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June 17, 2020

Eytan Shander: It's time for a new definition of 'stick to sports'

Plus, why we're rallying around Brandon Brooks (again) and why you should bet on Colin Kaepernick

Opinion Eytan Shander
1108_Malcolm_Jenkins_protest_USAT Jake Roth/USA Today Sports

Malcolm Jenkins may be gone, but there will likely be even more Eagles protesting this season.

Sports are no longer a distraction. Everything around us continues to change, and sometimes it feels like an overnight process. The world has seen some drastic makeovers both physically, as a result of COVID-19, and socially, after the murder of George Floyd. The everyday fabric of the athlete and their cause has truly intertwined with the fans who follow along, in stadiums or on social media. 

So, yes, it’s time we “stick to sports” but with a brand new 180-degree flip on the definition. 

Lou Williams and Dwight Howard have been vocal about questioning the NBA’s return in the wake of protests around the country. Howard even pushed for reform before basketball. It doesn't appear that the league is budging for now and will kick off their $ea$on in Orlando. Williams also questioned if now is the time to start playing basketball, with so many people prepared to move on. This is where I disagree while reinforcing their points. Wait, what? Follow me here.

Williams, Howard and other players like Kyrie Irving all have a humongous platform via being NBA players. It’s what Harold Varner III referenced on Friday after another strong round. His platform is golf, and he needs to be able perform in order to keep it. While I don’t think the world will forget about Howard or Williams, think of how best served their platform remains, if they choose to use it. 

Players who are pushing for change and reform now have an abundance of ways they can create conversations, or at least force some people to acknowledge those conversations exist. They can wear anything from a headband to shoes that acknowledge something specific in their fight for change. That can be brought up in pre- and post-game interviews, where the player can continue to discuss it through the media platforms. Williams or Howard can act, be it kneeling during the anthem or another form of protest while on the court. This will lead to questions in the media scrums, another perfect place for these players to continue to remind people what this is all about for them. 

Everything these guys are able to come up with will have an impact. At the very least, “sticking to sports” and using your platform allows uncomfortable conversations to never go away. Sports are no longer a distraction. The person who refuses to acknowledge their favorite athlete’s cause has nowhere left to hide. 

That’s why it’s vital for Sweet Lou and so many others to come out and ball. Keep pushing your message via your gigantic platform, there is no more “shut up and dribble” because the shoes have BLM on them, and the headband has the likeness of George Floyd.

Rallying cry

Losing a season due to injury might be one of the most humanizing elements of sports. Watching Brandon Brooks tweet out what was already floating around in reports was heartbreaking. We define what it means to be a fan of the Philadelphia Eagles as passionate but that’s such a loaded term. It can mean loud, obnoxious, educated, emotional, or just a mask for being ignorant.

I have always – despite taking radio callers for over a decade – defined it as simply “we care” more than anything else. There is no better indication of how we as fans come together than when we support one of our own. Watching the outpouring of support for Brooks is just another reminder of something we, as Philadelphians, do right.

We aren’t alone by any means, but it sure does feel like that part of our DNA is often left out of conversations. I’m reminded of how Markelle Fultz got standing ovation(s) here, as the narrative sharply shifted once he landed in Orlando. We were vigilant in reminding the rest of the Twitter-verse how strong the support was for someone with nothing to validate it.

Yes, we boo, loudly and at times with anger behind it. It’s why we are such a complex fan base. It might be best boiled down to why the Sixers played incredibly well at home as opposed to looking lost on the road. There is a level of accountability mixed with care.

It’s a complex relationship, just ask Ryan Howard. Not everyone gets the universal benefit of it while they play. Brooks has it, and rightfully so. He is dealing with crippling anxiety that can keep him out of a game, and one, now two, major blows to his Achilles. This isn’t about feeling sorry for Brooks, it’s about what we do best. Rally around one of our own, as we did when he went public about anxiety sidelining him on Sundays.

I expect a call to Jason Peters while not knowing how sustainable that can even be this season. But one thing we do know; the outpouring of support for Brooks on his journey to physical recovery is another example of why playing in front of Philadelphia is just different.

Coping with the COVID-19 virus from Wuhan

I want to keep this as open of a forum as possible. Please send any questions you have to my DM on Twitter.

Dr. Aryeh Shander MD, FCCM, FCCP, FASA

Director of TeamHealth Research Institute; Emeritus Chief Department of Anesthesiology, Critical Care and Hyperbaric Medicine, Englewood Health; Courtesy Clinical Professor, UF College of Medicine; Adjunct Clinical Professor of Anesthesiology, Medicine and Surgery, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York; Adjunct Clinical Professor of Anesthesiology and Critical Care, Rutgers University, Newark, NJ

Betting Pick of the Week: All in on Kap 

This is short and sweet, but you will have to act fast. It’s kind of like sitting on the phone waiting for Ticketmaster to open up, then timing out when to call for tickets. This is a bet you don’t take now, because you simply can’t, but it’s going to jump out as way too obvious and lose value. If he returns, Colin Kaepernick will win Comeback Player of the Year.

Roger Goodell is hoping a team signs Kaepernick. Goodell works for the owners, and it stands to reason that at least one or two have mentioned it to him. We will see him on a team, and as mentioned by his side in the past, it won’t be to back anyone up. The big wildcards here are Cam Newton and JJ Watt, but let’s first look at the bet itself. Kap comes back, he plays well, he wins the Comeback Player of the Year award. I don’t care if you get Big Ben return at +250, the value on Kap is worth betting.

Newton might be dealing with a lingering injury or not fully healthy. While it may not keep him off a team, it’s enough to hurt his performance or derail if he breaks down again. Watt played pretty well last year after returning from injury, and if he plays the full 16 could provide a good fight for Kap. The rest are junk. Gronk is a sucker’s bet. Green won’t do nearly enough with a rookie QB. Foles has politics working against him. Mayfield isn’t good enough. Stafford would need to win more than eight games. Roethlisberger is cooked.

All Kap needs to do is show up and throw more TDs than INT and he wins. Slam. Dunk.

Courtesy of BetOnline (Twitter: @betonline_ag).

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Follow Eytan on Twitter: @shandershow

You can listen to Eytan on SB Nation Radio (Mon.-Fri. from 11 a.m.-1 p.m.; weekends from 6-9 p.m.) and @foxphlgambler (Mon.-Weds., 6-8 p.m.). You can also catch him on FOX 29 Good Day.

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