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Proposed youth sports reality show gets it all wrong

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So I was combing through, a reality show casting site, looking for opportunities to exploit myself and my family without first having to fake putting my young son on a weather balloon, and I came across this call from an unnamed CBS project:

National Television show booking parents of teens who feel their kid(s) are so focused on sports that it is affecting their schoolwork, grades, family life &/or other activities or causing them to neglect other activities.

You & your teen will get advice from a globally known psychologist as well as a championship-winning professional football coach on how to find a balance of sports, education & family life.

OK, first problem with this idea: it’s not the teens who need persuading to keep sports in perspective.

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Second: “Globally known psychologist” has the stink of Dr. Phil all over it.

Third, and, um, biggest problem: if the championship-winning professional football coach is Jimmy Johnson, he’ll also spend time talking about his newly lengthened schlong. (ExtenZe struck gold getting a guy named “Jimmy Johnson” to hawk its purported pecker extender.)

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If you win “Dinner with Jimmy Johnson,” you’re duty bound to order the jumbo-sized sausage.

Written by rkcookjr

April 17, 2010 at 12:27 am

Love 'Hoosiers'? What would you think of 'Hoosiers 2: East Chicago'?

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“Let’s win this one for all da region schools that never had a chance to get here.”

Indiana native Angelo Pizzo earned great acclaim for writing and producing “Hoosiers,” the story of an unlikely state basketball championship team that was deservedly declared by many to be the best sports movie of all time.

So how would you feel if Pizzo went back to the Indiana basketball well, this time riffing off of the undefeated 1969-70 state champions from East Chicago Roosevelt? From the Northwest Indiana Times:

Three years ago [former East Chicago Roosevelt High basketball player Napoleon] Brandford met with Angelo Pizzo, the Bloomington native who wrote and produced “Hoosiers.” … Pizzo is looking at reworking the screenplay about the Rough Riders, which already has been written.

“If I put my pen on paper, I will not be doing another version of ‘Hoosiers’,” Pizzo said. “Region basketball is not Indiana high school basketball. It’s much different. It’s a different culture. But it is a great story.”

Brandford wrote a book — “Hoosiers, too: The Road Warriors” — that chronicled the great E.C.R team. The investment banker has spoken with many about making this film. The first screenplay was written by Paul Quinn, brother of actor Aidan Quinn.

James D. Stern, an owner of the Chicago Bulls, has taken an interest in the project. …

Brandford said the movie about the Rough Riders will be made, but the economy has slowed the process. A year ago he had an option to make the movie with Endgame Entertainment. Some artistic liberties were taken initially with the story, so now it’s back to the drawing board, where Pizzo stepped in.

With all due respect to Pizzo’s moviemaking abilities, I don’t see why the 1969-70 East Chicago Roosevelt team would be so inherently fascinating. Yes, it didn’t have its own gym, and there are aspects of the racial tension of the time that might provide some drama. But it doesn’t seem to stand out to the level of supporting its own blockbuster story.

The team that Pizzo used for “Hoosiers” — the 1953-54 Milan Indians — worked because it was the ultimate underdog story, the ingrained symbol (at least in Indiana) for how anyone, with hard work and some pluck, could take on the mightiest foe. It wasn’t just the story of a basketball team; it was Indiana’s whole mythology, and partly explains why welfare benefits aren’t so generous there.

If there is another Indiana team to become fodder for a movie, it’s the one that succeeded Milan — the 1954-55 Indianapolis Crispus Attucks team, lead by Oscar Robertson. Talk about your black-white tension: while schools with black players were allowed in the Indiana state tournament, segregated, all-black schools such as Attucks (as well as parochial schools) weren’t allowed in until 1942. (That rule was put in place by Indiana’s Avery Brundage, a man named Arthur Trester. With no irony, the Indiana High School Athletic Association, which he once ran, hands out the Trester Award for Mental Attitude during the state tournament.)

Milan beat Robertson and Attucks during its 1954 title run, and “Hoosiers” gives that game a nod by casting the coach of that Attucks team, Ray Crowe, as South Bend Central’s coach in Hickory’s final game. In fact, “Hoosiers” sets up a “Hoosiers 2: Attucks” perfectly by its undercurrent of how Hickory was a last stand for rural Indiana, soon to be overtaken in importance by modern city life. The Attucks team isn’t interesting just because it was the first team from an all-black school to win the storied Indiana state basketball title. It’s also compelling because most of the players grew up together in the same housing complex, playing on a dirt court.

Interestingly enough, Robertson himself led an effort to make a movie made about his high school team. It was a documentary called “Something to Cheer About, and it was released in 2007. But a fictional version might spread the Attucks story more far and wide.

One problematic part: the ending. Attucks’ victory didn’t bring about instant racial reconciliation. It turned out the Indianapolis city fathers, either out of racism or a misguided feeling to let blacks enjoy “their” title, put the victory parade on Indiana Avenue near Attucks, then the center of the city’s black community, rather than around Monument Circle in the center of the city.

Update on the player Drew Pinsky saved

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I’m a few weeks behind here. But in case you were wondering, Jackson Allan, the high school football player whose life was saved by television personality/physician Dr. Drew Pinsky, is home. From his Facebook support page:

Jackson returned home to his mom’s place on the evening of Thursday, Dec 17th.

Jackson’s leaving Rancho is simply the best gift everyone in his family and friends could have. He’s made incredible progress and I’m sure it will continue.


“Rancho” is Rancho Los Amigos National Rehabilitation Center, where Allan was transferred for rehab after recovery from brain surgery at UCLA Harbor hospital. “Les” is Allan’s father.

The backstory: Allan, a 10th-grader at Polytechnic in Pasadena, Calif., collapsed after suffering a head injury during his October football game against rival Chadwick. Pinsky, whose son plays for Polytechnic, ran to the bench where Allan collapsed and, along with Chadwick parent Dr. Roger Lewis, administered emergency aid that is credited with keeping Allan alive. It appears Allan still has a long way to go with rehab, but given where he was a few months back, that’s incredible progress.

Dr. Phil, solving your youth sports problems

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Phil McGraw, America’s favorite pop psychologist and Hank Kingsley doppelganger, on his Nov. 4 show asked this musical question: “Whether it’s in school, sports or hobbies, all parents want their children to succeed. But can a competitive spirit go too far?”

dr-phil2“Hey now!”

And Dr. Phil’s answer was, “No, not really.”

Just kidding! Of course you can go too far! Dr. Phil has an hour (including commercials) to kill!

Given the self-selecting freaks that throw themselves at talk show, it probably wasn’t hard for Dr. Phil’s staff to find bad examples. (Heck, all they would have had to do is read this blog.) Ronda, apparently threatening death for noncompliance, has had her 10-year-old daughter practicing hours on end since age 4 for the hotly contested baton-twirling circuit in order to earn a coveted baton-twirling college scholarship. (Who knew there was a baton-twirling circuit, or that you could get a scholarship?

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The Iowa Golden Girl knew. Also, the Golden Girl in this video began twirling at age 3, so joke’s on you, Ronda — you started too late!

To show Ronda religion, Dr. Phil trotted out Dominque Moceanu, who at age 14, as part of the celebrated 1996 U.S. Olympic gymanstics team, became the youngest American gymnast to win a gold medal, a record that can’t be broken because the minimum age for international competition is 16. (Yeah, those Chinese gymnasts in 2008 were 16. Wink wink.)

Moceanu told Ronda how as a girl she started hating the sport she once loved because of the way she was pushed too hard by her parents and coaches at such a young age, to the point that she suffered the horrible fate of winning a gold medal and using it as a springboard for everything she’s done with her life since.

Actually, Monceau didn’t say that last part, but I’m guessing that’s what Ronda heard. Maybe instead of sending out an Olympic champion to tell her mock-horror story, Dr. Phil could have contacted say, True/Slant contributor/former ice skating champion Jennifer Kirk, who could have suggested a true bitter flameout or 10. (Hey, TV isn’t the only place that can shamelessly cross-promote.)

Dr. Phil followed with a skater who got steroid injections from his father (not Mark McGwire) at age 13, but by then his message was clear: pushing too hard and making sports your thing instead of your kid’s thing is bad. Well, clear to everyone but Ronda:

Dr. Phil addresses Ronda, wondering aloud if she’s had a change of heart. “What is most important to you?” he asks. “Would it be more important for your child to love herself, and love her life, and feel loved by you and be a joyful child or win a trophy?

“Now? Not so much the trophy,” Ronda concedes. “I felt like if I didn’t push her, who was going to? How was she going to be the best if I’m not there supporting her and pushing her toward that? I felt like she needed me. She needed me to be there for her, and not to let her quit and not to let her stop practicing, because if she did, what is she going to be — nothing?”

Iowa Golden Girl or bust — that’s the way all the parenting books recommend it.

I’ve never spent much time — well, any — on the Dr. Phil web site, but for each show there’s a little video clip labeled “uncensored.” Wow! Is this where Dr. Phil strips down, swings his million-dollar pecker, and says stuff like: “What the fuckity fuck fuck is that stupid fucking idiot Ronda thinking? Jesus fucking Christ, you dumb turd! And Dominique — holy fucking shit, how did you grow up to be so fucking hot! Shit!”

I quickly discovered it’s not like that. So what does Dr. Phil say instead?

“The whole point here is, look — you can introduce your children to things, you can introduce ’em to a sport, and they might get excited about it first and then lose their energy. Or maybe they’ll get traction, and they’ll decide to be passionate about it. What you’ve gotta do is encourage and provide opportunities. But you can’t run your agenda … they’ll find their place in this world. Show ’em a lot of different things.”

Man, what do you expect from a TV psych–hey now, that’s actually pretty smart.

Dr. Drew Pinsky, not just a TV star, saves a high school football player's life

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3382506514_a5eda39e16In case you weren’t sure that celebrity doctor Drew Pinsky was a real-life physician, treating someone other than sex and celebrity rehabbers who sign a release to appear on television, here’s the story of how he saved a life at his son’s high school football game Halloween afternoon.

According to the Pasadena Star-News:

Allan came off the field after the injury and sat on the bench. He even exchanged words with a teammate before his condition worsened and medical professionals immediately responded.

“(Allan) complained of a headache, went to the side, collapsed, fell into a coma, stopped breathing and we were all there to attend to him, and he’s doing better as he left (the) field,” said Dr. Drew Pinsky, whose son Doug plays for the Panthers and assisted in the treatment of Allan.

The game was called with 3:29 to go and Chadwick declared the winner because it was up 31-19. Not that the score was on anyone’s mind that night. Here is more from a Nov. 1 statement put out by Polytechnic’s head of school, Debbie Reed:

On Saturday afternoon [Oct. 31] during a Varsity football game at the Chadwick School, sophomore Jackson Allan received a traumatic head injury which caused him to lose consciousness.


Dr. Drew Pinsky, a Poly parent, was on the scene immediately and sustained Jackson until the EMTs arrived.  In addition, Dr. Roger Lewis, a Chadwick parent, assisted in providing care and helped to facilitate getting Jackson admitted for surgery quickly.

Jackson, accompanied by his father Les, was taken to the Harbor UCLA Medical Center, where he was met by his mother Rhonda.  Jackson underwent successful surgery to relieve pressure on the brain from internal bleeding.  Jackson’s family members, as well as Poly players, coaches, parents, friends, and administrators, were at the hospital.

We are especially grateful for the heroic efforts of Dr. Pinsky and prompt care and attention of Dr. Lewis, a faculty member and emergency room doctor at Harbor Medical.  Together with the emergency medical personnel, they made all the difference in Jackson’s progress.

Jackson will have a lengthy recovery, during which I know that he and his family will have the support of our community.   …

A time like this is most obviously a trial for Jackson and his family.  It also is a test for the entire Poly community, as we wrap our collective arms around this young man to let him know how much he means to us as we wish him well and pray for his full recovery.

A Facebook support group for Jackson Allan is here. His father wrote:

“Jackson had a good night and his mom and I are with him constantly. He is at UCLA Harbor and in the best possible hands. He had surgery which went as well as it could have. He remains stable but critical and the next few days are key. He is under very heavy sedation but still manages an occasional response to the loving and kind words that we are relaying to him. He is hearing your prayers. Thank you so much to everyone. We will update you as Jackson improves.”

Certainly much has been written lately about the head-injury risk even youth football players face, including research showing football representating the lions’ share of 400,000 concussions suffered by high school athletes nationwide.

Jackson Allan was fortunate enough to have a physician, who just happens to be one of the biggest celebrity physicians west of Sanjay Gupta, who acted quickly and smartly until further help arrived. Unfortunately, most youth football players who might suffer similar injuries don’t have that luxury.

Written by rkcookjr

November 1, 2009 at 11:19 pm

Update on the Stinson trial: Are the jurors watching "The Biggest Loser"?

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player-thumbOn Thursday, the jury is scheduled to start deliberating the case of David Jason Stinson, on trial in Louisville on reckless homicide and wanton endangerment charges in the August 2008 death of one of his players. 15-year-old Max Gilpin, who died three days after overheating at one of Stinson’s Pleasure Ridge Park High School practices. I would say, as said numerous times before the trial, that the chances of convicting Stinson are slim. Not that it has anything to do with the trial, but those thoughts intensified after watching a recent episode of a weight-loss show that featured people getting yelled at and collapsing of heat stroke.

You can go to the site of Stinson’s hometown Louisville Courier-Journal for the best blow-by-blow coverage, including video archives and live testimony. In my never-earned-a-JD legal opinion, the prosecution’s presentation created plenty of reasonable doubt, with discussion about how Gilpin had a viral infection the day of the fateful practice that had already elevated his body temperature, as well as discussion about his use of Adderall and creatine, which can accelerate dehydration.

Then there was the county coroner saying he never performed an autopsy because he didn’t see any “malfeasance,” with the coroner and investigators saying this was the first homicide case they could remember where an autopsy hadn’t been performed. (The official ruling is that Gilpin died of septic shock.) Also, the lead investigator said he never talked to any medical professionals. Meanwhile, players testified that while Stinson ran a tough practice in 94-degree heat-index conditions, he did allow water breaks and didn’t time the end-of-practice wind sprints that immediately preceded Gilpin’s collapse — that is, he allowed players to run them at their own pace, an unusual move when a coach is having players run gassers.

To me, these creates plenty of reasonable doubt in the prosecution’s case, which is based on the assertion that Stinson denied his players water breaks in the heat, and thus created the conditions for Gilpin’s death. Not enough reasonable doubt for the judge to uphold a motion by the defense to dismiss the case. But I would be shocked if Stinson got sent to jail.

The case is getting a lot of attention because it’s the first time, that anyone knows of, a coach has been charged for the practice- or game-related death of player. It also has many coaches and organizations, legitimately, looking over their policies about heat safety, medical disclosures and emergency treatment. But it also has coaches at every level fearing whether pushing players to their physical limits is a criminal act.

You don’t have to be a hard-ass to do that — it’s what coaches, such as myself, often do. Sometimes you have players run a little extra to get their attention. You have them do it to get in shape. You have them do it because you want to know how far your players can go, and you want to show them how far they can go if they push themselves. Do some coaches go overboard with it? Oh, yeah. Was Stinson being kind of a dick saying, before Gilpin collapsed, he wasn’t going to stop having the players run until somebody quit? Oh, yeah. But being a dick by its ownself isn’t a crime.

I was thinking of Stinson when I watched Tuesday night’s premiere of the NBC weight-loss reality show, “The Biggest Loser.” Now its eighth season, regular watchers know what’s coming: morbidly obese people pushed beyond what they believe is their physical limits in the name of losing weight and getting healthy. The show’s trainers, particuarly Jillian Michaels, have built brand names out of being tough-as-nails, no-excuses coaches to the show’s contestants.

Two moments in the show had me wondering whether the jurors watched the show, and what they thought. The first came when one of the contestants collapsed near the end of a mile walk/run, which the contestants were told to do before they had even met their trainers. Contestant Tracey Yukich collapsed about 100 yards short of the finish line, saying her legs had turned to jelly. A medic arrived, but instead of treating her right away, he and the other contestants dragged her to the finish for the purported reason that she would have been so disappointed had she not made it. After she “finished,” Yukich’s eyes started rolling to the back of her head, and she was unresponsive. A helicopter had to be called to the scene, and Yukich had to spent the rest of the week in the hospital.

The cause of her problems, which were not mentioned on the show: heat stroke. In many ways, Yukich’s situation was a lot like the way Gilpin’s collapse was described. And like at that practice, Yukich wasn’t whisked off right away — at first there seemed to be some confusion and disbelief that prevented a rush to treatment. And this was on a show packed with medical staff, not a high school football team that may or may not have a trainer present.

You can fault “The Biggest Loser” producers for possibly being the ones who wanted to see Yukich cross the finish line. After all, in a show predicated upon the conceit that even the fattest among us can push ourselves physically, nothing would send America back to Ding Dongs as watching a contestant die before reaching the end of a workout. While I know the producers have a storyline to push, I also know that nothing would get the show canceled faster than someone dying, period. But as to the argument that Stinson and the other coaches didn’t react quickly enough — well, it appears few ever do, even when they have the training to do so.

The second moment on “The Biggest Loser” that had me thinking of Stinson was the relationship between trainer Jillian Michaels and 476-pound Shay Sorrells, the heaviest contestant ever. Michaels has built a lucrative brand off of being a hard-ass, and she was screaming at Sorrells when she quit in the middle of a workout. Now Sorrells is a troubled soul who was in foster care most of her childhood because of a heroin-addicted mother, and at 476 pounds she was being put through a workout that would have a lot of fit people heaving. But Michaels was yelling, calling her a quitter, saying it was time to stop being the victim. There was no mercy.

Funny thing is, the tough-as-nails approach appeared to work. After Michaels ignored Sorrells while she had a good cry outside, Sorrells came back in and finished the workout.

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I’m not going to argue whether Michaels was right in yelling at Sorrells as a means of inspiration. But millions of people, perhaps including Stinson jury members, watch “The Biggest Loser.” Even if they were never yelled at by a football coach, they’re familiar with trainers and coaches who push, cajole, and, yes, yell, as a means of inspiration and drawing out the best in somebody. “The Biggest Loser” is as mainstream as it gets.

Knowing that, it’s hard for me to believe that jurors are going to look at Stinson’s contact and see anything unusual. Does that mean everything he did was all right? Probably not. In the end, Max Gilpin’s death is going to go down as a tragedy that was more about the unique circumstances of a child’s health doing a certain activity on a certain day than it is a referendum on whether coaches should tone it down. If nothing else, Stinson’s trial is causing coaches to re-examine what they do; I know I will. But it won’t send Stinson to prison.

Ex-Playboy Playmate/Hef spittle cup holder declares her future youth sports career

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2116926333_8ac6fece67I want to be a young mom, not the mom inside. I’ll be the coach of the baseball and soccer teams!”

Kendra (Wilkinson) Baskett, US Weekly, Sept. 7, 2009

Given the former Girl Next Door’s camera-whoring and the impenetrability of that first sentence, the most likely thing your child would learn from a Coach Kendra is how to be a nutty reality show archetype. Which, come to think of it, is a more applicable and valuable life skill than most of your youth coaches can offer.