Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Off the Field Takes Over New Orleans for Super Bowl Event!

I don't know if New Orleans is ready for the ladies of Off the Field.  The national players' wives organization is holding it's annual Super Bowl fashion show on Friday.  I've taken to the catwalk a couple of years but this year, I'm excited to be hosting!

One of the most unique aspects of this event is that many of the players are in attendance to support their wives.  It's quite possible attendees will be rubbing elbows with some of their favorite players!  Don't miss this event!  Tickets are available at http://otfsuperbowl2013.eventbrite.com/.



“The Ladies Behind the Mask”

12th Annual Super Bowl Fashion Show Fundraiser
February 1, 2013

Off the Field Players’ Wives Association is dedicated to supporting philanthropic initiatives focused on enhancing the quality of life for families around their local communities. This exciting event will be held on Friday, February 1, 2013, from 10:00am – 1:00pm, at the Sheraton Hotel in New Orleans, LA.
This year, we’re excited to showcase one of the country’s top retailers, Saks Fifth Avenue at Canal Place. The 2013 Super Bowl Annual Awards Gala benefactors are: 34 Ways Foundation, Inc. and the victims of Hurricane Isaac.

Who is The 34 Ways Foundation?
A private, non-profit, tax-exempt 501(c)(3) Foundation established in 2002 as a support organization to provide guidance and encouragement to children through Health and Wellness programs. Its mission is to help kids by promoting sports, academics and other mentoring programs that build character, teach discipline, and encourage good health and education. The foundation desires to enrich communities by providing programs in local schools, parks and recreation centers, and support groups for all youth ages 11- 18. The standing motto of 34 Ways Foundation is “Teaching, Reaching and Educating Youth 4 Life!” This goal oriented message is a simple one in that it inspires and motivates the community to encourage youth to attain their goals. 34 Ways Foundation encourages young people to establish permanent attitudes of self-reliance, confidence, self-discipline, responsibility, volunteerism, and exemplary character thereby benefiting their own lives, and more importantly, the lives of others.

Event Location:
Sheraton Hotel
500 Canal Street
New Orleans, Louisiana 70130

Interested in becoming a sponsor?
We have significant sponsorship selections and vast opportunities for marketing promotion. Please contact us for details.
Ericka Lassiter
Phone:  1-888-362-4445
ericka.lassiter@otfpwa.org

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Chinese Shapes - Will-style

Ryan realized Will was saying his shapes in Chinese the other day - had to share it with you!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

God is good...

Want to know how to make an autism mom cry?!?!  Send her a video from school of her kiddo having a perfectly "normal" elementary experience...



Who thought a reading of morning announcements could make a mom so proud!

Monday, January 14, 2013

Remembering Rich....

Mrs. Texas has become a family to me.  It's one of the reasons I continue to compete.  Sure, every time I step out on that stage I want to win the crown.  But the experience every year is what keeps me coming back.  Some of the same girls compete from year to year and it's always great to catch up with them.  Other members of our pageant family are staples, like everyone's pageant friend Frankie who runs rehearsals and our photographer Larry.  Then there's Alvin and Rich. 

Rich and Alvin.  Alvin and Rich.  They are always there.  Always together.  Alvin usually stands outside the interview room with the contestants on the day of competition.  Before we go in, he'll say a little prayer, one I always find calming and reassuring.  The door will open when it's time go in.  Rich, our auditor, greets you with a smile while Alvin escorts you to the podium.  Once Alvin leaves, the interview begins and after four minutes, Rich will call, "time."

Rich always gives me a wink or a big smile on my way out the room.  This past year, he grabbed my hand and whispered that my interview was outstanding.  I went upstairs and cried, so grateful for his reassuring words.

During the pageant, Alvin and Rich sit towards the front of the theater - their presence and reassuring smiles help calm my nerves.  At the end of the evening and another top 5 finish, Alvin and Rich came over.  We hugged and they told me how wonderful I did.  I had a chance to talk to Rich a bit more about his health.  He's been having health problems for a while now but he said he felt good.  I gave these two men big hugs as we parted ways.  I wish someone had been around to take a picture.  It would be my last memory of a happy and healthy Rich and I wish I had a photo to prolong the memory.  You see, Rich's health declined drastically in the weeks after the pageant and on January 3rd after a long battle, Rich succumbed to cancer.

I visited Rich in the hospital the day before he passed.  I knew he was in pain, but he knew we were there.  Alvin received devastating news about Rich while we were there.  There were tears.  Many, many tears. 
Alvin stood by the side of Rich's bed and leaned over and kissed him.  Alvin told Rich he loved him.  He thanked him for teaching him about love.  You see, they've been partners for almost 17 years.  Alvin gave Rich permission to go when he was ready, permission more easily given knowing that Rich had accepted Christ into his life back in November.  The moment was beautiful.  I felt blessed to have been a part of it.  The next evening, he was gone.

So I'll be back in Corsicana in December for the pageant, once again representing Frisco.  We'll stay in the same hotel.  Practice on the same stage.  Interview in the same room.  But Rich won't be there.  I am certain the reality will be an emotional one, but I believe Rich's spirit will continue to be there.  He's family.  And I can assure you his Mrs. Texas family will miss him terribly.  I know I will.

"Weeping may endure for the night, but joy comes in the morning."

Rich Robertson

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Man down...

During training camp in 2006, Ryan started experiencing excruciating pain in his feet.  He said it felt like someone was stabbing his heels with knives (whatever that feels like).  It was later determined that he had plantar fasciitis in both feet.  The condition is not uncommon - athletes and non-athletes alike can develop the painful inflammation of the connective tissues in the foot.  Properly treated with rest and physical therapy, 95% of those afflicted with the condition can return to "normal" activity without the need for surgery.  What's normal?  For a football player, that's two-a-days.  Ryan received treatment on his feet several times a day, but there was no time to rest.  Training camp cuts were coming.  His job was on the line.  He had to be out on the practice field.  

Ryan had to take pain medication to get through every practice, sometimes two a day.  He'd soak his feet in ice baths for twenty minutes after each practice to get some temporary numbing relief from the pain.  He'd limp walking back to the dorms, not sure which foot to put more pressure one because both were in such pain.  Some days, he just had to catch a ride.  He'd even wear uncomfortable orthopedic boots at night to stretch out his feet so that his first steps in the morning would be tolerable.  The average Joe wouldn't have been able to handle the pain.  Ryan had to play past the pain and get back on the field, because that's what football players do.

Luckily, Ryan survived cuts and ironically ended up having one of his best NFL seasons.  Fortunately, Ryan was the third-string tight end that season so his time on offense was limited.  Yet he still managed to score his only touchdown as a Bill that season against the Lions in Detroit on October 15th.  Ryan continued to be a standout on Bobby April's special teams unit - he was busting up wedges and making plays after sprinting down the field.  And I knew he felt it every single time his feet hit the turf.

By November that year, the coaching staff began to take notice that the second string tight end was under-performing and before the bye week told Ryan he'd be going in as the number two when the team played Green Bay in a couple of weeks.  The only thing I could think to say when Ryan told me the news was, "Well, that's great, but you can hardly walk as it is so how is that going to work?"  Under any other circumstances, we would've been thrilled.
 
The good news is the coaches didn't make Ryan practice during the bye week so he could rest and the rest seemed to help because he was able to make it through the next game against Green Bay.  The morning after that game, I had to help Ryan down the stairs in our apartment because he couldn't put much weight on his feet.  It was so difficult to watch him in so much pain just walking - I couldn't imagine what it was like when he was in practice or in games.

The following weekend, the team traveled to Indianapolis to take on the Colts.  I noticed at one point Ryan wasn't in his usual spot on special teams.  I got a little worried but figured if something bad had happened, the trainers would've called me.  Sure enough, I looked down at my cellphone and had a missed call from a 716 number.  The trainer didn't answer when I called, so I hunted down the team's director of player programs who managed to find Ryan in the shower.  He was hurt, bad.  

Ryan was running down the field on a play when he felt a painful "pop" in his left foot and he went down.  He managed to get up and hobble off  the field but he knew his season was probably over.

After meeting with the team trainers and doctors, Ryan asked if there was a way he would be able to come back that season - he wanted to be back on the field with his teammates.  The staff recommended that his left foot be given a couple of weeks to heal, then they would perform surgery on his right foot to release the fascia.  Recovery from that would take another two weeks.  By then, the season would be over.  The training staff in Buffalo is just amazing.  They were devastated for Ryan because they cared so much about him and they knew how hard he worked.  One of the trainers though told Ryan he was glad the fascia finally snapped - he'd become increasingly worried about Ryan and the potential for him to be further injured if he continued to play in that state.  The head trainer even took the time to call me and explain to me what was going on.  Ryan was devastated when the team placed him on injured reserve ending his season.

I tell this story in light of the recent injury to Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin, III, better known as RGIII.  During last weekend's playoff game, an obviously injured RGIII struggled to make plays while trying to lead his team to victory.  After telling his coach he was okay to play, RGIII went back on the field for one more play - a play that the Monday morning quarterbacks would be analyzing ad nauseum.  Here's how it went down - RGIII was attempting to recover the ball on a bad snap.  Without being touched, his knee buckled in that awkward yet familiar way where instantaneously, everyone knew he'd sustained a significant knee injury.  Most likely an ACL tear.  It was a frustrating and criticism-garnering final play of this rookie's standout season.


The questions started after the game.  Reporters asked Coach Mike Shanahan if he regretted keeping RGIII in the game.  He responded that his player had assured him he was okay to play (despite having been evaluated by the team doctor on the sideline who, recognizing the potential for a serious injury, reportedly advised him not to return to the field).  Later that night, RGIII himself said, "Mike asked me if I was okay.  I said yes."  In hindsight he replied, "I think I did put myself at more risk by being out there."

People have been calling for Shanahan's head - how dare he allow a hurt/injured player back on the field.  But here's the way I see it - Shanahan was in a no-win situation.  Hold RGIII out of the game, and the Redskins fans revolt because they don't understand why their franchise quarterback isn't on the field and their on the verge of losing the game.  Put RGIII back on the field and your the bad guy who put your player in harm's way, all for the sake of a game.  LaDanian Tomlinson was on the radio this morning and said he doesn't think anyone is to blame for RGIII's injury.  He can't think of anyone who, if in RGIII's position, wouldn't have been out on that field.

This morning, my Twitter feed and Facebook wall were full of messages like, "Pray for RGIII today as he has surgery to repair his knee."  My reply?  Yeah, pray for him, but while you do, pray for all the other NFLers going into the offseason with surgeries set and months of rehab planned.  You see, the average fan doesn't understand the personal cost to players for their Sunday entertainment.  By mid-season, half the guys on the 53-man squad might be playing injured, with bad feet, partially torn ligaments or muscles, etc.  It is not unheard of for several members of the team to require surgery to repair injuries they sustained at some point during the season.  Ryan actually had major surgery during every offseason in Buffalo and he was not the only one.

You see, the NFL is a tough business.  If you're unable to practice and can't suit up on gameday, you will eventually be replaced.  Guys like Ryan aren't in the position to say, "Hey coach, my feet hurt.  I think I'm going to sit this one out."  Neither would they want to.  It's part of the game.  Injuries happen.  Lots of guys play hurt, and are further injured because of the previous damage to their bodies.  What happened to RGIII is not the exception.  People shouldn't be so appalled - it happens all the time.  Unfortunately, this time it happened to a superstar who everyone cares about and has a vested interest in, so now it's a problem.

I read an article today by Nate Jackson that mirrored some of my thoughts over the past couple of months.  I've tweeted that the NFL should stop changing the rules of the game in the name of safety and start taking care of former players better.  I've often stated that former NFLers should have lifetime health care coverage.  I was glad to see the article state that same notion.  The article also tackles this is - injured or hurt, hurt or injured - it's football.  Stop flipping out about the injuries and demand that the NFL take care of RGIII when he's 65 and needs his knee replaced.  Read this article - it's one of the best I've read on the subject because this guy gets it.

http://deadspin.com/5974523/the-health-of-an-nfl-player-belongs-to-everyone-but-the-player-himself

My prayers go out to RGIII and the rest of the beat up players going under the knife hoping to be back on the field next season.




Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Beauty, Brains... and Autism!

This Saturday during the 92nd annual Miss America scholarship pageant, something pretty amazing is going to happen - an incredibly beautiful and inspiring young lady representing the state of Montana will take to the stage and compete for the coveted crown... and she has autism.  


Diagnosed at a young age with the neurological disorder, Alexis Wineman was crowned Miss Montana last June and will be the first contestant with an autism diagnosis to compete in Miss America.  From what I've read, Alexis's family has encouraged her to engage with her peers and participate in school activities like cheerleading.  She was even named team captain and performed in Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade.  I can imagine these activities are terribly more difficult for her than they are for the average teenager.  A huge aspect of being a part of the "squad" requires that she interact with her peers, and with autism, doing so can certainly be difficult, awkward, and anxiety-inducing.  I read in an article that Alexis's mom acknowledged that competing in the pageant has created some challenges - many with autism thrive when on a schedule and I'm sure the pageant prep and schedule has been anything but routine.  As a titleholder, I'm sure Alexis has to make appearances where she's expected to smile, shake hands and make eye contact with her admirers.  This can also be very difficult for folks on the spectrum.  I am so proud of Alexis that she has been able to overcome these adversities to become an amazing advocate for autism awareness.

Thank you Alexis for giving parents like me hope that our little ones with autism CAN overcome overwhelming obstacles to achieve their dreams.  Thank you for being brave and strong and for putting a beautiful face to autism.  Regardless of how the competition goes Saturday, you've already made so many of us proud.  I'll be tuning in and cheering for you!  Good luck young lady, and sparkle on!


Stand for something!!!


I had someone ask me recently why I open myself up to criticism by being so open on my blog and offering up opinions that I know I'm going to get attacked for.  Well, here's why...

“I swore never to be silent whenever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.” -Elie Weisel

I've mentioned before that I can't stand bullies, especially the ones that hide behind internet anonymity.  I came across this quote today and it pretty much summarizes why I speak when others remain silent.  The sad thing is I've found over the years that it's usually adults who are bullying online.  And people wonder why our kids are having such difficulties with bullying these days.  The behavior is learned - AT HOME!  We've got to do better and teach our kids to stand up when others are silent.  Be passionate about what you believe in.  Don't let the haters and anonymous bullies silence you.  Stop worrying so much about and praying for the bad guy - pray that people have strength to stand up to the bad guy.





Monday, January 7, 2013

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Saturday, January 5, 2013

A reminder...

This one is for anonymous folks who like to leave comments on my blog.  Click here...

http://thegridirongoddess.blogspot.com/2010/12/dear-anonymous-haters.html

My blog.  I decide what comments get posted.  If I think they are valuable to the discussion, they'll get posted.  Folks who come on here with "Twitter balls" trying to talk smack - NO, I WON'T PUBLISH YOUR RESPONSE...

Friday, January 4, 2013

Athletes and domestic violence - what drastic increase???

Sigh...

Domestic violence is an issue near and dear to my heart.  I don't address this very painful and personal issue often but members of my immediate family have suffered from domestic abuse.  I witnessed it.  Decades later, what I witnessed is still too painful to talk about.  Yet recent media coverage of high profile incidents have led me to write this post tonight.

Deion and Pilar Sanders have been involved in a very public and nasty divorce over the past year.  Deion filed for divorce back in December of 2011.  Since then, Deion has seemingly moved on while Pilar has challenged their prenuptial agreement, asked the court to annul their thirteen year marriage, gotten into a couple of physical altercations with Deion and his family members, and after her arrest back in April began claiming she was the victim of domestic violence.  The Sanders' court proceedings were recently the lead story on the local news for several weeks.

Several days ago and shortly after another seeming defeat in the ongoing divorce battle against Deion, my former Football Wives cast mate Pilar released an open letter alleging domestic violence and infidelity in her marriage (claims Deion has denied).  She also released several pictures of her bloody finger, busted lip and bruises she allegedly sustained in the altercation with Deion that resulted in her arrest.


After spending the night in a Collin County jail, Pilar staged a tearful press conference in which she alleged that she, in fact, was attacked by Deion and that she was merely a victim.  I addressed the incident and her allegations in a previous blog post.  There is no question there was some sort of altercation and that things had clearly gotten out of control in the Sanders house that afternoon.  But what troubled me was Pilar's framing of her abuse claim.  In essence, she and her lawyers argued that Deion was most likely the aggressor.  Why?  Because he played football.  Here is the gist of what her attorney said at that press conference:

The only party that had injuries was his client, that his client weighs 120 lbs and that Deion is a big football player who is used to tackling people for a living and that we can draw our own conclusions from that.

Just what conclusion were we to draw?  That because Deion was a football player he was the aggressor and Pilar was the innocent victim?!?   I'm sorry but suggesting that football players beat their wives is disgusting.  It's just not true.

Sure enough, Pilar has reiterated this connection in recent comments in an effort to elicit public sympathy and become the poster child for domestic violence.  In an interview with Sister 2 Sister magazine that addresses the "growing pattern of athletes who physically abuse their spouses," Pilar states, "[there is a] very drastic increase of athletes, football players who snap and unfortunately take their lives and other people's lives with them.... It's very, very, very not uncommon when you speak with other NFL wives, football wives, athletes' wives..."  I'm not sure what drastic increase in player-related murder suicides she's referring to.  I only know of one that happened recently.

While I could CARE LESS about Pilar and her shenanigans, I am deeply bothered by her flippant remarks regarding athletes and domestic violence and specifically her attempt to link NFL players with spousal abuse in an attempt to save face and garner public sympathy.  Professional sports are not immune to domestic violence but despite Pilar's contentions, being a pro-athlete does not make one more likely to be aggressive off the field and commit spousal abuse.

There is no shortage of media coverage when a high-profile athlete or celebrity is involved in some sort of domestic abuse incident.  From O.J. Simpson and the murder of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson to the more recent tragedy involving the murder of UVA women's lacrosse player Yeardley Love at the hands of her lacrosse playing boyfriend George Huguely, we hear about these situations because they are newsworthy based on the parties involved, not because there is a drastic increase of domestic incidents involving athletes or because athletes are more likely to commit these violent acts.  Several studies have been done yet none have conclusively linked participation in sports to a greater propensity to commit domestic violence.  These unfortunate and tragic newsworthy tragedies involving professional athletes are merely a reflection of a greater societal problem.  

And because Pilar has a public platform, she has a responsibility to get her facts straight.

Here's the reality:
  • Every nine seconds a woman in the United States is beaten or abused;
  • Domestic violence is the leading cause of injury to women;
  • Studies suggest that over 10 million children witness domestic violence annually;
  • Everyday in the U.S., three women are killed by their husbands/boyfriends;
  • Men who as children witnessed their own parents' domestic abuse are twice as likely to abuse their own spouses;
  • One in four women will experience domestic violence in their lifetime;
  • Women are not the only victims - men are victims of more than 3 millions assaults every year at the hands of their spouses;
  • 85% of domestic violence victims are women;
  • Women ages 20 to 24 are at the greatest risk for becoming victims of nonfatal domestic violence.
Domestic violence is a societal problem, not one that is unique to professional sports.  I visited numerous websites to collect these statistics.  There is a statistic that is obviously missing - I didn't find one statistic on any domestic violence awareness website that said athletes are more likely to commit violent acts against women because they play contact sports.  There is certainly no conclusive evidence that football players who  make a living playing a violent sport are more likely to be abusive to their spouses.

Several recent domestic violence incidents have attracted international attention.  Chad "Ochocinco" Johnson battered his reality star wife Evelyn Lozada during an argument shortly after their wedding.  Evelyn quickly got a restraining order against Chad and Chad was almost immediately cut from the Miami Dolphins as a result of the incident.  He went unsigned for the rest of the football season.  More recently, Kansas City Chief Jovan Belcher murdered the mother of his infant daughter then committed suicide by shooting himself in the head in front of head coach Romeo Crennel and general manager Scott Pioli at the Chiefs' practice facility.  While both incidents are incredibly tragic, the media attention given to them is not indicative of a drastically increasing problem of domestic violence in the NFL.  Pilar has compared her situation to the Belcher tragedy on more than one occasion, trying desperately to find some sort of common ground to suggest she was somehow at risk of suffering the same fate at the hands of Deion Sanders.  These attempts are pathetic and dishonor the short life of Belcher's victim Kasandra Perkins.

I question just how many NFL wives Pilar has actually spoken to.  I have plenty of football wife friends (a lot of them - we were on five teams over the course of seven seasons) and while I can say that I have heard of some spousal abuse issues, these situations appear to be the exception rather than the norm.  I understand that domestic violence is the most under-reported crime but trust, we talk to each other.  The NFL is a small world...

This blog post is not meant to attack Pilar, but I hope it makes her think before she speaks next time she wants to erroneously link football and domestic violence.  Pilar may actually be a true victim of domestic violence, but making unsubstantiated and false claims linking football and violence against women in an attempt to slander and disparage her soon-to-be ex Deion is just wrong.  If she's truly concerned about the well-being and best interest of her children as she suggest, I'd suggest she stop releasing pictures of the alleged violence all over the internet (see point above about children who witness their parents' domestic violence).  I'm all about using our situations to bring awareness to societal issues, but if one chooses to do so, she should do so responsibly.

I'd like to see Pilar walk the walk - if she's truly concerned about victims of domestic violence, she should volunteer at one of the local charities that support them like Women Called Moses or Genesis Women's Shelter.  Don't be a part of the problem by spreading lies - be a part of the solution. 

And before Team Pilar hops on my blog talking smack and telling me I don't know the whole story, this blog post is based on the information she has publicly released and I am perfectly within my right to draw my own conclusions from it.  You don't like it, don't read my blog.