Spike Albrecht of the 2012-13 Michigan Wolverines men's basketball team
Why do NFL and NBA Athletes Go Broke?
One would expect that those fortunate enough to attain one of the world’s most lucrative careers would have the capacity to know how to spend and allot money correctly. But the response to that expectation is a striking and blatant no. Sports Illustrated reports that by the time they have been retired for two years, 78% of former NFL players have gone bankrupt or are under financial stress because of joblessness or divorce. Similarly, approximately 60 percent of NBA players have gone broke after five years of retirement.

But how could players with so much agility on the court subsequently not exercise good decision making off of it? Joe Flood, a sports reporter for National Public Radio, offers a possible answer to the question, the paradox of ability is their reason for failure. What makes them amazing on the court makes them terrible at business: confidence. These players are risky, over-praised and over-publicized. The result? They end up cocky, overly confident in their skills and risky when it comes to translating their skills on and off the court or field.

Ruby Henry writes in his discussion paper series about the “Financial Demise of NBA Stars.” In this study he reports that three pointers have the riskiest and lowest success rates at 22.4% (followed by two pointers at 43.9% and then free throws with a success rate of 69.7%). He calculates that two point throws have little correlation to the potentiality of bankruptcy, but in contrast for every three point throw made per 36 minutes of court time increased the chances of bankruptcy by a factor of three. Thus, for every time a player exercises a bold move on the court they are three times more likely to replicate a risky mood in their financial and/or business lives after retirement.

Pablo Torre from Sports Illustrated offers another possible to answer to why NFL and NBA athletes go broke: materialism. After pursuing successful careers that revolved around very concrete and physical tasks, their “lure to the tangible” is greater than average. The average retired athlete goes for entrepreneurship and open a store, they want to design products, or start a line of popular consumer goods. If they deposit their money, most of it ends up in riskier investments like private equity (statistically about one in every 30 private equities works out) and real estate, and much less ends up in the safer funding options like the stock market, hedge funds, etc. As Torre put it, securities are often unintelligible and boring, business is interesting and tangible.

Regardless of whether the cause to the common professional athlete's bankruptcy is due to their own tendency to take bold risks in the court and off it, their lure to the tangible rather than security, or the all-to-common-and-unfortunate-tale that they were scammed for hundreds of thousands, if not millions of dollars, by corporations or individuals that they never heard from again, or a combination of any of the above, all these factors call for a change. Financial literacy is on the rise, but we also continue to face a recession held barely at bay and a rising generation concerned even more than the last with immediate gratification. Only time will tell if the confidence paradox will be solved or made worse by the increase of financial literacy, a recession, and increased concern with immediate gratification.

Photo Credit: Adam Glanzman original posted on Flickr

Map of Fattest US States
Fattest US State
The fattest US state contests have become no laughing matter to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The obesity crisis and diabetes epidemic is becoming an ever more serious issue with real human and economic consequences. The US Debt to GDP ratio just printed last month at 104%, another indication that healthcare related entitlement programs and the overall budget simply cannot handle it. The resources to tackle the situation being mocked by the fattest US state contests, articles, and blogs don’t seem to be there anymore.

Ok, but who is the Fattest US State?

Apparently, for six straight years the champion of obesity is and has been Mississippi. In fact, from a broad perspective, the south has terrible numbers. There’s no state in the south with less than a 20% obesity prevalence rate. The saddest thing of all is that, like a storm, obesity rates have soared in every single state in the union.

What’s Causing This?

There are some who believe that environmental pressure is one of the culprits. Historically, and through the lens of evolution, a species never changes its form this quickly. The only thing that is displaying the same behavior is the environment. Climate change is happening fast, and with increasing speed.

Socially, the two main reasons for the fattest US state situation are an overly dependent technological society that doesn’t exercise enough, and a fundamentally flawed food system. Basically, people are eating all the wrong things, almost by force, and then are being told not to move too much.

What’s Food & Exercise?

The majority of things people are stuffing into their mouths these days wouldn’t have passed for “food” or even basic sustenance a few generations ago. Sure, it looks the same, but on a chemical level it’s almost an entirely different entity altogether. As the rise of genetically modified foods (GMO) makes their appearance, no one knows what the long term effects will be on either the human body or nature.

Nations that take this type of thing seriously, who don’t play games, are forcing out and burning GMO crops in fear. Organics and home grown foods are becoming the only escape from the over-commercialized corporate food system where profit means everything, and human health means very little.

Exercise science is being taken out of public schools. Budgets to teach children the importance of BMI are being cut. States are going broke. Food stamp usage has gone to an all time high, reaching almost 50 million people nationally, and at the same time food prices are inflating by the double digits in a matter of months.

Where’s This All Heading?

At the rate America is going, when the dust clears, like in ancient Roman times, only the top 1% will proudly display their bodies while the majority strive to eat a few bites of junk food every day. Unprecedented economic collapse, where everyone is out of shape and connected to the net using virtual head pieces…

Americans need to wake up, and rather than laughing at the fattest US state contests, take the situation seriously, demanding more from their schools and representatives.

Photo Credit: Nolan O'Brien

Sorana Cirstea 1er tour de Roland Garros 2010 tennis French open
French Open Tennis 2010: Why I Learned How to Play Tennis
It was while watching the French Open Tennis 2010 match that I decided the game of tennis is pretty simple to learn, but difficult to master. There aren't many difficult things that are involved in the game, but the degree of challenge all really depends on your opponent. I kept thinking when watching the French Open what my teacher said when I first took tennis lessons, “When learning how to play tennis, one should start with the very basics. Finding a tennis club to join is useful also, and will help in the process to becoming a better tennis player.”

How hard can it be? The game only has two players that are facing each other on opposite sides of the tennis court. There is a net that is set up in the middle of the court and a ball is then passed over the net, back and forth, and hit with nylon tennis rackets. The rules that the game has are pretty simple, and learning how to play tennis comes as one keeps playing. So why is it so entertaining? The answer, and what I remembered while watching the French Open in 2010, was in my instructor’s final introductory statement. “It may get more difficult to play, depending on your opponent.”

Let’s see, how did the rest of my instructor’s opening narrative go? Yes, it's really easy to learn how to play tennis. The sport begins by having one player that is on one side of the court who serves the ball up and over the net and onto the other side. The player receiving the ball must let the ball hit the ground one time, and then must hit it back to the player who served. A point is scored when a player makes an unsuccessful return to the other side, meaning the ball either hits out of bounds, or hits the net and doesn't make it over. So far, so good. (I can just picture my instructor addressing the players this way at the French Open!)

She went on to say that learning how to play tennis with techniques will further progress a player's game. This can come in handy, especially when playing in a tennis club where more experienced players are. Learn to swing correctly to return the ball effectively. These swings consist of a backhand swing, a forehand swing, or even what is called aces. Aces are points scored off the serve. (No need to mention that at the French Open.)

She closed by saying that, like with all things, the more a person practices the better they get. Finding a tennis club and playing against experienced players will only increase skill, and it's best to learn how to play tennis the right way, and start from the basics and increase your skill from there. Hmm, and then there is the French Open tennis 2010. What happened? How could a few simple moves eventually become a death match, complete with adult controversy and partial nudity? I suppose it would be like boxing. You grow up learning all the basics, and then fight Mohammed Ali and realize you know nothing. Ultimately what I learned from watching the French Open tennis 2010 matches is that in order to really win, you have to be willing to constantly reinvent the game. See more about the French open tennis 2010 here.

Photo Credit: Yann Caradec

Yoga and Pregnancy
Yoga and Pregnancy
I've personally experienced the benefits of yoga throughout my pregnancy.

In addition to walking, light weights and swimming etc recommended by obstetricians during a pregnancy, I find yoga brings many added benefits.

Unfortunately, many stereotypes about yoga are common and the multitude of different types of classes can be confusing and overwhelming.

In an attempt to simplify this form of exercise/wellness training, I will try to point out several key components:

1) Breathing. Yoga helps you focus on your breathing rather than your over all "fitness level". People can become discouraged during exercise routines because they end up comparing themselves to others.

Yoga is not meant to be a competitive sport. It is NOT about crazy contortions. Yoga is about shifting your focus to yourself so you become more aware of your own general well-being. You begin this process by paying attention to your breathing.

2) Mental endurance. Once you understand that you are not comparing your fitness level to others, you can move on to focus on your own mental control while you are engaging in different forms of exercise including being various classic yoga poses for long periods of time.

3) Combining your physical well-being with your mental well-being. The nice thing about yoga is once you learn to pay attention to yourself, you can exercise in a more "mindful" way. Mindful meaning you can control your own negative thoughts such as "oh, this is too difficult. I can't last any longer" or "Oh, I am tired and lazy" "Oh forget this workout. It sucks" and turn those thoughts into thoughts about observing & controlling your breathing. You will be surprised how much stronger you can become.

During the 2nd part of a pregnancy, your body begins to change in more dramatic ways. The drastic increase in your blood volume, the compression of the baby & the shifting hormonal levels will naturally cause swelling in your body. This change calls for more regular physical activities to encourage healthy circulation throughout the body.

It is so easy for a person to simply become sedentary and give up exercise because it is "difficult". This is the time when pre-natal yoga can help you maintain that motivation, endurance and mental/physical drive.

During the delivery of your child, if you have built up your mental and physical endurance, , you will be prepared to embrace the experience especially if it is a long and difficult labor (and an epidural helps, too).

In short, yoga is a wonderful way to help maintain one's fitness level through sustaining a positive and controlled attitude during the most difficult of times such as during a pregnancy.

It takes time to accept and understand the practice of yoga, but once you do, you will find so many rewards.

Photo Credit: Barry Silver

Cool Cat Patriot Thor goggles tough guy cute kitten
Weird Sports Gifts
Buying gifts again? Sometimes it feels like all you buy for people are clothes and coffee makers. Go out on a limb and get some weird sports gifts for your friends and family – when they look at their new shirts, they'll thank you! There are plenty of sites on the internet that provide weird sports gifts of all sorts, all you have to do is look.

ThingsYouNeverKnew.com is a great site to go for many types of gifts. In their Sports section, you will find some weird sports gifts like beer kegs with the colors and logos of football, baseball, hockey, and other sports teams. They also have stainless steel Martini shakers of the teams as well.

Remember Snuggies? Thing You Never Knew has tons of different kinds, some with college teams and numbers. Others have NFL teams and logos, and include pillows on the bottom so you can be comfortable at cold games. For the golfers, the site features a small brown sack for golf balls – a Golf Ball Sack. It holds two balls and says “It takes balls to golf.”

There is an especially interesting gift, a blood pressure monitor for your wrist. This monitor will inflate and tell you your pulse rate and blood pressure. It even has a short memory and can tell you the averages over a period of several sessions. This site offers a surprise package of three weird sports gifts in one, and you will not know which ones until it is opened. This may be a better gift for yourself than for someone else.

Stupid.com has some great weird sports gifts you might want to consider. Most of these are alcohol related and are meant for sports fans, such as the Beer Holding Hoodie and the Binocular Flask. The hoodie has a convenient pouch for holding a can or bottle of beer. The binoculars do not actually work, but they do hold 16 ounces of your favorite drink. One of the best weird sport gifts is the Big Daddy Driver – Weed Whacking Golf Club. This golf club has actually won an award for being so strange. When you slice one into the rough, you can cut your way out with this combination weed whacker/golf club.

There are also many other weird sports gifts you will find scattered throughout the internet. Football lovers will love the NFL Stadium Phone. This is a small likeness of a football field, with inserts for all the NFL teams. It is animated with lights and sounds, so it takes a few batteries. Football rings are also available for your favorite teams. The rings are made of steel and feature the logo of the team. Speaking of logos for teams, one of the best weird sports gifts of all time is custom print toilet paper with your most hated team logo. Yes, you can wipe out your rival or most-hated team by ordering custom print toilet paper with their logo—and it is even safe to use!

There are tons of weird sports gifts out there, all you have to do is look. They may only be found physically in novelty shops, but the internet is full of stores with all sorts of weird products. Make your holiday or birthday present a little more interesting than the average gift.

Photo Credit: Don Graham

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