Thursday, April 29, 2010

Step Your Speech Up!

I'll never forget Derrick Rose's first playoff game last year. 36 points and 11 rebounds in an overtime win over Boston on the road and just remarkable poise for a rookie in his first playoff game. But i'll also remember his postgame interview where he could barely describe what he just did and sounded lost, blank and struggled for basic words.

It came as no surprise that he needed extra (illegal) help on the SAT to get into college. Hearing him speak showed me why. Another Black athlete who sounds illiterate despite being gifted athletically.

One of my pet peeves as a reporter and a fan is whenever I see an athlete sound like they failed remedial English. It's different than just nerves, it's how they come across with their word choice and their inability to answer a simple question.

Look at LeBron James and Kobe Bryant. Kobe's been polished since he was a kid and as he's grown older, he's mastered the art of being cryptic but giving well smoothed answers. LeBron, on the other hand, sounds dry and uncompelling. He still sounds unsure of himself and while he's guarded, his vocab sounds very elementary.

There's a wide list of athletes who knew what to say in front of a camera. The big difference is that most of the polished ones have a solid education or enough confidence to be cool under pressure.

Brandon Jennings is another example. A 20-year-old kid who went straight to Europe from HS, the NBA rookie sounds very polished, confident and represents that L.A. swagger (Gardena born) without looking like a deer in headlights.

I'm more hyper sensitive to this after reading Forty Million Dollar Slaves. A chapter talks about how Black athletes are commodified and packaged the minute their skills become evident from teenage years on. Those skills and the pro potential and the $$$ become more important than anything else and its created a generation of athletes who care more about that developing character and life skills.

The result: Money-making robots who have been de-fanged from the socio-political issues of the day. How can we expect athletes today to speak up on major issues when they can't even sound poised in a postgame interview?

(Sidenote: I saw former MLB All-Star Eric Davis touch on this point today on First Take when he debated the low number of African-Americans in baseball. Kids don't have fathers and surrogate fathers (AAU coaches and the like) don't do enough to teach real values, they see talent and future $$)

Having covered high school sports for three years, I've seen kids who are great interviews and kids who can't answer a basic question. I know it's a bit of nerves with a recorder in their face, but I notice a difference between kids who give you straight answers or those who just don't.

It's not just a sports thing. A lot of young people lack the skills to get their point across in an intelligent matter. In the spirit of keeping it real, they talk the same to their friends and adults without realizing how to switch it up for different situations.

James Baldwin said that language is "the most vivid and crucial key to identity." How you speak says a lot about where you come from and how you were raised. How you speak often defines who you are. And for Derrick Rose, LeBron James and other athletes, the way they talk says a lot more negative than positive.

My solution. Train these kids in high school (especially in college) on how to interview properly. Parents need to help as well. Companies also need to invest in these athletes to be better coached as well - that is, if they care more about their wellbeing than just $$$$. It's not just helpful for the media, it's better for their image because it's a necessary life skill. You'll be more marketable if you speak well and you'll be an adult who can stand on his own two feet without worrying what to say.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Panic Switch! (Lakers Are in a Thunderstorm)

Right now, Lakers fans, it's time for us to start panicking. It doesn't matter that the series with the Thunder will go at least 6 games like I predicted, the Lakers are a dead team walking into a young buzzsaw.

I knew it'd go 6 because 1) the Thunder are a young, quick squad who'll run when they can, 2) have two matchup problems in Kevin Durant (26.8 ppg against us) and Russell Westbrook (21.8 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 5.3 dimes), 3) the Lakers just looked lost the final month and had zero bench. Not exactly what the defending champions should be doing to get ready to repeat. And so far every single point has been proven.

Most of us fans and the media urged the Lakers to flip on the switch and start playing like the champs. Now it's time for us to flip the panic switch because they are in trouble. Here's the biggest problems.

1) Somebody wake up Lamar Odom and tell him the playoffs started a week ago. The enigmatic Mr. Kardashian has been a non-factor in every game except Game 4 and he's been a sign of the Bench Mob going cold.

Odom is that player you'll never be satisfied with because he's inconsistent. His skill level is arguably Top 10 in the league but he plays like he's only in the Top 100. He needs to find a way to get inspired and fill up the stat sheet instead of his foul limit. There's no excuse he should only have one double-figure scoring game in this series.

2) Attack the Post. ATTACK THE POST!! ATTACK THE POST!!!! Did I say that enough? Good.

There is no excuse why Pau Gasol is only getting 12 shots a game. How a Top-5 forward gets that many good looks is unforgivable even with Kobe on your team. It should make things easier for him and even though Oklahoma City is blocking everything in sight, he's a mismatch problem that needs to be used more often.

Andrew Bynum has been decent in his first games back so I say feed him too. But give Gasol/Bynum credit on the boards and the blocks. They just need more work on offense.

3) Kobe's not right. And I've heard every excuse in the book but the fact is the Black Mamba is playing injured and it shows in his shooting numbers.

Mamba's averaging over 20 shots a game despite a bad finger and bad knees. I like what Charles Barkley said, he oughta be making it easier to get his shots like he knows how to instead of forcing it.

He's an old 31 because he has 14 years of NBA mileage (plus 13 years in the playoffs - 6 Finals appearances - and three years of Olympic commitment). At the same time, he's still playing at a high level so you can't blame him for wanting to save his team and win. But right now, he has to find a way to challenge his team instead of himself.

4) Lack of urgency. I don't have to say anymore on this. The Lakers don't want this as much as the Thunder - OKC knows they have nothing to lose because in 2-3 years, they're going to own the West with Portland. This is just having fun and gaining experience while the Lakers just look unmotivated and ready to wake up. See Mr. Kardashian as an example.

The series will be won in the half-court, in the post. The Lakers are on the ropes and it's time for them to come strong like Muhammad Ali did. No more hoping and wishing, they have to play with intensity and tomorrow night's Game 5 is a must win or else we're gonna play the Silversun Pickups and look like this:

Friday, April 23, 2010

Arizona Takes Another Step Backwards

Arizona has a few black eyes on their record of civil rights. They were one of the last states to recognize the Martin Luther King Holiday, prompting a national outcry in the early 1990's (and a classic Public Enemy song). Now they have taken a horrible step backwards in the fight against immigration with this bill signed today by Governor Jan Brewer that pretty much allows for racial profiling in the search for immigrants.
From Section II of the bill, Article 8, Letter E of now revised Arizona state law regarding immigration:
Basically this says, "If you look like you're an illegal Mexican, we have the right to arrest you." Reading the rest of the bill, it also says (paraphrasing of course) "You have to carry your paperwork to make sure you are legal or we can detain you until we find proof."
Being a Black man, I know exactly what this means. If you fit the profile, we have the right to hassle you and potentially detain you by reason of "probable cause." It's ironic that I was discussing this last night over dinner with some friends and now we have a state that pretty much legalized it for people of Mexican descent.
Let's get real. Immigration reform is a serious issue in this country. Businesses need to be punished for openly targeting immigrants for cheap labor and this bill does address that (there's a link to the full text of the bill in the article - 17 pages). Unfortunately, it declared open season on unfairly profiling people. Gov. Brewer said that training will be provided for officers but trust me, that's not gonna be enough.
It's not fair to target a whole group of people to reach a few. And anyone who's been a victim of being judged by how you look can relate to this.
I'm disappointed in Sen. John McCain for not speaking out against this. But hey, he's got re-election to worry about so why alienate the conservative GOP base that you've never been afraid of before? How'd that work out for you two years ago when running for President?
So congratulations, Arizona. You have created "misguided" legislature to quote President Obama and in the result, you deserve whatever hell you catch from Arizona residents and concerned people around the country.
Maybe we also need Chuck D, Prof. Griff, Flava Flav and the S1W's to threaten another trip to Arizona like they did before, update the message from nearly 20 years ago.

(DISCLAIMER: E-TV does NOT and will NEVER advocate the assassination of any public figure as depicted - I promote vigorous protest and healthy debate. But I make no excuses for Chuck D and Co. because their words speak for themselves.)

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Electric Relaxation: Moment of Truth (Gang Starr)

They say it's lonely at the top, in whatever you do
You always gotta watch motherf**kers around you
Nobody's invincible, no plan is foolproof
We all must meet our moment of truth

When I listened to this yesterday, I knew I had to make this a separate post from my Guru tribute last night. This song has always hit me on a deeper level because the words are uplifting and the beat takes you a higher place.

I first heard this song in 2006, months before I was going to graduate from college. It was my moment of truth - my time to figure out what was going to do next and I had no idea. This song encouraged me to figure something out but it also made me reflective on my life up to that point.

The song became the anthem of my last semester. It's one of my favorite songs of all time and I listen to find encouragement or get reflective on my past.

"Why do bad things happen, to good people? Seems that life is just a constant war between good and evil."

From a Gang Starr perspective, if the Moment of Truth album was a victory lap, this is playing in the background. Guru just put some of the best lines of his career on here that could only come from having been in the game for a decade at the time.

The entire second verse (from which I quoted the above line) is a message of hope. No matter how hard things get, they're hard for everyone so don't give up and remember what you've done. The end almost hit me hard listening to it yesterday. It's mature lyricism/real talk at its finest.

I really love the 3rd verse too cause it feels like Guru is being autobiographical about his craft and what Gang Starr is about - staying true to who they are and calling out the fakers with his monotone style. He was so gifted with his words and this song just shows it. A man at the peak of his skill and success with Gang Starr looking back at it all.

On formspring, I was asked to name my Top 10 favorite songs and it's always hard to do. But I named this song on the list and I'd do it again. It's such an inspiration and with all of us saddened by Guru's passing, this song speaks volumes. He's met his Moment of Truth and in our lives, we have to do at various times.

Rest in Peace and enjoy the music. Go get this album and you won't be disappointed. He lives at peace "Above the Clouds where the sound is original". Let's give Keith Elam the final word from Verse 2.

My only crime, was that I'm too damn kind
And now some scandalous motherf**kers wanna take what's mine
But they can't take the respect, that I've earned in my lifetime
And you know they'll never stop the furious force of my rhymes
So like they say, every dog has its day
And like they say, God works in a mysterious way
So I pray, remembering the days of my youth
As I prepare to meet my moment of truth

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

RIP Guru - A Legend in His Own Time

"Lemonade was a popular drink and it still is. I get more props in stunts than Bruce Willis"

One of the greatest couplets in hip hop history. The first half is probably the most random quotable ever and it sticks in your head cause it's like did Guru really say that? The second part you just have to know because it finishes the rhyme but you're still bugged out that a great MC just said the first part for no rhyme or reason.

That's one of my favorite lines from Keith Elam aka Gifted Unlimited Rhymes Universal (Guru). I remember when I read the Source's Top 150 songs and "Dwyck" was in the Top 30. It stood out for a few reasons. 1) The first time I had heard Nice N Smooth outside of their classic hit "Sometimes I Rhyme Slow", 2) DJ Premier's simple beat that was the definition of head-nodding, boom-bap, 3) Guru's laidback flow just rocking that beat like a calm earthquake - monotone, yet vicious.

It's sad that I went to sleep seeing a trickling of stories come out on Twitter. Then I woke up and checked to feel the same sadness I felt when I woke up in past years to find out Jam Master Jay, J-Dilla and Proof had died. Guru had been in a hospital for a month and to end up dying from cancer?

It's a sad loss for hip-hop and especially for Boston, Guru's hometown. He put them on the map despite seemingly defining New York boom-bap.

"Your head'll bop, when I drop my crop/Of pure bomb, just like the sea shore I'm calm/But wild, with my monotone style. Because I don't need gimmicks. Gimme a fly beat and I'm all in it."

Mass Appeal is probably the most recognizable Gang Starr song. The first one I recall hearing without knowing who it was. It had quotables for days. Guru just had a way to pound you to sleep without bashing you over the head with a Chuck D delivery. He was almost like Rakim - smooth, jazzy and prolific with the pen.

Gang Starr stood for integrity and principle. No wackness or fakeness allowed. No dances or corny mess either - it's all about stepping to the mic and keeping it real. Guru never changed what he was about with Gang Starr - it was a formula that worked to perfection because when he spoke, you listened.

Gang Starr's jazzy vibe should be credited to Guru as much as DJ Premier. It was Guru who started the Jazzmatazz series. It was Guru who penned the lyrics for "Jazz Thing" in Spike Lee's "Mo Betta Blues". He loved jazz and it showed the way he delivered his rhymes - subtle but strong like a saxophone or trumpet. It was cool and collected, always in control because he had a message for you.

I'll never forget in 2006 when I discovered Moment of Truth. I was getting ready to graduate and the title track kept replaying in my mind. Reaching that moment where I was on the cusp of leaving college to the real world, that album helped me stay reflective and consider what was behind and before me.

It's no surprise that it was seen as a victory lap by fans who watched Guru and Premier build an impressive resume of classic singles and albums. It went gold and Top 10 on the Billboard Charts and was a perfect way for Gang Starr to end the 90's. On top after a legendary run.

I saw love on Twitter from unlikely sources - Joel Madden? David Faustino from Married With Children? That lets you know that people loved Gang Starr and respected what they did. DJ Premier got a lot of shine but Guru's words stood out too. It showed that craft paid off and their legacy touched a lot of people.

I won't dwell on the end of Gang Starr and Guru's strange relationship with producer Solar, but let's remember a great MC who was sadly taken far too soon.

My Favorite 10 Gang Starr songs
1. Moment of Truth (Electric Relaxation post to explain more coming this week)
2. Mass Appeal
3. Check the Technique
4. Dwyck
5. You Know My Steez
6. Above the Clouds
7. Just to Get a Rep
8. Skillz
9. I'm The Man (sampled by so many)
10. Ex Girl to Next Girl

Monday, April 19, 2010

Groupie Chicks

I still remember reading something in Blender that boggled my mind. Franz Ferdinand, at the peak of their rise on the music scene, said that they hated groupies. It was strange because groupies and bands go together like PB + J but it said a lot about where they stood.

Groupies are part of the entertainment business. I always wondered why famous people like to share women, it never made sense to sleep with somebody who's been around the block (then again, I saw it in college with athletes and frat guys who got plenty of booty from the same chicks). But the problem is that they were part of the code that were talked about but never given much shine.

Think about it. Groupies in rock and roll usually got famous AFTER their "prime" - you usually heard about them in their 40's-50's and their stories would be as legendary as the music/era they lived in.

Now things have changed. Karrine Steffans pretty much opened the door for groupies in hip-hop to get book deals for doing nothing but telling freaky tales.

I don't respect any woman that blatantly uses sex to get ahead - mainly because a man will never respect you. A man will only see you for one thing and will use you for it. If you call that power, guess who's still on top -literally.

Women try to use men by trapping them with sex to get ahead. They figure it's worth a shot because they get connections and meet people. But again, what exactly is that worth - everybody knows who you are, what you do.

The sad thing is they feel scorned because some rapper didn't pay them or pretty much reneged on some deal. Guess what? That's what you get. Can you really trust most of these dudes to be honest after they got what they want?

That's why I hate this Kat Stacks chick. She's bitter because she got screwed by a few rappers on money. Well guess what, why should we care?? Why do you deserve a platform??? Unless a rapper did something egregious, a groupie should NEVER be given a chance to air her stories out.

That's the risk you take. Forgive me for being cold but unless you were forced to have sex, whatever happens as a result is partly your fault.

I feel bad for women who feel this is the only way to get a break in the industry. You can bet most of them have had poor excuses for father figures who didn't show them that a man should respect their mind moreso than their body. The classier the lady, the more you can see a strong male who made sure they'd end up that way.

If anything, groupies need to encourage women not to follow their footsteps. Make a man respect you for your mind, not play with it by using you a sex object. Sex isn't just a physical act - if anything, this proves it's psychological and mental.

As a man, I'm taking a stand. Groupie chicks annoy me and they are sad. Their arrogance makes them less to be pitied and more to be hated. Go back in the shadows and be anonymous - and message to hip hop publications, don't give them or their stories a chance. Save that for the gossip sites or message boards.

(Male groupies exist too - to y'all, I say listen to Track 11 from Ice Cube's classic AmeriKKKa's Most Wanted)

For a good anti-groupie song, listen to Talib Kweli "Broken Glass" or Nas "Black Girl Lost"

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Watching "The Blind Side"

So I watched "The Blind Side" on Good Friday for the first time. Besides the surprise at my church picking a movie with profanity to watch - especially since we don't do it for Youth Group - I was surprised that I enjoyed it given my reservations of seeing it. I didn't really want to see a White family adopt another Black kid and play up certain stereotypes.

But when I saw a 20/20 special where Michael Oher said that the Tuohy family genuinely loved him and took him in because nobody else, I began to reconsider. And sure enough, I felt the emotion of the movie. Still had some issues though

1. They made him out to be unfamiliar with football. Having covered HS sports for 3 years, I can tell you that there are late bloomers who become top-flight recruits but rarely do they make a national impact. In fact, Oher was an All-State lineman and on the national radar as a junior - the movie shows him as a senior who had to learn the game on the fly the previous summer.

2. They made Oher look like a gentle, but dumb giant. Granted, his GPA needed work but they made it seem like he was a bit dumber than I thought - you'd figure a kid who'd been through the system was a bit more street smart even if he has a heart of gold. They had to hold his hand way too much in that movie and I cringed a bit because it made him feel like another modern example of "white man's burden"

3. Sandra Bullock acted very well in that movie but at no time did I think I was watching an Oscar-winning performance. It just showed me it had to be a weak Best Actress field - Meryl Streep nominated for making the most of a fluff role? Watch Inglorious Basterds and tell me Christoph Waltz doesn't blow your mind and convince you he was Oscar-worthy. Sandy just didn't overwhelm me.

That said, it's a feel-good movie and with Oher's accomplishments in college and the NFL - not to mention how intelligent he is to have a degree in criminal justice - it's worth seeing. Root for the kid as a promising tackle on the Ravens.

Quit Hating! (No, Start Criticizing!)

"If I don't like it, I don't like it, that don't mean I'm hating" - Common

It's been a trend for the past 4-5 years. The more wack the talent, the more excuses some people make for it by saying that person is grinding, hustling, making moves. Let's just call it what it is - crap!

Definition of a hater - you hate on somebody for no reason or something superficial.
Definition of a critic/independent thinker - you don't like something for a valid reason. Maybe you gave it a try and it doesn't suit you? Either way, you don't just hate without reason.

Let's face it - people want to give some folks a pass for working hard despite having little talent. I don't mind appreciating hard work but don't value it over people who work hard and have the skills to excel at their craft.

That's like every sports team taking the last guy on the bench and making him a valuable starter just because he works hard. It's a noble gesture but you'd be fired unless you were in high school - and even HS sports is slowly becoming more about winning than rewarding the 12th man.

A lot of artists right now don't deserve to be treated like the best in their genre. Yes they worked hard, stayed on their grind but if they suck - it's our duty as fans to let them know to step their game up.

Bowel movements when you're constipated are a lot of work too. But you know what you comes out right? Same with a lot of artists today. I don't care if you're on your grind - make a good product that reflects it.

Here's the deal. I work very hard at my craft. I work at my writing to make it meaningful/purposeful/and good for people to read. That's called being on your grind and practicing to make quality, not just make it.

But the way some people are now, I could be on my grind, work hard and I'd be rewarded for my hard work (or connections). And if I have no talent, what, I worked hard right? Go back to my sports analogy.

People need to know something. I'm not a sheep. If music is wack, I'm gonna pass it by. For example, Waka Flocka and Gucci Mane never need to rap again. A lot of rappers have flow but no ability to put lines together. A lot of emo bands are getting over for whining about how rough life is without capturing teen angst as well as the Replacements or Green Day back in the Dookie days. A lot of harder bands lack the depth of Pantera, Metallica or Pearl Jam.

Call me a hater. Or call me a critic for actually listening to them and realizing they just aren't good. We all have our own tastes. If you like them, fine. Just don't be mad if I don't. Respect the fact I have the balls to speak my mind and back it up.

So if something isn't up to par, call it out for being weak. Criticizing makes us all better. Just don't call me a hater because I don't like it.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Avoiding Complacency

You ever feel like God is sending you multiple signs so you can hear what he's telling you loud and clear? Well for me, it's saying "DON'T GET COMFORTABLE AND DO SOMETHING NOW because I have something better waiting."

For the past year, I feel like I've been battling complacency because I want to do something more with my life. I've accomplished quite a bit at the paper and at my tutoring center and I consider it all a blessing. But at the same time, I want to do more -- I feel like I'm held back from my full potential.

I started this blog partly as a chance to feel inspired, take a break from writing sports from a certain angle and write about way more. But at the same time, I've felt like i'm in a rut everywhere else and then I see signs that I need to avoid being comfortable.

First my boss who gave me my start in the business left the paper to take a job that I never would've guessed he take. Then, I watch as my sister continues to find time to travel and be social. Tonight, I chat up one of my friends from college as he's ready to get married in 2 weeks and he tells me the same thing I've heard from Mom and others for a while.

"Don't be scared to leave your comfort zone." Oh yeah, did I mention that we went over this in my Bible study tonight?

I can't lie, I'm a creature of habit. I like things in a certain rhythm just because its familiar but at the same time I hate repetition because it's boring and it ultimately drains you. You never know what else may be out there because it feels safe.

Complacency turns us into zombies and I feel like I've been fighting off being one for the last 16 months. That's why I want to travel more and see more of the country/world before I turn 30. That's why I'm going to find ways to be social around L.A. - even though I'm realizing it's harder than it seems.

But maybe all of these signs are telling me that it's time to take some action. Like Elvis said, a little less conversation, a little more action. Complacency is my crutch/nemesis and it's time to shake it.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Tiger's Commercial - Offensive If You Never Had A Parent Challenge You

Unlike most people, I see no problem with the commercial. It's not creepy, not exploitative, not's what Tiger needs to hear from his father if he were here.

The late Earl Woods put Tiger on TV before he could barely speak. Earl Woods touted him as the dramatic world changer when he started his golf career and now it's fitting that its his voice "speaks" to Tiger as he begins to repair his image not as a perfect man but as a man who's fallen because of his failures and wants to move on.

He helped create this brand, now he needs to "speak" to the person.

I can imagine my own father saying something like this to me if I messed up my life. He would challenge me to be better, ask me if I learned something, be accountable, face the music and go on without wallowing in guilt.

We've become so jaded as a society that we don't see the bigger picture because we see the obvious. The 3 Nike swooshes in the commercial let you know this is a Nike ad but what exactly are they selling? All you see is Tiger standing there, eyes focused/saddened, face contrite. His eyes dont ask for sympathy - they say I'm ready to be change after you saw me fall.

You don't see a golf club. You just see one man, hear another's words. And you really think they are selling you a lie? Why would this man/this company promote a lie after the last 5 months exposed a series of lies and deceit that derailed him like few others.

And as far as Nike seeing nothing but $$$ - remember that Nike has had him since he was 20. Outside of Michael Jordan, Tiger is their biggest commodity and they care about him/need him as much as he needs them. They stood by him while other companies let him go - there has to be some personal connection to him. That's why I'm not so jaded.

But the bigger picture is how many of us would have parents or authority figures challenge us as adults like that. How many of us have older and reliable friends who would give us that talk. Don't just see it as a commercial - listen what they are saying, see what they are not saying.

You don't have to have sympathy for Tiger and heck, he probably wouldn't ask for it. But to call this a money grab and a cheap advertising ploy is too simple given the nature of his actions and come back. My dad and a few others would've said the same thing.

*by the way, how impressive was it that Woods had his best first round Masters score ever. Take 5 months off and just act like he never left. Two shots off the lead.

Confederate History Month - Celebrating Losers


So Virginia wants to revive Confederate History Month this month eh? After an eight year hiatus, nothing like celebrating the history of your state, even when that history came at the expense of other people. But since I'm a student of history, let's discuss why this is just laughable, nevermind potentially offensive.

- Celebrating the Confederacy is a celebration of the fact several states left the Union to be separated. Nothing like bringing up secession as a cause to rally around - yay for once being divided!!

- April 9 is the 135th anniversary of Robert E. Lee surrendering to Ulysses S. Grant, ending the war. Great timing for April huh? Celebrate the Confederacy in a month where the war ended and the President who fought to keep the country together was assassinated. Brilliant!!

- Prior to a few days ago, they wouldn't acknowledge slavery in the celebration. Another great idea, celebrate the Confederacy while ignoring the reason the Confederacy got rich - slave labor. Bravo for correcting this, Governor, by saying slavery was inhumane.

- Here's the kicker, the Confederacy LOST THE WAR. From 1863-1865, they got the pants beaten off them (you saw Gone With the Wind, right?) Never before have I seen people so eager to celebrate losing and failure. In that case, let's erect that monument to George W. Bush.

- Virginia is the first state to elect a Black governor. What a way to completely respect that history by bringing up part of the history that enslaved his ancestors. Bravo! Bravo!!!

- Did I mention they're celebrating a losing cause? What's next, they'll re-harvest some "strange fruit" to grow on some trees (word to Billie Holiday, whose bday was yesterday)

In all seriousness, if they want to have some minor celebration of their state's history go ahead. You can't pretend it didnt exist but realize that a state-wide celebration makes you look foolish, Virginia. Celebrating Jefferson Davis and Robert E. Lee is fine but bringing up a whole era that symbolized separatism, racism and pretty much created the racial tension that plagues this country is ridiculous.

So carry on, Virginia. Richmond was indeed the capital of the Old Confederacy in the end but let ghosts stay hidden instead of forcing the rest of us to exorcise them for you.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Jason Heyward - the latest of the New School of MLB Black Talent

Welcome to the majors Jason Heyward. You've hit a home run in your first major league at bat at 20 and now all eyes will be on you as the impact rookie of the year (at least til Stephen Strasburg comes up from the minors).

But to me, Heyward - who's already been compared to Ken Griffey Jr. and Roberto Clemente - represents the latest wave of young Black players coming into MLB and making an impact. And this is what the game needs after the numbers of Blacks fell to criminally low levels within the past 4 years.

Look around baseball now. You've got Matt Kemp and James Loney (Dodgers), Prince Fielder (Brewers), Ryan Howard (Phillies), Jimmy Rollins (Phillies), CC Sabathia (Yankees), David Price (Rays), Andrew McCutchen (Pirates), BJ (Rays) and Justin Upton (Arizona) just to name a few.

Throw in still great players like Torii Hunter, Curtis Granderson, Carl Crawford and perhaps the final season of my all-time fave Ken Griffey Jr. and you see productive Black players in the majors holding it down.

It's not a lot - and there's still an alarming dearth of Black pitchers/infielders - but it's enough put their stamp on the game and show people that the game of Jackie Robinson, Willie Mays, Frank Robinson, Larry Doby, Bob Gibson and so many others is still ours.

It will take MLB and their teams to continue marketing Heyward and the others as they challenge for All-Star spots. And let's face it, Black baseball fans are a small number because many folks just don't care anymoer - I can't even count how many "Is it football season" tweets and thoughts I've seen already.

But props to the brothers working keeping our face on the diamond in the majors and the minor leagues. Here's a bonus video from Dick's Sporting Goods - Griffey and Hunter playing sandlot in the store with Crawford, O-Dog and Ryan Braun (give Dick's credit for promoting Black players nowadays).

Monday, April 5, 2010

Kiss the Rings - DUKE!

Congrats to the Champs! I've waited nine years to celebrate a title again and it feels sweet watching Duke celebrate.

Now you may wonder why I'm a fan. If you know my fandom - Duke basketball is right up there with UCLA.

It's rare seeing a Black dude openly root for Duke who didn't play on the team - the team epitomized Whiteness and 20 years ago UNLV (with their all-Black swagger) destroyed them. Then in 1991, Duke beat them and the Fab 5, both teams that most Black fans were HUGE fans of because they brought an urban flair to the game.

Throw in the fact that Duke has some of the most hated players in college basketball - Christian Laettner (who I hate), J.J. Redick, Greg Paulus (who I hated from Day 1) - and Duke doesn't tend to recruit great Black players (Nolan Smith was a rare All-American), most fans don't like them.

I'm a big fan of Duke because of the 1998-99 squad - one of the best teams never to win a title. Elton Brand, Will Avery, Corey Maggette, Trajan Langdon and Shane Battier captivated me and I was pissed when they lost to Rip Hamilton and UConn.

I'm a fan because I watched the 2000-01 squad win a title with Battier, Jay Williams, Carlos Boozer, Mike Dunleavy Jr. and Chris Duhon. One of my favorite squads ever (2 Wooden Award winners, 4 in the NBA b/c J. Will - a smart player - screwed up his career on that motorcycle)

I'm a fan because of Grant Hill and Bobby Hurley. Hill's the only Duke player to have a HOF worthy career in the NBA and Hurley was a cold point guard in college. who screwed up his NBA career because he didn't wear a seat belt.

I'm a fan because I seriously considered attending Duke primarily because I loved the basketball team, loved the prestige of the institution. I figured I'd fit in because higher learning was my style - BUT that Carolina weather was a turn off. Plus the year I would've been a senior was the infamous "rape scandal" that shocked the nation and I would've probably been in thick of the furor only to apologize later like I did.

(I wrote a comm paper describing the coverage of the incident - one of the last papers I wrote)

But I love the program. I respect Coach K as one of the game's best mentors. I love the class and grit Duke stands for as well as the great players who came from it.

Jon Scheyer and Kyle Singler plays with toughness and skill and both should be in the NBA at some point. Nolan Smith - who I saw play in HS - has an NCAA title to match his late father who won one at Louisville. And tonight, I'm happy as heck - time to dust off my Mike Dunleavy Jr. jersey.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Electric Relaxation: Third Eye Blind "Bonfire"

One of my favorite alternative bands made a comeback last year that nobody probably heard. Third Eye Blind's latest album or singles didn't make a dent on the radio like their hits from a decade ago (so weird saying that) but it was just as good as anything they've done in a while.

This song is one of the best from the new album Ursa Major. It's so chill and you can imagine hearing it at a bonfire or as background music while you're driving home from a good night. It describes in a nutshell why I love 3rd Eye Blind - they make music that'll put you in a good mood.

Who doesn't still smile when they hear "Never Let You Go" or "Semi-Charmed Life." I was talking to someone on Twitter last year and it made me realize Stephan Jenkins is an underrated songwriter - great melodies, the right delivery, pop-friendly sound and cryptic words that show his vulnerability and dark side.

It's the same reason I like Matchbox Twenty although they're a bit heavier (and Rob Thomas' voice adds to that) - their music sounds uplifting even if the lyrics are a bit dark.

Anyways, enjoy this song. I was shocked when the LA Times gave this album a great review, saying its a return to form and an inspired comeback album. It's good driving music - just listened to again on the way to Bakersfield last week - and worth the buy for most of my peeps who remember growing up to the self-titled and Blue Albums in middle and high school.