Black [Her]story Sports Icon: Donna Marie Cheek

Standard
vandell-cobb-donna-cheek-1985

Image by Vandell Cobb

As a lover of horses since her childhood years, Donna Marie Cheek broke barriers when she became the first African American member of the United States Equestrian team in 1981.  Specializing in show jumping as a hunter/jumper, Cheek has had many years in the business in different capacities.

At the age of seven, Cheek began taking English-style riding lessons once her parents realized she was serious about horse-riding.  By the age of 11, she was competing at high levels across California, Arizona, and Nevada.  She soon became a standout, not only because of her talent but also because of her race.  She was a minority taking prominence in a White-majority sport.

Despite being recognized by many celebrities, featured in magazines like Ebony and Jet, and starring in the 1984 NBC special feature One More Hurdle: The Donna Cheek Story, Cheek never made it to the Olympics, which was one of her biggest aspirations.  She trained to compete in the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.  However, she struggled financially to sustain herself and thus was unable to compete at top tier levels.

Cheek went on to become an equine trainer and do stints in public broadcasting.  Her love for animals never wavered as evident by her formerly owning a horse consignment and training center in Paso Robles, California.  She was also inducted into the Women Sports Hall of Fame.

For Cheek’s talent and contributions to equestrian, her story is iconic in Black sports history.

The Falcons are Flying to Fifty-One!

Standard
matt-ryan_nfc-champ

Image Courtesy of AtlantaFalcons.com

The Atlanta Falcons are going to the Super Bowl.  I repeat, the Atlanta Falcons are going to the Super Bowl.  Wow, it still feels surreal to write those words.  As an Atlanta native and die-hard fan, it brings me tremendous joy and excitement to know that my boys did it!  We shredded the Green Bay Packers 44-21 in the NFC Championship Title Game, closing the doors to the Georgia Dome the right way.  And how ironic that we’re going to Super Bowl LI and it’s our franchise’s 51st season.

This past October, I wrote about how it was time for the rest of the world to “Rise Up and Respect Us” because nobody was giving us the proper credit we deserved—and some people still aren’t today.  And I’ll be honest, at that time I wasn’t thinking we’d be Super Bowl contenders.  I was just taking the season one game at a time without getting my hopes up.  But I must say, each week since, they have continuously impressed me.

Now to the nitty-gritty…

Let me start by praising my MVP-performing QB Matt Ryan.  During the 2016 regular season, Matty Ice passed for 4,944 yards, averaging 309 yards per game.  In the NFC title game, Ryan passed for 392 yards, 4 passing TDs, and 1 rushing TD—one of the best offensive plays of the game, especially his celebratory spike after getting into the end zone!  Did I mention he had zero sacks and zero interceptions?  Ryan clearly showed that he has become comfortable with rolling outside the pocket, turning his back to the defense to run a play-action, and overall more knowledgeable of OC Kyle Shanahan’s system.  Essentially, Ryan is developing into a true athlete.

Credit must also be given to our offensive line for protecting Ryan.  It helps that LT Jake Matthews, LG Andy Levitre, C Alex Mack, RG Chris Chester, and RT Ryan Schraeder have been the same five starters all season, making for a great lineup.  Thanks, guys!

Then there’s this former sixth overall draft pick, standing 6-foot-3-inches tall, weighing 220 pounds, named Julio Jones who caught for 180 yards, making it to the end zone twice, all while playing through a lingering toe injury.  The reality is, Jones is unstoppable.  Period.  And what’s even more admirable is his discipline and humility.  He always performs at an optimal level, he doesn’t let the outside noise get to him, and he’s a team player and not a ball hog.

Oh, and in case you weren’t watching, we had a 24-0 lead going into halftime.

Shifting gears, our young defense is continuing to improve.  The pivotal defensive play in yesterday’s game was CB Jalen Collins stripping and recovering the ball from Packers FB Aaron Ripkowski in the end zone for a touchback.  This allowed us to gain even more momentum.  Another big defensive play included S Ricardo Allen intercepting the strong-armed Aaron Rodgers, and DT Ra’Shede Hageman and DE Tyson Jackson sacking Rodgers.

As you can tell by the numbers, the Falcons have earned the right to play in Super Bowl LI.  And for us faithful Falcons fans and city natives, this accomplishment is heartwarming.  To be on the verge of bringing home the city’s second-ever professional championship title revitalizes a sense of pride and respect.  It is my hope that #InBrotherhood, the team will finish the deal on February 5th at NRG Stadium in Houston, TX.

#RiseUp

arthur-blank-holding-trophy

Image Courtesy of AtlantaFalcons.com

The Battle of the NFC South: Who Will Reign Supreme?

Standard
falconsvsbucs-768x512-1

Image courtesy of Getty Images

It’s the end of Week 14.  Playoff hopes are high.  Division titles are on the line.  And for the NFC South,the battle for the “Kings of the South” crown is going to come down to the wire for the Atlanta Falcons (8-5) and Tampa Bay Buccaneers (8-5).

Despite being a die-hard Falcons fan, I believe the gridiron evidence speaks for itself that my boys have a greater chance at winning the division title.  Allow me to indulge…

The Falcons lead the NFL in points scored this season, averaging 32.9 per game.  Franchise quarterback Matt Ryan has 4,050 yards, 30 touchdowns, and has a 113.2 passer rating.  It is equally important to highlight the depth of offensive talent for the Falcons because over 10 different players have gotten into the end zone thus far.  Running backs Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman both have nine total touchdowns, receiver Taylor Gabriel has six, Julio Jones has caught five, and Mohamed Sanu with three.

Keep reading here...

Forget Who’s Got Next, ESPN’s Michael Smith and Jemele Hill Got Now!

Standard
his-and-hers-main-1333x1000

Image courtesy of ESPN

In the words of the late-great Godfather of Soul James Brown, “Say it loud: I’m Black and I’m proud!”  This phrase comes to mind anytime I watch ESPN’s His & Hers with co-hosts Michael Smith and Jemele Hill.  They are unapologetically Black, embracing and incorporating Black culture into their everyday work life for the entire world to see—diversity and inclusion at its finest!

In the wake of an unfathomable time for America’s political climate, sports serves as a great outlet for people of varying backgrounds to unite.  But particularly for the Black community, the opportunity to view a sports talk show hosted by two people of color on the world’s premier sports network has a multi-layered impact.  Allow me to break it down, because it’s deeper than just sports.

Keep reading here…

Dear World: Rise Up and Respect Us!

Standard

ryan-and-jones

Image courtesy of Getty Images

Cue the 2014 Atlanta Falcons Rise Up video featuring the one and only Samuel L. Jackson.  That’s right, say it with me, “What do Falcons do??  Falcons RISE UP!”  And it’s about time the rest of America’s football fans do the same by giving the Falcons the respect and credit they deserve!

It’s the end of Week 5 and my Atlanta Falcons are 4-1.  We lead the NFC South Division 2-1.  We just beat the defending Super Bowl Champion Denver Broncos 23-16 on their home field–huge statement game.   Last week we dominated the Carolina Panthers 48-33, who were last year’s NFC Champions.  And in Weeks 2 and 3, we handled business on the road against the Oakland Raiders 35-28 and New Orleans Saints 45-32, respectively.  We quickly regrouped after a Week 1 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 31-24.

Nevertheless, the 2016 Falcons have been effective in all aspects of the game, and I am loving it!  I have not seen us dominate the field like this in a long time!

Offensively, quarterback Matt Ryan’s leadership and athleticism has been immaculate.  He’s been more mobile in-and-out of the pocket, audible at the line of scrimmage, thrown for deeper passes, and overall exudes more confidence in his play.  Ryan has an array of talent to deliver the ball to, as evident in his 1,740 yards thus far.  While defenses have been focused on double and triple coverage of our explosive wide receiver Julio Jones, Ryan has tossed a lot to running backs Tevin Coleman and Devonta Freeman, with blocks from fullback Patrick DiMarco, plus taking advantage of tight ends Jacob Tamme and Austin Hooper.  The off-season acquisition of receiver Mohamed Sanu has been a great addition, too.  But Jones still leads the pack in receiving yards this season with 517; he had a 300-yard game against the Panthers and set a franchise single-game receiving record.  Offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan has made efficient play calls and I look forward to us keeping it up.

On the defensive side, the rookie talent in linebacker Deion Jones and safety Keanu Neal, combined with skillful linebacker Vic Beasley Jr. and safety Kemal Ishmael, is working pretty well for us.  Beasley, or should I say BEASTly, stripped Broncos quarterback Paxton Lynch twice and recorded 3.5 sacks.  The veteran leadership of defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux and defensive end Dwight Freeney gives the younger guys people to learn from.  Though we don’t have outstanding statistics, we are continuing to improve week-by-week which has to please our defense-minded head coach Dan Quinn.

So as we enter Week 6, it is time that my boys receive the proper acknowledgement they have rightfully deserved by “experts” in the industry.  If and when the Falcons are mentioned, it should not be followed by statements of doubt, or expressions suggesting the winning streak will not last long, or excuses in favor of our opponents.  This die-hard Falcons fan doesn’t want to hear another negative notion about my boys!

In Week 6, we’re on the road again as we take on the Seattle Seahawks (3-1).  This is sure to be a great matchup, and I will definitely be tuned in!

#RiseUp

vic beasley.jpg

 Image courtesy of Getty Images

All Money Ain’t Good Money: Why PWIs shouldn’t meet HBCUs on the Gridiron

Standard
clemson-vs-scsu

Image Courtesy of ABC4 News

It’s electrifying.  It’s intense.  It’s magical.  “It” is none other than college football!

The college football season is three weeks underway and has kept millions of football fans, like myself, thoroughly entertained and on edge.  From Top 25-ranked team upsets, to close scoring games, to fourth quarter comebacks, this September has been one to remember.  However, there are a few games that leave me questioning the morality of college football.

This past weekend, the defending ACC champion Clemson Tigers unequivocally demolished the South Carolina State University (SCSU) Bulldogs 59-0.  Sure both institutions are classified as NCAA Division I, but the caliber of athletes, skill of competition, and financial budgets–to name a few–are vastly different.  The mere fact that the playing time was cut short during the last two quarters, upon the agreement of both head coaches, is evidence that these teams were not adequate opponents.

Keep reading here…

The Golden Gals!

Standard

Simone Biles. Gabby Douglas. Michelle Carter. Simone Manuel.

If you do not know these names by now, then let me enlighten you.

These four Black women are Olympic Gold Medalists.  In this opening week of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, each of them won gold for Team USA.  Yep, they continue to prove how #BlackGirlsRock and that #BlackGirlMagic cannot be stopped.

Simone and Gabby.jpg

Image courtesy of http://www.people.com

Rookie Olympian Simone Biles has won three gold medals thus far in Rio: Women’s Team All-Around, Women’s Individual All-Around, and Women’s Vault.  Biles has soared—literally—through her performances, especially on her latest vault victory scoring 15.966.  Her teammate and 2012 all-around champion Gabby Douglas contributed to the team all-around victory making this her third Olympic gold medal.

Michelle Carter.jpg

Image courtesy of http://www.npr.org

Over in the track and field events, Michelle Carter became the first U.S woman EVER to win gold in the shot put.  Her metal sphere landed 20.63 meters away, (67 feet, 8.25 inches).  Not only is she a first-time Olympian, but she also is the daughter of Michael Carter, an Olympian and three-time Super Bowl Champion.  He won silver in the 1984 Olympic shot put competition.  Carter and her father have become the first-ever father-daughter Olympic medalist duo from the U.S.  Also, Carter a.k.a the “Shot Diva” is a certified professional makeup artist.  No wonder her beautiful brown skin looked flawless while throwing the shot put!

Simone Manuel.jpg

Image courtesy of http://www.usatoday.com

While Biles, Douglas and Carter were luminous on land, Simone Manuel shined at sea.  Manuel solidified her name in the history books by becoming the first Black woman to win an individual gold medal in swimming.  Twenty-year-old Manuel swam for 52.7 seconds in the 100-meter freestyle.  In her Olympic debut, Manuel has won two gold and two silver medals representing Team USA.

And might I add, each of these women are killing their competition in a fashionable way.  From Biles’ glittery eyes, to Douglas’ dark plum lipstick, to Carter’s burgundy lip and lengthy lashes, to Manuel’s red, white and blue fingernails, they are expressing themselves in a stylish way!  Take a look for yourself below!

biles biting goldGymnastics - Artistic - Olympics: Day 4carter lashes_siSimone Manuel Nails_instyle

Keep glowing ladies!  Gold looks great on you!