Sports and Grief

~~ Sports may be an escape, but grief is an unforgiving partner.

Sunny Cadwallader, March 18, 2017

*

March Madness. The most wonderful time of the year in terms of my sports fandom. Watching college basketball games all day long is pure pleasure for me. 

Or, at least it used to be. 

For the past 10 years, my friend and I have gotten together at the same local establishment to watch the first two days of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. Known as “March Madness” because you never know what can happen. 

Giants of college basketball have been slayed by the little Davids of the hoops world. Cinderellas find their slippers. Monkeys are ejected off backs or……

Anything can happen. 

This year was especially important to me. Not for the college basketball but, rather, just for the friendship. 

**

In my last post, I wrote about loss. It wasn’t an especially sports-centric post, but it did have some sports themes. 

Three men, three deaths – all within a week or so of each other. Perhaps it sounds morbid, but one was expected while the other two were out of the blue. 

You would think that I’d mourn the family member, but he had lived a long, rewarding life. He made a positive impact on his family and community. Although I feel sadness for the grief his family and friends are going through, I trust that God will comfort them through this time. 

The other two…I guess I’m still trying to process the suddenness of both, unsure why I’m still grieving at all. 

**

Sports is an escape. 

They are an escape for many away from the reality of life. The reality of stress, struggle, challenges, adversity and even death. 

My hope for this year’s March Madness event was that it would be a reconnection, as well as a recollection of our shared friend. Plus, it would be a time to just enjoy spending time together with friends. Value the moment. 

But, we did not share much about our friend. We shared meals and small conversations together over the past two days but not much in the way of stories.

Why?

Was it because we didn’t want to talk about such a morbid thing like death or loss when a bustling environment was all around us? Did we not want to deal with sadness or the rawness of our emotions? Was it just enough to be together in friendship? 

As I drove away last night, I was emotional. I had been looking forward to these two days and now they were over. I felt a different kind of mourning. 

This, however, was mourning on top of mourning. 

I mourned the sudden end of these past two days with a friend whom I probably won’t see again until next year. I was still mourning the death of two friends. They were gone and I never got a chance to say another hello. I hope I’ll see my friend again before March Madness next year, but I just don’t know.

Mourning on top of mourning.

**

Sports wasn’t an escape this time. It was simply a brief interruption of a partnership. 

Grief has become a partner. No one is promised a tomorrow. As much as science would like to try, nobody can predict what will happen on Sunday, March 19, 2017. 

Will we wake up? Will we see, taste, touch, smell, hear, feel the same way we do today? The route we walk, run, drive today – will we do similar tomorrow without hinderance? 

The things that frustrate us today – can we let those things go tomorrow? Mistakes made today, will we learn from them tomorrow? 

I don’t know the answer to those questions. Neither do you. 

Partnerships aren’t meant to last forever. Until this one ends, I’ll work through it as best as I can using sports as part of the process. 

Time to escape. 

What time does Arizona play today?

***

CadChica Sports

Remembered

A man was remembered on Saturday.

A man is being remembered today.

A man will be remember on Sunday.

One was a sudden death after a Stage 4 cancer diagnosis. Another was due to natural causes. And the other took his own life.

Three men died within a week of each other. Each were born in different eras. Two served in the military with one serving in a war. One had lived long enough to see his grandkids grow. One took care of his family, including his 90 year-old mom. And one, was beginning his family life with two young children, including a newborn. 

They seemingly shared no common bond other than the fact that I knew each of them. 

As I reflect on each man, I realize that sports was a part of each of their lives. Two shared a passion for running. One was a coach, teacher, mentor and yes, even an athlete long into his golden years. 

Sports was a part of their identity. You say their name and you pictured them in their sports element. Whether it was running in the neighborhood or in a popular running event or standing in the third-base coaches box, I can see them in their sports moments.

 

The emotions I’ve felt have ranged from sadness to shock to melancholy to regret. But, isn’t that how it usually is? Sadness and death go hand-in-hand for those who remain. Shock at the suddenness of two of them. Melancholy at the memories – some fresh, some clouded by time. Regret at not having said one more hello instead of one last goodbye.

Some say 2016 was a horrible year for celebrity deaths. Even I would admit that it seemed as though it was a year that pierced the heart of my youth. Prince’s death was one that hit me hardest. For better or worse, Prince had a tremendous impact on my teenage years.

But, 2017 isn’t starting off all that well either.

No, these men aren’t celebrities. Truth be told, only one was a man of notoriety in high school baseball circles from a previous era.

They didn’t impact the world in ways that are known to today’s social media world where every action or feeling is shared and every post is dissected, repackaged and claimed as one’s own. They weren’t interested in the soap boxes and bully pulpits of that social media has become. 

Their impact is left in their legacy. Their legacy is left in those still on this earth. Parents, siblings, children, grandchildren, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, friends, players, students, teammates and coworkers. 

They (we) are the ones who must work that out in our lives. We exist for a time in mourning, but ultimately we must chose to move forward and live.

We honor or tarnish the legacy by how we live and treat others. If their legacies were ones of respect, love, compassion, passion, etc…then that is how we should live. We learn from their mistakes in an effort to improve our own lives.

No man is perfect. 

We are all “in process”. We triumph. We fail. We learn. We teach. We play. We rest. 

One man was remembered on Saturday.

One man is being remembered today.

One man will be remembered on Sunday.

***

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

Race In America: A Conversation in Shades

Picture This
THE SCENE:
Me, a mom of three biracial kids, sitting on the porch talking with my three biracial/multiracial grandkids talking about race in America.

***

Hey kids.

Would you mind coming over here for a minute?

No, no. You’re not in trouble. I wanna talk to you about something. It’s something that has been on my mind for awhile now. I just haven’t had the opportunity to bring it up until now.  

You’re big sports fans, right? Who are your favorite teams again?

Steelers, Patriots and 49ers? Really? laughing Boy oh boy, I gotta talk to your parents about that. 

You know that thing that Rodney Harrison said about Colin Kaepernick? You know. The one where he ignorantly said Kaepernick wasn’t black.

*kids nod*

Yeah, we talked about that didn’t we? Well see, there were quite a few folks upset about that comment. Oh, you know that already, huh? And, I’m sure you know why they were all upset too. Yeah, well, lots of media decided to write, talk and tweet about it. But, not many, if any at all, said this: 

What do you think about that? Do you think there is a racist double standard? 

kids nod

What do I think? Hmm. I’m glad you asked that question. For a looooooong time I’ve been thinking about this question. Ever since my oldest child, my daughter, was born – points at at two of the kids and says, “Your mother – I’ve been wondering about the world she would be raised in as a biracial kid. I saw the struggle to be accepted, to fit in, the inner turmoil at not being either-enough, according to society. I thought about it even more after her brothers were born.  

What kind of world… 

What kind of world do we live in that only looks at skin color? Skin color doesn’t define who you are, but many say it does. They look at a Sage Steele and say she’s black. They look at the outside without consideration of the inside. Without considering her heritage, which by the way is “50 percent” white (Irish and Italian), they say she’s black.

Heritage matters, kids.

Heritage, culture – where you came from matters. Who came before you matters. It’s all a part of you just as much as the skin on your body. Why deny who or what is a part of you?

See, society wants it all cut & dry. Society wants things to be easily identifiable. Society wants the t’s crossed and the i’s dotted. Society doesn’t want to ask the question – what are you? – so they just assume. Based on your skin color. Or your facial features. Or your hair. Or, whatever. 

That’s not right, kids. It’s just not right. 

multiracial-enough

Like Sage said, if you’re good, one group claims you. If you’re not, they disown you. Even if you “look” like them, they will disown you if you don’t act/talk/think like them.  

It don’t matter the race. It happens in all races, man. All races and all countries. Don’t believe me? I’ve got some stories for you:

Y’all pay attention because there are plenty more out there. More stories of mixed race folks who have been embraced and/or shunned by one side or the other. It’s almost as if there’s a mindset “if you ain’t with US, you’re against us and we won’t claim you”. 

Yet, those same people, those SAME PEOPLE talk about wanting equality for their race. They want diversity. They want to be treated fairly. But, when someone of mixed race doesn’t ACT like a certain race, equality goes out the window because what they’re really saying is 

You’re not black enough.

You’re not Hispanic enough.

You’re not Native enough.

You’re not Asian enough. 

Heck, there’s even, you’re not white enough. 

You mean to tell me if someone of mixed-race doesn’t pick one that they can’t speak on an issue? Why? Because he or she doesn’t fit people’s definition of that race. It doesn’t fit their ideal of what a Hispanic should be or an African-American should be or…… 

Man, that’s just messed up. 

Tiger Woods was great for a time, but then that one Thanksgiving time happened and now where is he? Where are all the people who embraced him? Where are all the people who were happy about the barriers he was breaking down? Like Sage said, “claim us biracial kids when it’s convenient for u”, is that how it is? Tiger was okay to claim when he was at the top but now? 

Lord have mercy… 

race-question-1

Let me tell you a story. Last night, while sitting with our youngest – points and says “Your uncle” – this exact thing came up while he was filling out paperwork. One question asked him to identify himself. I immediately said, HISPANIC, knowing full well his dad would say something. 

He didn’t have to. There was a feeling in the air of…I’m not even sure how to describe it, but you could feel it. Not quite tension but…

So I asked our youngest, is there a mixed-race category? Bi-racial? Nothing like that existed on this form. So, I told him to put both Hispanic and Caucasian. His dad pipes up, Caucasian-Hispanic. 

Now, we were joking a little bit about it, but what that feeling in the air was, was disrespect. It was marginalization. I marginalized his race, who he was, his heritage, his very identity. All because I wanted our youngest to claim me, who I am, my heritage (and culture), my very identity.

Here I was marginalizing one race to promote my own. 

Is it possible, let me ask you this question now, is it possible to not look at race all the while fighting for racial identity with every fiber of one’s being? Is it possible, or maybe I should ask, will social media allow one to be angry about where we are at in this country on the topic of race, yet still not look at someone’s race — just look at them as a person, a human being like you and me? 

Seems to me that if we want change, we have to go to the root of the issue. The root of the issue starts at home. At home, we need to teach our young to respect people as human beings. A lot of folks say, “You have to earn respect.” Well, yes, but not if there are different levels of respect, y’all.

The respect I’m talking about can’t be earned. It’s given. Freely. Respect the fact that the person you disagree with is a human being. We won’t always agree with people, but we at least need to respect them as people. As a living breathing human being. 

If we did that, maybe there’d be less killing in the world. A little less anger. A little less hate. A little less judgement. A little less hypocrisy. 

Maybe we should listen to what Otis sang, “Try a Little Tenderness”. Or, try a little kindness. Try a little respect. Be willing to listen. Be willing to learn. Shoot, maybe even be willing to be wrong. 

Yeah, that wouldn’t go over too well on social media now would it? Ain’t no shame in admitting when you’re wrong, kids.  

Maybe just a little more kindness, a little more people-to-people kindness and a little less Twitter. A little less Facebook.  A little less Instagramming, YouTubing and Snapchatting. A little less selfie action. Less self and more others.

Do unto others, my loves, as you would have them do unto you…and you, YES YOU, just might change this country and this world.

For the better. 

***

CadChica Sports

The Joy and Teachings of José Fernández

I watched this video over and over this morning. So many thoughts ran through my head. One minute it’s “why”. The next minute is “I can’t imagine what is going through Dee’s mind”. Then it’s, “of all the sports teams, baseball teams truly become family”.

From parts of February through September and maybe, if they are lucky, into October, baseball players are together. The spring training grind is repetitive – fundamental work, pitching sessions, batting sessions. It’s all the same.

Good preparation for the season when the only difference is the scenery. A 6-game homestand here, a 10-game road trip there and all the while the faces are mostly the same, day in and day out. You either embrace it and come together as a family or you manage it all as a dysfunctional one.

Either way, baseball is family.

Giancarlo Stanton on Instagram

Giancarlo Stanton on Instagram

José Fernández was part of the Miami Marlins family, but he was also a part of the Major League Baseball family. The Marlins and baseball world are mourning the loss of this young man today. Killed in a boating accident on the waters around Miami, Fernández was only 24-years old with a bright, joyful future. His girlfriend, Carla Mendoza, is pregnant with their first child – an event that Fernández was looking forward to.

José Fernández on Instagram

José Fernández on Instagram

I say joyful because joy is the word that many have used to describe Fernández today. “I see such a little boy in him,” said an emotional Miami Marlins manager, Don Mattingly. “There was just joy with him when he played.”

Fernández would have told you that it wasn’t always joyful. After previous failed attempts at defecting from Cuba, some that resulted in jail time, Fernández finally defected in 2008 with his mother and stepsister. They made their way through Mexico to Florida where they joined his stepfather in Tampa.

I thought about that while watching the video. What his life must have been like in Cuba as a kid, going to jail, dreaming of the big leagues, wondering if life would ever be different. Baseball isn’t just a sport in Cuba. It’s life. It’s identity and Fernández wanted to be the best of himself he could be.

To be the best, you have to play with the best. Fernández knew that would be in the United States. It was his dream to play in the majors. After being drafted in 2011 by the then-Florida Marlins, Fernández got that shot in 2013. Despite a setback with Tommy John surgery in 2014 and subsequent recovery for part of the 2015 season, Fernández was still the Marlins top pitcher and one of the best young arms in the game.

There are a myriad of stories about his games. When Fernández was on, he was electric. Those days were worth writing about. He embraced them to the fullest:

Now that he is gone, there will be more stories like this one that will be told about the other side of Fernández:

What does it say about a young man that comes to this country and embraces it as his own? I think about that now while watching the video again – where we are at in this country right now. I see a young African-American man, alone in his thoughts on the death of his teammate, a naturalized American citizen of Cuban descent.

That’s right. Fernández became an American citizen in 2015. He is…was…an American citizen as me, mi familia y mis vecinos. He was, as Yahoo’s Jeff Passan put it, “He was also the best of us, the pure, smiling embodiment of the American Dream.”

Baseball, for all of its challenges with connecting with today’s sports fan, still brought people together like no other. All races, colors, countries, ethnicities. More so than the NFL. More so than the NBA. They all came together on the baseball diamond.

Perhaps that’s why I watched that video over and over again. It reminded me of what this country can be, even what it already is in some parts of this country. There can be a joining, a union, a coming together of people if there is a common goal.

In baseball, the players on the team come together for a common goal: to win the World Series. Through that process, they have to put aside some of their own selfishness, build each other up, help one another through struggles, cheer in both small victories and large. It will either bring them together, closer to the common goal. Or, it will tear them apart.

Whatever the American dream means to you, José Fernández has to be a representation of it. No matter how you define it, he overcame obstacles and challenges in his path to reach for the dream.

As I watch the video of Dee Gordon one more time, I think about the words of Clint Hurdle, Pittsburgh Pirates manager, today. 

“Be where your feet are. Enjoy the moment. There’ll be a day when there won’t be another day.”

In other words, life is too short to let circumstances and challenges stop us from being in the moment. If the moments aren’t what we want out of life, then it’s time to change. 

José Fernández did. For his short time on earth, he enjoyed the moment. 

***

CadChica Sports

Life Lessons from The Book of Amy Trask

The Book of Amy Trask

Just write, baby.

I could hear the voice of Amy Trask, channeling Al Davis, telling me to write. Write what, you ask? Write about the emotions and struggle I felt during and after reading her new book, You Negotiate Like A Girl (written with Mike Freeman). Emotions? Struggle? From a book? Yeah, read on…

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Leadership

Journey to Leadership

 

When I reached that last chapter, I knew the journey was coming to an end. But, I didn’t want it to end. I felt as though I was reading about a part of my life that I never knew before. As a lifelong Oakland Raiders fan, I felt as if I was peeking into something I shouldn’t be — the man who represented the Raiders, Al Davis.

Represented doesn’t even seem like the right word, does it? Al Davis was, and in some ways still is, the embodiment of the Raiders. In my formative years, he seemed both brilliant and disconnected. Maniacal and innovative. Rebellious and…well, let’s just leave it there.

Here I was reading about Davis from someone who worked closely with him, Amy Trask. Trask was the Raiders CEO at the time of her departure – the first female executive in the history of the NFL. She worked her way up through the organization the right way – with hard work, determination and passion for the organization.

But, what impressed me most about Trask wasn’t just how she handled the relationship with Davis. That, in itself, was no easy task (She always tried ‘not to f— it up!’). No, what impressed me most was – is – her outlook on work and life. In many ways, it surpasses many of the leadership books written by so-called experts, gurus and motivational speakers.

  • Listening Skills – “Reasoned and reasonable arguments intended to problem solve can be valuable. I don’t believe, however that such arguments should ever include ad hominem attacks.” (excerpt from chapter 7, “Get the Sandwiches”)
  • Company-minded thinking: Trask made a concerted effort to learn all she could about the organization from top to bottom, even when she wasn’t yet at the top. Understand how things currently work within so you know what works and what doesn’t.
  • Encourage team dialogue: Trask was cognizant of how every cog in the wheel is important. She encouraged a team-effort to help get the Raiders through the lock-out a few years back. 
  • Think like a fan: I cannot overemphasize this point enough. I’ve been preaching this for years on Twitter to sports marketers. You want to connect with and reach fans, think like them. Amy Trask made it a point to sit with fans, talk with them, use stadium concessions and facilities like they do. Guess what? It worked. 
One doesn’t become CEO of a major sports team in the U.S. without qualities like these. It’s one thing to say it. It’s another thing to live it, then write about it. I don’t know that Trask and Freeman set out to write this book for its leadership tips, but I gleaned many tips from the stories and anecdotes they shared in it.
 
*

Not In My Twitter Village

 

If Trask is never named commissioner of the NFL, can she be named Twitter Commissioner instead? Twitter Czarina? Twitter Princess of Darkness? (More on that in a moment.)
As I closed the book, I had tears in my eyes. Tears because the journey “with” Trask was over. Tears because of all of the stories told (don’t even get me started on what she says about her nameless husband). Tears because of the “what ifs” about “my” Raiders. Tears because I knew I needed to write this review, but deep down I knew it wouldn’t matter. Nobody would read it anyway.

Just write, baby.

There are days when I open Twitter on my phone or TweetDeck on my desktop or laptop and I either a) cringe b) shake my head c) feel like crying d) sigh e) immediately close it. The Twitter of today isn’t what it used to be when I joined back in 2009. Today, it’s a cacophony of look-at-me’s, I’ve got an opinion and you WILL listen and arguments with no one listening.

And that’s just in sports media.

Then I heard a voice. It wasn’t Amy channeling Al this time. It was Amy saying,
Not in my Twitter village.

Amy Trask is a leader. Not a perfect leader, as she would tell you. But, she is a leader who understands the big picture. To reach the conclusion, you need to work out the story first. The story cannot have 10-20, 50-100, 500-1000 different writers each trying to write their own plot. There needs to be a common theme, a common goal to the overarching story.

This won’t happen without communication. Communication requires not just talking but listening too. Listening has become a lost art in many sport media circles.

Call it what you will: the chains/muzzles/restrictions/whatever have been removed for sports media with the advent of Twitter. Before, they could not show any partiality on any non-sports topics. Well, they could, but…not a good look for the employer – a journalist showing a bias about a subject matter meant they couldn’t be unbiased about anything.

Those days are gone. It’s been a blessing and a curse. There is more rhetoric, more bickering, more discord, more (dare I say it) self-importance than ever before. Then again, it’s always been there. It just didn’t have a method of delivery that spreads as quick as Twitter. Twitter has become this generation’s sports talk radio – only instead of callers being screened or certain types of hosts getting on air, everyone gets to talk.

Not in my Twitter village.

Darn it, Amy Trask.

What “You Negotiate Like A Girl” reminded me is to ‘be true to myself’. That has been Trask’s mantra, passed down to her by her mother (to thine own self be true). Trask has operated in that mindset her entire adult life, all the while encountering various levels of resistance.

Trask didn’t looked at her gender as a help or hindrance, although some did and do on both sides of the coin. She didn’t look at race, although she was fully cognizant of it in her organization – the Raiders did many “firsts” along this line – and in society as a whole (read her Nolan Harrison story in the book).Trask story

For her, it was about what you did not who you were. Do your job, whatever that may be, and do it to the best of your ability. You’ll be rewarded based on what you did not who you were (i.e. not because of your gender or race). Don’t whine about what you don’t or didn’t get – make your work so good that you can’t help but be noticed. Learn all you can about your job, help others when you can and just work, baby.

To read Trask’s perspective on this mindset is affirmation for me. My book is filled with folded corners, underlined sentences and numerous margin comments – some of the YES or AMEN variety. I know I’ll have to re-read it to gain even more perspective, but being true to who I am…

 

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Final Thoughts

To me, if we want equality, we can be cognizant of discrepancies and differences that exist all while not operating in them. How? Don’t promote one at the expense of another. Work hard, be determined, learn your craft, listen well, leave toxic environments, champion others and surround yourself with those who believe in you for you.

Communication – which is BOTH listening and speaking – is paramount in any discussion on equality. We may end up agreeing to disagree, but at least we aim to dialogue WITH one another. We need to listen to each other’s point of view instead of screaming (in all caps, of course):  I’M RIGHT. MY POINT OF VIEW IS RIGHT. MY INTERPRETATION IS RIGHT. YOU’RE WRONG ON ALL COUNTS. 

It all starts with respect. Respecting people as human beings. Respecting that they are a person with value no matter who they are or what they represent. They are uniquely created human beings with a mind and a soul. We don’t have to agree with their actions, but they are human beings. 

When we as a society begin to view people in that way, society’s mindset will change. A Herculean task, to be sure. But, given where society is currently at, there needs to be a mindset change. A “village mindset”? Maybe. 

If you follow Amy Trask on Twitter, you understand many of these concepts when she talks about her “Twitter village”. However, if you do follow Amy on Twitter and haven’t read the book, I suggest that you read it. Not only will you learn about her journey, Al Davis, the Oakland Raiders and leadership, but you might even learn a little about yourself if you’re willing to…

Just listen, baby. 

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CadChica Sports

The Missing Point on Colin Kaepernick and the Anthem

ANTHEM CONTROVERSY

The National Anthem 

Colin Kaepernick

A quick Google search reveals some interesting headlines:

Criticize Colin Kaepernick but...

Former starting quarterback, now back-up quarterback, for the San Francisco 49ers, Colin Kaepernick, did not stand when the National Anthem was played this weekend at a 49ers home preseason game. His reasoning (as told to NFL.com): 

“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”

For those unaware, the killings of young black men by police with no consequences to the police is what Kaepernick is referring to. The topic is not as simple as defining it by racial relations. Why? Because as much as people would like to believe it’s black-and-white, it’s not. 

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CONTEXT MATTERS

The longer I work in this sports media business, the less I interact with it online. I’ve learned a lot about the business by asking questions, but I’ve found that I’m learning more by observing. I observe what’s being shared on blog posts, news articles, podcasts, interviews, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and the like. I observe what sports media say when they think no one is paying attention. I observe what fans say when they want everyone to hear them. 

But, I also pay attention to the why. Why does someone believe what they believe? Why do they react to an incident the way that they do? A story that is shared 5 months ago can be quite telling into someone’s reasoning of today. A childhood memory can shape a belief system as an adult. A criminal act that occurred long ago can dictate instant tweets today.

That, my friends, is context. 

Context matters in today’s social media world. It matters especially on Twitter – since that’s where most media reside these days – with its character limits. Instead, people (media and non-media) spout off their opinions as fact without thought as to the why behind the story. 

That’s missing context.

I’ve even seen blog posts mentioning how “social media” attacked Colin Kaepernick. Their definition of “social media”? Twitter.

News flash: Twitter isn’t social media. It is but one platform of many and is a poor representative of majority of America, since, well, most Americans are not on Twitter. Side note: Twitter has 313 million active monthly users WORLDWIDE (source: Statista). That includes businesses, brands, organizations, sports teams, sports leagues — which is key to remember when we’re talking WORLDWIDE Twitter users). But, hey, go right ahead and make assertions about “social media” 

There are stories of how Colin Kaepernick was wrong and if you’re defending him you’re un-American. There are stories of how Colin Kaepernick was right and if you’re accusing him of being un-American, you’re racist. As you can see in the image above, there’s one calling for a new anthem. 

** TIME OUT **

BELIEFS AND EXPERIENCES

Let me ask this question: What does the National Anthem mean to you? Does it mean the same to you as it does to Colin Kaepernick? What about to an immigrant that just became an American citizen? Does it mean the same as a military widow? How about to a fifth-generation Iowan or New Yorker? 

What the anthem means to you is exactly that. It’s personal. It doesn’t necessarily mean that it is right or wrong. It means that is your perspective, based upon your life, your family, your experiences in this country. What it means to you isn’t the same as the next person.

Some place more value in the words of The Star-Spangled Banner than others. Is that wrong? No. Some see the goings-on in this country both now and in the past and cringe at what they see as hypocrisy. Is that wrong? No.

  • RELATED: Alejandro Villanueva on Kaepernick’s protest (ESPN)

We live in a democratic country that enjoys (yes, enjoys) many freedoms. One of the many beauties of America is how different the people in this country are. We are free to honor the flag and sing the words. We are free to sit during the anthem, in silent protest. 

If one has grown up in well-to-do neighborhoods all their life, how can one understand what someone who’s grown up on the streets has endured? If one has never been pulled over by a police officer for speeding, how can one understand being pulled over for doing the speed limit? If one lives and dies by home improvement shows, how can one understand those who were forced onto reservations generations ago? 

And vice-versa. 

There are complexities to everyone’s life that causes each of us to do/say what we do. Yet, some believe (in media, especially) that understanding others can be found in a tweet. Or, that they 

To define Colin Kaepernick in this one act is to marginalize everything else he has experienced prior. To define his dissenters by a single tweet or statement is to marginalize everything they’ve experienced prior. It’s narrow-minded to think either way, but this is the time that we live in right now. 

Sound bite, 140-character, 24-hour, microwave-mentality society.

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There are problems in this country. There will always be problems in this country. A free society allows as much because we all bring our different beliefs and experiences to the table. (1)

MY THOUGHTS

Do I agree with Colin Kaepernick’s protest of the anthem? No. Does he have a right to do that? Yes. Can I understand why he did it? Yes. Do I understand why people are defending him? Yes. Do I understand why people are outraged? Yes. Are there governmental problems? Yes. Are there societal problems? Yes. 

Now, are people missing something in all of this talk? ABSOLUTELY. 

There are problems in this country. There will always be problems in this country. A free society allows as much because we all bring our different beliefs and experiences to the table. There are other topics that contribute to our differences, including money, power, faith, religion, race, ethnicity and so on and so on. We are all different so expecting us all to believe the same thing is nonsensical. 

What does this country mean to you? What does it mean to you to live in America? What does the National Anthem mean to you? What does it mean to have people giving their lives every day so you can be free? 

How you answer those questions is part of what defines you. Notice how I said “part”. If I were to define you by how you answer just one of those questions means I will ignore the other 99% of what makes you who you are. 

I won’t define Colin Kaepernick by this incident. In a way, I believe he and I share a common trait. He is a thinker. He strikes me as someone who thinks about not only the what but the who, why, where, how and when too. 

That’s how I think too. It doesn’t mean when I finally come to a conclusion that I’m right or I won’t change my mind. I always want to be learning. We will never foster meaningful dialogue without listening and learning from others, especially on emotionally charged topics such as this or race or religion or faith or politics or…….you get the idea. 

Right or wrong, agree or disagree, Colin Kaepernick is helping me to learn. Learn about him, about the NFL, about media, about society and even about you and me. Hopefully, he is learning too.

Question is…are you willing to learn too?

Don’t tweet about it, just think about it.

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CadChica Sports

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