Category Archives: Sports

National Anthem is About the Nation, Not the Singer

They sing the wrong words. They sing the wrong notes. Sometimes, it is as if they are singing the wrong anthem.

I am tired of listening to singers butcher the national anthem. The “Star-Spangled Banner” is a gorgeous, moving, challenging song. Lately, the mashed, twisted, rearranged versions I am hearing make my ears ring; not from the bombs bursting in air, but the notes twinging, twanging and trilling without ever finding a home.

Listening to Christina Aguilera’s version of the national anthem during the Superbowl on Sunday was so horrific to me that I did not even notice she had messed up the words. Her notes were so wrong, so off, that I completely missed the fact that there were no ramparts anymore. Honestly, all the trilling really is just a sign that she cannot hit and/or sustain a note.

When I was a younger man, people sang the national anthem the way it was written. And, you know what happened, everyone sang along.

That is what I want. I would die and go to heaven if I could perform the national anthem at Arrowhead with all 73,000 people belting it out with me.

Now, that would be powerful. That would be awe-inspiring. That is the way it used to be.

Sadly, singers think it is all about them now. That is the problem; our selfish, hey-look-at-me culture. They want to be applauded for how great they sang the anthem and how they “made it their own.”

It does not belong to them. It belongs to the nation. It is not about them. It is about our nation.

That is what we have forgotten. It is time for us to take it back. Let’s put the “nation” back in our national anthem.

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Sadly, Racism is Not ‘Old’ News

I have been out of the loop for a while. Between school, sickness and two little children, it seems there never is enough time or energy. A few weeks ago, I wanted to write about the Serena Williams and Kanye West incidents. Now, those stories are old news. Sadly, as I perused comments about Williams and West, I found out that racism is anything but “old” news.

Now, I have not been a supporter of Barack Obama as President. This has nothing to do with the color of his skin and everything to do with his policies and attitude. While he did not receive my vote because of our divergent stance on many issues, part of me was happy to see America elect a black man president. I thought this proved that racism was becoming old news in America. I was so wrong.

Racism reared its ugly head again in the Williams and West debacles. I was completely blown away.

I read so many comments on Kanye West’s inane stunt at the Video Music Awards that seemed to indicate that his actions had something to do with him being black.

Kanye West is not an idiot because he is black. Kanye West is an idiot because he is an idiot. This has nothing to do with race. Every race has its share of them. If there is anything that is colorblind it is this — idiocy draws no color lines. Really, it is about as simple as that.

The Serena story is something else entirely. I am not a follower of tennis, so normally I would not care. But, I read the story about what happened at the U.S. Open and I watched the video. Then, I began to read the comments. I could not believe it.  Nearly half the people blamed her actions on her being black, while another 15 percent just posted blatantly racist comments. I was stunned by this.

Do I think Serena was wrong? Yes, I most definitely do. She acted in a totally inappropriate and unprofessional manner. Do I think it had anything to do with her being black? No, I do not. It has everything to do with her being a highly competitive individual who does not accept defeat easily.

In most things I do in life, I expect to win. I go in with the attitude that I am going to be the victor, even if it takes me 20 times. If I make a mistake, I get angry at myself. Do I sometimes take this anger out on others? Yes, I am sorry to say I do. I work on this and strive to not allow it to happen in the future, but sometimes it comes back, especially when I become frustrated with myself.

Luckily for me, I am not a professional star athlete like Serena Williams. My bouts of competitive anger are not international news. I honestly believe Serena was just so angry and frustrated at herself. She was not playing at a level of which she knows she is capable. She showed her frustration at her play when she broke her racket.

While I am in no way attempting to excuse what Serena said or did to that line judge, I do not think Serena’s anger was really with the official. Serena’s anger was with herself. The line judge was just unlucky enough to get in the way.

Competitive people play life with a fire and a passion that sometimes burns hot. It does not matter what color skin we have — the temperature is still the same.

Chiefs Counted Out Before Season Begins

 

I am proud to say I am a diehard Kansas City Chiefs fan. They are my team and I will stick with them through anything. Whether they win or lose, there is no other team for which I want to cheer. So I wish people would just stop counting them out when the season has just begun.

Most of the comments directed at the Chiefs by the announcers were negative. It was as if the announcers were already predicting an 0-16 season for the Chiefs in just the first half of Sunday’s season opener against the Baltimore Ravens. It was so annoying.

There was no “constructive” criticism. There was just criticism and, as it turned out, most of it was wrong.

Here are some of the choice statements the announcers made in just the first 16 minutes of play:

  • “The Chiefs can’t deal with this suffocating defense.”— This was said after the Ravens made the Chiefs go three and out on their opening drive, which actually is a common occurrence for any team. While it was an unsuccessful start to the game for the Chiefs, the players appeared to breathing just fine.
  • “The Chiefs cannot do anything on offense.” — This was sort of true at the time it was said, but the first quarter was not even over. We had time to turn it around.
  • “Kansas City has not been able to muster any kind of drive.” — This was said just 50 seconds after the second-bulleted comment above, still in the first quarter. It was true, yet still early in the game.
  • “Brody Croyle is not surrounded by a lot of talent.” — This is when I started to truly get annoyed by the asinine announcers. The players around Croyle clearly are talented or they would not be in the National Football League. An NFL team does not usually shell out millions of dollars to guys who cannot play the game. Yes, the Chiefs might not have a bunch of superstars, but saying the players are not talented is inaccurate.
  • “They need help because they are not about to get it done offensively with that personnel right now.” — Amazingly this was still the FIRST QUARTER of the game. So much for giving them a chance. Just write them off in the first 15 minutes.
  • “If they have any chance in the game, it’s going to have to come on this side of the ball (the defense); they will have to make some plays and keep it close.”— Wow, for real? While the defense did get the Chiefs going with an awesome blocked punt recovered in the endzone and an outstanding interception returned 72 yards to within the 10-yard-line, it was still the FIRST QUARTER when this comment was made. Last I checked, football had four of those.
  • “The way this game is going, that might have been the only way that Kansas City can score.” — This was said just one minute into the second quarter after the Chiefs narrowly missed saddling the Ravens with a safety. We ended up scoring two touchdowns off the arm of Croyle.

I know this will most likely be a rough year for the Chiefs. But if there is one thing I cannot tolerate, it is being counted out before the game (and, in this case, the season) has begun. People who count others out like this tend to underestimate their opponents. Surprises lurk in underestimation.

The Chiefs did lose the season opener to the Ravens by a score of 38-24, but I was on the edge of my seat with just five minutes remaining as the Chiefs tied the game at 24. Despite an admittedly sluggish start, Croyle threw for a respectable 177 yards and the two aforementioned touchdowns.

I just hope some mouths were forced shut by the Chiefs decent performance in the season opener. If not, I will probably just have to get used to muting the game and providing some positive, constructive commentary of my own.

Good luck, Chiefs. Play well. There are many of us who believe. Just push your mute button too, and you will hear us.

Baseball Needs Salary Cap

The Royals Win! Incredible!

The Royals Win! Incredible! Photo by VP

My wife and I took our children and my parents to the Kansas City Royals game Monday night, a Father’s Day gift for my dad and our first trip out to the refurbished Kauffman Stadium this season. Fortunately, the Royals won 4-2. I just wish they could do it more often.

The Royals and other small-market teams throughout the league will continue to suffer as long as Major League Baseball refuses to institute team salary caps. This is the only way parity will ever return to the league, keeping big-market programs from treating smaller rivals like farm teams from whom all the major talent is harvested

According to USA Today (1), the Royals’ total payroll at the start of this season was just more than $70.5 million. While that seems like a great deal of money, the Royals’ payroll is 21st out of the 30 MLB teams.

This is an astonishing $131 million BELOW the payroll of the New York Yankees, who top the list at nearly $201.5 million. Alex Rodriguez alone has a salary of $33 million this year, nearly half of the ENTIRE payroll of the Royals. How can smaller market teams such as the Royals compete with that? While a small-market team might play a good hand one season, are not the cards just totally stacked against them?

The past two years, teams high on the payroll list won the World SeriesPhiladelphia last year and Boston in 2007. Since 2000, only two teams with total payrolls lower then the median of $80.5 million have taken the championship.

Out of the six division leaders so far this season, only one (Milwaukee) has a total payroll lower than the median, but it is the next one down at nearly $80.2 million. No team with total salaries below $80 million tops a division, as the other top five teams are all in the top 10 when it comes to total payroll, all over the $100 million mark.

Taking a look at the teams residing at the bottom of each division is truly eye-opening. Of the six teams in last place, only one (Cleveland) is above the median total payroll, and the Indians are merely the next step up at $81.6 million. As a matter of fact, four of the six last place teams are in the bottom eight on the payroll list. Does anyone else see any significance in that?

While attempts have been made to help out smaller market teams, mainly through revenue sharing, not enough is being done to even the playing field. David Jacobson of bNet (2) makes a big deal out of how the Royals received $32 million in the 2006 season due to revenue sharing, while the Yankees paid out more than $76 million. What Jacobson fails to note is that the $32 million the Royals received would not even pay for ONE Alex Rodiguez!

Without revenue sharing, there simply would be no professional baseball. The 13 high-revenue teams would continue for awhile, as the other 17 teams withered and died. Eventually, the lack of varied competition and a national presence would kill the league altogether.

Without salary caps, however, there simply will not be equality in the MLB. If I am a high-caliber player, I am going to be picked up by a high-revenue team. It is as simple as that. The quality players gravitate to the money, and who can blame them?

This happens to the Royals all the time. I cannot even list the names of the all the young talent that has been stolen away from the Royals by teams with big wallets. I just start getting a good chant for a young star (such as Raul Ibanez) and suddenly they are snatched away.

Come on, MLB; get with the program. It is time for salary caps. It is working out well for the National Football League. Please, just do it. I don’t want to lose Billy Butler (whom I have dubbed “Billy the Kid”), too!

 (1) http://content.usatoday.com/sports/baseball/salaries/totalpayroll.aspx?year=2009

(2) http://www.bnet.com/2403-13502_23-210897.html