A Lesson in Tweeting for the Young Athlete

Hey kids.

First of all I want to congratulate you on your Division I athletic scholarship. That’s neat. And for the rest of you, it’s really something that you got drafted into the professional league of your dreams. You’re going places, men.

And because I want only the best for all of you, it’s time to talk about your tweeting.

I know, I know – You already got that lecture from Coach. No tweeting about politics or weed or top secret plays or pictures of your roommate in his underwear. But I’m going to share with you the Twitter rules you haven’t learned yet.

So pull up your chairs and take notes, boys. Here’s what you need to know.

1. Play nice.

You play sports on national television. Do you know what that means? That means every Average Joe, beer-bellied, ball-cap-wearing, know-it-all is analyzing your performance night in and night out. So when Johnny Armchair (who played QB on his JV team in high school) wants to instruct you on your mechanics and tweet to the world about what a miserable hack you are, IGNORE HIM.

I know he’s a doofus, and you know he is a doofus. But you’re the one who looks like a doofus for having an Internet war with someone who has 17 followers. If a person is harassing you, you must do one of two things: 1) Develop a sense of humor and laugh at how smarty pants he thinks he is about sports or 2) Block him. Only 13-year-old Bieber fans are allowed to cat fight with people on Twitter. You, as a high-level athlete, must take the high road.

2. Break some hearts.

If you’re a well-known ballplayer, you are going to receive several tweets akin to the following:

OHHHH MYYY GAWD! (athlete’s name), I AM YOUR BIGGEST MOST #1EST FAN! I WOULD JUST DIIIIIIIIIIIE HAPPY IF YOU RT ME! IT’S MY BIRTHDAY! LOVE YOU xoxoxoxoxox!

Do not give in to this madness. And if you re-tweet this pathetic person, you will only encourage more pathetic behavior, and the cycle will never end. It is the single-most annoying thing you can do to your followers. All these re-tweets do is clog up our timelines and make us lose a little faith in human dignity.

That’s not to say you shouldn’t interact with fans. If a fan sends you an adorable photo of his little kid in your jersey, you best re-tweet that shit. If a fan asks you a great question or thanks you for signing autographs after yesterday’s practice, reply to them. But for the love of all that is good and holy in this world, do not re-tweet the caps lock maniacs. If their happiness depends on your re-tweet, then they need to get off the computer and find themselves a life. You’re doing them a favor.

3. Porn stars are bad for your image.

Gentlemen. I know your hormones are raging right now, and you’re all high on yourself because you just bench-pressed a Mack Truck at workouts this morning. But I cannot begin to tell you how silly you look when you hit on porn stars via Twitter. I know you love the attention, but I’ll break it down for you: If a young lady’s Twitter avatar is a photo of herself bent over in a G-string, you aren’t getting her undivided attention.

I’m not telling you what to watch or whom to talk to in your free time. But remember your mama reads your Twitter. And so do thousands of grossed out fans.

4. Think. Think real hard.

…and then think again. And then pray on it. Then ask your mom about it. And if it still sounds like a good idea, you can tweet it.

If I say something stupid on Twitter, I’ll probably get made fun of by a couple of my closest friends. If you say something stupid on Twitter, you will get made fun of on “SportsCenter.” It’s not fair, but that’s the cross you bear for making the big bucks. So before you talk about how you don’t understand why anyone wants to be gay (Mike Wallace) or tell everyone Osama bin Laden can’t be all that bad (Rashard Mendenhall), take your fingers off the keyboard.

Twitter is not a locker room full of your buddies. Twitter is a worldwide public forum full of vultures who cannot wait to turn your thought bubbles into your demise.

5. Remember the little people.

Remember that what you say is not only a reflection on you, but also a reflection on your teammates and on your organization.

Oh, you’ve heard that in your lectures before? Let me put it this way, then: Your handlers ain’t your mama. Neither your team’s PR staff nor your agent should have to clean up after you when you go spouting off about something moronic on Twitter. It’s their job to represent you, yes. But you should be representing yourself as well. Don’t make it hard on them.

(Unless you’re going to buy them a car in return.)

OK, you can stop taking notes now. I hope at least some of my wisdom has resonated with you. Remember – It’s because I care.

Now go forth and tweet, my friends.

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An update on my hectic life

Holy three and a half months, Batman. Where have I been?

I’ll tell you where I’ve been. Working my proverbial (and literal) ass off, that’s where.

Seriously.

I had to swallow my pride and go back to waiting tables. Because apparently my student loans don’t care if I have to live in a cardboard box underneath the I-10 overpass. Buuuut it’s paying the bills, and I haven’t strangled any customers yet.

I have another job, too. I’m working as a “Real-Time Correspondent” for MLB.com at the D-backs home games. It’s only part-time, but it’s keeping me busy. And it’s nice that I’m actually doing something in the industry (which is apparently an accomplishment for a starving young journalist). So I am extremely thankful for that.

I’ve also become obsessed with weight-lifting.

How’s that for a change in topic? Seriously, though. I’ve been wanting to tone up a little bit, and I ran across Jamie Eason’s program on BodyBuilding.com. Well… you all know me. I can’t do anything halfway. So now I’m a hardcore gym six days a week, protein packing, nutrition obsessed lunatic.

Yesterday I made protein bars with whey protein, oat flour and baby foot carrots. Next thing you know I’ll be wearing Affliction shirts and kissing my ripped biceps in the mirror.

Go ahead and make fun now. But you’ll all be jealous when I’m shredded like whoa.

Leave the sweater alone

I was going to drop the whole Katherine Webb thing, but now I have one more thing to say about it.

Again, I’ll reiterate my position that calling Miss Webb “beautiful” was not at all offensive. The fact that Musburger and the ESPN camera crew stalked her for the rest of the game and objectified her as a trophy you get for being a quarterback is what bothered me.

As a woman, I have a hard time dealing with men who tell me when I should and shouldn’t be offended by gender issues. Cue Clay Travis – arrogant, sensationalist sports blogger extraordinaire.

Today he wrote a column titled “Big Ten feminist in Bill Cosby sweater offended by Brent Musburger.”

(I refuse to give him any more page views than the one I gave him when I read the piece this morning. If you want to see it, you can Google it.) In case you don’t feel like reading brain-cell-killing trash, though, allow me to summarize:

  • If you’re offended by sexist comments, you’re stupid and you’re a loser.
  • A Michigan State journalism professor (Sue Carter) who was offended by the comments cannot be taken seriously because she is old, ugly and wears sweaters.
  • ESPN should tell offended viewers to “Go f*** themselves.”

There’s no love lost for Clay Travis on the Internet. Especially in SEC-land, he’s been one of the most publicly hated sports writers for a long time. One Google of his name, and you’ll find plenty of not-so-nice names being directed at Mr. Travis.

But I can’t blame him entirely. Clay’s column reflects a more deeply rooted problem in American sports culture – one that transcends the Katherine Webb phenomenon. That problem is the tendency to judge women’s qualifications based solely on their looks. You hear it every day. Erin Andrews is the most popular female sports caster. (I am by no means saying Erin’s not good at her job. She is. But among males, she’s praised for her looks – not her analysis.) Female athletes are stereotyped for being lesbians or looking too manly. And women like Anna Kournikova are drooled over by men who have never watched a tennis match in their lives.

As a female sports journalist, I see it all the time. People judge us by our looks first, talent and knowledge second. For example, back in the spring, I poked fun on Twitter at Bryce Harper’s decision to paint his entire face with eye black. I got three responses from angry Nationals’ fans (who, for some reason, feel they need to defend Bryce from little old me). All three of the responses attacked me for my looks. One guy said I wore too much makeup and looked like a clown. Another one called me “an ugly ass bitch.” (Pardon his French.)

Another example: Last year, I wrote a blog post about Jennifer Gish. She’s an Albany Times Union columnist who wrote a piece that criticized Buffalo Bills fans’ behavior in the stands. Fans dug up an old picture of Gish and used it as ammo against her. They called her ugly. They told her she “needed to get laid.” They told her “busted” self to stop writing about sports and “get back in the kitchen.”

And that is exactly what Clay did in his column today. He found a picture of this professor, posted it to his column and tore this poor woman apart because of the way she looks. Her words are automatically invalidated based on her picture. And the comments from his followers? Even worse…

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This is unacceptable, guys. In every way, shape and form. Who the hell are you to treat someone like this simply because she has an opinion that’s different than yours? I’ve been in many press boxes in my day, and I’ve got news for you: I don’t know a lot of male sports writers who will be competing for “Mr. Universe” anytime soon. If we held you all to the same standard you hold female reporters (and females in general), you might be little less likely to lecture us about how we’re not allowed to be offended.

With all of that being said, based on his advice, I have written my own ESPN-esque apology to Clay Travis:

Dear Clay,

Go f*** yourself.

Sincerely,

a stupid loser who doesn’t wear Cosby sweaters

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Thoughts on Sexism (from a Consolation Prize)

FOOTBALL! BEER! WOMEN!

That’s what guys like, right?

If you watched the BCS National Championship last night (or if you’ve been on the Internet at all today), you witnessed Brent Musburger’s creepy fixation with Alabama QB A.J. McCarron’s girlfriend, Katherine Webb (a.k.a. Miss Alabama). But if you didn’t see it, I’ll summarize. As the camera honed in on Webb, Musburger gushed:

“Now when you are a quarterback at Alabama, you see that lovely lady there, she does go to Auburn, I want to admit that, but she’s also Miss Alabama and that’s AJ McCarron’s girlfriend, okay. Wow, I’m telling you, quarterbacks, you get all the good-looking women. What a beautiful woman.”

The woman is exactly 50 years younger than he is, and he ogled her like the sloppy old men who used to sit at my bar at Texas Roadhouse. It was unprofessional. It was over the top. But THAT comment wasn’t what bothered me. It was his next one:

“So if you’re a youngster in Alabama, start getting a football out and throwing around the backyard with pops!”

…and then Twitter went boom. Here’s a few comments from my timeline:

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Don’t worry. ESPN apologized. Spokesman Mike Soltys offered this statement:

“We always try to capture interesting storylines and the relationship between an Auburn grad who is Miss Alabama and the current Alabama quarterback certainly met that test. However, we apologize that the commentary in this instance went too far and Brent understands that.”

I don’t think Musburger meant to sound like a sexist creep. He probably thought he was simply complimenting a beautiful woman. In fact, that’s what a lot of men thought.

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It is not a broadcaster’s job to echo the prurient thoughts of you and your buddies sharing pitchers of beer at the bar. It is the broadcaster’s job to call the game in a professional and appropriate manner.

I’m not one for hypothetical situations, but I can’t help but think of how this situation would differ if it were a female broadcaster commenting on a good-looking male athlete. Imagine a woman in the booth falling all over herself and telling America how much she loves to watch Joe Lineman bend over in his three-point stance. Not only would she probably be fired, but she’d also be berated as someone who can’t be taken seriously – used as proof that women aren’t qualified to talk about sports.

But that double standard is a whole different animal, and we’ll get to that another day.

What truly bothered me about Musburger’s comment is his perpetuation of the theory that women are some sort of trophy to be won as a result of your athletic ability. Athletic prowess equals sexual conquest. Telling little boys they should go throw a football so that they can have a beautiful woman. Essentially telling little girls they are nothing but a prize. Football players get knock-out gorgeous beauty queens. The rest of you guys… well… you get the normal women. Women like me. The consolation prizes.

Am I outraged? No. Have I started an aggressive letter writing campaign to have Musburger fired? Not at all. I’m not defending Katherine Webb, either. I’m sure she will be fine (especially since Musburger single-handedly skyrocketed her career). I’m simply letting you guys know that – despite your justification – sometimes we women are offended by sexist banter while we’re trying to watch a football game.

I watch a lot of “Mankind: The History of All of Us” on the History Channel (nerd alert). This series taught me that, in ancient times, men used to paint their bodies and fight each other to determine who would win the female’s affection. Wild animals still do this. Hell, why don’t you all head up to the Rockies and ram each other in the head like bighorn sheep until you decide who can date Miss America?

And guys – You can say whatever you want about that hot babe in the bikini. But if you actually want to date her, here’s some advice: Shut your mouth, stop drooling, and act like you’ve seen a woman before.

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Amber’s Bucket List – The Sports Edition

Who am I kidding? Like I have any other kind of bucket list.

A while ago, I asked my Twitter followers and Facebook friends to tell me what’s on their sports bucket list. (If you live under a rock, that means the sports-related things they want to see or do before they die.)

I got a lot of great responses, but there were, of course, some common trends: Everyone wants to see their favorite team win a championship and everyone wants to go to some really cool stadiums. And one of my friends wants to dunk on Dikembe Mutombo.

So, in lieu of watching the most boring BCS National Championship game in the history of human competition, I’m finally going to compile MY sports bucket list.

(drum roll)

  • Watch the Miami Dolphins win a Super Bowl live. I may be a little old gray-haired, hunch-backed lady by the time this happens. But I don’t care. If I am 103 years old, my grandchildren better slop some war paint on my face and wheel my happy ass into the stadium. I DESERVE THIS! For my decades of misery. Damn it.
  • Attend a game at the New Yankee Stadium. Right after I graduated from high school in 2007, my mom drove me to NYC to see a game in the old Yankee Stadium. Being in that building was magical. The new one isn’t the same, I’m sure, but I feel like I have to experience it anyway. (Standing outside of it by the subway station does not count… see below).

yankeestadium

  • Go to Cooperstown when Derek Jeter is inducted to the Baseball Hall of Fame. Because I am a lucky little woman, I got to see Dan Marino inducted to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2005. My dad, grandfather and uncle scooped me up from school, and we headed off to Canton. We went to all of the Hall of Fame events, went to a luncheon with Dan the Man, and I got to shake the hand that threw 420 touchdowns. So now I can’t wait to celebrate the HOF induction of “The Captain” (whenever that may be).
  • Watch a Miami Dolphins game from “The Deep End.” THESE LOOK LIKE THE FUNNEST PEOPLE EVER. So fun I start using words that aren’t words. They sit in a section of Sun Life Stadium behind a goal post. They dress like loonies, make crazy signs and paint their faces (and hair). They’re cheering during every home game. They are awesome, and I want to be one of them. I’m already planning my outfit…
deepend

Photo lifted from somewhere on the Google.

  • Chant “U-S-A” while watching the United States win an Olympic gold medal (live, of course). When I was in London reporting on the 2012 Summer Olympics, several people in my group decided to go the women’s soccer gold medal match. The United States won, and now my friends will forever have pictures and memories of themselves draped in an American flag, chanting and singing the National Anthem. And I will forever envy them for this. I watched in a pub because I had no monies for tickets. Must redeem myself.
  • See a football game in every single SEC stadium. As a Tennessee alumna, I have been to countless games in Neyland Stadium. But I’ve never actually ventured outside of Knoxville for a college football game. (Once I tried to buy tickets from scalpers in Nashville for a UT-Vanderbilt game. But the “no monies” thing foiled me again.) Anyway, there is NOTHING like a Fall Saturday in the South. And I want to get a taste of every tradition and every tailgate.
  • Watch Tennessee win a football AND basketball national championship. Our Lady Vols have won plenty. It’s time the men held up their end of the bargain. Can’t wait to sing “Rocky Top” at the top of my lungs for hours on end.
  • Join the Vol Navy. If you’re not familiar with the Vol Navy, I suggest you Google it. I want to rent a really big boat (or bring my own if, you know, I have one) and park it on the Tennessee River on a Thursday. I’ll party all weekend long with my fellow Big Orange boaters.
Vol Navy holding it down at Fort Neyland. (Photo also lifted from the Googles.)

Vol Navy holding it down at Fort Neyland. (Also lifted from the Googles.)

  • Storm the court/field. As of late, this practice seems to be frowned upon by police and stadium officials, and I think that’s a damn shame. I want to watch my underdog team (which is pretty much every single one of my teams) win a huge game, and I want to run out on the field/court like a raving lunatic. I want to be covered in confetti, running from security and screaming like I just won the lottery. With 20,000 of my closest friends.
  • Ride in a race car. Notice I said “ride.” Ain’t no way I am ever getting behind the wheel of something that moves faster than I can think. But I want to put on one of those sweet fire-retardant suits and huge helmets and let a professional drive me around the Indy Motor Speedway. I’d be like a kid in a candy store. Except I’d be an Amber in a race car… which is the same thing.
  • Go to an NFL game in the snow. So this might be a weird one. But I’m tired of stadiums with closed roofs. (“Boohoo. It’s 50 degrees. We don’t want our fans to get chilly and leave early.”) No. I want to go to Soldier or Lambeau and watch the game outside where it’s supposed to be played. I want to bundle up like an Eskimo and wrap myself in a big ol’ stadium blanket. I want to feel my little body freezing to the core and my hair laced with icicles …for the love of the game! And most importantly, I want to throw snowballs in the air when a team scores. And throw them at the field when the ref makes a bad call. Then, I’ll have to revert to the “running from security” skills that I gained when I stormed the field. Full circle.

So there you have it. Sports-related things I MUST do before I head to the big Super Bowl in the sky. Please note I reserve the right to randomly come up with other fantastic things to add to this list in later posts.

Leave me comments! I want to hear your sports bucket list!

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What I Learned from Angelo

Every once in a while, you meet someone who helps you put everything in perspective.

Angelo Richardson was on top of the world. A star wide receiver at Santa Rosa Community College, he had just committed to play football at Arizona State. Full scholarship. Highly touted. He was destined for the NFL.

…until a freak accident took everything away from him. Angelo was walking with friends in San Francisco – on his way home from his stepmother’s birthday party – when a random shooting broke out. He was shot twice – once in the chest and once in the back.

It’s a miracle he even survived. But now he lives with constant reminders of the tragedy he experienced. Paralyzed from the waist down, Angelo is confined to a wheel chair and has hundreds of thousands of dollars in medical and physical therapy bills. He can’t walk. He can’t run. And he certainly can’t play football.

But he can COACH football. And that’s exactly what he does. Six years later, Angelo is a full-time student and is helping out on the coaching staff at ASU. Check out the video story I did:

Angelo Richardson, former top ASU football recruit talks about life after tragic accident from Cronkite News on Vimeo

Later on I asked him if he ever has hard days. He said:

You know what? I think everybody in life has hard days. Me? I’ve never been a quitter. So even on a hard day, I just work harder.

And to think: I complained today because I had to wake up early.

I know Thanksgiving was last week, but it’s never a bad time to count your blessings. I’m not  going to hop on some sort of soap box because I am so, so guilty of forgetting how good I really have it.

But when we whine about having a bad day, is it really THAT bad? I complain about being broke. Meanwhile, I still have a roof over my head and food in my refrigerator. I complain about being tired or busy or stressed. Hell, we’re all tired and busy and stressed. The difference is how we handle it.

Angelo is inspiring because he doesn’t ask anyone to feel sorry for him. He has a positive attitude, and he knows he can still do whatever he wants with his life. He teaches the football players to appreciate everything they have and to give 100 percent on every play – “because you never want to feel like you left something behind.”

Perspective.

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Gallery: A royal stroll

Yeah, yeah, yeah.

I’m way behind on these photos. I’ve been home from London for a week. What’s taking me so long. And so forth.

And since you’ve all been on the edge of your respective seats, I’m finally going to post the rest of my photos. (This is going to take several posts…)

July 31 – Kristin and I went wandering down Pall Mall. We haven’t been to Buckingham Palace yet. That sounds cool. Let’s go there. Well, it was pretty cool. We didn’t go inside for a tour or anything, but seeing such a grand, storied building was a neat experience. We even made a wish in the fountain. Couldn’t get close enough to tickle the guards.

Next, we left Buckingham and went wandering through St. James Park. If you have been following by blog, you know what happened in St. James Park. BIRDS. Everywhere.

Once we were done obnoxiously frightening our tweety little friends, we found some phone booths, unleashed our inner Superman and headed back home to Trafalgar Square.

Without further ado…

God save the Queen.

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Obnoxious Americans Episode 2: Beatlemania

Ever thought it would be really cool to get a photo on Abbey Road just like the Beatles?!
Well, then I hope you have your affairs in order.

Wednesday, as Kristin and I discovered via Twitter, was the 43rd anniversary of the day the Beatles shot the uber-famous photo for their Abbey Road album. Conveniently enough, we are in London. It’s fate.
So we haul our happy little selves on over to Abbey Road. I’m totally geeking out the whole time. I embarrassed myself and America by skipping down the street on the way to THE crosswalk. Turns out, though, someone forgot to tell London that the Beatles are cool.

Thus, episode two of “Obnoxious Americans” …

Joke’s on you, angry, awful people. Multiple attempts and one uncomfortably close encounter with a bus later, we got this photo. The things we do for rock & roll.

We almost died taking this photo. So worth it.

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Arizona high jumper feeling Olympic spirit

Yesterday Kristin and I got to hang out with Team USA high jumper Brigetta Barrett and her family. I love it when an athlete is as nice and down to earth as Brigetta is. And she’s competing for a medal on Saturday!

Arizona high jumper feeling Olympic spirit from Cronkite News on Vimeo.

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What Title IX means to me (and some Olympians)

No one has ever told me I CAN’T do something.

No one I cared about, anyway.
I played volleyball for more years than I can count. I always knew I was never going to be making a career out of it, but I played it because I loved it. I loved my friends. I loved the competition. I loved the feeling of diving 15 feet for a ball and being really stinkin’ proud of myself when that ball went right up to the setter.

But volleyball taught me more than how to play volleyball. It taught me how to be a teammate. It taught me how to win with class. It taught me how to lose with grace. It taught me how to engage in friendly competition but also to know where to draw the line. It taught me how to handle my frustrations, manage my time, stay in shape and keep a commitment. There were times during mid-summer conditioning that I wanted to throw in the towel and say, “Forget you people. I’m going to the pool.” But I didn’t. Because I played competitive sports, I learned that when things get tough, you put on your big girl panties and get even tougher. Volleyball is a memory to me now. But the lessons it taught me apply to every single aspect of my life.

I never would have had these opportunities without Title IX. Title IX guaranteed that female athletes would receive the same benefits as male athletes. Schools cannot have men’s programs without women’s programs. Seems like a pretty obvious concept, but turns out, it wasn’t. When women first competed in the Olympics in 1900, they were only allowed to participate in four sports: archery, golf, croquet and tennis. Those were the only ones deemed “dainty” enough for little ol’ us. London 2012 marks the first time that a woman is competing in every single sport. It’s also the first time every country has sent a female athlete.

I had an opportunity to meet some of these amazing women yesterday. Here’s what they had to say.

Title IX transformed women’s athletics from Cronkite News on Vimeo.

First of all, every athlete I talked to yesterday (there were more than just the ones in the video) is a total badass. And it was pretty incredible to celebrate our accomplishments together – as athletes and sportswriters.

People will always be there to tell you what’s wrong with you. You’re too short, you’re too tall, you’re too fat, thin, blonde, ugly, pretty, dumb, smart, awkward… whatever. These people would be better served concentrating that energy on their own problems.

Title IX doesn’t solve the problems of the world. But if anyone wants to tell you you can’t do something, just answer, “Watch me.”

——

Disclaimer: Unless that person is giving you good advice. For example, “You can’t blow dry your hair in a bath tub” or “You can’t drive your Big Wheel into oncoming traffic.”

 

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