A hero again: Finding a solution to the NBA resting controversy

A hero again: Finding a solution to the NBA resting controversy

It’s no secret that NBA rests have posed challenges for fans, players and TV networks alike. One of the biggest controversies in professional sports began to escalate toward the end of the 82-game regular season.

After paying as much as $130 to see their favorite NBA stars play, fans have learned with little to no notice that their idols would be on the bench – or not at the games at all. Likewise, players like the Golden State Warriors’ Kevin Durant have decried inequalities in the resting rules, saying they’re “only for a couple of players in the league.” And TV networks that air NBA games have struggled not only to maintain advertisers but also to attract new ones.

But while critics have portrayed the NBA as the primary villain in the resting controversy, perhaps, the organization is also the biggest victim.

For perspective, consider the issue’s history. According to CBS reporter Matt Moore, the conflict started with “grumblings” around March 11. That day, Warriors coach Steve Kerr rested Stephen Curry, Draymond Green, Andre Iguodala and Klay Thompson during the team’s matchup against the San Antonio Spurs. At the same time, Durant, LaMarcus Aldridge and Kawhi Leonard were also off the court due to injuries and other health problems. Although Durant, Aldridge and Kawhi were excused by most critics, the other players – and, in particular, coach Kerr – weren’t so lucky. NBA writer and analyst Brian Geltzeiler, for example, called the decision to rest the players “an atrocious idea,” “an embarrassment to the league” and “shameful.” Combined with other criticisms, Geltzeiler’s words formed some of the first blows to the NBA’s reputation.

Then, one week later, the Cleveland Cavaliers added fuel to the critics’ fire. In a game against the Los Angeles Clippers, Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue rested his “Big Three”: LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love. Fans were shocked to find out the the team’s star players wouldn’t be on the court, chanting, “We want LeBron!” while James sat on the bench. And Clippers coach Doc Rivers even chimed in, saying, “There is a fan base that probably bought tickets tonight to see LeBron James play for the first time. They didn’t get a chance to see that, and that’s not cool.”

But, again, the harshest words came away from the matchup. Retired basketball player Karl Malone told ESPN’s Sage Steele: “If you don’t have at least 10 years’ experience, get your a** playing. It’s not work; it’s called playing. Besides, tell our underpaid service members and police and first responders to rest. D*****, they can’t.”

Aside from public backlash, however, the NBA suffered in other ways, too. Despite earning a 2.1 overnight rating on a Sunday afternoon matchup in 2016, the Cavs and Clippers netted only a 1.1 on ABC’s “NBA Saturday Primetime” this year. Though the Saturday presentation should have boosted ratings, Sports Media Watch suspected early that this year’s figure was “almost certainly the lowest NBA overnight ever on a broadcast network.” A few days later, updated data supported that hunch: The game scored only a 1.0 final rating, tying the two lowest-rated NBA matchups in broadcast TV history.

But how does that affect the NBA overall? Because the NBA is a business, first and foremost. Bringing in almost $5 billion a season, the NBA ranks third in the top American professional sports leagues by revenue, behind only the NFL ($13 billion) and MLB ($9.5 billion). During the 2013-2014 season, gate receipts contributed about 28 percent of the NBA’s total revenue, meaning that television deals formed a large portion of the remaining 72 percent. But when ratings are low, what incentive do networks have to renew their contracts with NBA teams? The answer: not much.

Although Disney (ABC and ESPN) and Time Warner (TNT) signed contracts with the NBA last year to air games through the 2024-2025 season, there’s no guarantee that they’ll renew their agreements. As the BallnRoll editorial staff puts it: “TNT is not planning on shelling out billions to see James and Steph Curry sit on a Saturday night broadcast.” And who could blame it? At $24 billion, the current contract is too expensive for the network not to reap mutual benefits.

So what’s the solution? Simply avoiding or banning rests won’t work. Before the Houston Rockets’ March 26 matchup against the Oklahoma City Thunder, coach Mike D’Antoni had said, “We don’t rest. We don’t do that.” During the game, D’Antoni kept his word, yet the matchup still yielded only a 0.9 final rating, replacing the Cavalier-Clippers’ 1.0 record low a week earlier. What’s more, as ESPN staff writer Tom Haberstroh explains: “[T]he economics make clear that some games, played by some players, are many times more important than others to the league’s bottom line. The trick is to get the best players in uniform and at their best for the nationally televised games that pay the bills” (emphasis added). Since the rests started as a way to refresh players in a demanding 82-game season, certainly, eliminating them won’t serve that goal. (For proof, consider some of the research the NBA has collected and analyzed on the relationship between fatigue and injuries.)

However, perhaps, the NBA could change the way it handles rests. League commissioner Adam Silver has already taken the first steps by meeting with NBA owners, reducing the number of back-to-back games in next year’s season and imposing penalties for noncompliance with player availability regulations. But he has also said that “there should be a strong preference for resting players at home,” a suggestion that will continue to cut off fans, teammates and TV networks. Since the NBA depends on these groups’ interest and support for its financial success, players need to be at the games, signing autographs, participating in interviews and promoting the game-day experience. After a tough regular season weighed down by controversy, it’s the only way to turn the NBA from a villain and victim into a hero again.

Colonel/Professor Joe Winter

Colonel/Professor Joe Winter

Colonel and Civil Air Patrol member Joe Winter – who just so happens to be a professor of mine at Loyola this semester – was kind enough to allow me to take a glimpse into his life as a visitor to the Maryland National Guard just outside of Baltimore, Maryland.

As a graduate of St. Thomas Aquinas College, where he received his Bachelor of Science Degree in Sports Management, Colonel Winter put his sports knowledge to use by helping to build an organization called Loyola SuperFans.

The student-led group is dedicated to the promotion of the university’s athletics program and the support of the student-athletes.

SuperFans is best known for its commitment to creating electric atmospheres at Ridley Athletic Complex, home to Loyola men’s and women’s lacrosse. The organization shined bright during Loyola’s 2012 National Championship run, as head coach Charley Toomey led the Greyhounds to a victory over powerhouse Maryland.

With all that said, Colonel Winter’s resume reaches much more than just sports.

The New York native has traveled to Ghana and Singapore as an ambassador for Civil Air Patrol in the International Air Cadet Exchange. Ever since this experience, he’s had great influence in the local Maryland Wing hosting of international guests.

“Having the ability to serve around the world is a pretty powerful experience. There’s a tremendous amount of pride when you put this uniform on,” he shared.

The planes featured in the photos provided below just recently returned from fighting ISIS in Turkey. At any given time, Colonel Winter is prepared to fly a plane to wherever necessary. He jokingly refers to flying as “air therapy” because it offers a step outside reality.

In addition to being a member of the Civil Air Patrol, Colonel Winter is an Air Force officer at the 175th Wing where he is assigned as the Wing Executive Officer.

“My brothers and sisters here at the 175th wing performed admirably in preparing our nation and protecting our interests abroad,” said Winter.

The Jesuit education has played a major role in his life on the military side.

“No doubt my experience of working at a Jesuit institution, and sort of the Jesuit ideals and the core values of a Jesuit education, have shaped my decision-making process in the military; have shaped the way that I supervise my staff; the way that I mentor and lead the troops that serve alongside me,” Winter explained.

Colonel Winter doesn’t plan on stopping any time soon.

“I’ve committed my life to the military and I will certainly continue to do so as long as they keep me in. They’re going to have to be kicking me out. I’d only hope my relationship with Loyola, too, stays. There’s nothing better than teaching,” said Winter.

I want to extend my thanks to Colonel Winter for his flexibility and generosity. Readers and viewers have a chance to enjoy the story of a selfless and committed man.

Watch our full interview here:

A special thanks to my Loyola production team: Jenna Ertel, Nick Robinson & Morgan Sandlas.

Olympian’s personal struggle drives mental health advocacy efforts

Olympian’s personal struggle drives mental health advocacy efforts

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From the fans who cheer at every game to the praise that follows every win, the benefits that come with playing sports make the lives of athletes seem lucky and, sometimes, even enviable. But despite the charmed appearances, more athletes are suffering from mental illnesses today than in the past. Olympic swimmer Allison Schmitt, however, is working to change that.

Earlier this month, Schmitt spoke about the growing threat of mental illness with athletes, coaches and trainers at the University of Saint Francis in Fort Wayne, Indiana. A longtime activist for greater mental health recognition and education, Schmitt tailored her talk around her own struggle with depression.

Developing after the 2012 Olympic Games in London, Schmitt’s depression slowly worsened until 2014, when actor Robin Williams committed suicide. As a fan of Williams’ work, Schmitt said his death disappointed and shocked her. It also led her to consider taking her own life since news reports later revealed that Williams had been battling depression, as well.

“Nobody wants to show weakness,” Schmitt said during her talk. “And especially, no athlete wants to show weakness to their competitors. A lot of us look at [mental illnesses] as weaknesses.”

Schmitt said that perception kept her from telling others about her pain. Her hesitation changed, however, after her 17-year-old cousin, April Bocian, committed suicide in 2015. Determined to prevent additional deaths due to mental illnesses, Schmitt admitted to her friends, her family and the media that she had been battling depression.

But after Schmitt came forward about her struggle, the number of athletes suffering from mental illnesses increased, not decreased. In fact, researchers from the Georgetown University Medical Center found in 2013 that about 17 percent of college athletes exhibited signs of depression. Yet, three years later, researchers at Drexel and Kean universities reported that that number had risen to almost 25 percent.

While it’s true that Schmitt didn’t cause the 8-percent jump by publicly acknowledging her struggle, the coincidence did offer some insight. Specifically, mental illness among athletes was a growing issue, and the decision to share one person’s experience wouldn’t solve it.

So Schmitt changed her approach, transforming herself from a victim to an advocate for people – and, in particular, athletes – coping with mental illnesses.

“It’s OK to ask for help,” she started saying at talks, including the one at Saint Francis. “Seeing a psychologist and speaking about it is one of the tools we humans can use.”

Still, as Schmitt embraced her mantra that “It’s OK to not be OK,” she understood doubts about the legitimacy of mental illness would pose another challenge. According to a recent Pew poll, two-thirds of respondents considered mental illness “an extremely or very serious health problem,” meaning that one-third didn’t. To combat that resistance, Schmitt began using her reputation as an Olympian to her advantage.

“I’d never go up to someone and say I was in the Olympics,” she said. “But if it’s about mental health, and I can use that platform for mental health and to de-stigmatize the negativity around it, I’m willing to do that.”

So far, Schmitt’s strategy seems to be working. Since opening up about her own battle, other Olympic swimmers, including Michael Jamieson and Greg Louganis, have gone public with theirs. And while the Olympians’ renown helps call attention to athletes’ mental health issues, accelerating effort to solve them, Schmitt adds that it also yields other benefits in the meantime.

“I can relate to athletes really well,” Schmitt said. “That helps me speak about it, and I hope it helps to relate to me and know they’re not going through anything alone. Other people are going through the same, or similar, things.”

Mental health issues can be complicated, not only because of the numerous illnesses that exist but also because of the many factors that can contribute to them, especially for athletes.

For a discussion of some of them, check out the video below:

Kendra

JOHNS HOPKINS TAKES BACK CHARLES STREET

JOHNS HOPKINS TAKES BACK CHARLES STREET

From Homer Glen, Illinois, women’s lacrosse attacker Frankie Kamely didn’t know much about Loyola’s rivalry against Hopkins before she became a Greyhound. But, during the past three years, the junior says she has not only learned about it but become part of it, too.

“Coming from an area like Chicago that’s not even around here and being brought into this rivalry is something really cool,” she said. “It’s so historic. And it has gone both ways, back and forth, throughout the years.”

Those words were never truer than on Wednesday, Feb. 22, when the Greyhounds played their season opener against the Blue Jays at Ridley. After defeating Hopkins the past two years, Loyola lost to its neighborhood rival 12-8.

The game began to slip away from the Greyhounds in the second half. Tied 6-6 at halftime, the teams broke out early with back-to-back goals. Hopkins freshman Lexi Souder found daylight sneaking one past Loyola goalie Taylor Caldwell at 28:27, giving the Blue Jays a slight edge. But moments later, Greyhound Sabrina Tabasso scored her only goal of the game by powering her shot past Hopkins goalie Caroline Federico. Despite the heavy defensive pressure she was under, Tabasso interlocked the two teams at seven a piece.

But things turned sour after that – at least for Loyola. While the Greyhounds suffered a 27-minute scoring drought, the Blue Jays went on a 5-point run. Hopkins attacker Emily Kenul started the sequence by netting her fourth point of the day and the 100th of her career. She was assisted by fellow attacker Maggie Schneidereith, who later helped midfielder Nicole DeMase bring the game to 11-7. In between, Blue Jays midfielder Haley Schweizer and attacker Miranda Ibello each recorded a point. To finish the run, Ibello returned with another goal, putting Hopkins ahead 12-7.

“Lacrosse is a game of runs,” Greyhounds Head Coach Jen Adams said. “We let them go five on our two goals. I don’t think you ever win a game of lacrosse at this level with that.”

To Loyola’s credit, though, there were a few redeeming plays in the second half. With help from freshman Caitlyn Gunn, senior Megan Boepple snuck in a goal with 33 seconds remaining in the game. And, before that, Caldwell put her defense skills to the test, resisting two close shots by Hopkins. Those saves, combined with the three she racked up in the first half, added to five in her first collegiate start.

“Caldwell is not the reason we lost this game, and I think that’s one thing I can stand here and confidently say,” Adams said. “It’s disappointing that we came away with a loss, but I actually thought she did a great job and played competitively.”

Adams recognized attackers Kamely and Cami Whiteford for their strong performances, as well. The junior and senior each entered halftime with hat tricks, respectively.

“Tonight, I think Frankie and Cami, they both played a phenomenal game of lacrosse,” Adams said. “They finished their shots; they had great looks. In terms of them, the consistency of their game, I thought it was good. And, you know, if we can keep getting that, plus add some more people into their mix, it will look like a different story.”

Adams called the game a “tale of two teams.”

“You saw our first-half team: They could compete with anyone in the nation,” she said. “And you saw our second-half team that made a lot of errors and couldn’t finish their shots and that really let Hopkins run away with it.”

The 90-second shot clock rule is new to college lacrosse this season, and it’s something that teams are still trying to grasp.

“They capitalized on using the full 90, sucking and taking away the time and opportunity that we had until it was basically out of our grasp,” Adams said. “I think they did a great job in taking strategy away from us and not even giving us the chance to get a sniff or touch of goal.”

Last year’s battle of North Charles Street between Loyola and Johns Hopkins resulted in a double overtime victory for the Greyhounds.

“This was the largest gap there’s been between us, and that just motivates us even more and makes the rivalry even stronger,” Whiteford said. “I know that, next year, this team is not going to let Hopkins do that again.”

As a senior, Whiteford won’t be around to help the Greyhounds avenge this year’s loss. But, with one more year until she graduates, Kamely will.

“Yeah, next year’s gap will not be four goals,” she said. “I can tell you that.”

The Greyhounds continue to trudge on through one of the nation’s most difficult schedules as they travel to Princeton on Wednesday.

Bob Trosset shared his post game thoughts here:


Contributors: Blake Lubinski, Kendra Farrell & Bob Trosset

TOWSON RUNS PAST LOYOLA WOMEN’S LACROSSE

TOWSON RUNS PAST LOYOLA WOMEN’S LACROSSE

BALTIMORE – The Loyola women’s lacrosse team fell short against neighborhood rivals Towson, 15-8, in a non-conference match up Sunday afternoon. The Tigers ran away with the first three goals of the game in the first seven minutes before the Greyhounds went on to a three-goal run to answer.

For the next 18:34 and more than half of the second half, Towson couldn’t be stopped compiling a 10-0 run. By 9:50 in the second half, Loyola trailed 13-3, leading to a running clock.

In a late run by the Greyhounds, the team was able to tally five more goals before the game concluded. Unfortunately, the late finishes weren’t enough to pull within reach of Towson’s goals.

Sabrina Tabasso, who dealt with ankle issues in Loyola’s season opener against Johns Hopkins, delivered a pair of free-position goals with less than two minutes left. The 2016 All-Patriot League First Team honoree must stay healthy in order for the Greyhounds to compete against top level competition.

The statistics were about as uneven as the results of the game yielded. Towson outshot Loyola, 30-18, and won more than half of the draw controls.

Despite what the score board showed, the Greyhounds were victorious in their own right. Loyola Head Coach Jen Adams spoke of team goals after Wednesday’s loss to Johns Hopkins.

Looking forward past the Towson game and towards the rest of the season, Adams made it clear, “My goal moving forward is that someone else can step forward and take the reins for a little bit. “ She went on to clarify sharing, “That did not happen tonight. We need more support, and I’d love to spread it out.”

Objective in mind, Loyola had seven scorers in the Towson match, including freshman Holly Lloyd’s behind-the-back goal which was the first of her career, along with Katrina Geiger’s first goal since 2015 due to an injury that sidelined her during the 2016 season.

“These girls know what it’s going to take,” said Adams. Adams is aware of the team’s potential, which features eight experienced seniors.

Moving forward, the Greyhounds will face more elite teams, such as Penn State, Florida, and Syracuse. The next Loyola game is Wednesday, March 1, against Princeton in New Jersey.

Bob Trosset shared his post game thoughts here:

Contributors: Blake Lubinski, Kendra Farrell & Bob Trosset

 

 

STRONG LOYOLA BENCH PRODUCTION NOT ENOUGH AS MIDSHIPMEN ROLL

STRONG LOYOLA BENCH PRODUCTION NOT ENOUGH AS MIDSHIPMEN ROLL

Going into Loyola’s Feb. 8 women’s basketball game against Navy, the Greyhounds backup forward Ashley Hunter was frank.

“I wasn’t really expecting much,” the sophomore from Abingdon, Maryland, said. “It’s always ‘Be ready to play if your name is called.’ You never really know if you’re going to go in or not.”

For most of the game, it didn’t look like Hunter would get a chance as senior forward Lauren Daugherty was already on the court. But that changed halfway through the third period when Coach Joe Logan called Hunter’s name.

As Hunter stepped onto the court, Loyola was trailing 19-30, thanks to Navy’s eight offensive rebounds in the first four minutes of the third quarter. But after freshman guard Stephanie Karcz scored two points for the Greyhounds, Hunter followed with a layup, completing Loyola’s 7-0 run and narrowing Navy’s lead. A few minutes later, Hunter picked up another two points, giving Loyola a nice boost and quadrupling her previous points-per-game average.

“Tonight, she was ready,” Logan said about Hunter during a press conference after the game.

Staying in through the end of the match, Hunter played for 14 minutes, nearly twice the number she played during the whole 2015-2016 season. During that time, she proved herself on the court, reaching a career-high seven rebounds in addition to seven points. Although Loyola fell 43-55, Hunter was able to slow the Midshipmen from completely dominating the points and possession by managing six defensive rebounds, the highest number for any Greyhound that night.

“It’s encouraging,” Hunter said about her accomplishments after the 7 p.m. game in Loyola’s Reitz Arena. “After not playing for a while, it kind of gets hard to motivate yourself to want to work hard every day in practice and show the coaches that you can go in. So getting the opportunity to go in and then really taking advantage of that was just motivating and encouraging.”

In addition to Hunter, another backup, sophomore guard Abby Omdahl, also made an impact on the game. Brought in for the fourth quarter, she converted a 3-pointer less than a minute into play in spite of Navy’s strong defense.

“Abby coming in and making that ‘three’ right off the bench – it was a tough shot,” Logan said. “I think it got everyone else going.”

That was the case for Greyhound guard Bri Betz-White, a team standout coming in with 940 career points. Although Betz-White sunk a 3-pointer to get the Greyhounds on the board in the first period, she collected only a modest 12 points during the first three quarters. But in the fourth period, the junior from Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, returned to form, earning nine points in ten minutes. That comeback, combined with the points she claimed earlier, added to the 20th time this season that Betz-White scored in the double digits.

But that’s not to say topping her record was the force driving Betz-White’s performance.

“There’s just a fire that comes in you like, ‘I’ve got to score; I’ve got to help the team,’” she said. “It’s never a motivation of ‘I need to get mine’ or ‘I need to get to this many points.’ It’s more like, ‘I need to score so we can win.’”

As much as Betz-White tried to turn the game around, though, her effort was in vain. Loyola was off to a slow start with an 11-0 run by Navy until the seventh minute when Betz-White knocked down her first 3-pointer. Her teammates followed up with an 8-0 run, but Navy responded with a 4-0 run, ending the first quarter 8-15.

“We’ve just got to start games better,” Logan said. “We were down 11-0, and then we cut it to 11-8. I just think that, at times, we weren’t competitive.”

In the second quarter, the Greyhounds fought harder to catch up. Despite twisting her ankle during the first period, Karcz broke an early scoring drought with seven minutes and 30 seconds remaining. Betz-White, Daugherty, and Lisa Mirarchi grabbed two points each for Loyola, but Sarita Condie, Taylor Dunham, and Ashanti Kennedy answered with equal shots for Navy. After an additional 3-pointer by Condie at the buzzer, the two teams were 16-25.

During halftime, Logan said he focused on encouragement, not discipline.

“These guys will tell you – I’m not a yeller or a screamer,” he said. “It was just kind of like, ‘Take a deep breath. Relax. We’ve gotten good looks.’”

Those “good looks” were an advantage over the other time the team played Navy earlier this season. During that game, the Greyhounds lost 51-77 after scoring only five points in the first period.

“When we played them the first time, they made eight ‘three’s’ in the first quarter,” Logan said. “So we really wanted to run them off the 3-point line and kind of play a 2-point game…. Rebounding was also going to be a big point of emphasis, and we wanted to pound the ball from inside because they’re not really that big. And we did that.”

But perfecting the team’s strategy is still a work in progress, Logan said. While Loyola is tied for fifth in the Patriot League, Navy shares the top spot with Bucknell. By taking on the Midshipmen’s tight defense and explosive offense, though, the Greyhounds are learning how they can continue to improve.

“I think the plan now is going to be to go to Ashley,” Logan said. “She did a great job of taking advantage of this opportunity…. So that’s a positive moving forward.”

Bob Trosset’s thoughts post game: https://youtu.be/lraopqKUR9c.

The Greyhounds’ next game is against Holy Cross on Wednesday, Feb. 22. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. in Reitz Arena.