That NEW Adage

A pressure-relief valve about God, and just about everything else.

… He’s in the band.

My favorite athlete of all — aside from my father —  is going into the hall of fame!

Michael Jordan is finally making that inevitable step into sports eternity. And he is apparently not too happy about it. He feels that it is the final indicator that he will never, absolutely NEVER dress up and play again. I am sad for him (there is, here, an Ecclesiastical lesson about the insufficiency of wealth and fame), and I understand. The only thing my knees will let me see of my favorite sport anymore is to stand still and shoot free throws.

I am reminded of a time  and an occasion that cemented my love for what I do…

My father was a football player, a basketball player, and a track athlete. And ALL his friends expected his first-born and only son to be the same.

He set me on the path to athletic accomplishment very early! There are home movies of me at the age of three doing heel raises and push-ups. I could do fifty push-ups at four. I lifted weights on a regular basis before I was ten. I ran track in the Junior Olympics every summer. I would, as a pre-teen, finish off a tough weightlifting session with a three mile run. I used to have to run up and down our forty-yard-long back yard carrying one of my sisters on my back. I HAD to do all of this. And I hated it! I was given no chance to express a desire or aptitude for this stuff. I just came into the world doing squats and “side straddle hops.”

My pop and I had a really tough time. But he was only doing what he knew to do. No hard feelings, finally.

Although I loved actually playing the games, and was pretty good at them  — basketball and football and racing and baseball — I hated the thought of all that rigorous practicing! I was ruined.

And I was a runt growing up! My pop was 6’1 1/2” and about 250. He benched 450 and squatted over 700. I’ve got pictures! I, on the other hand, was shorter than my 5′ 4″ mother until the ninth grade. And I was about 5′ 10″, 155 at sixteen.

My father would always look at me, shake his head, and say, “You’re gonna be small…” with all the sorrow of lost dreams.

By the time I entered the military at twenty — between college stints — I was 6′ 3″, 218. I was a typical late bloomer! But it was too late for me to try out for teams and stuff…

It was only after my first girlfriend dumped me and cheated on me (with a guy who recently requested to be my facebook friend(!!!!) ) that I began lifting weights in earnest. On my own. I’m still trying to catch Daddy.

All my extra-curricular activities were music related. I was in the band. In school, you have the athletes, the smart kids, the dope heads and slackers… and the band kids.

My pop LOVES music!! He would play a song he liked over and over throughout the house for whole afternoons! He was always singing and beating on tables and pumping the car brakes to the beat of some song on the radio. But what he didn’t think, apparently, was that being in the band was in any way related to the music on the eight-track tapes he used to be known for making for people.

And when one of his friends or co-workers would meet me and shake my hand and ask, “So, you playin’ football like ya daddy?” he would interject, “No,” shamefully. And my mother, defiantly, defensively, would quickly retort, “He’s in THE BAND!” Proudly. Every time. And I would always ask her not to do that, saying that it was okay, and that her defense of me only made me look even softer than they already thought I was. But she never stopped.

When I was about to be drummed out of the junior-high band for overcrowding, it was my mother who went into some level of debt and bought me a horn so I could stay in. I still have that beat up horn. I played my first pro gigs with it. Where would I be now…

So, the denouement came with a conversation with a friend at a coffee shop years later.

I played there at Precious Cargo coffee shop on a regular basis. It was the place where I first learned to sing, lead a band, and talk to an audience. It was there that I learned that I was not the Charlie Brown I thought I was. The girls LOVED me! And no one was more shocked than I to find that out! I was just doing my thing, and I looked up and found out that I had FANS!

And one night, sitting at the bar, one of the friends I had made playing there pulled up next to me and shared with me an item that I will never forget.

“Man, you know you can play that horn! I’m just sittin’ here watchin’. Y’all got a lot of people comin’ here to hear y’all play, and this place ain’t even been open that long.” His voice turned melancholy.

“I really admire what you doin’. When I was in school, I was this big time football player. I was cool, and I thought I was the man! I used to dog folks who played in the band, man. I gave ’em a hard time. But now, I can’t do that no more. I can’t play football no more, but YOU can STILL do what you used to do.

I was absolutely undone! I had never looked at it like that. I can play my horn the rest of my life. On a high level. But Michael Jordan will never suit up again.

And my father is in competition with my mother to be my biggest fan…

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April 10, 2009 Posted by | Basketball, Christ, Christian Life, Christianity, Current Events, Fathers and Sons, Hall of Fame, Life, Michael Jordan, Mortality, Sports | 5 Comments

Shut Up!

Using a drug to increase your ability to compete and win is egregious. Period. You cheat, and you diminish other athletes’ ability to earn a fair living, you cause coaches to get fired, and you turn society into cynics. You have indiscernible character, if any at all. Read the rest of this with that fact noted.

Jim Rome — SHUT UP!

Stephen A. (for ARROGANT) Smith — SHUT UP!

Skip Baseless — I mean Bayless — SHUT UP!

Sports talk radio idiots — SHUT UP pleeeease!

Alex Rodriguez gave his interview, and immediately the self-appointed saints of the Church of Sport picked the apology to pieces. “Was he sincere?” “How much of the truth did he tell?” “Did he really quit using?” And on and on…

Smith even had the gall to demand that A. Rod should have used steroids at least long enough to bring the Yankees a world championship! Then, he would have been good for something, Smith suggested! I have family in NYC, but it is THAT attitude that makes me sick about that town! Do New Yorkers pass gas that smells like freekin’ honey buns?!?

The reason for this rant, though, is the ubiquitous assertions that the only reason Rodriguez apologized is that HE GOT CAUGHT.

As if that is not the reason ANY of us apologizes!!

I was reminded of the story of David — after God’s own heart — who was in the midst of adultery and murder and was going about his business until the prophet Nathan pointed his sins out to him.

David’s apologies are legendary. And so heart-rendingly sincere  that they are the model for all of us. Check this out… 

 He apologized when he got caught.

Jim Rome, when you speed in your car, or unfairly slam an athlete who does what you could never do, do you simply come on air and apologize unprompted?

Stephen A. (for ARROGANT) Smith, when you are chillin’ in “Souf  Beach” and so lustfully devour those barely-clad women in your mind, to whom do you apologize?

Skip, I know you are without sin.

And I’m sure all you talk radio idiots have never driven home drunk, or smoked weed, or cheated on your wives, or used your platforms to marginalize someone you don’t like… But if you did, did you just say “sorry” even though you got away with it? Since you are all of such high moral character and physical prowess…

A. Rod was (maybe is) stupid. Michael Phelps is, too. Stupid. And being 23 years old is the lamest excuse in the world! When my pops was 23, he was a husband and a father! Don’t give me that, “I was only 23, I was young,” mess! I never took drugs, but I’ve done some stupid stuff that I might not tell you until you find out. And being young was no part of the reason!

But as to whether his apology was sincere or not because he only did it because he got caught… That’s what we ALL do. Whether man catches us or not, our consciences convict us because God sees EVERYTHING we do. He has “caught” us even before we have don anything, so when we tell Him we’re sorry, it is because. we. got. caught. Otherwise, we wouldn’t have done it!

So all you guys just shut up and let me watch the doggone game!

February 12, 2009 Posted by | A. Rod, Alex Rodriguez, ESPN, Jim Rome, Michael Phelps, Skip Bayless, Sports, Sports Talk Radio, Stephen A. Smith | 1 Comment

What a Difference a Play Makes

Wow. The world is inside out. Who’da thunk it? Here we are with a black Presidential nominee, me (the perpetual uncle), married with two kids, and I’m pulling for the Celtics, and against the Lakers!!!

“Daddy, who you want to win?” I asked, at ten years old.

“The Steelers,” he answered, eyes never turning from the screen.

“Highcome?”

“Cause they tough! They’ll knock yo’ (bleep) outdowes! Plus, they got a black quarterback!” Daddy loves toughness. So do I. Leopards and rhinos are my favorite animals for that reason.

The Steelers became my favorite team.

“Daddy, who you want to win?”

“The Yankees.”

“Highcome?”

“Reggie Jackson. He can knock a aspirin to the moon, and he got a rifle for an arm (most people forget that). Plus, the Dodgers ain’t got no Brothers on the team.” I hated the LA Dodgers, then.

“Daddy, who you want to win?”

“Ali!!”

For all those obvious reasons. Plus, he was cocky! Not Arrogant! He said what he was gonna do, and he did it! Flat out. He never made one feel as though he were innately inferior as a human being. He was as fun to listen to as to watch. My folks loved Ali, Mom too. So, I hated Frazier, Liston, Foreman — the first one, Norton, and Quarry.

Daddy loved Jim Brown. So much so that he wore the number 44 because that was Brown’s number at Syracuse. (And that was my number when I played basketball in the military) If I had a doggone scanner(!) I could show you how much like Brown he looked.

My parents grew up in Jim Crow Arkansas and Florida. If your team had a black player on it, they liked you. If you didn’t, they rooted against you. It seemed, I guess, that if you had black players on your team, it was proof that you were not a racist. It was one of the signs we had in the new free America where it was all of a sudden not vogue to utter overt racist statements.

So they — and by extension, I — loved USC and hated Notre Dame and Alabama and Ole’ Miss. I Loved UCLA and Georgetown basketball, and hated Indiana and Kentucky. And I hated the Cowboys. And the Utah Jazz. (Utah=Jazz?!? That’s like saying that John Philip Sousa played bebop!) If you didn’t like me, I didn’t like you.

So (Post Bill Russell) my daddy hated the Boston Celtics. And so did I. My whole life. Till now…

Daddy went to coach and teach at an all white school which had always been easy win, and by a string of track and basketball victories,  proceeded to inculcate a thirty year culture of winning that exists to this day. He had those white kids running and shooting to the point that they were whipping black schools all over the county! The track team won so much that the other schools protested (Germantown had their own track on campus) and in a knee-jerk move the school board cut their track program.

As a kid, I never saw so many white folks love a black dude as much as those rich white folks loved my daddy! And not as a servant. He taught their children, made men and women of them. At Christmas time, it was a ritual for my sisters and me to see how many presents he got from the kids and their parents. They loved him and he loved them. He was fine with white folks as long as they were fine with him. Daddy was hard.

So, it is under that cloud that I find myself where I am today. Living in a paradox.

note: I use the word “hate” here in the competitve sense only

All through my childhood, I hated the Celtics. Havlicek, Cowens, Hot Rod Hunley. Even Jojo White and Tiny Archibald. “How they gone sell us out like that? Playin’ for them white Boston folks who hate black folks!” I was just a kid, y’all…

And in ’79 when Larry Bird went to– where else– the Celtics, I hated him, too. Although I had started to hate him the year before when Indiana State dared to try to beat Michigan State for the NCAA Championship. I couldn’t stand him or Danny Ainge or McHale or that bandwagon jumper, Bill Walton, when he played for them. And I hated those “Oreos”* Cornbread Maxwell, M.L. Carr, Robert Parrish, and Dennis Johnson (whom I loved when he played for Seattle and beat those Washington Bullets whom I hated ’cause I couldn’t stand that fat butt Wes Unseld! I was only a kid, y’all)

I had always said that I wouldn’t pull for them blankin’ Celtics if my own MAMA played on the team!

The Sixers were my team during that time. Along with the Lakers. I rationalized that I would pull for the Lakers unless they were playing Doc and the Sixers. Dr. J. was the coolest display of power on the Earth! Till Jordan came. But Magic Johnson was smoother than Stacy Adams’** on a greasy floor! I loved that dude!

I remember when the Celtics beat the Lakers in the finals in the eighties… I walked outside and felt that the whole doggone summer was ruined. What was the point?

— Enter Kobe Bryant stage left–

 I was still a Laker fan — the Chicago Jordans were my hands down favorite, though– when through a trade, Kobe was made a Laker. I was, however, put off by his high school press conference(!) when, sunglasses on head, he announced his intent to forego college and jump straight to the NBA (cue the screeching teenyboppers…). But I managed to give him a clean slate.

There was a moment, just a fleeting moment, in the finals of the first of their three-peat when I noticed– in a flash — a display of supreme arrogance. I can’t adequately describe it. It was the crossing of that fiber-thin line that separates cockiness, confidence, from arrogance. Arrogance. That flimsy film that delineates pride from excessive pride. I saw it. Maybe he didn’t mean for me to see it, but I did. And I was then and forever through with him and whoever he played for.

As cool as I thought Shaq was, he was on Kobe’s team, so he was the enemy. Sorry, Shaq.

From that point, Kobe proceeded to prove me right. We began to hear rumors about a rift between him and O’neal, the consummate team guy. Kobe went from a guy who shot three or four airballs in a playoff game to the point where he thought he was good enough to not need his big man. He wanted to do it himself. Did Magic run Kareem off?

He has developed a reputation for being phoney. I saw all that.

So, after a lifetime of pulling for the Lakers, I jumped ship.

I will pull for the San Diego Satans before I root for a Kobe Bryant team. I hate arrogance.
I’d root for the Arizona Anti-Christs first.

Sorry, Rick Trotter. I know he is your man, and I know that you will say that (MY man) Jordan was the same way. I disagree. But I can no more explain to you the difference than I can explain the degree to which my right knee hurts more than my left! Besides,he got his whole style, his whole game, from Jordan! He walks like him, uses the exact same gestures, and must have been fed Jordan game tapes intravenously his whole life! Jordan is his DADDY, and you can’t be better than yo’ daddy! (I say this knowing full well that I stole everythang I got from Kirk Whalum! Robbed ‘im blind!)

When Doc Rivers got the Boston job, My pops and I hollered, “NOOO! Don’t do it! Don’t you remember the busing riots of the seventies, and Chuck Stuart who killed his wife and blamed a Brother?!?” When they made the trade this season to acquire Ray Allen, and Kevin Garnett, I was like, “Oh well… Garnett, I dig ya, but I gotta pull against you.”

And I was fully prepared to do so until these stars and planets all lined up to force me to make some hard choices.

And here I am, going against my very DNA and rooting hard for them Celtics, baby!

Some say Kobe has matured. I say it is easy to be mature when your team gets you the players you think you want. It is easy to be mature when everything is going your way. As Aretha says, “You can’t prove that by me!”

 My sister and her husband love him. And so do their sons. Me and Daddy hate him! When they asked me, “Unca Bo, highcome you’on’t like Kobe?”

I answered, “There ought to be a point at which your bad behavior costs you something!”  You don’t get to act a fool and still have ME as your fan! Even if you ARE the best player in the league. Which He is. I hope my nephews learn that lesson soon. 

 

*Black on the outside, white on the INside.

**Shoes often worn by black deacons and dime store pimps

June 14, 2008 Posted by | Arrogance, Basketball, Celtics, Humor, Kevin Garnett, Kobe, LA Lakers, Magic Johnson, NBA, Race, Ray Allen, Sports, The Finals | 4 Comments

“Please Don’t Let Him Be Black!”

Thank you, Pac Man Jones.*

Thank you, Chris Henry.*

Thank you, Tank Johnson.* Thank you, Michael Vick.*Thank you, Ron Artest.**Thank you, Kobe.**

Thank you, gangsta rap.

Thank you, BET.

Thank you, video hoochies.***

Thank you all, and all you others that I forgot. Oh, yeah. Thank you, Flava Flav, and all of your “ladies.” YOU know what time it is…

I just wanted to thank you guys for all you’ve done to advance the worthy cause of racism today. We needed to keep those stereotypes and presuppositions going, and you all have done an exemplary job in keeping them alive and thriving! I love “fitting the profile!”

We ARE all sexually irresponsible criminals who only live to drink, drug, and dance. We can’t be faithful to our wives. We are all inappropriately loud, unraised, and devoid of decorum. We all drive and wear our net worth. We are all more violent and threatening than Vikings or Cossacks could have imagined.

What’s the use of talking through a disagreement when we can SMOKE**** a fool?! We are all wary of books and of education. If we had our choice, we would all either pimp women, or prostitute ourselves. Sex, money, crime and violence. That sums us up. Thanks, guys, for making sure no one forgot that.

I surely don’t want to hear that tired argument that the White man just plays up Black crime just to make us look bad. The White man didn’t make you drown dogs, or buy those guns, or get into all those strip club fights, or paralyze bouncers, or write those “lyrics,” or shake it in those porn-eos, or AIR them. You’ve got the receipt for that stuff!

The fact is that when you blame others for what is so clearly your own work, you make it nearly impossible to cry foul when racist acts do occur! How can I righteously rage against the Sean Hannitys of this country, who cloak and disguise bigotry with the flag, when they bask in the sunlight of stories like yours, revelling in the use of racist code language like “The Race Card?” As if all those years of slavery and Jim Crow, all they have wrought to this very day, can be boiled down to a card in a deck!

Thank you for making it so easy for me. I’m so popular nowadays. When I walk into a grocery store in a good (read: White) neighborhood, all those nice White people stare at me in awe, admiring my got-it-going-on-ness. The security people are so curious of my shopping habits that their cameras follow my every move!

When I shop for clothes or big ticket technological items, the salespeople are courteous enough to not bother me with questions or offers of assistance. They know I have the money to afford the merchandise, but they are kind enough to let me find what I need on my own.

Cops are so concerned about my well-being that when they see me, they make u-turns in traffic to ensure my safe arrival at home! They give me tickets to courtroom dramas, in which I get to play pivotal roles.

They’re so nice to us that when we kill each other, we get little, if any, jail time. And that’s if they even bother to investigate.

(I mean, who would care if all the mosquitoes or slugs wiped each other out?)

They’re so interested in our input that when a South Carolina woman drowns her kids, or when a Boston man shoots his wife, the cops round US up to hear what we think. That’s so thoughtful.

When I seek to buy a home, the real estate agents, knowing that birds of a feather need to live in the same cages, thankfully steer me away from those stuffy, boring, quiet neighborhoods. And they make sure that I get the good kind of financing that changes with the market so that I can get a better percentage rate later.

 Dey sho looks out fa me!

Thank you Al, Jesse, and all the Supreme Black Thinkers for shifting the focus. Thank you for blaming the White Man while the seventy percent baby-mama rate goes unlamented, uncrusaded.

Thank you for ignoring the astroromical dropout rate.

Thank you for showing up (rightfully so) when a cop does something wrong, but giving only weak kool-aid lip service to Black-on-Black cultural, and actual, genocide.

In terms of number of offenses, you dump an ocean on a lit match, and spit on a wildfire!

We don’t need our “dirty laundry” aired publically anyway. All those gang killings and drive-bys will thankfully continue to go unnoticed. The wider society would get a wrong notion of who we are if we marched and protested about all of the murdered school children and innocent bystanders.

Thank you ”leaders” for raising all that noise about Don Imus, instead! We know who our real enemies are. “WE can kill each other by the thousands, but a White man bett’ not even SAY nothin’!”

Keep on keepin’ it real!

I truly believe that, although only God could get them to admit it, there are those in law enforcement, on television, and in my own neighborhood, who want us all either in jail, in graves, or in Africa! But overt racism is no longer chic, and has thus gone COvert. I am not a fool. I live it.

Do you think that even the CHURCH, the last bastion of accepted segregation, would be so if that were not the case? Even those who (falsely) claim Christ don’t want us around them.

The aforementioned Sean Hannity, and many of his conservative contemporaries claim to be fair, but try every other option rather than admitting a single case of racist behavior.

(The thing these conservatives seem to “conserve” most is compassion. They need to be more liberal with the love!)

“Oh, it’s out there, but it’s rare. The great Dr. Martin Luther King cured it!” Well, why is it that I see it so often, when I’M the one they try to hide it from? Wouldn’t they logically display it to “one of their own,” believing him to be of like mind?

Regardless of your selfish, irresponsible acts, guys, “they” who would degrade you will do so anyway. They will laugh at your lips, noses, and skin color. They will belittle your accomplishments. They will still deny you job opportunities. They will still not want us in their neighborhoods, schools, and stores. They will still see us all as shiftless, unteachable criminals out to rape all the women. They don’t need reasons to hate us, but you all continually hand them excuses to point the finger.

Thank you for giving a bat to a head-beater! (obviously, I am speaking here of racists, not everyone.)

Yes, I know what atrocities occurred to get us where we are. Black folk are not intrinsically dumb, or project-prone. There is a reason why we always end up being the porters, busboys, dishwashers, maids, cooks, sharecroppers, garbage men, ditch-diggers, country club servants, defendants, laborers, bathroom attendants(!), and custodians.(yes, we can get  some other jobs, but we are the only ones who get these!) We want good educations. We want to live in tree-lined communities. But SOMETHING has kept us from “the good life” as a norm, and it ain’t laziness!

This is not about transferring blame, though. This is about realizing that, like it or not, fair or unfair, groups of people are judged by their negatives. For minorities, Black folk in particular, this fact means that the fullest measure of the “American Dream” is not achieveable for the whole. We have to speak better, know more, work harder, and act more civilly because each misstep affects the perception and opportunity of, and for, the group.

(Yes, we have it harder. If you don’t think so, go to the ghetto and look at all those poor children and try to believe that they did something to be born there. They are just the current link in a loooong chain. Their starting line is MILES behind even poor White kids.)

I know that you fellas don’t care about that fact. You don’t give a… HOOT what White folks think about you! But because you don’t, the burden is made heavier for the rest of us. We care to have an accurate assessment made of our character. We don’t want to be measured by your rule. We are tired of being embarrassed by your uncouth actions. We are tired of hoping the “perp” isn’t Black when the news comes on. I don’t want my child, or yours, to suffer because of what you have done.

You get stuck with the pin, and I feel the pain.

Christian love is thinking first of the next man.

Quit being selfish and show some personal responsibility!

THANK you.

*NFL player

**NBA player

***Spectacularly endowed, sparsely-clad women of nebulous morality.

****Shoot, kill.

July 25, 2007 Posted by | Al Sharpton, Crime, Current Events, Jesse Jackson, Personal Responsibility, Race, Racism, Sean Hannity, Segregated Church, Sports | 8 Comments