     There’s far more to this young man than his ability to jump, dribble and shoot hoops. While he’s earning mega-millions in sport contracts and endorsements, his true nature can be judged by his philanthropy, never forgetting his roots, his religious devotion, his love of fellow man and most particularly, his single mother. Among other examples of his generosity, he gave one million dollars to the Red Cross in 2013 for victims of the Moore tornado. He inspired the Thunder team, and the Nike Corporation to match his contribution. A partial listings of philanthropy can be found on the Wiki link provided (below).

     What really tore at the heartstrings was his amazing acceptance speech at the annual MVP award ceremony this past week. The bespectacled giant named – one by one – many of his teammates, giving them credits, not only for being great ball players, but as friends and mentors. Then came his heartfelt tribute to his mom who was sitting in the audience, mopping tears from her face. She never saw it coming:

    “One my best memories I have is when we moved into our first apartment. No bed, no furniture, we all just sat in the living room and just hugged each other. We thought we made it. … You wake me up in the middle of the night in the summertime, making me run up a hill, making me do push-ups. Screaming at me from the sidelines of my games at eight or nine years old … When you didn’t eat, you made sure we ate. You went to sleep hungry. You sacrificed for us. You’re the real MVP.”

     That’s a Mother’s Day gift she will never forget.

     See the speech, in the video link (below)

     Click here: Video: Thunder’s Kevin Durant gives emotional MVP acceptance speech | The Point Forward – SI.com

Click here: Kevin Durant – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

KEEP UNIONS FROM COLLEGE ATHLETICS

                    We’ve been raised to compete, to want more! More! More! It’s a way of life.  It’s about greed. 

                                                              —    Sandy Duncan, actress, singer

And so, the label “amateur” will likely be lifted from college football players very soon.  No more is it about earning scholarships, attaining a college education, and working hard at a sport in order to pay for that education. It’s all about greed.

     Gimme, gimme, gimme.

     The National Labor Relations Board issued a ruling in March declaring football players from Northwestern as “employees” of the university and therefore the right to form a union.

     What?

     That’s like saying tuba players in the band are employees of the college. Maybe even swimmers, cheerleaders and chess players. After all, they all compete, they all enhance the “sporting” events and they all work hard.

     Yes, football players work hard at their sport.  But they are not employees! They are students of a college or university who – in most situations – must maintain a particular grade average in order to be granted the privilege to compete.

     Now, a mighty foot has wedged into the proverbial door for unions to take over college sports.  It may start with football, but don’t think for a minute this won’t spill over to basketball, baseball, soccer, lacrosse, wrestling and more, even beyond sports.

     For their hard work and training, many football players have earned scholarships at institutions of higher learning, which is worth a lot of money, not only in tuitions but in achieving an education that will prepare them for profitable careers in later life. There’s the reward.

     Some outstanding players are often cherry-picked into the big leagues where millions of dollars are bestowed upon them as a pro. That’s another reward for being great at their sport.

     But until then, the kids are primarily students.  Other than teachers, there is no place in amateur/university sports for unions. Union power will eventually translate in to sport domination, collective bargaining and if they deem necessary, strikes and sit-downs. And it will reach out to all other extra-curriculum activities on campus.

     Talk about opening Pandora’s box.

     Collective bargaining will translate to higher and higher salaries, which will create the need for new sources of funding. Network television is already established and on board. So where will that come from?

     Ticket sales. Vendor costs.

     Today’s pro baseball and football, ticket prices have soared out of sight to where the average family can barely afford a day at the ball game, unless they sit in the bleachers over center field or the end zone. The bulk of good seating is reserved for corporations, politicians, and clients of all sizes and shapes of money bags.

     Fortunately, prices for attending amateur school games have not hit the stratosphere – yet.  But wait until the costs of ball players generate the need for revenue – revenue which the average Joe cannot afford.

     Going to college is first and foremost about attaining education.  Sports and their associated events are an important element of college life, but it’s not a “profession.”  If kids wish to dodge education and go for the big bucks, they can always apply for the pros once out of high school.

     Amy Perko, Executive Director of the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics said, “Universities and the NCAA, not unions, need to be the ones to guarantee benefits, like multi-year scholarships.”

     When it comes to students, regardless of their extra curricula, unions should be kept out of the universities and colleges. To say that students who play sports are an “employee” of the school, is not only absurd, it’s nothing but a money-grubbing ploy to destroy the spirit of school sports now and forever…not only for the kids, but the families and spectators as well.

     Amy Perko enunciates many of the benefits that college athletes should be entitled to, outside of being paid “salaries” as an employee. Watch the video:

Click here: Unions not the answer for college athletes: Amy Perko 

Click here: College Players Granted Right to Form Union – NYTimes.com

Click here: College Athletes Granted the Right to Unionize—Is This the End of the NCAA? | Alternet

TEN MOST ADMIRED ATHLETES IN HISTORY

 Considering there are easily one hundred or more to select from in a myriad of sports, this was a difficult choice. When referring to most admired, it’s not only for athletic records, but other contributions as well. I based my selections on a mix of two criteria:

  • Level of achievements and contribution to the sport
  • Struggle, Integrity, Compassion outside the arena.

These are my opinions only

 1.     Jackie Robinson

     The movie “42,” released in 2012, barely scraped the surface of this great man. While his on-field achievements did not assemble the gargantuan numbers of a Babe Ruth or Pete Rose, the complete package is hard to ignore when deciding who should be most admired in the history of sports.

     First student at UCLA to win varsity letters in four sports. During WWII, served as a second lieutenant, then court-martialed for refusing to sit in the back of a bus. With the  help of Branch Rickey, owner of the Brooklyn Dodgers, was the first to break the insurmountable color barrier in baseball when drafted from the Negro League to Minor League baseball in Montreal, and then to the Dodgers. He was met with huge rejection from fans and other players, often ridiculed and harassed, yet he stood his ground, kept composure and made his statement on the ball field, winning the Rookie of the Year Award in 1947 and later, the Most Valuable Player in the National League in 1949.

     He paved the way for the upcomings of great black players such as Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Larry Doby and Roy Campanella. Enormous barriers were overcome with grace and integrity, setting an example for the future of black athletes in all sports, including basketball, tennis, football and golf.

 

     2.   Jim Thorpe

     Sadly, not much is known by the average sports fan in today’s America about this incredible athlete. Another minority with huge mountains to climb to gain acceptance, Thorpe was a Native American who rose to stardom in the early 20th century, first as a school athlete then as winner of two gold medals in the 1912 Olympics, Track and Field. He was forced to return his medals later because of earning small money as a minor league baseball player, violating the rules. The medals were restored thirty years after his death. He later went on to enter professional sports in basketball, baseball, and football, breaking records and leaving his mark in various sports Halls of Fame. Many polls cite Thorpe as the greatest athlete of the 20th century.

 

     3.   Babe Didrikson Zaharias

     Texas born in 1911, Mildred Didrikson hit five home runs in one baseball game as a kid which earned her the nickname: Babe. Throughout high school, she excelled in every sport she played. She broke four world records in the 1932 Olympics in Track and Field when female participation was limited by rules. She could throw a baseball three-hundred feet and hit a golf ball as far as any man. She formed the Babe Didrikson All-American basketball team, and toured the vaudeville circuit.  After her marriage to wrestler George Zaharias, she entered professional golf and blitzed the female circuit, winning seventeen consecutive tournaments between 1946 and 1947. By 1950, she had won every golf title available. From 1953 to 1956, she battled colon cancer, but still managed to play the circuit. She was still ranked number one in Women’s golf when she died. She also served as a founder of the LPGA. The Associated Press voter her the greatest female athlete of the half century.   

 

      4.   Babe Ruth

     Some folks will argue this selection because he was known to carouse, smoke cigars and drink. Baseball and media were different sets of entities between 1914 and 1935, when Ruth left his mark on the world of sports, particularly baseball. It was a hell-raising period where basic raw talent prevailed outside the gym, which had the greatest appeal to the average American enthusiast. Ruth, who didn’t look like an athlete, made baseball what it is today, drawing millions upon millions to stadiums for nearly twenty years, an icon of icons, setting records as a pitcher and then, a power hitter blasting balls out of the park in record numbers, even before the advent of the live ball. Home runs were not his only feat, as he recorded a lifetime batting average of .342, a number rarely seen today for one season. All the while, he was an idol-role model to young children to whom he shared his humble beginnings in a Baltimore children’s home. He often visited kids in hospitals wherever he was playing. If not the most moral of athletes, he certainly was the most beloved.

 

      5.  Michael Jordan

     Hands down, the greatest basketball player that ever graced a court, though there are few nearly as good. But this was the Babe Ruth of basketball, not only setting records but thrilling fans with his natural grace, entertaining with his aerial exploits while charming fans with charisma. He became the idol of every aspiring basketball player from elementary schools to the pros. He holds six national team titles, five Most Valuable Player awards and ten scoring titles. His achievements on the court are matched by his array of charitable foundations and events in his name. A truly remarkable American and the ultimate role model for young men.

 

     6.   Roberto Clemente

 There is a reason that the most prestigious off-field achievement in baseball is known as the Roberto Clemente Humanitarian Award. Yes, this gifted athlete racked up many impressive statistics in his 18 years with the Pittsburg Pirates, including four batting titles, eleven Gold Glove awards and over 3000 career hits. But he was also the Jackie Robinson of Latinos, breaking that unspoken barrier to become the most celebrated Puerto Rican athlete of all time. While his on-field exploits were remarkable, he was even better known for his love of people and his untiring devotion to helping the poor and needy, not only in his homeland, but Central America.  He died in a plane crash en route to delivering supplies to Nicaragua after an earthquake. He was a hero in every sense of the word.

 

     7.   Ted Williams

     Arguably the greatest natural hitter of all time in baseball, with eye/hand coordination unmatched by anyone.  Lifetime batting average .344 and the last to hit over .400 in 1941, Williams was not one of those self-aggrandizing stars who loved the limelight nor was he worried about setting records, it just came naturally. He was a six-time batting champion and twice the winner of the coveted triple crown (batting, home run and RBI titles) which no one else ever achieved since 1925. Consider this: While his lofty lifetime records are among the tops of all time, he missed five full seasons in the prime of his life in order to serve in the U. S. Military as an aviator during WWII and the Korean War.

The most telling of the integrity of Ted Williams is the story of his final batting average in 1941. On the last day of the season, Williams was batting exactly at .400.  His manager offered to bench him, so he would finish with the coveted statistic. Williams refused, saying if he was going to bat over .400, wanted to deserve it. That day, he hit six hits in eight tries and finished the season at .406. 

 

     8.   Billie Jean King

     Long before the era of six-foot Amazon players like the Williams sisters and Maria Sharipova, Billie Jean king was racking up women’s tennis titles between 1961 an 1979  like Ruth in baseball and Jordan in basketball, totaling 20 titles alone at Wimbledon and 39 Grand Slams in total, including doubles. When former champ, Bobby Riggs boasted how women could not equal men in tennis, they played “Battle of the Sexes” in 1973, in which King won in three straight sets. Her contributions off court blazed the trail for women receiving equal shares of the money prizes, spearheading the drive and establishing the WTA (Women’s Tennis Association). The National Tennis Center in New York, home of the U.S. Open, is now named the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in her honor. She serves on the boards of several charitable foundations.

 

     9.  Jim Brown

     What sets Jim Brown apart from so many great football icons, is sheer accomplishments within a short (nine year) career, dominating the game like no other running back ever. While he set numerous running records for his era (which included less games per year than today), he never missed a game with the Cleveland Browns in nine years, and led the league in rushing every year but one. He retired at the top of his game and went on to a movie career, acting and starring in such hits as The Dirty Dozen (1967). While Brown’s personal life involved a low point in his domestic affairs, he turned it around by throwing his support behind many black-owned businesses and openly called for more involvement from other black athletes to be better role models for young people. One of a kind.

 

      10.   Rocky Marciano

    This will likely be the most disputed of choices, particularly in the boxing world. In their primes, could he have beaten Ali? Joe Louis? Foreman?  We’ll never know. We do know he defeated every boxer he ever faced in his 49-fight career, 43 by knockout, the best knockout ratio in boxing history. He was known, not because of his boxing prowess, but sheer power. That’s not bad for a small heavyweight tipping scales at a mere 185 pounds. Babe Ruth and Billie Jean may not have competed as successfully had they competed against today’s monsters, but in relative terms they were untouchable. Marciano was the ultimate champion, exciting and powerful, but a classy gentleman out of the ring, showing respect and honor to all of humanity and initiating a number of charitable programs for which he played a low profile. He smartly retired from boxing at age 32 and went into business. Like Roberto Clemente, he died in a plane crash in 1969, en route to a little boy’s birthday party in which he was to be the surprise.

 

     Honorable Mention

Here are another ten names which I had considered for this list:  Martina Navratilova, Gale Sayers, Wayne Gretzky, Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods, Jackie Joyner-Kersee, Nolan Ryan, Joe Montana, Wilt Chamberlain, Muhammed Ali.

A FRANK MOVIE REVIEW: '42' = 8


“42” = 8
The movie was predictable. Even the most uninformed in the annals of baseball have heard of Jackie Robinson and his famous milestone of breaking the color barrier into the Major Leagues in 1947. We all knew how the story would begin and end.
But that’s not what was important. Most bio epics, from stories from Jesus to famous politicians, have known beginnings and endings. This story rehashed the old wounds of racial discrimination of merely 65 years ago, when black celebrities, in sports or entertainment, were relegated to separate bathrooms, water fountains and lodgings…still considered second-class citizens no matter when they went, no matter their wealth.
What the movie brought out was the horrid humiliations that Robinson was forced to endure, especially by fellow ball players, few of whom had the courage to come to his side, as did Pee Wee Reese. While Branch Rickey was credited with bringing Robinson into the majors, we didn’t really know how much he played a part in how the young star from the Negro Leagues would handle the firestorm emotionally. This piqued in a poignant scene, as Rickey is warning Robinson of what’s to come if he brings him into the Brooklyn Dodger team. Robinson alludes to having the courage to fight, at which time Rickey counters, “What’s more important, I want a player who has the guts not to fight back.”
Harrison Ford plays an Oscar-worthy portrayal of Branch Rickey, while Chadwick Boseman does an excellent job of playing Jackie Robinson. Also worthy of mention is Nicole Beharie, who played an essential role as Jackie’s wife, Rachel.
I was a baseball fan in 1947 and well remember the hoopla over a black man integrating major league baseball. It seemed strange, indeed. But I never realized what he had to suffer as he blazed the trail for the black ballplayers that followed; Monte Irvin, Larry Doby, Don Newcombe and Roy Campenella…and now, thousands more.
Jackie Robinson overcame hard adversity and discrimination, but his play on the field was all the answer he needed, as he posted a lifetime average higher than most of his teammates, (.311) and won the Most Valuable Player award in the entire league in 1949. He was elected to the Hall of Fame on first ballot in 1962, five years after his retirement.
Today, no one pays any attention to color or ethnicity, only batting averages and double plays. Following baseball’s integration, other teams sports followed suit, including football and basketball.
It is good that his legacy has been honored by retiring his number “42” from baseball, on all teams, the only number so chosen. In the wake of the recent Boston massacre, did anyone notice that the Red Sox, and other Major League Teams, were all wearing the number “42” on their uniforms?
 “42” is a very good movie. It’s also a good learning experience for people too young to remember. It probably won’t win any Oscars, but it’s rated an 8 nonetheless.
Click here: 42 Trailer (U.S. Version #2) – IMDb
Below, Jackie Robinson with Branch Rickey:
 
 
 

A FRANK MOVIE REVIEW: ’42’ = 8

“42” = 8

The movie was predictable. Even the most uninformed in the annals of baseball have heard of Jackie Robinson and his famous milestone of breaking the color barrier into the Major Leagues in 1947. We all knew how the story would begin and end.

But that’s not what was important. Most bio epics, from stories from Jesus to famous politicians, have known beginnings and endings. This story rehashed the old wounds of racial discrimination of merely 65 years ago, when black celebrities, in sports or entertainment, were relegated to separate bathrooms, water fountains and lodgings…still considered second-class citizens no matter when they went, no matter their wealth.

What the movie brought out was the horrid humiliations that Robinson was forced to endure, especially by fellow ball players, few of whom had the courage to come to his side, as did Pee Wee Reese. While Branch Rickey was credited with bringing Robinson into the majors, we didn’t really know how much he played a part in how the young star from the Negro Leagues would handle the firestorm emotionally. This piqued in a poignant scene, as Rickey is warning Robinson of what’s to come if he brings him into the Brooklyn Dodger team. Robinson alludes to having the courage to fight, at which time Rickey counters, “What’s more important, I want a player who has the guts not to fight back.”

Harrison Ford plays an Oscar-worthy portrayal of Branch Rickey, while Chadwick Boseman does an excellent job of playing Jackie Robinson. Also worthy of mention is Nicole Beharie, who played an essential role as Jackie’s wife, Rachel.

I was a baseball fan in 1947 and well remember the hoopla over a black man integrating major league baseball. It seemed strange, indeed. But I never realized what he had to suffer as he blazed the trail for the black ballplayers that followed; Monte Irvin, Larry Doby, Don Newcombe and Roy Campenella…and now, thousands more.

Jackie Robinson overcame hard adversity and discrimination, but his play on the field was all the answer he needed, as he posted a lifetime average higher than most of his teammates, (.311) and won the Most Valuable Player award in the entire league in 1949. He was elected to the Hall of Fame on first ballot in 1962, five years after his retirement.

Today, no one pays any attention to color or ethnicity, only batting averages and double plays. Following baseball’s integration, other teams sports followed suit, including football and basketball.

It is good that his legacy has been honored by retiring his number “42” from baseball, on all teams, the only number so chosen. In the wake of the recent Boston massacre, did anyone notice that the Red Sox, and other Major League Teams, were all wearing the number “42” on their uniforms?

 “42” is a very good movie. It’s also a good learning experience for people too young to remember. It probably won’t win any Oscars, but it’s rated an 8 nonetheless.

Click here: 42 Trailer (U.S. Version #2) – IMDb

Below, Jackie Robinson with Branch Rickey: