Monday, December 7, 2009

Tim Donaghy Blows the Whistle on NBA;Referees

Sunday, disgraced former NBA referee Tim Donaghy, who was recently released from federal prison after serving 11 months of a 1-year jail sentence for actions related to betting on NBA games and passing along insider information to mob contacts spoke to the CBS program 60 Minutes.

Donaghy is reported to have picked accurately on 70%-80% of his selections, amassing a personal profit of over $100,000 while the mob netted $1-2 million, a conservative estimate as proffered by the FBI.

Donaghy alleges that he was able to pick games so successfully because of his knowledge of personal preferences that certain referees had towards certain players, coaches, general managers, and owners. He reportedly was also privy to "gossip" that circulated inside the referee's locker room about player injuries and habits that had the potential to affect the outcome of the game.

In one scenario, Donaghy explains how NBA referees entered into a cabal against Sixers all-star point guard Allen Iverson after he threatened one of their officials. They were going to "teach him a lesson". Video footage of games in which Allen Iverson played, both during the end of his tenure with the Sixers and early in his time with the Denver Nuggets shows officials failing to call fouls on plays where Iverson drives to the basket and incurs sometimes hard contact.

In another situation, the Los Angeles Lakers forwarded a cd of 25 plays in which they felt NBA officals failed to call fouls when star guard Kobe Bryant drove to the basket. The NBA reviewed the cd and found that 22 of the 25 calls in question had been missed and forwarded a memo to that effect to the NBA referees. The result was an increase of calls in Bryant's favor and an increase in his free throw attempts down the stretch of the 2007-2008 season.

Donaghy also accused the NBA of purposely extending playoff series because it increased viewership and revenue. He says that these actions were particularly prevalent in large media markets such as Los Angeles, Boston, and Chicago.

It is certainly admissable to take everything that Donaghy says with a grain of salt. He is a convicted felon who committed the cardinal sin of not only basketball, but all organized sports -- betting on games especially games that one has the potential to have a direct and immediate impact on.

However, Donaghy comes from an extensive officiating lineage, his dad having been a NCAA referee for over 25 years. His wife divorced him shortly after his indictment and took custody of their 4 young girls. He will likely live out the remainder of his life in witness protection and with the distinct possibility that the next time that he steps out of his home may be the last. Donaghy fully cooperated with an FBI investigation, an investigation that was corroborated and confirmed by an independent investigation conducted by the office of NBA commissioner David Stern. Stern called Donaghy a rogue NBA referee that acted alone in his transgressions but, in light of their support of the FBI investigation, that seemed more like a public relations diversion than a statement of fact.

As we enter the last month of the NFL season, the FBS prepares for the yearly extravaganza that is bowl season, and the NBA and collegiate basketball schedules hit full stride, fans should keep at least one critical eye on the accuracy of the officiating. Sports in America has always been part spectacle and part amazing feats of mental and physical strength and agility summoned by the world's greatest competitors in the toughest of environments.

I may be one of the many millions of sports fanatics mired in naivety but it is the basic principle that rules and regulations tempered and administered by the blind reasoning of the men and women charged with upholding neutrality on the turf or parque floor and NOT bold-faced prejudice and revengeful collusion that should decide whether athletes, coaches, personnel, and owners have the opportunity to embrace victory on any given night that serves as the foundation of the modern sports-industrial complex.

Without these assurances, our favorite pastimes become no more meaningful than a WWE wrestling event and the reverence that we hold for our modern day gladiators and their neo-heroic feats, as evidenced by our viewership and our dollars, are nothing more than most severe forms of idolatry.

Those who stand by in silence as a fraudulent farse is perpetuated for immense profit are not as guilty as Tim Donaghy, they are more guilty and they should and will have their day of judgement in the court of public opinion.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

0(-18) the Humanity!!!

With a 117-101 loss to the Dallas Mavericks the New Jersey Nets fell to 0-18, setting a new NBA record for futility to start the regular season.

"At this point, I feel the streak has definitely gotten the best of us. It's really starting to get to us now," guard Chris Douglas-Roberts said. "So when a team goes on a run, we kind of, it's almost like we give up, which is really unfortunate but that's what it looks like to me. We kind of give up and just lay down instead of trying to fight."

With a move to Brooklyn in the cards for the 2010-2011 season and a spot in the 2010 NBA draft lottery all but certain, general manager Kiki Vandeweghe will move from the frying pan into the fire Friday as he takes over the sinking ship vacated by the recently fired one-time longest tenured coach in the NBA Lawrence Frank.

"Nobody likes to lose. Period. And obviously we made it clear and you all know this is a developmental year, but nobody expected to be 0-17," Vandeweghe said before the game. "That's just obviously not acceptable and I think that it's not acceptable to anybody and especially the players."

Whether the Nets record setting 0-18 start is acceptable or not, the tide does not look like it will be stemmed anytime soon. The Nets roster is composed of talented but young and inexperienced players. Devin Harris, the Wisconsin product who returned from the disabled list in time for last night's ill-fated performance and Brook Lopez, the 7 footer from Stanford, are arguably the Nets best players. Coupled with the emergence of Chris Douglas-Roberts as a scoring threat, the future looks promising for the New Jersey franchise.

And then there's the here and now.

The Nets next 5 games come against teams that are at or around .500 including Friday against a much improved Charlotte Bobcats team that, ironically, yielded the Nets last victory at the end of the 2008-2009 season. In addition to the lack of depth on their bench, the Nets will undoubtedly be up against players that will motivated by the desire not to have be forever known in the annals of NBA and American sports history as the team by which the Nets infamous streak of underachievement was ended.

The Nets should send a collective thank you to Sir Isaac Newton because everything that goes down must eventually, sometimes against the force of gravity, come back up.

Looking at the Nets December schedule, it looks like New Jersey's record losing streak has teh possibility of coming to an end either December 8th in Chicago against my beloved Bulls team that is talented but inconsistent especially against teams that they should beat on paper. They especially have difficulty putting teams away in the 4th quarter. A sure bet (if there is a such thing anymore after watching the beginning of this NBA season) would be December 23rd against the equally woeful Minnesota Timberwolves who have rookie PG Johnny Flynn, veteran PF Al Thornton, and no one else.

By then, the Nets could have potentially added 10 additional losses to their record and may only want a quick and painless end to their wasted season for Christmas.

So far, all they deserve is a lump of coal.

New Jersey Nets Schedule - December

Fri, Dec 4 Charlotte 8:00 PM
Sun, Dec 6 @ NY Knicks 12:00 PM
Tue, Dec 8 @ Chicago 8:00 PM
Wed, Dec 9 Golden State 7:30 PM
Fri, Dec 11 @ Indiana 7:00 PM
Sun, Dec 13 @ Atlanta 5:00 PM
Tue, Dec 15 @ Cleveland 7:00 PM
Wed, Dec 16 Utah 7:30 PM
Fri, Dec 18 @ Toronto 7:00 PM
Sat, Dec 19 LA Lakers 8:00 PM
Wed, Dec 23 Minnesota 7:30 PM
Sat, Dec 26 Houston 7:30 PM
Mon, Dec 28 Oklahoma City 7:30 PM
Wed, Dec 30 NY Knicks 7:30 PM

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Tiger Woods Being Unfaithful -- That's Par for the Course

In light of the recent saga involving Tiger Woods, his beautiful wife Elin Nordegren, their two children, at least three mistresses, a fire hydrant and a tree, I'm wondering now, more than ever, why high profile, superstar male athletes and celebrities enter into the state of eternal celibacy known as marriage?

I mean, these guys are getting ass thrown at them left and right, horizontally and vertically nearly 24 hours a day. That frequency must be double for athletes, like Tiger, who excel at individual sports where you don't have teammates, coaches, and other staff members present to block your game.

Part of the reason for this conundrum, I believe, is the reality that is lucrative, multi-million dollar endorsement contracts. Nike, Buick, and Gatorade aren't just throwing money at Eldrick because of his unmatched skill and precision on the golf course (although that composes the vast majority of their rationale), they're tapping Tiger to peddle their products because of the persona that he displays off of the links -- the family man with an exceptionally beautiful wife, two beautiful children, a dog, a (slightly damaged) Cadillac, and big backyard in the suburbs. Tiger also boasts a Stanford degree and raises more money for charity than any other athlete/celebrity short of Lance Armstrong and Bradgelina (that's Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie if you've been in a cave with Osama Bin Laden for the past decade).

All of these attributes make Tiger the type of guy that Tag Heuer wants to dial up to get you to buy a watch. Yeah, they could get Rocco Mediate but is Rocco the type of straw that stirs your drink? Do you even know who Rocco Mediate is? Exactly.

The point I'm attempting to make is that the type of celebrity that will likely make Tiger Woods the next billion dollar athlete is the same fame that is now eroding his once bulletproof public image. It's a double-edged sword for those who choose to go down that path...

...and then there's Derek Jeter. The 2009 Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year is a life-long bachelor (although he has been linked to several famous fems). He continues to excel on the field, winning a Silver Slugger and leading his New York Yankees to the 2009 World Series Championship who also boasts lucrative contracts from the likes of Michael Jordan's Jumpman brand and Gillette just to name a few. Jeter has managed to maintain a pristine image partly because he doesn't rock a platinum abstinence ring...I mean wedding band on his left ring finger and partly because he's not trying to hide any of his escapades. The media will usually grant you some semblance of privacy if you're dating respectable young women and not...I don't know...cocktail waitresses in VIP gentleman's clubs or former reality show "stars".

Derek Jeter has shown that being a single, star athlete and a marketable role model need not be exclusive ventures.

Now, I'm a person that is firmly rooted in the opinion (possibly a minority opinion) that the institution of marriage is an antiquated social (mostly religious) rite that no longer has reputable credence in modern culture. There is an abundance of psychological and physiological research showing what men and women have known since the dawn of time -- that a boner in the trousers will displace years of commitment and vows in a man's neo-cortex. (Interesting enough, there is increasing research showing that women are beginning to have sex for many of the same reasons that men do).

Couple this with the generally sociopathic personality that most athletes (and celebrities in general) display -- that "I can do anything, anywhere, with anyone that I choose and not be punished for it because I'm me" attitude that has been developed over decades of having everyone kiss your ass and tell you how great you are and how grateful everyone should be that you exist and you have a recipe for impending disaster.

In the end I don't feel bad for Tiger, or his wife, or his slightly damaged Cadillac. Tiger knew what he was getting into when he won his first major, inked his first endorsement deal, and said "I do". He knew that society, with its myopic memory and selective morality, would build him up taller than the Tower of Babel and them explode him in a controlled demolition at the first signs of human weakness -- weaknesses that they themselves may have displayed in the past, all be it with less fanfare and certainly fewer Us Weekly "reporters" and paparazzi around.

Elin knew what she was getting into when she took those nuptials after signing a pre-nuptial agreement. Come on, she couldn't have been under the delusional assumption that her vagina had the magical powers to keep arguably the world's most famous athlete tied to her bedpost, and her bedpost alone. Did she not talk to Tiger's mother and hear the stories about all of the young women that would call her house looking for an admit one (or two, or three) to Eldrick's themepark, The Tiger's Den?

And let's nip the claim by Tiger and his handlers that the golfer is entitled to some semblance of privacy as a human being. If this incident involved Eldrick Woods, the accountant with a membership at his local country club, then some measure of privacy would be granted by virtue of his relative anonymity. Unfortunately, this is Tiger Woods, world class golfer whose very image and monogram have become marketable items, appearing on everything from hats, to golf balls, to the labels of Gatorade sports drinks. Companies pay hundreds of millions of dollars to use your likeness on their products and consumers dole out 10 times as much to feel some tacit connection to their favorite athlete and icon. Like it or not, you're no longer a private citizens entitled to the privelege of relative reclusion. Your likeness belongs to the public domain and no matter how much you whine and cry foul, you can't have it both ways.

I feel bad for those two young children who, when they are old enough to read and discern, will find out that there beloved father was a philandering man-whore and that their beloved mother, when it's all said and done, was a gold-digging, 3-iron wielding 4-B (big-breasted blonde bimbo and an exceptionally beautiful one at that).

I feel bad for my late, great uncle Fred Jones, who grew up in the segregated south and worked as a caddy for $.50 for 18 holes. He introduced me to the game of golf. Some of my fondest memories are of the two of us sitting around the television on Saturdays and Sundays, watching his and my favorite golfer Tiger Woods stare down his foes as he stalked towards yet another major championship. I'll never forget the tears that streamed from his hardened face as Tiger sank that historic put on 18 to win the 1997 Masters. Thank God he didn't have to endure this charade.

I feel bad for a society with an over 50% divorce rate and, surely, a higher infidelity rate (remember, cheating is not just actions but thoughts and intentions as well) because, in between episodes of Tool Academy and commercials, we're not intelligent enough to internalize the well documented fact that humans are designed to spread their DNA across as varied a gene pool as possible. In addition to being the greatest country in the history of modern civilization, we're also the most irrational.

Most importantly, I feel bad for Derek Jeter, a guy who has played the game of baseball and of life the right way, because, as long as he lives and as hard as he tries, he will never, ever get as much press and publicity in his lifetime as his good friend Eldrick "Tiger" Woods has gotten in the past week.

The so-called experts contend that there is no such thing as bad press and they may be right. The best thing that Tiger can do, short of facing the cameras in an interview with Oprah -- Elin and kids in tow, is win his next tournament at the end of January.

Humans are fickle creatures. We love front-runners and winners more than anything else. However, when all of the lights grow dim and the cameras and microphones are tucked away, Tiger will still have to live with his conscience...and at least 3 mistresses...and more women than ever vying to be the next one to receive a creepy voicemail at 2 in the morning...and the persistent questions about his character...and, oh yeah, a scorned wife in the master bedroom down the hall (because you know he's sleeping in the guest bedroom indefinitely).

A woman scorned? Now that's attention that neither I nor Derek Jeter would hope for at any time.

Monday, October 26, 2009

A Side of Intuition With Your Tuition

In between going grocery shopping and watching hours upon hours of the modern gladiatorial competition commonly known as American football, I was inspired to pick up my handy, dandy Webster's dictionary and investigate the origin of two words that sound similar yet have very different connotations in the context of our modern English linguistic tradition.

Tuition, the charge or fee for instruction as at a private school, college or university, has its roots in the Latin word tueri, which means "to watch". Closer to modernity, we receive our English word tuition from the Middle English via the Old French word tuicion, which literally means "protection" but is commonly understood to mean "to watch after or protect". I have duplicated the word origin and history below for your assessment.


1436, "protection, care, custody," from Anglo-Fr. tuycioun (1292), from O.Fr. tuicion "guardianship," from L. tuitionem (nom. tuitio) "a looking after, defense, guardianship," from tuitus, pp. of tueri "to look after" (see tutor). Meaning "action or business of teaching pupils" is recorded from 1582. The meaning "money paid for instruction" (1828) is probably short for tuition fees, in which tuition refers to the act of teaching and instruction.

The origin of the word tuition in conjunction with its modern usage raises several thoughts in my minds eye. The first is that education, in all ages, has been deemed a sacred trust between teacher and pupil that the expansion or enlightening of one's mind should not be entered into lightly. Compensation for one's efforts, in this case the teacher's efforts, is to be expected. However, of greater significance I think, is the idea that one does not fully appreciate an endeavor for which they do not pay for or, at least, provide some collateral against.

The second thought that arises from the etymology of the word tuition is that the teacher, or rather institution of teachers such as at a college or university, is thought to be a protectorate of certain knowledge and methods. This appears to be in line with the common conception (amongst students of the occult) of the modern college and university system being a descendant of the ancient Mystery Schools in all of their intimations (Babylonian, Egyption, Greek, etc.). The exact nature of this knowledge or methodolgy can be debated. However, I believe that part of the answer lies in the modern college and university system's dissemination of the 7 Liberal Arts and Sciences (with a few outliers) as an essential part of their curriculum and the core competencies of their students and also in relation to a word that finds its origins in the same root word as tuition, that being "intuition."

Intuition is defined as a keen or quick insight, a direct perception of truth, fact, etc., independent of any reasoning process. Intuition is commonly thought to be pure, untaught, noninferential knowledge of a subject.

Intuition finds its origins in the Middle English "intuicion" meaning "insight", from Late Latin intuitiō, intuitiōn-, a looking at, from Latin intuitus, a look, and from the past participle of intuērī, to look at or contemplate (as noted above with the etymology of "tuition"). The complete word origin and history is duplicated below for your assessment.


1497, from M.Fr. intuition, from L.L. intuitionem (nom. intuitio) "a looking at, consideration," from L. intuitus, pp. of intueri "look at, consider," from in- "at, on" + tueri "to look at, watch over" (see tuition). The verb intuit is an 1840 back-formation apparently coined by De Quincey.

I strongly believe that it is no mere coincidence that the word commonly used to denote the fee that our modern institutions of learning, especially our colleges and universities, charge for admission into their halls and for the use of their vast resources has the same genesis as the word our language has found fit to use as a description of learning that has little or no basis in knowledge of a structured nature. The two concepts are indeed quite at odds with each other if taken at face value.

However, if looked at from the vantage point of metaphysical inquiry, the terms tuition and intuition can be quite endearing to one another for the aim of a true education is not to provide the recepient with constants and absolutes but rather to equip the novitiate with the tools that one needs to seek out truths in their myriad forms with the fore knowledge and expectation that there are no such things as absolutes and constants in a universe that is governed by one absolute -- that a thing as it is today will not be the same on the morrow.

Furthermore, it posits that truth which has guided novitiate, pupil, sage, priest and master alike since the first beams of light emerged from the heavens and illuminated the darkness that allowed our ancestors to be able to dwell in the light -- that true understanding comes not from examining the other but from turning our eyes inward; that structures must first be erected on the plane of the mind before they can be constructed in the physical realm.

The world that we live in is the sum total of the world that we have conceived.

We currently live in a day and time where the strengthening and development of the natural, God-given gifts of the mind has been surmounted by the refining of applied mechanical and rote skills. These are but simply vocational programs in masquerade. True knowledge, even true light, comes from the proper understanding and ability to apply that energy which we as humans, formed in the image of the gods (see Genesis 1:24), have hardwired into our very nature. Education then, as it was in the Ancient Mystery Schools and should be today, holds the key to unlocking and refining that vast potential, that cosmic inheritance, which is not bound by creed, dogma, or belief but is as infinite and profound as the universe from which we all draw our collective consciousness. One's own faculties for understanding and deducing should be enhanced, not surmounted by, education.

Have a side of intuition with your tuition.

Friday, October 9, 2009

The Redefinition of Peace

In the early hours of Friday morning, The Norwegian Nobel Committee decided that the Nobel Peace Prize for 2009 would be awarded to President Barack Obama. The committee cited the President's "extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples." Special importance was attached by the committee to President Obama's "vision of and work for a world without nuclear weapons." Obama is the 4th United States president to receive this prestigious honor, joining Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, and Jimmy Carter. President Obama also joins Civil Right's leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. as a prominent African-American recepient of the award.

The Nobel Peace Prize is one of 5 Nobel prizes bequeathed by the Swedish industrialist and inventor Alfred Nobel. "According to Nobel's will, the Peace Prize should be awarded "to the person who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses."

There have been several controversial Nobel Peace Prize nominations in history, including Adolf Hitler in 1939, Joseph Stalin, and Benito Mussolini. Notable controversial laureates of the esteemed prize include Presidents Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson, Shimon Peres, Yitzhak Rabin, Yasser Arafat, Lê Ðức Thọ, and Henry Kissinger. The selection of Henry Kissinger prompted two dissenting Committee members to resign.

Notable non-winners of the Nobel Peace Prize include Mahatma Gandhi, Corazon Aquino, Pope John XXIII, Pope John Paul II, Dorothy Day, César Chávez, Oscar Romero, Jose Figueres Ferrer, Steve Biko, Raphael Lemkin, Abdul Sattar Edhi, and Irena Sendler.

Peace laureates are typically awarded to individuals who have spent a significant portion of their lives working at and promoting humanitarian issues. While the President's actions and efforts may very well represent the vision of peace as posited by Alfred Nobel and the Norwegian Nobel committee, President Obama's relatively new familiarity to the office that he now holds in conjunction with his direct involvement with the now 8-year long United States led violent engagements in Iraq and Afghanistan draw considerable concerns for me regarding his fitness to represent the values and subsequent actions that usually typify peace -- the normal, nonwarring condition of a nation, group of nations, or the world.

It is not my view that Mr. Obama, with the passage of time, will not become worthy of the honor that has been bestowed upon him. That is the hope inherent in all received preferment. My great fear is that the duties laid out by the office that Mr. Obama currently holds and to the people who have entitled him to it, will cause the President and other seats of power to redefine the methodology of achieving peace -- justifying the use of force, violence, and fear by great men, women, and nations as a reasonable means to what we all agree is a ideal end -- the concert and cohabitation of all the earth's citizens in harmony.

Where there is war, peace can not reside.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

A Bullet In the Hip is Worth a Soap on the Rope

Former Giants wide receiver Plaxico Burress surrendered to federal authorities and was sentenced to 2 years in Riker's Island for weapons charges stemming from a shooting incident in a New York nightclub in which Burress shot himself in the leg with a .40 caliber semi-automatic weapon that he was carrying in the waistband of his sweatpants. With good behavior Burress' sentence will likely be reduced to 20-months. Burress was also sentenced to 2 years of post release supervision.

In honor of Plaxico's sure to be unforgettable stay in prison, here are some tips and tricks to help Mr. Burress come out with everything that he goes in with.

1.Stay in an area where there's a lot of people watching you; where the guards are watching you. This shouldn't be a problem for Plax. He's certainly accustomed to seeking and being the center of attention. Just think of the guards as your offensive line -- without the tacit bonds of comradery fomented by huge contracts and mandatory mini-camps of course.

2.Do not become confrontational with anyone. Respect people; be polite. If you taunt the officials in jail you don't get fined, you get tasered. If you talk smack to the other team you don't get suspended, you get shanked.

3.Don't borrow anything from anyone. Don't become beholden to anyone. You can always file for bankruptcy if you spend more than you make in the altered reality inhabited by a NFL star. In jail, you'll probably end up selling your assets and I don't mean mutual funds, cars, or your iced out watch from Jacob the Jeweler. Just to clarify, I'm talking about your butt.

4.Secure the soap. You've never had a problem holding on to the rock. Now is probably not the most opportune time to catch a case of the fumbles.

5.Consider a position change. I have a feeling that being a Pro Bowl wide receiver may have a different connotation at Rikers.

6.Don't discuss your crime. This rule usually applies to people convicted of taboo crimes such as rape and child molestation but to cold-blooded murders and robbers adept at using instruments of death and destruction effectively, you might not want to tell them that you're in the slammer for shooting yourself in the leg. Oh wait, they have television in jail so they probably already know. Sorry Plax.

7.Don't stare at another prisoner. Always walk with your head facing forward. Mean mugging might be an effective form of intimidation on the gridiron but behind iron you might get killed, stuffed, and used as pigskin for a game of touch football on the yard.

8.Do not use drugs We know how much you love the sticky buds Plax but your days of puffing green have gone up in smoke. Drug use is a guaranteed road to trouble. You will become severely indebted if you become addicted and you run the risk of being caught by the guards. Drugs are readily accessible and while they may make your time seem less painful, they will almost certainly lead you into big trouble -- kind of like shooting yourself in the leg.

9.Work out. It helps you pass the time (which you will have a lot of), bulk up so that you're less of a target (which you will be), and gives you a leg up conditioning wise on all the other 34-year old free agent wide receiver ex-felons that you'll be competing with for a job in 20-months. Oh wait...

10.Do some deep thinking and reflection. You've already made the decision now try to figure out why you did it so that, at the very least, you don't shoot yourself in the same leg again. Not only would that really hurt your ego, you could potentially cause permanent nerve damage.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Daily Affirmations for Success

I'm a winner at life. Anything more is icing on the cake.

I am the only person that can stand in the way of my happiness today.

Everything I need to know I've already learned. I just need to remind myself.

I am beautiful on the inside and that is why I am beautiful outside.

Today will be an extraordinary day because I will make it so in an extraordinary way.

There are no such things as problems, only opportunities to improve the environment that I inhabit.

Real strength is standing by my fears, not hiding behind them.

It doesn't matter what anyone else calls me. The only thing that matters is what I call myself.

If I think it, I can do it. If I believe it, I can achieve it. If it is to be, it is up to me.

I can become a great thinker.

I can become a great friend.

I can become a great leader.

I can become a great lover.

I can become a self-sufficient person.

I can become because I already am.

All of the power embodied in the universe is embodied within me because I am a part of the universal consciousness. My potential is as unlimited as the universe is expansive.

When I look in the mirror I do not see the person that everyone calls by a specific name with a certain set of finite traits, values, and a relative worth. I see an eternal life force inhabiting a temporal vehicle with possibilities that are only limited by the scope of my vision.



Tuesday, September 8, 2009

You Worry About the Wrong Things

The lady at the Irving Park Rd. and Sheridan Ave. bus stop with the below average face, below below average weave, clothes like a dickhead, and abnormally large ass in proportion to her waist incessantly pokes and prods at her hair, carefully manicuring her bangs so that they fall pefectly across her knockoff Dolce and Gabana glasses.

The young school girl in her freshly pressed uniform blouse boarding the bus with her purse in one hand, Verizon Envy clamped secuely against her right ear. She's explaining to one of her parents that she has to go to a friend's house to babysit while the parent and another child go to "Disney on Ice". After a drawnout verbal exchange, the girl finally relents, falling back on that all too familiar teenage phrase -- "I'll just see you later at home. Bye!" Kids say the darndest things.

A middle aged lady sits across from me, exhausted from another long day at work. She oscillates in and out of consciousness, trying to grab a few moments of rest before she gets home. The lady grabs nervously at a gold crucifix hanging delicately around her freckled neck. I wonder if she's thinking what I'm thinking -- "if Jesus was a real as this chain around my neck he'd be looking out for me and my family."

The young store clerk at [store name redacted] that checks the status of all her Facebook friends as clueless customers meander around the store wondering whether their formal wear needs are worthy of the inconvenience they will cause by temporarily postponing the beautiful blondes social networking. The assistant looks on in between shuffles of his online Solitaire game. "Craig, can you grab this (my returned tux) and take it in back?" Craig eyes me disdainfully. I've just interrupted his recreation and replaced it with customer service. Customer service --a novel thought.

The old woman at the Irving Park Rd. and Kimball bus stop approaches the bus with cane in tote. The light blue of the cane matches the tint of the oxygen machine fastened securely across her slumping shoulders. The bus operator lowers the hydraulic lift on the bus to better accommodate the elderly potential passenger. "There's too many people on this bus! I'll wait!", she exclaims. It's rush hour. I board the bus and head straight to the back (because that's what curteous people do on crowded buses, right? Hardly). The automated PA announcer says in a sharp Anglophied male voice, "Priority seating is for the elderly and passengers with disabilities. Your cooperation is requested." Cooperation usually takes one or more persons working together. I wish that old lady had gotten on the bus. I guess she'll just have to wait 20 minutes for the next packed bus.

Two young ladies wearing black jeans and white t-shirts sitting in the rear of the bus talk in rapid Spanglish on their phones. They both have on crisp new black and white Chuck Taylors. It's almost their stop. One girl gets up and adjusts the back of her pants. No belt and no panties is usually not a good combination when your pants don't exactly fit -- more than likely on purpose. She checks her purse to make sure that she has everything since everything in her purse is priceless and irreplaceable. Thank God there are no textbooks obstructing her frantic search.

Everyone seems to be doing the same things -- fixing their hair, rubbing their noses, smoothing the puffiness under their eyes, readjusting their clothes, looking at what other people are wearing -- sneaking a peak at the technology that other people are talking into/listening to/reading from (Not really reading. No one reads anymore).

Everyone is worried about their appearance and that of others. I suppose that we all in some way, shape, or form cling to those things that we feel we have control over, no matter how insignificant they may be in actuality (notice that I didn't say reality).

I can almost hear Kanye West crooning about some model-type "worrying about the wrong things" he grabs his Jesus Piece and flashes his American Express Blackcard.

Ironic? Definitely.

Coincidental? Hardly.

Belichick -- The New Nostradamus?

I'm listening to ESPN Radio 1000 as I do mostly everyday at work and they just had a great "editorial promo" during one of the breaks. The subject was the New England Patriot's trade of linebacker Richard Seymour to the Oakland Raiders for a 2011 1st Round draft pick. What makes the trade so perculier is the fact that Seymour is only 29 years old and is coming off the best statistical season of his career.

Followers of sports, in particular NFL football, typically view Bill Belichick and the Patriots front office as being smarter than most. Therefore, if they're willing to make this trade, that must tell you that the Patriots know something about Seymour that the Raiders don't. It's similar to Billy Bean and the Oakland Athletics in baseball. If Billy is willing to part with a player, you'd be smart not to take the bait (Matt Holiday being the obvious exception. There's absolutely nothing wrong with Holiday if his robust numbers with the Cardinals are any indication. The Athletics weren't going to be able to re-sign him).

Belichick has a knack for picking young players that have the physical ability and character to buy into and thrive in his system, veterans that are so hungry for a championship that they are willing to sacrifice their individual ego for Belichickian group-think, and also the foresight to know when a player is on the downside of his career -- parting ways with them before they begin their inevitable desent down the backside of the Bell Curve.

Belichick is like Nostradamus in a sleeveless sweatshirt -- minus the apocryphal visions -- kind of.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

The Problem Isn't With You, It Is You.

I tend not to be as fatalistic as your average, run-in-the-mill Cubs fan. Don't get me wrong. Cubs fans, more than any other group of fans save those of the Cincinnati Bengals and Toronto Argonauts, are given ample opportunity to blow an aeortic valve every season. We pay a lot for the luxury of seeing our seemingly jinxed team drag us along on the inevitable journey toward underachievement tempered by already sullen expectations. Everytime we lower our expectations for the team as fans (in self-defense, similar to a fight-or-flight response), the more the Cubs prove to be a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Cubs management has not lacked effort and ambition in their offseason moves and in season tweaks. Jim Hendry and Crane Kenney have sought to strengthen Lou Pinella's daily fair by adding more left-handed depth in the line-up and power arms in the bullpen.

Maybe, just maybe, they were trying too hard this time.

With the impending and now complete sell of the team to the Ricketts family, I suspect the Cubs executives were trying to make a big splash on the field to bolster the price tag hanging on the franchise. With the Ricketts getting 95% of the team and a 25% stake in Comcast Sports Net for $55 million less than Sam Zell and the Tribune Company originally asked for, I'd say the Ricketts got a good deal and also that the Cubs front office didn't get nearly enough for what they paid.

The blame, in a perfect sports world, should always lie first and primarily with the players on the field. They are at the precipice of history on every pitch, at-bat, pop fly, and ground ball. Secondly, the neck of the manager should lay on the chopping block. It's his duty to put players into situations that best accentuate their talents; increasing their individual odds at success and ideally the team's odds as well. Next would be the front office staff, who are responsible for stocking the major and minor league system with players and all the necessary support staff.

However, if you haven't noticed already, this isn't a perfect sports world. This is in fact reality; A reality where, more times than not, blame is avoided or deflected. In those rare moments when a collosus of moral magnamity emerges to take the blows of fate for himself and his team, a dictionary of cliched responses usually accompanies the condemned to the press conference like a martyr on the way to the gallows with a bible in tote.

Are the blows of fate being tempered by some sort of divine benediction?

More infrequent than players and player personnel owning up to their deficiencies are fans that are willing to admit that they are some how complicit in this catholic overreaction; That they have possibly erected expectations too lofty for their team or any team composed of mortals to conceivably meet.

This, my friends, is what I believe ultimately ails our loveable losers on the northside of town. The less than stellar free agent signings over the past several seasons are but symptoms of a larger disease that has its origins amongst the throngs of fans that file through those green turnstyles daily at the National Leagues oldest ballpark. Desperation amongst the faithful has reached epidemic levels and the Cubs front office and players are not immune to this contagion.

Players are traded (Mark DeRosa?)that, under normal circumstances, wouldn't be traded to make financial and physical space for free agents that normally would be less than desirable options(Milton Bradley?). Spring training games in mid-February take on the tenor and tone of playoff action in early October. Baseball, a game conducive to a marathon mentality (because of the number and frequency of games)takes on the frantic urgency of a 100-meter dash or the Super Bowl inside the (Un)Friendly Confines.

This is in no way an excuse for ineptitude. Baseball players are paid vast sums of money to perform in pressure packed situations. Managers and front office personnel are generously compensated for their capacity to evaluate and manage talent. However, like any business that sells a product, demand for that product by the consumer will ultimately impact what shows up on the shelves.

The Cubs franchise has not lacked effort in their attempts to give their faithful fans what they want.

But if you try sometimes...

You might find...

What we may need, though, is to take one step away from the ledge and enjoy the privileged position we're in, having enough discretionary income and vacation/sick days available to spend summer days and early autumn nights getting hammered while we watch our boys march towards the post season at the world's most beautiful ballpark.

Maybe when we loosen our collars a little in the stands, our team will follow suit on the sod.

It's a hell of a lot easier to accomplish any goal when you're relaxed. That goes for winning the World Series as well.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Gov. Quinn Visits United Way to Sign 211 Legislation

This morning, Gov. Pat Quinn (D-Illinois) visited United Way of Metropolitan Chicago to sign into law a piece of legislation that will expand the Illinois' dedicated 2-1-1 health and human services information line throughout the entire state.

2-1-1 is an information and referral line to help people connect to needed social services provided by a range of non-profit and government agencies. With leadership from United Way, state agencies and State Senator Susan Garrett, Senate Bill 1922 gives residents in Illinois access to 2-1-1, an easy to remember, toll-free, 24 hour information line that connects people in need with health and human services.

Currently, primarily through United Way and state funding, 2-1-1 is available to about 76% of the U.S. population with 240 active 2-1-1 systems in 47 states. 2-1-1 call centers nationwide received nearly 10 million calls in 2007, a 27% increase over 2006. Due to the economic downturn in 2008, 2-1-1 centers reported a dramatic increase in calls by those seeking rental or mortgage assistance, paying utility bills, and assistance related to job loss. Because of the expanding reach and increasing visibility of 2-1-1, many 2-1-1 call centers lack the resources needed for adequate telecommunications infrastructure, to provide appropriate staff levels and training, to maintain 24 hour-a-day service, to ensure complete and accurate informational databases,and to reach rural populations.

Plans are still being developed to determine exactly which agencies will provide critical funds and services for the 2-1-1 programs. It is also being determined where the state's promised matching grant for health and human services providers fits into the state's 2010 budget. The governor hopes that the expansion of 2-1-1 statewide will eventually allow other health and human service providers such as suicide hotlines, rape hotlines, and the like to roll-up into this program, providing one centralized source for information to people in need of assistance.

Gov. Quinn also answered some questions regarding the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign Board of Regents scandal. He dodged specific questions regarding whether he had plans to speak with the board members and ask for their resignations by the established Monday deadline. Gov. Quinn said that he would be in contact with the board members. When pressed on whether he would speak directly to the board members by Monday, Gov. Quinn began telling stories about Dick Butkus and his attendance at the 1961 Rose Bowl game (in which Illinois won.) He asked the reporter if she saw that game. It was obvious that the reporter was not conceived until well after 1961.

Gov. Quinn also addressed questions regarding MAP Grants for needy college students in Illinois. The state funding allocated to Illinois Monetary Awards Program (MAP) grants, college financial aid awards for needy students, was slashed during state budget cuts this year. As a result awards have been cut in half for all students and have been denied outright to over 130,000 students who applied after May 15, a significantly earlier cutoff date than previous years. Typically, Illinois MAP grants award up to $5,000 per year to the neediest college students in the state, provided they submit their financial aid applications by mid-August. This year, however, the deadline was moved up to mid-May due to budget cuts. Even students who applied on time will still receive reduced funding, as the current budget for the program can only cover grants for one semester of study. Students at community colleges, who typically apply for financial aid later in the year and often have access to fewer financial resources, are likely to be the hardest hit.

The governor stated that he will push the Illinois legislator to restore full funding for MAP Grants saying "If a student gets a scholarship the first semester they should receive a scholarship the second semester if they make the grades and fit the financial need qualifications."

I had the opportunity to have some light conversation with Gov. Quinn after the press conference. He is a very affable man with a prominent Chicago Irish accent (he attended Fenwick High School). The governor was noticeably tired, with disheveled hair and saggy eyes. We talked about Georgetown (his undergraduate alma mater) and their chances this season in basketball. We both agreed that Georgetown is guaranteed at least two Big East wins this season, both more than likely coming against my alma mater DePaul University. We also talked briefly about his membership in Phi Beta Kappa, the first greek-lettered fraternity turned high honors society.

Fun Stuff

During the press conference, Gov. Quinn said that the University of Illinois was founded in 1871 after President Abraham Lincoln signed a grant setting aside land and funds for the school. The University of Illinois was actually founded in 1867 as The Illinois Industrial University. It was one of the thirty-seven public land-grant institutions created shortly after Abraham Lincoln signed the Morrill Act in 1862.

When asked about the University of Illinois Board of Regents Gov. Quinn compared this issue to a baseball game. "This is a nine inning game and right now we're in the bottom of the 9th." Sports, the politicians old friend and fallback.

Gov. Quinn had no comment when asked about the state of medicinal marijuana legislation currently being vetted in the Illinois legislature. Sorry Richey, I tried.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Michael Vick Signs 2-Year Deal with Eagles

Suspended NFL Quarterback Michael Vick has landed with a new team -- The Philadelphia Eagles. Vick signed a 2 year deal with the Eagles on Friday. The first year of the deal is for $1.6 million with the second-year option worth $5.2 million, sources told ESPN's Chris Mortensen. Vick can also earn an additional $3 million in incentives over the two years of the contract, sources told's Len Pasquarelli.

Vick can begin working out and practicing at the Eagles facilities immediately and will be eligible to play in the team's last 2 preseason games. Commissioner Roger Goodell has laid out a timeline in which Vick would be eligible to see regular season action no later than Week 6, depending on the nature of the reports from Vick's advisor and former headcoach of the Indianapolis Colts Tony Dungy, Eagles headcoach Andy Reid, and other individuals in place to monitor Vick's transition.

Now that Vick has found a new home the media and PR circus can officially begin. The animal rights group, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, wasted no time reminding people exactly what Vick had done. "PETA and millions of decent football fans around the world are disappointed that the Eagles decided to sign a guy who hung dogs from trees. He electrocuted them with jumper cables and held them under water," PETA spokesman Dan Shannon told The Associated Press. "You have to wonder what sort of message this sends to young fans who care about animals and don't want them to be harmed." Vick was spotted at Chicago's O'Hare airport earlier this week, fueling rumors that the Bears might be suitors for the services of the free agent quarterback. Vick was actually attending a Humane Society event in a Westside community where he talked to local children about the dangers of dogfighting.

There have been a myriad of reports on fan reaction related to Vick's signing, both in Philadelphia and nationally. There have been threats from season ticket holders to sell their lot in protest. Some casual observers, who previously had a tacit interest in the Eagles franchise, have vowed to not become fully devoted followers of the team due to the quarterback's signing. It appears that the vast majority of sports fans and onlookers are of the mindset that, although Vick's crimes were heinous in their nature, he has paid his debt to society and now deserves the second chance opportunity that is loosely attached to the promise of the American Dream. Vick is aware of the fragile nature of this opportunity and vows to make the best of it. "I'm glad that coach Reid and the rest of the organization stepped forward," Vick said. "I'm glad I got the opportunity and the second chance. I won't disappoint.

The over 2-year long saga surrounding Michael Vick has brought many polarizing subjects to forefront of our societal vision. The rights of animals have converged with the rights of humans. The distinctions between what is legal under the law and what is proper due to our acculturation has been further confounded. Some believe that Vick should still be behind bars for his acts while others believe that he has paid more than a satisfactory price for his misgivings.

These opinions can never be reconciled because they speak to the conditional nature of the way we as humans distill justice, mercy, and forgiveness. Who is worthy of forgiveness is often a function of our relation to the criminal and their crimes. Fans of football who happen to also be animal lovers and animal lovers are calling for Vick to show more remorse -- to have a torturing sense of guilt for his heinous actions. I personally don't care if Michael Vick is remorseful. After spending 2 years in prison, spending several more years on probation, losing tens of millions of dollars in salary and endorsements, and being confronted daily with negative reactions from animal rights groups and citizens that love their pets like family members I have a feeling that Vick understands that what he did was wrong and will more than likely never again do anything remotely similar to the actions that have landed him in his current reality.

To say that Vick needs to show remorse is presumptuous and unempathic on our parts. Does he lose sleep at night from visions of ruthlessly hanging, electrocuting, and otherwise abusing those helpless dogs at Bad Newz Kennels? None of us can say because we don't know for certain what's in Vick's heart. Does the thought of those lonely nights in a Leavenworth prison bunk and the enduring pain and embarassment that he has caused his family, friends, and himself torture Vick constantly? None of us can say for sure that it does or does not but my educated guess would be that, yes, it does.

In a country that lauds montras such as "Equal Justice Before Law" and "Only God can judge us", where we fit young men and women with dog tags and ship them off to war as subjects in human dog fights, where we inprison and execute a greater percentage of our population that any other country on earth (save Communist China), it would befit all of us afford Michael Vick his second chance -- his ONLY second chance -- with deference and impartiality. Without regard for our own selective self-righteousness and convenient morality, we would ask for the same opportunity.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Zambrano hurt

Cubs starter and ace Carlos Zambrano was a late scratch for tonight's game in Colorado due to lower back stiffness. He is day-to-day. Shawn Marshall is making the start in Zambrano's place. The Cubs are expected to make a roster move before tomorrow's ballgame.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Chicago Cubs @ Cincinnati Reds - 8/5/2009

6:10 P.M. CST

Great American Ballpark

Cincinnati, OH.

Rich Harden (7-6) vs. Justin Lehr (0-0)

Scouting Report

Rich Harden is 7-6 on the season with a 4.50 ERA in 18 starts. He's given up 91 hits in 98 innings pitched, 19 of which have been homeruns. Harden has issued 41 walks while striking out 115. Hitters are batting .245 against Harden on the season. Harden is coming off of a strong outing on Friday in Florida against the Marlins where he pitched 5 innings, giving up 5 hits, 2 earned runs, walking 3 and striking out 11. In his last outing against the Reds on July 26th Harden got the win, pitching 6 innings, giving up 1 hit and 1 earned run. He did not walk a single batter and had 8 strikeouts.

Justin Lehr will be making his second Major League start two days after his 32nd birthday. Lehr was called up July 31st from Triple-A Louisville and started against the Colorado Rockies. Lehr recorded a no-decision, going 5 innings, giving up 4 hits and 3 earned runs. He walked 6 batters and did not record a strikeout. In his 4 year Major League career, batters are hitting .279 against the 6'2", 215 lbs. right-hander out of the University of Southern California.

Lehr, who was 13-3 with a 3.31 ERA this season in the minors, was named the International League's pitcher of the week last week. He began the 2009 season in the Phillies' organization, but was traded in May and began his third stint with the Reds organization in less than two years. Since returning to Louisville, Lehr was 8-1with a 2.51 ERA in 11 starts and one relief appearance. His previous big league stops were with the A's and Brewers. In fact, the right-hander's last big league appearance was against the Reds with the Brewers on May 22, 2006.

Inside The Numbers

Rich Harden has a 2.19 ERA in away games and a 2.37 ERA in night games on the season. Harden also has a 2.38 ERA in the last 30 days. Harden should fair wll against the Reds right-hand dominant line-up. Right-handers are batting .223 against Harden on the season (.271 for left-handers).

Cubs first baseman Derrek Lee has 14 hits in his last 39 at-bats (.359) with 3 homeruns, 10 RBIs, and 12 strikeouts. Lee is 2-9 with a homerun, 2 RBIs, and 5 strikeouts in this series against the Reds. Lee's numbers are staggering over the past 10 games and he did have a towering homerun to leftfield late in lastnight's ballgame. However, it appears that Lee is having a hard time picking up the slider in the last 2 games.

Second baseman Mike Fontenot is 5 for his last 14 (.357 batting average) with a homerun and 3 RBIs to begin the month of August. He's looked more comfortable in the batter's box, hitting pitches back up the middle and to right-center field. Fontenot has already matched his career high in homeruns and is 5 RBIs shy of tying his career high in that category. Look for Fontenot to finish this season strong as the Cubs push towards a 3rd straight Central Division title.

Last night, reliever Angel Guzman took his turn on the Cubs merry-go-round that has become the 8th and 9th innings. Guzman faced 7 Reds batters, pitching 1.1 innings, giving up 2 hits and 2 earned runs, both on a Wladimir Balentien 9th inning homer. He notched one strikeout. In 42 games, Guzman is 2-2 with a 2.68 ERA to go along with 12 holds and 1 save. He has given up 14 runs (all earned) in 47 innings pitched with 15 walks and 37 strikeouts. Batters are hitting .206 against the Cubs right-hander.


Cubs win 5-2

News and Notes

Lastnight's winning pitcher Tom Gorzelanny grew up in the south suburbs cheering for the White Sox. When asked to rank his favorite teams as a youngster on Waddle and Silvy on ESPN Radio 1000 in Chicago, Gorzelanny replied, "The Bears, Blackhawks, White Sox,and Bulls -- the Cubs were pretty far down on the list." Welcome to the dark side Tom!

Centerfielder Kosuke Fukudome opened lastnight's game with the first leadoff home run of his career.

Derrek Lee led off the seventh inning by hitting his 150th homer as a Cub, passing Mark Grace on the teams all-time list.

Cubs closer Kevin Gregg will be available tonight out of the bullpen in a save situation.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Chicago Cubs @ Cincinnati Reds - 8/4/2009

Chicago Cubs @ Cincinnati Reds

Great American Ballpark - Cincinnati, OH.

6:10 P.M. CDT

Tom Gorzelanny (3-1) vs. Johnny Cueto (8-8)

Inside The Numbers

Evergreen Park, IL. native and Marist High School grad Tom Gorzelanny will make his Cubs debut tonight in Cincinnati. Gorzelanny, who came over from the Pittsburgh Pirates along with left-handed reliever John Grabow, is 3-1 on the season with a 5.19ERA. Gorzelanny has pitched primarily out of the bullpen after struggling early in the season and being demoted to Triple-A, amassing 8.2 innings this season and giving up 6 hit and 5 earned runs. He has a 3.86 ERA on the road this season and right-handed opponents are hitting a minute .143 against the 6'2", 200 lb. lefty. Gorzelanny should be able to get off to a good start in a Cubs uniform against a sputtering Reds ballclub.

Johnny Cueto will be looking to end the Reds current 7 game losing streak when he toes the rubber tonight. Cueto comes into tonight's match-up with an 8-8 record and a 4.06 ERA in 21 starts. Opposing hitters are batting .262 against the righty. Cueto has not faired well in home night games this season, with a 4.20 ERA at home and a 4.15 ERA at night. In his last start against the Cubs, Cueto took the loss going 6.0 innings and giving up 9 hits and 4 earned runs. He walked 3 batters and had 4 strikeouts. The Cubs batters should be patient tonight against the Cincinnati starting pitcher. In his last 51.1 innings pitched he has walked 23 batters and given up 37 earned runs.

What To Watch For

Joey Votto

Reds First baseman Joey Votto has 5 hits in his last 25 at-bats over the past 7 days with only 3 RBIs and 5 strikeouts. However, he is batting .337 (30 hits in 89 at-bats) with a .584 slugging percentage against left-handed pitching on the season. he's batting .333 with 2 RBIs and 2 strikeouts against Gorzelanny this season. If the Cubs can manage to keep runners off of the bases in front of Votto they should be well on their way to sending Dusty Baker and his Cincinnati ballclub to their 8th straight loss.

The Cubs Big Boppers

Kosuke Fukudome, Ryan Theriot, Derrek Lee, Aramis Ramirez and Alfonso Soriano are a combined 30 for 80 (.375 batting average) with 5 doubles, 5 homeruns, and 11 RBIs against Johnny Cueto this season. The Cubs should be able to get to the Reds starter early and often tonight. The question is -- can the bullpen sustain the lead?

Kevin Gregg

Should there be a save situation, Cubs fans will see a different fireman for the second night in a row. Cubs closer Kevin Gregg will be held out of tonight's game with a tired arm. Gregg has yielded 10 home runs this season -- the most by any reliever in the National League and tying Orioles right-hander Brian Bass, a middle reliever, for most in the majors entering Monday. On the road, Gregg is 11-for-16 with a 4.17 ERA and has allowed a .260 average with seven home runs. In contrast, at Wrigley Field, he's 10-for-10 in save situations, has a 2.92 ERA and has held opponents to a .213 batting average with three home runs.

John Grabow will be the Cubs primary set-up man. Carlos Zambrano, who only went 3.1 innings in his last start, may be used to bolster the bullpen for tonight's game.

Interesting Note

Cubs reliever John Grabow, upon his acquisition from Pittsburgh, requested # 34(the number formerly worn by Indians closer and Cubs "legend" Kerry Wood) from Cubs clubhouse manager Tom "Otis" Hellman. He was told that number 34 was unavailable (along with Wood's old locker in an already petite home clubhouse). Grabow took number 43 instead. Could there be plans in the works between Cubs brass and Kid K for a return to Wrigley Field? Not likely given the 2 year, $20 million pricetag currently hanging on the 1998 Rookie of the Year.

Next Up

The Cubs will retire # 22 in honor of Mark Prior and Kevin Hart.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Riding the "EL", Panopticons, and the Uncommonality of Common Courtesy

"Standing passengers, please do not lean against the doors."

"Please keep your belongings off the seat next to you so others may sit down."

"Please be considerate when talking on your phones or listening to electronic devices so as not to disturb other customers."

"Your safety is important. If you observe unattended packages, vandalism, or suspicious activity, inform CTA personnel immediately."

These are but a few of the affirmations that a typical customer encounters during their daily commute on one of Chicago's 8 train lines, known affectionately as the "El" (for Elevated tracks). There are subways and street level tracks as well.

This constant need for corrective instruction is indicative of how uncommon common courtesy is in our modern society that emphasizes individual satisfaction over collectivist modes of living. It is also a stark reminder of what English philosopher and social theorist Jeremy Bentham referred to as the Panopticon, in which the "sentiment of an invisible omniscience" is created. In essence, and by the very etymology of the word panopticon, the people never know when they are being surveyed or by whom so they begin to "police" each other. (It literally means the prisoners watching each other. This is where the allusion to the "inmates running the asylum" finds its origins.)

In one sense this preserves the safety of people traveling to and fro in public spaces and ensures the civility of open environments without using significant state resources for security. It encourages people to behave in a civil manner in public spaces owing to the specter of being reprimanded by the apparati of the law or, worse yet, rebuke and public humiliation by one's peers. On the other hand, prescient awareness of being surveilled by a state apparatus as well as one's peers can foment sentiments of distrust amongst and between citizens and even encourage some to "act out" as a form of protest against these systems, possibly escalating to the point of endangering the well-being of those in the immediate area. It has been my experience that the self-awareness and desire not to draw undue negative attention to one's self in public spaces is enough to combat this temptation in the vast majority of the citizenry.

What is the desired outcome for such systems in relation to those who are ordered by them? By those that design and operate them? Are they effective deterrents to acts of disorderly conduct in public spaces? Is there a bigger picture that maybe we're aware of? Not prepared to know?

If the gentleman's briefcase or woman's purse perched firmly on the empty seat next to them, or the iPod blaring chords of Black Umbrella Brigade at decibels that a dolphin would find objectionable, or the young hipster attached firmly to a train door on a virtually empty train car are an indication of anything, it is that no matter how much encouragement/instruction we receive from our omnipotent handlers with the melodic masculine voices, there's still a small partition in our souls that bear the immortal words of South Park's Cartman -- "I do what I want!"

Now, please stand clear of the doors. Doors are closing.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Michael Vick Conditionally Reinstated by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell

Suspended NFL Quarterback Michael Vick has been conditionally reinstated to play professional football today by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. Goodell will make a decision on Vick's unconditional reinstatement by Week 6 of the regular season, which means that the quarterback could possible see the field as soon as Week 1 although that scenario is highly unlikely according to,, and the Associated Press.

According to the NFL news blog Vick, who's an unrestricted free agent, can now participate in preseason practices, workouts and meetings and may play in the final two preseason games. During the regular season, Vick can participate in all team activities other than games. Vick also will be periodically evaluated by Goodell during his suspension and will be mentored by former Colts coach Tony Dungy.

The NFL news blog also contained portions of Commissioner Roger Goodell's letter to Vick.

"Among the conditions of this reinstatement, you are required to abide by the terms of the supervised release that were imposed on you by the court, which include not committing any further crime, limits on who you may associate with, prohibitions regarding drug and alcohol use, possession of a firearm or other dangerous weapon, and forbidding you to own, possess or be involved with the sale of any dog."

"Apart from these conditions, you have submitted to me a written plan concerning your proposed living arrangements, how you will manage your financial affairs, counseling and mentoring plans, and your proposed work with the Humane Society and other groups. You have committed to me that you intend to abide by this plan, and as I said when we met, you are accountable for doing so."

"I am also encouraged by your recognition that you cannot do this yourself, and that outside mentors and continued counseling will provide you with valuable support and assistance. After discussing possible mentors with you, I have asked Coach Tony Dungy to continue his work with you and to initiate a more formal mentoring relationship with you. Earlier today, we discussed in detail with Coach Dungy the precise nature of that relationship, and I share your view that Coach Dungy can help you in many ways as you rebuild your life and resume your career. I will stay in close touch with Coach Dungy and his views will be part of my decision concerning whether and when you return to play. I encourage you and Coach Dungy to select other mentors and advisors who can help in other phases of your life."

There are mixed reports related to Vick's reaction to Commissioner Goodell's decision. ESPN's Sal Paoaltonio reported that, privately, Vick was less than satisfied with Goodell's decision to hold his unconditional reinstatement up until Week 6 at the latest and that he plans to appeal the suspension as early as Week 1. However, ESPN's Chris Mortensen reports that Vick's advisors are elated by Goodell's decision. Ofcourse, the suspension and subsequent restrictions rendered by commissioner Goodell and Vick's course of action retroactive to the suspension are all contingent upon a NFL team showing interest in signing the 29 year old Pro Bowl Quarterback.

It is clear that, due to the nature of Michael Vick's offense, his less than truthful statements to Goodell about his knowledge of and involvement with Bad Newz Kennels during their first face-to-face meeting over 2 years ago, and the implementation of a strict Zero Tolerance player personal conduct policy by the commissioner, the severity of Vick's conditional reinstatement is intended to serve as both a deterrent to similar conduct in the future by NFL employees and a benchmark for punishment of similar offenses without regard for punishments that may or may not have been rendered by the justice system.

It will be interesting to see how Commissioner Goodell and the NFL Player's Union address the issues surrounding free agent wide receiver Plaxico Burress's current legal troubles. On Friday, November 28, 2008, Burress suffered an accidental self-inflicted gunshot wound to the right thigh in the New York City nightclub LQ. The injury was not life-threatening and he was released from an area hospital the next afternoon. The following Monday, Burress turned himself in to police to face charges of criminal possession of a handgun. According to his lawyer Benjamin Brafman, Burress will plead not guilty. It was later discovered that the NYPD found out about the incident only after seeing it on television and were not called by New York-Presbyterian Hospital as required by law. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg called the hospital actions an "outrage" and stated that they are a "chargeable offense". Bloomberg also urged that Burress be prosecuted to the fullest extent, saying that any punishment short of the minimum 3½ years for unlawful carrying of a handgun would be "a mockery of the law."

Burress had an expired concealed carry (CCW) license from Florida, but no New York license. Burress reported to Giants Stadium as per team policy for injured but active players, and was told he would be suspended without pay for the remaining four games of the 2008 regular season for conduct detrimental to the team. In addition, the Giants placed Burress on their reserve/non-football injury list, meaning he was ineligible to return for the playoffs. Burress was also scheduled to receive $1 million from his signing bonus on December 10, 2008, but the status of that payment is unclear. The NFL Players Association filed a grievance, saying the team violated the collective bargaining agreement and challenging the suspension and fine received by Burress.

The Chicago Bears were one team rumored to be interested in signing Burress. Jerry Angelo, the general manager of the Bears, has since removed the team from consideration, owing partly to a lack of resolution to Burress's legal troubles until at least September.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Looking Towards Cooperstown 2010

Today, the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame honored three former players and one broadcaster with enshrinement into the premier institution in all of sports. Rickey Henderson, Jim Rice, and Joe Gordon were forever immortalized with plaques in baseball's hallowed ode to the American pasttime. As baseball players and fans, both past and present, celebrate the tremendous accomplishments of these remarkable gentlemen, I'd like to take a look forward to the Hall of Fame inductions of 2010 and three men that I feel are deserving of immortalization in upstate New York.

Andre Dawson

Nicknames "The Hawk", Andre Dawson played 21 seasons in the major leagues for the Montreal Expos, Chicago Cubs, Boston Red Sox, and Florida Marlins. In 2,627 career games The Hawk amassed 2,774 hits, 438 homeruns, and 1,591 runs batted in. In addition, Dawson stole 314 bases despite battling chronic knee problems (undoubtedly agitated by playing on the artificial surface in Montreal's Olympic Stadium). Dawson finished his career with a .279 batting average, a .323 on-base percentage, and a robust .482 slugging percentage. The Hawk finished in the top 10 in batting average 5-times and 8-times in slugging percentage.

An 8-time all-star and 4-time Silver Slugger Award winner, Dawson was the recepient of the 1977 Rookie of the Year award. 10 years later, in 1987, he won the National League Most Valuable Player award after batting .287 and leading the league with 49 homeruns and 137 runs batted in, a .568 slugging percentage, 341 total bases, and a respectable .328 on-base percentage. He accomplished all of this while playing for a last place Cubs team. He was the runner-up in MVP voting twice, after the 1981 and 1983 seasons. Dawson was also an outstanding defensive outfielder. He was an 8-time Gold Glove Award Winner, including 6 in a row from from the 1980-1985 seasons. Dawson finished his career with a .980 fielding percentage and 157 outfield assists.

In 1993, Dawson joined Hall of Famer Willie Mays as the second player in Major League Baseball history to hit 400 homeruns and steal 300 bases. In 1994, Dawson was awarded the Hutch Award, given to the active player that best exemplifies the fighting spirit and competitive desire to win.

Ron Santo

Ronald Edward Santo played 14 seasons for the Chicago Cubs and 1 season for the Chicago White Sox. In 2,243 games, Santo hit .277 with 2,254 hits, 342 homeruns, and 1,331 runs batted in. Santo had a career .362 on-base percentage and a .464 slugging percentage. Exhibiting exceptional patience at the plate, Santo led the league in walks 4 times and 2 times in on-base percentage.

To say that Ronny was an outstanding fielder would be a gross understatement. Widely considered the best 3rd baseman of his generation by his peers, Santo was a 5-time Gold Glove Award winner and amassed a respectable .954 fielding percentage.

Santo was the poster child for durability. He played in 160 or more games 7 times in his career at arguably the most demanding position on a baseball diamond with the exception of catcher. Santo played his entire career with Type-2 diabetes but didn't disclosed his condition to fans, teammates, or ownership until after his career had ended. Santo undoubtedly paved the way for athletes with diabetes to play not just baseball, but all professional sports.

In 1973, Ron was awarded the Lou Gehrig Memorial Award, given to the player that best exemplifies character and integrity both on and off the field.

Bert Blyleven

Born in Zeist in the Netherlands, the "Frying Dutchman" played 22 seasons in the big leagues for the Minnesota Twins (twice), Texas Rangers, Pittsburgh Pirates, Cleveland Indians, and California Angels. Known for being a notorious dugout pranksters that frequently set his teammate's shoelaces on fire, Blyleven was a 2-time All-Star, 2-time World Series champion, and the 1989 Comeback Player of the Year.

Blyleven amassed 287 career wins (27th all-time) with a 3.31 earned run average and 3,701 career strikeouts, which is 5th all-time in Major League Baseball history. Bert completed 242 of the games that he started in his career. He led the league in shutouts 3-times and in innings pitched twice. Bly finished in the top 10 in wins 6-times, in strikeouts 15-times, and in earned run average 10-times including finishing 2nd twice.

Bert Blyleven is widely considered the best pitcher in major league history not yet elected to the baseball Hall of Fame.

Here's to the hope that Bert, Ronny, and The Hawk will all get that long-awaited call from Cooperstown in the summer of 2010.

Everyone Deserves a Second Chance (*dog killers excepted?)

On July 20th, suspended NFL quarterback Michael Vick was released from federal custody stemming from his convicton on federal dogfighting charges. Vick served 23 months at a federal facility in Leavenworth, KS., the last 60 days of which he was confined to his home in Virginia. Vick will now be placed on 3 years probation in addition to a 3 year sentence associated with conviction on state dogfighting charges. Vick's release comes 1 week before NFL training camps are set to get underway. Vick met Friday with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, tasked with convincing Mr. Goodell, who he last met with almost exactly two years ago (and vehemently denied the allegations of dogfighting) that he is truly remorseful for his past actions.

Vick will have to further convince NFL teams that he can return to his Pro Bowl caliber form. He last played in an NFL game on December 31, 2006 just months before Vick was indicted on federal dogfighting conspiracy charges. At age 29, it is not inconceivable that Vick could play several more years in the NFL. Many NFL experts predict that if Vick is rendered a second chance by a franchise it will most likely be as a running back or wide receiver and possibly as flanker in the revised spread offense, commonly referred to as the "Wildcat" formation. Vick passed for 11,505 yards and rushed for 3,859 yards in 7 seasons with the Atlanta Falcolns. Many of the 31 NFL teams are reluctant to take a flyer on Vick due to the threat of a potential backlash by season ticket holders and a public relations blitz from animal's rights groups.

"It is the barbarism that sets the crime apart," said Ed Sayres, president of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. "This was not a one-time transgression or crime of passion -- this was a multiyear pattern of behavior that demonstrates a startling lack of moral character and judgement." People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals contends that Vick should not be reinstated until he submits to a psychological examination to determine his capacity for remorse.

This comes some 11 years after Leonard Little, a defensive end for the St. Louis Rams, crashed into and killed Susan Guttweiler shortly after leaving a birthday party. When tested, Little's blood alcohol level was measured at .16%, twice the statuatory level of intoxication in the state of Missouri. Little received 90 days in jail, 4 years probation, and 1000 hours of community service. The NFL suspended Little for 8 games, which cost him $125,000 or half of his seasonal salary. Six years later, in 2004, Little was again arrested for drunk driving and speeding. Due to his 1999 incident, prosecutors charged Little as a persistent offender, a felony. He was eventually acquitted of DUI, but was convicted of a misdemeanor speeding charge.

More recently, in March of 2009, NFL wide receiver Dante Stallworth struck and killed 59 year old Mario Reyes in Miami Beach with his 2005 Bentley Sedan. Stallworth was reportedly driving 50 mph in a 40 mph zone. When tested, Stallworth's blood alcohol level was reported at .12%, over Florida's statuatory limit of .08%. It was also reported that Stallworth tested positive for marijuana in his system. Stallworth pleaded guilty to DUI and second degree manslaughter charges, for which he received 30 days in jail, 2 years of house arrest, 8 years probation, and a life-time suspension of his driver's license. On July 10, 2009, Stallworth was released from jail after serving only 24 days of his original sentence. On June 16th 2009 Stallworth reached an undisclosed financial agreement with the Reyes family. On June 18, 2009 NFL commissioner Roger Goodell announced that Stallworth would be suspended indefinitely due to his DUI manslaughter guilty plea.

Fans and media members contend that Michael Vick should be suspended for at least 4 games to start the regular season. Some go as far as demanding that the NFL suspend Vick for life for his his heinous crimes. Buffalo Bills wide receiver Terrell Owens is not one of them. Owens characterized commissioner Goodell's handling of Vick's status as "unfair" and suggested that that any thought of extending the quarterback's suspension would be similar to "kicking a dead horse" according to stories published by the Associated Press and "A lot of guys around the league need to speak up. I think the [NFL] player's union needs to step in because the guy's already suffered so much, and to add a four game suspension onto a two-year prison sentence, I mean, that's ridiculous." The NFL Player's Union's stance has publicly been that they will support Michael Vick in his personal life until commissioner Goodell renders his final decision.

The question is, what value do we as a society place on human suffering in relation to the suffering of other forms of life? I certainly don't condone Vick's inconsolable acts of violence against animals. They did not ask to be subjected to such dejectable actions for sport, amusement, and profit. However, the legal system has rendered what it has determined to be a fair punishment. Vick has suffered tremendous financial losses, having filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and forfeited over $70 million in guaranteed money and incentives to the Atlanta Falcolns. Vick will likely never sign another lucrative endorsement deal or be able to walk into a visiting football stadium or walk down the street for that matter without being subjected to sneers, jeers, and threats on his life.

Susan Dettweiler's family lost a wife, mother, sister and daughter and yet Leonard Little was afforded the opportunity to play the game that he loves and obtain substantial pay for his efforts. Mario Reyes' family lost a loving husband, father, grandfather, and brother yet it is highly likely that, in the near future, Roger Goodell will allow Donte Stallworth to continue his professional football career. The irresponsible acts perpetrated by Little and Stallworth coupled with the vacuous loss experienced by the dettweiler and Reyes families become no less palatable with the passage of time. The ability for Little and Stallworth to continue their lives is a testament to our faith in justice and capacity for forgiveness as a society. Why does Michael Vick's case seem to differ in the court of public opinion?

It seems that we as a society have become increasingly insensitive to the suffering of our fellow humans. The growing rate of homelessness, unemployment, and percentage of our citizens being imprisoned and executed annually is but one sign of this systematic epidemic. At the same time, the number of and influence exhibited by animal's rights groups such as PETA has become big business.

We are a country with a rich history of granting second chances to the most divisive characters, from politics to pro sports. Our foreign policy derides the leaders of foreign countries to practice a sanctimonious form of democracy that values the rights of individuals for the safety of the collective. This has been true in communist Russia and China,genocidal Darfur, and domestically here in the post Jim Crow south. It seems that, more often than not, when the specter of a media backlash, profit losses or decreased campaign contributions in the next election cycle looms large, blind lady Justice becomes disaffectionately nearsighted.

When did life become something you could buy?

Books of scripture abound with allegories alluding to the seemingly divine nature of second chance once crimes have been atoned for. The remission of sins are not contingent upon the political expediency or financial viability of the circumstances. Michael Vick has given up more of his youth and material wealth than the average person will ever be called to sacrifice in several lifetimes. Forgiveness, in the most sincere intimation of the word, obliges us to give much more from the exchequer of our collective hearts.