Sunday, March 29, 2009
Being in San Diego was a fun time but it also helped me think about some things. My uncle played such a huge role in my life that I'm still realizing the ways in which he was a father figure. In my San Diego post, I mentioned how I took that trip as a 1-year old (Mom says 2)...well my uncle took that now famous picture of me with the backwards lid. My uncle was also responsible for taking some of our earliest home movies (a Disneyland trip that I remember quite well) and it was a role he never stopped. At my college graduation as well as my sister's, he was there with a camera in tow.
He also was the person who taught me how to shave (never forget it, the day my sis graduated HS). He was there with my Mom as I received my diploma. He was there as we said goodbye to my Dad, walking my Mom down the aisle - a task I surely was not ready for. He played a big role in my cousin's life after they lost their father at an early age...so much so that I'm pretty sure the reason he's such a strong man that he is now (as well as a proud member of Alpha Phi Alpha) is because of my uncle.
To be honest, losing a male figure in a family dominated by women is tough, especially when you're someone like me who's always been on a quest looking for that role model. I've discovered it through my Dad since his passing, the men at my church during my teen years and now I see it through my uncle Levi as well as my uncle Greg. It hasn't been easy not seeing up close but at a time when most Black young men don't have a positive male example (I love how my Aunt Mayme put that today - be an example, not a role model), I've been blessed to have a few and it's taken me time to appreciate that.
At the wake today, I saw co-workers and friends pay their respects. Although I didn't want to at first, I paid a last glance at him. He looked so peaceful, so dignified...a man who gave so much and was going to receive his due by those who loved him. But as my family says, we weep not because we know this is the end, we weep because we will miss him in this life, knowing that we will see him again in the next.
The last time I was in Texas (not counting my brief drive-thru and pitstop on the way to the Jena 6 rally) was 10 years ago when he received his Ph.D. from the University of Texas-Austin. It's fitting because he valued education and never stopped sharing his wisdom. It's also no surprise that we will also gather this year to celebrate my cousin Stasia graduating from college. It'll be weird not seeing him there...his big presence being almost a comfort to us all.
I loved every moment that I shared with him and as I'm sure the tears will fall tomorrow morning, we will also smile at some point. My uncle, Dr. Levi J. Jackson III, lived a life worth mourning and a life worth celebrating. We can all aspire to have that said about us when it's our time and I'm sure we all know somebody who that aptly describes.
Tomorrow won't be easy. But I know my family will rally around each other and God will fill in those precious gaps where human touch cannot.
Friday, March 27, 2009
It started when I was 1 and Mom, I guess, took a vacation down there. I only know this because I saw a picture at my college graduation – me with a backwards lid standing somewhere in Old Town (Bazaar Del Mundo). I guess we took another trip a few years later because I saw another photo that looked like me at 4 smiling somewhere. The seeds were planted early.
The first San Diego trip that I really remember was when Mom took me and my sister to the Princess Resort (now Paradise Point) when I was 8 or 9. That was a fun time because I remember in awe of how beautiful the resort was, how beautiful the sky was and just being able to hang around and enjoy the atmosphere. Mom still has a magnet from that trip and it just reminds me of one of the best weeks of my young life.
Of course, that was the infamous Sea World trip aka Attack of the Killer Sea Gulls. I had just bought some fish to feed some of the sea lions and next thing I know, I’m falling the floor as these gulls dive-bombed me like some kamikaze pilots. Lost all my fish and went crazy…not a pretty sight and definitely an embarrassing moment.
Another trip came in 1996 (I remember it well because it was during the week of the Democratic National Convention). We went to Sea World as we stayed on a 3-day weekend right before school. But the most ironic trip came the following year I think. We stayed at the Town and Country Resort for a week and my sis and I attended a bowling camp at the YMCA near us. Little did I know that I’d be coming back near the Mission Valley YMCA and get all too familiar with that part of town.
Which brings me up to 2001. I hadn’t been to San Diego since junior high and now my college counselor is telling me to apply to the University of San Diego because it’s similar to Pepperdine and what I like. Of course I never heard of the school and of course we take the journey and the rest is history. I accept the letter after much haggling and we all go to College Visiting Day and see a topless chick sunbathing…just one more piece of motivation for me to be there.
I wrote a poem about the excitement to leave – a series I continued before my sophomore and senior years. It only heightened the sense that I was ready for this next stage of life.
So I arrive to the campus in August 2002. I’ll never forget the day: I was the first to wake up and I threw open the blinds of our La Jolla hotel just taking in the view of my new city. It was a cloudy day and I remember listening to Incubus’ “Morning View” album as my Dad drove us up to campus. I remember the day so vividly that talking about it here would be a blog post in itself. But it was a day I wouldn’t forget…among the events were taking the last family picture of the four of us.
During my four years at USD, I discovered myself and a group of valuable friends. I created memories that will last forever: Watching the sunsets at Mission Beach and La Jolla, watching the Sea World fireworks show from a balcony, having real conversations with all kinds of folks. I’ll remember the taste of carne asada fries, fish tacos, a smoothie from Rose’s Donuts, the feel of Qualcomm Stadium and Petco Park. Sitting in Aromas, Maher Hall (my freshman dorm below), the Vistas and Manchester Village and feeling the vibes.
But what I loved most was San Diego had a culture of its own. It felt like a different world from Los Angeles although it was only two hours away. It was a different Southern California than what I was used to. It was a laid-back small town with a big city feel. There was an easy pace and rhythm that allowed you to feel welcome and find your footing. For the first time, I saw a city that was taken captive on Sundays by an NFL team. All of this made me feel like I was in the middle of something new and I loved every minute of it.
When I left, I was inspired to try to create my life in L.A. I wanted to get to know my city better and be able to be a better tour guide.
To me, San Diego will always be my 2nd home. It’s a place that I find peace in and it feels like that friend that you’ll never get tired of. I joked freshman year that I would get a place down here as a vacation home and who knows, maybe I still will. But it’s always been a place of clarity, pleasant memories and personal growth. Maybe that’s why the seeds were planted so long ago….I haven’t stopped taking care of this plant and it’s blossomed into a beautiful flower that I always carry with me.
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
We lost a great man today: Dr. Levi J. Jackson III, the son of the man who's middle name I share, the brother to 7 beautiful strong women of God (an 8th is already in heaven), the father to my cousin Desmond and the uncle to myself, my sister and my cousins.
He was a man who valued education (a retired teacher as of this year). He was a caring man who looked out for all of us. He carried himself with dignity and always had a presence whenever he came into a room. Most importantly, he was a man who loved life and despite his recent health conditions, it didn't slow that passion down.
After my Dad passed in 2003, my uncle helped to fill that void along with my uncle Greg. He was the first family member who came down after I graduated from college in 2006 and we went to dinner that Friday night before the ceremony. He was there in the gym during the ceremony and with his ever-present video camera he captured a lot of moments in my life.
I remember when we went to Disneyland when I was younger and it was him who took the videos of us. One of the last memories I will have of him is when he and his son came to visit us last year. He always took his customary spot in the living room with the TV and always was good to talk to about anything.
It's sad also that he died at around the same age as my Dad. Yes, it's selfish to think of myself right now but I'm concerned because I know they both had health issues (Dad was a smoker) and it's even more motivation for me to watch my health this year. I've begun to lose weight but I know I can do more to watch my diet. Both of them died relatively young...but they both lived full lives as well.
My pastor said something interesting though: My uncle lived a life that is worth mourning. I heard at his retirement that many people from his life came out...fraternity brothers (a proud member of Alpha Phi Alpha), family, students and colleagues. That's a life worth mourning and a life worth celebrating.
But right now, my family is in deep shock. We didn't expect this to happen and to hear the sadness in their voices was NOT easy to take. We assumed that him not having surgery yesterday was a positive sign. But all I could think of was the late sportscaster Jim McKay's words when the Israeli hostage tragedy ended at the Munich Olympics: "Our greatest hopes and our worst fears are seldom realized. Our worst fears have been realized today."
We came together at that retirement dinner (an event I missed b/c of work) and now we will come together to say goodbye and send him home. Send up your prayers because he's now resting comfortably in heaven and our family will miss him dearly. We praise God for his life and praise God for his mercy that he is no longer in pain and praise God for the healing and the testimonies He'll bring through this
God bless you Uncle Levi. Enjoy watching the rest of us carry on your legacy with Dad, Paw Paw and Maw Maw next to you among others. Our great cloud of witnesses added one more from our ranks.
Monday, March 23, 2009
Pac-10: Y’all should be ashamed of yourselves. Arizona is the last team standing??? (granted they got lucky because of Cleveland State – more on that later). UCLA got punched around by Villanova in their worst game in 4 years, Cal lost a game they should’ve won. Washington went down to Purdue and AZ State shot all over Syracuse’s zone yet still lost cause James Harden couldn’t score (should’ve seen that coming though, knowing the 2-3 personally well).
At least USC went down with some pride against a Michigan State that was supposed to be tougher (they did shut down Taj Gibson pretty hard). Arizona is playing for pride and with some of those guys lucky to get scholarships, it’s a good story. But Pac-10, overall, YOU GET THE GAS FACE!
*I picked UCLA to lose. Just frustrated how a Ben Howland team looked punchless…they got some height coming next year but they need some dogs who bring that toughness not that finesse.
ACC: Florida State and Wake Forest, tsk tsk tsk. Wasn’t Wake Forest ranked No. 1 at some point? Didn’t they beat UNC and Duke (at home tho)? Y’all flopped worse than 50 Cent’s last album. I was hoping y’all could give Skip Prosser (RIP) some pride this year but this end was not the way to do it. Florida State was that trendy Sweet 16 pick…yeaaah right. Not good to be in Seminole country right now, especially with them sanctions coming down.
No matter what Duke and NC does, the ACC flopped hard!!! Y’ALL GET THE THIZZ FACE (c) Mac Dre (and my lil friend here)
I was horrible on my 8/9 picks (0-for-4) but I picked two of the three No. 12 seeds to win in the 1st rd. I picked the wrong 6/11 game (Utah State instead of Dayton – and I knew Dayton would win too, had them in my first draft) but I rightly called USC and Western Kentucky as upsets.
The Big East is showing why they’re the best conference in America (5 teams in the Sweet 16). Pitt scared the crap out of me in both games and I’m worried they’re gonna get there’s against someone. But I still think if it’s close, they can pull it out because they have the best closers to seal the deal (Fields, Sam Young and DeJuan Blair). Louisville is probably playing the best out of anyone though. And watch Villanova to upset my Dookies the same way they punked UCLA but on a smaller scale. Gerald Henderson ain't taking that beating without a fight.
The good news is that I still have my Elite Eight and Final Four picks so my bracket has a perfect chance to rebound this weekend. I can’t believe one of my friends had Arizona getting here though.
Funny how the biggest NCAA tourney news is on the women’s bracket as Tennessee lost in the first round. Granted this wasn’t Pat Summitt’s best team but still…Tennesee ALWAYS wins in the tournament. That’s the biggest shock to me (and probably the only time I’ll mention the women’s tournament).
So if I had to grade myself: I'd give myself a B overall. I took a few L's but since the meat of it is still intact, I'm better than most.
Yeah, there's more sports going on but frankly baseball is still a week away and around here, we're so lazy about the Lakers that all we care about is when the postseason starts and optimistic that Bynum might join us at some point.
The MVP race is down to Kobe, LeBron and Wade. To be honest, it really should be between LeBron and Wade and here's why. LeBron has stepped up his defense and Wade is back to the 2006 level before that shoulder injury, not to mention either one of them is a walking triple-double (7 for LBJ this year, and probably closer to 8-10 on the year if not by one or two boards or dimes). Of course Kobe is playing at the same level he did last year, but i think it's a 2-horse race at the moment.
Congrats to the CA State HS Champs from SoCal in basketball: Westchester (5-0 in title games), Windward HS (feat. two blue-chip recruits, a super sophomore and Denzel Washington's son who's an outstanding player in his right), Brea Olinda girls and Long Beach Poly girls making it four in a row and the Rialto Eisenhower boys (the first team from San Bernardino to win it all - the alma mater of the great Ronnie Lott).
Saturday, March 21, 2009
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
Final Four: Louisville, Memphis, Pitt, UNC (coincidentally, the same 4 that President Obama has)
Title Game: Louisville vs. Pitt with your national champion.....PITTSBURGH!!!
Sleeper Team: Arizona State and West Virginia - don't sleep on the Sun Devils. James Harden and Co. can defeat Syracuse's 2-3 zone because they have great shooters and play solid defense. West Virginia, well somebody's gonna beat Kansas and Dayton's injuries won't guarantee that.
USC and Utah State and Minnesota will upset their first round opponents and be a tough matchup in Round 2 before they lose.
UCLA: Well my Bruins are heading East for the first time in a while and they get to play 2007's upset special VCU. Eric Maynor killed Duke last year in a game I predicted but if you think that's gonna happen again, you don't know Shipp. As in Josh Shipp playing his best ball at the end of the season unlike last year. Too bad, we're gonna lose to Villanova in a home game but ah well....
Duke: So for the first time in 3 years, I'm not shaky about the Blue Devils' chances to go far. I still think their lack of a post presence could hurt them at some point but they have been on a roll for now despite losing to UNC. I have them going back to the Sweet 16 but losing to a physical Villanova team.
Gonzaga will survive the first weekend for the first time since Adam Morrison went out like a baby in 2006 (still can't believe that punk is a Laker now).
Oklahoma's overrated? Maybe so, but if Arizona State doesn't get them, UNC will in the Elite Eight. Even though a one-man team is better if that one man is a guard than a PF (right, Davidson?), I just can't see Blake Griffin going home early (and like I said, don't sleep on Willie Warren at the PG).
Speaking of the Tar Heels, I'm praying that Ty Lawson is alright. His ankle is the reason I have them losing in the Final 4 but if he's healthy, my bracket could be torn up.
Arizona shouldn't be in there over St. Mary's....but since they are, they'll upset Utah. Reminds of that game in 1998 when Andre Miller had a triple-double in the Elite Eight to upset them (a game I called). Cool story: found out that his mom and my mom worked in the same building.
Alright enough chatter, these are my picks and I'm sticking with them. So sayeth Prof. Virgo, so sayeth Logos.
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
Sunday, March 15, 2009
Gotta love Selection Sunday. It's where college teams look for their dancing shoes, where they're dancing and hope to do it as long as they can. And best of all, eight teams (your patsy 15-16 seeds) are just happy to be invited and once in a blue moon, a 15 seed surprises us (Jamaal Tinsley is still probably pissed at the site of any Hampton gear after Iowa State laid an egg in 2001).
March Madness officially starts Thursday but with the conference tournaments last week, it almost seems like an extended encore of the excitement. It’s time for the best three weeks of basketball and see who becomes the next tournament hero.
And every year, I have to remember my first exposure to the Madness 14 years ago: UCLA's last title in 1995. Like a coward, I ran into the bathroom after the 2nd round game with 4.8 seconds left and missed Tyus Edney's mad dash to the basket. Learned a valuable lesson that day - never leave before the game is over. I still remember that year's team (Ed and Charles O'Bannon, George Zidek, Toby Bailey and JR Henderson and of course, the floor general in Edney) and my affair with UCLA became stronger.
It’ll be hard to top last year’s heroics of Stephen Curry, Western Kentucky, my alma mater San Diego, the great run of Memphis and the title game where Kansas made a comeback for the ages to win the national title. But that’s the beauty of the NCAA Tournament, you never know what can happen.
Here are my winners and losers from Selection Sunday.
The Big East: Seven teams in, three No. 1’s that are favored to win, Syracuse rises from an 8/9 to a 3 after their incredible run.
USC: They were left for dead on Thursday, but they upset Cal, UCLA and Arizona State en route to the Pac-10 and got a good shot against Boston College in the 7/10 draw. Guess Taj Gibson’s mom has a reason to be proud and no need to call us.
Arizona: They should have been left out of the tournament but instead they got in for a 25th year as one of the last teams in. I don’t care if they beat UCLA, they don’t deserve to be a trendy 5-12 upset just yet.
Yours truly: Hey, I picked two out of four No. 1’s so I should pat myself on the back. But I knew Pitt would be a No. 1 after I wrote that and I never saw Oklahoma losing their chance or Louisville creeping up.
St. Mary’s and San Diego State: Far be it from me to defend the cause of my in-state rival and a conference foe, but they should be in over Arizona. The Wildcats played well down the stretch – beating UCLA at home – but they got whooped by AZ State in the conf. tourney and just didn’t get in there.
Davidson: Stephen Curry won’t get another encore (true fans remember him blowing up 2 years ago, not last year). Unless he goes to the NIT
Arizona State: You blow a second-half lead to USC, you don’t deserve the No. 5 seed.
Kentucky: Not in the tournament for the first time in 17 years. End of a good long streak that we saw coming last year when they lost to Gardner-Webb and San Diego (yeeeah!!!) at home.
I’m happy my UCLA and Duke teams got in but UCLA may not have a shot against Villanova in Round 2, let alone VCU aka Cinderella from 2 years ago (still shudder about them beating Duke but I saw it coming). Duke could very well lose in the 2nd round to a physical Texas team. Of course they could tug at my heart and meet in the Sweet 16 but I dont know.
This is one of the hardest years to pick a national champion because there has been no overwhelming favorite. UConn would be the favorite if not for them losing to a good Pitt team twice, North Carolina would be there but with Ty Lawson’s foot injury – it’s hard to tell, Pitt could be the best by default, Oklahoma looks vulnerable, Louisville’s a wild card and that’s not even considering wilder cards like Missouri, Memphis, Michigan State.
I don’t make predictions until my bracket is revealed on Wednesday so you’ll have to wait til then for a special VSR. But I think UConn has the easiest road to the Final 4 on first glance…other than that I go into hibernation to figure out my bracket.
Bracketology 101 begins to-NIGHT and prepare for a lecture on Wednesday (aka the VSR-March Madness edition).
Thursday, March 12, 2009
- Baylor upsets Kansas
- EDIT: VILLANOVA beats Marquette on a buzzer-beating lay-up that should've been the best Big East game of the night.
- Oklahoma upsets Oklahoma St
- West Virginia upsets Pitt.
- Lakers dominate San Antonio Spurs to clinch Pacific Division
- Westchester HS beats Fairfax HS 55-54 on a game-winning shot with 4 seconds left
- Inglewood HS and Marlborough HS (two teams left for dead in the CIF finals) advance to state regional final showdown.
- USC skates by Cal
- And finally…Syracuse beats UConn 127-117 in a game that went SIX OVERTIMES!!! They played a game and a half down in the great Madison Square Garden. All of those kids had heart but maybe none bigger than Syracuse's Jonny Flynn (34 pts, 11 dimes, played nearly all but three minutes) or UConn's AJ Price (33 pts, 10 dimes). Second-longest college bball game in history.
Did I mention that UConn tied the game with 1.1 seconds left in regulation and the game-winning 3-pointer was waved off?? OH MY GOODNESS!!!!
March 12, 2009 will go down in history for me as one of the greatest days of basketball I've seen. I can't wait for the NCAA Tournament to start Thursday cause I've already gone mad with basketball fever today!!
Friday, March 6, 2009
Tuesday, March 3, 2009
Any worries you have need only to be erased by looking at the standings. The Lakers are so far ahead in the Western Conference that we need a road map to find the No. 2 team 7.5 games back. We’re only thinking about the Eastern Conference and making sure we stay No. 1 overall (1/2 game ahead of the Cleveland).
By the way, I’m happy that Shaq has found the Fountain of Youth. 45 points two games ago, 33 against the Lakers…and I believe Chris “RuPaul” Bosh needs to worry about being outshined by an old man. Shaq’s punchlines >>>> Charles Hamilton’s punchlines.
I won’t be at the Pac-10 Tournament this year thanks to the Southern California High School State Regional Tournament happening the same week. But if UCLA faces Arizona State or Washington, they need to play like they did at Cal/Stanford to even think about winning. Right now I have them as a 4 or 5 seed…win the tournament and maybe they’re a solid No. 4 with an outside chance at No. 3.
If I had to pick ‘em today….the No. 1 seeds would be UConn, Oklahoma, North Carolina and…Memphis?? By default, I guess the Tigers end up there but anything is possible in the conference tournaments. UNC still has to deal with my Duke boys on Sunday looking for revenge to ruin Psycho T and Danny Green’s Senior Day. But first, they gotta worry about keeping Ty Lawson from carving them up.
The Patriots trading Matt Cassel means several things: 1) Tom Brady will be fine by Opening Day, 2) Kansas City will be the new New England thanks to Scott Pioli running the show, 3) Another excuse for the SF Valley to feel proud*….bah. I’m happy the Cowboys got Jon Kitna as a back-up…he’s a good guy with good character and somebody that Tony Romo can learn from as far as leadership.
1. 3 Super Bowls in 4 years - duh
2. Trading Herschel Walker for essentially those 3 Super Bowls (and Emmitt Smith, Darren Woodson and Russell Maryland via New England)
3. Jimmy Johnson era (not just the wins but the discipline and the attitude that reinvigorated a franchise)
4. Bringing in Deion Sanders to shut down Jerry Rice and clinch that 3rd Super Bowl (sense a trend?)
5. Drafting DeMarcus Ware (arguably the best draft pick made during this low stretch for us)
Worst of the Era
1. Kicking out Tom Landry like a dog
2. Nothing notable happening since 1998 – a 13-3 season in 2007 but lose in the playoffs to the Giants.
3. Getting big-headed and kicking out Jimmy Johnson. This cost the Cowboys another title as the discipline Johnson brought would’ve defeated the 49ers and then crushed the Chargers in the Super Bowl.
4. You go from Jimmy and Barry Switzer to….Chan Gailey and Dave Campo??? No wonder we ain’t won crap since I was in junior high.
5. Being a control-freak.
I like Jerry Jones. Under his watch, I became the Cowboys fan I am today. But as I came of age, it became harder to watch without knowing it can be better. Here’s hoping the next decade is more like the first and not the last.