Thursday, January 27, 2011

Is This Justice?

Imagine you want to give your kids a better chance for education. You can't get into a better school because of the district you live in, so you use the address of your father. Yes it's illegal but you're thinking of your children's future as you are studying to be a teacher.

This is what faced Kelley Williams-Bolar, a mother of two in Akron, Ohio who has now been convicted of a felony for doing this. You figured she'd get probation and a reprimand right? A fair slap on the wrist or something? She got 10 days in jail - the only part of a 5-year prison sentence not suspended - two years probation and community service

(Update: Williams-Bolar has been released yesterday, Jan 26, from prison, serving 9 days of her sentence.)

And what's worse, the felony conviction will prohibit her from getting her teaching license. There is a chance that Williams-Bolar, who has no prior record, can have her conviction expunged in 6 months to continue pursuing her license but it's not a 100% guarantee.

Now I'm not condoning the legality of what she did but is this fair? How does someone get a felony for this? A misdemeanor maybe but felonies should be reserved for the most serious offenses. The punishment should fit the crime and this doesn't.

It's a clear case of overpunishing to send a message. That's fair for violent criminals and serial offenders but not 1st time offenders for minor crimes. I saw this on the news last night and was dumbfounded.

I could make a lot of statements about kids who come to private schools for athletic reasons and those transfers are not only accepted but celebrated. But as to not get away from the core of this matter, I'll just say that the heavy hand of justice has once again been slapped on somebody who deserved far less to fit what she did and it's not fair. It's also a reminder that education is still too much of a privilege and not enough of a fair and equal possibility so people will find ways to unfortunately cheat a system in the name of self-improvement.

A caring mother now has to potentially wear the albatross of a felony conviction and her career has been stalled. I've discovered a petition to appeal to the governor to voice my disapproval with the case. Read and sign if you agree. Feel free to discuss.

Happy 20th Anniversary to Sonic the Hedgehog and Super Mario World

I was watching Sonic the Hedgehog gameplay videos on Youtube and I saw a comment that said they bought it the day it came out. June 23, 1991. Made me feel like an old man reading that but it also made me think about how far video games have come and how they owe a lot to that year.

If you were an 80's baby, you remember that 1991 brought us two games and systems that made the NES seem obsolete. Sonic the Hedgehog (Sega Genesis) and Super Mario World (Super NES)

I'm saying for the record that both games are two of the most influential in gaming history simply for the fact they were 16-bit systems that had bolder colors and a lot more than side-scrolling action. The first time I saw a commercial for Sonic the Hedgehog, my mind was blown because it made Super Mario Bros. 3 (another of the greatest games ever) look like a relic.

Sonic was cool from his spiked hair look to his speed. All Mario had was cool costumes but Sonic had speed and cool enemies to fight besides Bowser's kids. Plus the secret levels of finding those Chaos Emeralds that I could never get until I played Sonic 3. Even the music sounded next level. Once you got started and heard this song, you felt like you were at the next level of gaming.

Without Sonic, video game music would be boring. Remember how you used to play games just to hear the music on certain levels? Some NES games had that but Sonic took it to the next level - Streets of Rage owes its killer soundtrack to it. Plus Sega was the cool kid on the block promoting the fact they weren't Nintendo.

The game dropped on June 23 and I remembered going to my godbrother's house and playing the mess out of it. I could never get past Level 2 but I just enjoyed watching something different from my basic NES system.

Everybody jumped on this like hotcakes so what did Nintendo do? Like any good company they responded with their own innovation in Super Mario World a couple months later on August 13. And just like Sonic, Mario blew me away with this game.

The cape, the cool worlds, and of course adding Yoshi as the coolest sidekick. I remember reading Nintendo Power and getting the magazine with SM World guide and just marveling at the graphics. It was as if they recreated Super Mario Bros. 3 with more characters, brighter colors and secret worlds.

But once again, I was stuck with my NES so I had to play this on my friend's systems. For the record, I at least had a Game Gear which, by the way, blew the Game Boy away because of - wait for it - graphics and brighter colors. I didn't get my Genesis until 1995 when Sonic 3 & Sonic and Knuckles were carrying Sega way past Nintendo's prime.

Sonic the Hedgehog singlehandedly changed the gaming world forever because it brought healthy competition to gaming systems, introduced slicker, brighter graphics and the need for games to stay cutting edge with storyline. All things that happen today as we battle between PS3's, XBOX 360's and Wii's. You were either a Nintendo or Sega kid growing up (NINTENDO ALL DAY)

Can't believe it's been 20 years. Games have come a long way from me reading Nintendo Power and Gamepro and Electronic Gaming Monthly. I might start doing some more gamer posts for my 80's babies to reflect over.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

It's Too Soon for Big Ben's Redemption

I have no love for Ben Roethlisberger going to his 3rd Super Bowl. Not barely six months removed from a summer where he almost threw his career away on being stupid and boorish once again. Not after a police department messed up a slam dunk case of rape to protect an athlete acting entitled.

I always disliked Big Ben as a player but I hated his mental stupidity. The no-helmet, motorcycle crash after the Super Bowl in 2006. The hardcore partier. And now the bathroom behavior with that co-ed who reminded me of star-struck chicks I went to school with but didnt deserve to be taken advantage of.

I didnt mention his 1st rape case because based on the facts, it looked like the woman was a groupie chick crying rape but really bragging about getting it on with some athlete. But again, poor decision making in light of this 2nd incident.

His fame kept him from facing a serious charge of rape and a trial as the police department mismanaged the case. Fame doesn't always protect you (see Lawrence Taylor pleading guilty to rape this month) but when it does in these cases, it's an slap in the face of justice/fairness.

I don't want to hear about this being a redemption story for him. Not yet. It's way too soon and the rehabilitation far from complete for me to know he gets it. Don't compare this to Ray Lewis 10 years ago because he was the getaway driver in a murder, not the participant. Ben hasn't earned my respect yet nor will he for at least another year until proven otherwise. 

What does winning a Super Bowl redeem him from? Michael Vick winning the Super Bowl is more redemption because he lost everything and slowly got it back. Big Ben missed 4 games as if it were an injury and picked up where he left off. He didn't lose anything really but like Vick, redemption will come with his actions off the field, not on it.

Ben got plenty of heat last summer and deservedly so in some quarters. But during an appearance on Sunday Night Football, there was only 1 mention of his case. Meanwhile during a Michael Vick appearance, it was mentioned several times with analyst Cris Collinsworth giving his 2 cents.

So all love for Mike Tomlin and for Troy Polamalu if he's healthy. Respect to Mr. Rooney as an owner of dignity and progress. But I'm rooting for Green Bay solely because I don't want Roethlisberger to hoist his 3rd Lombardi while his victim has to watch. 

I believe in forgiveness but I don't believe in it without penance and restitution. That's why I support Chris Brown, Michael Vick, Robert Downey Jr, and others who made amends and, as time passed, showed growth. It makes me sick expecting the stories in the coming days about how Ben's a hero, no longer a pariah and a sign of forgiveness.

Yes he's clutch. Yes he's deadly in the 4th quarter with little time left. But if you're mad at Vick for his dogs, show the same disdain for Big Ben as he still needs to prove his maturity. I'm glad he's found or rediscovered God (I'm experiencing a spiritual reawakening at the moment) but being a fellow believer doesn't give you a pass for instant forgiveness.

Football Wrap: A Cowboys Fan's Worst Nightmare

As a Cowboys fan, this Super Bowl matchup sucks. Plain and simple. In the 1960's, the Packers were our fiercest rival and we could never get over the hump. We lost the 1966 and 1967 NFL title games to Green Bay, the last one being Bart Starr's famous 1-yard TD plunge in the Ice Bowl. As a result, Green Bay went to the 1st 2 Super Bowls.

But during my NFL watching prime of the 90's, we got revenge. I lived for owning Brett Favre every year in 93-96, none better than third-stringer and current Cowboys coach Jason Garrett beating the Packers on Thanksgiving in 1995. We'd beat the Packers during the season and then during the playoffs like it was nothing. In 2007, with both teams 10-1, Tony Romo beat Favre once again. Course, we won't mention this past season getting embarrassed.

Now Pittsburgh is different cause we got Super Bowl history in the 70's. We won 2 Super Bowls that decade, they won 4. They beat us in Super Bowl X (Lynn Swann's MVP performance) and three years later in Super Bowl XIII, a shootout famous for Cowboys TE Jackie Smith dropping a TD in the end zone. We were in a race for most SB titles and we famously got the edge beating them in SB XXX with SoCal's Larry Brown getting 2 INT's.

I hated the Steelers more because they were our title rival. Thanks to Big Ben, the edge now goes to them 6-5. The Team of the 70's at our expense. Yeah, the hate runs deep.

So Super Bowl Sunday's gonna be bittersweet seeing our old rivals coming to Dallas for a chance to hoist the Lombardi. I imagine chatting with my old Cowboys heads about the rivalries before we discuss the matchup. If fate went another way, we'd have the upper hand on both teams back then. Ah well, only the Cowboys fan in me will feel weird whoever wins.

And now for the Tidbits. First up: NFC

- Happy for Aaron Rodgers. At Cal, he was the QB of the last team to beat the Bush-Leinart USC squad before Vince Young. Beat them in 03 and nearly beat them in 2004. He was screwed in the draft and screwed waiting behind Brett Favre. Vindication! (Same with Packers GM Ted Thompson who let Favre retire to let him play)

- I only saw about 30 seconds of the first half but I saw enough. After Aaron Rodgers threw a pick that bounced off his WR's foot, Jay Cutler threw his own gunslinging INT before leaving the game w/an injury. Yep, that's the gunslinging Cutler I expected to see.

*And I hear folks talking toughness with him. Would a high profile QB really not try his best to get back in a CHAMPIONSHIP game based on injury. I know the CHI is uber-tough but get real. (Ed: Cutler suffered a torn MCL and played in 2 series...props to him choosing the team over being selfish unlike Brett Favre)

- Congrats to Clay Matthews III who went from a lightly recruited LB at USC to a Top-3 Defensive POY candidate.this year.

- Lovie Smith deserves to be extended as Bears head coach. Talk about saving your job.

AFC Tidbits

- Props to Mark Sanchez for showing heart in nearly leading the Jets from a 24-0 deficit with no help from the Jets' playcalling (love LaDainian Tomlinson but those short-yardage runs were not for him). He could've easily choked after that fumble and nasty hit but he responded by leading the charge with help from his defense. Well-done in defeat.

- I feel bad for LT because it's one year closer to the end and I hope he can come back next year to play. Yet it's clear that the Jets need to use Shonn Greene more next year.

- Rex Ryan's press conference showed me why I'd play for him. Emotional, genuine, inspires loyalty and unity and most of all protects his players.

- Congrats to Mike Tomlin, who's going to his 2nd Super Bowl and has a chance to be the 1st Black coach with multiple titles.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Electric Relaxation: Prince - "She's Always In My Hair"

Whenever I feel like givin' up
Whenever my sunshine turns 2 rain
Whenever my hopes and dreams are aimed in the wrong direction
She's always there tellin' me how much she cares
She's always in my hair 

I've been vibing to this song all day. This isn't my favorite Prince song but it's in my Top 10. It holds a special place with me because of the lyrics and the synthesizers. Just read the opening lines. Who can't relate to feeling at the end of their rope or just feeling down on themselves and then you get a call or a reassuring word from that special person who knows just what to say.

I love that feeling and I love imagining coming home to someone who builds you up and you doing the same to them. We all want that special someone who has our back and it's a shame today we don't hear too many songs talk about this on the radio.

It's pure pop bliss because like "When Doves Cry", it's mostly drums and synths with a lil bass groove underneath that you can barely hear. Of course Prince has to do a guitar solo around the 2:12 mark that's typical him but this is more of a lyrical masterpiece with musical simplicity. It works well because you can hear the lyrics more as the music doesn't overpower it.

Whenever I feel like not 2 great at all
Whenever I'm all alone
Even if I hit the wrong notes
She's always in my boat
She's always there tellin' me how much she cares
She's always in my hair 

D'Angelo gamely tried to cover this on the Scream 2 soundtrack but it was too much funk and not enough lightness. Ah well, he'll have to settle with Voodoo as his true Prince tribute.

At the end you can hear the joy as Prince wails on and on. I mean dang, can you imagine having somebody that makes you feel so good because they listen? Maybe you already have somebody like that. It reminds me of what Method Man and Mary J. Blige did with "You're All I Need" and Meth talking about that woman rubbing on his back saying baby it'll be okay.

I've been in a Prince mood all week courtesy of some good emails. So indulge me with one of the Purple One's greatest B-sides.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Fine Dining Anyone?

I was in San Diego last month doing some freelance work at this HS hoops tournament. The last day I was there, I walked around this shopping center with a friend of mine and I happened to see this sign at the McDonald's nearby.

Bistro Gourmet??? Now granted, I'm in Del Mar, which is one of the richest areas in San Diego. But how in the world does "Bistro" and "Gourmet" go in the same sentence with McDonald's, one of the most basic fast food places in the world. There's a reason I don't eat there anymore - the food is terrible and just oozes with unhealthiness.

My friend and I had to go in and see what this place looked like. And this is what we saw.

Leather seats? Metal chairs? Those poles that look like they should be in the Cheesecake Factory? I thought the desk at the right was where they served people that wanted to sit down.

So we're mindblown. I have never seen a fast food eatery look like this. This is McDonald's on green steroids. Green being money cause they pumped so much money in this place to make it look like a great restaurant. It's McDonalds!!!! It's simple. Serve burgers and chicken and breakfast and unhealthy salads and folks go home happy.

But oh it gets better. See in the rich world, you can't just serve the basics. You gotta go all out just because you can. They also had this in there

That's right. This is a sandwich case filled with paninis, quesadillas and other fine dishes that are better served in a bakery or sandwich shop. Again, this is McDonalds people!!!! Really??? $5-6 sandwiches? I mean why not just go ahead and serve high class drinks since you're going there.

We stood there for about 3 minutes just wide-eyed at all of this. I know folks can do whatever they want with their money but this is a bit much. If there was ever a time for the "lipstick on a pig" metaphor, this was it.

I can hear it now for somebody's date idea.

 "Hey baby, how bout I take you out one night for some fine dining. A high class restaurant with good food and a great atmosphere"

"Oh really? Where we going? And you better not say Red Lobster or some bougie-hood type restaurant."

"Nah, nah. This is better. We're going to a bistro gourmet. Only the best for my dates!"

Then they roll up to McD's like this and she's looking like huh?  Gotta love spending time in the rich world, you learn so much about the silliness of extravagance.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Football Wrap: Jets Restore the Fine Art of Trash Talk

Trash talking is a lost art in professional sports. Oversensitive fans have ruined the art by being offended when athletes speak their mind and call it unprofessional. It's become a byproduct of this 24/7 news cycle where everything gets dissected and an athlete almost has to be safe on Twitter or else.

LeBron James showed us that last week. His biggest crime wasn't sending that tweet - the irony of telling an athlete to get over something when fans are notorious for long memories - it was denying it. People got mad he "talked trash" to Cleveland but it wasn't as bad as him denying it. It's better to talk crap and own it than run from it

Sports is boring when there are no characters. That's where the NY Jets come in, the most loose bunch of players I've seen in a while. Rex Ryan changed the culture of that team and like Mike Ditka or Jimmy Johnson, he's made his players want to play for him and will take the heat for anything they say or do.

I don't mind if players talk trash. I'm a classy man but I get fired up on the court and I'd rather see guys show that passion/emotion instead of stone faces. It pisses me off if they do it to me or my team but here's the rub - if you can back it up, then you can talk. I grew up where guys talked junk in school all the time and you had to deal with it and earn respect.

Michael Jordan and Larry Bird were two of the biggest trash talkers in the NBA. Shannon Sharpe would tear dudes apart en route to being one of the greatest tight ends in NFL history. Charles Barkley's mouth would never shut up. And who can forget the Super Bowl Shuffle made during the Chicago Bears 1985 season.

Now, Rex Ryan's brought that swagger back with the success to prove it. I thought the Jets deserved to get stomped by the Ravens in Week One for running their mouths. Every loss felt like they were getting punished for their arrogance. But right now? They look every bit the cocky guys who are better than you and will let you know.

So what Antonio Cromartie cussed out Tom Brady? So what the Jets kept talking trash leading up to Sunday and the Colts game? If you got the breaks beaten off you on national TV by the Patriots, you need to pump yourselves up for the next meeting by any means necessary. And right now, the Jets are on a roll.

Mark Sanchez may just be a game manager but just like Ben Roethlisberger early on he's winning games in the 4th Quarter. He's got Big Ben's career arc without the brain-dead mentality. He was accused of a sexual assault in 2006 but the charges were dropped and he's been a model citizen since. So much for Pete Carroll saying he wasnt ready as he's beaten Philip Rivers, Tom Brady and Peyton Manning in January.

I'm also happy to see LaDainian Tomlinson finally beat New England. He's had a great postseason and I'm hoping he finally gets a ring because he deserves it. He's running like a man driven to prove everyone wrong and that edge helps fuel the Jets.

I root for Cromartie as another ex-Charger who doesn't deserve the Shawn Kemp treatment when he's trying to do right by his kids as well Darrelle Revis and Bart Scott bringing edge on a furious defense. The Jets went from loudmouths to loudmouth winners and slowly they've gained more support. Whatever you need to get motivated, use it

It ain't bragging if you can back it up. I'm rooting for them next week, because I can't root for Big Ben to get back to the SB and watch the media try to spin this as a comeback.

Sunday was a win for trash talking. The livelier, the better as long as you produce on the field. Here's hoping Pittsburgh meets their fate like they did a few weeks ago against the Jets. Nothing better than seeing Bill Belichick leave the field like this.

P.S. Bears-Packers is going to a whole new level in the NFC Title Game. Aaron Rodgers played out of his mind Saturday and there's no way I trust Jay Cutler to win a game like that.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Electric Relaxation: Main Source "Looking at the Front Door"

This is one of those classic hip hop songs that I think everybody loves when you hear it. I used to hear it growing up in the summers on the old school hour. That Donald Byrd sample and drum break was almost perfect bliss and that "ooh oooh ooooh" for the hook was golden.

Main Source is mainly the brainchild of the one of the most underrated hip hop MC's/producers of all time - Large Professor. Breaking Atoms is arguably one of the best produced albums of that era (hip hop heads know that it's got the debut of a 17 yo kid named Nasir Jones). This song is his defining legacy as much as the 3 songs he produced on Illmatic.

It's a happy song musically but lyrically he's describing if he wants to stay with a chick who's bugging him for a variety of reasons. He keeps "looking at the front door" to escape and the 3rd verse warns her to shape up or else he's gone. It's not what you expect from a party jam but the Extra P plays that Native Tongues vibe of self-deprecation perfectly, making you feel his pain but still sounding optimistic.

It's the hip hop jam most wish they could write. A timeless classic that I wish more people knew about so I'm sharing it with you. I don't want to say songs are perfect but this is one pretty close to it from the lyrics to the execution to the production.

Donald Byrd "Think Twice" is the main sample which folks may recognize from a few other classics (Lisa Lisa and the Cult Jam "Let the Beat Hit Em" and A Tribe Called Quest "Footprints") But last year, I finally discovered where that "oooh oooh oooooh" sample came from. Courtesy of DJ Funktuall and his youtube series goodness, it comes from the Pazant Brothers "Chick a Boom" if you skip ahead to 1:23. Bring da funk!

(For more proof of Large Professor's skill - peep "A Friendly Game of Baseball", one of the best extended metaphors I've ever heard in HH)

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Different Name, Same Game

I've started this blog two years ago with the plan to serve up a piece of my mind and I've been very proud of how I've done it. I have more pride for my non-sports takes but I still love the sports pieces because that's part of me. I came up with the name Enter the Virgosis because I felt people were entering my mind and they needed to come in open-minded.

Now it's time to change the name. I thought it was catchy at first (E-TV) but then I realized it didn't roll off the tongue that well. Then I thought about my posts - I write long ones because even in a low attention span society, my thoughts can't be confined to 140 characters or a Facebook status update. If you were talk to me in person, I'd have a lot to say on an issue because it's not so simple. I don't apologize for it, I just try to make it interesting for y'all.

I thought about the name for a while and this is what I came up with. Virgo Gumbo. Still keeps the Virgo essence - my Virgo essence which is absent from astrology, fate or anything that a sign is supposed to tell you - but it brings up my favorite Southern dish. 

Gumbo: A hodgepodge of meats, vegetables, spices and seafood all served over rice. It's a mix of anything and when it comes out, it comes out good. The key ingredient is the roux - that makes the gumbo thick and not really watery. I'm very particular on the gumbo I eat after having it straight from my Dad's creation. If it ain't thick, my mouth won't taste a lick.

My blog posts are like a pot of thick gumbo where I want y'all to sit and chop it up with me. I talk about a wide variety of things so when I open my door and say come on in, you may see sports, politics, life or whatever. 

Enter the Virgosis is now in the past. Virgo Gumbo is the present. The name's different but my game's the same. Grab a bowl and share in what I cook up.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Football Wrap On the 1's: Congrats Auburn, Seattle and Fans

This says it all. Cam Newton overcome by emotion after he, Michael Dyer, Nick Fairley, Wes Byrum, Gene Chizik won the 2011 National Championship. Overcome by a long season that showed his maturity/poise at 21 that many folks lack at that age. Perhaps a bit of disbelief that it's finally done - the journey back to the mountaintop that had more twists and turns than even he expected.

I picked Oregon to win because of their offense and defense. Give the Ducky Boys credit for hanging in there when Auburn missed their chances. Darron Thomas balled his arm off. But Auburn did what they've done all year, stand tough and find a way to win games just a lil harder.

Nick Fairley showed why he'll be playing on Sundays. Michael Dyer showed why we'll watch him next year like we did Trent Richardson at Alabama this year. Bo Jackson smiled like he was back at Auburn wowing everyone as a 2-sport star. You can't help but be happy for them unless you're an Alabama fam.

I'm happy for Cam Newton and I wish his father Cecil could've been on the field with him. Next stop, the NFL.

College Tidbits

- OSU head coach Jim Tressel was a punk for asking Terrelle Pryor, Dan Herron to promise him he wouldn't leave to escape their suspension. Apparently we know why. Pre-Pryor, OSU gets labeled BCS chokes for never winning a bowl game outside of the Fiesta. Pryor arrives: They win BCS bowls over the Pac-10 and SEC. I wish Pryor and Co. would just leave because the farce behind what they did was terrible.

- TCU has every reason to be mad. Just like Auburn in 2004-05.

- Andrew Luck's the man. But if he were smart, he's change his mind and jump to the NFL. New head coach, offensive line and the chance to get hurt. I value the degree but this is business.

- Oregon should be preseason No. 1 next year. Go head and try to pick 2-5. South Carolina? Spurrier magic is gonna be insane to watch build.

NFL Playoffs 1st week

Seattle??? Really??? That city just witnessed the best moment it's had since Kevin Durant got drafted there. The best playoff moment since Edgar Martinez hit that double that sent Ken Griffey Jr. home and smiling under a dog pile. The Saints may have had trouble running the ball but Seattle won that game. And Marshawn Lynch...that run said so much about one team's desire and the other's team desire to quit and go home.

Check out Lynch's teammates rallying behind him and running to throw blocks down field. And the irony of Super Bowl hero Tracy Porter getting trucked 5 yards. That pretty much said, "We belong and we're not going down quietly." (literally, because Seattle had a mini-quake when this happened)

NFL Tidbits

- Michael Vick to Riley Cooper to end the season? Tebow's running buddy made a great catch before the INT but really? I question that playcall letting a rookie play a big role in such a big drive. But Philly's D and O-line deserve more blame as do David Akers leaving 6 points wide.

That said, Vick's season will be remembered as a positive for so many more reasons.

- Peyton Manning: Greatest regular season QB ever with a ring. Mark Sanchez 1-upped him with help from the old man LaDainian Tomlinson.

- Chicago/Seattle, Atlanta/Green Bay look pretty attractive considering the Seahawks beat the Bears and Falcons did the Packers already this season but Patriots/Jets and Ravens/Steelers? WHOA! It's like deciding to date the potentially hot quiet girl vs. the proven hot girl who dazzles you right away.

- Since my picks last week sucked, I'm gonna try it again. Chicago, Green Bay, Patriots and Baltimore. Imagine the hype of that classic rivalry if CHI and GB determine the NFC champion and Lovie Smith not only saves his job but potentially can go to 2 Super Bowls in 4 years.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Why I Root for Jim Harbaugh

Back in 2004 in my junior year at the University of San Diego, I need an athletic spark to keep me watching. The previous football season, we won our division but no playoff because of a tiebreaker. The basketball team, defending West Coast Conf champs, went 4-26 and won only 1 game in conference. The joy of being a beautiful school that's barely a blip on the local radar, let alone the regional radar.

We're a tiny Catholic school with almost no athletic tradition outside of baseball. Football is 1-AA, Basketball is playing 2nd fiddle to Gonzaga and outside of baseball, there isn't much to root for.

We needed something to fire up the sports program. And we got it that previous winter hiring a former NFL veteran with zero head coaching experience named Jim Harbaugh. I knew of his NFL cred - that Hail Mary attempt in the 1996 AFC Title Game was one of my first sports memories - but had no idea how'd he be as a coach. It was a big name hire and just maybe we'd see some improvement, if not some buzz.

His first year we went 7-4 but there was an excitement at the games because we an NFL alum leading us and some great players to build around. Some skinny freshman from Oakland named Josh Johnson had me thinking he'd be a Michael Vick type once he developed into his body a little bit. And then it all came together quickly.

The fall of my senior year (2005), the Toreros went 11-1. We became the first team in school and Pioneer League history to beat an Ivy League program, a win that happened on my 21st birthday. We won the Division I-AA Mid-major national championship and Jim Harbaugh was already a legend in 2 seasons.

Next year, we repeated at 11-1 and mid-major national champs. Josh Johnson became one of the top quarterbacks in the nation as a junior as a 1-AA All-American who led the division in 4 categories. For the first time ever, we had national attention on our program and the man we had to thank was Harbaugh.

He left after that season to go to Stanford. Y'all know how that story went, culminating with a 12-1 season this year and a 40-12 pasting of Virginia Tech in the Orange Bowl.

I always root for Harbaugh because before he molded Andrew Luck into an NFL quarterback, he did the same for Johnson, now the backup in Tampa Bay after being the 1st player drafted in school history. Before he built Toby Gerhart into an angry, hard runner that dominated the West Coast, he won in San Diego with similar guys like Evan Harney, JT Rogan and John Polk. Before he made Stanford into a national power that defeated USC twice at home and became a Top-10 team two years straight, he built my alma mater up and made Saturdays worth looking forward to at my school.

He also was kind enough to be interviewed by a friend after the final game of his 2004 season and treat him with as much respect as any other reporter. I held the camera and it was technically my first experience as part of an interview.

I don't know how he'll do in the NFL. Only Jimmy Johnson has successfully transitioned from college to pros. But with a great team in my hated San Francisco 49ers, I wouldn't be surprised if he did well. This is his dream he earned paying plenty of dues and after helping my school achieve unbelievable dreams, I'll keep on rooting for his success.

Congrats Coach. Thank you for helping me have a lil more Torero Pride to end my college career.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Huck Finn and "Slave" Jim: Dangerous Censorship

This skit from Family Guy was the first thing I thought of when I heard about Huckleberry Finn being censored. It's probably one of the most banned American classics along with my beloved Scarlet Letter because it uses nigger over 200 times. I can understand parents being upset over it and they should definitely have the choice whether or not their kids should be subject to hearing that hateful word. But what the New South book editors are doing to censor this is dangerous.

When I was in 5th grade, we read "Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry" and it was my first exposure to hearing nigger so often in a book. Mind you, I went to a private Baptist school and there's no way that would probably fly in 2010 like it did in 1994-95. But I'm glad that my teacher read it to us because it exposed us all to how bad racism was in the South in the 1930's and that there were two worlds - Black and White. 

It's moments like this that kids today lack when it comes to understanding and having an awareness of racism/race-relations. And censoring Huck Finn is only going to increase that gap because some editors are once again trying to sanitize history in fear of offending folks.

Mark Twain was a master of humor and wit but he was also a master of capturing the Southern dialect. His books are not just great stories but they describe his times and are great windows in life during that time. Just like Charles Dickens to London, James Baldwin to Harlem, Nathaniel Hawthorne to New England, he described the South so vividly that it's important we look at his stories as they are to get what he's saying.

But here's why I say the censorship is dangerous. The New South editors changed nigger to slave as if those two words are interchangeable for Black people. That in itself is way more offensive and could cause a lot more problems

First of all, Huck Finn was written in 1885, 20 years after the Civil War. There were no slaves in the South. Sharecroppers yes, but no slaves. So already we're teaching future readers historical inaccuracies.

(Oh wait, we're already doing that with this guy and a few others.)

Second, history tells us that have been slaves of multiple races. Christopher Columbus enslaved people that looked nothing like me. Native Americans were probably enslaved before they were slaughtered.

Third, sadly most hip-hop will expose kids to the word more than any piece of literature. So really this won't do as much as you think if most kids in elementary/junior high/high school listen to hip-hop.

Finally, Black people were called niggers and are still being called niggers 135 years after the Civil War. I don't think people were having lynching parties and meant "Let's string these slaves up." From an English perspective, nigger (a word meaning ignorant) was used directly for Black people or dark-skinned people and is a fairly recent term since the 17th century while slave has had multiple meanings for thousands of years. 

I will be very careful what I expose my children to but that won't include pretending something didn't happen. This is something straight out of "Lies My Teacher Told Me" where we sanitize the past for fear of offending people yet we insult their intelligence at the same time. It reminds me of what the Texas school board did in March to skew history toward a more state-friendly, yet historically inaccurate agenda.

I say let parents decide what's appropriate for their children. Huckleberry Finn is a fun book with shenanigans that have captured the minds of kids for decades. I'm not opposed to all censorship but I feel that this kind should offend literature and history buffs along with anyone who wants to understand where we've come from as a country.

(My friend Chris, a Ph.D. candidate in history, offers his similar take on his blog - a worthy read)

2010 Year in Review Part 2 (Music and Sports)


Had a convo with Power 106 via Twitter voicing my disagreement over their music direction. It was a very civil convo and I felt they were honest with me but in the end, I think pop/urban radio is slowly moving away from my ears. Has been the last 3 years. The irony of this happening on the day we learned Guru died and reminisced how he fought “for 3 minutes of every rap radio hour.” But as a music fan, this was something that should happen more often - radio stations and their accountability.

TI and Wayne both screwed up their comebacks - TI by stupidly getting arrested again and Wayne dropping that awful 6-foot,7-foot song. Nice going, fellas. 

Only show I watched this year was Keith Murray showing up with boy my Destruct and Rock The Bells 2010. This RTB might be my last but if it is, I saw my favorite album performed live in Midnight Marauders, saw KRS live for the 1st time and watched Snoop take it back to 93. Next year? Georgia Power with Big Boi and Cee-Lo!!

I discovered more older music this year. Finally got into Radiohead’s albums and hailed Kid A as one of my favorite albums ever. I discovered classic albums by Smashing Pumpkins and De La Soul. That was as big a part of 2010 year in music as anything I listened to. The Bends sounds like total 90’s alt-rock that got copied all decade, OK Computer sounded like depression but beautiful depression as outsiders. Kid A – too good for words. Siamese Dream – such a great guitar album that Billy Corgan dominated.

Oh yeah, discovered LCD Soundsystem finally. Epic music that I’ll take over the Arcade Fire anyday

Top Albums

Atlanta dominated the best of music for me. If it wasn't Cee-Lo's epic viral hit, it was Big Boi showing why music labels had no idea what they were thinking sleeping on his album. And it was OutKast protege Janelle Monae who showed why she is the most creative force in R&B in a long while.

I didn't get into much rock this year. Linkin Park's lead single was a huge disappointment as they tried to be Nine Inch Nails-lite and sounded so soulless. Kings of Leon flopped as well. Rock was so down that the local rock radio station went from 106.7 songs in their end-of-year countdown to only 30 and several artists repeated. Thank goodness for the Black Keys and the return of Social Distortion.

Top Albums
1. Big Boi – Sir Luscious Leftfoot (Best OutKast-related album since Stankonia)
2. Janelle Monae – The Archandroid (The best vocal album of the year)
3. Cee-Lo – The Lady Killer (Soul, funk, attitude from the South’s #1 Renaissance Man)
4. Nas + Damien Marley – Distant Relatives (A powerful statement!)
5. The Roots – How I Got Over (Balancing Depression w/Upliftment)
6. Reflection Eternal – Revolutions Per Minute (10 years off and they still sound great together)
7. Black Keys – Brothers (Straightforward blues based rock that hits ya ear perfectly)
8. Eminem – Recovery (Fantastic Comeback for Slim Shady)
9. J. Cole – Friday Night Lights (Please, don’t let his debut album disappoint like Wale’s)
10. Erykah Badu – New Amerykah Part 2
*special note to Lecrae - Rehab and Trip Lee - Between Two Worlds. Two of my favorite Christian rappers dropped great albums with excellent concepts.
**Also special note to HISD -The Weakend. One of the best under-the-radar albums

Yelawolf is my rookie of the year for making the biggest impact. Once I heard him on Peter Rosenberg's Late night show, I was hooked.

Florence + The Machine sound pretty awesome as well. Don’t know what to expect in 2011 but after Sade’s comeback (which is gonna be better when she goes on tour in 2011), can we get our first Red Hot Chili Peppers album in 5 years PLEASE?????

Favorite Songs (in no order)
Big Boi – Shutterbugg, General Patton (Shutterbugg's my single of the Year - the hit that wasnt)
Alicia Keys - Unthinkable
Dead Prez – Don’t Waste It
Sade - Soldier of Love (the 1st buzzed song of 2010 got slept on hard but she's back!)
Snoop Dogg – I Wanna Rock (3rd decade with a hit)
Royce da 5-9 – Taxi Driver
Little Brother – Curtain Call (a great finale to a great group and the year)
Wale – Eyes of the Tiger
Trip Lee - Show's Over
Lecrae - God is Enough
B.O.B. f. Hayley Williams – Airplanes

Black Keys – Tighten Up (Danger Mouse produced another gem for my new favorite rock group)
Janelle Monae – Tightrope
Nas + Damian Marley – Strong Will Continue
Yelawolf – Pop the Trunk
Cee-Lo – F You
Reflection Eternal – Ballad of the Black Gold, Just Begun (w/ J. Cole, Mos Def and Jay Electronica)
J. Cole – Premeditated Murder
Eminem – Not Afraid, Seduction
The Roots – The Fire (w/John Legend), The Day (w/Blu and Phonte)
Erykah Badu – Window Seat
LCD Soundsystem  - Dance Yrself Clean
Lupe Fiasco – B.M.F. (Liked it way more than Rick Ross' version even if Lupe can do better)
Kanye West – Power/Blame Game w. John Legend
N.E.R.D. – Party People (f. T.I.)

Favorite Mixtapes
1. Friday Night Lights
2. Dead Prez - Revolutionary But Gangsta Grillz
3. Royce da 5-9 - Bar Exam 3
4. Yelawolf - Trunk Muzik 0-60
*Somebody needs to tell Wale to get back on his mixtape game. Last two have been disappointing and the sequel to Mixtape About Nothing had about 3-4 good songs.


Of course the Decision is the #1 moment – Twitter nearly exploded, non-fans had a say and LBJ went from beloved to hated. Hero to villain who changed the direction of the NBA and the power of the players. Hated how he did it but have no problem trying to win.

Late discovery was Bomani Jones and his morning podcast. Hands down was one of the best things this year and in a lilly-white radio field, it was refreshing to hear a brotha who was smart, funny, usually dead on and young enough to show why he, Michael Smith, Jemele Hill will be great to read/watch the next decade as the faces of Black sportswriters.

I threw away my Michael Vick jersey after he burned a $100M lottery ticket on some beasts. I wasn’t mad at what he did as much as  I was seeing an immature man wasting his God-given talents not leaving his boys alone. I’m more proud of him getting his life back and growing into maturity – he’s a lesson for young men that mistakes don’t have to define you. It helped that he’s turned into Steve Young Part 2 and entered The Matrix.

Favorite Moments

2. Lakers/Celtics Game 7 (greatest ugly game ever – this was our 85 Finals moment)
3. Meltdown at New Meadowlands (Vick’s MNF game was sick but this was even better) – welcome back #7
4. US in the World Cup. Ghana going far despite that late miss. David Villa dominating it for Spain
5. Super Bowl 43 (Tracy Porter, gutsy playcalling and Drew Brees holding his son – bigger than fball)
7. Baseball’s Year of the Pitcher (2 perfectos, several no-hitters, including Doc doing it twice, and a game for the memories in Andres Galarraga).
8. Spain won huge this year – World Cup, Pau Gasol, Rafa Nadal.
9. Mark Buherle's kick-save, through the legs play. One of the greatest plays I've ever seen.

*And low twos to the Dodgers beginning what’s sure to be a descent into despair. This Dodgers divorce set a pall over the season and it was terrible watching it unfold after watching a great Opening Day. No coincidence that I didn’t go to another game all year.

Oh yeah, went to my first-ever hockey game. That was one of the coolest things ever and I love the game live now.

I got quite a few things to look forward to 2011 – 10th anniversary of my most life-changing year ever. The beginning of me growing out of my shell. Like Matchbox 20, I’m ready to see how far I’ve come looking back on it.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

2010 - Year In review Part. 1 (Life, Movies, TV)

I'm happy to leave certain things in my past while wondering how certain things stayed left behind. Started with two jobs and ended with freelancing in San Diego and looking for permanent employment.

RIP: Guru, Teena Marie, John Wooden, Bob Feller, George Steinbrenner, Jose Lima, Teddy Pendergrass, Lena Horne,  Gary Coleman, Dennis Hopper, Leslie Nielsen, Howard Zinn, Bro. Mack and many more.

Biggest News Stories

1. BP destroying the Gulf Coast (5 years after Katrina, this could have even more crazy long-term damage)
2. Haiti earthquake (you might have it on the backburner, but we won’t forget)
3. SB 1070 – AZ going back to the Stone Age of immigration.
4. Dems get smashed in November (Christine Donnell’s loss aside, the Tea Party made gains and somehow we still kept talkin bout Sarah P’s celebrity self)
5. Wikileaks making Jullian Assange either the new Woodward/Bernstein or the biggest renegade in years.
6. Health care passing – Hoping this will benefit folks who need it.
7. Iraq war quietly ending (If you blinked you missed it, but it's time to say Hallelujah)
8. Chilean miners (A great story but I hope one day, miners is a outdated job)
9. Korean flare up – the No. 1 story to watch in 2011. Please believe it.

Finally read A People’s History of the US and Lies My Teacher Told Me and my mind was blown further into smithereens. As much as I knew, there was a whole lot I didn’t. Must-read books by any American who wants to truly know their history. I owed it to Mr. Zinn to honor his life by buying that book and I don't regret either purchase


Inception might be the one of the greatest summer blockbuster films ever. It’s rare to find a film that grossed so much money, attracted 6 Oscar winners or nominees to star in and dominate and be a well-executed film in every facet of the word. Christopher Nolan can say that he not only has two of the highest grossing films of the last 5 years, but two of the best summer movies ever in Dark Knight and Inception.

For someone like me who loves the idea of dreams, this movie was almost like eating cheesecake with raspberries. And it may not get any Oscar love thanks to brilliant films like Social Network and The Fighter but I hope that it gets at least a nomination for Best Picture. It’s one of those movies that’ll make you think with so many layers involved. Was it just about dreams or was it a film about filmmaking creating a world for us to be in? Reminded me a lot of “The Matrix”

Book of Eli and The Town were also great films I watched. But this year moviewise, I finally watched some classics for the first time in Godfather 1&2 and Shawshank Redemption.


No TV moment impacted me more than the end of 24. The first show I watched from start to finish. The show that defined the post-9/11 era as far as terrorism and our fascination with the government’s inner workings. If Jason Bourne updated the James Bond model, Jack Bauer did the same in a different way as the super agent who goes to distance to serve his country but isn’t afraid to challenge them in the name of the greater good. My Mondays will feel boring in 2011 now.

I never saw The Wire so my penance is watching David Simon’s latest slice of genius “Treme”  - a great show I loved about New Orleans post Katrina. I also watched another dose of HBO goodness in “Boardwalk Empire”, well-acted and delivered week by week. Law and Order: Los Angeles steps in the shoes of its ancestors perfectly. 

I finally started watching Modern Family this year and loved it as one of the hilarious shows on TV. Hopefully I’ll finally get into 30 Rock more and maybe in 2011, I’ll finally catch up on Mad Men

CSI said goodbye to Grissom and hello to Dr. Ray Langston – I’ve said it before that Gil Grissom is one of the best characters of the last decade and history will prove that.

Also, I realized that as good TV shows slowly come back, the rise of reality shows isn't slowing down. The next decade is probably gonna see more great shows on TV but the water cooler/Twitter talk will probably revolve around To Catch a Predator or Jersey Shore or the like. Sign O'The Times like the Purple One said.

And of course, the best commercial of the year. The Old Spice Guy - darn near had a 6 month viral campaign. Brilliant marketing!

Next up, Music and Sports.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Top 10 Blog Posts of 2010

1. MJ vs. Prince

2. John Mayer's Playboy Comments and discussing race

3. The Sprite Step Off where the White sorority got robbed and the UCSD noose incident

4. Reflecting on "Up in the Air" and my life - written just as I resigned from the paper

5. Killing the "Free (Insert Rapper)" Movement - a long time coming

6. LBJ's Decision - Winners and Losers

7. My Inspirations. LiteratureIdealsMusicPlacesPeople

8. Why Kanye reminds me of me

9. Tearing Apart Columbus Day - had a lot of fun with this.

10. The Dangerous Road Before Barack Obama - my James Baldwin moment

Bonus. This might be the most important thing I've written this year personally. My moment of waking up and realizing I need to look in the mirror. Identity Crisis, Purpose Found

Picking 10 was hard as heck considering I loved a lot of my posts but these are the 10 that I really enjoyed writing. You might have liked a few more. Which ones?