Sunday, December 27, 2009


The day after Christmas, I decided to report to work around 7:00pm, even though it was understood that I probably would not make it there, considering I spent the holiday with my family in Austin. I could have gone home to enjoy what was left of my evening and rest from all of the excitement from the past few days. But truth is, there is no money in that and I hustle first/sleep later. Upon arriving to work, I changed into my faded black button down shirt that I usually walk around the store in, but not before I had an exchange with a sweet 18 year-old, Caucasian female coworker.. One that left us both dazed and confused. I walked into the break room with my younger cousin's only beloved Obama shirt suffocating my upper body. Seeing the white girl did not add to my discomfort, because as I mentioned, she's sweet. We even attend the same university where we run into each other from time to time at the dorm that she and my girlfriend both live in. But our conversation revealed a comical cultural bewilderment as we end the first decade of this 21st century. It went a little something like this:

{The Obama shirt says something about him being America's first black president. Girl studies it, and her response...)

Girl: I don't see why it matters that he's black. It's not a big deal. Like, I don't even care as long as he does his job.

Me: Well I hope he does his job, since it's probably the most important one in the world. But it matters to black people that he's black. It's definitely a big deal.

Girl: Yeah I guess. But isn't he half white? So... (interrupted )

Me: So what? Doesn't he look black to you?

Girl: Yeah, I guess.... So Tiger Woods is black?

Me: Yeah.

Girl: And his kids are black? Even though he's only sort of black and their mom is white?

Me: Yeah.

Girl: If you say so. I don't see what the big deal is.


I quickly digressed from being the typical black person who had a chip on his shoulder in every racial discussion. Yet, I badly wanted the girl to understand. I wanted her to realize how many people could be effected by the type of success story that puts a black man in the White House. I felt like she needed to know that black is black no matter what you mix it with, because the societal view of colored people has never changed. I wanted her to feel me.. (for lack of a better term). My digression came when I thought about why she didn't get it, and perhaps why she shouldn't. I just figured that even the young people who did not support the mythical term of social change, at least comprehended it's intent and significance. Today I stand corrected. And she isn't the only one who feels this way. I've just been lying to myself. Even with the election seeming to be 80 billion years old, I still feel it's necessary to explicate the importance of being black and why it is a big deal. Not that any race is better than another, but the history of black people simply can't be ignored. It's not right, it's not wrong, it just is.

The rate of imprisonment for all men above age 18 is one in every 54. The percentage for Black men is one in every 15. I've been told by prison workers that they fill the cells here in Huntsville and they're steady making room. What is troubling is that I have no interest in the percentage of black men that are on their way to prison, because I know far too many myself. And what's their excuse? They shouldn't have one. Seeing Obama sworn into office gave the black role model idea a celestial presence, aside from the fact that choosing to do the right thing has always been an option, and never been a bad one. I wish fewer black males would give up on education and actually tried to see where it would take them. I hope to be open-minded if by chance my son wants to quit basketball to focus on being the president of the Speech & Debate team. "You can do anything you wanna do, and be anything you wanna be" doesn't sound as lame as it used to for the people who are sheltered in the black community. I hope they've been paying attention.

To the point of multiracial children being considered black if it's there, that's partly true. There are some exceptions. I saw an episode of Cold Case where an African-American banker of the 1950s, posed as a white man because he looked the part, but his father was actually as dark as I am. He struggled with the conflict of turning on his people and it ultimately would be the death of him. After he had promised a mortgage loan to an old friend who was African-American, and later denied, he was killed by the embarrassed husband and father who felt like he couldn't catch a break. In that episode, there goes another brother to prison. But that's a television example. I later suggested to the girl that she feed that multiracial stuff to the racist father who's daughter gets pregnant by a black guy. Tell me if he's upset about his grandchild is multiracial... or is it cause he's black. I'm ranting.

I know there are bigger issues at hand: Health care, the economy, War on Terror, etc. I hope everything works out for the better. I wish we could kill the politics for a little while and actually talk it out like regular people. Obama seems like a regular person. He was raised by his white mother as a black child and became the black president that we all knew would never be. Contrary to the sweet girl's failure to understand, it is a big deal indeed.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Switching Lanes

The young breed of new artists has brought a compelling discussion as to where the Hip/Hop game is going. Those of us who follow the music have watched the industry transcend culturally with a sound that hardly resembles what was hot 10 years ago. Artists are more polished and diverse. Drake, one of the most popular young cats in the game, is as versatile as the word defines. He sings ballads for the ladies, spits fire on whatever beat, and he's a kid television star that a lot of people refer to as Jimmy from Degrassi. I won't even mention that Drake is Jewish due to the heritage on his mother's side of the family. He even had a Barmitzva at what he described as a very nice Italian restaurant. My, how the headliners have changed...

In 1999, Jay-Z, DMX, Redman and Method Man all geared up for the Hard Knock Life Tour, which turned out to be rather successful, perhaps one of the best tours of the decade. But it wouldn't even sell out today. Jigga may be the King of the game but the other acclaimed MCs are never heard from... and not by accident. Imagine trying to autotune a DMX record. I doubt Kanye would be down for that. College girls wouldn't spend financial aid refund checks on Redman and Method Man tickets, as dope as they are (were). The rugged gangsta rap that became so famous is gone. Your favorite Hip/Hop artists are even making rock albums now. The electropop Kanye West 808 Heartbreak topped the Billboard Charts last year, despite the mixed feelings towards the change-up. Lil Wayne is set to release Rebirth on December 15, 2009.. or at least that is what Young Money says. I get it though. Some of the hardcore Hip/Hop fans long for the old stuff. But ya'll just have to buy those old albums. The "real gangsta" rappers are either locked up, or doing whatever it is "real gangstas" do.

I'm sorry that it's been 10 years since Lauryn Hill's debut album became the first Hip/Hop record to win the Grammy for Album of the Year. Lauryn took home five moon men that night and I'm not sure if we've seen her since. But I do know that she has given birth to five children with Bob Marley's son, Rohan. So she's making babies instead of music... which is fine... unless you ever really had Lauryn heavy in your track rotation. Anticipate that comeback, even if it's an illusion. Besides, if Whitney (Houston) can rise from the ashes, why not Lauryn?

Let's not dismiss the prevalence of female Hip/Hop artists at the time. Lil Kim, for a variety of reasons, was a superstar. Missy Elliot had emerged as an artist after being praised as a songwriter and producer for female R&B groups. Then Eve, the ride or die chick that captivated men and women, hit the scene to create a powerful line-up of a new type of artist. Problem is, they don't get invited to award shows anymore either, at least not as nominees or performers.

So farewell to the gangstas and the women as are mainstream artists, and welcome to the new age, sophisticated brand of rap. I know, rap is just a word so it should be carefully explained as to what the music part really is. Hip/Hop is judged on the content of the music. As Jay-Z said recently, "What We Talkin Bout?".

Roc Nation's latest artist J.Cole made his national debut on The Blueprint:3, "A Star is Born." Ironic how he ends the song, signing off with his name, as if he were the star born as the track was being played. J.Cole has more music too. I don't have to tell the real Hip/Hop fans about "The Warm Up" mixtape that tops (in content) anything that is played on the radio. You may not here Wale, J.Cole, Kid Cudi (mixtape) on your local stations. Maybe satellite radio is showing love to someone other than Drake.

The question arises, are the long-time Hip/Hop fans ready for rappers to stop pretending to be thugs, or even actually being thugs? The future of the game isn't STRAIGHT OUTTA COMPTON! They're from Toronto.. Fayetville, North Carolina.. Cleveland.. Some of these dudes even have college degrees. I think it's unfair if the freshest talent isn't taken seriously because violence wasn't their struggle. Yeah, we like that old stuff (Rakim, RUN DMC, Slick Rick, Common, the Biggies and the Pacs). But the new cats aren't hard like that, not much gang banging to be exposed. Plain and simple... the new generation has something different to say and I'm interested to hear what it is.

Monday, June 29, 2009


Forgive me. The death of Michael Jackson has been played out for a minute, but it remains a developing story. I'm tired of hearing about it and that's probably because I haven't talked about it. So if you've heard about it and talked about it and had enough, good for you. I hope that tomorrow's breaking news gives you chills the way Michael's life and death did so many people.

I'm not interested in where Mike's kids are going. They have a big family. Those kids will be fine under the circumstances. They will be Jackson's for it's worth. His money and his things aren't really my business. I've never seen any of it. My reason for still thinking about him are same reasons I obsessed over the icon as a child. Not like a Never Never Land child. More like a nappy headed funk loving child. I was into Michael Jackson for the music. For the simple thriller of human nature.

I just want him to rest in peace, which is impossible with everybody still talking about it. So once again, forgive me. But I don't have to discuss the controversy. I want you to understand why I'm still talking about Michael Jackson because it is time to move on.

I've accepted his death. I never met him so I won't miss him like everyone in the world is claiming to do. The part I loved the most about MJ still lives one.

When I heard the news I immediately started jammin' some of his greatest hits. I started with my favorite, Rock With You, from the Off the Wall record. I was no where near ready for what would come next.

First MTV started their Michael Jackson Marathon. Then BET, taking note as usual, began "Don't Stop Til You Get Enough". The songs, the videos, the reactions and stories from the people who knew him brought back some Michael Jackson excitement that most of us hadn't experienced since he was selling out stadiums in the early 90s. My older friends and relatives were done with Michael after Bad, some even after Thriller.

No one hipped me to Michael until 95. I'mma just be straight up. I was born in 1989 which would mean I can't even identify with the release of the aforementioned classics. But I remember Invincible. I bought it with some money I'm sure my mom gave me. I jammed it pretty hard. Mike was just catchy like that. Laugh out loud and keep reading.

I may have been 7 or 8. For whatever reason I still had coloring books with characters who rocked the Afro. I used the brown crayola for most of the books because I was reinventing the Jackson 5 with a purpose. I actually listened to a few of those songs. And for a long time, I was consumed by Michael Jackson. Not the man, the artist. Imagine how relieving it was for a 7 year old kid to hear that ABC was simple as 1 2 3. It even had me thinking love was easy.

I grew up and grew out of my Jackson phase. R&B and Soul was really hot at the time. The Fugees, who also left us too soon, were sort of brilliant. Boyz 2 Men held it down. They paved the way for the Jagged Edges, Dru Hills and 112s of the world. Maybe I was too old to color and cut out characters for them. Perhaps none of the acts that have succeeded the Jackson eras (NOTE: ERAS = 70s, 80s, 90s) measure up to the artistic genius that lived in Michael Jackson.

This past weekend's BET Awards could argue that though. How could I forget about Maxwell? It's only a little lame if you didn't see it since they will re air it at least 20 times. The moment that eclipsed all Michael Jackson moments for me came when Jamie Foxx and Ne-Yo performed the Jackson 5's, I'll Be There. What a perfect way to cap off the perfect opportunity to tribute the King. They did an exceptional job, perhaps among the hugest moments in their careers. Foxx obviously has done this before for Ray Charles. Ne-Yo, with his Michael Jackson like hat in his hand, red jacket and all, was the image of the week hands down. RIP Michael Jackson

Since he's gone now, there isn't really a lot to talk about in regard to the man himself. Fortunate for me, there's music to be played for the ages.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Don't Phil it up...

Bethpage "Black" was a name fit perfect for the scene of the U.S. Open that wrapped up on Monday. The first round teed off on Thursday before being prolonged by the rain. This Open will be remembered as one of the darkest, ugliest Majors in recent history. But it gets uglier.

The course had experienced rain in 16 of the past 19 days, which made it really tough to putt the ball well. Or maybe not. It was hard to call after seeing so many unbelievable shots, some a little wide without a decent break, some just short and not hit well enough. Their was still a clear effect from the rain on what is known to be such a difficult course.

Unfamiliar names like Lucas Glover and Ricky Barnes are the ones to remember after the tournament. They were the last men standing before Glover made par to take a two stroke victory in the Open. Barnes shot a second place 2-under along with 882nd ranked David Duval, who some people vaguely remember from an 8 year radar hiatus. Of course there was a another who tied for runner-up, a guy who has proved to be great at holding that position, Phil Mickelson. As the sentimental favorite for what I would assume every sports fan who's a sucker for a tear jerker, Mickelson just could not lose this tournament. The color of the mood in golf has been pink since Phil announced that his wife Amy was diagnosed with breast cancer. He wore the cancer ribbon on hit hats and rode the momentum of the crowd until it just wasn't enough. Only on a black course.

Tiger Woods' even par performance won't be thought of as a wonderfully played 63 on 72 wholes, with a failed putter on wet grass. This is the consensus favorite in every tournament whether you like him or not, but we won't even discuss how dark it was for him at Bethpage.

Woods won the tournament a year ago in what went down as one of the Top 5 Tiger Moments in history. It probably would be cool to have Top 5 Moments that people actually refer to as history. My favorite Tiger Moment took place in the 2001 Masters when he hit an opening round eagle shot on 13 that found its way into a creek (he bogeyed). Then he ended the final round with one of the all-time most amazing birdie shots on the 16th whole. The ball went up the slope and down into the whole after halting for at least 2 seconds, just to suspend the inevitable.

As unpopular as this will sound, that shot by Woods reminds me of Mickelson's image as a golfer in essence. He goes up, and as he falls, he gives the people the notion he won't go down. Then he does. There is no denying that he has had a wonderful career, with huge success on and off the course. He's a model for how the game should be approached and a gentleman among gentlemen... A champion among champions. But just as well, he's the 2nd best golfer in the world and more times than anyone else who has ever played.

Shall we discuss five distinguishing moments in Mickelson's career?

We can start with Monday when he made history of his own. He set the record for most 2nd place finishes in Majors (5), all of which coming at the U.S. Open. On Monday, he hit an eagle on the par-5 13th whole. I had given him the victory like I did in 2006, at this same tournament, in this same state. Remember that collapse? Too bad the final round is not shortened to 13 wholes, but even still, Phil doesn't seem to be able to handle that particular moment. He bogeyed 15, which was by far the hardest whole on the course. Then he bogeyed a gimme on 17. That kind of summed it all. As great as he plays and as great as he is, he's bogey when it matters most. He's been 2nd in more Majors that he's won. And even though he finished two strokes above Tiger on Monday, he remains in a seat not next to him, but behind him... At #2.

Friday, June 12, 2009

The Great Debate

In the beginning of Game 4 of the NBA Finals, Dwight Howard was a man on a mission. He dominated the Lakers' big men, not offensively, but in the ways that it mattered most. The hustle plays. He wracked up a statistic that is often over looked by points. Howard finished the game with 21 rebounds, while his 16 points hardly complimented that.

The game, unfortunate for the Magic, turned south when that same man could not complete his mission. Orlando lost not only on the free throw line, in which they missed 15. But it was a complete gag order sent straight from the Master of Panic himself, Stan Van Gundy.

"I'll have to look at the play but it will haunt me for a long time," said Stan Van.

The play was simple and everyone watching could have anticipated what Van Gundy would presumably do. Up three following two critical missed Dwight Howard free throws, with 11 seconds remaining in regulation, the Magic would have to prevent the Lakers from tying the game. I assume at whatever cost. But they didn't.

Instead of electing to foul and put the Lakers on the free throw line, the Magic fell victim to a simple full court press break and were eventually broken by Derek Fisher.

Meanwhile, I was on facebook debating sports the way I usually do. My cousin, who I simply refer to as Jay objected when I referred to Dwight Howard as great. A statement that I would retrieve by the end of Game 4, but it certainly fueled a very interesting discussion.

Jay is at least 10 years my elder so it goes without saying that I respect him and his opinions. But at this moment in particular, we disagreed wholeheartedly. The debate in a nut shell consisted of what makes a great player. I won't speak for Jay, cause as I mentioned he's older than I am and can speak for himself. But I will lend my opinion.

Greatness consists of qualities untaught, unlearned, and apparently sometimes unappreciated. There has to be an ability to separate talent from greatness. You can be great with little talent, just as you can be talented and not so great. I could not imagine myself giving the nod to a player who leads his team in scoring and receives all the accolades that come with the honor, but does not do a single thing to better those around him and lift the team to the "great" standards that are held to the individual.

However, I can recognize, and greatly appreciate the players who are uplifting in every since of the word. Who is the old reliable? Who is the teammate you can count on? Is it your star player? Is it anybody?

Jay used Shane Battier as an example for a player who most teams would love to have, but is not considered great. I totally understand why he would say that. But he is wrong and so is anyone who doesn't quite understand how broad the definition of great is. Shane will never appear in an all star game. Nor will he ever be recognized by the voters of the Hall of Fame. But great doesn't need any of that.

I looked up the word that my cousin and I have been throwing around so aimlessly. And I discovered a reason why neither of our positions on great are incorrect but simply defined in two different ways.

Great: 1. distinguished; famous
2. of noble or lofty character
3. unusual merit; very admirable
4.important; highly significant or consequential

Jay and I debated the greatness of Dirk Nowitzki and compared it to the lack there of for Shane Battier. But that is unfair after reading the definitions. We could easily make the argument that Battier is not distinguished or famous the way Dirk is. But his noble and lofty character is unquestionable. His unusual merit and admirability cannot be debated. His importance and significance are undeniable if you have ever paid attention to him play.

I said Dirk was not great but mainly because of the greater standard that he his held to, which may be unfair to him. I watched the Dallas Mavericks take a convincing and commanding 2-0 lead in the 2006 NBA Finals before they coughed it up to what was evidently a far greater team. I have watched Dirk ridicule his teammates for their bad decisions on the court while the truth was he was unable to take advantage of the biggest opportunity of his career.

I have also watched Shane Battier quietly go about his business with the kind of character that spells out a true winner, while at the same time never distinguishing him or making him famous. True enough neither player has ever won anything to brag about, which leads me to wonder how you could think one is greater than the other simply off of talent alone.

Derek Fisher came up in the discussion a few times. Initially before his heroics in Game 4 and eventually shortly there after. Jay referred to him as replaceable and likened him with names such as Howard Eisley and Matt Maloney. I know who those guys are. But do you? Seriously, this is a great debate even if we never reach a consensus as to what great really means. Just be careful as to how narrowly measure it and be sure to think outside the box. That would be, in a word... great.

Friday, June 5, 2009


For someone who did not see Game 1 of the NBA Finals on Thursday night, it may be rather easy for them to judge the game by the statistics. Why not? The stats reveal the most important facts of the game, including the final score. But there is more to it than that.

If you read the box score you will notice how horrible the perimeter shooters were for the Orlando Magic. Hedo Turkgolu, Rashard Lewis, Mikael Pietrus and Rafer Alston (the same shooters that many gushed about at the end of the Eastern Conference Finals) combined for a pitiful 12-43 shooting from the field. Funny enough, not many people are wowed by that statistic.

We have all acknowledged Kobe Bryant's Finals career-high of 40 points, with eight rebounds and eight assists to go with it. There was more attention given to this statistically staggering performance, as if we just discovered Kobe and didn't expect him to play this way.

If you did see the game, tell your friends who didn't that the rebounding dissimilarity that favored the Lakers 55-41 appeared to be an even bigger advantage than the recap can tell.

Since the Lakers committed more fouls than the Magic and matched them in turnovers, some may wonder how the Magic will respond in a game in which they got spanked, that for once cannot be blamed on a single bit of officiating.

Magic fans will spend the next couple of days worrying about why Dwight Howard only attempted 6 shots particularly in a game that consisted of such poor, such desperate shooting by his supporting cast. But they should catch the highlights.

Howard was swarmed in the paint by the Lakers full line-up of big men, while those perimeter guys missed wide open shots. You want those statistics for real? I'll spare you.

No secret the Lakers more than doubled the Magic's production in the paint (56-22). That in no way is the most mind-boggling statistic. Take a look at the final score. Just realize that there is more to it than that.

100-75. It sounds pretty lopsided but it's worse than that. Not because the Magic played so poorly or because the Lakers played so great. Orlando is not in trouble because they are facing enough big men to offset their best player in Dwight Howard, or because the LA bench is deeper than the blue sea.

It goes without saying that the Lakers are a far better team than the Cavs who recorded the best record in the regular season and post season prior to their defeat. The Magic should not worry that Thursday night's outing was the wake-up call of the season. They might want to even ignore the aforementioned stats that some may consider a fluke, giving account to their superb shooting throughout the season.

There is no doubting the Magic will respond to the whooping with possibly some whooping of there own. Don't be surprised if the Magic win a couple games, maybe even three.

But one statistic that never concerned the Magic, now involves them directly:

43-0. That is Phil Jackson's record when winning the first game of a playoff series, even though I'm not buying anybody's logic as to the reasons why he has been able to do this.

The problem for the Magic is that he has. And not only that, he has won the first game of this series (and in fashion at that). Consider Orlando buried not because they are geographically at the bottom of the U.S. map, but because they are now apart of the 0 in the soon-to-be 44-0 Phil Jackson statistic.

Coach Stan Van Gundy won't hear of any voodoo curse placed on his team because of the past victims of the Zen Master. Though he will admit his resume hardly measures up to his counterpart's.

"The guy has won more playoff series than I have coached in playoff games. We'll just see what happens." Van Gundy said this prior to Game 1, then we saw what happened.

I anticipate Stan Van coaching up his team the way he always does and them responding in a way that will be engaging enough to maintain our interests. But don't feel bad if you turn your attention elsewhere.

Battling fate is tough for anyone. The Magic loss the first game but there is more to it than that. They will just have to learn the hard way, like the previous 43.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009


By Sarah Tucker

I have absolutely no doubt that I was a hellish child. My mother jokingly threatened to run away many times. I’m also sure my parents did not get a full night of sleep until I left for college, and with three other sisters still at home my mother, most likely, is not sleeping soundly.

While I know my mom is very proud of her daughters, she understands how tough and sometimes unrewarding it is to raise and support a family. Today many young adults do not realize how rocky the road can be to creating a stable home life and they are blinded by the glamorized, unrealistic idea of parenthood.

In high school most of us were forced to take Home Economics, a class that taught us how to cook, clean and take care of children. Thrilling. No disrespect to all of the Home Economics teachers reading this article, but not many students would have taken that class had it not been part of the core curriculum. Either way we have been exposed and taught about the aggravations of home life since we were young.

Having stated that my question is: Why are so many young adults choosing to get married or have children (or both) at alarmingly high rates? Why is there such a rush to grow up and why are marriage and child bearing not treated with the respect they deserve?

It is hard not to step on anyone’s toes while discussing this issue; nevertheless I find my opinions inflexible when this topic arises. After reviewing lengthy censuses’ and Marriage/Divorce statistics my views are only reverberated by facts. In the year 2000 alone, there were more than 9 Million single mothers in America. Of those almost 2 million were living with relatives, and over 3 Million were divorced. Those statistics should scare the nuptials right out of you.

I, like many of you, know plenty of soon-to-be mothers. Sadly, most of them are unmarried and not older than 21. I even know two young ladies who have each had their second child before their 22nd birthday.

These old friends of mine, instead of enjoying the headaches and hassles of college life and young adult hood, are now at home or at work trying tirelessly to raise a family. I do not want to sound ignorant or judgmental but I do not understand why this lifestyle is chosen and seems to be preferred by young women.

Didn’t our grandmothers and great-grandmothers fight so that their daughters could be able to attend college? Why are so many of us willingly allowing our education and dreams to take a back seat to parenthood?

A lot young mothers tend to drop out of school to better care for their child and many never return to finish their higher education. Isn’t that ironic! If they had only waited until after graduating with a degree they would be much more financially stable and most likely able to better provide for their families.
While my opinion may be slightly biased because I do not want children, I can understand the perks of parenthood. Who doesn’t want a walking, talking, pooping, burping, screaming, crying ball of fun clinging to them day in and day out? However, the lack of respect that child bearing and marriage are shown today reflects poorly on those who choose to do so irresponsibly and prematurely.

I feel like Peter Pan and the Lost Boys had it right when they said they never wanted to grow up. You have the rest of your life to be old and act mature so before you jump into marriage or leap into parenthood let’s all take a few seconds (or more…much more) and think about the choices that not only affect your lives but the lives of the people around you and the people you create.

Monday, May 25, 2009


For the past six months, maybe even longer, the highest anticipated marquee match-up in sports has not only been exaggerated, but maybe even uncalled for. Who is better? Kobe or LeBron? Who is the MVP? Kobe or LeBron? Who will win the championship WHEN they face each other in the NBA Finals? Not the Lakers or the Cavs... But Kobe or LeBron?

These questions have been answered in the first three games of the respected Conference Finals whether we would like to admit it or not. Hardly a coincidence, Kobe's Lakers own a 2-1 lead in a gritty series that has 7 games written all over it. While LeBron's Cavs face a must win road game in a building where they haven't had much success, now trailing the series 2-1. It doesn't help that their opponent in the Orlando Magic is a significantly better team.

Which may lead us to believe that all the previous success was more so bark than bite. While LeBron maybe slightly more media friendly than Kobe, I don't see LeBron's success this season working as any sort of leverage in the debate in who is better. His MVP award was certainly deserving, but his free throw inefficiency gives me second thoughts on how ready he is for the big stage (and I'm not talking about commercials for Vitamin Water).

FYI: The best record in the league means nothing if you don't make it to the Finals. The Cavs risk letting down the city of Cleveland yet again, while hometown phenom LeBron James has been exploited as a continued work in progress.

We've watched him soar for tomahawk slams just as we have seen him coin the new term "run down" by chasing opponents for emphatic rejections in the open court. Recently we have seen him miss critical free throws in games with much heavier stakes than the regular season bouts in which he averaged 78 percent. He is averaging 74 percent from the foul line in the Conference Finals. Kobe's free throw percentage has remained in the 80s throughout his career never making him a liability at the end of a game in that regard.

True enough, basketball has never seen a guy quite like LeBron James. That makes him the easy pick considering Kobe's entire persona resembles that of Michael Jordan all the way to the tongue waging and gum chewing.

Still, the King of this league is evident. The title is not earned with a nickname given by marketers and league promoters who are star struck when they see LeBron James (as we all should be). But let's respect the guy who has willed his team to victories when everyone else questioned the toughness of his personnel. Kobe Bryant's competitive spirit is ingenuous and that in itself is enough to get his teammates lifted to beat the Nuggets.

The excuses for LeBron James are ironic because he isn't the type of guy to make excuses. Ask the MVP if he doesn't believe in his teammates. He may not acknowledge that while his performances are legendary statistically and in terms of flair, they lack validity with every critical free throw he strong arms or airballs. But he will always trust is supporting cast. At least we think so.

Let it be clear. Kobe Bryant, with 3 Championships under his belt and an MVP trophy of his own IS the greatest player in the game. Until his physical body no longer allows him to compete at the level that his natural killer instinct demands of him, that is when we can crown LeBron as King James (assuming by then he is practicing free throws more than trick shots at shootarounds). As for the NBA Finals, let's hope LeBron is everything we have all said he is. Because if the Magic advance, it would come as no shock to me if Dwight Howard, Hedo Turkgolu and Rashard Lewis stole the Kobe vs. LeBron show along with the Larry O'Brien Trophy. That's just another FYI.

These playoffs are the most battle testing match-ups we can ask for. And that isn't even the best part. In a couple of weeks, they will unveil the greatest player in the game today... in case you didn't know who he was.

Monday, May 18, 2009


The biggest surprise in this division would have to be the Arizona D-Backs. They would be considered a division favorite with a Mannyless Dodgers team before the season, but the play on the field has negated any of those speculations. They sit at the bottom of their division with the least amount of runs scored in the National League (tied with the Chicago White Sox with the least amount of runs scored in the entire league). Not going to get it done.

The Dodgers are in front in large part due to their dynamic hitting. They jumped out to a great start this year, picking up right where they left off after acquiring Manny Ramirez last season. Then the bomb dropped. Manny won't be back until July but Hudson, Ethier, Martin, Loney and Kemp are more than enough to pick up the slack. Not to mention the rest of this division is just flat out BORING!

The Giants will be in the contention because of their pitching. No longer do they have a Barry Bonds type of hitter but Bengie Molina has begun the season to lead his team with 8 HRs and 30 RBIs. Young third-baseman Pablo Sandoval has done a great job swinging the bat in the 3 and 4 spots.

San Diego is a beautiful city and a Padres game would be an awesome family event, but they are going nowhere. They've lost 6 straight twice this season and haven't been able to elevate themselves into contention just yet. I'm not an expert, but I don't see it happening.

The Colorado Rocky Mountains would be the only Rockies worth mentioning. The baseball team fell to my Houston Astros in 2 out of 3 meetings last week which I'm sorry to say is not a good sign (Go Stros). They're ahead of the D-Backs right now but at not even midway through the season, they could easily fall. On the other hand they could rise by chance... But that's a very very small chance.

This division is supposed to belong to the Cubs and in a perfect world it probably would. In this imperfect world and unpredictable division the MILWAUKEE BREWERS have won 6 straight and are two games ahead of the Cubs for 1st place in the Central. Brewers left fielder Ryan Braun has hit the ball well for them with solid production across the board.

Look for the Cardinals to be the best whenever they are healthy. The Cubs will be in town for the next few day and that should be a lot of fun. St. Louis is a baseball city and they will love this kind of competition.

The Reds and the Pirates don't seem to have enough to mix it up with the Cubs, Brewers, or Cardinals. And I'm loathing my next sentence. They don't look as bad as my Astros.

Stros take on the Brewers in Minute Maid Park. They should play well.

The National League East is by far the most competitive division in the National League. Their worst team has a 3rd baseman in Ryan Zimmerman who has caused a huge buzz around the league with his 30 consecutive games with a hit. Not to mention Adam Dunn. It won't be enough to make any noise.

The Marlins have cooled off after a blazing start. Looks like the Phillies and the Mets are gonna duke it out a few months from now but don't sleep on the Atlanta Braves. Chipper Jones is being his Hall of Fame self and the starting pitching is doing a serviceable job. They won't win the division but they have enough to run on the heels of whoever fights for a Wild Card position in the end. That's just an FYI.

I've never been more proud of the Texas Rangers. Tim Cowlishaw of the Dallas Morning News and regular panelist on ESPN's Around the Horn made a premature victory speech for the Rangers a couple of weeks ago. They may not have deserved it then, but they continue to play well day in and day out. They've won 7 straight and are dominating the division. The Rangers opened the season sweeping the series against Cleveland only to lose 5 straight after that. I hope to see them continue to beat the odds as they've answered the pitching questions that have always surfaced the ball club.

I would like to say that the Angels are going to live up to the expectations before the start of the season and the tragic death of Nick Adenhart. But I just wouldn't be being honest.

I would like to pretend that a know the slightest bit about the Oakland As, but I don't. Wonder why.

I would also like to see every home run Griffey hits this year as the DH. But that is the biggest headline with the Mariners. They started off strong but will come up short this year... Surprise, surprise, surprise.

The Kansas City Royals have a stud young pitcher in Grienke, surrounded with a really improved young team. This is a shaky division so anything could happen, but we have to love what the Royals are doing. This is a great story for baseball.

The Tigers are on top of the division and they will host the red hot Texas Rangers rolling on a 3 game winning streak of their own. Dontrelle Willis will get the first start as they hope to get him familiarized with the strike zone.

The Minnesota Twins are always a quiet contender. They were just swept by the Yankees and gave up 6 runs in the first inning, but I don't see panic or despair on any of the faces in that dugout.

The White Sox are a good team, just not a great team. They won't be a favorite for anything. They have lost 5 straight and will host the division rival Minnesota Twins this week.

The Cleveland Indians don't have a lot of fire power either. You have to respect that organization but underachieving is what they are good at. It shows in the standing. Though the Indians have scored the most runs in their division, they sit as the dead last loser. I know... My blogs are full of surprises.

And finally, last but certainly not least... It's that diving and thriving American League East:
Yankee fans can celebrate the 6 straight victories and the sweep over the Twins... Texeira's two home runs Monday night... A-Rod's homer Monday night. We haven't forgotten the inside the park home run Brett Gardner, or the 3 consecutive walk off homers to win the game.

Nor have we forgotten that the Toronto Blue Jays are in control of the division and could possibly leave the Yankees and Red Sox in their dust within months. Their ace Roy Halladay is off to a remarkable 8-1 start. The Blue Jay are also batting near .300 as a team.

I know a little something about the Boston Red Sox. Jason Bay has 40 ribbies and FYI: Dustin Pedroia is hitting like an MVP. Papelbon broke the Rays down last week. John Lester and Tim Wakefield are carrying the load and the ace is Josh Beckett. You think they're worried?

I just want to say that I personally like the Baltimore Orioles. They are in the wrong division. They will always play hard though.

I've been caught saying the Rays are better than the Yankees. Let me be clear, the talent on the Yankees roster is overwhelming against any team in any sport. But the Rays, from my understanding, are the defending American League Champions. The Yankees are not so much. Who is going to play well at the right time? And will it matter if the Blue Jays continue to dominate, and if the Red Sox are as great as I think they are? It's just May right?

Wednesday, May 13, 2009


Reports have surface that the NFL would like to extend their international popularity and move more games to the United Kingdom. The New Orleans Saints defeated the San Diego Chargers 37-32 at London's Wembley Stadium in a regular season game in 2008. Each season over the next four years, NFL coaches have agreed to play as many as two games outside of the country. This is blasphemy. Nobody even plays football outside of America. More importantly, the economic strain that has been placed on this country has made it tough enough for NFL fans to make it to games in their own fair cities. Most people can understand the decision to move games from a business approach. There is a lot of money in London. Season ticket holders can buy plane tickets in this recession, for a football game that used to be held locally. Where are the American NFL fans? No one is concerned about the father who worked overtime to get a ticket for his son, or even the middle-class family of four. Most people understand that the NFL is less about the fans and more about the money, in such economic times as these.

In 2009, the Patriots will face the Buccaneers in London. reports that owners would have to be convinced that the league is showing true financial growth globally in order to continue giving their support to playing games out of the country. Of course they will continue to give their support, but are they willing to risk alienating their fans? Some experts feel within the next 8 years, we could see a Super Bowl Champion crowned overseas. The same Super Bowl that belongs to American fans. Has the country run out of great places to host it? I doubt it. The past three Bowls have been in either Florida or Arizona. The 2005 Super Bowl was held in Florida as well. Why not give it to a city like New Orleans? This is a wonderful place that seems to always need a lift (no pun intended). Why not place the most celebrated event in America, in America? It is unclear when the economy will improve. I would hope for it to better within the next 8 years. Still, nothing can sway the idea that this is not only wrong, but a little insulting to the fans that appreciate this game the most.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009


Most basketball experts could tell you that close out games are often the most difficult to win, especially on the road. The Rockets game 5 loss in Portland exemplified that. After taking a commanding 3-1 lead in Houston last Friday, the Rockets headed back to the west coast with plans to put away the youngest, most athletic team in the Western Conference. They came up short when the Blazers came up big losing 88-77 in what was a close game throughout.

A win Tuesday night would have matched up the Rockets with the defending Western Conference Champion Los Angeles Lakers for the Conference Semifinals. Now they will have the pressure of yet another close out game, this time in the Toyota Center.

The Rockets started off with good execution on the offensive end, feeding the ball into Yao Ming and working with the opportunities that his presence gives them. However, their turnovers early in the game allowed Portland to control the tempo. They played well defensively when they were allowed to play aggressively but the foul differential between the two teams (Houston 24, Portland 12) came back to haunt the Rockets in the end.

Blazers stud LaMarcus Aldridge played his best game of the series. Not only did he explode offensively with 25 points on 11-20 shooting, he got the better of the power forward matchup with Luis Scola who was hardly effective when it mattered most. Scola had 15 points in the first quarter and shot an impressive 77 percent from the field in the game recording a team high 21 points. He, along with Ron Artest, also had a team high of four turnovers in the game, each one being critical in a playoff atmosphere.

The better point guard in the game was an unlikely hero. With the Blazers best player Brandon Roy struggling early on, veteran Steve Blake outplayed Rockets point guard Aaron Brooks in a duel that was completely lopsided. Blake drained both of his three point field goal attempts while Brooks went 1-8 from deep, shooting 30 percent for the game. The Rockets as a team shot 20 percent from three point range.

If the Rockets have any intention on advancing in the playoffs, they should focus on sticking with what got them here and not stray away from their identity. Unfortunately, the reputation they have made for themselves is one of impatience and lack of discipline when the games get tough. Yes they were on the road playing against a dangerous team with their backs against the wall. But the Rockets, who didn’t play their best game, had the close out victory within their grasp.

In the third quarter, Brooks connected on his lone three point field goal to cap a 15-4 run that tied the game 60-60. The Rockets managed to regain the lead in the fourth quarter. Then the aforementioned foul discrepancy came into effect. They were in the bonus with 7:46 remaining in regulation, putting the Blazers on the free-throw line with every foul called for the remainder of the game. Brandon Roy suddenly caught fire. He made 14 of his 25 points in the fourth quarter, ruling out any chances the Rockets may have had at ending the series at least until tonight.

In Game 6, the Rockets will be faced with a pressure situation that they aren’t quite used to. They will not only be expected to advance to the 2nd round of the playoffs, but they will have to do it in front of their home fans. If they don’t, then they will be faced with a burden all too familiar. Coach Rick Adelman has emphasized the need to execute down the stretch.

“We have to have more control and more patience than we showed tonight,” said Adelman. “Give them credit. They came out like they should. They came out very aggressive with a lot of energy and took it at us. But offensively we have got to be more patient.”

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Rockets being Rockets...

Questions of playoff readiness were silenced after Game 1 this past weekend when the Houston Rockets derailed the young and talented Portland Trail Blazers in an overwhelming double-digit victory. But the criticism is showing up again and rightfully so.

The Rockets fell to the Blazers 107-103 in game 2 on Tuesday, exactly the way they knew they could. The game plan was no secret, it was no surprise. Double team the biggest player on the floor, and live with the smaller players beating you.

Yao Ming dominated in game 1, while going 9-9 for 24 points in the first half alone. His services weren’t even needed in the second half, where point-guard Aaron Brooks and the rest of the Rocket squad sealed the deal.

Game 2 was a totally different story. The Blazers exploited the Rockets’ evident weaknesses, which ironically resembled their own. Neither team has a lot of playoff experience, not to mention the lack of success. Most of the Blazers key players are making their debut in postseason play. But the inexperience showed more in the Rockets on Tuesday night.

“We put ourselves in a bad position,” Coach Rick Adelman told reporters. “We have to get into our offense quicker and then we have to have patience. We didn’t have patience all night long.”

Blazers guard Brandon Roy was unstoppable scoring 42 points in 42 minutes. But he didn’t really beat the Rockets. As good as he was, his performance never dominated the game, even though it was fun to watch. Power forward LaMarcus Aldridge contributed 27 points on 11-19 shooting which is similar to the performance he was expected to give in Game 1, but failed. As good as he was, he didn’t beat the Rockets either. He missed a few 18-foot jump shots down the stretch but the Rockets could not capitalize.

Credit the Blazers for answering the challenge of defending the best offensive post player in the league. They held Yao to 11 points on 3-6 shooting. It was a decent defensive effort, but the Rockets can blame themselves for not winning this game. Statistically, they did well but anyone who watched the game could see they were shaky towards the end. Yao isn’t just their best player, but everything that they do offensively begins with him. So when he was taken out of the game midway through the 3rd quarter with his fourth foul, those Rockets who had been so good suddenly had no clue how to execute.

They shot 50% from the field overall and were only slightly outrebounded which may have been the difference. They didn’t play that well and still had the win within their grasp. The Blazers had six offensive boards to the Rockets’ four. I’ll remind you that this was only a two-possession game. Game 3 will be Friday at the Toyota Center.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Dancing With No Stars!

If I gave it my best guess I would say Louisville, Memphis, Pittsburgh and North Carolina will compete in this year's Final Four. But what do I know? The brackets have been set and the predictions have been made for this year's NCAA Tournament which we as sports fans refer to as March Madness, and more intimately know as "The Big Dance". Some really good teams danced their way out of this tournament, and some lousy teams moon-walked in. Either way play will begin Thursday and it just leaves me wondering, why are we so excited about this basketball tournament? When I relate it to the NBA games and the basis of their magnitude, I contrast the different leagues and what makes them an entire different fascinate. For instance, this year we may see an NBA Finals match-up that stars Kobe Bryant versus Lebron James, two of the highest paid and profiled athletes that the sports industry has ever seen. If this happens, more people will watch this series than any other previous to it and for the star appeal that it brings. Some people won't know Trevor Ariza or Delonte West, but they will be watching because the commercial said Lebron James was facing off against Kobe Bryant. In the NCAA tournament, all of the players whether they lead the team in scoring or warm the bench are playing for a scholarship and live in college dorms. They attend classes, some that they don't wish to be in and normally function in an average lifestyle. We're talking about amateurs playing on very real stage with the chance at a fairy tale ending.
Favorites to win the tournament, North Carolina may be without their best player Ty Lawson in the first game of the tournament due to injury, and the same injury may prevent him from being the explosive point guard he is known to be. That won't work well as an excuse for the Tar Heels. Lawson with all due respect is not even a household name. Nobody playing in this tournament is. With the exception of Oklahoma's Player of the Year Blake Griffin there is no true marquee player and certainly no marquee matchup in any of these brackets. We have some No. 1 seeds and we have some No. 16 seeds. In between we have a lot of teams that could easily shift the momentum in their favor. We're getting ready for a due or die tournament. Win or go home, not win or play another game in the best of 7 series. For forty minutes it is anybody's game. My bracket has low seed Texas A&M beating No. 1 seed UConn in the second round. Why not? Many laugh at the idea but that is the NBA mentality carrying over in this tournament that is nothing related. What player for UConn is so great that they absolutely cannot lose to Texas A&M? There isn't one. If Ty Lawson is hurt, is Tyler Hansborough the kind of superstar that could guarantee his team a win against Western Kentucky if it came down to it? They could lose to them the same way they lost to conference rival Florida State last weekend. My bracket has them winning the whole dance but I'm hoping they lose. Why not to Syracuse? They just won arguably the most hard fought basketball game to date. Sounds like a champion to me. You don't know. I don't know. We will just have to watch the "dance". It's almost like Christmas to the basketball world. Think about it, in the old days, this is where the "stars" were born anyway.