DEBATE: BROTHERS ON ARMS

In the wake of the horrific school shooting in Parkland, Florida on Valentines Day 2018, I decided to resurrect the following exchange between my brother Marek and me as we join families around the country searching for answers to truly vexing questions.  Our sister, Teresa, added her view while on holiday in Melbourne, Australia. Continue reading “DEBATE: BROTHERS ON ARMS”

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BELICHICK, BRADY & KRAFT

Starship Enterprise

Star date 18:20-1 – Maybe in the VFL, the Vulcan Football League, Coach Spock (Bill Belichick) would have traded 40 year-old quarterback Tom Brady and kept 20-something Jimmy Garoppolo without any questions or concerns. Black and white, Xs and Os, all very logical. But Mr. Spock is not the captain of this good ship Enterprise, the New England Patriots. The overly emotional James T. Kirk is. And that’s Robert Kraft, the team owner.

So logic notwithstanding, the owner made an emotional decision to keep his surrogate son Tom Brady, irrespective of his age and the wisdom of his HOF coach. Yes, Kraft seems to be saying, we may take a long term hit by keeping Brady and getting rid of Garoppolo – like the Lakers did signing Kobe Bryant to his final two-year contract. But I’m willing to take that hit for the service that Brady has given to the organization.

Not just the five Super Bowl titles, but the 13-3, potential MVP, season he’s currently having, but for all the times he has taken less than market-value money in order to give general manager Belichick more to work with to improve the team and keep the winning tradition going.

There is something beyond Xs and Os involved here. With his fifth Super Bowl title last year, and in the manner in which it was done, Brady didn’t just confirm his G.O.A.T. status on the field, he transcended the game. Kraft understands that, embraces that, while Belichick isn’t paid to think in such emotional terms.

He might not like Kraft getting involved in player decisions, but if he can’t see the logic in this one case, then he isn’t the Spock we all know him to be.

This may be the one case where both men are right  Now it is up to Brady to make Captain Kraft’s decision look just slightly better.

END

WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?

While the big ball of Waterford crystals will be shining tonight as it drops in New York’s frigid Times Square, the crystal ball predicting what 2018 will bring remains decidedly clouded.  But as 2017 comes clanking to a close, we are again reminded how societies work, in a series of open-ended recalibrations that determine how traditions that at one time may have been considered sketchy, but acceptable – you know, like slavery – or that may have once been thought of as boyishly charming – you know, sexual harassment – suddenly change to being legally actionable.

America fought a Civil War that ended slavery, if not the malice in men’s hearts. Men chasing women, on the other hand, is at one very basic level a Darwinian predicate. But in our modern society where the roles of the sexes have blurred and more categories along the male-female continuum open every day than new Starbucks locations – Forget ‘LBGT’… Canadian teachers now asked to learn ‘LGGBDTTTIQQAAP’ – the line that separates playful courtship from sanctionable behavior never fully settles. Just consider this one Biblical proscription as an example, remembering there are many who read such admonitions as timelessly applicable.

“Let a woman learn in silence with all submissiveness. I permit no woman to teach or have authority over a man; rather, she is to remain silent.” 1 Timothy 2: 11-12.

The rush of #MeToo stories that have spilled out across the media landscape like a dam-busted flood in 2017 testify to the long building pressure behind the allegations. But rather than question why it took so long for these women to come forward, understand, instead, the feelings of isolation and illogical self-recriminations (“what did I do?”) that attended those incidents when they first happened, and therefore maintained their sheltered silence over the long dark years. Not so different than how the actions of predatory Catholic priests preying on young boys came to the surface only after decades of omertà.

So from Judge Roy Moore to Charlie Rose, Al Franken, Matt Lauer, Russell Simmons to the Big P-Grabber himself in the White House, what we see is that even the hard lines of political dogma that have split this country into primary political palettes of reds and blues bleed away in this even more definitional construct of human sexual interaction.

Yes, sisterhood is once again on the rise. But I wonder, is it fifth-wave feminism, or just another in the endless reactions to the aberration that is the Donald Trump presidency? Because what doesn’t revolve around that tangerine sun these days? Continue reading “WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?”

MEASURING PRIVILEGE AT UCLA

Let’s not kid ourselves, the cost of labor in any industry is tied to scarcity.  And in the world of sports, talent is rare and accordingly, often accommodated with positions of wealth and privilege. We are about to witness how far that privilege stretches in Westwood, California.

According to ESPN, there’s a big internal debate within the UCLA community about what sanctions to levy against the three freshman basketball players caught shoplifting in China on a recent “goodwill tour”.

UCLA freshman accused of shoplifting in China address the press upon returning home. (l-r) Cody Riley, DiAngelo Ball, and Jalen Hill. (photo NY Daily News)

Some in the Bruin community believe that Cody RileyLiAngelo Ball, and Jalen Hill,  should be suspended for the entire season, if not expelled from school. Others say that a half-a-year suspension would be sufficient punishment. Interestingly, we note that half a season would coincide with the start of Pac-12 conference play.

All three players were confined to the team hotel in Hangzhou, China after being arrested for shoplifting at three high-end stores nearby.  They were not permitted to leave the country with the rest of the team until their legal process was completed.  Fortunately for them, President Trump had recently completed his 12-day Far East trip, and was able to prevail upon Chinese President Xi Jinping to intercede on behalf of the young men.

Upon their release and return to the U.S., the players were contrite at their first press conference, thanking President Trump and the State Department. They all “feel terrible” and “take full responsibility” and “have learned my lesson from this big mistake”, promising “not to make a bad decision like this one again.” LiAngelo Ball’s father, the outspoken LaVar Ball, called the incident, “no big deal” while he was in China with his son. Others believe differently. Continue reading “MEASURING PRIVILEGE AT UCLA”

MANDATING PATRIOTISM

With the advent of free agency, the day when players would stay with one team for the majority of their careers has gone the way of leather helmets and high top cleats. Today, pro athletes move from team to team with the speed of a pre-game wind sprint. Increasingly, stars notwithstanding, fans are rooting for team colors as much as for the players wearing them.

But with NFL players continuing their protests against police brutality during the national anthem, NFL TV ratings, game attendance, and merchandise sales have also continued to decline as fans pull back in their own counter-protest. The situation has left NFL commissioner Roger Goodell in a delicate no man’s land.

On one side are the players, 70% of whom are African-American, men with real-life attachments to the disorders and denials of daily black existence in America that their athletic prowess has afforded them fiscal and physical, if not emotional, separation from. On the other side are the fans, 90% of whom are not African-American, because that is the racial makeup of the nation. And that 90% watches the 70% on Sundays to escape the news that has brought the players to their knees. Continue reading “MANDATING PATRIOTISM”

SACRED MILITARY

The men and women of the military have long been held in the highest regard, no matter the society, no matter the era. In the United States, it is no surprise considering that its first president was the military man who delivered independence from England.  Yet recently I have heard people ask, “why is the country is so over-the-top in celebrating the military, treating them like they are sacred human beings? They signed up for this. They are doing a job.”

True enough, but the job they do, like the police and firefighters, can put their life at risk. That sacred duty is what separates the force from the civilians they represent and serve. But nothing occurs in a vacuum, and support for the military is no different.  The current state of the military’s relationship with the greater society is a perfect example of how history can inform, and why understanding its arc can help bring differing sides into greater accord, if not full agreement. Continue reading “SACRED MILITARY”

AMERICA PAST TIME

Though baseball came to be known as the American Pastime in the 19th century, football largely usurped that mantel in the age of television. So much so, that beyond these borders the game is called American Football to differentiate it from what Americans call soccer, but what the rest of the world knows as football.

In this age of globalization, the National Football League is trying to market American football overseas with games in London, Mexico City, and soon in China. However, the growing awareness of the games’ inherent violence, and its consequences to the long-term health of its players are contributing to a lessening of interest in the once and still mighty sporting juggernaut. Add the current backlash against players expressing social dissent on the field – #takeaknee- and the danger to its own well-being is magnified.

National pastimes are based on mutual understandings and shared experiences. But as the makeup of the nation continues to change, there are fewer elements linking us together. We still have the E Pluribus but are quickly losing the Unum. Like track and field events that don’t amount to a unified track meet, but are merely individual events that share the same venue, so are myriad Americans increasingly sharing a land, but fewer and fewer of its common values or past national assumptions. Continue reading “AMERICA PAST TIME”

MAD NOW DISEASE

Famously, at the 1963 March on Washington, Martin Luther King, Jr spoke of “the fierce urgency of now” regarding the need for immediate, “vigorous and positive action” on civil rights. That it took from 1619 to 1963 for that message to be heard tells its own story.

Immediacy is an important driver in any endeavor, as racers we know that. But immediacy must first be buttressed by thoughtful preparation, as well as constancy over time, as Nietzsche reminded us when he said, “for anything great to happen, there must be a long obedience in the same direction.”

National Football League TV ratings were down 12% in 2016, and early evidence indicates that trend continuing in 2017. While many factors may have contributed to that decline, results from a poll taken last year by Seton Hall University suggests the national anthem protest led by then-San Francisco 49’er quarterback Colin Kaepernick was a leading cause.  56% of responders said Kaepernick’s take-a-knee protest against police shootings of black men was the key element in the NFL ratings drop.

That protest, and the backlash against it, both picked up converts this past weekend after President Donald Trump referred to the protesting players as sons-of-bitches in a campaign speech in last Friday in Alabama (22 September), and called on team owners to fire any player who protested during the anthem.

As one might expect, the president’s intemperate vitriol only served as an accelerant to an already dangerous fire of opposing viewpoints. Continue reading “MAD NOW DISEASE”

GOING SOFT

There is a growing movement afoot, both figurative and literal, that is redefining society’s image of beauty and health, while raising basic questions about national strength and preparedness.

The beauty pendulum is always in swing, of course, whether in the time of Peter Paul Rubens or that of Miss Twiggy. But health and preparedness are matters not as easily dismissed by shifting tastes and subjective standards.

Stories are rife about how much slower today’s runners are than the previous generation. At the recent New Balance Falmouth Road Race on Cape Cod, old-timers recalled the days when nearly 50 men would run the serpentine 7-mile course in under 35:00, sub-5 minute per mile pace. This year only eight men accomplished that goal. At the same time, the top end of the sport is faster than ever. Yet the days when that excellence would trickle down to the rest of the field has long since ended.

Scientists now say running even as much as 50 miles a week alone won’t lose you any weight. Not running hard enough, they say, to burn off the necessary calories. That’s the ugly little truth about today’s marathoners. That’s why there are so many one-and-done bucket listers. ‘I thought this unpleasantness was supposed to pare me down.’ Continue reading “GOING SOFT”

THE TECHNOLOGY TRAP

Life is rarely black and white, all one thing and not somewhat another. In the wake of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, the lives of hundreds of thousands of people in Texas and Florida have been severely effected, though the full wrath of Irma’s power wasn’t felt in the most populous areas of southern Florida.

Yet as the scope of the destruction is uncovered, news reports indicate the disintegration of law and order as survivors struggle in the face of severe food and water shortages, and the absence of electricity and phone service.

Who is prepared for such hardship in a technologically advanced nation such as the USA? Continue reading “THE TECHNOLOGY TRAP”