Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Farewell Tour

It's not you, it's me.

I realise that is about as old of a cliché as there is when a person is trying to let a loved-one down easy, but I promise you it is the truth... I just can't do this anymore.

You make me feel bad about myself.  You make me feel dumb.  Every week I spend an inordinate amount of time labouring over things for you, and what do I gain?  More-often-than-not I do something wrong, and you inevitably crush me for it.  And on the rare occasions that I make the right decision, the pay-off is never worth the stress that preceded it.  

I know, I know, we've had some good times; heck, things were downright great at the beginning.  Do you remember our first time?  I do, it was in 2000.  Steve introduced me to you.  I was so foolish then, it's almost embarrassing to look back on it now.  I was clumsy and uneducated, but we caught lightning in a bottle in Green Bay that year.  It was magical, it was exciting... still, it wasn't fair.  I was like a kid winning big his first time at a Casino, I was completely hooked.  However, at the time, I had little-to-no understanding of what this new love of mine really meant.

You changed.  That isn't an accusation or a condemnation.  Far from it, in fact.  If put to a vote, I think it would be unanimously agreed that you have changed for the better over the past 10 years.  Unfortunately, I just don't find you fun anymore.  We don't even come close to clicking like we used to, and  I am sick and tired of you ripping my heart out every time we get together.

So that's that.  I don't want to wind up hating you, so I am ending this now.  It's over, I mean it. 2010-2011 is my final season of Fantasy Football.

A_1.jpg picture by DannoMack

In 2000-01, Ahman Green shocked the NFL with a breakout season for the Green Bay Packers. This also happened to be my 
first season
of fantasy football, and Ahman was the star of that first team. An obsession was born.

I admit that my decision to leave fantasy football may have a slight odour of sour grapes.  I haven't won a league championship in 10 years, and it's true that I am simply sick of losing.

This decade-long dearth of dorky dominance might prompt one to say "Well, Danno, you obviously suck at this game, so probably shouldn't even be playing it in the first place."  And I could see how, to a non-fantasy player, it would appear that way.  But fantasy football is so full of season-crippling bad luck, and table-dominating dumb luck, that it really doesn't take much skill to be a winner.

For example, my 2006-07 season died after week 3, when defending league MVP Shaun Alexander broke his foot.  His season, and ultimately his career, never recovered, and my fantasy season was over after 3 games.  It isn't always injuries that can cripple a fantasy team's season.  Last year, Matt Forte was regarded as the#2 best fantasy player in the NFL, and happened to fall to me in the draft.  What a great stroke of luck for olDanno, right?  Wrong.  Forte managed to turn in one of the most disappointing seasons in fantasy football history, scoring only 4 touchdowns.

On the dumb-luck side of things, there is just too many to list.  A team can take a flyer on an unproven and unheralded rookie in the late rounds of a draft, and he can end up winning the season for them.  This happened with players such as Clinton Portis, Chris Johnson, BenRoethlisberger, Philip Rivers, Anquan Boldin and Devin Hester to name a few, and never for my teams of course.  

My forays into rookie flyers were never so successful.  Guys like Reggie Bush, Joey Harrington,  Alex Smith, Charles Rogers, Jamarcus Russel, and David Carr all spent time littering my bench before mid-season releases.  Sam Bradford seems to be doing a half-decent job as a rookie NFL quarterback for my team so far this season, so expect him to break his collarbone any day now.  Mel Kiper Jr. has made himself a millionaire by predicting which college football players would make the best NFL players, and if hewas wrong about all those guys, then what chance did I have?

felixJONES2.gif picture by DannoMack
Felix Jones is a prime example of how The Year of the Committee has ruined some players' fantasy value.

"So, why is 2010-11 the season you finally give it up, Danno?  Everyone deals with injuries and flukes in fantasy football.  You've persevered through ten years of that nonsense, what is it about this season that has pushed you over the edge?"  Good question,italics person.  The answer is simple:  2010 has proved to be my breaking point because 2010 has become The Year of the Committee.

The Year of the Committee

Prior to this year, everyone knew that running back was the most important position in fantasy football.  There was no debating it, it was a fact.  Quarterback may be more glamorous, and (if you are aiming for longevity) a QB will often play two or three times as many productive seasons as an RB.  However, in a single-season scenario, the first overall picks (and the subsequent 2-3 picks thereafter) have always been reserved for running backs.  2010 may have changed all that.

There are only a handful of running backs in the NFL right now with true cornerstone fantasy value.  Why is this?  Because more than half the teams in the NFL got together and decided they were going to intentionally fuck with me, and split their carries among multiple backs.  

It used to be that teams would have a horse who would take most of the hand-offs and handle the majority of the carrying duties.  It was this dynamic that has fueled fantasy football for ten seasons, but not so in 2010.  This year teams are splitting their carries between two or even three different backs.  This means that the fantasy players who happen to have lucked into selecting a RB who is a bona-fide #1 are in a position of distinct advantage over those of us who are stuck with a back who only handles 33.33333% of his team's rushes.

This has left me labouring over my decisions of who to start at RB each week, because one never knows when a member of a running back committee may get a few more hand-offs that week.  So far I have been wrong every time.  2010-11 is already a write-off season for my squad.  There is no way I can compete against teams with backs who are getting the ball 25 times a game, while mine are lucky to get 10 carries.  It just isn't fun anymore.

And so I am done.  I am retiring in disgrace after the conclusion of what is shaping up to be my first winless fantasy season.  I won't undermine my league by intentionally throwing games or giving away star players to my friends, but my heart simply won't be in it anymore.  I'll root for my players each Sunday for the next 13 weeks, then I'll bow out of my keeper league and never look  back.

Lucky for me, fantasy hockey season starts in a day or two.

The Best Thing...

I've been getting complaints that all I blog about now is sports.  This story is about a baseball player... but I'll get the boring stuff out of the way quickly, because you don't have to be a sports fan to think it's awesome.

John McDonald is a shortstop/utility infielder known for his stellar defensive play.  Many have called him the best defensive player in baseball.  By that same token, many have referred to him as the worst hitter in baseball, averaging less than a homerun per season entering 2010.  Remember that homerun thing, it's part of what makes the story cool!

A few months ago, during this past season, John's father Jack began to lose his battle with liver cancer.  The Toronto Blue Jays allowed John to go home for a couple of weeks to be with his family.  Before John returned to the team, his father was in the final hours, and the pair exchanged their last goodbyes.  In this final exchange, McDonald Sr. asked his son to hit him a home run at some point, and point to the sky in dedication to his father.  John agreed to this, even though he said he may have to do it in a softball game after he retired, because Major League homeruns aren't exactly common for him.

Then, in his first at-bat after John returned to the Blue Jays, on fucking FATHER'S DAY no less he did this:

Unbelievable, right?




This happened in real life.  This is why I love sports.

Saturday, 5 June 2010

Beer-Pong... FOR KIDS!


If you're like me, every time you see a ten-year-old playing with a skateboard or tossing a football around, you think "Yeah, but what are these activities doing to improve their drinking game skills?  Don't their parents CARE about them fitting-in during freshman year at college?!"

This is why it warmed my heart to no end when I saw this commercial on television last week.

Say hello to CUPONK.  Now you can start your kids (ages 6 and up) on the path to beer-pong greatness in your own home!

The future is bright, my friends.

Monday, 31 May 2010

Perfection

Boring Sports Background Info:
On Saturday night, Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Roy Halladay pitched just the 20th perfect game game in over 100 years of Major League Baseball.  What this means is that he got out every single batter he faced, without them getting a hit or drawing a walk off him.  27 batters came up to the plate to face Roy Halladay, and he got all 27 out.  This is the rarest, most difficult thing a player can achieve in a game, and Roy (whom you might remember I blogged about once before) will now be remembered forever as one of the players who achieved it.  If you read my previous blog about him, you won't be surprised to learn that the very next day was just another day at the office for Roy.

A Letter To Roy:
Hi Roy,

I know we agreed to end our relationship, but I just can't help myself, I need to say these things.  I'm so sorry about the way it all went.  I am aware it is a tired cliché, but I now realise just how right Joni Mitchell was when she said "you don't know what you've got 'til it's gone."

Every single day you gave us your best, you gave us every ounce of yourself, and we never truly appreciated it until we were just a speck in your rear-view mirror.  We should have tried harder for you.  I wish we had tried harder for you.  I am so sorry.  It must have killed you to give of yourself as much as you did day-in and day-out and not have us put forth the same effort.  While other teams were acquiring pieces to fit around their superstars, we did the bare-minimum required to keep you thinking things might change.  While other fan-bases were filling their stadiums in support of their superstars, we took you for granted and didn't make you near as high a priority as you deserved.

-

I saw you yesterday.  You were with... them.  You looked happy.  It made me miserable.  Don't get me wrong, you deserve to be happy, I just wish you were happy here with us, where you belong.  You never smiled like that while you were here.  I am so sorry.

Yes, yes, you don't need to tell me, I know that we didn't have the same vision of the future that you did.  I know that they make you feel truly wanted, truly supported, and we never did that.  I know you had chances to leave before and you stayed.  I know you saw potential in us, I know you just wanted us to match your effort so that we could be happy together.  I know we squandered chance after chance, and I know you had enough... but I still can't help that every time I think of you, I wish I could turn back time.

I want to go back to a sunny day in the middle of July when you were still ours.  I just want to live one of those days over again, so I can show you the support you deserved at least that one time.  I know we could fix this if we had one more chance, I know we could make you love us again.  We shared some good times, did we not?  Remember the near no-hitter in 1998?  Remember the Cy Young award in 2003?  Remember how supportive the community was to you and your wife's charity efforts?  There must have been something that made you stay for so long!

Ugh.  I'm sorry.  I'm being pathetic... I know that it's too late.  I know you've moved on already, because I have seen how much more fun you are having with them.  I didn't think it would be this hard.  I've been through it all before, you're not the first one to be driven away by us.  At one point I honestly believed this was what I wanted, that this was for the best.  I was so wrong.  I am so sorry.  We pushed you away with our apathy.  We pushed you away with our inertia.  We should have realised how special it was that you cared so deeply in spite of our lack of effort, and done everything in our power to make you stay.

-

There's plenty of fish in the sea.  There's another tired, old cliché, but one cannot deny that it is also true.  Problem is, the other fish will never be you.  Some may share similar traits, but there will never be another who will give so much while getting so little in return.  Maybe there is a lesson here, maybe we will learn that it is wrong to let our inertia kick in and allow us to settle for mediocrity.  Maybe we'll treat our next star better.  God I wish we'd treated you better.  I am so fucking sorry.

I used to check up on you after every game, but I don't think I will anymore.  It is too hard.  It hurts too much to know how well you're doing with them.  I am still far too attached to you to ever move on, so I am going to check out now.  I wish I was strong enough to remain friends, but every time I see you I die inside.  I want to tell you how sorry I am, I want to beg you to come back, but that isn't a healthy existence.  Please don't think I'm ignoring you to be be cruel or to make a nasty point, I am doing it for the sake of my own sanity.

I miss you...

-Dan

Sunday, 11 April 2010

Roy Halladay

by dannomack

Prologue

In many ways I am a stereotypical male.  I eat too much red meat, I think farts are funny, and I devote far too much of my brain-space to professional sports.  I mainly follow the National Hockey League (NHL), National Football League (NFL), Major League Baseball (MLB ) and National Basketball Association (NBA), but I also keep a cursory eye on the English Premier League (EPL), Canadian Hockey League (CHL) and World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE), and yes: pro wrestlers are athletes.

My friend Hannabee once said to me, "Danno, you dashing devil, what is it about sport that fascinates you so?  You're such a highly intelligent, highly sensitive, highly evolved modern man, and an obsession with sport just seems so pedestrian!" (I may have been paraphrasing a bit there, but you get the point).  What came as a surprise to me, though, was that I did not have an answer for her.  Furthermore, even after giving it a few minutes of thought, I could not come up with a coherent response beyond "I... I just do!"

I told Hannabee that I would ruminate on the question for a bit and eventually answer it in blog form.  Pathetically, I am sure she has long-forgotten asking me the question, and yet I'm still being eaten up by it.  I have begun and deleted countless entries in which I attempt to address the issue, but they never get beyond the standard go-to reasons people tend to give, which always seemed boring and contrived when I tried to flesh them out.

For every reason I thought of that was in favour of sport (the chance of seeing something new or miraculous every night, real-life human drama, seeing the best in the world on a global stage, and so on), my cynical side - aka Italics Dan - had a reason against it (cheating, inflated salaries, players don't care about the fans nearly as much as the fans care about the players and on and on).

I tell you this as a prologue to the entry below, because I am fully-aware of how foolish it is.  I am fully-aware of how, in terms of importance, sport pales in comparison to practically everything else in the world.  Please don't cringe if the entry below occasionally slips into purple prose about millionaires chasing a ball about.  Please don't roll your eyes if I wax poetic about sweaty men who don't care I exist in the entry below.

Okay, good, now that I've said all that, I am comfortable enough to write the following embarrassing sentence:
I realise it's absurd, but I saw this picture (below) three weeks ago, and I nearly cried.
halladay-spring-trainingjpg-74a5bfb.jpg picture by DannoMack


Roy Halladay

A Brief Introduction (with a fun game!)
For those readers who aren't sports enthusiasts (if any have bothered to read this far), please allow me tell you a bit about Roy Halladay.

I am going to take for granted that everyone knows what baseball is, and even what a pitcher is (in the context of a baseball team I mean).  Quite simply, Roy Halladay is the best pitcher in baseball.  He has been the most consistent pitcher of the last ten years, and the most feared.  While it can be argued that some pitchers are just as consistent (Mark Buehrle) or - as we enter the 2010 season - just as feared (Tim Lincecum), no other pitcher can be considered both.

But it is not his talent alone that makes him remarkable, that is only half the story.  The best part about Roy Halladay is that he is just such a darn good human being, which is completely refreshing in the current world of sports.  To illustrate this point, let's play a little game of "Roy - Not Roy", shall we?

Which of these stories is about Roy Halladay?:

#1
OR

Could you tell?  Click the links in the descriptions to find out!

#2
OR

That was a tough one wasn't it?

#3
OR

I bet you got that one wrong!  Okay, one more:

#4
OR

Alright, alright, I admit that the game had a slight "Roy Halladay is great" slant, but I was trying to get a point across! (What?! A blog entry with an actual point to get across?  This is shocking new terrain for you, Danno.  Be careful, mate!)


The Heart of the Matter (without a fun game!)
Okay, so now you know who Roy 'Doc' Halladay is, but that doesn't explain why the photograph above would make my eyes prickle, does it?  I read an article nearly a year ago which touches on some of the things I am planning on mentioning here, so I felt that it was only fair that I track it down and link to that article before I begin, so here: Gary Wise.

It's not easy being a Toronto sports fan.  We haven't had a team in a championship game in nearly 20 years, and with the Raptors having been bumped out of the 8th-and-final playoff spot in the NBA's Eastern Conference on Sunday, the Leafs finishing the NHL season on Saturday as the worst team in their conference, and the Blue Jays projected to be a possible 90-loss club, we could be looking at two years without a Toronto team even making the playoffs.  But a lack of winners isn't what makes us such a tortured fanbase, there's many fanbases with a much worse historical collection teams than ours.

The thing that makes it so hard to be a Toronto sports fan is that our stars are constantly letting us down.  Over the past 15 years of my cognitive sports fandom, there were 6 athletes who played for Toronto teams that - at one point or another - I identified as my "favourite player".  They were Curtis Joseph and Mats Sundin of the Leafs, Roy Halladay of the Blue Jays, and Tracy McGrady, Vince Carter, and Chris Bosh of the Raptors.  There were others (the Doug Fluties, John Macdonalds, Nik Borschevskys, and Master Ps of the world) who I liked based on individual moments, comedic events, or occurrences in video games, but the 6 mentioned in the previous sentence doubled not only as my favourites, but as the faces of their respective franchises.

"This is boring, get to the part where all of your favourite Toronto sports stars let you down already!"  Okay, okay, here goes!

Tracy McGrady - The Raptors first pick in the 1997 NBA draft, the man affectionately dubbed "T-Mac" (during the height of J-Lo's popularity, you see) was meant to be the future of the franchise.  T-Mac was chosen right out of high school, and as with most who make the jump from high school to the NBA there were growing pains before he reached his potential.  Toronto fans stuck with him though, and when he finally reached the max-contract potential we all knew he could reach... he left town to play for the Orlando Magic.  One positive thing to say about the McGrady ordeal is that he never lied about his intentions, he let it be known that Orlando was his hometown, and he wanted to play closer to his family than in the icy wilderness that is Toronto.

Curtis Joseph (Cujo) - Was a superstar NHL goaltender for the Leafs from 1999 - 2002, often bailing the club's poor defense out with his stellar play, and carrying them into the playoffs.  After saying all the right things during the final year of his contract about loving Toronto and wanting to stay with the Leafs, he bolted town to sign with the powerhouse Detroit Red Wings for the 02-03 season.  On his way out he was uncomplimentary of the Leafs organisation, saying he signed with Detroit to win a Stanley Cup, something he couldn't do with the Leafs.  This was the first time I realised that athletes don't care about us, and are playing for the name on the back of the jersey, not the name on the front.

Mats Sundin - One might think I would have learned the lesson from Cujo, but shame on me.  Mats Sundin played for the Toronto Maple Leafs from 1994 - 2008, and was team captain for much of that time.  Mats was the Leafs' leading scorer for all but one of those seasons, and although he never got the team to the Stanley Cup Finals, we still loved him.  When 2008 rolled around, the Leafs were in a transitional period, looking to get younger.  Mats Sundin was not going to re-sign with them in the offseason, and so the Leafs management began actively looking for trade partners who would want Sundin, which were not difficult to find given Sundin's immense talent.  They got many offers for Sundin which would have given them a large stockpile of prospects and draft picks to help build towards the future, but at the last minute Sundin threw a wrench in the works.  Mats had a no-trade clause in his contract which gave him the right to veto any trade the team tried to make of him, and he used this to put a stop to the trade negotiations.  Toronto fans were displeased that their captain had passed on the opportunity to net his team a big trade return, but when he said he didn't feel right about being a "rental player" who only plays for a team for a few months, it eased our displeasure because we just felt he was a dude sticking to his morals.  That was until the next season when he took the first two-thirds off and then signed a big contract with the Vancouver Canucks to be a fucking rental player for their fucking playoff run.  Fuck you Mats you selfish, dispassionate prick, fuck you fuck you fuck you.

Vince Carter - Vince Carter was the first instance in my life where a Toronto athlete's popularity extended outside of Canada.  Carter appeared on magazine covers, video game boxes, and in arguments about who the best player in the NBA was.  We loved Vinsanity, and in 2001 when he signed a 6-year contract extension (the year after his cousin T-Mac had bailed on us) we thought he loved us back.  It pains me to think about what happened from there, as Vince went from one of the most popular athletes in North America to the worst team-mate in all of sports right before our very eyes.  Please allow this video to explain the rest, I just can't do it.

Chris Bosh - Bosh was the 4th overall pick in a loaded 2003 NBA draft which brought the league the likes of Lebron James, Carmelo Anthony, Bosh, and Dwayne Wade.  He is regarded as one of the best big men in the NBA's Eastern Conference, and his contract with the Raptors is up in a few months time.  He is talented, approachable and entertaining, and he hasn't bailed on Toronto yet... but I won't get burned again and allow myself to believe that he will possibly re-sign with this awful Raptors club.


And then there's Roy.  Roy Halladay pitched for the Toronto Blue Jays from 1998 - 2009.  During this time, Roy won a Cy Young award as the American League's best pitcher, and was named to numerous All-Star games, became a pillar of the community, and did not once pitch in the post-season.  Roy Halladay gave his team his all, through new manager after new manager, through rebuilding processes and salary dumps, Roy Halladay never complained.  Then, at age 33, after giving his prime to the Blue Jays organisation without the team once surrounding him with the kind of talent needed to make a playoff run, Roy Halladay's contract was about to come up (with the Jays mired in the midst of yet-another rebuilding movement).  Roy did not go to the media or begin to tank his game until he was traded; he simply went to the Jays' general manager and discretely told him that he wanted to play for a championship contender before his career was done.  This allowed the Jays one-and-a-half years to find a trading partner, and they managed to secure themselves three quality prospects in return for Roy.

Roy Halladay is the reason I like sports.  He has dominated opponents in his first two games for his new team (The Philadelphia Phillies), much like he dominated foes here in Toronto, and I feel happy for him.  Much like Boston hockey fans felt happy for Ray Bourque when he escaped the woeful Bruins and won a Stanley Cup in Colorado (so much so that the city of Boston staged a parade in his honour), I want Roy Halladay to win a championship in Philadelphia.  Roy is the only Toronto athlete in whom I put my faith who did not let me down.  Roy makes me want to let myself be hopeful that Chris Bosh stays in Toronto.  Roy makes me a big dumb sports fan.

Thursday, 4 March 2010

iLove iCarly & iDon't Care Who Knows

by dannomack

As anyone who reads my blog (or has had a conversation with me) could tell you, I am very fond of hyperbole.  I mean I love hyperbole.  I want to get engaged to hyperbole way too young, have all of our friends tell us "guys you are way too young to get married", get married regardless (and while at the wedding those same friends smile and toast us like they believed in us the whole time, two-faced assholes, you know who you are!), realise our mistake 6 months later but stay married for the rest of our lives due to our shared stubbornness despite the fact that we're miserable together.

But, that being said, I want to make it clear to all of you that it is not hyperbole when I say:

iCarly is the best show on television today!


I am not quite ready to say it's the best show ever (Although maybe in a few seasons iCarly will unseat The Wire for that honour?  Stay tuned!), but it is certainly head-and-shoulders above the other shark-jumping drivel occupying the top spots in the ratings these days (I'm looking at you Lost, Heroes and The Office).

Now, for those of you who haven't seen iCarly (what, do you live under a rock?) allow me to give you a little crash-course in the greatest show on television!  Below I have thrown together a little intro to the prominent characters of the program.  It deserved more than the five minutes of time I gave it, but I was rushing so I could get back to watching the new episode!



Carly Shay
played by Miranda Cosgrove

Miranda Cosgrove (of Drake and Josh fame) is a talented 18-year-old actress who plays the title character of the show.  The character of Carly, however, is only 15 years old!  Through what I can only assume is expensive CGI and years of acting lessons for Miranda, she is somehow able to play the role of a much younger person!

Carly is the star of a very popular webshow called - you guessed it - iCarly!  The webshow consists of Carly and friends acting out skits, having wacky contests, answering viewer questions, and giving tips on how her viewers can have successful webshows of their own!  Carly's most prominent co-star is...

Sam Puckett
played by Jennette McCurdy

Samantha "Sam" Puckett is Carly Shay's best friend and tough, no-nonsense sidekick on her webshow and, indeed, in life.  The actress who portrays Sam is named Jennette McCurdy, an 18 year old born in Los Angeles.  Being from the bluegrass hotbed of California explains why she is also a superb country singer (perhaps the only talented country singer in the world), with a hit single called So Close.

Jennette's character Sam is known for being wisecracking, stubborn, unladylike, and for having a neglectful, unemployed, possibly alcoholic mother.  She is also known for playing mean tricks on...

Freddie Benson
played by Nathan Kress

Freddie Benson, played by dreamy 18 year old Glendale, CA native Nathan Kress, is the third member of the webshow threesome I like to call The E-Musketeers (I think this goes without saying, but reminder: Do NOT use the term E-Musketeers without first obtaining my permission, giving me credit immediately afterwards, and linking to this blog if possible).

Freddie doesn't appear on camera much during the webshow, as he is responsible for filming and producing the show.  On the television series, however, he is an important character with a high IQ, an overprotective mother, and a lifelong crush on Carly (I know, I know, it sounds like I am describing myself)!  He lives in the apartment across the hall from Carly and her older brother/guardian...

Spencer Shay
played by Jerry Trainor

Spencer, played by Jerry Trainor (Real life age: 33, Character age: 26... a difference of 7 years!  If that isn't acting talent, I don't know what is!), is a law-school dropout and full-time artist who has been entrusted with the care of his younger sister Carly.  He rarely appears on the webshow, but is solidly entrenched as an important character in the weekly television series.  He is the fourth of five regular characters on the show, the fifth being...

GIBBY!!!!!
gibby2.jpg picture by DannoMack
GIBBY GIBBY GIBBY GIBBY, HEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEERE'S GIBBY!!!!!!!!!!!!!




There you have it!  That was my 5-minute rundown of the eclectic and talented cast of iCarly!  Next time I talk about Carly and the gang, it will be during my first-ever iCarly Episode Running Diary entry!  That is going to be a new feature I have decided to begin, where I watch an episode of iCarly and record my thoughts and opinions on the episode (in real-time!) here on blog.dannomack.com!  The running diary concept is one made famous byESPN'S Bill Simmons.

Sunday, 21 February 2010

13 years old is old enough for me

by dannomack

Note: This is about a controversial decision made by USC's football program.  I am aware that the majority of my readers literally care about nothing less than U.S. college football, but the football part of the situation is barely relevant to the entry, so if you have a few minutes, give it a read!

In the world of NCAA football, there is something known as "signing day", where the nation's top high school football players make a decision as to which college football program they will be playing for (and occasionally attending beekeeping classes at).  This year's signing day took place a few days ago, but the biggest news was not the high school seniors who will be playing college football next year, but the 13-year-old middle-school quarterback who will be playing college football in 2015.

The kid's name is David Sills, and is considered to be a youth prospect on the same levels Tiger Woods and Lebron James were at his age.  As should be expected, David Sills and his family are ecstatic to have made this verbal commitment to his favourite college sports team (read more about the facts and David Sills' reaction here: http://sports.espn.go.com/ncf/news/story?id=4891901), even though it's really nothing more than a ceremonial arrangement.  Sills is much too young to sign an official "letter of intent" to attend USC, and would be completely within his rights to change his mind about this verbal agreement at any time.

I hope that has set the scene enough for you about what has been going on.  If not, perform a Google search for " David Sills USC " and read to your little hearts contents, because it's opinion time, cuties.

As one might imagine, whenever someone younger than the mean age of the population achieves a goal that many people have dreamed of but failed to achieve, jealousy kicks in.  This jealousy came out in the form of moral outrage about allowing a 13 year old to commit to a college before even completing the 7th grade.  Some choice opinions from around the web:

*"No matter how you put this together, it's simply another low standard set by Kiffin, which I hope will not begin as a trend in college football." -College Footballogy

*"As for [USC coach Lane Kiffin's] signing. We just shake our collective heads. Yes, the guy will do anything for publicity." -Online Sports Guys

*"a classic example of bad parenting." -Bob Ryan

*"a particularly moronic moment in sports history" -ESPN Los Angeles

*"Why can't they just let him be a kid and grow into the sport? My 12 year old son is a phenomenal soccer player and we wouldn't commit him to Chelsea, Real Madrid, Arsenal or AC Milan at this stage." -Black Political Thought Blog


Yes, perhaps it is too broad of a brush-stroke to say that all of these comments (and the countless others easily available out there on this wonderful thing called the World Wide Web) were fueled by jealousy.  Bob Ryan, for example, has a well-documented history of saying things before truly grasping the situation.  However, I do not feel it is unfair to say that the majority of the outrage from journalists, bloggers, and fans alike comes from jealousy of the fact that his 13-year-old kid has achieved something (his dream) that most people or their children will not achieve until much later in life, if at all.

My favourite quote up there is the last one, where the writer basically says "Yeah, we could totally commit our 12 year old to one of the biggest programs in his favourite sport, but we're going to wait until he is older to do so."  I found it even funnier when I remembered that all of those major European football clubs have youth organisations that recruit kids as young as 9-years-old to become full-time students of the game.  David Beckham, for example, signed a youth contract with Manchester United on his 14th birthday after being scouted and recruited for years prior to that.

However, that's neither here nor there, because pointing things out like...

-Child actors working full-time jobs for millions of dollars (e.g. Tatum O'Neal winning an Oscar at 11 years old)

-Children attaining scholarships to, and graduating from, Universities based on their academic prodigy-status (e.g. Michael Kearney graduating college at the age of 10 years old)

-Children becoming world-renowned pop stars at young ages (e.g. Michael Jackson and the Jackson 5)


...would likely only lead people to condemn children succeeding in any walk of life, so I won't follow that line of thought any further.  Much of the sentiment I have been reading on the ESPN.com discussion boards (linked at the bottom of the ESPN article above) is that the parents are doing the child a disservice by allowing him to pursue such lofty goals so early on in life.  People claim that - at his age - football should be nothing more than a schoolyard diversion, not a life plan.  Which, of course, is complete bullshit.

If a 13-year-old shows enough mental and physical prowess that one of the biggest football programs in the country wants him to play for them in 5 years, then that should be a sign to the rest of us that this is no normal kid.  He has a gift (I don't necessarily believe that it is God-given or inherent in him, but if nothing else he has been given a gift by the expensive coaching his father has bought for him), and he should be allowed to use that gift to his own ends.  At 13 years old, this kid has gotten his name into the psyche of the college football world, so that even if the deal with USC falls through, he is very likely going to get a free ride to a college somewhere to play ball.

His future is secured, because at the very least he is going to come out of this in ten years with a fully-paid college degree, and at most a spot on an NFL roster.  How can anyone hate a kid for using the talents of an older person in the way an older person would.  I know it stings when you see someone much younger than you succeeding in a field you always wished you could break into.  It makes you feel old, it makes you feel like a failure, and the first reaction of many in that case is to lash-out.  But the kid is good at football, and criticising him for that just makes you a big ol' bully.