Tears for Miyah

Warning: this post contains explicit language.

Sometimes it is just so much bigger than sports. Sometimes we take the winning, the losing, and the competition so seriously that we forget that there is so much more to it. The last few months I’ve looked at sports from a variety of perspectives, trying to understand what they mean to those of us that play them or follow them.

Tonight I thought I watched the Wizards come from behind against Celtics in double OT behind 10 straight points from All Star point guard John Wall, until I saw his post game interview. Tonight I watched something bigger.

This morning, Monday, December 8th John Wall lost a friend in 6-year old Miyah Telemaque-Nelson when passed away after a one-year battle with Burkitt’s Lymphoma. Wall met Miyah last March after learning via social media of her wish to meet Niki Minaj and get one of the artist’s signature pink wigs. With the NBA Star’s help her wish was granted. Miyah and Wall filmed a short video directed at Minaj and posted it to Instagram.

Minaj responded the very next day. A few weeks later she met Miyah in New York, where the two hung out and took some awesome photos.

A post shared by Nicki Minaj (@nickiminaj) on

If it had ended last March it would have been an awesome story. Except it didn’t. Over the last 8 months Wall and Miyah remained in contact, FaceTiming as recently as two weeks ago.

After spearheading the Wizards comeback, Wall, the man of the hour and the Wizard’s unquestioned team leader, was the obvious candidate for the post game interview, and he did not disappoint.

What happened next was one of the most genuinely beautiful moments I have ever seen in sports.

CSN reporter Chris Miller put the mic up to Wall and gave him the perfect lead in: “Walk me through your emotions right now”. Wall started slowly: he dedicated the win to Miyah, and added it was an emotional night for him. Pretty straightforward interview stuff that would have sufficiently wrapped up a touching story — only Wall wasn’t done.

He started to find his words and really speak, and as he did palpable emotion crept into his voice and onto his face; this was real. Wall trailed off. Miller noted Wall’s pensive pre game demeanor and asked almost rhetorically: “She really touched your heart didn’t she?”. Wall did not respond. He managed to muster a shrug and a half nod before he slumped over and began crying.

In a world in which athletes have become hyper aware about brand management and multimillion dollar shoe deals, helping a sick girl’s wish come true is some great pub. So is keeping in touch with her, and dedicating a game to her memory. However, what happened during that interview was as real, and as raw, as it get. Fuck the shoes: out of sight of the cameras, reporters, and agents, John Wall and Miyah Telemaque-Nelson formed a friendship that meant as much to the point guard as it did to the vivacious little girl.

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Check out the video for yourself:

Friday Afternoon Football

I’m sure I sound like a broken record at this point, but this post is going to be about football! Even as someone who claims to prefer watching baseball, basketball, and soccer over football, I find America’s most popular sport pervading my sporting interests all fall. Despite being played almost exclusively on Saturdays and Sundays, somehow football finds a way to be on TV ALL THE TIME.

Just last night, I was watching SportsCenter at 1:30 in the morning. To be fair yesterday was a very important day in college football so extensive coverage was warranted, but what wasn’t warranted was the misleading way in which ESPN went about cramming football down my throat! At risk of sounding like a conspiracy theorist, they tricked me into watching the Florida State-Georgia Tech highlight three times. Continue reading

College Football Playoff: A Move to Subjectivity

With the release of the final College Football Playoff rankings today, a new era has officially dawned in college football, and no weekly ranking has been more revealing than today’s final poll. Ranked 3rd overall in last week’s poll, TCU dropped three spots to 6th despite beating Iowa State 55-3. TCU was leapfrogged by Florida State (who beat #11 Georgia Tech 37-35), Ohio State (who beat #13 Wisconsin 59-0), and Baylor (who beat #9 Kansas State 38-27). The final rankings were Alabama #1, Oregon #2, Florida State #3, Ohio State #4, Baylor #5, and TCU #6. Continue reading

HE DID WHAT?

At 8:45 I was sitting in my room wasting time. I had reading and writing to do but I was watching a meaningless (for me) Cowboys-Giants game. I had an idea of how it would play out: close game, the 3-7 Giants would put up a fight and the Cowboys would either choke or they wouldn’t. I’ve seen this game before, so why am I watching?

A few minutes into the second quarter, Giants’ receiver Odell Beckham reminded me why. Continue reading

Sunday Night Civics

Veteran’s Day was Tuesday, and the NFL, NBC, and ESPN took it upon themselves to make sure you wouldn’t miss it. Camo accessories, American flags, flyovers, feature stories; I mean the works. If the NFL wasn’t already the most American thing ever, it cemented its status as such last weekend.

I don’t exactly mean American in the classic mocking sense either. It’s been well established that football is the perfect synthesis of innumerable negative American stereotypes from cheap beer to brutality. I am more interested in exploring the ways in which the NFL has subtly transformed itself into a beacon of patriotic Americanism as the organization that brings us a “star-spangled fight” every Sunday Night at 8:30 on NBC.

Many aspects of sport are quintessentially American: constant competition with clear winners and losers, underdogs pulling themselves up by their bootstraps in their fight to the top, and an emphasis on exemplary individuals even as they operate within a team. Combine these familiar values with the grand spectacle that the NFL is, it is no surprise that it has become one of the preeminent forms of wholesome American entertainment.  Continue reading

Week 42

Six days ago the best week in professional sport passed us by without fanfare. Marked by the World Series and NBA opening night the last week in October features every major American professional sport; even international soccer is in full swing.

Unfortunately this year the MLB playoffs moved so quickly through the first two rounds that last Tuesday and Wednesday were the only nights hosted baseball and basketball simultaneously. Ironically, the one major sport that hasn’t started yet kept me from fully experiencing nirvana week; college basketball preseason. Two weeks into practice, we’re working hard to get all of our plays and concepts in before the regular season starts on the 15th so practice has been a little bit longer than usual. Getting in early and staying late, has meant that my TV time has been compromised. On Wednesday I only got to see the final at bat of Game 7. Continue reading

What in the World is Going On?

Within the last few years the NFL has begun expanding its brand to Europe, particularly the UK. Every season Wembley Stadium in London hosts at least one regular season game; there has even been talk of relocating the defunct Jacksonville Jaguars to London on a permanent basis.

Yesterday, at Wembley, the Lions beat the Falcons on a last-second field goal after a wacky set of events that seemed all too familiar to avid football fans. This cultural transmission of sport from the US to the UK got me thinking about the sports that they play fervently in England and how we understand them in the US.

Soccer is certainly starting to catch on here, but it has been widely played for 30 years now and is the preeminent global sport. Instead, I am thinking about sports like rugby and cricket that simply do not receive the mainstream attention that soccer gets here, and like football in England, are niche sports that few Americans follow closely. Continue reading