Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Stumbling toward history

Remember the 9-73 Philadelphia 76ers? Fred Carter, the original "Mad Dog," led them in scoring, just under 22 points a game: Freddie Boyd, Manny Leaks, Leroy Ellis, and Kevin Loughery, who later became player-coach after Roy Rubin was canned at 4-47, were the other starters.

The 76ers reached such lows because star Billy Cunningham left for the ABA, along with bad trades and bad draft picks. This squad became the league's modern-day standard on how bad NBA clubs are judged.

However four years later, Philadelphia would reached the NBA Finals before losing to Portland in 1977. In 1983, with Cunningham as coach, the team would win it all.

Could this happen to this season's Minnesota Timberwolves? Their once superstar is no longer with them. Bad trades. Bad draft picks. The Wolves currently are 3-20, the worst start in franchise history.

Unless there is a Dr. J, Moses Malone, Anthony Toney, Maurice Cheeks out there, the chances of Minnesota picking itself up off the scrap heap and reaching the league's highest heights are slim and none, with slim on permanent hiatus.

Out there somewhere, Sixers fans are rooting for Minnesota, hoping that they will replace their club as the poster child for futurity.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

One's options

Bobby Petrino is living proof of what comedian Chris Rock once said:

A man is as loyal as his options.

Petrino left the Atlanta Falcons earlier this week, where he was 3-10 in his first season as head coach, to accept the University of Arkansas head coaching position. His abrupt departure came hours after his team lost by 20 points to New Orleans on Monday night.

What should we make of this? Petrino said his heart is in college football. "I knew I wanted to come back and coach in college football," the Associated Press reported him saying. Rather I say that being offered over two million dollars a year shows that his heart is where the money is.

Last January, Petrino left Louisville, agreeing to a five-year, $24 million contract to coach Atlanta. He was hailed as the coach finally to make Michael Vick a complete quarterback. However, Vick never showed because of a little dogfighting problem he had to deal with.

Two years ago, Petrino's heart was in the Bluegrass State -- Louisville offered him big bucks and he signed a contract extension. His heart was satisfied until Peachtree Street came a-calling.

But it's not just coaches such as Petrino, whose loyalty must be questioned, but what about Arkansas? When did they contact him? Did they first contact Atlanta for permission to speak with him?

Apparently not since the Falcons front office was as shocked by Petrino's departure as was the players. Or were they?

Who wants to play for a coach, who has one eye looking at the want ads? Who wants to play for someone whose heart isn't there?

Perhaps the Falcons' 3-10 record is more reflective on the sense the the players knew that Petrino wasn't the guy for them, as opposed to not having Vick, or deficient talent across the board.

The public often whine when players bolt from one team to another for the money, but little is said when coaches do the same.

Like Rock says: Loyalty goes only as far as one's option.

"I'm very excited to get back and work with the student-athlete," claims Petrino.

Until a better offer comes around.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

On the fast track

In just three short years after graduating from Boston University in 2004, University of Minnesota assistant women basketball coach Marisa Moseley has worked at ESPN, where she won a Sports Emmy Award for excellence in sports programming, and is part of her second Division I coaching staff.

To call Moseley a fast tracker, might be overstating the obvious.

"Even though (her coaching career) hasn't been long," says Moseley, "I feel so fortunate and blessed on each step of my career. I have worked hard but I also have been very blessed."

Before being hired at Minnesota this past summer, Moseley served as an assistant coach last season at Denver University, where she also assisted in recruiting, travel and monitoring the players' academic progress.

Despite her youthful appearance, Moseley is wise beyond her early twentysomething years. This helped her greatly at the worldwide leader, where she worked for only a year, getting hired shortly after graduating from Boston University in 2004.

She got the job through the sports network's talent promotion series. "There definitely was a competitive nature (at ESPN)," Moseley notes. Her main job at ESPN was to watch countless games, and draw the right snippets to later show on SportsCenter, the network's crown jewel. She also worked on ESPNews and ABC NewsOne.

"It was all about what you saw in (those) two to three hours of the game," Moseley explains. "A lot of people were counting on me to get that video."

She recalled one embarrassing incident which occurred while doing her nightly duties. Moseley needed to get a tape to the studio room in 20 seconds. "I snatched the tape from (the editor), and I took one step and . . .

"BOOM! I fell right on the ground."

Despite the spill, Moseley still was on the clock. "I had to pop right back up," she continues, "and I ran down the hallway. I took a sharp left, and tossed the tape into the film room. The guy catches it and shoves it in, and it hit right at the second (the tape supposed to air).

"Everyone is dying (in laughter) around me," she surmises. "That was one of my humorous (moments)."

I once saw ESPN headquarters in Bristol, Connecticut. I was there a few summers ago covering the WNBA All-Star Game, and I drove past it heading to my hotel, which was just down the street. On the evening I arrived, I thought I was passing some military base because there were these huge wall to wall satellite dishes that look like something out of "Close Encounters of the Third Kind."

I later learned from the hotel clerk that it was ESPN, who virtually owns the town of Bristol. Outside of the hotel, and a sub sandwich place, there is nothing else but them.

The next morning, I drove around it, hoping to get a closer look -- no such luck. IT is like a military base -- you need Homeland Security to even drive past it, let alone get in.

"It is absolutely huge," confirms Moseley of the ESPN 'campus.'

Although she is a former employee, Moseley says even she needs advance clearance to just stop by and say hi. "Whenever I go back, I have to call in advance and have them call down to the (security) booth to say that I am OK and put me on the guest pass list."

Albeit brief, Moseley believes that her ESPN experience has served her well. "How many people are touched by ESPN worldwide," she asks rhetorically, "and I had a chance to be part of it."

And she got an Emmy to boot. "It was a period of my life that I feel extremely proud about," says Moseley.

As much as she loved TV, she loves basketball, and coaching, even more.

"For me being a coach," says Moseley, "I love that I have an impact on players every day. It's not just making them a better player, but I love getting the chance of them coming by my office and sit down. That is my favorite time because of the conversations, whether you are joking or if there is something serious going on with family or their personal life. This is why I became a coach."

"She got great people skills," Minnesota Head Coach Pam Borton says of Moseley. "I think she is a diamond in the rough . . . we got a steal. She is a great hire."

Moseley's principal responsibilities is working with the Gophers' post players. She teaches more than just the basic drop step. "I think it is more the mentality of demanding the ball, (that) you are unstoppable there. It is a mental game."

Being a recent college player: Moseley finished as Boston University's third-leading shot blocker with 114 blocks in her four-year career (2000-04), she not only can teach her players but also can get down and dirty with them in emphasizing her points, says Borton. "She just did it four or five years ago, and it is still fresh in her mind. She can go out there and show the kids," the head coach notes.

She says she wants to be a head coach someday. Her personality, drive and determination certainly will keep Moseley on that fast track to her goal.

Moseley's interview kicked off my four-part series on Big Ten women basketball coaches of color (to read more, go to

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Keeping the right score

While those college football pundits fumble and bumble about the latest BCS ratings, that put Ohio State and Louisiana State in the national championship game, none of these experts ever talk about graduation rates as Richard Lapchick routinely does.

Lapchick, the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport (TIDES), writes each year, "Keeping Score When It Counts," which assesses the 64 bowl bound college football teams. In his report, released December 3, he says that the gap between Black and White football student-athletes increased slightly.

"Twenty-seven teams or 42 percent of the bowl-bound schools graduated less than half of their African-American football student-athletes," says Dr. Lapchick in this year's report. "Only Florida Atlantic graduated less than half of their White football student-athletes."

Other findings include:
--Seven schools had their Black players graduate at a less than 40 percent pace
--No school graduated less than 40 percent of their White players
--14 schools had graduation rates for Black players that were at least 30 percent lower than their White players
--24 schools had graduation rates for Black players at least 20 percent lower than Whites
--Only four schools had Black graduation rates better than their White players: Florida Atlantic (15 percent higher), Florida State (10 percent higher), Connecticut (four percent higher) and Rutgers (two percent higher). Only one school did this last year

"Each year the most disturbing information in the graduation rate study is the disparity between the graduation rates of African-American and White football student-athletes," continues the good doctor. "While the graduation rates for African-American student-athletes have improved, the disparity has persisted for years. A wide gap remains . . . in spite of all this progress with graduation rates."

In the 2006 report, Lapchick reported 86 percent of the bowl teams had a 50 percent graduation rate for their players; this year it's 88 percent. Of teams receiving a score of more than 925 on the NCAA's Academic Progress Rate (APR), 73 percent made the cut as opposed to 63 percent in 2006.

The NCAA created the APR in 2004 as part of an academic reform package introduced by President Myles Brand, which more accurately measure student-athletes' academic success as as improve graduation rates at member institutions.

Two percent progress over a season should be noted, but not a standing ovation's worth. It also should be noted that among the 120 Division I-A (the Football Bowl Subdivision) schools, "the 14 percent gap is actually larger than the 13 percent (62 vs. 49 percent) gap reported in the 2006 study," admits Lapchick.

Ohio State and LSU has graduation rates of 53 and 51 percent, respectively. However, the Buckeyes do a slightly better job in graduating its Black players (43 percent) than their opponent (42).

Maybe through such a cockeyed system that the BCS is, these two teams qualify for the national championship on the gridiron, but if the schools that not only play winning football but also put academics in its proper perspective, namely graduating all its players, "Navy and Boston College would have played for the National Championship," notes Lapchick. "Both teams graduate at least 93 percent of all football student-athletes and at least 89 percent of African-American football student-athletes."

Navy (982) and Boston College (976) have the the top APR scores, adds Lapchick.

But talking about books would make for good television for the blowhards on ESPN, ABC and all the other sports talkers. No, they rather talk about how one school got screwed, or that because their schedule played out earlier than the others, how another school (Ohio State)shouldn't qualify for a championship game.

Then of course, there's the annual call for a college football playoff system, but these are just cries in the money-hungry wilderness, only to be heard by a few interested folk.

Only someone like me, and a few others, see Lapchick's carefully researched studies as something that should be on the front page, not some two-paragraph mention, buried inside.

Nonetheless, as the shepherds in old Bethlehem, this reporter will continue to keep up my watch, both day and night. Not for a messiah, but for some day, that all colleges, and not just the Navys and Boston Colleges will put as much effort in making sure its players -- all its players, graduate at an equal pace.

It surely would be the day to see APR scores endlessly rolling on ESPN's Bottom Line, and football pundits gushing about football players walking down the aisle with sheepskins, rather than running down the field with pigskins.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Lawlessness running amuck

A man sees a suspected robbery taking place at a neighbor's house. He calls 9-1-1, who warns him not to get further involved and wait for the proper authorities. But despite the warnings, the man tells the emergency operator that he's taking his shotgun, and the law, into his hands. Moments later, two men are dead.

Three men break into a home, supposedly to buy drugs. The supposedly drug dealer didn't meet their expectations, and in turn, they seriously beat the man's son. Moments later, two men are shot dead by the alleged dealer, and because of a crazy California law, the one survivor is being charged with the murder of his partners.

A pro football player gets shot in the leg during a supposedly robbery of his home. Nothing was taken, but the player's life, who died a couple of days later due to lost of blood. The late player's girlfriend nor their infant child was injured, and nothing was taken.

In the season of giving, people are instead taking lives.

Do we need Robocop?

In the first instance, rather than throw the man a ticker tape parade for supposedly being a good neighbor, which he was in the first place by calling in the robbery, should he be charged with something. Perhaps, premeditated murder, since the man was told by the 9-1-1 operator not to do anything, and the man responded that he's ready for hunting, and did just that -- he shot two persons in the back as they fled. Taking the law in his own hands, when it is not his home in the first place, smells more like Dirty Harry than good neighbor.

In the second instance, how can a person who pull the trigger be charged with murdering two others? Maybe there's some justification if indeed the father was protecting his son, but shouldn't the third survivor be charged with breaking and entering and assaulting the man's son. But murder?

And the third, and most bizarre instance, reportedly Sean Taylor's home was previously broken in, and a knife was left on the bed. Then a few weeks later, Taylor is shot. Also, it has been learned that Taylor's girlfriend tried to call for help, but the phone lines were cut. Doesn't this seem Soprano-like in how this is all playing out? Will the Miami police really investigate this or try to play this off as something that Taylor put himself in?

This was suggested earlier this year when Howard Porter, a former college and pro basketball player, now a probation officer, was found this summer in a Minneapolis alley so badly beaten that it took a hospital worker to identify him. Porter, who was reported missing from his St. Paul home a few days earlier, and his car was found a mile from his home, with blood stains in the trunk and interior, later died without ever gaining consciousness.

The investigation dragged for a while, with speculation that Porter was out buying drugs or sex, giving the suggestion that he put this onto himself. Two persons eventually was arrested and charged with Porter's murder, but those earlier suggestions didn't go away.

It was like, because Porter might have been doing wrong -- something we have yet to determined it was true, that his death was justified.

I am getting the same sense about what has happened to Taylor. We don't know if he was involved in anything bad, but that shouldn't matter now. And even if Taylor was up to no good, is this any consolation to the mother of his child, and Taylor's family, friends and loved ones, not to mention the child as they grow older.

Someone took Taylor's life, and the police must put this first and foremost.

If a person was warned not to get involved, and they still any way, does that person escape some sort of punishment? The man went far and beyond his neighboring obligation by playing Dog and hunting down the suspects himself. Is this the return to Wild West justice?

Robocop was created in that movie because America had become the land of rampant lawlessness. Have fiction become reality in 21st Century America.

Monday, November 19, 2007

High crime

"They stole that game," a male fan grumbled as he left Williams Arena after he witnessed host Minnesota outscored Louisville 26-9 over the last eight minutes, which erased a 12-point Cardinal lead, for a 74-69 victory.

He was right in some respects: Gopher forward Korienne Campbell's steal with 31 seconds left helped seal the win, Minnesota's fourth of the young season. She finished with 14 points, nine rebounds, four blocks, including one on Louisville star Angel McCoughtry (more on her later), and her late-game steal.

"Korienne played amazing," added guard Emily Fox, who led Minnesota with 23 points -- three of them came at the three-minute mark, which tied the game at 66 apiece. "She (Campbell) is a beast down there (on the low block)."

"I was prepared to do my role," admits Campbell, whose nine rebounds included three offensive caroms -- the sophomore averages four offensive rebounds a game -- eight total.

If U-M are to be successful this season, Campbell must be in the mix. Although her shooting is a lot to desire (she shot 6-of-13 on Sunday), the young woman hustles her behind off.

"She is a presence on the floor, on offense (and) defense," notes Gopher Coach Pam Borton on Campbell.

The almost 6,000 who attended the Minnesota-Louisville game, including Minnesota Lynx players Seimone Augustus and Noelle Quinn, saw a monster performance from the 6-1 McCoughtry, a junior who was Big East preseason player of the year, and also is listed on two national award watch lists. She led all scorers with 39 points and 12 rebounds.

"Everybody can see how quick she is with the basketball," says first-year Louisville Coach Jeff Walz. On several occasions, McCoughtry left Gopher defenders looking like their feet were stuck in quick-drying cement, as she blew past them to the basket.

However, despite her heroics, including hitting a big three to pull her Cardinals to within a basket with 12 seconds left, Walz warns that his players must step up and help their star, who's now a marked woman.

"She will not sneak up on anybody," Walz says of McCoughtry. "The thing that is a challenge for her is that she is a marquee player now."

Louisville, despite out-rebounded (43-32), out-shot (43 percent to 42 percent) and often got to the basket with their speed, couldn't closed the deal. "We get to the basket but we don't finish," bemoaned Walz of his team's missed layups down the stretch.

Despite her game heroics, Fox again found herself in foul trouble for the second straight game. She drew two offensive fouls because the junior guard's inability to pull up on a dime in the lane. Thus far this season, Minnesota has been called for at least 20 offensive fouls -- eight alone in their win at Northern Iowa November 13.

Borton says her team's over-aggressiveness does not concern her much right now. The coach loves an aggressive, physical style, which according to Borton, you can't teach it. I agree, but offensive fouls are turnovers, something that should be a concern (Minnesota committed 17 on Sunday).

The Gophers won their round-robin tournament, defeating Western Carolina on Friday by three points, and Sunday's five-point win over Louisville, who also lost to Western Carolina on Saturday -- the Cardinals dropped to 1-2. The hosts trailed their much quicker opponent in both games but eventually their brawn emerged. Unlike last year, Minnesota is putting their heads down and getting busy, rather than getting down on themselves and ultimately leave the floor in defeat.

"We came together as a team and everybody did what they are supposed to do," says U-M center Ashley Ellis-Milan, who scored 10 of her 15 points in the second half.

"They are a hard working, blue collar kids," Walz says of Minnesota.

They also know how to steal a win from almost certain defeat.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Trent talks

I have known Trent Tucker for many years. I always was curious to ask him about the shot he made against the Chicago Bulls, the infamous tenth-of-a-second game winner, that later prompted the NBA to change its rule about last-second shots -- the 'Trent Tucker rule.' During a recent one-on-one interview, Tucker proudly talked about it.

Then Knicks coach Stu Jackson drew a play that made him a decoy to draw Michael Jordan away and open up a lane for Patrick Ewing to receive a lob pass, recalls Tucker. "But Michael read the play, which took away our No. 1 option. We really didn't have a No. 2 option because we were (only) one-tenth of a second, and we didn't have a lot of time."

When Ewing couldn't get open, Tucker then broke up to help get the inbounds pass from guard Mark Jackson. "Mark gave me a flip, and I shot the ball as quickly as I could," explains Tucker. "Scottie Pippen's hand met my hand as the ball left."

Tucker, his teammates, the Bulls and the entire Madison Square Garden crowd on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day; January 15, 1991, held a collective breath as all watched the ball's flight, which seemingly took hours to reach its destination.

"When it went in, the Garden went crazy and we took off of the court," remembers Tucker. "Phil Jackson (the Bulls' coach) was waving, 'No way, no basket.' We ran to the locker room, undressed as quickly as we could and got into the shower to make sure that they (the officials) wouldn't call us back on the floor. In our minds, the game is over."

Despite Chicago's protestations, and a later meeting with NBA Commissioner David Stern, Tucker's shot counted.

"Throughout any career that lasts a long time, you are going to have some special moments," says Tucker, who played 11 NBA seasons and retired in 1993, "You are going to have some special moments."

Tucker's shot is one of the league's greatest moments.

Tucker, the Knicks' top pick in 1982, also talked about his first NBA game. "My first regular season game, we are playing the Philadelphia 76ers," he notes. "I got into the jump ball circle, and I look over my right shoulder and there was Dr. J. (Julius Erving). I knew right there that I had made it. I didn't know whether to act like I belonged or ask for his autograph. Then you look around and there is Moses Malone, Anthony Toney, Maurice Cheeks and Bobby Jones -- guys you have seen years before while you are in high school and in college. Now here I was, in the mecca of basketball, against the Doctor."

He also played on a championship team: Tucker joined the Bulls in his final pro season, 1992-93. Chicago was defending champs and knocked off his former club, the Knicks, to reach that year's finals.

"When we beat the Knicks in 1993, I was elated because we were going to the NBA Finals," Tucker says of his first and only title appearance. "But there also was a sense of sadness because Patrick Ewing was not going to go."

Ewing and Tucker were longtime New York teammates. "He was a guy who had done so much, and played so hard," says Tucker. "He called me at four in the morning and says, "I'm upset but I am happy for you. Congratulations.' I said, 'Thank you. If the shoe was on the other foot, I would have made the same phone call. I knew right then that he and I were boys.

"To know that I have friends such as Patrick Ewing means a lot to me," says Tucker, who also count Jordan, Pippen, B.J. Armstrong, Bill Cartwright, John Paxton -- his Bulls teammates, as friends as well. "We are still great friends today," he adds.

I have known Tucker for years, but I think the hour-long interview on his new job at the University of Minnesota, where he played his college ball, was the longest time I ever spent with him. He was introspected and personal, a side I hadn't seen before.

It was great.

(The entire interview can be read in this week's Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

It's now for real

After both teams finishing up their two-game exhibition schedule, the Minnesota Golden Gopher basketball teams opened their respective regular seasons with victories.

The Gopher women overcame a six-point halftime deficit and wore down visiting UC-Riverside to win 57-49.

"We got tired, " UCR coach John Margaritis admitted afterwards, "and Minnesota had something to do with it."

Four Gophers finished in double figures, led by Emily Fox's 13 points. Leslie Knight added 12, Brittany McCoy had 11, and Zoe Harper posted 10 in a reserve role.

Even though the winners held a 27-rebound edge, including 28 offensive rebounds, Minnesota (1-0) didn't dominate the Highlanders (0-1) -- they just wore them down. UC-Riverside came out shooting and at one point led by 10 points.

"They hit big shots," says Fox. McCoy added that the team's confidence was deflated as a result.

However, after halftime, UCR's shots fell short and Minnesota's overall strength finally took over. "Minnesota did a great job on what they do well," says Margaritis.

Korienne Campbell grabbed a game-high 11 rebounds, with Ashley Ellis-Milan and Leslie Knight added nine rebounds each. Zoe Harper snatched down six caroms.

"We were very aggressive going to the boards," adds U-M coach Pam Borton.

Defense and rebounding are the two most important keys for her team's winning games this season, Borton points out.

The following day, the Army-Minnesota men's basketball contest posted similar results but in a different way. The Gophers (1-0) were the quicker of the two in their 84-52 win, a contest that had both teams scoring exactly half their points in each half (Minnesota scored 42 points in each half, and Army, now 0-1, scored exactly 26 points in their respective halves).

U-M coach Tubby Smith was pleased with his first official win at the Barn. He especially liked his defense: "We are doing a good job on on-ball pressure," he says. However, Smith still want his players do better in defending away from the ball, and rotating better in switching and fighting off picks.

Although Minnesota held a seven-rebound edge over Army (43-36), the Gophers' glass work must get better, according to Smith. "We still need to improve in some areas," he simply says.

Senior forward Dan Coleman led U-M with 16 points. "My teammates did a good job in putting me in a position to get a good shot," he says. Damian Johnson came off the bench and added 12 points. Deflecting a reporter's praise for his performance, Johnson says, "There's not much to say -- we came out and played hard."

Some suspected senior guard Lawrence McKenzie's 0-for-5 performance, including misfiring on his three three-point attempts, to possibly still hampered by a sore groin, which kept him out of the team's final exhibition game and most of the week's practices.

"The groin is fine," McKenzie admits. Only scoring two free throws didn't faze him at the least. "It takes a team to win," he points out.

Neither victory by the two Minnesota clubs answer any lingering questions.

Despite their overwhelming rebounding advantage, the Gopher women didn't dominate their season-opening opponent: UC-Riverside early on went after Minnesota with their quickness, the Gophers' oft-questioned and long-standing weakness. On the other side, does the Minnesota men hoopsters have the type of backcourt that can match up with their opponents' -- dribble by dribble, shot by shot.

"Playmakers or not," says Coleman, who has confidence in his guards, "we have to focus on us."
The Gophers can't worry about others, adds McKenzie: "We need to worry about doing what we do."

Still, a win is a win: when basketball's dog days (February) rolls around, these wins for each U-M team will be one less they'll need to get.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

A long, winding losing road

Barely winning one game this season undoubtedly isn't what Tim Brewster envisioned in his wildest dreams upon taking the Minnesota Gophers football job earlier this year.

"It hurts. It really hurts," the first-year coach recently bemoaned.

I like the guy. He is a personable as the late Jim Wacker. Unfortunately, he is traveling that same long, winding losing road as Glen Mason's predecessor.

The media openly ridiculed Wacker because he would say some outlandish things, which overshadowed the fact that he was a decent coach who was over his head. He consistently made halftime adjustments, especially on offense. But too often than not, the Gophers were too far down on the scoreboard to mount any form of meaningful comeback.

It is way too soon to judge whether Brewster can coach or not. A 1-and-9 overall mark doesn't positively stand up to the unrealistic expectations of most observers-slash-coaching critics.

After all, this is Minnesota, who have been among the Big Ten's overrans for decades now.

His defense is totally over matched. After having felt that they had to score each time on the field, Brewster's offense has peaked to non-existent status.

A fellow columnist asked me last evening would Mason have done any better. Certainly -- these are his players. Maybe a couple more wins here and there. The road would not be as long but it still would be a losing one.

Perhaps Brewster should have not came on so strong, boldly proclaiming "Gopher Nation" like Columbus supposedly discovered America, in the months leading up to this season. Given the fact that I was just coming out of kindergarten the last time Minnesota played in the Rose Bowl, might have given the new coach pause before he went out and planted Pasadena sod on the practice field as motivation fodder.

More coaching and less gardening certainly is in order here. Brewster's field of dreams has become a Freddy Krueger special.

He and his staff has its work cut out for them. With Iowa and Wisconsin still remaining on the schedule, any improvement in the win column is extremely doubtful at best, and downright impossible at its worst. He can ill afford another listless effort as displayed by his team during last Saturday's homecoming loss to Illinois. When you allow 34 points and 597 total yards in the first half alone, the Gophers gave a new meaning for the word 'sorry.'

Is Brewster getting through to his players? Have they tuned his evangelistic-like pre-game talks to another channel in their minds? Do the players need less fire-and-brimstone and more Tackling 101? No, yes and yes.

"It is a painful process," says Brewster, speaking on rebuilding, not offering a coherent answer to the aforementioned questions.

Minnesota may have 10,000 lakes but the state don't have speed, something the Gophers must find and bring on board. Such states as Texas, Louisiana and Florida does, and U-M must get a strong recruiting foothold in those speed hot spots.

Although I believe he needs at least three years, with the school building a new stadium, set to open in a couple of years, Brewster's "Gopher Nation" might be short lived.

"We are very confident in our ability to recruit and get the players we need to have," the U-M head coach says confidently. "We will see our better day. The U of M will be great again."

If not, I'm afraid Brewster soon will find himself exiled from his nation to a land far, far away: 'Fired Coaches Island.'

Monday, November 5, 2007

Support Troy Davis

Troy Davis came within 24 hours of execution by the state of Georgia last July. He was granted a 90-day stay. The Georgia Supreme Court this month will decide if Davis gets a new trial.

I interviewed Davis last May (you can read the interview on www. He was found guilty in 1991 of murdering two persons, including a police officer, and sentenced to death. There was no physical evidence or a weapon found -- the prosecution's case entirely depended on witness testimony.

After his conviction, seven of the nine witnesses later recanted or contradicted their testimony. Many of them said they were pressured or coerced by the police. One of the witnesses, however, who has not recanted, is an individual many believe, including several witnesses who heard him admitted to the crime. Furthermore, nine individuals have signed affidavits, implicating this suspect as the actual shooter.

All along, Davis has maintained his position: He was not the shooter. In my interview, the young man reiterated this over and over again.

All his appeals have been exhausted, mainly because a federal death penalty appeal law that President Bill Clinton signed, which states that an appeal must be based on procedural issues that took place during the trial, not afterwards.

Amnesty International USA are among many organizations who have championed Davis' case. They have a petition on their web site, urging the Georgia's high court to seriously consider the case and rule in favor of a new trial for Davis.

That state's supreme court recently ruled that the young man who was sentenced to prison for having oral sex with a fellow high school student -- both individuals were underage at the time, be released. If they saw a miscarriage of justice in that case, surely the justices will see the same in Davis' verdict.

Troy Davis' life was temporary spared but if he isn't granted a new hearing or trial, his life again will be at the executioner's door.

Amnesty International urges all to sign the petition today. "Together we'll send a strong message to the Georgia authorities that when it comes to the death penalty, fairness matters," concludes executive director Larry Cox.

Friday, November 2, 2007

First impresions, part 2

It was Orlando "Tubby" Smith's first game on the sidelines of Williams Arena Thursday.

His thoughts on the Barn's raised floor, a true relic from college hoops' formative days: "It is a good environment. I can see why the Barn is so feared (by opponents)."

At times during Thursday's contest, Smith seemed uncomfortable, not knowing exactly how to handle himself. Should he stand, which he began the game? Should he sit on the bench, which is at least a foot below the floor, which he also did? Or should he find a seat and plant himself on the sidelines in front of the Gophers' bench, which Smith eventually settled upon. This revived a tradition first started with Clem Haskins, who used a maroon stool during games.

"I didn't know what to do," Smith admitted afterwards.

Prior to the game, in an unheard of move, Smith went over to the other side of the court, where the handicapped section is located, and personally greeted the fans. He also shook hands with Dave, a longtime event worker, and waved at his wife sitting some rows away.

I have known Dave for several years -- he is one of the few event workers who go out of their way to speak to me. He was thoroughly impressed with Smith.

"It was a wonderful way to start," says Dave, who long after the game started and ended, still was in awe. "It was marvelous."

Yes, Minnesota defeated M State by 26 points in a game that won't count in their season results. It was good that Smith began his first Gopher season on a positive note. But more importantly, he did so much more.

He won over folks like Dave, which can bode him well during the rough times, which there will be some in Gopherland.

"That was class," says Dave. I agree.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

First impressions

I spent part of the first of two nights Wednesday in the Barn, otherwise known as Williams Arena -- the other part was next door at the Sports Pavilion where I watched Minnesota ended its seven-match losing skid, knocking off Iowa in three games.

Before the skid, Minnesota was in second place in the Big Ten, and among the top ten in the weekly volleyball rankings. Seven matches later, the Gophers are out of the Top 25 for the first time in a year and trying to get back to .500.

It didn't matter that the Gopher volleyballers defeated an Iowa squad with only one conference win this fall. At this point of the season, with NCAA tournament hopes hanging in the balance, you take any victory any way, and against anyone, any way you can.

As some of the hideous Halloween costumes some fans wore, Wednesday's win wasn't pretty. The Hawkeyes uses an offspeed game, which Minnesota Head Coach Mike Hebert explained, "caught us napping. It took us a while to get used to."

The keys to victory came down to three B's: better passing, better trust among teammates and better communications. It was the lack of these keys which occurred during the seven-match skid, the Minnesota coach pointed out.

"The team seemed to trust each other more," adds Hebert. "The communication was better as we got into the match."

There also was a fourth B -- better talent: Other than a momentary letdown in Game 2, and a slow start in the third game, Minnesota never was in trouble against the spunky Hawks. The winners' better talent eventually wore the visitors down in the first Wednesday home match on the season.

After the win, the Gophers players huddled and jumped around for extended minutes in jubilation. It's been seven long matches since U-M have been able to leave the court victorious.

"It is great to win a match," admits Hebert. "We were confident coming into this match."

"We finally came out and proved ourselves," Brook Dieter concurred.

Meanwhile next door, the U-M women hoopsters had no problems getting past Minnesota State-Mankato in their exhibition game opener. I don't report scores and stats because they are all for nought -- they do not carry over into the regular season, which will begin next week.

For 18 minutes or so, Head Coach Pam Borton was pleased with her squad, especially defensively. After that, the team's ball pressure was so-so, as well as the Gophers' post play.

Sophomore centers Ashley Ellis-Milan and Zoe Harper are the primary post players, and neither player imposed their will on the smaller Mavericks on a consistent basis during the game.

"We are going to get better," pledges Ellis-Milan, who should start because her offensive game is a tad better than Harper. Supposedly the two are engaged in a battle for the starting center job. "We need to be more aggressive and tough, and learn how to work inside."

Although it was only an exhibition, Gopher fans saw what most teams plan to do to Emily Fox -- go at her hard. Which is what the Mavericks did early on. Put pressure on her full court. Make her work. Take her out of the game.

The junior point guard, who people -- including her coach -- wants to make into the second coming of Lindsay Whalen, will have to deal with pressure "and have to get used to that," notes Borton.

Korriene Campbell also debuted as a starter at small forward. "I feel really comfortable shooting and passing," the sophomore says. Maybe but I didn't see it in her shot, which is often painful to watch. Still her rebounding and aggressiveness still is in top form, which Minnesota will need more from her than a lot of scoring.

My first impression -- too early to judge. Even the players agree.

"We are getting ready for the season," concludes Campbell.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Sneaking around the rules

Baseball's hot stove league is at full blast, and again Blacks are the ones getting burned.

Major League Baseball supposedly has a rule that requires clubs to interview persons of color whenever managerial openings occur. Cincinnati hired Dusty Baker as its new manager last month.

What about the New York Yankees? By now you should know Joe Torre received a win-or-out-the-door ultimatum during the playoffs. His team won one of two games after that. Then we witnessed the longtime manager's status dangled like yesterday's wash while the Yankees brain (?) trust met. Torre was offered a one-year contract full of silly incentives that they knew he wouldn't agree to, and the manager walked away.

Supposedly Torre's replacement is Joe Girardi, which at last glance, isn't Black.

Now it's reported that the Los Angeles Dodgers, who openly made their intentions known that they didn't want Grady Little back as skipper, now are talking with Torre for the yet-to-be-opened job. If Little doesn't soon resign, he certainly is a fool, especially knowing that your employer don't want you around any more.

Whether the Dodgers hire Torre or not is not the question. Rather what happened to the person of color rule ? It seems like the "out-of-sight, out-of-mind" clause has been invoked.

It seems that Commissioner Bud Selig, a classic waffler when it comes to sticking to rules, is going to give Los Angeles a pass because of their history of diversity.

What? Just because they once had Jackie Robinson? That was over five decades ago, and the team was stationed in Brooklyn.

I can count the number of Dodgers managers on either hand -- let me see . . .


What's good is a rule when it can be easily ignored, get around, or be winked at while doing business as usual.

The problem with such rules is that it forces teams to put on a diversity dog-and-pony show. The NFL's Rooney Rule is a classic example. Even though the league can boast about the few Black head coaches it has; that there were two coaching in last year's Super Bowl, look at how many other Blacks get the perfuctionary interview, complete with lunch or dinner, and a go-back-home card at the end. Meanwhile, White owners continue down the Great White Way as they hire a new coach, who usually is the same skin color as they.

Unless some teeth is added rules regarding interviewing and hiring persons of color, then persons such as Selig is nothing but all bark. Name an individual who wants to be a party to such charades. Hardly anyone with any semblance of pride will go into an interview, knowing that they are only a notch on the affirmative action belt.

Years ago, I applied for a position at a Midwestern college (the name is being withheld not to protect the guilty but because it happened so long ago). I got a return response, saying thanks for the interest but no thanks.

Then several weeks later, this same school called my home, wanting me to call them back collect. At the time I was home visiting my terminally ill father. I did call the school, who told me they wanted me to spend two days interviewing for the position.

After my father's funeral, I went to the interview. Almost immediately, it was crystal clear why I was there -- they were hoping that I was impressed enough with the campus to want to work there.

Only one interviewer came clean and told me that I was needed for affirmative action purposes only. I might add, that official was the only one who genuinely wanted me to come there because he felt I was the right person for the job.

Of course, I didn't take the job. I told them at the end of the two-day ordeal that I would not be interested, even if they offered it. But I truly appreciated the free hotel room and the meals.

In sports or whatever field, full diversity will only be truly achieved in this country when it becomes more than a token act. This is the case in hiring baseball managers of color.

Diversity will be nothing but a three or four-letter word. Few or none.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Support the November 2 National Blackout

Historically, the word 'black' always meant something bad. Black cat. Black magic.

Black people.

According to Webster's Dictionary, among one of its meanings, 'blackout' means "to impose." Which is what Chicago-based attorney and national radio host Warren Ballentine has called for.

Beginning October 29 through November 2, Ballentine is calling for all Black Americans to take part in a National Blackout.

Look at the things that are happening in this country: unequal justice rapidly increasing. Black women popping up dead without a peep of media attention. President Bush commutes Scooter Libby's sentence but does not life a finger about six young Blacks -- the Jena 6.

Hate crimes, such as hanging nooses where Blacks can easily see them, are simply played of as pranks. Bush vetoes legislation to expand the State Children's Health Insurance Program, claiming that it costs too much, "but we can fund billions of dollars for a war," says Ballentine, who hosts a morning talk show on XM Radio (Channel 169) and on several Radio One stations around the country.

When I first learned of Ballentine's plan, it clearly reminded me of James Baldwin's Blues for Mister Charlie. It was about the Black citizens of a Southern town who chose not to work for one day, and how it affected Whites.

Blacks spend an estimated $715 billion a year in the U.S., at least two billion a day. If we stop spending our money for one day, what impact that would make. "I want to scare the bejeeves out of the boys on Wall Street, Capitol Hill, and the lobbyists, and let them know that enough is enough," explains Ballentine. "As taxpaying citizens, we are tired of being taken advantage of and being lied to."

November 2 is National Blackout day. I am participating, and I urge you as well. I am keeping my hard-earned bucks in my pocket all week. No grocery shopping. I've filled up my gas tank so that I won't have to go there as well.

Why stop buying a few days before November 2, Ballentine was asked. "I don't want to come out and call it a one-week blackout," he says. "But if everybody gets everything by October 29 -- get your gas, toilet tissue, food, everything you need -- that means Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday that you are not spending money. Now, essentially a one-day blackout has turned into a four-day blackout. That's eight billion dollars that will not be in this economy."

Almost every caller to Ballentine's show claims they will support the Blackout. But of course, there are some who don't, such as a White caller. "Do the Blackout," the person urged, "but why don't you do something else. Just stay at home so we (Whites) don't have to see you."

"I have had a death threat, but I don't worry about things like that because I am a child of God," Ballentine points out.

Yes, we know that Denzel Washington's new movie also premieres November 2. "If you go see that movie (that day), you are paying Universal (the movie's distributors) not Denzel. He already has been paid," says Ballentine.

Furthermore, if this National Blackout is to be successful, Blacks must not make a mad dash to stores in the days prior to and on the days immediately following it. If stores and other businesses, most of which are corporate owned, have a major increase in sales as a result, then the Blackout will not create the impact that those of us who are participating wants to see.

The producers of the American economy, along with elected officials in Washington, need to feel the pain, if only for a few days.

We as Blacks in this country must also realize that our money is just as good as others. That our concerns are as real as others. That we are just as relevant as other groups. We need to make Mister Charlie Economy sit up and take notice of persons of color as serious economic players -- thus far we have just been getting economically played in this country.

The National Blackout is just the beginning. "We are calling for a national march on Washington after the National Blackout," notes Ballentine. Check out his Web site for more details.

"I am trying to awaken the social conscience of the American people," concludes Ballentine. "If we don't wake up and see what is going on in this country, one day we are going to wake up and say, 'What went wrong in this country?'

"I am not just talking about Black folk, but (all) the American people," he says.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Still want BTN

I never met Michael Rosenberg of the Detroit Free Press, but I think I have found an ally.

Rosenberg recently wrote about the ongoing Big Ten Network (BTN) and Comcast on carrying it. BTN wants to be placed on the same basic cable tier as ESPN, while Comcast wants to stash it on a sports tier, where customers must pay extra. "We don't want to burden our customers with something they don't want," Comcast Midwest region communications director Patrick Paterno told Rosenberg.

This is the same crap that Minnesotans are hearing from the Comcast folks: they control both cable franchises in Minneapolis and St. Paul. They even put a channel on, which only shows a stupid message that the BTN will be there, if only they do what Big Brother Cable wants.

"This is a big money hungry company that plays to win," writes Rosenberg.


Last month I wrote that we as fans always are caught in the middle, getting squeezed (or something else, but I will keep this clean) by feuding sides. No one is willing to give, and those who want to watch the Gophers (well, maybe not football this fall) are left in the dark unless they buy a satellite dish or head to some sports bar.

Comcast isn't local, whether here in Minnesota or Michigan, or anywhere else in the Midwest. They are East Coast folk, Wall Street types -- they wouldn't know a Gopher, Wolverine or a Spartan from a hole in a wall. Or in their heads.

They only know one thing, as backup singers for the O'Jays -- For The Love of Money.

Comcast won't back down. They are propagandists that would make a former Soviet Union government official proud and envious.

They are as much looking out for me as a runaway train at night. If they did, Comcast wouldn't burden me with programming I don't want. Such as a zillion shopping channels, fifty MTV's and endless informerical garbage that currently crowds our local cable lineup.

But as Big Brother Cable claims, they are looking out for me, deciding for me what I want or don't want. The only way Comcast will change, if ever, is by flooding their phone lines, demanding that BTN be added. I do, every chance I get, as well as in person when I pay my monthly cable bill, which has increased 800 percent over my 20-plus years as a cable customer. It has gone up under previous regimes as Rogers, Paragon and Time Warner, before Comcast assumed their present money gouging position a couple of years ago.

For full disclosure, I have not added a single movie channel, or buy pay-per-view movies and such. In fact, several channels I loved watching, such as BET Jazz, was dropped last year in favor of more MTV channels. Oh, yeah -- my bill also went up.

Hear me Comcast -- I want BTN. Like Helen Reddy, hear us Big Ten fans roar.

You can read my "Cable Wars" column on Rosenberg's take is on the Free Press' web site.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

A sneak preview

Annually I can only stand to watch one NBA preseason game. Actually one preseason game of any sport typically is my limit. I want to see the players in game situations; any subtle changes in their reactions, whatever. I chose not to get overly optimistic or downcast at this time.

After all, these games don't count. I am an advocate of a couple of preseason contests, one home and one away, and not charge fans. After all, there are nothing more than glorified practice games.

With this said, I attended Tuesday's Minnesota Timberwolves-Indiana Pacers preseason game. It was the team's first home practice game of the 2007 preseason. The team has been world weary, beginning training camp for the first time overseas, then playing a couple of contests on foreign soil. Then a few more practice contests back in the States.

Like watching those movie trailers, which often times you are really seeing the best scenes because the rest of the flick is junk, this is what Tuesday's Minnesota Timberwolves - Indiana Pacers preseason game was like for me. I got a glimpse of what the upcoming 2007-08 regular season will be like in the post-Kevin Garnett era. (For full disclosure, I am one of two reporters -- Jerry Zgoda is the other, who witnessed the team's first ever practice, long before KG started playing high school ball.)

Like watching an over hyped film, the 2007-08 Wolves' slogan: See What They Can Do, fails to live up to its silly billing.

"We're not a very good team," says Wolves Coach Randy Wittman during his post-game comments, stating the obvious. "We still quite not knowing what to do."

This is sad but true. Wittman has a squad with so many new faces -- he still hasn't made his final cuts yet. He still hasn't settled on a starting lineup or rotation.

Oh, he has some pieces to work with:

Al Jefferson showed the home fans what he is capable of, grabbing a mess of rebounds (I don't get into preseason stats because they don't carry over into the regular season). "Al have to continue to do the other things," says Wittman, which includes being able to effectively play interchangeably at the '4' and '5.'

Corey Brewer has some hops along with his defense, but he has only six practice games on his yet-to-begin rookie season. He got schooled a couple of times by Indiana. Goodbye Florida, hello prime time. "They call it the NBA for a reason," notes Brewer's first NBA coach. "You better respect your opponent, whether you know him or not."

Brewer's college teammate, Chris Richard, is a legitimate beast inside, something Minnesota has lacked for years.

I also like Ryan Gomes, who in my opinion, is the steal of the multi-player, one-sided deal that sent Garnett to Boston this summer. He has some athletic ability and if he can show more consistency, he can be a keeper.

But no point guard: Randy Foye and Sebastian Telfair both are out with injuries, which doesn't help Wittman getting his offensive schemes fine tuned. "We still need a little bit more direction," admits the coach. "We need those guys back but they must get healthy first."

Theo Ratliff, supposedly a deal throw-in for salary cap reasons, will be the Wolves' starting center. "Some people are surprised about Theo but I'm not," Wittman concurs. The veteran center reminds me of Ervin Johnson, a big man who will do his job underneath and won't get in the way. Johnson was the last good pivot the Wolves has had.

"He can rebound, score and block shots," says Wittman on Ratliff. After missing the entire 2006-07 campaign, save for a couple of games, because of his back, Ratliff "is healthy -- he's a great weapon for us," proclaim the coach. "He covers up a lot of (defensive) sins" with his shot blocking.

Regarding the game itself -- the Wolves got down early, came back and got close a couple of times, only to see Indiana, who never trailed, maintain their distance en route to a practice win.

Afterwards, I was asked my opinion: Much of what I saw was like watching a sneak preview of a B-movie.

Mostly bad.

"We've got 10 days left," concludes Wittman on the amount of time the Wolves has before its Nov. 2 regular season opener. That is not nearly enough time to right a multitude of wrongs with this team.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

She didn't have to do it

Once a world-class sprinter -- some considered her the world's best, Marion Jones had the track world at her feet. However, poor choices eventually threw all of that away.

Jones recently admitted that she took steroids during the time she was winning medals at the 2000 Olympics. When asked by a federal grand jury, she testified under oath that she did not take anything illegal.

Her admission came in a letter to family and friends: one of her friends supposedly leaked information from the letter to a newspaper. I don't think this is what Dionne Warwick meant when she sang "That's What Friends Are For."

And the Beatles' "With A Little Help From My Friends" certainly wasn't Jones' theme song, either: she took steroids from a former track coach, who is now on trial. A husband and her baby's daddy, both of whom also got popped for being juiced, most likely were bad influences in Jones' life as well.

Jones' admission, which also included her returning her Olympic medals, just was the iceberg tip of her problems. The International Olympic Committee most likely will take out their eraser and permanently remove her name from their record books, take away her world championships, pursue her for prize money and appearance fees, and a possible ban from future Olympics in any shape or form.

Can't you hear the "I don't you so" chorus humming in the background?

She didn't have to do it. Jones was a NCAA champion in both basketball and track at North Carolina before she took on the world. She could run like the wind. She also did some broadcasting work on the side, and wasn't bad at it -- Jones had a future career in the works after her running days was over.

Well, they are -- but now Jones' future is very uncertain.

She's a cheater. She's been stripped of everything but her shattered pride.

She didn't have to do it.

Jones is like countless star athletes, who despite their God-given ability along with work ethic, often operates out of fear. Fear of losing. Fear of one day no longer in the spotlight. Fear of no longer world class but just an Average Joe or Josephine.

As a result, they listen to the wrong people. Too often they take the wrong advice. Bad decisions ultimately becomes a house of cards.

In Jones' case, her wrongdoing isn't individually isolated. Her fellow members of the U.S.'s 4 x 100 relay team also will lose their medals as well. Even if they didn't do anything wrong, their names, their accomplishments are forever tarnished.

Bad decisions often affect more than the individual but others as well.

It's all well and good that Jones fessed up to loved ones -- even to us, the public. Even those who are now singing in high pitch, "I told you so.'

But the ones Jones should be on her knees, now that she is in the contrite mood, is not the track world or the IOC. It's her track team members who she should be writing to every day for the rest of her life, begging their forgiveness.

Because she didn't have to do it.

Monday, October 8, 2007

What would M & M do

Rev. Al Sharpton is at again.

He plans to protest outside Madison Square Garden in New York City, demanding that New York Knicks coach and president Isiah Thomas apologize for remarks he supposedly said to a former female employee, who last week won a sexual harassment case against Thomas and the team.

During testimony, it was learned that Thomas once explained to Amacha Browne Sanders the difference of when a Black man and a White man calls a Black woman a female dog. The jury later couldn't 't decide if Thomas should pay Sanders, which led to a mistrial on that issue. But if he indeed had said this, if anything, Thomas is guilty of stupidity.

But does this warrant Sharpton parading in front of MSG in a sandwich board, leading "Thomas must go!" chants? What would Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X -- M & M, do in this case?

I'd suspect these two 'real leaders' probably would have release a written statement, decrying Thomas' actions, and move on to more pressing issues. Such as President Bush's veto of a child insurance bill. The war in Iraq. Congress continuing throwing billions to it.

Funding private security hit men with federal dollars in Iraq. Unequal justice in Jena, La.

Troy Davis, whose death penalty case will be heard in Georgia Supreme Court, in November. Any number of important things.

This shows leadership, not show-off leadership.

Sharpton and his like again will draw mainstream media's spotlight for his protest, diverting attention away from more important issues. Again, he will pat himself on the back, just like he did over the firing of Don Imus, which the good reverend took credit for, when actually it was the adverse effect on the bottom line that ultimately did Imus in, rather than Sharpton's mouth.

Calling for Thomas' head over a civil suit is nonsense. It only fuels the daily yakety-yakers on sports talk radio. Should he be fired? That's for his bosses to decide -- Thomas has done much worse as a basketball executive in his Knicks tenure that he has earned a pink slip several times over.

Do I condone what he supposedly said to Browne? Absolutely not. She had her day in court and proved her case that the Knicks, and Thomas, were wrong. Collect your millions at the door and go home, I say.

Did I condoned what Imus and his gang said about the Rutgers' women basketball team last spring? Absolutely not, but I didn't call for his firing either. His bosses eventually decided it was best to part company with the longtime loudmouth, who reportedly soon will return to the airwaves -- just as I predicted.

Sharpton is just being Al -- a manufactured Black leader. His protest in front of MSG will be topic number one on his national radio show. Some chowder head sports junkie will use it as verification that Thomas should be axed.

What would M & M do? Like me, absolutely nothing.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Walking while Black

Next week will be my fifth trip to St. Cloud, Minnesota in six months. The Council on Black Minnesotans (CBM) will hold hearings October 9 on a variety of issues, racial profiling notwithstanding.

Racial profiling of Blacks and other persons of color is nothing new in St. Cloud. The problem is that too many city police officers won't stop. Despite cries from the Black community; despite a state legislative report that showed St. Cloud as having the highest number of racial stops in Minnesota; and despite a police chief that told me last year that he is weeding out the longtime practice, it still occurs.

It's demoralizing when you pulled over by some cop, fully knowing that you did not nothing wrong. Especially when you are with friends and family -- you have to go through the humiliating drill of a police officer giving you the fifth degree, delaying you from reaching your destination.

Simply because you are Black.

Driving while Black isn't new -- it occurs nationwide. It has been around as long as Blacks began driving cars in this country. Black comedians often joke about it: D.L. Hughley last week on his HBO special talks about how Whites can get away with talking to police any way they want but not Blacks. If persons of color did, they will resemble Swiss cheese or worse as a result, Hughley surmised.

"They (police officers) stop you and laugh," notes St. Cloud State professor Michael Davis, "but I don't find anything funny about it all."

But 'walking while Black,' which occurred to St. Cloud State University professor and department head Dr. Luke Tripp is a relatively new occurrence.

We first learned about the incident shortly after it occurred in early July by retired SCSU instructor Mytle Cooper, a frequent critic of both the school and the city in regard to its treatment of Blacks. We also received the copy of Tripp's letter to St. Cloud Police Chief Dennis Ballantine, detailing the ordeal and formally complaining about the two officers who stopped him, supposedly on the pretense that he stole a purse.

The 18-year city resident who walks to work daily was stopped by St. Cloud police officer Sue Proshek, who told Tripp that she mistakenly took his book bag as a purse. If the professor had the nerve to commit such a crime in broad daylight, and continue walking with it in his hand, he is a dumb purse snatcher. The false charge alone is insulting enough -- being falsely stopped in itself is embarrassing.

According to Tripp, it took almost two weeks for Chief Ballantine to respond to his letter, and even after a month later in a meeting with him, the police chief still was turtle-like in his response to the professor's concerns.

In this meeting, which also included SCSU professor Semya Hakim, Nancy Jessee, who represented new school president Earl Potter, and other school and city folk, Ballantine told Tripp that he can't act on complaints against his officers unless a formal complaint is filed. Apparently the July 10 letter that Tripp sent to him didn't constitute as a formality. After the meeting, the professor said he did file a formal complaint, but as of now, no action has been taken.

We finally went to press with the story ("Council on Black Minnesotans takes on St. Cloud racial profiling") this week after Tripp decided to talk publicly about it (see

"The city is much more backwards than the campus," Tripp says of St. Cloud, whose too many of its police officers believe that they live not in the heart of central Minnesota but in Dixie.

He says that the October 9 CBM hearing, which he plans to attend, should finally bring the racial profiling issue to the forefront as important enough to be dealt with. "Once we educate more people about this," he adds, "then hopefully we will be better able to mobilize (Blacks) and bring more pressure on the city council and the mayor."

However, Davis, a St. Cloud State education professor currently on sabbatical, isn't as optimistic. The CBM have been in the city before, "They come and listen, and that's it," notes Davis. "We have been talking abut this (racial profiling) for years," notes Davis. "You have all these meetings, and they are like 'feel-good' sessions. You go there, and they say this and that, and nothing happens."

When Blacks are silent, afraid to rock the boat or both, then city officials easily can dismiss a charge such as Tripp's, Davis continues. Despite Ballantine's pledge that he will clean up things in his department, "no real change" have been seen by Davis and others.

"It is alarming," CBM executive director Lester Collins says on the continuing problems in St. Cloud. He disagrees with Davis -- next week's hearing will be productive, he promises. "We are planning to forward our findings, concerns and (the St. Cloud's Black community) voice to (the Minnesota legislature) and back to the city officials themselves."

As I head back to St. Cloud or as it is better known to many Blacks, "White Cloud," it will be interesting to see what kind of hearing indeed will take place: the productive and educational one that Tripp and Collins foresee, or another Dr. Phil session as Davis fears. As the Black citizenry of St. Cloud will not act like the guy in "Network" -- "Mad as hell and won't take it anymore." Or go back quietly into the night, allowing St. Cloud police officers to continue acting like Deputy Dawgs in their views about Blacks driving , and now walking around their fair White city.

Either way, I will file a report for our October 17 edition.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

A living history book in the heart of central Minnesota

I spent a lovely Monday evening with St. Cloud State University's associate multi-cultural dean Dr. Carolyn Ruth Williams. A simple interview turned into a thoroughly history lesson which I was a very attentive student.

Her office inside the school's College of Education building is windowless. Stepping inside, you step into history that no book could rightfully tell. Pictures and letters of gratitude from former students. Memories from her travels overseas. Overflowing bookshelves. Awards that somehow got lost in fully recognizing her numerous accomplishments.

Look up multi-cultural in the dictionary and you'll see Williams, a proud woman whose family roots intertwined through Cherokee, Greek and African. Her uncle is a Tuskegee Airman. Her grandfather started a church down south.

I never met someone who worked at NASA, which Williams once ran a special program.

I never met anyone whose father once studied under Dr. W.E.B. DuBois, which Williams proudly allowed to slip out during our discussions.

I never met a granddaughter of a woman who once served meals to President Abraham Lincoln.

I never met a Black person whose family got their repartition, their "40 acres and a mule" rightly promised to Blacks after slavery -- Williams' family got several acres of land in northern Alabama, which still today belongs to her family.

I never met anyone who loves school as much as she -- Williams has three Masters degrees, a Ph.D., studied in England and China. "I always loved going to school," she unabashedly admits. Her parents fully supported her, as did her husband James, who allowed his wife to take sabbaticals from their marriage as she pursued her educational and professional aspirations, living in separate quarters, several states apart at times.

I never met anyone who after our official interview officially ended, wanted to continue to talk. She wouldn't allow me to leave without giving me something; as hard as I tried, she wouldn't take no as my answer. Dr. Williams gave me a new book on Black politics.

We continued our discussion at a local eatery, which one of Williams' students once took her, and the dean fell in love with it. We talked and talked even after it closed its doors for the business day, sharing family stories and personal recollections. The couple of hours seemed like a few minutes.

Williams later e-mailed me, thanking me for the interview, saying I was a God-send. This again is a first for me -- typically I believe that most interviewees rather have root canal work than having to endure my sometimes rambling questions. I am one of those rare reporters, who act like I don't know anything and that the person or persons I am talking with is the expert.

Something that I did not do during our first encounter, I totally disagree with the longtime educator. Instead, Williams was the God-send, a refreshing cap to a day, that up to that point, was rather long and tedious. I sincerely hope that St. Cloud State University students, faculty and staff soon realize this as well, and give Williams her proper respect, which has been long overdue and her work long underappreciated.

(Williams' interview is in the September 27 print and on-line edition of the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder --

Friday, September 28, 2007

National security or personal insecurity

Yesterday I was in the check-out line at a local KMart. Just ahead of me was a man with his purchase ready to be rung up. He requested also a pack of cigarettes.

"Can I see your ID?," the female clerk asked the customer.

His face expressed utter disbelief. "That's the law," she quickly fired back.

The customer looked at me. I looked at him. He looked at her. She went over to the locked cabinet to fill the customer's request.

To me, the man didn't look like he was trying to pull something past the vigilant clerk. He was trying to sneak a thrill like some underage teenager, hoping that a couple of isolated peach fuzz would get him noticed that he has reached the age of maturity, that he could make an adult purchase and sneak out the store without detection.

As the man reached in his back pocket and pulled out his wallet to heed her request, still surprised that he was being carded, softly said, "I'm 72 years old."

Seventy-two years old?

A member of Our Greatest Generation: He lived through the Great Depression. He survived World War II, perhaps even served in it. He endured years of Jim Crowism and other such indignities a Black man of his age surely faced.

He have earned the right to live the rest of his days without such hassles. This man should be able to buy whatever he wants without having to prove his age. And he can't even buy a pack of smokes without showing some form of ID!

Has this country's national security craze reached such a low that a senior citizen can't be trusted to buy cigarettes without being questioned. Does he pose some sort of national threat?

This heightened my fear big time. Could this be a prelude to what I and every citizen, regardless of age, must deal with if Congress do pass a national ID law. You won't be able to vote, travel -- even buy a pack of smokes, without showing two forms of identification. It will give law enforcement types more power to stop us at any time, claiming national security, to check for not one, but two IDs.

A drivers license currently is an acceptable form of ID. But what if you don't drive? If a second photo ID is needed, what will be the cost?

I'm afraid it will cost us a whole lot more than money. It will tax our personal freedom in ways George Orwell never dreamed of. Big Brother will become King Kong. It will be 21st Century Checkpoint Charlie. Another personal infringement opportunity sadly added.

Personally I don't care to smoke, never had. But this 72-year-old has earned his right to do whatever he wish. It's still legal to buy cigarettes, but when did the law changed that seniors must be carded as teenagers and others born after 1982, the year the man moved into his late middle age years.

The senior didn't argue with the clerk, who brought him his smokes of choice. He quietly put away his drivers license and paid for his purchase. He left away without anything else to say.

I had hoped to catch him but when I got outside, but the 72-year-old man was gone, perhaps to get that drink: I earlier joked with him, suggesting that he may want to keep his ID out when he hit the bars later. He briefly smiled, but I could sense the disbelief on his well-worn face was still there, a face that had seen it all until now.

I wouldn't blame him one bit if the man did go and drown away the memory of this nonsense.

For the record, the clerk didn't ask me for any identification on my purchase of candy for a second-grade class, and a four-pack of orange cream soda for myself. I had prepared myself for such request -- after all, I am at least 20 years younger than the previous customer she carded.

It didn't happened, but I'm afraid soon it will.

I don't know what color it is this week on the national security alert meter, but my personal insecurity is at high.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

The O.J. I remember

When it was reported that O.J. Simpson was arrested on suspicion of robbery, it suddenly occurred to me what I have been missing ever since he first got in trouble back in the mid-1990s.

His films.

Never a Lawrence Olivier or Denzel Washington, Simpson did carve out a non-descript acting career, essentially cashing in on his celebrity status. He appeared in a few TV movies, including a series of one where he played a washed-up boxer with a little girl named Goldie by his side.

Simpson played a detective in the Police Squad movie, in which he was very funny. Perhaps his best role on screen. He also played a detective in a drama along with the late Elizabeth Montogomery, a mismatched salt-and-pepper police team. A pretty good movie I recall, but like the others I mentioned, haven't seen it on television lately.

And who can forget his non-award-winning role in The Towering Inferno, with Steve McQueen and Paul Newman. I think O.J. died in it -- in fact, I know he did because back then, and even now, the chances of a Black actor surviving through a disaster movie solely depends on their star status.

Certainly you remember Simpson in those Hertz commercials, hurling over suitcases in airports? Riveting stuff.

Why haven't ESPN Classic shown Simpson's greatest games as a collegian or NFL star? It was, after all, his athleticism, his winning the Heisman Trophy; his two-initial name that gave him fame in the first place. The game in which Simpson surpassed the 2,000-yard rushing mark as a Buffalo Bills runner, the first time in NFL history, is a better classic than some of the junk ESPN Classic purports as such.

Wouldn't it be great to see a O.J. Simpson film festival on TV Land or TV One's "Throwback Theater"! I would love to rent that Police Squad movie.

Instead, Simpson is only remembered as the one who got away with two murders. Having found not guilty began people to think that the American justice system is out of whack. Such thinking never surfaced when Whites were getting off for killing Blacks once upon a time, but as soon as O.J.'s verdict came down, the firestorm for change swept this country.

I always felt that after he was cleared that it was best for Simpson to leave the country and start anew. However, he is addicted to attention, the limelight -- an addiction that has caused him problems ever since. Simpson keep putting himself in crazy situations, such as this latest one.

O.J. keeps hoping that one day the American public will forgive him and allow him back into their good graces. Others who have done considerably less, have -- Martha Stewart got caught for insiders trading, serve jail time and now she's hawking her goods for Macy's. Richard Nixon left office in disgrace, but after a few years, he was considered a great statesman and tot a fond farewell at his funeral.

But Simpson's scarlet letter is much larger. It is a permanent marker that won't ever wash off.

Whether he broke into a Las Vegas hotel room, as Simpson is charged with along with carrying guns and kidnapping (?), is still debatable. If he indeed was invited to the room to get back his own stuff, then how can this be breaking and entering. If he was indeed secretly taped, as O.J. claims, what happened to former Washington D.C. mayor Marion (The B**** set me up) Barry seems childlike in comparison.

Simpson lost his benefit of the doubt card long ago. As a result, these charges might be just enough to land him in prison, which many thought he should be in the first place.

I rather see Simpson's past film work, his on-field exploits, again grace the small screen.

That's the O.J. Simpson I want to remember.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Open Season on Black Women

A Black woman from West Virginia was raped and beaten during a week of captivity at the hands of some White folk. Two Black females, within a week of each other, were found dead after being reported missing. A young Black woman went on vacation last spring and has not yet returned.

Where is the coverage?

Instead we hear the exploits of spoiled brats Paris Hilton and Britany Spears. When Laci Peterson popped up missing and later found dead, non-stop reports were the norm.

If she's White, it is breaking news. If she's blond and blue eyed, she automatically given superstar treatment in the media.

However, if the woman is Black, has short cropped, natural black hair -- even if she don't, her disappearance is barely mentioned. If she's beaten or abuse, the media, with blinders in place, shrugs its shoulders.

Media fairness seemingly goes only to the fairest of skin.

Black women are disappearing these days at an alarming rate. Does anyone care? Is it open season on Black women?

A Black woman disappears from her home in Milwaukee and barely gets a milk carton notice. Her case still is unsolved.

Twenty-four-year old Tamika Huston's body was found August 12, over a year after she first was reported missing from her Spartanburg, S.C. home. A man Huston supposedly was dating was arrested and charged with her murder.

Almost immediately after local police began investigating, Huston's loved ones distributed filers, held news conferences and established a Web site. Other than Greta Van Susteran briefly mentioning her on Fox News Channel, a story last March on America's Most Wanted, and a report on National Public Radio, her case rarely saw national attention.

Not unlike Natalee Holloway, the 18-year-old from Alabama, who went to Aruba last spring and haven't been heard from since. But the entire island almost has been blamed for Holloway's disappearance.

Not unlike Jennifer Wilbanks, who we later learned just walked away from her impending marriage because of cold feet. How the nation was outraged over her brief disappearance, and the 24-hour coverage she got before she eventually resurfaced.

These women, along with Peterson, whose husband later was later convicted of murdering her, are White.

Did you hear about 24-year-old Latoyia Figueroa of Philadelphia? Figueroa was five months pregnant and a mother of a 7-year-old daughter. After being missing for over a month, Figueroa's dead body was found 10 miles west of her city. Her ex-boyfriend has been charged with two murders.

Not only were Figueroa and Huston didn't deserve to die, their disappearance didn't even earned the respect they deserve. Their cases never got the media's light of day. But if they had been White . . .

No woman, regardless of race, deserves to be abducted, senselessly beaten -- sometimes to death, or sexually violated. It doesn't matter whether she's Black or White, light or dark, model thin or queen size. But when reporting, either by law enforcement or media, is so obviously lopsided and unbalanced, mainly because of race, it should matter and must be called out as such.

In too many eyes, it must be hunting season for Black females in this country. Their safety and well being is seemingly of little concern.

In my eyes, however, this is dead wrong.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

You don't say

Like Jack Nicholson, when Tom Cruise ask for the truth, most people can't handle it.

Appearing on HBO's Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel, Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb said that Black quarterbacks face greater scrutiny than their White counterparts. "It's just reality," he says. "It's something that I've been a part of and other (Black) quarterbacks before and after me have been a part of."

You don't say, Donovan. For further proof of what McNabb is talking about, please check out New York Times columnist William C. Rhoden's book, "The Field Generals," where he chronicles the history of the Black quarterback. Read about what Marlon Briscoe had to do, just to get a one-time tryout at quarterback. Read about other Black quarterbacks, including Doug Williams, the first Black quarterback to start and win a Super Bowl with Washington, and how they endured the endless questioning of their abilities, smarts, whatever.

All because of the color of their skin.

The quarterback position is the most scrutinized in all of sports. They love you only when you're winning. But throw a bad pass or miss an open receiver, or don' t get that crucial first down in the game's critical moments, and your name becomes mud. You're only loved if you are the backup QB -- people always think they can do the job better. But once the backup takes over as starter, then the role reversal begins.

A vicious circle that triples if you're Black. That's what McNabb is saying. The criticism is twinged more if you are a person of color.
And only a Black man knows this.

Yet Whites immediately dismiss what he says. A Philadelphia Daily News columnist wrote that McNabb must get rid of a chip on his shoulder.

It's not a chip, but a mountain that he and other Black QB's must shoulder. The critical spotlight is always hotter for them than it is for Whites.

But only a Black man knows this.

Ever since Tarvaris Jackson was named the starter by the Minnesota Vikings, 'white flags' immediately were hoisted. He's too young, critics say. Then after throwing four interceptions in a 20-17 overtime loss at Detroit, cries for his replacement intensified.

A St. Paul Pioneer Press columnist urges the coaching staff to place Jackson on the injury list because he "tweak" his groin. Coach Brad Childress should keep Jackson on the sideline "with honor," wrote Tom Powers. "Just say the quarterback is too hurt to play," Powers suggests.

Other Twin Cities columnists also wrote similarly. Powers' paper now are running polls, asking readers on who should start as Vikings QB: Jackson, Brooks Bollinger, or Kelly Holcomb. It doesn't matter that both Bollinger and Holcomb are just as inexperienced as the second-year Jackson. After three weeks, it's time for change.

These same scribes years ago expressed the same lack of confidence when former Minnesota coach Dennis Green named Daunte Culpepper as starter.

The fact that both Culpepper and Jackson are Black only heightens the criticism. Only if you aren't Black that you can't read between the lines. Only if you aren't Black that you can't clearly see just how much their criticism play a part in planting doubting seeds in fans, most of whom already are Monday morning quarterbacks and coaches in their own right.

Only if you aren't Black that you can't fully understand what McNabb is saying. You won't see White sports columnists ever walking a block, let alone a mile in his shoes.

All quarterbacks start out young and inexperienced. Then when are they going to get the necessary reps to be good, or be fairly evaluated, if they are not allowed the chance to fail, in order to eventually succeed.

Peyton Manning started out young, as did Joe Montana and Steve Young. Even Roger Staubach and John Elway suffered through growing pains before they eventually found their winning groove.

Why is it that White QBs are allowed that luxury, while Black QBs must play with a burned neck because the white heat from columnists, fans and others breathing down their necks. Why is it that Black QBs must be grizzled and well worn in order to prove themselves worthy to stand behind center?

"Black or White quarterbacks, we all go through something because that's the life of a quarterback," says Tennessee's Vince Young, one of sic Black starting NFL quarterbacks, along with McNabb, Jackson, Steve McNair of Baltimore, Jason Campbell of Washington and Jacksonville's David Garrard.

You don't say Vince. He somehow forgot how many questioned his abilities last year because he flunked some fancy pre-draft test. He forgot how many thought someone else and not him was suited to be drafted No. 1 overall.

Young must think that he somehow will escape a well-known fact but rarely admitted. That he won't be roundly criticize, much of which will be racially inspired. He won't, so long as he exceeds on the field.

Because when he don't, and you better believe Young will have bad days -- all QBs do, his hue will play a part in the unbalanced criticism and unnecessary analysis from columnists, most of them are White.

Unless his hue changed, Young will experience it, if he hasn't already. He and other Black quarterbacks do. And always will.

What Donovan McNabb said is right. However, Whites can't handle the truth.

And they never will.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Have you seen them?

This year's WNBA catchphrase is "Have You Seen Her?" How appropriate that was, especially during the playoffs.

I am not ashamed to say it but I love watching women hoops. Whether it's college or pro, women basketball is the closest thing to seeing the game played the way it should.

Below the rim. Precise offensive patterns. Proper screens. Mid-range outside shooting. Passionate play.

But I often had to play Sherlock Holmes to find the games. It might be on NBA TV, or might not. It might be on ESPN or ESPN2, or maybe not.

It might be on 7:00 pm Eastern time, or may be later. You had to catch it if you can.

Even Sunday's game five of the championship finals, the deciding game in which either Phoenix or Detroit would walk away with the trophy, the start time or channel was not listed in my local newspaper's daily TV guide. I lucked up and found it anyway:

By the way, the Mercury brought Phoenix its first pro basketball title by leading Detroit from tip to buzzer.

The WNBA has completed its 11th season. The primary reason why it is still around is two words: David Stern. As long as the NBA commish loves having it around, and co-signs his league's annual subsidies, the WNBA will continue to exist.

"The WNBA is the best league," boasts Ann Meyers-Drysdale, who in her first year as Phoenix general manager, brings home a crown.

However, she forgets to mention -- It's the women's only major league pro sport in America. The only hoops game in town during the summer.

Nonetheless, the WNBA continues to be seen through minor league eyes., and treated even less.

The 2007 post season was perhaps the WNBA's most exciting in history. Several first-round games were decided in overtime. For the second consecutive season, the defending champion played in the finals, and the championship series went the distance.

However, did you see them? ESPN, supposedly the WNBA's broadcast partner, preempted a couple of playoff match ups, including a triple-overtime thriller, in favor of the Little League World Series. I haven't seen such disrespect since the final game of the 1980 NBA Finals were tape-delayed and show as part of the late, late show.

But you won't hear that from WNBA President Donna Orender, who acts more like cheerleader than league top dog. When the league and ESPN announced a eight-year television package during the All-Star Game in July, both she and network exec refused to reveal the financial details. Quite a contrast to when the NBA's new TV package was released this summer.

Here are the details: Under the new ESPN/WNBA deal, each team will get approximately $2 million annually -- $26 million over the life of the contract. The NBA television deal with TNT, ABC and ESPN will net each team between $25-30 million.

No wonder Orender didn't want to talk about it. She got fleeced, but her cheery self won't publicly admit it.

"It still has a long way to go," USA Today's Oscar Dixon, who covers both the NBA and the WNBA, told me during All-Star weekend. When asked about the WNBA's long term survival, "I don't think it has reached its full potential."

Now that the season is over, many players are off to parts far and wide. The league stars head overseas, where the money is exceedingly better. At least, three times better.

The average salary for a WNBA player ranges from $32,500 for rookies, $50,000 for veterans, and a maximum $93,000 for superstars.
The average salary for a NBA player: $2 million

"We are on our hustle right now," says Washington Mystics forward DeLisha Milton-Jones. "I have not experienced a vacation since I started playing professional basketball."

"They got to make the money when they can make (it)," adds Detroit Shock coach Bill Laimbeer.

Is the WNBA concerned about their star players virtually all year round? The wear and tear? Players not fully recovering from nicks and pains incurred during the season? Shortening a female's career? All of the above? You don't see NBA stars hoopin' it up 12 months a year.

"I definitely think that is a concern for the WNBA, the team owners, GMs, etc.," says Indiana Fever star Tamika Catchings. "As a coach and a GM, I'm sure you are concerned with how much your players are playing." Not to think of, that many of them barely get back to their domestic club in time for the start of training camp -- many others make during it, and while still others, just get back in time for the season opening tip-off.

But according to Renee Brown, the WNBA second-in-command as basketball operations chief, the league aren't overly concerned about their players logging too much court time. "Not at all," she says. Playing overseas "is very competitive . . . the layout of their games are a lot different."

"The league was designed to allow players to play overseas," adds Dixon on the WNBA's summer schedule.

With the Olympics next summer, players such as Lauren Jackson and Penny Taylor may opt out and stay in their native Australia, to train for their national teams. Ditto for Russian Svetlana Abrosimova of Minnesota.

Another problem now facing the league: its collective bargaining agreement now expires.

Among the pressing issues include better health benefits and of course, better salaries. However, the two sides are apart is on the salary cap: the players want it higher along with a soft cap to allow teams to exceed it but not be penalized if they do not spend more than the salary cap. Also, the players want a better free agency system: currently, the teams have the right of first refusal, and there's no bidding for players. The clubs basically can re-sign the player, keeping them out of the free agent market.

Also, the WNBA players union wants shorter contracts that will allow veterans to seek free agency sooner. Their shelf life is exceedingly shorter than their male counterparts, especially with playing all year round.

Of course, the players know that they can't push too hard -- no matter that Commish Stern loves them, if he feels that the WNBA hoopsters are getting too big for their Nikes, he will pull the plug. He threaten years ago to do so, and the players gave in -- just like the NBAers did.

"Our every expectation is that we will reach an agreement that will be in the best interest of the league and its ongoing success and our players," predicts Orender.

Let's hope so -- but then again, will we know?

Have you seen them WNBA players?