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“…Damned if I don’t”

“…Damned if I don’t”

Being a referee is perhaps the single most contentious position in sports. To say it is a thankless task is to imply the opportunity for gratitude; when you’re a referee, there is no gratitude, only scorn and admonishment, eternally. Never should a referee’s decisions transcend the pitch, but on occasion, they do, to tragic consequences.


The whistle blows, the ball sputters away and play halts. It was a questionable move, to be certain; actually, it was downright illegal, and I knew it when I did it. Nevertheless, I hoped the man with the whistle didn’t see me, or at least that he didn’t see all of me in the moment when I bared my true self before my teammates, my opponent, before God Himself. As in the afterlife, absolution on the pitch comes with a price.

* * *

It’s a cold Saturday morning in February, below freezing in fact, which makes standing around as a sub to start the match all the worse. Sticking a head out the window before leaving my apartment wasn’t a sufficient judge of the weather or accompanying wind, and a light hooded sweatshirt did not suffice. My roommate frets about missing the Arsenal match, happening thousands of miles away and five hours ahead, but he is our goalkeeper and the main reason we stood a chance at all. Arsenal’s weekly appointment with disappointment was going to have to wait.

We walk to the pitch, as we do every week, discussing our odds. He had been on the team in seasons previous, and being that I had only just moved in and that they needed to fill a few spots, I joined his club. We speak of our chances at defending his team’s championship. It becomes apparent then that I am underdressed, but we were already going to be late. We start jogging, the flowing blood in my veins a welcome relief from the feeling of stagnant ice, a reminder that I am awake, that I am alive.

Arriving at the field, we gather our belongings into a giant, bland pile of athletic tote bags and sneakers, kicked off in favor of boots. I wear Adidas, the same pair I’ve worn for five years, and they now look their age more than ever. The rubber on their tongues is starting to peel, and the mud is forever stained, giving the boots a subtle but distinct shade of off-white. Pulling them on, I begin to lose feeling in my toes. I shake my feet and perform crude calisthenics in an effort to ward off injury. My roommate heads to goal, imploring us to send him tough shots to warm up.

Looking at his watch, already far behind the league’s schedule for the morning, the referee blows his whistle and commands the captains to the center. Deferring to my teammates, who are better and more familiar with each other than with me, I walk off to the sideline. Another blow of the whistle, a roll of the ball, and the game begins.

 Jittering with each passive breeze that blows in off the nearby harbor, I shuffle my feet as my team battles. Every so often, a whistle interrupts the run of play, the referee calling the ball back for a free kick, while the offending party’s objections whistle off into the clouds. With each foul, the arguments become louder and more indignant:

“Ref, HOW is that a foul? That was all ball!”

“No, ref, my feet didn’t even touch him!”

“C’mon, ref! He’s basically wearing me as a shirt right now!”

And so on, and so forth.

Midway through the first half, I’m called on as a sub, an ostensibly warm and rested body replacing a tired warrior. Immediately, I’m scrambling all over the field, forsaking my given territory as a centre-back to chase opponents and opportunities. To make up for my general lack of skill on the ball, I play with fierce passion, sometimes to my own team’s detriment.

* * *

What players constantly seem to forget in the throes of a tense match is that the referee’s job is hard enough. No one ever thanks the referee, at least not in earnest; any audible “thank you” seemingly delivered in the direction of the ref is, more often than not, actually intended for a spiritual entity, the football gods, or perhaps the player’s own ego. “I want to thank myself for making such an excellent play there, and for having the referee recognize the gratuitous act of injustice that prevented me from completing my run and scoring the goal which inevitably awaited me on the other side of that gruesome tackle.”

I never refute a referee’s ruling. There is not much to be done after a ruling is made anyway, lest you get on the wrong side of the official and give up a highly questionable foul later. It seems heretical from a player’s standpoint, but I have a great deal of sympathy for the officials of a match, particularly at professional levels. No one is ever pleased with what you decide. The best anyone can hope for is being pleased at the acts which come as a result of what you decide, such as a slotted penalty or sent-off opponent. Even then, it seems always to be an act of justice, as if the players themselves do not hold responsibility for their actions any more than the planets do. What you decide as an official may be right in your eyes, and may very well be right objectively, but to some portion of fans, there is no justice.

* * *

We win the game, and the referee is generally inconsequential. We were always going to win the game, regardless of what he decided. Not all officials are so lucky, however. I arrive home that afternoon and read an article about a referee in Argentina getting killed by a player he had previously sent off. The player went to his bag, grabbed a gun and shot the man three times in front of everyone – his teammates, his opponent, in front of God Himself. Never again would that man feel the brisk pain of the cold, or hear the protests of a player. And for what? A disagreement over a child’s game? Neither club nor country can stand for this, yet no one stopped it from happening. I turn off my computer and close my laptop, thankful for the chance to ache.

(Follow Rory on Twitter, check out his blog, and find more of his soccer writing at FanSided.)

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NFL #EMOJIGATE — Every NFL Team Emoji, Ranked

NFL #EMOJIGATE — Every NFL Team Emoji, Ranked

The NFL released it’s comprehensive list of emoji’s today for the upcoming season, as usual equipping them with hashtags specific to each individual team.

From a purely marketing standpoint it’s another way the NFL has succumbed to changing the brand (you know, macho football dudes) in search of the benjamins (read: the internet and it’s click-money) by allowing the corny to creep in. The NFL has shown repeatedly that it works in partnership with ESPN at least in some capacity, and ESPN has clearly shown a desire to get in the ‘hip’ new demographic by running segments as nauseating as this.

Yea, that was painful.

But today is not about the inability of ESPN to relate to a target audience they seem to have only accidentally succeeding in pleasing by putting Scott van Pelt in his own realm. Today is about celebrating all things #NFLEmojis.

Here is the list of all 32 NFL teams and their respective emojis this season on Twitter:

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I will be ranking these emoji’s from 32 down to 1, as it is five in the morning on the west coast and Jake has yet to facebook message me, meaning my work day has yet to officially start. Let’s just do this thing.


#32-27 – The Embarrassment Group – Broncos, Patriots, Jaguars, Chiefs, Chargers, Cowboys

 In no particular order, these five teams set the bar just about as physically low as possible in the emoji game. Using just their team name, a hashtag, and their own logo they have managed to look less exciting and engaging than a Bill Belichick press conference. Embarrassing, really, that an Andy Reid team was unable to muster the creativity necessary to have a good emoji. Must have run out of time.

#26-23 – The ‘Go ____’ Group – Bills, Niners, Packers, Steelers

I know the Packers use ‘go pack go’ in Lambeau, but they get included in this group. Using ‘Go’ and then just the team name is probably Paul Finebaum’s idea of creativity. Don’t pretend like you put in any more effort than the embarrassment group, you are equally as pathetic

#22 – #GiantsPride – Giants

I’ll just leave this here:

#21-18 – The ‘Up’ Group – Titans, Dolphins, Falcons, Jets

I guess I never considered what a Dolphin, a Titan, and a Jet all had in common before today. They all apparently travel in the upwards direction. Like the ‘go’ group, this is juuuuuust enough effort to land you a massive contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers. More points for Atlanta and Miami for using Rise and Fins respectively, instead of #JetUp and #TitanUp. Seriously Jake, where are the Titans in Tennessee? Frank Wycheck. Boom.

#17 – #ForTheShoe – Colts

The Indianapolis Colts apparently believe the coolest part about a Colt is it’s horseshoe, as they have continued to rebrand towards that idea. To win for THE shoe implies that there is one chief shoe in the tribe of shoes, and they shall fight for victory in it’s name. The Colts are arguably becoming the most boring team in the NFL with Andrew Luck’s stupid flip phone cheeseballiness and this whole shoe thing. Get it together please.

#16 – #FeedDaBears – Bears

Too much going on here. There’s a joke to be had about feeding bears which is funny cuz ya know, get it, you aren’t supposed to. The other joke is a homage to the late Mike Ditka, may his soul rest in peace. Putting these two jokes together is basically the equivalent of putting Skip Bayless and Colin Cowherd in the same room. Both are okay on their own, but catastrophic together.


HALFTIME PLAY THIS MUSIC AS YOU READ THE REST:


#15 – #RavensFlock – Ravens

Nice fact.

#14 – #WeAreTexans – Texans

Also, nice fact.

#13 – #HTTR – Redskins

I don’t know what it is about Kirk Cousins but I like him so I let this hashtag slide. HTTR is so non-descriptive that I literally just had to google it. If they hadn’t included the logo’s no one would use this thing. Also using the word ‘hail’ in reference to a group of persecuted native americans who clearly do not appreciate you using their name to describe a sports franchise has always seemed a little insensitive to me. Always as in the last 15 minutes since I googled.

#12 –  #WeAre12 – Seahawks

You sure are.

#11 – #KeepPounding – Panthers

This one would be much higher on my list if this picture didn’t exist, but it does so it has to get docked points because I immediately associate the two:keeppouding

#10 – #SAINTS50 – Saints

You know you’ve officially cracked the top ten when we start to get to anniversary seasons. People LOVE reminiscing, just look at alumni relations departments. Not much else on this, it’s been a great 50 years New Orleans, thanks for the memories.

#9 – #FlyEaglesFly – Eagles

This one I can sort of get behind, seeing as though the Eagles suck and all. Eagles fly, and when they fly they fly. So fly eagles fly.

#8. #RaiderNation – Raiders

Weird team down in Oakland, but this whole raider nation thing they have been doing for a long time now is actually starting to grow on me. It’s a collective identity in raider nation, all of the fans seemingly sharing that same distinct disdain for all other opposing most likely caused by them being the forgotten little brother in a massive state of sports. Raider Nation has come to define that rag-tag group, I sort of like it. Plus if your hashtag is going to be anything it should probably be the phrase that best represents your fan base. They will be the ones using it non-sarcastically, anyways.

#7 – #MobSquad – Rams

Listen here, Rams. Rebranding doesn’t just happen like THAT. You can’t go from a zero storyline bad Jeff Fisher team in the midwest to MOB SQUAD overnight. That’s just insane. I do, however, want to place you slightly ahead of the Raiders so the fans continue to feel slighted.

#6 – #BeRedSeeRed – Cardinals

I like it. The cards are one of the scariest teams in football and few places are harder to play than a packed Arizona stadium filled to the brim with Red. Cool little hashtag.

#5 – #DogPound – Browns

God bless the Browns fans who continue to rally behind dog pound and get super hyped for another dismal season. Honestly it isn’t sad anymore it’s uplifting how enthusiastic the fans of the Cleveland Browns are. Keep Pounding. Wait.

#4 – #WhoDey – Bengals

If they had incorporated emoji Andy Dalton in there somehow they would be higher, but I am a big fan of who dey.

andydalton

#3 – #OnePride – Lions

A clever play on the word ‘Pride’ which doubles as a pack of lions. Lions fans have a lot to be proud of lately, and I expect huge things from Calvin Johnson this season. He’s not too old, definitely not close to the tail end of his career. Some could possibly say he is right in his sweet spot in regards to age of receivers, and could have a huge season with his youthfulness still present. Exciting times in Detroit. I just hope he doesn’t play too long like Barry Sanders did, I want to see him retire before he’s too old.

#2 – #Skol – Vikings

I looked it up, and Skol is basically a loose translation of the word ‘cheers’ in english and english english. Saying Skol indicates you are cheers-ing with a viking, so the phrase literally means ‘Go Vikings’. See, NFL, that’s the cool stuff I want more of.

#1 – #SeigeTheDay – Bucaneers

This is all that needs to be said about the mis-calculation made by Bucs front office members, who accidentally used Siege instead of Seize.

Screen Shot 2016-09-07 at 8.20.43 AM

 

God I love the NFL. Welcome back.

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ROUNDTABLE — (NCAA) FOOTBALL IS BACK!!!!!

ROUNDTABLE — (NCAA) FOOTBALL IS BACK!!!!!

(Mikey’s Note, this is long and I love roundtables and I haven’t been included in one in a while so I cut nothing. READ AWAY PEOPLE)

NCAA FOOTBALL BITCHES

KNOXVILLE, TN - AUGUST 31, 2014 - Aerial wide shot from overhead of a full stadium during the Season opening game between the University of Tennessee Volunteers and the Utah State Aggies at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville, TN. Photo By Matthew S. DeMaria/Tennessee Athletics

Michael H: In my very humble opinion, the atmosphere at a college football game – especially in the South – is as close as we get in American sports to the atmosphere of a big European club soccer match. Generation upon generation of folks root their guts out for their beloved college football team.

My wife’s family is from Tennessee and are gigantic Vols fans, natch. I have been in Neyland Stadium amongst over 100,000 Vols fans clad in yellow and white. No other sporting experience I have had comes close to the electricity and elation I witnessed their – I also was lucky enough to watch a come-from-behind overtime win against South Carolina a few years back. It was insane.

As for myself, I’m an Illinois Fighting Illini fan (smh). We have had little to be optimistic about recently (thanks Tim Beckman). Sure, we have had some decent players: Red Grange, Dick Butkus, Rashard Mendenhall, Brandon Lloyd, Vontae Davis, Jeff Allen…uh…Arrelious Benn? Anyway, yeah. But now Lovie Smith is here. He is the biggest football coach the Illini have probably ever had (apologies to Ron Zook, psyche). This year will most likely be a rough one, but hopefully future potential recruits will give Illinois another look simply because of the name recognition. He has to keep Illinois boys in-state, and own Chicago.

They open with Murray State (yay!), but don’t play Indiana somehow (insane), and end with a Michigan State-Wisconsin-Iowa-Northwestern trail of tears. Still, I am really pumped for college football Saturdays. I-L-L.

tcu

Shaun: I’m here to teach things people. Study up. – The Big XII Conference has represented itself as one of the power conferences in college football, boasting the motto: “One True Champion.”  During the 2014 season, the Big XII awarded conference championship trophies to the Baylor Bears and the Texas Christian University Horned Frogs.  ONE true champion; TWO champions.  And this decision to award two champions hurt big time.  Both Baylor and TCU were poised to make an appearance in the first official College Football Playoff, although the odds were admittedly slim that both would make it.  That would come down to the results of conference championships in the other power conferences in the final week of the regular season.  Then, when the final College Football Playoff seedings were released, both teams were stuck on the outside looking in.  Ohio State leapfrogged both Big XII schools, winning the Big Ten championship, and on the final weekend of the college football season, Baylor and TCU sat at home, with no opportunity to help themselves get into the inaugural CFP in any way.  Their conference failed them.

For ONLY ONE MORE SEASON WE HAVE TO DEAL WITH THIS.  As of 2017 (next season) the Big XII will once again implement a conference championship game, and we can no longer laugh at the Big XII for such a staggering level of ineptitude for handing out two trophies to two teams just a few years ago.  The Big XII has 10 teams in the conference.  This just keeps getting stranger, I know.  But nonetheless, there are two, five-team divisions, and the conference has announced that they will reinstate their championship game for the first time since Colorado and Nebraska left for other conferences in 2010.  Last season, Oklahoma made it into the final four-team playoff, despite not playing in a championship game.  Now that the NCAA allows conferences with less than 12 teams to host a championship game, the Big XII is the first conference to jump at the opportunity (why this was an NCAA rule in the first place, I have no idea). Hopefully there is no controversy at the top this season.

(Oh, and the millions of dollars that will come into the conference for hosting a championship game won’t be too shabby, either.)

 



BONUS FEMALE PERSPECTIVE COMING IN FIRE FLAMES

Emily: This will be my first football season where I actually have a semi-grasp on what’s happening on the field. I’m not in a fully committed monogamous relationship with any given team – but am open to suggestions if you think one would be a good fit for me. What usually gets me going about football season is the fact you can Sunday Funday with a legitimate excuse and more than likely everyone in your office will be on the same page Monday morning. In a word (or three), what sums up football season for me is: buffalo chicken dip.

bcd



EricCollege football is back and I could not be happier. Is it because I am a Boston College fan and think this is their year? Definitely not but anything is better than last year for them. The real reason I am so excited: college football gambling. While I am not putting my rent money on the line each week, I do like to place some bets during these upcoming fall Saturdays. Gambling may not be everyone’s cup of tea but it can be quite the thrill even with smaller bets being placed. Most Saturdays you won’t get the big time games until later in the evening but why not enjoy every game a little bit.

Week 1 puts UMass up against Florida, obviously a mismatch that does not look like a win for UMass. How do you make it interesting? Well, UMass is a 37 point underdog so why not put down some money and give them a 37 point lead and make Florida score more than five touchdowns more than UMass. Another one of my favorite bets to place on most Saturdays is a multiple team parlay bet for a small amount. Basically I pick about ten or so teams with a spread and place like $5 on it. Depending on the odds, if all of those teams cover the spread, that $5 can turn into $500. If you win the first nine games though, the tenth game is not for the faint of heart even if it is only $5 on the line.

(Editor’s Note, Yes I know this is illegal, Yes I love Eric. No I won’t omit this.)

clemson

Matt:This season, college football has a massive opportunity to change some social conversations. For and foremost, I am hoping a new storyline comes out which will finally extinguish the Harambe memes. Dabo can help out by once again setting the internet ablaze with his OG dances moves. Secondly, I’m excited for the discussion on amateurism to take a step forward. Leonard Fournette is a human bowling ball who should be my flex option every Sunday this year. The usual pundits will be back on the scene to promote proper compensation for our athletes. This time has the potential to be different, however. Let’s add up some ingredients and see if a major sports story is in the making. Football is religion in the South. The American South is still dripping with racism. Major college football stars are African American. These stars do not get paid to perform for many white, bigoted fans. America is approaching another boiling point regarding racial tension. Stars are starting to protest on the field… You do the math.

Now for some actual football talk. Clemson is my team. My best friend went to college there and I have had the pleasure of piggybacking on his personal fandom. Plus, I went to see Clemson play Florida State in the Famous Jameis days and it was one of the wildest sporting events I have ever been to. Pencil them in for a playoff bid. Ohio State should get one too. I think Oklahoma returns as well. Finally, pencil out Alabama. Nick Saban wins too much and I just don’t like it. I respect his greatness but I’m rooting for him to lose every single game. If Pop and Belichick had a son it would be Nick Saban. I mean, do we all have to treat the media like they are annoying idiots only there to be a nuisance? No. So Nick Saban, I hope when you open your yogurt today it’s disgustingly watery and you decide it’s not even worth it. Roll damn Tigers, go Clemson.

` And one more thing. College football is back! Which means college basketball is right around the corner…

jamesconner

Mikey: For me, college sports trump the professional level if your measuring device is entertainment instead of quality. The sheer depth in the pool of plotlines to choose from allows you to select the most important, impactful stories instead of skimming the top for 7 stories about Dak Prescott. There are hundreds upon thousands of participants, and finding something you can root for and support is easy once you begin to understand the aspect of collegiate sports as a whole, and the fact that they are college kids at the end of the day.

The thing I am most excited for this season is a player by the name of James Conner, a Pitt running back who has battled cancer to take the field this season. He was a heisman hopeful, then became a cancer survivor, and now has a chance to rise back to the top.

I love sports. I love college football. I am happy it is back.

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watch the throne, five years later: no gold without the darkness

watch the throne, five years later: no gold without the darkness

This is the week of Monday, August 8th and the date marks the fifth birthday of Watch The Throne – a beautiful, pulsating, gilded, collaborative musical effort by Jay and Ye. This is an important – near perfectly produced and enunciated album – that’s a biased opinion but regardless this thing deserves a lot of attention so we’re hosting the first annual Watch The Throne week here at The Open Field in honor of as much. A feature a day, maybe more, and fun stuff in between. na na na. 

___

I know it’s Watch The Throne week but I can’t talk about Kanye West without writing about My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. I still stand by that it’s one of my favorite hip-hop (or all-genre) albums to date. The album’s cohesion, lyricism and production value put this album on the forefront as one of West’s best musical works that I think set the stage for Watch The Throne. After being basically excommunicated by mainstream media after the now infamous incident in where he interrupted Taylor Swift’s (insert snake emoji) VMA speech (Beyonce 4ever,) West went hard to work at creating this masterpiece. His use of creative sampling on this album I believe influenced his albums thereafter, including WTT. Each song on the album varies greatly from one another, however, this work as a whole shows that West is capable of pulling together varying pieces of music into one complete, organic body of art.

First things first, let’s talk about the Phoenix. West’s short film “Runaway” which includes several songs from the album tells the story of his inner struggle. While driving through the woods, West comes across a fallen Phoenix and saves the creature. The Phoenix wakes up in West’s home to the news on TV reporting how a comet has started forest fires throughout the state. West enters and tells the Phoenix, “First rule in this world, baby, don’t pay attention to anything you see in the news.” This could be a form of expression to the audience of not to believe how he was portrayed in the media after the VMA incident. The Phoenix represents West’s muse, his inner creative self. Symbolism surrounding the mythical creature of the Phoenix include wild passion, redemption and fire, things that some may feel need to be tamed. In one scene in the film, West is teaching the Phoenix how to drink out of a teacup. This can be seen as West trying to tame and civilize his inner creative being. After his attempts at civilizing his muse, he brings her to a lavish dinner party that is reminiscent of The Last Supper painting. The guests seem to stare and be uncomfortable at the Phoenix’s presence at the table. West remains happy as he is exposing a form of his self to his acquaintances. However, it seems as though those surrounding him are more critical than accepting.

After a stunningly choreographed ballet performance to the track Runaway, dinner is served to the table. A giant feathered bird is placed in front of the Phoenix at dinner. Disgusted, she begins to scream and scares the other guests away. The Phoenix completely losing control in a public setting is metaphorical for what occurred at the VMA’s with Taylor Swift. His creative self was let loose and offended the public. Afterwards, the Phoenix explains to West that she must burn instead of turn to stone and the two begin to have sex. The camera pans in on the Phoenix straddling West, which is the artwork featured on the album’s cover. The short film Runaway visually presents what the album is trying to say to the audience: explore your creativity and self reflect on the past.

The single thread and theme that holds this album together is the dark and twisted fantasy that West presents in each song as a type of episode. It can also be seen as a response to the huge amount of public criticism and resentment he faced after the VMA incident and prior to the album’s release. My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy’s continuous theme is an aspect of the album that sets a standard for other hip hop albums to be released afterwards. It is how an album should be built and produced. While each track could easily stand on its own individually, the common theme of the dark fantasy pulls them together. Most contemporary hip-hop albums tend to operate on the end of a spectrum that finds each track being more of a separate entity than a part of an album’s whole body of work.

So, how does this bring us to Watch The Throne? To me, at least, there is a huge contrast between these two albums, even though they were produced during the same year. My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy’s genre-bending samples most definitely set the stage for seemingly out of the box features on Watch The Throne. However, and while I am most certainly biased as a mega MBDTF fan, Dark Fantasy provided an entirely different lens for rap. It brought art to the table, it brought self deprecation to the forefront, while WTT at times can feel the opposite as that. Blades of Glory sampling anyone? I mean, I guess it was kind of expected. What would you expect two of industry’s biggest talents to discuss? Yes, it’s a fun album but I think much more taunting and thought provoking lyricism could have been written. While WTT carries over some of the ambitions of MBDTF, we have to appreciate the album for what it is: ‘Ye and Jay epically rapping about what comes naturally to them.

Thanks MBDTF for setting the stage for Watch the Throne – we appreciate you for giving us a proper soundtrack to continue to get ready to post-college. No, track no. 3 will never get old. Ever.

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The “With Us” Foundation — Q&A With Pat Connaughton

The “With Us” Foundation — Q&A With Pat Connaughton

“…they will look back on their success and say ‘It all started “With Us”‘

The term ‘legacy’ is something tossed around too frequently today in regards to athletes and their impact on the world around them. Whether a performance or game will “enhance a player’s legacy” is the narrative used to summarize the events we see transpiring on the field, and help us gain a sort of culminating perspective on what we are watching as fans.

For Portland Trail Blazers guard Pat Connaughton, legacy is much more than what happens on the court.

“With Us”, the foundation started by Pat, serves as a way to benefit the people and programs in the world who seek to provide opportunities for success that may have not otherwise been present. It’s objective is to provide financial support to those who need it most, opening doors that were once closed, allowing dreams to become tangible.

For Pat, this term ‘legacy’ is rooted in good-will and the betterment of others. That is why with the help of some amazing people, this foundation has seen great success.
I took some time to speak with Pat about his charity, career, and upbringing. He was kind enough to carve out some time between the NBA Tech Summit and his NBA Summer League schedule to answer a few questions.


Q: First of all, your Foundation “With Us” is described on your website as providing financial support for organizations that improve multiple aspects of society. How would you describe what “With Us” does, and what your goals were in starting it?

 

Pat: “With Us” is a foundation that benefits both sides of the charity world. Those who donate can feel great about where their money is going, as well the people and causes it’s helping. Also, those directly benefitting from the donations have a foundation that they feel a part of, a foundation that they feel like they belong to (hence the name “With Us”).

For me, I believe I am in a unique position to have a big time positive impact (philanthropy wise) due to my connections from both professional sports and my education from Notre Dame. The mission is to primarily provide financial support to those who need it most, but it will also provide experiences for kids that they wouldn’t otherwise be able to experience. The vision is this:

Once someone benefits from “With Us” they will look back on their success and say ‘It all started “With Us”‘.

 

Q: What story or influence inspired you to begin this foundation that has positively impacted so many?

 

Pat: I’ve been fortunate enough to accomplish quite a few things in my life. Many people see these accomplishment as simply mine, but that just isn’t true. I have to say that:

  1. I wouldn’t be where I am today without the people who’ve surrounded me my whole life, and I truly believe that.
  1. I once heard a phrase that said “success isn’t about how high you climb, but how many people you bring with you.” The entire foundation began with wanting to give back to where I came from, to the people and places that have made me who I am.

And part of “With Us” will do that, but I realized I’m surrounded by so many great people that don’t want much from me besides the desire to be a part of it all. So, in turn, I wanted to create something that they could be a part of with me.

 

Q: You’re from the Boston area, and played for St. John’s Prep. In regards to your upbringing and past, how has where you are from influenced your desire to start a foundation like this? Have you seen a lot of positive impact in your hometown area as a result of “With Us”?

 

Pat: I didn’t have any ties to professional sports growing up. I was simply a kid from Arlington, MA that loved playing all different sports, and ended up down the park or at Fidelity House (a youth community center) with my friends for hours upon hours. I was fortunate enough to fulfill what was once a dream in my life, and I want to be able to give back the means to help the next generation accomplish their dreams, regardless of what those dreams may be.

For some it may be to meet Jerian Grant… well that one is easy as he’s one of my best friends. For others it may be to become a doctor but their family doesn’t have the financial stability to help them start down that path. For some it may be as simple as going to a sports camp to get away from a troubled home. And for others maybe they just need a gift so they know someone is thinking about them while they are going through chemotherapy. Whatever the dream or experience may be, that is what I want “With Us” to be able to provide someday.

f3756f_f8782ce46e0c4acfa9fdfe4450531526

 

Q: How can people get involved if they want to help?

Pat: So currently the biggest thing for us is to spread the word about the foundation itself and vision we have. We have a website www.withusfoundation.com that we may revamp soon, as well as on Twitter/Instagram @WithUs_5 Or contact us by email at info@withusfoundation.com

 

Q: What are your long-term goals for the foundation and what do you potentially see for it’s future?

Pat: We are in the beginning stages now but had a successful first basketball camp earlier this summer.

At the end of the day, the majority of people are going to know who I am or be affiliated with this foundation because of Pat Connaughton the athlete, and I’m okay with that because I worked hard to get to where I am today.
But I want the legacy people remember Pat Connaughton for to be based off the person that people from Arlington, St Johns Prep, or Notre Dame know behind the athlete. Playing in the NBA, playing in the MLB, that’s what I do, but that’s not necessarily who I am. It’s not about becoming the biggest foundation, it’s about showing those who are a part of “With Us” how much each dollar they’ve donated is benefitting the life of someone else who couldn’t have had the success otherwise.

 


Pat Connaughton and his foundation can be reached via the web at www.withusfoundation.com . If you are looking to get involved with a local charity, where you can see your dollars translate into joy, you need to get involved. Pat and his closest colleagues have done a great job getting something this positive started, and would really appreciate your help.

Thank you again to Pat for taking the time to share the story of “With Us”, and we wish him the best of luck in the 2016 season.

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#EURO2016 Recap — Best Moments, Goals, and Players

#EURO2016 Recap — Best Moments, Goals, and Players

Well it is finally over. After a month of watching Europe’s finest battle it out in France, the eventual winners Portugal were crowned this past Sunday. Every step along the way Michael H. and Mikey have brought you takes, opinions, and wildly incorrect predictions. But, at the end of it, they are the two most knowledgeable soccer people on the planet (this website) and we hope you enjoyed their coverage. 

They have taken the liberty of compiling their favorite moments from this tournament into this one final post. We hope you enjoy.


EURO 2016 COMPREHENSIVE RECAP



Best Game

Michael H: Who-boy, this is a tough one. I’m going with the Wales-Belgium Quarterfinal that saw the Dragons advance with a 3-1 victory. Some of it was the fact that Wales were in the bloody quarters of a European Championship, and being excited about how Belgium was going to blow it, but mostly it was the goals. There were some dandies, especially the opening lazerbeam from Belgium’s Radja Nainggolan…

…and Hal Robson-Kanu’s eventual winner for Wales, in which he deked two defenders with a perfectly executed Cruyff turn, IN THE BOX:

Mikey: Well thank you, Michael, for effectively showing all of the clips I would have used for later topics right here in the beginning! That is true teamwork at it’s finest. Now what could I possibly use as my favorite game? I think the best game of the tournament was the Germany and Italy match up in the knockout stages. For what it lacked in amazing moments and sublime goals it totally made up for in tactical analysis. You had two managers that are at the top of the totem pole in regards to international managers going toe-to-toe with squads custom made for their respective styles. My favorite part of the game, and something I may have never seen in soccer before, was the way both teams defended each other’s goal kicks. They both clearly had a mission, and each goal kick turned into a 20 second standoff as players jockeyed for position. The image below shows how Germany tried to bring four players deep to play short, and Italy countered. It was phenomenal. . For me, that summarizes the beauty and precision that the sport should be about, and what made this game so special.

manmark-1



Favorite Goal (not necessarily best)

Michael H: For straight up best goal of the tournament I would have to go with Shaqiri’s bike against Poland. However, my favorite goal was this Iceland winner against Austria, complete with the Icelandic commentator’s voice going all high-pitched and insane with excitement.

Mikey: That Shaqiri goal was absolutely wonder-class. In fact he was probing and sizing up that Polish defense for the entire second half of that game. He looked most likely to score the entire time and it finally did happen. My favorite goal, however, is one that will be forgotten by everyone not from Slovakia. It was Hamsik in the group stages, unleashing a curler from the depths of Slovakian Mad Max hell. This was my favorite goal because I picked him as my player to watch. Brag city. Please come to Arsenal.



Favorite Moment

Michael H: Even though the level of play wasn’t always the highest in this iteration of the Euros, numerous moments stand out to me: Iceland advancing, both Irelands advancing, England Englanding, roofians fighting in the streets. But my favorite was Cristiano Ronaldo turning into co-manager after coming off injured in the final. As Mikey touched on yesterday, CR7 could not sit still, bellowing instructions and encouragements to his teammates, grimacing from the pain in his knee when he got too excited, and slowly descending into madness before Eder provided the miracle goal.

Mikey: Truly amazing moment from Ronaldo that I covered a little bit here, and yet again that was probably going to be my selection. Instead, I will go the other way and go with a collection of moments that made me laugh so fucking hard I damn near pooped myself. England were hands down my favorite moment of the European championships, in the way that England embarrasing themselves always seems to make me smile. Let’s start before the games when England fans were running amok and causing havoc by essentially declaring war on Russia in the streets of France. This enraged optimism quickly subsided as they let in a late equalizer against Russia in truly hysterical fashion. Then came the Wales game they actually won, but we all know the Wales story. Finally ending the group with a 0-0 draw with Slovakia, drawing them against Iceland in the round of 16. The ever hopeful England fans were crushed yet again by another “WHO THE FUCK WAS THAT” goal from Iceland. This reaction is why I watch soccer. 

 



Favorite Team

Michael H: It’s no secret that I was rooting for Iceland before it was cool (pun intended) to root for Iceland. I picked them to make it to the semifinals, and they almost did. Anyway, they had a great run, showing zero trace of fear against storied soccer juggernauts. And their fans we phenomenal. Just look at the welcome home they gave their returning heroes.

Mikey: My favorite team was decided for me when Rory, a contributor here at the site, posted this amazing article. If you haven’t had a chance to do so, you must right now. Ireland, it’s fans, and it’s magical Robbie Brady were all so amazing throughout this tournament and deserved every ounce of luck that came their way. They epitomized what you hope a team and it’s fan base should represent as a guest to the host nation, and were assuredly a treat to have in France due to the expanded format. Here is Rory’s piece here.



Best player

Michael H: Not much suspense here: Antoine Griezmann lit up Euro 2016, scoring twice as many goals (6) as the next top scorer. The little Frenchman with the German last name was undeniable. Lighting quick, supreme balance, and deadly accuracy (not a bad passer either): he was really fun to watch. I’m sure Atletico Madrid will try their best to hang onto him for another season or so, but dump trucks full of cash will surely start showing up soon.

Mikey: Call me a villian all you want, but I thought the player of the tournament should have been Pepe. I know I know, and trust me, I know. I hate him as a person and an actor as much as the next guy. I watched the Champions League Final and saw how embarrassing he was. But do you know what? I think he is a winner. It pains me to say it, but he absolutely knows how to anchor a defense, make the correct decision on the field, and win an aerial battle at all costs. He was the best player on the field in the final, and easily the best center back at the tournament. For all the stunts he pulls, I think he wanted to legitimize himself in this tournament. I can’t point to a single instance where he was undeserving of the honor, and he was, for me, the best player at the tournament. It is no surprise he lifted that trophy, and he deserved to do so.



Biggest Surprise

Michael H: I wasn’t surprised by Iceland because I know soccer like Einstein knew math…or was it science…? Anyway, Hungary had no business making it out of their group, but they did. And they also had the most Dad-cool keeper of all time: Gabor Kiraly. Sweatpants Over Everything.

goalie

Mikey: That picture will never not make me smile. He looks like someone I could play against at recreational indoor on Tuesday nights. There were a few surprises I want to mention here, it is so hard to narrow it down. I would put the fact that the Tottenham based teams like England and Belgium were largely disappointments, but that comes as no surprise to anyone. I think a fair shout out needs to go to Albania, who finished in 3rd in their group but were unable to advance. Turkey crashing out and launching a full-fledged mutiny against Arda Turan certainly was surpring. But for me, the biggest surprise of the tournament was just how great of a manager Fernando Santos is. There is literally nothing this guy can not do. The style Portugal played may not have satisfied many pundits, but as someone who was coached extensively by a German on defensive shape and the correct time to press, Portugal were so so so good. Very impressive stuff from Mr. Santos and a deserved championship for a team that showed solidarity and cohesion at the right time.


It has been fun everyone, thank you for tuning in throughout the tournament and reading our words. Hopefully you had a great time, and I know we did. As always, The Open Field thanks you for your dedication to our site. If you are still reading down here, I truly appreciate you. Mambas out.

 

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ROUNDTABLE: Tim Duncan Retires

ROUNDTABLE: Tim Duncan Retires

Tim Duncan was great, but how great?

The Open Field Roundtable

Tim Duncan has retired. He had an insanely successful career, starting for a championship team in three different decades. He won five rings overall, was a two-time NBA MVP, three-time NBA Finals MVP, NBA Rookie of the Year, a 15-time All-Star, and was selected for the All-NBA and All-Defensive Teams in each of his first 13 seasons. Not too shabby. But where does he rank all time? Where will he fall in the list of all-time greats when a descendant of Bill Simmons writes The Book of Basketball 5? The Open Field writers have some thoughts.


Michael H: I’m generally not a fan of best ever lists and top tens and the like due to the naturally subjective nature of things like that. Having said that, Tim Duncan should sit comfortably within the Top Ten NBA Players Ever forever. (For a really good reaction to Timmy’s retirement, check out Shea Serrano’s first piece for The Ringer; he’s back baby!) Duncan was stoic, matter-of-fact, and seemingly humorless, but he got shit done. He won championships, perfected the lost art of the bank shot, and never committed a foul – at least according to him. Besides his upper echelon basketball talent, my favorite thing about Timmy was every one of his reactions to being called for a foul. He would immediately turn into a live human version of the shrug emotion. Every. Single. Time. Congrats on a phenomenal career, Tim. Enjoy staring emotion-free into the middle distance for the rest of your life.

 


Jake : I’m not much for the NBA save sheer entertainment value (keep swearing in real time, D’angelo, I love you so much) so an uber fundamental guy like Duncan without much of a media presence off the court wasn’t really up my alley – and I’d think you can make the same case about the rest of this spurs core, which is now…much different. That said – its never been in doubt how impressive of a figure Popovich is – and any old white dude who gives polite enough to get fined one word answer interviews continually in the playoffs has got to be respected in the players he chooses to build a franchise around. In this case, Duncan. I guess this is really 2016 of me, but as Michael mentioned above – Shea Serrano loves The Spurs and by association – ‘ol loose shirt Duncan. The farewell piece was lovely, and I feel for Shea like I feel for a friend who’s just lost the worlds’ greatest dog, so that’s my Monday.


Matt: I’m going to take Michael’s top 10 statement and go a little further, claiming TD to be a top 5 player of all time. He sits behind MJ, Kareem, Wilt the Stilt and Lebron for me. Why does he leapfrog guys like Larry Legend, Kobe, Oscar and Magic? The numbers are just off the charts.. Some other players match those numbers in a few areas, but none have a better collective resume than Timmy. His off the court reputation is shining. We never heard any negative stories about him. In fact, we often do not hear about the wonderful things he has done for his community either. In a sport which is intertwined with pop culture, Timmy somehow managed to simply play the game he loved, and nothing else. No major movie roles or failed rap careers. For me, TD is cemented as a top 5 player of all time. But can you imagine what conversation we’d be having if he had Magic’s personality?! Springfield is going to gain a guy who is the skeleton of the sport. Fundamentals. Defense. Coachability. Some players keep their hands up after a pretty three. Tim kept both up to block a slashing two guard. If you like players who never lose sight of their passion and place their sport over all of the auxiliary social benefits, Tim is your man. When the game inevitably shifts back towards dominant big men, tapes of Duncan will be the first thing studied. So, let’s just take a bow and thank the gods above Mr. Duncan decided to pick basketball over swimming.


Shaun:  It is difficult to say “so long” to one half of probably the greatest player/coach duo in sports history at the moment.  No, not Brady/Belichick.  This has been 19 years of sustained excellence that is unrivaled.  The 5 championships, in a vacuum, might not blow away anyone that roots for the Celtics, Lakers, Bulls, or Robert Horry, but in just two decades, Duncan worked to bring an otherwise tiny-market team with little following outside of a 100-mile radius in Southwest Texas to a quiet juggernaut that has competed for a championship for pretty much my entire life.  And when they have won, it has been with completely different teams:

1998-99: David Robinson, Tim Duncan, Sean Ellliott, Mario Elie, Avery Johnson

2002-03: David Robinson, Tim Duncan, Stephen Jackson, Bruce Bowen, Tony Parker

2004-05: Nazr Mohammed, Tim Duncan, Bruce Bowen, Manu Ginobli, Tony Parker

2006-07: Francisco Elson, Tim Duncan, Bruce Bowen, Michael Finley, Tony Parker

2012-13: Tiago Splitter, Tim Duncan, Kawhi Leonard, Danny Green, Tony Parker

Aside from Tony Parker (and Ginobili usually off the bench), this franchise has changed identities, changed play-styles – from the “Twin Towers” to small ball and 3-pointers – and anything else you can think of.  Throughout it all, though, there were two constants.  Even more so than Kobe Bryant, no one has had a stranglehold on the Western Conference in the last two decades like Tim Duncan has.  The entire landscape of the league shifts as one of the best to ever do it moves on.


Mikey: The 2016/17 Warriors just claimed their first victim. Tim Duncan’s retirement means that San Antonio will open their season without the lanky Power Forward for the first time in nearly two decades. Shaun spoke to a change in identity for the teams Timmy has been a part of before, but the next chapter for the Spurs will be to cope with life after the cornerstone of their organization.

He did it quietly, without a farewell tour, and without headlines. Tim Duncan was pure in that he never felt larger than the collective pieces, never felt entitled to anything more than the opportunity he was given. Does this look like the outfit of an ego-centric superstar?

PHOTO-Tim-Duncan-Gets-Off-Team-Bus-In-Memphis-With-4-Out-Of-3-People-Struggle-With-Math-T-Shirt

Or does it look more like the goofy, fun-loving, ultra-competitive superstar that has been the definition of consistency since his league introduction in 1997? I see a hero, and someone that will only truly be appreciated after we all take a step back and judge the entirety of his career as a whole. I will miss Timmy, I will miss my brother mocking his free-throw routine, I will miss his elbow extended bank jump shot, and I will miss his outfits.

Most of all, I will miss the gif that brings me a smile each and every time I use it. It will no longer be complete without Tim. RIP this gif, and congratulations to Tim Duncan. A Top 7 NBA player of all time.

 

 

 

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