March 30th, 2014 § 2 Comments
You’ve probably heard, DeSean Jackson was cut by the Eagles. After the most productive season of his seven year NFL career, Jackson finds himself unemployed. Not only did The Eagles not trade their All Pro receiver, they were willing to take a hit of over 6 million in dead cap space to send Jackson packing. In other words, they wanted him gone. Bad.
He’s the right age, 27. Last season, DeSean posted 9 TDs and 1,300+ yds. And the dude still has speed to burn – 2nd among active receivers in yards per at 17+ and tied with Megatron with 12 TDs of over 50 yds. So, yeah, surprising that the Eagles dropped him like a bad habit. Actually, surprising is putting it mildly.
But then, conveniently enough came reports that link DeSean Jackson to the notorious Crips gang in Los Angeles. Without getting too far into it, there are Instagram photos, gang signs, homicide investigations, a suspicious unsolved burglary, a Rap record label, and associates who are obviously not Boy Scout material. Stack ’em all up, it’s compelling. I can see how Chip and Jeffrey looked at each other, and decided they’d already seen this movie: All Pro, lucrative extension, gangs, guns, paranoia, murder. They didn’t like how the movie ended in New England and wanted no part in Philly. Can you blame them?
In a statement released through his agent, Jackson vehemently denied the alleged gang affiliation. It is certainly possible that the Eagles were tired of managing their temperamental star, and saw this report as a good excuse to unload unwanted baggage. Possible. Whatever the case, it does raise for me some interesting questions about race and culture. Is it possible for both sides to be right? Can there be so called “gang affiliations” that is unacceptable in certain contexts like … say an NFL executives meeting, but is in another context virtually unavoidable, making the thought of it being grounds for dismissal ludicrous?
When a whole people group is shoved into the margin of society, certain children of that people group will find the position of powerlessness intolerable. When access to power is denied through conventional pathways, other ways will be explored. Violence is often the impatient reach for power. And so for a young man in the hood, gang life is one way to take back some control – illusory as the grasp may be. Sometimes as a whole, they can even represent a protest against unjust systems that “force” a people to seek a certain subversive dignity.
The Rap group NWA is an example of how nefarious elements of a disenfranchised people are elevated to sing their anthem of protest. Not only in song but with their very lives, unlawful to the broader society they reject. In the margins, the world is turned on its head: villains are heroes and heroes, villains. And the lines are blurred. One day Snoop Dogg is on trial for murder, the next he’s at a party with Mark Zuckerberg.
Ice Cube is starring in comedies as a family man. Yeah, that Ice Cube, F*#k the Police Ice Cube is a respected Hollywood Producer. Through alternate ways, some by exceptional talent and sheer grit make it from the margins onto a seat at the King’s table. But even for the select few who do cross the line, the line itself remains blurred.
It’s a generalized, simplistic angle on a complex question of race and culture. Obviously the breath and depth of the African American experience extends far beyond questions surfacing around DeSean Jackson. And this doesn’t even begin to scratch at what is “right and wrong.” The Eagles cut DeSean Jackson. From where management sits, I suppose it was justified. Justified. I wonder. Maybe an ironic word to describe an action taken as worlds and cultures collided to render lines blurred.
March 25th, 2014 § Leave a Comment
I was born into a Korean family. We don’t hug. That’s just the way it is. I’m pretty sure my Father never kissed me … maybe, maybe when I was a baby. But that’s it. And when no one was looking. Now, get this: I have only one memory of my Mom kissing me. And when she did, she did it in secret. Snuck up to my bed while she thought I was sleeping. It was so strange, so foreign to my nine year old self that I continued to pretend I was sleeping. Never asked her about it or made mention of it to anyone. My Father didn’t hug me. My Mother didn’t hug me. I’ve never hugged my Brother. My older Brother is the closest person to me outside my immediate family, and yet I’ve hugged casual acquaintances more than I’ve hugged my Brother.
I know it sounds like I’m crying about it. I’m not. I am to a great degree a product of my culture – a culture I have learned to embrace … even celebrate. To illustrate, my Mom around the time of my engagement, broke down and started hugging me and telling me she loves me. When she tells me she loves me, she always does so in English, not in Korean. The Korean “I love you” is awkward. Culturally, it’s an unspoken concept. And so for my Mom to express it verbally, she literally steps out of her culture. She turns to a foreign tongue to do that which is foreign to her – express verbally what she’s felt all my life.
But I’m not letting Koreans or any other culture for that matter off the hook. Culture is real, ought to be considered and respected, but it cannot be left unexamined, unchallenged.
Lately, I’ve on more than one occasion considered the significance of the embrace. First of all, it’s touch. Now, think of what you will not touch: Icky, gross, nasty things. Unclean. And not just the hygienically unclean, right? We avoid touching the lowly, the despised. Touch is an act of joining, to make that other part of me. It’s an act of acceptance and maybe more, an act of reception. The embrace takes touch to another place. It is not creating a bridge. Not merely adjoining or granting access. It’s an enveloping. To open oneself and to hold another within. It’s a whole ‘nother kind of acceptance. Oneness.
Whatever your child is going through, whatever he or she has done, whether reconciliation needs to be worked out or recompense paid, a child ought to do it within the embrace of their Father. Even if their own self shuns them, they ought to find an embrace with you – enveloped in love, acceptance, value.
I’m Korean. Hugging ain’t my thing. But if stepping outside of my culture is going to have my kids experience all that is in the embrace of their Father, then you can believe I’ll be hugging my kids. Still ain’t hugging my Bro though. C’mon.
March 24th, 2014 § Leave a Comment
Every Act of Kindness …
What’s the quote? “Death by a thousand paper cuts.” Most marriages that die do so by a thousand paper cuts. Sure, there are affairs. There are abuses. But that’s more the slug mercifully banged into the back of the head of Inevitability. Long before the BANG! the steady hemorrhaging from a thousand misspoken words, a thousand inconsiderate decisions, a thousand withholdings had already put the ashen gray complexion on it.
Conversely, happy marriages are far less about the surprise trip to Paris, the five carat tennis bracelet on Valentine’s Day, or renewing your vows every ten years. It is built with tangible, appreciable acts of love. Every act of kindness …
The other day, I unexpectedly got the afternoon off. When I got home, my wife was overwhelmed with something that hadn’t gone the way she had hoped. Nothing big, but just enough to put her off. I asked if I could take her out to lunch. She happily accepted. As she was getting ready, it occurred to me that a lunch date may not help her in her state of being overwhelmed.
“Hey, I was thinking lunch would be good, but if going and getting that thing done or crossing something else off the list would help you, we can do that instead. I’m up for whatever.” That was it; it’s what she wanted. She didn’t even take me up on it. What mattered to her was that I offered – that for a moment I really thought about her: Where she stood, what she needed. As small a token as it was, it was a genuine piece of evidence that her husband loved her.
It’s what my wife wants. It’s what she’s wanted all along. An answer to the question: Do you think of me?
March 7th, 2014 § Leave a Comment
Blame it on Arian
Free agency kicks off next Tuesday. Some serious dudes are going to be hitting the open market. Game changers like Michael Bennett who led your Super Bowl winning Seattle Seahawks with 8.5 sacks and Jairus Byrd who since joining the league has had more interceptions and forced fumbles (33) than any other safety. They and a number of others will have more than a few “under the cap” suitors looking to secure their services. What’s common about these two and other interesting free agents is that they fall on the defensive side of the ball.
Offensive players entering free agency in 2014 come with more questions than answers: Is Eric Decker what the numbers tell us he is or has he been elevated beyond recognition by the company he keeps? Can Michael Vick who could not do it in Chip Kelly’s offense do it in a place like … say Minnesota? Is Maurice Jones Drew running on fumes?
Teams courting these players will not be doing so because they are infatuated but because they are desperate. Missteps, missed opportunities have brought them to a place of reluctant commitments – commitments that come with them that sickening feeling: “I feel trapped.” And no team will feel more trapped, more desperate than those looking to fill the positional need at Running Back.
First off, the Running Back is a rapidly diminishing role. Do you remember the last Running Back to take a team to the Super Bowl? You may have to go all the way back to Terrell Davis. It’s a pass happy league with the diminished role of the RB being chopped further into specialized, committee systems. Furthermore, the RB – outside of maybe the Nose Guard – takes more punishment than any other position in the league making 30 years the standard age at which they are led to pasture.
Recent history of high profile RB signings isn’t helping. There’s Steven Jackson who was supposed to shore up the Falcons backfield but ended up playing twelve games, failing for the first time since his rookie season to crack a 1000 yds, and producing a career worst 3.5 per carry avg. Chris Johnson signed what was the richest contract given to a RB and promptly followed with the worst season of his career. He ended 2013 by dipping below 4 yds per carry avg. And as disasters go, can’t forget Arian Foster.
Foster went from an undrafted free agent to taking over the league in 2010. After a second outstanding season, Foster was rewarded with a five-year, 43.5 million dollar contract before the 2012 season. A no brainer – as safe an investment as you can get. After struggling through an injury plagued 2013 pre-season, Foster was ultimately put on IR after playing only eight games. This offseason, between the news of back surgery and rehab, word got out that Foster allegedly fathered a child with a University of Houston coed. Doh! How’s that long term deal looking now?
Next week, Darren McFadden will sit across the table from a GM. The fear of commitment will be palpable.
“Hey, man, I know there are some durability issues, but I’m still young. And when I’m on the field, there’s no question about my productivity.”
“Look, nothing you can say will put me at ease … you can blame Arian for that.”
March 6th, 2014 § Leave a Comment
I confess that I have a condescending attitude toward the Oscars, like the whole thing’s beneath me or something. I dismiss it as a beauty pageant of sorts – a popularity contest. The red carpet, posing for the cameras in their Versaces, all the “who’s who” hoopla. Entertainment reporters who are – let’s face it – not real reporters going on a gluttonous butt sniffing frenzy. What does any of this have to do with art?
Like I know something about art. That’s why it’s a confession; I’m aware that my disdain for the glittery Hollywood ball is wrong. I of all people have no right to look down on anything. “What have you done that’s so great that artists being recognized for reaching the heights of their craft is beneath you?” A good question to which I have no good answer.
Over the years, my misguided attitude has kept me from tuning in. This year, my teenage daughter wanted to watch the Academy Awards. My wife and I have always felt that in parenting “blocking access” needs to be used sparingly. “You want to watch? Sure, let’s watch it together.”
Other than Ellen DeGeneres being surprisingly good, the show pretty much went as I expected. Ho hum. Then it happened. In the Best Supporting Actor category, a ten second sample of Jared Leto’s offering flashed on the screen. The transvestite Rayon’s sorrowful, tortured, solitary moment in front of a mirror was stunning. Wow. Give the man his Oscar.