Virginia Is For Lovers, a.k.a, Why You Should Love Virginia

UVA Basketball

Virginia is for lovers.

Love and basketball are like Mutt and Jeff and Laurel and Hardy and Bonnie and Clyde and Lucy and Desi. They just go together.  And basketball lovers in Virginia love the fact that the University of Virginia Men’s Basketball Team is ranked No. 1 in the nation.  Numero Uno. And they’re trying to stay there and win the 2018 ACC Tournament and stake their claim for the overall No. One seed in this year’s NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament.

Yes, March madness has begun.

Virginia is the fourth team since 1990 to go from unranked in the preseason to the top of the poll, along with Baylor (2017), Syracuse (2010), and Duke (1990). That’s like going from worst (or almost worst) to first. Not bad.  I’m going to watch the semi-final between UVA and Miami, and if all goes to plan, I’ll watch UVA cut down the nets with a win over Duke or North Carolina in the ACC Tournament Final.

So let’s root, root, root for UVA. They are playing lights out defense, and they have a clear path to this year’s Final Four in San Antonio. And they haven’t won a national championship in basketball. Ever.

As for the history of the “Virginia is For Lovers” slogan that’s still going strong today, here’s what I found:

“The year was 1969. The place: Richmond, Virginia. The Virginia State Travel Service had engaged the services of the Martin and Woltz, Inc. advertising agency to develop of new tourism campaign. The Travel Service—now the Virginia Tourism Corporation—wanted to bring more people, especially young people, into Virginia. They needed a campaign that would position Virginia as a destination for the new generation. And what did young people in 1969 like? Love, of course. The Summer of Love was barely past. The Beatles released “All You Need Is Love” that year. Erich Segal’s wildly popular novel Love Story was on the verge of publication. Yes, “love” was certainly in the air in 1969.”

And love is still in the air in 2018. Go UVA!


Black Panther is a “Bad” Cat


For all those of you who have NOT seen the Black Panther film, stop reading. Stop reading right now and go and see it. It’s that good.  And of course you have to understand that in the hood, “bad” means good. And everywhere, someday, right will win the fight, and all that is noble and just will finally reign supreme.  Regardless of your sex, race or ethnic origin, if you love watching the best team win, and if you love what is true, and honest and lovely and good, you will love this film.

If you love comeback stories and good overcomes evil dramas, the Black Panther is for you. And if you love victories with a come from behind turnaround twist, you will appreciate the cinematic genius of Ryan Coogler and the acting acumen of Chadwick Boseman and Michael B. Jordan, and Lupita Nyong’o and Letitia Wright and Angela Basset and so many others.  

I read an outstanding review by Ann Hornaday of the Washington Post and can’t say it any better that she did. In short, Ann Hornaday said, “The Black Panther is a different kind of superhero (who) will mean so much to so many.”  Amen sista.

Here ya go:

” ‘Black Panther,’ an adaptation of the iconic comic book that has been decades in coming, proves to be more than worth the wait. This lush, impressively well-acted film, about an African king learning how best to marshal the superpowers with which he’s been endowed, comes draped in anticipation, not only from hardcore fans of the source material, but also from filmgoers already steeped in breathless hype. Director Ryan Coogler, working with a script he co-wrote with Joe Robert Cole, doesn’t just meet but exceeds those expectations, delivering a film that fulfills the most rote demands of superhero spectacle, yet does so with style and subtexts that feel bracingly, joyfully groundbreaking.

Chadwick Boseman, until now best known for channeling the likes of Jackie Robinson, James Brown and Thurgood Marshall, comes masterfully into his own here as T’Challa, crown prince of the mystical kingdom of Wakanda, who assumes the throne when his father is killed while giving a speech at the United Nations. After an elaborate initiation ritual, T’Challa is tasked with hunting down an evil arms merchant named Ulysses Klaue (Andy Serkis), who has stolen a Wakandan artifact made of the precious metal vibranium. Outfitted with dhesive footwear, a fearsome feline mask and a suit that can absorb and redirect power, invented by his techno-genius sister, Shuri (Letitia Wright), T’Challa sets off for South Korea with his allies, General Okoye (Danai Gurira) and Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o), an accomplished operative who also happens to be T’Challa’s ex-girlfriend.

That game, once it’s afoot, is plenty entertaining, even if it never veers beyond the most conventional contours of modern-day movie action. In a recent interview that went viral, the music producer Quincy Jones noted that most rap music is “just loops, beats, rhymes and hooks.” The same formula applies to the comic book movies that, at their most uninspired, feel like thinly cobbled-together series of battles royal, windy expository encounters, spatially challenged chase scenes and epic standoffs.

The difference with “Black Panther” is that, while observing the outlines of the traditional comic book arc, Coogler and his creative team have enlarged and revitalized it. Drawing on elements from African history and tribal culture, as well as contemporary and forward-looking flourishes, “Black Panther” pulses with color, vibrancy and layered textural beauty, from the beadwork and textiles of Ruth Carter’s spectacular costumes and Hannah Beachler’s warm, dazzlingly eye-catching production design to hairstyles, tattoos and scarifications that feel both ancient and novel.

Make no mistake: Coogler doesn’t use “Black Panther” as an awkward delivery system for such Deep Ideas. Rather, he weaves them in organically and subtly. “Black Panther” is great fun to watch and shot through with delicate threads of lighthearted humor, mostly delivered from Wright’s cheeky, sarcastic whiz kid and Martin Freeman, who shows up midway through the film as an earnest if unlikely ally.

Gracefully photographed with a gratifying un-frenetic touch by Rachel Morrison (nominated for an Oscar for her marvelous work on “Mudbound”), “Black Panther” succeeds far beyond Coogler’s directorial chops (which are prodigious), striking visual design and thematic depth. As a showcase for many of the finest actors working today, it proves how essential performance is, even in movies that on their surface demand little more than fitting into a latex suit and affecting a convincing grimace.

Boseman, who strides through “Black Panther” with unforced, charismatic ease, assumes almost Shakespearean levels of doubt as his character is challenged by an unexpected rival. Nyong’o, Wright, Sterling K. Brown and Daniel Kaluuya bring poetry and gravitas to roles that transcend mere support. Michael B. Jordan, who broke out in Coogler’s debut film, “Fruitvale Station,” brings scrappy, street-smart volatility to his performance as a character with whom T’Challa has a karmic connection, and Gurira steals every scene she’s in as an indomitable warrior trained in the art of spearcraft.

It’s these actors — their faces, their commitment, their attention to craft and detail — that elevate “Black Panther” to stirring heights, whether they’re surfing on top of speeding cars through the colorfully lit streets of Busan, arguing against the backdrop of a teeming, futuristic city or communing with their deceased elders on the ancestral plane. And, as they dominate the screen in a movie rooted firmly in their own history and narratives, they provide an exhilarating, regal rebuke to the chronic absence and denigration of black bodies in American cinema.

‘Black Panther’ may be grounded in the loops, beats, rhymes and hooks of contemporary film grammar, but it feels like a whole new language.”

Majoring In The Minors

Braves Acuna
Atlanta Braves Outfielder Ronald Acuna

With everything that’s wrong, there’s still a lot in sports that’s right. Yes there’s a lot of improper and inappropriate and immoral (not to mention illegal) stuff going on in sports these days, but there’s still a lot of positives going on too.

With everything that’s wrong, how a young kid wears his baseball cap is not one of them. The Braves organization can’t be serious. I mean, the way Ronald Acuna wears his cap CAN’T be the thing a team focuses on in this young spring training season. It just can’t be. 

Right now in America we’re wrestling with politicians who favor less gun control and we have high school students marching for more gun control. We’ve had the Russians hacking our election process and we have coaches who’ve been accused of taking bribes. And that’s just for starters. So you see, there’s so much more important stuff going on in our Country and in our world; so focusing on the pitch angle of a kid’s cap is borderline ridiculous. You mean to tell me that a team is concerned about how a kid wears his hat?  Please.

We need to keep the main thing the main thing, and stop majoring in the minors. The sports fathers need to understand that they were young once too. The fact that the Braves organization is upset that their top prospect, Ronald Acuna, wears his cap slightly tilted to the side tells you everything that is wrong with MLB.

I say leave the kid alone. Let him wear his hat to the side. Let him live life and play ball without meddling and mucking with his head.  It’s not illegal and he’s not breaking any written rules. And herein lies the lesson: sometimes we major in the minors. Sometimes we focus on the twig in someone else’s eye instead of working on removing the tree trunk in our own eye. Sometimes, we lose sight of the forest to spite the trees.

And besides, the cap looks better on his head his way.

Black History

Maame Biney
Maame Biney competes in the women’s 500-meters during the U.S.Olympic short track speedskating trials Saturday, Dec. 16, 2017, in Kearns, Utah. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

In 1968, African-American athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos made history. It cost them a painful penny to make a statement by using one pair of black gloves and sharing them, Tommie Smith wearing the right glove and the John Carlos wearing the left glove, as they raised their fists in defiance of oppression and discrimination in the US during the tumultuous decade that defined many young Americans. It cost them, but they made history.

Likewise, fifty years later, African and African-American athletes are still making history. Jennifer Calfas wrote this worthy article for Time Magazine about how many athletes of color are making history at the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang. It’s worth the read.

“Erin Jackson never expected to qualify for the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea.

The inline skater, who was accustomed to racing on wheels, had just four months of training in long-track speedskating before she hit the ice at the U.S. speedskating trials in early January. She hoped to someday reach the Olympics, an international competition unattainable in the inline skating world. But she was shocked when she qualified right behind Olympic veterans Brittany Bowe and Heather Bergsma, becoming the first African-American woman ever to join Team USA’s Olympic long-track speedskating team.

Jackson is one of a group of athletes in the U.S. and around the world breaking barriers in their sports at the upcoming Winter Olympics in PyeongChang. Maame Biney became the first African-American woman to qualify for Team USA’s speed-skating team. Freestyle skier Gus Kenworthy and figure skater Adam Rippon will become the first openly gay male athletes to compete at a Winter Olympics for the U.S. And an African nation will compete in bobsled for the first time with Nigeria’s team of Seun Adigun, Akuoma Omeoga and Ngozi Onwumere, and the country’s first-ever skeleton athlete, Simidele Adeagbo.

These boundary-breakers could represent a changing look for the Winter Olympics, which, in its beginnings, was dominated by wealthy Nordic and Scandinavian countries. Even now, less than half as many countries participate in the Winter Olympics as the Summer Olympics. “These are not sports that have a real background in that many countries,” said Olympic historian David Wallechinsky. “In very few countries do people go with their buddies and do curling.”

Countries in warmer climates are at a particular disadvantage in preparing for the icy sports of the Winter Games. As Jackson trained for her first Winter Olympics, she offered advice for young athletes of color who hope to compete internationally.

‘Don’t let the representation or lack thereof deter you from getting out there and trying these sports,’ she said. ‘Even if you don’t see other athletes out there, it’s always nice to be the first.’

Adeagbo is not only part of Nigeria’s first Winter Olympic team, but also the first Nigerian, African or black female athlete to compete in skeleton, a sport in which a competitor rides down an ice track on a sled, face-down.

Adeagbo was once a track star who was a two-time U.S. Olympic Trials finalist in the triple jump in 2004 and 2008. While she did not qualify back then, the 36-year-old athlete came out of her retirement from track and field to compete in skeleton.

‘This is about breaking barriers in winter sports,” she told Nike, where she works as a marketing manager in Johannesburg, South Africa. “It’s about making history. And leaving a legacy. It’s about moving sport forward. That’s so much bigger than just me being an Olympian.”

Win At The Buzzer

Last night I went to a George Mason University Men’s basketball game. My wife Lisa is an alum and also the VP of the College of Health and Human Services Alumni Chapter Board, that organized a tail gate party for the CHHS alumni. It was wonderful to meet many alum, that came from far and near, who are doing amazing things “on and off the court.”

Bettyann Duffy, the President of the CHHS Alumni Board was there as well. She’s from Philly, so we have a common bond. It was great. And we also met some Eagles fans! So, what’s not to like about going to a George Mason game?

The Dean of CHHS, Dr. Germaine Louis and her husband, also came and we had a ball talking about the Eagles Super Bowl win. But now we’re only going to talk about Mason, because the game was even greater than the tail gate party.



On the surface, George Mason seems like a relatively average Division-I team.  Saturday, the Patriots improved to 14-15 overall on the season and 8-8 in the Atlantic 10 with a thrilling 78-76 win over Massachusetts. The game ended on a buzzer-beater layup by sophomore guard Ian Boyd. Mason cruised to a 16-point halftime lead, so it looked like the home team would make quick work of visiting UMass. Not so.

UMass came out of the locker room with a vengeance and eventually tied the game. UMass would’ve won except one of their players fouled Mason on a three-point attempt. With no time on the clock, the Mason player calmly drained three free throws to send the game into overtime. Unbelievable. And if that wasn’t exciting enough, the extra session was even better.

In OT, Mason pulled ahead, but UMass wouldn’t go away. With five seconds left, UMass tied the game. Then Mason’s best player, Otis Livingston II, drove the length of the floor. He was defended by at least two UMass players so he ditched the ball to a teammate on his left who made a layup as time expired. Final score: Mason 78, UMass 76. In overtime! What a game.

The irony is that at the close of the Tailgate Party we all sang the Mason Fight Song, not realizing that this game would prove to be just that, a fight. And sometimes life is just like that. Sometimes, you get ahead and then you fall behind and then you find yourself with time running out trying to figure out how to pull it out.

Sometimes, you need more time and more grace and another break to fall your way. In order to win, you have to keep pushing and pulling, fending and fighting through ups and downs and ins and outs. That’s how you Win at the Buzzer.


 Gold or Nothing

Canadian Hockey Loss
Jocelyne Larocque wanted no part of the silver medal following Canada’s 3-2 shootout loss to the U.S. in the women’s hockey final Thursday. (BRUCE BENNETT/GETTY IMAGES)

In the last four Winter Olympics, Canada’s women’s hockey team has taken the Gold medal home and they looked to extend that streak in South Korea. The Canadian women were the heavy favorites as they got set to take on the United States, but they were shocked when the Americans scored a game-tying goal in the third period and forced overtime. Neither team could score in the extra period, so a shootout was upon us.

Team USA eventually scored an epic goal in the 6th round of the shootout to stun Canada and win gold. Jocelyne Larocque, a 29-year-old Canadian defenseman, was understandably upset, so when the Silver Medal was placed around her neck following the game, she immediately removed it.

Here’s how one reporter told it:

“Jocelyne Larocque of the Canadian women’s hockey team was upset, to say the least, at her team’s loss to the United States. Larocque was so distraught that when the silver medal was placed around her neck, she ripped it off within seconds.” It was something that we should never want our teams or our teammates to do.

On the one hand, I applaud Larocque for wanting gold and not wanting silver. I do. It appears that Larocque was channeling the drive and the determination of the great ones such as Michael Jordan and Tom Brady and Derek Jeter and Wayne Gretzky; certainly that is admirable. We all wish we could be as good as these all-star athletes at something, especially our favorite sport.  

On the other hand, the way she publically portrayed her cold angst and callous anger over losing, and probably losing to the US no less, was not cool. The gold or nothing mentality is contrary to the spirit of the Olympics in general and the spirit of sport in specific.

“The rivalry between the Canadian and the United States women’s hockey teams is one of most intense in the Winter Olympic Games. Canada was victorious over the U.S. the last four Winter Olympics but the streak was finally broken this year when the U.S. came out on top. The American’s last victory over Canada came in 1998 in Nagano, Japan”. of the tweets about Larocque’s display of dissatisfaction focused on her poor sportsmanship. The Canadians have owned the US Women the past four Winter Olympics.  That’s dominance. So, in Larocque’s mind, another win was expected. And an unexpected loss was not welcome.

So here we go again with the life lessons sports teach us. First, sports teach how to win with grace. Second, sports teach us how to lose graciously.  We need to learn both lessons, the positive and the negative. After all, it, it takes a positive and a negative charge for a battery to make an engine go.

Here are three quotes that sum it all up:

Winning is great, sure, but if you are really going to do something in life, the secret is learning how to lose. Nobody goes undefeated all the time. If you can pick up after a crushing defeat, and go on to win again, you are going to be a champion someday.          

 Wilma Rudolph


Winning is nice if you don’t lose your integrity in the process.         

 Arnold Horshak 


That’s what learning is, after all; not whether we lose the game, but how we lose and how we’ve changed because of it and what we take away from it that we never had before, to apply to other games. Losing (with grace), in a curious way, is winning.

Richard Bach

Are The Winter Olympics Way Too Long?

Here’s a humorous, tongue and cheek article by Ben Cohen and Joshua Robinson of the WSJ. It’s hilarious and well worth the read, just as Lyndsey Vonn’s Bronze Medal ceremony was worth the watch (she forgot to take her medal with her to the podium).

“PYEONGCHANG, South Korea—The Winter Olympics are a magical time every four years for people to marvel at sports that would almost certainly kill you, gawk at figure-skating wardrobe malfunctions and fall under the hypnotic spell of curling.

And then there are days like Monday. The complete list of medal events that day amounted to team ski jumping, 500-meter speedskating and two-man bobsled. That was it. Not a single medal was awarded before 9:53 p.m.

The slim pickings were symptomatic of a larger problem with the Winter Olympics: They’re way too long.

Wednesday was the 14th day of competition here. And somehow there were still four days to go. If it was beginning to feel like a slog, that’s because it was. There has never been a longer Winter Olympics.

But there is nothing in the Olympic Charter mandating that the Games need to feel this long. The Winter Olympics of 1976, 1980 and 1984 lasted 12 days from Opening Ceremony to Closing Ceremony. Until broadcasters wanted more. The Games expanded in 1988 to give ABC three weekends of television coverage during a typically dead time of the sports calendar between the Super Bowl and the NCAA basketball tournament. And they’ve only gotten longer since then.

The Olympics stretched to accommodate new sports that keep the winter Games fresh and relevant, like mixed doubles curling. With that there is now curling every single day of the Olympics. There is so much curling the only way that Pyeongchang’s organizers could squeeze it all in to 17 days was to stretch 17 days to 18 days: The first curling match was the day before the Games officially began. Eighteen days! That’s six days longer than the last NBA Finals, four days longer than Wimbledon and twice as long as the world championships dedicated specifically to curling.

So perhaps the sport could survive without nine matches of round robin play. And nobody needs 12 days of long-track speedskating either. Not even the gold-addicted Netherlands. They conduct their Olympic trials in all of four days.”

And the moral of the story is this: sometimes short and sweet is better than bitter and long.