March Madness is Madness

March Madness lives up to its name. Wide eyes are plastered to screens across the country in the last milliseconds of games, praying for the one shot that could alter athletes’ lives forever. For weeks in advance, crazed fans complete multiple NCAA brackets with high hopes of a billion dollar prize. With innumerable twists and turns, determining the champion beforehand is nearly impossible, and seeding only serves to impede the process because of its inaccuracy.
The University of Kentucky (UK) entered the NCAA tournament ranked eighth but is now competing in the final four and has an opportunity for the championship title. On the other hand, Wichita State was number one. In the round of 32, UK defeated Wichita State 78-76. Although projected much higher, Wichita State suffered defeat.
Also, in the round of 64, Dayton (11), the “Cinderella team,” conquered Ohio State (6) 60-59 and continued on in the competition after beating Syracuse (3) in the round of 32 and Standford (10) in the Sweet Sixteen. Despite a low rank, Dayton proved its proficiency and fought farther than many spectators would assume based on its seeding.
Seeding is based solely on win-loss record, without reviewing a team’s scheduling difficulty or ease. Some teams are not adequately tested for skill after competing against subpar competitors. These organizations have an outstanding record, and therefore a high rank, but they might not be competitive in the NCAA because they are facing different, more adept athletes.
Seeding should be based on more factors than a win-loss record. The conferences and teams should be evaluated, and after determining skill levels, rank should be determined. If this system were in place, maybe the billion dollar prize would finally be rewarded to a crazed fan.

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The NFL Combine is not Valid

One day. One run. One jump. One chance to determine a player’s future. An individual’s career hinges on his performance for six days. The NFL combine is not an accurate assesment of skill.
At the NFL combine, held at Lucas Oil Stadium, NFL coaches, general managers and scouts assess prospective draftees. The athletes compete in events such as the 40-yard dash, vertical and broad jumps and bench press. Their physical measurements such as arm length and height are recorded, and interviews and drug tests are also conducted to determine whether a player is prepared to compete at the professional level.
Every athlete has an “off day.” What if a team bases its draft pick on an athlete who didn’t perform to their utmost ability? A failed sprint can equal a nonexistent career. If an athlete is sick, he can miss an opportunity for his future by running a slower sprint.
The combine cannot stimulate the energy of gametime. Some athletes turn on during competition; their playing ability becomes explosive. The cheer of passionate fans is not heard in the arena of the combine. The athlete is not relying on his teammates. The players are not screaming, jumping with untamed adrenaline running through their veins. None of these factors are present at the combine.
The ability to run quickly does not mean that a player can catch at the same time. Why judge a quarterback on the height or length of his jump? What about his throwing accuracy?
Two wide receivers with the same stats can be drafted in different rounds based solely on their arm lengths. Should a wing span that is two inches longer determine how well the player will perform at the next level?
The ability to play football should be based on more than one’s arm length or height. Drive is something not measured in yards or timed by sprints; it is felt only in the intensity of competition. Leadership is essential to the game of football and is seen in the underdog and fourth quarter moments of games. The combine judges tangibles, while the characteristics that define an outstanding athelte are those that are intangible. The combine should not be the basis for professional teams’ decisions. Instead, the NFL should study an athlete’s playing record, college career and integrity.

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Powderpuff Week

During Powderpuff week, I discovered my intense love for football. Before this adventure, I was fairly familiar with the game. I watched football on Sundays and knew NFL teams. I was always missing something, an inner fire and passion for the sport. I am now pumped for football, and each day I journaled a few reasons why.

Nov. 18: I checked out the juniors’ competition. It looks as though we will have the victory. Our coaches are focused and organized. Well, most of them. They divided us into groups: who could catch, throw, or block. I chose to play the line. I quickly realized that I have a lot to learn. (What is a noseguard?) As soon as I arrived home, I searched out my brother to request a private lesson on everything I need to know about offensive and defensive lines.

Nov. 19: I have been wondering if there is a professional Powderpuff team somewhere. That would be the most fun career in the world.

Nov. 20: Today was a break through day. Firstly, I learned the linemen’s positions. Also, I discovered that defensive tackle is my favorite position. However, I can’t run, and it’s super weird to block, so I’ll have to work on those. One of my favorite aspects of this week is that I can apologize for looking so rough because “I just got out of football practice.” I love using that excuse.

Nov. 21: On this rainy day, I learned that I love defensive end as well as tackle. Also, we got our shirts today! They literally glow; this we discovered when darkness set in at the end of practice. Once I arrived home, my brother taught me all kinds of fancy moves and the correct lineman stance, so we’ll see if those work. Tonight I was thinking about how many friends I have made since beginning Powderpuff. I really, really love my teammates.

Nov. 22: This morning I woke up and discovered I have several bruises on my arm. I felt so proud. My mom even took a picture and texted my dad with the caption, “battle scars.” I know we’re ridiculous, but my brother always comes home from football practice with almost completely purple arms, so I have to gain some respect while I can.

There weren’t many girls at practice today, so I played center. I had never snapped the ball in my life. The first snap was okay. One of the coaches told another that, “All the girls snap better than you.” The guys wanted to play quarterback or another position that they didn’t play in regular season. Another thing, practice was arctic cold, preparing us for game time.

Nov. 23 and 24: The juniors had practice both Saturday and Sunday, but I was out of town, so I missed both. I did, however, come back in time for part of our team dinner at the Dees’ house. I missed the meal, but it was still entertaining to watch football with my team. We also watched the Longest Yard to get hype for Monday night.

Nov. 25, Game day: The juniors were prepared to play in the freezing snow. We painted up for war. Then Coach Brannon informed us that the game would be rescheduled because of weather. I was so upset. Who do they think we are, a bunch of girls?

Dec. 4, Game day round two: Juniors won 12-6, but seniors should be proud of their outstanding performance. Both teams showed the coaches and spectators that girls are strong. They are athletic and competitive. Girls can play football, and they can get fired up about it.

I have to add in this side note: Bailey was a perfect leader. She showed true sportsmanship and was the toughest woman on the field. Also, our victory would have been impossible without the dedication of head coach Jack Dees and all assistant coaches. Thank you!

This week I’ve learned that football is more than what is on the television screen. It’s hard, brutal and takes serious skills. It’s not a bunch of guys running into each other. This sport requires brainpower, as well. While most fans focus on the quarterback or wide receiver, the linemen deserve respect. Without those stone walls, the quarterback would be squashed like a bug.

Incoming juniors, be prepared. The 2014-2015 seniors will be ready for a repeat win.

 

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Success Outside of the Sports World

Sports can define a person. They provide common ground and conversation starters between strangers and mold athletes’ lifestyles and passions. Competitors live for the game and spend hundreds of hours preparing for their time under the bright lights. I love watching the overcoming of impossible odds, incredible determination of athletes, passionate teamwork and unparalleled competitive drive, but let’s have a reality check. According to Tony Manfred in his column “Here are the Odds that Your Kid Becomes a Professional Athlete,” the chances of accomplishing one’s dream of going pro are very rare.

•Baseball
High school 471, 025
College 31, 264
Draftees 806
Percent of college athletes who play professionally: 11.6%
High school players: 0.6%
•Football
High school 1, 108, 441
College 67, 887 Draftees 255
Percent of college athletes who play professionally: 1.7%
High school players: 0.08%
•Men’s ice hockey
High school 36, 912
College 3, 944
Draftees 11
Percent of college athletes who play professionally: 1.3%
High school players: 0.1%
•Men’s basketball
High school 545, 844
College 17, 500
Draftees 48
Percent of college athletes who play professionally: 1.2%
High school players: 0.03%
•Men’s soccer
High school 398, 351
College 22, 573
Draftees 49
Percent of college athletes who play professionally: 1%
High school players: 0.04%
•Woman’s basketball
High school 438, 933
College 15, 708
Draftees 32
Percent of college athletes who play professionally: 0.9%
High school players: 0.03%

Sports should never become the primary purpose of one’s existence; instead, they should only be one facet of an individual. An athlete should work with all their strength, practice each day and always strive to win games. These are necessities in order to be a beneficial part of an organization. However, a person is defined by more than what he or she accomplishes in a competition. Becoming a professional athlete should not be the only plan for one’s future. Every student–athlete must also have a winning mindset in the classroom, so that he or she is prepared for life after sports. Athletics grant access to exceptional education opportunities through scholarships. Athletes should dedicate time to earning a diploma as well as sports honors. If an athlete spends as much time studying his chemistry textbook as he does the playbook, he sets himself up for more than touchdowns. He prepares himself for a career. Even after the lights turn off and an athlete’s lifelong goal is unattainable, sports can be viewed as an incredible part of one’s past and a hobby for the future. Undrafted players are not failures. They are not athletes who didn’t make it; they are competitors who should be praised for putting their entire determination and passion into a game that they love. They should be recognized as those who succeeded in completing many amazing feats. Athletes should always use the lessons and morals learned on the field or court in real life to move ahead. They should be never satisfied with less than 110%, never settle for average and never quit.

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Work Hard; Keep Your Head Down

Issue 1- September 6, 2013

Sweat is dripping from your forehead onto the cold, hard floor as you strain to finish one last sprint. You’ve been here for hours, always striving to become better than the man beside you. No one sees today’s exhaustion. Instead, they see yesterday’s headline; the one that says you’re on steroids and party too much.

The Texas A&M Aggies have forgotten the success of last season. Right now they’re booing their stud quarterback, Johnny Manziel, the one who gave the University of Alabama their only loss. The achievement- Heisman Trophy as a freshman- doesn’t seem to matter anymore, not after party mishaps and autograph allegations.

Yankees’ third baseman Alex Rodriguez has recently run into some similar trouble. He was making $28 million in 2013 alone. Now he is facing a 211-game suspension after the discovery of human growth hormones. Sure, he’s making headlines, but they aren’t about how many home runs he hit. They’re saying he’s a cheater.

It doesn’t matter if an athlete is a better quarterback than Joe Montana or hits more home runs than Babe Ruth, he or she will be judged by their character and what they do on Friday night.

Fans’ favorite athletes are those who fly under the radar, the ones that focus on the game instead of the headlines. Sometimes, the most hated players are fantastic on the field, but their stories are in People Magazine instead of ESPN, and sportscasters don’t like that.

There is a problem when your name off the field overshadows  your work on the field. If you open the door for off-field criticism, you set yourself up for on-field scrutiny.

In order to prevent that scrutiny: don’t make decisions that would ruin your career, don’t sacrifice your reputation for one night of fun, keep your head down, don’t seek out the spotlight and, “Johnny Football,” don’t post pictures of you partying; rumors may spread. All of these decisions can lead to the downfall of your sports career.

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More Hero than Human

Athletes are imitated every day. On game day, millions of eyes watch to see what their hero will accomplish. The day after, those same eyes see how that hero’s alter-ego lives his everyday life, without the cape.

Sometimes the news headlines aren’t as pristine as the home run or touchdown, because no one is perfect, but everyone stands for something. Professionals are given a platform with which to influence and impact lives. Each individual has a chance to be more hero than human.

Many competitors openly share their Christian beliefs through interviews, social media and even their actions on the field: Robert Griffin III, Russell Wilson and Drew Brees in the NFL, Jeremy Lin in the NBA, Albert Pujols in MLB.

Los Angeles Angels’s outfielder Josh Hamilton understands that the world is waiting for him to fail, but he is prepared to beat the odds. His life has been changed, and even through relapses and struggles, his faith and God’s faithfulness remains.

“I have been given a platform to tell my story. I pray every night I am a good messenger,” Hamilton said.

There are so many Christians in sports that don’t receive a spotlight, but if their goal is glorifying God, they will fulfill that mission even when they aren’t patted on the back.

Houston Texans’s defensive end J.J Watt seems to remain humble even through his tremendous success in his career. He is constantly finding ways to brighten days and change lives through the JJ Watt Foundation, which raised $194,000 in 2012 alone.

On the flip side, New England Patriots’s tight end Rob Gronkowski has made his stand quite clear- he likes to have fun. Forget the consequences; the organization has dismissed every bad choice in the past. He has the opportunity to live however he wants, because he is the best in the nation. “Nothing” and “no one” can stop him.

Athletes are the real-life storybook heroes. They are the living, breathing supermen. Contenders have the opportunity to be champions both on and off the field. Competitors have a great responsibility- on whatever level: from t-ball to MLB. How will they use their platform? How will you use yours? Because whether or not a player speaks about what he stands for, it is evident. Just watch how he lives.

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Los Angeles Angels’ outfielder Josh Hamilton poses for ESPN magazine, showing his tattoo that reads,

Priorities:
1. God
2. Humility
3. Family
4. Sobriety
5. Baseball*

*Impossible without nos. 1-4

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Why Tebow Deserves to be in the NFL

Issue 9- March 11, 2013

Tim Tebow- the most loved or hated figure in sports; there is no in between. The NFL’s most famous benchwarmer does not deserve to be on the sidelines. Attention haters, this article will make you question what you believe about number 15.

He was born a fighter. The doctors said that he wouldn’t live, that his mom wouldn’t survive, but God had a greater plan.

At Tebow’s birth, the doctor told Mr. Robert Tebow, “Your child is a miracle baby. I can’t explain how it happened, but despite all odds, he beat them.”

While a sophomore playing for Nease High School, Tebow ran a long touchdown with a completely broken fibula. His senior year, they said his team couldn’t beat Armwood High School, but Tebow led Nease to an improbable state championship title. He was named to the First Team All-State twice, declared 2005 Mr. Florida Football and set career marks in Florida for total offense, passing yards, touchdown passes and total touchdowns. These facts cannot be overlooked. Florida is a football state, and setting records is no easy feat.

He won two national championships at the University of Florida, a college facing SEC defenses and challenging some of the toughest teams in the NCAA. He was awarded the Heisman Trophy in 2007- the first sophomore to earn this honor- and was nominated again both his junior and senior years. The same year, he won the Davey O’Brien award- given to the best quarterback in the nation. In the 2007 season, Tebow fractured his right hand in the third quarter of a game versus the Florida State Seminoles, but finished the remaining quarters and crushed his competition. By graduation, Tebow had created a legacy in college football. His teammates  respected their leader and selected him as MVP of the Florida Gators in 2007, 2008 and 2009- the only player to be chosen three times. He held five NCAA, 12 SEC and 28 University of Florida records. He became the SEC’s all-time leader in career passing efficiency (170.8), completion percentage (67.1%), passing touchdown to interception ratio (5.5 to 1), rushing yards by a quarterback (2947), rushing touchdowns for any position (57) and total touchdowns (145). Any player who holds the highest completion percentage and passing efficiency in the SEC cannot be lacking adequate passing acumen.

His perseverance isn’t limited to the football field, as he learns despite dyslexia; it’s not holding him back, ever. He earned the Campbell Trophy in 2009- awarded to the top scholar-athlete in the nation- and graduated with a 3.66 GPA.

Tebow displayed his athleticism in the 2010 combine by tying for the highest vertical jump for a quarterback (38.5 inches) and running a 4.72 second 40-yard dash.

They said Tebow would be a second or third round draft pick, tops. He went to the Denver Broncos in the first round, and this was just the beginning of a whirlwind of victories in his professional career.

They said he would fail. Tebow won six of the first seven games he started in 2011. He battled to the playoffs his rookie year and upset the Pittsburgh Steelers in overtime- while the Steelers were the first-ranked defense in the league.

John Elway never supported Tebow. His half-hearted nods of approval showed his distaste. So when headlines screamed the news of Peyton Manning’s free-agencies, Elway jumped at the chance to ship off his quarterback, and no matter what Elway argues, Tebow had no choice in the matter. For the record, playoff victories with the Broncos: Tebow- one, Manning- zero.

In 2011, during the last seven minutes of games, his QBR was the highest in the league. Higher than the “history-making perfection” that is Tom Brady. Ridiculously higher than butt-fumble Mark Sanchez, who continually threw interceptions while Tebow watched on the sidelines.

Rex Ryan treated Tebow with no class. He watched his team fall apart, while the answer was seated on the bench or lined up for special teams. The way the New York Jets treated Tebow is a joke, and their train-wreck of a season couldn’t have been more humiliating.

Tebow is not a better quarterback than Manning or Brady, no one would argue that he is. His throws may not have pinpoint accuracy, but they get the job done. His competitive drive is unparalleled. Critics ridicule how he won games, but he still won them. They can talk about his throwing mechanics for days, but the fact still remains: he has been successful in the National Football League. No matter how much they argue that he doesn’t deserve to be there, he has earned a spot on an NFL roster for as long as he decides to compete. He has proven he knows how to win. He has proven he has the skills to lead a team to the playoffs. How many analysts look to Brady’s rookie year to determine his future? With adequate playing time, Tebow will only improve, and he will work as hard as is humanly possible to become the best quarterback he can be, in whatever offense he is calling.

“I appreciate the compliments. As to everything else, I just use it all for motivation,” Tebow said.

They say he isn’t worth the gamble. But Tebow’s résumé speaks for itself. He’s consistently proven to be exceptional at beating the odds.

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