Wednesday, December 02, 2020

VCU Game 4: Penn St. Wins with Buzzer-Beater

Penn State 72, VCU 69

Location: University Park, Pa. (Bryce Jordan Center)

Records: VCU 2-2, Penn State 2-0

 

The short story: Senior forward Levi Stockard III provided a team-high 13 points, his most in a VCU uniform, but Penn State’s Myles Dread hit a 3-pointer from the right wing at the buzzer to give the Nittany Lions a 72-69 win Wednesday night in Happy Valley.

 

OPENING TIP

·      Stockard, a transfer from Kansas State, connected on 5-of-7 attempts from the field and helped fuel a late VCU comeback

·      Sophomore guard Bones Hyland added 11 points and six rebounds to the Black and Gold cause

·      Freshman point guard Ace Baldwin added seven points, six assists and two steals, with just one turnover, for VCU

·      Seth Lundy led all players with 32 points for Penn State. He was 11-of-19 from the floor, including 5-of-10 from 3-point range

 

THE DIFFERENCE

·      VCU freshman swingman Jamir Watkins nearly sent the game to overtime when he drove the left baseline for a game-tying reverse layup with 8.5 seconds remaining. Following a Penn State timeout, Jamari Wheeler swung the ball around to Dread, who connected on his only field goal of the game to give PSU the victory at the final horn

·      The Rams trailed 68-60 with 3:46 left, but Hyland ignited a 9-1 VCU burst with a 3-pointer from the right wing in transition to tie the game at 69-all

·      Penn State outrebounded VCU 37-34, including 12-8 on the offensive glass

·      VCU crept within 55-53 with 8:02 left, but Lundy sandwiched a pair of 3-pointers around a trey by teammate Sam Sessoms to push the Nittany Lions to a 64-56 advantage with 5:53 remaining

 

NOTABLE

·      This was the first-ever meeting between VCU and Penn State

·      VCU sophomore forward Hason Ward came off the bench to supply nine points and five rebounds

·      The Rams freshman class of Watkins, Baldwin, Josh Banks and Mikeal Brown-Jones combined to give VCU 20 points and nine assists

 

NEXT UP

VCU will host Mount St. Mary’s on Saturday, Dec. 5 at 2 p.m. in its home opener at the Stuart C. Siegel Center. 


-- Game notes from Chris Kowalczyk, VCU Assistant A.D

Tuesday, December 01, 2020

Fizzling Trumpism

Peter Lorre in "M" (1931).

Once Joe Biden was declared the winner, according to the television networks and the Associated Press, the magic of Trumpism began to fizzle. At first, it wasn't so noticeable because it was being drowned out by all the speculation about what crazy, dangerous things Trump might do before January 20 ... and after January 20.

Yes, pundits have been steadily issuing dire warnings about Trump in the role of an evil ex-president, hellbent on payback. Trump as the still fearsome unchallenged top dog of the Republican Party, the GOP's 2024-nominee-in-waiting. Well, I'm here to say, “Bullshit!”

After weeks of fizzling, Americans of all political persuasions have seen Trump's pitiful efforts to overturn the results of the election. We've all watched Trump's shameless and fruitless campaign to use the courts to cancel legitimate votes. Moreover, rather than looking like a brave and determined victim seeking revenge, Trump has revealed himself to be a scared and impotent fool.

Now the fizzling is easier to see.

So easy that even the 70 million people who voted for him have to be seeing it, too. Most of them may not be ready to admit it, today, but they have been seeing it. No doubt, some of them are already wishing they hadn't told anybody they voted for Trump.

Rather than a badass gang boss, post-election Trump is looking like a cowardly movie villain, sweating profusely. Now Trump is Peter Lorre, as the child-slayer in Fritz Lang's “M” (1931), running to escape the street mob that is determined to deal out instant justice.

For the Republicans who can't see the handwriting on the wall, supporting Trump too long into this pre-January 20th interregnum period will leave a stain. From here on, every day gets you in deeper into the political quicksand. But the ones who want to save themselves need to get a bunch of electeds to all take the plunge at the same time. If it's just a few them at a time, those who go first will probably take quite a beating from the meanest of the Trumpists, diehards still planning to go down with the ship.

Because Trump can't stand the idea of not being president, anymore, he has convinced himself that his strategy to hurl all the crazy, unfounded challenges at the election results in several states will be seen as courageous and being true to his school. For instance, he seems sure that he will be seen as heroic by his racist supporters for attacking Black voters, in particuular. But I think all that stuff only works if his underhanded tactics pay off. Then he a ruthless winner!

As it has turned out, Trump is a loser. A sore loser. He wants his Kool-Aid guzzlers to see him as Jack Palance in “Attack” (1956). Unfortunately, he still looks too much like Peter Lorre.

Don't get me wrong, I'm certainly not suggesting there won't be problems with diehard Trumpists in the next 50 days. But I am saying that without the power of his office, and given his miserable failure of an election stealing effort, after Jan. 20th, Trump's power as an individual will steadily fade into oblivion. Meanwhile, I expect plenty of mischief from those diehards in the weeks ahead. Trump is hardly the only sore loser.

*   *   *

Saturday, November 28, 2020

VCU 70, Memphis 59: Rams leave S.D. with a 2-1 Record

Bad Boy Mowers Crossover Classic
Score: VCU 70, Memphis 59
Location: Sioux Falls, S.D. (Sanford Pentagon)
Records: VCU 2-1, Memphis 1-2

 

The story: Junior Vince Williams led three VCU players in double figures with 15 points and the Rams clamped down on defense to topple Memphis 70-59 Friday in the finale of the Bad Boy Mowers Crossover Classic.

 

OPENING TIP

·      Williams knocked down 3-of-5 from beyond the 3-point arc and connected on 6-of-8 free throws

·      Junior guard KeShawn Curry added 14 points and five rebounds, while sophomore guard Bones Hyland scored all 12 of his points in the second half for the Rams

·      VCU freshman point guard Ace Baldwin, playing in just his third collegiate game, provided a steady hand. He contributed three points, six assists, six rebounds and a pair of steals

·      In addition, sophomore forward Hason Ward supplied his best effort of the young season for the Black and Gold with nine points, seven rebounds and two blocked shots

·      D.J. Jeffries led all scorers with 17 points for Memphis

 

THE DIFFERENCE

·      VCU swamped the Tigers defensively, forcing 19 turnovers that resulted in 25 points. The Rams held Memphis to 35 percent (20-of-57) shooting from the field, including 6-of-23 from 3-point range

·      The Rams extended what had been a 33-29 halftime lead partially on the strength of a 19-15 second-half rebounding advantage. VCU led Memphis on the boards 35-34 overall

·      VCU took a 12-9 lead on a 3-pointer by sophomore guard Tre Clark at the 11:29 mark of the first half and never looked back

·      Memphis drew within five points, at 41-36 on a jumper by Jayden Hardaway with 15:31 remaining, but VCU answered with a 12-1 burst, fueled by a pair of Williams 3-pointers, to take a commanding 52-37 lead with 11:20 left. The Tigers got no closer than eight points the rest of the night

 

NOTABLE

·      VCU led for 32:17 of Friday’s contest

·      Hyland was named to the Bad Boy Mowers Crossover Classic All-Tournament Team

-    Box Score

 

UP NEXT

The Rams will head to State College, Pa. to take on Penn State on Wednesday, Dec. 2 at 5 p.m. The game will be broadcast nationally on Fox Sports 1.


-- Game notes from Chris Kowalczyk, VCU Assistant A.D

Friday, November 27, 2020

Mountaineers' Defense Stifles Rams

From: Chris Kowalczyk, VCU Assistant A.D.

Bad Boy Mowers Crossover Classic - Semifinals

Score: #15 West Virginia 78, VCU 66

Location: Sioux Falls, S.D. (Sanford Pentagon)

Records: #15 West Virginia 2-0, VCU 1-1

 

The Short Story: Sophomore guard Bones Hyland scored a team-high 13 points, and VCU forced 21 turnovers, but ultimately 15th-ranked West Virginia held off the Rams in a Thanksgiving Day contest in Sioux Falls, S.D.

 

OPENING TIP

·      Hyland led the Rams in scoring for the second straight day, but the defensive-minded Mountaineers did not make it easy, limiting him to 5-of-16 shooting from the field. Hyland added three rebounds, three steals and a pair of assists.

·      Junior forward Vince Williams provided another double-digit performance off the bench for the Rams with 11 points and three rebounds

·      Junior guard KeShawn Curry supplied eight points and four rebounds for the Black and Gold, while freshman point guard Ace Baldwin handed out six assists and grabbed a pair of steals. He committed just two turnovers

·      Derek Culver led all players with 23 points and 15 rebounds for West Virginia

 

THE DIFFERENCE

·      West Virginia used an early 10-2 advantage on the glass to fuel a 13-0 start. The Mountaineers finished the game with a 49-34 rebounding edge. WVU grabbed 23 offensive rebounds and turned them into 25 points

·      While neither team shot the ball particularly well overall, West Virginia managed to connect on 45 percent (14-of-31) of its attempts in the second half

·      VCU shot 3-of-21 from beyond the 3-point arc

·      The Rams used a 10-0 burst midway through the first half, punctuated by back-to-back buckets by Clark, to pull within 29-27. But West Virginia answered with a 14-4 burst to close the half

 

NOTABLE

·      Baldwin managed another steady performance at the point. In two games, the 6-foot point guard has dished out 13 assists with just four turnovers

·      Freshman forward Jamir Watkins turned in a seven-point, four-rebound effort for the Rams

 -   Box score 


NEXT UP

VCU will meet Memphis on Friday, Nov. 27 at 9 p.m. (EST) in the final day of the Bad Boy Mowers Crossover Classic.


Thursday, November 26, 2020

VCU Wins Season Opener: Rams 85, Aggies 69

 Game No. 1 Notes from: Chris Kowalczyk, VCU Assistant A.D.

 

Bad Boy Mowers Crossover Classic

Score: VCU 85, Utah State 69

Location: Sioux Falls, S.D.

Records: VCU 1-0, Utah State 0-1

 

The short story: Sophomore Bones Hyland set a career-high with 23 points and junior Vince Williams helped key a decisive second-half blitz as VCU rushed past Utah State Wednesday to kick off the 2020-21 season.

 

OPENING TIP

·      Hyland scored 15 of his 23 points in the first half. He finished 6-of-12 from the floor, including 5-of-10 from 3-point range

·      Williams poured in 13 of his career-high 15 points in the second half to help VCU’s late surge. The Toledo, Ohio native also provided five rebounds, four assists and a steal

·      Junior guard KeShawn Curry added 10 points and six rebounds to the mix for VCU, while senior forward Corey Douglas and sophomore guard Tre Clark supplied eight each

·      Neemias Queta recorded a double-double with 17 points and 10 rebounds for the Aggies

 

THE DIFFERENCE

·      VCU trailed by as many as 10 points in the second half, but Hyland buried a 3-pointer, and Curry scooped up back-to-back Utah State turnovers for fast break buckets to spark an 18-0 Rams run that gave them a 74-63 lead with 5:00 remaining

·      The Rams held Utah State without a field goal for nearly 11 minutes down the stretch. VCU outscored the Aggies 29-6 the final 10:56

·      The Rams shot 53 percent (28-of-53) from the field, including 10-of-24 from 3-point range

·      VCU limited Utah State to 32 percent (9-of-28) shooting in the second half. 

·      VCU scored 28 points off of 18 turnovers in the game. The Rams turned the ball over just four times in the second half.   

 

NOTABLE

-   All 12 Rams who played scored. 

-     Box score. 

 

NEXT UP

VCU will take on 15th-ranked West Virginia at 2:30 p.m. (EST) in the semifinals of the Bad Boy Mowers Crossover Classic in Sioux Falls, S.D. (ESPN).

Friday, November 20, 2020

Ashby to Join VCU Basketball Radio Broadcast Team



This news comes from VCU's Chris Kowalczyk:
VCU Sports Properties announced on Friday that Rodney Ashby will join Robby Robinson on the men’s basketball radio team. Ashby replaces veteran announcer Mike Litos, who stepped away from the role following an eight-year run as color analyst.

Ashby, a VCU Basketball alumnus, has spent the past six seasons assisting the radio and television teams in a variety of ways, including as TV color analyst and pregame, halftime and postgame analyst on the radio broadcasts. He will continue to provide color to VCU’s TV broadcasts when needed.

“Right before the year ended, Mike Litos told me he thought it was a good time to step aside. A few years ago he and his wife moved to the Northern Neck, and he wanted to spend more time out there,” Robinson said. “I spent most of the summer trying to convince him to stay, but in the end, he felt comfortable with his decision to move on to the next phase of his life. Fortunately, we had someone in Rodney who Rams fans are familiar with and will do a tremendous job on the broadcasts.”

Ashby’s first game as the full-time analyst will be on Thursday, Nov. 26 as the Rams open the 2020-21 season against the Charlotte 49ers. The pregame radio broadcast will begin at 6 p.m. That contest will tip-off at 6:30 p.m.

All VCU home and away games are broadcast on Entercom Richmond’s Sports Radio 910 (AM) The Fan and Big 98.5 (FM). They are also streamed on TuneIn radio and the Radio.com app.

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Update from VCU on Seating Capacity at The Stu

 From Chris Kowalczyk,

Assistant A.D. for Athletics Communications at VCU: 

VCU Athletics will begin basketball season with a capacity of 250 spectators inside the Stuart C. Siegel Center. Tuesday’s capacity adjustment was made in accordance with new COVID-19 safety guidance from the Commonwealth of Virginia, announced last week.

Should the State issue new guidance in the future, VCU Athletics will adjust accordingly.

A limited number of tickets will be made available to VCU students and guests of student-athletes. Approximately 175 seats will be reserved for season ticket holders.

Season ticket holders will receive notice by Wednesday, Nov. 18 if they qualify for the new limited capacity model.

Monday, November 16, 2020

VCU 2020/21 Men's Basketball Schedule

From Chris Kowalczyk, Assistant A.D. for Athletics Communications at VCU:

Non-conference road contests at Tennessee, Penn State and LSU, as well as a loaded 18-game Atlantic 10 Conference slate, highlight VCU’s 2020-21 men’s basketball schedule, released Monday.

Click here to see the full schedule.

 

VCU will open the 2020-21 campaign against Charlotte on Thanksgiving, Thursday, Nov. 26, at Thompson-Boling Arena in Knoxville, Tenn. The Rams will take on host Tennessee, which it battled last season in the Emerald Coast Classic, on Friday, Nov. 27. The Volunteers are ranked No. 12 in the Associated Press’ Preseason Top 25 Poll.

 

The Rams will also make December non-conference road trips to Penn State (Dec. 2) and LSU (Dec. 22). VCU topped LSU 84-82 last season at the Stuart C. Siegel Center. VCU and Penn State have never met.

 

VCU will open the home portion of its schedule on Saturday, Dec. 5 when it hosts Mount St. Mary’s at the Siegel Center. The Rams will also welcome North A&T (Dec. 9), longtime rival Old Dominion (Dec. 12), Western Carolina (Dec. 15) and Louisiana (Dec. 18) in non-conference match-ups.

 

Twelve of VCU’s 18 Atlantic 10 Conference games will be broadcast on national television. Home-and-home league match-ups with cross-town rival Richmond, Dayton, Rhode Island, George Mason and Davidson await the Rams.

 

VCU will head to the Robins Center to take on the Spiders on Jan. 16 in a contest that will be televised nationally by CBS Sports Network. Richmond will return the game on Feb. 12 at the Siegel Center, a tilt that will air on the ESPN family of networks.

 

The Rams will also host Fordham, UMass La Salle and Saint Louis in league action. VCU will head out for additional road contests at Saint Joseph’s, George Washington, Duquesne and St. Bonaventure. VCU will close out regular season play on March 3 at Dayton on CBS Sports Network.

 

The 2021 Atlantic 10 Conference Championship Tournament is scheduled for March 10-14 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y.

 

Additional TV information for games outside of the A-10 package will be available soon.

 

VCU is coming off an 18-13 campaign, its 20th consecutive winning season. The Rams welcome six newcomers, including transfers Brendan Medley-Bacon (Baltimore, Md.) and Levi Stockard III (St. Louis, Mo.) from Coppin State and Kansas State, respectively. The Rams return a number of regulars, including A-10 All-Rookie selection Nah’Shon “Bones” Hyland (Wilmington, Del.), who was named to the league’s preseason Third Team Tuesday.

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

VCU Basketball Capacity Set at 1,000 Spectators

From: Chris Kowalczyk, Assistant A.D. for VCU Athletics Communications

 

VCU will begin its 2020-21 men’s and women’s basketball seasons with a capacity of 1,000 inside the Stuart C. Siegel Center, Vice President and Director of Athletics Ed McLaughlin announced today (Nov. 11, 2020). The decision mirrors current guidelines set by the Commonwealth of Virginia for sporting events. If guidance from the Commonwealth changes throughout the 2020-21 season, VCU Athletics will adjust accordingly.

 

'We regret that we cannot have our usual full capacity to start the men’s basketball season,' McLaughlin said. 'Our loyal, dedicated fans make our home games the best environment in college basketball and we will miss everyone who cannot attend in person. We will continue to work with all parties in an effort to maximize capacity beyond the current guidelines as the season progresses.'

 

VCU Athletics will limit seating to the arena bowl in a socially-distanced manner, with a buffer zone around the court to prevent contact between fans and participants. Courtside seating and the Tommy J. West Club will be closed. Ticket holders in those areas will have the opportunity to sit in the bowl area.

 

VCU Athletics will determine access to season tickets based on giving level and rank within each giving level, consistent with the Seat Equity model. Ticket allocations for student-athlete guests, coaches’ guests and students will leave approximately 650 for season ticket holders. VCU Athletics has created protocols to make unused tickets available to Ram Athletic Fund members on a single-game basis.

 

Season ticket holders will receive notification by Tuesday, Nov. 17, if they qualify for the current limited-capacity model. Ticket holders who do not meet the limited capacity qualifications will have a variety of options, including the ability to transfer their season ticket donation to a Ram Athletic Fund gift for 2021-22 or a refund.

Update: 

Jalen DeLoach (Savannah, Ga./The Skill Factory) and Nick Kern (St. Louis, Mo./Vashon) have signed National Letters of Intent with VCU, Rams Head Coach Mike Rhoades announced Wednesday.

A versatile, 6-foot-9, 190-pound forward, DeLoach is currently averaging 17 points, 10.3 rebounds, 5.2 assists and 1.5 blocks per game, while shooting 64 percent from the floor, for The Skill Academy, a prep school in Atlanta, Ga. He starred at Berkmar High School in Lilburn, Ga. last year, where he posted 18 points, 12 rebounds and three blocks per game. He is a standout product of the Team Huncho AAU program.

 

DeLoach, rated the 19th-best prospect in the State of Georgia by recruiting service 247Sports, chose VCU over interest from South Carolina, Georgia, Ole Miss and Texas Southern.

 

'We are excited to have Jalen and his family join our program,' Rhoades said. 'He is exactly what we want in a player for our style of play.  Jalen is super versatile with great length, mobility and instincts. He has a great feel with lots of potential. Jalen was a top target for our staff due to the combination of playing in winning programs, a great foundation set by his parents, Rob and Ivy, and a great fit in our VCU family. He is having a great year of growth playing at The Skill Factory under Rob Johnson. We are looking forward to having Jalen on campus as a Ram.'

 

Fast fact: DeLoach comes from an athletic family. His sister is a senior on the Ohio State Track & Field team, while his brother is a sophomore linebacker on the football team at Florida State.

 

A 6-6 guard, Kern is rated the No. 7 recruit in Missouri by 247Sports. He was named First Team All-State and First Team All-Conference in 2019-20 after averaging 12.1 points, 5.6 rebounds, 1.9 assists and 1.0 blocks for Vashon High School and Coach Tony Irons. Kern has also starred for the TruVision and Brad Beal Elite AAU programs.

 

Kern committed to VCU after receiving interest from DePaul, Saint Louis, TCU and others.

 

'We are fired up to have Nick Kern and his family as a part of our program,' said Rhoades. 'His commitment gives us a versatile and aggressive guard that we all like around here. Nick fits our style tremendously with his skill, length and aggressive approach. Nick comes from a very successful high school program playing for Head Coach Tony Irons and knows what it will take to succeed at VCU. He will impact our program in so many ways. We are looking forward to getting Nick on campus and watching him grow as a Ram.'

Fast fact: Kern attends the same high school as current VCU senior forward Levi Stockard III.

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Dignity

Suddenly, it dawned on Rebus what must have mattered to many voters. After all, Trump is driven to humiliate people, especially those who naturally demonstrate they have something he can't buy or steal -- dignity. 

Given our current troubles, many of last week's voters may get COVID-19. They may go broke. Nonetheless, I think plenty of folks voted with preserving their dignity -- preserving our collective dignity -- on their minds. It's a factor that doesn't get much mention.

Monday, November 09, 2020

The Cheaters

This 1916 photograph of my grandfather, Frank W. Owen (1893-1968), was shot when he was in the Richmond Light Infantry Blues. At the time he was stationed in Brownsville, Texas, as part of a contingent called up, converted into a calvary unit and assigned to protect the border. Mexican revolutionary/bandit Pancho Villa had been crossing over to raid small towns ... or so it was said. The next year the Richmond Blues were thrown into WWI in France. 

The piece below is about my grandfather and his method for teaching me a lesson about playing by the rules. Always. The story is set in the summer of 1959. 

Please note: I wrote it originally some 30 years ago for SLANT. So I was still playing basketball regularly. Then 10 years later an edited/scaled down version of it, this one, was published as a Back Page commentary in STYLE Weekly in 2000. 

The Cheaters

by F.T. Rea

Having devoted countless hours to competitive sports and games of all sorts, nothing in that realm is quite as galling to this grizzled scribbler as the cheater’s averted eye of denial, or the practiced tones of his shameless spiel.
In the middle of a pick-up basketball game, or a friendly Frisbee-golf round, too often, my barbed outspokenness over what I have perceived as deliberate cheating has ruffled feathers. Alas, it's my nature. I can't help it any more than a watchful blue jay can resist dive-bombing an alley cat.

The reader might wonder about whether I'm overcompensating for dishonest aspects of myself, or if I could be dwelling on memories of feeling cheated out of something dear.

OK, fair enough, I don't deny any of that. Still, truth be told, it mostly goes back to a particular afternoon's mischief gone wrong.

*

A blue-collar architect with the Chesapeake & Ohio Railway for decades, my maternal grandfather, Frank Wingo Owen was a natural entertainer. Blessed with a resonant baritone/bass voice, he began singing professionally in his teens and continued performing, as a soloist and with barbershop quartets, into his mid-60s.

Shortly after his retirement, at 65, the lifelong grip on good health he had enjoyed failed; an infection he picked up during a routine hernia surgery at a VA hospital nearly killed him. It left him with no sense of touch in his extremities. Once he got some of his strength back, he found comfort in returning to his role as umpire of the baseball games played in his yard by the neighborhood's boys. He couldn't stand up behind home plate, anymore, but he did alright sitting in the shade of the plum tree, some 25 feet away.

This was the summer he taught me, along with a few of my friends, the fundamentals of poker. To learn the game we didn’t play for real money. Each player got so many poker chips. If his chips ran out, he became a spectator.

The poker professor said he’d never let us beat him, claiming he owed it to the game itself to win if he could, which he always did. Woven throughout his lessons on betting strategy were stories about poker hands and football games from his cavalry days, serving with the Richmond Blues during World War I.

As likely as not, the stories he told would end up underlining points he saw as standards: He challenged us to expose the true coward at the heart of every bully. "Punch him in the nose," he'd chuckle, "and even if you get whipped he'll never bother you again." In team sports, the success of the team trumped all else. Moreover, withholding one’s best effort in any game, no matter the score, was beyond the pale.

Such lazy afternoons came and went so easily that summer there was no way then, at 11, I could have appreciated how precious they would seem looking back on them.

On the other hand, there were occasions he would make it tough on me. Especially when he spotted a boy breaking the yard's rules or playing dirty. It was more than a little embarrassing when he would wave his cane and bellow his rulings. For flagrant violations, or protesting his call too much, he barred the guilty boy from the yard for a day or two.

F. W. Owen’s hard-edged opinions about fair play, and looking directly in the eye at whatever comes along, were not particularly modern. Nor were they always easy for know-it-all adolescent boys to swallow.

Predictably, the day came when a plot was hatched. We decided to see if artful subterfuge could beat him at poker just once. The conspirators practiced in secret for hours, passing cards under the table with bare feet and developing signals. It was accepted that we would not get away with it for long, but to pull it off for a few hands would be pure fun.

Following baseball, with the post-game watermelon consumed, I fetched the cards and chips. Then the four card sharks moved in to put the caper in play.

To our amazement, the plan went off smoothly. After hands of what we saw as sly tricks we went blatant, expecting/needing to get caught, so we could gloat over having tricked the great master. Later, as he told the boys' favorite story -- the one about a Spanish women who bit him on the arm at a train station in France -- one-eyed jacks tucked between dirty toes were being passed under the table.

Then the joy began to drain out of the adventure. With semi-secret gestures I called the ruse off. A couple of hands were played with no shenanigans but he ran out of chips, anyway.

Head bowed, he sighed, “Today I can’t win for loosing; you boys are just too good for me.” Utterly dependent on his cane for balance he slowly walked into the shadows toward the back porch. It was agonizing.

The game was over; we were no longer pranksters. We were cheaters.

As he carefully negotiated the steps, my last chance to save the day came and went without a syllable out of me to set the record straight. It was hard to believe that he hadn’t seen what we were doing, but my guilt burned so deeply I didn't wonder enough about that, then.

*

My grandfather didn’t play poker with us again. He went on umpiring, and telling his salty stories afterwards over watermelon. We tried playing poker the same way without him, but it didn’t work; the value the chips had magically represented was gone. The boys had outgrown poker without real money on the line.

Although I thought about that afternoon's shame many times before he died nine years later, neither of us ever mentioned it. For my part, when I tried to bring it up, to clear the air, the words always stuck in my throat.

Eventually, I grew to become as intolerant of petty cheating as F.W. Owen was in his day, maybe even more so. And, as it was for him, the blue jay has always been my favorite bird.
-- 30 --

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

The Worst in Our Past is Today's Monster

Although millions of Trumpists in the USA might not care, it appears a lot of people in the rest of the world think President Donald Trump has failed to make America great again. Next week we expect to all see what voters in this country think of Trump's performance in his pursuit of greatness. 

We also expect to see what the USA collectively thinks about a president selling the notion that it was only in our best interests that he lied continuously about a health crisis, a pandemic that has now killed over a quarter million people in the country and crushed the economy. We expect to see what the nation's voters think about a president who, as part of his low-road effort to win reelection, would sabotage the operation of the United States Postal Service. We expect to see what the voters think about a president who openly encourages hate groups to don military get-ups and carry firearms in the public way to intimidate Americans calling for racial justice.

Of course, the list of Trump's instances of willful malfeasance, while in office goes on ... and on ... but by now I trust most patient readers have gotten my drift.

Yet, it's also fair to say that all of the bad things that have happened since January 20, 2017, supposedly in the name of "conservatism," can't be blamed on Trump alone. So this screed isn't just about the loathsome and dangerous stuff Citizen Trump has done to benefit himself however he pleases. It's also about citing the so-called "conservatives" in Congress, cowed members of the Republican Party who have stooped to carry out Trump's orders, no matter how immoral. 

Oh, and let's not leave out the millions of Americans whose support for Trump apparently hasn't wavered -- people who continue to turn a blind eye on Trump's mountain of malfeasance. At this time I won't try to analyze their motives, but next week we expect to find out how many of them are still blithely swallowing "alternative facts," cooked up in a parallel universe.

Nonetheless, I will say this to today's devoted Trumpists: Like it or not, the rest of the real world is not ignoring what the hell has happened to the USA since Trump took office. So historians probably will not see the practiced patter of the cult's members as a legitimate continuation of the conservative movement's principles, as once espoused by its icons, such as William F. Buckley, Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan. My prediction is that historians will view what we now call "Trumpism" as an anti-liberal form of populism and a cult of personality.

Moreover, the rough beast slouching toward Bethlehem that the facilitators of the Trump's corrupt agenda have set loose on the landscape has nothing to do with American greatness, now or any other time. Today's slouching monster has been conjured up from the worst in America's past. Trump's time in the White House will surely be remembered as a dark period as long as there are decent people somewhere in the world, good people who care about the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. 

In the meantime, six days before the vote-counting in America starts, hope still exists and voting is...

-- 30 -- 

-- Art and words by F.T. Rea

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Antifa in the Eyes of a Beholder

Well, since I don't know much about it, firsthand, I'm going to guess at what the nature of Antifa is. First: I have to say that it seems most of the people who opine about this subject on social media probably don't have credentials any better than mine. So here goes:

Second: Perhaps the plain truth about Antifa is somewhat like what it is with beauty, in that it probably depends on the eye of the beholder. Consequently, the same goes with how much of a true threat Antifa poses to everyday people, folks who mind their own business. And, how much of a threat Antifa poses to the agenda of armed Neo-Nazis stomping around in public in self-styled military get-ups. 

Third: most of the people who have been viewed by outsiders as Antifa “operatives” could be more accurately described as “sympathizers.” That, because they weren't really part of an organized group taking orders from higher-ups. Instead, they were acting in conjunction with a handful of like-minded friends, mostly young people, who agreed in a general sense with what they perceived are Antifa's goals. 

Fourth: whatever hardcore insider operatives that exist under the Antifa banner are not acting in such a way as they can be easily discovered online. They probably don't issue orders that can be intercepted by just anyone. Some have probably watched “The Battle of Algiers” (1966) more than once. So they know better than to set up a hierarchy that can busted, unraveled and then simply be rounded up. 

Fifth: Thus, all that said, I think Antifa looks like more of a movement than an organization with a chain of command. Still, since it is surely opposed to fascism that puts it totally at odds with white nationalists, the Ku Klux Klan, the Proud Boys, etc. And, it more or less aligns Antifa with a progressive movement such as Black Lives Matter. 

However, since some Antifa sympathizers have been willing to physically battle opposing groups in the street, Antifa cannot be seen as a force strictly for nonviolent protests. For a historical reference, maybe think Malcolm X, rather than Dr. Martin Luther King. Of course, I could be wrong, but that's how it looks to this geezer.

Note: To watch "The Battle of Algiers" click on the link. To see English subtitles click on settings and scroll down and click on it.

Sunday, October 18, 2020

What It Is Ain't

Fiction by F.T. Rea


Jan. 24, 1991: Bright sunlight lit up the thin coating of freezing rain that had painted the city the evening before. In the crisp air, Roscoe Swift, a slender middle-aged man, a freelance artist/writer, walked at a careful but purposeful pace on the tricky sidewalk.

The ice-clad trees along the street were dazzling, as seen through Swift's trusty Ray-Bans. The woolly winter jacket his girlfriend, Sally, had given him for Christmas felt good.

Since the freelancer couldn’t concentrate on his reading of the morning’s Richmond Times-Dispatch, he left half a mug of black coffee and a dozing cat on his desk to walk to the post office. He hoped the overdue check from a magazine publisher was waiting in his post office box.

Anxiously, Swift opened the box with his key. It was empty. He shrugged. An empty box had its upside, too -- there were no cut-off notices in it. With his last 20 bucks in his pocket, the freelancer hummed a favorite Fats Domino tune, “Ain’t That a Shame,” as he headed home.

Before the end of the workday Roscoe had to finish an 800-word OpEd piece and drop it all off on an editor’s desk in Scott's Addition. With the drum beat for war in the air he wanted to focus on the inevitable unintended consequences of any war. Yet, with the clock ticking on his deadline he was still at a loss for an angle.

The country was still mired in an economic recession. With the national debt climbing an invasion of Iraq was looming. War seemed all but inevitable. Pondering what demons might be spawned by an all-out war in Iraq he detoured a couple of blocks, to pick up a Washington Post and a fresh cup of coffee.

Approaching the 7-Eleven store Roscoe noticed a lone panhandler standing off to the left of the front doors. The tall man was thin and frail. He wore a lightweight denim jacket over a hooded sweatshirt. Snot was frozen in his mustache. The whites of his heavy-lidded eyes were an unhealthy shade of pink.

When Roscoe had run the Fan City Cinema, in the '70s, he had determined his policy should be to never in any way encourage panhandlers to hang around on the sidewalk in the neighborhood surrounding the theater. The rigid policy had lingered well after the comfortable job had faded into the mists.

On this cold day it wasn’t easy for Roscoe to avert his eye from the poor soul’s trembling outstretched hand. Not hearing the desperate man’s hoarse plea for food money was impossible. When there are always so many lives to be saved in our midst, Roscoe wondered, why do we have to go to the Middle East to save lives?

Inside the busy store Roscoe poured himself a large coffee. Black. Fretting profusely, he snapped the cup’s lid in place. It was one of those times when the little Roscoe with horns was standing on one of his shoulders, while his opposite, the one with the halo, was on the other; both were offering counsel.

Roscoe's longtime "policy" caved in seconds later. Still, he decided to give the freeloader food, rather than hand over cash to perhaps finance a bottle of sweet wine. It might change my luck, he thought as he smiled.

Trying to max out the bang-for-the-buck aspect of his gesture, Roscoe settled on a king-sized hot dog, with plenty of free stuff on it -- mustard, chopped onions, relish, jalapeno peppers, chili and some gooey cheese-like product. Not wanting to push it too far, he passed on the ketchup and mayonnaise.

Outside the store, Roscoe found the starving panhandler had vanished. Roscoe looked up and down Cary Street but saw no sign of the poor soul.

So, the crestfallen philanthropist took the meal-on-a-bun with him as he walked, softly singing a Buffalo Springfield song, “For What It’s Worth.” With his strides matching the beat he kept to the sunny street, to avoid the sidewalk in the shade.

There’s somethin’ happening here,
What it is ain’t exactly clear.
There’s a man with a gun over there,
Tellin’ me I gotta beware.
I think it’s time we stop, children, what's that sound,
Everybody look, what's going down.
A line from that song’s last verse -- “paranoia strikes deep” -- suddenly snapped an idea for the OpEd into place, which launched an instant mini-mania. The freelancer picked up his pace and began whistling a jazzy version of “For What It’s Worth.”

Back in his office/studio, rather than waste money, he tore into the feast he had prepared for a beggar. It seemed the food scared, or perhaps offended, the cat, who fled. Between sloppy bites the freelancer wiped his hands off.

About an hour later the heartburn started. Eventually, it got brutal. Roscoe pressed on. He wrote about the way propaganda always works to sell war -- every war -- as glorious and essential to the everyday people, who risk their lives. That while the wealthy, who rarely take a genuine risk on anything, urge the patriots on and count their profits.

Thinking of the war in Vietnam that thinned his generation out, he wrote:
After the war the veterans were largely ignored, even scorned.
Roscoe lamented the popular culture having gone wrong, so there was no longer a place for anti-war protest songs. Feeling righteous, he asked:
Where are today’s non-conformists? Today's questioners of authority?
With time to spare, the freelancer finished the job and turned in his work at 4:20 p.m. He even managed to pick up the overdue check for $200 he was owed. An hour or so later his sour and noisy stomach began to calm down during his second beer at the Bamboo Cafe.

Sally showed up with a smile and joined the group gathered at the elbow of the marble bar. When Roscoe recounted the tale of breaking his rule and buying the stuffed frankfurter he got a laugh. He explained how the old Buffalo Springfield song gave him an idea for his OpEd piece.

Roscoe's small audience groaned on cue when he finished it off with, “Sometimes it's a thin line that separates heartburn and inspiration ... for what it’s worth.”

* * *

All rights reserved by the author.

Thursday, October 15, 2020

Our Third Revolution?

The following quote comes from John Adams' letter to Thomas Jefferson, dated August 24, 1815. 

What do we mean by the revolution? The war? That was not part of the revolution; it was only an effect and consequence of it. The revolution was in the minds of the people, and this was effected from 1760-1775, in the course of fifteen years, before a drop of blood was shed at Lexington. The records of thirteen legislatures, the pamphlets, newspapers in all the Colonies ought be consulted, during that period, to ascertain the steps by which the public opinion was enlightened and informed concerning the authority of Parliament over the Colonies.

I agree with Adams that the "revolution" began well before the shooting started, so I'll defer to his judgment and take his word for choosing 1760. Nonetheless, I have to include the war, itself, in what I see as what made for the American Revolution. Accordingly, for my purpose with this piece, I think the best beginning and ending dates to put on it would be 1760-1788. The reason for choosing 1788 is that it is the year in which the U.S. Constitution was ratified and adopted. 

Thus, I see the Revolution to include the dismantling the old system and the establishment of the new one. However, what I also want to say here is this: it was just the first revolution in this country. 

The second revolution, perhaps I should call it Revolution 2.0, occurred in the mid-1800s, which should include the abolition of slavery, the bloodshed of the Civil War and the Reconstruction Era that ended in 1877. When the second revolution started is harder to pin down, but this time I'll opt for 1854, because that's the year the notorious Kansas-Nebraska Act was passed. Many see that move by Congress as what made the Civil War's start inevitable in 1861, in that it expanded slavery in wicked defiance of the burgeoning Abolition Movement. Plus, it should be noted that England, France and other European nations had already abolished slavery. 

Now I'll briefly explain why I believe the U.S.A. is about to go through an ordeal, which, in this context, might be viewed as part of Revolution 3.0. Using my characterizations of our first two revolutions as models, in October of 2020 we already have the two essential elements in place: 

The Trump presidency, a time in which great flaws in our system have been revealed and underlined, has been the equivalent to the 15-year period Adams described that led up to the Revolutionary War. Likewise, the last four years of reactions to the abuses of Trumpism -- The Resistance, the demonstrations for racial justice, etc. -- could also be compared to the turbulent period of reexamination of the institution of slavery the nation went through between 1854 and when the Civil War started seven years later.  

The second revolution-making element in 2020 is the staggering death toll of the COVID-19 pandemic. A war-like national suffering greatly exacerbated by the Trump administration's policies and lack thereof. At this writing the number of deaths surely calls out for more than thoughts and prayers; the number of deaths and total infections calls out for something better than "herd immunity." 

The transformational COVID-19 numbers call out for radical cultural and political change!  

Some time after November 3rd -- a day later, or a week, or a month -- either Trump or Biden will be declared the winner. Yet, after the election Black Lives Matter isn't going away and its influence is probably going to grow. In Richmond, those Confederate statues aren't going back up and the Lee Monument is eventually coming down. Moreover, the Proud Boys and their ilk aren't going to fade into the mists, either. The daunting problems spawned by white nationalism and guns will be with us no matter who the president is.

So, the spectrum of political movements already demanding considerable changes are poised to seriously rock the boat after the election like nothing the U.S.A. has seen in a long time; maybe since its first two revolutions. Then, there's COVID-19 and its still raging ability to kill people and sink the economy. And, of course, climate change is not likely to magically stop being the global problem that overshadows all of our other vexations. 

One lesson from history may offer a wee glimmer of hope. Adams, who was the country's the second president, and Jefferson, who was the third president, became bitter political foes during their combined 12 years as president. Which was sad for both men, who had once been prominent figures in the American Revolution and good friends.

Then, as grizzled ex-presidents, Adams and Jefferson eventually became pen pals and reestablished what had once been a close friendship. They even died the same day: July 4, 1826.   

-- 30 -- 

-- Art and words by F.T. Rea

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Doing Right by Ashe


With regard to what happened in Richmond over the summer, concerning statues of Confederate heroes on Monument Avenue, this may be a good time to think about what to do with the Arthur Ashe statue (and pedestal) now standing at the intersection of Roseneath Ave. and Monument Ave. First, here's a quote from Arthur Ashe's widow, Jeanne Moutoussamy-Ashe, via Tennis.com:
It was never an idea of Arthur’s to be on Monument Avenue. You have your white Confederates there, and then you have a Black favorite son. It felt divisive, and Arthur wasn’t divisive.

For Moutoussamy-Ashe, that apparently still remains true, even today, with most of the Confederate memorials kaput. The recently-published article in Tennis.com is worth reading. It provides plenty of good background material. 

Next, here's a little more background, from my point of view: In 1996 I was working as a freelance videographer and I took an interest in the Arthur Ashe Monument controversy that surrounded the decision to place an Ashe sculpture at the intersection of Roseneath and Monument. Then there was the aesthetic controversy about the art, itself. It seemed then that some folks in Richmond, including some art critics, of a sort, weren't all that fond of sculptor Paul DiPasquale's depiction of Ashe.

Since Ashe, a fellow Richmonder, was a hero of mine, I decided to assemble a video report of the situation. Accordingly, I taped dozens of interviews of random passers-by opining at the site of the memorial. And, I sought out a few people, in particular, to get their views. Among those I sought out was Tom Chewning, who had been one of the most significant fundraisers for the project.

At the time, Chewning was an top shelf executive with Dominion Energy. He was a prominent tennis player as a teenager, so I remembered him from Thomas Jefferson High School. (He was three years ahead of me and Tom was kind enough to pretend he remembered me, too.) More important, in 1960 he became friends with Ashe. They met at a tennis tournament in West Virginia.

When I asked Chewning about his opinion of the art he laughed and ducked the question. Basically, he said he would leave that part of it to others; he was focused on the fundraising and seeing to it the monument became a real thing. So I asked him why it mattered so much to him. His answer bowled me over.

After telling me about meeting Ashe and becoming friends with him, he told me a story. It seems he was addressing a group of teenagers about Ashe, sometime not long after Arthur's death. Chewning explained how while he and Ashe were both top flight local tennis players, when they were in high school, Ashe wasn't allowed to play in the boys' city championship tournaments in Richmond.

Then one of the kids in the audience asked Chewning a question: If you and Arthur were friends, why didn't you boycott the tournaments he was banned from playing in, simply because he was black?

Chewning was flabbergasted. He tried to explain how different it was in Richmond then. How it wouldn't have changed anything. He told the kids it just never occurred to him…

After his awkward struggle to answer that simple question, Chewning knew he had not satisfied his polite audience. Thinking about it later, he knew he had to do something to put it right. Eventually, that realization became a mission to raise whatever money it took to erect a statue to remember the friend maybe he should have stood by, all those years ago.

Debt paid. 
 
The people who raised money and worked to make it possible to put the Ashe statue on Monument Avenue surely meant well. No doubt, DiPasquale meant well. And since Ashe is a hero of mine I was, and remain, glad he is being honored with a memorial placed in the public way. Still, I recognize it might have originally been placed elsewhere and, yes, perhaps there was a better place. But in 1996 former-Governor Doug Wilder wanted it to go exactly where it is now. 
 
Wilder had his reasons. And it seems to me, that was that. 
 
In 2020, if we Richmonders have learned anything about this sort of thing, it's that public art is something that needs to be considered carefully. And, that includes the matter of who should make the decisions about what it ought to look like and where it should be placed. 
 
So, going forward, I'm not saying Jeanne Moutoussamy-Ashe's opinion is the only one that should be considered. Nonetheless, I am saying it should be considered and from what I've gathered, it was not given proper deference in 1996. 

-- Image from Tennis.com

Sunday, October 11, 2020

Fan District Softball League Hall of Fame


The Fan District Softball League (1975-94) established its Hall of Fame in 1986. The first class was elected by the 12-team outfit’s designated franchise representatives. To be eligible then one had to have retired from play and considered to be among the founders. Ten names were selected as the first class of Hall-of-Famers. The plaque, which has not aged gracefully, is pictured above.

The same rule held true in 1987, when six new names were put on the plaque. However, by 1988, a few of those who had been inducted into the Hall had un-retired. So, in 1988, eligibility to the Hall was opened up to anyone who seemed deserving. Those already in got to vote, as well. Nine new members were selected. The voting process was probably no more twisted than any hall of fame’s way of choosing new names.

For 1989 six additional names were added. The class of ‘90 included seven names, and in ‘92 the last five names were tacked on. In all, 41 players and two umpires were tapped.

The men who were inducted into the FDSL’s Hall are as follows: Ricardo Adams, Herbie Atkinson, Howard Awad, Boogie Bailey, Yogi Bair, Jay Barrows, Otto Brauer, Ernie Brooks, Hank Brown, Bobby Cassell, Jack Colan, Willie Collins, Dickie deTreville, Jack deTreville, Henry Ford, Danny Gammon, Donald Greshham, James Jackson, Dennis Johnson, Mike Kittle, Leo Koury, Jim Letizia, Junie Loving, Tony Martin, Kenny Meyer, Cliff Mowells, Buddy Noble, Randy Noble, Henry Pollard, Artie Probst, Terry Rea, John Richardson, Jerry Robinson, Larry Rohr, Billy Snead, Jim Story, Hook Shepherd, Pudy Stallard, Durwood Usry, Jumpy White, Barry Winn, Chuck Wrenn. 

At this writing, by my count (which, of course, could be wrong), 13 guys on the list above have died. Their names are seen in bold italics.   

Given its ways, that the league, itself, lasted 20 years is truly amazing.