Borland’s Impact on the NFL

“I just honestly want to do what’s best for my health,” Chris Borland explained to Outside the Lines. “From what I’ve researched and what I’ve experienced, I don’t think it’s worth the risk.”

Formerly a healthy linebacker for the San Francisco 49ers, Borland decided to end his career after a single season, shedding more light to the welfare of athletes.

“Borland is a trailblazer, but he’s not the NFL’s grim reaper. He is a messenger of the sport’s evolution, not its dissolution,” Christopher Gasper wrote for The Boston Globe.

Athletes deserve a choice, to decide whether the risks outweigh the incentives of competing. However, a player who chooses to end his career is not a hero. To say that Borland’s choice has begun a new era of football is dramatic. Previous NFL players knew that their decision to play would come with its own set of risks. Obviously, when a 400 pound human being collides with one’s frame, there will be consequences. But these athletes decided that the fiscal benefits were worth the possible health complications.

Health risks are present in innumerable professions. Police officers face danger each time they step on the streets. Secret service agents are prepared to step in front of a bullet. Even lab technicians could suffer health problems from harmful chemicals. NFL players are not alone in their plight, and these professionals are abundantly compensated; the average NFL salary in 2013 was $1.9 million, according to Monte Burke at Forbes.

“We’ve been working on the safety of our game throughout our history, with an incredible focus on it in my personal time as commissioner. … We’ve seen a reduction of concussions by 25 percent just last year. That’s continuing a three-year trend on that issue.” NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, in an interview with Peter King on MMQB, said. “There was a lot of criticism several years ago that we were changing the game. We are changing the game, for the better. The game has never been better or safer, and I think that the statistics bear that out.”

With administration continually trying to reduce the risk involved with the football, players continue to have a choice as to whether or not the reward outweighs the consequences of participating in such a demanding sport. According to Goodell, these risks have been acknowledged for years, not just this season, when a 24-year-old decided to finish his career prematurely.

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High School Athletics No Longer Appreciated

Families used to stand in line for hours in preparation for a face-off between high school rivals. The courts and fields used to be absolutely packed, and the intensity of fans could not have been more evident. In the last decades, high school athletic games were more than just something to skip on Friday nights. Attending was a way of life, and each game was an event that would be talked about for the next week.

Now, students have play-by-play access to local scores and footage. They do not have to go anywhere besides Twitter to check game highlights, and they can “cheer on their team” by retweeting congratulations. On a national level, television and smart phones have brought this generation an unparalleled view of the professional sports world. 24/7 replays and commentary accompany the endless number of games. There are dozens of channels dedicated to athletics alone, and athletes have never been in a more demanding and blinding spotlight. Instead of football playing just one day a week, there is Thursday night, Monday night and Sunday NFL games, and if that is not enough, Saturday offers college competition. Students are now more interested in televised sporting events than the local ones. They are more likely to sport an Indianapolis Colts jersey than a DC Panthers one, and discussions are more likely about who won the college basketball game than who stood out on the court at DC. However, I am not bashing this influx of technology. I absolutely love to watch NFL games and ESPN, First Take and Sportscenter, to keep up with my fantasy football team and the latest scores. Fans who keep up only on their phones or Televisions miss out on the passion of competition that is felt while present at games.

There is just something about being in the moment of a live face-off. About sweat, and passion, and tenacity. About camaraderie and teamwork. However, we do not appreciate these qualities anymore. Perhaps with all of the technological advances, we have lost something more significant. True school spirit and appreciation for athletic accomplishments has diminished. Students no longer sit side-by-side to support one victory. We no longer yell and become part of the game. Real life is taken for granted, and tangibles have been replaced by virtual participation.

Why? Because high school sporting events are boring. We cannot fast forward to the final quarter or hear incessant commentary. The players are not celebrities or billion dollar markets, and the game will not be discussed in detail the following day.

Maybe we have come to a place at which we cannot return to the paragon of spirit of the past. But we must preserve the tradition of sports. We should appreciate athletes that play for more than money and fans who still love the game.

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Deflategate Scandal Highlights Larger Problem

The New England Patriots’s recent Deflategate scandal has hit headlines and almost overshadowed news of the upcoming Super Bowl. Of the 12 balls that New England provided for its game against the Indianapolis Colts, 11 were underinflated by 2 pounds per square inch, making catching and throwing easier. While many of those in charge defend their innocence, the blame must fall on someone. A ball boy would not have altered the balls in any way without being directed to do so. Patriots coach Bill Belichick does not claim responsibility. Tom Brady asserts that he is completely innocent of any deception.

“I picked 24 balls; that’s what I picked,” Brady said in an interview with Boston’s WEEI radio. “Whatever happened after I did it, and whatever the situation was where they measured them, I have no idea [about] any of those facts.”

Tom Brady is one of the most precise quarterbacks to ever hit the NFL. His career revolves around holding footballs. He knows how these balls are supposed to feel. He has previously stated that the perfect air pressure is 12.5 pounds per square inch. The claim that he had no idea of the ball’s adjustment is preposterous. Even if he had no hand in the actual deflation, he knew that something was off by merely holding the ball.

The fact that Brady ended the fiasco -some call it a press conference- by saying, “this isn’t ISIS. No one’s dying,” is disrespectful and ludicrous. Brady compared athletes to a terrorist group. He has no right to joke about enemies who destroy innocent lives and who require Americans to defend this nation.

Yet Brady still wants fans to feel bad for him, poor thing.

“It’s all speculation,” Brady added during the radio interview. “I personalized a lot of things and thought this was all about me, and my feelings got hurt.”

Cheating is not above Coach Belichick. His radical competitiveness has pushed him to extremes before this incident. NFL fans may remember the Spygate scandal of 2007 when the Patriots videotaped New York Jets’ defensive signals or the numerous times that Coach Belichick has falsely reported injuries.

After switching the balls at halftime to the correct inflation, the Patriots scored 28 points, ultimately winning 45-7. This statistic proves that cheating was not necessary for the New England team to win. However, it seems that the organization wanted to ensure their victory, so they believed that winning justified cheating.

The Deflategate debacle highlights a larger issue with the NFL system. The idea that “everyone cheats, and the Patriots just got caught” is harmful to the entire league. How can NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell cut the deception that pervades this level of the game?

In order to hold these athletes accountable, punishment should be strict. The investigation over this deflation is ongoing, and by the time that the league reaches a conclusion, the New England Patriots will have had an opportunity to play in the pinnacle of competition, Super Bowl XLIX. So far, this team has received no punishment for fraud. They cheated against the Colts and moved to the next round. Yes, the publicity surrounding the scandal is a distraction to practice and could negatively affect their play in the championship. However, without the proof of innocence, the Patriots should not be able to compete.

It will be impossible for me to cheer for a team that reaches the Super Bowl through underhanded and deceptive practices. Perhaps this occurrence will influence the officials’ stances toward cheating, or maybe it will simply be another scandal in the books for the New England Patriots.

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School Rivalries

Bodies topple each other to make room for Moses as he travels through the center of the crowd. The leader holds a beloved symbol of pride, the spirit stick. The previous week students had dressed in all kinds of crazy outfits, and on the final day, the hallways of DC appeared to be a sea of red and white. DC prepares intensely for one game the entire season. This faceoff is a culmination of pride, competition and rivalry. Each year, Panthers work to crush the Eagles of Apollo High School.

“In my day, we never called AHS Apollo. It was always Alpo, a type of dog food,” assistant principal Mr. Lance Blue said.

Cheering against the school from across the district is a tradition. Previous generations were taught to boo the blue and white, and the classes of 2015 are carrying on that legacy.

“There’s a lot of history between us two. As far back as I can remember, the biggest game of the year has always been Apollo versus Daviess County,” spirit section leader senior Spencer Jagoe said.

DC graduate Bryce Garrett has seen many sides of the rivalry, first as a basketball player and currently as a freshman basketball coach. He recalls the excitement before facing Apollo.

“We tried to prepare for Apollo like it was another game, but something was in the air, and we knew that this game had more incentive to win,” Coach Garrett said.

Currently, DC staffulty and students prepare for big games differently than the past. However, some traditions will remain the same.

“We had all out red and white days. We always had a pep rally, and students would decorate their vehicles and have the best decorated car. In the lobby, during lunch and morning break, the assistant principal (Mr. Crume) would conduct a song with students blowing their kazoos,” Mr. Blue said.

The student section wishes to maintain the level of intensity that previous Panthers brought to the court and field.

“For Apollo, we want to have a big student section and have a great theme and get everyone pumped up,” Jagoe said.

Although Panthers are excited for games versus Apollo, many believe that the rivalry is not equivalent to the past.

“The student section doesn’t get as hype as they once did my senior year. [However,] the rivalry is still huge, especially now that the two teams are so evenly matched. [DC and Apollo] fight for the better district seed,” Coach Garrett said.

Mr. Blue agrees that the rivalry was more intense while he was a student. He believes that the reason is because, “back then, Apollo [and DC] students didn’t socialize much. I think social media has changed that now.”

The rivalry between schools has even spread to the adults who make up the DC staffulty.

“Apollo is our sister school, and it was always nice beating their butt at anything. The teachers and administration got into the rivalry from both schools,” Mr. Blue said.

The Lady Panthers were victorious 55-53 over arch rival Alpo on Dec. 12 after a heated battle that carried into overtime. The same night, the boys suffered a hard-fought loss. However, they were ahead most of the game. The Eagles were not ready for the red and white on Jan. 9. The Panthers were prepared to win, equipped with the spirit stick, passion and tradition, and therefore, both the Panthers and Lady Panthers conquered the Eagles. Boys Varisty held Apollo junior Eli Wright to merely nine points, ensuring their 17 point win. The girls victoriously finished with a score of 65-42.

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Racial Tensions Color the History of Sports

His powerful fist shattered the faces of the jukeboxes upon his exit, while his face twisted in rage and disgust. Surrounding him, teammates did the same as a torrent of uniforms stormed from the Texas establishment. A few minutes earlier, peaceful baseball players entered for a meal. Chaos began with just four words from the manager’s lips, “You can’t eat here.”
When Tommy Aaron (brother to Hank Aaron) and Billy Lucas (brother-in-law to Aaron) entered the restaurant, they were asked to leave. So Aaron and Lucas left, followed by the rest of their team. In 1961, desegregation was only beginning. Black athletes still slept in separate hotels than whites, because the fight for equality was ongoing.
“[This incident] was disturbing to the whole team, because [to us] there was no black and white, no color barrier of any kind. We respected each other’s abilities. We rooted for each other, and … that was just a disgrace to the black players. From then on, we showed solidarity to each other,” recalled Mr. Corky Withrow, a former St. Louis Cardinals outfielder and KHSAA Hall of Famer.
Withrow also remembers the All-American City basketball tournament at Kentucky Wesleyan College in 1957, when Mississippi State was pitted against Iona University, whose jersey was worn by several African Americans. Before game time, the governor of Mississippi called his athletes home because “black and white were not mixed at the time,” Withrow explained.
Throughout his career, one athlete broke the color barrier. At the plate, he stood with pride, unaffected by the spitting remarks from the sidelines and field. He combatted racial slurs and discrimination. He completely altered the sports world, turning it upside down by mixing cultures, races and ideas.
“You have to respect a player that knows that he is going to get the abuse, the name calling and the cussing, … but still you had him [in the] situation that changed the face of baseball forever,” Withrow said. “Thank goodness for Jackie Robinson. The whole Major League should be thankful for a person like [him].”
Today, stadium lights illuminate fields on which black skin lines up next to white, on which Caucasian hands shake those of African Americans where equality reigns. The intense work of previous athletes should not be forgotten. The fact that rosters are filled with players of all ethnicities and backgrounds should be appreciated.
In sports, race doesn’t matter. Ability does. Passion does. Hard work does. Talent knows no racial barrier. Thank you to all players who made that possible. Thank you for your sweat and willingness to work despite hate. Thank you for your tears, competing despite hurt. Thank you for your radical stance, continuing the fight to prove that all men are created equal, both on and off the field and court.​
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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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