Archive for September, 2007

05
Sep
07

Something to Be Said For Beauty In Defeat

As a child I used to absolutely dread 60 Minutes. Something about that ticking noise just signaled the end of the weekend and on to (what I thought at the time was) boring programming. (Let it be said that I have since had it in my DVR recording list several times — my, how time changes our tastes.) But I do recall one episode getting my attention. It was that of two young females of color swinging tennis rackets in Compton, California. At the time I remember watching and thinking — even in my early teens — “how absurd a thought…to believe that you can will and practice your kids into someday becoming great at a sport. And in an environment where they have no competition!?! What a silly, silly man.

Goes to show you how much I know.

History will reflect upon that 60 Minutes story, but my guess is the emphasis will be placed more upon what they’ve accomplished. It’s an incredible story. And as much as it flies in the face of my campaign to get parents to stop living their sports dreams vicariously through their children and, in some cases, treating them like Thoroughbred horses more so than 10 and 11-year-old kids, you almost can’t argue with success.

I’m not a huge tennis fan. I understand the game and I can hold my own on the court. I remember the days of glory with Connors, McEnroe, Lendl, Borg and Becker, but I don’t understand all of the nuances of the game. Moreover, I don’t really feel that tuned into the “culture” of tennis. What are the “do’s” and “don’ts” when it comes to players. There seems to be this code of ethics and behavior that tennis shares all to it’s own. The relationship with the line judge. The ball people running back and forth. When you can yell and when you can’t. Very strange. But there is one thing that is universal to all of sports: good sportsmanship.

I witnessed two extremes this year at the U.S. Open. The first was a rather chance viewing of Andy Roddick in and early bracket match against Justin Gimelstob. Of course I knew who Andy was. But who was this tall guy across from him? Can’t even pronounce his name. Gimelstob?? Turns out this was Justin’s last Open and Andy was a good friend. Andy turned up the heat, but Justin was playing to win. Every point. Every serve. Right up until the break. And when Andy scored the final blow, They met in the center court. As Justin extended a very gracious hand to Andy….Andy, in a true act of sportsmanship, reached across and hugged his good friend. They did a very warm, heartfelt interview afterwards and I felt a warmness for Justin Gimbelstob that was incredibly odd considering the fact that I couldn’t say his name an hour prior. But for me it was the sportsmanship. It was the incredible way of handling victory and the even better way of handling defeat. Some folks just have it — it takes a big heart to go and hug someone else who has what you want. To be genuinely happy for them. It’s a true act of selflessness.

On the contrary, I heard the news that Serena lost her match against what appears to be her nemesis in Justine Henin. From what the news folks are saying, she just can’t figure this girl out. And once again she went down in defeat. Continue reading ‘Something to Be Said For Beauty In Defeat’

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01
Sep
07

Kanye Keeps My Faith In Hip Hop Strong

So I got a copy of Kanye’s soon to be released album, Graduation. I wasn’t really a big fan of Late Registration. I thought Touch the Sky and Home were truly inspiring. Heard Em Say was a nice, simple, cool out joint. Crack Music was hot. Uh… wait a sec… I kinda liked We Major and of course everybody dug Diamonds. Perhaps I wasn’t so down on the album. But I just felt like there were too many “filler tracks.” There were a bunch of songs that I just didn’t dig, and I know I’ve been told I have the strangest taste, but Golddigger just got on my nerves every time I heard it.

By no means is Graduation perfect. Of the 15 or 16 songs that are on the album, there are about 6 gems — which is par for the course in this day and age. But the difference here is that the good songs are so good that they approach — in my humble opinion — Jesus Walks in their ability to inspire. No, I didn’t say that they’ll reach the commercial success that Jesus Walks enjoyed, but certainly these songs have a lot to say. And this is such a welcome effort considering the current state of the industry. I agree with Nas. Hip Hop is dead. It’s this commercialized whore that used to be fine but now she talks to every guy she sees. She was wonderful when you first laid eyes on her. Then after you heard her speak enough you wondered what you ever saw in her. But enough with the metaphors. With this album, Kanye is doing something that apparently few others have the courage or perhaps the artistic freedom to do — he’s being himself.

Aside from a few appearances by other artists like T-Pain and Mos Def, this album has absolutely no resemblance to anything that a modern day “rap star” would release. And that’s a good thing. The album kicks off with an easy intro — Good Morning — with a few hard hitting facts to try and “wake us up”. This isn’t anything really to write home about. But this helps us ease into the album.

It’s funny — Kanye’s albums seems to have a formula all to their own. Yeah, we all know there’s the “school theme” (College Dropout, Late Registration and now, Graduation). But more than this, I am always ready for an inspiring song to kick the album off. All Falls Down, despite a message that was meant to bring us down to Earth, was an incredibly uplifting beat. Touch the Sky was even more inspiring in beat and in message. With Graduation Kanye kicks off the album with a song called Champion and it’s just golden. It’s a love letter to a few folks who don’t hit 50 home runs a year and who don’t win the NBA Championship but who are more important to us than we realize. Just a snippet of the inspiration….

….but everytime I wanted to lay-a-way or deposit,

My dad would say, ‘When you see clothes, close your eyelids’,

He was sorta like Will Smith and his son,

In the movie (I ain’t talkin’ bout the rich ones,)

Cause every summer, he’d get some brand new hair-brained scheme to get rich from,

And I don’t know what he did for dough,

But he’s send me back to school with a new wardrobe…. (Hey…hey…hey…)

(Chorus)

Did you realize…..that you were a champion? Yeah, right. Continue reading ‘Kanye Keeps My Faith In Hip Hop Strong’