can i live?

for the first time in the nearly five months i’ve been in connecticut, bridget made the trip north from maryland. she stayed with me from wednesday to sunday. one of the underlying themes of our relationship, embraced by her and rejected by me, is the notion that i need her to take care of me. she believes i need her to remind me of important dates and times, wash and fold my clothes, cook my food, scratch my back, draw my bath… you get the point. the truth is, she does make my life simpler, and i do need her to an extent, but i’m more than capable of taking care of myself. i think she forgets there was another 26 years of my life before the three we’ve shared.

so, when i ask the question, “can i live?” it’s less jay-z’s plead for understanding and more a rhetorical question. bridget had a chance to see for herself that i’m doing ok. that being said, she still cleaned things i thought was already clean, stocked my refrigerator and cabinets to the max, and booked my next flight to dc. can i live? yea, but she makes sure life is a lot better with her around.

out of the four weeks i’ve been in ct, the one i spent with her was probably the best. we didn’t do anything out of the normal from what we used to do. we went to brunch, we shopped, we cooked together, we ate out, we went to bars, we drank, we laughed, we slept in the same bed, and we enjoyed each other’s company. all the while, i went to work every single day she was here. it still felt like a mini vacation, a break from what’s becoming the norm for me. she teared up when it was finally time for me to take her to the airport on sunday, and we had to rush because i had to go to work after dropping her off. it was quite the anti-climatic ending to a great week, and when i got home from work that night, at 1:30 am, i was alone again.

what i have to look forward to is the day she moves up here permanently, sometime after i put a ring on it. we aren’t rushing the process, but it feels good to have someone who genuinely cares about you and your well being that much. i appreciate and love bridget for that and will always take care of her.

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un-defeated

i’ve been plotting the revival of this blog for a few weeks now, probably since i first arrived in connecticut about three weeks ago. what inspired me to go ahead and get started was yesterday’s launch of espn’s new website, theundefeated.com. ironically, i was defeated time and time again yesterday.

to be clear, my blog has nothing to do with the undefeated, but as a black journalist, the premise of a website that explores race and culture in sports, through the lens of black people, got my gears turning to talk about my life experiences.

i actually began my day, tuesday, by waking up at 7 am to catch the undefeated’s editor-in-chief, kevin merida, on the mike & mike show. some of you may get up early every day without a problem. for me, it was a huge problem, especially because i don’t typically leave work until 1 am. i don’t ever go to bed before 2, and not usually before 3. i planned to read a few of the undefeated’s first articles after kevin’s interview, but thought it smarter to catch a few more z’s with open gym basketball looming at noon.

anyone who knows me knows its hard for me to go back to sleep after i’m up. furthermore, i don’t always approach things with the most urgency in the morning. so i laid in bed until about 12, half awake, with total disregard for breakfast. i got up and got dressed, brushed my teeth, and grabbed a protein bar to eat on my way to the gym.

needless to say, i played awfully. i played about three or four games, my teams only won once, and my terrible play had a clear connection to our losses. i left the gym intent to redeem myself, not just the next time i played basketball, but that same day – in a sport i’d never played before.

my department at work is holding a tennis tournament. even as the newbie in my office, my competitive nature caused me to be one of the first people to want in. my match, against alejandro, was two hours after my basketball failures. neither of us owned tennis rackets, but he had raquetball rackets that i agreed to play with. that was my first mistake, being that another co-worker offered me a real racket. my second mistake was that i didn’t want to spend much time warming up once i got to the park. i was just ready to redeem my basketball failures. that was the worst mistake. i went down 2-0 before claiming the first set as a warm up and saying i’d get it together by the second set. that’s when the bomb that we were only playing one set was dropped on me. i put up more of a fight than the final score suggests, but ale beat me 6-0. i was defeated, badly, for the second time in one day.

bitter, but in refusal to let anyone know, i agreed to meet ale at a bar later that evening to have a couple brews. lo and behold, pool tables. i jumped at the opportunity to redeem myself one last time. i know how to play pool. in the first game, i wiped the table clean of all but one striped ball, while ale had just about every solid still on the table. i missed my next shot only to see him clear the table in one go. this loss might have been the most painful of the day. i did win the next two, and final, pool games, so the night eventually ended on a high note, but i don’t think i’ve ever taken so many crushing losses in one day.

it’s all good, though. my competitive confidence won’t be shaken. on the day the undefeated launched, i was un-defeated. next time i go to the gym, i’m playing like a mad man. i may never play tennis again, but if i’m challenged i’ll take it.

Breaking down the 2016 New York Giants schedule Pt. 2

The Giants go 5-3 through the first half of the season and are riding a three-game win streak as they approach the second half. This is a team full of confidence and momentum, and while things won’t get easier, New York has two games remaining of a three-game home stand. The Giants have a chance to pad their schedule.

Week 10: Monday, Nov. 14 at 8:30 p.m.

W vs Cincinnati Bengals (2015: 12-4)

The Bengals are still a very good, playoff contending team. And they’re coming off of a bye week. The Giants have plenty of momentum and confidence, however, and they’re tired of losing prime time games. This is when the NFL is put on notice of how dangerous New York can be. Andy Dalton never finds a rhythm, while the Giants use a balanced attack to control time of possession and win a tough game at home.

Week 11: Sunday, Nov. 20 at 1 p.m.

W vs Chicago Bears (2015: 6-10)

The Giants play bad enough to lose this game, in one of those letdown performances New York fans have become accustomed to. Fortunately, Chicago is low on confidence from playing a tough schedule, and plays worst. The Giants escape this game with a lucky win and improve to 7-3.

Week 12: Sunday, Nov. 27 at 1 p.m.

W @ Cleveland Browns (2015: 3-13)

Robert Griffin III has always given the Giants a hard time, and if he plays in this game, he’ll do it again. Either way, the Giants prove to be more talented than Cleveland and win their first road game on U.S. soil. The win streak is up to six games.

Week 13: Sunday, Dec. 4 at 4:25 p.m.

L @ Pittsburgh Steelers (2015: 10-6)

This game has the potential to be New York’s most lopsided loss of the season. Pittsburgh is well-rested after playing a Thursday night game the previous week, and New York is perhaps a little overconfident. The offense never gets into a rhythm and Antonio Brown is a constant threat as New York falters for the first time since Week 5.

Week 14: Sunday, Dec. 11 at 8:30 p.m.

L vs Dallas Cowboys

The Giants face another opponent playing on extended rest after a Thursday night game. Dallas has re-established a running attack by now and beats the Giants differently than it did in Week 1. Most people wondered which team was better, but after losing another prime time game, the Giants fail to fight off questions of Dallas’ superiority.

Week 15: Sunday, Dec. 18 at 1 p.m.

W vs Detroit Lions

Detroit’s defense is stingy and its offense is not as inept as people assumed it might be without Calvin Johnson, but by now the Lions playoff chances are slim to none. The Giants are still positioning themselves and come out strong to snap a two-game losing skid.

Week 16: Thursday, Dec. 22 at 8:25 p.m.

L @ Philadelphia Eagles

It’s a short week for New York, which finally takes it turn in a Thursday night game. The week is just as short for Philly, but with the season all but over, the Eagles would love nothing more than to disrupt New York’s playoff chances. The Giants know they have another game to seal things up next week and underestimate the Eagles fire in a close loss.

Week 17: Sunday, Jan. 1, 2017 at 1 p.m.

W @ Washington

Happy New Year! The Giants open 2017 on a high note after defeating Washington for the second time this season and clinching a playoff spot, likely by locking up the division. The extra days of preparation, and especially rest, from last week’s Thursday game benefitted New York. Because of prime time losses, however, the Giants playoff chances are underestimated. But with one of the more experienced playoff quarterbacks, the Giants are a team no one wants to play.

Giants second half record: 5-3

2016-17 record: 10-6, 3-3 NFC East

Breaking down the 2016 New York Giants schedule Pt. 1

The NFL released the 2016-17 schedules on Thursday, which gives me an awesome opportunity to kick off this blog by breaking down each game. Based off of last season’s records, the Giants are tied with Green Bay for the second easiest strength of schedule, but now that we have the order of those games, it’s easier to determine where fortunes may be better or worst depending on short or long weeks, and early or late games. Check out my breakdown of the Giants through half of the season below. My second half will be released tomorrow.

Week 1: Sunday, Sept. 11 at 4:25 p.m.

L @ Dallas Cowboys (2015: 4-12)

For the fourth time in five years, the Giants will open the season against Dallas, and like the last two games, it’s at AT&T Stadium. These games are always close, but the Giants have found a way to lose each of the previous three openers to Dallas. This year will be no different as New York’s new defensive additions get used to Steve Spagnuolo’s system. Eli Manning and company will do enough to keep the game competitive, but a re-energized Cowboys offense with Tony Romo back under center will do enough to exploit the defense. Cowboys win another nail-biter.

Week 2: Sunday, Sept. 18 at 1 p.m.

W vs New Orleans Saints (2015: 7-9)

The Giants return to New Jersey for their home opener against New Orleans in a rematch of last year’s shootout. Most people believe the Saints are in decline, and I tend to agree, but this game won’t be a waltz. I don’t think Manning and Drew Brees will produce a combined 13 passing touchdowns like last year, but they’ll exchange scores until Manning’s offense comes up with the final dagger.

Week 3: Sunday, Sept. 25 at 1 p.m.

W vs Washington (2015: 9-7)

The Giants stay at home in Week 3 for their first shot at last year’s NFC East champions. The game will be Washington’s first on the road, and unfortunately for Washington, New York’s first as a cohesive defensive unit. The Giants rattle Kirk Cousins in a game easily won.

Week 4: Monday, Oct. 3 at 8:30 p.m.

L @ Minnesota Vikings (2015: 11-5)

Minnesota is a team on the rise although its MVP, Adrian Peterson, may be in decline. Either way, he’s still really good and will prove to be too much for a Giants defense that hadn’t yet been tested against the run. It’ll be a close game, but New York loses on the road in its first prime time game of the season.

Week 5: Sunday, Oct. 9 at 8:30 p.m.

L @ Green Bay Packers (2015: 10-6)

New York faces its third straight opponent which made the postseason in 2015 on a shortened week, on the road. To make the task of playing Green Bay  in prime time more daunting is the fact that the Packers had plenty of time to prepare, coming off of a bye. The Giants put up a fight but Aaron Rodgers is too much in a two-score loss that drops New York to 2-3.

Week 6: Sunday, Oct. 16 at 1 p.m.

W vs Baltimore Ravens (2015: 5-11)

Baltimore hits the road for the first time since Week 3, but runs into a Giants team determined not to fall too far behind the eight ball. Joe Flacco is a sitting duck and Baltimore’s defense is uncharacteristically weak. New York wins by two scores to gain momentum before taking a long flight.

Week 7: Sunday, Oct. 23 at 9:30 a.m. (Wembley Stadium in London)

W at Los Angeles Rams (2015: 7-9)

Both teams are looking for a win before heading into the bye, but the more talented quarterback prevails. The Giants wreak havoc on whoever is under center for the Rams, Janoris Jenkins plays with fire against his former team, and Eli Manning make Los Angeles wish it kept Jenkins. The Giants play a game unusually clean for a team playing in London and improve to 4-3 heading into the break.

Week 8: Bye

Week 9: Sunday, Nov. 6 at 1 p.m.

W vs Philadelphia Eagles

Philadelphia is better than most people thought it would be, but still lacks the collective experience to close out games. This one will be no exception. The Eagles play New York close as can be expected from a division rival, but the Giants prove to be too talented for Philadelphia to keep up with over four quarters.

Giants midway record: 5-3

Album Review: In My Feelings (Goin’ Thru It), Boosie Badazz

In My Feelings (Goin’ Thru It), Boosie Badazz

Rating: 🏀🏀🏀 –  Three Pointer (2.8/4)

1) The Rain – 🏀🏀

Boosie opens the album ‘in his feelings,’ so to speak. He dives deep into his personal life, discussing things such as his health issues and dysfunctional relationships. Rapping over a backdrop of rain and thunderstorms, the content is what makes the song good.

2) Cancer – 🏀🏀🏀

Diving into the raw emotions one might have when first hearing that he/she has cancer, Boosie gives listeners his first-hand account. Song could have been mixed better, but has a melodic feel to it as Boosie asks God how he got cancer.

3) Stressing Me – 🏀🏀🏀

“I hope your new year’s resolution to stop stressing me.” Any man, or woman, can relate to the sentiments Boosie articulates in this song. He brings classic Boosie energy on this track. The hook leaves a little to be desired, but gets the point across effectively.

4) Warning Signs – 🏀🏀🏀🏀

Building on the energy from the previous track, “Warning Signs” boasts what is probably the best beat on the album. With a hook that sounds Scarface/Tupac-influenced, Boosie remembers advice from his mom not to put his faith in man.

5) Bad Guy – 🏀🏀

Boosie’s thoughts are understandable and make sense but weren’t well organized into great rap lyrics. The hook is the best thing about this song, and it isn’t even that good.

6) Call of Duty – 🏀🏀

Boosie proclaims his call of duty but rambles a little too much over the track. Song has some high moments but not enough to be a three-pointer.

7) Smile to Keep from Crying – 🏀🏀🏀

The song starts slow but with piano keys playing in staccato, Boosie does a good job of eventually catching the beat in a more engaging way. After about a minute the song  picks up and ends on a high note.

8) Forgive Me Being Lost – 🏀🏀🏀

It shouldn’t be hard to forgive Boosie for being lost after he describes his circumstances in this introspective banger.

9) Roller Coaster Ride – 🏀🏀🏀

In his classic street-preaching style, Boosie stays with the “In My Feelings” theme of the album, without sounding too emo about it.

10) I Know They Gone Miss Me – n/a

Commend Boosie for understanding his importance to the people in his life. Many times people who live recklessly, don’t realize how much they mean to the people around them.

Washington’s bright future not guaranteed

I get it. Football fans are generally optimistic about the futures of their favorite teams, specifically fans of teams that made the playoffs in the previous season. So when it comes to fans of the professional football team in Washington, D.C., this theory is enhanced by ten.
Washington fans were already irrationally optimistic, and after losing to the Packers in the wild-card round of the playoffs, their optimism is at an all-time high. Their heads are so in the clouds that they were barely upset after losing to the Packers, because “nobody expected us to be here” and “we’ll be back next year.” Only New England fans are as sure.
Now, while even I have to admit Washington showed some promise for the future, there’s cause for pause that the fans aren’t heeding to.
The first, and most glaringly obvious issue, is the one at quarterback. Kirk Cousins played amazing down the stretch this season but as has been noted time and time again, he has yet to win a game against a team with a winning record in his career.

Is he the quarterback of the future? With Cousins’ impending free agency, Washington will have to pay him to find out. If Washington doesn’t, somebody else will, so naturally they’ll pay him and either prosper for the next four to five years or set the franchise back as much.
I’m of the belief that he’ll be a decent enough quarterback, though. Not as good as he was in the second half of 2015, but not terrible either. He’ll be good enough to win with, which leads me to my next issue. The way he earned the starting quarterback position in the first place.
Robert Griffin III will be gone next season. He’ll finally be a non-issue in Washington, the distraction that was but no longer is. The other person who contributed to the RGIII circus, however, is still around – Jay Gruden.
Gruden deserves SOME credit for carrying a four-win team in 2014 to a 9-7 playoff team the following season, but it was only a playoff team for winning the NFC East. No one’s giving Bill O’Brien any praise for winning the AFC South and the NFC East was just as bad. Let’s hold on to our Gruden praise for when he actually deserves it. And I’m not as sure whether he’ll ever earn that type of praise.
Are we sure Gruden is a good head coach with the way he originally mismanaged the most important position on the team? It wasn’t a matter of knowledge with him, it was matter of dealing with people, the same thing that got Chip Kelly fired. Gruden clearly made the right decision in who to start, but the way he arrived to that point was a mess. A lot of talk was made that if his decision to start Cousins didn’t pan out, he would be out of job. Well, Cousins beat up on bad teams and saved Gruden, but are we sure he won’t mismanage more of his players in the future? Let’s not forget that he’s only still around because of a quarterback that still hasn’t beaten a winning team. There are still a lot of question marks.
The final reason Washington fans should temper expectations for 2016 is the most obvious. The ‘skins aren’t the best team in a division that seems to turnover every year. There hasn’t been a back-to-back winner of the NFC East since Philly did it from 2001 to 2004. Not even the team fans were so excited about in 2012, behind the now exiled RGIII, could repeat – and I think that team was better than this one.
As much as it pains me to say as a lifelong Giants fan, I think Dallas is still the team to beat.
Obviously, the Cowboys have their own coaching issues, but with that offensive line still in tact and a healthy Tony Romo and Dez Bryant returning, Dallas automatically leap frogs everyone in the division.
In addition, Cousins is still just the third best quarterback in the division, at best, behind Romo and Eli Manning. And New York’s offense will keep it in the division picture, especially if the Giants hire the right head coach.
As bad as New York was defensively, only two teams scored less than Washington did in either of its two games against the Giants. Cousins threw just two touchdowns against the Giants in 2015, and he threw for as many interceptions when New York won the first game 32-21. Washington won the second game 20-14.
So, congratulations Washington fans, you made the playoffs and I know its as much success you can fathom, but your best best was to go on a magical run this season, because getting back next year isn’t a sure thing.

Coughlin era in New York a success, not great

As I look back on the Tom Coughlin era in New York, which came to a crashing end on Monday, I desperately want to call it great – but that would be a lie.

I’m a Giants fan, so I witnessed a lot of Giants football over the last 12 years since Coughlin took over, in 2004. The underlying theme of this team over that time has been inconsistency. The Giants have always been what I called ‘sleeping Giants.’

At any given time, the Giants could rip off six straight wins but at the same time they were liable to lose six straight, and in the most excruciating fashion possible. That all came to a head this season, Tom Coughlin’s last, as the Giants lost eight games by just one score, often leading late into the fourth quarter only to give the game away. It was as if the thing Giants fans feared the most kept happening, week after week.

A season like the one New York had this year is always possible when a team lives on the edge as often as Coughlin’s teams have. That’s why his career record in New York is barely over .500 at 110-92.

While far from great, there’s no doubt that Coughlin’s tenure with the Giants was still a success. Winning two super bowl’s is nothing to shoo at, and the thing that was likely the ultimate factor in why Coughlin was basically forced to resign – losing close games – is actually what helped him secure those great super bowl runs. He won a lot of close games.

The Giants always showed flashes of being a high-powered offense under Coughlin, but for one reason or another never seemed to peak. They couldn’t string together week-after-week blowout performances like the great Saints, Patriots, or Colts offenses over the same time period. When the Giants won, it was often ugly, close games requiring a late drive by Eli Manning and a defensive stop led by a great pass rush. Even the two super bowl runs came after sub-par regular seasons. In 2007, the Giants were second in the NFC East with a 10-6 record and reached the Super Bowl as a wild card team. In 2011, the Giants won the division at just 9-7. I actually think the best team under Coughlin was the 2008 team, following his first Super Bowl. That team finished 12-4 but lost three of its final four regular season games after Plaxico Burress shot himself. They lost to the Eagles in the divisional round of the playoffs. Had Burress not caused such a distraction – and subtraction of the team’s best offensive weapon – I believe Coughlin would have three rings right now.

Still, for some reason, no matter how bad the Giants looked at times, there was always the potential for the switch to cut on. For that reason, Coughlin has two rings, making his time in New York successful, if not great, and that’s OK with Giants fans. He will go down as a legend in our book and definitely should be in the Hall of Fame when it’s time for his name to be called.