The Gospel of Smoov

Free of obstructed views and fair-weathered opinions

Do I Threaten You?

The following post is dedicated to the memory of Trayvon Martin, the young brother who was gunned down in Florida over a month ago. Racially motivated of not, there was no need for this young man to lose his life on the basis of looking suspicious.

Do I threaten you?

Do I make you scared for your personal safety?

Do you see me and expect to get robbed or raped?

Do you question how my parents raised me?

If you saw me walking on the same street as you, would you run the other way? If you were across the street, would you call the cops on me?

If I made room for you to sit next to me on the bus or train, would you rather stand?

If I walked into your store, would you deny me service?

If I was hailing a cab, would you drive past me?

If I asked for directions, would you send me the wrong way?

If I was dating your daughter, would you think I wasn’t good enough for her?

Am I unworthy of your respect?

Do you know who I am or what I’m about based on this black hoodie?

*****

If you answered “yes” to any or all of these questions …

You don’t know the first thing about me.

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Little Late, I Know

A belated Happy New Year, everyone!

Just thought I’d let everyone know that I am indeed alive … even after the shenanigans that went down on New Year’s weekend. I have to show props to the Giants and Rangers for kicking off the new year right sports-wise. The Giants ended the NFL season strong by beating the Jets and Cowboys to clinch the division title, and best believe I’ll be rooting hard for them in the playoffs on Sunday against Atlanta. The Rangers played in the NHL Winter Classic in Philly and beat the Philadelphia Flyers 3-2. I’m not a big hockey fan (yet), but anytime a New York team beats a Philly team it puts a smile on my face.

The big news, however, is that I’ve been contributing to the Knicks-themed blog BeatKnicks on the Aerys Sports network. It is run by my good friend Stacey, who also writes for Spreadin’ The News on Aerys, and (obviously) deals with everything Knicks. Feel free to check out my material there as the lockout-shortened NBA season rolls on.

I’ll post on here periodically as the winter goes on if anything interesting happens. Hope 2012 treats you all well!

REBLOG: Farewell to a Friend

The last time most of us saw Steven ... smile as big as ever (Photo by Rebecca Glass)

It was one year ago early this morning that my friend Steven Smith was killed in a horrible accident. The loss hit hard with those of us on Twitter that got to know him well, and it made all of us realize how powerful the social networking site can be. While Steven’s untimely death is still felt to this day, his spirit is present tenfold. I’d like to share with you all the heartfelt blog post that I wrote last year remembering the moments I shared with Steven.

*****

This is a blog post no one should ever have to make.

The Yankees lost the Cliff Lee sweepstakes late Monday night. Roughly a few hours later, the Yankees Twitter family lost something much more important.

We lost a close friend.

Many of us woke up Tuesday morning to find that Steven Smith (@stevensmithy) was killed in a tragic three-car accident overnight. The news devastated those of us who chat with him on a regular basis and have had the pleasure of meeting him in person. One moment he was commenting on Lee’s impending free agent decision, and the next he was taken from us far too soon at the age of 24. My good friend Amanda Rykoff and the Times-Union have written marvelous pieces in his memory.

I had the pleasure of meeting Steven at the U.S. Open in Flushing, my first time ever attending a live tennis match. The group of us that made the trip that day were treated to three amazing matches (the Men’s Doubles final and both Women’s Semi-finals) and I was absolutely amazed at his unlimited range of sports knowledge. It made the decision to follow him that much easier. Whether you agreed with his opinion or not, you had to respect the fact that he can talk to you about almost any sport at any given moment. Like most of my Twitter followers, my bond with Steven was strongest with the New York Yankees. While we never met up at a Yankees game, I’ve had the pleasure of attending a few epically awesome tweet-ups (meetings between various Twitter followers) with him — some of the most fun I’ve had this year.

I last saw Steven at a farewell dinner for one of our mutual Twitter friends. Like Amanda says in her blog post, he rattled off every bit of sports knowledge he knew. While it came as no surprise to me, I still marveled at how much he knew. I’ve been taking in information about the sports world since I was ten years old. I can honestly say that he would probably be the one person who could have put me to shame way back when, and I feel like I’m a better sports fan because of him.

But sports is only one part of Steven’s story. He also spear-headed the “To Catch A Predator” phenomenon that started during the MLB playoffs. While I don’t actively participate in the mass tweeting every Sunday night, I will admit to being entertained by all the commentary on the sick pedophiles that were profiled on the show. It was his tweets during the two hours of TCAP that caught everyone’s eyes, and it adds to our love for this man.

In short, Steven Smith was one of many who made my Twitter experience so enjoyable. Whether we were talking about the next potential move that Brian Cashman should make or a sexual predator’s ridiculous responses to Chris Hansen’s questions, we shared a special bond with him — a bond that no one can replace.

My condolences go out to Steven’s family and closest friends in this difficult time. While I could not attend the funeral service today, my thoughts and prayers are with his loved ones.

I’ll see you on the other side, big bro. It’ll be one helluva tweet-up.

UPDATE, 12:57 AM: Found a tribute video for our fallen comrade, as well as a song/video you all know that fits our emotions.

Moving Forward

I could have made this post about the tough decisions the Yankees have to make during the winter. I could have made this post about the NBA lockout and where canceling games leaves the owners and the players’ union. But both topics pale in comparison to the revelation I had late last night: a big part of my Yankees fanhood will be gone.

Vinny Milano, otherwise known as Bald Vinny, has been a staple in the right-field bleachers for the last 14 seasons. His dedication to the Yankees franchise and, subsequently, his business is and always will be unmatched. The passion he and the Bleacher Creatures instilled in fellow Yankee fans made their Stadium experience worthwhile, win or lose. Everything that Vinny has brought to the Yankees and Yankee Stadium makes it that much tougher to handle him not returning to section 203 for the 2012 season. He explains his difficult decision in his latest blog post:

The biggest reason for me to not return is the lack of stability my chosen career path affords. When this business began, I was single and living alone. These days I have an amazing wife by my side and two of the most beautiful children one could lay eyes on. It is simply impractical for me to continue under my current set of circumstances. I can not rely on the weather to cooperate or for the Yankees to win in order to bring home a paycheck. That was acceptable in the past, but my priorities have changed. I need to take care of my family.

On the one hand, it’s like a death in the family. I never had the opportunity to sit in section 39/203 with Vinny (always one section off), but every time I sat in the RF bleachers I felt like I was a Creature. Thanks to the power of Twitter and my employment at the Stadium, I had the privilege of meeting him last season and enjoyed him stopping by section 120 during rain delays. On the other hand, I completely understand how much of a grind the last year has been. Between the shitty weather, the terrible state of the economy and the lack of effort by the Yankees to help Vinny market his brand, 2011 turned into a trying year for him. Add in the fact that he’s got a family to support and he almost has no choice but to step away from his season tickets. No matter which path Vinny’s business takes him, I plan to support him 100%.

Cheers to you, Vinny. Thank you for making the last 14 seasons very enjoyable for the die-hard Yankee fan. The fan experience will not be the same without you.

The Final Week

Let’s hear it for New York … New York … NEW YORK!

That’s right, folks — the New York Yankees are your 2011 American League East champions! It comes as no surprise to me or countless other baseball fans, but don’t forget the “expert predictions” that ESPN provided before Opening Day. In spite of the 45 people that chose the Red Sox to run away with the division, it was the boys in pinstripes that clinched last night vs. the Rays with a week to go in the season. Fittingly it was Jorge Posada who came through with the biggest hit of the night, thanks to his pinch-hit 2-run single in the 8th. I admitted last night on Twitter that I was more worried than ever before during the last two innings — and I’m glad that Rafael Soriano proved me wrong by nailing down the save.

So with the division all wrapped up, you may be wondering what’s left for Joe Girardi and the Yankees to do before September 30th. I already went through some impending postseason roster decisions that need to be made, but there’s plenty more to think about in the final week of the regular season:

HOME-FIELD ADVANTAGE

Coming into today’s games, the Yankees (95-60) are ahead of Detroit and Texas (both 90-65) by five games in the race for home-field advantage in the ALDS and ALCS. While they have the propensity for winning just about anywhere, there is no question that the Yankees would prefer the extra home game — especially facing the prospect of seeing the likes of Justin Verlander, C.J. Wilson, Jon Lester, David Price and James Shields at least twice in either series.

RESTING REGULARS

37 games in 37 days with one off-day since August 23. That’s one brutal stretch of games for any team to play, without question. Now that the division’s been won, I’d look for the veteran players to get more games off to have them fully rested for October baseball. This is also the time for Girardi to get a closer look at the September call-ups to see what they have to offer moving forward.

LINING UP THE ROTATION

This is a rather interesting situation, thanks in part to the six-man rotation. As I’ve stated and linked to before, CC Sabathia is currently not in line to start Game 1 of the Division Series on the 30th (he’d have to start on 2 days’ rest). Actually, no one else is lined up to start any games the way we expect Girardi to set the rotation up. He’s going to have to get very creative with the current rotation over the next seven days. Maybe Sabathia starts Monday in Tampa; or maybe he’s skipped altogether. Phil Hughes is likely to pitch one of the games in Tampa — how will that help Girardi’s decision? It’s a lot to think about and not much time to do so.

Postseason Possibilities

It’s that time again, boys and girls.

October baseball is on the horizon. The teams chasing playoff spots make their final playoff push for the chance to play for the World Series trophy. Other teams that lead their respective divisions/wild card look to maintain their edge and move into October with momentum. With a 4.5 game lead in the A.L. East, the Yankees are grouped with the latter. Much like in spring training, they have some serious decisions to make in regards to who will be on the playoff roster come September 30th — and as in many postseasons past there are a plethora of option for Joe Girardi to consider. Who cracks the four-man rotation? Where will the DH at-bats come from? How does the bullpen fill out? If I’m Girardi, here’s how I answer those questions and more:

 

STARTING LINEUP

SS Derek Jeter, CF Curtis Granderson, 1B Mark Teixeira, 3B Alex Rodriguez, 2B Robinson Cano, RF Nick Swisher, DH Eric Chavez, C Russell Martin, LF Brett Gardner

The lineup is by far the easiest part of the roster to fill out. Barring any last-minute injuries, we should see the lineup that has been put out there for a majority of the season. The only matter to figure out would be at designated hitter. Even though Jorge Posada has had a better second half (plus the postseason experience) and catching phenom Jesus Montero has shown that he can hit major-league pitching, Chavez still has the better numbers to warrant the first crack at DH. But best believe you’ll see Posada and Montero get a good amount of ABs there.

 

BENCH

C/DH Jesus Montero, IF Eduardo Nunez, OF Andruw Jones, OF Chris Dickerson, DH/1B Jorge Posada

With Fransisco Cervelli on the DL with concussion symptoms, expect to see Montero as the primary backup and Posada as the emergency catcher. Austin Romine is also in play here since he is better defensively than the two, but it would be difficult to foresee Girardi choosing the 22-year-old backstop over the prized prospect and veteran leader. We’ve seen plenty of what Jones and Nunez bring to the table, and Dickerson makes the team over Greg Golson and Ramiro Pena as a pinch-runner and defensive replacement all around the outfield. Once again, we’ll be seeing a versatile bench in Ocotber as the Yankees pursue World Series title #28.

 

ROTATION

CC Sabathia, Ivan Nova, Bartolo Colon, Freddy Garcia

While the four mentioned above have the best chance of being in the rotation, only Sabathia and Nova are absolute 100% locks. Garcia and Colon have hit the proverbial wall after exceeding expectations this season, but both have playoff experience and can use that to their advantage in their respective starts. The wild cards in this situation are Phil Hughes and A.J. Burnett. Both men have struggled throughout the season but have bounced back with solid Septembers, but it will likely not be enough to surpass the overall effective seasons that Colon and Garcia are having. And there may not be enough room in the bullpen for both starters (more on this below).

Another matter to consider here is the usage of a six-man rotation this late into the season. Thanks to a large amount of inclement weather, the Yankees are in the midst of playing 37 games in 37 days from August 23rd-September 28th to end the year. This includes two double-headers (August 28th and September 21st), two additional make-up games (September 19th and 22th) and only one off-day (yesterday’s travel day). So while the Yankees seemingly have no choice but to go with six starting pitchers the rest of the way, it is greatly affecting the construction of the playoff rotation. The way everything is set up now CC would not be in line to start Game 1 of the ALDS on the 30th, as Mike from River Ave. Blues points out. It will take some creativity from Girardi and Larry Rothschild to get the ace on turn for the playoffs. (Mike’s idea to have him throw a simulated game yesterday went out with the window when Girardi tabbed him as tonight’s starter.) Whether it means starting on three days’ rest this coming Tuesday vs. the Rays or skipping his last start altogether, something needs to be done to avoid having Sabathia start Game 1 of the playoffs on two days’ rest. That’s just absurd.

 

BULLPEN

Mariano Rivera, David Robertson, Rafael Soriano, Boone Logan, Phil Hughes, Cory Wade, Hector Noesi

Rivera, Robertson, Soriano, Logan and Wade will maintain their respective roles in October. It’s the last two slots that are in question. As I stated before, there will most likely not be enough room for both Hughes and Burnett in the bullpen. I would give it to Hughes because of his experience as a middle reliever in the 2009 playoffs and just having the better year over A.J. The other spot up for grabs will go to either Noesi or Luis Ayala, and it depends on how Hughes is utilized. I see Hughes being used in middle relief, thus giving the final spot to Noesi. But Ayala’s season cannot be easily ignored, and adding him to the roster would push Hughes to the long relief role. Either way, I see the bullpen being a strength yet again in October.

*****

Although the faces have changed over the years, one thing remains clear: the Yankees have countless possibilities when it comes to constructing their postseason roster. Each player brings something different to the table and can give Joe Girardi options to play around with during the games, as we all know how much he likes to toy with those options. It should make for a fun playoff round as we watch the Yankees vie for their 28th World Series championship.

Never Forget: My Happy Place

Time sure does have a habit of flying by, doesn’t it?

Tomorrow marks 10 years since the horrific terrorist attacks in New York City, Washington D.C. and Pennsylvania. I never forgot where I was when I first heard about the attack on the World Trade Center: it was my 3rd day of classes at Xavier High School. I was in my first period Religion class and remember just being in absolute shock that someone would attempt to strike fear in such a large city. I was fortunate to not lose any loved ones to the attacks, but one of my friends in that Religion class wound up losing his father. There was even an article about Xavier in the Daily News that Friday. All 800+ students carried heavy hearts through the next few weeks as we tried to return to normalcy.  For me, normalcy came in the form of baseball.

I like to think the fall of 2001 is the moment where I first realized that the Yankees brought me to my happy place. Even though I didn’t get to go to any games during that season, following the games made me feel safe. I was free from all the turmoil around me; it didn’t seem like anything else mattered because I was watching my boys play. I genuinely felt happy and relieved. Everything about that fall, from Derek Jeter’s flip play in Oakland to the three thrilling World Series home games, made me think that the Yankees were going to win not just for the city of New York, but the entire country. It made me damn proud to be a Yankee fan. It also made it that much more devastating when the wheels came off in the bottom of the 9th in Game 7 — with Mariano Rivera, of all people, on the mound. To this day, that is the only game I’ve ever watched or been to that made me cry. Yes, I cried myself to sleep that night. But even with that heartbreaking loss, it still felt amazing to break away from the world for three hours a day to be in my happy place.

The events of 9/11 have taught me that it is okay to break away from reality for a few hours to be in that one happy place. Lord knows I’ve needed it over the years, and I hope that this blog post will help someone understand where I’m coming from.

 

The A.J./Twitter Experiment

Photo by Darren McCollester/Getty Images

Throughout his second-half trials and tribulations, I’ve wanted to defend A.J. Burnett. Really, I have. Aside from the occasional lapse of judgment, I haven’t seen anything off the field that would warrant him not deserving my support. With a rising ERA in every start since his 7-inning gem on June 29th, however, it got increasingly difficult to put a positive spin on any of those subsequent performances. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t find a reason to believe he would turn it around — and being on Twitter for these starts made it worse. The social networking powerhouse has proven over time to be good for many things; but since July it had become unbearable to see my time line throw a fit over every little thing Burnett was doing wrong. So last night, I decided to follow the lead of fellow blogger and good friend Stacey and not tweet during the game. (Feel free to read her A.J. defense post.)

WHY THE HELL DIDN’T I THINK OF THIS SOONER?

It was the most liberating experience I’ve had in my 2 1/2 years on Twitter. Watching the game without having to worry about anyone overreacting to anything that didn’t go Burnett’s way was pure bliss. And here’s the kicker … he threw a good ballgame: 5 1/3 IP, 5 H, 2 R/ER, 2 BB, 4 K. He still didn’t get the run support he needed to notch the win, but I’m okay with that because he kept the Yanks in the game until they managed to break through against the Red Sox bullpen in the 7th inning. The A.J./Twitter experiment turned out to have a double-positive effect because I was able to avoid the attempted snark in regard to Jesus Montero’s major league debut (0-4 with a HBP and run scored).

So for now, A.J.’s spot in the rotation seems to be safe. You can’t help but give him props for hanging in there against a tough team like Boston and helping the Yankees win two of three in Fenway. The whole experiment prompted this tweet to me from Stacey:

Hmmm maybe it’s been you all this time? 😉

We’ll find out on Tuesday!

Not-So-Perfect Timing

The following post will be featured on the BeatKnicks blog of Aerys Sports.

It’s finally okay to be a Knicks fan again. They have their first winning record since 2001. The 42-40 was good enough for a playoff berth. While it only amounted to a four-game sweep at the hands of the Boston Celtics, there’s still a lot to be excited for. Amar’e Stoudemire willingly put the team and the city on his back and left it all on the court every night — much like Patrick Ewing did during his 15 seasons in New York. Add in the 2nd superstar in Carmelo Anthony, the experience of Chauncey Billups and a supporting cast that stepped up at any given moment … you have a team on the rise that can challenge for the NBA title in a few seasons. You can’t help but think to yourself, Nothing can stop the Knicks now!

Of course, the lockout strikes on July 1st. Figures, right?

The main sticking point in labor negotiations (not that there have been many recently) has been the owners’ insistence on a “hard” salary cap, preferably one significantly lower than the $58 million set for 2010-11. As it currently stands the Knicks have nine players under contract for 2011-2012 at a total of $60,610,763. Most of that money is tied into Anthony and Stoudemire (both set to earn north of $18 million), plus $14 million for Billups*. That $60 million does not include forward Derrick Brown’s qualifying offer, nor does it include the potential rookie contracts for guard Iman Shumpert and center Josh Harrellson. And lest we forget the fact that the Knicks still need a center and shooters. Oh, and it doesn’t help that Donnie Walsh was forced to walk away after saving the franchise from salary cap hell.

I’d love to go into who the Knicks should target in free agency to fill the necessary holes, but the uncertainty of a new CBA makes it difficult to fully gauge who will be available and at what cost. You can judge for yourself by checking out the free agent classes for 2011 and 2012. But what we’re looking at is a Knicks team that desperately needs not only a higher salary cap, but one that is “softer” and allows for exceptions to exceed it. Otherwise, we could be headed for yet another dark period of being the red-headed middle child stuck in the NBA’s dreaded purgatory.

And quite frankly, we don’t want to see THIS again:

*This was the main reason I was against including Raymond Felton in the deal and taking back Chauncey.

Racial Stereotypes Prepetuated Through Media

The following is a blog post I put together for my Media & Society class. It was originally posted on my other blog domain which I rarely use; therefore I am re-posting this on here for your enjoyment.

TELEVISION

It’s one thing when TV channels tailored to a predominantly white demographic, like MTV and VH1, portray black people a certain way. Look no further than shows like The Real World, Flavor of Love, I Love New York, etc. But it is devastating when BET, tailored to a predominantly black demographic, takes on this same ideology. One would expect BET to showcase African Americans in a positive light to combat the negative stereotypes. Instead, they have shown that they are willing to play into that stereotype for a cheap buck. Take this clip from BET’s “College Hill: Virgin Islands”:

Knowing the way that our minds work today, it’s a shame that EVERYBODY buys into the stereotypes and applies them in their everyday lives. A perfect example is this clip from “The Boondocks”:

MOVIES

Box office successes such as Juice, Boyz N The Hood and Menace II Society showcase the struggle that young African Americans face as they try to make their own way in the world amid all the obstacles of the ‘hood. But instead of focusing on the respective central ideas of these films, the media managed to place focus on the violence and drugs and use them as reasons not to be involved with black people. It’s such a shame that the message trying to be conveyed in these movies is greatly misconstrued and lost so easily among those that are believed to be oblivious to the situation at hand. Take a look at this trailer for “Boyz N The Hood”, where amid the strong violent nature of the film there are two key lines that truly define the message that director John Singleton was trying to get across:

SPORTS

The sports world falls victim to racial stereotyping as well. How often do we hear of African American athletes with “natural talent” or utilizing their “God-given gifts”? The phrases seem innocent enough on the surface. There isn’t any blatant name-calling going on. So how are these considered racist? With our better-trained ears in 2011 we can determine that the prevailing thought is by possessing this “natural talent”, it makes up for a black athlete’s lack of intelligence or work ethic. The same thought process holds true of black men who aspire to hold a position of power in sports, as late ex-L.A. Dodgers GM (and former teammate of Jackie Robinson) Al Campanis demonstrates in the following clip on Nightline from April 1987: