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What Manziel and Morris Day Have in Common

It was amazingly easy to find a volunteer for this photo. Thanks?

It was amazingly easy to find a volunteer for this photo. Thanks?

Well Johnny Manziel, after being fined $12K for flipping the bird to MY Washington Redskins during Monday Night Football this week, you can take heart that you are in some pretty historic company making that gesture.

And I must admit, having tossed up a few “salutes” myself over 20 years of Washington DC traffic, I got to thinking “What does the bird mean anyway?” (Besides a really awesome Morris Day and the Time song.)

Dating back to ancient Greek and Roman cultures, not surprisingly, “the finger” means a phallus, and the two fingers on either side, the testicles. In fact, whether Latin, Greek or otherwise, the etymology almost always means sexual affectations.

In other words, with the exception of those who showed the sign as a way to thwart evil, you silly boys haven’t changed one bit in 3,000 years. Classical scholars such as Aristophanes, Erasmus, and Diogenes Laertius referred to it; today, Madonna, Ronald Reagan, Johnny Cash, Ron Artest and Justin Bieber have publicly let their finger flag fly.

The gesture is reputed to have arrived in America after the Civil War, likely through Italian immigrants. It wasn’t long, however Johnny, before athletes found it useful. The first documented use of “read between the lines” appeared around 1886 by baseball player Old Hoss Radbourn, a pitcher with the Boston Beaneaters—he definitely did it in a photograph (top row, far left); allegedly it was to send a message to their rivals, the New York Giants.

So that’s something you can think about, Johnny Football, as you’re sitting the bench in the #2 spot for Cleveland. You are in good company, sure, but next time, when you have yet to take a single snap in a real NFL game as a starting quarterback, put your money where your finger is.

Oh wait, you just did.

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A League of Her Own

You should see what she can do in a swimsuit.

You should see what she can do in a swimsuit.

So it was just announced a really hot girl is on the cover of Sports Illustrated. So what?

Turns out the “hot” girl is 13-year-old baseball sensation Mo’ne Davis, pitcher (and infielder, and outfielder…) for the Philadelphia Taney Dragons Little League team. Last week, she recorded the first ever complete game shutout by a girl in Little League World Series history (4-0 vs. Nashville). And Sunday, she hit a single against the Pearland, Texas team to become only the sixth girl to record a hit in the Little League World Series and help the Dragons to the win.

Her success has drawn praise from the likes of Michelle Obama, Kevin Durant and Lil Wayne. Now she will become the first Little Leaguer—girl or boy—to grace the cover of the famous sports magazine.

We doubt it will be the last. The 5-4, 111-pound phenom hopes to play basketball for the national champion Connecticut Huskies someday. Let’s hope they…yes, “show her the Mo’ne.”

(Insert trombone playing wohn-wohhhnnn here.)

Catch Mo’ne again Wednesday against Las Vegas—the one game standing in the way of the Dragons’ U.S. Championship game.

#WoofWednesday! Congrats to Becky Hammon, Michele Roberts!

Cody, courtesy of @BeckyHammon, Twitter

Cody, courtesy of @BeckyHammon, Twitter

Although San Antonio Stars STAR Becky Hammon’s pup Cody departed us in June, we thought he would want to celebrate with us here as his mom (a GIRL) is the new Assistant Coach of the World Champion San Antonio Spurs (SMELLY BOYS!).

Congratulations to Becky as she transitions from being one of the greatest WNBA players of all time to coaching one of the best NBA franchises. Cody would be proud!

Meanwhile, last week, Washington DC attorney Michele Roberts was voted in as the new Executive Director of the National Basketball Players Association (NBPA), making her the first woman to head up a major North American sports union.

Tiger Tuesday and a Diamond in the Rough

A Swedish massage from ex-wife Elin Nordegren would be pretty good right now, right Tiger?

A Swedish massage from ex-wife Elin Nordegren would be pretty good right now, right Tiger?

So in a golf story that makes me feel very olllld, 38-year-old Tiger Woods withdrew from the World Golf Championship Bridgestone tournament Sunday on the ninth hole after straining his back on an awkward shot at the second hole.

Woods, who had surgery to alleviate a pinched nerve in his back March 31, deteriorated quickly after that, in his third tournament back on a Firestone Country Club course where he has won eight times. He opened the tournament with a 68 but got progressively worse and was 3-over par when he withdrew.

Now the golf world awaits whether Woods will appear in this weekend’s PGA Championship in Louisville. (Meanwhile the women of the world say, “tough nuggets, cheating moron.”)

While 38 is certainly not “old” for golf, Woods is not considered a spring chicken either, and he’s a chicken who has taken some battering both physically and spiritually the last decade. But he won his last major on a torn ACL six years ago, so don’t count him out yet. He is seeking his 15th major tournament win, four shy of Jack Nicklaus’ record 18.

Meanwhile at the same tournament, Sergio Garcia (who is no buddy of Tiger’s after the two have accused each other of racism and cheating in the past) knocked the diamond from a fan’s ring with his tee shot on the third hole Sunday.

As fans tried to help her find it, Garcia, the leader at the time (he finished second to Rory McIlroy) still had to play. Normally a golfer will give an autographed ball or glove to a fan he hits, and he did, while also continuing to look for the diamond. He asked for her contact information, but luckily the diamond was found and returned.

Filanthropy Friday

Amid all the commotion around the Ray Rice domestic abuse situation the last week, my friend Michelle made a very good point. She said she was so tired of hearing about the bad guys in sports, she was going to make a conscious effort to seek out the good ones.

So with that in mind, I thought I would periodically shine my tiny bloglight on athletes who are, as far as we can tell, living their lives for the good of others. Whether it’s giving wheelchairs to children (David Beckham), donating their own money to orphanages (Clayton Kershaw), or just leaving a waitress a good tip (actually, a lot of guys), there really are sports stars out there who seem to appreciate that they are rich, gorgeous, and talented and don’t mind sharing a little love with the rest of the huddled masses.

Big Daddy. (Twitter.com)

Big Daddy. (Twitter.com)

This week, I’m introducing you to St. Louis Rams center Scott Wells and his wife Julie. A year after their son Jackson was born in 2004, the Wells’ underwent the tragedy of losing premature twin sons on Thanksgiving Day. Eventually they gave birth to daughter Lola and son Langston, but the specter of their sadness remained.

But a solution was becoming apparent. Feeling what they believed to be God’s influence, the couple decided to adopt two children from Uganda, Elijah and R.J. It wasn’t an easy trip. Scott was recovering from knee surgery and had to return to the U.S. while Julie stayed for three months to get to know the children. The couple faced corruption in a system known for bribes and taking advantage of the wealthy.

But if there was any doubt, then God REALLY showed up. R.J., it was discovered, had a sister, Caroline. The Wells’ hardly gave it a thought.

“We decided to keep the brother and sister together,” Wells said. “I said, ‘What’s the difference between five and six kids?'” he said in a St. Louis Post-Dispatch interview.

Now the 300-pound Pro-Bowler, who holds two degrees in history and sociology, has a team of six, counting the three “transfers.”

And for their sake, not a moment too soon.

“To us, and talking to people who have done mission work over there and have adopted over there, the need was great,” Wells went on in the same interview. “HIV’s huge over there, malaria, tuberculosis. The life expectancy’s not great; it’s very low. The majority of the population’s young because people don’t live to be old. So we really just felt … that’s where we were being led.”

And for that, Scott Wells, the Ladies Room leaves the seat up for you.

Why Nothing Good Happens to Black Women in Elevators

Come on, everyon knows this is how girls fight!

I didn’t mean it–everyone knows this is how girls fight, anyway!

So after a rambling on-air deconstruction of the woman’s role in the Ray Rice domestic violence case and suspension, ESPN “First Take” commentator Stephen A. Smith has been suspended himself.

While the majority of the public, including his ESPN colleagues, loudly condemned the NFL’s pitiful punishment of benching Rice (who knocked his fiancee unconscious in a casino elevator then dragged her by her hair) for only two games (guys who smoke marijuana get more), Smith used his platform to dance around then eventually land on his point: that women should avoid provoking men to attack them.

A week after he made his points, and, to be fair, several apologies, the network suspended him for a week. Whether that includes pay is unknown.

Naturally the social media universe lit up over Smith who, unlike the more jovial natures of other ESPN anchors, tends to play the “angry black man” shtick, and much to his favor–he has 2 million Twitter followers.

Meanwhile, tart-tongued badass Michelle Beadle, host of ESPN’s “SportsNation”—herself a victim of an abusive relationship—had a few things to say to her colleague via Twitter:

Twitter_MichelleDBeadle_So_I_was_just_forced_to_watch_..._-_2014-07-30_11.24.20She also tweeted that she does agree men and women can be the attackers. For example, Beyonce’s sister Solange Knowles made international news three months ago when elevator footage turned up of her attacking brother-in-law Jay-Z. It’s still unclear what the fight was about, but if that was “provocation,” Jay-Z handled it correctly by walking away.

(I’ve never been sure exactly what Solange does, but I don’t think she got suspended from it.)

So here’s the thing. I don’t think Smith meant that women are at fault for being attacked; I do think, however, his comments blabbed out from a longtime unconscious belief in men, and some women too, that women play an equal role in an abuse situation by what they wear, what they say, what they drink, or yes, even their physical actions. That by being female, we must be aware at all times of our power to seduce–sex or trouble–a belief expressed more outwardly in many other cultures in which women are closeted, under clothes or literally, at best, and persecuted or killed at worst.

In other words, sometimes our unconscious beliefs can manifest themselves into dangerous realities for those perceived physically (or mentally) smaller and weaker.

Or darker. A recent study shows that people, including medical personnel, assume black people feel less pain than white people. Why? Because they have been through more hardship.

So similarly, while on some level crediting blacks for their suffering, we use it against them in a “well they knew better” manner.

The good news, I think, is just what a ruckus this has all raised. I’m actually pleased at the comments I’ve heard from local and national commentators who came down on Roger Goodell and the NFL and didn’t take the sensationalized way out Smith did, perhaps thinking it would get him more attention.

Congrats, Stephen A. It did.

She Is Kacy, Watch Her Soar

Ninja, shminja. BRING IT!

Ninja, shminja. BRING IT!

Normally I define “sports” as activities involving sweat, sprints and the occasional DUI. It’s easy to forget sometimes that the Lloyd Dobler’s out there could be right: kickboxing really did turn out to be the sport of the future. Some of the most worth-watching athletic pursuits may be more basic than baby mama drama.

So when my friend Salil Maniktahla, who with his wife Malikah owns the Urban Evolution gym chain, told me about Kacy Catanzaro’s performance on NBC’s “America Ninja Warrior,” I stopped my eyeballs mid-roll and tuned in.

Besides, mid-July is a terrible time for sports fans. When baseball takes its mid-season break, there is nothing on but the British Open and the Tour de France—neither of which I’m watching at 3am. This had to be better than all-Lebron, all the time.

And wow was Salil right. “#MightyKacy” – a 5-foot, 100-pound former Division I gymnast – became the first woman to complete the ANW regional final obstacle course in Dallas last week. And if you haven’t seen the video, I mean, wow. This pint-sized powerhouse, who gives her “free runner” boyfriend a run for his money training each day, pulls moves I haven’t seen SEALs master. Better yet, her performance not only went crazy viral, but it shows that women can compete in the most grueling of environments.

Mount Midiyorama, or as Kacy calls it, just an average Tuesday.

Mount Midoriyama, or as Kacy calls it, just an average Tuesday.

“These obstacles are meant to be difficult for athletes in peak condition,” says Salil, whose gym teaches parkour, gymnastics, breakdancing and all the other stuff that was fun when we were kids before real life came along and ruined it all.

“There’s some bias towards men in the course design: lots of tests of hanging, upper body strength, and grip strength, and there are situations where physical reach (or “wingspan,” as many people call it) is a factor. So it’s really remarkable that a 5-foot woman (who admittedly is in great condition and has worked hard, and is a Division 1 gymnast) has done so well on the course. You can’t help but root for her, because she’s exactly who we all want to win.”

Next she moves on to the finals in Las Vegas, on the U.S. version of “Mount Midoriyama,” an obstacle course designed based on the original Japanese series, and which is considered the most difficult in the world. The first Mount Midoriyama has been tried 2,700 times and completed only four times—twice by the same person.

But a $500,000 grand prize—and proving that women rock at rock-climbing and more—will be enough motivation. Go Kacy!