Laurie Hernandez Got the Nation’s Attention and New Jersey’s Respect

By Matt Alcalde

First and foremost, who do I have to talk to in order to get Ryan Lochte to meet with Laurie? If anyone on the Olympic Committee is reading this, please make the girl’s wish come true!

If you live and breathe gymnastics, you’ve most likely heard about Laurie Hernandez. But for everyone else in the US, who may not watch as much gymnastics as we should, Laurie gained our attention after her brilliant floor routine. For those of us lucky enough to live in NJ, we were ahead of the curve, thanks to local media, like NJ.com, giving a shoutout to all the Olympic Athletes from NJ heading to Rio.

“Hey, that’s the girl from Old Bridge!” has pretty much been spoken by every New Jerseyan. Let’s just say NJ is proud, and we have every reason to be. In a climate that tends to stereotype the younger generation as “lazy millennials,” it’s always great to see someone accomplish so much at 16. She’s someone that people, young and old, can look up to as an example of what it takes to win and, more importantly, how to keep your composure when things don’t go your way.

When Laurie wasn’t chosen for a spot on the Olympic All-Around, she could have allowed that setback to eat away at her. Instead, she understood that her life’s work has never been absent of challenges. In 2014, after a bad vault landing, Hernandez dislocated her right knee cap, tearing her patella ligament and bruising her MCL. Surgery was required to fix her knee, which included attaching a cadaver’s ligament onto her own. But she came back, stronger and more competitive than ever. When Laurie found out she didn’t make the All-Around in Rio, she likely realized that nothing in her life had been easy, so why start now.  Throughout the Olympics, she showed grace, rooted for her team and was rewarded with Gold and Silver.

Culturally, New Jersey is a very diverse state. As you can imagine the Latino population is 100% behind Laurie, a descendant of Puerto Rican grandparents. Born in New Brunswick, NJ, Laurie Hernandez is the first US-born Hispanic athlete to make the the US Women’s Gymnastic Olympic team since Tracee Talavera at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics. As the Olympics are being held in a Latin American country, Brazil, she’s a guaranteed favorite among all that see her perform.

The future is definitely bright for the 16-year-old. Tokyo 2020 is already on the mind of many, including Laurie Hernandez, who as of the foreseeable future will be part of the US Women’s Gymnastic Olympic team. But that is still four years away, and there will be plenty of other things to keep her focused in the meantime. Now, Laurie Hernandez will be facing an entirely new test: how to stay focused when everybody knows your name. If her Twitter account has any reflection of the newfound fame she will have when she gets back to the States, it’s going to be a tough challenge. New Jersey isn’t worried. With that personality, it’s easy to have faith that Laurie will persevere. 

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Don’t Question Her Patriotism

(Photo Above: Gabby Douglas. Source: The Huffington Post – Zondervan)

I’ve attended enough baseball games to know that as soon as the National Anthem comes on, you take off your cap, stand at attention and place your hand over your heart. It’s a sign of respect for the game and for the USA.

What I love most about this tradition is how it has the capability to unite 45,000 strangers to salute their county. And as the singer reaches the, “Home of the Brave, And the Land of the Free,” the hair on my neck stands on end as a wave of cheers and applauds begins to swell.

There’s always a few that decide its more important to eat their hot dog or down their beer to take in the moment, and although I might not like it, I’m proud that I live in country that doesn’t persecute those that choose to express their patriotism however they choose. Or do we?

In the last week, US Olympic gymnast Gabby Douglas has received a barrage of abusive online comments, attacking her “lack of patriotism” because she did not place her hand over her heart during the National Anthem. Bullying comments, like trending Tweets calling her “Crabby Gabby,” isn’t new to the 20-year-old. Far worse has been said about the gymnast phenom, much of which has had a racial overtone. I won’t repeat it here, because these hateful comments don’t deserve an additional platform, but you can look it up for yourself on a recent Guardian Article.

Gabby Douglas_Vanity Fair

Gabby Douglas (Source: Vanity Fair)

Let’s just be clear, Gabby Douglas deserves better treatment. She’s worked her butt off and sacrificed a good chunk of her childhood, with absolutely no regrets, to become a powerhouse in World’s gymnastics. And even though she might choose to wear a pink leotard, which might upset some Fox News Pundits for not being Red, White and Blue, she’s doesn’t need to apologize for lacking pride in her country, for not smiling enough or for any other silly criticism from people who have nothing better to do than tear others down. Gestures do matter. But so does the fact that the Douglas family has deep roots serving in the US Military and that Gabby does the seemingly impossible by competing with the World’s best and bringing home Gold. To have the nerve to question the patriotism of such an immense talent as Gabby Douglas is idiotic.

As Douglas’ mother, Natalie Hawkins, was quoted by The Guardian, “I don’t think respecting your country or your flag boils down to whether you put your hand over your heart or not. It’s in your actions towards your country – how well are you abiding by its laws, how well are you helping your fellow citizens?”

So I ask all the critics out there: How are you really helping? By tearing down one of the people that creating the national pride you’re professing to respect?

You made us proud, Gabby!

 

 

Dream Big, Ladies!

 

Dream big…and do good. For all the fathers out there that dream for their daughters and to all the little girls with big hopes, tonight we reaffirm that the future is yours for the taking.

There continues to be a need to empower women and create the opportunities that allow an equal stage for female innovators throughout the world. But for just tonight, we celebrate this historic moment. For tomorrow, it’s back to work. Tonight, we lift our young daughters onto our shoulders. Tomorrow, they’ll lift all of society up to a better life!

Chase Utley’s dirty slide reminds us what not to teach our kids

Source: SNY.tv - METSBLOG

Source: SNY.tv – METSBLOG

Chase Utley’s intent was clear when he “slid” late and aggressively into Ruben Tejada – he wanted to disrupt any chance of a relay throw and break up a double play. His intent is clear because he said as much during a post-game interview. His skewed regard for the MLB guidelines, on how to legally break up a double play, is also clear. Even the consequences of his tackle are crystal clear: Ruben Tejada won’t be playing post-season baseball in 2015, with a fractured right fibula (see video of “the slide heard round the world” below).

What’s not clear is what the umpires and the MLB reviewers in NY were thinking when they overturned the original ruling and called Utley safe. The original call was an out, which is why a downed Tejada didn’t make a tag in the first place – that and the fact he couldn’t even move his right foot. This would mean the original call was in line with the neighborhood play, there to protect an infielder – attempting a double-play, relay throw to first – to not get hurt, like Tejada did. A neighborhood play is not reviewable and that is where it should have ended. Instead, things got weird. The play did end up getting reviewed, which is against the MLB rulebook, because the play was ruled a force throw to first and not a double play. Basically, the MLB NY office reviewing the play decided Tejada couldn’t have made the double play and so the neighborhood play wasn’t valid. Tejada never touched the bag nor tagged Utley. But Utley never touched the base, either. Furthermore, everyone on the field treated it like a double play: from Murphy’s toss to Tejada to Tejada’s attempted relay to first and to Utley’s acknowledged attempt to break up the play. Everyone thought it was a double play…except for the people who apparently matter: someone 3,000 miles away looking at it from a video screen.

Let’s get something straight for the people who are saying, “Quit whining! It’s Baseball.” It is baseball, and a guy’s leg is broken. This isn’t hockey or football or rugby – it is baseball. No one should be getting their legs broken fielding a ball to second. But they do and not because the MLB needs to look at ending aggressive slides into the fielder. The MLB does not need to bring in a new rule; they just have to enforce the rules already in play. We can all agree that there is a human aspect to the umpire calls – a ball is called a strike; a player is called safe running to first base, instead of out; a fair ball is called foul to save a no-hitter. In baseball, rules are made to be broken…not the player’s bones. MLB: enforce runner interference on the double play.

In Chase Utley’s post-game interview, he said, “You’re taught from a young age to try to break up double plays. Pedro Martinez said it best via Twitter:

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There’s a huge difference between an aggressive slide and a blatant attempt to hurt someone. There’s a way to play hard and give it all you got and then there’s this:

Source: NY Daily News

Source: NY Daily News

Let’s agree that as parents and coaches, we won’t teach the next generation of baseball players to win like the Chase Utleys of the world.

It’s been busy…

You know those times in your life where you barely have time to get a haircut and you have to bring out the hair trimmer and hope whatever you do to your hair resembles something not like the bowl cuts you got as a kid? That busy!

Remember when you used to be able to go to the gym 4-5 times a week and enjoy the extra energy that it gave you? Now I settle for climbing the stairs from the living room to the bedroom – every time I forget my cell, and then my watch, and then my wallet, and then my glasses. I have a pot belly but my legs are looking great!

Remember those Sundays when it was raining and you’d turn on the TV, sit on the couch and Netflix the day away? It took my wife and I a week to watch The Amazing Spider-Man 2. Do you understand the torturous patience it takes to invest the time in finishing that awful movie, knowing you’ll just wish that you could get your time back but too stubborn to quit half-way through?

Baby, work, dogs, baby…repeat.  It’s easy to get lost in the routine. But somewhere within the day in-day out, I try my best to read between the lines and find little successes. Whether it’s finishing a project at work that has a big impact for my team and the great people we work with, or just succeeding in putting a fussy baby to sleep without him waking up once, I try to remember these victories. That’s what StarterDads is all about – a written log of what it means to succeed as a dad (as a parent) – even when you’re completely drained or feel like the setbacks are wearing you down. So bring on the busy! And let’s get StarterDads started…again.

Rainbow Nation!

Happy Fathers’ Day!

Hah! You see what I did there? I know you grammar geeks did. That’s right, today is the day that the two-dad and two-mom families can celebrate on a national level. Because today, America is just a little bit more “union-y.”

SCOTUS made legal what love already knew–there’s room for everyone when it comes to family. Marriage equality won’t make families stronger; people will continue to take that on. People who have room in their hearts, accept the diversity in our culture, and are free to love and be loved–those are the ones strong enough to face the challenges of marriage and of raising a family.  For all my beautiful friends and family who get to celebrate their well fought and much deserved equality, I’m so excited for you. For my son, I’m so happy that you’ll one day be able to ask me, “Dad, do you remember when marriage equality was made legal for all?” And I’ll be able to say, “Yea, I do. And it was about time.”

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Here’s To You…Happy Father’s Day

To all the dads that have the undivided attention of their kids – even when you dead bolt yourself behind multiple doors just so you can use the bathroom in peace. To all the dads brave enough to admit that they have no clue what they’re doing.. and own it. And to all the dads who realize they’ll only be this little for a short amount of time, Happy Father’s Day!

And to my Dad, I wish you got to meet your grandson. I hope you know, for all the times I wouldn’t let you sleep after working the night shift, you finally got your revenge!

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