As the nation’s top college football teams prepare to take the field for the elite bowl games, three new reports out this week raise similarly troubling concerns about dismal graduation rates for many of the black players constituting the bulk of the starting lineups.
While the formulas used in the three reports vary to some degree, the pictures painted are not dramatically different. First up: the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for the Study of Race and Equity’s report on football teams participating in the 2014 Bowl Championship Series. Based on completion rates across four cohorts (rather than focusing on a single year) at least half of the black football players won’t graduate within six years of enrolling, the report concluded. That’s compared in the report with “a graduation rate of 67 percent for student-athletes overall in the seven major NCAA Division I sports conferences.”
Read more. [Image: Phil Sears/AP Photo]
To paraphrase Georges Clemenceau on Brazil, the New York Jets are the team of the future—and always will be. In 1969 the Jets tossed the pro football world on its head when the AFL upstart Jets were led by Joe Namath to a Super Bowl victory over the NFL old-guard team Baltimore Colts. Since then, the Jets have accomplished nothing—despite intermittent reboots of team management and proclamations that the future will soon be brighter.
The team has never been back to the Super Bowl; four times they were one victory away and lost. That makes one Super Bowl appearance from 1969 till now. Only the Detroit Lions and the Arizona (formerly the St. Louis) Cardinals have a worse won-lost record among franchises that have been around at least half a century.
Why has the team been so bad for so long? Blame a persistent shortsightedness among its leaders over the year.
Read more. [Image: AP/ Patrick Semansky]
During his first-year campaign, Robert Griffin III vastly exceeded expectations: He set a new record for rushing yards by a rookie quarterback and another for passer rating by a rookie quarterback. Griffin also appeared on the verge of becoming a celebrity athlete of national import; his rookie jersey broke the record for most jerseys sold in a single fiscal year, and he was the subject of a particularly reverential documentary called RGIII: The Will to Win. And perhaps most importantly, he led the Washington Redskins to a 10-6 record and a playoff berth, giving perennially jaded football fans in the nation’s capital a feeling that has been in short supply since the first Joe Gibbs era: hope. Though his season ended with a gruesome knee injury followed by major reconstructive surgery, expectations for his second year remained sky-high.
Griffin’s second season, however, has been an unmitigated disaster.
Read more. [Image: AP / Evan Vucci and Lynne Sladky]
Ever since FIFA, the global soccer governing body/alleged cesspool of corruption, appointed Qatar the host nation for the 2022 World Cup, the association has repeatedly found itself on the defensive: It has vociferously rejected widespread allegations of vote-buying by the Middle Eastern nation, and it has turned a blind eye to criticism of Qatar’s antediluvian views on homosexuality. Most recently, the country revealed its planned "gay test" for players and fans during the World Cup, which reportedly could include a forced penile plethysmography test or forced anal examinations. But even more damning news came November 17, when Amnesty International released a report that’s sobering, by any measure: The 2022 World Cup venue, it reveals, is being built with slave labor.
The report details the country’s widespread use of forced labor to build the glittering stadiums and related infrastructure that will host soccer’s biggest tournament; looking primarily at the cases of Nepalese immigrants, Amnesty International found that contractors and subcontractors hired by the Qatari state have denied pay to hundreds of thousands of Asian workers, housed them in facilities not fit for farm animals, and worked them until, in some cases, they literally dropped dead. The human rights group could not estimate how many workers have been the victims of criminally negligent homicide thanks to Qatar’s deplorable practices. But it is easy to believe that without an overwhelming response from either FIFA or the global community, tens of thousands of migrant workers will risk their lives so that the country and its contractors can build the World Cup infrastructure on the cheap.
Read more. [Image: AP/Osama Faisal]
The 1970 college football game between the University of Alabama and the University of Southern California may not truly be “the most important game in college football history.” But when the superb documentary Against the Tide suggests that it is, it’s hard not to want to agree.
Against the Tide, which premieres Friday night on Showtime, tells the story of a legendary game that almost didn’t happen. Before the 1970 college football season, the National Collegiate Athletic Association allowed colleges to add an extra game to their schedule, probably to increase revenues. Most schools set up matches with teams from smaller nearby colleges or other patsies in order to grab an easy win and a quick payday.
But Alabama’s head coach Paul “Bear” Bryant and Southern Cal’s John McKay, whose two teams had won half the national championships in the 1960s, made different plans. In April, Bryant flew to Los Angeles to meet his longtime friend McKay and set up a two-game series between the Crimson Tide and Trojans.
Read more. [Image: AP]
Concern for player safety is at an all-time high, but it’s unclear whether it’s the responsibility of schools, coaches, or youth leagues to take measures to protect kids. Our sports roundtables discusses the game.
Read more. [Image: AP/Tom E. Puskar]
The Kansas City Chiefs have almost certainly been the biggest surprise of the NFL season so far. After posting the league’s worst record last year, KC has started the season 9-0, becoming the first team in history to do so.
Yet for all their success, the club gets little respect. As Forbes noted, fans believe the club is “not as good as their record.” Again and again, pundits call them overrated, flawed, or claim that their opponents have nothing to fear. According to a goofy new stat from Football Outsiders, the Chiefs are already the luckiest team in the league. Someone posted on the NFL Memes Facebook page that the Chiefs are “the worst undefeated team in NFL history,” and as of Thursday night, 267 people had agreed.
What a crock. There is no such thing as a “worst” undefeated team.
Read more. [Image: AP/Bill Wippert]
Last January, a few months after the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency report released a 202-page report that named former cycling champion Lance Armstrong the ringleader in “the most sophisticated, professionalized and successful doping program sport has ever seen,” Armstrong sat down for a tell-all interview with Oprah Winfrey. Winfrey asked him, “Did you feel you were cheating?”
“No,” Armstrong replied.
Winfrey paused. “You didn’t feel you were cheating,” she said.
“No,” Armstrong repeated. The dictionary’s definition of “cheat,” he explained, was to act dishonestly or unfairly in order to gain an advantage. According to Armstrong, despite years of receiving secret blood transfusions and performance-enhancing drugs, measures like these were so common that he’d never gained an advantage over the rest of the field.
Read more. [Image: Sony Pictures Classics]
The spectacle at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington during the buildup to 2011’s Super Bowl XLV was Texas-sized: More than 103,000 football fanatics crammed under the retractable roof of the lavish sports palace to watch the Green Bay Packers clash with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Another 3,000 diehards paid $200 each for the privilege of standing outside in frosty winter weather to view the broadcast on a Jumbotron.
According to a lawsuit filed October 21 in U.S. District Court in Manhattan, the pageantry also included two “multi-story” images of Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers made especially for the occasion, with one draped across the exterior of the stadium and the other covering the façade of a major Dallas hotel. David Stluka, the photographer who snapped the original image of Rodgers, says he wasn’t paid a cent for having his work displayed on the gigantic banners, and wasn’t aware of their existence until after the fact.
After 22 seasons on the sidelines, Stluka has witnessed and photographed a number of historic NFL moments, and he’s just one of several accomplished sports photographers to come forward recently with similar grievances.
Read more. [Image: AP/Tony Gutierrez]