Author Archives: doncollins3

2018 NFL Broadcasting Boot Camp Through My Eyes

By Don Collins

Bowling Green State University (BGSU) is like my second home. Ever since I first set foot on campus, I have loved my time here. One of the deciding factors for my enrollment at BGSU was how much like home it seemed and this spring I had an experience that felt like Christmas to me.

Bowling Green was the host of the 2018 NFL Broadcast Boot Camp that was put together by the NFL’s Player Engagement department. I was absolutely honored to be chosen as an ambassador for the four-day event. The event was an opportunity for current and former players to practice and develop their skills in the world of sport media.

As an ambassador, I was tasked with assisting a group of players with getting to and from sessions in a timely manner (which I found out was wishful thinking!). I was assigned a group by way of randomly drawing from sheets of paper. Usually I have bad luck picking things randomly. Not this time.

My group was awesome, but I’m getting ahead of myself. I must start at the beginning. The first day, I had to round up the troops prior to their first session. I can’t lie, I was a little nervous meeting 8 former players who all had on suits that made me feel like I needed a major wardrobe upgrade.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Over the course of the day, I was able to sit in on all the sessions but also get to know more about them. This part of the Boot Camp for me was one of the best in my opinion. So much of what we see as consumers of the media is filtered through somebody else’s viewpoint. Without getting too detailed, I feel like everyone has an expectation of what professional athletes are like due to what we’ve been told, not what we’ve experienced.

My number one goal prior to the Boot Camp was something I tend to always do: Treat people as people. Granted, the people I was with for four days were giants compared to my stature, but at the end of the day, pro athletes are people as well.

One highlight of the camp was getting to know the individual personalities that each player possessed. Particularly in my group, each guy had something that I thought would serve them well in their future careers. The camp offered them a chance to see what medium best delivered that side of themselves to the consumers of sport media

The actual Boot Camp sessions were cool too. I attended almost every session and took detailed notes since this is going to be my profession as well! If the NFL Player Engagement office ever reads this, I want them to know that every session was very informative, and I learned a lot. Hopefully that means that if I took a lot away from the camp, then so did the players.

Two memories stick out to me from the Boot Camp. First was sitting down with Jerry Porter, Fred Jackson and Joselio Hanson on the set and discussing the upcoming NFL Draft and other football tidbits. For me, I am very conscious of the fact that nothing is guaranteed and that may have been my only time to share a set with these gentlemen, so I cherished the opportunity.

My second favorite memory took place on the last day of the camp. Talking to the players throughout the entire process of their culminating color commentary of this year’s Super Bowl was awesome. Seeing how they applied what they had been learning was great, but also the fun time taking pictures and sitting in on some of the sessions was a treat.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

On a personal note, this semester has been a blessing because everything seems to be happening right on time and perfectly. Ignoring the bumps along the road that come and go during a semester of college, I have never felt more comfortable with my career path and outlook. The Boot Camp literally brought tears to my eyes when it was over. Not because I was overcome with sadness that it was over, but because for four days, I felt like I was right where I needed to be. I am forever grateful to the people who gave me this opportunity, but also to the players for being the good people they are. Finally, I must shout out to my mom and dad. They have taught me the lessons necessary to be ready when the opportunity arises. It won’t be the last time that I’ll be ready.

Defying Expectations

By Don Collins

The month of March has provided the upfront and in your face approach to shattering what conventional wisdom says is possible. Every year around this time, millions of brackets are filled out in anticipation of the annual tournament. Every year, the games provide thrills, chills, sometimes spills, but above all else, entertainment.

The 2018 version of the tournament has been difficult to describe in my opinion. On one hand, the lack of a clear-cut consensus team to pick as the favorite can make some deem this year a “weak” tournament. This sentiment was never more present than the impossible coming to the forefront of not just plausible, but reality when the University of Maryland, Baltimore County upset #1 overall seed Virginia. The better team doesn’t always win, but the advantage Virginia has over UMBC should have resulted in a 30-point victory for UVA. But it didn’t.

Instead, opening weekend was a tone setter for defying expectations. That brings me to the now solidified Final Four. This year it consists of Michigan, Villanova, Kansas and Loyola-Chicago. It is not hard to pick which school doesn’t belong with the rest. The Ramblers have been on a war path so far in the tournament, but they represent for me a very interesting scenario.

By all accounts, this magical run has been what I consider the greatest sporting story in the city of Chicago since the Cubs won the 2016 World Series. At a time when the winter teams from the area are the worst they’ve been in quite some time (looking at you Bulls and Hawks), Loyola has stolen the show. When a Chicago team goes on a run, the only thing for a native to do is to cheer for the hometown team, right?

Loyola celebrating.jpg

The Ramblers picked an awesome time to go on this run. This coincides with my favorite college basketball team making their run at the chip. Yes, if you didn’t know, I am a Kansas fan. My bracket every year has those Jayhawks winning it all. Yup, you read that right, every year since I filled out my first bracket and got every Final Four participant right along with the champion, I’ve picked them to win the whole thing.

Unwavering faith and belief in my team has become something of a running joke both in society and amongst my friends. Kansas is one of the few teams whose only goal in a season involves winning a title. Fair or not, anything less is seen as a disappointment. So, the future Hall of Fame head coach, Bill Self, has had his legacy called into question and many players leave “less accomplished” somehow because they didn’t survive until the very end in the past decade.

Kansas, in a weird twist of fate, has become an underdog of sorts when it comes to March Madness. Not a true one, of course, because they have the talent to go on a run every year. No, they defy much different expectations: the impossible ones that deem your successes failure simply for failing to hoist a trophy.

kansas_loss.jpg

On a personal level, these two being in the Final Four is nothing short of exciting. My best friend, Gia, is a Loyola alum and to see her alma mater’s history altering ways bring pure happiness to her has been flat out amazing. Normally, anything that’ll put a smile on her face is pre-approved in my book. So, even though it’ll eliminate the team I had facing Kansas in the championship game, I’ll be pulling for Loyola to upset Michigan this weekend. But if Kansas then takes care of business against Villanova, a respected bunch of guys with championship pedigrees themselves, things get interesting.

The duality of the situation is so intriguing to me. Basketball is not the thing that Gia and I usually bond over, but here we are in the middle of March dedicating time to discussing this highly improbable event. Both of our teams, for wildly different reasons, aren’t supposed to be here. Loyola, an 11-seed, was supposed to be bounced a few games ago. And Kansas? Oh, they were supposed to choke around the same time, wilting under the pressure of March.

But, here we are. What was deemed the worst group Bill Self has had in the past decade is knocking on the doorstep of doing what none of his other teams have done since 2008. And the little team from Chicago is still on their path to making history.

Sports are truly one of a kind. They have the power to connect in ways you never thought possible. So, G, I hope that Sister Jean’s team continues this wonderful run. I also hope my team wins it all, but we can cross that bridge when we get there.

Lamar Jackson, Quarterback

By Don Collins

It’s officially NFL Draft season. No doubt every prospect will have every aspect of their game pored over in a manner like never before in their careers. There will be some risers and fallers at every position, but none will be more criticized than the quarterback (QB) position. Every QB comes with a perceived risk in this upcoming draft class and teams will be looking to see how to navigate their shortcomings and groom them to become franchise carriers.

My issue comes with how the media is handling one NFL prospect – Lamar Jackson from the University of Louisville. Maybe you’ve heard of him. Maybe not. Just in case, here he is during his Heisman Trophy winning 2016 campaign. Surely, he deserved a shot to play QB in the NFL after this impressive campaign, right? Unfortunately, Lamar had to return to Louisville for another season to fulfill his required three years in college. What did he do to follow up his sensational season? He improved on it!

One of the rumblings circling through the media during the buildup to Day 2 of the Combine was that Jackson had been asked to switch to wide receiver (WR). This isn’t a particularly odd thing for teams to do for fringe QB prospects that have struggled with mechanics or inconsistent play. What’s odd is that Jackson is a bona fide prospect who even declined to run at the combine.

Take a second to let that sink in. A player who is projected to go late first/second round is being asked to switch positions after not catching a single pass in college. This narrative of denigrating an African American QB’s ability to do what he’s done his entire life is something that seemingly always lurks in football. The NFL has a documented history of slighting Black QB’s, but this is something truly strange.

Bill Polian, respected retired General Manager, has been adamant about his belief that Jackson is best suited at WR at the next level. In an ESPN appearance in February, Polian said “I think wide receiver. Exceptional athlete, exceptional ability to make you miss, exceptional acceleration, exceptional instinct with the ball in his hand and that’s rare for wide receivers. That’s *AB, and who else? Name me another one, Julio’s not even like that” (Lyles, 2018, para. 3). Polian continued by saying, “Clearly, clearly not the thrower that the other guys are. The accuracy isn’t there.” (Lyles, 2018, para. 4)

Are you serious??? Lamar was more accurate than consensus top 3 QB Josh Allen. He’s taller than Baker Mayfield. He is, in my opinion, the player who did the most ‘backpacking’ of his University in the past few seasons (Backpacking = putting the team on his back and carrying them further than they could have gone without him).

I am not clamoring for Lamar Jackson to be picked first in the draft. I’m simply asking him to be given the opportunity to continue playing his position.

*AB = Antonio Brown of the Pittsburgh Steelers.

 

References

Lamar Jackson. (2018). Sports-Reference.com  Retrieved from https://www.sports-

reference.com/cfb/players/lamar-jackson-1.html

Lyles, H. (2018, February 19). Bill Polian has a bad opinion about Lamar Jackson (again!).

     SBNation. Retrieved from https://www.sbnation.com/2018/2/19/17027762/bill-polian-lamar-

jackson-nfl

What in The World Was The NBA Thinking?

By Don Collins

Over the weekend, the NBA was buzzing in popular culture. The stars were all out to commemorate the league’s All Star weekend in Los Angeles. Among the festivities, the players and the league organized a video wishing the many NBA fans in China a Happy New Year.

The video montage featured many different NBA players sending their well wishes with some even showing off their linguistic skills by trying out some Chinese phrases. A well-intended gesture until a segment of the video began making the rounds on the internet. The portion that has caused so much controversy includes Philadelphia 76er JJ Redick uttering what appears to be a racial slur.

Watching the outrage that ensued has been for me a calculated effort. One thing I have begun to do whenever anything happens, good or bad, is to let all the facts trickle out and then make a decision instead of rushing to conclusions. I watched the video and, after a few days, reached this conclusion: this is unacceptable, but my outrage does not start with Redick.

I do not know him personally, but everything I have gathered about him during his career is that he seems to be a good person. I believe he made a mistake while trying to say his message. As someone who is beginning to spend more and more time on the air waves, I am learning sometimes you can say something too fast for your brain to process. This is doubly true in a situation where everyone involved is probably on a tighter schedule. His apology, a gesture that nowadays feels more obligatory than genuine, offered an explanation that was consistent with the thinking that he was trying to say too much in one sentence.

My issue with the whole thing is that no one caught this. How can a league that has billions of dollars at their disposal, not catch this in the editing process? Especially when they care so much about the growth of the brand in China. While I do not think JJ Redick is racist toward Chinese people, it was still a slur. I understand if some fans overseas do not ever root for him again or tune out 76ers games.

My hope is that all parties learn from this. American history has taught us more about the immediate people in our country. Had Redick said the n-word, accidental or not, it would almost surely be edited out of an official NBA release. While this incident is an ugly look for the NBA, it can be used as a teachable lesson. Do your due diligence. The time it would have taken for Redick to slow down or even re-record his message could have also been the amount of time needed to edit the video.

Greatness Starts With A Single Letter (N)

By Don Collins

Greatness always starts with a single letter. I had a bit of nervousness about my first post that developed into a mild case of writer’s block. As the old proverb by Lao Tzu says, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” To combat my writers block, I simply had to just get started. I decided to write the first sentence that came to mind.

Women have faced an uphill climb in the world of sport, but each step in the right direction builds toward a future where disparities based on gender do not exist. To combat this gender block, some significant words have been written into laws protecting the right to participate in sport for women.

The purpose of this writing is to highlight ‘N.’ According to the National Girls and Women in Sports Day’s website, “This year marks the 32nd anniversary of National Girls & Women in Sports Day (NGWSD), a national observance celebrating the extraordinary achievements of women and girls in sports.” ( “National Girls,” 2018, para. 1)

I was first alerted to the day by attending one of the Bowling Green Women’s Basketball games versus Toledo on Saturday, January 27, 2018. The two teams observed the occasion by having a special message delivered over the sound system during halftime, as two teams of local elementary school aged girls played. It caught me off guard and I had to scramble to check the website to see if that was indeed the day. Since I run my own sports media entity, Anion Sports, I tend to be on top of significant sporting news. The official date, as listed on the website, is February 7, 2018. Why on earth did the WBB teams observe the day more than a week in advance?

I learned more about the day itself and the history behind it. According to the archives from the Government Publishing Office, NGWSD was signed into existence by President Ronald Reagan on February 3, 1987 to dedicate February 4 as the first National Women in Sports Day.  My confusion remained. Why did the BGSU Women’s team observe it on January 27th ?

Part of the reason may have to do with scheduling. BGSU has a home game on February 3rd so they could have observed it closer to the actual official date. But then I discovered something else. There is no official date. It changes every year, although the national day is usually recognized sometime during the first week of February.

This transparency in the schedule allows for a greater number of opportunities to recognize the day. A friend who goes to Michigan State informed me that the MSU Women’s team recognized the day a few days after BGSU did. Their team doesn’t have a home game on the 7th, so it makes sense that the team would have to plan around that. But BGSU plays on Wednesday. What goes into their decision-making process? Maybe it was the availability of the younger girls who played at halftime. This makes sense if they had a game the Saturday before the 7th and then didn’t want to have the younger girls out on a school night.

All in all, the fluidity of the process enables a greater number of observances. I would like to reach out to a representative from the Women Sports Foundation or the athletic department here on campus ahead of my own recognition of NGWSD. Greatness is something that I have focused on a lot in the past year and a half. I feel that all people contribute greatness in their own way and no one deserves to be left out. So, the National Girls and Women’s in Sports Day is something that I am proud to have witnessed, thanks to the efforts of BGSU Athletics.

 

 

References

Lao Tzu Quotes. (n.d.). BrainyQuote.com. Retrieved from https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/lao_tzu_137141

National Girls & Women in Sports Day. (2018). NGWSD.org. Retrieved from http://ngwsd.org/

National Women in Sports Day, 1987. (1987, February 3). Government Publishing Office. Retrieved from https://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/STATUTE-101/pdf/STATUTE-101-Pg2073.pdf

Don Collins is a senior at Bowling Green State University where he pursues a major in Sport Management with a specialization in Journalism. He is originally from Homewood, Illinois, about forty minutes south of Chicago. His primary sport interests include baseball, basketball and football, but he loves all sports in general.