On this page, I'll share my thoughts, and any articles or information I think are of interest. Feel free to use the comments section to join in the discussion!
The NCAA is expected to complete its investigation into claims of long-running academic fraud at North Carolina within the next few weeks, and given the size and scope of what’s alleged, major sanctions are a distinct possibility. But Roy Williams isn’t sweating it. He believes the basketball program will get off scot-free. And it should.
The scandal largely concerns the university’s Department of African and Afro-American Studies, which is accused of offering sham independent-study “paper classes.” Athletes made up a disproportionate number of the students in these classes, with players from the football, and men’s and women’s basketball teams enrolling in large numbers. The NCAA’s Notice of Allegations says players were “steered” to those classes by advisors in the athletics department, and that it was common for players to receive high grades regardless of the quality of their work.
As the Tar Heels have made it all the way to tonight’s national championship game, Williams is being asked about the scandal more and more. In an interview with ESPN yesterday, Williams bemoaned its drag on recruiting, but dismissed any fear of actual punishment.
“I don’t think we’re going to get hit in any way at all. Hard to penalize somebody when you have no allegations against them.”
(The 2014 Notice of Allegations does not specifically accuse men’s basketball of anything, though the program repeatedly appears as one that sent a large number of players through the AFAM department, with 167 paper class enrollments since Williams took over in 2003. Former player Rashad McCants has said Williams was “100 percent” aware of the paper class system; whistleblower Mary Willingham claimed Williams told her in a conversation that her job was to keep his players eligible. As of the 2014 Notice of Allegations, neither accusation was corroborated.)
If we assume that the bulk of the allegations against UNC are true—applying the criterion of embarrassment, it seems safe to do so—then congratulations to Tar Heel athletics for gaming an eminently gamable system in a way that played a partial but significant role in building a winning program. To the NCAA, this is a scandal, but to North Carolina and the athletes who took part, this was very obviously the right thing to do, a way of meeting scam requirements with scam action.
One of the biggest possible selling points when trying to recruit a basketball player is the promise that he’ll be able to play basketball, and one of the keys to that is keeping him eligible. Eligibility, above all, was the entire purpose of the AFAM scam: keep those players on the court, keep that athletic revenue flowing in, keep attracting those top recruits whose job is to play sports, without the fear that academics will get in the way. This makes sense. For athletes who want a college education, a scholarship is a perk; for those who don’t, it’s an albatross in lieu of a fair wage.
By now, reasonable people see the NCAA’s insistence on the “college” side of college as a prerequisite for playing revenue sports as a mean-spirited scam—one bigger and more institutionalized then anything UNC is accused of doing. Academic fraud, in this case, is just what you call not keeping up appearances to the satisfaction of the people profiting off the scam.
The NCAA may well come down hard on North Carolina here, because that’s its role in this comic opera. UNC was playing their role to a T—the system as it is incentivizes exactly this behavior—until they went a little too far and made the “student-athlete” concept look the charade it is. In practice, the cheaters aren’t the programs that commit academic fraud. (Every major program does it to an extent, but one which keeps them from getting caught, which is what the NCAA prefers.) The cheaters are the programs that don’t even bother with the pretense that higher education is anything other than a cartel-imposed hoop to jump through.
Fuck the NCAA, and fuck anyone else who insists on forcing college upon kids who don’t want it just so their own paychecks can be bigger by dint of not paying the people who actually bring in the money. If UNC committed academic fraud, it was in the service of the reasonable, even noble, cause of letting athletes who wanted to do so focus on athletics. It’s merely an accident of history that college is in any way connected to amateur sports, and it’s time to start applauding the big-time programs that have found ways to take the academics out of college.
“Until they sign their letters-of-intent, highly-touted recruits hold college coaches at their mercy. They have the power. When those same athletes get to campus, everything flips.”
May 5, 2016 Kevin Trahan
TATE MARTELL'S TEXAS A&M DECOMMITMENT SHOWS THE TINPOT MORALITY OF COLLEGE SPORTS
Texas A&M had a no good, very bad night on Wednesday when five-star quarterback recruit Tate Martell decommitted from the Aggies. That's a bummer for A&M fans, especially after former five-star quarterbacks Kyle Allen and Kyler Murray both left the team this offseason, but it's neither uncommon nor unreasonable for recruits to change their minds.
Only then, Aggies wide receivers coach Aaron Moorehead decided to Tweet:
I FEEL SORRY FOR PPL WHO NEVER UNDERSTAND LOYALTY. I CAN
— AARON MOOREHEAD (@AMO8685) MAY 5, 2016
— AARON MOOREHEAD (@AMO8685) MAY 5, 2016
PEOPLE ACT LIKE THE TRUTH IS ALL THE SUDDEN A BAD THING. SOCIETY IS TOO SENSITIVE. Y
— AARON MOOREHEAD (@AMO8685) MAY 5, 2016
Moorehead also Tweeted (and deleted) the favorite old sports man opinion that "there is no accountability and no sense of positivity when it comes to adversity" for kids these days—unlike previous generations of teenagers, who always greeted bad news with a happy smile and never, ever failed to take responsibility for anything.
Speaking of being held accountable for one's actions, Moorehead's Tweetstorm caused a four-star wide receiver to decommit, and it caused other recruits to stop considering A&M.
Moorehead was dumb to present his opinion the way he did. No question. But the real problem here is that his worldview is shared by many of the adults in college sports—it's essentially what they think about high school and college kids.
Just this week, CBS's Jon Rothstein wrote about college basketball's supposed "transfer epidemic," stating that "fighting through adversity and building calluses through life experience is something that's a thing of the past and that's reiterated by the way players change programs at the grassroots level prior to ever stepping foot on a college campus." Rothstein also blamed this alleged rending of our national collegiate athletic moral fabric on—you guessed it—social media, claiming that "college athletes have an ego and part of the reason why they're so prone to make a change in where they're playing college basketball is due to the enjoyment they receive when their name is constantly posted across a social media platform."
Why do college athletes switch schools? FOR THE TWEETS.
Similarly, former Virginia Tech basketball coach Seth Greenberg said players are being "enabled":
All of this is hypocritical. Rothstein worked at ESPN Radio and MSG before jumping to CBS. (Oh, and his entire profession depends on capturing reader attention, largely via social media). Moorehead has had four different coaching jobs in seven years. Greenberg coached at seven different schools as he worked his way up the ranks. Couldn't even fight through their own adversity and stay loyal! Sad!
You would think that in a capitalism-obsessed country like America, coaches would encourage athletes to do what's best for them. But college sports is secretly a socialist utopia overseen by an authoritarian regime, the old Soviet Union without the ICBMs andRocky IV.
Within the context of how we've been trained to think about college sports—that everything athletes do should be subordinate to the school's wishes—it makes sense to think athletes changing their mind about where they'd like to learn and work is some sort of worrying epidemic. After all, it's not always helpful to the schools, which we're supposed to support.
But Martell did nothing we would consider morally wrong in any other circumstance. He chose a favorite college before he was a junior in high school and now decided he might have a new favorite college. Millions of kids probably do the same thing every year—it has nothing to do with being part of a soft generation, it's just people doing what's best for them.
Same thing with transfers. Sometimes, people realize that they would enjoy their college experience more elsewhere, so they—wait for it—go elsewhere. Like many people, I considered transferring during my sophomore year of college but opted to stay instead, not because I chose to fight adversity and acquire some useful calluses, but because I decided that staying put would ultimately make me happiest. Many friends of mine did transfer during college, and they became happier and got better opportunities because of it. This is bad?
The real reason coaches get so upset about transfers, and about decommitments, is that it's the sole area of the college sports system where athletes have the upper hand. Until they sign their letters-of-intent, highly-touted recruits hold college coaches at their mercy. They have the power. When those same athletes get to campus, everything flips. And still, coaches bemoan the one time they can't act as dictators. But sure, the athletes are the entitled ones.
Consider Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin's response to Wednesday night's saga:
In no world outside of college sports is social media use considered a privilege—well, maybe prison and/or the military, but those are very bad comps—yet that's the type of control Sumlin and other coaches are used to having. A type of control they take for granted! So when they suddenly can't act like little kings—that is, when a recruit or player decides he's changed his mind—they grasp for fantastical reasons to explain why this unfathomable insubordination happened.
And so we get the adversity narrative. And the generational softness. And the blah blah blah blah cue the teacher's voice from the Peanuts cartoons.
Truth is, Martell hasn't shown that he can't handle adversity. He simply wanted to go to a different school and work for different bosses—just as Moorehead did when he left Virginia Tech for Texas A&M in 2014.
The Aggies deserved their awful night after Moorehead's ignorant rant, but the problem is bigger than this one ill-advised outburst. If schools lose their authoritarian privileges, maybe we'll begin to see decommitments and transfers for what they are: people taking personal responsibility for bettering their individual situations, just like the rest of us.
A Boy From Cali
MAY 6 2016
PHOTOGRAPH BY MATT YORK/AP IMAGES
SCOUT / ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS
The ball smacked into my mitt.
For the first time all season, a ball had been hit to centerfield.
Which was my position.
You see, this wasn’t a routine fly ball. This was my first putout in an Arizona State uniform. There hadn’t been a ball hit to centerfield in our opener. I had to wait until the first inning of our second game to cross that achievement off my list.
Now that I had my first collegiate catch under my belt, I felt more confident going into our third game — the second of two we would play that day. It was a double-header, and we had around 45 minutes between games.
When my turn to hit came up in the first inning I took a deep breath and picked up my helmet, my gloves and my bat, and headed to the on-deck circle. There was a runner on first. It was go-time.
Unfortunately, when I got up to bat, I didn’t get much to hit. I was walked.
As I stood on first, I saw my teammate on second base flash the double-steal sign.
I knew it was time to turn on the engines.
I’d stolen second thousands of times. This was just another play. But like I had my whole life, I only knew how to play with aggressive passion. So I cranked up my speed to show how much it meant to me to be in the starting lineup and to be a Sun Devil.
Out of the corner of my eye I caught a glimpse of my teammate taking his first step toward third, and I was gone. I absolutely gassed it toward second.
The voice of the second baseman cut through the sound of the wind rushing through my helmet.
“Two! Two! Two!”
The catcher was trying to throw me out at second instead of my teammate at third. I knew I had to hustle to beat the tag.
The ball sailed a bit toward the first-base side. The second baseman lunged for the ball and missed it. I dove headfirst and collided with his knee.
PHOTOGRAPH BY BILL MITCHELL/FOUR SEAM IMAGES/AP IMAGES
I saw the ball roll into centerfield, and I wanted more than second.
I wanted to get to third.
My teammates were waving their arms.
“Go, go, go! Go, Cory!”
I tried to get up.
Woah, what’s going on here?
I didn’t want to get tagged out.
I tried again. I couldn’t feel my legs.
What’s happening right now?
I felt helpless.
The ump finally called timeout.
I was lying on my side.
Our trainer ran to me from the dugout.
“Cory, you alright?”
“I can’t move. I can’t feel myself.”
“Stay down. Keep breathing. You’re alright, Cory.”
“I don’t know what my body’s doing. I can’t feel myself.”
My head coach came running up to me.
“Cory, talk to me.”
“I don’t know what to do. I’m just here. I can’t move.”
They rolled me onto my back.
“I can’t feel anything.”
My dad ran onto the field.
Wait, why are you here?
“Hey, buddy, are you alright?”
“What’s happening to me, Dad?”
The paramedics arrived.
They took my helmet off.
They stabilized my neck.
They cut my jersey off.
They applied heart-monitor pads.
They put me on a stretcher.
They rolled me off the field.
My teammates lined up at the edge of the dugout.
I mustered four words.
“Go kick their ass.”
Two days earlier, I had been sitting in freshman calculus. It was a beautiful day outside and I was listening to some professor talk about the area below a curve. Exciting stuff, right?
Thankfully, I felt a buzz at my side.
I executed a textbook pocket-glance. You know, the maneuver every college student uses when they’re stuck in a boring class.
Couldn’t ignore this one. It was a message from a senior on the team.
“Hey man, I wanna relay this to you because you deserve this and earned it. But you’re in the lineup tonight. Get your mind ready.”
Wait a second … what?
I had to pull the phone out of my pocket. I must’ve read that wrong.
I looked over his text six or seven times. Was this some sort of joke?
PHOTOGRAPH BY BILL MITCHELL/FOUR SEAM IMAGES/AP IMAGES
I knew I had proved I could compete well at this level, but a freshman in the starting lineup for our season-opener? All I’d heard up to this point was that freshmen don’t start right away at Arizona State, let alone see any playing time on opening day. And now, I was starting in centerfield.
All I could do was smile. I looked up at my buddy sitting next to me and flashed the screen of my phone so he could see it. His jaw dropped in astonishment. I knew what I had to do.
“Dude, I’m outta here. I’m gone.”
“What? Dude, there are 40 minutes left — ”
The zip of my bag cut him off.
“I gotta get out of here. I gotta get outta here!”
Tangents and mathematical theorems had suddenly become meaningless. I had to get to the stadium to prepare for my first collegiate start as an Arizona State Sun Devil.
I’ve always loved baseball. My parents never pushed the game on me, even though they could have very easily. My father played college baseball and my mother played college softball.
My dad once told me, “I want you to be the one who asks me to go work out, or to go hit some BP, not the other way around.” From early on, I set the agenda. It was never forced. My love for the game was as pure as you can get.
My career really took off at Mater Dei High in Santa Ana, Calif. As a senior in 2010 I was named high school player of the year by the California Interscholastic Federation, the Los Angeles Times and MaxPreps. I was named Mr. Baseball in California and was the MVP of the Trinity League.
As I got older, I began to show some promise as a ballplayer. I was extremely dedicated. I was invited to represent the U.S. on the under-18 team. That was unreal. To look down and see USA written across my jersey … man, what an absolute honor.
It all happened because of my determination to get better. Not because I had crazy parents who wanted to artificially mold me into a moneymaker. Nah. It was because of my youthful drive and my love of baseball and competition.
HOTOGRAPH BY ROBERT GURGANUS/FOUR SEAM IMAGES/AP IMAGES
I began to receive offers from some top baseball programs, including Arizona State. The San Diego Padres even drafted me in 2010. We were unable to agree on a deal, but that was cool with me because I knew that I had a chance to get an education and then get drafted again after a career at ASU.
After my senior year, I put a lot of time and effort into getting myself ready for college baseball. I had the absolute confidence that I could hang with the best of the best, and I wanted to bring that mentality to ASU.
It all happened because of my determination to get better.
I mention all the accolades and all the effort to show that starting for Arizona State was the culmination of years and years of hard work. It was something I had wanted to do ever since I committed to the Sun Devils. I wanted to be one of the guys responsible for bringing another championship back to ASU.
All the blood and sweat that I had expended over the years finally manifested themselves in that text message. I was going to be an opening-day starter.
This wasn’t a torn ACL. This wasn’t a broken leg. This wasn’t a scratch on the knee. You definitely feel those things.
This was a severed C-5 vertebra. When you sever your spine, you can’t feel anything.
The 45 minutes after I arrived at the hospital were the most miserable of my life. I was scared because I had no idea what had happened, and I had to lie in a confined tube for an MRI and a CAT scan.
Afterward, my dad came over to me, his eyes lit up with worry. He had just found out that the doctors were going to have to fuse my vertebrae back together. My dad grabbed my arm and looked me in the eye.
“You’re gonna be alright.”
Get this nightmare over with, I thought. Get me into surgery already. Just fix me.
The morning after my surgery, I woke up with a ventilator tube running down my esophagus and into my lungs. It was so uncomfortable when the doctors pulled the tube out of my throat. They told me what had happened and that I was going to be paralyzed from the chest down for the rest of my life.
PHOTOGRAPH BY USA TODAY SPORTS
Then came eight straight days of misery in the ICU, where I was tied up with tubes to all these machines, put through all these tests and was surrounded by all these strange noises — the hiss of ventilators and the beeps of heart monitors. But despite all of that, some pretty special things also happened.
My best friends from California drove through the night to see me the morning after surgery.
Derrick Hall, the CEO and president of the Arizona Diamondbacks, along with 2001 World Series hero Luis Gonzalez, showed up at the foot of my bed one day. They had a jersey signed by all the Diamondbacks players. We hung out and talked baseball for a couple of hours.
Andre Ethier of the Dodgers came in to visit. We’ve become great friends since then. Torii Hunter and Mike Scioscia of the Angels, my favorite team, stopped by. They were my heroes.
For all the joy these visits brought me, reality kept bringing me down.
Just a few days after surgery, I got on the phone with my little brother, Jason, who was in high school back in California. It was the first time I had spoken to him since my injury.
His own hero — his big brother, with whom he had spent countless hours playing in the backyard — was now a quadriplegic. Life as I knew it was never going to be the same. Lying in my hospital bed, I cried.
On the other end of the line, I heard sobbing.
No more sports. No more playing. We were devastated.
On day seven, my teammates came to say goodbye. The next morning, I was going to be airlifted to a hospital in California.
Bottom of Form
In our last moments in the ICU, my teammates and I had a ton of fun together. Imagine a bunch of hollering college kids in this little tiny hospital room. We were just a bunch of college kids having a good time.
But then … silence.
Someone had entered the room. I was facing away from the door, so I could only see the outline of a figure from the corner of my eye. I assumed that it must’ve been a doctor because I could see the faces of my teammates. They looked serious.
He walked into my line of sight and looked down at me.
It wasn’t a doctor.
I was staring up at Josh Hamilton.
PHOTOGRAPH BY CORY HAHN
Josh Hamilton was my favorite ballplayer. By far. Not only for what he did on the field, but also for his recovery from addiction off of it. I realized in that moment that I was more similar to him than I had ever been before. Baseball didn’t bring us together. Tragedy did.
“You alright, kid?”
“Yeah, I’m hanging in there.”
We talked for an hour or so. Not about my injury. But about life. About being a kid. About college.
After a while, he asked me a simple question. One that I’ll never forget.
He walked into my line of sight and looked down at me. It wasn’t a doctor.
“Is it O.K. if I pray with and for you?”
I didn’t hesitate.
“Absolutely. That’s fine.”
He knelt down.
To this moment, I can hear his deep voice echoing in my head. I can see his mouth moving slowly, and tears finding their way out of the corners of his eyes.
My teammates were still in the room. After that moment with Josh, our lives would never be the same.
In California, I spent 75 days in inpatient recovery and completed countless hours of physical therapy. As you can imagine, once out of the hospital, my parents were reluctant to send me back to Arizona State. They didn’t want to see their child fail. And man, there was a very distinct possibility that failure was in my future.
But the thing is, I needed to get back to school. Think about this — a 19-year-old kid, who had already gotten a taste of college, living at home with his parents. “Stir crazy” doesn’t really do it justice. But more than that, there was no way that I was going to let my situation dictate my outlook going forward. There was a moment where I realized that I could either sit in my house and feel sorry for myself for the rest of my life, or I could make something of my life. I was going to get a degree from Arizona State. No one was going to tell me otherwise, and no injury was going to get in my way.
After months of trying, my parents finally said yes. I was going to be a normal kid again. I couldn’t stop smiling.
Even though I had been out of school for more than a year, my friends saved me a room in their newly rented house. Not just any room — the master bedroom. They even thought to find a handicap-accessible house. I’m so grateful to those guys. We made some incredible memories together.
One was on the first Halloween after my injury.
That year, my costume was pretty much on point. I had never really been one for Halloween, but I had to take advantage of my situation.
So my friends and I had this crazy idea. I was going to go out to parties dressed as Lieutenant Dan fromForrest Gump.
It’s alright, you can laugh. It was hilarious.
When we arrived at a party, I showed off my outfit to a couple of friends. We shared some laughs and had a few beers, and then … a group of girls came up to us.
They had zero idea about my injury. One of them, clearly impressed by the authenticity of my costume, said something like, “Oh, my God! I can’t believe you went this far.” Another said, “Where’d you get the wheelchair?” And another said, “C’mon, get out of the chair and go put it in the corner.”
I wondered how my friends were going to react. I was cool with going along with it, but I was concerned that they would feel awkward.
Well … my friends burst out laughing.
That solved that, I guess.
We played along with it for the entire night. Man, Lieutenant Dan will surely live in infamy.
PHOTOGRAPH BY CORY HAHN
A different time, my buddies and I went to this apartment complex for a party.
We arrived and looked around the lobby.
“O.K., where’s the elevator.”
“What floor’s the party on?”
“I think four.”
“Guys, wait here. I’ll be back.”
One of my roommates went up to the apartment to scout out the place. Two minutes later, he returned.
“O.K., this is the plan. Cory, just bear with us.”
One of them picked me up out of my wheelchair and threw me over his shoulder, fireman style. I was holding on for dear life. One guy led the way, and one guy followed behind carrying my wheelchair.
Talk about a team effort.
They plopped me down on the couch. One of my buddies asked, “You good?”
“Yeah, I feel good.”
Next thing I knew, everything was just … normal. People were talking to me. My friends were chatting with girls. Everything felt right.
Moments like these — I have so many. They’re so vivid because my friends didn’t care what I looked like. They didn’t care who I was. They just wanted to be with me. They wanted to be my friend. These guys are amazing.
This was why I came back to Arizona State.
In 2013, two years after my injury, I received a call from Arizona State’s head baseball coach, Tim Esmay. He had appointed me student-coach when I returned to school after my injury, so I figured we were going to chat about the team.
But that wasn’t the case. He reminded me that the MLB draft was in four or five days.
He said, “I’m not going to tell you who they are, but there have been a few teams that have called me asking if it’d be O.K. to draft you.”
“Yeah, that’d be an incredible gesture,” I said. “I’m all for it.”
A few days passed and I didn’t think more about that phone call. I wasn’t sure that it was actually going to happen, so I didn’t worry too much.
The first day of the draft was the same day my parents and I flew to Florida to receive an achievement award from the NCAA. I was following the draft on my phone and saw some of my friends get picked pretty early. I was so proud of them.
Once the award ceremony was over, my parents and I returned to the Jacksonville airport. That was when I received a phone call from an area scout in Arizona.
But that wasn’t the case. He reminded me that the MLB draft was in four or five days.
“What do you think about getting drafted? I can’t guarantee anything, but there are talks. Stay tuned.”
Wait, could this actually happen?
I was speechless.
My wheelchair probably left some tread marks in the terminal, because I kept rolling back and forth waiting for my phone to ring. They had just announced last call for my flight, so my parents and I were forced to get on the plane. It was the 32nd round.
I thought, Of course, this would happen.
C’mon. C’mon! Call me!
We were five minutes away from take off. Seatbelts were supposed to be fastened, tray tables were supposed to be in their locked and upright position, and phones were supposed to be off.
But not mine. No way.
As the plane was taxiing, my phone finally rang. Unknown number.
PHOTOGRAPH BY CORY HAHN
I answered it, trying to shield others from seeing that I was on my phone. On the line was Derrick Hall, CEO and president of the Arizona Diamondbacks — the same Derrick Hall who had visited me in the ICU two years earlier.
“Cory, I just wanted to call you personally and tell you that we’re going to select you in the 34th round, in about four picks. Stay close to your phone.”
I couldn’t believe it. I turned to my parents with my phone still up to my ear, and smiled.
“O.K., O.K. Sounds good. Thank you so much.”
About three minutes later, I received the call I had been waiting for.
Again, it was Derrick on the other end of the line.
“Cory, I just want to personally and officially welcome you to the Diamondbacks organization. We just selected you.”
I looked over to my parents. They were blurry through my tears.
“Thank you so much. I’m so humbled.”
We did it. We’re Diamondbacks.
My parents and I started to cry.
It happened. We did it.
I hung up and shut off my phone.
I smiled all the way home.
These days, I’m not much of a ballplayer, although in my heart I always will be.
I recently graduated from Arizona State with my original class despite missing a year of school. For three straight semesters, I took something like 21 class-hours. I never worked so hard in my entire life. I wanted to prove to my parents that they had made the right decision. I wasn’t going to fail. Not for them and not for me. I wanted to show that through hard work, passion, and belief in yourself, we are capable of anything.
After getting drafted, I obviously wasn’t going to play ball for the Diamondbacks. But they still decided to put me to work. Derrick Hall told me that getting drafted wasn’t honorary. It wasn’t symbolic. He told me that I didn’t have to play baseball to add value to the organization.
I’m now a part of our baseball operations department and scout for the team. I analyze high school, college, minor league and major league players.
I’ve been through a bunch of ups and downs. But life is starting to level off a bit — it’s becoming rewarding. The past couple of months have been a ton of fun. Right now the team and I are preparing for the upcoming draft, where we’ll have to make some pretty important decisions on the future of some young kids.
PHOTOGRAPH BY RED BULL CONTENT POOL
But no matter how normal life is, I’d be lying to you if I said that I didn’t sift through the what ifs whenever I’m watching a game for work or lying in bed at night. It’s tough stuff, and honestly, I struggle with it on a regular basis.
There’s one thing, though, that pulls me out of the dark: perspective. For as tough as it is — for as much as I have to battle all the time — I’ve realized that I’ve come a long way and have been able to do so much good — that I’ve been able to inspire people. To me, that’s what it’s all about.
I promise you I will never give up, I WILL win this battle, I WILL walk again.
On May 8 the whole world will run for those who can’t. The Wings for Life World Run raises money to help find a cure for spinal cord injuries. I invite you to join me in it.
Every person living with a spinal cord injury is just a boy or a girl from somewhere. Their injuries don’t define them. Me, I’m just a boy from Cali. My injury doesn’t define me.
I’m excited about the future of spinal-cord research. Together, we have the power to make an incredible difference. Join me, because I won’t be able to do it without you.
Trevor Ariza’s Twitter War And The Catch-22 Facing Athletes
Trevor Ariza got into an absurd social media beef that only highlights why social media can be so God awful
By Robert Silverman May 02, 2016
Houston Rockets small forward Trevor Ariza tumbled headfirst into the death-pit that is social media this weekend. How? By getting into a prolonged back-and-forth on Twitter that culminated in a threat by Ariza to go full Temecula on a fan and “beat yo ass for charity.”
You see, about five months ago, a Rockets fan with the handle @TerryLee__started barking at Ariza, who felt compelled to fire back.
That seemed to be the end of it, but evidently this particular jibe really stuck in Ariza’s craw. After the Steph Curry-less Golden State Warriors eliminated the Rockets in first round, Ariza sent a direct message to Lee informing him that his schedule had cleared up and he now had plenty of time to take care of unfinished business.
Because this wasn’t enough of a stupid, playground-level beef, Lee escalated it.
It's faggots in my mentions saying "but Ariza 6'8 220" … That's that pussy mindset. I can't relate.
— # (@TerryLee__) May 1, 2016
At which point, someone—Ariza’s agent, a friend, fellow player, or a panicked representative of the Rockets PR department—seems to have intervened.
And thus it hath been duly kept 100.
The point here is not to shame Ariza for clapping back at a heckler. Athletes receive a metric ton of “you suck” nonsense no matter what they tweet or post, and the desire to tell some gibbering simpleton off must be both constant and unimaginable.
Considering that the social media hellhole can and will tempt everyone into saying something to a troll that they’ll regret or getting really Mad Online at a total stranger, it’s surprising we don’t see these kinds of meltdowns more often.
But what’s so alluring here is the idea that social media platforms provide a heretofore unavailable window into the human being behind the performer. Fans have always craved this particular type of authenticity from players, the kind of information you’ll rarely ever get from the rote responses provided in post-game pressers, locker room scrums, and even well-reported, first-person feature articles.
As such, athletes are endlessly provoked to say what’s really on their minds, but the catch-22 is that when they do actually open up and unpack their unfiltered thoughts, they’re going to get roasted for doing just that. There are exceptions, to be sure, like last summer’s free agency courting of DeAndre Jordan, which resulted in NBA Twitter bathing in a sea of superb memes from everyone involved.
The solution, if there is a direct one, is for athletes to hand their accounts off to a PR and/or marketing specialist, who then turns them into little more than a sea of dull, brand-friendly platitudes and quasi-sponsored content. No one aside from Darren Rovell will go so far as to invest emotional currency in a walking billboard, but given the fragile lifespan that athletes have to make bank in an ecosystem that is judging every utterance and tracking every move, it’s undoubtedly the safe play.
But perhaps, in a way, that’s more honest. Social media has never been a place where you’ll find actual authenticity, nor does Sunday’s episode mean that Ariza is the kind of person that would respond to an insult with violence. Rather, it was an act performative toughness, and whether or not that’s a good look for his #brand, we don’t know any more about Trevor Ariza the human being than we did before. If that means more and more athletes use social media to openly sell themselves, well, that’s what it’s always been for.
Besides, we clearly don’t deserve nice things.
The Bong Show
The recent hacking of a highly-touted NFL prospect proves an old digital adage: Information is not judged by its source.
Laremy Tunsil is big and strong. He is 6'5, 310 pounds, and he’s an offensive tackle just entering the NFL. What this means in layperson’s terms is that, when confronted with Tunsil’s combination of speed, power, and aggression during, say, an average sweep right, you would involuntarily turn and run for your life. If Tunsil made the slightest physical contact with you during this sweep right, major systems in your body would shut down. If that contact was direct, you’d completely disintegrate (and that’s for starters).
But out here on the Internet, Laremy is a stone cold wimp; a quivering 90-pound weakling.
He’s just like the rest of us.
During the NFL Draft, Tunsil’s Twitter account posted a video of him taking a hit from a bong inserted into a gas mask. Later, his Instagram account posted a screenshot of a online conversation that suggested some financial improprieties between him and his university, Ole Miss.
Between those two social media hacks, Tunsil went viral on the Internet, television, and among the people who own and run NFL teams. As a result of these realtime, online shenanigans, Tunsil — who was once thought to be a candidate to be selected No. 1 overall — plummeted down draft boards before being selected 13th by the Miami Dolphins, some $12 million in salary gone forever. (Probably a lot more if you include the signing bonus.)
Someone wanted to use the Internet really bum Laremy Tunsil’s high, and it worked. And public personal violations like these will continue to work because of an unwritten rule we’ve adopted during these early days of the digital age: Information will not judged by its source.
In other words, we can think the person who hacked Tunsil is a really bad human who deserves to be punished, but we don’t place the same negative value judgement on the hacked information as we do on the hacker.
Yes you were violated. And yes, you will be punished for what that violation unearthed. After all, we can’t unsee what we have seen.
It’s enough to make you want to a take a major bong hit.