Interview with Jerod Cherry

Je’Rod Cherry played safety and on special teams for 4 different teams  over the course of his nine-year NFL career. Cherry is best known for his special team work for the Patriots when they won three Super Bowls in 4 years. After his football career Je’Rod Cherry got into broadcast media and in 2009 became a talk show host  for WKNR 850 in Cleveland.

I had the privilege of meeting Je’Rod Cherry and other former NFL player like Pro-Bowlers Michael Turner and Greg Jones at our annual NFL Journalism Boot Camp.

Here is my full interview taken on April 22nd with Je’Rod Cherry.

Q: How do you think the media narratives about Tom Brady and Bill Belichick differ from the people they actually are?

One thing people don’t know about Bill Belichick is that he’s isn’t just a dark anti-social old guy. Belichick has a great sense of humor and can be a warm, caring person as well. What you see is what you get with Tom Brady. He’s just a great classy guy who everyone respects.

Q: You played on some bad teams, and on one of the greatest dynasties of the last 20 years. What were some of the differences between the good teams and the bad teams as far as the locker room atmosphere?

Good teams had a common purpose. Good teams won for each other while other teams had too many “me-first” guys. The Patriots instilled a culture that brought people together for the purpose of winning ball games.

Q: You said on radio and at the Bootcamp that you feel that if a player truly wants to win they’d play through concussions? Could you expound on this statement?

Football is a physical sport. You have to sacrifice your body just to be competent. Sometimes there are situations where you may be hurt. You have to make a decision about whether you value your long-term health or team. The guys that are willing to risk injury and long term health have more determination and warrior spirit needed to play football at the highest level.

Q: What do think is the most distinct characteristic of the Cleveland Media? How does it compare to Boston’s media or the national media?

The difference between Boston and Cleveland is that the Cleveland media speak there mind more. Cleveland media is more hopeful and can be positive.

Q: What was the best advice you’ve received about transitioning from football to the broadcast world?

Approach it the same way you would when you play football. If you study hard and work at it you will have a long successful career, just like you would have in football.

Reflections on Laremy Tunsil’s Historic Draft Slide

by Brendan Ripley-Barasch

The 2016 NFL Draft was held this past Thursday night in Chicago and there were some surprises to say the least. A couple of things that may have shocked some fans included linebacker Myles Jack falling out of the first-round, CB Eli Apple being drafted at No. 10 by the New York Giants, and the mind-boggling amount of former Ohio State Buckeyes taken in the first-round. But one thing that took everyone by surprise was how far offensive lineman Laremy Tunsil fell.

                                                                                    Image via http://www.clarionledger.com

A dramatic series of events led to Tunsil falling all the way to the Miami Dolphins at No. 13. This player, who was once seen as the number one overall prospect in the draft, saw his downfall begin moments before the draft. Exactly thirteen minutes before the start of the draft, a video was posted to Laremy’s verified Twitter account that showed the former Ole Miss Rebel smoking what is assumed to be weed from a gas-mask bong. After a couple of minutes the video was taken down and the account was then deactivated. The video may have only been up for a few minutes but the damage was done and once again the power of social media was demonstrated.

Even after Tunsil had been selected by the Dolphins the mayhem continued. After the pick, an image was uploaded to Laremy’s Instagram account that showed text messages supposedly between Ole Miss Assistant Athletic Director John Miller and Tunsil. The conversation consisted of Tunsil seeking money from Miller to pay his mother’s rent and electric bills. Last season at Ole Miss, Laremy served a seven-game suspension stemming from similar accusations where he was found guilty of accepting improper benefits.

When it was all over, Laremy was still drafted in the top twenty but his fall cost him millions of dollars. In an article from ESPN titled Video kept Ravens from drafting Laremy Tunsil with No. 6 overall pick, writer Jamison Hensley discusses how the video impacted the Baltimore Ravens evaluation of Tunsil. The author writes, “The Baltimore Ravens would have taken Ole Miss offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil with the No. 6 overall pick were it not for the gas mask video that surfaced.” Even though he only talks about one team, it is probably fair to say the twelve other teams that passed on the prospect were thinking similarly. In the same article, Hensley writes something that ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported, “According to Schefter, Tunsil lost $7 million by falling seven spots in the draft.” Not only did this social media blunder tarnish the player’s image, but it also caused him to lose a lot of money.

It was very hard to watch this young man’s life just unravel right in front of us on one of the biggest stages in professional sports. But this is just the latest case of athletes suffering at the hands of social media. Recently it has been reported that the Dolphins believe Tunsil’s former financial adviser is who hacked into these accounts and posted the image and video. During the draft, ESPN analyst Jon Gruden gave his opinion on the issue, “We live in a glass house these days. … There’s a lot of money and people’s futures at stake. I hope this doesn’t come back to haunt Tunsil. Hopefully it’s a learning experience for him. He’s gotta clean this up if he wants to play in this league.” With this statement, Gruden echoes mine and surely many others opinions.

Following the draft, Laremy Tunsil admitted to the media that he had in fact taken money from an Ole Miss coach and that the screenshots were real. It is unclear whether the NCAA had already been aware of these actions since they had already suspended the player last season for the same reason. Now that Tunsil had admitted such a thing to an audience of millions, the NCAA will surely continue their investigation with the university.

This event is one of the most publicized examples of an athlete being punished for things that had been posted to their social media accounts. Obviously it is unfortunate for Tunsil to fall all the way to No. 13, but he is saying all the right things starting with accepting full responsibility for his actions. The player has a bright future ahead of him in the NFL but this will follow him for many years to come. It cannot be emphasized enough how big of a role social media plays in forming a person’s image and it is crucial for athletes as well as regular people to realize how to properly use these platforms. It is my hope that other athletes learn from this and don’t make the same mistake Tunsil did.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Trouble in Philly: Sam Bradford Wants Out

by Brendan Ripley-Barasch

The City of Philadelphia has had a tough go with their professional sports teams in recent years. Most notably, the Eagles have consistently under performed despite having elite talent like LeSean McCoy, Demarco Murray and DeSean Jackson at some point over the past four years. The Phillies have quickly plummeted to the bottom of the MLB and how could we forget the 76ers who have been one of the worst teams in NBA history for the past few seasons. The struggles continued when Eagles quarterback Sam Bradford reportedly requested a trade early Monday morning.

                                                                           Image via http://www.philly.com

The former number one overall draft pick is most likely seeking a trade because of the move his current team made a few days ago. Last Thursday the Philadelphia Eagles agreed to send the no. 8, no. 77, and no. 100 picks in this year’s draft along with a first-round pick in 2017 and 2018 second-round pick to the Cleveland Browns to receive the second overall pick in this year’s draft as well as a 2017 fourth-round pick. After the trade was officially completed, Eagles representatives announced that they planned on taking a QB with the second overall pick. It is interesting that Philly decided to trade away so many picks just so they could draft another signal-caller with the second selection. It is only interesting because this past off-season the team signed Bradford to a two-year deal which included $22 million in guaranteed money while also signing former Kansas City quarterback Chase Daniel to a three-year contract where he is guaranteed $12 million.

It is obvious that the Eagles are trying to solidify what is widely seen as the most important position in football and the trade shows just how desperate they were in doing so. Bradford is upset with the move and he has every right to, why would he tolerate being seen as a stop-gap player?

Earlier in the week, reports were that even after the trade, Sam did not wish to be traded and wanted to prove to the organization that he was “the guy.” But now the complete opposite is being said, the next couple days will prove which report is correct. For now we’re going to pretend that Bradford actually does want to be traded. There are a few teams who are in the market for an experienced quarterback. To name a few, the Denver Broncosand San Francisco 49ers.  With the departure of both Peyton Manning and Brock Osweiler, Denver is in dire need of a player who can lead the team. In San Francisco’s case, the organization has not shown the most trust in Colin Kaepernick and might be interested in making a deal.

Even with his reported request for a trade, Eagles management is supporting Bradford. Executive Vice President of Football Operations Howie Roseman was quoted as saying, “to reiterate our support for Sam Bradford and go back to our statements last week — that Sam is our starting quarterback.” This statement shows that the team is trying to downplay the drama surrounding their quarterback situation, and they are saying the right things.

Even if the former Oklahoma Sooner did request a trade, the media has no room to criticize him. Just like any other player, Bradford wants respect. And if the team does actually use the 2nd pick on a QB, which will most likely be Carson Wentz, why is it wrong for them to plan for the future? The organization is attempting to change the approach they have had the past few seasons, instead of trying to win now, they are figuring out how to win in the future and that means they must have a quarterback who can do that. It would not be the worst idea to take Wentz and let him sit for a couple of seasons allowing him to adjust to a pro style NFL offense. But even if Wentz isn’t thrown into the fire his rookie year, he still has a lot of pressure on him. Philadelphia sacrificed a lot to get this pick and they are counting on Wentz or any other QB they get to make it worth it.

The 2016 NFL Draft will be held in Chicago on April 28th and Eagles faithful as well as media will be waiting patiently to see what their team does. If Philly sticks to their plan and takes a QB, it will take a couple seasons to see who got the best of the trade because now the Cleveland Browns are seen as the clear winners and that is a first.

 

 

Tom Brady Suspension Reinstated: Does Goodell Have too Much Power?

The NFL, in their battle against Tom Brady, finally got a victory with the appeals court. The Court reversed the federal judge’s ruling of nullifying Brady’s four-game suspension. As reported on CNN in an article titled “NFL wins ‘Deflategate’ appeal; Tom Brady’s suspension reinstated”, Monday’s court decision came to rule that Goodell “properly exercised his broad discretion under the collective bargaining agreement and that his procedural rulings were properly grounded in that agreement and did not deprive Brady of fundamental fairness.”

Now the NFL has to decide whether they want to exercise the power to reinstate Brady’s suspension in the league. If the suspension remains is intact, Brady will miss games against the Cardinals, Dolphins, Texans, and Bills. A lot could happen in the next few months, as the NFLPA and Tom Brady will need to decide what action to take next against Goodell and the suspension.

In response the new of the suspension, media and personalities throughout the United States posted on social media to voice their opinions. Bill Simmons, who in the past publically spoke on Goodell’s abuse of power, tweeted “FREE TOM BRADY.” Similarly, Skip Bayless urged Brady to attempt to take the case to the supreme court. Even a presidential nominee, Donald Trump, said “leave Tom Brady alone,” at a rally. The news shook the sports world, and could change the landscape for the upcoming NFL season.

Interestingly enough, the court itself stated that Goodell “properly exercised his broad discretion.” It admits that Goodell has “broad” power when it comes to disciplinary action. The media has only been covering the reports of Brady and story between the two sides, the Patriots and the NFL. In reality, it is extremely noteworthy that the judicial system is willing to admit Goodell has excess power in disciplinary action for the league. It is unfortunate that a league with so much influence and coverage throughout the country has been so greatly challenged by the agendas of the commissioner.

At the end of the day, the NFL must address the issue of Goodell’s power. It greatly affects the league, and the players on the field. Whether it is Tom Brady, Ray Rice, Greg Hardy, or Adrian Peterson, the NFLPA and the players themselves need to stand for their rights in the league.

 

Who’s in the Wrong? Curt Schilling or ESPN?

by Brendan Ripley-Barasch

Curt Schilling has been in the news lately for all the wrong reasons. The former Major League Baseball pitcher has served as a baseball analyst for ESPN since 2010, but this past Wednesday was fired from the network because of the “transphobic” comments that he posted on Facebook.

                                                                            Image via awfulannouncing.com

To give a little background, Schilling first entered the public eye in 1988 when he debuted for the Baltimore Orioles as a right-handed pitcher. The former second round pick then went on to play for the Astros, Phillies, Diamondbacks, and Red Sox over the course of 19 seasons. During his career, Schilling won three World Series titles (including being named co-World Series MVP in 2001) and was a six-time All-Star. Arguably the most memorable part of his MLB tenure came in game 6 of the 2004 ALCS when he was on the Red Sox and pitched while having a torn tendon in his ankle causing blood to become visible through his sock, this game is now known as “the bloody sock game.”

Sadly these are all just memories and now the former MLB star is seen as transphobic by many. As stated earlier, Schilling was let go by ESPN because of a post he shared on Facebook, it was a picture of a man dressed as woman  and read, “Let him in! To the restroom with your daughter or else you’re a narrow minded, judgmental, unloving, racist bigot who needs to die!!!” He also added a comment that said, “A man is a man no matter what they call themselves. I don’t care what they are, who they sleep with, men’s room was designed for the penis, women’s not so much. Now you need laws telling us differently? Pathetic.” This post was obviously a response to the recent uproar caused by North Carolina passing a law which restricted public restroom and locker-room use to individuals based on birth sex. In simpler terms, people are angry that a person who was born a man but has since changed genders to a woman, will still be forced to share a locker-room with men even though they are a woman now.

This actually is not the first time that Schilling has been disciplined by the network for comments he made about popular social issues. In August of 2015, Curt was suspended from ESPN after he posted a meme on twitter that read, “It’s said ONLY 5-10% of Muslims are extremists…In 1940, ONLY 7% of Germans were Nazis, how’d that go?”

With all of this said, is it wrong for ESPN to fire Mr. Schilling because he expresses his personal beliefs? Some will argue that a man is entitled to his own opinion and he should not have to keep it to himself when we live in a country that takes pride in their freedom and where the First Amendment of our Constitution protects our freedom of speech. This is true but technically in the First Amendment it states that only the government cannot restrict freedom of speech from anyone. So actually ESPN did not infringe on his First Amendment rights and legally has the power to fire him if they wish.

Many of the stories that have been written about Curt Schilling and his recent termination state that what he said and more importantly how he said it was wrong but also credit him with starting a public conversation concerning a very popular issue. In an article from The New York Post titled “Curt Schilling got fired for his Common Sense on Bathrooms,” author Linda Chavez is inspired from Schilling to ask an important question. She writes, “Are Americans being intimidated into accepting public behavior that many feel threatens them — namely, allowing biologically male or female individuals to use public bathrooms that are designated for the opposite sex?” While this was a pretty “raw” way of giving his opinion on this certain topic of discussion, it has caused more and more people to start talking about something that may be looked at as a “sensitive” subject.

The statement ESPN issued regarding Schilling’s dismissal reads as follows, “Curt Schilling has been advised that his conduct was unacceptable and his employment with ESPN has been terminated.” In an article titled “Curt Schilling’s Crassness, Not Politics, Got Him Fired From ESPN” from forbes.com, author Alex Reimer claims that the analyst was only fired because of the way he gave his opinion, not the opinion itself. He writes, “Curt Schilling isn’t being persecuted for his right-wing views. He’s being persecuted for the crass and crude ways he expresses them.” This is very interesting and makes one think that if he had stated his views in a more appropriate way would he have still been let go?

It is unclear whether the public will ever know if the former pitcher was let go because the network thought his views were offending or if it was only because of the way he said it. One thing that is clear is that Schilling will not be a part of ESPN’s staff moving forward. Following his termination, Schilling was quoted as saying, “I’m not transphobic, I’m not homophobic.” So the question I have now is that if a different analyst, who doesn’t have a history of being outspoken, would have said something similar (in a gentler way) would he or she have been fired?

 

 

 

Hard Work Pays Off, Just Ask Jeremy Hazelbaker

by Brendan Ripley-Barasch

It is pretty common to hear a feel-good story about a professional athlete, whether it is about them coming from a low-income family or overcoming a devastating injury. But Jeremy Hazelbaker’s story is a unique one, it is about perseverance, dedication, and dealing with adversity.

                                       Image via http://www.ksdk.com

Currently, baseball analysts are spending their time discussing Trevor Story’s historic start, but one player that has maybe been more impressive than Story is the rookie outfielder for the St. Louis Cardinals, Jeremy Hazelbaker. Similar to Story, Hazelbaker was only given a shot in the big league this year because of something that happened to another player. For Story, he was given the opportunity because Rockies shortstop Jose Reyes is on paid leave from the MLB stemming from a domestic violence case. In Jeremy’s case, he got his shot because of an injury that Cardinals shortstop Ruben Tejada suffered which opened up a spot for him on the 40-man roster. With that said, let it be known that Hazelbaker certainly earned his spot and it was not only because of the injury. In Spring Training, the prospect showed the team that he was capable of playing all three outfield spots, led the club with two homers, and was one of the top base stealers in the entire league.

This is one of those feel-good stories because not only did the Ball State alum earn a spot on the team on the last day of Spring Training, but also because he had been in the minors for the past seven seasons before finally breaking through this year. Originally a fourth round pick of the Boston Red Sox, the outfielder’s path to the majors included playing in 751 minor-league games where he had 3,104 plate appearances. At this time last year Hazelbaker was sitting at home wondering if he would ever get another chance in professional baseball after he was cut by the Los Angeles Dodgers. The only team to reach out to him after his release was the Cardinals, who signed Hazelbaker to a minor-league contract. He then went from AA to AAA in 2015 sporting an average above .300 at both stops. Hazelbaker was rewarded for his excellent play with a contract that paid him $18,000 a month, more than he had ever been paid before, and an invitation to Big-League camp. He made the most of his chance and as described before, eventually made the Major League club out of Spring Training.

As of Monday, the 28 year-old is batting .394 with three home runs, seven runs batted in, and an OPS of 1.239 through the first two weeks of the 2016 season. Those numbers are eye-popping for any player, let alone one viewed as a career minor-leaguer. The rookie has also earned praise from his teammates through his play. In an article from baseballamerica.com titled After Long Stay In Minors, Hazelbaker Arrives, writer Derrick Goold includes a quote from Randal Grichuk one of Hazelbaker’s fellow outfielders. Grichuk is quoted as calling Jeremy “the greatest hitter ever.” This is definitely a stretch but it is obvious that Hazelbaker has not only earned respect from the coaching staff but also his teammates.

The coverage of the (kind of) young outfielder hasn’t been the same as that of Trevor Story, but I venture to think this player maybe prefers it that way. As he has joined the MLB’s top hitters atop the leader boards, more and more stories are being written about him by the day. Hazelbaker’s story is very appealing to baseball writers because they know that we as fans crave these kind of feel-good tales about players overcoming obstacles to ultimately succeed at the highest level. Similar to myself, Jeremy hails from a very small town. He grew up in Selma, Indiana which has a total population of 858. There is no doubt that this man, who is one of the hottest topics of conversation in baseball, is the talk of the town and is serving as not only an inspiration to all the kids from back home but also to anyone who is at a cross-roads whether in sports or life in general.

It is pretty obvious that the player will eventually slow down in terms of his production but he has certainly impacted many from his dedication and humbleness. In an article from USA Today titled Jeremy Hazelbaker’s big league dream comes true with Cardinals, author Bob Nightengale includes a quote from the player himself where he demonstrates this humbleness. Jeremy is quoted as saying, “this is stuff you think about, even dream about…But at the same time, it’s not something you can prepare for. I can’t thank them enough for giving me this opportunity.” The stories that members of the media have wrote about the player have all been positive ones that emphasize the player’s determination and credit him for finally reaching the big leagues because of his incredible work ethic. It is my hope that Hazelbaker stays consistent throughout the 162-game season and I am confident he will, solely because of the motivation he has gained from his past failures.

 

 

The Thrill of Victory and the Agony of Defeat: The 2016 Masters

By Josh Roeloffs

On Sunday in the middle of the afternoon, the final round of the Masters was seemingly over. Spieth had a commanding lead, with five birdies on the front nine, up multiple strokes heading into the back nine. If there was an athlete who would not choke on the biggest stage, it was Jordan Spieth. As viewers began to change the channel, Spieth began to slip. Bogies on holes 10 and  11 diminished his dominating lead, the viewers turned back. While Spieth struggled, Danny Willett shined. Spieth, -5, was up one stroke now heading into the 12th hole. He puts two shots into the water and quadruple bogies and is now down four strokes to Willett. Just a few hours later, Spieth is holding the green jacket and placing it on Danny Willett, the new Masters Champion.

Danny Willett is a story in himself. A 28-year-old whose wife gave birth just a week prior is now the defending Master’s champion. Willett is not even a current pro on the PGA tour as he plays in the European Tour. He delayed his PGA tour career to prepare for the upcoming birth of his child, but he and his wife talked it over decided it would be best if he played in the Masters even her delivery date was Sunday the 10th, championship Sunday. Even though the unknown, Danny Willett prepared himself for the Masters; and on the 18th green on Sunday night, it is inevitable that it was all worth it.

The media has covered Spieth’s collapse and Danny Willett’s rise to champion, but one aspect of the final day that was looked over was  in the way Spieth conducted himself though the evening’s events. This was one of the most awkward green jacket ceremonies to date. Not to take away from what Willett accomplished, but Spieth could have put the nail in the coffin on the 10th, 11th, and 12th holes; instead, he tallied two bogies and a quadruple bogie. At the ceremony, Spieth, the defending Masters champion, needed to place the next green jacket on the current champion. “Obviously, I’m happy for Danny and he handled it with extreme class.” Spieth, a 22-year-old, would not have been “in the wrong” for not being classy about it, but instead, Spieth was a professional and it speaks to the greatness that Spieth has in front of him in the years to come.

At the end of the day, the 2016 Masters was one of the greatest to date. The Championship Sunday was unbelievable; Spieth’s collapse, Willett’s excellence, and the ceremony cannot be written or produced. It was golf at its finest and it truly speaks to “the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.”