From the Sochi Olympics to the NFL’s epicly bad year to the World Cup to athletes speaking out in the wake of police killings, Mike Kasdan reviews all the biggest stories we covered this year at The Good Men Project Sports
January: A-Rod is Suspended, Super Bowl Hype and Previews for Broncos vs. Seahawks, Friday Night Tykes, and The Sochi Olympics
In January of 2014, Yankee slugger Alex Rodriguez received a 162-game suspension, reducing a 211-game suspension handed down by Major League Baseball in August 2013, but ensuring that he would not play baseball this past season. Joe Rutland’s Where’s The Mentor Alex Rodriguez Never Had, looked at the drama behind Rodriguez and how a mentor could have helped him navigate his life and career with more honesty and grace. In The Problem with the 60 Minutes Report, Travis Waldron, discussed the interview with the man who claimed to have supplied Alex Rodriguez with performance enhancing drugs and argued that it showed no one is serious about fixing baseball’s drug problem.
The brash, talented, and brilliant Seattle Seahawks CB, Richard Sherman, burst on the scene in the NFL playoffs and began to make a name for himself. Keith Ackers took an in depth look at Sherman in Why Everyone is So Mad at Richard Sherman. We took a look at the over-the-top Super Bowl hype machine in Embracing the Over the Top Super Bowl Hype: More Cowbell! and a look at Super Bowl commercials in I’m Not Sure But I Think the Super Bowl may be Subliminally Telling Me to Buy a Truck.
We also began taking an in depth look at the culture of youth sports, in Friday Night Tykes. Kate Voss wondered what the new Esquire Network series “Friday Night Tykes” shows us about youth football and whether it would help change the often warped values that govern youth sports.
January also saw the beginning of our Winter Olympic coverage. In Queer Nation NY Teaching Sochi To Sing . . . In Perfect Harmony?, we covered Queer Nation NY’s Satirical Ad Campaign #CheersToSochi, which took aim at Putin and the corporate sponsors of the Sochi Olympics.
February: Super Bowl XLVII, Winter Olympics, The Death of Philip Seymour Hoffman, Michael Sam and the NFL, Locker Room Bullying in the NFL
We prepared a Super Bowl Viewing Guide (Now With 70% More Storylines), talked about the camaraderie of Super Bowl parties, and questioned whether football was worth it, given the violence of the sport. Then the Seahawks went out and smoked the Broncos in the Super Bowl.
After the Super Bowl, the world’s attention focused on the small Russian town of Sochi, host to the Winter Olympics. Our viewing guide for the XXII Winter Games in Sochi previewed all the athletes and sports to watch and all the Olympics storylines.
Philip Seymour Hoffman also died that month. So many mourned. We commemorated him in Pickup Basketball, Buddy Movies, and Remembering Philip Seymour Hoffman.
Another major story broke in advance of the NFL Draft: Would an NFL team draft the openly gay Michael Sam. In Why Michael Sam Playing in the NFL Is a Very Big Deal, Doyin Richards called out the flawed arguments people were using against the first-ever openly gay man to have a chance to play in the NFL. Shaw Peters continued our coverage in Michael Sam Is Gay and Draftable: 4 Reasons GMs Should Move Him UP Their Boards.
We stayed with another big story coming out of the NFL: locker room bulling, in The Disgusting Revelations of The NFL’s Bullying Investigation, where we delved into the Investigative Report of the Incognito-Martin bullying incident and concluded it is time to clean up the NFL locker rooms.
March: NCAA Tourney Time, Almost Time for Baseball
March is March Madness time for NCAA basketball. And we LOVE college basketball. Doug Zeigler covered the best of the opening days with his tournament diary. We also mused about off-the-court issues, like amateurism in NCAA basketball and whether the deck is stacked against small schools.
In March, a nation also turns its lonely eyes to baseball. In March, Spring beckons, and in baseball all is hopeful and everyone can be a champion. The MLB season kicked off down under in Australia, with the LA Dodgers and Arizona Diamondbacks kicking things off. Off the field, we also took a critical look at the game, with Neil Cohen suggesting 10 changes that would make the game even better than it is.
April: Baseball Season, The Boston Marathon A Year Later, Donald Sterling Story Breaks
Baseball season started in full in April. In New York, this season was special because it was The Captain’s last: Derek Jeter’s Swan Song.
It has also been 40 years since Hank Aaron broke Ruth’s record and hit HR #715. Michael Amity took a look back and argued Hammerin’ Hank did more than just break a record.
We also paused to reflect back on the Boston Marathon bombings, one year later. A lifelong resident of Boston, Liam Day reflected on his city’s resiliency in the face of terror and the need to wrestle with the questions the bombings raise.
April also saw the breaking of the Donald Sterling story. The Clippers owner made racist remarks that were released to TMZ, ultimately leading to his ouster from the NBA.
May: Durant wins NBA MVP, Baseball Season Continues, the Redskins Racism Controversy
May saw newly crowned NBA MVP, Kevin Durant, accept the award with amazing speech about his mom. Ariel Chesler covered that and also explored all the love he showed the men in his life in Think Real Men Don’t Say ‘I Love You’ To Other Men? Kevin Durants Proves You Wrong.
We also covered stories from the world of baseball, tennis, fly fishing, and soccer.
Off the field in the NFL, several issues were brewing, including Daniel Snyder’s refusal to change the name of the Washington Football team. Joanna Schroeder covered this is in Is There Really a Difference Between Donald Sterling and the Redskins? Trouble was also on the horizon in the courts, as a lawsuit was brought by former players against the NFL regarding the use of painkillers.
June: The World Cup Begins, Horse Racing’s Triple Crown Not To Be, The NBA Finals – Coronation of The Spurs
June saw the kick off of the World Cup in Brazil. In this vein, in Culture Clash, we explored the cultural challenges to the rise of soccer in the US. And as the US Men advanced out of the Group of Death, we explained why soccer isn’t just a ‘man’s game,’ as US midfielder Michael Bradley had stated.
We also witnessed California Chrome’s thrilling but ultimately unsuccessful run at the Triple Crown: California Chrome’s Run is Hollywood Worthy.
Finally, we were treated to an absolute clinic in the NBA Finals, as the Spurs dismantled Lebron James and the Heat. We covered the “boring” Spurs in Are The Spurs Boring?
July: Germany Wins The World Cup, King James Returns to Cleveland, Michael Sam Wins The Arthur Ashe Award, and Ray Rice is Suspended Two Games For Domestic Violence
Germany smacked and shocked host country Brazil in the World Cup Finals, sending the Brazilian fans home in tears. The goals were scored in rapid succession. The final score: 7-1. Watch all of Germany’s seven goals here.
Back in Middle America, LeBron James announced that he was coming back home to Cleveland. The State of Ohio was VERY EXCITED.
Michael Sam won the Arthur Ashe Courage Award, and delivered a moving speech:
“To anyone out there, especially young people feeling like they don’t fit in and will never be accepted,” he said, “know this: great things can happen when you have the courage to be yourself.”
Triggered by Ray Rice‘s mere two game suspension by the NFL for the domestic violence episode against his fiancé, Keith Olberman pulled no punches in his take-down of sexism in sports. We covered it here.
August: College Football is Coming, The Little League World Series, and Lessons from Pro Fighting
In August, we looked ahead to the new college football playoff system.
Florida State opened atop the college football polls, followed by Alabama. Our quick guide predicted that the playoff teams would be Alabama, Oregon, Ohio State, and Georgia.
In baseball, the focus was on the kids, and on no one more intently than incredible pitcher Mo’ne Davis, who burst on the scene of the Little League World Series and changed a nation’s conception of what it means to “throw like a girl.”
In 7 Life Lessons I Learned From Professional Fighting, Thai Nguyen shared his insights about prize fighting.
September: The Morality of Football, The Ray Rice Case Explodes, The Good Guys of the NFL, Concussions and Football, and Derek Jeter Retires
In September, NFL football season kicked off, and the stories were fast and furious.
Andrew Smiler’s To Watch or Not To Watch: Morality, TV, and Sunday Football was one of many articles that grappled with the morality of whether to watch football.
Then, the plot of the Ray Rice story thickened, as further video evidence was released. Public outcry intensified, and the NFL suspended him indefinitely. In Ray Rice is Out of the NFL: But Why Did it Take Until Monday?, Joe Rutland wondered what took Roger Goodell and the NFL so long. We continued are hard look at the NFL in The National Football League: Too Big To Fail? and We May Be Right. We May Be Crazy: Musings on the NFL’s Violence Problem, where we wondered what would happen as morality continues to collide with the sports entertainment complex we call The National Football League and whether there were ties between on-field and off-the-field violence. Finally, Mike Stilley called for Roger Goodell to step down in Roger S. Goodell, Will You Please Go Now?
We also covered the good guys in the NFL in a number of pieces, including Justin Ricklefs’ The NFL Has Great Guys Too, Heather Gray’s Unapologetically Loving Football, and Eddie Becker’s piece on Devon Still and the Bengals, and rounded out the month with some video fun with Our Top Twelve Funniest Sports Commercials EVER.
Another huge storyline out of the NFL was that of concussions. In The NFL’s Concussion Problem Just Got A Lot Worse, Mike Kasdan discussed the breaking evidence showing that the extent of football’s link to brain trauma was serious and far worse than expected.
The end of September also saw the end of an area for the New York Yankees. Derek Jeter played his final games and retired. We covered the emotions of the moment for fans that grew up on Jeter in The 40 Year Old . . . Jeter Fan.
October: The World Series, The Future of the NFL?, The Sayreville Locker Room Hazing and Sexual Assault, Ferguson Protests, Athletes and Privilege, and Pausing to See The Hopefulness of Our Boys.
The MLB playoffs and World Series saw the unlikely run of several Cinderella teams in the American League: the Orioles and the Royals. Justin Ricklefs explained what the Royals run meant to him and to Kansas City in (the aptly titled) What the Royals Playoff Win Means to Kansas City and Me. Starry eyed Orioles and Royals fans faced off in World Series Dreaming In Kansas City and Baltimore: Talkin’ Baseball. Ultimately, the Royals made the Series, but were defeated by the San Francisco Giants.
Reeling from the concussion and domestic violence scandals, but drawing ratings as high as ever, the NFL continued to be a massive storyline. Our thoughtful readers sounded off as to its future in The End of Football For Men and Boys? Readers and Experts Discuss Where We Go From Here.
Even with the World Series and the continued focus on the NFL, perhaps the biggest storyline of the month came from High School Football. News of awful sexual hazing in Sayreville, NJ broke in September and rocked the nation. The news in October intensified as they canceled the remainder of their football season. In What’s Unusual About Sayreville’s Locker Room Sexual Assaults? Nothing, a story that was picked by by Salon and quoted in the BBC, we explored what this rape-by-hazing says about boys and masculinity . . . and ourselves. Our follow-up piece from a few weeks later, How Many More Sayrevilles?, digested the latest high school locker room hazing and abuse incident, this one in Doylestown, PA.
The national story of the police officer killing of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri spilled over to the sports world in St. Louis, where Native St. Louisan Ted Lewis was appalled by the way some Cardinals fans reacted to protestors.
In Checking Athletes’ Privilege, we took a hard look at the roots of the privilege we confer on star athletes, from youth sports to the pros, and its devastating effect on society.
Finally, after weeks of the concussion and hazing and abuse stories, a young local ballplayer’s speech reminded us of the good in sports and – more importantly – the good in our boys who are rapidly becoming men in Our Boys Becoming Men: Pausing To See The Good and Hopeful
November: Barkley Speaks Out on ‘Blackness,’ The Concussions Story Intensifies, Adrian Peterson, the NFL, and Child Abuse, Jason Collins Retires, A Student Speaks Out at Morehouse College, and Ben Watson Reacts to the Ferguson Non-Indictment
Resident non-role model Charles Barkley kicked off a firestorm when he criticized black leadership. In When Charles Barkley Was Talking About ‘Blackness,’ He Wasn’t Just Talking About African Americans, our Keola Birano saw Barkley’s words as inspiring an important conversation about his own native Hawaiian community.
News out of the NFL got so sad and depressing that we were forced to turn to internet cats to cheer us up:
- In our ‘Killer Instinct‘ piece, we examined the masculinity of sport—and the meaning of the ‘killer instinct’—through the chilling words of NFL players, past and present. Lisa Hickey tied together our football coverage by asking the fascinating question: Is the NFL’s Culture of Violence Causing a Crisis of American Masculinity?
- We also brought you two exclusive insider interviews on concussions and the NFL. First, in The Man Whose ‘Crusade Could Change Football Forever’ Speaks With Us About Concussions and the NFL, we spoke with Jason Luckasevic, the lawyer who filed the concussions lawsuit against the NFL that is changing the way we think about the game. Second, in Ex-NFL Player Talks Brain Trauma, Greed and Blame, we spoke with former 49’ers defensive tackle, George Visger, about his hundreds of concussions, 9 emergency brain surgeries and “NFL bullsh*t.”
- In Adrian Peterson Avoids Jail Time . . . . And We Are Still Asking The Wrong Questions, Christopher Anderson explains that our focus should be on the safety of the child and not on whether or when Peterson gets to play football again.
In other news on the LGBT front, student Timothy Tukes’ penned an open letter to Morehouse College and its football team in response to homophobic slurs and called on them to choose humanity over oppression, Jason Collins, the NBA’s first openly gay player, announced his retirement and shared his story in the deeply personal essay, “I’m Out.”
Finally, in the wake of the non-indictment decision out of Ferguson, the Saints Ben Watson expressed the range of emotions so many felt. In the coming month, more and more athletes would be speaking out, on Ferguson and the events that followed.
December: Athletes Join National Protests and Social Activism, UAB Closes Its College Football Program, The Ethics of Being a Sports Fan
The the wake of the Ferguson shooting of Michael Brown and Eric Garner‘s death-by-strangling at the hands of police in Staten Island, athletes nationwide joined the protest movement. In The Sports Revolution Is Being Televised, we explored the history of athletes and social and political activism. Among them were the Chicago Bulls’ Derrick Rose, the Browns’ Andrew Hawkins, and former Iowa State Cyclone and Houston Rocket Royce White.
The final month of 2014 also brought with it the news that for the first time in 20 years, a Division I-A football program has been shut down: Football is over at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.
After the mess of a year for the NFL and the issues of athletes privilege, we held a Saturday Night Live style Point/CounterPoint debate between two readers on the ethics of being a sport fan. We also explored the intersection of education and sports in “We Don’t Need No Education?” Hey Athletes, Yes You Do, and gender equality in the NFL workplace in Gender Equality in the NFL Workplace? Welcome to 1914.
As we ushered in the holiday season, disgruntled sports fans filled out their holiday wish lists in All I Want For The Holidays This Year Is a Power Forward, a DH Who Can Hit, and An Offensive Line.
. . . And then we wrote this article called The Year In Sports: A Look Back at the Biggest Stories of 2014!
It was quite a year.
Happy New Year from the entire GMPSports Team!!
For a look back at The Best of GMP Sports from 2013, click here.
For a continued walk down memory lane, you can also check out our 2013 Best Moments in Sports and 2013 Worst Moments of Sports.
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Photo Credit: Associated Press/File (January); Flickr Creative Commons/linitzskiS (February); Phil Sandlin/AP Images (March); AP/Ringo H.W. Chiu (April); AP/Sue Ogrocki (May); AP/Rock Scuteri (June); AP/Martin Meissner (July); Thai Nguyen (August); Nick Wass/AP (September); Flickr/Instagram (October); Good Men Project (November); Associated Press/Tony Dejak (December).