Sunday, March 20, 2011

Jalen Rose Meets Dan Quayle

If you haven't had a chance to watch ESPN's new documentary "Fab Five" check it out. 

The film takes you back twenty years, when the University of Michigan landed five of the nation's top basketball recruits, then became the first team to start five freshman in a game. 

The Fab Five were brash.  They were bold.  Muhammad Ali in tank tops and baggy shorts.  In fact, Ali turns out to be a follower of the team. 

And like Ali, they backed it up. 

The Fab Five went to two consecutive Final Fours, losing both times in the national championship game.

The film was produced by Fab Five member Jalen Rose, who went on to a long NBA career and currently works as an analyst for ESPN. 

It's a captivating film, mainly for the raw, unedited emotion displayed by the participants.

Especially Jalen Rose. 

Rose and his teammates have been criticized for disparaging remarks about the Duke Blue Devils, particularly Grant Hill. 

No ambiguity here.  The Fab Five hates Duke and all that it stands for.  To them Michigan is "street," Duke "elite."

In Rose's eyes Duke would never touch guys like him because "they only wanted Uncle Tom's."

Rose went on to say that he was jealous of Grant Hill, who grew up privileged in a two parent household while he was raised by a single mother.

Some felt Rose should have explained his feelings today or edited them.  I disagree, as the film was about 1992, not 2011. 

Grant Hill then responded to Rose's comments:

As I read Hill's remarks, one thought came to mind:  He should have let it go.

When I watched "Fab Five" and listened to Jalen Rose,  I heard the voice of a wounded child.  I heard the voice of a man who, despite having both financial and personal success, would probably give it away.

A child who would give anything to have a Dad.

Rose's most poignant remarks were about the father who abandoned him.  Like Hill, Rose's father, Jimmy Walker, was a professional athlete.  Hill's father, Calvin Hill, played for the Dallas Cowboys.  Walker played for three NBA teams.

But while Hill grew up with his Dad, Walker never met his son.   In fact, Rose chose to wear number 42 in high school out of spite since it was the opposite of Walker's number 24.

Enter Dan Quayle, or more recently, Mike Huckabee. 

Then Vice President Dan Quayle famously criticized TV character Murphy Brown in 1992 for having a child out of wedlock and "ignoring the importance of fathers by birthing a child alone." 

Huckabee did the same, essentially, a few weeks ago when he criticized actress Natalie Portman, who is pregnant by her fiance.

I'll leave the moralizing to the talking heads.

Here's what I know:

Dad's matter.  Men matter.  And yes, our culture often diminishes their significance. 

But men do their part also.  Huckabee refers to a "Dad deficit" of $300 billion dollars.  In Chicago this past Valentine's Day "Operation Love" resulted in the arrests of six men who collectively owe over $200,000 in child support.  Chris Rock joked years ago, "If Osama Bin Laden owed child support they would have found him by now."

Being a father does not make you a man.  I often tell my kids, "Anyone can be a father, but only special people are Dad's."  Real men cook, they clean, they are emotionally available to their children.  They teach them right from wrong.

They are there for their children.

Not having one hurts.  Just ask Jalen Rose.

Friday, March 11, 2011

The Death Penalty Gets a Death Sentence

Illinois Governor Pat Quinn abolished the death penalty the other day.  As a result, 15 death row inmates will now serve life without parole.

Hopefully other states will follow.

I have never understood why we execute criminals and always viewed it as a barbaric response to barbaric crimes.  An eye for an eye. 

Therein lies the problem.  Executions are like surfing on a subway car.  If you make a wrong move, you can't go back.  And when it comes to death row inmates there have been plenty of "wrong moves" through the years.

Northwestern University's Medill Innocence Project began looking at death row cases in 1999.  Their investigations have led to 11 innocent men being freed, 5 of whom were on death row.  One of the exonerated, Anthony Porter, was said to be an inspiration behind former Governor George Ryan's moratorium on the death penalty several years ago.  

Ryan came to realize that there is no such thing as an "airtight" case.  If close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades, I would hate to be the guy wrongly accused.  And you have to wonder, how many innocent people have we already executed?

We may never know. 

I have read the stories of horrible people committing heinous crimes.  I can't imagine life for the victim's families.   Attorneys fight for victims, but no amount of money or years served will bring back a loved one. 
And violence shouldn't beget violence. 

As a child I remember hearing the story of Gary Gilmore, who chose death by firing squad in 1977 as opposed to hanging, which were the two ways you could be executed in Utah at the time.   I guess it's an upgrade over stoning or being burned at the stake.

As a Catholic I believe life without parole is a far better deal for a killer than the hereafter.  Forgiveness? That's another story.

I have heard valid arguments that certain crimes should warrant the death penalty, or that it should be allowed for a defendant who confesses or wants to be executed. 

Both arguments support the belief that killing inmates is an acceptable form of justice.  Or retribution.

With Illinois news dominated by big haired lunatic governors and our state's financial sinkhole, it's nice to see leadership for a change.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Lost and...Lost

I found a wallet the other day. 

While on the train, I rose to walk down the steps towards the door and there it was.  A brown, open, face down thick wallet. 

I picked it up and kept walking.  As I stood by the door I opened it, saw a drivers license and looked to see if anybody in my car looked like the man on the I.D. 

No luck.

I got to the office and quickly channeled Andy Sipowicz, trying to find the owner.  After rummaging through several business cards and doing an anywho search of the DL info (no match), I finally located a drug card with a woman's name on it. 

Wah lah! 

The next day a grateful owner had his pocket life back. 

I tell the story for two reasons:  1)  I can be equally forgetful and 2) You can't assume anything

I think back to a lovely November day during my junior year of college.  After a string of chilly times and pinching wind, I woke to a day worthy of t-shirts and shorts.  I hopped on my bike and headed off to class. 

April comes, and one morning I am looking for my bike.  A friend asks, "Do you mean the one parked outside J-school?  The one that's been there all winter?"

Oh oh. 

I snuck out late the next night to retrieve my rusted out, crooked bike with slashed tires.  The bike parked parallel to the rack.  The one with notes taped in several places with language unworthy of one of our nation's finest Journalism schools. 

And no, if one particular author happens to be reading this, my head is upright.  Has been for some time, and I can't contort myself.  

But I'm forgetful at times.  Runs in the family.  I have a Great Uncle who was an inventor and patent lawyer.  He was part of the Manhattan Project and a brilliant man. 

A man who had chemical books on his nightstand but couldn't remember what he had for breakfast.

George Carlin had a routine about what happens when we die.  First we pass meet St. Peter, then we are taken to a room which has everything we have ever lost.  Several sets of car keys, pens, cell phones, and wallets.

Which brings me to my other conclusion.  We can't assume anything. 

I have a professional colleague who's daughter recently had a baby with her partner.  The kids are "out" along with Dad, who's now a Grandpa.  We were talking one day about life and how different attitudes are today.  I broke it down simply. 

I spend a lot of time in parks, malls and libraries - the union halls of parenting. 

When I was a kid (and certainly when my elders were) you could spot a kid, see the adult and quickly conclude that yes, they are related.  No need for a DNA test.

Today?  Not so much. 

When I searched the lost wallet, the prescription card had a woman's name on it.  Same last name as the name on the driver's license. 
So I called the company on the front of the card.  When I reached her I said I had found her son's wallet.  "Thank you so much.  He's my husband," she replied. 

Sipowicz would know better.