Tuesday, March 30, 2010
At the beginning of the season, even half way through it, I was telling those friends Sanders might not be a typical jock, who is only focused on his main sport. I pointed to clues that might back that view up, things like his interest in art.
But in the last six or seven weeks what I've seen has changed my mind. No, I don't just mean that I've looked at a few mock NBA draft web sites, although I have. Sanders is projected to be somewhere between a No. 15 and No. 20. Of course, the scuttlebutt around the Siegel Center has been that Sanders will leave.
Still, what has convinced me has been watching Sanders.
Both on the court and in the media room during interviews after games, Sanders has seemed distracted at times, even conflicted. Then, in a flash he has been his old self, enjoying the moment. The flashes haven't lasted long. Certainly not as long as his coach, Shaka Smart, might have wished for ... and then there are Sanders' teammates, who must have imagined VCU could be a Sweet Sixteen-level outfit this season.
They had that potential, but it got away from them.
Instead, VCU lost its last game of the regular season and in the CAA tournament's semi-finals. The Rams dropped past the second-tier NIT into the CBI.
The CBI probably isn't resting on a tier. Maybe in the basement ... on the floor.
Last night after beating Saint Louis (68-56), Sanders was asked about motivation, whether the Rams care about the CBI all that much. He admitted, "We came up short a lot this season." Then Sanders smiled and said he'd never finished off a basketball season with a win, but he'd like to try it.
His teammate Joey Rodriguez asserted, "To us, this [winning a tournament] is a big deal."
Asked about playing the next game (Wed. night) in St.Louis and how poorly the Rams have played on the road, at times this season, Sanders spoke warmly of the Siegel Center's atmosphere. He reminisced about interacting with fans and said how much the crowds fired him up. He spoke of it being "a VCU tradition."
Then Sanders said, "I'm going to truly miss it ... er, ah, until next year."
Joey raised a playful eyebrow during the pause in his teammate's sentence. Then he grinned when Sanders added, "until next year."
Some in the room obviously caught it. Others probably not. No one pursued the angle.
"It's kind of fitting for us to finish it on the road," Rodriguez summed up.
So, it seems Sanders wants to finish his college basketball career with a win, with a championship, Brand X, or not. Joey wants to prove to his coach, to his teammates and to himself, that VCU can win on the road. It certainly would underline the point that VCU was not treated well by the NIT selection committee.
Smart said, "This is a great chance for us, as a team, to grow."
So, while winning the CBI was hardly a goal for Sanders, Rodriguez or Smart back in November, it is now. Each of them has his reasons. Winning that championship could be satisfying, no matter what people outside the VCU family think of the tournament's lack of status.
Then for the second year in a row, it looks like VCU will have a player drafted in the NBA's first round. That's hardly a bad thing.
Update: "Rams' Sanders will enter NBA draft"
The more the differences between these two groups appear to be about fussy details, the more it seems the differences are really more about aspects of the back story -- no matter what, the education establishment in Richmond (and perhaps in other places) still sees the entire charter school option/movement as a slap in the face and a threat.
To catch up on the saga of a group of parents trying to reopen a 90-year-old school building, to offer a 2010 curriculum to elementary school children, the following information is offered:
Click here to read an article, "School Board Votes on Patrick Henry's Admissions Policy," in today's Richmond Times-Dispatch,
Here's a press release from Kristen Larson about tonight's PHSSA fundraiser:
Governor Robert F. McDonnell, along with Delegate Joe Morrissey and Delegate John O’Bannon will be jointly hosting a fundraising event at the Patrick Henry School on Tues., Mar. 30.Richmond.com has run three pieces I've written about PHSSA:
Two hundred and fifty education supporters and business leaders from across the state of Virginia have been invited to the event. The event will showcase the vision of the school’s curriculum, samples of the Patrick Henry Green Café healthy food options, and building tours.
Where: PHSSA, 3411 Semmes Ave.
When: Tues., Mar. 30, 7 p.m.-8:30 p.m. (program begins at 7:30 p.m.)
About PHSSA: Patrick Henry School of Science and Arts (PHSSA) is a kindergarten through fifth-grade school based on meaningful parent, educator and community involvement.
The school will provide the children of our diverse community with an academically rigorous science- and arts-based curriculum that emphasizes environmental awareness and social responsibility.
About Public Charter Schools: Charter schools provide public education options for parents and students. Charter schools are allowed increased flexibility to operate and to adapt to the educational needs of children, and to maintain high levels of accountability to students, parents, the community, and the state to provide a high-quality education.
Currently in the Commonwealth of Virginia, there are four public charter schools, including PHSSA. Nationally there are approximately 4,600 public charter schools operating in 40 states and Washington D.C., serving approximately 1.3 million students, with 365,000 students on charter school waiting lists.
- Click here to read my piece, "Is Time on Patrick Henry's Side?" which was published at Richmond.com on Mar. 22.
- Click here to read my piece, “Public Education in the Political Spotlight,” which was published at Richmond.com on Mar. 3, 2010.
- Click here to read my piece, “The Spirit of Patrick Henry,” which was published at Richmond.com on Jan. 19, 2010.
Writing for RVANews, Chris Dovi has been covering the Patrick Henry story more thoroughly than anyone in town. Here are links to his stories over the last four weeks:
- Click here to read Dovi’s “Patrick Henry School finds a new home (for now)” at RVANews on Mar. 25, 2010.
- Click here to read “Crusade for Voters president and VP step down” at RVANews on Mar. 17, 2010.
- Then there’s Dovi’s: “Patrick Henry lottery an emotional night for parents” at RVANews on Mar. 12, 2010. Click here to read it.
- Click here to read Dovi’s “Patrick Henry School: Gubernatorial support” at RVANews on Mar. 1, 2010.
Thursday, March 25, 2010
“Yes,” and “yes,” were my answers. Yes, I’ve seen politics get this nasty before. And, yes, whoever cut that gas line is just as much a terrorist as anyone else who uses violence and the implied threat of worse to achieve a political end.
Terrorism flowing from the radical rightwing opposition to healthcare reform is not all that different from thuggery stemming from the bitter opposition of court-ordered desegregation in the ‘60s. It’s not so different from the terrorism/thuggery that’s taken place in the name of being anti-abortion. It’s not different enough from blowing up a federal building in Oklahoma City to attack/threaten the government, or blowing up the World Trade Center towers to attack/threaten our society.
In the ‘60s we saw domestic terrorists from the right, who opposed the Civil Rights movement. And, we saw domestic terrorists on the left, who opposed the war in Vietnam. A lot of bad things happened in those days, because some saw their mission as above the law.
So, I suspect more bad things are in the making now. Republican politicians -- even Sen. John McCain -- are deploring the stunts of the radical right, with a wink and a nudge. Then they say the anger is justified … even if the acts aren‘t (wink, wink).
The Obama-hating that is bubbling just below the surface of so much of what is vexing the radical right is not going away any time soon. It is picking up steam. Yes, I suspect something bad is going to come from this dangerous game the Tea Party, the Dittoheads, and their ilk are playing.
Hoping for the best will only go so far. I’m old, I’ve seen this kind of crap before.
Satchel Paige as a Cleveland Indian
With another baseball season soon to get underway, and the Richmond Flying Squirrels about to open their season next month -- home opener Apr. 15 at the Diamond -- I can’t help but think of what was a temple of baseball in my youth, Parker Field, which was located where the Diamond is now.
Parker Field opened in 1954 to serve as home for a new International League club — the Richmond Virginians. As the V’s were one of the New York Yankees’ Triple A farm clubs, in those days the Bronx Bombers paid Richmond an annual visit in April. Just before Major League Baseball’s opening day, Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra, Whitey Ford and the other great Yankees of that era played an exhibition game in Richmond against V’s.
It was always a standing-room-only affair.
Other than the hometown V’s my favorite club of the IL then was the pre-revolution Havana Sugar Kings. They played with an intensity, bordering on reckless abandon that made them a lot of fun to watch, especially for the kids.
One of my all-time favorite players I saw pitch at Parker Field was Leroy “Satchel” Paige (1906-82). Yes, the legendary Paige, with his windmill windup, high kick and remarkably smooth release still working for him, plied his craft on the mound here in Richmond to the delight and other reactions of local baseball fans.
In 1971, Paige (pictured above, circa 1949) was the first of the Negro Leagues’ great stars to be admitted to Major League Baseball’s Hall of Fame, based mostly on his contributions before he helped break the Major League color line in 1948, as a 42-year-old rookie. The statistics from his pre-Big League days are mind-boggling. It's been said he won some 2,000 games and threw maybe as many as 45 no-hitters.
Furthermore, long before the impish poet/boxer Muhammad Ali, there was the equally playful Satchel Paige, with his widely published Six Guidelines to Success:
- Avoid fried meats that angry up the blood.
- If your stomach disputes you, lie down and pacify it with cool thoughts.
- Keep the juices flowing by jangling gently as you walk.
- Go very lightly on the vices, such as carrying-on in society - the society ramble ain’t restful.
- Avoid running at all times.
- Don’t look back, something may be gaining on you.
Long after his days as the best pitcher in the Negro Leagues, following his precedent-setting stint in the American League, Paige was on the roster of the Miami Marlins (1956-58). Like the V’s the Marlins played in the International League. When I saw him Paige was in his 50s. Not a starter, anymore, he worked out of the bullpen.
In the late-1950s live professional baseball in Richmond was mostly a white guys’ scene. Which meant the boos would start as soon as the crowd noticed Paige’s 6-3, 180-pound frame warming up in the middle of a game. When he’d be called in to pitch in relief, the noise level would soar. Not all the grown men booed, but many did. That, while their children and grandchildren were split between booing, cheering, or embarrassed and not knowing what to do.
Naturally, some of the kids liked seeing the grownups getting unraveled, so Paige was all the more cool to them. Sadly, for many white men in Richmond, then caught up by the thinking that buoyed Massive Resistance, any prominent black person was seen as someone to be against. So, they probably would have booed Nat King Cole or Duke Ellington, too.
The showman Paige would take forever to walk to the mound from the bullpen. His warm-up pitches would each be big productions, with various slow-motion full windups. Then the thrown ball would whistle toward home plate with a startling velocity, making the kids cheer and laugh to mix with the boos.
Paige, from Mobile, Alabama, must have understood what was going on better than most who watched him pitch then. He was a veteran performer, who knew perfectly well there wasn’t much he could do to change the boos; they were coming from folks trapped in the past.
So, Paige good-naturedly played to the cheers, as time had taught him to do.
Of course, I hadn’t the slightest idea that what I was seeing was an aspect of the changes the South was going through, to do with race. My guess is few knew the reaction to Paige, being split on generational lines then, was a sign of how America’s baseball fans were going to change. One day Jim Crow attitudes would have no place at baseball temples.
Now, with the benefit of decades of reflection, I understand that Satchel Paige was a visionary. He was seeing the future by following his own advice — Don’t look back.
– Images from satchelpage.com
Sunday, March 21, 2010
Friday, March 19, 2010
Thinking about the 17th annual James River Film Festival, which begins Mar. 19 (today) and runs through next Thurs., Mar. 25, brought the video above to mind. It is not in the festival, but it sure is fun to watch, especially if you know most of the films that are excerpted.
Meanwhile, the 23 events in the JRFF's program are sponsored by the Richmond Moving Image Coop. Click here to see the entire schedule for the festival.
Monday, March 15, 2010
1. Richmond (26-8, No. 25 RPI -- NCAA tournament)
2. ODU (26-8, No. 27 RPI -- NCAA tournament)
3. Va. Tech (23-8, No. 59 RPI -- NIT)
4. Wm. & Mary (21-10, No. 58 RPI -- NIT)
5. VCU (22-9, No. 66 RPI -- CBI tournament)
Friday, March 12, 2010
Wednesday, March 10, 2010
Plenty of people cynically dismiss politicians of every stripe by saying they’re all alike. Why vote? they ask mockingly, it only encourages ‘em.
Elections prove all politicians aren’t the same. Virginians who were too bored to bother with 2009’s statewide elections are already being taken to school by the two of the Republicans who were sworn in two months ago.
Yes, for better or worse, Gov. Bob McDonnell is going to make a difference. McDonnell is not likely to be mistaken for his predecessor, former Gov. Tim Kaine, any time soon.
However, in the last few days Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli has become the most talked about Republican in Virginia. At this writing he looks more like a throwback to the mean old days of institutionalized discrimination than any statewide figure in a long time.
Move over Virgil Goode and Bob Marshall, it looks like Cuccinelli is determined to be the Flat-Earth Republicans' top dog in Virginia.
Cuccinelli’s much-in-the-news letter to Virginia’s colleges and universities has instantly made him into a fresh-faced hero to this country's angry legions of Dittoheads and Sarah Palin fans.
Make no mistake about it, Cuccinell’s move was calculated to do just that. There was no widespread outcry for him to weigh in on this matter. His rather uncalled-for opinion seems to provide cover for university personnel, who might like to use their own homophobic beliefs as a basis to deny someone a job, or acceptance into a program, etc.
In other words, Cuccinelli is saying that only the General Assembly can direct state-supported schools' personnel to be fair in their dealings with all citizens.
How this bizarre legal opinion/stunt will hold up in court tests probably doesn’t concern Cuccinelli all that much. His short-term strategy appears to have more to do with him showboating his way into national prominence than it does with establishing his legal chops.
When a judge puts the kibosh to Cucinelli’s opinion it won't matter so much, because he will have already reaped the benefit he wanted in the first place. For the next four years Cuccinelli is in place to make as much mischief of this sort as he pleases.
Which means that for the next four years we Virginians may see a lot of our tax money devoted to reanimating the zombies of all sorts of issues we thought had been resolved long ago.
That’s how Flat-Earth Republicans operate. They pick at scabs, hoping fresh blood from yesterday’s thought-to-be-healed problems will distract Democrats so much they will lose their focus on today’s battles. That strategy seeks to tie up Democrats defending social gains made decades ago, at the expense of spending time on today’s problems, such as healthcare reform.
Flat-Earth Republicans are prepared to unravel Medicare and Social Security. From their propaganda it looks like they would be happy if all abortions and trade unions were illegal. It seems they would actually like to return to something akin to the time before voting rights were extended to all citizens, before trust-busters in government began to regulate capitalists.
They will continue to tell us it’s about lower taxes and more freedom. But force-marching us all across a narrow bridge to the 19th century appears to be the true agenda.
Yes, you can’t always get what you want … you get what you elect.
-- Words by F.T. Rea
Update No. 1: Click here to read Andrew Sullivan's reaction to the new McDonnell decree.
Update No. 2: Click here to read "Baliles: Cooch's Legal Reasoning Flawed" at Blue Virginia.
Tuesday, March 09, 2010
Until last week Gov. Bob McDonnell was Virginia's most obvious/likely entry in that contest. His direct connection to the rather eccentric Rev. Pat Robertson gave him a leg-up. Now, it seems, the buttoned-down McDonnell has been upstaged.
Virginia's suddenly showboating Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli has started picking fights that were designed to make headlines. The Richmond Times-Dispatch's columnist Bart Hinkle has been watching Cuccinelli's attention-getting moves.
Cuccinelli recently sent a letter to the state's colleges and universities directing them to rescind their policies forbidding discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. The schools lack the proper authority to enact such policies, he says.Click here to read all of Hinkle's OpEd piece,"There’s Nothing Funny About This Cucci Coup."
This seems to imply colleges are forbidden to do anything they are not explicitly required or authorized to do. Which is odd. Colleges do a great many things not specifically spelled out in the Code of Virginia or the state Constitution.
Click here to read the Washington Post's original story on this brouhaha.
Monday, March 08, 2010
Of course, to be a junkie in full bloom one must still play the game. Since I quit playing basketball in 1994, I’ve been a junkie in recovery. Yes, I’ll always miss the way a perfectly-released jump shot felt as it left my fingertips. Nothing has replaced the satisfaction that came from stealing the ball from an opponent, just as he stumbled over his hubris.
Covering college basketball, as a writer, has helped to soothe my basketball jones. Since the improvisational aspect of basketball always appealed to me, especially, I like to pay particular attention to players who have a special knack for seizing the moment.
While basketball is in some ways a finesse game, there are brutal truths to be reckoned with. Although I’ve heard people claim that we can’t remember pain, I’ve not completely forgotten what it felt like to dislocate my right ankle on April 20, 1985; I was undercut on a fast break lay-up.
Take it from me, dear reader, popping your foot off your leg hurts too much to forget -- think James Cann in “Misery” (1990). To say that fateful event changed me physically is an understatement; the foot still feels like it’s attached to the rest of me at the wrong angle -- slightly the wrong place. More about that later.
Three years before that injury, my then-34-year-old nose was broken in the course of a basketball game (March 4, 1982). As painful and infuriating as that experience was in the moment, the next day it turned out to be a lucky break.
In that time, the Biograph Theatre, which I managed, had a team in a league called the Central Basketball Alliance. Other teams were sponsored by The Track, Soble’s, Hababa’s, The Jade Elephant, deTreville, etc. Personnel-wise, it was an off-shoot of the Fan District Softball League, with some of the same characters. But with the basketball league there was no pot-smoking or beer-drinking going on in the gym … during the games.
The morning after my nose was bashed in by an opponent’s upwardly thrust elbow (while I was coming down from a failed attempt at a rebound), I went to Stuart Circle Hospital for treatment.
My nose wasn’t just broken, it had been split open at the bridge in three or four ways. The emergency room doc used Super Glue and a butterfly clamp to put it all back together. (It’s a little worse for wear, but it still works.)
Then, while I was waiting around in the lobby to sign some papers, my grandmother (Villa Emily Collins Owen) was wheeled by, stretched out on a hospital bed. As I grew up in her home and was still very close to her, it had the same shock effect as accidentally seeing one’s parent in such an unexpected context.
We spoke briefly. She said she was feeling a little weak from a cold and wanted to spend the night in the hospital. Pretending to ignore my gripping sense of panic, I calmly assured Nana (pronounced Ny-nuh) I’d be back during visiting hours, to see how she was doing. Six decades before that day she had trained to be a nurse at Stuart Circle.
Later I took my then-12-year-old daughter, Katey, with me, when I went back to see Nana. The doctor came in her room and told us she’d be fine with a good night’s rest. As Katey and I are both frustrated stand-up comics, we spent a half-hour making 83-year-old Nana laugh as best she could … feeling a little weak.
Nana died in the middle of that same night.
Katey and I wouldn’t have had that last visit with Nana, had luck not interposed a fate-changing spark. Nana would have sneaked into that hospital without telling anyone, if she could have. That was her nature. Seated at her mother’s piano, Nana could improvise endlessly on just about any tune.
Which means I have to say the palooka who elbowed me in that basketball game did me a favor. Perhaps in more ways than one.
In order to keep playing in the Biograph’s games in that season, I needed to protect my still-tender beak, while it healed. So, I got one of those protective aluminum nose-guards I’d seen players wear. It was a primitive version of the clear plastic masks in use today.
As a kid, I saw NBA great Jerry West wearing such a broken-nose-protector in a Southern Conference game, when he was playing his college ball at West Virginia. It impressed the 12-year-old version of me to no end, how tough and focused West was.
Wearing what was to me a Jerry West mask, I played the rest of the CBA season -- maybe five more games. Now I believe that period was about the best basketball I ever played.
Not wanting another whack to the nose made me a little more careful. More purposeful. On defense, I got lower and kept my hands up and extended a little extra. On offense my moves were slightly more planned, more under control. I didn’t know it until then, but that’s exactly what my game needed. I tweaked it to initiate more and rely a little less on being a counter-puncher.
The team didn’t lose another game that year; the Biograph Naturals won the league’s championship. It has taken the passing of time for me to realize that in testing my nerve, in a fashion after the way West tested his, I had been living out a dream.
Eventually, I also came to see how much my art matured in the year after the aforementioned ankle injury. While I was on crutches I designed and pasted -up the first SLANT (a local newsletter/magazine I published for nine years). Those artistic breakthroughs for me were facilitated by that injury.
And, although I thought I’d never play basketball after I got off the crutches, like a junkie, I played another nine years. For decades, I absolutely needed what basketball gave me. Then, it seems, a time came I needed to walk for a spell using crutches.
How much my own hubris contributed that broken nose is hard to say.
The college players I write about love the hyper-reality of playing in an important game. They’re hooked on basketball and can hardly imagine the day they will call it quits. They can’t let themselves be much concerned with the awkward landings and dislocations that are an inevitable part of what the game has in store for its junkies.
As fast as the Division I college game moves, the best of its improvisers see it happening in slow-mo vision, at times.
The weather is supposed to be even warmer tomorrow. Yes, it’s not February, any more. The Ides of March brings us brackets to ponder … break a leg.
1. Richmond (24-7, 13-3 in A-10, No. 24 RPI)
2. ODU (25-8, 2-0 in CAA Tournament, No. 33 RPI)
3. Va. Tech (23-7, 10-6 in ACC, No. 50 RPI)
4. Wm. & Mary (21-9, 2-0 in CAA Tournament, No. 56 RPI)
5. VCU (22-9, 2-1 in CAA Tournament, No. 65 RPI)
Sunday, March 07, 2010
Thursday, March 04, 2010
Jewell went on to explain that he originally opposed early thinking about establishing what would be Richmond’s first charter school in his district. But after seeing the school’s plan and the resistance to it that has developed, he now enthusiastically supports the PHSSA mission. "I don’t know who leaked the letter," Jewell said, "but I’m glad they did."Click here to read the entire article.
Yes, we play Frisbee-golf (disc golf) all year round. This winter has presented more of a challenge than we've been accustomed to overcoming in Richmond. The video shows members of the 34-year-old Greater Richmond Frisbee-Golf Association negotiating the Back Nine at the Carillon.
Wednesday, March 03, 2010
Tuesday, March 02, 2010
Schneider, 6-3, 190, led The Tribe to an overall record of 19-9*. More importantly, Wm. & Mary finished the regular season in a third-place tie with George Mason, with a 12-6 record in the conference. Schneider averaged 15.8 points and six rebounds per game. No player in the 12-team league was more integral to his team's success.
My picks for the All-CAA team, first five and second, are posted at the Fan District Hub. If that seems worth a look, click here to see the list of 10 names at The Hub.
* Wm. & Mary defeated Vassar, 94-48, on Dec. 19. But Vassar since is not a Division I program that win is not included in The Tribe's total victories.
Monday, March 01, 2010
1. Richmond (22-7, 12-3 in A-10, No. 28 RPI)
2. ODU (23-8, 15-3 in CAA, No. 38 RPI)
3. Va. Tech (21-7, 8-6 in ACC, No. 52 RPI)
4. Wm. & Mary (19-9, 12-6 in CAA, No. 60 RPI)
5. VCU (20-8, 11-7 in CAA, No. 66 RPI)