EDM Trend Story

Posted: 6th March 2015 by admin in Northwestern

Glaring at the nine minute countdown on a drape covering what is sure to be a grandiose stage production from Skrillex in the Sahara tent at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in Coachella Valley, California, murmurs swirl around the 60,000 or so people in the crowd of what is to come. Whispers vary from excitement and anticipation to people wondering not only what has Coachella, which used to have little electronic music, turned into but also whether or not electronic music is heading in the wrong direction.

“Part of the reason the subgenres are disappearing is because the people just want to be entertained, there is not a lot of fuss about what it is,” DJ Mag United States editor Joe Roberts said. “It’s just kind of to keep giving the fans some sort of novelty.”

Although Electronic Dance Music is hard to define, and some disagree with the EDM label, electronic music as a whole began around the 1990s with underground raves around the country as a form of counterculture, but the scene has since evolved right into the mainstream.

Billboard’s Hot 100 on July 20, 2014, had two electronic songs in the top 5, five in the top 25, and eight in the top 50 which, relative, equates to almost 20 percent of the top 100. The radio playing more EDM has consequently led to festivals booking mainly mainstream or big drop deejays (where songs climax generally with a lot of bass) to please the masses.

This new trend has caused some within the industry to worry about EDM’s direction, like up-and-coming house deejay Darrius, who called the commercialization of electronic music a “double-edged sword” because it promotes electronic music but also largely dismisses other subgenres such as trance and deep house.

“I tend to steer away from the things other people are playing because that’s not really unique and different,” Darrius said. “What I try to do is play a very unique and different set but not to the point where you say ‘Oh this is weird’ but in the way that I don’t like playing The Beat Port Top 100.”

Beat Port’s website has contributed to the EDM industry by providing deejays with a way of releasing songs and remixes that the artist’s want to be paid for on a per purchase basis unlike a streaming service like Spotify that pays on a per stream basis. The price of a song is generally $1.49 or $2.49 on Beat Port and that particular song is usually exclusively released on beatport.com and is not released on iTunes, Spotify, or other music services.

While Beat Port has also given rise to lesser known genres by allowing users to search songs through a list of 20 EDM subgenres, Beat Port’s Top 100 Tracks list shows the public’s favoritism for mainstream electronic music: On July 20, 2014, Beat Port’s The Top 100 Tracks had progressive (23), deep house (22), electro house (19), tech house (15), and house (11) with the other 21 coming from once prominent genres such as techno (5), indie dance (3), trance (1) and electronic (1).

Jeremiah Seraphine, the founder of Chicago-based electronic music record label Revolutionary Music, said that the overwhelming popularity of subgenres with big drops like progressive or electro house, is due to festival’s more impressive sound systems.

“A lot of the kids now-a-days are listening to music with these big drops which in part has come out of these huge sound systems at festivals that make the bass drops sound so good,” Seraphine said   “A lot of times, when I was growing up, the sound system you would hear wasn’t these huge things they are now. But producers have now realized how good these big drops sound on these systems at festivals so that’s what’s being produced and played a lot.”

Trance was one of EDM’s most popular subgenres for years, according to DJ Mag’s yearly Top 100 DJs list, voted on by fans, which had trance DJs in the top-5 of the list for many years. Trance deejay Armin Van Buuren was number one on the list for two years running until progressive and electro house deejay Hardwell took his spot last September. Former trance deejay Tiësto was ranked third, second and fourth in 2011, 2012 and 2013, respectively, before making the switch to house music.

Tiësto received backlash after releasing his first full-length mainstream house album, A Town Called Paradise, this year. The main criticism Tiësto received was that his subgenre switch was purely a move to make more money, to which Tiësto repeatedly counter argued that it was a move to stay relevant. Darrius, who started off as a trance deejay and opened for Armin Van Buuren when he was number one in 2009, disagrees with Tiësto’s critics.

“Whatever you are doing you have to stay current, and I feel like Tiësto (45) has been in this game for so long that trance just stopped working for him, even though he was the most recognized trance deejay in the world,” Darrius said. “He decided to go take over another subgenre rather than stay as one of the best trance deejays in the world and I think he has been doing a good job with his new sound. He is a business man above all else and he knew what he had to do to keep thriving.”

Tiësto’s switch to a more mainstream sound is one event in a recent string of events that further shows the trend of EDM’s new more mainstream and big drops sound. Recently, electro house deejay Zedd broke Good Morning America’s record for the largest crowd at a performance. Zedd beat out 50 Cent and Keith Urban who have also drawn large crowds on GMA. Also this year, Calvin Harris broke a record in the second weekend of Coachella for the second largest crowd in the history of the festival, trailing only Dr. Dre and Snoop Dog’s joint performance in 2012.

Camron Zibaie, 31, is the general manager of U31 Cocktail Lounge in San Diego, California, which books deejays to perform as well, and owns BLK OWL which produces many electronic shows in San Diego, believes the only reason festivals and other places are booking mainstream deejays is because that’s what the young crowd wants to hear.

“Mostly if festivals are booking mainstream or acts that have big drops it’s because they have sold all their tickets with those kind of poppy mainstream deejays,” Zibaie said. “These festivals like Coachella are just booking what the young market wants and that’s turning some of these concerts into a little rave because people aren’t really showing up for the bands anymore. Festivals like Coachella are now more about the deejays which is just ridiculous, but Coachella is just following pop culture mainstream deejays because that is what the young people that go to Coachella want to see.”

According to a study conducted at Canada’s McMaster Institute for Music and the Mind, there is a biological reason why this big time drop trend has occurred. The study tested the electrical activity of 35 subjects and determined that virtually all people respond more to lower-pitched beats. In conjunction with the current trend of drops, the majority of big time drop songs have high-pitched melodies that are followed by melodies with deep bass. Researchers say that both pitch frequencies can be easily heard by virtually all people, especially the bass sounds. The fact these pitches can be more easily heard by human ears makes the subgenres with big drops more enjoyable, according to the study.

While people leave Skrillex’s Coachella set, the beginning of his Mothership Tour, the murmurs begin again. Some are heard yelling about how they have never seen such a good EDM performance while others remain disappointed and concerned over the direction the industry is headed. More importantly, however, for the hour and a half that Skrillex played, there was unity among 60,000 people and according to Darius that’s all that matters because “no matter what subgenre you like, it’s all about bringing people together.”

In July of 2014 I was accepted to Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism five week summer program. Over the course of a life changing five weeks I was assigned many different articles. Below you can find all the articles I turned in but they do not include the edits that my professors made on them when they were handed back. So they are a little rough as I learned more and more by the day. The only article not included here is my “Trend Story” which was our final project, the article I am most proud of in my career, and that is in a separate post above. Enjoy!

Courage Speech (Write-Off Competition Winner)

I’ve been called “cocky” countless times to my face and I can’t imagine how many times behind my back, but I think less of myself than most people would guess. One of the things I am confident about, though, is my courage.

Courage comes in many shapes and sizes, like most character traits, and my courage comes in more of a verbal sense in that I stand up for what I believe in quite passionately. I have a very big issue with courage though in that I have a moral dilemma where my life, my goals, my future butts heads directly with the courage I have in my heart.

I think everyone is probably lost right now and has no idea what I am talking about but do not freight, I do indeed have a point. If someone said in front of me that Israel was victimizing itself and it was really Gaza we should feel bad for, I do indeed have the courage to completely shred that person to pieces no matter where I am and give them the real facts. However, and this is where the dilemma comes in, there are things you cannot speak about depending on the situation or people you are with.

I want to emphatically stress that I am by no means political, but I do have strong opinions about certain topics. Sometimes, however, I need to censor myself, which as an open person I hate to do. What I am trying to get at is that it is tough to be courageous in this day-in-age where everything you do is judged and can affect your future, i.e. getting a job or getting into a college.

There are things I would love to ask and discuss with some of the instructors here but some of it, depending on the instructor’s stance, could make me look very bad. This isn’t a vendetta against this program at all, what my overall point is is that to have courageous people in this world we all need to be more open people and cut judgment out completely.

We need to constantly tell people we are open and not judgmental so we may have dialogues and conversations with people and learn from one another even if we don’t agree. Christian Paz and I had a 45 minute debate on the Israel-Gaza conflict, and we didn’t always agree, but we came out as way better friends than we were before because we listened, understood, and didn’t judge each other. I urge everyone in this room, especially as journalists, to be more open and willing to hear people’s opinions without judging so we can not only learn more, but open the door for courageous people to make a difference in this world without having to risk their futures due to people’s judgmental fashion.

Thank you.

Teacher Tenure Laws (Opinion)

A California judge rejected teacher tenure laws last week because they deprive students of a proper education while violating the students’ civil rights under the State Constitution. Although the teacher unions are planning to appeal the decision, the ruling does bring the state of California one step closer to finally abolishing teacher tenures which heavily favor teachers while severely hurting their students.

Tenures began in 1999 as a way to prevent schools from firing teachers to do someone a favor, such as giving the position to the principal’s sister, and to protect teachers from being fired due to political affiliations. However, the law has since evolved into an excuse for teachers to no longer do their job well since firing them is difficult and expensive once they are tenured. Tenures are given to teachers early in their careers and then the teachers can do as little actual teaching as they want.

While effective teachers deserve to have their jobs guaranteed, underperforming teachers are also getting immunity. According to CALDER expert Eric Hanushek, the students of these underperforming teachers are getting only half a years’ worth of learning while good teachers are providing their students with a year and a half worth of academic gains. Despite the fact many teachers underperform, only one in every thousand of them are losing their licenses because of California’s tenure laws. However, one in every 97 lawyers loses their licenses and one out of every 57 doctors lose their licenses, according to Waiting for Superman, a documentary about the nation’s tenure system.

The idea behind tenure made sense in 1999 but tenures are now only helping teachers slack off and in turn having students learn less. It is better to completely abolish tenure so no teacher is safe rather than having an umbrella that protects most teachers after working only a couple of years. For tenure to work there needs to be evaluations and reviews of teachers so only the truly deserving ones get their jobs guaranteed. California has taken a step in the right direction in protecting high school students from the dangers of poor teaching.

Delivery Economics

During the slow summer months the sharp ring of the door’s alarm echoes throughout a deserted pizzeria as one of the only two employees meanders over to greet the customer.

Papa John’s and Sarpinos Pizza labor through the slow months of July and August while Northwestern University students are out on summer vacation, leaving the pizzerias with significantly less clientele. While Sarpinos Pizza makes around $2,000 less a day during the summer, Papa John’s brings in about $3,000 less, according to the store’s managers.

 “During the busy school year we make between $4,000 and $5,000 but during the summer period its closer to around $2,500 maybe $3,500,” Sarpinos Pizza shift manager Collin Marinov said.

Both stores attributed a large majority of their sales to the delivery side of the business saying that the campus is so close by it makes it convenient for both the store and the students.

“We get a lot of delivery orders from Northwestern since it’s so close and it’s quick and easy for the drivers too,” Papa John’s store manager Bobby Mosley said. “Right now we are just open until 2 a.m. but during the school year the schedule changes quite a bit.”

                The drop in sales during summer is commonplace around the nation with restaurant sales dipping up to two billion dollars nationwide, according to restaurant.org. Some restaurants that see slow summers because they are close to universities give workers the summer off to prevent more losses.

                “We have someone that works during the school year on deliveries but doesn’t work with us during the summer,” Mosley said. “With two or three people at a time in summer we do just fine.”

                One such trend that is not seen in Evanston, however, is closing down restaurants for part of the summer to prevent even greater losses. According to Marinov, Sarpinos doesn’t let people off during the summer because they like having full-time workers.

        “If anything we may have less drivers during the day but right when school kicks off there will be three or four drivers maybe more during the day and four to six drivers at night,” Marinov said.

While the summer days will continue to be slow at both locations, the pizzerias are excited for the start of the school year to finally cut the silence of the kitchen and fill it with the computer’s buzz from each incoming order.

Game Time (My First Column)

Posted: 26th January 2015 by admin in Falconer

The following was my first column as Sports Editor of the Torrey Pines Falconer in May of 2013:

With Savannah Kelly and Katie Mulkowsky moving to managing editor and focus editor, respectively, I have been granted the opportunity to move on from being a staff writer to being the lone honcho of the sports section.

I pride myself in being an extremely open person, so I have no problem saying that being chosen as sports editor was not a decision I expected. To be perfectly honest, I bet my family a dinner that I would not be given this position and two dinners that I would not be given it alone. I was not being pessimistic, so much as realistic. Fortunately, I lost both my bets.

Becoming the sports editor of the Falconer was something I envisioned since freshman year, but, as Beginning Journalism came to a close and I earned a spot as a Falconer staff writer, my chances of becoming sports editor seemed increasingly unlikely.

This is not a diary entry, but it is important to understand that my selection as sports editor may have surprised many of those whose names you see on the masthead, myself included.

It was a surprise even given the fact that I have written for over nine sports websites and have had extensive experience in sports writing. However, the reality is that the writing style for a website or blog is a lot different than for a newspaper. Despite that, the advantage I have had throughout my year on staff is my passion for writing. My writing is not where I would like it to be yet, but that will come in time.

I started writing about sports when I was in eighth grade for a site nobody had ever heard of. Now I am the sports editor of one of the best high school newspapers in the country, and I blog for the Huffington Post. Getting to where I am today was certainly not easy and required a lot of things to go right and even more to go wrong.

I made my way onto the staff of the Falconer believing that my writing was impressively developed for my age. However, I soon encountered the heart- wrenching truth that I was not as good as I, or others, had originally thought. The bright side of that, however, has been learning so much from the other writers, and especially our Falconer adviser and one of the most amazing people I have had the pleasure to meet or work with, Mia Boardman Smith.

I have arrived at the position I have dreamed of holding for two years, and this opportunity will not go to waste. I have exciting things in the works, and hope you turn to this section every month. If you have any ideas, questions, criticisms or concerns, write me at fstepensky@gmail.com.

Cheers to what is bound to be a great 2013-2014 sports section.

Jason Collins Should Be Applauded For His Courage

Posted: 26th January 2015 by admin in Falconer

The following was published in the May 2013 issue of the Torrey Pines Falconer:

NBA center Jason Collins announced he is gay in the Sports Illustrated cover story he wrote earlier this month. The story marked the first time an active male athlete in a major U.S. sports league has come out as gay, though Collins, a 12-year veteran, is currently a free agent. Collins made history with his announcement, illuminating the path for gay athletes to come out publicly, which will lead to a world more accepting of homosexuality.

A professional male athlete in a major U.S. team sport identifying himself as gay should not warrant a headline every time it happens, but it was inevitable that the first athlete to come would be heralded as a superhero, as he well should be.

There are thousands of male athletes in major U.S. sports leagues, but Collins is the only person who is openly and publicly gay. Collins had to know that this meant coming out would lead to a media circus, with extensive commentary, both positive and negative.

The ignorant comments included those from Mike Wallace, a wide receiver for the Miami Dolphins, when he expressed confusion as to why males are attracted to other males. Atlanta Falcons cornerback Asante Samuel also said that there is no need for Collins to flaunt his sexuality, since straight people do not announce they are straight. Both of these observations show people’s lack of understanding of why Collins’ announcement is so significant, and sounds a lot like Wallace and Samuel recommend a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, which has been in place in sports for years. This leaves more players trapped in the closet, unable to truly share who they are with the team and connect with their brothers as do  their heterosexual teammates.

Players seldom come out because they live in fear of reduced playing time, poor treatment by opponents and a change in the locker room dynamic, among other things. Those thoughts forced players like former NBA center John Amaechi not to come out until they retire, and almost led rugby star Gareth Thomas to commit suicide; and these thoughts are reinforced by any reaction to Collins’ announcement that is not fully supportive. One does not have to approve of Collins’ decision to reveal his sexual identity, but his fellow athletes even suggesting that Collins is flaunting his sexuality with his announcement is ignorant and perpetuates the insecurity and reluctance to come out among professional athletes.

NBA great Charles Barkley recently acknowledged that he played with gay teammates, and that all NBA players have played with gay teammates. Barkley  added that a player’s sexuality is not spoken about unless the person comes out to someone personally, which Barkley says happened to him three or four times in his 16-year career.

Sure, supportive statements by the NBA office and countless players from different sports will lead to slightly less uncertainty about coming out among gay players, but individual teams must also come out in support. Although professional sports leagues tried to soothe some of the fears homosexual athletes have by demonstrating their support for Collins, nobody can force players to come out.

Former tennis superstar Martina Navratilova, who is the most influential and important athlete to ever come out, called Collins a game changer in her article on sportsilustrated.com, and said that 1981 was her year, and 2013 is Collins’. For Navratilova to call Collins’ announcement a game changer is no small statement, but this will not just make any athlete comfortable with coming out.

Given that coming out must be a natural process, and is a huge personal decision, the NBA, NFL, MLB and NHL can do much to encourage gay players to come out by fostering a supportive environment in all ways possible. The leagues can demonstrate support for players that do come out, so that gay players within each league are aware of the kind of support they will be given. Once a player does come out, all the league has left to do, besides show its support, is to notify all teams that they cannot discriminate against the player, and that any trash talking directed at the player’s sexuality, or decisions based on the player’s sexuality, like reduced playing time, will result in major fines. The leagues that do that would also be wise to release a statement explaining fines to the media, so players can feel the full weight of league support even before they come out.

As Navratilova said in her article, “Any revolution starts with a small step. . . One of the last bastions of homophobia has been challenged.”

Wes Welker to the Denver Broncos

Posted: 23rd May 2013 by admin in Uncategorized

The original article can be seen here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/fernando-stepensky/wes-welker-to-the-denver-_b_2882217.html

When the infamous Adam Schefter tweeted on Wednesday that the Broncos were in “serious talks” with then New England Patriot Wes Welker, and that a decision was “expected today,” I immediately thought it was a smoke screen.

All things Wes Welker:

There was just no way that Wes Welker was leaving the Patriots, right? We all knew that Welker was not happy with the evaluation the team was giving him, but I think few thought he would actually leave. So, naturally, I thought this report was simply to scare New England and get a bigger and better deal. I was wrong. And I admitted it, with no excuses.

I am going to take you into the mind of Fernando Stepensky for a second, and the mind of countless others who were as appalled as I was to hear that Welker was officially a Denver Bronco.

Tom Brady had just given the Pats $15 million in cap relief two weeks ago, for, what I thought, was so the team could spend more. And who better to spend on then your irreplaceable quarterback’s best friend, and favorite target?

Welker was coming off a 118 catch, 1,354 yards receiving, six touchdown and 619 yards after the catch season.

He was fourth in the league for targets (174), second in the league for receptions (118), eighth in the league for receiving yards (1,354), sixth in first downs among receivers (72) and first in YAC (619).

Welker also had the most catches in the past six seasons combined.

Welker had a 112 catches a year, on average, in his six-year Patriot career, only missed three games in those six years, and was paid $18 million in his first five years with the team.

Can you see why we, I mean I, didn’t believe the news at first?

The Ravens, Steelers and Patriots have made it very clear in the past that they don’t pay old guys who they believe are either washed up or washing up, and I greatly respect that, but Welker was not washing up just yet, despite his 31 years of age. The guy has the go-to receiver on a Super Bowl contending team for many years.

What happened?

Wes Welker made slightly north of $27.5 million the past six years. Clearly undervalued, to say the least. With those numbers, you know he wants his big payday to finally come, and it didn’t. Reports indicated that the Patriots were offering somewhere around two years and $10 million, which people, including myself, called “laughable.”

When the fat lady sung, Welker took the Broncos’ offer of two years, and $12 million dollars (with a $150,000 incentive every season he catches 90 passes).

You might think that those two million dollars shouldn’t have been enough for Welker to be swayed away from his home, and it wasn’t. A source had warned NFL.com columnist Adam Schein, before free agency, “if team X offered him 100 bucks and the Patriots offered him 100 dollars, he would leave New England.” This was because Welker had felt “disrespected for a few years in New England.”

So it wasn’t about the money, it was about respect, and getting what he deserved. Andaccording to ESPNBoston.com’s Mike Reiss, who did a hell of a job on this entire story, an AFC team offered Welker two years and $15 million. Needless to say, Welker also chose his team based on fit, and talent as well.

A few bullet points on the deal, and Danny Amendola:

— Wes Welker agreed to the deal without visiting the Broncos.

— Welker himself said that he pitched the Broncos’ vice president of football operations, John Elway, more than Elway pitched him.

-According to Tom E. Curran of Comcast SportsNet New England, Amendola’s contract with New England, for a ludicrous 5-years and $31 million, with $10 million guaranteed, was signed on Tuesday. Meaning, contrary to popular belief, the signing of Amendola was not made as a result of Welker going to the Broncos, but more likely the other way around.

— Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels worked with Amendola in St. Louis at one point.

— Since 2009, Wes Welker has missed three games to Danny Amendola’s 23. Not to mention, games played aside, Welker crushes Amendola in receptions per game, yards per game and average YAC per game.

I would like to finish this article with an excerpt of an article by Sports Illustrated‘s Peter King, because I could not have said it any better:

The Patriots have made it abundantly clear that only Tom Brady is irreplaceable among players in their world. They’re going to have to figure a way to tell the Irreplaceable One how they let his favorite weapon get away after Brady did the team such a favor two weeks ago.
Bad, bad decision by New England.

What’s Next for Alex Smith?

Posted: 23rd May 2013 by admin in Uncategorized

The original article can be read here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/fernando-stepensky/alex-smith_b_2672702.html

The Super Bowl is over for the San Francisco 49ers, and for Alex Smith. The 34-31 loss to the Baltimore Ravens in the Superdome was likely the last game that backup quarterback Smith will ever play as a 49er.

You remember Smith, right? The quarterback that helped the 49ers get to a 6-2 start to the 2012 season before getting injured against the St. Louis Rams and, ultimately, losing his starting job to second-year player Colin Kaepernick? The quarterback who was also the NFL’s top rated passer (104.3) through those 10 weeks? The quarterback that completed 18 of 19 passes in his final game, a hair away from a perfect 19 of 19? Yeah, that guy.

Well, reports seem to indicate that Smith will indeed be leaving the Bay Area, and joining a new team, as a starter. The 49ers will try and get something out of Smith by attempting to trade him away, but if that proves impossible, they will likely drop him and allow him to pick his team — out of some form of respect for the quarterback that literally lost his job because he got a concussion.

Even with a lot in Smith’s favor, trading him won’t be easy. Despite the fact that there are numerous teams that need a new starting quarterback, and that these teams won’t just be able to pick a quarterback in this year’s awfully weak quarterback draft class, his new team will still have to pay him $8.5 million in 2013, and offer the 49ers some value in the trade. That is unless Smith agrees to restructure his contract, which Smith has yet to comment on. It could even be in Smith’s best interests to just hit the open market, where he could make over $8.5 million.

The likely suitors for Smith are among the likes of the Cleveland Browns, Arizona Cardinals, Minnesota Vikings and Kansas City Chiefs. It seems as though the favorites are the Browns and Chiefs.

Chiefs head coach Andy Reid was said to have pursued Smith while he was the coach of the Eagles last year, and there seems to be no reason why he wouldn’t still be interested now. The Chiefs have a mess at the quarterback position, but are a talented team that Smith should have no problem joining.

Browns owner Jimmy Haslam said that there will be a competition for the starting quarterback job this year, which will put Brandon Weeden head-to-head with another player. That was hint one, hint two was when Smith praised the work of now Browns offensive coordinator, Norv Turner. The Browns are not as talented as the Chiefs, but nonetheless are an up-and-coming team.

In terms of the Cardinals and Vikings, those are just two teams that could be in the swinging for Smith. The Cardinals have an absolute mess at quarterback, the worst in years, and would be dumb to not at least try and get Smith. The Vikings, however, still have Christian Ponder at quarterback — a player that has yet to fully prove himself, and has yet to be supported fully by the organization for starting in 2013.

My guess is that Smith will either end up with the Browns via trade, and I have no idea what the 49ers would get in return, or he’ll end up with the Chiefs via free agency. Wherever he goes though, he will be able to make an immediate impact on his new teams winning percentage.

The following article was published in the May issue of the Torrey Pines Falconer: 

NBA center Jason Collins announced he is gay in the Sports Illustrated cover story he wrote earlier this month. The story marked the first time an active male athlete in a major U.S. sports league has come out as gay, though Collins, a 12-year veteran, is currently a free agent. Collins made history with his announcement, illuminating the path for gay athletes to come out publicly, which will lead to a world more accepting of homosexuality.

A professional male athlete in a major U.S. team sport identifying himself as gay should not warrant a headline every time it happens, but it was inevitable that the first athlete to come would be heralded as a superhero, as he well should be.

There are thousands of male athletes in major U.S. sports leagues, but Collins is the only person who is openly and publicly gay. Collins had to know that this meant coming out would lead to a media circus, with extensive commentary, both positive and negative.

The ignorant comments included those from Mike Wallace, a wide receiver for the Miami Dolphins, when he expressed confusion as to why males are attracted to other males. Atlanta Falcons cornerback Asante Samuel also said that there is no need for Collins to flaunt his sexuality, since straight people do not announce they are straight. Both of these observations show people’s lack of understanding of why Collins’ announcement is so significant, and sounds a lot like Wallace and Samuel recommend a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, which has been in place in sports for years. This leaves more players trapped in the closet, unable to truly share who they are with the team and connect with their brothers as do  their heterosexual teammates.

Players seldom come out because they live in fear of reduced playing time, poor treatment by opponents and a change in the locker room dynamic, among other things. Those thoughts forced players like former NBA center John Amaechi not to come out until they retire, and almost led rugby star Gareth Thomas to commit suicide; and these thoughts are reinforced by any reaction to Collins’ announcement that is not fully supportive. One does not have to approve of Collins’ decision to reveal his sexual identity, but his fellow athletes even suggesting that Collins is flaunting his sexuality with his announcement is ignorant and perpetuates the insecurity and reluctance to come out among professional athletes.

NBA great Charles Barkley recently acknowledged that he played with gay teammates, and that all NBA players have played with gay teammates. Barkley  added that a player’s sexuality is not spoken about unless the person comes out to someone personally, which Barkley says happened to him three or four times in his 16-year career.

Sure, supportive statements by the NBA office and countless players from different sports will lead to slightly less uncertainty about coming out among gay players, but individual teams must also come out in support. Although professional sports leagues tried to soothe some of the fears homosexual athletes have by demonstrating their support for Collins, nobody can force players to come out.

Former tennis superstar Martina Navratilova, who is the most influential and important athlete to ever come out, called Collins a game changer in her article on sportsilustrated.com, and said that 1981 was her year, and 2013 is Collins’. For Navratilova to call Collins’ announcement a game changer is no small statement, but this will not just make any athlete comfortable with coming out.

Given that coming out must be a natural process, and is a huge personal decision, the NBA, NFL, MLB and NHL can do much to encourage gay players to come out by fostering a supportive environment in all ways possible. The leagues can demonstrate support for players that do come out, so that gay players within each league are aware of the kind of support they will be given. Once a player does come out, all the league has left to do, besides show its support, is to notify all teams that they cannot discriminate against the player, and that any trash talking directed at the player’s sexuality, or decisions based on the player’s sexuality, like reduced playing time, will result in major fines. The leagues that do that would also be wise to release a statement explaining fines to the media, so players can feel the full weight of league support even before they come out.

As Navratilova said in her article, “Any revolution starts with a small step. . . One of the last bastions of homophobia has been challenged.”

The following article was published in the May issue of the Torrey Pines Falconer: 

The Falcons (13-17) were unable to maintain their early lead, and fell victim to the Poway High School Titans (14-14) 7-6 in extra innings to close out TPHS’ regular season.

The Falcons  got on the board and picked up speed right off the bat. Mark Detrow (12) had the first hit of the game, on a ball that skipped off the mound to get past Poway’s second baseman.  Catcher John Remick (12) drove Detrow home on a line drive double over the third baseman.

“Our coaches [signaled] a hit-and-run,” Remick said. “Luckily, the pitcher gave me a good pitch I could hit, and I pulled it down the line to get Mark [Detrow] in.”

Remick scored from second on a sharply overthrown attempt to stop the steal at third base by Poway starting pitcher Ian Peppers.

“[Scoring in the first inning] is huge and really destroys the pitcher’s confidence out there,” Remick said. “It probably put them down, and they struggled for the first couple innings.”

The Falcons were able to get the Titans off the field quickly in the bottom half of the first inning with a Titan fly out to right field on Henry Grow’s (12) first pitch of the game, which was then followed by a walk and a ground ball double play.

“I was able to move the ball in-and-out really well,” Grow said. “Later in the game is where I started lofting it and couldn’t get any calls.”

With a man on base, Detrow helped to widen the Falcons’ lead when he hit the first homerun of his varsity career and put the Falcons up 4-0.

“He left it too far inside, catching a big part of the plate, and that’s my kind of pitch,” Detrow said.

After two scoreless innings, the Titans scored three runs between the third and fifth innings, while the Falcons scored two, making the score 6-3 going into the sixth inning.

“We let them back in the game,” TPHS coach Kirk McCaskill said. “As soon as momentum turns, which it really did, especially when you’re at a visiting ballpark, it’s hard to get momentum back.”

That would prove to be true as the Falcons did not score another run, and Poway was able to tie the game at 6-6 in the sixth innings to force the game into extra innings.

McCaskill made his first call to the bullpen in the eighth inning when he substituted Julian Harris (10) into the game for Grow.

“I was just hoping I could put my team in a position to win,” Harris said.

Harris inherited two baserunners with one out and was not able to retire his next two batters. Harris walked the first batter he faced and then walked in the final run of the game, on a controversial call, in which the second base umpire claimed that batter Kyle Dean checked his swing on a full count.

“I thought he swung,” Poway coach Bob Parry said. “You can’t  really argue [that call] because it’s the umpire’s judgement, like a ball or a strike.”

The Falcons’ concluded their regular season with a Palomar League record of 8-7. TPHS will enter  postseason  play next week.

The following article was published in the April issue of the Torrey Pines Falconer: 

The Falcons (6-13) outlasted Mount Carmel High School (7-11) in extra innings, winning 2-1 and ending their nine-game losing streak.

A passed ball on the first pitch of the game started a shaky defensive inning  for the Falcons. The three straight singles that followed led to a Sun Devils run and a deflated Falcons pitcher.

“I kept at it after those few tough, tough hits early in the game,” pitcher Pete Mitchell (11) said, “”I just got in a groove and kept going, I felt stronger as the game went on.”

After the first inning, Mitchell did not allow another runner to touch home and threw a quick three-up, three-down second inning; however, the Sun Devils were able to counter with a 1-2-3 third inning of their own.

After the strong defensive performance by the Falcons in the fourth inning, the offense was able put runners on base, but could not manage clutch hits to convert to runs.

“We had the bases loaded and almost scored,” second baseman Jackson Gentes (12) said. “It was disapointing, but we knew we’d get ‘em.”

The Falcons’ consistency at the plate paid off in the fifth inning, when the Falcons tied the game up at one apiece off a double by designated hitter Mark Detrow  (12) that scored shortstop Cole Klemke (10), who had bunted for a hit and stolen second base.

“[The run] was good because it got our momentum started and we really needed the run,” Klemke said. “It just felt good to come up for the team.”

After two more scoreless innings pitched by Mitchell, the Sun Devils made a mistake that coincidentally led to an accidental pitching change.

“The kid just went out there and started throwing, thinking he was in the game when he hadn’t been told [to go out and pitch],” Mt. Carmel head coach Chachi Mueller said. “If you go out and throw one pitch from the hill, it’s an automatic change. The umpires and [TPHS] coach [Kirk] McCaskill got it right.”

The Falcons were then given the opportunity to close the game out before extra innings with a man on second and third base, but John Remick (12) flew out to center field.

“John [Remick] flew out to center, but we still kept Pete  [Mitchell] in the game because he had been playing well,” Detrow said. “We were confident he could shut them down one more inning, and we knew we could hit the pitches they were throwing, so we knew we were going to win that game.”

Detrow and the team proved to be right when pinch hitter Jake Cline (11) got a walk-off hit to end the day with a 2-1 Falcon victory in the eighth.

“I just wanted to get a hit, and I knew I would,” Cline said. “I didn’t hit it that well, but it got the job done.”

McCaskil admitted the signficance of the win, while still discussing things that need work.

“It’s a big win for us,” McCaskill said. “Our situational hitting has to be better, but anytime you win a ballgame after you’ve lost nine in a row, that’s big.”

The Falcons will play Mt. Carmel again in a double-header tomorrow.

 

Feeling Lucky

Posted: 23rd May 2013 by admin in Uncategorized

The following article was published in the April issue of the Torrey Pines Falconer, and cowritten with Crystal Park: 

The thrill of victory is the most appealing — and at the same time, the most dangerous — aspect of gambling. Addiction to drugs and alcohol can ravage someone’s life in that they cause physical deterioration of the body. Addiction to gambling, though, can indirectly harm other parts of someone’s life. Although teenage gambling does not cause physical harm like drug or alcohol abuse, teenagers are not immune to the adrenaline rush from winning.

“Gambling is hidden; it’s not so pervasive,” said Azmaira Maker, a San Diego psychologist. “It’s less present than other addictions. People think it’s fun, and they get rolled into the addiction.”

Just as adolescents can find ways to obtain drugs illegally, they can also find ways to gamble. Some students, like Eddie*, have gambled at Barona Casino, which allows entry for 18-year-olds because alcohol is not served on the same floor as the casino. Eddie has been going to Barona with friends since he was a sophomore and spends his weekends there without worrying that he will get caught despite being underage.

“I go to Barona because it’s the only place I know that really doesn’t check for anything or card,” Eddie said. “You just have to dress nice and walk in because they never card.”

Representatives of Barona Casino did not return phone calls inquiring about the nature of the casino’s age-enforcement system. Other casinos were also unwilling to comment or did not respond to inquires.

Maker said that winning reinforces the act of gambling because of its adrenaline rush.

“If you are gambling, you are getting rewarded by wins intermittently, and that’s why it’s so addictive,” Maker said. “Winning is a mechanism that increases the probability of engaging in that behavior again and again.”

In other words, the feeling that someone gets from winning once will far outweigh the discouragement from any losses in between wins. Barona’s website sports a banner that reads: “LOOSEST SLOTS. MORE WINNERS!” Maker said that the pattern of chasing a high reward at a perceived low cost is the same for any other addiction and that it applies to both teenagers and adults alike.

“Like any other addiction, [gambling] can take over your life,” Maker said. “It can cause financial problems. It can cause emotional problems because you want to be gambling and not be at home. It can cause physical problems, smoking and drinking [from being at casinos], sleep problems from being on the computer late at night.”

However, TPHS student Christopher* said that, although he does feel on top of the moment when he wins at blackjack or roulette, he knows that he will not necessarily win every time.

“I still wonder why parents are okay [with teenagers gambling],” Christopher said. “I won $30 from $5, but I know that most people who go don’t win, get addicted and lose all their money.”

Like alcohol, gambling is arguably harmless in moderation. Student Richard*, for example, controls his gambling by going infrequently and with very little money. He said he is able to minimize any negative effect gambling has on his life by making sure the risks are small.

“The risk was not a very harsh one; it was calculated,” Richard said. “The reward was to get to go to Barona and have fun, so I decided to take the risk. The benefits outweighed the negatives and I think most people that are underage feel that way [about gambling].”

Although many parents are against allowing their children gamble, Richard’s mother Anna* is fully aware that her son gambles. She does not forbid him from gambling, though, because she knows that gambling is more social for Richard than anything else.

“I know how [Richard] is and I know that he goes with a very little budget and just spends a little bit of time there and never spends more than he designates to spend,” Anna said. “You spend $20 going to a movie or whatever, that’s how he looks at it, and that is why I am at peace.”

Regardless of the law, adolescents are just as vulnerable to the lure of winning as adults are. The degree to which they gamble, though, ultimately affects them and the people around them, and they are wise to draw the line between healthy moderation and dangerous addiction.