Category Archives: Sports

Clint Dempsey: America’s Forgotten Sports Star

Are you an American? If so, do you know the name Clint Dempsey?

In all likelihood, the answer is a bewildered “No,” and this is a crying shame.

Dempsey

A brief summary of Clint Dempsey’s accolades:

  • He is the first American to score a hat trick in the English Premier League (widely regarded as the best soccer/football league in the world) in a 5-2 win over Newcastle United in January 2012.
  • He  finished tied for fourth in scoring during the 2011-12 English Premier League season with 17 goals (21 in all competitions).
  • He owns the record for most goals scored by a Fulham FC player in Premier League matches (50).
  • Known for his toughness, Dempsey once played two games with a broken jaw before being diagnosed by a team trainer.
  • Dempsey scored the equalizing goal against England during the 2010 World Cup’s group stage, one of the most famous goals in American soccer.

When you see Dempsey play for the United States, he is one of the first American-born players who looks like he truly belongs. His skill, touch, and footwork are on a world-class level, and yet more Americans know Landon Donovan, or even Freddy Adu.

Largely ignored, the native of Nacogdoches, Texas flicks, spins, and bursts his way through opposing defenses with a flair never seen from an American. If you don’t know of his talent, watch a few of these YouTube videos:

http://youtu.be/iCdTNAkFdec
(a compilation)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tZR48Cnn9FU
(Dempsey’s “wonder goal” against Juventus)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QBDrQVE414w&feature=related
(Dempsey’s story)

If you don’t watch soccer, that’s okay. But please don’t think of Freddy Adu when you hear the words “American soccer.” Don’t think of Landon Donovan. Dear heavens, please don’t think of Alexei Lalas.

Think of Clint Dempsey.

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Footballer Faith – A Brief Summary of Fabrice Muamba’s Story for an American Audience

Timmy-Tim-Tim Tebow isn’t the only “football” player whose faith has recently been stretched across headlines — that distinction is shared by Fabrice Muamba.

The Bolton midfielder faced an uphill battle getting onto the most prominent stage in professional football, emigrating with his family from his native Zaire at the age of 11. Muamba’s father, experiencing pressure due to his political beliefs, sought asylum in England and started a new life with his family. Young Fabrice was unable to speak a word of English, but that didn’t stop him from achieving 10 GCSEs and A-levels in English, French, and Mathematics (interpretation: Muamba is smart).

But Muamba was noticed as much for his athletic prowess as he was his academics — at 14-years-old, Muamba entered Arsenal F.C.’s youth academy, and signed his first professional contract a year later. After a spell with the North London club, Arsenal sent Muamba off on a year-long loan to Birmingham City, where he played until 2008, when he was transferred to Bolton Wanderers F.C. Finding consistent success on the pitch, Muamba became one of Bolton’s most important players.

Then, on March 17, 2012, Fabrice Muamba died.

During a quarter-final FA Cup match with Tottenham Hotspur, Muamba became dizzy and began seeing double before collapsing to the pitch. Football is sadly as known for its “dives” and feigned injuries as it is for its creativity and the unwavering support of its fans — but this was different. No one was near Muamba at the time of his fall, and the entire crowd knew something was different about it. Football crowds are known to be aggressive and creative with their taunts, but in this case, Tottenham’s 36,000 fans stood in near-silence for what seemed to be an eternity, occasionally chanting his name. Fans wearing Tottenham kits were shown on television crying or clasping their hands together in prayer. Muamba’s teammates and opponents were praying as well, particularly striking in modern Europe, which appears to be almost completely secularized.

Muamba’s heart did not beat for 78 minutes.

Many prominent footballers have died suddenly while on the pitch. In 2007, Antonio Puerta suffered a cardiac arrest and died at the age of 22-years-old. Just last week, 25-year-old Piermario Morosini collapsed and passed away. These situations usually result in tragedy — Muamba’s appeared just as dire.

Doctors would later confirm that Muamba received numerous defibrillator shocks both on the pitch and in the hospital, but they were unable to resuscitate him until 78 minutes after his collapse. Two days later, his heart was beating without the assistance of medication and he was able to move his limbs. Soon after, he responded verbally to family members. On April 16, nearly a full month later, Muamba was discharged from the hospital.

Today, Muamba speaks with reporters about the incident, and gives credit to someone else, besides doctors, the hospital medical staff, and the cardiologist Tottenham fan who rushed onto the pitch. Muamba credits God for his recovery:

In an interview with The Sun, Muamba revealed he asked God to protect him before the cup clash, which was abandoned after his collapse. “Some one up there was watching over me. What happened to me was really more than a miracle,” he said.

“On the morning of the game I prayed with my father and asked God to protect me – and he didn’t let me down.

“I am walking proof of the power of prayer. For 78 minutes I was dead and even if I lived was expected to have suffered brain damage. But I’m very much alive and sitting here talking now. Some one up there was watching over me.”

The aforementioned Cardiologist received additional praise from Muamba:

Muamba praised Andrew Deaner, the cardiologist who left his seat at the match to help medics treat the player.

“He is the reason I have been able to hold my baby son again and continue my life,” said Muamba, who is recovering at home with his 3-year-old son Joshua and fiancee after being discharged from the hospital Monday — just over a month after he suffered the cardiac arrest March 17.

“It would be great to play football again and I hope that will happen,” Muamba said. “But it’s even greater just to live life and love my family. I’m a lucky man.”

The football world was united in its support for Muamba. Bolton’s first game after Muamba’s life-altering incident:

Former teammate Gary Cahill (now of Chelsea F.C.), after scoring a goal:

The full video of the incident, along with the fans’ response, is difficult to track down in its entirety, but it was a moment when the curtain of sporting intensity was pulled back, revealing the humanity of even the most vicious fans. For a moment, everything was put back into perspective, and I for one am incredibly proud of the response from Tottenham’s supporters.

That said, I shall now resume despising them.

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Tebow

I’m not going to discuss Tim Tebow’s sports-related accomplishments or the controversy surrounding his current season. I’m just going to quote him from ESPN’s First Take, responding to former Broncos QB Jake Plummer’s insistence that he tone down his professions of love for Jesus:

“If you’re married, and you have a wife, and you really love your wife, is it good enough to only say to your wife ‘I love her’ the day you get married? Or should you tell her every single day when you wake up and every opportunity?

“And that’s how I feel about my relationship with Jesus Christ is that it is the most important thing in my life. So any time I get an opportunity to tell him that I love him or given an opportunity to shout him out on national TV, I’m gonna take that opportunity. And so I look at it as a relationship that I have with him that I want to give him the honor and glory anytime I have the opportunity. And then right after I give him the honor and glory, I always try to give my teammates the honor and glory.

“And that’s how it works because Christ comes first in my life, and then my family, and then my teammates. I respect Jake’s opinion, and I really appreciate his compliment of calling me a winner. But I feel like anytime I get the opportunity to give the Lord some praise, he is due for it.”

1. Green Bay Packers

This blog post has taken forever to get around to, mostly because this is the busiest time of year. Now down to business…

I believe the Green Bay Packers have the most classic, distinguished, iconic uniforms in the National Football League.

I know that many people will disagree strongly with this pick. “Green and yellow? Are you serious?”

Yes, I’m very serious.

Throughout this blog series, I’ve made it abundantly clear that I have a borderline obsession with classic jerseys that were done right long ago, and their organizations know better than to make sweeping changes to them — the Steelers, Raiders, Browns, 49ers, and the Packers all come to mind. There are several factors that I believe contribute to the Pack’s uniform dominance:

1. Yellow

Wisconsin is known for its cheese. Cheese is yellow. The Packers are literally “cheese packers.” Yellow blankets the entire team. This accentuates the team’s incredibly close tie to the local fan base. The Packers are the only non-profit, community-owned major league professional sports team in the United States — they are literally owned by the city, and the uniforms reflect that.

2. Disinction

You can see a football game playing on a 32″ TV across the other side of a restaurant, and if the Packers are playing, you can identify them. No other team in the NFL wears these colors. They jump off the screen and smack you in the face, repeatedly screaming, “PACKERS! PACKERS PACKERS! PACKERS!” These uniforms stand out, but not in an “ew” Oregon Duck kind of way — they’re beautiful in a strange, cheesy way.

I apologize for the pun.

3. Their Story

This shouldn’t affect my perception of the team’s uniforms, but it should: the Packers have an incredible history.

Green Bay is by far the smallest TV market in the league, but they have gained an enormous fan base that has sold out every game, regardless of the team’s talent, since 1960. I repeat: they’ve sold out every home game at Lambeau Field for 51 years running, and it won’t stop any time soon. This feat is made even more impressive when considering the icy conditions that often plague the stadium during the winter months.

Just read these two excerpts from the Packers’ Wikipedia page:

Packers fans are often referred to as cheeseheads.The term is often used to refer to people from the state of Wisconsin in general (because of its cheese production), but is also used to refer to Green Bay Packers fans in particular. The name originated in 1987 as an insult from Chicago White Sox fans at a Milwaukee Brewers game. In years since and particularly beginning in 1994, the name and the hats called “cheeseheads” have also been embraced by Packers fans.

During training camp in the summer months, young Packers fans can take their bikes and have their favorite player ride their bike to the practice field from the locker room. This is an old Packers tradition dating back to approximately 1957 (the first years of Lambeau Field’s existence). Gary Knafelc, a Packers end at the time, said, “I think it was just that kids wanted us to ride their bikes. I can remember kids saying, ‘Hey, ride my bike.'” The practice continues today.

They took an insult aimed at their entire community by a big city snob, and said, “You know what? We know who we are, and we’re proud of it. And to prove it to you, we’re going to wear massive cheese hats to our games!”

I’m sorry…that’s just cool. And when I see the uniforms, I think of the community and the history of the Green Bay Packers.

Kinda scary

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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2. New Orleans Saints

Stop.

Let me explain a few things. I am from Louisiana, but I am not a Saints fan — I am a life-long Cowboys fan, and always will be. I do like the Saints, but if they go head-to-head against the Cowboys, then I’m pulling for Dallas 100% of the time, even if the Cowboys have no shot at making the playoffs and the Saints need the win to get into them. So there is no home-state bias here. The Saints are nearly impossible to dislike, but I’ve liked their uniforms even in the Aaron Brooks era.

Secondly, the Saints mean everything to New Orleans, which is a city that I’ve truly come to love. That had absolutely zero to do with ranking them this high. They just have some downright smashing uniforms.

It all starts with the fleur-de-lis. The French  has been the official state symbol since 2008, but has long been part of Louisiana culture, particularly in the Acadiana region. You can read about the symbol’s history, but there’s no denying that it’s classy for one, but also deeply intertwined with the state’s history. Louisiana is unique in its culture, food, language, music, and more, and the fleur-de-lis was the perfect choice for the Saints’ logo.

Louisiana

Next comes the colors. Several teams in the league have great colors, but the Saints’ colors absolutely make the uniforms. They’re not unique in their striping, combinations, or anything of that nature — they just throw their colors in your face. Good choice, NOLA.

And now, a picture barrage:

The future mayor of New Orleans

Whoever took this photo is a beast.

"I'm gonna look so awesome in this..."

Clean, yes?

I dance in the air sometimes, like this...

The moment no Saints fan will ever forget

A good look at the helmet

Skipping about

Pretty endearing image, yes?

You Saints fans better not give me any grief about them not having the best uniforms on my list.

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3. Pittsburgh Steelers

Just two spots from the top, the Steelers are yet another classic uniform ranked highly because they got it right long ago, and there is likely nothing that will change their uniforms for the next 100 years.

The Steelers’ owners are among the classiest in team sports, and their attitude is reflected in the organization from top to bottom. This obviously doesn’t affect the jerseys, but the team’s history is being maintained through their efforts, and the uniforms certainly reflect that attitude.

When you observe the black and gold jerseys, two questions arise:

Q: Why are the logos only on one side of the helmets?
A:  The Steelers equipment manager was asked by the team’s owner to place the new logo on one side of the helmets (which were then gold instead of black) as a test to see what it looked like. It proved to be so popular with the fans that they decided to leave it that way, and a logo was never added to the left side of the helmets.

Q: What does the logo mean?
A: I’m sounding like a broken record, but they’re tapping into local culture, which is always a huge plus. The Steelers’ logo is based on the Steelmark, owned by the AISI (American Iron and Steel Institute). The three colored “stars,” more accurately known as asteroids, originally stood for “Steel lightens your work, brightens your leisure, and widens your world.” No, I’m not kidding. Later, the colors came to represent the ingredients used in the steel-making process: yellow for coal, red for iron ore, and blue for scrap steel. The AISI allowed the Steelers to add the “ers” to the end of Steel on the left.

Today, the uniforms represent the winning tradition of their team. The Steelers are tied with the Dallas Cowboys for most Super Bowl appearances (eight), but are sole owners of the most Super Bowl wins in the NFL, with six. They are traditionally known for their tough, blue collar-ish work ethic and hard-nosed defense. The Steelers ownership, roster, coaches, fans, and uniforms all represent the work ethic of their city. What’s not to love about that?

Hines Ward, the hardest-blocking WR in the NFL

Fantasy owners are hoping Rashard Mendenhall's workload from last year doesn't lead to injuries and exhaustion in 2011

As intimidating as 95% of the NFL's defense

"Perhaps you recognize me from my shampoo commercials"

Oft-criticized (and often justly), Ben Roethlisberger is still a top-level (champion) QB

Facing off against bitter rivals, the Baltimore Ravens

 

"Let's talk about my hair some more..."

Their throwback alternates

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4. Oakland Raiders

Al Davis, the Raiders’ long-time owner/GM/doofus, is wrong about almost everything these days, but he remains right about one: silver and black rocks.

The Raiders’ uniforms can be summed up one a word, which can also be used to most accurately describe their fans: scary. But they weren’t always scary…

In 1960, a “name the team” contest was held by the Oakland Tribune. The winning monicker: the Oakland Señors. That’s right. The scary black-and-silver Raiders could have been called the Oakland Señors. The name was changed nine days later. The original color scheme was black and gold, featuring logo-less black helmets with a single stripe. This all changed when new owner Al Davis entered into the scene and changed the Raiders’ colors to silver and black, resulting in one of the most brilliant marketing success stories in sports.

Unfortunately, Al’s strategies (especially in regards to the NFL Draft) are horribly antiquated, and he has yet to come to grips with the deeper, more cerebral NFL of the 21st century. The Raiders have not been a serious contender for many years, but that hasn’t affected the beauty of their historically-great uniforms.

Darren McFadden: Arkansas native and up-and-coming NFL star

Run away!

Speedy wide receiver, Jacoby Ford

The white jerseys: pretty much just as cool.

Bad team, great unis.

And what is the only thing scarier than Raider Nation (pictured below)?

The NFL's most normal fan base.

Raiders owner Al Davis…

AHHHHHH!!!

I’ve said it about other logos and uniforms during this series, but the Raiders logo is absolutely classic. If it ever changes, you might as well dig up Al Davis’ coffin and paint Kansas City’s logo on it in bright red and yellow.

Yes, I’m aware that he’s not dead yet. Emphasis on yet.

How did he lose his eye? Al Davis ate it.

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5. Atlanta Falcons

Red. White. Black.

It is incredibly difficult to mess up those colors, and I can safely say that the Atlanta Falcons have done very well with this powerful trifecta.

There aren’t any kinds of interesting historical facts about the Falcons’ uniforms. They, like many other sports organizations, have vacillated between concepts. “Do we use red or black jerseys as our primary uniform? Do we need to change the Falcon logo to make it more aggressive? Should we wear throwbacks once or twice a year, if at all?”

The Falcons have found a way to incorporate creative design without trying too hard, and the results are gorgeous:

Matt Ryan: the next Tom Brady.

Expecting big things out of Ryan this year (he's on my fantasy team).

Michael Turner sporting the all-black alternative uniforms. Nice.

Roddy White in a beastly jersey.

The Falcons updated their logo along with a top-to-bottom redesign, resulting in this little beauty:

Falcons logo

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6. Cleveland Browns

No doubt about it — this is going to be a polarizing entry.

I consider the Browns’ uniforms and helmets to be among the most beautiful in the NFL. They’re simple, iconic, and sure to incite either appreciation or disgust from uniform watchers. You either love the Browns’ uniforms, or you want to vomit at the sight of them.

They’ve remained the same for nearly the entire 65-year history of the Cleveland Browns. White pants, dark (really dark) brown shirts, and orange helmets. The helmets have been completely plain, solo-striped, and triple-striped, like today. The colors have varied only slightly, with the brown on the shirts finally arriving at its current shade, a dark chocolate brown (actually, “seal brown”).

The uniform is so plain that there’s really not a lot to say about them. The striping is perfectly balanced, and…………well, that’s about it.

Colt McCoy, rallying the troops.

Mr. Madden cover himself.

Does this make you angry?

Jim Brown says you'd better like these unis.

And the logo?

This is it.

Classic.

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7. San Francisco 49ers

Yet another traditional rival that I’ve been forced to rank above my beloved Cowboys, the 49ers have some of the classiest uniforms in the NFL.

The Niners became one of the NFL’s best teams during the 1980s when quarterback Joe Montana began etching out his legacy as one of the greatest players and leaders of all-time. I still remember getting my young hands on a copy of the 1990 Super Bowl between Montana’s 49ers and John Elway’s Denver Broncos. I was only 7, and I didn’t know who won. I don’t even remember how I acquired it. I just remember watching in awe as the 49ers routed the Broncos, which I wasn’t too happy about.

The 49ers sported the cherry red tops, pale gold pants with absolutely huge stripes down the sides, and the elegant golden helmet with San Francisco’s “SF” logo emblazoned across the sides (see below).

Joe Montana

In the 1990s, San Francisco continued under the leadership of Jerry Rice and new QB Steve Young, but made what I consider to be several mistakes: they changed the traditional golden pants to white, added black shadows behind the numbers, and even added black to the pant stripes (keeping in line with the 90s and early 2000s trend of making absolutely everything black — I blame Steve Austin). The white pants were actually part of the team’s original look dating back to 1946, but changed to “beige gold” in 1964, remaining that way until the “throwback” season of 1994, which I refer to as the “throw-up” season.

The 49ers made the sensible decision to switch back to gold in 1995, but then reverted to a more modern white-pants look in 1996. It wasn’t any better.

What is this lunacy?

Thankfully, rationale got the best of the 49ers organizational heads once more in 1998. They brought back the gold pants, but the look wasn’t complete until they brought back the wide red and white stripes in 2009.

Lesson (hopefully) learned: leave it alone.

Mediocre QB, wonderful unis.

Awesome color combo.

Classy.

The logo? Not a lot to mention — it does its job, and we all recognize it now.

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