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Good Guys Do Finish First. Even if Overshadowed by the Worst.

Beamer, Benz or Bentley? Mazda.

Beamer, Benz or Bentley? Mazda.

So this week the Baltimore Ravens finally released Ray Rice for literally knocking the flipflops off his fiancée in a casino elevator (and TMZ became a reputable news outlet).

This after months of other NFL suspensions for pot, PED’s, and a little Percocet promenade by a team owner. NOT to mention Roger Goodell et. al. imposing sentences for these infractions that would give you whiplash (2 games-4 games-6 games-8, what don’t fans appreciate? Arbitrary penalties, that’s what.)

So for some relief, I asked my Facebook friends to tell me their favorite football players—no, any athletes—who demonstrate the good, honest, charitable side of sports–and just human nature. And they delivered (pro wrestlers! Woot!).

By the way, I’m focusing only on the fellas here, not because women athletes don’t have legal issues (Hope Solo, come on, honey), but it’s the gentlemen who have dominated the police blotters of late.

So here, in no order, are just a FEW gallant guys who are using their athletics platform (or just plain old good hearts) to make the world a place of shiny, happy people holding hands, not punching women with them:

Grapplers Giving Back
The longtime WWE favorite “Mankind,” Mick Foley, now donates hours lobbying against sexual assault with the group RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network). John Cena has granted more than 400 “wishes” for the Arizona Make-A-Wish Foundation, making him the current record holder.

Stop or I’ll Shaq!
Countless NBA players have or support charities—James, Jordan, Battier… But as the kid of a homicide detective, I find it quite touching that Shaquille O’Neal has applied to become a reserve police officer in Doral, Florida—a job he did once before in Miami 2005. That’s 7-1, 325 pounds of serving and protecting.

Feel-Good Football Players
I’ve written before about St. Louis’ Scott Wells and his three adopted Ugandan children. Now I have to give a nod to my Redskins, particularly Darrell Green, whose name was mentioned a LOT today. Not only an amazing athlete and Hall of Famer—maybe the best the nation’s capital has ever seen—but a true philanthropist, founding or supporting children’s charitable organizations, September 11 relief, education efforts and numerous boards and councils.

That said, I find running back Alfred Morris pretty awesome just for driving, still, his 1991 Mazda 626 that he bought for $2 from his pastor. OK it’s been fully restored, but it’s nice to see a player keepin’ it real.

Many friends like Holly Peterson Linder and Michelle Burstion Young pointed out not just one player but the entire Bengals organization not only for keeping defensive lineman Devon Still on the practice squad after being cut, but donating all proceeds from the sales of his jersey to pediatric cancer research. His daughter Leah is in Stage 4 with a 50-50 chance of survival. The good news is at this time his jersey is the highest selling Bengals jersey ever.

Don’t Mess With Widows
As for hockey, a classic name came up today. Mark Messier has served on a number of boards, including the New York Police and Fire Widows’ and Children’s Benefit Fund, and the Tomorrow’s Children Fund, as well as helped bring more ice rinks to the city. The NHL created the Mark Messier Leadership Award in his honor.

But most important, says my friend H. Paul Brandes, “Leading the Rangers to their only Stanley Cup in my lifetime should be considered a charitable act in and of itself.”

Children’s Home…Runs
Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw received rousing votes today from Vin Scully cousin Patti Shea and others, and it’s easy to see why. He and wife Ellen raised money to build an orphanage in Zambia and he recently hosted a massive ping pong tournament on the field of Dodger stadium as an ongoing part of “Kershaw’s Challenge.” He has already received the Roberto Clemente Award and the Branch Rickey Award for his humanitarian work – Cy Young is probably next, for, you know, like garden variety pitching and stuff.

The Phillies’ Chase Utley and wife Jennifer work closely with animal causes like the Pennsylvania Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and encourage people to adopt pets, not buy.

The Rays’ Evan Longoria is a downright superhero here when he saves a reporter from a stray ball.

I also still love how the Mets’ Daniel Murphy missed opening day this year for the birth of his son, despite some announcers’….different (dumbass) views of paternity leave and C-sections.

And finally, my friend Jeff Jackson sums it up: “Real athletes don’t tell everyone the good things they do, they just do it! Derek Jeter!”

Yes indeed, Shortstop, Number 2, Derek Jeter. Number 2.

PS – some of the honorable mentions today: Tiger Woods; Ole Miss’ Deterrian Shackelford; Andre Agassi and Steffi Graf; Brandon Marshall; Russell Wilson; Warrick Dunn; Caron Butler; Andrew Luck; Mary Lou Retton; Joe Torre; Albert Pujols; Serena Williams; Ryan Zimmermann; Ted Williams; Stan Musial; Mario Lemieux; Jacob Tamme; Brett Keisel; Kenny Perry; Vincent Lacavalier; Brooks Laich; Nicklas Backstrom; and duh…OVIE!

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High 5 Headlines: Silly Soccer Celebrations, Wie Wins, Kershaw’s Ks, and Penn State Pencils in Premium Players

dancing-soccer

OK, for the last time: This is MY dance space, this is YOUR dance space.

1 – The U.S. Men’s Soccer Team played to a 2-2 draw with Portugal on Sunday, much to the frustration of fans who, after the U.S. defeat of Ghana, were excited at our very real prospects of qualifying outright for the final Round of 16. Now we must at least tie Germany, who gave a Deutsche drubbing to Portugal last week, 4-0. Game time: 12 noon ET this Thursday (or as many Americans will call it, a sick day).

PS –Colombia’s team jubilation dance was one of the best moments of the tournament ; scroll down for a fun clip of soccer celebrations.

2 – Michelle Wie, who sparked the golf scene at age 10 when she qualified for a USGA amateur championship, won the U.S. Women’s Open Sunday. There’s a reason this is pretty cool. Since she turned pro at age 15, along with a flood of endorsements and the pressure of publicity, the 6-1 daughter of a professor and golf champ/beauty queen never won a “major” championship, but just the weekly tourneys that rarely merit any TV time. Frustrated, Wie retreated from the game for a time and attended Stanford, graduating with a degree in communications.

Now 24, she’s back in the golf spotlight at a more acceptable age—and must have experienced both happiness and concern for Lucy Li, 11. Li was the youngest player ever to qualify for the Open, but didn’t make the cut. Didn’t seem to bother her though; she wore braces, ate ice cream and joked with the media. Hopefully she will learn some lessons from Wie, and golf will remain fun, not forced.

3 – Dodgers lefty Clayton Kershaw threw a no-hitter June 18 against the Colorado Rockies. A no-hitter occurs when the pitcher allows no batter to record a hit. Batters can reach base in other ways, like a walk or error, but this is rare. Most no-hitters are also complete games and shutouts. However, one higher honor exists: the perfect game, in which no batters reach base at all. This is much rarer. There have been 284 no-hitters since 1875; there have been 23 perfect games.

4 – Now that college football’s National Signing Day, on which high school players make their formal college commitments, is behind us, news outlets have ranked the schools’ “recruiting classes.” Naturally the top schools are no surprise, institutions like Alabama, LSU and Ohio State. But what caught my attention is the inclusion of Penn State at around #24 although I’ve seen them as high as five.

I think this is kinda neat because 2014 is roughly the first year the Nittany Lions team will be comprised of players who did not have to endure the 2011 Jerry Sandusky child sex assault scandal. Since then, Sandusky rots in prison, head coach Joe Paterno was fired for allegedly covering up Sandusky’s acts and subsequently died, players transferred elsewhere, and the entire university was penalized by the NCAA for falling down on the job, a decision that, in my opinion only hurts blameless players and fans in the end. For PSU to be getting attention again from players and media is a good sign that, while we should never forget what happened, a historic program can return to its former glory.

5 – Granted I am little biased on this one, but I’m thrilled that one of sports’ most fun and exciting events is coming to my backyard in DC. The Winter Classic is the NHL’s annual game featuring two teams playing outdoors. Even if you don’t follow hockey, it’s great to see two teams take on the elements as well as each other in the old-fashioned way. The Capitals will play January 1, 2015, reportedly against the Chicago Blackhawks at a venue TBD. It doesn’t have to snow, but I would buy up all the milk and bread in the region for a chance to see it in real winter conditions. Fingers crossed!


Hot Dog! Calling All Canines – to the Ballpark!

My friend Lisa's favorite fan-dog Winnie taking in the fun at Nationals Park.

My friend Lisa’s fan-dog Winnie taking in the fun at Nationals Park.

It’s the mossssst wonderful tiiime of the year!

Not just baseball season beginning, but today I received my first reminder of the Washington Nationals’ annual “Pups in the Park” game days—games to which, with a special ticket, you can bring your furry friend for fun and treats, and lend a helping paw to your local animal shelters.

Many teams have such events, including the San Francisco Giants, the Pittsburgh Pirates, and minor league teams like the Louisville Bats. Get your tickets now – they go fast, and you want days that aren’t too hot.

(Just eat that Hebrew National where your dachshund can’t see!)

High Five Headlines: A Crap-Ton of Football. And a Little Men’s Figure Skating.

1–Like most kids, I was a very logical little girl. So I never could understand why our U.S. service academy football teams always seemed like sort of an afterthought. They were America’s smartest, bravest, and fittest young men, weren’t they? So why didn’t we see them in the sports headlines, like, every single day? I didn’t grasp that the academies don’t have as much flexibility in recruiting like other schools, and these soldiers were also tasked with the tiny burden of defending our country and that football might not be their top priority.

Can somebody help me up, please?

I’ve fallen since last season, and I can’t get up. (No, really, lil’ help here?)

Except for one day a year—the annual Army-Navy Game in Philadelphia, when the U.S. Military Academy and the Naval Academy square off in what is considered by many to be college football’s greatest rivalry. Unfortunately, the last decade or so, it really hasn’t been. Navy has won every year since 2004, including Saturday 34-7 over an Army team that has averaged fewer than three wins a season since 1998. Navy’s Keenan Reynolds set a Division I record for quarterbacks when he rushed for his 29th touchdown of the year and will lead the 8-4 Midshipmen to the Armed Forces Bowl against Middle Tennessee State. As for Army, well at least they will always be our heroes, long after their football careers end.

2–Speaking of struggling programs, I usually try not to focus on my local Washington Redskins, but they were the NFL’s top story last week, so…

OK, so Coach Mike Shanahan “shut down” quarterback Robert Griffin III for the rest of the season, ostensibly to rest the knee he blew out in last year’s playoffs. He won’t play at all, while backup Kirk Cousins has taken the helm. RGIII was literally in the national sports news every day the last year—fans and non-fans alike wanted to see the affable, witty, Subway Sandwich-loving Offensive Rookie of the Year return to full strength. He did not. Challenged by his knee, a weak defense and a shaky relationship with Shanahan, RGIII’s sophomore year was middling at best, with a bunch of icky stats I don’t even have the heart to go into.

Then there is the Family Shanahan: Coach Mike, who by most accounts seems to be lobbying to be fired so he can depart his Skins losing legacy fully paid. His son Kyle is the offensive coordinator—therefore having a direct hand in RGIII’s performance. Would he be fired too? Or follow Dad if he quits? Or stay on and try to atone for the “RedSins” of the father? To be continued. Wish *I* could authorize a shutdown.

3—Florida State freshman quarterback Jameis Winston was named the 2013 Heisman Trophy winner by a landslide Saturday over five other players, including last year’s winner Johnny Manziel (Texas A&M) and Alabama’s A.J. McCarron–who I calculate got about 1/16 of the camera time as his girlfriend (you know it by now, say it with me) Miss Alabama Katherine Webb in the audience. Winston thanked his family and coaches ebulliently, noting several times his gratitude for the “truth” being on his side. Winston was cleared last week of potential rape charges from a 2012 incident, and will lead FSU into the national championship game against Auburn January 6. The alleged victim, meanwhile, has had to withdraw from FSU. I’ve said it before—no one knows what happened but the accuser and Winston. There are unscrupulous people out there of both genders. It’s just sad to me that one party is starting a great career, while the other is likely launching one at Taco Bell. But the law has spoken, so we move forward.

4–Sometimes good just isn’t good enough. Head football coach Mack Brown resigned from the University of Texas Saturday, but will stay on to coach the Longhorns against Oregon in the Alamo Bowl. Texas went 8-4 this year, but detractors still have questioned Brown since the program began declining—despite double-digit win seasons from 2001-2009—after its 2005 national championship. Coaches come and go every year, but if you know “Friday Night Lights,” you have some inkling of what football means to the Lone Star State. Brown’s departure is major news because he has had what is, in his words, “the best coaching job at the premier football program in the country” since 1998.

Another reason football fans’ antennae were up over this one was the possibility of Alabama coach Nick Saban coming aboard, and he’s won the last two national championships. But the hope didn’t last long—Saban signed a deal last week to remain with the Crimson Tide for roughly $7 million a year, a raise of about $1.5 million a year and more than that of most NFL coaches.

5—American 2010 Olympic figure skating gold medalist Evan Lysacek will not be able to defend his title at the Sochi Winter Games due to ongoing issues with a torn labrum in his hip. Lysacek hadn’t competed since his win in Vancouver four years ago, but had remained optimistic for Sochi. During his comeback attempt last year, he experienced an abdominal tear, followed by the hip injury, which doctors feared could be permanent if he did not stop.

But in happier news, skier (and Tiger Woods paramour) Lindsey Vonn returned to the snow for practice runs in Colorado this weekend for the first time in the nine days since she reinjured her right knee. She had torn it completely February 5 of last year. Vonn hopes to return to competition next weekend and keep her Olympic hopes alive. She is the defending downhill gold medalist, holds four World Cup titles and is considered the most accomplished Alpine skier in American history.

High Five: Serena Is Thirty-One-derful, Puppies, and Robert! Griffin! The Third! Returns!

From quarterback brilliance to tennis upsets to the Ottoman Turks, what a week it’s been for sports. Here are five of the biggest stories for the office, the other half, and the offspring…

1) The first week of the NFL season did not disappoint–well, unless you’re a Baltimore fan. Here are a few highlights based on headlines you might have heard in recent months:

–The reigning champion Ravens fell, hard, 49-27 Thursday night to Denver quarterback Peyton Manning (seven touchdowns!) and pint-sized powerhouse (and super-adorable) receiver Wes Welker, formerly a Patriots legend.

–The New York Jets defeated Tampa 18-17—not particularly noteworthy except it gives rookie quarterback Geno Smith a 1-0 start after two years of daily discussion over starter Mark Sanchez, who injured his shoulder in a pre-season game. Sanchez versus backup Tim Tebow (traded to New England, now released and seeking a new team); Sanchez and the “butt fumble.” We’ll see what happens when he returns.

Colin Kaepernick threw for 412 yards and three touchdowns in a win over Green Bay, whose Aaron Rodgers is pretty much agreed to be the NFL’s best quarterback. But the better story was Anquan Boldin—traded in March to the 49ers from their Super Bowl opponent, Baltimore. Boldin finished with 208 yards receiving and a 10-yard touchdown.

On behalf of pit bull puppies everywhere, you know who we're pullin' for tonight!

“On behalf of pit bull puppies everywhere, you know who we’re pullin’ for tonight!” (Rudy and Roxy, Humane Society foster pup-leaders) 

–Sunday night’s Cowboys-Giants matchup saw New York’s Eli Manning (brother of Peyton) throw Victor Cruz (the one who “salsas” after each score) three TD passes—yet the Giants fell 36-31 after six turnovers.

But the BEST is yet to come tonight (and yes as a DC resident, I am a tad biased)…

2) That rumbling sound you’re hearing is thousands of Washington Redskins fans geeking out to finally finally watch our quarterback Robert! Griffin! The Third! return tonight against the Philadelphia Eagles, new coach Chip Kelly, and QB Michael Vick (of the pitbull-fighting-ring infamy) in the first game of Monday Night Football.

Griffin was named 2012 Offensive Rookie of the Year despite a soul-crushing knee injury in the Skins’ first-round playoffs loss to Seattle. Now after daily media debates, blame-gaming (who decides if a hurt player can play—the athlete, the coach, or the doctor?), surgeries, speculation, and, oh, his July wedding to his college sweetheart Rebecca Liddicoat, RGIII is set to be the Washington starter–and hopefully stay there, but fans and detractors alike wonder if his brashness will re-injure him.

Tonight’s second game features the Houston Texans and AFC Defensive Player of the Year J.J. Watt (see him “SHUT YOU DOWN!” in a Yahoo! commercial below) versus the San Diego Chargers, who will be without rookie linebacker Manti Te’o of the Facebook-fake-girlfriend scandal. T’eo is out with a sprained foot.

3) Serena Williams, 31, won her 17th Grand Slam title Sunday, defeating Victoria Azarenka 7-5, 6-7 (6), 6-1 to defend her US Open title. The win puts her only one Grand Slam title behind Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert all-time. And she’s done it after two retirements and a near-fatal blood clot. She has now played in 21 Grand Slam finals, winning all but four.

"First Istanbul, now Constantinople, then it's Istanbul..." No wonder they lost.

“First Istanbul, now Constantinople, then it’s Istanbul…” No wonder they lost.

4) As for the men’s U.S. Open final, world #1 Novak Djokovic will play in his fourth straight final tonight at 5 p.m. ET against beloved hottie Rafael Nadal of Spain. It will be the third time the two have met in the final in four years. “Rafa” sat out last year with a hurt knee. Scotland’s Andy Murray won in 2012—and famously Britain’s first Wimbledon title in over 70 years this year—but was eliminated in earlier play.

5) Tokyo beat out Istanbul and Madrid Saturday in a vote for the 2020 Olympic Summer Games, despite worries over radioactive water leaking from the Fukushima nuclear plant. Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe personally promised Tokyo’s safety. Personally, I loved my Turkey visit and would have loved to see Istanbul win—a modern, Muslim city (well, today – Turkey has been occupied by so many cultures, its Hagia Sophia cathedral bears markings of Ottomans, Christians, and even Vikings) with fantastic transit and welcoming citizens. Not to mention the Grand Bazaar’s six centuries of shopping—clothing, spices, art, and…even leeches. Oh well, maybe 2024.

Woof Wednesday! R.I.P. Buster, Devoted Furry Friend and Skins Fan

Hail to the Redskins--and BUSTER!

Hail to the Redskins–and BUSTER!

When I took my dog Chester to the vet last week, I was happy to bump into my friend, volleyball teammate, and Redskins Superfan Rick, waiting on a sofa with his burgundy buddy Buster (even the DOG is Redskins colors), pacing and panting around like any normal dog would do.

“What are you in for?” I asked.

“I have to put Buster down. Lung cancer,” Rick answered.

“But he seems fine,” I said, as if my proclamation could reverse rogue cells. My brain tried to process poor Buster’s diagnosis, images of him smoking cigarettes and drinking beer while watching ESPN, scratching his belly with the remote. Buster and Chester, meanwhile, sniffed each other’s doggy bits, tails wagging. Buster even barked at us–his lungs still worked, right?

No. Though he seemed healthy on the outside, Buster was quietly suffering inwardly. His time had come. So even though my Skins will be minus one furry fan this season, I’m happy Chester and I were his last, if brief, friends before he crossed the Rainbow Bridge to those FedEx Field Box Seats in Heaven. R.I.P. Buster!

Do you have a furry Superfan of your own? Please send photos to laura.boswell@ladiesroomsports.com for future #woofwednesday postings!

The 2013-14 Wizards Girls

The 2013-14 Wizards Girls

And on a lighter note, I attended the final audition round extravaganza this week for the NBA Washington Wizards Girls. Some 30+ smart, beautiful, and athletic ladies competed for the coveted spots.

Let me tell you, I’ve done my fair share of cheer and dance in the past, as well as college sports, and I could NOT keep up with these high-kicking, kick-butt babes. You GO, girls!