NY scholastic sports should get with the times

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In my 20 years writing sports in New York, I wrote a few columns critical of the New York State Public High School Athletic Association’s inclusion of non-public schools in its public high school championships. There was an inherent unfairness to allow private schools, that do not draw students from geographic boundaries, to compete against true public schools that do.  Some private schools do not prioritize excellence in athletics, while many others do. 

Those schools that do prioritize athletics and consistently compete at the highest level of New York prep sports are merely reclassified to higher enrollment classifications, rather than address the incongruous playing field.

This is a criticism I have long eschewed, but it doesn’t appear anyone in a position to effect change will even consider a revision of this practice.

My other criticism of the NYSPHSAA was born more of my three-plus years covering New Mexico high school state tournament events as a freelance sports writer.

Robert Zayas, current chief of the NYSPHSAA, was formerly the executive director of the New Mexico Activities Association, which oversees New Mexico’s prep athletics. 

New Mexico’s tournaments underwent some tweaking under Zayas’ stewardship, and I like what they’ve done.  Instead of “sections,” which is a New York term, New Mexico has districts. District playoffs are held at the end of the regular season, and the district champions earn automatic bids to the state tournament.

The next points are where New Mexico differs from New York.

After wrapping up my final tournament story last night, I learned from veteran reporters that the NM tournaments have undergone numerous changes. One of the more prominent ones was the expansion of the field – in each enrollment class – from eight to 16 teams.

From what I can tell, half the tournament fields are at-large bids.  And better yet, there aren’t templated regional matchups.  Teams are actually seeded one through 16, and aside from the opening round games, which are hosted by the higher seed, the entire field comes to Albuquerque to finish the quarterfinals through finals at one of two sites over six days.

Semifinals and finals are all played at “The Pit,” home of the University of New Mexico, and through countless interviews with coaches and players, it’s every high school basketball player’s dream to make it to “The Pit.”

Perhaps the most important point to make, for me, is the request to abolish standardized regional matchups, and just “seed” the teams.  College and professional sports conduct their season-ending tournaments with a seeding process, and little ol’ New Mexico has been doing it for years.

The seeding process, indeed, has some subjectivity involved, but there are dozens of sports writers across the state that could easily come together as a committee to seed all teams – to the best of their given knowledge. Sure, they’ll get it wrong from time to time, but the benefit is to see the “best” teams meeting in the semifinals and finals.

Five years ago, I saw one of the best state playoff basketball games in my two decades covering Chenango County sports. Norwich and Westhill played in the traditional Section 3 vs. Section 4 regional quarterfinal.

The game went to overtime, and Norwich was a rimmed-out three-pointer from extending the game to double overtime. Westhill went on to pummel its remaining opponents, and also cruised through the Federation tournament.

Those were clearly the two best teams in the state that year, and that game should have been a state final, not a quarterfinal game.  With appropriate seeding, that may well have happened.

Fast forward five years to this year’s state tournament.

Unadilla Valley’s boys and Norwich’s girls each made state tournament appearances, and both bowed out in the first round of their state playoff games – again in the usual Section 3 vs .4 matchup.

UV lost by 15 to Cooperstown, but made things interesting for a while in the second half.  Cooperstown, meanwhile, rolled through its semifinal game, and may well capture the state title.

An easy argument can be made that with tournament seeding, Cooperstown and UV should not have seen each other until perhaps the semifinals.

With Norwich, it’s an even clearer argument for tournament seeding.

Norwich dropped its intersectional playoff game to South Jefferson, a game it was leading by as many as 10 points in the second half.  South Jeff narrowly lost its semifinals game to Irvington by one possession, and Irvington blew out its finals opponent to capture the state title.

Norwich and South Jefferson, based on their respective bodies of work in the regular season (Norwich did beat Class A state finalist Seton Catholic Central multiple times) should never have met so early in a tournament.

Sure, Norwich may have lost to another school in the final eight, but at least it wouldn’t be to a fellow top-four seed.  The same with Unadilla Valley.

Zayas was an agent for change during his tenure in New Mexico. Perhaps he’ll put his thumbprint on New York as well, get with the times, and run a 21st-century state tournament – with actual seeds.

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‘Effort’ the constant in NHS girls’ basketball’s success

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This past Friday, Norwich’s girls’ basketball team won its first Southern Tier Athletic Conference championship in 18 years. Other than maybe a senior or two, no one on the current team was even born in February, 2001 when Norwich claimed that title, and current head coach, Josh Bennett, was a senior guard on the boys’ basketball team.

The fact that Norwich has had a winning basketball team most of those 18 years – and highly competitive at that – it’s almost an anomaly that Norwich hasn’t won a STAC title. Perhaps it’s due to another great conference team stepping up year after year.  When Norwich was really good, it always seemed like a Binghamton, a Seton Catholic Central, an Oneonta, a Susquehanna Valley were a little better.

Not this year.

Granted, the 35-point championship win came against a previously-unbeaten Owego team that was missing a key starter and some reserves, but at this level, unless that missing player is a LeBron James-type talent, one player probably will not make a 35-point difference in a high school basketball game.

Bennett said as much in a post-game quote in the Press and Sun Bulletin.

The Purple Tornado have not taken the easy road to a 19-1 record.  Owego came into the game, as mentioned, unbeaten; Elmira, who Norwich beat on Wednesday, was the STAC large school division champion with nearly three times the enrollment of Norwich; and other wins have come against Horseheads, Utica Proctor, and Seton Catholic Central (multiple times). 

Norwich’s only loss was to one of the top-ranked AA schools in the state – Bishop Kearney – which may compete for a state title in New York’s largest enrollment classification.

I’ve been out of the day-to-day mix of Chenango County sports for three years, but still passively follow local results reading published stories on newspaper websites.  Through most of the season, I wasn’t sure what to make of Norwich’s girls, other than the fact they were winning regularly. 

I was aware of that one loss to Bishop Kearney in December, but did not know Norwich’s overall record until a couple weeks ago.  I definitely did not know that the one loss in December was the only blemish on Norwich’s record. 

Earlier this month, I tuned into what was probably the first Norwich girls’ basketball broadcast I had ever heard – radio or otherwise – on the Mixlr app.  Norwich was playing Seton Catholic Central, and I believe it was the win over the Saints in which Sydney Coggins buried a bunch of 3’s. 

And in every game since that time, Norwich has buried a bunch of three balls from a variety of players.  Bennett hit the nail on the head in a post-game quote pointing out that he has a team with multiple players that can drive to the basket, and multiple players that can hit the three.  If you sag the defense, Norwich will take the three; but if you press up on defense, the players will drive to the basket.

It’s a pick-your-poison scenario, and so far, no one in Section IV has solved that dilemma.

This isn’t, however, a new Norwich offensive philosophy.  Since Bennett took over the NHS program, the approach has been to push the ball up the floor, encourage dribble penetration to the basket, and when the driving lanes close up, kick the ball outside to an open shooter.

And to complement that offense, Norwich is pressing full-court on defense to create chaos and tempo to its advantage.

So why is this approach, familiar to everyone who watches Norwich basketball, working so much better than previous years?  Reading game accounts and listening to recent games, it doesn’t appear Norwich has that one go-to all-star player that coaches circle as “the player” to stop.

Norwich doesn’t have a dominant forward or center, who blocks shots, rebounds, and scores 15 points a game.  There isn’t that one standout point guard either, who controls the offensive flow with a bunch of assists, steals, and points.

You’ve all heard of the “committee” approach? Norwich starts five interchangeable parts, and substitutes at least four more reserves – regularly – with little to no drop-off.  They can all dribble, shoot, and play relentless, hustling defense.

We all marvel at the offensive numbers Norwich produces with the quick surges of points fueled by dead-eye outside shooting. But, count the cumulative scrapes and floor burns after each game that are born of dives for loose balls and selling out for an extra offensive possession.

It’s one thing to have a couple of those players on your team, but to have a team full of those players?  That’s a winning formula. 

You can’t control the aggregate level of talent on your team, but what you can control is your level of effort.  Norwich certainly has talent, but that supreme level of effort may send these girls to their first state playoff appearance in over a decade.
Tornado logo

This past Friday, Norwich’s girls’ basketball team won its first Southern Tier Athletic Con

ference championship in 18 years. Other than maybe a senior or two, no one on the current team was even born in February, 2001, and current head coach, Josh Bennett, was a senior guard on the boys’ basketball team.
The fact that Norwich has had a winning basketball team most of those 18 years – and highly competitive at that – it’s almost an anomaly that Norwich hasn’t won a STAC title. Perhaps it’s due to another great conference team stepping up year after year. When Norwich was really good, it always seemed like a Binghamton, a Seton Catholic Central, an Oneonta, a Susquehanna Valley were a little better.
Not this year.
Granted, the 35-point championship win came against a previously-unbeaten Owego team that was missing a key starter and some reserves, but at this level, unless that missing player is a LeBron James-type talent, one player probably will not make a 35-point difference in a high school basketball game.
Bennett said as much in a post-game quote in the Press and Sun Bulletin.
The Purple Tornado have not taken the easy road to a 19-1 record. Owego came into the game, as mentioned, unbeaten; Elmira, who Norwich beat on Wednesday, was the STAC large school division champion with nearly three times the enrollment of Norwich; and other wins have come against Horseheads, Utica Proctor, and Seton Catholic Central (multiple times).
Norwich’s only loss was to of the top-ranked AA schools in the state – Bishop Kearney – which may compete for a state title in New York’s largest enrollment classification.
I’ve been out of the day-to-day mix of Chenango County sports for three years, but still passively follow local results reading published stories on newspaper websites. Through most of the season, I wasn’t sure what to make of Norwich’s girls, other than the fact they were winning regularly.
I was aware of that one loss to Bishop Kearney in December, but did not know Norwich’s overall record until a couple weeks ago. I definitely did not know that the one loss in December was the only blemish on Norwich’s record.
A couple of weeks ago, I tuned into what was probably the first Norwich girls’ basketball broadcast I had ever heard – radio or otherwise – on the Mixlr app. Norwich was playing Seton Catholic Central, and I believe it was the win over the Saints in which Sydney Coggins buried a bunch of 3’s.
And in every game since that time, Norwich has buried a bunch of three balls from a variety of players. Bennett hit the nail on the head in a post-game quote pointing out that he has a team with multiple players that can drive to the basket, and multiple players that can hit the three. If you sag the defense, Norwich will take the three; but if you press up on defense, the players will drive to the basket.
It’s a pick-your-poison scenario, and so
far, no one in Section IV has solved that dilemma.
This isn’t a new Norwich offensive philosophy, though. Since Bennett took over the NHS program, the approach has been to push the ball up the floor, encourage dribble penetration to the basket, and when the driving lanes close up, kick the ball outside to an open shooter.
And to complement that offense, Norwich is pressing full-court on defense to create chaos and tempo to its advantage.
So why is this approach, familiar to everyone who watches Norwich basketball, working so much better than previous years? Reading game accounts and listening to recent games, it doesn’t appear Norwich has that one go-to all-star player that coaches circle as “the player” to stop.

Norwich doesn’t have a dominant forward or center, who blocks shots, rebounds, and scores 15 points a game. There isn’t that one standout point guard either, who controls the offensive flow with a bunch of assists, steals, and points.
You’ve all heard of the “committee” approach? Norwich starts five interchangeable parts, and substitutes at least four more reserves – regularly – with l

ittle to no drop-off. They can all dribble, shoot, and play relentless, hustling defense.
We all marvel at the offensive numbers Norwich produces with the quick surges of points fueled by dead-eye outside shooting. But, count the cumulative scrapes and floor burns after each game that are born of dives for loose balls and selling out for an extra offensive possession.
It’s one thing to have a couple of those players on your team, but to have a team full of those players? That’s a winning formula.
You can’t control the aggregate level of talent on your team, but what you can control is your level of effort. Norwich certainly

has talent, but that supreme level of effort may send these girls to their first state playoff appearance in over a decade.

The Buffalo Bills are reverting to the mean

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If you’re not a Buffalo Bills fan, then this post will be of little interest. Two weeks ago, I was pleased, but cautiously optimistic about the 5-2 start. I saw message boards on Bills’ fan sites and read local columnists’ pieces touting a possible end to the 18-season playoff drought. I chatted with my youngest sister after the victory over Oakland, and I played devil’s advocate. If you’re a suffering fan of the Bills, there is ample evidence for the “Debby Downer” attitude.

 Noting the upcoming schedule, I pointed out to my sister upcoming dates with New Orleans, Kansas City, and two games with New England. The lighter side of the schedule was the Jets Colts, Chargers, and two games against Miami.  I wasn’t confident my team could get to 10 wins – a playoff team benchmark – and after an embarrassing loss to the Jets 10 days ago, my concerns were amplified.

With the latest drubbing handed down by New Orleans (perhaps the worst home loss in my recollection), the playoffs seem more and more unlikely. The Saints are one of the hottest teams in the league and maybe one of the top three or four teams in the NFL right now. It was a litmus test for Buffalo to establish where it stacks up. Based on today’s performance, the Bills are closer to the preseason predictions of mediocrity than a playoff team. It was an egregiously bad performance, but I know at least one of my family members was pleased.

My oldest daughter attended the game with her boyfriend – her first NFL game – and she confessed to me before the game that she was actually a Saints fan.  I understand, though. She had no choice inheriting my genes, but had free rein to select her favorite sports team. And she had the good sense to avoid jumping into the cauldron of frustration and disappointment that is a Bills fan.

The Bills turned over more than 60 percent of its roster from last year, which has to be one of the most sweeping overhauls in the league. Despite the revamped roster, the Bills are reverting toward the mean.  They’re not that good on offense (26th in the league through nine games), and just as bad on defense (25th in the league).

I guess we should be pleased with the won-loss record. No other team in the NFL is among the worst eight teams in offense and defense, yet maintains a winning record.

I guess it could be worse. At least I’m not a Cleveland Browns fan.

What would Tom Schwan think? He’d like this ‘Internet thing’

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I wonder what Tom Schwan would think about social media and the explosion of the Internet. Particularly, the Internet as a research tool.

Tom died in January, 1996, and for today’s athletes, his name is associated with an early-season basketball tournament hosted by Norwich, and a “Kids Court” at the annual Gus Macker Tournament that lines the streets of Norwich each July.

Tom wrote freelance for The Evening Sun from the late 1960s until his passing, and during that time, it still meant something to see your name in the paper. Sadly, any athletes who performed after 1996 never got to experience a Tom Schwan-written story.

Tom was an indefatigable researcher, and he made the most of what was available.  The Internet was not an efficient or logical resource of information at the time of his death. Dial-up modems made page navigation painfully slow, and there wasn’t the proliferation of sports sites that there are today.

If you read Tom – and his weekly columns – he was a fountain of news tidbits. In addition to his home paper, Tom took several other daily newspapers in the Central New York region. He had made outreach to countless colleges, and was also a recipient (by mail) of sports information updates.

How did I know this? I spent several afternoons at Tom’s house talking sports over coffee, and I bore witness to the hundreds of files, old newspapers, and stacks of notebooks he had stored. 

Tom also subscribed to the New York State Sports Writers Association weekly mailer where he gleaned more knowledge including the always-popular state rankings.

Nearly all of that work can now be done navigating various Internet sites.

Speaking of those state rankings, Tom liked to occasionally use them in his columns. Not because he was sold on their value, but they made nice conversation starters and drummed up interest in games.

Rankings at the high school level – at least through the first four or five weeks of the season – are a product of reputation, past results, and the historical competitiveness of one’s league or conference. 

Until recent years, Walton football usually had a state ranking in Class C or D; Chenango Forks is a staple in Class B (and previously Class C); and up until last year, Maine-Endwell was a regular in the rankings.

In boys’ basketball, Norwich remains a fixture in the Class B rankings.   But in all these sports, rankings do not equate to seedings in the big tournament, or quantify how good a team really is outside of its local bubble.

Coaches will tell you – on the record, at least – that rankings don’t mean anything.  Yet, I have rubbernecked a few coaches-players team conferences, and rankings have entered the conversation many a time.

Be it to extoll one’s own ranking, or to put the opposing team’s ranking on the billboard for motivational fodder, coaches know when it’s useful to mention state rankings.

The rankings, and the means by which we acquired those rankings, are now obsolete.  Tom was a chemist by trade, and he was recently retired from Procter and Gamble when I met him in August, 1995.

Everything we were doing at the time – and Tom’s research process – now seems woefully out of date by today’s standards. 

Tom suggested I subscribe to that same NYSSWA newsletter, and he also suggested I order a copy of Clell Wade high school directory for public and private New York high schools.

I ordered one for the 1996 year, and it was quite useful. It had addresses, enrollment numbers, phone numbers and fax numbers for athletics departments across the state. It also had the contact person in the AD’s office, and even gave the school’s nickname. 

I used that book faithfully for about five or six years until my copy seemed out of date. So, I ordered an updated copy around 2002.  The Internet was now an entrenched application, and page navigation speed was vastly improved. 

But MaxPreps was not nearly the source of high school information that it is today, so old-school research was still relevant.

None of what we used to do for research is now relevant.

I am no great sage and certainly not the first person to see the writing on the wall. Newspapers were creating online versions of their newspaper, and they were giving away their content for free.

I remember saying to a number of people probably around 2003, 2004, that newspapers would eventually succumb to the Internet.  Again, I wasn’t Nostradamus or any great soothsayer, any veteran journalist saw this coming.

Newspapers will survive, though. It may not be in the form we’re used to, but my next prediction is that someone a heck of a lot smarter than me will develop a business model that will make traditional newspapers profitable on the Internet.

They will adapt, and I’m confident Tom Schwan, if he were alive today, would have adapted nicely to this new technology.

Collins a blessing to the masters track and field community

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Bill Collins

Bill Collins runs every race like it could be his last. And in truth, every race really could be his last.
Collins, 66, blew away the competition in the 60-meter dash  in the 65-69 men’s final at the USA Track Field Masters Indoors Championships in Albuquerque, N.M. this past weekend.
It was yet another victory to add to the innumerable titles the masters track and field Hall-of-Famer has  won. His winning time of 7.79 seconds – and he did ease up near the finish line – would have made him a contender to win at least two of the younger age groups.
And Collins planned to add to his championship resume. He won his heat in the 200-meter dash prelims to move him into the Sunday, Feb. 19 finals.
Then Collins disappeared for a couple of hours.
When he returned, he told the local press, “My leg doesn’t work,” he said pointing to his upper-left thigh.
In the interim between his 200-meter prelim win early in the afternoon, and when he returned to the indoor track facility, Collins had seen a neurologist, and was told the nerves were not firing in that leg.
Collins, who planned to run the 200-meter final and the 4×200 relay with his Houston Elite teammates, was forced to withdraw.
This is the life that Collins now lives. He can’t predict with any certainty that the muscles in his legs will be working the next day, or even the next hour.
You see, Collins was dealt a pretty bad hand at age 60 when he was diagnosed with Guillain-Barre Syndrome. It’s an incurable, rare condition that systematically damages the nervous system causing rapid onset of muscle weakness and paralysis.
“Every morning when I wake up, I cramp up for 15 to 20 minutes. So it’s a hard start to get moving,” Collins said. “Some days the nerves work well and I can train, and sometimes they totally shut off – even midway through a race.”
In its most acute phases, Guillain-Barre Syndrome often leads to death, and Collins nearly died six years ago. He was given a 50-50 chance, he said.
“The doctors flipped a coin, and they said, ‘Bill, do you want the hemoglobin treatment for five days?'” Collins said. “The treatment killed the remaining cells in my body, and I either had to recover or not.”
It would be easy for Collins to dwell on his chronic condition. Most people are diagnosed with GBS in their early 40s, and Collins said, at age 60, he was one of the oldest people to contract the disease.
In a way, Collins’ fortunes on the track mirror the ups and downs we all experience in life. He was a teenager in 1968 when he made his first international track and field team, that after winning four New York State track and field titles.
He was an all-American college sprinter at TCU, and at age 26, made the 100-meter finals in the U.S. Olympic Trials with an opportunity to qualify for the 1976 Olympics at Montreal.  Twenty meters from the finish line – and in position to make the top three – he pulled up with a leg injury.
Still, he bounced back in 1977 taking part in the world record-breaking 400-meter relay timing 38.03 seconds. It was a record that stood for several years.
And, just months before the 1980 Olympics, Collins traveled south to Trinidad and Tobago for a race that included defending Olympic champion Hasely Crawford.
Collins won that race, and was among the favorites to win a gold medal at the 1980 Moscow Olympics.
It’s every track and field athlete’s dream is to win an Olympic gold medal, but Collins, and the entire U.S. summer team, never had that chance as the United States boycotted the Olympics.
“Yeah, I think about it,” Collins said about missing the chance to medal at the Olympics. “But I’ve done everything else you can possibly do in track and field.”
Collins said that his doctors advised him that continuing to compete in track and field is doing more harm than good to his body. He sees the finish line to his career rapidly approaching, but feels fortunate that he can still set an example to other athletes.
“One thing my father taught me is that when you get up in the morning, you’ve already been blessed by God,” he said. “You have to go out and be a blessing for someone else. That’s my motto, and I try to help anybody I can.”

Rousey should hang up the gloves

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Ronda Rousey

The game didn’t catch up to Ronda Rousey. For all her physical gifts, Rousey’s skill set did not evolve beyond that of a brutish bully that threw opponents to the mat, and arm-barred them into submission in a minute or less.

The Olympic judo medalist possessed – and likely still possesses – world-class athleticism.  No one was immune to her bull rushes…until Holly Holm.

And now, Amanda Nunes.

Holm shattered that invincible aura with excellent footwork and counterpunching, but Nunes just picked Rousey apart from the first left jab. Let’s face it, Nunes did not piece up the same Rousey who seemed invincible just over a year ago.

That Rousey died with a swift kick to the head from Holm.

Other than Rousey’s one-punch knockout of an overmatched Bethe Correia and a well-placed knee to the gut that stopped Sarah McMann, Rousey was, and is, a glorified one-trick pony.

She didn’t have to learn serviceable boxing and striking because her one elite skill trumped the combined skills of a well-rounded opponent.

Sure, we all saw videos of Rousey pounding the mitts held by her trainer, Edmond Tarverdyan. Those mitts were not moving targets, though, and Rousey unleashed those powerful shots with impunity.

Ever known a trainer to punch back at a prized pupil?

Those two stoppage wins for Rousey were perhaps the worst outcomes of her career. The victories by strikes – not her patented armbar – launched a delusion that she could easily transition from MMA to boxing. If she so chose.

That delusion was relentlessly stroked by Tarverdyan, who often bragged of Rousey’s sparring achievements. Rousey was deftly derailed from the path that brought women’s mixed martial arts into the sports mainstream.

And it came from her own team.

Rousey abandoned her “X Factor” for boxing. In truth, the only boxing she has ever needed was to perfect tactical entries into close range in order to get her hands on her opponent.

Oh, and to maybe duck once in a while from an incoming punch.

Rousey didn’t really need to evolve much to beat 90 percent of the women in her division. She was the Ultimate Fight Championship’s ultimate specialist.

An athlete so good at her primary combat discipline, she didn’t need to be good at anything else.  If Rousey does decide to continue her fighting career, she would be wise to emulate UFC welterweight contender Demian Maia.

Maia came to the UFC a decorated jiu-jitsu practitioner with multiple world titles. Like Rousey, Maia picked up some serviceable striking, but he got away from his dominant skill.

Maia went 4-4 over a 3-year stretch culminating in a decision loss to Chris Weidman.  Since that time, he has returned to his jiu-jitsu roots picking up a number of submission wins. He makes no bones about it, either: His sole purpose is to bring the fight to the mat.

Maia bounced back into title contention by returning to his base.  Rousey can do the same thing, although Nunes may be the one stylistic matchup she cannot overcome.

Many say Rousey deserved this steep fall from the top. She made millions in the sport, has made millions more outside the cage, but has not typically displayed the humility and graciousness in victory – and defeat – that we expect of our sports heroes.

Sure, Rousey lifted women’s mixed martial arts out of obscurity. She was that transcendent athlete who became a household name outside of sports circles.

But a lasting impression in my mind is the post-fight snub she gave to Miesha Tate 3 1/2 years ago. There was long-term animosity between the two fighters stemming from Rousey’s first title win over Tate several years ago.

The two waged a rematch, and that mutual dislike for one another reared itself in the promotional build-up. Rousey dominated the rematch winning by – yes, you guessed it – armbar in the third round.

Tate was ready to bury the hatchet right away, and extended a congratulatory hand, but Rousey walked away, mean mug and all, toward her corner.

Rousey cited some disrespect toward Tarverdyan and another of her trainers as the reason she eschewed Tate’s concession of defeat.

Really?  Rousey’s own mother has made statements far more critical of Tarverdyan, and for the entire world’s consumption.

The old biblical verse, “you reap what you sow” is never more evident here. Even if it hurts to do so, the principle of sportsmanship should rise above the disappointment of failure.

No matter your athletic level, from rank amateur to professional athlete, one of the first things we learn from competition is respect for the sport and respect for the opponent.

Rousey was obliterated and embarrassed by Nunes due to an inability to adapt her fight skills, and from a monetary perspective, there is no reason to feel sorry for her.  She has banked millions from fighting with a lucrative post-fight career in the offing.

Rousey knows those basic tenets of sportsmanship from her Olympic experience.  We have seen her show sportsmanship from a front-runner’s role, but the truest test of character comes from how one handles adversity.

Rousey rose from living out of her car to a multinational sports star. Seems Rousey has also forgotten that person.

The Rousey who had to adapt, who had to persevere, and who had to overcome to survive, is now in the distant past. For that, she should never fight again.

 

We’re better than that

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Since Donald Trump announced his candidacy for president in the summer of 2015, the likelihood of the real estate magnate actually winning the presidency was somewhere between slim and hell no.

The pollsters concurred, almost unanimously, that Hillary Clinton was the presumptive president-elect.  Boy were those pollsters wrong — soooo wrong. Up until the day before the election, nearly every major poll predicted a Clinton victory, and some had Clinton accruing over 300 electoral college votes.

Sooo wrong.

Early Tuesday evening, the dominoes fell Trump’s way – Florida, North Carolina, and Ohio. Later on, Wisconsin, and…gasp, Pennsylvania.  Michigan has still not declared a winner, but Trump has the upper hand, and with that state secured, will have won 30 states and over 300 electoral votes.

A mandate for Trump?  Perhaps, but more so a mandate for the average Joe.

Who would’ve thought that the average blue collar worker with little to no college education would so strongly support a man born with a silver spoon in his mouth?

I’m sure stranger things have happened, but I can’t think of anything off the top of my head.

Trump may be a billionaire with several multi-million dollar homes all over the country and the world, but he speaks in manner that the common man finds agreeable.

Sure, he has tapped into a portion of the electorate that as Hillary Clinton said, is likely deplorable. But most of the people who voted for Donald Trump on Tuesday are no different than you and me.

While I am college educated, in many other ways, I fit the profile of the Trump voter.   I came from a middle class upbringing far from affluence, and from a financial standpoint, my wages have remained stagnant for most of the Obama presidency.

I spent a long time working in an industry that is now in decline, and I find myself underskilled and undertrained for today’s job market.  I have as much a right to complain as the typical Trump voter, but I’m not.

What makes me different from many of the Trump voters?  A global view.

And in this turbulent time when people are hurting, people are struggling, and people are frustrated with the leadership in Washington, Trump’s narrow purview struck a chord.

The essence of Trump’s philosophy is to take care of our own first, and let’s be honest, most people are driven by self-interest and self-preservation. Too, the typical Trump voter is concerned about one or two issues, and living within their own frame instead of looking at the big picture.

Keep it simple, and keep it close to home.

I can’t fault someone who doesn’t think the same way I do, and it’s not an American directive to consider every issue with the same weight.  Sure, it would be an ideal situation if everyone was well informed on social issues, fiscal issues, the environment, foreign relations, and on and on.

They’re not, and what is important to me may not be important to you. That’s the American way, and it’s unfair to characterize a Trump supporter as having some sort of flawed character because the real issues that concern them are not in concert with our own.

We’re better than that.

As much as Trump called the system rigged, he won the presidential election fair and square. I know many of my fellow Democrats are heartbroken, but we’ll regroup.

For all of his vitriolic statements, boneheaded remarks, and inappropriate comments, Donald J. Trump will be sworn in as our 45th President of the States on January 20, 2017. He will ascend to the leadership of the free world, and he’s ours – like it or not.

I’m an optimist by nature, and I hold out hope that the Trump we saw on the election trail was a character he was playing to get elected. The “real” Donald Trump will rise to the occasion and surprise us by making sound, well thought out, pragmatic decisions.

Maybe he won’t, and maybe President Trump will resemble candidate Trump. If that happens, then sure, criticize and oppose Trump to your heart’s content.

There are few people who opposed Trump more than I did, but even Trump deserves a grace period. He hasn’t done anything yet. Nothing.

Do we want to follow in the footsteps of Republicans, who worked to undermine the Obama presidency from day one?

No, we’re better than that.

It’s un-American to root for the failure of a president, especially since he has yet to unveil his agenda or  implement policy.

We all lose when the president is a failure, and it’s been a long time — Richard Nixon — since we had such an abject failure in the oval office.

So we, as Democrats — and Americans — have an obligation to at least give Trump at chance. President Obama didn’t get that opportunity, but you know what, we’re better than that.