Monday, December 28, 2015

R.I.P Meadowlark Lemon: Athlete; Entertainer; Evangelist

Meadowlark Lemon on Athletes

Basketball legend Meadowlark Lemon died at age 83 in Scottdale, Arizona on December 27, 2015.  Lemon was the court jester of the Harlem Globetrotters for 22 seasons before venturing off to play for the Bucketeers, then later with the Shooting Stars and in 1988 starting "Meadowlark Lemon's All Stars".  In 1994, Lemon played 50 games for the Harlem Globetrotters while still playing for his own touring team.

In Meadowlark Lemon's prime, he played 325 games a year. After missing one game in Germany after a bad meal of goulash in 1955,  Lemon played  7,500 consecutive games for the Harlem Globetrotters, which was the equivalent of 92 NBA seasons. But Lemon was known for more than his perfect attendance on the courts.   

Wilt Chamberlain played with Meadowlark Lemon for the 1958-59 season on the Harlem Globetrotters.  Wilt Chamberlain lauded Lemom shortly before his Wilt's death in 1999:  “Meadowlark was the most sensational, awesome, incredible basketball player I've ever seen.  People would say it would be Dr. J or even [Michael] Jordan. For me it would be Meadowlark Lemon.”  Lemon could make unbelievable behind the back half-court baskets and was known for his long range hook shot. 

Supplementing his superior skill set at basketball fundamentals, Meadowlark Lemon was a showman.  He enthusiastically embraced being the "Clown Prince" of basketball, by doing a regular shtick of throwing a bucket-full of confetti and pulling down the pants of referees.  Meadowlark Lemon was inducted into both the Basketball Hall of Fame and the International Clown Hall of Fame. 

Aside from being an athlete and an entertainer, Meadowlark Lemon had a spiritual side.  Lemon became an ordained minister in 1986 and a Doctor of Divinity in 1988 from Vision International University.  Along with his second wife Dr. Cynthia Lemon, he founded  Meadowlark Lemon Ministries with a mission "Changing lives to change the world" by   leveraging his books, media, evangelical outreach along with Camp Meadowlark basketball camp as inspiration to stay focused and finish strong message aimed at keep kids away from the path of substance abuse. 

Meadowlark Lemon Ministries has a special outreach to youths in detention facilities and prisons.  Meadowlark's message to these troubled souls is that you are not alone, you are uniquely special, God has great plans for you and you are forgiven. 

Through his excellence on the courts and comedy, Meadowlark Lemon could entertain and elevate his fans.  Parlaying his successes on the court to his ministry, Meadowlark Lemon helped elevate himself and others to a higher level. Rest In Peace Clown Prince of Basketball. 

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

A Favorable First Amendment Slant Should Save the Redskin's Trademark

For several years, there has been a politically correct effort to force the Washington Redskins to change their name.  In fact, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office was convinced with withdraw the NFL franchise's trademark protection in 1999 and 2014, citing that "the term redskin" as derogatory and offensive even though the USPTO had approved the mark over 80 years before. Washington Redskin's owner Daniel Synder appealed claiming that case law and the weight of the evidence had been ignored.  A federal district court agreed with the Patent Office's withdrawal of the trademark in July 2015. 

However, a Federal Appeals court handed down a ruling which may well be a game changer.  The Portland Oregon dance rock band "The Slants" won a Federal Appeals Court case which began in 2011 over their provocative moniker.  The Slants are composed of Asian Pacific Island band members and pride themselves as taking on racism presumably by embracing a name which many consider to be ethnic slander. 

The Slants

In a December 22, 2015 decision, the Federal Appeals Court ruled:

“Many of the marks rejected as disparaging convey hurtful speech that harms members of oft-stigmatized communities. But the First Amendment protects even hurtful speech...
The government cannot refuse to register disparaging marks because it disapproves of the expressive messages conveyed by the marks."
That ruling ended The Slant's legal Misery, but also serves as a strong indication that the Redskin's ruling will not stand. The Redskins were stripped of trademark protection because of "hurtful speech".  In addition, the Redskin's case is even stronger as the USPTO had already approved the trademark years before and then sought to yank it away.  However, because the Redskin's appeal is in another circuit, the Slant's ruling is not automatically set a precedent.  And the US Supreme Court could also overturn the Slant's First Amendment trademark protection.

But until then..

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Midshipmen Alternate Football Uniforms-- Damn the Torpedoes!

During the annual Army Navy game, the Midshipmen will be donning their alternate uniform helmets which are replete with meaning.  Each of the seven types of hand painted helmets depict the player's position. 

• Linebacker: Cruiser- Provides anti-air defense and packs the biggest punch of Naval surface ships representative of the linebackers on the Navy football team.

• Defensive Back: Destroyer- Known for significant fire power, speed, and anti-missile defense as are Navy's defensive backs.

• Wide Receiver: Submarine- Predominantly utilized as blockers, wide receivers play a key role in driving the Navy rush attack, taking on a stealth-like persona as they blend into the rhythm of the offense but bring significant fire power when called upon, just like a Naval submarine.

• Lineman: Amphibious Assault Ships- Just as a lineman's job is the create a hole for a running back or linebacker, these ships are utilized to establish the "beach head" that enables the invading force to gain access and ultimately accomplish their objective.

• Quarterback: Aircraft Carrier- The QB of the Naval Fleet, the aircraft carrier is the ultimate decision maker; the "quick strike" weapon of the Naval fleet.

• Running Back: Littoral Combat Ship- Like running backs, these fast and nimble ships can navigate through both crowded shallow and deep waters.

• Kicker/Special Teams: Minesweeper- Much like the specific task of the Navy special teams, this small ship has a unique mission of identifying and eliminating mines.

In addition, the rally cry "Damn the torpedoes!" from Admiral Farragut's victory in the Battle of Mobile Bay in 1864 is featured on the player's gloves. 

Roger Staubach on "The Extra Mile"

Roger Staubach on "The Extra Mile"

The annual Army-Navy game is the last game of the college football regular season.  It is an over a century old rivalry between two military academies.

During the first half of the 20th Century, the Navy Midshipmen and the Army Black Knights were in contention for the national championships.  However, nowadays the five year commitments which academy athletes make to their armed service makes professional sports players about as rare as a rocking horse's manure. Yet players give their all for this annual match-up.  They are inspired to go the extra mile.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Groucho Marx on Kansas CIty

Congratulations to the Kansas City Royals for winning their first World Series in 30 years in decisive fashion in five games against the New York Mets. 

As an inveterate New Yorker from birth, it is likely that Groucho would mark the Royal victory with a Bronx cheer for K.C.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Double Amputee Defensive Lineman's Drive Motivates Team

Joe Martel III is a 14 year old freshman who made the Beggs (Oklahoma) High School Golden Demons football team.  What makes him unique is that Martel is a double amputee.  Martel was born without shin bone. To treat the tibal hemimelia, Martel's legs were amputated at age 1 1/2.  

However Martel has never let a couple of missing limbs keep him from his love of sports, especially football.  As a pee-wee player, Martel would put Koosies on his stumps as padding while out on the field.  When playing games, Martel can put on prosthetic limbs, but in practice, particularly when rushing up and down the stands, he hurls himself up bleachers without them.  

Martel's Football coach Lee Blankenship rightly points to Martel's example,  not only for overcoming his handicap, but for his work ethic and positive attitude.

So often sports can be diminished into statistics or win-loss records.  Joe Martel III highlights how determination, drive and disposition can be inspirational. 

h/t: The Root

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Huge Hype Miscue for Fox Soccer?

Donald Trump Gives Twitter good wishes to US Soccer against Mexico

In order to promote the US versus Mexico men's soccer match, Fox Soccer superimposed images of prior international games between the teams with selected speeches by 2016 Republican Presidential Donald Trump.

There was adverse reaction on social media to this Trump pump up video.

Reliably liberal sources like the Huffington Post vexed that Donald Trump is not a proper representation of American Patriotism and worry that it might inspire xenophobic fan chants worse than "dos a cero" (referring to Mexican losses in international matches against the US).

But such knee jerk liberalism ignores the inspiration of the Fox Soccer ad.  In September TV Azteca produced a pump up Mexican Soccer video which exploited more sharped edged Trump-isms on Mexicans.

 It would seem that some trolls on social media and the Lamestream Media can not take tongue in cheek hype and worry about how America is perceived in the world.

Perhaps a more soothing  and politically correct portrayal of American patriotism today is conveyed by President Barack Obama bicycling.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Iranian "Womens'" Soccer Team -- What a Farsi (sic)!

Al Arabiya reported that eight members of the Iranian Women's Soccer team are not actually woman and having been playing on the national team without a sex change operation. Some of those cited played their entire career as men but only revealed their gender on their last day of duty. Seven players were terminated because of this controversy. 

This is not the first time that the Iranian women's team has been over-inclusive in their team make up.  In 2014, when the Iranian governing soccer body started gender testing, it was revealed that four players on the women's national team were men awaiting sex change operations. 

The Iranian womens' soccer team is renowned for wearing a modified hijab when they are on the pitch.  FIFA banned the Iranian Womens' team in 2011 as the international body deemed the headscarf unsafe.  Perhaps.  But headwear certainly helped hide these sporting Tootsies.

Ironically, the Iranian Women's soccer team has experienced troubled fielding legitimate women soccer stars abroad.  Last month, standout player Niloufar Ardalan was stopped from traveling to Malaysia for a match by her husband who wanted his wife to follow sharia law by staying home and caring for her child. 

Aside from the jocular grotequeries of the Iranian Womens' Soccer team farce, this brings up several ancillary meta-issues.  President Obama made an Executive Agreement with the Islamic Republic of Iran over Nuclear Arms.  Many questioned provisions which allow the Iranians to self inspect, citing their history of cheating.  The multiple malfeasance by the Iranian Womens' soccer team does nothing to dissuade this perception of Persian prevarications. 

Secondly, the number of Iranian Womens' Soccer players who are supposedly having sex change operation calls into question transgender issues.  While operations may mutilate genitlia to mimic the female body features, does it really change someone's genetics.  In the wake of Bruce "Call Me Cait" Jenner's rollout, questioning this scientific fact can bring a civil discussion to blows.  

Last year, MMA fighter  Tamikka Brents reacted to her Technical Knock Out by transgendered athlete Fallon Fox (ne Boyd Burton).  Brents opined:  

I’ve fought a lot of women and have never felt the strength that I felt in a fight as I did that night. I can’t answer whether it’s because she was born a man or not because I’m not a doctor. I can only say, I’ve never felt so overpowered ever in my life and I am an abnormally strong female in my own right. Her grip was different, I could usually move around in the clinch against other females but couldn’t move at all in Fox’s clinch…

Some say this is just sour grapes after being TKO'ed. Perhaps.  But does a sex change operation change a person's skeletal and muscular structure? Of course not. This XY advantage becomes more evident in combat sports like Mixed Martial Arts, boxing and wrestling.

Lately, the political news has been abuzz over politically incorrect comments made by Republican Presidential hopeful Dr. Ben Carson about how he could never support an unreserved Islamist for President.  Liberals lambasted the proud non-politician candidate as being a racist (which incorrectly presupposes that Islam is a race).  But the crux of the matter is that an Islamist adheres to sharia, a holistic religious, cultural and political legal system which  supersedes any existing secular law.  

Part of sharia allows for taqiyya, deception to advance one's aims by cheating.  It is sad to wonder if the Iranian "Womens'" Soccer team had to cheat to try to win, but the hijabs seem to do more than protect a woman's female honor on the field.  What a Farsi (sic)!

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Senator Ted Cruz's Sporting Analogy About the Republican Leadership

Ted Cruz on the GOP Surrender Caucus

Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) gave a blistering hour long speech on the Senate floor pertaining to procedural votes which set the stage for passing a "Clean" C.R. (Continuing Resolution).

To illustrate how Republican Congressional Leadership is acting like the Surrender Caucus in allowing full funding for President Obama's unwise and extra-constitutional actions with Obamacare, Executive Amnesty and the Iran Nuke Deal, Senator Cruz resorted to a football analogy. 

Senator Cruz has not endeared himself with his colleagues for calling them out on show votes which are meaningless but letting government growth legislation pass without objection. But if Cruz can successfully convey this Congressional Kabuki show to primary voters, he may score with frustrated populists, Tea Party Conservatives and RON Paulesque "conservatarians".  

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

R.I.P. Yogi Berra

Yogi Berra on Funerals

Yogi Berra, renowned major league baseball player and master of malapropisms, died on September 22, 2015 the age of 90. Notwithstanding his waggish wisdom about funerals, assuredly Lawrence Peter "Yogi" Berra was not forgotten as his kith and kin marked his departure from the mortal coil.

  Yogi Berra funeral

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Viking Mascot Ragnar Cut from Field After Daring Danegeld Demand

After representing the Minnesota Vikings since 1994 by entertaining fans at home games, Joe Juranitch found himself at home on game day.  However, his forlorn Facebook posting was more than a bit disingenuous.  The human mascot who used to ride a purple motorcycle to lead the Vikings out on the field was cut because his danegeld was too outrageous. 

Danegeld was a tribute payment  by the English and French from the nineth to eleventh century AD to prevent marauding by Vikings.  In Juranitch's case, he wanted a 2100% increase.  Last year, "Ragnar" was paid $1,500 a game.  In Juranitch's renegotiation, he wanted a cool $20,000 a GAME with a 10 year contract. This avaricious offer killed the golden goose.

That would have meant that over the period of the contract, Juranitch would be paid $1.6 million (or $2 million if it included preseason) for being on the sidelines for 90 games.  Nice work if you can get it.  

Well, the Vikings already had a kid friendly mascot Viktor the Viking. And the team might want to watch their expenses as they are footing $551 million of the $1.061 billion U.S. Bank stadium which will be ready in 2016.

There is a fan based petition drive with 10,000 people in order to reinstate Ragnar to his former place on the sidelines. But I suspect that "Ragnar" will have more time to snowtube during his free weekends in Minnesocold. 

Friday, September 11, 2015

Remembering Red Bandanas and Teamwork

Welles Remy Crowther on Teams 

 While there is nothing new about Welles Remy Crowther's aphorism from his high school yearbook, the way that he put the maxim into action in his life was remarkable.

Welles Crowther was a lacrosse player in secondary school in Nyack New York and later for Boston College's varsity team.  Crowther was associated with always wearing a red bandanna, a penchant he acquired as a child.   Due to his smaller stature, Crowther was physically overmatched by his competitors, but made it up with enthusiasm and teamwork.

Off the field, Crowther also embodied the heart of a servant.  Crowther joined the volunteer Fire Department at age 16.  Even after landing a job as a equities trader, Crowther expressed an interest in changing careers to join the New York City Police. In fact, a partially completed application to the NYFD was eventually found in Crowther's apartment

On September 11, 2001, a 24 year old Welles Crowther was at his office on the 104th Floor of the South Tower of the World Trade Center when the first airplane struck the other building.  That horrible event prompted him to put his professional pursuits aside and channel teamwork.  Crowther was on the 78th floor Sky Lobby of the South Tower when the second plane struck.

Crowther striped to a t-shirt and wore a red bandanna to cover his nose and mouth. Crowther immediately acted as an impromptu team leader to rally the walking wounded to a functioning stairwell.  Survivor Judy Wein remembers hearing: "Anyone who can walk, get up and walk now. Anyone who can perhaps help others, find someone who needs help and then head down." Crowther was seen carrying a woman on his back. He  led them down to the 61st floor where they were met by First Responders who got them to a functioning elevator on the 40th floor and the rest of the team escaped the towering inferno.

After escorting people down 16 flights of stairs, Crowther ascended the stairwell again to help more "team mates". Crowther's group of First Responders had the "Jaws of Life" and were prepared to lift debris to help trapped victims. According to survivors,   Crowther's remains were found with other firemen who were on the 78th floor Sky Lobby when the South Tower collapsed.  Crowther's courage and teamwork may have saved a dozen lives.

Crowther's story might have been lost in the alluvia of fragmented memories of 9/11. But six months after the atrocity, the New York Times published an account from a survivor who remembered a detail about a mysterious man with a red handkerchief organizing a makeshift triage.  This red bandanna memory gave Crowther's grieving parents some solace about their son, simultaneously  providing closure and confirmation of  their son's solid character.

In 2006, Welles Crowther was posthumously named an honorary New York Fire Fighter for being a 9/11 Angel. Boston College sponsors an annual Red Bandanna Run for the Welles Crowther Trust. The American Heroes Channel will soon award an Inaugral "Red Bandanna Award"  for exemplifying the American spirit during a nationally televised Boston College football game on September 18th.

So often, sports can become base, reduced to a boxscore, vexing whether the home team will make the playoffs or speculating about the latest New England Patriots scandal.  But sports can be much more than those pedestrian pastimes.

As we reflect on the anniversary of 9/11, Welles Crowther's exemplary life shows the deep values that can be derived by sports. Welles Crowther's dedication to teamwork was cultivated by coaching on the field but was inculcated into his life.  Crowther not only thought of others at a tragic time, but was conditioned to rally and help "team mates" at a test match of life.

While the cynical may smirk at the truism that "There is no 'I' in team",  Welles put that principle into practice sacrificing his life for the sake of others.  Those are the virtues which make sports meaningful.

h/t: ESPN

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Trump Worms Endorsement from Dennis Rodman

Dennis Rodman Endorses Donald Trump via Twitter

During this Trump Summer before most primary voters seriously concentrate on electing a Republican Presidential nominee, the billionaire populist GOP candidate earned an unexpected assist.  Trump was endorsed by Dennis Rodman.

Of course, Rodman has also endorsed North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un, so it is hard to discern what Rodman's political disposition is, other than supporting friends. In the past, Trump was chagrined by prior attempts to by Rodman to worm a connection between the Big Apple billionaire and the  Pyongyang's newest Dear Leader.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Why the Red Card on the F.I.F.A. World Cup of Corruption?

Vladimir Putin on FIFA Corruption Charges

In the wake of Attorney General Loretta Lynch pulling out a red card on 14 F.I.F.A officials for an alleged World Cup of Corruption, Russian President Vladimir Putin opined that the Americans were offsides. 

To answer why the Department of Justice issued a 47 count indictment over F.I.F.A. corruption, it is worth noting that the plots were hatched in the United States and utilized the U.S. banking system.  It is wrong to think that the F.I.F.A. case does not affect American politics either.  The United States missed out on winning the 2018 World Cup to the Russian Federation's Sochi bid and the out of the box award to Qatar in 2022.  The U.S. would be a natural backup in case either the Russian or Qatari bids fall through.

Moreover,  the Clinton Foundation received between  $50,000 and $100,000 and partnered with the Fédération Internationale de Football Association.  President Bill Clinton was said to have been so upset at the US losing the 2022 World Cup bid to Qatar that he smashed a mirror.  But the Qatar 2022 tried to make it up by giving the Clinton Foundation  $250,000 and $500,000 as well as the Qatari government pitching in between $1 million and $5 million.

This may only be the beginning of the F.I.F.A. fallout. Suddenly the business of soccer has become very exiting.  Goooooooooooool!

h/t: Steve Bell

Friday, April 24, 2015

Bruce Jenner on Being a Role Model

Obama Tosses a Pick When Greeting Patriots on the White House South Lawn

Barack Obama on Deflate-Gate

President Obama, fresh off a Florida photo-op in the Everglades for Earth Day, resumed his role as Celebrity in Chief by greeting the New England Patriots on the White House South Lawn in honor of their Super Bowl victory.  Mr. Obama must have been warming up for the Nerd Prom (a.k.a. the White House correspondence dinner) as he tried a few jokes that fell flat.  

It certainly is friendly banter to wish that Beantown would allow the Windy City to win a championship or two.  Joking that Gronk should keep his shirt on seemed like a hip towel snap. But making a Deflate-gate joke falls flat.  This photo op was supposed to honor the victory of the Patriots, yet Mr. Obama threw a pick and forced his guests to react nervously.

Jon Stewart is leaving the Daily Show in August.  Perhaps Mr. Obama ought to audition for that role.  At least he might get better writers. But doing the Daily Show might be difficult for President Obama  to squeeze in between rounds of golf.

Monday, April 20, 2015

"Fenway is the essence of baseball"

The Boston Red Sox moved to their new ballpark at 4 Yawkey Way in 1912.  Fenway Park was said to be named after the Fenway neighborhood, which was created by filling in marshlands (the fens) in the back bay.  However, that explanation may be somewhat suspect as owner John Taylor's family also owned the Fenway Realty Company.

Fenway Park in 2014

The Red Sox first game at Fenway Park was on April 20th, 1912 in an 11 inning 7-6 win against the New York Highlanders (who were renamed the Yankees the following year).

For Fenway Park's centenary, the building was designated as a National Historical Landmark. As of 2012, the Red Sox spring training facility, Jetblue Park in Fort Myers Florida is known as Fenway South as the facility has the exact same dimensions as the so called "Cathedral of Boston"

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Wounded Warriors Ride to the White House

For the seventh year, the Wounded Warrior Project's Soldier Ride started from the South Lawn of the White House.  

The Wounded Warrior Soldier's ride is an annual, nationwide event which allows veterans and wounded servicemen to bond by cycling.  It was conceived in 2004 by Chris Carney, a Long Island bartender, in order to raise money and support our wounded warriors through a coast-to-coast bike ride.  Today the Wounded Warrior Project can claim 68,000 alumni who have found some solace from their injuries by cycling with their Warrior comrades.

For the White House stop, over 50 riders from all branches of the armed forces took the three day, 60 mile cycling challenge. Many of the participants rode adapted bicycles.  

      USA Today

Thursday, April 9, 2015

New Wolverine Football Head Coach Jim Harbaugh Fights for The American Sniper Showing

It is as rare as a rocking horses manure that a campus screening of a Hollywood major motion picture makes the news, much less the sports section, but we live in interesting times.

The University of Michigan in Ann Arbor was scheduled to show "The American Sniper", the 2014 highest grossing motion picture about a Navy Seal who served four combat tours .  But the "American Sniper" screening was cancelled because of an open letter published by some U of M Muslim students which claimed that the Chris Kyle biopic ab that the film about the decorated Navy Seal was about “a racist who took a disturbing stance on murdering Iraqi civilians.” Aside from that blood liable, the letter worried that  American Sniper "not only tolerates but promotes anti-Muslim … rhetoric and sympathizes with a mass killer.”

So what does the University of Michigan, an institute of higher learning which sports the motto: Artes, Scientia, Veritas, do in a civil clash of ideas. The first instinct of the U of M Administration was to censor the controversial.  University officials canceled the showing and apologized for potentially making Muslim students feel unsafe.  The University planned to show Paddington instead, no joke.

After the Ann Arbor University Administration suffered from widespread derision over the politically correct pusillanimous decision, U of M backpeddled and promised to eventually show "The American Sniper" but only in a "safe space".

So allow for protests and ideological indoctrination afterwards.

Even this University of Michigan equivocation did not score well with incoming Wolverine football coach Jim Harbaugh.  Harbaugh took to Twitter to unabashedly show support to Chris Kyle and "The American Sniper".   Harbaugh played college football at "The Big House" of U of M before spending 14 seasons in the NFL then coaching in the NFL, including the San Francisco Giants.  Haurbaugh's bold proclamation about Wolverine Football gives the impression that he will not countenance safe spaces on the football field.

An early scene from "The American Sniper" depicts a life lesson given to a young Chris Kyle about the three types of persons in the world.

It is clear that Coach Harbaugh emulates a sheepdog.  What remains to be seen is if the team which he inherits, which went 5-7 in 2014 (including a Big Ten 3-5 record), are going to transmogrify into Wolverine Sheepdogs or remain collegiate sheep on the sports field?

A better question is what the University of Michigan learns from this episode.

Nick Faldo on Augusta National

Nick Faldo on Augusta National