The U.S. Women’s National Team has been making headlines recently for victories as a team, and as individuals for political statements.
Last week, the team won their second back-to-back World Cup. Shortly after the game, player Allie Long was seen dropping an American flag during the post-game celebration. Her teammate Kelley O’Hara recognized the significance of a flag being dropped on the ground, and immediately scooped it up.
One report from The Daily Wire explained that Long dropped the flag to participate in a celebratory dance with teammate Megan Rapinoe. But the video quickly went viral and comments poured in criticizing Long for her carelessness and thanking O’Hara for stepping in.
It’s very possible that Long meant no disrespect, but just got caught up in the moment and didn’t know that an American flag is NEVER supposed to touch the ground. Nonetheless, millions of viewers were not happy.
If you watch the video, it doesn’t appear that Long is trying to make any sort of political statement by dropping the flag. However teammate Megan Rapinoe has CERTAINLY been making headlines recently for her statements.
Although Rapinoe is mainly known for being a phenomenal soccer player (she won both the Golden Ball and Golden Boot awards this year), her progressive ideals have, let’s just say…raised eyebrows. Rapinoe is very outspoken about her homosexuality and dislike of President Donald Trump. She has followed the example of former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick by refusing to sing or put her hand over her heart during the National Anthem. The pose she makes after scoring a goal of standing with her arms outstretched is supposed to be a symbol of fighting for equal pay, race relations and issues at the United States/Mexican border.
For years athletes have used the attention given them for their athletic success as a means to shed light on their social platforms. There’s nothing wrong with that if they’re promoting awareness for a disease or a foundation that supports children with special needs. But should we as a society draw a line when it comes to political issues?
Some would say there’s no problem- depending on what they do to make the statement. Certainly being a famous athlete gives one more media attention than the average person. Like I mentioned in my last column post, there’s no difference in an athlete and an actor or actress, and they supply their endorsement all the time!
When Colin Kaepernick first kneeled during the National Anthem in 2016, many Americans were outraged. Not necessarily because of his protest of police brutality, but because he chose to do so in a way that many Americans found disrespectful to those who have served in the military. I was, and still am, one of those people. In my opinion Kaepernick and now Rapinoe are missing the mark. Kneeling or not showing respect during the National Anthem is to turn a blind eye to those who have sacrificed everything to give you the freedom to play your sport. It doesn’t have anything to do with first responders.
Nowadays there’s a gray area between sports segments and political talk shows. The two intersect on a daily basis. Just the other day on our live sports show, Instant Replay, my co-host Dave Garner and I had an entire segment dedicated to Nike’s decision to pull the sneakers with a design of the American flag sewn by Betsy Ross on the back. This decision was made after Kaepernick insisted that the flag had a racial history.
I suppose the whole reason this gray area exists is because of the technological advancements of the media. Celebrities who want use their status as a means to promote a certain viewpoint can do so more quickly because of how easy it is to post to Twitter. And in a society that demands news at every moment, something has to take up time in a sports show!
So back to the original question- should there be a line, and if so, where?
Here’s my opinion- sports is sports and politics is politics. Part of the reason I watch a football game or a baseball game is because I want to watch a football game or a baseball game. We are living in a time where politics are more divisive than ever before. One reasons sports are as big as they are today is because of the communities they create. Why should we mix something that causes so many problems to interfere with something that is supposed to help solve them?
When I turn on ESPN, I don’t want to listen to people debate over what is considered disrespectful to the National Anthem. And the next time I watch Fox News, I DARN sure don’t want to hear the name Colin Kaepernick.
As many of you reading this probably already know, it’s not uncommon to see a female reporter on your TV screen for sports outlets like ESPN or Fox Sports. Women are branching out into the sports world unlike ever before, with just as much if not more knowledge than their male co-workers.
Unfortunately, despite the strides already made, I believe sexism still exists in the sports world. I think some men find it hard to believe that women are getting into sports because it isn’t “feminine” or a hobby that they should naturally enjoy. These men don’t realize that a woman’s enjoyment of sports often begins with spending time with a loved one. I always like to mention my Papa Skip, and the football knowledge I gained from being around him and spending Saturdays in Athens.
But whatever reason people have for why a woman shouldn’t work in sports, this post is dedicated to those women who haven’t been listening.
I’ve always been a fan of Erin Andrews, mainly because the girl knows her stuff. Although she’s primarily spotted on the sidelines of NFL games, Andrews has covered everything from College GameDay on ESPN to the World Series. Outside of sports she’s had the opportunity to contribute news to Good Morning America and currently co-hosts on Dancing with the Stars. Side note: she also spent some time in nearby Atlanta covering the Braves, Thrashers and Hawks for Turner South. Whenever people think of successful women in the sports arena, Andrews is usually one of the first ones that comes to mind.
Unfortunately her fame from her work as a sportscaster has not made her immune to those who want to tear her down. In 2008 a man filmed her completely nude through a hotel door peep hole and posted the video online. The video went viral, and Andrews sued the man along with the hotel company and several others. Although Andrews eventually won her case, the time period from when the video was filmed until the suit ended lasted eight years. I can only imagine the embarrassment and anxiety that she endured during that time. I admire her strength and perseverance.
As a die-hard Braves fan, another reporter I’ve watched a lot of and enjoy seeing is Kelsey Wingert. I love Wingert’s delivery on camera because it comes across as so natural. While she does typically have a notebook on hand, she does not use a teleprompter to read a script. In other words, she also knows her stuff.
I follow Wingert on social media, and another thing I like about her is her constant interaction with fans. There have been numerous times I’ve scrolled through my Twitter feed and seen her respond to a fan asking for a chance to meet her during a game. It’s always met with a yes, as soon as the Braves are finished batting.
I could talk all day about female athletes who have also made waves in sports. On Tuesday, the United States women’s national soccer team defeated Thailand 13-0 in the first game of the world cup. Of course we all know the controversy in recent years about the players receiving less pay than their male counterparts.
A fellow reporter told me a story the other day about a young female athlete he once covered who wanted to play baseball in Louisiana. The locals were not having it, and despite all of her hard work throughout the season, she missed out on being able to play one of the biggest games of that year. However, as is the theme for this entire post, she didn’t let that stop her from continuing to work hard. I haven’t mentioned yet that she was also a phenomenal basketball player, and she is Kim Mulkey, head coach of the Baylor women’s basketball team.
The point I’m trying to make here is that there’s no point in trying to hold women back from sports, when we’ve proved time and time again that we know what we’re doing and we can do it really well. I’m sure if you asked each of these women I’ve mentioned if they agree, they would.
I’m thankful for the people along the way, most of them men, that have helped me to see I can do whatever I set my mind to. I’m afraid that sometimes as a society we still judge people based on how they look before we look to see what they can do. Fortunately for me, I have these women who I have already mentioned, and many more who have blazed the trail for me. I believe it’s partially my job to make sure that path continues to stay lit for those after me.
Recently I’ve started watching the show Friday Night Lights again. Let me just say- this is partially important because I’m not a big TV show person. I don’t have the patience to sit through an hour-long episode nor do I usually have the time to keep up with a series. But I figure with pre-season football kicking in and the fall season quickly approaching, revisiting a show that revolves around high school football is one of the best ways to get me hyped up for what’s to come.
Watching this series has also made me think about a couple of things. For one, why do we as a society rally so much around a sport that’s played by boys no older than 18-years-old? Second, do we put too much pressure on athletes who play the game? And finally, is the hype and the pressure truly worth it?
I think the answer can be summed up pretty easily- yes. And why? For love of the game.
But the love of the game is different for each of us. We’re not all going to attend every single football game or spend thousands of dollars to sit in Sanford every Saturday. We all have our limits, and in my opinion that’s perfectly okay.
I like to say that there’s something about having a team that you love that will get inside of you and never leave. I find it fascinating that there are towns across America like Dillon, Texas that will show up in the thousands to support their Panthers. Coaches and players are local celebrities, and you get your butt in the stands every Friday night just as religiously as a pew on Sunday morning. I came from a high school of nearly 4,000 students and a county of almost one million people, but the same spirit that rallies much smaller towns across the country still pulses through mine.
Yes, oftentimes I’m afraid that means we put too much pressure on the athletes who play the game. In my own personal experience, at the high school level we had so many students that it was nearly impossible to know the daily goings-on at the field house. But it was that age-old cycle of that when we would win, the coaches and players would be praised. One loss and the attitude switched faster than the direction of a twister.
But one of the many great things about this country is we have the freedom of choice in many of our decisions. Even though the athletes and coaches who play these games catch a lot of grief, they still have the choice to walk away. Some do. But for those who don’t? I’d venture to say it’s for love of the game.
When it comes to putting pressure on athletes, especially young ones, I believe the relationship is a two-way street. They should know what they’re doing, but despite all the love we have for the game, we need to understand when enough is enough. I’ve heard the term “daddy ball” thrown around a lot before, and it makes me sad to think that there are parents out there who try to live through their children. It’s important to love and support them, but even more important to let them develop their own love for their game.
Finally, like I mentioned earlier, everyone’s love for the game is different. My Papa Skip, who I probably talk to the most about sports, has a different appreciation for them than I do. I’ll use UGA football as an example. He attended classes at UGA- I never have. He still goes every year to the UGA/Florida game in Jacksonville- I’ve only gone once. He pays each year to have season tickets for the home games- I CERTAINLY don’t do that, although when he doesn’t want them I get first dibs (thanks Papa!)
The point I’m trying to make is while we all may say we love sports, we each love them differently. We each have a certain line we’re willing to cross. But at the same time, come Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday or playoffs, we rally behind our team. And we each get our butts in the stands. Why? For love of the game.
About five years ago I told my dad, who is one of my biggest fans but also one of the most blunt people you’ll ever meet, that I wanted to be the first female head coach in the NFL.
“You can’t do that, Lauren,” he said.
“Why?” I argued.
I was expecting some drawn-out response about how I didn’t know enough about football.
“Because you can’t go in the men’s locker room,” he said flatly.
Ah, I hadn’t thought of that.
That was my senior year of high school, and never did I think I would be where I am now.
I grew up an UGA fan; my grandad attended college there in the ’60s and the red and black passed down into my veins. I learned to spell Georgia by chanting the fight song in my head (I still do subconsciously whenever I have to write it out!) I had an UGA cheerleader outfit and one of my baby pictures has me holding a stuffed bulldog. One of my nana’s fondest memories is of dancing around the living room with me as an infant when Georgia scored a big touchdown against Georgia Tech. I’ve never considered myself athletic, but I believe I owe a lot of my passion for sports to Papa Skip and Nana.
Flash forward a few years and the first time I stepped foot on a sideline was as a cheerleader for the 8th grade Mill Creek rec football league. Cheerleading was not for me, and within a year I traded in pom poms for a six-foot flag pole as a member of the Mill Creek High School Colorguard.
In high school I lived for Friday night lights, and I have many fond memories of screaming myself hoarse for the Hawks while in the stands with the marching band. It was a well-known fact that I was the most spirited person in the band when it came to football, and while my coach would be yelling at me to pay attention during our warm-ups I’d be busy trying to figure out how much yardage we’d gotten from the last pass.
I guess my fellow classmates took note of my love for the game as well, because they voted me their Homecoming Queen my senior year. That is still one of my all-time favorite memories from high school- hearing my name called while standing on the 50 surrounded by family and friends.
I graduated from Mill Creek in 2015 but I had a hard time staying away from Markham Field. The University of North Georgia doesn’t have a football team, and Mill Creek decided to get really good the year after I left (this was the fall of 2015, the year they got knocked out by Colquitt County one round before the state championship.)
In the spring of 2016 I heard of an opportunity to work for the Gwinnett Braves, Triple-A minor league affiliate for the Atlanta Braves. Needing a summer job but hoping to avoid retail, I took it. I spent the next two summers as a Guest Relations Representative scanning tickets and welcoming fans. In addition to my already-sound knowledge of football, I learned all I could about America’s favorite pastime and a new love was born.
I spent one more summer at Coolray Field before graduating college, and this time it was as a member of the Promotional Team. That may be the most fun I ever had at work. Our team set up the on-field promotional games, signed up contestants, sold 50/50 raffle tickets and overall worked to make sure people had a good time. I certainly did- the memories I made with my team that year will forever be some of my favorites.
For a while I told people that I wasn’t interested in sports journalism, but the Lord as he fortunately often does had other plans. I got the opportunity to intern with the UNG Athletic Department my senior year of college, and I left Gwinnett County to plant some roots in the North Georgia mountains.
Two months ago I still wasn’t certain that I’d ever work in sports again, but when baseball started back up I knew I couldn’t live without it. I was fortunate enough to find an opportunity to apply with FetchYourNews.com, and even more fortunate to get an offer. And here we are.
I don’t tell you all this to brag on my accomplishments or give you some long-winded biography. I want to be just as much a part of your community as you all are now a part of my daily life. When I come to your sideline I want to know each of you and each of you know me. Part of being a great sports reporter is establishing a relationship with your team and community. Part of that relationship includes establishing trust, and how can you can trust someone if you don’t even know them?
One of the biggest reasons I keep working in sports is because of the the communities they create and the people I get to meet. There’s something about having a team to rally around that gets inside of you and never leaves. The people I have met so far and the connections I have made are priceless and will forever be a part of who I am and a big reason for why I do what I do.
So here’s to the journey ahead, and here’s to memories that are yet to be made and the relationships yet to be formed. I can’t wait North Georgia!
After winning the Smoky Mountain Conference and defeating Cherokee for the Region Championship Friday night at Murphy High School, the Lady Bulldogs are victims of a “hurry up and wait” situation. They’ve tip-toed the sideline of perfection this season, suffering only one loss in conference play to the Braves, whom they beat 2-out-of-3 meetings this year.
The Lady Dawgs only other loss came all the way back on November 25, 2017 when they fell by 10 to the Cougars of Mountain Heritage (Burnsville, NC) in the Coaches vs Cancer tournament. If you’re wondering where Mountain Heritage is, shift your focus to how good they are; 23-1, 11-0 at the time of this article and ranked 203rd in the United States (8th overall in the state of North Carolina regardless of classification). They’re alright. I mean, if you’re into teams that win and all that.
Which brings us to present-day basketball, where the Lady Dawgs are stuck behind the fictional chain-link fence like a kennel of Blue Ticks waiting for a full moon.
The Lady Bulldogs are one of eight teams who have earned a first-round bye as the NCHSAA State Basketball Playoffs begin on Tuesday. Pine Lake Prep (14) will host East Surry (16) for Tuesday’s first round games, with Murphy taking on the winner in round two Thursday afternoon.
Pine Lake Preparatory School of Mooresville, NC has had an impressive season thus far, boasting a 10-2 conference record while going 18-8 overall. Competing in the PAC-7 1A conference, their two conference losses came by the hands of Union Academy (23-2, 13-0) of Monroe; and both games were decided by fewer than 10 points.
East Surry (13-12, 7-3) looks to be the underdog in the first round, barely breaking .500 on the season. The Cardinals out of Pilot Mountain finished 3rd in the 1A Northwest Conference, behind Mount Airy (22-2, 10-0) and Bishop McGuinness (15-11, 7-3).
The 2018 NCHSAA State Basketball Playoffs are set to kick off and TeamFYNSports will be following the Murphy Lady Bulldogs all the way to the championship. Be sure to follow us on facebook, instagram and twitter for updates as the post-season progresses!
1st round (Feb. 20):
1-Pamlico County vs BYE / 16-Perquimans vs 17-Northside (Pinetown)
8-East Columbus vs BYE / 9-Riverside (Williamston) vs 24-Ocracoke
4-Cape Hatteras vs BYE / 13-Creswell vs 20-Raleigh Charter
5-Roxboro Community vs BYE / 12-Vance Charter vs 21-Rocky Mount Prep
3-Northampton County vs BYE / 14-Lakewood vs 19-Southside
6-East Carteret vs BYE / 11-Manteo vs 22-Voyager Academy
2-Plymouth vs BYE / 15-Gates County vs 18-Edenton Holmes
7-Neuse Charter vs BYE / 10-Weldon vs 23-Princeton
2nd round (Feb. 22):
3rd round (Feb. 24):
4th round (Feb. 27):
East final (March 3):
State championship (March 10):
1st round (Feb. 20):
1-Mount Airy vs BYE / 16-South Davidson vs 17-Alleghany County
8-Lincoln Charter vs BYE / 9-Highlands vs 24-Blue Ridge
4-East Wilkes vs BYE / 13-Albemarle vs 20-Hayesville
5-Chatham Central vs BYE / 12-River Mill Academy vs 21-Piedmont Community
3-Murphy vs BYE / 14-Pine Lake Prep vs 19-East Surry
6-Union Academy vs BYE / 11-Bishop McGuinness vs 22-CSD
2-Mitchell County vs BYE / 15-Highland Tech vs 18-Robbinsville
7-Gray Stone Day vs BYE / 10-Cherokee vs 23-Hiwassee Dam
2nd round (Feb. 22):
3rd round (Feb. 24):
4th round (Feb. 27):
East final (March 3):
State championship (March 10):
Murphy High School is known for having quality academics and talented athletes. With a decorated history of state champions in literally every sport but hockey, this past weekend another Murphy athlete brought yet another state championship back to the Dawg House. And if you’re scratching your head – no, Murphy doesn’t have a hockey team – but if they did, the Bulldogs would probably find a way to win at that, too.
TeamFYNSports has the pleasure of tracking and covering athletic performances throughout nine North Georgia counties and Cherokee Co, NC. While we interact with coaches, athletes, and college scouts on a daily basis, the best part of our job lies in the opportunity to highlight young athletes in a positive way. Thankfully there’s a 195-lb senior at MHS that made our job a whole lot easier this week.
Cory Farmer could be seen making big hits on the football field earlier in the school year. The veteran middle linebacker was the heart of what many would argue was one of the very best defenses in the state of North Carolina. When his high school football career ended, he transitioned from knocking people down at the line of scrimmage to throwing them and pinning them on the wrestling mats.
A natural athlete, Farmer is no stranger to hard work. He put in countless hours of training with MHS head coach Daniel Ledford, his father Josh Farmer, and his teammates; learning and working within one of the most decorated high school wrestling programs in all of Western North Carolina (not to mention North Georgia and Eastern Tennessee).
Last year, Farmer was the state runner-up. Just two weeks ago, he finished third at the regional tournament. Winning state was never a guarantee.
At the 1A NCHSAA state wrestling tournament, Farmer’s resume was as impressive as his humble – yet hungry attitude. He came in with 24 wins and only two losses this season, and opened Day One with a big win over Dylan Jones (32-11), who nearly finished 3rd overall. Jones, a senior at Uwharrie Charter, lost the battle for 3rd place by a 2-0 decision from Farmer’s next victim (Edwards, EASU).
After defeating Jones in just two minutes and 39 seconds, Farmer locked up with top-seeded junior Mitchell Edwards of East Surry. Edwards also had only two losses coming into state, and had 28 wins to his merit. Farmer won a 3-2 decision in one of the most exciting matches of the entire event, advancing to the championship final.
Farmer went on to defeat senior Jonathan Zafra of Manteo with a 12-3 majority decision to claim the state championship crown.
“It feels real good and it’s a relief after being runner up last year,” Farmer told TeamFYNSports Sunday afternoon.
We asked if he was considering wrestling at the college level next year. “I’m not sure yet, but I have a few offers,” Farmer replied. With his skillset and his work ethic, we look forward to reporting in the future on Farmer’s final decision after high school.
All photos courtesy of Murphy High School Wrestling and Brandy Farmer, contributing photographer.
The Murphy Lady Bulldogs have been nothing short of legendary this season, but that’s nothing new for them. Last year the varsity girls went 26-2, falling by only one point in the Elite 8 to the eventual state champions.
“I couldn’t ask for a better team. They work extremely hard and do everything asked of them,” Murphy head coach Ray Gutierrez told TeamFYNSports last week. This week was no exception.
The Lady Bulldogs (18-1, 7-0) kicked last week off with a 52-32 win on the road at Hayesville, followed by a 74-26 road win over Andrews.
Sydni Addison, the ball hawk of the night, had seven steals on defense, scored six points and pulled in seven rebounds.
How do you beat two great wins on the road? You turn around and win two big games back-to-back at home.
How do you beat a 19-90 road win over Nantahala (Topton, NC)? You hold them under 10 points of offense.
On Friday, Nantahala took a rough road trip down to Murphy only to leave with their lowest offensive performance of the season. The Lady Bulldogs (wo)man-handled the Lady Hawks, coming away with a 77-8 home win, their 17th team victory of the season. They knew Saturday night’s game would be a true test.
Following the huge win over Nantahala, the Braves of Cherokee High (then 10-4, 7-0), came to Murphy for the matchup the entire state of North Carolina has been waiting to see.
“Cherokee had won 30 straight regular season conference games,” coach Gutierrez said of their opponent. “The gym was packed and both teams played their guts out. It was a great atmosphere for a basketball game.”
The first quarter was a close one – much closer than many of the games Murphy has played this season – with the Lady Bulldogs holding only a 4-point margin over the Braves, 18-14. The Lady Bulldogs, who average more than 60-points per game, were hitting their usual offensive numbers; but the Braves’ offense was up to the task early-on, making this game a true challenge for Murphy.
By halftime, Murphy had extended their lead by only one point. Trailing by five (43-38), the Braves were still in a dangerous position and neither team was a sure victor. Sharpshooters Clapsaddle and Pickens refused to leave the game in anyone’s hands other than their own. The two combined for 8-of-11 3-point attempts, combining for 31% of the total points for the Lady Bulldogs.
In the end, the Lady Bulldogs held on to defeat the Cherokee Braves 77-74, giving the Braves their first conference loss of the season (breaking a 30-game streak).
Clapsaddle scored 30 points, while Pickens had 14. Beckner scored 12 points in the game while Thompson scored nine points, Bri Moore had six, Martin scored four points and Addison scored a basket for two. Addison led the team with rebounds (8), while Beckner also pulled in eight boards, three offensively and five on defense.