Tackles or touchdowns?

23 06 2010

I don’t always have something of my own to share that’s funny, exciting, moving or positive and on those days, I do one of two things: I either don’t post or I post the words of someone who does have something positive to say.  Today, I’m doing the latter and this post has actually been a few days in the making.

This past Saturday, I attended funeral services for the father of my big brother Tony, one of my teammates on the StoneSteppers.  As the funeral was the day before Father’s Day, Rev. Dr. Steve Bland, Jr.’s message focused around the topic of fatherhood.  I happen to have a lot of mixed feelings on the subject of fatherhood, but nonetheless, Rev. Bland’s words were undeniably powerful and I wanted to share a particular story that stayed with me throughout the weekend and into this week.

Rev. Bland recounted a story about how his father was a supportive fan of all three of his sons’ athletic activities.  On one particular day, a young Rev. Bland was in the bleachers with his father, watching one of his other brothers play football.  His brother was getting rocked.  He’d get the ball, gain a yard or two and then, WHAM!  He’d get tackled by the defense.  Over and over again, his brother would get the ball and end up on the ground, the victim of a violent tackle.  And over and over again, his father would stand up clapping and saying, “That’s my boy!  That’s my boy out there!”

Young Reverend Bland couldn’t believe it!  Why was his dad claiming his loser brother?  All he was doing was getting knocked down – over and over again at that!  All he could see was his brother getting the crap kicked out of him and in his eyes, that wasn’t anything to cheer about.  But his dad saw something different.  Every time his son got the ball, he was getting just a little bit closer to the end zone.  His dad saw that his son was getting knocked down, but he also saw that although he was struggling, he continued to move toward the goal. 

Reverend Bland explained that in this case, life is just like football and each of us is just like his brother.  Life is hard.  We’re going to get knocked down sometimes and it will be hard to get back up and keep running toward the end zone.  Sometimes we’ll barely gain yardage.  Sometimes we’ll suffer a loss.  Sometimes we’ll question why we’re even in the game in the first place.

I was showering for work on Monday when I looked down at my tanned feet that I had painted a stunning shade of OPI “La Paz-itively Hot” the night before.  This might mean I’m super lame, but seeing my pretty little toes in a bright, happy color made me smile.  I thought to myself, Life. Is. Good.  And life is good right now.

But like anyone else, I’ve been tackled.  I’ve been knocked down.  I’ve lost yards.  I’ve wondered why I even bothered running for the end zone in the first place.  Do you know why you’re running?  It’s hard not to let challenges and struggles dominate our thoughts.  The fact is, we’ve been promised struggles.  It’s a matter of when, not if.  So the question is: Are you focusing on the tackles or the touchdown?

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To Catch a Racist

7 06 2010

Being annoyed with John for throwing a firecracker in the bathroom while I was washing my face at the sink would be normal.  Being annoyed with all black men because John threw a firecracker in the bathroom while I was washing my face at the sink would be racist…or at least a really bad stereotype.  And racism sucks.  Of course, I’m not really annoyed with either John or black men because after I checked to make sure I hadn’t peed on myself in terror, the whole thing was kind of funny.  Kind of.  At least the weekend ended with a bang.   

This weekend was also supposed to end with the fried sugary goodness you and I know as elephant ears.  I passed the set up for the Birmingham Village Days on my way to work on Thursday morning and since I equate carnivals with elephant ears, I had already set in motion a plan to indulge in my favorite aforementioned treat on Saturday or Sunday.  Since Saturday turned into a movie fest with Squirrel and John, Sunday was my last chance.   

I googled the fair hours on my crackberry to make sure we had enough time.  My quick search took me to the Oakland Press’s pre-carnival write-up.  The fair closed at 9 p.m., so I had plenty of time, but what caught my eye was a comment in the section beneath the article.  “Betty in Bham” had posted the following: “ So nice we have a fair without all the thugs and undesirables like they have for Arts, Beat, and Eats. Who wants to go near Pontiac or Royal Oak? I can remember when both cities were nice but they are now so full of crime and unclean poors that they look how I imagine the inside of a Wal Mart looks.”   

Dang, neighbor.  First of all, I live in Royal Oak and it’s not exactly as if the Farmers’ Market is crawling with “thugs and undesirables.”  And unclean poors?  Seriously?  I don’t know what rumors Betty may have heard from her Bham posse that would cause her to compare Wal-Mart shoppers with the inhabitants of a leper colony, but I have been inside the Wal-Mart in Troy (because it’s the only local store that still carries Gillette Daisy 3 razors) and all the patrons I saw were reasonably clean.  Some even had money to buy groceries!  I wonder if Betty misses out on Tigers’ games because Detroit is run by blood-thirsty gangs and danger hides behind every corner.  I guess that means River Days in the D is out of the question.   

As we drove through Birmingham on the way to a late lunch, John and I discussed Betty’s comment – and not just Betty’s comment, but the plethora of racist, hateful, wrong and ignorant comments you’ll find on the comment page of nearly any mainstream news source or blog with a comments page.  While everyone is entitled to an opinion, it seems like many commenters use the protective anonymity of the internet to spew some of the most inflammatory content you can imagine.  For all I know, “Betty” could have been the old lady on the other side of our booth at Max and Erma’s, the one whose husband was creepily eyeing the behinds of all the waitresses who walked by.  Just sayin’.   

Now, I’m going to make a little leap here, so stay with me.  You know who else uses the anonymity allowed by the internet as a shield?  Child predators.  Of course, something had to be done about this, so Chris Hansen and Dateline NBC brought us “To Catch a Predator,” the show where Chris and his team would lure the internet creeps to what they thought was the home of an underage love interest and then reveal that o’l nasty was actually being set up and filmed.  Then comes everyone’s favorite part, where Chris would let the offender walk free – right into the handcuffs of the waiting police.  Cue the tackling and law enforcement awesomeness we’ve come to know and love.    

I’m not saying Betty is on the same level as a child predator.  She’s not physically harming anyone and maybe her life has been filled with a series of unfortunate run-ins with thugs, undesirables and those pesky “poors.”  All I’m saying is maybe it’s time Chris and NBC start production on “To Catch a Racist.”   

Picture this: Hansen and crew knock on the door of username “Junior58er” holding a large sweepstakes check.  The suburban dad and avid sports fan lets Hansen inside his home at the prospect of cashing in.  He offers Hansen lemonade and cookies.  Hansen exchanges some light banter and then, WHAM!  Hansen hits the guy with, “so, when you posted the comment, ‘School doesn’t work for black people.  Counseling doesn’t work for black people.  Laws don’t work for black people.  Jail doesn’t even work for black people’ (taken from actual comments on www.clickondetroit.com), just what did you mean by that?  And, in your opinion, is there anything that does work for black people?”  The guy looks around.  Crap.  How’d they find him?  Those comments were made by his alter ego, not the smiling, accepting guy his wife, kids and neighbors know.   

What if people were held responsible for their racist comments online?  What if Chris Hansen showed up at their home or their job to get a few comments on the hatred they spewed last week on that anonymous forum?  The internet is a double-edged sword: it can either promote transparency and authenticity or it can mask people’s true identities, allowing them to say and do things they know are not acceptable.  What do you think?  Would you watch “To Catch a Racist”?   

I never even got my elephant ear.  I didn’t have the appetite for it – and I’ll never have the appetite for stereotypes, disparaging remarks about my hometown or racist tirades – especially when they come from cowards who are only brave enough to speak on anonymous forums.   

To read about a recent controversial case where a newspaper was forced to disclose the names of anonymous commenters, click here… and spread the word: quit hatin’.     

"Well, hello, Junior58er..."