Monday, March 25, 2013

Gasoline Dreams: 10 Years since the Iraq Invasion

10 years ago last week, I was sitting in my dorm room wondering what Washington was going to do with Baghdad. I sat there worrying that we'd be going to war and if Saddam Hussein really did have these things called weapons of mass destruction. Then my roommate turned to CNN and we saw an OutKast song come to life.

I wanted to immediately post an away message on AIM saying Bombs over Baghdad. But instead, I was scared. So was my roommate. I saw somebody post a message saying "Let us pray" so I went ahead and posted something more thoughtful like that. Because I knew that we were in for something and had no idea how it'd end.

At the time, I was thinking "Okay go ahead and get them before they get us". I didn't realize that there was already shaky logic leading us to Iraq and I remember Saddam expressing sorrow and condolences after 9/11. But fear is a powerful force and like Hermann Goering said at the Nuremburg trials, it can move people to do anything in the name of safety.

It's a sad anniversary that many have already spoken on but for me, I like to think about how in less than 18 months, that was a loud chorus of opposition that I had never seen before. Between March 2003 and the summer of 2004, we saw a lot more information that unraveled the story that Washington sold us.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Change Is Coming to the Gumbo

Since 2009, I've been committed to sharing my thoughts on this space and whatever comes to mind, I write it down. After 4 years and 637 posts (counting this one), I'm very proud of the small success I've had from it as well as watching my thought process evolve.

Yet after attending the NABJ Convention last year, I was encouraged to take this site and my skills to another level. ESPN's Michael Smith encouraged me to get more comfortable doing videos so I forced myself to do more. Bomani Jones talked about branding at a panel and it made me start evaluating what I'm good at more than just what I can do.

This is something I've thought about for a while but I haven't started putting it into motion until last week. I've decided be creating a sports-only blog and it's called The EB Sports Report. It will be unveiled after I finish typing this.

Before you get worried, I'm not abandoning Virgo Gumbo. This has been my baby and the Gumbo will continue to be my outlet for non-sports matters. It's just time to ignore some fears and try this out for the benefit of my future.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Dr. Madness, Ph.D. Speaks (March Madness 2013 Predictions)

In keeping with tradition, I sit from my chair as an associate professor of Bracketology 101 and make my predictions on this shaky NCAA Tournament.

Final 4 picks - Louisville, Miami, Michigan and the hated Gonzaga Bulldogs. It betrays my allegiance to my proud alma mater, the University of San Diego, but one of my rules of Bracketology is sometimes, biases and allegiances go out the door because winning your pool means more than showing love.

I'm going with Louisville to win it over Miami. Other notes. UCLA will advance to the 2nd round, as will Arizona and Cal. Bucknell and a way-too-low Oregon will reach the Sweet 16. Duke will lose to Michigan State in the Sweet 16. Kansas will be the 1st No. 1 seed to go down.

Speaking of which, it's been 5 years since the alma mater had our shining moment. Defeating UConn on a go-ahead shot and sending me into a frenzy in my house. Let's enjoy this one time.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Lessons from Steubenville

The two defendants in the Steubenville rape case, both found guilty and sentenced to one year in juvenile detention along with registering as sex offenders for life.

When I saw the verdict for the Steubenville rape case Sunday before church, my heart was relieved. This case was one of the saddest, most maddening things I've heard in a while and it showed the power of social media.

Social media and texting made this case have overwhelming evidence that led to the guilty conviction of the two young men. Social media attracted enormous attention to this case as websites brought this story to a national audience to make sure the town didn't cover it up.

The two men who raped this young girl will do their time but I hope that even more prosecutions come up for folks who either lied to investigators, took videos, passed around pictures or those like these two girls who were arrested for threatening the victim (again - an easy arrest since they did it on social media).

Here's what I think we can learn from this case, which I don't think is unique to this Ohio town at all.

Monday, March 18, 2013

A Few Thoughts on the Heat's Winning Streak

For those living under a rock, the Miami Heat have rolled off 23 straight wins as they beat Boston inside TD Waterhouse.  They're in sole possession of the 2nd-longest streak in NBA history and how they've played during it is one more sign of how remarkable they've been this years.

Permit me to drop a few points I've observed.

As I've said before, the one thing that marvels me about the Heat is how locked in they are. They may be trailing in their games but they find a way to dig in, man up and overpower teams. They've gotten a few breaks - i.e. LeBron James' game winning shot to beat Orlando in a game they almost lost - but it's been a streak of dominance, not flukes.

That said, it reminds me to say that the 2007-08 Rockets that won 22 games remain one of the flukiest, strangest streaks in sports history. Even without Yao Ming for half of that streak, it's a reminder that being the hottest team doesn't mean you're one of the best teams. That streak helped them earn the No. 5 seed and saw them get bounced in the 1st round.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Appreciating Kobe Bryant's Late Career Surge

In his 17th season, Kobe Bryant is still one of the 10 best players in the league. That says a lot.
I hinted at this a while ago in my recent Lakers video but I think we need to stop and remind ourselves what we are seeing with Kobe Bean Bryant in his 17th season.

We've seen Kobe do things that make us think Father Time hasn't grabbed him yet. Back to back 40+ point and 10+ assist games, something no Laker had done once in the last 40 years. His clutch 3-pointers against Toronto to send that game to OT and game-winning dunk had me thinking he was wearing No. 8 again.

He won NBA Player of the Month for February and NBA Player of the Week this past week. Not much to gloss over except Kobe is doing this in YEAR 17. 17-year veterans shouldn't be Top 5 in scoring. 17-year veterans change up their game to stay alive but rarely does it them and their team even deadlier.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Tiger Woods is Back (Towards Chasing History)

I was talking to my cousin after church on Sunday and among other things, we talked about Tiger Woods' dominating win at the WGC-Cadillac Championship. Since he's a golf fan, I asked his thoughts on Tiger since we both aren't prey to the whole "Is Tiger Back?" talk.

Here's what he reminded me. Since the start of 2012 (19 events), Tiger has won 5 tournaments, the most of anyone over that time period. He's also finished 3rd twice. The last time Tiger won 2 events leading up to the Masters, he won the Masters.

This weekend, all I heard was how much Tiger was crushing the competition. The win at Doral might be his best performance since his world changed in 2009 and there's finally reason to believe that he'll finally win another major. 

The problem with us asking is Tiger back is that we judge it solely on the 4 major championships. That's been Tiger's goal since Day One - passing Jack Nicklaus' record of 18 majors. Quiet as kept, he's inched closer to another record that I think is just as valuable.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Electric Relaxation: Celebrating 10 Years of "The Listening"

I wanted to write a tribute to the 10th anniversary of Little Brother's classic debut "The Listening" but instead, I felt it was an excuse to make a video so I did. Besides, I wrote a lil something about them over here at my man XLUSIVE's website.

It's one of my favorite albums and it takes me on a soulful high with 9th Wonder's beats while still earthbound thanks to Phonte and Rapper Big Pooh spitting raps that anyone could relate to. Especially a 21-year old kid in 2006 who was getting ready to transition from college to the real world. This and The Minstrel Show helped me big time in that period.

I forgot to add how hilarious "Make Me Hot" (the true debut of Percy Miracles) and Roy Lee's skit are. What I also forgot  is that I'm proud of that memory when I bought it. It was a cool moment with my uncle, who is no longer with us, and it was my first ever trip to a spa since I was having some lower back pain. 

Also, when I saw Little Brother in San Diego in 06, I told Phonte that I found that album and he was admittedly surprised since it's hard to find. Still one of my highlights is that I took pictures with him and Big Pooh.

Enjoy and if you can find this album, go buy it or listen to YouTube. The instrumentals alone are a thing of beauty and I downloaded them a year or two after getting this album. Even though the trio is no longer together, I thank Phonte, Pooh and 9th for creating a masterpiece (2 if you count Minstrel Show) and continuing to make great music away from LB. Not to mention being hilarious and great follows on Twitter.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Barnes @ Work! (193 Lbs. and Counting)

February 28th's work (Photo by Evan Barnes)
Sunday was my 2-month anniversary of starting my working out. I gave folks an introduction at the end of January and it's time to give y'all an update.

February brought a lot more changes and challenges. None was bigger than leaving my neighborhood course and taking it to the beach. I had been wondering if it was time because I knew that running uphill and on those curves would mean that running on the beach boardwalk would be a breeze.

First time I did it was on Feb. 11 and I ran 2.89 miles. For you mathematically challenged folks, that's just over 1.44 miles straight down and back. The last run I did in my neighborhood was 2.17. Right then, I knew I was going to have some more fun.

February 15, I passed the 3-mile barrier. The boardwalk is so peaceful and beautiful that all I need is my music and it's just following my motto. Eyes down, feet forward, clear mind and push myself to match or beat what I did the day before.

Friday, March 1, 2013

No Need to Debate, Hand LeBron the MVP

After LeBron James' recent Neo-esque performance against Sacramento (40 points - 11 in the second overtime - and 16 assists - 3 in the 2nd OT), I only have one thing to say that's been building up over the past 2 months.

Give him the MVP award. Right now. Unless he suffers a season-ending injury, there's no reason why he shouldn't win his fourth MVP award. Not writer burnout, not because there's a better candidate. None.

All respect to Kevin Durant, who's on pace to join the 50-40-90 club with the highest scoring average since Larry Bird in 1988. All respect to point guard extraordinaires Chris Paul and Tony Parker (who's having a career year driving the Spurs to the best record and just lit CP3 up with no mercy). But if you don't vote for James, you're either stupid or haven't been watching basketball this year.