Thursday, September 11, 2008

Society Failing Athletes


Author: Jason Whitlock – and Kansas City Star

About the Author: Columnist for the Kansas City Star, he has won the National Journalism Award for Commentary for "his ability to seamlessly integrate sports and social commentary and to challenge widely held assumptions along the racial divide."

The author of Stag's Leap makes no claim to the Intellectual IP contained in this post that is outside of any separate commentary that may be added. This article is posted here on Stag's Leap strictly for discussion and education purposes.

I'm going to do my best to avoid turning this into an I-told-you-so column.
But the truth is, I told you before the 2006 draft that Vince Young was primed for NFL failure. He entered the league with an attitude, mindset and supporting cast totally unprepared to survive the pressure, challenge and responsibility that goes along with the most prestigious and difficult job in all of sports.
When I explained all of this in 2006, my naive and misguided critics called me an Uncle Tom. Yeah, they ripped me for attempting to issue a young black kid a warning about what awaited him in The League and the attitude he would need to cope and excel.
Some people foolishly think it's every black media member's job to assist in the mental and emotional crippling of black youth. We're supposed to blow rainbows up the asses of every black athlete who "makes it" and assure him/her that anyone who utters a word of criticism is a jealous bigot or irrational sellout.
So, no, I'm not surprised Vince Young tried to quit in the middle of Sunday's game after throwing a second interception and hearing boos from Titans fans frustrated by his inability to read a defense or throw accurately. I'm not all that shocked that two days later Jeff Fisher called the police and asked them to hunt down his inconsistent quarterback. I'm not surprised the Titans team psychologist is apparently worried that Vince Young is suffering depression.
And I'm really not surprised that Vince Young's mother told The Tennessean that her baby boy needs a little space and a lot of love and support.
The question is, when Young rebounds from his emotional abyss and recovers from his knee injury, what kind of love and support are we going to give him? Are the people who already love Young going to replant their heads in Young's rear end and their hands in his wallet? Or will a few people within Team Vince do the right thing and level with him about what he needs to do to make it in the NFL as a quarterback?
Vince Young, like a lot of young African-American men, desperately needs to hear the truth from the people who love him. Too often we pave the road to failure for black boys by believing the cure for bigotry — and there is still plenty of bigotry in America — is the ability to recognize it in (and blame it for) everything. That cure has more negative side effects than most of the drugs trumpeted by the pharmaceutical companies in television commercials. That cure serves as a convenient crutch, and turns a talent such as Vince Young into a quitter the moment adversity strikes. That cure helped land Michael Vick in jail.
Everyone told Vince Young and Michael Vick the NFL would be easy. They'd revolutionize the QB position with their legs, and they could pop bottles, roll with a posse and pretend to be Jay-Z in their spare time.
It just doesn't work. Not for Young or Vick. Not for Matt Leinart. Not for anyone who wants to star at the position and avoid the boo-birds.
No one revolutionizes the starting quarterback position. The position revolutionizes the person playing it. Just ask Donovan McNabb. He figured it out and changed his game. Over the objection of idiots, McNabb developed his skills as a pocket passer. He concentrated on becoming a student of the game. If he can stay healthy over the next three or four years, McNabb will surpass Warren Moon as the best black quarterback ever to play the game.
Unfortunately, there are still people, especially black people, who don't appreciate McNabb. They think he let "us" down by de-emphasizing his athleticism, and they criticize him for being cozy with his organization the way Peyton Manning is with the Colts and Brady is with the Patriots.
McNabb doesn't get to enjoy the luxury of being a company man the way other franchise QBs in their prime do.
But McNabb has never threatened to quit or asked out of a game because the Philly fans were too rough. McNabb understands that in some instances the scrutiny of a black quarterback might be a tad more intense than that of a white one. He also understands that the best way to combat it isn't whining. It's performance. It's work ethic. It's professionalism.
It's not a coincidence that McNabb comes from a supportive, two-parent household.
I bring that up not to castigate Vince Young and his mother. I don't even know the story of Young's upbringing.
I raise the issue to point out that in modern professional sports — with the astronomical players' salaries — ownership and management examine the upbringing of the athletes and factor that into their decision-making.
Vick's failure, Young's potential failure and the guaranteed money they were given will make ownership more reluctant to anoint another kid from the 'hood a franchise quarterback straight out of college.
It's not about color. It's about fitting the profile of someone who can handle all that goes along with being an NFL quarterback. If I'm an owner, I spend my quarterback dollars on young men who were raised by strong fathers. It wouldn't be an infallible system, but on average I bet I'd hit more winners than if I turned over the leadership of my team to a kid who isn't used to having a strong male authority figure.
As black people, we need to ask ourselves whether we are doing a good job preparing our boys for positions of immense leadership, responsibility and scrutiny.
You are going to get criticized playing quarterback. If your instinct is to dismiss the criticism as racist, maybe you shouldn't play the position. If you are surrounded by people who spend every waking minute telling you that you can do no wrong and that everyone who criticizes you is a bigot, then maybe you shouldn't play quarterback.
The position requires thick skin and genuine self-confidence. If you need four or five male groupies with you at all times, a half million dollars of jewelry around your neck and wrists and a dozen tattoos to feel confident, then maybe you should play wide receiver or start rapping.
The average NFL fan has no idea how much time a franchise spends working on self-esteem issues with a typical player. You think these guys are self-assured. Many of them are not. They self-medicate with booze, drugs, steroids, bling, women and attention-getting stunts such as name changes.
Remember when Terrell Owens' assistant claimed he had 25 million reasons to live? It was an accidental moment of clarity and honesty. Too many players have their whole sense of self-worth tied up in their contracts.
It doesn't take much to crack a man with no real identity, especially if he's grown accustomed to having all of his shortcomings rationalized.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Biden Foreign Policy

Biden Was Wrong On the Cold War
Peter Wehner

September 4, 2008

The choice of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin has electrified many conservatives and strengthened John McCain's claim that his administration would be far more reform-minded than Barack Obama's. At the same time, it has triggered accusations that Gov. Palin is far too inexperienced to be vice president, and has little knowledge of national security issues.

Mrs. Palin's lack of mastery of national security issues is often contrasted with Mr. Obama's vice presidential pick, Joseph Biden Jr. Mr. Biden has served in the Senate since 1973, is currently chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, and is often described as a "statesman."

In fact, decade after decade and on important issue after important issue, Mr. Biden's judgment has been deeply flawed.

In the 1970s, Mr. Biden opposed giving aid to the South Vietnamese government in its war against the North. Congress's cut-off of funds contributed to the fall of an American ally, helped communism advance, and led to mass death throughout the region. Mr. Biden also advocated defense cuts so massive that both Edmund Muskie and Walter Mondale, both leading liberal Democrats at the time, opposed them.
In the early 1980s, the U.S. was engaged in a debate over funding the Contras, a group of Nicaraguan freedom fighters attempting to overthrow the Communist regime of Daniel Ortega. Mr. Biden was a leading opponent of President Ronald Reagan's efforts to fund the Contras. He also opposed Reagan's efforts to send military assistance to the pro-American government in El Salvador, which at the time was battling the FMLN, a Soviet-supported Marxist group.

Throughout his career, Mr. Biden has consistently opposed modernization of our strategic nuclear forces. He was a fierce opponent of Reagan's Strategic Defense Initiative. Mr. Biden voted against funding SDI, saying, "The president's continued adherence to [SDI] constitutes one of the most reckless and irresponsible acts in the history of modern statecraft." Mr. Biden has remained a consistent critic of missile defense and even opposed the U.S. dropping out of the Antiballistic Missile Treaty after the collapse of the Soviet Union (which was the co-signatory to the ABM Treaty) and the end of the Cold War.

In 1990, Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait and, we later learned, was much closer to attaining a nuclear weapon than we had believed. President George H.W. Bush sought war authorization from Congress. Mr. Biden voted against the first Gulf War, asking: "What vital interests of the United States justify sending Americans to their deaths in the sands of Saudi Arabia?"

In 2006, after having voted three years earlier to authorize President George W. Bush's war to liberate Iraq, Mr. Biden argued for the partition of Iraq, which would have led to its crack-up. Then in 2007, Mr. Biden opposed President Bush's troop surge in Iraq, calling it a "tragic mistake." It turned out to be quite the opposite. Without the surge, the Iraq war would have been lost, giving jihadists their most important victory ever.

On many of the most important and controversial issues of the last four decades, Mr. Biden has built a record based on bad assumptions, misguided analyses and flawed judgments. If he had his way, America would be significantly weaker, allies under siege would routinely be cut loose, and the enemies of the U.S. would be stronger.

There are few members of Congress whose record on national security matters can be judged, with the benefit of hindsight, to be as consistently bad as Joseph Biden's. It's true that Sarah Palin has precious little experience in national security affairs. But in this instance, no record beats a manifestly bad one.

Author: Peter Wehner - Wall Street Journal

About the Author: Mr. Wehner was a former deputy assistant to President George W. Bush; and is a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.

The author of Stag's Leap makes no claim to the Intellectual IP contained in this post that is outside of any separate commentary that may be added. This article is posted here on Stag's Leap strictly for discussion and education purposes.

BHO Talking Points - Take 1

My dear readers*,

After a fantastic vacation taking me across Northern New England, I return to slaving in the cube. This, however, does not mean I was absent minded. No, my friends, my mind was as active and as sharp as ever. Unfortunately, I spent my time relaxing instead of putting my thoughts to paper. A true shame, as this was the time I could have devoted to solidfying this passion and these ideas bouncing to and fro among my grey matter. Forgive me, but recharging the very drained batteries was extremely necesary.

So here I am, refreshed (although in all honesty, I could have used another week) and ready to go. What a two weeks it has been - we had BHO, pretending to be President (again) and offering more of the same carefully disguised in lofty rhetoric, buzz words, and pandering to moderates and conservatives. Eh, not buying it folks. Not buying it. What else? Oh yes, the "surprise" pick of Palin. I was (and still am) jacked up on this pick, and was awake in the early hours of the morning to follow the email traffic of my insider connections and watching the news. Truthfully, I have been psyched about this woman for many months now. I knew the name and vaguely knew of the record of her last two years in office. However, I was officially turned on to her when one of my insider connections (and good friends) started sending me more and more information on her, policies, record, etc. I have been sweet on her and hoping she would be considered for the VP for at least a good three months or more. I know, doesn't seem like that much time, but it is still more time than most people have given in though to BHO over the last year and a half.

So where am I going with this? Right. To those good 'ol talking points of BHO fans, particularly used by the young adult vote on the left. Here are two interesting (shall we say) ones I overheard. (Paraphrasing, as I can't remember the exact wording.)

1) "He gets it"
2) "He will surround himself with experts [to understand the situation(s)]"

Wow.. I was simply stunned to hear these as key points / reasons / rationale to vote for BHO. I mean floored. I expect better rationale from people than these. I won't devote the time to "he gets it" right now. However, it is time to disect point #2.

"He will surround himself with experts [to understand the situations(s)]"

No way? Really? Are you kidding me here? That is what a responsible politician / leader of any party should do. That is exactly what a damn cabinet is, what advisers are for. This is not a novel concept. How on earth can any person with any political savvy and/or understanding really think this is a novel concept. Picking (so-called) "experts" to be in your "brain-trust" or inner-circle is part of the everyday process of American politics. It is part of the responsibility of assuming such a role. This is to be expected, not applauded. Many Presidents and politicians in positions of influence and power have had fantastic, award-winning, intelligent cabinets / advisers. Some have been filled with those pushing singular ideas. Some have been empty and lacking any wisdom whatsoever. Furthermore, while experts are good and their opinions are always a must to have, (potentially) detached personalities should not be the only thing on which one bases their policies decisions. Last, and certainly not least - what happens when groups of "experts" get together? Not always good things. Long Term Capital Management.... ring any bells? A group of Nobel Prize-winning economists get together to form a hedge fund. What happens? Oopsies. It blows up. At the end of the day, experts and expert opinions are just one slice of a large pie. Black Swans are what make history (good book, and another post for another day). Experts cannot, and will not ever be able to predict these events. As I was saying, expert opinions are just one slice of a large pie of information. And, at the end of the day, it is not the information, but what one does with the information. History judges the politician / decision-maker / executor of policy much, much more harshly than it does the advice giver(s)....... remember that.

I will work on how to even approach "he gets it" over the next couple of days.

In the meantime, back to the cube and back to figuring out a few of my own dilemmas.

Enjoy my friends.

* Readers is a stretch, as I have what, 2 confirmed / loyal readers?