Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Real View Sports -- October 3rd

Off Broadway?
Though I never played Black College Football, I owe one of the proudest moments of my life to the institution.

On a late summer day in 1996, the top-25 ranked Southern Jaguars visited Turpin Stadium to square off against Northwestern State. The atmosphere was electrifying and built feverishly until kickoff, as the discordant clashing of powder blue and yellow with purple and orange mixed on the surrounding premises. Southern, a perennial stalwart that had won multiple Heritage Bowls (the black college national championship) came in favored to win. Fans, thirsty for more success, filled our small campus to the gills, tailgating, playing great music, and sharing in that age-old Saturday afternoon tradition of spending the afternoon at the ballpark. By game time, the total attendance would set a Turpin Stadium record, and though some fans would come away from the game disappointed (namely, Southern’s, as Northwestern won the contest) anyone who saw that game got his money’s worth. The game was closely-contested, hard-hitting, and fans saw at least a dozen players on the field who would go on to play on Sundays.

And it was my first college football game.

I hope you’ll forgive me that I don’t remember the score, or how well I played in that particular game. Firstly, I don’t remember the score, and secondly, for my first college football game, I didn’t play terribly bad … of course, I didn’t play terribly well, either!

Ironically, my most memorable moment of that day happened before the opening kick.

My folks, both Gramblinites (Grambling State grads, for those not in the know), arrived an hour and a half before kickoff. Mom looked like a million dollars in a new purple pant suit and Pops, setting aside his regular natty button-down shirt/slacks/tie/jacket ensemble, had a neat purple shirt tucked into his slacks with an NSU cap. They pulled up in my Dad’s new GMC pickup, which he’d been saying he would buy for years. Mom and Dad had affixed one of those cool KAY/AEO license plates on the front, which matched the crimson paint job of the vehicle. As they pulled up, one of my teammates yelled out “Yo, Nupe!” to my Dad, they shook hands, and my Dad began playfully “charging him up.” We hugged, talked for a bit, and I had to ask them where they’d been keeping all this money that they were all of a sudden shelling out (new threads, new truck, etc.). My mom didn’t say a word, and when she patted me on my stomach, the answer to where all those dollars had gone became evident (I’d spent the summer eating up house and home trying to bulk up before reporting for two-a-days).

I’d always prided myself in making my parents happy with what I’d accomplished, but I don’t know if I ever remember them seeming happier than I did that day. In one moment, they were realizing several of their life’s goals manifest right in front of them. I, the youngest of three, was in college (my brother and sister are also college grads). I was playing college football (my father had played college b-ball at GSU). I was independent, driven, and had the entire world ahead of me in such a way that didn’t seem possible three decades before. I had the choice to attend a college of my preference, and I was not denied a choice because of my race, as my parents had been in the not-so-distant past.

The bitterness they must have felt, the resentment that being forced to endure segregation and Jim Crow, and having to choose between Southern and Grambling because those were their only choices must have subsided, if only for a moment, that day.

Which brings me to September 2008. By way of 1974.

Recently, Northwestern State lined up to face another historically black institution, Grambling State University. It was the first time the schools had faced one another in football since 1974, when the two schools broke the in-state “color barrier” and an HBCU (historically black college/university) faced off against a PWI (predominately white institution). Grambling came out on top that day, 14-13, but the memories of that game continue to figure meaningfully in the lives of all who attended and competed on that day. It was a bold and defiant statement, all at once denouncing the ignorance of racism and segregation, celebrating the excellence of Louisiana football, and synergizing the rich traditions of both institutions.

For many reasons, the primary one being a long standing Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) requirement (since discontinued) that all member institutions play each other each season, we had to wait 34 years for part two. This scheduling requirement left little room on Grambling’s schedule to play out-of-conference teams, and combined with NSU’s and GSU’s need to play “money games” in the pre-season, the stars took a few years to align. Finally, they did, and NSU and GSU alums all over the Ark-La-Tex are energized about it.

I don’t know a whole lot of folks who were happier than I am about the development, but the reason has very little to do with football. It has much more to do with knowing that a new generation of GSU and NSU parents would share the same experience as mine did.

With a two-year contract in tow, we can look forward to another contest in 2009 and perhaps, together, we can look toward a time when my generation watches the next one play ball and struggles to remember the unnecessary pain and suffering our parents endured, replacing their pain and sacrifice with joy and fulfillment.

nota bene: in the September 10, 2008 issue of the Alexandria Town Talk, Grambling Head Coach Rod Broadway stated, with reference to the recent GSU v. NSU matchup: "I didn't have much to do with the planning of this one […] I'd rather play Hampton, South Carolina State or someone like that […] somebody in black college football.” Such a regrettable comment perhaps might have been the fashion in the 1970’s, but should certainly not pass as acceptable in the 21st century. Such a call for resegregation is not only unnecessarily insular and pernicious as a comment, but contemptuous if realized, particularly if a critical mass of white head football coaches (who run the show at all but five of the non-HBCU Division I football programs) follow suit. The great tradition of black college football is a paragon of black culture and should be shared with the world at every opportunity.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Where is the Hate?: The Indescribable (Media) Story of Brett Favre

" Peace and I'm out like whut!?!"

"Sike ya mind, bitches!"

Every summer, the story is the same, and the only thing that changes is the pieces on the chess game.

An NFL star is holding out of camp. He wants more money. He wants a better contract. He wants to play for a winning team.

And the sports media, in universal agreement with tens of thousands of fans in chat rooms and comment pages, is the same: They need to shut up and play and appreciate how truly rare their opportunity is to play professional sport and earn an exorbitant salary.

In past years, it was Terrell Owens, who is unfortunately spoken of more for his off the field antics (his fictional affair with Nicolette Sheridan on MNF, the Drew Rosenberg fiasco), claiming that as the best wide receiver in the league, he should be the highest paid receiver in the league. He was labeled a “four year-old … multimillionaire monster.[1]” And this off-season, it was Chad Johnson, claiming that he wanted to be traded from the Bengals to a team with fewer off the field distractions (ok, when I saw a blonde-headed Ocho Cinco say this on ESPN, it instantly ranked among the most absurd things I’d ever witnessed). He has alternately been accused of being “selfish” and “a disruption” and that the Benglas would be “better off without him.[2]” Then last year it was #1 draft pick Jamarcus Russell, who was called “his own worst enemy[3]” after waiting until he had the perfect contract placed in front of him before signing it.

The long and short of it is that when these men behaved badly, they were met with derision and scorn for their actions by the sports media, reviled as arrogant millionaires who snubbed their noses at the values of the working class fans who ‘pay their salaries.’ I scare quote that remark because it could not be further from the truth -- corporate sponsors and television contracts pay their salaries … but scorn and derision and unequivocal vitriol was the response.

And then there was Brett Favre.

For a second consecutive season, Brett Favre retired tearfully months after he took the last snaps of the season, placing the future of his team -- The Green Bay Packers -- at risk and holding the hearts of fans hostage unnecessarily for months. And for a second consecutive year, he has changed his mind and decided that he wants to play again. This is his prerogative. And it paid off for the Packers last year as he led them on an unlikely playoff run and played better, arguably, than he had when he was five years younger. However, this season, between the length of time it took him to make a decision, the manner in which he histrionically placed himself at the center of attention (its obvious he could not live without this attention), threw his team under the bus, and placed a pallor over the season of individuals on his now former team, he is deserving of the scorn of fans and pundits alike.

Examples of that scorn?

On July 3rd, Mike Vandermause of the Green Bay Press Gazette[4] suggested that Favre should be allowed back by the Packers and given the opportunity to compete for a starting position. After he retired. After he was openly critical of The Packers’ management, and two weeks’ later blasted their actions (re: not letting him return) as a threat to their own legacy[5].

On July 7th, Sports Illustrated’s Peter King remarked that Favre is simply ‘doing what his body tells him to do[6].’ Because he is following his heart, all of his actions are excusable.

On August 7th’s “Mike and Mike in the Morning,” where Mike Golic and Mike Greenberg condemn any professional athlete who toes the line, they repeatedly sought justification for Favre’s behavior. And these guys are the type that would have told John Carlos and Tommie Smith to put their fists down and place them over their hearts like good Americans. They repeatedly excused Favre’s actions, and Greenberg even played George Benson’s rendition of “On Broadway” in the background, showing his excitement over Favre’s impending arrival in New York.

On August 10th ESPN.com reports that Brett Favre is ‘one of the guys’ because he runs punishment laps when he makes mistakes in practice with the Jets. Wow. Does he also put on his practice pants one leg at a time? Buckle his helmet on both sides? Next they’ll be telling us how he lets his teammates touch the hem of his jersey …

It goes on. And though there has been equal amounts praise and condemnation for Favre’s actions, that any member of the press would come to his defense, when in the past, similar actions were considered indefensible, is peculiar, and in fact, quite upsetting to me. As someone who places a premium on endeavoring to understand one’s actions before judging him, I typically find pundits who are quick to censure distasteful and largely useless.

And though I don’t go as far as calling for the sports media to increase its criticism of Favre, I do call into question why they have shown a propensity for rushing to judgment in past cases and why there is so much compassion shown for Favre when compassion was scarce in other instances. Throw out the fact that he is a first ballot hall of famer and hero to football fans across the nation … his desire to call attention to himself, throw his teammates and management under the bus, place a pallor over his successors and even the whole team in Green Bay, and start off the 08-09 year in such a negative way is condemnable whether you like the guy or not.

And an unbiased media, above all else, should be able to put aside its personal feelings and report the facts and allow us to make our own decisions.
[1] Johnathan David Morris, “In Defense of Terrell Owens.” http://www.renewamerica.us/columns/morris/051115.
[2] Joe Kay, “Chad Johnson bristles at selfish label, says he won't change to satisfy critics.” http://www.usatoday.com/sports/football/2007-10-22-2921580273_x.htm.
[3] Omar Dyer, “Will Jamarcus Russell Ever Play in the NFL?” http://bleacherreport.com/articles/1897-will-jamarcus-russell-ever-play-in-the-nfl.
[4] Mike Vandermause. “Packers cant find polite way to keep Favre away.” http://www.usatoday.com/sports/football/nfl/packers/2008-07-03-favre-column_N.htm.
[5] Interview. As told to Fox News on July 16th. http://www.usatoday.com/sports/football/nfl/packers/2008-07-15-favre-update_N.htm.
[6] Peter King “Favre saga far from over.” http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2008/writers/peter_king/07/07/favre/index.html.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

"My Life, the Beer Commercial"

People seldom understand events in all their complexity. Yet most human beings have a desire to understand some of the things that happen around them and to them. The way they come to some understanding is by participating in fantasy themes in which an explanation for events is acted out by the personae in the dramas.
-- Richard Cherwitz, "Rhetoric as a Way of Knowing"

Fantasy theme analysis, if it were to be nutshelled, would refer to the ways in which we can examine messages in order to elucidate the rhetorical effects of stories and metaphors on our beliefs and actions. It is often used to analyze political speeches and advertisements, and the ways in which cleverly crafted messages can stir up and elicit emotional responses which feel perfectly rational to us when we insert ourselves into the unfolding fantasies in these messages. When Bormann developed fantasy theme analysis while researching small group communication, he paid close attention to the ways that stories chained or failed to chain out ... or ... the ways in which some fantasy themes resonated and others petered out.

As someone who prides himself on being acutely aware of the ways that corporations and politicians (and even corporate politicians) weave messages in order to compel my action (buying their products, casting my vote, buying my vote), I tend to quite ably determine* even the finest lines between their fantasies and my material existence. This comes in quite handy when I feel the need to call "bullshit," which I often do, whether or not that bullshit comes from a liberal or a neocon, a democrat or a republican, wal-mart or trader joe's, Time Magazine or High Times Magazine.

One of the themes that is perennially present in many forms of public discourse is the theme of manliness. Under Armor commercials feature chiseled Adonai, liquor commercials feature well-built, fashionably dressed men, stylishly accoutred for women-killing (or gay men-killing, if that's how they get down). Political speeches are ripe with uber-masculine messaging -- "you are either with us or against us" -- and to boot, it is often of the "damsel in distress" variety -- "we must protect our country" "we must protect the sanctity of marriage" "we must save out nation from moral decay" "we must protect that woman -- Miss Lewinsky -- from stained blue dresses."

Among my favorite commercials of late is the Milwaukee's Best Light commercials, which often feature men behaving badly ... not gambling, liquor swilling, and hootin and hollerin behaving badly, but behaving badly as in acting out of accordance with the dictates of manly manliness.

Three men are peeking under the hood of their car. No wait. Men don't "peek." Three men are looking, with stern intensity, under the hood of the car. And its a female car. So its like they're looking under her dress at her goods. Yeah. Looks good under there, doesn't it boys? Wonder if she minds if I touch her there ...

Somewhere, ee cummings is givin me mad props (see: "she being Brand" http://www-scf.usc.edu/~thier/ee/#brand)

Anyhow, as they look closely, trying to diagnose the problem like the men that they are so that they can gallop over and get their tools and get nice and greasy together ...

sorry ...

You look closely and realize that one of the men has gotten grease under his nails. He exclaims, "Jee willikers, and I just got these done!" He looks at the other two men and says "Oh, like you wouldn't be pissed if Mai-Ling squeezed you in yesterday at the last minute only to get icky car grease under your nails. Sillies!"

And then out of the sky, a 2 story high can of Milwaukee's Best Light drops from the sky onto his head and crushes him to death because a) he isn't being a man, so the only way to restore his manliness is to crush a beer can onto his head like Ogre from "Revenge of the Nerds" (http://www.luminomagazine.com/mw/content/view/347/4) and b) men don't like conversation, so the only way out of this uncomfortable situation is death.

See? The theme immediately falls dead with me (or fails to "chain out," in Bormann's terms) and becomes subject to my scorn and cynicism.

Or does it?

Yesterday while walking to work, a young man speedwalked by me, and honestly, it was a Milwaukee's Best Light commercial begging to happen. He wore cutoff shorts -- no shite -- with animal prints on them. The shorts were teal green and the little animals, which appeared to be dinosaurs, were pink. He walked with a small tote in one hand, and was talking into a pink RAZR cell phone. He also had a fanny pack and what appeared to be -- again, no shite -- shaved legs. His gait I could only describe as that of a confident young Naomi Klein strolling into an interview with a Janjaweed.

Now I am not one to judge ... sorry ... wiping tears from my own eyes after laughing at my own incredulity ... but I remember desperately wanting some sanction to befall this fellow as he sauntered past me. And this is highly unlike me, or so I thought, because in my own belief system I am actually quite comfortable with a wide array of masculine and feminine expression and comportment, but that ole' coonass in me kicked in when this guy passed by and I could actually hear myself in my own head, the voice sounding like Charlie Murphy's, saying "Yo somebody should stomp this fool."

And then, like a Milwaukee's Best Light can out of the sky, an elderly fellow sitting at the bus stop looked up, saw the dude walking by, and -- no shite -- exclaimed "Hey there, Nancy! Heh heh ... NAN-CEE!"

And I completely rethought my resentment of the commercial. After all, the two-story beer can is a metaphor for quasi drunken, hyper-masculine, sophomoric rejection of borderline heteronormative masculine expression in a society that often, in draconic and manichean ways, refuses to accept such marginal expression.

Or when academics get all faggy and polysyllabic.

It tells us more about the one doing the criticizing than the criticizee, to be sure. And for the duration of my 15:45 walk, I reflected on the ways which I may or have, subconsciously or otherwise, judged or discriminated against individuals whose gender difference troubles my own sensibilities. And troubles them so much that I wish beer cans would fall out of the sky and crush people.

I figured better of myself in the end. I resented this guy not because this was some authentic expression of his own gendered and sexual self but because he was a frat boy with wack fashion sense who needed to shower and shave after rolling out of the ditch that morning (ok, so I listened to his phone conversation) and return the pink RAZR and tote to his girlfriend, who left them at his place the night before.

But in the end, I think my desire to see two-ton beer cans fall out of the sky and crush frat boys -- although completely unrelated to this blog -- is worth further reflection on my part, and that I will never view Milwaukee's Best Light commercials the same ever again.

Of course, I will also never drink Milwaukee's Best Light beer, which tastes like Bud Light mixed with Novocaine, distilled water, baking soda, and twice being held back in the 11th grade.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Shove Your (Album) Where it _Do_ Shine: Santi is not R and B

Santi's sound, unlike her Converse ad, is definitely not paper thin ...

Peep Santogold here and here

Santogold is slamming critics who are calling her an emcee and retailers who are putting her album in the R&B and Hip-Hop sections. She isn't without merit.

Whats not disputable is how hot this album is. It is definitely the truth. Not like "I did not have sexual relations with that woman" truth. Or "If I Did It" truth. More like the truth Tom Cruise couldnt handle in "A Few Good Men."

On "Creator," on a synthesize laden beat reminiscent of a M.I.A. and Lil John collaboration, Santo spits beautifully. And on a couple of other tracks, like the dub awesome "You'll Find a Way" she does the rap/chant deal real smoothly, deftly moving between singing, chanting, and harmonizing over a haunting (like georgia anne muldrow haunting) chorus. But for the most part, these tracks are like if Cyndi Lauper got jungle fever. Or if Elastica had Tina Turner and MC Lyte as lead singers. She's coming to a Budweiser commercial near you (see "Lights Out")... and she sounds more like Corinne Bailey Rae doing guest vocals with The Breeders than Trina guesting with Destiny's Child.

Put her in the Rock/Pop section already, Sam Goody. And put her in rotation, MTV.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Canadian Football (That's the catchy title)

Another import (pun intended) from "Sacred Cattle." In honor of the Roughriders going 5-0, which evidently matters.

Spent the weekend up in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada with the in-laws and among other things took in some Grey Cup pre-game festivities and fulfilled a childhood dream of attending the 94th Annual Grey Cup, pitting the British Columbia Lions and the Montreal Alouettes (that's Mawhn-dray-awl Ah-loo-ett, styoopid ah-mare-ee-can!), which the BC Lions won, 25-14.
So here are some things I learned about Canadian Football, in no particular order or significance (in honor of the Canadian brand of football, which to my sensibility plays out in no particular order nor is it of much significance to most Americans):
1) For pre-game prep, we drank 'Kokanee.' Not 'Kokane,' as Cornrow Wallace put it, which consists of crack, baking powder, egg, and cinnamon, but "Kokanee." "Kokanee" in a can http://www.kokaneebeer.com/ does not taste like RedBalls, nor will you be able to lift a transit bus after consuming one, but it is quite passable. It's basically Bud Light. Wouldn't go so far as to call it "Glacier Fresh," but the folks in Creston, B.C. have something to be proud of as they have earned a discerning fan. Sure beats "Pilsner," which tastes like the foot.
As far as the matchup is concerned, an "Alouette" is a lark. Here is the fearless mascot in action: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dOo5W3aShFU. Its Aw-inspiring. As in "Aww, their mascot is a doofus bird. Let's have a Pilsner, eh?"

2) Oh, and the people behind us "Would rather be Bombers than effin Riders fans." Which is sung in the tune of "Dixie," which leads me to my next offering …

3) A band at the pre-game festivities, actually played "Sweet Home Man-i-toba." Evidently there are rednecks north of the Mason-Dixon. You'll pardon me if I was uncomfortable hanging out with these people … or even mentioning 'hanging' anywhere around them.

4) On to the rest of the league. Winnipeg's mascot, by the way, is the "Blue Bomber." Read my description first, then click the link … basically a human-sized crow wearing Kool Moe Dee's shades http://www.bluebombers.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=50&Itemid=70

5) There is, evidently, a vast difference between a RoughRider and a Rough Rider. From what I hear, the vast difference is that Ottawa lacks an intact vas deferens. This of course, coming from people whose mascot is "Gainer the Gopher." A roughriding gopher. I gotta say it … Canadian Football, in one word … Cute. In two words? Terminally cute. You just wanna hug Canadian Football, pat it on its head or on the ass and say "Good try, Chum. Now, let's have an Elsinore. Coo-Coo-Coo Coo Coo-Coo-Coo" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A3DYbE44OIE

6) A "Ti-Cat" is not that sadistic game you played when you were a kid, when you tied up two cats by their tails, affixed a Roman candle, and threw both of them off of the Mermentau Bridge in Mermentau, Louisiana, 20 miles west of Will's home town of Crowley, Louisiana. Sick bastard. (They are the 4-14 Hamilton TigerCats, whose fullback Julian Radlein looks like Ziggy Marley http://www.ticat.ca/).

7) Not in the CFL, but worth mentioning, are the University of Ottawa Gee-Gees. Yeah. Gee-Gees. You can tell by the way they use their walk … Lloyd Banks and 50-Cent are their mascots. It used to be Ricky Ross and Iceberg Slim, but they are now O Gee-Gees.

8) The CFL field is substantially different from an NFL or NCAA one. For one, they are 130 yards long with 20 yard end zones. And over 75 yards wide, compared to 57 for the NFL/NCAA. Also, goal posts are at the front of the end zone, not the back. And finally, tie games are settled by a slapping contest between the head cheerleaders. Here is the classic 1998 Grey Cup, decided in an unprecedented 20 overtimes http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=75YJecAzrRA.

9) And finally, I need a witch's tit to compare temps, but I'm pretty sure Winnipeg was colder.

10) And finally, as are all American football games of import, this was an opportunity for the Canadian Armed Forces to show off their prowess in a statement of national pride, heritage, tradition, and sovereignty. Yeah. The fly-over, made by a McDonnell Douglas F-15 A (american-made, and out of service in the American armed forces since like, I dont know, Korea?) was about a minute late. This after the "Snowbirds" were about two minutes late. Don't know about you, but I hope these guys don't get to use grenades ... The Canadian Armed Forces in two words? Also cute.

Well that's all for now. In honor of Canadian multiculturalism, I will sign off bilingually:

C'est tout, mes amis. Et toujours, je te veux maintenant, babee, sur la planchee, s'il te plait!

"Where's my Money?" MacFarlane on Women and Tenure

"Mmm, that's good OJ ..."

What follows is Sokalian satire fit for the pages of AndyBorowitz.com: Indulge yourselves, bitches:

You guys ever see the Family Guy bit where Stewie breaks to OJ glass over Brian's head and beats the dog (pun intended) out of him for like 5 painful minutes while screaming "Where's my money, man?"

Stewie punches and kicks Brian 13 times, beats him with a towel rod six times, then slams his head in the toilet twice after bashing him in the face with an orange juice glass. 1-13-2-6.
Then, Stewie kicks him down the stairs, hits him 13 times with a golf club, shoots him twice, then pistol whips him six times. 1-13-2-6.

Macfarlane is a nutty guy, probably both ADD and OCD to boot, but I bet there's some kinda interesting secret here. My best guess is that the 1-13-2-6 is a date - January 13, 1926. Which is the birthday of? You guessed it, Carolyn Gold Heilbrun. Most notable for authoring Lady Ottoline's Album, but also known for penning a series of fictional, semi-biographical criticisms of her life in the academy (she was an Ivy league professor for many years). Her most famous of this sort is Death in a Tenured Position.

So perhaps what MacFarlane is telling us is that women in the academy who seek tenure are often denied it by men in power; their wishes and desires for reasonable compensation and respect for the work their teaching and research often deferred, postponed, and overlooked by the tenure process. And that if they continue to wait patiently for their due without demanding it, they are likely to die before they are given the respect they deserve.

In this instance, Brian, the Ivy league educated aesthete of the family, denies Stewie the respect he deserves. He has tenure over Stewie (Brian has been in the family 6-7 years, Stewie is only in his second year) and Stewie is a minority in the family, as no one ever hears his voice (Meg is also a minority, and she is so deluded by her experiences in this family that she later becomes a man named "Ron" in "Family Guy Presents Stewie: The Untold Story").

Perhaps Macfarlane is both advising women in the academy and praising those who have come before them ... to destroy the system that oppresses them and persistently dog the individuals and departments who have denied them what they have earned until they relent.
They work hard for the money. Run that before they break a towel rod across your head. Hell hath no fury ...

Or maybe its not January 13, 1926, but January 13, 1962 and Macfarlane is signifying on a London Daily Mirror article that ran on the same day, featuring a story entitled "Death of a Hero," about a dog that tried to rescue a human from a burning building. Clearly, that's why Stewie inexplicably sets Brian on fire at the end.

Either way. I like the first one better.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

wereallnumber1 #10: the best blues players

Oh Brother(s) Where Art Thou? or, "The Marshmallow Blues "

Jonny Lang, world's greatest bluesman

Muddy Waters ... nevahurdovum.

Was reading on The Rev. Keith A. Gordon's blog (of Devil Music Dot Com fame) about white bluesmen and got to thinking about my own experiences as an avid hobbyist bluesman. For those of you who don't know, I am an avid jazz and blues instrumentalist, and I play a number of string instruments, primarily bass and guitar, and I write blues songs. If it matters to you, and I suspect it does, I fashion myself after the Kings (Freddie and Albert), though I throw in a little Burrell and Montgomery to keep the pack guessing, but all in all, I would characterize myself as a contemporary blueshound with an ear to traditional jazz and blues influences. One of my favorite things to do when I have spare time is jam along with friends – you know, plug in, lay out a few templates, conjure up some spirits (as well as consume some spirits) and practice a little alchemy.

That was my plan on one of my last evenings in Tucson, Arizona.

So that evening, I convened with a couple of folks that I've had the good fortune to meet over my time there through a colleague of mine in my graduate department. Ed and Randy are a couple of real nice guys who all share with me a love of music and a kind of culturism associated with music that I find quite genuine and warm. Ed is a natural resources professor at the U. who is originally from Port Arthur, Texas and cites as his musical influences folks like Memphis Slim and Howlin' Wolf. His son is also a talented musician who plays keys for Jo Dee Messina (not sure who she is, but I'm sure she's lovely). Randy plays for a few area bands, a mixture of classic rock, modern rock, and funk outfits, and just plain out can bang the skins (that's play the drums, perverts). Our previous get-togethers have been nice, playing old jazz and blues records on the stereo, drinking a few beers, schooling Randy (who is from Minnesota) about what it was like growin' up in the South, and best of all, playing some good ole fashioned blues music.

Randy's up for anything. Ed likes blues-rock – a little Fleetwood Mac, some Beatles, Rolling Stones, etc., and also really digs Albert King, Dr. John, and Bo Diddley. And he is also a musical sponge that enjoys taking in the musical interests of others ... take for example, a couple of months back, he wanted to play "Honey Hush" by Foghat (which is really a cover of a song originally done by Big Joe Turner). Good stuff. In exchange, I taught him "I Ain't Drunk" by Albert Collins. Then we settled into a groove and played "Cold Shot" by Stevie Ray Vaughan. Nice thematic links (nagging women, obstinate men) and interesting chord dynamics and lead pattern opportunities. Then we had a beer and listened to a Blind Lemon Jefferson song that Ed remembered from his childhood. All good stuff.

Which takes us to my final night playing with those guys. Ed and Randy invited a couple of guys over who are "blues music enthusiasts" and 30 year vets of playing the bar scene here in Tucson. They seemed like affable enough guys ... though, one was overdressed, had already had too much to drink by 7 pm, and had a trophy wife to cheer for him as he played harp. The other guy looked both dazed and confused, and among other things, told us a story about a tractor he'd bought recently. Not to use on his farm mind you. For decoration. Yeah.

Anyhow, claiming to love "blues music," they proceeded to launch into a version of "All Along the Watchtower" that was so painfully bad I penned an apology letter to the Hendrix family in my head on the way home. And then an Elvis song. ELVIS! I walked out of the room at that point, mumbling something like "my mother is calling me ... over here ... I gotta ... yeah." And then Johnny Cash. And then Led Zeppelin. I wanted to tear the A string off of my guitar and make it into a noose by this point.

We finished the evening with a version of "Crosscut Saw" that was passable, but one of the jackasses was pounding the guitar so hard you could barely hear the rhythm guitar I was laying down ("Crosscut ..." has a rumba-influenced lead, so the guitar is quieter). Afterwards, they went on and on about how "Crosscut ..." was one of SRV's best songs. After repeating that it was an Albert King song twenty times to no avail, I packed up and prepared to call it a night.

So here's my take on it. First of all, when someone says "blues" and "Tucson" in the same breath, be forewarned, it ain't gonna be pretty. And I think it's because there's so few black people here to tell white folks any better. They been playing "blues" in a vacuum here for so long with few outside influences that virtually anything passes for blues (I remember going to Sakura a few years back for "live blues" and getting a "Pink Floyd" cover band). In fact, our local blues band of import, the "Bad News Blues Band," plays ... no shit ... James Brown and Temptations songs. Um. James Brown and Temptations were a lot of things ... blues ain't one of em (well, maybe James on "This is a Man's World," but that about it).

Fact of the matter is, any white bluesman or blueswoman of any import cites black influences. For Clapton, it was Freddie King. For LedZep it was the entire state of Mississippi, evidently (delta blues). For Elvis it was Wolf and Waters (though he never sounded a bit like either with that corny-assed "uh-huh" ... and by the way, I'm like Chuck D in this bitch ... f**k Elvis and John Wayne!!!). So white blues here in Tucson, sans black influences, is just a poor facsimile, and that, more than red beans and hamhocks, block parties and penny candies, b-ballin in the park and the MLK center after dark, made me miss black people more than ever.

Now don't go flyin' off the deep end here and call me a "reverse racist" (for a couple of reasons, primarily, because there is no such thing as "reverse racism," numbnuts, it either is or is not racism ... "reverse racism" is what ... a hug? A mortgage at a reasonable interest rate? Not getting shot 50 times by plainclothes cops?). After all, some of my best friends are white (hee hee, that really is fun to say).

It's just that when we borrow y'all's music, we make it better. That's why so many white musicians have black producers to do remixes. You watch. Britney will be in a studio with the Neptunes in like negative 2 weeks to get that Federline filth off her ass (called it!). And Pharrell will probably let Snoop and Hugo hit, too. Same thing happened to Mariah back in the day. Just you wait. When Hannah Montana turn 18, I guarantee you T-Pain gonna be slappin her ass in a video all the way to #1 on the R&B charts. For better or for worse. Actually for worse.

But these cats I played with in Tucson borrowed blues music and did her dirty. I felt like Common penning "I Used to Love Her" last night as these white dudes did to blues music what people named Bubba do to white-collar criminals in federal joints.

And thats why I couldn't wait to get back to Louisiana, man. Where people know how to put a hock in the greens, cold milk on cornbread, "Electric Slide" on at a wedding, and a domino on a gotdamm folding table.

And where they know that Elvis ain't the effin blues.

In all seriousness ... RIP Sean Costello. You was down, IMHO.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

"Going to Colledge, or, Rhetoric gets ESPN Props ... Sorta "

"This d-end is pwning me. Using nommo, I am going to speak will to power and transform this into a reality where I have the upper hand. Or I am going to illegally cut block him ... whatev ..."

An import from my former blog, "Sacred Cattle."

This morning on ESPN's "The Mayne Event" -- a fantastic satirical segment, narrated by reporter Kenny Mayne, which intersects folly and barbarity in professional football in a way that few can -- Daryn Colledge, a guard for the Green Bay Packers, was featured. Colledge, a 6'4", 299 guard from Boise State U. remarked on his teammates' misperceptions of him, stemming from the fact that he is from the North Pole (ok, a North Pole, the one in Alaska) and that his last name is "Colledge." His teammates, of course, assumed that he loves santa claus and that he loves higher education.

Like Charlie Murphy say ... "Wrong!" And in one moment, the two of the loves of my life -- Rhetoric and Athletics -- intersected briefly, if unfortunately, as Colledge disspelled the myth about his love for higher learnin'. And I quote:

"I hated college. What the hell does theory of rhetoric have to do with me? I block people for a living."

Drs. Estrem and Peele (BSU's Writing Program coordinators) must be proud.

What made it worse is that this segment followed one about LaDanian Tomlinson, where they did a feature on how he "sets up blocks," or affects postures, while running, that convince defenders to take angles against him that they believe will be effective, but ultimately are not. To the point that they have been wrong an NFL record 31 times this year. This is not simply athleticism, as there are many people in the world who are better athletes than Tomlinson. His success this year has been because he has a psychological edge over his competitors, as well, and one that is created by how he uses his body to persuade defenders that they have a shot at hime when they really don't.

This of course hearkens back to scenes described by Deb Hawhee in Minding the Body, (and to a lesser extent Gardner's work on multiple intelligence theory, kinesthetic intelligence being one that he profiles) where, in ancient Greece, rhetoric and athletics were taught in the same spaces. The gymnasium was a place not only for athletic training, but a place for engaging in social and intellectual pursuits (if you could imagine teaching your writing class in the McKale Center while Lute Olson clamored for better defense in the background).

Colledge has a point, though I still resent the remark ... as well as his implied characterization that blocking doesn't involve thinking, and that football is essentially an anti-intellectual enterprise. Football, of course, is not essentially rhetorical ... when you scoop a backside defensive lineman, reach an end on outside zone, or pull and kick out an end on a G-block, you're not seeking out the available means of persuasion in that given situation. And this is no time to elocute.

But there is a rhetorical element. Great offensive linemen play mind games. And they are often attempting to persuade in non-verbal and symbolic ways. Like pulling both guards on an "Influence Trap" play ... where one guard pulls and blocks no one, simply to set the linebackers' feet in stone as the runningback cuts back. Or on a 3-step drop when the tackle sets like a pass play, convincing the end to rush up the field and then cutting out the end's legs at the last second. Or one of any number of plays where you are required to affect certain postures or moves in order to "fool" the defense into believing you are up to something else. Hell, something as simple as committing to running the ball on first down is rhetorical. It sends the message -- we will not be dominated or overpowered up front and you will respect this part of our game or else it will be your demise.

I know Colledge was being silly for the purposes of the segment. But it gave me some food for thought as rhetoric rose and fall in the public spotlight in about the time it would take Colledge to miss an unrhetorical block and get Favre sacked.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Euphemisms Gone Wild

Smilin' Bob

The "Backdoor Man" himself, Howlin' Wolf, enjoying a smoke after hittin Smilin' Susie

Perhaps its because I am now back in the Bible Belt and that's the way TV rolls down here, or perhaps it is because the FCC has become so fascistic an organization (due to the Parents Television Council's uber-powerful lobby) that folks are far beyond Carlin's "Seven Dirty Words" http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seven_dirty_words and have moved on to any word that might sound like or be related to or might evoke an image of any of the aforementioned seven words.

And yet Dick Armey is still on the loose http://www.freedomworks.org/armey/.

But I saw a television commercial last evening so utterly ridiculous that I fear we are but mere decades away from previously thought incoherent mumbles, clicks, and finger snaps as words are phased out of existence. For fear that every utterance will offend the person next to you.

Mutually assured linguistic destruction. Stick with me here, men and womyn.

So I saw this commercial last night about "male enhancement." A euphemism that entered our language due to products like Viagra, Levitra and Cialis who want to market their products in prime time and not incur $300,000 fines every time their commercials aired. A truly inelegant and errant euphemism, if I've ever heard one. Seriously, twenty years ago, if someone mentioned male enhancement, wouldnt you think it meant something else? Like maybe it would help you grow a cool, manly, macho beard . Or something to help you grow big, burly muscles. Or maybe grow long, thick locks of hair that the ladies love.

You get the point. Hopefully.

But we all know now that male enhancement is a euphemism for making your man stick more wooden. Um. Making your bologna meatier. No. Making your nightstick stiff enough to beat minorities for fun ...

Dammit. Its contagious.

This commercial the other night literally used the words "that certain part of the male body" like 13 times. You know, its male enhancement for "that certain part of the male body." Hey, numbnuts. We know that youre talking about his willie. They had doctors (you know, people who play them on TV) saying that their product enhanced "that certain part of the male body."

C'mon. Say "make your penis bigger." Or "engorge your male genitals with blood by vasodilation." Or "help you feel more manly in a way that women really don't care about as much as you think ... I mean seriously, how about you work on your personality, douche?" Either of those would work.

But a doctor trying to sell me on enhancing that "certain part of the male body" makes me feel like I am a carbuncular, wheezing 12 year old getting the sex talk from "Charly" in Flowers from Algernon (translation? A Dee-de-dee).

And who truly loses out here? Foreigners. Can you imagine? This is gotta be getting lost in translation pretty badly. So here are the ten "certain parts of the male body" and how this idiotic product would make them more manly. So these people can go and have coitus while all alone.
Hey, I like euphemisms, too.

10. Feet - product will increase the size of your feet by 50%. Cuz you know what they say about guys with big feet? Mostly stop tripping over your own feet, you clumsy f**k.

9. Hair - product will increase the size of your hair three fold. Your fade will tight like Gary Coleman's.

8. Lips - You'll look like Steve Tyler in a month's time. Manly like M. Night Shymalan hides plots.

7. Hands - Big hands, you know you're the one. Next time you smack that ass, dislocate her hip.

6. Knuckles - because nothing says manly like systemic juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. Or really big red knuckles.

Serious how could you possibly get that reference?

5. Knees - not funny. I have gigantic knee caps. Seriously. Chicks dont dig that. F**k that.

4. Forehead - Especially when it glistens a little bit from your hair product, like you belong in an early 90's R&B music video.

3. Soleus - Most jackasses go for the bicep curls and the tricep pulldowns. A ripped soleus is like the new 6 pack abs.

2. Eyes - product will make your shit look like Bernie Mac's. You'll always look like you got Graves disease. Ladies love it because you always get the cartoon big eyes when you see them, and they think you checkin em out and s%$t.

1. Brain - dude that's so gay. Women dont like big brains. Dumbass. Now move while I put this malleable rod in my c**k. Because thats what chicks dig, you dumbass.

Now move, I'm gon drink this brew, smash the can on my head, smear myself head to toe in oil and then wrestle another man in a manner that weds us in the customs of many Asian countries.
Awright later y'all. I'm gonna go read a book and enhance the size of a certain part of my male body. Hasta.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

wereallnumberone #9: white pimps got all the game

Its Hard out here for a (White) Pimp.

In my last days as a judicial officer at the University of Arizona, I had one of those "This- completely- horrifies- me- and- yet- the- feeling- that- pervades- my- being- is- not- anger- or- disgust- because- seriously-, I- don't- expect- a- whole- lot- more- from- these- bastards- I- really- don't" moments that have, unfortunately, typified the case load I'd managed in the Dean of Students Office for just over two years.

One evening, a young African-American female was invited to a party and wished to file a complaint based on events which unfolded thereupon. The theme of the party was a "Black Party." Bless her heart, she assumed this meant that everyone would wear black.

Well. Close.

Sidebar: Arizona is an effed up state when it comes to race relations and racism. It makes Alabama look like Vermont. I say Vermont because I am just foolish enough to believe that Vermont does not have racism. Mostly because there aren't races there (just the one – really white). And because Montpelier (http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&lr=&rlz=1T4TSHB_en___US204&q=%22montpelier+is+for+lovers%22) just seems like it would be a friendly place with the syrup and leaves changing and what not. Wait. That was the sidebar's sidebar.


Ok, back to Arizona's effed up race relations. Y'all know Az. was like the last place on earth to have a Martin Luther King Day? I think we barely beat like Rhode Island. And they have a Brown University. South Africa had a MLK Day before Arizona did. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:DurbanSign1989.jpg

Anyway, Public Enemy even made a song about Arizona's embedded institutional racism. "By the Time I get to Arizona." see http://youtube.com/watch?v=TMAfKo65nng for a half-assed mashup ... all I could find). It was awesome. They killed the governor in that video. White folk went crazy. Black folks … didn't notice. Not our fault. Didn't see that video because Hammer was blowing up at the time.

Anyhow, people out here vehemently resisted MLK day's inception back in the day. C'mon people. It's a government holiday. Paid vacation. Chris Rock was right … its not like you have to do black s&%t on MLK day. Sit your ass at home and let us march. Who cares?

And Arizona only has one MLK Building. One. In the entire effin state. Tucson has no MLK Blvd. Which is good. Too few black people here in town for us to be killin' each other on MLK Street like every other city in the country. Ever wonder if like Des Moines has an MLK Blvd.? And if its gangsta as hell on that one street? While you think about Des Moines Iowa's gangsta, enjoy this street poem by DJ Quik: http://www.tsrocks.com/d/dj_quik_texts/just_like_compton.html As I am fond of saying, "its like poetry."

Ok, back to the Black Party. So it was a "Black Party" where you showed up as a black person. At first, I thought the young black woman was filing the complaint because she did not win "Best Costume." Apparently, her complaint was due to the fact that dozens of white folk showed up at this party dressed as gangstas, hoods, hoes, pimps, and one showed up as a grape soda factory. Evidently racists can have notable senses of humor.

And immediately I thought why do people always jump to "gangsta" when they think of black people? I mean, Fitty and Cube do that shit in a studio. Capone did it on the streets. And he was white. And why we always gotta be hoes? If a hoe is someone that shows ass and turns ass up in the air for money, then chickenheads like Paris Hilton come to mind. And all of Hef's girls. And the Pussycat Dolls (and I don't think any of them is black. Or talented for that matter. I wish they'd "Button" their lips shut.).

And seriously … white pimps got all the game. White pimps (ok italian, but them n%^&&*s look white to me until they start talkin) got all the game in Vegas and Hollywood. We hustle and flow. Bob Barker? He aint gotta hustle for shit. He got a crazy number of females round him, and he pimp them out hard on TPIR http://www.conspiracyinc.com/PimpT-shirtSerialKiller.htm. Plus, with all the money he got invested in private prisons in Arizona and Cali, he is turning hundreds of not thousands of young men into somebody's hoe every year.

And what about Donald Trump? First off, he got a lot of pimp qualities. Funny hair, irrational love of gold, and he's always lying about his money (he declares bankruptcy once a lunar year). Second of all, he's such a good pimp that he can actually whore himself out. He never has to go chasing bitches for money… all he gotta do is shake his self down.

What about out in cartoon land? There's Hank Hill, who once punked out Alabaster Jones (reppin that OKC till he die!) often drives his dad's Cadillac car, and pimps out "Lady Propane" to all of Arlen, Texas. And Papa Smurf (k, so he aint white … he certainly aint black!). Ok, there's one girl in smurf land. And he's her dad. And it's a lot of smurfs in smurfland and I aint ever heard any mention of Smurfs being hermaphroditic or capable of reproducing without copulation. That means Smurfette has gotta be givin it up. And if she givin it up for free, she stoopid. And you know Papa Smurf has gotta be getting a cut of that.

Then you got Tony Mottola. Marries a fully clothed, demure, coy Mariah Carey (before: http://991.com/newgallery/Mariah-Carey-MTV-Unplugged-EP-318821.jpg and after http://img.timeinc.net/people/i/2006/startracks/060821/mariah_carey.jpg)and then turns her loose, half naked and collaborating with Ol Dirty Bastard. All the while recording for Sony (Mottola's record company). That dude turned Mariah out, then she started, as Paul Mooney put it, "humping anything black, including flipped over barstools" and he made the money off of it. Straight Pimpin.

Then there was the Barrett-Jackson car auctioneer I heard yesterday, who claimed that as a man's man, he was "very interested in Carol Shelby's Super Snake." Wow. I've heard it called a lot of different names. But never a "super snake." A gay pimp! That shit is revolutionary.

Oh, you say the "Super Snake" is a car?

And then there's female athletes sports' agents … which have us more interested in looking up Maria Sharapova's skirt than in looking up her service stats. And Jessica Simpson's dad, who I think is a Rev (which so qualifies him to be a pimp). Seriously, when he complimented Jessica's body on E! (he literally said "and what a rack … she's like a DD"), it qualified as the creepiest moment involving incest since Angelina Jolie frenched her brother at that awards show.

Then there's the world's greatest pimp. Hef. Think about it. He samples all the goods. He has a ho-house. You gotta pay for the T and A ($4.99 or so a copy). He never falls in love with any of his hoes. And his game is so tight, he has a staff of people to slap bitches for him (I read he has sensitive skin and his hands callous easily). Ok, the last part is made up. But you feel me.

I'm just sayin … Snoop Dogg, Iceberg Slim, Bishop Don Magic Juan, and their ilk are squirrels trying to get proverbial nuts compared to these cats. And I just think that the kids who threw this "Black Party" are giving us too much credit by lauding us as the world's best pimps. We're flattered, really.

Next time, if they wanna be accurate, they should really reflect who we are. Kings and Queens. Doctors and Lawyers. Astronauts and Chemists. Teachers and Policemen.

And Red Kool-Aid Factories. Last I checked, Grape Soda wasn't really poppin on the streets like it did back in the day, whereas that Red Kool-Aid is always talkin' bout somethin. Already.

So in conclusion, eff white people at U of Arizona who throw black parties. And because I'm sure they're somehow to blame for it, eff Sumner Redstone and Viacom.

I'll holla. Viva Trick Baby.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

wereallnumberone #8: "well, there you go" -- imus is public civility enemy #1

" Nappy Headed Ho" that I wish would kick Don Imus' ass
Don Imus, an Ass

First off, eff Don Imus and all pundits of his ilk. Eff Limbaugh. Eff O'Reilly. Eff Hannity. Eff Coulter. And more importantly, eff Fox, CBS, MSNBC, and all the other major news networks for continuing to hire, market, and promote these acrimonious assholes.

Second of all, eff Howard Cosell. So much for rule number one of the "Jockocracy." Athletics intersected politics, race, and sex (as it did with Jack Johnson, Billie King, Muhammad Ali, Tommy Smith and John Carlos, and Steve Nash, etc etc) and once again proved that sport - for reasons better or worse - is our culture's panacea. Sports culturists like myself, who believe that athletic competition, when done right, utopically emblematizes what our society might be like if it were more progressive, rejoice when media stalwarts like Don Imus get their asses handed to them by athletes. Female athletes. Black female athletes at that. Oh that shit was sugar sweet.

He called them hoes because thats a derogatory slur for black women. He intended to demean their humanity, sure. And their sex. But his primary intent was to belittle them for their ethnic appearance. And his assumption was that Tennessee evidently had respectable looking black women (i.e. light skinnded, like Candace Parker, who is like Beyonce with a crossover) but Rutgers' women were dark, unattractive, and therefore thuggish lookin. Or "hardcore hoes." Which was why him getting fired was all the more fulfilling. for too long, we been like "you cant call women hoes and get away with it." And right wing pundits do. They call all people of arab descent terrorists. They even call em ragheads. Imus called Gwen Ifill a cleaning lady. He called Bill Rhoden a token hire.

And for once, I was like "you cant call ____ a _____" and major corporations shared the sentiment. That shit makes you feel good inside, dont it. Except for Viacom. Eff Viacom.
Whats really effed up is that this dumbass was calling them nappy headed when they all wear their hair in permanents. That shit be easier to comb than white girls hair. Lye is a helluva drug.

Or chemical, as it were.

Anyhow, for all my nappy heads of the highest order (or, nappy headed h.o.'s), this is for y'all. And big ups to the Rutgers Scarlet Knights, State U. of New Jersey, and C. Vivian Stringer and her badassed women's basketball team. They are really taking wearing "Scarlet Letters" to a whole nuver leva.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The White Stripes and the Myth of Racism in Pro Sport

As much as I want to shake my fist in the manner of an octagenarian that was overcharged by 80 cents on his grocery bill, as much as I want to pout like those cute twins in "Big Daddy," as much as I want to fuss like that badassed black woman in the grocery store with the rollers in her hair when her kids grab yet another toy and say "I want that," I cannot do any of those things this morning without admitting first that I brought this upon myself. Its my own fault that I am so perturbed this morning.

So I will not be like the proverbial obese person blaming his weight on poor genetics midway through a third can of potted meat chased with cheez-whiz, capers, and pork rinds. I will not be like that slutty friend of yours who blames you for giving her tequila last night, when she know good and goddarn well that she was gonna let the squad run up in it even if she had been doing shots of O'Douls.

I am accepting blame and faulting myself for being red-assed today. And not in the cute way that those baboons are. That said ...
I read a report on Yahoo! Sports (which actually occasionally has good commentary though I am not a gigantic fan of Dan Wetzel, who is far too apolitical and snarky) announcing that a study was recently published on racial bias in NBA refereeing. I immediately thought that this would be an interesting and timely discussion (more on the timeliness later) and that perhaps it would spark some heated, but ultimately interesting debate on the intersection of race and sport. I knew, deep down, that players would be mum about the issue, or face suspension and fines, but hoped that analysts would give the issue some serious thought and examine the report dutifully. And even if nothing came of it, the fact that the debate was had could be a sign of times to come; a time that William Rhoden calls for in Forty Million Dollar Slaves, wherein he claims that black athletes have become ignorant of the history of embedded racism in professional sport and thus are incapable of defending themselves from the onslaught of racism when its ugly face rears time and time again. Racism exists. Period. As if the world of sport would be immune to it.

Like when European soccer fans call African players simians. http://www.brown.edu/Students/INDY/archives/2005-03-10/articles/sports-hu_soccer-racism.htm. Or when Fuzzy Zoeller called Tiger a watermelon-eater http://select.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=FA0C1EF93D540C708CDDAC0894DF494D81. Or Zinedine Zidane was provoked to violence by an Italian soccer player who allegedly called him a "dirty terrorist." Or when Don Imus called Rutgers' women's basketball team "nappy headed hoes." Or when ...

But this is my fault. It is my fault that I expected better of ESPN. It is my fault that I expected better of Disney. It is my fault that I expected better of Yahoo! Sports. It is my fault that I expected better, for once in my effin life, of the American sport media.

The report, published by Justin Wolfers, from frikkin Wharton (translation, this guy is not pullin info out of anus) states that white referees make more foul calls against black players than white players, and that black referees call more fouls on white players than black ones, though not as frequently as their white counterparts. The short of it is that it appears that unintentional racial bias occurs in foul calls in the NBA.

Now look guys, I'm not jumping on Wolfers' bandwagon just yet. First of all, he didnt even review game tape, only box scores. This means that he isnt closely analyzing or contextualizing the foul calls (the fault, IMHO, with purely statistical analyses). Second of all, of course white refereees are calling more fouls on black players ... theyre the only kind of players to call fouls on!!! I mean really, would you call a foul on this guy? http://www.nba.com/suns/news/nash_wheaties_060418.html. I mean come on. How else can you say it ... he's adorable!!! And Canadian! The ony other option of calling a foul on a white guy is what? To call a foul on 3/8 of Jason Kidd? Posthumously on Pete Maravich? To call a foul on Jack Nicholson for Anger Management?

Also, this is the guy who published the study http://bpp.wharton.upenn.edu/jwolfers/index.shtml. I'm going to exercise some of my own bias ... since when did Ron Howard dye his hair blonde and become a basketball expert? There is such a thing called "ethos." He co-published the study with a Cornell graduate student. Lets hope he was a power forward for the Fighting Big Red Ithacans.

But still, regardless of the merit of the study, I am severely disappointed in Yahoo! Sports and ESPN for dismissing it without even discussing the underlying issue the article raises. That its possible racism impacts professional sport. As always, they trotted out the black ambassadors to dismiss the accusation of racism. LeBron: "Its (the study) stupid!" Kobe "I get more techs from black refs! Thats reverse racism." Charles Barkley "Its asinine." Kiki Vandeweighe "These remarks are made by people who dont understand basketball. End of Story." No offense, Kobe and LeBron, but when y'all get your GED's, I'll talk sociology of sport with you.

Wow. That was harsh. Sorry guys, that's just the indignance talking.

We all know what happens to political black athletes. Actually, we dont. Thats really scary. Has anyone seen Stephon Marbury? I'm really worried about him ... last I heard they'd frozen him like Han Solo so that his shoes wouldnt cut in on Nike sales http://www.hometeams.com/stmamc5fi.html.

And with that, the issue is dead. No more discussion ... hell there wasnt even a discussion in the first place. No one sat and debated it. Scoop and Dave Zirin were evidently unavailable for comment. Harry Edwards was off somewhere being black I guess. Richard Lapchick was on vacation with Aquaman and Chris Tucker.

Also unavailable for comment, conspicuously, was Tim Duncan, who was recently ejected from a game by a white referee who was later suspended because he had a "vendetta against" Duncan. But that's not racism, I guess. He was discriminating against Duncan because of his ...umm ... really cool name for a basketball player (close seconds are Joseph Schuten, Alvin Steels, and Marcus Threesixtyslam. He's dutch-irish I think).

We also havent heard from Shaq, the "Big Aristotle." Heh, more like the Big Thrasymachus!!! Who's with me on that one? He knows what I'm talking about (points at unsuspecting dude in next office)! I'm sure he would have said, in his sleepy monotone: "Thats nonsense black refereees and white referees call fouls and sometimes dont its part of the game next question (smiles) now I'm gonna go and let the air out of Kobe's tires and shoot at cubans cuz I'm a cop. Bush for president!" ***

So I got all worked up, expecting serious debate and reflection and introspection. Instead, I got progpaganda and one-sided "news" reporting that gave Rupert Murdoch a stiffy so hard he wants ESPN made into a pill form that would replace Levitra.
And its all my fault. I do now and have always known better than to expect serious discussions of race and racism in American media.

I call that foul on myself (and I'm black, so Wolfers' theory is refuted. End of Story).

***remember, this is the guy who once said that his skills were like the pythagorean theorem, there's no answer to it. Oh and also said "I'm tired of hearing about money, money, money, money, money. I just want to play the game, drink Pepsi, wear Reebok." And without a hint of irony. God bless you you big footed bastard.

Monday, July 14, 2008

wereallnumberone #8: Crying Over Loose Juice (Seriously, Folks, Let OJ Go)

On possibly the world's #1 scapegoat for all pro athletes getting away with murder. What a poor metaphor ...

The other morning while in the gym, I heard a DJ bust a joke in which he basically stated that if any celebrity were going to have a yard sale or auction in which they sold their clothes for charity, he'd want to buy OJ's pants and underwear. Because he's certain that when the verdict was read, he probably shit gold.

First of all, this joke has three qualities that usually render a joke unfunny, and thus, unworthy of proper response:

1) It was born in and currently resides in Nebraska. Wait for it …
2) Seriously, who shits gold? Who eats gold? This guy http://images.usatoday.com/life/gallery/austin-powers/goldmember.jpg? No wait, that was his old skin. And Smokes and Pancakes. Maybe this guy ? No wait, that's not gold. Those must be made of lead. The kind you find in paint chips. And after you eat them for many years … you know its just not as funny when I have to explain it …
3) Finally, of all the metaphors to describe "expression of shock" this guy chooses "shit gold." Really. Try harder, Testicles-Which-Have-Lost-Feeling. How about "Had a Pig Nut" http://www.worldsentiment.com/user_blog.asp?blog_guid=%7B2A790B90-7B42-47E9-B6F3-A31B82D343F9%7D&get_user_guid=%7BC47BDA31-8A31-4FC4-89DB-E4BD0A211A58%7D. Or "Was as Happy as a Littuhl Guhrl" http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Dieter_mit_kyle_mclaglen.jpg. God bless expressionism. Or maybe "He was like a fat sunuhbitch on his 9th doughnut outta dozen … you know, that really is the sweet spot, you got plenty of donut in your stomach so you're nice and full, so you're beginning to chew more and thus releasing more of the flavor and enzymes and shit is collaborating in your stomach givin you itis and then you fall asleep and you know when you wake up you still got three more doughnuts and its like life is good."

Seriously, either of those could work.

But the reason I took notice was because the joke seemed revelatory. This muhfuka still hung up over OJ. Damn. That shit was like in '96. We still thought Kriss Kross and Hammer was gonna make comebacks back then (just turn your pants around and do the "Typewriter." Do it. You know you love it … and now I've lost you …). Gore was still inventing the internet and Clinton hadn't even tapped Lewinsky yet (that we know of). Poor Clinton. If he were black he woulda been in "I'll Bee Dat" by Redman (http://youtube.com/watch?v=y73-z6ffPW8). Bush was hemmin' up Brothas (http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2003/09/26/60minutes/main575291.shtml) and executing the mentally ill (http://archives.cnn.com/2000/LAW/08/09/texas.double.execution.03/) instead of turning Iraq into DisneyMesopotamia.

Not to belittle Nicole Simpson and the other dude, nor to editorialize about OJ's guilt or non-guilt (my blackness will not permit me to comment), but damn. Seriously. Get the eff over it. There have been worse transgressions in American history. There have been worse transgressions in L.A. history. There have been worse transgressions in Tulsa County, Oklahoma (http://www.globalblacknews.com/BlackWallstreet.html). I guess folks remember it because usually brothers get locked up and get way worse than they deserve, and this one was notable because its likely he got way less than he deserved.

But rich people get 'off' all the time. Martha Stewart called up the cops was like "Oh, I got jail time? I'll be there like week after Memorial Day, kthxbyewhatvrs." And athletes skate on the regular. Ray Lewis killed like two people and didn't even have to miss the Super Bowl. And Joe Namath was drunk in public and raped Suzy Kolber's face on national TV and didn't get time (http://www.ifilm.com/video/2483773). And black folks are getting away with it more than ever, which is a sign of, if nothing else, that the Civil Rights Act is finally taking effect (I was drankin' at a fountain up front like 3 minutes ago and, when I make bail, I'll probably be out within the hour. This is Louisiana though, so, you know, iss prolly better for y'all wherever y'all are). So a rich, black, athlete getting away with it should totally not be this big a deal to someone in 2007.

But this dude is still beefin over OJ. Wow. Think of the inverse. How often you hear black comedians and DJs and pundits talking bout James Earl Ray, or whatever white government official killed Martin Luther the King? Or Medgar's killer, who got sentenced to life like 400 years after the crime was committed. His coffin is in the State Pen now, for life. And how about Tupac and Biggie's killers? C'mon, had to be white dudes (http://archive.salon.com/news/feature/2000/10/16/biggie/index.html). Granted, Tupac is not dead. If Shakespeare continued to release posthumously the way Tupac has, he would have written the DaVinci Code.

What about all the white dudes who killed the blues and have never been brought to justice (yes you, Robert Plant, Mick Jagger, Elvis Presley, and the insufferable Jonny Lang. Will all of you please shut … the … eff … up) Seriously. These guys massacre Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, and Albert King every time they open their mouths and fret their guitars.

And what about the white dude that killed The Jacksons? Michael, I think his name was. Horrible, horrible what has happened to Jermaine. He was gonna be a big star. He was as passable a vocalist as Daryl Hall and he played bass way better than John Oates (he was prolly as good as Rick James, even though he had a coiff kinda like Odell in Jackie Brown) And who knows what could have been of Tito …

All I'm saying is, injustice, like s$%t, happens. And over time, we are charged with moving forward in spite of it and working towards ridding the world of it. Or at least reducing it somewhat. So some of us don't eat meat. Others don't purchase diamonds. Others still don't use vehicles that burn gasoline and me, well, I raise money so that cats who ball for my school get money to pay for an education which many of them could not otherwise afford in this free country. So maybe that DJ should drop his day job, get a J.D., and prepare himself for the next time when a Hertz Rent-a-Car pitchman (http://espn-att.starwave.com/i/magazine/new/simpson_hertz.jpg) offs a white girl and her boyfriend (allegedly).

Cuz you know those Hertz Rent-a-Car guys. They loooove white women.

In the words of the immortal ODB:

"I'm a minute away from feelin' no sympathy!!!"
---ODB, "Run Dirty Run"

wereallnumberone #7: Bum Chicka Wow ... Wow

One of the higher rated commercial series in recent years has been the Axe Body Spray. I've been revolted by both the smell of and the advertisements for Axe Bodyspray for far too long to have refrained from cyber-busting the company's ass for it. So here goes.

First of all, I realize that ambergris http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/b/b1/Ambergris.jpg is often the base for many perfumes. After all, of the many uses of sperm whale excretions one could conjure, perfume would likely be the first, no? The problem is that it is a base for perfumes, not the perfume itself. On the real, a bodyspray should not smell like an animal's excretion ... much less like the excretion of a drunken vagabond who, after urinating on hair, setting it on fire, then wrapping it in donkey shite, pig bladder, and then lighting it afire in a ritual sacrifice somehow liquefied and then bottled the smell for the consumers. Of course, in the event that a bodyspray did smell like that, it would need some slick A and D to market it.

Enter Axe Body Spray.

Featuring commercials with bedheaded, be-skechered dorks who clearly draw inspiration from the "cool wells" of hot rockstars, actors and fonts of culture , we are thrust into a world where allegedly attractive women become inspired to hurl themselves onto these unsuspecting douches simply because they have doused themselves in the aforementioned malodorous fixture. Seriously, no one above an IQ of 19 or who has had sex 1.3 (see footnote) times or more in his lifetime would be so desperate as to bathe himself in the mixture of isopropyl alcohol and broken dreams that is Axe Bodyspray. And double seriously, if you are a self-respecting, intelligent, strong, independent woman who goes apes#$t when a man approaches you smelling like hyena ejaculate, then I hope Gloria Steinem shows up at your door tomorrow morning and kicks you in the cooter.

No, I dont mean that.

I hope Angela Davis totally gaps your fro in such a manner that that s$%t cant be covered up with any kinda part and you totally have to either wear a scarf for like four weeks or totally trim the entire fro to make up for it. Like this: http://www.reuters.pl/city/wieczor/foto/evening_m20040128.jpg (the "gap" is in the back by the word "fader." You aint foolin us, Erykah ...

Anyhow, between the stank juice that is Axe Bodyspray, the lames that employ its use, and the women who go ass-up for them (sounds like a Springer episode), I kinda got to wondering where else there's money to be made in the "I-cover-myself-in-odd-s%&t-and-hoes-come-flockin'" market. Here's the first ten things I thought of ...

New Axe Body Spray Fragrances:
10) Ass - comes in "Pancake" if you like white girls, "Onion" if you like sistas, and so on and so on ... you know, "Green T (and A)" and "Enchiladass."
9) Scandalwood - you'll be the talk of the town when you go out after all of the hot chicks at Berkeley. The smell? Halfway between the earthy, subtle tones of patchouli and underarm and foot stank. Bottle comes in the shape of this guy's head: http://i.realone.com/assets/rn/img/4/6/6/1/8681664-8681667-slarge.jpg.
8) Poot - Sound of spray is silent, but deadly. Also leaves streaks on white clothing.
7) fromunda cheese - I just gagged and vomited at the same time. Ga-vomited. Just imagine rotten bacon.
6) Santorum - http://www.spreadingsantorum.com/. Best. Effing. Neologism. As the result of. A Google Bomb. EVER. Again, gavomiting.
5) Mrs. Dubois Peach Cobbler - Yeah, Riley. That do look like thow-up. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=20dY9XgJs8Q. Also available in "Pork Flavored Broccoli."
4) Paris' Draws - Vinegar with undertones of burning lumber. I'm guessing. http://www.parishiltonblog.org/images/paris_hilton_ass_1_43.jpg
3) "Stankonia" - Kinda like "Poot" but aimed at the urban market. Rahzel beatboxes a bowel movement in the background of the commercial and all the hoes maul Questlove. Or Bootsy Collins. First cool Axe commercial ever. Immediately discontinued for lack of continuity. "Bom chicka wow wow" replaced by "Bom ova bag dad." http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&rlz=1T4TSHB_en_____211&q=%22bombs+over+baghdad+is+not+when+iraqis+use+ruben+studdard%27s+album+as+clay+target%22
2) Down Low - Commercial features Freddie Jackson singing to Ne-Yo. Smells like "Lying to your wife by telling her you and the guys will be playing poker." Heh. More like "Poke-him."
This guy knows what I'm talking about (points out random dude in the crowd that likes UFC).
And the worst (aka best) new Axe BodySpray?
1) The Iraq War Justification - Stinks to high effin heaven, n'est-ce pas? And if experience tells us anything, 70% of all Americans will jump all the eff over it.

Aight. I'm out. I gotta go take a shower after that ... just thinkin bout how Axe smell got my mouth tasting like pennies and tofu burps.

In the words of ODB:
Oooooh baby I like it raw!!!
-- ODB, "Shimmy Shimmy Ya"

*Coitus = 1.0. I'm counting everything else, e.g. dirty sanchezes, columbian mine workers, Hotel Rwandas, and charlie chaplins as .1.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

wereallnumberone #6: we all watch it for the car wrecks anyway ...

Mauricia Grant

Nikki Giovanni

I don’t get NASCAR. But my students dig it, and I’m cool with that. Actually, I’m growing to like it. -- Nikki Giovanni, from a lecture at the University of Arizona, February 23, 2006

At the apex of one’s high regard for himself/herself and for fellow human beings, or what Mazlov calls “self-actualization,” we are our most innovative, most able to collaborate with people of different backgrounds to solve the problems we all have in common, and most of all, we possess morality. Until we reach that point, we allow prejudices to hinder our ability to seek solutions to the common problems of humanity and fail to actualize our creative capacities -- ultimately limiting our emotional health, physical safety, and financial success. Self-actualization on a wide-scale is paramount if the project of multiculturalism is to ultimately succeed in America.

As I sit to write this morning, two black women are inspiring conflicting feelings about the outcome of the project of multiculturalism. And I bet that after hearing about the case of Mauricia Grant, Nikki Giovanni might take her praise for NASCAR back, faint though it may have been.

Virginia Tech Professor Nikki Giovanni is one of my favorite poets and scholars. She is astute, humorous, inspirational, clever, and her writing and pedagogy reflect a paradoxical truth about cross-culturalism that should be a mantra for anyone interested in social justice -- We all want simple things in life, yet understanding one another’s wants may be the most difficult undertaking of all.

Giovanni, once a militant, revolutionary poet whose involvement in the Black Arts Movement marked her as an artist both at the vanguard of black modernist poetry and the civil rights movement, is now a professor at Virginia Tech University, a predominately white institution in the decidedly rural Virginia town of Lynchburg. And though her students’ heroes include “George Bush, Dale Earnhardt, and Triple H,” and favorite poets include “George Strait, Hank Williams, and Donald Rumsfeld,” she enjoys teaching them about poetry and literature immensely. And she even claims to learn as much from them as they do from her. Why? Because she understands that though their worldviews and cultural affinities are different, their desires to appreciate art and be entertained and fulfilled by it are quite similar. The media they choose -- and the artists they appreciate -- are simply different from the ones that inspire her. She can appreciate the fact that all human beings possess desire, though we desire different things, ultimately. Because Giovanni gets this fundamental tenet of human life, she has become one of the most effective and important human rights advocates of our time.

On the surface, Mauricia Grant represents the kind of diversity and lack of prejudice that we are always inspired by when it occurs in corporate America. Surely, a black woman probably seems out of place on a NASCAR track. However, Grant pursued her desire to work in the white male-dominated industry of NASCAR as a certification expert, loved her work, and was rated positively in her reviews perennially. So it would probably come as a surprise to many that she was terminated in 2007 for “conduct unbecoming of a NASCAR official,” and for using “street language,” when she had never so much had been warned or reprimanded previously. But to Grant, the writing, much like an errant NASCAR driver, was on the wall. Only the fallout from her case would be more destructive, fierier, and take much more than the customary warning lap to clear up the debris.

Grant is suing NASCAR for $250 million, citing wrongful termination and a history of sexual harassment and racial discrimination during her tenure with them. Much more than sour grapes, Grant alleges that she has filed complaints over the years on several occasions when co-workers and supervisors sexually harassed her, made ignorant racist comments in her presence, and occasionally, intersected the two. Her nickname was “Nappy Headed Mo.” Her supervisors exposed themselves in front of her. And when she denied their sexual advances, they alleged she was gay. She was assigned to work more hours in the sun because, unlike her white co-workers, she wouldn’t sunburn. And on and on. Until she complained and was eventually terminated.

This story has exposed the underbelly of the sport that so many of Giovanni’s students love. What this story has shown us is that NASCAR administrators are plagued by a lack of the self-actualization that we must possess to advance human life as we know it. NASCAR, in this instance, has certainly not done anything to gain market share among women, people of color, and pursuers of social justice with their disdainful treatment and institutionalized racism and sexism inherent in their dealings with Grant. Evidently, NASCAR believes that it can advance the sport and increase market share by drawing in more fans from diverse backgrounds the same way the PGA has with Tiger Woods (who was called a watermelon and fried chicken eater by a fellow PGA member, and a commentator recently called for fellow players to “lynch” him). The same way that the WTA has with the Williams sisters (who are consistently labeled as aloof and unfocused by sport media, who are remarkably unwilling to address the racially provoked boos of spiteful fans every time they win at Wimbledon). The same way that the media continues to sanction the vitriol of Don Imus, who continues to assault civil sensibility on air without any retribution.

Sport culturists, or people who believe that athletic competition carries with it great possibilities for multicultural collaboration and provides great examples of human triumph in an often inhumane world, know that sport that has provided us with some of the most important moments in social progress and racial uplift in American history. NASCAR, as have other professional sports organizations in the past, has failed to live up to its potential in this regard. What’s important now is that NASCAR deals with this situation with sensitivity, and more importantly, with a commitment to justice and ensuring that no employee is ever subjected to the wrongs Ms. Grant alleges she was subjected to.

If NASCAR does handle this situation properly, perhaps I may consider changing my mind about the sport, which I now find disdainful in addition to being unentertaining. I hope I change my mind, re-affirming sports great power to heal us, and, erstwhile, confirming one of Nikki Giovanni’s most famous poetic lines:

“I am so hip, even my errors are correct.”