Tag Archive | sports

The continuous triumphs of raising girls

I was driving my three girls home from the Queens Botanical Gardens and as I merged onto a highway overpass that would take us home, our van overlooked some athletic fields where several teams were playing soccer.

“Daddy, do girls play soccer?” one of my three daughters asked.

“Yes, of course,” I said.

“Then I want to be a soccer player!” she said

“Yes, me too!” one of her sisters chimed in.

They expounded on their plans to dominate the sport of soccer. I reminded them they could play both soccer and hockey and they agreed that they could excel at both sports.

What struck me about this conversation was not my girls’ enthusiasm for soccer, but that they thought, at their early age, that they could be limited because they were girls. It was heartbreaking that in just over four years, they could conceive of being constrained in what games they play.

It was an interesting discovery that before they were three years old, my daughters craved representation of females in media; they were very conscious of what characters were in front of them. Most cartoon characters are boys, and the female characters in most popular children’s television are either princesses or fashion-obsessed mice. There are some notable exceptions (Dora the Explorer and Doc McStuffins), but even in cartoons with some positive female role models, they are usually a small part of the larger action.

This is one of the reasons my wife and I bring our girls to professional women’s hockey. The Metropolitan Riveters of the National Women’s Hockey League have been a must-see for our family. Besides being a fun sport to watch, women’s professional hockey, by the very fact of its existence, provides an invaluable service for the parents of girls. Our daughters can see women held in high esteem and being celebrated for hard work in their chosen field.

While my wife is a stay-at-home Mom for now, she is active in local civic affairs and has a leadership role in her local Community Supported Agriculture Group. We like to think that we don’t avoid the facts of life but present the world as honestly as possible, but there is no reason our girls should think that there are limits to what sports they can play.

There are efforts underway to have more portrayals of girls in various roles in different media, not just in hockey, but in all of life. People are making their own books, controlling their own art.

A former co-worker who has daughters older than mine said that girls are more likely to drop out of playing sports when they reach age 10; she noted that her oldest daughter made it through that age with her love of sport intact. It was a relief.

While hockey for me is a more interesting sport than soccer, I’m happy to have my girls interested in soccer. It is an easier concept to teach. Everyone knows how to kick a ball and run after it; hockey requires players to be proficient ice skaters to play.

I’m cautious about pushing hockey on my girls too hard, not because I really care if they play hockey, but I’m determined that they remain interested in playing sports.

So yes, girls play soccer and much more. Let it always be so.

 

Super Bowl Hype Has Run Aground

I had every intention of watching the Super Bowl this past Sunday but life got in the way.

Being a New York Jets fan, I have no real reason to watch the N.F.L., but believe it is a major current event that bears witnessing to be properly informed, not that one needs much of an excuse to sit and eat and watch TV. Also, in keeping with a tradition I had with my mother (RIP), my brother and I have decided to make a bet on the Super Bowl every year. My brother is a die-hard Patriots fan, so the bet was easy to make. I bet on the Philadelphia Eagles to win; the loser buys the other lunch.

As a New Yorker, I should despise both teams. The Patriots are cheating panty waists. They even cheated against my Jets, which is like cheating against people from the Special Olympics. Nonetheless, like the arrogant Dallas Cowboys of decades past, they have become the dominating franchise with numerous Super Bowl victories. The Philadelphia Eagles have been the hated rivals of New York football fans for decades. There’s something about Philadelphia fans absolute violent savagery and dedication that is endearing. They went into the game as underdogs.

Until I went to college, I could not see the use or interest in football. It is a slow game with rules that are not easy to comprehend (wait, they have to kick it again already, what happened?). Sports in general failed to arouse my interest as a kid. Why invest so much into a game when you could be out shooting bad guys or doing karate on people. I prowled around with toy guns, back when you were allowed to have realistic-looking toy guns, and pretended to hunt Russians or terrorists. I would rather practice being a bounty hunter or future warlord than try to remember a bunch of rules that made no sense. Sports seemed a poor substitute for real adventure in the world.

In college, sports made more sense. The athletes represented our school in the most primal, tribal way, and supporting the team was something that could bring even the most politically fractured college campus together.

So this Sunday came and I figured I would turn on the Super Bowl and it would be in the background while I had a regular Sunday with the family. The game was supposed to start at 6:30 p.m. Eastern time, and we knew that Pink was going to be singing the national anthem.

At the appointed time, we told our children that “Pirate Pink” would be singing on television soon. Our children know the singer as “Pirate Pink” from her appearance as a pirate on “Sponge Bob Square Pants.” But something went wrong. We turned in to the Super Bowl when it was supposed to start and they were actually starting to play football? What happened to the 45 minutes of bullshit before the actual game? The coin toss, the national anthem, the endless displays of hype and patriotism? We only have one TV in our home and I was banking on Pink’s appearance to make the transition from “Doc McStuffins” to football; no easy task.

As the actual Super Bowl got under way, my older children began to cry over missing “Pirate Pink” sing on television. I was the worst Dad ever. I made my chicken dip and enjoyed dinner with the family while watching “The Simpsons,” which is the only TV show we allow to run during meal times regularly.

I was glad to miss the game because I tend to jinx many teams that I watch on television. When the New York Yankees were in the World Series against the Atlanta Braves in 1996, I watched the first two games and the Yankees were crushed. I quit watching entirely and the Yankees won the next four games and reclaimed the crown as world champions once again.

Since then my not watching sports has helped my preferred teams. This year was a year I missed more Georgia Bulldogs games on TV than in recent memory, and they had their best year since 1980, making it all the way to the national championship game. Go Dawgs!

It was social media that informed me that my not-watching mojo had helped the Eagles win their first Super Bowl.

Congratulations Philadelphia. Please don’t burn your city to the ground.

 

Hockey is for girls (and that’s awesome)

My wife was one of the many thousands to participate in the New York Women’s March this past weekend. My social media feeds were dominated with friends and family participating in these marches in New York, Washington D.C. Oakland, New Haven, Atlanta and elsewhere. There was even a march in Antarctica. It turns out women don’t like being insulted by lecherous politicians who count the Miss Universe pageant as foreign policy experience; who knew?

But these marches are not the only route to empowerment. And the Women’s Marches of this past weekend adhere to a strict political agenda that is not for everyone.

But no matter what your politics, you want the women of your tribe to be treated fairly and to be strong. Sports are good for young girls on many levels.

I tried taking my twin daughters to a women’s hockey game earlier this month but the game was canceled due to the weather. This weekend we were able to see the New York Riveters take on the Boston Pride at the Barnabas Health Hockey House in Newark, New Jersey. I am pleased to report that the game did not disappoint and that women’s professional hockey is a great place to take young girls to foster their interest in sports.

I want sports to be something my girls know that women do and that is not out of the ordinary. I want women’s pro hockey to be a fact of life and not a novelty and for women’s sports to be appreciated beyond their value to the mostly male sports audience. The National Women’s Hockey League is doing just that. It was great to be a part of the game and to show my girls that female athletes are the rightful center of our attention.

There is parking for only $5 a few blocks from the game. I got my new tickets for the current game with no problem and there is not a bad seat in the house. The Barnabas Health Hockey House is the New Jersey Devils practice facility and it’s attached to the Prudential Center. There are fancy bleachers on one side of the ice so no matter where you sit you are close to the action. We took seats close to the side of the ice because it allowed me to make a quick dash to the restroom with toddlers still getting adjusted to regular toilet use.

Hockey is a fast-paced and exciting game and hockey is the best game for watching with young people. There are two intermissions – great for frequent bathroom and refreshment breaks, and the people working the Riveters games keep it very family friendly.

The games seem to attract a lot of lesbians. There were a lot of rainbow scarves and jerseys at the game and I got the impression that it wasn’t just because there was a special You Can Play promotion going on (favorite t-shirt of the night: a large Best Buy logo that read ‘Best Bi.’). This is a good sign in my view and shows that the league is about quality hockey and not trying to be a cute offshoot of a men’s team. Women’s professional basketball has a large lesbian following also (a lesbian friend once posted a video of a WNBA game online and called it “lesbian porn”) and it’s going strong. Women’s hockey deserves the same level of recognition and I look forward to taking my girls to see the Riveters play at Madison Square Garden someday.

So if you like hockey, go see the New York Riveters play – it makes visiting New Jersey worthwhile.

Keeping New York cool on the ice

It’s hockey season and the best team to root for in New York is the New York Rangers. I have plenty of Islanders fans friends who disagree, but they can’t hide the fact that the Islanders sold their souls when they agreed to play at the Barclays Center.

But no matter, Rangers games are a great time. Even though tickets are expensive, you can sometimes get good deals. My wife is a superior planner and managed to find a compelling offer for tickets to watch the blue shirts take on the Winnipeg Jets. It involved having to friend someone on Facebook, send money through PayPal and then print out tickets at home, but it was legit and we had real tickets to a nosebleed-level luxury box at Madison Square Garden.

We got to MSG early because the luxury box area was going to have food before the game and we wanted to scarf down as much complimentary food as we could before the first puck dropped. With no mobs of people there, we walked directly one of the metal detectors. I emptied my pockets of all metal objects and walked through but I set off the metal detector anyway. I think it was the metal on my steel-toe boots (Joe Strummer said to always wear shoes you can run in or fight in, and I’m not good at running).

As the man waved his metal detecting wand over my boots, his colleague manning the metal detector took issue with my house keys.

“You can’t bring this in here,” he said, holding a key tool that lives on my keychain. The tool resembles a key but is a multi-tool that includes a bottle opener, two screwdriver heads, and a small blade. It would take you a week to stab someone to death with this blade. If you are immobile enough to be seriously hurt by the blade on my key tool, you are probably going to die soon anyway. I said if I couldn’t take it inside I wanted to check it and pick it up later.

The security guard called over a supervisor, an older man in a suit with an earpiece in his year. He was friendly and handed my keys over to a young woman who took off the key tool, and gave me back my keys. My wife and I followed her to a small security office with a Dutch door. I handed another security guard my I.D. and he wrote down my name and gave me a receipt written out on a baggage claim check. I saw that my small blade was going to be sharing some space on the top of a filing cabinet with a larger knife and one or two very small knives.

We made our way up to where our seats were and found our area. Half of the section was closed off before the game for Al Trautwig to do his pre-game broadcast. I couldn’t hear anything he was saying above all of the noise, but it was fun to see the behind-the-scenes of what is normally a mundane broadcast. Once he was done, everything was packed up quickly and we got seats on bar stools above the seating section. We had to stand to see one of the corners of the rink but otherwise the view was not bad at all.

The game was phenomenal as the Rangers beat Winnipeg five goals to two. Hockey moves at a brisk pace and Madison Square Garden erupts into song whenever the Rangers score a goal. We enjoyed the camaraderie of the fans, the inspirational moves of Dancing Larry and the cool taste of blue shirt victory. During the intermission between the first and second period we got to meet Mark Janssens, who was very friendly and gave autographs and posed for photos with fans.

After the game, we made our way back to the security office and stood in line outside. We had to go into the office one at a time to collect our things once a bored security guard said, “next.” While we were waiting in line, who did we run into but my friend Poppy and his son Mike. What makes this even more interesting is that my wife had seen Poppy just the night before as his daughter Danielle hosted an outstanding art party for my wife and her friends. Our Gotham can be a small and amazing place at times.

Go Rangers!

Half-assed soccer hooligans unite! Why New Yorkers should support NYCFC

It’s an encouraging sign for soccer in America that we are starting to have riots outside of games. This past weekend supporters of NYCFC and the Red Bulls clashed outside Yankee Stadium before a game. It was incredibly tame stuff by soccer hooligan standards; we are still behind Europe in both soccer skills and organized gang violence among soccer supporters. But it’s a start.

I have not been to a professional soccer game in my life and I could not name a single player on NYCFC. But I believe that you have to take sides and stick with your team loyalty. There is no room in this world for weakness and indecision. I chose to support NYCFC as my local soccer team and here’s why.

Reasons New Yorkers should support NYCFC as your New York soccer team:

NYCFC plays in New York City. NYCFC plays at Yankee Stadium in The Bronx. Their rival “New York” teams the Red Bulls play at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey and the Cosmos play outside the city also at James M. Shuart Stadium on the Hofstra University campus in Uniondale, Long Island.

NYCFC is not named after a shitty energy drink or failed team of the past. I’ll admit NYCFC is not a very original name for a soccer team. It simply stands for New York City Football Club. But the Red Bulls are named for a shitty energy drink after initially being called the MetroStars. And while the Cosmos at least have some history in New York prior to their revival in 2010, it is as a failed attempt in the 1970s and 1980s to get Americans interested in soccer.

Getting on the ground floor of fandom. New York City FC started just last year. It’s early enough in this team’s history to get in on the ground floor and be able to tell your grandchildren you were there from the beginning.

Better aesthetics. A team should have a logo and colors you are proud to wear, especially if the team doesn’t do so well. NYCFC has a better color scheme and logo than its rivals. That their team is named for an energy drink makes Red Bulls fans pathetic enough. The New York Cosmos are trying to relive the 1970s, which is good in some respects maybe but not when it comes to sports jerseys and logos. The Cosmos designs should have gone the way of the line green leisure suit.

They can only get better. NYCFC lost to the Red Bulls 7-0, which is a humiliating defeat in a traditionally low-scoring game such as soccer. So the team can only get better. And for Yankee fans, we finally get to experience what it’s like to have the camaraderie of the underdog. I no longer have to think about the Jets to experience that. NYCFC has yet to experience any glory days. Our best days, and even our mediocre days, are still ahead of us.

So I urge my fellow New Yorkers to support NYCFC. It is at its beginning and will eventually achieve greatness.

Real New Yorkers root for the Knicks

There are now two National Basketball League teams within the borders of New York City. The Knicks have been here since 1946, the Nets moved to Brooklyn from New Jersey in 2012. Neither team is doing very well right now, but only one is worthy of your support.

The Knicks are the city’s loveable losers. We got to the N.B.A. finals in 1999 and lost in five games and haven’t come close to that level of glory since.

I was lucky enough to get to a Knicks game not long ago. It was for work and we had great seats. The baseball owner Bill Veeck said a fan’s knowledge of the game is inversely proportional to the price of their ticket and that holds true in basketball as well as baseball. Although Spike Lee probably knows – and I don’t think he was there that night – no fan within the first 20 rows could probably tell you who the Knicks all-time leading scorer is (Patrick Ewing—I had to look that up). These were valuable seats and I wouldn’t have sat there if they hadn’t been paid for by a corporate client that was footing the bill.

People showed up late and left early; that’s not how you should act when you can see the hypnotic pattern on Walt Frazier’s bold brown blazer and see the pained expression on Kristaps Porzingis’ face when he fouls out. If you’ve spent that kind of money on tickets, get there on time.

At any rate, we were lucky that night in that the Knicks actually won the game. It was in overtime and the game seemed to stretch on forever as the Utah Jazz repeatedly fouled the Knicks in order to get possession of the ball (this is a common basketball tactic that rarely helps a team win a game but succeeds in boring the shit out of fans). But the Knicks finished with the win.

The Knicks are New York’s loveable losers on the basketball court. They find new ways to break their fans’ hearts every year, but they are our team. Now some fair-weather fans are supporting the Brooklyn Nets. Since Brooklyn is trendy and the Nets play in Brooklyn, it is fashionable in some circles to support this farce of a team. That they have sleek black and white merchandise I’m sure helps.

Nowhere in sports, until ISIS starts fielding a hockey team, is there a better example of a team that deserves to fail than the Brooklyn Nets. The Nets play in the Barclays Center, which is part of the notorious Atlantic Yards project, a billionaire’s boondoggle that forced middle- and working-class New Yorkers from their homes. The State of New York invoked eminent domain to force people to sell their homes to shady real estate developer Bruce Ratner, who paid off local activist groups to support the effort. It’s a shameful chapter in the city’s history and the Barclay’s Center is an ugly eyesore that is a testament to our sordid age of corrupt politics and the worst kind of crony capitalism.

I don’t care how much the Knicks lose, wearing a Nets jersey is about the most un-New York thing you can do. The Knicks can lose every game between now and 2053, sacrifice puppies center court and I’ll still root for them over the Nets.

But don’t take my word for it. Watch a Knicks game on television and I’m confident you’ll be convinced of their authenticity. It doesn’t matter how much you lose, it’s how you keep fighting and show character that counts. That’s what real New Yorkers do.

The New York Jets and N.F.L. “Infamy”

New York Jets starting quarterback Geno Smith will miss as many as 10 games because another Jets player punched him in the face. Think about that for a minute and how stupid that is to happen on a professional football team.

They wouldn’t be the New York Jets if something completely stupid didn’t happen every year. They wouldn’t be the Jets if they didn’t let a promising young quarterback get injured in some freak sideshow-type incident.

Idemefuna Enemkpali is the linebacker who punched Smith and was immediately cut from the team. Not to fear though, ex-Jets head coach Rex Ryan picked him up for his Buffalo Bills.

The New York Times ran a story saying that Enemkpali had transformed himself into a “figure of infamy” for the New York Jets. Taking out the starting quarterback with a sucker punch certainly runs you afoul of the team and its fans, but you have to do better in the N.F.L. if you want to achieve infamy.

The idea that Idemefuna Enemkpali could achieve some kind of “infamy” is ludicrous in a league rife with serial sex offenders, wife beaters and celebrated cheaters. Enemkpali may have “sucker punched” Geno Smith, but he punched an adult male and apologized for it. If serial sex offenders like Ben Roethlisberger can have a career in the N.F.L., sucker punchers shouldn’t have any barriers to a life in professional football.

The New York Jets have employed worse people. The Jets starting quarterback for many years was Mark Sanchez, who raped a woman in college.

So unless Enemkpali ripped off Geno Smith’s arm and then knocked him out with his own fist, a simple punch isn’t going to make you infamous. I guess there is a dry spell of crimes from N.F.L. players lately and the media needs to make the most of ones that it gets.

And, this happened to The Jets, which makes the story of misfortune that much better. Ridiculous misfortune business-as-usual for Gang Green. And being a Jets fan hasn’t been easy for four decades.

I’m a Jets fan, and I must admit that the Jets misfortunes are somewhat of a badge of honor at this point. I have stayed loyal to sports teams through thick and thin even when others became fair weather fans and attached themselves to more popular, winning teams at the time. I remember when the New York Yankees had the worst record in baseball in the early 1990s. Living in Connecticut, many of my friends supported the Boston Red Sox and made fun of me for my team loyalty. I vowed to them that I would see the Yankees as world champions again (vowing to be kept on life support until this happened if need be). I only had to wait six years.

And so it is with the Jets. Most New Yorkers are New York Giants fans because the Giants have won more Super Bowls within recent memory. The Jets last won the Super Bowl in 1969, three years before I was born. That’s OK. I’ll wait a little longer.

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