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What parents will do for a memory

Posted by She's Game Sports August 31, 2012 10:11 AM

How many of us have hurried home from work to see if we can catch the final minutes of our son or daughter’s game? How many people are like me, and took Halloween as a vacation day for so many years? After getting stuck in traffic once, I learned my lesson. There was no way I would ever again take the chance of missing my little ones going out the door- let alone helping them dress up for the second-best holiday of the year.

How many moms and dads rush out of their offices and drive like maniacs to make it home in time for a Christmas concert or a dance recital? Why do we do it?

Because we know there are only so many of these moments, and if we miss them we can’t get them back.

Last week, a California woman lost her job because she took a day off to watch her son play in the West Regional Tournament of the Little League World Series. The team from Petaluma was one win away from making it to the finals, and Billie Anne Tomei was going to be there no matter what. She was going to be sitting in the stands when her boy Cole and husband Trevor, an assistant coach for the team, played the biggest game (yet) of their lives.

And she’s sure glad she was. Petaluma won that game and Billie Anne was able to celebrate it with her son and husband. It was a moment of a lifetime.

It could have been a loss, and Billie Anne would have been there for that too – to give her son a hug, tell him how proud she was and say how much she loved him no matter what.

Billie Anne was an office manager at a CPA firm. She asked her boss for a vacation day, but he was out of the office at the time and needed someone to cover.

“My boss wouldn’t let me take time off,” Tomei told the Santa Rosa Press Democrat.

“He told me, ‘If you miss work, you can write yourself your last check.‘ So I wrote myself my last check.”

Not all of us are in a position to tell the boss “take this job and shove it. Times are tough for many families, and a double income has become a necessity, not an option.

My son’s birthday is February 2nd. Through his early years, I missed his big day almost as often as I made it. He blew out candles, and I covered Super Bowls. It was that time of year in New England. That’s the life he knew and the one I accepted.

In this age of Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Instagram, some will say you can be there without really being there. Sorry, it’s just not the same in my book.

Back in the 80’s, Maria Shriver had a chance at an exclusive interview with Fidel Castro. But that once-in-a lifetime opportunity happened to coincide with the day her child got on the school bus for the first time. Maria did not do the interview. She chose the bus stop. Did it ruin her career? No, it didn’t.

Another thing I’ve learned along the way: It’s really not so much about what our kids are missing- they can adapt to almost anything. It’s more about what we miss as parents.

We can’t get it back. And the day will surely come when we wish we could.

The team from Petaluma won that night for the right to represent the state of California in the Little League World Series.

They would lose to the eventual champs from Goodlettsville, Tenn.

Hopefully, Billie Anne will get another job. But one thing’s for sure. Mrs. Tomei will never have to lament missing that magical night in San Bernadino with her son and husband.

Sports parents can be loud, rude and combative. Those are the people that make the headlines.

Most of us just want to watch, offer support, and stand proud while we capture a memory and a moment that may happen only once.

Cole Tomei had his moment and his mom was there to see it. No regrets.

NHL

Kathryn Tappen mailbag: FAQs

Posted by She's Game Sports August 30, 2012 10:18 AM

When I was a little girl, I knew I wanted to be a sportscaster. I was an athlete and loved to speak in front of large crowds, so I figured it would be my best option for a career.

I lucked out and am thrilled to be living my dream job.

It didn't happen overnight, and I needed a lot of advice, encouragement, coffee, and support along the way. I also needed a little help from those in the business willing to shed some light on this crazy career path I wanted to pursue.

Having entered the industry as an on-air broadcaster the year I graduated Rutgers University in 2003, I'd say I've learned a whole lot, and also have answered a ton of questions from aspiring sportscasters and fans along the way. And so, I thought it would be fun to share some of the frequently asked questions I get on a regular basis about my job - and maybe the future KT is reading and taking notes.

Q: How did you first get into the business?

A: After sending my hodge-podge college resume reel out to every market #110 and above job opening I saw on tvjobs.com, I finally took advantage of an on-air walk on tryout at CSTV (College Sports Television) in NYC the summer after college graduation. I won the two-day competition in front of celebrity sportscaster judges (I was terrible, but they must have liked something?). I know there's an audition tape somewhere that will be used to blackmail me one day. I'm fully prepared to defend myself. And so my career began at CSTV. I worked alongside Michelle Beadle when the network would allow me, and somehow was asked to come back after the first show.

Q: Do you ever get nervous?

A: Did you ever have that dream when you're a kid, and you get to your first day of school and realize you forgot your backpack, school supplies, lunch, and gym clothes at home? I have the dream every so often where I run on the set on live TV and realize I forget my earpiece, my hair isn't done, and I have no makeup on. That's the only time I get nervous.

Q: How do you know so much about the sports you talk about, in particular hockey?

A: What you see is the product of intense studying, research, and information digging. I'm constantly reading, inundating myself with information and facts, and having conversations with people involved. Oh yeah, I also work alongside the greatest analysts in the game who make me look good every single night.

Q: Do you read from a teleprompter?

A: "I'm Ron Burgundy?" I haven't read a teleprompter in over five years. When I was reading from one, I was writing my own material.

Q: Do you get a clothing allowance?

A: Yes.

Q: Do you pick out your own clothes?

A: Sort of. I have a great stylist I work with in NYC. Thankfully, someone else does the thinking when it comes to my clothes. If it were up to me, I'd be in Lululemon every night on TV.

Q: How do you know what to ask the players who join you live on NHL Tonight?

A: I don't! The players come to the Cisco Arena Cam immediately after the final horn sounds on the ice, and they are looking up at a small camera they can barely see in the Jumbotron of their arena. They put the headsets on and we say "Hello!" live on the show. They're lucky if they know it's me, and at the same time, I'm lucky if I can see what player we just grabbed on the screen in front of me! It's a fun interview, and happens very quickly. You have to be prepared for anything. My rule of thumb is to just talk to the player as if they're a friend who just played a game. I ask a few questions about the game itself, their personal play, and we banter for about two minutes. The end result can be anything from a solid interview to a technical nightmare. But hey, our fans love it and we're happy to bring you live player interviews from every single game first on the NHL Network.

Q: What is it like covering a championship victory in the winning team's locker room?

A: Having been the lucky charm (wink wink) to all the Boston sports teams over the past six years, the most important lesson I learned was to always carry a baseball cap in the event of a champagne shower in the locker room. By the third championship, I also learned to wear waterproof mascara and to bring a raincoat. Champagne burns your eyes!

Q: What would be your best advice for students interested in pursuing a career in broadcast journalism?

A: I chose this career path a long time ago, busted my butt, and eventually got to where I wanted to be. My best advice that I tell everyone is: Stick to your dreams. Life is a lot more fun if you're doing something you love for your career. Work hard, don't take shortcuts, and read, read, read! There's no greater power than knowledge. Nothing will happen overnight, but if you're patient, you'll get there.

Oh, and drop me a line from time to time. It's always fun to hear how others accomplish their dreams, even if it means having someone else dress you.

On the LPGA Tour, the younger the better

Posted by She's Game Sports August 29, 2012 11:08 AM
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Lydia Ko is the newest face of the young guns on the LPGA tour. (Photo from sport360.com)

In most sports, the youngsters are the phenoms. In the age of 15-year-old gymnasts and 21-year-old baseball players setting records, they’re the ones shocking with the combination of their ability and age.

But on the LPGA Tour this year, it was Angela Stanford who’s the phenom. At 34 years old, her win at the HSBC Women’s Champions event in Singapore at the start of the season makes her the oldest player to notch a win on the tour all year.

In golf, a sport that generally favors experience, younger is better for the ladies. The average age of winners on the 2012 LPGA Tour is 24, and the last young woman to win on the tour did so at 15. For perspective, Lydia Ko won the Canadian Women’s Open at the same age most of us were taking driver’s education classes, getting our braces removed and attending our high school’s spring fling dance.

The win made Ko, who was born in South Korea but has lived in New Zealand since she was six, the youngest winner on the LPGA Tour, but it’s actually not all that shocking for those who have been following all season. Lexi Thompson was previously the youngest winner, a record she set just 11 months ago at 16 years old.

And Ko certainly has a record that makes her one of the best. A year ago, she won both the New Zealand Stroke Play Championship and the New Zealand Match Play Championship. She made history once before when she won the New South Wales Open in January at age 14. It made her the youngest player to win on a professional tour, but that record was set again by Brooke Henderson’s win at the Canadian Women’s Tour event this summer over 36 holes.

Ko won the U.S. Women’s Amateur two weeks ago, and then cemented her spot in history, for now, in the LPGA Tour.

A CBS Sports report calls for a comparison to golf’s most popular figure, Tiger Woods. He set the record for youngest Masters champion at 21, but that record was overshadowed by the one he set with his play, winning by 12 strokes.

With a comparison like that, it might seem like Ko is ready to go big, but for now her plan is to stay an amateur so that she can finish high school and attend college. She even passed up the $300,000 prize at the Canadian Women’s Open to do so.

It sounds like she’ll even be passing up the Titleholders event at the end of the season on the LPGA Tour to focus on her studies, talk about priorities.

“When I go back to New Zealand … I actually have an external Cambridge exam, so I’m going to be really studying a lot and put golf at the back,” Ko said in the CBS article. “Yeah, I need to pass my exams and get good results for that.”

Ko certainly isn’t the first to shock the golf world by winning at a young age. Others on the LPGA Tour have done it before her, and like Woods, Rory McIlroy is the newest rookie to take the PGA Tour by storm, winning two majors by eight shots each by the time he was 23 years old.

According to Golf Channel analyst Judy Rankin, Ko has every shot to win again on a major scale.

“It wouldn’t be the biggest shock,” Rankin said. “This was no fluke.”

Ko might have made a name for herself, but all eyes will be focused on what she can do next.

Gary Bettman's remarks about NHL fans - nice try, but wrong

Posted by She's Game Sports August 27, 2012 08:38 AM

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Sidney Crosby, the first NHL draft pick after the 2004-2005 lockout, was a young player of especially prodigious talent who helped draw new fans to the NHL in the post-lockout era. (Timothy T. Ludwig-US PRESSWIRE)

Collective bargaining agreement negotiations between NHL players and owners have officially gone from bad to worse. Since last I wrote about this story, no progress has really been made beyond general philosophical talks and fundamental disagreements. If no agreement is reached by September 15th, there will definitely be a lockout of some kind.

Commissioner Gary Bettman’s words during these negotiations on Thursday referred back to the fans in what has universally been regarded as a kind of terrible platitude: “We recovered last time because we have the world’s greatest fans.” To which everyone has said: really? Because they might not fit your definition of “great” if this is allowed to go to yet another lockout.

The pre-lockout NHL in 2004 was struggling, and in some franchises, completely hemorrhaging money. It also has the legacy of being a slap in the face to fans from the actual faces of the league–its players. They refused a salary cap that historically has made leagues more competitive, as it did for the NBA in the 1980’s. It took a long time to convince the NHLPA that the concept of revenue sharing would not negatively impact their job security. In fact, it seems to be getting easier and easier for players to get their big paydays–such has become the level of parity.

When we refer to “new fans” of the game, we are invariably by this point referring to fans who came into the post-lockout NHL which has enjoyed unprecedented levels of success, record high television ratings in the United States and rising interest in even the most nontraditional hockey markets.

But the current CBA negotiations are moving away from the compromise the players and owners made in 2005. If this goes to a lockout, all of those new fans will give it a legacy of being the fault of the owners as they attempt to gain more control over the success they have had over the last six seasons. This includes having more control over the way that players receive their salary, changing not only contract length, but the rules of free agency, possibly tying players to the team that drafted them, barring a trade, for the majority of their careers. Obviously, the players don’t want this, for very personal reasons.

Here’s the other thing though: according to NHLPA Executive Director Donald Fehr, the reason that talks are continually breaking down is purely economic. The two sides cannot agree on how to divide league revenue–i.e. what percentage of the money should be spent on what (and whom). So, while the most shocking demands to come out of CBA meetings have been related to player contracts, the “philosophical issues” still come back to dollar signs and how they are divvied up.

Most fans–even hardcore fans–can’t get a handle on that issue or how it works. But most of them will have a lot easier of a time siding with the players when all they seem to want is a somewhat similar agreement to the one that brought them into the 2005-06 season. And when the most comforting words from the league’s commissioner place the burden of the NHL surviving on its fans, even in a poetic sense, things clearly do not look promising.

As much as we fans like to think that we could make this happen, we’re only a part of the equation. The players have to agree to play, and the owners have to manage their businesses. On the surface, it’s a straightforward arrangement.

Fans who knew the NHL before the lockout know by now that it’s a business that won’t respond directly to logic. But the fans who have arrived on the scene since 2005 might not have such an easy time. For both well-established franchises and the most far-flung corners of the league, very little can be gained from postponing some kind of agreement. You can’t count on fans you patronize.

And anyway, the NHL recovered after the previous lockout not because of its already-existing wonderful fans, but because of its improved product, aggressive marketing, and suspense associated with emerging young talent — all of which created new fans. These are the fans who are actually creating the revenue that the NHL is so dearly enjoying, and these are the fans who are going to be less likely to spend more money on hockey in 2013-14 if we lose yet another whole or partial season.

Bettman’s quote is an attempt to completely deflect blame from the ownership as well as the players for the potential loss of a season–and it’s just flat-out incorrect.

Fifty Shades of Tom Brady

Posted by She's Game Sports August 24, 2012 08:49 AM

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Tom Brady in a collar for his VMAN shoot. (photo from sportscracklepop.com)

Tom Brady has been on plenty of magazine covers, from Sports Illustrated to GQ. Most recently, No. 12 was captured on VMAN baring his ultra white teeth next to a fierce looking Doberman.

It’s certainly not the all American guy or even the top designer look we are used to seeing on Brady since the quarterback became a sports and fashion icon.

It’s a whole new kind of sexiness for Brady who has modeled Gap clothes, UGG boots, Under Armour, Stetson Cologne and Movado watches through the years. Let’s hand it to his publicists – they know how to mix it up and keep it fresh.

Brady has done it all on the field no question. He deserves to wear any look he wants, and quite frankly, he can get away with just about anything. The baby goat shoot he did back in 2005 was pushing it, and his teammates gave him a rash of grief, but if anyone can pull off a spread with farm animals, it’s Tom Brady.

The VMan photos make him look tough, and he is. Seeing Brady in a dog collar is a bit “Fifty Shades of Gray” and millions of women everywhere know exactly what I mean. As the saying goes, “women love Tom Brady, and men want to be him.” It’s the best of both worlds.

Yes, in Boston we look through those Patriots colored lenses. He is “our” quarterback, and we would take him any day over Peyton Manning, Eli Manning, Aaron Rodgers or — gulp — Tim Tebow.

Back in 2001, when Brady replaced the injured Drew Bledsoe, we reporters couldn’t even find Brady in the locker room. He was a second string quarterback living in the shadows. When the spotlight finally hit Brady in the third week of the season, no one could have predicted the storyline to follow.

I remember Brady’s initial locker room interview during his first practice week as QB 1. He was polite, well spoken, and mature beyond his 24 years. I went back to the station that day and dropped the tape on our producer’s desk.

My words: “I have no idea how well Tom Brady plays football, but I will say this: he is genetically perfect.”

Over the next 10 years the world learned how well Brady plays football. What never changed was the way he handled himself. There was never a time that I heard him insult a reporter or a question. And as his popularity grew, there were many irritating, silly and inappropriate questions.

Anyone could see that Tom Brady was raised right. It is a testament to his family, and I remind myself of this all the time as a parent. Tom Brady never got too big for his shoes, and he has some pretty big shoes (expensive too).

Following his third Super Bowl win in 2005, I had the chance to congratulate Brady on a great season at the team’s after-party. It was the first time that I’d ever talked to him away from a stadium or in a “non-football” situation.

Brady shook my hand and said, “Thanks for all your help this year, Alice.”

Excuse me?

Please. Brady did not have to say that, and obviously, I had nothing to do with any success he and the Patriots had on the football field. Brady and his teammates did all the work, but in some way I think he appreciated the efforts football beat reporters put into a season. For a player to acknowledge something like that is pretty unusual and cool.

Brady once again made the “best dressed” list in the September 2012 issue of Vanity Fair. When asked his favorite item of clothing, he said, “my football uniform.”

Nice.

So about those Doberman photos. A shade naughty? Sure. But in a good way.

Steroids in baseball: an old issue needs to be revisited

Posted by She's Game Sports August 22, 2012 03:44 PM

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Bartolo Colon's suspension for PED usage means more questions for MLB's drug policy. (Kelley L Cox-US PRESSWIRE)

Upon first glance, the two recent suspensions of Melky Cabrera and Bartolo Colon for failed drug tests indicates baseball is finally doing something about a steroid issue that, for years, ravaged a league without a steroid policy.

Much of the achievements by players and teams in the 1990s and early 2000s will be questioned thanks to a lack of regulation from Major League Baseball and after-the-fact revelations that accused some of the biggest names of that time of using performance-enhancing drugs. Baseball first started doing something about steroid use in 2002, when it created a steroid policy that resulted in treatment – not suspensions – for players testing positive for performance enhancing drugs. The MLB was the only pro sports league without a drug policy at the time.

Then, the league was rocked by the BALCO scandal that revealed widespread usage of steroids among greats such as Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire and Roger Clemens. As a result of the evidence presented in a book, Game of Shadows, and a federal investigation, commissioner Bud Selig pushed the league to adopt stronger punishments for proven steroid users.

The harsher terms were met by resistance from the MLB Players Association, and the MLB adopted a still-lenient policy of 10-day suspensions for a first offense, 30-day suspensions for second offense, 60-day suspensions for a third offense and a one-year suspension for a fourth offense. But after dozens of players continued to test positive for PEDs, Bud Selig pushed the MLBPA until, in 2005, it adopted the current policy of a 50-game suspension for a first offense, 100-game suspension for a second offense and lifetime ban for a third offense.

Over the last three years, it seems the drug problem in Major League Baseball was starting to resolve itself, as only seven players were suspended through the 2009-2011 seasons for positive PED tests (although former Red Sox Manny Ramirez was suspended twice – once in 2009 and once in 2011).

But things are taking a turn for the worse in 2012. Guillermo Mota was suspended in May for 100 games after a second positive PED test, and in the span of one week, Cabrera and Colon became the fourth and fifth players respectively to be suspended for PED use this season.

Their suspensions were both for excess levels of testosterone and follow close on the heels of a disputed positive test from Ryan Braun, who avoided suspension after saying his test sample was not properly handled. Braun’s appeal was the first successful appeal of a steroid suspension by an MLB player.

But with two testosterone suspensions in one week and increasing positive tests for performance-enhancing drugs from some of the game’s higher profile players, baseball needs to reconsider its punishments for positive tests.

In the aftermath of Cabrera’s suspension, many in the media argued that testosterone testing is not strong enough in baseball, a complaint the MLB addressed by issuing a press release defending its testing methods.

And despite positive tests and suspensions for Ramirez and Mota, both used steroids again. Since Mota’s first positive test in 2006, he has signed six contracts worth a total of $10,025,000. So he missed 150 games in the meantime. How much does that matter when you’re making over $10 million dollars in six years?

Ramirez made out pretty well too. After his positive test in 2009, Ramirez finished out a contract with the Dodgers that paid him $18,695,006 and then signed a $2,020,000 with the Rays for the 2011 season.

Alex Rodriguez, an admitted steroid user who tested positive in 2003 (but was never suspended since suspensions for steroid use did not exist at the time), signed a $200-million contract after acknowledging he used performance-enhancing drugs.

While teams likely cannot get away with refusing to sign players who have tested positive for PED usage, players continue to enjoy high salaries and therefore do not have much reason to be deterred from steroid usage. Sure, Ramirez saw a drastic salary drop from his time with the Dodgers to his contract with the Rays, but he was also known as a problem player and was not producing at a level consistent with a high salary (he hit .298 with nine home runs and 42 RBIs – a career low – in 2010).

Baseball is certainly punishing its players who test positive for steroids – Oakland and San Francisco fans definitely feel that – but is the league really hitting the players where it hurts? With two suspensions in one week, now looks to be the perfect time for the league to re-examine its policies.

Olympic fashion rewind: and the final gold goes to ...

Posted by She's Game Sports August 22, 2012 08:04 AM

The term "Olympic athlete" doesn't necessarily coincide with being trendy or fashionable, but at this year's Summer Games, Team USA showed it has more than just fierce competitors on its squad--it also boasted trendsetters. I've awarded each of my favorite fashionable Olympians a medal for their attire choices.

Bronze: Russell Westbrook
Westbrook gets the bronze, in part due to his most famous accessory besides a basketball: his never ending supply of no-lens, no-nonsense glasses. The Oklahoma City Thunder guard often sported a red Wayfarer frame off the court during the 2011-2012 season, becoming fodder for Charles Barkley and other commentators during the playoffs. I can understand why they're poking fun, but I happen to love myself a good hipster-basketball star.

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Russell Westbrook dons his famous red frames in the post-game press conference at the Chesapeake Energy Arena after game one of the NBA Finals against the Miami Heat. (Mark D. Smith-US PRESSWIRE)

Much to my chagrin, the Olympics were no exception to the glasses trend. A slimmer, sleeker, black version of the favored red frames made a statement at the Olympic opening ceremonies on July 27. Coupled with the Ralph Lauren designed Team USA ensemble, including a blue beret, Westbrook looked straight out of a 1970?s military flick.

Westbrook was the only one from the basketball team to accessorize that night, unless you count tattoos as accessories, and stood out a little too much for my taste.

I would have ditched the glasses. They're totally acceptable in a post-game press conference, but when you're in the presence of the Queen of England, "dress to impress" should be the theme of the evening. That's where he lost the most points or else there may have been in a tie for silver.

Silver: Gabby Douglas
The runner up is gold-medal winning Olympic gymnast Gabby Douglas. Her fashion splash didn't happen at the games; she made her waves when she got back to the States. One of her first stops on her press tour was the Late Show with David Letterman, where she strutted out in a vibrant printed halter-tunic, hot pink pencil mini and chunky platform sandals.

The look was definitely more on the adolescent side than her teammates' choices that night, but it's appropriate. She's a high school student and can get away with the pinks and pumps. She got her chance to spice it up this week at an Essence photo shoot, where she donned a gold J. Mendel body-hugging dress and Jimmy Choos among other fantastic selections for the spread. Look for her in the October and November issues on newsstands this fall.

16-year-old Douglas scores high in my book. She keeps it real (hair and all) and follows in Westbrook's footsteps by being original. She is a great role model for today's youth, not just in a leotard, but also in her everyday attire.

Gold: Ryan Lochte
And the gold goes to Lochte. The swimming phenom is presumptively the only medal winner to ever be told he must remove his Paul Wall-designed grills while on the podium. Maybe it was because the diamonds in his mouth sparkled more than the medal, but he won me over with that move.

The diamonds weren't the end, though. He flew to the top of my list when he took on mint green pants and a David Bowie screen printed tee during a night on the town. Sure, he sweated a decent amount as he danced at The Rose Club, but who cares? He even made a wallet chain look hot. Need I say more? I'm certainly looking forward to seeing more from the fashion-forward (or maybe backwards with Bowie, a wallet chain and grill) star.

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Ryan Lochte rocks his American grill with his gold medal. (Rob Schumacher-USA TODAY Sports)

Augusta National admits first two female members: better late than never?

Posted by She's Game Sports August 21, 2012 10:11 AM

Augusta National, welcome to the 20th century. Maybe we can work on the 21st century next. It's been a long time -- three quarters of a century to be exact -- but Augusta National, one of the world's most exclusive golf clubs, has added women to its list of members for the first time in history. Yes, that's right. It?s 2012 and one of the world's most prominent golf clubs has just now allowed women the right to play on its course as official members. Talk about being late to the party.

Augusta National Chairman Billy Payne announced Monday that the first women to be added to its membership of about 300 are former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice and business executive Darla Moore.

Rice, 57, was the national security adviser under former President George W. Bush and became secretary of state in his second term. She was the first black woman to be a Stanford provost in 1993, and is currently a professor of political economy at Stanford's Graduate School of Business.

Moore is the 58-year-old vice president of Rainwater, Inc., a private investment company, and founder and chair of the Palmetto Institute, a nonprofit think tank which works to bolster per capita income in South Carolina. The founder and chair of The Charleston Parks Conservancy, a foundation focused on enhancing the parks and public spaces of Charleston, S.C., Moore joins Rice as one of the first two women to don a green jacket.

I don't think two better women could have been selected. Rice and Moore have arguably done more to warrant membership at Augusta than many of their male counterparts.

But why now? What was it about the women of the past decade, the past 50 years, and the past 75 years that weren't good enough? It's ludicrous to think that women of the past have not been deserving of this merit. This isn't about Rice and Moore being the first worthy candidates, not to take anything away from their accomplishments, but it's about attempting to keep an outdated, discriminatory system in place.

It's often said, "better late than never." And it's true; this is undoubtedly a good thing. However, I don't think we can consider it a cause for celebration. At the root of the issue, the announcement is rather unimpressive. Should we sing Augusta's praises for being decades behind the times?

The club isn't a stranger to discussion regarding its stale membership policies. Augusta opened in December 1932 and did not have an African-American member until 1990. While the club has had no female members, women have been allowed to play the golf course as guests, which is no consolation.

Augusta National had always declined to comment about membership issues in the past and that was the case in April, when Payne was questioned at length about the lack of female members in his annual news conference the day before the Masters. For years, the club has tried to skirt the issue and for the most part, we've let them.

The most recent debate over Augusta's membership was sparked when Augusta National did not offer membership to Virginia "Ginni" Rometty when she was promoted as IBM's first female CEO. Augusta National traditionally had always offered memberships to the CEO of IBM.

"This is a joyous occasion as we enthusiastically welcome Secretary Condoleezza Rice and Darla Moore as members of Augusta National Golf Club," Payne said in a statement. "We are fortunate to consider many qualified candidates for membership at Augusta National. Consideration with regard to any candidate is deliberate, held in strict confidence and always takes place over an extended period of time. The process for Condoleezza and Darla was no different.

"These accomplished women share our passion for the game of golf and both are well known and respected by our membership. It will be a proud moment when we present Condoleezza and Darla their Green Jackets when the Club opens this fall."

If this isn't a "you've got to be kidding me" moment, I don't know what is. Yes, Mr. Payne, this is a joyous occasion, but it should have come decades ago. This story should have been written before my time, and even then it would have been overdue. The surprise that followed Payne's announcement didn't come because Augusta has made some grand gesture in allowing women in, but because it's outrageous that they hadn't done so until now.

We have seen one of these very women as security adviser for this entire nation, a black president elected in the United States, a man without legs run in the Olympics, and now women are allowed to be members at Augusta. Well done. You've finally caught up with the times.

Yes, this is a historic occasion, but Augusta deserves no pat on the back and certainly no admiration.

FULL ENTRY

The NFL referee lockout and what it means

Posted by She's Game Sports August 20, 2012 10:23 AM

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Shannon Eastin proves that women have what it takes to hang with the boys of the NFL. (Jake Roth-US PRESSWIRE)

Have you ever heard the shouts of “C’mon ref!” or “Ref, you suck!” during a football game? This season, we may be criticizing a whole new roster of officials and it’s likely to get dirty.

Veteran referees of the NFL are protesting the league’s proposed changes for the 2012-2013 season. Negotiations between the NFL and the National Football League Referees Association (NFLRA) have been going on since June 3rd and no agreements are in sight. Let’s break down each issue on the table, taken from ESPN.com, and what it would mean for officials, players and fans:

- The league wants to add three additional crews to support the existing refs. League spokesman Greg Aiello said "this would reduce stress on the officials by allowing each official to work fewer games, would reduce travel, would allow us to do more intensive training, integrate younger officials more effectively, increase diversity, and improve quality of officiating." The union disagrees.

This will affect the veteran referees in a big way. Not only will they probably be limited in the amount of games they call, it’s a very real possibility that their pay will be cut because of the addition of such a large amount of employees.

In terms of players, they will be dealing with a bevy of rookie refs and it’s inevitable that they will take advantage of the inexperience and fight more calls. There’s also talk that the players fear for their safety with newbie officials; players say they feel that newer referees need a lot of experience making calls at the speed of an NFL game. It would be really hard to replace the 1,385 collective years of experience that the current refs hold. Lastly, fans might lose interest in the game, not unlike the MLB lockout of 1994-95 due to pure frustration.

- Currently, the majority of NFL officials are part time employees with full-time jobs in other industries. The league is proposing revising the program to only include full-time officials but the union has its complaints about that as well.

"The NFLRA is not opposed to full time officials if they are fairly compensated," the union said Thursday. "While the NFL has never made any compensation proposal, comparable positions in other professional sports at the 20-year level earn approximately $350,000 to $400,000 and are provided health insurance, a pension, time off with pay and numerous other benefits."

The veteran referees aren’t entirely convinced that all of the benefits of their current full-time jobs can be replaced by the opportunity presented by the NFL. If they can come to an agreement, it would be in everyone’s best interest to keep the same officials throughout the season; consistency in such an inconsistent league should be welcomed with open arms.  Fans and players alike will appreciate the personal level that full time refs would integrate into the games.

- Not surprisingly, salary is an issue between the two groups. The veteran officials concede that the league is publicly claiming a 5-to-11-percent increase in salary but say that it is a false statement. Instead, the officials said the proposal "includes aggregate game fee compensation increases of 2.82 percent per year, not the rates publicly claimed by the league.

In fact, the NFL's proposal does not contain any salary schedule. Rather it contains aggregate game fees for all officials to be paid per a schedule to be developed by the NFLRA."

The league claims that if the salary pool permits, the salary increase might be an option for select employees, but that answer won’t fly with a union that represents ALL of the vets. If the league is expecting to pull experienced officials out of their respective full time positions, they better have the paycheck to back it up. Knowing that an official must have five years of experience just to call a Super Bowl game, it would be a great disservice to everyone if the NFL would have to rely on rookies because they were too stubborn to pay the veterans the money they deserve.

- The last item in negotiation is the existing pension plan. The union said the league plans to freeze and ultimately terminate it. The NFLRA offered to "grandfather" the current defined benefit plan only for current officials.

It’s unknown how this will impact anyone other than the families of the veteran officials, but the league last proposed a 401(k) that would average annual contributions of $20,000.

So how are the replacement officials doing so far? It seems to be a mixed bag.

History was made this month when Shannon Eastin became the first woman in the NFL's 97-year history to officiate a preseason game, and she was give the opportunity due to the referee lockout. Eastin has 16 years of college experience and appeared to make all of her calls correctly during the San Diego Chargers and Green Bay Packers game earlier this month.

Conversely, 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh began to comment on the calls made by replacement referees during his team's 20-9 loss to the Texans on Saturday but then retracted anything else he was going to say.

“Was it us? Was it them? Was it … things I’ve been instructed not to comment on, so I won’t comment on them and don’t even ask me,” he said.

An erroneous call by the replacements made during the San Diego/Dallas game on Saturday may have cost the Cowboys the game. After an illegal helmet-to-helmet hit by Chargers safety Eric Weddle during a Cowboys pass, linebacker Donald Butler came up with the interception before it hit the ground. Even with automatic review, the officials called the foul on the Chargers but gave them the ball. What should have happened was that the interception should have been revoked and the ball given to the Cowboys. The ‘Boys lost the game and are likely going to appeal to the league.

If calls like these keep happening and it trickles into regular season, the NFL will have a huge problem on its hands. Stay tuned for more updates on the lockout and how it will affect football season as we know it.

NHL

Kathryn Tappen: Observations from the bench

Posted by She's Game Sports August 17, 2012 02:25 PM

After spending five years at NESN and having quite a run with the Boston Bruins as they went from a team in hiding in the city of Boston to the Stanley Cup Champions, it was time for me to tackle a new challenge in my career.

And so it began - the back and forth commute from Boston to Toronto every week to broadcast for the NHL Network. I had to learn the entire NHL as well as I knew the Bruins for so many years. I wouldn’t change my experience over the past 12 months, and I look forward to the upcoming season and growing in my role with the NHL.

Now, with all this travel comes a diligent ritual of packing and unpacking. But most importantly, I get to interact, interview, and engage some of the greatest people in the game of hockey.

With live, on-location broadcasts at the Winter Classic, the All Star Game, the GM Meetings, the Stanley Cup Finals, NHL Awards, and NHL Draft, I gained a wealth of knowledge and an inside look at the league. Here are a few of my thoughts on the “best of the best”, which were very difficult to choose and are presented in no particular order.

Best Interview

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Goal-scorer extraodinaire Steven Stamkos is also a great interview. (Geoff Burke-US PRESSWIRE) (Associated Press)

Steven Stamkos joined us on the “NHL Tonight” Arena Cam on the final day of the regular season after recording his 60th goal in a 4–3 overtime win against the Winnipeg Jets. He became the 20th player in league history to achieve the feat. Stamkos was so excited. We had an engaging conversation, laughed a bit, and he acknowledged my prediction months prior that he would reach the 60 goal plateau. Hey, it’s always fun when a player gives you a shout out.

Best Moment:

Being inside Staples Center to watch the LA Kings fans go absolutely crazy with two minutes to play in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final. The game result was decisive as the Kings led the NJ Devils 6-1 with minutes to play. Staples Center was so loud, and we were right in the thick of the action as the LA Kings captured the franchise’s first Stanley Cup.

Best Guy:

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Shane Doan is a great player and one of the nicest guys in the NHL. (Kirby Lee/Image of Sport-US PRESSWIRE)

This is a tough category, as I hate to single out players. Anyone who has worked covering sports will tell you that hockey guys are the best. They are all down to earth, well-spoken, and accommodating to reporters and their deadline needs.  If I had to choose one player, it would be Shane Doan. The Phoenix Coyotes captain joined us for the NHL Player Media Tour in NYC last September. He came into the room, greeted the camera crew and producers before sitting down for a candid interview with me. He was hilarious, jovial, and one of the nicest guys I had interviewed. When the sit-down conversation was complete, he got up and shook the hands of everyone in the room and thanked them for their time. A true class act, and one of the best in the game.

Best Rookie:

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Kathryn Tappen picked Adam Henrique as rookie of the year. (Ed Mulholland-US PRESSWIRE)

Gabriel Landeskog of the Colorado Avalanche took home the Calder Trophy at this year’s NHL Awards in Las Vegas. He had an outstanding season with the Avs. However, my choice for best rookie would have to be Landeskog’s fellow nominee, Adam Henrique of the New Jersey Devils. Henrique was instrumental in the Devils Stanley Cup run, becoming the first rookie to score two series-clinching overtime goals in the same playoffs to go with his 13 points in 24 playoff games. With Zach Parise parting ways with the NJ Devils this offseason, look for Henrique to assume an even bigger role with the organization and become one of the bright stars of the NHL.

Best Hair:

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Henrik Lundqvist is one of the best goalies in the league and has impeccable hair and style. (Anthony Gruppuso-US PRESSWIRE)

It’s hard to see the players hair with their helmets on during games, but sometimes you can see the “lettuce” as it’s affectionately called underneath those lids. It’s even harder to see a goaltenders head of hair since their helmets cover their entire head. But I think even those casual fans of hockey would agree with me that Henrik Lundqvist has a perhaps the best head of hair.  It helps that he is also the best dressed. Maybe it’s the nice suits that make him look so dapper all the time, or else he's just naturally gifted.

The evolution of the female fan

Posted by She's Game Sports August 16, 2012 08:20 AM
When I first started sports reporting back in 1985, I worked with a female camera person and a female audio tech. We called ourselves the "broad squad."

More often that not, we were the selected crew to go gather Red Sox postgame sound for the 11 p.m. news. There we were bouncing down Storrow Drive in a big box van, lamenting the fact that we would be subject to more ridicule and lewd remarks.

Back in those days, I was the only female television reporter in the Red Sox clubhouse as well as the Patriots, Celtics and Bruins locker rooms. The all-boys club was slowly being infiltrated by women, and it was not a fun place to be.

I tell people now that I was less nervous skating in the Olympics than I was going into those locker rooms.

As a reporter, I was constantly reminded to use my observation skills at all times. Given that I was trying to do my job in area where men were dressing, undressing and showering, that posed a problem.

How do you use your observation skills and still try "not to look?"

Through the years, as more women got into the field, teams figured out how to make things less "awkward" for the players. The great Red Auerbach issued his Celtics long white robes to wear out of the showers. Whether they actually put them on was optional, but it was a good try.

Thankfully things have changed for the better in my industry.  These days female reporters are everyhere. Today's player knows that women will be in the locker room and asking their questions just like their male colleagues. For the most part, women are respected, and any kind of disrespect is not tolerated by the management of the teams or the leagues.

Most professional locker rooms and club houses these days have private areas for players to shower, dress and hang out -- although the visitors clubhouse at Fenway Park does not look like it's been updated since the ballpark opened 100 years ago.

Players lightened up on me in the early '90s when I had three kids in four years. Players weren't going to pick on a pregnant woman, although Kevin McHale liked to parade in front of me with a basketball  stuck up his jersey which always got a good laugh.

During my 25 years in the trenches of sports, I witnessed some amazing things. I covered four Super Bowls, two World Series Championships, two NBA finals, an NHL final, and three Olympic Games. The snow game, the Red Sox ending the curse, and Ray Bourque lifting the Cup were among my favorites.

I witnessed the rise of the female sports reporter, and I also noticed the evolution of the female sports fan. In the '80s, the female fan was a nobody. In the '90s, she put on a pink hat, and by the new millennium, she was in a league of her own.

Everywhere I went I met women who watched the games and knew the score. Whether it was at a conference table or at a soccer field, I could hear the discussion:

"Did you watch the game last night?"

"Why did Belichick go for it on fourth-and-2?"

"Why didn't Grady pull Pedro?"

"Tyler Seguin skates like the wind, and he's cute too."

"Did you see Gisele fire back at that Giants fan?"

We all watch the same games, but I discovered most women want something different after the final whistle. Women watch sports through an emotional lens; they gravitate to the "stories", not so much the stats. This female fan longs to know more about the person behind the player.

I started thinking how great it would be to build a product dedicated to women who love sports, or even sort of love sports, and if they are not into sports at all, to give them a reason to care.

She's Game Sports is not an exclusive club. We think there are plenty of men out there who will appreciate our content. It's our intent to inspire, entertain and engage people with sports stories "from the heart."

We are very excited to be partnered with Boston.com. and we look forward to sharing our views and opinions on everything from football to figure skating.

About the author

She’s Game Sports is a new media company dedicated to sports-loving women around the world. We are here to entertain, serve, empower and inspire women by delivering the “heart of More »

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