Ambassador Yogi Roth’s Reflections on the Year in Sports

Holidays always invite us to reflect.

When we go back to our hometowns, we reflect on the streets we grew up on, the sleigh riding and snow shoveling of our youth, and of course, the relationships of our past.

As 2014 comes to a close, the holiday season also allows us to reflect on the year that was in sports—and it was a year that created ratings that soared with Santa’s reindeer, and brought smiles that would light up an entire menorah.  So let’s turn on the holiday music, sit back and take a stroll down memory lane.

From the Seattle Seahawks dominating the Super Bowl to the Sochi Olympics dominating the headlines to Michael Sam coming out as the first openly gay NFL player, it was a year full of inspiration before the snow had even melted.

But by the time summer vacation began, Donald Sterling was the most disliked man on Twitter, while Derrick Gordon proclaimed in 140 characters he was “the happiest I have ever been in my life.” Like Gordon on or off the UMASS basketball court, NBA commissioner Adam Silver didn’t flinch and set an example heard around the world in a press conference that had far reaching impact.

As the summer heat wave began, LeBron James reminded us what humility sounds like, Mo’ne Davis reminded us what a fastball looks like, Chip Sarafin of Arizona State coming out reminded us what honesty feels like, and Derek Jeter’s final at-bat reminded us what karma is.

Then the leaves fell—and so did our trust in the NFL, as Ray Rice and Adrian Petersen had many of us hating the most popular sport in America. We watched NFL commissioner Roger Goodell search for the right response amid pointed criticism.  The search continues, from all parties.

December came and the first college football playoff was set amid Waco and Fort Worth despair—but then, thankfully, Oregon’s Marcus Mariota gave a Heisman speech that brought tears to us all near the end of the year.

We had headlines, exclusive interviews, and breaking news—and as 2014 comes to a close, some might say it was just “another crazy year.”

I’d like to offer another option.

Let’s not just reflect on this year and move on.

Let’s not have talk shows in which the topics are topical, of the moment, yet quickly forgotten.

Let’s not let 2014 be just a memory that fades away when the ball drops on December 31st.


Let’s take a year that changed our culture and let it be a year not of moments, but of purpose.

Let’s make it a year where we purposefully continue the conversations we started last January.

Let’s have the discussion around the importance of a clear coaching philosophy, such as Pete Carroll’s “relationship-based” approach—and let’s see where we can deepen our understanding of those we care about, as well as those we know nothing about.

Let’s track the growth our society has made, so that when the next gay athlete comes out, he or she will be greeted with support, not hundreds of cameras.

Let’s continue to educate the next generation of leaders about what it means to be a “real man or woman” and that no matter your status, “right” is right and “wrong” is, well, wrong.

Let’s celebrate the 21st century role models such as Russell Wilson, LeBron James and Marcus Mariota, because their actions will change this world’s future, as they continue to hand the ball to the official and gain respect because they give it.

Let’s be a collection of stories that are a movement.

Let’s keep the conversation going so we can keep our world evolving, like we all hope it does—with a sense of purpose.

Let’s reflect on that.