Monday, June 11, 2007

Lost in Los Angeles

When I said I wanted to lose myself in California, I meant in as more of a figurative sense… not literal. But less than 2 minutes after pulling out of the rental place I had somehow, someway managed to get turned around. And the woman in the talking GPS box did absolutely nothing to help me. I felt like Captain Barbossa navigating the unknown waters, and all that compass could do is keep spinning. Great… just frickin… great.

Though I have been spending a lot of time out on the west coast lately, this trip had an entirely different purpose. This one was mainly to help others.

Team Up L.A. hosted its first annual Celebrity/Athlete Bowling & Golf Tournament last week at the Lucky Strikes Lanes in Torrance, CA, just outside of LA. Founded by Lara Blume, the multi day event was created to benefit The Salvation Army South LA Center for Worship and Service.

On hand that Wednesday night to try their best at bowling were the likes of Elton Brand, Shaun Phillips, Luis Castillo, Reggie Bush, Ray Lewis and others. Granted, their bowling scores simply couldn’t compare to yours truly, then again - bowling just may be the one sport I don’t completely suck at. Plus, it has the added bonus of air conditioning and a ball that comes back to you...What could be better?...

The following morning, I was invited to participate in the Celebrity Golf Tournament portion of the event, but I opted to sit out due to Jessica Simpson syndrome. For those of you who have no idea what the hell I am talking about.. it’s when you are unable to see the ball because of obstacles in your line of view?.. Savvy?..

Regardless, over those two days, Team Up LA raised a good deal of money for a great cause.. The Salvation Army. Thanks to again Lara Blume for her continuing devotion and efforts to help children in South LA.

Sports Spectacular 2007
With my mom being a physical therapist, and my sister a one-on-one aid, working with and being around special needs children has played a large role in my life. My personal experiences with these children have been both heart-breaking and inspiring, because they are some of the most genuine and happy people you will ever meet in your life, despite the disadvantages they’ve been dealt. Many of these children came by their physical and mental disabilities due to genetic disorders and birth defects. That is why this particular event last Sunday night with Cedars-Sinai held a particularly special place with me. Co-founded by John H. Kissick and Bernie Briskin, the Sports Spectacular has raised more than $16 million dollars to benefit the research, prevention, and treatment of genetic disorders while honoring some of the nation’s top athletes and leaders in the entertainment industry.

On hand to celebrate this year’s event were standout athletes like LaDainian Tomlinson, Anna Kornikova, Elton Brand, and Michael Irvin. John Salley, Al Michaels, Jim Hill, and even Snoop Dogg also lent their voices and personal stories to the night, making the event a huge success for not only the honorees, but the most important people of all… the people whose lives this research impacts. Thanks in part to this event, The Sports Spectacular Endowed Medical Genetics Institute at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center can continue to lead the way in research that will one day change people born and living with disabilities lives for the better.

On a personal note, one of the thrills of the evening for me was getting to meet probably Florida State’s most well-known sports alum, none other than “Prime Time” Deion Sanders.

Allison Stokke - Track star
It was almost two weeks ago that I began getting phone calls from my various connections at different radio stations across the country, asking my opinion regarding an 18 year-old high school track star from California that had recently had her pictures and likeness splashed across the internet. “Sound familiar?...” they asked. Of course it did. But unlike my experiences with the Internet and message boards, Allison Stokke wanted absolutely nothing to do with it. I can’t honestly say I blame her.

Though I can credit the Internet with the many great opportunities I have been presented with in the past 18 months, I can also be the first one to understand the negative impact such widespread and available information can have on a young individual’s personal life, especially when it is undesired. I was twenty-one when all the hoopla surrounding the 2005 Florida State/Miami game began, plenty legal, and accustomed to a crazy lifestyle of unpredictable events. I attended a fairly large college, and though I didn’t have any roots in the Greek life there, I was still fairly well known on campus thanks to a close knit group of friends.

After that Labor Day evening nationally televised game, with aides such as sports message boards and my profiles on relatively new social networking sites like Facebook and Myspace, it wasn’t hard for people to locate my pictures and contact information. Thus, my image spread pretty quickly. But I was generally in control of the majority of my images that were released on the net. They were usually posted by myself or my friends. Allison’s pictures however were not. Stokke’s pictures were lifted by sports bloggers from her high school’s sports site, and once people learned her identity, with the power of Google it wasn’t hard to find the rest.

I completely understand why Stokke has taken the stance she has on her images being strewn across the internet, and why wouldn’t she? Unlike myself, Allison has actual athletic ability, while I may be one of the most uncoordinated people of all time. It’s this great ability as a competitive athlete that got her attention in the first place. She didn’t ask for this attention, nor does she appear to want it. She simply wants to be your average incoming freshman college student and be taken seriously as an athlete. So why not respect her wishes?

I didn’t ask for any of this to happen to me either. It just did. I’ve learned a lot from being a presence on the internet. You learn who to trust with your personal information, your pictures, your life.. because once it’s out there.. It’s there for the world to scrutinize. People will make fake MySpace/Facebook profiles like they have for Allison and me. They will pretend to impersonate you, post inappropriate photos and comments and spread false rumors about you for reasons only they can understand. And for these reasons, I can sympathize with Stokke.

Here is my advice to you Allison: Simply ignore it.

I know it is easier said than done, but if you want this to go away and for things to return to normal, it’s the best route to take. Know that you are a beautiful girl, and with good looks come many admirers. Just stay true to yourself and don’t let the things you read on the internet or message boards deter you from your own personal goals and from becoming who you want to be. There will be a lot of jealousy, a lot of “rude comments” as you call them… they come with the territory. I used to think that when people are talking about me, it was something to worry about, but I have come to discover it’s when they stop talking… that you should worry. Ignore the negativity, and take the positives in stride. You’re an amazing, record breaking athlete and no one can take that from you. Things will eventually quiet down, bloggers will find the “next big thing” to talk about, and your life can go back to its normalcy. Your true friends will know the real you, beyond appearances, and appreciate you for the person, athlete, and friend you are. And above all else, I’m sure your family is supportive and will have your back.

I wish you the best in all your future endeavors with both school and your track and field career. And know that if you ever need someone to talk to, this girl has been there… done that… and gotten the t-shirt. Good Luck Allison and keep your head up!!..

After spending a few days in Los Angeles, I began to realize that this place not only holds a great deal of opportunity for me, but had given me some much needed serenity from my tumultuous personal life. So maybe I didn’t know the 10 from the 405… but I did know the “1”… and it suited me just fine. Maybe sometimes it’s better to just be lost and find your own sanity.

“After all, you have to be lost to find a place that can't be found, elseways everyone would know where it was.”


Larry said...

Gosh Jenn it sounds like you are thinking of making California home. Is that true? To take a page out of your SI advice column I will remind you that you cannot run away from your problems. They always seem to catch up with you in the end so be sure the opportunities outweigh the cost. I lived there for a couple of years and saw what the lifestyle there is SoCal can do to a person so stay vigilant and stay grounded if you decide to setup housekeeping in “LaLa Land”.

Best of luck and keep us posted on your progress.

GO Noles!

MCBias said...

Ah, and yet another rationale for why stalking Alison is ok (the "Sterger argument") bites the dust. Straight from Jenn herself, too. I love it! Good blog.

vagus said...

everyone needs a place to get away to, and to find their sanity. sounds like you might have found yours.
good luck!

Ron said...

She didn't want attention from the media, internet, etc., so she spoke to the Washington Post?