TEST YOUR SKILLS

Athletics and philanthropy combine at The D10 finale in Houston

Athletes compete in 10 events. Photo courtesy of The D10

This article originally appeared on CultureMap.

While we're well over a year away from the 2020 Olympic Games, Houstonians have an opportunity to feel that same inspiring buzz that comes from watching a professional live sporting competition.

On Saturday, November 3, the grand finale of The D10 national tour is taking place at Rice University. At the all-day event, amateur athletes compete in events that are common at the NFL Scouting Combine, in Olympic track and field, and on the playground, from a 400-meter run to pull-ups to a 20-yard shuttle.

All for a good cause
The best part? These athletes aren't just competing for pride, although there's certainly plenty of that. They are making a huge philanthropic impact. The D10 aligns with the premier pediatric cancer institutions in North America — in Houston, funds raised benefit The University of Texas MD Anderson Children's Cancer Hospital — and D10 registrants earn their spot on the playing field by meeting The D10's fundraising requirements.

Since its inception, The D10 has raised nearly $12 million for pediatric cancer research. About half the donations D10 athletes collect come in the form of "performance-based pledges," which can double or decrease depending on how well an athlete performs in a given event.

"Performance-based pledges rewrite the contract between the athlete and their donors," says D10 founder Dave Maloney. "It's a pledge by the competitor that he or she is training purposefully toward a specific goal. When you have an extra $1,000 for MD Anderson riding on each rep of the bench press, you can feel the electricity of that performance throughout the stadium."

"Festival-like atmosphere"
The D10's philanthropic component does more than check a box, according to Maloney. It creates the sense of common purpose that characterizes amateur team athletics. That unique blend of camaraderie and athleticism makes for a pretty special competition, a day that's full of a festival-like atmosphere. The D10's Game Day experience features a fully stocked beer garden by Saint Arnold Brewing Company, a kids play pavilion furnished by event sponsor Cheniere Energy, and complimentary fruit, snacks, and juices for all spectators.

"Our athletes represent many of Houston's leading firms in energy and legal and financial services," Maloney says. "As professionals, they expect the highest level of execution, and we hold ourselves to that standard in our production. As athletes, we want them to regard The D10 as their Super Bowl."

Cheer on the big day
For those who can't make the event on November 3, don't worry — the entire event will be broadcast on The D10's own streaming platform, called NORMA.

"We built NORMA because our athletes have supporters and donors all over the world," says Maloney. "It's a way for those people to be engaged with what's going on on the field."

On the day of the event, the software allows viewers to search and follow the athletes they want to watch, and receive phone notifications when it's each athlete's turn to compete. Viewers can also browse among more than a dozen camera angles to direct their own viewing experience, or make real-time donations to any athlete on the field. 

For details on competing or attending, head to The D10's Houston website.

The D10's livestream picks up the morning of the event on November 3.

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The media has mixed feelings about the James Harden trade. Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

James Harden was 100-percent exactly right earlier this week when he said the Houston Rockets were "just not good enough."

How could they be? Not when their moody superstar scorer, who makes about half a million dollars per game, shows up chubby, looking like a kielbasa about to explode in the microwave. Hey, some people eat when they're unhappy, it's a defense mechanism. In Harden's case, the only defense he's exhibited this season. At least he had a good excuse for missing pre-season training camp and alienating his teammates - he was busy partying with Cinnamon and Cherish in Atlanta and Vegas without a mask. Worst of all, he went into the tank his last four games in a Rockets uniform, standing around, arms folded, scoring fewer than 20 points each time, all Rockets losses. Fans in the front row were asking him to move, he was blocking their view of players who cared about winning. James Harden sabotaged his own team, a team that offered him $50 million a year to stay. Something that crazy could only happen in professional sports these days.

There's a saying that drives the American labor movement: "a fair day's wage for a fair day's work." It's the motto of the American Federation of Labor. The National Basketball Players Association is not a member. Harden's sulking on the court, cheating the Rockets and their fans, was unforgivable.

Harden, sitting out games while somehow being on the court, forced the Rockets to trade him - and quick - to Brooklyn. The trade, when you ignore the fine print and unindicted co-conspirators Cleveland and Indiana, sent Harden to Brooklyn in exchange for Caris LeVert (immediately flipped for Victor Oladipo), Jarrett Allen, three first-round draft picks and four swapped first-rounders. It's true, when you trade a superstar, you never get back equal value. The other team wins.

If it makes Rockets fans feel any better, the media in New York already has problems with their new problem child. I should say newest problem child. Kyrie Irving plays for the Nets.

"They (the Nets) gave up everybody! There's nothing left now. I just want to cry, It's awful," weeped WFAN Radio talk host Evan Roberts. For those who don't subscribe to weekly Arbitron ratings reports, WFAN is the most powerful, top-rated sports talk station in the Apple.

"You're leading down the road of doom. Harden and Durant could be gone in a year and a half. I'm not convinced this gives them a better chance to win a title. I'm living a nightmare again. They better freaking win."

Circle March 3 on your Rockets schedule. That's when the Brooklyn Nets, with their Big 3 of Kevin Durant, James Harden and possibly Kyrie Irving visit Toyota Center. I hear talk radio salivating over the record jeers that will cascade over Harden's name, although I'm not buying it. Fans don't think like the media does. I'm thinking that Rockets fans will welcome Harden back - one night only - with cheers.

Toyota Center public address announcer Matt Thomas: "Usually when former Rockets come to town for the first time since leaving, I give them a positive introduction. It's up to the fans how to react."

James Harden spent eight seasons with the Rockets. He is a spectacular player who watched other NBA players engineer trades so they could compete for a title. Harden didn't think the Rockets were good enough, and he's right. So he wanted out. We've all been there, a job we didn't like for a company we didn't like, for a boss we didn't respect. Harden wanting to be traded is understandable. How he went about it was deplorable. He hurt his co-workers.

Houston will make Harden pay for his disrespectful departure. He has an upscale restaurant set to open here. The name of the steakhouse will be "13." Harden's business partners may want to change that number ... before the restaurant's telephone number is disconnected. There are plenty of other restaurants in Houston. Rich people who can afford steakhouse prices hold grudges.

Rockets fans searching for a silver lining say, "We got two decent players and a whole bunch of precious first-round picks" for a malcontent who would rather be anywhere (except maybe Sacramento) than Houston." Yes, a bunch of first-round picks does bode well for the future. Anywhere, except maybe Houston.

Houston's draft war room isn't the most successful operation in the NBA. Over the past decade prior to 2000, under the direction of general manager Daryl Morey, the Rockets made 16 draft picks. Not one of them is still in a Rockets uniform, many of them have sought employment outside of America, some outside of basketball. Among their first-round whiffs: Nikola Mirotic, Terrence Jones, Sam Dekker - all out of the league. Best of all, Royce White, who played three whole games in his NBA career and finished with a scoring average of 0.00 points per game.

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