Archive | March, 2010

Silence of the Moderates: The Failure of the Republican Party to control its fringe element

25 Mar

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report

In the aftermath of President Barack Obama signing the Health Care Reform Act, I have been observing the hateful, violent rhetoric of the far Right. Some of those acts, which included tea bagger protestors hurling racist and homophobic epithets at members of Congress who supported the health care bill.

The latest round of haterade involves the death threats received by the family of Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich) and by New York Congresswoman Louis Slaughter, windows being broken at the offices of Slaughter and Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Clifford (D); and the cutting of propane lines at the home of a Virginia Congressman’s brother after the address was posted online by Tea Party protestors.

After House Minority Leader Rep. John Boehner singled out fellow Ohio Congressman, Rep.Steve Driehaus as a “dead man” who “can’t go back to his home in West Cincinnati” because “Catholics will run him out of town,” Tea Party members took out an ad in the Cincinnati Enquirer and published photos of Driehaus’ daughters.

Driehaus and other Democrats have correctly faulted Republicans for encouraging this kind of behavior. Leaders of the Republican Party have offered lukewarm condemnation of what amounts to acts of terrorism and have dismissed them as the individual acts of a few nuts. Other than that, the silence of Republican leadership has been deafening.

What’s even worse is that when House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.) came out today with what I think was a half-hearted attempt to condemn the violence on the part of their extremist supporters. It ultimately turned into an attack on Democrats for taking the threats of violence that Cantor’s Republican colleagues whipped up through their rhetoric seriously. The response by Cantor should in no way be confused with taking responsibility for anything. It’s just another deflection and a tacit justification for what has happened in the last few days.

Where are the moderates in the Republican Party? Are there any reasonable people left in the party of Abraham Lincoln? I think I know that answer to that question especially after seeing 2008 Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin target Democratic House members by using a rifle periscope as a graphic.

Equally as appalling is the silence of African-American Republicans who have traditionally looked the other way and have failed to condemn the various acts of racism from their white Republican colleagues over the years.

When Civil Rights movement icon Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) and another African-American Congressman were called, “nigger” and spat upon by Tea Party protestors, you would think a man like GOP chairman Michael Steele would have been up front in letting his colleagues know that this type of behavior is unacceptable.

The problem that a majority of the Black community has with African-American Republicans is that they lack the moral courage to confront their white colleagues on the pervasive racism that exists within the Republican Party. It is why African-Americans avoid voting Republican like the plague.

. Unfortunately, there are no Fannie Lou Hamers among African-American GOPers, who are only useful to the Republican Party when they want to put a Black face on one of their policies, especially those that are detrimental to the African-American community. At some point, maybe not in my lifetime, African-American Republicans will muster up the moral backbone to hold their white colleagues accountable for their racism.

At times when unreasonable elements guide the thinking of the masses, it is not just the tyranny of those people we abhor, it is the failure of those who know better but fail to lend their moral authority to denounce the injustice of their contemporaries. This was the frustration of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. with the so-called good people of the South during the days of the Civil Rights Movement:

“Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.”

It is ultimately the failure of whatever reasonable elements that are left within the Republican Party to condemn the violent threats on the part of their supporters. Instead, the debate over the new health care reform law has become a symphony of gun-toting, brick throwing crazies who are threatening the lives of Democratic members of the House of Representatives.

That’s not honest debate or discourse. It is an act of terrorism.

A.I. and the Mick: Icons of their generations have more in common than you think

12 Mar

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report

Like many people this past week, I have been reading and hearing reports of Allen Iverson’s spiraling career, his impending divorce, his daughter’s illness and his alleged gambling and alcohol abuse.

With his once uncanny skills on the basketball court diminishing into a distant memory, Iverson’s great NBA career appears to be heading toward a sad ending.

If this is indeed the end of Iverson’s career, how he will be remembered will depend upon your point of view, when your were born and possibly your socioeconomic status. To the Hip-Hop generation of the late 1990s and early 2000s, Iverson is as iconic a figure as rappers Tupac Shakur and Notorious B.I.G (aka Biggie Smalls). Were there a Hip-Hop Mount Rushmore, Iverson’s image would be engraved on it beside those hip-hop icons.

Iverson’s career, the good and the bad, reminds me of another great sports icon—the New York Yankees Hall of Fame outfielder Mickey Mantle. While this comparison will rankle some people, the two men have a lot in common.

To an often misunderstood, disconnected generation of mostly African American young people, Iverson was an uncompromising figure who truly kept it real. Sporting the cornrowed hair and tattoos most commonly associated with urban African American youth, Iverson decided that his credibility with the streets was more important than his credibility with Madison Avenue.

But while Iverson’s endorsements consisted of a line of Reebok basketball shoes and not much else, his on-court accomplishments caused his Sixers jersey to fly off of store shelves. In 2006, it was third highest selling jersey in the league ahead of Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant.

Although he took a lot of heat from the local media for doing so, Iverson maintained the relationships he had with his homies from Hampton, Va., a group of people who often took care of him when his parents were unable to do so. Because many of these men allegedly had criminal backgrounds, it was seen as an example of Iverson’s bad judgment.

In the mainstream media, especially in Philadelphia, Iverson was seen as a selfish, immature player who blew off practice and didn’t play well with others. Even during the midst of his success with the Philadelphia 76ers, local columnists constantly called on the team to trade him or get rid of him.

Some observers will remember Iverson as a great player who never quite lived up to his potential. The man who won four NBA scoring titles, two All-Star MVP Awards, and singlehandedly took a group of mediocre players to the NBA Finals in 2001 could have been even greater. They argue that because of his off-court lifestyle, a lifestyle that included late-night partying, drinking and hanging out with his boys in places like Atlantic City, Iverson didn’t take care of himself enough to take his game to the next level.

For all the criticism that he received during his 11 years in Philadelphia, Iverson was a great player on the court who played through injuries and his personal issues. There was never a shortage of effort or a will to win on his part on a nightly basis. He played the game with a blinding, no-fear ferocity against players who were oft-times bigger and stronger than him.

Mantle, like Iverson was a brilliant all-round athlete who was naturally gifted. Playing through a plethora of injuries, Mantle managed to win three American League MVP awards, four home run titles, and was the last Triple Crown winner to lead the entire majors in batting average, runs batted in, and homeruns.

In the 1950s, Mantle’s blond, blue-eyed matinee idol looks along with his ability to knock the ball out of the park made him a beloved figure among young boys of that generation in the same way that Iverson is to the Hip-Hop generation.  If they sold jerseys in those days the way they do now, Mantle’s No. 7 would have been as popular as A.I’s No. 3.

Both men were icons of their respective generations. And like Iverson, Mantle enjoyed his celebrity by hanging out, drinking and carousing at all hours of the night with boys and the leading entertainers of those times like Frank Sinatra and Jerry Lewis. It was been widely reported in several documentaries and a few books including Jim Bouton’s Ball Four which said that Mantle would often show up in the Yankees clubhouse with a hangover after one of his late nights out on the town.

Mantle himself admitted at the end of his career that he might have been an even better player had he done of better job of taking care himself. He said God gave him talent, but he wasted it with his drinking and caurousing.

That’s eerily similar to what is being said about Iverson now. Philadelphia Inquirer columnist Stephen A. Smith on a recent edition of ESPN’s Sportscenter said as much when he pointed out how Iverson didn’t work on his game with the same dedication as guys like Kobe Bryant, Dwayne Wade and Ray Allen.

But despite having similar lives, there are a bunch of reasons why Mantle was revered while Iverson is reviled.

One of those reasons is that Mantle’s Yankees teams won championships. The Yankees of the 1950s had more stars than a moonlit sky and won seven World Series titles and 12 American League pennants. When you’re doing that much winning, the carousing tends to get overlooked.

Iverson, on the other hand, came close to a championship only once. While the Sixers made a trip to the NBA Finals in 2001, the Sixers organization failed to bring in the kind of talent to build on that trip to the Finals.

Another difference in perception centers on the eras in which both men existed. In the “Ozzie and Harriet” 50s, it was considered okay to spend nights out on the town drinking and chasing women, even if you had a little thing like a wife to consider.

Journalists knew that these liasons were going on, but because the media of the day didn’t cover such off the field shenanigans, they never saw the light of day. To tell you how much this has changed, TMZ, the entertainment gossip website, has announced that it is looking for sports writers.

While both players were surly with the media earlier in the careers, Mantle began schmoozing with sports writers later in his career. During the famed 1961 homerun chase to break Babe Ruth’s single-season record between him and Roger Maris, Mantle became the “good guy” of New York writers and broadcasters of that time who felt he was the “true” Yankee to break Ruth’s record.

Mantle eventually endorsed all kinds of products and was a media darling long after his baseball career was over. Iverson was never a pitchman. In fact, AI will always be remembered for infamous, “Practice” tirade with the media in 2002.

While he will be a certain Hall of Famer for his basketball career, Iverson has to manage the rest of his life without basketball. It’s not going to be an easy thing for him. You’re not going to see AI endorsing sports drinks or working as an analyst on TNT.

Perhaps the one saving grace that Iverson has that Mantle didn’t have during the midst of his playing career is his close relationship with his children. Maybe his personal troubles will be a wake up call for him to consider what’s truly important in his life.

Stop Crying: Beating your opponent on the field quiets all that trash talk

6 Mar

By Chris Murray

To me, the best revenge in sports or in anything in life is success or winning the next time you take the field or court. If you’re a team or an athlete and you feel aggrieved because you didn’t get the right ranking or your opponent talk too much trash when he slammed dunked on you or your opponent, who was already up by three touchdowns with one minute left, scores one more touchdown to run up the score, don’t get mad or complain.

The next time you take the field—defeat your opponent on the field, win the game, stop your opponent from slam dunking. Keep your opponent from catching the ball or scoring a touchdown. Folks become awfully quiet and have very little to say when they’re getting their butts kicked. When New York Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis shut down Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Chad Ochocinco in the 2009 AFC Wildcard playoff game, the silence from Mr. Ochocinco was deafening. Shhhhhhhhh!

Then you have the spring training “bean”ball incident involving San Francisco Giants pitcher Barry Zito and Milwaukee Brewers first baseman Prince Fielder. Zito plunked Fielder with a weak 78-mile an hour fastball apparently in retaliation for a staged celebration by Fielder after a walkoff win in a game last September

In that game, Fielder hit a game-winning homerun in the bottom of the 12th inning to give the Brewers a 2-1 win over the Giants. With his jubilant teammates awaiting him at home plate, Fielder did a flying leap on to home plate. At the point, his teammates playfully fell to the ground in unison like bowling pins to complete the celebration.

Apparently that didn’t sit too well with the Giants who thought Fielder was being disrespectful and showing up their team. According to the San Jose Mercury News, Brewers manager Ken Macha even apologized to San Francisco manager Bruce Bochy at this year’s winter meetings saying he didn’t approve of the celebration.

And in that time-honored code of baseball that says if you show up a pitcher then you must expect a ball to come flying at your head or back. It’s something that we’ve seen in baseball for a million years or so. It’s apart of the tradition and heritage of the game.

To me, it is a whiney, wimpy, crybaby tradition that needs to go the way of the dinosaur. Don’t blame Fielder and his teammates for celebrating a win. Don’t get mad at Fielder if your relief pitcher serves up a gofer ball in an extra-inning game that you need to win to get into the postseason. Take the loss and the other team’s celebration like a man. Again, you want to stop Fielder from celebrating, how about striking him out or getting him to ground out. We’re not even having this discussion if the Giants pitcher keeps Fielder from getting a hit.

Throwing the ball at the batter’s back in retaliation for your pitcher’s failure to stop the other guy from going yard on you is just petty, childish and makes you look like an old punk.

Meanwhile, Fielder showed no indication that he had no remorse for what he did and nor should he. He told a Milwaukee-Journal Sentinel reporter that getting hit in the back was worth him doing that celebration: “Hell yeah, that’s something I did with me and my teammates. It has nothing to do with them. You’re damn right it was worth it.”

To Fielder’s credit he didn’t charge the mound or point his finger at the pitcher. In fact, he casually tossed the ball back to Zito like it was no big thing.

Another sour grapes incident this year was with Dallas Cowboys linebacker Keith Brooking who bitched and moaned about Brett Favre and the Minnesota Vikings running up the score with a late touchdown when the game was already out of reach.

My question to Brooking would have been where was all that passion and anger when Favre was picking your defense apart throughout the entire game? How about stopping Favre and the Vikings within the allotted 60-minute time-frame. Don’t wait until you get in the locker room and don’t wait until the game is out of hand to complain about other team’s lack of class for putting an emphatic butt whuppin’ on you.

The way to get even with somebody who conducts a planned celebration in the end zone or after a walk-off homerun is to simply beat them. Your opponent is not going to do much styling and profiling when you’re giving them a butt whuppin. Winning and stopping your opponent is the best way to establish field justice.