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Not For Long: How the NFL pushed fans like me away from the game

3 Aug

This is a post that has been long overdue. And it should’ve been written years ago, but there were more pressing issues to think and write about. But now on the heels of the NFL trying to place a stranglehold mandatory vaccine initiative on its players, I figure its time to get it all out in the open.

There was a time when football was my favorite sport to play and watch. From 1989-1995, it was my sport. I remember when the NFC East was the the NFC “Beast” and anyone winning that conference was all assured of winning the Super Bowl. Sure I was a die hard Cowboys fan, but the Eagles had Randall Cunningham, and the New York Football Giants had legendary defensive players and had an epic Super Bowl run in 1990 that cemented my fandom. Throw in the big time, bone crushing hits that made the sport popular, and it was the perfect balance of brutality and ballet.

My fandom waned as the Cowboys star dimmed, and my interests in other things intensified (school, girls, drugs, music) but you could catch me watching some fool’s ball on the right Sunday if a matchup was intriguing enough. Even if I didn’t watch, I still kept up with who played for what team. But with each passing year, I noticed subtle changes the competition committee would employ to make the game more exciting for the casual fan. I would say by the mid 2000’s, the league was obviously trying to push the league in a direction that would benefit players like Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, and Tom Brady. Now, the NFL is glorified Arena League ball, or comparable to flag football on steroids. But there are a number of reasons why I don’t watch the NFL. Like to hear them? Here it go.

Reason #1: The Death of the Big Hit

I fell in love with football because it was a gladiator sport. If you were a receiver going across the middle, chances were you were going to get crushed into smithereens. Big hitters like Steve Atwater, Ronnie Lott, Chuck Cecil, Andre Waters, Thomas Everett would take a receivers had off. Yes it was violent, and it was dangerous, but that was the fun of it. The Ravens-Steelers rivalry from last decade was the last penchant of real football left. Now the league has legislated all the big hits out of the game. Defensive players can only hit the quarterbacks between the numbers on their uniforms. Hits above the shoulders or below the knees get flagged and they introduced a “defenseless receiver” rule where if a player isn’t looking, they can’t be hit. Whatever. I blame fantasy football. So much money and viewership is made from gambling and fantasy football participants–many of which never really cared for the game until they started playing–that the league has a vested interest in keeping the offensive players healthy; even at the expense of the defensive players (who still have to make their money somehow).

Reason # 2: Thursday Night Football

You can pinpoint both an uptick in injuries and a drop off in quality of games right around 2006, when the league introduced Thursday night games. The thinking was that Sundays and Mondays weren’t enough football for the week, the world needed more product which would equate to more money for owners and a crumb or two for the players. How the NFLPA agreed to this, I don’t know. But it has been proven time and time again that they have the weakest player union in all of sports (one could even argue that in a sport driven by Black athletes, it is a microcosm for the larger world, where Black faces like Gene Upshaw and DeMaurice Smith, serve as “representation” for the larger population, but only obtain benefits for a small minority). The Thursday night games as a whole have been mostly poor quality, filled with turnovers and injuries. Players often complained about the shortened week after a Monday night game, where there is a quick turnaround and less time to recover from the week’s previous game. Now a team can play on Sunday and then turn around and play four days later. Most players say that they are usually still bruised and aching up until Friday of a normal week of play. To add insult to injuries (pardon the pun), the NFLPA agreed to a 17th game; starting this upcoming season. All I can say is that we teach others how to treat us. The NFLPA is as fangless as the Congressional Black Caucus.

Reason #3 The Plantation Model

The NFL is just one big plantation. It really starts back when players are in college, playing for these huge programs that generate millions of dollars for universities (Football generally makes money for the rest of the sports at a school) and their coaches. Players have to keep in line and if they so much as speak up about an issue within the program or in society, they can get their scholarship revoked or playing time culled if they offend a coach or donor. This feeds into the mentality of the pro player who becomes conditioned to just shut up and play. The optics of this looks real bad when consider there are no Black owners in the NFL, and only one Black general manager–in a sport that is about 70% Black (especially at the skill positions). There are only a handful of Black NFL head coaches, and for a long time, you would be lucky to see two or three Black starting quarterbacks.

Then there are the uniforms. The league is extremely particular about how a player should look during the game. A player can get fined for having the wrong colored socks or cleats. Any messages written on their uniforms–no matter how well intentioned—can be garner a fine of tens of thousands of dollars.

To top it off, players couldn’t even openly celebrate without their team getting penalized on the field and garnering a fine later in the week. The NFL is the king of squeezing out the individuality of its players in favor of a “uniform” look.

Lastly, there is the issue of Colin Kaepernick. While I can agree that the NFL is a private industry (that somehow garnished non-profit status while raking in billions of dollars) and they have the right to give a job to whomever they want, as a consumer, I also have the right to support or not support that industry. There was a large contingent of fans (and let’s face it, most of the owners are huge GOP donors) offended by what Kaepernick was saying in the media, and by what he was protesting. Was there collusion to keep him from landing another job? Probably. Kaepernick didn’t have to opt of his contract with one year remaining, and he didn’t have to sign that settlement. But he is probably better off for doing so. He made millions in a sport where your livelihood can be taken away in one play–which reminds me– NFL players are the only sport without guaranteed contracts. They can rip a player’s contract up at any time and send them out in the street.

Reason #4 Roger Goodell

I could write a whole article about the buffoonery of Roger Goodell if it weren’t already well documented. Its no coincidence that the quality of play in the NFL dropped around the time Commissioner Paul Tagliabue stepped down in 2006. Goodell anointed himself the judge, jury, and executioner of “The Shield”. Players were now being fined and disciplined for off the field matters in addition to what they did on the field. Goodell bungled high profile scandals like “Spygate”, “Bountygate”, the referee lockout of 2012 (which was an embarrassment), (the alleged) CTE cover up by the NFL that resulted in Will Smith making a movie and using a bad accent in it, and also the Ray Rice fiasco. I couldn’t figure out how such a bumbling idiot was able to keep such a profile job until I read that the NFL had made the most money it had ever made with ole Roger Dodger manning the helm.

As it is, with a lot more adult responsibilities, I don’t even think about the NFL very often. Sundays are spent with family, or working on projects. I don’t miss it. In fact, I missed it more when I was watching it–pining for the good ole days of Ronnie Lott and Bo Jackson, and Mike Singletary. But it was a good run. I’d go as far as to say 2012-2013 was the last year I really had any vested interest in who won the Super Bowl. Every year thereafter, I just hoped it was anyone but the Patriots (which could be another post in itself). Who knows, maybe I would’ve outgrown it anyway. All that being said, I guess I’m happier without it. Even if it is America’s favorite sport.

MM..Leftovers: Random Thoughts from Binge Listening to MF DOOM for an Entire Month

1 Feb
  1. I wasn’t listening to much current hip hop by the time Operation: Doomsday came out. I bought one new release in 1999, and it was The Roots, Things Fall Apart which at the time, felt like the most important record to come out that year. Its hard to listen to DOOM’s first album with my ears from that time. Life was drastically different–especially New York. I don’t even know if I would have liked that album then. I had a huge bias for West Coast rap, then my preferences went South, then Midwest and finally to the east coast. Seems backwards I admit, but to a southern boy who had yet to visit the Mecca of hip-hop, New York may as well have been the moon. I loved Wu-Tang, but Wu-Tang was universal, but other than that, I wasn’t checking for much rap coming out of the east coast. Audio wise, Doomsday has that rawness of Enter the 36 Chambers, so there is a chance that I would’ve loved it had I heard it when it was first released, but as a 19 year old, chances are slim that I would’ve had the insight to understand it.
  2. My palette wasn’t sophisticated enough back then to appreciate it had someone dropped that album down in front of me. I can see why Mos Def immediately vibed to it, and why ?uestlove didn’t quite rock with it. Thinking back on how differently things were in the late 90’s there was nothing like this out. Operation: Doomsday has that DIY, punk rock aesthetic that feels so fresh among the other types of production and albums coming out back then. I see why it was so influential for fans and artists who championed it. It is a very charming record, but is still hardcore and street, with an undercurrent of the ethos that hip hop originated in. For those disillusioned with the direction rap music was going (consider for example, Nas at the beginning of that decade to the music he was making by the end of it) I see why this album was so revered.
  3. It is an absolute shame that the KMD album Black Bastards didn’t get released when it was supposed to be. It was completed in 1993, had it come out that year, it would’ve held its own place in the Canon of that year. I think it is as strong as anything that was released–this includes Midnight Marauders, Enter the 36, Doggystyle, Enter Da Stage, Digable Planet’s Reachin’ ,and 93 Til Infinity. The production is tight and the beats are warm and rich–so good that I still haven’t had a chance to study the lyrics(you can even see a little hint of future DOOM production if you pay attention). But I do think had I come out the year it was completed, Black Bastards would be regarded as a borderline classic album instead of this uncomfortable and unfortunate footnote.
  4. In 2004, when Champion Sound, MM FOOD, and Madvillain came out, I was drinking tea with white chicks and listening to boring old jazz records on my turntable. Later that Fall, I discovered Post-Rock music. I couldn’t be any further out of the hip-hop loop that year.
  5. One thing I love about DOOM’s production is that he samples songs that my parents and aunts and uncles listened to when I was growing up. Some of the beats take me back to Saturday mornings filled with the smell of Pine Sol the sounds of Anita Baker and Sade.
  6. It makes me feel good to hear all these stories from others who revered MF DOOM and those who knew him perfectly. His streams and music sales spiked considerably since news of his death and that brings a smile to my face. I hope his family and estate are getting some fat royalty checks.
  7. Listening to DOOM this past month has been pretty therapeutic–as well as educational. He wasn’t my favorite but he should have been. The man was a pure artist. DOOM was one of our last links to that final golden age of New York hip hop–a long and fruitful career that spanned 3 different eras. He started out as a break dancer and graffiti guy, then moved on to rhyming and production and performing. When I think of hip hop purist, DOOM and Yasiin Bey (formerly Mos Def) come to mind. Funnily enough, DOOM though of himself as more of a hip hop novelist than just a guy who rhymed. He was more interested in creating worlds and characters and writing good stories, as opposed to just rhyming over beats. There is a consistent level of humor, levity and brilliance that runs through all of his projects. Listening to DOOM’s music feels like a celebration; reminding me all of what’s important and good in the world. I am angry there wasn’t someone around to make me sit down and listen to his music earlier than when I finally did. I’ve always considered myself a DOOM fan, but now I’m a recent convert to a DOOM-head. He was definitely one of the best to ever do it—many say THE Best. Hip Hop lost a legend last year.
  8. If you think about DOOM’s life, it actually feels like a comic book. Smart, mild mannered man encounters tragedy and hits rock bottom, but has the vision and drive to become one of the most legendary rappers of all time. Considering the hand that was dealt to DOOM, it would’ve been easy for him to give up his dream and get a 9-5. But it didn’t break him. To endure that kind of adversity and become who he was shows how much confidence and positivity the man must’ve had. Respect. His is a story that is very inspiring.

Snapshots of Lawrence

10 Jan

I washed my hands

looked into the mirror

and smiled.

Kansas wasn’t an easy move to make.

You have to want to find Lawrence.

You don’t wind up there by accident.

You can’t fly there

and no bus or train will take you without

stopping in Kansas City, Missouri first.

I’d left the comfortable trappings

of a cushy middle management gig

in Texas for a period of uncertainty

in some random college town that most of my friends

didn’t know existed.

It made sense to no one but me.

I needed to absorb the history of the town

where modern basketball was birthed

long after the first shots of the Civil War rang out.

A town where Nick Collison became a local legend

and Hall of famers like Wilt the Stilt,

Paul Pierce and JoJo White made their bones.

Greg Ostertag starred at the neighboring high school

in Dallas.

Met Gale Sayers once in an elevator

who I had no idea–before that day–that he was a KU alum.

He looked nothing like Billy Dee Williams.

I once asked a coworker who’d

played center at Oklahoma State,

what it was like to play in Allen Fieldhouse as a visitor,

and he said it was “kinda spooky.”

One of the best years of my life was spent living in Lawrence, Kansas

But I didn’t know that yet.

I would’ve never guess that I would roam the same halls

where Danny Manning won a high school state championship.

Didn’t know how often I would run into guys like

Wayne Simien, Scott Pollard and Ben McLemore

randomly at places like the grocery store or the taco shop.

Or that I would enjoy some of my best moments

microdosing and playing basketball with friends

or one of the most memorable birthdays ever

at an in conference game with two good buddies.

All those summer visits to Lawrence and KC led to this:

playing pickup soccer under soft Kansas sunsets,

learning on the fly in a semi competitive league.

pining to meet someone

who’d lived in Lawrence during the golden age of 1996 to 2003.

Before the development of the west side

and destruction of the marshes.

None of it made sense.

How do you explain the chills of

being in attendance at game in Allen Fieldhouse

walking around with all the ghosts in town?

It was something one had to experience for themselves.

The intensity and fun of various pickup games

on the town’s many courts–

and the beauty of seeing basketball hoops in every other driveway.

Those pleasures would not be mine

had I not taken that chance.

Moved to the middle of nowhere

to a state where I knew no one

and didn’t have a notion of how I would make a living,

or frankly, where I would live.

But it would all work out

in ways I could never predict.

Of course, I didn’t know that at the time

staring in the mirror

and drying my my hands,

before joining the throng

of people playing board games

in the living room.

It definitely felt like home.

I just wasn’t sure for how long.

~Bob E. Freeman

DOOM Haiku

10 Jan

The mask was a plan.

Perfectly executed,

and all on his terms.

~Bob E. Freeman

Fall Quarantine Mix

9 Sep

All Done

12 Aug

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/some-hither-others-yon-bob-e-freeman/1137425526?ean=9781634989268

 

 

Image

Coming Soon

17 Jul

D2182AEC-23D1-44F0-8559-AA3AFFE70966

Why this is Bigger than George Floyd

3 Jun

George Floyd’s family wants peace. They believe he himself would want peace despite being murdered by Minnesota police officer, Derek Chauvin. To think this past week’s slew of uprisings have simply to do with George Floyd is reductive. It is much bigger than that.

For black New Yorkers, there are too many famous unsettled scores to list– going as far back as 1983 when graffiti artist Michael Stewart was beaten to death for tagging a wall at the First Avenue and 14th street subway station. All six of the officers involved in the beating were acquitted by an all-white jury.

Oaklanders have not forgotten about BART transit rider, Oscar Grant, who was taken off the train and handcuffed and shot in front of an audience of other commuters at the Fruitvale BART station on New Year’s Day 2009. Officer Johannes Mehserle, the policeman who shot Grant, was convicted of involuntary manslaughter, and only served 11 months in jail–in a private cell for his safety.

Black residents in Louisville, Kentucky are still licking fresh wounds from the police ambush of Breonna Taylor,a Louisville EMT, who was killed in her sleep (naked) because the police mistakenly thought it was the resident of a drug dealer. Somehow her boyfriend Kenneth Walker survived the attack, but not without having to withstand the ordeal of an arrest for allegedly shooting one of the invading officers. Presiding judge Olu Stevens released Walker on bail, and eventually the prosecuting attorney dropped charges without prejudice (meaning that Walker could still go to trial for the crime of defending himself and his girlfriend. One small detail from this evening is that the policemen in question were not wearing their body cameras and the drug dealer they were reportedly looking for had already been in custody for at least 11 hours.

Were all the protests and riots about George Floyd? Sure they were. But it was way bigger than that. Although some unemployed people needed to do some early christmas shopping, and others just needed something to do, if you were black, chances are that George Floyd was simply the final straw.

As I write this, the four officers involved in George Floyd’s death have been charged (Officer Chauvin’s original 3rd degree murder and manslaughter charges have been upgraded to 2nd degree while the others have all been given 2nd degree aiding and abetting a murder and manslaughter), but why did take a city to do an estimated $55 million dollars of property damages just for these men to get charged? This doesn’t even take into account all the other damages nationwide to a country with an already reeling economy.

Public opinion is for once on black people’s side, but why now? No one wanted to listen when Oscar Grant lost his life and the police officer got a slap on the wrist. No one was listening when 12 year old Tamir Rice lost his life in Cleveland because he had the misfortune of carrying a toy gun at the park. No one wanted to listen when George Zimmerman hunted down a child walking home to his father in the rain, and shot him like a wild animal on someone’s front lawn. But now black people have everyone’s attention. Some of it is hot air and lip service of course, the same people who criticized Colin Kaeperknick for peacefully demonstrating against police violence against blacks, are the same people espousing their sympathies and calling for change.

But what does change mean? I hear flowery rhetoric coming from even the most conservative people about how racism is bad and there needs to be change. But no one, not even the most liberal of whites, is calling for stiff punishments to racist and brutal cops who kill black citizens. In 2016, an FBI report was released stating that the Ku Klux Klan had infiltrated law enforcement on all levels. If this is true, when how will sensitivity training, commissions, and investigations help our current situation? How will chanting the words, “Black Lives Matter” every time someone black is murdered, help black people? Sure it makes everyone feel good to acknowledge there is something wrong with the system, but they are just words.

The time for talking is over. We’re past the point of having studies, investigations, chanting, and marching and singing in the name of racial harmony. Put the phone cameras away, and start doing work. Maybe this means protesting, but maybe this means educating others on their bigotry, or maybe, it means putting some money on the books of the protesters out on the front lines. But its time for these racists get this work. No more fence sitting. Either you are with us or against us.

By the way, just because those Minneapolis officers are going to be charged does not mean the fight is over. It is just beginning. Attorney General Keith Ellison needs to be supervised to ensure he does his due diligence in prosecuting these sickos. At most, the accessory officers are looking at 5-10 years in prison with a $20,000 dollar fine. Dr. Michael Baden, the Hennepin County Medical Examiner needs to get moved out of the paint for his bogus preliminary autopsy, and Michael Freeman, the county attorney needs to be removed from his post for waiting so long to charge these dirty cops.

We’ve passed the point of no return in this country—especially for blacks. Black people can sit silently and march peacefully and get quietly exterminated from this country, or they can continue to fight. Every day black people are playing a lottery where every time they leave their homes (and even the comfort of their home isn’t safe) they are a target for violence. To choose to back off the fight is to choose to continue to play the lottery, “maybe today is the day to get killed by a white supremacist, maybe not.” But if that is where we are at, then the choice becomes to either go quietly, or to take someone with them (I for one, refuse to be a soft target. If someone runs up on me, then they are getting this work). But the fight continues. After this issue in Minnesota is resolved, then we’ll have to focus our attention on getting the Louisville officers who killed Breonna Taylor charged and put in jail. Then we’ll have to get some laws put on the books to punish those who violate black people’s civil rights. And then…. the election (but that is for another post on another day).

What this week’s past events have proven is that for positive change to happen for blacks, blacks need to demand tangible results. Its time for blacks and black allies to stop allowing these police officers (and white supremacists) to harm black people with impunity. Black people have to resolve that we can’t just keep getting killed for free. There has to be a cost for each and every black live lost at the hands of the policeman. If that is $55 million, then so be it. But I venture to guess that the next time this happens it will be more costly and less peaceful of a resolution. To quote the filmmaker, Jason Black, “if we are not going to be equally comfortable in this country, then we are going have to be equally uncomfortable.”

 

 

BM

Guest set at KDVS

9 Jan

The House on Tennesee Street

30 Sep

Nuclear Polio Vaccination

Too close to one of my worst years to be one of my best years

but it was certainly one of the liveliest,

most pivotal of my adulthood.

It was my reaction to a period of deep dissatisfaction.

My brother went off to fight in the war and

my professional mistakes bled into my personal life.

No longer certain of my purpose,

I reversed direction

and spent a year shirking responsibility–and delinquent payments—

taking a massive pay cut to sort things out

in a long overdue gap year.

I leaned into being in that small town.

Remaking Dangerfield’s “Back to School” in my head

and taking advice from Bill Lee and Bill Murray.

Back to square one.

I rediscovered my joy through play and paint:

kicking and shooting and passing and jumping and sweating,

smiling and laughing and dosing; popping and locking, ponging and bonging,

puffing and sipping, napping ,fapping…

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