Feb 26, 2009

Tokens and Tears

30 Rock's Kenneth the Page as Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal

First there was Sarah P., then Michael "The Animal" Steele, and now we have none other than Governor Bobby Jindal. Things are so bad for the Republican Party these days that pretty soon they'll be reaching out to Mike Tyson to be the new face of the GOP. (Considering that Tyson was once married to Steele's sister, this might not be as far fetched as it seems.)

In Republican land, one need not be necessarily qualified or for that matter even conscious of the fact that the disaster of Hurricane Katrina happened on the watch of an especially indifferent GOP administration. No, in Republican land all that really matters is that you are a token. Beyond that, it's all relative.

Ever since Sarah P stepped on stage in Minneapolis last summer, we have seen the desperation of the Republican Party on full display. In a lame attempt to try and challenge Obama in the manner that Hilary Clinton had done during the hard fought Democratic primaries, the GOP thought, wrongly, that Sarah P. just by virtue of being a woman, would be enough to offset the juggernaut known as Obama. In their mind one woman is just as good as another, so why not. Experience and qualifications be damned!

Then, when the reality of President Obama set in, they thought that all they needed was simply another black man to run their party. Steele has looked nothing less than foolish in the short time that he has been in his new position, especially in his comments that "jobs" created by the government really weren't "jobs" after all.

And of course this week, we were treated to Bobby Jindal, another lame attempt at tokenism by selecting a person of color from an immigrant family to try and appeal to people on the same terms that Obama has so successfully done. Jindal would have a hard time qualifying for the post of Obama's "body man"--a post now held by the increasingly popular Reggie Love--much less have the skills to counter such a strong orator. Trying to actually go toe to toe with Obama exposed Jindal as especially out of his lane and over his head. Don't you know Bobby, it takes years for this, you cat-n-the-hat-ass-governor! Perhaps the Republicans thought that some of the success of Slumdog Millionaire at the Oscars would rub off on Jindal during his speech? I mean, what else are we left to assume considering that all of these choices reek of obvious tokenism?

Some tried to suggest during the election last year that Obama's success was somehow due to affirmative action. In that vein there remain some in the Republican Party who appear to think that Obama's race is the only reason that he was victorious in November. Otherwise, why would they go to these weak challengers to try and counteract him? One reason would be because their party lacks any real diversity so they have to use what they got to get what they need. Trying to substitute any woman, African American, or person of color, simply based on their race or gender, is an expression of how truly disingenuous the Republicans really are. Such insultingly tokenistic efforts will only lead to continued failure.

Which brings me to Alexandra Pelosi's current HBO documentary Right America: Feeling Wronged. I don't know that I've ever had so much fun before, watching a bunch of scarred far right conservatives moan, groan, and literally cry over the fact that Barack Obama is our 44th President. Yes, I find glee in their misfortune and I look forward to seeing the doc. again. Trust me, this will be in regular rotation.

(Check out the comments of this especially intelligent citizen from Right America)

I have news for the GOP. Tokenism, scarred feelings, and crocodile tears are not a good look. It is a proven fact that what goes around comes around and so for all of us who have had to endure the previous eight years of a regime that we considered illegitimate, this is a new day.

Jonah Goldberg of the LA Times accused me of "gloating" last year in a piece that I wrote about the redemption of John Carlos and Tommie Smith upon the occasion of their being honored at the ESPY's for their politicized efforts at the '68 Olympics. Goldberg was hatin' and did not mean what he said about me as a compliment, but I took it as one nonetheless. So in that same spirit, I am again gloating over the repeated stumbles of the GOP and I am especially delighted to see Right America, as it were, put in it's proper place. In other words, if dissin' you is wrong, I don't wanna be right!

Feb 24, 2009

Massa Sterling and Uncle Elgin Go to Court

I find it hard to feel sorry for Elgin Baylor. It's not that I'm heartless, but my lifelong investment in realness forces me to keep sentimentality at bay when thinking about a situation that should have never reached this point.

What I am referring to is the racial discrimination lawsuit recently filed by former NBA great Elgin Baylor against his previous employer Donald Sterling, owner of the perpetually miserable Los Angeles Clippers. Baylor was the General Manager of the Clippers for 22 years, before being fired by the organization last year. In his lawsuit he is alleging that Sterling created a "southern plantation-type structure" in the Clipper organization, accusing the owner of a "pervasive and ongoing racist attitude." What is this, Mandingo?

Ken Norton in Mandingo (1975)

It's not that Baylor's claims don't have weight. They most certainly do. Donald Sterling has been sued twice in the last six years for housing discrimination in connection with the many apartment buildings he owns throughout Los Angeles. That's right, housing discrimination! That's so last century. Sterling was sued once by the nonprofit Housing Rights Center and more recently by the United States Justice Department. And let me be clear, it was not the newly installed Obama Justice Department that sued Sterling, but the politicized Justice Department of George W. Bush, run by his ole "do boy," as they say down in the dirty, Alberto Gonzales. It is not as though the Bush Justice Department was known for its aggressive approach towards pursuing discrimination, quite the contrary, so Sterling's offenses must have been ridiculously obvious. A trial date is set for 2010.

Donald Sterling "sizing up" former Clipper Elton Brand?

What has long been most disturbing about Sterling's record with discrimination charges is the fact that very few people even know about it. In an NBA where the least little infraction on a player's part is headline news, an owner can be charged twice with advocating the kind of discriminatory practices that would have kept the African American players on his team from living in his buildings, and no one really even knows about it. Can you say double standard?

If an NBA player engages in flatulence, someone in the media and the league office will have pronounced judgment on the foul smell before the lord gets the news, but all you get when you bring up the allegations of Sterling's discriminatory practices is a shrug of indifference?! People's perceptions of the inherent criminality relative to NBA players is so extreme that if a player gets robbed at gun point it is automatically assumed that the player himself is somehow responsible. Yet Donald Sterling can act like he's a modern day Lester Maddox and it's all good?! C'mon now...

Donald Sterling should have been suspended by the league a long time ago, until his trial is completed, and if he is found guilty he should be forced to sell the team immediately. Though he settled in the first lawsuit, with the results sealed, the fact that he has been charged twice in a three year span with the same thing says to me where there's smoke there's fire. For the NBA not to have acted on this is negligent at best. At worst, it is an unspoken endorsement of such acts by virtue of allowing Sterling to remain a valued member of the NBA ownership fraternity in good standing. David Stern and Sterling's fellow owners are all complicit in this for not making it a bigger issue.

All this is to say that I have no trouble accepting the accusations made by Baylor against Sterling. Again, it is a known fact that smoke often signals fire and Sterling's smoke signals are so thick that it's hard to breathe. That being said, I still can't feel sorry for Elgin.

Why would you stay on a job for 22 years under such conditions? Elgin, through his lawyers, says that he suffered the indignity of racism because there were so few African Americans in executive positions in the NBA that he felt that he should endure this so that others would have a better opportunity. Ok, Jackie Robinson, if you say so. While the NBA is far from perfect, the league has more African Americans in visible positions of power than any other professional sports league. This has been the case for a long time now. Both the executive ranks and the ranks of coaching are filled with African Americans. Baylor is no one's martyr and to say so is disingenuous. This is all on him.

As one of the game's early superstars, Baylor had other options. He accepted the criminally low pay that the Clippers offered him. He allowed himself to remain in such an environment for 22 long years. This was by choice, not by force. To have willingly stayed on under such circumstances and then to turn around and charge racial discrimination is not only cowardly, but it is the type of response that makes people question legitimate claims of racial bias when they arise. I guess no one ever told Elgin that Jim Crow ended a long time ago and that he didn't have to accept this unfair treatment?

I'm sorry, but the reason I never had love for Anita Hill was because she followed Clarence Thomas from gig to gig, in spite of the fact that she says she was a victim of sexual harassment. I'm not defending Thomas, by no means, but at some point, one's actions, or lack thereof, make them complicit. This doesn't excuse the offending party, but it does compromise the claim in my book. The same is true with Elgin Baylor. As jive as Donald Sterling might have been, Baylor didn't have to work for the Clippers, certainly not for 22 years.

Unfortunately there are no winners in this one. It's not surprising. The Clippers are one of the worst franchise in professional sports, so the concept of winning is not something normally associated with this club. It appears now that the losing atmosphere is indeed the result of having a real loser as an owner. Donald Sterling is a disgrace to the game of basketball. But Elgin Baylor is a loser as well, not only in regards to his terrible record as GM, but also for letting himself be punked in this manner. Baylor was complicit in allowing Sterling to treat him like a second class citizen, when other options were available to him. Elgin Baylor demonstrated an amazing lack of pride and dignity here.

If it is true that Donald Sterling wanted to create a modern day plantation on the basketball court, Elgin Baylor most certainly served as his willing house slave through all of this.

Feb 20, 2009

Gorillaz in the Mist

So the New York Post has got jokes it seems. Their cartoon this week featuring two cops shooting down a monkey with a reference to the recent stimulus bill has riled the feathers of many New Yorkers and others from around the country. Is The Post calling our 44th President a monkey? Some feel as though the image of the monkey is a bit too close for comfort, considering the longstanding racist practice of linking African Americans with primates. I'm assuming that Gorilla Zoe and G(orilla) Unit didn't get this memo?

Anyway, as this non-story evolves into a story, I find myself unmoved, if not cynically smiling. We shouldn't delude ourselves into thinking that since Obama has become the President that racism will just stop automatically. There will be utterances of racism as long as we have racially insensitive people among us. Yet with a black President calling the shots, such racist examples, particularly those that defame the Commander-in-Chief directly, can't go without being checked anymore.

I regard the Post's cartoon as exposure. To Rupert Murdoch and The Post, it's simple, you played yourself! This is perhaps the first act of many that will try to make some sort of veiled or not so veiled reference to race that will be quickly challenged by virtue of the fact that you can't go around dissing the shot caller without being put in check. Such instances are really racial teaching moments waiting to happen.

People can march and protest all they want. It doesn't matter. The NY Post and all others who choose to engage in the game of race baiting will be swiftly made to answer for their sins. Just watch. This situation has already gotten more traction than would normally be the case and not because of that signifyin' monkey Al Sharpton either. It has nothing to do with Sharpton, actually. It has everything to do with the power of the Presidency though; power, both visible and invisible.

Now that he has cut his hair and doesn't have to go in for a touch up as often, Al Sharpton has time on his hands and needs something to do, so he sits around waiting for racial controversies to exploit. He's a racial ambulance chaser, that's all. But Al, I got news for ya Bruh. The President don't need your protests. Actually there's nothing you can do for the man, other than get out of the way. You have no juice and you are not needed. If anything, you make matters worst because your lack of credibility sullies the waters so much so that your presence actually takes away from legitimate claims. You could really do us all a big favor if you simply went somewhere and sat ur ass down. Please! When perms come back in, we'll holla, but until then, as Mom Dukes might say, make yourself scarce.

Is this not 2009? Protest marches accomplish nothing. When are people going to get out of that old school 60s mindset? While I realize that many people like feeling as though they are perpetual victims, the time for being a victim has long passed. Barack Obama is the President. Not the President of the NAACP, mind you, but the President of the Unites States. Those who get on Mr. President's bad side will have to pay, just like Woltz in The Godfather and Senator Geery in Godfather II. That's the beauty of it all to me. A lot of things that people use to be able to get away with in terms of race and racial discourse will now be scrutinized much more thoroughly and the offenders will find themselves having to answer for their misdeeds. That's what it means to be in power.

Though there will undoubtedly be others who are foul and ignorant in regards to their racial utterances, the power of the Presidency will now force the offenders to quickly come correct. So get your head out of the 60s and back into the present. Stop marching. It looks real corny now. I realize that Tyler Perry's new movie opened today, but I was hoping that we could keep the coonin' confined to the theaters. Wishful thinking, I guess?

By the way, speaking of monkeys, you ever notice that "they" always show Planet of the Apes during Black History Month? What's up with that?

Feb 16, 2009

Not Worthy (And I Don't Mean James)

NY Times Magazine Cover Subject Shane Battier of the Houston Rockets

Sunday's New York Times Magazine featured a cover story, "The No-Stats All-Star," on the Houston Rocket's forward Shane Battier written by well regarded scribe Michael Lewis. The article discusses the way that the use of scientific statistics to evaluate players has now made its way into basketball, after initially taking hold in Major League Baseball back in the 1990s. Baseball writer Bill James is the figure most associated with the practice known as sabermetrics, which is a highly scientific way of evaluating even the most mundane statistical data for the purpose of finding especially productive players. Houston Rocket's General Manager Daryl Morey is highly influenced by the use of statistics and is credited in the Lewis article with bringing this approach into basketball. Shane Battier is emblematic of the type of player the sabermetrics approach focuses on, one who is not a superstar or even regarded as especially athletic, but who makes his team better whenever he is on the court, while the team appears to suffer when he sits on the bench.

The problem with this article, and there are several, starts with the exclusive focus on Battier. Not that Battier isn't a important piece for the Houston Rockets, he is, but his overall value to his team and by extension to basketball is quite a bit overstated. Secondly, one doesn't need statistics to know that an NBA game often comes down to individual players taking over in crunch time. Nor does one need sabermetrics to know that NBA basketball has long featured what are called "role players", which is what Battier most certainly is. A role player or "glue guy" as they are often described in the colloquial parlance of the contemporary NBA, is not a superstar, but one who does the little things, the dirty work, and all other tasks deemed to be in the interest of helping the team--taking charges, diving for loose balls, etc.--so that the superstar can flourish. Think of a good supporting actor, as opposed to a movie star.

The article talks about Battier's time with the Memphis Grizzles and the Rockets, yet neither team has made it out of the first round of the playoffs during Battier's tenure. Perhaps a better subject for the article would have been James Posey, now of the New Orleans Hornets. Posey, a role player who is known for his defensive skills and his three point shooting ability, like Battier, has been an important member of two of the last three NBA champions; the Miami Heat and the Boston Celtics. Posey's defense on Kobe Bryant in last year's finals was significant in denying Kobe the opportunity to take over games and the unorthodox-looking 3s that Posey hit with regularity were always timely. Some have argued that Posey's absence from the Celtics bench this year might be the difference that keeps them from repeat as champions. Yet Posey's name doesn't even come up in Lewis' article. Lewis goes on and on about Battier's defense on Bryant during the regular season last year, as though Wack Mamba has never been contained before. The difference is, Posey did it in the Finals while helping his team win a championship. Of course every team that wins a title has one or more contributing role players as these players are an important component of any championship squad.

James Posey, celebrating the Celtics' championship (June, 2008)

So why the focus on a rather unspectacular player who has had limited success? Well it seems that in the age of Obama, Battier's biracial birth rite is what Lewis really wants to talk about. Battier, who starred in college at Duke, has a white mother and a black father. He is idealized in the article partly because he seems to have defied the expectation of some of the African American players on the AAU circuit who thought that he was soft back when he was in high school. Lewis spends a lot of time in the article describing Battier's struggles to fit in as a youth because of his biracial heritage and the fact that other NBA players don't really like him, the implication being that they don't like him because he's considered a suburban guy with a Duke pedigree in a league dominated by street players.

If you want to write an article about the struggles of biracial people to fit into society, so be it. By all means. But this particular article high jacks basketball in order to tell this story, using the sabermetrics angle as a ruse. Lewis doesn't demonstrate that the investment in statistics has spread beyond the Houston Rockets. Neither Battier or Daryl Morey deserve this type of basketball attention because they have yet to win anything of significance. The sabermetrics theory is a non theory as far as basketball goes. The sport is played on the court, not computers. NBA basketball is a game that still revolves around improvisation and creativity, something no computer in the world can measure. Save the sabermetrics for baseball. The culture of basketball is firmly rooted in the streets and though Shane Battier is a good player, his NBA career to this point has been nothing but incidental.

Feb 13, 2009

The Lincoln OD

Ok, I am officially tired of hearing about Abraham Lincoln. No more, please. I'm "Lincolned" out.

Barack Obama started something when he boldly embraced the image of Lincoln on his own historic run to the presidency. He rekindled an ongoing interest in one of America's most storied political figures when he wrapped himself in Lincoln. Since Obama's victory Lincoln has been reborn it seems.

We've heard talk about Lincoln's "team of rivals" concept, an issue discussed at length in Doris Kearns Goodwin's book of the same title. Obama, of course, has been busy trying to implement this concept in his own cabinet, though some Republicans--most recently Senator Judd Gregg who withdrew his name from consideration for Secretary of Commerce due to what he stated were political differences with the President and his desire to continue to be "his own man"--seem to be less enthusiastic about being part of such a team.

While the idea of putting Republicans like Robert Gates and Ray LaHood in his cabinet does demonstrate Obama's eager desire to be bi-partisan, it appears as though many of the Republicans are more interested in blocking and playa hatin' than they are in true bipartisanship as evidenced by the recent shenanigans in Congress over the latest stimulus bill. Since it's impossible to be reasonable with unreasonable people, maybe it's time to drop the bi-partisan experiment and let the dissenting class know who's really in charge? You have extended your hand, Mr. President, and a majority of the Republicans, in turn, have given you their collective asses to kiss. Big ups to Senators Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe of Maine, as well as Arlen Specter, for acting as though they have some sense. The rest of you can be as obstinate as you want, your party is not in power and your influence wanes with each passing day.

Back to Honest Abe. This week there were two PBS documentaries on the President known as "The Great Emancipator." American Experience aired The Assassination of Abraham Lincoln and there was also the Henry Louis Gates' doc Looking for Lincoln.

Looking for Lincoln shows, among other things, Skip Gates getting out a chauffeured Lincoln Town Car as he walks up to Doris Kearns Goodwin's door, along with another scene which depicts the Harvard professor with his shoes off and his feet propped up, while he lounges on a sofa reading some rare Lincoln document. He looked so comfortable, I thought for a minute that he was going to start clipping his toenails. Add to this several sycophantic scenes of Skip jockin' former presidents Slick Willie and Bush 43, while asking their opinion of good ole Abe. For a film supposedly about Lincoln I was starting to wonder why Skip himself was "all in the video" so much? Perhaps a better title might have been Looking for Self-Aggrandizement? Just a thought.

When Skip wasn't gassin' himself up or indulging war criminals, he was droning on and on about what he considers to be the real Lincoln, not the Lincoln of myth, fable, or hagiography, as though everyone else really cared as much about this topic as he clearly does.

Let me say this, I, for one, have no real love for Lincoln. The only Lincoln I like is the old school Continental with the suicide doors! Abraham Lincoln's freeing of the slaves was driven more by economic concerns than racial ones. This, along with the efforts to reintegrate the south back into the union after the end of the Civil War was considered of utmost importance. What to do with the 4 million black people who were no longer slaves was an afterthought. While Lincoln doesn't bare the weight of all this alone, the overall circumstances surrounding slavery, reconstruction, and the legacy of race in this country make it hard for me to see Lincoln as even remotely heroic. Lincoln was perhaps the lesser of evils, but still far from heroic and full of all kinds of racial contradictions, to boot. Like Malcolm X once said, "You don't stick a knife in a man's back nine inches and then pull it out six inches and say you are making progress."

Slavery was wrong and should have never happened, so it makes no sense to me to give someone credit for stopping something that shouldn't have been started in the first place. It's like that Chris Rock joke about niggaz wanting credit for things that they are supposed to do, with the stated example being "I take care of my kids." Chris' response, "what do you want, a cookie?" seems an apt way to respond to all the praise being bestowed upon Lincoln lately.

To Gates' credit his doc did touch on a wide range of opinions on Lincoln, including the assertion by some that Lincoln was himself a racist. Yet, the overall tone of the piece was too obsequious for my taste. I could very easily substitute Lincoln's name for Elvis in that famous Public Enemy lyric that begins with "Elvis was a hero to most...".

Enough already. Let's put Lincoln to rest now. And while we're at it, maybe somebody can tell Skip to play his position, "stay out the video," and let the subject matter speak for itself next time.

Feb 9, 2009


Wow, what a past couple of days. Alex "A Fraud" Rodriguez is identified as having failed a previous drug test for steroids and later admits to using performance enhancing drugs, Chris Brown decides to use his goon hand, and now we learn that Sir Charles will be back on the scene at TNT after the All Star Game. And even though The Grammys were as expected, wack, seeing The "Rap Pack" perform--Jay-Z, Kanye, T.I., and Weezy-- with a pregnant M.I.A. was the highlight of the evening. In spite of the fact that hip hop is at a lull right now, seeing all that star power on stage reminds us that hip hop has left an indelible signature on the landscape of global culture that will never be erased.

But I want to talk about A Fraud for a minute. Who didn't know that homie was using? Raise your hand, please. The game has been full of performance enhancing drugs (PEDs) for years now. No, the usage was not confined to a few bad apples, it was widespread and pervasive. When will people stop acting all innocent about this?

It's like the widespread sexual abuse scandal amongst Catholic priests from a few years back. When a scandal touches that many people, it's clearly not just a few deviants, but instead it is a culture at work within a larger institution. The use of PEDs in baseball is part of a culture that goes back to the 1980s. A Rod, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Sammy Sosa, Mark McGwire, and Raphael Palmario, are some of the best baseball players of the last 20 years, and they've all been implicated. That tells me that the usage had become part of the player's overall fitness routine, not some underground cult where a handful of players indulged anonymously. The fact that baseball only started testing in 2003 says to me that they knew all along what was up.

The thing is, baseball was so eager to bust their most hated member, Barry Bonds, that they exposed people like Clemens and A Rod in the process. If they didn't have such a vendetta against Bonds none of this may have ever come out.

Baseball made a deal with the steroid devil after canceling their season in 1994 and collectively looked the other way as the player's astronomical statistics started bringing attention back to the sport in subsequent seasons. The game was on the rebound, chicks loved the long ball, and they were making money hand over fist, so why interfere with a good thing? Once again, had it not been for the animosity surrounding Bonds and his pursuit of Aaron's record, none of this may have ever reached the light of day. But thanks to the overzealous attempts to bust Bonds and make him the scapegoat, the scrutiny over his activities lead to revelations of a culture that extend far beyond Barry Bonds.

As I've said before, it's clear that baseball had a problem. Not the players alone, but the sport itself. Stop pissing in people's faces and telling them that it's raining. Come on out and say that the sport is dirty and has been for a long time now. Acknowledge this and keep it moving. Anyone caught going forward can be punished accordingly, but let's drop this faux sense of shock every time another player's name get implicated in the scandal.

Of course, I think that the use of PEDs is consistent with the times. Science offers the opportunity for people to grow hair, remove wrinkles, prolong sexual activity, and give birth to octuplets, among other things. Why are we surprised when multi-million dollar athletes who work for billion dollar organizations uses science to enhance their performances? Like Grand Master Flash and the Furious Five said many years ago, "it's all about money/ain't a damn thing funny/you gotta have a con/in this land of milk and honey."

No, it's not cheating, it's the reality of the world we live in where people will do whatever it takes to gain an edge in their appearance or in their performance. That's not cheating, that's America!

Feb 6, 2009

Don't Start None, Won't Be None

There should be a dress code of respect. I wish that he would wear a suit coat and tie. The Oval Office symbolizes...the Constitution, the hopes and dreams, and I'm going to say democracy. And when you have a dress code in the Supreme Court and a dress code on the floor of the Senate, floor of the House, I think it's appropriate to have an expectation that there will be a dress code that respects the office of the President. I don't criticize Obama for his appearance, I do expect him to send the message that people who are going to be in the Oval Office should treat the office with the respect that it has earned over history.
Andrew Card, Former Chief of Staff for George Bush 43

Andy Card, I know you ain't talkin' greasy?! Not you?!

But indeed he is. Andrew Card recently had a Mr. Blackwell moment when he suddenly turned into a fashion critic, choosing to criticize President Barack Obama for the new casual dress code that has now been instituted in the White House. As the quote indicates, Card strongly suggests that President Obama is disrespecting the office of the Presidency with the more relaxed sartorial stipulations that he has recently put in place.

First of all, Andy Gump, have you been asleep for the last month? Barack Obama is the President of the Unites States and you're not. With that office comes the authority to decide how people should move through the office. If he decides that a more casual dress code is appropriate, then it is a done deal. Your opinion is worthless. You are the one disrespecting the office by choosing to get all in the man's BI, when you yourself are in no position to offer any advice, suggestion, or critique. The inauguration for the new President was January 20, did you miss that? Your old boss is out of a gig now, so stay in your lane.

Secondly, Obama represents change in so many ways, one of which involves eliminating that old, stogy, uptight idea that everyone should be suited and booted at all times. Have you not heard of casual Fridays? There is no direct link between one's appearance and their ability to get the job done.

Trust me, I've been as clean as a cooked chitlin' since I was 15, and I, more than most, can certainly appreciate people being up to par in terms of the gear that they wear. But I'm also smart enough to know that everything ain't for everybody. Just because my dress code is impeccable doesn't mean that everyone else should be held up to such a high standard. I can respect people's right to do their own thing and as long as they do their work, it's all good.

Bush 43 had a dress code from the 1950s and yet it didn't stop him from being the President with the lowest approval ratings or from having shoes thrown at him. Your former boss' dress code didn't stop him from being considered the worst President ever. If you want to talk about dress code let's talk about that infamous flight suit your man wore on the deck of that aircraft carrier. Where did he think he was going, to a Halloween party?

Finally Mr. Gump, how could you fix your mouth to criticize Obama's dress code when you are known affectionately as "Cheeseburger Boy"? Yessir, according to Ron Suskind in The Price of Loyalty this is the same Andy Card who Bush 43 once sent for so that Card could fetch him some cheeseburgers. That's right, cheeseburgers! What is this, John Belusi's old "Billy Goat" routine from SNL, "cheeseburger, cheeseburger, cheeseburger...no Coke, Pepsi"? Or as Vincent Vega might say, a "royale with cheese". I didn't realize that the Chief of Staff had such daunting duties. Go get me a cheeseburger boy, and have 'em hold the mayo!

But this brings up another thought, is eating a cheeseburger in the White House respecting the office of the Presidency?

Feb 3, 2009

When 61 Equals 0

Many across the country, and especially in LA, are all misty-eyed today following Kobe Bryant's 61 point effort against the New York Knicks in Madison Square Garden last night. How many times can one listen to the stat about the most points ever scored in MSG without dying a slow death of indifference?

Not only is Kobe the most overrated player since Larry Bird retired, but the cultural significance of MSG, relative to basketball, is also exaggerated beyond the boundaries of one's most vivid imagination.

Kobe is clearly a first ballot Hall-of-Famer and one of the greats in the game's history. Even I can't dispute that. Kobe was in the passenger seat while Shaq drove the Lakers to 3 straight titles from 2000-2002. After helping force the trade of Shaq following the dismantling administered by the Pistons in 2004, Kobe jumped to the top of the scoring charts in subsequent seasons, scoring as many as 81 points in a game back in 2006, while regularly putting up exceptional numbers, night in, night out. No one ever said that Wack Mamba couldn't score the basketball. He eventually made it back to the Finals last summer, only be to run off the court again, this time by the Boston Celtics. Let us not forget that Kobe's last two trips to the NBA Finals have ended in resounding defeat.

What I am reacting to here is the rather short memory or overall lack of knowledge that many fans who watch the NBA bring to their viewing experience. It's the fools who are saying that Kobe is on Jordan's level that irk me. Jordan won 6 NBA titles and at no point during any of those 6 titles was he ever the second scoring option on offense. When it was all said and done, Jordan had 10 scoring titles to go along with those 6 rings, not to mention countless other accolades and accomplishments. Those 10 scoring titles and 6 rings were all won consecutively also. This means that Jordan had a sustained dominance, without a drop off over an extended period of time. Kobe so far as 2 scoring titles and 3 rings as as the second fiddle. Case closed, suitcase filled with clothes!

Kobe scored 61 points in a regular season game against a team that has been in the draft lottery more so than the playoffs lately. It's like the year he scored those 81 points against Toronto, the Raptors ended up with the first pick in the draft they were so bad. 61 points against the lowly Knicks is nothing special for a player who has already put up the type of numbers that Kobe has. This is to be expected. He set such a high mark for himself, now he must live up to it.

When Kobe scores 61 points in a Finals game and goes on to win a title without Shaq then I'll give it up. Until then, those 61 points are empty for me. Do it when it counts. Do it in June, not February, then we have someone to talk about.

As for the so-called "Mecca of Basketball," this is nothing but more New York hype. It's the same hype that made the "LeBron is coming to the Knicks in 2010" non-story into a story earlier this season. Considering that the last time the Knicks won a title Richard Nixon was the President, as opposed to being a character in an Oscar-nominated movie, and that the last great NYC player, Stephon "Starbury," he of the $15 sneakers, is an absolute bust, maybe we need to accept the fact that the Mecca of Basketball has been relocated.

Group think is not a good look. Neither Kobe nor Madison Square Garden deserve the attention that comes from a herd mentality which is both uninformed and out to lunch. You can't just declare someone or something great and just assume that it is that way. At the end of the day it is about a body of work and though Kobe has an impressive one, to mention him in the same breath with Jordan is an insult to the greatest of all times.

Feb 2, 2009

"I Don't Smoke the Weed if it ain't Purple or Blue"

The second that I came across the photo showing Olympic superstar Michael Phelps taking a bong hit I knew that we were in for an extended round of passing judgment, excessive moralizing, and a level of overall hypocrisy that would threaten to make me nauseous. There are few things in the world more annoying than a scandal involving an athlete and their indulgence of certain substances. Considering Phelps immense level of success, both as a swimmer and now as an advertising force, I knew that this event would prompt a national conversation that would once again be misguided and uninformed. I dread moments like this. Not because I think it's a shame that a grown man decided to blaze it up, but because of the inevitable responses that would come from various sectors of this square-ass nation that we continue to live in.

In a country as economically and culturally shell shocked as our own is right now, there are much more important things going on than the sight of a 23 year old smoking weed. Yet because many still subscribe to this silly notion of athletes as role models, the response to such an event is about as predictable as Terrell Owens criticizing the quarterback for not throwing enough footballs in his direction.

What Sir Charles said back in the day still holds true, athletes should not be thought of as role models. His recent arrest in Arizona on drunk driving charges suggests that Sir Charles still believes strongly in what he said many years ago.

Athletes are trained to be superior in their respective sports. One doesn't get to be as good as Phelps just by watching swimming competitions on television. Phelps has been groomed to be the man in the pool since he was a boy. And as Malcolm Gladwell points out in his latest sensation Outliers, all the hours that superstars like Phelps put into pursuing their craft as a youth has a direct connection to their uber success as adults. Phelps is the greatest swimmer of all time and one of the top Olympians ever. Yet for all those hours spent in the pool, there were other aspects of Phelps' life that went unattended. There's only so many hours in a day. Phelps is an incredible swimmer, but those hours in the pool don't automatically translate into him knowing how to be a "model citizen."

Phelps is evidently a young man who likes to get his party on. Perhaps all that discipline that he has exhibited while in training stops when it comes to his personal life? The man might just need a release. He's not a robot. So he exhibits a lack of discipline out of the pool that rivals his dedication in the pool. His strength is perhaps his weakness. This all says to me that he is human, not a poor role model.

When did we start investing athletes with all these superhuman characteristics anyway? I enjoy watching great athletes because they are great at what they do. If I want to be impressed by someone for the moral standard that they set, I'll go and read about Gandhi.

The act of smoking of weed continues to rile the feathers of many uninformed people in our society. When are we going to get off this prohibition era reefer madness attitude that surfaces every time the subject of marijuana comes up? The man was photographed smoking a bong, not sticking a "hairon" spike in his arm. This country is so backwards on this weed issue that it ain't even funny.

I could do without Phelps fake apology too; as if he is going to stop gettin' his swerve on now! The words of apology are to appease the advertisers and their customers; a pure PR move. Yet such a move has become part of the political theater that always accompanies an event like this. It's empty rhetoric, that's all.

Dude got popped for drunk driving before and now this. He brags about listening to Jeezy before going out to dominate his sport. This all tells me that he likes to indulge. I ain't mad. When his out of the pool activities start to impact his swimming then I can hear the arguments about keeping priorities straight, but beyond that, as long as you ain't hurting nobody, do you. As Method Man once so famously said, "roll that shit, lite that shit, smoke it!"

When will all the hypocrisy stop? When will people be more incensed about truly detrimental activities like the "alleged" war crimes of the previous presidential administration? When will we stop holding human beings to unrealistic standards of behavior? When we will stop expecting athletes and other public figures to be saints? When we will drop all these ancient attitudes about weed?

I guess the answer to all these questions is when the society stops with all the hyperbole and gets hip to the real deal. I don't have any illusions that this is going to happen any time soon though, if ever.

Meanwhile, I wonder if he was burning kush in that bong? Considering that he was in South Carolina, I doubt it. Smoking a bong full of stress, now that's a crime!