Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Hitching a Ride...

I wouldn't be an Atlantan if I didn't jump on the bandwagon. Atlanta is home of the consumate fairweather fan, so it's my native predisposition.

Because, truthfully, I laughed when I got a solicitation for playoff tickets two weeks before the regular season ended. It seemed the Hawks could've just gone to a bank if they needed someone to float them money for a few days.

But those guys closed things out. I always liked ZaZa Pachulia and the Joshes, but I thought Coach Mike Woodson was dead weight. You see, the Hawks should've made the playoffs two years ago. But this Mike Bibby thing is apparently working out. And, miraculously, the Hawks have won two games over the anointed Boston Celtics. And - I fully support TNT's decision to dedicate a camera to the frustrated face of Doc Rivers.

And the Atlanta fans may be fairweather, but they are crunk. Undoubtedly, the enthusiasm of the fans is the elevating the play of the Hawks. We are surprised, but we are genuinely excited for the team.

So, I'm on the bandwagon too. Hell yeah, Kevin Garnett should be suspended and go Hawks!

Moving On

Okay, I need a snappy comeback, somebody. I give up.

I have been a proponent of Michael Vick's return to the Atlanta Falcons.

But, today, there are some things I know to be true.

Like that Roger Clemens is a cheater and a whore.

And that Michael Vick is probably not going to be a Falcon again.

When the Falcons selected Boston College QB Matt Ryan with the #3 pick, it became clear the Falcons organization is moving on. And moving away from Michael.

I don't think picking Matt Ryan was a good move. I don't think many professional or armchair analysts expect Matt Ryan is a franchise savior. He is not highly projected to be an excellent quarterback. He was merely the best available. Maybe the Falcons don't need Michael Vick, but they need way more than a quarterback. The organization could have solidified the team with other position players. We need everything. The Falcons should have used the draft to build a team, not just replace the old quarterback. But the Falcons punked out, as usual.

Picking Matt Ryan was an image decision, not a football decision. And the inability to make football decisions is the reason why the Falcons can't put up a winning record more than one season in row. Remember, Brett Favre used to be a Falcon.

See, Arthur Blank got found out. Once it was reported that he and the Falcons organization were maintaining communication with Michael Vick while he was in prison, people started to put two and two together. Maybe the Falcons were going to wait it out. Maybe they weren't prepared to sacrifice Vick just to try to please certain people. After all, they have no more recourse in recouping the signing bonus they gave him. Why release him without compensation or trade him for a low round pick? The best way to get a return for the inconvenience is to make Michael pay up on the field of the Georgia Dome. He sells seats and merchandise and he even wins sometimes. It could be a relatively straightforward decision.

But the ever image conscious Arthur Blank got found out. Keeping his options open with the outcast Vick might have been the smart thing to do. But Blank doesn't have the balls to make tough football decisions. A football team can not be built on image alone. Blank is determined to prove otherwise.

Maybe Ryan will be a successful addition to the Falcons. I suspect he will be Joey Harrington redux. Nevertheless, despite the new quarterback, the Falcons still have the same problems with the fanbase they had the day before the draft. The season ticket waiting list is a distant memory. In fact, season ticket packages are now available for a mere $250. The Falcons are discounting 30,000 seats in order to encourage fans to attend the games. And I doubt Ryan jerseys are flying off the shelves.

The shallow attempt to "move on" with Matt Ryan only reinforces that the Michael Vick informs a lot of the decision making in the Falcons front office.

Ironically, Michael Vick is still running this team.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The Fall of Chad Johnson

It was inevitable.

The good tidings weren't going to last. Now, like many Black men before him, Chad's just a statistic now.

Many in the mainstream press regarded Chad Johnson as a consumate entertainer. Soon, he'll be derided as a flashy egomaniac. Now he's just like those other malcontents. Another Terrell Owens. Another "disgruntled" spotlight grabbing, quarterback betraying, diva wide receiver only looking out for himself.

To the mainstream press, at least.

Carson Palmer has given up on Chad. TJ Houshmanzadeh has accepted the inevitable. Marvin Lewis is ready to move on.

The Sporting News' Vinnie Iyer sums up the "new" Chad.

Stop me if you've heard this before: uber-talented wide receiver, unhappy with his organization, coach and quarterback, wants out...

Johnson doesn't understand the team concept, where one player isn't above everyone else. The Bengals need to prove they believe that themselves by looking at the subtraction of the selfish Johnson as an addition in itself -- even if that means letting him languish on the bench while they wait for a good offer to come along.

Yeah, we've been there done that. Another ungrateful Black guy in the NFL. Not content to go where he's led with "dignity," say, like, Drew Bledsoe.

The Bengals are so determined to keep Chad in his place they've already refused inquiries (or offers, depending on where you get your news) from the Redskins, Cowboys and the Eagles.

Still, Johnson bucks. Chad insists he's only being himself. His ability to be a smiling, content caricature has diminished. Time will only tell if he we will accepted by the public as a man and not a solely as a source of amusement and sideline antics.

Maybe they want me to quiet down [and] stop being me. That is not going to happen. I can't function that way. I tried it. It sucked.
Thus far, no one seems amused by the outspoken, self-assured Chad Johnson. When Chad was the court jester, the audience delighted. But now that he wants to repackage himself as a self-interested grown man, no one is clapping. The comedy is fine, but nobody wants the drama.

Chad Johnson is a Black man gone serious. Suddenly, he's not as popular as he once was.

Yeah, it was inevitable.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Jackie Robinson Day

April 15th is Jackie Robinson Day throughout Major League Baseball.

The occasion will be celebrated with on field ceremonies, scholarship donations to the Robinson Fund and all the other pleasantries and tributes that are deserved by an American hero.

It is ironic that on the day that Jackie Robinson's role in integrating Major League baseball is remembered, some rosters in major league baseball will be absent of a single Black American player. In that context, Torii Hunter of the Anaheim Angels feels the tributes ring hollow, especially when it comes to wearing Robinson's #42 jersey.

"When you have a team that doesn't have any African American players on the team, and then everybody on the team wears it, yes, it's watered down, because they don't have blacks to represent Jackie Robinson over there.

It's pretty weird. That's just my opinion."

MLB Commissioner Bud Selig feels that MLB's celebration is appropriate.

"It transcends all that. Jackie Robinson coming into baseball is the most powerful and most meaningful moment in baseball history. To honor Jackie Robinson by wearing his number, I think, is the greatest compliment you can pay."


Still, Jackie Robinson is not an excuse for mainstream America to romanticize and even commercialize Black heroes of the Civil Rights era to the extent that the significance of their impact on society is watered down.

One has to wonder whether the Jackie Robinson legacy is really understood. Will his legacy be given its due in the Robert Redford/ESPN movie soon to be made out of his life? Robert Redford, with the approval of Jackie's widow Rachel, will portray Branch Rickie in the life story of Jackie Robinson. ESPN will collaborate in producing the movie. With Redford as the headliner, the movie may turn out to be more of a testament to the "struggles" of Rickie more so than Robinson.

The same league that perhaps celebrates Robinson in rose-colored historical theory is the same league that is presently content to see another Black-American hero, Barry Bonds, in career exile. Presently, it is not known whether Bonds' value will extend beyond the $376,000 his last home run ball sold for at auction. Bonds has given as much to baseball as any player, yet he is barely acknowledged these days. Ironically, Barry's sins may ultimately be defined and put into perspective by the similar sins of a White player, Roger Clemens. Without the parallel transgression, logic can't allow Barry to remain a pariah, even in the minds of the most prejudiced. Indeed, I think Jackie Robinson would expect a Black man to be judged on his own in this day and age.

Jackie Robinson integrated the major leagues. Genuine integration means more than just the inclusion of a particular race, although Robinson would probably be surprised to learn that Blacks comprise barely 8% of major league rosters. True integration also refers to the inclusion and celebration of difference. Baseball should include all its heroes - those as "surly" as Bonds and those as "classy" as Robinson. MLB can't pretend that Barry Bonds doesn't exist any more than it can deny that some major league rosters lack a single Black-American player in the year 2008. Not unless they want to overlook the real meaning of Jackie Robinson day.

Like me, Torii Hunter feels that #42 is more than just a fashion statement.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Not a Movie

I am excited to hear that Michael Vick is "practicing" his quarterback skills by playing prison football. Only a Falcons fan could be so pathetic as to consider the Leavenworth Penitentiary's production of "The Longest Yard" as positive omen for the team's future. But, certainly, Vick's homage to Burt Reynolds suggests he has a future with the Falcons. And, consequently, the Falcons have a future.

Anyone who thinks the Falcons can just move on post-Vick is naive. The Falcons faithful is a blingy crowd. We want excitement on the field. And Joey Harrington (or even alleged prospective draft pick Boston College quarterback Matt Ryan) just isn't going to cut it. 8-8 or not, Vick is a superstar and season ticket and jersey sales and fan interest reflected same. The fans already voted with their feet during the 2007 season. But 2008 might be more tolerable knowing that 2009 might beget #7.

And time heals all wounds. The dogs have been adopted out to loving homes and a once bitter team owner Arthur Blank has even become pen pals with Michael Vick! Blank has even lightened up about the situation so much that he's even using off color prison sex jokes when talking about Michael.

"Apparently, there was a prison football team and he played quarterback for both sides.”

Yeah, we all know Mike won't be the same after prison, Blank.

Still, Michael is practicing his accuracy and is hopefully enjoying better receivers and protection than he had in Atlanta. (I mean that in the football sense.)

Seriously, according to Blank, Michael is working hard toward self-improvement. And Blank is willing to help him.

"I just try to be supportive and as understanding as I can be. He talks about the process he is going through and what he has learned, the lessons of life, how he's going to come out a different person. He's sorry he has affected so many people in a negative way — the league, our club, our fans. He feels awful about that. The letters sound quite sincere to me. From a mental standpoint, he sounds good.

I told Michael I'll do whatever I can to be helpful to him personally. Nothing to do with the Atlanta Falcons. He's a human being and I would like to reach out and if I can be productive to him in some way, I would be happy to do that."

Michael Vick is still a member of the Falcons roster and there seems to be a slight glimmer of hope that he may be on the field in red and black as soon as he is allowed. Kevin Winston, the Falcons' senior director of player development, has visited Vick several times in prison. Frankly, the Falcons have no choice but to maintain ties and figure out how to recoup $16 million in pre-paid bonuses that Vick doesn't have to return. Even Blank concedes, "I'd love to see him playing again in the NFL. I would love to see him back in society where he can make a difference and go back to some of these communities and talk to some of these young folks about the impact of choices — choices he personally made about people he was with and choices he made about his own actions. That would be important.” Sure, those might be empty words designed to bolster Vick's trade value. But they might be an indication of the realization that Vick's greatest value to Blank is on the field - playing as a Falcon.

Without a doubt, Vick is getting picked first every time when the guys line up on the prison yard. "Uhhh, yeah, lemme get that dude." It's a no brainer. And if Vick is available to the Falcons in a year or so, I hope Blank calls 7's number. I look forward to that day. I just want to win and have some fun as a Falcons fan. So, yeah, lemme get that dude.

Fingers crossed.