Twining’s Take on the Week in Sports: gay athletes, wardrobe malfunctions and a Joe Frazier tribute

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This Saturday will mark the first time since November 19, 1949 that Joe Paterno is not a part of the Penn State coaching staff on game day. Back then, the sports world looked a whole heck of a lot different than it does now. Vince Lombardi was an O-line coach at Army, Dean Smith was a freshman at Kansas under head coach Phog Allen, the NBA had just begun its fourth season and Jackie Robinson and Ted Williams had just been named American League and National League MVP, respectively.

Now, 62 years later, Paterno is out at Penn State and the sports world has drastically changed. Since the Penn State scandal is something everybody is talking about this week I want to keep this week’s Twining’s Take on the week in sports scandal-free. Obviously Penn state is the hot topic, but I’d like to touch six other sports stories from the past two weeks.

David Testo comes out

David Testo courtesy Pirma Canada via FlickrI just read this yesterday, so it’s pretty fresh news. David Testo, professional soccer player formerly of the Montreal Impact and the Vancouver Whitecaps publicly announced he is gay. The 30-year-old midfielder, who is currently not with a team, told CBC Radio-Canada that teammates knew he was gay and accepted him, but he was afraid to go public until now.

“It’s like carrying around a secret, you know, and carrying around luggage and just never being allowed to be yourself,” Testo told CBC.

This is an awesome story and shows that we are one step closer to a major, mainstream American athlete coming out of the closet. Testo says he feels more confident and mature and now is ready to speak openly. Wikipedia has a list, I have no idea how complete, of openly gay professional athletes. Hopefully Testo’s admission can help others confidently join that list.

Wilson Ramos kidnapped

Since the previous topic of discussion was about someone coming out of the closet, figuratively, let’s turn the focus to someone who might actually be locked in a closet. Okay, that was a terrible joke and this is a terrible news story. On Wednesday evening, Washington Nationals catcher Wilson Ramos, 24, was kidnapped at gunpoint from his home in Venezuela. While it’s shocking to think of an MLB player being kidnapped, kidnappings in Venezuela are not that uncommon. In fact, kidnappers in Venezuela are like Pirates in Somalia, it’s basically a very illegal business.

Ramos’ abduction, by four armed gunmen while he was outside his home with his brother and father, is the first known kidnapping of a major leaguer in a country that has scores of players on big league rosters, and it has brought a renewed focus on rising violent crime in Venezuela.

It is recommended that MLB players have a security detail with them to prevent these such kidnappings from happening. And while it is good that Ramos is alive and healthy, for the time being, it’s disappointing to think that foreign-born players cannot even travel back to their home countries without fearing for their lives. This is also tough news for the Nationals for whom the young catcher was supposed to be a centerpiece in a youth movement that also includes pitcher Stephen Strasburg and hotshot outfielder Bryce Harper.

No fine for wardrobe malfunction

Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake courtesy lassy88 via FlickrThe term “wardrobe malfunction” became a household phrase following the halftime show at the 2004 Super Bowl. At this point, everybody should know what took place at the end of Justin Timberlake’s performance of ‘Rock Your Body,’ but if you don’t let me fill you in. When Timberlake sang the final lyrics – “I’m gonna have you naked by the end of this song,” – he ripped off Jackson’s bustier, briefly exposing her breast and a silver sunburst “shield” covering her nipple.

Now, I think we can all agree that the exposure of Jackson’s nipple was a planned act between the two singers. Regardless whether it was planned or not, CBS was fined $550,000 for the display of nudity. Well, finally, a federal appeals court upheld its finding that the Federal Communications Commissions acted improperly in fining CBS. This ends a 7-year court battle over half-a-second of nudity.

How much money do you think CBS or the FCC wasted trying to overturn or uphold a $550,000 fine. I know that amount is just more than half a million, but in the 7 years since I almost guarantee more than $1 million was spent in court and attorney fees. Since this is clearly more about principle and less about money I hope the money and time put into this battle was all worth it.

Can’t Spell Elite without Eli

Before the season started, Eli Manning’s seventh in the NFL, the New York Giants quarterback said he was worthy of being listed, along with Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and Drew Brees, as one of the elite quarterbacks in the league. Many scoffed at that notion because Eli has never been seen as a dominant quarterback, his victory over the Patriots in Super Bowl XLII has been considered lucky or a fluke, and he’s not even the best quarterback in his family.

But after the youngest Manning and his Giants went head-to-head with Brady and the Patriots in Foxborough and came out victorious, I think it’s time we start looking at Eli Manning a little differently. Since taking over as the Giants starter during his rookie year, Manning has not missed a start. He’s won 66 games and the Giants have never had a record worse than 8-8. Since being named Super Bowl MVP, Manning has completed better than 60 percent of his passes and tossed at least 20 touchdowns in each of the three season since/ He’s on pace to do the same this season.

Last Sunday, after Brady had led his Patriots on a go-ahead touchdown drive, capped off by a touchdown pass to tight end Rob Gronkowski with a little less than two minutes to play, Manning never flinched. He took his Giants right down the field and connected with his tight end, Jake Ballard, for the game-winning score. What makes the Giants’ 24-20 victory so remarkable is that the Patriots had won 20-consecutive regular-season home games and Brady, who missed a full season due to injury, had won 31-straight at home.

Kelly “Champion” Slater

On this Veteran’s Day, which originally began as Armistice Day which commemorated the end of World War I on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, I wanted to pay tribute to 39-year-old Kelly Slater who won his 11th Association of Surfing Professionals (ASP) World Title last Sunday. Slater, who turns 40 in February, became the oldest surfer to win the title for which he was also the youngest to win. Slater won the first of his 11 world Championships when he was only 18 years old. Sunday, Slater advanced out of the fourth round at the Rip Curl Pro Search in San Francisco and had finally built an insurmountable points lead to secure the title …for the second time in a week.

The previous Wednesday, November 2, Slater was incorrectly announced as the World Champion due to a points calculation error. The error resulted in the resignation of ASP CEO Brodie Carr, but didn’t result in a new champion. Sunday, in ironic fashion, Slater beat two surfers young enough to be his kids in the fourth round to secure the title.

“I’m stoked. I was upset about it at first, but I also thought it was really funny,” said Slater about the miscalculation after officially winning. “”I’m going against two kids that could literally be my kids, and those kids throw gnarly turns.”

The Passing of Smokin’ Joe Frazier

Smokin’ Joe Frazier was a three-time Ring Magazine Boxer of the Year, he became the first boxer to beat Muhammad Ali in the “Fight of the Century” at Madison Square Garden and Howard Cosell’s “Down goes Frazier” from a 1973 fight between Frazier and George Foreman is one of the most iconic sports calls ever. At 67 years old, after a brief fight with liver cancer, Joe Frazier died last Monday night.

Frazier was one of history’s best boxers. Forever linked with Ali, he often lived in the shadow of his top competitor. Since the departure of Lennox Lewis, Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield from the heavyweight scene, boxing has seen few full-fleged rivalries. None, though, rivals what Frazier and Ali had during the 1970’s. Joe Frazier and Muhammad Ali courtesy cliff1066 via Flickr

Frazier’s only victory over Ali came in their first fight in 1971. The fight went into the 15th and final round before Smokin’ Joe finally knocked Ali to the mat, eventually retaining his World Heavyweight Title. The boxing world had to wait three years for the rematch, once again at Madison Square Garden, but not nearly as hyped. Ali won to pull even in the rivalry and a little more than a year later, the two met for the third and final time on a humid morning in the Philippines.

The Thrilla in Manila, one of the most famous fights ever, was stopped after the 14th round with both fighters bloody, bruised and beaten. Ali would later say it was the closest to dying that he’s ever been and in a brief post-fight interview said “Joe Frazier, I’ll tell the world right now, brings out the best in me. I’m gonna tell ya, that’s one helluva man, and God bless him.” With Frazier’s passing on Monday, I’m sure many are saying the same thing. He was a helluva man and may he rest in peace.

Photos courtesy Pirma Canada, lassy88 and cliff1066 via Flickr.

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