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Pots & pans: Are we in the greatest era of championship sports? The world’s most iconic athletes are all playing at the top of their game

Originally posted at the undefeated https://theundefeated.com/features/pots-pans-are-we-in-the-greatest-era-of-championship-sports/

In January in the Land Down Under, Roger Federer and Serena Williams returned to the top of pro tennis. They won the men’s and women’s singles titles at the Australian Open, respectively. On Feb. 5, the NFL football season ended with quarterback Tom Brady leading his New England Patriots to a miraculous overtime victory over the Atlanta Falcons in Houston. It was the latest big-time sports season to be punctuated by a storybook ending.

This upcoming weekend, the NBA will present its All-Star Game and Rising Stars Challenge, the latter a showcase of the NBA’s rising stars. And, you have young stars shining bright across the sports universe, from the NBA’s Anthony Davis to the NFL’s Dak Prescott, from the WNBA’s Breanna Stewart to the NHL’s Wayne Simmonds and baseball’s Mike Trout.

Some of the greatest and most iconic athletes of all time are playing now at championship levels, too, from Brady to Sid Crosby to LeBron James to Serena Williams. In the coaching ranks, Geno Auriemma, Gregg Popovich, Nick Saban and Bill Belichick, some of the all-time greatest coaches, are chiseling their faces on the Mount Rushmore of their sports.

And some of the most compelling sports storylines have unfolded in recent years: In the MLB, for example, Boston Red Sox and Chicago Cubs fans, the ultimate true believers, have been delivered from decades in the championship desert by the intelligent design of Theo Epstein, who put together World Series winning teams in both cities.

This is a golden age, with players performing in glittering sports palaces. The sports gods have given fans a cornucopia of sports delights, a valentine to all those who would believe against the odds. Further, because of technology, sports can be followed anytime, from anywhere. The big-time sports are year ’round; fans can get information that cheers or saddens them 24/7. And fans can enter their sports worlds from many different doors and windows, including those framed by cold hard statistics, and those splattered by the mush of sports talk shows that often bring the sensibility and clarity of a middle school food fight to their explorations of the games.

Even if the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus weren’t playing its final shows, it would be clear that big-time sports had long ago replaced the big top as a diversion from the trouble the world is in. Indeed, many decry the nation’s obsession with sports as a waste of economic, intellectual and emotional capital that could be used to address our most enduring problems. Yet, if you look closely, the world’s many challenges parade through our games, like sauntering elephants connected trunk to tail.

Everything that happens in the world resounds in sports, including our nation’s continuing struggles with racism, sexism and anti-gay prejudice and our triumphs over them, like Jackie Robinson breaking the MLB’s color line to Elena Della Donne, a former WNBA MVP coming out as a lesbian.

Come Sunday, NBA fans will be treated to the All-Star Game, which is stylistically rooted in the East-West All-Star Game of the Negro (baseball) Leagues during the 1930s and 1940s: The NBA All-Star Game is almost incidental to the parties that surround it and the style of the fans rivals the style among the players.

The beauty and meanings of contemporary sports are left to the beholders: Those who use sports as a refuge from the world’s problems can use the games and their many splendors as an escape. But others see big-time sports as providing examples of our bridging the things that separate us to achieve victories rooted in teamwork and comity.

No matter what fans seek from the games, they are a gift from the sports gods, a valentine for the true believers and the cynics, a valentine for the champions who swing through the air between defeat and victory for us all.

Bengals Need To Find An 'Edge' In The Draft

Originally posted at Fox Sports http://www.foxsports.com/nfl/story/bengals-need-to-find-an-edge-in-the-draft-021317?cmpid=feed:-sports-CQ-RSS-Feed

The Cincinnati Bengals have two Pro Bowl pass rushers in Carlos Dunlap and Geno Atkins. A deep draft class of defensive ends offers them more help to dominate the AFC North.Bengals fans have officially made it to draft season. If you look at the many “mock” draft’s posted, you might…

Brooklyn Nets Week 17 Outlook: Losing Streak Hits Double-Digits

Originally posted at Foxsports http://www.foxsports.com/nba/story/brooklyn-nets-week-17-outlook-losing-streak-hits-double-digits-021317?cmpid=feed:-sports-CQ-RSS-Feed

This has to be the stake in the coffin now. After dropping all three games this week, the Brooklyn Nets now have dropped their last 12 games and have proven to everyone that they might never find their tenth win.With the potential the Brooklyn Nets have, you’d expect them to have at the very …

Pistons 102 – Raptors 101: Charity case

Originally posted at Foxsports http://www.foxsports.com/nba/story/pistons-102-raptors-101-charity-case-021317?cmpid=feed:-sports-CQ-RSS-Feed

The Raptors collapsed in Q4, allowing the Pistons to steal a game they had no business being in.In a shocking and disturbing fashion, theToronto Raptorsdonated a victory to the Detroit Pistons. Just as in Minnesota, the Raps coughed up a hefty lead in Q4, and threw away a 5-point lead in the game&…

Shakur Stevenson Signs with Top Rank

Originally posted at Foxsports http://www.foxsports.com/boxing/story/shakur-stevenson-signs-with-top-rank-021117?cmpid=feed:-sports-CQ-RSS-Feed

Floyd Mayweather Jr. made sure to spend some time at the 2016 Rio Olympics with Shakur Stevenson and other highly touted amateur prospects before they made that big leap in to the professional game. Being one of Stevenson’s favorite fighters, most weresure that Stevenson would sign with Floyd, …

Portland’s CJ McCollum is a silent assassin on the court and a blooming journalist off of it The Trail Blazers guard is changing the game for high school journalists with his organization CJ’s Press Pass

Originally posted at the undefeated https://theundefeated.com/features/nba-portland-trail-blazer-cj-mccollum-journalist/

The day after Portland Trail Blazers guard C.J. McCollum sank the game-winning floater with 3.9 seconds left against the Dallas Mavericks, he met with 20 students from Madison High School’s journalism club. For the second year, he’s encouraging Portland-area students to pursue a career in journalism through his student mentoring program, CJ’s Press Pass.

McCollum is a silent assassin on the court, and off the court he’s a blooming journalist, radio personality and philanthropist. As he continues his effort to invest in the local community, he will host Journalism Night on Feb. 13 during the Blazers’ home game against the Atlanta Hawks, where the students will receive media credentials and attend a postgame news conference through CJ’s Press Pass.

The program provides aspiring journalists the opportunity to attend events with McCollum, receive personalized mentorship from members of the media and to have their work published. This year, CJ’s Press Pass is partnering with Prep2Prep, a Bay Area organization that gives students the opportunity to cover local high school sporting events and receive mentorship.

“I think the sky’s the limit,” McCollum said. “I think it’s growing every year. More kids and more people are becoming interested in it. I think it’s something that is beneficial to the kids and it gives them an outlet. It gives them a chance to learn exactly what the journalism world entails. Not just behind the camera, but behind the scenes and learn how games are ran, how TV shows are ran, how everything is put together. Looking forward to expanding that as well.”

The Blazers star earned a degree in journalism from Lehigh University in 2013. He started off in the business school at Lehigh. About two weeks into it, he realized it wasn’t for him.

“I was looking to make a change and based on some of the classes I was taking, I enjoyed writing the papers,” McCollum said. “And I enjoyed talking. So I switched over to the journalism school and I learned more about journalism and how I could use it after basketball.”

He was an assistant editor for the school newspaper for three years and now that he’s in NBA, he hosts two radio shows: Playlist, a two-hour show on iHeartRadio that airs on Friday nights from 10 p.m. to midnight, and a weekly sports talk morning show on 620 Rip City Radio.

For McCollum, starting CJ’s Press Pass was a no-brainer.

“Basically, I sat down and talked to my agency about just different ways I could help the community and help other students who are in a position where they want to become journalists or sports broadcasters,” McCollum said. “We’re looking forward to some of the changes and advancements we’ve made with it. Just trying to give them as many opportunities as possible to learn more about the career and to give them real-life, real-time journalism experience from mentors.”

The students will produce a column, video or podcast. Local journalists will be on hand for an exclusive Q&A session. The assignments will be submitted to McCollum and the student with the best piece will be recognized on March 24, when the students visit the iHeartRadio station to watch McCollum tape one of his shows.

As a radio personality, McCollum said, he enjoys talking sports and music.

“I like conversing about both of them. I kind of combined them. We just got hot topics around the league, around other sports. Obviously, the presidential nomination is there and what’s going on with President Trump is very interesting — a good topic to discuss. And then music is a way of expression. It’s kind of a way of life for not only athletes, but for all people. It’s always fun to have different playlists. Put those together and always have a old-school cut of the week, where I play some Marvin Gaye or Gap Band or Temptations or some Isley Brothers. Whatever I’m in the mood for.”

McCollum said the best piece of advice he’s ever received is “to understand that with success comes greater responsibilities, so spend your time wisely. And understand where you came from and what you come from. So that’s what I always try to do. Understanding that, it comes with a lot.”

The best advice he gives to student journalists in his program is not to be afraid to go against the norm.

“Don’t be afraid to be unpopular. I told them a lot of cool kids I grew up with aren’t cool anymore,” he said. “So don’t be afraid to go right when everybody’s going left. And that it’s OK to do your homework and be interested in school and to have goals and priorities outside of sports.”

McCollum also partnered with the Boys & Girls Club to launch the first CJ McCollum Dream Center.

CJ at the opening of the CJ McCollum Dream Center inside the Blazers Boys & Girls Club on November 7, 2016.

C.J. McCollum at the opening of the CJ McCollum Dream Center inside the Blazers Boys & Girls Club on Nov. 7, 2016.

Bruce Ely / Trail Blazers

“It’s a space I renovated with the Boys & Girls Club along with many of my current partners. I renovated the entire room, the floors, furniture, painted the walls, put pictures on the walls. And we provided over 200 culturally relevant books,” he said. “Provided computers, headphones, computer games, databases and code for the computers, and we’re bringing in guest speakers periodically throughout the year to educate the kids on different careers that are available to them. Basically, we just created a safe space for the children to be innovative and continue to want to grow, and learn and prosper.”

McCollum said it’s the first Dream Center of many, as he aspires to open two more.

“I want to have my second one in the works in March or April or May sometime,” he said. “We’ll end up launching that. So I’m looking forward to that, to continue to go to CJ McCollum Dream Center throughout Oregon and the rest of the United States.”