Excellence On Top

Here is a strange development happening in the world of sports:  Something good is happening – and it is hard to turn away from watching the excellence on full display.

In the National Basketball Association, we are witnessing basketball beauty with the three marquee franchises floundering in their respective messes.  The media is clamoring for the Los Angeles Lakers, the Boston Celtics and the New York Knicks to be relevant in any way, shape, form or fashion.  If any of these three teams are respectable, it is a guarantee in the wintertime they would lead ESPN SportsCenter and be the talk of all national radio stations across the United States.

The argument has been – for a long time – that sports leagues aren’t as fun if the most storied franchises lack beung successful.  In Major League Baseball, that is true.  Baseball interest goes through the roof if the New York Yankees or Boston Red Sox are chasing World Series titles.  In the National Football League, people would argue that the Dallas Cowboys need to be good.  Of course – I argue that the New York Jets and Giants (along with the Cowboys) just need to exist, and they will gather the mountain of interest everywhere.

We really can’t say the same for the Association – because the Western Conference is looking historically good!  And even though it is painful to watch the Knicks, Lakers and Celtics play these days, it’s not really fun to see any of these three teams lose.  Rather, we rather see better baskball elsewhere – and we can get it!

Think about these last two nights.  On December 16, the Memphis Grizzlies (now 21-4) stopped the Golden State Warriors (now 21-3) from extending their franchise-best winning streak to 17 games with a 105-98 victory at home.  Then on December 17, they travelled to San Antonio to meet up with the defending NBA World Champion-Spurs.  They avenged an earlier loss to them in Memphis with a 117-116 victory that took three overtimes to decide things!

Do you want to know how good is the Western Conference?  The Dallas Mavericks, who have been playing unbelievable as of late, is 19-8.  That is good enough for third place in the Southwest Division and the #6 seed in the NBA’s Western Conference (should the season end today)!  The aformentioned Spurs are 17-9 – good enough for fourth place in the Southwest Sivision and the #7 seed in the Western Conference.  In most years, these two records would challenge for division leads and high seeding in the playoff hunt.  Put it this way:  If the Mavericks were to play in the East, they would be 1 1/2 games behind … the best record in the whole conference (Toronto Raptors – 20-6).

That is how good the Western Conference is playing, right now!

Seeing this development makes me want to fast-forward this season all the way to late-April.  Last year’s NBA playoff season produced a great first round of matchups.  Two series went six games, and five series went seven games (out a total of eight).  The rest of the way was a little anti-climatic, but I have a feeling that this year’s playoffs will be good from the first round all the way to (possibly) the NBA Finals.  If the West continues to beat up on each other – and dominate the East at the same time – we may be tuning into ‘playoff-caliber’ basketball when snow needs to be shoveled out of driveways.

I haven’t started talking about the Houston Rockets, the Portland Trailblazers or the Los Angeles Clippers – all of whom have stellar winning percentages and would lead the East.  Normally, you would play to have a high seed.  This year, these teams might be playing to simply have home court advantage because it is quite possible we may have one of these teams have a .700 winning percentage – but would be at a home court disavantage.  Last year, the aformentioned Warriors won 51 games during the regular season – but it was only good enough to be the #6 seed.  The Blazers won 54 games – and that was good enough to be the #5 seed.  This year – it may actually have to take more than 50 wins in the Western Conference just to make the playoffs!

And then – there are the Oklahoma City Thunder.  They fell on hard times with injuries to both Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant, but they have come on strong.  It was doubted by the media that they would get to the #8 seed by April.  As of this moment – they are 1/2 game out of the #8 seed in the West.  It is safe to assume that they will advance up the ladder very soon, themselves.

The East has a few feel-good stories (LeBron returning to the Cleveland Cavaliers, Chris Bosh being the #1 option for the Miami Heat, the Chicago Bulls building up their roster), but early bonding issues for the Cavs and the lingering injuries to Derrick Rose (the #1 player for the Bulls) have made both teams good – but left in the Western Conference’s dust.

The talk in the East is seeing the developed play of the Washington Bullets Wizards.  It is as if they took their playoff success and have gone to the next level.  The Atlanta Hawks, who started off well last year before losing Al Horford for the year around this time last year, is also off to a pretty strong start this year, too.  And the aforementioned Raptors are ruling the Eastern Conference (for now).  They are steady, but all it will take is a team like the Cavs or Bulls to reel off a winning streak like the Warriors just finished executing – and the conference might be theirs for the taking.

But the NBA story is literally how the West will be won.  Six teams with a .700 winning percentage or greater occupy the conference, now.  That excludes the Spurs and the Thunder – the two teams most analysts choose to meet in the Conference championship for the third time in the last four years.

It is great to see excellence on the court.  With these great stories and teams – I say to the NBA 2014-2015 season, “Bring it on!”

Please Continue Speaking

And the hits just keep on coming!

A little over two weeks ago, six players from the St. Louis Rams decided to take time to do a gestured protest in their game against the Oakland Raiders as a sign of solidarity.  The St. Louis Police Officer Association called for a public apology from the players and teh St. Louis Rams organization – and asked for the National Football League to force said atonement.  Besides a small statement from the Rams organization, no apology was rendered.

Now this:  During this past Sunday’s game with the Cincinnati Bengals – a game that marked the official NFL debut of Cleveland Browns quarterback, Johnny Manziel – wide receiver Andrew Hawkins wore a black T-shirt with white writing during player introductions which stated, “Justice for Tamir Rice and John Crawford, III!”  Taking the same page from the St. Louis Police Officers Association, the Cleveland Police Patrolman Union demanded an apology from the Browns organization.

Hold up.  Isn’t this demand opposite the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States?  Along with freedom of the press, freedom of religion and the right to a peaceful assembly – we all have the freedom of speech.  Many of us were children of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  Some are grandchildren of his legacy, and he was about expressing viewpoints which flew in the face of systemic institutional violence all across the country.  Of course, he paid the ultimate price for said freedom in 1968.  However, it was trailblazers like him, Malcolm X, Muhammad Ali, Jim Brown and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (Lew Alcindor previously) who showed that if you have a voice – then use it to the best of your ability.

And this is not only happening in the NFL.  The National Basketball Association received a general slight admonishment from the sports commissioner, Adam Silver.  The same Adam Silver, who was proactive in removing former Clippers owner Donald Sterling due to racist beliefs, held a press conference after the Chicago Bulls’ Derrick Rose, Cleveland Cavaliers’ LeBron James and Kyrie Irving along with members of the Brooklyn Nets wore similar “I Can’t Breathe” black Ts in memory of Eric Garner’s death (ruled a homicide) on Staten Island this summer.  Silver didn’t go so far as to demand an apology from the players.  However, he did say that his preference was for them to not break away from proper uniform attire.

Sometimes, bold statements need to be made in order to break through the monotony of this ol’ world.

For some (even with Blacks), it is like what William Shakespeare titled one of his plays:  These protestations are much ado about nothing to them.  For some, it is about grandstanding – and not about speaking to a social injustice.  However, for many of us, it is pleasing to see that people who have a higher platform than most speak on issues of the day that affect the common man.  It is inspiring to those who look up to athletes and see a sign that, “Hey!  They actually DO care about what affects me.  They are human, too.”  There is an inherent power to seeing athletes speak on social issues.

For the possible exception of the late great professional tennis player, Arthur Ashe, athletes have largely taken a back seat to speaking about issues since after the pronounced end to the Civil Rights movement.  The three biggest names we can remember in sports over the last 30 years (Mike Tyson, Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods) didn’t speak about any social issues affecting us.  In fact, it was more about the craft to them than anything.  Rugged retired NFL veteran, Jim Brown, has lamented on many occasions how athletes shy away from speaking on social issues that plague society as he did – and still does.  So, to me, it is strange that it has been such a long drought from seeing certain powers-that-be recoil against the people in speaking out against an injustice.

Yet, that’s exactly what is happening on today’s sports landscape.  During the fallout from these public no indictment rulings on these high-profile grand jury investigations, athletes are taking the route of wearing shirts in memory of different individuals who were gunned down by either police fire or that of another citizen.  The atmosphere is sick and tired of being sick and tired.  So now – everybody wants to do something about it.  Athletes are answering the call to use their platform for a bigger purpose than simply to put their athletic prowess on display.

They are speaking to a social condition which needs to be changed.

That takes me back to Hawkins and his protest.  The Browns wide receiver gave his account of why he wore the shirt to Cleveland Plain Dealer’s Mary Kay Cabot.  He said, “A call for justice shouldn’t offend anybody.  A call for justice shouldn’t warrant an apology.  I utterly respect and appreciate every police officer that protects and serves all of us with honesty and integrity.  (This) wasn’t a stance against every police officer or every police department … it was a stance against wrong individuals doing wrong thing(s).”  His concerns have been heightened because of thinking about his two-year-old son and how to properly guide/protect him.

Hawkins could not have said it any better.  We have a right to fight.  We have a duty to leave this world better than how we found it.  We must speak to those ills that plague our society and put an end to maddening situations and circumstances.  What we all must do is stand against wrong individuals doing the wrong thing.  We must rail against injustice.  Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said that, “Injustice anywhere is injustice everywhere.”  It is still true today.

What is disconcerting to me is this:  If the police are created to protect and serve the community – and the people see a hinderance to that end goal – then why have the police associations in St. Louis and Cleveland taken umbrage in our right to freedom of speech with athletes?  Is it because they want to perpetuate the understanding that these athletes belong to the owner of their respective teams?  Is it because, if they step out of line, they should be put in their place?  If that is the case – then our issue of injustice runs far deeper than a few bad police officers choosing to shoot to kill first before asking questions.

Instead of talking about which teams are going to make the playoffs, there are those who want to discuss how an athlete should speak his mind.  After all – sports are where we escape from our problems, not be reminded of them, right?  If you believe that line of thinking, then Ray Rice’s wife and Adrian Peterson’s son don’t matter to you.  Andrew Hawkins spoke for human beings whose lives are over.  That is more important than if he can properly run a curl route ten yards downfield.  I, for one, applaud him.

To all athletes who are burdened with the responsibility of speaking to a social ill?  Speak to these mountains – and watch them move.

Trouble For The Shield

The most lucrative sports entity earned (at least) $9 billion dollars in 2013.  The goal, around 2027, is for the league to earn $25 billion.

The commissioner of this league earns a paycheck totalling $44 million dollars a year.

It is, by far, the #1 sport in the United States – and is trying to challenge soccer for worldwide sporting supremacy.

Yes – the National Football League is making money hand over fist.  They have the Midas touch, these days, in terms of how to go after their viewership.  They know how to grow their brand.  They understand what it takes to become the ultimate cash cow.  There is only one problem …

… the league can still crumble even under the most profitable period in the sport’s 94-year history.

How can it crumble, you may ask?  People would probably point to the thuggish behavior set forth by many of the players.  However, two things need to be kept in mind:

  • Out of roughly 2,000 players only 20 would be considered the rotten element (if you do the math, that’s only 1% of the total player roster).
  • As the Indianapolis Colts owner, Jim Irsay, proved with his DUI arrest this March – owners get in trouble with the law, as well.

English writer, politician and historian John Dalberg-Acton once said that, “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men.”  The question I ask is simple:  Are we seeing this phrase come into play in the NFL?

This year has been anything but unadventurous for the NFL commissioner, Roger Goodell.  This year’s Super Bowl was played in nearby New York City this February.  Now, normally, the rule states that a Super Bowl should be played either in a domed stadium – or a ciry where the average climate around the first Sunday in February is no lower than 50 degrees.  Since New York’s average temperature is at least 40 on average – the threat of snow reigned supreme.  Yet, the game was played in weather where the temperature at kickoff was … 50 degrees.

Possible public relations nightmare averted, right?  Not so fast.

Around two weeks after the Super Bowl was completed, Ray Rice decided to use his then-fiancee (now wife) Janay as a punching bag in an Atlantic City hotel elevator.  Around that time, footage was shown of then-Baltimore Ravens running back dragging his then-fiance out of the elevator.  A few months went by before Goodell ruled that Rice was suspended for two games from the incident.  After the ruling was given, a more vicious account of the incident was leaked – causing Goodell to make his original ruling stiffer by suspending Rice indefinitely.

Of course, in the court of law – this is what you call ‘double jeopardy’.  In case you are not aware, a person cannot be tried for the same crime twice.  Yet, Rice was handed down two different sentences for the same incident.

Rice filed for an injunction to get the ruling overturned – and the judge granted his plea.  What made the process so painful was the fact Goodell maintained that there was a breakdown in communication on some level.  Even though Rice told his account, the commissioner did not take responsibility for mishandling the incident and punishment, altogether.  With Rice, the hotel, and a judge all speaking opposite of Goodell – a serious amount of doubt crept into what was a pristine operation.

Then came the Adrian Peterson child abuse incident.  The Minnesota Vikings running back was charged with abusing his four-year-old son.  Pictures of welts were shown on TV.  Peterson pleaded no contest to his case and is now serving a community service sentence.

Talk was prevalent about how the NFL would handle the punishment once the legal process was completed.  Many experts thought his punishment in the NFL would be ‘time served’ since he already missed eight games and (because of the Ray Rice debacle), the NFL instituted a no-less-than six games for a player to be suspended for a case involving abuse of any sort.

The ruling came down from the NFL offices last month that Peterson was suspended for the rest of the year.  Many of us baically said, “OK.  The court had their say, and the NFL had theirs.  Now, we can move onward to watching the product on Sundays, Mondays, Thursdays and some Saturdays.  Not so fast, again!

Earlier today (December 15), a tape was leaked of a conversation the running back had with the high-ranking NFL official (and former Philadephia Eagle cornerback), Troy Vincent.  He was interviewed last week on the ESPN radio talk show Mike and Mike where Vincent mentioned that he was transparent with Peterson as to his sentencing.

The leaked tape (more than likely, it was was put forth to the public by the NFL Players Association) said otherwise.  In a phone conversation Peterson had with Vincent, the running back was promised that the process would be played out and he would get a suspension of … two games.

So … two running backs who were caught being abusive those those they loved received sentences (or promises of one) that were two games in length.  Yet, they received harsher penalties unbeknownst to them.  The NFL went to court with the Rice case.  They are now going to court once again for the Peterson debacle.

Many domestic abuse advocates were calling for Goodell’s job all throuhout the latter summer months for a light sentencing on Rice.  The players, themselves, are growing more and more distrustful of the commissioner.  There are mounting opposition to rid themselves of a person most entities do not trust.

However, his bosses say otherwise.

Goodell answers to the 32 men who own each franchise in the National Football League.  They pay his salary, and they dictate whether he can be fired, get a raise or get a pay cut.  Since the league is earning close to 11 figures a year, the owners are not willing to pull the trigger on doing this, at all.  In fact, since the money is rolling into the league like never before, the owners want him to keep going.  After all, during their last collective bargaining sessions, Goodell got the owners to financially earn more of the bigger NFL pie.

Suffice it to say:  Goodell is going nowhere anytime soon.

The question, though, does have to be asked:  Can the league’s love of money cover up these mounting gaffes and mishandles by the NFL offices?  I tend to agree with Lord Acton.  The absolute power Goodell wields may come back to bite The Shield in its wealthy green derrière.

Until Someone Disagrees

Tavon Austin.  Stedman Bailey.  Kenny Britt.  Jared Cook.  Chris Givens.  Tre Mason.  These names are significant because all of them are athletes.  They actually used the platform provided by the National Football League to exercise a Constitutional right:  The freedom of expression.

On November 30, 2014, these athletes decided to protest in solidarity with the recent Michael Brown killing and Darren Wilson grand jury investigation.  The week leading up to the game, a ‘no indictment’ verdict was reached, and the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson decided to provide a little heat in the crisp autumnal Missouri night.  Anger, outrage, disbelief and fury all marked yet another harrowing time in this country’s history as a maelstrom of issues collided on this one community.  The movement of Black Lives Matter grew steam on the night of November 24.  The Hands Up, Don’t Shoot movement came to the forefront three months prior because it was reported that Michael Brown was shot with his hands raised to the sky in a surrender pose.

Fast forward to the Novermber 30th game between the Oakland Raiders and the St. Louis Rams.  The Edward Jones Dome was filled with many fans wanting to heal from a reopened scab.  Around player introductions, the aforementioned six football players for the Rams ran onto the field in the Hands Up, Don’t Shoot pose.  With many of us, we had a ‘no harm, no foul’ type of opinion.  The St. Louis Conty Police Officers Association had another type of opinion to express.

As reported by Jon Swaine of the St. Louis-area newspaper, The Guardian:  “The St Louis Police Officers Association accused the players of calling ‘a now-exonerated officer a murderer’ after a grand jury did not charge Wilson with a crime.  The union called the players’ actions ‘tasteless, offensive and inflammatory’, and demanded they be disciplined.”

Later, the association demanded that the NFL disciplined the six Ram players of the gesture – and that an apology would come from them.  It was so outlandish that the association’s chief, Jon Belmar, would post a dictionary definition of the word ‘apology’ on their Twitter account.  The Rams organization refused to apologize for the gesture.

Let’s face it:  We see sports as merely an escape.  Our lives are hard (well, most of our lives).  There’s a lot of things which bring us down.  We need to have something that is uplifting.  We need something that shows meritocracy does exist.  There is a certain beauty to seeing something that connotes an actual level playing field in the world of sports.  After all:  It is not about Black or White.  It is not about rich or poor.  It’s about skill or no skill.

For a long time, it wasn’t that way.  The German dictator, Adolf Hitler, bragged about how superior “the Aryan Race” was over Blacks.  Jesse Owens destroyed that myth in 1936.  Around the same time, Joe Louis (following after the legacy of Jack Johnson) fought (figuratively and literally) the distinction of Black-over-White with Max Schmelling.  People treated the Major League Baseball pioneer, Jackie Robinson, with utter contempt and disdain in 1947 as broke into the league withthe then-Brooklyn Dodgers.  The other sports were similarly as reluctant, but the proverbial doors eventually opened to other cultures.

Sports and society have often collided.  Case in point:  The summer Olympiad of 1968.  200-meter sprinters, Tommie Smith and John Carlos ran with heavy hearts the year prior.  Just six months before, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated. Just four months before, presidential candidate, Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated on the campaign trail.  Both men were considered Civil Rights freedom fighters.  Yet, both of them were dead – with many more to die as an explosion of violence painted the tense tapestry of the United States.  Just two months before the 200-meter final was run in Mexico City, Chicago erupted in one of the most violent protests in political history as the Democratic National Convention broke into utter chaos.  The atmosphere was ripe for the pickings in terms of calling attention to some societal ills.

Tommie Smith won the gold medal.  John Carlos won the bronze medal.  As they stood on the platform to receive their medals, each man slipped onto one of their hands (Smith’s right hand and Carlos’ left hand) a black glove.  Then, in a show of solidarity, they raised their clenched fists to the sky signifying ‘Black Power’ as the Star Spangled Banner played.  Because these athletes boldly practiced their fredom of expression, the rest of the country exercised theirs – in giving both men the cold shoulder when they returned to the United States.

In the podcast, His and Hers with Michael Smith and Jemele Hill, the ‘hers’ part of the tandem said something very profound:  “An athlete can say whatever he/she wants – until someone disagrees with the viewpoint.”  She went onward to say that if athelte spoke out against unanimously favorable positions, then it’s OK (such as anti-child abuse, and anti-domestic violence).  The road is much harder if he/she speaks out against a subject where the masses are divided.  The two most high-profile athletes of the last 25 years (Tiger Woods and Micahel Jordan) subscribed in being an athlete and relinquishing any spoken responsibility toward the community.  That was different from the Muhammad Ali’s, the Bill Russell’s and the Jim Brown’s of the world.

Many would put Charles Barkley in that mix, but it’s not quite the same.  This is the same athlete who once famously said, “I’m Republican because I’m rich.”  So, most of us would sense a detachment from his opinions.  Rightfully so – as Barkley would be a polarizing figure.

What is more in vogue, now, is seeing the I Can’t Breathe T-shirts the athletes are wearing.  Of course, this is in response to the Eric Garner homicide back in July when he, before his death, uttered the words, “I can’t breathe,” numerous amounts of times.  We have seen NFL’s Reggie Bush, and the NBA’s Derrick Rose, Kyrie Irving and LeBron James wear similar shirts in protest to this particular atrocity.

Which brings me back to The St. Louis 6.  These young men are thinking about their family members or themselves.  They hope not to have these incidents happen again.  Others may look at their expression as a sign of those players being thugs – but the United States said the same thing about Smith and Carlos.  These two were Olympic athletes – and because they expressed something that is uncomfortable with many in the country they live, they were considered outcasts.  It was sad to be so closed-minded in 1968.

It is just as sad to be as closed-minded 46 years later.  Ladies and gentlemen:  We should not want to have anybody needlessly die.  We shouldn’t want our law enforcement to perform executions right before our eyes.  That’s what Tommie Smith and John Carlos were protesting with the black power fist.  That’s what those six St. Louis Rams football players were protesting with the ‘Hands Up, Don’t Shoot’ gesture.

I believe … we can all agree with that.

Bleeding Scarlet

We have a woman who’s about to become an athletic director of a college program in a ‘top-tier’ state university.  That’s good.

We have that same woman who people are already wanting to fire before her seat is even warm.  That’s not so good.

When word broke that New Jersey’s Rutgers University was set to hire Julie Hermann for their athletic director position, the bad press immediately went to work.  Pressure for Hermann to resign before she could even enact policies on the job is strange, at best, and humorous, at worst.  The reason why, however, relates to her checkered past.

Mind you, Rutgers is in the midst of cleaning up their at-present checkered past.  They are in the throes of cleaning up their huge mess from the Bobby Knight-esque head coaching practice style of mens’ basketball head coach, Mike Rice.  Back in April, there was footage leaked to the media of Rice yelling at his players, and going so far as tossing basketballs in their direction when he thought the players weren’t taking well to his instruction.  Rice also pushed players.  He kicked players.  He even, for ‘motivational reasons,’ used gay slurs.  The video of Rice’s actions are displayed, here.

Enter Julie Hermann.

As Rutgers University tries to clean up its athletic act, they hire a new AD (after the former one, Tim Pernetti, was fired upon sweeping under the rug Rice’s actions of Rice) who has a somewhat sordid past of her own.  Allegedly, it is similar to the aforementioned ousted Mike Rice.  The big cloud in the room comes from allegations which were levied at the University of Tennessee in 1996, when she was the head coach fo the womens’ volleyball team, there.  As stated by Tom Canavan of the Associated Press, “The (New Jersey’s) Star-Ledger reported that Tennessee players wrote the mentality cruelty they suffered when Hermann was coach was unbearable, adding she called them ‘whores, alcoholics and learning  disabled.’  During that time, in 1997, a jury verdict ruled in favor of one of her assistant head coaches  – and awarded her $150,000 who said Hermann fired her because she was pregnant.

This was supposed to be a glorious time for Rutgers University.  They’re slated to go to the Big Ten conference in 2014 – which means more revenue, and more exposure for their program.  They hired a respectable head coach for basketball (Eddie Jordan) who the school mistakenly called him a Rutgers graduate when he hadn’t finished work for his degree.  The mode for Rutgers was like the old-school Bob Seger song, “Here I go // turn the page.”

The problem, here, is the school vetted her (or had to do so).  They did their reasearch.  They had to have done interviews.  They had to be comfortable enough in offering Hermann the position – to the point where they announce it a full three weeks before she takes the realm.  Rutgers had to have the feeling of, ‘the past is the past’.

Before Rutgers came calling, Hermann was an executive senior associate athletic director at Louisville.  Her boss, Louisville AD, Tom Jurich, has nothing but praise for Hermann.  However, the same song isn’t being sung at Tennessee as an ex-player has come forward to support the allegations made against Hermann.

This has prompted the New Jersey governor, Chris Christie, to speak on this subject.  His refrain, though, is, “Let the university handle it.”  He has expressed complete support for the university heads and is trying to be like the rest of us.  He wants to sit on the sidelines.  However, it’s going to be difficult if the public sees this as a continuation of what Mike Rice did when he was at Rutgers.  Hermann has no plans to resign from her new AD position, and is willing to fight and be quiet along the way.

Once upon a time, a woman being an athletic director for a huge state institution used to be big news for all the positive reasons.  Now – it is big news because of alleged abuse from this woman performed back in 1997.

The Truth Makes You A Bad Guy

Dateline:  April 29, 2013.

And I’m gay.”

Jason Collins, the current Washington Wizard (and NBA journeyman center), announced to the world that he is homosexual.  The earth-shattering part of said news is simple:  He is the first athlete in professional American sports (NFL, NHL, NBA, MLB) who has ‘come out’.  We’ve had professional athletes in tennis already do the same.  Martina Navratilova is one of them.  Billie Jean King is another.  So – let’s be honest:  To say Jason Collins is the first professional athlete to admit he’s homosexual is very misleading.  Let’s also be honest the other way:  In the American lexicon, where does tennis fall in terms of a huge following?  More than likely, it is behind baseball, football, basketball and (maybe) hockey.  So when it was known that King and Navratilova were lesbian, the earth didn’t truly ‘shake’.

A male professional basketball player, on the other hand, is a different story.

Let’s put this in brass tacks, shall we?  We’re talking about a player whose career highs are the following:  6.4 PPG (points per game), .9 BPG (blocks per game), .9 SPG (steals per game – respectable for a center), 2 APG (assists per game), 6.1 RPG (rebounds per game), 76% FT% (free-throw percentage), .508 FG% (field goal percentage), 31 MPG (minutes per game).  He only played in 80 games (the NBA plays 82 games in a season) three times in his 12-year career.  We’re talking about a role player, here.

The above stats are career highs – not his average.  So – it’s safe to say that Collins’ claim to fame for his NBA career is the fact he’s forever the first-ever male gay professional in sports.

Everyone from Kobe Bryant to David Stern to President Barack Obama and first lady, Michelle, president Bill Clinton and Nike all have thrown unwavering support in Collins’ direction.

Dateline:  April 29, 2013.

ESPN basketball analyst/columnist, Chris Broussard, was invited on his network’s sports journalism show, Outside the Lines.  Broussard was asked about his own personal feelings toward Jason Collins’ announcement and he was unapologetically blunt.

Personally, I don’t believe that you can live an openly homosexual lifestyle or an openly, like premarital sex between heterosexuals. If you’re openly living that type of lifestyle, then the Bible says you know them by their fruits. It says that, you know, that’s a sin. If you’re openly living in unrepentant sin, whatever it may be, not just homosexuality – adultery, fornication, pre-marital sex between heterosexuals – whatever it maybe, I believe that’s walking in open rebellion to God and to Jesus Christ. So I would not characterize that person as a Christian because I don’t think the bible would characterize them as a Christian.”

Now, here’s a reporter who says what he believes, and is considered short-sighted.  Apparently, this man was asked his opinion and offered it.  he didn’t volunteer the information.  He spoke from the heart.  As a Christian, Broussard did exactly what you’re supposed to do – represent the Word of God to the people no matter what.  Because it is such a worldly unpopular opinion, then it makes Broussard (and those who believe the exact same as he does) bigots, blind and intolerant people.

If that’s the case, then there are many, “bigoted, blind and intolerant people” in this world – because there are many people who do not have, nor see, a problem with what Chris Broussard said – and I’m proudly one of them.  Broussard’s statements are clearly supported by Biblical text.  In the Old Testament (Leviticus 18:22), God spoke directly to Moses and said, “Do not have sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman; that is detestable.”  Many argue and say, “The Old Testament was eradicated when Jesus died on the cross.”  OK.  In the New Testament (1 Corinthians 6:9-10), Paul wrote in his letter to the people in Corinth, “Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.”

Now – does it say, anywhere that homosexuals are to be hated?  Does it say anywhere that homosexuals are not people?  Does it say that homosexuals are sub-human?  Does it even say anywhere that homosexuals aren’t allowed the same grace that heterosexuals receive?  Does it even say that homosexuals are not allowed the same civil rights as that of heterosexuals?  The answer to all of those questions is, “No.”  It doesn’t even say those things in the Bible.  Even Broussard said that it was courageous for Collins to publicly admit he’s gay.  However, it’s something not to truly celebrate.  It is truly food for thought.

To those who say that you can be Christian and a homosexual?  In a sense, you can be.  However, here’s your end game:  If the Holy Spirit works within you, seek God’s face, turn from your wicked ways, then He will hear you, and heal your land.  Then you will be converted to a heterosexual when it’s all said and done.  That’s just pure, unadulterated truth.

One man professes his homosexuality – and is lauded.  Another man places the standard of Jesus Christ against the homosexuality admittance – and is the villain.  If that makes me the villain in the world to stand with God in this issue?  Then, a villain to the world I am.  The glory of God means much more to me than the favor of the world.  Apparently, Chris Broussard believes the same thing, as well.  Glory be to God for Mr. Chris Broussard!

Kobe Ain’t No Jordan

WARNINGThe following post is dedicated to the myopic Los Angeles Laker fan.

Now, can we quit comparing Kobe Bryant to one of the greatest basketball players off all-time in Michael Jordan, please?  We’ve heard the greatest coach of all time, Mr. Phil Jackson, speak on both of them.  He’s qualified – since he’s coached both men.  He should know.  So now – it’s time for the comparisons to stop.

Kobe Bryant has been compared to Michael Jordan since his inception into the league.  I understand why.  From the dunks he did earlier in his career, to how he takes jump shots, to even how he dribbles the ball — ALL of those things looks like he’s a dead ringer for a Michael Jordan clone.  My greatest consternation was that if Kobe won his sixth NBA Championship, the media would endlessly talk about this guy in comparison to Jordan.  They would use, for an argument, that he has the same amount of rings as Jordan did – so that, by default, would make him as great.

Uh, may I introduce one Robert Horry?

Here’s an NBA player who has won a grand total of SEVEN – that’s right – 7 NBA World Championships.  You’re getting to the 50s-60s Celtics in having that many championships (for a few earned as much as nine).  That’s right!  Horry has won more championships than Jordan!  Does that mean he’s better than His Airness?  NOT — EVEN — CLOSE!!!

He earned the name, “Big Shot Rob,” because he would only show up, literally, during the last ten seconds of a playoff game.  Ask the Rockets.  Ask the Lakers.  Ask the Spurs.  We’re talking about a good help defender in his youth – and a liability defender during his Laker and Spur years.  He offered you nothing but maybe two shots a whole game.

Yet, he has more championships than Michael Jordan.

But let’s cease to talk about a role player.  It has made me want to yank out my hair when people talk about Kobe being on the level BELOW Jordan!  I just laugh when there are some who argue that they share the same shelf space – in terms of greatness.

Let’s do what my wife is still trying to teach me how to correctly do – and that’s compare/contrast shopping, shall we?

Career stats for Bryant:  25.3 PPG (points), 5.3 RPG (rebounds), 4.7 APG (assists), 1.8 SPG (steals), .454 FG% (field goal percentage), .339 3PT% (three-point percentage), .837 FT% (free throw percentage).

Pretty good.  They aren’t great, but they are pretty good.  His playoff career stats are very similar.

Career stats for Jordan:  30.1 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 5.3 APG, 2.35 SPG, .497 FG%, .327 3PT%, .835 FT%.

Now these are great stats!  For the exception of free throw and three-point percentage, Jordan soars above Bryant.

And we haven’t even gotten to the other accomplishments, yet.

Such as:  MVP Titles  (Bryant – 1, Jordan – 5).  Overall championships (Bryant/Lakers – 5, Jordan/Bulls – 6). NBA Finals MVP (Bryant – 2, Jordan – 6), Scoring titles (Bryant – 1, Jordan – 9).

Other things Jordan has done that Bryant has not?  Defensive Player of the Year.  While Bryant is a good defender, Jordan was one of the best (and that has been grossly overlooked).  Rookie of the Year.  Led a team to the most wins in NBA single-season history.  Scored the most points in one half at an NBA Playoff Game.

Shall I go onward?

Alright.  OK.  I’ll try.  To make it fair and balanced:  Bryant does have a single-game high of 81 points.  And even in the building where, I think, Jordan played his best basketball (apologies to the ‘Madhouse on Madison’ in Chicago), Bryant has scored the most points in a game, there (61) to eclipse Jordan (55).

Jordan was THE focal point of his team.  Bryant was only the focal point on the Lakers when he chased Shaquille O’Neal out of town.

Oh.  One more thing Jordan did that Bryant has not:  He did NOT get swept during his prime out of the playoffs.  Kobe?  Just look at the ‘soft’ 2011 Mavericks.  If they were soft – what does that make the team led by “the greatest player today?”  Mind you – that same ‘soft’ 2011 Dallas Maverics team put a beatdown on the LeBron James-Dewayne Wade-led  Miami Heat in route to their first-ever NBA World Championship.

There’s no comparison.  Kobe doesn’t earn the right to breathe Michael Jordan’s name – much less have his game be compared to His Airness.

Case closed!