Sunday, January 31, 2010

Tony Dungy: The Man in the Middle

Tony Dungy navigates a world in which sport was once viewed as vital to building character but now is dominated by the dollar. Tony Dungy speaks deliberately and enthusiastically and maintains an unhurried demeanor: He speaks with the power of what is possible. 4½ years after spending time with a former NFL superstar, he still regrets what he sees as a major failure: He believes he could have saved the life Michael Vick once had, the one he'll never have again.

The Colts were in Japan for a preseason game against the Falcons. Coach Dungy, coach Jim Mora, quarterbacks Peyton Manning and Mike Vick were going to different events to promote the game, so they got to know each other more. Warrick Dunn had Vick that Dungy liked to fish. They agreed to get together and go fishing when they got back home. It never happened.

When the dogfighting stuff came out, Tony Dungy never stopped thinking about what might have happened with eight hours on a boat. He thinks maybe he could have been to redirect Vick from his ultimately destructive path. What type of individual honestly believes that, given a single afternoon casting a fishing line into the sea, he could have been the one to change the course of another person's history? Tony Dungy believes deeply in God and the gift that God has given – the ability and power to reach and rehabilitate by listening.

In his first year outside the NFL since the early 1980s, Dungy is a unique and powerful figure. He has developed a huge profile while emerging as a confidant of NFL owners, coaches and the commissioner. He is a connected insider, yet strives to maintain a special rapport and credibility with the disadvantaged. Unlike many of the league's ex-coaches, who use the broadcast booth as a paid couch until another position on the sideline opens, Dungy has used the platform to establish himself as a substantive voice. On one broadcast, Dungy offered criticism of the lack of Black Division 1 football coaches. At a time when deep labor issues are beginning to intensify, Dungy allowed himself to be positioned as a bridge between management and the players.

At a time when the sports culture influence has been reduced by extremes -- basketball coaches caught having sex in restaurants, golfers said to be having sex everywhere, lots of much money, lots of guns, too much temptation at the expense of accountability, decency, self-respect -- Tony Dungy often is viewed as the moral compass of American sports. With that comes power. For owners unsure of the latest troubled athlete in need of a second chance, Dungy can provide the Good Housekeeping seal or the killing third strike. He is uniquely positioned, the serious power broker, the voice upon which the powerful often depend to mediate the gap between themselves and their young, extremely wealthy employees. He does not, of course, provide redemption. Messengers do not have that power. It is a role he has never actively sought, but he has accepted the mission, and the rare and subtle combination of nationwide respect and moral authority have transformed Dungy into one of sport's most powerful figures, and he is at once aware that he must gauge whether those seeking his help are only using him to launder their soiled images or truly desire redemption.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Saints Go Marching In To The Big Show

No longer the "aints", The Who Dats, National Conference Champions, are marching into the Superbowl for the first time ever.

Since the 1967 season, when I was 15 years old, true Saints fans have been waiting for this. Those of us who remember the first ever game when John Gilliam took the opening kickoff 94 yards for the first ever New Orleans Saints touchdown for the only Saints highlight of that loss to the Los Angeles Rams at Tulane University Stadium where home games were played until 1974 before moving to the Louisiana Superdome in 1975.

Their first season record was 3–11, which set an NFL record for most wins by an expansion team. However, things went down hill after that. The Saints didn't even have a season where they were .500 until 1979. One of the team's shining moments came on November 8, 1970, when Tom Dempsey kicked an NFL record-breaking 63-yard field goal to defeat the Detroit Lions by a score of 19-17 in the final seconds of the game.

The first successful years were from 1987–1992, when the team made the playoffs four times and had winning records in the non-playoff seasons. But it wasn't until the 2000 season that the Saints won their first playoff game, defeating the then-defending Super Bowl champion St. Louis Rams.

2005 brought Hurricane Katrina which caused damage to the Superdome and the Saints became the road warriors for the entire season playing their home games between LSU's Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge and the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas. But the Saints returned to the Dome in 2006 on fire, going all the way to the NFC Championship game before losing to the Chicago Bears.

The 2009 season was the team's best season. The Saints started the season going 13-0, the best start to a season in its franchise history. Saints also set the record for the longest undefeated season opening (13-0) by an NFC team since the AFL–NFL merger, eclipsing the previous record (12-0) held by the 1985 Chicago Bears. They went more than 10 years before they managed to finish a season with a .500 record, 20 years before a winning season, and over 40 years before reaching the Super Bowl. So when you see a Saint Fan being loud and bragging, remember we haven't been here before, so we don't know how to act like we've been here before. There is still room on the Saints bandwagon, but all the long time Saints Fan, who endured the years in the wilderness get to ride up front and I'm driving!!!

Curt Warner, Brett Farve,...Peyton Manning your next.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Basketball League for White Americans Only

The All-American Basketball Alliance intends to start its inaugural season in June with teams in 12 cities. Only players that are natural born United States citizens with both parents of Caucasian race are eligible to play in the league. Don "Moose" Lewis, the commissioner of the AABA, said the reasoning behind the league's roster restrictions is not racism. He stated that it will be a league for White players to play fundamental basketball. BORING!

He pointed out dissatisfaction with the way current professional sports are run. Dissatisfaction – try buying a ticket to the NBA All-Star weekend to be held in Dallas next month. The lowest price is $500. I don’t think you will get dissatisfied fans to fork over $500 for the nose bleed seats.

In a free country they should have the right to form any kind of league they want; just don’t expect people to come out and support it. And I’m not talking about 200 to 300 people in a private school gym – because they won’t be playing in any public schools. And get this - the Atlanta-based league, which will operate as a single-entity owning all of its teams, is looking for local contacts to pay $10,000 to become a "licensee" in one of 12 cities throughout the Southeast. What kind of crap are you going to get for $10,000? Mr. Lewis said he has already received threats from people opposed to the roster restrictions and several cities have told him to stay out of town.

The real irony here is that if he really had a problem with the NBA, he should acknowledge that it is owned by a majority of Whites and the rules are written and enforced by Whites. Lewis downplays NBA talent as 'street ball'. In the 1920's Jews dominated basketball on the streets of New York and the semi-pro barnstorming teams. Moose Lewis' words can be read throughout the first half of the 20th century when others referred to Jewish dominance of the game.

The idea of an all White basketball league isn't racist to me; it's the idea of creating an all white basketball league because as Mr. Lewis stated, all black players "play streetball" and will "flip you the bird" and grab their crotches while doing so. if this guy wants to create a league that plays "fundamental" boring basketball then so be it. But the ignorance behind it is the racist part. He also stated that "people of White, American-born citizens are in the minority now." I hate to tell him but the U.S. census begs to differ with him. Black Americans currently make up 12.8% of the population. Furthermore I would love for him to define "White". How are White players going to confirm their "Whiteness"? There are Blacks that look White, Latinos that look White and Whites that look Black. American is a melting pot and it seems to me this guy only wants the potatoes out of this pot. You think he would take an Irish potato?

So let Don "Moose" Lewis create this league that we all know will last for, I don't know, let’s say a week. Good White basketball players will not play because it just sounds, BORING, not challenging and an excuse for the talentless.

The more Moose get's turned down the Angrier, hateful, spiteful, detestably he will become, when all this boils over for him, from many failed attempts and denials from cities and threats (so he says) he is going to use this as wood for a fire to ignite a rally with and for the hate groups who love and feed on this kind of stuff. I wonder if they will have confederate uniforms, or if they will play in their robes without the hoods? We need team names: The Atlanta Supremacists, The Jackson Grand Wizards, The Charleston Real Americans, but certainly not The Birmingham Ballerz.

As a Black man I would like to start an all Black swim league where Blacks can splash around, which is what we like. I mean, do we want to go to a swimming pool and have to worry about swimming really well like White Americans with all their fancy strokes - breast stroke, back stroke, butterfly. We just want to do belly flops and hold onto the sides of the pool. I am looking for a pool not more than 4.5 feet deep to start the league.

I wouldn’t go to see any all white games because quite frankly, I like good basketball.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Is the Dream Alive in You?

As "we" celebrate the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. I see a growing disassociation with the slain civil rights leader among young people. I know it is a generation further removed from segregated schools and a society more in tuned to selective memory sound bites. Dr. King would have turned 81 Friday should be remembered everyday, is often forgotten on this day in some circles.

Dr. King left a great legacy behind but unfortunately too many people, young and old, these days don’t hold onto that legacy. The disconnect concerning King began years ago. Our generation spent so much time trivializing what he was really about that young people have no idea. We have lost sight of the fact that he died organizing poor people’s campaigns. It is ironic, almost poetic, that the Haiti crisis happened days before the celebration. If Dr. King were alive his energy would have gone not only to addressing the crisis caused by the earthquake but before the earthquake.

Those who remember King have allowed parades and banquets to replace marches and relief efforts. We have these wonderful parades and social events but do nothing when the event is over. Like other leaders whose image grows into idolatry, King has always been misremembered. For a lot of people King the Peacemaker in the sense of race relations is more comfortable than someone like Malcolm X. But you take a closer look there are similarities between the two that gets lost in the shuffle.

In the years leading up to his assassination in 1968, King focused much more intensely on economic dislocation, social democracy and the war in Vietnam. The “I Have a Dream" speech is a symbolic snapshot but it isn’t the whole person.

We have to remind our youth where they come from and how they got where they are today. On this Martin Luther King Day let us all keep our dream alive. Take a look at that person in the mirror and know that everything is possible.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Limbaugh and Robertson Remove All Doubt As to Their Stupidity

I’ve heard of idiots, but radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh and televangelist Pat Robertson have sealed their spots as being right at the top in that field with their comments in the immediate aftermath of the earthquake in Haiti that has killed tens of thousands. Critics from all directions are denouncing their remarks as insensitive to the disaster and attempts to score political points from human tragedy. Even fellow conservatives have said that they are deeply insensitive.

Limbaugh said the earthquake has played into Obama’s hands, allowing the president to look “compassionate” and “humanitarian” while at the same time bolstering his standing in both the “light-skinned and dark-skinned Black community in this country.” Then added: “We've already donated to Haiti. It’s called the U.S. income tax.” His comments were, in part, a riff on Senator Harry Reid’s remark in a new book that President Obama was able to win the election because he is “light-skinned” and lacks a “Negro dialect.”

The president speaks for the country when he says we’re going to go in there. Whether you like a person or not you respect the position. He criticized President Obama for holding a news conference the day after the earthquake. As far as I can remember the U.S. has been the leader in helping when others have suffered and the president at the time has always held a press conference to pledge U.S. aid. The saying goes “it’s better to have people think you are stupid than to open your mouth and remove all doubt. Maybe the question is whether Limbaugh is upset because we are donating to a predominately Black country or whether he dislikes the thought of a Black man being in charge. With thousands of people dead already and as the suffering continues in Haiti, Limbaugh and his kind only care about one thing: destroying President Obama.

While Limbaugh received a sprinkling of support, nobody of note has stepped up to defend Pat Robertson’s claim that Haiti got hit by an earthquake because it is “cursed.” Speaking about the disaster during his program “The 700 Club” on the Christian Broadcasting Network, Robertson said that when Haiti was still a French colony its leaders “swore a pact to the devil” to get out from “under the heel of the French. But ever since they have been cursed by one thing after the other.” “That island of Hispaniola is one island. It is cut down the middle on the one side is Haiti the other is the Dominican Republic. Dominican Republic is prosperous, healthy, full of resorts, etc. Haiti is in desperate poverty.” Robertson has a long history of making controversial remarks on his program.

In reality Haiti is in the situation it is in because of poor leadership of past dictators. Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere and just like any third world country, there is no middle ground; you are either very rich or very poor, with most falling into the latter category.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Speedskater Shani Davis Aiming for 5 Gold Medals

World-record holder Shani Davis has once again decided not to skate on the U.S. team pursuit but he does plan to race all five individual events at the Vancouver Winter Olympics. Attempting to compete in all five events will be awfully tough, but even coming close could cement him -- already the world-record holder at 1,000 and 1,500 meters -- as one of the greatest all-around skaters his sport has ever seen. Most skaters specialize in either the sprints, middle or long distances.

His decision is sure to stir debate, however. Shani had said earlier last month that he planned to skate the team pursuit in Vancouver after feuding with other U.S. skaters over his decision to skip the event at the 2006 Games. The U.S. U.S. team surely would be a top medal threat with him in the team pursuit lineup. Without him, they finished sixth at the 2006 Games.

When he won gold in Torino, he became the first Black man to win gold in the Winter Games. Shani Davis grew up to be 6-foot-2 (a disadvantage in a sport where being short is a great advantage) and lean and while the other children in his Chicago neighborhood played basketball he was speeding around ice rinks.

Shani (I wonder where that name came from), decided when he was very young, that if he was going to do a sport, he wanted to be different. He succeeded. He has become the best speedskater in the world in a predominantly White sport.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Top Stories of 2009

As we close out 2009 I look back to the top stories in our community. Of course there were more stories that concerned us and even more inportant stories, but these were the most talked about stories of 2009.

Number 10: Michelle Obama Hugs Queen Elizabeth, Stirs Controversy.

Number 9: 1st Family gets a dog.

Number 8: Disney's first Black Princess.

Number 7: Serena Williams' Outburst.

Number 6: Kanye West & Taylor Swift.

Number 5: Michael Vick returns to NFL.

Number 4: Tiger Woods Escapades.

Number 3: Chris Brown & Rihanna.

Number 2: Michael Jackson's Death.

Number 1: Do I even have to write it? The First U.S. Black President.