When we know better, we do better.

When I set out to talk about the coverage of the NDHSAA state basketball tournament, it was to shed light on the inequality of our female athletes. It was to show that our girls deserve equal footing on whatever venture that they choose to pursue. It was to honor The Huskies, The Patriots, The Eagles, The Demons, The Rough Riders, The Mustangs, The Majettes, and The Sabers.

The reality is that these athletes are the leaders of their community. These athletes have little girls who will one day pick up a basketball because of them, which is a beautiful thing that helps grow the sport. Why would anyone want to stand in the way of that?

But I feel as though the focus has shifted a little, and I don’t want to lose focus of the seminal point here.

Whatever happens for the boys’ tournament, happens to the girls’ tournament. Equality.

– If the boys are televised, then girls should be as well.

– If the boys have a chance at the main court one year, then the girls should have a chance at the main court the following year.

– It is about equality, pure and simple.

I’ve had so many awesome conversations this past weekend. I’ve spoken to Dom Izzo, I’ve spoken to the NDHSAA Board of Directors, I’ve spoken to countless members of the basketball community and media. The crazy thing there are things we can all agree on:

– When the media rights contract was signed 4-5 years ago, streaming was not a consideration, it was a relatively new technology.

– The contract is for coverage of the girls’ and boys’ semifinal and final rounds of the tournament (both to be covered equally). WDAY has exclusive rights to the entire tournament, so any additional coverage by WDAY goes above and beyond the contract.

I’m order for WDAY to pay for the above and beyond service, someone has to pay for it.

– Since the new technologies are tried and tested, it is imperative that the contract is renegotiated to ensure equal coverage. I believe that happens next year.

So there’s a start, we can agree on those things, but, realistically, it is simply not good enough. We need change.

There is enough fault to go around. We can play the blame game all we want, but here are the facts:

– Shame on the parents (myself included) for accepting the status quo and not challenging companies and entities who play into these inequalities; this has been going on for a while and we know better!

– Shame on advertisers for throwing money at entities and organizations and not educating themselves on the workings of equality in production. They know better.

– Shame on the media for not asking the hard questions and uncovering the truth about what was happening. You know better.

– Shame on the NDHSAA for not protecting our female athletes, which is one of the sole purposes of your organization. You know better.

This is on all of us.

Let me be clear:

This is not about the streaming glitches,

This is not about viewership,

This is not about money,

This is not about me,

This is not about basketball

This is not about my beloved Huskies.

This is about access,

This is about equal protection.

This is about representation.

This is about equality.

We can fix this!

Equal.

Airtime.

For.

Women.

Period.

Equal Airtime For Women

Sexist and Discriminatory.
That is the only way to describe what is going on regarding forum communications and the North Dakota High School Activities Association’s State Basketball tournament.
Let me provide context as I understand it:
The boys’ quarterfinals are televised for free, and the girls’ quarterfinals will be streamed for a price. Do you mean to tell me that in 2022, we are still under the guise that male sports sell tickets and women sports do not? Do we still have entities looking to optimize the mighty dollar instead of furthering the sport for both males and females? We still believe that males deserve visibility and females don’t?
That is a crying shame.
It is bad enough that you barely report on local prep sports anymore, but it is even worse to realize that you have formulated your coverage based upon gender.
It is shameful,
It is disgusting,
And it needs to change. Now!
I am calling on every female, every parent of daughters, every true sports fan, and every human, and advertising companies. being to demand that this be changed immediately, and a statement of apology issued to all North Dakota female athletes.
Shame on the Forum Communications company for perpetuating female athletes’ stereotypes and shame on the NDHSAA for not demanding better for our female athletes. Thirty-two teams qualified for the state basketball tournament; twenty-eight of the thirty-two will appear on Television and get the recognition they deserve for making it. Let’s flip the calendar to 2022.

Basketball is a Spectator Sport — For Me

I debated writing this, but, in the end, I think it is more important to share. Don’t judge me!

I have come to a pivotal point in my life. I did not know that I would get to this moment, and it came on suddenly. In fact, it came on so sudden that it took me by surprise. What happened, you ask?

My oldest daughter told me that my help was no longer needed during her basketball games.

Back when I was a genius…

I was not surprised that I was told that my help was no longer needed; it was the manner in which it was done.

I will provide some context:

I have been my daughter’s coach since she was able to run. I have been her basketball coach since she could pick up a ball. Playing basketball and learning new skills has been a part of our relationship – a bonding point between us. Like other kids who have played on a team coached by a parent, we had our ups and downs. But, with my wife’s help, we had always hugged it out with some understanding. Now, she plays on the high school team, which puts me on the sidelines – and I am okay with that.
During her second game, she was defending a girl, who I believe was a weak ball-handler.

“Get up on her!” I yell.

And that is when she looked at me, while playing defense, and held her hand in a way that represented open lips, and she pressed her fingertips together – closing the “lips”.

Yup, that is correct; she motioned for me to shut up — all without getting out of defensive position.

Son. Of. A. Bitch! She shushed me.

I was so shocked by this! I went through a gamut of emotions:

What the…?!

How dare…?!

Ungrateful ass!

Just then, I turned and looked at my wife who was sitting next to me with a family friend – laughing. Not just any laugh; it was a full-out belly laugh. And then it hit me – I am no longer my daughter’s coach. It was time for my transformation from father/coach to father/mentor/fan.

I had once read the book, Changing the Game, which has a lot of useful information concerning the way parents can help and hurt their kids in youth sports. One thing I took away from the book is this question:

Do my actions reflect the values I want my child to embody.

Both on and off the court, I want my child to have the following:

  1. A love for the sport,
  2. A growth mindset,
  3. Confidence,
  4. The ability to make mistakes,
  5. The ability to learn from mistakes,
  6. The ability to correct mistakes,
  7. Independence.

By her gesture, she was claiming her independence. She was ultimately doing everything I asked of her since she was in third grade — I cannot be mad at that. It is effortless to yell out and coach from the sideline. But that is just it; I am no longer on the sideline – I am in the audience, which brings up another thing that this book has taught me—the importance of saying to her the words:

I Love Watching You Play.

She is such a fierce competitor.

As a youth athlete, I remember nothing that I disliked more than the post-game report — especially after a loss. I did not get it from my parents but from the parents of my peers. They all thought that they were being helpful, but mentally, it was not. My parents? I believe that they knew that there were more pressing issues in the world than how much I scored or how much playing time I received. They left the improvement up to me. If I was going to be good at anything, it would be intrinsically motivated (but don’t get that confused with not caring).

So, what did I gain from this experience?
I should count my blessings that I have a healthy daughter who loves to play basketball at a high level. Before each game, I should review my goals for her this year. Realistically, the goals I have for her have very little to do with a specific sport but life lessons that she can use for the future.

Let’s Go, Afro!

The Letter She Received this Morning

Look at you! My first-born in her first varsity competition! I have dreamed about this day since you were born… although I did not think it would come this soon.

You were so nervous when you found out that you were chosen, you freaked out and started crying. You started the dangerous game of playing all of the “what if” scenarios in your head.

What if I miss?

What if I do the wrong thing?

What if I suck?

It was funny to watch such a composed girl, a girl who I have viewed countless times score baskets in numerous situations, freak out about something that seems so trivial.

But then I remember how young you are. I often forget that. You have conducted yourself in such a way that it is easy for anyone to forget that you are a year or more younger than girls in your grade.

As you are traveling to the venue, I know you are nervous, so I am going to give you some advice:

• You are going to suck; embrace it – It is your first crack at some real competition. Newsflash: you may not win. The coach believes in you but understands that you are very green. You do not have a target on your back, so you are in a low risk/high reward situation. Just go out there and compete.

• Have fun in the moment – There are many who would love to be in your shoes. Next week, it could be someone else; but today, it is all you. Live in the moment, and everything will be fine.

• Take notes – There is going to be a lot of good athletes out there. Most of them have been playing this sport a lot longer than you. Take notes on the best or the ones that you favor. Look at their routines, study their approaches, emulate their techniques so that later you can make those same techniques work for you.

• Do not try to live up to any other athletes’ standard – As I said before, these athletes have been doing this a lot longer than you have. Don’t try too hard to outplay them. You are here to gain varsity experience so that you can learn the game at a different level and with a different pace. If you make this a head game, you will be terrible. Relax, slow down, and play like this is recreational. Winning is nice, but it is not the point.

• It is really about the small victories – Playing a sport that you just picked up 2 months ago is a win; daring to join the school team is a win; being chosen for varsity is a win. Enjoy the small victories. The big ones will come later, don’t look for them now. If they happen – great, but if they don’t, learn from it, count yourself fortunate, and move on.

Your mother and I are proud of you. And we cannot wait to hear about the day.

Now, go have fun.

Pick-Up Basketball Retirement Notice

Effective in 2019, “The Juggernaut” is retiring from all pick up basketball games. In the past year, I discovered the following about myself:

My first step is gone,

My hops are gone,

My muscular stature is now working against me,

My Achilles are tight,

My hamstrings hate me,

Ibuprofen is my friend,

My mind is telling me yes, but my body (my body) is telling me noooooooo,

I am always the oldest guy on the court,

I am still wearing And1’s and partying like it’s 1999,

I regret my decision to play every morning for the next four days afterward,

People now say, “Oh you are still playing, good for you!“

My wife shakes her head in disgust as I can no longer hide my soreness/injury from her.

Streetball has been good to me for the past 38 years. But, year 39 has been hell. So, goodbye old friend. I am letting go and putting myself out to pasture to heal.

The Gift of Failure

“Failure is so important. We speak about success all the time. It is the ability to resist failure or use failure that often leads to greater success. I’ve met people who don’t want to try for fear of failing.” – J.K. Rowling

2018-04-07 10.48.48

A couple of weeks ago, you tried out for an AAU elite travel team. Now, you already how much I absolutely detest AAU teams – although, I’ll admit, it has allowed me to see some awesome locations, meet wonderful people, and play against some of the most talented basketball players to ever walk on a court. The problem is, I have also witnessed the dark side of elite basketball — but, I won’t get into that now; that is for another time.

Honestly, Honey, as we wait for this letter to come in the mail, I keep hoping we receive bad news.

I honestly hope you don’t make the team.

Bear with me…

Listen, I may be a little biased, but whenever you walk into the gym, you are the best player there. You have the size, you have the speed, you can shoot, you can use your left hand, and you have the drive. But, more than anything, you have fun, you are social, you are humble, and you are smart; and that is what I love (and will continue to love) most about your game. I am proud of you every time you step out on the court because I know your competitiveness will compel you to make the most of your abilities as well as make your teammates better. Yes, I will admit, as your coach, when your team falls short — or when you have a terrible game, I am upset. I am upset until I look over at you, joking and laughing with your teammates as if you guys don’t have a care in the world. Basketball is just a game to you; you know you are good at it, but you are there to have fun and socialize.

That being said…

If you are selected for an elite AAU team, there is a whole new dynamic to consider…

Winning.

Man, o’ man. Little girl, you will be expected to win. Not only will you be expected to show up to a tournament and produce, but, when you do not produce, you will sit the bench until you are able to produce (which could be a while dependent on if your replacement has a hot hand). You will need to practice your craft on your own time — no excuses! It does not matter if you are the best player on any given day; you need to be the best player on that specific day. The expectation is for you to show up to a tournament, hours away from your home, and claw and scratch your way to a championship. Period.

Look, I am not here to bash AAU or crush your dream, but, my job as your father is to protect you. That job requires me to deem what is, and is not, appropriate for you given your age and maturity level, whether that be cell phones, music, movies, boys, and yes, basketball. And frankly, right now, I don’t think you are ready.

Is there a side of me that wants you to make it? Yes! But I have come to realize that it is the part of me that is selfish, self-serving, and competitive. Of course I want to show everybody that I produce the best of the best. But that is not right.

So, here’s to you staying young, having fun, and not making the team.

2018-03-30 20.50.06-2

———————————————————————————————————————————-

For the record:

Weeks later, I found out that you, in fact, did not make it…

“Unfortunately, She was not selected for our 6th grade team.  We had so many girls at that level trying out this year and looked at each one very carefully before making our decision. 

We highly encourage your daughter to try out again next October.

Thank you.”

Okay. Now, let’s make them regret that decision…

Father of the Year Moment #99: I got 99 problems…

“Dad. What is a good number in Basketball?”

“23”

“No. Seriously?”

“23.”

“How about 2?”

“Yup, that’s fine.”

“Well, I picked 99!”

“Wait. Wha?!”

Are you shittin’ me?! 99?! What basketball coach lets a kid pick 99?! What is she — starting at left end now?!

Just imagine:

“Hey, who’s your daughter?”

“Number 99, The one who’s fouling the shit out of everyone.”

He did this on purpose. 😡

10 Things I Learned from Taking My Daughter to a WNBA All-Star Game:

2018-07-28 14.43.00

  1. Get your Merchandise Early: The merchandise shop in the arena is a mad house. I went in for a jersey and ended up partnering with a mom that I had never met before so that we could both walk out of there with our goods and our limbs intact. If you love personal your space, don’t step foot in there.
  2. Be Prepared to Pay for Convenience: If you want a good parking spot, pay for it. If you want to get good seats, pay for it. If you want a hotel closer to the arena so you won’t have to do much walking, pay. Take the dive, don’t complain. The All-Star game is a bucket list experiences; you might as well live it up.
  3. No Cap on Drinks: This may be specific to the Target Center, but when you order a bottled drink at the concession stand, the venders remove the cap before they give it to you. I don’t know why this is, but I think it is so you spill you drink, which will make you pay another six bucks to quench your thirst.
  4. See the Sights: During the NBA All-Star Weekend, there are different venues/events that you can attend when you are not at the practices or the game. The WNBA All-Star weekend does not provide as many opportunities. Make sure you map out what you are going to do on your down time. Minneapolis was awesome! With places such as the Walker Museum, Minneapolis Sculpture Gardens, Target Field, Mall of America (Bloomington), Minnesota Children’s Museum, Como Zoo, and much more; if planned correctly, there is no end to your adventure.
  5. Entertainment: If you ever have the opportunity to see the WNBA All-Star Game, you will not be disappointed. There may not be the flashy dunks that you would see in an NBA All-Star Game, but you will some of the best personalities on the court that you could ever hope for. One of the highlights of the All-Star practice? The team dance off… If you don’t know what I am talking about, you missed out.
  6. Game recognizes game: It is a shame that female athletes do not get the recognition for their talents as their male counterparts; and I am not talking about the business side of things (that is for another point). What I am talking about is an overall lack of respect for the game.

Look, it does not matter who is playing basketball. If the person has game, you respect it. I was shocked at some of the comments on social media regarding the WNBA, its players, and the All-Star game. Some of those comments were from male players, both amateur and professional; and that’s damn shame.

My best friend growing up was a girl who used to run both boys up and down the court. She was the only girl in the city who was allowed to play in the men’s league, averaged 35+ ppg. in high school, was the 22nd best point guard in the country, had multiple college scholarship offers, and played at both Ohio State and the University of Nevada Reno. I never realized the trials and tribulations she had to go through to have men recognize her game. Shame on me for that. I was too ignorant to see it then. Now that I have daughters, I will not let that happen now.

I would love to see the support from more NBA athletes in terms of sporting WNBA jerseys or attending the All-Star game (shout out to those NBA athletes that did make the trek to the game, and to those NBA stars who are supportive).

  1. Game recognizes game (business): As a black man, I have always stressed fully utilizing the power of your dollar. But what I failed to do is utilize it when it comes to other aspects of humanity, including sexual orientation. I looked high and low for a WNBA All-Star jersey only to be disappointed when I was unable to find one. Why is there not a WNBA All-Star Jersey? Because it does not make as much profit as an NBA All-Star Jersey? Come on Nike, shame on you!. The least you can do is make a custom jersey. Hell, charge double for the customization.

For me, this is mostly about the trickle down for my daughters. There is an impact to be made with little boys and girls. There is nothing cooler than walking into a sports outlet and seeing a Maya Moore jersey next to a Kevin Garnett jersey. Game recognizes game. Period.

I have stock in that Nike, I may look at selling. Will it make a difference? Who knows. But a dollar is a dollar.

  1. A Woman— Dunking!: I don’t care what anyone says – you can see it multiple times on television, but to watch, in person, a woman dunking is something out of this world.
  2. Height I could only dream of: The event program lists each of the athlete’s bio, so it should come to no surprise that these athletes are tall. But, it is a totally different thing to actually stand next to them. Excuse my ignorance, but to walk up to a 6’6” (or taller) female to ask for an autograph is pretty daunting. Luckily for me, these athletes are some of the most down-to-earth individuals that you could ever meet.
  3. Once and a lifetime experience: If you ever get the opportunity to see an All-Star Game, do it (especially if you have young children). To see all of the greatest athletes to ever play the game together in one venue is a sight to behold. I am so glad my daughter and I took advantage of the opportunity to attend.

2018-07-28 16.44.55

Father of the Year Moment #656 – The Progression of Sports Equipment/Apparel:

Kid #1: Only the best for him. Look good, play good, right?

Kid #2: Hmmm… Well, it does fit; and (kid #1) only used it a few times…

Kid #3: That cost how much?! Oh heyell naw; I got one right here; put this on. I said, put. it. on!

Kid #4: I don’t give a damn if it does have a hole in it, you want to play (the sport), right?! Where is my duct tape?

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