Under the Radar

Unless you are the sports fan constantly refreshing the sports news page on Google, there is probably quite a bit of information, issues and events that you are missing. If it’s something huge, I can count on social media to let me know of its happenings, but some of the most interesting stories are oftentimes left out of my news feed.

ENGLAND PROVIDES AN EXTRA PUSH

One issue that I had to do some searching for and finally found in small print on ESPN.com is that pressure to change the name of the Washington Redskins continues to grow, now internationally. In a letter dated Feb. 2, two members of British Parliament voiced their concern with the name of the team to the National Football League. At the minimum the letter calls for the NFL to send a different team to play in London later this year. Washington is set to play Cincinnati on Oct. 30 at Wembley Stadium.

The issue with the team name has to do with the historical derivation of the team’s mascot. England currently has the strictest anti-racism laws in sports. Clubs at every level in the county run the risk of being heavily fined or banished from their respective leagues for any deemed violations.

Here in America, more than 30 national Native American organizations have spoken out against the team name.

“Sport has the rare ability to act as a unifying force in the world, yet the use of the Washington team name is inherently divisive,” Parliament members Ruth Smeeth and Ian Austin said in the letter’s conclusion. “It is both puzzling and alarming the NFL is choosing to export this controversy to Britain.”

This backlash in regards to Washington’s name from an international community that has really started to take hold of America’s most popular sport could be the extra push the NFL and other sports leagues need to get rid of names deemed racist.

ESPN’S BIAS COULD CAUSE A CHANGE

Being the huge Big Ten fan that I am, any headline that mentions the conference is an automatic read for me. On SB Nation — The Crimson Quarry, I came across an article titled, “Could ESPN’s marginalization of college basketball push the Big Ten away?”

The author of the article, Ben Raphel, discusses the topic in a two-part series. The first part is what caught my attention. He shines light on the way that members of the conference, in particular the Indiana Hoosiers, feel shafted by the so-called world-wide leader in sports.

Since my time at Michigan State University began in the fall of 2011, this conversation topic came up more times than I can count. With my fellow sport journalism majors, it felt like a daily discussion. It usually corralled around football considering the SEC gets more than its fair share of coverage. Granted it has provided the national champion the most times in recent years and sends the most players to the NFL, but college football definitely does not center on the SEC.

Currently the issue is with basketball. The funny part about this is that the SEC is not a dominant basketball conference and never really has been. But this entire season ESPN has been hanging on every little thing LSU forward Ben Simmons has done. Despite LSU being 16-12, not in the top 25 and having just experienced a loss by 20 to Arkansas, it’s surprising that the team is getting more airtime than Kobe Bryant and his farewell tour.

The SEC has two teams in the AP top 25 whereas the Big 12 is the leader with six teams and the Big Ten follows with five. And yet Kentucky gets more airtime than both because of its famous one-and-done performances.

The Big Ten’s TV contract is up after the 2016-17 season, and with the giant amounts of shade that the conference feels ESPN is throwing its way, that could lead it to look into other possibilities.

Suicide Not to be Taken Lightly

In last week’s column I ended on the note that despite the hype, the praise and the talent, professional athletes are still only human. This week that fact entered the spotlight once more with Ronda Rousey’s admittance to having considered suicide following her Nov. 15 loss to Holly Holm.

Since she entered the UFC circuit in 2010, Rousey was made out to be the tough girl and she was. She still is. In my opinion any person who can step inside the octagon and face potential beat downs, there is no denying their toughness.

Going into the UFC 193 match with Holm, Rousey was the undeniable favorite. She was undefeated having won 12 MMA matches. Between April 2014 and November 2015, she had defended her bantamweight title four times.

With those facts laid out there, it came as a shock to most when Holm defeated her in the second round with a kick to the jaw. I know I was definitely not expecting that outcome.

Following the fight, Rousey was hospitalized and was banned from the octagon for at least six months. The doctors told her that her body wasn’t ready, but on a more serious note, neither was her mind.

Rousey sat down with Ellen DeGeneres for her first interview post fight this past Tuesday, and on the show, she publicly announced that following the loss she contemplated suicide.

“Honestly, my thought in the medical room, I was sitting in the corner and was like, ‘What am I anymore if I’m not this?'” Rousey said. “Literally sitting there thinking about killing myself. In that exact second, I’m like, ‘I’m nothing. What do I do anymore? No one gives a s— about me anymore without this.'”

It was this moment that showed the world that Rousey isn’t the invincible superhuman that UFC has never missed a beat on showcasing. We saw that “Rowdy” just like us has emotions.

Rousey isn’t the first fighter to admit having thoughts of complete despair either. Former welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre walked away in 2013 due to the emotional toll. In December 2015, we saw Jose Aldo collapse emotionally in the locker room following his loss to Conor McGregor.

These “super humans” work day in and day out for months preparing for one fight — one fight that can be over in a matter of minutes, even seconds. Rousey, like many before her, saw everything she had worked for her whole life crumble right in front of her. And to top it off, it crumbled in front of millions who tuned in to watch.

Fighting has been named by many within the sport to be the loneliest sport in the world. There is a reason not everyone can play an individual sport. It takes someone willing to always be “on,” being able to take the blame when things don’t go the right way. There are only two people in the ring: you and the person you are going up against, and when you have an off night, the consequences are huge.

When Rousey admitted her contemplation of suicide, my initial thoughts were who was there to help her and I wonder how many other fighters and athletes out there have had the same reaction following a loss.

Rousey said she plans on getting back in the ring with Holm. The rematch could come as early as fall 2016. But what happens if Rousey fails to come out on top yet again? There is a serious issue at hand here, and I am interested in seeing the steps if any UFC will take to protect their moneymakers.

Double Standards: How my respect for Cam Newton grew while it all but disappeared for others

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Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

I have never been a Cam Newton fan. I disliked him when he was at Auburn and as far as him being in the NFL, well I forgot about him for the most part until this year. As Newton and his 18-1 Carolina Panthers continued to make their run toward the Super Bowl though, I started to notice my dislike for him disappearing.

It was his attitude that at one point made me say I was not a Newton fan, but as Super Bowl week started to gear up, I found that same attitude pulling me in. I realized that it was his attitude that helped carry his team of no names through a one-loss season. It was his attitude that got his team rallying behind him. It was his attitude that made the Panthers look like they had the most fun out of any team in the league. My respect for the team from Carolina that dealt with doubters all season, myself included, hit an all-time high.

Then came the press conferences and the slew of racially charged questions that I thought the quarterback handled well. According to the media, Newton apparently was the first black quarterback to ever grace the Super Bowl stage, even though there were five prior to him.

But the string of events that turned my dislike into respect was what took place postgame, post-Carolina loss and post-postgame press conferences.

Since football came to a close Sunday night, the media is looking for ways to keep America’s favorite sport in the headlines. And the two biggest headlines this week were: “Why Newton didn’t jump on that final fumble” and “How Newton is the world’s worst loser.”

In regards to the fumble, I don’t know why he didn’t just jump on it. I’d like to think that would be my first reaction if I was a quarterback at the playing stage, but I’ll never know.

What’s really had me going all week though is people’s reaction to his postgame press conference. He left early and gave insufficient answers. He has been called a sore loser, the world’s worst loser, disrespectful, the Donald Trump of the NFL and, well, the list goes on.

On Tuesday, Newton found himself in front of the cameras once again where he said, “Who likes to lose? You show me a good loser, and I’m going to show you a loser.”

He was upset. He just suffered the biggest loss of his career. How would you react? Knowing me, I’d be pretty pissed.

Newton wasn’t fitting the quarterback mold after Sunday’s game. He wasn’t fitting the mold that Denver’s Peyton Manning so uprightly holds. At least so they say.

Newton is being called disrespectful and bitter for leaving a press conference early, but in 2010 Manning was called competitive when he ran off the field before time expired in the Colts’ 31-17 Super Bowl loss to the Saints.

Manning didn’t wait for time to expire and he didn’t shake the hands of his opponents, but according to the reporters he reacted exactly how any competitive athlete should act. He had been working all season to get there only to fall short. So what’s the difference? Why isn’t Newton getting the same understanding?

In my eyes what Manning did in 2010 was the most unsportsmanlike thing to do, and I can thank my mom for that lesson. When I was 7 years old and extremely competitive, my soccer team lost by one goal. I was beyond pissed and refused to shake the other players’ hands. My mom saw me and before the lecture, was dragging me across the field. She made me not only shake the hand of every girl but say sorry for being a sore loser. Let’s just say I learned my lesson. Clearly Archie Manning never taught Peyton Manning that one.

Find any picture of postgame celebrations and you will see Newton shaking Peyton Manning’s hand with a huge congratulatory smile on his face. If I hadn’t watched the game, I wouldn’t have been able to tell who won.

Newton gave praise where it was due on the field and then he headed to the locker room. Instead of his normal flashy outfits for pressers, he slipped on a gray hoodie and kept the hood on. What did the media want? Him flying in with his huge megawatt smile spread across his face?

Newton is only human, yet we hold him along with all professional athletes to a higher standard, they’re heroes right? Just remember that the next time you have a problem with Newton’s Superman celebration reference or Superman T-shirt.

Super Bowl 50

This coming Sunday millions of Americans will be ingesting a variety of unhealthy foods, drinking beer and watching the most anticipated NFL game of the year, Super Bowl 50. Last year’s “Deflategate” Super Bowl drew in 114.4 million viewers setting a new U.S. viewership record. Realistically it only beat out the prior year’s Super Bowl. So if Super Bowl 50 is at least a little interesting, it is estimated that a new record will be set Sunday night.

DENVER BRONCOS: Experience, Peyton Manning, No. 1 defense in the league

The Denver Broncos have made it to this point in the season because of their stellar defense, and even Manning agrees. The Bronco defense led the league in total defense, 283.1 yards per game, and passing defense, 199.6 yards per game. They were third in the league in run defense, with 83.6 yards per game, and fourth in scoring defense, 18.5 points per game. They also led the league with 52 sacks.

So far this has been the worst season in Manning’s career. Granted he lost six games due to a foot injury, but this season he set a career low in passing yardage, touchdown passes and passer rating. Manning also threw 17 interceptions this season, and the Panthers have forced nine in postseason play alone.

CAROLINA PANTHERS: Inexperience, Cam Newton, No. 1 offense in the league

The Carolina Panthers have been proving people wrong all season. Game after game the Panthers looked like a Super Bowl contender, but many people doubted until the very end. The Panthers enter Sunday with the most complete team in the league.

Newton makes his first Super Bowl appearance of his career. The former No. 1 draft pick and Heisman Trophy winner scored 45 touchdowns this season with 35 coming through the air. Carolina averaged 31.2 points a game and is ranked sixth in points allowed. It has the strongest offense and a strong defense as well.

OUTCOME 1, Panthers blow out the Broncos: In 2014, the Broncos made it to the Super Bowl with a record-setting offense and were annihilated 43-8 by the Seattle Seahawks. The Panthers and Seahawks play very similar with a strong run game designed around a dual-threat quarterback and an equally strong defense. The Panthers beat the Seahawks, 31-24 in the divisional round. It wasn’t the same Seahawks team from two years ago, but Carolina is a better team than Seattle was two years ago.

OUTCOME 2, Panthers win but barely: The Broncos might be able to figure out how to shut down Newton but they are going to have to get past an impressive offensive line first. Also, if Carolina’s defense dominates the line of scrimmage and attacks Manning, eliminating his much needed pocket, the Broncos will be left hoping that their defense can once again win them the game.

OUTCOME 3, Broncos win but barely: “Defense wins championships,” I’ve heard that my entire life as a sports fan and an athlete and usually I agree. Prior to 2015, 11 of the teams that went to the Super Bowl had the No. 1 defenses in the league, and nine of those teams went on to win it all. It’ll be a “barely” because the Panthers have the No. 1 pass defense in the league and Denver does not have a strong run game. Fourteen of Denver’s games this season were decided by one score.

Prediction: Panthers with the blowout.