Friday, December 31, 2010

2010 Parting Shots (San Diego, Teena Marie, Junior)

Haven't been blogging this week because I've been working the Torrey Pines Holiday Classic for ESPN Rise. After all that's happened to me this year, it was sweet justice that I ended it working in my 2nd home (San Diego) and watching my favorite sport. Here's the link for y'all and just click on the Headlines to find my stories from each day of the tourney.

Last night I was driving to my friend's house out here and I heard Nelly's "Just a Dream" in the drive-thru line. It made me smile because 1) it reminded me how I felt a decade ago when I enjoyed Nelly as a new artist and 2) that no matter how crazy this year got for me personally, I'm still living parts of a dream I had 5 years ago here as a senior.

The year has taken me through a lot personally and professionally. I started this year with 2 jobs and I end the year with none. I started with some friends and I lost them. Thankfully death didn't hit so hard this time but the last death I saw close to me was hard because it's another church mentor gone.

I'm grateful my health was much better this year and I had a consistent gym routine that I want to improve next year. I'm grateful for the friends who got closer to me and the new lady in my life. But ultimately, I'm still sportswriting and I'm glad for one last chance to do it this year. Who knows what 2011 holds but I trust in the only One who does.

I'll do my usual year in review blogs next week. There's too much I want to reflect on. Here's some parting shots from the last week.

All you need to know is this. Teena Marie is one of the greatest soul singers ever. Teena Marie is one of a kind that will never be duplicated. Teena Marie touched as many R&B souls as anyone within the last 30 years. If you want to hear good music, excellent singing, beautiful songwriting and just something that hits your soul, youtube her name and select her classics like "Square Biz", "Lovergirl", "Ooh La La"

Many will eulogize the Ivory Queen far better than me. One of my friends was nearly dumbfounded as he told me his memories of his parents dancing to her music and him growing up with it. For people growing up in the 80's when music was more segregated, R&B fans heard this amazing voice and thought she was Black. Imagine a White artist now that is solely marketed towards an R&B crowd, not pop. Robin Thicke comes to mind but that's it.

The Santa Monica native embraced that audience and culture as well as anybody and it's a huge loss for music. May she rest in peace singing with the angels. I had the blessing to hear her live in 2007 at a local church talk about how much at home she felt in the church and the Black community. She sang "Ave Maria" so beautifully and we'll always have that voice.

It was blogged in my mind but never delivered as I wanted to say a few words on my favorite MLB player's quiet retirement. Ken Griffey Jr. waved goodbye to the game 20 years after taking the world by storm as "The Kid" with 5-tool skills, an 1,000 watt smile and one of the sweetest swings in the game. If fate wasn't so cruel, he'd be hailed as one of the 15 greatest players ever instead of maybe one of the Top 50/60.

Griffey was one of the reasons I liked baseball. Every year, I'd root for him to get 40+ homers and 100+ RBI's. I remember one night before I started school in 1999 or 2000, he hit a home run before I went to bed. I knew then my year would be great. One of the best fielders in MLB history and one of the best home run hitters ever. And after the 1994 strike, he did just as much as Big Mac/Sammy Sosa to bring the game back but without cheating.

I bought the video games, wore the hat backwards and every season, hoped he'd still healthy and finally win a World Series. Maybe I'll do a true blog solely for him later but if not, see you in five years, Junior. Thank you for the memories growing up and it's fitting that your final hit was a walk-off win for Seattle, the team and city you saved baseball for.

Finally there's going to be a big change on this blog next year. I'll announce it in a few days along with my usual year-in-review blogs next week. But it's a change I've thought about and it best suits the vision of what I want to do here. I'll give you a hint, think Southern food and the wide variety of topics I have here. My final words of 2010 come from my Facebook post this morning.

"Another year ends. Another time to reflect. A toast to both successes and fails. A prayer for next year's hopes and the past year's unfulfilled dreams. Raise the glass but lift up your heart. Remember those who left us and celebrate those still with us. Tonight's a beautiful spot between two places so like William Blake, embrace the 3rd place. Experience Gone By and Innocence Yet to Come. Happy New Year!"

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Home Alone >>>> A Christmas Story

This may be strictly a generation thing but no Christmas movie defined my childhood more than Home Alone. Macaulay Culkin was a hero to kids everywhere for being the coolest kid of the early 90's. Throw in one of the coolest, yet heartfelt directors of the era in John Hughes and Christmas isn't complete without a trip to the McAllister clan. If you don't agree, you're a filthy animal that should be shot - movie reference for the foolish.

Every year I heard about "A Christmas Story" but I never saw it til last year. It looked like one of those old school corny movies that was force-fed to later generations. At first I thought it was cheesy and corny as all else then a few more glances I saw why folks liked it. Had that Wonder Years vibe before Wonder Years came out. Nostalgia's a beautiful thing

But now that I think about it, watching it makes Home Alone look that much greater. Let's break it down. *OBVIOUS SPOILER ALERT for the small few who ain't seen both*

Main Character

- Kevin McCallister's a much better kid to be like. He held down the fort at home like a G, tricked out his house by himself to stop two robbers AND lived the life ever kid wanted. He looked smug and just like Bart Simpson that same year, he was the kid rebel who got plenty of love.

Did I mention the cooler gadgets in Home Alone 2? Nah I shouldn't, that'd just make it easier considering every kid I know wanted that Talkboy.

Ralphie? Some punk sissy who got picked on and made you feel sorry for him. Kids see him and say "Awwww poor kid." but they see Kevin and say "Awww, he's the man!" He looked like a dork and you couldn't believe he'd ever get his wish.....on that note.

But Ralphie gets cool points for beating the crap out of that bully. Just like Kevin tried to do with Buzz except Ralphie bloodied that punk up. Still a sissy most of the movie compared to Kevin.


(Even the photos let you know who could hold heat with respect)

- Kevin shot off BB guns with accuracy. He nailed Marv perfectly through the doggie door. Ralphie had to beg and beg for that BB gun and what did he do? Shot his eye out just like everyone said. You think kids liked watching that and thinking he was like us?

- Ralphie pretty much wished to do what Kevin actually do. Remember that dream scene of stopping burglars? Kevin actually did that. Who's cooler.

Supporting Cast

- Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern as the burglars. John Candy cameo. Kevin's mom being frantic. Buzz as the older bro you loved to hate. C'mon man. Not even close in Home Alone. Did we even mention the Black and White movie that was more interesting that half of Christmas Story?

- Ralphie's Dad was pretty good, especially with that leg lamp. But nobody else stood out except the bullies.

More Points to Consider

- Best line of the movies. "oooooooooooooh fudge (but i didn't say Fudge)" vs. "You guys give up or are you thirsty for more."

Christmas Story was slow as heck to get going. I almost went to sleep watching it waiting for Ralphie to get that dang BBQ gun. Home Alone was fast-paced from the jump when they were rushing to get ready and Kevin bumrushed Buzz for that pizza.

John Hughes must have seen A Christmas Story and thought, "How can I update this and make it 10X cooler. I know! We focus on the kid being by himself but instead of him being scared, he takes control and looks totally cool while still reminding you he's 8 years old."

(Yeah, he knew full well he could make a better masterpiece)

Maybe it's a generation thing but for a classic, I expected to be more than just cutesy. Makes me appreciate the late Hughes a whole lot more for adding some flair, pizazz and cool to his movies.

If A Christmas Story is all about nostalgia, Home Alone looked to the future. It's a better movie that holds up in the recent climate and best believe while I sneak peeks at Christmas Story tomorrow, I'll be wishing for Kevin McCallister in Home Alone 1 and 2.

Let's give him the final word shall we? *loads up Tommy Gun*

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Props to UConn and their streak

In college basketball, no number is more revered than 88 - the consecutive wins UCLA had from 1971-74. As a UCLA fan, that number is one of many. 11 - number of overall titles. 7 - number of straight titles. But it's one of the treasures that makes the John Wooden era so beloved.

The UConn women have now surpassed it. Two consecutive undefeated seasons + 9 victories to start the season and they've stamped their own mark on college basketball. They haven't lost since 2008 and yet, people want to compare it as weaker or not as great to the UCLA streak.

1st things 1st. UCLA's competition in the early 1970's was nowhere near as competitive as the game is now, especially on the West Coast. So that talk about UConn facing nobody is moot.

UCLA had dominant players in Bill Walton, Keith Wilkes and more. UConn had them in Tina Charles and Maya Moore. UCLA won games by an average of 23.5 points and won 74 of the last 75 games by comfortable margins. UConn won by an average of 33 points and beat 30 ranked opponents, trailing only 134 minutes.

Comparing the men's and women's game is silly and irrelevant. Yes, there aren't many great teams outside of Tennessee, UConn, Stanford, Baylor (or at least it doesn't seem like it.. Yes, they don't dunk or do anything flashy. Yes, they play boring, old-school, below-the-rim, low FG-shooting basketball. Yes, most dudes can beat a team of ladies. But dominance is dominance and you have to respect how they do it.

Winning every night isn't a matter of showing up and doing it easily. It's preparing every night and not having a misstep. It's doing it in March when they usually face better competition. They got tested against Baylor and Stanford (esp. in the 2nd half) and survived. Every year, they recruit the best players but winning programs isn't about talent - it's a mindset and head coach Geno Auriemma deserves plenty of credit for keeping his players ready.

John Wooden did this, Dean Smith did it. Mike Kryzewski does it, Bob Knight did it, and so does Pat Summitt. Every great coach wins not with the best players but the best schemes.

My only gripe with the women's game is that the lack of parity creates too many superstars quickly. Chamique Holdsclaw was the greatest female player ever til Diana Taurasi got started then along came Candace Parker and then came Maya Moore. Meanwhile Cheryl Miller is sitting back like "How can y'all forget me when I'm the mother of this dominant ish."

Pat Summitt is one of the greatest coaches of the college game, male or female. Geno Auriemma is a great coach in his own right. Maya Moore (41 pts) is just as good as any great female player the game has seen. And what UConn has done will stand in its own right just like UCLA's streak.

Nobody's going to forget or devalue what UCLA did just like nobody should devalue what UConn is doing. But comparing them by gender or competition cheapens what they did. I defer to the late legend Coach Wooden who admired the women's game and would be proud to see what the Huskies did.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Football Wrap Week 15: DeSean Jax = SoCal's Finest

As freaky as Michael Vick gets in continuing to be as the NFL's version of Neo, DeSean Jackson is showing why he's the NFL's best big play threat outside of Devin Hester. Three seasons, enough highlights to fulfill the promise he showed here nearly half a decade ago.

He was one of the fastest players to come out of Long Beach Poly HS and never set foot on the track field. His final game saw him shine as a DB helping Poly win a sectional championship with two interceptions en route to being named Mr. Football. His flair for the dramatic showed up at the Army All-American Game but that play aside, he won MVP easily.

Outside of Steve Smith (NY Giants), there may not have been a more talented player to come out of SoCal in the last decade. Peep the resume.

- 11 TD's of 60 yards or more in 3 years.
- 101 yards and 2 TD's at his 1st Pro Bowl.
- 100+ yards in his first 2 games. Only the 2nd to do it in 60 years.
- A 91-yard TD styling on my Cowboys with 210 receiving yards total last week.
- The walk-off Punt Return on Sunday that was unbelievable. What's better than winning at the buzzer than stylin on the Midgets at the same time? hahahahaha!

I have to rack my brain to think of a wide receiver that fast who's stepped into the league making an impact like that. Randy Moss is the only that comes to mind. Larry Fitzgerald put up numbers but he was nowhere as explosive as Moss or Jax.

His swagger is straight out of Poly, where athletes are used to winning and act like it. 18 section championships in football, 20 state track titles (11 - girls, 9 - boys), 4 state titles in girls' basketball and that's just the major ones. It's a factory where the players are faster, smarter and way more confident than yours and they know it.

It drives me nuts but in the pros, the motto is simple. If you don't like it, keep them out of the end zone or lay a hit on them. Plus he's reppin SoCal at its finest so while I hate him along with the Eagles, I root for him like I do Steve Smith.

My only question is how in the heck did he fall to the second round in the 2008 Draft? He was smart to ditch USC for Cal because he ended up being a big star there but how could teams pass up a speedy two-time All-American who was gonna make QB's that much better from Day 1.

Other NFL tidbits

- Neo's comeback Sunday should clinch his spot as the runner-up in the MVP. I always thought his 43-yard TD run against the Vikings was his greatest big-time moment. This comeback will be #1.

- The heavens opened, Gus Johnson spoke and Tim Tebow run through a hole 40 yards easily to the end zone. I was waiting for the dove of the Holy Spirit to come on him after that TD pass. Maybe next week when he starts again.

- Great job to Packers' Matt Flynn in your first start, going toe-to-toe with Tom Brady til the final minute. But how in the heck did GB let that lineman run 71 yards on them?

(And now, Virgo Kent goes after the Shanahans...cues "Hit Em Up" and "Bomb 1st")

Mike Shanahan is a fool of a head coach. You already embarrass Donovan McNabb by pulling him for overrated Rex Grossman in the 2-minute drill and then insinuating he's out of shape (the latter might be true, DMac's a lil heavy in the middle). But now you bench him for the season? Demote him to 3rd string? This has gone far enough.

John Elway's not walking through that door. Terrell Davis is too busy enjoying a relatively pain-free anonymous retirement to walk on that field. You're walking around DC like you're the man but you haven't done anything in a decade to earn that.

Whatever happened to standing behind your QB? And no, that knife you shoved in his back doesn't count. If you really believe that Lucky Grossman is better than McNabb and apparently your son Kyle Shanahan still has a man-crush on him, you're stupid.

If McNabb is hurt, you protect him by saying you're sitting him down due to injury. Meanwhile Brett Favre and Carson Palmer still started games this week and I'd take McNabb over both of them easily. So to you, Mike Shanahan, get off your high horse cause that beast died the minute Terrell Davis gave his final Mile High salute in street clothes.

Props to my Cowboys winning despite nearly giving that game away. That was for you, McNabb. Please for the good of men everywhere, stop taking the high road for once and let Mike Shanahan have it as the last man to disrespect your resume and career.

(cuts off Tupac - we resume our regularly scheduled blog)

- So glad Pitt didn't clinch a playoff spot, the less love for Big Ben the better. Props to Jason Taylor's safety.

- Carson Palmer won a game? Barely? I'm shocked. And have we seen the last game of Terrell Owens' career?

- Devin Hester's quietly reclaimed his career this year. Congrats on his 14th TD on a return, a new NFL record in only his 5th season. Here's hoping he can get to 20. Always been a fave since he wore my favorite number at The U.

Fantasy Report

Got a semifinal matchup in my Yahoo League (No. 6 seed with the upset) and a two-week final showdown in my 2nd ESPN league (No. 2 seed). I've never been this close to a fantasy championship and I'm psyched to get the chance. Time to go get fitted for a championship belt.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Reality TV Stars = Death of Quality TV characters

I had a conversation on Facebook with a friend about Criminal Minds this past week. We loved the episode as one of our favorite characters took charge. I've also had several convos with a friend via Blackberry Messenger breaking down several shows and their characters/themes.

It was rare because have you noticed who we talk about on TV? What shows/characters dominate the chatter on Twitter/Facebook. It's more reality show character than created ones.

It's been 10 years since Survivor changed television forever. It brought back the game show to late night television popularity and it also introduced reality shows to the masses. Real World and Road Rules are the real godfathers of the genre but Survivor took it to the masses and spawn a lot of imitators and a few greater.

The 2000's will be the last decade we had classic TV characters that folks can name off the top. It's no surprise most of them are on HBO since their programs completely crapped on regular TV mostly.

Tony Soprano and Carrie Bradshaw are as iconic as anybody while Jack Bauer, Dr. House, Don Draper and Gil Grissom were 4 of the best in drama. Comedywise? It's all about the sextet from Friends, the five ladies of Desperate Housewives and Michael Scott/Dwight from "The Office"

HBO had the shows that were cultural phenomenons. Sopranos and Sex in the City forced Emmy to show them love. The Wire is arguably the greatest show of the decade and fans still discuss the characters/plots feverishly, enough to make me eventually plot to buy the box set.

ABC brought us Lost and Grey's Anatomy but those were largely ensemble shows without a major star. NBC had Friends and now has 30 Rock/The Office and CBS had CSI but somehow brought out Charlie Sheen in a sitcom and Neil Patrick Harris from the TV dead.

But think about it? It's the decade where Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie took the simple life, women fawn over The Bachelor and Survivor drama captivated us. Who even remembers all 5 dudes from Queer Eye for the Straight Guy yet that was on primetime on Must See TV?

The #1 show the last six years? American Idol. The new sextet dominating TV? The Jersey Shore crew. The stars on TV are real folks as opposed to writers creating great characters and us discussing them. Now we discuss "reality" and if anything we just say how unreal it is.

People discuss the Real Housewives and To Catch a Predator like it's a religion. Established stars are doing reality TV and it turns out their "TV persona" or folks introducd through that show get lives of their own (see Keyshia Cole's ultra hood mother)

I feel like we won't see too many great discussions of characters anymore. While shows like 30 Rock, Modern Family, Mad Men, Glee (hate to admit it), Boardwalk Empire, True Blood, the various Law and Orders have revived traditional shows, feels like the masses will be discussing some reality show drama. I don't hate it, I just find it interesting.

Is it due to lack of great writing or just mass appeal in a different direction. It's both. There's way more creativity on cable TV than network but the mass appeal for reality means also the death of more characters reaching the public sphere.

Most shows now are ensemble based as opposed to one breakout star who carries it. You have Liz Lemon (30 Rock, 1st pic), Barney (How I Met Your Mother) Don Draper (Mad Men, 2nd pic), Nucky Thompson (Boardwalk), Alec Baldwin on 30 Rock, Kyra Sedgwick on the "Closer", Bryan Cranston on "Breaking Bad" (a show I've barely heard of, much less seen), Jane Lynch on "Glee" but if you were to pick a Top 10 of compelling characters or moments on TV, most folks would name reality show characters.

There's something cool about discussing the themes and people in a created world as opposed to breaking down caricatures of reality. It's what we do in literature and film and great TV still does that. But just like a great, well-crafted song will go unappreciated by most, well-written shows will be overlooked.

The 2000's were the end of an era and the emergence of another that's threatening to dominate the 2010's. It's literally become the Survivor era where the tribe has spoken and tradition is being snuffed out. But at what expense?

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Football Wrap Week 14 Extras

- Jets assistant Sal Alosi, meet Alabama's Tommy Lewis. He was worse than you tripping that Dolphins player when he tackled Rice's Dicky Maegle in the 1954 Cotton Bowl although you could've caused a far worse injury. I read that when I was in 7th grade and never thought I'd see that again.

He deserved his suspension for the rest of the season. That was a punk move and had he been fired, I would've had no problem with that. Another sign the Jets are reeling from the Patriots punking them.

- Speaking of New England, anybody doubt they're the best team in the league? They destroyed Chicago like they were still mad about Super Bowl XX. 

- Revenge was on the menu in San Diego and my Bolts dished out colder than the Bride in Kill Bill. Kansas City shocked us in the season opener, we curbstomped them into reality Sunday. Damage Report: 67 total yards, 5 first downs for KC. BEAT EM DOWN! (c) Bomani Jones.

- Darren McFadden ran like a grown man out against J-Ville. That's what I've been expecting to see since he was drafted.

- Carson Palmer needs to be benched. The heck is wrong with him throwing to his old roommate (and eventual Defensive POY) Troy Polamalu? Nobody's calling for his head but I swear his job should be in jeopardy. He still looks shook from his ACL injury a few postseasons ago. 

- DeSean Jax is a fool but I don't have beef with it. My beef is with Dallas not policing the field by not catching him with a hard shot. Cali's Finest and Black Neo put on a good show against my Boys. 

- Nothing like putting the fear of God in a team and then losing on a Pick-6. Houston, thanks for the show, especially your grand finale involving BMore DB Josh Wilson.

- Heard some guy didn't start this weekend. His stats were terrible so there's no need to mention him. Some scrub, old QB named Favre or something. Yawwwwn. Call me when they stop worshiping him like he died instead of sit his old butt down.

Football Wrap Week 14: Peyton Hillis Is a Great Story

I've been waiting for this blog for a month. Y'all know that I've been watching Peyton Hillis closely as he's racked up the yards every week. Now he's finally made some history as the first white tailback to cross 1,000 yards since Craig James did it in 1985.

(Speaking of James, I peeped that 30 for 30 doc on the SMU football program - he and Eric Dickerson were ahead of their time as a two-back tandem. But it confirmed two things. 1) cheating is older than dirt, 2) outsiders will never get love unless they go balls out and demand it and even that ain't enough)

Hillis (1,070 yards and 11 TD's) has been one of the only things good for the Browns this year and I remember hearing about him 2 years ago when he had a great game for Denver as a rookie. Now he's in Cleveland running around like a bowling ball with Southern speed (4.58 speed at his Pro Day? Not bad). As good as the Patriots have been, they gotta have visions of him running all over them. 184 yards and 3 TD's, the greatest day for a white tailback in 50 years as I looked up.

However, some folks are saying "why make a fuss about him being white. He's a player straight up. Screw race." Unfortunately for y'all, I'm not colorblind and in case you haven't noticed, the white tailback is almost a thing of the past on the pro level and on major college teams. Plus, people think that you can't give genuine props while also acknowledging the uniqueness of their achievement.

ESPN's Jemele Hill wrote this story two years ago about the lack of white tailbacks in pro and college. As the game has gotten faster, the White bruiser is a thing of the past. So let's face it - seeing a White guy finding success in the pros is rightfully surprising.

I grew up watching Mike Alstott rumble as a fullback for Tampa Bay get his due. The running back with the most yards in California prep history? Toby Gerhart - who proved that recruiting him as a fullback was asinine as he ran all over the West Coast the last two seasons at Stanford. I rode hard for Gerhart because watching him run, I knew he'd have a solid NFL career based on skill overcoming stereotypes.

This HS season, I covered more teams with white tailbacks and while the speed wasn't always there, I respected them being gritty and how they ran the ball hard. They finished their runs and it was effective in their team's system. A stark departure from covering the speed of the inner-city but broadened my view.

The more I see Hillis, I see beyond stereotypes. I see a great running back who just happens to be white. But to not acknowledge him in his success for being white is no different than failing to see President Barack Obama being black.

He's not the Great White Hope or some BS propaganda piece you should rally around cause he's "like us" (too bad SI did this with Patriots RB Danny Woodhead, who I've also been impressed with). He's not a novelty either. Dude proved his worth and it's time to give him his props as one of the best surprise stories. A great tailback who is white, not the other way around. Don't be afraid to bring up his race, just make sure you respect the game.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Christmas Cheer!

Church Sunday ended on a great note. We sang "Do You Hear What I Hear" after a sermon using the chorus as bullet points on the shepherds finding out that Jesus was born. There's something warm about singing carols and it's probably the only time of the year where you can hear people sing overtly religious songs without people being offended.

I haven't played my Christmas mix yet but today probably put me in the spirit for good. I see the lights in my neighborhood and I'm already excited to see one of the coolest displays in the city a few blocks away from me. Literally folks coming from all over to see a beautiful display that stretches like 10 blocks.

It's a time for enjoying great movies. Home Alone was probably the first Christmas movie I remember seeing and I can't believe that 20 years later it's still a classic I have to see every season. Every kid wanted to be Kevin McCallister and I plotted many times about tricking out my house or visiting New York in the winter to skate at Rockefeller Center.

I love watching "It's A Wonderful Life." but believe it or not, the first time, I saw "A Christmas Story" was last year. At first, it seemed corny as heck but I kept watching and eventually, lil Ralphie and that darn BB gun sucked me in. Now I'll be front and center watching the marathon this year.

Of course, nothing beats A Charlie Brown Christmas. For my money, it's one of the best Peanuts specials and the music remains timeless. Heck, my Christmas mix is mostly this entire CD. Nothing beats "Skating" or hearing the kids sing "Christmas Tiiiiiiiiime Is Here." I'll never forget in 10th grade, we decorated our homeroom with cotton balls, cardboard cutouts of the Peanuts gang and had the video of the movie playing. Easily we won 1st place out of the classes and we loved it. One of the best shows of unity we had out of many.

And for my favorite Christmas jams? Here's 10 that I love besides the Charlie Brown Christmas album and don't judge me for some of them.

1) Donny Hathaway "This Christmas"
2) Wham! "Last Christmas" (Jimmy Eat World's cover is brilliant)
3) Mariah Carey "All I Want for Christmas"
4) Boyz II Men & Brian McKnight "Let It Snow"
5) Bing Crosby "White Christmas"
6) "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch" (Yes! This is a Christmas Song)
7) Nat King Cole "The Christmas Song"
8) John Lennon "Happy Xmas (War Is Over)"
9) Celine Dion "O Holy Night" (and can't front, N*Sync did their thing on this too)
10) Run-DMC "Christmas in Hollis"

Awww what the heck, here's a few more.

1) Beach Boys "Little St. Nick"
2) Brenda Lee "Rocking Around The Christmas Tree"
3) 98 Degrees "This Gift"
4) "Baby It's Cold Outside" (I've had this in my head the past few days)
5) "Jingle Bell Rock"
6) "Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer"
7) TLC "Sleigh Ride"

Have you ever listened to the lyrics of your favorite Christmas carols? "Happy Xmas" is a blatant protest song against Vietnam. When's the last time you tasted figgy pudding or roasted chestnuts? And as Cleveland and other cities found out, way too much snow around you isn't exactly a Winter Wonderland.

But I tell ya what, everything about this season is great. I don't need snow to make it a winter wonderland - Christmas is about the spirit and how you carry it. So pass me the Santa hat, candy canes and my I-pod cause baby, it's waaaaarm ouuuuuuuuutside!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Cam Newton's Great - And Here's Folks Even Greater

(It feels good to be the Man)

I've been hyping Cam Newton on here quite a bit. I hope he wins the Heisman in a landslide on Saturday and anyone who doesn't vote for him should have their vote stripped for ruining the integrity of an award they accuse Cam of doing. But instead of just giving the brotha his props, I'm gonna bring some perspective on his season.

Some folks are saying Cam's having the greatest college season in history. It made me think about who are the greatest college football players of my lifetime. I started watching college football in 1997-98 but like I tell folks, doesn't matter how young you are; if you got a computer with youtube and older friends, you can school yourself.

Just for perspective here's Cam's season
- 1,409 rushing yards (#10 in the nation)
- 2nd QB with 20 passing and rushing TD's (48 total)
- Leads nation in QB rating and currently has the highest of all time
- 3,998 total yards of offense
- 6 overall TD's in the SEC title game
- Helped beat Alabama after 24-0 deficit
- 49 yd TD run where he carried All-American DB Patrick Patterson of LSU to end his slice and dice.

But oh, he doesn't deserve the Heisman because of speculation that the NCAA cleared him of. Child, please! Only debate is how much he wins by and who finishes second (E-TV's prediction? Stanford QB Andrew Luck).

Here's the Mt. Rushmore of Greatest College FB Players since 1984.

#1 Mr. Barry David Sanders. 1987 - led nation in kickoff return yards as a backup to Thurman Thomas. Then in 1988, he turned college football into a video game. 2,628 yards (3,248 overall yards), 37 TD's and 33 NCAA records set that don't include his final game of 225 yards and 5 TD's. The holy grail and just as unstoppable there as he would be in the pros. He did this in the great Big 8 Conference's heyday when Oklahoma and Nebraska still had great defenses.

#2 Tommie Frazier - The greatest player never to win the Heisman Trophy. If not for a missed field goal against Charlie Ward and Florida State in 1994 title game, he would've won three straight national titles instead of two. But he did win the MVP in all 3 title games and did lead the greatest team of the last 20 years (1995 Nebraska). His stats aren't all that great but the dude just won games and was clutch. Consensus All-American in 1995.

This play summarizes Tommie's greatness - 7 dudes just giving up on a tackle.

#3 Reggie Bush - The most electrifying player I have ever seen besides Michael Vick. Two-time All-American, a threat to score every time he touched the ball. 10th all-time in NCAA history for All-Purpose Yards. 513 total yards of offense against Fresno State is one of the top 10 performances of the last decade. A national championship regardless of what the NCAA rules against. The best player of the last decade

Funny we bring him up in light of Cam. Nobody can tell me that Reggie Bush didn't exist and that he wasn't the best player in 2005. Watch the videos of him and tell me he wasn't one of the most unstoppable players you've seen.

#4 Vince Young - Texas fans will swear to this day VY got screwed on the Heisman. Take solace in the fact that VY had two of the greatest bowl game performances in recent memory in my state (05 and 06 Rose Bowl). Take solace that VY had a year (2005) possibly even better than Cam. And take the fact he singlehandedly destroyed a dynasty that 5 years later is still reeling nationally.

- 3,000 yards passing, 1,000 yards rushing (1st time a QB has ever done that)
- 38 total touchdowns
- Led nation in QB efficiency
- 467 total yards and 3 TDs in the 2006 Rose Bowl, including the game-winning drive and score

For kicks, let's throw in the 2005 Rose Bowl with 372 total yards and 5 total TD's. He and Reggie are 1A/1B of the decade as far as I'm concerned and my bias gives Reggie the edge.

Honorable Mention in No Order: Charlie Ward (3,371 total yards, 27 passing TD's in 93) , Larry Fitzgerald, Randy Moss. Michael Vick should be on this list but I remember his 2nd season falling short of his 1st season's brilliance. Production has to trump otherworldliness.

This is air that Cam Newton is travelling in and who knows where experts will place his season if he has one more great game against Oregon. He swept the major college awards so congratulations on winning the Heisman and it's a shame that your father has chosen not to attend for fear of causing a scene than to support you as a father should.

(Sidenote, I wish he could be there for the simple fact of having a successful Black athlete whose father is present and involved, not just his single mother.)

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Trapped in a Box and Getting Out

What do you do when a passion defines who you are? What do you do when that passion ends up defining another passion? The beauty of having so many things you care about is because they require something different of you. But what happens if they start to define you instead of the other way around. This is what I realized last week and what I shared with a friend Sunday.

I've loved sports all my life. I know a lot about sports more than the average fan but in the last five years, I've meshed my book/1st-hand knowledge of the game with the more technical aspects as well as learning what it means to be a fan. I love the fact that I watch Sportscenter and talk sports with several folks on a daily basis.

I'm proud of the fact that I've been a sportswriter for four years (as of this month). Yet I don't want to just be defined as one because sports is only a part of who I am.

Writing is also another one of passion. It's my great outlet and perhaps the most creative passion of mine. I love my words and the fun of playing with this language to make my points. Yet the reason I enjoy it is because there's no restrictions or labels I place on myself. It's freedom to the max.

So why do I feel walls closing in? Why do I think that my blogs are being defined by one topic above others?

I don't want to be pigeonholed as a sportswriter because I'm a well-read guy who stays informed on way more than sports. You've read my blogs enough to know that in this space I can write about history, politics, music, race and many issues of the day. Sports is my main forte but it's only one weapon in my mental arsenal.

Case in point, I applied to this website that could possibly help my blog reach a bigger audience. When they asked for a category for my blog, I had no idea. It's not sports, music, politics or any one category. I had to choose lifestyle because it sounded the most general. Turns out I didn't get accepted because I didn't fit their classifications or something.

See for a while, I wondered if I should make my blog more focused on 1 thing so I could market it better. But now, I realized that it wouldn't be me if I'm just a sportswriter. One look at my Twitter can tell you that.

Now I see why so many people struggle with labels. Labels can be flattering and empowering, but they can be restrictive because transcending them can be a struggle. Being a sportswriter is great but just being known as a great writer is even better. I'm not afraid of writing about only sports but if I seem especially thrilled to promote my non-sports posts, you know why.

It reminds me of that song "Get Free" by The Vines a while ago. The song sounds like total freedom and the repeating chorus of "I'm gonna get free" is almost like the mantra I'm feeling about this. I don't want to be restricted and I'm gonna fight against it.

One of my inspirations, William Blake, said that "I must create my own world or be enslaved by another man's" - that's the purpose of this blog. I don't want to do a sports/music blog only, this is my world and I'm no longer scared of the variety because being limited is a much bigger fear.

That's why last week felt so good doing 3 music blogs. Just to show people that hey, I do write more than just sports. I realize that people probably are drawn more into those and my personal stuff than just sports but at the same time, nobody will dictate what gets written here. Society dictates by what goes on but it's still my space, my thoughts and how I see things.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Football Wrap Week 13 - Oregon/Auburn 1st Look and the NFL wrap

January 10. Get thee to a TV! You have been warned. Oregon-Auburn has the makings of a classic football game and I can't imagine a better game to enjoy.

Both teams handled biz Saturday with the Ducky Boys running wild on their rival Oregon State and Killa Cam Newton having his final stamp on an amazing season in the SEC title game. Shout out to Newton earning style points for that Hail Mary to end the 1st half and offering CBS reporter Tracy Wolfson some of that Cammy Cam Juice. Now if only that was ESPN cutie Jenn Brown...

I've been waiting for this game all year. I'm hyped! The Ducky Boys get to prove how deadly they are to a national audience who thinks they're some gimmick that the Pac-10 couldn't slow down. Let me tell y'all something - Oregon is like a tank on steroids. Speed, speed and more speed. They don't slow down, they slow you down trying to keep up.

The three-headed monster of Heisman finalist LaMichael James (led nation in rushing), Kenjon Barner (above) and Darron Thomas is nearly impossible to stop. Jeff Maehl is as sure a tight end as anybody in the country. And Oregon's defense? Far better than people think and definitely better than Auburn's.

Auburn? They got a beast in D-lineman in Nick Fairley. They got some uber great running backs. And some guy who's probably going to win the Heisman in the biggest landslide since Reggie Bush. Get your TV's ready for a classic.

E-TV Prediction: Oregon wins this by 15-20. It all comes down to ball control and if Oregon has a lead, this game will be in deep trouble. Auburn typically makes a great defensive stand in the 2nd half to turn the tide but I don't see them doing it against the Ducky Boys, who won't fold like Alabama did.

Other college FB hits

(Sigh...this pic says it all)

- USC/UCLA is still a big deal but the rivalry is about as one-sided as it used to be in the 90's. As much I root for UCLA tailback Johnathan Franklin, he fumbles as much as he makes big plays. It's sad that the stupid brawl outside the game seemed more exciting than the game itself. Hope that game never gets televised at 730 again. As a UCLA fan, if we can't beat the most suspect USC team in a decade, it's a long road back to glory, whatever that may be.

- Arkansas vs. Ohio State in the Sugar Bowl (Yaaaaaaaawn), TCU vs. Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl instead TCU vs. Stanford sucks. Virginia Tech vs. Stanford in the Orange Bowl sounds like the best of the BCS bunch. UConn vs. Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl (Smh)

- In case we forgot about Shoelace Robinson, 3rd in rushing yards this season with 14 TD. 2,316 passing yards. There's your Heisman favorite next year along with LaMichael James.


I don't know how to feel about Dallas anymore. Jason Garrett is a Roy Williams fumble away from being 4-0 and we've taken advantage of the worst slump of Peyton Manning's career. Yet something about this team just perplexes me.

I've talked with my buddy Shane about the state of the team. I may have to finally accept that seeing Jon Kitna run this team pretty well makes me think that its time for a drastic change to rebuild this team.

Marion Barber's done as a tailback. Felix Jones is spectacular but he's like Darren Sproles - can't use him as the main tailback. Tashard Choice had 100+ rushing yards and it looks like he's got a brighter future. I've told folks that drafting a QB in the late rounds this year is an option but it looks like a necessity because I think Tony Romo gets 1 good year to see what he can do with a better coach.

It's clear though that this team should be much better now and down the road. But watching them now feels like I'm watching a warrior play with pride and I like it, yet that warrior took a furious beating early on.

- Phillip Rivers lost his first December game. Not as much as the Chargers defense couldn't rise up to get revenge against Oakland. They made Jason Campbell look like he was back in Auburn running the ball and guiding that strong ground game. Hate to say it, the Raiders are finally good again and SD's gotta beat KC this weekend to stay in the playoff hunt.

- Matty Ice and the ATL Falcons get no respect. 10-2 and having beaten the Packers and the NFC sleeper in Tampa Bay. Not sure what to make of them but anybody who's sleeping on them is in for a rude awakening.

- Have you ever seen Peyton Manning play this bad? There's a cat on Twitter who thinks this is the end of the road for him. C'mon now, he's throwing to Reggie Wayne, an inconsistent Pierre Garcon and a bunch of backups. You'd suffer too. He deserves his share of the blame but let's get real.

- Glad nobody's talking up big Ben as an MVP candidate with how well his team has played. Good. I refuse to accept any MVP talk for a man who skated on his crimes not too long ago. He's played well but treat him like a pariah just like we did for anybody else.