The Farewell Season

Every athlete knows that sport isn’t forever, even though it may feel like it at the time.

The dream, the hustle, the process, it consumes every waking minute of an athlete with a goal.

For some, the end comes when they decide their body can no longer take it. For others, it’s senior year of high school or university sports. When that year starts, that line you hear all too often, ‘there’s always next year,’ is no more. This is your last chance to work toward and hopefully reach your goal.

As someone who had years to prepare for that seemingly fateful day, I tell you it’s not so bad. I swore I would break down right there on the court. Not because I lost my last game – I said I’d do the same if we won – but because the journey meant so much, and I didn’t know what to replace it with.

What made it easier to handle was recognizing it ahead of time, and cherishing every ‘last’ before the final one. You’ll have your last home opener, last team road trip, last practice, and many more. Take those moments in, and reflect on everything you did to get there.

Think about everything the game has given you, and realize who you’ve become as a result. What you’re going to find is that you are so much more than the game.

I had the chance to sit down with Milt Stegall, my childhood hero a few months after my last university game. I asked him how he dealt with life after 15 years in the CFL.

His response? “Don’t marry your sport, because it will divorce you. Maybe not now, maybe not for a while, but it will leave you.”

“For me, football was not who I was, it was just a thing I did for half the year.”

This is the guy that filled the stats sheet and stadium seats, scoring more CFL touchdowns than anyone ever. There’s a street named after him in Winnipeg, because of that thing he did half the year. Now, he makes his living talking about the game on TV.

The point is, this is one person who could define himself by the sport he played and most would say his life was a success completely based on that. Yet, if you saw Milt on the street and struck up a conversation knowing nothing about him, he’d tell you he’s a man of God, a husband, and a father.

You wouldn’t know the guy left thousands of Winnipeggers at a loss for words as he slipped between two Edmonton defenders for a 100-yard, last-second, game-winning touchdown.

But football isn’t who Milt Stegall is. It’s a thing he did for half the year, before heading back to Atlanta and watching his children play soccer.

This is not to say don’t put everything you can into the game you love. In fact, I’m saying you should. The more you put into it, the more you get in return.

Whoever said ‘sport doesn’t build character, it reveals it,’ missed the point. The athletes in my life are the most selfless, hardest-working, positive people I know. That was built on the court.

So if it’s your turn to go though all the ‘lasts,’ take extra delight in every one of them. Reflect on everything you gave the game, and what it gave you. The people who help you, and the lives you touched.

One day it’ll just be a thing that you did, a few months out of the year.

But, you’ll know that when you walk off for the last time, you are more than the game.

On my senior night, CMU athletic director Russell Willms played a Green Day song as he and my coach, Don Dulder, gave speeches. In response to the song, yes, I had the time of my life.

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Reimer’s drive and find end zone at Super Bowl LII

If forty dollars burns a hole in your pocket, four thousand dollars probably feels like Elon Musk’s flamethrower on high.

DJ Reimer and his father, John, made the drive from Steinbach to Minneapolis last weekend for a football game. It was an ordinary experience in the Reimer household, being their 16th trip to the Minnesota Vikings home turf. However this one was nothing like the others. It was biggest game of their lives. It was the Super Bowl.

A die-hard Eagles fan since 2000, DJ and John vowed to see their team play for their first Super Bowl in Minneapolis. Moreover, they said they would be inside U.S. Bank Stadium when it happened. The only problem was they did not have tickets on game day.

The Reimer’s arrived in downtown Minneapolis at noon on Super Bowl Sunday, with $4000 cash in their pockets and their best wits about them. They would soon learn just how different this game is than any other.

“At a regular season game there’s a bunch of tailgating,” said DJ. “Normally you know who’s buying and scalping tickets, but when we got there it was completely different.”

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Over the first few hours of searching, DJ and John had no luck. “Everybody who was selling tickets was asking over $3000,” said DJ.

Through those hours, John was not worried. On Monday morning, DJ and John posted a video on Facebook about their trip. In the video, John said, “I have total peace. I can’t believe it. There’s no pressure. I know it’s going to work.”

“We didn’t even have a plan B, really,” said DJ. “I guess it was to wait until the game started and try to buy from someone who will take whatever they can get.”

“Plan C was to put the money back in our pockets, find a bar, and take a trip to Mexico at the end of the month instead.”

Within half an hour of initiating ‘plan B,’ in other words less than half-an-hour until kickoff, they realized John was right. It was going to work.

“We were by the front of the gate, right where the scalpers are, and these two girls are like, ‘hey, are you guys looking for tickets? We have two tickets,’” said DJ in his Facebook video.

“We got them through work, and we’re Vikings fans. We don’t even really want to go to the game.”

“We’ve got two grand each, right now,” DJ replied.

DJ took one ticket and ran for the stadium, to confirm it was a real ticket. Once he received DJ’s confirmation, he took the other, and handed over all the cash he could find. After accidentally misplacing $500, the Reimer’s got into the game for a cool $1750 each.

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“I’m trying to find the seats where we’re at and there’s my son, sitting there with the biggest smile on his face,” said John.

Having been to 15 games in Minnesota already, the Reimer’s noticed how different the atmosphere is as fans.

“The stadium was crazy,” said DJ. “It was packed, and no one was leaving their seats. Even during quarter or halftime breaks, everyone was just soaking it in.”

“It’s not like you’re the visiting team in a different stadium, where when your team scores it’s quiet and people boo you if you cheer.”

The Reimer’s did more cheering than booing, as their Eagles held onto a 41-33 victory. The Eagles sealed it with the final pass deflection, right in front of their goal line seats.

Even if that was not the outcome, DJ said he would have still relished the experience.  Although, a few days before the game his mindset was different.

“The biggest scare for me is… what happens if they don’t win?” said DJ. “You spend all this money going to the game and you see your team lose.”

I went into it with the mentality that this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see my team. If my team loses I will still stand and cheer them on proudly… I got to watch arguably the best quarterback to ever play the game play the Super Bowl live… I was either going to witness the dynasty live, or see my favourite team win the Super Bowl.

Asked what other fans should do if they choose to make the trip to a future Super Bowl, DJ said, “go down the popular streets, wear your team’s colours with pride, and be respectful. Take in as much as you can. Go to the concerts, talk to people, ask them where they’re from and about their story.”

“And get tickets beforehand versus going to scalp, because we got them by the skin of our teeth.”

 

 

Kneel if you are able: Colin Kaepernick and NFL anthem protests

When it is time for the national anthem at a football game, the announcer asks everyone to rise if they are able. Physically, National Football League quarterback Colin Kaepernick is more than capable of standing. On August 14, 2016, Kaepernick decided he was mentally unable to stand for “The Star-Spangled Banner” before a preseason game in San Francisco. Kaepernick’s decision to sit, and later on take a knee for the anthem was out of protest of racial injustice in the United States of America. Kaepernick was not the first black athlete to initiate a race-based protest. However, since the protests began and have grown, the conversation has shifted and had focuses on military, patriotism, privilege in the NFL, and Donald Trump.

This paper will focus on the the point of the protests, and why they are performed during the national anthem. It will explore how mass media have framed the protests, and how that affects media consumer’s responses to them. Next, it will engage the arguments on both sides, are these protests are right and have a positive outcome? Or are they disrespectful and detrimental to the league and the nation? Finally, the paper will come to a conclusion on how the players should act in order to maintain their image, keep their jobs, and create social change in their country. Taking a knee during the national anthem as a peaceful protest of racial injustice is the right decision, as long as those who do so express what their act represents, and follow it by taking action.

Kaepernick is not the first black athlete to use his platform to protest. Pena (2017) cites numerous protests in college and professional sports, namely Tommie Smith and John Carlos, who placed first and third in the 200-metre sprint at the 1968 Olympics. During the national anthem, they raised black-gloved fists in support of the Black Power movement. They received a great deal of criticism. They were suspended from the United States Olympic team, and never competed in the Olympics again (p. 29).

A more recent example by Pena came in 1996, when National Basketball Association player Mahmoud Abdul-Raul sat for the anthem. Shortly after, he received less playing time than normal, was traded, and no longer had a job or any offers from NBA teams within two years. The decision, however brave and admirable it may have been, cost him a lot of money and fame (p. 30).

While it may seem as though black athletes are somewhat removed from racial injustice, they face oppression for different reasons. According to Davis (1999), negative feelings toward people of other races are heightened when they achieve higher social status. Not only do they oppose their culture, they despise those who live better than they do in their own world (p.884).

In addition, Davis notes a 1997 study on the NFL. “When the league filled a record 11 head-coaching vacancies . . . , only one of the 95 African-American assistant coaches was included in the interview process.” This discrepancy expands to management positions, where those held by blacks are few and far between (p. 885-6). With few advocates in the organization, there is pressure on players to conform to certain rules, play a certain game, if they wish to stick around.

The first question to ask on the case of Kaepernick and the NFL is, what exactly are they protesting? From the beginning of the protests, Kaepernick has made his reason very clear. Pena quotes Kaepernick:

            “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses Black people and people of color. To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder… This is not something that I am going to run by anybody. I am not looking for approval. I have to stand up for people that are oppressed. … If they take football away, my endorsements from me, I know that I stood up for what is right.” (p. 40).

This seems simple. Colin Kaepernick took a knee to bring more attention to instances of police officers shooting innocent african american people in the United States. Furthermore, he wanted to start a conversation about inequality, he wanted to be a voice for those who do not have one. He happened to pick a time and place that generates a lot of different conversations, however.

Of all the ways Kaepernick and other NFL players could protest, why during “The Star-Spangled Banner?” Simply put, the anthem is a moment that does not directly impact the game, yet still has the attention of thousands in the stadium, and millions watching on national television. Furthermore, the anthem itself is full of symbolism. This is where the conversation becomes nuanced, convoluted, and derailed.

Pena notes that the third verse of “The Star-Spangled Banner” celebrates racism and slavery. Further conversations between Kaepernick and the media make it clear that Kaepernick chose the anthem because of this symbolism. He feels that the anthem and the United States flag are symbols of “oppression for people of color and minorities in this country” (p. 36-7).

Kaepernick had a reason to take a metaphorical stand, and a rationale behind the time and place he chose to do so. Unfortunately, interpretations by the media took his actions in a different direction. Lewis and Weaver (2015) explain that with increased access to athlete’s personal lives through social media, people today care more about who athletes are than what they do on the field. Basically, professional sports have more of a focus on culture more than ever before (p. 232-3). Kaepernick’s actions and perceived culture were up for interpretation of everyone involved. Considering it is an industry dominated by caucasian males, the result was that Kaepernick lost his job. Even though he has better career statistics than a handful of quarterbacks in the NFL today, owners are not inclined to take a chance on him based on the cultural dynamics he may bring to their team.

So, what happened exactly? Pena explains, “the most common frame used across the board was the debate frame, which set up the Kaepernick protest as an argument worthy of discussion, which was incidentally a goal of Kaepernick’s anyway.” (p. 45). Kaepernick was initially successful in starting conversations. However, Pena adds, “the debate focused on his methods and his perceived patriotism, among a slew of other aspects such as his credibility, his right to protest, and the implications on his NFL future.” (p. 45). The conversation was always more about Kaepernick and his career than about racial injustice as he intended.

Coombs et al (2017) expand on Pena’s idea, saying “the emphasis on Kaepernick and his kneeling in coverage framed it in ways that undermined his intended message, making it instead about him and his method.” They reference a news article in which Chris Ault, Kaepernick’s college football coach said, “[Kaepernick] using an NFL game as his platform to show the importance of his cause was selfish. Not standing up for an American treasure such as the National Anthem is disrespectful” (p. 56). The use of that quote in an article on Kaepernick says that what he did was about him, not others. The choice of interviewee says that even those close to Kaepernick disagree with his actions. While technically appearing objective, this article is slanted against Kaepernick, evidenced by the very decision to include this quote.

Of course, when an issue of race, patriotism, and sports comes to light, it is presumed that Donald Trump will have something to say. Belson and Draper (2017) reference Trump’s response to the kneeling movement as it has grown in the NFL this season. He took to Twitter and said, “The NFL has decided that it will not force players to stand for the playing of out National Anthem. Total disrespect for our great country!” Trump ignores the message behind the protests, and responds as if the movement is entirely against his country.

On the other side, Steven Sipple (2017) interviewed a former Navy Seal, Damian Jackson, who currently plays college football for the University of Nebraska. Asked about his thoughts on the protests, Jackson was supportive. He said, “I feel like they should be able to voice their opinion. I know a lot of people think it’s bad for the military or they’re disrespecting the military. But they’re taking a knee for their own cause, and they have no disrespect for the military themselves. It’s freedom of speech to me, and I don’t mind anybody doing it, to be honest.”

Jackson’s quote shifts the conversation. The next question is, is this form of protest morally and ethically right? Thiel et al (2016) argue it is. They cite Kaepernick’s reasons for protest and morals behind them, saying, “Didn’t Kaepernick repeatedly state that his protest was a patriotic act? Didn’t he even choose a symbolic gesture that should express both protest against social wrongs and respect for the nation’s constitutional principles at the same time?” (p. 253).

The mention of the constitution is key. For many American citizens, patriotism is founded on the constitution. Thiel et al add, “Why shouldn’t he protest then? Wouldn’t it be unconstitutional and unpatriotic to deny the athlete his (constitutional) right to protest against injustices?” (p. 253). According to the constitution, in fact the first amendment, Kaepernick and other NFL players kneeling for the anthem is completely within their rights, and patriotic in itself. It is those opposed to the protest who are being unpatriotic.

If the players are indeed within their rights, why are many Americans so frustrated? Pena writes, “More often than not, the criticisms are philosophical or political, in how people perceive the protest is often determined by whether they inherently agree with them.” (p. 4). When it comes to opinions, especially those around their country, people do not like being wrong. They see their version of the truth, and all opposed are in the wrong.

Since the NFL is a business, the opinions of the masses matter, and owners must attend to them. Babiak and Wolfe (2009) call this stakeholder management. They note that teams and organizations require cooperation and support of a multitude of external organizations by way of sponsorship (p. 723). Everyone from the owner and head office, to the players and coaches, to the stadium staff play a role in community and sponsor relations. If one player speaks out against the values of these companies, there is a great deal of pressure on the head office to deal with it.

Professional athletes are well aware of this pressure. Bieler (2016) quotes Baltimore Orioles baseball player Adam Jones, “Baseball is a white man’s sport. We already have two strikes against us. So you might as well not kick yourself out of the game. In football, you can’t kick them out. You need those players. In baseball, they don’t need us.” Jones may be correct about Major League Baseball, but NFL players are not immune to backlash from general managers across the league. Kaepernick lost his job and has not played professional football since his protests.

Perhaps one critical component to this entire conversation is Kaepernick’s choice to protest during the national anthem – a deep-rooted symbol in American history. Pena references Sports Illustrated’s study on the anthem and its place in professional sports. The anthem was first played at a Chicago Cubs World Series game in 1918, in support of the United States’ involvement in World War I (p. 34). For nearly one hundred years, “The Star-Spangled Banner” has been a symbol of patriotism that goes hand-in-hand with sports.

Schatz and Lavine (2007) would argue that this symbolism is a major contributing factor to people’s frustration. They write on the strength of symbols in culture, and that there are no symbols of pride and nationalism in the USA stronger than the flag and anthem. Furthermore, national symbols promote identify by signifying a group. Since the symbols are physical, they are tangible and allow the member to attribute their own meanings to them, along with those inherent in the object. Also, they “distinguish ingroups from outgroups in an effort to enhance self-esteem.” (p. 331-2). So while there are many things that make someone ‘American’ or ‘patriotic,’ honouring the symbols of the national anthem and flag are perceived as closer than exercising first amendment rights. Not standing with one’s hand over their heart for the anthem is seen as unpatriotic and wrong.

Since the flag and anthem are such strong symbols, is it justifiable for NFL players protest specifically while the anthem is playing? Former president of the United States, Barack Obama, believes so. Pena quotes Obama, “I think he cares about some real, legitimate issues that have to be talked about.” Obama adds that the timing of the protest has “generated more conversation around some topics that need to be talked about.” (p. 38).

Thiel et al note that “from the perspective of those being criticized, the time and the place of protest is never right… History shows that every improvement of living conditions necessarily requires resistance towards the given because resistance is a prerequisite of change.” (p. 253). In other words, this protest is good, and it is necessary to invoke change in the treatment of African American citizens.

Within this conversation, it is important that the athletes make it clear what the protest is about. Given the power of media framing to change the story, they must be explicit, since the timing of the protest has turned the heads of so many people. Next, they could make great strides if they followed up the display during the anthem with actions. Babiak and Wolfe emphasize the wealth and status of athletes and how it is reflected in their actions. “The great wealth of the owners and athletes may lead people to expect more benevolence from them” (p. 731). Pena looks at the other side, as he says critics of the protests feel that professional athletes are too privileged to truly experience the issues they protest against. If we see NFL players out in communities in the United States, showing their support for African Americans in person, not just in a gesture on the field, there is a greater chance that the movement makes a difference.

In conclusion, Colin Kaepernick protested an age-old issue in the USA by kneeling for the national anthem before a football game. The movement has spread, and many other NFL players are supporting the protest. Their actions do not come without risk, as they have seen Kaepernick and other black athletes lose their jobs as a result of protests. While Kaepernick wanted to create more conversation around racial injustice, the dominating rhetoric has been more focused on the protest itself, how it impacts the careers of football players, and how the president responds to it.

The players have done nothing outside of actions within their constitutional rights in the protest, and have not intended to disrespect their country, or their military. People have reacted negatively as a result of their strong attachment to the anthem, and its association with American patriotism, but many support the act as well, and see the true intentions of the players involved. What the NFL players, especially Colin Kaepernick are doing is right, doing it during the anthem is a great decision, and if they follow their metaphorical gesture with physical actions, their resistance could be a catalyst to significant change in the near future. If nothing else, they can rest well with Kaepernick’s mentality, “I have to stand up for people that are oppressed… if they take football away, my endorsements from me, I know that I stood up for what is right.” When it is all said and done, what is more patriotic, more honourable than that?

References:

Babiak, K., & Wolfe, R. (2009). Determinants of Corporate Social Responsibility in Professional Sport: Internal and External Factors. Journal of Sport Management, 23(6), 717-742. doi:10.1123/jsm.23.6.717

Bieler, D. (2016). Adam Jones: No anthem protests in baseball because it’s ‘a white man’ssport.’ Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/dc-sportsbog/wp/2016/09/12/adam-jones-no-anthem-protests-in-baseball-because-its-a-whitemans-sport/?utm_term=.f1f9abd36035.

Coombs, D., Lambert, C., Cassilo, D., & Humphries, Z. (2017). Kap takes a knee: A media framing analysis of Colin Kaepernick’s anthem protest. International Public Relations Research Conference, 48-62.

Davis, T., (1999). Racism in athletics: subtle yet persistent. University of Arkansas at Little Rock, 881-900.

Draper, K. B. (2017, October 17). Trump Criticizes N.F.L. for Not Penalizing Anthem Kneeling. Retrieved November 14, 2017, from https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/17/sports/football/nfl-anthem-protests-trump.html

Lewis, N., & Weaver, A., (2015). More than a game: sports media framing effects on attitudes, intentions, and enjoyment. Communication & Sport 3(2), 219-242. doi: 10.1177/2167479513508273

Mead, D. (2010). The new law of peaceful protest: rights and regulation in the Human Rights Act era. Oxford: Hart Publishing.

Peña, V. (2017). Taking a stand by kneeling: an analysis of national anthem protest coverage. University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Schatz, R., & Lavine, H., (2007). Waving the flag: national symbolism, social identity and political engagement. Political Psychology, 28(3), 329-355.

Steven M. Sipple | Lincoln Journal Star. (2017, November 06). Navy SEAL Husker supportive of players’ national anthem protests. Retrieved November 14, 2017, from http://journalstar.com/sports/huskers/life-in-the-red/navy-seal-husker-supportive-of-players-national-anthem-protests/article_b3df5836-c30e-11e7-99ed-affce8ce7b0d.html

Thiel, A., Villanova, A., Toms, M., Thing, L. F., & Dolan, P. (2016). Can sport be ‘un-political’? European Journal for Sport and Society, 13(4), 253-255. doi:10.1080/16138171.2016.1253322

Business in front, party in the back row

What really happens when a university sports team goes on a road trip?

Typically, media covers everything a team does on the court. They know what the coach thinks, who is injured, and much more. However, the antics of team road trips usually go un-covered.

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This weekend, the Canadian Mennonite University Blazers volleyball teams set out for Brandon, Manitoba, and back-to-back matches with the Assiniboine Community College Cougars. Being part of the team, I was able experience the trip from the inside.

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There are two types of athlete on a road trip. Those who call it a ‘road trip,’ and those who refer to it as a ‘business trip.’ It’s easy to see the mindset of most players a few minutes into the bus ride. Some players are focused on studies, while others sit back and play games.

The ride started out fairly rowdy, but quieted down quickly as we left Winnipeg.

“Some guys think of it as a week off, but it’s not really a week off,” said team captain Jason Friesen following a shaky 3-1 win. “You’re trying to go out and win games for your team. It should be just like any other regular season game.”

“Trips are also opportunities to have fun and bond as a team,” added Friesen. “It is still important to enjoy the trip when off the court.”

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Usually, it’s the off-court time that gets young athletes in trouble on the road. It is not unheard of for university teams to find themselves in bars or clubs on the road.

This team, however, stuck to crokinole and table tennis at a teammate’s house. If coach is reading this, nothing was damaged, and we were all in bed by 11:00 pm.20180126_212311.jpg

The hotel is another opportunity to see who is on ‘business’ and who is on ‘leisure.’ Some rooms will be quiet, focused, and even watching game film for the upcoming match. On the other hand, we have had rooms up until 3:00 am sneaking out to McDonalds and watching movies. Again, that did not happen this weekend, coach.

“You have to keep that business mentality,” said Friesen. “Make sure you’re focused on the game, and playing to the best of your ability.”

Friesen’s business-like attitude was on display during the second half of the two-game series, as the Blazers beat the Cougars in convincing fashion, 3-0.

Overall, the trip was a success. While the volleyball may not have been pretty, all that matters is that we went 2-0, improving our record to 10-2.

The next home action for CMU is Saturday, February 3, as the Blazers take on the Providence Pilots at 6:00 pm.

Why we should stop yelling at refs

I was nearly assaulted on my first day of the job.

As I ducked the under-10-boys soccer coach’s right hook, I had a realization I did not sign up for when I chose to become a soccer referee. I was unaware that stopping a match due to lightning would subject a 13-year-old to physical attacks of grown men.

Since then, I have been sworn at, yelled at, and been not-so-politely asked to meet in a parking lot by coaches, parents, and players alike. In none of these cases did my actions determine the outcome of a match. As most referees will agree, we enforce the rules to the best of our abilities, based on the situation and actions of the players.

I am not alone in my experience. Referees are placed in threatening situations often, and at times are forced to run for their lives.

Parents, athletes, coaches, and fans, you need to stop yelling at referees.

When you yell at referees, you are teaching your young athletes that it is okay to disrespect authorities.

To illustrate the reasons why, I’ll use three of my favourite phrases regularly uttered from the field, bench, and stands.

“Call it both ways.”

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Manchester United players dispute referee’s decision. (Dailymail.co.uk)

As it turns out, the referee is likely the only person involved in the game who is unbiased. From my own experience as a player and referee, everyone else’s perspective is tainted by the fact that they consciously and subconsciously hope for a certain outcome on every play.

In the end, yelling at referees is simply making excuses for mistakes. Just as a police officer will not pull over a driver going the speed limit and following the law, a referee will not stop a player from scoring while playing within the rules.

Accusing the official of helping the other team, or expecting them to help you distracts from the game, and takes the enjoyment out of it.

“How could you not see that? Are you blind?”

Just because something looks like it’s against the rules, doesn’t mean it is. Referees spend hours in classrooms and reading rulebooks before they ever blow a whistle. Most know the rules better than everyone involved, and more importantly know where to look when most do not. The majority of fans and players watch the ball, not the important things the referee is trained to watch for.

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Will Ferrell yells at referee as parents watch in Kicking and Screaming. (Universal Pictures)

More importantly, coaches, if you only learn one thing today, this is it. When you yell at referees, you are teaching your young athletes that it is okay to disrespect authorities. Coaches are role models, and the lessons they teach athletes about life are infinitely more important than the sports skills they develop.

If you teach a child that it is acceptable to yell at a referee, they will yell at you. They will yell at their parents, and their teachers. Later, they will yell at their boss, because you taught them it is acceptable.

“You’re a f***ing idiot.”

How would you like it if people yelled profanities at you every time you made a mistake at your workplace? What about if they still yelled when you were absolutely correct, but they just didn’t like it? At some point, people grow tired of abuse and quit their jobs.

A recently updated Globe and Mail article notes drop-out rates of new officials across various sports in Canada. For the Calgary Minor Soccer Association, two-thirds of their new officials quit in their first year, most citing abuse as the main reason to leave.

“Nationally, we train just enough to keep our heads above water and make up for the people who are leaving each year,” says Joe Guest, director of referees for the Canadian Soccer Association.

The result is less and lower quality officials, lower quality sport, and less respectful youth.

To summarize, let the referees do their job. There is no referee on this planet who cares whether you win your seventh-division senior men’s soccer game. If you don’t think a child should say it to their future employer, don’t say it to a referee. And seriously, the referee had nothing to do with the any of the three shots that found the back of your net last Sunday.

Kevin Durant made the right choice

One of the most frustrating NBA seasons of all time is finally over.

A foregone conclusion to expert analysts and armchair quarterbacks, the Golden State Warriors defeated the Cleveland Cavaliers 129-120 at Oracle Arena Monday, claiming their second NBA championship in three years.

The frustrating part was the 73-win Warriors signing former MVP Kevin Durant. They created a super team that we thought were untouchable. It turns out we were right.

I spent the entire season complaining about Durant’s decision. He took the easy path to a ring, instead of staying loyal to his team (who nearly eliminated the Warriors a year ago). He chose a team with three all-stars, instead of becoming the face of his own franchise.

Now that I’ve had my 48 hours to reflect, I hold nothing against Kevin Durant.

With Kobe Bryant’s offensive greatness and five rings, the GOAT (greatest-of-all-time) debate started. Once LeBron James’ Cavs defeated the Warriors last year to claim his third title, the LeBron vs MJ debate became incredibly tough to settle.

As a result of the greatness we have witnessed, we are infatuated with the idea of finding the greatest, and agree that the greatest doesn’t join super teams.

But what if Durant doesn’t care what we think?

What if he doesn’t care about being ‘the guy,’ and just wants to play on a great team and chase titles?

I think I know the answer. What I know for sure is that when he hugged his mom on home court as an NBA champion, there was no doubt in his mind that he made the right decision.

“We crush players for not winning titles, yet when they pursue titles, we crush them again,” said analyst Colin Cowherd on his podcast in May. He was speaking about Durant and the criticism he received all season.

We aren’t talking about a baseball player who used steroids, or a football coach illegally filming an opponent to gain an edge. This was a very good free agent who signed a contract with a very good team, in hopes of winning what every player dreams of. It was 100 per cent legal.

Durant made a tough personal decision, and it paid off. He also took the NBA’s biggest stage by storm, hit monumentally clutch shots, and beat the best player in the world. For both of these, hat’s off to you, KD.

This is not to say that I want the Warriors to win, or even stay together. I don’t want to go through another season knowing who the confetti will fall on in June, or who will be so close, yet so far from that title, run ragged and decimated by the greatest offensive team of all time. But we cannot fault Kevin Durant for putting the NBA in this position.

The ball is in someone, anyone else’s court to stand up to the Golden State Warriors.

Rephrase: Your move, LeBron.

The 6ix reasons Toronto won game 7

The Toronto Raptors are headed to the Eastern Conference Finals. After two gruelling seven-game series, a long list of bumps, bruises and injuries, they are still standing.

With clutch scorers in Dwyane Wade and Joe Johnson on the other side of the ball, and the sub-par playoff performances of all star backcourt Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan, Raptor fans were less than hopeful about how the events of this Sunday afternoon would unfold.

Yet, here we are. The Raps are headed to Cleveland to take on LeBron James and the red-hot Cleveland Cavaliers.

How did they do it tonight?

1. They got to the line.

In pregame, Leo Rautins noted that they needed to be the aggressors. They had to drive the basketball and take advantage of the lack of rim protection from the Heat.

They did just that. The guards made quick, decisive movements to the paint, and the bigs crashed the glass, drawing a number of loose ball fouls. While 67 percent from the stripe is not good, the 29 points they got from the line were almost exactly the difference tonight.

2. They took it to Wade.

Not only did the intensity of offence help them take the early lead, but it got Wade into foul trouble, and turned him into even less of a factor than he already is on defence.

Easy buckets are hard to come by in the playoffs, but Wade allowed more than a few guys to walk right through him in order to avoid picking up his third foul.

3. The backcourt showed up.

Sure, they took a lot of shots. They also hit a lot of shots and got the team going. Lowry and DeRozan combined for 63 points, their highest combined total of the post season. It could not have come at a better time.

Lowry lit it up from the three point line, and DeRozan created chance after chance for himself, keeping the margin healthy when Miami went on their quick scoring runs.

4. They dominated down low.

With Heat big man Hassan Whiteside out of the game, the Raptors got into the paint and finished. Bismack Biyombo was a force on the glass, and Toronto finished with 42 points in the paint.

What about rebounding numbers? Toronto: 50. Miami: 30. Enough said.

5. Momentum.

With the game staying close through the half-time break, and the history of rapid Heat runs evaporating leads, the Raptors needed a spark. Mid-way through the third, they got it. Huge steals sparked a run of transition lay-ups, “and one’s”, and capped off by a  DeMarre Carroll three ball.

17-5 run, TO up 18.

The momentum shift frustrated the Heat as well, as Goran Dragic took himself out of the game with cheap fouls, and Josh McRoberts picked up a disrespectful flagrant foul as he tomahawked his arm all over Biyombo’s arms, taking away an easy two points.

6. They finally played Raptor basketball.

Biyombo did his thing down low, to the tune of 17 points and 16 rebounds. Throw in a couple blocked shots, and the hole left by Jonas Valancuinas’ absence was respectably filled.

Lowry, Carroll and Terrence Ross got plenty of open looks behind the arc. They combined to go 9/13 from deep.

DeMar got to the line and hit a handful of jumpers. Kyle knocked down even more.

They played fast and aggressive, letting their defence carry them through. They hustled and scrapped to get to the ball first. They outlasted the Heat, and finally pulled away for another monumental Toronto sports win.

If Kyle Lowry has a baseball bat, now is the time to flip it.