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WWE’s John Cena discusses how he gave his dad the ‘double middle-finger’


Whether it’s performing in a wrestling ring, hosting the Nickelodeon Kids’ Choice Awards or visiting The Today Show, John Cena always seems at home in front of an audience. His appearance Monday during the South By Southwest Interactive Festival proved no different.

Cena, speaking in a one-on-one interview with Fox Sports’ Katie Nolan before approximately 600 festival attendees at the Austin Convention Center, delivered what you’d expect from someone who has spent 15 years as a WWE “babyface,” pro wrestling parlance for an in-ring good guy.

Cena’s babyface persona is no act. One of the most active philanthropic celebrities, Cena has granted more than 500 Make-A-Wish wishes – more than anyone else in history.

Nolan good-naturedly needled Cena for his wholesomeness, but the 39-year-old did reveal some darker corners of his life, especially when discussing his entry into the professional world of fitness.

“My dad told me I would never make it, and I wanted to give him the double middle-finger,” he said. “I just wanted to prove him wrong.”

Even more disturbing, especially for fans from his native Massachusetts? Cena grew up idolizing, among others, New York Yankees first baseman Don Mattingly. If he can survive that growing up in West Newbury, then Cena can certainly survive the WWE.

Power of Storytelling in Sports Entertainment: Over Saturday Night Live’s past six seasons, athletes like Cena, Ronda Rousey, Eli Manning and Charles Barkley have been hosts on the sketch comedy show.

Bryan Tucker, the co-head writer at SNL, said Monday that athletes tend to get the benefit of the doubt from the show’s audience since they aren’t trained comedians or actors. Therefore, it’s the writers’ job to give them workable scripts.

“The key, I feel, is to write within their own voice,” Tucker said. “Don’t make them go too far down a path that they can’t or don’t want to do.”

Tucker was one of four speakers on a SXSW panel about the off-field entertainment options in sports. Tucker, who also writes for The Kicker, was joined by ACE Media’s Scott Langerman and Bleacher Report’s Karin Hammerberg. The Kicker’s Grant Jones moderated the discussion.

Videos produced by Bleacher Report and The Kicker were presented during the panel. The audience was also shown the trailer to a dating show that featured Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce.

“It was at that very moment that my mother turned to me and said ‘You went to law school for what?’,” joked Langerman, who was an executive producer on “Catching Kelce.”

- Danny Davis

Moneyball 2.0: Are Players Ready for Wearables?: Between Feb. 27 and March 11 – a span of 13 days – the Golden State Warriors played eight games in eight different states. So it wasn’t surprising to hear Cheri Mah say on Monday that the NBA was the sporting league with the worst sleep schedule.

“The NBA has probably one of the worst schedules because of the forced travel postgame for many of these long road trips,” said Mah, a sleep specialist at the University of California-San Francisco’s human performance center. “The NFL, you have one game a week. It’s easier to craft strategies and travel schedules around one game.”

Mah was speaking on a SXSW panel alongside physician Marcus Elliott and ESPN’s Tom Haberstroh about athletes and their sleeping habits.

Some NBA athletes like Los Angeles Clippers center DeAndre Jordan have using wearable technology (think Fitbit, Garmin or Whoop) to help monitor their sleep patterns. Wearables, however, aren’t a perfect solution. Elliott, for example, was wearing one on Monday and he complained about his devices’ ability to monitor heart rates.

Still, Mah said wearables are a step in the right direction.

“There’s some terrible wearables, some terrible apps out there for sleep,” Mah said. “The technology is going to get better. The validation is going to get there.”

- Danny Davis



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