Saturday, August 31, 2013

Team Loss = Weight Gain?

I read an article on the Huffington Post earlier in the week about bulging waistlines when it came to sports. I was like "What?" and it got me thinking about a whole bunch of things. Are we really that invested in a team or in players that we get depressed and stress-eat way too easily? Here we go...

Close your eyes. No. That's a bad idea--you wouldn't be able to read this.
Imagine. There. That's better.

Your favorite team is doing extremely well in a game against the rival team. However, the rival team comes back and your favorite team chokes and eventually loses the game in a horrible fashion. Your life seems to be in shambles because you had so much faith in your team. You're sad. How do you handle this?

Some people might not go through this often, while others may experience the hurt and pain all of the time. Being a faithful fan has perks, but when you live and die with a team, you not only share in their successes but share in their sorrows as well. I remember writing a long time ago how being a fan of particular sports teams can be compared to being in an abusive relationship. When one goes through a bad breakup, one handles it in different ways, such as moping, excessive crying, compulsive shopping, or taking in exorbitant amounts of food and drinks (usually alcohol). When a major game is coming up, one gets mentally ready for the date with destiny. If it ends terribly, the emotional soul could be wrecked and one may need to fill the empty space with some sort of temporary happiness.

You can read the article right here.
After reading the article, I disagreed with the statement. Firstly, the study was rather small-scale and only covered NFL fans. As I had said on Twitter earlier this week, it wasn't representative of the whole sports-spectating population. Some of the survey questions that were mentioned in the article made me laugh because the choices were so polarizing (chips/candy or grapes/tomatoes). Because of the study conducted, I had no choice but to challenge the findings and argue from the other side. However, there were a few good observations made in the article, and I'll lay them out for you here.

First, we can admit that they have a lot of common sense working in their favor to begin with.
The main argument working for this article is that the study only involved American football fans. Their reasoning and findings may prove true since teams only play once a week, and there are often times where friends go over to friends' houses or families get together to watch the game. Not just that, but people also make their ways to bars and restaurants on Sundays to watch the game. If the team isn't doing well, or if there's enough people in the area to socialize with, mindless social eating and drinking can occur. That makes total sense, right?

The second argument isn't mentioned in the Huff Post article, but based on my own experiences, this other argument can fit in quite nicely with the findings of the study.
Those who are die-hard fans of football and baseball may take part in fantasy leagues. While some of these leagues may be for fun, some of them have money involved in the process. I'm pretty sure that anybody would be upset if they were out on cash if their teams or particular players from teams weren't playing so well. Fantasy leagues (which is something I'd like to write about someday) get the fan up-close and personal with running a team and becoming as knowledgeable about stats and team building as possible. When it falls flat and you run out of cash and hope, bad things could definitely happen.
I've also seen and heard about fantasy drafts that are held at parties and is treated like some sort of competitive holiday. If look at the argument before this, mindless social eating/drinking isn't gauged; for instance, think of the way you eat at Thanksgiving or Christmas. It works like that.

Those things I can understand by the article; however, there's always another side to a story and always a counterargument to a theory.

What if some of the fans investigated are athletes as well? I know it seems like I'm digging for counterarguments, but there are people out there who enjoy sports and are in a decent amount of shape. I've stated before that I am a Phillies fan. They've been doing pretty poorly this year, and I don't really find myself overeating because of how badly they've been playing. Also, I don't think I did any overeating when I got my rear end handed to me week after week in that random 20-team fantasy football league that I did last year with Andrew. That was horrible. Anyway, there are people out there that have other outlets than eating. Mine just happened to involve lifting a lot of weights. I know a Steelers fan that isn't a compulsive eater when they get totally embarrassed. I also know a lot of Cubs fans that find other ways to exert anger and depression after continuing their losing streak year after year. Regardless of sport, not everyone has the easiest of access to junk food when their team loses.

The second counterargument I have is this: sporting events are social events--everyone is going to be eating in some way. Plus, it's rather obvious that the study conducted doesn't really help the cause of alleviating the struggles of the expanding waistline in the United States. It's nothing new when news outlets say "there's a new study out" that the United States has a massive problem when it comes to heart disease, diabetes, and other physical health ailments that stem from obesity. More people are overweight in the US than in most "first-world countries" combined, and the eating/drinking lifestyle proves that. Also, the amount of physical activity is relatively low. Most people work at sedentary jobs, and other don't "find the time" to exercise or have the ability to make healthier choices. Our genes don't necessarily work well in our favor, either. Just think: there are people in England and other European countries that treat soccer like a religion and things can get extremely ugly when a team loses. A lot of drinking can be involved at times. However, they're not as heavy-set as we are, right?

This is a rather interesting study conducted, and I had enjoyed reading the article. It also gave me a good reason to write about an ongoing major issue that people in the United States are trying to fight. While it was a small study, it brings spectator lifestyles into light, and maybe it's a reality check to some people. To be honest, I never thought that sporting events could make me eat more if my team lost. I have some good willpower, but nothing is impossible.

Do you find yourself gaining a little weight or adopting other rotten habits because of the woes of your favorite team?


Friday, August 23, 2013

Little League = Little Extremes

Last week, one of the biggest sporting events in the state of Pennsylvania began and will be ending on Sunday. I'm talking about the Little League World Series. People from all around the country to see teams from different regions of the United States and all around the world play.

During the month of August, there is usually a surefire TV program to put on when there is absolutely nothing else on television: The Little League World Series. These eleven and twelve-year old boys enter the grand stage through their hard work and determination. They're still young enough for tears when there's a loss, but truth be told, when you see these kids make incredible plays, they're going to make you feel old and flabby and make you ask what you're currently doing with your life.

Before I begin, there might be a few things that you may not even realize if you haven't been a part of Little League yourself or don't watch nearly as much ESPN coverage as the next person. The Little League World Series not only covers a division of 11 and 12 year olds, but there are other divisions that play throughout the month: the Junior League (12-15), Senior League (13-17), and Big League (17-18). Obviously, these games are very rarely televised, and the younger boys get the spotlight, as their division is mainly referred to as the "Major Division." Also, these different divisions aren't usually played at Williamsport, Pennsylvania. There is usually a host team that is a part in the pool play and the competition goes from there.

However, with what you do see...

These kids are insane. These goodness.

One thing that was brought to my attention this past week was how some of the boys that are in little league are growing in size. One twelve-year old boy was--get this--6'2" and 200 lbs. The first thing that happened to me was that my jaw dropped and my eyeballs fell into my mouth. The second thing that happened was I vigorously shook my head because his nickname was "Swag Daddy." I digress. These boys are getting much, much bigger and ferocious-looking. From my standpoint, when I'm twice their age and they're twice my size, I become severely intimidated and will ask what the parents are feeding them.

I saw this and my brain darn-near exploded.
Could you imagine how much more these kids are going to grow before they turn 21? You almost hope that these kids don't get joint problems later on in their teenage years.

If you thought the size thing was relatively scary, there have been issues in the past when it came to the ages of the boys. The most infamous case was one of Danny Almonte, who helped lead his team from the Bronx to a third-place finish in 2001. What we didn't find out until a few weeks later was that the pitcher was actually 14 years old, as opposed to the maximum age of 12. Since the team was not involved in the final, the inevitable opening of the can of worms did not happen. The issue received a load of media attention, and lucky for Almonte, he has slipped out of the media eye since then.

Everything about this event is wonderful to examine. For instance, the umpires and concessions staff that are present at each game are there as volunteers and are doing everything without pay. That's right, the umpires you see are not getting paid for transportation and their services. They're doing it because they love to do what they do. How cool is that? This is a grand stage not only for the boys, but for the umpires' and volunteers' love of the game.

The competition used to be done in pool play format, but it is now held in a double-elimination style held between the United States teams and the International teams. When teams are eliminated, consolation games are played between US teams and international against each other. It's a good way to go out if the boys don't make it far.
When the kids aren't competing, they have a common hall where all of the kids can hang out and play games like foosball and ping-pong. There is no hostility among anyone, and everyone develops a strong relationship on and off the field. That is awesome. Even when the games get tight and tough [if you watched the Washington/Connecticut game Friday afternoon, you'll know exactly what I mean] sportsmanship is still present during and after the games.

Some of the things you will notice is how there is a recommendation for safety in the Little League World Series. The first one that should be mentioned is the sliding policy. Head-first sliding is not permitted in the Little League World Series. For example, during a game between Japan and Czech Republic, a boy playing for the Czech Republic was trying to slide into home to beat the throw and started going in head-first, but somehow spun himself around and looked like a windmill so his feet could slide into the plate first. Another rule that is practiced is the pitch counts that are enforced during the Series. A certain set of days are required to rest if a pitcher exceeds a certain amount of pitches. The maximum amount of pitches that a boy can throw is 85 or until the at-bat is finished after the 85 pitches. They're not in the major leagues yet, so that's very reasonable.
One last rule is that every boy on the roster has to be involved in the game in some way, whether it's hitting, pinch running, or playing the field. That is something that is special in my eyes, because I can remember sitting the bench in an important game and wanting to be a part of something special; I wouldn't want to see that for these boys that have come a long way from where they had originally began. One thing you may find interesting is that plays can be reviewed just as in Major League Baseball.

There is always the fuss over Little League when it comes to boys. Do they have anything when it has to do with the girls? Absolutely! There is the Little League World Series for softball, and they have almost the same format. The series for them is played earlier on in the month and isn't as largely televised as the boys' Major Division, but it exists and is slowly gaining more exposure on sports stations like ESPN. You may also witness a rare case in which you will see a girl or two play along with the boys each year. Yes, it is possible. In years past, I have seen a few girls play on the Japanese team and they did fairly well. This year, we saw a girl play for the Czech Republic, and she beat out many boys to make the team, including her own twin brother. Insane, right? She didn't play half bad, either.

Not all boys who have played Little League have continued on to play baseball after this, but many of them have become successful in their own rights, such as becoming doctors, actors, lawyers, and even MLB players--Todd Frazier of the Cincinnati Reds was a part of the 1998 Toms River, New Jersey team that won the championship, and he was the starting pitcher in the final against Japan. This league has taught boys discipline and shown them what hard work and determination leads to. These experiences are taken wherever they go later on in life, and it leaves an indelible impression on their character and their outlook on life.

The Little League World Series is something I always look forward to when it comes on television in the month of August. While it may seem silly to some, the love of the sport and the sportsmanship that is presented by these younger boys is wonderful to watch considering how most athletes are portrayed and displayed in major league sports in the United States. It's a breath of fresh air to see a sporting event that isn't poisoned by controversies and financial issues.

It's all about the kids. That's what makes this great.


Monday, August 12, 2013


What I am writing about today may not be considered a sport to many of you readers. It may be considered an art or a hobby or a skill. However, what some critics deem as "crazy" is incredibly fascinating and a testament to how impressive the human body can be. This is a sport. It is a sport of mind and of physical fitness.

There has bound to be one point in time in which you, the reader, have seen a commercial or a television spot in which an individual is jumping off of buildings, swinging on rafters, and doing crazy stunts that only a monkey was originally thought to have been able to pull off. When the practice was introduced to mainstream media outlets in the late 1990's-early 2000's, the term was called "freerunning," and art that grew in popularity in Europe and several regions in the United States. However, this term has been outrun over the past decade by the term "Parkour," the name of the main art developed in France. The art has a deep history, and the tactics used in this art have given a new leg to people interested in major sports and athletics such as martial arts and gymnastics.

Inspired by military training tactics from pre-World War I, the art was developed and crafted by a man named David Belle, who heard of stories of survival and skill from his grandfather. Since he was described as not being very good at popular sports or academics, he took his grandfather's stories and put them into action on his own. He trained and practiced different skills such as running, jumping, and climbing on various obstacle courses created. As time passed, friends and some family members gained interest in his activities, and they all began training together. Since the 1990's their acrobatics and daredevil-like antics have attracted fitness gurus and other athletic enthusiasts alike for their physical control and complete concentration over their actions.

Photo from Huffington Post
(Article Link Here)

This stuff is impressive.

While not officially recognized as a sport, it has easily become an extreme hobby in the same vein as surfing and rock climbing. Many freerunners have been featured on television such as the Japanese television show SASUKE (a.k.a. Ninja Warrior) displaying their extreme feats and have made a name for themselves. This activity isn't for the faint of heart nor is it really built for those stupid people who do stupid stuff and are featured on silly reality television shows. It isn't something where you are sitting on the couch on a Saturday afternoon and you say: "I'm bored. I'm gonna go vault over a few things on the street." It was created as an art and should rightfully be treated as one. The practitioners of parkour and freerunning have been training and practicing for a very long time and trust their bodies enough to perform stunts and push themselves to the limit. It is a discipline that is taken very seriously and could segue into the world of sports quite nicely. For example, it could be a great asset to learn if one is in competitive gymnastics. For example, training in events such as pommel horse and uneven parallel bars could be improved upon through training in parkour. When you think about it, vaulting could also fall into that training category as well.

It's a strong argument, yes?

With the increase in popularity, could this art be used as a tool to improve the ability of Olympic gymnasts?
It's possible.

Based on research, a number of training facilities around the country that teach gymnastics also teach parkour/freerunning as well. Since both require coordination and focus, it is a great marriage of acrobatics. Parkour could not be considered an Olympic sport in itself like other arts such as judo and taekwon-do since it isn't a standalone practice that can be used for competitive display. The art could be more or less seen as an art of enrichment and advancement in skill, almost like yoga. That is more than enough to help athletes with agility, body control, and even muscle toning if you want to get more technical.

Although I have mentioned these points, I haven't been able to pinpoint any major Olympic gymnasts who have used parkour in their training regimen. However, a former British gymnast is a heavy practitioner of the art. Although Damien Walters is no longer an Olympic gymnast, his skills have been shown on YouTube and through his work as a stuntman in films. You could even say that his career in gymnastics has evolved and shaped the career that he has immersed himself in now.

I've said previously that this is an art of enrichment similar to martial arts and yoga. It is a more extreme and physical form, and it requires a great deal of discipline and self-trust. As athletic as some people are, some might not be so trusting of themselves if they had to jump from a higher-than-usual distance and be able to balance body weight and roll out the impact correctly. I bet if I did it a few times I would get it, but I would also be dumb enough to screw up the first time and roll on my ankle. Again, there's a lot of focus and trust involved with the art and it should be taken as seriously as any other practice like in sports.

I'm completely fascinated with the art of parkour. The human body can do incredible things, and this is a testament to that. When I refer to it as a sport, it is a sport of the mind.  I don't ever believe that Belle intended this to be something competitive; it was created for people who may not be as coordinated to do sports but it exists for people to be more in-touch with their bodies and push their limits to the maximum. Theorists claim that the key to true happiness can be reached by being one with your body and finding it's true potential. Trusting yourself to do extreme feats could be a huge start to that.