Sunday, February 27, 2011

Black History Month: Why We Still Need It

Bessie Coleman - the first Black female pilot and the first Black pilot with an international license
There's a nagging question that always lingers in February. Why do we need a Black History Month? Some folks are threatened by it, some folks feel that we need to eliminate the celebration of one culture and embrace the culture as a whole. Some feel Black History Month is outdated because it's the same retelling of stories, lacking the true depth and breadth of our history.

I addressed this 2 years ago when I asked "Is Black History Month still relevant?" but I want to add a new twist on it as we end February. Celebrating one's culture does not equal the degradation of another culture. In a perfect world, "does" would be "should" but unfortunately in some cases this isn't true. Yet we need to break something down so we can understand this.

In America, the dominant Eurocentric history was told in schools exclusively until at least 50 years ago. By 1960, African-Americans had long been told they were inferior people relegated to sidekick status. Native Americans were told that they were interlopers on their territory and treated like unwanted pests. Latino history was long forgotten and Asians were just getting over the horrors suffered to them during World War 2. 

There was a need for these groups to tell their stories. Black History Month had been in effect since the 1920's but it wasn't until 40 years later that Black people had the medium of television to show their struggle. Thanks to television and the tireless efforts of too many to name, they got laws passed to protect their citizenship such as voting and discrimination protection.

Garret A. Morgan - inventor of the gas mask and traffic light. 

But the next step was getting our voices heard in the curriculum. While this move was happening, other minority groups and liberal Whites were inspired by the Civil Rights Movement and had movements of their own to rebel against the system. The Black push through the door of equality brought more into the fold and suddenly, academia was forced to change as professors of color were hired and ethnic studies courses along with Black/Latino/Asian/GLBT History courses were added to colleges around the school over the next 40 years.

It's still a struggle today to make a more diverse story is told to our kids and when you have people like the Texas school board of education fighting this, this shows why we need a Black History Month.

While our history and the history of minority groups should be told more often, at least for one month, people get the chance to share in a culture besides eating a particular food or hearing music. They should hear stories they don't usually hear and understand that this too is a part of their America. At the same time, they should celebrate the America they and their ancestors grew up in.

Yes we have American holidays that we all celebrate but all ethnic groups (this includes the various shades of White) have their own unique traditions that are worth celebrating. Just because somebody wants to celebrate something or someone Black doesn't mean we ignore what's White or their overall value to the greater good.

Gen. Benjamin O Davis Jr. - the first Black Air Force general and commander of the famed Tuskegee Airmen. His father was the first Black general in the US. Army. In 1998, Davis Jr. was named the first Black four-star general in the Army.

Case in point, Michael Jackson. Before Thriller, We Are the World and global domination as a superstar, he was an icon to Black America as part of the Jackson 5. No matter how big he got, he never forgot the community he was a part of as he supported Black colleges, BET and those leaders who had his back from Day One. I know this because I saw it firsthand at my old paper when he passed how people remembered him.

Martin Luther King is a global hero of peace and equality. While he eventually transcended solely race issues to focus on other issues that affected people as a whole, he is also a Black icon because this is the community he came from. It is the community he never forgot and died trying to help. The same applies to Malcolm X. They are beloved by us because they served us, spoke to us and were our ambassadors to mainstream America.

It doesn't diminish them or give them a narrow perspective. It just shows they mean something special to the Black community. Just like my blog 2 weeks ago celebrating the White heroes of the Civil Rights Movement, those were men who should be Black icons as well as American heroes. Both titles are possible and both are essential to understanding the full measure of the person.

Beverly Johnson - the first Black model to grace the cover of Vogue Magazine (1974) and Elle Magazine (1975). This cover is almost singlehandedly ushered in the ideal that Black was beautiful to fashion designers.

Every ethnic group has multiple stories to tell and it is up to each of us to not let certain stories be repeated or cultural heroes only be remembered one way. America will soon be a predominately Latino nation and it's important to understand the various cultures while also knowing that we will see things differently. We are indeed a melting pot but what good is it being a Neapolitan pot of different flavors that only mix when warmed up?

So yes, we need Black History Month. We need to celebrate our culture because while we are a part of overall human race, we must embrace the uniqueness that make up that race. There are stories that must be told and there are people worth celebrating who would normally be overlooked.

PS. I addressed White History Month in that two-year old blog post. Let me make this clear. I fully support White people celebrating their history with the understanding that 1) said culture is celebrated often by the mainstream and 2) some people/things you celebrate may not be fondly remembered by members of other communities as well as your own.

As I stated earlier, culture should be praised and celebrated WITHOUT dissing or ignoring another culture's viewpoints. You can celebrate being French, English, German or any other Anglo/European culture along with your state or neighborhood pride. But let's be real, there IS a difference and elevating stories that aren't as well as known in the public sphere when others have been told for years leads to a better story.

This isn't about fairness, it's about understanding that 40 years of America trying to make up almost 200 years of ignorance shouldn't be a cause for disagreement but enlightenment. We all have much to learn from each other and some more than others. Let's come together not in bitterness but with open, willing hearts.

(Someone inspired me to add an uplifting song to this. Something to show that I'm all about unity and celebrating our diversities. This song was perfect. Sounds of Blackness inspired so many people of all races in their time and I hope you find some from this.)

Friday, February 25, 2011

NBA Trade Winds? More like a Tornado

My head's still spinning from all this NBA trade talk. I was supposed to drop my Black History Month conclusion first but I had to try and make some sense of all these shakeups. I'm old school when I think trades make more sense to help teams get better, not just salary dumps or payroll helpers first.

First up, the Carmelo Anthony trade that sent New York into a frenzy and the rest of us sighing in relief. New York might be happy but Melo isn't the answer. Melo gets his wish but the Knicks benefited more by getting Chauncey Billups along with him, who'll actually give that team some steadiness and experience as a PG. Besides some increased buzz and jersey sales though, don't expect anything to change about the team being better.

They gave up promising young talent in Wilson Chandler and Danilo Gallinari. They gave up draft picks that could help them in the future. They owe $36 million to Melo and Amar'e Stoudemire. They got a guy who's a great scorer, clutch and a decent defender but not a leader who is the missing piece to a puzzle - hence why we hear about them being the future spot for Chris Paul in 2012.

Meanwhile Denver is playing that John Lennon. "Just Like Starting Over" and back to being a decent team. Could be worse, they're better off than Cleveland after LeBron left.

Speaking of C-Town, has anyone stopped feeling sorry for Baron Davis yet? Dude hasn't caught a break since he left the Golden State Warriors and now he leaves his home to the Cavs? I'd probably look like that picture too. Baron deserved better but so did his body which looked like it didn't care. On the flip side, Mo Williams is probably jumping for joy all the way to Cali. Clippers get younger, Cavs get older and tougher to watch with veterans who feel cursed.

The good news for Baron? He doesn't have to be under the worst owner in NBA history who publicly embarrassed him.

Boston took the hugest gamble to me. Kendrick Perkins was their answer for Dwight Howard, Chris Bosh, Pau Gasol and any other big man on a contender. Unless he hadnt fully recovered from that injury, I don't see why they move him. Celtics fan will swear up and down that a healthy Perkins = defending champions and as a Lakers fan, we can't argue except for the C's blowing that big lead. The same I reason I argued why the Lakers didn't need to trade Andrew Bynum, I would've made the same for him.

6-10, 280 lbs. in the post vs. the OKC Thunder's Jeff Green who's 6-9 but 35 lbs smaller and a wing player. The No. 1 team in the East is relying to replace him on a past-his-prime, creaky-kneed Jermaine O'Neal and a still reliable but 38-year-old Shaq. And their bench got lighter losing Nate Robinson although they gain Nenad Kristic

Trading a hurt Marquis Daniels though? That's a bit dirty if you ask me.

Oh yeah, OKC just gave Kevin Durant the biggest present for the next few years. A true big man and along with another trade prospect in Nazr Mohammed, they are loaded in the post. Meaning KD, Russell Westbrook and James Harden (plus Nate Rob) can roam free on the perimeter. Yep, the West is theirs once the Lakers run ends this year or next year.

Houston sending Aaron Brooks to Phoenix for Goran Dragic and Shane Battier for Hasheem Thabeet. My H-Town peeps pointed out that Brooks suffered an injury and lost his spot to Kyle Lowry and his 4-year deal while Battier was expendable. Yet still, good luck with Thabeet who's only good for defense and potential poster bait. 

Finally there's Deron Williams. Has anybody taken a quicker, bigger hit to his rep besides LeBron? In the matter of 30 days, D-Will went from being in the convo of the top PG in bball to a coach killer who got surprisingly dealt without much thought to New Jersey. I don't know how he'll do in New Jersey with Brook Lopez, Yi Jianlian and Anthony Morrow but for the next year and a half, we'll see if this is a power move or a rental.

But hey, at least New Jersey finally got the big star they wanted right? Right now they're like the hot girl who thinks she's a 10 but is more like a 5. It's a big pile of overrated grandeur just like co-owner Jay-Z's last album or majority owner Mikhail Prokhorov thinking his money/influence will make folks run to Jersey. They've failed miserably and nobody's with sanity is buying what they're selling.

And if you're counting, every top point guard besides Chris Paul now plays in the East. Forget how the West was won, this is how the West is set up on Little Brother status this decade. All the elite players besides Kobe, CP3, Dirk and Durant are in the East and once the last of the 90's draftees start leaving, the West will almost be barren.

Check out the 2010 Western Conference All-Star Team and the younger players. Melo - GONE, Amar'e - GONE. D-Will - GONE,  Brandon Roy - Never will be the same. It's all up to KD, Westbrook and CP3 for the future of the West.

Meanwhile the Lakers stood pat and looked good. We watched our East Coast rival get smaller, the rest of the West get weaker outside of the Spurs, Dallas and OKC. We didn't trade Andrew Bynum but Boston lost Kendrick Perkins. After two good urgent wins, there's still some fight in this team that hasn't died out. I still think they the 3rd best team in the West but they became a bigger threat by what everyone else did.

All the more reason this has been the most intriguing season in years. Just wait til the playoffs kick in.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Electric Relaxation: White Stripes "Fell In Love With A Girl"

With news last month that the White Stripes have officially disbanded, I figured I'd take it back to when I first heard the song that was probably the best 2 minutes of rock of the 2000's.

Rock was starting to come back with Staind ruling the airwaves and The Strokes bringing in a new sound (they'll get their own ER post soon). I was just starting to listening to the local rock station more than the hip-hop one because I felt like rock was challenging my ears more and more of my friends were into it. Then I heard "Fell in Love With a Girl" and it sounded like nothing else on the radio.

The blistering guitar, the snarling yet incessant vocals, the power drumming. And only 2 people made this sound???!!!! You couldn't tell me that only Jack and Meg White made the sound of a full garage band. No way!

Then I saw the video. Easily one of the coolest videos of 2002 and one of the most innovative videos of the decade. Remember, this was when hip hop videos were super flashy and rock videos were pretty tame. It only added to their aura of this raw band from Detroit that wasn't going to sound or look like anybody else. Course back then, we were still wondering if Jack and Meg were indeed brother and sister.

This song made me excited for rock music. It was a song about falling in love and captured the confusion of not being sure what to do. It was powerful and heartfelt. Joss Stone tried to give this song more soul but even though I loved it then, it can't hold up to Jack's unique take.

Everything about them was fresh and original as they followed the tradition of the MC5 and Ted Nugent's Detroit sound. As history would show us, they stamped their own mark on rock music with classic songs like "Seven Nation Army" and "Icky Thump". They stayed famous but never lost their edge or creative force.

Now it's a memory as Jack continues his work with the Raconteurs and Dead Weather. I feel happy to know that I remember the exact moment when I heard a song that was a gamechanger and still sounds as brilliant as it did first time. Thanks for the memories, Jack and Meg.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Black History Month: Bill Russell

LeBron James last year said that he wanted to change his jersey from No. 23 to No. 6 because he feels that Michael Jordan's number should be retired. As a student of the game, I was disappointed he didn't have a better respect for No. 6 because if he did, he'd know that the man who made that number famous did just as much for the game as MJ.

There are three things you need to know about Bill Russell. First, he's the greatest individual champion in sports history. Second, despite No. 1, he's the greatest embodiment of team-first philosophy in sports history. Third, he fought as hard to uplift humanity as he did his Celtics.

When he was drafted by the Celtics in 1956, Russell was a strange case. A big man who was more renowned for his rebounding and defense that his offense. He came to a city that was slow to integration as the Red Sox would be the last to do so with Pumpsie Green in 1959.

But Russell's story starts earlier - his family left the South to avoid racism and moved to Oakland. His White HS coach treated him with dignity and molded him into a ballplayer to avoid getting into trouble (that same coach would do the same thing a few years later with a kid named Curt Flood). That set the stage for one of the greatest college careers ever as Russell and KC Jones led the Univ. of San Francisco to back-to-back NCAA Titles.

It was there he learned the value of team first over the individual. He was snubbed for an individual award despite averaging over 20 points and rebounds and being a shot blocker. According to him "that let me know that if I were to accept these as the final judges of my career I would die a bitter old man." So as a result, he was more driven to help his team simply win.

If you know Black History you know that Oakland is one of the centers of Black culture. There's a vibe from the athletes and citizens who are from there that says "Not only will we not take racism lying down, we will show you how to fight it with our intelligent anger."

Russell was the first to emerge from Oakland to gain prominence and no matter how big a star he became, he showed people that you conquered stereotypes dead on. Not just with your play but with your words and actions.

Hewas the first Black superstar in the NBA - a shot-blocking, rebounding force who keyed the Celtics offense by playing a new concept of help defense. While Bob Cousy ran the show with amazing handles, Russell was the engine of the dynasty that won 11 rings in 13 years.

His famous rivalry with Wilt Chamberlain was great for the game of basketball - the two greatest at their craft colliding like Goliaths and showing America that Blacks played a beautiful game of skill not just raw ability.

It's important to note that Russell was mentored by progressive White coaches. His college coach, Phil Woolpert, was the first to start 3 Black players in a game. And of course, his pro coach is one of the greatest minds in basketball. Red Auerbach spit in the face of racism many times in his career, including having the balls to start 5 Black players in a game. Their friendship is as legendary as their on-court partnership.

Off the court, Russell faced a hostile Boston press corps and a city that was slow to embrace their champion. After his house was vandalized, he famously called the city a "flea market of racism." An ironic twist from that part of the country being at the forefront of the abolitionist movement a century earlier. I guess if Ted Williams didn't get a pass, why should the Boston media let this Black man not suffer it even worse.

Russell  wasn't afraid to speak his mind on the issues of the day as he marched with Dr. King and others to fight racism while supporting Muhammad Ali's decision to avoid the draft for Vietnam. One of my favorite photos is this shot of Russell, Jim Brown, a UCLA sophomore named Lew Alcindor, Dodgers outfielder Willie Davis and others surrounding Ali to meet with and show solidarity for him. Black Power wasn't a slogan to them, it was action and they weren't letting their brother hang out to dry.

If Russell saw an injustice, he attacked like he did a shot on the court. He demanded respect and never withered in the face of abuse. I heard a story that he didn't believe in signing autographs, but handshakes and genuine conversation.

He made history as the first Black coach of a major sports team in the modern era in 1967. What did he do? Just win two more rings as a player-coach and show that he could lead his team as well as any coach in the league. And for the record, Bill Russell never lost a Game 7 elimination game.

Yet he never forgot the racism he faced. He avoided Boston for years after his retirement, even on the day his jersey was retired. But as time wore on, that relationship warmed and Russell began to receive what he always wanted - respect as a man who sacrificed for the good of the team and winning.

Is it any surprise that when Kevin Garnett came to Boston, he sought out Russell for leadership and counsel before transforming into him on the court en route to being Defensive Player of the Year in 2008? Yes, that year hurt as a Lakers fan but as a hoops fan who watched KG since Day One, I was on-the-low happy for him

For a man who achieved so many firsts in his career for African-Americans, it's only fitting he became the first NBA Player to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom, America's highest civilian honor. I'm betting that President Obama was proud to place it around his neck as he knew that Russell was one of many who made his position possible.

His resume is below but here's what it doesn't say. He and KC Jones (who played with him in Boston and coached them to two titles in the 80's) are arguably the greatest 1-2 tandem in basketball history. A fighter for civil rights and equality while serving as a tireless ambassador of the NBA. He encouraged Shaq to end his feud with Kobe Bryant. The NBA Finals MVP is fittingly named after him.

As Black History Month comes to a close, I've always wanted to do a big piece on somebody or something worth telling that doesn't get told. In past years at my paper, I focused on Curt Flood, the New York Rens (basketball's first paid pro team) and Don Barksdale, the first Black All-American and later NBA All-Star. This year, I pay tribute to the champion of champions and a man who deserves to be recognized as one of the greatest men to ever wear a jersey.

He's as important to Boston's sports history as Ted Williams and deserves more recognition around the city. To America, Russell took Jackie Robinson's mantle and showed sports fans that Blacks could be both leaders AND winners (even if it came at the expense of my Lakers).

He was also the first star product of the Oakland scene - the same scene that produced great Black athletes and leaders such as Frank Robinson, Huey Newton, Bobby Seale, Angela Davis, Rickey Henderson, Dave Stewart, Gary Payton, Jason Kidd and current California District Attorney Kamala Harris.

More importantly, he was a key part of the crop of Black athletes in the 60's that stared racism in the eyeball, fought it with their intelligence and their actions and survived to make their sports and their country better for it. Those are my inspirations who stood on the shoulders of the Negro Leagues and Rube Foster, the New York Rens and the NFL's first Black player and coach Fritz Pollard.

Bill Russell lived to make his father proud. Of his titles, he was proudest most of being captain of the Celtics. Individual honors be darned, he was about the greater good. For that, he deserved to be celebrated and recognized and held up as the best of America.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Dale Earnhardt Sr. - 10 Years Later

I'm not the biggest NASCAR fan. I grew up listening to Jim Rome diss it every chance he got and it was a sport mainly for Southern White folks. There's nothing in California that gave me the urge to watch outside of being a history buff and knowing who Richard Petty was. But 10 years ago today, I watched the saddest day in NASCAR history and immediately knew why it was terrible.

Growing up in the 90's, you wondered about 3 things. When would Susan Lucci win a Daytime Emmy? When would the Clippers have a winning season? When would Dale Earnhardt Sr. win the Daytona 500? Despite my NASCAR dislike, I was happy when Dale Sr. won the race because it was a long time coming for him.

Dale was the face of NASCAR even though I started to like this young upstart Jeff Gordon who was California brash and not the typical driver. Everyone loved him and he was hands down the most popular driver since Petty. That's why the 2001 Daytona 500 stands out to me more than any race.

I remember watching Sportscenter and seeing Senior make his move to try and overtake the leader for his second race. And then all of a sudden, he hit that wall. I still remember that issue of SI with Earnhardt on the cover - an issue I also anticipated because of the story on Compton Dominguez HS and their phenom Tyson Chandler.

The tragedies of Len Bias and Hank Gathers resonate with me the same way but their loss was tragic because there was so much potential yet to be realized. Senior was a well-accomplished star who's legacy was set in stone and in the process of being crystallized.

Even if I'm a big fan of Jimmie Johnson, I always root for Dale Earnhardt Jr and every time he races, I know he carries a big part with him. His tribute at Daytona last year where he won that race nearly moved me to tears because it's one thing to lose your Dad and totally another when he's an icon that still lives as large.

I'll miss the race being on my busy Sunday schedule but I'll be thinking about No. 3 this weekend and every sports fan should too when they see the Daytona highlights. I can't believe its been 10 years

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

ATL comes to Cali (Big Boi and Cee-Lo @ Club Nokia)

Keeping the Grammy vibe alive, I had the chance to see Cee-Lo and Big Boi two days before the show. This was the only tour I wanted to see this year because I knew it was gonna be funky, soulful and high-energy. I had seen Cee-Lo back in 2004 at my school and his show made me go buy his Soul Machine album the next day. And y'all know I've sang Big Boi's praises for releasing the album of the year so believe me I was hyped all week!

Club Nokia's one of the best venues to watch a show in LA as the sound quality is top notch and there's plenty of standing room without feeling overcrowded. I watched the return of Bone Thugs N Harmony there a couple years ago and I fully expected to blown away again. Unfortunately we missed seeing Ryan Leslie due to me having to take my video camera back to the car but we came back right on time for Melanie Fiona to introduce Sir Luscious Left Foot.

From the jump, Big Boi was amped as he ripped through OutKast songs with a fury. Armed with a band, DJ and dancers that reminded you of steppers from a HBCU, the entire place was rocking from start to finish. Sleepy Brown came out for "So Fresh, So Clean" and it was so cool seeing them do the dance from the video.

Unlike most acts, Big Boi has a stage presence that oozes cool but forces you to get involved. You can't just stand there and watch, you have to move and OutKast was one of the rare hip-hop acts that knew how to make you dance, think and just groove with the environment. The mood went from grooving to "Southernplayalisticcadlliacmuzik" and ATLiens "Elevators" to totally rocking out during "Bombs over Baghdad"

Oh by the way. Surprise of the night had to be Janelle Monae coming out and dancing during the end of "BOB" - and yes, I called it! Only wish they decided to "Tightrope" right there but seeing her groovin and movin was insane!!!!

Big's solo cuts got everyone moving as well. "Shutterbugg" and "You Ain't No DJ" had everyone vibin at the end while "Fo Yo Sorrows" and "Shine Blockas" add a "calmer" touch. And just when you thought the show was over - a Hawaiian dancer came out and I'm wondering what the heck?? Little did I know that was gonna set off "Tangerine", the best dance song on Big's album and you probably know what I ended up doing the whole time.

Throw in the band getting a chance to freestyle and a quick jump into "Kryptonite" and I was already sweating out my shirt. I figured Cee-Lo was gonna have to work hard to top this. That led into the 2nd surprise of the night that I called - the RETURN OF GOODIE MOB.

Most of the crowd didn't respond to Goodie except for those who knew that next to OutKast, no group out of Atlanta was more important. Cee-Lo started it off with "Free" and then they ripped into "Dirty South" and more hits like "Cell Therapy" and "They Don't Dance No Mo." Folks don't know how happy I was when they performed "Get Rich To This", the song that allegedly led to Cee-Lo leaving the Mob in 2000 cause it was too poppy.

The crowd sort of came back when Cee-Lo began his solo set but problems nearly started right away when his intro had to be cut short because his mic wasn't working and the drum mic wasn't working. I had flashbacks to 2004 when sound problems nearly doomed his set. Fortunately they were fixed but they crept up again later, badly when Melanie Fiona guested on a song and the 1st part of her verse couldn't be heard.

Cee-Lo has an great personality but somehow, it didn't translate to stage presence as he stood there mostly performing his songs off his fantastic Lady Killer album. But when I listened to the album on the way to the show, I wondered how they'd translate live because they didn't have the funky vibe of his 1st 2 albums. As I expected, the love songs didn't move the crowd and the buzz from Big Boi's set was mostly sucked out. My lady and I kept looking at each other like "ummmmm what's going on here?"

I was more fascinated by his all-female band Scarlet Fever. His bass player dropped some heavy grooves and had more presence, his keyboardist played nimbly as she danced on stage and his drummer dropping a solid rhythm. Finally "Wildflower" came on and it started to slowly bring a buzz back.

"Bright Lights, Bigger City" finally gave the crowd some reason to celebrate before he went into "Crazy" and "Smiley Faces" from Gnarls Barkley's brilliant first CD. Can anybody NOT dance or groove to either of those songs? Just try and look like a dork.

He ended the night of course with "F You", which he dedicated to all the single folks in the crowd, yet it felt like it was an abrupt ending. Almost like Cee-Lo said, "Thats it, see yall at the after party" - just like the whole show, it left me wanting more. I wanted "Closet Freak" from the 1st album or "I'll Be Around" from the 2nd album but he kept it solely from the Lady Killer. I wanted more stage presence to match his witty one-liners and vision.

When I saw him in 2004, the music was a bit more funky and people were trying to engage in his unique brand of soul. But this time, his sole focus on being the Lady Killer didn't lead to as good a show as I expected.Maybe that's why I wasn't surprised at his Grammy performance being more visual than memorable. It was fun to look at but compared to some of the better performances, there left a lot to be desired.

 I believe Cee-Lo's one of the most visionary forces in pop music after being one of the most underrated lyricists out of the South but unlike Big Boi, his natural cool draws you in but doesn't force you to "Git Up, Get Out and Get Somethin," to borrow from OutKast's classic 1994 duet with Goodie Mob.

If I had to grade both shows, I'd give Cee-Lo a B-minus (largely on the strength of Goodie Mob and the 2nd half) and Big Boi an A+. The whole thing made me wish Andre 3000 was there just to make it a full Dungeon Family reunion. But his partner in rhyme showed why the OutKast vibe remains one of the best things hip-hop has produced and I was glad to witness two of ATL's Finest bring their music to the stage.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

So You Think You Can Shoot? Ray Allen's a Rare Breed

Congrats to Ray Allen passing Reggie Miller for the most 3-pointers made in NBA History. I haven't done an NBA blog in a while so I figure I'd take a look at what shooting has become in the league instead of discussing the matters of the league.

(Since you're curious, trading Bynum for Carmelo is a stupid idea. 1) You don't trade size for a guy who plays just like Kobe, 2)You don't trade size when Boston, San Antonio and Miami are big teams that can exploit that., 3) You don't trade size unless you have enough in bulk. Glad this is just a silly rumor and I wouldnt be surprised if Melo stays in Denver.)

Back to Ray-Ray, I decided to check the all-time 3-pointers made list. Growing up, I only knew that Dale Ellis was #1 for the longest time and Reggie was going to pass him at some point. But looking at this list now made me bug out.

3. Jason Kidd - the man nicknamed Ason Kidd for so many years is ahead of Dale Ellis????
4. Peja Stojakovic?? I forgot he's still in the league and he's tied with Dale for now??
6. Chauncey Billups
7. Rashard Lewis????????
8. Jason Terry???
10. Eddie Jones - wow at this.
**And right outside the Top 10? Steve Nash, Paul Pierce. Even funnier??? Antoine Walker at #18 and Vince Carter at #19 ahead of the Black Mamba.

If you notice, most of those names entered the league in 1996-1999. That's right around when most guys stopped shooting mid-range shots and starting camping around the 3-point line as well as an influx of European players who lived for that shot. Of course the league also suffered thanks to poor drafting too but that's another story.

People might respect the numbers those guys above have but I respect real shooters. To explain my take on the Jay-Z metaphor of respecting the shooter vs. the one who got shot , if you got shot, everybody knows about it. In basketball, everyone will know if you take a gang of 3's and make them. But like Jay said, I respect the shooter - guys who are respected as great shooters with great form, technique and a high percentage of makes.

I don't care what that list says. I respect great long-range shooters like Larry Bird, Glen Rice, Chuck Person, Mark Price, Dell Curry, Jerry West, and Thunder Dan Majerle. Nobody can tell me Rashard Lewis is one of the greatest shooters in NBA history and not expect me to laugh with a straight face.

Here are the Top 10 leaders in 3-point shooting percentage of the Top 50 made.

1. Steve Nash (.431) - Even if he's overrated, that's still wow.
2. Wesley Person (.418) - Chuck's lil bro had game on his own
3. Dana Barros (.411) - hahaha I remember lil Dana well. 5-11 and lethal in his day.
4. Brent Barry (.405) - Rick would be proud that Bones evolved from a dunker with the Clippers.
4. Mike Miller (.405) - you wanna know why everyone wanted him this summer? That's why
6. Dale Ellis (.403)
7. Allan Houston (.402)
7. Dell Curry (.402)
9. Peja (.400)
9.  Glen Rice (.400) - Still one of my favorite shooters ever. You gotta be if you outshined MJ getting a triple-double in the All-Star Game to an MVP.

Now let's add some more guys who aren't in the Top 50 who have a great percentage. Courtesy of yet ignoring their weak criteria of being on the list if you have 250 three pointers made. Anthony Morrow #1? Boobie Gibson - #8? Yeah right.

Steve Kerr (.454) - The all-time leader in my opinion.
Hubert Davis (.441) - Never knew dude nearly shot 50% from 3-point land in a season
Jason Kapono (.439) - My favorite UCLA Bruin outside of Baron Davis growing up
Drazen Petrovic (.437) - Possibly the greatest foreign player ever besides Dirk
Tim Legler (.431) - He earned that ESPN gig because he had game.
BJ Armstrong (.425) - Ask Michael Jordan about his game.
Mark Price (.402) - Deadly despite being 6-foot nothing
Chris Mullin (.384) - There's a reason I owned his jersey as a kid
Larry Bird (.376) - The guy who's form I try to copy now. The standard of great shooting.
Chuck Person (.362) - This looks misleading. I consider anything above 34% to be great so this passes the test.

Most of the guys ranked in the Top 50 should be credited for merely hanging around long enough and just shooting enough attempts to justify making enough. But their shooting % isn't that solid (i.e. J-Kidd is at .349 while Ray Allen is at a more than respectable .398). And the fact Charlie Ward shot 3's at a better clip than Chuck Person doesn't mean the Rifleman was overrated by any stretch.

Guys are taking way more 3's so naturally their numbers are more inflated. They may end up making more at a better clip by definition of law of averages but that doesn't mean I'd fear them in a game catching fire.

So congrats to Jesus Shuttlesworth as he's indeed one of the best shooters in league history - a far cry from his days as a dunker in Milwaukee - but I don't respect a lot of cats who've taken all these 3's on the list. You may have a shot but you ain't a pure shooter.

(For another great take on NBA shooters, read this 2009 post from hip-hop/music/sports/all-around encyclopedia Dart Adams who breaks down his favorites)

Monday, February 14, 2011

Grammy 2011 - Indie Music Wins, Urban Music Loses

I was all set to write an angry blog trashing Grammy voters for crapping on contemporary Black music. And yes, I still will. But can we stop for a minute and celebrate what just happened with Arcade Fire winning Album of the Year??

I'm no fan (I happen to think LCD Soundsystem is better) but I respect Arcade Fire as one of those indie bands that people seem to love. I love "Wake Up" after hearing it on the Petros and Money show. But this is a huge win not just for them, but for indie music, critical favorites and a fan base that pushed them to the heights they have now.

I was shocked their last album debuted at #1 and I was shocked they got a Grammy nod for Album of the Year in one of the weakest years in recent memory. But after a blistering performance, they lived up to Grammy tradition which usually says if you perform, you win. I loved their reaction and the fact they went right back to perform another song. That's the definition of cool and loving music.

Indie rock just took a huge step forward tonight. And throw in the fact that my new favorite band The Black Keys (above) won multiple Grammys, I think that's the biggest story of the night, not that Lady Antebellum winning 5 Grammys. If you support independent music, tonight was a good night.

Speaking of which, I don't hate Lady Antebellum despite my longtime concern about their name (Lady of the Old South pre-Civil War). I think they are earnest and their vocals are solid. But the Grammy voters used them to make a big statement - we still won't support contemporary Black music or respect them as great songwriters.

Since 2000 - there's only been 2 contemporary R&B or rap songs that won Song of the Year (Alicia Keys "Fallin" and Beyonce "Single Ladies"), none for Record of the Year and only 1 album that won Album of the Year (OutKast off the strength of "Hey Ya"). This includes epic screwjobs such as Steely Dan over Eminem in 2001, the great Ray Charles over Kanye, Usher and Alicia in 2005 and Herbie Hancock over Kanye in 2008.

Taking it back further. Michael Jackson never won Song of the Year for his solo work (Beat It won Record of the Year). Record of the Year has seen Black artists win for epic pop songs (Kiss from a Rose, Unforgettable with Nat and Natalie Cole, What's Love Got to Do With It) but not too many contemporary R&B songs.

I'm not saying every time an urban song gets popular it deserves to win nor do the winners not always deserve it. But just being nominated is no longer enough. You can't tell me that "Need You Now" will be remembered as much as Cee-Lo's "F You", one of the best kiss-offs in years. Until Black artists get respected for their hit-making and songwriting by the Grammys in the major categories, it feels like a slap in the face.

And one more thing, tell the Grammys to show an R&B category on the telecast. It's embarrassing that one of music's most important genres can't get on TV even though the genre's in creative trouble.

Congrats to winners Sade, Bruno Mars, Cee-Lo's 2 Alternative Grammys, John Legend + The Roots winning 3, Switchfoot AND Danger Mouse winning Producer of the Year. Low twos to no awards for Janelle Monae or Big Boi. Low twos to Jay-Z winning for anything BP3 related.

More tidbits

- Welcome back Dr. Dre!!!! But say hello to Skylar Grey even more. What a voice!. As pointed out by a Twitter follower, she's no rookie to being on a hit. Eminem killed it. Word to Big Proof, your boy is back.
- The power trio of Janelle Monae, B.O.B. and Bruno Mars. Bruno's voice may not be strong enough to match his energy but he knows his doo-wop very well. And seeing him on drums and Bobby Ray on guitar back up Janelle on "Cold War" gave me chills!! Way better than Corinne Bailey Rae, John Legend and John Mayer together a few years ago.
- Muse's performance was great but I was disappointed that people still don't know them for their earlier work. Definitely the most artistic performance of the night at that point.
- Mumford and Sons was a great surprise. Love their alternative bluegrass sound

- How in the world did the King of R&B get so boring??? Usher apparently aged overnight but if any performer could make dance moves look so easy and soulless and music devoid of any passion, he did. Sad to see this happen.
- Bob Dylan still has that growl and anger in his voice. Even though I could barely hear him perform Maggie's Farm, he still has the cool.
- I guess that Mick Jagger has a bright future ahead of him. Not bad for his 1st ever Grammy performance, which sounds weird cause I've seen Paul McCartney twice on the Grammys
- Did Lady Gaga really wear plastic booty pop pads? And what was up with that egg?? Proof to support my idea that she's Madonna's daughter ready to be reborn with her new album?

- I'll have more to say on Cee-Lo as I recap watching him and Big Boi's show Friday. But his performance with the Muppets was cool and creative even if I realize his stage presence is more cool than over the top.
- Gwyneth Paltrow, good luck on that music career. Reminds me that I can't remember a great acting performance in years outside of Iron Man. But she does have a great voice.
- Katy Perry did better than she did 2 years ago starting out with a mellow song that she could sing over but she still can't sing live over her uptempo joints.
- Adam Levine is still one of the coolest musicians around. Playing piano behind Rihanna only showed his range as a dope artist.
- Even though she wasn't there, Grammy still loves Taylor Swift. 3 commercials in one night? Overkill much?
- I'm going to give Justin Bieber his props for having the most musicianship out of any teen pop star. He's not my cup of tea but his skills will make him last. Til then, leave him for the kids.

Update: I did a guest spot on my friend Tyler's podcast Anybody Listening regarding the Grammys. Feel free to check it out.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Black History Month: Celebrating White Heroes of the Struggle

I watched Glory earlier this week and no matter what I do, I have to watch the final scene when the 54th Regiment out of Massachusetts storms Fort Wagner. One of the first All-Black fighting units in American History, the final charge always makes me pause and feel pride as a Black man because this unit went into certain death and fought bravely. They earned their stripes throughout the movie and in the end, they died like men. American soldiers despite not having full citizen rights.

Besides the story, I love it because it showed me 1) 3 years removed from Ferris Bueller, Matthew Broderick showed he was a convincing actor, 2) a triple powerhouse of a young Andre Braugher, a pre-typecast Morgan Freeman in his prime and a young, powerful Denzel Washington in his Oscar-winning role can't be beat, 3) Col. Robert Gould Shaw was a noble man worth celebrating. 

In honor of Black History Month, I want to celebrate several White people who played a role in fighting for the rights of Black people and not just because they wanted the fame. They did it because it was right. This list won't include everyone and it's not meant to be racist, it's meant to be celebratory. It's important for Black people to know important allies who truly had their back in front of everyone and for everyone else to know that Black History is American History.

Let's start with Colonel Shaw, a Boston man born to an abolitionist family. Despite some reservations, he led the All-Black 54th Regiment and trained them to be a fine fighting unit. He also encouraged a boycott of refusing pay when he learned his men did not receive equal payment. His parents were honored that their 25-year-old son was buried in the trench with his soldiers. A fitting tribute for a man who died for what he believed in.

History tells us John Brown was a crazy man. A wild-bearded man who went on a crazy raid trying to arm slaves for a revolution and was sentenced to death for murder (hence why I decided to show a different picture of him). But Brown's motivation is just - a God-fearing man who was opposed to slavery on religious grounds and wanted to end it by any means necessary. He was passionate but not because of madness, rather the fight against injustice. Frederick Douglass said this:

"His zeal in the cause of my race was far greater than mine — it was as the burning sun to my taper light — mine was bounded by time, his stretched away to the boundless shores of eternity. I could live for the slave, but he could die for him."

William Lloyd Garrison was arguably the face of abolitionism during the 19th century. He was a New England man who published his pamphlet The Liberator for 34 years calling for the end to slavery and being an advocate for women's suffrage years before the Seneca Falls convention. He reported on the brutalities of slavery and devoted his life to fighting against and other inequities. In an area of tolerance, he lived it to the max.

Andrew Goodman, right, and Michael Schwerner, along with James Chaney, were murdered in Mississippi in 1964, one of the most widely known attacks on the civil rights movement. Both were Jewish men motivated to fight for change and both died for what they believed in. They along with Viola Liuzzo symbolized the White martyrs of the struggle who stood shoulder to shoulder with Blacks to fight for equality and faced the same risks as us. to better their country. I salute all of the Freedom Riders who traveled down south to risk their lives because they didn't have to. They could've stayed comfortable but they didn't.

Norman Lear is a big reason that Black culture reached the small screen during the 70's. He's the producer of classic Black TV shows such as The Jeffersons, Sanford and Son, and Good Times. These shows were not only popular in Black households, they were pioneers for having mostly Black casts and showing the Black experience at a time when America was just getting past the Civil Rights movement. Without them, we don't have the Cosby Show, Fresh Prince or Martin. Lear helped America adjust to Black culture and showed them that we weren't buffoons, but people with real-life issues.

Rick Rubin and Russell Simmons are one of the main reasons we have hip-hop as a business. Rubin helped produce T La Rock "It's Yours" which was the first single Def Jam released. He helped co-found the label with Simmons as both paved the way for the #1 label in hip-hop. He's always been an advocate for great hip-hop from LL Cool J, Run-DMC, Public Enemy to the Geto Boys and Jay-Z. He's defended the rage, passion and creativity of the genre and if there's any White figure at the Mt. Rushmore of Hip-Hop, Rubin's earned it more than any rapper or executive.

Tim Wise is one of the brightest men in the country when it comes to discussing race. Not only does he use his background as a Southerner and a sociologist, he consistently takes his message to White people to educate them on their awareness. Even better, he makes it clear that he is merely saying what Blacks have said for years, never stopping to give credit to great Black minds who have influenced his views. He's a true liberal who doesn't preach to the choir but tries to speak against racism in all forms.

There are many more White men and women who deserve praise for being enlightened and being friends to the Black community over the last 3-4 centuries. Viola Liuzzo and James Reeb, for example, fought for equality in the 1960's and were murdered for their conviction.

I chose to celebrate these examples because they have contributed to Black History and were tireless advocates for change, justice and fairness. They remind all of us that Black History is a part of American history and their open-mindedness should encourage us to pursue justice whether it affects us directly or not.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

My Growing Respect for Justin Timberlake

This blog might surprise my readers like my Miley Cyrus post did 2 years ago, although that post is almost prophetic now watching how Miley and Lindsay Lohan have fared since. But after watching The Social Network, it's time to admit publicly what I've said privately to friends. Justin Timberlake is as cool as it gets.

10 years ago, if you told me that Justin Timberlake would be one of the coolest dudes to support, I would've said no. Even as N*Sync released their more mature Celebrity album where Justin wrote most of the group's material and they let an in-their-prime BT and the Neptunes produce them, I never would've rocked with JT as anything but a pretty boy for the ladies.

And yes, I realize I just broke down an N*Sync album - somewhere my sister is cackling that her years of listening to boy bands got stuck in my head.

Quiet as kept, Justin is making everyone forget those days because of what he's done since. 1) Become one of the best live performers in pop music and dudes can relate to his music a whole lot more. 2) an actor who's not just a big name draw but could become more respected with time.

Let's start with music. I'll defend to anyone that Justified was a great R&B album. R&B, not pop. The same way that George Michael changed his identity with Faith album, Justin did with his. It was funky, smooth, mature and backed by the Neptunes and Timbaland, it was a sonic backdrop to announce it was time to respect him.

When I heard "Like I Love You" for the first time right when I started college, I knew it wouldn't be a typical pop album. Cry Me a River darn near made me lost my mind and Rock Your Body set a few college parties off right. Suddenly, I ended up listening to the whole album and loving every bit of it, down to the last song with Brian McKnight. And "Let's Take A Ride" is still my joint to ride out on.

People compared him to Michael Jackson but I compared it to George Michael and Bobby Brown. A boy band frontman stepping out and having a monster album that had critical appeal. Dude showed he could sing and also have a vision for great music. And the Black community accepted it like it was true R&B.

Future Sex/Love Sounds took it to another level as I left college. I was more into Prince and had a deeper appreciation for soul and innovation in my music. Needless to say, Justin hit my ears pretty well but it wasn't until the 3rd single "What Goes Around" that I realized he and Timbaland were trying to change the sound of pop music like Timbo tried to do with Nelly Furtado's "Promiscuous."

That and "Love Stoned" showed me what epic pop goodness can sound like and I think they're the best singles Justin's ever released. I didn't buy either album but I'd safely say that if he ever releases a 3rd album, I wouldn't feel any shame buying it. Dude's expanded his musicianship with playing the guitar and piano and his showmanship is with few peer.

Acting-wise, I heard he showed glimpses of his acting potential in Alpha Dog. But nothing shocked me more than seeing him in those 2 SNL skits and him actually being funny. Everyone knows him and Andy Samberg in Dick in a Box and Mother Lover but I dang near teared up when they recreated Single Ladies with Beyonce. It takes balls not to take yourself seriously and skill to get genuine laughs.

But as Sean Parker in The Social Network, I literally didn't recognize Justin as an actor. I saw him capturing his pop-star fame with the ambitiousness of a corporate maverick and it felt like I was watching Sean Parker come alive like I read about. He was every bit as convincing as Jesse Eisenberg as he showcased the cool, confidence, daring and recklessness that Silicon Valley was known for. And again, I was shocked.

I remember reading in Rolling Stone back in 03 or 04 that Justin just wanted respect more than anything. Well seven years later, he's got it from me, a former hater who thinks he's one of the coolest, down-to-Earth celebrities around. I'm surprised to admit it myself but it's getting more obvious every time I see him do something and feel his authenticity.

Johnny Depp had to shed that pretty boy label and prove he was one of the most versatile actors in Hollywood in my opinion. Same with Leonardo DiCaprio. I'm not saying Justin's in their league but it wouldn't surprise me if in another 5 years, N*Sync becomes a distant memory and he'll be hailed as a cultural icon that men can respect with no shame.

No longer can I hate the playa when I've respected the game for a while. Much respect to Mr. JT finally getting what he deserves.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Super Bowl Sunday Tidbits

My favorite commercials

- Eminem's Chrysler commercial. Say what you want about him but he's always been loyal to Detroit. It reminded me of his video for "Beautiful" which was almost a love letter to the city. A commercial with a soul.
- Actually Eminem in general. He's never done commercials but after 2 that were out of the box, he won. The Brisk one was hilarious too and I'm glad Em can poke fun at himself again.
- Doritos killed the game this year. Almost all of their commercials were funny and creative. Except for one I'll get to later.
- Fast and Furious 5. I saw a trailer preview last year and the only reason I'm geeked is because this is the finale and everyone is coming back. 10 years after F+F 1, this has to end well because F+F 4 was a surprisingly good one.
- Darth Vader and Volkswagen. Cute, funny and unlike most non-food commercials, didn't wait too long to get to the point (*cough cough* Audi).
- Okay, the Pepsi Max commercial with the Black couple was actually funny at the end. So it had obviously bad stereotypes that most folks can admit, but it diffused the tension with that can knocking the girl out. Didn't expect that.
- The Chevy car after the first date had genuine emotion. But I don't know if I'd use OnStar to check Facebook.

Commercial fails
- Repeat after me. If your commercial takes way too long to tell me what you're selling or you uses too many distracting gimmicks without me knowing what for. You failed. The Audi commercial was a flop cause I didn't get the visual metaphor and I know the average person sure as heck didn't either (Kenny G was funny though)
- Snickers gets low twos for rehashing their 2010 SB ad with Richard Lewis and a nearly unrecognizable Roseanne Barr. Not funny, not creative and almost annoying.
- The only Doritos commercial that sucked was the guy sucking the finger off 1 guy and ripping the pants off another to taste the cheese dust. Let somebody try that and they'll get 5 knuckles in their mouth. Disgusting and a cheap laugh attempt that backfired.
- If you still get suckered by's teasing, you might want to stop leaving milk and cookies for Santa. Their ads are tired and Danica Patrick is barely keeping them afloat.
- Transformers 3? Cowboys and Aliens? At least the new Pirates movies looked interesting for reasons I don't know but those two movies make me say huh and why??

So somehow I didn't realize Christina Aguilera flubbed the national anthem until Twitter starting blowing up. It's one of the hardest songs to sing and maybe Christina got nervous which surprises me because she's performed it great at Staples Center several times. I feel bad cause I thought she did a great job and looked good as usual. But ah well.

Finally, the Black Eyed Peas at halftime. Deep breaths......*removes palm from face*

I thought it couldn't get worse when they were announced because at least BEP puts on a good show despite my hate for them. Boy was I wrong. They just stood there and rapped with no passion and a lot of distractions. They showed why a lot of hip-hop acts suck live because they have no presence and just stand there.

That's the final straw for BEP losing my respect. Losing their great live show and coming across like the robots they sound like in their records. That performance had no soul and Fergie sounded terrible. Axl Rose should call Slash first thing in the morning to ask about a reunion because that was uuuuuuuuuuugly.

Fergie was a decently great rock singer (peep her cover of Heart's Barracuda) but that performance w/Slash was terrible in every sense of the word. No sex appeal, zero enjoyment and a disgrace to G'N'R.

Usher showed up out of nowhere to dance around for a while which summed up why I thought the whole sucked. It was disjointed and felt completely rushed as BEP ran through hits with no timing - kinda like, oh yeah let's end with "I Got a Feeling" because that makes sense. Almost like the NFL wanted to pick a modern act who would suck so badly they'd make us stop complaining about the older acts. Sabotage I tell ya!

At least the game was great because the commercials outside of Doritos were flat or great. If only Old Spice could've brought back Isaiah Mustafa for one more ad....

Football Wrap: Pack Attack and is this the End?

Well America, we better enjoy this sight. Aaron Rodgers with the belt on stage holding the Lombardi. Green Bay's defense picking off Big Ben 3 times and stopping him on 4th down to prevent me hearing about him being redeemed. Greg Jennings's MVP-like performance with 2 TD catches and the big catch on Green Bay's last possession to extend it. Cause unless something changes this spring and summer, we may not see it again in August.

But more on that later...let's reflect on a great Super Bowl shall we?

I'm happy for Rodgers because I've been a fan since he beat USC in 2003 at Cal and nearly went perfect in almost beating them in 2004. He was passed over in the 2005 Draft over Alex Smith which worked out oh so well for Smith and San Francisco. He had to sit behind Old Man Brett Favre and his wishy-washy retirement ideas and learn how to be a pro. He never got enough respect until lately and now he's got the ring after a 300+ yard game.

But Greg Jennings deserved the MVP only because 1) Rodgers suffered from his WR's dropping easy passes yet 2) Jennings caught nearly every critical pass. I know 62 yards does not an MVP make but being the only WR with sure hands after Donald Driver went out matters.

Troy Polamalu deserved the Defensive Player of the Year but Clay Matthews made the biggest play of the game. That forced fumble on Rashard Mendenhall in the 4th shifted momentum and showed why Green Bay's D >>> Pittsburgh's as far as making plays.

Speaking of Big Ben, his 3rd Super Bowl saw him deliver his a so-so performance. Despite Green Bay's secondary leaving their shoulders and health on that turf, he couldn't deliver enough big plays. My favorite podcast The Morning Jones made a comparison that Ben keeps on rolling lucky No. 7's in his career/life. Well guess he finally crapped out.

Take that, take that (c) Diddy

Nice to see Shane Suisham make a return to Dallas. And nice to remind me that you were a crappy kicker in Big D. That 52-yard field goal attempt was cute.

I was probably the only person rooting for Green Bay at my church party as despite them being our 60's rivals, I was happy to stick it to everyone. I had to eat crow when the Pats beat the Rams in 02 and when I picked Indy last year to win, not to mention when Dallas/San Diego lost in the playoffs on the same day Yesterday, I got to have my moment of happiness.

People unfortunately will bring up Old Man Favre to compare him to Aaron Rodgers since both now have a ring. How about this? The only comparison is that they both have one ring. Other than that, Brett's a HOF and Rodgers is one of the top QB's in the league right now. That #4 shadow is long gone and Rodgers is his own man carving his own legacy now.

(Also happy for Charles Woodson - ironic that he won a title in Green Bay just like his fellow Wolverine Heisman winner Desmond Howard. Always been a fan since Day One in the NFL.)

Of course, where his legacy and the Packers/Steelers' future goes hangs in the balance of the labor talks between the owners and players. Word is both sides are so far apart that the owners are pretty much playing for a lockout. If things are as cold as Dallas was all weekend, chances are the discussions will drag into the fall which means there's a very good chance we may not have a 16-game NFL season if any in 2011.

The owners don't want to pay the players for ridiculously large contracts anymore and the players are arguing that their money is appropriate given the very short shelf life of the average NFL player and how much the league is making off them. That's the nuts and bolts of it but for more complex analysis, head elsewhere.

I'm always on the side of the players in a labor argument because they are the reason we watch the game and they should be treated as more than just replaceable raw material. But both sides need to work it out because America's present passion just gave us a great Super Bowl and a great season.

Here's Part 2 discussing the SB ads, halftime and other non-game notes.