What the Olympics are Supposed to be About

I imagine you’ve watched at least some Olympic coverage over the last week and a half, but there’s a story I want to share if you haven’t been keeping up as closely as I’ve been.

This isn’t a story of Team USA winning gold. It isn’t about the dominance of Simone Biles or Michael Phelps. It actually isn’t about any medal or close finish. It’s about that mysterious thing that only pokes its head out a few times (if any) at the Olympic Games we know as the Olympic spirit.

It can be easy for us to forget that these athletes are human beings just like we are. They might have more notoriety than we do, they might have more money than we do, and they have the athletic ability we simply don’t. But we’re all human. Every one of us.

And two athletes put that on full display yesterday. Abbey D’Agostino from Team USA and Nikki Hamblin from New Zealand. The American clipped Hamblin and both fell to the track during their 5000M race. Abbey got to her feet first, but rather than proceed with the race she leaned down and encouraged Hamblin to get up and finish because it’s the Olympics. And Hamblin did. She got up. But then D’Agostino went down again. She’d injured her knee in the fall. This time it was Hamblin encouraging her to get up and finish.

They finished in the last two positions in their heat. Both would later be advanced to the final even though they didn’t qualify. But only Hamblin will compete. Abbey D’Agostino tore her ACL in the fall and collision. She ran more than a mile with a torn ACL. And the first person to meet her as she crossed the finish line was Nikki Hamblin.

I imagine the story is being shared more by the US media and in New Zealand, but there’s no doubt that these two women both gained millions of new fans and supporters over the last 24 hours. Not for being elite athletes. Not for winning gold for themselves and their country. Not for their personal stories that most viewers don’t know about. But because even in the midst of the highest athletic competition these two women forgot that they’re competing against each other. In those trying moments on the track it was more important to both of them to look out for their fellow human being rather than at their own standing in the race.

I love sports more than any person I know. But these women show how small sport really is. No one would have questioned either of them had they gotten up and continued on without looking back. But they didn’t.

Suffice it to say I’m a fan of both Nikki and Abbey now because they are the embodiment of what the Olympics are all about.

You can see what happened here, although the video won’t play if you’re not in the USA.

2016 Reading Challenge Book #4: Friday Night Lights

I know we’re in August now and I’m only four books into my 2016 reading challenge, BUT I’ve actually read two more I haven’t talked about just yet. Hehe. I’ll finish. Because it’s so easy.

Anyway, the requirement I fulfilled by readingĀ Friday Night Lights was a book I’d already seen the movie for. Which you definitely should have seen the movie by now since it was released in 2004. I can’t tell you how great this book really is. This might sound stupid to you, but I believe it should be assigned reading in any sports-related class in Texas high schools and universities. Because if you’re studying to go into the Texas sports market you should understand how important sports can be. This book gives the reader incredible insight into the world of Texas high school football, but more importantly it gives the reader incredible insight into small-town Texas life. It is simply a remarkable work.

Now take just a few minutes for my complete thoughts!

What’s the best sports book you’ve read? The best one for me (just narrowly) is stillĀ Moneyball, but boy this book couldn’t be any closer.

Saturday Selects: The First is out of the way

Saturday Selects is a series of posts I write on the first Saturday of each month to discuss a topic outside the general bookish theme of the blog.

Early this morning the first gold medal of the 2016 Rio Olympics was awarded in the women’s 10m Air Rifle competition. It was awarded to Ginny Thrasher, a 19-year-old American from West Virginia University. I watched the medal ceremomy live. I also watched her win. I’ll never grow tired of seeing my fellow Americans on the podium at the Olympics. 

Now that the first medal is out of the way the medals will be awarded in quick succession.

PS: I’ve already watched five hours of coverage and it’s not even 1:00 yet. Can you tell I love this?

Today is the Day!

Today is the day that only comes around once every four years. A day anticipated by millions of people and thousands of athletes. It’s the Opening Ceremony of the Rio Olympics!

I know there has been tons of negative publicity surrounding the city’s preparation for the Games. And it’s mostly warranted, but sport is more important to me than any person I know who isn’t paid to know sports. And that’s no different today.

I remember the absolute elation that I experienced when I saw this relay. In my opinion, the greatest call in Olympic history. Even greater than the miracle on ice. 


I remember the Opening Ceremony of the 2008 Games in Beijing. I remember Gabby Douglas making history in 2012. And Usain Bolt dominating every Olympic track he’s stepped foot on. There’s so much I love about the Olympic Games I simply don’t have enough room to put it all here.

The thing is that it’s the one chance I get as a sports fan to root for these elite athletes in sports I may not get to see on a regular basis. And it isn’t because they’re playing for my hometown team, it’s because they share something with me that goes far beyond that. We’re American.

I mentioned in one of my DC videos that I got emotional when I saw the flag that inspired our national anthem. I’ll get emotional again over the next two weeks every time I see one of our athletes standing atop the podium with a gold medal around their neck and our national anthem playing. It is our chance to realize how important it is to them to get to represent this country. They may have money or fame or fancy cars or none of that, but in that single moment none of it matters. It’s about their journey to become the absolute best at their craft, and the people who helped get them there.

Happy Olympics!

What’s your favorite Olympic memory? Mine is the race in the video above. Jason Lezak doing the impossible.

Saturday Selects: Ali

Saturday Selects is a series of posts I write on the first Saturday of each month to discuss something outside the general bookish theme of the blog. Today’s topic is Muhammad Ali.

He died last night, which I’d been expecting for a few days. Too many vague statements about his health situation. There’s been an outpouring of support in the hours since the news broke. Many people have been praising Ali the boxer while others praise Ali the humanitarian.

But for me it all comes down to one thing. The boxing doesn’t matter and the humanitarian efforts only came after his career was over. I’ve looked up to him for neither. But I’ve looked up to him for speaking out against war and the military draft. He gave millions of people a voice by standing up and sticking to his beliefs. He did something that we now take for granted. Imagine if every person who spoke out against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan was suddenly unable to find work for more than three years. That would leave us with no presidential candidates left.

Ali has been great on several fronts, but what I appreciate the most is his unrelenting resolve to stand up for what he believed in. We could all take a page from him in that regard.

Rest easy, champ.

A Wish

The NCAA Men’s Basketball Final Four was just in Houston. And by all accounts it was wildly successful. There was a huge music festival and an “experience” for every member of the family. Those things happen around every sporting event.

But I’d like to see something for books around these things. Can you imagine if the NFL hosted the Super Bowl Festival of Books in each host city every year? They’d be promoting the game and literacy. I mean, who wouldn’t want to attend that? The NBA or MLB could host something similar during their respective All-Star breaks.

These events bring thousands of people into one place. I think they could potentially bring books and people together. What do you think?

Saturday Selects #21: My problem with football

There isn’t enough being done to make the sport safer. I couldn’t be more blunt and straightforward.

Let me give you a little background here. It is all but certain that I know more about football and sports in general than you do. I love sports. If I could live a life entirely surrounded by sports I would. I do my best to live that life now.

The Houston Texans debuted in 2002. They’ve been my favorite sports team since that first game. But my favorite sport has always been baseball.

Back to the topic. Injuries happen in all sports. That’s the first thing people say when I bring up the safety of football. But baseball players suffer mostly from shoulder injuries. And of course knees are torn up and legs even broken. All very serious in nature, absolutely. But none life threatening. Basketball players often suffer injuries to their lower bodies and although quite serious, still not life threatening.

Then someone will bring up how hockey players have blades on their feet and a puck that often does some real damage, and hard collisions that are rarely matched in any other setting, besides football. But still, with the even more serious nature of the injuries sustained by hockey players I’ve never heard of a player dying because of what happened on the ice. Please do correct me if I’m wrong.

But then we get to football. We have these analysts who are often former players talking about how the game isn’t played the way it used to be. And how it’s becoming more soft. As a longtime fan of the sport, this is outrageous to me. We’ve had former NFL players commit suicide due to the head trauma they endured. We’ve had them kill other people.

There is no injury that hasn’t happened on the football field, except for a player actually dying right there. Broken necks. Torn ACLs. Broken arms. Broken legs. Collapsed lungs. Torn Achilles. Broken collarbones. Concussion after concussion after concussion. It’s all routine now. And everyone uses the excuse that the players are rich and know what they sign up for. But using someone’s salary as a means to justify very real health concerns is a damn joke.

Because I haven’t even gotten to the worst part of all of this. It isn’t from the NFL or NCAA levels of play. It’s from high school. Eight players have died this year as a result of football-related injuries. Eight. Eight high school kids. And that number is right in line with the average number of football-related deaths in each of the last few years.

How has it become acceptable for kids to die playing a game that is utterly meaningless? To me, if one player had died this year it would be too many. The number should be zero. But no one seems to care.

The thing about it is that I’ve played football. And I’m near certain that I suffered at least one concussion during my playing time. And guess what happened immediately afterward? I got up feeling very dizzy and my coaches and teammates were fired up because of my “big hit”. I could barely get back to the bench. And it’s on me for not saying anything. Absolutely.

But there are kids playing football at the high school level who shouldn’t be. They’re too small, not strong enough, or just lack the skill set needed. And there’s nothing wrong with that. But these kids are at great danger when they enter games. They might go in thinking they’ve got something to prove or that they aren’t good enough, and that’s how injuries happen.

I understand that the NFL doesn’t oversee every school district or youth football league. But they have a duty to every player playing football today to do whatever they can to keep them safe. Whether that be through seminars or coaching clinics or TV ads promoting safety on the field. In my opinion, enough is not currently being done and kids are dying every single year. It’s unacceptable. And I’m sick of it.

In years past I’d watch every Texans, Sunday night, and Monday Night Football game. But no longer will that be the case. I will continue to watch the Texans through the end of the season, but I will not watch any other games. If the NFL isn’t willing to address legitimate safety concerns, then I’m not willing to watch.

FYI: I also don’t watch UFC or boxing because I find it quite difficult to see how either can be legal in today’s modern society.