What It's Like Being A Fan Of One Of The Most Racist Sports In The World

What It's Like Being A Fan Of One Of The Most Racist Sports In The World

Dear NHL, I love you, but there are some things you need to work on.
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Willie O'Ree, Evander Kane, Devante Smith-Pelly, Wayne Simmonds, and P.K Subban: All of them are extremely talented men and trail-blazers in their own right. Besides being Black, what's another thing all of these amazing guys have in common? They helped me fall in love with the sport of hockey.

I remember being 4-years-old and trying to find a sport to get into. Baseball was great, football was cool, but there was something about ice hockey that enticed me more than any other sport. The ability to skate, hit, fight, move, and score on the ice created magical memories for me as a kid on the ice and in the seats. Madison Square Garden was practically my second home whenever my mom's boss offered free tickets for her and myself. The Mighty Ducks got me started, the New York Rangers taught me (and still count me as one of their biggest fans), and to this day I still drag my loved ones to games with me while I sit for the national anthem.

I love the sport of hockey. The feeling, the look, the atmosphere, the intensity. Everything. I could never tell you what exactly it was that made me fall in love with the sport, but I know I will be a fan until I can't watch anymore. It's no secret though, that the NHL's fanbase isn't home to some of the most progressive fans in the world. Ten years after Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in baseball, Willie O'Ree did the same in hockey. Bracing the cotton balls and racial slurs hurled at him just like Robinson ten years prior, O'Ree skated onto the ice and paved the way for players and fans of my complexion to find another sport we could love so dearly.

You'd think over fifty years would make a difference, wouldn't you? You'd be sadly mistaken. Over the recent years, players like Wayne Simmonds endured having banana peels hurled at him during a shootout (one on one play) in Montreal, and Devante Smith-Pelly most recently had the word "Basketball" yelled at him, after a trip to the penalty box for fighting a Chicago Blackhawks player in Chicago. They have had to deal with these problems for nearly their whole careers.

O'Ree said in an interview that you do not have to look back to his days of playing to find prominent racism in the sport, and he was right. The racism of the NHL and its fanbase isn't just saved for its players, as fans like myself aren't spared any less. Now, as my experiences are nowhere near as serious as those on the ice, it still continues to bother me that the thought of whoever I sit next to at a game, will not share the same views, or like me based on my complexion. I humanly cannot count the number of times I've heard the N-word spewed by fellow players on PS4 or Xbox when playing NHL branded games. I cannot count the number of times I've seen a customer clutch their bag, or had to rethink about the things someone has said to me as a sales associate at the NHL Store in Manhattan. Any racist remark, or action, is unacceptable in every way.

Whether it be a fan or player, the NHL and its fanbase needs to understand that hateful comments or actions done to these people are not acceptable, even though you cannot really expect more from a sport that's been heavily populated by white men since its inception. I guess my plight is really with those in charge of the NHL. As we have a month dedicated to "Hockey Is For Everyone," it still doesn't fill the void left by the NHL for rarely ever acknowledging Black History Month, or trying to expand the game to urban areas mainly consisting of Black and Hispanic residents.

There should be no reason why J.T Brown, a winger for the Anaheim Ducks organization, received death threats after raising his fist during the national anthem before playing against the Florida Panthers when he played for the Tampa Bay Lightning. For months, I've been torn between the young activist in me and the hockey fan I've been since I was four. Columbus Blue Jackets coach, John Tortorella, stated that he would bench players who sat for the national anthem during the World Cup Games in 2016. A prime representation of white privilege, it's people like Tortorella (who is a former Rangers coach mind you) that prevent me from being fully dedicated to the sport. It's people, like the ones I encounter every game, who prevent the NHL from becoming such a beloved sport to more and more people across the U.S. because of their ignorant views.

Of the roughly 982 total NHL players who have stepped on the ice this season, only around 30 are Black. I've heard words of those within the fanbase that say hockey players are real men which is why they don't kneel during the anthem, or that the NHL needs to not put itself within political views. Those who have said that fail to remember that 1) Most NHL players are white, and 2) Opening the game for "all" people is not meddling within political views. If you do not believe that Black people, Hispanics, women, or people within the LGBTQ community do not deserve to be apart of the NHL community, then you are an asshole.

Dearest NHL, I love you, but you need to work on your image.

Cover Image Credit: SB Nation NHL / Twitter

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To The Coach Who Ruined The Game For Me

We can't blame you completely, but no one has ever stood up to you before.
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I know you never gave it a second thought, the idea that you're the reason I and many others, never went any farther in our athletic careers.

I know you didn’t sincerely care about our mental health, as long as we were physically healthy and our bodies were working enough to play. It’s obvious your calling wasn’t coaching and you weren’t meant to work with young adults, some who look to you as a parent figure or a confidant.

I also know that if we were to express our concerns about the empty feeling we began to feel when we stepped onto the court, you wouldn’t have taken the conversation seriously because it wasn’t your problem.

I know we can't blame you completely, no one has ever stood up to you before. No one said anything when girls would spend their time in the locker room crying because of something that was said or when half the team considered quitting because it was just too much.

We can't get mad at the obvious favoritism because that’s how sports are played.

Politics plays a huge role and if you want playing time, you have to know who to befriend. We CAN get mad at the obvious mistreatment, the empty threats, the verbal abuse, “it's not what you say, its how you say it.”

We can get mad because a sport that we loved so deeply and had such passion for, was taken away from us single-handedly by an adult who does not care. I know a paycheck meant more to you than our wellbeing, and I know in a few years you probably won’t even remember who we are, but we will always remember.

We will remember how excited we used to get on game days and how passionate we were when we played. How we wanted to continue on with our athletic careers to the next level when playing was actually fun. We will also always remember the sly remarks, the obvious dislike from the one person who was supposed to support and encourage us.

We will always remember the day things began to change and our love for the game started to fade.

I hope that one day, for the sake of the young athletes who still have a passion for what they do, you change.

I hope those same athletes walk into practice excited for the day, to get better and improve, instead of walking in with anxiety and worrying about how much trouble they would get into that day. I hope those athletes play their game and don’t hold back when doing it, instead of playing safe, too afraid to get pulled and benched the rest of the season.

I hope they form an incredible bond with you, the kind of bond they tell their future children about, “That’s the coach who made a difference for me when I was growing up, she’s the reason I continued to play.”

I don’t blame you for everything that happened, we all made choices. I just hope that one day, you realize that what you're doing isn’t working. I hope you realize that before any more athletes get to the point of hating the game they once loved.

To the coach that ruined the game for me, I hope you change.

Cover Image Credit: Author's photo

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15 Important Facts You Need To Know To Talk Baseball This Postseason

If you keep this information in your back pocket, I guarantee you'll be able to impress everyone while watching games in October.

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I LOVE baseball! I grew up watching it and playing it every chance I got. Now I watch every game I can, I have a fantasy team, and if I can get tickets, I'm dropping everything and heading to the Bronx. Basically, if you want to win me over ask me to watch a game with you! I'm still unsure of what career I'll pursue after college, but my love for baseball has me considering a career in sports journalism. Baseball has had a significant impact on my life, but I know most people don't feel the same. So if you want to be able to talk baseball in October but you have no idea where to start here's 15 things you must know!

1. You need to know which teams made it to the postseason

In Major League Baseball there are two leagues, the American and the National League. The American League teams that made it are the Cleveland Indians, the Houston Astros, the Boston Red Sox, the New York Yankees, and the Oakland Athletics. The National League teams are the Milwaukee Brewers, the Atlanta Braves, the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Colorado Rockies, and the Chicago Cubs.

2. You need to know some key terms

There are certain baseball terms mentioned in this article that will also be mentioned during the games that you need to know to follow along.

1. A starting rotation is comprised of four or five pitchers that start in games

2. The CY Young is a prestigious award given to the best pitcher in each league

3. ERA is a pitching statistic that stands for earned run average

4. Batting average measure a hitters success at the plate by factoring in walks, hits, and strikeouts for previous at-bats

5. Strikeouts occur when when a pitcher throws any combination of three strikes to a hitter

6. A closer is a relief pitcher that gets the final outs in a close game when their team is leading

7. A relief pitcher enters a game after the starter is removed

8. The Bullpen is comprised of the remaining starting pitcher, relief pitchers, and closers

9. The designated hitter does not play in the field but he bats in the lineup

10. An "Ace" is a teams best pitcher

3. You need to know how the divisions work

In each league, there are three divisions (East, Central, and West). The team with the best record in each division wins and advances to the postseason. Here's how it all went down this year.

American League:

East - Boston Red Sox

Central - Cleveland Indians

West - Houston Astros

National League:

East - Atlanta Braves

Central - Milwaukee Brewers

West - Los Angeles Dodgers

These six teams automatically advance to the postseason but four other teams compete in wildcard games to advance in the postseason.

4. You need to know what a wild card game is

The first two games played are elimination wild card games. Meaning that the loser goes home and the winner advances. The teams playing in these games did not win their division, but they had the two best records (excluding division winners) in their league. This year the Yankees will host the Athletics and the Cubs will host the Rockies. The team with the best record gets home field advantage. This year to determine which National league teams would play in the wild card game and which teams would win their division four teams had to play an extra regular season game.

5. You need to know what happens after the wild card games

Once the wild card games are played eight teams will play for their perspective league championship. The Boston Red Sox will play the winner of the American League wildcard game, and the Houston Astros will play the Cleveland Indians. In the National League, the Milwaukee Brewers will play the winner of the National League wildcard game, and the Atlanta Braves will play the Los Angeles Dodgers. These teams will play up to seven games to decide who will play for the American and National League Championship. Then the American and National League Champions play each other for the ultimate prize, a World Series Championship.

6. You need to know about the Houston Astros

The Houston Astros are the returning champs and there starting rotation includes two Cy Young winners in Justin Verlander and Dallas Keuchel as well as ace Gerrit Cole. Not to mention their bullpen which has the lowest ERA in baseball. However, they are not ranked number one in the league.

7. You need to know about the Boston Red Sox

The Boston Red Sox finished with the best record in baseball (108 wins and 54 losses), so they will have home-field advantage as long as they keep winning. Boston's roster includes two MVP candidates, Mookie Betts, and JD Martinez. Boston led the MLB in batting average and runs scored, but perhaps their most valuable asset is left-handed pitcher Chris Sale.

8. You need to know about the Cleveland Indians

The Clevland Indians had an easy road to the postseason due to the worst performance from teams in the AL Central probably ever. Fransisco Lindor and Jose Ramirez each hit over 35 home runs but if the Indians advance it will be because of their pitching. Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, Trevor Baur, and Mike Clevinger all reached 200 strikeouts this season.

9. You need to know about the New York Yankees

The New York Yankees are hosting the Wild Card game, and they finished with a record of 100 wins and 62 losses. This team set the single-season record for home runs with 267 and Miguel Andujar, and Gleyber Torres had phenomenal rookie seasons. In the Postseason relievers often pitch more inning which is good news for the Yankees who have Dellin Betances, Chad Green, David Robertson and closer Aroldis Chapman at their disposal.

10. You need to know about the Oakland Athletics

The Oakland Athletics have a dominant bullpen, and they only lost one game when they were leading after seven innings. The A's are an underdog because of there starting rotation but their designated hitter, Khris Davis hit 47 home runs this season and will likely lead their offense.

11. You need to know about the Milwaukee Brewers

The Brewers acquisition of Christian Yelich before the trade deadline powered Milwaukee to a number one ranking. The starting rotation isn't the teams greatest strength, and they don't have an ace, but they will likely utilize their bullpen to go deep in games.

12. You need to know about the Los Angeles Dodgers

The Dodgers lost to the Astros last year, and they had a rocky start to the 2018 season. The Dodgers have an ace in Clayton Kershaw who for the 10th straight season had an ERA under 3.00. The acquisition of Manny Machado filled the hole left by Cory Seager who suffered a season-ending injury in April. Machado has been instrumental to their offense; he put up 37 home runs this year.

13. You need to know about the Atlanta Braves

The Braves were not the favorites to win their division in postseason polls. They took advantage of the Nationals and the Phillies struggling late in the season, and they finished with 90 wins, 72 losses, and the NL East title. After getting called up rookie Ronald Acuna Jr hit 26 home runs this season, but the most significant improvement came from their pitching staff whose ERA decreased dramatically this year.

14. You need to know about the Chicago Cubs

The Cubs were the World Series champs in 2016, and this is their fourth consecutive season in the playoffs. Their shortstop Javier Baez hit 34 home runs and will likely be considered for national league MVP. However, their offense collectively struggled to hit over .240 in September.

15. You need to know about the Colorado Rockies

The Rockies have made the postseason two years in a row for the first time in franchise history. Nolan Arenado and Trevor Story carried their offense and their postseason hopes depend on these two staying healthy. This year their starting rotation was best in Rockies history but will it be enough to power them to a World Series appearance?

* * *

And that's all you need to know to about postseason baseball. If you keep this information in your back pocket, I guarantee you'll be able to impress everyone while watching games in October. So sit back and enjoy the show, it's going to be a great month of baseball!

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