April 25th, 2014 § Leave a Comment
Not Clownin’ Around …
As with all things thick in rhetoric, sports talk is rife with hyperbole. “The greatest game ever.” “This will go down in the annals of …” Annals? What annals? You mean, ESPN Classics? And get a load of some of these nicknames: The Great One, The King, Broadway Joe, The Iron Horse. We are talking about a game, right? Balls. Sticks. Boys and girls running around, keeping score. I’ll admit that sports do rise to plateaus above “play” on occasion. Yes, character is tested, the heart measured. Agreed. But the way they were advertising the Masters, you’d think Jim Nantz was selling some sort of Neo-Transcendentalism. C’mon, let’s just all settle down. Not every kid showing promise is the “Second coming of …” Not every kid with the unique combination of size, speed, and manual dexterity is a freak.
With all that said, and I believe every word of it, Jadeveon Clowney is a F R E A K, Freak. Let me put it to you like this: The kid … no, wait, the man is 6’5″ 266. At the NFL Combine last month, that very large man ran a 4.53 40. To put that number into perspective, Clowney ran a faster time than 20 of the 33 Running Backs. And faster than 19 of the 45 Wide Receivers. His 1.5 10 yard split is faster than the average of WR splits over the past five years. That’s just crazy. What makes the stat noteworthy is that Clowney will make his money as an edge rusher. 10 yards is about the distance he’ll have to cover to get to a dropped back QB.
So, will he be the number one overall pick? Only the Texans can answer that question in a meaningful way. I think they should, but whether they do or not is not of the utmost importance. Not anymore. The Texans already got their man. I say it’s not Clowney or a replacement QB for the released Matt Schaub. Nope. Their most important acquisition was coaxed out of Happy Valley. Bill O’Brien. Upon what am I basing this assertion? Well, O’Brien had the moxie to take the Penn State job in the wake of Sandusky. Not only did he step into the shoes of Joe Paterno, who was Penn State Football, he did so under a multi-year post season ban and stripped of 40 scholarships. Stars jumped ship and the Nittany Lions got smashed in his debut by the Ohio University Bobcats. O’Brien promptly turned the whole thing on a dime, going 8-4 and 6-2 in Conference. 6-2 in his first season, in the Big Ten with one arm tied around his back! In his two years, he managed to pull a 15-9 record garnering him a box full of coaching trophies including the Paul “Bear” Bryant College Coach of the Year. But none of that is the reason I think he turns the Texans around. It’s this:
Do you see who O’Brien is yelling at? That’s Tom Fabulous. League MVP. Superbowl MVP. The unrivaled leader of the Patriots. More importantly, the dude gets respect in the toughest sport in the world while sporting a salon cut and reping Uggs. That’s untouchable. Forget Jadeveon. Anyone who’s got the stones to go after Tommy like that is not Clownin’ around.
April 23rd, 2014 § Leave a Comment
Levar Burton. Yeah … well, no, not that Levar Burton, not the Star Trek Levar Burton. And while we’re here, what was the deal with that head band thing pulled over his eyes? Weird, right? Anyway, I’m talking about the Roots Levar Burton. Kunta Kinte. The African slave of indomitable spirit.
Alex Haley’s novel was adapted into a TV mini-series in 1977, the year of my family’s immigration. I can still recall the visceral reaction I had to the depiction of Kunta Kinte being ripped from his homeland – a pastoral of hope and promise – being paraded in front of jeerers, and then sold like an animal. It was about as much outrage as I’d experienced in my eight years of life.
Why? Why did I have such a strong reaction? I have to think that it had something to do with identifying. Of course, I’m not comparing the experience of the willing immigrant family to that of one kidnapped, brought by boat to be sold into slavery. By any standards, I had a safe, comfortable transition. Yet humiliation is its own kind of suffering. And being mocked and laughed at is not easily forgotten. Having been dropped into a foreign land, lost in language, with no place to plant a bare seedling of an identity, my heart was drawn toward a people I hardly knew, to their ongoing struggle that was suddenly, in a minuscule way, mine.
It didn’t end there. From Martin Luther King Jr to Malcolm X, from Soul Train to Run DMC, Good Times, Cooley High, and White Shadow, as a newly minted American minority, I tied a part of myself to the most prominent struggle of a people for human dignity that our Nation has known. And to think, it all started for me with of all people, Levar Burton.