Monday, April 30, 2007

The Art of Parenting

What will mean success for our children? So many in America today tie their own success to their children's. What if your kids are not able to go to the prestigious university you set out for them to?

Would it matter?

Saturday, April 28, 2007

The NFL Draft Twilight Zone

So I just got back to my apartment and went online to check the NFL draft thus far. At the moment, I see that Brady Quinn is still undrafted and Miami just took Ted Ginn, Jr. with the 9th overall pick. (For all of you who predicted that the Lions would pass on Ginn but he would still be picked before Quinn, please comment below.)

I think the NFL draft is the most interesting among the major sports. It's deeper than the NBA draft, but not as overwhelming as the MLB draft. (Do the NHL or NASCAR even have drafts?)

Another thing I like about the NFL draft is that one player does not a franchise make, even though some GM's keep acting otherwise. History has repeatedly shown us that when a team starts trading away multiple assets to move up in the draft, it usually backfires:
  • Would you rather have Mike Vick or both Drew Brees AND LaDainlian Tomlinson? (Nice one, Falcons.)
  • How about trading Shawne Merriman and Philip Rivers for Eli Manning? (The Giants essentially did.)
  • Mortgage your franchise's future just for the rights to Ricky Williams? (Da Coach should not have also been Da GM.)
  • Nor is it an historically good idea to trade away multiple draft picks for an established star. (Don't click here, Westy.)
The last point actually brings me to my next point, which is the constant over-valuing of running backs. No matter who you are and no matter which NFL team you root for, if I were to become the general manager of that team then I would NEVER draft a running back in the first round. (Unless, of course, you are the owner of that team and would require that I do so, which in that case I probably would just to keep my job.)

But seriously, at running back you don't need a great player. You just need a player who can do "The 4 Basics":
  • Be durable
  • Follow your blockers
  • Hang onto the football
  • Pick up the blitz
Sure, it might be a nice bonus if they can catch the ball too, but let's not get greedy.

The thing about any one running back is that they don't make that big of a difference in playoff games when they're up against real defenses. And they get hurt. That's why RB's drafted in the first round often hold out for every last dollar during signing bonus money negotiations. History says that it will be the only "big" NFL pay day that they get.

When Reggie Bush started to "go off" last year and put up some big numbers, people started mocking the Houston Texans for passing up on him for defensive end Mario Williams. However, let's see how things play out over a 10-year span. With Williams, the Texans were making a relatively safe pick--getting a guy who was nearly a lock to be an above average DE for a decade. If things go well, he might become a great DE for a decade. With Bush, even if he is the best running back who ever lived, it is unlikely he could consistently remain an "elite" RB for a decade.

Oh well. I'm sure teams will keep taking RB's in the first round and doing other odd things like packaging five draft picks for "that one guy who can change everything." But I really shouldn't complain about this--it makes things interesting.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Monday, April 23, 2007

Stop Snitchin'?

Earlier this month, Don Imus embarrassed himself by referring to the relatively high achieving Rutgers women's basketball team as a bunch of "nappy-headed hos". Eight days later, he was fired.

Snoop Dogg, when asked to compare his own use of similar lyrics with Mr. Imus', explained,

It's a completely different scenario. [Rappers] are not talking about no collegiate basketball girls who have made it to the next level in education and sports. We're talking about hos that's in the 'hood that ain't doing s***, that's trying to get a n**** for his money. These are two separate things. First of all, we ain't no old-ass white men that sit up on MSNBC going hard on black girls. We are rappers that have these songs coming from our minds and our souls that are relevant to what we feel. I will not let them mutha*****s say we in the same league as him.
Mr. Broadus thus argues it is ok to refer to actual hos as hos in the service of artistic expression.

In working with young boys from the inner city, though, I know all too well the impact that gangster rap and hip hop music has on them. When women are treated as objects and materialism glorified in every famous singer you see, its influence cannot be ignored.

Then, yesterday on CBS' 60 Minutes, the rapper Cam'ron said there is no way he would cooperate with police. He says,

Because with the type of business I'm in, it would definitely hurt my business. And the way that I was raised, I just don't do that. I was raised differently, not to tell. It's about business but it's still also a code of ethics. ...There's nothing really to talk about with the police, I mean, for what? ...If I knew the serial killer was living next door to me? No, I wouldn't call and tell anybody on him. But I'd probably move… But I'm not gonna call and be like, you know, 'The serial killer's in 4E.'
Cam'ron notes that it is important he maintain his 'street cred'. And street cred is not maintained by helping the po-po.

60 Minutes describes how over the last decade the fascination with being anti-police has grown and now represents the mainstream of thought in inner city America. "Stop snitchin'" has become a catchy hip-hop slogan that embodies and encourages this attitude. T-shirts with this slogan are bestsellers. Carmelo Anthony participated with drug dealers in making a DVD passing this message on. More than ever, the level of cooperation between inner city residents and police is at a low. And it's a self perpetuating cycle. As residents become less cooperative, police become more defensive, and sometimes harsher. As police become harsher and more physical, residents become less cooperative. And it goes on...

There is no doubt that the 'cool' factor in being above and outside the law bred in rap of the '90s has contributed to this slide. But since when is it more credible to hide the identity of a serial killer next door than cooperate with the police?

There is thus no doubt in my mind that rappers need to be held to a higher standard. Their influence seems obvious. In a recent summit, rap executives have begun to call for the removal of certain volatile elements within their productions. At the same time, though, artists have chafed at this 'censorship'. Some of them claim, as Snoop did, that they are only reflecting and singing about true life.

The question is, does art imitate life or does life begin to imitate art?

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

The Chase

"Why are these guys so fast? Everybody says the same thing. You know what the tale is?"
-- Bobby Bowden

Drive out there. Get off the interstate, put Palm Beach, Orlando or Miami in your rearview and keep going until the road ends at the horizon and the telephone poles sag like old cypress trees. Roll down the windows. Listen to the eerie silence of the Everglades, a seemingly endless run of fields landmarked only by the railroad tracks, the dike along Lake Okeechobee and the state penitentiary. Race past sugarcane field after sugarcane field until it feels like you're not moving at all. Then stop at the gas station with no gas by the convenience store with no name. Don't worry, you can't miss it -- there at the crossroads of the place they call Muck City...

I highly recommend this article on the art of the rabbit chase. Earlier this spring, my wife and I found ourselves driving through central southern Florida. In stark contrast to the beaches not so far away, there are not many poorer places in the country.

Sports are often seen as a way out for children from the street or the swamp. While statistically they're often aiming for poor goals, we forget how sports stars are born "out of hunger, and courage, and desperation, and community, and hope. And how sometimes they're played in spite of everything else."

Thursday, April 12, 2007

How far have we come?

Photojournalist David Turnley took a six-week trip, over 8,000 miles, through the back roads of Georgia, Mississippi, Alabama and Louisiana, to photograph life in the South, the better to grasp and to try to show how far the United States has come 40 years after the high-water mark of the civil rights movement...

How far have we come? How far do we have to go?

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

So, a coyote walks into a...

No, it's not the beginning of a "the bartender says..." joke. Yesterday a coyote walked into a sandwich shop down the street from my office. Yes, into a Quizno's in downtown Chicago.
We certainly aren't used to thinking that wildlife more typically found in the country might still inhabit the city. The coyote was an easygoing fellow and proceeded to lounge in the drinks cooler while the customers finished up their sandwiches. Sadly, he didn't find what he was looking for.

Apparently in the spring when it's mating season, the male coyotes are prone to wander around a bit in search of that special someone. Anyone observing partiers at spring break probably would note that the coyote isn't the only species prone to such desperate efforts.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Black exodus?

In today's Chicago Tribune, a side article on the feature story about the typical migration from city to suburb to exurb had a bit of interesting information.

You may or may not have heard that recently the Census Bureau released data saying that Cook County lost the third most population in the first five years of the decade (behind New Orleans' and Detroit's counties). But as it turns out, this is not white flight from the city. In actuality,
African-Americans, once constricted by racism to certain areas within the city, now are leaving Chicago for the suburbs and beyond, in numbers double those of whites.
Is this a positive sign? Are suburbs becoming more welcoming to minorities? According to the authors, it would seem so. They note,
African-Americans are accepted today in many more suburbs than in the past.
They do observe, though, that continued change is needed.
But not everywhere. When...settlement patterns [are mapped] across the region...about a third of all suburbs have fewer than 25 African-American households each -- and, in some cases, none at all.
"Things aren't as bad as they used to be," notes Northwestern University geographer John C. Hudson. The authors conclude,
However, the remaining effects of racism, less overt than they once were but present nonetheless, continue to limit African-American housing choices. As a result, blacks, particularly working-class and low-income families, still don't have the same freedom of movement as whites.