Sunday, October 31, 2010

Brett Favre needs to sit down

I don't usually blog on a Saturday but I figured I'd bring this up now because tomorrow's gonna be a blur of Youth Sunday at church followed by our Harvest Fest and then partying it up in Hollywood. I'll be honest, Halloween isn't really my holiday - never got to celebrate it much as a kid and I outgrew it as a result. But I'm taking it serious this year thanks to dope plans and a creative costume idea.*

What's not so scary is the fact that Brett Favre will hobble on the field Sunday and people will defend him out there. Oh, Brett nearly won the game last week. Oh, Brett is a warrior. Oh, Brett finds a way to make magic out of nowhere. I got nearly sick hearing Ron Jaworski**do this on Pardon the Interruption Friday afternoon as if his grit/toughness gave him a pass.

How about people drink a nice glass of reality. This isn't Favre of 2006 or even last year. This is an old man playing quarterback who's clearly not healthy nor making enough smart decisions. Consider the other losing teams in the NFL.

Alex Smith has gotten blame for the 49ers winless start. Tony Romo got plenty (perhaps too much) of blame for the Cowboys start. Kyle Orton has gotten hell for Denver's poor play. Matt Moore/Jimmy Clausen struggled with Carolina. Yet somehow excuses are still being made for Favre's play.

And then of course there's the Streak. 291 consecutive games as a starter - a great streak of toughness. It has defined Favre's career. Now it overshadows it. Cal Ripken Jr. faced the same questions during his Iron Man streak but in the final years, he was still a top notch shortshop playing for division championships from 95-98. It's why he ended up sitting down 3 years after breaking Lou Gehrig's record, the streak was getting in the way and he did the right thing.

Brett Favre is now more concerned about protecting the Streak than doing the right thing. And worse, his head coach is letting his decision-making be blurred by it.

Brad Childress is the same guy who sent teammates to beg Favre to come back this year. He's the same guy who went away from using the NFL's top running back to a pass-oriented attack instead of mixing it up for an even potent balance. Childress now stands guilty of enabling Favre and forgetting who runs Minnesota.

Favre's rep has taken a bigger hit for the fact he's openly flirted with a younger woman. No need to rehash the sordid details** but this is just icing on the cake for the anti-Favre brigade. Remember folks, icing is a luxury, not a necessity. It's extra to pile on him but in the long-run, it can overshadow the more important reason we don't like him.

If he was a real coach, Childress would step to Old Man Favre and say "You have two choices, either voluntarily sit down and give yourself the dignity of ending the streak or I end it for you and bench you in favor of Tarvaris Jackson." Of course the only balls in Minnesota are being thrown on the field, not in decision making.

4 years ago, Brett Favre was still a great quarterback who could've retired on a good note. Now he's shown himself to be a selfish, self-centered spin doctor who plays that down-home charm up to hide the fact he's insecure about losing his star status and loves the power he holds over teams and players.

I'll give you a parallel on the streak. I only missed 3-4 days of school related to illness from 7th grade-12th grade. I believe in showing up if you can wake up and walk around. Sick or not, you work hard and fight through it. But then I realized, my body gets tired. I can't function as well if I'm dragging. I realized in college that it's more important to take mental/physical breaks than show up every day. Nobody can function at 100% every single day without resting at some point.***

Take the Power Back, Brad Childress. Sit him down for the good of your team, reputation and the game. Be a man and say what we all need to hear. End this dog-and-pony show and show that no player is bigger than the game. Otherwise, enjoy that top-10 pick next April.

*My favorite costume besides Wolverine in 3rd grade. Freshman year of college, I woke up on Halloween to hear Jam Master Jay was killed. I dressed up as JMJ and I was sad that it took a White dude dressed as Nelly for folks to know who I was. (Some said I was Amish) 8 years later and we still miss that DJ who made our day.

**Ironically Jaws held the previous Iron Man streak at 116 games. If anyone's the wrong person to speak on whether Favre should sit, it's him. And I respect Jaws for his takes and old school demeanor but Friday made me sick.

*** Any grown man who went looking around for the pics of Brett Favre's manhood needs to check their sexuality. Any sports website that posted links to those pics is an embarrassment to what it does. Looking at you, Deadspin.

****Kind of why I don't believe in the "no days off/we grind everyday" motto. I can do more at full strength in 4 days than you can in 5-7 with little sleep. Rest only makes you work harder if you want it.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Identity Crisis, Purpose Found

You ever have one of those moments where you have to look at yourself in the mirror and reassess who you are? Just in the past 6 days I've had several make-or-break moments that challenged me and helped me better see who I want to be.

People have always seen more for me because I was blessed to be a smart young man who blew older folks away. It was almost a given that I'd be an outstanding student who'd go on to make something big of himself. It was unintentional pressure I didn't realize until I left home and got tested in college by my peers.

My life can be broken up into 3 phases. Pre-11th grade, 11th grade-college, Post-college. Phase 1 was all about not rocking the boat and being the good kid everyone wanted me to be. Phase 2 was realizing I was in Phase 1 and fighting to grow up into a independent person who left that behind. And Phase 3 is now. Bringing that independent person back to L.A. to facing the challenges of adulthood and grow even more while retaining that essence of Phase 2.

It's been a hard challenge but I see some changes. I became hardened and less tolerant of incompetence after my time at my last job. I became more direct in my focus (i.e. If something needs to be done, let's do it.). I took a few risks (started this blog, resigned from the job, said no to a few positions at church). I'm slowly letting go off the fears I had as a kid and interacting with people on Twitter has helped me discover my voice.

The last four months have been difficult as I've struggled with my "2nd graduation experience." - I've struggled financially like never before. I faced more job questions than I have in 4 years and a reality that finding work is  harder than I thought. I enjoyed the summer in spots but I also saw that I couldn't do what I wanted at times because my friends had different ideas. I wanted to travel more but finances crippled that idea.

Call the summer of my discontent. I liked it when I was satisfied and when I wasn't? It drove me nuts because I wanted to take advantage of my freedom. Then I had a friend give me great advice - "Suck the fun out of life.  Don't let others hold you back from living life to the fullest."

Since then, I'm forcing myself to go for dolo - I feel like an old 26 but I'm still young. There's so much that I want to experience in LA, the United States and the world. It's time to just do it and not have any regrets.

Now flash forward to now.

This week, I saw parts of my personality challenged. I faced questions about my work ethic. Were they done in ignorance? Were they done to hurt me? Not at all, they were real questions and the people who asked about them were people I care about. It's questions I've asked of myself and others have done as well. But it sunk in because it was unexpected.

I've also been a called a safe writer - someone who thinks a lot before he speaks. It's a very good practice in conversation but it's also led to blogs that didn't go far enough compared to what I've said in person about those topics. I know this all too well, I fear my audience at times on topics because I pride myself on being an inviting writer, one who seeks to engage people while not being afraid to challenge them. Yet it's possible to be both - respectful yet bold. Passionate yet biased with a purpose.

(One of my favorite lines from The Untouchables: "What are you prepared to do?")

I didn't think I'd take them hard. I didn't think I'd react like a right jab from Manny Pacquiao (well that last one, I wasn't stunned as much as I was reassured I can do better). But now that I can see clearly, this was just more wakeup calls to make sure people know what I'm feeling. No more second guessing or assuming, this is who I am and you're not going to wonder anymore.

I said before in this space that the journey inspires me more than the destination. The journey to being fully myself has been sparked in great ways this year. Things get shaped in the fire and I'm ready to keep being shaped, challenged and molded into who I'm supposed to be and who God wants me to be. Not for anybody else but for me.

Call this Virgo 2.0. A Work In Progress. Building Myself Faster, One Day at a Time.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Hoop Dreams - the 2010-11 NBA Season Cometh

You know, I can’t be mad in theory that the Miami Heat have gotten so much coverage this preseason. So what if ESPN looks even more biased having reporters embedded with a team. Why even bother reading the Miami Herald when ESPN has a Heat Index of all things MIA.  Who cares if everyone is treating Miami like the Yankees – that’s what we expected when LeBron and Chris Bosh signed to South Beach.

But all of that doesn’t matter. All of this is good because it’s probably one of the few times a two-time defending champion is underrated despite getting better and making some of the smartest moves of the summer.

While everybody talks about Miami’s new superstar, you can ignore the Lakers addressing two of the biggest needs – adding Steve Blake to the bench for our true first backup PG since Derek Fisher backed up Gary Payton and Matt Barnes/Theo Ratliff for size and defense to bolster the bench.

Also, the danger with any champion is seeing that hunger die.  Ain’t gonna happen. Kobe wants 6. Blake/Barnes want their first ring. Fisher wants 6. Artest wants to auction Ring #2 for charity. Pau Gasol wants to keep proving he’s one of the greatest international players ever. 

Not to mention that the gap between them and the West is even wider this year because perennial contenders like the Spurs, Suns and Rockets have taken big hits.

All eyes will be on Kobe Bryant’s knee, however. I’ve said it for a year that Mamba has 1-2 years left before the dropoff comes. This could be the last year of Kobe as we know it and we’re hoping that the break he took this summer will only extend his energy this year. Besides, with all these new weapons, it’s even less work for him to carry the team on his shoulders.

So pretend to be surprised when the Lakers actually are a better challenger to 70 wins than the Miami Heat (E-TV prediction? 67 Wins). We’ll just smile and nod, knowing that it’s not a shock because veteran chemistry + talent = success.

Speaking of the West, Oklahoma City’s ready to be one of the elite teams for a long while. Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Co. are gonna do major damage this year as they win 50+ games. Durant’s become everyone’s favorite poster boy for what’s right in the NBA as his scoring touch, humble demeanor, do-it-the-right-way attitude.

Is Durant the best player in the NBA now? No. He’s a few lbs and a year or two away. But once he adds that with maybe some defense? He’s gonna be the new George Gervin – unstoppable scoring machine from inside or outside. Until then? He’s the MVP favorite this year.

(Sidenote – everybody hating on LeBron right now is still forgetting that skill-wise he has NO peer in the NBA. They’re letting their hate overshadow facts. You can like Durant a whole lot more but he’s like the new girl at school. Everyone loves him, fascinated by what he has – yet somehow overlooks what’s already there)

Who’ll finish 3rd in the West? I guess you can say Houston because I think Yao Ming is healthy enough to make one good run this year. Holding my fingers with him just like I am with Blake Griffin, who I’ve heard is back to his athletic freakiness he showed at Oklahoma.

Add him to a mix of Eric Gordon and a possibly motivated Baron Davis, you can make the case for the Clippers reaching the playoffs – that is if Vinny Del Negro doesn’t screw it all up.

Might as well get this out of the way. Miami won’t win the East. Darth James, Flash Wade and ordinary Chris Bosh are a great 3-man team but titles aren't won with big names. They're won with a proven bench and unless Mike Miller, Udonis Haslem and Co. step up to the plate, they're watching the Finals at home like me.  

Faith in Mario Chalmers? Old Man Stackhouse who I didn't know was still in the league? If this is the Evil Empire, couldn't the Emperor Riley pick better Storm Troopers. Anyways, Orlando has better personnel. Boston will be deeper and ready for one more run with Shaqtastic goodness. And nobody is talking about how scary Chicago has gotten.

They reloaded with Carlos Boozer, Kyle Korver and Ronnie Brewer. If any team greatly improved this summer it was the Bulls who will not only contend for a Top-4 slot in the East but be the toughest second-round matchup in the postseason.

Derrick Rose has a low-post weapon in Boozer to go along with all-glue man Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson off the bench. He has weapons on the wings with Korver and Brewer to go along with Deng. That's like giving keys and a house to a young, resourceful kid and telling him to make something happen. It's almost scary how much better he'll get.

Is anything sadder than Gilbert Arenas right now? Here’s a man who was one of the best personalities in the game with lethal scoring but knee surgery, those guns and his preseason comments have robbed him of not just goodwill but his identity.

What’s sadder is that the Wizards should be happy all around. They have a star in rookie John Wall and a great backup PG in Kirk Heinrich. The future is bright but it’s sad that Arenas has to go before it becomes completely sunny.

Cleveland’s now a trivia question – what’ll be higher? Their win total or the combined scoring average of Daniel Gibson and Mo Williams? Welcome back to the cellar.

This is probably the most I’ve looked forward to an NBA season since 2003-2004 when the Lakers got Karl Malone and Gary Payton and Darth James was still a Young Jedi making his debut in Episode 1.  Throw the ball in the air and let’s get it on!

Football Wrap Week 7 (Death of A Season)

I hate writing eulogies. I already did one earlier this year for the Dodgers and now I have to write another for a season that is officially in the ground (with another possibly on the horizon in San Diego).

Forget another blog jocking Auburn, UCLA getting curbstomped by the Eugene Ducky Boys, the Saints missing Reggie, the BCS acting ugly, my fantasy successes or Brett Favre showing his true, selfish colors if he plays Sunday. I present. The Death. Of the Cowboys.

With a heavy heart, I announce this. Seasons usually don't die before the midpoint but they do when you suffer a bonecrushing loss. They die when you find new ways to lose every week and still get shocked at how low it still gets. Case in point - the preseason Super Bowl favorites.

We lost to the Redskins on a holding penalty. We lost to the Vikings with a slew of penalties to negate our efforts. We lost to Tennessee despite Tony Romo having 400 yards and Felix Jones rushing over 100. Just when   you think it can't get any worse, Monday Comes Around (c) Switchfoot

I left work with the Cowboys holding a 14-7 lead and went nuts in the car as Dez Bryant took it 90 yards to the house for a huge lead. Turns out that it was the last sign of life from a dying man. Next thing I know, the Midgets scored three times in the next 8 minutes and it wouldn't stop until the end. That's right. A 31-point response in Cowboys Stadium that ripped the heart out of every fan.

It was death by public execution. Losing despite forcing 5 turnovers. And seeing this sight after the game didn't help....

Yep. Tony Romo's possibly done for the season. Broken left clavicle. They took out my quarterback. My quarterback. Sniff, sniff. (c) Terrell Owens

All the preseason hype in the world couldn't overcome a lack of discipline and terrible on-field decisions. It couldn't overcome Wade Phillips looking more lost like a kid given a Maserati despite just getting his license or Jason Garrett showing why he was a 3rd-string QB with his terrible playcalling.

There's no reason that a team with Tony Romo, Miles Austin, Dez Bryant (3 total TD's Monday), DeMarcus Ware, Felix Jones, Marion Barber should be in this position. It all comes down to coaching and finding ways to win. Romo has shown more often than not that he's becoming a better quarterback despite his Brett Favre tendencies.

And watching all of this is Jerry Jones. The man who is 15 years removed from our last title. The man who's ego has kept him from hiring a great coach. Think about it. After Jimmy Johnson was forced out because he wouldn't bow down to Jerry Jones, we've hired Barry Switzer, Chan Gailey, Dave Campo and sent Bill Parcells to retirement.

(This pic says it all about Jerry's sense of self-importance)

The most storied franchise in the NFL has had average coaches running the ship. Why? Because the only star in Dallas is the owner. Jerry Jones doesn't want any competition. He undermined arguably the most underrated coaching star of the last 3 decades and replaced him with ordinary guys who were out of their element. In Parcells' case, he wasn't given room to breathe and do the magic he usually does.

And this is why the Dallas dynasty died. Had he never fired Jimmy Johnson, the Cowboys would've won 4 straight Super Bowls and drafted players to keep the team going. But no, he has to be the star. The Cowboys stadium is a monument to his excess, his brilliance. His version of Nebuchadnezzar's statue that looks gold from afar but has been crushed by a boulder.

It's beyond stupid. When Wade Phillips is finally canned, Jerry needs to get over himself and do what's best for the franchise. Stop seeing the dollars rolling in from merchandise and start validating it with a team worthy of respect. Go talk to Bill Cowher or somebody with discipline and a proven track record and get an OC who can develop our players.

(For more on Jerry, check this post from last year celebrating his 20th anniversary as owner)

A dead season is upon us. I know Jon Kitna is a great guy but unless he captures magic in a bottle, there's no reason to watch except out of pure loyalty. Chargers fans, we need a win next week or I'll be writing something similar calling for pounds of flesh to repay us for a lost season.

Friday, October 22, 2010

On Bullying (Where I Revisit My Past To Help The Present)

I'm gonna take you guys back down Memory Lane. Every time I hear about someone being bullied, it hits me personally. A reminder how it's been only a decade since I was last in their shoes and how far I've come as a person and how I've changed.

I was cursed by being a smart, respectful kid. I was one of the smallest kids in my elementary class so I was picked on. I was called names and taunted. It started in 3rd grade - it wasn't merciless but it was still upsetting. Little did I know it'd get worse when I transferred schools.

3 years later, I was bullied again because I was the smart, glasses-wearing kid who appeared weaker than everyone else. I was afraid to get in trouble so I would wonder if it was my fault that I was picked on. Maybe I said something I shouldn't have or did something stupid? I did the common techniques - avoid them, don't talk to them, go the other way - but it was still not enough. It resumed in 8th grade at a new school when one of the bullies transferred.

Name-calling, pushing, insults. I took it in and I tried to tell the school administration. Of course, they took a passive attitude - they were concerned but they didn't do enough to help me. I felt alone and I'd come home upset, angry and I'd pray for an escape. Never did I want to commit suicide, I just wanted someone to see me and help me out.

It all came to a head in 9th grade. I decided I wasn't a punk anymore. If the teachers and administration weren't going to fight for me, I was going to take the fight to them. Yes, I was scared of getting in trouble and blowing my chances at a scholarship but it was time to fight back. I'd verbally confront my bully in class several times with no regard for upsetting things.

One time, I got lucky - I wheeled around and slammed the back of his head with my plastic notebook. It felt good but I felt scared cause I couldn't carry it through to a full blown fight. Once he pushed me back, I yelled at him and walked into class. Unfortunately no teacher came out to see what was wrong. Go figure.

It stopped once we had a Parent conference. My parents showed up, his mom did. I remember reading a letter called the 3-YR war that I wrote. My Dad showed me true love by not only being there but addressing both of us. He encouraged us both to do better and stop this one and for all. Do better as Black kids who had high potential and not waste it fighting. My bully admitted that he respected me and didn't want to hurt me but just make me tougher.

One of his finest moments. From then on, I never had a problem with him or any bully again. He transferred but his lesson  stuck with me. I would no longer let anybody punk me without me standing up to it. I wouldn't let anybody close to me be punked or bullied either. My closest friend was bullied our senior year and I wasn't afraid to take his fights as mine. It's also seen in the friends I make and how I'm a naturally caring person.

I carry invisible scars that have healed with time. Every now I then, I flinch at stuff more than most people. But I've grown past it by God's grace and getting old enough to see it for what it was. Nothing that stopped me from meeting my goals, great friends and getting on with my life.

A decade later, I see bullying has gotten worse than it was for me in 1996, 1998-99. Technology has turned bullying into a lingering nightmare for the targets and now if something goes viral, it'll do way more damage than just the school boundaries. It was bad enough when I lived through the school shootings of 1998, Columbine in 1999, Santee High School in 2001 and others. The bullied lashing out violently.

Now in their desperation and longing to be free from pain, they have gone to a level I never ever approached. Suicide. Selfish yes, but also sad. The literal end game. These are my brothers and sisters in pain and when I hear stories, I go back to a younger me who shared that.

On Wednesday, many wore purple to remember 4 LGBT victims of bullying. There is a campaign to target victims saying "It Gets Better." CNN did a week-long special on bullying covering it from all angles as they've done before covering this issue previously in smaller doses.

As I watch this, I feel that more can be done. I have a feeling that many are jumping on this issue because of who was bullied, not the noble cause of anti-bullying. I watch most of the coverage now and it seems primarily focused on anti-LGBT bullying. One more cause in the growing fight for gay rights.

(Sidenote: I hope that Don't Ask, Don't Tell rightly comes down. I'm happy and it's about time. There's no need to bar people in the armed services from hiding who they are. Fact is, they want to serve our country in the noblest way like anyone else. Let them do it. )

Understand that I'm not against raising this issue. My heart grieves for them and their families/friends/loved ones. But if people are truly committed to fighting bullying, we must not only speak for one sector. We must reach out to all victims of bullying - those who walk with invisible scars and those who are being inflicted now.

It doesn't matter if you are gay, lesbian, straight, small, tall, fat, skinny, smart, wear uncool clothes - bullying in any form is wrong. Many people suffer and it's up to us to speak for them today. We must fight ALL types of bullying against ALL people. I want all victims of bullying to be spoken for today. I want kids who are not like me AND like me to feel like they have a voice who will defend them.

Again, I stand in solidarity with anyone who is wearing purple. As a Christian, I call on my brothers and sisters in faith to support the basic premise, remembering the deceased and making sure it doesn't happen again. Yet let us support not just certain victims, but all victims. This not only honors the fallen, but supports those who are living with scars.

Here's what we can do to expand "It Gets Better" - which is a great first step but speeches/encouraging tweets can only go so far when somebody needs a closer helping hand.

1) Encourage victims to talk to somebody they trust (a parent, friend) and somebody in the administration. Don't hold it in and don't hurt yourself or others to handle the pain. Talk to somebody. By looking towards suicide, you risk hurting more people. Hurt people hurt others. Reverse the cycle.

2) School administrations should take reports seriously, we have too much evidence of what happens they don't. Listen to your students. Take a zero-tolerance stance and show a united front against it from the top down.

3) Encourage students who aren't victims and watch it from afar to imagine being in their shoes. Imagine being afraid to come to school or walking in fear of someone. Minding your own business seems noble but privately or publicly, you can make a difference by befriending the victim or asking the administration to take a stand. Do you know how great movements gain traction? When non-victims join the fray to show solidarity. If you treasure your support network, why not help build someone else's?

I tremble as I type that. I tremble as I've debated this privately for the past few weeks. But I tremble with fear that my words will be taken the wrong way. This isn't an attack, it's a plea to widen the umbrella of support. If we don't speak for all victims, it could create a hierarchy of shame and that serves no one.

A few weeks ago, Mom asked me what I would say to my former bully. I wasn't sure. I mean, I feel like I know why but I'd still ask it again? I don't have any anger towards him, maybe regrets for not fighting back more. But no anger - he's forgiven and I've moved on. Now I work to make sure others who feel my pain have a voice.

Support all victims of bullying. Stand up to bullies. You never know what potential they can have by being a conquerer.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Football Wrap Week 6 Part 2 (Big Hits, NFL)

I was going to do a normal NFL wrapup but the buzz around all of these hard hits and the toll they are taking on players makes me have to address this first.

Football is the biggest sport in America. The NFL is considering 18-game expansion dreaming about the $$$ they're gonna make and how it's gonna feed the insatiable appetite of football fans dreaming about more Sundays. Meanwhile, there's growing evidence that the violence of the game is catching up with the athletes who create it.

GQ had the sports story of the year last October with this piece on CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy). It's a long read but it's important. A pathologist has studied 17 brains of deceased NFL players and has seen incredible brain trauma indirectly related to their violent hits suffered in the NFL and outwardly seen in their dementia and strange behavior before their death.

Author Malcolm Gladwell wrote a similar brilliant piece in the New Yorker but took it a step further, comparing dogfighting to football. It's sad when you read some of the parallels he uses, especially when he mentions that dogs enjoy the thrill that comes from the fight and want to fight more when they see their owners' approval or how dogs are fiercely loyal to the cause even though they are in pain.

The saddest story about Chris Henry's tragic death last year isn't that he died at 26 trying to get his life back together. It's that multiple parts of his brain showed signs of CTE despite never having a concussion during his NFL career (5 years) or college career (4 years).

After denying reports, the NFL has slowly taken more precautions with concussions and it's trickled down to college and HS football. I covered a game 2 weeks ago and when a player appeared to have a concussion, the training staff took extra measure to make sure he was treated. They made him walk a straight line, do vocal exercises and other tests before leaving to the locker room. He didn't return to the game but it just showed how serious it is on the HS level.

DeSean Jackson, left, took the worst of a hit by Dunta Robinson (standing) on Sunday

I say this because the NFL thinks that suspending players for big hits is a solution. It's one step but it doesn't go far enough. They and the NFL Players Association need to re-evaluate the equipment and upgrade to helmets that better protect the heads. They also need to consult with a variety of brain experts, starting with Dr. Bennet Omalu who has led the research on CTE. 

It's a catch-22 for them. You can't change the game from what it is, but you can't ignore what's happening because of it. Yet they have to do more than take baby steps because you're playing with people's careers and lives.

It's time the NFL wakes up and protects its best asset - the players. NOT the owners. The strength of their league relies on their players and going to 18 games is not in the game's best interests. It's selfishness and places the careers and livelihoods of their players at risk. 

The NFL cares more about making sure it has a product on Sunday than making sure those who produce are healthy and taken care of. There's already been a slew of stories on former players struggling to pay for their health issues while the league continues to make billions of dollars. What's more important - taking care of the reason you're the #1 sport in America or thinking you can plug anybody in to do it like the Pats did with Matt Cassel a few years ago.

I knew we grew up thinking the NFL was the ultimate warrior's game. People loved Dick Butkus, Ronnie Lott, Jack Lambert and Jack Tatum knock the stuffing out of folks. But the problem is now we're aware of the consequences. There's far too much research to suggest that the warrior mentality of the game has dangerous side effects down the road.

I'm not saying football turns into flag football or 2-hand touch. But I am saying the NFL suspending players for an unusually big hit is a step in the right direction, even if I'm personally iffy on it. After seeing several crazy injuries this year, don't expect me to sit on the sidelines while owners try to overlook a growing body count to argue for adding to the season.

My favorite sportswriter/author right now Dave Zirin offers his similar take on this.

Quick hits
- Cowboys passed on 3rd and 1 with 9 minutes left and punted on 4th and short with 2:46 left. No wonder we're 1-4. That and countless penalties show why the Cowboys are undisciplined and we're spiraling to a bad season.

(This won't be the only time Wade Phillips has pink in his hands. Where's Donald Trump?)

- Chargers lose again to the...Rams? Say it aint so, Sam? Leading the NFL in total offense and defense and we're 2-4? We've been down this road before but this time feels worse.

- Well guess Ben Roethlisberger is back. All eyes on him and the media for how they welcome him back.

- I heard a voice from the heavens Sunday afternoon. The Holy Tebow scored his first TD in the wildcat. Surprisingly I didn't see as much fawning as I thought knowing this would be a part of every Denver highlight.

- So who's the best team in the NFL? The Jets? Patriots after beating Baltimore? The NFC has five 4-2 teams? Take your pick because anyone could possibly be right.


Another 3-1 week makes me feel happy. Had to watch the Titans-Jags game til the end to make sure I won my final matchup (which I did less than a point). Last 3 weeks have seen me rebuild and get back on track in my leagues.

U Mad League (3-3): 2-game winning streak. Beat two of my TX peeps and got a 3rd up next.
South Beach NWO (2-4): My only bad spot. Got blasted by 40 points. Jeremy Maclin's good day wasted.
Fantaball (3-3): My narrow victory. Needed every yard from MJDrew on that final drive cause my opponent had Tennessee's D and kicker.
Sports Guru's League (4-2): Thank you Jets Defense. You've made me quite happy. Next week, I got the #1 team in the league.

Fantasy Fails: Hakeem Nicks with 0. Really? Maurice Jones Drew had a decent week but struggled again.
Fantasy Stud: Besides Jeremy Maclin? Aaron Rodgers and that Jets D. 

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Football Wrap Week 6 Part 1 (BCS spells BS)

This is a screwy football season. There's no words to say it better and our favorite 3-letter curse word makes it annual trip.

With Ohio State eating the dust in Wisconsin, Oregon is by far the No. 1 team in the country but according the 1st week of the BCS poll, they're No. 2 behind Oklahoma. What's worse? Only one of the computers ranking the system has the Ducky Boys higher than No. 7-11.

The BCS also uses the Harris Poll and the coaches poll, which both have Oregon ranked No. 1. I just want to know what sane college writer would dare name 6-10 teams better than Oregon and then tell me how a computer could figure that out.

I already laid out my argument a few weeks ago on how balanced they are. Their lack of defense should be addressed by how they shut down Stanford and QB Andrew Luck for 3 quarters. As I tweeted Sunday, in what world is that possible?

A world where the BCS is not allowed to use the Associated Press poll, a decision that AP made in 2004 because they felt it violated their integrity to be impartial. Guess they saw the future like the rest of us.

Back to the poll - all eyes will be on Boise State to see how close they remain to the Top 2 as well as TCU. Of course, Boise is ranked No. 2 in the AP and coaches poll but that didn't help them from being No. 3 in the BCS. Both teams need Oregon State to do well to help their cause although losing to Washington didn't help.

The BCS #1 is Oklahoma, who should roll through a weak Big 12 although their final match with Nebraska will have big implications for their future. I don't know how good the Sooners really are except I saw them blast a overrated Texas team. I don't see how this team is better is Oregon but the BCS loves some Bob Stoops so maybe that's why? (Realistically, I blame anti-West Coast bias).

Michigan State is my surprise team of the year (week?). If they keep rolling, we'll blame Big 10 schedule makers for keeping us from seeing them and Ohio State. They've already beaten Wisconsin and Michigan and should they beat Iowa in 2 weeks, there's no reason they aren't coming to Pasadena.

There's a 3-team SEC logjam that's gonna be fun watching unravel starting this weekend with LSU vs. Auburn. I'm on the Auburn bandwagon after seeing their offense Saturday and Cam Netwon showed me why he'll be on the Heisman radar. LSU is a shaky undefeated team that hasn't been tested and we'll how good they are facing Auburn and Alabama in the next two weeks. But my gut says Auburn wins and we wait for the Iron Bowl vs. Alabama on Nov. 26.

7 weeks to go. The college football season starts in earnest now. Parting gifts for Denard Robinson and Taylor Martinez being the darlings of the college football season - there's always next year fellas when y'all battle in the new Big 10.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Top 10 MC's of the decade - Low Two's to BET

BET, you never fail to let us down. It was bad enough you couldn't make me watch your Hip Hop Awards and even worse when they failed to make up for the BET Awards not mentioning Guru's passing by only a 1-min tribute with no playing of his music. Now you've made a list that screams "Please pay attention to us, we know how to respect a genre."

Yet, you sucked me in to write a rebuttal. Stupidity should be ignored but I can't help it.

The criteria was simple. MC's who debuted in 1999. Already it's a problem. How can you judge the best of an era without including MC's who impacted the decade that may have come before it started? By the way, the 21st century started in 2000/2001 depending on who you ask. And why not just call it Best of the Decade?

Here's their list. Eminem, Wayne, Kanye West, 50 Cent, T.I., Ludacris, Drake, Young Jeezy, Jadakiss, Rick Ross. This face says it all.

Ummm where do we start?

Based on their stupid criteria - Jadakiss should be DQ'ed since he was with the Lox in 1997. Props for mentioning him cause he's slept on. And Drake?? Really? I didn't realize having a great 2009 placed him above Nelly or Fabolous. By the way, how did those 2 get omitted?

I'm gonna do 2 things. Make a list based on their "criteria" then do a real list with some real explanations. I started on Twitter but I need to tweak it more. Most of my generation can do better since we grew up watching music from 2000-on extra closely

My list on BET criteria. Eminem, Nelly, Kanye West, 50 Cent, Ludacris,  T.I., Lil Wayne, Ja Rule, Fabolous, Mos Def (with Missy Elliot sitting just outside).

Not only did they omit Nelly - one of the best selling rappers of the decade and definitely one of the most influential on slang and fashion - their criteria also forgot Mos Def, who dropped his classic debut in 1999 that went gold on an indie label. Regardless of his output since, that one album is worth his placing.

I rank my list on simple qualities - skills, album sales, critical acclaim, influence, impact, longevity, consistency. That means that rappers who made an impact from 2000-2004 should be given more preference since their impact can be analyzed much more. Ja Rule might be remembered for being part of 50's stepping stone to greatness but from 01-03, he was as big an artist as anyone in hip-hop and brought back R&B/hip-hop collabs.

The REAL list is as follows: (Honorable Mention: The Game, Ja Rule, Missy Elliot, Talib Kweli, Lupe Fiasco, Young Jeezy)

1. Eminem - Do we have to say why? Biggest selling rapper of the decade, oodles of hits (Stan's a well-used term), 2 well-revered albums and an Oscar. 2002 was as big a year for any artist in musical history. Plenty of respect. Encore/Relapse aside, nobody comes close except...

2. Jay-Z - The Blueprint's the album of the decade. Went from great rapper to respected legend. Plenty of hits, arguably the world's most known rapper. Blueprint, Black Album and American Gangster are great albums. Fashion, culture. He's even become heavily overrated but that doesn't knock his accomplishments.

3. Nas - The feud with Jay-Z restored his career from being forgotten. Catalogue might be the strongest/most consistent of the decade minus Street's Disciple. Last two albums went #1. Reminded everyone why he's one of the greatest lyricists/storytellers. Ether has become a term for embarrassing/clowning the mess out of someone.

4. Nelly - Single handedly put St. Louis on the map. One of the biggest rappers from 2000-2004 with hits and albums. Had everybody speaking country slang before Lil Jon. Apple Bottom Jeans became a fashion statement. His career tailed off quickly as it started but 21 million sold is 21 million sold.

5. Kanye - Production aside for this argument. One of the most acclaimed debuts in recent music history. Each album has sold more in its 1st week except for 808 and Heartbreaks. Arguably the biggest rapper out right now besides Lil Wayne. Each album has been highly acclaimed (depending on 808) and he has one of the biggest hits of the decade (Gold Digger). Dudes wore preppy clothes because of him and the emo-rap owes him a debt.

6. 50 Cent - His album/hit quality has dropped off since 2007 but from 2003-07, no rapper was bigger. Hits, album sales, Vitamin Water, brought back the streets into rap, Great songwriter. Greatest debut in the game since Snoop Dogg. Video games, movies. One of the best rap singles of the decade with "In Da Club." Also increased awareness of mixtapes in mainstream.

7. Ludacris - Definition of Consistency. More Top 10 albums than anybody in the decade. 14 million sold with plenty of hits. Arguably the king of guest verses. Skills have gotten better with each album and the balance of comedy, party and serious hits make him one of the most well-rounded MC's in the mainstream.

8. T.I. - Nearly the same career trajectory as Luda minus 2 years. Two jail stints aside, he helped bring Swizz Beatz back (for better or worse). King and Paper Trail solidified him as one of the biggest stars in rap. Almost influenced the new generation of trap-rap but he's shown himself to be more versatile lyrically and content-wise than his proteges.

9. Lil Wayne - 2000-2004 he was a Cash Money sideman. Carter 1 and Go DJ started getting him national notice. Dedication 2 mixtape, along with others, added to it, leading to Carter 3 selling a million. He makes the list because of his slow, uphill grind to fame and unbelievable explosion the last 4 years. Influenced style. Arguably the biggest player in terms of rap now. Time will tell where he heads in the next decade.

10. Fabolous - Once hailed as the next LL for his balance of street jams (Breathe, Holla Back) and ladies jams (Cant Let You Go, Baby). Last 5 years have been hit or miss but his last album went #1 last year.

Most underrated MC of the decade. Ghostface Killah. Check his catalog - Supreme Clintele and Fishscale are two of the best albums of the decade. Most of his albums were critically acclaimed. If he had more hits, he'd slide right in at No. 10 easily.

Sadly there's no women on here. Eve had a good run but you can't mention her - like BET did on their Top 15 - without mentioning Missy Elliot, who had more hits and critical acclaim from 2001-2005. Had Missy dropped 1-2 albums in the last 5 years - her position would be earned. It's a reminder that female MC's are on the decline.

Everyone will have their biases and opinions with their lists. There's no problem with that but make sure your lists are well-informed and reflect everything that happened. BET failed again to honor our culture which is like saying water is wet but still I somehow expected more.

Friday, October 15, 2010

What would Michael Jordan average today?

A lot of fuss has been made about Michael Jordan's recent statement about scoring 100 points. Here's the quote from the article promoting NBA 2K11

How has the game changed from your playing days?
It's less physical and the rules have changed, obviously. Based on these rules, if I had to play with my style of play, I'm pretty sure I would have fouled out or I would have been at the free throw line pretty often and I could have scored 100 points.

For one, I'm happy that MJ is speaking his mind more - he did this often behind the scenes or on the court but it wasn't until his HOF speech that we saw him at his most open. For someone who was tight-lipped yet cunning and ruthless, I'd prefer this MJ over the corporate pitchman who did nothing besides dominate basketball and let his game talk.

Unlike Yahoo's snarky take on this, let's be real. Could MJ have scored 100 points in today's game? Better yet, what would he average for a season? Let's say we're talking about MJ in his prime from 86-93 when he led the NBA in scoring with 30+ each year. Consider this.

1) There's no hand-checking. Back in the 90's, a defender could use their hands or arms to keep a player from scoring. Not so today. A big reason that LeBron, D-Wade, Kobe and Kevin Durant can score at will. MJ would do this too.

2) There aren't a lot of great defenders, especially at the shooting guard/small forward position. Outside of Kobe, Shane Battier, Bruce Bowen, Dwyane Wade, it's a bunch of average guys over the past 5-6 years. And remember, any SF that guards MJ would leave Scottie Pippen open to expose a smaller defender.

3) Kobe scored 81 in today's climate. LeBron has scored 50 eight times. Kevin Durant will score 50 at some point next season. When he was 40, MJ had a 40-point game with the Wizards in 2003 and a 51-point game the year before. You do the math.

4) Teams aren't as physical today thanks to rules. The last great defensive team was the mid-2000 Detroit Pistons that shut down Kobe in the 2004 Finals. The only way Jordan was stopped early on was because the Bad Boys had free reign to knock him down. No team could do that nowadays.

Now consider Michael Jordan's skill set. A deadly mid-range game based on head-fakes and getting to his spots with perfect shooting form. Speed to take anybody to the baseline. He could drive to the basket on anybody. Granted, a lot of players today can do that but it's still hard to defend. Plus he was well-conditioned as anybody.

Also, MJ got to the free throw line on average 10 times per game. With the way they call fouls nowadays, he'd get 5-6 more FT's easily. His only weakness was his outside shooting but in the 4 games he scored 60 or more points, he only attempted 12 3-pointers. In the 31 times he scored more than 50 points, he only took 5 or more 3's FIVE TIMES.

I can't imagine that today. That's just smart shooting and knowing where do to your damage without taking too many unnecessary shots. Which reminds me, MJ averaged over 51% shooting in his prime (87-93).

In my opinion, he'd average between 40-42 points for a season. Against weaker defenders, he'd abuse them nightly on the offensive side while hounding them on the defensive end. He'd get 8-12 points a night at the foul line which means he'd have to find ways to get 28-34 on the floor.

That's why he said in that quote he might foul out of more games. Jordan was an aggressive defender who'd probably get ticky-tack fouls called on him in this age - which is probably the only thing stopping him from scoring at will.

Would he score 100? He'd come close but I'm tired of writers tearing down this hyperbole. You'd think they know by now that MJ is prone to exaggerating to show his strengths, not his weakness. Instead of spouting off stats and attempting to deflate the MJ myth they helped to create (or younger writers doing this to show their cynicism), they'd better serve their readers by making a better argument since most of us know we'll never see anyone do it.

He'd average 40-42 points while working to shut down the top scorers at his position. And for good measure, he'd average 7-8 rebounds per game with 5-7 assists with close to two steals. Now debate that.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Electric Relaxation: Funkadelic "Maggot Brain" and "Super Stupid"

Like most people, I only knew Funkadelic as part of Parliament and George Clinton's funk empire during the 70's that laid the backbone for hip-hop. I had no clue that it was Clinton's foray into classic rock and early metal.  For my money, Funkadelic is one of the most underrated Black bands in history and for them doing straight rock when most Black acts merely incorporated some elements, it was unheard of.

This song was my introduction. All I knew was it made the 100 Greatest Guitar Solos. Eddie Hazel was told to play like he found out his mother died and then discover it wasn't true. What happens over the next 10 minutes is just...ahhhh just listen to this masterpiece of guitar heaven.

It's so powerful that the band shut up and listened. It's so emotional you feel elevated when Hazel goes off around the 3:30-4:50 mark as if someone is carrying you to heaven with tears and disbelief. Then you rejoice near the end knowing they're still here. ALL IN ONE TAKE!

THIS right here is one of the greatest guitar solos ever. Eruption by Van Halen? Eric Clapton/Duane Allman killing "Layla"? Jimi Hendrix on "Machine Gun"? Jimmy Page taking us on a "Stairway to Heaven"? This song deserves to be up there with any song ever written by a guitarist. It's beauty, pain, power and soul all in 10 minutes.

Pure genius from one of rock's forgotten guitarists. He's the most underrated guitarist in Black music - Eddie Hazel is a tragedy in that despite writing this at only 21, he was no longer a permanent member of Funkadelic by 24 despite contributing to the group until his death in 1992. He played heavy, he played furious and he would've given most of his peers a run for their money.

After Hazel left, Michael Hampton (Kidd Funkadelic) did his own version which was recorded for the classic One Nation Under a Groove album. I didn't want to hear it because Hazel's version was too classic for me but when I finally did this year, WOW. Hampton built on what Eddie started. Story goes that he played a note-for-note cover at 19 for his audition!

An amazing song and one of the best guitar solos you will ever hear. The Maggot Brain album is pretty dope too if you can find it. Redman later paid homage to the album cover with Dare Iz A Darkside. As a bonus, here's Eddie Hazel doing "Super Stupid" - his great voice, his guitar wizardry, his incredible talent all in one. Sounds like a heavier Hendrix don't you think?

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Football Wrap Week 5: Sponsored by the Letter L

Not a good week for my football teams. I took more L's than Yung Berg and his famous chain and none of them were pretty.

UCLA fell back to Earth after a 3-game winning streak by getting blown out by Cal and their running game. The pistol doesn't need a Golden Prince, we need a QB that can throw as well as run. San Diego lost by 1 to Dayton, further reminding me the good old days with Jim Harbaugh are long gone. And my old team Miami lost their annual matchup to Florida State in a BIG way. The U almost never gets blasted by the Noles and that hurt by default.

Didn't get better on Sunday as I finally got to see the Cowboys in an afternoon game but had to bear them losing to Tennessee on a roller coaster. Down 17-3, Tied 17-17, and then watch the game slip away due to mistakes and stupid penalties. Romo passed for 400 but had 3 picks. Dudes can't even get a TD celebration right. And now we're a miserable 1-3

What more can I say about the Chargers. Bad enough special teams cost us again with nine points on blocked punts. Bad enough we lost on the road again. Bad enough Phil Rivers passed for 400 yards again in a loss. But how do you lose to the Raiders???? How do you lose where Rivers gets hit, fumbles the ball and Oakland runs the other way to score and add extra salt to a nasty wound!!! I'm ready to drink that trouble away.

Wade Phillips and Steve Crosby (Chargers special teams coach) get the gas faces and I'll sign up for any petition against them. Chargers are 2-3 again but im more worried about Dallas and their psyche. UCLA is about to head into the teeth of their schedule and suddenly, beating an overrated Texas team is gonna feel like a life ago. Jacory Harris is watching his Heisman campaign disappear almost as fast as his pro prospects.

And I'm left shaking my head. Let's do some pro and college quick hits 

- Ohio State and Oregon deserve to be 1-2. I'm glad Boise State stayed at No. 3 but I'm shocked Alabama fell to No. 8 and why South Carolina didn't get more than just entry into the Top 10. I thought Bama would stay in the Top 5 but they got bushwhacked so down they fall. 

And oh the BCS comes out next week. Won't that be interesting. 

- Welcome back to relevancy Nebraska, it's been a decade since you had it but that was when Eric Crouch made y'all look good.. They found a new one in Taylor Martinez, who might be one of the most underrated HS stars California has produced in a while. Led Corona Centennial to a state title over De La Salle but got almost no love in state with recruiting.

- At Stanford, Jim Harbaugh is 3-1 against USC, including 2-0 at the Coliseum. Think USC will be happy if he decides to jump to the NFL? Oh yeah, Robert Woods - 224 yards and 3 TD's. Is it too early to say he's among the top freshmen in the country?

- Feel bad for Alex Smith, dude's getting closer to learning how to win and yet his leash is shorter by the week. He's not a bad QB but a victim of inconsistency just like Kordell Stewart was.

- To paraphrase Lewis Carroll, you are old, Father Brett. That arm may be golden but your mind is rusty and frail.

- Saints lost to Arizona despite not giving up a TD on defense. Craziest stat of the year and a sign this season is topsy turvy.

- Your Division Leaders: Chicago, Atlanta, Arizona, Jets, Baltimore, Kansas City, a 4-way tie in the AFC South, and a three way tie in the NFC East. A screwy year or what? Jets quietly have a 4-game win streak but the Bears, Cardinals, Chiefs??

Fantasy Wrap (HAPPY, HAPPY, JOY JOY!!!!!)

We're on a roll over here. Maurice Jones Drew is back to his productive self. The smart free agency picks are paying dividends. Last week was all about setting up for the rest of the way.

ESPN: California Crushers (2-3) - Hakeem Nicks: 40 PTS. Vernon Davis 24 - Beasts!
ESPN: Inglewood Stars (2-3) - Two week winning streak despite falsely starting Brady/Ellis from NE
Yahoo: EvBeez's Army (3-2) - Ray Rice/Willis McGahee combo + Miles Austin and Jets Defense = WIN
Yahoo: Boltin Cowboys (2-3) - Lost this week going against Austin, Matt Forte, Antonio Gates, T.O. and more despite them getting nothing from Arian Foster and Matt Ryan.

It's all good baby baby. Nicks is my Fantasy Win while low twos to Dez Bryant and to Steve Smith/Donald Driver scoring with me on the bench.  Til next week.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Columbus Day - A Farce of History

It's long overdue that I reveal some thoughts about Christopher Columbus, a hack of a sailor, a lucky man and a brutal taskmaster in his "new" discovery.

Just for background. Before I was an English nerd, I was and still am a history buff. I love history because not only it is cool/important to know about the past, we must know how it affects the present. Let's discuss the fine Italian and his worth, shall we?

"In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue. In 1493, Columbus stole all he could see."

By now, there's enough info to show that Columbus didn't discover the USA or even North America. He accidentally saw his ships run into Latin America and discovered something that natives had settled on long ago. He only discovered something unknown to the modern world while he was trying to find India. Who knew there'd be some land in between Europe and Asia??

From "Lies My Teacher Told Me" - a sample of what Columbus actually discovered and shared with the modern world upon meeting the Arawaks.
See Christopher was at first pleased to see such a civilized country full of "well-built" folks called Arawaks who were "of quick intelligence" with very good customs (his exact words in quotes). The late Howard Zinn writes that he was amazed at their willingness to share and made the Europeans salivate with dreams of gold. Of course, when he decided to rape, pillage and enslave those areas - those kind natives became "cruel" and "stupid" and radically different from the good Spanish folks he represented.

Get Rich and Kill Anyone In Your Way. That philosophy sound familiar? Arawak Indians versus some of the best trained soldiers in the world. You do the math.

Of course, this would show a generation of European explorers how to deal with natives in the future. Cortes and Pizarro owe Columbus a debt of gratitude for giving them the blueprint on destroying the Aztec and Inca empires respectively. Jamestown and Plymouth followed suit in 1607 and 1620. And this is a man worth celebrating?
(The First Italian and the First Latin American Gangster - Westside!!!!!)

It's no surprise Columbus and others are not celebrated in the lands they discovered. All through school we heard how heroic these men were when in fact, they were lionized to cover up their shameful dirt. Only recently through research like a "People's History of the United States" and "Lies My Teacher Told Me" have we learned about these tribes who saw their lives uprooted and forgotten.

And there is that small matter of this guy named Leif Ericson. You know that character we barely heard about as a prelude to get to the eventual Columbus story. There's more evidence he actually landed in North America and if you live in a lucky state, you actually celebrate his day on October 9. Tough break, Leif - you were just born in an era with no technology besides oral stories, even if its more relevant than Columbus' myth.

(Sorry Leif, no cool paintings of you exist. But you look pretty mad here and that proves my point. I'd be mad too forgotten if history made me a footnote for reaching Canada.)

By the way, there's also some cool theories of others seeing North America before Ericson or Columbus. Instead of just retelling what Columbus didn't do, how about we explore the possible theories of who got to America - oh that's right, it's not neat and pretty.

So what did Columbus do? He came at the right time (a.k.a. getting lucky) and exposed Europe to the New World at the height of European exploration, technological advances like bookkeeping and the printing press and the European Renaissance. Shakespeare's "The Tempest" also captures this New World fascination with the character of Caliban - a native who says some of the most heartfelt lines in the play.

He also indirectly initiated the slave trade and paved the way for legions of natives to be enslaved, stripped of their wealth and sent to a foreign country. Europe would follow this strategy in Africa 150 years later. Thank you Christopher, you're a real pioneer with foresight. A regular Willie Lynch if you will (another myth by the way).

(What? You really thought I was a hero? Y'all can't even get the right picture of me so how surprised can I be that y'all got my stories wrong. )

Who do we blame for this myth? Why it's that's fine storyteller himself Washington Irving. The same man behind Sleepy Hollow and Rip Van Winkle wrote a biography on Columbus in 1828 - it became the most popular story of the man for 100 years and shaped legions of history books.

Give Irving credit for his skill and his prose - lies usually are appealing because of how they're dressed up. Besides we see how long "Sleepy Hollow" has been fascinating us. Why shouldn't his myth last just as long?

Shout out to the REAL explorers who discovered something worthwhile. Leif Ericson and his Vikings. Amerigo Vespucci. Vasco Nunez de Balboa (the first European to cross America and see the Pacific Ocean). Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo (the 1st to navigate the California coast). Also shouts to Bartolome de las Casas who saw the error of his ways and became a staunch defender of the natives in literature as actual people and informed many of the cruel treatment of his contemporaries.

Men like Columbus and Cortes chased a dream and ended up ruining reality for those already there as well as people today who glorify their names like they were noble.

(The Pride of Genoa - looking meatier than their famed salami)

So today, we celebrate Columbus Day - a chance to destroy another American myth and bring in some reality. Make today one of re-education, not continuing mis-education. Read "Lies My Teacher Told Me" and "A People's History of the United States." History's job isn't to just destroy mythology, it's to add facts to make it reality instead of fiction.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Aced in October

Any more doubts how special this year has been for pitchers? Two days into October baseball and we have two pitching debuts for the ages along with another solid outing from last year's October darling Cliff Lee.

On a night when Tim Lincecum pitches a 2-hit, 14-strikeout masterpiece against Atlanta, everyone's still buzzing about what Doc Halladay did yesterday. The best part of his no-hitter? He helped his own cause with an RBI single and he threw under 100 pitches.

As much as I respect CC Sabathia, Halladay's the best pitcher in baseball right now and had he not had great games spoiled by Toronto's lack of run support, he'd be closer to 200 wins than he is now. I honestly think that's one of the greatest postseason debuts in any sport I can recall. The only thing I can recall is Dwyane Wade hitting a buzzer beater to win his first playoff series. 

Two no-hitters in a season. 21 wins. An almost guaranteed Cy Young award for a great all-around season. Welcome to Doctober.

(Welcome to the Freak Show - October edition)

It's crazy that Timmy the Freak goes out, throws the 3rd most strikeouts in a shutout and yet he'll almost be overshadowed. Just a reminder that in a down year, he's still the Freak who throws like a young Pedro despite weighing less than most HS defensive backs. 

Cliff Lee picking up where he left off last year. Game 1 saw him pitch another 7 IP (minimum), 10 K game, setting a Rangers K record.. Ho-hum. Dude's pitched 3 of these games but it's still amazing because he's almost a guaranteed W when he steps on the mound. If he gets a lead, its a wrap. 

Sabathia's so-so performance in Game 1 was woefully overshadowed by these 3 brilliant starts. He was bailed out by 4 runs in the 6th inning so he didn't pitch his way to a win as much as he was saved. More ammo for the King Felix for Cy Young committee but one game is only one game.

Biggest surprise to me has been how bad the Rays have looked. There's a reason why they've been no-hit three times over the past season and a half and the Rangers pitching has found that magic. And I get having Matt Garza in Game 3 for a must-win on the road but 2nd guessing Joe Madden feels totally normal on saving him for that. You gotta go with your best weapons up front because nothing is guaranteed in October.

Well, except for the Yankees owning Minnesota. As happy as I am for Orlando Hudson reaching the postseason to stick it to the team that gave up on him, there's no chance they're coming back. 

It sickens me almost that the Dodgers had a chance to get CC Sabathia, Roy Halladay or Cliff Lee and somehow we didn't make it happen. Almost as bad as Cleveland watching 2/5 of their 2008 Opening Day lineup start in October without them. I digress, angry rant of a Dodger fan missing October baseball for the 1st time in 3 years.

Just a reminder that October is for aces, pretenders not need apply. Walter Johnson, Bob Gibson, Jack Morris, Orel Hershiser, Curt Schilling, Livan Hernandez approve of this statement.

Baseball's better when great pitching trumps great hitting and great hitting finds a way to shine around it. This year has been a great one in every sense of the word so October can only be better. And that's why it's the best month in sports. MLB postseason, NBA and NHL return, college and pro football in full swing. Wouldn't have it any other way.