Your Kid’s Not Going Pro

A Youth Sports Blog

Posts Tagged ‘ESPN

Suzy Kolber, I wanna kiss you for making this video

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…Though Joe Namath says he doesn’t care about the youth sports parents’ strug-a-lin’.

Kolber and ESPN Radio morning jock/sports parent Mike Golic are co-hosting a freshly produced video, put out by the Connecticut Association of Athletic Directors, meant for coaches to use during parents’ meetings. It’s meant to show parents how not to be such fucking assholes.

The presence of the two ESPN personalities lends an air of authority and professionalism to a video that otherwise looks like it should have an intro from Troy McClure. But I’m stunned that Golic, the suddenly ubiquitous pitchman, didn’t break out some ad copy, or at least explain how he can get away with endorsing high-fat food and a workout plan at the same time.

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Written by rkcookjr

October 25, 2010 at 1:34 pm

NFL draft: This one's for all those kids who got picked last

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I don’t want to make a habit out of recycling old pieces I’ve written, but it is Earth Day, and this column I wrote about the NFL draft in 2003 for Flak Magazine is appropriate here as well. Even if you’re not a fan of the NFL, or the draft, or sports in general, at least a pro draft can be good for one thing: letting some athletes know how you felt getting picked last for every team in gym class — or not getting picked at all for schoolyard games. (NOTE: I’ve made a few edits to update the draft format, but otherwise the column is reposted as originally written.)

If you always got picked last for sports on the playground or in gym class, assuming you got picked at all, you can get some psychic revenge by watching the April 22-24 NFL draft.

Ostensibly, the purpose of any professional sports draft is to organize the distribution of the top young players not already signed to pro contracts. Other than a few hotshots whose early selection is preordained, most athletes will have to sweat out how late in the draft they’ll get chosen, if they’re chosen at all. They’ll curse the silence of their phones, which ring only with relatives and friends from back in the day calling to ask the damning question, “Why haven’t they picked you yet?” With each passing pick, the potential embarrassment gets greater, the pressure to smile through the pain grows stronger, the mental voice suggesting maybe they should have spent more time in class gets louder.

Isn’t that great? Who doesn’t love seeing jocks get a taste of their own medicine? At least when you didn’t get picked in the schoolyard, all you lost was your pride. They can lose their careers before they even start! A pro draft is one of the most stirring reality shows on television — you never know who’s going to get voted off, or voted in!

The NBA, anticipating an audience that one day would thirst for Simon Cowell yelling at warbling nobodies, about 25 years ago launched a tradition of public draft-pick humiliation. The league invites the presumably assured top picks to the site of the draft, which is now a very TV-friendly two rounds. The players have a tradition of showing up in pimped-out suits, in which they stroll up to the podium after their name is called by league commissioner David Stern. For their troubles, they get a baseball cap featuring the logo of their new employer. As each player heads for the podium, the dwindling numbers in the green room sit on edge, feeling like fools for still being there and for wearing such lousy suits. The camera inches closer to each remaining player, with announcers saying things like, “Boy, he was expected to go higher, but there he is. I wonder what’s wrong with him?”

The NBA draft’s definitive moment came in 1998, when high-school phenom Rashard Lewis slid all the way out of the first round to the fourth pick of the second round, being bypassed not once, but three times by his hometown Houston Rockets. With each pick, the camera came within fewer atoms of his face, which had teary eyes and the hangdog look of a guy who’d just been stood up by his prom date. Lewis somehow mustered the nerve to walk to the podium like a stud to get his Seattle SuperSonics baseball cap, only to be met by … assistant commissioner Rod Thorn. Stern doesn’t stick around for the second round. That’s gotta hurt.

At the NFL draft, the humiliation comes courtesy of ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr., the TV network’s longtime draft analyst. Kiper is what’s known as a “draftnik,” which means “geek with a satellite dish and way too much free time.” The only helmet Kiper ever wears is his hairstyle, but he gets to pick apart every player even under consideration in the seven-round draft.

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Who the hell is Mel Kiper Jr.? Ask Bill Tobin.

Talk about a sports loser’s revenge — millions of fans will base their opinions of a drafted player — a guy who’s spent his life beating the hell out of other people and getting the hell beaten out of him in hopes of some great financial reward — on the words of a community college grad who says things like, “He demonstrated some foot speed at the college level, but he’s going to struggle because his hands are small and his arms are too short.”

That’s right, you jocks. Mel Kiper Jr. has looked you over and discovered the dirty secret that you have baby-girl hands and tyrannosaur arms! What do you think of that? Maybe you should have chosen the Mel Kiper Jr. types for your elementary school teams instead of picking on them! But it’s too late for that, isn’t it?

Kiper also gives his instant gradings of a team’s draft, which brings us to another way to get psychic revenge. If you got picked last, with captains prefacing their selection by saying, “Do we have to take him?” then surprised everybody by showing a modicum of athletic ability, you can live vicariously through lowly drafted, or undrafted, players who make a team and end up performing far beyond expectations. For example, four years after Lewis’ televised humiliation at the hands of the NBA, he became one of the league’s top young players and a highly desired free-agent acquisition. He stayed with the Sonics, with a guaranteed $70 million on the way. (And Lewis got even bigger money later in Orlando, while the Sonics franchise itself followed by getting bigger money later in Oklahoma City.)

With so many ways to have a catharsis about your own early athletic experiences, there’s no way you should miss watching the NFL draft, or any draft. Not that I have my own issues about getting picked last, or anything.

Written by rkcookjr

April 22, 2010 at 9:57 am

Tim Brown wants to take candy from your baby

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ESPN today [March 23] posted an interview with shoulda-been-a-first-ballot-Hall-of-Famer wide receiver Tim Brown, and the second question was:

What cause is most important to you?

Right now, I’m working diligently on childhood obesity and trying to help prevent that. We’ve teamed up with youth sports organizations all around the country, trying to change their fundraising habits. A lot of these organizations fundraise by selling cookies and candies and all that kind of stuff. So we’ve brought in some alternative ideas for them to be able to use that would actually produce more money for them and also be a lot lighter on the belt. … Childhood obesity turns into adult obesity, and then diabetes is a risk.

Yes, that’s right, folks: Tim Brown, one of the most dynamic receivers of all time, has been reduced to taking candy from your children.

Tim Brown was here. (Photo from Flickr)

Actually, for the last few years Brown, through his Locker81 Fundraising Solutions, has tried to sell youth sports organizations on branding their own gift cards or prepaid Visa cards that would kick some cabbage to the local league every time someone made a purchase with those cards. Or, for even more rewards, the cards could be used to purchase other noncandy items Brown’s organization could get you.

I’m completely for this. Not because I have a deep, overriding concern for childhood obesity. Hey, it takes a lot more than kids buying and selling candy bars to create an obese population. I don’t even hate being approached by kids in downtown Chicago selling me M&M’s for “the team,” the name of such team never revealed.

No, I support it because every year through my local baseball and softball league, I’m forced to sell at least one box of candy for each kid, or pay $40 a box NOT to sell it.

With two kids, I’m up to $80 to not go through the hassle of trying to figure out on whom I can pawn off candy, a task made more important because it seems like everyone else in the world is selling candy at about the same time. My 4-year-old daughter likely will play T-ball next year as a 5-year-old, and then I’ll be stuck with $120 on top of what I’ll already have to pay to have three kids in softball and baseball.

So, Tim Brown, please sell my league on your gift cards. It seems like an easier and more painless way that telling a parent volunteer that, no, I’m not selling candy, and I’ll have your check soon. Maybe I’ll use the gift card to buy myself, oh, I don’t know, a candy bar.

Written by rkcookjr

March 23, 2010 at 9:35 pm

'Game On' by Tom Farrey: The one youth sports book you should read

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game-on-how-the-pressure-to-win-at-all-costs-endangers-youth-sports-and-what-parents-can-do-about-itI just finished reading the paperback version of “Game On,” by ESPN writer Tom Farrey. I have a sense of relief, in that Farrey, through extensive reporting, confirms many of the biases I had about American youth sports when I started this blog in December 2008, after the hardcover release of Farrey’s book. Namely:

1. That there is too much of an early emphasis on competition, instead of learning — and even more important — enjoying a game.

2. That there is a youth sports-industrial complex that runs from the youth leagues to the colleges and professional leagues they stock that send the message to worried parents that if you don’t pay big in time and money, your child will never even sniff sporting success past, oh, age 6.

3. That this youth sports-industrial complex has created a youth sports world that rapidly tosses aside any family who doesn’t have the means to participate, or has a child who blooms late physically or don’t specialize in a sport by the time the first baby tooth is lost.

4. That the craziness — the yelling at refs, the coaching from the sidelines, the incredible money spent, the amount of time devoted — you see from youth sports parents often is a reasoned, conservative, expected, fostered result of points No. 1, 2, and 3, because parents, trying to do their job in advocating for the best interests of their children, have to resort to extreme means if they want their children to match even the limited athletic success they might have had in their generation.

5. That this system, for the most part, satisfies no one — it leaves millions of kids tossed aside with no options for even casual physical activity or team play, it squeezes out otherwise talented kids who can’t pay the cost of admission, and it doesn’t even guarantee the creation of a deep bench of elite-level athletes.

Farrey, backed by ESPN’s relatively deep pockets, was able to travel the globe to unlock the story of how American youth sports got to where they are. (While I tweaked columnist Rick Reilly for calling out USA Today — and not his own employer — for ESPN’s own kiddie-pornish promotion of youth sports, the self-proclaimed Worldwide Leader has given Farrey and other reporters the resources to do some great investigative work in this world and otherwise. That’s part of the yin-yang of being a big sports journalism organization and an even bigger sports promoter.)

My favorite part about Farrey’s book isn’t a specific part. It’s his whole approach. Farrey, like many of us who trade in this space, has his personal reasons for his interest in youth sports. Namely, the persons you’ve spawned who play them. (I have four personal reasons; Farrey has three.) But Farrey doesn’t make the book about him and his worry for his children. Instead, by reporting out the history and evolution (or de-evolution) of youth sports, Farrey makes “Game On” about the future of the country, not the future of his kids, or just kids in general.

Farrey ends with some of his own ideas of reforming youth sports, but I’ll get into those at a later date. I’ll bring them up later, when I finish a post I’m planning about why school sports is destined to die.

Rick Reilly rips H.S. basketball team ESPN promotes elsewhere

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Rick Reilly, ESPN the Magazine columnist, on Houston’s Yates High School‘s basketball team, nationally renowned for running up the score on weaker teams with no apology from coach Greg Wise:

At the very least, USA Today ought to remove Yates from its national rankings — the school is No. 1 — as a statement about basic sports decency. That’d be the un-Wise thing to do.

Meanwhile, Yates is rated No. 2 by ESPN RISE, the network’s magazine devoted to fetishizing high school sports:

No. 2 Yates (Houston, Texas) won its first two Class 5A playoff games by lopsided margins of 126-61 over Sterling (Houston, Texas) and 104-48 over Friendswood (Friendswood, Texas). Head coach Greg Wise eased up on the throttle slightly in the Sterling game once the Lions were leading 40-7 after the first quarter.

Yes, kudos to Yates for only outscoring Sterling 86-54 the rest of the way.

I eagerly await Reilly’s condemnation of ESPN RISE for promoting Yates as well, especially if it gets picked for the magazine’s April 1-3 National High School Invitational Tournament, or as Fayetteville (N.C.) Observer prep sports writer Paul Shugar called it, “April Absurdity.”

Written by rkcookjr

March 12, 2010 at 10:44 am

Miller passes to the boy and boom goes the dynamite: video highlights for youth sport

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Forget “Highlights for Kids.” Watch highlights of kids.

From The Associated Press:

…Little League International has a new deal with Youth Sports Live to offer its video service to all of its more than 7,500 chartered programs.

“What we’re hearing from our subscriber base is they get used to it to where it becomes the norm, not the exception,” said Youth Sports Live co-founder and CEO Greg Centracchio.

The company installs a camera behind the backstop at each field. Leagues don’t pay anything for the service; in fact, they can make money if enough people sign up. The revenues come entirely from people who pay for a subscription to view the games live or on demand over the Internet.

Centracchio believes enough parents who miss games, relatives who live far away and families who want to relive a child’s big hit will be willing to pay for the service. Subscriptions are $4.95 per day, $9.95 per week or $14.95 per month. DVDs of games can also be purchased.

Still not sold on the idea of professional recording of youth games? And paying for it? How about having ESPN’s Karl Ravech saying, “THAT’s a Web Gem nominee!” over a montage of your kid’s exploits? From a Sept. 16 news release:

…The myESPN Highlights products provide athletes and parents everywhere the opportunity to showcase their sports photos in an authentic “highlight reel,” complete with commentary by ESPN’s Karl Ravech. Both sales organizations have extensive experience providing unique programs and products to national and local sports leagues, as well as recreational and parks sports associations.

Tim Brown, former NFL star and 1987 Heisman Trophy winner, is a leading advocate for youth sports and a J&K Distributors affiliate. He remarked, “myESPN Highlights is not just another photo product. It is a key part of our program to help build the self-esteem of every player on every team. Athletes can now experience the thrill of their photos being featured in an authentic ESPN production, which is something they will treasure for the rest of their lives.”

Produced in collaboration with ESPN, myESPN Highlights offers the ultimate personalized photo products. These products transform personal digital photos into compelling authentic SportsCenter productions. The myESPN Highlights themed product line includes customizable DVD videos, photo books, sports posters and shareable MP4 files that can be shared on social network websites.

Goofus let his dad film his games. But Gallant had top-grade video with professional announcers as a record of every sporting event he played.

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Oh, Goofus. Will you never learn from your consistently superior peer?

Written by rkcookjr

September 18, 2009 at 12:42 am

Despite recession, the kids' games go on

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Definition of  a city in trouble: people come to your town to do pieces where they express amazement your kids are still playing youth sports and doing things besides foraging through trash bins for sustenance.

ESPN’s Outside the Lines is doing this in Janesville and Beliot, Wisc., hit hard by industrial cutbacks, including reports by Mark Fainaru-Wada, he of Barry Bonds-BALCO-“Game of Shadows” fame, on Beloit youth baseball and the effort to raise money for a Janesville youth baseball complex.

I can’t be too flip about this idea and effort. I did the same a month ago in Elkhart, Ind., for MSNBC.com’s “The Elkhart Project,” which is devoted to a city that, thanks to the RV industry hitting a brick wall in this economy, went from 5 percent to nearly 20 percent unemployment in about six months. My story, I am told, is due to come this week, and it will get into why youth sports seems to be unaffected by the recession — why, in fact, it seems to be strenghtening kids’ sports — but also why that might not be able to last in some particularly hard-hit areas, no matter how much the parents try.

Like I’m sure the ESPN folks discovered in southern Wisconsin, the resolve of the people in Elkhart against a stunning economic turnaround is inspiring. You come to realize that despite the nuttiness you hear so often about sports parenting, the vast, vast majority of parents look at sports at something that can be a positive influence on their kids for whatever they do in life — with the full understanding what they will do is not going to be sports. It explains why youth sports is one of the last things a family will give up when times are tight.