Sunday, April 27, 2014

The Donald Sterling Saga: A Harsh Reality Check

This year's NBA playoffs has been full of headlines: from the Pacer's struggles, to the rise of the Wizards, to the surprises of the Grizzlies and Mavericks, etc.  None of these headlines, however, have been bigger than the tapes released by TMZ in which Donald Sterling, owner of the Los Angeles Clippers, seemingly engages in a conversation with his girlfriend V. Stiviano about her interactions with black people.  This conversation alleged began after Stiviano took a picture with Magic Johnson at an LA Clipper game; a picture which she proceeded to upload onto Instagram.  On the tape, Sterling confronts Stiviano, claiming that someone had informed him of the post, which undoubtedly upset him.  Sterling went on to make numerous statements about societal expectations of whites to not associate with blacks and minorities and so forth, and why his association however was justified.  Although this recording shocked the majority of the sports world, some were not at all surprised as Sterling was known to discriminate in his Real Estate practices.  I am however not surprised for an entirely different reason: because I am aware that racism still exists, and will probably continue to exist as long as there is a difference in our racial identities.

Being a racist is not an ascribed characteristic; instead, one is taught to hate members of a certain race for whatever reason there may be.  Ironically enough, Donald Sterling was a victim of racism, as he was once prevented from working at a Law firm, post law-school due to the fact that he was Jewish.  It is safe to say that the experience of rejection for one's being either encouraged Sterling to adopt a life of racism in order to assimilate into the norm (of the time) of societal racial discrimination, or Sterling developed a sense of revenge and wanted to take that out on a race that he grew to consider inferior.  Whatever the reason may be, Sterling (if the voice on the tape is in fact his) is undoubtedly under the impression that blacks are not equal to his kind, at least publicly. Why then does Sterling own a basketball team with a black head coach, consisting of mostly black players?  If he is so strongly against them, why then is he involved in an industry which is vastly dominated by blacks?  To me the answer is simple; Donald Sterling has the mentality of a modern day slave owner.

Donald Sterling may personally not like black people, however it is clear that he is willing to make an exception or put up a false pretense, as long as these black people continue to make him rich.  Unlike slave owners back in the day who exploited slaves for free labor, Sterling is willing hire blacks to work for him and even share a fraction of his wealth because the success of these blacks ultimately make him richer.  Sterling is even willing to go as far as to pretend to like these blacks, by taking pictures with them, sharing jokes with them court-side, publicly proclaiming them to be friends, etc. as long as his real feelings are sheltered, and his image is protected.  With all that being said however, the audio-recording, if it is proven to be his voice, is as incriminating as ever.  The man clearly expressed his views and the way he feels about minorities, in particular blacks.  Although it is clear, to me at least, that Stiviano had intentions to one day expose him (hence the recording, and her interrogative demeanor) probably for her own fortunes, her conduct has lead to a harsh reality check for the world that racism does in fact still exist.  Minorities in the music industry can attest to this as well, as the moguls who sign their checks are mostly white males who couldn't care less about their existence, however pretend to do so because the talents of these artists make them richer in their sleep.  It is a sad reality, although one that we cannot ignore, that racism still exists today and probably always will.  The audio recording of Donald Sterling may be of his voice, but it speaks the thoughts of many in this country, and we cannot overlook that fact.  Just as the nation was progressing, with such occurrences as the inauguration of a black president, we are forced to take a step back, as this weekend has reminded us of the reality that exists in the world that we live in.  A harsh reality check indeed.  

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The Power of Love

By: Kwame Awuah

There definitely isn’t a shortage in songs, quotes, articles, etc. on the internet about love.  The fact that there is so much written about it, that even the young and the old have a lot to say about it alone proves that the effect that love or being in love with a person can have on an individual cannot be denied. Whether it is a positive or negative effect depends on the people involved and their situation. I am not here to solve people’s relationship problems or say that by believing in love, everything will be okay; nor am I writing to clarify the difference between loving someone and being in love. I am definitely not writing to tell you who to love, how to love, and how to know you’re in love, as I believe those depend on each person and the circumstance. All I am writing about is the power of love and what it can do to a person.
             Love is an amazing feeling. It is actually critical for our mind and body and in my opinion may be just as important as oxygen. I do believe that love is the most powerful antidepressant there is in this world. When a person finds himself or herself in love with someone, his or her world changes completely. It’s that deep care that you start having for another person that you thought was never possible. It's when you wake up in the morning, this person is the first person you think about. Love is when you go about your day planning how you can make this person happier. It is when your day makes you feel miserable but hearing this person’s voice or seeing them just heals the wounds of the day. Love is when you can look at someone doing the silliest things and still think it is cute. It is when you feel your day isn’t complete when you haven’t heard from them all day. Love is when under the most difficult circumstances, you and her still make things possible. It is when you are texting her and you already know what her response is going to be and she already knows yours. Love is when you think something and she has already thought it. Love is when you wish you dream about them when you go to sleep because your dreams with her are better than reality. It is when wherever you are, wherever you go you wonder where you are in your relationship with her. Love is when you make up perfect scenarios in your head about your conversations, a possible future…

            Love is when you have known someone for years and never once had this feeling about him or her. But then one day it all changes. One day you just decide to let them know your sudden change in emotion about them. Love is when you tell them your feelings; you’re just holding your breath to hear that they feel the same about you. When she is having a bad day, you’re willing to put everything aside to make sure she is okay and goes to sleep with a smile. Love is when you are willing to wait however long you need to, to make that person a part of your life. For some of us, this all sounds cheesy and maybe a bit silly, but it is possible. That person may be far away or really close. We may see that person everyday or maybe we have never met this person. For some of us maybe this person disliked us from the beginning and they finally changed to love us back. That love that you get back from that person may be one of the better feelings in this world.

Friday, April 18, 2014

2014 NBA Playoff Predictions: First Round

Eastern Conference
Indiana Pacers (1) vs. Atlanta Hawks (8)
Don't be fooled by the seedings, as this is not going to be a walk in the park for the Pacers.  Indiana, although going into the postseason with the best record in the East, is far from the best team in the Conference.  Their struggles as of late have made them a very vulnerable team, and many including the Hawks have gotten the chance to capitalize off of this.  The last time these two teams met, the Hawks pounced on the Pacers in Indy, winning 107 to 88.  At one point, the Hawks were up by over 30 points, I repeat, in INDY. The penetration and quickness of Jeff Teague gave the Pacers nightmares, and a bit of a preview as to what may happen in this series. Nevertheless, I predict that this series will ultimately end 4-2 in favor of the Pacers, as the hawks are bound to run out of gas.  I do, however, look for the Hawks to surprisingly steal game one. 

Miami Heat (2) vs. Charlotte Bobcats (7)

This series, to me, is the one most likely to be a blow out (Hey, remember LeBron's 61?).  I had initially picked Charlotte to at least win game 3 on their homecourt, due to Big Al's paint dominance; however, I reconsidered my prediction simply because one man (or even two if you include a stellar game from Kemba) is unlikley to beat the Heat.  The Bobcats don't have enough weapons to give the Heat enough of a problem to constitute a win.  The Heat simply have too many weapons for the Bobcats to deal with.  If they turn it up defensively, it's going to be a long...long series for Charlotte.  With that being said, I pick the Heat to sweep the series and proceed to rest up for the next round.  Need I say more?

Toronto Raptors (3) vs. Brooklyn Nets (6)

Upset Alert! Yes, like most people, I too believe that Brooklyn will get the better of the Raptors in what is promised to be an exciting series to watch.  The Raptors have had an excellent season, reaching heights that nobody expected them to be capable of; however, I believe that the veteran expertise of the Nets will ultimately overcome the youthful exuberance of the raptors.  I expect the Raptors to win game 1, feeding off of the energy of their playoff deprived fans.  I do, however, expect Brooklyn to silent the noise and steal game two, and ultimately win the series 4-2.  This promises to be a very competitive series in regards to scores; more competitive than the 4-2 prediction would indicate.  Expect the intensity of a 7 game series each game, as each is likely to be a nail bitter. 

Chicago Bulls (4) vs. Washington Wizards (5)

I have no gut feeling when it comes to this series.  A part of me thinks the Wizards will prevail; another part thinks that the Bulls will pull through.  If this were to go to a 7th game, I'd pick the experience of the Bulls; however I don't think this series will go that far.  I pick the young energetic Wizards to close the deal in 6. Although the Bulls are known for their dominant defense as well as their well structured system, the Wizards are simply more talented.  I have little faith in the ability of the Bulls to keep up with the scoring of the Wizards.  Although they'll most likely dictate the pace, they do not have a go-to guy if they really need a bucket down the stretch (no offense to Noah, Boozer, DJ or anyone who may take offense to this...although if anoyone Taj should be offended by this); whereas the Wizards can rely on John Wall to create plays for himself or others, or Bradley Beal to create his own as well.  I see this series going to 6 games with the Wizards winning 4-2.

Western Conference
San Antonio Spurs (1) vs. Dallas Mavericks (8)

Dallas is undoubtedly disappointed to have lost the season finale to Memphis, as that would've given them a shot at the OKC Thunder; a team that they match up well with.  Considering the turn of events nonethless, I think the Mavs have fallen into a very unfavorable match-up against the well-oiled machine Spurs.  The Mavs simply have no shot. The Spurs are just way too structured and disciplined to beat themselves; which is the only way the Mavs could win against San Antonio, as they are simply not good enough to do so themselves.  I expect Dirk and Monta to have a good series; however, those two cannot outdo the entire Spurs gang.  Considering the Mavs are not necessarily a good defensive team, I don't see them stopping the Spurs, and they're certainly not going to outscore them in 4 games.  I expect the Mavs to win game two (yes, in San Antonio); however I see this series ending in 5 with the Spurs winning 4-1.

Oklahoma Thunder (2) vs. Memphis Grizzlies (7)

Weird to say, but Memphis would have been better off getting the lower 8th seed and playing the Spurs.  I saw that as a much more favorable matchup for them as opposed to the Thunder.  Regardless, I think they'll do OKAY against the Thunder; however not good enough to win the series. The MVP will do his usual damage, and I expect Westbrook to flourish as well.  Gasol and Randolph will give Perkins and Ibaka enough trouble to get Memphis two wins at home, plus KD is bound to have at least one bad shooting night.  This will however be it for the Grizzlies; OKC should have enough to get by, winnig the series 4-2.

Los Angeles Clippers (3) vs. Golden State Warriors (6)

This series is bound to be the most exciting out of all the first round match-ups.  Just think of this: Chris Paul vs. Steph Curry, Blake Griffin vs. David Lee, Klay Thompson vs. Jamal Crawford, Andrew Bogut vs. DeAndre Jordan, Marc Jackson vs. Doc Rivers, dunks vs. 3 pointers, Lob City vs. the Splash Brothers.  So many beautiful match-ups within this heated rivalry.  I believe that this is going to be one of those series where the home team wins each game; hence the Clippers winning 4-3 in exiciting game 7 fashion.  Both teams are extremely talented and deep, which makes for a competitive series.  I do however think that the Clippers are more balanced, and the better defensive team.  The bench is really the key: can the Warriors bench produce enough to nullify the production of Jamal Crawford and Darren Collison? I don't think so.  I do however think that the Oracle Arena fans will produce enough energy to ignite some stellar shooting performances by the Warriors in at least 2 games.  Look for the series to go to at least a game 6, but hopefully a game 7 for us hoop lovers.

Houston Rockets (4) vs. Portland Trailblazers (5)

This is another series which features two evenly matched teams: both with a "dominant" inside scorer, and a host of productive peremiter shooters.  In fact, these teams are so evenly matched that I wouldn't be surprised if this series also went to a game 7, although I do not expect that to be the case.  In the first 5 games of the series, I expect the home team to conventionally defend home court; in game 6, however, I expect James Harden to go off and have a 40+ type performance and kill any chances of the series going back to Houston for a game 7.  I expect Harden to have one of those "Wow, did you see that game" type of performances that will have the whole league in awe for a couple of days.  That is what I believe it will take for the Rockets to ultimately win the series and advance 4-2.

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