Category Archives: opinion

My apology for Kevin Durant

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I think this sports story is as much about modern American culture than it is about professional sports in general. Pro sports in the U.S. has a significant presence. Many do not pay attention to the major sports, including pro basketball. Those that do have a fanatical attachment. The National Basketball Association – NBA – best of 7 game series championship is underway. The Golden State – AKA Oakland, soon to be housed in San Francisco – Warriors (relocated from Philadelphia in a previous life), have three wins while their opponents, the Cleveland Cavaliers, have zero. The first team to win four games is the champ. On Friday this series may be over and Kevin Durant could be named the MVP of the winning team. If so he will retain his title as NBA finals MVP which he earned last season, his first as a Warrior.

Durant spent his first 9 years with the same franchise, the Oklahoma City Thunder (born Seattle SuperSonics). By collective bargaining agreement, Durant was free to sign with any team that could afford to pay him. He chose the team with the best regular season record which had just lost in the championship finals to the Cavaliers.

And he has been harshly and repeatedly criticized for going to the one team that gave him the best chance of winning.

Wait.

What?

You HYPOCRITES.

9 years. Kevin Durant lead the league in scoring multiple seasons. Won the regular season MVP one year. Came close to winning the championship once out of those 9 years. Once. Yet the naysayers claim he should have gone to play for Boston or Washington D.C. or stayed in Oklahoma City since these teams were not as good nor did they have as much talent as the Warriors.

Here are the realities. LeBron James is the most talented AKA best player in the league, still in his prime. He left his first team, Cleveland, because he did not win a championship there in 7 years. He created a super team in Miami by joining with a former championship star player Dwayne Wade, and another free agent all-star player Chris Bosh. Four years later, after two championships and seeing the aging Miami roster not good enough to win the championship with him, James went back to Cleveland, but only because they had the best young superstar in the league, Kyrie Irving, and traded for the top rebounding forward in the league, Kevin Love.

Because of those decisions, James has been in the championship finals 8 years straight. There is no doubt that James and the Cavaliers would have won the championship last year and certainly had a better chance this year without the presence of Durant on the Warriors. So then, here is your argument. When the best player can’t win the championship organically, it is more acceptable for him to manufacture a team good enough to win because he’s the best player. But if someone else does the same thing, they should be criticized as being much worse.

History tells us that only once has the best player regularly been on the championship team. Remember Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls? They did it 6 times. That is the only time we’ve seen it.

Listen.

LeBron James doesn’t need your help. If he wants to be on a better team than Golden State’s believe me he will find one this summer and leave Cleveland like HE DID LAST TIME.

Let’s point this fact out for the critics. You blame Durant for going to a team that just came from behind to win 4 games to 3 in the semifinals against a team that lost one of its best players to injury during the series. Yes.  The Houston Rockets would have beaten the Warriors in the previous round of the playoffs had Chris Paul been able to play the last two games.  They only needed to win one. For the sake of all the critics, I hope Durant wins at least two more championships in addition to this year. I hope you just burn with anger and frustration because Durant did what you would never have done. RIIIIGHT

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How dare you criticize Durant for going to Golden State because he wants to win? He would have lost anywhere else. This, in a league where his own team left Seattle and took Durant with them to Oklahoma City, just for more money. The same league where another team left New Orleans to land in Charlotte, for more money. Wait. The Los Angles Clippers moved from San Diego, after moving from Buffalo, for more money. There is more. Much more. The Nets moved from New Jersey to Brooklyn. The Utah Jazz, in Salt Lake City moved from New Orleans too! No, jazz is not associated with Utah.

When Durant leaves one team for another he only leaves the fans of that team behind. They still have a team of players to root for. When those teams left town, the fans were left with nothing. Seattle, San Diego, Buffalo and northern New Jersey have no team to watch anymore. But you want to rant about Kevin Durant. Spare us your self righteousness judgment. Durant won’t miss it.

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The most valuable tool in the police officer’s bag.

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Photo by Dom J on Pexels.com

An item indispensable in its potential to insure the safety of the officer and resolve incidents with people in the field to satisfaction is the officer’s tongue. The words used, when and how they are delivered, the tone of voice, body language, and eye contact are all part of the package. This verbal judo is the most powerful weapon that can be yielded because it has the capability of saving lives without taking lives.

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Photo by Ivan Cujic on Pexels.com

Like all complex tools, it has to be employed in combination to work effectively. An officer must combine verbal skills with training, experience, and problem solving abilities so that each individual circumstance can be given the unique approach it deserves. No two people are alike, and no police encounter is identical, regardless of the similarities or the appearance of ‘routine’ that might imply otherwise.

Most encounters involve persons who are being reactive, they are responding to the actions of the officer. We are not talking about most situations. We have to approach it from the point of view of all situations. Therefore an officer must be objective and avoid making assumptions. This allows for flexibility, so that you can adjust quickly to whatever occurs. One method is for the officer to put themselves in the position of the person they are contacting. “What would I be thinking in this situation?” “What would I do under these circumstances?”

Officers make thousands of public contacts. Overtime they have catalogued a large volume of experiences with criminals whom they have investigated. So in a interaction involving suspected criminal activity, you could substitute the former examples with “What would a person committing a crime be thinking in this situation?” “What might that person do under the circumstances?”

Officers who avail themselves of these techniques are often willing and able to use words as a tool to disarm a potentially threatening contact, to catch someone off balance, to discern whether or not physical force is required. And if physical force is not required, choose a different tact.

One of the things an officer has to prepare for is the mentality of the person who is thinking in the following pattern. Why is the officer talking to me that way? Is he trying to intimidate me? Who does he think I am? Who does he think he is? Why is he being so pushy? Where is the rude attitude coming from? The good news is that the officer can be prepared, and can prevent this person from having a negative interaction.

One final point. Everyday people can have bad days. They can be generally unpleasant. Officers see that and learn to compensate. By the same token, officers can have bad days. Some can be generally unpleasant. Let’s not excuse either of those behaviors. Because those officers find themselves all too often in situations that go bad, and everybody loses when that happens.

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Let’s Play Two

Part 1 of a 4 part series on baseball, culture and social change

Much has been written about the pastime of baseball and the connection that it has to national culture.  I will endeavor to add to the discourse.

I appreciate both participatory and spectator sports, I know many people might not share such passions.  Of sports, baseball, for me, singularly stands above all the others.  My experience is that if you play baseball, you learn its pleasures, which to the uninitiated, may be impossible to describe.  You also know that a baseball player is simultaneously  a spectator.  In the dugout, awaiting your turn at bat, you watch the action, as the ramifications of what takes place will impact your potential contributions to the game.  On defense, in the field, you’re found waiting and watching plays that you aren’t directly involved in.  Eight position players watch the confrontation between pitcher and batter, prepared to spring in to action in a split second.

Major League Baseball, for many, offers the best of what the sport has to offer.  It has the best practitioners, the best facilities, concessions, and perhaps the best atmosphere.  One reason the sport as a whole and MLB in particular have been significantly woven into the fabric of our culture is that it has evolved alongside modern American history from the time of its earliest introduction in the 1800s.

Here let’s touch on slavery.

Some would argue that slavery has been in existence in various forms throughout human history.  I would argue for the premise that an aspect of slavery exists within a symbiotic relationship.  The slave and slaveowner share a commonality.  The lives of both slave and slaveowner are closely connected.  They have a shared priority, that being the quality of life of the slaveowner.  Wrong or right, for worse or for better, there are potentially more damaging things than slavery.  “Racial” segregation is one.

Slavery has as a fundamental characteristic, the role of status.  The single dividing aspect between slave and slaveowner is social status.  Remove status, and you are left with equals.  I will not assert that people are basically equal, but I offer this fact, all people can be treated as equals.  “Racial” segregation, on the other hand has no such purity, for it assumes people are different, and by implication are not equal, therefore should not be treated equally.  It also assumes that these “different” people prefer to be separated from those who are “different” from them and integrated with those who are not.

Here is where it is not equal by any measure.  Segregation means you will have no part of my life.  I will have no part of your life.  You are denied the experience of everything that I contribute to our culture, and I am deprived of everything you and your’s contribute.  To the extent that people are not equal, winners and losers are born out of the denial of access that segregation causes.  What is the implication in the difference created with segregation?  If you are a slave you have value to the slaveowner’s life. If you are part of a segregated “race” you have no such value whatever.  By extension you are of no value.  If anything, you are a detriment.  Welcome to my neighborhood.  Segregation was the flawed solution to our post-slave society.

Back to baseball. 83706691-AEC5-4C8B-803F-0F1BFE89E075

Our sport existed for a time in a state of separate organized competitive leagues.  There were Negro leagues because baseball was completely segregated well into the 20th Century.  MLB is a prosperous multi billion dollar industry today.  The Negro leagues collapsed long before the first African American player was allowed into MLB in 1947.  The success of professional baseball relative to other forms of entertainment is often underestimated.

The prosperity of the nation has parallels to the expansion of professional baseball. Thirty cities house major league franchises.  That is double the number of the original 1876 league of clubs.  There are close to 240 minor league professional teams.  Their existence allows the profession to permeate throughout the country in the small towns and communities which lack the population density to fill 50,000 plus seat stadiums 81 days each year.  Revenue is generated from live attendance of games at every level. Concessions, souvenirs/memorabilia (including licensing and merchandising of same), advertising, and broadcast media involve an almost exponential income stream.  Forbes estimates the current value of the Los Angeles Dodgers franchise at $3 billion.

The first modern renaissance of the segregated MLB was highlighted by the career of home run champion George Herman ‘Babe’ Ruth who’s 1927 New York Yankees are considered by many to be the greatest team of all time.  Flash back to the the economic frivolity of the 1920’s, which culminated with the crash of the New York Stock Exchange in 1929, signaling the beginnings of the Great Depression.

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Fast forward through three wars and several economic and political crises to arrive at perhaps the historical peak of the sport.  The integrated MLB of the 1980s decade not only had the best American players but a significant number from foreign countries.  By the end of the decade close to 15% of the player pool was foreign born.  1993 reached a significant demographic milestone when the percentage of foreign players equaled that of African American players.  Today, 228 players from 13 different countries comprise 27% of the league.  While the number of African Americans has decreased to 68 players, less than 8%.  In part two of this series, I will discuss some of the theories for these numbers and try to determine what role segregation played, if any.

The message of Star Trek Beyond


Let’s look beyond the message of Star Trek and see where it finds us.  First I’ll argue that this is an entertaining blockbuster with mediocre aspirations as a science fiction standard bearer.  Will you enjoy it as time and money well spent? Yes.  Will you think twice about it as you leave the theater? No.  If you accept the premise of mediocrity then ask me, why need we look further?

My answer takes the form of a postulated question.  Did you hear the message that mankind is its own worst enemy?

SPOILER ALERT GALORE

ICYMI: Idris Elba aka Krall embodies the role of the villain as a human, albeit one who’s enhanced far beyond mortal man.  You might say he’s kind of a cross between Frankenstein’s monster and scifi Dracula.  My complements to the script makers.  There’s nothing like mining the best, most often copied material for another bite at the apple, or the neck, or the box office.  With the dollars at stake (2013’s Into Darkness more than $450 million in revenue- Beyond budget ~$185 million) would you risk original work when you can trot out tried and true formula?

And when our esteemed thespian, see Beasts of No Nation, asks as to his motivation, director Justin Lin’s reply; why you’re a disgruntled employee!  Talk about going postal.  And Krall delivers the mail with a rare combination.  Can you say spider and bee fetish?  His base of operations is a planet surrounded by nebula where spaceships maroon while their crews become entangled in a web-like comatose state which he uses to extract from them what he needs.  The product here is not honey but hate.  His forces, however, do swarm like no hive you’d ever want to stumble across. The Federation is nonplussed to wield any technology that can withstand Krall’s weaponry.

Here I suggest is where the message digs it’s foundation.  When we lift the lid on his coffin we discover Krall was heretofore our model citizen, warrior, officer and gentleman.  What happened was that the Federation took the highly trained and experienced combat veteran and gave him a civilian job, having ended all wars and the need for his old ways.  It has been thirteen years since numbered American soldiers have faced a two front war; one in Iraq and another in the minds of those afflicted with PTSD and other related issues.  Whether or not American combat veterans have experienced being more prone to violence once returned home, the message on screen was clear.  Captain Edison struggled with the loss of his military identity.  He faced a consequence of being rewarded for his sacrifice and bravery with being lost in space.  He was left behind.  Forgotten.  Edison was ultimately left for dead with little or no sign that his employers cared about either him, his subordinates, or his service.  As time passed his mental state deteriorated, eventually creating the fertile soil from which Krall emerged.

The direct line conclusion from the path  laid out by Beyond is that societies bare the risks associated with placing soldiers in harms way.  The results could reveal themselves long after the damage has been done.

I, or shall I say the filmmakers, offer you more messages than these.

The story’s overall theme that is revisited throughout hammers home one mantra.  Families and friends who commit to unite will strive together and reach their potential to overcome whatever obstacles arise.

The danger that often occurs is when we forget this belief and sabotage it through self destructive decisions.  Chris Pine’s Kirk does just that when the unending, unconquerable, infinite space defeats his sense of adventure, his desire to be challenged, and his dream of achievement.  The subject of his failure: purpose.  Zachary Quinto’s Spock takes a different route to reach the same end.  Grief, perhaps the strongest manifestation of what causes us to question ourselves, to the point we completely derail, is this half human’s Achilles heel as well. He chooses to abandon his celestial family to serve what he thinks is his ethnic responsibility to the fatherland, or what’s left of it.

The biggest reason why 13 films and 37 years of the Star Trek saga resonate with moviegoers is the bond that built the original Gene Roddenberry TV creation.  Beyond is on target with this piece and Karl Urban’s McCoy delivers the glue gun.  The series explored not outer space so much as it did the relationship between Kirk, Spock, and McCoy.  Their journey through the ups and downs of complex and conflicted emotions had more to do with their survival than any technological techniques they mastered.

McCoy reminds Spock why they mean so much to each other and why it matters.  When they bring that message back to Kirk, he takes his exercise of trust, inspiration, and leadership to another level seeing Uhura, Scott, Sulu and Chekov prove once again that their place is on the Enterprise and his home is with them.

This is the best part of the science fiction Beyond offers.  There is nothing new here.  That is the basis for my grade of C.  Star Trek gets a pass from me because it is a production that keeps the genre alive though it falls short of advancing it.  I hail science fiction because I see it as the best genre for bringing together the moral and ethical dilemmas within the human condition as they intersect with apocalyptic aspects of advanced technology.  The more we role play these hypothetical scenarios the more time we will have to consider them before we have to deal with them in our reality.  Are we ready to face global warming?

So I salute Star Trek Beyond.  Beyond’s success bridges the gap between great science fiction movies of the past…Blade Runner, 12 Monkeys, The Matrix…and the next great scifi story which will take a rightful place in cinematic history.  As for the Star Trek franchise I offer only these words: Live long and prosper.

10 Rules for Writing from Jesus, the author and finisher of my faith.

‘looking to Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith…’ Hebrews 12:2

Here are some tips that you can choose to apply to your writing. Decide for yourself.

Write so that your product will provide consumers with joy. 
Galatians 5:22-23 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, 23 gentleness, self-control. Against such things there is no law.

Write what is in your heart. Don’t write what you think people will like or to please other people. Follow your heart when you write and be true to who you are and what you want to say. 
Luke 6:45 A good man produces good out of the good storeroom of his heart. An evil man produces evil out of the evil storeroom, for his mouth speaks from the overflow of the heart.

Believe in your vision for what you want to write. 
The Apostle John was directed in writing the book of Revelation to “Therefore write what you have seen, what is, and what will take place after this.” Revelation 1:19

Learn the art of writing. Practice the discipline of writing. 
Proverbs 23:12 Apply yourself to discipline and listen to words of knowledge.

To communicate a message understand what you are saying. Be sincere, have a clear conscience, and seek to find the purist form in your words. Avoid abstract, vague, confusing language. The Apostle Paul uses this advice when sharing with Timothy how he should stay true to the message they are supposed to be teaching. 
1 Timothy 1:5-7 Now the goal of our instruction is love that comes from a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith. 6 Some have deviated from these and turned aside to fruitless discussion. 7 They want to be teachers of the law, although they don’t understand what they are saying or what they are insisting on.

Think of your writing as a sacrificial gift to others, and expect to be paid what it is worth. 
Acts 20:35 includes part of the Apostle Paul’s direction to the church elders in Ephesus. In it he states “In every way I’ve shown you that by laboring like this, it is necessary to help the weak and to keep in mind the words of the Lord Jesus, for He said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ ”. 
Likewise when Paul wrote to the churches in Galatia he advised them similarly “For each person will have to carry his own load. 6 The one who is taught the message must share all his good things with the teacher. 7 Don’t be deceived: God is not mocked. For whatever a man sows he will also reap,” Galatians 6:5-7a.

Apply careful investigation to what you write.
The Gospel attributed to Luke begins with this explanation: “Many have undertaken to compile a narrative about the events that have been fulfilled among us, 2 just as the original eyewitnesses and servants of the word handed them down to us. 3 It also seemed good to me, since I have carefully investigated everything from the very first, to write to you in an orderly sequence, most honorable Theophilus, 4 so that you may know the certainty of the things about which you have been instructed.” Luke 1:1-4

Have a clear and specific purpose for everything you write.
Joshua 18:4 Provide for yourselves three men from each tribe that I may send them, and that they may arise and walk through the land and write a description of it according to their inheritance; then they shall return to me.

Write when you find yourself most challenged. Write when it seems like it’s the last thing you should do. When in doubt, write. No matter what excuse you have not to write, write anyway.
Here in John 8:6 is an example of what Jesus did: “They were saying this, testing Him, so that they might have grounds for accusing Him. But Jesus stooped down and with His finger wrote on the ground.”

Write for a higher standard. 1 Corinthians 4:3-5 “It is of little importance to me that I should be evaluated by you or by any human court. In fact, I don’t even evaluate myself. 4 For I am not conscious of anything against myself, but I am not justified by this. The One who evaluates me is the Lord.”

School Choice & Race — Desegregation Measure from 1972 Has Unintended Consequences | National Review

A desegregation lawsuit from the 1970s now wrongly bars an African-American student from attending the public charter school of his and his family’s choice.

Source: School Choice & Race — Desegregation Measure from 1972 Has Unintended Consequences | National Review