NFL owners looking out for self

Which side are the NFL owners on you ask? The side of money, of course.

After Colin Kaepernick’s peaceful protest during the national anthem last season, the NFL and its owners distanced themselves as far away from him as possible, leaving Kaepernick unemployed to this day. But following President Donald Trump’s attack on players who take a similar stance as Kaepernick, the owners spoke out in defense of the players’ right to freedom of speech. 

Only one thing can make wealthy billionaires change their minds so quickly, and that’s money.

“Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now, out, he’s fired!” -Donald Trump

With those words said at a campaign rally in Huntsville, AL last Friday, Trump put all 32 owners in a precarious position with their workforce and fanbase. Even if they wanted to, the owners couldn’t fire every player protesting during the national anthem. For one, some of those players are key contributors to what’s supposedly the ultimate goal – winning. Secondly, that would surely turn off the fans who reluctantly stuck around after Kaepernick’s exile.

If the same owners appearing to be blackballing Kaepernick said/did nothing after the president’s comments, they would have looked as if they were in agreement with Trump, the same man whose campaign many of them donated to. This would have led to splintered relationships within organizations. And even the fans who didn’t care about the protests would lose interest soon after.

The above tweet and similar rhetoric further exacerbated the NFL’s need to show a united front, as Trump called on his legion of supporters to boycott a league that is already being boycotted by Kaepernick supporters. The NFL doesn’t stand a chance in a war with the President over the type of people who support him. These are the same people who see the protests during the national anthem as disrespect to our country and military even though Kaepernick verbally expressed exactly what his intent was.

The NFL had no choice but to target the other segment of fans. It couldn’t be divided within its own ranks if it expected to keep the type of people that didn’t see eye-to-eye with the President. Thus, the league and its owners switched sides, some owners even joining their players in linked arms Sunday and Monday on the sidelines.

The only thing left for the NFL owners to do to complete their about-face is re-employ Kaepernick. The odds of that happening are slim to none however, because everything the owners did is a front. Kaepernick is a free agent because the owners didn’t care enough about the issue he was raising awareness for to put up with what they perceived as bad press or a “distraction.” And in linking arms, the owners (and players) effectively hijacked the narrative of what the protest was originally about – police brutality.

So which side are the owners on? They’re on their own side, and their side will always be about the bottomline, and never forget that.
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Vic Mensa’s “The Manuscript” blurs the direction of his future project

From the onset of his first project since last year’s There’s Alot Going On, Vic Mensa makes it clear the growth he displayed in 2016 is here to stay. The Manuscript begins with Vic’s proclamation that the new him is permanent. “I’ve grown too much to ever be the old Vic/I’m new and improved, call me Vic 2.0,” is his response on “Almost There” to fans asking for the same artist from years’ past.

Vic conveys appreciativeness over feel-good piano keys, as if he’s sitting on something momentous and he knows it. Mr. Hudson’s assist on the intro hook helps to express a message that this project is merely an appetizer for something much larger, whether that’s the release of his debut solo album or the boost in status he expects said album to bring. The tracks following are presumably a preview.

“OMG” shows the growth Vic continues to make as he seamlessly interweaves social commentary into stanzas not necessarily geared towards changing the world. Featuring Pusha T and all his coke-rap glory, this song is an exercise in wordplay for Vic, who doesn’t sacrifice words or flow to elaborate on any one topic more than necessary. Still, he effectively forces you to acknowledge certain realities without killing the mood.

Vic goes on to show he continues to struggle with whatever drugs he failed to shrug off in the last year on “Rollin’ Like a Stoner.” He excuses his addiction as him being a rock star over a hook that flashes his ability to make cross-over turn-up anthems, even if the body of the song lacks substance. The synths and percussion make the song more infectious than it should be.

The Manuscript ends with “Rage,” which solidifies the project as a hodgepodge of sounds Vic is capable of executing reasonably good. This alternative-rock sounding outro provides the type of build-up Vic is used to from performing with his old Kids These Days band. He gets introspective on the song while also blurring the direction of his future project. One can gather from listening to The Manuscript that Vic Mensa will effectively lean towards the sound of any one of these tracks, but the chance remains that his next body of work will be as eclectic. The EP isn’t a bad listen, but that’s because it’s only four songs. Hopefully the full-length debut is more focused. Trying to cater to different tastes at once could leave Vic Mensa appealing to fewer people, not more.

Cowboys’ season not a failure

I hate the Cowboys.

As much as any self-respecting fan of a non-Dallas NFL team, I have an extreme dislike of the Dallas Cowboys. It’s the only team to ever make me inflict damage to my own possessions – an innocent basement wall that had nothing to do with the Giants allowing a game-winning TD to slow-but-somehow-always-open Jason Witten in 2015.

 

And so life goes on. That was the season-opener of a year in which Tony Romo was injured and the Cowboys finished 4-12. Satisfying enough. But then, Dallas drafted Ezekiel Elliott with the 1st pick of the 2016 draft, and with Romo expected to return, suddenly looked like a team primed to reclaim its 1st-place form of 2014.

The rest of the story is well known: Romo is re-injured in the preseason, Dak Prescott emerges as Dallas’ QB of the future with one of the more improbable rookie seasons, the offensive line remains a juggernaut, and Elliott was everything he was advertised to be.

The Cowboys weren’t supposed to make it this far. Expectations of a turnaround hinged on the return of Romo. An almost all rookie-led run to the playoffs was unforeseen. And yet, here we are, the day after Prescott went head-to-head in the Divisional Playoffs as the No. 1 seed with arguably the game’s best QB, Aaron Rodgers, and almost won. Not to mention, the reason Dallas lost was less his fault than the defense and offensive play-calling.

When Romo went down, conventional wisdom said the team would repeat 2015. Instead, they went 13-3 (Giants sweep – hehehe) and received a 1st-round bye. At the end of such a successful season, it’s reasonable to expect a more fitting ending. But in proper perspective, this season was already a success when the team clinched the division and more in the regular season. This playoff game was merely a necessary get-knocked-down moment for a new regime led by Prescott and Elliott, and they’ll be hungrier than ever to get back next year.

 

So rejoice now non-Cowboys fans alike, because this team will give us plenty of nervous moments in the future. All we can hope for is that our teams (*cough* Giants) come back just as motivated.

Oh, and after a few down years, the NFC East is back.

It’s OK to root for Tyreek Hill

I completely understand if people have been conflicted this season watching Chiefs standout rookie Tyreek Hill set the NFL ablaze, contributing to his team’s success far earlier than most 5th-round picks.

During his time at Oklahoma State in 2014, Hill punched and choked his then-girlfriend following an argument. He pleaded guilty to abuse by strangulation in 2015 and was sentenced to three years probation on a plea agreement. The entire ordeal was horrid and unforgettable, even before  mention that the woman was eight-weeks pregnant at the time.

It’s important that we don’t forget what happened, because Hill may one day become an example of what not to do, who not to be, or how a person can and should change. But more than two years later, it’s OK to look past his transgressions and enjoy him play.

We like to think of violence against women as a football issue, something exclusive to athletes. We act as if domestic violence is something that only league’s need to deal with and that we all can judge from a distance. Maybe this way of thinking somehow makes people feel disconnected from a real-world issue. But the reality is “regular people” deal with domestic abuse too, and it’s an issue we all have a hand in fixing. It’s a culture that our country needs to address. Whether it’s OK to hit a woman isn’t something we should look to our favorite teams to set moralities and make us feel good about – essentially exiling anyone with a tattered past so we can act like the issue doesn’t exist daily outside of sports.

We should want people who have abuse problems to get help, so the cycle of abuse doesn’t continue. We should want personal reform more than punishment. And although punishment is often necessary for that reform, it should come from a fair judicial process, not a potential employer. People should be given second chances after paying their legal dues, and if a second chance proves to be insufficient, the justice system should have a next-step program for multiple offenses. And when someone is successfully reformed, we should applaud the outcome. We should be happy that another woman doesn’t have to be subjected to abuse. Simply banning an athlete from playing a sport doesn’t ensure that. It may actually have adverse affects.

The people an offender deal with day-to-day have more reason to take extreme action than someone that comes along after said offender has dealt with the issue. Hill’s girlfriend rightfully pressed charges against him. Oklahoma State rightfully released him from the football and track programs following his arrest. Afterwards, Hill enrolled at West Alabama for a season, and in 2016, the Chiefs drafted him with the 165th overall pick in the NFL draft.

Any team that passed on Hill because of his past did so to avoid having to address the questions and potential distractions, not because they were trying to stand on a moral high-ground. And as businesses, they shouldn’t be criticized for those decisions. In the same vein, we shouldn’t condemn West Alabama for taking a chance on a kid who had hopefully learned a valuable lesson. And we certainly shouldn’t condemn the Chiefs for giving Hill an opportunity to make a living. All we can hope for is that the organizations did their due diligence in the interview and background-check process.

Hill confessed to his transgressions and apologized. And as far as we know, he hasn’t had another issue since. It would be nice to see him advocate on behalf of domestic violence groups, but he’s not obligated to. He remains on probation and will likely go to jail if he doesn’t abide by it. That should be enough to keep Hill in check. Unless he has another incident, it’s not on us to hold it over his or his employers’ heads anymore.

the greatest

want to know how iconic muhammad ali was?

last night, my work shift was going as it usually does. we knew ali’s health was in dire condition, and we had a plan in place for the worst, but with about 30 minutes remaining until I was scheduled to leave, it seemed i wouldn’t be a part of that scenario. it was almost 12:30 am and i started typing up my shift report, prepared to go home at the top of the hour. that’s when we seen it cross on our news wires. a collective breath left the room. muhammad ali died.

everything that everyone was doing at that moment became irrelevant. no other sports news mattered. we went into full-on ali coverage. this was the biggest death conceivable in our world, the sports world. and it was treated as such. i won’t delve into what the game plan was or how we broke up coverage, but it was obvious very quickly that i was at work on a night i would never forget. i didn’t leave until about 4 am.

any other time you stay almost three hours past your scheduled shift, it’s usually some anger involved. instead, i was selfishly honored to be able to help cover the death of such an icon. in my interview for espn, i was asked what sports moment before my lifetime would i most want to go back and witness. my response was, “any of muhammad ali’s fights, or even a press conference.” i admired ali’s charisma, passion, and activism. outside of youtube, i was too young to have watched him become one of the greatest in the boxing ring and a revered man outside of it, but his story was told and passed down like old folklore. like so many other kids, i wasn’t a fighter and didn’t box, but i wanted to float like a butterfly and sting like a bee. and i wanted to be able to talk about my beliefs as freely as he did and back it up. ali was a giant of a human being. he dwarfed the people who thought their skin tone made them better. he cared about all of us.

ali suffered from parkinson’s disease for more than three decades, but some how the images of his young and outspoken self outlived the one of him as a frail, older man. even for someone like myself, who hasn’t lived as long as ali had the disease that caused him to tremble, i remember him as the young man with the short fro and loud, yet eloquent words, who changed his name from cassius clay, refused to fight a war he didn’t believe in, and refused to be treated like less of a man. and he refused to stand by and watch anyone else be treated less than. it’s been said time and time again, and i’ll say it once more: muhammad ali wasn’t the greatest because of what he did in the ring, he was the greatest because of what he stood for outside of it. he was an inspiration for me and millions of people, and will be remembered forever.

perseverance

it was memorial day weekend and both bridget and i had to work. me in connecticut, obviously, and her back in maryland. the thing about it though, is that seemingly everyone else in our circle of friends was off. and not only were they off, but they were vacationing in extravagant places, and enjoying warm weather, and grilling, and eating good. still working a new job, i wasn’t really all that concerned about being at work. bridget, on the other hand, felt stuck. and to make the situation worst, the few hundred miles between her and her best friend (me) made the holiday tougher. i could hear it in her tone, demeanor, and attitude towards me that weekend. so, i flew home to bowie on my next day off, which was monday. 

it worked out because we both happened to be off monday and tuesday. i caught the earliest flight, at 6:45 am, just five hours after leaving work sunday night. bridget picked me up from dulles around 7:30, and we enjoyed a nice “holiday” break together. the trip was even more enjoyable because i got to see my family.

my dad hooked up some ribs on the grill and bridget and i scooped up some crab legs for a nice meal monday evening. a bottle of jameson capped the night off, doing the damage it was meant to do. after recovering the next morning, bridget and i took my niece, bella, to the beach at sandy point. we intended to go to ocean city, but the weather forecast in that area was grim. for the girls, the beach was an enjoyable getaway. for me, the beach was like going to rehab. walking in sand has never been more difficult. it felt like i was inflicting more damage on my injured leg with each step. i didn’t even get in the water. then, the downer of the trip happened when a 7-year-old boy went missing. lifeguards cleared the water before gathering participants to create a rescue line. people interlocked arms and walked across the water to search for a body that was never found. i’m still not sure whether they found him. the situation felt similar to the previous week’s biggest news of the child that got stuck in the gorilla pit. where were the parents?

on that final night, my mom finally grew tired of watching me limp around, and purchased/forced crutches upon me. ironically, the next morning, my leg felt as good as it had since the injury. i left md feeling refreshed and fulfilled. the trip was really just an opportunity to show bridget how close we actually are, and that i’m never too far away. it was important to make that point just a week after she left ct, because it showed her i’m just as willing to travel to see her as she is to see me. it’s not a one way thing. that being said, we can’t afford to travel to see one another every week. now, it’s all about perseverance.

torn

“you have a pulled (torn) muscle. a pulled muscle, or muscle strain, occurs when a muscle is over-stretched and some muscle fibers are torn.”

it took me a few days to even read the diagnosis i was given by the er physician. i didn’t believe her. i thought my injury was worse. for about a week and a half before it happened, my left achilles tendon had been aching, presumably from running or lifting in the fitness center. so when i was playing basketball on monday, and someone landed foot first on that very achilles, applying their full body weight to induce a ripping sensation in the back of my leg, i naturally thought my achilles had ruptured. i couldn’t apply any weight to the leg, so i hopped on one foot to the bleachers, where i sat until i felt like hopping to my car.

everyone in the gym assumed it was an ankle sprain, because that’s the most common basketball injury. but when i insisted it wasn’t my ankle, and that i thought it was my achilles, all anyone could offer was, “you should probably get that checked out.” (because how many people do you know have ever injured an achilles.) i didn’t know what to do. the pain subsided slowly, but enough for me to decide i was good to go home. the decision was made easier by the fact that i hadn’t elected my work benefits yet, so i had no clue what a visit to the emergency room would cost. i took a one-legged shower, packaged some ice, and propped my leg up while i laid on the couch and googled achilles injuries. it was all grim.

while i laid there, my leg and foot area stiffened and swelled up immensely, and not knowing what to do i called a few people, including my mom. ignoring the fact that i wasn’t going to get any other answer from my mom, i allowed her to talk me into going to the er. it hurt like hell to limp my way to the car – and out of the car once i got to the hospital. but if my achilles was in fact torn, it would be worth it. any answer other than “you have a ruptured achilles,” would be a relief, however disappointing. so a pulled “torn” muscle, in my opinion, was not what i was expecting to hear. i opted not to get crutches or even the pain meds the doctor prescribed me.

today is saturday, and i didn’t even read my diagnosis until yesterday. once the doctor said “pulled muscle,” i was disgusted and ready to leave. i probably should’ve taken it more serious. i’ve been limping around the espn campus for the last three days, looking more ridiculous than i felt going to the er on monday. my ankle area is still very swollen and while my leg is slowly healing, i still can’t walk without a significant hitch in my step. it’s actually easier for me to walk sideways. it takes almost half my lunch break just to walk to the cafeteria and back. i’m always a few minutes late into the office even though i pull into the parking lot in good time. i didn’t fully understand or respect the severity of a pulled muscle until now. i still kind of regret going to the er, but at least it provided me the peace of mind to know i wasn’t dealing something even more serious.