Heroes of the Week!

Piano On the Moon

In this week’s edition of Heroes, Imma continue tinkering with the format. I’m ditching the top 5 of the week and just going with whatever articles of inspiration I come across, to the good and bad whilst leaving out anything that hints at indifferent.

Soooo, as the great Jimi Hendrix used to say . . All I’m gonna do is just go on and do what I feel . . . .

When I heard the news about Bob Kraft, I didn’t derive any satisfaction over the idea that the Patriots had suffered a missile strike in their dynastic complex. My first thought was of Alyssa Silva, the young lady whom I featured in a Heroes post along with Kraft earlier this month. Silva and Kraft are friends, and it hurt me to think how disappointed she must have been to hear the news.

A couple weeks ago, I learned that Alyssa Silva had read that special edition of Heroes I posted in honor of her and Bob Kraft. She said that my words helped her to break through a terrible rut she had been going through. The idea that a complete stranger might sing her praises as if a long lost friend provided her with inspiration when she needed it the most. I think of Alyssa and it reminds me there are no winners in this story.

People are going to whoop it up to the news about Kraft losing his happy ending to a dragnet, as if the details involved X’s and O’s rather than young girls. Their reaction to this episode speaks to the ignorance many Americans possess when it comes to the world of sex trafficking. As for Kraft, his arrogance is borne of power that makes him believe he can get away with just about anything. Sadly, Kraft’s brand and the headlines it garners will shield other big name power brokers who were involved in the investigation as well. Absolute power corrupts?

Absolutely it does.

That’s how power works, it’s a fluid dynamic whose symmetry is an illusory sustenance. Which is what LeBron James is learning right about now as his T-Minus is showing some cracks. After eight straight trips to the NBA finals, James’s team is currently in danger of not even making the postseason. It would be an extraordinary development, considering the expectations he brought with him from Cleveland.

He doesn’t ever have to win another playoff game to go down as the best player of his time. But umm . . he kinda branded himself the heavyweight champ of all time recently.

Nah.

Forget titles, scoring records or MVP’s . .  that ain’t why I won’t put James on my Mt Rushmore of the NBA. Nope, the reason he ain’t getting in there is because of his preening and moping and piss poor handling of coaches and teammates alike. When called on to lead, he hasn’t. When called on to finish, he can’t. He joined a young team with lots of potential, and he has them going in reverse.

He’s got a platinum brand, but Michael Jordan’s title is safe.

I’m sure if Richard Pryor were alive and reading my blog, he’d probably leave the same comment to every Heroes post I wrote up. He’d tell me that a hero ain’t nothing but a sandwich. Which would provide me with the perspective that was needed to keep on getting something out of the nothing of too many news cycles.

And sometimes, I wouldn’t have to look in order to find. As is the case with this walk off homer of a sendoff gifted to me by the lovely Dale over at A Dalectable Life.  I was bitching and moaning (I’m really good at it) about having bupkis in the brain for this week’s installment when she snuck me in some contraband from north of the border.

“It’s just a small Montreal story . . so I would understand if it didn’t make the cut,” She said.

Welp, this local story puts Kraft and LeBron and all their merry bands to shame with enough heart and soul to fix the planet up in neon, and send Timothy Leary in search of his Ray Bans. Because that’s what heroes do, they light up the darkest spaces.

Carey Price is a goaltender for the Montreal Canadiens, and if you’ve never heard of him before, you’re probably an American. And that’s alright, because Price is doing his thing without our help. He’ll never be the owner of the Patriots, or an NBA mogul. But he’s writing checks to a constellation that never minds all that jazz, so it’s all good.

Thanks to Montreal Canadien officials and the family of a boy named Anderson, dreams came true during the team’s morning skate recently. The boy’s mother lost her battle with cancer last year, but her echoes reverberate still. Because within these echoes, a promise was made from mother to son; a promise that she would arrange a meeting with him and Carey Price. The fact that she was taken from the world much too soon didn’t silence the heartbeat of that promise.

And so it was that Anderson met his boyhood idol, and in so doing they shined a light into that darkness. Price signed Anderson’s hockey sticks and hockey pucks and his hockey jersey and he gave the kid a hug. And if there is a sporting event known to man that feels as good and as compelling and as worth it as this minute and a half video of a kid and his hero? I want tickets . . front row.

To promises kept.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All That Glitters Isn’t Entertaining

Oscar Funny

I only watched a couple hours worth of Academy Awards the other night, and to be perfectly honest . . it was like watching C-Span. With beautiful people. Maybe it’s me, but the Oscars felt more lacking than the Baltimore Orioles lineup. There was less sizzle than a CPA’s black book. And if not for the lovely J. Lo making the scene, there wouldn’t have been a single boom.

The Queen opening I liked just fine. Adam Lambert has some pipes, and I must admit . . he ain’t in the same area code with Freddie. That is what I liked most of all, because I’m really quite possessive about the former Queen front man. You can cover his shit all you want, and that’s proper . . I respect it. But you’re not going to upstage the ultimate showman. And Lambert didn’t. I’m fine with that.

After that, I might as well have turned on Walking Dead. The fact they went with a self service hosting format thanks to the Kevin Hart imbroglio opened promisingly enough. Getting right to it rather than having to sit through a droning table setting dialogue book-ended by commercial breaks was a refreshing change of pace.

I wish I could tell you I have anything good to say about Sunday night after that, but I’d be lying harder than a Trump appointee. Okay . . yeah, there were moments. Like J. Lo rocking the (almost) century mark as if she is twenty something. And that duet with Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga was a glorious fire. How can you not love that? Unless you’re Mrs. Bradley Cooper, that is. In which case, you went home and started divvying everything up whilst doing real estate searches.

I dig that Queen . .I mean Bohemian Rhapsody won four of the five awards they were up for. And I was really digging Spike Lee in those purple threads. And I dig that he finally won an award after forever. And I dig that a doc about menstrual cycles won, and that one of the peeps involved called it out as such. And I dig Samuel Jackson bringing some much needed coolness to the evening when he reported that the Knicks had finally won a game.

On the flip side, I didn’t dig what I believed to be a weak list of Academy Award nominees for Best Picture. And I didn’t dig how Spike Lee had to throw a tantrum after Green Book won. Come on man, grow the fuck up. This ain’t a Knicks game!  And I didn’t dig the trains . . I mean, what was up with all the trains? And hey, why did Charlize Theron answer all those trains by wearing a curtain? And I really didn’t dig how nobody got uber political. There were a few clever innuendos sprinkled in throughout the show but no blunt force trauma statements of revolution from the tyranny the District is presently under. Make no mistake, I would have been the first one to bitch about bringing politics into the mix. But it would have been fun! 

It’s like this. Sunday night’s Oscars were a preview of what this year’s NFL draft is going to look like. Heavy on the fundamentals but severely lacking in the disco department. I’m glad I tuned in, and even more glad I tuned out before the end. Hey John Bailey! . . Billy Crystal called.

He wants his Oscars back.

 

 

 

 

 

Speaking Of . . .

The great Leonard Cohen once remarked that he felt no urgency as far as his writing was concerned. It was his opinion that mankind would not be damaged if he never put out another record or wrote another book.

Now here was a dude whose works could talk gravity into another million years worth of bubbles. And he’s speaking as if he’s a high school newspaper editor. His point, however, is inviolable. The best part of us, as writers, is the part that can never be taken away.

Speaking of . . .

Urgency, there seems to be a little more of the stuff when it comes to Bryce Harper and the Phillies. And I’m rooting like hell for them to ink the slugger before Brian Cashman sweeps in with a drunken sailor offering that ties the Yankees to a .240 hitter through a third Trump term (Spoiler Alert!). These “Till Meth Do Us Part” unions in sports are onerous for the fans more than anyone. Because in eight years, the fans will be paying Fabulous Bryce Hair prices for Bald Bryce production. Simple as that.

Speaking of . . .

Bald men, the Oscars are tonight. And I’m sorta/kinda excited for the first time in a while. If only because of Queen.

Speaking of . . .

Queens, they’re making a biopic about Elton John. Which is a little strange seeing as how he’s still alive.

Speaking of . . .

Bad jokes (such as the one I just made), Trump and Kim Jong (Pizzeria)-Un will be holding their second summit this week to discuss UN sanctions, nuclear disarmament and Adam Sandler’s curious lack of Oscar hardware.

Speaking of . . .

Oscar, I only saw one Best Picture nominee (Bohemian Rhapsody) and I am only halfway interested in seeing A Star Is Born. I definitely will see Black Klansman when it comes out on video.

Speaking Of . . .

Movies? I tend to gravitate to the flicks that have no blessed chance of winning gold. Take yesterday for example, when I went to see Happy Death Day 2 U. Not as good as the original, but man . . Jessica Rothe is going to win an Oscar for something, some day. And I do not plan on being wrong about that. Girl’s got game.

Speaking of . . .

Game . . I am rocking the Casbah after a two month hiatus from my Fitbit. A week and a half in, and the results are sweetly plucked juiciness. Lost a few pounds already, and am up to three and a half miles. I truly enjoyed my vacation from the the wrist candy, but the reunion is Peaches and Herb righteous.

Speaking of . . .

Righteous deeds, big props to the Ole Miss basketball players for taking a knee during the National Anthem. They knelt together in response to a confederacy rally near their home arena in Oxford, Mississippi. It was the right thing to do.

Speaking of . . .

The right thing, I’m down with Terrance Howard’s support of his former co-star Jussie Smollett. Howard isn’t taking the easy road by staying in Smollett’s corner, but it’s where he started out and it’s what he’s sticking to. Howard isn’t interested in the optics, and that’s commendable in a profession where too many peeps run for higher ground when the shit hits the fan. Come what may, Smollett has a corner man. Emphasis on man.

Speaking of . . .

Yesterday, I was turned onto this cat with the cool threads and the space age folk songs. He’s got a voice that could skate on the icy rings of Saturn and come back hotter than Fortuna’s pocketbook after a Vegas jaunt. His musical roam fits the proverbs of a lazy Sunday afternoon just fine.

And the hat, that’s just bonus round.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Heroes Of The Week!

Warhol Superman

Walking the Talk: I checked out a Vlog piece on Yahoo featuring former Olympic gymnast Aly Raisman. It’s a worthwhile education she lays down, in which she covers her sexual abuse at the hands of Dr. Larry Nassar; how the system treats victims of abuse and how some people feel that she should just stop talking about it and ‘move on’; as if this were a speeding ticket.

This young woman’s message struck such a chord with me that I actually tweeted her some encouraging words. Me! The gist of it was to keep talking about it, and to never stop talking about it. Because her courage is an inspiration to so many of the victims of abuse. And for those who don’t get it, well, they’re just never going to get it.

Aly was one of the greats of her sport. But as a human being, she has far exceeded all of her many achievements. By being true to herself and the countless others who once lived in the dark, she has provided a light. What a hell of a young woman, and a true hero of any week.

LeBron James ain’t getting Anthony Davis. Or Kyrie. Or Durant. No more team building and very likely, no more title runs for King James.

The Empire Strikes Hack: The big zero of my week is Jussie Smollett. The former star of Empire and any other gig in the foreseeable future.

I feel badly for this kid, who made an absolutely horrible choice and in so doing, has basically thrown away his career. But he did this to himself. And while he may not have stopped to consider the damage his stunt would incur, it’s quite evident. Because the world is divided enough without made up stories of racial attacks. Smollett has affected the wrong kind of change, at a time when we need the right kind, desperately.

His story had me shaking my head as soon as the MAGA stuff came out. I mean, show me the white conservatives who are hanging out in Chicago with rope and bleach at that hour. And please, show me the white conservatives who even know what the show ‘Empire’ is about. Puhleeze. When Al Sharpton chimes in by saying Smollett should be held accountable for making up a racially charged story, you know this thing has become a dumpster fire.

Roger Stone is a meme wrapped in a vine, inside a forgettable joke scrawled on the wall in a men’s restroom. 

Me, Myself and Why?- The ultimate diva Antonio Brown just keeps digging himself into a bigger hole. He’s ruined any chances of reconciliation with his current team, and now he’s laying waste to the field as well.

I was willing to give Brown the benefit of the doubt when this whole episode began. His quarterback does come off as a phony, not to mention a diva himself. And his coach does tend to run a loose ship. But Big Ben and Coach Tomlin can’t be blamed for most of the shit Brown has pulled before and since his trade demands. That’s on AB. Brown might yet luck into a marriage with Aaron Rodgers, in spite of himself. But my lasting image of the man has nothing to do with his achievements on the field. Nope, I’ll best remember him for how he accorded himself off it. What a dolt.

Did I dream that whole thing about El Chapo scoring the gig as host of the Oscars? 

And finally, a doubleheader to finish up this week’s installment of Heroes. Because the MLB doesn’t offer up the antiquated two games for one ticket price any longer, and it’s one of the many losses us fans have to bear.

Because in the span of a couple weeks, the game lost two of its stalwart members- Frank Robinson and Don Newcombe.

Frank Robinson hit 586 career home runs, which currently places him 10th on MLB’s all time list (7th on mine). He won Rookie of the Year with the Cincinnati Reds in 1956. He won an AL and an NL and a World Series MVP. He was a Triple Crown winner, a Gold Glove winner, a 14 time all star and a two time World Champion. In 1974, Robinson became the first black manager when the Cleveland Indians named him their player/manager. After his playing days, he went on to manage the San Francisco Giants and then the Baltimore Orioles, where he won AL Manager of the Year honors in 1989. He was a first ballot Hall of Famer in 1982.

Don Newcombe began his career with the Newark Eagles of the Negro League before being released from his contract in order to sign with Branch Rickey’s Brooklyn Dodgers. Newcombe made his pro debut in 1949, becoming the third black pitcher to pitch in the majors. He proceeded to win 17 games while leading the league in shutouts while helping the Dodgers win the pennant. He won Rookie of the Year honors for his efforts. Newcombe was an integral part of Brooklyn’s first and only World Championship in 1955, when they took down the mighty Yankees in seven games. A year later, he would win twenty seven games and the Cy Young Award.

Newcombe could turn a baseball into a vitamin and make the fiercest hitter swallow it whole. While Robinson could take a one way ticket fastball and quickly turn it into a round trip. Their talent resulted in plenty of hardware, and an abiding respect among their peers. But their baseball lives didn’t stop there. The two men remained inextricably linked to the game they loved until their final days. Today’s players owe a tremendous debt to these two men, one that could never be repaid. Robinson and Newcombe always played down their struggles as young players in a racially divided culture where many still considered them outsiders. They overcame every obstacle and they changed the game for the better. Theirs was the power of dreams come to life. And the passing of these two giants brings to mind a quote by Homer. And what he greatly thought, he nobly dared. 

Says it all.

 

 

 

 

 

 

When Sacrificing Everything Gets You Paid

Los Angeles Rams v San Francisco 49ers

How ironic is it that in a league that tinkers with its overtime rules in order to minimize the chances of a tie, its biggest story becomes just that. Because that’s how I’m feeling after the Kaepernick/Reid settlement with the NFL. It feels a hell of a lot like a tie to me, and here’s why.

On the one hand, the dudes got paid. And by virtue of the gag order attached to this, the NFL has admitted to some form of collusion. Granted, we might never know to what extent and who the major players were, but still . . the league lost.

Or did it?

Because this settlement shakes out to where each owner will pay out about a million and a half bucks a year. That’s sofa cushion money in a league where the average franchise is valued at more than two and a half billion dollars. Chalk it up as a loss for the league owners, but call it what it is: Hush money.

The league doesn’t lose high profile cases very often, not without means that protect their rear ends they don’t.

In 1982, Al Davis of the Oakland Raiders filed an anti-trust lawsuit against the NFL when they blocked his proposed move to LA. Davis won the suit and moved his team to LA, after which he kept right on going after the NFL. Davis sued for LA market rights, after which he sued for the right to move everywhere from Sacramento and Inglewood to Kilimanjaro. He lost every time and eventually became an eccentric ‘renegade’ millionaire while the league just kept getting bigger and stronger.

The NFL is an entity that has navigated every kind of shit storm, and has always come out smelling like a rose. Consider . . .

  • Gun scandals (Plaxico Burress, Adam Jones, et al)
  • Political scandals (Eddie DeBartolo)
  • Spy-Gate (Patriots)
  • Bounty-Gate (Saints)
  • Michael Vick dog fighting ring
  • Ray Lewis’s obstruction of justice plea in a murder trial
  • Ray Rice arrest on assault charges
  • Ben Roethlisberger suspension on alleged rape charges
  • Aaron Hernandez murder conviction
  • CTE

Those are only some of highlights of the league’s off the field ‘business’ since the turn of the millennium. And yet, league revenue is at an all time high with expectations that legalized gambling will send profits into orbit.

If a league can’t be tarnished for covering up brain injuries, do you really think it’s losing sleep over a national anthem protest? Me either. The NFL has already paid out more than half a billion dollars in its concussion settlement, and nobody is talking about it. So this anthem protest settlement is all about sating Kaepernick and Reid without having to divulge more sensitive information. An insurance policy, if you will.

As for whether Kaep gets another shot in the NFL, that’s as much on him as it is on an NFL owner. If he wants to be a starter who demands starter money, it’s going to be tough sledding. In his last season, he finished with 16 touchdowns to just 4 interceptions. His quarterback rating, however, was only 49 percent. Rival coaches and GM’s believed they had figured him out.

Two years ago, I argued that my Dolphins should have signed him. Instead, they blew 10 million on a washed up QB. At the time, owner Stephen Ross claimed that to sign Kaep would have been an affront to the city’s Cuban population. This was in reference to the quarterback’s glowing opinion of Fidel Castro and Che Guvara. But what of the ticket paying population who were laying down big league money for a minor league product? Spare me the politics and give me some sizzle, not to mention a halfway decent shot of being competitive.

Again, what happens from here is mostly up to Kaepernick. His compadre in the anthem protests, Eric Reid, has an NFL job. If Kaepernick really wants back in, he would be wise to invest that settlement money wisely whilst being reasonable as per his value to a team at this point.  I don’t doubt a team would sign him, if he was willing to take less money and maybe even go in as a backup. Get in the door first, then show them what you got.

I wouldn’t be surprised if a team like Washington or Carolina signed him as a potential starter or integral backup, respectively. And don’t count out the Patriots, who ain’t afraid of controversy. The particulars of a Kaepernick contract are almost as fascinating as finding out whether he has anything left on his fastball. Would it be incentives heavy? Would an owner dare put a no kneeling clause in his contract? The possibilities are endless.

Personally, I didn’t have a problem with a peaceful protest in which Kaepernick consulted a Green Beret on how to go about it. I wanted my team to sign him, not because I’m all about social justice, but because I honestly believed his talent far outweighed any off the field criticisms. I wasn’t down with his take on butchers like Castro or Guavara, but I respected his right to feel that way. And I sure as hell wasn’t in agreement with his support of Assata Shakur, a convicted cop killer.

When the anthem protests and resultant backlash began to reach a boiling point, I wrote about how Kaepernick was just a kid who didn’t understand the gravity of the cause he was undertaking. I felt he was skimming his toe in the pool of social progress, rather than diving in. I cringed at the idea that he was being mentioned in the same sentence with names such as King and Ali. His decision to take the NFL money proves I was right to think the way I did. That whole Nike ad campaign about sacrificing everything didn’t include taking over a hundred million dollars in sorry money from the NFL. King didn’t do it that way, and neither did Ali. Kaepernick isn’t a civil rights icon. He’s just a kid with cool hair who may or may not have something left in the tank.

And maybe he’s not who his most fervent supporters thought he was. But he’s also not stupid. Because a hundred million bucks is a hundred million bucks. And he has a right to have any fucking opinion he wants to have, even if I don’t agree with it. And a league full of billionaires who made their bones by taking risks should grow a pair. Talk to him, give him some what’s what. Sign him. Because right now, this whole episode has no winners.

And I hate ties.