Friday, January 30, 2009

It's a Super Bowl Sundae!

Time to make my pick for the Super Bowl but first a lil tease beforehand *bumps Ozomatli's "Super Bowl Sundae"*

The first Super Bowl I can remember watching Super Bowl XXVII or XXVIII. I still remember the old NBC graphics as Dallas and Buffalo faced off but I can't really remember any visuals from the game. So technically the first Super Bowl I really remember was Super Bowl XXIX in 1995 when Steve Young picked apart the San Diego Chargers with 6 TD's.

It was funny because I had a nice little streak of predicting the winner for a long while (Cowboys again, Green Bay, Denver the first time). Unfortunately, church would force me to miss the 2nd half of these games so I often missed the endings which didn't bother me until Super Bowl 34 (one-yard away from OT!!!) Wisely, my church decided to host Super Bowl parties to prevent this.

This decade, we've had 4 of arguably the greatest Super Bowls ever (2000, 2002, 2004, 2008) and the only odd-numbered year which the game was great was 2005 (although I loved Baltimore's D just slapping folks silly). So what's gonna happen this year with the Cinderella Cardinals and the Strong Arm Steady Steelers?

I like the Cardinals to win this honestly. Just watching them the last three games, they have just owned the competition and when the Eagles rose up and gave them a challenge in the NFC title game, they responded with toughness. I'm a big Kurt Warner guy and yes, if he wins this, start up the Hall of Fame discussion because I think he's earned it.

Larry Fitzgerald is going to be a tough matchup for the Steelers but I believe the No. 1 X-factor will be Anquan Boldin. He has to keep Troy Polamalu honest and he has to have a solid game to make things easier for Fitzgerald.

The 2nd will be the Cardinals' running attack of Edgerrin James (don't second guess him looking forward to be home in Florida) and JJ Arrington. They have to take pressure off Kurt Warner and force that Pittsburgh front seven to adjust. That's going to be a tall order and to be honest, the Cardinals' offensive line will have to make that happen. I don't see them stoppping Pitt too often but if they can find a way to control the line of scrimmage enough times, they are fine.

And don't underestimate the coaching matchup. Ken Whisenhunt played against this defense as the Steelers O-coordinator and he has better weapons than Hines Ward, Antwaan Randle El and Willie Parker.

With all that said, I have great respect for the Steelers. Mike Tomlin (aka Omar Epps' brother) is an outstanding coach who wins and does it with a mix of enthusiasm and hard-nosed attitude like that of his mentor Tony Dungy. Hines Ward may be a bit dirty, but I like his game and the passion he plays with.

But I can't root for a team that I don't really like. I can't root for a team to have more Super Bowls than the Cowboys (the two are tied with the 49ers with five total). It's like watching USC football, they are a joy to watch but in my heart, I wish it were UCLA doing it. Am I bitter about them holding the Chargers to one offensive play in the 3rd quarter? YES, but usually you root for that team to win it. Not the case here, fam.

So it's the Cardinals to win. Win this for the memory of Pat Tillman and the memories of fans who have suffered longer than anyone besides the Cubs. Enjoy hearing John Madden and Al Michaels and the commercials...I'll be cruising around the two (three?) parties I'm attending

*Coming up next week, do some bloggers just blog to complain or do they have a point?*

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

No Words Necessary (RIP Lupoe Family)

If you haven't heard this terrible story from out here in L.A. County (Wilmington to be exact), please take some time and read about the tragic end to the Lupoe family .

This poor economy has forced people to take desperate action to survive but now we are starting to that same desperation lead to death. This story is not the first and I fear it won't be the last as people face a grim reality of losing work and - even worse - losing hope.

Just some stats in California. The unemployment rate has risen to 9.3%, the third highest in the country and highest here since 1994. L.A. County has risen to 9.9%. 31 of CA's 58 counties have a rate above 10%.....just a year ago, CA's unemployment rate was 5.9%.

The true tragedy is that people out of work are losing the one thing we as humans need to survive. Hope. Without hope, people lose any reason to keep moving and when we become stagnant, anything can happen. How many people have lost jobs this year (along with Circuit City joining the bankrupcy chorus)? Along with them, how many people have jobs but are wondering how they are going to survive paycheck to paycheck?

The economy may not be on the levels of the Great Depression but low money and jobs alone doesn't make this a Depression. Just look on the faces of those people out of work, making little money or wondering about their 5-year plan going up in the wind (count me in that last group). The news is constantly bad and expectations are that it will get worse.

That, my friends, will cause many to feel depressed and start brooding. You can't quantify that but it's there...the aura of doom and gloom that should make people who have jobs feel grateful and think twice before complaining. I know I have to work on that last part but I am trying to be grateful and more prayerful.

"It's times like these, we learn to live again" - Foo Fighters.....let's help ourselves live this motto right now and pray that people find renewed hope in this tragedy.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Virgosis Sports Report I

So a manic Monday at the office left me drained after a great weekend but I'm ready to drop sports talk on you. Just so you know, I rep the following teams.

Dallas Cowboys, San Diego Chargers, UCLA, L.A. Lakers, L.A. Dodgers, Duke basketball and of course my alma mater University of San Diego. And I cover HS sports so I'll be speakin on it when I can.

Now with that outta the way, here we go.

Right now, the Lakers are just rolling on a full tank. They are getting healthy again and at 35-8, they have the best record in the league. It's all good because 1) WC Player of the Week Andrew Bynum is crashing the boards (averaging just over 5 offensive boards a game) and being active on defense (4 blks versus San Antonio, 3 versus the Clippers), 2) Jordan Farmar is back (13 pts versus SA) which means Derek Fisher is the happiest person on Earth because he can rest, and 3) Kobe is on his Magic ish with his triple-doubles and being a facilitator.

I'm a bit worried about this upcoming 6-game roadie, which ends against Boston and Cleveland (i'm SURE theeey won't be motivated). If they can finish 5-1, I'll be satisfied as they'll get ready to spend most of the 2nd half on the road again (no Willie Nelson)

But they look hungry again and finally we can say that we are on the right track as a team scorned.

I swear I haven't seen a UCLA team this boring to watch since I've been watching the Bruins (15 years this fall!). They may be ranked but with all the talent they have, something is just missing.

Oh, thats it. They don't have any height. I watched that Washington game and it's clear that the lack of a low-post presence is killing their mojo. It's just like any shooting team, when the shots fall, you're on - when they don't, you're ICE COLD! It doesn't help that they don't do well in Seattle period.

Darren Collison's stock is falling (Stephen Curry is a better PG right now), Jrue Holiday is solid but imo not ready to jump to the league just yet, Josh Shipp is.....solid Josh Shipp, Alfred Aboya is a role player but not the man in the middle (and forget about young J'mison Morgan). The best player as of late has been Nikola Dragovic. And forget about the other freshmen, they're just biding time til next year. Who's the go-to-guy when you need a bucket?

(By the way, USC reminds me of the old Bruins under Steve Lavin. They win games they shouldn't and lose games they shouldn't.)

I've said this before to people. There's NO excuse why they can't run 'n' gun on offense while locking people down on defense. All those athletes and you can't score 70-80 a game?? I'm not saying give up the defense, but expand the offense PLEASE Ben Howland. I respect the guy immensely but the lack of an offense is not getting us back to the Final Four, heck it won't get us past the Sweet 16.

Been three years since the Devils been at No. 1 and I'm finally happy to see a good team in Durham. It's been a while dealing with the Devils since JJ Redick and Sheldon Williams were balling but they finally have some ballers worth noting now that Greg Paulus is thankfully the 6th man.

Gerald Henderson isnt just the guy that bloodied up Tyler Hansborough, he's the emotional leader of a team who can score in the clutch. Kyle Singler is just that nasty player that Coach K loves but he is a player who'll reach the pros. I love Nolan Smith running the point - I caught him 2 years ago when Oak Hill played out here and that dude is an athletic freak. He's matured into a solid player who doesnt make many mistakes. The key is if Brian Zoubek can just be a guy who can get boards because Duke has never had great height the last few years and at 7-1, he'll give some ease to Singler.

We'll see how they do against a good Wake Forest on the road Wednesday but next week, its time for THE RIVALRY in college bball. But one step at a time because Wake ain't no joke this year.
I'll save my Super Bowl picks for Friday. Enjoy your weekend as I finish enjoying 24

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

It's Not Over Either...

Tuesday’s inauguration has been called the last lap of the civil rights movement, the fulfillment of Dr. Martin Luther King’s dream and the passing of the torch. To me, only one of those is correct.

It was powerful to see Barack Obama walk out to the masses. It was powerful to see him recite the swearing-in oath (nice try, Chief Justice Roberts on fumbling the words…it was the first inauguration for you as well). And of course, hearing his address was like seeing a brilliant portrait of our past and present.

It was also a great passing of the torch from those who came of age in the 60’s to those forty-somethings who came of age in the 80’s like Obama. So guess what the inauguration wasn’t.

In my opinion, it was an extension of Dr. King’s dream. It was a realization of his hope that people would judge folks based on their character and merit not by race. And on November 4, America did just that for a job many thought a Black person (or at least a non-white male) would never get.

However, the fight is not over and anyone who thinks it is can just imagine someone being the only person of their race/gender/orientation in a crowded room.

For my generation, we are fortunate to see this moment so young in our lives and at a point where we can influence change as eager adults fresh out of college or in the working world. But we are also a colorblind generation at times and that’s why whenever issues of race come up, it seems like a vocal minority get it when everyone else should.

That’s always the other side of moving beyond race. When it rears its ugly head, we want it to stay behind us instead of dealing with it and discussing it.

But the challenges for us in this era are not to be comfortable where we are. For every Obama, there is a student of color at a university who feels uncomfortable being the only one in a room. There will be someone who doesn’t understand why someone of another culture or background responds to actions or got offended by something.

The “civil rights movement” shouldn’t stop with one act. If that was the case, it should have stopped with the Voting Rights Act and other significant events. But instead we saw in the 1970’s and 1980’s that the lack of sufficient push – compounded by a bad economy, government intervention, drug use, people going to the suburbs – led to troubling times for the Black and Brown and lower class communities.

My hope is that seeing Obama in the White House as well as the furor we raised during the campaign will inspire people to confront their own views on race. Watch the jokes we say and try to understand each other a bit better.

My hope is that Tuesday inspires folks to rebuild that unity that has been lacking since 9/11 faded into our consciousness.

The challenge for my generation and those under 40 is to continue growing and moving beyond racial boundaries but understanding that they exist. We are all Americans with unique stories and perspectives and we’ve shown over the years that we can listen and understand. I hope we can take it in a better direction.

America took a noble and beautiful step today in that right direction. Let’s hope that it inspires smaller steps inside its boundaries.

It's a New Day

Barack Obama is now the 43rd man* to accept the oath as President of the United States. Let that sink in for a minute.

Consider for a minute that slaves helped build the Capitol Building and the White House in the 19th century. Consider that 5 years ago, Obama was an obscure Illinois state senator attempting to run for the Senate.

Today we saw something that even in 2009 many thought they wouldn’t see for another generation. I thought I’d be watching with my future kids instead of telling them about it. Barack Obama took the oath of office and as Rev. Joseph Lowery said during the benediction, a great cloud of witnesses watched.

It’s been great watching this ride since it started for most of us in 2004. We watched this obscure Senate candidate deliver a moving speech telling his unique story of being the son of an African man and White woman. Even then, he hoped for America to come together behind its commonalities instead of differences as he said these inspiring words.

“There’s not a liberal America and a conservative America…there’s not a Black America and White America and Latino America and Asian America; there’s the United States of America,” (Democratic National Convention, 2004)

There’s the irony is that the two previous Presidents from Illinois played an important role in preserving the Union. We all know what Abraham Lincoln did during his presidency but it was also Ulysses S. Grant who turned the tide of the Civil War with his victory at Vicksburg before becoming commanding general of the Union.

Obama is in the same position - albeit by different circumstances - as his Illinois forbearers. Like Lincoln, he’s faced with a divided union. Like Grant, he is dealing with a terrible economy that’s only getting worse (something Grant faced in the Panic of 1873).

I watched the brief moment of the swearing-in’s and the address. It was another of his inspiring speeches that connected this moment with the past as well as look ahead to the future. As someone who knows the power of words and the media, hearing him speak is like watching a lesson in rhetoric and today was no different.

I had my doubts in 2007 when he started his campaign. I remember interviewing students from LA Southwest College and USC and they had mixed emotions about it. Like me, I think they weren’t sure what to expect and for someone who watched him ascend so quickly, I thought we were throwing him to the wolves before he was ready.

Boy, was I wrong?

It was tough for me because I’m almost burned out by the commercialization of it all. Working at a Black newspaper doesn’t help either when I’ve had to resist the urge to respond to co-workers gone green with envy thanks to Obama fever. (how can you charge me for a paper when I work there and you’ve never charged me before? – I can only imagine what Thursday’s madness will be like).

But after talking with my editor yesterday, I remember something someone said to us on Election Day that truly measures Obama’s impact. A 18-year-old guy said that he feels a greater sense of responsibility now and didn’t want to mess things up for the next President.

That’s what change is. Not an ideal, but a different attitude that spurs you to action.

I’m anxious to see what happens now, especially in these next 100 days. Good luck Mr. Obama and Mr. Biden. The world is watching with pride and awaits your first moves.

“What is required of us now is a new era of responsibility -- a recognition, on the part of every American, that we have duties to ourselves, our nation and the world; duties that we do not grudgingly accept but rather seize gladly, firm in the knowledge that there is nothing so satisfying to the spirit, so defining of our character, than giving our all to a difficult task...

“In the face of our common dangers, in this winter of our hardship, let us remember these timeless words. With hope and virtue, let us brave once more the icy currents, and endure what storms may come. Let it be said by our children's children that when we were tested, we refused to let this journey end, that we did not turn back, nor did we falter; and with eyes fixed on the horizon and God's grace upon us, we carried forth that great gift of freedom and delivered it safely to future generations. (President Barack Obama, 1/20/09)

*My math isn’t wrong, Grover Cleveland is the 22nd and 24th President so that leaves 42 other presidents.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Welcome to My World

Finally, i've made into the blogosphere after thinking about it for several months. I wanted to do it for a long time and with the state of print media declining, it's time for me to take my voice to new avenues.

I'm a journalist by trade but a witness by birth. You'll get a sense of that here because I watch society and merely talk about it.

This will be a blog that covers whatever I feel like. Whether it be sports (just FYI - I rep UCLA, L.A. Lakers, Duke basketball, L.A. Dodgers, Dallas Cowboys, San Diego Chargers and of course my alma mater, the University of San Diego), music, politics, issues of the day, pop culture...this will be a stream of consciousness type deal so just follow me into my thoughts.

I'll also drop some of my stories here as a teaser for those who can't find them (more than likely they'll be right here ---->

The motto here is "Cleaning the Doors of Perception" taken from English poet William Blake's "Marriage of Heaven and Hell" It served as an indirect inspiration for the name of The Doors and the quote stuck with me since I read it in class (yep I'm an English major). If we took things with an open mind – regardless of what we believe in life – I believe that we’d avoid some of our problems and relearn how to discuss things with civility.

That’s what Enter the Virgosis will be. A journey into my thoughts about sports, politics, life, music and whatever I please. All I ask is that you read with an open mind and even if we disagree, I’m glad that you read it to begin with.

Welcome to E-TV.