Dear Meryl Streep

Photo: Getty

Dear Meryl,

I don’t want to argue politics with you. I don’t really want to argue politics with anyone anymore. Haven’t we done that enough?

But there is one thing I would like to debate.

During your eloquent speech at the Golden Globes, you stated (in a somewhat demeaning tone) that if we kick all the foreigners out of Hollywood, then we’d have nothing to watch but football and mixed martial arts, “Which are not the arts.”

Now, I can’t speak to mixed martial arts, but I can speak to football.

You see, I’ve spent my entire life watching football. And now, I spend my life writing about football. It’s taught me a lot about life – about  patience, about toughness, and about teamwork. Much like making a movie, in football, no one can accomplish anything on their own.

I’ve spent the past few years talking to football players, getting to know them, and listening to their stories. They’re the stuff movies are made of.

Some of them come from backgrounds you could never imagine. But just like you, they had a dream. Unlike you, they had to overcome much more to achieve them. Some had to fight racism and discrimination. Others grew up surrounded by poverty, drugs, and violence. And many suffered unimaginable heartache along the way.

Determined to better their lives and the lives of those around them, they were undeterred. They held onto hope because they had no choice – they were the only hope.

Football is a real game played by real people with real stories – some of which become movies. It isn’t just what happens on the field. It’s the stories of the players, their families, and their journeys. The life stories of athletes inspire art and create roles for people like you.

I don’t really care if you watch football. Maybe it’s not your thing. That’s fine. But don’t turn your nose up at those who do – much less, those who play the game.

You’re right. The world should be kinder, less judgmental, and more understanding.

And so should you.

XO

College Player Unions: A Slippery Slope

Syracuse University
(Photo: SU)

One of my gifts is knowing what I don’t know. I know. Not exactly resume material. But still…as a writer, it’s one of my greatest assets. Aside from my wit – ha!

There is much I don’t know about being a student athlete. I struggled juggling sorority life and academics during my days at Syracuse. And that wasn’t nearly as demanding.

Except for this one time…my friend Gina and I hung out at a fraternity house until everyone was asleep, swiped their composite picture off the wall, carried it down Comstock Avenue, and propped it up on the fireplace in our sorority house to greet the sisters of AZD. Our house boys (from the same fraternity) arrived the next morning freaking out about it – while it was staring them in the face from our living room. After much giggling, they eventually figured it out and returned it to its proper place.

Why did I tell that story again?

Oh, ya…

Not exactly the perils of training, travel, and competition. Along with demanding academic standards, depending of course, on which school you attend (not pointing fingers).

I’m sure going to college on a sports scholarship is a lot like going to college with a job (full or part-time). Which, a lot of people do. Because they have no other choice.

Student athletes have a lot on their plates. But they receive a lot in return. An education that is paid for (in whole or in part). The chance to shine on a national stage. And the unique opportunity to be drafted to play the game they love and make millions doing it.

In turn, athletes create opportunity for their schools in attendance, naming rights, and jersey sales. All of which generate money. Lots of money.

It’s a win – win.

Which doesn’t necessarily mean it’s fair.

In an effort to represent themselves and their unique issues, football players at Northwestern University formed the College Athletes Players Association (CAPA) and won the right to do so through a regional National Labor Relations Board. I have no problem with players organizing to lobby the NCAA on behalf of college athletes. If anything, I applaud their leadership.

Nutrition is just as important as training, so if athletes say a healthy meal plan needs to be part of their scholarship package, I have a hard time arguing with that. Kind of seems like a basic need to me. Expenses like books, transportation and such are also frequently touted.

There is a fine line on some of that stuff. But there’s also a not-so-fine line: payment to players outside of school-related expenses. This is a whole different ballgame. To me, amateur athletics have a unique and sacred place in sports. One I would hate to lose altogether.

Where this goes from here is anyone’s guess. And how the players organize and lobby on behalf of themselves is part of it. But one thing is sure: It’s a slippery slope. One that could permanently alter the landscape of college athletics. And one that needs to be navigated very carefully.

Colleges are academic institutions. They are not training grounds for professional sports. They are not minor league ball clubs. Even if athletics do generate a majority of  the income at some schools.

Students should appreciate college for all that it is. And all that it’s worth. Which is, a  lot. No matter who pays for it. And what you end up with, an education (and some stories to go along with it), will last you far longer than your chosen career, whether you work in an office, a studio, or a stadium.

XO

Disclosure: I do not condone theft. Especially theft of items that value more than $1,000, which constitutes a felony in the State of New York. Besides, the last time I checked (which was a long time ago), Zeta Psi had their composite pictures screwed to the wall. And upon further investigation, I found that the Zeta Psi fraternity is no longer active on the Syracuse University campus. But no one can ever take away my story. Or my education.

Out of the Closet…and Into the NFL

Michael Sam, defensive lineman for the Missouri Tigers

Michael Sam, defensive end for the Missouri Tigers and potential NFL draft pick
(Photo: Brandon Wade | AP)

Ready or not…here he comes!

Missouri defensive end Michael Sam hasn’t even been drafted, but already he’s changing the National Football League as we know it.

A projected third or fourth-round draft pick, Sam is an All-American defensive lineman and SEC Defensive Player of the Year. But, that’s not why he’s making headlines in the NFL draft talk.

You see, Michael Sam is gay. He’s not the first gay athlete to come out publicly. But if he’s drafted in May, he’ll be the first to do so where no one else has…the NFL locker room.

We knew this day would come. It was just a matter of when. In coming out, Sam and his Mizzou teammates set an example for his future team and all teams.

“Sam had in fact told his team at the University of Missouri that he was gay last summer. It was prompted by a simple team-building exercise with a question from a coach: ‘Tell us something we don’t know about you.’ Some of the team had already known. Some were shocked by the news. All of them embraced him. None of them told the media.”
 –Cyd Zeigler, Outsports

In today’s world, there is no player who doesn’t know someone (or isn’t related to someone) who is gay. Still, reaction from players and executives around the league is mixed.

Some say it’s long overdue and that if Sam does his job and performs on the field, his off-the-field life won’t matter to his teammates.

Others insist the media attention and potential locker room issues will cause his draft stock to fall.

Sports Illustrated asked NFL executives and coaches to share their thoughts on Michael Sam (anonymously). Most predicted his path to the NFL would be an uphill battle, even daunting.

“I don’t think football is ready for [an openly gay player] just yet,” said an NFL player personnel assistant. “In the coming decade or two, it’s going to be acceptable, but at this point in time it’s still a man’s-man game. To call somebody a [gay slur] is still so commonplace. It’d chemically imbalance an NFL locker room and meeting room.”
NFL player personnel assistant to SI

But, here’s the thing. For anything to become acceptable in ten years or twenty years, someone has to take the first step. Today.

And Michael Sam just bravely took it. For himself. For past players. For current players. And for future players.

Whether he gets drafted into the NFL or whether he even plays a game, Michael Sam has already made a legacy for himself.

And it’s a legacy that transcends the locker room, the field, and the game.

Michael Sam changed the face of the NFL.

Before stepping foot on the field.

XO

I used to like the Buccaneers…

Buccaneers coach Greg Schiano with (former) quarterback Josh Freeman (Photo: Zelevansky/Getty)

Buccaneers coach Greg Schiano with (former) quarterback Josh Freeman
(Photo: Zelevansky/Getty)

I always liked the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Especially during the days of Tony Dungy, Jon Gruden, and Warren Sapp. They were passionate, fun to watch, and always kept you guessing.

Now, well…they’ve certainly got us guessing.

First, head coach Greg Schiano comes in from Rutgers and decides that contrary to every other team in the NFL, his defense will not observe the victory formation (quarterback taking a knee to end the game), and decides instead to rush a defenseless player for sport. I thought Tom Coughlin’s head was going to explode when they bulldozed Eli Manning last season, knocking him over on a no-action play.

Schiano calls it “playing every down.” The rest of the league calls it classless. And poor sportsmanship.

And then there’s the ongoing drama with quarterback Josh Freeman, who Schiano didn’t just bench last week for rookie Mike Glennon, but deactivated him…so he couldn’t even be on the field during the game. The team has announced they’re looking for a trade. Interesting salesmanship, by the way.

And then, the latest. Somehow, it got out that Freeman is voluntarily enrolled in the NFL’s drug abuse program….for his ADHD medication. Apparently, he switched from one drug to another (which was banned) and has since taken 46 drug tests to prove he is in compliance.

The “slip” is a violation of HIPAA law and the NFL Players Association is looking into it.

Schiano has denied he had anything to do with Freeman’s confidential medical information getting into the hands of the media, even though he has been quick to put other things into their hands…including the fact that Freeman has missed team meetings on occasion and recently overslept, missing the team photo.

I’m not saying Schiano did leak the information. But, I’m also not saying he didn’t.

Clearly, Freeman has some issues to work out if he wants to be a quarterback in the NFL, especially a starting one. And he could use some help with his leadership skills. But then again, so could his head coach.

I don’t like Greg Schiano. I don’t think he’s good for his team. I don’t think he’s good for the NFL. And to be honest, I don’t think he’s good for sports.

Things may not be working out with Josh Freeman, but in case the Buccaneers haven’t noticed, it’s not working out with Greg Schiano either.

There was talk of trouble with newly signed star cornerback Darrelle Revis as well. Schiano doesn’t have the confidence or trust of his players, who could very well tank on the season to prove it. I hope they do. Starting with that asinine play to rush the quarterback.

I used to like the Buccaneers.

Now I just feel bad for them.

XO

NFL London needs to happen. Because…David Beckham.

(Photo: X17Online.com)

David Beckham
(Photo: X17Online.com)

I have to say, when I first heard NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s plan to expand to London, it seemed absurd. Football is an American sport. And I’m about as ethnocentric as they come.

But, I do love the Brits.

They gave us David Beckham. And Hugh Grant. And Burberry. And Def Leppard (I know. Just appreciate my 80’s upbringing). And then there’s British humor…don’t even start me.

Did I say Hugh Grant? And David Beckham?

Plus, London took Madonna off our hands. That arse. Surely, we owe them a debt of gratitude for that.

I never realized how many NFL fans there were in the United Kingdom until I got on Twitter. Some of the most passionate and loyal fans of American football hail from across the pond. And if you think Monday Night Football is late on East Coast time, try watching it on London time…where it’s five hours ahead. That’s dedication, people. And that’s a bugger of a football hangover.

And then, there’s the possibility that someone could recruit British soccer and pop culture star David Beckham into the NFL. Wouldn’t that be something?! He could kick. Or punt. Or snap. Or just stand on the sideline and look pretty. The full monty. He can do it. Clothed, of course. Or not. Either way, he’s the bee’s knees.

The NFL Dream Team: David Beckham and Reggie Bush. The two shot a promo prior to Beckham's stint with the LA Galaxy. (Photo: Reuters)

The NFL Dream Team: David Beckham and Reggie Bush. Beckham got a lesson in American football after signing with the LA Galaxy in 2007.
(Photo: Reuters)

Forget Tim Tebow…the Jacksonville Jaguars need David Beckham! Hell, many teams could use Beckham. Just, please…not the Patriots. Brady and Becks is way too much posh for one team. Pretty soon, they’ll be doing manis and pedis in the locker room. Bill Belichick will have heart failure. And their wives would never get along.

We can’t share the best sport in the world with a country we call our BFF?  Come on! The Vikings can win in London, so you already know they’re in favor.

The United States is supposed to stand for freedom, opportunity, and all that’s good in the world. And American football is one of those things. We can’t leave our former mother country watching…soccer. That’s just bloody inhumane.

Also, I’m not done using British phrases.

Cheerio, mates.

I know. I will stop.

XO