On this page, I'll share my thoughts, and any articles or information I think are of interest. Feel free to use the comments section to join in the discussion!
Borges: N-word a lost debate
Society, NFL hypocrisy pose problems
Language is a powerful but dangerous thing. When used properly, language can bring understanding and enlightenment. When twisted, it can bring confusion and darkness.
That is what makes the present NFL debate over the usage of the N-word both intriguing and sad. The sadness comes, frankly, from the fact this debate is still necessary. Don’t take my word for it, take a trailblazer’s.
Art Shell is 67 years old. He grew up in an utterly segregated society in Charleston, S.C., to become a man elected to both the Pro Football and College Football Halls of Fame. He would also be the first black man to serve as a head coach in the NFL in the modern era (the first since Fritz Pollard in 1923) when he took over the Oakland Raiders in 1989, a passage of 66 years.
Later, Shell would become the NFL’s senior vice president of football operations, the highest ranking African-American in the league.
But Shell is more than that and so brings perspective and wisdom to this debate over how the NFL intends to enforce an already existing rule against the use of threatening or abusive language if a game official hears the N-word. Good luck enforcing it. Yet Shell still favors the effort because he didn’t grow up with hip hop music that has used that vile term so often it’s sucked the meaning out of it for some young people.
Shell not only grew up before hip hop, he also grew up before integration.
Shell saw water fountains he could not drink from and swimming pools he could not use. He never played with or against a white player until he arrived in Oakland in 1968 and never had a white coach until then either. None of that mattered because he was one of the best left tackles in history, but unlike so many kids throwing the N-word around today like it had no meaning he also saw a line on a bus in front of which he could not sit and people bleeding to change that.
So for Art Shell there is really nothing to debate.
“That is the most vile word,’’ Shell said yesterday. “It was created to make a certain group of people feel like they were less than human. How does that word become a term of endearment?’’
That’s a question without an answer, especially when you hear some argue that it now has two meanings, depending on who’s using it. To a degree I know that’s true because I’ve heard it often enough in locker rooms and larger society.
I also understand the complications that has caused, which brings in another word. That word is hypocrisy. In the case of the NFL’s war on the N-word it applies in capital letters. Is the N-word a contemptuous word designed to make a person feel less than a person? Indeed so.
Then again, so was redskins. So where does the NFL stand on that?
During his annual Super Bowl press conference, commissioner Roger Goodell said, “This is the name of a football team . . . presented in a way that honors Native Americans.’’
Last June he sent a letter to 10 congressmen that read, in part: “The Washington Redskins name has . . . from its origin represented a positive meaning distinct from any disparagement that could be viewed in some other context.’’
He also argued once that “nine of 10 Native Americans support the name.’’
Don’t know the truth of those numbers but I know this: those are the same arguments some are making for the continued use of the N-word the league wants banned?
Even as eloquent a writer and commentator as my friend Michael Wilbon, who is black, made the argument that “language evolves’’ and that who is using the N-word changes its meaning. Not to a man who lived through its true meaning.
So if the NFL wants to throw the flag on the N-word we should all applaud because clearly something has been lost in translation.
Use it when and where Art Shell grew up and nobody felt it endearing. Why? Because they knew what it meant and only had to try and sit in the front of a bus to be reminded.
Pop culture changed that but not for the better. Ryan Clark, the erudite safety of the Pittsburgh Steelers, told a story this week that Steelers owner Dan Rooney once tried to ban the N-word from his locker room. It wasn’t something he had to even consider when Mean Joe Green and Mel Blount were prowling around in the ’70s, but these are different times.
Clark said Rooney told his players people fought against others using the word because terrible acts had been done to men by other men when using it. He said it worked for a while but, as he put it, “It came back.’’
Clark asked how a penalty can be called when one black player says the N-word to another? Here’s how: because it’s the NFL’s workplace and it can decree it is not the way you’re going to talk to each other.
That’s a good thing but if Goodell really wants to put teeth into this he should first throw the flag on Daniel Snyder’s Washington Redskins. Tell him the N-word isn’t the only demeaning word in our language, a step that would sideline hypocrisy for a moment and maybe open up the eyes of those who have no idea what men and women like Art Shell know: that some words don’t really have two meanings at all.
They only have one: Hate.
“helping out a guy that could provide him protection in the lineup isn’t just helping the team, but helping himself.”
New Mariners star Robinson Cano targets Justin Smoak’s swing
Cano has taken an interest in Smoak during spring training. He likes the potential. “He reminds me of myself when I first came up,” Cano says.
By Ryan Divish
Seattle Times staff reporter
PEORIA, Ariz. – They had reasonable excuse to leave immediately after the workout ended on Wednesday. With their first spring-training game scheduled on Thursday, it was the last free afternoon for Mariners players in quite a while.
But as the bulk of the players left in mass exodus following team conditioning, Robinson Cano and Justin Smoak grabbed their bats and headed toward home plate.
Their day wasn’t done.
With the Arizona sun beating down on them, Cano and Smoak went to work. It was one player continuing to work on the things that make him one of the best hitters in baseball. The other was trying to find a way to reach his potential.
Cano decided to introduce his new teammate to the “net drill.”
The drill, which was made popular by Yankees hitting coach Kevin Long, is something Cano has used a lot in his career. It’s a reason why he hit .314 (190 for 605) with 41 doubles, 27 homers and 107 RBI last season and is a career. 309 hitter.
A large protective screen is placed on the outside corner of home plate – opposite and parallel to the hitter in the left-hander’s batter's box. From there, the hitter hits baseballs from a pitcher about 30 feet away.
The drill is designed to force the hands of the hitter inside of the baseball and make him use the lower half of his body to turn on the ball.
“If you go forward, you are going to hit the net, so you have to stay back and keep your hands inside and use your lower half,” Cano said.
When Cano and Howard Johnson asked Smoak if he wanted to try the drill, he didn’t hesitate. Despite hitting a career-high 20 homers last season, Smoak knows he can do more. He hit .238 (108 for 454) with just a .412 slugging percentage last year. He’s a career .230 hitter.
“Why not try it?” Smoak said.
Cano started off lacing balls into right field – top-spin line drives, shots to the gap and balls over the fence. It was as if the net across from him wasn’t even there.
Smoak was a little tentative at first. The net was obviously in the back of his mind. He even clipped it a few times as he reached for a few pitches early. It took him a while to find the swing.
“Anybody who does it the first time, it’s going to take a while,” Cano said. “He got better.”
Indeed, in his second and third rounds of swings, Smoak got more comfortable and started hammering hard line drives and home runs into right field.
“It felt good,” he said. “It definitely felt weird at first. It’s my first time ever doing it. He’s been doing it for a while now. But it actually felt good to feel what he and I have been talking about the past few days.”
It was the feeling of progress.
“You are trying to pull the ball there, but you are trying to pull it the right way,” Smoak said. “I hit some balls there that I thought were going to be foul, but they actually stayed fair. I like it.”
Cano has taken an interest in Smoak at camp. He likes the potential.
“He reminds me of myself when I first came up,” Cano said. “I used to go forward too much. I started doing the net drill and it really helped me a lot.”
Smoak’s raw tools and power potential have always been intriguing. For Cano, helping out a guy that could provide him protection in the lineup isn’t just helping the team, but helping himself.
“I know he’s a big kid that’s got some power, a guy that can hit, and I told him you got to go out there and try to have a better season than last year,” Cano said. “I asked him, ‘Well, what’s your average?’ And he said, ‘.230.’ I said, ‘Well, you can do better than that. You want to be up here, you’re talented and you’re young. You have to be willing to do the work.’ ”
Smoak has never lacked that willingness. It’s just working on the right things. Cano is seeing that.
“We’ve been working,” Cano said. “Howard’s been working with him, and he’s doing pretty good.”
Smoak knows he needs to be listening to Cano and Johnson. He wants the same results and the same progress. The net drill provides another way for him to get there.
“(Cano) said when he first got called up, he said he was a totally different guy,” Smoak said. “You see the work he’s put in and where he’s at today, and it’s pretty darn good.”
Thompson: NFL can't stop The Word
By Marcus Thompson II
Bay Area News Group
Applause is in order as the NFL seeks to eradicate the N-word from the playing field. But it's hard to muster more than a golf clap, because too much could go wrong with this.
At the moment, it's just a proposal. But the Fritz Pollard Alliance -- which monitors diversity in the league -- believes the NFL competition committee will adopt a policy penalizing teams 15 yards when players use the N-word on the field.
The sentiment is laudable, the gesture appreciated. The initiative the NFL is taking, even though a minor step in the name of progress, is a worthy notion. Because it is high time this derogatory term is plucked from the mouth of normality.
All usages. As a term of endearment. As an expression of anger and venom. As a label for a lower class of being. As a synonym for black person. As emphatic punctuation. All of it needs to go.
It doesn't matter which letters are at the end of the word, an -er or an -a. That whole argument is bogus. It doesn't matter if I'm talking smack about your mother, or your momma, I better be ready to duck.
This problem won't be fixed 15 yards at a time anyway. And the NFL's new policy only addresses the end result, not the core issue that birthed it.
Self-improvement is most effective through education, not legislation. If the real goal is better citizenship among the athlete population, if the NFL is aiming for awareness and compassion among its employee base, an unsportsmanlike penalty won't work. As part of a holistic plan, perhaps. But as a shot of linguistic penicillin, not so much.
Since 99 percent of the N-word usage on the field will come from the 70 percent of the players who are African-American, a holistic approach is in order. That begins with educating young people, with lifting their consciousness and improving their historical context. Respect and maturity is learned, not imposed, and this task demands an approach similar to the NFL's activity on concussions.
"I think it's going to be really tough to legislate this rule, to find a way to penalize everyone who uses this word," Pittsburgh safety Ryan Clark said, according to ESPN.com. "And it's not going to be white players using it toward black players. Most of the time you hear it, it's black players using the word."
Of course, this might not be the NFL's motivation for change. Considering that this is the same league that not only allows but also supports the Washington team using the R-word as its nickname, it wouldn't be a shock if the motives are PR-related. And if that's the case, a 15-yard penalty won't work, either. Just as it hasn't stopped players from roughing passers or yanking face masks.
If the NFL wants to really stop players from dropping N-bombs on the field, game officials should keep a tally of the offenders. For every time they hear the word -- or any derogatory term -- somebody loses $10,000.
Imagine that bill.
Imagine, too, a close game, right down to the wire, fourth-and-1 in the red zone. A stop by the defense will win the game. But -- no! -- the offense gets new life and an automatic first down because the ref heard a player use the N-word while instructing his teammate.
That's what stands to happen. Because for many, the use of the word is habitual, embedded in their vernacular. A utility word with so many connotations and caveats, shutting it off cold turkey is not a realistic option. And it's unacceptable for a team to lose a game because the linebacker listens to too much Lil Wayne.
There's another layer, though, that makes this proposal hard to get behind, and even harder to explain. There's something inherently wrong about a major corporation, which in many ways is a symbol of white America, imposing this kind of penalty.
Racial slurs are unacceptable, no matter who spews them. But most uses of the N-word are a cultural byproduct. In essence, the NFL would be penalizing players for cultural expressions, albeit a negative one. That ventures uncomfortably close to condemning a segment of players for who they are and where they are as people.
In that vein, Herm Edwards, an ESPN analyst and former player and coach, is right on the money: the players need to decide to kill the word. Because although the NFL did not create the N-word, this new policy feels like the oppressor penalizing the oppressed for behaviors born of oppression.
Cards insist Martinez 'clean up' Twitter account
JUPITER, Fla. • Cardinals officials expressed both embarrassment and disappointment over dozens of graphic images that pitcher Carlos Martinez had on his public Twitter page.
The club worked with the righthander to remove the pornographic photos and links from his “favorites” page, a list of tweets he starred and that could be read by anyone online. But before he could delete them the page had gone viral, spread by Twitter users and Deadspin.com.
“We’re embarrassed, and he’s embarrassed,” manager Mike Matheny said. “I’m not trying to shove my morality down anybody’s throat. I’ve made that very clear. But I also need to be concerned about it. … Realize — is this something you’d want your kids to see? Is this something that you want to be known for? Is this how you want to be remembered?
“We are, like it or not, role models,” Matheny continued. “Regardless of your moral compass and where it points, those sorts of things that we’re talking about are not things we want our kids seeing.”
The Cardinals had a previously scheduled meeting with prospects attending the early camp to discuss social media and using sites like Twitter and Facebook. Martinez provided an unexpected example. For the third time this spring, Matheny talked with the major-league camp about their actions on social media and what general manager John Mozeliak later described as “the pitfalls and perils” of today’s online, instant, selfie culture.
Any misstep “is one fraction of a second away from being all over the world,” Matheny said.
Officials spoke on Martinez’s behalf Tuesday.
On Monday afternoon, the Cardinals were unable to reach Martinez immediately after learning about the photos attached to his Twitter handle and collected on his “favorites” page. Matheny spoke with the pitcher personally later, and the pitcher acknowledged his mistakes. Mozeliak said that his account may have been “hacked to get it to that level, but I’m sure where there’s smoke, there’s fire. We’re disappointed.”
The Cardinals have a written social media policy that is delivered along with baseball’s policy to all players, major and minor leaguers. The club has not asked Martinez to delete his Twitter account, just “get it cleaned up.” Mozeliak was asked if the policy also had penalties.
“It’s tricky,” Mozeliak said. “This was not something that was negative to the club in the sense of (being) mean-spirited. It was just a poor choice of sites visited. It wasn’t the smartest thing to do, but it happened and we hope that it doesn’t happen again, and we hope other people learn from it.”
“the embarrassment of admitting that he and the player made a massive miscalculation in the marketplace.”
Is it possible that in the near future the CBA will be revised to allow players to accept qualifying offers at sometime during free agency? It seems like this would be a fairer system so guys like Stephen Drew and Kendrys Morales could test the market, realize it’s not what they are looking for, and then take the one-year deal. Also, do you think next year’s free agent crop will finally see players start accepting the qualifying offer?
Andrew Thurmond, Hoboken, N.J.
BA:Two years into the new collective bargaining agreement, it’s clear that the qualifying offers are a significant impediment for all but the most desirable free agents. Last year, Kyle Lohse had to wait until the final week of spring training to land a contract with the Brewers. This year, Stephen Drew, Kendrys Morales, Ervin Santana, Nelson Cruz and Ubaldo Jimenez were unsigned as spring training began. While Jimenez did land a four-year, $50 million deal with the Orioles, Cruz accepted a one-year deal with the Orioles that is significantly smaller than the qualifying offer he turned down. Drew, Morales and Santana are still looking for jobs with Santana suggesting that he might wait until after the draft to try to get free of the scarlet letter that draft-pick compensation has proven to be.
Teams simply don’t want to spend big money and give up a valuable draft pick to acquire players who are viewed as useful but not high-impact additions. It’s worth noting that all three of the remaining free agents tied to draft pick compensation have some sort of issue that can give teams pause.
Santana was excellent last year but awful in 2012. Morales missed all of 2011 with a badly injured ankle and faces questions about his ability to handle any defensive role larger than that of an occasional first baseman. Drew missed half of the 2011 season with a gruesome ankle injury of his own.
But even without those issues, the draft pick compensation would stand as a hurdle in the way of getting these three signed. The fact that they have turned down a $14 million contract for 2014 (the amount of the qualifying offer) also sets a very high floor for what kind of contracts their agent needs to land to avoid the embarrassment of admitting that he and the player made a massive miscalculation in the marketplace.
As we’ve already seen with Cruz, it seems unlikely that Morales and possibly Drew or Santana will end up making more in average annual value than they gave up by passing on the qualifying offer.
It’s worth remembering that this new system was put in place because it was felt that some larger market teams were gaming the system to accumulate extra draft picks under the old CBA. Teams that didn’t have the salary room to offer arbitration (for the fear a player might accept) had to forgo compensatory picks. Bigger spending teams such as the Red Sox could acquire potential free agents at the trading deadline, offer them arbitration at the end of the season, then collect a first-round pick and a supplemental first-round pick for the next year’s draft when that player went elsewhere in free agency.
In 2011, the Red Sox landed Matt Barnes, Henry Owens, Blake Swihart and Jackie Bradley Jr. with compensatory picks they had earned for losing Victor Martinez and Adrian Beltre as free agents that offseason. It was an amazing draft haul, and kudos to the Red Sox for drafting so well with those compensatory picks, but the new system was supposed to make it less easy for a big market team to do that.
The idea is that a $14 million tender will ensure that only the best free agents will now be worth a compensatory pick. What has changed is that first-round picks are now vastly more valuable. Under the old system, a team that didn’t have compensatory picks could still spend big in later rounds. So the Royals might have not had many compensatory picks, but they spent first-round money on later round picks like Wil Myers. The Pirates adopted a similar approach.
Under the new system, teams spending it tied entirely to the quality of their picks in the top 10 rounds. Lose a first-round pick, and you’ll see your entire draft budget slashed by a third or more. There is no easy way to make up the loss of that kind of money.