Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Enough already!

Rev. Jeremiah Wright has become Sen. Barack Obama's Willie Horton. Sadly, it shouldn't be this way.

America claims to be the land of free speech, but when someone say something we don't like, we are quick to condemn and criticize. I heard the entire speech that Wright gave Monday at the National Press Club in Washington. Some of it I may had some problems, but for the most part, I had no problem with he said because he got the chance to say his peace entirely, not in 30-second sound bytes. I also heard the entire question-and-answer period, in which many of the questions were asinine at worst, and sophomoric at best. The journalists there generally weren' t interested in hearing his side, but were mainly disappointed that Wright didn't fall on his sword, or came in on his hands and knees, begging for mainstream forgiveness.

All they wanted was some quick quips to use, to create more distractions from the campaign. To make news, when there wasn't any to make.

It proves two things: One, America isn't ready for a Black man or woman in the White House. And two, that all Black people aren't joined by the hip.

Why should Obama be held responsible for what his former pastor says? Should the Illinois senator run, tackle and mussel Wright?

Was Ronald Reagan held responsible for what the late Rev. Jerry Farwell said during his campaign? Did the press take Reagan to task for kicking off his presidential campaign at a Confederate landmark?

Of course not. We all know that all Whites do not think or speak alike. However, this right never has been extended to Blacks in this country.

The mainstream press, which too often serves as America's information gatekeepers -- a role too many Americans have allowed them to assume, doesn't want to present the entire picture, the entire speech, along with stupid questions, to put Wright's words in its entire context, and allow the public to decide what he said is controversial or not.

And even if it, report it and move on. When it is someone White, they do.

This has become a live version of "The Defiant Ones," a movie that had Sidney Politer and Tony Curtis shackled to each other, with Obama playing Poitier and Wright assuming the Curtis role.

During Monday's speech, Wright pointed out that journalists don't read. I agree. They certainly haven't read Voltaire, which I did in college.

I paraphrase: I may not agree with what you say, but I defend your right to say it.

Enough, already.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Short tails from training camp

The Minnesota Lynx lost Wednesday 79-78 in overtime in a scrimmage against a men's team in its third day of training camp.

"Good job, ladies," a player told Charde Houston, Nicky Anosike and Shay Murphy while they were shooting free throws afterwards. The young man told me playing against the women was tough, and they played hard.

Lynx Coach Don Zierden afterwards seemed pleased, although he was concerned about some on-court decision-making down the stretch, such as recognizing time and score, and avoiding possible foul situations. This occurred with the second unit, which mainly composed of training camp players who probably will not be around once the season begins in mid-May, made some poor decisions, which allowed the men to hit the winning basket with one second remaining, erasing a one-point Lynx lead.

The first unit, which included Murphy, Anosike, Houston and Noelle Quinn actually defeated the men by three points, but the eventually winners asked for an extra session.

The team is having two-a-day practices every other day this week.

Monday, April 21, 2008

The show must go on

WNBA training camps are now open. If you don't recognize the majority of the players, it's all right.

Many players are still overseas, playing for their respective teams, either finishing up regular-season play, or beginning their post-season run. Several others, such as Swin Cash, Lisa Leslie and Katie Smith, are with the USA National Team.

This is the way of the WNBA at this time of year.

Eight players are missing the Minnesota Lynx training camp, including projected starters Seimone Augustus, Anna DeForge, and Nicole Ohlde. Lindsay Harding and this year's top pick Candice Wiggins, who had seven points and five assists in a win over Cuba, both are competing with the USA club. Harding added two points and four assists to help USA improve its record to 1-1.

Nonetheless, Minnesota Lynx Head Coach Don Zierden and his staff are preparing for the upcoming 2008 season with the 15 players who are in camp, including 2008 draftees Nkolika (Nicky) Anosike and Charde Houston, along with last year's draftees Eshaya (Shay) Murphy and Noelle Quinn.

If anything, it gives the rookies and such players as Murphy and Quinn, who started at point guard in place of Harding after she got injured last June, a good leg up on the veterans.

"As much as we miss the players that aren't here, you have to go with what you have," Zierden points out. "You got to play with what you have every day."

Zierden's plans haven't changed, he admits.

"Just like any other training camp, by the first exhibition game (against Connecticut on May 1), we want a certain number of things in," he continues. This also includes the Lynx's defensive philosophies and some parts of the offense. Defense, especially defending the post defense "was a big concern last year," adds Zierden. "These are two things that we really need to focus on for that first exhibition game.

"By that last (exhibition game on May 11) with Los Angeles, we just fine tune for the Detroit opener (on May 18)," he surmises.

When the other players, who most likely will be on the final roster, show up later, "It will be a game of catch-up for the veterans when they get here," says Zierden. "We're moving straight forward, whether all of our players are here or half of them are here."

As we say, that's the way in the WNBA.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Globetrotters as magical as ever

Growing up as a youngster, I always looked forward to whenever the Harlem Globetrotters would appear on ABC's Wide World of Sports -- boy, am I dating myself!

However, the longtime basketball team fell on hard times. The Globetrotters became irrelevant to many, who saw the players as nothing more than hoopin' clowns.

The basketball was overshadowed by the antics, says Fred "Curly" Neal, a key member of the Globetrotters for 22 seasons, appearing in over 6,000 games in 97 countries from 1963 to 1985.

A 23-point scorer at Johnson C. Smith (North Carolina) University, he was asked to assume the key ball handing duties, a role made famous by Marques Haynes. "One of the dribblers got hurt during the time we were getting ready to go overseas," he recalls. "I scarred up my kneecaps three or four times but I kept working on it, and I got better and better. I didn't want to be the same as Marques, so I got me a new routine."

He did -- Neal became legendary for his magical shooting and dribbling skills, along with his on-court antics that wowed the crowd.

"We always believed in our basketball, and comedy came second," Neal points out.

When Mannie Jackson took over ownership of the team several years ago, he put the Globetrotters on a new course of action. Jackson dusted off its seemingly tarnished image and restored its greatness.

The Globetrotters are better than ever.

"When I first joined the team, one of the first things I did was learn about the history of the organization," says Eugene "Wildkat" Edgerson, a five-year member. "The average person will say (that) the Harlem Globetrotters are from Harlem, New York, which is not the case. It started in 1926 in Chicago, Illinois, and played its first game in Harlem. That little tidbit really opens up your eyes."

The only player to appear in two Final Fours (1997 and 2001) for the University of Arizona, Edgerson, who holds both a bachelor and master's degrees in education, is called the team's gentle giant. The 6-foot-7 player is a favorite among both teammates and fans with his retro Afro style, work ethic, personality and energy.

"I am proud to be with something so positive," continues Edgerson.

The Globetrotters' current "Magic As Ever" world tour stops in Minneapolis for three shows this weekend. Minnesota Viking Pro Bowl defensive tackle Pat Williams will don the Globetrotters' red, white and blue colors and join the team during its widely popular football portion of the show. Williams also donated 100 tickets to Friday night's show at Target Center to the African American Adoption Agency, Minnesota's first full-service, non-profit adoption agency designed to move children of color from foster care to permanent families.

Also, Paul Allen, who does play-by-play on Viking radio broadcasts, will suit up and play for the Washington Generals, hoping to help the Globetrotters' main opponent snap their 37-plus year losing streak.

Neal, who now travels as the Globetrotters' "Ambassador of Goodwill," also will be there. "I hope to be around for a few more years," he proclaims.

(I wrote a feature on both Neal and Edgerson for this week's edition of the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder. Check it out at

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Imbalance coverage

Kansas won this year's men's college basketball national championship, defeating Memphis in overtime Monday in San Antonio.

I watched the exciting contest with the TV sound off and listened to Westwood One's radio broadcast. Kevin Kugler did the play-by-play, and analysts John Thompson, who was the first Black coach to win a national title in the 1980s at Georgetown, and Bill Rafferty expertly played off each other. They analyzed instead of second guessing, as CBS' insufferable duo of Jim Nantz and Billy Packer often do.

The only down point was the always annoying Jim Gray, who smooches his interview subject with expert precision.

Now one champion is crown -- I can't wait to watch the second one.

Yes, Virginia, there is another championship game. Tennessee and Stanford play Tuesday for the women's national title in St. Petersburg, Florida.

It's a shame that the Women's Final Four doesn't get as much fanfare as the men's. But this is to expected.

Sports Illustrated, for example, will devote reams of pages to the men's field in its annual March Madness issue, but barely a half-page for the women. USA Today and others will devote Texas-size space for the tournament brackets and team breakdowns, while scant mention is given to the women teams.

A couple of years ago, I wrote a story on imbalanced coverage of men's and women's sports. Penn State University assistant professor Marie Hardin conducted a study for the American Society of Newspaper Editors, and concluded that most editors, which are majority male, have a jaded view of women's sports. Many don't see the value of covering them, the study said.

In a June 2007 study, Hardin again reported that most newspapers carry little coverage of women's sports.

Endless babbling was done over this year's Final Four teams. The title game was analyzed to senseless proportions. Meanwhile, on Tuesday's women match-up, barely a peep is said.

Unlike the men's, there is no Dick Vitale for the women.

Tonight's telecast on ESPN, which could do a lot better as the home for the women's title game, will have Mike Patrick and Doris Burke as announcers. They are far better than Nantz and Packer. I rather listen to them than Westwood One's radio duo of Beth Mowins and Debbie Antonelli -- these two are horrible announcers. They treat the audience like kindergarten students as they explain every piece of the action.

Unlike the men's, there is no Greg Gumbel as studio host for the women. He always is rock solid, but Clark Kellogg too often overstates the obvious. Meanwhile, Rece Davis is basically a suck-up while Stacey Dales has her moments, but Kara Lawson must get over herself.

Unlike the men's, there won't be the late Luther Vandross serenading the women's champs afterwards. And don't expect ESPN Radio and Sporting News Radio spend the remainder of the night and the next day, talking about it, as they do for the men.

Another second-class attention given. This is an annual disappointment that women's hoops fans, which I proudly count myself as part of this group, that we have come to expect.

No shining moment here.