Sports memories of 2013

LeBron James continues to prove he is the best basketball player on the planet as he wins the NBA Championship and  Finals MVP in consecutive years.

LeBron James continues to prove he is the best basketball player on the planet as he wins the NBA Championship and Finals MVP in consecutive years.

By Charles Glover, Jr.

Every year has a unique sports identity and 2013 had a number of trends that immediately come to mind. This year the sports world treated us to fantastic moments like a Super Bowl that was decided in the final minutes and thrilling plays throughout a seven-game series in the NBA Finals. Game 6 of the NBA Finals might be viewed as the game of the year as it provided us with scintillating plays all the way to the end.

Ray Allen (r) makes what might be the play of the year in 2013 as he drills a 3 pointer to tie Game 6 in the final seconds of regulation over Tony Parker (c) and Kawhi Leonard (l).

Ray Allen (r) makes what might be the play of the year in 2013 as he drills a 3-pointer to tie Game 6 in the final seconds of regulation over Tony Parker (c) and Kawhi Leonard (l).

We also witnessed serious tragedy in sports, headlined by the bombings near the finish line of the Boston Marathon. While there was something memorable about the different sporting events throughout 2013, there were some trends that connected the various sports.

 

Derek Jeter (l) and Kobe Bryant (r) are hoping to fully recover from their injuries and have a much better 2014.

Derek Jeter (l) and Kobe Bryant (r) are hoping to fully recover from their injuries and have a much better 2014.

Superstar injuries: 2013 was a year in which some of the biggest names in sports spent a great deal of time on the injured list. Derek Jeter, Kobe Bryant, Derrick Rose, Rob Gronkowski, Matt Harvey, Robert Griffin III, Matt Kemp, Rajon Rondo, Arian Foster and Russell Westbrook were just several of the many All-Star caliber players  who suffered lengthy injuries this calendar year. Adrian Peterson has altered the perception of the impact of some of these injuries as he returned in record time to win the 2012-13 National Football League (NFL) MVP award after tearing the ACL in his knee at the end of the 2011-12 season. It is becoming apparent that Peterson’s recovery was exceptional and that it seems unreasonable to expect any athlete to return to action and be better than they were before the injury.

 

Serena Williams raises her title as she continues her dominance at the U.S. Open.

Serena Williams raises her title as she continues her dominance at the U.S. Open.

Elite performances by the elite performers: The 2013 calendar year was tremendous for the best players in almost every sport. Peyton Manning set NFL records for quarterback in the 2013-14 season en route to a likely fifth MVP award. Miguel Cabrera proved to be the best offensive player in Major League Baseball (MLB), winning the American League (AL) MVP award for the second consecutive season. Serena Williams and Rafael Nadal each won two out of four Grand Slam titles this year on the tennis tour. Tiger Woods reclaimed his position as the number one ranked golfer in the world while winning five tournaments in 2013. Perhaps no performance stands out more than LeBron James capturing his second consecutive National Basketball Association (NBA) Finals MVP award and fourth league MVP award this year as he led the Miami Heat to back-to-back championships.

 

Mariano Rivera was classy as he watched the mess that is New York sports crumble around him,.

Mariano Rivera was classy as he watched the mess that is New York sports crumble around him.

Tough year in New York sports: The Yankees and Mets both faced numerous injuries to key players and failed to make the postseason this year. The Yankees had to watch their rivals the Boston Red Sox win another title. They also have to try to cope with the retirement of legend Mariano Rivera, the loss of their best offensive player Robinson Cano, the unavailability of currently suspended, scandal-plagued player Alex Rodriguez while hoping that Derek Jeter is going to be healthy and productive all season. The Giants and Jets both had mediocre seasons and will be watching the upcoming NFL playoffs from home, missing the chance to play in the Super Bowl which will be played in their hometown. Both football teams will likely make numerous player changes as they look to rebound next year. The Knicks and Nets are off to painfully slow starts to the 2013-14 NBA season. Any talk about NBA championship contention for either team seems extremely far-fetched as both teams have a long way to go just to make the playoffs this year.

 

2013 Boston Marathon participants are emotional wrecks as they witness copious innocent people injured on the street.

2013 Boston Marathon participants are emotional wrecks as they witness copious innocent people injured on the street.

Sporting world’s negative headlines: The two bombs that exploded during the Boston Marathon on April 15, 2013 may be the most unfortunately memorable event that took place in sports. With approximately 264 people injured and 3 spectators killed that day, the tragedy unfolded slowly over the next few days after the marathon as the manhunt, shootout with one alleged perpetrator and eventual capture of the other alleged perpetrators played out on television like harrowing scenes from the FOX Network show 24.

Many were surprised to witness Aaron Hernandez being arrested in connection with a murder shortly before the start of the NFL season.

Many were surprised to witness Aaron Hernandez being arrested in connection with a murder shortly before the start of the NFL season.

2013 was also witness to the arrest for murder and gun charges of former New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez. Hernandez is currently imprisoned as he awaits trial for the serious charges. The Miami Dolphins sparked greater debates about bullying in athletics as news surfaced about Jonathan Martin walking away from the team after alleging that he was bullied by teammates, specifically Richie Incognito. The NFL is still investigating this matter. Meanwhile, Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston was able to perform on the field while being investigated by local Florida prosecutors after he was accused of sexually assaulting a female who also attends Florida State. The prosecutor’s decision to not pursue charges against Winston still raised questions about whether some athletes get special treatment from law enforcement as the attorney for the accuser remains adamant that her client was violated. At the same time, Winston consistently asserted that his encounter with the accuser was consensual and that he “did nothing wrong.”

The Louisville Cardinals honor injured teammate Kevin Ware as they celebrate winning the National Championship in college basketball.

The Louisville Cardinals honor injured teammate Kevin Ware as they celebrate winning the National Championship in college basketball.

2013 was quite an eventful and memorable sports year. Kevin Ware breaking his leg during the NCAA men’s college basketball tournament was a gruesome sight but provided the impetus to propel the Louisville Cardinals to the national title. College football’s Nick Saban, coach of the Alabama Crimson Tide and Women’s college basketball’s Geno Auriemma of the Connecticut Huskies proved to be the dominant coaches in their sports as they led their teams to another national title.

Ray Lewis' last game in the NFL ended with him holding the Lombardi Trophy as the Baltimore Ravens were victorious.

Ray Lewis’ last game in the NFL ended with him holding the Lombardi Trophy as the Baltimore Ravens were victorious.

The Minnesota Lynx (WNBA) and Miami Heat (NBA) won championships in 2013 and have been in the finals each of the last three years. “Big Papi” David Ortiz led the Boston Red Sox through the post season again to win the World Series over the St. Louis Cardinals. Meanwhile, Ray Lewis was able to retire on top as the Baltimore Ravens pulled out a narrow victory over the San Francisco 49ers. With the Winter Olympics in Russia and World Cup in Brazil (for which the U.S. team was placed in the Group of Death) on docket, 2014 seems poised to garner even more interest than 2013 did in the sports world.–OnPointPress.net–

Charles Glover, Jr. is a sports aficionado and management training consultant. Follow me @OpenWindowMES on Twitter.com.

Dolphins locker room could use “A Few Good Men”

Offensive lineman Richie Incognito is at the forefront of investigation into bullying in the Dolphins locker room.

Offensive lineman Richie Incognito is at the forefront of investigation into bullying in the Dolphins’ locker room.

By Charles Glover, Jr.

Over the past few days, the Miami Dolphins team and management have been asked to respond to the revelation of disturbing words and behavior levied by Richie Incognito towards fellow Dolphins teammate Jonathan Martin. Martin received harassing text and voice messages from Incognito that expressed disparaging remarks referring to Martin as a “half n—- piece of s—” and threats of physical harm to Martin and his family. In the immediate aftermath of the revelations, Incognito has been suspended indefinitely while Martin remains away from the team on his own accord.

Speculation has been rampant about how complicit the Dolphins team was in condoning Incognito’s brash and negative tactics, since no details have emerged to indicate that prior action was taken to discourage his conduct. There is an NFL- led investigation underway into the facts about this case. This might be able to answer who knew about this bullying and what, if anything, was done about it. Until those facts are clear there will continue to be conjecture about the locker room culture creating a dynamic that can allow for bullying of this kind to exist.

Dolphins offensive lineman Jonathan Martin.

Dolphins offensive lineman Jonathan Martin.

Immediate reports about this story pointed towards hazing as a cause of Martin’s alleged emotional outburst that resulted in him leaving the team abruptly. Any categorizing of hazing as an unnecessary, childish ploy to gain camaraderie in sports is a disservice to sports culture. Football players and coaches often use war-like jargon such as battlefield, warriors, and bunker-type mentality to express their feelings of deep devotion to their sport. The circumstances surrounding the apparent hectoring of Martin from Incognito is eerily reminiscent of the plot of the classic movie “A Few Good Men,” a fact that was not lost on the hosts of ESPN’s Numbers Never Lie (NNL).

A Few Good Men was released in 1992 amid rave reviews.

The movie, “A Few Good Men” was released in 1992 amid rave reviews.

In the movie, two U.S. Marines face court-martial procedures for causing the death of a fellow Marine. The circumstances surrounding the death expose that the fallen Marine was viewed as sub-standard and weak by his fellow Marine Corps and superior officers. This led to the fallen Marine being “disciplined” (or given a CODE RED as termed in the movie) by members of his own Corps leading to the unintended consequence of his death. The movie delves into the culture of military life, from within and outside of the base where the incident happens, while also examining the moral dilemma some individuals face when doing such meaningful work.

This dynamic seems to be applicable in the Incognito and Martin case for a few reasons. First, there seems to be little or no outlet within the team for Martin to think he could get help if he expressed that he was being tormented. Second, there has not been any veteran player, coaching staff or team personnel of the Miami Dolphins willing to acknowledge these actions were taking place before audio and text messages proved otherwise. Third, there has been very little outrage from the team, even as most of the people responding to the reports continue to ask for explanations from those who were closest to the situation.

Richie Incognito (l) and Jonathan Martin (r) at Dolphins practice.

Richie Incognito (l) and Jonathan Martin (r) at Dolphins practice.

Near the end of the ” A Few Good Men”, the penultimate question was about whether the CODE RED was ordered to be given to the fallen Marine. In the case involving the Dolphins, the question may be whether the team felt “CODE RED”-like tactics were acceptable for Incognito to administer to Martin in order for him to be the player the Dolphins wanted Martin to be.

As the facts of the Dolphins case continue to emerge it will be interesting to see what action, if any, will be taken to reduce bullying in the NFL. The league already faces an uphill battle in repairing an image tarnished by concussions, suicides and routine player contact with the law. Convincing fans and sponsors that the sport is wholesome and embraces brotherhood, as male-oriented team sports should, will be more of a challenge. Unless bullies are shown the door as unceremoniously as their actions deserve and the league sends a strong message that bullies are unwelcome in the sport, then this incident will be a blip on the landscape of business as usual in the NFL.-OnPointPress.net