Baseball is back, and for the first time in 30 years, the hometown team is defending the AL pennant.
Let’s not make it another 30 years, gentlemen.
No politics or anything overly serious today.
As I’ve commiserated with some of my friends who can relate, this is going to be one of those weeks when it would have been nice to be home.
Monday night, Chiefs at Arrowhead. Tuesday night, Royals hosting a playoff game.
In the words of the great Shannon Sharpe, ‘utterly ridiculous.’
In my lifetime (and quite possibly, maybe never) have the Chiefs and the Royals been in the postseason in the same calendar year.
We’re not talking about championships now; just being in the dance to fight for the title.
(taking a moment for my sports fan friends to shake their heads in pity…)
So yeah, Cleveland, Buffalo, and Minnesota get their well deserved ‘doomed sports city’ props, but being a Kansas City native is rarely peaches and cream, let me tell you.
The 1985 World Series, if I’m being honest, is definitely a memory, but one of those cloudy ones that’s more useful to me to haze my St. Louis friends than to reflect on in great detail.
I spent my fair share of nights in Kauffman/Royals Stadium growing up. I’m not even sure why it’s here in California, but I have in front of me the picture of when my name was put on the Royals Jumbotron in middle school for making the honor roll. (And that’s definitely a Kansas City type of thing; I’m willing to take the odds that the New Yorks and the L.A.s just have way too many kids to do that specific type of hands on, community building stunts.)
I’ve referenced on how my love for wrestling was in part built on watching the Nature Boy Ric Flair with my grandfather down South as a child. You know what else Superstation TBS showed all the time during the summer? That’s right, Atlanta Braves baseball games. My grandfather loved baseball. I was too young to figure out why; it was just one of those things that I knew. And the only time I know of that he came to Kansas City to visit, guess what was the highlight of the trip? That’s right, the whole clan going to Kauffman to watch a game. My grandfather wasn’t a natural smiler (remind you of anyone?), but my memory of that night was of him enjoying himself. And I appreciated it at the time, don’t get me wrong, but now that I’m firmly in the middle generation of the family tree (and he and some of my aunts and uncles are no longer with us), that memory is really, really special and vivid now. More so than any World Series if I’m being completely honest.
So while the Dodgers are my National League team (and Dodger Stadium is obviously really historical and a special experience of its own), my attachment to my hometown team and stadium is quite strong. Now let’s hope it’s not another 30 years before we can take some kind of pride in them.
I believe the current marketing slogans respectively are: Be Royal. Chiefs Kingdom.
Should be a fun week.
As this Ramadan ends, I thought I would have a lot to say. But maybe not as much as I first thought.
Fasting has an interesting effect on the body and the mind. I can only truly speak for myself, but I know of what it does to me and others: violent mood swings, fatigue comes extremely quickly, your discipline and stamina are stretched to its limits. And inevitably, the sun sets and you can replenish yourself, you spend time with loved ones. Even with the Holy Month, this is a luxury that is sometimes taken for granted.
In particular, being born and raised in the richest country on the planet, in a middle class lifestyle on my worst days, I’ve never truly had to worry about food or shelter. I’ve always had several options on the two most basic human needs. In terms of community, and being a part of a group, in that regard too, I have never really known of a time where there wasn’t someone I could call ‘family’, whether that was by blood relation or friendship. I certainly take pride in being the Dark Knight, and my big brother gene enjoys poking people with a stick from time to time just for fun, but anyone paying any kind of attention knows that I have a deep affection for the Jayhawks, and Kansas City, and black women and all things in between if at the same time my actions show you that I’m not really the man who’s interested in ‘carrying the flag’ and wearing the ‘number one fan’ cap (more often than not because I see others who WANT to carry that flag, and desire goes a long way in the roles we play in life).
In this month, we try to wipe our slates clean from the sins we’ve committed. If I have done wrong to you, or done wrong by you, I sincerely apologize. As arrogant as I know I am, and as much of a perfectionist as I know I am, I recognize that I’ll never be perfect, and in some form or fashion, I will always be dependent on others. That’s what makes me (and you) human.
Truth be told, I still have a lot on my mind. (smiling) But whether it’s maturity, or peace of mind, or knowing I’m going to work out, and drink coffee, and eat lunch again tomorrow, for now I’m done talking and just want to ‘do’.
Detroit, give the people their water back.
Eid Mubarak to all my Muslim brothers and sisters spread all over the globe.
All praise is due to Allah. Only the mistakes have been mine.
Knowing how to where a suit (preferably custom tailored from Michael’s in Kansas City if possible). The Aviator shades. Yelling through the lisp. Being a A plus ‘Hollywood jerk’ who is SO ridiculous and over the top with the trash talk he’s pretty much daring you not to laugh with him.
Yeah, that’s the template.
Funny how quickly things change.
The past couple years when I’ve worn my Chiefs hoodie around town, I’ve been straight clowned. It let everyone know where I was from, and the real sports fans respected me for representing my team when we were, with no argument, one of the worst teams in the League. Beyond that, I’ve heard every cow town and farm joke I need to hear for the rest of my life (not counting all the loser jokes).
So yeah, at the halfway point, things are different right now. Respectful nods in the grocery store, people gauging if I’m the vengeful ‘That’s right! We’re the best team in the league’ battered kid, or I’m the cautiously optimistic ‘Yeah, we look good, it’s nice to be relevant again’ type. (There’s your answer to that question).
Anyway, the first time(s) I heard today’s song were on the Sundays/Mondays we got to go to Arrowhead and cheer the team on. I haven’t been back in a couple of years so I don’t know if they still use it.
Anyway, start the week off right.
I knew today would be ‘OverReaction Monday’, but I got enough texts and emails today to grind my gears. So for the vast majority of you who only got a 10 second clip of Arrowhead cheering Cassel’s injury (and the all day talking down to we got from the national media), let me give you some much needed perspective from a lifelong Chiefs fan.
First, the obvious: no it’s not cool or acceptable to cheer for anyone to be injured. With the ‘sound bite’ context (as well as Eric Winston’s well stated frustration), I can’t deny that it looked really terrible. But was Arrowhead cheering simply because the team is 1 and 4? No, not remotely that simple.
Listen, any Chiefs fan who’s halfway paying attention knows Matt Cassel is one of the good guys. He organized workouts during the NFL lockout, he’s been visibly active in the rebuilding of Joplin, and for the most part his teammates stand up for him. Nice guy or not though, most Chiefs fans (myself included) felt our team was an elite quarterback away from taking ‘the next step’ (which for us means regular trips to the playoffs). We have Pro Bowlers in our defense, we have one of the league’s best running backs, we have debatably the most winnable division in football. Again, Matt Cassel seems like a nice enough guy. But at best, he’s a game manager. He’s not Peyton Manning, who wouldn’t even give us a sit down this offseason.
Which brings us to…
Who I (and most Chiefs fans) have frustration with most Sundays. Our GM, Scott Pioli, rolled into town hyped up as ‘the brains behind the Patriots dynasty’, and he’s brought in as many of his guys as humanly possible (including Coach Romeo and Cassel). But the honeymoon period has ended and things are swiftly moving in the wrong direction. Pioli of course never takes the field, never has to stand on the sideline. But the guy who most symbolizes his tenure as GM has to go under center. At least he did until he got his block knocked off…
I can’t tell you the hometown fans will do right by Cassel and give him polite applause whenever he resurfaces. The man was booed during the MLB Celebrity All Star Game for heaven’s sake. I’m not even saying it was right to cheer his concussion…
But I understand.
Joe Posnaski and Kent Babb have both written worthwhile pieces about what this week means to my hometown from the sports columnist point of view; but as someone who spent his childhood going to Royals (now Kauffman) Stadium, I felt like throwing in my two cents…
As best as I can remember, my grandfather only came to Kansas City once. I don’t recall ever having any long conversations with him (part of my family’s tradition is clearly the men are all ‘strong and silent’ types), but I do know he loved baseball. I have vivid memories of watching the Braves with him every summer when I would go down South, so if we did nothing else the one summer he came up to see us, we were going to see the Royals play.
As I’m typing this, I just realized my favorite memory of my godmother is also part of this story. See, this was also the summer of my very first job. I was bagging groceries at the grocery store down the street from home. I’ll never forget this; even after I explained that my grandfather was in town all the way from Louisiana, my boss told me I would be let go if I went to the game with my family. So I told this to my godmother and WELLLLLLLL…. long story short, I went to the game with my family AND I still had that minimum wage job to go back to. These were the good times. I don’t even recall who the Royals played, or if they won or lost, the memory as you can see, is about family.
However brief the moment will last, it will be nice to see Kauffman as the center of the baseball universe for a couple of nights. Hopefully the fountains are tuned up and ready to put on a show for a national audience.
Until next time…
So as of today, one of the 5 greatest quarterbacks of all time will be free to ‘attempt’ (a word that can’t be used strongly enough) to add a few more years to his first ballot Hall of Fame career. My team, the Kansas City Chiefs, is one of the teams considered to have a realistic chance at giving Peyton Manning a couple more years to see if he still has it. Young defense on the rise, solid above average skill players on offense, we definitely have more than some other teams to offer someone who wants to win now (which Peyton is obviously going to want to do.) I’ve heard skepticism about if it’s in the Chiefs’ best interest to bring Peyton on for a couple of years. My counter to that is simple: how quickly you forget…
In my lifetime as a Chiefs fan, the ‘good times’ are few and far between. There have been no Super Bowl championships. As a matter of fact, I’ve watched all three of my division rivals (the Raiders, the Broncos and the Chargers, THE CHARGERS!) at least make it to Super Bowl Sunday. My memories are of Lin Elliott. My memories are of Priest Holmes getting the Bo Jackson injury. My memories are Herm Edwards screaming ‘WE CAN BUILD ON THIS!!!’ (OK that last one has provided plenty of amusement but you see my point…)
Now do you want to know what my single greatest memory as a Chiefs fan is? It’s not one of those 2 or 3 playoff victories or that year we needed 8 dominoes to fall on the last day and they all fell and we snuck in the playoffs. It was October of 94, Monday Night Football, Chiefs at Mile High. The Original Denver Broncos Quarterback I Couldn’t Stand, John Elway had led his team down the field in the 4th Quarter as he always does, and it looked like I stayed up late for nothing (again). But this time we had Joe Montana. Well past his prime, his best days behind him, playing mostly to prove the San Francisco 49ers shouldn’t have pushed him out the door even though he was coming off an injury that everyone had a right to feel had ended his career. When Joe took us down the field and got us the win in Denver (which we never did in those days), I think I was pumping my fist and yelling as loud as he was. Going to school the next day and bragging about it to my friends who turned off the game early only made it sweeter (we didn’t have the internet in those days kids).
Joe took us to an AFC Championship Game too of course, but beating one of our worst rivals on their turf is the memory that I hold closest. You get a chance to get a player who has ‘It’, and maybe gives you a 2 to 3 year window to get to the Super Bowl, you do it. You just do it. That’s how I feel.
In the absence of a high quality video of the Monday Night Miracle, I instead offer this clip, which in also one of the greatest moments of my childhood as a Kansas City Sports Fan:
Now Stick That In Your Pipe and Smoke It!
So if you’re like me, you’re probably still digesting your giblets. Got an extra day off work. If you’re really like me, you’re avoiding anything that remotely resembles a shopping center this weekend. So what do you do hot shot, what do you do?
I’ll tell you what to do; you can catch “Lady In My Life’ on African-American Short Films! This weekend, the film plays in both my native and my adopted hometown:
Odessa-Midland Station: KPEJ / FOX Date: 12/02 Time: 4:00AM
Toledo Station: WMNT/MYTV Date: 11/25 Time: 2:00PM
Waco-Temple-Bryan Station: KWKT/FOX Date: 11/27 Time: 3:30AM
Waco-Temple-Bryan Station: KYLE/MYNET Date: 11/27 Time: 3:30AM
Kansas City Station: KMBC / NBC Date: 11/27 Time: 12:30PM
Jackson, MS Station: WAPT / NBC Date: 11/27 Time: 12:00PM
Los Angeles Station: KCBS / KCAL Date: 11/28 Time: 4:00AM
I know for a fact the Chiefs don’t play until Sunday night this weekend, all the more reason to get a little joy on the television this weekend before the bitterness and frustration kick in.
Hope everyone is having a nice Thanksgiving weekend!
In my opinion, some people have been put on this Earth to drive people apart and to pull others down into their insecurities and misery. I, on the other hand, feel that I’ve been put on this Earth to remind others of the connections between us. Conflicts are inevitable, but ultimately, in between our disagreements, we have to co-exist peacefully.
So that first paragraph lets you know, this post is more intellectual than normal. So fair warning to those of you who normally come to this space for silly/charming/smartass/’Bruce Wayne’; I’ve saved most of that energy for Volume II. No offense taken if you want to skip ahead to the jokes, it’s one of things I enjoy most and do best. But this is about the foundation of my house; my ideology and philosophy, why I am and why I do what I do.
This year I celebrated my birthday in Vegas; a month later I flew home to Kansas City. Same airline. As fate would have it, same skycap attendant for both flights. A brother, he recoginzed me immediately the second time (which I was kind of flattered by when you think of how many people pass through LAX daily).
Anyway, here’s the conversation:
Skycap: ‘My man! How was Vegas?’
Me: Vegas always treat me well brotha!
Skycap: ‘So what’s up, the Lakers gonna threepeat?”
Me: I hope so!
(He looks at my driver’s license.)
Skycap: Oh… Um… one second my man!
(He does the 10 foot Walk of Shame to the Feds, who runs my permanent record and finds out I’m a natural born U.S. citizen who’s never been arrested, who has voted in every presidential election since I was 18 years old, and hold down a steady 9 to 5 job. He does a second Walk of Shame back to me with my boarding pass and a shit eating grin on his face…)
Skycap: Yeah man, you know, just doing my job!
Me: I understand, I understand. So, you know as soon as we’re in the air, I’m jumping out of my seat and screaming ‘Allahu Akbar!’ at the top of my lungs right?
(OK, OK, I didn’t really say that last line; I’m not suicidal. Had to throw a little sarcasm in there; I can turn it down but not off. Back on point…)
Way back when sticking my head in a book was my outlet into a world beyond I knew, I took an early interest in American History. It started of course with the story of my ancestors. My roots on both sides are in the rural sections of Louisiana. In other words, I learned as much with my eyes as I did in any book. I recall with a chuckle my father and uncles pointing out to me the trees they picked pecans from as boys; as a kid I just smiled, but in my teenage years it occurred to me these tours always stopped before we got to ‘the Big House’. (It didn’t take a genius to surmise that while our family name is linked to one of the biggest Creole families in the area, to this day I doubt anyone on ‘my’ side of the family has spent any time in the ‘Big House’.)
As I studied, my natural curiosity led me to wonder if there had been any similar stories in American history. The Black Experience (in America) is unique in many ways, least of which is the physical/karmic violence that God forbid will never be repeated. But as I looked for a common thread, I learned that, truth be told, it’s practically ‘Standard Operating Procedure’ for U.S. citizens at some point to be told “Yeah you were born here, but that ‘freedom and justice for all’ line doesn’t apply to you.’ A few examples that immediately come to mind…
We refer to Native Americans as such in part because they were living their lives here before there was an actual ‘United States of America.’ Of course, the reason there is a U.S. of A. is because the United States Army was created to fight the British. And as far as Native Americans are concerned…
During America’s immigration boon, the first generations of the Italians and the Irish immigrated to this country and had to jump through the imaginary ‘You’re not really an American’ hoops. Africans, um, ‘immigrated’ here in mass numbers and…yep. Leap forward a century or two and Japanese-Americans got the ‘royal treatment’ after Pearl Harbor.
Now you may argue I’m pulling the race card left and right, but historically race is always the easiest to point out because, well, you can literally see it. There have been plenty of other ‘Scarlet Letters’ in the history of this country. The most well known is probably Senator McCarthy and the Communist hearings of the 50s. If we’re expanding this analogy to legal battles, lest we forget women in America didn’t always have the right to vote; that had to be won. In present day there’s the ongoing battle by gay couples to have their unions legally recognized as marriages. Those who dislike America or consider themselves ‘Enemies of the State’ will use any or all of these examples (and more) as to why this country is fundamentally flawed. We shout democracy at the top of our lungs here and around the world, and at the same time will sanction, sometimes officially, that our own citizens can’t have equal rights. Truthfully, I can’t say that argument is flat out wrong; I just choose a different perspective…
While it’s true America’s history in dealing with its own citizens is ‘checkered’, it’s also true that in nearly every circumstance some level of progress was made. (We can debate the definition of ‘progress’ another time.) The analogy I often use, as it’s an analogy I’m familiar with, is that of a pledging process. You walk in the first day, you’re nobody, and you’re told and made to feel like you’re nothing. During the process, you stand your ground and learn ‘the rules of the game’. Eventually the process is complete, and you come out of the other end a member.
(If you really want to extend the analogy, it would be interesting to study who becomes ‘the One whose identity completely became the new group’, ‘the One who focuses on the history and getting ‘the next guy’ through the process’, and ‘the One who became an asshole who can’t wait to take out their anger and frustrations on the next guy’. Again, another time.)
When you define yourself as an idealist (as I do), you know going in that the change you seek in the world can’t be measured by ‘tangible’ results. Let’s say hypothetically my goal was for a law to get passed. A law can create an opportunity that didn’t exist before; it can force us to share a classroom or a workspace. But it can’t change human nature or people’s opinions. Only time and life experience can do that. To be honest, I’m not convinced the words I write or the way I choose to carry myself will change any individual’s mind about what they believe ‘Islam’ is, and what ‘Muslims’ are. But if I don’t even attempt to make things easier for the next generation of Muslim Americans, then I’ve guaranteed myself failure.
One of my favorite guy jokes is ‘Man Law’; the code of being a Man and the unwritten rules of what we will and won’t do. Man Law Number One is universally recognized: ‘Protect Your House.’ Depending on the circumstance, its meaning can be physical, verbal, or in this case spiritual. I remember clearly a time when a Muslim woman could wear hijab, and while it was certainly ‘different’, there was nothing suspicious about it. I remember clearly the days of when people discovered a man was a Muslim, the natural curiosity of that man’s life story stopped short of anything that suggested criminal or the ‘T word’. I don’t believe in ‘turning back time’, but I do believe we can get to a point in the future where my children can just be ‘kids’ and will reach early adulthood before having a justified paranoia that some fringe group in this country or in another country is plotting to wipe them off the face of the earth.
So this is my foundation. Apologies if I got preachy at the end, but it’s the state of things as I see them. There’s a line that is being repeatedly crossed now between ‘political showboating for your supporters’ and ‘you went there because you’re not expecting anyone to react.’
Volume II (probably next week) will go more into what happens when you wake up a sleeping dog.
Ramadan Mubarak to my Muslim brothers and sisters around the world.
Peace unto my non-Muslim brothers and sisters.
Thanks for reading.