Loving Hockey in the South

Loving Hockey in the South

Y'all, it ain't even cool.
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I was born in Riverdale, GA. I was raised in Newnan, GA. Now I study at the University of Georgia. But nothing makes me feel less southern than when I see the looks of confusion on people’s faces when I tell them I’d rather go to a hockey game than sit in a football stadium.

It’s been an unfortunate few years for hockey fans in Georgia. After the Thrashers moved away from Atlanta, the only hope we had left for a semi-professional match was the minor-league team, the Gwinnett Gladiators. I’ve been to a few of their games and they’re good, but it just doesn’t compare to the NHL. Nothing really ever does. And with minimal to no TV coverage, I’m forced to decide between shoddy, low-quality, fifteen-second clips on YouTube or take a seat in a rowdy sports bar with the risk of the game not even being shown. I end up being so out of the loop that I don’t even have a favorite team; if someone’s playing and I can find it on TV, I’m going to watch it. Penguins, Blues, or Stars, it couldn’t make less of a difference to me. Hockey is hockey, and hockey is great.

I’m lucky enough to go to UGA as a hockey fan, as the UGA Ice Dawgs are the 2016 SEC Champions, and are on track to own 2017 as well, currently undefeated. I go to their games whenever I can, and if I can’t make it you can bet I’m finding a crappy Facebook stream of it. Hockey is such a scarcity south of Virginia, so I take whatever I can get. I’ve even ended up dragging a few friends to the games with me; it’s hard to say no when I’m driving and the ticket only costs two dollars. However, I’ve been pleasantly surprised that they’ve enjoyed the games just as much as I have—well, maybe not just as much—even though their knowledge of hockey is minimal to none. It’s a sport that’s accessible to everyone—when I explain it as “essentially soccer on ice” it tends to make a lot more sense to newbies, and although that description isn’t entirely accurate, we’ll let it slide. (Get it? “Slide?” Like ice? …I’ll see my way out, thanks for your time.)

I have found a few fellow southern hockey fans throughout my life, although many of them aren’t really southern; they came here for university and actually hail from northern states. But either way, being able to talk to anyone about the sport is good enough for me. It’s so rare to find someone who actually enjoys hockey that I’ll take whoever I can get. Well, within reason. Some hockey fans can be a bit too…intense outside of the rink. But I digress.

I’m not knocking other, more popular sports in the south. Football and baseball have their merits, and hell, even NASCAR is a commendable sport, but as soon as I walked into my first Thrashers game, way back in 2008 when they played the Blues, I was never the same. I remember watching the players glide across the ice, knock into one another, and maybe knock out a tooth or two (as a kid that was my favorite part…who am I kidding, it’s still my favorite part). I remember getting way too into it—I was an arts kid, so sports weren’t my thing—and screaming into the center of the Phillips Arena. I felt a sense of belonging there, even as a young child. It has continued into the present, whether I’m at a Gladiators or and Ice Dawg match.

Even though it’s not the most popular here, fans undeniably make up for it in team spirit. The hockey community is strong and, despite its small size here in the south, it is no less real and no less passionate. Hockey is hockey, no matter its location, and no matter its location, hockey is amazing.

Cover Image Credit: http://www.georgiaencyclopedia.org/sites/default/files/styles/article-gallery/public/m-10351.jpg?itok=o_YO8eTB

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If You've Ever Been Called Overly-Emotional Or Too Sensitive, This Is For You

Despite what they have told you, it's a gift.
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Emotional: a word used often nowadays to insult someone for their sensitivity towards a multitude of things.

If you cry happy tears, you're emotional. If you express (even if it's in a healthy way) that something is bothering you, you're sensitive. If your hormones are in a funk and you just happen to be sad one day, you're emotional AND sensitive.

Let me tell you something that goes against everything people have probably ever told you. Being emotional and being sensitive are very, very good things. It's a gift. Your ability to empathize, sympathize, and sensitize yourself to your own situation and to others' situations is a true gift that many people don't possess, therefore many people do not understand.

Never let someone's negativity toward this gift of yours get you down. We are all guilty of bashing something that is unfamiliar to us: something that is different. But take pride in knowing God granted this special gift to you because He believes you will use it to make a difference someday, somehow.

This gift of yours was meant to be utilized. It would not be a part of you if you were not meant to use it. Because of this gift, you will change someone's life someday. You might be the only person that takes a little extra time to listen to someone's struggle when the rest of the world turns their backs.

In a world where a six-figure income is a significant determinant in the career someone pursues, you might be one of the few who decides to donate your time for no income at all. You might be the first friend someone thinks to call when they get good news, simply because they know you will be happy for them. You might be an incredible mother who takes too much time to nurture and raise beautiful children who will one day change the world.

To feel everything with every single part of your being is a truly wonderful thing. You love harder. You smile bigger. You feel more. What a beautiful thing! Could you imagine being the opposite of these things? Insensitive and emotionless?? Both are unhealthy, both aren't nearly as satisfying, and neither will get you anywhere worth going in life.

Imagine how much richer your life is because you love other's so hard. It might mean more heartache, but the reward is always worth the risk. Imagine how much richer your life is because you are overly appreciative of the beauty a simple sunset brings. Imagine how much richer your life is because you can be moved to tears by the lessons of someone else's story.

Embrace every part of who you are and be just that 100%. There will be people who criticize you for the size of your heart. Feel sorry for them. There are people who are dishonest. There are people who are manipulative. There are people who are downright malicious. And the one thing people say to put you down is "you feel too much." Hmm...

Sounds like more of a compliment to me. Just sayin'.

Cover Image Credit: We Heart It

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Andy Ruiz Jr. May Not Look Like The Typical Boxer, But It Doesn't Make His Victory Any Less Deserved

Andy Ruiz Jr. just proved that dreams can come true.

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On June 1, boxing fans witnessed something special as Andy 'Destroyer' Ruiz Jr. defeated Anthony Joshua via TKO after going seven rounds in the ring at Madison Square Garden in New York City to become the first ever Mexican-American heavyweight champion of the world. Ruiz Jr. (33-1) was a heavy underdog (+1100) heading into the match-up with Joshua (22-1) but ultimately flipped the script to hand the British fighter his first professional loss ever. Surely the fight will go down as one of the greatest moments in sports history.

Some members of the media and fans have been quick to label the fight as a 'fluke' and 'rigged' which in the end is no surprise to me. That always happens in the sports world. Many did not believe we would get this result yet failed to remember the one rule of sports -- expect the unexpected. Over the past week, I've been coming to the defense of Ruiz Jr. in the wake of others choosing to call him a joke.

I was shocked and surprised to hear two of my favorite sports analysts, Stephen A. Smith and Shannon Sharpe, make fun of Ruiz Jr. and frame him as just a guy that looked like 'Butterbean.' When I viewed their tweets on social media it honestly made me upset. Sure, Ruiz Jr. may not have fit the mold of what a professional boxer should look like, but they simply should not have just judged a book by its cover.

Personally, I thought it was disrespectful for Smith and Sharpe to throw shade at Ruiz Jr. in the way they did. I felt like they should have done a better job of acknowledging the winner considering the result of the match. Yet choosing to bash someone because of their physical composition appeared like a low blow. The very foundation of sports allows people of all shapes, sizes, genders, races, and backgrounds to compete -- that's why most people follow them in the first place.

Smith was open behind his reasoning for his tweets in which I'd like to shed some light on. Smith was upset about how boxing time after time contains elements of corruption with fans having to wait years until promoters schedule big fights. He along with other followers of the sport were looking forward to the highly anticipated yet potential future match-up between Joshua and fellow heavyweight Deontay Wilder. Smith believes that by Ruiz Jr. beating Joshua it essentially diminished the chances of that fight ever happening with the same amount of buildup, but that still doesn't provide any excuse for mocking the new heavyweight champ.

Ruiz Jr. was there for a reason and ultimately seized the opportunity that was right in front of him -- that's not his fault for getting the job done. Just because someone doesn't look like the part doesn't mean they don't possess the same qualities and characteristics as their counterparts. The following pair of videos display the amount of talent Ruiz Jr. does have in the ring. Even fellow boxer Canelo Alvarez and former UFC lightweight/featherweight champion Conor McGregor acknowledge that and have come out to say something on their behalf.

Unfortunately, I don't expect much to change because most will stand their ground and continue to behave the same way. All I'm saying is I did not enjoy some of the top figures within sports media stereotyping Ruiz Jr. based on his looks. I would think that we would be better than that and recognize that anyone can accomplish something great in this world. It all just starts with a simple dream.

I understand and respect other people's takes on this subject, maybe I'm looking into things deeper than what they are, but it struck a chord with me and I felt the need to say something about it.

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