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Michael Jordan’s Principle: Address The Haters

by Jose Vilson on September 28, 2009

in Jose

Michael Jordan’s Hall of Fame speech (and his career, for that matter) read like a diatribe against wrong decision-making … and our fundamental ideas about sportsmanship. For those that have lived under the sea for the last 30 years, Michael Jordan’s arguably the greatest basketball player of all time, surpassing records and racking up a highlight reel the size of any big-budget movie. Words used to describe MJ during his tenure as the most dominant shooting guard to play the game: “cold-blooded,” “merciless,” “exacting,” “superlative,” and “focused.” 6 NBA Champions and the Most Valuable Player in each, 5 NBA Regular-Season MVPs, 31.6 career scoring average (tops in this category), and those accomplishments came right after taking over the throne for both Larry Bird and Earvin “Magic” Johnson, who both alternated the crown for greatest players in their era.

His ascension into absolute reign signified a bit of a revolution for the league and sports as a whole. For all the moments, measurable and immeasurable, he chose a ceremony that ultimately cements the greatest and finest basketball coaches, broadcasters, writers, and players alike with a scribe that addressed  his most vital dissenters. While he also found time to laud a few people along the way, he innovated the idea of revenge in sports and using the vitriol and slights directed at him to fuel his next performance. His trash talk on the court was about as legendary as the actions he put to those words, and what he’d do after a mind-boggling play ushered in a new showmanship that tied Jordan to the bravado we see displayed all over sports as a whole. Indeed his truths were self-evident.

I’ve contemplated a bit on this tremendous speech, and wondered how I should feel about it. It almost seems petty for Michael to use that stage to show disrespect to the decisions and perceived slights of people who didn’t have a post-trip rear view mirror from which to point their decisions. Dean Smith can’t be blamed for not letting him on the national magazine covers nor can Buzz Peterson be blamed for starting ahead of him. It revealed a sort of arrogance and pettiness that always rubbed anti-Jordan sports fans the wrong way. An assassin in the figurative form of the word, he couldn’t just win; he had to kick everyone in the teeth in and crush any spirit they had in thinking they’d actually beat him.

Then I sat there and thought how that sort of mentality applied to my life and others who I’ve seen succeed around me. For all the times many of us laud those who remain humble, we gravitate towards those who’ve put their money where their mouth is. They’ve put in the long hours behind the scenes, perfecting their shots, reflecting on their practice, saying less about what they’re going to do and trading those points in for points in the field of their choosing. They have a sharp attention to detail and debunk risks in the face of actual personal progress.

Detractors seem to serve a greater purpose than most of us never pay attention to: they help redefine and sharpen who we are as people. Those of us who do great work in our fields always need a reminder of the obstacles facing them in their journey. I understand why people  may not like him as a man after that speech, but the hubris and self-idolatry made Michael the man he is today.

I call this the Michael Jordan Principle: if we want success, address the haters, don’t ignore them. The minute we do, it shows that anyone can test our mettle. The best way to respond to the denigration doesn’t necessarily come in verbal form, but in one’s actions after. Do we prove people right by not doing anything about what was said or wrong by becoming passionate about reaching our goals?

This is, of course, within reason, because sometimes a detractor is really a friend in disguise. For instance, Phil Jackson pushed Michael Jordan to give up the  ball more in favor of letting the whole team grow, and thus winning championships instead of scoring titles. Overall, the Michael Jordan Principle shows how, many times, the best approach to personal growth is using the negative energy thrown at you to grow and not letting it weigh you down.

Jose, who only liked Michael Jordan only after he retired for the 3rd time …

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Plaxico Burress and The Inverse of Prisons

by Jose Vilson on September 22, 2009

in Jose

Plaxico Burress with Son, Elijah

Plaxico Burress with Son, Elijah

Today, Plaxico Burress, former wide receiver of the New York Giants, was sentenced to 2 years in jail (with good behavior, it’ll be brought down to 20 months or less). My stance on the matter hasn’t changed much since the last time I’ve ruminated on the topic. I agree that bringing a gun to the club without a holster and without a licensed bodyguard spells danger for anyone, especially a young, rich, Super-Bowl winning Black man. I also agree that he could have hurt anyone there, and if not for his celebrity status, he may have been treated like “any other Black man” who’s faced similar charges.

Then, I looked at the case and didn’t look at the things that might have happened, but did happen. The night before, according to reports, he and his partners were robbed. He’s got a family to feed, and a life to live. He probably didn’t grow up trusting the police. Plus, he shot himself and not anyone else. He had erratic behavior with his team; though his teammates love him, his management had a hard time pinning him down psychologically. With that, I don’t see any real reason to keep him in jail longer than a year, if that. I believe in a combination of counseling, community service, and alternative interventions with prison time for the gun charge based on what actually happened and the evidence laid on the table.

Some of my readers / friends believe I’m too soft on crime, which can’t be further from the truth. People often mistake a zero-tolerance policy for good judgment, and I can’t agree with that. I charge those who have this view haven’t looked at the actual statistics. One of my friends from Facebook showed me a wonderful Wired mini-article entitled: “Nils Christie: Empty the Prisons“, one of the 12 Shocking Ideas That Could Change the World, especially as it pertains to American culture. It’s rather obvious that we as Americans are complicit in the denigration of human beings as a whole. Race notwithstanding, the US has more prisoners than any other country in the world, has more prisoner per capita, and spends more taxpayer money in prisoners than any other country. The number of prisoners since the 1980s has risen over 400%, and while it’s not necessarily true that 3rd graders’ literacy scores determine the number of prisons built, the link between the education complex and prison is almost undeniable.

Plus, as the Wired article mentions, most of these prisoners go to jail for non-violent crimes, and many of the criminals who’ve gone in jail once go right back in (many of them would rather stay IN jail because it’s easier to live in there). Also of note is that, in general, crime rates have gone down as a whole. As a result, have we become a better society for having all these (mostly Black and Latino) men and women isolated? Have marriage rates risen? Have wars ended or corruption stopped within corporations? Have drug lords stopped proliferating (or has their supplier stopped pushing)? Have our politicians become more honest and have our ethics / morals become more solid as a result of dumping grounds for these law trespassers? Does jail help criminals become better citizens in our society (as some movies may lead you to believe) or make them stronger and better equipped, and even more able to carry out their crimes?

For that matter, have we thought about how many of those prisoners are actually innocent? How many of them may not have been good citizens or been great examples in other venues, but were decent human beings? We neglect to think about the difference between what’s illegal and what’s immoral, what’s unlawful and what’s wrong. I also understand that the prison industrial complex provides jobs. I get all of this and I wish I didn’t because the rationale is far too capitalist for my blood.

More importantly, I wish the best for Elijah Burress, Plaxico’s son, who’s a prisoner for the sin of his father. His father is a prisoner of this system. And we are prisoners to the thought that prison is the ultimate solution.

Jose, who’s in a Tupacian mood …

For more, please visit: http://www.criticalresistance.org/

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A-Rod Can Haz Dominican Culture Now?

by Jose Vilson on December 8, 2008

in Jose

Alex Rodriguez's Pledge of Allegiance

Alex Rodriguez

Back in July of 2005, the World Baseball Classic committees were just getting their international rosters, and most people stuck to their countries of origin, as stipulated by the rules. With 16 teams in the competition, many of us baseball fans almost salivated to the chin being able to watch these all-stars playing on the same teams. Derek Jeter, Chipper Jones, and Ken Griffey Jr. all on the same squad? Jose Reyes, David Ortiz, Albert Pujols in one line-up?

Whoa.

And Alex Rodriguez, arguably the best all-around player in baseball, has the choice of playing for either of these teams.

And he chose the Dominican Republic. No harm, no foul.

Yet, what ensued afterwards was a backlash of sorts, including meetings I’m sure very few of us were privy to, and he went from being 100% sure he’d play for the Dominican Republic to not playing for any team whatsoever to eventually playing for the US team. It’s bad enough his reputation as an asshole who wants to please everyone just wouldn’t go away. Now, he’s back to dealing with identity politics that are, in many ways, out of his control. As some people may know, both of his parents are Dominican and he has dual citizenship in both Dominican Republic and the United States, where he’s lived most of his life. He went from living in Washington Heights in NYC to Florida, where his only father figures were his baseball coaches growing up, but his mom still instilled in him some cultural pride, though not ostensibly.

Anyone who considers themselves multi-ethnic or has done a little studying on multi-ethnic people understand that, despite our allegiance to our ancestors’ countries, we also contribute to the American culture and when we go back to those countries of origin, we are usually considered Americans. Even with an accent as heavy as Alex’s, he’s probably looked at as American, at least subconsciously. But that’s the struggle for Alex: forces from the people who pay him his hundreds of millions, including sponsors and players’ unions, and others like his family who he seems to treasure and the 20-some-odd years he wasn’t an American icon, but a Dominican playing America’s favorite pastime.

Yet, on Saturday, December 6th, 2008, and at the behest of David Ortiz, Alex Rodriguez did what he should have done back in 2005. He signed on to play for the Dominican Republic.

Now, the response is completely different. Many Dominicans are lauding the move, calling it “authentic” and “true to what he really is.” Yet, Americans, who were indifferent back in 2005 when he first made the decision to play for the Dominican Republic, now have a growing resentment about this move, calling him “Benedict A-Rod” among other things. And to all of them, I say …

GET OVER YOURSELVES!!!

I can’t believe the gall of anyone who so much as whispers Alexander Emmanuel Rodriguez’ name and can say he’s not Dominican with a straight face. So what if he was born here? Does that completely strip him of any culture that’s instilled in him? Does that make him any less of a man because he is Dominican? Why do people criticize him for making this move? Is it because he was an American-born Dominican rather than a Dominican boy some scout made a lot of lavish promises to and kept in a perpetual farm system? Is it his blond streaks, extra-marital affairs, and rumors with Madonna and maybe some other models here and there? Is it because he’s living the American Dream that so many of you advertise so flauntingly to the rest of the world? Is it because you just need any excuse to berate and denigrate A-Rod, whose name someone shrunk just so they could Americanize it?

And believe me, even as a New York Yankees fan, I get it: he comes off as an arrogant, selfish, rich, undeserving, flip-flopping, callous asshole. I personally don’t see it that way, but I understand where it comes from. But none of this, and I mean NONE of this, gives anyone any right to tell that man whether he gets to be Dominican or celebrate his Dominican culture, and anyone who’s a real fan of the man shouldn’t judge him. Even if you don’t like him as a player, respect his right to his own cultures.

Both of them.

And when he comes to play in the New Yankee Stadium in March of 2009, he’ll be pledging to the American flag right along with everyone else in there.

Jose, who will be waving any one of 2 flags during the WBC, since Haiti doesn’t have a baseball team like that …

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What Do I Think of Success? It Sucks

December 2, 2008 Jose
Plaxico Burress

The bad news is that Plaxico Burress, wide reciever for the New York Giants, shot himself in the leg, and thoroughly embarassed himself, Antonio Pierce, and anyone else who accompanied him at Latin Quarters. The worse news is that this happened just about a year after Sean Taylor, free safety who last played for the […]

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A Yankee Reflective

September 21, 2008 Jose
Me at the Old Yankee Stadium

I walked into my classroom with a pinstriped white shirt, and a brand new Yankees tie I got shipped to me a few weeks before, with navy blue pants, and black shoes. I knew I’d get criticism for it, mainly from a group of students who preferred the now-two time championship Boston Red Sox, my […]

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In Search of A-Rod’s Soul

August 7, 2008 Jose
AlexRodriguez2.jpg

Make no bones about it; I got love for Alex Rodriguez, the 3rd baseman for the New York Yankees. His swift and graceful swing, his trot, and that swagger he shows when he comes up to bat. The ease in which he picks up balls coming down the left field line and gets them to […]

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