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Entries in Sports (6)

Monday
Nov082010

Bury Me In My Jersey

Bury Me In My Jersey: A Memoir of My Father, Football, and Philly

Tom McAllister

Villard Books, 2010

I used to consider myself a pretty big Eagles fan.  Knowledgeable, passionate, and long-suffering, like so many others who call Philadelphia home.  But after reading Tom McAllister’s Bury Me In My Jersey, I feel like a bandwagoner who needs to be reinitiated.  In his first book, a memoir, McAllister pours fanaticism onto the page like a blitzing Eagles defense.  While detailing the often painful history of the franchise, he also comes to terms with his own pain, interweaving his story of self-discovery with the evolution of the team.  Coping with the loss of his father, who first taught him to love the Eagles, McAllister struggles to make sense of his obsession and how it shaped his identity. 

Bury Me In My Jersey is an honest, thoughtful book that tackles issues of manhood, grief, isolation, and love within the unique context of sports fandom.  While McAllister’s experiences are particular to Philadelphia and the Eagles, the challenges faced and lessons learned reach beyond provincial allegiances.  Anyone who knows the zeal of a true fan or has felt the loss of a loved one can relate to this story. 

As most people who follow the NFL might know, Philadelphia Eagles fans have a certain reputation throughout the country.  And while there is no mention of Santa Claus in Bury Me In My Jersey, there are plenty of scenarios that lend credence to the allegations that Eagles fans can be a rather unruly bunch.  But McAllister writes with such wit and self-awareness that even accounts of some of his more questionable behavior serve as points of insight and enlightenment.  One can’t become a man without making the mistakes of a boy, right? 

One of my favorite aspects of McAllister’s writing is his frequent use of footnotes.  They act as a sort of aside that allows for a deeper glimpse into the author’s thought process, often providing a chuckle along with their extra information.  Funny moments abound in Bury Me In My Jersey, and are helped along with some creative descriptions, my favorite a reference to former Patriots linebacker Tedy Bruschi as “date rapist smug.”  McAllister crafts some really great sentences, which can either make you laugh out loud, start to tear up, or just nod your head in appreciation as you reread them. 

I’ve read a lot of memoirs, and even studied them as a literature student, but this is the first time I have actually known the author personally.  I was a classmate of McAllister’s for eight years, we are still friends, and there are even a couple oblique references to me in the book.  This fact did allow me to appreciate some of the stories and references in a more personal way, but as a student of the genre, it intrigued me even further to analyze how McAllister recounted certain events with which I was familiar.  It was fun to think about what I would have included, left out, or emphasized if I had been writing about the same event.  The experience reiterated my love of memoir for its inherent subjectivity, and I felt like I was learning about Tom from a completely different angle.

Bury Me In My Jersey is an impressive example of modern memoir, especially for the distinct perspective achieved through the lens of Eagles fandom.  It’s a must-read for any Philadelphia fan, but is absolutely rewarding on many other levels.  The struggle to overcome grief, to learn how to be a man, and to own one’s identity is a journey that transcends football, and can teach each of us something about our own life story. 

Tom McAllister will be reading portions of Bury Me In My Jersey, as well as signing copies, this Wednesday, November 10, on campus at La Salle University.  The event, sponsored by the English Department, will start at 6:00 p.m. in the atrium of the Holroyd building.  

Wednesday
May192010

Hanley's Lack of Hustle

Hanley Ramirez boots a ball into the outfield. / AP PhotoThe big story in baseball this week is centered on Florida Marlins Shortstop Hanley Ramirez.  The 2006 Rookie of the Year and 2009 Batting Champion was benched by manager Fredi Gonzalez Monday after failing to hustle after a ball he kicked into the outfield, while runners were rounding the bases and scoring.

Benching a player for not hustling has long been a tactic of managers to send a message to the rest of the club.  But when it's your best player, it can be a bit more divisive.  Add to that the fact that he may have been a bit hurt after fouling a ball off his leg in an at-bat the previous inning, and the media has plenty to latch onto.  What should ideally be a private matter has blown up into the public sphere. 

I have to agree with Gonzalez's decision to bench Ramirez, though, because star players should be expected to set an example for the team.  Ramirez made matters worse by refusing to apologize and even attacking his manager for not understanding what it's like to play in the bigs.  It didn't seem to bother the team, though, as they won 8-0 on Tuesday.

Ramirez does have a history of acting out, and to this point his teammates and manager have kept quiet about his immaturity.  But unless he at least makes a statement to his teammates, it will be hard to see him as a leader.  

Gonzalez says he expects him to make such a statement today and be in the lineup tonight.  We'll see if Ramirez and the Marlins can put this behind them.  We wouldn't want to have to hear Orlando Magic coach Stan Van Gundy wax poetic on the situation anymore.

Sunday
Mar212010

Fantasy Baseball Draft Results

Evan Longoria (TB - 3B) Drafted 6th overall.Phew!  I just completed the nerve-wracking experience of drafting a fantasy baseball team.  It is the pinnacle of commitment for any fantasy owner, as baseball requires daily monitoring and lineup tweaks.  So unless you really like baseball and can devote at least 15 minutes a day for half a year, don’t waste your friends’ time by fielding a ghost team. 

This is my third year in this league, and the stakes are higher than ever.  After bolstering the competition with dedicated players, the commissioner also enacted a rule that the last place owner has to pay double the entry fee at year’s end!  Now that’s incentive.  Also new this year is a payout for both regular season finishes as well as playoffs, which is exciting given the fickle nature of fantasy baseball postseason. 

Even though I was mercilessly chided for taking my time during the draft, we still clocked in under 90 minutes, and despite my relative unpreparedness, I’m pretty happy with my team.  I don’t have a single player from my 2nd place team of last year, but I’m okay with that.  I like drafting players I’ve never owned before. 

I went for a more balanced team than last year, where I relied largely on star pitching.  While I do have some aces and top closers, my batters have well-rounded power numbers.  Today’s draft got me excited for Opening Day, which is less than three weeks away. 

Who are your top picks this year?

My Team

Starting Lineup

Jorge Posada (NYY - C)
Adrián González (SD - 1B)
Ben Zobrist (TB - 2B,SS,OF)
Evan Longoria (TB - 3B)
Derek Jeter (NYY - SS)
Shin-Soo Choo (Cle - OF)
Torii Hunter (LAA - OF)
Shane Victorino (Phi - OF)
Jason Kubel (Min - OF)
Brad Hawpe (Col - OF)

Starting Pitchers

Félix Hernández (Sea - SP)
Javier Vázquez (NYY - SP)
Scott Baker (Min - SP)
John Danks (CWS - SP)
Randy Wells (ChC - SP)

Relievers

Mariano Rivera (NYY - RP)
Huston Street (Col - RP)

Bench

Todd Helton (Col - 1B)
Cody Ross (Fla - OF)
Franklin Gutiérrez (Sea - OF)

Jeff Niemann (TB - SP)
Roy Oswalt (Hou - SP)
Johnny Cueto (Cin - SP)

Tuesday
Mar022010

A.I. Gone for Good?

AP Photo / Matt SlocumPhiladelphia 76ers President and General Manager Ed Stefanski announced Tuesday that Allen Iverson would not return to the team for the remainder of the season.  Iverson had not played for much of the last month, spending time in Atlanta with his family and four-year-old daughter, who has an undisclosed illness.

This is not the first time that Iverson has left a team for personal reasons, but it's the first time those reasons are legitimately beyond his own interest.  I certainly don't hold it against him for needing to be there for his family, but the larger question is, why was he even still in the league? 

There was no question that Iverson's best days as a ballplayer were behind him.  He couldn't make it work with Denver or Detroit, and who knows why he strung along the poor Memphis Grizzlies for 3 days this year, when every analyst knew his best fit would have been with the Charlotte Bobcats.

 

If family matters were the reason he left the Grizzlies, as it seems they were, why did he come back to play in Philadelphia?  It makes sense in one respect, because the people of Philadelphia have always held a spot in their heart for the franchise player, and number 3 jerseys are still a common sight at the Wachovia Center.  He was even voted to be an Eastern Conference starter in the All Star Game, though did not play. 

Regardless of the contract juggling and city hopping, did Iverson's skills help any of these teams?  The 76ers have been awful with or without him, yet center Samuel Dalembert said, "He was being a leader.  He was different." 

That was the leading problem with Iverson the past several years, not just his dwindling speed or arthritic knee, but his unwillingness to relinquish a starting spot and accept a role as a bench player.  We may never know whether that attitude was starting to change, but if he has played his last game, he did it on his terms. 

So what is Allen Iverson's NBA legacy?  He started as Rookie of the Year in 1997, is an 11-time All-Star, named MVP in 2001, the year he led the 76ers to the Finals, and is sixth all-time in scoring average. 

Do we take away his once-brilliant skills, his fiery passion, his unwillingness to compromise?  For me it's all of that and more, because there's no doubt he was a star, and it would be more than fitting if his career ended in the city that he loved, that has always loved him. 

Monday
Mar012010

Olympics Wrap-up

The 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver could not have ended with a more rousing competition than Sunday's USA - Canada gold medal hockey match.  Team USA pushed the game to overtime on an unbelievable goal with 24 seconds left, but Canadian Sidney Crosby came through as the hometown hero everyone expected him to be, giving the host nation exactly what it had been waiting for these past four years.  Congratulations also to USA goalie Ryan Miller, who was amazing throughout the tournament, and rightfully earned the MVP.  Both teams left everything they had out on the ice. 

As the closing ceremonies wrapped up last night, I thought back on the spectacular achievements I've witnessed over the past two weeks. Lindsey Vonn overcoming injury, Bode Miller finding redemption, Shaun White excelling under pressure, Shani Davis and Apolo Ohno extending their legacies all were true Olympic moments, and they are just the tip of the amazing storylines that permeated these winter games.

For me, the Olympics are the purest form of sports, where high drama is invited and answered as individual athletes rise to the highest pinnacle of competition.  It doesn't matter that many of the sports I only watch every four years, because it's all about the individual athletes rising to their highest ability, and the palpable emotional outpouring of everyone who has stood on a podium with a medal around their neck. 

True, the Olympics may not have the air of fervent nationalism that existed during the Cold War and characterized the essence of the games for many people.  We can not act out our international conflicts on the track or the ice anymore, even though Stephen Colbert still wants to "Defeat the World." But patriotism is not absent from the Olympics, and I am proud of the American athletes who sacrifice so much to share their talents with the world.  They don't compete for fame or sponsorships; they compete for their families and for their country.  It's refreshing to see how much of their own self an athlete can infuse into the performance of a lifetime, which chance may never come again. 

So I hope you had at least one moment during the 2010 Winter Olympics that left you breathless or well up with pride.  I was lucky to have at least ten.  Please feel free to share your personal highlights in the comments section.