A Gathering of Church Brethren, Or My Richard Sherman Moment

Richard Sherman’s  NFC Championship game saving play and immediate reaction during his post game interview has spurned a lot of discussion.  The reaction, mostly negative seem to come from two separate parties:  One that is shocked that the gladiator leaving the field of gridiron battle was not calm and composed immediately after making the play of his life.  The second was a selective set of white folks viewing him as a black out of control mandingo ready to devour every white woman in the Emerald City.

I thought the interview with Erin Andrews was awesome!  His raw and unapologetic rant, the result of the competing for the ultimate prize in his sport against a heated rival made me feel as if I was on the field.  While others found it difficult to understand, I resonated being totally invested in stiff competition with personal feelings at stake.  I thought of my own Richard Sherman moments.

One that I will never forget happened years ago playing basketball with some brothers from a church I attended.  We met every Saturday afternoon at a local community center.  The competition was pretty good and the name of the game was to win and stay on the court.  These games often were personal to me because we had rivalries among the brethren.  That was the way I felt anyway…

A LITTLE BACKGROUND

Growing up I wasn’t a basketball player.  Baseball was my sport.  I taught myself how to play through battling against some of the toughest players the area.  I thrived on effort and intuition.  I did whatever it took to win and it didn’t matter if I felt I had to score all of the points or none.  All I cared about was winning or competing at my highest level with no regrets.  I wasn’t that guy who tried to “Be Like Mike.”  For me it was about not cheating myself from within.  Basketball was just a game, but competing in the right way meant that anything less than an all out effort was selling myself short.  If I didn’t stand up for myself I believed I would be punking out.   In those years I was still learning how to be a man.  Part of my personal rights of passage was to match myself up against other men in competition.   Simply put, I believed that if I can play this game and beat guys who were often times better than me skill wise or more athletically inclined, that meant I could compete in life in the career market and otherwise.  It was a self test of survival.

I wasn’t a great player but I could hold my own and I often did.  I gained a lot of respect among my peers.  For some reason, not with some of these guys I played with from church.  I would often get picked last below players whom I knew I was better than. Sometimes I wouldn’t get picked at all.  That would burn me up.  Once captains were chosen, I would throw my finger up asking one of the guys to pick me up.  Sometimes no one did.  I would have to wait and get ‘next.’  That would burn me up even more!

This one particular day I was one of the last picked up.  One of the players on the other team was one of the better players.  He had never picked me on his side.  So once again, I created a chip  boulder on my shoulder that said, “You are going to regret that you didn’t pick me…. ALL FREAKING DAY LONG.”

As custom, we gathered to pray first and play began.  As the games went on my team collected a few wins.  We took on all challengers and different team combinations from game to game.  There was trash talking, and more than a few arguments.  Towards the end of the evening, after winning 6 straight games I was ready to shut it down.  For years I had struggled with a sharp shooting pain down my right leg, which I found out later was sciatic nerve pain from a herniated disk in my back.  At this point I had a hard time walking.  One of the players on the other team wanted one more rematch.  Marjobo and I went to school together so we went way back.  He had been talking trash to me all day long though I was sticking it in his ass.  He was especially irritating and was relentlessly non stop with his rants and name calling.

Sizin'en Up

I have never been the trash talker many guys are.  I always believed the biggest competition was with myself.  I’ve gotten my ass handed to me by some great players.  And I’ve done my share of winning.  But I had no sorrows if I knew I gave it my all against them.  My never quit no excuses attitude is how I got my respect.  On the flip side, guys who talked trash to me often took me to a deeper level of intensity.  My friend Richard Dix knows this all too well.  We played one on one often.  On most occasions the results went about 50-50.  Richard was long, athletic and could jump.  But, Richard’s downfall was his pride.  If he were winning, he had to let me know about it.  He would talk, laugh and say stupid things.  From then on I would start into another gear.  As I would pile on the points he would say something like, “Oh boy, I see you done got quiet.  Here we go!”   I would be in an assassin’s mentality. Richard called it my, “You ain’t my friend no more mode.”  Either way, I don’t think he ever beat me when I was in that state of mind.

I told Marjobo my leg was bothering me.  I needed to sit it out.  He egged me on saying I was a scared punk who didn’t want him to beat me.  After a few minutes I said to myself, “F’it… let’s go!”

The two teams went at if for about 20-25 minutes.  Back and forth the score went.  Game was to 12 but it was win by 2.  Richard was there but he was watching.  Basketball never meant that much to him.  After a couple games, he was just hanging with the brothers.  He was entertained by the drama.  Marjobo was talking and talking.  I never said a word.  Dragging my leg around I did everything I could to rebound and play defense.  Finally we went up 16-15 with one basket to go for game time.  I received a pass on a cut to the paint, went up for the shot and as the ball went through the basket, my inner Richard Sherman came through in front of all these dudes I went to church and worshipped with every Sunday as I screamed at the top of my lungs:

GET YO MOTHERFU#@$! ASSES OFF MY GOTDAMN COURT!  THIS IS MY MOTHERFU#@$! HOUSE!   BUSTA ASS NI@@AS CAN’T F#@! WITH ME!!!!!!!!  NOW DON’T SAY SH#! ELSE!!!!  ALL YA’LL DISMISSED!!!

There was total silence in the gym, except for Richard who was on the floor rolling around laughing.  He said, “I told ya’ll.  Don’t say nothing to that dude.  Just play and leave him alone!”  I’m sure the other guys were thinking, “I knew he wasn’t saved!”

I can tell you over 10 years later that my response was totally unplanned and 100% organic.  It didn’t matter.  My mother, my kids, the pastor or anybody could have been there at the time.  I was mentally out of my mind with a euphoric satisfaction that was probably something like being high on crack for the first time.  My reaction wasn’t who I was on a day to day basis.  But it was within me.  I was a conquering warrior for that moment.   When I went home I could barely move the pain was so horrific.  I had an MRI and had the first of two back surgeries less than two weeks later.  For all of the days I suffered waiting on the surgery, as I reflected back I said to myself every single time it was all worth it.  I was just a guy playing some rec ball.  This wasn’t my career or my life’s dream.  What do you think it was like for Richard Sherman?

Marjobo

**Marjobo Harrell who was named after Martin Luther King, John Kennedy, and Bobby Kennedy (Mar- Jo- bo) was a St. Louis Firefighter who died tragically in a motor cycle accident.  He really was an awesome guy!  Much love and rest in peace brother!  

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F’ing Up and Fessing Up – The Broncos and Jay Cutler

I am Steelers’ man so far be it from me to be all in the Broncos’ business.  But they messed up with quarterback Jay Cutler and should take the lead in trying to make it right.  Many sports honks know by now that the team fired head coach Mike Shanahan and hired Josh McDaniels from the Patriots.  Recently McDaniels tried to trade Cutler to get quarterback Matt Cassel from the Patriots since he was comfortable with Cassel within his system in New England.  The trade didn’t work out as Cassel went to Kansas City instead. 

I won’t even talk about that crazy deal, but lets just say that I think if the Chiefs are not successful by the trading deadline this year that a Tony Gonzalez trade to New England will explain why the Pats gave this guy away to new KC head Scott Peoli.

Anyway, I have been hearing stuff on sports radio talking about how Cutler needs to man up and move on.  That the NFL is a business and that anyone can be traded.  That is not a fact I am lost on.  But these are extenuating circumstances and I have to side with Cutler on this one.  Here is why.

This is how things work in pro sports.  Coach A gets fired and coach B comes in.  He has his own system and way of doing things.  A change was needed which is why he was hired in the first place.  Star player who may or may not have adored the previous coach gets a call from the new coach.  New coach says, ” Star Player, I am so happy to be here and I look forward to working with YOU to help this team get to the top!  Star Player says, “Sure coach.”  On the record Cutler told others he was very excited to work with the new coach.  All is well… “See you soon  in off season mini camp where I’ll give you the playbook and we’ll start on our future and turn this franchise around.”

Next thing you know you find out the new coach dangled you out there to get another guy in your spot.  It was a bitch move or a clever one for the coach to get a guy he was more confident in, but he only knows for sure if it actually works out.  If it fails and it gets back to Star Player then of course all hell is gonna break loose.  Not only does Star Player feel betrayed and thinks you don’t want him, he also dismisses all the other pleasantries that were previously spoken between the two of you as well as team ownership itself who allowed this shopping to be done.  Then on top of it all, when McDaniels is found out, he denies that he even tried to trade Cutler in the first place.

Say its a business all you want.  But what if Cutler had lobbed a call to Jerry Jones and said, “Hey, if you think the Broncos will do it, I think I can take the Cowboys to the Super Bowl faster than Tony Romo?.”  He would be called a traitor.  Jones would be charged for tampering with a player under contract.  Cutler’s name and reputation would be toast. 

The fact of the matter is, McDaniels and Bronco owner Pat Bowlen put the man out there in a shrewed business move that blew up in their faces.  They undermined Cutler’s credibility with his teammates.  They said to him, “We don’t believe in you.”  Which is fine in itself.  But they can’t act like it’s just all good now cause they are stuck with him.

Now the bottle line is this, Cutler is still a Bronco.  And by right he needs to learn the playbook and work with the coach to help the team.  But if I were him, I would let McDaniels know that this IS business and I will under no circumstances trust either the coach nor the owner.  Since there is no trust, I will keep my bags packed cause in the back of my mind I know the hammer could come down at any moment. 

That’s just the reality.  And if Cutler were to feel anything different, both the coach and the owner need to make it right so that it can be different.  So far it doesn’t seem they see it this way.  Which just feeds into the initial disrespect in the first place.  This would not have happened to John Elway.  And yea I know Jay Cutler is no John Elway… at least not yet.   But to paraphrase a quote from Rick Pitino, “No, John Elway is not walking through that door.”

NFL Addition ~ Denver Broncos I give you Bill Cowher!

Let me run down the math:

1. Jets coach Eric Mangini gets fired.

2. Bill Cowher says he is interested in talking to the Jets about a coaching position. 

3. Jets GM Mike Tannenbaum says he’s not opposed to sharing duties with a coach like Cowher.

4. Bronoc’s Fire Mike Shanahan – who is beloved by owner Pat Bowlen and has been untouchable even in dark times before and after they won 2 Super Bowls.

5. Coach Cowher says he is no longer insterested in coaching the Jets.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure this one out.  Cowher took a couple years off since leaving Pittsburgh.  He has the itch again to coach.  The Jets were ok… but not a storied franchise like the Steelers.  But with big time dollars and GM duties, he could have done a Bill Parcells (Buy the groceries and cook the meal.)  No way he goes to that cesspool of a team The Cleveland Browns.  Denver siezes the opportunity and calls Coach Cowher. 

Broncos – “Bill, you want some of this?”

Coach Cowher – “I can’t talk about that, you have a coach!”

Broncos – “Well we can take care of that.”

Coach Cowher – Well then call me back when you do.”   click

 It all makes sense.  Like the Steelers, the Denver Broncos are an institution not just a team.  They have a fan base across the country.  Their seats are never empty.  No one cares about the Rockies.  This is yet another place where Cowher can be king.

The only coach with a name and reputation better than Shanahan’s at the moment is Bill Cowher’s.  It’s a match made in Bronco heaven.

I waited for ESPN to make this connection last night.  But because they are so controlled by the NFL’s marketing team, they wanted to wait so it won’t look so bad for the Jets.  They didn’t want to have the appearance out there that there was a quid pro quo for firing Shanahan.  So they will let it ride for at least 24 hours I suppose… maybe let the New Years bowl hype take over.  That’s ESPN for you though.. a thoroughly predictable non-journalistic institution. 

I called my friend Paula today.  She, along with her husband Curtis and son Demetrius are from Denver and are die hard Bronco honks.  She hadn’t made the connection yet – but was happy to hear the good news.

Since I love the Steelers, I can’t help but be happy for Cowher.  He kept us relevant every year and gave us a Super Bowl.  After taking some time off to enjoy his family, I ain’t mad at him!

I also have people in Pittsbugh who have four season tickets on the lower bowl at Heinz Field.  I already called to get dibs on a ducket when the Broncos visit.

Happy New Year Denver!