Monday, December 13, 2010

Nancy Lieberman Dishes Out Her Greatest Assist


On a recent episode of the "hit" TLC reality show Sarah Palin's Alaska (you know, the Alaska that imbues its residents with the magical power to spy on the Russians, gaining valuable foreign policy experience as they gander), Sarah, Todd, and the rest of insulated and occasionally homophobic Palin clan welcomed in another out-of-touch, insulated TLC celebrity, Kate Gosselin. Kate, of John and Kate Plus 8 minus John fame packed up her moneymakers (and by moneymakers I mean her sextuplets and twins, which somehow still feels dirty writing) and paid the former gubernatorial darling and 2012 presidential hopeful a visit. What happens when two massively large egos, 10+ kids, and no outdoor plumbing collide? Well, of course, anxiety tinged hilarity ensues.

"Why would you pretend to be homeless? I just don't get it. I just don't get the concept. There are no paper towels? How can you make sandwiches for eight kids on your arms? I don't see a table! I don't see utensils! I don't see hand-cleansing materials!" Kate would continue to voice her disappointment at receiving the life-altering revelation that camping outdoors is not like being indoors which, upon further review, is kind of the point. "This is not ideal condition! I'm freezing to the bone. I have 19 layers on. My hands are frigid. I held it together as long as I could and I'm done now. I'm hungry!" she lamented while her kids happily played and ate around the campfire, some of them sans gloves. All the while, Sarah Palin looked calm, cool, and collected in the face of the Gosselin whirlwind. I guess that if spending several months on the stump with John McCain will teach you any virtue, it would be that of patience...and political expediency but I digress.

As seemingly inane as the combination of syllables and vowels that spill from the vocal cords of Palin and Gosselin may be, these two (for better or for worse) represent upward social and financial mobility by women in the United States and around the world in the 21st century. They represent what many of us have always known from our experiences with women in our lives - that entrepreneurial drive and vision need not be divorced from the responsibility of raising a family. In fact, as Palin and Gosselin have shown, the more children you have, the more of a brazen careerist you can strive to be.

America is the greatest democracy the world has ever known but we are slow to change and can become downright irascible when the status quo is upset too quickly. You needn't look any further than the still lagging wages of women compared to men, the approval rating of President Barack Obama amongst non-millennial white voters, and the stalemate currently taking place in the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate over the extension of unemployment benefits to nearly 2 million Americans, Immigration Reform, repealing Don't Ask, Don't Tell, and making sure that the U.S. and Russia don't team up to annihilate the entire world in a nuclear holocaust. Sports have always acted simultaneously as a form of escape from these many and varied issues as well as a reflection of our prejudices and social progress as a Republic. No story is more reflective of the tremendous steps that we have taken as a civilization and the immense amount of mental and social muck that we have yet to rid ourselves of like that of one of the greatest basketball players of all time, Naismith Hall of Famer Nancy Lieberman.

Lieberman has had nothing short of an illustrious career in basketball. She attended Old Dominion University where she won two consecutive National Championships in 1979 and 1980. Lieberman was a 3-time All-American and the first 2-time recipient of the Wade Trophy, given to the national player of the year in women's college basketball. Upon graduating from Old Dominion in 1980, Lieberman held school records in assists (961) and steals (562). Both school records still stand and are believed to be modern records. Nancy Lieberman was a member of the first U.S. Olympic women's basketball team at the 1976 competition in Montreal. At age 18, she became the youngest basketball player in Olympic history to medal when the U.S. team took home silver. Lieberman went on to have a professional career in several leagues including the USBL, a men's league, and with the Washington Generals, the frequent punching bag of the Harlem Globetrotters. When the WNBA was formed in 1997, Lieberman plied her talents with the Phoenix Mercury. Already a Naismith Hall of Famer after being inducted in 1996 (for some reason the Women's Hall of Fame didn't come calling until 3 years after the boys), Lieberman became the oldest player in WNBA history at the ripe old age of 39. In true Lieberman form, she would eclipse her own record when, on July 24th, 2008 at the age of 50, Lieberman signed a 7-day contract and suited up for the injury riddled Detroit Shock.

Now, at the age of 52, Nancy Lieberman is embarking on a new journey where she is re-writing not only the history books but re-stitching the social fabric of America. In November of 2009, she became the head basketball coach of the NBA Development League's Texas Legends, affiliates of the NBA's Dallas Mavericks. Lieberman is the first female head coach of a men's basketball team affiliated with the NBA. As with her previous endeavors into "a man's world", many people were critical of her ability to coach men and questioned the motivation behind her accepting such a high profile position. "What I do in a man's world sometimes is perceived to be not normal. It's irregular. A woman coaching men? Really? My job is to take being a woman coaching men, which is perceived to be irregular, and it's my job to make it normal."

As with every foray by a woman into traditionally male space, there were those who were concerned with how the boys would react to having someone sans testicles tell them how perfect their profession. As former NBA and current Legends player Antonio Daniels explained to ESPN, Lieberman's Hall of Fame credentials demand respect no matter what gender she is. "She transcends gender. That's not even an issue. You know, it's not like we come in and see the fact that Nancy's the female coach. It's the fact that we go in and see that Nancy's a very, very good coach she knows what she's talking about, and she's very confident in herself and she does a great job of instilling that confidence in us as a team."

The man potentially falling on the sword for hiring Lieberman was Dallas Mavericks General Manager Donnie Nelson, who is also the owner of the Legends. Nelson, the son of legendary coach Don Nelson who currently holds the record for most coaching victories in NBA history, has been around the game in various capacities all of his life and knew Lieberman from stops along the way. When asked how he made the decision to hire Lieberman, Nelson said, "Wow, umm, I had my...as anybody has your little list of coaches and I serendipitously bumped into Nancy, I think it was at a Starbucks, and after a brief encounter I left there and I was like maybe the best man for this job isn't even a man."

At first, Nancy couldn't believe that Donnie Nelson wanted her to be at the helm of the Legends franchise. "I just kept looking at him and thinking, Donnie, you're just going to be crucified for this thought...Nobody's ever done this before. He was convinced it was the right thing and when Donnie really, and I saw that in the text, when Donnie said Nancy this is exactly what MLK marched and died for. I looked at him and said, a 47 year old white dude using the MLK card on me? He had me at MLK." She called her close friend, former NBA player and current head coach of the Phoenix Suns Alvin Gentry, in hopes that he would dissuade her from taking a potentially controversial step. What she heard was not what she wanted to hear but what she needed to hear. "I called (Suns coach) Alvin (Gentry) and I'm like, dude, I said give me two reasons not to do this. He goes, Nancy, you have to do this. You're the one. They'll never question it. I was like, fine, I'm never calling you for important stuff anymore but he was right and I knew it."

Dallas Mavericks billionaire owner Mark Cuban, known throughout the sports industry for his willingness to push the envelope (he's currently working on a rival institution to replace college football's controversial BCS system), was behind Nelson's decision from the very beginning. "Donnie's a natural born promoter. He's a hustler. He loves basketball and it's in his blood and so I really didn't have any second thoughts about it at all. You know, I've known Nancy for 25 years. We play pick-up basketball together all the time and so its come full circle." With the owner on-board and his coaching choice in the front seat, Donnie Nelson was able to face his detractors with the same fervor and zeal that Lieberman faced down her opponents during her amazing career as a player and a coach. When asked what he thought about people who viewed the hiring of Lieberman as a publicity stunt, Nelson stated emphatically, "You know, I've got that a lot. My answer to that is, number 1, I don't care because we're going to make the best decisions for this franchise regardless. We're projectors of talent, OK, whether it's basketball players or coaches and she's got the talent. She just needs the opportunity."

Well, Nancy has that opportunity and she is not disappointing. After losing her head coaching debut, Lieberman's Legends have won 6 of their last 8 games. With her early success, speculation is already beginning to circulate that Lieberman's ultimate destination may be a NBA bench near you. Nancy doesn't see the future quite the same way as these clairvoyants. "For me, I don't have an aspiration to be on an NBA bench. I didn't really aspire to coach in the D-league. I'm qualified but that's not my aspiration. I'm happy in this moment and I'm going to enjoy this moment because this means something and I want it to matter and I'm going to make it matter."

Nancy Lieberman is making it matter everyday and every step of the way. In an era of massive upheaval of the status quo and an awakening by men and women to their inalienable rights as humans, Lieberman is yet another shining example of ability, will, and talent trumping prejudice and social conventions. It may not happen in her lifetime but, due in large part to the doors that she has unlocked at every step of her brilliant career, a woman will sit on the bench of an NBA team as the head coach in the near future. If that hiring is met with small captions in newspapers and brief snippets of blogs, we'll know with certainty that Lieberman's goal of making women coaching men "regular" has been achieved.

As for those pundits that contend that Lieberman is only taking this position to bolster her already substantial legend, what would "Lady Magic" say to them?

"I would say that since I was 15 years old I've been in some sort of media as an athlete or, you know, as a ground breaker or playing in men's leagues. I've earned the right to be here. I've invested my life in basketball for 40 years. We joke around, don't hate the player, hate the game. Don't hate. Appreciate and admire people if they're successful."

As much as it pains me to say this, that appreciation and admiration should also include the likes of the Palin and Gosselin matriarchs (I'm not ready to accept Nancy Pelosi, Christine O'Donnell, and Janet Brewer into my circle of appreciation quite yet). During the 2008 Presidential election, Sarah Palin and Hillary Clinton spurred voters to turnout in record numbers, motivating them to put "18 million cracks in the glass ceiling." With the continued efforts of pioneers such as Nancy Lieberman coupled with increased understanding by the entrenched patriarchal factions that women's rights are human rights, the shattering of the glass ceiling may very well be the pivotal moment for this generation in much the same fashion that the monumental fall of the Berlin Wall represented the extinguishing of the last vestiges of Communism, ushering in a new age of democracy and freedom for Baby Boomers and the newly born Generation Xers.

This could very well be the greatest assist of Lieberman's career.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Sleepless in Chicago


Another sleepless night in Uptown Chicago.

I fell asleep around 8 P.M. after watching back-to-back shows on the History Channel about the sordid history of cocaine in America and the many properties of fungi respectively. I know, interesting stuff. The mini-documentary on cocaine didn't shed any new light. Cocaine is awesome so people continue to use it and drug cartels continue to kill hundreds of people annually in battles over who will control the white gold while the government funnels tens of billions of dollars in tax payer money into a War on Drugs that has been by all accounts a complete and total failure in every way except for its ability to waste tens of billions of dollars in tax payer money.

The trajectory of fungi is a little more promising. Aside from the potential hazards of fungi in the form of mold in homes and in the form of nasty biological inconveniences such as athlete's foot, the overall relationship between fungi and nature has been a mutually rewarding one. They help to decompose old foliage in forests creating nutrient rich soil. They are used as cultures to age great shit like cheese, change hops and barley into beer and wine, and to create soy bean based products like Quorn that people in Indonesia and the U.K. absolutely love and swear tastes just like chicken. Scientists are finding ways to synthesize the millions upon millions of varieties of fungi into life saving medicines and environmentally safe pesticides for crops. Scientist are even using fungi to synthesize diesel fuels in hopes of reducing our dependence on fossil fuels and foreign oil in the coming years. Best of all, if you eat the right type of fungi you could have your fucking mind blown (or you could have a bad trip and jump off a balcony at Soldier Field but I digress).

Ah, the exciting life of an insomniac.

I'm pretty sure that my recent spat of insomnia is due in part to the hiatus that I've been taking from my usual nighttime sleep aids - marijuana and Old Style beer. The rest of it is due to the immense amount of shit that I have on my mind. The relationship that I have with my co-workers is irreparably damaged due in small part to their immaturity and lack of professionalism and in large part to my bi-polar expectations - wanting to be exempted from their mostly inane conversations while simultaneously having the desire to be kept in the loop. At 26, I am at a crossroads in my career. There are opportunities for advancement but I question my preparedness to make a commitment to a profession that I can't honestly see myself doing for the remainder of my adult life. I'm not even sure if I know what I want to do with the rest of my life but I need more money to pay for my fabulous private Catholic university education so that's causing a wee bit of professional cognitive dissonance.

I'm absolutely in love with someone, so much so that I almost suffocated the relationship with my insecurity. It was so hard going through this past weekend without a text message from her (what am I, a 14 year old girl?) but I know that it's for the best. She has way more shit to deal with in her personal life than I could ever intentionally conjure up in mine. Hell, I just got hair on my dick. I think she's had pubic hair for quite a while longer than me. Due in part to her tender yet forceful scolding of my behavior, I've learned that I need to learn patience and trust. It's true that distance makes the heart grow fonder and so does the imminent potential of a great loss. She "likes" everything that I post on Facebook and, in this new age of social media, that means something but I'm not sure what. She likes everyone else's stuff on Facebook too so the texts that I receive from her assure me that her affects towards me are more personal.

I hope that we don't have to have another talk at Starbucks because I wrote this. I don't want to lose her and I HATE Starbucks.

I'm coming to the hard realization that I'm not just living this life for myself anymore. I don't think I ever was living simply for myself but I certainly deluded myself into thinking as much. With a little help from a very special person, I realized that, whether it's convenient for me or not, I have a responsibility to my little sister Candice and her son - my nephew Jaiden. We both grew up without our fathers and that has made an indelible impact on both of our lives. I was fortunate enough to have several influential male role models late in adolescence but I'm still working to synthesize their lessons into the machinations, mannerisms, and mentality of what it means to be a man. I have the opportunity to give Jaiden what neither I nor my sister ever had - a strong, black male influence from start to finish. Who knows how different our lives would've been if my father, Aaron Ruff, and Candice's father Carl Brown had stayed with our mom (not at the same time of course; that would be polygamy). We can only speculate now but we don't have to deal in hypothetical when it comes to Jaiden. We have the here and now. As my dear friend and the woman that I love said to me at that fateful Starbucks meeting, "in the end, no one will say that DeAngelo was so great at making money, they'll say that you DeAngelo was there for his family and that he was a good friend." Receiving a life lesson is impactful but nothing is more impactful than receiving a life lesson in the 3rd person.

I don't know what the future holds. I don't know if I'll ever get to hold the woman that I love in my arms again or if we'll ever kiss the way that we did that first time in the middle of a packed parking lot. I don't know if I will ever earn the respect of my co-workers again. I don't know if I'll get the promotion that I need so badly and, if I do, if I'll be satisfied or be any good at the job. Hell, I don't know if I'll ever get a full night of sleep again. What I do know is that I need to be a better person. I need to be better, not just for myself, but for the untold number of people that have a vested interest in me and who I have a vested interest in - little Jaiden and my baby sister Candice being at the head of that list.

It's easy to go through life with the myopic assumption that professional success and making money is the end all and be all to existence. That's not living life. In fact, that's a fate worse than physical death. Life is lived not in the middle lane but on the periphery. Life is being kind to your fellow humans, not because they deserve it, but by virtue of your shared humanity and mortality. Life is sharing quality time with your friends and family if you're fortunate enough to have both in this world.

I may not agree with Albert Einstein who said that a life not lived for others is not a life worth living but life can hardly be characterized as such without others to share it with. I'm so glad that I found this out before it was too late.

Youth isn't always wasted on the young.

Sweet dreams Chicago.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Michael Vick for MVP - Most Valuable Person


On Sunday, Michael Vick led the 7-3 Philadelphia Eagles into Soldier Field to battle a Chicago Bears team that was 7-3 and tied for the NFC North division lead in spite of a porous offensive line and much maligned quarterback in Jay Cutler, who is prone to the inexplicable turnover. Vick is having a MVP caliber season, completing a career high 62.8% of his passes and throwing for 1,608 yards and 11 touchdowns to a remarkable 0 interceptions coming into the game. Renowned for his prowess as a runner, Vick also had 375 yards rushing and 5 touchdowns on the ground. Vick finished Sunday's game on Lake Michigan 29 of 44 passing for 333 yards, 2 touchdowns, and his first interception since Christmas Eve 2006 (he went on an 18-month hiatus shortly after that game) in the 31-26 Bears victory. Despite the Eagles loss, Vick displayed a patience and level-headed decision making in the pocket that he was completely devoid of during his tenure in Atlanta coupled with the freakish athleticism that once made the all -pro quarterback a household name. It is still early but if Vick can continue his renaissance season, sports writers will be hard pressed to deny the 1st overall pick in the 2001 NFL Draft his first league MVP award.

With the emergence of Michael Vick as a legitimate MVP candidate, many of the negative emotions surrounding the inexplicable acts that cost numerous dogs their lives, left many others permanently crippled and separated Vick from his family, friends, millions of dollars in NFL salary and endorsements, and halted a Hall of Fame caliber career for nearly 2 years have reemerged. For many Americans, whose pets are an extension of their families, it is hard to reconcile the atrocities committed by Vick and his cohorts with the propensity for Americans to give second chances and fawn over stories of redemption. None of us will ever forget the evil crimes committed by Vick and many will never be able to find it in their hearts to forgive him for his actions but it is one of the cornerstones of our American system of justice to allow those who have made amends for their improprieties the opportunity to continue their pursuit of life, liberty, and happiness.

A perfect example of this is the remarkable comeback story of 2010 American League MVP Josh Hamilton. The parallels between Vick and Hamilton's stories are startling at first glance. Like Vick, Hamilton was the first overall pick in his draft, taken in the 1999 Major League Baseball amateur draft by the then Tampa Bay Devil Rays. Hamilton went on the blow almost all of the $4 million dollar signing bonus that he received as a result of drug and alcohol abuse. After years of therapy and a renewed relationship with God, Hamilton finally made his major league debut with the Cincinnati Reds in 2007 (he was left off of the Reds 40-man roster making him a free agent; the Cubs selected him in the 2006 Rule 5 draft and immediately traded him back to Cincinnati for $100,000). In December 2007, the Reds traded Hamilton to the Texas Rangers for two pitching projects. Hamilton went on to put on an astounding display at the 2008 All-Star Game Home Run Derby at Yankee Stadium, hitting a record 28 homers in the first round and 35 home runs overall (Justin Morneau of the Minnesota Twins went on to win the competition), endearing him to throngs of baseball fans and fans of redemption alike. Hamilton completed his amazing comeback story in 2010 by leading the majors with a .359 batting average with 32 home runs and 100 runs batted in despite missing 29 games with broken ribs (Vick missed several games with broken rib cartilage early this season). Hamilton also helped the Texas Rangers reach the playoffs for the first time in franchise history, leading them all the way to the World Series where they lost to the San Francisco Giants in 5games.

The story of Josh Hamilton's journey from rock bottom to the pinnacle of success has inspired many adults to make life-altering changes and prevented numerous kids and up-and-coming athletes from making the same mistakes that nearly derailed Hamilton's career. When Hamilton was awarded the American League MVP in mid-November, it was widely viewed as the culmination of an 11-year journey from the absolute lowest point that a human can fall. Why is it that Josh Hamilton can be held up as a shining example of the resiliency of the human spirit and the ability to change one's situation for the better and not Michael Vick? Can the story of Vick's rise and percipitous fall from fame not have the same influence on our nation's youth as Hamilton's story has had and why are we so reluctant as a nation to allow this change to happen?

In a 2005 article by E.L. Worthington, Jr. and N.G. Wade on promoting forgiveness in psychotherapy, the authors found that one of the first tasks of working towards forgiveness is understanding exactly what forgiveness means. Many people believe that forgiveness requires reconciling with the offending party but that is not necessarily the case, especially in situations where reconciliation could place the victim(s) back into an unsafe environment. In Vick's case, his reconciliation came partly in the form of an 18-month federal prison sentence and the payment of millions of dollars in fines and penalties. In a 1997 article in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, M.E. McCullough, E.L. Worthington, and K.C. Rachal described a set of studies that indicate that when people forgive, it is due in part to their developing empathy for (i.e., feeling compassionate about and understanding the perspective of) the person who hurt them or others.

It may be easier for us to develop empathy for people who are perceived to have only inflicted pain and suffering on themselves than it is to develop a level of personal understanding for folks like Vick that persecuted innocent victims. I also think that, due to the relationships that many people have with their pets, the actions taken by Vick were deemed to be more egregious and hit closer to home. For many, Vick's crimes against those dogs were comparable to the murder of a human being. Additionally, it is likely that there is a cultural element to the levels of empathy developed for Hamilton's shortcomings as opposed to Vick's. All of us know someone or know of someone that has been directly or peripherally afflicted by the scourge of drug and alcohol abuse. Conversely, there are very few people in the United States who were familiar with the underground urban and rural counterculture of dog fighting before light was shed on this sport by the Michael Vick case. In a 2009 article by Worthington et al. in the Journal of Counseling and Development, the researchers found that cross-cultural adaptations of forgiveness interventions were highly effective in reducing the motivation of offended parties that are not a part of the offenders cultural group from seeking revenge against and/or avoiding the offending person. In other words, the more understanding we have about the circumstances behind Vick's upbringing, the more likely we are to be forgiving of him for his crimes. In a country still divided by race, ethnicity, and socio-economic status, this may explain why many people are still having a difficult time moving on from Vick's actions.

In spite of the prevalence of negative sentiments surrounding Vick's crimes, the quarterback continues to make amends with his actions and his words. On November 23rd, Michael Vick travelled with Wayne Pacelle, President of the Humane Society of the United States, to talk with students at New Haven's Hillhouse High School. Vick talked about the importance of showing kindness to animals and how everyday he has to face his young daughter, who wants a dog, and explain to her that due to the terrible actions that he perpetrated he is no longer allowed to own pets. This is a part of the price that Pacelle contends that Vick continues to pay on top of the legal obligation already paid to society. That price also includes the constant presence of protesters at Eagles games and at speaking engagements featuring Vick. That price includes parents who keep their kids home from school when they catch wind of Vick coming to their kid's school. That price includes the possibility that Vick may never garner another major endorsement no matter how prolific and spectacular his feats on the field are. Vick has embraced all of these occurrences and said that he sees good coming out of his negative experiences. “I think I’m being used by God because all the laws have changed since my incident,” he said.

Michael Vick also talked to the high schoolers about the importance of listening as opposed to hearing. Vick was reminded of this important lesson on June 25th when Vick co-defendent Quanis Phillips was shot outside Vick's birthday party after the two men had a verbal altercation in which Phillips pushed birthday cake in Vick's face. After a brief investigation by the NFL, Vick was cleared of any wrongdoing and cleared to play the upcoming season. At the time, Vick stated that he should've listened to his mother more intently about his plans to have the birthday party. "If I could re-track and do it all over again, I would have listened to my mom and had [the party] private," Vick said. "Let [my mom] and my fiancée orchestrate the party. ... It goes to show that mommas know best. We all think that certain things we want to do, we can do. But you have to start listening to your mom at some point. They are not going to tell you anything wrong. That was a lesson I learned." This is a lesson that we can all learn from Michael Vick and his mom without having absolutely everything in the world taken from us in the blink of an eye and without being imprisoned in a 4'X10' cell at a maximum security federal prison in Kansas, penniless and alone.

As unforgivable as Michael Vick's crimes were and still are, he has been judged, convicted, and punished in a court of law. I'm not suggesting that you should withhold judgement on Vick. In my opinion, the failure to judge is one of the most egregious crimes that one can commit. I'm imploring you to do the exact opposite - judge the man based on what he has done off the field using the star power that he has reincarnated with his stellar play on the field.

By all accounts Michael Vick is saying all the right things but it is the embarrassment, humility, and pain that tempers these words that we should all keenly listen to. We may never know if the 18-months that Vick spent in purgatory have truly changed him but, so far, his actions have matched his words to the letter. As much as he'd like to change the past 4 years, Michael Vick can't change the things that he's done and the pain that he caused by his actions. None of us can. That's why we should allow him to make amends for his past by the steps that he takes now and in the future. If his present feats on and off the field are any indication of the future, we may be witnessing the maturation of an all-star football player and, most importantly, a true MVP - Most Valuable Person.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Justitia


Meditate upon the goddess Justitia, the representation of objectivity, fairness, equality, and truth. Although the maiden is blindfolded, her vision is expansive. No good deed goes unrewarded and no evil act goes unpunished. The sword in her right hand, the seat of fidelity, is double-edged and sharp as a constant reminder that our actions cut both ways.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Are My Testicles Black?


I mean, are my test results back?

Now that I have your attention...

I haven't written anything on this blog in quite sometime so I feel like I need to reintroduce myself. Hi blog, I'm DeAngelo. Nice to see you again. It looks like you've lost weight.

Now that the formalities are out of the way, it's time to get some things that are on my mind out and into the disinfecting literary breeze.

So, the Republicans made significant gains in the House of Representatives and picked up a few key seats in the Senate in addition to modest gains in gubernatorial races and state legislatures. Roughly 1/5th of Americans cited GOP policy as the reason they voted for Republican candidates on their ballots (about 85% of these folks also reported being able to see dead people, aliens, Taylor Swift's virginity and other phenomenons rumored to exist). Roughly 3/4ths of Americans cited their displeasure with the policies of the Obama administration over the past 2 years as the reason they turned against the POTUS during this election cycle. Lest there be any confusion over my attempt at sarcasm above, the Republicans have no ACTUAL solutions to speak of to cure what ails the American people - rampant unemployment, wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, ballooning debt, etc.

The Republican victory during the 2010 midterm elections had as much to do with yet another spineless Democratic president in a long line of yellow Democratic presidents being unable to clearly articulate the fact that it was Republicans who got us into this mess in the first place after 8 years of peace and economic prosperity. If I'm not mistaken, wasn't that one of the many coded remarks made about President Obama during his Yes We Can World Tour - that he was articulate in addition to being clean and reassuringly not black enough? The president looks uncomfortable and sounds particularly inarticulate when it comes to touting the accomplishments of his administrations or chastising the red coats at British Petroleum for destroying miles American beaches and fishing waters off our already devastated Gulf Coast.

The GOP gains are also due in large part to the great number of young voters between the ages of 18 and 27 who were responsible for catapulting Barry into the Oval Office sitting on their hands November 2nd while the older white voters, many of whom voted for Hillary Clinton in the 2008 Democratic primary and who strongly dislike the idea of having a black president, were at the polls at 6 a.m. on Tuesday morning. As award winning documentary filmmaker Michael Moore screamed as much as said on the season finale of Real Time with Bill Maher, Obama should've set up a command center in the White House sending out tweets, Facebook status updates, LOLs, and OMGs imploring his base to drop their X-Box controllers and Cosmo magazines for 15 minutes to come out and support his party and their candidates instead of the half-hearted day of text message that he sent saying, "Hey, it's Barry. Been a while." As Maher astutely opined, people are like dogs. They see in black and white and only understand inflection and fear. Republicans know this and have devised tactics to gain public support for the reforms that they subsequently rammed through the Congress that they controlled but when it comes time for Democrats to explain why their policies are the right ones, they get the shakes like the nerdy guy trying to find words for the girl that he'll never fuck anyway.

I'm not a huge fan of the healthcare reform that was pushed by the Obama administration and passed during reconciliation by Congress. In my view, the government has 3 main functions: To protect the homeland from foreign attacks, to protect citizens from attacks by other citizens, and to act as an arbiter in contractual disputes between citizens. Much to my chagrin, our government and the impact that it has on the daily lives of Americans has moved far beyond the scope of my Libertarian idealism. For better or worse, our government is one that practices wholesale interventionism in every facet of our lives, from the regulation of our money markets to the safety of the dozen of eggs that we buy from the local grocer. Aside from the two perpetual wars that no politician on both sides of the spectrum dared speak of in the days leading up to the elections, the greatest burden on our economy is the continuously burgeoning cost of healthcare.

As former Congressman and retired 3-star admiral Joe Sestak of Pennsylvania' s 7th district iterated, when we talk about the members of our armed services having free healthcare, we don't call that socialism, we call it good business because we realize that the healthiest warriors will also be the best warriors. We also don't want our soldiers thinking about how their loved ones will pay for healthcare in their absence when they're in the line of fire. The same line of thinking should apply to our workforce at large. In the same vein, former Republican presidential candidate and Arkansas governor Mike Hukabee, who is an ordained minister and doesn't believe in evolution, made the point that it is completely illogical to lump the sickest people in our nation into the same insurance pool as the healthiest amongst up. That skews the cost curve towards higher premiums for all of us. Whether folks like me like it or not, we need to get folks away from emergency rooms and to general care practitioners for their basic needs and we need to have a special insurance grouping for the sickest amongst us or else healthcare costs will bankrupt our nation (if Wall Street doesn't turn the trick first).

I know that it's always easier being on the outside looking in on issues of great import but isn't that why we sent Barry and his cavalcade of Dems to Washington in the first place - because he was an outsider that had yet to be polluted by the insular smug of beltway business as usual? The way President Obama puts out for the Wall Street special interests you'd think he was born in New England with a pair of wingtips and a yacht mast up his ass and not in Hawaii, Kansas, and Indonesia to humble, simple parents and grandparents. Don't get me wrong, I'm not just ragging on Obama. I drank the lemonade that Republican, reform Democrat, Libertarian, and Independent candidates were selling on election day. They said that Obama had become too close to the special interests in Washington and failed to deliver on his campaign promises to the middle class. It was time to send in the reserves. The problem is that the reserves don't have any plans to turn the tide other than obstinate obstructionism and tying their collective testicles to the perceived prosperity created by Bush era tax cuts. Republicans have no answers to Obama's policies because the same people that write Obama's legislation write theirs when they're the majority. The greatest expansion of government happened during the George W. Bush administration. The displeasure that conservatives claim to have for Obama's liberalism bordering on socialism is token at best.

The real losers in this game of hot potato being played by our elected officials are the American people. Everything costs more, everyone makes less if they're making anything at all, and the government wants us to foot more and more of the bill for their bad investments and misdeeds. China and India are enjoying trade surpluses while America sends more of our depreciated currency into eastern markets for cheaply made knick knacks, only to see those dollars return in the form of treasury bonds that are being gobbled up by our Asian competitors like General Sao's chicken. Our children can't read, write, or do math and those children grow up to write economic and social policies that prominently display our deficiencies in these areas of educational proficiency. Is there any hope for the future of our great nation?

If the $5 million people who actually sat down and watched the series premiere of Sarah Palin's Alaska is any indicator, my vote would be no.

Who am I fooling? I'm 26, I don't vote.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Al Reynolds, A Model Idiot


Well, I'm glad that's resolved.

Tea Party candidate Al Reynolds, who is seeking election in downstate Illinois' 52nd District, unleashed upon the world his theory on why African-American men are disproportionately represented in prison and underrepresented on college campuses. In a forum that was ironically sponsored by the League of Women Voters and the Champaign County NAACP, Reynolds stated:

"I've been in the city and the dichotomy of the women and the men in the minorities, there is a difference in the fact that most minority women, either the single parent or coming from a poor neighborhood, are motivated more so than the minority men," Reynolds said, when asked what he would do to increase diversity at state colleges. "And it's a pretty good reason. Most of the women who are single parents have to find work to support their family. The minority men find it more lucrative to be able to do drugs or other avenues rather than do education. It's easier. We need to provide ways that are more incentive, other than just sports avenues, for the men for the minorities to want to go to college and get an education and better themselves before the women have to support them all."

Reynolds comments, although severely generalized and bigoted, do contain some hard truths that the black community has been struggling to address since the dissolution of the family unit (which has its roots in the 400 years of chattel slavery in the Americas) and the introduction of the drug culture into urban areas in the late '70's and early '80's. Consider this. Over one fourth of children in the United States lived with a single parent in 1996. Of this 25%, 84% were headed by women. In the black community, 57% of single-parent households were headed by women as opposed to 22% of white families and 33% of Latino families. There is a definite dearth of black males in our homes. We know that this is happening but why is it happening?

In the American penal system, 1,384 per 100,000 men or 1% of the male population is imprisoned in federal or state facilities. On average, 4,789 per 100,000 black men or 4% are in jail. Compare this with 736 per 100,000 white men and 1,862 per 100,000 Latino men. Of the 249,400 serving time in state prisons for drug offenses, 112,500 or 45.1% were black compared to 51,800 (20.8%) being Latino and 65,900 (26.4%) being white. Looking at these numbers at face value, which I'm sure is Mr. Reynold's forte, one would glean that African-American men chose drug sales and trafficking as their occupation of choice. However, the 800 lb gorilla in the room is the fact that, before the mandatory minimums and three strike laws and disparity in sentencing for crack and powder cocaine possession that we saw in the 1980's, black men in college outnumbered their counterparts in prison by a ratio of nearly 3 to 1. The pink elephant in that same room is the fact that in the period between the years 1985 and 2000, the amount of tax revenue spent on corrections as opposed to higher education has seen a dramatic increase. The increase in state spending on corrections was nearly double that of the increase for higher education ($20 billion versus $10.7 billion), and the total increase in spending on higher education by states was 24 percent, compared with 166 percent for corrections. A recent study by the Pew Charitable Trust documented that after adjusting to 2007 dollars, the increase was 127 percent for corrections compared to 21 percent in spending on higher education. Mr. Reynolds failed to report these statistics in his forum comments.

As a very good friend of mine acutely noted when we discussed this story, it's not like black men are going, "wow, I really want to go to college but selling drugs is so enticing!" I can personally attest to that not being the case. I was fortunate enough to grow up in a household that, although not financially or socially stable by any stretch of the imagination, emphasized the importance of education over all other things. I grew up without my father in the household but my grandfather and his older brother played the role of the flawed, yet strong male figures in my life. I understood at a very early age that there was no future in drugs and that sports was a hobby, not an occupation. Many of my peers were not so fortunate. Their way out of our shared urban hellhole was either going to be through sports or through the streets. There was no gray area.

Education was not a viable option, especially when most of our textbooks were hand-me-downs from the 80's and many of my peers were 2-3 grade levels behind in reading, math, and science (I didn't realize how deficient I was in those areas until I got to the Honors Program at DePaul). At that point, it's not a matter of doing what's right in society's eyes but a matter of survival, pure and simple. Not everyone had the fortune of being supported by the government for the first 18 years of their life like Al, whose father was a career enlisted man. Even if my peers had the "privilege" of obtaining a college education as I did, exploding levels of student debt coupled with the current tenor of job market makes activities such as drug dealing and playing professional sports more enticing and rewarding career options compared to sitting in a cubicle at an office building typing on a blog as I am doing right now. Is this the American Dream that I was told obtaining higher education would afford me?

Mr. Reynolds' comments, though mingled with truths that even President Obama admits the African-American community needs to aggressively address, lack insight and understanding into the issues that have created the environment where black men are absent from our homes and our colleges campuses and are present in ever increasing numbers in our state and federal prisons. I am sympathetic towards the laissez faire economic policies and "pull yourself up by your bootstraps" social beliefs that color Mr. Reynold's political beliefs. However, even through a fog of Libertarian utilitarianism, I can recognize that there are some causes which elude our perception on the issue of black men in American society. There is 400 years of chattel slavery followed by 100 years of Jim Crow law that effectively curtailed opportunities for African-Americans, especially black men. There is the covert racism that took the place of the overt variety after the Civil Rights Act of 1964 where equally qualified black male candidates were passed up for white and black female candidates. There is the introduction of crack cocaine into the black community and the subsequent War on Drugs, which both increased the levels of violent gang violence and effectively criminalized and imprisoned otherwise non-violent offenders. There is the development of ESPN, MTV, VH1 and other purveyors of 24 hour sports entertainment where huge amounts of fame and fortune flowed to black faces on stage, on the court, and on the field from the majority white faces that watched in amusement. All of these revelations disproportionately affected the black male.

It all boils down to believing that you have an opportunity to do something better with your life and having the reasonable expectation that you will have the resources necessary to achieve that something better. Sadly, for black men, reasonable expectations for success have been narrowed to the myopic fields of sports/entertainment and illicit black market activities. Now, with the election of our nation's first black President, young black men have a new role model to look up to and a new career option to pursue. The election of President Obama is not the death note for underfunded, failing inner city schools. Having lofty goals is only one half of the equation. It's all about opportunity. Al Reynolds of all people should know that. Life, Liberty, Opportunity is his campaign slogan after all.

Monday, October 25, 2010

My Black Friend: African-Americans, Democrats, and the 2010 Midtern Elections


Black voters unite! The Democratic Party is once again in need of your blind faith and loyalty towards them to avert a collapse of historical proportions during November 2nd's midterm elections.

In a November 25th, 2010 piece in the Chicago Sun-Times journalist Laura Washington, who I had the "pleasure" of having as a professor at DePaul University, details how key Democrats in Chicago and all across the country are depending on the traditionally Democratic African-American vote to carry hotly contested local and statewide seats. Illinois Democrats are hoping to recoup the 800,000 voters in Cook County alone that sat on their hands during the February 2010 primaries after a monumental turnout in 2008 for the election of our nation's first black president.

Toni Preckwinkle, the former 4th ward alderwoman and current Democratic nominee for the embattled position of Cook County Board President, has started a grass roots get-out-the-vote campaign to make sure that black voters turnout in record numbers on November 2nd and turnout to vote for Democrats. In addition to working with the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) to shake black voters out of their "midterm doldrums", Preckwinkle is also sinking $400,000 of her own campaign funds into motivating African-American voters in an off year election. Preckwinkle, whose victory next Tuesday is as close to an assurance as any other contest in the country, realizes that widespread Democratic losses in the President's home state will greatly undermine the ability of President Obama to govern nationally and make her job as the future chief executive of a county with more fiscal resources than some countries increasingly difficult. "Republicans around the country are going to use this as a bat to beat the president up with for the next two years. Furthermore, from my perspective," she added, "if we don't have a Democratic governor, I am not going to get any help as president of the County Board."

In addition to matching Precwinkle's donation, the SEIU is also contributing additional cash resources and in-kind donations such as a $128,000 radio ad buy. On Election Day they will dispatch 4,000 workers -- 2,000 paid operatives and 2,000 volunteers -- to beef up voter turnout in traditionally black enclaves on the south and west sides of Chicago. The efforts by Preckwinkle and the SEIU mirror efforts nationwide to bolster African-American turnout at the polls. This comes at a time when there is heavy anti-Democratic sentiments permeating throughout the electorate especially amongst Latino voters. Research sponsored by the SEIU showed that Latino voters are "mad" when it comes to the lack of progress made on promises made by then candidate Obama. "They're mad at the Democrats for not producing on immigration reform. They're not going to vote for Republicans, but they're not going to come out," Preckwinkle said.

As my former professor aptly noted at the end of her piece, "In desperate times, Democrats always turn to black voters." What black voters (including myself) should keep in mind before asserting their irrational tribal loyalties and requesting a Democratic ballot at their local polling place is the effect that the policies of the Obama Administration have had on the African-American community in particular. While roughly 14.8 million Americans or 9.8 percent of the populace finds itself out of work, an astounding 16.1% of blacks find themselves unemployed compared to 8.7% of whites and 12.4% of Hispanics. 9% of African-Americans in the United States own a home. A nearly equal number, 8%, find themselves without a roof over their heads after losing their homes to foreclosure. According to Neighborworks America, African-Americans and Latinos are 75% more likely to face foreclosure than their similarly situated white counterparts due in part to their disproportionate acceptance of subprime mortgages with their higher hidden fees. This comes amid news from the Social Security Administration (SSA) that 1 out of every 34 Americans that earned wages in 2008 earned absolutely nothing in 2009. Things aren't just bad for black and brown folks. Average wages, median wages, and total wages have all declined -- except at the very top, where they leaped dramatically, increasing five-fold.

Some of the same people seeing dramatic leaps in their already substantial personal fortunes are the very people who were bailed out by the Obama Administration just months earlier. Just in case you forgot, the Obama Administration absolved Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac of their underhanded machinations by supporting and expanding the Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP) originally signed into law by President George W. Bush on October 3rd, 2008.

As Ross Douthat iterated in a New York Times piece on October 25th, TARP may have been necessary at the time of its implementation to stave off double digit unemployment levels and sure up vital industries but the fundamentals of the policy still paints a picture in the mind's eye of Americans that screams of exceptionalism and crony capitalism between our government and Wall Street that has done irrevocable damage to the reputation of both establishments. Paul Krugman, also in an October 25th New York Times piece, takes an opposite course and asserts that the inadequacy of the initial stimulus, and not the passage of the stimulus itself, is the reason that Democrats will see a backlash during this year's midterm elections. "What we do know is that the inadequacy of the stimulus has been a political catastrophe. Yes, things are better than they would have been without the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act: the unemployment rate would probably be close to 12 percent right now if the administration hadn’t passed its plan. But voters respond to facts, not counterfactuals, and the perception is that the administration’s policies have failed." Krugman goes on to say that voters turning on Democrats this election cycle will likely have the effect of voting to make things worse.

At least the Democrats and their fear mongering sycophants in the media are in synergy with their election tactics that reek of hypocrisy (How are Democrats scaring voters with constant reminders of the policies of the Bush Administration any different from Republicans scaring voters with references to socialism and terrorism?).

One Democrat that's not in lockstep with the Obama Administration's strategy for November is Rhode Island Democratic gubernatorial candidate Frank T. Caprio. Caprio, ahead of President Obama's scheduled fundraising trip to the Providence Plantations, let the leader of the free world know what he can do with his endorsement. “He could take his endorsement and really shove it, as far as I’m concerned." Caprio is locked in a hotly contested race with former Republican Senator Lincoln Chafee, who is running as an Independent and John Robitaille, the Republican who is behind Caprio and Chafee in recent polls. Former senator Obama and former senator Chafee are particularly close from their days on Capitol Hill. Caprio characterized the relationship between Obama and Chafee as "Washington insider politics at its worst..." and accused the president of using the state of Rhode Island "like an ATM machine." Caprio doesn't look like he will give in and start drinking the Democratic establishment Kool-Aid a week before judgement day. He is firm in his belief that his politics, and not his party affiliation, will be the deciding factor when voters go to the polls on November 2nd. “I will wear as a badge of honor and a badge of courage that he doesn’t want to endorse me as a Democrat because I am a different kind of Democrat,” Caprio told radio station WPRO-AM in a morning interview.

So, the Democrats are in trouble and, to no one's surprise, they are running palms up to the folks who have been disproportionately affected by the policies of the last two administrations for help. Having already thrown in the towel on Latino voters, the Democratic machine is looking to it's traditionally reliable enclave of black voters and suburban white female voters to mitigate what could potentially be a colossal loss for Democrats nationwide if Republicans score major wins in Illinois' senatorial and gubernatorial races. While it is natural for people to gravitate towards what is familiar to them, in this election cycle more than few elections before, it is pivotal that voters put their political loyalties aside and vet the candidates based on their plans to create jobs, curb wasteful spending, sure up social security for future generations, craft an immigration policy that is fair to citizens and immigrants alike, hold pollutors responsible for environmental damage, and end the discriminatory and demeaning policies of Don't Ask, Don't Tell and opposition towards gay marriage amongst many, many other pressing issues.

As Laura Washington stated in her piece, Preckwinkle and the SEIU are launching their grassroots voter turnout effort with the campaign message: "Hate vs. Hope." and the strategy: Convince black voters that Obama's credibility and success depend on winning Illinois. Many African-American voters, my mom being one of them, view President Obama as an extension of themselves and view his poll numbers not just as a barometer of how the nation feels Obama is doing on the job but also as a barometer of how the nation views African-Americans. For a small sub-segment of people, their views on President Obama's job performance may be a cryptic way of expressing their general feelings towards black culture. However, the recent Harris Interactive Survey showing that 63% of Americans have a negative opinion of the job President Obama is doing is not tinted solely by race or ethnicity but by the broader disillusionment that many Americans feel about what candidate Obama promised and what President Obama and his majority Democratic Congress have delivered. Toni Precwinkle, the SEIU, and other key Democrats would like to reduce the electoral equation to the least common denominator of race because they can bypass rational thought and win the votes necessary to remain in power. It would be a travesty of historical proportions to sit idly by and let race baiters play to our primitive, reptilian, tribal brains instead of doing the hard mental work that sustains our representative form of governance and, most importantly, the privilege of voting for subsequent generations.

The debate that we are currently having is integral to the health and maintenance of a strong republic. The folks on both sides of the aisle, Democrats specifically because they are currently in power, are concerned with maintaining the status quo in state and national legislatures because the status quo works for them. The status quo does not work for hardworking Americans that find themselves with burgeoning debt, without adequate employment and health insurance, and who see the American Dream slipping away with every choice they have to make between buying food or paying the mortgage. As Ross Douthat stated in his Times article, "So it’s a healthy and necessary thing that our first post-crisis election has been defined by a groundswell of anti-bailout outrage. This no doubt seems unfair to the politicians who may lose their jobs (or have already lost them) for doing what they felt they had to do. But it would be an infinitely worse sign for America if the present backlash hadn’t materialized at all."

President Obama boldly stated that change had come to America. Going to the polls on November 2nd and sending shockwaves through Springfield and Washington, D.C. by vehemently rejecting the status quo -- now that would be change that you could truly believe in.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Rock Out With Your Cock Out!


"(My reputation) has always been important to me," Favre told ESPN reporter Chris Mortensen. "That was one of the first questions I answered when I signed here (in Minnesota). Sure it is important to me; it has always been a concern." That's how good 'ole boy Brett (don't call me Bret Michaels) Favre addressed the media when he was asked how all the flip flopping on retirement would affect his legacy in the long run. Who knew that those same questions would surface after Favre was discovered to have been rocking out with his cock out -- literally.

The future first ballot Hall of Famer, who recently became the first player in NFL history to reach the 70,000 passing yards and 500 touchdowns plateau, allegedly sent inappropriate messages and pictures -- including a reported set of nude photos -- to former Jets employee Jenn Sterger while Favre was on his first post-retirement unretirement narcissistic sympathy tour with the New York Jets.

The league is in the process of investigating the allegations against Favre. Chris Mortensen, during ESPN's "Sunday NFL Countdown", said that the league's investigation could wrap up in four to six days, and there is a good chance that Favre could face a suspension under the NFL's strict personal conduct policy that saw 2-time Super Bowl winning quarterback Ben Roethlisberger suspended for the first 4 games of the 2010 season for inappropriate behavior with a college student in a Milledgeville, GA. bar and former Super Bowl MVP WR Santonio Homes, formerly of the Pittsburgh Steelers and currently with the New York Jets, suspended for the first 4 games of this season for violating the NFL' substance abuse policy.

"My main focus is the New York Jets, they are a tough team; as good as they are, that has been my focus," Favre told ESPN before his Monday night return to the Empire state. "I hate in any way if this has been a distraction as I said Thursday --we are here focused on trying to beat the Jets." The Vikings went on to fall to the Jets 29-20 due in part to a 4th quarter interception thrown by Favre and returned 26 yards by Jets defensive back Dwight Lowery.

Favre, who was experiencing noticeable pain in his right elbow after throwing nearly every pass during the game was diagnosed with right elbow tendinitis and didn't rule out the possibility of missing 1-2 games to let it heal. "I don't want to play just to play," Favre said. "It's kind of a funny injury. It could flare up and get worse." This is the same Favre who, in the same press conference, called tendenitis "a wimpy injury". Makes one ponder if Favre is offering to voluntarily sit out a couple of games to end his NFL record 289 consecutive starts streak on his own terms rather than having any potential punishment doled out by Commissioner Roger Goodell be the fait accompli for the tremendous record.

I'm also pondering the effects of ole # 4's aw shucks country boy attitude on our collective perception of the superstar. Like it or not, we've all been brainwashed and conditioned into thinking that grandpa Favre is a guy from a bygone generation, with his Southern sensibilities, petting his dog in the back of his Ford F250 twin cab, getting ready to play a pick-up game of football in the ole sandlot with his eclectic group of pals in a fresh new pair of real -- comfortable Stranglers...I mean Wranglers. Brett is a guy just like us, a guy who has problems choosing which 50" plasma screen TV to buy at Sears and whether he should come back and take the $16 million salary that his employer is so eager to give him that they sent 3 of his favorite co-workers down to his farm on a Gulfstream G5 private jet to escort him back to the office in mankato, MN. Well, it turns out that the living legend is no different than us mere mortals because he too is not immune from the compulsion to furtively send pics of his wanker and sext (that's sexual text messages for the uninitiated) to female co-workers, a phenomenon brought on by developments in modern cell phone technology and social media. Like most people his age that are relatively new to this age where everyone can star in a reality show whether they know it or not, Favre was lulled into the foggy, bottomless abyss of perceived anonymity and privacy.

As much as Favre has held the media and the collective adoring masses of sports fans hostage for parts of the past three offseasons, it should come as no surprise that a person in the media would smear # 4's face with some of the same egg that we've all been saturated in for taking part in Brett's conceited, self-indulgent 3-ring circus of contrived uncertainty. Lost in all this is the effect that these embarrassing revelations are having on Brett's wife Deanna. She has made no secret that she has sacrificed her own happiness and that of her family to support her hubby's career for over 20 years and would like her man to come back home to Gulfport, MS. and return the favor. Besides the shame and embarrassment of finding out that your spouse has been leaving Tiger Woods style voicemails for a former Florida State Seminoles cowgirl who looks remarkably like a younger, thinner, tanner you, I'm sure that it didn't help that these revelations came to the surface during the month of October. It's Breast Cancer Awareness Month and Deanna is a breast cancer survivor.

We all make mistakes. We're all human and fallible after all. The vast majority of us have the benefit of being able to make our mistakes in relative anonymity with only the fear of backlash from our immediate circle of friends and family. I'm in no way sympathetic to Brett's public shame because he has courted public attention with countless commercials and tear filled press conferences. I also have no sympathy for Jenn Sterger, who is obviously looking to cash in on the multi-million dollar world of TV and magazine interviews, book deals, and reality TV appearances. Sterger rose to fame after she was shown on national television during a 2005 Florida State vs. Miami football game. On seeing the shot, announcer Brent Musburger commented that "1,500 red-blooded Americans just decided to apply to Florida State." There are women who face quid pro quo sexual harassment in the workplace on a daily basis. They feel demoralized, defeated, and trapped. They have to decide which is more important -- their pride or their careers. Fortunately for Sterger, she does not have that unenviable choice to make because she has no pride and, what residual pride she does have, is currently being auctioned off to the highest bidder. I guess that's the "right resolution" she was alluding to in her press release.

My sympathy goes out to every person who went out and bought a pair of Wranglers from Target or a plasma screen TV from Sears because they trusted Favre and identified with him. My heart goes out to every person walking around in a Favre jersey who, male or female, will constantly be asked by groups of drunken frat boys such as myself to "show us your dick" from now until Favre goes to the golden training camp in the sky (which will incidently be the first training camp that he's attended in quite some time). I'm truly sympathetic towards Deanna Favre who has stuck by her man just like the old country song implored her to; ever present in the luxury suites cheering on her husband even as she underwent painful, crippling radiation treatments. Deanna, if you'd like to get back at Brett I'd be more than happy to send you pics of my penis.

Brett, your consecutive starts streak is impressive, if not for the quantity of games, definitely for the grit and determination it took to play in some of those games, and will never be broken. Peyton Manning, who currently holds the second longest consecutive games streak in the NFL, would have to play every game until 2016just to tie the record. You own ever major NFL passing record and you're a multiple time league MVP and a Superbowl champion. With all great athletes, with the exception of Barry Sanders, it's a difficult decision to hang up the jock strap, shoulder pads, and cleats and walk off into the uncertainty of retirement. In the real world, you know, the one that the rest of us endure as much as survive on a daily basis, when you're old and start doing things like, I don't know, showing your dick to other people, we usually take away your driver's license, lock you in a nursing home, and give you a little Dixie cup with pills in it everyday at 9 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. just before Jeopardy comes on. As much as this option is enticing, fortunately for you it's not feasible in your case.

Brett, for the sake of your wife, children, grandchildren, fans and what's left of your pride and legacy, hang it up sport. It's time to retire. By the looks of it, your pecker already got the memo.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Fear of Flying


To most people that come into contact with me, I give the impression that I'm a very confident, self-assured person. I'm the quintessential Alpha male with a Type AB personality. I walk with my head high, shoulders back, and chest out. When I greet people for the first time, I look them straight in the eyes and give them a firm handshake (male or female). When I speak, people usually listen attentively because my words are sharp, direct, and delivered with the simplistic effort of one who gives profound thought to every syllable before speaking.

Like most people with a confident exterior, I am extremely introverted and insecure on the inside. This insecurity usually wields it's head when I am confronted by a person of greater intelligence and or by an argument that is more viable than that which I expouse. My latent insecurity is most visible in interpersonal relationships that I value, especially of the sexual variety with the opposite sex.

If Southwest Airlines knew how much personal baggage I had, they would start charging me fees.

I grew up in a home where my mom was either at work or at the local saloon partying for days on end with her fellow drug addicts. The one stable female presence in my life was my grandmother Ruth who, like her matriarchal namesake in the Bible, was loving, affectionate, and loyal. She died suddenly in 1993 from heart failure when I was only 9 years old. I have been searching for a female figure of that significance ever since.

I was a fat, pudgy kid in grammar school and was routinely met by the ire of the female students in my class. They routinely made fun of the size of my dairyair in proportion to the rest of my body. One memory that is indelibly etched in my consciousness is that of my first day of high school. It was my first P.E. class and, much to my dismay, the first class was swimming. To me, swimming was inextricably linked to being partially nude in front of the opposite sex. I implored the gym teacher to allow me to participate in the day's activities with my shirt on but she would have none of that. "Only girls are allowed to swim with their shirts on. You're not a girl, are you?" The irony inherent in that question was lost upon my gym teacher until, with much consternation, I took off my t-shirt and revealed man boobs that made the breasts on my female classmates look like bee stings. Adding fuel to the not so furtive fire was the fact that, to my misfortune, the male classmate to my immediate right looked like he had been lifting weights since he was aged 5. The girls in the class proceeded to point and laugh at me with an emotional disregard that only teenagers and sociopaths can successfully pull off . After surviving the constant abuse of my first quarter there, I transferred to a high school closer to my home. Transferring signaled a chance at a fresh start but, little that my feeble brain know, there were more tribulations to come. The damage had already been done and more was awaiting.

I went through high school in virtual anonymity to the opposite sex. Though I was a star varsity baseball player, I was no competition for the more glamorous and brash basketball and football jocks. I spent the rest of my high school career playing video games, listening to music, and playing paper football at the lunch table with my two equally anonymous compatriots. When my two best friends jumped ship and managed to get girlfriends, I was left alone to captain my ship on the choppy waters of seemingly perpetual virginity. I didn't make out with a girl until the last quarter of my senior year. Even then, I didn't understand what she saw in me; what I had done to facilitate this precipitous change in my fortunes.

When I arrived at college, it seemed that the word VIRGIN was written on my head in 72 point block letters. Girls mockingly threw their bras at me as if they were saying "we're doing all the work for you and you still can't score". A female upperclassman even slipped a mild date rape drug in my beer, stating in no uncertain terms that a unconscious me was more worthy of getting laid than a fully conscious me. I decided that it was time to remove the shameful yoke of virginity once and for all. Riding the high of having just been initiated into my fraternity after a long and arduous process both mentally and physically, I asked a fraternity brother that I was close to for the phone number of a girl that I had seen him take home from a house party. In what can only be described as a combination of desperation and a healthy dose of youthful naivety, I sent her the following text message: "You're so fucking sexy! When can I meet up with you?" After thoroughly vetting each other (and when I say thoroughly, I mean after a couple of days), I finally lured her to my room. With champagne in hand, I toasted away my virginity. I was finally a man.

I was in love (or so I thought) and blinded by the hormones and strong affections that I had for my new found girlfriend. As a popular song by the southern rapper Gucci Mane imbues, everyday was Christmas and every night was Valentine's. There's no part of her body that I didn't traverse and no venue that was off limits for our sexual escapades. There's nothing like walking in on your girlfriend being ridden by her ex-boyfriend like Sea Biscuit to permanently take the blinders off. It was as if I had stepped out of my body and right into the shoes of Luke Wilson's character in Old School minus the trip to San Diego and the hardcore porn. We lasted for another year after that but the resentment and distrust quickly snowballed into a level of toxicity that even the best relationships are unable to survive.

I had one meaningful relationship after that, which ended after just a year due in part to my insecurity and it's Siamese twin, irrational behavior. I relegated myself to a series of meaningless one-night stands with girls that I couldn't pick from a line-up if my life and those of everyone that I cherish depended on it. I didn't have to worry about being played because I was the one initiating and terminating the contact. It didn't matter what the women thought of me. They didn't really ever have the opportunity to know me beyond what I wanted them to know. I had finally achieved the leverage over the opposite sex that I always felt I deserved. The real D.Jones, the one that I always wanted to be had finally stood up. Revenge was sweeter than I had ever imagined.

Fate has a way of bringing out skeletons that you were pretty sure were encased in concrete and buried for all eternity safely below the Meadowlands like Jimmy Hoffa. Fate came in the form of a 5'8" Italian woman with curly red hair and a walk that makes grown men need a change of underwear. I knew the first time that I laid eyes on her what my intentions were and what my destiny would ultimately be. I don't believe in love at first sight and the concept of soul mates seems equally implausible to me but this woman must've been molded from one of my ribs (or vice-versa since there is a slight difference in age). She's beautiful, intelligent, funny, thoughtful, nuanced and passionate amongst other things. There are so many parallels between our adolescent and adult lives that an independent observer would swear that our respective existences were cut from the same cloth and then cast to the wind in different directions. As we've grown closer it has become evident that our fates are inextricably linked and that the trajectory of our relationship is trending upward. Unfortunately, as we've grown closer, the doubts that I had long since buried beneath a behemoth of one-night stands have emerged fully clothed.

In my mind, to find someone that you're attracted to and that is attracted to you back seems too good to be true so it must be. When will the other shoe drop? When will the table cloth be snatched from under the table setting, crystal stemware in tow? It's inevitable that the baby will be thrown out with the bath water, right? The funny (and humbling) thing is that she has the same concerns about me. Here's this young, tall, intelligent, upwardly mobile ex-womanizer attracted to a woman 6 years his senior. She's been burned in past relationship and, given the current tenor of her life, couldn't possibly survive another disappointment. Insert aforementioned questions about table cloths and baby baths here.

The great thing (and the thing that I respect most about her) is that she has a lot more faith in me than I have in myself, with extraordinary patience to boot. She knows that the connection that we have is real and has the potential to withstand the test of time because it is genuine. Now it's up to me to get out of my own way and fully embrace what I thought was an inch short of impossible, that someone actually, really, and truly likes me for me. Not the me that I caked on like foundation on a tranny for mass consumption, the innocent, flawed, vulnerable me - the me that was DeAngelo long before I was D.Jones.

That is the test for all of us in our lives. We've all been hurt, put down, trounced on, and thrown out like last week's leftovers. When that happens, it's easy to develop the scab of egoism to cover up the gaping wound in our self-worth. For me, that scab came in the form of finding women that were just as worthless in my eye as I felt I was to them. I was so afraid of being hurt and embarrassed the way I was in high school and college that I gave up trying to view women as anything other than a ticking time bomb ready to explode in my face. Whether in business, school, or our interpersonal relationships, when we become unwilling to risk failure, then failure is what we risk automatically. To paraphrase a famous saying by the late, great UCLA head basketball coach John Wooden, failure is never fatal but a failure to try might be.

Meeting il mio Italiana, as I like to call her, is by far the best thing that has ever happened to me. I don't really remember the infinite number of days that passed before I met her and, now, I can't envision the days ahead without her. What would my life be like if I hadn't acted on that initial impulse to find out who she was when I first saw her at the water cooler, paralyzed by my insecurities and a pathological fear of rejection?

That is a possibility that I am unwilling to consider now and one that I will not under any circumstances allow to color our future.

Fear of insecurity and rejection, consider this post your notice of termination effective immediately.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Paper Gladiators


"Because of his personality, because of who he is, nobody would have ever believed he would have done it."

Those were the words of a close friend of Kenny McKinley, a wide receiver for the Denver Broncos, who was found dead last Monday at his home just miles from the Broncos training facility. Two female friends who were taking care of his son discovered McKinley's body Monday and called 911. Detectives who responded to his home a few miles from the Broncos headquarters found McKinley's body with a pillow over his head and a .45-caliber semiautomatic pistol on top of the pillow. They also noted a strong odor of freshly burned marijuana, according to the report. Arapahoe County Coroner Michael Dobersen said Tuesday that McKinley died of a gunshot wound to the head. He said a preliminary investigation "suggests the wound to be self-inflicted."

McKinley, who was a standout player at the University of South Carolina, was selected by the Denver Broncos in the 5th round of the 2009 NFL Draft. He played eight games in 2009 as a kick returner. He returned 7 kicks for a total of 158 yards. He also recorded 3 special teams tackles. McKinley was placed on injured reserve December 28th, 2009 following knee surgery, ending his season. Teammates reported that, shortly after the surgery on his knee, McKinley made statements about not knowing what he would so without football. While playing dominoes in the Broncos locker room, McKinley reportedly told a teammate that he should "just kill himself". "No one believed he was serious", an officer investigating the case reported.

"If it had been said to me, I probably would have been like, 'Yeah, whatever, Kenny.' It would have completely gone over my head," a close friend of McKinley said. "That's not the type of thing he would say and if he did say it, that's not the type of thing that you would take seriously coming from him." McKinley's teammates and coaches seemed to agree that the possibility of him taking his own life seemed impossible to anyone who knew McKinley for even a short time. "I actually saw Kenny a week and a half ago. He was over here picking up some stuff out of his locker," Broncos linebacker Wesley Woodyard said. "He was always a guy that used to love to joke with me and I would joke back and forth with him. But he had a big smile on his face. He just walked out of the building." Broncos coach Josh McDaniels said in a tearful news conference last Tuesday that nobody with the Broncos sensed any warning signs from McKinley about his state of mind. "We've all seen him recently. He's been the same person every time we see him. Liked junk food and chips and things like that," McDaniels said. "He was in the cafeteria, or in the training room, when we were seeing him the last so many weeks here. Nothing that would alarm us to anything like this."

A close friend of McKinley reported that, over the last month, he was having a hard time with not being able to play football or being around his teammates every day but it didn't appear as if he was struggling to the point of harming himself. No one knew that McKinley owned a gun. Woodyard said despite what it might look like to fans, NFL players have lots of pressures in their lives even though they're living the dream. "Well, you know, football's a stressful job," he said, adding that players have to reach out for help. "It's the same thing with people in everyday life, you've got to talk to somebody in your life, so just to help you work out those problems."

People who are dealing with depression or suicidal thoughts aren't always outwardly despondent, said Dr. Michael Allen, director of research at the University of Colorado Denver Depression Center. He said suicidal individuals don't always reach out for help, even to those closest to them. In a 1994 article entitled "Injured Athletes and the Risk of Suicide", Aynsley M. Smith, a nurse counselor at the Sports Medicine Center of the Mayo Clinic and Eric K. Milliner, a consultant at the Section of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at the Mayo Clinic explained that research on the emotional responses of athletes to injury shows significant depression that may last a month of more, paralleling the athlete's concept of if and how they will recover. Injured athletes cared for by athletic trainers are often between the ages of 15 to 24 (McKinley was 23), the high-risk age group for suicide, which is currently a leading cause of death for young Americans.

Smith and Milliner went on to state that the more seriously injured athletes in their study experienced significant elevations in depression, anger, tension, and decreased vigor compared to their peers. The researchers found significant pre-injury and post-injury differences in the moods of the athletes, suggesting that the way athletes feel post injury is likely attributable to the injury and not to a pre-existing mental disorder or altered mood. "Clearly, during times of injury when athletes have lost their ability to achieve in sport, post-injury depression may place them at an added risk for suicide, particularly if other risk factors are present." NFL players go through rigorous psychological evaluations prior to being drafted and there appeared to be no pre-existing warning signs that McKinley would harm himself. All of McKinley friends, teammates, and coaches described him as a generally happy guy but, as Dr. Michael Allen states, this can be a front for something stewing behind the amiable front. "For many people in the mild to moderate range you wouldn't know they're depressed. They're able to put up a good front of joviality."

Reaching out for help can be difficult for those in the military and in sports. "In any group of men where toughness is valued, talking about anything that may be viewed as weakness goes against the grain," Allen said. Case and point - Ricky Williams. The Heisman Trophy winner at the University of Texas and current star running back for the NFL's Miami Dolphins has been the poster boy for athletes struggling silently with debilitating mental disorders. Williams, who eventually self diagnosed himself with social anxiety disorder, was often maligned for his weird behavior towards teammates and coaches and his many run-ins with NFL disciplinarians for repeated violations of the league's substance abuse policy. Williams recalls a time when he was with the New Orleans Saints and went on the disabled list for a broken ankle. The team treated his recovery as a matter of vital importance. Trainers and rehab specialists oversaw his every move and asked for near-daily updates on his condition. Teammates texted him daily. Williams was struck by the contrast. "There's a physical prejudice in sports," he says. "When it's a broken bone, the teams will do everything in their power to make sure it's OK. When it's a broken soul, it's like a weakness." Depression and other mental illnesses are often stigmatized as maladies for the weak in sports. "Gutless" was the term Bobby Valentine, then the Mets manager, allegedly used to describe Pete Harnisch after the pitcher suffered a depressive episode. "Run it off," an NBA coach once told Vin Baker when the player tried to explain his depression. "Don't let the blues get you down!"

Rob Lunn of NESN.com, in a recent article, asked the million dollar question: With the millions of dollars spent by college and professional football programs, where are the mental health resources for athletes? "With all the millions of dollars spent by college football programs, and athletics in general, there are zero dollars allocated to mental health. It is a mentality of "your body is ours, your mind is yours," and it is a dangerous mantra to live by..." Lunn goes on to say, "If a player goes down with an ACL tear, a broken bone, a pulled muscle or even a minor sprain, it is met with the full onslaught of a college or university’s sports medicine budget. Millions of dollars go toward weight rooms, doctors, training staffs, rehab pools, ultrasound, [and] vibromassage. It’s all state of the art, all designed to get athletes back to playing shape after an injury. Yet there is no institution in place to help players cope with the stress of major...athletics"

In a recent article in Psychology Today Elana Premack Sandler, a public health social worker specializing in violence and injury prevention and adolescent health promotion, talked about the need for mental health care that parallels the physical care that athletes receive from their trainers. She called on collegiate and professional athletic programs to create a system similar to that of Major League Baseball, which allows players to go on a "mental disabled list" when they are battling non-physical maladies. National League MVP candidate Joey Votto of the Cincinnati Reds and 2009 American League CY Young Award Winner Zack Greinke are two recent success stories of MLB's "mental DL". "A lesson, both for college and pro football and for all of us, is that even people who appear happy, who have a lot going their way, may be struggling. To me, these deaths reinforce the importance of how we listen, that we believe people when they talk about suicide, and that we do the things within our power (like removing guns or other dangerous items from a home) to decrease the chances that someone will die by suicide."

The unfortunate and untimely death of Kenny McKinley once again brings the stereotypes that our society holds about athletes and those with mental disorders to the forefront of the public consciousness. As Rob Lunn states in his article, "the tough guy attitude in sports is one of infallibility -- if it breaks, we'll fix it." However, unlike a bone, muscle or, in the case of Kenny McKinley, a knee, there is no quick fix for mental pain and anguish. That sort of pain requires an in depth analysis of one's thinking process, which calls on the athlete to come face-to-face with their own weakness and infallibility, an action that flies opposite of everything that athletes have been coached to be. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, nearly a quarter of American adults suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder in a given year. By necessity, issues surrounding mental health have become better understood and accepted in the mainstream and the stigma attached to athletes with psychological issues is beginning to lose some of its adhesiveness. In recent years welters of athletes such as Jennifer Capriati, Joey Votto, Stephane Richerin and Zach Greinke in a variety of sports have unashamedly admitted to battling mental illness. It was the inimitable Ron Artest, of half-time cognac drinking, jumping into the stands and beating up patrons fame who, during his memorable monologue after winning his first NBA championship, expressed profuse thanks to his psychiatrist.

But, for every success story there are a thousand Kenny McKinley's suffering anonymously and feeling like the only way out of their despair is in the chamber of a loaded hand gun. We can't hope to prevent every athlete from taking his/her life but we can provide them with the resources and care that they deserve for their extraordinary efforts on and off the field of play. Let's start by mandating professional mental healthcare for collegiate athletes, who are often under similar stresses as their professional counterparts. In addition to access to therapy and medication, let's also encourage social stability and a solid home life for our athletes. There are a lot of perks associated with being an amateur or professional athlete but social stability does not rank high on the list. From road games to homework to the possibility of being traded or injured to an all-consuming high stakes regular season and post-season to the dissonance that occurs when young men and women come into vast sums of money seemingly overnight, sports are hardly conducive to social stability.

Most importantly, let's change how we as consumers view our collegiate and professional athletes. They aren't gladiators in the arena mauling each other for our sadistic consumption. Athletes aren't points in our fantasy football leagues or an extension of the affections we have for our alma mater (or, conversely, disdain for another school). They aren't infallible, indestructible, unfeeling, or disposable robots. They are human beings just like us and are subject to the same mental and physical struggles that make living life such a precarious daily ordeal; that makes life so precious.

So, the next time you call an athlete "soft" for sitting out a game due to depression, upbraid a friend for being down on him/herself during a difficult time, or shrug off feelings of self-hatred as temporary doldrums, think about Kenny McKinley, his family, friends, coaches, teammates and his now fatherless child. If you won't assist a friend in need of professional help or seek support for your own battles for yourself, do it for Kenny's young son. There's someone out there who cares for you that will be eternally grateful that you did.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Happy National Unmarried and Single Americans Week!

(Photo: Logo of the National Association of Single People)

Today marks the beginning of National Unmarried and Single Americans Week. It is a holiday (of sorts) that celebrates being single and not necessarily being in a hurry to mingle. It may seem like an odd comparison but choosing not to be in a committed relationship (whether it is of the homosexual, heterosexual, or other variety) garners some of the same responses with the same tenor as conversations regarding the moral and legal validity of gay marriage. I've lost count of the number of times someone has asked me why I don't have a girlfriend, why I'm not actively pursuing a committed relationship or marriage and, my personal favorite, when am I going to come out of the closet because I don't have and am not actively pursuing a girlfriend. Having a significant other is a status symbol that says something about the viewed to the viewer (whether it's valid or not). Like it or not, it is just not popular in our society to be past a certain age and not shacked up with someone for reasons that do not involve being a divorcee, widower, or eunuch.

The forums and events taking place this week will celebrate the lowest common denominator --the individual-- in all her/his glory. Enjoying life as a single or unmarried person is much more than navigating the dating scene. While some people are looking for romantic love, many others have no immediate or future desire to couple up. Some people are focusing all of their energy on building carrers. Others are in no hurry to replace the relative freedom of single life for the yoke of commitment. Still others identify as being asexual and have no sexual desire for the same or opposite sex. An unintended consequence of choosing to live a single lifestyle is that single individuals shoulder more of the tax burden because they are not eligible for many of the tax breaks and incentives that married couples receive. For example, a single first-time home buyer will pay more in interest during the life of their mortgage than a married couple. Additionally, single people can expect to pay more on average for such essentials as healthcare, life insurance, and car insurance.

Being single shouldn't be viewed as being juxtaposed to or an indictment of the institution of marriage. It is a lifestyle choice that we should embrace and support so long as it doesn't adversely affect the lives of non-single people. Celebrating the rights of single people to remain uncommitted and unmarried is as essential to the sustenance of our individual rights and liberties as upholding the right for our gay brothers and sisters to demonstrate their eternal love and devotion to their partners via the bonds of marriage. When we view both lifestyle choices through this lense, we will have made a giant leap forward towards allowing every law abiding citizen to pursue Life, Liberty, and Happiness on their own terms.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

One In the Hand Is Worth None in the Bush


On Tuesday, current New Orleans Saints running back and former University of Southern California standout Reggie Bush became the first player in the 75 year history of the Heisman Trophy to forfeit the award. The 2005 Heisman trophy winner has been under pressure to relinquish the award after USC was fined, placed on probation, and banned from playing in bowl games after an NCAA investigation determined that Reggie Bush received improper benefits during his time at the university. New USC athletic director, and former Heisman Trophy winner, Pat Haden relinquished the university's copy of Bush's Heisman Trophy several weeks ago in a show of support for the NCAA's decision. By forfeiting his 2005 Heisman Trophy, Bush preempted a possible vote by the Heisman Trophy Trust to strip him of the award.

In a statement released on Tuesday, Bush cited his former teammates, coaches, and family as the reason he chose to relinquish the award. "One of the greatest honors of my life was winning the Heisman Trophy in 2005. For me, it was a dream come true. But I know that the Heisman is not mine alone. Far from it. I know that my victory was made possible by the discipline and hard work of my teammates, the steady guidance of my coaches, the inspiration of the fans, and the unconditional love of my family and friends. And I know that any young man fortunate enough to win the Heisman enters into a family of sorts. Each individual carries the legacy of the award and each one is entrusted with its good name.It is for these reasons that I have made the difficult decision to forfeit my title as Heisman winner of 2005."

Reggie Bush received the second highest number of total votes (2,541) in history for a Heisman Trophy winner. Fellow USC great O.J. Simpson received the highest number of votes (2,853) in the history of the award. Reggie Bush rushed for 1,740 yards and 17 touchdowns, had 478 receiving yards and 2 touchdowns, and had 672 total return yards and a touchdown in his remarkable 2005 season. In his electrifying two year career at USC, Bush finished with 2,648 rushing yards and 22 touchdowns to go along with 987 receiving yards and 9 touchdowns and 115 total returns for 1,585 yards and 3total touchdowns.

Bush's 2004 season ended with a victory in the 2005 BCS championship game against Oklahoma while his Heisman Trophy winning season of 2005 was punctuated by a loss to Texas in the 2006 BCS title game. In June of this year, the NCAA penalized USC with a 2-year bowl game ban, four years probation, the loss of 30 football scholarships over 3 years, and the vacating of 14 victories in which Reggie Bush took part from December 2004 through the 2005 season, including the 2005 BCS Championship after a 4-year NCAA investigation found that USC lacked "institutional control" by allowing Bush and former USC standout basketball player O.J. Mayo, now with the NBA's Memphis Grizzlies, to receive numerous improper benefits during their respective tenures.

In their investigation, the NCAA said that Bush, referred to as a "former football student-athlete" in the report, received lavish gifts from two fledgling sports marketers hoping to sign him. The men paid for everything from hotel stays and a rent-free home where Bush’s family apparently lived to a limousine and a new suit when he accepted his Heisman Trophy in New York in December 2005. The NCAA determined that Bush was ineligible beginning at least by December 2004, which initially opened discussions about possibly revoking Bush's Heisman Trophy.

The Heisman Memorial Trophy Award, first awarded in 1935, is named after former Brown University and Georgia Tech player and coach John Heisman and is given annually by the Heisman Trophy Trust to the "most outstanding college football player whose performance best exhibits the pursuit of excellence with integrity". The last part of this statement, "the pursuit of excellence with integrity", is what ultimately damned Bush's chances of hanging on to the prestigious award. One of the few guidelines given to Heisman Trophy voters is that a player must be in compliance with NCAA rules to be eligible for the award.

Many people are outraged that Bush, by all accounts an upstanding citizen off the field, has been pressured into giving back his award when former USC star running back and 1968 Heisman Trophy winner O.J. Simpson is allowed to keep his honor. Simpson, who is widely believed to have been complicit in the murders of his wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ronald Goldman, is currently serving a 33 year sentence with the possibility of parole in 9 years for his actions in a 2007 attempted armed robbery, assault, and kidnapping at the Palace Station Hotel-Casino in Las Vegas where he was allegedly attempting to recover stolen sports memorabilia. Much to the chagrin of O.J. Simpson haters, he did not violate any NCAA rules or federal laws during his time at USC. ironically, Simpson's 1968 award was sold in February 1999 for $230,000 as a part of the settlement of the civil trial in the O.J. Simpson murder case.

Reggie Bush has swallowed his pride by returning the trophy and he will be vilified in the media for time immemorial as the poster child for spoiled star athletes receiving special favors over pedestrian athletes and the general student body. Granted, he will no longer be introduced as "Heisman Trophy winner Reggie Bush, a title that its recipients cherish. However, Heisman Trophy or not, he will be just fine. In 2006, Bush signed a 6-year, $52.5 million contract, which included $26.31 million in guaranteed money. Money may not buy happiness but, if the award means as much to him as he claimed in his statement, Bush could have replica Heisman Trophies embroidered on every square inch of his house.

The real losers are the 30+ athletes that will either have to foot their own bill as they continue their athletic careers at USC or attend another school when going to USC has been a life-long goal. The real losers are the current juniors and seniors on the USC football team that will not have the opportunity to experience post-season play at the culmination of their 4+ years of hard work and sacrifice. Matt Barkeley, USC's sophomore quarterback, attempted to keep things in perspective when he discussed the sanctions levied against the school. “It does stink to possibly not play in a bowl game...but, at the same time, I came here to get a degree from one of the best universities in the country and to win football games. If we play 13 instead of 14, then we’re going to try to win all 13 of those.” It doesn't just stink Matt, it wreaks.

The folks that are sitting pretty in the midst of this scandal are Athletic Director Pat Haden and the rest of the USC brass. You may be asking yourself, how could the trustees at USC possibly be in a good position after being placed on 4-years probation, forfeiting 14 victories including the 2005 National Championship, losing 30 scholarships over 3 years, and forfeiting their copy of Bush's tainted trophy? The answer is the fact that no one in a position of authority and influence has asked USC to fork over the estimated $42-53 million that the university reportedly earned during Bush's stint at the school. Make no mistake about it, it's all about the money. If it wasn't, football programs wouldn't adamantly oppose replacing the financially lucrative Bowl Championship Series (with it's Christmas and New Year's Day games and the associated advertising dollars) with a playoff system that many experts believe would solve college football's problem with computerized rankings and crowning a unanimous national champion. If it wasn't all about money, colleges wouldn't be allowed to reap large profits on the backs of unpaid employees (who are bound to their programs for a minimum of 3 years) and, as soon as an athlete attempts to buck the system or is discovered to have received money and benefits outside of his/her scholarship and measly stipend, can wash their hands of the student-athlete and exile them to the amateur sports version of Elba. Former Ohio State running back and current ex-con Maurice Clarett and, more recently, former Oklahoma State and current Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant both come to mind. If it wasn't all about money, the top collegiate football coaches wouldn't accept multi-year, multi-million dollar contracts, recruit top players to their respective colleges and universities dangling enticing treats such as guaranteed playing time, cohesive coaching staffs, and the elusive opportunity to play at the next level in the recruit's face only to leave after a year or two to pursue a higher paying gig at a bigger college or in the professional ranks AT NO PENALTY, leaving the kids that they promised the world and more to to fend for themselves. Nick Saban and Lane Kiffen anyone?! When a collegiate player breaks his/her scholarship and transfers to another school, they lose a year of eligibility. Tell me again how football programs like USC are the victims here?

I'm not in any way condoning the actions of Reggie Bush as an amateur athlete at USC. He took improper benefits with the full knowledge that, should he get caught, the ramifications could be embarassing and hurtful to more people than just himself. By the letter of the law, Bush was ineligible to play college football at the time that he was awarded the Heisman Trophy and, thus, was ineligible to receive that award. However, as a poor kid from Compton or even as a middle class kid from San Diego like Reggie, how could you not grow tired of waiting for your piece of the pie when you see your coaches pulling in six figure salaries, new academic buildings going up all over campus, and the athletic director and other university brass enjoying swanky dinners with boosters due in large measure to your blood, sweat, and tears. As the NCAA's own promotional commercial alludes to, most collegiate student-athletes "go pro" in something other than sports after their time on campus has passed. For those who are talented and fortunate enough to make it to the National Football League, they can expect to have an average career of 3.5 years and make significantly less than $1 million dollars in that period. A career ending injury is just one snap away so, for the athlete, time is of the essence to take full advantage of a fast closing career window.

We live in a day and age where it is popular to decry rich athletes as spoiled brats who are out of touch with the daily plight of the rest of the citizenry. With a few exceptions, they are. However, we are not so quick to condemn the institutions that create these figures and, when it is convenient, disposes of them like spoiled food. Reggie Bush is no one's victim but the men who are used by college and university football programs to line their pockets and then kicked to the curb without having attained Bush's fame, fortune and, in most cases, education are. Such actions are and should be viewed as reprehensible in our society regardless of your relationship to sports.

The Heisman Trophy is the most prestigious award in college football and one of the most esteemed awards in all of sports. Candidates and winners of the Heisman Trophy are held to the highest standards of excellence on the field, in the classroom, and in the community. However, "the pursuit of excellence with integrity" isn't a standard that only Heisman hopefuls should be held to, but a standard that the institutions that we entrust our young minds and bodies to should unflinchingly abide by as well.