Facebook Scores with Univision’s Liga MX Deal

Liga MX on Facebook Live will become a reality this Saturday

When Twitter announced their partnership deal with the NFL last year, I was disappointed.

I long believed that people would watch sports via Twitter. Sports and Twitter are the perfect match. The main reason for this is because that’s where sports media live. Breaking news, stories, commentary about sports happens on Twitter more than any other social media platform. So much happens on Twitter that I’ve even “watched” the Super Bowl without watching it on tv.

If you want people to talk about your sports content, Twitter is where it’s at. The potential for sports leagues to connect and grow through Twitter was huge. If your sport connects with sports media, who better to get the word out, right?

Although Twitter did sign partnerships with smaller leagues – the Mountain West conference, for example – it was their deal with the NFL that got people (media) buzzing.

Boring.

For me, the point of watching something on social media is more an issue of access. The NFL is a commodity that is easily accessible. Broadcast tv, cable tv, foreign language tv – it’s readily available for NFL games.

No, what I wanted to see Twitter pursue was something I couldn’t get elsewhere.

Then along came Facebook Live.

Marketers and media sometimes scoff at Facebook and sports. They view it as for the older crowd, full of photos of food, kids and the ever-popular “why am I connected with this person from high school” crowd. It’s believed that the 18-34 year-old demographic group coveted by sports advertisers aren’t hanging out on Facebook.

But, given its status as the #1 social network in the world, Facebook will be a player (no sports pun intended) in sports live-streaming.

**

Univision’s Liga MX Deal

Today, the most popular soccer league in North America, sorry MLS, is bringing their game to Facebook thanks to Univision Deportes. 

“We’re thrilled Univision is bringing Liga MX matches to Facebook,” said Dan Reed, Head of Global Sports Partnerships at Facebook. “The move enables Facebook’s passionate community of soccer fans to watch, share, talk about and react to one of the sport’s most exciting leagues – all in one location.”

Tonia O’Connor, COO and Content Distribution President of Univision Corporation said, “Our Facebook partnership is an exciting opportunity for these fans to experience this great soccer in the language of their choice.”

Financial details have not been disclosed at this time. 

Broadcasting games in English and making them available to fans who, for various reasons, don’t have Univision as part of their cable package is a no-brainer. By broadcasting the games on Facebook Live in English, Univision will be bringing Liga MX to an ever-increasing bilingual fanbase in the United States.

Just a few short days ago, Liga MX was featured in the English publication, The Guardian. In that article, writer Richard Foster wrote, “…a concerted effort is required to make an impact outside the Americas.” Although the initial offering will only be available here in the United States, Univision’s partnership with Facebook is one way to show the excitement of the league to new fans.  

Traditionalists and long-time Liga MX fans may not be as enthusiastic about the news, but it is worth the risk. Univision will still air games in Spanish over the air and on their app.  

Only 46 games – regular season and playoffs – will be broadcast on Facebook. These matches will involve teams Univision has broadcast rights to. It all starts this Saturday night when Club America travels to Chivas.

There are still details to be ironed out and questions to be answered. After all, announcers are an important part of Liga MX viewing…

As for Twitter, this news should make bring them pause. Depending on whom you ask, their partnership with the NFL was successful. More recently, they began their partnership with the PGA Tour. This agreement allows Twitter to broadcast 31 tournaments, with over 70 hours of coverage this season. It will be broadcast around the world. 

Just like with the NFL, however, this isn’t a partnership that gets the average American sports fan excited. Golf tournaments can be seen on broadcast and cable tv, as well as your local sports bar on a non-football day. What’s the point? 

By offering a sport that isn’t as readily available, Facebook is taking the path that could ultimately prove beneficial for all parties in sports.

Now, if only Cesar’s wish…and mine…would come true. 

***

CadChica Sports

Selfie Project: CadChica Style

Apologies to my sports fans, but this is not a sports post. 

I hate having my picture taken.

The reasons are few, but I equate to pulling teeth, nails scraping on a chalkboard and a new violinist all rolled into one. 

I hate it. 

Family and friends know this about me. Yet, they still try to sneak a photo of me with their phone’s whenever they can. 

They usually fail. 

Then, 2017 came around.

I started thinking. 

What was I thinking? Well, the better question is what wasn’t I thinking.

I am a thinker. I am constantly thinking about something. Whether it’s about my family, my dogs, work, the future, the past, the present, faith, sports, the world, the brokenhearted, social media, journalism, creativity, race & the real definition of diversity, my city, ending slavery, the environment, crazy drivers, traveling, what do i want to be when i grow up, life, death…

As morbid as it sounds, yes, I ponder death. Death as in what kind of legacy will I leave, how will I be remembered. Invariably, this particular train of thought leads to thinking about a funeral. (See – I told you sounds morbid)

When I start thinking about a funeral, I start thinking about the photos that they always show of the loved one. And I say YIKES! There are no pictures of me.

This is what happens to thinkers. Our brains are going at 100 mph going from one tangent to the next at Speedy Gonzales speed. (Look him up, kids) It’s hard to turn off this brain of mine. But, before I get any further, let me back up a bit. 

When I was a kid, I was a ham in front of the camera. I made cheesy smiles and loved having my picture taken. I don’t know why, but I did. Most kids do, right?

Somewhere along the way, however, I stopped being that kid with the cheesy grin. I became an insecure girl & woman who never felt she was…enough. I wasn’t pretty enough or even the skinniest. No way was I ever the best athlete. For sure, I wasn’t the smartest in my class. I also felt, at times, like I wasn’t Hispanic enough. There was always a feeling where I didn’t quite measure up. 

Like so many girls and women, it was easy to find flaws in every photo I was in. It would be easy to blame culture, but culture is only part of it. Positive reinforcement and encouragement goes a long way to helping kids battle against what culture says is the norm. 

The same things kids deal with today, I dealt with back in the eighties. The only difference today – and it’s a big one – is social media. 

Social media is a reflection of society. It amplifies all the good and bad of society. It exposes the hypocrisy of both the media and public. Those who were only heard by hundreds could now be heard by millions. 

 

As someone who works in social media, I see thousands of tweets each work day. I’ve seen sports media praise a person one day and mock them the next. I’ve seen sports media (male and female) mock athletes – even high school or college athletes – for the way they look.  

This mindset isn’t limited to sports media. Media, marketers, business people, school employees, national and local governmental leaders are speaking their minds on various social media platforms. They view it as their right. Even today, it’s not uncommon for sports media to mock, berate and ridicule others for their beliefs – whether it’s about sports, race, culture and yes, politics. 

Mocking looks. Mocking beliefs. It’s like high school all over again. 

What you see above is a collection of my four high school photos with a more current one in the middle. I can identify all of the things wrong in each photo from hair, to smile, to teeth, to skin, to clothing. I can even tell you which people in sports media might mock these photos and…would get their loyal followings to do the same. 

My 15 minutes of fame would be relentless. 

Yet, here I am posting these photos for the world to see. Not only that, but I have been venturing in a little Selfie Project for the month of January. The project entails a photo of me every day for one month posted on Instagram.

As one who hates their picture being taken, the project proved challenging. There aren’t enough filters or photo apps in the world that could improve how I looked in them. But, I kept remembering why I was doing it – what kind of legacy will I leave, how will I be remembered…and…those photos.

The photos on Instagram reveal more about me, the person. They showcase my (sometimes) goofy personality, my sense of humor, my unique perspective, my outlook on life and my brutal attempt at talent. As a private person, this was a huge stretch outside of my comfort zone. 

Thankfully, we’re at the end of January and my #SelfieProject. It’s time to go back to my comfort zone of rare photos of me. As I only shared the photos on Instagram and not Twitter, I’ve received nothing but positive feedback. For that, I am grateful. 

I still deal with insecurities. As a journalist without a journalism degree, I still feel I don’t quite measure up at times. I’m not good at self-promoting through social media – a much needed requirement today. I’m more comfortable at promoting others than I am myself. I don’t want the focus on me. 

I cannot imagine what today’s youth go through with phones and social media around every corner. My hope is that a project like this along with today’s blog post will let them know they are not alone. It’s okay to laugh at yourself. It’s okay to try things outside of your comfort zone. BUT…

It’s also okay to not share everything you think, say or do on social media. Not every photo of you needs to be on display for the world to see. It’s okay to be private. It’s okay to have insecurities. Just don’t let your insecurities control you.

Do good to yourself and others. When you want to criticize yourself, step back, take a deep breath and remember that we often judge ourselves more harshly than others “judge” us.

Respect yourself enough to know when to say yes and when to say no. Respect yourself enough to say “I can, I will and I am” who I desire to be, which is a strong, confident, compassionate person. You are enough. 

Okay, okay, I’ll stop rambling. 

Here’s to the end of my project, a return to sports writing and a better 2017. 

***

CadChica Sports

My 2016 Sports Year In Review: Thoughts & Thanks

2016 Sports Year In Review

Every year about this time, I write my year in review post. It’s filled with reflections, thoughts, predictions and my thanks. Usually, the predictions are doomed to fail. The reflections and thoughts are based on observation with what I hope is a discerning eye and open mind. 

2016 was a year of personal challenge. That’s a good thing. I don’t want to stay the same person I was years ago, with the same old stagnant thinking and actions. But, it was a personal challenge in that I wasn’t able to write as much as before. But, some of what I did write had a unique point of view (links below).

For some reason, this 2016 year in review is a bit longer than in years past. Maybe it’s because I didn’t write as much and I’ve saved it all up for year’s end. Whatever the case, I hope you can set aside some time to read this – what I hope is a – unique perspective on my 2016 Sports Year in Review. 

***

MOURNING THE LOSSES

Hey 2016 – Don’t let the door hit you on the way out. 

As a keen observer and curator of social conversations, I’d imagine that this is the sentiment of many as we come to the end of the year. 2016 was tumultuous in many respects and not just from the political front. 

What seemed like a somber start to the year with the deaths of David Bowie, Abe Vigoda and Glenn Frey in January only continued with the deaths of many other notables and icons that affected many in and outside of sports. 

Dave Mirra and Maurice White (February)

Bud Collins, Joe Garagiola, Johann Cruyff, actress Patty Duke and comedian Gary Shandling (March)

Prince and Dwayne “Pearl” Washington (April)

Muhammad Ali, Pat Summitt, Gordie Howe, Buddy Ryan and Kimbo Slice (June)

Director & producer Garry Marshall, NBA’er Nate Thurmond and Coach Dennis Green (July)

ESPN broadcaster John Saunders and actor Gene Wilder (August)

Jose Fernandez, Arnold Palmer (September)

Dennis Byrd (October)

Florence Henderson (November)

John Glenn, Alan Thicke, Carrie Fischer (December)

Just when you thought we’d seen enough, 2016 had to go out on full….

  • RELATED: Notable Sports Deaths 2016 – Newsday
  • RELATED: People We’ve Lost in 2016 – CNN

That’s an exhaustive list in itself but it does not do 2016 justice in terms of the talent and impact lost this past year.   

As I read through the sentiments and tweets about Craig Sager, I thought about what was being said. Sager had a zest for life. By all accounts, he treated people with respect. He dared to – no, not be different – be himself.

How many of those who tweeted about Sager put those same characteristics into practice in our own lives?   

More on 2016 in a bit. 

*

Addendum

On December 21, I cried. 

I cried because I read these words, “Grandma, call him again! Call him again!”. 

A former NFL players was found dead in his home. In a Detroit News article detailing the death of Robert Eddins, the words of his son jumped off the screen.  

“Grandma, call him again! Call him again!”. 

We saw a lot of death in 2016. Or, it felt like we did. Feelings of sadness and mourning and melancholy for those who impacted our lives somewhere along the way. And, feelings of anger and outrage at those whose lives were ended in controversy. 

But, what of those left behind? What of those left behind when it’s a killing that has taken a life?  

“Grandma, call him again! Call him again!”. 

Does our need for justice outweigh our responsibility to empathize? Do our rights and our personal opinions/beliefs come before human decency? They make for “great” tweets and story links down the road, but what about in the day-to-day aftermath? Are we moved enough to act instead of tweet/post/snap/share? 

“Grandma, call him again! Call him again!”. 

I’m looking in the mirror. 

**

Bad Advice In Journalism

When historians look back at 2016, they might see it as a critical juncture in journalism. Social media has given an platform to journalists to freely express their personal opinions and belief. Nowhere was this more evident than on Twitter.

The recent U.S. election highlighted a crossing-of-the-line, if you will, in journalism. In the sports realm alone, professors, editors, national and international writers decided they were going to use it to tweet their voting preferences AND condemn those who disagreed with their choice.

Some even preached a “DON’T stick to sports” mantra as we inched closer to the November elections.

There’s only one problem with that advice. 

It’s missing a key point. 

Anyone who knows anything about social media, Twitter especially, should know that it is a reflection of society. People from all walks of life – all races, cultures, beliefs – who have learned about life in vastly different ways. 

I’ve called Twitter the “World’s Largest Sports Bar” for years. As it has grown, it’s evolved into the “World’s Largest Sports Bar” meets the “World’s Largest Message Board”. Sports media, as a whole, who are the driving force of Twitter understand this best. 

Or, in other words, it’s a reflection of society. 

I am not advocating the “stick to sports” mantra. Nor am I saying “don’t stick to sports”. Having been on social media for the past 10 years, I know where of I speak when I say it’s a reflection of society.

I’ve seen the highs and lows. I’ve seen the bullying tactics of fans, celebrities, media and various generations. I’ve seen the rallying for a cause or people coming together to help others. I’ve seen Twitter fights and social media reunions. 

The choice – and make no mistake, Twitter, Facebook…they’re all choices YOU make – is much more complex when you realize it’s not just an American society that you interact with. It’s all of the societies of the world. 

Don’t want to stick to sports? Fine. But, be prepared. 

  • Be prepared for people who don’t think like you. 
  • Be prepared for people who don’t hold the same beliefs like you. 
  • Be prepared for people to misunderstand 140 characters. What you think you are saying in a tweet doesn’t always come across as what you mean…especially when sarcasm is used. Not everyone lives, eat & breathes Twitter (social media) like those who work in sports media.   
  • Be prepared for people who interpret a story one way while you interpret it another way.
  • Be prepared for those who don’t believe that your thinking can evolve from a one year, five or even ten years ago. 
  • Be prepared for those who see that you don’t stick to sports and judge you accordingly. 
  • Be prepared for fellow media members calling you out because you’re sticking/not sticking to sports. 
  • Be prepared for angry fans who see your opinions on non-sports topics and view that as a biased point of view on sports topics. 
  • Be prepared for angry media members who don’t stick to sports lashing out at other media members who don’t stick to sports only because they think differently. 
  • Be prepared for disagreement. It can come from anywhere in the world. 

*

Responsibility

Media is responsible for telling the story. There once was a thought that they shouldn’t become part of the story. 

Thanks to social media, that belief is history.

From “lap dances” to journalist bans to mean tweets, media themselves became more of the story in 2016. With it, media sites like Awful Announcing have joined the ranks of Sports Illustrated (Richard Deitsch’s Media Circus) and The Big Lead as go-to sources for sports media stories. 

The changing landscape of sports journalism is tough to keep up with. On the one hand, we have people (media included) only getting their news from social media (without reading the story), major sports site editorial failures or reporters getting lap-dances from athletes (prompting Twitter feuds).

On the other, there were some incredible pieces written this year. Like these (see links in tweet):

A little non-sports, but worth a read. Would apply to many Latino athletes in American sports. 

I do not foresee this type of story-telling going away soon. But, if the aforementioned professors, instructors and media members are teaching the next generation of sports journalists to “not” stick to sports, what are we left with? 

Are we left with sports media that care more about their opinions, their wants and their need to be right than they do the story? Make no mistake, this is where we are and continue to head in sports media today: 

**

Viva Latina

The older I get, the more I care about being a voice. Not just any voice. But, a voice for the voiceless. One area that I am trying to be that for is with Latinas In Sports. 

Look across the sports landscape in women’s sports in America or, better yet, look at the coverage of women’s sports and you’d be hard pressed to find much talk about the Latinas. 

No other sport is giving Latinas greater exposure to sports fans than in MMA. 

Prior to 2015, there was Ronda Rousey (who has some Latina in her) and everybody else. Today, there’s the reigning UFC Bantamweight champ, Amanda Nunes (Brazil), Americans Rousey (#1 Bantamweight), Julianna Peña (Bantamweight #3) and Marion Reneau (#12), Brazilians Cat Zingano (#6), Bethe Correia (#9) and Claudia Gadelha (Featherweight #1)…

just to name a few…

UFC 207 which takes place this Friday will feature two Latinas fighting for the championship. We will see the return of Rousey after a lengthy hiatus as she challenges the champ Nunes. The question I have is will we see anyone talking about their heritage? If Rousey wins, will sports sites call her white like some have done in the past? Or, will they give her Latina heritage a nod? 

That’s the point of the hashtag and Twitter account I created, #LatinasInSports. Bring recognition to the women in sports on the field, court, pitch or in the media. 

Thankfully, we had the Rio Olympics to help tell our stories. 

  • Maya DiRado – USA – 4 medals in Swimming
  • Diana Taurausi – USA – Gold in Basketball (again) 
  • Mariana Pajón – Brazil – Gold in BMX
  • Caterine Ibargüen – Brazil – Gold in Triple Jump 
  • Laurie Hernandez – USA – 2 medals in Artistic Gymnastics
  • Paula Pareto – Argentina – Gold in Judo 
  • Rafaela Silva – Brazil – Gold in Judo
  • Maggie Steffens – USA – Gold in Water Polo
  • Sarah Robles – USA – Bronze in Weightlifting 

Felicidades to all of these athletes. However, for my money, there were two stories that stood out above the rest for Latinas: 

When you become the first-ever to win a gold medal for your country…mucho mucho respeto! 

And…when you’re the first-ever female MLB analyst at ESPN…and you happen to be Latina…mucho respeto por ti, tambien, Jessica!

**

In Memoriam

Death is no respecter of race, religion, age or skin color. It has no regard for status or notoriety. History? Death writes it own history.

As I referenced earlier, 2016 disregarded race, religion, age, skin color, history. It thumbed its nose at everyone. Death put an exclamation point on this year with what transpired on November 28, 2016.

They were riding the wave of history, this small club out of Chapecó, Santa Catarina in western Brazil. Associação Chapecoense de Futebol had risen to the top flight of Brazilian fútbol (Serie A)

One minute they are on the verge of history, the next a new history is written. As Yahoo’s Eric Adelson put it, “The Copa Sudamericana final was to be the biggest moment in the history of the soccer club”. Instead, we were left to mourn and wonder. 

How? Why? Players, coaches, journalists, airline crew – gone. 

How? Why? A city left in sorrow. 

How? Why? The world cries out. 

Death is no respecter of anything or anyone. 2016 solidified that point a thousand times over. But, to take a team and media members like this –  a plane running out of fuel – when they are on the precipice of legend…

Soulful groaning

Chapecoense was awarded the Copa Sudamericana trophy. Football teams from around the world poured in with their condolences and assistance. Individual players like Ronaldinho stepped up to help the club both now and in the future.

For as much as we mourned briefly, the town of Chapecó will continue to mourn forever. Hope and joy were lost with the crashing of that plane. Mourning has no expiration date. 

A new season will roll around in 2017. Maybe the next squad, with assistance to play from around the globe, will reach the Copa Sudamericana again next season (what a story that would be). Or, maybe ten years down the road. Or, maybe never.

As each day, week, month and year pass, maybe a little hope and joy will be restored to Chapecó. Until then…

#ForçaChape 

**

Top Tweets from 2016

My Raider fandom: 

One of my favorite people to follow on Twitter. Amy Trask gets me: 

Ahh, the same name club strikes again

Well…he wasn’t wrong

2016 got you down? Go into 2017 with a new attitude – “I Got This”

Valid questions for all of us

Kids with their athlete parents – it’s getting dusty in here

Ay dios

*** Sigh ***

My favorite tweet comes at the end of the year. 

**

2017 Predictions

Before we predict, we must acquit… slow clap …ourselves for our 2016 predictions. Before that, however, let’s take a look at what I predicted for 2016.

Well, let’s see….

  • Virtual Reality was huge: Snapchat Spectacles, anyone? 
  • FIFA Presidency had plenty of scandal surrounding it.
  • Drone legislation? Check 
  • Olympics and technology: Miss
  • UFC – Women’s growth: Oh yeah!! 
  • Athlete involvement in the election. Two words: Donald Trump
  • Major gambling scandal: Tennis, Soccer, Japanese baseball 
  • Increased money to NCAA athletes: Meh
  • Domestic violence news in other countries: Mostly American stories making news elsewhere
  • MLB: Nope. Still not making any headway with the younger demo. 
  • Twitter Edit feature: I like dreaming

Purely luck on some of these predictions that came true. Do I dare have anything to say about 2017? Of course I do – #predictionsdoomedtofail:

  • Sports Media #1: Popularity of live, especially Facebook Live, will see a slow shift away from Twitter as the sports behemoth of social media. 
  • Sports Media #2: Without some serious evolving in 2017, Twitter will become less popular with sports media. 
  • Social Media: Twitter will be bought by…Amazon. (Cue, lol emoji.) 
  • E-Sports: Seems like it’s exploded already but we ain’t seen nothing yet like we will in 2017 with e-sports. 
  • “Reality” check: Pokemon was a big hit this past year. But, will Augmented Reality hit it big in sports? Maybe.
  • Medical Advancement: There will be a major breakthrough that will shake one or more sports to its very core. 
  • Business: Marketing by teams, leagues, athletes will become less one-to-one and more generalized like the old days. Think: LinkedIn or a similar, new LI-type platform. 
  • Minor league sports: One or more will be in financial trouble in the U.S. 
  • Sports Ratings #1: Declining ratings won’t be just in the NFL anymore. Unless…
  • Sports Ratings #2: Criteria will finally be developed to measure all ways to watch a show or event, including on social media. 
  • Politics and sports: We will see these two intersect in ways we never have before around the world. It might not be pretty. 
  • Officiating: Less human, more tech in the 2017-18 seasons of at least 3 major sports around the globe. 
  • Emojis Rule: Yes, I’m a little biased, but 2017 will be the year of the emojis. Animated emojis. 
  • Athlete scandals: 2016 will be tame compared to what we will see in 2017. 
  • Mariners, World Series Champs: I’d rather dream about this than a Twitter edit feature. 

**

Closing Thoughts

Years like these should challenge us. Challenge us to be and do better each day. Treat people with kindness and respect, even when we don’t agree with them. I can hear people now, “Respect is earned”. 

Sorry, there are different levels of respect.

You can respect someone for their business sense, work ethic, parenting, etc… But, the kind of respect I’m talking about has to do with respect of a fellow human being. Respect others as people. 

What would happen if we taught the next generation to respect themselves and others for simply being a living, breathing human being? What would happen if we taught them that they and others have value just by being alive? 

Do you think that would help facilitate an end to racism, sexism and any other -ism you might want to throw in? If we teach our kids to respectfully disagree with someone while still maintaining their personal beliefs, what kind of country and world would this be? Instead of digging in our heels to prove “we are right”, what if we invest in the future with intentional teaching? 

What does this have to do with sports? It has everything to do with it in this social media age we live in today. If we don’t prepare the next generation of sports media, athletes, marketers, business people, owners and more, the future of sports will become an afterthought. 

*

We need to put an end to sweeping generalizations about any demographic group. Not all blacks are thugs. Not all whites are racist. Not all Hispanics are immigrants. Not all Native Americans are alcoholics. Not all Asians are education-oriented. Not all women are “angry” feminists. Not all men are egotistical misogynists. 

Not all (insert demographic group here) are (insert corresponding description here)

Sweeping generalizations stifles dialogue. It doesn’t help promote it. When we do this, we show how much we value our own opinion over others. 

Not everything is a black-and-white issue. Not every story should be looked at in a this-or-that/either-or/us-or-them point of view. That’s when sweeping generalizations happen.

Three of the most important pieces I wrote this year had to do with race/culture. None were what you would call a black-and-white issue. 

**

My Thanks

This part of the post is always hard. It’s getting harder to remember all of the people who made an impact on me over the past year without writing it down somewhere. And, well, I forgot to do that. 

Yes, that means I’m getting old. But, part of it is also because I was busy this year in my regular, non-writing job. Busier than in years past. That’s no excuse, but if I forget your name…..LO SIENTO MUCHO! 

This list of people includes those who have been a part of my 2016 year whether it was through work or otherwise. Who are they?

  • I don’t surround myself with only those I agree with. I appreciate people who make me think.
  • I enjoy conversations with those who can make me laugh on a continual basis too.
  • Those who took an interest in what I did or said – they’re on here.
  • And, some on here kept me updated on sports I wanted to know about but didn’t have time beyond checking Twitter.
  • Finally, some, well, I just couldn’t imagine this list without them. 

In no particular order, I am grateful for all of you and I say thank you. May your 2017 be blessed. 

  • Vicente Fernandez
  • Aymara Del Aguila
  • Mi Sportsmanias Familia
  • Jose Romero
  • Yussuf Khan
  • Alejandro Danois
  • Cindy Hval 
  • Tariq Ahmad
  • Russell Baxter
  • Tom Buchheim
  • Derrick Docket
  • Joe Favorito
  • Pam Chvotkin
  • Dave Cook and the Eastern Washington family
  • Bob McKamey
  • Jeff Mason
  • Dayna O’Gorman
  • Travis Bell
  • Joe Scott
  • Gyasi Ross
  • Amy Trask
  • Cesar Hernandez
  • Tom Harrison
  • Jimmy Sanderson
  • Andrea Canales
  • Jessica Lopez
  • Joshua Decker
  • Kelly Mosier
  • Katie Cavender
  • Jason Clinkscales
  • Russ Cohen
  • Jonny Rico Aviles
  • Freddie Coleman
  • Lisa Bianchi
  • Marissa O’Connor
  • Mario Flores
  • Mike Freeman
  • Dave Zorn
  • Paola Boivin
  • Young Kwak
  • Myk Crawford
  • Ann Pegoraro
  • Emily Sutherland
  • Cassie Devaney
  • My Google Hangout/Chat buddies

***

CadChica Sports

EWU Semi-Final Loss Defies Description

It is nearly impossible to narrow down today’s FCS playoff game between Eastern Washington and Youngstown State into one word or phrase. But, there are a few that come to mind after the YSU Penguins upset the EWU Eagles, 40-38 on a last minute play.

 

***

Bitter.

As the sun began to set just after kickoff, the temperature began to drop. 12 degrees at kickoff was cold, but with the sun setting the weather became bitterly cold.

Fans could be seen adding layer upon layer of clothing as the made their way from their cars to the stadium. It’s winter in the Pacific Northwest. We know that and we come prepared for it. 

I, myself, had four shirts, a coat, three layers of clothing on my legs and feet, three on my head and still, in single digit weather and snowy as the game went on, the bitterness was felt up and down my body.

And, it stung.

***

Stunned.

The Inferno (Roos Field) was quiet. Except for one annoying fan on the opposite with a high-pitched scream, the Eastern Washington Eagle crowd was quiet.

Loud for most of the night – partly to support their team and partly to stay warm – they were trying to make sense of what they just saw. Victory snatched. Title hopes dashed. A season ending just short of the goal again.

Perhaps they were praying, hoping that somehow, some way the replay review would turn in their favor.

It couldn’t end like this, could it? It can’t end like this for Cooper Kupp…

Silenced.

***

Respect.

Game in and game out, Cooper Kupp was amazing to watch on the field. When you think opponents have him locked down, he makes a play that he shouldn’t make. Two or three guys try to drag him down and yet, it’s Kupp that does the dragging.

Kupp is the guy you hate to play against because even if you do everything fundamentally right, he still makes you look silly.

He isn’t flashy. He won’t get in a defender’s face and brag about a play. No, Kupp just plays football.

After every game, I’ve watched Kupp embrace teammates and opponents alike. But tonight, in his final game in an Eastern Washington uniform, it seemed a bit more than usual.

Penguin player after Penguin player sought out Kupp. They’d embrace and talk briefly – congratulatory words of a different sort from each, most likely. It was clear that these Youngstown State players had tremendous respect for Kupp. 

While this went on, others were waiting.

His teammates, perhaps 20-30 of them waited for Kupp in the middle of the field. They waited because he was their leader. Their leader in this one final act — of thankfulness and prayer.

Reflecting.

***

Joy and sorrow.

That high-pitched screaming fan was ecstatic. Their team is heading to Frisco, TX to play in the FCS National Championship game on January 7 against James Madison.

This fan was joined by super excited fans 1, 2 and 3 who ran onto the field when they probably shouldn’t have.

If it was my team, I might have done the same.

YSU players were smiling and laughing – completely full of joy at their amazing win. Some were running around Jim Valvano-style looking for someone to hug.

Shoulders slumped. Helmets off, helmets on. Hands on hips while others squatted down trying to make sense of it all. 

Others shook hands and found a place of comfort – in their families. Moms, dads, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles all consoling young men who gave everything they had on that field. They were trying to talk them through the gut-punch they just experienced.

It was unexpected. Not so much the loss itself, but rather the way they lost. How do you prepare for that kind of ending? How do you make sense of something that was within your grasp and then snatched away at the last second?

Hugs with smiles on one side. Hugs with tears on the other.

Juxtaposed. 

***

Bittersweet.

For the Eastern Washington Eagles and their fans, tonight will be a bitter pill to swallow. 

There will be no trip to Frisco this year. It is another season without an FCS title. But, it was far from a failure. 

This Eastern Washington Eagle team was special. Finishing 12-2 overall (including a win over their neighbors to the south – Washington State Cougars), undefeated in the Big Sky Conference with record-setting players on both sides of the ball, this team had an amazing season even without a title. 

Then again, maybe it’s not so much bitter, but it’s a bittersweet ending for this team. 

All season long, when push came to shove, they responded. When you thought they were down, they proved you wrong. “It’s such an amazing group,” said Head Coach Beau Baldwin. “(They) gave us so many memories. It was a resilient bunch the entire year and they played the toughest schedule in school history.”

I was proud of them before we even kicked off this football game,” Baldwin added. “I’m proud of the way they handled so many situations coming into this season and how they approached and attacked the off-season. One play doesn’t define the effort, the heart, the camaraderie and the culture that this team carried all the way through the season. That’s how I feel.”

There will be a bit of a bitter feeling for EWU to be so close to Frisco. But, it is also bittersweet. “The toughest thing is knowing we don’t get three more weeks together,” said Coach Baldwin. “If it doesn’t hurt that you don’t have that time together, then it probably wasn’t as meaningful as you really wanted it to be.”

This team like others before it and after will always have a bon. That bond is built not so much during the season but more so in the off-season.

The blood, sweat and tears of weights and conditioning. The countless rehabbing of injuries. The jockeying for practice time with the 1’s. And, the long conversations about football, school and life. 

Those times are mostly over now. Though the bond remains, the times together do not. 

As for me, I don’t know where I will be next September when football rolls around again. Will I cover another promising Eastern Washington football season? It’s hard to say.

What I can say is that it has been a privilege to see these young men bond and grow. I’ve seen the seniors go from wide-eyed, nervous freshmen to confident, passionate young men in a few short years. Where they go from here is up to them. 

I hope that their time on the playing field and in the classroom at Eastern Washington will be a launching pad to be valuable contributing members of society. I hope that they make a positive impact in their road ahead. 

No, I don’t cheer for any team I cover. But, I do root for the young men in life. I’m a mom -that’s how I’m wired. I can’t help but root for life success for these young men. 

Let’s let that be the final word for the night.

Success. 

***

CadChica Sports

Ebukam, EWU Defense Shine In Playoff Win Over Richmond

Baby, it may be cold outside but the Eastern Washington Eagles were on fire at The Inferno today. The Eagles earned a playoff win over Richmond, 38-0, by playing stellar defense and…the usual…offense.

They will face the Youngstown State Penguins next Saturday in Cheney, WA in a FCS Playoff semi-final. The Penguins were a 30-23 double-overtime winner over Wofford earlier Saturday.

The expectation is always that the Eagle’s prolific offense will put up high offensive numbers. EWU, led by dual Walter Payton Award nominees Gage Gubrud and Cooper Kupp, did what it is so good at – put points on the board. Gubrud was 21-32 passing for 287 yards and three touchdowns. A banged-up Kupp (sprained AC joint, left shoulder) led all receivers with six catches for 128 yards and 1 touchdown.

For EWU fans, those are “expected”. But today, however, today was all about the defense.

In one of their best games of the year, the Eastern Washington defense was hungry, stout and opportunistic. Senior Samson Ebukam terrorized the Richmond backfield all game long. Ebukam had eight tackles (four for loss), one forced fumble, one recovered fumble and one interception.

Those numbers don’t include the amount of times Ebukam and his fellow EWU defenders pressured Richmond sophomore quarterback, Kevin Johnson. Johnson was forced into action this season after injuries hit the Spiders quarterback spot this season.

The defense was also buoyed by the return of Miquiyah Zamora. The senior linebacker was out for the Eagles second-round win over Central Arkansas with an injured hamstring. Zamora came back with a vengeance as he tied Ebukam for the team lead in tackles with eight.

Late in the fourth quarter on the ESPN3 broadcast, commentator and former NFL player Chad Brown referenced the saying, “Stats don’t always tell the story.” But, as Brown added, today they very much did for the Eastern defense.

  • First time an Eastern Washington Eagle defense had shut out an opponent since the 2009 season (Northern Colorado, 16-0).
  • Held Richmond to under 200 yards of total offense UNTIL the final Spiders possession late in the fourth quarter against Eastern’s second-string defense.
  • Richmond’s rushing yards (48) and attempts (37) were nearly equal. At the half, the Spiders had 3 yards on 23 attempts.
  • Season high of six sacks for EWU

Richmond could not combat the Eagle defense. Nor could they combat the elements. Whether (no pun intended) the weather was a factor or not, this tweet was an example of the uncharacteristic nature of the Spiders play today:

 

Richmond senior linebacker Omer Howard said, “Today obviously hurts, we didn’t play anywhere close to how we’re capable of playing, but when I look back there is no other group of guys that I would have rather spent my senior season.”

Comments from Coach Beau Baldwin, Cooper Kupp and Samson Ebukam below:

The Eagles will host Youngstown State at 3:30 pm PT next weekend. The Penguins come into the game on a 5-game win streak, having last lost on November 5 to the 5-time defending champ, North Dakota State Bison, 24-3. YSU is ranked 12th in defense in FCS (314.7 yards per game) and 7th in scoring defense (17.7 points per game). 

If Eastern Washington keeps playing with fire like they have on defense, Frisco and a National Championship are well within their grasp. 

***

CadChica Sports

EWU Wins 2016 Playoff Opener – I Reflect on 2014

PLAYOFF MEMORY

Just another playoff game. A new season, new expectations and the start of a new path for the Eastern Washington Eagles football team. 

Missing out on the playoffs in 2015, I sat in the press box pondering this thought. Another playoff game. 

2014 was the last time the Eagles were in, and hosted, an FCS playoff game. I was sitting in the same seat in the press box when EWU lost 59-46 to Illinois State in 2014. It was a game I won’t forget because I found myself praying. 

No, not praying for a game or result or team. I was praying for what was playing out below me. 

I was the first one in the press box to notice the cluster of people in the stands. Late December nights out in Cheney can be bitterly cold, especially when the team is losing late in the game. A cluster of people together in the emptying stands could’ve just been folks trying to stay warm. 

But, they weren’t focused on the game. Something else was happening. 

**

Medical emergencies happen. And sometimes they happen at a football game. Every so often they affect a player and their family. 

Sadly, John Rodgers, father of then-EWU player Jake Rodgers, never recovered. He passed away shortly after Christmas 2014. 

As I sat in front of my computer to write a game-story for this 2016 playoff opener, no ideas came to mind. Despite the 31-14 victory over the Central Arkansas Bears, it was a bit of a struggle for the Eagles. But that’s playoff football. Nothing new to write about there. 

Looking at the stat lines, I suppose I could have focused on how well the depleted linebacking corp played. Or, how 11 different EWU players caught a pass – a group that went without reigning Player of the Year, Cooper Kupp, for all but a minute of the second half. 

Nope. 

Nothing. 

Maybe it’s odd that nothing came to me for a story. Definitely not the way to go for young writers out there. You should always write, they say. 

Well, I’m writing…it’s just not the story I thought I would write. 

I still think about Jake Rodgers from time-to-time when I enter Roos Field. I’ll check on his progress in the NFL (he just signed with the Carolina Panthers practice squad). And, I’ll remember. 

I’ll remember that day, at this time of year…

and pray. 

CadChica Sports

***

A few game photos from the 31-14 EWU win

NOTE: After their 31-14 win on Saturday, the Eastern Washington Eagles will face the Richmond Spiders on December 10th. The Spiders upset the North Dakota Fighting Hawks in a 27-24 thriller in Grand Forks on Saturday.

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A Non-Game Story On EWU’s 48-17 Win Over ISU

With 4:13 left in the third quarter at Roos Field, Idaho State’s Nikko Hayes was hurt. On both knees at first, then one, the redshirt sophomore from Lompoc, California wasn’t right. No one surrounded him until one young man walked up and checked on him.

The young man started motioning to the Idaho State training staff to come check on Hayes, which they did. Then, the young man walked back to his team – the Eastern Washington Eagles.

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**

When the clock struck 0:00 on last night’s 48-17 Eastern Washington victory and the post-game press conferences concluded, I couldn’t write. Oh, I could write. I just couldn’t write another routine game story.

Not this time.

Last night was the last regular season game at Roos Field for twelve EWU seniors. They are:

  • #1 Shaq Hill: WR – Stockton, CA, 20 starts (co-captain)
  • #2 Jabari Wilson: RB – Carson, CA, 16 starts
  • #3 Samson Ebukam: DL – Portland, OR, 33 starts (co-captain)
  • #4 Miquiyah Zamora: LB – Pasco, WA, 41 starts (co-captain)
  • #5 Jordan West: QB – Maple Valley, WA, 13 starts
  • #9 Zach Wimberly: TE – Tumwater, WA, 20 starts (co-captain)
  • #10 Cooper Kupp: WR – Yakima, WA, 47 starts (co-captain)
  • #11 Kendrick Bourne: WR – Portland, Oregon, 28 starts
  • #23 J.J. Njoku: DB – Tacoma, WA, 7 starts
  • #32 Zach Bruce: DB – Spokane, WA 19 starts (co-captain)
  • #60 Jerrod Jones: OL – Arlington, WA, 5 starts
  • #94 Matthew Sommer: DL – Salem, OR, 27 starts

As I watched each of them during pre-game Senior Day ceremonies, I watched them embrace their families and friends prior to their names being announced. Some had large entourages while others had just a few. But, each of them had someone to walk onto The Inferno with them.

Around the country, many other young men had or will have similar experiences this month. Whether this is at FCS level or FBS or Division II or III, even NAIA, each of them played college football. They found a home, a safe place, a talent, a skill through football. But, they cannot reach it alone.

They all had to have at least one person to believe in them. It could have been a dad or mom, an aunt or uncle, a brother or sister, a cousin, a neighbor, a friend, a teacher or, quite simply, a coach. Someone who, through word or action, encouraged them to believe in themselves.

The Eagle players embraced those people, but I believe they were also embracing those who weren’t there. The ones who also told them, “You can’t….” or “You won’t….”. Embracing brings challenge. Challenge to who you are as a person, a player and, in this case, as a man.

I remember back in 2012, covering this team for the first time, not really knowing what I was doing. I was like them, a freshman, in a way. Only my playing field was journalism. I knew sports, but covering them was a different level than sports fandom. They knew football, but college was a different level than high school.

Me, the players, we all watched and learned quickly early on. We participated, practiced, made mistakes, relished in victories, but we always desired to improve.

And, improve we did.

As the years have gone on, we became more involved in the entire process. While injuries or other circumstances prevented some from playing as much as they would have liked through the years, they were still helping teammates, asking questions, encouraging others and being ready when opportunities arose.

Injuries weren’t part of my field, thankfully, I still grew in my role. I observed, asked questions that others wouldn’t or didn’t know how to, encouraged others and was ready for every opportunity that came my way.

We grew up around the red turf.

**

I’ve covered these young men, but not in the way that some would think. I couldn’t travel to away games nor attend practices. Real life – a paying job – prevented that. But, I still felt like I knew them.

I’d read the stories, watch them whether they were on the field or not. As those around me would talk about them, I listened. I asked questions of them or about them.

And some, I even interviewed.

Miquiyah Zamora was a unique name on the Eastern Washington roster. Because one cannot and should not ever assume anything based solely on a name, I asked the EWU Sports Information department if Zamora was Hispanic. The answer was yes.

Most folks in football view the sport in black-and-white terms. A quick look at the NFL shows a measley 0.8% of players are Latino, 1.9% Asian and 0.2% identify as Other, according to T.I.D.E.S. Easy to see why media and fans view it with black-and-white glasses, no? 

When I found out Zamora was Hispanic, I began following him more closely. In 2014, I was able to do a story on him for The Sporting Nation. Back then, he was a shy, nervous kid around the media, including me, despite our shared Latino heritage. 

We talked about football, his teammates and his grandpa, who raised him. We talked about him again after last night’s win. “That guy, bar none, one of the hardest, toughest working guys,” said Zamora. “When he was raising me, that rubbed off on me.” 

**

The memories these seniors have of their time at Eastern Washington will last a lifetime. For me, I remember watching Shaq Hill take a kick at or near the end zone (hard to remember these days), and running up the sideline – taking it all the way to the house. Kind of like freshman running back Antoine Carter, Jr did last night. 

Then, there’s Kendrick Bourne putting moves on hapless defensive backs, making guy after guy miss.

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How about Jabari Wilson refusing to go down with two defenders grasping at his uniform, trying to get one extra yard. 

Last night, there was Zach Wimberly getting an opportunity to score a touchdown after a costly third-quarter fumble – a play that looked as though Wimberly wanted to hurdle a defender. (That’s my story and I’m sticking to it, Zach.)

I remember this guy below – a photo I’m grateful for being in the right place and the right time that day. Samson Ebukam intercepted a Southern Utah pass and sprinted – yes, sprinted – in for the touchdown…as a freshman.  

I’ll remember last night too, not for what Jerrod Jones did on the field. Wait, then again, he did do something memorable on the field last night. He proposed to his girlfriend during the senior walk-out. 

She said yes.

**

Nikko Hayes of the Idaho State Bengals was hurt. The young man I wrote about that checked on him was none other than Eastern Washington’s Cooper Kupp. The record-setting and reigning FCS Player of the Year, was concerned about his opponent.

It’s not the first time I’ve seen Kupp check on an opponent on the field. It was in that moment, I knew I couldn’t write a regular game story.

For all the records and accolades that have and will come Cooper Kupp’s way, one thing remains – who he is as a young man.  

Kupp is a young man that has a genuine, caring heart. He cares about teammates, opponents – just people in general. “It’s a blessing to play with him,” said Zamora. “Even when I’m…kind of mad, he can calm a guy like me down.” 

You want Cooper Kupp for an interview, it’s hard for him to say no. Especially after setting the record for most receptions in FCS history last night with his 396th, a pass tossed by his good friend and fellow senior, Jordan West. He will give you his time…unless, of course, Coach says otherwise. 

“It’s been an amazing five years here,” said Kupp, post-game. “Being able to learn from some of the best players, who I think have been some of the best in the nation, year in and year out – guys that just challenged me and pushed me to be the best that I can be.” 

Kupp checking on Nikko Hayes is Cooper Kupp in a nutshell. He cares about every part of the game, not just the game itself, but the people in it. All of the people. 

**

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Kupp will go down as one of the greatest players in history not just at Eastern Washington but in FCS. He and his fellow seniors have left a legacy of resiliency, passion and focus. Their efforts won’t soon be forgotten. 

I hope that I find myself in Frisco, Texas in early January covering their final game ever as Eastern Washington Eagles. That is where the FCS National Championship game is played every year. 

I don’t hope that in the sense that I am cheering for the team. Far from it. As a journalist, I don’t root for teams that I cover. I do, however, cheer for stories. Having been a mom for 30 years, it’s hard for this mother’s heart to not cheer for young people. 

I cheer for them to find success in life. In every relationship, that they would find joy. In every venture, they find growth. In every opportunity, they find knowledge. In every loss or failure, they would find strength to get up and get going again. In every challenge, they find confidence. In every victory, they find satisfaction in the process.

Finally, along every path, I pray they find belief – a belief in themselves and others. 

Still, there’s a great deal of football left to play this season. It’s a long way to Frisco from here on November 13, 2016. But, these Eastern Washington Eagle seniors know this. Yet, it’s hard for them not to realize the fruits of their labor and struggles from previous years playing out now. 

Perhaps that’s what I am cheering, or praying, for most. Whatever positives come out of their experience at Eastern Washington, I pray they pass that along to others. Determination, effort, hard work and most importantly, belief.

Thank you Shaq, Jabari, Samson, Miquiyah, Jordan, Zach, Cooper, Kendrick, J.J., Zach, Jerrod and Matthew. 

I cheer not for your victory on the field, but in life. 

***

CadChica Sports

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