Wednesday, June 30, 2010

South Shore Drill Team Provides Different Avenue

While news from Chicago report of dozens of shootings on the first weekend in April 2010, a group of teenage boys gather on a basketball court in a tough South Side neighborhood called the Pocket and picked up their rifles. This was the end of an especially bloody few days in Chicago as police crime scene tape hung from the South Side to the West Side. In 26 hours 41 people had been shot, 3 dead.

And so these boys pick up their rifles and began another four-hour practice session of a unique youth group, the South Shore Drill Team and Performing Arts Ensemble. The group was designed as an alternative to gang activity, high school drop outs, and teen pregnancy. The group offers young people an opportunity to develop self-esteem, self-discipline, goals for their future, and a chance to travel. The South Shore Drill Teams repertoire includes contemporary music, jazz, hip-hop, modern dance numbers and more.

Since 1980, the drill team has been providing boys and girls, ages 9 to 21, with a highly disciplined and choreographed alternative to the street. Team members use wooden mock rifles, hip-hop music and modern dance moves in their performances, which have taken them from Morocco to Walt Disney World to the annual back-to-school Bud Billiken Parade down Chicago’s Martin Luther King Drive.

In 2009, the team performed at 130 events in nine states. This past June 5, the team marked its 30th anniversary with a night of performances at the Chicago Theater. Although many on the drill team come from struggling families and from schools where sometimes up to half the students drop out before the 12th grade, 99.5 percent of the members graduate from high school and many go on to college, said Arthur Robertson, the former Chicago public school teacher who founded the team with only four boys, two of whom were his nephews. Now, its membership has grown to about 350. The team recently participated in the 33rd annual drill team and color guard world championships —the Winter Guard International — in Dayton, Ohio, where more than 300 teams from across the United States and four other countries were entered. The South Shore team won the championship in 1992.

Some parents of these boys allow them out of the house only to attend team practices and events. They want to keep them as safe as possible. The boys feel trapped in their rough neighborhoods; they can’t go outside and be regular children. Here you can be. Without groups like this, many of the boys would be headed down a path of fast-money dreams and jailhouse nightmares. Instead they now spend days learning how to twirl a mock rifle high into the air, do a back flip and catch the rifle without missing a step as they parade. For some, the drill team has saved their life.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Barry Bonds Wins Major Battle

Baseball's all-time home run champion Barry Bonds won a big legal victory Friday when a federal appeals court ruled that evidence the government says would prove he lied about using steroids is inadmissible in court. The 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, in a divided opinion, said the government cannot use urine samples and other evidence in its perjury case against the former baseball star. Barry Bonds was indicted in federal court in December 2008 of making false statements to a grand jury, denying that he knowingly took steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs.
The government alleges BALCO helped supply Barry Bonds with steroids and drug-masking substances. BALCO was accused of covertly marketing tetrahydrogestrinone -- known as "the Clear" -- a then-undetectable performance-enhancing steroid.

Steroids were allegedly commonly used from about 1995 to 2003 with the allegedly full knowledge of Major League Baseball's commissioner and owners. Steroid use was banned by MLB in 2003. Some owners allegedly even cut players who didn't use it! Use of steroids were not against MLB rules at that time. MLB only wrote rules forbidding steroid use after it became public knowledge that so many players were using it. If it's not against the rules, and owners push it, and other players that are having more success due to using, I don't think you can blame any player for trying to be competitive. The commissioner, owners, managers, coaches should share in the blame. So the crime is lying; and if we are going to prosecute everyone who lied we would have to fire every member of congress and every CEO of every major corporation in the U.S.

So it's all about public relations work to keep a good image. No lawyers are going after Mark Maguire. In fact he even has a job as hitting coach for the St. Louis Cardinals.

The saddest thing about the whole situation is that Bonds was arguably the best baseball player in the game before all this. Now, he will only be remembered for the steroid scandal.

I think it is a waste of time and money that the U.S. Department of Justice is worried about professional sports steroid use when major corporations are causing death and destruction because of unsafe operating practices.

Barry Bonds simply could not have gotten away with taking banned substances without the tacit approval of MLB. And MLB allegedly turned a blind eye to what players were allegedly doing because it reinvigorated ticket sales in a sport that had been losing public interest. Billions of dollars were at stake in TV negotiations, also. Mark McGwire's home-run blitz was said to have "saved baseball" and Bonds was simply carrying on that tradition. MLB is a huge commercial enterprise. When MLB turned a blind eye toward Barry Bonds' dramatic physical changes and unprecedented ability to hit the long ball, it knew exactly what it was doing.