Sunday, April 22, 2007

The Playoffs Are Here!

After winning the 2004 NBA Championship, the Detroit Pistons were poised to repeat the feat in 2005. They fell one game short, losing a tough seven-game title series to the San Antonio Spurs. Chauncey Billups, Richard Hamilton, Tayshaun Prince, Rasheed Wallace, and Ben Wallace went through the off-season wondering what could have been. They came back in 2006 and played like men possessed, compiling the best regular season record in the league. They were red hot for most of that season and almost everyone had them penciled in as the 2006 NBA Champs. Well, that title went to the Miami Heat who dethroned the Pistons as Eastern Conference Champions.

Now, the 2007 playoffs are here. Once again, the Pistons have something to prove. The team felt it should have repeated in '05, and should have rebounded in '06. What result will the '07 run produce? That's entirely up to the players.

The circumstances are a bit different. Ben Wallace defected to the conference rival Chicago Bulls after last season. Chris Webber now occupies Wallace's spot in the lineup. Also, while the Pistons compiled the best regular season record in the Eastern Conference, securing home court advantage throughout the playoffs, they did not finish with the best record in the league. That would be the Dallas Mavericks. If Detroit is to win its second NBA crown in four seasons and fourth overall, the players MUST show up each night ready to play, at full throttle, for 48 minutes, no exceptions. They cannot afford to take any team for granted, beginning with the eighth seeded Orlando Magic. The Magic enter the playoffs with the worst record of any 2007 playoff team, but that means nothing. If the Pistons really want this title, the quest begins with a beat down of the Magic.

As I watched Saturday's Game One, I saw signs the Piston players know and understand what has to be done. Then, late in the game, I saw signs of Detroit's dreaded "let ups," making inopportune mistakes and allowing Orlando to cut a 14-point lead down to three points in the final minutes, before going on to an eight-point victory.

I know, a win is a win. But Orlando is the worst team in the playoffs. So, if the best team in the conference can't beat down the worst team and keep them down, what will happen as the opposition gets tougher? I don't expect a sweep, but Detroit needs to win this opening series 4-1. Otherwise, I sense danger ahead.

Oh, Good Evening!

Playing Catch Up

It's been rough on a brother over the last several weeks. Lately, I haven't had the time or energy to frequently update this blog. Work has been kicking my... Oops, I almost forgot, this is a family friendly blog. (Oh, Good Evening!) Anyway, I'm playing catch up with this posting.

First, let me tackle the recent flap involving Don Imus. The radio shock jock got himself in serious hot water by calling the Rutgers University Women's Basketball Team "nappy headed ho's" on his radio program, also simulcasted on television, the morning following their loss to the University of Tennessee in the NCAA championship game. He apparently thought nobody would notice. Well, people did. And they let him know, in no uncertain terms, that what he said on the airwaves was totally unacceptable. The National Association of Black Journalists immediately called for Imus' dismissal from CBS and MSNBC.

A day later, Imus issued an apology which was followed by actions that indicated the apology was not sincere. MSNBC announced it would no longer simulcast "Imus In The Morning," removing his television presence. A day after that, CBS announced it was pulling the plug on the radio show, altogether.

Imus met personally with the Rutgers team and offered a personal apology, which the team accepted. But as their coach, C. Vivian Stringer told reporters, forgiveness will take time.

Don Imus' comments were first seen as racially insensitive, and they were considering the Rutgers team has a African-American head coach and the majority of the young women playing on the team are African-American. But on a deeper level, his comments were just as much sexist as they were racist.

He pretty much got what he deserved in terms of losing his show. While the decisions of MSNBC and CBS were likely driven as much by economics as they were outrage, it is important to understand that while freedom of speech is a foundation of this great nation, there are limits to the platforms from which one may speak, particularly when the speech is offensive and the platform is public.

Oh, Good Evening!

Next, let me say something about the horrible tragedy that took place at Virginia Tech University last Monday. I was standing in a restaurant waiting for a carry-out order when I saw a news report about the shooting on campus. At the time, they were reporting at least 20 people killed. I gasped, then said a silent prayer for the victims and the school's community. By the time I got to work, the number of dead had grown to more than 30.

We'll probably never know why Cho Sueng Hui went on his violent and deadly rampage, killing 32 people-- faculty and fellow students-- then killing himself. But, it does appear that he wanted the world to know since he sent a disturbing package of writings, photographs, and video messages to NBC News in the hours between his two shooting episodes.

May the victims of the Virginia Tech Massacre rest in peace. May the family of Cho Sueng Hui find peace as they live on in the shadow of his heinous deed. And, while I'm sure it's very easy for some to wish that Cho Sueng Hui, himself, rot in Hell, I have faith that there is redemption for everyone who seeks it. I pray that Cho is seeking redemption in whatever after world he now exists. It's clear he didn't feel at peace in this world. It's a shame he could not resolve his issues before destroying so many lives.

Oh, Good Evening!