Evening Sun Football Contest: week two

This marks the second week of The Evening Sun’s Football Contest, and what will mark my first week doing a brief recap of the week and what is to come.

If you haven’t checked out the The Football Contest, I encourage you to do so, as it is a fun way to get involved, stay up to-date on football games, and while you’re at it you get caught up on all your local news provided in The Evening Sun. Each week, I provide 20 picks ranging from high school varsity, college and even NFL. Choosing these picks has been something I look forward to as it is interesting to me to choose the most anticipated games, while also mixing in some good match-ups that not many people will have known about. This provides each contestant a fair chance as, they are required to submit their choices of the 20 games, free of charge and before 5 p.m. each Friday afternoon.

Following the weekend onslaught of football, Friday – high school, Saturday – collegiate, and Sunday – NFL, I tally up the the correct and wrong answers to find the winner. If there is a tie it goes down to the tie-breaker selection which you provide a total number and points for. The winner with the correct tie-breaker and closest number of points is deemed the winner.

Each week one contestant is rewarded for their football knowledge or lucky guessing with a $25 check from The Evening Sun. If however, a contestant guesses all 20 games correctly they are eligible for $100 that week. Check out any Evening Sun edition on a Tuesday for the full rundown of scores and picks for that week, as well a full writeup on the rules.

As for this week, out of the 38 total entries it was Sylvia Figary of Norwich who would earn the $25 weekly prize. Figary wouldn’t do so very easily however, as she would need to go down to the tie-breaker to decide the winner of the six-way tie at 15 correct games.

Figary would choose a final score in the tie breaker of 30-27 in favor of Ohio State over Oklahoma, giving her a total of 57-points in that game.

Her one point contest win would be over second place, Jeff Gezibowski of Norwich. Gezibowski would also guess 15 correct games, but would falter in the tie-breaker guessing a final score of 35-21, giving him a total of 56-points.

Needless to say the Ohio State vs. Oklahoma State game would see a final score of 45-24, making Figary’s 57-points the closest to the official grand total of 69-points scored in that game.

For anyone wondering the final outcome of scores for the rest of the contestant: six people would tie with 15 correct games, five people would tie at 14 correct games, eight people would tie with 12 correct games, four people would have 11 correct games, four people would have 10 correct games, three people would only choose nine correct, and one unlucky person would only select eight correct games.

This gave the week a median score of 12, which surprisingly for myself was one more than I guessed correctly.

While tallying up the scores I noticed some trends of games that many people missed, including myself.

To begin the Iowa against North Dakota State game would see North Dakota kick a field goal to take the lead as time expired for the 23-21 win. This was somewhat of a surprise to the contestants, as well as myself, as only four people chose North Dakota State over Iowa.

Another big surprise was the Michigan State and Notre Dame game. This would end in a 36-28 Michigan State win. This pick surprisingly wouldn’t be chosen by any of the people in the six-way tie. I would also miss the correct choice, choosing Notre Dame, as only seven contestants would pick Michigan State for the win.

In the NFL the Vikings vs. the Packers game gave people a lot of trouble. The injury riddled Vikings, despite losing Adrian Peterson, would pull off the win over the Packers. Only eight people in the contest would choose the Vikings over the Packers.

Leading the way this week for the ‘experts’ was Kevin Walsh of Parker Walsh Team, who had an impressive 17 correct games. Walsh would however miss each of the choices mentioned above, as those marked his only three misses this week.

After Walsh’s 17 correct this week, he has jumped up in the standings after two weeks, for a two-way tie in first at 31 correct games to nine misses.

Make sure to grab next Tuesday’s edition of The Evening Sun, Sept. 27, for results and the next 20 picks for week three of The Football Contest.

Good luck football fans.

Oh, Colin Kaepernick

Honestly I don’t even know where to start with my thoughts on Kaepernick. This is not a column to bash him or what he stands for by any means, but simply to call into question his morality when he is faced with adversity in his life, and his choice of timing in his protest of sitting during the playing of the national anthem.
I believe in The United States that freedom of speech is a right that all citizens should enjoy to the fullest. Simply put, the message Kaepernick has portrayed in the national media, and to the world is a relatively good message. We need change, and we need it now.
The war on terror is a sham, minorities are oppressed in today’s society, and most importantly our troops should always be praised for the sacrifices they have and are currently making, whether the war is believed to be just or not. And truly I believe that Colin Kaepernick can speak his mind however he sees fit, that right is his, due to the freedoms he has as a United States citizen.
However, when a former star and currently struggling athlete is known to be generally somewhat self-centered in their approach to life and the game of football, it calls into question the way Kaepernick proceeded to almost out of the blue care about the causes and struggles that do plague our once great country.
Colin Kaepernick was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, to Heidi Russo, a 19-year-old single white woman. Kaepernick’s biological father was not present in his life from day one, therefore his biological mother put him up for adoption to which his adopted parents took over – Rick and Teresa Kaepernick.
Under their guidance as parents, Colin took off to begin what seemed to be a promising career in the sport of football. Kaepernick even was noted to write a letter to himself at a young age, where he predicted he would be a starting NFL quarterback for either the Packers or 49ers.
After a hugely successful four years attending college at Nevada, Colin was drafted by the San Francisco 49ers in the second round of the 2011 draft.
His career with the 49ers pointed toward even more success than he had already achieved at the college level. As just in his second year in the NFL, he took over the reigns for an injured Alex Smith in week 10, and became the starting quarterback for the 49ers, completing his childhood prediction.
That very same year, he finished the season with 1,814 passing yards, 10 passing TDs, 3 INT, 415 rushing yards, and 5 rushing TDs, en route to a Superbowl appearance, where he ultimately fell short to the Superbowl champion Ravens, losing 34-31.
Kaepernick continued his successes in 2013, playing his first full season in the NFL and posting a stat line of 3,197 passing yards, 21 passing TDs, 8 INT, 524 rushing yards, and 4 rushing TDs. The 49ers would lose in the NFC championship game to the Seahawks on an interception thrown by Kaepernick.
After the 2013 season it all went downhill for the 49ers and their young budding star of a quarterback. On June 4, 2014, Kaepernick signed a six year contact with the 49ers, worth up to $126 million, with $54 million in potential guarantees, and $13 million fully guaranteed. This contract has Kaepernick signed through 2020 season.
The 49ers failed to make playoffs after being early season favorites in 2014, and head coach and big Kaepernick supporter Jim Harbaugh, would elect to leave the 49ers to return to coaching at the college level once again.
Kaepernick would post a 2014 stat line of: 16 games played, 3,369 passing yards, 19 passing TDs, 10 INT, 639 rushing yards, and 1 rushing TD – missing the playoffs for an underwhelming 8-8 regular season record. This would be the last year Kaepernick would see any true successes at the quarterback position.
This past season, 2015, under the tutelage of first time head coach Jim Tomsula, Kaepernick seemed to be in a make or break year for his NFL career. In week 8 of the regular season, Kaepernick was benched in favor of Blaine Gabbert (10th overall pick of the 2011 draft and still currently the 49ers starting quarterback). The 49ers finished the season with a 5-11 regular season record, missing the playoffs for the second year in a row. Some speculated that the new offensive system was not a good fit for Kaepernick, as he struggled mightily.
Kaepernick would post a stat line last year of: 1,615 passing yards, 6 passing TDs, 5 INTs, 256 rushing yards, and only one rushing TD within his span of starts that season.
Fast forward to pre-season of the 2016 NFL season, currently under the six year contact that Kaepernick is signed to, he is scheduled to make roughly $19 million when all is said and done. This astronomical number of a cap hit has had insiders speculating for months over whether or not the 49ers would trade, or possibly cut Kaepernick before the start of the new season. And to make matters worse all reports have indicated that he would serve once again as a backup quarterback to Blaine Gabbert in 2016, due to dimishing physical ability.
If somehow you have escaped the onslaught of the Colin Kaepernick controversy this past week, it should be cleared up that Colin Kaepernick was noticed to be actively protesting the playing of the national anthem at each of the 49ers pre-season games thus far, as he has elected to sit during that time.
On August 26, following the pre-season game that day, Kaepernick was quoted explaining his actions, saying, “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”
Following the attention that Kaepernick’s actions and words have garnered, the 49ers did released a statement saying, “The national anthem is and always will be a special part of the pre-game ceremony. It is an opportunity to honor our country and reflect on the great liberties we are afforded as its citizens. In respecting such American principles as freedom of religion and freedom of expression, we recognize the right of an individual to choose and participate, or not, in our celebration of the national anthem.”
While peaceful protesting has done wonders for The United States, helping to slowly but surely chip away racial and sexual prejudices, as well as affording citizens many other rights, one can not help but wonder why Kaepernick, who has never been a huge voice in the activism world – instead opting for magazine shoots and headphone deals – chooses the 2016 pre-season as his platform to reach what he claims is a racially prejudice America.
One would wonder why a once thought to be up-and-coming star – who unseated a former first overall draft choice from their starting job (Alex Smith) – and was a play away from his second Superbowl appearance in that many years, would not simply put his nose to the grindstone and attempt to win his starting job back.
Would it not be more impactful if a starting quarterback making roughly $19 million dollars a year for an NFL team, spoke out against police brutality and the oppression of minorities? It would seem to be much harder to cut a star quarterback saying and doing these things, rather than a physically struggling, former star quarterback, making $19 million a year, who is just magically voicing his opinion the week before final roster cuts.
It would seem to many, that this is a desperation move by Kaepernick – possibly a smart one – as the deadline to have the final NFL 53-man roster looms this coming Saturday, September 3, at 4 p.m. Eastern Time.
The 49ers are now placed in a very tight situation, as Kaepernick assumedly planned. Under a once again new regime at head coach, Kaepernick has been reportedly struggling in the new offense of head coach Chip Kelly. Notably Kelly moved on from The Eagles after his short stay as their head coach. During that time, many NFL players spoke out, claiming Kelly was a racist coach. The Eagles have obviously since moved on, after Kelly posted regular season records of 10-6, 10-6, and 6-9. Do the allegations of Chip Kelly being a racist coach have anything to do with Kaepernick speaking out? I think not.
Not long ago, the problem of having a roster spot open for a player garnering as much money as Kaepernick, to simply sit bench, was a problem of waiting to see if Kaepernick would eventually catch on to the a new offensive system.
However, new systems on the football field have not been Kaepernick’s strong-point as he has not posted a ‘succesful’ campaign since the departure of Jim Harbaugh.
Kaepernick’s national anthem protest places the organization as a whole in a squeeze, as they must now balance their salary cap, while also taking into account the performance of a player who brings much controversy and off-field noise to a struggling organization.
Generally speaking, unless you are a superstar athlete, off field antics and political protests are put to bed relatively quickly in the sporting world. As they rightfully should be, it is a business after all, and there is always someone who can replace you.
There is an underlying truth that runs through most sporting organizations in the world. Front office management and coaching staffs do everything in their power to avoid drama on and off the field, however, as I said there are exceptions to this rule as players who consistently perform at a high rate are tolerated. Kaepernick is not currently one of those exceptional players, he is a fading backup quarterback in a league that needs production at his position in order to be successful.
So, while I highly respect Kaepernick for his words and his want to change a truly broken United States. I find it hard to believe he did not simply take advantage of the situation he was in, seeing as come this Saturday he may not have that stage to project his voice anymore, if roster cuts or a trade does in fact happen.

Ice cream trucks and Kosovo

Sunshine. Ice cream. Carefree summer days. That’s what the masses want. I understand.

But, I was brought up in a household where carefree was a stick of gum. I was not treated as though I couldn’t understand nor have an opinion on the reality of my world as I knew it.

For that, I am ever grateful.

I used to be able to walk into school and know what was going on in Kosovo in the mid-1990s.

On the other side of the coin, I used to know the exact time the ice cream truck drove past my house, and when to be outside.

It’s a balance of the good and the bad that both undoubtedly exist – no matter where you live or travel.

I have grown to be an adult that continues to recognize that.

As a newspaper editor, I cannot sugar coat reality. Some stories that print are things that folks don’t want to believe happens in our quaint county that I love. But it does.

It’s important to realize that with the bad comes also the good.

One day a reader told me that the tone of the paper was too negative. I asked her if she saw the paper from that day. She said yes.

That day the top story was about the 169th county fair. There was an inspiring story about children who prepared bagged lunches and handed them out to the homeless in New York City. There was a photo of law enforcement officers and Special Olympic athletes during their ‘Cops on Top” fundraiser to raise funds for the athletes. And finally a story about Monks rescuing passengers from a plane that had crashed.

To me, that’s reality, but a nice dose of uplifting reality. I didn’t see a whole lot of negative on the front page she was referring to, but she then divulged that her issue was that second-hand smoke at the fair could harm small children.

I understand where she is coming from. Yes, second-hand smoke is not desirable, especially around small children. But as a disclaimer to all readers, I cannot control your thoughts following a story about an event that has taken place in Chenango for 169 years. I encouraged her to write a letter to the editor on the topic, but she said she’d rather not.

Months back I attended a question and answer session regarding the newspaper, and was asked why more “good news” isn’t printed.

My answer was two-fold: When I have happy news to print, I’ll try my hardest to get it into the paper in a timely fashion. Yet “good news” is not what comes to me often. Let’s say I have 426 new emails in my inbox Monday morning, I’ll be lucky if one is a “good news” item. I encouraged – and continue to encourage – readers to send in anything happy and positive they would like a reporter to follow up on. Their email addresses are as follows: mwhite@evesun.com, gthompson@evesun.com, and kcoffey@evesun.com. Send all the happy, uplifting, inspiring, motivational, community-based events to one of those three reporters, Matthew, Kieran or Grady, and the respective reporter will follow up.

The second point that I mentioned in the question and answer session was that it is a reality that our county isn’t clean as a whistle. There may be a drug bust in Lincklaen, or 22 individuals arraigned in a single month, or a murder conviction overturned. Those things are newsworthy. They can’t be ignored; it would be a disservice to not report on them. Unfortunately, there tends to be quite a bit of the “types” of stories readers would rather not see in our town. There is always news regarding small town politics, crime, lack of funds here or there, fires, accidents, etc.

We always have and always will publish about the Chenango Blues Fest, Colorscape, Pumpkin Festival, Parade of Lights, Gus Macker … and the countless other positive happenings in our wonderful community. Those events help to make this community what it is. I want to dig deeper with the positivity, though. The story about the children bringing food to the homeless… fantastic. When Chenango native Dustin Warburton handed out books to children with Dennis Rodman … what a special piece. These are the types of news tips I would be absolutely elated to receive. It warms my heart to read about the good. Truly.

I want to know about Kosovo and the ice cream truck. I want readers to know about Kosovo and the ice cream truck.

Therefore, if you’re on board with getting some more ice cream and sunshine into The Sun, then send an email to one of the above, or as always, to news@evesun.com.

I’m always trying to find that balance, so if you’d like to help publicize the motivational, please let us know about your event, fundraiser, lemonade stand, sit-in … or whatever it may be.

 

Follow me on Twitter … @evesunashley

Follow us on Instagram … theevesun

I’m Scared

I’m scared. Very… with the overall general lack of accountability of character when it comes to those that we place in high position for our country. Specifically abuzz this week: Melania Trump gave a speech during the early hours of the Republican National Convention that echoed that of Michelle Obama for the same purpose on the flip side of the coin years’ prior. It was clear that, whether intentional or not, or by Mrs. Trump’s hand or not – many  of the passages uncannily mirrored the first lady’s speech. Many argued that some of the words were the same, but I disagree-a writer would rightly be out on their ear if they tried pulling this baloney. What’s frightens me most isn’t necessarily the fact that she didn’t author the speech and then took a majority of the credit, but the fact that so many are complacent and accepting that she’s not accountable for the words that come out of her mouth-regardless of who “wrote” them. The Trump train was quick to point the finger at some one else, resulting in an unwitting scapegoat to take the fall; an obvious patsy. Where I come from, YOU are responsible for the words that come out of YOUR own mouth, but yet even many that I’ve know for years somehow justified a pass on the pretty college dropout. I don’t get it. We as Americans are facing a major accountability issue in politics that I fear is only going to get worse within the next four years. Same scenario on the democratic ticket: If any other American government employee were to act as egregiously and irresponsibly as Clinton did as Secretary of State, that person would be imprisoned or dealt with like ex-communicated defector ala Snowden.  These truly are scary times we’re living in.

My compass points Nortz

The death of a friend or a loved one is always hard. That experience is made even tougher when that person decides to take their own life.

My friend and mentor, Colby Nortz, took his own life on July 23, 2014.

I first met Colby through my fraternity, Tau Kappa Epsilon. At first, I thought he was brash, outspoken, and just outright rude. But, as they say, don’t judge a book by it’s cover.

Colby was one of a kind. He could light up a room just by walking in and always made his presence felt. If you were ever feeling down, one of Colby’s infamous two-hour talks could inspire you to believe that you could do anything your heart desired. He would always put everyone else’s needs above his own, and was a prime example of what every human should aspire to be.

Over the year or so that I was fortunate enough to get to know Colby, and become close to him, we had many fueled debates. Colby was never one to back down, and always stood behind what he believed was right. That is what I loved most about him, and why this tragedy struck a particular chord with me.

‘What could drive someone to do such a horrific thing?’ I couldn’t stop thinking to myself when I first heard the news. I was baffled. Colby is the absolute last person that anyone could have ever foreseen succumbing to such awful circumstances.

It is coming up on the two-year anniversary of Colby’s passing, and every year I am reminded that he is not the only one who felt this way, and managed to hide it so well from all of his family, loved ones and closest friends. In recent weeks, Chenango County has had to come together as a community to try and deal with a similar tragedy.

Mental health awareness and suicide prevention will always remain topical issues in our world. What society needs to understand is that someone who seeks help is not considered weak. If anything, they are strong for wanting to face and confront their demons. If anyone ever needs help, there are people out there willing to talk to you 24/7.

The suicide helpline is 1800-273-TALK (8255).

Never let the fear of being annoying be a justification for taking your own life.

I wish that my friend was still here to reiterate this point, but I know that Colby’s memory will live on through the words of wisdom, compassion and love that he shared with all those he met and knew, be it for one minute, or 10 years. I don’t want others to have to go through the heartbreak of losing a family member, loved one or a close friend.

My advice to you is to reach out to those you think are in need, and show them that they are not alone.

Let’s hope that this worryingly increasing trend, especially among young adults, will be curbed in the near future.

Britain’s brilliant exit strategy.

I congratulate the scores of British citizens who voiced their opinions at the polls, collectively deciding to withdraw their country from the European Union. Many have protested that the decision will inevitably lead to a ‘buyer’s remorse’ taste in the coming months, and financiers are forecasting a dismal effect for global markets; but that remans to be seen. My only wish it that the U.S. would get on with making major decisions via referendums as our British counterparts successfully did with their ‘Brexit’ Poll yesterday. Anyone that knows me also knows my contempt for the electoral college, delegate weight and the like–and I honestly feel that the ‘Brexit’ Poll is an excellent example of how efficient, transparent decision-making can be done. I applaud the British government and its populace for their straightforward approach. Instead, we’re told by our government that making choices via referendum or popular vote is inefficient, ill-conceived and in conflict with the principles of democracy? That’s a bitter pill to swallow with 2016 technology.

What a whirlwind

Well, it’s officially the start of my fourth week here at the Evening Sun, and what a few weeks it has been.

Let me start by introducing myself. My name is Kieran Coffey. I am the new crime and quality of life reporter here at the Evening Sun. Hopefully by the time you get to the end of this blog post, (if you can make it that far, that is), you will learn a little bit about me and what I plan to do in my role for the community.

My heritage comes from the Emerald Isle. Both of my parents immigrated to the U.S. back in 1984, in search of the elusive American Dream. Flash forward nine more years and I was born. We settled down in Whitestone, Queens, a suburb outside New York City. Due to extenuating circumstances, I was forced to move to Ireland when I was eight years old, where I lived with my aunt and uncle. This change would prove crucial in my development as an individual. While at first, it was hard for me to adjust to the culture and new surroundings, I quickly became accustomed to my new school, and started to make friends. What was only supposed to be a two week situation turned into a journey of eight years. I’m glad that I was fortunate enough to be able to experience two different ways of living. It provided me with a great sense of diversity.

When I was 16, the time came for me to move back to the U.S. By this time, my mom had grown tired of the hustle and bustle of the city, and moved towards the hills of Norwich. When I first arrived, the feelings of fear and anxiety came flooding back. I had to enter a new school all over again, making new friends somehow. I was extremely shocked and pleasantly surprised by the wonderful hospitality that I received when I eventually started in Norwich High School, and I can safely say that I made the most out of my two years there.

After this journey, it was off to college. With my car packed to bursting, I moved all my belongings once more. At this stage, I wasn’t even phased about adapting to a whole new environment. Over 5 years, I transferred school’s three times, until I finally ended up at SUNY Oswego. I stayed there for the final three years of my education, and it was one of the best decisions of my life. Oswego offered me the chance to get a degree from one of the top journalism schools in the country, and also provided me with the tools and experiences that I can utilize in the working world. In my final semester at Oswego, I was the pledge master of my fraternity, Tau Kappa Epsilon. While I will admit, it was much added stress on top of my already staunch workload, it gave me a terrific example of leadership.

Graduating college and starting a real reporting job just a week later, I had no idea what to really expect. Starting with my first day on the job, I got a taste of real action. As I was sitting in on my first County Court session, a robbery was taking place about 20 miles down the road, in Edmeston. Rushing back to the office, fellow reporter Cameron and I raced out in search of the culprit. We searched the area, but could find no trace of the suspect. However, the sheer exhilaration of the chase was enough to enthrall me.

That was the defining moment when I learned that college cannot prepare you for the reality of real time reporting. You are not just sitting in a classroom, being lectured, with daily assignments to turn in. Rather, you are exploring the community, scouring out the prime news stories of the day, and building connections in the locality. I couldn’t have envisioned what being a reporter truly entails.

If the rest of my reporting days are just as fulfilling as my first few weeks have been, then I know that I picked the right career for me. I hope that I can continue to provide you, the community, with quality reporting.

You can contact me a number of ways:
Phone: 607-337-3076
e-mail: kcoffey@evesun.com
twitter: @evesunkieran

Rest easy, Champ.

Back in elementary school, I was tasked with choosing a ‘famous’ person who had made a difference in my life. Many students chose presidents. One picked Jackie Kennedy. Another, Marilyn Monroe.
I picked The Greatest.
Saturday morning I entered my living room, turned on CNN and learned that Muhammad Ali had passed away at age 74. I should have seen it coming; I should have been more mentally prepared. I knew these last years were rough. I should have known.
But I didn’t, and I certainly wasn’t ready. I dropped my purse onto the floor, and sipped my coffee while in a slight state of shock.
Ali was the reason I had a heavy bag throughout my youth and teen years. He’s the reason behind so much of who I am today.
Sure, he’s always been known for being pretty, being feisty, confident and of course, the greatest. He’s deserving of all those and more.
The Louisville native won his first Olympic gold medal in 1960. He was 18, and known as Cassius Clay. Before one of his matches at the games in Rome, he made a prediction: that he would win by a knockout in the second round. …His prediction came true. He continued making similar predictions on his matches, often in poem or rhyme form.
In Ali’s 1975 autobiography, he wrote that after returning to his hometown, he attempted to eat at a ‘whites-only’ restaurant, and he threw his Olympic medal into the Ohio river.
In 1964, after going professional, his record was 19-0. He was the underdog in the championship fight against Sonny Liston. In his typical fashion, he predicted victory in a brash and colorful manner.
In the beginning of the seventh round of the bout, Liston refused to leave his corner and the fight ended with Clay becoming the heavyweight champion of the world.
Later that same year, he announced that he was a muslim, and changed his name to Muhammad Ali.
His fighting style set a precedent. I could have only wished – in my young years passionate about fighting – to be as quick. I couldn’t even come close to his speed, precision, accuracy. No one could. That’s why he’s the greatest. But that’s not the only reason.
Now it was his actions in April 1967, outside of the ring, that made me realize that this human was not just a fighter, a fantastic boxer. He was an incredibly smart man who was about to become a champion of a people.
Of course, many disagreed with his actions then, and I’m sure many do today.
Ali was drafted in 1966, and was called to serve in the Vietnam War. Prior to his induction which was scheduled for 1967, Ali made many statements as to why he would not be fighting:
“Why should they ask me to put on a uniform and go ten thousand miles from home and drop bombs and bullets on brown people in Vietnam while so-called Negro people in Louisville are treated like dogs and denied simple human rights?
No, I am not going ten thousand miles from home to help murder and burn another poor nation simply to continue the domination of white slave masters of the darker people the world over. This is the day when such evils must come to an end. I have been warned that to take such a stand would put my prestige in jeopardy and could cause me to lose millions of dollars which should accrue to me as the champion.
But I have said it once and I will say it again. The real enemy of my people is right here. I will not disgrace my religion, my people or myself by becoming a tool to enslave those who are fighting for their own justice, freedom and equality…
If I thought the war was going to bring freedom and equality to 22 million of my people they wouldn’t have to draft me, I’d join tomorrow. But I either have to obey the laws of the land or the laws of Allah. I have nothing to lose by standing up for my beliefs. So I’ll go to jail. We’ve been in jail for four hundred years.”
I recall one of my teachers in school referring to Ali as a ‘draft dodger.’
Shy, quiet little me piped right up, clarifying the difference between a ‘draft dodger’ and conscientious objector.
I recall going home and telling my mother that my teacher was incorrect, and tried to discredit the actions and words of a man who was standing up for his beliefs and a man who was a civil rights champion for so many people.
Ali was subsequently arrested following his refusal for induction. He was convicted of draft evasion, sentenced to five years in prison, fined $10,000 and banned from boxing for three years. He stayed out of prison as his case was appealed and returned to the ring on October 26, 1970, knocking out Jerry Quarry in Atlanta in the third round.
Ali was not only a champion for folks like me.
After his statements on Vietnam, Dr. Martin Luther King said in 1967, “Like Muhammad Ali puts it, we are all—black and brown and poor—victims of the same system of oppression.”
When Nelson Mandela was imprisoned on Robben Island, he said that Muhammad Ali gave him hope that the walls would some day come tumbling down.
Ali redefined what ‘tough’ meant. The difference he was able to make in a culture that worshipped sports and violence while also idolizing African American athletes and criminalizing their skin color, Ali was able to bring so many together.
He made it known that it was important to speak the truth, no matter the cost.
Ali taught a simple lesson: “real men” fight for peace and “real women” raise their voices.
Bryant Gumbel once said on Ali, “Muhammad Ali refused to be afraid. And being that way, he gave other people courage.”
…Ain’t that the truth.
In 1984, Ali was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease. His public appearances became few and far between – that is until his appearance at the 1996 Olympics.
I remember watching it. I sat in front of the television at eight years old and watched him – with a trembling arm – light the Olympic cauldron. That moment not only opened my eyes, but the world’s eyes, to a disease worthy of more attention. He became the face of the struggle of the disease.
Still, you could see the heart of a champion. The heart of the greatest.
Once he lost his ability to speak because of the disease, gone were the days of his witty one-liners and poems. Gone were the statements of how pretty he was.
Ali’s last known public appearance was at a fundraising event for the Muhammad Ali Parkinson Center at Barrow Neurological Institute, to which he donated millions. He was donned in sunglasses and didn’t speak, but deservingly received his final standing ovation.
In a Tweet written by his daughter Hana when Ali was hospitalized last week and after the family was told his health was not going to improve, she said hey held his once powerful hands. They hugged and kissed their 74-year-old father. They chanted Islamic prayer. Hana wrote that some of his children opted to whisper in his ear: “You can go now. We will be okay. We love you. Thank you. You can go back to God now.”
After Ali’s organs had failed, his heart continued to beat for 30 additional minutes.
That, my friends, is strength. That, is great. That, gives me hope.
Ali said in the years following the Vietnam issue, “Some people thought I was a hero. Some people said that what I did was wrong. But everything I did was according to my conscience. I wasn’t trying to be a leader. I just wanted to be free.”
Isn’t that what we all want? To be free?
Ali’s words on Vietnam can be changed slightly and still be relevant today.
Ali has helped me to remember to be kind. To care. To be politically aware. To stand up when everyone else sits down. Reminded me that some days, I don’t need to straighten my crown. He helped me to understand that I don’t need to apologize for who I am or what I believe, and that I am capable of anything I want to achieve.
Rest easy, Champ. You will always be The Greatest.

Lead by example

Being able to say I am just two days short of having been employed for the past 10 months at The Evening Sun, is something that came in the blink of an eye. The adult world is still something of a marvel to myself, as I am slowly picking up on the ins and outs and how to truly ‘adult’ correctly. I now have a new appreciation for my parents, my teachers and my coaches for putting up with my three younger brothers and I, to say the least.

However, one thing I have really be focusing on, is forcing myself to step back and slow down, to really take in and observe what I am doing each day.

As my days generally revolve around what high school games I will be going to and which articles I have to write about for the next days paper, I find myself surrounded by student athletes and coaches almost everyday. Therefore, I have gotten to know many coaches and athletes thus far, and have been able to observe many different ways that coaches attempt to reach these young athletes.

The athletes have been amazing to observe, when I can still remember what was running through my head what feels like ages ago, but in reality was just a short years ago. As I knew back then and as I see evident even more so now, each person is different in their approach to their respective sport, their preparation, attitude, and it really is quite interesting to observe all these students from all across Chenango County perform, and at quite a high level I might add.

But the coaches and their many different styles has been what truly has caught my attention, when I find the time to focus on what I am constantly and endlessly writing about. Without singling anyone out, in a positive or negative light, I admire and enjoy working with all of the various coaches in Chenango County.

When I think back to my many coaches I had in various sports growing up, I most fondly remember the ones who helped inspire and shape me into the ‘adult’ I am today. But, nevertheless, I also remember the few coaches who seemed to be just placeholders and the even a couple of coaches who were utterly negative and not inspiring in the least.

Coaches essentially are an extension of teachers in our society, helping to mold and shape the young minds of our youth. I know personally I can think of many influential coaches in my life, and even today I maintain a friendship with many of them. However, these negative coaches still hold a place in ones mind as well, something to strive not to become.

As I deal with all of the varsity level coaches in Chenango County, I have come to see a small glimpse of each of their styles. So when I happen to run into coaches that openly seem to be coaching not for the betterment of our youth and the sport, but instead for their own praise and pride, it bothers me to a degree. To hear these coaches complain that their team ‘doesn’t play for them,’ or ‘they aren’t winning,’ is perplexing to me, as even within a losing season, I always understood a huge part coaching was to manage their team and help inspire a spark to want to win.

A great coach and man taught me that sports are essentially a prelude to life – you have to work as a team, you have to excel individually, you have to face constant adversity, and when you fail you have to learn from it and get back up– this coach remains a part of my life today, and people like this belong in the coaching realm, and can truly help mold our youth into positive human beings.

When an individual is coaching for simply a paycheck or to get their name on a plaque, I see it as a drain on our local sports, which already are fighting an uphill battle with dwindling enrollment in some sports and simply the fact that Chenango County does not have the large class A schools and their budgets that accompany to further their success. Despite all this, I see much promise for the future of Chenango County high school sports if pushed in the right direction.

These young student athletes will one day be ‘adults’, entering into everyday life. For some of these kids, school and sports is all they may have if their parents are absent or otherwise not raising them. Therefore, it is important to be there and set a strong example for them, so one day they can look back on their coaches with thanks for the lessons taught, rather than have another thing –their coaches – that my millennial generation can blame their shortcomings on.

That being said, these negative coaches are few and far between, and usually work their way out of the coaching staff on their own accord.

Now as The full-time Sports Editor at The Evening Sun, and with nearly two full varsity seasons under my belt, it has been a pleasure to work with each and every team thus far, and I look forward to finding out what future seasons have to bring.

Good luck to the many teams and athletes of Chenango County who are or will be heading into post-season play this week or in the coming week, and lets hope each team can get that win and advance to the next round. And to those athletes and coaches that have concluded their seasons or will be shortly, it was a hectic spring 2016 season, but a very engaging and fun time.

Time is flying by

The end of 2015 and beginning of 2016 has been one crazy ride so far.

As I have now wrapped up my first six months of many being employed here at The Evening Sun, I could not have imagined that the time would have passed so quickly. I have had so many great times, and memories in such a short time.

I have learned so many tricks of the trade that I was unaware of when graduating from college. I have covered so many different areas in journalism, one aspect and something I think working for a local newspaper really helps with. This versatility and truly soaking in a broad range of topics from court, crime, sports, drug panels, school events, meetings, and so on has given me so much experience. Experience that I think has helped me grow as a person and as a writer.

I was amazed by the staff that is employed at The Evening Sun when I started and instantly knew I would enjoy working with them. Now just over six months later, I would agree even more with that statement and add that I am amazed with the amount of work and effort that each individual puts into their work on a daily basis.

The yearly Progress Chenango Edition, a recap and brief look forward for Chenango County Businesses, was truly a growing experience for me and has taught me some key time management techniques I will be carrying into this 2016 year.

Due to currently being understaffed, we had to bring on some stringers to help out with the Sports section. I want to personally thank Kieran Coffey and Grady Thompson for their effort and work helping us manage when times get tough, and not just manage but operate in my own personal opinion at a very high level.

But with that it has not all been happy and good all the time. While working on covering courts and crime I have seen, and now know many things that go on in our communities here in Chenango County that are saddening. Our addiction and crime problem for the small communities we live in is honestly disgusting but it is good to see small progressive steps being taken to address these issues. I look forward to seeing these small steps hopefully progress as 2016 continues.

Let alone the problems that face our community, as well as added stress from being understaffed and living the adult life now, it can be daunting at times. But with the great friends I have now right here at The Evening Sun, no task seems too daunting.

It is however important to step away from work for a bit and regroup from time to time. That is why with the big game coming up this Sunday featuring Denver and Carolina, I will be in full force cheering on my favorite football player and reason I started watching football way back, Peyton Manning.

I would like nothing more than to see Peyton and company win this big game over Carolina, as the legend himself notches win number 200 and becomes the most winningest quarterback in history, before he rides out into the sunset towards retirement.

So on that note, Go Denver!

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