Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Repping the Red-and-Black

The Golden State Warriors, reigning NBA Champions, may have just set a league record by starting the season with a perfect 16-0 record, but remember: They still have a ways to go to top the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls, who set an NBA single season record with 72 wins against just 10 losses.
And speaking of the red-and-black, I’d argue that the Warriors’ amazing start isn’t quite as good – yet – as the 2013 Chicago Blackhawks’ season-opening points streak. That year, the guys in the Indian Head sweaters didn’t lose a single game in regulation out of the first 24. That’s the first 24 games of a lock-out-shortened 48-game season. Although the Blackhawks lost three of those first 24 games in overtime, they garnered 45 out of a possible 48 points in the standings during that stretch, because, in hockey, a tie at the end of regulation is worth a point regardless of the outcome. Ultimately, the 2013 Blackhawks ran away with the Presidents’ Trophy, winning a League-best 77 out of a possible 96 points.
Perhaps most importantly, both the 1995-96 Bulls and the 2013 Blackhawks went on to win championships, which is, of course, the point of this enterprise.
At the same time, nobody would be surprised if this year’s Warriors ended up breaking the Bulls’ record for regular season wins, nor would anyone be surprised if the Warriors repeated as NBA Champions.
But they haven’t done either of those things yet.

On #LaquanMcDonald: Please Spare Us Your Phony Concern for Chicago’s Violence

As a middle-aged white guy living in the suburbs, there isn’t much I can add to what’s already been said about the death of Laquan McDonald, the 17-year-old who was shot down on Pulaski Road near 41st Street by Chicago Police Officer Jason Van Dyke in October 2014. As the father of three teenagers, including a son who is the same age Laquan was when Van Dyke killed him, I can only state the obvious: No, of course, I cannot imagine what it would be like to bury a child. I’ve had to watch my parents do it, and that, in and of itself, is nearly unbearable.
More than that, though, I can’t begin to imagine what it’s like to be one of so many Black parents in Chicago and across the country who not only have to bury their children, but have to bury their children knowing that they died at the hands of the state – often, to be frank, because their children were Black and therefore automatically presumed to be a threat, as if their mere Blackness was a lethal weapon.
If you’re white like I am, now is not the time to talk, but to listen. It’s time to listen to the families who’ve lived this nightmare time and time again, and it’s time to listen to Black Americans who are living with the fear of state-sponsored violence on a daily basis.
It’s way past time to listen. It’s been time to listen for, essentially, the entirety of American history.
I will, however, offer this. The next time Black folks talk about violence at the hands of the police, do this Chicagoan a favor. If you’re about to fix your mouth to say something about “Black-on-Black crime,” or you’re about to ask, “Why don’t they care about violence in Chicago,” please stop. Take a deep breath. Reevaluate your priorities in life. Ask yourself if you really want to be that guy.
Because here’s the thing. If, in response to Black anguish, your first inclination is both to blame and to pretend to care about people who live in neighborhoods you’d never set foot in, about whom you regularly make the vilest assumptions, whose actual day-to-day lives mean nothing to you, know that your hypocrisy is shining through like a goddamned supernova. You don’t give a second thought to the lives of people who live in inner-city Chicago – or New York, or Boston, or LA – let alone support policies that might give them a fair chance in a country that’s still reeling from centuries of slavery and institutionalized racism; so don’t pretend you actually care about them when it fits your narrative.
Nope. We know what you’re really saying when you say “What about Black-on-Black crime?” and “Why don’t they care about violence in Chicago?” You’re not just pretending care about people we know you really don’t care about; you’re actually reveling in their pain. You’re actually enjoying the fact that shootings occur way too often here, and that people of color bear a disproportionate burden of our gun violence.
I could point out that Chicago is not the “murder capital of America,” as you like to say. I could point out that it’s not even close. But that’s really not the point, is it? “Chicago” is a code word.  “Chicago” means “Black,” not only because it’s the home of America’s first Black president, but because the national media never fail to highlight anything that goes wrong in the city’s Black neighborhoods, while ignoring all the good that’s in them. Chicago means “Those People,” and that’s all it will ever mean to you. “You know how Those People are …”
So, please. Spare me your thinly-veiled racism disguised as concern for Chicago’s violence. Spare me your phony handwringing, and your barely contained glee as you rattle off whatever statistics you’re fixing to rattle off.
More importantly, spare the victims of gun violence your phony concern, and, above all, spare the family of Laquan McDonald.
Dear God. A teenager is dead. Show some damn respect.

A.M. Run – Conditions: Warmer

Not that 39º is anything to write home about, but it beats sub-zero temperatures, and it beats the warm, muggy conditions we’ve had to deal with most of the fall. So we got that goin’ for us. Which is nice.
I didn’t notice the moon till I was heading back, just shy of two miles into my morning run:

Maybe it’s the impending holiday and all that goes along with that, but I’m pretending it’s a sign from my later brother Tom, an amateur astronomer and occasional killjoy, who liked to say things like this:
“The moon’s really huge this morning.”
“No, Dave. The moon’s the exact same size it always is.”
You’re right, Tom. The moon’s the exact same size it always is. And so is this hole in my heart. Miss you, brother.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

A.M. Run – Conditions: Frosty

I’m pretty sure my phone was trolling me this morning when I checked the temperature before heading out the door. It told me it was a balmy 36º F out. Not bad for this time of year. Above freezing. Borderline pants/shorts conditions.
But, for reasons that remain a mystery, it turns out my phone was telling me the temperature in New York City. In fact, here in the City of Big Shoulders, it was a frosty 28º. And a little windy, too.
Good thing I opted for pants.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Weekend Sports Round-Up: Cloudy With a Chance of Dismal

When the Broncos’ defense stuffed Bears running back Jeremy Langford short of the goal line on a late fourth-quarter attempt at a two-point conversion, thereby sealing Denver’s 17-15 win, it perfectly capped a weekend of uninterrupted sports mediocrity in the Windy City. As he is wont to do, Bears quarterback Jay Cutler – certainly not the worst quarterback in franchise history (cough, Rick Mirer, cough, cough) – had just led the Bears to a potential game-tying touchdown with less than half a minute left on the clock, handing the ball to Langford at the two yard line to cut the Broncos’ lead to two. But then, Jay being Jay, he called an audible on the two-point attempt, handing off to Langford again … who met the full force of Denver’s rush defense, not to mention the Soldier Field turf. Right about at the line of scrimmage.
It’s not surprising the Bears lost to Denver. Denver is the better team. Wait. Let me say that again for emphasis: The Peyton-Manning-less Denver Broncos … the, um, Brock-Osweiler-led Denver Broncos … are better than the Bears. Which would be okay if the Bears, who started the season 0-and-3, hadn’t been in a position to raise their record to 5-and-5, and, arguably, at least, enter into the playoff discussion.
As it is, the Bears are now 4-and-6, and face the once-and-future NFC Central-leading Green Bay Packers in Green Bay on Thursday. The Packers, who beat the Vikings on Sunday to retake the division lead via the tie-breaker system (both teams are now 7-and-3), are doing what the Packers always do: returning to form after a predictable mini-slump; which, I swear, they do on the regular just to get Bears fans’ hopes up so they can crush them to dust once again.
Meanwhile, Your 2015 Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks, three-games into their annual circus road trip through the Desolate Tundra of Western Canada (and Parts South), dropped two games this weekend, losing 2-1 to the Flames in extra time on Friday and getting blown out by (kinda-sorta) archrival Vancouver Saturday night. The final score in that one was 6-3, which should never happen in hockey. Ordinarily, I’d say that starting a tough Western Conference road trip at 1-1-1 isn’t too bad, and it’s not, but the Blackhawks have yet to justify their status as favorites to repeat as Stanley Cup Champions. We’re about a quarter of the way through the season, and at 11-8-2, having captured only 24 of a possible 42 points in the standings, the Blackhawks are currently in fifth place in the Central Division. If the playoffs were to begin today, they’d be a Wild Card only by virtue of the fact that the fourth and fifth place teams in the Pacific Division have even dismal-er records.
I know, I know. It’s early. There’s a lot of hockey yet to be played. And it’s worth noting that the Blackhawks entered last year’s playoffs in third place in the Central, only to beat Nashville, Anaheim and Tampa Bay, all of whom had higher regular season point totals. In fact, the teams with the highest point totals rarely seem to win the Cup (one recent exception being the 2013 Blackhawks, but that was a lock-out shortened season). So, there’s no reason to panic just yet.
Really. I mean it. No reason to panic. Just keep telling yourself that.
Meanwhile (and I’m not sure this is even worth mentioning), the Fighting Illini football and men’s basketball programs continue their (sadly predictable) downward spiral. On Saturday, Illini football (5-6) lost to Minnesota 32-23, while the basketball team (1-3) lost to Tennessee-Chattanooga 81-77. The only positive thing to take away from this football season is that, with a likely loss to Northwestern this weekend, we will be spared the charade of “bowl eligibility” at 6-and-6. As for the basketball team … well, let’s just say a Big 10 team should not lose to North Florida, Providence, and UT-Chattanooga in the same season. Or, maybe, ever.
Lastly, the Bulls dropped a tough game Friday night to the NBA’s best shooter/baby combo (I’m talking about Steph and Riley Curry, of course), losing 106-94 to Golden State. At 8-and-4 and in second place in the Central Division, the Bulls are off to a reasonably good start this season, but given the Western Conference’s dominance over the past few years, you always want to make a good showing against its top teams. Like the Blackhawks, the Bulls are on the road until the circus leaves town at the end of the month, so the next week should provide a good test for the nascent Fred Hoiberg regime. We shall see.
Next up: the Bulls are in Portland on Tuesday, while the Blackhawks travel to San Jose Wednesday. With likely losses for the Bears at Green Bay on Thanksgiving and for Illinois football at Northwestern (at Soldier Field) on Saturday, we’re counting on the teams in red-and-black to ease our pain.