Friday, September 5, 2014

In non-football-related decision, Bengals make move that could help save a little girl's life

Is it allergy season? Did I get dust in my eye? That must be it. I'm reading about the Cincinnati Bengals signing DT Devon Still to the practice squad and my eyes are getting all watery.

Making the practice squad as a three-year veteran normally wouldn't be cause for celebration. But for Still, it could drastically affect his—and his daughter’s—life.

You see, in June, Still's 4-year-old daughter, Leah, was diagnosed with Stage 4 pediatric cancer. Since her diagnosis, Still understandably hasn't been able to concentrate on football as he did before. So when the 25 year old failed to make the Bengals 53-man roster, Still — who drafted him 53rd overall out of Penn State in the 2012 draft — said he wasn't surprised.

Cincinnati DT Devon Still and his 4-year-old daughter Leah, who is battling Stage 4 pediatric cancer.
Photo courtesy of Man_of_Still75 via Instagram
“I completely understand where they were coming from,” Still said of getting cut. “I can’t give football 100 percent right now. In the business aspect they want guys to solely focus on football, which is understandable. We are here to win this city a Super Bowl and right now I am not in a position where I can give football 100 percent of everything I have.”

Then, with what can only be described as a completely-non-football-related decision, coach Marvin Lewis called Still and offered him a spot on the team's practice squad. The move means the Bengals will pay Still $6,300 a week and, more importantly, provide medical insurance to him and his daughter, who completed her fourth round of chemotherapy last week.

The practice squad in Cincinnati, Lewis also pointed out to Still, is the perfect opportunity for the team to help Still, because he’ll continue to make more than $100,000 if he stays there all year, and he’ll maintain his health insurance at a critical time. It also means he won’t travel on road trips, so he’ll have the opportunity to spend more time in Delaware with his family and travel with them to Philadelphia as Leah continues chemo.

So while Still was disappointed not to make the roster, he said it feels like a blessing in disguise.

“They could have just washed their hands completely of it,” he said. “Say [sic] 'we don’t care what’s going on in his personal life, we just want people who can care 100 percent on football,' that’s what they pay us to do. But they thought about my personal issues and allowed me to come back on the practice squad so I still have insurance."

Stories like this make me love sports even more; the camaraderie, the brotherhood and the bond between players and teams. 

You might be saying, "of course they did that." But trust me when I say this doesn't happen everywhere — a coworker of mine recently told me that her husband’s company let go of an under-performing 60-year-old employee. When he called to say he was scheduled to get a pace maker in the next month, and would they please keep him on the insurance at least until that was complete, they said “no.” Sadly, he passed away from a heart attack shortly thereafter.

It would have been easy for the Bengals to completely cut ties with an under-performing second-round draft pick who wasn't putting his whole heart and soul into football; but it also would have been wrong. Still now has a loyalty to the team that drafted him and kept him in his time of greatest need, allowing him not only the insurance to pay for his daughter’s treatments, but the ability to be there for her as she goes through them. He said he hopes to repay them soon by living up to the expectations they had when they drafted him in the second round.

“Loyalty is something I really need right now because I never know what direction this is going to go with my daughter,” he said.

This is a reminder that there are a lot of great people in the world. Cheers to the Cincinnati Bengals, and prayers for Leah – stay strong little girl, you've got millions of people praying and rooting for you.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Accept the #IceBucketChallenge and don’t be such a cynic

I’ll admit I was skeptical at first; a few weeks ago when my former high school classmates started taking the #ALSIceBucketChallenge and posting the videos on Facebook I thought, “how does this help ALS?” I was being cynical, assuming most people were doing the challenge and posting it on social media because it was “cool” (no pun intended) but weren't actually donating.

I was quickly proven wrong, and gladly admit it. The craze spread - from the North Shore of Massachusetts to Hollywood and beyond. Because of a bunch of people dumping buckets of ice water on their heads,The ALS Association has received $15.6 million in donations as of Monday, August 18, compared to $1.8 million during the same time period last year (July 29 to August 18). These donations have come from existing donors and 307,598 new donors to The Association.

Unfortunately, there are still those who are cynical. There is debate over the actual “rules” of the challenge, but the quick rundown—for those of you living in a box—is that someone challenges you to dump a bucket of ice water over your head and you have 24 hours to accept or donate $100 to ALS. Some are going by the rules that, if you accept, you donate at least $10, dump the ice water over your head, and challenge three friends. But there are many accepting the challenge and pouring ice water over their head in lieu of a donation, which has let some to call the challenge “slacktivism.”

But before the Ice Bucket Challenge went viral, when is the last time you heard about ALS? Or read about it? When was the last time ALS was at the forefront of our culture? The answer is July 4, 1939, when Lou Gehrig gave his famous “Luckiest Man on the Face of the Earth” speech. After this, ALS was dubbed “Lou Gehrig's Disease.” But, sadly, very little has changed since 1939— there is still no cure for ALS so the prognosis is still 100% fatal.

If you don’t know anyone with ALS, it is an awful, awful disease. About 5,600 people are diagnosed with ALS each year in the United States. On average, it is diagnosed between the ages of 40-70, and the life expectancy for someone once diagnosed is 2-5 years. So when former Boston College baseball captain Pete Frates was diagnosed at 27 years old, he was told he would live to 32 if he was “lucky.” But during those years, he would lose the ability to walk, talk, breathe on his own and, eventually, move anything except his eyes.

But, despite the large amount of money raised, the challenge still has many skeptics, like Vice’s Arielle Pardes who wrote, “It’s like a game of Would-You-Rather involving the entire internet where, appallingly, most Americans would rather dump ice water on their head than donate to charity. There are a lot of things wrong with the Ice Bucket Challenge, but most the annoying is that it’s basically narcissism masked as altruism.” (You can read her whole column here: Dumping a Bucket of Ice on Your Head Does Not Make You a Philanthropist).

You know what I say to Parades? What a sad outlook you have. I'm sorry this challenge to support our friends and loved ones with ALS, a disease without a cure, is annoying you. More than a million people have posted #IceBucketChallenge videos, resulting in millions of dollars donated to ALS research, and you have to find the bad in it. Maybe the challenge itself is “silly” or is a stunt, mere “slactivism,” or just about showing off on social media… but who cares why some people do it? Money is being raised for a worthy cause, and people are talking about ALS! Whether you know Pete Frates or someone else with ALS, this challenge is about bringing the disease to the forefront and getting the research dollars it needs to end its fatal diagnosis. I don’t care that Kylie Jenner or Justin Bieber probably have no idea what ALS is – dumping a bucket of cold water over their heads (which, admit it, you would have liked to do for them) means something to those who have ever had a loved one with ALS. And, hopefully, all of these celebrities are donating money to ALS after they complete the challenge.

What the ice bucket challenge has done, in addition to raising more that $15 million so far, is to make people aware of this awful disease that doesn't get enough attention or enough research dollars. What started in Frates’ hometown of Beverly, Mass., has spread to the world – Oprah Winfrey, Steven Spielberg, Jennifer Lopez, Cristiano Ronaldo, the Boston Red Sox, New England Patriots, New York Jets, Jimmy Fallon, LeBron James and Justin Timberlake are just a few of the hundreds of thousands who have “accepted the ice bucket challenge.” In a billionaire triumverate, Mark Zuckerberg challenged Bill Gates, who accepted and challenged Elon Musk, who accepted … and it goes on and on.

Personally, I accepted the #ALSIceBucketChallenge on August 8, and donated through My five-year-old accepted a challenge from her uncle and money was donated in her name.

Yes, dumping a bucket of ice water of your head is silly. But what it stands for is anything but. So accept the challenge and donate — as much or as little as you want — at, or your ALS charity of choice.

You have 24 hours!

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Rice’s slap on the wrist is a slap in the face of all women

In 2006, under then new-NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, Albert Haynesworth was suspended for five games for stomping on the head of Dallas Cowboys center Andre Gurode during a game.

In 2013, Brandon Meriweather was suspended for two games for “repeated violation of the NFL’s helmet-to-helmet policy.”

In 2014, Ray Rice was suspended for two games for knocking his then-fiancé unconscious in an Atlantic City casino elevator.

Does this not add up to anyone else? Let me get this straight: Rice was given the same punishment for knocking a woman unconscious on video as Meriweather was for tackling violations? And received a lesser suspension than Haynesworth, who’s violation was against another man and during a game when the man had protective gear on? Haynesworth’s suspension, at the time the longest ever for an on-field incident, was appropriate; Rice’s suspension is shockingly and disgustingly light. I am outraged, irate, infuriated… there aren't enough words for my level of disgust at Ray Rice, the NFL and those supporting this wife beater.

We have all seen the video of the Ravens running back carrying Janay Palmer’s lifeless body out of the elevator and laying her carelessly on the floor. Ever the gentlemen, he makes sure to pull her feet out of the way so the doors could close. It wasn't made public, but Atlantic City Police have said they have video of Rice actually punching Palmer unconscious. Think about that for a moment — Rice took his fist and hit his fiancé, who he supposedly loves, in the head so hard that she was out cold. But of course that doesn't render the same punishment as Haynesworth using his foot to hit another man who was wearing protective equipment.

What might even make the light suspension worse is that it was handed down by Roger Goodell, the man who is supposedly “cleaning up the NFL.” Apparently cleaning up the NFL doesn't refer to those who abuse women, only those who smoke pot, take performance enhancing drugs or hit other men too hard during games.

The first time I saw the video I gasped in horror. Rice's attorney described the incident as a "minor physical altercation." I’d like anyone to look at the video of Rice dragging Palmer’s limp body out of an elevator and tell me there was anything “minor” about it. That any lawyer would dare to use such a word—minor— to describe what Rice did to Palmer is utterly degrading to all women.

Adding insult to injury, the Baltimore Ravens released a statement a few days after the video went public, in which Coach Jim Harbaugh said, "The two people obviously have a couple issues that they have to work through, and they're both committed to doing that....They understand their own issues. They're getting a lot of counseling and those kinds of things, so I think that's really positive."

Wow. Bad grammar aside, are you $a*!@#(%&;@#! kidding me?! This isn't “a couple [of] issues,” it is violent abuse that is indicative of the man Ray Rice truly is. Do we think this is the first (or last) time he has done this? Statistics tell us that it is likely not: Most female victims of intimate partner violence were previously victimized by the same offender, including 77% of females ages 18-24, 76% of females ages 25-34, and 81% of females ages 35-49. Palmer standing by his side, and even marrying him, after the incident does nothing to change what happened. Sadly, many women stay with the men who abuse them, either because they confuse abuse with love, they believe he “won’t do it again,” or because they are scared to leave because they fear for their safety or they are afraid to be alone.

As a female football fan, I’m insulted and disgusted that Rice was given such little punishment for his violent crime. I’m offended and sad that his lawyer would call the exchange “minor” and I’m further offended that the Baltimore Ravens organization, players and some fans are standing up for this wife beater – because that is exactly what Ray Rice is.

Despite saying he was “taking responsibility for his actions, Rice rejected a plea offer that would have spared the running back jail time in exchange for completing probation and undergoing anger management. Instead, he pleaded not guilty—not guilty to something that is on camera. In a move that says far too much about our society, Rice was accepted into a program for first-time offenders that will clear him of charges in as few as six months if he stays out of trouble and attends regular counseling.

I am sad that the only consequence for Rice knocking a woman out cold is a two-game suspension. No jail time, no probation, not even a fine. I am sad for Janay Palmer, even if she isn't sad for herself. I'm sad that, yet again, violence against women goes underpunished. I'm sad that a man was let "off the hook" because he can run with a ball. And I'm sad that talent and money outweighs violence.

I hope no one cheers for Ray Rice in his first game back; I hope the Baltimore fans turn their backs when he is announced; I hope they boo him when he gets handed the ball. But, sadly, history tells us that if Rice does well on the field, all will be forgotten and forgiven. In fact, this week it was reported that "Rice gets warm reception from fans at practice." Applauding a guy that is so tough he knocks out his girlfriend in an elevator where she had no where to run. They should be ashamed of themselves

I, for one, will not forget. I hope others do the same.

No Rice.
Domestic Violence Statistics*
  • On average, 24 people per minute are victims of rape, physical violence or stalking by an intimate partner in the United States — more than 12 million women and men over the course of a year.[i]
  • Nearly 3 in 10 women (29%) and 1 in 10 men (10%) in the US have experienced rape, physical violence and/or stalking by a partner and report a related impact on their functioning.[ii]
  • Nearly, 15% of women (14.8%) and 4% of men have been injured as a result of IPV that included rape, physical violence and/or stalking by an intimate partner in their lifetime.[iii]
  • 1 in 4 women (24.3%) and 1 in 7 men (13.8%) aged 18 and older in the United States have been the victim of severe physical violence by an intimate partner in their lifetime.[iv]
  • IPV alone affects more than 12 million people each year.[v]
  • More than 1 in 3 women (35.6%) and more than 1 in 4 men (28.5%) in the United States have experienced rape, physical violence and/or stalking by an intimate partner in their lifetime.[vi]
  • Nearly half of all women and men in the United States have experienced psychological aggression by an intimate partner in their lifetime (48.4% and 48.8%, respectively).[vii]
  • Females ages 18 to 24 and 25 to 34 generally experienced the highest rates of intimate partner violence.[viii]
  • From 1994 to 2010, about 4 in 5 victims of intimate partner violence were female.[ix]
  • Most female victims of intimate partner violence were previously victimized by the same offender, including 77% of females ages 18 to 24, 76% of females ages 25 to 34, and 81% of females ages 35 to 49.[x]
*Courtesy of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) of the Department of Justice (DOJ), both government agencies.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

LeBron's inevitable homecoming

LeBron to Cleveland?!
Friday afternoon as I drove from Atlanta to Savannah to enjoy a slow, lazy and, of course, spirit-filled weekend (it's Savannah, after all), we heard BREAKING NEWS: LeBron James is returning home!

Well color me surprised! Just kidding, I'm not. Had LeBron chosen to stay in Miami I would have been shocked, because I believe that ending up back in Cleveland was always LeBron's plan. LeBron was forced to leave Cleveland in the first place because they didn't fully realize his worth and wouldn't build a championship team around him.

After the 2014 Finals,
who didn't see this coming?
LeBron always wanted to end up back in Cleveland. But he needed to leave in order to gain the power and sway to get what he needed to bring a championship to his hometown team. He could only get that power by leaving and doing it elsewhere. He had to make a point to Dan Gilbert: even though he loves his hometown, if they weren't going to surround him with talent to win a championship, he was going to find somewhere that would. He did that in Miami—with two championships and back-to-back MVP awards (bringing his total to four, just one behind MJ). Before, Gilbert seemed to think either LeBron could do it on his own with minimal surrounding talent, or that LeBron loved home so much that he would just accept Gilbert’s refusal to spend the money necessary to bring the right players to Cleveland. Now that Gilbert has seen what a LeBron-less Cavs team looks like, and that his superstar won’t sit back and just take it, his wallet is flying open.

But there’s another reason LeBron left Cleveland. It’s because a superstar of his caliber can't be in a town like Cleveland forever. It’s not like Jeter with the Yankees or Kobe with the Lakers – he couldn't stay with one team his whole career because his team was in Cleveland, not New York or LA; he had to get out and live somewhere a superstar lives for a few years to become “LEBRON JAMES.” Miami gave him the prestige, the “it factor,” to go along with his name. He lived it up for four years, and now he’s ready to settle down back home. LeBron got everything he wanted out of his time in Miami – two rings, the superstar lifestyle and the pull necessary to make this move back to Cleveland, where they will now do whatever he wants.

The old sweatshirt that was the
2014 Final's Miami Heat
LeBron's exit from Miami became was clear to me, and anyone else watching, during this year’s Finals. The Heat had become LeBron's favorite old sweatshirt — warm and cozy but, in reality, all worn out and he knew it was time to get rid of it. The magic was gone and would not return. The past four years with LeBron, Wade and Bosh were truly special, but by this year’s Finals they were running on fumes. I knew LeBron was gone because you could read the frustration on his face; he had gotten what he wanted out of his time in Miami and he was done.

There was no “Decision” this time. In fact, I don’t think there was much of a decision for LeBron to even make; his return to Cleveland was inevitable and inescapable. When a superstar like LeBron James keeps a home in AKRON, there is a reason: because it is home and that’s where—excuse the pun—his heart is.

Now that Cleveland lost LeBron once, they are going to do everything in their power to make him happy. What makes LeBron happy? Championships to add to his legacy. Cleveland has a better foundation upon which LeBron can build numerous more championships, with young talent like Kyrie Irving, Anthony Bennett and Andrew Wiggins. They also have the cap room with which to bring in key role players, and LeBron is someone people will take a pay cut to play alongside.

Every NBA player over age 30.
Now LeBron looks to cement his legacy as one of the greatest of all time by bringing Cleveland, his hometown, its first title in any sport in 50 years. I don’t think there is anyone who doubts he will do it. This was his plan all along.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Not your mama's Brazil: The aftermath of Germany's rout

It was a beating of epic proportions; a smack down, a throttling, a whipping, a trouncing. No matter what you call it, Germany’s 7-1 win over Brazil in the 2014 World Cup semifinals was stunning—stunningly good for the Germans and, almost more noteworthy, stunningly bad for the Brazilians. Brazil was at home, where no one expected them to lose; but they were also at home, with more pressure than has probably ever been on one team.

You see, Brazil is a soccer (or fotebol) nation and they expect to always win—especially at home. But tragedy struck the team in the quarterfinals when superstar forward Neymar was hit from behind and fractured a vertebra, rendering him unable to play the rest of the tournament. The team was in shock that their star was out; in fact, it is reported that the team was so "stressed" about losing him that they had a sports psychologist come speak with them.

Apparently it didn't work.

The Brazil that showed up, also down central defender Thiago Silva who was out on the accumulation of yellow cards (which is a whole other issue we can discuss another time), looked more like a mediocre college team than a world-class national team with five World Cup trophies. They were sloppy, slow and uninspired. Instead of rallying around the loss of their superstar, they imploded.

All things said, this 2014 Brazil team was far from their best. They didn't play o jogo bonito, or fotebol arte, that we've become accustomed to seeing from them. There was little beauty in their recent games; there were no Brazilian playmakers gracefully dancing and weaving around the competition and they had the most fouls of any team in the tournament through the quarterfinals. The result (winning), not the style, was all that mattered. For a nation and a national team that prides itself on beautiful, flowing and exciting soccer, this was not the team of their dreams.

The news has all been about how bad Brazil was; but one of the reasons they were so bad was their opponent played nearly flawless soccer. The Germans played a masterful game and even a healthy Neymar couldn't have stopped their relentless perfection. They created opportunities and took advantage of every opportunity given by Brazil (and there were many). The Germans score five goals in the first half — in just 18 minutes. They were fluid, aggressive and physical. The result was perhaps the most complete, and certainly the most dominant, game in World Cup history.

I, along with most of the world, always forgets how good Germany is; how good they've always been. This was the fourth World Cup semifinal they've made in a row and the second final in the last four, with this game their redemption to losing to Brazil in the 2002 finals—the only other time these two teams have met. In 18 World Cups, they have finished in the top four 13 times (including this year's yet-to-be-determined final result); they won it all in 1954, 1974 and 1990, they've been runners-up four times (1966, 1982, 1986, 2002), come in third four times (1934, 1970, 2006, 2010) and fourth once (1958). Impressive to say the least. Their striker, 24-year-old Thomas Mueller is playing in his second World Cup with 10 goals in 12 games, making him just the second player to score five goals in consecutive World Cup tournaments. The other? Mueller's teammate Miroslav Klose, who did it in 2002 and 2006.

Germany is a national team that historically, and currently, is a force to be reckoned with. If you  want to read about how and why the German national team is so good, I highly suggest you read this article: How Germany's 14-Year Plan Destroyed Brazil, it's fascinating.

In the aftermath of the bloodbath in Belo Horizonte, we expected objects thrown onto the field and riots to break out across Brazil as fans openly and unapologetically wept in the stands. But then something beautiful happened: at the conclusion of the game, the Brazilian fans stood and applauded the German side that had just embarrassed their team (and some would say their nation). The show of sportsmanship was unexpected and inspiring; it reminded us that this game, this beautiful game, is more important than any result. And though national pride is at stake, the love of the game itself is the final outcome.

Monday, July 7, 2014

World Cup Semis ... from a female perspective

And then there were four; four teams and four World Cup semifinalists worthy of our admiration. We said "Au revoir" to Olivier Giroud of France and Nacer Chadli of Belgium, and "Adios" to Yeltsin Tejada of Costa Rica and James (Hi-mez) of Colombia. But those four who remain... well, let's just say I don't expect these semi final games to disappoint.

Game 1


Germany vs. Brazil
Tuesday July 8 
4 p.m.

Representing Germany, we have Mats Hummels!
Mats Hummels, Germany

After somehow missing Mats in the first round, he has made a strong comeback. The 6'4" central defender scored a beautiful header in the quarterfinals against France. Much like in WWII, the Germans out-muscled the French, in no small part to Hummels (too soon?).

Representing Brazil, we have Oscar (Oscar dos Santos Emboaba Júnior), the Chelsea attacking midfielder.
Oscar, Brazil

With the unfortunatel and devastating injury to Brazil's superstar Neymar, the hopes of the host nation lies squarely on the young shoulders of 22-year-old Oscar. With only one goal in the tournament and the expectation of 200 million Brazilians, I expect Oscar to step up to the role, but his for team to still have a difficult time against the much bigger and stronger German side.

Result: Losing Naymar is a killer for Brazil, and the squad hasn't even looked at good to begin with. The Germans are in their fourth-straight World Cup semi final and I expect them to push Brazil around physically in a way they aren't used to and won't react well to. Look for Die Mannschaft to head to their sixth World Cup final.

Game 2

The Netherlands
    The Netherlands vs. Argentina
Wednesday, July 9

 4 p.m. 

For The Netherlands, we have their captain, Robin van Persie. This Dutch team isn't the Oranje of yore - it is the trickery of coach Louis van Gaal that has gotten them further in this tournament than anyone expected.

Robin van Persie, The Netherlands
The Dutch were clearly the stronger team in their quarterfinal match against Costa Rica, but their inability to score, primarily van Persie's multiple misses, are troubling. But if the Flying Dutchman - a moniker he earned after his diving header against Spain in the opening game of the World Cup - can get back to his form of the first two games of the tournament, Lionel Messi and his squad will have their hands full trying to reach the final.

Ezequiel Lavezzi, Argentina
Representing the other South American semi finalist nation, we have Ezequiel Lavezzi of Argentina. As Sergio Aguero's replacement in the last two games, Lavezzi, has done a fair job of supporting fellow attackers Gonzalo Higuain and superstar Lionel Messi. However, with Aguero being declared fit to play in the semifinal match, it is unclear if Lavezzi will have a starting role. He has played well enough, but is not the proven goalscorer that Aguero is - something the Argentinian squad will desperately need against Robin van Persie, Arjen Robben and the rest of the hungry Dutch squad.

Result: Without Messi, this Argentinian squad wouldn't have even made the quarterfinals. But the Dutch weren't supposed to be here, either. But with Angel DiMaria's thigh tear, Argentina's second best player and Messi's right-hand man is out, which spells disaster for the South Americans. If the Oranje can score like they did in the first round (which requires van Persie to return to form after a slight hamstring injury in practive before the quarters), then I don't see the injury-riddled La Albiceleste (The White and Sky Blue) matching them on the scoreboard, and the Dutch heading to their second-straight World Cup final.

If all goes according to my predictions, we'll have a German-Dutch World Cup final at Estádio Maracanã, in Rio de Janeiro.

The Netherlands

Will this be our World Cup Final?
Check it out:
Sunday, July 13,
3 p.m on ABC

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

World Cup Quarterfinals - which of our favorites are left?

And then there were three. Well, there are eight teams left, but only three of our "favorite" players from the original list remain. As a reminder:

Nacer Chadli, Belgium
Those abs... and arms... and face...and hair... and...

Robin Van Persie, The Netherlands
In all his chiseled glory.

Olivier Giroud, France
Handsome doesn't being to describe him... but the cheating scandal does hurt his hotness factor to a slight degree.

But only three just won't do. Thus, I've decided to add a player from each of the remaining teams, and I think we have some hotties that very well should have been on the initial list. So, here we are:

Mats Hummels, Germany

Are. You. Kidding. Me. HOW did I miss Mats Hummels on the first go-around? Germany's 25-year-old central defender is currently signed to Borussia Dortmund, but there are reports that Manchester United have bid on this schöne menschen (clearly it's true)... actually, they've reportedly bid on him the last three transfer windows, but the German club is holding on tight to this one. Can you blame them? *swoon*

Oh, he scored a goal against Portugal in this World Cup. 

Relationship status: NOT MARRIED! But his girlfriend was named Bundesliga's 2013 WAG of the Year

Yeltsin Tejeda, Costa Rica

Yeltsin Antonio Tejeda Valverde. An unfortunate first name (his mother was allegedly a big fan of the first president of the Russian Federation - true story) but man... he sure makes up for it. This picture says it all. Though, from other pictures, it seems like he suffers from pretty acute RBF. Look it up.

A hidden gem, this one, who plays professionally in Costa Rica for Saprissa. This 22-year-old midfielder is wanted by Premier League Clubs, including Everton and Fulham, and reportedly turned down offers from Belgian and MLS clubs to pursue playing in England or Spain.

Relationship status: Appears to be single. With leaving Costa Rica in the near future for millions upon millions in England or Spain... that's smart of him.

James, Columbia 

This was an easy one. Yes,  James David Rodriguez Rubio (known simply as James - I love the South American one-named soccer players) looks young (he's just 22), but he is easily considered the best young forward in the world. Through four games, he has scored five - yes five - goals in the World Cup. His first World Cup. It's amazing. And I'm sorry, but if LeBron James is giving you a shout out? Killer. 

In 2013, James signed with AS Monaco (from Porto) for a transfer fee of €45 million - the second-most expensive transfer in Portuguese football history, and the 10th most expensive transfer ever.

Relationship Status: Married to the sister of the Colombian starting goalkeeper. Another married 22 year old, are you kidding me? Geesh.

Oscar, Brazil

Most lists are taking the easy way out and naming Naymar. But... no. No, no, no. I will make the less popular, but more correct choice of Oscar (Oscar dos Santos Emboaba Júnior), 22, who plays for Chelsea and is known for his play-making abilities. This young hottie scored in Brazil's opening match of the World Cup.

Relationship Status: Oscar is married to his childhood sweetheart. Just one week before the opening game of the World Cup, he became a father.

Now Argentina gave me a run for my money - in a good way. But in the end I went with...

Ezequiel Lavezzi, Argentina  

Oh lordy, lordy. Holy sweet muscles and tattoos. The 29-year-old Paris Saint-Germain attacker wasn't exactly an unknown quantity to soccer fans before this World Cup; but for the millions of casual viewers watching Argentina play Nigeria, we were in for a TREAT. When Sergio Agüero, one of the much-hyped “fantastic four” strikers, was forced off the field due to injury, the camera focused on a shirtless Ezequiel “Pocho” Lavezzi getting some last-minute pointers from coach Alejandro Sabella, that brief glimpse at his tattooed, muscle-bound body and perfectly coiffed beard was enough to set social media atwitter. Lavezzi fever has begun. Do you have it? If not, Google him - you will soon catch it.

Relationship status: 29 and SINGLE. Hallelujah! 


Thankfully for Red Sox Nation, Tim Howard and his heroic saving abilities were not in the Bronx that night. 
(Still sucks to be A-Rod)

Thursday, June 26, 2014

The Hotties of the 2014 World Cup

Here they are ladies (and gentlemen), the players to watch in the 2014 World Cup (sorry I'm a bit late). Though some of the perennial powers are out (Italy, Spain, England), there is still a lot of soccer/football to watch, and the men of this list make it worth your while.

Robin van Persie, The Netherlands 
The Dutch captain and Manchester United striker is one of the best in the world. In the first three games of the tournament, van Persie scored twice (playing just two games – he was out of the third with two yellow cards) including what will undoubtedly be on the list of best goals of the tournament.

Relationship status: Married with two children. Since he was 20—yes, 20.

Gerard  Piqué, Spain

It was difficult to pick the best photo of the Spain and Barcelona defender. He is a World Cup champion (2010), a UEFA Euro champion (2012), and a three-time UEFA Champions League champion (2007-2008 with Manchester United; 2008-2009 and 2010-2011 with Barca). Individually, he has been named La Liga Breakthrough Player of the Year (2009), La Liga Best Defender (2010), FIFA/FIFPro World XI (2010, 2011, 2012), UEFA Team of the Year (2010, 2011, 2012), ESM Team of the Year (2011), and UEFA Euro Team of the Tournament (2012). He may be the single reason I'm sad Spain is out of the World Cup.

Relationship Status: You may have heard of his girlfriend, Shakira (who is ten years his senior). They met when Piqué was featured in the music video for Shakira's song "Waka Waka (This Time for Africa)", the official song of the 2010 FIFA World Cup. They have a son.

Glen Johnson, England
I mean... really. There aren't many men in England who look like this. The Liverpool defender has 54 caps for England and one goal since 2003. He is one of three children of a single mother, who at times was homeless. But he credits his mother's strength and resolve for helping him develop a football career. 

Relationship status: Married with two children.

Graham Zusi, USA

This handsome devil plays midfield for the good-ol' US-of-A and is a two-time Sporting Kansas City MVP. He played college soccer at the University of Maryland, where he won the National Championship in 2005 and 2008, scoring the game-winning goal in the 2008 National Semi-Final and Championship Games. This was to be Zusi's breakout year... thus far the World Cup hasn't gone, for him, as he would have liked. Let's hope he can turn things around.

Relationship status: Appears to be single. Goooooooooooooooooooooooool!

Andrea Barzagli, Italy

The Italian and Juventus midfielderis known for his powerful physical build, and for being "strong in terms of anticipation, concentration and positional sense."* His calm composure, pace, consistency and ball playing ability have recently enabled him to be regarded as one of the best and most complete defenders in the world.
* Horncastle, James. "Serie A Team of the Year". Retrieved 23 May 2013.

Relationship status: Married with two children

Granit Xhaka, Switzerland

The 21-year-old Swiss midfielder plays professionally in Germany for Borussia Mönchengladbach. His family is Albanian, but moved to Basel from Kosovo shortly before he was born. His older Taulant, is also a professional soccer player who plays professionally for Basel and internationally for Albania. Granit scored in Switzerland's 5-2 loss to France, but the team advanced to the Round of 16 with a 2-1 record.
Bonus: his teammates call him "young Einstein" because of his intelligence and love of science. He is of Albanian decent. 

Relationship status: Single. He is 21, after all. 

Olivier Giroud, France 

Ummm... yeah. The France and Arsenal striker and is known for his size, physical style of play, heading ability, shot power, strength and link-up play. He has 32 caps and 9 goals for France since 2011.

Relationship status: Married since 2011 with a child. But admitted in early 2014 to cheating with model Celia Kay. He previously denied to transgression, but the "model" then posted photos of Giroud in his hotel room. After the incident, his wife went back to France. Since then, no news of a divorce has been reported.

Joe Hart, England
The 27-year-old English goalkeeper has won two Premier League titles with Manchester City (2011-12, 2013-14). Individually he's been named the Premier League's top goalie three times and to the Premier League Team of the Year twice.

Relationship status: Engaged with a baby on the way.

Nacer Chadli, Belgium
The 24-year-old Belgian winger plays professionally for the team with the best name in sports, Tottenham Hotspur(no s). Chandli holds duel citizenship in Belgium and Morocco, and made his debut for Morocco Nov. 17, 2010, in a friendly against Northern Ireland where he was named man of the match. On January 28, 2011, he announced his intention to represent Belgium at international level, which was permitted as he had not played in a competitive match for Morocco, and made his debut for the national squad for a 9 February friendly match against Finland. A good decision, since I don't see Morocco in the World Cup. In his professional and international career, Chandli has 74 goals in 250 games - not too shabby.

Relationship status: Single!

Aleksandr Kerzhakov, Russia

Let's start with this: he is the most prolific scorer in the history of Russian soccer. In 2014, he scored his 26th international goal for Russia, breaking the previous record. Amid a messy divorce (and cheating allegations), Kerzhakov said of his daughter, "Thanks to her I learned about responsibility: that`s what happens when you understand that there is a person who is half created from you. She`s yours.” All together now: "Awwwwwww!"

Relationship status: Divorced with a daughter.

Sergio Ramos, Spain

The Spanish captain was a bright spot in an otherwise dismal World Cup for the defending champs. The 28-year old has competed for Spain in three World Cups, winning in 2010, and two European Championships, winning in 2008 and 2012. He made his first senior international appearance at the age of 18, and in 2013 became the youngest player to ever reach 100 caps. Professionally, he plays for Real Madrid, with whom he won this season's UEFA Champions League.

Relationship: In a long-term relationship with a Spanish reporter/tv presenter (I use the term "reporter" very liberally here - most reporters don't model in men's magazines). The couple have a son.

Diego “Ruso” Pérez, Uruguay

The 34-year-old defender is known as "The Russian" though he has no Russian lineage. Confusing. Anyway, He is part of the rough and tough Uruguayan midfield and after the 2010 World Cup where he made quite a name for himself, he began playing for Serie A Bologna. In 2014, Uruguay lost their first match to Croatia but went on to defeat England and Italy, leading to both team's exit and Uruguay's surprising advancement to the Round of 16. Unfortunately, Perez hasn't seen any action yet. Perhaps they'll use his maturity in the next round(s)

Relationship status: Married with two children.

Mitch Langerak, Australia

The Aussie goalkeeper plays for  the German Bundesliga club Borussia Dortmund. Stats: 25 years old, 6'3", Australian accent, enjoys "hanging out."

Relationship status: Girlfriend. 

Ehsan Hajsafi, Iran

The 24-year-old Iranian midfielder as selected by as the most promising player in Asian football in 2009. Hajsafi has represented Iran at the 2011 AFC Asian Cup and the 2014 FIFA World Cup. IN his professional career, he has 33 goals in 215 games. 

Relationship status: ?????

Sorry Cristiano Ronaldo fans, while I can see that he is classically handsome... I just can’t put a man on this list who tweezes his eyebrows more often than me. 

Friday, June 13, 2014

'No Man Left Behind' isn’t up for interpretation

**Disclaimer: This post isn't about sports. But as a person who loves our military and has personal experience with our troops, I've been wanting to write about the Beau Bergdahl situation, and this is my avenue to do so.

One of the U.S. military’s mottos is “No Man Left Behind.” With the controversy surrounding the trade for Sgt. Beau Bergdahl recently, this motto has been uttered over and over. But here’s the thing: It’s not up for interpretation. The motto isn't “No Good Soldier Left Behind,” or even “No Good Man Left Behind.” It is “No MAN Left Behind.”

This matter shouldn't be about politics but, sadly, that is what it has become. Getting Sgt. Bergdahl back was, and is, the right thing to do. My politics don't generally align with the President’s, but I'm glad he got this Soldier. No matter why he left the base, it was America’s duty to bring Beau Bergdahl back to the U.S.  Leaving him in the hands of the enemy because we think he chose to walk off base isn't what Americans do—we are better than that. Bergdahl is innocent until proven guilty, and only a trial at which he is present, and where he has the opportunity to defend himself, can he be judged.

Most of our military are great men and women; but sometimes, a Soldier (or Marine or Airman) can make bad decisions, or even do bad things; but that doesn't mean we let someone else deal with them. It is our responsibility to take care of our Soldiers and it is our responsibility to discipline them when necessary. Now that Bergdahl is out of the enemy's hands, we can try to figure out what happened. Letting the Taliban deal with a U.S. Soldier is just something we don’t do. Those who say we shouldn't have traded for him are just plain wrong. We might not like the trade itself or how it was handled, but it was the responsibility of our Commander in Chief to get our Soldier back – and the only way he was able to do that was this specific trade. Congress wanted 30 days’ notice – I find it hard to believe the Taliban is reasonable enough to leave an offer on the table for that long. Obama acted as he saw fit, and that is what he was elected to do (even if you didn't vote for him).

The way the situation has "backfired" on Obama has been interesting; he thought there would be universal celebration and praise, and instead half are kind of pleased, half are up in arms. Perhaps it's just a sign of our times; perhaps it's Bergdahl's behavior prior to being captured; or perhaps it's that, no matter what, the side I tend to lean to could never praise anything this president does. In this case, I believe the action was just and necessary and that's where it ends. Why can't we put aside our feelings about Obama and be glad one of our own is home, no matter how he got captured?

Quite frankly, I'm SHOCKED at the ferocity in which other service members—past and present—are treating Bergdahl. Do we think this hasn't happened before? Disillusionment can lead us to do strange things. A man is a man and we brought this man home as we promise that we will always do; we lived up to our motto and I, for one, am proud of it ... No matter what I think of Obama (or Bergdahl, for that matter).

Now that Bergdahl is back on U.S. soil, I hope people who don’t wish him well leave him alone. No matter what you think of him, we all have to agree he’s been through a lot – things I wouldn't wish on my greatest enemy. People who have threatened his family are a disgrace to our country; we are better than that! A U.S. Soldier is home after five years captive in the Middle East. His family has been through hell and back during those five years, and instead of being able to celebrate that their son is alive, well and home, they are in hiding and fearful for their safety. I find that incredibly disheartening. We all have a piece of the story; only one man has the whole story. Let’s let him tell it before we condemn him. 

No matter our opinions of him, Beau Bergdahl is a U.S. Soldier and leaving him behind was never a possibility.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

On Mother’s Day: A daughter is just a little girl who grows up to be your best friend

 “Motherhood is a choice you make every day to put someone else’s happiness and well-being ahead of your own, to teach the hard lessons, to do that right thing even when you’re not sure what the right thing is… and to forgive yourself, over and over again, for doing everything wrong.”

My mom is my best friend and my greatest teacher. She taught me how to love, how to forgive and how to be a good mother; she showed me when to be strict and when to be compassionate, when to buckle down and when to let loose. She dedicated her life to her children and never asked anything in return. Simply put, she is the epitome of what a mother should be, and every day I strive to be as good a person and mother as she is.

Perhaps normal to those on the outside looking in, I know that there is nothing normal about her. She is my role model, my biological and emotional roadmap and the arbiter of all of my relationships. She taught her children that our place in the world is wherever and whatever we want it to be, and her faith in us gave us the courage to follow our own paths. She instilled independence in my brother and me because she didn’t teach us to lean on her—she taught us that leaning was unnecessary. She is a truly great person and a great mother, and there is nothing “normal” about that.

I’ll never forget the words my mom said to me when I told her that I was having my second girl: “Now you’ll have two best friends!”

For my mom it was such an obvious statement because she had been best friends with her mom, and she and I are best friends. Now I have two chances to have that amazing relationship that she had with her mom, and that she and I have – because no one knows you, understands you or loves you quite like your mother.

I am so thankful to be able to call the person who literally molded me my best friend, and I pray that I will have that relationship with my daughters. At least I know that I have a great road map laid in front of me, one that was drawn by my mother and her mother before that.

Elizabeth Edwards once said, “My job as the mother of daughters is to make sure my children see that every opportunity is available to them.” My mom did that, and I hope I can do that for my girls. If I can be even half the mother she is, then my daughters are truly blessed.

So Happy Mother’s Day to my mom, and to all of the moms out there – even if you are “normal” to the outside world, know that you are extraordinary to your children.