Sports

Seau Suicide Highlights Athletes' Post-Career Risks

By Tonia Magras   |   Friday, May 4, 2012
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May 4, 2012
 
BOSTON — The day after the suicide of former NFL linebacker Junior Seau at 43 stunned the football world, an emotional Bob Kraft of the New England Patriots shared his thoughts.
 
"He sent me something in the few weeks after Myra’s passing and he wrote, 'I’m so sorry about the passing of Mrs. Kraft' — " Kraft began to cry as he continued — "'She was an inspiration to me. I have so much respect for all she did and to help people lead better lives. I’ll always be there for you and your family.'"
 
Among sad football deaths, this "is one of the most dramatic because of how great Seau was … he was a first-ballot Hall of Famer," said Damon Amendolara, host of 98.5 The Sports Hub.
 
"Inside of that locker room, he was a hero," said sports reporter Chris Collins of NECN, who covered Seau at the end of his career, with the New England Patriots. "He was a teacher, he was a mentor and he was a friend."
 
Seau’s state of mind and the details surrounding a car accident in 2010 have led some to question whether years of head bumping contributed to his death.
 
His family said there were no signs of stress or depression — and his sister Annette said the media would "overblow this."
 
Amendolara said Seau had no notable on-field accidents but pointed out that over much of his career, people weren't focusing on head injuries — and that the linebacker had spent "over 20 years in the most violent position in the football field."
 
While no one knows what drove Seau to take his own life, former NFL player Tiki Barber said that depression is common among former NFL players: "There is a façade that sits around athletes that we are these strong, emotionally strong, powerful beings, when in fact, we’re just human beings."
 
Collins agreed that turbulent currents could lie under the façade. "I know a lot of retired NFL players and a lot of them are going through the same type of deal: When you see them out, when you see them on the golf course everything is fine but they're in a dark place when they get home."
 
Said Amendolara, "It should shine the light right now on former players and what they deal with, whether it's because of the violence of the game and head injuries or just removing themselves from the adrenaline rush — because this is happening far too much."
 


The Poet of Fenway

By WGBH News   |   Friday, April 20, 2012
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April 20, 2012

BOSTON —  Fenway's one-of-a-kind charm has inspired no end of literary giants, including such as Stephen King, poet Donald Hall and perhaps most famously John "lyric little bandbox" Updike. Today, Dick Flavin is carrying on the tradition as the official poet laureate of Fenway Park. Sure the pay is low — but that keeps competition for the spot down, he joked. This is his special verse for the Fenway centennial, as heard on The Callie Crossley Show. Listen to the rest of the conversation above.

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The Day I Rooted for the Red Sox

By Danielle Dreilinger   |   Friday, April 20, 2012
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"I just don't know where I went wrong," said my dad, the Yankees fan.
 
Because he did everything right. He took me to my first Yankees game at age 6. From then on, once a year, we drove in to the Bronx; he bought the scorecard and explained how to score a fielder's choice. We threw peanut shells on the ground as he said, "This is one of the only public places where it's OK to throw your peanut shells on the ground." My 10th birthday present was my first night game. When a foul ball came flying in our direction, I ducked and Dad scrambled to get it.
 
Even when I left New York in 1999, I never thought my allegiance would shift. The family's baseball loyalties had only changed once, under duress, and my great-aunt went to her grave a Brooklyn Dodgers fan.

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'No Dame Ever Ran No Marathon'

By Annie Shreffler   |   Saturday, April 14, 2012
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April 14, 2012

katherine_switzer

Katherine Switzer, of Syracuse, NY, found herself about to be thrown out of the Boston Marathon when a husky companion, Thomas Miller, threw a block that tossed a race official out of the running instead. (April 19, 1967 in Hopkinton, Mass. Photo: AP)

Listen to Morning Edition host Bob Seay's extended interview with Katherine Switzer.

BOSTON — As a student running with the men's track team at Syracuse University, Katherine Switzer challenged her coach to train her for the 1967 Boston Marathon, to which he retorted, "No dame ever ran no marathon!"

He may not have heard of Roberta Gibbs, who in 1966, hid in the bushes near the start of the marathon in Hopkinton, Mass., and completed the race—without a number—disguised in her brother's running gear. She was hailed after the event for disproving the position held by many sports officials that women were incapable of running such distances.

In 1967, when Switzer outran her coach over 31 miles, he declared her eligible to enter the Boston Marathon. He accompanied her, and even defended her, as she became the first woman to finish the Boston Marathon with a number: 261.

Not long after the start of the run, infuriated race official Jock Semple tried to pull Switzer off the course, establishing the infamous moment in race history and beginning Switzer's long career as a runner, author and advocate for women's athletics. She is now a well-known speaker and champion of Title IX, which 40 years ago made it illegal for any organization receiving federal funds to discriminate against women, and became the basis for starting women's high school and collegiate sports programs.

Switzer also helped to establish a women's marathon as an official event in the Olympic games. The first time women ran in an Olympic marathon was in 1984, and American Joan Benoit became the first women's Olympic marathon champion. Benoit returns to Boston to run this year in the 116th Boston Marathon.

In 1972, women were finally allowed to register for the Boston Marathon, and that year, Nina Kuscsik became the first woman to officially complete the race. The Boston Athletic Association, host of the Boston Marathon, paid tribute during this year's annual Champions’ Breakfast to the women who ran as official members of the 76th marathon forty years ago: Kuscsik, Switzer, Pat Barrett, Sara Mae Berman and Valerie Rogosheske, as well as poineering runner Robera Gibbs.

In the extended interview with WGBH Morning Edition host Bob Seay, you can hear Switzer recall how on that day 45 years ago,  she was frightened and surprised by Semple's reaction and took her coaches advice to "run like hell." Five years later, she and Semple buried the hatchet and went on to become friends. 

"Every day I thank Jock Semple for attacking me in the race because he gave me a fabulous vehicle on which to campaign for women's equal rights," Switzer said.

Switzer was a 2011 inductee to the National Women's Hall of Fame, which recognizes women whose work impacts and improves society and promotes equality.

Red Sox Season Opens Under a Cloud

By Danielle Dreilinger   |   Thursday, April 5, 2012
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April 5, 2012

david ortiz big papi

David Ortiz hits a sac fly to center field to score Dustin Pedroia during the ninth inning in the first game of the season. (Carlos Osorio/AP)

 
BOSTON — This week, Christians observe Easter, Jews Passover and 80-plus percent of Massachusetts voters of all creeds celebrate Opening Day.
 
One year ago, all the on-lookers forecast a banner (or … pennant) year for the Sox. Before the first game, the Boston Herald declared them the "Best Team Ever!"
 
That was then. After the team's historic September collapse, followed by unsavory revelations about beer and fried chicken in the clubhouse and the departure of both general manager Theo Epstein and manager Terry Francona — predictions for this season are dire. (Except that hope springs eternal.)
 
Scott Lauber, Red Sox beat writer for the Boston Herald, said the pendulum of public opinion might have swung too far. "The core of the team is the same so probably expectations ought to be a little bit higher than they are," he said. Names on the starting roster Thursday include offensive stalwarts Ellsbury, Pedroia, Ortiz and Youk. Their bats were part of a 2011 lineup scored more runs than any other team, Lauber pointed out.
 
"Really the big new name" is manager Bobby Valentine, Lauber said. "He's very outspoken, he's got an opinion on just about everything and he's not afraid to share it. Which is great for us in the media … but it can provide some problems in the clubhouse."
 
He added that even Valentine's enemies consider him a very astute strategist with an unparalleled knowledge of the game.
 
Can they beat the Yanks? Maybe. "The Red Sox have got issues with their pitching in particular," Lauber said cautiously. "They can certainly hit with the Yankees."
 
In the end, despite a ninth-inning rally, the Sox fell to the Tigers 3-2. But it's just the first of the 162 games that will be played over the course of a long season.

Digging into BU's 'Hockey Culture'

By Toni Waterman & Danielle Dreilinger   |   Monday, February 27, 2012
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Feb. 27, 2012

BOSTON — In the uproar over allegations of sexual assaults by two members of the Boston University hockey team, and with university president Robert Brown creating a task force on "hockey culture," some are wondering whether athletes really walk on water over Commonwealth Ave.
 
Two hockey experts said the reputation is real.
 
"They do get special treatment, " said sports agent Stephen Freyer. "People are telling them how wonderful they are all the time … sometimes the emotions and the ego get out of control."
 
Sports psychologist Frederick Neff agreed. He was the Bruins' team psychologist for over 20 years. Star athletes are "given this high level of attention. They're being told to think in ways that are just a little bit different."
 
And, BU junior Nicole Mallia told WGBH News, "since we don’t have a football team, the hockey team takes the place of that as the 'golden guys' on campus."
 
Still, Freyer found the allegations shocking because head coach Jack Parker had a reputation for running a tight ship. 
 
BU Daily Free Press sports reporter Arielle Aronson said the team is "horrified."
 
"The previous incident had really seemed like an isolated incident," she said. "When you have that second one with charges even more serious than the first time, it seems like, well now, what’s going on with these players? What’s going on with this team that’s causing them to be arrested for very, very serious charges?"
 
Aronson has traveled with the team for the past three years. Now, she said, "I interviewed one of the players who’s normally pretty talkative and he had trouble looking at me."
 
She thought the incidents did not reflect a culture of superiority on the hockey team. Instead, she pointed to a bigger issue at the university: drinking.
 
"It seems that there’s a culture amongst all college students where you go out and you get very, very drunk on nights and when that happens, something bad, something inappropriate is bound to happen," she said.
 
In fact, Coach Parker attempted to contain that risk by allowing players to drink only one night per week during the season. However, Freyer thought that might do more harm than good.
 
"To have one night a week where you can theoretically binge … does put an odd stress on that particular night," he said.
 
> > Coach Parker responds to the second set of allegations and talks about "the problem of control of drinking."


About the Authors
WGBH News
The WGBH News team comprises the WGBH radio newsroom, The Callie Crossley Show, The Emily Rooney Show and WGBH Channel 2 reporters and producers from Greater Boston and Basic Black. 
Danielle Dreilinger Danielle Dreilinger
Danielle Dreilinger is an author and news producer for WGBH.org.


Annie Shreffler Annie Shreffler
Annie Shreffler is a digital features producer, writer and photographer for WGBH.org. She obtained an M.A. in Journalism from the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism and kicked off her second career as a digital projects producer for The Brian Lehrer Show on WNYC New York Public Radio.

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