Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Happy Valley No More

Disclaimer: Kids under the age of 10 –don’t read this next sentence. Remember when you found out that Santa wasn’t real? Remember how you felt let down, disappointed and disillusioned? That’s how I felt again when the Penn State scandal broke. 

I grew up worshipping at the altar of Joe Paterno. I’m from Massachusetts and we didn’t have a big-time college football team (Boston College does not count), but my dad grew up outside of Philadelphia and adopted Penn State as his team, and therefore mine. In the 1990s, my “formative years,” Penn State was a powerhouse, including their Big Ten Championship in 1994, when they also should have been National Champs (that’s right Nebraska fans, I said it). I loved all things Penn State football and wore my Nittany Lion pride on my chest – literally; I was the only kid in Boston who wore a Penn State Starter jacket.

In the last 10 years, Joe has definitely not been at his best on the sidelines, and I think turned into more of a figurehead than an actual head coach. But just two weeks after becoming the winningest college football coach of all time, he had a Homer-esque fall, with the Jerry Sandusky child abuse scandal coming to light. For those of you who never heard of Sandusky, before his retirement 12 years ago, he was one of college football's well-known and well-respected assistant coaches; a defensive genius who helped Penn State become “Linebacker U.” 

I won’t remark on the Sandusky charges themselves, except to say that they are just about the worst charges that can be made about someone. When those kinds of allegations are brought public, people want to see swift, harsh justice, so when it came out that Joe Pa may have known that something happened… well, it was inevitable that something had to be done.

I think all Penn State fans are feeling what I am – personally offended that a man we revered could have known about something so heinous and, basically, swept it under the rug to protect one of his “boys.” We all know the jock-loyalty mentality and it seems like that is the catalyst for Joe Pa’s undoing. We all wonder why Joe didn’t go further with his information; there are those supporting and defending his actions, saying he did his part – but I ask you, wouldn’t you have done more? If you heard of such allegations, wouldn’t you have done everything you could to ensure justice was done? For as much as he did, he might as well have slipped a note under the dean’s door. 

In the wake of this scandal, there are a few things we all need to remember, because in this great nation of ours, people tend to be quick to judgment. 

First, we must remember that these horrid allegations are just that – allegations. They are not (yet) known to be factual. Despite how horrific the accusations, even Jerry Sandusky is innocent until proven guilty. 

That being said, don’t forget about the children who are the real victims in all of this. In all of the controversy over Joe Pa should have been fired or not, a lot of people are forgetting about children who were allegedly taken advantage of a hurt. Joe Pa is not the victim here, the children are. Think of them.

Before two weeks ago, Joe Paterno was known as the legendary 84-year-old Penn State football coach, the winningest college football coach of all time, and an honorable and virtuous man. His program annually graduated more football players than any other public school, and was known for sportsmanship. But now, that reputation is tarnished and Penn State football will likely never be the same. 

Sadly, Penn State is Happy Valley no more.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Hunger Games trailer

I can't express how much I loved the Hunger Games trilogy - I read all three books in less than three weeks, I couldn't put one down once I started it. The movie looks like it's going to be pretty good

March 23, 2012 can't come soon enough

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Greatest Halloween Costume of All Time

I just saw the greatest Halloween costume of all time on Grantland

Join the President’s Challenge

In June, I joined “The President’s Challenge” with some of my co-workers, in an effort to keep myself active. The President’s Challenge is a program through the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition that encourages all Americans to make being active part of their everyday lives.

I work out every day, so why not keep track? I started inputting my workouts – you select what you’ve done each day from a list of “approved” activities, input the length of time you did it and the level (ie light, moderate, vigorous) and you get awarded a number of points based on that. As my numbers went up and I saw the number value associated with different workouts, I started trying to increase my daily points. I started wearing a pedometer and keeping track of the amount of activities I did that I normally wouldn’t consider “working out” but are President’s Challenge Activities, like household chores, gardening and playing with my two-year-old – which falls under “children’s games.” As begun adding in those activities, my daily points skyrocketed and on July, I got my first Presidential Champion Award – the “Active Lifestyle Award” for being active at least 30 minutes a day, five days a week for six straight weeks.

After that, I changed my goal to “Presidential Champions,” which is aimed at adults or kids who are already physically active and is all about pushing yourself to be even more active. It’s a great program for those who already exercise regularly or as a next step for beginners who complete the Presidential Active Lifestyle Award challenge. You points carry over from PALA and on Aug. 8, I received the “Bronze Award” for accumulating 40,000 points, and on Oct. 24, I earned my Silver Award for 90,000 points. I am now 58.1 percent of the way to a Gold Award, which I will receive if and when I accumulate 160,000 points.

Now, I know it might seem a little silly to some that I hung these awards in my office – the actual bronze and silver medals, a la the Olympics. But you know what? I’m proud of myself – I really do work out at least five days a week, mostly at the gym here at Hunter, and I don’t make excuses for not going to the gym. In this past year, I’ve made working out a priority in my life and I feel great about that. I’ve lost 15-20 pounds, I’ve put on muscle and in general, I just feel a lot better about myself. I used to work out every day, but once I got married and had a child, working out just seemed to fall by the wayside. After I put on a lot of weight when I was pregnant and didn’t lose much right after, I had a really tough time looking in the mirror and feeling good about myself. I became insecure, which is something I’d always prided myself on not being. I had an infant, worked a lot, had a 2 hour round-trip commute to work … and I used those as excuses for not going to the gym. Was I busy? Absolutely; but I also wasn’t taking the time to work on me and I was using every excuse I had to not workout. I truly believe in the power of working out and, in retrospect, I think that not working out made me somewhat depressed (due to lack of those amazing endorphins), which made me not want to work out … and it became a vicious cycle.

Once I started working at Hunter last Thanksgiving, which is less than 10 miles from my house, I took the opportunity to get back to the active lifestyle I’d had in my “previous life.” The President’s Challenge is a great way for me – and everyone – to continue to be active, and gives me a goal to strive for. Many people, myself included, need motivation on those days where we just don’t feel like working out – we are tired, or it’s raining or our back hurts. For me, the President’s Challenge gives me some motivation – I know which activities give me the most points, and I try to get as many point in my allotted “workout time” as I can. I input my points each day, and I hate having days where I don’t have exercise to record. Basically, the President’s Challenge is the accountability I need.

No matter what your activity and fitness level, the President's Challenge can help motivate you to improve. Start earning Presidential awards for your daily physical activity and fitness efforts, go to

Playing football at the top of the world

I have a secret – I cry when I watch TV. Whether it’s a movie, a one-hour drama or a story on the news, I get easily choked up when I watch TV,and nothing – nothing – chokes me up more than sports. But let me clarify – it’s not the games themselves; it’s those sports features on ESPN or CBS sports, like the ESPN “Make a Wish” series or “Outside the Lines.”

Last week, after watching the most recent “Outside the Lines” on the Joplin High School Eagles, which of course made me cry, I felt the urge to look up and re-watch an episode from a few years back that I still think about occasionally: the story of the high school football team in Barrow, Alaska.

Now, if you aren’t familiar with Barrow, let me give you a little overview: Barrow, population around 4,500, is the northernmost town in the United States, 330 miles north of the Arctic Circle. The population is about 60 percent Inupiat Eskimo, who apparently don’t mind the cold, because temperatures remain below freezing from early October through late May and the high daily temperature is above freezing on average only about 110 days a year. In the winter, the residents of Barrow go 67 days a year without sunlight, and beginning around May 10, the sun doesn’t set in Barrow for about 12 weeks – talk about “polar” opposites (get it?). Oh, and the roads in Barrow? They are unpaved and go nowhere – there are no roads into or out of Barrow; you have to take a plane or boat to get there.

Yet, on Aug. 19, 2006, in the midst of seasonal snow flurries, the Barrow High School Whalers played the first official football game in the Arctic. They lost, as they did the following game; but in their third game they recorded their first win – and celebrated by jumping into the Arctic Ocean, just 100 yards from their dirt and gravel field. Do you even have to ask if I had tears in my eyes as these boys jumped into the freezing ocean in their “Whalers” uniforms?

The beginning of this team was chronicled by ESPN. There was a lot of controversy surrounding the formation of this team – many in the town felt it was a waste of money. Fielding the team cost nearly $200,000, mainly for travel; in order to get any opponents, the school agreed to fly all opposing teams into town – add in ground transportation, meals and a place to sleep, and that added up to about $20,000 for each home game. And you can imagine the cost of the Whalers’ three game, 3,682-mile, six-day road trip. Amongst shrinking budgets and teacher shortages, parents, teachers and community leaders don’t see spending their extra money on a team for kids who never played football before. 

But in this town, which had grown exponentially since oil was discovered in the 1960s, was seeing disenchanted teenagers, chronic substance abuse problems and an escalating dropout rate – in 2005, 50 percent of the students didn’t graduate, and all of those were Inupiat. Football, they believed, could keep kids out of trouble, teach principles like discipline and teamwork, bring the community together and help the town reconnect with its values-rich past.

As a large supporter of sports, these detractors get to me. I see their point, that perhaps the money could have been filtered elsewhere, but I think they aren’t seeing the bigger picture – sports make teenagers feel better about themselves and have been proven to be a positive influence. 

The controversy began, but the team remained. 

During the opening game of the 2007 season, the Whalers football played their first game of the season on their new, “Boise State blue” artificial turf – the brainchild of Florida mother, who had never been to Alaska. After watching the “OTL” feature, Cathy Parker was moved by the Barrow superintendent's desire to encourage young men through football and upset by the detractors. This wife of a former NFLer spent the next year of her life dedicated to helping the Whalers and she raised more than $800,000 to bring an artificial a football field to the Arctic. 

Bring on the waterworks!

In 2011, in their fifth season, the Whalers finished 6-1, second place in their conference, and made the playoffs – which they have in three-straight years. Once a “political” football team, the head coach says the team is now just what it is supposed to be – a team that helps build boys into men, gives them character and, simply, something to do. They lost in their playoff game this year but, in the scheme of things, does it really matter? All I know is that, when I started looking up this team now, I smiled – and might have teared up a little.