Monday, June 29, 2020

The Trouble with Sports Heroes

(This essay was originally written in 2011. I decided to edit and repost it.)

The idea of heroism is one our society often struggles with. When I was nine years old my fourth grade teacher asked our class if we read about any heroes in the local newspaper. I raised my hand and said “Yes, Mookie Wilson almost hit an inside-the-park homerun for the Mets and they won last night.”

As to be expected, my teacher informed me that despite Mookie Wilson’s actions on the baseball field, he was not in fact “a hero”. He then introduced the class to a local firefighter who had saved a young girl from a burning house.

That incident taught me a few things. Most importantly, I learned the importance of leaving a burning house as soon as possible. I also learned using the term “hero” to describe an athlete is not something that should be done lightly. Sports heroism is a slippery, often treacherous concept that should seldom if ever be used.

Over 20 years later, I still see people mixing and matching sports heroes with real-life heroes. And while it’s bad enough for a kid to confuse the accomplishments of a baseball player and a life-saving fireman, for grown-up sportswriters and other media types to do so is a slap in the face to those people who put their lives on the line for the betterment of society.

The dilemma gets even worse when people use war metaphors to describe athletes. Adding soldier, warrior, general, or any other combat or conflict descriptor to sports conversations confuses the cause and in some cases draws more attention to the word choice than to the cause for celebration.

Unfortunately, these tired clichés are used so often many athletes now honestly believe them. They feed their warrior personas by calling themselves a “solider”, saying they would “go to war” with their teammates “in the trenches”, or even portraying military fighters or secret agents in commercials. In generations past, athletes would have never compared themselves to war figures.

Back in the day, before self-aggrandizing became the norm, the only athletes who dared call themselves soldiers were those who actually served in war. One can only imagine what would become of a ballplayer daring to call himself a soldier or a warrior during the days of Ted Williams, Joe DiMaggio, and Bob Feller - stars who put their career on hold for the defense of the nation.

Somewhere along the way, and I am not sure exactly when, the hero/warrior/soldier clich̩ became somewhat accepted. While there is still an unwritten imaginary line mentioned by some writers on occasion and a stink might be raised for a week or two in some cases, by and large, comparing athletics to martial combat is accepted, if not embraced. Although it is still taboo in baseball Рperhaps because no one has quite filled the venomous cleats of Ty Cobb Рit is par for the course in NFL discussions, and has also made its way to NBA conversations.

In the NBA, the concept of a “warrior” is particularly interesting. Although we often associate warfare with a field (i.e. “the field of battle”), NBA warriors fight for glory on a court, a term normally associated with rule of law, a civil forum where compromise and discussion win the day.  Yet there are those players who have transcended the court and brought to mind the ideals of combat, where victory must be attained at any cost.

But the label of warrior has always been awkward. Was Navy sailor David Robinson a warrior because he was once in the military? What about 7’2 300+ lbs of Shaquille O’Neal? Or does his size automatically preclude him from being tough and determined? Do warriors have to have a pinch of underdog in them? What about the new school athletic prowess of Dwight Howard or Blake Griffin? Are they tough enough to be in the warrior class?

Outside of Allen Iverson, few who play the guard position have been referred to as warriors. Kobe Bryant has never been fully accepted as a warrior, despite playing a soldier in a recent commercial. Guards belong to a different martial class – that of generals, snipers, and long-range bombers whose purpose is to spread the offensive attack. No matter how much players with those labels contribute, they are never held in as high esteem as warriors.

Whereas some guards are described in martial terms, the majority of the NBA is not. Many of these players form the NBA’s statesmen class. They are the players who perform admirably, represent their teams well, work to win, but stay out of the trenches. They don’t cheat, they represent fair play, when the game is over, they’ll extend friendly handshake.

Despite our glorification of NBA warriors and the claims that they engage in some sort of athletic warfare, we are still uncomfortable when the warrior/soldier class tramples on our sense of fair play. We cringed when esteemed warrior Kevin Garnett insulted the medical condition of a fellow player, although we know we would have probably made the same comment if it meant getting ahead in the game.

The fact that Garnett’s psychological attack was questioned, first on twitter, and then all over the media, reflects our glorification of war but our reluctance or fear to experience the trenches.  We want our warriors to act with a certain decorum or level of civility, although we know that’s not what wins wars.

(The exception to this cultural rule is the interesting case of Michael Jordan. Jordan played like a warrior, shot like an assassin, but his aggression was swept under a veneer of corporate-generated statesmanship.  Jordan was able to cover his war-like tendencies with a Gatorade and a smile. His hatred for his opponents wasn’t vilified, rather it was glorified.)

By now we should accept the fact that sports warriors like Kevin Garnett are a lot like legendary general George S. Patton. Even though he was among the gruffest, hard-nosed, driving generals in American history, we like Patton. He was a hero. George C. Scott played him in an award-winning movie. But a majority of us would have hated to be under his command – to have to march sun-up to sundown, to be called a coward when fear strikes, or to face Patton’s classic stern no-nonsense demeanor.

On the field of battle we want fewer statesmen and more conquerors. We don’t study diplomats as often as we do heroes of war. The negotiator and the politician don’t capture the public imagination. Stories are not told of the great peacemakers.

The problem with many wartime generals, like those of sports warriors, is they often have trouble conveying their thoughts to a non-combat audience. Off the field of battle, they are public relations disasters waiting to happen. Take for example the comments by Stanley McChrystal, former commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, in a 2010 Rolling Stone interview.

The list of athletes known for their aggression who have put their foot in their mouth is long and prestigious. In the most high profile cases, Garnett, Kellen Winslow, and John Rocker have all faced judgment for comments that didn’t translate well to the public. That is when we look at them different. We start to see that they aren’t the type of people we want to emulate. They have been so corrupted by their single-focus lives that they do not fit in with the world around them. And if their sin is so egregious that they become disdained, it might never matter again what they do on the field. Our admiration for them will be gone forever.

And they may never be a mistaken for a hero by a nine year old.

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Not So Serious Movie Review: The Black Godfather

Tonight's movie was The Black Godfather (1974). An African-American crime boss uses black militants to help push the Mafia out of their neighborhood.

No jive, this movie gets four stars out of five.

Monday, June 22, 2020

Real talk about the word Really

Years ago, anthropologist Grant McCracken surmised that Americans have changed how we use the word "really" from one that is "spoken with the upward lilt of a question" to one that "usually comes with an emphatic downturn in tone".

What do you mean by "really" really?: that American culture is under renovation?

It's definitely worth your time to read. Really.

(I love this part of one of the comments:

I think of "new" really being said before by Mom's.
Kid:"I didn't knock the lamp over, an alien did it!"

Personally, I think we should all aspire to have at least one "first-really" moment daily in our lives. Those are the ones made from childlike discovery. We should never assume to know everything that is going to happen. That would make us presumptuous and second-guessing - making us a "second-really" person. Those people should have no friends.


Friday, June 19, 2020

Not So Serious Movie Review: Roosevelt's Big Adventure

I am a huge fan of Pee Wee's Big Adventure. It was one of my favorite movies as a kid and every time I watch it, I gain more appreciation of its lunacy and weird universe. It is a twisted kid's movie that can still entertain adults.

Yesterday, Pee-Wee Herman shared a link on his Instagram to a homemade recreation of his classic movie. Entitled "Roosevelt's Big Adventure", it is a home movie made by two very creative parents and featuring their son Roosevelt as Pee-Wee Herman.

While their movie is a bit shorter than the original, Roosevelt's Big Adventure captures all the memorable scenes in Pee-Wee's Big Adventure - from the breakfast scene to the classic Tequila dance to the rescuing of the snakes. Even though I knew what was coming, Roosevelt's Big Adventure made me laugh like I was watching the movie for the first time. The family's creative takes were absolutely brilliant.

Grade: 5 Alamo stars out of 5

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Not So Serious Movie Review: Bloody Murder

Tonight's cinematic misadventure was Bloody Murder. The most bland slasher film i have ever seen. It tried to be self-aware like Scream with a masked camp slasher like Friday the 13th. It failed at both.

It was as scary as an Ozzy Osborne video.

Bloody Murder's only redeeming quality is the late 90s attire on the actors. Flashback city.

Grade: 1 plastic goalie mask star out of 5.

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Not So Serious Movie Review: The Contract

My latest cinematic misadventure is The Contract. Take The Professional with Natalie Portman, add 10 years to the main character, add Billy Dee Williams as a corrupt senator, and reduce the budget to that of a used car. 

How broke was Billy Dee Williams in the 1990s that he needed this paycheck?

This movie is only redeemable if you imagine this is Billy Dee Williams' political growth from Harvey Dent in Batman to the Colonel in Undercover Brother. They are all pretty much the same role.

Grade: 1 unprofessional star out of 5.

Monday, June 15, 2020

Not So Serious Movie Review: Movie 43

Tonight's cinematic adventure was Movie 43. This one was recommended by my friend The Gargoyle. I would not recommend this movie to my mother, nor to anyone who doesn't like juvenile, gross out sketch comedy. I found it hilarious. Up there with Kentucky Fried Movie and the Forbidden Zone.

5 iBabe stars out of 5.

Saturday, June 13, 2020

A Journey to Hatchet City Part 5: Riddle Box

Continuing my valiant review of the Psychopathic Records catalog, today's listen is the Insane Clown Posse's Riddle Box, released in 1995. Riddle Box is the third Joker Card album from ICP, following Carnival of Carnage (1993) and Ringmaster (1994).

Going into this music adventure, I did not realize ICP was so prolific in the mid-90s. With the LPs, they are releasing an album or two every year. That's hustling.

Without further ado, let's begin:

1. Riddle Box

This album starts with ICP driving and then getting into a car crash. After dying, they are confronted by people who want them to turn the crank to jack-in-the-box.

2. The Show Must Go On

This song starts with a carnival barker barking about people getting something from a "riddle box" after they die. Then Violent J introduces himself. They call themselves Juggalos again. Violent J also says "the jokes on you". Shaggy then introduces himself to the listener and says they received their prize from the riddle box. The carnival barker says by turning the crank, the deceased will learn whether they go to heaven or hell. There is a continuous beat but no verses.

Following the beat is the actual song "The Show Must Go On", which is listed as Track 3, but is the second song. ICP is trying to confuse me.

This song drops right into Violent J's verse. And the clowns are back. Here he references the Joker Cards - "three more cards and the skies will be falling". Not sure what that means, but the cards are a theme for ICP. I dig the beat in this song. It has a dark, deep, funky sound. Following Violent J is of course Shaggy 2 Dope with a decent flow. A little better than his previous albums.

I like the narration in this song. It actually describes the ICP meaning. The clowns are part of the carnival, setting up the tents, etc.

3. Chicken Huntin' (Slaughter House Mix)

This song starts with a prank call to stereotypical southerners and ends in a delivery person shooting the southerners. This song is a remix of the song Chicken Huntin' that was on the Ringmaster album, although this song has a rock riff, coming out in early phases of rap-rock. I still don't understand ICP's obsession with killing rednecks. Is this the clowns' vigilante mission? Or is this part of the carnival?

Following Chicken Huntin' is a track in which an interviewer tries to interview ICP to no success. This is not the next song. ICP trying to confuse me again.

4. Toy Box

Nice old school rap beat with a kid's type laugh track. And Shaggy 2 Dope goes into a horrorcore verse about a loner in a broken home who makes distorted toys. Each of the toys of course adds to the chaos and murder.

5. Cemetery Girl

Begins with a track of two guys talking about how one guy is still in love with his dead girlfriend.

Violent J starts with a nice sounding verse about his visiting his dead girlfriend in the cemetery. Apparently clowns like necrophilia. Do the clowns exist by any moral code? If real people have to turn the crank, do the clowns exist in heaven or hell? Or are they limbo beings, able to do whatever they want with no repercussions? Does the Ringmaster and others also exist with no moral code?

Otherwise, this song is skippable.

6. 3 Rings

A carnival barker greets "wealthy beings" to a circus of freaks and unfortunate souls. This is song was previously on Shaggy 2 Dope's solo album. It is a song about individuality that is looked down upon by mainstream society. It has a good message of acceptance in a twisted, horrorcore way.

7. Headless Boogie

I like the beat of this song. Funky. Violent J raps about finding a group of dead bodies dancing. Nice Kurt Cobain reference. Why is the clown surprised to find headless people? I do like the upbeat groove of this song. I bet this is a crowd favorite.

8. The Joker's Wild

Wow. This beat is super nice. Very funky. Shaggy 2 Dope starts rapping about a gameshow and its contestants. Of course the contestants are people ICP dislikes and they get killed. I don't think this is part of the carnival. Or this could possibly be a creative Walter Mitty-type dream of someone who feels marginalized.

9. Dead Body Man

A newscast discusses missing dead bodies. The clowns like dead bodies. They have them everywhere. Is their deadbody girl their cemetery girl? And are the dead bodies those who turned the Riddle Box? Does this song have anything to do with the theme of the album?

10. Lil' Somethin' Somethin'

This is not a good song. The tone of the song is an attempt at a twisted love song. ICP sing more than rap. I don't like the tempo and the beat. It is like a bad break in the album. Are the clowns on their day off from the carnival here?

11. Ol' Evil Eye

We have returned to the carnival. Ol' Evil Eye is the main attraction movie at the carnival. This beat is fantastic - very similar to the Gravediggaz beats. Violent J raps about trying to kill a dude with a weird eye. Shaggy 2 Dope also tries to kill the old evil eye dude. As bad as the previous song was, this song is very cool. Probably one of the best in this whole ICP adventure.

12. 12

I love that the 12th song of the album is named 12. Violent J kicks it off with a verse about coming back from the dead and killing someone. Shaggy follows it with a verse about killing someone as well. Are the clowns reincarnated? I think the clowns are avengers of sorts, collecting souls for the carnival.

13. The Killing Fields

Violent J starts with a depiction his sad life and neighborhood. Then he states when you die, you go to the killing fields. Is this a depiction of hell? Or this ICP's depiction of the inner city? ICP hasn't mentioned the inner city versus suburbs concept at all this album. The meaning of this song is confusing. Probably why it is the second to last song on the album.

14. I'm Coming Home

This song concludes with Violent J celebrating going home to the ghetto. According to ICP, they want to go home to the freaks, gang bangers, and crooks in the inner city. This song brings back my confusion about ICP: are they celebrating the poor elements of the inner city? Do they want it to get better? If not, it sounds like they are exploiting those in poor socio-economic conditions for content of their song. It almost conservative in its celebration, like a country song about beat-up pick up trucks in a poor small town.

The album ends on two bad songs.

Monday, June 1, 2020

School's Out Forever

Has it really been 17 years since I graduated from FSU with my undergraduate degree? Where has the time gone? It seems like only yesterday I was throwing huge graduation parties, sleeping all day, gallivanting all night, and enjoying the fact that for nearly a week I had a keg of Yuengling residing in my tub.

Ok, so not much has changed.

Although I didn't exactly hit the real world until three years later, after two years of grad school followed by six months of unemployment, there is a certain innocence to this, my final article written as an undergraduate student for the FSView and Florida Flambeau.


During my college career at Florida State University, I would estimate I visited about 90 percent of all the popular college bars and clubs in town. Bullwinkle’s, Sloppy Joe’s, Chubby’s, the Irish Pub and the Leon Pub – you name it, I’ve probably been there at least once. Even with all the good times and the large amount of money spent, none of these establishments ever served me a stronger shot than the one I was given at the Leon County Civic Center on May 2nd, 2003.

That night, as I crossed the graduation stage, flipped my tassel and shook President Wetherell’s hand, I was given a “dose of reality.” It is one tough drink to swallow.

True, I knew I wasn’t going to find a job immediately after the semester, but not counting my position here at the FSView & Florida Flambeau, I am now unemployed. Unemployment office, here I come.

Even though it has only been three weeks since I graduated, I feel more and more like Matthew McConaughey’s character in the movie “Dazed and Confused.” You know, the guy who is still hanging around, saying dumb things and acting like he is still in high school. Yeah, that’s me, only on a college level.

Almost overnight, the bars and clubs I used to frequent became “my old college hangouts.” I hope I still resemble a college student in some way, shape or form. I have an eerie fear of being seen as one of those obviously out-of-place older people trying to get their boogie on at Big Daddy’s or Bullwinkle’s. You know who they are.

Like the places I go, most of the people I know have also changed recently. They are all now just “college kids” who don’t know what its like in “the real world.” It’s tough. Trust me. I haven’t got up earlier than 11 a.m. in three weeks.

The next time I hear one of these “college kids” say, “I can’t wait until I graduate.” I am going to quickly grab their cheeks like Adam Sandler did to the chubby third grader in Billy Madison and dole out the same dire warning – “Don’t ever say that.”

There is a lot I am going to miss about college. Studying all night, for example. Nothing beat walking into a classroom after having two hours of sleep the night before, knowing the test I was about to take was 50 percent of my grade.

Now before anyone labels me a procrastinator, keep in mind I was the victim of a vast conspiracy while here at Florida State. Before every semester, my professors, despite being complete strangers from often different departments, would met over coffee and schedule all my tests and papers for the same week. I know it’s true.

Despite my professors’ dubious plans, I managed to graduate with a 3.5 G.P.A. Pretty good, considering my high school G.P.A. was only 2.6. I haven’t met anyone yet with such a large increase. I guess that’s something to be proud of.

But my proudest accomplishment during my time at Florida State University has nothing to do with grades. Thanks to the help and support of many people, including President Wetherell, my idea of erecting a flagpole with an American flag and a POW/MIA flag at the Scott Speicher Tennis Center came to fruition. Although it doesn’t contribute directly to the effort of finding the missing Navy pilot and FSU alum, hopefully this flagpole and the flags it bears will remind people of the plight of Lt. Cmdr. Speicher and the many other service members whose whereabouts are unknown.

Thank you again to all that helped and supported me.