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  • September22nd

    The red zone: Florida doesn’t have many weaknesses at this point, but the red zone has been one of them. Coach Muschamp said the three red zone false starts and the sack given up because of missed protections indicated some inconsistencies.

    First down: Florida is only giving up .69 yards per rush on first down. That’s a mere 25 yards in 36 attempts. It should be interesting to see how committed Kentucky is to running the ball on first down. So far, no one’s been able to do it.

    How the Gators handle success: One of Will Muschamp’s concerns after the win over Tennessee was his players getting too complacent with their early success. In his words, “we had everybody pat us on the back this week and it was evident in Tuesday’s practice.” He’s a self-proclaimed “glass half empty” kind of guy, so I expect him to do everything in his power to prevent his team from overlooking this game.

    Rick knows Charlie: Kentucky DC Rick Minter was Charlie Weis’ Defensive Coordinator in his first two seasons as Head Coach at Notre Dame. Anyone can look at the film and find tendencies, but Minter knows the way Weis thinks. Of course, that doesn’t automatically equal interceptions and sacks, but it’s definitely an advantage. This may still be a new offense for John Brantley, but it’s not new to Rick Minter.

    The track meet: Saying Chris Rainey and Jeff Demps are fast is kind of like saying Bill Gates and Warren Buffet are rich. Coach Weis said in the 40, Rainey wins and in the 100, Demps wins (Demps clocked a 10.25 at the Junior Olympics). Either way, if these two guys consistently find big holes or catch the ball in space, Florida wins. Weis said that because they’re so similar, he doesn’t have two different packages for them and can use them interchangeably. That gives him the flexibility of not having to worry about one guy being tired or banged up and thereby limiting his play calling.

    Brantley on the clock: When I asked him to name what he’s specifically working on with his QB, Charlie Weis said “having that clock in your head”. Weis noted that because Brantley is a perfectionist, he has to be reminded to get through his progressions and if nothing’s there, get rid of the ball. So far, he’s done a good job. The one sack he took was just a blown pickup.

    Potential mismatch: Florida’s starting corners and safeties are young and small. The size of UK WR La’Rod King (6’4’’) is concerning. Roberson is the tallest in the secondary at 6’0’’ with Elam at 5’10’’, Riggs at 5’9’’ and Saunders at 5’8’’. Roberson and Saunders are true freshmen and Riggs and Elam are sophomores. Coach Davis said his safeties are actually his best cover guys, but if Newton has time to throw and King gets one on one coverage, he’ll be tough to stop. Even though he’s a true freshman and 5’8’’, Coach said Saunders “gets football… it comes easy to him. He gets leverage and can track it.” This young secondary is much better than it looks on paper.

    Pass interference: Despite the 5 PI calls in the Tennessee game, Defensive Coordinator Dan Quinn is confident that his secondary will still be able to stay physical and press. There were some techniques that needed to be fixed in practice, but he was encouraged by JR Josh Evans’ ability to bounce back and make big plays after an early penalty. Coach Quinn preaches think less, react more. He wants his young guys to play instinctive football, minus the penalties of course.

    Dump it down: Kentucky plays a lot of man coverage and Coach Weis said UK’s defense will blitz around fifty percent of the time. UF RB Chris Rainey actually leads his team in receiving with 11 catches for 214 yards. If Gator receivers don’t get separation quickly, expect to see those numbers to greatly increase.

    Game time is 7pm ET on ESPN from Commonwealth Stadium.

  • May24th

    Sports and culture always seem to intertwine. Whether they reflect or project the state of our society is beyond me. Either way, athletic competition has a way of bringing people together who otherwise wouldn’t congregate.

    Usually, it’s a safe subject matter. You may not be able to talk religion or politics at the dinner table, but debating issues in sports generally doesn’t cost you the respect of your peers.

    Things are changing.

    Monday afternoon, Twitter was buzzing about NBA Commissioner David Stern’s decision to fine Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah 50,000 dollars for directing a gay slur at a fan. Weeks before, Stern fined L.A. Lakers guard Kobe Bryant 100,000 dollars for addressing an official with the same obscenity.

    As people debated reasons for the monetary discrepancy, my thoughts turned to the precedent being set.

    I’ve been around sports my whole life. I’ve also been fortunate enough to play with athletes of all races, sexual orientations and religions. Whether it was playing on an all African-American volleyball team at the Salvation Army, playing high school basketball with openly lesbian teammates or playing softball with my Jewish neighbors, I was exposed to many schools of thought as a byproduct of my love for athletic competition.

    My family runs an inner-city youth program in downtown Phoenix, M.A.D. (Make A Difference) House, geared towards exposing young people to life and love beyond the world they know. I’ve witnessed and experienced the pain that is caused by insults of ignorance.

    With that in mind, I posed a question on Twitter, looking for feedback from my diverse, yet sports minded audience…

    “Can someone please clarify these Kobe/J Noah fines… What is the rule? You can’t say anything offensive? Offensive to whom?”

    My questions were sincere. I genuinely wanted to know if someone could tell me what the NBA rule is regarding obscenities and how they determine levels of offense. My questions were not statements of opinion.

    For the record, I do not condone the use of gay slurs. I find any comment that is intended to belittle, demean or embarrass another human being unacceptable and immature.

    However, my question had nothing to do with my stance on homosexuality. My question had more to do with my experiences on the basketball court.

    As a sideline reporter, I hear it all. Gay slurs, sexism, racial slurs, religious slurs, you name it. It’s indicative of what my dad always teaches his players, that sports expose your character or lack thereof. In the heat of the moment, when the pressure is on, the overflow of your heart speaks.

    Which leads me to my initial thought process when I heard about the fines… how does the NBA/Commissioner Stern determine which comments on the court are deemed fine-worthy and which are not?

    Every human being, depending on their life experience and moral alignment, is offended by different things. For me, the most offensive profanity is the use of the name of God/Jesus Christ in a derogatory way. There’s something inside of me that cringes when I hear it. I’m sure my homosexual peers know the feeling. It attacks something that makes me who I am and defines me, whether or not anyone else agrees or deems it valid.

    David Stern is facing some difficult decisions down the road. The easy way out would be to treat the NBA like what it is in its simplest form… a business. This translates into only fining players who offend those with the largest advocacy groups and financial prowess.

    I don’t know what Commissioner Stern should do. What I do know is that picking and choosing which words are offensive is completely subjective. I have absolutely no problem with the league fining players for using gay slurs but it begs the question, who are the people players can offend without receiving fines?

    The “n-word” has become a filler word, a substitute for “um” or “like” in many circles. Are the African-American advocacy groups not powerful enough? Or what about the word “bitch”, used in athletic competition flippantly? Are the mean-girl advocacy groups not powerful enough?

    That was a joke. (Please don’t contact me, National Organization for Women, I am not anti-woman).

    Despite what some bloggers may say, I am not a homophobe, bigot, or a hater of any people group. I align myself with neither an advocacy group nor any political agenda. I believe that the two non-negotiable mandates on my life are that I love God and love people. In my life, loving people includes avoiding saying or doing anything that causes someone pain, to the very best of my ability.

    My question was taken out of context, twisted and turned into a headline, intended to incite anger and garner attention.

    The headlines, “Reporter asks why Noah’s slur offensive” and “Fox Sports reporter Samantha Steele on Joakim Noah slur: ‘Offensive to whom?” are as misleading as they are false. I was not commenting on the offensive nature of gay slurs, I was asking how the NBA determines what is an offense worth fining.

    Here’s what I find offensive: the writer of this NBC Sports blog demonstrates the same naiveté and intolerance that he boldly assigns to me. He attacks my upbringing in the state of Arizona, libelously accuses me of saying “that calling someone a fa**** is not a big deal” and even asserts that my “homophobia” is explained by my profile quote which starts with “God first…”.

    How tolerant.

    Once his article was posted, I received an onslaught of tweets and messages from people responding to his incorrect information. Here’s a sampling…

    “Everybody tweet @Samantha_Steele and tell her what a dumb c*** she is. She thinks using the word f***** is not offensive to anyone.”

    Lovely.

    And then there’s this, the comments of a former Deadspin and SportsbyBrooks writer, responding to the author’s article:

    “…And yeah, I now remember her as being way too Goddy. Kind of in that fascist, Hitler Youth way.”

    For someone who has never met me or spoken with me, I’m surprised he would be willing to associate me with one of the most hateful and murderous people groups in all of history, but I’ll go ahead and take his “way too Goddy” comment as a compliment.

    Initially, I was hurt that someone could twist my words so maliciously to make it sound like I would ever condone hatred.

    Then I remembered what I always desire from my peers, especially on the unforgiving Internet… that they would assume the best. Assume that people at their core want the same things: to be loved, respected and accepted.

    I don’t know what David Stern will do, but I know that nothing anyone says, no matter how offensive or hurtful, will ever make me hate.

  • May8th

    I’m going to Zimbabwe this summer for a lot of reasons, but mostly because it’s a long time comin’.

    As a little girl, my life revolved around sports. I thought I was born into a sports family… until my mom explained one day that the only “sport” she ever participated in was cheer. And not even the crazy fly-in-the-air cheer that’s more dangerous than football. She was one of the sit down and periodically move your arms around cheerleaders. I think they have a name for it, but who knows?

    Anyway, I remember being shocked that my mom didn’t play sports. Her four kids played three sports a year and her husband coached two sports a year; how was she surviving in our world?

    I’m pretty sure I was the only Somalia expert on my third grade soccer team. I didn’t have Nickelodeon at home so I had to bring something to the table in our conversations over orange slices.  Very quickly, I realized no one wanted to talk about my favorite small country on the eastern horn of Africa.

    That didn’t matter at home. “Homework” always had a double meaning for Cindi Steele’s kids. There was the work from school you did at home, and there was the work from home you did at home.  On top of the work assigned from our teachers, my mom came up with little projects we worked on throughout the year and especially in the summer.

    We would each choose countries and learn everything we could about them: cut out newspaper clippings, take notes from the encyclopedia and take the bus to the public library looking for books. I don’t remember what countries my siblings chose, (because really, who cared about them) but I always chose Somalia.

    When I would ask hard questions about why these African children were starving, my mom would tell me stories about children she met in third world places like Bangladesh. I didn’t find it strange that my mom had scary run ins with the KGB in Russia or that she knew more about the conflict in the middle east than my Jewish friends and neighbors.

    She made my world so much bigger than soccer and Jonathan Taylor Thomas (Shout out to my Home Improvement people!).

    My mom made a lot of sacrifices in a family that spent most of it’s time either playing or watching games. She always cheered for us and encouraged us to do our best, (and even became a pretty big Suns fan over the years) but on the walk home from practices she told us about the struggle in Lebanon, the war in Sudan or corruption in India.

    She didn’t have time or money to get her nails done or shop for new furniture, but she always made sure her kids knew that their little world was just that… little.

    As a sports reporter, sometimes my world gets very small. It’s huge to the people in it, but small nonetheless. That’s why, when I got the offer a few weeks ago to go to Zimbabwe this summer to build a chicken farm with some HIV positive orphans, I jumped at the chance.

    To be honest, when I first decided to go, I thought of my mom. The same woman who is probably a little nervous about me going alone to a place with a lot of crime, corruption and disease (not to mention no showers or electricity), is the woman whose example made me know I could do it. Not only that I could do it… but that I should.

    I love you Mom. Happy Mother’s Day!

     

  • March21st

    Unless you grew up poor in inner city Phoenix, you’ve probably never heard his name.  You wouldn’t know him from the small town in Oklahoma he was raised in or the small college he attended. He married young, and before he knew it, he had four scraggly little kids under the age of seven.

    He grew up a basketball junkie. So much so, that even during law school at ASU, he spent the little free time he had playin’ ball at downtown parks.  Turns out their courts were just as crowded as the ones he worked in… except these kids didn’t seem to have anywhere else to be.

    Over thirty years ago, at the ripe old age of 22, Jerry Steele started M.A.D. House. The idea was simple… just Make A Difference.

    Simple was an understatement.  He had no building, no real plan and no money. A local church offered up their gym.  Week after week, the kids piled in.  They could play ball all night and the court was inside (remember, this is Phoenix).  A scrub kid himself, he’d ask the kids if they’d take a break from ball for fifteen minutes so he could talk to them.

    They would.

    Each week, they’d stop and listen to a scrawny white boy with a hint of a southern drawl tell them about this relationship he had with God. There was never any pressure, no requirement to believe, just an honest account of what he knew to be a loving Father…  something most of them had no concept of.

    Then they’d go back to playin’ ball.

    The kids, ages 12 to 18, kept showing up.  Three times a week. Every week.

    The promise was simple, you find a way to get here, and we’ll take you all home.

    Over the next thirty years, M.A.D. House would grow. What started as “Gym Church” morphed into a thriving league, where inner city kids could play organized ball for free and even get some free clothes and basketball shoes. Eventually, it turned into much more. Coach took teams of kids who had never been out of South Phoenix to places like Ecuador, Brazil and Venezuela. M.A.D. House provided employment, college scholarships, housing, trips around the country and, like always, somewhere safe to be every Wednesday, Friday and Sunday night.

    There were rules, of course. If you swear, you do ten push-ups. If you’re disrespectful or you fight, you leave and find your own way home.

    I was ten when I stood next to my dad as a couple of guys said they were going to come back with a gun and shoot him.  Oddly enough, I recall him just saying, “Okay.”

    I learned how to freestyle in 4th grade in the back of a beat up van while my dad drove kids home to the projects.  We had to freestyle because Dad wouldn’t let us listen to any of the popular rap stations. We couldn’t do that many push-ups.

    It wasn’t until high school when I remember being embarrassed. If I wasn’t taking the city bus to school, I was being dropped off in one of those same old M.A.D. House vans.  Never mind the fact that the majority of my friends were on welfare, I didn’t want them to see me getting dropped off by my dad in that thing.

    I didn’t fully understand it at the time, but it was during high school that my dad started repeating the same two words seemingly every time we spoke.

    “Then what?”

    It was so simple, it sounded stupid. Whether it was in response to my plans for the evening or plans for my future, his response was like clockwork.

    Then what?

    I couldn’t have known then how those two words would change my life.

    When I refused to ask myself, it showed. There were years that passed in college when that simple two-word question felt like a police interrogation. After all, answering the question would probably change the way I spent money, the way I worked and the way I dated.

    As I found myself in a profession anchored in the importance of fame, money, attention and clout, those two words rang in my head like sirens in the hood.

    So the cool guy thinks you’re pretty… then what?

    So you get the job you’ve always wanted… then what?

    So everyone knows your name… then what?

    Jerry Steele turns 55 today. I could tell you how smart he is, how articulate he is, and how he still has a ridiculous jump shot.

    He wouldn’t care.

    In a culture where Charlie Sheen has three million Twitter followers, Elliot Spitzer has his own show on CNN and Rick Pitino is commentating on CBS, Jerry Steele will probably never be rich and famous.

    There are few compliments you can give to someone whose life can answer the “then whats”. He hasn’t been living for money, power or fame. He hasn’t been chasing a dream that is all about making his life easier, more comfortable or esteemed.  He doesn’t care for the attention.

    He’s been doing the same, sometimes mundane things day in and day out for over thirty years; investing in the lives of kids who know little of what it’s like to be invested in.  All because he knows the love of a God who invested in him.

    His life answers the “then whats”… and I hope someday mine does too.

    Happy Birthday, Dad.

    This summer, he’ll take his 55 year old body to the Middle East to try the same Phoenix model of M.A.D. House in the West Bank of Palestine. He hopes to build a gym there some day. There are more guns and more violence, but there are also more kids that could use some basketball… and hope.

    If you want to learn more about M.A.D. House or how you can help, check out the website/Twitter and the feature Matt Lauer and the Today Show did a few years back…

    M.A.D. House on the Today Show

    www.madhouseministries.org

    www.twitter.com/MAD_Ministries


  • March14th

    I can’t say that I’ve ever been a big fan of rules. I have, however, learned to appreciate them. It mirrors the way I feel about Nascar. You may not ever catch me cheering for it, but I certainly respect it’s place in our culture.

    In recent days, rules have been under assault. It’s been everything from BYU’s honor code to NCAA infractions to athletes caught with marijuana. The general consensus is this… everybody’s doing it.

    How can we punish people for what everybody does? The easy answer is that everybody doesn’t, but it sure makes it easier to do something you know is wrong when you tell yourself that everybody else is right there with ya.

    I’ve been thinking about this question a lot recently. So much so, that I realized there are rules I break every day just because “everybody is doing it”.

    I speed. I jaywalk. In LA, I park in forbidden spaces… and get towed. As much as I hate it, when I’m caught doing any of these things, my excuse to the police officer isn’t “well everyone else was doing it”. I take the consequence and move on.

    For the most part, those infractions aren’t looked down upon in our culture. I think I may know why.

    Generally speaking, we aren’t as bothered by rule breakers as we are by liars. The term refers to people who blatantly deny their actions and those who committed to doing something and didn’t follow through. They’re not rule breakers as much as they are word breakers.

    “Coming clean” is an under-appreciated expression of freedom.

    It’s why Jalen Rose is admired and Chris Webber is scorned.

    It’s why WSU’s Klay Thompson gained respect after an arrest for marijuana possession.

    It’s why coaches who give speeches laced with words like integrity and character are crucified when it’s discovered that they covered up or lied about NCAA infractions.

    Proverbs 13:18 says “He who ignores discipline comes to poverty and shame, but whoever heeds correction is honored.”

    Humans are far from perfect… our mistakes are a part of our humanity. The tough part is how we handle the correction when it comes.

    I was shocked to see how the media handled BYU’s decision to suspend Brandon Davies for admitting he had sex with his girlfriend, and thereby breaking the school’s honor code. The story was presented in such a way that it seemed like BYU was punishing Davies for being black. (Wait, they don’t do that anymore do they?)

    I digress…

    The truth of the matter is that Brandon Davies agreed to an honor code and went back on his word. He apparently was incredibly remorseful. His honesty and spirit of repentance should be admired.

    Disagree with their rules all you want, but this private university did not force Davies to agree to their honor code. He voluntarily and willingly gave them his word.

    We don’t have to believe the same things, but I hope we can all agree that teaching young men that their word matters is a worthwhile endeavor. Even if it means they have to miss a few basketball games and the school loses big basketball money.

    “He who listens to a life-giving rebuke will be at home among the wise.” Proverbs 15:31

  • March6th

    I can’t believe it’s already March. The older I get, the more I find myself feeling like the time is just slipping away. So much has already happened this year. Exciting things on the career front, a move to Los Angeles and some tragedy in my life and the lives of those close to me. It seems like I never can catch up and rest.

    Tonight a question popped in my head as I was thinking about how the time is going by so quickly. I realized that this is the first year in a while that I don’t remember making any New Year’s resolutions. I talked about learning to play the piano and guitar but it was more of a nice thought than a commitment. So back to my question…

    Is it better to make a commitment and not keep it, or to never make any commitment at all? At first, it sounds like a dumb question. Of course it’s better not to make a commitment than to make one and break it. Then we wouldn’t have the divorce epidemic we’re dealing with. But then I thought about the old saying, “It is better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all”.

    Is it better to never try than to try and fail? Say you struggle with your weight. Is it better to never try to diet/lose weight than to repeatedly commit to losing weight only to lose your battle with the scale over and over again?

    How few life experiences would I have if I had to eliminate all the things I initially committed to, but didn’t follow through with? I’ve got shelves full of books that are half-way read. Bottles of shampoo I just couldn’t finish before buying a new and, naturally, better one. It’s sad, really.

    There is a verse in Ecclesiastes 5 that says, “It is better not to vow than to make a vow and not fulfill it.”

    First I think of marriage. That’s an easy out for me since I’m not married.

    Unfortunately, my life is living proof that making a vow and following through with it matters not only in the big things, but the little things too.

    The other day, I backed out of a scheduled meeting with my boss. In the moment, it felt like the best way to ease a stressful day. I just had too much on my plate. Then, at the UCLA game, he came up to me before tipoff and asked me why I didn’t do what I said I was going to do.

    I made him question whether or not my word was to be trusted.

    That’s got to be one of the worst things in life… when your word can’t be trusted.

    Can you imagine how many of the world’s problems could be solved if everyone followed through with what they said?

    That’s my new commitment. To follow through with all my commitments and only commit to things I’m going to follow through with. That probably means learning how to say no initially and even doing some things that aren’t enjoyable just because I said I would when I thought they might be.

    I’ll start by promising never to blog this long-winded/rambling ever again.

    Hold me to it. :)

  • September30th

    Yogi Roth is a weird dude. Not weird in a “get away from me weirdo” kind of way, but just incredibly unique.  I’ve been around Yogi long enough to witness his struggle when strangers ask the obligatory “what do you do?” question. Analyst. Coach. Actor. Author. Host. World traveler. Screenwriter. Abuser.

    He struggles with this question because he hasn’t bought into the lie that success is a paved road. He’s a small town football player who feasts on lettuce and hummus… He’s a coach who sounds more like Tony Robbins than Rex Ryan. At 29, Yogi Roth has already embarked on the road not taken.

    With an insiders perspective on everything from Pitt and USC football to Jewish history, worldwide surfing expeditions and the journey of a young broadcaster and entertainer, Roth’s new book “From PA to LA” is a must read for football fans, travelers and dreamers. This quarter-life memoir will encourage you to embrace the unknown, broaden your horizons and push you to challenge your own complacency.

    Buy it on Amazon today!

    Yogi Roth

  • September30th

    “The brother in humble circumstances ought to take pride in his high position.  But the one who is rich should take pride in his low position, because he will pass away like a wild flower.  For the sun rises with scorching heat and withers the plant; its blossom falls and its beauty is destroyed.  In the same way, the rich man will fade away even while he goes about his business.” ~James 1:9-11

    Over the years, I’ve met a lot of rich people.  I’ve only met a couple wealthy people… but lots of rich people.  For the most part, the other people I meet are talking about the rich or devising a plan to become rich themselves.

    It wasn’t until recently that I started thinking about money outside of “will I have enough?” Suddenly, it became “will I have a lot?”

    This week, I watched as a man who leads a non-profit (but drives a Bentley) compared himself to King David as he addressed accusations of using his money to manipulate teenage boys into sex acts.

    I imagine him last week, without a public care in the world, making vacation plans and adding to his 100,000 office jewelry collection. This week, he meets with attorneys, carefully crafting statements that neither confirm nor deny those allegations, in order to “let the courts decide”.

    Bishop Eddie Long will never escape this week of his life. People forget names, faces and stories… the internet does not. All the money, power and fame cannot save him from a few thousand bloggers.

    We’re living in days of exposure. Where you go, what you say, what you said, who you hang with, what you wear… it’s all accessible. It’s much more difficult to disguise an ego these days.

    “Follow the money” has become “Follow the money… and check Twitter”.

    It seems like everyone wants to be rich. But according to James, that plant withers in the sunlight. If we want to be rich, but are afraid of the exposure of the light in our lives, we’re probably better off just being poor.

    A Bentley with a bad engine only gets attention from people who don’t know what it’s like on the inside.

  • August14th

    Really?

    Posted in: Uncategorized

    Last night I watched the movie “Bella” for the third time.  It keeps getting better. If you haven’t seen it, I really recommend it… for men and women. So good.

    Moving right along…

    Let me start by saying that generally speaking, I’m kind of irritable.  Not with everyone, but specifically with people who my dad always called “seldom right but never in doubt”.  Sports “journalism” is a hot bed for these types. Yesterday, I yelled at the radio for the first time in a while.  Not my proudest moment.

    “Tim Tebow gets amped for games by listening to Christian music and Frank Sinatra.  What’s wrong with this kid? I don’t want my quarterback listening to that crap before a game. How do you get amped listening to that?”

    WHAT?!

    Let’s think here fellas…

    You want your QB amped before the game, huh? The guy who has to think clearly, make quick decisions, be mentally tough, shake off bad plays in seconds, stay calm in adversity, speak precisely and lead a team… needs to get AMPED???

    Every time I talk to QBs (at any level), I ask them about how they approach their job mentally.  The response is almost always the same. “You have to be even keeled… you can’t get too high or too low… you have to stay poised… you have to be comfortable…”

    Duh.

    I understand that some people don’t like Tim Tebow. Fine. But if you’re going to make fun of him.. at least try to make sense. He’s one of the most emotional players I’ve ever seen. I don’t think he needs to worry about getting “amped” by listening to Metallica or whatever gets you fired up to do your P90x.

    Ah. Okay. I feel better now.


    (Full disclosure… I run to Brian McKnight. Don’t judge.)

  • August9th

    Just watched this movie tonight.  There are some cheesy scenes, but overall it was really good.  If you know anyone in junior high/high school or even college, this is a great way to start some important conversation. Check out “To Save a Life”…