Friday, December 4, 2015

The State of Helplessness In America

I’ve debated writing this for a while now. I’ve sat down so many times to write this but conveying this point I guess makes people uncomfortable. If you go back through the archives of anything I've written you’ll notice a common theme. I have always spoken out against police brutality. It’s something I am passionate about seeing come to an end. And in each post I have ever written I’ve always said this is not anti-police. So as I write about police over reach again allow me to reiterate…I AM NOT ANTI POLICE. What I am is sick and tired everyday of looking on the news and hearing of an unarmed person being shot down. And frankly anyone who reads this should also be damn tired of seeing and hearing it as well.

I’m afraid of the police. There I said it. I know the vast majority of police are brave individuals who are out to do their job and go home to their family. However when I see the case of Laquan McDonald play out how can I not be terrified? I watched the police shoot a guy who was only armed with a 3 inch pocket knife 16 times. Many of those shots came after he was already on the ground. And to make matters worse they actively tried to cover up their crime by lying about the victim, then deleting incriminating footage.

How am I supposed to trust these guys? 

Just a week ago I’m heading home from work and get pulled over. I do so. Before even asking for my ID I get asked why I am wearing a suit and “did I just come from court?” No sir I reply, just coming from work.  He takes my license, leaves me to sit for about 20 minutes and comes back. At this point I still have no idea why I’ve been pulled over. He comes back, asks where I work and leaves me for another 10 minutes.  The fear in my heart was at an all-time high. He comes back, hands me my license and makes a joke. And that was it. 

That wasn’t my only time being terrified out of my mind. You see every day when I go to work I put on a nice suit, strut around with my Ric Flair walk and generally look and carry myself the exact way these idiots who say I’m over reacting should act.  Well, a few months ago I had to take a ride out in a luxury automobile to grab marketing supplies for an event. I put my dealer plates on and pull out of the dealership. A cop immediately pulls up behind me. I signal and move over; he changes lanes and gets right behind me. After following me for about 10 minutes I took my phone out and turned the camera on and began recording my ride.  I thankfully got to my destination parked and got out the car. As I walked to the front door of the destination I look back and notice the same car slowly riding by and I caught eyes with him.

I thought this would be the end of my terrifying ride but that was not the case. As I left and walked back to the car I noticed the same car sitting on the street.  I pulled out the parking lot and the car began to follow me again. It was then I turned my camera back on and began to loudly talk, proclaiming I didn’t have any weapons, I wasn’t under the influence of anything and I was obeying the speed limit. He followed me all the way back to work. I literally wanted to cry in that fancy car and suit that people keep telling you will keep you safe from this kind of thing.  I was so angry, so sad, I felt in a word helpless.

As I sat there, dressed impeccably, respectful to the max, my thoughts weren't "oh he was just doing his job." What justification did this guy have for following me for over 40 minutes? And what makes me feel even more helpless is that even though I have given a detailed glimpse into the world as I see it, people will probably think I am over reacting. It tells me you can read this, not believe me, and tell me my fears aren’t as valid as someone else. 

In a word it makes me feel helpless. I’m sure someone will read this and hit me with an “All Lives Matter” or how hard and dangerous a cop’s job is. 

I don’t deny either of those truths. I just want to know why you deny mine.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

A Change Is Coming

The University of Missouri football team is exactly what we should hope a group of 18-22 year olds would be in a similar situation. What they did took bravery and that cannot be overlooked.  Yet as soon as the announcement came that they would halt any football related activities came down I’ve heard so many people spouting how ungrateful and entitled these young men were. 

My beef with the NCAA has been shared here numerous times. I think it’s a corrupt institution designed to keep these kids poor and dependent upon them. The argument against paying the student athletes has always been the same: “you’re being paid in an education!” Ok, well the same people who spout that nonsense are the same people telling these guys that what they are doing is wrong.
So let me try and understand the logic behind this. For years minority students have complained of racial incidents happening on campus, for years they were ignored. So what do the students decide to do after years of being ignored and not having their very valid concerns at least acknowledged? They begin nonviolent protests including a hunger strike calling for the negligent president of the school to resign. After not gaining the traction they hoped the football team in an act of solidarity joined in and announced until the students’ needs were addressed they would halt any and all football related activities including not playing their next game which would lead to the school having to pay Brigham Young University one million dollars. Within 3 days both the president and the chancellor had stepped down. 

So now the story has become how the football players are entitled brats who should not have threatened to take their precious football away. I don’t understand how one can be entitled when all you’re asking for is incidents of racial prejudice to be investigated, to be treated as a human, and when that was ignored they used the only bit of leverage they had to make the administration listen to them. 

I have seen posts of how protests of today should be like they were during the Civil Rights era, well here it is. You got what you asked for. You have young people mobilizing together for a common goal using nonviolent means and a work stoppage to have their voices and needs met. Hearing the talk of how they should be “honored” to just play football there smacks of “shut up and play football nigger, you’re lucky we let you on campus.” 

So now the conversation has predictably shifted to everything from “what about black on black crime” to “you didn’t say anything about Chicago.” If that’s your line of defense then first off you’re racist because it’s unimaginable to you that in the age of a black president there can be racial prejudice, and secondly you don’t give a damn about black on black crime or Chicago. Because if you did you would know that you can be upset about more than one thing. I can be upset about a child being murdered in Chicago and also be upset about swastikas being drawn on a college campus. I guess I’m complex. 

Alright, I am getting too worked up on this. I guess all this was to say is I have the utmost respect for the Mizzou Tigers football team and student body and haters can have all the seats.  I’ll leave you with the greatest celebration that could have happened in the wake of the president’s resignation…THE SWAG SURF!

Monday, October 19, 2015

The Great Kirk Cousins Debate

Before I start writing this I just want to say that I like Kirk Cousins. I think he’s a nice guy, and by all accounts seems to be a damn decent human. However I’m really being turned away from the guy with the constant coddling in the face of bad play especially by head coach of the Washington Racial Slurs Jay Gruden. 
"I have no idea what's going on."
At this point we’re close to reaching Tebow levels of excuse making for this guy. Seriously, below are some of the quotes said by his own head coach: 

"Yeah I don't know. I'll have to look at the film. Like I said - also, it was little windy.” 

“I know he could have played better, but we had no running game whatsoever, and Kirk’s not in the stage in his career right now — nor is anyone on our roster — to carry our team throwing the ball as much as we would have had to today.”

Contrast that to what was said by Gruden about former face of the franchise Robert Griffin III after he had the first 2 interception game of his career:

"So, from his basic performance just critiquing Robert, it's not even close to good enough to what we expect from the quarterback position."

Seems a tad bit harsh for a guy who earlier in his career may have had statistically the best season ever by a rookie quarterback  and led the team to the playoffs before Mike Shanahan ran his leg into a nub to get there. Seriously, go back and look at some of those plays he dialed up for Griffin and you’d be amazed. Think I am just caping for another black quarterback? Ok well let’s let the stat’s do the talking for me.

In his career Cousins has always been lauded for his ability to read defenses, something Griffin gets no credit for.
He certainly read that defense well eh?
 Yet in 17 less games he has thrown 4 more interceptions on 428 fewer pass attempts. Of quarterbacks with at least 25 interceptions in NFL history only Sage Rosenfels, Trent Dilfer and Charlie Frye threw them at a higher rate. This is the maestro of reading defenses? 

Another aspect of Griffin’s game that seemingly gets overlooked is his ability to run the ball. You want to talk about the lack of weapons Cousins has?
Ran for over 800 yards as a rookie...what a bum.
They essentially have had the same weapons. How was it good enough for Griffin but somehow they’re the lowliest bums on the face of the planet when it comes to Cousins.

At this point I think it’s getting downright embarrassing for all parties involved. I wish Gruden would just come out and say “I don’t like Robert Griffin.” Then just let him go so he can continue his once promising career elsewhere.

Friday, September 25, 2015

The 5 People You like But Also Hate Because You Like Them So Much

The world is filled with some people who are so talented that you stand back and stare at them in awe of their abilities and accomplishments. But if you’re a hater like me there is a next level. People who ascend to such heights that their talent makes you angry, and you’re made even angrier by the fact that you enjoy what they do and will continue to do so. Today I am going to give you 5 of those jerks who personify this emotion for me.  (When I say jerks please note that this is coming strictly from a place of jealousy and that I enjoy their work very much.)

5. LeBron James

LeBron and I have had a love hate relationship over the course of his career. Meaning I have loved to hate him ever since he has come into the league.  But with his performance this past season culminating in possibly the most dominant individual performance over the course of a series that I have ever seen, it must be said that I hate this guy but Lord knows the amount of respect I have for him is immeasurable. He’s so damn talented it fills my heart with rage.

4. Dave Grohl
Look at this bastard here. Ok, so first you think it’s cool to come to the forefront of American culture as a songwriter and drummer for Nirvana (Inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame by the way), and then this jerk goes and founds the Foo Fighters. Are you freaking kidding me? And the cherry on top of the hating sundae is that he appears to be by all accounts a damn decent and funny human being. Ugh.

3. Kendrick Lamar
Oh King Kendrick. After your first album and seeing you perform live I was all about you. Then you had to go and make “To Pimp a Butterfly.” To say I loved that album is an understatement. I give that album credit for helping me keep my sanity for a large part of the past year given the depressing state of the news and other events that have led me to blog passionately over that time span. The more I listen to how he puts his phrases together and the message of each song it fills me with rage. He is a better artist than I am at pretty much anything. Except hating. Now if he releases an album of hating next year then I may have to shut this down.

*Early Contender for The Puma Song of the Year*

2. Bomani Jones
I began following Bomani on twitter a few years ago after seeing him on "Around The Horn." After that I began to read his article, especially his music articles. Over the years he has launched "The Evening Jones," an amazing podcast, and recently got his radio show moved to a better time slot and is co hosting Highly Questionable with Dan Le Batard. What fills me with an envious rage most of all about Hater Galaga (an amazing hating alter ego) is how he interacts with trolls and has the courage to speak his mind even if it's a coworker at ESPN. Bo is so good at what he does that it just seems effortless. Damn him.

1. Ta-Nehisi Coates
This man here. I just shake my head whenever he drops a heavily researched, mad thorough long form article. I know that it's going to take me a while to read it but damn it he's so damn good the time just flies as you're reading it. He drops articles like Beyonce drops albums, unexpectedly and it's all people can talk about. His "Case for Reparations" article was so good that I had to stop reading a few times and play the beat from "Ether" over it. And then this week it's announced he is going to write some comics for my favorite super hero of all time "Black Panther." For real dude? If he keeps this up I may have to put a picture of him up in my home somewhere. Also for this sick burn on the dear brother Cornel West.

All this being said these 5 people personify excellence in my eyes. I am sure you have your list similar to this, and if not YOU'RE A DIRTY LIAR! Kidding folks. Seriously take time and appreciate King James, marvel at Dave Grohl, be inspired by Kendrick Lamar, be pushed mentally by Bomani Jones and be prepared to have view points laid out so painstakingly that even if you disagree you will understand his view.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Mega Western Conference Free Agency Extravaganza

The world has been such an awful place recently I have not had the motivation to complete my Western Conference team by team break down. But don’t you worry folks, the Puma of Chocolate descent is back and he has penned his latest epic analysis of something you didn’t even know you needed.

Western Conference:

Golden State Warriors:
Key Additions:
Kevon Looney: PF - Drafted

Key Losses:
David Lee : PF- Traded

It’s hard to argue with anything done by the reigning champs.  David Lee is gone and while he certainly will be missed as a locker room guy they did draft the wildly versatile Kevon Looney who should be able to slide into the role that Lee occupied and provide better defense.

Overall Grade:  A

Los Angeles Clippers:

Key Additions:
Paul Pierce: SF – Free Agent
Lance Stephenson: SG – Trade
Any excuse to post this video again.

Key Losses:
Matt Barnes: SF- Trade

The Clippers certainly had the most attention with the Deandre Jordan fiasco but they really didn’t improve themselves too much unless you think Paul Pierce still has the late game magic which after last season’s playoffs I won’t be the one to tell him he doesn’t have it anymore. I still don’t see this squad winning a title but a run to the conference finals is certainly a possibility.

Overall Grade: B

Los Angeles Lakers:

Key Additions:
D’Angelo Russell: PG – Draft
Roy Hibbert: C – Trade
Lou Williams: SG- Free Agent

Key Losses:
Jordan Hill: PF – Free Agent

I know the initial reaction is to laugh but the Lakers did have a very solid offseason. Russell has the potential to be the best player in the draft and Roy Hibbert does solve a problem for them with his interior defense. Lou Williams is a much underrated player and solid scorer while Julius Randle will be making his return from injury as will one Kobe Bean Bryant. I would not be surprised to see this team make the playoffs.

Overall Grade: B+

Phoenix Suns

Key Additions:
Tyson Chandler: C- Free Agent
Devin Booker: SG – Draft

Key Losses:
Marcus Morris: PF – Trade

The addition of Tyson Chandler should ease the pressure on Alex Len who is perpetually injured and getting the best natural shooter in the draft in Booker to team with Eric Bledsoe and Brandon Knight who are both great penetrators was a stroke of genius. As for those pesky Morris twins problem Markief may begin the season on this roster but I’d bet cash he won’t end the season there.

Overall Grade: B-

Sacramento Kings

Key Additions:
Caron Butler: SF- Free Agent
Willie Cauley- Stein: C- Draft
Seth Curry: SG- Free Agent
Rajon Rondo: PG- Free Agent

Key Losses:
Nik Stauskas: SG- Trade
Your star shined too bright Sauce Castillo.
This team is…special. First you fire the coach who reached your best player for the first time in his career. Then you essentially give up on the very promising Nik Stauskas aka Sauce Castillo and now they have drafted a player in the top ten who plays the same position of your best player. I love George Karl but this team is a garbage fire and could challenge Philadelphia for the worst record in the league.

Overall Grade: F

Dallas Mavericks

Key Additions:
Wesley Matthews: SG – Free Agent
Justin Anderson: SF- Draft
JaVale McGee: C- Free Agent
Deron Williams: PG- Free Agent

Key Losses:
Deandre Jordan: C- Hilarity
Tyson Chandler: C – Free Agent
Con: Missing out on Deandre Jordan. Pro: They got this guy!
Oh Dallas, poor poor Dallas. After thinking they had an agreement with the top free agent on the market, seems they forgot to keep in contact with him as the Clippers were able to make a last ditch effort to get him to renege on his verbal agreement and go back to Dallas. They responded by signing a guard with an Achilles injury, a point guard past his prime, and the most entertaining knucklehead in the league with Javale McGee. I did like the drafting of Justin Anderson but it looks like as we near the end of Dirk’s run Dallas won’t be contending for anything but a lottery spot.

Overall Grade: D

Houston Rockets

Key Additions:
Sam Dekker: SF- Draft
Marcus Thornton: SG- Free Agent
Montrez Harrell: PF- Draft
Ty Lawson: PG- Trade

Key Losses:

The Rockets had a very solid draft getting Dekker, the most athletic player on Wisconsin’s final four team and Montrez Harrell who could develop into a Kenneth Faried esque high motor guy who rebounds and is a force defensively. Their best move however was trading for Ty Lawson who if he is able to conquer his demons could be a piece that could take them to the next level. All in all it was a fantastic offseason so far for the Rockets.

Overall Grade: A-

Memphis Grizzlies

Key Additions:
Jarrell Martin: PF- Draft

Key Losses:

This team is best described in the words of Stringer Bell. They are the epitome of a 40 degree day. Not too warm, not too cold, just blah. While they have excellent pieces in Marc Gasol, Zach Randolph and Mike Conley, the surrounding pieces are just blah. They added the very talented Jarrell Martin from LSU who could develop into a Zach Randolph type player albeit with a vertical leap of more than 7 inches. All in all they will be a 4-5 seed in the playoffs and quietly go home after pushing an elite team to 6 games.

Overall Grade: C

New Orleans Pelicans

Key Additions:
Alvin Gentry: Coach

Key Losses:

This team did the most important move of any team in the league and that was wrap up long term the defensive and emerging offensive dynamo in Anthony Davis. Also resigning Omer Asik gives them possibly the best defensive front court in the league. As for the rest of the team, they’re not bad but they do have a ton of question marks. Can Jrue Holiday stay healthy? Will Tyreke Evans find his way? Did Kendrick Perkins pick up the post-game snacks? Just so many questions.

Overall Grade: C 

San Antonio Spurs

Key Additions:
Lamarcus Aldridge: PF- Free Agent
David West: PF- Free Agent

Key Losses:
They doubted me again didn't they?
Greg Popovich is the damn devil. There is no other way around this. How do you get the top player on the market and then get a guy to opt out of an 11 million per year deal to sign with you for 1.5 million per year? The Spurs are reloading instead of rebuilding and the Western Conference should remain on notice.

Overall Grade: A

Denver Nuggets

Key Additions:
Emmanual Mudiay: PG- Draft

Key Losses:
Ty Lawson: PG – Trade

I guess you could say the trade of Ty Lawson was addition by subtraction as he is a wildly talented player but he was not a happy person in Denver. Couple that with his apparent alcohol dependence and it was a recipe for disaster. In Mudiay you get a bigger guard who is just as fast and has a much higher ceiling. As for the outlook on this season it certainly isn’t positive but they are in a much better place than they were at this time last season.

Overall Grade: B-

Minnesota Timberwolves

Key Additions:
Karl Anthony Towns: PF- Draft
Tyus Jones: PG- Draft
Andre Miller: PG- Free Agent

Key Losses:

You know what; I actually like the Timberwolves have done this off-season.  Bringing Kevin Garnett back for a farewell tour is a smart move, and the draft day acquisitions of Tyus Jones and Karl Anthony Towns were great. Team them up with the young core of Andrew Wiggins, Shabazz Muhammad, and Gorgui Dieng and you have an exciting group that in a few years could make noise in the playoffs.

Overall Grade: A 

Oklahoma City Thunder

Key Additions:

Key Losses:

This is a team that really stayed pat outside of drafting Dakari Johnson. Their season will be based on two things the health and recovery of Kevin Durant and how quickly Billy Donovan can acclimate himself to the NBA style of coaching. Any team that has Russell Westbrook, Durant and a healthy Ibaka should make some noise.

Overall Grade: C

Portland Trail Blazers

Key Additions:
Ed Davis: PF- Free Agent
Noah Vonleh: PF- Trade
Gerald Henderson: SG- Trade

Key Losses:
Lamarcus Aldridge: PF – Free Agent
Wesley Matthews: SG- Free Agent
Nicolas Batum: SF- Trade

Boy what a difference a year makes. While they smartly gave Damian Lillard everything he asked for the rest of this team should just be called the what if all stars. Noah Vonleh if he develops could be a good player in this league, same thing with Cliff Alexander. The rest of the guys are just hoping to be solid contributors which is fine but you need more than one superstar and hopes and dreams to make a run in the playoffs.

Overall Grade: D

Utah Jazz

Key Additions:
Trey Lyles: PF- Draft

Key Losses:

Another team that really is just going to fall into that barely missing the playoffs range. Dante Exum possibly being out the entire season definitely hurts but they do have Trey Burke and the low post tandem of Rudy Goebert and Derrick Favors certainly will ease that loss. Working in talented rookie Trey Lyles will be a challenge given the glut of players they have at the PF/C position. All in all they are looking at another 35-40 win season and a spot in the lottery.

Overall Grade: C

So there you have it folks, a full month after the Eastern Conference I have bestowed upon thee a Western Conference preview. You’re welcome.