If you thought it was impressive when Robert Griffin III let a young fan sign his jersey at Redskins camp a few days ago, wait until you hear about what the second-year quarterback did Wednesday.

After practice Griffin walked over to Georgia Poole, a 99-year-old who considers herself the Redskins' oldest and biggest fan. As Poole told Griffin that she was confident he would lead Washington to the Super Bowl, Griffin signed her poster.

Poole also had some sage advice for the 23-year-old:

"You be careful," she said. "Don't get hurt."

Griffin later tweeted about meeting Poole, who will turn 100 on August 16.


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A 13-year-old cancer patient who threw out the first pitch at a Nationals game earlier this season and was an inspiration to Bryce Harper has died after his three-year battle with the disease, the Washington Post reported today.

Gavin Rupp, who came to Nationals Park on July 5, reportedly made quite an impression on Nationals star Bryce Harper after speaking to him for nearly an hour before the game that day. Harper gave Rupp a signed hat, baseball and mitt and then handed him a baseball and asked Rupp to sign it for him.

"I'll put this in my locker," Harper said after taking the ball, according to MLB.com.

Harper later held up Rupp's name on a placard as part of MLB's "Stand Up 2 Cancer" campaign at the Home Run Derby.

After hearing the news, Harper tweeted:




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Few young professional athletes have as good a relationship with their fan base as Robert Griffin III does with Redskins supporters.

Griffin, who is only entering his second season in the NFL, has produced more acts of goodwill than we can recount here. He wrote personalized notes to fans who bought him gifts for his wedding. He's donated his gear for charity. He's even given away socks on Halloween (True, socks are socks. But have you ever heard of another QB giving away anything on Halloween?)

And now, a new video from Redskins camp should only add to Griffin's growing lore.

A YouTube user named stizzle804 posted a video in which Griffin is letting a young fan (with a wonderful mohawk, we should add) sign his jersey. How cool is that?

In the video Griffin is mobbed by dozens of autograph hounds. Yet in the midst of this chaos, including a jersey that blocks a clear view of the action, he finds time to let one fan put his John Hancock on Griffin's practice jersey (at about the :40 mark).

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Of all the great ideas marketing departments of MLB teams have had for bobbleheads, the one honoring longtime beloved Dodgers' broadcaster Vin Scully may have been the best yet.

Below is a video of Scully himself getting choked up by the cheers he received from fans Thursday night.

The Dodgers lost to Cincinnati 5-2, but the team's official Twitter feed distracted fans from the disappointment with classic Scully quotes.


(h/t MLB's Cut Four)

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For the most part, Leo Messi's quick trip to the United States earlier this month thrilled spectators at Soldier Field in Chicago and across the globe.

But one group of supporters came away more than a little disheartened. That's because they paid $2,500 for a pre-match meet-and-greet with Messi, where the Barcelona superstar was supposed to take pictures and present signed memorabilia. But as it turned out, Messi never showed up to the Chicago event.

Among the group of spurned supporters were Tony Sherwood and his 9-year-old son, Hudson. Young Hudson has six Messi jerseys, so one can only imagine how saddened he was to get stood up by his idol. On the way home from the game, Hudson had a heartbreaking message for his father.

“Dad, next time I get a jersey, I don’t want it to be Messi," Hudson said, as his father recounted to For The Win.

Tony told For The Win that a Spanish publicist, author and musician named Risto Mejide reached out to him after reading the story. Through a connection, Mejide got in touch with Messi and had him send a personalized jersey to Hudson. It read: "Para Hudson de tu amigo. Leo" ("For Hudson from your friend. Leo"). The Sherwoods received the package this week.

“Although Hudson didn’t get to meet him, I am grateful that they did something nice for Hudson,” Tony told For The Win. "It made my wife cry … although not very hard."

Hudson is currently away at summer camp, and so he's unaware of the gift he has waiting for him when he returns home.

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At 23, Ryan Dungey is already among the most successful motocross racers of all time.

Dungey is a two-time AMA Motocross national champion in the 450 class and a champion in the 250 class. He is also an AMA 450 Class Supercross champion (2009) and an AMA Supercross Lites champion.

Dungey's prized possession is not one of his many trophies, ribbons or medals. It has little to do with his on-track success. Dungey's beloved accomplishment is the creation of his charity bike ride, the MN Major, which will take place for the second time July 28, starting in Hastings, Minn.

"Since I was about 15 years old, when I became a professional, I always wanted to be part of giving back," Dungey says. "I wanted to do more than just the sport."

In March 2012, Dungey began to brainstorm ideas for a successful philanthropic model. The pieces fell into place for a charity bike ride in Dungey's home stay of Minnesota.

All donations and registration fees benefit St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, a leader in the fight to finding cures to various diseases such as cancer. Dungey, who has visited the hospital, feels a special connection to the hospital's motive.

"One thing that inspired it was my grandmother," he says. "She had battled cancer twice, once when I was very young, which I don't remember much, and again when I was 10. She fought that for about five years. She passed away from liver cancer and that was tough. She was a big inspiration on my life. How I saw it affect her life and the struggles she went through and the chemo and everything, it was a pretty powerful experience. Being helpless and not being able to do anything was tough, but the one thing I could do is help and raise money for cancer research."

By the time Dungey and others involved with the first MN Major solidified the event in 2012, he had just six weeks to scramble for donations and riders. Despite the lack of time, Dungey and those involved were able to get about 300 riders for the event, which offered rides of 62 miles and 25 miles. The inaugural MN Major raised a little over $20,000.

In 2013, the event has a different feeling. The excitement of producing a new event is gone, but the anticipation of a more successful MN Major is boiling. With a year to plan and raise money for the event, expectations are raised a notch.

According to Dungey, as of last week, more $30,000 has been raised and the total number of riders is growing. Dungey also vows to match the donation total up to $50,000.

In an age when young athletes are making names for themselves for the wrong reasons, whether it is a murder charge or PED allegations, Dungey's stresses involve a philanthropy event. He does not take his life status for granted.

"I race professional motocross and that's what I do for a living. At times, that's very satisfying, but there are points in your life where you think there's got to be more than this and it's not only about you," Dungey says. "For me, it's not about me. It's about raising enough money for the cancer research and to keep improving things and find out more and more, so they can cure cancer in many different forms."

The 2013 event will include a 62-mile and 20-mile bike ride, the latter of which is a shorter ride this year to accommodate more tame riders. In the Land of 10,000 Lakes, the paths travel along the St. Croix and Mississippi Rivers.

The MN Major also features an event village and a kids' loop. Motocross rider Wil Hahn and cyclist Tom Danielson, fresh off the Tour de France, will bike. Target, a sponsor of Dungey and the MN Major, is headquartered in Minneapolis.

In the MN Major's first year, Dungey saw an ecstatic group of Minnesotans come together for the goal of philanthropy.

"Rarely, do you ever get to see people gathering for a cause," he says. "For everyone to get together and to be as into it as you are, it's amazing. To give back and to give money and to bike ride, [last year] was so cool because everyone was smiling the whole day. We were there from seven in the morning to three in the afternoon. You're doing something for something that's so powerful, that's going to help save lives."

Two individuals who influenced Dungey as a motocross racer are Jeremy McGrath and Ricky Carmichael. Both motocross trailblazers, McGrath and Carmichael, are active in charity.

As a professional athlete, Dungey wants to be like McGrath, Carmichael and other athletes both on and off the track (or court or field or rink) who give back.

"I always looked up to people in particular sports, whether its car racing or cycling or motocross, that did more than just their sport," Dungey says. "I know a guy like Lance Armstrong ... he's got a bad rep right now, but on the side of that, he was able to build a foundation and help millions of people and raise millions of dollars."

While Dungey pours his heart into the into the MN Major as a means of giving back to the community and paying respects to his grandmother, the event also brings publicity to the growing sport of motocross. Although the AMA Motocross Championship began in 1972, the sport is still far from mainstream.

Video games and television are perhaps the most efficient tools in promoting the sport. Dungey and fellow racers will draw national attention one day before the MN Major at the Spring Creek National. At 3 p.m. ET, the 450 Moto II will be live on NBC (FuelTV and NBC Sports will also have coverage during the day).

Dungey, who is second in the AMA Motocross Point Standings, is becoming an ambassador to his

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sport at just 23.

"I wanted to be more than just great on a dirt bike," he says. "I wanted to be great to my fans and I wanted to give back to the sport and almost leave it better off than when I came in. On the track, winning as much as we can, that's the goal, but off the track, things can be done and everything's moving forward. I want to be a guy who's good role model, who kids' parents would want them to look up to."

Dungey should bring the sport quite a bit of publicity this week. This past Saturday, Dungey finished second in the 450 Class at Washougal Motocross in Washougal, Wash. Ryan Villopoto, the current leader in the standings, edged him for first place.

Shortly after the event, Dungey was scheduled to travel home to Minneapolis. From Wednesday to Friday he plans on talking to the media and promoting the event. On Saturday, he will race at Spring Creek on network television in Millville, Minn. (near Rochester, Minn.). After the event, he will head back to Minneapolis for the MN Major on Sunday morning.

With such a busy lifestyle, Dungey is currently satisfied just having the MN Major.

"Hopefully when racing comes to a point where we finish up with that, we'll move into this," he says. "I want to keep building it up year after year and I don't want this thing to fall off. I want to grow it year by year and maybe it can be more than just one charity bike ride each year. Maybe we can go around the country with this. Maybe make it into a foundation. That'd be the ultimate goal."

For Dungey, there is more to his career than personal gains. Motocross has got him to the public eye, but he is using it as a tool to his goals.

"The sport has given me such a great life and it's given me such great things," he says. "To give back to it and the community, is always good. It's so rewarding, but at the same time, it's not about me. It's about helping them."

***

To donate or register for the MN Major, visit MNMajor.com.

-- Follow Jeffrey Eisenband on Twitter @JeffEisenband.

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BELFAST –– There was a time when Kevin Johnson thought he might be killed on his way to a soccer match.

“They tried to overturn the bus,” Johnson says, remembering the Protestant mob that threatened him and fellow Catholic soccer fans as they arrived for a 1996 match in Portadown, 23 miles southwest of Belfast.

Back in the 1990s, Johnson and his fellow Cliftonville supporters, a club with a mostly Catholic fan base, needed police escorts to watch their team play in Protestant-heavy towns during the tensest of times in Northern Ireland.

A devoted fan since he was 7, Johnson proudly wears his red Cliftonville hoodie in the bar underneath Solitude, Cliftonville's stadium. He started going to games with his father and brother in the late 1980s. Now 33, Johnson hails from the predominantly working-class, Catholic area of Belfast known as the "New Lodge," a former stronghold of the Provisional Irish Republican Army during the country's infamous "Troubles." Sectarian violence between Catholic and Protestant paramilitary groups erupted in the New Lodge on an almost daily basis throughout the 1970s and early 80s.

Few aspects of Northern Irish society were immune to violence in those days and attending a soccer match was no different. One of the most horrific incidents occurred two years before Johnson’s own troubles in Portadown. Not far away, inside a pub in rural Loughinisland, a gunman murdered six Catholics who were watching a World Cup match on television.

"Everywhere we went," Johnson says, "You would have got your buses stoned, golf balls and other things thrown at you when you were inside the stadium."

Protestant fans traveling to Solitude didn’t exactly get the red-carpet treatment either. "There would be young ones hanging about throwing stones at them,” Johnson says. “It was just society at that time. Certain people went to matches for a bit of 'aggro' [aggression] on both sides."

Nowadays, the violence has subsided. The changing atmosphere at soccer matches in Northern Ireland is a prominent example of the country's evolution as a whole during the past decade.

While the physical hostilities may have died down, conflicts still remain. Many Catholic soccer fans in Northern Ireland still don’t feel part of the sport’s local fabric. But battles once fought by fans, players and coaches are now being waged by politicians.

A British Sport in Ireland

Ever since fans of the game from a Unionist background brought soccer to Belfast in the late 19th century, the sport has been strongly linked with that community. Unionists want Northern Ireland to maintain its union with the United Kingdom. For many years, Catholics grew up playing traditional Irish sports like hurling and Gaelic football, a sport that locals describe as a combination of soccer and rugby.

Even today, support for Northern Ireland's national soccer team still comes primarily from unionists. That's largely because Belfast's Windsor Park, home of the Northern Ireland team, was a cauldron of hate while Johnson and Catholics his age were growing up in the late '80s and '90s.

"The symbolism was very much around unionism and loyalism,” said David Hassan, an expert in the sporting history of Northern Ireland at the University of Ulster. Loyalists in Northern Ireland are those who swear allegiance to the British crown. Hassan called the atmosphere at Windsor Park “poisonous,” noting fans used to drape the stadium’s terraces with Union flags and sing inflammatory songs. “The chanting from the fans was often in favor of Protestant paramilitaries. Catholics wanted nothing to do with it."

Johnson says that any Catholic heading to Windsor Park was taking a potentially fatal gamble. "You wouldn't have dared in case someone noticed you or found out you were Catholic. You probably would have been killed if you stumbled across the wrong crowd."

With these fears in minds, the vast majority of Catholics in Northern Ireland grew up supporting the Republic of Ireland soccer team rather than the one representing the country of their birth. But Johnson, like many Catholics, doesn't even consider himself Northern Irish. “I see Ireland as my country,” he says. “I was brought up in a nationalist community with a nationalist background."

One event that lives long in Irish memory can help put this complex dynamic into perspective -- at least in terms of soccer.

The setting was a 1993 World Cup qualifier between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland at Windsor Park. Northern Ireland had no chance of advancing to the finals in the U.S. the following year, but the Republic needed only a tie to make it through. After Northern Ireland nabbed an early lead, sectarian chants rang throughout Windsor Park. The team’s manager, Billy Bingham, himself a Northern Ireland legend as a player, egged on the crowd by waving his arms in the air on the sidelines. The Republic did eventually tie the match and advance to the World Cup Finals.

"I remember watching it in [my] house,” Johnson says. "That was the worst. He was whipping the crowd up, singing 'The Billy Boys,' which is an anti-Catholic song."

Hassan said the Bingham incident was a critical turning point that caused Catholics to look south for their national soccer allegiances. "This game becomes almost a microcosm of the wider problem," he said. "It did little to ameliorate the suspicion of many Catholics that Northern Ireland was a place they weren't entirely welcome and that their team was now the Republic of Ireland."

But that decision came with violent consequences for some. The six Catholics gunned down in Loughinisland had gathered to watch the Republic of Ireland play Italy in the World Cup.

Healing wounds

Twenty years after that game, there is wide praise in Northern Ireland for the Irish Football Association’s work in combating sectarianism during the last decade. A "Football For All" campaign, a community relations campaign undertaken by the Irish FA to tackle sectarianism and racism, has gone a long way toward healing the divide among fans. Both the European Union and European soccer’s governing body, UEFA, have recognized the association's cross-community efforts through activities including social responsibility and diversity workshops in schools and youth soccer camps.

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Of all the ridiculous things Charles Barkley has done or said, a recent gesture by the Hall of Famer has got to be one of the most bizarre.

During a round at the annual American Century Championship tournament at Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course in Lake Tahoe, Barkley handed out $100 bills on the 7th green. For no particular reason.




And if you happened to be wearing a pretty dress, well, that was cause for an extra $100.

As it turns out, Barkley tweaked a shoulder muscle before the tournament and he couldn't make it through the weekend. But he hung around, talked to fans and handed out $100 bills.

So fans who were hoping to catch a glimpse of Barkley's extremely ugly swing were instead rewarded with $100 bills. Not a bad consolation prize if you ask us.

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Lisa Wrightsman was a Division I soccer player at Sacramento State, who graduated as one of the leading scorers in school history with dreams to play professionally.

But when those opportunities didn't happen, she instead found herself addicted to a new and more dangerous game: A bad spiral into drugs and alcohol.

It ended up, in part, being soccer that saved her once again thanks to Street Soccer USA, a program that provides homeless people a place to play the game as a means to recovery and getting a job again.

"I kind of felt like I had wasted 20 years of experience playing soccer, so when this opportunity came back around it was the best of both worlds, because I could do this forever," she said. "When you're a pro or trying to go to the Olympics, there's a clock you're racing physically, so this is kind of an awesome thing to come into."

Now, like many graduates of the program, she's not only clean -- but encouraging other women she coaches to change their lives by coaching. She was one of many coaches cheering on, encouraging and adding in helpful suggestions at the National Cup, a tournament featuring players from all around the country playing on a small field in the middle of Times Square on Monday.

"A lot of the women I work with are in recovery from addiction to alcohol or drugs and they're very good at manipulating," she said. "And they're very good at putting on a front and out here, they’re the most honest version of themselves. This weekend was the first time I saw them see the moment -- not only did they recognize, but they took it. They're kind of at the point in their life if they can do that here -- they can do that when they go back home.”

For Akeemo Edwards, who came to New York from Georgia where he lived with his mother and brother to get to know his father (a relationship which didn’t end up working out), the soccer league proved to be a good alternative to hanging out inside the homeless shelter where he is staying. He said he was sitting in the shelter one day when he noticed a few people kicking the ball around outside.

"I didn't know New York, so it’s the best way to get to meet people,” he said of the program.

Since joining the league seven months ago, Edwards, who mostly plays defense, says he's graduated from technical school and is looking for work as an heating refrigeration, ventilation and A/C technician.

"Guess what? We're in the summer, we're in a hot town,” he said. "If you need to be cool, call on me because I can keep you cool."

Street Soccer USA began in 2007 when the program's founder, Lawrence Cann, began visiting homeless shelters and finding anyone who wanted to play. It's now in 20 cities across America and is meant to give players not only on-the-field skills, but the discipline, schedule management and teamwork aspect of the game that translates into success off the field.

"It's about trust,” Cann told Time.com. "We make them feel comfortable. We get them to trust us, and we use that trust to help them move up.” Soccer gives order to their lives that have none.

The results are astounding: 75 percent of the program's graduates have been connected to jobs and housing, complete a rehabilitation program, or further their education within a year of joining the program.

There's also great rewards for many participants who make good progress, including a trip to the Homeless World Cup tournament, which has been held in exotic locations from Brazil to Mexico. Being selected for the tournament is based on the players’ progress in getting over their drug addictions, education and finding employment.

In Times Square on Monday, fans, coaches, volunteers and the occasional tourist wandering through pressed their faces against the makeshift fenced-in field, where players competed in often incredibly competitive games of four-on-four. Because the field, which resembles a small indoor soccer field, is so small it’s conducive to players with stronger foot work and speed. The game where Wrightsman's team played went into penalty kicks.

Wrightsman had competed in Brazil at the 2010 Homeless World Cup as a player, and she said even though her team perhaps wasn’t as competitive as other ones she’s played on, it proved to be a valuable lesson.

"My team was not good and in my college days I was like, 'If you're not good, you're jacking up my game I need you off the field. And in that situation I was the only one who had played soccer -- it was so much … I just started playing my best for them and trying to get for them to know what it was like to win. I wasn’t concerned about if they were slowing me down or if they were in my way, and that was a pretty incredible experience for me because I (used to be like) if we're not winning it doesn’t count. But there I thought, we're probably not going to win -- how do we make this count?"

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Brandi Chastain is taking her shirt off again -- this time for a good cause.

The retired U.S. women’s soccer star, famous for her game-winning penalty kick in the 1999 World Cup, repeated her famous celebration of stripping down to her sports bra to kick off the MoonWalk this weekend, which raises money for breast cancer research.

About 1,500 people showed up for the overnight event in New York City on Saturday night.

"I have to say I've only (repeated the celebration) maybe once or twice," Chastain said. "So I don't do it very often, but I will do it for special causes and good reason and the MoonWalk obviously is one of the best reasons."

The organizers came to her with the idea she said, and it's a cause that's close to her heart since her aunt was recently diagnosed with cancer and a classmate of her son’s lost her mother to the disease.

For fans of women’s soccer, Chastain's original shirt stripping moment, dubbed the "sports bra heard around the world" by the New York Times was one of the most important in history. Not only did it cap one of the greatest runs of all time in US soccer, but it sparked a media frenzy that helped start the first women’s soccer league in the U.S. Fourteen years later, Chastain said the memory of the first time she did it is as fuzzy as it was then.

"I don't really remember exactly how I was feeling,” she said before the event. "I know I was very tired and it was very hot. New York City is very hot right now, so it will be a good reason to take my shirt off."

The shirt-stripping celebration earned Chastain a sports bra endorsement deal and catapulted her on top of the list of most famous soccer players -- men or female -- from the United States of all time.

Now, she said, she uses the moment to encourage girls that she mentors through her foundation and coaching to take pride in their big moments.

“The moment was what so wonderful about sports when you do something good and you’ve reached a goal and you’re all of a sudden entitled to a moment of insanity,” she said. “I think celebrations are very important --especially for young girls because they (shy away from their) greatness and don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. But I tell girls all the time that its very important to celebrate things that you do.”

In the 14 years since the original sports bra moment, a lot has changed in women's soccer. A new team of stars has taken over for Chastain and her teammates, like Mia Hamm and Julie Foudy, who were considered pioneers in the sport. Chastain, for her part, has stayed active in the game, coaching and doing broadcasts for ESPN.

And while the new group of women hasn't produced quite an iconic moment as Chastain's sports bra reveal, she said the team now still has had their moments to inspire support for the new incarnation of a professional women's soccer league.

"I think the moment the US team had in the last Olympics, like Japan had in the World Cup the previous year -- the moment of the never-say-die attitude," she said. "The (attitude that the) game isn’t over 'til the last whistle blows and that you’re constantly going to put your heart out there and challenge your opponent to the end.

"That kind of courageousness that kind of determination that is what people have been holding on to and why they’re excited about going to a stadium to watch women's soccer (again)."

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