Is Stephen A. Smith A Sellout?

Stephen A.
Stephen A. from ESPN’s First Take goes off on Colin Kaepernick

Stephen A. is now one of the highest paid ESPN sports analysts, ever. And for this, he is seen by some and maligned by many as a sellout, especially with regard to Colin Kaeperknick’s feud with the NFL, and his recent workout fiasco.

In light of the shenanigans surrounding the workout, Stephen A. voiced his opinions in his usual loud and lurid fashion. Instead of standing with the “Power to the People” position which sees Kaepernick as a martyr for “Black Lives Matter” oppression, Stephen A. continues to deride him as being a rebel without a cause, or more pointedly, a martyr for his own cause.

The jury is still out on Kaepernick. As for Stephen A., his rash, rambling rants sell air time. And so, as far as ESPN is concerned, mission accomplished. Because talking heads are paid to sell air time. However, has anyone paused long enough to consider it seems that more people are talking about the silly workout controversy and Stephen A.’s reaction to it than they are the actual reason why Kaepernick took a knee during the National Anthem before NFL games in the first place?

I like Kaepernick. I do. And I believe that he deserves, (or is that he deserved?) a second chance. And I like Stephen A. too. He’s a Philly guy. But just because I like them doesn’t mean I agree with them or agree with how they’re handling this situation.

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, I think it’s time for a fact check: the media has a way of selling and slanting a story, and it’s up to those who love the truth to find the facts. And here are some of the facts:

“Following Colin Kaepernick’s workout on Saturday, Stephen A. Smith of First Take took to social media and said that the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback doesn’t actually want a job in the NFL. He believes that Kaepernick just wants to be a martyr. Monday morning, Smith provided more thoughts on the matter, saying that Saturday’s events just eradicate all of the QB’s points about the NFL.

During an expanded back-and-forth between Smith and his co-hosts, the longtime ESPN analyst explained why he has been critical of Kaepernick in recent days. To him, he doesn’t like how the free agent handled Saturday’s workout, including how he switched the location with fairly little notice.

As Smith continued to explain, multiple moments created questions for him on Saturday. Specifically, he pointed out that the NFL and all of the teams that were scheduled to attend the workout found out about the change in location roughly 30 minutes before the start of the event.

This timeline made it appear to be a last-minute change. It also made it far more difficult for the teams to attend the workout considering that the new location was roughly an hour away from the Atlanta Falcons team facility, which was the original location.

However, Smith said that there were factors that made this switch appear planned. The workout took place at a public high school, and it was captured by videographers on site. Additionally, there was security in place, as well as many Kaepernick supporters in “I know my rights” shirts. For the co-host of First Take, this was just evidence that the former San Francisco 49ers QB had planned to change the location. He believes that Kaepernick would have had to meet with the superintendent of the school and get permission to hold the workout on the field.”

On the other hand, here’s another, opposing and pointed point of view from Luther Campbell of the Miami Herald:

“In the battle to control the narrative of a controversial story, Uncle Tom-esque black pundits play a crucial role in tearing down black professional athletes who rebel against white sports franchise owners. The fallout from Colin Kaepernick’s controversial NFL workout this past Saturday is exposing commentators such as ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith.

Stephen A. was one of the first to tweet and go on television to question Kaepernick’s intentions and justify why NFL teams have blackballed the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback for the past three years because of his National Anthem protests. Tuesday, Smith also defended himself by yelling, “I’m a black man, you idiots!” and claiming throughout his career he’s “taken on the fight on behalf of African-Americans throughout this nation.” https://www.miaminewtimes.com/news/miami-city-commissioners-will-vote-to-give-themselves-taxpayer-funded-pensions-11319342

In sum, amidst the clamor and the clanging of media pundits spewing their opinions of Colin Kaeperkick, I’m so glad that I know and love the truth. Because His truth is marching on, the truth is the light, and truth shall prevail.

Nike and Kaepernick: “Just Do It?”

Kaepernick Nike Commercial
Nike’s 30th Anniversary “Just Do It” Commercial Featuring Colin Kaepernick

By Paige Gawley‍, Entertainment Tonight

“Colin Kaepernick’s Nike commercial is here!

Following the controversial announcement that the 30-year-old NFL free agent would team with the sports brand earlier this week, the company has released a two-minute commercial featuring the athlete.

The uplifting ad includes people of all types — disabled and able-bodied; girls and guys; kids and adults — trying to accomplish something. Though they don’t always succeed, they always keep trying.

‘If people say your dreams are crazy, if they laugh at what you think you can do, good. Stay that way,’ Kaepernick says in a voiceover. ‘Because what non-believers fail to understand is that calling a dream crazy is not an insult. It’s a compliment.’

The ad continues with specific ways to dream big.

‘Don’t try to be the fastest runner in your school or the fastest in the world. Be the fastest ever,’ Kaepernick declares. ‘Don’t picture yourself wearing OBJ’s jersey. Picture OBJ wearing yours. Don’t settle for homecoming queen or linebacker. Do both. Lose 120 pounds and become an iron man, after beating a brain tumor. Don’t believe you have to be like anybody to be somebody. ‘

The Nike commercial also features clips of famous athletes doing their thing.

First it’s Alphonso Davies, a teenage refugee from Liberia, who plays soccer for Canada. ‘If you’re born a refugee, don’t let it stop you from playing soccer for the national team — at age 16,’ Kaepernick says.

‘Don’t become the best basketball player on the planet. Be bigger than basketball,’ the footballer player says alongside video of LeBron James opening his I Promise School school in Ohio.

The ad flashes to Kaepernick, who declares, ‘Believe in something, even if it means sacrificing everything.’ The statement references the fact that Kaepernick hasn’t been signed by an NFL team since 2016 when he was one of the first NFL players to kneel during the national anthem as a way of protesting police brutality and racial injustice in America.

‘When they talk about the greatest team in the history of the sport, make sure it’s your team,’ Kaepernick says of the U.S. National Soccer Team.

Shaquem Griffin, an NFL player with one hand, is featured next. ‘If you have only one hand, don’t just watch football, play it. At the highest level,‘Kaepernick says, ‘and if you’re a girl from Compton, don’t just become a tennis player. Dream of being the greatest athlete ever,” Kaepernick says of Serena Williams. ‘Yeah, that’s more like it.’

The ad ends with Kaepernick telling viewers, ‘So don’t ask if your dreams are crazy, ask if they’re crazy enough.’

When news of Kaepernick’s new gig broke on Monday, there were strong reactions from both sides. Musician John Rich was against the ad, while the NFL and celebrities including Kobe Bryant, Common and LeBron James came out in support.”

So, what say you?  Is Nike exploiting Colin Kaepernick, or is Kaepernick just exploiting his situation?  Take your pick. Either way, if you can stand back and be objective, you will certainly conclude that there is more  meat than bones in this mesmerizing message.

 

Sports and John McCain: “Exploring John McCain’s Profound Impact On The Sports World”

John McCain Hand Over Heart
John McCain Hand Over Heart

By Larry Brown

http://larrybrownsports.com/baseball/john-mccain-profound-impact-sports-world/461521

“Senator John McCain died on Saturday, August 25, 2018 at the age of 81 after succumbing to brain cancer. The longtime Arizona state senator was best known for running for president against Barack Obama in 2008 and for being a Vietnam War hero who survived despite being tortured as a P.O.W. McCain was also a big sports fan who had a profound impact on the sports world during his time in congress. That is the part of his legacy that we would like to explore.

During his political career, McCain had a big hand in the reformation of baseball, boxing, and the UFC, as well as other sports. Matching his conservative ideology, McCain often focused on more fairness and rules to protect athletes.

BASEBALL

McCain was one of the big reasons why MLB introduced a drug testing program that helped end the steroids era in the sport.

Even though the use of steroids was illegal in the country, MLB’s drug testing was extremely lax (just one test per year), with light penalties. That led to the game being overridden by steroids users for around a decade between the early 1990s to the early 2000s. In order to get the sport to clean up the drug use, McCain, acting in his role as Senate Commerce Committee Chairman, threatened federal legislation if MLB did not introduce a harsher drug policy.

“Major league baseball players and owners should meet immediately to enact the standards that apply to the minor leagues, and if they don’t, I will have to introduce legislation that says professional sports will have minimum standards for testing,” McCain said in Dec. 2004. “I’ll give them until January, and then I’ll introduce legislation.”

In 2006, MLB introduced its Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program. The program included more comprehensive testing as well as significantly harsher penalties to discourage cheating.

His big reason for pushing for harder drug testing? “What I care about are high school athletes who are tempted to use steroids because they think that’s the only way they can make it in the major leagues,” McCain said in a 2004 ESPN article on the matter.

McCain also supported bills that pushed for Shoeless Joe Jackson to be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame and legislation to honor Jackie Robinson.

BOXING

McCain was a lightweight boxer and huge fan of the sport. He also worked hard to help improve the sport with regulations aimed at protecting fighters medically and from financial exploitation.

In 1996, his Professional Boxing Safety Act bill was passed. The bill mandated all boxing matches be supervised by a state athletic commission; fighters be physically tested before being medically cleared to fight; health insurance coverage for each fighter; and the presence of an ambulance and medical personnel at each fight.

As positive as those changes were, he made even more contributions later with the passing of the Muhammad Ali Boxing Reform Act. The Ali Act, which came into law in 2000, sought to prevent fighters from being exploited. The act mandated a separation between promoters and managers so that a fighter’s best interest would be represented. The act sought to end widespread corruption in the sport.

“If we can pass this legislation, there’s some hope,” McCain said in an ESPN article by Tim Graham before the legislation was passed. “I believe that boxers are the most exploited of all professional athletes. They come from the lowest economic rung, and they generally are the least educated, and they’re in the only major sport that’s not unionized.”

UFC

McCain was not a fan of the UFC, which he compared to “human cockfighting” back in 1997. He was one of the biggest enemies of the organization, which began without weight classes or rules, notoriously holding an “anything goes” attitude. McCain’s criticism and issues with the UFC led to it being pulled from pay-per-view and banned in every state around 20 years ago.
The UFC began to clean up the sport little by little, introducing rules and regulations, and seeking legalization state by state. In 2014, UFC owner Lorenzo Fertitta credited McCain’s toughness for helping the league gain legitimacy.

“I have to give him credit,” Fertitta said. “Without him doing what he did back in the ’90s to force regulation, this sport would be dead. It wouldn’t exist. Honestly, for all the negatives he caused, he actually allowed the sport to foster and grow.”

McCain’s influence on sports doesn’t end there. During his political career, he sought to ban gambling on college sports. More recently, he sought to end government spending on military recognition at sports events, which many thought were done out of patriotism rather than commercialism.

McCain was incredibly accomplished and worked hard to improve the sports world. His work in the sports arena has had a great effect and will continue to long after his death.”

John McCain

John McCain

John Sidney McCain III.  When it comes to the dearly, departed senator, this is all you have to say: John McCain. John Sidney McCain. He was a  Vietnam veteran, a war hero, a representative, a statesman, a loving husband, and a caring father.  In essence, McCain was an officer and a gentleman.  He won the hearts of Americans from sea to shinning sea by being honest and fair and genuine and gregarious.

John McCain stood for what’s right. And standing up for what’s right is the crux of sports and life.  When the Viet Cong found out that his father was a U.S. Navy Admiral, they offered to released him, on the condition that he denounce U.S. involvement in the war. He refused. McCain refused to be released by his captors and so he remained a P.O.W. for five years. Thus, when McCain was released from captivity and put together a memorable polictical career, he staged one of the greatest comebacks of all time.

While Vietnam is what McCain will mostly be remembered for, I laud him for something just as significant.  For me, McCain should be most remembered for recently standing up against the sitting, and his fellow republican, president who didn’t even have the decency or the common courtesy to pay tribute to this legend of a man.  

On a positive note, Meghan McCain gave an emotional tribute to her father. At the Memorial Service at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., she stood, and with a halting voice, spoke lovingly of her dad. Meghan McCain told the story of when she was young how she fell from a horse and broke her collar-bone.  McCain took his daughter to the doctor, got her patched up, and then, not much later, took her back to that same horse and made her ride again.

John McCain taught his daughter, and by extension he taught the rest of us, how to endure hardness. He taught us how to get back up and get back going.  He taught us how to endure hardness, as good soldiers. He taught us that getting knocked down is a part of life.  And he taught us that getting back up is the only way to win. To endure, to persevere, to fight and to stand up to foes and not stand down and not fear. That was John McCain.

Let’s all thank God for the example and legacy of John McCain. 

 

 

Why I’m  Going to Watch the 2018 FIFA World Cup (now)

Neymar-world-cup-2014-hairstyles

 Ok, ok, ok. So stop ribbing me already about not watching the World Cup. I’m going to watch Brazil beat Belgium tomorrow. Because Brazil is the favorite now, right?  So that should be a great match. What? You mean you’ve been watching the whole, entire tournament; every match, every penalty kick and every minute of stoppage time? Please.

Let’s just say that I’m finally going to go all in on the world Cup. Partially because it’s the Elite Eight (what? they don’t use that term?) and partially because it’s almost over and I’d hate for some great goal to get scored and I didn’t see it. And I’ve got to see Neymar’s fancy new doo.  What? That hairdo was from 2014? Ooops.  Oh well, Neymar’s the flashy guy on Team Brazil so he (or his hair) and the match should still be great to watch.

AND I’ve got to watch because Russia is still in it (booooo!) And if they (they being Russia) win, we’ll never live it down. So let’s all watch the Russia/Croatia match and route, route, route for the AWAY Team. GO Croatia!

Black Panther is a “Bad” Cat

black-panther-cast-poster

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.