Friday, June 27, 2014

Sports/Political Commentary - Oil/Sewage

This blog post really isn't about a sport, per se, but it's about the perspective of sports held by a number of American citizens. When you bring political spices into it, you're bound to get attention for it. However, I'm going to bring the right kind of attention to it.

I'm not one to bring attention to myself.
I never was.

I'm also not a fan of politics, but when you see something that's so corrupted, the spirit sometimes compels me to try and make things right by giving a point of view. Having a closed mind is never good. I like to get people out of their shells.

When I first started this blog, I had no intent of ever causing a stir or making people completely despise my stance on a topic to the point of making them want to punch me in the face. Even when I first started exploring the Internet more as a teenager, I knew it was pure idiocy to troll. Then I noticed that the name "Ann Coulter" was trending all over social media Thursday night. I know her from being a thorn in the side of the Clinton administration in the 1990's. To be frank, political commentary bored me to a great degree, because in truth, it's a bunch of arguments about nonexistent agenda and propaganda that is striving to be relevant.

Anyway, Ann Coulter wrote an article called "America's Favorite National Pastime: Hating Soccer." I'm plugging the article, but I'd much rather you read this bit of commentary from Ashley Burns of Uproxx because it pretty much sums up what I think about the article, plus, it includes some of it anyway. I digress. It's okay to not understand a phenomenon as it is occurring such as the World Cup, but there's bound to be a problem when you automatically put something down when you don't bother to do a little homework about it and the sport and talk to people about it that have played it or experienced it. Before you read more of this blog post, I would suggest you do some reading from those first, because this post will be long-winded, and I'm not going to have the time to give you a quick run of what goes on in that trainwreck.

Sports and politics never really were a big problem here in the United States, as (for the most part) the democracy that we hold doesn't intervene in sporting matters, that is unless it has something to do in the medicinal field. But to use your status to bring something to light and completely nitpick it to the point where you're just finding pointless things to criticize? That's like you're criticizing that little girl sitting in the corner of the cafeteria who's eating out of a The Magic School Bus lunchbox and forced to drink a pouch of strawberry milk because it was the only thing left. That little girl is stronger than you think. That little girl is me. That little girl has been a fan for their whole lifetime. That little girl is an athlete who looked up to international sports legends and is now inspiring youth to live their dreams and break through the concrete routine and fly free. There's a sleeping giant in the world of sports that one won't understand unless if that life is lived, and lived properly.

The mantra is that we are United States; united we stand, divided we fall. It has become evident through our governmental system that we're never going to get along, and there's always going to be something to despise because it isn't the "American way." What is that way, anyway? Baseball's an American sport, but it's derived from cricket and a game called rounders, both of which are popular in England. Basketball originated in Canada. Ice hockey has roots in Western Europe and Canada. American football is derived from rugby, which started in England. Are we going to unite with the world, or are we going to break away from tradition and be that annoying neighbor with the ten-foot wall that hates everyone around them? That's not how you build any kind of strength. No man is an island. The United States is a melting pot. Deal with it.

"Oh, soccer isn't American? It's a threat! Let's send over some troops and defend against those evil penalty kicks! It's lazy! We need to be more active! Obesity! It isn't good entertainment! We need revenue because we're in debt!"
Give me a freaking break.

Here's another argument that I'm going to throw in that I know I'll get flack for: We have a middle-aged woman who is a well-known political critic throwing stones when she herself lives in a glass house. Plus, she's written books and other pieces over the course of a few decades that have been under large amounts of scrutiny. She's a woman. A woman. You know, the gender that still throws the "inequality card" and has a select amount that downplays all things that don't show a strong feminine figure a la Disney princess films? It makes someone like me look absolutely stupid, like I don't know what I am talking about when I argue about a male-dominated industry. I might not know a whole bunch about sports, but with what I do know, you better be sick because I'll give you a clinic. I am proud of my feminine side, but I refuse to be associated with someone who is fighting for something that already exists to the open-minded. The close-minded brings about fear--the fear that you can't do something because you're a girl or because you might not be good enough. Sure, we might not have the strongest soccer team in the world, but you can tell we're getting stronger, and we have the fans that will live and die with the growth.

There are people that are familiar with her that know that Coulter is a troll, and she's writing about a sport not in the American "Big Four," and she's trying to make a big joke out of something that isn't shown all that often on mainstream television outside of ESPN or any other sports network. But then there are others that don't understand how agenda works, and will take this stuff as gospel. That's when you know there's a big problem. You can grab the innocent by the stones, and make yourself their god. If you're going to write something stupid, you better be that kind of stupid where you have half-decent reasoning behind the abysmal arguments. Yes, there's that capability of dragging the reader down to your level and beating them with experience, but it's also a reflection of the kind of person that you are: a close-minded person who won't delve into the true passion of sports, most notably football. Most political commentators have a knack for being the real American "shock jocks," but this is something that I, as a respected writer in my circles, refuse to stand for. In sports, I intend to inform with my opinion, and not shove it down someone's throat. I leave it open for the reader. This was more of a public service announcement that can be deemed worthy of you being crowned a legitimate "village idiot."

Granted, I often joke that women all secretly hate each other for subconscious reasons that they don't understand, and some of the same cases occur in men. The same things happen in politics. We unfortunately tolerate it, but when it attacks something that puts aside animosity for a set amount of time. There are people that know that people similar to Ann Coulter do this strictly to grab the attention, stir controversy, and not really care about what other people think about them. Believe me, there are people out there that have that mindset that they'll drop a bomb and walk away without caring for the reaction. I see it more often in everyday life than I care to share.

So let me tell you something, Ms. Coulter: I don't really care what you think, either. Whether you sit on a throne and read it, thanks for laughing or crying or whatever you do where you are. However, as a young woman who is scratching and clawing her way through a male-dominated industry of writing and sports journalism, you are a complete disgrace to not only the world of the working woman, but to the ideal perception of ethics and morality. You're the definition of a closed mind--one who won't open up to the cultures of what is around them, or the beauty of passion and how humanity can show error and talent in more ways than physical force and violence.

Do you want to know why women aren't paid the same way men are in this society? Not because we aren't worthy of it, but because of ridiculous editorials that knock down our standard to the point where we can't be taken seriously. I've been writing pieces for five years, and seeing a piece from you, a person who has been in this business for almost 30 years, I feel more ahead of the game than you ever were. Why? Because my writing is meant to inspire and to create new ways for people to think. You write in a prison. You post and people go "Oh God, not her again," and though you don't care, you should. You're wasting your time.

Don't mess with the sporting world--it's bigger and scarier and way more united than anything you've ever experienced in a political government. There's corruption everywhere, but at least it isn't hidden in sports. We play and remain united. We aren't fooled, we govern ourselves, and it promotes life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. What do you stand for?

You've got guts, my lady, but prepared to be mauled by your critics. I won't be there, but I'll pray for your soul. Really.

But for the time being... I know a lot of soccer enthusiasts are upset about this, and they pretty much want this woman hung by her earlobes. Or maybe get bit by Luis Suarez. I don't know. But maybe this is a learning experience for us too. Let's teach the close-minded a lesson. Soccer is here to stay.

EDIT: Ms. Coulter, since this was your intent to get attention for this, you got mine. Good for you. However, no deed goes unpunished. I gave a clear-minded perspective, and I bet way more people are going to agree with me than you.


Sunday, June 22, 2014

AZ's Slant on Sunday - Caught Red-Skinned

Leave it to me to write two posts in two months in regards to topics that annoy me: race and ethnicity. When you have money and you get the attention of the media, it's going to be a big deal, and it will turn into a nasty pus-filled pimple. And you don't wanna touch that, do you?

[DISCLAIMER: What I talk about in this post is not completely representative on how I see the Native American people. They are kind, honorable, and a strong group, and they have gone through absolute hell because of the descendants of many US citizens over several centuries. I am criticizing the way the media is handling this, as it is completely asinine, and which is why I am talking about it.]

Today, for AZ's Slant on Sunday, we're going to talk about something that has been shoved down our throats for the past week or so:

The Washington (censored)
Ugh. Really?
Washington (censored)
RED-SKINned potatoes.

As you can see, this has been a hot topic for nearly two weeks. Back on June 10, I posted a video on The Sports Nut Blogs' Facebook page, showing an advertisement that was going to be shown in numerous major media markets during Game 3 of the NBA Finals.

If you haven't watched it, here it is:

So the story goes, this advertisement is several years in the making. The group in charge of this advertisement had raised enough money over the course of time, and made their mark in what they thought about the "Redskins" name. To be frank, this controversy originally came to a head and was modernized after Super Bowl XXVI in 1991 when the team had won the Super Bowl. Numerous attempts have occurred since then to cancel the trademark, stating that the term "Redskin" was "disparaging to the Native American people." The attempts over the course of twenty years had failed, but on June 18, a push to cancel the trademark was successful, and now we've got a big 'ole pot of beef stew in our hands. Whether this advertisement was a massive catalyst to this cancellation is uncertain, we can agree that this is something that we never thought we'd have to deal with in our generation.

This controversy is all over the airwaves and the news stations. In fact, [this is my favorite part] an MSNBC news anchor went that extra mile in making this name taboo. WARNING: This video might make you make this face:
My face looked like this for 20 minutes.

Now, we've had issues with Native American imagery in the past. For nearly forty years, high school and college teams have had to change their mascots and team names due to "derogatory imagery." Several of them had names like "Indians" or "Redmen," and they have had to be changed. Even professional teams like the NBA's Golden State Warriors had to do away with their original mascot, and now MLB's Atlanta Braves are only represented by a tomahawk in their logo. As you can see, however, they were able to keep the names. The one exception amid all of this is the NHL's Chicago Blackhawks team. Despite their mascot not being a Native American--it's an actual black hawk named "Tommy Hawk"--they're still the most prominent team to have a Native American face on their team logos and merchandise. However, this has something to do with symbolism in founder Frederic McLaughlin's former military unit being known as the "Blackhawks," so it hasn't been dealt with in great force.

There are other Native American clashes in sports that are ongoing; this one we're making note of right now just happens to be bigger and more blown-out than the others. The most obvious outside of the Redskins controversy is MLB's Cleveland Indians. Anyone who watches baseball knows who Chief Wahoo is. In fact, the film Major League made sure you knew the team and everything to do with them. Anyway, if you're outside of that area, you've noticed that the franchise has been slowly phasing out the appearance of Chief Wahoo on player gear and merchandise, having a capital "C" on their hats instead of the Chief. While he isn't gone completely, he's pretty much on his way out in lieu of the idea that he's a shade of red and he is "deemed offensive" by Native Americans.

Needless to say, this is that one big pink elephant in the room that people have accepted over generations, but now we've realized that said elephant is dead and it's starting to stink. Growing up, I've accepted what the team names are and what they represent. I never judged it, and I never thought that hurtful depictions existed. Call it naivety or whatever you want, but I suppose that it was something I was born into and saw it as something fictional and not descriptive of what the teams represented. On the other hand, I'm not them, and I can't say that I know what they think of it. It obviously bothers them, and there are people out there that don't see what the big deal is.

However, I can see where they are coming from with how they are offended. Most team representations [about 80-85%] and mascots are animals. So basically, being represented in the form of mascots (cartoon or not) makes them look like they themselves are animals--savages, if you will. This, I get. I also suppose that it may be annoying to be an elder of Native American descent and having to see people try to "resemble" you for sport.

But what I don't get is why this is a mainstream issue right now.

Like I mentioned above, the Indians' logo is slowly changing over without a massive appearance in the news, but when it's America's new sport, the NFL, everyone goes insane and reaches for their opinion in their head. For Pete's sakes, Washington's cheering section is led by men dressed like pigs. Not Native American derivatives, but PIGS. This situation could be so much worse, and this name and logo has existed since 1932. What is so different about this now?! Nothing has changed! Because we raised a little money, we can make another push? Don't get me wrong, I am all for unity and respect, but for the love of God, make that distinction between reality and fiction! What, are we going to get PETA involved now, because the usage of animals isn't fair to them because they have no say? We can't have the Chicago Cubs because not only are they denoted as baby animals, but their kind is being hunted down and their habitats are being destroyed more and more every single day? C'MON! We're splitting hairs now! We're making mountains out of molehills! No group of men can move mountains, either!

This is a case of something that has been around for decades and has been accepted by scores of people, and we're just delving into how this thing is "disparaging." I understand that the Native Americans still had problems with having a say about 80 years ago, but when the team is well-kept and not showing any hate toward the Native American people, why is there a push to cancel it? If anything, the Native Americans are an honorable group and have left a gigantic legacy on this land. Grant it, we American people are wrecking a lot of what we invaded upon, but that's beside the point. If there is going to be a change, make a civilized change; don't get the media's push on it, it's going to make things look even messier and more annoying than ever before. Now, I may be considered media, but I don't have an agenda to go by, huzzah! There are "polls" that had large percentages of people stating that they didn't see a problem with the logo, but there are a lot of sensitive groups out there, and if we're all going to be a happy nation, we need to listen to everybody. Again, just don't make it a bigger deal than it should be. The Indians' thing isn't...why should this?

What do you think of the removal of the trademark? Do you agree with what has been done? Why?


I bet some of you wanted me to explode on a video about this, but no. That would have been too much effort on my part. I vented enough frustration here.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

World Cup 2014: The Dark Side, Part II

This is where things get muddy and covered with litter and things that aren't biodegradable. And I'm going to make you read it because it's interesting and you should know about it. Why wouldn't I write about this, anyway?

Welcome to Part II.

Previously on The Sports Nut Blogs, I introduced you to the smaller parts of the dark side of the World Cup. Wednesday marks the beginning of this month-long event, and for the next few weeks, we're going to see players from all over the world strive to be known as the best in the world at what they do.

But after this fun stuff, we're going to see a bunch of political implosions on FIFA's part, especially in the case of World Cup locations in the future.

Y'see, this goes back a ways. In December of 2010, Qatar was voted by FIFA officials to host the 2022 World Cup, beating out Australia, Japan, South Korea, and fellow finalist United States. In response, the nation was overjoyed, seeing that this was a major opportunity for business and exposure. Fellow countries surrounding Qatar even offered to help in preparing for this event, seeing that this was a tall order for such a small and unrecognized country outside of the Middle East. [Side Note: Qatar is a peninsula on a peninsula, attached to an eastern end of Saudi Arabia. This is your geography lesson for today.]

Things seemed hunky-dory for about a year, and then allegations via whistleblower sprang up that there were FIFA officials involved in bribery toward the Qatari bid. On the heels of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, allegations on bribery and corruption within FIFA expanded and swelled.

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the word "bribe" is defined as this:

Basically, these guy took these alleged bribes in order for Qatar to get the World Cup in return for money to fun things such as businesses and campaign money. Although analysts believed that the success of Qatar's bid came from successful programs flourishing over the years, these allegations have taken center-stage, despite denials coming from FIFA senior officials.

There is more from this that made these corruption beliefs even more prominent. When you think the Middle East, what do you think of? Desert. Lots and lots of desert. Despite being surrounded by water almost completely, temperatures in the summer months can surge up to 120 degrees Fahrenheit (about 50 degrees Celsius). There were plans to have new technology installed into the stadium, using solar power to generate an effective form of air conditioning to combat the oppressive heat. While this is an excellent idea and has been proven to work, this technology has never been tested in a larger establishment like a [football] stadium. It might not seem very effective and the stadium dimensions might not be able to generate enough solar power to accommodate for nearly 70,000 people at once. Oh yeah, and speaking of the stadiums, there have been reports stating that the working conditions for the immigrant workers constructing the stadiums in preparation for the 2022 World Cup have been abysmal. The heat has been rough, there isn't enough support to lift beams and other heavy items, the machinery has been faulty, and these poor guys aren't even getting paid enough to do this. In fact, they're getting well-below sweatshop pay per day, and if they die on the job, they die on the job. This lead to many denials from FIFA staff as well, and it even led to some backlash from them after these reports were shown on Deadspin.

From bribery to poor working conditions in preparation, things continue going south. Investigations have been going on for quite some time, and seeing how there are many signs pointy to something fishy, World Cup sponsors are not feeling warm and fuzzy in the least bit. Sponsors Sony, Hyundai/Kia, Coca-Cola, Visa, and Adidas have expressed a great amount of concern, releasing statements in support of the investigations. Many of them are voicing FIFA's supposed defiance of their mission statements and defiance in human ethics [source here]. Imagine if they all bailed out. The only other sponsor who hasn't made any statements has been Emirates, and to my research and knowledge, they have remained quiet on the matter. Why, I'm not entirely sure.

To add more pressure, there have been numerous pledges to have FIFA President Sepp Blatter step down in lieu of the corruption within the organization. With re-election occurring next year, Blatter doesn't seem like he's a fan of the requests to step down. He also finds it sad about all of the controversy surrounding the bidding for Qatar to host the 2022 World Cup [source here]. Truthfully, at the age of 78, it might be time for him, but that's just me.

Now the question remains: What if the corruption isn't smoke and mirrors, and FIFA implodes on itself after the World Cup? Needless to say, the voting process for World Cup bidders will definitely be overridden. As it stands, not everyone is a fan of how the system currently runs, and that will be the first thing to be modified. Secondly, the FIFA staff will get a massive overhaul, and people are going to be 86'd and tar-and-feathered and the whole nine and--you get it. Third, there will be a possible chance that Qatar will get the World Cup hosting opportunity taken away from them in regards to unfair voting and bribery, and the host country voting will follow soon after. Would it be the United States? Nobody is really sure, considering that the whole process may have to be redone, and that the voting process may be revised. Things might look confusing at first glance, but if this is handled swiftly and effectively, there shouldn't be much to worry about.

See how dark and cloudy the World Cup is on the inside? There aren't any cookies on this dark side; in fact, it's a rather gigantic, magenta-looking elephant. But see, everything is a business. There is always going to be a bad apple to spoil the bunch. Corruption and negativity are going to happen under noses whether the mainstream media covers it or not. For the time being, this can't afford to overshadow the events occurring within the month. Besides, there's a lot of football to be played.



As a shameless plug, Julian Brown and Rick McGovern of The Soccer Desk Podcast cover the bribery allegations quite nicely on a special edition of the podcast, which launched Wednesday morning. Go have a listen.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

World Cup 2014: The Dark Side, Part I

This is the part of the show where I start taking one of the biggest sporting events ever and turning super-duper ultimate hippie on your behinds. But I mean well by this, and I still love sports. Just getting that explanation out of the way now. Oh yeah, and this is ANOTHER TWO-PARTER. DEAL WITH THIS.

Ahh, what a great event in the world of sports.

Every four years, millions upon millions of people watch 32 teams duke it out for the title of being the best football [or soccer...wherever you fall on the spectrum] team in the world. If you've only been exposed to MLS and Olympic soccer, dude, you're missing out on something huge, and this could definitely get you to dish out money for a sports cable package so you can watch some international leagues.

But what if I told you...
(I was watching The Matrix the other night. Haters gonna hate.)
That there is so much else going on outside of the World Cup event itself? For the longest time, oppression has been occurring in this country outside of the World Cup stadiums, such as protests and fighting over land, on top of the financial issues of FIFA.

Guys, this is almost as bad as Sochi before the Winter Olympics this year.

There was a picture that snapped me back into reality, and a professor of mine on Twitter retweeted it. This is it here:
All of the credit in the world to Dave Zirin (@EdgeofSports)
It looks like something ripped out of a dystopian film, doesn't it? This also looks like something you would see on a conspiracy website that has material going against everything the mainstream media stands for. Unfortunately, this is happening more often than it should, and it is absolutely terrifying.

Although their numbers have dwindled over the years, there are still nearly one million Indigenous living in Brazil. And there are still hundreds of unique tribes in the country. That's right. Hundreds. Most of them have been restricted to reservation areas due to corporate invasion, most notably in the Amazon. What's even more interesting is that some tribes are still separated despite their falling numbers. Although the Brazilian government respects the Indigenous, most forms of modernization and their [somewhat] choking of these tribes have led the tribles to fight back in any way possible. This is the brutal truth that you don't see on the news. Then again, when would you, except if there was a huge purging of them? I digress.

When I mentioned the "corporate invasion" above, this also applies to the areas of Indigenous tribes being affected due to stadium construction and other "cosmetic changes" that are necessary for the hosting of the World Cup. The sad part is, when it comes to this, there is no unity, and law enforcement is willing to push them back without any need for reasoning. Two resistances lead to civil war.

However, it isn't just the Indigenous people that are fighting against Brazilian officials; numerous modern citizens are against the idea of their home nation hosting this immense sporting event. You're probably thinking: "Seriously? Brazil is a huge football country. Did they all get dropped on their heads?" Grant it, there's a big-looking force of a government taking the reins in Brazil, and needless to say, Brazilians haven't been keen on the system they run in the country, as well as where their budgets have gone. The stadiums that the matches are being held in are quite nice, but well...everything else looks like a pigsty. The government thinks that the hospitality of the country as a whole will cause the general public to oversee these "errors," but the $64,000 question is this: Will they?

When you look at the tourism part, things get hairier. Many of the citizens who had recently moved to Brazil are not surprised at the hike in prices of food and other necessities, but they're rather surprised that the tariffs and price changes for these things are next-to-impossible to even imagine paying for. Imagine being part of the media for the World Cup, and you're going to buy a few souvenirs. Ha ha ha ha, how about nope? Even keychains can be a bit pricey. A lot of the imported items skyrocket in price due to tariffs, so any sort of thing that comes from outside of the country (which, admittedly, there's a bunch) is going to make you cry because you'll be shelling out of a lot of converted currency for whatever you want.

You tend to forget that there's a lot of stuff that goes on behind the scenes of these events, and a lot of the American media outlets don't even bother covering it. Sure, the World Cup is all about the teams, but who even thinks about the country hosting it? It's like you're going to a party and you're a guest--nothing more. There's no describing how much stress the host goes through in getting all of the food and drinks and favors, and on top of that, there are the phone calls and the other errands one has to make during the day. It's frustrating, but the host can't tell you that they were at the point where they wanted to set themselves on fire and jump out of a window of a three-story building before the shindig went down. I mean, the host can joke about it, and people are going to laugh, but really, as a host and a director of sorts, some of this stuff isn't a joke. This is a case of real life, and it's more of a problem than you would think.

When you have "polls" going around the country asking citizens whether their World Cup hosting opportunity was a good idea and about half of them are coming up as saying that it was a bad idea, you definitely know something is wrong. Not everyone is united in this event, and even though the morale isn't going to show on the pitch, you're going to find a lot of off-pitch issues going on and bleeding into the mainstream media. Believe me, if Brazil doesn't make it out of the Group Stages in the World Cup, things are going to get super ugly, super fast. This is going to be sitting in the back of the minds of the Brazilian government whether they want it there or not.

These issues are some of the many dark clouds looming over Brazil and FIFA. However, in respect to the other dark clouds in the sky, these are relatively minute. It goes south from here.

To Be Continued...


Check back here tomorrow for Part II.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Donald's Inferno

I've said it before, and I can't stress it enough: I totally hate these stories. I hate them more than anything. Why? They're race-driven, and then it build and builds and builds onto tabloid-caliber fiction.

I've never done this before, so bear with me. Like I said above, I hate writing about this, so you know what? I'm going to talk about it.


I mentioned a previous post in these videos. You can read the post here.