Saturday, May 28, 2011

5 Years Since Graduation

This month marks the 5th anniversary of graduating from the University of San Diego. It's funny because this year I felt different when I attended several grad parties for my friends. Two of my friends graduated law school, including one of my fellow c/o 06 undergrads, and another got his doctorate in physical therapy. Maybe being at grad school ceremonies made feel even more reflective but it gave me another feeling.

It made look at where I'm at since that moment. Five years of being in the "real world" and learning so much about my life, the world around me and seeing the friends that I have now/looking at where my old friends are now.

I felt so happy when I walked on that stage because all my life that's what I was driving for. I've said it before here but the No. 1 goal in my life was graduate from college. That's what I was pushed to do and it was 18 years of blood, sweat, tears and sacrifice.

It never occurred to me what to do after I got my diploma on stage. I remember grabbing it, shaking hands with the President and looking up to the sky to the one person who wasn't there. Dad had worked hard to get me to college and he told me that's where I was going after USD offered me a scholarship. I held my diploma to my chest, found my mom, uncle and fam and start bawling. So happy yet so emotional because it was his moment too.

Soon as I found my fam, I grabbed Mom and cried some more. But those tears faded into happiness as that moment could never be taken away from me. It's why I'm so happy for every graduate because their own personal story to the stage makes their diploma more than a paper.

We left so idealistic and hopeful to make an impact in the world.  I thought I was going to strike out as a journalist hungry to tell stories and if I was lucky, write about sports. Either way, I was armed quoting Shakespeare, TS Eliot and other literary giants more than Jim Murray or David Halberstam.

The crazy part was that I almost didn't make it home. I was bumping "Stadium Arcadium" by the Red Hot Chili Peppers to keep me awake but I was so tired from Grad Night and moving out that I really don't remember much of the drive. Couldn't keep my eyes open and definitely needed to pull over and nap.

I swerved several times on the freeway as Anthony Kiedis and Co. tried to keep me awake. By God's grace I got home and crashed in my bed soon as I walked in. Otherwise, I would've been a Memorial Day tragedy. Ironically the Chili Peppers bookended my college career. I drove down there after buying "By The Way" in 2002 and I left with "Stadium Arcadium".

5 years later, I think about graduating and marvel at where I am now. I knew the economy was going to be tough for my friends in the college of arts and sciences but I didn't know how tough. Facebook exploded and became a cultural phenomenon instead of our little secret. I assumed I would be on my own but I didn't know how my work situation would make that difficult.

Change the statement and it's pretty much the message every graduate should see after getting their diploma

I know several of my friends have struggled finding work and ended up going back to school to avoid that pressure. Some of have made great careers while most are like me wondering about our next step and how our dream of living our parent's lives is on hold.

I was blessed to work at the LA Sentinel and I'm grateful for the 3 1/2 years of writing sports. People would that was my dream job and it made for great memories, great future talent that I've seen and great experiences that have taken to meet renowned figures and even out of state for one assignment. Over that time, I learned about myself as a writer and how to learn from other great sportswriters.

When I left my newspaper gig last year (the 1-year anniversary is approaching as well), I considered that my graduate school of journalism. But I've also seen how journalism has transitioned online firsthand and how every newspaper has adapted dramatically just in the last 5 years. No newspaper had blogs on their site, the Sentinel's website was pretty basic and I could tell which papers were going to succeed because of how adapted to the times.

Blogs have changed journalism and the world. I knew folks who did it on MySpace or Live Journal and Facebook notes were somewhat like blogs? They've made journalists go from anonymous, faceless truthtellers to everyday folks who share their perspective on the world they cover. They've made newspapers more personal and that's how they'll survive in the coming years.

Twitter has changed journalism too. I long believed journalism as the old model would die in the 2010's but while I think it'll be harder for folks to break into it and for it to make money, it's still vital as we see news stories gain more traction in the Internet age and folks share their own perspectives on what they see.

One of my friends had these mints at her graduation party this month.

I'm still drawn to see my alma mater every time I'm in San Diego. But I see how its like leaving high school, the first year back is great cause you see a lot of friends. The second year, you feel even more distant. Once you pass those 4 years, you're officially ancient. An old person at 25. A relic of days gone by and no longer relevant despite the impact you left there. Reminds me what Jeff Pearlman said on his blog and LCD Soundsystem's Losing My Edge.

It's proof that the best years of our lives are ultimately snapshots. It's still fun being on the campus and I still consider San Diego my 2nd home and my escape from L.A. Yet all the more now, it feels distant and I  want to make LA a similar place by exploring it. I made it a goal to do that 5 years ago and while I have a love-hate relationship with the city, I have hope that I'll fulfill that dream one day.

I plan on attending my 5-year reunion in November and I'm wondering what to expect. I never did this for high school so I'm unsure what to expect, how to feel. All I know is that 5 years after my proudest moment, there's still a lot of living and growing to do to find more of myself.

Speaking of which, I've realized over time that I've become more assertive, less tolerant of nonsense and always aware of how others see things. I can't wait to see how I am in another 5 years.

Friday, May 20, 2011

It's the End of the World.....No It's Not

Saturday is another predicted day of the Rapture, this time by Harold Camping and Family Radio. A once small movement gained traction with ad campaigns on respected news sites, billboards in cities and finally news stories everywhere treating this like a world event. It's only the latest in a long wave of prophecies that are supposed to wake people up but instead turn them off to religion and show why fear is still a factor.

During the Cold War, many people lived in fear of the world ending. They built bomb shelters in the 1950's and 60's and had drills. The Cuban Missile Crisis was a doomsday scenario unfolding as it was one of the closest moments to nuclear war. Yet the world didn't end.

1968 was one of the scariest years for America. More U.S. soldiers died in the Vietnam war than any year, assassinations of respected leaders, low trust in government and race riots threatening to tear the country apart were some of the reasons people feared the world was on collapse. Yet the world didn't end.

Several graphic novels have discussed the world ending for several years. In 1983, millions of Americans watched The Day After, a TV movie of the aftermath of nuclear war that scared folks at the height of Reagan-Soviet Union war games. Inner cities became destroyed due to crack and White flight. REM made that classic song that I borrowed my picture from. Yet the world didn't end.

In my lifetime, people thought the world would end on December 31, 1999. You remember the Y2K frenzy? Computers would crash and technically would take us back to 1900 instead of 2000. People built bomb shelters, drained personal funds and started being scared as early as the mid-1990's. And what happened that night? My sis and I threw confetti on our front yard and woke up having to clean it up.

Yep, you guessed it the world didn't end. Notice the trend here?

As a Christian, I'm a firm believer that Jesus will be coming back at some point. But I'm also a firm believer that man will not know the day nor the hour according to Matthew 24:36-37. I'm frankly bothered that Camping, a former Sunday school teacher who's 89 years old, has ignored this verse.

Camping tried to predict the end in September and December 1994 and was proven wrong. He says that he has made reinterpretations studying the Bible closer but no amount of research can counteract what Jesus said. We can't use the Bible to figure out the date world's ending because that would prove God to be a liar.

From a faith perspective, most Christians believe in the end times and that you should be living every day trying to get your life in order. However, we don't know when our last day will be so it's important for us to strive make every day our masterpiece and live right so when that time comes, we're set in our salvation.

I believe that being scared or buying into doomsday theories like Saturday or 2012 is counterproductive to how I see God. God wants all to accept him freely without compulsion and if you scare people into being Christians, you won't truly allow them to appreciate who God is.

Doomsday prophecies like this from the church will also turns folks against religion and assume we're all crazy fanatics. This is also false. I learned this past week that judging all of Cleveland for Cavs fans being overzealous haters of LeBron James. A friend of mine there reminded me not every Clevelander is irrational and I had to apologize to her. In the same way, judging all Christians as fanatical fundamentalist fools because of this is also wrong.

Many people of faith are far from ignorant and we know how to use our faith to make rational statements/beliefs. We see Camping and cringe because we know the damage this can do to the faith in this 24/7 media cycle. I'm already seeing jokes upon jokes and I feel hurt that my faith and the faith of others will be a punchline because of this.

The media doesn't do a good job by us by giving these folks a major platform to speak their mind and inspire fear. In the old days, these kind of radicals would be given minimal space and left on the fringes. But in a society where we are less-read, less able to critically think about stories, the media fails us by relying on fear to gain attention instead of giving us context. Telling the story in simplified ways feeds into us being afraid and that sparks irrational decisions/snap judgments.

It's ironic that this is the same week where Stephen Hawking said that heaven is a myth and a fairy tale. People will crack their jokes and spit in the face of religion if Saturday comes and goes without incident. It's nothing new. What matters is that people of faith use this to spark intelligent dialogue.

I don't buy into any theories about predicting when the world will end. Don't fall for the okie-doke. I believe we're living in the last days but I don't get caught up in predicting the date. All I can do is take it one day at a time.

Saturday. The Mayan prophecy of December 21, 2012. The Doomsday Clock. All of these are man-made distractions that are fascinating but not gospel. Every prophecy gets played up and we buy into the hysteria. Haven't we learned by now? I think most of us want to know so we know we can get our act right right before that date while partying like crazy until then.

There's a difference between believing the world will end at some point versus trying to predict when the world will end. It's cool to be fascinated by these things - I was fascinated by the Left Behind series and so many people either love or fear the Book of Revelations - but I feel that sadly too many exploit a doomsday date for fear and hysteria instead of positive reasons.

All I do is remember is what the rest of Matthew 24 says.

42 “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. 43 But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. 44 So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.

From a Christian perspective, I'll only agree with Camping that the world will end at some point so we should live vigilantly. But how many times will we let someone try to predict the actual date when before we stop drinking the Kool-Aid and believing the hype? At the same time, ask a Christian how they feel about this instead of assuming we're all irrational Kool-Aid drinkers.

It's all the more reason why I feel like Sunday will be an interesting day in churches and discussions around the world. At least until the next doomsday prophecy whips people into this all over again.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Gamer's Corner: Kirby Is My Homeboy

I said a while ago that I wanted to go back to my gaming roots and discuss some of my favorite video games. I did it earlier celebrating the 20th anniversary of Super Mario World and Sonic the Hedgehog. Now I'm gonna take yall down Memory Lane with one of my favorite video game characters, Kirby.

I remember when I got Kirby's Dream Land on Game Boy for my 8th birthday and Mom surprised me with a party at school with my friends. It was weirdly original because every video game character was either an animal or a human. Kirby was a.....cream puff? A cream puff with a super high metabolism who never gained weight despite having Hoover vacuum lungs. It was unlike any character I saw but I spent many hours playing that game.

Kirby's lungs were his only weapon as he fought back by inhaling somebody and spitting back out. You'd think that'd make for a stupid game but the right combination of challenging opponents, cool music and extra powers made it actually cool. The best weapon was the Mint Leaf and it came at the end of Level 3 when you fought the boss.

King DeDeDe was the main boss but for a final boss, he definitely sucked compared to Bowser or Dr. Robotnik. He could inhale just like Kirby, wielded a powerful hammer and jumped around like House of Pain. He got some great upgrades later in the series.

To this day, Level 3 (Float Islands) still has one of the best level music I've ever heard in a Nintendo game. It fit the beachy theme of the level and it's only fitting that for Kirby's Dream Land 2, they brought it back.

If you beat the game, you got a secret code to play a harder level and as soon as I found out, I played it all the time. The enemies were harder and more aggressive and the bosses were even crazier. Even the mini-bosses had attitude (Poppy Bros. Sr. in Level 1 bum rushing you after throwing bombs).

I challenged myself with Nintendo's challenge. First, beat the game on the harder level (DONE). Then beat the regular game without getting hit (After playing the hard level regularly, this was easy as pie.). Finally, beat the harder level without getting hit. That took months to do and a lot of enemy memory but I remember the day I finally did it. Felt like mini Johnny Drama calling out VICTORY!!!!

The franchise got a much needed upgrade on NES with Kirby's Adventure and it gave Kirby the ability to steal powers by swallowing what he inhaled. Kirby could swing a sword, become a fireball, put guys on ice or even better, do wrestling moves on guys he'd inhale. The coolest weapon? Easily the UFO. I'd play those levels over and over just to keep the UFO power because you couldn't take it with you to another stage.

I tried to draw Kirby for years after watching the intro. Add in the bright graphics and cool minigames, especially the quick draw shootout, and it became one of my favorite NES games and one of the last classics of the console. He made dudes not ashamed to support a pink cream puff.

Plus there was a treat for old KDL fans with Level 7-6 taking it back to the Black-and-White. The music got an upgrade, especially Level 5 which also made the KDL2 cut. Level 4 and Level 7 were almost dreamlike and could lull you to sleep. But nothing beats the ending music, which I used to deliberately let run for about 5 mins while I celebrated the end of the game

It's only a shame the franchise never got a cartoon until most of us who grew up on him left cartoons behind (it also failed because the cartoon looked as corny as Iowa.) Kirby may not be Sonic or Mario but he's just as iconic on a smaller level to millions of gamers as you fans of Super Smash Bros can see. And Dream Land is still one of the best games ever made for Game Boy.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Purple Friday - My Night with Prince

Last Friday night was a dream come true. I finally got to see Prince in concert for the first time and I've been waiting for this moment for years. All my life, I've heard that he's one of the greatest showmen in music history and I hoped for a chance to see him before he hung up his platform shoes, guitar and great outfits.

That's why 3 weeks ago, George Lopez made the best announcement he's made since he got his late night talk show. Prince was coming on to announce a 21-night tour in L.A. and better yet, he was doing it in my old neighborhood at the Forum. For $25 and great seats, it's the best investment I could've made for a show and for 4 hours, I felt like a kid again going to Lakers game there.

The night started with current Best New Artist Grammy winner Esperanza Spaulding, who surprised me starting out on electric bass before switching to her usual upright bass. She has a great voice and a great vibe but I found her voice overwhelmed at times by her band. Her saxophonist was dynamite and often times overshadowed her with his playing. That said, Spaulding's like a jazzier version of Janelle Monae (who's gonna be opening for Prince this Friday) with a softer voice but just as cool a vibe.

At one point, Spaulding did a jazzy cover of Michael Jackson's "I Can't Help It", one of my favorite underrated MJ jams that y'all may know from De La Soul or Fabulous. It was funky as heck and we almost didn't realize that her band had an extra person playing guitar on stage. Turns out it was Prince as he jammed with her on an extended back-and-forth solo.

Dude just sat there all cool and then all of a sudden, bam! He emerged and took over the stage. You could tell Esperanza was as hyped as we were but she totally played along and handled her own well. It set the stage for what came next.

After an intermission, the lights went out. The New Power Generation took the stage and played that superhero intro music that only one man can deserve. With the stage in the center, Prince rose up from the ground, walked around the stage like a maestro surveying the scene and played his new song that he debuted on Lopez Tonight. Everybody went nuts and I've never seen a crowd that electric for somebody.

He started off his hits with my favorite Prince song of the moment "She's Always in My Hair". Can't imagine how happy I was to sing that while looking at my lady and seeing that smile cause I meant every word. Soon after, the stage turned purple and he went ahead and played "Purple Rain", which shocked me cause I expected it later in the night.

That guitar solo was spinechilling and having 13,000 people sing the chorus will be one of my favorite concert memories ever. He turned that song into a soulful jam and ended it beautifully with his backup dancers. He left the stage right after, something he did often during the night. The lights went dark and then all of a sudden, Sheila E. appeared with drum set in tow.

All the ladies in the house probably went more bonkers than the guys but once Sheila started playing and singing "Glamorous Life", she dang near upstagged Prince herself. She did that song like it was the last time she would do it and watching her kill that percussion while singing live was watching grade-A quality go to work. She destroyed the drum set and when she finished, extending the last few notes of her drum solo, the crowd went wild. Now THAT's how you make an appearance.

Sheila stayed on set as Prince resumed his set with "Raspberry Beret". I was shocked that he played "Cream" considering he was avoiding some of his more dirty songs since his 2004 comeback. He toyed with us later on playing the intro to "Darling Nikki" and joked that he couldn't do it since he was in rehab.

By the 1st hour, I was already sweating through my shirt cause it was one big dance party. The best part came when he "covered" The Time's "Cool" and I say covered because Prince wrote and produced that. He sang and owned it with the same swagger I would've imagined 30 years ago. He mixed in MJ's "Dont Stop Til You Get Enough" and it made me think about wishing the two could've collaborated on "Bad". That was the highlight along with jamming to "U Got The Look"

He came back later to play an extended mix of his hits, saying at one point "Do you know how many hits I got!?" I swear 30 years of funk/soul/R&B and rock never sounded so good. You almost wanted him to play the songs even longer cause you can't enjoy "I Would Die 4 U", "The Most Beautiful Girl in the World" or "When Doves Cry" in short bursts.

Even better is when Prince chooses to do covers because you know his musical inspirations run deep. Whether it was "Love Rollercoaster" or "Fantastic Voyage", he played them faithfully with as much fun as you can expect. He even played bass on "Fantastic Voyage" and added just the right amount of funk needed to make the song right.

The 3rd encore - more on that later - he came out to "Kiss" and ran that all the way through smoothly while standing on top of his piano. He wrapped it up with "If I was Your Girlfriend" and then he and backup vocalist Shelby J killed "Nothing Compares 2 U" as I sat in awe over their soulful original version. I couldn't believe he added that at the end just to remind folks that Sinead O'Connor got famous off his pen.

Most of the night, Prince showed off why he's one of the most underrated guitarists of the last 40 years. He killed his solos and commanded the stage without saying a word at times. Despite being 50-plus, he still danced and sounded as strong as he always has. To see him reunited with the NPG after 20 years was even better because that's the best band he's had since the Revolution and they played in perfect synergy.

The final encore came after most folks left and the house lights came on and when the NPG. Fittingly ended with another cover that summed up the night. Kool and the Gang "Hollywood Swinging" except the lyrics were changed to "Inglewood Swinging". It was a party in my hometown and we boogied til midnight.

What. A. Show!!!!!! Can't say any better and hopefully I get to see him again at the end. Disappointed he didn't do "Let's Go Crazy" or "Adore" but I'll take what I got and say thank you, Prince.

Monday, May 9, 2011

The end of an era

I haven't felt this bad about a Lakers exit in 7 years. For those counting, that goes past the 2008 NBA Finals and towards 2004. What I saw and heard yesterday was the last gasps of air being stomped out repeatedly while the victim just laid there praying for the end to come.

Seeing Phil Jackson at his last press conference and his kids wearing the X and XI hats reminded me of the 2004 when Phil brought them on stage as he "retired" from coaching after the Pistons dismantled us. Watching Andrew Bynum throw that cheap shot and walk off shirtless said it all - we were dethroned and kicked out the kingdom without a whimper.

As I watched Phil's last speech, I thought about how my entire hooping life was centered around him. I hated him as much as I hated the Chicago Bulls and came to love him coaching the Lakers. It reminded me how much this series made everything come full circle.

I've got no shame saying this - it's the end of the Lakers as we know it. Death by firing squad and the guilty parties? Jason Terry (13 3's, two shy of Derek Fisher's record for a 4-game sweep), JJ Barea (who's still running around like a headless chicken), and Dirk Nasty, who resoundingly restored and rebuilt his reputation as arguably the greatest international player to ever play in the NBA*.

*After watching "Once Brothers", I still believe Drazen Petrovic is the greatest international player ever besides the 80's version of Arvydas Sabonis. But unfortunately he passed before being the best NBA international player ever.*

Terry impressed almost as much as Dirk did. I said that the key to the series would be Terry vs. Odom and it was clear who the more impactful 6th Man was. Terry's been breaking my heart since I watched him at Arizona destroy UCLA 10 years ago and he deserves co-MVP of the series with Dirk Nasty and his variety of unstoppable shots. Oh yeah, Mark Cuban is now 4 wins away from the Finals.

I already played the Blame Game with the Lakers over at Bleacher Report so now I'm looking at the bigger picture. Something happened with this team after 17-1 stretch and it's more than just Kobe got old, Gasol got scared, the Lakers bench disappearing, Artest looking old and Andrew Bynum becoming part beast, part No More Mr. Nice Guy. This team's identity was stripped and nobody found a way to keep everyone refocused.

No love for Bynum's cheap shot on JJ Barea either. Like I said on Twitter, I've given my share of hard fouls but you always go for the ball to make it legal. Whatever suspension he gets (as long as it's 5 games max), it's deserved.

You always knew that the Lakers would find a way to respond in April-June with focus and intensity but this year, that just didn't happen. It's no surprise that in Kobe's two 30+ point games this postseason, the Lakers lost. He didn't have enough consistent support and he couldn't bring those type of performances against Dallas in the 4

Suddenly, I have flashbacks of 2004. My lowest moment as a Lakers fan. The team got battered in 5 games by Detroit and you knew that team would never be the same. Phil Jax left, Shaq was traded, Derek Fisher left and all you had was Kobe and whoever the team could keep or find around. I was left missing Shaq and hating Kobe for shooting us out of that series.

That's why this is worse than 2008. When the Lakers lost Game 4 after a 22-point lead, that was rock bottom. The 39-point soul stomping finale in Game 6 was a mere formality but as bad as that was, you knew the Lakers would be back. That team wasn't ready to win a title yet and they showed why in 2009 and 2010.

In 2004, you didn't know what was going to happen or if the Lakers would ever return to being a contender. It was a beating that tore apart your insides and left you lost about the present and future. That's how this feels. The Mavericks - the MAVERICKS of all teams! - got tough, stole the heart and soul of my Lakers and ended not just a season, but an era. 

Game 4 yesterday will forever be one of the worst losses of the Lakers era. Game 6 in  08 was bad but Game 4 that year to me was worse because an epic choke job is worse than a beatdown when you're already reeling. This game was also the latter but it still hurts because it means more than an exit.

I've never seen so many Laker legends embarrassed like I saw Magic Johnson, Jerry West, Michael Cooper and James Worthy come out and criticize this team. Last year, they all celebrated us beating the Celtics. A lot can change in a year.

Next year, the Lakers will be still be a Top 4 team in the West but they won't be a contender for the NBA crown unless they make some drastic longterm moves. That means getting players who will be effective for longer than 2-3 years and building up Trey Johnson and Devin Ebanks to be guards of the future. After 2011-12, it's gonna be the 90's all over again with a new direction and back to contending in the West but not a championship contender.

I saw Kobe decline like I feared he would in 2009. Those knee/ankle injuries are adding up and he can't carry the Lakers on his back anymore. He's still a top-10 player in the league but in 09, I said that he has 2-3 years before he drops. This is when it happens. And now Dr. Jerry Buss has some tough decisions to make after we've spent the last couple years mortgaging the future for the present.

I won't be surprised if half the roster is gone by next training camp. I just know that I'm seeing the Kobe era end before my eyes and next year will be the next stop on the decline. Can't even bear to read most of the columns describing the game because it's like a numbing whirlwind of dirt being thrown. This is my eulogy and final word. It was a great run and it's a shame it ended like this.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Reality's a Trip and the Fall is Hard

You know that feeling you get when your best just isn't good enough. That's what I'm feeling right now about the Lakers, who are down 0-2 for the first time since the 2008 NBA Finals. Just the mere mention of bringing that up is hard to swallow because that's the last time I felt like this team was overmatched.

I'm seeing Dirk Nowitzki have his way and pick his spots with no counter. I'm seeing Tyson Chandler neutralize one Lakers big man at a time each game. I saw JJ Barea in Game 2 and got flashbacks of Phoenix's Goran Dragic from Game 4 in last year's Western Conference Finals with how he sliced and diced through our defense in the 4th quarter.

Most of all I'm seeing a Lakers bench that can't keep up with Dallas.  I'm seeing a Lakers team confused and bewildered. Sad of all, I'm seeing a Lakers team settle for outside shots, the ultimate sign of a team that has no clue what to do against a better team. And to top it off, Artest got ejected. Word to Phife Dawg, I'm having problems.

This isn't the soft Dallas Mavericks. We aren't the dominant LA Lakers. The roles have reversed and I'm seeing a dynasty that looks shaken and old with a king who can't will a team to be better for some reason. I've known this feeling before and I'm not trying to deny it.

2004, I watched the Pistons outmuscle and out-tough the Lakers like I hadn't seen since Karl Malone and John Stockton in the 1998 Western Conference Finals. 2008, I saw the same thing happen with the Boston Celtics. I know this feeling but my heart won't let me give up. I just know that feeling you get when you know your team is in a deep hole.

Oh yeah, having Andrew Bynum say this team is having trust issues isn't helping either. It's not over but it's looking scary. And heading back to Dallas possibly without Ron Artest for a game, the odds aren't in our favor. I have faith but I'm also a realist.

We're seeing a changing of the guard in this playoffs. San Antonio's gone. Boston's in the same situation as the Lakers. Dallas is playing like the Spurs did in the regular season with the right balance of vets (J. Kidd), international stars (Dirk, Barea), bench (Terry, Barea, Haywood), youth/athleticism (Chandler, Barea) and size. Chicago, Miami and Oklahoma City are showing why they're going to be face of the next decade in the NBA.

Part of me though is still bugging out at how good Tyson Chandler has been this series. I grew up in high school seeing him as the biggest recruit ever and thinking he made a mistake going to the draft out of Compton Dominguez. 10 years later, we're both in our 20's and fulfilling some of the promise folks had for us back in 2001.

I'm just mixed about Friday because I'll be at a concert. The last time I attended a concert on a Lakers playoff game? Game 4 of the NBA Finals. Yeah, one of the worst games I've had to handle. I'm hoping that Prince isn't the only thing I'm celebrating that's wearing purple.

This could be the end or the start of something bigger. All my life, I've been a rational Lakers fan and I know when the hand we're dealt isn't a good one. Friday night's either gonna be a good night to be in Purple or an escape from reality sinking in.

Tonight was Dallas showing something extra that the Lakers haven't shown. The roles have reversed and it's not a pretty sight.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Bin Laden Gone But Now What?

I don’t know how to feel about this. I still can’t believe this is real. The man who has haunted America since 1998 is dead. I’m watching a surge of patriotism and joy while trying to make sense of my feelings. Pardon me if this sounds scattered or all over the place but when you swim in a stream of consciousness, anything can happen.

I never thought we’d see the day where we’d capture him. I assumed he was going to die over there. I certainly had no idea what would happen in America if we ever caught him and I’m still marveling at the gatherings in New York and Washington D.C.

10 years ago, Ground Zero was a place of horror and people ran from it and the smoke. Now people ran to it cheerfully to recapture it for celebration and memories.  All because of one man and his hatred.

Patriotism has been a dirty word since 2001. It’s been used to describe a certain type of action. So why do I feel proud to be an American? And why do I feel scared, confused and bewildered. Because I know the war on terror isn’t over? Because I know retaliation could come? Because I just simply don’t know how to act without wondering if it’s appropriate.

Since 9/11, I feel that it’s appropriate to celebrate national pride in whatever way feels comfortable. There’s no code on what a patriot looks like because a flagwaver means just as much as someone who questions their government to hold them accountable.

But today, I seriously feel conflicted. I’m happy that the man behind the USS Cole, the embassy bombings in Africa and 9/11 is gone. I’m happy that some folks have closure. I want to celebrate in a way America hasn’t been able to since World War 2. Yet I temper it with thanks to God for the bravery of this mission and the ability for it to be pulled off.

Bin Laden’s last days were spent in a high profile mansion. He lived under heavy guard in the capital of Pakistan living lavish with human shields. It further had me believe that he was somewhere smirking and watching this manhunt unfold protected by the Devil himself as well as bad intelligence.

I just feel a bit of closure in a way that I didn’t with Saddam Hussein. That felt like revenge, this feels like justice. Granted I would’ve loved to interrogate him but I know that it’s a dog/pony show.

The big question is what happens next? I've already seen a few athletes falsely criticized as dumb for going against the grain. I've seen a rise of patriotism and I've seen several of my peers respond with well-thought out disagreement.

I don’t buy into conspiracy theories behind this. I don’t think this story was planted to mislead us. I don’t think we’ve been lied to make Obama look good or making the nation look great. I think this is genuine even for a skeptic like me and yet I do wonder what’ll happen in 6 months looking back on it as well as 4 months when the 10th anniversary of 9/11 comes again.

Speaking of Obama, this is his victory. It’s also the victory for the Navy Seals, the CIA and any bit of intelligence organization I’ve forgot about. I saw a calm President walk to the podium without gloating and calmly tell the American people what happened while affirming how major this moment is. This is a moment not too many Presidents can claim.

Reagan to me can never claim the hostage crisis or the Berlin Wall coming down as solely his own. FDR could have something similar for the fall of Europe before he did. Maybe Abraham Lincoln because he and US Grant kept the Union together and it was a victory he only saw for 5 days. JFK could claim the Cuban missile crisis but so could the Soviets. This is a moment that is rare for us especially in fighting a war against an invisible foe.

With all the BS that happened regarding Donald Trump, showing his papers and once again questioning his identity, this is another notch on his belt. Along with ending major conflict in Iraq, slowly watching the economy get better, refocus energy in Afghanistan (that will hopefully be ended) and other things. Like it or not, he’s accomplished quite a bit and this is something he’ll always trumpet. Well done Mr. President.

Should George W. Bush get credit? No except for starting the fight. Bush had 7 years to look for him but spent most of his resources in Iraq and abandoned Bin Laden in those caves. Y'all credit the inconsistent starter, I credit the finisher who did more to get the win.

I’m happy he’s gone. This is a victory for justice. A serial killer deserves to die for taking the lives of so many without remorse. This is one of the rare cases where I support the death penalty. I've seen many cite Scripture and a great quote from Dr. King against this euphoria. The way I feel is that sometimes, justice requires death of a criminal. I'm not ignoring grace but grace is a 2-way street. Once it is offered, you have to receive it and I doubt Bin Laden would have.

This is so huge that we may not be able to grasp this fully until time passes. Yet I am happy for the wide variety of opinion we have on this. Like the 9/11 patriotism, let's not allow this to be a 1-dimensional reaction. Take time to process this in your own mind and don't let the first wave of emotion define the rest.