Goodbye, Joe.

I have been struggling mightily as to what I want to say about Joe Paterno. He passed away due to complications from lung cancer one week ago (January 22, 2012).

Most people, I feel, are still chewing on the former coach’s role in the Jerry Sandusky horror story, the fact that Paterno didn’t go to the police when a confession of witnessing an act of child abuse was brought to his attention. I am still chewing on it myself. I am chewing on the fact that Mike McQueary, the aforementioned direct witness, did not call the police himself, passing the information to Paterno instead. I am chewing on the fact that had Paterno reported what McQueary told him to the (State College) police, Paterno would have been giving the police hearsay information. I am chewing on the fact that Paterno did report McQueary’s confession to Gary Schultz, the head of University Police, which has jurisdiction over all crimes committed on campus. I am chewing on the fact that when Schultz failed in his duty to investigate, Joe never followed up.

There are so many foggy, intertwined emotions swirling in my gut regarding Joe Paterno’s connection to his undoing as a coach. I’m not sure how long it will take for me to find a place to land, or if I ever will. But apart from these unresolved feelings, I do know that Paterno was a man who so deeply loved Penn State, and more importantly, the people who passed through it. He cared about people. He valued academics in a culture that quite often puts athletics first, and on a pedestal. He and Sue, his wife, donated over $4 million to the university, which included funding for the library on campus as well as for the erection of a non-denominational spiritual center. He was part of one of the first major college programs in the US to embrace black players, a program that fought for all of its players to be on the field in segregation-era games. He left this program with the number one academic ranking among the top 25 teams in the country in 2011, as graded by the New America Foundation (which also showed no achievement gap between black and white Penn State players – a rare feat in Division I-A football).

And he wanted all of that to be his legacy. Joe was not a hero, but Joe wasn’t a villain either. He was a human.

Goodbye, Joe.

...

 

 

 

2011 : What I’ve learned (about life, love, loss, and living in a big city).

Another year has spun its way past, through, and around me. Despite the fact that over half a month has ticked away in the new year, I have in no way become used to writing “2012”. We’ll see how long that actually takes.

I started this rumination last year, and it helped bring a year’s worth of everything into something. For as much as I remember in this life (and I do admit an affinity for details), I struggle to place things on specific dates or within certain years. I cannot tell you how old kids are when they’re in third grade or what year in which I attended third grade. My brain just does not work that way. But sometimes it is prudent to remember what happened within a specified 365 days.

I started 2011 with a year and a half’s worth of living in New York City (‘s outer boroughs) tacked onto my experiential resume. The burgeoning, brisk early-year months of 2011 crackled with change. A new job sparkled with possibility and became reality, a Pittsburgh Steelers Super Bowl loss disheartened me (with still-bitter fans jeering my jersey-clad friends and I postgame), and a birthday trip to Fuerza Bruta (a show I recommend to anyone who has ever felt something/anything passionately) shone through the bluster.

...

Winter melted away into the chirpy mildness of spring. I helped clean up a Harlem park for Hands On NY Day, and I learned that it feels empowering (and somewhat wrong to be so prideful) to know how to rake leaves more efficiently than your co-volunteers (thank you, Dad). I flew to Phoenix, AZ (for the first time) for a work trip and met cross-country coworkers, learning the difference in speed and general demeanor between those living in perma-sunshine and those of us who live here. Once situated back in New York, I attended emerging-artist art shows, explored the mysteries and idiosyncrasies of Bushwick, bonded with felines, and began rating the quality of nachos with coworkers as part of an appropriately-named social club. I learned that without completely paying attention, I was falling for a new city.

Half of those are mine. What.
Heart out of light, intended or not.

The temperature began to rise, and the sweaty summer was upon me once again. I grilled on my roof. I experienced a second season of summer softball (and we won a lot, which was refreshing), playing on fields hidden in pockets of green across the boroughs. Work took me to Las Vegas (FOR TEN DAYS) where Ellen DeGeneres hosted the show we were a part of and Taye Diggs (a performer in the show) physically bumped into me at the bar in our hotel. While I was away, New York was celebrating Gay Pride, and an even bigger rainbow-related news item broke – same-sex marriage was legalized in New York state. I learned how much pride I have in New York, how proud I am to be an official resident (even if it still feels like I’m cheating on Pennsylvania).

A summer meal with Lady Liberty on the horizon.

As summer began to slink away, I traveled briefly to a small section of North Carolina beach to spend time with my family.  I returned to the city to help produce several shoots that post-production magic would turn into a series of 9/11 Memorial PSAs featuring Robert De Niro. I celebrated a cherished personal milestone. I made my way back to leaf-laden State College (prior to everything Sandusky-related), drinking cider, eating tailgate-prepped breakfast sandwiches and drinking mimosas, connecting with friends in the place that bore our friendship. I flew into my hometown for Pie Night and remembered how much I love making my parents laugh over coffee in the morning, with glasses of wine in hand at night. I learned that fall is fleeting, that the things that warm you can slip away so easily.

The Memorial at night.

The days became darker, denser, but not altogether that much colder. I walked shelter dogs around McCarren Park on calm Sunday mornings. I traveled to Pittsburgh for Christmas, to a home I learned won’t be there for me to travel to much longer, absorbing the reality of closing that chapter of my life. I sought out live music, in Brooklyn, at bars, at bookstores. I took myself on dates to the movies. I learned that New York City does not hold your hand, but does not withhold its wonders either. You have to go out into it, and live and try and explore. It is up to you, what you get from New York.

City Hall Park.

On my journeys through the streets of neighborhoods I’d never been to, from conversations with strangers and friends over beers, over books, contemplations in my head over beers, over books, I learned that though life is adversity, love, in all its forms and above all else, is something I believe in. I learned that what I believe in, I fight for. No matter what.

Somewhere in Greenwich Village.

Standing in a bookstore near the dawning of 2012, I read a line that, upon its consumption, left me with a final lesson from 2011 – “Fling yourself into it headfirst. Everything can change, but only with abandon.”

Teach me something, 2012.

The Good, The Bad, The Fugly – January 12 Edition

New year, new news. Did everyone watch the BCS bowl games? Did everyone want to poke their eyes out after the national title game was the most boring of the bunch? ANGSTY SIGH. Anyway, here are the winners for the first “The Good, The Bad, The Fugly” of 2012.

The Good

AP Photo - "I'm bigger than boxing."

Boxing icon and social activist Muhammad Ali turns 70 next week (on Tuesday 1/17) and will be celebrating the milestone this Saturday (1/14) at a private party held at the Muhammad Ali Center in Louisville, KY. Ali and his wife spent over 10 years raising money to found and operate the center, which highlights Ali’s life – from three-time world heavyweight champion to passionate activist (known for being outspoken on war, segregation and poverty). The party will serve as a fundraiser for the center, an ongoing exhibit of Ali’s commitment to social activism.

The Bad

...

Sports agent Leigh Steinberg, inspiration in part for the movie Jerry Maguire, has filed for bankruptcy protection (Chapter 7). Steinberg, who has represented notable NFL players such as Steve Young and Troy Aikman, is/was known as one of the first “super agents”. He had pushed the bankruptcy filing for quite a while in order to fulfill “moral and legal obligation to people who advanced [Steinberg] funds or performed services in good faith.” Everything (creditors, collections agencies, etc.) caught up with him, though – Steinberg’s total debt is allegedly over  $1.4 million. Steinberg struggled with alcohol over a period of years but has reportedly been sober since 2010.

The Fugly

Eek.

Anonymous New York Jets players voiced their intense displeasure and criticism of QB Mark Sanchez in the NY Daily News this week. One unknown player was quoted saying, “we have to bring in another quarterback that will make him work at practice. He’s lazy and content because he knows he’s not going to be benched.” Yikes. I don’t think Sanchez is a star-caliber quarterback, but it’s a bit cringeworthy to read that so many players (veiled in anonymity) are bashing him in a very public manner. The article (see gaudy cover above) also pointed to some (obviously still anonymous) players calling for Sanchez to be booted in favor of Peyton Manning (should Manning get healthy).

Check back this weekend to read what I learned in 2011. Seriously, do it.

Pigskin Preview – BCS Bowl Game Breakdown

The Conference title games are long gone (does anyone even remember what happened?). The BCS gods (computers) configured the final rankings and match-ups. The bowls (all 1340983475 of them) have begun. But the big mammajammas (read: BCS Bowl Games) are still looming.

Lots of people find the bowl breakdown come end-of-season wildly confusing. To quote the BCS on the web, “the BCS is a five-game showcase of college football. It is designed to ensure that the two top-rated teams in the country meet in the national championship game, and to create exciting and competitive matchups among eight other highly regarded teams in four other bowl games.”

I’m not putting a dog in the fight about the BCS this year, whether I think it’s a good system, whether there should be a playoff etc. etc. I’m too tired. What I will say, however, is that there are going to be (should be) some damn good football games to bring in 2012.

Bowl Championship Series (in chronological order)

Pretty... kind of.

Rose Bowl – Oregon vs. Wisconsin on Jan. 2, 2012, 5 p.m. (ET obv) in Pasadena, CA

  • #5 Oregon and #10 Wisconsin fire off the BCS start gun for “The Granddaddy of Them All”, better known as the Rose Bowl.  The Ducks lost last year’s title game to Auburn (cough, Cam Newton, cough), and Wisconsin actually lost last year’s Rose Bowl game to TCU. Both are looking for Rose Bowl glory in this now-fairly-standard match-up of Pac-12 & Big Ten champions. Watch these two VERY different, but very high-powered offenses go to work.

 

This bowl sounds like a joke.. but it's not (anymore).

Tostitos Fiesta Bowl – Stanford vs. Oklahoma State on Jan. 2, 2012, 8:30 p.m. in Glendale, Ariz.

  • After a shoddy match-up last year (Oklahoma faced four-loss Connecticut, in a low-rated and low-attended game) and a scandal involving wrongful political campaign contributions by Fiesta Bowl employees (including the subsequent booting of then president and CEO John Junker), the Fiesta Bowl has what looks like redemption in the form of a great game. #3 Oklahoma State, who some/many thought should have been in the title game, and #4 Stanford, led by likely first pick in the NFL Draft QB Andrew Luck, will bring their offensively-potent squads onto the Arizona gridiron this year. This very well may be the best match-up of the BCS bunch (remember the offensively riveting LSU v. Alabama game earlier this season?)
If your sugar container looks like this, you're fancy.

 

Allstate Sugar Bowl – Michigan vs. Virginia Tech Jan. 3, 2012, 8:30 p.m. ET in New Orleans, LA.

  • The Sugar Bowl takes the controversy mini spotlight (of sorts) this year because of the teams playing in it. #13 Michigan will face #11 Virginia Tech – do they seem like fairly middle of the road-ranked teams? Yes. That’s because they leap-frogged teams like  #6 Arkansas, #7 Boise State and #8 Kansas State (Arkansas and Kansas State will meet instead in the Cotton Bowl on January 6). People are pissed off, Michigan and VTech are defending their right to play in the Sugar Bowl. It’s not leaving a great taste in a lot of mouths. The Hokies having trouble selling off their share of tickets was not helping matters either. Players to watch (if you watch) – Michigan’s QB Denard Robinson (a multi-purpose offensive threat) and Virginia Tech’s RB and ACC player of the year, David Wilson.
That orange is wearing a crown.

Discover Orange Bowl – Clemson vs. West Virginia Jan. 4, 2012, 8:30 p.m. ET in Miami, FL.

  • In yet another high-octane offensive showdown, #23 West Virginia (they get a bid because they share the Big East title and because the computer said so) and #15 Clemson meet in the Orange Bowl to try to light up one another. Both of these teams averaged over 33 points and 440 yards per game this season. Clemson started the season 8-0, upsetting ranked teams and climbed up the rankings themselves, setting school records for pass yards, total yards and scoring along the way. The Orange Bowl will be the first-ever BCS bowl for Clemson.
The big one.

BCS National Championship – LSU vs. Alabama Jan. 9, 2012, 8:30 p.m. ET in New Orleans, LA.

  • In a VERY high-profile rematch (the first title game rematch in BCS history actually), #1 LSU will face #2 Alabama, this time  with the national title on the line. After all the talk of high-powered offenses in the BCS bowls, it’s (almost) refreshing to talk about two stalwart defenses who helped make a 9-3 final score possible when the teams clashed in November. The Tigers won that battle in OT, but I’m sure the Tide has other plans for the title game (like getting into the endzone). They also have something to prove to those who think/feel this rematch shouldn’t be happening. As mentioned earlier, Oklahoma State almost fought its way into the title game (beating rival Oklahoma 44-10 in the last week of play), but Alabama held the edge – the Tide finished second in both the Harris poll and the coaches’ poll, and by enough to overcome the fact that Oklahoma State had the edge in the computer rankings. If the system hasn’t pissed you off enough by this point (I know I said I’m not going to fight about this.. but I can take jabs), take into consideration that  no matter  what happens in the title game, for six years in a row, a team from the SEC is going to be crowned victorious. The system has ensured it.


 

The Good, The Bad, The Fugly – December 15 Edition

The Good

Drew Brees giving Elmo a lift.

New Orleans Saints QB Drew Brees appeared in an episode of Sesame Street this morning. Brees’s segment featured a lesson on the word “measure” in which he teaches Elmo (see above) how to measure random items including (surprise) a football. Brees brought his family (his wife and sons – Brittany, Baylen (age 2) and Bowen (age 1), respectively) to the taping, which took place in April.

The appearance on Sesame Street is likely unsurprising to those who follow Brees outside of football. The Brees Dream Foundation is responsible for raising millions to repair playgrounds, schools, and parks around New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

On top of his off-field merits, Brees is this season’s current NFL-leading passer (4,368 yards) and is on pace to pass (pun) Dan Marino’s 1984 record (5,084 yards). What a guy.

The Bad

Concernicus.

NL MVP Ryan Braun has tested positive for a PED (performance-enhancing drug), with a testosterone level at possibly the highest of record in the MLB (based on their historical testing results). If the findings are upheld, Braun is looking at a 50-game suspension to start next season.

Not only is it bad news for baseball that a league MVP has tested positive for something that has been banned, but Braun needs some PR help of his own – in a 2009 interview with mlb.com regarding the then-swirling Alex Rodriguez roid controversy, Braun said “The best thing he can do is come out, admit to everything and be completely honest. The situation will die a lot faster if he tells the whole truth.”

The Fugly

Photo Credit: Deadspin

Sam Hurd, Chicago Bears WR, is currently in jail and facing federal drug charges. Hurd was arrested Wednesday (12/14) night after allegedly articulating interest in buying (a shitload of) drugs from an undercover agent with intent to distribute (five to 10 kilograms of cocaine and 1,000 lbs of marijuana, to be exact).

According to the federal complaint, Hurd (26) allegedly told the undercover agent that he worked with someone else (in relation to his drug acquisition) and that he and his partner distribute/sell approximately four kilos of cocaine per week (in and around Chicago).

It gets worse – Hurd, who has only 8 receptions for 109 yards and no TDs this season, has allegedly supplied drugs to a double-digit list of NFL players.

Subway Thoughts – The Writing on the Pole

I always look at the poles in subway stations. I’ve seen a few lines written, scratched or tagged on them that are so much more appealing to stare at than the skittering rats on the tracks below (gross). I can’t decide what I think this (see below) means to me, but I keep thinking about it.

14th St. F/M station.

Live Music Is Better – City and Colour at Terminal 5 (12/7/11)

One of the worst things that can happen to a fan of a particular band or musician is hearing said band/musician live and learning that he/she/they do(es) not live up to the standards set in the fan’s head (heart). I was so afraid of this before I went to the City and Colour show last Wednesday (12/7). But as soon as the tattooed-but-tailored Dallas Green sang his first words, my fears were assuaged, bulldozed. Dallas Green was incredible live. His voice (DAMN that voice) rang out clear and beautiful, and the concert quickly became one of my favorite musical experiences (ever). I recorded a (shitty) video of “Sleeping Sickness”, and it’s moderately astounding that even through an iPhone recording you can hear how rich his voice is.

The Good, The Bad, The Fugly – December 10 Edition

The Good

The National Basketball Association (or NBA for shortsies) announced Thursday (12/8) that, as part of their collective bargaining agreement, they are planning to adopt a non-discrimination policy that includes sexual orientation. To boil the jargon down, the new policy’s umbrella will specifically include protection against discrimination based on sexual orientation (which does not, however, include gender identity or gender expression). The policy effectively only covers men (gay or bisexual men in the NBA), since no women (gay, straight, or in between) play in the NBA, but this is marked on a human rights level – there exists no legal protections for LGBT employees on a federal level, so private employers have the ability (but not the requirement) to adopt policies that protect said employees from workplace discrimination.

This is fairly HUGE for the NBA to be a part of, as the organization is inherently part of a greater theater of homophobia that exists in professional sports. The National Football League (NFL) and Major League Baseball (MLB) opted to include sexual orientation in their respective non-discrimination policies earlier this year as well. Baby steps, but hell, this is progress that is notable. I should also note that several current (and the current part is oh so important) professional athletes have publicly voiced their support of LGBT equality, including the NHL’s Sean Avery (which is probably wildly surprising for some, and not at all for those of you who know he interned in the fashion industry), NFL players Brendon Ayanbadejo and Scott Fujita (and former-NFL-player-now-commentator Michael Strahan), and current NBA point guard extraordinaire Steve Nash. Watch Nash’s video promoting the now-enacted marriage equality law in New York State:

The Bad

Oregon State freshman defensive tackle Fred Thompson, 19, collapsed and passed away Wednesday evening (12/7) while playing basketball at a recreation center on campus. Reports are now coming out that it is likely Thompson suffered a cardiac arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat) that in this case led to death. The 6-foot-4, 317-pound DT had no known heart conditions. Thompson’s 20th birthday would have been this Sunday.  

The Fugly

Jerry Sandusky - Bernie Fine

Jerry Sandusky and Bernie Fine are still in the news, for absolutely awful reasons. Sandusky was arrested again Wednesday (12/7) and charged with 12 additional counts of child sexual abuse (involving two new alleged victims). Sandusky is now facing more than 50 charges, and yet he was able to post bail (which was only $250,000) on Thursday (12/8). The charges against this man (monster) are HEINOUS, and yet he is able to return home. There is something wrong with this, and it legitimately makes me see red.

Onto Bernie Fine, there is also something so wrong with this – Bernie Fine can’t be charged with child molestation (despite credible accusers) because the statute of limitations has passed. Onondaga County Dist. Atty. William Fitzpatrick said this week that had he learned of Bobby Davis and Mike Lang’s (both step-brothers and former Syracuse ball boys) sexual abuse accusations in 2005, Fine would have been arrested and charged with child molestation.

“Bobby, I’m sorry it took so long,” Fitzpatrick said.

Fitzpatrick also harshly criticized ESPN and the Syracuse Post-Standard for not turning over a tape recording accuser Bobby Davis had given the news outlets (in which Fine’s wife admits to Davis that she knew what her husband had done to Davis) to the police. Meanwhile, ESPN is still backpedaling as to why they held onto the tape for eight years without doing a damn thing.

Jerry Sandusky is likely going to rot in prison and have hell to pay abuse-wise when he gets there (prisoners are not kind to child molesters). Bernie Fine is likely going to get away with sexual abuse of children. This is fucking ugly, and this is fucking wrong.