NFL Youth Football: A breath of fresh air

The opportunities for children to participate in sports are endless. Leagues and programs of all types are available throughout the country. Having spent 30 years involved in amateur sports at all levels, including college, I have seen and heard it all – good and bad.

My parents provided me with the opportunity to play sports. I developed a love affair with baseball that is still strong today. It began with the innocence of t-ball and continued through the competitiveness of high school and college. I have also coached and officiated baseball, allowing me to see the game from a whole different perspective.

As a parent, I take great pride in providing my kids the opportunity to play sports. I think very important life lessons are learned through participating in athletics. However, finding the right league or team can be a difficult task.

The Ohio Youth Flag Football Association is a recreational league for boys and girls that is affiliated with the NFL. The league commissioner is Cecil Doggette, a 14-year veteran of the NFL, NFL Europe and Arena Football League. Doggette also spent two years as an assistant coach with the AFL’s Columbus Destroyers.

My son began playing in the league this past fall. The experience has been absolutely wonderful. The entire organization is first class, and it starts at the top. Doggette is approachable and great with the kids. The enthusiasm he shows at every event proves that he himself is a kid at heart.

The fall season began with a draft party, mimicking the hype of the NFL draft. Each child has their name announced and gets to take their place at the front of the room with their teammates. The kids also receive a contract. Everyone has a great time!

The program focuses on giving the kids “life skills” and is backed by the moniker, Kids F.I.R.S.T (Fun Instruction Respect Sportsmanship Teamwork). Everyone involved in the league practices what they preach. My son is currently in his third session of football and we could not be happier.

After having such a great experience with football, my son has decided to add basketball to his activity list. We were pleased to sign him up for the Jr. NBA league, also run by Doggette.

We will continue to be involved in this wonderful organization for as long as my son wants to play. Seeing the joy on his face when he scores a touchdown is something that my limited writing skills cannot describe.

Do you believe in the Madden Curse?

Every year, video gamers of all ages eagerly await the launch of the latest John Madden football game. The game has amazingly evolved over the years, always taking advantage of cutting-edge technology.

When first developed, the game was known as John Madden Football, with the big guy himself gracing the cover of the packaging. In 2001, the box art began featuring an action shot of a current NFL player.

The Madden Curse refers to the injury or poor performance that usually happens to said player. Do you think I am crazy? Let’s take a look…

Madden 2001: Eddie George
The curse was delayed a bit for Eddie George. After enjoying a great season in 2000, the following year saw him hampered by injuries and his rushing numbers hit an all-time low.

Madden 2002: Daunte Culpepper
After leading his team to the NFC Championship game the year before, Daunte Culpepper and the Vikings struggled to a 4-7 start in 2001. Culpepper then suffered a knee injury and missed the rest of the season.

Madden 2003: Marshall Faulk
After four consecutive seasons of rushing for more than 1300 yards, Marshall Faulk was bothered by an ankle injury in 2002 and saw his numbers dip below the 1000 yard mark. The Rams also missed the playoffs.

Madden 2004: Michael Vick
Michael Vick suffered a broken leg during a preseason game in 2003, one day after the Madden game hit store shelves.

Madden 2005: Ray Lewis
In 2004, Lewis failed to record an interception for the first (and only) time in his career. He missed 10 games in 2005 with a torn hamstring.

Madden 2006: Donovan McNabb
Donovan McNabb suffered a sports hernia in the first game of the 2005 season. After attempting to play despite the injury, he had surgery and missed the final seven games of the year.

Madden 2007: Shaun Alexander
After leading his team to the Super Bowl, Shaun Alexander suffered a broken foot three weeks into the 2006 season. He missed the next six weeks.

Madden 2008: Vince Young
Vince Young was only bothered by a minor leg injury, but did throw only nine touchdowns and 17 interceptions.

Madden 2009: Brett Favre
After starting the season well, Brett Favre suffered an injury to his throwing arm. Continuing to play, Favre and the Jets saw their season fall apart.

Madden 2010: Larry Fitzgerald/Troy Polamalu
In the first game of the season, Troy Polamalu sprained a ligament in his left knee. He is expected to miss three to six weeks.

Ticket scalping

Singer Miley Cyrus announced that her upcoming tour will be paperless, meaning that Ticketmaster will only offer e-tickets in an attempt to thwart ticket scalpers. Other anti-scalping technologies will be implemented at each venue as well.

My experience has taught me that there are two kinds of ticket scalpers.

There is the guy whose wife’s cousin couldn’t go to the game, so he is stuck with an extra ticket. He is wearing khaki shorts with his polo shirt neatly tucked in. Footwear consists of penny loafers and no socks.

He tells everyone else in his party to go ahead into the stadium and he will sell the ticket. His wife will think he is such a sweet guy. The reality is he doesn’t want her to witness the pathetic display that is about to happen.

He holds the ticket up in the air, but does not say anything. Scared out of his mind, he will sell the ticket to the first person who approaches him. The guy walks away feeling like a rebel, a bad-boy. The misses will have his wine cooler ready when he meets her at the stadium bar.

The “professional” ticket scalpers are the guys you see with a sign in one hand and 50 tickets in the other. On the back of their sign will be a seating chart. This is to show you how great the seats are.

If they do not have anything that you want, their buddy down the block will certainly have your perfect seat. He will walk you down the street to another guy with a crooked baseball hat and clothes big enough for an elephant.

They also know where all ATM machines in the area are located.

Is this American capitalism at its finest? Or is this the way that many fans get screwed out of going to games?

If someone in your party is unable to attend a game at the last minute, shouldn’t you be able to sell that ticket? However, should a ticket broker be allowed to buy up hundreds of tickets just to walk down the street and double the price for a family to see a ballgame?

Maybe Ticketmaster and Miley Cyrus are on to something. But how do you manage it? How do you monitor the situation without checking each person’s identification as they enter the venue?

I really don’t have an answer. I believe in the free market. I also believe that kids should be able to see their favorite singer or sports team even if their parents don’t have six figures in the bank.