Thursday, July 30, 2009

My Roid/PED Rage (not what you think)

I said it once, I’ll say it again. Somebody linked to steroids six years ago isn't shocking like someone testing positive today.

Either all 104 of the names who tested positive in 2003 be released or somebody needs the balls to sue Major League Baseball for breach of contract. That is more outrageous than David Ortiz and Manny testing positive in 2003 allegedly.

Ortiz deserves the benefit of the doubt because he has been a vocal critic of steroid users and after reading his statement, I’m giving it to him. Dude got his career resurrected in Boston and has been a jovial figure in the game this decade. I would be sad if his name was linked but he said he had no idea what the positive came from.

Right now, I don’t care who tests positive because I believe most players playing right now are clean (please God, don’t let Pujols get a positive test. I’m more skeptical that somebody could drum up a positive test just to screw a guy.

But I am mad that this list is slowly being leaked this year. Where is the outrage at the New York Times breaking the law in the name of good reporting? Where is the outrage by the players union to threaten baseball or the Times with a lawsuit? The fans don’t even care by this point any more. Jose Canseco’s a prophet that people are starting to ignore because he preaches with ignoble intentions no matter how true he is.

Now Nomar Garciaparra is saying that people just said be positive so they could go above the 5% of MLB players necessary. I am just over it because it happened six years ago, not today. All that matters is whether or not guys’ Hall of Fame’s credentials are in jeopardy. The media is looking for blood to cover their tracks with righteous indignation and rightfully so, but we dont care. I assume innocent til proven guilty but i'm no fool anymore and i'm just like whatever.

The game itself, however, is better than ever. We talk about the past and yet there’s enough in the present to enjoy. But for the good of the game, either release the list or go after the people who are reporting the leaks. Reporters won’t give up their sources for good reason but we can also be charged with breaking the law in spite of that.

I did learn something today. One of my friends on Twitter told me that performance-enhancing drugs does increase bat speed which is interesting. I always assumed PED’s couldn’t replace your batting eye but just increase your power. This made me assume true hitters could still play without it but I guess not.

So to paraphrase Mark McGwire, I’m through talking about the past unless its relative to the present or the future. Failing a drug test six years ago would have no relevance to your job today unless you failed again or exhibited strange behavior as a result of it. Obviously, drug tests in real life don’t have to same impact as drugs in baseball but I still want something more than stuff that happened 6 years ago.

I’ll take my lineup of non-cheaters including Chipper Jones, Ken Griffey Jr., Trevor Hoffman, Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, Randy Johnson, Craig Biggio against anybody suspected of cheating and be happy every day of the year. Let’s get baseball back to where it should be…talking about my Dodgers getting shafted in St. Louis by our bullpen, sorting through these trades and such.

(By the way, I’m still not in full football mode, despite my first HS Football preview in my paper this week. I completely missed my fantasy football draft on yahoo and still scored – Clinton Portis anyone? – I’ll lay that out a lil bit later.)

Hanging with Mickey and the Crew

So I'm busy in Orlando this week for my mom's birthday. Me and my sis decided to take her to Disney World instead of Disneyland and it's been a blast. It's my first in Orlando and I'm loving this humidity and night rain (not the thunderstorms of yesterday)...Epcot Center had me feeling like a kid again. I'll be posting pictures on Facebook afterwards and tomorrow we'll be hitting up the Animal Kingdom/Downtown Disney.

It's funny because as a kid I always wanted to be here. Everything Disney fascinated me back then and we always dreamed of seeing the bigger and better Disneyland. And I couldn't help but smile and be taken back to that little boy who watched Disney cartoons and was hooked.

Plus I love checking out different cities this time of year - i'm used to an L.A. summer so seeing it in Orlando is pretty cool. New York was burning up when I went in 2005 - humid and pleasant to watch a sunset from the other side of the coast.

I was tripped out yesterday because we landed in a thunderstorm complete with lightning. God's camera was out shining and we all got caught up. It was the perfect end to a delayed flight that had a bit of turbulence - fortunately, we landed a lot smoother than we feared because of the 25-30 mph winds that the captain alerted us to.

So yeah, that's Day 1 here in the Magic Kingdom, where I hoped to stir up trouble wearing my Lakers shirt but instead I got quite a few props. I got a steroids blog that I'm dropping right after this so hope you enjoy it. But Im loving this vacation after all that's been going on this summer.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Hall Passes for Rickey and Jim Rice

It's a great day for baseball now that the greatest leadoff hitter ever (Rickey Henderson) and one of the feared hitters of his era (Jim Rice) have been enshrined in Cooperstown. Both were long overdue for different reasons - Rickey because he wouldn't retire soon enough and Rice getting in on his 15th and final try.

Rice endured some rough times in Boston - coming up short on two World Series, being arguably the first Black baseball superstar in a town with a tough media and racist tendencies (esp. during the busing situation during the start of his career) - but the Fenway faithful loved him for his big bat and big heart. The writers held grudges against him because he wasn't friendly enough (a common trait for Black ballplayers during the late 60's-70's) but they couldn't deny his numbers.

It's fitting that he's the 3rd straight LF from Boston to make the Hall following the immortal Ted Williams and the great Carl Yastremzki. But I'm more happy that a great travesty has been corrected in that Rice is finally in the Hall.

And then there's Rickey. What more can you say that he hasn't already said about himself. Maybe I can say that he effectively carried on the legacy of great Oakland ballplayers like Frank Robinson, Vida Pinson and Curt Flood and added on to it by influencing players like Dontrelle Willis, Jimmy Rollins and CC Sabathia.

He carried on the legacy of Jackie Robinson, Maury Wills and Lou Brock by changing the game with his speed and intelligence on the basepaths. He carried on the legacy of Satchel Paige with his colorful quotes and joy he brought to the game.

Without question, Henderson didn't just redefine the leadoff hitter the same way Cal Ripken Jr. redefined shortstops in the 80's. He's among the top 40-50 players in major league history and may be the most effective weapon baseball has seen in the last 30 years when you consider his on-base percentage, base-stealing prowess and ability to score runs.

I posted on Twitter some of the athletes whose throwback jersey I'd wear even though they weren't on my team. I forgot to mention Rickey cause I'd def. wear his No. 24 as a tribute of respect.

Here's to Rickey and Jim Rice - two great men who got well-deserved inductions into Cooperstown. I'm hoping to see Barry Larkin and Roberto Alomar get their due in 2010 - two of the best at their position in the 90's.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Mike Vick deserves another chance

Now that Michael Vick is a free man, it’s up to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell to determine his future in the league. The ball is in his hands and it’s his call if he’ll toss it back to Vick to see if any team wants to play.

It’s no lie that Goodell has a quick trigger on anybody who threatens the image of the NFL regardless of guilt. Put yourself in a bad position and good chance, you’re gonna get a call from the commish that won’t be pleasant. There’d be no surprise if the commissioner suspended him for a year in addition to the 23 months he served in jail.

But what kills me is people actually debating if he deserves a second chance. It’s people acting like what Vick did was so reprehensible that he should never be forgiven. And yes, people drove me nuts with their overboard indignation two years ago…it reminded me that animals matter more to people than actual people.

Let me lay out reasons why Vick deserves a chance to see if any NFL teams will take a pass on him. Notice I said take a pass – if he tries out and fails, then that is on him. Anyways…

1. He paid his debt to society. The essential facts, my dear readers. Does every criminal released from jail deserve to be shunned with no chance for redemption? Vick did his time and should have the same chance to find work like anybody else.

2. Yes, playing in the NFL is a privilege, but apparently it’s a privilege not denied to far worse offenders. What Leonard Little (two drunk driving offenses, including one manslaughter) and Pacman Jones have done are IMO far worse than what Vick did and yet they are still playing. If they got more than two chances, why can’t Vick – who had a fairly clean record before this incident happened.

*I didn’t mention Donte Stallworth for good reason. Stallworth pled guilty to manslaughter for killing a pedestrian while driving intoxicated. While that accident is indeed terrible, he handled it better than most athletes I’ve seen. Didn’t flee the scene, pled guilty, cooperated with police, accepted responsibility and his punishment and appears to be genuinely sorry for what he did (no driver’s license, 2 years of house arrest, 8 years probation and community service in addition to that 30 days in jail)

Also the victim was jaywalking, which does not excuse Stallworth for being stupid and an idiot, but in the eyes of the court, that would have been a factor in the specific charges against him. This doesn’t change that he was just as reckless as Vick, but he has been punished sufficiently. *

There are those who say Vick should be banned for life. There are those who will protest at every arena he’s at. What he did was heinous but he did not commit a crime against humanity. I’ve been a dog owner all my life and if you believe that Vick should not play football again because he ran a dogfighting ring, you need to get your priorities straight. I won't get into the bigger issues here (some Americans love pets often more than people) but it's not worse than what Kobe Bryant was accused of.

I believe violent crimes against humans (i.e. rape/murder) are far worse than what happens to beasts. Being accused of rape is a bigger deal than torturing dogs - both are heinous but let's get real. Then again, this is a nation that cried when Barbaro the horse died after his story was beyond played out.

I’m sad that Americans who believe in second chances want to deny someone another chance to play football. Vick is not a danger to society at large.

Vick should have the opportunity to attempt to regain what he lost. There is no reason why he shouldn’t and if you don’t believe he should, you must be a perfect person who never needed a second chance. Regardless of the level of your crime, if you do your time and have shown contrition and willingness to leave it behind, you have earned the legal right to redeem your life.

Does that mean that every criminal deserves to be hired at the first job they apply to? No, and of course people are not going to be receptive to everyone fresh out of jail. That’s expected and if teams turn down Michael Vick, like I said, he did that to himself. But I hope some team will take a chance and if not, there’s always the UFL coming up – which isn’t a bad fit.

No. 7 screwed up and screwed up big time – the biggest fall from grace since O.J. Simpson. My Vick jersey remains tossed somewhere around the house where it will remain. But if Kobe Bryant can regain his good name, respect and endorsements five years after his rape trial, Ray Lewis can become one of the respected elder statesmen in football after his 2000 trial and Michael Irvin an example of how to discuss your flaws like a man, then Vick deserves that same opportunity.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Walter Cronkite - An American Original and Personal Role Model

I always knew I’d feel sad when Walter Cronkite died. As I saw him age, I knew it would happen and yet now that is has happened, Friday was definitely a sad day for journalism and America.

Anyone who knows anything about journalism knows that two names loom larger than anybody in the development of this business: Edward R. Murrow and Cronkite. Murrow was the father of modern-day reporting, a no-nonsense style that catered toward giving the facts and telling the truth. Cronkite was part of the next generation – Murrow’s handpicked successor who birthed the modern-day TV newsanchor while never losing the essence of being a reporter.

I admired him because he didn’t want to be bigger than the story. He was from a school of reporting that every journalism junkie should be – get the facts and tell it straight, no chaser. Travel to wherever the story is. And most of all, while being detached, don’t be afraid to empathize with the viewer when appropriate.

His voice was reassuring and he reminded folks of a grandfatherly figure who sought to earn your trust. The label “Most Trusted Man in America” was something he earned night in, night out and in an era of 3 TV networks, he succeeded.

One defining moment was November 22, 1963 . The way he announced President Kennedy’s death was emotional, yet restrained. Just watch that still shot before you watch this video around the 3:18 mark. Glasses slowly removed, pain on his face, words halting. A moving site that defined a nation's pain.

And yet it was reassuring, the calming presence a nation needed in explosive grief yet I wondered what Cronkite thought that day. His reaction would influence anchors on future days of sadness. Think Jim McKay after the Munich Olympics massacre, Peter Jennings after 9/11, Anderson Cooper after Hurricane Katrina – all of them learned how to report difficult circumstances after Cronkite.

Another defining moment came five years later when he called the Vietnam war a “stalemate.” I remember hearing that in a history class at USD and it pretty much said what most thought during that tumultuous year. I love it because it combined journalism with anchor commentary - Cronkite went to Vietnam a few times during the Tet offensive and saw events firsthand through his reporting, leading him to make his famous assertion.

40 years ago today, he displayed great joy over the moon landing. He was a dogged reporter who knew how to enjoy himself.

My regret is that I was born three years after he stepped down in 1981. But he stayed visible – a living monument to the future of what we should aspire to regardless of profession.

He, along with Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein and others, inspired me to be a reporter. That voice, that straightforwardness, that presence of knowing what he was talking about, that uncompromising spirit. He was an American original that we’ll never see again. Even after his retirement, he proved to be a sound critic of journalism – particularly the expansion of the media eliminating the need to get facts right or find news to capture our attention 24/7.

Cronkite was about the truth. The unfiltered truth. He told his staff to be a mirror reflecting the news of the day. There’s a time for news and a time for opinion and he helped establish that now blurred line. Thank you, Mr. Cronkite, for your service and your far-reaching influence on our media. You get the last word just like you did 28 years ago.

“Old anchormen, you see, don't fade away; they just keep coming back for more. And that's the way it is: Friday, March 6, 1981” – his last night in the chair.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Movies, baseball and True Religion (one man's view of it)

Alright, I know I've been slacking on the blog tip - part of it is being busy this past weekend, part of it not sure what to write about. But I just drop quick hits on what i've being seeing.

I saw Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen and Public Enemies in consecutive weeks. Starting with Transformers, I thought the movie was decent. Better job focusing on the robots but the love story seemed forced at points. Megan Fox looked absolutely scrumptious (Michael Bay must've said, "We made you a sex symbol in the 1st one so let's play that up more this time) and those two robots with crooked teeth were more annoying than insensitive I felt.

Modern "Amos N Andy" coonery? Perhaps but it wasn't as overt as I thought it would be. Nevertheless, some jokes hit and some made me SMH. But the movie It entertained me. Was it in Iron Man or Dark Knight or Spider Man 2's category? No chance.

Now for a movie that disappointed me, Public Enemies. Everything about this screamed great movie = Great director, star power, the story. But what happened? To me the two biggest hurdles with a major story are length and characters. Michael Mann overcame this in "Heat" because of the action and focusing on character development.

In Public Enemies, you see too many characters and it feels like the movie is a mix between a blur and a steady pace surrounding Johnny Depp as John Dillinger (the shakey camera angles don't help either). Depp kills this movie with a great performance as does a restrained Christian Bale. The story is definitely compelling but it's just not told that well. I had high hopes but it just didn't build up all around.

Another year, another All-Star Game, another American League victory (and thanks to some Facebook peeps - another loss at the hands of a Padres pitcher). It's been so long since the National League won, I can't remember anything about the 1996 ASG except for Mike Piazza winning the MVP in Philly. This game went by so fast because guys couldn't get on base and the AL pitching was nothing short of dominant (18 straight batters retired in an All Star Game???)

Was it wrong that perhaps the most exciting part was when President Obama threw out the first pitch cleanly and came in the booth during the 2nd inning. I know it's old hat but it's so cool to have a President who's not only a sports fan but one like most of us who know what we're talking about when we comment on it.

Critical plays in this game were baseball purity. HR Derby champ Prince Fielder's pinch-hit RBI in the 2nd, a home-run robbing catch by Carl Crawford, a triple by Curtis Granderson and a sacrifice fly by Adam Jones to bring him home. Of course the lack of excitement meant we had to hear Tim McCarver be Tim McCarver (SMH) and somebody had to be named MVP - enter Crawford, the most unlikely ASG MVP i've ever seen.

And yes, all four of those players were Black and if you count Orlando Hudson's critical single/steal in the 8th, most of the plays were made by Black All-Stars. For people who say we aren't playing this game anymore, there was your evidence.

But I felt bad for the NL - they had to face Jonathan Papelbon, Joe Nathan and Mo Rivera to end the game. If that's not an unhittable threesome, find me a better one. 13-game winless streak comes to Anaheim next year for the 2010 ASG.

Finally, I had a conversation with my Twitter peep Shane Morris (@iamshanemorris) on Monday night for a blog he published yesterday about his views on religion and his journey toward understanding it. Some things came up that made me ponder and reflect but i'll share that later. Instead read his take right here.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Lessons Learned!!!

So I think the theme of today was, " about you read stuff for yourself before going off how people react to it." Because seriously I felt kinda sheepish after I heard about this story by Bob Kravitz of the Indianapolis Star-Tribune talking about the Indiana Pacers being too white.

Before I express how I got exposed for being a sheep - the Indiana Pacers are 50% white, a rarity of a league dominated by Black players. They have more white players than any team in the league and are run by that recent paragon of white basketball - Larry Bird. Bird is one of my favorite players because he outsmarted, outworked and just outplayed his competition while letting you know about it. I've patterned my jump shot after him - that hold it high, release off the fingertips that was butter.

Anyways, I was listening to the talking heads of ESPN's Around the Horn and Pardon the Interruption and read Deadspin's article on it - they made it sound like this article was baseless and served no purpose. Making the race issue appear out of thin air when we all know Bird is about winning regardless of color.

My first reaction was laughing because how often do we hear White columnists or people call out something for being too White. Of course I heard it often at school in private convos but rarely did that come out in public. But then I was like, wait a minute, isn't Danny Granger the face of the franchise. He's black. Isn't Larry Bird one of the greatest competitors ever so wouldn't winning care over pandering to race?

I was ready to crucify this guy for being an idiot based on what Bill Plaschke, Jackie MacMullan and Kevin Blackistone were saying. J.A. Adande said it best on ATH - just because something is predominantly white doesn't make it racist. Then I go to Deadspin for their typical snarky reaction and there's a link to the story - hammer and nails in head.

Whoops! Head back to the toolshed and re-read that manual, Mr. Kent.

In said article, Kravitz opens by talking about the whiteness of the Pacers and the perception of the franchise but immediately proceeds to debunk that myth by showing that 1) Bird indeed cares about winning 1st, 2) 8 of the team's last 10 draftees have been Black, 3) Make the argument that it's not about color, it's about W's.

Didn't that just sound like everything the talking heads were speaking about? Yeah I thought so, too. Immediately I felt like an idiot. "Dont question the motives behind his choices" Kravitz said. That didn't sound like him making an argument out of speculation.

Like most Celtics, Bird was influenced by Red Auerbach - a man who cared about winning over race. He drafted Black players, built around a Black player in Bill Russell and had an All-Black starting lineup in the 60's in a city noted for its racism. I hate to use this term, but Red was colorblind - he wanted to win regardless if a city wanted certain players to shine.

Now do I think that pandering to a White fan base is implausible. Absolutely not, the NBA has done it since after the 1970's when league attendance was an all-time low as people assumed the league was too drugged up and perhaps too Black. Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan and Bird helped bring fans back because they won and sold products - esp. Jordan. It's done it again since the 2004 Brawl between Detroit, Indiana and Detroit's fans (i.e. Dress Code, Flagrant Fouls being called more often, and an overall sissifying of the game).

But is it all racist? No. Are there subliminal messages? Yes, but the league is a business and it wants to present itself a certain way. Can't knock the theory but I'll critique the approach when appropriate.

So kids, it all goes back to what my former pastor/cousin said to us during his sermons. Read it for yourself. Don't take someone's word for it - a lesson relearned today courtesy of Bob Kravitz.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Too Much Death...Too Much Longing...

On Facebook I posted a status update on July 1 hoping that the last six months of 2009 go better than the first six. With too much death in the air, I prayed that we'd get a relapse from it. Five days I was wrong - R.I.P. Steve McNair, a warrior on the football field, an HBCU product who added an unique chapter to the history of the Black quarterback in football. R.I.P. to my Twitfam @GullyFresh who lost his dad to cardiac arrest. Not to mention the passing (albeit expected) of former Sec. of Defense Robert McNamara.

What is going on? How could we survive a tragic end to June with goodbyes to Farrah Fawcett, Ed McMahon, Billy Mays and Michael Jackson. That just adds to the personal losses I've experienced with my uncle, one of my church's most dedicated members who I've loved since I was a kid and having to cover the funeral of a HS football player who was killed a few weeks before graduation.

I feel like there's an aura of death in the air and we don't know who's going to be stricken next.

And on top of that, I'm getting a sense from friends I've talked to that they are feeling like they re-evaluating what they've done since graduation. Either they're doing jobs they don't feel satisfied in (something I feel from time to time) or are struggling to find work. We feel like we're wondering if we've made an impact or a difference around us.

Welcome to our quarter-life crisis - where senior year optimism meets our time in the real world.

This is our 2009. A turning point because literally we are seeing the world around us not just change as far as our economic opportunities, but because people from our childhood and teen years are starting to leave us. It's sobering in so many ways and when you throw in our doubts about what we've done at this stage in life - it's almost paralyzing.

I can't understand what God is trying to tell us about so much tragedy, so much loss this year. It's a wakeup call but how many of us are really being awaken to be different? Is it something where we are sad about the loss or do we just go back after we grieve.

On their last album, the Cross Movement did a song that's been on my mind lately called "9-10" - talking about how people got reflective and were impacted by 9/11 but now we live our lives like its September 10th - the day before the tragedy. I'm trying to fight that from happening and I hope we all wake up as well and get our stuff together.

As far as us wanting to live for so much more, Switchfoot challenged us to do this in 2003 with "Meant to Live." These troubling times have us wanting to do so much more to live up to our dreams and we keep searching for something more, let's also look back at what we've learned so far.

I'm struggling with that right now, trying to figure out what to do with my life in an industry that is dying/evolving/headed into unpredictable waters. I know that I want to impact people with my words but I don't know how to make a living doing that. We've always been a society that has undervalued creativity but at the same time, I'm not sure how to go about finding a different line of work. Sometimes I wonder if I've made that impact - but everytime I wonder, I get surprised by a comment or a sign of approval.

Everything we've done has prepared for us right now. Yet I pray that we keep looking for that satisfaction. The best is yet to come...These are troubled times indeed. It's hard to make sense of it but somehow we will. Just be open to hear what all of these moments are telling us.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Heeeeeeere's Manny

The dreadlocked creature from Planet Mannywood comes back to the Dodgers tomorrow in the 619. 50 games later, he and the team are at an interesting point in the season. I'd be lying if I didn't think the team would do well without him and yet here they are.

First team to 50 wins. 29-21 since Manny's suspension. 2 games above Boston for the best record in baseball. 7 games above the Giants in the West. Juan Pierre in the Top 10 for batting in the NL. Not bad I say.

But some of the media folks look to bury Manny because of his rehab? (Looking at you, Bill Plaschke!) Methinks the scribes doth protest too much - or are a bit late with their cries. Nobody said anything when JC Romero of the Phillies did the same type of rehab, but because we have a future HOF caliber guy doing it - the knights of the keyboard are up in arms.

I'll keep this simple. Getting up after 50 games of rest to hit a baseball is not like getting up after that long to play basketball or football. Injured players head to the minors to make sure they're sound. You can't just pick up a bat and expect to spray good hits all over the field after just batting practice and on-field workouts. Besides the owners and players union agreed to it. Got beef? Take it up at the next collective bargaining agreement.

And for anyone thinking that Manny's a steroid creation who will come back to earth and be a mortal, let me put you on game for a minute. Manny's game has always been hitting first. Yes he has power (533 HR's say so) but his main forte has been getting on base (.315 career average) and driving in runs (19th all time). I've always believed steroids can't mask a great stroke or batting eye but they enhance your power.

So with that said, I expect him to hit for average and produce runs. And nobody's happier than Andre Ethier, who has caught fire with his power since June 1 (.600 slugging with 9 HR and 22 RBI's). Never thought I'd see somebody hit three home runs in a game live and it felt surreal watching that last Friday. With that last home run, I remember thinking did he really just crush another one out? Then that 13th inning walk-off bomb too on Monday? Between him and James Loney, we got some clutch hitters on this squad.

Unfortunately, Manny's return means that Juan Pierre heads back to bench. On the negative side, it's sad because Pierre has been the consummate professional as far as showing up, getting his hits and scoring runs. He's also filled in extraordinarly well beyond what most expected of him.

On the positive side, he's one more weapon that Joe Torre can use on the bench. It's like having James McDonald in the bullpen - an okay starter but a much better threat in long relief and it makes the pen a lot stronger.

He and Mark Loretta both can excel in a pinch-hit capacity. The luxury of bringing up a great hitter/fielder off the bench as your 4th outfielder may hurt your pride but with Torre's confidence in what Pierre can do, he knows he's still valuable.

So starting tomorrow in San Diego, the Dodgers lineup we envisioned from Day One is back. Let's hope the offense peps up because after making the Rockies pitching like Maddux/Glavine/Smoltz in their prime, we could use a spark.