The Need to Build a Wall

No don’t worry; this isn’t a political blog, it’s a sports blog, and I will not be bringing politics into it. The type of wall I am going to talk about today, is one that every team in the National Football League aspires to build, a hulking, tough, and determined offensive line. One that has the ability to pass block for their multi-million dollar quarterback, and run block for their shifty halfbacks. While some people may not think the offensive line positions are flashy, they’re just as important, if not the most important positions in football, and it’s been seen all around the league this year, and previously.

It’s important to realize that general managers during the roster building process recognize this. In the 2017 draft’s first two rounds alone five linemen were selected. In free agency Ricky Wagner (five years, $47,500,000) and Andrew Whitworth (three years, $33,750,000) received major contracts to be a part of new teams. General managers are aware of the need to build from the line to the skill positions, otherwise it made lead to injury and sloppy play by the rest of the team.

Injuries are a necessary point of concern for every team. One position in particular, quarterback, is one a team hopes they never have to address injury concerns for. An injury there cannot only put a damper on development and chemistry among teammates, but also on hopes for a season. Thus, offensive line play in pass protection is critical, an example being the Indianapolis Colts. Lack of offensive line talent has led former first round pick Andrew Luck to deal with a variety of injuries. This year specifically, Luck has had to deal with a shoulder issue; in part thanks to the fact his lineman couldn’t protect him properly in the past. Due to this, the Colts season looks bleak after two weeks. Many critics claiming that the Colts could be the worst team in the league. If the offensive line was a focus in both the draft and free agency in the past few years, Luck would likely be slinging balls on the field.

A poor offensive line can determine if an attack will be potent or not. There have been many examples of bad line play influencing teams as a whole, and this season follows that trend. One team in particular, the New York Giants, is an example.  The Giants, assumed to have a premiere air attack with the likes of Odell Beckham Jr. and Brandon Marshall, seemed to be ready to tear through their NFC foes. But after these first two weeks, however, the Giants are 0-2 with playoff hopes slowly fading. The fault of this can be heavily given to the offensive line. Eli Manning has to run from defenders left and right in an attempt to find someone to throw the ball to. Without a wall to protect him, linebackers and defense linemen flood his view forcing bad throws all over the field. The Giants need to firm up their wall if they want to have any chance of bouncing back.

While some may or may not agree with our president in building a wall, it seems that in the NFL there is an agreement that they must be made. While it is hard to find enough quality linemen to build the ideal wall, building the best one a team can is especially important in today’s NFL.

 

Philadelphia Phillies are World Champions!

2008 the Philadelphia Phillies were coming into the season with average goals to be better then 500. The fans, while having the reputation of philly fans, had a very similar goal for the Phils.

Phillies starting short stop, Jimmy Rollins came out in a press conference telling the media they were going to win the Pennant. With media reporters and journalist laughing at the statement made by the leadoff hitter, Rollins did not crack a smile at all.

The season went on and before you knew it the Phillies were in the playoffs and Rollins unrealistic goal became a reality when Brad Lidge the Phillies closer came in to strikeout the Eric Hinske to win the World Series.

I remember it like it was yesterday. Being 12 I was a little more aware of what was going on and after that final strikeout call I remeber Ryan Howard the Phillies first baseman coming in to Lidge looking like the Philadelphia Eagles middle linebacker talking Lidge to the ground.

Sitting in my parents living room with my mom, dad, and older brother, there was a weird silence around the room. None of us knew what to say and honestly what to think. I always feared, being a Philadelphia sports fan, would I be alive for a championship in any sport. But 2008 the Phillies were able to overcome my fear and win the Pennant.

Philadelphia’s big tradition, as for most sports teams, is to have a parade down Broad Street. My dad being aware that this could be one of the only times for me to experience such an amazing memory like this asked if I would like to go. The parade was on Halloween and being a third grader had the hardest decision of my young life to either go to school for the costume parade or witness history. Luckily my young brain made the correct decision and went to the parade with my dad.

My dad and I went to the parade with one of my close friends from Philadelphia, who’s dad worked at a fleet wash company right off Broad Street and was able to get us right on Broad street early in the morning. It was a brisk morning and my fried Colin and I awaited our beloved heroes to come down the street on the massive floats. Our patients’ were wearing thin and our stomach were growling of starvation. But the moment we were all waiting for, the moment the city of brotherly love has been waiting for since the 1980 Phillies and the 1975 Flyers, the boys were finally parading down Broad Street.

Philadelphia fans have always gotten a bad rep on how they are rude, obnoxious, and annoying. In this moment when the Phillies were parading down Broad Street, all Philadelphia fan rumors went out the door. Any given corner you could see random strangers high living and hugging in joy. Saw dads holding their sons and daughters over there shoulders and laughing together. It was one of the happiest moments in my life still to this day and the bond my dad and I share over the 2008 World Series parade will remain as one of the greatest memories of my life.

Is This How I’m Supposed to Feel?

Wake up, class, homework, practice, more homework and finally five hours of sleep (maybe less). Repeat. Perfection, something that is basically unattainable; But every collegiate athlete strives for it whether it is on the field or in the classroom. This is even more prevalent for the one-in-four student-athletes who report feelings or symptoms of depression1.

It finally hit me this week, at the most inconvenient time. The pressure and anxiety of preforming on and off the field sometimes just gets to you more on some days. It hit me full force Tuesday morning. I was up the night before worrying about how slow my mile Monday time was even though I just made the required cut-off. It was probably because I was expecting to do a lot better. Once you combine this worry with multiple hours of studying, I only slept for about four hours total. This ultimately led to me in tears Tuesday morning. Mid anxiety attack I found myself asking the usual question I ask myself when I get to this point. Is this how I’m supposed to feel?

I ask this question a lot. When I’m feeling emotionally and physically drained after a practice or when I wake up feeling just as exhausted as when I went to bed. It gets tiring and I often find myself thinking that something just has to give. It is insanely difficult and demanding to strive for good grades when you just don’t have the time. Sometimes I wish my non-athlete classmates and professors would understand this feeling of needing and worrying about being perfect and not having the time to do just that. It’s easier for them. I envy it sometimes.

Finding the time to do homework is hard, but I do. As I type this blog on the way to York College for a game, I look up and see all of my teammates around me doing homework as well. It makes me feel better. There is a tribe of amazing people surrounding me that truly understand trying to find the balance of school and athletics. At the end of the day we a support each other on the field and in the classroom.

Awareness of student-athlete mental health is spreading. Students are starting a dialogue about mental health. Additionally, the NCAA has written guidelines for how colleges and universities can better support those struggling with mental health issues. You can find the written guidelines below2.

  1. Clinical Licensure of Practitioners Providing Mental Health Care
  2. Procedures for Identification and Referral of Student-Athletes to Qualified Practitioners
  3. Pre-Participation Mental Health Screening
  4. Health-Promoting Environments that Support Mental Well-Being and Resilience

Setting up the guidelines listed above gives colleges and universities a clear way to help their student-athletes. If you or someone you know is struggling please reach out to someone, a teammate, a coach, an athletic trainer, or a friend. YOU matter and you do not have to go through this alone.

Remember Blue Jays, there are confidential counseling resources on campus for you to use. Below you will find contact information:

  • Counseling Services: 717.361.1405
  • College Chaplin and Asst. Chaplin: 717.361.1260

 

Sources:

1: Inside Higher Ed.

  • https://www.insidehighered.com/quicktakes/2016/01/28/study-1-4-college-athletes-show-signs-depression

2: NCAA

  • http://www.ncaa.org/sites/default/files/HS_Mental-Health-Best-Practices_20160317.pdf

Homegating… instead of Tailgating

Last week we talked about how to set up your party area, and some last-minute things you will need to think. This week we are going to talk about, setting the mood and preparing for food.  Please keep in mind that there is no reason for you to slave over a hot oven all day to help feed your guests! With these simple and easy tricks and treats, I promise there will be no headaches, or stress when it comes to feeding your guests.

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How much food

Now that we have our happy medium, the next question is how much food you are going to need to feed your hungry football lovers! Now, this can get a little confusing so bear with me the amount of food all depends on WHAT you are going to serve. But lucky for you, we have a chart to help us through this!

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How to serve

Don’t pull out your grandmother’s china for this! Go to your local party supply store (or online) and invest in reusable plastic serving trays, if you buy one or two new ones every time you throw a party, within a year you will have an amazing surplus, and will never need to dirty your nice glass serving dishes. Also, remember disposable tin pans are your friend, they are extremely versatile and can go from oven to table, to fridge with leftovers, no need to dirty Tupperware.

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Decorations

Keep one thing in mind when you are putting together this party… it is not a child’s birthday party! You do not need to decorate your whole house with footballs and field goals! I would suggest the most you do is put the color of your favorite team as your plastic tablecloths, and yes, I recommend covering any table that will be used with tablecloths. Spills and dropped foot are a lot easier to deal with then you just have to wipe it up, and not clean it up.

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Paper or plastic?

I suggest when it comes to any plates, utensils, or napkins go out and spend the money on either paper or plastic ones. You will thank yourself at the end of the night when you just throw it all away and don’t have to run the dishwasher multiple times, with things to still clean up. You don’t want to be thinking about this party days after it has ended! Make it simple, get plates that are the primary color of your team, and the utensils of their secondary color, white napkins to finish it off. You don’t want to go overboard, and color code everything.

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Clean up help

Some would say that this is the worst part of the night… cleaning up after your guests leave. Here is a crazy idea… have your guests help! Put out multiple trash cans; I suggest outside or in the garage if your house or weather allows it. If your guests know where to put their trash, they are more likely to just do it for you, leaving less of a headache for you at the end. If you are a household that recycles, convey that to your guests. To make this easier have a big can or place for everyone to put their cans or bottles (its football there will be a lot). Pro Tip: people are going to ask to help clean up… let them! It will go a lot faster if everyone just grabs a plate or two, that way you are not stuck doing it yourself.

Next week we will get into some argue the most important part of football… The food!

How A Promising Basketball Star’s Life Was Cut Short On A Night In Philadelphia

 

Sitting in a pitch black room on a Saturday night in West Philadelphia, I listened to nothing but silence and frightening thoughts during a blackout in my neighborhood. My mother hugged me while she was on the phone with the electric company. I constantly thought about if my father would be safe returning from work. Then five minutes later I heard gunshots outside, people screaming for safety, police sirens rushing to the scene, and listened to the cry of a mother seeing her son laid out in the middle of the street.

Nights like the one I experienced made me nervous at a young age because I was unfamiliar with the environment. I was always waking up from nightmares of gunshots ringing in my ear. Philadelphia at one point was labeled as the murder capital of the United States with their increased number of homicides. My mother always told me that we were going to move out, but she had doubts in her words as she knew how difficult it would be to leave the neighborhood with the amount of money we made at the time. Conversely, as I grew older, I hit the point in my life of trying to figure out what my future plans and dreams were going to be to try and leave the community. Once I hit middle school, I received a life lesson that may have been a turning point.

One day in eighth grade, my counselor, Mr. Jamal spoke to our entire class on the importance of education specifically for young black individuals. He told us that in today’s society, black men between the ages of 17-25 without an education are viewed to either end up in prison or in the cemetery. We were taking our Pennsylvania standardized tests weeks after our meeting and Mr. Jamal told us that our scores determined how many prison cells the state will need to build in the future. That talk changed how serious I took education. To some people in the class, sports and making music is the only way to make money and escape the violent streets where they resided. My friend Kareem who led our basketball team to two championships with multiple high school offers, had the same mindset. He was looking to use basketball to leave his troubles behind.  

Kareem went to West Philadelphia High School, where he was the starting point guard for the basketball team for three years. People that did not know Kareem personally, saw him as someone who had a clear pathway to achieve the American dream that some students in the school would not get a chance to see. However, trying to envision that path to success was a bit blurry for Kareem. His father left him when he was young and his mother worked long hours so she was not always available.  Kareem’s life took a left turn when he made money selling marijuana and hung out with friends that were associated with a gang. Not having a close family member in his corner to prevent him from making careless decisions was an issue. After he graduated, Kareem turned down his only basketball offer at Nova Southeastern University. He felt content with how he made money and preferred to stay at home.

Kareem’s love for basketball all came to a screeching halt not only because he turned down that offer, but because his young life was cut short on a cold and rainy night.

When I was a freshman in college, I was asleep in my dorm room and suddenly received a call from one of my friends at two in the morning. She was crying over the phone while telling me that Kareem was fatally shot. I was left upset and unable to go back to sleep because I thought about ways I could have prevented him from staying out of trouble.

Kareem’s death was an eye opener because I reflected on our meeting with Mr. Jamal and that as an African American, I have a better road ahead with an education than a life without one.  

After speaking with Kareem’s uncle over the phone, he told me not to follow the path that Kareem went down and to continue to make better decisions.

“You have a gift that you have been blessed with of being able to attend college, to one day make six figures, and to live in the fanciest house in the world,” His uncle said. “Do not throw it all away.”

Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania Citizen Journalism