We Got Next

The SEVEN
23 January 2014

During this period in between the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday and Black History Month, I often consider it a most appropriate time for a special edition of The SEVEN, in the form of an excerpt from my first book, “Sportin’ Life: Essays On Sport And Life.” As such, here is “We Got Next.”

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One of my memories of the old sitcom “Good Times” is of the family’s patriarch, James Evans, resorting to pulling out his pool sticks – much to the consternation of his wife, Florida – when the money got short. I guess it was during these years that “Good Times” was in its’ first-run period that I realized how much I, too, enjoyed the game of pool.

My enjoyment, however, was and is on a purely recreational basis; never have I approached anywhere near a level of proficiency to attempt to win the rent or food money at the table. That notwithstanding, I enjoy the game and can watch virtually any two players compete, whether they are at the neighborhood pool joint or running the table for thousands on ESPN.

Still I found it somewhat unusual this week when – without having played or watched any pool for a number of months – I wound up thinking about the game, and people and places I’ve played. I began to also think about another player that I know of that I never had the opportunity to play, though on the other hand, I would undoubtedly have wanted to do much more with him than that. And he would certainly have described himself as being more than just a pool player.

But pool it was for this young man – who was a very good player, by the way – on this one particular Saturday evening, because the word needed to be immediately spread about what was to happen, or not happen, on the following Monday. As many of the people in need of the information would not be in church on Sunday to receive it, it was thought that a different approach might be in order – something along today’s lines, if you will, of “Shackles” or “We Fall Down” or “Stomp” as opposed to “Onward Christian Soldiers.”

So the young man went into the pool halls and bars, and I can picture him placing his money on the table and/or calling “Next,” indicating that he wanted to play the winner of the current game. And after getting to play and take part in the pool table banter, he’d share with those present that yet another sister had not only been disrespected but arrested on the Jim Crow buses of Montgomery – and as a result, the Black community was to take a stand against segregation by remaining off the buses on Monday.

Then the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. – truly one of the great writers and orators and thinkers of this century, or any other, for that matter – would head back out into the street in search of another game at another table for another opportunity to spread the word.

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Everybody Hates Chris

The SEVEN
11 January 2014

I.  I Am Not A Crook

In a sense, all New Jersey Governor Chris Christie was missing in his 107-minute apology press conference – that is, to differentiate his performance from Richard Nixon’s emotional speech to save his place as vice-presidential nominee on the 1952 Republican ticket – was Checkers the dog.  That said, if it turns out that the Governor knew any more than he has let on, we certainly won’t have Chris Christie to kick around anymore.

Naturally the tabloids had big fun with headlines which detailed Christie’s lessened prospects for winning the Republican presidential nod in 2016, but this wasn’t the week that doomed such prospects.  It was, in fact, the week following Hurricane Sandy, in which he toured hard hit areas of the state with President Obama.  Should Christie run, his Tea Party opponents will run spots showing pictures of him with Barack Obama…and he will be done.

II.  Dumb And Dumber

Remaining in a New Jersey mode, the reigning NBA Sixth Man of the Year (and Garden State native), J.R. Smith, has gotten his wallet lightened by $50,000 by virtue of untying and trying to untie opponent players’ sneaker laces while awaiting foul shots. As a result, Knick coach Mike Woodson benched him for the entire game against the Miami Heat, a game in which the Knicks held on to win without any contributions from him.

That sure would have been funny had he done that on the 3rd grade team. 

III.  Hall of Shame

Of course, no discussion of silliness from Republican governors would be complete without a mention of former South Carolina governor Mark Sanford, who left his state supposedly to hike on the Appalachian Trail, but had actually flown out of state/region/country/continent to spend six days with his then-girlfriend in Argentina. 

Given that the folks in South Carolina have since elected him to the House of Representatives, there may still be hope for Chris after all.

IV.  Johnny NFL Football 

2012 Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel has announced that he is leaving Texas A&M after this, his sophomore year, to turn pro.  At least he won’t have to worry about being suspended for a half for signing a few autographs…while the school sells thousands of his jerseys without giving him a coin.

V.  Stylin’ & Profilin’

I wrote previously about what some would say is the folly of holding the Super Bowl at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey, given the possibility of extraordinarily bad winter weather.  But what are the chances that the weather will be as bad as it was in Green Bay last weekend?  And it certainly did not seem to affect the play of Colin Kaepernick…but then again, perhaps the 49ers’ clutch play was due in part to the impromptu pep talk they received the day before from the Nature Boy, wrestling legend Ric Flair.

For those of you that want to skip right to the Super Bowl, here are my predictions for the next rounds:

Broncos over Chargers
Colts over Patriots
49ers over Panthers
Seahawks over Saints

Broncos over Colts
49ers over Seahawks 

VI.  Net Result

Don’t look now, but the unbeaten in 2014 Brooklyn Nets are the hottest team in the eastern conference, with a winning streak reaching five games after their overtime win over Miami. The result my Heat fan friend does not want to see – a possible playoff matchup with Brooklyn and its’ crew of ex-Celtics – is back among the realm of possibilities.

VII.  Hall of Fame

Congratulations to new Hall of Famers Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, and Frank Thomas!  But now, to the voters, can you find a way to induct a couple of people who aren’t being discussed too much – Tim Raines and Lee Smith?