Finally a Yankees Fan

I never could stand the New York Yankees baseball team.

Especially during the tenure of owner George Steinbrenner. I thought he was an arrogant, rich jerk who fielded a whole team of arrogant, rich jerks. I thought they felt entitled to a World Series Championship every season, like all the other teams shouldn’t even bother playing.

And the really annoying part was, they won a lot.

As a long-suffering Texas Rangers fan, this was the most annoying in the late 1990’s, when we would regularly lose to the Yanks in the playoffs.

But, that’s all history. Today, I come, not to bury the Yankees, but to praise them. (Thanks, Bill.)

And the Tampa Bay Rays, as well.

From Associated Press, May 27:

The New York Yankees and Tampa Bay Rays used their social media accounts during Thursday night’s game between the teams to spread information about how gun violence affects American life.

The move was made in response to recent mass shootings in Uvalde, Texas, and Buffalo. Several notable sports figures — including Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr — have used their platform over the past few days to plead for action to combat gun violence.

MLB’s social media accounts are usually used during games to show video highlights, relay baseball statistics or exchange witty jokes with other accounts about the action on the field. On Thursday, that was replaced by posts like “ Firearms were the leading cause of death for American children and teens in 2020.”

Both accounts then posted a link to the source of their information.

In lieu of gave (sic) coverage and in collaboration with the Tampa Bay Rays, we will be using our channels to offer facts about the impacts of gun violence.” the Yankees said in a statement. “The devastating events that have taken place in Uvalde, Buffalo and countless other communities across our nation are tragedies that are intolerable.”

The Rays also released a statement, saying that the recent shootings “cannot become normal.

We all deserve to be safe — in schools, grocery stores, places of worship, our neighborhoods, houses and America. The most recent mass shootings in Buffalo and Uvalde have shaken us to the core. The Tampa Bay Rays are mourning these heartbreaking tragedies that took the lives of innocent children and adults.“

This cannot become normal. We cannot become numb. We cannot look the other way. We all know, if nothing changes, nothing changes.”

The Uvalde school shooting was particularly personal for Rays reliever Brooks Raley, who is from Uvalde and still has family who live in the town. He attended the school where the shooting occured.

The story mentions Steve Kerr. If, by now, you haven’t seen his postgame response to the tragedy in Uvalde, it’s worth watching. He spoke for many of us.

Unfortunately, not all of us, but that’s for another post.

But what these two teams did Thursday night was absolutely remarkable. They put the uncomfortable – and, in the case of the United States Congress, untouchable – issue of gun violence right in our face, imploring us to acknowledge and deal with it. They stood up, like men.

Now it’s on us to stand with them.

Thank you, Yankees. I’ll still root for you guys to lose, don’t get me wrong, but you definitely won last night.

So did you, Rays. Thanks to both teams for having your priorities straight.

Please visit their team Twitter accounts and read the information provided there. (And just ignore all the trolls on there trashing them already; you knew they would.)

And tell your Congressmen: We can handle the thoughts and prayers. It’s time for you to ACT.

It’s MADNESS, I Tell You!

In the midst of all the soul-crushing, mind-pummeling news to which we’re daily subjected, allow me to offer this distraction:

NCAA championship basketball, more affectionately known as March Madness. 🏀 🏆

Now usually, I only keep up with college hoops as it relates to my alma mater, Baylor University. (2021 Men’s National Champion!) But when it comes time for March Madness, it’s hard to not get caught up in the excitement, the unpredictability, the mass hysteria that accompanies this tournament every year.

Speaking of madness, here’s a fun fact:

The tournament always starts on Thursday. On the day before, more vasectomies are performed in the U.S. than on any other day of the year.

Yeah. You heard me right.

Presumably, because it allows guys to stay home a couple of days to recover, giving them a good excuse to watch hoops all day.

Whatever, my fellow dudes. Remember, though, that works only once. (Or should, anyway 😳) You’re much bigger basketball fans than me. And I’m okay with that.

Anyway, back to the games. Yes, my Baylor Bears have already been eliminated from the competition – curse you, Tar Heels! – but that doesn’t mean I’m no longer interested. There are still some compelling storylines to follow. Such as:

Coach K’s Last Dance

Duke University coach Mike Krzyzewski, more commonly known as Coach K (thank goodness), has amassed the most victories of any men’s college hoops coach, going for number 1200 Sunday against Michigan State, in his final season of a legendary career spanning 47 years, 42 of them at Duke. That career includes five national championships and twelve Final Four appearances, the latter of which ties a record.

Naturally, many people would like nothing more than to see Coach K savor the sweet taste of one last triumph as he rides off into the sunset. And yes, that would be a fitting end to a superb career.

But then, what about…

The Cinderella Story

There’s one every year. The team that comes out of nowhere, from a school most of us have never heard of, and single-handedly screws up everybody’s bracket. (If you don’t know what I mean by that, this is clearly not your sport.) But once they show up, they immediately build a nationwide following; people root for them to go as far as they can, maybe even (😱) all the way!!

Ladies and gentlemen, meet the Peacocks of Saint Peter’s University, from Jersey City, New Jersey.

Seeded 15th in the East Regional tournament, they announced their presence spectacularly, shocking Number 2 seed, and perennial powerhouse, University of Kentucky, with an 85-79 overtime victory.

Anybody who saw that coming should have bought a lottery ticket.

The Peacocks then followed that up with an 70-60 win over Murray State, another Kentucky school. (The whole state of Kentucky must hate these guys by now.) Mind you, Murray State came into this game on a 21-game winning streak. No problem for the Peacocks.

The win put Saint Peter’s in the Sweet Sixteen, making them only the third 15-seed team to ever do that. They now await the winner of the Purdue-Texas match.

And if you think this team feels at all intimidated by the bigger schools in its way, I offer the following, soon-to-be-immortal quote from Saint Peter’s head coach, Shaheen Holloway:

“I’m going to say this. It’s going to come off a little crazy. I got guys from New Jersey and New York City. You think we’re scared of anything? You think we’re worried about guys trying to muscle us and tough us out?”

Yeah, attitude!!! In…your…FACE!!

How can you not get behind that, I ask you?

Anyway, I think it’s still worth watching. Maybe now, you will, too. It’s a real good distraction.

Maybe even from a healing vasectomy; I’ll never know.

Oh, and I can still root for the Baylor Women’s team. Go, Lady Bears!

Uncomfortable History Month: Hammer Time

I’m a day late reblogging this post, but it’s still essential reading for Black History Month. Even Black sports heroes are subject to unimaginable abuse. Larry

The Mind of Brosephus

Day five, and what better topic is there than the Hammer himself. On this date in 1934, the greatest player to ever wear an Atlanta Braves uniform was born in Mobile, Alabama. Henry Louis “Hank” Aaron would leave Mobile and go on to become the homerun king of Major League Baseball.

I could go on all day about his career, but we all are pretty familiar with his stats. What makes his career even more impressive is when you realize that he accomplished all he did while under constant threat to both himself and his family. Just as revisionism portrays Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr as someone who was supposedly beloved during his time on earth, Aaron wasn’t universally accepted and loved by America during his playing years.

I’ll give you just a few samples of the thousands upon thousands of hate letters he and the Braves organization received…

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For the Fellas

 

Men. Guys. Dudes. Brothers.

Listen to me right now. If I could, I would grab every single one of you by the lapels on your coat, pull you right to my face, and say, “Pay Attention!!”

Here’s why: There are two professional basketball players who have something very important to say to all of us guys.

So, I want all of you to go straight to The Players’ Tribune, a website where professional athletes connect directly with fans, in their own words. Once you’re there, read Everyone is Going Through Something, by the Cleveland Cavaliers’ Kevin Love, about the panic attack that woke him up to his mental illness.

Then, read about DeMar DeRozan, of the Toronto Raptors, opening up about his struggles with depression and anxiety.

Go ahead, do it now. I’ll wait here.

 

Done? Good.

Could you identify with some of what you read? I sure could. I think lots of men can.

But nobody ever knows that, because to speak up about it is to admit to a “weakness”, which, of course, no real man can admit, right?

Plus, in our culture, “mental illness” is synonymous with “looney toons”, and it’s time we all get past that way of thinking.

What I hope sticks with you, fellas, from Kevin and DeMar’s stories, is that it’s okay to talk to someone about your mental health. You’re not any less of a man if you have a problem.

You hear me? You’re not any less of a man if you have a problem. And you’re not any less of a man for talking with someone about it. The fact I have to practically shout it to you just shows how much STIGMA is attached to mental illness in America. Especially, with men.

And, the way to make that go away is for more of us to talk openly about it, like Kevin and DeMar, and so many before them, and not just athletes, either. Men from all different walks of life.

Because, the truth is, big boys do cry. We just never see them do it.

Mental illness isn’t something that will just go away with time if you wait it out, and it sure as hell isn’t something you can fix, yourself; I don’t care how badass you think you are.

I’m gonna keep talking about mental illness. My mental illness. My depression. Because it’s something men need to talk about a whole lot more. Not just about sports, or cars, or politics, or women, or our physical health.

Our mental health is as much a part of who we are as the rest of it, guys. So, let’s make it part of the conversation.

I just want to remind you of what Kevin said at the end of his essay:

“So if you’re reading this and you’re having a hard time, no matter how big or small it seems to you, I want to remind you that you’re not weird or different for sharing what you’re going through.

“Just the opposite. It could be the most important thing you do. It was for me.”

It was for me. And, with all my heart, guys, I promise you, it could be for you.

It really is okay.