The Rambles of Neil Monnery

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Archive for the ‘American Sport’ Category

Fan is short for fanatic – we should remember that

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fan (noun) — an enthusiastic devotee, follower, or admirer of a sport, pastime, celebrity, etc. (origin: 1885-90, Americanism; short for fanatic or, some say, fancy)

fanatic (noun) — a person with an extreme and uncritical enthusiasm or zeal, as in religion or politics. (origin: 1515-25, “insane person” from L. fanaticus, “mad, enthusiastic, inspired by god”, originally pertaining to a temple, from L. fanum.

Some say that the term fan may have devolved from the word ‘fancy’ but the general wisdom seems to suggest that it comes from the word fanatic. Why am I writing about this today? Well as most people who have known me in real life will know, sports has been a rather large part of my life for an awfully long time. I will call off social events and activities if I want to see a sporting event on the tellybox. I was once a Sports Editor. I have commentated, no wait, summerised only, on live football games for radio and I may or may not have yelled an insane amount of swear words when following various sporting events and seen my mood adjust to quite concerning degrees based on what is going on.

I would argue that over the years I have mellowed. I can sit and watch a game and not get so emotionally invested. Pompey were on the tellybox the other day and I sat and watched it in a rather monotone way. We weren’t very good and I just shrugged and moved on with my day. Maybe I had actually got past the point where sport could get to me. Maybe I had grown up. Maybe it was time for me to emerge from the sporting cocoon that I have enveloped myself in and maybe just into things that were more high brow, take in some culture, get interested in the arts.

Then Saturday night happened.

When you are up until nigh on 5AM watching a College Football game with your blood pumping, engaged swearing, too much sweat that is good for a single man in the early hours of the morning when fully clothed, then maybe the link between fan and fanatic isn’t too far-fetched.

So yes. On Saturday my day was pretty much built around watching Arsenal v Manchester City and then Rutgers v Penn State. One kicked off at 12:45PM and the other 01:12 AM. So they bookended my day. I watched the football match and enjoyed it. I did have another game I was meant to be seeing but as they say, things change, I will have plenty to say on that matter in due course (and I know you are reading this waiting for what I have to say – I can see you). By 11ish I was pretty tired but I persevered, I had a shall we call it, rather tepid shower to revitalise me and I put on the Big Ten Network to settle down to watch the game.

Now it was in the early hours and I wasn’t alone in watching this game. Whilst physically alone I had twitter open, I had Black Shoe Diaries game threads open and I had a skype conversation open with someone who was also watching the game (although not a fan of PSU – he still watched as I was and he stuck with it as it was the most compelling game of the night) and I’d like to show off my witty repartee and the type of language that was flowing out of my fingers as the game unfolded. I am not proud.

Quotes are me if no initials, NM is also me, NH is the person on the other end of the skype conversation window.

It started off with general game conversation. Our O-Line may have slightly false started…

NH: how many would you estimate moved early there…
NM: more than the amount of women who’ve turned me down…

then I got annoyed with the WildLion formation…

fuck that WildLion

Then I saw a safety blitz that the QB didn’t see…

OH COME ON
I CAN SEE THEY ARE COMING

Then I revealed a shocking truth…

NM: oh fuck this
NH: just awful
NM: you know I turned down a date tonight for this?
NH: good grief
NH: i hope you thought up a better reason than i want to watch penn st…
NM: I just said I was busy.

Then a Rutgers player got a first down when he really should’ve been tackled short of the line to gain on a big 3rd and long. Not sure I took it too well…

NO
NO
NO
NO
NO
DONT LET HIM GET THE FUCKING 1ST DOWN

Then it was half time and we discussed Lily Adams from the AT&T commercials and how she was an actress and not a real AT&T employee. I fancy her. Anyway on to the second half…

if this flag is against us…
good
throw him out for being a prick
yep – no doubt I’ll sleep maybe 45-60 mins after this game ends
I’ll be wound up
FOR
FUCKS
SAKE

Then we did something good. An interception…

NM: HURRAY
NH: we were saying…
NM: FUCK YOU BUTTGERS

Either I was writing in prose an orgasm or Penn State did something good here…

YES
YES
YES

Then we didn’t do so good…

oh come on
busted play again
too many of them today
holding
didn’t need to hold either
what the hell was that?
x2

Then we scored a TD to win it but it was called back because of a penalty but we would score another TD and it would hold up. This is the conversation. I was rational for brief moments…

NM:TD
NM: TD
NH: wow oh wow…
NM: TD
NM: TD
NM: TD
NH: too quick!
NM: FUCK YOU UMPS
NM: FUCK YOU
NM: its a hold
NH: pretty clear
NH: sadly
NM: COME ON
NM: ITS CAPS ALL THE WAY
NH: lol
NM: TD
NM: TD
NM: TD
NM: NO FLAGS
NH: go for 2?
NM: LOL BUTTGERS
NM: No.
NM: get the 1 so a FG only ties, if they miss the 2 a FG would win it

Then we stopped Rutgers and won the game…

NM:THAT
NM: WILL
NM: FUCKING
NH: who says it wasnt worth staying up for?
NM: DO
NM: NICELY
NH: that will make getting to sleep a touch easier!
NM: I’m too pumped

So maybe on occasions I can still see the link between the words fan and fanatic.

One of the biggest issues for personally is many of the events I get so pumped for are on US time and therefore are in the early hours. When a game finishes like that, that I am so emotionally invested in then I can’t just go to bed and go to sleep. So I have to unwind and that takes time and I can easily see the sun rise in the morning before falling asleep. I am so lucky I have employment that grants me some flexibility and I can work late at night and don’t have to work office hours every day.

I don’t know the reason for this blog post but I thought it was interesting that despite my education, my journalism background, my thoughts that I am smart and linguistic, at times just shouting and swearing is all that can come out of my mouth/fingers. Sport still has that effect…at times.

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Written by neilmonnery

September 15th, 2014 at 5:13 pm

Sky Sports NFL Coverage 2014 – Once more stepping it up

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The NFL season got underway the other night and tonight we are back with our usual Sunday night doubleheader. On Thursday Sky Sports showed us some of their plans for the 2014 season, the 20th that they have been coverage the league and I must say I’m quietly impressed with what they are doing. Here is an overview.

Firstly they are making their analysts more permanent. In recent years it has been Nick Halling and latterly Neil Reynolds being joined by a seemingly random cast of others. This year it will be Shaun Gayle joining the team until Thanksgiving whereupon he’ll be aside for Jeff Reinebold to take us the rest of the way.

Personally I like this set up as it gives the team more of a chance to gel and I wasn’t overly keen on the show being used as a tryout for former NFL players who wanted to get involved in broadcasting, Rocky Boiman (who sounds like Lisa’s character in The Simpsons when she was pretending to be a boy to do Maths at the boys half of Springfield Elementary) aside, I have not been impressed by any of these people and any set up that gives us more Jeff Reinebold is one that I can fully endorse. I think Jeff is by far and away the best analyst we’ve had on Sky Sports NFL coverage in the decade plus that I have been watching. He has a relaxed style but also has the technical nous to take us through the x’s and o’s so I’m happy.

Of course then there is big Cecil Martin. I know many of the more knowledgeable fans get annoyed by his antics but I like it. He’ll be around for the Wembley games this year so he is still involved. A Gayle-Reinebold-Martin monopoly in the analysts chair is a ok by me. I don’t know if they’ll be extra guest analysts but between those three they have a good solid team.

Neil Reynolds received a tonne of stick when I wrote the blog post about Nick Halling leaving the NFL team for the Boxing gig three years ago. The comments do not read well for Neil but my namesake isn’t half as bad as some of those comments say. Reynolds is a more than solid guy and if we all put up with Kevin Cadle’s presenting style then we can put up with Neil Reynolds.

The Red Zone is back on Sunday’s and they’ll show more highlights on the main channel as well as live look ins. For the Thursday night game, Sky will also show the CBS pre-game show, which will be something different. Like other Sky shows, they’ve also been given a ‘SkyPad’ aka a rather large touchscreen where Reynolds and the analyst can go through tactics and the like. Again Sky showing some decent investment in the NFL.

I don’t think the NFL brings too many subscriptions to the company but I do think it is a relatively inexpensive and popular filler for Sky. If the NFL does expand to London in terms of a full-time franchise based in the capital then it will be a very significant sport for TV companies over here. I think Sky do a very good job in terms of most sports and I think they treat NFL with more seriousness the more they cover the sport.

When you throw in what Channel 4 do with the Sunday Night Game then fans of the NFL in this country get a pretty good deal. Eurosport will show the Monday Night game against this year and that is a strange one for me but heck, it is live on TV. I think if my memory serves me right this is the last year of Sky’s three-year deal they signed in 2012 and that means the rights will be up over the summer and I have zero doubt BT Sport will make a play for them. As I said earlier, it isn’t a sport that brings in a tonne of subs but it will be a very nice addition to BT’s portfolio should they steal it and I suspect a key thing to keep for Sky Sports.

Personally I hope Sky’s long partnership with the NFL continues beyond this season but I think it is very much up for grabs. Sky are showing commitment to the sport with their coverage and I expect another good year this year both on the field of play and in the TV studio.

Lastly you can tweet the team here:

Kevin Cadle – @kevincadle
Neil Reynolds – – @neilreynoldsnfl
Shaun Gayle – @85worldchamps
Cecil Martin – @cecilmartin1
Jeff Reinebold – @jeff_reinebold
Sky Sports NFL Account – @skysportsnfl

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Written by neilmonnery

September 7th, 2014 at 2:11 pm

Posted in American Sport,Media

Tagged with ,

D.C. Lobbyist pushing for a homophobic bill that would ban gay professional athletes in the USA

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Well that isn’t a blog post title I ever expected to write.

Every so often I get Press Releases via the blog. In recent weeks I have started to get quite a lot. I usually scan read them and then do nothing with them. I’m quite busy at the moment working on two large projects outside of work, firstly the locals elections and secondly my weight. When you are working out for two hours a day then your free time suddenly dissipates rather quickly.

So anyway I got a Press Release this afternoon entitled, ‘DC Lobbyist Boycott of Visa, Rams after Michael Sam drafted‘ and my eyes focused sharply. For those who don’t know who Michael Sam is, in short he was a very good college football player in the States who came out as gay earlier this year. He finished college and was eligible for the NFL draft. He was a fringe prospect and no-one knew if he would get selected but with just seven picks left in the draft the St. Louis Rams drafted him and he is the first openly gay player in the NFL. He celebrated getting drafted by kissing his boyfriend live on national TV. It was a deeply important cultural moment.

Now my e-mail thought it was a scam so I did some googling and you know what, it wasn’t and it isn’t. In February he was widely reported to be working on this bill and with Michael Sam getting drafted he is trying to generate publicity again. Michael Sam signed an endorsement deal with Visa and the lobbyist believes that people should boycott the company for being associated with a gay athlete.

The following is from his PR release that for some reason found its way to me – yes a liberal blogger – because I’d really write about it in a positive light for him *rolls eyes*

Visa and the Rams will learn that when you trample the Christian community and Christian values, there will be a terrible financial price to pay. Openly gay football players send a terrible message to our youth about morality. Somebody needs to step up because the moral fiber of the nation is eroding.

You fucking what?

First of all learn how to spell fibre American people – if you are going to pretend you use the English language then at least learn how to spell it correctly. Secondly and probably more importantly – what the hell is this man on? I was brought up in a Christian household and I am pretty sure that Christian’s are taught to be a tolerant people. When I read garbage like this then I just shake my head and wonder if there really was a God then how would he (or she or it) like seeing people being persecuted in his/her/its name?

So anyway on to the proposed bill that he is trying to get support for – you can read it in full here but for those too lazy to click on the link then here is the first section of the bill:

Section 1. The National Football League, Major League Baseball, the National Basketball Association and the National Hockey League and all teams thereof shall hereby be prohibited from employing players who are homosexual. This provision shall apply only in cases where a player has openly declared himself to be a homosexual.

So yes, if you are secretly gay then that is fine but anyone who is open about their sexuality should be blocked from earning a living in any of the listed professional sports leagues. This is in his opinion to stop young people growing up and seeing and hearing about practicing homosexuals in professional sports. What rock did this buffoon crawl from?

Young people should be taught to treat everyone as the same. If God does exist then he/she/it created us all and that includes gay people. I’m pretty positive that if this is the case then gay people weren’t created to give non gay people a group of people to persecute. Young people being exposed to gay people doesn’t damage the moral fibre of society, anyone who thinks that this is the case is a grade A moron.

The sooner that the likes of Jack Burkman are castigated for their points of view then the better society as a whole will be. Jack Burkman is no way shape or form speaks for the Christian community and believing that he does is nearly as galling as what he says.

Michael Sam coming out and having to bare the brunt of this type of homophobic abuse is courageous is the extreme. I hope he will be a trendsetter and I am sure that the United States of America as a whole will support him. Sadly there are not so insignificant pockets who won’t and by all means we aren’t exactly the most tolerant society over here in the UK but I’m not sure the public as a whole would have any stomach for banning gay people from any form of life.

I just felt that I had to write something about it as I couldn’t stomach the fact that the Press Release got sent to me. I hope that his efforts go unrewarded and I have no doubt that even if he got enough sponsors to get the bill debated that it would never gain the traction or support it would need to get passed into law but it makes me deflated that people still think persecuting fellow human beings in the name of Christianity is acceptable behavior.

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May 13th, 2014 at 4:43 pm

Bill O’Brien walks out on Penn State for the pros – cue meltdown

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Oh.

Well this sucks.

I was scrolling through my twitter as I couldn’t sleep and saw the report coming out from ESPN that the Houston Texans had come to terms with Bill O’Brien to become the next head coach of the franchise. O’Brien will be walking away from State College to chase his dream of coaching on Sunday’s, leaving behind a confused fan base unsure of how to react.

I must admit I am stunned. I never thought he’d walk out. I thought this flirting with the NFL was just that. He seemed like a man with so much integrity but it just goes to show that you never know what to believe. He was always going to bolt for the pros and we all knew that Sunday’s was where he wanted to coach but he had a job to do and I fully expected him to see the Hackenberg/Breneman recruiting class through to the end of their college careers.

Of course at the time of writing it is just a report out of Chris Mortensen and Adam Schefter but I think we can safely say that this deal is going to get done. Now we move on to who might replace him and O’Brien’s legacy. We’ll start with his legacy, it is a very tricky to really work out what it’ll be. He held the programme together at a time when everybody thought it would completely fall apart. He turned Matt McGloin, he of the great quote, ‘Broadcast/journalism was my first degree. Being awesome was the second,’ into an NFL quarterback. This 2012 team will go down as one of the most revered in Penn State history because of what they had to deal with and O’Brien was the person who held it all together. However he looked 18 year-old kids in the eye and told them he’d be with them all the way through their college careers and then bolted on them after just one year. That stinks.

We have been spoiled in having Joe Paterno as head coach for as long as we did. Whatever his pitfalls, which may or may not have been significant, he was extremely loyal and whilst he did flirt with the NFL and even agreed to go to the Patriots, he never left and made it his life’s work to mould kids into fine young men and win a few football games along the way. As he once said, ‘Success without honour is an unseasoned dish; it will satisfy your hunger, but it won’t taste good.’

Bill O’Brien never bought into the Grand Experiment and that riled a tad. I think eventually Penn State will be the footnote of the Bill O’Brien story. He used us to get his dream job and to be fair in his two years in State College he did a fine job in righting the rudderless ship. The sourness though of sacking Ron Vanderlinden just before quitting himself leaves a nasty taste in the mouth and lying to teenage kids…yeah its not great is it?

Moving on to who replaces him, I’m firmly in the James Franklin camp. The guy can flat out recruit and he won at Vanderbilt, which is an extremely fine academic institution and was an afterthought in the SEC. He’s still a relatively young man at only 41 years of age, is a Pennsylvania kid and I think he would be very interested in taking on the role at State College, seeing it as a great long-term job as well. I don’t want to see any NFL rejects, certainly ones recently available out of shall we say, Tampa, Florida…

The man who’ll decide who to approach is Dave Joyner and he’s not exactly flavour of the month amongst the fan base. No-one seems to trust him to make the right decision and when Michael Mauti comes out and says if O’Brien leaves within 3-5 years then it’ll be Joyner’s fault, then that holds a whole lot of cachet.

All I know is it’s 4:20 in the morning and I actually have to get up tomorrow but I’m pretty pissed – as in annoyed – not drunk. We’ll see how this unfolds but this is all extremely disheartening.

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Written by neilmonnery

January 1st, 2014 at 4:23 am

Posted in American Sport

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There is only one thing more boring than fantasy sports – telling others about your fantasy team

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Oh boy…

Many years ago I kept a journal and one of my ‘friends’ who read the journal decided one day to tell me exactly what she thought of me. She basically said my journal entries were dull and therefore had an opinion that I was just too boring to know. Nice of her. Her main issue was the fact I wrote a fair bit about my fantasy baseball teams. Well she left my life many years ago but fantasy baseball did not. I am still involved in a fantasy baseball league that I have been involved in since 2005 – the same league. Personally I think it is a better hobby than getting into online betting and certainly a lot cheaper too but ho hum.

So we are now well into the fantasy season and it is Week 10. I have won seven match-ups, drawn once and lost once. I am currently the #3 seed and surprising a fair few people with the strength of my squad. I was tipped to be outside the top six this season by the league but I’m hanging in there.

My strength has been a solid and deep starting rotation. Yu Darvish and Jordan Zimmermann are true aces and I expected them to be as such. I had some trade interest in both but I swatted it away. Beyond them I had CJ Wilson and AJ Griffin left over from last year. I have since added a rejuvenated Ubaldo Jiménez and John Lackey. My seventh SP though is reigning NL Cy Young winner RA Dickey whom I recently traded for despite not exactly being a big fan of the player.

The reason I traded for him was because I had a log jam. At 3B I had a strong Aramis Ramirez and I had picked up Josh Donaldson who was having a career year. However the bigger problem was I had Manny Machado in my minor league system and I had to promote him. So I managed to trade Aramis Ramirez away for RA Dickey to open up 3B for Manny Machado, who is fast becoming one of the best players in Major League Baseball.

My hitting is middle of the pack with Buster Posey holding down the catchers spot and then Ryan Howard at first. Chase Utley is my 2B but is currently injured so Freddy Galvis is starting and at short Derek Jeter is down so Alexei Ramirez is starting. At 3B is the aforementioned Machado. In the OF I’m weak with Dexter Fowler, Colby Rasmus and Brett Gardner stumbling along but I have Yasiel Puig and Billy Hamilton sitting in the minors for next year and when you throw in Miguel Sano is there as well then I have three legit impact bats ready for 2014 and beyond.

Finally I am currently sitting at four closers with Aroldis Chapman, Rafael Soriano, Glen Perkins and even K-Rod closing games. So there we have it. This is why the 2013 incarnation of the Fratton Yankees are doing better than anticipated and this is why I got called dull and boring by a girl what eight or nine years ago. I wonder what she is up to these days…

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June 3rd, 2013 at 11:54 am

‘I’m a 34-year-old NBA center. I’m black. And I’m gay.’

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The words of Jason Collins as he comes out in the latest edition of Sports Illustrated to become the first openly gay male athlete in any of the major north American team sports. This is a big thing and it is about time it happened.

As you all may know I’m a huge NFL, MLB and NCAAFB fan but the NHL and the NBA kinda pass me by as I don’t enjoy the sports too much. So I don’t know this guy from Adam but what I do know is he is an active player and he has decided it is time to open up the conversation. A couple of weeks ago Brittney Griner came out and now just a few days later a man followed suit.

In a self-penned essay in the latest edition of the magazine 34 year-old Collins writes about his struggle and one paragraph in particular stood out, ‘When I was younger I dated women. I even got engaged. I thought I had to live a certain way. I thought I needed to marry a woman and raise kids with her. I kept telling myself the sky was red, but I always knew it was blue.‘ I would certainly recommend reading the entire article linked to above to get a full sense of what he has struggled with over the years.

The situation has changed and the tide is changing for people to be more open about their sexuality. I watch two American Sports Talk shows daily and everyone was happy that he had felt able to come out but also it was noted that this wasn’t Jackie Robinson breaking the colour barrier nor Billie Jean King beating Bobby Riggs. Sadly not everyone in the industry is cut the same way and step forward Chris Broussard:

Personally, I don’t believe that you can live an openly homosexual lifestyle or an openly, like premarital sex between heterosexuals. If you’re openly living that type of lifestyle, then the Bible says you know them by their fruits. It says that, you know, that’s a sin. If you’re openly living in unrepentant sin, whatever it may be, not just homosexuality, whatever it maybe, I believe that’s walking in open rebellion to God and to Jesus Christ. So I would not characterize that person as a Christian because I don’t think the bible would characterize them as a Christian.

Now it has been a while since I’ve read my Bible. In fact I don’t own a Bible but I know the odd passage, ‘Judge not, lest ye also be judged.’ (Matthew 7:1). ‘Do to others as you would have them do to you.’ (Luke 6:31). ‘In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets.’ (Matthew 7:12). Now I grant you the bible also has texts that counter this but the bible should not be taken in a literal context as if you did then you’d get nowhere as there are so many texts that are actually polar opposite.

Mr Collins finally seems at peace with his sexuality and that is what all want to be. There is nothing, absolutely nothing, wrong with being attracted to people of the same sex. Happily the early signs coming out of follow north American athletes are seemingly full of support for the player. The thing is if you are a professional athlete in a team sport the overwhelming likelihood is that you have played with a gay team mate. As a fan the overwhelming likelihood is that you have rooted for a gay player at some point in your sports watching.

I hope this man’s decision accelerates something similar happening here in the UK. Sexuality is just part of who we all are and at some point a big name Premier League player will come out as homosexual and it will help others in the sport – and also more importantly young people – feel that there is nothing wrong with being gay. Society is coming around to this and the younger generation are – in general – far more open and accepting than previous generations. I hope we get to the point where sexuality doesn’t define us and is just a footnote in describing us akin to ‘likes soap operas, hates prawns, loves people of both sexes’ or similar.

Jason Collins is a brave man but I’m pretty sure the overwhelming majority of the NBA will support him as will the majority of the paying public. This is a huge step and one that shouldn’t be understated and now I await to see when someone still active in the major British sports feels comfortable enough to follow suit. Sadly I fear I will be waiting a while as the vocal minority are still extremely vocal.

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April 29th, 2013 at 10:32 pm

Posted in American Sport

Tagged with

From Team GB at London 2012 to flying the Union Jack in the NFL?

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If you – like me – and every single other person seemingly in the UK were hooked on London 2012 then you’ll remember Lawrence Okoye. He represented Team GB in the discus and made the final. He was disappointed to come last but he was still young. With Rio De Janeiro but now just three and a half years away you might think that he is busy working on that dream but he isn’t. He is in America trying to catch on with an NFL team and the surprising thing is – he might just do it.

In America they have a draft system instead of you can just sign whoever you want out of the young talent. This is the same in all major American sports. So Okoye is over there working out at combines, which are events that players go to in an attempt to impress watching scouts. Despite never having played at a competitive level it seems that Okoye is the player impressing most. ‘Okoye looked like he could be drafted. He was unbelievably active and incredibly explosive in drills. It was a real, first-class show‘ said long time NFL scout Gil Brandt. Saying he might actually be drafted and not sign on somewhere as an undrafted free agent is quite something.

The last young Englishman to be drafted was Jack Crawford. He played collegiate football at Penn State so I saw a lot of him. They said he had all the natural ability in the world but he never converted it to the field of play. He was a good college player but was never great in his time with the Nittany Lions. He took up American Football very late as he moved to the States in his mid-teens but at least had a few years under his belt – including playing for one of the very best Defensive Line coaches in the game in Larry Johnson Snr. Okoye doesn’t have that but heck Crawford got drafted by the Oakland Raiders purely because of his raw ability.

If Okoye is going to make it then it is going to be because someone believes that he can be coached up – and pretty darn quickly. American Football is one of the toughest sports to learn on the fly because of all the intricacies of the game. The 21 year-old has said that five NFL clubs have contacted him and if that is the case then his stock is certainly improving.

With a proven athletic pedigree and dedication to training he might actually have a shot at making this dream come true. Should he succeed then he will put his discus and Team GB plans on hold. If he does get drafted it will probably be in the 6th or 7th rounds and when you consider that it is expected that one of the greatest linebackers I have ever seen – Michael Mauti – is expected to drop to those rounds due to concerns over his knee you’ve got to be impressed by Okoye because even if he doesn’t make it hell have got pretty darn close.

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April 8th, 2013 at 11:41 pm

Posted in American Sport

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#42 set to call it a day.

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The number 42 is the meaning of life if you asked anyone in the UK what that number meant to them. In the United States of America the number 42 is synonymous with just two men and one of them is about to call a day to his ring-laden career.

I am getting to that age where some of my heroes that I have followed for my whole life watching a sport have called it a day. Heck very few of them are still around. You get new heroes and new loyalties but they’ll always be a select few who you’ll love and admire. That list for me is never slender and includes Alan Ball – a Pompey hero, Ayrton Senna – a Formula driver who no fear and immense skill, Jorge Posada – a New York Yankees catcher who showed that heart and hard work can overcome a lack of natural talent, Kurt Warner – a man who showed that even when things look bleak showed that you can still achieve your dreams and Joe Paterno. Yes whatever has happened hasn’t changed my opinion on him.

So we get to today and another one of the guys that I openly rooted for has called a News Conference for Saturday morning (10 EST) to announce that he is calling it a day. He’ll play out the season but that will be it. It is not a surprise in any way, shape or form – he is 43 years of age and he would have retired last year had it not been for a freak injury but it will signal the end of an era.

Sport is so often about opinion and emotion. Is Messi better or Ronaldo? Is Pele the greatest ever or was Maradona? Was Senna better than Schumacher? I could go on but there are so many questions and so much debate. One question though results in the same answer from an overwhelming majority of people who follows the sport of baseball – ‘Who is the greatest closer of all time?’ and the name that’ll come from their lips will be that of Mariano Rivera.

The kid who learned how to pitch using a milk carton as a glove in a sleepy fishing village in Panama came from very humble backgrounds to become the greatest at his position a sport had ever seen. When you earn the nickname ‘Hammer of God’ you must be doing something right and Mo certainly did something right. It wasn’t his greatness though that made me root so hard for him. He played the game with a smile on his face and the amount of times I ever saw him openly emotional count be counted on one hand. He knew that you can’t win them all and that at times you be suffer painful defeat but he took it all in his stride.

There was a strange sense of serenity watching him jog out to enter a game. ‘Mo will save us’ was the thought that every Yankee fan felt whilst the opposition fans – and players – used to think ‘oh (expletive)’. He pitched with just one main pitch – the cut fastball. Every opposition player knew what was coming and yet they still couldn’t hit it. It was one of the strangest things in sport – if you know what is coming next then you can adjust to it but with Mo you couldn’t. Life after Mariano will be interesting for any Yankees fan who has been privileged to watch him play.

However there is another part of history that needs to be said. When Mariano leaves the field of play for the last time at some point in 2013 the #42 will walk off the field for the last time outside of Jackie Robinson Day. In 1997 MLB retired the #42 to pay homage to Jackie Robinson who broke the colour barrier in 1947, which might just be the most significant moment in north American sport. Due to the Grandfather clause anyone who wore the #42 could continue to wear it until they retired. It is fitting that the last person to ever wear it will be a man who wasn’t just great but also a wonderful person and ambassador for the sport.

I will ensure I enjoy every moment of 2013 where Mariano is on my TV screen. It genuinely was a privilege to watch greatness and I’ll miss it like anything when he’s gone. I’m sure others will get a place in my heart in time but it has been many years since someone new got into my inner-love sports wise but I’m sure others will. For now though I’ll smile when I see #42 and enjoy what he has given me – smiles on my face and the sense that you can be great and yet be humble and all class – and that sums up the kid from a small fishing village in Panama rather well.

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Written by neilmonnery

March 7th, 2013 at 9:21 pm

Posted in American Sport

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Did you hear the one about the girlfriend who died of cancer but actually didn’t exist?

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One story has dominated the American sports industry over the past 24 hours and it is one of the most bizarre stories that I have ever come across. Deadspin yesterday published the following story Manti Te’o’s Dead Girlfriend, The Most Heartbreaking And Inspirational Story Of The College Football Season, Is A Hoax. The story details how the girlfriend of an American Football player never existed and when he announced to the world that she had died of cancer it was not accurate because…she didn’t exist.

The thing that has stunned the journalism industry isn’t what happened but more how was the story ever allowed to happen? How come no-one picked up on the fact that she didn’t exist? Didn’t anyone do some background research that would have shown up the fact this was a hoax? As many experienced journalists have said today you take people at their word on issues like these but you do background research, you attempt to speak to the girls parents, her friends, you do something to find out other facets of the story. The fact is no-one did this and the story of Te’o and the death of his girlfriend was allowed to manifest itself is something of a black mark on the whole industry.

This girlfriend who apparently died had no obituary ever written about her. Her funeral was published at being held in two different places – one of these places as a town in California that didn’t even exist. Yet no-one picked up on it. On December 26 Te’O went to his university and told them that the story was a hoax perpetrated on him by sick individuals. The truth according to the player was that he had developed an online relationship and had never met this girl.

His version of events are believable but he knew on December 26th that the story was untrue and yet before the National Championship Game ten days ago he was asked on many occasions about his girlfriend and he still didn’t come clean. He still spoke of her – and her death by cancer – freely and with raw emotion. It just doesn’t add up.

Then a few days ago Deadspin got a tip that the story was a hoax and within a few days they were able to join the dots and release the story linked to earlier, which is in itself a fine piece of journalism. The viewpoint of many of the sports journalists are that whilst they didn’t do their jobs properly they are also under immense pressure not only to be right but more importantly to be first in this 24/7 news cycle world that we live in. Being first brings kudos and brings followers on twitter, likes on Facebook and might, views on the internet, eyeballs on the TV and even the odd extra sale of a newspaper. Being right might not be the be all and end all any more and when everyone is wrong it doesn’t seem to matter as much.

Personally I love the longer, thoughtful piece. I was talking to a friend of mine Tony a few weeks ago about the ESPN show 30 for 30 and how we both really appreciated the proper sports documentary. You can tell the time that had gone into the documentary series and I really enjoyed it. A few weeks ago ITV4 showed a documentary on Jose Mourinho and I found that well worth an hour of my time.

Longer, more thoughtful pieces still have a home in my heart but do they still have a place in sports journalism in this day and age? This story makes me think its place in sports journalism is on the very edge and its not looking in, its drifting even further away and that makes me sad.

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Written by neilmonnery

January 17th, 2013 at 10:32 pm

Posted in American Sport,News

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They pre-empted a football game for an Obama talk on guns at a memorial service? Are they are reals?

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Damn straight they are buckos.

In case you were unaware we saw a genuine tragedy in the United States last week as a young men went mad in an elementary school killing 27 people including himself and it is 28 when you add that he killed his mother before reaching the school. 20 of those that died were young children.

This is a huge story and it has really made a dent in the psyche of the American citizen but when the tragedy impacts the number one football game of the week then it becomes too much.

Yes last night the networks all opted-out of regular scheduled programming to bring President Obama’s speech at the Newtown Memorial Service. The issue for many was that the speech was just after 8:30 EST and at that time there is the number one weekly sporting event on network TV – the NBC Sunday Night Football telecast. So a few minutes into the game the announcer Al Michaels said they were stepping away from the game to take the President’s speech and NBC opted out. The game did continue on their cable network NBC Sports.

However far too many people thought this wasn’t good enough and took to twitter to complain about the decision to opt-out of the NFL game. Deadspin takes up the story with the quoted titled story – “Take That Nigger Off The TV, We Wanna Watch Football!”: Idiots Respond To NBC Pre-Empting Sunday Night Football.

So many of the tweets are just insane. You have to wonder if these people have a brain in their heads. This is also the reason why I think the likelihood to gun law changes in the US is so unlikely even though to sane observers it seems like the obvious thing that needs to happen. I won’t quote them all but here are a handful of the tweets of anger that the President was talking when there was an NFL game on:

WOOW THEY TOOK OFF SUNDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL!! TO WATCH THIS NIGGER!! OBAMA TALK ABOUT THE SHOOTING NIGGA IDGAF! THE PATROITS PLAYING!!!

Obama can eat shit, trying to make a speech during the football game. Unacceptable

You have got to be fucking kidding me Obama, you stupid motherfucker. It’s football time in America not you to give a speech you fuck!

Obama instead of Football are they nuts? Who cares what the twerp has to say. #@whitehouse #POTUS #NBC

Yes the shooting is sad but Obama is ruining millions of kids lives daily & i want to watch some damn football, fuck you Obama

Just a quick reply to all of these tweets one on one. Someone doesn’t give a fuck about the shooting because the ‘PATROITS’ are playing. Classy and he can’t even spell Patriots. Yeah unacceptable that the President is making a speech during an NFL game. If someone nuked American soil on a Sunday night should the President wait to tell the nation they are at war until after the NFL? Football over lives is a stupid position to take. Lots of people care very deeply about what the President has to say and lastly if you want to watch some damn football then just change the freaking channel dumbass. I have noticed several of the people quoted in that piece have deleted their twitter accounts.

I’m cynical on whether the President has the guts to take on the gun lobby. I hope he does. I really hope he does. He is a second term President and therefore has a bit more freedom but taking on the gun lobby is a different kettle of fish. A friend of mine said last night that the biggest issue isn’t even the NRA but those anarchists who think that they need an easy supply of guns in case they ever need to overthrow the government. Just how scary is that?

Personally the fact no-one even hinted at any gun discussion after the Virginia Tech massacre appals me but it seems that when the people slain are of elementary age people care far more than they do when those gunned down are of university age.

Writing just a couple of weeks ago I wrote Bob Costas uses his Prime Time TV audience to talk gun control laws after NFL murder-suicide. It is something that America as a nation has to look at if they want to stop so many senseless deaths. After 9/11 so many laws were changed after 3,000 people died but nearly one third of a million people have died as a direct result of gun related crime this century in the United States and yet nothing has happened nor even been discussed.

When that poor girl asked Will McAvoy at Northwestern University, ‘what makes America the greatest country in the world?’ the answer certainly had nothing to do their views on guns. Guns alone may not kill people but if people have a free and easy access to a gun then they’ll be more likely to use it to harm another. Gun control is what Americans deserve because they deserve the feeling of being safe but when people say that this episode shows that teachers should in fact be armed it says a lot about how deep the gun culture is in the USA and that is the battle the anti-gun brigade face.

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Written by neilmonnery

December 17th, 2012 at 1:19 pm

Posted in American Sport,News,Politics

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