Caps’ title reflects working-class D.C.

Sports

There’s a large segment of the DMV sports population that I would consider bigger Washington Capitals fans than myself, and a large percentage of that group is white people. So I know several people see me pull for the only hockey team I’ve ever been able to name more than five players from, and think I’m a bandwagon fan riding this recent success to the joy of a championship season. That couldn’t be farther from the truth.

I’m a first generation Capitals fan. Like many African-Americans, I didn’t grow up in a household that cared for hockey. As anyone with vision can see, people who look like me aren’t well-represented in the sport. And unlike basketball, which started white before diversifying – therefore attracting viewers of all backgrounds – hockey has always been white. So drawing black fans can prove to be somewhat of a challenge. But I chose from a young age to root for all D.C.-area teams (aside from the pro football team), so over the years I’ve watched plenty of Capitals hockey games, playoffs or not.

That being said, hockey is my fourth favorite sport, and I’m more a Capitals fan than a hockey fan. So in the pecking order of my sports interests, hockey always came after the Wizards, Nationals, New York Giants, and the NBA and NFL in general. So no, I don’t remember the Caps’ 1997-98 playoff run and eventual sweep in the Stanley Cup Final the way I do the Bulls’ win over the Jazz that same year, when I was going on 11 years old. And although I do remember Peter Bondra and Olaf Kolzig being my favorite players at that time, my knowledge of what held those teams back isn’t up to snuff. But I do remember the recent Presidents’ Trophy-winning teams, and this year’s squad gave me a feeling they didn’t, a feeling best described through the city the Capitals play for.

Before this year, the Capitals reminded me of the white collar professionals and politicians of Washington, D.C. Somehow they eleveated to the status of something akin to blue blood without ever actually earning it through postseason success. They were often the favorites entering each season, and their style of play matched; it was rich, finesse, preventative, soft. This year’s team more resembled the working class folks of chocolate city however, the generational families of D.C. fighting tooth and nail to make a living and remain in the city. These Caps scrapped to keep pucks inside the blue line. They put shots on goal from anywhere on the ice and out-skated, if not out-willed, their opponents to rebounds. They seemed to hit more often and with more aggression than teams’ past, and they put their bodies on the line – like Devante Smith-Pelly in Game 7 of the Conference Finals – the ultimate sacrifice for the greater good of the team. And this was all done in a more disciplined manner, taking minimal penalties and capitalizing on power plays.

 

This Capitals’ championship means the world to the thousands of Capitals fans around the world who have been waiting for this moment since 1974. It also means a lot to the thousands more D.C. sports fans that have been waiting for a championship since the Redskins brought one home in 1991. But the meaning of this championship goes even deeper because this team wasn’t as favored to be here this year. And against another team that exceeded expectations but quickly ascended to become the Golden Knights child of the NHL world, the Caps played the role of underdog and kept winning. And in doing so, they represented a class of the city that can relate to and appreciate the story line of struggle more than the one any previous team could’ve provided.

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Takeaways: J. Cole x Angie Martinez

Music

  • Angie Martinez has always possessed a conversational style of interviewing that allows her guests to feel comfortable and open up in ways you don’t always see them open up in other interviews. And while J. Cole is usually forthcoming, it’s really a work of art how Martinez shares her own experiences to carefully, yet effortlessly and almost imperceptibly peel back his layers to get him to spill some really insightful stuff.

 

  • Meditation & Prayer (4:15): These things are synonymous to Martinez, but Cole mentioned his need to do both, separately. In my experience, there’s no right or wrong way as long as you’re purging outside forces from your mind in the process. Cole said he meditates to deal with anxiety, but expressed his urge to do it more frequently, even in absence of anxiety. I don’t deal with much anxiety in my life, but I know people who do and thought this could be impactful for anyone looking for a way to cope. I meditate when I’m in desperate need of answers or direction in life. And like Cole, I don’t see it as the same as prayer, but they’re usually hand in hand. I can pray without meditating, but I usually don’t meditate without praying before or after.

 

  • Staying Present (6:42): Cole said meditation for him is a mechanism for staying present, which in my opinion, is one of the most important but most difficult things for us to do. Especially in this age of social media, with people rapidly spreading and digesting ideas, thoughts, expectations and fears, it’s hard to ground yourself to the now. Those outside forces are compounded with your own worries with bills, family, significant others, work, etc. Living in the moment is something I constantly try to remind myself to do.

 

  • Self Awareness/Improvement (15:36): Anyone close to me will tell you about the many self-improvement “tests” I regularly put myself through, whether temporarily or permanently. In stints, I’ve stopped smoking, drinking, eating pork, eating meat altogether, eating dairy products, going on social media, etc. I remove these things because I notice the adverse affects they have on me either physically or mentally, and I need a reprieve. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard other people express the same desires, but chalk up the causation to almost like an intrinsic trait that can’t be reversed – so they take a why-try attitude. I respect Cole’s willingness to attempt to understand and tackle those things. I can’t stress how hard it is to remove certain forces, especially when you’re the only one in your circle trying.

 

  • Power of Music (23:48): I won’t get long-winded here, but Cole tells a story of how one of his fans who was dealing with pain overcame a moment, and maybe a lifetime, of addiction after hearing his new album, KOD. It just goes to show how the right music at the right time can impact people.

 

  • kiLL edward (31:28): Cole talks about the origin of his alter-ego kiLL edward. He also goes into the relationship he had with his stepfather, Edward, and how those types of relationships can impact a young child.

 

  • Album with Kendrick Lamar (40:47): It doesn’t sound like this is happening anytime soon, if at all.

 

  • Kanye West (43:48): Cole expresses his displeasure with Kanye for releasing evidence of a phone convo the two had during Kanye’s recent “free thought” campaign. He goes on to address the entire saga, including how his song “False Prophets” relates.

 

  • “1985” (1:09:25): On the song 1985, Cole addresses some of the new rappers that have taken shots at him recently. So, at this point in the interview he details his journey to find out where that negative energy was coming from, how his very thorough response was formulated, and his current feelings about some of those new rappers.

 

  • Philosophy (1:19:51): Coming off a spiel about capitalism that we’ve heard from Cole before, he goes into his belief that mankind is still in an infantile state (not excluding himself) and sometime in the future as we mature, the concept of celebrity will cease to exist.

Time to talk G.O.A.T.

Sports

It’s that time of year again; when LeBron James amazes playoff audiences across the world with the things he can do on a basketball court and his legions of minions break out their best ‘he’s-better-than’ takes, crafted since the previous postseason. This in turn brings out the millions of passionate Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant fans who feel the need to shoot down the notion of James somehow passing either as the greatest basketball player of all-time. LeBron haters alike, who don’t necessarily love Kobe or M.J., join in to smother the “LeBron is G.O.A.T” wildfire before it can go any further.

I want to go on the record as saying Michael Jordan is the greatest basketball player ever in my personal opinion. That statement as opinion should be a given, but whenever this debate comes up people state their opinions so matter-of-factly as to dismiss counter-opinions as wrong. I lean toward Jordan because I enjoyed his style of play more. It always felt like he was in charge and like his fingerprint was on every single play of every single game, a trait I didn’t feel James always had until recently. But I understand why people are beginning to say James is the greatest and it doesn’t bother me, and to say that I KNOW Jordan was better would simply be a lie. I have no clue. And that’s where most people in the Jordan corner begin to lose me.

People who argue James as the greatest of all-time usually do so based strictly on what they see on the basketball court. They watch James play, how high he can jump, the type of shots he can make, the chase-down blocks, and they can’t imagine another person being able to do those things for as long as James has been able to. To me, that’s the correct criteria when judging who can play basketball better, even if I disagree with the idea of James being the greatest. People who argue Jordan talk about rings, Finals MVPs, and an undefeated Finals record, things Jordan deserves a lion’s share of the credit for, but also things impacted by a surrounding team.

I’m not so sure that if you replaced James with Jordan on the 2006-07 Cavaliers, they wouldn’t still get swept by the Spurs. I’d like to think Jordan would get at least a win, but that Cavs team was terrible. It’s incredible how people try to factor that loss into an argument against James’ legacy, when he should be given credit for his 22-year-old self dragging those bums to the Finals in the first place. I’m also not sure Jordan could’ve done any better than James in his two Finals loses against the Warriors, one of the greatest teams ever.

I do, however, think Jordan would’ve beaten the Mavericks in 2010-11, the year James shit the bed in the Finals – but the attribute I point to as a reason for that is mental toughness. I think James at that point in his career was mentally fragile in a way I personally never saw Jordan. James tried to defer to Dwyane Wade his first year in Miami because it was “Wade’s team.” Jordan never would’ve conceded a team to another player. He could’ve joined Patrick Ewing in New York and that would’ve become Jordan’s team the day he signed the contract. But to hold Finals losses against James in the debate of G.O.A.T. is ridiculous. If we do that, we have to count Jordan’s playoff failures before reaching the Finals, but we don’t. Seven straight Finals appearances, regardless of outcome, is a plus for James. The personal attribute I felt held James back in 2010-11 is the negative, but people arguing for Jordan or Bryant fail to make such points. For them, it only comes down to 6-0, 5-2, 3-5

To flip the script and put James on those Bulls teams, some of the greatest teams we’ve seen play, I’m not sure he wouldn’t have two three-peats to his name as well. Not saying it definitely would’ve happened, but James is great enough to have beaten the same teams Jordan did, even if in a different way. And to think of James on those Lakers teams with Shaquille O’Neal, that’s scary. They might’ve won more titles because James would’ve deferred to Shaq in a way Bryant’s ego wouldn’t let him. That’s not a knock against Bryant, because that’s the same ego that made him great, but James is great in a different way.

I’m never bothered by the G.O.A.T convo, I’m just upset with how shallow it usually is. The people making lazy arguments for Jordan make it easy for the Bryant stans to piggyback off the same lazy arguments, when Jordan was far and beyond a better player than Bryant. Bryant’s game looked similar to Jordan’s, only it wasn’t as good. The thing working in Bryant’s favor was a similar mental fortitude. But as previously referenced, that sometimes worked to his team’s detriment in a way it didn’t for Jordan. Statistically, Kobe doesn’t stack up to M.J. or LeBron.

Now, if we want to make the argument about better NBA careers or resumes, then we can throw around Finals records and MVPs, and overall titles, and Jordan and Bryant rank more unquestionably ahead of James. And while we’re at it, let’s throw Tim Duncan, Bill Russell, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and hell, even Robert Horry, in there. But if we’re talking about the best player to ever dribble a ball – keep your eyes on the games (not just the highlights), go look at the numbers, form an opinion and realize it’s incredibly subjective.