Thursday, January 31, 2013

Why "Girls" Is Compelling, Yet Frustrating, Yet I Still Watch

So I finally gave in and watched the first season of “Girls” over the last two weeks. Now I’m watching Season 2. Maybe it’s part of me wanting to start seeing things before writing them off. I did that with “The Help” last year and came away justified in some of my criticism but surprised in other things.

When I first saw the ads for “Girls”, I was turned off by a few factors.
1) Figured it wouldn’t appeal to me as a guy,
2) I heard reports this was another New York based show with very limited diversity a la “Friends” or “Sex in the City”.
3) It felt privileged considering series’ creator Lena Dunham’s three costars were all daughters of famous fathers and Dunham got lucky that Judd Apatow is behind her.

Now what do I think? It’s a decent show about coming of age in your mid-20’s. The rub for me, though, is that it’s a comedy in ways they probably didn’t imagine. It reminds me of girls I went to college with and how I’d roll my eyes at the immature things they’d do.

I can relate to trying to figure out your life. As much as their world is far removed from mine, there are similarities in finding your place and adjusting to relationships. At the same time, I want the show to take me higher like Treme, Newsroom, The Following (my new favorite show) or something else with more depth.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Why I'm Running

As most of you who know me know, I've been running most of this month. I've never really been a runner outside of playing sports although I used to run at Manhattan/Hermosa back in 2006-07. This is something as challenging as anything I've done.

Those of you I've told about why I'm doing this probably will think this is old news but I figured I'd share a bit more of the backstory. One of the things I've tried to do more here is share more of myself instead of just my opinions. So with that said, here's how I got here.

I barely played any sports in 2012 - no church league basketball or volleyball and I cancelled my gym membership to save additional money. I fell into my usual eating habits since college even though I was shopping more, drinking more water and eating out less. The worst is me eating late since I work in the afternoons. I tried to commit to walking to Starbucks to hang out and write but that didn't last past a month.

End result? I wondered why my face/body got bigger in pictures. The pic on my Google+ profile looks nothing like the photo I use at work, which was taken in 2010. I was always a big guy since my doc says I'm big boned but I prided myself on being nimble (Folks who've seen me dance can confirm this) and not letting myself act bigger than my body was. But now, I was becoming what I feared.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Ray Lewis: A Tale of Redemption and Rehabilition

There's a great irony in Ray Lewis ending his career in the Super Bowl. It's where his life transformed twice before our eyes and now he's back. The last game he will ever play and the final football chapter of one of the greatest redemption stories of my lifetime.

Lewis will go down as one of the greatest leaders/defenders of all time. But every time I hear somebody continue to bring up his murder trial as a joke or to degrade Lewis shows a terrible side of people not seeing the beauty of what's in front of us.

Let me take you back to 2001.  When I was filling out college applications, I struggled with what to write on my personal statement. I ended up talking about how I wasn't a typical sports fan and how I tried to learn from the folks I saw.

I used great citizens like Grant Hill and Tim Duncan to show me positive ways to live my life and I mentioned Ray Lewis as somebody who taught me what not to do when he got mixed up in that double murder charge.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Reclaiming the Message of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Every year, I try to find new ways to appreciate Dr. King a bit more. Ever since I wrote an article a few years ago at my old newspaper wondering if the younger generation still appreciated him, I wonder if I’m doing enough to keep his message alive.

A week ago, I brought a message to my junior high/high school kids at youth group on King to help them realize the power of having a dream. I encouraged them to not just dream, but dream big and put some actions behind it. Don’t be afraid to evolve your dream but also realize the power of your thoughts and words.

Too often, we stick to the same narrative on Dr. King and sometimes those words lose their significance. For me, I want to keep finding new ways to remain impressed by his words, his actions so that he remains alive and relevant.

Football Wrap: 49ers/Ravens Heading To the Bayou!

I’m bringing it back for old time’s sake. The Return of the Football Wrap to offer some takes on the NFC/AFC title games cause there’s a lot I saw Sunday.

I’ve doubted Joe Flacco for a while. I’ve criticized him as much as anybody. But it’s clear that he’s proved himself. All 5 years of his career has ended with at least one playoff win. He’s been in 3 AFC Title Games and now is in the Super Bowl. He’s called his shot and now he’s backing it up.

What more can you say after outplaying Peyton Manning and Tom Brady in their houses? He's no longer a game manager. Pretty Flacco can win with his arm now and he's starting to live up that nickname I gave him (hat tip to Mos Def)

Even more impressive that the Ravens’ defense shut out New England in the second half.  That was vintage Baltimore – hard hitting, playmaking (3 turnovers) and frustrating a great quarterback. 

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Why I Have No Sympathy for Lance Armstrong

Lance Armstrong raised a ton of money for cancer awareness in this century. He became an American legend for dominating a grueling event with one testicle. He's an inspiration to millions who have beaten cancer or fought bravely before passing on from this life. He influenced the trend on folks wearing bracelets with messages on them.

Now that we've gotten that out of the way, does that change with the overwhelming evidence that he is a cheater? Not just a cheater but someone who elaborately lied for years to keep it up. Someone who rode the fame wave of his celebrity despite bullying and threatening those who dared speak up against his empire. A man who rudely cast aside his wife in a nasty divorce.

A man who’s fall should be worse than Tiger Woods, Michael Vick, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and anybody in the sports landscape since O.J. Simpson.  A man stripped from glory and all of his titles because he decided to keep lying in the space of overwhelming evidence and he’s trying to save whatever good name he has.

Monday, January 14, 2013

"Black Days" and Sleepless Nights in Lakers Country

In a Facebook group I'm a part of, we were asked to name songs to describe this Lakers season. I named two and one of them was Soundgarden's "Fell on Black Days". It's hard, it's depressing and lyrically it's the soundtrack to a year I didn't expect in Lakerland.

I've been pretty quiet on my Lakers this year. Maybe it's because they've been too confusing to keep trying to understand. Maybe it's just that one too many stomach punches makes you numb. Either way, this season has been an unpleasant one. Just like 2004-05.

You remember that year, right? Shaq gone, Phil Jackson gone, Derek Fisher gone - just Kobe Bryant, Rudy Tomjanovich and a bunch of strange parts. Worst year I've seen as a Lakers fan as it was basically Kobe shooting the lights out and not much else.

This team looked way too promising but even when they were assembled, I had my concerns. I saw folks giddy about Steve Nash but I saw an old point guard who was still efficient offensively but wouldn't solve the Lakers perimeter defense problems. I saw folks happy about Dwight Howard signing but I saw a guy who mentally might not fit with the team and who wasn't 100% back from the first major injury of his career.

And as much as I had some issues with Mike Brown, I felt he wasn't the biggest problem. He coached this team for 83 games, including playoffs, and did as well as he could given the circumstances.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Final Thoughts on the NCAA FB Season (The Alabama Dynasty and Beyond)

Alabama keeps on proving everybody wrong every year. A year I thought they wouldn't get close to the national championship and they're partying in Miami.

AJ McCarron proved he's a much better quarterback than I thought. Eddie Lacy and TJ Yeldon proved they were worthy followups to Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson. Amari Cooper might be the next great Alabama WR as the Miami-born freshman capped his fine year with 2 TD's Monday.

But what does it all really say? It just reaffirms that Nick Saban is as great a college coach as anybody right now or within the last 15 years. Pete Carroll? Urban Meyer? Jim Tressel? Combined, they have as many national titles as Saban. But it's not just about winning, although DragonflyJonez made this great point.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

2012 - Year In Review (Favorite Articles/Blogs/Final Words)

For my articles of the year. I picked articles that were thoughtful, informative and clear. Articles with great storytelling or just wizardry with words. Stuff that made me want to get better as a writer/witness. Here we go.

Jonathan Abrams – Oral History of the Malice at Palace
(I've praised him much this year and this was one of my favorites. Breaking down that night in 2004 when all hell broke loose. My goal for 2013 - meeting Abrams at NABJ)

Will Leitch – The Fall of Rick Reilly
(Not meanspirited but almost sad looking at a great writer out of place at ESPN)

Dan Wetzel – Tom Brady after the Super Bowl
(It's hard to write greatness on deadline but Wetzel did it. The timestamps to set the scene, Gisele crying out, Brady's emotions, the sad locker room. It was storytelling at it's best. Wetzel should also be commended for his stellar reporting on the Jerry Sandusky trial)

Thursday, January 3, 2013

2012 - Year in Review (Albums and Music Thoughts)

So after reviewing my favorite songs of 2012, here's my favorite albums. I felt last year was a much better year for music. For one, I actually had top albums in my favorites instead of mixtapes. Some folks made challenging music and even though popular radio decided to keep going one way, folks didn't mind going against the grain.

My Top 5 albums
Kendrick Lamar – Good Kid, M.A.A.D City (A hip hop masterpiece)
Nas - Life Is Good
Killer Mike - R.A.P. Music
THEESatisfaction – awE naturalE (Funky Divas making soul out of Seattle)
Frank Ocean - Channel Orange (best male R&B album since BLACKsummersnight)

The Rest of the Best
Big Boi - Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors
Ab-Soul – Control System
Jack White – Blunderbuss
Gary Clark Jr – Blak and Blu (please don't sleep on this goodness)
Big K.R.I.T. - Live From the Underground
Actual Proof – Black Boy Radio
Santigold – Master of my Make-Believe
El-P – Cancer 4 Cure
Dr. John – Locked Down (Fun and funk from a New Orleans legend)

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

2012 in Review: Favorite Songs

Every year I do a Year in Review series so here's my pick for my favorite songs of the year that I listened to.

Hands on the Wheel – Schoolboy Q and ASAP Rocky had one of the year's first hits. I'm in no way advocating the message of it but it went hard. Hypnotic beat, dark hook and my first sign that TDE was more than just Kendrick Lamar.

Schoolboy Q reminds me of a harder Game and this might have been the hardest song I heard get radio play (which I still don't understand considering it was pretty profane). But either way, it definitely stayed in my head and as I've learned, big hooks hit you harder than almost anything.