Sunday, December 9, 2012

The day "Super Mario" made his mark

Michigan Stadium in 2005
October 15, 2005 is the fondest memory I have of Michigan Stadium.  Michigan vs. Penn State.  Ann Arbor, Michigan. The emergence of Mario Manningham.  Michigan sat at 3-3 going into the game against the undefeated and then ranked 8th Nittany Lions.  There was no margin for error if Michigan wanted to salvage a season that started miserably.

The game was close throughout its entirety, but the real drama didn’t start until there were 53 seconds left.  Penn State had just scored to take the lead 25-21 and they were set to kick-off.  Unfortunately for them, they forgot that Steve Breaston returned kicks for Michigan.  The kick-off was straight to Breaston, and he made them pay.  After a few dynamic cut-backs, Breaston returned the kick all the way to midfield with under 50 seconds left.

From left: Jake Long (LT), Chad Henne (QB), Mike Hart (RB)
Now the game was in Chad Henne’s hands.  The true sophomore quarterback needed to silence his critics and put an end to the chatter about a “sophomore slump.”  Henne drove the Wolverines all the way to the Penn State 10 yard-line with one second left.

This was it.  The anxiety level within Michigan Stadium was the highest it had ever been.  No one could stand still.  Others turned away or covered their eyes.

Henne took the snap under center.  Mike Hart was in the backfield, but more importantly, Mario Manningham was split out right.  Henne dropped back, found a window on the right side of the field and hit Manningham on a skinny post in the south endzone of Michigan Stadium.

The celebration after the score was unbelievable.  I was holding a program before the pass was thrown, and as soon as the catch was made, the program was long gone.  Strangers were no longer strangers; they were hugging each other as if they grew up and went to preschool together.  People were running down rows high fiving anyone and everyone.

The celebration on the field was even better.  The players sprinted the length of the field to the north endzone where the students were partying harder than anyone.  Everyone believed Michigan was still Michigan: the winningest program in NCAA football history.

Any thoughts that Michigan football was beginning to fade out of the national spotlight were gone for those unforgettable minutes.  No one could take this moment from Michigan.  Or from me.

What's it like to be @KDTrey5?

KD was the NBA's leading scorer in the 2011-2012 season
Fans’ perception and thoughts of Kevin Durant are far from what I expected.  Just take a look at his Twitter page.  Obviously since Kevin Durant is a professional athlete, I figured nearly every tweet at him would involve a comment towards the way he plays the game of basketball.  Many people did tweet about his game when I took a look at his interactions, but that was simply not the case all of the time.  For simplicity, I took a look at the last 50 @KDTrey5 tweets and placed them into four categories: looks, play, clothing, and miscellaneous.

17 out of the 50 tweets directed at Kevin Durant were tweets about the way he looks and his appearance.  Who would have thought people would be tweeting about Kevin Durant’s looks; he’s a 6’11’’ skinny dude.  “@KDTrey5 is my boo <3,” is what @Itstrianamily said.  One very interesting note that I noticed while doing this analysis is that of the 13 women who tweeted within these 50 tweets, nine of them tweeted about Kevin Durant’s looks.

21 out of the 50 tweets @KDTrey5 received were targeted at his play.  Tweets directed at his play did end up being the majority, but only four more tweets were about his play rather than his looks.  Because Kevin Durant is easily a top five player in the NBA right now, I figured this number would be much higher.  “But @KDTrey5 over both Lebron and mello” is what @KayGee_OrDie said.  If the NBA was in season, I believe my thought would have been more accurate.

Kevin Durant's customized shoes
Only 3 out of 50 tweets were about Kevin Durant’s clothing.  This category was bound to be much smaller than the rest because it is so specific.  Perhaps if Durant sold as much merchandise as Michael Jordan he would have received more than 3 tweets about clothing, but the fact of the matter is that most people do not know Kevin Durant for his style.  Most of that is left to Russell Westbrook.

These tweets were either very vague or fell into completely different categories.  For example, I read two tweets that were hoping someone would come out with another Kevin Durant movie, and others talking about how bad his new movie is.  Here is an example: “The fact that Kevin Durant's movie was about as bad as "Crossover" starring Hot Sauce lol.”  Miscellaneous tweets totaled 9 out of 50.

Draw your own conclusions and think what you want, but many people are not concerned with Kevin Durant’s remarkable basketball skills.  Obviously without them, he would not be a public figure, but the fact that he is a fantastic player does not mean that is what most fans focus on when tweeting @KDTrey5.

Where is the respect?

Maria Sharapova is known as one of the best tennis players in the world
In 2007 a list of the top international athletes was compiled.  On this list was only one woman: Maria Sharapova.  I was shocked to see just one woman on this list and it’s simply a shame that this is the case.

In my opinion, Maria Sharapova is the only woman on this list because American sports are ahead of the game.  America was, and still is, a leader when it comes to women’s rights and giving women the same opportunities as men.  Much of that is due to Title IX.  When you look around at the rest of the world, how many female athletes can you actually name?  How many different sports can you name with a big name international female athlete?

Many people may look at this list and wonder what is wrong with the world, but if you are a female, be happy you live in the United States.  Venus and Serena Williams, Candice Parker, Jenny Ritter, Jenny Finch, Lolo Jones, and Maya Moore are all considered top caliber athletes in this country and they serve as great role models for both boys and girls.
Maya Moore is a star in the WNBA
There’s another massive reason why only one woman is on the list of top international athletes: women tend to be judged in different ways by men; specifically, they are judged on their looks.  When I searched “top international female athletes” on Google, the first result that came up was “top 100 hottest international female athletes.”  This right here is very telling as to why there is only one woman in the top 20 of international athletes.  If you have a conversation with a group of men about female athletes, they are not going to talk about their great abilities or the unthinkable victories they achieved.  Most men are going to always bring the focus back to how a woman looks.  This was even evident in our classroom discussion.  Throughout the discussion about women’s media coverage, I constantly heard murmurs of how hot or not a female athlete was when she was brought up.
Unfortunately for women, this aspect of conversation I do not see changing anytime soon.  Men will be men, and looks are something most of them talk about.  A lot.  Hopefully some men will begin to understand when it is appropriate to speak about these topics, though. 

Over time, the amount of women in the top international athletes list will continue to grow, but it is not going to happen overnight.  The United States is leading the way in women's athletics and the exposure female athletes receive can only go up from here.