GSB Eco-Scorecard #5: Catching Up with Green-Sports Leaders on the Field

Since 2013, GreenSportsBlog has told the stories of the great environmental work being done by teams, managers of venues and athletes. But as far as the sports side of the Green-Sports equation was concerned, we really didn’t go there.

Until last September, that is.

It was then that we launched GSB Eco-Scoreboard: Catching Up with Green-Sports Leaders on the Field, an occasional series highlighting recent on-field/court results of the greenest teams and athletes. Why? Because if they do well, their green messages will gain a wider audience.

And if they struggle? Well, those of us engaged in the climate change fight know what struggle is all about. We can relate.

With that in mind, please enjoy our fifth Eco-Scoreboard. 

 

 

JOSH ROSEN, CLIMATE CHANGE-MINDED ROOKIE QB, STARTS HIS NFL JOURNEY IN ARIZONA

“Josh Rosen Impresses Cardinals Brass, Teammates at OTAs”

Some version of this headline blared across media reports about the Arizona Cardinals’ rookie quarterback at his first spring practices, or “Organized Team Activities”.

 

Josh Rosen OTAsa

Rookie QB Josh Rosen at Offseason Team Activities (OTAs) for the Arizona Cardinals (Photo credit: Cards Wire/USA Today)

 

Why does GreenSportsBlog care about Rosen, selected out of UCLA with the 10th pick in the first round of April’s NFL Draft?

Because climate change is a big concern of his, that’s why!

From an in-depth, pre-draft interview on espn.com with Sam Alipour, Rosen declared, “One cause I’ll champion is the environment. It touches everything. I mean, the war in Syria started because of the drought and famine that destabilized the country and led the population to revolt against the government. I know global warming is a partisan issue for some stupid reason, but it touches everything.”

So even though my New York Jets, with the third pick in the draft passed on Rosen to take cross-town rival QB Sam Darnold from USC, you can be sure GSB will be following the Cardinals’ new signal caller.

All of the Rosen reviews I read had the same tone as Sean Wagner-McGough’s, writing for CBSSports.com on May 18:

“The positive reviews came pouring in immediately after [Rosen took the field]. It turns out, Rosen looks very much like a quarterback who never should’ve dropped to No. 10 in last month’s draft.”

“He stepped in the huddle and had a lot of pizzazz,” left tackle D.J. Humphries said. “He didn’t seem like he was choked up at all. Voice didn’t crack none. He wasn’t talking low. He was excited. He was asserting himself into the huddle, and I was pretty excited to see that.”

“Josh looked great today,” coach Steve Wilks said. “Some of his timing and his throws with the quarterback and tight ends I thought were right on point.”

The conventional wisdom is that, while Rosen is deemed to be the most NFL-ready of the five QBs drafted in the first round*, the Cardinals will start veteran QB Sam Bradford, at least to begin the season.

But that conventional wisdom may not be so wise.

Per Jess Root of the Cards Wire blog, Coach Wilks “is open to the idea of Rosen winning the job.”

My take is that Bradford will likely be the opening day starter vs. Washington. But with a long injury history and a precocious, climate change aware QB chomping at the bit, I think the odds are good that Rosen will take the reins at some point this season — and sooner rather than later.

 

 

 

 

SUTTON UNITED AND DARTFORD F.C. FALL SHORT OF PROMOTION

GreenSportsBlog has given a lot of oxygen to England’s Forest Green Rovers, the “Greenest Team in Sports.” Promoted from the fifth to the fourth tier (League Two) of English football after last season — their highest level ever — FGR was able (barely) to avoid relegation and will look to make a move upward next season.

Two other mid-tier English clubs with green in their DNA made runs at promotion this season but both fell short (barely).

Sutton United looked to join Forest Green Rovers in League Two via promotion. They hosted a promotion playoff match vs. Boreham Wood on May 6 at Gander Green Lane, the first football stadium to achieve The Planet Mark™ sustainability certification##. Reducing its carbon footprint by 13.6 percent in 2016 and diverting 88 percent of its waste from landfill helped the club earn the designation.

Unfortunately from the Sutton United perspective, their promotion dream died that day as they fell behind 2-0, got a goal back before conceding again in the 88th minute. A stoppage time goal for the home side was not enough as Boreham Wood prevailed 3-2.

On the same afternoon, Dartford F.C. looked to join the league Sutton United hoped to escape by moving up from the sixth to the fifth tier. To do so, they would have to knock off Braintree Town F.C. in a playoff semifinal.

Like Sutton, Dartford hosted the playoff contest. The 4,100-seat Princes Park, which opened in 2006, is top tier, sustainability-wise: It was the UK’s first sustainable, purpose-built, small-sized stadium, featuring on-site solar panels, energy efficient lighting, a state-of-the-art green roof, and an advanced reclaimed rainwater system.

 

 

Princes Park Green Roof

Princes Park, with its distinctive and state of the art green roof, serves as the home of Dartford F.C. in Kent England (Photo credit: Sustainability in Sport)

 

Like Sutton United, Dartford was unable to close the deal, falling to Braintree Town 1-0 as they let in a second half goal.

So the status will remain quo in the 2018-19 season, league-wise, for Sutton United and Dartford F.C. Both teams have made player moves early in the offseason to prep to make promotion runs when the new campaign starts this summer.

 

ECO-OUTFIELDER STEPHEN PISCOTTY MAKES IMMEDIATE IMPACT UPON RETURN TO BASEBALL POST BEREAVEMENT

GreenSportsBlog first wrote about Stephen Piscotty in January 2017 after learning that the then-Cardinals outfielder had majored in Atmosphere and Energy Engineering at Stanford and is an investor in renewable energy.

Piscotty was coming off of a stellar rookie campaign in 2016 but 2017 proved to be challenging on and off the field.

On the field, Piscotty dealt with two stints on the disabled list with hamstring and groin injuries along with a sophomore slump at the plate. The double whammy led to a brief demotion to the minor leagues.

The off field news was much, much worse as Piscotty’s mother, Gretchen, was diagnosed with ALS^ or Lou Gehrig’s Disease.

Over the winter, Piscotty was traded by the Cardinals to the Oakland A’s, only an hour’s drive from his parents’ home. Both the Cardinals and the A’s acknowledged that Gretchen’s illness was a factor in the trade. Amazing, no?

After winning the A’s starting right fielder job in spring training, the Stanford man got off to a slow start as his mom’s condition worsened. Sadly, Gretchen Piscotty passed away on May 6 at 55, about a year after her diagnosis. Her son took bereavement time before rejoining the A’s as they headed to Boston to play the Red Sox on May 16.

 

Piscotty

Oakland A’s outfielder Stephen Piscotty and his mom Gretchen (Photo credit: People)

 

And, in a kind of “Field of Dreams” moment, Piscotty, in his first at-bat in his first game back, the A’s outfielder slugged a home run over Fenway Park’s famed left field wall, the Green Monster.

 

 

 

 

“It was pure joy,” Piscotty said of his blast in the A’s 5-3 victory over the Red Sox, per sfgate.com. “It’s been an emotional week. I’ve been a little cried out, so I didn’t tear up or anything. It felt real good knowing family was watching and my mom was watching.”

 

 

 * Three QBs were picked ahead of Rosen: Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield, the #1 overall pick by the Cleveland Browns, Darnold to the Jets at 3, and Josh Allen, from Wyoming, went to Buffalo at 7. The Baltimore Ravens, with the 32nd and last pick of the first round, chose Louisville’s Lamar Jackson.
^ ALS = Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis

 


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GreenSportsBlog’s Five-Year Anniversary…A Reflection

When I started GreenSportsBlog back on May 22, 2013, I had no idea what to expect.

I had never blogged before, wasn’t sure if there would be an audience for content about the intersection of Green & Sports, and didn’t know if the movers and shakers of the Green-Sports world would talk to me.

Five years and 512 posts later, I can say happily say there is consistent and growing interest — our 7,000+ monthly readers attest to that. And I have been blessed to be able to interview Green-Sports activists, corporate leaders, eco-athletes, and more. To all, I say a heartfelt thank you — and keep reading and commenting!

To commemorate GSB’s fifth anniversary, I thought you might find it interesting to read about how I came to write about Green-Sports and to see which posts have been the most well-read.

 

HOW I BECAME A GREEN-SPORTS BLOGGER

A lifelong, passionate New York-area sports fan — for those who haven’t read this blog much, the Jets, Knicks, Rutgers, and Yankees are my local favorites, along with North London’s Tottenham Hotspur in the Premier League. While at Rutgers, I announced football and basketball while a student at Rutgers on WRSU-FM

 

WRSU Knightline

Yours truly, 2nd from right and mustachioed in an old school Jets jersey, making what must surely have been an astute point on Knightline, the post-game sports talk show on WRSU-FM, the Rutgers student radio station back…a few years (Photo credit: WRSU-FM)

 

I tried to make a go of sportscasting as a professional, but it is a very tough way to make a living. After earning my MBA from NYU’s Stern School of Business, I pivoted to the sports business, where I was fortunate to spend 15 years, starting in the early 1990s through the mid 2000s, working in advertising sales and marketing. Getting paid to go to the World Series, NBA Finals, World Cup and more? How cool was that?!?!

The environment interested me — it was a factor in my voting decisions; I supported the Sierra Club and like organizations. But did my greenness match my sports fandom? Only when it came to the Jets, who wear green. Otherwise, not even close.

Until 9/11.

Working for Sports Illustrated Kids in midtown Manhattan at the time, I was very fortunate personally to not know anyone in the Twin Towers. Still, I felt like I had to do something. This was the Pearl Harbor of my generation and this was my home city.

But what to do?

It wasn’t until about four months after that horrible day that I found my answer.

In “Green Is the New Red, White & Blue,” Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times columnist Thomas L. Friedman posited that we in the U.S. were fueling the wars on terrorism that we were fighting (we were already in Afghanistan at the time; the invasion of Iraq was a year or so away) by our insanely profligate energy use. His logic went something like this:

  1. The U.S. represented four percent of the world’s population but 25 percent of its energy usage.
  2. Since 9/11 happened before the fracking-led domestic oil and gas production boom, we had to source a good chunk of our energy from places like Saudi Arabia.
  3. The Saudi royal family siphoned some of that U.S oil revenue to its Wahhabi extremists to ensure they would remain in power.
  4. And those Wahhabists funded the training of 15 of the 19 9/11 attackers.

It was like the compact fluorescent lightbulb went on above my head! Green was going to play a big part in the solutions to geopolitical problems and I would play a small role. So I “greened up” my personal life, buying a hybrid car (becoming a very early adapter; I knew more about how a hybrid worked than the salesman), changing out all my lightbulbs to compact fluorescents, and becoming an almost-vegetarian.

But that wasn’t enough.

I needed to somehow green my work life. This became even more of an imperative the more I learned about climate change.

But how to get a green job? In 2002-2003, most were technical in nature. And, let’s put it this way: You do NOT want me installing solar panels on your roof.

So I thought, “what am I good at?” Sales, marketing and story telling. The trick was how to translate that from the mature sports industry to the nascent world of green business.

I began to network like crazy, joining a gaggle of sustainable business groups in New York. But when I couldn’t find what I call green “job-jobs” for someone with a sales/marketing/communications background, I decided, in September 2005, to take a risk, leaving SI Kids and recreating myself as a sustainability-focused, business development, marketing and communications consultant.

Since then I have helped a wide array of organizations — from Fortune 500 companies to startups to nonprofits — tell their sustainability stories more powerfully, generate new revenue by selling sponsorships to green events, and garner positive media coverage for their sustainability-related accomplishments. Some of my clients whose names you’d recognize include BT (aka British Telecom), Empire State Building, Whole Foods Market and the Wildlife Conservation Society

Then, about three years into my life as a sustainability consultant, in 2008-2009, I began to wonder if there was an intersection of Green and Sports, with the idea being that I would love to marry my two passions.

So I poked around and found out there was a fellow named Dr. Allen Hershkowitz who, working with NRDC, helped the Philadelphia Eagles and minority owner Christina Weiss Lurie make sure the toilet paper at Lincoln Financial Field wasn’t being sourced from eagle habitats. 

What an introduction to Green-Sports!

A year or so I discovered that a small group of pro sports teams from Portland, Seattle, and Vancouver had banded together to form the Green Sports Alliance. Their goal was to share better practices on energy efficiency, waste, and more. This sounded like an organization and a movement — Green-Sports — that was poised to grow. 

And I needed to be a part of it! But again, my question was “how?”

In 2011-12, I did more digging — and noticed that the Alliance was growing well beyond its Pacific Northwest roots, and that the organizers of the London 2012 Olympics made sustainability a key strand of their DNA. 

I figured media organization must be covering this burgeoning Green-Sports field. 

No one was.

So I decided would become that media organization.

And that led to GreenSportsBlog’s birth five years ago, almost to the day.

 

Lew GSA 2

Yours truly, making what what must surely have been an astute point at the 2016 Green Sports Alliance Summit in Houston (Photo credit: Lewis Blaustein)

 

FIVE KEY LESSONS

I’ve learned a ton these last five years — so much so, I could write an entire post just on that topic. But, for purposes of this story, I’ll boil it down to five key lessons that have been imparted to me by you, the readers, based on your comments and which GSB posts have drawn the most traffic:

  1. Allow the People Building the Green-Sports World to Share Their Stories Directly with Readers: Based on reader comments, The GSB Interview is the most popular segment on the blog. Sharing the unfiltered insights, struggles and successes of a wide array of women and men who are responsible for greening the sports world is an honor and a pleasure.
  2. Go Beyond Major League Sports and Mega-Events: Of course, we cover the greening of major pro sports leagues in North America and Europe, as well as of mega events like the Olympics and the FIFA World Cup. But stories like Forest Green Rovers, the fourth tier English soccer club that is the Greenest Team in Sports, and the St. Paul Saints, the minor league baseball team in Minnesota which won the Greenest New Stadium of the Year in 2015, have drawn some of the site’s best traffic numbers.
  3. Write with the Voice of the Sports Fan: From reader comments back in GSB’s early days, it seems that most expected the blog to be written by someone with a cleantech, facilities management and/or “green journalism” background. Many sounded pleased that I brought a different point-of-view, that of a passionate sustainability communicator who is also a big sports fan. Understanding and loving sports — and the people who follow it — was and is important. Especially when one considers, as Allen Hershkowitz is wont to say, that 13 percent of Americans follow science, but 65-70 percent follow sports. And as Nelson Mandela offered, “Sports can change the world!”
  4. Bringing a Sense of Humor to the Table is a Good Thing: Our forays into the satirical have been well received by readers and commenters. The July 2014 story in which I imagined that LeBron James decided to leave Miami to return to Cleveland — not because he wanted to go home, but because he was afraid of climate change’s effects in South Florida — remains the blog’s most read post. In fact, every post in which I’ve included the words “LeBron” and “James” has scored well. That bodes well for this one :). Hey, the climate change fight can be a very hard slog at times, so adding a dollop of humor here and there can’t hurt.

The fifth key lesson is that Green-Sports Needs To Play the “Climate Change Fight” Game…and It Needs to Play to WIN!: Herm Edwards, now the head football coach at Arizona State University, was coaching my New York Jets back in 2002, when he famously ranted that “The great thing about sports is, you play to win the game! Hello?! You play to win the game!!!”

 

Herm Edwards’ 2002 “You play to win the game” rant

 

To me, it’s clear that Green-Sports needs to be playing the “climate change fight” game. But are we? And are we playing to win? Despite some moves in the right direction, it’s clear to me that the Green-Sports world is not there yet.

Hey, I get it: Climate change is political and sports is where people often go to get away from politics. But acknowledging those realities shouldn’t mean we abandon the fight. 

And then there are two other important realities at play here:

  1. Climate change is the most existential threat the world faces
  2. It will take consistent and unyielding passion to generate the political will to turn humanity away from the carbon train wreck we’re hurtling towards.

It says here that tapping into the passion of sports fans and the massive size of the fan base is essential to the climate change fight. I have been heartened by the many GreenSportsBlog readers who have encouraged me to continue to push the Green-Sports world and sports media (#CoverGreenSports) to engage more forthrightly on climate change. I certainly will.

 

MOST READ GREENSPORTSBLOG POSTS

Here is a list of our 10 most read posts over our first five years. Enjoy and please keep reading and sharing GreenSportsBlog!

  1. The REAL Reason LeBron Chose to Leave Miami for Cleveland: Climate Change (July 2014)
  2. The GSB Interview: Mark Teixeira of the NY Yankees; Helping to Rebuild and Green NW Atlanta (February 2016)
  3. Mercedes-Benz Stadium: Super Cool, Super Green Future Home of the Falcons and Atlanta FC (November 2015)
  4. Birds Flying Into Minneapolis’ Glass-Walled US Bank Stadium Not a Good Look with Super Bowl LII Only Two Months Away (December 2017)
  5. Integral Hockey: Rebuilding Broken Hockey Sticks–and Keeping Them Out of the Landfill (October 2015)
  6. How Green is Augusta National Golf Club, Home of The Masters (April 2016)
  7. The GSB Interview: Leilani Münter, Looking to Turn on the Speed and Turn Auto Racing Fans on to a Vegan Diet at Daytona (January 2018)
  8. Forest Green Rovers, Greenest Team in Sports, Earns Promotion Up England’s Football/Soccer Ladder (May 2017)
  9. PyeongChang 2018: How Green will the Winter Olympics Be? A Conversation with Sustainability Manager Hyeona Kim (August 2017)
  10. Green Sports Alliance Calls on Sports Fans To Take “Live Green or Die™” Challenge in Response to Trump Pulling U.S Out of Paris Climate Agreement (June 2017)

 

 


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The GSB Interview: Andrew Ference Goes from the Ice to the NHL Front Office; Sustainability and League’s Long Term Health His Remit

Pro athletes are unique among human beings in that they face retirement while they’re in their 20s, 30s or, at the latest, their 40s. After the shouting stops, what do they do? Many become coaches. Some go into team management. Others go into business. 

But only one that I know of becomes a Director of Social Impact, Growth and Fan Development.

That would be Andrew Ference.

During his 16 seasons as an NHL defenseman, Ference won a Stanley Cup with the Boston Bruins in 2011 and served as captain of the Edmonton Oilers. He also became known for his involvement with environmental and climate change-fighting causes — something that was unique at the time. 

Retiring after the 2015-16 season, Ference earned a certificate in Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) at Harvard and became an investor in sustainability-related startups before joining the NHL league office last month. GreenSportsBlog caught up with Ference to find out what his new role — and his cool and super-long job title — entails.

 

GreenSportsBlog: Andrew, it’s great to catch up. Director of Social Impact, Growth and Fan Development…When did you start and what does that job title actually mean?

Andrew Ference: I hit the ground running on NHL Green Month when I started on March 1, working with the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) team — Omar Mitchell, Alicia Chin and Paul LaCaruba. It was a smooth transition as I knew and had worked with them during my playing days. That gave me more experience and familiarity with the league office than the average player. The job came up as an extension of my environmental work as a player, as well as my experience on the league’s Joint Marketing Committee and as a representative to the Players’ Association (NHLPA). My role is varied and exciting in that we’re the people who get to look at the long term future of the game of hockey.

 

Andrew Ference

Andrew Ference, upon winning the 2016 Green Sports Alliance Environmental Leadership Award (Photo credit: Green Sports Alliance)

 

GSB: What does “looking at the future of the game of hockey” mean, exactly?

AF: A lot of things. In most jobs, in sports, business, whatever…you’re forced to manage with a short term perspective — the next two weeks, the next quarter. The NHL Corporate Social Responsibility team thinks and acts differently, putting more responsibility in the CSR department. I’ve been tasked with, among other things, looking at what hockey will look like 20, 30, 40 years out. What will the U.S. and Canada look like demographically? Especially with low birth rates meaning that immigration will need to continue to drive population growth. How can we get those new, mid 21st century Americans, especially those in places without a strong ice rink infrastructure, to care about hockey? We’re looking at things like street hockey, ball hockey, and floorball. We’re looking at inner cities in places we haven’t been before. We need to expand hockey as a thing to do.

GSB: What an interesting job! And what is floorball?

AF: It’s a hockey-like game that’s popular in places like Finland and Sweden. It’s embraced more by schools as it’s less dangerous. And we want to work to make it, like the other games I mentioned, a gateway to playing and caring about hockey.

 

Floorball

Floorball is one of several sports Andrew Ference is examining as potential gateways to ice hockey (Photo credit: Floorball.org)

 

GSB: Getting millennials and Gen-Z-ers to care at levels anywhere close to their elders is the holy grail for all sports. So looking at those generations and beyond is not only smart, it is essential, it seems to me. I can’t wait to hear more once you’ve had more time to dig into this part of your job. Let’s pivot from the long-term future to the present. What are you working on, sustainability-wise?

AF: Well, to be clear I had nothing to do with writing of the new sustainability report. That was all Omar and Alicia.

GSB: I know…it was a Herculean effort on their part!

AF: Yes, and Sustainability Report 2.0 did a great job I think, especially on the qualitative side. Going forward, a lot of what we will be working on on the environmental side will be on the quantitative, measurement side to answer the question: What is a sustainable rink? We will be data driven, both with NHL rinks and community rinks. We will take deep dives into water and energy usage, to see where we are and how to improve.

 

Report at a Glance

Screen shot of the 2018 NHL Sustainability Report

 

GSB: Are these data points, water, energy usage and the rest, easy to obtain?

AF: It’s not as easy as you might think, Lew. Twelve NHL arenas are shared with at least one NBA team or a Power 5 men’s college basketball team. What energy and water usage is a hockey team responsible for in those cases? You would think community rinks would be simpler — and many are. But many community rinks in Canada and some in the U.S. are part of a larger fitness center that includes a swimming pool, a gym, and more. In those cases, the same question applies as with the shared NHL-NBA arenas: What is the ice rink’s energy and water responsibility? So we will drill down deep and use the best quantitative tools we have to get the accurate answers we need.

GSB: I look forward to seeing those answers in Sustainability Report 3.0, if not before. One thing that drew my eye in the current Sustainability Report, version 2.0, was the way climate change was called out. How will climate be dealt with by the league in 2019 and beyond?

AF: I don’t see us thumping our chest about climate change. But we will look for and find more ways for our fans to compost at games, have greater access to mass transit and bike valets.

GSB: The NHL certainly has done a solid job at engaging fans who attend games on the environment about energy efficiency, water restoration and more. My question is more geared to fans who consume NHL hockey on TV, via mobile and who rarely or never go to a game. I know Green Week, or this year, Green Month, gets mentioned here and there but that is rare, it seems to me. How will you communicate NHL Green and the climate change fight — while not thumping your chests — to that large cohort of fans?

AF: Storytelling will play a key role in communicating NHL Green, including those related to climate, to our fans who don’t go to games. The good thing is that we have great stories to tell, from what the teams have done and are doing on the environment, to our players’ efforts. And these stories will be driven locally more than on a league-wide basis. Which makes sense to me — you’ve got to care about where you live, after all. That’s what the core of environmentalism is, right?

GSB: Indeed. You mentioned the players. As someone who was in the league not long ago, I imagine a part of your remit is dealing with the current crop.

AF: Yes, part of my job is as a liaison to current players from a community relations point of view. We are letting them know that they don’t have to fit a mold…

GSB: What do you mean by that?

AF: Well, for some players, visiting kids at a children’s hospital is the right thing. Others will feel more comfortable doing other things. We aim to empower our players to engage the way they like by finding out what they’re interested in, what motivates them and then to provide them with the opportunities to engage…

GSB: …Including engaging with environmental issues…

AF: Of course! I want to help the guys find what their things are, in terms of community relations. For me, it was the green thing. The idea is to go beyond what the team and league expect. And the great thing is that hockey guys are, for the most part, very humble, very relatable.

GSB: So with that being the case, and harkening back to your long term mission of growing the game 20 to 40 years out, what can you and the league do to help young people choose to play hockey and also to become fans? In Canada, the NHL is still the biggest thing so maybe it’s easier there. But in the U.S., you’ve got basketball, football. Soccer is growing. Baseball is still a factor, of course. And then there are individual sports as well. Lots of competition.

AF: Great question. I’m a believer that people choose one pursuit over another based on emotion. What feels good. Something you can do with your friends. Maybe a terrific coach inspires you. We’re working with Hockey Canada and USA Hockey to emphasize fun, friendships, and teamwork with young players. That’s the way you create memories, that’s the way you create hockey players and lifelong fans.

GSB: I for one hope you succeed because once you get them in, then the younger generations will be exposed to the generosity of the players, the league’s community relations initiatives which, of course, include its myriad of green programs.

 


 

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Say It Ain’t So! Ben Ainslie Racing Signs Title Sponsor Deal with Fracking and Chemical Company Ineos; 11th Hour Racing No Longer a Partner

Sir Ben Ainslie is the most decorated sailor in Olympics history. As skipper of Land Rover BAR, the British entry in the 2017 America’s Cup in Bermuda, he won deserved plaudits from the green and sports worlds, for making environmental sustainability, in particular ocean health, a core value of his team.

One thing Land Rover BAR did not win was the 2017 America’s Cup, despite spending in the neighborhood of £100 million ($USD135 million) over the four-year cycle. By some estimates, it will cost as much as 30 percent more to mount a legitimate campaign for the 2021 Cup, to be contested in New Zealand.

So when British fracking and chemical company, Ineos, and its founder Jim Ratcliffe, offered Ainslie £110 million ($153 million) to fund the lion’s share of his 2021 America’s Cup quest, Sir Ben had a choice: Take the money and risk being labeled a greenwasher, or keep his good name and his well-earned global reputation as an eco-athlete among fans, his competitors, sponsors and more.

He chose the money. 

 

Since 2015, GreenSportsBlog has posted no less than 10 stories featuring Sir Ben Ainslie and his Land Rover BAR sailing team’s significant and substantive sustainability programs, including an interview with Sir Ben. I publicly lauded his and his team’s sustainability bona fides any chance I got.

That is why, as recently as two weeks ago, I could not have imagined writing this sentence:

Sir Ben Ainslie is a greenwasher.

Sir Ben earned that moniker with the April 26th announcement that his team had signed Ineos, one of the UK’s leading fracking firms, as title sponsor for its 2021 America’s Cup campaign. This was big news beyond merely the Green-Sports niche: The Guardian and CNN, among others, covered it.

 

Ainslie Ratcliffe

Jim Ratcliffe (l), CEO of Ineos, with Sir Ben Ainslie (Photo credit: Toby Melville/Reuters)

 

To get a sense of how stunning Ainslie’s 180 degree flip from eco-athlete to greenwasher is, one has to turn back the clock only two years or so.

 

AINSLIE WALKED SUSTAINABILITY WALK AND TALKED SUSTAINABILITY TALK IN 2017 AMERICA’S CUP CAMPAIGN

It is no exaggeration to say that sustainability was the most core of core values — along with trust and integrity — for the Land Rover Ben Ainslie Racing (BAR) team during its four year campaign to win the 2017 America’s Cup. The team:

  • Built a state-of-the-art home base in Portsmouth to BREEAM Excellent (the British equivalent of LEED Gold) standards
  • Used Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) to measure and improve the efficiency of its use of resources, including from a carbon point of view, in the building of its race and support boats. This was a first in sailing
  • Promoted its clean oceans ethos to fans around the world during the America’s Cup World Series prep races and at the America’s Cup finals in Bermuda through engaging, interactive educational programs
  • Shared its sustainability stories with millions of fans around the world through a myriad of mainstream, sailing and green media
  • Funded the installation of solar panels at Bermuda’s National Museum

And much, much more.

Land Rover BAR would not have been able to pull the above without its groundbreaking and close partnership with 11th Hour Racing.

The Newport, RI-based organization partners with elite sailing teams committed to sustainable practices, providing them with financial, technical and other support. America’s Cup hopeful Land Rover BAR was certainly the organization’s highest profile elite sailing team partner. In addition to an annual investment estimated to be in the seven figures, 11th Hour Racing provided Sir Ben and his team with a wide range of sustainability-related services.

As Jeremy Pochman, 11th Hour Racing’s President, said in an April, 2016 GreenSportsBlog post, “We work with [Land Rover BAR] to meet the ambitious standards we set together: challenge and change practices in technology, procurement, energy production and use, efficiency, economy, community and legacy.”

 

Jeremy Pochman

Jeremy Pochman, President, 11th Hour Racing (Photo credit: Yachts And Yachting)

 

In the same story, Sir Ben showed he was fully on board: “It was clear to me when we launched the team that we could make a real difference – to operate sustainably, protect the marine environment and positively impact the people and local businesses we needed to build a winning team. With the help of 11th Hour Racing, we’ve set up Land Rover BAR to be one of the most sustainable sports teams on the planet.”

And, after attending “Inspiring Sustainability Through Partnership,” a two-day, late 2016 program at the University of Cambridge sponsored by 11th Hour Racing, Sir Ben went even deeper, talking about the need for humanity to aggressively take on climate change.

“In the last 30 years, climate change has accelerated and we have lost the equivalent of a third of the size of Europe in Arctic sea ice. The impact of this change is an infrastructure breakdown in some parts of the world, with increased conflict and migration as people are displaced in their efforts to survive; and agriculture and food supply are lost through extreme weather events, such as huge droughts or severe flooding.”

“We have already seen a one degree global temperature rise since pre-industrial levels. I’ve got a 3-month old daughter and if we continue to do nothing then in her lifetime she will see a further three degree global increase. It will lead to a sea level rise of almost a meter and potential loss of over 24 per cent of the mammals and half of the plant species currently on the planet. In that scenario we can anticipate massive disruption to society as individuals and nations struggle for the resources – water, food, energy – required to survive.”

When one takes into account the depth of this quote and Ainslie’s massive global popularity (sailing is a very big deal in many countries, not so much in the U.S.), it’s not a stretch to say that Sir Ben was the most influential eco-athlete in the world.

 

SAY IT AIN’T SO! SIR BEN SELLS OUT FOR INEOS’ FRACKING MONEY

What a difference a year makes.

Last year at this time, Land Rover BAR and 11th Hour Racing were working together to bring sustainability to racing fans in Bermuda, site of the 2017 America’s Cup finals.

But just a couple of weeks ago, Sir Ben announced he had ditched incumbent title sponsor Land Rover — which supported the team’s sustainability ethos in a number of ways — for fracking^ giant Ineos.

As reported by Matthew Campelli in Sport Sustainability Journal on April 30, Ainslie’s partnership with 11th Hour Racing also is no more. While representatives of the organization declined to comment for this story, it seems impossible to imagine that 11th Hour Racing would have worked with Ineos Team GB. Pochman, co-founder Wendy Schmidt and the rest of the 11th Hour Racing team must feel gutted.

 

Ben Wendy Harry Kenney-Herbert-Land Rover BAR

During happier times, Sir Ben Ainslie with Wendy Schmidt, co-founder of 11th Hour Racing (Photo credit: Harry Kenney-Herbert/Land Rover BAR)

 

What the frack happened?

The prospect of skippering Britain’s first-ever America’s Cup win clearly trumped Sir Ben’s (I guess not so deep) commitment to sustainability.

And, with costs to mount a 2021 America’s Cup campaign expected to run as much as 30 percent higher as compared to 2017, money was an understandable concern for Ainslie.

Until Ineos’ Jim Ratcliffe, recently announced as Britain’s richest man, stepped up with his £110 million offer, that is.

Ainslie was quoted thusly by Martha Kelner in the April 26 issue of The Guardian: “The investment of Ineos leaves us with our best ever chance of bringing the America’s Cup home.” Allow me to translate that bland, press release-type language into what Sir Ben might have been thinking: Hmmm, with Ineos providing virtually all of my funding needs, I can focus on sailing pretty much 24-7. Land Rover and 11th Hour Racing won’t be able to cover our expenses by themselves so if I stayed with them, I would have had to spend valuable time selling more sponsors. And, if we end up needing additional funding, Mr. Ratcliffe can probably ring up his friends Charles and David Koch to sign on Koch Industries. OK let’s do this!

In the same story, somehow, the depth of climate change knowledge Sir Ben expressed in late 2016 eluded him in 2018: “Fracking is not a subject I’m an expert on, but I know, having worked with Ineos for this partnership, that they take their responsibilities with the environment extremely seriously.” Translation: Climate change? Sustainability? I want to talk about sailing! Of course if — strike that — when we bring the America’s Cup home to Britain, all of this will be forgotten by my fans, the media, everyone.

 

WILL FANS CARE?

Aside from some excited comments about the new partnership from sailing and technological perspectives, early reaction on Ineos Team GB’s Facebook account was largely negative. Many commenters were disgusted with Sir Ben’s turn towards Ineos and fracking and away from sustainability. Here’s a sampler:

$217 million buys your conscience and your morals? WOW! The seas are murderously loaded with plastics and your sponsor is a plastics manufacturer who intends to turn the UK into a toxic teabag for fracked gas. You are clearly seeing the dollars but ignoring the two most important issues of life, environment and health.

Please think about it. Ineos will pollute the ground. It’s not a safe bet for sponsorship.

Ineos is a fracking company which brings significant challenges for ongoing public support for the team.

But the sad truth is winning does cure pretty much everything, at least from a PR perspective. Many fans across all sports, from all corners of the world, excuse awful behavior from the favorite players, from domestic violence to tax fraud to PED# use, as long as they win. Sir Ben didn’t cheat. He didn’t beat anyone.

All Ainslie did was play the fans, sponsors and media — yours truly included — who bought into his “commitment to sustainability” spiel for fools.

All he did was make a mockery of his core values.

And all he did was show his now two year-old daughter that he values an America’s Cup on the mantel more than clean oceans and a hospitable climate.

Say in ain’t so, Ben.

 

^ Fracking (also known by its more technical name, hydraulic fracturing) is a process by which large amounts of water and sand, combined with often hazardous chemicals, are injected, at high rates of pressure, into rock formations to fracture surrounding material for the purpose of extracting oil and gas. Its negative environmental and health impacts are legion, many of which would’ve concerned pre-Ineos Sir Ben. These include contamination of groundwater, large volume water use in water-challenged regions, methane pollution which exacerbates climate change, exposure to toxic chemicals, and fracking-induced earthquakes.

 

 


 

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GSB News and Notes: Big Earth Day for Green-Sports in Baltimore, Chicago and London; Eco-QB Josh Rosen Drafted By Arizona

The Green-Sports world was on overdrive over Earth Day last weekend. Oriole Park at Camden Yards, the beautiful home of the Baltimore Orioles, earned LEED Gold status. The Chicago White Sox became the first team in Major League Baseball to no longer dispense plastic straws at their home games. The London Marathon tried out compostable cups. And the Kia Oval, South London home of the Surrey County Cricket Club, announced it would be single use plastic-free by 2020. Plus, a few words on the first round of the NFL Draft as the Arizona Cardinals traded up to the 10th spot to take UCLA QB — and eco-athlete — Josh Rosen.

 

ORIOLE PARK EARNS LEED GOLD CERTIFICATION FOR EXISTING BUILDINGS

The Baltimore Orioles and Maryland Stadium Authority (MSA) celebrated Earth Day by announcing that 26 year-old Oriole Park at Camden Yards — the venue that ushered in the “retro stadium” movement in baseball and a must-visit if, like me, you love ballparks — earned LEED Gold certification for existing buildings. Oriole Park now is part of a four-member club of LEED Gold certified MLB ballparks (AT&T Park in San Francisco, Marlins Park in Miami and Minneapolis’ Target Field are the other three).

The iconic B&O Warehouse, which is home to the Orioles offices just beyond the right field fence, also earned LEED Silver certification. Both facilities garnered LEED points for a variety of sustainability practices, including waste management, recycling, paperless tickets, and the installation of state-of-the-art energy efficiency systems.

 

Camden yards Ballparks of Baseball

Oriole Park at Camden Yards, newly certified at LEED Gold for existing buildings, with LEED Silver B&O Warehouse beyond the right field wall (Photo credit: Ballparks of Baseball)

 

“The historic and iconic Oriole Park at Camden Yards, already amongst the best ballpark experiences, is now further enhanced with energy efficient equipment and environmentally conscious improvements,” said Maryland Lt. Governor Boyd Rutherford. “The LEED certification project, fully funded by MSA, supports Maryland’s commitment to sustainability, every day, and especially this Earth Day.”

To celebrate the LEED-i-fication of Camden Yards, all Orioles players and coaches wore green-accented jerseys and caps for last Sunday’s Earth Day game. The game-worn jerseys and caps were autographed and authenticated, and are being auctioned online at www.orioles.com/auctions to benefit the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.

 

CHICAGO WHITE SOX SAY NO TO PLASTIC STRAWS

In an effort to reduce plastic waste, the Chicago White Sox announced that they would become the first MLB club — and the first Chicago pro team, no matter the sport — to no longer provide plastic straws with drinks sold at their stadium. Biodegradable straws are replacing their plastic cousins at Guaranteed Rate Field^.

The policy, which went into effect on Earth Day, is the result of a partnership with Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium and its “Shedd the Straw” campaign which encourages Chicago residents to stop using single-use plastic straws.

 

Shedd The Straw

 

“As an advocate for wildlife, Shedd Aquarium has declared that Earth Day is the last straw for single-use plastics that threaten water health and environmental quality,” the aquarium said in a statement.

 

COMPOSTABLE CUPS AT LONDON MARATHON

Earth Day’s London Marathon was the hottest in the race’s 37 year history, with temperatures reaching 75°F. That meant the 40,000 or so runners faced even more of a thirst-quenching, endurance test than normal with huge numbers of drink bottles and cups distributed.

 

London Marathon

Sunday’s London Marathon was run in record heat (Photo credit: London Marathon)

 

The plastic waste issue is significant and organizers took an important step to address it by piloting the distribution of 90,000 compostable cups along three drink stations.

Mike Childs, a campaigner at Friends of the Earth, told BBC Radio 5 Live that: “The compostable water cups being trialled have the potential to lessen the amount of plastic waste created by the marathon, but there are challenges when it comes to the correct collection and processing of these to ensure they have their full impact”.

That is why race organizers also made 760,000 recyclable plastic bottles available to runners. A spokesperson for the London Marathon told BBC Radio 5 Live that using recyclable plastic bottles remains “the best solution for the distribution of water and sports drinks to the more than 40,000 runners.”

 

KIA OVAL TO GO SINGLE-USE PLASTIC-FREE BY 2020

Meanwhile, in South London, Surrey County Cricket Club announced it plans to make the Kia Oval a single use plastic free stadium by 2020.

According to an April 20 story in sportindustry.biz, the commitment is a logical extension for the club that, since 2015, has served beer in recyclable and reusable pint glasses, and this season banned plastic straws, introduced compostable coffee cups, and is phasing out plastic bags in the club shop.

 

KIA OVAL Sport Industry Group

Kia Oval, home of Surrey County Cricket Club (Photo credit: Sport Industry Group)

 

Going green has certainly been good for business for Surrey CCC: Last year, it inked deals with new sponsors Fidelity Energy and ENGIE, which ensures that all electricity used at the Kia Oval is generated from sustainable sources. The partnership has already saved 223.8 tons of carbon.

 

 

ECO-QB JOSH ROSEN DRAFTED BY ARIZONA CARDINALS IN FIRST ROUND

Two weeks ago in GSB, I opined that with the third pick in the first round of the NFL Draft, my quarterback-needy (desperate?) New York Jets should select UCLA’s Josh Rosen, the “best pure passer and the most intelligent” player available.

And that was before I found out climate change is a big concern of his. In an in-depth interview on espn.com with Sam Alipour, Rosen declared, “One cause I’ll champion is the environment. It touches everything. I mean, the war in Syria started because of the drought and famine that destabilized the country and led the population to revolt against the government. I know global warming is a partisan issue for some stupid reason, but it touches everything.”

How cool is THAT?!?

While I clearly preferred Rosen to two of the other three quarterbacks being considered as top 10 picks, Wyoming’s Josh Allen and Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield, I did make one hedge. If Sam Darnold was available when the Jets picked, I’d go with the USC signal caller over the twice-concussed Rosen by a smidge because he moves better and will likely be more durable. Draft experts at the time felt Darnold would be gone by the Jets pick, with either the Cleveland Browns at one or the New York Giants at two taking him. In that case, I would’ve been more than happy to see a green Rosen to wearing Jets green.

But, the Browns selected Mayfield with the first overall pick and the Giants did not pick a QB, opting for Penn State running back Saquon Barkley, generally regarded as the best player in the draft, regardless of position. The Jets, with both LA quarterbacks available, chose Darnold. And Rosen began to fall.

 

Sam Darnold USC Trojans

Sam Darnold (r) with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, after being picked by the New York Jets with the third pick in the first round of Thursday’s NFL Draft (photo credit: USC Trojans)

 

That slide ended when the Arizona Cardinals traded with the Oakland Raiders so they could snag Rosen with the tenth pick.

Arizona is a perfect place for Rosen, from a football perspective (the Cardinals run an offense that fits his skill set) and climate change-wise (the Phoenix area has been buffeted by its effects, from frequent and deep droughts to high temperature records being broken frequently).

 

Rosen Ringer

Josh Rosen, new QB of the Arizona Cardinals, with commissioner Goodell (photo credit: The Ringer)

 

So here’s hoping that, on February 7, 2021, at Tampa’s Raymond James Stadium, the Jets with Darnold defeat the Rosen-led Cardinals in Super Bowl LV.

Before that, here’s hoping that Darnold joins Rosen in the climate change fight. And when Darnold joins the eco-athlete club, let’s tell the sports media they should let fans know about it (#CoverGreenSports).

 

 

^ I know naming rights deals are lucrative but Guaranteed Rate Field doesn’t have a great ring to it IMHO.

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UCLA’s Josh Rosen, Eco-Athlete, Hopefully Will Be Gang Green’s (aka NY Jets) Next Quarterback

This year’s NFL draft is considered by many so-called experts to be a quarterback bonanza. Many mock drafts have four QBs — in alphabetical order, they are Josh Allen of Wyoming, Sam Darnold of USC, Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield, and Josh Rosen of UCLA — being chosen in the top 10 picks of the first round. In fact, there is a solid chance that the first three picks of the draft will be quarterbacks. It says here that, if he is available when Gang Green, aka the New York Jets, my New York Jets make the third overall pick in the first round, they should select Rosen for two good reasons: 1. He’s the best pure passer in the draft and has a high football IQ, and 2. He’s an eco-athlete! 

 

EDITORS’ WARNING: THE FIRST TEN PARAGRAPHS OF THIS GSB POST GET INTO THE MINUTIAE OF THE NFL DRAFT, THE ANNUAL SELECTION OF COLLEGE FOOTBALL STARS THAT DRAWS A TELEVISION AUDIENCE OF ALMOST 10 MILLION VIEWERS, AS WELL AS THE PSYCHOLOGICAL SCARS OF NEW YORK JETS FANS. IF THIS DOES NOT APPEAL TO YOU BUT YOU ARE INTERESTED IN THE ECO-ATHLETE ASPECT OF THIS STORY, PLEASE SKIP AHEAD TO THE PROMPT BELOW. THANK YOU.

The New York Jets have been in the quarterback desert for almost 50 years, the halcyon days of Joe Willie Namath and the miracle of Super Bowl III. As a Jets fan since the then, I — and my brothers and sisters in green — have suffered, quarterback-wise, through the unspeakably awful (Browning Nagle, Geno Smith), the hopeful-but-ultimately-meh (Richard Todd, Mark Sanchez), the good-ones-derailed-by-injury (Chad Pennington) and the pretty-good-but-did-they-really-bloody-pick-him-before-Dan Marino?!?! (Ken O’Brien).

 

Browning Nagle

Browning Nagle, one of many Jets quarterback busts over the past 40 years (Photo credit: Gang Green Nation)

 

That legacy of abject failure means most Jets fans approach the first round of the 2018 draft — which takes place April 26 in Dallas — with typical sports fan hope (“we’re picking third, we need a quarterback AGAIN and there are four top QB prospects. We will get one of them!”) leavened by a heaping helping of fatalism (“not all of them will be good and these idiots will pick the wrong guy!” and/or “even if they pick the right guy, he’ll get hurt!”)

And that fatalism is amped up by the fact that the Jets, originally slotted to pick sixth in the first round (the 32 NFL teams pick in inverse order of their finish the season before — the team with the worst record picks first, the team that won the Super Bowl picks 32nd), traded two their two* second round draft picks this year and their second round pick in 2019 to the Indianapolis Colts to move up to the third slot as they were fearful of missing out on the Big Four. Second round draft picks are expected to turn out to be solid-to-very good starters so that was a heavy price to pay. But if you don’t have a quarterback, you’re nowhere, so, it says here, it was a trade the Jets had to make.

And that amped up fatalism has been dialed up to DEFCON1^ status because, as good as the Class of 2018 quarterbacks appear to be — Allen has one of the most powerful arms seen in recent years, Darnold looks like the complete package, especially his ability to improvise under pressure, Mayfield is a leader and is very accurate, and Rosen is seen as the best pure passer and the most intelligent of the bunch — none are sure things. They all have flaws: Allen’s accuracy, Darnold turns the ball over too much, Mayfield is too short, and Rosen has a concussion history and is alleged to have personality issues (or, as Sam Alipour of ESPN The Magazine puts it, while “roughly half of draft-loving America feels he’s a future franchise QB, while the other half fears he’s a crap-stirring, system-disrupting locker room poison pill.”)

So, who should the Jets pick? It depends on who will be available.

With the draft two weeks away, conventional wisdom has it that the Cleveland Browns, picking first and with a three decades long need at QB, will select Darnold. As an aside, if you’re unfamiliar with the NFL draft and the first 500+ words of this post make no sense, rent the 2014 movie “Draft Day,” starring Kevin Costner. It gives you a Hollywood-i-fied version of the draft, it’s entertaining and Costner’s character runs the draft for the Cleveland Browns. Art imitating life.

The New York Giants — the “older brother” rival of the Jets — have the second pick. Eli Manning won two Super Bowls (2008, 2012) for them at QB but he’s 37. Backup Davis Webb, a third round pick last year, is untested. If these QBs are really “all that”, then the Giants will pick one. If they opt to stay with Manning and Webb, they could trade down to amass more picks, to a team more desperate for a signal-caller (Denver, Miami, Buffalo, and Arizona are all in that predicament, to one degree or another). Or, they stay put pick the best non-quarterback in the draft. I think Big Blue will pick a QB. My guess — and it’s just a guess — is that they will take Josh Allen, loving his big arm in the cold weather games of the northeast. But, for the sake of this Jets-centric post, let’s assume they take a non-QB (pass rusher Bradley Chubb would be my choice in that case), giving Gang Green the choice of the law firm of Allen, Mayfield, and Rosen.

I would pick Josh Rosen.

 

Josh Rosen Michael Owen Baker:Associated Press

Josh Rosen, working out for NFL scouts in the run up to the draft (Photo credit: Michael Owen Baker/Associated Press)

 

My biggest concern is his concussion history but I’m not worried about the personality stuff. And on the field, I like his vision, decision making and arm. He’s not as good a runner as the other three but he moves well enough to extend plays. If Darnold somehow is available when the Jets pick, I would take him. Otherwise, for me, it’s Rosen.

 

Rosen Darnold Kevin kuo USA Today

Josh Rosen (l) and Sam Darnold shake hands after Darnold’s USC Trojans defeated Rosen’s UCLA Bruins last season (Photo credit: Kevin Kuo/USA Today)

 

ECO-ATHLETE ONLY READERS, IT’S SAFE TO REJOIN US HERE.

And that was before I learned about Rosen’s eco-athleticism on Tuesday. In an in-depth interview on espn.com with Sam Alipour (it’s well worth reading), Rosen took on the personality issues that have dogged him, and showed himself to be a curious, insightful 21 year-old. And he also discussed climate change when discussing which causes he will champion as a pro:

I think it’ll evolve, but one cause I’ll champion is the environment. It touches everything. I mean, the war in Syria started because of the drought and famine that destabilized the country and led the population to revolt against the government. I know global warming is a partisan issue for some stupid reason, but it touches everything.

Rosen is the first athlete I know of who made the link between climate change, the drought in Syria, and, by inference, the resulting refugee crisis. I expect this from Pulitzer Prize winning New York Times columnist Thomas L. Friedman but not from a quarterback about to be a first round NFL draft pick.

It shows common sense, the ability to connect dots, and the ability to think. All important, if underrated, qualities for an NFL QB.

So, to New York Jets General Manager Mike Maccagnan, the ultimate decider in the draft room, bring eco-athlete Josh Rosen to Gang Green.

Unless, of course, Sam Darnold is available. Then all bets are off.

 

* The Jets had an additional second round pick in the 2018 draft due to a prior trade with the Seattle Seahawks
^ DEFCON1 is the most severe level of readiness of the U.S. military, on a 1 to 5 scale

 


 

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GSB Eco-Scorecard #4: Catching Up with Green-Sports Leaders on the Field

Since 2013, GreenSportsBlog has featured the teams and athletes leading the sports-greening movement. What we haven’t focused on is their work on the field, in the arena, on the track.

So in September, we launched GSB Eco-Scoreboard: Catching Up with Green-Sports Leaders on the Field, an occasional series highlighting recent on-field/court results of the greenest teams and athletes. Why? Because if they do well, their green messages will gain a wider audience.

But what if the eco-athletes struggle?

Hey, I’m a Jets, Knicks and Rutgers sports fan. I — and a gazillion other sports fans — certainly can relate to struggle. And those engaged in the climate change fight know it is a multi-generational slog. 

So the theme of today’s fourth Eco-Scoreboard entry is struggle and overcoming obstacles.

 

STEPHEN PISCOTTY STARTS ANEW WITH OAKLAND A’S, FIGHTS ALS ON BEHALF OF MOM

GreenSportsBlog first wrote about Piscotty last January after we learned that the then-Cardinals outfielder had majored in Atmosphere and Energy Engineering at Stanford and is keenly interested in the investment and climate change fighting possibilities in inherent in renewable energy. That Piscotty was coming off of a stellar rookie campaign in 2016 made the story all the better.

But 2017 proved to be challenging on and off the field.

On the field, Piscotty dealt with two stints on the disabled list with hamstring and groin injuries along with a sophomore slump at the plate. The double whammy led to a brief demotion to Triple-A Memphis in August.

The off field news was much, much worse as Piscotty’s mother, Gretchen, was diagnosed with ALS^ or Lou Gehrig’s Disease.

In our most recent Eco-Scorecard in January, we shared the news that Piscotty had been traded by the Cardinals to the Oakland A’s, only an hour’s drive from his parents’ home. Both the Cardinals and the A’s acknowledged that Gretchen’s illness was a factor in the trade. Amazing, no?

“It says a lot about both organizations,” Piscotty said in a February 23rd interview with Martin Gallegos of The San Jose Mercury News. “Baseball is very important, but sometimes there are other things that may take priority. It’s heartwarming and humbling, and we are so grateful.”

Piscotty is projected to be the A’s starting right fielder in 2018. After a very slow start at the plate in spring training, he rebounded over the past ten days, getting his batting average up to a respectable .269 with 2 home runs. If Piscotty can stay healthy, it says here that he will provide stability and punch to the Oakland lineup, with results resembling his breakout 22 HR, 85 RBI rookie 2016 campaign rather than his difficult 2017 (9 HR, 37 RBI).

Meanwhile, the 27 year-old has decided to set up a donation page along with his family to raise funds for ALS research.

“My mom was on board with it and we felt like getting something started would be a really cool thing,” Piscotty told Gallegos. “It actually came about by one of my mom’s really good friends, who has actually been helping us a tremendous amount at the house. She is going to run a couple races and dedicate those to my mom, so we are just rallying around that to raise funding and awareness and also kind of use my platform to attack it in that sort of way. I’m pretty excited about the support we have gotten already, and we’ll keep going.”

 

 

Piscotty A's

Stephen Piscotty in his new Oakland A’s uniform (Photo credit: Aric Crabb/Bay Area News Group)

 

 

More Piscotty: “It’s one of those things that is hard to talk about, but awareness is step one and then the funding. People have to know about it before they are going to donate, and what have you. I think that is the biggest thing. The ice bucket challenge that happened a few years ago was a tremendous thing, and I think there is a jalapeno challenge that is starting to circle around, and hopefully that catches fire too. Things like that day by day and little by little will eventually get us there.”

People looking to contribute to the fund can do so by visiting www.youcaring.com/alstherapydevelopmentinstitute-1101042#mlb-oakland.

 

POW MEMBER AND U.S. CROSS COUNTRY SKIER ANDY NEWELL HOPES PYEONGCHANG 2018 IS HIS LAST OLYMPICS

Cross country skier Andy Newell is a leading member of Protect Our Winters (POW), the group of elite winter sports athletes who advocate for climate action. In the run up to the 2014 Sochi Olympics, Newell co-drafted a letter with fellow Vermonter and climate change fighter Bill McKibben — and founder of 350.org — addressed to world leaders, urging them to sign the Paris Climate Agreement. He helped lead POW’s participation in the People’s Climate March in New York City last April and has lobbied members of Congress of both parties on climate-related legislation.

Qualifying for his fourth Olympics at age 34, Newell took on the high-pressured first leg of the 4×10 km relay. After a decent start — he reached the initial 1.67 km split in 8th place in the 14-team race — Newell struggled, ending up in 12th place with a time of 26 minutes 09.7 seconds, 1.28.8 off the lead. Team USA’s difficulties continued from there as they finished in last, 9 minutes 24 seconds behind the gold medal winners from Norway.

“As expected, it was tough,” Newell told USA Today Network’s Jeff Seidel. “It’s always nerve-wracking to go out first. It’s an honor to lead off the team, but it’s also a high-pressure situation. I went out and did my best. I was dying. I actually barfed my face off at the end of the race. That’s how I know I pushed myself pretty hard.”

 

Andy Newell

Andy Newell (r) and Canada’s Len Valjas scrambling during the first leg 4×10 km cross country ski race at the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics (Photo credit: Flying Point Road)

 

Newell hopes PyeongChang is his final Olympics, despite sounding like he wants to give qualifying for Beijing 2022 a go.

Wait, what? He wants to try out for another Olympics and…fail?

Well, when one considers Newell’s team-first, legacy-based ethos, his willingness to see the next generation of U.S cross country skiers beat him out four years from now starts to make some sense.

“The only thing that would make me happier than going to a…fifth Olympics would be that the U.S. team is so strong that a guy like me can’t make it,” said Newell to Seidel.“Hopefully those guys will be crushing it and they will be coming in as medal contenders…I hope that an old guy like me won’t even be able to make the team four years from now.”

 

FOREST GREEN ROVERS STRUGGLING TO AVOID RELEGATION

GreenSportsBlog readers know Forest Green Rovers (FGR) as the Greenest Team in Sports — from its solar powered “Mow-Bots” used to manicure the organic pitch at The New Lawn stadium to all vegan-only concession stands.

FGR took a major step up on the pitch in 2017, earning promotion from the fifth to the fourth tier of English football — the highest rung achieved in the club’s 125-year history. The trick for FGR this season is to stay in the fourth tier and avoid relegation down from whence they came. Their task is clear: finish above the bottom two places in the 24-team league when the campaign ends in May.

Newly-promoted sides often struggle to stay “up” and FGR is no different as they’ve flirted with the “drop zone” all season. But an undefeated February (three wins and a draw) gave the club some breathing room.

Their run of good play continued as the calendar turned to March when super-sub Lee Collins scored in the 81st minute to earn a back-and-forth 3-3 draw at Newport County.

 

Lee Colins

Forest Green Rovers’ Lee Collins (#5) exults after scoring the 81st minute equalizer in their 3-3 draw at Newport County on March 3rd (Photo credit: Forest Green Rovers)

 

The 81st minute came back to bite FGR at home on Saturday as it was Notts County who scored during that 60 second window to earn a 2-1 win, ending Forest Green’s six match unbeaten streak. Still, the club sits in 20th place with 37 points, seven points ahead of the drop zone with 10 matches to play.

But safety is not yet assured as the season moves to its May conclusion and the struggle continues for FGR with two road contests in four days.

First, Forest Green visits first place Accrington Stanley on Saturday. Then its a mid-week battle among two clubs eager to stay afloat when FGR heads to 19th place Crewe Alexander.

 


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