Category Archives: Todd Proa

What You Didn’t Know About the Marquis de Lafayette

Marquis de LafayetteEarlier this week, bestselling author Sarah Vowell released the book “Lafayette in the Somewhat United States”, which tells the story of French aristocrat Marquis de Lafayette and his role in the American Revolution.  As a teenager, he left France to fight for the American cause, and earned a place in the history books as one of early America’s great heroes.  I recently came across an article that features some facts about the Marquis de Lafayette you might not have known, listed below:

1. He had a very long birth name: As was quite common for aristocrats at this time, Lafayette’s full name was quite a mouthful: Marie-Joseph-Paul-Yves-Roch-Gilbert du Motier de la Fayette.  In his autobiography, Lafayette joked that he was baptized “with the name of every conceivable saint who might offer me more protection in battle”.

2. King George’s brother convinced Lafayette to fight the British: In 1775, Lafayette attended a dinner party where the Duke of Gloucester, younger brother of George III of England, was the guest of honor.  Angry at his older brother for condemning his recent choice of a bride, Gloucester hit back at his brother’s policies in the colonies, praising the exploits of liberty-loving Americans across the ocean.  This struck a chord with Lafayette, who immediately went to Paris so he could travel from there to America.

3. Lafayette arrived in America at the age of 19 and with no combat experience: Despite the fact that King Louis XVI had forbade Lafayette from going to America for fear of provoking the British King, the young Marquis eluded authorities and crossed the Atlantic Ocean in 1777.  Even though he was from a military family and had been commissioned a French officer since he was 13, Lafayette had no battle experience and spoke little English.  Yet he was still able to convince the Continental Army to commission him a major general in July of 1777.

4. He was shot in the leg during his first battle: During the Battle of Brandywine in September of 1777, Lafayette was shot in the calf.  Refusing treatment, he managed to organize a successful retreat, and was given command over his own division after a two-month recuperation.

5. Lafayette named his only son after George Washington: Lafayette held George Washington in incredibly high esteem as both a “friend and a father”, remaining by his side from the harsh winter at Valley Forge in 1777 to the battle of Yorktown in 1781.  In 1779, he named his newly-born son Georges Washington de Lafayette, and three years later named his youngest daughter Marie Antoinette Virginie in honor of Virginia and the French queen.

American Foxhound

American foxhound

6. Lafayette helped create a new breed of dog: In 1785, Lafayette sent Washington seven large French hounds as a gift.  To increase the size of a pack of English foxhounds he owned, Washington bred them with the imports.  The combination of these hounds and Lafayette’s dogs created the American Foxhound, described by the American Kennel Club as “easy-going, sweet-tempered, independent”.

7. LaFayette co-authored the Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen: Inspired by the ideals of the American Revolution, Lafayette, with the help of Thomas Jefferson, wrote one of history’s most important documents about human and civil rights.  The National Assembly adopted the Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen in August of 1789, and is still enshrined in France’s constitution to this day.

8. Lafayette is an honorary American citizen: In 1784, Maryland gave Lafayette honorary citizenship, and other states followed suit.  Yet in 1935, the US State Department determined that the measures did not result in the marquis becoming a US citizen after the Constitution was ratified.  This was remedied in 2002 after Lafayette became the sixth foreigner to be given honorary American citizenship.

Old Marquis de Lafayette

A painting of Lafayette from 1825, when he was just a couple years shy of 70.

9. He was still a revolutionary leader at the age of 72: After King Charles X dissolved the National Assembly and suspended the free press in 1830, Lafayette rushed to the aid of the revolutionaries that erected barricades in the streets of Paris, a scene immortalized in the novel and musical “Les Miserables”.  After the king was forced to abdicate, Lafayette turned down the opportunity to rule as a dictator, instead backing Louis-Philippe on the throne as a constitutional monarch.  Yet after being disappointed by a lack of reforms, Lafayette was up in arms again, leading the liberal opposition to the ruler in his last years.

10. Lafayette was buried in both French and American soil: After dying at the age of 76 in 1834, Lafayette was laid to rest next to his wife in the Picpus Cemetery in Paris.  Since he had requested to be buried in both American and French soil, Lafayette’s son covered his coffin with dirt taken from Bunker Hill in 1825.

The Lowest Paid Athletes

New York Lizards

Even if they’re rockstars of the professional lacrosse world, teams like the New York Lizards (portrayed here) are paid a fraction of what other American athletes are paid.

For most sports, being a professional athlete offers wildly lucrative deals and contracts that would make anybody jealous.  In the NFL, first-year players earn a minimum of $420,000, rookies in MLB and the NBA take in a least $507,000, and the starting salary for the NHL is $525,000.  Yet not all sports are so lucky; I recently came across an article that sheds light onto one professional sport, Major League Lacrosse, where salaries are a laughable fraction of that; rookies make about $7,000 a season, with the average for all players falling somewhere between $10,000 and $20,000.

Despite its previous status as a “fringe sport”, only popular among the elite of the Northeast, lacrosse has rapidly gained popularity in the past 20 years or so.  The first pro league for field lacrosse, Major League Lacrosse, was founded in 1999, and currently contains nine teams with seasons that run from April to August.  Despite increasing popularity at the amateur level, professional lacrosse has been slow to catch on.  The salaries for professional lacrosse players are so low that the athletes are often forced to keep day jobs.  Take, for example Brett Schmidt.  Now 26, he’s been playing lacrosse since he was in third grade.  While he plays as a defender with the Charlotte Hounds, lacrosse is only his second job; he works full-time as a financial adviser and BB&T Wealth to supplement his mere $10,000 annual salary that comes from his lacrosse playing.

Many professional lacrosse players view their job as more summer part-time work, meaning that they need to scramble to make a living.  Most lacrosse players work in finance, while others are able to cobble together a full-time career in lacrosse through supplementing their work with endorsement deals, appearance fees and merchandising ventures.  When it comes to such a living, none have been quite so successful as Paul Rabil, who is able to earn more than his teammates thanks to his status as one of the league’s biggest stars.  While Rabil’s salary is higher than the league average, he still needs to supplement it with outside deals.  Some of these include a subscription service called the “Paul Rabil experience”, where he serves as a digital coach to aspiring lacrosse players.

Other professional players are able to make a full-time lacrosse career for themselves through coaching, such as Boston Cannons player Scott Ratliff, who coaches at LB3 Lacrosse, which operates camps and clinics.  Getting to games can be tough for some players; despite the fact that he plays for Boston, Ratliff lives in Atlanta.  Most teams carry between 21 and 26 players on their active rosters.  The league covers the cost of transportation and meals for the 21 players who travel, but only the 19 who make it onto a game’s active roster end up getting paid.  While some coaches make decisions early about who will be on the active roster, some players travel without having any idea whether they’ll get to play or get paid.

It Ain’t Over Till It’s Over

Yogi Berra

Yogi Berra examines his uniform

No matter your opinion about the New York Yankees, their ranks have held a series of truly iconic baseball players, including Joe DiMaggio, Babe Ruth and Derek Jeter, among others.  Yet one of their most recognizable was Yogi Berra, who tragically passed away two days ago at the age of 90.  While his death is undoubtedly sad, it can’t be denied that Berra led a full life; apart from being an exceptional baseball player, Berra was a legendary coach, endless source of goofy, folksy wisdom and even the inspiration for an iconic Hanna-Barbera cartoon!

The beloved Hall of Famer, who uttered countless malapropisms and contradictory phrases, was an essential part of the New York Yankees’ unstoppable roster from the late 1940s to the early 1960s, playing alongside such names as Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle.  Partly due to the Yankees’ success during this era, 15-time All-Star Yogi Berra established several Fall Classic records, including most games played, most at-bats and most hits.  In 1957, he became the first World Series pinch-hitter to hit a home run.  After his career as a player ended in 1965, Berra maintained an instantly-recognizable presence in professional baseball as a coach and manager, and is one of only six managers to lead an American League and National League team to the World Series.  Leading both the Mets and Yankees to victories on numerous occasions, he’s become an undying symbol of New York baseball.

Yogi was born Lawrence Berra to Italian immigrant parents in Missouri, and earned his distinct nickname after a childhood friend noticed his resemblance to a Hindu yogi in a movie they saw.  He only had an eighth grade education, leaving school to help support his family and play American Legion ball.  After serving in World War II, Berra joined the Yankees’ roster in late 1946, and quickly earned recognition with his excellent coverage of the strike zone and an unflappable control of the bat.  His accuracy with the bat was legendary; he had more home runs than strikeouts in five of his 19 seasons, and in 1950 he struck out just 12 times in 597 at-bats.  Yet hitting wasn’t his only strong point; Berra was hailed for his skill as a fielder, and baseball stat guru Bill James has calculated that he was the greatest catcher of all time.

After a career as a player-coach and manager of the Yankees and Mets, Berra became a fixture at Yankees spring training, and in 2009 threw an historic Opening Day first pitch at the new Yankee Stadium.  Even those who didn’t watch baseball could recognize Berra as the spokesman for numerous products, including Yoo-hoo and Entenmann’s.  He opened the Yogi Berra Museum and Learning Center in northern New Jersey in 1998, and even helped raise funds for the National Italian American Foundation.  He is survived by his three sons, all athletes, and 11 grandchildren.

Thomas Defends Brady

Joe Thomas Cleveland Browns

Joe Thomas

Even as the upcoming football season is upon us, the controversy surrounding Deflategate has continued.  In a recent interview, Joe Thomas of the Cleveland Browns has stated he doesn’t think the punishment imposed on Tom Brady fits the crime.  After the Cleveland Browns’ training camp practice, he equated the punishment to getting the death penalty for “driving 66 [mph] in a 65 speed zone”.  The left tackle said that Brady doesn’t even deserve to be fined, although added that what Goodell has been doing is “brilliant”, whether or not that was intentional, since he helped make the NFL relevant for a whole year by having these “witch hunts”.

While this is pretty embarrassing for the league, Thomas pointed out that football is ultimately an “entertainment business”, with the ultimate goal of attracting the attention of TV and newspapers.  And the controversy surrounding Deflategate has given them plenty of attention.  In an ESPN interview, Thomas touched on many elements of the deflated football saga and ruling, calling Goodell’s decision “completely ridiculous”, since the league allows quarterbacks to go to great lengths to make game footballs how they want them.  He defended the actions of fellow footballer Tom Brady, saying that he was just trying to do what he can to gain a “competitive advantage” to help him play better, and we shouldn’t punish him for that, and applauded his effort to fight the suspension in federal court.

Thomas has acknowledged that the collective bargaining agreement gives Goodell disciplinary power in many matters, most likely an oversight by the players who didn’t expect him to act so unreasonably.  He said that the world of football isn’t as much about the “game” any more, calling out the “Kim Kardashian factor that any news is good news”.

FIFA Trying to Save Face

Francois Carrard

Francois Carrard

With the recent scandal in FIFA that forced Sepp Blatter to step down, it would seem that FIFA was on the way to recovering its image.  However, problems seem to continue to abound.  The man charged with leading FIFA’s reform task force is a 77 year-old Swiss lawyer named Francois Carrard, whose off-color comments in a recent interview seem to be doing little to help repair how people view FIFA.  In 2015, he spoke in a public interview where he dismissed soccer in the US as “just an ethnic sport” for “girls to play in schools”.

In the same interview, Carrard draws a comparison between the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics scandal, which occurred on his watch, and current FIFA corruption scandal.  He then concludes that the IOC scandal was worse from an American perspective because it happened on US soil “amongst the Mormons”.  Regardless of the truth in what he’s saying, the fact that Carrard, tasked with reforming the reputation of FIFA, is using such loose language you can’t help but question his judgement.  While soccer isn’t as popular in the US as baseball, basketball or football, it’s been slowly gaining popularity, with some 24.4 million Americans counted as regular soccer players in 2007.  Only China has more.  If you limit the number to registered players, then only Germany has more.

It feels somewhat upsetting to hear a Swiss businessman decide what a “real American sport” is.  Telling 24.4 million soccer players that they aren’t enough and dismissing the fact that Major League Soccer’s average attendance in 2014 was the seventh highest in the world, the record-breaking TV audiences for the US national teams and that the US World Cup TV rights are by far the most valuable in the world is a bad publicity move.  The fact that he would say something like that is troubling; if FIFA wants their reforms to work, they need somebody in charge that can’t be attacked for any of their biases.

In addition, when talking about FIFA, Carrard has been known to sound a bit melodramatic at times; claiming that soccer would “fall completely in the hands of organized crime” without FIFA, or that “football [soccer] is dead” without FIFA.  Despite his loose tongue, Carrard has an impressive track record in dealing with the IOC Salt Lake City scandal, which won him rightful praise.  Although if he wants to maintain that track record, then he needs to watch what he says about one of FIFA’s fastest-growing markets.

If you’d like to learn more, you can find it here!

Blatter Wins FIFA Election

Todd Proa Sepp Blatter

Sepp Blatter

Earlier today, FIFA President Sepp Blatter was elected to his fifth term, just a couple days after 14 former or current executives and associates were indicted by the US Justice Department in sweeping charges of racketeering due to deep traditions of kickbacks and bribery.  However, this hardly mattered in the end.  After blocking Blatter from getting a two-thirds majority on the first vote, Jordanian Prince Ali bin al-Hussein withdrew from the race before the conclusion the second majority vote, allowing Blatter to hold onto his position.

This victory has served as a testament to the power that Blatter has gained over 40 years with FIFA, including 17 as President, mainly through gaining unshakable support in many small, poorer nations.  Many have likened the incident to America’s big-city mayoral party machines, rife with corruption for the benefit of bosses.  FIFA has 209 federation, and each has an equal vote, in a system where Comoros counts for as much as China.  Over the course of his tenure, Blatter has courted favor with poorer countries, some of it well-intended and above the board, such as using FIFA’s resources to fund grassroots efforts.  At the same time, however, Blatter gained infamy for looking the other way while nefarious business was going down.

Blatter had near-unanimous support from Africa, Asia and many Central American and island nations.  His opponent, Prince Ali, ran on a campaign based on transparency, since he said that a soccer federation has no reason to not be.  For many national federations, however, transparency isn’t the same as money coming in.  Blatter unapologetically campaigned on being who he was, claiming that he was the right man above all others to clean up the current mess.  While he emerged from the election victorious, it was no easy victory for Blatter; he still needs to face the reality that many of the fans and countries most important to FIFA’s bottom line are suspicious of him.  How the next four years will fare for him is yet to be seen.

Merry Christmas From Cristiano Ronaldo!

Tis the season and Cristiano Ronaldo buys each of his teammates $10,000 Bulgari Watches engraved with their first and last name, Ronaldo’s initials and his shirt number “CR7”. 

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 5 Reasons Why Cristiano Ronaldo is the Worlds Best Soccer Player.

1. His teammates actually wear and appreciate his christmas gifts!

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2. His scoring pose is always a kodak moment.

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3. This happened…

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4. His mesmerizing footwork!

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5. Cristiano Ronaldo is the second soccer player in this century to win the BBC Overseas Sports Personality Award.

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todd proa navy beats army

Navy Sinks Army to Extend Quarter-Century Win Streak

Army’s stroke of bad luck continues, dropping another meet to Navy in both men’s and women’s swimming and diving by a combined score of 393-207 at West Point. Both navy’s swimming and diving teams beat Army, winning twenty-four of thirty-two events held at the Candall Pool.

Navy’s dominance has been extended to twenty-six consecutive victories for the women’s team and twenty-four for the men’s.

While both teams put on a spectacular show of effort in each event, Navy made it clear that this was their night right from the start. The men’s team won the first four events of the evening, which included the 200m medley relay, the 1000m freestyle, the 200m free, and the 100m backstroke.

After just the first eighth of the entire meet, the Midshipmen led 62-12.

However, the Black Knights women’s team would not be deterred. Despite losing the previous twenty-five consecutive meets, they won the relay by a mere .4 seconds. By the time they reached the halfway point for the meet, the gap had been closed to 85-65 for the women.

Unfortunately for Army, the Midshipmen have far more experience in marine conditions and made sure to make that known in the second half.

The Mids women’s team roared out of the gates in the second half, winning five straight events. This streak also saw Charlotte Meyer tie her own school and meet record (set in 2013) in the 200m backstroke with a time of 1:58.98. More records were broken, with Smith breaking the meet record with a 4:51.53 time in the 500m freestyle. They continued their success through much of the second half of the meet and put up a 147-98 lead before the final three events of the meet.

In nine of the thirty-two individual events, Navy owned the podium, taking first, second and third place. In sixteen others, they placed first and second.

What it Means to Swim

Without a doubt, swimming is a way of life.  You might end up missing things that your non-swimming friends are doing, but Todd Proa what it means to swimswimming is a gift in many ways.  Whether you’re still swimming or haven’t been part of a team in years, there are still plenty of great benefits from being part of a swimming team.  I recently came across an article that talks about the 5 things that you’ll take away from swimming.

1. You’re part of a community: Swimming is pretty much a big, open fraternity where everybody has the same background of two-a-days and countless weekends in countless pools.  This sense of community goes far beyond the pool, however, and even years after retiring from competitive swimming, you’ll still find familiar faces all over the place.

2. You’ll never be intimidated by fitness: Swimming is one heck of an exercise, where you have to use your entire body.  Swimmers have exceptional cardiovascular fitness, more so than any other athletes.

3. Discipline and mental toughness: Long after you’ve stopped swimming competitively, you’ll still enjoy not having to get up at 4:30 AM for practice every morning.  Nonetheless, the discipline you garnered through such a strict regimen will serve you well later in life when you find something else that you’re passionate about.

4. “What if” syndrome: Every time you watch competitive swimming, “what ifs” inevitably start to run through your head.  It’s important to avoid this passing sense of regret by leaving everything at the pool, so that you don’t feel yourself thinking like that again when the Olympics roll around.

5. The pool is home: No matter what, you will always be a swimmer.  Unlike football or basketball, it’s a sport that most people don’t talk about until the Olympics.  But for those who are swimmers, they will always have swimming, regardless of age.

 

10 Best Albums of the 1990s

A lot of people have nostalgia towards the 1990s.  Many consider it America’s “golden age”, when the country seemed invincible, our economy was booming and everybody seemed happy.  Not only that, but there was some great music to come out of that era as well.  I decided to list what are, in my opinion, the 10 best albums of the 1990s.

Todd Proa Pearl Jam

Ten (Pearl Jam, 1991): While Pearl Jam’s debut album wasn’t an immediate success, it slowly earned its popularity, reaching number two on the Billboard 200 chart by late 1992.  A wild success, Pearl Jam’s debut album was a major force in popularizing alternative rock into the mainstream.  To this day, it remains Pearl Jam’s most commercially successful album.

Todd Proa Siamese Dream

Siamese Dream (The Smashing Pumpkins, 1993): If you believe that the best art is something that you bleed into, then look no further than this album by the Smashing Pumpkins.  Despite delayed recording sessions characterized by extreme tension, “Siamese Dream” was a smash hit, selling millions of copies and establishing the Smashing Pumpkins as a major band.

Todd Proa In Utero

In Utero (Nirvana, 1993): While 1991’s “Nevermind” was what shot Nirvana to stardom, most fans consider their third (and final) album, “In Utero”, to be their best work.  Feeling that the sound of “Nevermind” was too polished for their liking, Nirvana decided to record their new album with a more abrasive and natural sound.  To accomplish this, they hired noise-rock legend Steve Albini as the album’s producer.  The result was a raw, honest and hard-rocking masterpiece.

Todd Proa Dookie

Dookie (Green Day, 1994): While punk rock was nothing new in the 1990s, it had yet to achieve mainstream popularity.  However, the release of “Dookie” help jump-start the pop-punk craze that, in the later half of the decade, became a major phenomenon.  Billie Joe Armstrong, Mike Dirnt and Tré Cool were able to create airtight, three-minute masterpieces that just beg to be listened to over and over again.

Todd Proa Ready to Die

Ready to Die (The Notorious B.I.G., 1994): “Ready to Die” is considered by many to be one of the most iconic hip hop albums of all time, and the very best of the Brooklyn-based Notorious B.I.G..  In the years before the release of “Ready to Die”, the media almost exclusively paid attention to West Coast hip hop, yet this album was a complete game-changer, proving to music fans and the media alike that the East Coast hip hop scene was a force to be reckoned with.  Sadly, this was the only one of Biggie’s albums to be released during his lifetime, as he was killed four years later as part of the East Coast/West Coast hip hop feud of the 1990s.

Todd Proa Jagged Little Pill

Jagged Little Pill (Alanis Morissette, 1995): As a teenager, Alanis Morissette had started off her music career as a teen pop star in Canada.  After a three-year hiatus following her break with her original record company, Alanis released this album, filled to the brim with instant classics such as “Ironic”, “You Oughta Know” and “Hand in my Pocket”.

Todd Proa Oasis

(What’s the Story) Morning Glory? (Oasis, 1995): Even though critics weren’t big fans of this British band’s second album, it was a major success, capturing the attention of listeners from the UK and beyond.  The album’s tracks, characterized by elaborate choruses, varied instrumentation and string arrangements, were wildly popular and made Oasis a worldwide phenomenon.

Todd Proa Sublime

Sublime (Sublime, 1996): Two months before the release of this album, the band’s lead singer/guitarist Bradley Nowell died of a drug overdose.  Despite the fact that the album had no live band to back it up, the album became a major success.  Even when talking about such topics as drug addiction and riots, the album retains a friendly, laid-back California vibe to it that just begs to be enjoyed over and over again.

Todd Proa Too Far to Care

Too Far to Care (Old 97’s, 1997): Over the course of their 20+ year career, the alt-country band Old 97’s have never achieved mainstream success, yet they’ve developed an extremely loyal cult following, especially in their native Texas.  Fans and critics both agree that their best album is their third album, “Too Far to Care”, a tour-de-force that never stops for a moment and takes the best parts of rock music, alternative and country to create something truly amazing.

Todd Proa In the Aeroplane over the sea

In the Aeroplane over the Sea (Neutral Milk Hotel, 1998): Inspired by the story of Anne Frank, this indie-rock instant classic is considered by many to be a musical landmark.  The songs are just as catchy as they are dark, a dangerous combination indeed.  Since the release of the album, the band hasn’t released any new albums (with the exception of an 8-track EP in 2011).