Of Symbolism, Ritualism, Cowardice and Hard Truths

Now I know the birthday of a nation
Is a time when a country celebrates
But as your hand touches your heart
Remember we all played a part 
In America to help that banner wave

  • Stevie Wonder, Black Man 1976

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What thoughts do you have as you view these symbols?  For some these symbols either represent or remind them of their faith in god and country.  For others these represent institutions of hatred and oppression.  For me, they represent all of these; faith, god, country, hatred and oppression.  They also represent neither.  The meanings of symbols and the meanings thereof are strictly up to the person interpreting them.  As people, we interpret symbols through the lenses of how we are raised, our learned experiences or how we have evolved.  By nature I am sentimental but I hardly hold on to what I deem are empty traditions.  I am an American.  But I didn’t have the choice of being an American.  I was born here.  I see from a distance some of the advantages I have from people in some other countries.  But my experiences and knowledge are limited, unlike, for example a first generation immigrant.  I can’t say America is the best country in the world.  Because ‘best’ is subjective depending on a person’s needs.  ‘Home’ is home for most people in the world.  Most people have conflicted feelings about their homes.

I served in the military, but I didn’t have a particular affection for the flag.  I grew close to a few of the people I served with.  I was a Christian, but I didn’t love the cross or the bible as a symbol.  I loved what I believed they stood for according to my faith.  I admit that I’ve had my superstitions.  Back in the day I would never put a glass or anything else on top of my bible.  There was something in me that felt it wasn’t right.  I’ve learned in time this was my hangup.  Experience has taught me a few things about symbols.

The flag, whether decorated with stars and stripes or crossbones and skull in an inanimate object.  The bible is a book.  It’s people who bring value and significance to things.  Not the other way around.  What the American flag and the Holy Bible represent to each person they encounter will be determined by the representatives who carry and present them.

I cannot speak for other nations, but Americans are really into symbols and rituals. However, far too many have little interest in an authentic manifestation of what they say the symbols stand for.  Take Colin Kaepernick and his decision to sit for the Star Spangled Banner. He expressed a grievance that has long been expressed by African-Americans as well as many other minorities in this country.  He desires that America as a whole live up to the ideas that she claim for all of it’s citizens. But Americans, are using the flag (the symbol) as a shield to cover over the subject matter Kaepernick described when asked why he sat.  Clearly, his critics don’t want to recognize Kaepernick’s grievances or even entertain a serious discussion about them.

I think ESPN’s Stan Verrett spoke for most Americans who happen to be woke, Black Americans in particular.

“I’ve always stood for the anthem because I believe in the promise of America, what the flag is supposed to symbolize even though America often falls short of what it’s supposed to symbolize. I mean, my dad served in the Army, dealt with discrimination in the Army, came back from his service in World War II and was not afforded the same rights as a U.S. citizen after his service, so don’t talk to me about sacrifice and the military. My mom was the valedictorian of her high school, couldn’t go to college in Louisiana and other mainstream universities because they were segregated. They didn’t want to hear about her grades. You can’t go because you’re black. “There’s still (discriminatory) problems in housing, hiring, the justice system. These are real problems. People aren’t making this up and they’re trying to find ways to speak out about it. You’re not always going to agree with the method. But let’s pay as much attention to the substance as we do to the symbol.”

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*Is burning this jersey (a recent ritual against scorned black athletes) any different that burning this cross?

Unfortunately, many of the loudest detractors of critical thought, nuance and self examination are fixated on the symbolism.  In the case of ‘patriotism’ they love the worship of the flag and the ritual of standing for the anthem.  They love the idea of what the veteran does to protect their rights to be self absorbed while enjoying a false sense of exceptionalism.  They aren’t willing to give two damns or one f#@! for veteran returning to the United States traumatized with PTSD.  They don’t invest in the welfare of military spouses and families left here when soldiers are deployed, wounded or killed in action.  They aren’t even the least bit put off about how the NFL charged the United States Military millions of dollars putting on tributes in stadiums during football games.

But they sure are mad as hell at a man who peacefully sits down for 90 seconds of the anthem.  They burn his jersey in effigy.  They tell him to leave the country.  They use his income as an excuse to condemn him to silence; as if money is an elixir to racism.  The ignore poor and middle class people who share the same griefs that Kaepernick is talking about.  So the question has to be asked: Is patriotism really the issue here? Or is there something else more sinister at play?

Images and rituals are useful when they serve as a reminder or an inspiration; when they celebrate ideas of hope, service, strength, and compassion, or a solemn recognition of memorial.  However, whats most important is that these images, symbols and rituals remain what they are, reminders. And that we the people with the power to make the meaning of our symbols a reality do so.  Without substance, we (and by ‘we’ I mean they or you if it applies) are liars, rattlesnakes pretending to be eagles!  This fact is easily verifiable when one acts as if not standing for the anthem is treason while ignoring the reasons a man chooses not to stand.

Finally I will echo the words of San Francisco Chronicle Columnist, Ann Killion,  …the truth is, standing for the national anthem before a sporting event is an equally empty gesture for many people. Though many are reverent during the anthem and think of their freedom and those who have died for our rights, just as many are buying a beer, daydreaming or looking at their phones. Raising their butts off the seat doesn’t make them better Americans than Kaepernick.

She continued,  …To those who say he “should” be grateful, and that he has a good life, take a look at the racist comments posted on his Instagram account. They’ve been there for years, long before this controversy. He has plenty of reason to be concerned about what’s happening in our country.

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I say, the fact that many are still holding on to their patriotic bumper sticker phrases, despite the many veterans who have come to Kaepernick’s defense, (#VeteransForKaepernick) your stance merely reveals your nationalistic narcissism!  You can’t hide in plain sight.  We see you naked and inept.  When former Attorney General Eric Holder said, “Though this nation has proudly thought of itself as an ethnic melting pot, in things racial, we have always been and we — I believe continue to be in too many ways essentially a nation of cowards, he was talking about you, oh “patriotic” one.

Several Reasons Fidel Goodell Has to Go

They say the cover up is always worst than the crime.  Roger Goodell’s malfeasance and subsequent cover up of his handling of the Ray Rice incident puts him square in the middle of the chopping block as NFL commissioner.

1) When the initial video came out of Rice dragging and unconscious Janay Palmer out of a casino elevator, part of his ‘investigation’ was to interview both Ray and Janay in the same room at the same time.  She married Ray so what in the hell did Goodell think she was going to say?  I wonder what Ray Rice told Goodell, as the commissioner made a huge deal of Michael Vick telling the complete truth to him regarding his dog fighting allegations.  Did he admit that he struck her?  Did he lie?  My educated guess he is told the truth.  Rice never said once publicly that he didn’t strike Palmer.  Janay went on national television and claimed she contributed to the left hook that sent her down for the count.  Goodell decided that two games was enough of a suspension.  FAIL

2) When the backlash of the two game suspension hit, the commissioner was M.I.A.  Instead of defending or explaining it himself, he waited days before rolling out NFL Sr. VP Adolpho Birch via a call to ESPN’s Mike & Mike In The Morning Show.  Said Birch, “The discipline that was taken by the NFL is the only discipline that occurred with respect to Mr. Rice in this case. Were he not an NFL player, I don’t know that he would have received punishment from any other source … We believe that the discipline we issued is appropriate — it’s multiple games, and hundreds of thousands of dollars. It doesn’t reflect that we condone the behavior.”   Weeks later during Hall of Fame Weekend, Goodell having no other choice defended himself.  “We have a very firm policy that domestic violence is not acceptable in the NFL, and there are consequences for that.  Obviously, when we are going through the process of evaluating an issue and whether there will be discipline, you look at all of the facts that are available to us.”… “”We have to remain consistent,” he said. “We can’t just make up the discipline. It has to be consistent with other cases, and it was in this matter. … I take into account all of the information before I make a decision on what the discipline will be,”    More outrage ensued and on yet a few weeks later on August 28th, Goodell announced a new policy for stiffer penalties regarding domestic abuse; six games for a first time offense and a lifetime ban for a second.   While some applauded Goodell for changing his stance, I was reticent to do so.  Goodell has never been transparent with the public nor had he ever changed his mind about a policy he’d put in place.  There was something else to this.

Birch NFL VP Adolpho Birch

3) On Monday morning we all found out what the something else was.  TMZ released the video explicitly showing how Janay Palmer ended up on the floor of the elevator.  From the moment I saw that announcement in the wee hours of the morning while watching the aforementioned Mike and Mike show, I said to my wife, “This is why they changed the policy.  They knew this video was going to surface.”  Initially again there is no comment from the NFL to the media.  The Baltimore Ravens did a u-turn cutting ties with Rice altogether terminating his contract.  Soon afterwards, Goodell suspended Rice indefinitely.  Speaking of lack of leadership, how about the Ravens rolling head football coach John Harbaugh out to speak to the media while owner Steve Bisciotti and GM Ozzie Newsome, adamant supporters of Rice and their own sources of what really happened were noticeably missing.  Talk about cowards?  Neither of them have my respect.  But I digress.  The issue now with the commissioner’s office is, 1) Did the league see the video.  2) If not why not.  Goodell claimed that not only had the league not received the video, but that they were rebuffed by the New Jersey State Police.  (NJSP)  It only took minutes for the NJSP to respond that not only was that a lie, but that they were not the ones handling the investigation in the first place.  The NFL issued a follow up statement attempting to wiggle their way out of being previously busted in the first lie.  Goodell appeared on CBS Tuesday evening with the following statements:

On why he made a decision without seeing the tape: “That’s why we asked for it on several occasions. Because when we make a decision we want to have all the information that’s available. And obviously that was the — that when we met with Ray Rice and his representatives, it was ambiguous about what actually happened.”

Let’s examine that statement for a moment.  Basically he’s saying that Ray Rice and his people gave the NFL the runaround and he realized that when they were in his office.  Rice’s lawyer had the tape.  Goodell didn’t press?  So he’s saying he was punked into giving him a minimum suspension of two games.  Does that sound like Fidel Goodell to you?

You can see the rest of that foolishness in the interview, especially in his BS explanation about how TMZ got the video but the NFL offices couldn’t.

But let me tell you something about NFL security.  They are pretty much second to Homeland Security in terms of resources and connections.  Many of their personnel are former FBI, military and other government workers.   There isn’t a player who is drafted who has not had an in-depth background check right on down to the friends they hang with as well as their family interactions.   As an example we can look at former Miami Dolphins executive  Jeff Ireland’s asking then draft prospect Dez Bryant if his mother had been a prostitute.  The NFL can get their hands on any tape or information they choose to.

Ray and Janay Ray and Janay Rice

There may be a few folk who believe Goodell when he says he didn’t see the video.  For him to say that he suspected there was a second video (in a casino no doubt) insults all of our intelligence.  He also said he was made aware of the video from his staff after he got in the office on Monday.  This is the final straw to me.  As I said before, I suspected he not only saw the video, but he new the video was coming out, which is why he changed the policy.  Furthermore, if I’m in my bedroom getting this news from ESPN shortly after 6 am EST. you mean to tell me Roger Goodell, the commissioner of the NFL didn’t receive a call from ANYONE before he got in the office regarding the video’s release?

Now we have word that the NFL had the tape in April.  I mean how incompetent and arrogant can this dude be?  The ass covering operation is an epic fail.  I guess next he will go Ronald Reagan on us and say, “Well apparently we HAD the video in the office, but I didn’t see it.  They kept it from me.”  Maybe the female on the tape who answering the phone will be the NFL’s Oliver North.

4) Roger Goodell’s salary for last year was $44.2 million per year.  Many fans talk about the worth of players and whether they should make the money they make.  The same people don’t even consider a salary like Goodell’s when they pay for tickets, a hot dog and a beer at a game.  This is because most of us can toss a football around so we think we can relate.  The same people cannot fathom owning or running a team.  Like the players, I couldn’t care less about what Goodell makes.  That’s between he and his NFL bosses.  That being said, from his handling of Spy Gate, Bounty Gate, and this latest fiasco, it’s clear that this job is too big for him to handle.  It’s clear though he said he couldn’t ‘make up discipline’ in earlier interviews, he did just that in suspending Rice indefinitely after the second video became public.  He didn’t act because he saw the video, he acted because WE ALL saw the video.

Finally, the NFL had been soft on domestic violence for years.  For the first time there was an incident that got national exposure because of the initial surveillance video.  If the commissioner had done his job and suspended Ray Rice to 8 games, 12 games, or an entire season without pay nothing happening this week would have made a difference to the NFL.  A harsh penalty befitting the first video evidence, people would shown Goodell to be a great leader.  Rice could have had a chance to make amends with his wife, get some help, perhaps become an advocate against domestic violence and appeal to the public for a second chance.  Donte’ Stallworth and Josh Brent killed people driving drunk.  Stallworth played again and Brent will soon play again.  Instead, he handled the investigation like Barney Fife, gave Rice a slap on the wrist knowing Rice knocked Janay unconscious, defended it several times over,  and then once the second video became public re-sentenced Rice to lifetime penalties while acting pompously indignant.  I don’t see how the collective bargaining agreement with the players union would allow a second sentence to slide by.  Think about it, even if Goodell wanted to make some additional show of Rice, what happened to his second plan for first time offenders of 6 games?  He just skipped that.  If Rice doesn’t get back in the league, seeing how all of this fallout is on Goodell in the first place, Rice is in a position for a helluva lawsuit against the NFL… especially since he had been forthright with Goodell in telling him he struck Janay in the first place.  That doesn’t make Rice a hero, its just not his job to punish himself.  The commissioner should have laid the hammer down on Rice that he deserved in the first place.  There is no excuse.  Roger Goodell has failed miserably and there is no CEO of any company that would survive such a salacious scandal brought on by pure arrogance and stupidity.

Where’s Donald Trump when you need him?

 

 

NBA Free Agency…ready, set…

July 1st is upon us and it’s time to get back into the what-what of the NBA, speculations, dollar$ and sense….or no sense.

Let’s start with the Heat!  That LeBron thing is settled in that as I said before that D-Wade opting in would settle that.   The man is not opting out of 42 million without guarantees that he is going to get to ride LeBron’s coattail a few years longer.  He will get a longer term deal that stretches out that money and saves him face.  Brian Windhorst reported that Bosh is on vacation after the Big Three (along with Udonis Haslem who also opted out on 10 million) broke bread over the weekend.  What does that tell you?  It tells me that since LeBron has never been the highest paid player of his team since he entered the league, that will change now with Bosh getting the second highest salary and Wade the third.

At issue is really what Riley will do with the roster… besides moving up two spots to get LeBron’s college crush Shabazz Napier.  I also suspect that LeBron’s contract may not be as long term as permissible. Being an astute business man that he is, he’s going to want to keep Riley and owner Micky Arison’s feet to the fire long term.

Sick of Derrick Rose!  I was off the Rose wagon after he got his first major injury two season ago, and while that team was struggling to play the Heat in the playoffs.  Luol Deng was having spinal tap issues while Joakim Noah and Nate Robinson were killing themselves balls to the wall for the Bulls, Rose is shooting jumpers and dunking in front of the cameras during pre-game.  ‘Oh he may be back or not.’   All along the word in the streets were he wasn’t going to play period.  As soon as the Bulls were eliminated he started talking shit about how explosive he was.  Fast forward he tears a meniscus, (a month long injury) and he again sits out the rest of the season.  Now that it’s time to get some free agency help with the roster, this primadonna out here talking about if Carmelo wants to come he will come but it ain’t his job to recruit.   Yea OK I see.  Hell I guess he doesn’t care seeing that in January of 2015 his broke body ass probably won’t be playing anyway.  If I’m Melo…. ‘F’ Derrick Rose!  I don’t want to play with Mr. Glass anyway!’

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Does Houston have a problem?  There seems to be this talk about how the Rockets have such an attractive team.  But when I look at that roster I see problems.  D12 can’t be relied upon though he had a pretty nice 2014 playoffs.  And your most dominate personality and ball hogging handler on the team just refuses to play defense!  Just flat out refuses!  I see that as a hot mess more than an opportunity.  If they were in a bigger media market, they wouldn’t get the benefit of the doubt the way they do.  Some really good star free agent may take the chance (Melo) but being in the West, I don’t know how that’s going to ultimately work out in the end.  The Rockets are a great regular season team, I don’t see them being made for championships!

Lakers draft well!  Being a Laker man as I am, I am ecstatic with Julius Randle.  I just have to see more.  I suspect not having a head coach is all about remaining attractive to potentially Melo and James.  Funny as they don’t give a rats ass about what Kobe thinks. Letting Gasol walk would be a mistake.  And since Boston took Marcus Smart, Rondo has to be on the block and we need to see about getting him!  I’m far from trusting Jim Buss… so we’ll see!

**Andrew Wiggins is country as hell.  His daddy may be Mitchell, but his uncle must be CJ Memphis from A Soldier’s Story!

Feeling sorry for Jabari!  I bet JP has GOT to be thinking, “What kind of BS am I walking into now?  First the Bucks drafted me… they play in MILWAUKEE!  Cats from Chicago know how piss poor sorry Milwaukee is, especially for black folks.  They wear them ugly ass uniforms, they play on an ugly ass floor, and NOBODY wants to live there.   Losing in Philly is not as bad as at least the city is popping!  I’m just saying, I may elect to live in Cleveland before Milwaukee.  All of that is bad enough… now you got this Jason Kidd situation.  What the hell is THAT about?

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Jason Kidd to me is a rat fink!  Let’s look at the facts.  He gets a job in Brooklyn, NY of all places straight out of his playing days with no coaching experience.  He didn’t even sit at an ESPN or TNT booth and talk about the game like Doc Rivers, Mark Jackson and Steve Kerr did to give the perception he knew how to run a team while not dribbling the ball up the court.  Nets ownership put all this money into the team attracting free agents for him, KG, The Truth and Joe Johnson all got on board with him and even stuck with him during the Lawrence Frank debacle.  And now because Derek Fisher got more $$ than he did, he wants to flirt with his buddy in Milwaukee about getting the job there with more money and power.  Oh and wait a minute… here’s the really fun part: Larry Drew was coaching the team and was still under contract.  That didn’t stop Kidd… a narcissistic ‘BAN’ who went all the way O’Jays and won the BET award for back stabbing.  (I’ll deal with BET and other black award shows in another blog soon.)  Now he’s going from Brooklyn USA… to fuk’n MILWAUKEE…. with that team’s history, with that roster, with that dysfunction!  Good luck with that  cause in most NBA circles he’s done!  To that coaching fraternity, especially among the black coaches, he’s dead to them!  I’m sure Mikhail Prokhorov told him, “Don’t let the door hit you on your way out.  You ungrateful bastard!  And no you can’t come get your shit!  I’ll ship it to you if and when I damn well get ready!”

Anyhoo… all the major moves should be decided by the weekend!

Happy 4th!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A People’s History of Pots, Kettles, Finger Waggers, Bullies, and Accidental Amnesiacs

The wonderful thing about being in America is having the ability to speak one’s mind.  Not only that, there are so many ways an individual can express his/her thoughts these days via social media.  Add to these traditional media such as newspapers, magazines and television, we find ourselves surrounded with 24/7 access to thought and opinions on all subjects political, social, religious and so forth.

What I do find particularly frustrating at times is the simplicity and lack of nuance and imagination within many thoughts and opinions.  With the tools we have to communicate with one another, there is so much opportunity to discuss, debate, and grow as a society.  But what seems to happen on most occasions, is that the simplest, most unsophisticated thoughts are the ones that not only get the headlines, but are also leading the discussions. I plan to follow that thought up with another blog post soon.  But for this thought, I will direct my attention to the trending topic of Michael Sam being drafted by the St. Louis Rams.

Personally, I don’t care what people think of Sam in terms of his sexuality.  You can be for it or against it.  In this world, and certainly in this country, people are going to have an opinion on what they think is right or wrong for whatever reason.  As we can see via many comments on Sam kissing his boyfriend on ESPN as he spoke to Rams’ brass,  there is no shortage of opinions on either side.  I’ll address my thoughts on it shortly.

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People who know me understand that I have no sacred cows when it comes to my perspectives.  All of us individually and as a group deserve a basic level of respect. And we all deserve our fair share of criticism. I love being black and I love black people.  That doesn’t mean I vouch for everything black folks say and do.  I am pro equal rights for all, regardless of ethnicity, political, religious preference, sexual orientation and so forth.  Still, I don’t blindly endorse what any political party, Christians, Muslims, atheist, the straight or gay community says and do either. Unfortunately, far too many have a ‘you’re for me or against me’ victimization mentality, when they are called on the carpet for inconsistencies or hypocrisies.

With this in mind, on the subject of Sam’s PDA with his male partner, I have a message to all parties who care.

The Religious/White Folk: I’ve already spoken to you about this before.  Be anti-gay.  Just don’t talk to me about morality and your kids seeing Sam and his boyfriend kissing on TV.  Fact of the matter is, Ray Rice knocked his fiancee’ the hell out and I don’t see any of you protesting that.  Straight players have publicly cheated on their wives, laid pipe all over the country, objectify women in strip clubs making it rain… and again, you never mentioned that in your pulpits or your social media formats.  What trips me out the most though, is that for every preacher, politician and anti-gay public figure, a certain percentage of them are closet drag queens, or somebody on the down low having sex with men.  Seriously?  

The Religious/Black Folk in General: See message to white folk.  But add to this that as you say things like, “I’m tired of this being thrown in my face; when you say, “Yuck!” or “Gross” or “I don’t want my kids to see this on TV…,” remember that Dorothy Dandridge got in a pool at a hotel, and the same white folks who said they don’t have a problem with black people had that pool drained. Traditionally, racist white folks have always had a use for black folks.  As slaves, mistresses, servants, entertainers, or even as a ‘friend.’  JUST NOT AS EQUALS.  There are layers.  I don’t expect everyone to accept me for who I am.  But not attacking me is not the same as respecting me and protecting my right to exist as an equal!  For a person to say I have gay friends/family,  but I wouldn’t teach my kids that it’s OK, is like saying, I don’t have anything against black people, I just don’t want my kids dating them.  It’s still bigotry.  At least admit that.  That doesn’t make you a criminal, it just means there is some potential for growth.

**Most bigotry is in some form or fashion related to sexual fears and myths.  That’s another story.**

Look, we all have biases to overcome. The first time I saw Omar Little kiss his partner on The Wire, I was like, “Whoa WAIT!  What just happened?  It wasn’t a shock because it was sickening.  It was shocking because I hadn’t seen it before.

Black people especially should be mindful of our own history with biases against us and the imagery that was important towards our own progression as a people. When I was a kid, I remember my parents gathering us around the television to watch The Flip Wilson show because there wasn’t another show like that for black people.  There were hardly NO shows for black people. From ‘Good Times’ to ‘The Jeffersons,’ we were able to receive images on television about our families, our values, often referencing issues that were important to us.  Many times in Southern states, they refused to show black people in a light that was integration friendly.  They lost their minds when Petula Clark touched Harry Belafonte’s arm in 1968.  Can you imagine what it was like when Jim Brown (who was then the personification of black male sexual power and prowess) did a love scene with white sex symbol Rachel Welch in “100 Rifles?”  Talk about an OMG moment!  This struggle has continued despite many strides.  Even when the Cosby show was on, many criticized the show because they felt a black family with a father who was a doctor and a mother who was an attorney was ‘unrealistic.’

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Naturally, the gay and lesbian community is going to support images on television that reflect a celebration of their value and right to exist.  So seeing Sam kiss his boyfriend at the pinnacle point of his life is a big deal.  There is no gay conspiracy to force acceptance upon the straight community.  Will and Grace is for them is what Sanford and Son was for us.

Acknowledging this puts me in the cross hairs of many of my straight friends. Even now, on social media when I defend gays, I am often assumed to be gay. They say things like, “I don’t care about what you do with your life.” When I try to show them the parallel between our plights with bigotry, I’m told, “Be gay and do you!  Enjoy your lifestyle… but don’t force it down my throat!”   Remind me of how many whites were and are called “nigger lovers,’ when they stand up for our rights as a people.

I believe the topics of free thought/free speech is a wonderful thing to discuss.  Donald Sterling’s fiasco as well as Michael Sam’s coverage are just the latest opportunity which brings that subject to bear.  I just hope that we maximize all these thoughts and speeches to do more than hyperbolize.

You know what came to my mind when I first saw the kiss?  I thought, “Look, Michael Sam is just like most other African-American big time athletes.  They get to college and go white!  No different!

See,.. now there is a bias for you!

 

 

 

 

Olivia Pope does Stillwater, or the Quashing of a Scandal

Here is what common sense tells us about what happened in Lubbock, Texas over the weekend:

1: When Marcus Smart the Oklahoma State forward fell into the crowd initially, he never made contact with Jeff Orr. Smart started to retreat after Orr said something to him that was so stirring, he immediately went back to confront Orr.

2: Orr claimed that he called Smart ‘a piece of crap’ and did not use a racial slur, and yet Orr agreed to stay away from Texas Tech for several games including away games.  I’ve been to quite a few college basketball games, and I know that players are accustomed to a lot worse than ‘piece of crap.”  I don’t think that Orr would stay away from his so called favorite team if he all he did was heckle Smart.   Case in point, it’s a common occurrence for other Big 12 coaches to warn players who play against Tech about Jeff Orr specifically.  The school has known about his antics for years.  But since he gives a lot of money to the program, no one has confronted him about heckling 18-22 year olds.

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3.  The Big 12 made a decision about both Smart and Orr licktey split, before Monday.  If middle aged Super Booster Orr hadn’t said anything crazy, he wouldn’t have agreed to stay away from the remainder of Tech’s game.  Smart acknowledged Orr by name in his statement of remorse.  How does that happen? Tech obviously didn’t want to offend Orr and Smart took all of the heat upon himself.   The tape that was released by the Big 12 only had partial sound to it.  We only heard part of what was said not all.

I see this as a clean mop up by the Big 12 and Texas Tech.  A finely wrapped present of keeping scandal away from the school and moving on as quickly as possible.   Perhaps Olivia Pope was called and succeeded at fixing another problem.

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!  

Sorry Mark, A Blog Apology is No Apology At All

I’ve always liked Mark Cuban for the most part.  His fire and enthusiasm puts a different face on pro sports ownership which is usually full of stuffy blow-hards.  Sometimes he brings up issues that would otherwise go unnoticed in the NBA such as questionably inconsistent officiating.  I was even disappointed when MLB would not allow him to purchase the Cubs. 

Cuban is an innovator and is a brilliant guy who hustles like a hungry man in whatever he is involved in.  I respect that.  But what makes him great is also what makes him stink at times.  Sometimes his mouth writes checks that even his rich bank account can’t cash. 

It’s not unusual for Cuban to make remarks at the officials during games, and sometimes even to opposing players.  His is famous for making comments to the media as well as post on his blog to express himself.  But what he did the other day in pointing at the mother of a Denver Nuggets’ player and calling her son a thug was just way over the top and not befitting the owner of a sports franchise. 

What is worse is that while folks all over the sports world were calling for Cuban to apologize quickly, he waited and let it stew over the entire weekend.  Then when he offered his weak excuse ladened apology it came by way of his blog.

That is just plain WEAK!  The fact of the matter is, he pointed his finger, and disrepected the mother of an NBA player.  He didn’t make his comments Saturday on the blog.  So why does he think an online apology would suffice? 

See that’s the best and worst thing about a blog.  One can really share important information or insight.  One can also hide behind the words typed on a computer screen to say the things they are too afraid to say in real life. 

Cuban needs to man up and speak face to face with both Kenyon Martin and his mother.  Anything else is just sheer cowardice!