All posts by diegelam

#MeToo: My Story

A few weeks ago, when the disgusting Harvey Weinstein story broke and the #metoo movement was in full effect I posted #metoo on my Facebook, with no further context. I probably typed it and deleted it half a dozen times before posting it. I hesitated for a number of reasons. For one, my stories are not “the worst” and I didn’t want to receive the sympathy that so many others deserve more than me. But mostly, I was embarrassed to admit a 6’2,” 220-lb. semiprofessional rugby player that smiles at the challenge of taking down a large, angry samoan man on the pitch could ever feel weak, in any scenario. But that’s exactly how I’ve felt a number of times. Ironically, in one situation (more on that in a bit) it was due to my physical stature that I felt weak. In short, I decided to share for the same reasons Terry Crews, one of the leaders of the movement, did. If it can happen to me it can happen to anyone.

The first time I was harassed I was 17 years old and working at Arby’s. I made a joke about wanting to cut my finger on the meat slicer so I could go home early. I said this to a male, older, homosexual coworker of mine. His response was, “I’ll take you home early and show you some real pain.” I was shocked. I just continued working in silence until my shift finished. It did not hit me until later, when I was older, that that was a clearcut case of sexual harassment. Fortunately I did not work there for very long.

The second time was definitely when I felt the most powerless. I was at a bar, and an older drunk woman was obsessed with me. Following me around, kept telling me what things she wanted to do to me. I had been dating my girlfriend long enough to know she was someday going to be my wife (and she is!) so my responses were again and again, hard nos. At one point, she had me cornered. I was raised never to put my hands on a woman, as we all should be, so I didn’t know what to do. This may have been a case for the exception. But recently I had heard a story about a friend in a similar scenario. He was trying to remove himself from a situation and when pushing past the woman knocked her over. He was grabbed by bouncers and made to look like a woman-beating asshole. With that fresh in mind, plus having past cases of not knowing my own strength, mixed with the fact that the woman was so drunk a slight breeze could have knocked her over, I was afraid to even try to gently move her so I could get by. In the end, I gave her what she wanted. I made out with her long enough that I could use my patented spin move (thank you, rugby!) to get out of the corner. I was amongst friends, but what guy in his 20s doesn’t want a little bar make out sesh? No one thought anything was out of line.

I felt terrible, like I cheated on Cristen to a degree. I cried when I told her what happened, apologized, even though I didn’t know what else to do at the time. In rugby, I’ve been lifted clean off the ground by other, larger men in the middle of mauls (non-rugby folk, think: tug o’ war, but the opposite, with the ball replacing the rope). It’s not a great feeling to just be dangling there in the middle of a fight for the ball. But that pales in comparison to how powerless I felt in the situation with that woman.

The third time was similar to the second, though not as traumatic. Again, bar. Woman. Drunk. Older. This time as I gave the same speech I’ve given again and again over the years—”I appreciate the offer but I love my girlfriend very much”—the woman ran her hands up my shirt, feeling my chest and pecs. For some reason that didn’t bother me as much. Probably because I didn’t have to reciprocate anything, and was just happy her hands went up not down. Again, it didn’t hit me until later that that was sexual harassment. A couple of days later, I thought, “if that was me running my hands up a woman’s shirt without invitation, I’d be in jail right now.”

There have been probably another half-dozen times women have aggressively offered/asked/or demanded sex. These other women didn’t touch me, they went for verbal assaults. They insulted a man in the most personal ways possible. “Oh, your dick probably isn’t big enough anyway,” or, “You probably can’t even get it up.” My favorite was probably, “you know you’re an asshole right?” To which I responded, “I’m an asshole for NOT cheating on my girlfriend?” I suppose she thought I was leading her on. I just thought I was playing beer pong and being friendly.

Only once was any sort of “justice” brought upon any of these harassers. The situation was nearly identical to my first one, at Arby’s. This time I was just out of college and working at Potbelly while I tried to figure out some sort of career path. A strong sexual remark was made by a homosexual coworker. This time, I reported it to a manager. The remark didn’t bother me that much but —again, I thought of the double standard— if I’d said this to one of my female coworkers I’d have been fired, if not worse. I did it to stand up to these double standards more than anything, expecting a verbal reprimand and a strong warning to the coworker. They fired him the next day. I was proud of myself and proud to work for a company that took sexual harassment so seriously. (Though maybe I should avoid sandwich shops. Fortunately, I think my sandwich-making days are over, ha).

So why am I sharing? I’m not looking for sympathy; if you’re reading this, please keep your “sorries” to yourself. Again, like Crews, I want to show it can happen to anyone. And especially spread awareness to anyone who has been harassed or worse: it’s not a sign of weakness to share your experiences or to prosecute if necessary. (Even as I write this part of me is afraid to post it. That some will think I’m weak or say “boo hoo women wanted to bang you.” It’s an irrational but completely real fear). It’s a sign of strength.

My other reasons are pleas to society and an attempt to give it a transparent look from a different perspective. Sexual harassment is not a man/woman/straight/gay problem. It’s a human problem. There are a lot of shitty people in the world, regardless of demographic. There are a lot of great ones too. If you find one of the great ones, as a friend or partner, never let them go. To those of you in relationships, don’t risk love for a night of fun. You’ll regret it when you get caught, and you will get caught.

In that vein, not all men are looking for an easy hookup. Something that seems common could be completely out of line. Not all straight men want to do things with women. No matter how she looks it may be unwanted contact. Many of us love and respect our girlfriends/fiancees/wives enough to remain faithful, believe it or not.

My plea is this: We need to change how we treat other. I think we’re headed in the right direction, with so many predators’ deplorable acts finally coming to light. Making a change this big is like trying to steer a ship the size of a city block. It will take time, but I’m hopeful. In order to fix a problem you have to admit you have one; I think we have finally gotten there as a society. Now we have to work to make things better.

Let us respect each other. Let us not enable predators. Let us not be scared to do the right thing. Let us look out for each other. Let us protect each other. Let us love each other.

Thank you for reading my story.

Pittsburgh Steelers’ 2017 Mock Draft

In spite of the AFC Championship’s final score, the Pittsburgh Steelers are not as far from from the New England Patriots as it seems. The full stable of offensive weapons and a defensive playmaker or two should close the gap. Here’s the draft that can get them there:

  1. Tre’Davious White, CB, LSU. His NFL Draft profile lists him as “Experienced island corner with slot reps over last two seasons. Best suited for all forms of man coverage. Should compete as special teams performer.” Sound like someone who Pittsburgh could have used last season? Yeah. Punt/kick return ability a bonus, as Steelers were pedestrian there in 2016.
  2. Carl Lawson, OLB, Auburn. Strong, sets the edge. Thick frame currently weighing in at 261 lbs. Sounds like the perfect protege’ for James Harrison. Should make some splash plays while learning from and spelling “The Ageless One.”
  3. Marcus Williams, S, Utah. Long, strong, and fast (6’1″/202lbs/4.56 40). 5 Ints and 5 pass break ups show coverage chops. Could be used in sub packages while groomed as the safety of the future behind Mike Mitchell.  3B (Compensatory pick). Jake Butt, TE, Michigan. A first-round talent that blew out his knee in the Senior Bowl. Tight end is not an immediate need so no need to rush him on the field. It looks like the Steelers are giving Ladarius Green another year to prove he can stay healthy and Jesse James was solid in his absence. Interesting to see what project Xavier Grimble can do after getting his feet wet in the NFL last season, when he made impressive contact catches. Butt can maybe make some plays as a rookie. If not, he still solidifies the position’s future.
  4. Cooper Kupp, WR, Eastern Washington: Highly productive player from a smaller school who’s draft stock tumbled due to a disappointing 40 time. Remind you of anyone?
  5. James Conner, RB, Pittsburgh. A well-rounded “thumper” that will get the yinzers excited. Looks like a good complement to give Bell some rest and step in if injured. Possible starter down the road if he impresses and Steelers can’t come to terms with Bell long term.
  6. Jerod Evans, QB, Virginia Tech: “Burly frame that can absorb punishment and hand it out if necessary.” If there’s one team that would lick its chops at that QB description, its the Steelers. Great season in one year as starter for Hokies. Young, some were surprised he didn’t come back for another year. Another trait Steelers look for in draft prospects.
  7. Darius English, DE, South Carolina. The Steelers like to swing for freaks late in the draft and see what they can do with them. They also like tall DEs that can get into passing lanes. At 6’6″ with a 4.63 40, English fits the bill. Steelers will have to decide if they want him to add bulk to his lean frame (238lbs.) or develop him as an OLB. A perfect practice squad candidate.

Pittsburgh Steelers “Dream” Draft

What a Steelers draft would look like with a couple of unlikely but not inconceivable draft day slides.

  1. Tre’Davious White, CB, LSU. See above. With OLB being the deepest position in the draft, it seems like Steelers will lean toward best man corner available, unless there’s an OLB on the board that they have rated much higher than best CB.
  2. Jabrill Peppers, S/LB, Michigan. I’d seen some mocks that already had Peppers sliding to the early-to-mid second round. That was before his diluted urine sample. If the Steelers can get an athlete like this in the 2nd, they’ll get D Coordinator Keith Butler his shiny new toy to play with. A sub package Deone Buchanan-type, Pittsburgh will hope the splash plays he makes with his athleticism counter the ones he’s bound to give up while learning a new position in the NFL. He also doubles as a safety of the future behind Mike Mitchell. And of course, they’ll have to hope that the diluted sample was an aberration. The ultimate boom or bust pick.
  3. Derek Rivers, OLB, Youngstown State. Rivers is a bit of an enigma, as he shot up draft boards after his combine numbers. The expectations are of course tampered by his small school background at Youngstown. I’ve seen him mocked anywhere from 1-4. Great protege’ to the former Kent State project, James Harrison. (3B Comp pick) TE Jake Butt. See above.
  4. Noah Brown, WR, Ohio State. 6’2″/222lbs./4.49 40. All of the measurables, not all of the production. Pittsburgh reaches back into the undergrad Ohio State well (Ryan Shazier, Cam Heyward) and hopes to find gold again. Another guy mocked anywhere from  rds 2-4, teams will have to decide if they value production or combine numbers/potential more.
  5. James Conner. See above. This one just makes too much sense, seems like a lock.
  6. Jerod Evans. See above. Again, seems to make sense. But not as much of a lock as Conner.
  7. Demetrius Cox, S, Michigan State. While they find a way to get Peppers on the field and groom him for a long-term position, the Steelers could use some true safety depth in the backfield. Great measurables—6’1″/198/4.53 40—another rangy athlete to throw into the secondary mix. Cox had one pick in his lone season at safety. The year before he had three ints as a starting cornerback. The experience at corner points to coverage skills, something Pittsburgh needs in spades.

Alexander Diegel Rugby Highlights

Highlights from rugby career of Alexander Diegel. Videos below show plays from club Potomac Exiles, as well as Mid-Atlantic select side, Capital Selects. Primarily a flanker, can also play 8-man and lock. Videos below are from games playing 4-8.

Potomac Exiles’ lock, blitz and clean hit on Rocky Gorge & USA Fly Half Ben Cima

Open Side Flanker for Capital Selects, tackle USA South 8 man behind gain line.

Open Side Flanker for Capital Selects, run around the edge to set up try vs. USA South

Open Side Flanker for Capital Selects, steal kickoff vs. USA Rugby South

Potomac Exiles’ 8-Man, link up with center vs. Baltimore

Potomac Exiles’ 8-Man, game-winning try vs. Baltimore, defending #1 seed in MAC.

Potomac Exiles’ #6, try scored vs. Pittsburgh:

Potomac Exiles’ #6, counter vs. Pittsburgh:

 

LeBron James Goes to College, Brings Home Championship

“Miami, for me, has almost been like college for other kids.” LeBron James said this an in interview when he came back to Cleveland in 2014. He took a lot of heat (no pun intended) for leaving Cleveland for Miami six years ago. But he went there for one thing: to learn how to be a champion.

In his last seasons with Cleveland he was dragging an underwhelming roster to heights they wouldn’t have sniffed without him. IN 2007, He took a team that started Drew Gooden and Larry Hughes to the Finals and was swept by a far better Spurs team. The following year, he was upset by a hot-shooting Orlando Magic team that featured Dwight Howard at the height of his powers. He averaged 39 points, eight rebounds and eight assists in those Conference Finals. But it wasn’t enough. He was a “choker” for not getting the job done. He was chasing ghosts. He was chasing rings. He was chasing Jordan.

So he left. He left in the worst way imaginable, yes. And agreed, he left to create a team that would be the odds-on NBA Champs. He was helped by an NBA Finals MVP in Dwyane Wade. But he learned how to win. He learned how to be a champion. He “went to college” for four years. And then he came home.

He promised a championship. He went to the Finals the first year, taking a wounded Cleveland team that won just 33 games the year before with him. It was his fifth straight appearance, now with two different teams. Much like the Orlando series, he went down in historic fashion, this time good for 36, 13 and 9 per game.

Then he did it all over again. Down 3-1, he went for 82 combined in games 5 and 6. All that was left was to beat the greatest regular season team of all time for a third straight game, second at home. He didn’t go for 41. He dropped a triple double, just the third man to do it in an NBA Finals Game 7.

I won’t be shocked if some people still criticize, point to Draymond Green’s suspension or his 9 for 24 Game 7 shooting. Those people would be fools. The Cavs beat Golden State with Draymond three times, including two potential close out opportunities. Game 7 was a slugfest. And LeBron was Ali, a half-step step ahead of his opponent for just enough time to seal the win. It wasn’t pretty. But it was a winning performance.

I’m a Bulls fan. I should hate LeBron. But I grew up watching Jordan; I appreciate greatness. And I’m now willing to entertaining the GOAT conversation. He’s definitely in the top three with Kareem and Jordan. And he’s not done yet.