The weekend you earned it!

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know thyself

For many people the weekend represent a sense of freedom, time to spend finishing those long delayed projects around the house, visiting relatives and friends , piling the food onto those plates at the cookout and so on. For me the past eight weeks I decided to invest my time wisely balancing travel, family and work by contributing to  two worthy causes.

The decision to volunteer my time with two youth programs that drive a passion within to make a positive impact was easy, especially given the current pulse of the nation.  For the past six years I along with a group of  dedicated men in the community organize a summer basketball league that serves close to 200 youths. The league serves as an outlet for many of the participants and coaches and helps to strengthen neighborhood ties.

However it’s the second project , one that that afforded me the opportunity to interact with another group of youths that impacted my life. The program is called “Know thyself” and is the brainchild of Salih Rowe .  Salih is a young man on a mission to improve the quality of life for young black boys as  they prepare to face the roadblocks and challenges of entering into manhood. The program is  funded entirely through the generosity of individuals and organizations that see the value of the work being done; allowing for the participants to attend at no cost and receive a meal.

young lions

For the last eight Saturday morning the “young lions” meet with older black  males  for two hours to discuss and analyze a variety of topics including the responsibility of men as protectors of the family, finance, education, relationships with law enforcement and the media’s influence.  I have to share that I eagerly looked forward to awakening and jumping out of bed on Saturday mornings with the same excitement I displayed as a boy awaiting my favorite cartoons. We engaged in serious dialogue, complete with guest speakers, media clips , literature and supportive materials. It is these type of conversations that do not happen often enough with our young men, until its too late.

As I sat and listened to Salih wrap up the final topic and call for the  last weekly “squad photo” I suddenly felt a feeling of emptiness at the realization the program was over and the secret wish for more time rushed in.  The boys said their goodbyes as they filed out one by one, thanking the older men for their presence and willingness to sacrifice a Saturday morning to spend time with them, the change and transformation of those eight weeks was evident on their faces. I don’t know if any of the adults will ever truly to see the fruits of our labor, but I am confident the seeds of greatness were planted and the future of these young lions is as bright as the morning sun  rising on the Savannah.

The weekend you earned it!

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know thyself

For many people the weekends represent a sense of freedom, time to spend finishing those long delayed projects around the house, visiting relatives and friends , piling the food onto those plates at the cookout and so on. For me the past eight weeks I decided to invest my time wisely balancing travel, family, rest and work by contributing to two worthy causes.

The decision to volunteer my time with two youth programs that speak to a passion within to make a positive impact was easy, especially given the current pulse of the nation.  For the past six years I along with a group of  dedicated men in the community organize a summer basketball league that serves close to 200 youths. The league serves as an outlet for many of the participants and coaches and helps to strengthen neighborhood ties.

However it’s the second program that allowed me to interact with another group of youths that impacted my life. The program is called “Know thyself” and is the brainchild of  Salih Rowe .  Salih is a young man on a mission to improve the quality of life for young black boys as  they prepare to face the roadblocks and challenges of entering into manhood. The program is  funded entirely through the generosity of individuals and organizations that see the value of the work being done; allowing for the participants to attend at no cost and receive a meal.

young lions

For the past eight Saturday’s the “young lions” meet with older black  males  for two hours to discuss and analyze a variety of topics including the responsibility of men as protectors of the family, finance, education, relationships with law enforcement and the media’s influence.  I can share that I eagerly looked forward to  awakening  on Saturday mornings with the same excitement I displayed as a boy awaiting my favorite cartoons. We engaged in serious dialogue, complete with guest speakers, media clips , literature and supportive materials. It is these type of conversations that do not happen often enough with our young men, until its too late.

As I sat and listened to Salih wrap up the final topic and call for the last weekly “squad photo” I suddenly felt a feeling of emptiness at the realization the program was over and the secret wish for more time rushed in.  The young men said their goodbyes as they filed out one by one, thanking the older men for spending time with them, the change and transformation of those eight weeks was evident on their faces. I don’t know if any of the adults will ever truly see the fruits of our labor, but I am confident the seeds of greatness were planted and the future of these young lions is as bright as the morning sun  rising on the Savannah.

An (urban) field of dreams: Chicago and Philly youths no longer diamonds in the rough!

<div class=\"postavatar\">An (urban) field of dreams: Chicago and Philly youths no longer diamonds in the rough!</div> No Gravatar

jackie robinson south 2

The little league world series has come to an end and as I  sat on the couch slyly wiping the water that welled within my eyes  before anyone could notice realizing the magical run by the Jackie Robinson West little league team from Chicago fell short against a powerful South Korean team 4-8 , the feeling of sadness and letdown was quickly replaced by the replaying of the memories that highlighted this years little league tournament.  There was the dominating performance of Mo’ne Davis the lanky young female from Philadelphia who set the world on fire with her 70 mph fastball , dazzling eyes and illuminating smile. Then came the youngsters from the south side of Chicago the all black team of young boys that wanted nothing more than a chance to represent the United States and bring home the title.   Their accomplishments were the reason I tuned into watch the series, these young ball players captured the attention of the media and celebrities across the country.  Watching the tournament brought back memories of my time in little league back in the 1970’s and the trip we made to the hallowed grounds of Williamsport, PA to watch the tournament.

 

mone davis 1 I remember wishing I could be on that field playing in front of all  those people representing the New England region. Instead my  peers and I sat in the bleachers and kept ourselves amused. The  performance of Mo’ne and the Jackie Robinson team was one for  the ages. You could see the pride of all Americans from different  racial, social and economic backgrounds appreciate the odds  they overcame to first make it to the tournament, yet alone  experience any success. The timing could not have been planned  better, given the recent racial tensions  punctuated by the debacle in Ferguson, MO.  For a moment at least these young people took our minds off the tragedy and tension that is tearing away at the fabric of this great nation.  I have to profess that as I looked at those innocent faces of both the Philadelphia and Chicago teams; I couldn’t help but wonder what the future held for these bright and gifted young athletes, what will their world look like in 10 years ? will they have a chance to compete in this world? how many of those young black boys from both cities will reach adulthood or meet a tragic end staring down the gun barrel of peers and law enforcement officials?  The answers are yet to come, sure they will be honored as heroes when they return to their respective cities as well they should, but once the fanfare fades they will have to face the reality of returning to a normal life whatever that means to each. Given the recent spike in violent deaths in Chicago one can only imagine what those young men have witnessed.

jackie robinson southmone davis 2

My hope is the incredible run of both teams will help spark more interest from inner city youths to return to the diamonds to play Americas favorite past time, that would be a nice site to behold

I tip my cap to all of the teams in the tournament that traveled from around the world, each with their own set of challenges, the smiles and tears as they played their hearts out reminded us they were just youngsters enjoying the moment. We as adults could learn a valuable lesson from these young athletes on how to demonstrate true sportsmanship it starts with respect.

 

(photos courtesy of multiple news services)

The Iceman cometh!

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shabazz4

It has been a little over two weeks since the UConn men’s basketball team turned everyone’s NCAA brackets into confetti by going on an improbable run.  The city of Boston, especially those who reside in the inner city are still beaming with pride as they watched  Shabazz Napier  the leader of the team shine on the biggest stage and named the most outstanding player of the tournament. I am still waiting to learn of the date when Shabazz will be invited to throw out the first pitch at an upcoming Boston Red Sox game, surely they will extend an invite to a favorite son.

Shabazz was the quintessential  “Ice Man” during the tournament , he was calm under pressure , not afraid of the big moment , was willing to take and make the big shot when his team needed a lift and his poise during adversity is something you learn while growing up in the projects.  Personally I do not know Napier but I have friends and associates that do, he and I do share one thing in common, we both grew up in Mission Hill and for that reason I am proud of what he accomplished.

Another benefit of the championship run and Shabazz’s play was his opportunity to use the moment as a platform to highlight a couple of items that I hope do not get lost after the hoopla has faded.

1. Shabazz Napier stayed in school the full four years and will graduate on time with a meaningful degree in sociology

2. shabazz cleanDespite his tough upbringing Shabazz was able to assimilate at a PWI (predominately white institution) and did not lose his street credibility or swag.  He did not wear his uniform shorts below his waist,  there was no frohawk hair  cut and his image was clean cut.  His effort, talent and skills made his  statements on the court while remaining a team player not a me first self  promoting spectacle. I hope the parents and coaches of the next generation of  talented athletes from communities across the country will point this fact out  to their budding superstars, it should be an expectation and demand  they go to school and actually be a student, their futures are too valuable to leave to chance, besides the coaches they play for are taking care of their families and providing for their children’s educational future off their labor.

3. Shabazz was able to push the NCAA into changing the meal plan allowed for division one student-athletes after his infamous ” I go to bed starving” statement hit social media.  On April 15, 2014 the NCAA council approved of a new plan that will give the student-athletes unlimited meals and snacks.

4. Shabazz called out the NCAA for banning the Huskies who under Coach Jim Calhoun leadership failed to meet the NCAA Academic progress rate. I think he was trying to share one of the motivating forces that helped fuel their run to the championship after being banned a year ago.  But should the NCAA be vilified for holding schools accountable to ensure their student-athletes are making actual progress towards a degree ? and let’s be honest as long as the ban only effected historically black colleges and universities(the majority of the institutions on the list of banned schools ;for another conversation), it was not taken seriously, not until UConn became the new poster child, that was a wake up call for the other major institutions to allocate the necessary resources to ensure they don’t miss out on the millions to be lost, should they receive the same fate.

shabazz ollie

We must not forget the real reason many of us make sacrifices to afford our children the opportunity to attend higher education learning centers; to become equipped with the needed skills to compete in a global world one in which the united states is lagging.  Yes it’s great if your child is afforded the opportunity to attend a school on an athletic scholarship, its saves you thousands of dollars, prestige and fame, perhaps a chance to go onto the professional leagues. But for many of these students in particular black males once they have exhausted their athletic eligibility at the college level, the ball will stop bouncing sooner rather than later.  There will be no major bowl appearances, and living in what I call an “Illusion” (best hotels, medical services, food, travel accommodations, adulation of fans and media, etc) will cease.  They will return to the same dilapidated communities and face a harsh reality.

Congrats Shabazz not only have you made the city of Boston proud, your impact on the next generation will go further than any championship run could ever go, I pray that you surround yourself with wise counsel at the next level, you are an excellent role model for the often used cliche “It’s not where you start , it’s where you end that matters”.

shabazz sports illustrated

Heavy is the head that wears the crown

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Arod 1Alex Rodriguez has become the poster child for the corruption of baseball and PED’s. His very presence on the baseball field while MLB continues to investigate how many players have cheated conjures up all kinds of reactions. In every ball field he is soundly booed, ridiculed, mocked and insulted, yet he’ maintained a level of self control or complete  oblivion as to what’s really at stake.  My take on the matter is uniquely different, Rodriguez has admitted taking performance enhancing drugs during a time they were not listed on the banned substance list, what he’s being persecuted for is allegedly covering up and lying about his recent involvement with a Florida based company that was marketing the drug.  Which if proven true speaks to a character flaw of the man .

However let’s start from the beginning, what Alex Rodriguez has done is nothing new, he chose to make a deal with the devil for riches and fame, and what he found is the same result Adam and Eve discovered, when you befriend a snake you get bitten. In other words there is always a cost to pay and it never works in your favor. The devil has a way of making things we desire look very attractive remember in Genesis 3 he appealed to Eve’s senses with the temptation of the forbidden fruit.  Rodriguez was wiling to bet it all to be the best player in baseball. That was the start of his downfall. In 2000 he signed a $252 million dollar contract with the Texas Rangers making him the highest paid player of all time.  That put him in the center of controversy, he wore the bullseye every time he stepped out of the dugout , how can any one be worth that amount of money to play a sport? Why doesn’t Tom Hicks the owner of the Rangers at the time and Scott Boras the agent that negotiated the deal receive the same level of visceral hatred?

Arod 2

Rodriguez had to live up to unrealistic expectations after signing the deal and he believed the best way to do that was to seek assistance in the form of drugs. Drugs that gave him more power to hit home run’s and durability to endure a 162 game regular season while being a solid defender at shortstop before moving to third with the Yankees. Alex desperately wanted to be well liked and just one of the guys, not realizing that could never happen, because he was set apart not just by talent but through the envy of his peers and being despised by Joe average, whose wife and girlfriends swooned over Rodriguez good looks.  If I had the opportunity to speak with Mr. Rodriguez ,I would ask him was the money and fame worth it? your career and reputation are in ruins, eventually many of your accomplishments may be wiped off the books as if you never played, at this point a trip to Cooperstown seems unlikely. Did you count the costs of agreeing to a contract with el diablo ?  For some the desire to be rich and famous outweigh the risks, however in the end they all have to pay their debt and its never a happy ending.  Adam and Eve should serve as examples to all of the ultimate price you pay for dealing with the devil.

Are sports heroes allowed to be victors and victims?

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Romans 3:23 ” There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”.

          

What a week it has been in the world of sports notably the coverage of Lance Armstrong and Notre Dame football star Manti Te’o.  The plight of these two individuals are on every sports  talk show and sports column.  In no time every detail of their personal and professional lives will be uncovered and on display to raise questions of their  character and integrity.

My take on the subject is different  I do not question if or why they lied or what led Armstrong to cheat to ” level the playing field”.  Unlike many of my peers and colleagues in the sports business, I don’t share in the age old sentiment “Sports builds character” no I believe “Sports reveals character”.

My question to all of the people who are so interested in the stories and find a sadistic enjoyment of watching these two sports figures lives get torn to shreds is this ; what did you expect of them?  do fans really believe that athletes are superhuman? a special breed that are flawless in every area of their lives.  Why are they being judged so harshly? oh I forgot our halos are on straight.

Perhaps there is a feeling of let down when you want to believe in an individual who has overcome tremendous obstacles to win a major event or a player who continues to perform at the highest level despite losing those individuals closest to him.  There is something in the American psyche that makes us root for individuals who persevere , so I can see that side of the argument. Perhaps their trial in the court of public opinion stems from envy. Covetous feelings of their fame and fortune because they are living a life that many of us will never know.

Ask any high profile athlete and they will agree the media is a two edged sword, when its in your favor it can build you up to lofty heights and with that comes financial and other rewards.  However when the media discovers your faults they attack with a vengeance and resolve to bring you back down to earth with a loud thud!

I certainly am in no position to judge or defend either Armstrong or Te’o they will have to answer the questions for themselves. God knows I have plenty of faults, maybe not on the scale of using performing enhancing drugs when I was a competitive athlete , or fabricating the death of a make believe girlfriend to garner attention, I’m so thankful I grew up before the explosion of the internet and social media.  However as God’s word tell us we all have faults, let not one of us harshly judge of our brothers when the speck in our eye still remains.

Gabby The Great, A symbol of equality!

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Gabby the “Flying Squirrel” Douglas has captured the heart of America with her stunning routines and aerial assaults on her way to winning the gold. A self admitted novice on the sport of gymnastics I’ve had a distant and very discreet curiosity watching the young women on the beam , parallel bars and  moving briskly through choreographed floor routines. However watching Gabby excel in London has generated a greater appreciation for the type of athletes these young women truly are.  The hard work and sacrifice they make to get to the Olympics is nothing short of incredible.   As I watched Gabby’s performance I could not help but think of how proud not only her immediate family must be , but how proud the unnamed and unsung heroes of the Civil Rights movement must be as well

Gabby is breaking down barriers and stereotypes with each performance and her efforts directly reflect what those heroes of the movement fought, sacrificed and died for and that was the chance for all people to have equal access and opportunities.  Gabby is a perfect example that if given the chance and same support system young people from impoverished backgrounds can achieve extraordinary results.  Her excellence in London proves that its not just about ability and talent, its about preparation and that includes gaining access to the best training, facilities, and coaching that more privilege youths receive as part of a normal expectancy. The soldiers of the Civil Rights movement fought to open those doors for Gabby and others to walk through.

Gabby achievements symbolize the world of which Dr. Martin L. King immortalized in the the infamous “I have a Dream “speech , where a person will be judged by the content of their character and not by the color of their skin.  There is no doubt that Gabby’s race has come front and center as the first African American to win the all around competition and join the likes of Mary Lou Retton, Carly Patterson and Nastia Liukin.  She along with her coach Liang Chow make a striking pair as they represent the face of today’s America.

Gabby’s exploits in the arena are the traits that are making the world stand up and take notice, she is phenomenal and that has nothing to do with race it has to do with the discovery of her talents and her family making a supreme sacrifice to allow her to leave to receive the best training to develop those talents. The real winners of Gabby’s victory are the young people of all races who aspire to believe they too can achieve greatness because they saw a young 16 year old woman with a beautiful smile that will melt the coldest of hearts put her best foot forward.

This country will have really turned the corner in appreciating the richness of our diversity when children like Gabby no longer have to leave their families to access the best of everything because it will be available in their own community.

Jeremy Lin & The Masters Race!

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Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize?  Run in such a way as to get the prize.” 1 Corinthians 9:24

Lin-sanity is at an all time high as the young seemingly overnight sensation continues to make big plays and help the New York Knicks basketball franchise continue their climb out of the Atlantic and Eastern Conference basement.  I have to admit the young man has made me a believer and it doesn’t hurt that he too is a Christian and is unafraid to acknowledge how blessed he is and whom is responsible.  However there is another important message that hopefully young people are noticing and that is the message of hope.  Lin is living proof that if you have strong faith and belief in your talents despite how bad things may appear and you do not quit or give up dreams can come true.   Jeremy Lin reminds us all that if you want something bad enough and are committed not to let negative experiences derail your plans anything is possible.  He also demonstrates the importance of staying ready and being prepared when you finally get your shot (pun intended).

Imagine if Jeremy gave up on the idea that he could make a living as a pro ball player and wallowed in self pity after being cut by 2 teams, passed over by others and regulated to the end of the Knicks bench?  He obviously kept himself in great shape and continued to practice and train hard, he also spent his time wisely studying game film and learning the offensive system, for such a time as this.  No one can predict when the door of opportunity will open and how it will happen; God is not subject to our time table and need for immediate gratification.  Jeremy Lin is a testimony of the trials one must go through before God can truly elevate you onto the big stage.   The next time you’re feeling down and depressed because God has not answered your prayers, consider the current tribulations you are experiencing as boot camp, God is preparing you for your moment in the spotlight, he wants to make sure you can handle it and in return all he asks is that you do not forget him once you arrive!

Graduation is the start of a new journey

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Wow It’s been a long time since I had the chance to post a new article. I’ve been busy studying and writing for the Ministry Classes, there has been little or no time to write for fun and relaxation.  This time of the year is always a busy, yet joyous time for many people as they prepare for graduations and similar ceremonies. During this time of the year I often receive invitations to speak to groups during their commencement exercises. This is something that I humbly look forward to as I still can’t believe people think I have something noteworthy to share with the next generation.  My next event is coming up in four days, I plan to share the following Wisdom Nuggets that I’ve adopted and crafted over the years with the graduating class.

1. There are two critical words you should have in your vocabulary as you climb the ladder of success (Help & Thank You)

2. As you move forward, don’t forget to look back there are always others in your family, neighborhood, community and block that need you to reach back

3. Take advantage of opportunities that come your way, and if there are none create one by volunteering and being of service to others (you can’t go wrong with this one)

4. Make a habit of finishing and completing whatever task, mission or goal you undertake, no matter how long it takes or the cost. Seeing it through to the end takes discipline but it’s well worth the effort. Many people never get to experience the benefits of a project or goal because they simply walk away or move on to the next thing that excites them.

Congratulations to all of the Graduates of 2011!

Lest We Forget those who paved the way

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If you were to ask the casual fan of either college or professional basketball, who was the “Father of Fast-break” basketball, You undoubtedly will hear names like Wooden, Riley, Auerbach, and Smith etc and though those coaches had distinguished careers and experienced varied degrees of success on the hardwood you would be wrong. If you polled the same group and asked who was the first African American to Coach in the professional leagues the list would be relatively small with most shouting the name of the legendary Bill Russell who on April 18,1966 became the first African American coach in the NBA.

During that season Rusell served as both player-coach for his beloved Boston Celtics” Bill Russell is a good guess however you would still be wrong.

The correct answer to both questions is John McLendon (1915-1999).  Coach McLendon was a pioneer whose contributions have remained largely ignored, which is hard to imagine given today’s up and down style of play that is exhibited and played at all levels. In fact many of the coaches aforementioned earlier owe some of their success to Coach McLendon.  Unfortunately Coach McLendon remains virtually anonymous to the main stream media and fans of the game.  As a writer whose personal mission is to highlight the “Unsung Heroes” and in honor of Black History Month. I have decided to profile Coach McLendon.

To learn more about Coach McLendon

http://www.hoophall.com/hall-of-famers/tag/john-b-mclendon