Saturday, September 24, 2011

Sitting On My Porch Part Seventy Three : A Long Winded Weekend Edition

Life these days can be confusing for a person that thinks the way I do. My code in life is that your actions have to match your words. Sometimes the words come first in form of ideas and then your actions have to follow that. This is the basis on how I judge people and give them respect. Whether or not I agree with them has nothing to do with it. I have tried to apply that to myself especially since I put my thoughts on this blog for public view. I never want to be put in a situation where I look like a hypocrite.

For instance, I could myself look good by telling how wrong guys are for hanging out in bars and strip clips. Everybody would be giving me compliments and telling me what a great guy I am. I wouldn’t feel comfortable doing that because when my bills are paid and everyone is taking care of, it’s not out of the realm of possibility to find me and my friends sitting a table in a place like that with a few adult beverages. I stay honest with myself and leave that kind of moral high ground to folks like my dad. It seems like he’s never been out without my mom since about 1970.

The other night I was watching the Republican debate on Fox News and the moderators asked a question about foreign policy. Rick Santorum went on to answer about how we should be spreading democracy and American freedom all over the world! The crowd started cheering. A few minutes later a gay soldier asked a question by video from overseas about Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. The crowd that was cheering for spreading American democracy started booing the soldier. Rick Santorum said he would reinstate the policy if he becomes president because serving in the military has nothing to do with sex. Gay people in the military don’t want to be able to come out to get some action. They are probably getting that anyway. They want to be able to come out because this is supposed to be a country with freedom to be who you are. That’s the kind of thing I can’t respect.

I could have respected him if he said that since he doesn’t want to give gay soldiers the freedom to be who they are he’ll make them exempt from having to go and risk their lives to give people in other countries the kind of freedom they can’t have in their own military. If he did that I would think he’s stupid but at least I could say he has conviction.

Stuff like that is the reason why even though I don’t agree with most of what Ron Paul says I respect him.  He’s the only guy that gets booed at a debate for how he feels and doesn’t backtrack on anything. That happens every debate while Mitt Romney attacks a healthcare philosophy he damn near created in Massachusetts. This always seems strange to me. I’m going to give Ron Paul a compliment. No matter what you think of his beliefs, his supporters never get cheated by having to watch him turn on his own principles just to win a poll. We could use more people like him accept for the wanting to take government back to the 1800’s part.

Issues of the world are complicated. I followed the Troy Davis execution story waiting to see if someone was going to step in and stop it to at least review the information and make sure that they were killing the right man. When no one did and the execution was over I felt a strong sense of sadness at the fact it seemed like the justice system was not working.  I am not a fan of the justice system because I think it is bias towards young black men. We need to fix that by keeping ourselves out of the system so the chances of another Troy Davis story happening again are minimal. At the same time we have men in our community like Telly Hankton that are so dangerous that the chief of police himself went to sent in on his trial just to see if he was really going to get convicted so his officers wouldn’t have to deal with him. Guys like that can’t be out here on the streets with the rest of us and a lot of them are too far gone for rehabilitation. Some of us may not like the current system but our community isn’t quite safe enough to pretend we don’t need something to keep some of our failures away from us.

The Saints play Houston this week. The Texans are not a rival in the minds of Saints fans the way Dallas is. It might be a more personal game because since 2005 Houston might as well be called Western New Orleans.  There are some folks here that have a strange feeling about Houston. Some of it is jealousy because they seem to have the money and progressive nature we can’t seem to master. The other part is frustration because no one talks about this but a lot of the people who stayed in Houston after the storm were hardworking and productive.  Don’t get me wrong a lot of good people came back home too but the thugs came back with them in full force.  Houston is too big for my taste but I have no problems with the city or its people because if they hadn’t opened up all of the Astrodome people may have been sitting on that interstate even longer. I pull for the Texans when they are not playing the Saints.

On the football side of things the Saints defense finally held a team under 20 points for the first time in a long time. We are either ready for another Superbowl run or the Chicago Bears have the worst offense in the league. Houston ran through our first team defense in preseason like they weren’t even on the field. Tomorrow we will find out if that was just preseason and the defense is ready to play well or if we should be looking at the schedule to see how many teams have prolific offenses and count those as a lost. This game will tell everyone a lot about where the season is headed because it’s too late now to fix the roster. I’m going to say the Saints score enough to win and come up with one big play from Darren Sproles in special teams to pull the game out. Darren Sproles is making all the preaching I did against the Bush trade look silly. If he scores every week I don’t mind being wrong.

Saints 31 Texans 27

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Matters of Redemption

I’m watching the Philadelphia Eagles play the Atlanta Falcons right now. This is the first time Michael Vick has played in Atlanta since he went to prison. The Eagles were there before but he was a backup then.  There are a few people in #7 Atlanta Falcon jerseys. I figured there would be. Other than the fact he’s playing the Falcons I don’t care if Michael Vick wins this game. This post isn’t really about him. This post is about how we as a community look at redemption.

There’s no doubt that Mike Vick is a polarizing figure. There are some people that are going to always love him and others that will always hate him. Either way he does represent something that Michael Irvin mentioned on the NFL Network this morning. Michael Irvin was talking about how the African American community is built in a spiritual place that embraces the idea of redemption and how a lot of people in our community have latched on to Mike Vick because he represents that. 

Michael Irvin was right. The black community loves stories of redemption. It goes along with our journey in this country. We love to see it when someone beats the odds. There are a lot of people in my city who have had some serious obstacles to overcome. There is nothing that brightens my day more than running into someone who I know was on the edge of losing it all and came back. Usually the person doesn’t come back to start for an NFL team like Michael Vick. We are just happy to see some of our people getting up in the morning to go to work at a regular job. That alone is enough to make you cry sometimes.

The only negative aspect we have in our praise of redemption is that we don’t spend enough time trying to prevent one another from getting into places that we have to fight so hard to get out of.  Sometimes I think we focus too much on the end of the story and not trying to prevent the beginning and the middle. Many of the things we have to redeem ourselves from are a product of bad choices and avoidable circumstances. As much as I get inspired when someone beats the odds and finds their way back to the world I am equally depressed when they fall.

I don’t want to downplay what anyone has done to better themselves and change the course of their life. I just want more focus on how we can make sure as many people as possible succeed without having to go through anything. I would much rather have my friends going through life without criminal records and failed drug test trying to make things happen then always having to try and make something out of nothing.
Everybody’s not Mike Vick coming home to the Eagles or Lil Wayne getting out of prison to make records. Those guys were in prison with hundreds of brothers who have to start from scratch if they ever get out at all. The best thing we could do for them is keep them out of trouble to begin with. Not having as much drama in our lives may make our testimony a lot less exciting but our lives may be better for it.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Another Summit To Save Our Sons

Tomorrow morning at 10:00 AM the city of New Orleans will host a crime summit hosted by Mayor Mitch Landrieu. It’s called the “Saving our Sons Crime Summit”. Somehow I didn’t hear about this summit until this week and I made other commitments for Saturday morning so the city will have to forgive me if I can’t attend. I promise to make up for it by doing something productive. 

I really want to try and make it because I am interested in seeing how things go with the mayor involved. I went to the last meeting of the minds at Cohen High School and listened to men give passionate speeches about what’s going on in the streets. I remember that night well because there was a period when everyone went out into the hall where tables were set up to sign up for different things that would help out. I signed up for a mentoring program and the people never called me. I would put them on blast and mention their name but since they never called I can’t remember. I ended up working with the Volunteers of America Mentoring Children of Promise program and I will be getting another little brother as soon as work isn’t so hectic so I can give him some real time. 

That’s just a personal issue with that particular part of the last meeting. In general I support the summit. My only concern is that the message there makes it to the kids that actually seem to be in danger. The people who show up to crime summits are usually not the ones that are going to do any crime in the first place. Maybe with the mayor involved the conversation will lead to a plan that will get the message into the closed in subculture of our city that probably has no idea there’s a crime summit going on because they are too busy focused on doing their own crimes. Those are the kids we have to get into some programs even if we have to force them into them. 

Mayor Landrieu has an underrated gift in how he communicates with people from all walks of life in this city. I think its part of the reason that although nothing has changed when it comes to influence and opportunity we haven’t seen any major public battles like we used to see when Ray Nagin was mayor.  If there is one thing to make me change my plans and go it will be to see if the mayor can’t stand up there and address some of the issues that need to be addressed to change some of the behavior of young men in this city. I want to see if the mayor can stand up there and tell those folks that if they just took responsibility for their kids and themselves that would cut the crime rate in half instantly without everyone getting offended and losing sight of the real purpose of being there. If he can pull that off there will be no need for anyone to run against him in when re-election time comes.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Week 1 : The Most Important Players For A Good Season

Tomorrow night the Saints play the Green Bay Packers to open the NFL season. I’m not going to kid myself into thinking this is a good way to start the season. Green Bay is a very good team. Their quarterback is an assassin. It doesn’t surprise me that so many people are picking them to repeat. I would rather open the season against the Bengals. That way if our defense isn’t quite ready we won’t get destroyed on a Thursday night when the whole country is watching. I’ve been through that once before against Peyton Manning and it wasn’t fun.

Win or lose there will still be 15 more games left. When I look at the season as a whole it’s difficult for me to figure out what I think the Saints record will be. This is not the same team that won the Superbowl two years ago and changing the roster is cool if you are getting younger and more talented but honestly I am not sure if that’s the case. I think we have a good team this year but how far we can go depends on a hand full of guys. Here are the most important Saints players other than Brees and Vilma in order of catastrophe if they get hurt or don’t play well.

1.    Malcolm Jenkins: He’s the most important person on defense besides Jonathan Vilma. Chase Daniel can hand the ball off and make a few throws if Drew gets hurt. We learned the hard way at the end of last year that if Malcolm Jenkins gets hurt the season is lost because there’s no one remotely close to his level of play. If he’s not in there it’s the Seattle playoff game all over again.
2.    Zach Streif : We won’t have to wait long to find out if our right tackle spot is going to be trouble all year. I think Jon Stinchcomb being cut had more to do with his physical skills declining than with Streif getting better. Nevertheless he’s got to play well because I think Charles Brown who was drafted in the second round of last year’s draft is a bust.
3.    Shaun Rogers: I wasn’t as excited about this signing as everyone else seemed to be. It just seems like his career should be better than what it has been. Plus he’s played for Cleveland and Detroit and I am not sure if he’s got a lot of concern for winning.
4.    Will Herring/Scott Shanle/Jonathan Casillas/ Martez Wilson: The two starters at outside linebacker coming out of a combination of these four guys have to be able to cover tight ends and make some plays. I thought this was the weakest spot on the team last year and it is again.
5.    Garrett Hartley and John Kasay: Last year one missed kick against Atlanta at home ended up being the reason we were playing in Seattle instead of having a home playoff game. Now Hartley’s hurt and our kicker is a 40 year old veteran who broke my heart so many times with the Panthers. Let’s hope he still has the leg and that it doesn’t come to him having to make a big kick before Hartley comes back. If he does have to make one let’s hope it doesn’t look like his kicks in preseason.

I don’t see any middle ground this season. We either going to win 11 to 12 games and win the division or we are going to win 5 to 6 and get young kids ready for next season. I am not going to make a prediction on the record because I want to say 12-4 but that’s more of my heart talking than anything. I’m just going to take this season week by week and see what happens.

You shouldn’t put much stock in preseason games but going by what I saw I want to say that the Packers will win tomorrow night’s game 31-21. However as a diehard fan, if you can’t be positive about the first game then when can you? I’m going with my heart and say Saints 27 Packers 21. That would be a great opening night. A good opening night would be a close came without Clay Matthews or Charles Woodson killing Drew Brees and Malcolm Jenkins not getting hurt.

I still haven’t decided on my new lucky game shirt since I burned the other after the Seattle wildcard game last year but I’ll have one by game time. I hope I don’t have burn this one too.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Sitting On My Porch Part Seventy Two

This post is dedicated to Geraldine 9/26/32 to 8/29/2005. I'll never be over it but I'll keep moving forward. Long live the Lower Ninth Ward.

I need to get this post done before college football gets in full gear this weekend and I fight flood waters to make it to my fantasy draft on Sunday. Plus, I have two epic Saints season preview posts to do this weekend if the power doesn't go off. It’s been a strange week around the city of New Orleans. That’s not the first time I have said those words. Monday was the anniversary of the weather event on August 29, 2005. I’m not in the mood to type the name this evening. It’s always a pretty somber and reflective day for most of us. It’s been six years so we talk about it less but inside it still stays with you. All week I've been thinking about my grandparents and that always puts me in a strange place where I want to make them proud and kick someone's ass on their behalf at the same time. My fifth act as a king of all humans is taking August off the calendar.

I guess Mother Nature decided to give us something to take our minds off all the water by covering the city in a big cloud of smoke for two days due to a marsh fire out in New Orleans East. I made a comment Monday morning that it smelled like burned collard greens outside. The smoke smelled really bad on Monday and then tried to choke the life out of everyone on Tuesday. In true New Orleans fashion there were some people who pretended like they didn’t smell anything and it was no big deal and another group of people who thought it was Armageddon. That made the whole situation a bit funny to me.

Once the smoke got everyone’s mind off of flooding we were presented with another tropical system that sitting outside of coast and waiting to mess up everyone’s Labor Day weekend. If it gets strong enough for a name it will be” Lee”. I’m hoping that it comes through before that and gives us whatever it’s going to as soon as possible. If no one home gets flooded and the Direct TV signal stays on long enough to watch the LSU vs. Oregon game on Saturday we should consider this event a win. I don’t want to downplay the seriousness of a tropical storm but we live in South Louisiana. We are going to get some kind of tropical weather. Give me a pain in the ass storm like this one with lots of rain over one that requires the activation of contra flow any time.

Michael Vick signed a contract worth 100 million dollars this week after being in federal prison two years ago. Most black men can barely get a job digging ditches when they get out of prison and Mike Vick got a huge contract with guaranteed money. If that doesn’t make him appreciate his gifts I don’t know what will. People’s reaction to his rise, fall and rising again shows the different philosophies on life in our community. So many people are inspired by the fact he went to prison and came back to have success. I think they see a lot of their own family and friends in him. I was raised by people who would say that if he never would have been fighting dogs in the first place he would have 200 million right now and could do even more things for himself and his family. At the end of the day the best way to beat the system is to stay out of it.

On the flip side of that issue Betty Jefferson stole over a million dollars from the most vulnerable and needy people in New Orleans and all she got were 15 months of house arrest. The second best way to beat the system is to be a really good thief and always steal from poor black people. You’ll get to spend 15 months watching Young and the Restless for your punishment.

New Orleans City Councilwoman Jackie Clarkson had a few issues at a meeting in District E when she said that having Mitch Landrieu as mayor took her back to the 50’s and 60’s which were the glory days of New Orleans in her book. I’m not the type of person that jumps all over someone for a quote unless it’s Glenn Beck or Rush Limbaugh. In this case however the councilwoman is not going to get a pass because there’s no way she or anyone else has lived in this area all their lives and doesn’t know that kind of comment was going to piss off black people. The political climate in this country is too tense right now and she should be more careful. I tried to come up with a way to let her off the hook but I couldn’t.

Maybe to her the 50’s and 60’s were the golden era for New Orleans but if me and my friends went back in time and went out to eat all of my white friends would have a nice seat overlooking the French Quarter and the rest of us would be eating in the kitchen if we got that far without getting our asses whipped and going to jail. I like the mayor but he hasn’t done anything that great to make me get on board with going back to any days like that. If he gets a hospital open in New Orleans East and a Wal Mart somewhere I might reminisce on when Schwegmann’s grocery store was open but that’s as far back as I am going. Besides, I thought we were focused on going forward.