My Soccer Refereeing Story

I don’t use this blog very often anymore—my preference for playing mind-numbing video games rather than enhancing my mental capacity after a ten-hour day at work probably has something to do with it, and as much fun as writing sports previews and personal articles were, I have never been as dedicated to my writing and analysis to build up any sort of following that would make me prioritize it.

This weekend, however, something happened to me that I wanted to put out in the public forum.

On Saturday afternoon, I was refereeing an Under-10 boys travel soccer game.  I have been refereeing now for eight years, having been encouraged to register with my club teammate by both of our mothers as we were in the middle of eighth grade.  While I am nowhere near the level of fitness that I used to be (i.e. I’ve gotten a bit tubby), I very much enjoy refereeing, and hope to continue to do so for many years.  Now that I am a recent college graduate and am working full-time, I do not need to continue to ref as consistently—after coming home from school I would try to pick up anywhere between 40 to 50 games in the month between my return home in mid-May and the end of the season in mid-June—but I continue to try and pick up as many games as I reasonably can on two counts, the first of which is my never-ending love for the game, which developed during the time I played high-level travel soccer (through high school—subtle brag; I wasn’t great by any means, but I got to start in the same lineup as a current MLS player when I was in high school, so that was cool) and has continued to rise as I’ve gotten lazier.  The other is my recognition of the relative shortage of referees in the game.

It is exciting to see that the game is growing throughout northern Illinois—when I was younger, there were five major teams that I can remember: Eclipse, the Hinsdale Hawks, the Chicago Blast, the Downers Grove Roadrunners, and the Berwyn Blazers were some of the big clubs within a ten-mile radius of my home in Clarendon Hills.  Today, I can think of eleven off the top of my head, including Eclipse, the Blast, the Roadrunners, and the Blazers, and now also including Team Elmhurst, Wizards, AYSO 300, Chicago Empire FC, OBSC, LTSC, and LaGrange Celtics.  In order for the game to continue to thrive, though, referees are inherently necessary; however, incidents like the one I faced on Saturday are the reason that referee participation is on the decline.

The events that led up to this are inconsequential, so long as I was not blatantly making calls towards one team or another; this was my first game refereeing for the home team in over two years, and I believe I called a fair game, as evidenced by the fact that the coaches of both teams, while vocal towards their players for the duration of the match, never once complained about my calls.  The parents of the away team, however, were a different story.

Following the final whistle, I walked back to my bag, and a player’s mother stormed up to me and demanded that I provide her with my name and information.  I had another game to get to, and was not obligated to provide any information, so I declined to offer it.  She then asked me for my credentials, so she could confirm that I had passed my referee test.  I replied saying I did not need to provide that information either, as the fact that I had a 2019 USSF badge was indicative of the fact I was properly credentialed for the game.  She continued to press me for information, and I continued to deny her that information, packing my bag so that once the players had finished their handshake line I could offer them a “good game” and go on to my next match.

From here, things escalated further; the woman’s husband came up to me and said “Aw shut up, are you kidding me?  Just give her what she asked for!”  I continued to deny the request, indicating that I was planning to leave and that I would not provide any information.  As he walked away, he called me a “f****** douche,” not at an elevated volume but clearly intended to be loud enough for me to hear.  I asked him what he had called me, and he responded that he said what he did because I had disrespected his wife, stepping back towards me in an intimidating fashion.  During this interaction, three more parents from the same team attempted to crowd me and take my picture to be sent in to the league office.

Fortunately, the president of the home team was at the game, and along with the staff coach of the that team, spoke up to encourage the visiting parents to leave me alone and move on to the parking lot.  While I was confident that nothing would escalate further beyond that, I was still shaken, and the president offered to help me submit a report to the league and walk me back to my car.  I declined, as I didn’t need any more people getting involved in the situation and needed to make it to my next game, but I obtained his contact information to allow for the verification of the events that took place, and I submitted my own objective report to the league earlier today.

There are more games to referee than ever—a great opportunity to make money, get exercise, and enjoy exceptional recreation simultaneously—but many are wary of the amount of responsibility and abuse that comes with the position.  Having played soccer for a long time, I am somewhat used to the yelling, and take advantage of the lack of referees by virtually having my pick of available matches I want each season (I have 34 games this fall).  While monetarily that’s great for me, this deficit of officials is not good for the game; I refereed a high-level Under-18 game yesterday where I didn’t have any assistant referees (the referee from the previous game offered to stay, and we did the game together).  Showing up to work a game alone is not fun.  Being called derogatory names at a game is worse; a twelve year-old could have refereed that U10 game, and if they were in the position that I was, I believe that there is a significant chance that they would not continue refereeing following that.  There are others that have heard similar stories and choose not to register themselves, or their children, to be referees.

I doubt that anyone that might ever read this could possibly do anything drastic about the massive amounts of abuse heaped on referees by parents, and sometimes even coaches and players.  Heckling referees is so common that it’s virtually an American pastime.  But that doesn’t mean that people are entitled to say whatever they want, especially at the youth level, when almost all of the games are helmed by people like me, for whom refereeing is a hobby rather than something they are wholly dedicated to.

So, with that, I have a few final points to make.  The first of those is this: I encourage those that are willing and able to step in and help referee matches, in soccer and in other youth sports, to please do so.  90 percent of the games I have officiated have come off without a hitch, and in those that had some sort of issue, I received excellent training to handle the situations at hand, and have consistently gotten great support from my referee assignor.  This disturbing incident has even furthered my passion for the game, and furthered my desire to see more people in the sport—there are plenty of fantastic opportunities to be had, as refereeing provides great leadership opportunities while also padding your pocket—and those that stepped up to defend me assured me that there are many great people in the game.  There are so many young people picking up this great game, and many others, and denying them the proper structure to play due to a lack of officials would be demoralizing on multiple counts.

My incident showed, however, that there is still a sense of entitlement that the referee is there to do everything right, and to take any criticism that comes their way without complaint.  We officials are not perfect—while I am sure I was correct in my handling of the game scenario that spurred these events, I am sure I made multiple mistakes in that game outside of that—and this is not something that we are required to do.  There isn’t a whole lot of training involved, sure, but when the shortage is forcing a lot of referees to give up a lot of their weekends to assure games can properly proceed, losing even a few more officials than we already have would leave leagues perilously short of proper referees.

So please, try to find some restraint within yourself to really yell at officials; true heckling is generally acceptable (unless it is a younger official; in which case, use common sense—don’t yell at a young teen), and so is an appropriate questioning of a call (my coach growing up was very vocal, and very good at this), as most officials, especially once they reach my age, will not take any comments personally, and if they are good at what they do, perhaps seek to clarify why they did what they did.  But the incredibly rude and very personal insult that I faced, and the numerous other ones many other officials have to deal with, are not acceptable.  I am as much of a competitor as the next guy, but we have to remember that the game is just a game, and that the official is simply trying their best to make sure the game is fair.  Additionally, if you see a coach, player, or another parent berating an official, don’t egg them on for your amusement; encourage them to recognize the reality of what they are doing.  As the game continues to grow, particularly in this region of the world, and even of the country, it is crucial to maintain its integrity, and if referees are going to continue to face these types of situations on a regular basis, then the game’s rise will be greatly halted as quickly as it has started.

Niko

Today would have been the 11th birthday of our family dog, Niko.  He was born on this date back in 2007, an Easter baby, and upon bringing him into our family home he became the center of everyone’s lives.  He was unable to use his hind legs, and therefore had to be carried everywhere, in his final couple months, so I know that he did not have an excellent quality of life prior to his being put to sleep.  That said, I still miss him terribly, and wish he was still with us virtually every day.  So, on this special day, I hope to look back on some memories and pictures of him with joy in my heart—and, while I know that this post may be long, and probably pretty cheesy, I hope that you do, too.

My first memory relating to Niko is a humbling one: I never wanted a dog.  My younger sister, on the other hand, was constantly begging my parents for one, so when they found a breeder that was about to have a litter of Dobermans, the breed that my dad grew up with, my sister was ecstatic.  When we went to meet the puppies—11 in all—we were drawn to three of them.  I use “we” here very loosely—in addition to not wanting to take care of a puppy, I was also scared of them.  They were loud, nippy, and smelled funny.  My only real favorite at the time was “Blue,” so nicknamed because of the blue ribbon around his neck—and the only real reason for that was that blue is my favorite color.  “Green,” who my mom was drawn to, and “Red,” who my sister liked, were also in play.  Ultimately, our decision was helped along by “Blue” and “Green” being deemed show dogs, we ended up taking home “Red” within a couple weeks of first meeting him, my fears being thrown to the wind.

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You can see some of that fear in my face on the big day—the breeder and my sister were extraordinarily enthusiastic to hold the puppy, while I… was not.

He was the first born of his litter, and the name my mom found for him, Niko, literally means “victory of the people,” or, in another translation, “leader of the pack,” so we found it to be a very fitting moniker.

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His floppy ears and tiny body made him cute, but even then he had an aura of regalness, and his massive paws hinted at the massive creature he would become.

Despite this, I remained fearful of him for weeks.  The tide finally began to turn after we returned to see our breeder for a play date with some of his siblings.  He fell asleep on my lap on our drive back home—something that scared the living daylights out of me but also eased most of my remaining fears about him.

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In his recovery from his ears clipped—you can see the bandages on his ears in the last clip—he had to spend a lot of time inside.  That meant he very quickly got acquainted to the “lay of the land,” so to speak, in our house.  He was very excitable, as young dogs are wont to be, so my parents thought of using baby gates to prevent him from running rampant throughout the house, sliding across our wood floors and maybe falling on his healing ears.  It also proved to be helpful if he came inside with muddy paws, or when we had a large amount of company over.  As he got older he outgrew the gates, but they were still a very effective deterrent for him—when they fell over they made a loud noise that he didn’t appreciate, so he avoided going near them at all costs—unless food and treats were involved, and even then he was cautious.

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Being inside so much early in his life also earned him a lot of little goodies.  His first Christmas saw him accumulate a bunch of little toys, which were continuously added to throughout the years.  He seemed to be really good at chewing things to the point that they split in half, but never enough that they were completely destroyed (the only exception to that was my sister’s Crocs, which were the only thing I can remember him chewing that he wasn’t supposed to), and he seemed to switch which bone he preferred on a day-to-day basis, so by the end of his life we had a picnic basket full of toys throughout the years.  He would leave them everywhere throughout the house, too—there was many a time when we would find chew toys tucked under furniture, or when I would find a bone entangled in my sheets (after my parents and sister got new duvets, my bed was the only one he was allowed on; he was, however, allowed to sleep, with a blanket on, on a huge bed right next to my mom).

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His bed

He also got used to getting a very large amount of table scraps.  We weren’t as bad as my grandparents in giving him people food—they spoiled him beyond belief, which is a very grandparent-y thing to do—but he got his fair share from us, as well.  He was a big dog whose eye level was even with our table, so it was easy for him to snatch things off the table, which he did when he was younger, grabbing two of my mini donuts off the table and managing to take a sip of my soup.  To counteract that, we gave him little bits from our meals every day so that he wouldn’t simply grab at things.  That allowed him to develop some great discipline—we could leave food out on lower tables and he wouldn’t take any—but whenever we had food he would look at us with sad eyes that were virtually impossible to ignore.  As such, he developed great tastes for, among other things, steak, yogurt, peanut butter, ice cubes, white rice, scrambled eggs, fresh sweet peppers, and my vanilla ice cream, the remnants of which you can see on his nose here:

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Once he healed up and finally got to spend some time outside, he developed a reputation throughout our neighborhood.  Dobermans, Rottweilers, and Great Danes are frequently portrayed as being vicious in media—or, at the very least, villainous, as in Beverly Hills Chihuahua—so in the first couple years we had him, people would cross the street whenever they saw him walking down the street.  Pictures like this may hint at that reasoning a little:

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As time went on, though, and people around the neighborhood got to see more of him, they became much more comfortable with him, as they realized the truth—that he was a complete softy.  That sense of comfort was enforced even more whenever it was my sister walking him, like in the dog parade below:

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My mom was the person that took him for the most walks—she was around most often and enjoyed the chance to have long talks with him, and God, on their strolls, which in his prime could last as long as two and a half hours.  He made many friends throughout the neighborhood—Henry, Mini Me, Tuffy, Chloe, Frisco, Molly, and his best friend Cooper—that he enjoyed walking and playing with, as well.  I, myself, preferred to spend with my time outside with him just… running around.  We were afforded ample space to do that—we had a big backyard in our first house, and the second one backed up to a giant field, so there was plenty of space for him to roam.  His favorite things to do seemed to be chasing after tennis balls and sticks—about as stereotypical for a dog as you could get—but he also just enjoyed being able to run.  My friends and I would sometimes run to opposite sides of the field as quick as we could; he’d pick one of us to chase after, often plowing us over in his quest to turn around or slow down, before the other person got his attention and he’d chase them.  My dad would sometimes take this a step further, having Niko chase him up the sledding hill and then back down, an incredible feat of athleticism to watch.

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He wasn’t much a fan of rain—it reminded him of showers, which he hated, and it got in his ears pretty easily, so whenever it was raining and he needed to go outside it sometimes took a person with an umbrella leading him to coax him out—but he loved the snow.  He sometimes ran into the path of the snow blower when my dad had it out, and was big enough to look like a little horse prancing in and out of the bigger drifts.  He also really enjoyed chasing after squirrels—he never caught one, as his loud barking and inability to change directions made it near impossible—but watching him try to follow them, then jump up the trees the little animals had scampered up, was always amusing.

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As he got older, and his ability to be active in and out of the house began to diminish, he remained a constant presence in our lives.  We moved in the summer after my sophomore year of high school, and we put his favorite piece of furniture, a couch from our old office, in our front foyer.  It was there where he spent most of the rest of his days—he could see everyone coming walking near or up to the house, which gave him ample time to prepare to greet people with one of his trademark smiles, which always managed to brighten our days even after he couldn’t get up off of the couch to do it.  His lack of mobility also meant that his couch became the center of familial activity in the house—we all wanted to spend as much time with him as we possibly could, to the point where we would spend hours on end just sitting with him, talking, napping, and cuddling.

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I would go more into what he meant to me personally, but there’s just so much to share, so much to say, that I wouldn’t ever be able to properly articulate exactly how much he meant to me.  So I’m just going to end with this: he was the brother I never thought I’d be lucky enough to have.  He was my source of comfort in my hardest times and the one of the brightest lights in the good ones.  He lived with me in two different houses and met both of my girlfriends.  He was my best friend.  I will love and cherish him, and these memories of him, forever.

Niko Gaffney

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If you want/have more pictures, or want to talk more about Niko, comment below or contact me here.  I would love to hear from you.

On Journalism: Part III

This is the final part of a three part series on journalism.  To read the first two parts, please click here and here.

None of my previous criticisms are to say that there are not some phenomenal examples of what good, credible journalism looks like.  For those near my hometown of Clarendon Hills, you should check out the Daily Herald, which provides more unbiased news than either of the big-name papers in Chicago while also providing a more local variety of news items.  For more national news, I recommend listening to the National Public Radio (NPR), watching anything on NBC or ABC that has Megyn Kelly or David Muir as the lead anchor, or reading The Los Angeles Times (the article that first drew me to the Times was their analysis of the voting recount in Wisconsin—you can find it here).  On the sports side of things, John Dietz, who works for the Herald, and Mark Lazerus, who work for the Chicago Sun-Times, are two of the best Chicago sportswriters I can remember reading in my 20 years (they both happen to cover hockey, but that’s irrelevant).  On a national level, there’s a smattering of ESPN personalities who I follow unashamedly—Mike Greenberg, Mike Golic, Christina Kahrl, Bill Barnwell, Buster Olney, and Gab Marcotti—whose incredible attentions to detail, and journalistic integrity, are second to none.  These incredible men and women, along with many others, are definitive proof that the world of journalism has incredible potential.

However, the way that the industry is currently going, there might not be nearly as many opportunities for phenomenal journalists to find footing.  The problems mentioned here, and many other, more minor issues, are overshadowing much of the positives that traditional journalism has to offer, and if they continue to do so, these things might become the norm, which, in turn, will continue to undermine the field.  The President’s bashing of the media aside, journalism as we know it is getting closer and closer to needing life support, and for an industry that plays such a vital, if sometimes underappreciated, role in our everyday lives, that is certainly not a good thing.

Maintaining those opportunities for the people that are passionate about following in the footsteps of some of the greatest writers, wordsmiths, and presenters the world has ever done is crucial to journalism’s survival as we know it; that’s why it’s imperative that we support the people that are offering paid content for their work.  And I’m not talking about the behemoths like the New York Times, Gannett Company, or News Corp.—in my research over the past month or so that it’s taken me to write this series, I’ve found that the bigger the organization is, the less likely that they actually need money to sustain operations (duh) and the more likely it is that their work is starting to be more drastically affected by the current political climate (that’s just my opinion, of course, but I’ll just let the Times’s snarkiness in its recent coverage, as well as the poor evidence and rationale, and incredible bias, in Fox News’s, stand on their own)—but rather more local endeavors.  Smaller, more locally based journalists that may not have the power to get their names out as easily as bigger companies can.  I, myself, just bought a yearly subscription to The Athletic, a new company with in-depth coverage about Chicago sports.  The work that I’ve read from them so far has been phenomenal, and in paying to receive their articles, I’m added to a growing readership that allowed them to open up a second branch in Toronto, an impressive feat in an environment that is seeing more and more situations like the one surrounding the Florida Panthers that I mentioned in the first part of this series.  It’s also important for people to come to comprehend, at an early age, what bias is, and how to identify it, so that the crises that erupted over “fake news” during the recent election cycle either never occur again or are shot in the bud before they have a chance to gain a foothold as “mainstream.”

I recognize that journalism, as a field, will continue to evolve, and that many of the issues that I have with the industry today will be non-existent in ten years, only for new ones to take their place.  I understand that the industry will never revert back to what it once was, that print newspapers and hour of radio broadcasts will never feature as prominently as they used to.  But I am entirely confident if we can hang on to what made journalism what it is today—the honesty, and the dedication to solid, in-depth reporting—will allow it to thrive for many more years to come.  And that, I believe, would definitely be a good thing.

Have any thoughts or questions on any of the pieces of this series?  Contact me here.

On Journalism: Part II

If you haven’t already, please read Part I before reading this piece.  It provides an abbreviated history of journalism as we have come to know it and presents the issues discussed in this part.  You can find it here.

Perhaps this is due to falling standards, which can be traced back to the concentrated staffs of many news sources.  One of the places at which this problem is most evident is at the Advocate.  The year that we won the Pacemaker, every person on the staff, from the editor-in-chief on down to the staff writers, such as myself, had an opportunity to write, or work on, the month’s feature stories.  That caused people to be more passionate about their work, and it resulted in more interesting, and in-depth, stories.  The year after, though, more writing responsibility was stripped from the writing staff and placed on the already busy editorial staff, a structure that has remained in place today, for both the online and print editions.  The need for writers, then, was significantly lessened, as a single writer could easily handle at least two or three of the sidebars that we were assigned to.  Therefore, many writers either quit writing for school publications altogether or moved to the school yearbook, a far more collaborative project, or were turned away due to the incredibly exclusive hierarchy of the paper’s leadership.  These departures, or exclusions, led to (relatively) lower quality work and a decrease in unique ideas and perspectives, leading to some grumblings from current students about the Advocate’s limited scope, especially recently, in the light of the Presidential election.  There is another side to this coin, as well—decreased investment in journalism has forced news sources to concentrate their staffs, preventing them from being as effective in their coverage as they could be.  This is more prominent than the Advocate example—since traditional journalism isn’t as financially rewarding as some other mediums, and because of the decreased circulation of many traditional-based journalistic sources as people search for as much free news as possible, many magazines, newspapers, and websites are forced into major budget, and therefore, staff, reductions.  Within the past couple of years, a major sports-and-media website, Grantland, and many prominent newspapers, such as the Tampa Tribune, have been shut down on account of these things.  A more recent, and less dramatic, example of this popped up at the end of November, when the Florida Panthers hockey team shockingly fired their head coach, Gerrard Gallant.  No specific details came out about the shocking decision until the following afternoon, though, because the papers that covered the team didn’t have the money, or motivation, to send their writers to Charlotte to cover the team.  In this modern age, the idea that we couldn’t have crucial details on such a big move virtually immediately came as a huge shock, and the lack of money to have a full-time hockey beat writer caused many to have to wait longer than they wanted to.

All of the that previous criticism of the straying from “traditional” journalism, considering that this post is supposed to be in support of it, is somewhat hypocritical, considering that this blog, and blogs in general, are taking away some of the audience that would typically be buying, and reading, those older sources of journalism (more on that later).  As such, to draw in those audiences, these places have tried to hire more blogger-style writers to maintain their readership.  These other writers either don’t take the time to properly edit their work, ditch prose for more “engaging” content that turns into a hot mess, and drastically stretch facts, misinterpret them, or ignore them altogether, often leading to some unbelievably biased news.  Doing these things has caused the journalism field to drastically decrease in quality.  An example of the first point is my school’s own Babson Free Press, which has both a print copy and an online copy.  The print copy comes out too infrequently to evaluate, but their online site is highly representative of a lack of editorial focus.  None of the featured articles that it covered the last couple months, on the election or other topics—most of which are laced with numerous grammar errors, which is a common theme with many “newer” journalists, or are opinion pieces that have no business being counted as “news” for a school paper with a deep history—can be found without some digging.  The Free Press is not alone in its manipulation of journalistic details—“news sources” on both sides of the aisle have also put a stain on the journalism through their perpetuation of “fake news.”  The usual suspects were involved in the advancement of these false stories—Fox News regularly pushed anything that seemed to bolster Donald Trump’s agenda, while the Huffington Post did the opposite, while ending every one of their articles on Trump with “Editor’s note: Donald Drumpf regularly incites political violence, and is a serial liar, rampant xenophobe, racist, misogynist and birther…”— yet even traditionally unbiased papers like The Washington Post fell victim to “fake news” (their involvement is detailed here).  One of the most prominent of the places pushing fake news is the infamous Breitbart. The site generates hundreds of clickbait articles every week, coming up with fantastical ideas about the failings of liberals based on some faint rumor that may have been emanating from Washington.  Their frequent perpetuation of white supremacist ideals certainly doesn’t help, either.  Another one of those sources is every millennial’s favorite website, Buzzfeed, for which my girlfriend and I hold a very guilty pleasure.  The site fashions themselves as “the leading independent digital media company delivering news and entertainment to hundreds of millions of people,” and to an extent, that is exactly what they are.  But to claim that much of the things that they consider “news” is an embarrassment to the industry—the site has things like this and this filed under their news section.  All of these mistakes, and egregious failings of journalistic integrity, combine to keep the legitimacy, and popularity, of the evolving journalism field level lower than what it could be.

 

Come back on Monday for the conclusion of this series of posts!

 

On Journalism: Part I

Even though I happen to attend business school, English has been a passion of mine for as long as I can possibly remember.  My family’s photo collection provides some basis for this—I’ve seen tens of photos of myself engrossed in a book when I was younger, before I even started formal schooling.  As I’ve gotten older, I’ve gotten an even greater appreciation for English, as both a language and an obsession, to the point that it was close to being a borderline obsession.  I text with proper grammar and criticize those that don’t.  I won English Student of the Quarter in high school and was more excited than I had been to score a big win over a rival in soccer.  I often ask, somewhat jokingly, somewhat not, if I can help my mom grade her English student’s papers (yes, I know I’m weird).  This post about a more refined craft that I love equally as much as the more general subject—journalism.

I was first introduced to the world of journalism in my sophomore year of high school.  I was interested in joining our school’s newsmagazine, the Devils’ Advocate, but had missed the “try-out” process the previous year.  However, I was fortunate enough to have a friend on staff, and she referred me to the faculty advisor of the magazine.  I ended up joining the online staff, where I learned the finer points of the craft, before eventually joining the more prominent print magazine as a staff writer, a position I was lucky enough to hold for two years.  That first year, I was surrounded by some incredibly dedicated, and incredibly talented, writers and researchers, passionate and detail-oriented editors, and creative design staff, and this phenomenal combination led us to receive the prestigious Pacemaker award for our work.  Since then, though, the Advocate, and many other journalistic sources throughout the country, have been stricken with issues that could leave their futures in jeopardy.

Before delving into those problems, though, it’s worth doing a brief overview of how things came to be as they are today.  Formal journalism as we know it has been in practice since before the United States even existed.  The longest running newspaper in the country, The New Hampshire Gazette, has been in operation since 1756 (!!), and the longest running daily paper, The Hartford Courant, has been in circulation since 1764.  There were even papers that dated back to the early 18th century.  Up until that time, people in the US found out their news through word of mouth, letters, or almanacs, which were sometimes not factually based and not published on a very regular basis.  The introduction of newspapers changed all of that, and people began to rely on daily papers to catch up on their local news, and also to gain insight from noted opinions columnists.  Their ascension to fixtures of public domain was rapid, as they became immensely influential in the development of the American Revolution; one of the most famous of the Founding Fathers, Benjamin Franklin, used the paper that he owned and published, the Pennsylvania Gazette, to further the initiatives of the revolutionaries, and many other papers supported those rebelling against the English.  As the influence of papers grew, so did their numbers; when George Washington took office in 1789, there were 92 daily papers in operation in the United States.  20 years later, that number had almost quadrupled, to 376, and that number quadrupled, to roughly 1200, by 1835.  The specialization of papers increased, as well; newspapers on a variety of subjects, such as business, foreign affairs, and even farming, materialized, as did papers from specialty groups, such as William Lloyd Garrison’s famous Liberator.

Newspapers remained the main source of journalism for people throughout the 19th century, and for the first 20 years of the 20th century; in fact, it was not uncommon for any one person to purchase, and read, three, four, or five newspapers every single day.  Around 1920, though, journalism as we know it was altered forever through the use of the radio as a broadcasting medium.  People could get up-to-the-minute news from the comfort of their own homes, and once they had a radio, the news was, essentially, free.  Newspapers continued to be the most popular medium for traditional journalism, but radio was slowly eating away at their slice of the pie, vocalizing the news that publishers had to work incredibly hard to get out on paper.  FM radio was established in the US around 1935, becoming more and more popular as the technology improved, and that same year, CBS hired Edward Murrow as its “director of talks,” headlining a series of news bits over CBS’s national airwaves while informing, and inspiring, hundreds of thousands of people.  As the medium spread more and more across the country, broadcast journalism, as it came to be known, became far more spontaneous than print mediums ever could.  It was much harder to hold back one’s opinions when constantly broadcasting, so it was in this time that journalism started to become more blatantly partisan.

Just as radio started to take off, though, a new medium for journalism emerged—the television.  In 1940, the famous radio broadcaster, Lowell Thomas, anchored the first ever live telecast of a political event, the Republican Convention in Philadelphia, an event that thrust the popularity of the television into the public spotlight.  Thomas was also the man that was the host of the first ever regularly scheduled television-news broadcasts 10 years later, in 1950.  Within the next few years, the major radio communications providers of the time, NBC and CBS, worked hard to establish daily news broadcasts in locales throughout the country.  The fact that these broadcast journalists could not only be heard, as they could be on radio, but also seen live, rocketed some of the more well-known broadcasters, such as the legendary Walter Cronkite, into superstardom.  ABC and WGN entered the television industry shortly after their rivals, racing to establish news agencies in every major city.  As more and more networks were created, the partisanship of journalism continued to increase; the visibility of broadcast journalists allowed people to put words to a face, and those journalists often used that to their advantage, using their positions of prominence to give their views on current events.  This partisanship was what led to the creation of more targeted news stations, such as Fox News and CNN.

While there is, of course, much, much more detail to go into, the evolution of the mediums discussed above are enough to connect the state of journalism today.  The field is extraordinarily large, with journalists opting to work for a satellite television station, on digital radio, or podcast, platforms, or even glorified blogs, instead of the traditional, yet still fully functioning, mediums.  However, with the contentiousness surrounding our country’s recent election cycle, and the man that it elected, Donald Trump, journalism, as an industry, has been under fire more than it has been in recent memory, and perhaps ever.  The number of people with newspaper subscriptions has decreased, and the trust levels that people have in those papers is shockingly low for publications that pride themselves on integrity.  Immense partisanship, immense bias, is not only to be expected, but is also readily obviously slanted, to be either conservative or liberal, especially over radio, where pundits like Rush Limbaugh and Al Franken reign supreme.  Claims of “fake news” are running rampant.  The President himself has lambasted the media for its coverage of him, while CNN president Jeff Zucker has admitted that the way that they handled Trump and his campaign may have contributed to him being viewed more favorably across the country.  This isn’t a post where I’m interested in delving into politics, about who is “right” and “wrong”—but I am interested in making clear that there is a real problem with the direction that the journalism industry is headed.

Come back on Tuesday to read Part II!

This Week at Babson

To say that things on campus have been chaotic lately would be like saying that Michael Jordan was just some basketball player, apple pie is just a dessert, or that I am just a little stressed for my TOM exam tomorrow.  The results of Tuesday’s election were certainly what set this chaos in motion, as an unexpected victory by real estate mogul Donald Trump has, rightfully, ignited some doubts and fears over the relative stability, and tranquility, of our country.

Of course, Mr. Trump does not take office until January, so we have two months until our whole world might be flipped upside down, but part of that tranquility was shattered almost immediately, thanks to Edward Tomasso and Parker Rand-Ricciardi, who decided that it would be a good idea to drive around Wellesley College yesterday in a pick-up truck, waving a Trump flag and accosting the students of Hillary Clinton’s alma mater, all while documenting the entire thing on Snapchat.  Exactly what occurred is up for some debate, but there are a couple things that are pretty clear.  The first is that these… classmates of mine (that’s a difficult thing to write, believe me) were acting so unbelievably poorly and so unbelievably wrong.  The second is that their actions have definitely shaken everyone on campus.

The entire environment at this Babson maintains a delicate balance, whether it is election season or not.  We are a business school, which makes us, largely, inherently economically conservative.  Our leadership largely consists of people are also economically and, to some extent, socially conservative.  This environment would, naturally, attract some students that are conservative socially, as well, and hail the election of Trump as something that will right the political ship, so to speak.  Our student body, though, is, I believe, as a whole, more culturally aware than any group of people our age anywhere else in the country, and our diversity in race, religion, and gender makes that student body more forward-thinking than any other college campus I know of.  That being said, there are enough people that embody the archaic views that Edward and Parker revealed in their escapade that openly condoning their motivations could be viewed as an infringement on free speech and an insult to their values.  This is a sad reality.  It’s also a sad reality that I don’t expect them to be expelled in a timely manner, as they should be, for bringing shame upon themselves, their fraternity, their school, and their voting base, all while doing irreparable harm to our dear friends at Wellesley College, because of the contentiousness surrounding their actions.  

This is why I think that the dialogue that arises from what occurred yesterday should not be one that takes away any hope that Edward and Parker have for a future, but should make it abundantly clear that their motivations and actions are not something that can be tolerated on this campus.  Most importantly, though, I think that in this time when the tensions on this campus are at an all-time high, that the people that believe that this will simply blow over, that any aspect of what these boys did can be explained in any way, shape, or form, need to take a hard look at themselves and give some serious thought to whether or not they belong in our community.

Our community is a place where the craziness of the last few days should be made at least a little bit easier to bear.  A place that should be a safe haven for any person, regardless of where they are from, what gender they identify with, or who they voted for, where love reigns supreme over not just hate, but selfishness and arrogance, as well.  A place filled with thoughtful discussion about how each and every one of us can contribute to allowing everyone to have the college experience that they deserve.

Our community is a place that is, and should, embody the intelligence, the thoughtfulness, the kindness, and the respect that Babson has come to be known for.  And we need to come together in whatever way we can—not just for the sake of unity, but to make sure that nothing, not the divisiveness of the election, nor the anger surrounding Edward and Parker, nor anything else, ever changes that.  We owe it to ourselves, and to each other, to allow this amazing campus to be the best place that it can possibly be.

I have been embarrassed and humbled at multiple points today, reflecting on my own thoughts, seeing the social media comments surrounding everything that has gone on in the last day, and seeing our campus come under fire.  I have cried, multiple times, on account of the role my privilege may have had in perpetuating what occurred yesterday, and for the state of our campus.  I would like to take the chance to thank the friend that encouraged me to write this article, for showing me what it means to be a real Babson student.  I also encourage anybody that has any concern with any of my thoughts here to write to me here, so that I can better understand the issues that you are facing here on this campus, because to compensate for my past ignorance, I would really like to help you in any way I can.

Ode To Chicago

I typically plan out my blog posts weeks, if not months, in advance.  I knew I would write about social image and the NFL in September, and that the election and the NBA would be topics in October.  After October, though, I basically hit a wall—I had no idea what any possible topics could be, no one thing that I felt passionate enough about to churn out a post on it.  Even as this year moved into November, I still had no idea what to write about.

It eventually came to me from a very common source—sports.  For the first time since 201, I sat down to watch the final game of the World Series, a match-up between my hometown Chicago Cubs and the Cleveland Indians.  I’m a White Sox fan, so watching the Cubs play so deep in the post-season had me a little salty, but since I have a lot of friends back home that support the Cubs (and two that support the Indians) and can appreciate a good game of baseball, I settled in to watch the two teams battle for supremacy.

Of course, the game didn’t just end up being a good game of baseball—it was a legendary game that will go down in history as one of the best championship-deciders in the sport’s history, and possibly in the history of American athletics.  As you all know, the Cubs eventually pulled out an 8-7 victory after 10 innings, winning their first World Series in 108 years.  In the aftermath of the victory, Chicago went berserk—there were celebrations virtually everywhere, culminating in Friday’s parade, which was reported to be the 7th largest gathering in the history of humanity.  Taking all of that in from my dorm room, I finally knew what I would write about.  I’d write about how Chicago is the best damn city in the country.

To counter me, some people might try to hold up more populous cities, like New York or Los Angeles.  They might hold up cities with a more rich history, like the one where I currently attend school, Boston, or Philadelphia.  They might hold up some popular regional urban areas—Atlanta or Charlotte, Miami or New Orleans, Houston or Phoenix, Seattle or Portland, Denver or Salt Lake City.  None of them can hold a candle to Chicago.

We’ll start with athletics, because that’s what inspired me to write this post.  In the last 25 years, big-four Chicago teams have brought home 11 championships—two more than any of the closest competitors—and that’s not even including the title brought home by the Chicago Fire Soccer Club in the budding MLS.  And these just weren’t any championships, either—these were dominant ones, in which nobody stood a chance.  The Bulls were the dominant team of their era, hauling in six titles in eight years.  The White Sox went wire-to-wire in the American League and only lost one post-season game.  The Blackhawks won three championships in five years and established themselves as a hockey dynasty.  The Cubs were favored to win it all this year from day one, and win it all they did, breaking a 108 year curse in the process.

One of the highlights of watching a game at the Cubs’ legendary Wrigley Field is enjoying the breathtaking skyline of the city from the seats.  Chicago was one of the pioneers of the skyscraper, and it has among the best, and most architecturally appealing, collection of them in the country, headlined by the Willis (Sears) Tower and its world-famous Skydeck.  Of course, these tall towers aren’t the only notable pieces of architecture that the city features.  There’s also the Old Water Tower, one of the few buildings to survive the Great Chicago Fire of 1871.  There’s the multiple residential structures designed by the incomparable Frank Lloyd Wright.  There’s the cathedrals that not only provide Chicagoans with a place to worship, but a place to at which to marvel at their beautiful designs.

There’s more entertainment than just athletics, too—you can head to the Field Museum and see the first complete skeleton of a Tyrannosaurus Rex to ever be discovered or head across to street to one of the largest aquariums in the country.  There’s also the Adler Planetarium, a National Historic Landmark, or the Art Institute that features Seurat, Picasso, and American Gothic, one of the country’s most “mainstream” pieces of art.  If museums aren’t your thing, you can head to a theater and catch a performance of the smash hit Hamilton, or walk over a few blocks and laugh your head off to a performance of the Blue Man Group.  For more outdoorsy folk, you can walk around the massive Millennium Park, or the equally large Grant Park, checking out the popular Cloud Gate or utilizing the outdoor skating rink, or take a walk along Michigan Avenue and marvel at the wonder of Lake Michigan.  The Magnificent Mile is also a fantastic place to go shopping, as it is lined with every brand name store that you could possibly imagine to cater to your every desire.  For a more family friendly option, you can visit Navy Pier, or enjoy one of the city’s 24 beaches.

Any great city also has to have some great food, and Chicago is a phenomenal place for that, as well.  The city is the home of deep dish pizza, and fostered the growth of some of the country’s best foods, like Italian beef, Cracker Jacks, and brownies.  There’s more than that, though—Michelin starred a record 26 restaurants in the city for the upcoming year, indicating that the quality and uniqueness of the Chicago culinary scene is constantly improving.

Chicago’s education system is pretty fantastic, too.  43 colleges and universities are proud to call the city home, educating hundreds of thousands of this next great generation.  The city’s high schools, both public and private, old and new, are renowned throughout the country for both scholastic and athletic excellence, and the middle schools and elementary schools that are scattered within local communities set the baseline for these high performing institutions.

This city has its flaws, there is no doubt—the high-priced living that is a feature of virtually every city.  The violence that has gotten the city into the national spotlight, and the false perceptions of both minorities and the police that come along with it.  The political corruption, from the alderman to the people trying to make something of the Chicago Public School System and all the way up to the mayor’s office.  The stressed infrastructure of both city streets and municipal airports that comes from heavy usage and is enhanced by a lack of proper funding.  The weather, which can fluctuate between all four seasons in a matter of hours and leaves you more annoyed with some clouds than you ever thought you could be.  Chicago isn’t anywhere close to perfect, and everyone that knows anything about it will tell you that.

But the best part of the city, its people, make sure that these things aren’t what define Chicago.  If you took the time to take a closer look at the Cubs’ parade—or any of our championship parades, really—you’ll see what Chicago is all about.  The diversity among the population, and the compassion among all of the various communities throughout the city.  The kindness that is shown to everybody, whether they are from the city or not.  The joy that people exhibit—not just for big moments like World Series championships, but for the little things, like getting a smile from a random stranger.  The organized chaos that embodies the unmatched passion of each individual person.  The love that every person has for the amazing city that they get to call home.

Since I’m still in college, I don’t exactly know where my life is going to take me yet.  For all I know, my future could lead me to a place I could have never possibly imagined.  Wherever I go, I know that in my heart, that my only real home, my only true home, will forever be the great city of Chicago, the best there is and the best there ever will be.

I’m a Conservative and I’m Voting for Hillary Clinton. Here’s Why.

As one gets older, encountering momentous occasions becomes less and less frequent.  This past week, however, I got to experience one of these moments: I cast my first ever vote in an election.  I had a chance to vote in the Illinois gubernatorial race when I was a senior in high school, but the voter registration line was so long that it would have caused me to be late for my Microeconomics class, so I decided to pass on registering.  Because of that choice, I have the privilege of casting my first vote in national election; a Presidential election.  Having a say in who is elected President is something I’ve looked forward to since age 5, when I first learned about the office on my laminated Presidential placemat.  I greatly anticipated the moment of joy that would overcome me when I would receive my mail-in ballot, open up the envelope, and finally get the chance to exercise one of the most heralded rights of American citizens.

Of course, some of that joy dissipated when the country’s two major parties chose their candidates for this year’s election.  Both of them are among the most unpopular nominees for this country’s highest office, and they both seem to have a major issue with dishonesty, which is not an admirable trait for a person running to be the leader of the free world.  There are also a couple of “third-party” candidates to consider, and their relatively high popularity warranted taking a look at them.  However, after a lot of research and meditation, I decided to vote, as the title of this post says, for Hillary Clinton.  Ultimately, my choice came down to one thing: respect.

I’ve made it pretty clear, on this blog and virtually everywhere else, that I am a conservative, and as such, I agree with a fair amount of Donald Trump’s policies, especially those that are expected to be handled by his Vice President, and my fellow Midwesterner, Mike Pence.  Trump’s tax plan is far more appealing to me than Secretary Clinton’s.  His focus on the domestic job market, and his plans to fix it, seem to be admirable.  There are even some more contentious aspects of Trump’s campaign—such as immigration reform—with which my own views are more closely aligned than they are with Secretary Clinton’s.

However, I realize that being President consists of a lot more than simply creating plans to help address problems that they believe to be vital to improving our country.  It involves working with Congress, people from both sides of the aisle, to get a variety of different agendas accomplished, the most prominent of which involves the setting of the country’s budget; Donald Trump has incited a great amount of conflict between himself and Democrats, as well as members of his own party.  It involves working towards the betterment of every group of people in the country, and allowing them to have the rights and respect that they deserve; Donald Trump has repeatedly bashed women, Hispanics, and Muslims, and many women have directed claims of sexual assault at Mr. Trump.  It involves establishing policy for, and helping guide the actions of, the military; Hillary Clinton’s time as Secretary of State saw the military undergo one of its most effective, yet least deadly (in terms of American deaths) periods in recent history, leading to her having some of the highest support from members of the Armed Forces for a member of the Democratic party, while Donald Trump has repeatedly bashed veterans that have called for unity, including one-time Presidential candidate John McCain.  It dealing working with international leaders to prevent outsourcing of American jobs and securing better trade agreements with the country; the only leader that Donald Trump seems to respect, and the only leader that hasn’t openly come out and declared their hope that he is not elected, is Vladimir Putin.

In short: you can’t just have good ideas as President; you actually need to see them into action, and you do that while working towards your own interests while also honoring and respecting the interests of others.  This is why Franklin Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan are held in (relatively) high regard by people on both sides of the aisle—they may not have had policies that were viewed favorably by their ideological opponents, and may have put some policies into place that did more harm than they did good, but they were thoughtful and respectful towards their opponents, and that made them, and the country, significantly better.  For those looking for a modern example, check out the governor of Massachusetts, Republican Charlie Baker; Massachusetts has, as a state, has voted Democratic since 1988, and yet Baker has enough sway in the state government that a key vote involving charter schools (a vote supported by wealthy Republicans) may pass in large part due to his popularity with both sides of the political spectrum.

This country has some major issues that need to be addressed, and in order for anything to be accomplished, I feel like Hillary Clinton needs to be the one in office.  I admit, voting for Secretary Clinton is not something I’ve done with much glee.  I’m more than well aware of her dishonesty, evidenced in her handling of Benghazi and her own Clinton Foundation, as well as her carelessness, which has been highlighted by the multiple email scandals that she and her campaign have had to deal with.  I realize that there are many policies of hers that, if enacted, would see my future look a little less stable than it is today.  I am nervous by some of the failures that have beset some of her greatest crusades in her 30 plus years of service to the American people.  I’m sure that she, as it is with every other possible candidate, has some other flaws that could end up being major issues if she is elected.

I feel that moderate Republicans like John Kasich and Marco Rubio would be a much better fit, but they are not the Republican candidate (I could write a whole other blog post in concurrence with this about the chaos in the Republican party, but I’ll save that for another time).  Mr. Trump is, and the lack of respect that he has shown for so many important factions of this election process will cause conflict in our government the likes of which we have never seen, and our country will not be “great” again, but rather fall into greater disrepair than it is already in.  The third party candidates are good stories, too, but neither of them seems to have a clue about the magnitude a job like the Presidency (for more on this, watch this John Oliver video here).  Voting for them would be, in my mind, a waste of time, because it draws away votes from the person that is best positioned to actually get things done.

Therefore, I believe that a vote for Hillary Clinton is not only the best vote, but the only vote, to assure that our country keeps on moving in the right direction.  Her ideals, work ethic, dedication to the country and its people, and above all, respect for her peers and opponents, make it so, and I can only hope that my vote will help make history and elect our first ever woman President.

I know that this post will not sit well with some of my family, friends from my ultra-conservative hometown, and my fellow business students, and that it may surprise some other people.  Whatever the case, I would love to discuss this election, my more in-depth views on Secretary Clinton’s and/or Mr. Trump’s policies, or politics in general, with anyone that is willing to do so.  If you are up for it, contact me here.

Angels in the outfield? YES indeed!

just1mike's Blog

…Michael’s 17th birthday at Wrigley and the Cubs are going

to the World Series…

It’s happening and Michael wrote about it in his April 10th post after returning from Arizona where he took in two spring training games,

Growing up a Cubs fan, I have been used to heartbreaking baseball. It seemed like every year I would always say, “there’s always next year.” Well, I am glad to say that next year is NOW.

You are so right Michael, NOW is here and your Cubbies are headed to the World Series after a Game 6 impressive win at Wrigley Field.

Cubs postseason play kicked off on a very special day, and that was Michael’s 17th birthday on October 7th. That night was the first playoff game at Wrigley against the San Francisco Giants and Michael’s family was there to honor him and cheer on his beloved team. It was an emotional night…

View original post 279 more words

Derrick Rose and Abuse in Sports

I am a proud Chicago sports fan.  In many years, that is a quite disappointing fandom, this one included.  The White Sox drastically under-performed expectations.  The Blackhawks got knocked out of the play-offs in the first round for the first time in forever, and they’ve started this season very poorly.  The Cubs have been perennially bad for a very, very long time (though are good this year, which is a major conflict in my White Sox-leaning heart).  The Bears had a horrible 2015 season, and have started off this new-year on a bad note by losing in very ugly fashion.  The Bulls missed the play-offs this past season, too, but initiated a roster turnover this off-season to help improve, and the featured move of that turnover was the trade point guard Derrick Rose.

Back when the Rose trade was announced, I wrote a post honoring his time in his hometown uniform, about how great he was for the city, both on and off the court.  Now, I am starting to regret some of my words.  Part of that regret can be tied back to Rose’s comments about the city not “appreciating” him, or on how the New York team that he finds himself on now is the most talented one he’s ever been on.  But most of it stems from the current rape accusations that Rose and two of his friends are facing in Los Angeles.

For those of you unfamiliar with the case, a woman filed a civil suit against Derrick Rose about a year or so ago, with the complaint being that the point guard and two of his close friends drugged her, trespassed into her apartment and gang raped her while she was unconscious on Aug. 27, 2013.  The case has been in the trial phase for about a week and a half, and has garnered much national media attention for the drama that seems to be unfolding within the courtroom.  (For more in-depth information on the case, please click here).

Rape is one of the biggest problems in our society.  7% percent of all rapists are convicted, which is a very, very small number considering the seriousness of the crimes.  Many of those rapes go unreported, for a variety of different reasons from the understandable embarrassment that a victim might feel to the truly horrifying reason of being afraid of victim shaming (which, sadly, happens all too often).  Other cases are thrown out due to “lack of evidence,” or some other preposterous rationale that gets the criminals out of punishment.  Some stories are genuinely made up, sure, but jumping to the conclusion that the person accusing someone of rape isn’t telling the truth is a horrible, horrible mistake to make, considering how many of them are real cases and how many rapists do not end up with proper punishment.

When it comes to sports, many athletes, unless they are strangely reviled, are often given the benefit of the doubt when it comes to making a major mistake.  People assume that because they are athletes, because they frequently in the public eye, that they can do no wrong.  When athletes are accused of committing a crime, no matter how heinous, many thousands of loyal fans will often leap right in to defend the athletes, and some continue to defend them for a long period of time, regardless of what evidence has been presented.  For all that I know, Rose may completely innocent of rape.  His accuser may be someone attracted to Rose who didn’t get her way but still wants to be in the spotlight.  However, I can’t find myself believing that that is the case.  There have been some very viable attempts by Rose’s defense team to discredit Jane Doe’s reason for accusing the point guard of rape, but considering the negative publicity that she is sure to be getting from many of Rose’s most vocal supporters, I feel that she is probably not in it for money or fame, but for justice.  Rose’s vagueness in answering questions concerning the night being brought into question is also pretty telling for me- he created more questions about the turmoil surrounding him.  Rumors about an out-of-court settlement of been floating around, as have rumors of when the grand jury in his case will actually convene; regardless, it really hurts to think that one of my hometown’s biggest stars may have just thrown away his career, especially deciding to engage in something is terrible as sexual abuse.

Sadly, many athletes besides Rose have been accused of some form of abuse in recent years.  Among them, former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice was filmed on tape hitting his wife in an elevator before dragging her out of it.  In December of 2014, professional basketball player Jeffery Taylor was suspended by NBA Commissioner Adam Silver for 24 games after being convicted of domestic assault.  The following month, former pro baseball player Milton Bradley’s appeal of his sexual assault charges was dropped, meaning that he had to serve jail time.  In June 2015, retired NFL safety Darren Sharper pleaded guilty to drugging and raping three women in different cities across the country.  Los Angeles Kings defenseman Slava Voynov faced deportation to Russia after being convicted of a misdemeanor violence charge against his wife last fall.  These cases, along with Rose’s, have received a lot of media attention.  Some people have complained that they have received too much attention, that the focus on the athletes takes away from attention that should be being paid to the people getting abused that won’t make the headlines.  While they are right, I think that there is something else that these people should be complaining about- why professional leagues, and their teams, are not going above and beyond to combat this abuse.

Professional athletes are some of the most prominent role models in the entire world.  For that, they are held to a higher standard when it comes to personal conduct.  To me, that means that the leagues that these athletes are a part of, and, as an extension, the teams in that league, must also commit to a higher standard of conduct.  Pro sports are a vehicle for many, many great things- the NFL is relatively racially sensitive.  Both the NFL and MLB have been big promoters of breast cancer research.  The NBA has NBA Cares, which runs many local programs for underprivileged kids.  The NHL is working hard at improving the safety of hockey players, from youth levels on up.  However, when many of these professional leagues have been faced with crimes involving abuse, many of them have not done the right thing.  Some leagues have made mistakes with punishment- NHL commissioner Gary Bettman has made comments denouncing the acts of Voynov and the (supposed) acts of Patrick Kane, the Chicago Blackhawks star who was accused of rape before last season, but Bettman permitted Kane to attend the Blackhawk training camp and allowed Voynov to practice with his team while being investigated (the fact that the Kings were open to Voynov practicing in the first place is bad in its own right).  NFL commissioner Roger Goddell’s punishment of Ray Rice was not properly considered and was eventually overturned.  A problem faced by all pro sports leagues, though, particularly the MLB, which has had many former players convicted of crimes involving abuse, is that, just like most major media/advertising entities today, they done poorly with condoning crimes involving abuse, and making awareness of abuse and abuse a major talking point.

That isn’t to say that sports leagues and teams have done nothing to combat the problem of abuse, but considering the seriousness of abuse, it’s one that hasn’t been addressed enough.  Chicago sportswriter Jon Greenberg made a fantastic point in his article on the situation surrounding Kane and his rape controversy last year.  He wrote, “The Blackhawks could help combat sexual assault before it begins by funding workshops, clinics and speeches for this age group. They can help talk to the kids about sexual assault when they’ll still listen.”  Obviously, with Kane’s case being sex related, Greenberg’s thought is a little more specific than targeting all forms of abuse, but, in the grand scheme of things, it’s a great idea.  D.A.R.E programs are instituted in elementary and middle schools across the country- including my hometown, a suburb of Chicago- to teach kids about the dangers of drugs.  So why can’t there be a more widespread, and more impactful, curriculum on abuse, better than the Robert Crown programs that have such limited influence?  And why does it have to be just one pro organization, a team that may happen to have a player under investigation for sexual assault- all professional sports leagues can make a point to prove that this is a major issue.  And shouldn’t adults be targets of a similar message, too?  Just like there are major campaigns involving not drinking or texting while driving, there should be more commercials, and more athlete spokespeople, speaking up about the terrors of abuse, and encouraging victims to seek help, and providing information on how victims’ friends can assist in efforts to make sure the victim recovers and the abuser gets his/her proper punishment.  Considering how big of an issue abuse is, and considering how high profile athletes are, bringing light to this issue will make people more vigilant, and more informed, about abuse, which is something that our culture, in or out of athletics sorely needs.

Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Pink Breast Cancer Awareness Ribbon

It’s been over 6 years since my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer.  The very idea that someone so close to me would ever be stricken with cancer was, for a recently graduated middle schooler, completely unfathomable.  In order to deny the reality of what my mom was facing, about the massive amounts of strength and willpower that she needed to get through every single day, of the resistance to the cancer and the energy-sapping drugs that she was putting up with the support of our family and friends, I started to make whatever I could about me.  I made a point to never cry, so that I could be recognized as the strongest member of my family.

After my mom was declared cancer-free, and I became aware of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, I furthered my selfish efforts.  I participated in a Barbells for Boobs weightlifting fundraiser, and I seem to have forgotten the amount of money we raised that day, but remember the amount of weight I lifted that day.  I wrote papers in school delving into the emotional turmoil that I felt during my mom’s battle.  I begged for my friends to write my mom messages of appreciation and encouragement, and looking back on it, the primary reason that I did was probably not what I claimed it to be in my Facebook posts- that I wanted ease some of my mom’s emotional burden in the aftermath of her fight- but rather, based on those posts’ forcefulness, was centered on my pride in coming up with a valuable gift after seemingly everyone around her besides me had managed to give her happiness or comfort in one way or another.

The fact that it took me this long to realize the truth of my thoughts and actions is, to put it frankly, depressing.  These things are not what this month is about.

This month is about offering information in crucial steps in the identification of breast cancer, such as self-examinations and mammograms.  This month is about supporting those that have been stricken with breast cancer by offering them love and care in any way that they could possibly given.  This month is about giving money to the foundations and hospitals that are dedicated to seeing a less invasive, less damaging, more effective cure to breast cancer be found, or to finding something that could possibly prevent breast cancer altogether.  This month is about honoring those that lost their battle with breast cancer and remembering the courage that they showed in fighting their disease.  This month is about awareness, sure, but also about love, respect, and compassion.

As such, I wanted to try to make my recognition of Breast Cancer Awareness Month less about me, and more about the brave men and women that have come face-to-face with breast cancer, that have poured, or are pouring, their entire livelihood into combating it, the fantastic communities surrounding them that help these phenomenal people in what are certainly the most difficult moments of their lives, and the doctors that are working to treat, research, and one day cure breast cancer.  I wanted to change my motivation for what I choose to post, and say, about this month, so that my intentions were much less selfish and far more… benevolent.

After taking the majority of my weekend to think it over, I decided to write this post- not to get views or draw attention to myself, but for the real purpose of this month, to develop awareness of breast cancer.  I changed my blog’s color to pink- not to seem in touch with the awareness movement that will be so prevalent this month, but to honor my mom, my sister’s best friend’s mother, and the countless other people that have fought breast cancer.  I started an online fundraiser, for which all of the funds will go to … and to which I personally donated $50, not to feel like I am finally making a proper effort to combat breast cancer, but to help the dedicated doctors that are working incredibly hard to find a way to cure, or perhaps prevent, breast cancer.

I am beyond proud of my mom for overcoming everything she did, and even more proud to be her son.  I was honored to meet many people who, like her, have courageously fought, and won, the battle against breast cancer.  I am thankful that my mom was able to overcome breast cancer, and resolve to pray for those people who have lost loved ones to it.  And I am hopeful, hopeful that throughout the country, that this Breast Cancer Awareness Month will help bring our society one step closer to eradicating the disease once and for all.

To donate to the fundraiser, please click here.

For information on the charity to which your money will go, please click here.

For information on performing a self-examination, please click here.

For information on getting mammograms in your area, please click here.

For information on the research that doctors are doing on breast cancer, please click here or here.

On Social Image

This post is a little bit shorter than what I normally write, and also a little bit more…  philosophical?  I’ve been struggling with these thoughts for a while, so if anyone has any thoughts on any of this, I would really appreciate discussing it with you.

I’ve had a Facebook account since I’ve been twelve years old.  All of the people in my class were starting to flood to the site, using it as a “go-to” for communication and such, so I decided to join them.  Since then, I’ve made a decent amount of friends, posted hundreds of pictures and “statuses,” and liked thousands of pages.  I’ve spent countless hours scrolling through my news feed, seeing, appreciating, and sometimes judging, what all of my friends are doing or “liking.”  They post about their accomplishments: personal, athletic, or academic.  They express their opinions on the latest social issue.  They display the photos they took of their most recent business outing, or their most recent vacation.  They share their blog posts (like me!) on one of their charitable endeavors.  Facebook, and other social networks like Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat, seemingly allow for people to be socially conscious, forward thinking, and to express themselves as their own unique person.

You might be able to see where this is going- that these social networks limit our social skills, causing us to lose prevent us from developing connections with people that we would if we were outside and off the internet.  That, to some extent, is definitely the case, but that’s not what I want to talk about.  I want to talk not about social skills, but, as the title of this post says, social image.

The problem with social media, and other objective methods of judging popularity or success, such as a resume or the amount of money in a bank account, is that they give a false idea of what it means to be a good person, both to other people and to one’s self.  Perhaps that is why millennials seem to live in such… contrast to the rest of society, and vice versa- I, myself, am particularly guilty of giving these things credence.  I frequently find myself spending almost every waking moment perusing social media, oftentimes trying to find a place to insert a word or two of my personal experiences or opinions.  I’m paying too much attention to attaching myself to people, and to things, that I wouldn’t otherwise associate with were I not trying to conform to society’s standards.  I have a spreadsheet that I use to track my money so that I always have enough to look responsible.  My words and actions are dictated more by my need for recognition than they are for personal fulfillment.  As such, I struggle with my view of who I am.  I often consider myself to be fairly bland looking.  I feel that I’m so silly awkward, and often bordering on arrogant.  I sometimes even struggle with my the direction that I have chosen to take my future life- doubting my decision to go to a business school like Babson instead of going to a school to focus on liberal arts (that’s not to say that Babson’s liberal arts program isn’t good- a liberal arts class I’m currently taking inspired me to write this- but the focus of this school is definitely entrepreneurship).

Perhaps I’m the only person that is having an identity crisis in this fast-paced world we’re living in.  And if that’s the case, then maybe I need to reexamine how I’m approaching my life and make some drastic alterations to it.  But if I’m not, which I sense is the case, then maybe we need to have a change of focus in what it means to be a person.  What it means to be popular or successful. These aren’t things that can be simply organized by some chart or metric.  It marginalizes people that don’t deserve such a fate, and it glorifies people, like, say, Donald Trump, who is successful because of his immense net worth and has only recently become vastly unpopular as the Presidential race has revealed his character.  I’m at a loss as to how we can change our societal values so that the way that we view social image, both our own and that of our colleagues, but if anybody has any ideas, I’d be happy to hear them.  Contact me here if you do.

On Colin Kaepernick and the National Anthem Protests

Today marks the start of Week 2 of the NFL season.  In a few hours, the Bills and Jets will start off a week which I expect to have a lot of exciting, competitive games, just like last week.  I also expect there to be some pre-game protests of the National Anthem, just as there was last week.  The man that started the protests, who has been at the forefront of the controversy surrounding them, is San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick.  This has become a polarizing topic of conversation throughout the country, and as a dedicated sports fan, I figured that this would be a conversation worth entering.

So I’m just going to come right out and say it: in the moments after I first heard about Kaepernick’s protests, I thought that I disagreed with them.  I thought that the initial explanation that he gave for his actions was shallow.  I felt that the movement that developed from Kaepernick’s actions did so in poor taste–protesting the flag and song of our country, especially on, and so close to, the anniversary of 9/11, felt like an insult to me.  I felt that Kaepernick, and the other players that followed his lead, should be suspended, or fined, or something- anything to convey the idea that disrespecting the Anthem and the flag would be deemed unacceptable.

The thing about this, though, is that who I am does not give me a real right to determine whether these protests are “right” or “wrong,” “good” or “bad.”  I am not a minority in this country.  I have never had to worry about to worry about being discriminated against based on the color of my skin.  I have never had to fight against drastic economic and social disadvantages.  I have never been called anything derogatory.  I have never had to face unwanted, and unwarranted, stereotypes of thugishness or violence.  I don’t have any fear of any type of interaction with a law enforcement officer.  There are many other struggles that I do not have to deal with on a daily basis, just because I was born white.  In short- my race, and my life experiences, do not make me qualified to judge Kaepernick and his colleagues for what they’re choosing to do.  The large majority of people that are lambasting Kaepernick for his actions- either publicly or privately- also have no rationale to go off of when they insult the quarterback.

If anything, I feel like I, and more people like me, should be showing Kaepernick some more respect for what he is trying to do: what he feels is necessary to start a conversation on the systemic racism that permeates our society.  And, if I’m going to be honest, he’s probably doing it in the most effective way that he, in his position as a major public figure, possibly could- demonstrating during the National Anthem is having a much deeper effect than any statement he could make ever would.  For that, Kaepernick deserves recognition–even if he is trying to gain some personal attention for himself, which many of his critics claim he is, his willingness to stand up to the inequalities in our country, despite some very vicious backlash, deserves to be commended for the attention that he is trying to bring to such a major problem.

Now, don’t get me wrong here: there is a part of me that is still uneasy about the method of protest Kaepernick is pursuing.  I find some irony in the fact that the fact that he says that this country, as a whole, represses the minority population while the President is a minority himself.  I wholeheartedly believe that the majority of police across the country are benevolent people, doing their best to serve and protect the people of this great nation, and to disrespect them in pursuit of a goal when it doesn’t seem to be necessary doesn’t strike me as very smart.

Ultimately, though, I know that I need to work to get past my unease, because the reality is this: I know that there is a serious problem in our country in that people of color have to worry about so many different issues that white people like myself have never taken the time to consider.  I know that, despite measures put in place to prevent it, that racism is still a major problem, and that in many instances of interactions between authority figures, from the more obvious ones of police officers to the less obvious ones of prosecutors who push for longer sentences for people of color, judges that refuse to acknowledge such blatant displays of discrimination, and business professionals who prefer the “old white boys’ club” to hiring any minorities, even if they are more talented or qualified.  I know are problems that minorities face that I will never fully understand, problems that have a much deeper meaning to those that actually have to experience them.

So please: even if you disagree with what Kaepernick is doing, do not lose track of what he is saying; do not ignore it or brush it off, either, because what he’s saying is the most important part of his protest.  The problems that he is discussing cannot be denied.  Minorities in this country are too often shafted in nearly every facet of their lives.  So while I, personally, will stand and proudly sing the National Anthem whenever I hear it, for all that it embodies for this great country, we need some serious change to make sure that everyone can have a chance to feel that pride.

My opinion here doesn’t necessarily condone what Kaepernick is doing, but I think (I hope) that it doesn’t give much credence to his detractors, either.  Whether that makes this a thoughtful opinion or a weak one for being “indecisive,” I don’t know.  I also don’t know what I, myself, or anybody, really, can do to effectively initiate the change that I called for above- that’s why I didn’t specify what exactly can be, or needs to be, done to combat the issues Kaepernick presents.  So: if anyone has any opinion on this piece, any background on the protests or on the injustices that minorities face, constructive thoughts on how to address the issues at hand, or any other information to give relative to the situation, please, comment below or contact me here.  I’d love to have a conversation with you.

Criminal Minds and Replacing Major TV Show Characters

 

Since discovering the hit CBS show Criminal Minds, it’s safe to say that I’ve become a very big fan of it.  I’ve watched nearly every episode of every season, with the sole exception being the most recent one.  I follow nearly all of the show’s stars on social media (Matthew Gray Gubler, who plays Dr. Spencer Reid on the show, is by far the most entertaining), refer to all of them by their first names, and know all of their backgrounds.  I have debates with my girlfriend over the quality of each episode (she thinks its going downhill) and the relationships playing out between on-screen characters.  While the show has had a pretty solid run of success- it is the fourth-longest running live-action scripted show in the US- it has had a pretty sizable chunk of turnover.

While the show has so far withstood all of the departures that the cast has undergone, the most recent ones could signal a turning point in the show’s history – Shemar Moore, who played the hunky Derrick Morgan, left in the middle of last season, and Thomas Gibson, who played the brooding Aaron Hotchner, was dismissed from the show after a physical altercation with one of the producers.  Both men were series originals, and their exits have created some uncertainty over the show’s primetime staying power.

This turnover is not out of the ordinary for major shows; however, the majority of the time that a character leaves a show, it is a choice that is first brought up by the showrunners, like the killing off of Nina Sergeevna in the show The Americans, or a mutual decision, like the death of Patrick Dempsey’s character in Grey’s Anatomy, Derek Sheppard.  A character leaving the show in this way allows for some sort of closure to be brought to the character’s storyline; sudden exits, like the ones by Moore and Gibson’s former co-stars, Lola Glaudini and Mandy Patinkin, cause a panic that induces a show to rush its casting process to replace the old stars, possibly diminishing the show’s quality in the eyes of its particularly passionate followers.

Glaudini, the show’s female lead for its first season, left early in season 2 because of her rumored preference to live on the east coast (the show films in Los Angeles).  Patinkin, the show’s biggest name and lead character, left abruptly in the middle of season 3, citing the show’s “dark” material as the reason for his departure.  Having such major characters leave the show so soon was completely unexpected, for viewers and CBS executives alike.  To ensure the survival of their show, the show’s producers had to put a lot of money and consideration to replacing these vital cogs.

Luckily, CBS managed to snag two phenomenal people to fill in for their outgoing cast members.  To replace Glaudini, they brought in Paget Brewster as Emily Prentiss at the beginning of Season 3, and to this day, she remains the strongest female lead the show has ever had.  To replace Patinkin, CBS chose the seemingly laid-back Joe Mantegna, who has played the team’s elder statesman, David Rossi, since Patinkin left. Both of these characters, along with the promotion of AJ Cook to a full-time cast member, made the show into the smash hit that it is today.

It seemed that everything was running smoothly until 2012, when Brewster, who had previously been undercut by the show’s producers, announced she would not be returning to the show for its eighth season.  Since then, Brewster’s role has been filled by three people, including current cast member Aisha Tyler, but none of them have, in the opinion of many fans, myself included, come to have the depth that Brewster’s character did.

And that’s what is so crucial about replacing a major character- showrunners need to develop the new characters with the same mindset that they did with the old ones while still managing to give them unique storylines that are different from their predecessors.  One of the many reasons that one of my other favorite shows, FOX’s Glee, struggled to continue in the aftermath of the horribly tragic death of the show’s male lead, Cory Monteith, is that they couldn’t come up with male characters that had enough depth to replace him.  Jake and Ryder, played by Jacob Artist and Blake Jenner, respectively, were put in a very shallow, very volatile love triangle that didn’t resonate with viewers.  By the time that the show figured out how to make the show exciting again, it was in its final season, which was shortened to 13 episodes instead of the 22 that four of the previous five seasons contained.

Criminal Minds successfully replaced Patinkin and Glaudini, but its failure to find a permanent replacement for Brewster, twice, has led to a show that has started to lose some followers- its ratings last season were the second lowest in its history.  Now, with Moore and Gibson leaving, there’s a chance that the show will lose its primetime TV spot, or worse yet, slink meekly off into the distance, a fate that Glee unfortunately met.  The show is not yet, in my opinion, on a big of a slump as the ratings, and my girlfriend, see- Adam Rodriguez seems like he could be a capable replacement for Moore, and after getting Brewster and Mantegna to join the show, I have faith that the show can figure out what to do with Gibson’s role.  However, if the show’s producers aren’t able to come up with solid storylines for its new characters, Criminal Mind’s time as one of the country’s most popular shows will soon be up.

Prom!

A lot of the times that I post on here, I post things that people can talk about, or relate to, even if I sometimes write so much about some things that it gets very, very boring for readers (like, I assume nobody read my entire NFL Free Agency post- it was fun to write, but very tedious to research, and I’m sure it was very tedious for everyone to try and get through).  This is one of the few exceptions, because it’s something that I’m super, duper excited about: I got to go to prom!

I was unable to go to my own high school’s prom last year- those of you that know me know why, and for those of you that don’t, I’ll just send you here.  After all the crap that went down last year, I never anticipated that I would get a chance to have the once-in-a-lifetime experience that prom is.  But God works in mysterious ways, I suppose- I began dating a lovely girl named Ariana, who is currently a senior in high school, and her prom, which was on May 14th, happened to fall after my college finals were over (for perspective, my high school’s prom was the weekend before my finals, and the other school in our district had it the week before that), so I would be able to go!  I was unbelievably overjoyed, and really, I still kind of am now, so I, uh, ramble a little bit in this post.

Of course, there was a lot of stress in the lead-up to the event- I first had to accept the fact that we weren’t going to my prom, but my girlfriend’s, so my excitement, and desire to do this and that, had to take a backseat to whatever she wanted.  There was drama over my girlfriend’s dress- we had made an agreement prior to her going dress shopping that I wouldn’t be able to see the dress until prom, but I was really anxious to see how amazing she would look, so our friends and family made a concerted effort to keep photos of it from me.  There was a minor seating fiasco- I wanted to be closer to the food, but Ariana wanted to be closer to the drinks, so we debated over that for a bit (she won, of course).  There was also the matter of dressing up- as someone that thinks wearing jeans is going fancy, I had to build up some major mental resolve to get into “prom” mode.  Of course, prior to this whole thing, I had never worn a tuxedo, and I was worried that my tendency to sweat, like, a lot, no matter the temperature, would make wearing a tux beyond miserable (for anyone that cares: it wasn’t all that bad).  I also had to settle some of my girlfriend’s fears- that she wouldn’t look pretty, that the whole thing would be a dud, things like that.

Of course, we got through all of the “trials and tribulation,” and the big day came.  I got into my tux and felt neither suffocated nor sweaty as hell.  I went over to her house to take pictures with my girlfriend and her family, finally getting to see her dress for the first time (with her in it, of course).  And boy, let me tell you- she was an absolute knockout.  She told me prior to prom, countless times, that she thought the dress made her look like a real princess, but I thought that the line was just cliché.  It definitely wasn’t- she was… beyond dreamy.  I was way out of her league (I still am, but was especially so on that night).

Anyway.

After some glam shots of the two of us, and another brief photo session at her best friend’s house, her mom brought us to her school to await departure to the dance.  Waiting there was just a little bit awkward for me- since I didn’t go to the same high school Ariana did (Hinsdale Central for life!), I knew exactly one person there besides the small group of four that we came with, and that was only because he was from Central.  For a quiet person such as myself, having to go around and be introduced to so many people, meaning that I actually had to talk to them, wasn’t all that enjoyable.  Thankfully, we didn’t stay at the school long, and soon enough, we were off.

The event was held at the Navy Pier Crystal Garden; while there was nothing in the room that, in my opinion, remotely resembled anything crystal, it sure was a nice place- there were lots of majestic plants, some cool water features, and the setup was really nice, allowing everybody to get to the important things, like the food, drinks, photo booths, and dance floor with relative ease.  The food that the staff prepared for us was also pretty good, considering that it was mass produced at a facility that isn’t exactly known for its food.

The dance itself was a bit awkward for me- considering that I’m super quiet and have the dance moves of a wooden board (I’m stiff and don’t move much), that makes some sense- but it was an absolute blast.  My girlfriend got me out onto the dance floor for a couple of the more pop-y songs, as well as for both of the slow songs, showing me a dance move or two.  We got to take some really funny photos in the photo booth with her and her friends.  We went outside to the porch of the Garden and spent some time enjoying the city skyline (while trying not to freeze our butts off in the high 40’s weather while wearing thin dress clothes).  We talked about really random things in really loud voices, straining to hear each other above the noise of the music.  Best of all, we got to really revel in each other’s company, enjoying a truly once-in-a-lifetime experience with the person that we would most want to experience it with.

We finished the night relaxing next to a bonfire in my backyard, reliving the funny moments of the night while chowing down on s’mores, pizza, and cinnamon sticks, happy to be out of our very-fancy-yet-very-constricting clothes and into sweatpants and sweatshirts.  The night didn’t last very long- from the time that I put on my tuxedo to the time that I went to bed, it was maybe 9 hours, tops- but it was a night that I am beyond grateful I got to spend with the best girlfriend in the world, and a night that I will remember for the rest of my life.

Oh, and here are some pictures, in case you want to see how goofy I look in a tux and how gorgeous my girlfriend looked.  Enjoy:

 

1.jpg                                                           Hand pose!

2.jpg       The group

3.jpg                                          I need to learn how to smile…4.jpg        My mom and me5.jpg           “The good one”

6.jpg            She looks gorgeous.  I look bleh.