Dexter Rogers

Dexter Rogers

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Celtic Glory: Russell and Rivers excelled despite adversity




The Boston Celtics became the NBA champions by beating a youthful Los Angeles Laker team. Coach Glenn “Doc” Rivers lead the veteran Celtics to a place they hadn’t been since 1986: their victory certainly rekindled memories of days long past.

For me it marked an occasion to look beyond the obvious and find the true perspective behind the victory.

To me this championship series was about history. Someone paved the road for Rivers to excel in a town that historically hasn’t been kind to the African American athlete.

I don’t think Rivers hasn’t gotten enough credit for his leadership. Rivers out-coached a man with 9 championship rings to his credit, Phil Jackson. His father Grady Rivers, whom was dear to his heart, died during the regular season. Like any good father the elder Rivers taught his son about life, basketball, and to never give up.

Rivers has clearly profited from his father’s wisdom. Rivers recently lived in San Antonio before his home was burned to the ground by arsonists. He believed the incident was racially motivated. Disenchanted, angry, and frustrated Rivers put the life-lessons from dad to work and he has never looked back.

Last year after a horrendous 24-58 record the Celtic faithful wanted Rivers out. He stayed the course and didn’t falter. With the signings of Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett, and his persistence, Rivers molded a winner in compiling a 66-22 record a year later.

Not bad for someone the Celtics didn’t want.

Rivers story is reminiscent of a Boston legend few mentioned during their run this year, Bill Russell. Russell was named the first African-American head coach in the NBA in 1966. Excuse me, player-coach. You see, back in the day for an African American to coach in that era you had to come with something extra. You couldn’t just coach-the organization had to get a little extra bang for their buck.

Forty years ago Bill Russell was the first African American to lead a team to the NBA championship. Pioneers like Russell paved the way for Rivers. It’s a shame little attention was given to Russell’s feat as a coach.

For African American athletes today it’s about money, women, and drugs: in Russell’s day it was about inclusion, rights, and activism.

As a superstar Russell was revered for his athleticism but on the streets of Boston he was expected to accept racism.

In my opinion Russell is the great winner in all of sports. He won an Olympic Gold Medal in 1956. He led the University of San Francisco to back-to-back NCAA crowns in 1955-56. Russell won 11 NBA championships in 13 years as a player. Two of the three years he was player/coach he won the NBA crown.

What makes Russell so special was he excelled in the face of consistent racism. While a player Russell’s home was broken into by racists. They proceeded to defecate on his bed, threw garbage throughout his home, and smashed many of his trophies and other personal belongings.

Russell once wanted to move into white suburb of Redding just outside Boston. Despite being the star of the Celtics citizens of Redding formed a petition to keep Russell out of the neighborhood.

Why would someone who won so much as an athlete be treated so unjustly as a man?

In 1975 Russell was inducted into the Hall of Fame but refused entry because how African Americans were treated in society and in the NBA. Later that year the Celtics wanted to hold a ceremony in Russell’s honor to retire his jersey but he declined: instead Russell hoisted his number 6 to the rafters with only his teammates and coaches present in an empty Boston Garden.

Why?

He wanted to be in the presence of those who really respected him as a man-not the fans who really didn’t appreciate him. Russell felt he shouldn’t allow fans to cheer him as an athlete and disrespect him as a man.

Russell didn’t bow down to the establishment. He once told the people of Boston that, “I owe the public nothing.”

Why should anyone care about Russell’s past?

It’s very simple. To understand what happens today we must study what happened yesterday. Most of what’s been accomplished today in society and sports someone was responsible for opening a door.

Was Obama the first African American to run for President? Was Doc Rivers the first African American to win an NBA title as head coach?

No.

You see, sometimes in life you have to look beyond the obvious to gain true perspective.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Tiger Woods: Many lessons can be learned from the beauty sports bring


Tiger Woods won his 14th major championship by capturing the US Open played in LaJolla, California. Tiger out-dueled 45 year old journeyman Rocco Mediate Monday in a sudden-death playoff that was for the ages. I’m glad I didn’t miss the climax. I rearranged my schedule to watch the final few holes at the gym as I worked out.

I’ve yet to meet anyone who loves sports more than I. I have an intense relationship with the institution for many reasons. Its’ taught me a lot about life. Sports have allowed me to do things I never dreamed. I’ve learned many valuable lessons over the years from sports. Sports have given me analogies I often use to simplify the various intricacies in everyday life: it’s helped shape the unique perspective I have. I guess that’s why I’ve written about, studied, and played sports most of my life.

I love sports.

There were many story lines with Tiger’s latest triumph. For one, he was clearly injured. Tiger hadn’t played a tournament since The Masters in April yet he was able to draw on past glory, talent, and resolve to win the toughest tournament in golf. The great ones find a way to get it done.

Let’s not forget Rocco. He had to qualify to even get into the tournament. He’s ranked 158th in the world in the world, never won a major championship, and is on the last legs of his career. Despite the latter he nearly beat the best in the world. Rocco would’ve been the oldest man to win the US Open had he held on. He took it far as he could before the inevitable occurred.

Give him credit: Rocco wouldn’t go away. He persisted until the end. Rocco’s performance shows it’s never too late to live your dreams.

As I was pedaling away on a bicycle I was glued to the TV. As Tiger was putting the final nail in Rocco’s coffin I engaged in conversation with an elderly couple about Tiger’s game. College students riding next me ceased their workouts. We collectively spoke about what was unfolding. Even the employees stopped working to join in as Tiger did this thing. We were all strangers yet Tiger’s dominance and the beauty of sports brought us together.

For a brief moment whatever preconceptions and stereotypes we may have had were checked at the door. For the next twenty minutes strangers had become united fans. No one was thinking about the horrid economy, the bad day at work, Obama vs. McCain, or even working out: we all focused on what temporarily brought us together.

Tiger Woods.

We all on varying levels shared a liking of golf and Tiger: we shared a respect for the history unfolding before our eyes. Still pedaling and looking beyond the obvious I thought to myself, “How can we extend this feeling of togetherness throughout society? How can we get this cohesiveness in your homes, the workplace, but more importantly in our hearts we are sharing now?”

Tiger can help out. I’ve been critical of Tiger not taking stands and speaking out on controversial issues. The latest was in January when golf analyst Kelly Tilghman suggested Tiger be taken in a back alley and “lynched” to curtail his dominance. Tiger was silent.

My stance has not changed-I believe he needs to step up off the course as well as on it.

But I know Tiger is special. In some ways he’s bigger than golf. The type of difference he can make if he said anything about an issue would make changes around the world. What if Tiger gave a five minute press conference on the importance of family and togetherness? Just because it’s Tiger people would find a way to incorporate his words in their lives.

God gives few such glory and acclaim Tiger now enjoys. At the moment he’s using it to chase Jack Nicklaus and be hailed as the greatest golfer of all time. To me the question is should it be about Jack Nicklaus and making history: or using God’s talent to do his real work?

I guess that’s Tiger’s choice to make.

Watching Tiger and Rocco ignited the type of euphoria and beauty not readily accessed and available in most segments of society. We all can learn valuable lessons from the beauty of sports. The institution allows us to temporarily suspend our negativity and root together for a common cause irrespective of color, age, and gender.

Perhaps if we used sports as a gauge we could learn more about ourselves and in turn make society better.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Does Obama have the necessities to be President?


Republican nominee John McCain has consistently suggested Barack Obama wouldn’t make a good President. He thinks Obama “doesn’t have the experience, knowledge, or the judgment” to lead this country. McCain has also stated of Obama: “He’s done pretty well for himself without having any experience.”

Comments like McCain’s often fly under the radar and go unchallenged because many fail to critically read between the lines.

Does what McCain suggest really hold true?

Sometimes we must take things at face value but McCain’s comments are worthy of further examination. Too often we get suckered into thinking a certain way by the media. One of the media’s main objectives is to mentally condition us. The media utilizes this social engineering concept to induce universal acceptance and compliance of their message.

I don’t understand how McCain can logically make such statements. When one analyzes the facts its’ clear McCain doesn’t have a clue. Obama has all the necessities to get the job done.

Lets’ examine McCain’s words.

Obama doesn’t have the experience?

Why does Obama have to continually defend his resume and apparent lack of experience? Bottom line, it’s not about experience, it’s about results. Obama just whipped the pants off a former two-term President, his wife, and the media.

Throughout his campaign the man with no experience has raised more money than Hillary and McCain combined. In essence Obama is running a multi-million dollar corporation. As a rookie CEO he’s orchestrated the seemingly impossible. He beat the Clintons with class: Obama won without resorting to the shenanigans his rivals displayed throughout the campaign.

Also, what experience does Hillary or anyone else has that Obama doesn’t? Hillary was in the White House as a wife putting up with Bill’s character flaws. Hillary made no decisions to make significant change in this country. The fact remains the people have spoken and they chose Obama and not Hillary.

Obama doesn’t have the knowledge?

Obama’s history-making journey hasn’t manifested due to trial and error: it happened because he created a comprehensive plan and simply got it done. Obama has clearly demonstrated he’s got the knowledge and ability to lead. Besides, if Obama wasn’t intelligent the people wouldn’t have voted for him.

Last time I checked Obama has a law degree where he specialized in Constitutional Law. Because of his brains he masterminded a plan of attack to defeat the mighty Clinton’s and all of their supposed power and connections. How can an African American man come from nowhere, kick off the primary season by winning Iowa which is 90 percent white and become the Democratic nominee?

Knowledge.

Obviously the man did his homework. From day one Obama ran a campaign with a quiet strength, articulation, and calm never witnessed before. In my opinion Obama’s intellectual weaponry is better than both Clinton’s and McCain’s combined. I would throw George Bush in the mix but it’s painfully clear he doesn’t have enough sense to give me change for a dollar. Intelligence and the Bush brand obviously don’t go hand in hand.

Obama doesn’t have the judgment?

Obama’s sense of timing has been impeccable. He was so on point with this timing he didn’t give white America the time to critically consider whether they were ready for an African American to be top dog.

Obama studied what the people wanted for years and created a way to give it to them irrespective of color. In his moments of silence and years of preparation Obama honed his plan and worked it to the hilt. He knew what he was going to do before anyone else. To me that’s been the beauty of this political race.

Now we’ve established the latter what is McCain really saying?

For starters, he’s attempting to utilize the media to circulate a widely known stereotype that African Americans are inferior to whites. Oops. Too late-Obama is the Democratic nominee.

What McCain is really saying doesn’t understand how an articulate, intelligent African American comes from the US Senate to the top of the political world in less than a year. McCain is suggesting that white America can’t have an African American in the oval office right now. But more importantly, McCain is saying there’s no way he can lose this election to African American man.

To get the real message behind a person’s words all you have to do is read between the lines.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Willie Randolph battles the media and his opponents


New York Mets manager Willie Randolph has been labeled by the media as soft because his team is losing games. Randolph continues to get his team in top form while battling the media’s portrayal of him.

Despite taking his team to the doorstep of the World Series in 2006 and a game from making the playoffs last year the media is creating a stir because Randolph publicly stated his displeasure with the media.

First off, Randolph is not soft. He was raised in the streets of Brownsville-a section of Brooklyn, New York where Mike Tyson once roamed. Many who grew up there either succumbed to the streets or found a way out through sports.

Randolph’s ability and tenacity enabled him to be drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1972. He was traded to the New Yankees in 1975 where he’d win two World Series in 1977 and 1978 playing second base. He was voted to 6 all-star teams in a career that spanned 18 years.

How can a person who overcame grim circumstances to have a great career be labeled soft?

To me the latter showcases the subtleties of racism and the power of the media to shape perception.

May 19th when asked if he’s scrutinized more because he’s African American Randolph responded, "I don't know how to put my finger on it, but I think there's something there. Herman Edwards did pretty well here and he won a couple of playoff [games], and they were pretty hard on Herm. Isaiah [Thomas] didn't do a great job, but they beat up Isaiah pretty good. ... I don't know if people are used to a certain figurehead. There's something weird about it.”

A day later after reflecting Randolph apologized for his assertions. "First of all, I want to apologize to the Mets ownership, SNY and my team for the unnecessary distraction that I created, that I caused the last couple days," he said. "I shouldn't have said what I said. It was a mistake. As simple as that. It was a mistake.”

After his apology Randolph stated he must handle himself a certain way. "I have to stay in control and keep my total wits about me, no matter what." He continued, "I think it's very important ... that I handle myself in a way that the [African-American managers] coming behind me will get the opportunities, too."

I understand Randolph’s logic but I respectfully disagree with it. One should issue apologies only when they’re wrong. Randolph’s assertions about the media were true.

So why apologize?

Despite some of the most significant advancements made by African Americans in society and sports there still lies a collective fear of the white power structure. African Americans walk a fine line a between freely expressing themselves while simultaneously being careful not to anger white America.

Jack Johnson was a person who lived as he pleased-not the way white America wanted. He was the first African American to win the heavyweight championship. He reined supreme from 1908-1915. Johnson destroyed white opponents, married white women, dressed sharp, and spoke several different languages.

During Johnson’s time African Americans were being lynched and Jim Crow was the law. There was no inclusion in society and sports. White America wasn’t ready for an African American man who was articulate, strong, and not compromising.

Unlike many African Americans today, Johnson didn’t have time to fear racism because he was busy living his truth.

Future white champions refused to fight African American opponents because of the legacy of Jack Johnson. There wouldn’t be another African American heavyweight champion for 22 years after Johnson lost his crown. Joe Louis finally captured the crown in June of 1937.

Randolph, like other African Americans in authoritative positions, often must choose between freely expressing themselves or to read a prepared script to keep peace.

Randolph opted for the script.

Unfortunately, because of racism African Americans have items entailed in their collective job descriptions others don’t. When racial incidents occur the African American is forced into compliance. By speaking up they’d be labeled as an agitator and eventually fired. But what the script writers cleverly fail to mention by African Americans adhering to their scripts ensures the power will remain where it is now.

It’s too bad Randolph is forced to be something that he’s not. I guess that’s just the power of racism and the media at work.