Sunday, September 24, 2017

"Everybody Vs Injustice": American Sports World Mostly Unites Against Racist President

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When I first saw National Football League players sitting down during the national anthem in protest against police brutality, I had mixed emotions. As someone who proudly covers our troops and veterans, I know how much they sacrifice. I also know how many brave and good police officers there are out there working every day to make this a better, safer place for all of us.

But after some early consternation, I came to the conclusion that these demonstrations are healthy. They are effective ways to call attention to things that are happening every day in our criminal justice system, and beyond. These protests are precisely what make America great.

And most people who serve or served in the military would tell you that they in fact fought so that we have the freedom to speak out in this way against racism, abuse of power and corruption.

This country was founded on protest, on civil and sometimes not-so-civil disobedience. And in the National Football League, about 70 percent of the players are African-American. In the National Basketball Association, about 75 percent of the players are African-American.  

It’s the height of arrogance for a white person to tell a black man, in a business dominated by black men, what he should or should not think, or do, especially if it is neither illegal nor harmful.

Have we made tons of progress on race relations? Yes, of course. Are there more opportunities now for African-Americans than ever? Yes, of course. Is there still deep-seated racism in this country, both institutional and personal, and still major problems with America's criminal justice and educational systems? Yes, of course.

If you even have to ask that last question, you need to get out more. You need to tune out and turn off the the television and radio pundits and re-enter the real world.

Because until we spend a day in America as a black man, we have no real insight into what it’s like. What it's really like. We can’t know unless we are in another person’s skin. Literally.

The protests that have spread across the entire NFL today by black and white players, coaches and even owners is good for this country. It’s an inspiring sight to see that most teams have agreed to lock arms during the anthem, showing unity.

Some knelt during today’s anthem. Others didn’t. Some fans booed the protestors. Others applauded. Aint that America!

Rex Ryan, the feisty former coach who's now a feisty TV analyst, said today he feels betrayed by Trump, who he supported.

“When he asked me to introduce him at a rally in Buffalo, I did that,” Ryan said. “But I’m reading these comments and it’s appalling to me, and it’s appalling to any citizen in our country.”

Here is the simple question that we all should ask ourselves: How can you expect these high-profile African-Americans to say silent when there is an unapologetic racist in the White House?

Trump's presidential campaign and presidency have been dog whistles, and sometimes far less subtle shout-outs, to racists. Trump has quite literally made this country safe again for hate along racial lines. If you don't see that, you have chosen to be blind.

This silver-spooned narcissist, who was born on third base and has believed throughout his life that he hit a triple, called an educated, socially aware African-American professional athlete who peacefully protested a "son of a bitch.”

No, Trump, that would be you. Your race-based culture war, which began years ago in New York City with your discriminatory housing practices and full-page ads in New York newspapers accusing African-Americans of crimes of which they were later proved innocent, foreshadowed your ugly presidency.

Your effort to show that Barack Obama is not an American, during which you made baseless claims that Obama’s birth certificate was fake, should have told us all we needed to know about what kind of divisive president you would make.

Mr. Trump, you clearly want to silence the voices of famous African-Americans when they speak out legally and justifiably against the injustices they see. But your racist demagoguery will not stand.

Even a number of NFL owners, a group not exactly known for its egalitarian beliefs, have come out in solid support of the players and against your racist trash talk.

N.F.L. commissioner Roger Goodell, who's generally reluctant to take a stand on anything and has shown he cares more about dollars than people, called your comments “divisive” and that they showed an “unfortunate lack of respect” for the players.

Trump, a global embarrassment whose approval rating is at historic lows, is obviously desperate to hold on to a presidency that is in shambles. 

Bitching about peaceful black protestors is his characteristically lazy, low-road way to appeal to his base and distract from the fact that he has been a legislative and moral failure in the White House.

He's not kept any of his big promises, from immigration to healthcare, and he has divided this country in ways I thought not possible. But the NFL, and the NBA, are mad as hell and are not gonna take it any more. 

Even many sports figures who supported him are now fed up. CBS analyst and former NFL quarterback Boomer Esiason called Trump’s comments and tone “a blight on our country.”

Former Pittsburgh Steelers coach Bill Cowher today said, “We can be unified and think differently."

And the players’ protests today on the field have been far and wide. Many stood with arms linked, some knelt, others raised a fist, others placed their hands over their hearts. Some players chose to stay in the locker room, while other stood in solidarity with a hand on the shoulders of kneeling teammates.

It’s touching that the players are mostly together on this. Not everyone agrees with these protestors, of course, and I do understand that. But for the most part the league is standing as one against Trump, against hate, even those who don't personally agree with the way the players are showing their opposition.

Now that is the America I love.

Yes, there have been some push back by fans in the stadiums today. The boo birds could he heard clearly when about 20 New England Patriot players knelt during the national anthem.

But for the most part, there was solidarity. This was an historic day for sports and for race in America. Meanwhile, the president is boxing himself into the stinky corner of the sandbox , where eventually only the Steve Bannons and David Dukes of the world will play with him.

The Patriot players who kneeled, side by side with arms locked, included Adam Butler, Brandon King, Lawrence Guy, Alan Branch, Jordan Richards, Malcom Brown, Trey Flowers, Deatrich Wise Jr., Jonathan Jones, Devin McCourty, Elandon Roberts, Stephon Gilmore, Malcolm Butler, Brandon Bolden, James White, Johnson Bademosi and Duron Harmon.

About 20 Browns players knelt during the national anthem in Indianapolis.

The entire Buffalo Bills sideline walked 10 yards toward the middle of the field for the national anthem. Several players then knelt, including Mike Tolbert, whose message on the T-shirt he wore during warm-ups said it all:

“Everybody vs Injustice.”

Friday, September 22, 2017

"Senator Graham, I knew Jesus. Jesus was a friend of mine. Senator, you’re no Jesus...."

I have a great and lifelong respect for the teachings of Jesus Christ. I was raised Lutheran. I loved Sunday School. I even mostly enjoyed the long sermons by our charismatic but long-winded pastor. When I was in junior high school, I took it upon myself to read the Bible. Yep, the whole thing, cover to cover (New Testament, that is).  

I was curious. I wanted to know what it really said without it being run through the prism of a pastor, priest or televangelist.

While I was already having serious doubts about the whole Jesus-as-God notion, I must tell you I was blown away by the good book. What struck me, no pun intended, was the goodness of Christ. His words. A little heavy handed, sure. And a bit too much with the “worship me” stuff. But so poignant and powerful. What an amazing person Jesus was. God or not. 

I have great respect for my Christian friends, too, even though the notion that this man who showed up in a backward land in a backward time with no mass communication is God is far-fetched at best. Most Christians I know are believers for the right reasons. And they get much good out of the church and the Bible. 

The general philosophy Jesus touted is of course a no-brainer. The Golden Rule. Kindness. Loving thy neighbor. Doing good deeds. Taking care of the sick and the poor. Never worship material things. Respect others. Really good stuff. Jesus was, of course, a classic liberal.

His words are profoundly relevant, always, but especially now that Republicans in the Senate are trying to pass another healthcare bill to replace the Affordable Care Act, which is the only reason people like me who have cancer and are self-employed have health insurance at all. 

From what I've learned of this new Cassidy-Graham bill, it’s the worst one yet. It's laughably bad and downright cruel to so many innocent Americans. And it comes from the folks who insist their political party is the party of deep faith, the party of Jesus. 

In fact, this bill is light years away from anything having to do with the teachings of Jesus. Where is Lloyd Benson when you need him, saying to Sen. Lindsay Graham, "Senator Graham, I knew Jesus. Jesus was a friend of mine. Senator, youre no Jesus.

Jesus would be appalled by this bill, which would repeal the individual and employer mandates, destroy Medicaid, and turn it into a block grant program. States would be given a lump sum of money and would have loads of leeway over how to spend it. 

Really bad idea. Many states, specifically those in which Medicaid was expanded under Obamacare, would lose billions of dollars in federal funding, making it impossible for these states to provide adequate coverage or assistance to their residents, especially the ones in most need. 

If this bill is passed, each state will have to make hard choices, and it will become an ugly and very sad fight among various groups to get health insurance. There will be winners and losers. And who do you think the winners will be? Ironically, not the poor folks in the states that voted for Trump, or folks in the Southern states that have gone largely Republican, or the folks from the Bible Belt. 

A National Disaster 

Passage of this bill by would be a national tragedy. While President Trump, who undoubtedly hasn't even read the bill, and members of Congress would celebrate in the Rose Garden, seniors would be left out in the cold, kids with disabilities would no longer get the daily support they need, and sick people would die. 

It's plain and simple. It's a matter of fact. A whole bunch of good Americans would suffer needlessly thanks to these Congress members. 

Thankfully, Sen. John McCain announced today that he cannot support this bill. This could hopefully be the death knell for this horrible bill. But we’ll see.

Meantime, shame on the Republican party, for which I used to have a great deal of respect. It has gone off the rails and lost its moral compass, such as it was. It has become largely a party of right-wing zealots, bigots and extremists. 

This bill is a preposterous and utterly disingenuous piece of crap. It is is the most obscene, immoral piece of legislation I've seen in my lifetime. Hell, even Republican Senators are admitting as much. 

This week, Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake, a Republican who supports the bill, said on MSNBC's "Morning Joe” that the plan could indeed allow states to simply get rid of protections for people with pre-existing conditions.

Flake said it won’t happen because states would not pass a law that included such a Draconian provision. 

"In reality, is any governor or state legislature going to deny coverage based on pre-existing conditions?" Flake asked. To which show host Joe Scarborough immediately and rightly answered, “Yes, yes they are.” 

Of course they are. This is not even a healthcare bill at this point, but merely a cynical political maneuver whose only reason to exist is to get rid of Obamacare, not serve any other purpose or make any positive contribution to public health. 

If passed, it will take millions and millions of Americans off their insurance. And it will not protect pre-existing conditions. The Senators who tell you it will are lying. As a thankfully growing number of Republican governors now acknowledge, the states will lose billions under this bill and be forced to ration care. Millions will suffer. 

As Dr. Ford Vox, an Atlanta physician specializing in brain injury, said this week, "The patient is in fact powerless under the Cassidy-Graham bill, which gives the states block grants to administer healthcare for the poor and disabled, under whatever mechanisms they wish, and near complete freedom to enact their own rules with regards to the quality of private insurance plans sold in their states." 

Most importantly, Vox added, "states can let insurers charge what they like to cover sicker individuals."

Encouragingly, a sane, bipartisan group of governors including Ohio Republican Gov. John Kasich and Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval is urging the Senate to reject this despicable bill. Leave it to Kasich to once again save his party from going right down the wrong path. 

But it isn't just Kasich and a growing number of Republican governors. No one in his or her right mind supports this bill. Every major American health organization from the American Medical Association to the American Cancer Society opposes it. Every person who cares about the fate of less fortunate Americans is against it. 

Time For These Senators To Re-Read Their Bibles 

The party that wraps itself around the Bible is doing something here that defies and insults what Jesus preached. This is the most un-Christian bill I've ever seen in the United States Congress. This is all about money. Greed. Selfishness. And turning our nation’s back on those who need us the most. 

In case you think Jesus would be on board with this nonsense, let’s take another look at what Jesus really had to say about about the poor, the sick, the less fortunate, and about money, profit and greed. 

I’m sure most of you remember this classic from Matthew 6:24: "No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money. 

That one should be posted on the top of Trump Tower.

Then there’s this gem from Ecclesiastes 5:10, which says, "He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves wealth with his income; this also is vanity.  

That one should be tattooed on Sen. Cassidys forehead. 

In Hebrews 13:5, it says, "Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have." In Proverbs 31:9, it says, "Open your mouth, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy." In Proverbs 28:8, it says, "Whoever multiplies his wealth by interest and profit gathers it for him who is generous to the poor. In Luke 12:33-34, it says, "Sell your possessions, and give to the needy." In Proverbs 22:16, it says, " Whoever oppresses the poor to increase his own wealth, or gives to the rich, will only come to poverty.”

I could go on and on. Bottom line? My Republican friends need to read a little less Ayn Rand and Wall Street Journal, and a little more Bible.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

San Diego State QB Christian Chapman the Unsung Hero of the Aztecs' Stirring 20-17 Win Over #19 Stanford

San Diego State's epic 20-17 win over #19 Stanford tonight was no upset. Don't let anyone tell you it was. The opportunistic, tough-as-nails Aztecs should've been ranked higher than Stanford before tonight's kickoff. They will be now.

I've been watching Aztec football semi-religiously since I moved to San Diego 33 years ago to attend SDSU. And this was the most exciting and meaningful Aztecs game I've ever witnessed.

There were so many story lines in this game, where does one begin? The one everybody's talking about is when the stadium lights went out late in the fourth quarter just after State, trailing by four, began what would be their game-deciding drive.

When the lights went out, thousands of fans clicked on their smart phones in a new-millennium version of flicking their Bic's. It was a sight to behold, Christmas'y, almost holy. But then that isn't surprising given the fact that the game was a clash between two quarterbacks whose names are Christian and Chryst.

The blackout - which SDSU markerting guru's eerily foreshadowed when they asked Aztec fans to "black out" the stadium by wearing all black -- intensified what was already an almost immeasurably emotional, dramatic football game.

The other big story line that, really, was the elephant in the room (stadium) all night was the fact that sports fans in the city of San Diego are clamoring for something/anything to help them forget that the San Diego Chargers are gone.

Tonight's game was the perfect antidote for San Diegans who are still sick that the Bolts are now playing up in our rival city, Los Angeles.

But for diehard Aztec fans, none of that stuff mattered. The game's the thing, and this game had everything, even a near brawl between the teams as they made their way to the locker room at halftime.

The pure joy of this win for SDSU loyalists had nothing to do with that NFL team whose absence San Diegans are getting more used to by the day. This was an instant classic between two very physical, talented college football teams who each had something to prove.

The Aztecs ultimately imposed their will tonight on a good Cardinal team and let it be known that they are a force with which to be reckoned. These Aztecs fear nothing and no one. They can't be intimidated. They're undaunted. Unflappable. Hungry. Resolute. And, when it counts the most, unstoppable.

This San Diego State team will go far. Definitely a strong early candidate for one of the non-Power 5 conference slots in the college football playoff.

San Diego State is 3-0 now, and should in fact be ranked in the Top 15 after its impressive first three weeks (The Aztecs handily beat another Power 5/Pac 12 team, Arizona State, last week in Tempe).

But SDSU will be lucky to crack the Top 25 (they will, but maybe barely) because even with the proliferation of DVR's, there are still far too many clueless, myopic sportswriters in the East, South and Midwest who don't even know what an "Aztec" is.

San Diego State has the goods, folks. They could go undefeated this season. The team's deservedly best-known athlete, Rashaad Penny, is the leading rusher in the nation. And if he isn't a Heisman Trophy candidate after this game, those sportswriters I mentioned a minute ago seriously need to get a life.

But as great as Penny is, the difference in the game tonight against Stanford, as I frankly predicted he would be on this blog earlier this week, was Aztec quarterback Christian Chapman.

Chapman was this game's MVP. No question about it. He demonstrably outplayed Stanford's much more vaunted QB Chryst, who threw a game-ending pic to seal the deal for San Diego State.

Chapman showed Keller how to calmly lead a team down the field in the final minutes of a game and get the win. Trailing by four, Chapman masterfully engineered the final drive and, with 54 seconds remaining, threw an eight-yard touchdown pass to tight end David Wells to take the lead for good. 

It was a very impressive grand finale' for Chapman that should erase any doubts about his talent, toughness or leadership. Chapman had Stanford's bigs in his face all night, but he remained impossibly but characteristically cool. He didn't throw a single bad pass that I can recall.

Chapman is creatively elusive in the pocket, he's got a very high football I.Q., and he's a very accurate passer. He just makes things happen on the field, positive things, and he never gets rattled. As I've been saying for a year now, Chapman is wildly underrated. But hopefully no more. Not after this star-making performance.

As San Diego State's student newspaper, The Daily Aztec, reported tonight, Chapman had this to say after the game:

“Crazy. Can’t write it any better. Lights shut off, everybody is showing their lights. The fans are going crazy. Telling our brothers, this is it, this is our drive. If we want to be something, this is what we got to do.”

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

San Diego State-Stanford Matchup: Who Will Win, And Why?

The 2017 San Diego State University and Stanford University football teams are twin sons of very different mothers. They're virtual clones. So much alike, in so many departments.

Granted, Stanford may have more blue chippers that were highly touted coming out of high school, but both teams have very large offensive lines, both like to run the ball (and both do it well), and both think they're tougher than every opponent they face.

This highly anticipated football game Saturday night in San Diego between the underrated Aztecs and the #19 Cardinal is all about who flinches first.

It's gonna be a dogfight. But it's in SDSU's house, where the team has won 20 of its last 23 games.

The Home Crowd Will Be Loud and Proud

More than 50,000 screaming fans are expected. Do not underestimate the power of a very large and loud home crowd.

San Diego sports fans are starving for a winner now with the Chargers now playing in Los Angeles and the Padres still talking about the future.

Yes, SDSU has been a winner for nearly the last decade. A very solid program that has won the last two Mountain West Conference Championships and appeared in seven straight bowl games.

But this game represents a real and rare opportunity for San Diego State's program to earn some long overdue national cred' and at the same time silence the myopic East Coast sportswriters who haven't a clue just how good this football team really is.

That means everyone with any San Diego State ties - and that means you if you are still reading this piece - needs to get off his or her butt, go to this game, and make some joyous noise for your school.

Close Game, For Sure

It'll be a close game. Anyone predicting a blowout, on either side, is thick.

But the Aztecs should cause more turnovers, partly because of crowd noise, but largely because of State's unspectacular but highly underrated quarterback, Christian Chapman, who makes very few mistakes. He looms large in this one, even larger than you might think.

Another plus for the San Diego State side is the team's impossibly consistent kicker, John Baron II, aka the "The Red Baron." State has suffered over the years with some really bad kickers. But Baron is the real deal, and this game could easily come down to a field goal.

Baron is clutch. SDSU could win by a foot on Saturday, and Baron could become the next San Diego State folk hero.

Run, Run, Run

As for the team's respective running games, which will be on display all night, Stanford has a very good running back in Bryce Love. He's a tremendous athlete, one of the best in the nation.

But SDSU has the best running back in the nation. Period. Rashaad Penny is a rare talent. And he is the reigning Walter Camp national offensive player of the week.

Did I mention that Stanford is surprisingly not great against the run? Penny could have a field day Saturday, an all-over-the-field day, even against Stanford's bigs.

Pass Coverage a Question Mark

SDSU’s pass defense was a bit shaky against Arizona State last week, leaving several WR's wide open. But the Sun Devils actually have more talented receivers than Stanford.

I am not for a minute disrespecting of diminishing Stanford as a football team. They are big, and tough, and talented. But so is San Diego State. And trust me, the Aztecs will not be pushed around at home. It doesn't happen.

This is gonna be an MMA battle that may devolve into an AMA battle (injuries). It will be a very, very hard-fought football game. Both sides have something to prove and both will leave it all on the field.

The 12th Man Will Be Deafening

I also think San Diego State has the most under-heralded coach in America. Rocky Long just wins, baby. He's the winningest coach in MWC history. He's a cool combination of old-school and hip.

He's tough as nails, but nonetheless very adept at effectively communicating with entitled, smart phone-addicted millennials.

But I repeat: Do not forget about the 12th man in this game. Aztec fans will be something beyond fired up for this epic matchup, and the Aztec players will feed off those fans, then feed on Stanford's players.

It's gonna be rocking at the stadium, which, by the way, should have been renamed "Aztec Stadium" before this game's kickoff.

But that's just one more ball dropped by San Diego's hapless, hopeless civic leaders.

Our prediction? SDSU 31 - Stanford 27

Monday, September 11, 2017

Los Angeles Chargers? We Don't Need No Stinkin' Los Angeles Chargers!

With the Los Angeles Chargers about to begin their NFL season this evening, I have a brief message for those of you San Diegans who are still rooting for this team: Please, get a life.

Don't you have any pride?

The young lady in this picture so gets it. She's not having any of this "Los Angeles Chargers" nonsense. The team has no natural following. It's a joke. The NFL cares only about money, not about fans of this sport.

The LA Chargers are a pathetic non-team in a city that doesn't even want them. It's a team without a fan base. That is, other than rejected San Diego fans who really need to get over it.

My fellow San Diegans, I love y'all, but please have some self-respect. Don't love something that left you.

As a diehard fan who didn't miss a San Diego Chargers game since I moved to San Diego 33 years ago, I still care about some of these players. Like Philip Rivers, who is a Hall-of-Fame caliber player and person.

But the team is not my concern any more. They're gone. Good riddance. I hope they lose every game.

It saddens and sickens me that some lost, confused residents of San Diego, America's Finest City, who were rejected, disrespected and abandoned by the Spanos family, the Chargers' smarmy, disingenuous owners, still cheer for a team that is long gone and charging duped fans an obscene amount of money to see them play in a soccer stadium up the road.

What are y'all thinking?

Let me explain something to you folks: being a sports fan is all about loving, supporting and identifying with the city in which your team resides. Got it? A team's entire identity is wrapped up in the place where it plays.

What part of that do some of you not understand?

Los Angeles is our rival city. Capiche? It has been for many years. San Diegans with any sense of hometown pride do not root for Los Angeles teams, especially ones that bailed on us after a 56-year relationship.

Do you think for a second that a Pittsburgh Steelers fan would still root for the Steelers if the team moved to Cleveland and became the Cleveland Steelers? Can you hear me laughing at that notion?

Would a New York Yankees fan still root for the Yankees if the team up and moved to Boston and became the Boston Yankees? Duh. Of course not.

It's the exact same situation here. Los Angles is our rival city. The Chargers left us. Get over it.

Fight for L.A.? No. Never. I fight for San Diego! Dump the Los Angeles Chargers, friends, and put your love, your focus, your energy, your passion, into San Diego State's remaining teams.

Namely, the San Diego State Aztecs. Go to the SDSU-Stanford football game this coming Saturday and support the Aztecs. Scream your head off for the home team. Be a San Diegan. Show some pride. Some character.

Los Angeles Chargers? We don't need no stinkin' Los Angeles Chargers. The Aztecs are our team. The San Diego Padres are our team. The USD Torreros are our team. The San Diego Gulls are our team. The San Diego Sockers are our team. The Serra High School girls' tennis team is our team.

And San Diego is our town.