March 3, 2014

Basketball Jones

Guest Post by Jamie Ruff 

Sport is indeed a microcosm of society and here’s another example of how it’s socialism for the wealthy but capitalism for the rest of us.

The NBA is starting to throw support behind an NCAA rule mandating collegians play at least two years of college basketball before becoming eligible for the professional draft. It wasn't that long ago, however, that the league backed a rule requiring every high school student to play at least one year of college ball.

The argument was then, and continues to be, that the time in college lets the players better develop his game while also giving college basketball fans a better "product." 

Perhaps. The question, however, is what that has to do with the draft choices these professional franchises make?

This change would have nothing to do with giving a better product for the public, and everything to do with helping owners avoid their own dumb draft picks. The wealthy NBA owners want someone to save them from themselves by blocking them from paying millions to someone who may not have the maturity -- or character -- to succeed at the game's highest level .

Fine, you say? Why shouldn’t they?

Well, because that’s not how capitalism works for most of us.

There is no casino in Las Vegas or New Jersey or anywhere in between where the casino cuts you off before you lose the house payment. The theory is that you might win way bigger than you lose. See, that’s how capitalism works. In other words, you have a right to be stupid.

But, of course, that’s because that’s your money, and these owners are talking about their money. So it’s time to change the rules.

The fact is professional franchises aren’t required to draft underclassmen, anymore than they were required to draft someone straight out of high school. That’s a choice they made. The problem was that for every Kobe or LeBron, there was probably seven Kwame Browns - high schoolers with tons of potential who, for one reason or another, never paid off. 

The smart money would say draft the known product, the one you’ve gotten to know thoroughly over four years in college; that’s what the smart money say; but everybody is afraid they might be the one to miss out on the next great thing, so time and again they have overlooked seniors whose limitations they had been able to see and gone for “potential” and “upside.” 

Tired of getting burned more than rewarded, the owners decided to remove the temptation to bet big and lose big by ducking out on drafting high school wonders; now they want that temptation moved even further away by one more year.

That’s how to say steps aren’t sometimes taken to protect consumers. But when Congress created the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau with the intention of protecting the interest of consumers against the double-speak legalese of the likes of mortgage lenders and big banks, opponents dismissed the effort as unnatural. It seems that if you’re not smart enough to out-think high-priced lawyers and multimillion-dollar corporations looking to trap you in bad debt, well, that’s on you.  

Capitalism would say shouldn’t anyone who thinks he has the talent to make it in the NBA be able to enter the draft? I mean, in theory I can submit my name for consideration, though I guarantee you that after looking at my statistics – age, weight the fact I never played organized basketball and couldn’t even make my high school JV team – there would be no way I would be drafted. And why should I be? The point is, I could declare, but no one would be obligated to take me. So there.

Look, if the change takes place – and I have can’t help but think the rumblings are a sign of what is to come – it is most certainly to be mutually beneficial to both products, professional and collegian. But make no mistake, that’s a byproduct of a selfish decision of two wealthy organizations looking to stay that way and not caring what it means to you.

February 26, 2014

Bitter Rain

Guest Post by Jamie Ruff 

Black people – catching hell in America since the day we arrived.

There, I said it. Now dismiss me as another angry black man – because I am angry, and I am black. But that’s not quit accurate, because I have a joke for you.

The problem is that African Americans and Native Americans have unique, uncomfortable relationships with this nation.

Naive Americas are the former landlords who came home to find that through legal maneuvering and force of arms the family they had taken in had taken over and now owned the house, replacing every picture, the furniture and the carpet. Black Americans, by contrast, is the neighbor being held hostage in the home’s basement, his screams and cries ignored.

We all know the history: Every other ethnic group came; the African American was brought – in chains … under protest, not that it mattered. Every other ethic group has been assimilated and nurtured. We have been raped and robbed. Our talents and creativity is used to enrich, our due given generations later and reluctantly.

 We have had to fight for everything we got. We’ve had to take everything we have, and that is never forgotten: you took my job … you took welfare … you’re taking up air, the angry complain.
We are credited with having taken everything, yet we have so little; maybe that’s why we are culturally psychotic: we love our country thought it shots down our children; we want to celebrate our ethnicity, yet the same people who remind us that we are the others are just as quick to remind us that our ethnicity is American.

We’ve all had the conversation with a well intended white person at one time or another.
“Why be African American?” you’re asked. “Why not just be American?”

And, actually, we, like the Native American, are distinctly American. My roots go back to South Carolina and then back to – a continent. You can take pride your roots go back to Russia or France or England or Portugal or Spain or Germany. You can hand down names and words that reach back to that homeland, and maybe even a town or village. I have to make up names. The African American distinctness makes us a blend like no other. That should make me the good stuff. Top self. But, of course, it doesn’t. It makes me less likely to get a good paying job, more likely to suffer from high blood pressure, more likely to be incarcerated for the same crime that you don’t even get arrested for committing … shot  by another black man or by a cop I was running toward for help, or by a white man who can claim it was fear that make him carry a gun and pull it.

Let a black man shot a white child and see the outrage, but when a white man shots a black child -- that’s just the manifestation of fear, though no one ever seems to give a good explanation on how the grown man with the gun during the shooting at an unarmed child gets to be afraid.

I’m angry because it happened again.

On Saturday, Feb. 15th, after several days of deliberation, a Florida jury finally convicted Michael Dunn of four charges relating to his shooting into an SUV full of black teenagers during an argument over loud music, including three counts of attempted second-degree murder. The convictions are expected to put him behind bars for decades. But the jury failed to reach a verdict on the most serious charge of murdering 17-year-old Jordan Davis.

Dunn’s attorney, Cory Strolla, reported said that his client was “in disbelief” at the verdict and asked “how is this happening?”

I’m in disbelief and want to know how this happened, too? I can’t help but wonder how he could not be convicted of murder?

State Attorney Angela Corey said prosecutors will seek to try him again on the murder charge. That’s a good thing, but it misses the bigger point. Dunn is not the first white man to shot an unarmed black teenager and have a jury not think it murder and I’m fearful he won’t be the last.

Of course, the most famous was another Florida case, the acquittal of George Zimmerman for the killing of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. Like Dunn, Zimmerman argued self defense, though he, too, was armed and made a point of confronting and shooting to death an unarmed black teenager whose only offense seems to have been drawing the ire of a white man.

On Nov. 23, 2012, Dunn pulled into a Jacksonville gas station in Jacksonville, parking next to a red Dodge Durango that Davis and some friends were in. They had stopped to buy gum and cigarettes; Dunn had just left his son's wedding and was with his fiancée, who went inside the store for wine and chips.

Dunn said he asked the youths to turn down the music and was threatened, claiming he saw the barrel of a gun sticking out of the Durango. Investigators did not find a weapon. Dunn fired 10 shots at the SUV. When he left the store, Dunn drove 40 miles to a bed and breakfast in St. Augustine, where he walked his dog, ordered a pizza, then drank rum and cola. Apparently that’s how he deals with being “stunned and horrified,” since that’s how he later explained he felt. He also did not bother to call police and tell them what happened.
And still a jury couldn’t be convinced of his guilt.

So here’s my angry black man joke:

How many white men does it take to murder a black child?

None. A white man can’t murder a black child.

Not funny? I’m not laughing either …

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