Manuuuuuuuu!

This week I’m going against my better judgement. When I started this blog I told myself a few things about how I would conduct it. I set a few guidelines, if you will. One of those guidelines is to maintain variety, never write about the same thing twice in a row, definitely not the same person. The events of Wednesday night have caused me to reconsider. Take a look for yourself.

With his team down three games to one against the Memphis Grizzlies Manu Ginobili hit what may be the shot of his life. Only two seconds left on the clock and his team down by two points Ginobili.

The Argentinean kept his team alive on Wednesday

Last week, I posted a blog on the Playoffs in general, and I highlighted the matchup between the Spurs and the Grizzlies, and namely a particular matchup within that series between two Latinos; Manu Ginobili vs. Marc Gasol. Since that blog, Gasol and Grizzlies have gotten the better of the Spurs and they had their backs up against the wall. The Grizzlies had a 3 to 1 game series lead on the Spurs, if the Spurs lose one more game to the Grizzlies, their season is over. That is the position they found themselves in on Wednesday night, down by two points with seconds left…that’s when Ginobili made magic happen. A prominent Latino face in the NBA, Ginobili again takes the spotlight for the Latino community. Time and time again Latinos are stepping up in the NBA. Just look back at my blog history and you’ll see it. This is a big deal because basketball is traditionally a sport that is dominated by African-Americans and whites. Until recently, Latinos were seldom in the league. Ginobili has been part of a resurgence, and his huge performance on Wednesday just adds to it. That’s just one more reason why I love the NBA Playoffs…Where Amazing Happens.

Adios!

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Esta el tiempo de Playoffs!

It’s April, and almost summer time…for me, that means one thing…NBA Playoffs.  The summer is a dull, dry, boring, and testing time for a sports fan. Looking ahead, things appear pretty gloom. Football season is long gone, college football spring training is done, the NBA playoffs will be over, and all that’s left will be baseball. That’s right, baseball. The absence of all fairly decent sports in the summer is the sole reason that baseball is still alive in this country. OK, OK, I might be exaggerating a little, but seriously baseball is by far the least exciting of all the major sports in the US (including soccer, hockey and golf). The thing is, in the summer there is nothing else to watch. All the other sports are out of season, and even the TV shows are out of season. Anyway, the summer is a tough time for a sports fan…that is why we must embrace, love, and cherish these moments of bliss we have now…I give you the NBA Playoffs…Where Amazing Happens.

Over the next three or so weeks, sports fans will be glued to their TVs watching the NBA Playoffs, hoping it never ends. And while they’re watching they won’t be able to avoid a certain amount of Latino flavor. There are currently 9 Latinos playing in the NBA playoffs, which is a pretty good number considering only the top 50% of teams in the NBA even make it to the playoffs. One of the Latino players you will see running the hardwood on your TV screen is Nuggets center Nene Hilario, who goes by just “Nene”. The 28 year old Brazilian has played an important role for the Denver Nuggets this season, who earned the 5th spot in the West and are now in the playoffs. Nene is known for his stellar defense and his high flying dunks. He dunked the ball so much this year that he led the whole NBA in field goal percentage. The nuggets are playing the Oklahoma City Thunder but are currently down two games to none. Hopefully Nene can help turn things around for the Nuggets.

Another match-up to be watching in the playoffs is the San Antonio Spurs vs. the Memphis Grizzlies. Both teams feature star Latino players. Manu Ginobli (pictured left) is one of the most well known and well respected Latino players in the league. From Argentina, Ginobli is a two time all-star and has even won an NBA sixth man of the year award. He helped lead his Spurs to a first place regular season finish in the West this year. The Spurs are matched up against the Grizzles, who feature a Latino star of their own. Marc Gasol of Barcelona, Spain is a young, blossoming talent, but still a force to be reckoned with on the court. Gasol is only in his third NBA season, but he is already averaging almost 12 points per game. He is the younger brother of established NBA center Pau Gasol, so he has talent in his blood (it may also help that he is seven feet tall). Gasol’s Grizzlies are tied with the Spurs at one game a piece in the series, but don’t worry, this one is a win-win for the Latinos.

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spice it up

You know it’s a good week when you get to write about sports and still post pictures like that…However, you’re probably wondering (but not complaining)…what does this have to do with Latinos and sports? Well, let me tell you.

The woman you are probably still looking at is Zuleyka Rivera (cool name right?) She is Miss Universe 2006 and she is not bad on the eyes. “so what?”  you say…well here’s the kicker…she’s from Puerto Rico. Just in case my writing isn’t clear, you can study this picture if you need to…

Zuleyka Jerris Rivera Mendoza was born on October 3, 1987 in Salinas, Puerto Rico. In 2006, she was named Miss Puerto Rico, and later that year she went on to be named Miss Universe as well. Now she lives in the United States and stars in Telenovelas such as Aurora and Alguien Te Mira.

So, if you’re smart and you’ve read this blog before, you know that this is a Latino sports blog, it’s not just a Latino blog. I don’t just write about any and every Latino. You won’t find the latest gossip on J-Lo’s relationships on this blog, I only write about Latinos that are somehow connected to sports. So you’ve probably figured out that this gorgeous former Miss Universe isn’t just featured on this blog because she is Puerto Rican and beautiful.

But the question still remains…why is she here? what did she do? …The answer is the portly, 5 foot 10″ Puerto Rican man pictured below…

Somehow, some way, the man pictured to your left managed to land the former Miss Universe you see above. Yeah, thumbs up man. I’d say he did pretty well. The man that deserves the congratulations is named J.J. Barea. He was also born in Puerto Rico (probably how he got his foot in the door with Miss Universe up there) and he know lives in Dallas. Barea measures in at 5’10”, just one inch taller than Rivera, who would dwarf him if wearing heels, but that didn’t seem to matter. Barea broke the ice and got the relationship by sending her a text. “I sent her a message to say hi, something simple like hope you’re doing good.”

Well apparently it worked, because the two are now dating. Oh yeah, did I mention that Barea plays in the NBA for the Dallas Mavericks?…maybe that has something to do with it…perhaps Rivera just couldn’t resist when watched JJ on TV doing moves like these…

You know, the more I think about it, I just don’t think that’s enough. There’s gotta be something more. There’s something that he’s got that that I don’t got…what is it?…I play basketball, I’m fairly short, I can give a great “thumbs up” like JJ….why am I not dating Miss Universe?…then it hit me…it’s gotta be the Latino flavor. That’s what I don’t have, that’s what separates me and JJ. All joking aside, I do think it is cool that this couple is staying to their roots and both dating a fellow Puerto Rican. Rivera could probably date anyone she wants, and although JJ isn’t the most stunning man in the world, he is a rich professional athlete, and I’m sure he has his choice of women as well, so I applaud this couple for sticking to their roots. One point for the Latinos.

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One In a Million

Scott Gomez is the equivalent of an Anglo-American bullfighter in Spain. There are 30 teams in the National Hockey League, each consisting of just under 30 players…That’s over 800 players in the NHL. Of those 800+ players, there exists only three that are of Latin American descent. Mr. Scott Gomez is one of those three, and the best I might add. But then again, he’s only competing with two other Latino players. Being played on ice, hockey is usually strongest in northern areas that are cold (shocking, right?), so it makes sense that few Latinos are hockey players, since the Latino culture is native to warmer climates. Needless to say, Gomez stands out as a Latino on the ice.

 

Gomez is of Mexican and Colombian decent. His father, Carlos, is Mexican-American, and his mother Dalia is Colombian-American. If Latinos were to pick any one person to represent them on the ice, it would be Gomez. Drafted in 1998, Gomez scored 70 goals in his rookie season and was named the rookie of the year and elected as an NHL all-star while on his way to winning the Stanley Cup finals. Not bad for your first year in the league. Since then, Gomez has been named an all-star four times, as he has consistently shown himself as one of the league’s most prominent players. In the 2002-2003 season, Gomez won his second Stanley Cup with his team, the New Jersey Devils, but his best year came in the 2004-2005 season. In that year, he scored more goals than any other player in the ECHL and was named the league’s Most Valuable Player. After seven seasons with the New Jersey Devils, Gomez was traded to the rival New York Rangers, where he continued to have success. After two seasons with the Rangers, the Latino goal scorer was traded to the Montreal Canadiens in 2009, where he plays currently.

Much like fellow Latino professional athlete Mark Sanchez, whom I featured in a recent blog entry, Scott Gomez is a minority in his profession. However, Gomez doesn’t have near the hope that the Jets quarterback Sanchez possesses. While Sanchez is one of few Latinos in the NFL, there is still a decent representation in the NFL, and being a more popular sport, he gets much more exposure to the public. Being one of only three Latino NHL players, Gomez and his fellow Latinos don’t have much of a voice. On top of that, hockey doesn’t have near the audience of the NFL. I hate to say it, but there’s not a lot of hope for a Latino future in hockey.

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Latinos take a “hit”

Cabrera is crushed after a superstar season

Detroit Tigers outfielder and superstar Miguel Cabrera is one of the Latino’s biggest faces in baseball. He has had a great career and seems to only be getting better. Last year he won the American League Silver Slugger award after wrapping up the season with a .328 batting average and a .622 slugging percentage. Not too shabby. Did I mention he’s from Venezuela? Of the three major American sports, baseball certainly has the strongest Latino presence, but even among many Latinos in the MLB, Cabrera shines….until this past Wednesday night. The Detroit slugger was arrested under suspicion of driving under the influence in Fort Pierce, Florida. This happens all the time, you say, especially to athletes…

SO WHAT’S THE BIG DEAL???

The big deal is that whether he likes it or not, Miguel Cabrera represents much more than just himself. He represents the Latino community and particularly Latino athletes. That’s the thing with so many athletes these days, they don’t realize that it’s not all about them. Kids actually look up to them and people associate them with different things, in this case, the Latino culture. While he’s normally slugging baseballs out of the park, this time Cabrera delivered a huge hit to the Latino public image. I’m not saying that a DUI is the end of the world…as mentioned before, it happens all the time. But this wasn’t just your typical DUI. After Cabrera was pulled over, the report quotes Cabrera as saying “Do you know who I am?” while resisting arrest. He also had the audacity to take out a bottle of scotch and take a swig while still in his car and talking to the officer. Oh, did I mention that Cabrera went through an alcohol treatment program after the 2009 season?…However false they are, people have many different opinions and prejudices towards the Latino culture, and this blow from Cabrera did not help those at all. But don’t fret too much, the Latinos are strong and they are many. Surely another Latino athlete will do something wonderful soon and have us all asking “what happened with that Cabrera guy again?”.

 

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Poster Boy

When asked about his Latino heritage, New York Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez beams with pride. As one of the premier quarterbacks in the league and one of the few latino players in the NFL, Sanchez is somewhat of a poster boy for Latino football players. He also carries quite a bit of responsibility being one of the “faces” of latinos in American sport, but that is a responsibility he is glad to bear. Born in California to parents Nick and Olga, Sanchez is a third generation Mexican-American, and growing up in Southern L.A., he was always emerged in Latino culture. When it came time to go to college, Mark stuck to his roots and attended the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, where he found great success. He was drafted by the New York Jets, and in a sport that is traditionally dominated by white and African-American players, the Latino from L.A. has emerged as one of the sport’s best players. Just this year, Sanchez led his team to the conference finals, just one game away from the SuperBowl.

So here’s what I’m really getting at…What does Mark Sanchez mean to latino football???

Well, we don’t quite know yet…right now, Sanchez is just blooming into the gigantic public sports figure he will become. Anyone who knows football, knows Mark Sanchez, but one day not long from now, Mark Sanchez will be a household name to any Latino…football fan or not. True, selling a few more tickets to Latinos and getting a few more Latino TV sets tuned into the

could this be a little Mark Sanchez in the making?...

NFL on Sundays will have a slight impact on the game, but Sanchez’s real impact will be felt 15 years from now.  When little boys like the one to the right have grown up with a hero hanging up on their bedroom wall. A poster boy that they can identify with, that inspired them to break the mold because they can, they’ve seen it done, and we know that they’re seeing it: last year’s Super Bowl attracted 7.84 million Latino viewers in the US….that’s more than the world cup, which is the biggest even for the most popular Latino sport, soccer. What I’m saying is that Mark Sanchez has the potential to help completely change the demographic of the NFL. Since he is such a prominent sports figure, he can inspire young Latinos all over the world to one day be NFL stars. We won’t know his true impact for many years, but I have a feeling that there are plenty of “little Mark Sanchezs” out there right now just waiting to break the mold of football.

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“Los” NBA

Three non Latino players wearing Latino jerseys

As you may or may not know, last march, in what they called “Noche Latina”, the NBA (that’s the National Basketball Association for the uniformed out there) debuted an unprecedented campaign in which ten teams around the country wore jerseys featuring their team name in Spanish (the link to a press release can be found below), and the players actually wore them to play in…the WHOLE game.

http://www.nba.com/2009/news/features/03/03/noche.latina.release/

Upon first seeing this, I thought it was some kind of joke. I’ve been watching the NBA for close to twenty years now and the Spurs have always been “the Spurs”….the Suns have always been “the Suns”, no one has a right to throw “Los Suns” on their jersey just because they thought it was cute or catchy. I was disgusted. In the whole NBA, there are only 24 Latino players. There are 29 TEAMS in the NBA, each having over 10 players. The Latino presence in the NBA is extremely small. Or so I thought….You see, it’s not the players that they did it for. Just like anything else, the NBA is a business, not just a sports league. They are out to sell as many tickets and make as much money as they can. How do you do that?….cater to our fans. Looking at cities like San Antonio, Miami, Phoenix, Los Angeles, and Houston, what demographic makes up their fan base? That’s right, Latinos. Each of those cities has a huge resource of Latinos in their backyard, many of whom make up their fan base. All those teams and the NBA were doing when they announced “Noche Latina” is trying to put more people in the seats. And although the Latino influence is not great among the NBA’s players, it is huge among it’s fans. Looks like they knew what they were doing after all.

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