Fool Me Once… How Maurice White Got A #1 for EWF and ‘Dabbed’ on Barry Gibb!

white

I won’t go on and on about how much of a genius Maurice White, the original front man for Earth Wind and Fire was.  We all know this, right?  Not to be missed he was also an astute businessman!  Here is just one example:

The year was 1977.  A film was being made and produced called, “Sgt. Peppers Lonely Heart Club Band.”  This film would be based on a rock opera as told through songs created by The Beatles.  An all star cast was assembled full of music artist, rock bands and Hollywood’s acting royalty, including. Peter Frampton, Aerosmith, Billy Preston, Alice Cooper, Steve Martin, George Burns, and at the time the hottest group of the year The Bee Gees; still blazing from their successful blockbusting soundtrack from the film “Saturday Night Fever.”  Each recording artist was to remake and perform a Beatles song as part of the movie.

Earth Wind and Fire were asked to be a part of the project as well.  But Maurice White was not amused or interested.  Many in the industry didn’t understand why.  Music in movies were lightening in a bottle.  In addition to Saturday Night Fever, the producer for Sgt. Pepper, Robert Stigwood, was also working on another blockbuster hit in, “Grease,” starring John Travolta and Olivia Newton John as it’s main characters.  Michael Shultz was brought on as director.  Shultz had directed dozens of top grossing and cult followed projects such as, “Car Wash, “Which Way Is Up,” “Greased Lightening” and “Cooley High!” Easy decision.  Right?  Wrong.

Earth Wind and Fire (EWF) had already played in a movie previously called, “That’s The Way of the World.”  It starred Harvey Keitel as a record company executive.  EWF portrayed fictionalized characters of themselves, a struggling group trying to get a record produced and released.  The movie however, how can I say this… ummm it sucked!  Like it was really bad!  Even Keitel says it’s the worse movie he’s ever done till this day.  In spite of that, Columbia Records’ release of the LP by the same title became one of the group’s biggest signature records.  White was not about to put himself or the group in a position where the possible failure of a movie could hurt the sales of EWF’s music and brand.  It was Paul McCartney’s persistence that convinced White to take on the project.  He encouraged Maurice to do the song HIS way.  He had 100% autonomy.  The chosen record was, “Got To Get You Into My Life,” from The Beatles 1966 album, “Revolver.”

Sgt_peppers_lonely_hearts_club_band_poster

Maurice got to work on the vocal arrangements and the brass sections performed by the, “EWF Horns,” played by members Don Myrick, Louis Satterfield, Michael Harris and Rahmlee Michael Davis. He obsessed over every detail convinced it had to be a hit. When McCartney heard the finished product he absolutely loved it!  It was a great tribute but done in true EWF fashion.  Basically it would become and Earth Wind and Fire song, not merely a remake.

After the movie was completed, cast and production members were allowed to see a pre-screening.  All of the music was to be kept secret from the public until the company promoted the movie and the soundtrack.  After the viewing, Maurice wasn’t just devastated, he was pissed off.  This movie was bad.  Really really bad!  (Not again!)

Not to be defeated, White had a few months to work with before this colossal failure of a movie was to be released.  Though Stigwood’s record company (RSO) had the rights to the soundtrack, Maurice via EWF still had rights to the song through Columbia.  Maurice, confident he had a hit on his hands arranged for Columbia to release the record as a single several weeks before the movie debuted.  Since EWF was not releasing new material that year, they attached “Got To Get You Into My Life” on, “The Best of Earth Wind and Fire Vol. 1″‘s album.  To his delight the single shot to #1 on the Soul Singles Chart and #9 in the Hot 100.  As he predicted, “Sgt. Pepper,” the movie bombed.  So did the soundtrack.  Since I was a Bee Gees fan, at the age of 11 I caught a city bus to Scottsdale Mall in South Bend, Indiana to see the movie.  After falling asleep during this debacle, I walked out of the theater dazed and confused.

Meanwhile as Maurice White smiled all the way to the bank with yet another hit single, Barry Gibb, lead singer of The Bee Gees seethed!  He called the pre-release of the single a double cross.  Why?  Because in spite of the other artist in the movie, the main focus of the characters in were on the Bee Gee brothers, Barry, Robin and Maurice.  Since the movie flopped, nobody looked down on Aerosmith or EWF.  They were looked at like co-stars.  The backlash was solely on The Bee Gees!  Barry refused to ever speak to White again.

There are many stories of great times, sex, drugs, debauchery, back stabbing and money disputes in the music industry.  This is by far one of the shrewdest moves and funniest stories I have ever heard.

Maurice White, Thank you for the music.  It will last forever!

Why I Could Never Again Be a Christian in America

First clarifying a couple things:

I dislike or hate people of Christian faith: To the contrary.  My mother is a Christian woman who’s faith shapes everything she is about.  She is a loving, wise, and generous soul.  Of the many times we talk, rarely does a conversation end without her talking to me about prayer.  She says often that, “God hears your prayers, son.”  She doesn’t say that like, ‘God hears everyone’s prayers.’ It’s one of those, ‘you have a gift and because your heart is good, God hears you,’ kinds of things.  Many of my close relatives, friends and social heroes are Christians.  Coming from a Christian background myself, there was a time when I based everything I lived on what I was taught within it.  If only I had a dollar for every time I was told I was going to be a preacher!

I am not an atheist:  I am a believer in evolution by the truest definition. There is easily accessible evidence that people and nature evolves and has been since the beginning. No way in hell do I trust that all that is glorious and magnificent in the universe is random.  It’s simply unintelligent to witness science, which is also merely discovering what is already, be fascinated by the wonders of what we could never duplicate, witness how nature and the world works together to sustain order and still somehow arrogantly believe it’s all by chance.  What I tend NOT to believe however, is that if we were to somehow be privy to the genesis of the universe, the answers would revolve around a religious mandate.  In other words, I don’t believe the Architect, if you will, would be obsessed with him/her/itself.  “Hey guys, its all about ME!  Worship ME!  Sing about ME!  Pray to ME!  Want rewards?  Come to ME!  Avoid destruction?  Come to ME!  ME ME ME!  Anytime there is an obsession with the WHO of God, there is by extension a narrow distinction which separates and isolates those who are not within that same group.  Basically it’s a group of people saying they have the market cornered on the WHO, and if you don’t accept their version of this entity, you are doomed for all eternity.

I’m courageous enough to ask critical questions and live within the journey as things unfold.  My faith tells me that anything I need to know to live my best life in this world is available to me.  This world is the only one I am present in and therefore assuredly accountable to.  

With that, there are many schematic reasons why I cannot embrace Christianity.  But I am not going to quibble with theology, dogma or doctrine.  My frustration is simply the wildly selective, inconsistent, hypocritical and vile display of all the worst in human nature that cuts against every basic principle taught by Jesus himself.  Though this is nothing new, specifically as it relates to Christian Conservatism.  I remember going to church during George W Bush’s re-election campaign.  The pastor of a local church here in St. Louis, named Raphael Green said, “I’m not going to tell you who to vote for.  But as a Christian you shouldn’t vote for anyone who is for killing babies.”   Translation – Vote for Bush.  Nothing wrong with being anti-abortion.  But being pro-life in all phases of humanity is consistent with the teachings of Christ.  It is now as it was then that Christians tend to care a helluva lot about the unborn, while caring little for the child who has ventured past the womb.  During that election cycle the church by in large took the position that the areas of abortion, gay rights and school prayer were the only issues that really mattered when choosing a given candidate.

I look at today’s embracing of Donald Trump by Christian Conservatives now as,”the more things change, the more they stay the same”.  The reality is that those Trump supporters who carry Christianity as a banner are race and religious separatists.  These are the same people who hate Barack Obama with all of their hearts.

Barack-Obamas-family-2

Let’s look at Mr. Obama (regardless of politics). Married to one woman; faithful husband and father of two daughters, has brought no scandal to the White House whatsoever during his 8 years in office.  His daughters are stellar and controversy free!   Christians should love them for modeling ‘traditional’ family, right?  No.  Their lives as a witness never stopped Evangelicals from railing against him at every turn.  Never did they stand up to birthers who questioned the president’s citizenship.  Christians refused to acknowledge the President’s own claim to the Christian faith.  According to Pew Research Center, 70% or Republicans are white evangelicals.  80% of Mormons are Republicans. According to The Hill, 43% of Republicans still believe the POTUS is a Muslim.  These evangelicals have never embraced President Obama on any subject matter.  There were even preachers who hate him so much they had the nerve to say God hates him, and even prayed for his death!  Imagine that!  I never heard the Christian Right criticize this or other ministers who used their pulpits in churches as platforms for attacking the president’s character and at times calling for his literal execution (from White or Black preachers).  Meanwhile, unemployment numbers are down to record lows.  The stock markets rose to epic levels even after the deepest recession in decades in 2008.

Now let’s look at Donald Trump.  The Donald, a serial adulterer, who publicly flaunted his new women while being married to the old ones.  He had a child with #2 while being married to #1.  He ‘joked’ that if Ivanka wasn’t his daughter, he would sex her up as well.  Not a big deal?

But let’s put Barack Obama in Trump’s shoes and then tell me if the person who takes this point of view is going to feel the same.  Trump claims to be Presbyterian, but openly admits that he has never and will never ask God for forgiveness regarding anything.  This eliminates him from the possibility of being a Christian according to Christian teaching.

“Why do I have to repent, why do I have to ask for forgiveness, if you are not making mistakes? I work hard. I’m an honourable person. I have thousands of people who work for me. I have employed tens of thousands of people over the years.” – Trump on Anderson Cooper 360 July 2015

This dude is so biblically inept that he blamed his ‘Two Corinthians” comments on the Evangelical Minister Tony Perkins who gave him his talking points for his speech at Liberty.

“Tony Perkins wrote that out for me. He actually wrote out the 2, he wrote out the number 2 Corinthians. I took exactly what Tony said, and I said, ‘Well, Tony has to know better than anybody.'”

Militarily, Trump criticized Arizona Senator John McCain for ‘getting caught’ as a POW.  Of McCain he said, “He’s not a war hero. He was a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured.”  He refuses to attend a debate because Megan Kelly is a moderator, saying he’s going to raise money for wounded veterans.  I wonder why?  I would think he would be more approving of veterans who didn’t get shot or wounded from IADs.  The reality is, he doesn’t want to be a part of any situation where he does not control 100% of the narrative.  All of this and yet… he is the leading GOP candidate among American Christians.

I was watching CSPAN the other morning.  The subject for the open phone section was for Conservative Christians as to whether they were voting for Trump or Ted Cruz.  Most all of them chose Trump.  The moderator asked a few of the callers if they believed Trump was a Christian.  One lady said she believes he is.  When the moderator talked about how he didn’t feel the need to ask for forgiveness, she said, “I know.  He’s still a Christian in my heart.”  WTF????   I guess its the way he mocked a mentally disabled journalist that was indicative of the character of Jesus.

When asked about Trump’s comments about having so much support that he could shoot someone and still not drop in the polls, another Christian caller laughed it off and said it was funny. When asked about Trump’s 3 wives and history of infidelity, another Christian caller said, “As long as he keeps it with women!” 

This isn’t just for white Christians either.  A plethora of Black Conservative Christians that came out the wood-work early on slobbered all over Trump for his money.  They tout his business savvy in spite of several bankruptcies.  When questioning that logic they say, “Well he just took advantage of the system the way it’s set up.”  Not quite like calling him a welfare businessman or predicting he would be a food stamp president as Newt Gingrich called President Obama.  I wonder if these people know that ultimately the tax payer picked up the tabs for these business decisions that put thousands out of work?  Now these Christians who criticized Obama for being ‘ungodly’ after almost a decade when confronted with Trump’s shenanigans, all of a sudden say they are electing a president and not a pastor.  The hypocrisy revealed by irony has been on warp speed in 2015 and the start of 2016.

trump-traditional-marriage

2EF0D0FC00000578-3340230-image-a-13_1448921231822

The Trump phenomenon is just an example. The rest of the Christians favor Ted Cruz.  This is a man who’s father tags along with making statements like, “What many people don’t understand, is the fact that Obamacare was actually put in place to act as a bridge for ISIS terrorists. A bridge that’s supposed to enable them to come here illegally and pose as doctors who allegedly want to help. And that’s not surprising, considering the fact that fewer and fewer doctors in our country are actually Caucasian, which is something Obama is well aware of, hence Obamacare as his weapon of choice. Do you understand what I’m saying? Our president is actually helping terrorists come to this country and not only that, he has created a permanent way for them to be able to wreak havoc all across America.”   Ahh, just let that sink in a moment!

I’ve talked to some of my black and white conservative friends about this subject.  Most of them are so blinded by their hatred of abortion, and same sex marriage, all the other scriptures regarding love, truth, justice and righteousness seem irrelevant.  For instance:

Mass Incarceration: These are the numbers for the federal prison population increase for mostly low level drug offenses:

1990 – 64,936

1995 – 100,958

2000 – 145,125

2005 – 187,394

2010 – 210,227

For states the total is well over 2 MILLION!  In most of these states prison is privatized and in addition, these institutions are guaranteed by the state to have a certain percentage of inmates. Where is the church on this?

We have a water crisis of epic proportions in Flint, Michigan.  This was caused by men who decided that poisoning an entire mostly minority and impoverished community was suitable.  Where is the outcry from the church regarding how Jesus said that how you treat the least of them is how you treat him?  I remember when Pastor Marvin Winans, in Detroit, refused to baptize a young woman’s child because the woman had the baby out of wedlock!  Won’t hear a word from him on this!  Black ministers are the worst for being fixated on material things, building mega churches and flying in private jets. If you held your breath waiting on them to speak on other issues like what Michigan’s governor did to residents in Flint, you would pass out.

I’ll tell you some of the reasons why they won’t say a word.

  1. They are bought and paid off.  These ministers make much of their money by networking with other ministers.  They don’t want to jeopardize those relationships and compromise future earnings from speaking engagements and perdiems.
  2. White Evangelicals have defined the metrics for what is moral vs what is ‘just the devil, and is therefore ignored.’  While they railed against gay rights and abortion at the turn of the century, they ignored the lies by a previous Christian president (Bush) that got us into war, murdered tens of thousands Iraqi civilians and mentally destroyed thousands and thousands of US servicemen and women. Clearly for them God only moral emphasis deals with who has sex with whom, and whether women keep the babies they are impregnated with, even if they are raped.  Many black ministers were given their biblical points of emphasis and marching orders by their white counterparts.  Since these white ministers are the majority that provide the gateways to get wealth, they close their eyes and ignore the obvious.
  3. Tribalism: Like most other religions, there is an US vs THEM state of mind.  If you’re not in the group, there is reticence to ask serious question and challenge any thought that doesn’t already support the status quo.  When 5 Americans were released from Iran recently, one of my Facebook friends only mentioned Christian pastor Saeed Abedini’s release as ‘an answered prayer.’  In other words, to hell with them other dudes.  I guess they’re just lucky or got to roll on the pastor’s coattail.

I’ve had conversations with black ministers.  There is only one that I know who agrees with me.  The others tell me that I am using my intellect too much.  When I challenge their ideas of traditional marriage with facts about the historical precedence of marriages being arranged for money, class, and inheritance, or how the god in the bible never challenged men who had multiple wives, even Solomon who had 700 of them along with 300 extra concubines, they say I am rejecting the word of God with my rebellious logic.  When I ask them which sex hermaphrodites should choose and who are they to marry, I get nothing but a dismissive smirk.  I’m sorry, but I just cannot accept this American Western civilization’s version of morality and base my life on it.  I cannot suspend serious questions just to make it into their heaven.  I cannot suspend critical thinking for the sake of the fear that I won’t have fire insurance. I cannot live in a bubble that ignores police brutality, and mass incarceration, while denying climate change.  I refuse to submit to a theology influenced and based on (that continues to be filled with) White Supremacy.

The Black church, while never perfect, used to be about something.  Going back to the 50s  and 60s, ministers like Martin King would use his influence to force those in government to hear the issues of the poor, those who were discriminated against and so forth.  In the tradition of Moses they echoed they cried, “Let my people go,”  when those at the bottom were being trampled upon. Today’s preachers just want to be in Pharaoh’s house. They want to rub shoulders with him and speak of his great virtues.  “He’s a billionaire and knows how to make money!”  They have become concerned with prestige and profits instead of being prophets.  These days far too many black churches have allowed themselves to be spiritually manipulated into fighting culture wars. I’ve had to debate black Christians who have defended Kim Davis for breaking the law of the Supreme Court.  And yet Kim Davis would never ever stand up for them if they were profiled and shot dead unjustly by police. She doesn’t desire to worship and associate with black Christians.  Think about it.  THE most segregated hours in America remain on Sundays between the hours of 10:00 am and Noon.

Martin Luther King Jr., with the Rev. Ralph Abernathy (center) and the Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth, defied an injunction against protesting on Good Friday in 1963. They were arrested and held in solitary confinement in the Birmingham jail where King wrote his famous "Letter From Birmingham Jail."

Martin Luther King Jr., with the Rev. Ralph Abernathy (center) and the Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth, defied an injunction against protesting on Good Friday in 1963. They were arrested and held in solitary confinement in the Birmingham jail where King wrote his famous “Letter From Birmingham Jail.”

Can you imagine Martin King, Fred Shuttlesworth and Ralph Abernathy caping up for Trump, Cruz, and Huckabee over same sex marriage, abortion and guns?

Encouraging enough, some of my Christian friends praise me for my stances and the challenges I bring to their thought process.  More of them pay attention to my social media posts than I ever imagined, though they rarely make it publicly known.  I appreciate that.  My goal is only to provoke thinking and searching.  If something is true, it will continue to be true after further investigation.  If it’s not, one should strive to grow beyond remaining in a comfortable lie.  It was very difficult for me to walk away from that which I knew my entire life.  But I am thankful to have the courage to ask questions and not be afraid of the journey.  The problem with religion is that it doesn’t trust people with that journey. It has to tell us what to do and how to find God it’s way.  It sets the perimeters and doesn’t allow for any personal discoveries.  It’s controlling.  I’ve always said that if technology progressed like religion, we would still be riding camels and horses.  We certainly wouldn’t have computers and smart phones.  Technology is growing by leaps and bounds simply because of a hunger and thirst to learn more and reach for the possibilities.  And yet everything we are supposed to know about The Divine and our own lives has been completed hundreds of years ago?  I appreciate the United Church of Christ for their slogan, “God is still speaking.”  It gives us hope.  **Shout out to Rev. Tracie deVon Blackmon, a real 21st Century warrior and an excellent example of the teachings of Christ!

I am for a faith that is concerned with promoting all that is good, that speaks out against all wrongs without any sacred cows.  A faith that isn’t too afraid to think, question, challenge and grow from it’s evolution.  A faith that loves justice, grace and kindness.  If all this Evangelical Jesus cares about are the things they emphasize, as Curtis Mayfield once said, “If there’s hell below, we’re all gonna go!”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Catching Hell, Grieving the Loss of Natalie Cole

natalie-cole-3

Joey, where are you going
Where will you sleep tonight
Will you be alright?

Some people can tell you exactly where they were when certain artist have died;  Lennon, Elvis, Tupac, Michael, Teena.

I will always remember that I was in a department store when I saw the Facebook post from my friend Jerome Noble that Natalie Cole died.  When I saw the post, I took it like I have taken many tragedies initially in my life; I went into a robotic mode mentally, and shut down mode internally as a coping mechanism. I pushed away that thought that such an important figure in my life was suddenly gone and went on about my day.  I understood that as time went on I would have to grapple with it.  This is a way of attempting to start the process of doing that.

My entire life story can be described with the music I have grown up with. There are certain artist that helped shape particular aspects of my way of looking at things.  Natalie Cole was pivotal in shaping my views and perspectives on love, communication, intimacy and vulnerability.  This was before I had a single girlfriend.  Her  words and expression were what I imagined love should be.  And thus what I wanted.  Her voice alone is right up there with Aretha’s.  But if I could compartmentalize, Aretha was like that chick you heard about.  She was/is a legend that everyone knows and yet you were lucky to see live if given the chance.  Aretha is a legend.  For me, Natalie Cole, no less legendary in stature was still that chick you knew from around the way.  She lived in my neighborhood.  My family went to her house for back yard cookouts.  Through her music I felt as if I knew her personally.  Even as a child her deep and thoughtful lyrics were totally relatable.  That is amazing to me when you consider that this is a woman who grew up in a home where on any given day Sinatra, Davis Jr. Ellington, Fitzgerald, and Basie would be just hanging out with her parents.

Getting to the music, I would be remiss to not mention the brains behind the lyrics and music that Natalie gave life to.  Chuck Jackson and (former husband) Marvin Yancy were a dynamic team that brought out Natalie’s own signature style. The game changers for me were two LPs released both released in 1977, “Unpredictable,” and “Thankful.”  I listened to the former time and time again via 8 Track living in South Bend, Indiana.  My mother played it every weekend when we were doing the detailed cleaning in the house.  While the radio played hits like, “I’ve Got Love On My Mind,” I was blessed to hear the rest of the songs like, “Still In Love,” featuring a soft melodic guitar not at all common in R&B music.  Then there was “Peaceful Living,” which compared the inner workings of a loving relationship to living in a land of paradise.  “Your Eyes,” is a beautiful compliment to a man who eyes she finds so captivating, not recognizing that the man was also blind.

And here we are in utopia where the sun never seems to go away
And the moon is our friend, hmm
Looking out on a starry night and the sky is like a slate for writing on
But you don’t need a pin, you don’t need a pin
Precious one, you’re a joy to me
And I know that there’s no place else I’d rather be
Peaceful living is here

The most impactful hit on, “Unpredictable,” was “I’m Catching Hell.”  This was an anthem in which the likes of Mary J. Blige would go on to follow in the footsteps in.  Here she opens with a monologue talking to women, encouraging them not to make mountains out of mole hills when it comes to small conflicts in their relationships.  The message is simply, “If you got a good man, you’d better keep him!”  She addresses the potential resistance to her message by acknowledging that she isn’t privy to each and every situation.  But if its not a deal breaker, stick to it.  From there she sings her ass off to her man acknowledging that devastating results of her rash emotionalism leading her to put a period where a comma should have been.

If I could replay, if I could replay ,that whole scene again, oh well
You know that I would never, never say it again, that our love, our love is at its end
And oh, you know that I would kind of ease on back, yes I would
And let confusion pass on by, I took a fools’way out, oh yeah
Without one good reason why

natalie

“Thankful,” was introduced to me in the outer suburbs of Pittsburgh, PA from my grandfather whom I visited most summers as a youth.  He had the cassette tape and played it when we rode in his 1978 creme colored fully loaded Lincoln Continental Town Car.   That car was an immaculate beast!  Whether it was around town or on road trips to Meridian, Mississippi where he was born, like “Unpredictable,” I listened intently and learned every word to every song.  “Thankful,” is nothing like “Unpredictable.”  To this day I am still amazed that she released two totally different iconic albums in one year.  Who ever does that?

You’re my morning star shining brightly beside me
And if we keep this love
We will last through all eternity

Again doing what normal R&B divas didn’t, she jazzed it up from the start with the up tempo swinging, “Lovers.”  Without pause she soon gives us a calypso ladened and poetic La Costa.  “Nothing Is Stronger Than Love,” is sang like a cross between a church service and the signature song in a Broadway play.  “Annie Mae,” is a powerful tribute to the young girls struggling with life on the streets.  Both of these albums played like an opera for me, each song a scene in the lives of my mother and other adults I looked up to; waiting to play my own part in my own life as an adult.

When I became an adult and no longer had access to my favorite Natalie Cole works, and with the release of CDs I looked for years with great displeasure learning that every piece of work she had up to that point were not released.  For some reason Capitol Records was holding out.  Eventually I found the single LaCosta on a Capitol compilation.  Then eventually I purchased both Thankful and Unpredictable three years apart from Japan.  (Thank you Ebay) Thankfully with the internet and some streaming services these songs are easily accessible.

natyancy

I find it ironic that I was recently watching an old episode of Grey’s Anatomy and noticed Natalie was playing a heart patient with little chance of living long into the future.  I am so disappointed that I never saw her perform live.

Natalie reinvented herself plenty of times.  From R&B to pop, then following in her father’s footsteps in recreating his works in Unforgettable.  Unforgettable is so amazing because she not only does the standards her father mastered, she managed to still make them totally her own.  She went on to do several classical jazz standards and her voice was always astute for the occasion.  I love those works, but it was those two 1977 releases that changed my life.  Listening to those jams last night my mood started to lighten a bit.  Instead of falling into despair, I will simply say, “Thank You for blessing me with your gifts, that voice, that heart.  You may be gone but your music will last forever in the playlist of my heart.  It would be selfish for me to ask you to stay forever.  You are allowed to take your rest for a job well done.”

When the snow falls on the Sahara, ‘And the sun freezes over,
When the Mojave red turns into blue.
When the music’s no longer playing and the faithless start praying,
I’ll stop loving you.

Your #1 Fan

 

unpredictThankful

 

 

Evaluating Officiating in Black & White

I’ll get to the point:

Sports officiating is one of the most fulfilling activities I’ve ever participated in.  It’s fun, exciting and challenging.  The fun and exciting part is because of my love for sports and the even deeper love I have for the mostly young people who play in the contest.  Outside of men’s league basketball, 99% of the 4 sports I officiate are middle or high school age.  Young people are special in my eyes.  I respect those who participate as well as the coaches who spend time molding them into better people through organized sports.  Facilitating a contest so that the rules and spirit of fair play are enforced is vital to the games.  While there are rules, there is also game administration.  In other words it’s not just about calling violations, it’s also understanding what not to call.  There is a certain feel to the game officials have to understand.  Show me an official who administers 100% by the book, and I’ll show you an official that no coach, player or fan wants.  And this is  the focus of this blog… coaches and fans.  Namely my coaches and fans of African descent.

In officiating, conflict among players and coaches is something that goes with the job.  We expect it.  Where there is competition, there is often intensity as a group of individuals collectively fight for pieces of real estate on the floor or field of play.  Resolving conflict and fostering an environment where communication is open and respectful is one of the responsibilities officials have which have nothing to do with the rules.  It’s a give and take.  When lines are crossed, its up to officials to be the arbiter of what is no longer acceptable.

I’ve noticed over the years that there is a general difference in the kind of flack I get from White folks vs. Black when it comes to youth sports.   Again generally, if a white person doesn’t like my calls, he/she criticizes my performance, my aptitude, my judgement.  They may say something like, “That was a horrible call!  What are you looking at?”  Or one of my favorites, “Hey! There’s a game going on out there.  You may want to try watching it!”  These are par for the course.  Any official worth his whistle won’t take these things to heart unless things go overboard.  Don’t get me wrong, there are some white coaches that I know going into a game are going to be jerks for the sake of being a jerk.  For me, the tone is much more important than the words.

But then there are my brothers and sisters.  African-Americans; Black folk.  When things aren’t going their way, the phrase that far too many of us go to without nuance or consideration is, “YA”LL CHEATING!”

manly-fans_r7mt9zzglluq1pdoxbihmtumy

Listen, to a certain degree, I get it.  Black folk are marginalized in society.  The history and legacy of White supremacy is a prevailing reality that affects most every area of our lives.  When it comes sports, its one of the few areas modern day where we have been able to successfully and compete with the masses consistently.  Many African-American parents see sports as one of their child’s avenues to gain success where there is no subtle or flagrant bias; understanding the bias most black people will face as they get older.  Then there is the passion that just goes along with being a fan.  Fan is short for ‘fanatic.”  Therefore, by definition there is a certain expectation of a lack of logic when it comes to observing athletic competition.  I can be as hyped as anybody yelling at my television when the Lakers or Steelers are on.  Sometimes that includes yelling at the referees.  So again, I get it.  Unfortunately there are those among us who take the ‘cheating,’ accusation (a premise that is often flawed) to a disgraceful level.

I officiated a football game a while back.  The teams consisted of a mostly black populated school vs a majority white populated school.  In my position as back judge,  I threw penalty flags on 3 long touchdown scoring plays back against the mostly white team as a result of ‘holding’.  That team’s White coach wasn’t too happy with me.  He yelled a few things at my direction as football coaches do.  The fans were also disappointed and expressed their displeasure in the forms of “Ohhhh” and “Arrrrrrggghhhhs”  Later on, I called the same type of holding penalty against the mostly black team.  Not only did the fans and assistant go ballistic, the fans started accusing me and our crew of cheating.  I don’t mean ‘cheating’ as hyperbole.  They were actually serious!  All of a sudden every move I made was heavily scrutinized.  When I explained my call to the coach, they mocked and scorned my words to the coach if I were addressing them.  As for the rest of the game, every subsequent penalty against their team was in some way an attempt to take something away from them.  As a matter of fact, even as their team won the game, instead of celebrating the victory of the players, they taunted the officials that we were not able to ‘cheat’ them out of victory.

This isn’t the only time.  I’ve been in basketball games, where it was an all white team playing an all black team; the white teams are winning, and the black coaches and fans are screaming at two black officials accusing of of cheating.  How ridiculous is that?  Often the reality is that the other team is shooting, passing, rebounding, and defending better than the other.  Sometimes the black kids are imitating  Lebron James and Kobe Bryant with their moves, but haven’t put in the work and developed the skill-set to succeed like their hoop heros.  Sometimes it’s as simple as the coaching is suspect.  Regardless of the sport, I can normally tell within the first few minutes how good a team is, whether they are well coached, and their level of potential competitive success in a given situation.  I can say for sure, that the officiating generally has so little to do with an outcome of a game, you’d have to be Tim Donaghy to notice discrepancies.

That being said, there are crappy officials.   I know more than a few who do it just for the money.  I hate working with them.  There are also officials who have biases.  There are even situations where black teams from certain communities have a harder time succeeding in other communities when they compete.  Equally true, is that no player or team has calls that they will always agree with. Officials, like players and coaches make mistakes.  We miss the mark.  Still, the vast majority of us really care about doing a great service to the game and the young people who play them.  We attend training camps, study, test, watch film, critique ourselves and one another every day.  When I am with some of my good friends who are officials we openly discuss our blunders.  We use these our mistakes to help one another better.  We seldom ever talk about ‘that great game’ we called the other night.  That’s the truth!

So to my people, you know who you are, please stop!  We aren’t out here trying to take nothing away from your kid.  Accusing us of cheating, especially within ear shot of the youth who are playing, gives them a false sense of victim-hood that is in no way true, nor will it prepare them to differentiate and navigate the real bias they face now or will face later.  Winning games are about talent, strategy and execution.  In most cases, these decide the outcomes of games even if the officiating is suspect.  The cream always rises to the top.  I don’t give a damn about who wins or loses a game; unless you are the Lakers or the Steelers.  And honestly if I officiate those teams, because I care about my craft so much, I wouldn’t give Kobe or Big Ben a damn thing they didn’t earn. So stop thinking its my job to compensate for your child’s lack of athletic achievement?

By all means continue to critique us on performance if you see fit.  Engaged and KNOWLEDGEABLE fans keep officials on our toes.  In my profession, we are expected to be perfect and we strive for perfection. Unfortunately, most of you don’t understand the rules like you think you do and couldn’t referee yourselves out of a paper bag if it came down to it.   Screaming obscenities and accusing us of cheating makes YOU look bad.  And sometimes YA’LL embarrass me!  I’m throwing a proverbial flag for unsportsmanlike conduct and feeding black youth misinformation.  STOP IT!

{3F04396C-8553-44C9-A96A-C7DFD4FE3C03}

 

 

 

 

 

The Great Stadium Caper… What Brady Haters and St. Louisans Have In Common

I’ll just start with this meme I saw on social media after Judge Berman slammed Roger Goodell’s pathetic case presented to the federal court in Manhattan.

11953463_895071517253176_4946750519338234533_o (1)

This was posted by one of my social media connections, who happens to be a St. Louisan.  Now we Mid Westerners have had beef with New England since 2002.  The Rams lost to the Patriots 20-17 in the Super Bowl.  The world found out later that the Patriots were secretly taping the Rams practices.  (Spygate) Personally, I will never believe that was the determining factor of the game.  Mike Martz’s refusal to give the ball to Marshall Faulk cost the Rams a second Super Bowl.  Martz bought into his ‘genius’ accolades, and had Kurt Warner throwing the ball 44 times leading to 2 interceptions  (Brady only threw 27 times for a conservative 145 yards, 1TD, 0 Int)  Look, Antowain Smith carried the balls more times (18) than Faulk (17).  But giving the ball to the 3 time MVP and 2001 Offensive Player of the Year would have taken the shine off of coach’s ego.

This doesn’t mean the Patriots didn’t cheat.  They cheated so bad the league destroyed the evidence before anyone else could see it.  The Patriots got off with a slap on the hand.  With that reputation St. Louisian’s weren’t the only ones to remember how the league favored The Golden Boy (Brady) and influential owner Bob Kraft.  I say favored because when other issues such as Bountygate came up, The New Orleans Saints were basically given the NFL’s version of the death penalty.  The league suspended the head coach, (1Year) the GM, (8 Games) an assistant coach (6 Games) and gave an indefinite suspension to another assistant coach.  The NFL is an anything but precarious industry.  It’s America’s favorite sport to watch, analyze, and gamble on.  Fantasy football is as fundamental to Americans as Christmas.  For 49 years the league had enjoyed tax-exempt status as a not for profit organization.  It’s 32 owners are billionaires in an exclusive club that money alone can’t buy into.  Their salary for Commissioner Goodell was $45 million last year.  This atmosphere creates a breeding ground for arrogance.  Being a billionaire doesn’t exclude one from being petty.  This is why the other owners we so hell bent on getting Tom Brady to sit for 4 games.  They have grown tired of seeing Kraft, the Taylor Swift of owners, enjoy so much team success, even through sometimes dubious circumstances.

But often pettiness breeds sloppiness.  The league has bungled and lost their last 5 court battles with player discipline because of a total lack of jurisprudence discipline of their own.  This latest debacle with  Deflategate was no different, if not worst.

Was Brady in charge of having balls deflated?  Of course!  No NFL quarterback, especially one of Brady’s caliber not have say about the state of his money maker.  Brady and Peyton Manning led a charge years ago to have more control of ball conditions including ball pressure.  The Patriots said the team did nothing wrong, but fired the equipment managers in charge of balls.  Brady himself refused to turn over cell phone text to Special Investigator Ted Wells relating to communication with said equipment managers. He eventually destroyed said telephone before showing up to federal court.  Initially he said he cooperated fully with the Wells investigation.  In court, not only did he admit that he lied and didn’t fully cooperate, he was willing to take a suspension for not fully cooperating.  And finally, you wonder why the equipment managers, McNally and Yastremski haven’t been on CNN or Good Morning America?  I mean they’re fired, right?  They aren’t under legal obligation to keep silent.  It’s because they are not worried about bills and their next meal.  Think about it.

But no.  That was not good enough for the league.  In spite of the circumstantial evidence of a massive Patriots cover-up, Goodell’s Kangaroo Court didn’t have the smoking deflate needle it needed to secure total victory.  Instead, they orchestrated a system in which defense could not cross examine key league witnesses against Brady, including the man interpreting the official Wells report. Instead of settling for a compromise on the failure to cooperate, and letting public opinion decide whether Brady by definition had reason to not cooperate, namely guilt, they forged ahead into Judge Richard Berman’s dance floor and got served.  And rightfully so. You know why? Because PROCESS MATTERS!  This means we can’t adjudicate issues and decide fates merely on charges, whether true or not, with insufficient evidence.  Berman never said the footballs were not being deflated.  He dismissed the NFL’s PROCESS.  Those of us who believe in the ideas of process understand, even if we believe fully that Brady cheated.  Those of us who are not, care little about the process, only getting what they want out of it.  This describes the meme above.  It’s so illogical and simple minded as often memes are.  First of all, Rose never cheated, he gambled.  Second, he didn’t admit to cheating till over a decade after he was found out.  Third, Brady won because the NFL’s process was wrong, not merely because he denied it.  I liken it to the OJ Simpson trial.  Most Americans believe he’s a murderer.  But we are not supposed to put people in jail because of something we believe.  The LAPD bungled the evidence, lied on the stand, and the DA got beasted by some of the best defense attorney’s in the world.

This brings me to the publicly funded stadium being proposed in St. Louis.  Rams owner Stan Kroenke, wants the citizens of St. Louis to build him a stadium for his team to the tune of half a billion publicly funded dollars.  He claims that unless we build it for him, he will move team to Los Angeles and build his own stadium with his own money.  *Imagine that.  We’ve been here before. We built a domed stadium downtown with the hopes of getting an NFL team after Bill Bidwell moved the Cardinals to Phoenix in 1987.  It was sold as a jobs program and a key to revitalize a decaying downtown.  It worked.  We convinced Georgia Frontiere to bring her team here with a promise of a windfall for personal seat licences, season ticket profits and a sweetheart deal of a lease.  She also gave Kroenke 40% of the team.  Now the majority owner, Kroenke wants to cash in on St. Louis once again.  It’s par for the course and personally I don’t have a problem with it. He’s doing what billionaires do; looking to expand his wealth and power as much as he can he can and using other people’s money to do it.  What is disappointing however, is the many locals who want to give him the desires of his greedy heart without so much as a whimper, critique, or push-back.

Stan-Kroenke-Arsenal-007

In 2002 the City of St. Louis enacted an ordinance that mandated a public vote for any new stadium funding projects.  The motivation was in large part because of the continuous cost the city is burdened with from the aforementioned dome.  This didn’t mean that residents would not approve new stadium funding.  It merely put the burden on an NFL owner and marketing department to sell it to us; convince us that it makes fiscal sense.  Further, the state law that allows for public funding for stadiums says that the structure has to be adjacent to a convention center.  But instead of having to having to sell this idea, Kroenke is holding a gun to the city’s head threatening to move the club if his demands aren’t met.  Public officials have helped him in his crusade by circumventing the voting process.  They got a judge to defy the voting ordinance, and give an entire new definition the word adjacent.  In other words, though I live 35 miles west of the downtown convention center, a new stadium could be built in my neighborhood and still be considered ‘adjacent.’  Sounds like something Goodell would make up doesn’t it?

Unfortunately many STL football don’t give a damn about the process.  They just want an NFL team in the area regardless of the cost.  It’s a classic buy now, pay later/devil may care attitude.  I expect this from local sports writers and broadcasters.  Having an NFL team equates to job security and supporting the stadium means team favor and access.  But for the general fan, (short for fanatic) to think so little of the process, being willing to bend over for the sake of having NFL status is mystifying.  Their excuses are equally as lame.  They range from downtown revitalization, tax revenue and jobs.  Well, we’ve had the Rams for 20 years.  They got a new stadium initially and if downtown wasn’t revitalized then how will it be by building a new structure?  The tax revenue while good, will not pay for the tax spending on the building itself, just as it hasn’t for the Dome the Rams are playing in now.  The jobs are mostly minimum wage, and seasonal at that.  Truth be told, most Rams season ticket holders, like the baseball Cardinals season ticket holders don’t hang out downtown anyway.  They come to the game and afterwards jam Highway 40 to West County.

I’ve had this debate with several of the Kroenke sycophants.  After these points are made, it all comes down to the fact that they just want a team.  They talk echo Joe Buck’s ridiculous assertions about Cincinnati and Indianapolis passing St. Louis as some sort of Midwest powerhouse.  This is both a sad and pathetic argument.  For one, every city has it’s strengths and weaknesses.  Indy has a football and an NBA franchise, but no baseball team.  St. Louis has the premier baseball franchise in Major League Baseball.  I’ve been to Cincinnati a few times.  No shade, but that city isn’t something to brag about.  It’s actually St. Louis East to me.  Their downtown have similar political, crime and racial issues.  Besides this, what great city makes it’s mark by comparing itself to another?  While I give Buck credit for taking Kroenke to task, he’s still willing to bypass the process and give the Rams cart blanch tax payer welfare.  So what difference does it make? Stan Kroenke is a business man.  He doesn’t owe St. Louis anything.

Lastly, if there is a new stadium, what is supposed to fill the Dome that we are still paying for?  The sycophants talk of  ‘conventions,’ but seriously, there aren’t that many damn conventions and events in the dome now.  It’s huge and expensive.  There just aren’t that many organizations in need of a 50,000 plus seat stadium. Explaining this to the Kroenke sycophants doesn’t register however.  It’s not that they disagree in theory.  It’s just that their ravenous desire to have the Rams here renders them unable to think past the moment.  It’s a mentality that says in effect, “Just give me the pu##y.  Protection?  Naw.  Pregnancy, HIV, hell we’ll deal with that later.  It’s as illogical and inaccurate as the meme above.  Truth be told, I believe the Rams are leaving regardless.  I also believe local and state government know it too.  They want to build the stadium regardless.  The Rams threats is a way to sway the public and get it done.

Middle class Americans can be just as arrogant as billionaire owners.  We claim to be a nation of ideas and democracy.  We brag about it to other countries.  That is unless it serves our own purpose to be oligarchs.

It’s just a damn shame that Judge Berman doesn’t hold court in St. Louis.

 

Message to Black Lives Matters Critics … who happen to be Black

Black folk are not monolithic.   I know that there are some in America who believe we are.  But we didn’t all agree in Africa before we were sold into slavery.  We didn’t all agree while in the state of slavery.  We didn’t all agree upon emancipation.  We didn’t all agree during Jim Crow, during the civil rights movement, even about having civil rights.  Like any other group of humans, our views differ from liberal, conservative, ambivalent, apathetic.  We are engaged, passionate and absent.  And just as we don’t agree about who is the best MC, the best basketball player of all time, or whether peanut butter is better than chocolate, we don’t all view the Black Lives Matter movement as it relates to police brutality, systematic racism and so called Black on Black crime within our neighborhoods.

Locally speaking, since Michael Brown, many of my friends have been on the forefront of protest, civil disobedience or spreading the word via social media regarding police brutality as it relates to the St. Louis Metropolitan area.  They have fought hard through the midst of resistance from many of their White counterparts, White police unions, and administrations resistant to give up the power of their privilege.  Equally true is that St. Louis is enduring a sickening amount of shootings and murders this year.  There are many reasoning and debates for the escalations of violent crimes, from lack of policing in certain North Side areas, to a mindset among Black youth that they just don’t give a damn about taking a life.  As mentioned in the first sentence, we don’t share all of the same views, therefore we don’t share the same passions.  But unfortunately, instead of respecting one another’s passions for a common goal of bettering the community as best as we can, some of us are at odds in direct conflict against the other.  Specifically, some who are righteously frustrated with the crime being committed against one another, are upset at protesters of police brutality and Black Lives Matter.  The video below from Ferguson resident Peggy Hubbard is an example.

Hubbard isn’t the only one who has expressed these sentiments.  Many of my African-American friends on social media have asked after a murder, “Where are all the protesters now? Why aren’t they protesting or holding a rally for this?”  These are similar to some of my White counterparts who refuse to acknowledge or even justify their lack of interest and subsequent support of police brutality because there are Black criminals; as if there aren’t criminals within their own group.  The difference is that White folk generally aren’t shot, chocked, tased, or mysteriously found dead while in police custody.  I’ve had those conversations with my White friends.  I’ve explained to them, that there are differences in community concern about criminal behavior vs state sponsored oppression and brutality.  My neighbor is a citizen, my police, prosecutors and judges are compensated with tax dollars that I participate in contributing towards.  These have taken an oath to protect and serve righteously for all of it’s citizens.  Contrary to popular belief, we can actually care about both equally.  Not to mention if there is a murder or a robbery in my neighborhood, more times than not we are looking to those same police to solve those crimes and remove those criminals from among us.  Some of us believe these crimes aren’t as vigorously investigated in our neighborhoods as they would in a White neighborhood; thus the cycle continues.

What is missed however, is that there are and have been activities standing up for victims of violent crimes.  They may not be as prevalent or publicly covered as those against police brutality.   But they are there.

http://http://http://www.wsiltv.com/home/top-story/Hundreds-March-to-Stop-the-Violence-in-St-Louis-321964351.html

http://http://fox2now.com/2014/06/01/prayer-vigil-held-to-stop-the-violence-in-st-louis/

http://http://fox2now.com/2015/07/29/funeral-directors-and-morticians-to-hold-stop-the-violence-rally-this-sunday/

Thus my message isn’t to my White counterparts who are anti-Black Lives Matter or anti-police brutality against people of color; though they can get some too if they like.  But specifically to those who like Ms. Hubbard, single mother with a son who is incarcerated, to my Black friends who poo poo the folk fighting the system of government oppression because they think these protesters should protest all things Black struggle, is get off your asses and do it yourself!  If there aren’t enough black protest and rallies against crime in your view, then dammit start one.  Gather like minded individuals, organize and get your asses out in these streets.  Why  be in conflict with your brothers and sisters who are fighting for your right to be equally valued lawfully in the system in which we all rely to a certain extent.  If I am in danger and I can’t solve the issue, I’m calling the police.  I have police who are good friends of mine.  But that prevent me from having a passion against police who are out to kill me.  There is no conflict for me to love my police friends while jamming Fuck The Police in my ride simultaneously.  It seems to me that the folk who DO have the problem are sitting at their computers or making videos or posting empty challenges to folk who are doing something, because they aren’t doing a damn thing.

I have given three examples of people who are making a difference in partaking in efforts that are related to our community, though not the same exact focus.  Hell I’ll throw in a fourth just for good measure.

http://http://fox2now.com/2015/04/29/homicide-in-north-st-louis-highlights-we-must-stop-killing-each-other-campaign/

0b6d3200-0a02-4e37-a20d-247608692ec3-620x372

The point is, even if you are not a good organizer, there are some people doing some things in the area of crime in Black neighborhoods.  Join them.  It’s just plain ignorant and unproductive to ask those who are focused on police brutality to do your damn passion too.  Get off the sidelines, and do something and make us all stronger.  If not, then by all means stay in your lane and STFU!

NBA Defenders and Pretenders, or the Saga of DeAndre Jordan

So DJ has changed his mind about leaving the Clippers, and the players are acting like The Church of Scientology refusing to leave his house till he can sign… Mark Cuban is the Biggest Loser.

This is such a fascinating story! DJ should have never had to even contemplate leaving LA. NEVER! Fact is, Doc Rivers’ lack of leadership in controlling the CP3 narrative wasting time trading for Lance Stephenson and bringing back 150 year old Paul Pierce shows his lack of competence as GM. Doc should have squashed this a long time ago. He let’s CP3 do whatever the hell he wants in spite of the fact that the dude has never made it past the second round of the playoffs.

So, DJ is courted by Cuban, Paul is on a banana boat with two cats who have rings and another that don’t, while his defensive player of the year/shot blocking/rim protector extraordinaire rides on horseback down the Rio Grande. Meanwhile, every hoop fan in America clearly understands that the underachieving Clippers are about to be the Indiana Pacers of the West; and it takes the only sane person in the organization, JJ Reddick to call Doc out saying that his off season performance as GM was an F- to get their attentions?

Perhaps Steve Ballmer had one of his aneurysms and Doc saw his rep flashing before his eyes. Lose DJ, ain’t nobody buying the Doc hype no more. Hell Blake will be out after a couple years and the Clips will be the 76ers tanking up looking for the next Danny Manning… and being the Lakers’ bitches just like the Sterling years.

Chris-Paul-Screams-at-DeAndre-jordan

Now why in the hell do I know this and I’m just a dude on the keyboard?

I feel kinda bad for DJ. The man just needed a little love and he deserved it. If Paul were the leader he acts like he is, he would have balanced some of that bitchery with some tenderness knowing that DJ bust his ass every night and makes Paul’s life easier than it ever was in New Orleans. But naw instead of tending to his team’s business he out there riding Lebron’s jock. – Like ya’ll equals or something. Hell Lebron got his thing together in Cleveland. He got Kevin Love before he bolted. He got Tristian Thompson about to get paid! He got Mo Williams… he can ride the damn boat!

THIS is why the Clippers still won’t beat the Warriors or the Spurs. They are merely delaying the inevitable.