Monday, November 22, 2010

Its My Party and I'll Cry If I Want To

Jesus wept. Its the shortest verse in the Bible, and therefore the one that almost everyone else knows. But think about it for a second. Jesus didn't cry. Jesus didn't tear up and then look away. Jesus WEPT. Whether or not you believe the Bible's account of Jesus, one thing still remains: the mainstream Christian "hero" (if you will) wept. He gave way to tears. So if someone that so many people respect and even follow could break down crying, why can't a man today do the same thing without being mocked?

I'm not saying that I'm emotional. I'm not given to tears, I rarely get my feelings hurt, and my gamut of emotion is stereotypically male: I experience and express anger, frustration, disappointment, and relative happiness. Does this mean I've never cried? No. I've cried on several occasions, some more obvious than others. I've cried at funerals, for obvious reasons. But I've also cried at movies. I'd like to pretend that this isn't the case, but there are a few movies which actually made me cry. Now stop for a second. Right now, the majority of you reading this just passed judgement on me for crying at movie. If I were female and I told you that I'd cried at say, the Notebook, most of you would be understanding about that. You'd even agree with my emotional response. ("Yeah, the notebook was a pretty sad movie." "The ending is a tear-jerker" etc.) But as a man when I say that I cried at the end of the Notebook, (which, I did) I get labelled as being soft, or even less than masculine or effeminate. In fact, after disclosing this knowledge in casual conversation, I either have to defend my masculinity to a doubtful audience, or convince everyone I'm talking that I'm not just saying that to be funny and then defend my masculinity. But why is crying considered a feminine trait?

Tom Hank's character in A League of Their Own yelled the now famous line, "There's no crying in baseball!" When you think about it, that supports the stereotype that men don't cry. Sports are by and large considered a masculine endeavor. I'm not saying that girls don't play sports, nor am I arguing that they shouldn't. What I am saying is that the societal standard for children is that boys play sports and little girls who play sports at a young age get labelled as a "tomboy". That's why there's no crying in baseball. Its considered a masculine sport, and men don't cry.

On the TV show the Bachelor, Jason Mesnick cried on air, repeatedly, and his tears apparently were polarizing. When ABCNews talked to soldiers about whether or not it was okay for men to cry, they found two camps. One felt a man shouldn't cry unless a limb or a life was lost. (See the whole story here.) As a whole our society is split on this matter, but the general consensus is that a man only has tear ducts to wash dust out of his eyes.

What do I think? Men cry too. Its okay. To quote the Black Guy Who Tips podcast, "Man...stop hating." And start crying. It just might make you feel a little better.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Whose Fault Is It Anyway?

If love was a company, it would be up for a government bail out right about now. When I say love, I don't mean just relationships, though I'm going to focus solely on them as a indication of the love disappearing. But I'm really talking about love. I feel like JT singing "where is the love?" wasn't just a pop hit. Check this statistic. According to the current American divorce rate for first marriages is about fifty percent. Fifty percent? That means one out of every two marriages will fail. When I look at my friends who are married, while its not at fifty percent, I can see marriages falling apart and being absolved. More and more people are against marriage after considering these statistics, preferring to live together because ultimately, why give someone half your stuff, or even for that matter all of your heart when the odds are 1-1 that you'll fail?

So, whose fault is this? Why aren't men and women in relationships getting along? Over the years, it seems that the changing societal norms and gender roles have upset some type of balance. While listening to a podcast, one black man postulated (you like that word usage right?) that black women weren't worth someone's relationship efforts. He felt and believed that dating a white woman is easier, and having to search for a black woman who is the "right woman" takes longer, so why bother? I think this shows an underlying current as to why relationships fail. NO ONE WANTS TO WORK.

Let me reiterate please. No one wants to work. Who told you that relationships were supposed to be easy? Last I checked, NO ONE is perfect, and NO ONE does everything the same way. Any relationship you have, and especially the serious ones, takes work. WORK. Case in point: I live with my sister. We get along okay. And by that I mean she does at least two things a day that make me grind my teeth. But its okay. You know why? Because I know she puts up with what I do. For every preference I have, I know she has her own, and the reason we get along is because we understand compromise. And in any relationship, there will be compromise and there will be work.

Also, I think its too easy to get out of relationships, because we've made it too easy to get into them. How many people make what should be serious commitments based on weeks or even a few months of information? Marriage is serious. Its not meant to be done blindly, or without any serious knowledge. When the vows say "til death do us part," that should resonate with the people making them. No one doubts how serious death is. When someone decides to commit suicide to get out of a situation, how many times have we thought, "was it that serious for real?" Because quite frankly, if you have to DIE to get out of something, THAT'S serious. I don't need to say that if you die, that's a wrap for you. Life is over. Just me saying those last few statements proves my point. How many of you felt that was unnecessary? I thought it was, because honestly, while I was typing it, I was questioning why I felt the need to type it. If you take marriage so seriously, that getting out requires seppuku, then guess what? You'll start working to make that marriage work, or maybe even think about those two words ("I do") before you say them. Now I'm not saying if the other party is abusive, emotionally (by cheating or verbal abuse) or physically, that you have to stay with them, in those cases I can understand separations and divorces, but if you're not compatible so you want out, that's on you. You had your entire life to decide who you wanted to marry, if you didn't take the time to truly figure out if you and the person you've decided to give everything (or in the prenup case, half to three-quarters) to, don't whine about how it didn't work out. And if you are in a horrible relationship, if you're both maintaining fidelity, and both working to make each other happy, are you seriously telling me you can't make it work?

Another thought on that same subject: at what point did we get too proud to be willing to give? If you're not willing to give, not willing to please anyone other than yourself, you will find yourself, by yourself. In other words, eventually, in a relationship the other person is going to want something from you. And its not much of a relationship if you're not willing to give them something. For some reason, and I have noticed this to be more prevalent among men, its a bad thing when you make sacrifices for your mate/spouse/significant other. I think it stems back to the idea of getting "played" or "used" by women with evil intentions. Some men are, for the most part, afraid of being taken advantage of that they refuse to open to anyone. I can't even begin trying to break apart the psychosis behind that, because honestly it hits a little too close to home, i.e. I'm guilty of it and I'm not sure I'm ready to climb down from my soapbox and work out my own issues in this public of a forum.

Ultimately, until we as individuals, learn to confront our individual demons, and actually try to meet each other halfway, or maybe even a little farther than halfway, we're going to keep having this loveless epidemic. I hope we get it together and get together.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Is a scholarship enough?

In light of the recent Cam Newton allegations, I can't help but wonder, is a scholarship truly payment enough for college athletes? It seems like time and time again, we hear of talented college players struggling to resist the temptation to take money that can help them and their families. Truthfully, its a flawed system at best. If a college student, say one who was gifted at computer programming, earned several academic scholarships based on his intelligence and merit, and perhaps a former alumni, recognizing his talent tells him he'll pay for his books if he goes to his alma mater, there would be no problems with this. The only thing that makes this different is the type of scholarship, the type of student. I think it goes without saying that a percentage of student athletes come from "poor" families. In these cases, the pressure of waiting for a payday that may never come can proof to be too much for these young men and women. So why not pay them?

My argument for the present system is that the colleges ARE paying the athletes. Scholarships aren't cheap, and as long as you make the team and keep your grades up you get five years of college. Look at this table for the University of Alabama's tuition. Out of state tuition? $36257. How many people can truly say they earn that much a year? Student athletes also have access to personal strength trainers and high class practice and work out facilities. All of these things cost the university money. So from the perspective of the University, the athletes aren't playing for free. But having said that, let's take a second to really dissect how much money the universities make from games.

I'll stick with the University of Alabama for this example. Bryant-Denny Stadium, the official bowl of the Tide has an official capacity of 101,821. The nosebleed seats in that stadium are roughly $45.00. I know, I've been. Let's assume that as the average ticket price. If Bryant-Denny Stadium sells out, that's a revenue of over $4 million dollars. Of course, that's offset by the cost to maintain the facility, groundskeepers, and such, but after all is said and done, there's a solid chance that the UA is pocketing at least a million dollars on each sell-out crowd. And even when they're not sold out, 70,000 people still fetches a nice profit. And that's JUST the football team. I'm sure the football team is the biggest program for them financially, but the amount of money they are able to make off essentially minimum wage employees does smack of injustice, if not of outright exploitation. And this doesn't even bring into account how much money the University earns from BCS bowl games.

Either argument carries weight, but ultimately, I lean towards the idea of a college scholarship, and a chance at an education being something far more valuable than a paycheck. Most student athletes will never make it to the professional level. And in the cases of Division II and Division I-AA, they have less than .01% of a chance to become successful professional athletes. But what they do gain is an education, something which in these times, is a step in the right direction. They also have a chance to earn a decent shot at maybe even climbing out of a cycle of poverty and helping successive generations of their family to attain higher levels of wealth. I'm not saying that college education is the salvation of the impoverished, but it certainly helps.

On a different note, do I think Cam Newton did anything illegal within the constructs of the NCAA requirements for student-athletes? I don't know. When it's time to vote for the Heisman, do I think he should win? Undoubtedly. At this moment, Cam Newton is the single best eligible college player. And even though the Heisman mentions "integrity" thus far, all that has been leveled at him have been poorly worded allegations. To deny a potentially innocent young man an award he has honestly earned would be just as detrimental to the spirit of the NCAA as awarding to someone who didn't deserve it. And Cam Newton has earned and deserves to win the Heisman with his play.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

If you're tuning in for some wonderful deep thoughts, turn back. Today is all sports for me. And as we all know, I have no deep thoughts when I get started with sports.


First let me point out that I approach the NFL as a fantasy head first. This means I am stat oriented, but only the stats that score fantasy points. So do I care about the percentage of passes thrown towards a particular cornerback? No, UNLESS that cornerback is matched up against one of my fantasy WR. One thing that I have learned from fantasy football, though, is stats only take you so far. There are certain things that stats don't measure. For instance, when we talk about offensive linemen, there are no real "stats" that measure a lineman's ability to do his job. Of course, there are the QB pressure stats (i.e. how many times the QB has been touched, hurried, sacked) but if you have a QB that isn't mobile, those stats are inherently higher, whereas if you're Philly, I'm pretty sure hurries don't count for much.

The reason I bring up stats is mainly due to the Tennessee Titans claiming Randy Moss off the waiver wire. As readers of this blog may know, I am an erstwhile fan of the Titans. I say erstwhile because they refuse to pay their players. I cite Derrick Mason, Jevon Kearse, Albert Haynesworth and Steve McNair, amongst others. I wasn't surprised that they claimed Randy Moss, though because he's one of the top five WR deep threats in the NFL (if not the best) and he's only at $3 million for the rest of the season. That's a no brainer. But why is Randy Moss available as a player? If you look at his stats, you'd have to be crazy to let him go. But its what he does on the field that there are no stats for that explain why he was waived by the Vikings, and traded by the Patriots.

Randy Moss is an excellent WR, a ridiculous blend of speed, hand skills, and a knowledge of precision route running, even though, I realize most of his routes are indeed straight lines. But what Randy doesn't do is play hard. Case in point, I've personally witnessed Randy Moss, while in the Vikes uniform, give up on a play. Against the Cowboys, Brett Favre tried to force a ball to another receiver and got intercepted (surprise). The Cowboy's defender ran by Randy Moss with the ball, and Randy DID NOT tackle him. Randy didn't even try to tackle the defender. Its that attitude that gets you cut from a team. If I was a head coach, or any coach for that matter, if I saw Randy give up on a play, he'd be complaining about playing time, not how much money he was getting. And I think ultimately, that's what happened with both of his teams.

Having said all that, I'll make a bold prediction for the Titans. They will play Moss this year, and next year, when its time for a new contract, Randy will be back on the free agency market. And I don't know if there's a team that will want to take the risk of paying him more money for his version of effort.

Superbowl Predictions

Needless to say, its a bit early to start predicting what teams are going to the SuperBowl. But that's never stopped me before. I'm going to first say that if defense wins championships, the Steelers have the best shot in the AFC, followed by Baltimore and the Titans. Their defenses are playing spectacularly, and (for the most part) keeping them in games. The weakest of those three of course are the Titans. I like Chris Johnson, he's a running monster, and Vince Young continues to improve as a quarterback but they're not Superbowl ready. In contention in the AFC is the Patriots and the Colts, or as I like to call them, the Perennials. Saying they're in contention is like saying that Elvis and Michael Jackson both reinvented pop. Its a no-brainer. I'd be remiss to leave out the Jets and the Chiefs, both playing good football, but I don't think they are contenders.

The NFC is not quite that simple. The NFC is full of underachievers, slumbering giants that should be better than they are, yet somehow have played themselves out of contention. The best squad in the NFC is the Atlanta Falcons. They have a great defense, a smart capable young quarterback, a power running game, and most importantly they know how to win games. They know what side of the bread their butter is on, and they give you a steady dose of what they do well. I think the only teams who have a chance to stop them are the Eagles, the Saints, and quite possibly the Giants. Each of those three teams have good enough defenses and excellent quarterbacks but are lacking in several areas. The Saints are banged up at running back, and even though Reggie Bush isn't a prototypical running back he is a serious offensive weapon for the Saints and they need him back. The Eagles aren't banged up at running back, they simply don't have a "running" game, and I wonder how a team so pass happy intends to eat clock when they have to. And yes, I've seen their version of a screen. I'm not impressed. Of course, they have Michael Vick, who is finally playing up to his potential. The Giants are an excellent team, but for some reason they tend to not show up for certain games, and you never know if you're going to get a Superbowl-caliber team, or grown men playing like they belong in a Pop Warner League. Also, lets not forget the potential knock out swings from non contenders the Cowboys and the Vikes. They may not make it to the show, but if they can get their respective ships righted, they'll be poised to crush a few dreams.

So my obvious Superbowl picks are the Falcons vs the Steelers with my holy crap picks going to the Eagles or the the Giants out of the NFC and either the Chiefs or the Jets out of the AFC

An honorable mention goes to Jason Campbell and company (The Raiders). I've been rooting for this kid ever since they questioned his arm at the combine his draft year, and he responded by throwing a fifty yard pass flat footed. I don't think he's gotten a fair shake since going undefeated as a college quarterback and NOT getting a title shot. He's learned at least seven different systems and has shown his intelligence and athleticism in each of them. I hope the Raiders value him and give him some stability, because that's all he really need to be a real star quarterback in this league. Add in a monster running team and a blossoming defense and we might finally have to apologize to Al Davis for all the senility jokes. Well I might.

Parting question:

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Racism? Or Marketing?

McDonald's is racist. The only way I could possibly explain this statement is in the choices that McDonald's made in advertising during the eighties and nineties. We all saw the Dave Chappelle take on the Calvin works at WacArnold's commercials, and what most people don't realize is that those commercials were based on true advertisements. For some reason, McDonald's felt that black people getting jobs there was the end of poverty in America. How much does McDonald's actually pay, that working there, even as a manager, means that you can now move your family out of the hood? I'm not dissing black McDonald's employees, because I'm sure some people have actually supported their family working there. But is McDonald's really supporting the black community by giving them jobs flipping burgers and dropping fries? How many black people work at McDonald's? According to a 2007 McDonald's fact sheet, 20% of McDonald's employees are African American, and 13.5% are owners/operators. This sounds impressive at first, but 13% of all Americans are Black. Because of affirmative action and equal employment, those percentages have to mirror each other. If McDonald's really was all about the Black community, wouldn't these numbers be higher? I'm not saying they should hire only Black people, but shouldn't those numbers be slightly higher if they truly are that committed to the Black community?

Another question this advertisement raises: is Calvin who hangs on the corner just a few years of hard work at McDonald's away from being a legitimate American citizen? What about college? Are black people only good for serving biscuits and hamburgers? What about black doctors, executives, architects? Am I taking this too far? I saw this commercial at 10 years old (it originally aired in 1992) What if I didn't have any positive influences in my home, or adult role models who stressed the importance of education? What if I honestly bought into the idea of serving food as being a goal in my life? I'm not knocking people who work in the service industry. I've worked in the service industry, but ask any waiter or waitress if they feel as if what they're doing is a "career".

This goes back to the idea of racial stereotypes being reinforced by advertisements. When you see tech guys in advertisements, how many of them are of Asian decent? When you see nondescript athletes, (non-famous) how many of them are black? These aren't necessarily "harmful" stereotypes, but they are stereotypes. Should every black person be athletes? Can't white people run and catch well too? Aren't black people capable of fixing your computer or being up on the latest gadgetry? How many Axe commercials show black guys musking up and getting chased down by young white girls? Remember the movie Hitch? Eva Mendes was given the role opposite Smith because the moviemakers were worried about the public’s reaction if the part was given to a white or an African American actress, according to Smith. The actor is saying that it was feared that a black couple would have put off worldwide audiences whereas a white/African American combo would have offended viewers in the U.S. Think that racism doesn't exist in mass media still?

As consumers, we have to bear in mind that we can hold corporations responsible. When we give corporations money they feel that their advertisements are working, and we are in a sense, participating in our own manipulation.

Spread the word.