Katie Nolan demolishes, shreds, eviscerates the NFL’s treatment of women

One thing to know about Fox Sports TV personality Katie Nolan before watching her takedown of Dallas Cowboys cretin Greg Hardy and his return to the NFL:

She’s a sports person.

We’re not talking about some scolding schoolmarm who goes looking for trouble in the sports world where it doesn’t exist. She’s someone who’ll gladly go to the sports bar and chat/argue sports with whoever’s there.

This is typical Katie Nolan fare — a bit of foul-mouthed, pop culture-referencing Millennial sports snark:

One of her most-viewed clips: She takes issue with baseball pitcher Madison Bumgartner chugging multiple beers at once, saying he’s not actually ingesting much of the beer. So she figures out a way to drink six at once.

It’s like the Beer Mile, except she drank more beer and didn’t run.

She does mail segments where she tackles issues like her favorite beers, makeup, and whether “Crossfit Guys” or “Marathon Guys” are more pretentious (New England Revolution shoutout at 4:52):

Basically, this is not some wine-sipping woman in yoga pants whose sports experience is limited to their kids’ travel lacrosse games. (No offense to my yoga class. Just saying I’d be surprised if she hung out with you all.) She’s the woman who hangs around the frat house to watch football and chug Coors Light.

So, National Football League and its hangers-on — when you’ve lost Katie Nolan, you’ve stepped in it. Big time.

And rest assured, pro football folks — by laughing along with Greg Hardy when he comes back from a suspension for a horrific assault of his ex-girlfriend with leering comments about Tom Brady’s wife and tone-deaf talk about “guns blazing,” you’ve lost Katie Nolan.

And let me explain something to the bros on Twitter, the last refuge for dirtbaggery in America, who are desperately trying to make up for their insecurities with tweets aimed at putting Nolan back in her place: You’re garbage. You are human only in the sense that you barely possess enough of the DNA that makes you a biped mammal. You are so stupid that companies are literally building business plans that take advantage of your delusions. (See DraftKings. Want to know how they get enough money to advertise 24/7?)

I’ll focus on the positive, from another sports commentator worth watching, Scott Van Pelt.

What he said. Do your thing, Katie. And I hope it inspires more women to stand up to dumbass men.

 

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USA soccer culture is and is not what you want

The United States is, as Schoolhouse Rock reminded us, a great melting pot. It’s not always pretty. As Dave Chappelle said on Dr. Katz“I saw two Irish guys beating an Italian guy — these people are specific.”

Culturally, we’re in a constant state of flux. We’re still young. We’re almost a blank slate.

In soccer culture, we’re even younger and more blank, as Nigel Tufnel might say. Whatever supporter culture existed in the ASL glory days of the 1920s wasn’t handed down in any meaningful manner. The NASL had some serious supporters (as has been pointed out to me when I’ve written about it before), but the lingering “culture” was still shootouts, cheerleaders, disco and Bugs Bunny.

Nature abhors a vacuum, and as soccer has zoomed into the mainstream over the past two decades, we’ve seen a galaxy’s worth of matter rushing into that vacuum.

The result? Let’s put it this way — I wasn’t quite right when I agreed a few years ago that the USA has no soccer culture. We have many soccer cultures.

In a lot of ways, that’s fun. Our supporters groups bring a mix of traditions and languages. We can choose from the best coaching practices around the world.

Or, as I more or less said in my SoccerWire piece today, we can each take our own interpretations of how soccer is supposed to be and just scream at each other all day.

I covered the coaching angle at SoccerWire — the country is crawling with know-it-alls who think their personal experience or some academy they once saw is “the way it’s done around the world.” I did forget to include this Princess Bride clip that I think shows what these coaches think of every other school of thought that isn’t their own:

The “culture” angle as a whole is just as complicated — and aggravating when we fail to fully appreciate our diversity.

Take a look at the City Guides MLSSoccer put together in its season preview. In Chicago, the Fire shuttles fans from “pub to pitch.” Go to D.C. for a Lot 8 tailgate and bounce in the stands with the four supporters groups on the “loud side” at RFK. Take in the tifo in Seattle, cheer for a chainsaw in Portland, or go to Salt Lake and sing along with a chant written by the drummer for punk band Rancid.

“Oh, that’s not authentic,” someone might sneer. Really? That’s less “authentic” than venerable English club Bradford City playing a knockoff of John Denver’s Take Me Home, Country Roads?

Over the weekend, I saw some Twitter traffic by a Premier League fan who was puzzled by seeing streamers on the field at an MLS game. A few astute folks pointed out that this is typical behavior in several countries, moreso in South America than in Western Europe.

Some people don’t like the MLS playoff system. I don’t either, but if you’re going to dismiss the idea entirely, then don’t look at the most popular soccer league on U.S. TV. (Nope, not the Premier League.) A few other South American leagues also have playoffs. You don’t want to know what happened in Brazilian soccer in 2000.

Some fans like drums. Some like tifo. The only thing we agree on is that we hate vuvuzelas.

Some of our internal battles are more serious. When Sam’s Army started the quest to bring supporter culture to the USA, one thing was sacrosanct: We will not be hooligans or racists. The American Outlaws are bigger than Sam’s Army ever got, but they’re struggling with some unsavory elements. (At least we don’t have any of the European idiots who hurl bananas at players who aren’t white.)

If you’re trying to duplicate England or Germany or Brazil in the USA, you’re going to be disappointed. If you appreciate strength through diversity, you’ll appreciate the unique opportunities we have here.

Or, you know, you can just insist things are better elsewhere because you say so. Whichever. Free country and all that.

On Twitter arguments …

Quick disclaimer up front: I’m not referring to any single conversation or even any single group of people here. I’m talking about 20 years or so of talking on the Internet about many topics on many platforms. Twitter just accelerates things a bit.

I’m a lucky man. I have friends who question me. As much as I may joke about wishing I had a chorus of yes men around me (or at least some people who’ll jump in when someone is pestering me on Twitter, rather than just grabbing popcorn and letting me do all the work), I’m glad my friends — real-life, Twitter, Facebook, etc. — are quick to call me out when I’m wrong. (Though, sometimes, I’m not.)

And several of them ask me why I bother to argue with people on Twitter and elsewhere.

It’s surely not good for my career, though the flip side would be that the lack of a corporate umbrella over my head gives me some freedom. People who have or want steady journalism jobs don’t spend their time trying to reason with often-unreasonable people.

Part of it is an unhealthy compulsion on my part to stamp out ignorance. When people say things that are simply wrong — “reporters who cover MLS are all paid by the league” or “only uneducated psychos would watch MMA” — it’s hard for me to bite my tongue.

Part of it is an actual desire to engage. I’ve had social media discussions that started out as hostile but moved into something productive. (And, sadly, vice versa.)

At NSCAA, a presenter shared a wonderful quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson:

Every man I meet is my superior in some way, and in that I learn of him.

That’s what NSCAA itself is all about. Translating that sentiment to Twitter is more difficult.

Well before Twitter, though, the Internet has been full of ideologues and their echo chambers. Ever been to the Flat Earth Society’s message board? It’s a hoot. And arguing with people like this is a bit like slamming your head into a brick wall, breaking that wall, then finding another wall behind it.

Even then, I think there’s some value in the discussion. I’ve found myself better able to articulate the facts and put them in context after a head-banging discussion. That won’t change the minds of the know-it-alls, but maybe it’ll help me refine what I’m writing for the benefit of others.

Do I spend too much time on this? Yes. I’ve actually given up several social media platforms during weekday hours for Lent. I couldn’t do Twitter because that’s actually a source of news, especially during this MLS collective bargaining process.

Do I wish I had the Zen mastery of Twitter that Alexi Lalas demonstrates? Most definitely. I’ve been too snarky at times. It’s one thing to make a soccer player mad when you’re raising reasonable questions; it’s another thing to make a tactless comment that drives off someone whose conversations you enjoy.

We’re all a work in progress. We’re all lifelong learners. I could probably do better with more followers and readers, but I’m glad I don’t get so inundated with input that I have to slam the door shut. I don’t want an echo chamber.

That said, I think it’s time to put some people back on “block” or at least turn away a bit more. Gotta get some actual work done.

The delusion of Adrian Peterson’s defense (w/Hope Solo note)

Adrian Peterson’s lawyer, Rusty Hardin, just issued one of the most specious arguments ever uttered on cable television. And that’s saying something.

Hardin complained that the NFL was trying to punish Peterson beyond what the legal system already did. There’s “no precedent” for such a thing, Hardin said.

I’m sure that statement came as a surprise to:

– Any employee ever fired for flunking a drug test.

– Any employee ever fired for verbally accosting a co-worker. (I actually got a job that way. Someone totally flipped out and got fired, and I moved into his position.)

– Richard Nixon. Legal system? Pardoned. His presidency? Finished.

A few more good examples:

https://twitter.com/Rebel8207/status/535074064457805824

It boggles my mind that lawyers, like political pundits and politicians themselves, think they can make such absurd statements and get away with it.

Why did I mention Hope Solo in the headline? Because her case could end up with a similar question of the courts’ authority and her employers’ authority.

Let’s be clear: We’re not comparing Peterson’s actions with whatever Solo did. As a parent, I’m far more concerned with what Peterson did that what is alleged and not yet even proved against Solo.

But in terms of the process, there’s a similarity in this sense: An athlete can absolutely get one punishment from the legal system and another from an employer.

When Solo finally ends up in court for something beyond a preliminary hearing, we’re going to get something more than just a verdict. We’ll get details that will be examined and cross-examined.

So would there be “precedent” for Solo facing no substantial punishment from the courts and still being suspended for a couple of games by U.S. Soccer? Absolutely.

Would that happen? Probably not. But that’s just how I think U.S. Soccer will act. Not a decision based on “precedent.”

Football (American) still king of high school sports

I don’t know many kids who play youth football. But in my local elementary school, tons of people play youth soccer. I saw some spreadsheets at one time from which it was easy to figure out that nearly half of the boys in second grade were playing.

But the death of high school football, Bob Cook reports, is greatly exaggerated.

One big reason:

Or it could be that football, like track and field, will always have high numbers because at most schools it’s one of the few sports in which nobody gets cut.

It’s easy math. A typical high school may have 50, 60 or even more football players on its varsity, then similar numbers on its junior varsity. Maybe even a C team or a “freshman” team. At a lot of high schools, previous football experience isn’t a prerequisite. They need the numbers.

High school soccer? Good luck. My town typically has 200 boys and 200 girls per grade level playing soccer. Roughly 30-40 percent of those kids will go to the same high school. That’s 60-80 per year. If you’re not playing travel soccer, it’s going to be really difficult to make the team.

Then you have the rituals, as Cook points out:

When I’ve picked up my son after he emerges from the locker room after a game, girls are there saying hi and telling him what a good job he did. This does not happen after his chess tournaments.

It’s Homecoming week at my son’s high school, and it’s a big, football-centered deal. I don’t recall my son getting his locker decorated because of his water polo participation, nor a cheerleader asking to wear his jersey on game day, though that might be because in water polo there was no homecoming, nor jerseys.

Anachronistic? We might think so, but it’s still going on.

Championship time in football offshoots

Besides the USA, two other countries have a prominent game called “football” that is not played with 11 people kicking a ball at a goal without using their hands, and this is the season for their versions of the Super Bowl:

In Australian rules football, we’re down to a surprising final four. The playoff format, which I’ve long argued should be used in U.S. soccer, favors the top four seeds, giving them a second chance if they lose their openers. Last weekend, No. 3 Geelong and No. 4 Fremantle got the boot. See North Melbourne’s two-minute defensive stand to stop Geelong on the AFL site, which also has an eight-minute highlight reel that shows you how deep a hole Geelong had to climb out of.

This weekend’s “preliminary finals” (we would call them semifinals, since the winners advance to the final) will be shown in the USA, though not necessarily live. Sydney, which won a three-way tiebreaker with Hawthorn and Geelong to take the top seed, hosts sixth seed North Melbourne. No. 5 Port Adelaide goes to Hawthorn.

I’m finding broadcasts at 11:30 p.m. ET Friday (Fox Sports 2) and midnight Saturday/Sunday morning (Fox Soccer Plus). That should be Sydney-North Melbourne first and then Hawthorn-Port Adelaide, but I couldn’t verify it.

The Grand Final, an event with all the pomp and excess of the Super Bowl, is Sept. 27. Fox Soccer Plus has a live broadcast at 12:30 a.m. ET.

A lower division final (no, there’s no promotion/relegation) was recently stopped at halftime by something even more violent than the game itself, with fans getting involved.

In Gaelic (Irish) football, Donegal faces Kerry on Sept. 21 in the All-Ireland final, which had a few good storylines leading up to it, including Donegal’s massive upset of Dublin and a semifinal replay controversially moved away from Croke Park by the Penn State-Central Florida (American) football game.

In other Gaelic sports a little farther removed from football:

– Hurling: Kilkenny and Tipperary played to a draw in the All-Ireland final Sept. 7. They’ll replay it Sept. 27.

– Camogie: Cork rallied to beat Kilkenny today in the All-Ireland final of the women’s equivalent of hurling.

If you want to see the football and hurling finals, chances are you’ll need to check out your local Irish pub. As if you needed an excuse.

Women’s soccer hazing injury sparks suit against Clemson coaches

Siri Mullinix is a distinguished women’s soccer alum — starting goalkeeper for the national team while Briana Scurry struggled, terrific player in the WUSA. Eddie Radwanski has a lower profile, but he’s fondly remembered by those of us who saw him play professionally. He had the misfortune of having his peak years fall in between the NASL’s demise and MLS’s launch, so he carved out a career playing indoor and in the USISL/A-League.

And so the natural first reaction upon seeing that Radwanski, Mullinix and many others at Clemson are being sued for a 2011 hazing incident is along the lines of “Say it ain’t so.”

The lawsuit was filed last month but had not yet hit the local news organizations until today, when a colorful site called FITSNews offered up the lawsuit document itself in PDF form. The Greenville News has now published an early story that doesn’t add many details, but they are trying to reach attorneys.

The first few pages aren’t particularly damning. Plaintiff Haley Hunt claims Radwanski, who took over as Clemson coach after she signed with the program, tried to dissuade her from coming to Clemson and made fun of her for being a good student and a member of the Christian group Young Life.

Then comes the hazing incident, which sounds pretty typical at first: The upperclassmen (all named as defendants) dragged freshman players out of their dorm rooms and tossed them into cars. The freshmen are told to perform “humiliating and demeaning acts” that aren’t further described, then taken to the Tigers’ stadium to run blindfolded and do other “demeaning acts and calisthenics.”

Nothing ridiculous so far, right? But then we get to paragraph 51:

Ms. Hunt complied with the orders to run faster. Unaware of where she was running because of the blindfold, Ms. Hunt veered away from the field and sprinted directly – face first – into a brick wall. The momentum of Ms. Hunt’s collision with the brick wall threw her body backwards, causing her to smash into a nearby table and fall to the ground. The players heard Ms. Hunt scream and observed her clench her bloody face. One player described the sound of Ms. Hunt hitting the brick wall as “metal hitting metal.” The impact with the brick wall caused Ms. Hunt to sustain serious injuries to her brain, head, face, and hands. Ms. Hunt was knocked unconscious and had to be physically assisted by the other players.

Horrifying. And now it gets worse:

A few players took Ms. Hunt to the locker room, where they called the Clemson Coach Defendants. Mullinix arrived on the scene and called Michelle Bensmen, an athletic trainer for the Team. Some of the players expressed their opinions that an ambulance was necessary; however, Mullinix instructed them not to tell anyone what had happened. Ms. Hunt was not taken to a hospital. Instead, she was examined by Bensman, who applied a butterfly bandage to her face and sent her to her dorm room without medical attention or any supervision from the Team staff

Bensmen/Bensman (lawyers can’t spell — “Radwanski” is misspelled on at least one occasion) is not a defendant. According to the suit timeline, Hunt later calls her parents, thinking she needs immediate medical attention. (This all takes place in August, so Hunt may not have had a lot of dormmates and friends at this point.) Her parents call “one or more” or the coaches, and Mullinix goes to check on her and eventually stay with her that night. Then Hunt gets treatment from the team doctors, a neurologist and a plastic surgeon.

At this point, we’re talking about a delay in medical treatment that deserves some follow-up questions. But nothing worse.

Until paragraph 62:

Immediately following the Incident and prior to any investigation into the Incident, the Clemson Coach Defendants called a Team meeting and implored the Team that they must not tell anyone about what happened. Specifically, Radwanski told the players: “if you care about our jobs and our Team, then you will not tell anyone about this. We cannot have anybody finding out about this.”

Now comes a curious part — the team doctors cleared Hunt to play, though she was still in pain and having difficulty reading. Again, doctors and trainers are not named as defendants. If the coaches were following medical advice by letting her play, would the burden here fall on the doctors?

But the focus shifts back to Radwanski.

Following the Incident, Radwanski ignored Ms. Hunt’s serious injuries and continued to belittle Ms. Hunt for her academic achievements and involvement with Young Life. In fact, Radwanski was so reckless with Ms. Hunt’s safety that on one occasion he ordered her to climb a soccer goal to untangle the net, which resulted in the goal tipping over and nearly crushing Ms. Hunt under its weight. Radwanski made jokes about this and the other occasions in which he forced Ms. Hunt to perform dangerous, demeaning tasks.

Hunt’s family contacted the Clemson athletic department, which investigated but decided not to penalize anyone.

Enter the Clemson Office of Community and Ethical Standards for a separate investigation. This all happened quickly: The incident was the evening of Aug. 18; the OCES took a statement Aug. 31. The OCES found that the team had violated several university regulations on “harm to person, hazing, and violations of student organizational conduct.” (Wouldn’t the first one trump the next two?) Players had to go through a workshop and give a PowerPoint presentation on what they had learned.

For a couple of years, Hunt remained with the program. She redshirted in 2011, then played 15 games in 2012, racking up academic honors. She played a couple of games in 2013, but according to the suit, her symptoms got worse, and a neurologist told her to stop playing. She was honored in April 2014 with the Bill D’Andrea Tiger Paw Award for “outstanding commitment and selflessness within the team culture,” sharing that award with Hailey Karg. At the same banquet, Vanessa Laxgang won MVP honors and Morgan Hert took the team leadership award.

Laxgang, Karg and Hert are now co-defendants.

The suit, filed Aug. 15, does not mention a specific dollar amount of compensation. “Plaintiff prays for Judgment against the Defendants individually, jointly, and severally for all actual damages, for an appropriate amount in punitive damages in an amount to be determined by the jury at the trial of this action, those attorneys’ fees and costs incurred by this action, and for such other further relief as the court deems just and proper.”

Could the case be resolved out of court? In the Pickens County court records, the case includes an action for “ADR/Alternative Dispute Resolution (Workflow)” with a start date of March 13, 2015.

(Will update if new info arises in the next couple of days)

Horse racing and the impossible Triple Crown

California Chrome, like so many horses before him, did not win the Triple Crown. Unlike many owners before him, Steve Coburn griped that the horses that skipped other Triple Crown races had taken “the coward’s way out.”

Good point, says my former USA TODAY colleague and fellow myriad sports journalist Christine Brennan. Foot in mouth, says my fellow myriad sports journalist Will Graves.

Those of us who remember the 70s remember when Triple Crown winners were commonplace. Or so it seemed. You had Secretariat, a once-in-a-lifetime horse by any standard, in 1973. Then Seattle Slew in 1977 and Affirmed in 1978. Since then, we’ve been waiting for 36 years.

But before then, we were waiting for 25 years. We had plenty of Triple Crown winners in the 30s and 40s, though competition may have been dulled a bit by the Depression and World War II.

So the 70s were really an aberration. And it was close to four in five years — Spectacular Bid and Pleasant Colony fell just short.

For most of the public, a Triple Crown bid is the attention-getter. Last year, with no Triple Crown at stake, the Belmont Stakes drew an overnight rating of 4.6. This year? 12.9.

We’ve had Triple Crown attempts in 1987 (Alysheba), 1989 (Sunday Silence), 1997 (Silver Charm), 1998 (Real Quiet), 1999 (Charismatic), 2002 (War Emblem), 2003 (Funny Cide), 2004 (Smarty Jones), 2008 (Big Brown) and now 2014. (I’ll Have Another won the first two in 2012 but couldn’t run the Belmont.)

What’s that? Oh, you know all those horses? Right. How about Easy Goer, Touch Gold, Victory Gallop, Lemon Drop Kid, Sarava, Empire Maker, Birdstone or Da’Tara? No? They all won the Belmont Stakes. The best of those horses was either Easy Goer, who still has adherents thinking he was a better racer than Sunday Silence, or Victory Gallop, who was second in the Derby and Preakness to Real Quiet and went on to a strong year at age 4. The others aren’t really household names.

Perhaps Coburn has reason to complain. But betting it all on the Belmont usually means a horse may get the Belmont … and nothing else. Everyone roots for the Derby-Preakness winner at the Belmont. Few care about the actual winner.

So does horse racing need a Triple Crown winner? Or does it just need to keep having horses in the running after two races? Maybe horse racing benefits from the Susan Lucci effect — did anyone care about the Daytime Emmys except in the annual fretting over whether this would finally be the year? Quick — who won the Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series last year?

One more valid question about the Triple Crown, from Brennan’s column:

(I)f there are too many concerns about the health of the horses in this current five-week schedule, space out the three legs of the Triple Crown over several more weeks, and again mandate 100 percent attendance for any horse to be in the Belmont field.

That hits home for anyone remembers seeing jockey Chris Antley pull up and save Charismatic’s life in the 1999 Belmont. Or anyone who watched Barbaro struggle with and eventually die from his injury in the 2006 Preakness.

Of course, this isn’t a monolithic sport. The Derby, the Preakness and the Belmont are all individual events with their own traditions. But as everyone keeps trying to breed the next Secretariat and the Triple Crown retains such allure, maybe the quest for the Crown shouldn’t be so risky.

In the meantime, someone should really name a horse after Susan Lucci. She did indeed get her Emmy. But only after a brilliant Saturday Night Live appearance.

Single-Digit Soccer: Your kid will never be a pro

ER doctor Louis Profeta of Indianapolis — ironically, the home of several elite sports organizations — takes revenge on all the parents with whacked-out priorities with a fun, occasionally profane column spelling things out in simplest terms: Your kid and my kid are not playing in the pros.

I’ll lay you two to one odds right now and I don’t even know your kid, I have never even see them play, but I’ll put up my pension that your kid is not playing in the pros. It is simply an odds thing. There are far too many variables working against your child. Injury, burnout, others who are better, – these things are are just a fraction of the barriers preventing your child from becoming “the one.”

The stories of misplaced priorities from his ER are frightening. Parents who are fretting about their starting linebacker being out of the game when their kid was knocked unconscious. Parents asking if a kid with a swollen spleen can just get some extra padding and play. Most disturbing of all — a kid who was roaring drunk, smashed a car and “needs” to get out of the ER before the cops come and fill out a report that will get her kicked off the swim team.

The column raises a couple of questions, and I’m not sure they’re related:

1. Are we supposed to aspire to pro sports careers?

That’s what we hear from women’s soccer players from time to time — we need a pro league so players will have something to which they can aspire.

And in soccer, we’re setting up a massive youth soccer machine to produce pro prospects and national team players. We’re supposed to funnel our best talent to better clubs in better leagues. They all need pro coaches from age 9 upward.

So in soccer, should we expect any backlash when someone pours cold water on the notion of making sacrifices with the goal of a pro career? Or a college scholarship?

2. Are that many parents and players really motivated by the prospect of going pro?

Profeta takes his argument well beyond deflating delusions of professional riches.

It’s because, just like everyone else, we are afraid. We are afraid that Emma will make the cheerleading squad instead of Suzy and that Mitch will start at first base instead of my Dillon. But it doesn’t stop here. You see, if Mitch starts instead of Dillon then Dillon will feel like a failure, and if Dillon feels like a failure then he will sulk and cower in his room, and he will lose his friends because all his friends are on the baseball team too, and if he loses his friends then he will start dressing in Goth duds and pierce his testicle and start using drugs, and listening to head banging music with his door locked. Then, of course, it’s just a matter of time until he’s surfing the net for neo-Nazi memorabilia, visiting gun shows and then opening fire in the school cafeteria. That is why so many fathers who bring their injured sons to the ER are so afraid that they won’t be able to practice this week, or that he may miss the game this weekend. Miss a game, you become a mass murderer – it’s that simple.

Suzy surely isn’t a cheerleader because she wants to go “pro.” In these cases, the kids and (maybe especially) their parents are worried about losing their sense of self if they’re not on the team.

The brilliance of the TV version of Friday Night Lights is that it wasn’t about football. It was about identity. “So what’s it like being the guy who used to be Tim Riggins?” one girl asks of the fullback who returns to town after deciding a week or two of college football (specifically the “college” part) was enough. The star quarterback adapts to life in a wheelchair. A sensitive artist is thrust into the spotlight as the new quarterback. The cheerleader becomes an outcast after sleeping with Riggins. (As if she’s the only one.)

And I see this sense of belonging at early ages. Spend some time on the parents’ sideline at a travel soccer game, and you’re in a nice little club. The players often (but not always) feel the same way.

Remember this ad?

Let me play, they all say. Let me be part of a team so I’ll feel like a part of something greater than myself. Now here’s the reality: For all our focus on sports in this country, it’s not easy to make these teams.

My local soccer club has a couple hundred boys in each of the single-digit years — U6, U7, etc. Maybe 30-40 percent of them will go to my local high school. That’s maybe 60-90 kids per year. How many of them will play in high school?

Well before that, we will have cut players by the score. They won’t make travel teams. At age 8, we’re telling them this sport won’t be a major part of their identities. They’ll either need to make a remarkable leap, find another club or find something else.

So when a child finds something in which he fits, it’s a good thing. And frankly, it’s nice for parents. They have a shared experience. They know their kids are doing something constructive together.

But at what point are we forcing the issue? Probably when we want to get them out of the ER to get back on the swim team.

Rugby rules could spice up NFL extra point

The NFL’s proposal to move the extra point back 23 yards has landed like a lead balloon.

As it should. It’s silly. It messes up the flow of the game, moving everyone back to the 25-yard line (unless they’re going for two, which would still be at close range).

Here’s an idea: Think back to why a touchdown is called a “touchdown.” American football’s history is intertwined with rugby, where the equivalent of a touchdown (inexplicably called a “try”) requires that the ball literally be touched down.

And the location, from left to right, matters. The placement of the ball on the try determines where the kicker will attempt the conversion. That’s why you’ll see rugby players cross the line but then run toward the center of the field before touching the ball down.

So why not try that in the NFL? Throw for the corner? Congratulations — you’ve left your kicker a tough angle.