Casting That Bitter Shade

Look, Mark Mulder is my boy.

As a lifelong, ardent A’s fan, I see Mulder only in Green and Gold, a hero galvanized by fond nostalgia; it is as though he exists in no other context, just a third of The Big Three, a participant in one of the most endearing eras of contemporary A’s history. So with almost any mention of him, I reserve a bit of bias in thinking ill.

Except when he had to go and cast a grown man’s shade on the freshly disgraced Jackie Robinson West.

Let’s be clear, what manager Darold Butler did is wrong; simply put, you’re not supposed to put together a team of imports and mercs. That’s only been obvious to every little league since the beginning of ball. He’s also not the first to do it and hell if countless other little league programs across the nation get away with it with nothing more than the clamor of a handful of frustrated, angry parents.

It’s not cool.

Now to hold a grudge against a little league team for that long (even after a pretty good professional career) is kinda juvenile and unbecoming of a dude his age. The shame that JRW is endearing publicly falls, unfortunately, on the kids but not the kids he played against, though and that is what makes the whole thing that much more troubling.

It just strikes me a bit peculiar that he would share that publicly, I guess. I respect the vindication he would feel because I understand the frustration in losing knowing the deck was stacked against you. However, that doesn’t preclude him from taking care not to add shade on a situation that is already very somber. These kids played their asses off and played some damned good ball. They may have been a Frankstein super team but that doesn’t take anything away from how they played.

Alas, we sadly have yet another dubious asterisk to log to memory.

This Might Not Be For Her

Chris Paul’s now buzzing quip with referee Lauren Holtkamp gone viral.

Last night, the Clippers were out-lob-citied by the Cavs, seemingly crushed from tape to tape and, in the third quarter of what had to be a painfully forgettable game, were hit with a rash of technical fouls (one that would ultimately land on CP3 and instigate his comments). The Clips were visibly frustrated by the officiating especially since they lead the league in technicals.

“That’s ridiculous – if that is the case, then this might not be for her”

Let’s even see this in context so that we aren’t doing what many hack clickbait media outlets will be doing by singling out his quote and filling a page full of ipsum around it, luring us to their ad-ridden mirage and piss us all off.

“I think we have to show better composure but at the same time some of [the technical fouls] were ridiculous,” Chris Paul said. “The tech that I [got] right there was ridiculous. I don’t care what nobody says, I don’t care what she says; that’s terrible. There’s no way that can be a tech. We try to get the ball out fast every time down the court and when we did that she said, ‘Uh-uh.’ I said, ‘Why, uh-uh?’ And she gave me a tech.” […]

“That’s ridiculous,” Paul said. “If that’s the case, this might not be for her.”

Let’s be fair: this is pretty mild as far as ref-bashing goes, #realtalk. He doesn’t even curse or call her any names. I’ve heard parents obliterate refs at peewee football and little league baseball games ten times worse than anything he said about her. And while the NBA has made their stance on Ref-shaming rather clear (you don’t do it. or $$), this barely even registers a blip on the radar.

So why is this a huge problem?

Because sports media outlets are going to take this, run with it and continue to proliferate a growing hate war between men and women that reaches far beyond sports and beyond this insignificant little exchange between Paul (who should know much, much better than to throw big boy tantrums but is, you know, human and in the heat of moments, put his all-star foot in his mouth) and Holtkamp (just doing her job, you know, a job that often comes under attack for fundamentally being a judgement call gig… #refereeproblems). The question ultimately becomes: How is this not for her and why? Because she’s a woman? Or because she’s a rookie?

It’s certainly problematic that Chris Paul, a pest on the court no doubt, is actually a rather stand-up character off it and is the league’s darling boy with all his sweater and tie looks in his State Farm commercials. Yet he is now in the center of a continuing theme of sexism in sports as demonstrated by the #likeagirl campaign and the backlash at the underwhelming lack of Tile IX compliance in school-organized sports. The problem isn’t with the literal interpretation of what he said. After all, were he referring to Crawford, Salvatore, Brothers or some other whistle-happy zebra  blowhard, the statement would have read as “This might not be for him” and it would still be just about the most vanilla attack on a referee in the history of ANY sport. Do you even want to know what MLB managers and Umps say to each other when they get all eskimo kissy and are spitting in each others’ faces a million miles per hour? Do you think it was:

“Hey bro. I don’t think this shit is for you.” 

“Get out, man. Just GO.”

And to top it off, it’s just as reasonable and logical to assume Chris Paul’s commentary had more to do with her inexperience as a ref and not her gender at all. #norookieshame

And yet despite all that, that still isn’t the problem here.

The problem is that there is a growing divide being played out before our eyes across social media platforms and forums everywhere between dudes and chicks and it is being fed constantly with stories like this one. Whether it is #gamergate (the stupidest concoction of sweaty nerds fighting each other over rights to manipulate pixels) or #likeagirl (now boys everywhere are terrified to even look at a girl let alone act like one), the fact is, if there was ever a divide between the genders in terms of social equity, there is now a gaping canyon between them that seems to be growing ever faster in a day and age we would normally assume it to be narrowing (internet, social media, all that fun stuff).

Who to blame?

Like with nearly everything else these days, it would seem, the unchecked, money-drunk media is a guilty player. The culprit is hatemongering ad campaigns aimed to continuously proliferate sexist and racist overtones and breed the sort of conflict that provides a platform for more of their idiotic ad campaigns (and therefore buckets and buckets of dirty, sexist money). These stories are the very reason real activists for social justice against sexism can’t seem to incite any progress in breaking down some of the oldest running social constructs that exist in our world. Such as what a girl can or can’t do.

This right on the heels of a recycled #likeagirl ad campaign that ran away with the honors of being the most useful commercial of this past Super Bowl’s shittastic lineup of fails. Real change is exacted on a grass roots level and through education, ensuring that our future generations are brought up with ideals of equity so that when they become government officials and social influencers, they can then go and bring us true equality.

This bullshit they’re selling us on TV and on the internet? Clickbait. I clicked on the article for CP3’s indiscretion because it implied that he had called her something offensive…  you know, like BITCH or CUNT or DUMB BROAD or something that we already recognize to be a part of our hateful colloquial vernacular. Instead, we get this deflated ball of non-story.

Just to be clear, I’m stating that the issue of a bias (or glass ceiling) against women in professional sports as well as in other professions and/or industries is very real… ugly and horrid. I was raised by a mother who was a steadfast, hardworking professional who was incomparably badass at her job; even then she was often overlooked, demeaned and disparaged despite being in a supervisory role and, like I said, a total badass. So I’m definitely not trying to pull any veil over anyone’s eyes and pretend that big ass pink elephant in the room is a figment of anyone’s imagination. Chris Paul didn’t actually disparage her for being a woman, though. Not at all; he disparaged her for being a shitty ref and making a weaksauce call. Treating her differently because she’s a woman is the sort of problem real feminists are trying to address and is precisely the reason why Holtkamp should be just as available for criticism for her job as any dude ref would be. No more so, no less so.

And that still isn’t what this is about.

My problem with many social activists twittering about the internet like a swarm of zombie hummingbirds is that they are trying to fight stigmas and outdated social constructs in spite of and ignoring the media’s role in it (which is akin to driving your car into a wall). I’m suggesting we do it by seeking and destroying the media’s credibility by calling them out. Media is a deceptive word, of course; music, film, print, internet, etc. and it is so fragmented and dynamic, it is impossible to cleanse the poison unless, somehow (and I admit it’s a pipedream), all media curators, content creators and broadcasters exhibit more social responsibility.

I get it. Supply and demand. Chicken and the egg. Remember my Josh Gordon piece? Same deal.

In order to change how ALL people view the world, you’ve got to change the message being broadcasted to them. True, the media is feeding the people what they want…. but how did the people come to want what they want????? AH HA! (strokes beard, sips aged Scotch nefariously). That vicious cycle is what needs to be broken because whatever we accomplish through education in formative years (as far as being tolerant, accepting, etc) is being undone by the media which educates in far sexier doses of consumption.

We want our girls to be safe and to be secure in themselves so that they can achieve all their dreams. We can’t do that by segregating them every chance we get by drawing attention to their tribulations more closely than we would a man’s and proliferating the idea that we need to tip toe around our differences with a heavy misogynist hand out of fear they are delicate and incapable. Men everywhere, even red-blooded American sports freaks, want fairness for the women in our lives.

And if we have to fight the scary kraken in order to help get that done, some of us will most definitely do exactly that.

Tarnished Shield

[ported from medium.com]

The shield continues to crumble.

The slow, progressive fall of the NFL is upon us. Like the fall of most empires, it would be too easy to place the blame for the slow progressive fall of the NFL on its figurehead (the commissioner) as it would be unfair to heap all the blame on any single entity or person.

In fact, the culprit here is all of us. Every football fan, every media content outlet, every analyst or expert. We are all guilty. After all, the league and major mainstream media outlets have simply provided us with the exciting, high scoring game we kept clamoring for and the sort of stories that we continuously thirst for. They have given us exactly what we wanted: WWE on a gridiron.

We want stories about players battling addiction, on the verge of utter collapse, an ESPN 30–30 documentary being written before our eyes. Something not boring like our own lives, that is, since it’s often the same people that are suddenly able to judge Gordon like they’ve never had a job where they technically weren’t supposed to smoke any marijuana and did so anyway, drug testing or not. Nevermind that he is 23.

We feel compelled to force Marshawn Lynch to talk to the media even though he clearly doesn’t want to and then attack him across the blogosphere and in social media for being a “selfish idiot with no class” because he has contractual obligations no matter how comfortable or uncomfortable he may be in front of a bunch of aggressive reporters. And yet, we know nothing about him or the great work he does in the community of Oakland and how incredibly loved he is as a teammate (despite maddeningly innaccurate stories about rifts with teammates and coaches and ownership). Not to mention, he has always done all the talking that has ever been needed on the field where our interest as football fans ought to be.

We call Richard Sherman a “classless thug” even though he is sharper than most of the hack journalists asking him unoriginal, regurgitated presser fodder. We just don’t like that he is real, outspoken and unabashedly unafraid to tell us all how fake we have become, how ruthlessly judgmental and out of touch our perception of these professional athletes has become. They are fantasy team fillers, a stack of stats in a human body, faceless names, jerseys to hang in our closet. Forget that they have families, friends and lives so much like our own, they don’t want us peering in any more than we do. But alas, they clearly exist only to entertain us.

We gravitate towards idiotic distractions like #deflategate because we are bored at work and don’t know or care enough about the X’s and O’s of the game and would rather spend all day bashing each other on social media. We want New England’s legacy to be tarnished because we are all jealous, full of hate and have been drinking the NFL’s koolaid about parity and “sportsmanship.” We claim it’s for the integrity of the game and that “cheaters never prosper” and yet turn our eyes away when we realize our favorite teams likely do the same thing but haven’t been caught. But, naturally, we need a villain. And so we are given one.

And even then, Brady is our hero. We love good ol underdogs and all-American guys like him and Peyton. They always give us the script we want to hear before and after games and we describe them as unflappable and strong and high character. They never disparage anyone at the podium, never point the finger at anyone else but themselves, they are model citizens all the while hiding behind smiles and endorsements and commercials. And yet, we see that nobody is above the stink. Brady screams at players and coaches and refs. He talks trash to opponents. He may have deflated balls to gain an advantage and lied about. Who knows what else this man has done as he’s human just like the rest of us, flawed and “classless.” The double standard has become nauseating.

We thrive on observing Ray Rice’s personal life troubles as though he punched his wife in the middle of a football field, like we have some unalienable entitlement to judge their relationship or his morality when we are nothing more than mere fans in an endless, faceless crowd. What ought to have been none of our business was all over the news. Hell, TMZ has now become a credible news outlet. And worse even is that while we all bickered and argued over the league’s role in this case, the underlying horror of domestic violence was bankrolling countless media outlets broadcasting the story. Would you appreciate it if someone made a quick buck out of your unfortunate family tragedy?

We all jumped in abject horror at Adrian Peterson beating his kids because undoubtedly none of us have ever been beaten or have beaten our children. We have never been in that place where the pain we have inflicted, emotional or physical, on a loved one did not actually mean we didn’t love them or be loved enough by them to be forgiven by them for this mistake. Where the court of law exonerated him, the league was compelled to then go and play judge and jury. We want Peterson out of the league, tarred and feathered and dragged through the streets like a leprous criminal. Better him than us, right?

We destroy young prospects before they ever get a chance to grow, develop and learn how to contribute to the legacy of the game with their unmistakable gifts. Johnny Football, Tim Tebow, Jamarcus Russell and many, many more. We hype them up, place unnaturally high unattainable expectations, we put them in positions where they cannot succeed with pressure that they cannot match with at a young, confusing age and then destroy them utterly when they fall short of it, nipping their confidence in the bud, stunting whatever momentum they may have had (if any) and turning them into outcasts in short order.

And we indicted this young man here, Josh Gordon, for, what, smoking marijuana? Having a couple of beers on a plane with his teammates/friends on the way to Vegas after the season had ended? Because some knucklehead in the NFL front office thought it was a brilliant idea to have an alcohol test waiting for him on the ground… in Vegas?? In the real world, outside of the circus that has become the NFL, that is called entrapment whether it is an officially administered one or not. So now even more knuckleheads like Barkley (whom I normally love and respect), Stephen A Smith (smh @ you, man, what happened? You used to be a great journalist with a penchant for being “real” and now you’re as fake as the rest of them) and the ilk have creative license to make stuff up to feed ever-so-precious ratings, to feed the frenzied mob of spoiled, entitled millennials thirsty for something more interesting than their boring personal lives. FAIL.

I stand by Josh Gordon. I stand by what he stands for… like Ricky Williams, like Lynch, like Kluwe before he was run out the league for having an opinion, like any other player who dared to be real and not give the same tired responses to the same tired questions. I’ll voice what they are being muted from voicing by rules and stipulations more befitting of high school kids than grown men, that the NFL is hypocritical and their micromanagement intrusive. We turned a passion for a game into a means to make money off of talented young men before discarding their broken bodies onto a growing heap of skeletons we’d rather stayed hidden in an outdated closet. Except the double-edged sword that is social media and technology allows no such reprieve.

The NFL has created a product and they want you, Josh Gordon, to be an action figure on a shelf with a price tag. And I am proud of you for speaking your mind in a respectful, intelligent manner that indicates, at least to me, that you are without a doubt not what they say you are.

There’s No Easy Way to Say This but…

MY BAD

I mean, I realize how odd it is that I went from consistently sharing my weekly NFL picks and offering up a power rankings of sorts to the Houdini around Week 7! Yup, there he went (again), fading into the shadows. There’s no easy way of apologizing for it; you need your content and I, self-professed, am one of the million mouthpieces out there in the blogoverse (it’s no longer just a sphere, people, this thing is a fully matured universe now) who believes that I can offer you some of that content to feed that most earnest of fixes. Funny thing is, I was commenting in longwinded forum comment threads and on facebook fan groups in such volume, I could have written a George RR Martin book let alone maintain this here blog… smh @ misdirected wordsmithing

But, see, if you’re gonna read my blog, you’re going to have to come with some goggles and your big boy undies because I don’t sugarcoat my words and I only speak the truth; something increasingly rare these days in the sports world. I can’t sit here and promise you that I’m the realest, baddest blogger dude out there but I can promise you that I’ll be honest even if I’m not going to remember to blog nearly as often as I should (see, there’s this other Waleed Hawatky who makes music under the pen name zyko and he has to blog and tweet about that noise[literally] and entertain people and yadda yadda #boring-non-awesome-things).

I’m not pulling any punches on calling out massive, tentacled operations like the NFL and their mockery of the beautiful game of football. You can check out the letter I wrote in response to Josh Gordon’s letter to Charles Barkley on medium.com (I’ll be posting it here as soon as I hit publish on this puppy), for example. That’s the kind of literary brutality you can brace yourself for. Like Braveheart headsmashing, crotch punching, limb-removal brutality.

Summing it up: I’ve been gone for far too long, I’m sorry, I’m back and I’m going to make it count.
Kinda like a 2nd and goal in the waning seconds of a Super Bowl down by less than a score with an X-Men for a running back …

Owww… too soon?

NO.

 

Dig it.