Why you should care
Because 2016 set the bar for sports mania.
The past year was a massive one in the sports world, both on the field and off. From curse-breaking championships and breakout Olympic stars to debates over player safety, silent protests and MMA unionization, OZY was there — looking both forward and back — to bring you thoughtful sports coverage unseen anywhere else. Stay tuned, because we’re hitting hyperdrive in 2017.
For now, here’s a recap of our favorite stories of the year.
Can Her Sports Coverage Make You a Better Person?
It’s a name that novices and experts alike should know: Kate Fagan. The former University of Colorado basketball player has established herself as a force to be reckoned with at ESPN, where she hosts a podcast and pens feature stories for ESPNW, cohosts Will and Kate on ESPN Radio and appears frequently on Around the Horn, the ESPN’s popular debate program. Along the way, Fagan has become a vocal referee, opining on the very human side of sports and calling foul on sports Neanderthals all over.
Which Leader Snubbed Jesse Owens? Hint: It Wasn’t Hitler
We went way back on this one — all the way to the 1936 Berlin Olympics. Jesse Owens was among the first of many African-American athletes who fought for racial justice through sports. He has become an American hero, synonymous with success, courage and righteousness — and rightly so. But, apparently, there’s a bit of myth mixed into his legend. As the story goes, after Owens won his third gold medal of the Olympics, Adolf Hitler refused to shake his hand — not wanting the humiliation of acknowledging a Black athlete’s brilliance. That turned out to not be entirely true and, unfortunately, a much greater snub awaited Owens at the White House.
Should the NFL Come With a Surgeon General’s Warning?
Football is a dangerous sport. You know this, we know this and the football players risking their health on a daily basis across the country certainly know this too. The debate surrounding head trauma and player safety in contact sports — primarily football — dates back to some sketchy studies conducted by the NFL in 2003. But, in fact, there are lessons to be learned from another wildly popular, life-threatening industry decades prior: cigarettes. Should football in 2016 be treated like the cigarette industry in 1964? Is a surgeon general’s warning necessary for awareness to truly resonate?
America’s Best Chance at Boxing Gold?
From the streets of Newark to Virginia to fights across the globe, Shakur Stevenson has transformed into one of the best young boxers on the planet. OZY caught Shakur while he trained at the Team USA headquarters in Colorado Springs prior to the 2016 Summer Olympics. While Stevenson, 19 and weighing in at 123 pounds, didn’t take gold, he did impress the boxing world, beating older, seasoned opponents en route to a silver medal (America’s best finish since 2004) in the highly competitive bantamweight division. Boxing legend Floyd Mayweather flew to Rio and praised Stevenson, calling him “the next Floyd.” Stevenson turned pro immediately following the Olympics and, after turning down Mayweather’s TMT promotion, signed a managerial deal with his hero, light heavyweight champion Andre Ward.
Why 3-Point Shots Drain Bank Accounts
Relax, moneybags, this one’s not about your gambling habits. Nope, OZY discovered that the three-point shot actually correlates to players’ poor spending habits. With teams like the Warriors and Houston Rockets breaking long-distance shooting records seemingly every other day, this trend demands extra attention. The Deep Ball Renaissance is upon us, but, considering that long-range shooting requires extreme confidence and a near-absence of conscience, that might not be best for some players’ retirement plans.
Why Unionized Cage Fighting Is a Terrible Idea
Every athlete deserves to get paid fairly, especially those who punch each other in the nose for a living. With Ari Emanuel’s William Morris Endeavors’ recent $4 billion purchase of the UFC, mixed martial arts’ premier fighting promotion, one major debate of 2016 became if, and how, fighters should unionize. The question here is “What’s fair?” OZY’s resident fight expert, Eugene S. Robinson, points out that while the cause is noble, a shady messenger has likely doomed the Mixed Martial Arts Athletic Association’s quest for fair earning.
When Baseball’s Best Player Refused to Play
Vida Blue was Major League Baseball’s breakout rookie star in 1971, leaving spectators breathless every time he took the mound. By midseason, he had posted a 17–3 record and was asked to visit the White House by President Richard Nixon. In fact, it was that meeting with Nixon that would come back to haunt his Oakland A’s. The president inspired Blue to seek a sizable raise — after all, $25,000 was far from a star salary, even back then. A public holdout ensued and, somehow, a steel company got involved too.