Thursday, December 22, 2011

College life vs. NFL millions

A developing trend has been taking place in big time college football lately. Highly touted NFL ready quarterbacks are actually taking the term "student athlete", seriously. For the second consecutive year, a signal caller from the Left Coast has decided to return to school for his final year of eligibility. Stanford's Andrew Luck shocked nearly everyone last season by announcing he was returning for his senior season. Although he didn't achieve his personal goals of a PAC-10 championship, potential National Championship, and the coveted Heisman Trophy, Luck still had an outstanding season. This year, he finished the regular season with 3,170 yards passing, 35 TD's to just nine interceptions and completed 70% of his passes. He made several All-American teams and for the second consecutive year finished as the runner-up for the Heisman. Most scouts and analysts have him pegged as the No. 1 overall player and think he'll more than likely be the No. 1 pick in the 2012 draft. USC's Matt Barkley looks to duplicate the success of Luck... or perhaps top it next season, as he announced today that he'd be returning for his final season with the Trojans. This surprised many, as Barkley actually bested Luck's number this season, passing for 3,528 yards and 39 touchdowns and could've entered the draft, himself. He gained a lot of attention from the professional ranks during a head-to-head duel vs. Luck, as his Trojans battled Stanford in one of the most exciting games of the year. They fell just short, losing 56-48 in three overtimes vs. Stanford. Even with the loss, Barkley showed great poise and provided a glimpe of what USC could be in the future. The future began today with his decision to remain in school. The Trojans will definitely be ranked as one of the top five teams in the country and Barkley might be the front runner for the Heisman. All of these potential accomplishments sound wonderful. But what sounded better to me was how he spoke with confidence during his press conference. He spoke of the "unfinished business" his team had to take care of, as USC will be bowl eligible for the first time next season in three years. He also spoke of graduating, something he mentioned would take place even if he did declare his entry in the draft. You couldn't help but walk away impressed by the young man and his commitment to his education, his school, and his team. He frequently speaks to youth about the importance of academics and is a devout Christian. He also went on a trip with friends and family during one Christmas holiday to help run an orphanage in South Africa. Clearly the kid gets it. He realizes that there's things more important in life than football. Not only does he enjoy being an athlete but he also enjoys being a student and a leader in his community and beyond. And who said young people can't be responsible?

Friday, December 16, 2011

David Stern is a Genius!

Like most of you reading this, I was in absolute shock about the Chris Paul trade that never was to the LA Lakers. Although I'm not a Lakers fan, I pictured in my head how Kobe Bryant would function with a top tier point guard. Simply put, it would've been unfair. Naturally, the Jordan comparisons popped in my head. Remember, Jordan never played with a dominant center or a high quality point guard... although it could be argued that Jordan and Pippen were the "true" point guards for the Chicago Bulls. Taking nothing away from Kobe AT ALL but for many years, he had a dominant force in Shaquille O'Neal at center. And if the Paul trade to the Lakers went down, he would've had arguably the current best point guard in the game in the backcourt with him. Scary, especially considering the Lakers were aggressively pursuing Dwight Howard, as well. The potential Howard trade faded away but at the forefront stood the Chris Paul trade in big, bold purple and gold letters. I was sucked in. I mean, how could you not be? Several NBA team owners (mostly of the small market variety) complained. Of course, the ringleader was Cleveland Cavs owner Dan Gilbert. Gilbert, who's clearly still bitter about LeBron James bolting Cleveland for Miami (picture that) during last year's free agent sweepstakes. He even sent NBA commissioner David Stern an email saying, "It would be a travesty to allow the Lakers to acquire Chris Paul in the apparent trade being discussed." After the trade appeared to go through, it was rejected just a couple of hours later to this dismay of Lakers fans... and probably many fans of the NBA, period. Stern was destroyed in the press and some even called for his resignation. While fans and press worldwide continue to voice their displeasure, emerging out of the shadows were... the Los Angeles Clippers. WHAT??? You mean the "other" team that plays in the Staples Center? After nearly gang assaulting the Clippers for what seemed like their entire roster, a deal was finally reached. CP3 was headed to Los Angeles... just not in the uniform we expected. At first, I was confused like many of you were. But then... I SAW THE LIGHT! DAVID STERN DID THIS SH** ON PURPOSE! This was his way of saying screw you owners, screw you players, screw you fans and anybody else in the way. Think about it... Stern, who's now overseen four NBA lockouts during his 27-year tenure as commissioner, was fed up. He was tired of owners complaining about players wanting too much money. He was tired of players complaining owners make too much money. Everyone knows he's been drunk off power for years. But despite his many detractors, Stern has done tremendous things to advance his league on a global level. The NBA has 11 offices OUTSIDE of the United States. Games are televised in 215 countries across the world and 43 languages. And 28 new NBA arenas have been built since he became commissioner. The NBA is literally a multi-billion dollar industry. In other words, this isn't exactly Stern's first rodeo. So instead of letting Paul go to one of the most successful ran organizations in the history of sports, he decided to let Paul go to perhaps the worse organization of all time in any sport. Crazy, right? But guess what... The Clippers are building a TEAM. You throw Chris Paul in the mix with a budding superstar in Blake Griffin, free agent Caron Butler, and 2004 NBA Finals MVP Chauncey Billups and you have a pretty solid nucleus. Like it or not, they're instantly a championship contender. I'm not saying they're gonna win it this year but anything's possible in this lockout shortened 66 game regular season. Remember the lockout shortened 50 game season from 1999? The now defunct Seattle SuperSonics missed the playoffs that year after winning 61 games and a Pacific Division title the season before. That same season, the eighth seeded New York Knicks shocked the No. 1 seed Miami Heat in the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs and eventually advanced to the NBA Finals. You can almost expect several key injuries and a few surprise teams throughout the league this season with 66 games being played in 120 days so conditioning will be key. But Paul becoming a Clipper makes a natural rivalry with the Lakers, as the mere thought of that reigning true had been an absolute joke for years. It generates more interest and optimism in an already basketball crazed town and perhaps steals some headlines from that "other" team that shares a lease with them in the Staples Center. In my opinion, Stern can sit back and put his feet up on his desk, spark up a Cuban cigar, and pour a couple of shots of Grey Goose. By allowing Paul to go the Lakers and NOT the Clippers, Stern may have made one of his best decisions in years. This will be one of the most exciting seasons in recent NBA history. Even a biased football fan like me will have to pay attention now.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Media vs. Real Journalism

Recently, one of my very talented writer friends expressed her waning interest in writing. She always goes back and forth on her decision but she's a hip hop writer so... I can understand. Scratch that.. I sympathize. Writing about hip hop is one thing but being a female hip hop writer is another. Obviously, I'm a male. But women have to work three times as hard as a male in a male-dominated industry, especially since their "knowledge of the classics" is constantly questioned. In my opinion, that's the least of her problems. The double-edged sword that keeps stabbin' her in the back... SHE ACTUALLY HAS FRICKIN' INTEGRITY! WHAT! Automatically, she's disqualified. Who does she think she is? Writing about things that actually have substance and not sucking up to some new artist that's adored by millions.... REALLY? Writers like that have no business in this... business. You wanna know why? Its not worth it. Being concerned about integrity, being involved in the media is not the place for you. Its corrupt, political, biased, irresponsible, one-sided, jaded, and soaked in piss. Sensationalism. Exploitation. All of the above. And this is why I always say there's a distinct difference between the media and real journalism. The aforementioned things represent a spitting image of the media, basically a cash cow that leaks sour milk to its adoring public... and they dumb asses willingly drink it! Naturally, its a big business. The money involved is endless so the brainwashing will continue. Meanwhile, the real journalists and reporters of the world are swallowed whole by over-zealous editors and so-called news organizations. In a way, I can't blame the media because they're in a business to make money. But what's lost in all of the madness is they fail to realize that they actually contribute to existing problems instead of changing them. Or maybe they do realize it and are content on making a profit. Or managing to break even. Of course, we all want to put food on the table. There's no denying that. But I seriously feel that reporters and real journalists have the ability to reshape and restructure the world. The power of words is amazing. And the power of true investigative reporting amazes even more. Some of it may be difficult to swallow but its informative, eye-opening, and educational. If done correctly and consistently, it can also prove lucrative. It should come from detailed research not a Twitter post or misguided blog. Questions have to be raised and answers need to be given. If not, I'm wondering if the very talented hip hop writer I spoke of and some of my other writer friends will eventually waive the white flag and surrender. I hope not. The world actually needs people like you. So please, create your own lanes and stick to them. Then, I guess I'll allow you to all have your precious integrity lol.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Holidays... More like the Holidaze!

I must admit... I'm not a big holiday guy. But this isn't anything new. When I was a kid, I loved all of the holidays. Even George Washington's birthday. But that's because we had early dismissal. Once I neared my teens I began to care less and less about the holidays... except for New Year's Day. But that was because all the major college bowl games came on, starting with the Citrus Bowl at 11:30 am and concluding with the Sugar Bowl, which usually ended a little after midnight. However, some formula that incorporates numerous polls, a computer that seems a bit outdated, and many corporate sponsors ruined that day for me. It is fun to pig out on Thanksgiving and watch football, though. Ok... back to the point I was getting at, which is the holidays. The day after Thanksgiving, the holiday shopping madness officially begins. We know that day to be "Black Friday". Personally, I think its a bunch of bullshit. I can remember going out on one "Black Friday" and watching two women tug, pull, and damn near fight over a toy. Here's what happened.... Woman 1: (picks up toy of shelf). Woman 2: "Bitch, I seen it first!". Woman 1: "But I grabbed it!" Enter security. Can you believe they had to break them up? You would've thought the World's last food stamp was at stake or something. But all of this was over a toy. Is this what the Holidays turns people into? Grown women fighting over a toy? I just walked away and continued my shopping, purchasing some pajamas for my son. When Christmas day arrived, he tore up the packaging like a seasoned pro. His eyes lit up when he saw the Ben 10, Spider-Man, and other cartoon characters on his pajamas. I bought him some other things but those were the gifts he seemed to remember the most. I didn't have a camera but the look on his face was one I'll never forget. You see, that's the joy I get out of Christmas and the holiday season, in general... the look on his face and his sister's face as they open their gifts. Its not about the amount of gifts you receive or the dollar amount. Its the thought that counts. And its amazing how the simplest gift can provide so much joy. There's no need for holiday shoppers to get caught up in the stress the season can provide. And the funny thing is the same stress triggers occur every year: lots of shopping and preparation, large crowds, and end-of-the-year responsibilities. With so much already going on in one's personal life, the search for "the perfect gift", the attitude of a salesperson that's been working for 10 hours straight, and the five people that bumped into you but didn't bother to say excuse me add even more frustration. And what do you expect when you wait 'til so late to begin your shopping? The best thing to do is be reasonable. Shop within your budget. And if you're really irritated by certain family members... don't even go around them. No need to be fake about it. If you are one of those people that just HAS TO get those "wonderful gifts", shop throughout the year, like WAY before Thanksgiving. If you want to pick up "stocking stuffers", grab those later because you can get them anytime (Stores like Walgreen's has all kinds of things... and the lines are virtually non-existent). If you're someone that likes to entertain a large group of people during the holidays, hire a cleaning company. That way, you don't have to yell at the kids or your spouse for not vacuuming the living room at a 360 degree angle or washing the dishes left-handed with one eye closed. Planning ahead is the most important thing. No need to be discouraged over things you don't have or can't afford. Be thankful for the most important gift of all... life.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Will Penn State football ever be relevant again?

The Pennsylvania State University Nittany Lions are one of the most storied college football programs in the country. In November 2008, they became just the sixth school to register 800 wins, after a victory against Michigan State. However, recent child molestation allegations against former assistant Jerry Sandusky have rocked the program and the school, resulting in the most significant loss in school history... a loss that had nothing to do with a result on the field. By now, anyone with a television or a computer knows the name Jerry Sandusky. He was an assistant for 30-plus years under long-time head coach and Pennsylvania icon, Joe Paterno. Sandusky resigned in 1999 after PSU's 24-0 win over Texas A&M in the Alamo Bowl. He was carried off the field by the players and treated as a hero. His resignation seemed a bit mysterious and pre-mature. After all, Paterno was aging and many university officials had grown tired of the team's struggles. Penn State was still winning but not with its usual dominance. Sandusky seemed like a likely successor but that never happened and Paterno continued to remain as head coach. Flash forward to the present day, where the former assistant finds himself facing 40 counts of sexual abuse over a 15-year period. Although Sandusky has yet to go to trial, several university officials and coaches have been either jailed, fired, or placed under intense scrutiny for not properly addressing the situation and virtually covering up a scandal in fear of hurting the nearly pristine image of the university and its football program. Pretty disgusting if you ask me. With all of the controversy and flat out incompetence, the university had no choice but to fire Paterno, despite the fact he'd been coaching their for 45 years. But as they say, the show must go on. And there's no way a school with 827 wins and two National Championships is gonna stop playing football. Talks of suspending the program for a couple of years have surfaced but right now... its only talk. Whatever they decide, I have a solution that would help not only the Nittany Lions football team but the school and the entire community of Happy Valley, as a whole. Hire Herman Edwards as the next football coach. If you follow football, you know that Edwards is an energetic and passionate football analyst seen frequently on ESPN. Edwards played in the NFL from 1977-1986 for three teams, most notably the Philadelphia Eagles, where he was active for 135 consecutive games. After his playing days he moved into the coaching ranks, eventually landing head coaching gigs with the New York Jets and Kansas City Chiefs. But if you know Edwards, football doesn't tell the complete story. His father was an African American WWII and his mother was German. He graduated from San Diego State with a degree in Criminal Justice. Upon graduation, he helped out a great deal in Monterey County (CA) promoting the Special Olympics, helping to educate the local area on disabled athletics. Edwards is a visionary and an exceptional leader. That's the type of commitment and dedication needed at Penn State. He's also a motivational speaker and the kind of person an incoming recruit would instantly gravitate to. More importantly, he'd make a great impression on a recruit's parents and make them feel as if they could trust not only Edwards but the university again. Although his playing days are long over, he still commits himself to working out in the gym at 5 am, six days a week. And during his coaching days, he didn't wear gymshoes on the sideline... he wore dress shoes, polishing them before each game. That's the kind of dedication Penn State could be proud of. The university is also known for stellar academics exceptional student athletes, as the football team posted the highest graduation rate (89%) of any team in the AP Top 25 poll. His "firm but fair" attitude and work ethic would help maintain that tradition. The hiring of Edwards might not be the best long-term solution. It might not even be an immediate solution, at least in terms of wins and losses. However, Edwards outstanding character would be a tremendous step in the right direction. His hiring would prove to be much more than a game on the field. It would be more reflective on the game of life, which when you really think about it... it isn't a game at all.