Sports: Countering The “Today’s Game Is Harder” Argument.

One of the biggest comments I often hear from younger sports fans of some of the old-school greats is “Well, the game is different today than it was back then. It’s harder.”

I don’t buy that logic.

Sure, today’s athletes are in many ways bigger, stronger, and faster than they were as recently as the 1990’s and the 1980’s, and of course the gap gets bigger the further you go back in time.

That argument, however, fails to account for the fact that today’s sports are in many ways easier than they have ever been as well.

The argument that today’s sports are harder than they have ever been is used seemingly without fail to support the theory that today’s athletes are the greatest of all time. Most often, this argument is used by people in my generation, the Millennials.

Everyone wants to think they’re watching the best athletes ever and sure, that’s probably technically true in some ways.

Regardless of sport, many of the records in professional baseball, hockey, football, and basketball have all been either set or challenged recently by players or teams who played after the turn of the millennium.

Last year, the Golden State Warriors broke the record held by the 1995-1996 Chicago Bulls for the most wins in an NBA regular season, and the 2007 New England Patriots challenged the 1972 Miami Dolphins as the only team to win every game, including playoffs, in a season, falling one game short of perfection with a loss to the New York Giants in the Super Bowl that year.

But the argument that today’s players are better than ever simply because the game is “harder” is inherently fickle.

We are a society of “what have you done for me lately” thinking. We as a culture, like the minds of us as individuals, have a far greater appreciation for recent memories than for more distant ones. We feel the bitter windchill outside and think “today is the coldest it’s ever felt” even if two years ago the weather was actually colder.

Such thinking is inherently self-centered, however, and that’s where the argument for today’s greatness over yesterday’s runs into its greatest problem; it doesn’t account for the mental toughness of the players who already are considered the best ever.

Saying today’s game is more difficult than it used to be, whether it’s basketball, football, baseball, hockey or any other sport Americans compete in at the professional or intercollegiate levels might be factually true. Baseball pitchers may throw faster pitches than ever and they may have more pitch variations than ever existed. Football players may run faster or jump higher than they ever have. Rules in football or basketball may make the game less physical than each sport has ever been, meaning players of old might not have been able to get away with some of the physicality they played with in their times.

Yet however true these facts may be, and however harder today’s sports may be for all the reasons listed above, this particular argument inherently fails to take into account how today’s sports are easier than they’ve ever been as well.

Today’s technology is just one example. Technology is better than it has ever been. We can analyze and study film in ways players like Micheal Jordan and Wilt Chamberlain and Joe Montana and Dan Marino never could. Pads are more durable, lighter, and smaller than they have ever been because of technology only recently developed or mastered, allowing athletes to move more easily, efficiently, and safely than has ever been possible.

That isn’t all either.

Instead of practicing every day with pads, NFL teams are able to supplement on-field practice with tools like virtual reality headsets, like the Arizona Cardinals have.

Computers track information in ways coaches like Mike Ditka never had available to them as recently as the 80’s. Sure, today’s athletes are faster, but that’s at least partially because of science. They’re able to achieve such feats more easily because the understanding of human nutrition has never been better. A torn ulnar collateral ligament in the elbow used to be a death-blow to a baseball pitcher’s career. Then, in 1974, Tommy John surgery was developed. Now, players not only recover, but actually often have better careers because of the surgery and the recover affiliated with it.

Modern science continues to help athletes both lengthen and improve their careers.

That isn’t to say today’s greatest players couldn’t compete with the greats that came before them either, don’t get me wrong. I just think we as fans often overlook one key piece of information when we compare today’s athletes to yesterday’s:

A person’s success is a manifestation of the mind within.

Regardless of the field in which we exist, whether that be as professional athletes or as professional anythings, it is the mind that creates success, not the body. The body is a manifestation of the mind within, not the other way way around. The same is true with success.

Michael Jordan is the greatest basketball player to ever play not because of his physical ability but because of his mental ability. He played on Father’s Day in an NBA Championship series despite his father’s death just three years earlier. He played the famous “Flu Game” in the 1997 NBA Finals, in which Jordan earned 38 points despite playing through what was either the flu or severe food-poisoning.

Mental toughness, and the desire needed to accomplish such things, transcends the rules of the game as they are now or as they were then.

Such feats show the mental toughness and the desire Jordan had. And Jordan isn’t unique among professional athletes who demonstrated such mental toughness.

There’s the late Gordie Howe, who played professional hockey until he was 51. There was Nolan Ryan who played 27 years and still holds the record for most career strikeouts as an MLB pitcher with 5,714. He’s a whole 839 better than Randy Johnson, No.2 on the list, and 2,988 better than C.C. Sabathia, who has the most of career strikeouts among active pitchers with 2,726, according to baseball-almanac.com.

Jordan, Ryan and Howe were all great athletes because they possessed incredible mental toughness, and that toughness manifested itself in their athletic endeavors.

Such toughness adapts, regardless of the challenges it faces, and prevents those who have it from ever being forgotten.

It also prevents me from ever believing these players wouldn’t have been just as good in today’s sports as they were when they played.

 

 

Poetry: “Memoir Of A Sea Captain.”

Memoir Of A Sea Captain
 
 
He sails alone.
In a ship with a hull full of holes
The Sea captain engages the journey’s onslaught.
 
He has spent weeks on this ship,
Bailing water out of a wooden bowl
With but a single sail.
 
Death’s body odor has been his lone, constant companion.
It could have come, could still come
At any moment.
 
He has slept.
But when he has slept
It has been with the restlessness of an infant.
 
He has eaten.
But when he has eaten,
He has conserved food like the soldier in the trench converses toilet paper.
 
All the while, he has spent every minute aware.
 
Aware that the little hull he sails across the sea,
Aware that this vessel, the single, small sinew which binds him to life,
Could fail at any moment.
 
Until he sees the shore, that is,
And he finally starts to believe that he might actually make it.
 
Thus is my autobiography as I approach
My final semester in college.

Refining Toward Elegance.

On Saturdays we wear purple, watch college football, and drink wonderful things.

“Elegant and refined with layers of unfolding flavor…” – the description on the bag of Starbucks Guatemala Antigua Blend.

That’s about how I feel as I start my last Thanksgiving break as a college student. It was cloudy and cold yesterday here in Manhattan, but today is clear and sunny, with a high about 10 degrees higher than yesterday’s.

There’s something poetic about that. Today is a day where students, faculty, and staff alike can collectively breathe a sigh of relief after an emotionally draining semester that has featured a controversial presidential election, enough celebrity deaths to lose count of, and a bout with illness for seemingly everyone.

All of us are ready for this vacation. Even those who still have to work have a slightly easier week with very rare exceptions.

But you already know this.

What I’m really writing to tell you is that today I feel elegant and refined, but I need a little more refining to become more elegant.

Traditionally, I have always written out my goals for the next year in the week leading up to my birthday in August. I haven’t done that this year though. This year, I’ve simply been too caught up in all the wonderful and chaotic changes that have happened in life.

This, however, is not the year to forget to create those.

As I hung out with a friend at her work yesterday, I started to reflect on where I’d been this year. Yet even as I tried to reflect, I realized so many changes were ahead that I simply wasn’t able to feel reflective.

By this time next year, I’ll have graduated college. I’ll be starting the next phase of my career. Maybe I’ll be in Austin, Texas, or in Shelton County, Washington, or in Casa Grande, Arizona, or in so many other places.

For all the wonderful changes that have come as I’ve transitioned to primarily sports-journalism and been honored and blessed to have begun covering women’s sports, the next year will bring even more changes. The next year will bring even crazier ones. Life, by this point next year, will have begun to evolve, and it’ll never be the same.

So today, I’ll start writing out my goals for that time. Spiritual, Personal, Professional, and Athletic.

They won’t mean much to the stars or the coming sunrise that is the future. But they’ll mean a lot to me, and that’s kind of the point.

 

We Aren’t Going Anywhere, Except Maybe Into Political Reporting

A couple of months ago, I semi-jokingly told my dance teacher I would move to Canada if Donald Trump won the election for the President of the United States.

She rightly looked at me like I was crazy and said “Oh, so you’re one of those people?”

Perhaps at the time I was.

But as this election nears its finale, I’ve come to the realization that now more than ever is not the time to flee this country; it’s the time to stand fast and brace to make the best of it, regardless of which unfortunate outcome prevails.

That’s especially true for journalists.

It is my firm belief that Mr. Trump represents a significant threat to the 1st Amendment and its protections. It is further my belief, based upon statements made by Mr. Trump and his willingness to revoke media credentials even to the highest-calibre news outlets, that Mr. Trump represents an existential threat to journalism as an institution.

Lastly, based upon his stated sympathies toward Russia president Vladimir Putin, I believe Mr. Trump would consider going possibly even as far as Mr. Putin has in suppressing the voices of journalists, possibly even to the point of imprisonment.

Though Mr. Trump has not stated that explicit intention yet (partly because it’s for the time being illegal), I believe his previous attitude toward the 1st Amendment and the journalism “media” are indeed indicators of the possible perils journalists could face should Mr. Trump win this week’s U.S. election.

Because of this, I have come to realize that though I love sports reporting, if Mr. Trump wins the presidency I’m not going anywhere.

Except maybe into political reporting.

Throughout this election, we have seen a number of women come forward and reveal that Mr. Trump had sexually harassed them, and in many cases sexually assaulted them.

We have seen Mr. Trump mock these women, discredit them, and offend them time and again. It seems to me Mr. Trump has done so in order to suppress their voices, particularly so he can continue to obtain power.

Let me be clear: Mr. Trump has sought to suppress the voices of both the journalism writers attempting to give him the same amount of coverage as his opponents (which they are bound by journalism law and ethics to do), and at the same time worked to discredit victims of his own misdoing.

The combination of the two tells me there is nothing this country is about to need more than passionate, pure, driven news reporters willing to stand up for the rights of all citizens to be heard, including and perhaps especially victims.

There is nothing more dangerous to a democracy than politicians and people in authority who are able to operate without the public accountability.

I can’t turn my back on a country that needs good writers and hungry reporters as much as  we as a nation are about to.

Although I don’t like either Mrs. Clinton or Mr. Trump, I believe the later might very well seek to limit freedom of speech the same way many of his supporters think Mrs. Clinton will limit the right to bear arms if elected.

I have a conscious….concern that Mr. Trump will stop at nothing when seeking to silence those who oppose him, a danger all the more perpetuated should he become what many consider the most powerful man in the world.

A Trump presidency, in my opinion, represents a potential threat to the life and livelihood of every journalist in the United States.

And though it looks progressively less likely, the fact remains that if he does win, America will need good men and women to defend their 1st Amendment through fierce, impartial and excellent writing. They will need to take the same stance many 2nd Amendment advocates often do: “Just come take it.”

If Mr. Trump doesn’t win, however, we’ll still need those same good men and women to make sure the rights of others aren’t oppressed either.

Regardless of the outcome, I will be one of them.

Mr. Trump, Mrs. Clinton:

We’ll be watching.

 

 

 

Friggin “Spots.”

“Spots.” That’s what I used to copy edit. Friggin “spots.”

If you’ll allow me, I’d like to open with a joke.

Last year, I submitted a job application to one of my favorite newspapers in the country. I got the resume proofread, then proofread it myself and all-in-all had a jolly good time making sure it was as clean as the inside of a piano just hitting the show floor in a high-end piano store.

My first position listed on my resume was my then-current position: copy editor.

You know who copy editors are: the overworked, underpaid and under-appreciated masters of diction, syntax, punctuation and Associated Press style (such as the lack of an Oxford Comma in this sentence, see what I did there?). They’re people who fact-check and spot typos of every shape and size in whatever articles they’re hired to scour for media outlets around the world.

I was one of THOSE people.

So imagine how carefully I worded, and edited and re-edited the copy editor explanation bullet points on the resume I was submitting to what was very possibly my dream job.

Imagine how copiously I reviewed and re-reviewed those particular bullets, striving to make them a combination concise, stylistically perfect and perhaps even poetic.

Here, dear Reader, is both the joke…and how that first bullet point read.

“Edits stories from a variety of desks including spots, news and opinion.”

“Spots,” Ladies and Gentlemen. I copy edit…”spots.”

Outstanding.

My name is Shelton Matthew Burch, and I was clearly not destined for THAT internship. lol.

Thanks for reading.🙂

 

Starting The Week With “SPOOKtacular”

Jamie named the otter Sam, and they were friends🙂.

This week started early for us on the Kansas State University Tap Dance Ensemble. We performed Saturday at the Sunset Zoo here in Manhattan at the zoo’s annual “SPOOKtacular.”

This was the second time I’d performed there🙂.

The way things typically work is that some of us get in around 9:30 a.m. and get some of our mobile floor from our studio before heading over to the zoo and dropping off our equipment inside. We’re essentially considered vendors at the event, which allows us to set up before the zoo formally opens. Then, the dancers who helped with setup leave. All of us reconvene about an hour before the event starts.

Once the zoo opens, families in their Halloween costumes walk through it, getting candy from various merchants and different spots throughout. It gives the kids a chance to see all the animals, and gives their parents added incentive to bring them.

For us, it’s a fun chance to hang out with the animals too. After everyone arrives, we break into small groups, take segments of our mobile floor, and go and dance near one of the animals as patrons walk by.

This is usually my favorite part of the program, because it lets me explore a little and engage with people one-on-one. This year, my mentor Jamie and I went over to the Otter exhibit, which we also did last year.

The otter was, full disclosure, adorable.

It would come up along the fence line near Jamie, chirp at her in one of the 12 patterns they apparently can learn (according to the placard) and then would turn its back and walk away defiantly. We couldn’t blame it for having a little bit of an attitude either, last year it had a companion in its cage, so maybe it was just lonely.

Either way, it was cute. It was magnificent to watch as it swam through its small pond. It swam effortlessly and gracefully. They human eye could detect little extra distortion from the water around it than the same eye might be able to discern from the air around a dancer as she moved on stage.

That was what most intrigued me, the way the otter, though no doubt intelligent enough to, didn’t seem to think about how it moved. It just…did, and because it just moved without thinking, both the otter and the movement looked more elegant because of it.

After pondering all this, we gathered our things, said our farewells, and returned to the area where we all met to combine our floor for our hour-long show. I learned last year to be careful on this ground, because the slant we perform on inevitably causes the unaware dancer to slide if they aren’t careful when doing jump-based movements.

I always have found this to be an added twist to the movement. Personally I enjoyed it, even in the cases where I would catch myself and laugh mid-dance as I thought “whoooo, I almost messed up there. Whoo, I almost messed that one up.” Those little moments of internal dancer dialogue are always fun to reflect on😛.

The crowd always seems to enjoy our performance. Tap Dance seems to me to be one of those things a lot like Apple products: nobody really seems to know how much they love it or need it until someone puts it in front of them without asking and mesmerizes them.

An added element of all this is the way we stop midway through, taking a break from performing, and bring kids in the audience up to dance with us. Some are, of course, hesitant, and we never ask them to leave their parents, so often their parents come with them too and stay close by. But some go all out and seem to really enjoy it, which I think is the whole point of this Tap Dance thing anyways: to be enjoyed freely.

One kid, he was in a little muscular Darth Vader costume, had some real moves that day. He was able to do upside-down hand suspensions and stuff, and he was only like 8-years-old. Watch out for that kid, dear World.

Also fun was that I saw some of my runner friends there, some of my dearest friends actually, who had brought their son. It was neat to see them, and was even more meaningful when they came up and saw me between dances. That was special. Maybe those who have been dancing longer have gotten used to seeing people in the audience. I imagine I never will🙂.

Before long though, it ended. We finished our show, packed our things, returned it all to our castle here at Nichols Hall, and went home to enjoy the rest of our Saturdays. Some went with boyfriends, some went back to fraternities, some just went home.

But for the K-State Tap Dance Ensemble, the week was only just beginning.

More on that later…

🙂

 

Smiles At Sunrise In St. Louis

smiles-photo

I want to live a life so full it feels more like a metaphor.

I want to live a life so vivacious the long-dead stars shining down from above silently whisper “Kudos” at it from the heavens, one that hooks a reader the way the story hooks the writer at some point in the middle of the writing, refusing to let them put down their pen until they can pick the story up in the print.

I want to feel the icy North Atlantic waves of life crash down, in full fervor, upon the deck of my sinew and have a soul strong enough that it stands at the helm amid the torrent with wide open arms, cheerfully blushing at the brutality of it all, and shouting “What a rush!”

I want to run through the meadows in my sixties like the children do. Like the teens remember how to. Like the college kids remember they need to. Like the adults so often forget to.

I want to be the driver who drives into a city of 371,000 and falls in love the challenge of the traffic, because driving in a city of 56,143 can get a little boring.

The societies of this world would select against the evolution of such thinking. They would rather you leave the forest of the status quo alone. “Only you can prevent forest fires,” they tell you.

But what kind of life is one lived but ablaze?

🙂

On From Advertising: Why Journalism Needs A Change

This morning, I read an interesting article that included the statement that the New York Times intends to make subscriptions its primary revenue source. They apparently believe both print, and contrary to popular beliefs at the moment, online revenue cannot be counted on to sustain a news organization.

If you’re reading this, you’re proving them right. And they’re dead right. Here’s why.

The lifeblood of print newspapers has always been advertising revenue. Local businesses and, more rarely, national ones would run advertisements in newspapers and they would know the readers each day likely saw them.

As more readers have shifted to online readership, that number has decreased.

Online advertising revenue, meanwhile, has increased but only very slowly, and websites like this one are part of the reason. Advertisers have infinitely more places online to post advertisements. A website like this one can be created cheaply. Blogs like this are absolutely free to create. They can cover any topic, and can be posted to as often or as rarely as the writer wants. Advertisers can pay WordPress.com directly for advertisements that appear on a growing number of personal and business websites at little cost.

Sites like these attract the increasingly selective readers of today’s world, and thus threaten news agencies making the shift to online-based advertising revenue because the more of these sites there are, the more places readers/advertising viewers have to miss advertisements. To counter this, advertisers have to place their advertisements in as many places as possible.

And with seemingly infinite options, advertisers have the bargaining power over agencies like news agencies. Want to charge them heftily, that’s OK, they’ll publish on any of the million other websites they can. So what does the news agency have to do? They have to lower the cost of advertising, even to the point it puts newsroom operations in the red.

At the moment, the easy counter to my argument is “But Shelton, online advertising revenue is rising.”

For now.

The New York Times has a relationship with its competitors that is rather similar to the relationship Bill Belichick has with his fellow NFL coaches and personel managers. That is: they’re right. Annoyingly often, in fact.

The recent rise in online advertising revenue is, in my opinion, due to the idea that not a lot of credible news agencies have fully made the switch to primarily-online content. Sure, the Times and the Wall Street Journal and the other A-List news agencies in the United States have, but many of the local online newspapers haven’t made that switch.

This means that many news agencies who aren’t competing for online advertising eventually will do so.

At the moment, news agencies with excellent websites are ahead of their competition. What happens when those news agencies who can’t make the switch die and the rugged ones who are able to make the shift and compete begin actually competing?

Once those who can make the transition to online-based content make the switch, competition for advertising revenue will again be even more competitive than it already is, because as citizen journalism takes hold, more and more citizen journalists will also give advertisers reasons to look at places other than mainstream news outlets.

Newspapers who will have then found out how to survive based upon online advertising will find themselves exactly where those relying on print advertising are today.

Things, to be honest, are going to get worse, not better for those agencies which rely on advertising revenue.

Therefore, the only way to avoid finding ourselves facing similar problems later again in the future is to stop relying on advertising revenue altogether.

This may mean non-profit journalism. Maybe writers need to figure out what they can do to make a living so they can afford to recreationally serve their news readers through their spare time. It’s hard to say for sure.

The one thing we know is that surviving on advertising revenue is no longer a feasible way for news agencies to make money.

This is the real problem behind the others in the news industry.

The New York Times alone seems to see it. Other agencies would be wise to take their hint.

Returning To Why You Read

Weeks ago, I announced I was switching this website to be poetry based. I announced this blog would be mostly for poetry and that my new website would be more for my general writing.

But I confess, dear Reader, that I was wrong.

This site is, and always has been, for more than just poetry. Poet598 is my brand. It is my reminder that no matter what I am or what I do, I am a poet first, but always more.

Going forward dear readers, I commit to publishing everything I can on this website and this one alone. Many of you read not for poetry but for the wide variety of things I share.

Please forgive me for trying to fix what wasn’t broken. This I confess to you at 2:32 a.m. on a Saturday morning.

Have a great day everyone, and thanks for your readership.🙂

-Poet598

Poetry: Morning Nostalgia

There was something almost musical in the way the morning went.
In the way Denison was packed at 6 a.m.,
the construction workers packing into the small lot
next to SAE.
Twenty-three degrees,
frost everywhere; on windshields; via breath; In the air.
Two guys in orange vests in one truck laughing at another
who, backing his small white car into a spot, hit the curb; locked eyes with them; and laughed.
Yet when I see them, I see a glimmer of myself.
My eyes transform like fire,
that encounters a chemical spill in the grass it burns,
creating an aroma about as soothing as fresh brewed coffee or freshly baked bread.
I see my dad in his jeans, four-inch rolls of building plans under one arm, hardhat in the other,
way back when I was 13. I see the way his truck tires were always dirty
the mud of a job site 30 miles across Phoenix
painting it like frosting on the edge of cake, or the adobe walls of the Mayans.
I see the jokes my friends and I in the army used to tell,
one pulling a parking maneuver that bordered on illegal
to get into a small Fort Bliss parking spot just in time for Physical training,
and that same soul getting teased for rest of the day.
The music of life can hit us when we’re not always ready.
It can hit us blindside with nostalgia so hard that if you were a hockey player,
it’d get suspended for the hit.
Kind of like today. As I went for pizza. After five hours of sleep. Waking up from a 20 hour day.