Sunday, January 31, 2010

Curse you IKEA! Why must I love you so?!

So it's a chilly Saturday afternoon and a beautiful woman named Anna and my kids want to get out of the house. No problem. Anna's destination of choice...a 2 hour drive to IKEA. If you've never heard of the place, maybe you live in one of the handful of states that doesn't have one of these behemoths inside its borders. That's o.k. since I can explain.

The first thing to know is that IKEA is not a store. Wal-Mart, Best Buy, Target...these are stores, but IKEA in itself, is an event. People prepare to go to an IKEA much like celebrities prepare to go to an awards show or normal people prepare to do early Christmas shopping(yes, even the ones who consider Dec. 24th to be early). If you don't mentally and physically prepare yourself, then you will end up a broken person aimlessly walking around looking for the exit.

The next question is not to ask, "What does IKEA sell?", but ask, "What doesn't IKEA sell?". This "store" is a 2 story marketplace full of some items that every home needs and a huge amount of crap that no one needs, but looks so great in the store that you really want to buy it(only to question yourself in shame weeks later). Beds, plants, tables, desks, art work, shelves, pillows, towels, finger puppets(yes, finger puppets), and so much more. IKEA is set up in such an intricate maze that the good management is even nice enough to employ guides, trackers, and people to supply you with water as you make your trek through the store.

For anyone who has ever frequented a superstore so many times that the workers know you by name, or anyone who spends hours in an electronics store and buys nothing, then you have to visit IKEA. I like the store so much that I googled it, but I was startled by my findings. It turns out that IKEA was started in Sweden in 1943 by a man named Hans Ikea. Mr. Ikea had the notion that everyone outside of Sweden lacked taste and style, so he created a store for everyone to buy crap that would make their homes look Swedish. He also invented a dangerously sweet elixir known as "lignon berry punch" which is actually a psychotropic beverage intended to make the drinker more Swedish, but it tastes like expensive kool-aid(OH YEAH!).

So in closing, Mr. Ikea may have plans of making the entire world Swedish, but I can't wait to go to IKEA again!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

The NFL Rooney Rule and the shortage of black coaches

The Rooney Rule was established in 2003 and is named for Dan Rooney, the owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers and the chairman of the NFL diversity committee. The rule requires all 32 NFL teams to interview minority candidates for head coaching and senior football operations opportunities. The biggest question is why isn't this rule working?

In the past 4 years, there have been 4 black head coaches to go to the Super Bowl(thank you Rob Parker) and as of right now, 2 of those 4 have led their team to a Super Bowl victory. In spite of this, there are only 5 active black head coaches today. There's not a lack of talent, experience, or leadership when it comes to head coaching or even coordinating jobs especially not when anyone does a little research.

There's a handful of black men when it comes to active head coach, assistant head coach, and offensive and defensive coordinator jobs. There are men like Curtis Modkins who is the offensive coordinator of the Buffalo Bills who coached RB Tashard Choice at Georgia Tech and worked with P.J. Daniels, a walk-on who became 4th leading rusher in Georgia Tech history and a 2 time all-conference selection. There's also Ron Meeks who is the defensive coordinator of the Carolina Panthers who served the same position in Indianapolis from 2002-2008 and helped the Colts to win a Super Bowl when Tony Dungy was the head coach. Between all of the black head coaches and coordinators, black men have helped their teams win 7 Super Bowl victories. Romeo Crennel helped the Patriots win 3 Super Bowls and Crennel has been in 5 Super Bowl wins, yet his 24-40 record as head coach of the Cleveland Browns proves that you're only as good as the people around you.

So, who's to blame for the extreme lack of black head coaches? Should we consider Roger Goodell, the NFL commissioner, to be the devil or should we hold a march in New York at the NFL head offices? No, because those would just be more ignorant moves. The true villain in this are the 27 team owners who thumb their noses at the Rooney rule and ignore the talent and leadership shown by men like Winston Moss, the assistant head coach of Green Bay, Leslie Frazier, the assistant head coach of Minnesota and other men like them who have proven their worth in landing an NFL head coaching position.

I have a tremendous amount of respect for men like Jimmy Johnson, Bill Cowher, Jon Gruden, and Brian Billick who are all former coaches that have won Super Bowls, yet these are mainly the only names anyone hears when a head coaching job is vacated. There are far too many active coaches and coordinators on the pro and college level for team owners not to seriously invest their time and money trying to get these intelligent leaders.

The sad truth is that in spite of the facts and any passionate speech anyone can give in regards to more black head coaches being in the NFL, the burden of proof rests in the hands of the owners of the teams. It is the owner who either hires the head coaches themselves or they hire the presidents and general managers who do the hiring of the team personnel. No one, not even Goodell himself, can force a team owner to hire personnel that the owner doesn't want to. The only chance that we will see more black head coaches is with the further success of the current active coaches and coordinators seeing how many teams try to copy the success of other teams.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

NFL overtime doesn't suck...but some teams do

If the Vikings offense had a chance to get on the field during overtime, the Saints wouldn't be going to the Super Bowl. If Minnesota had won the coin toss in overtime, then they would be going to the Super Bowl. It's time for every football fan to face facts...overtime does not suck!

Yes, we ALL want our team to win no matter if it's the Dallas Cowboys or the Cleveland Browns, so if our team is "lucky" enough to get into overtime, then we feel justified if they win in OT, but if they lose, we feel that the OT rules need to change. There's only 2 reasons any game goes into overtime, either because our team got "lucky" enough to score a TD or kick a FG to tie the game or because our team didn't make the defensive stop to keep the other team from scoring.

Herm Edwards says that, "You play to win the game" and we all know that a regular game is 60 minutes so every team has an opportunity to win in 4 quarters. The difference is that during the game, one team could have been out-coached. Maybe the defensive front sacked the QB so many times that he couldn't see straight, or the cornerbacks and safeties played like defensive wide receivers and picked off any pass the QB threw. For all we know, it was one fumble too many or the 100+ penalty yards our team got for holding, being offsides, intentional grounding, false starts, or whatever gave the other team the right field position to kick our butts.

Yes, this OT debate will still go on, but face facts sports fan, the game is 60 minutes long and not 75 minutes. So if our team wins in OT, then we should feel extremely lucky they won because no TD or FG is guaranteed, and if our team loses, we have to understand that they should have done more in 4 quarters to not have to go to OT.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Faith in a faithless world

It's easy for anyone to lose their faith or even their hope for a better tomorrow considering that we live in a faithless world. From earthquakes to tornadoes and all other natural disasters, many lives have been lost. We also have to worry about con artists, thieves, rapists, murderers, and the sad part is that everything I've just mentioned is only half of the negativity that we watch on the news every day.

In spite of the truth of what I've just mentioned, I can honestly say there is a strong reason for all of us to stay strong in our faith...the strength of our fellow man or woman. There are many things that I plan to do that I know will help many people, and there are also many times that things don't go the way that I've planned them. Honestly, a lot of times that my plans have been shot down, I've felt defeated and sometimes I've even lost faith in the possibility of my actions. The good news that I can say is that God has put people in my life to give me the strength to have faith again.

Even though I'm a God fearing man, I don't expect every one to feel the way that I do because not everyone has walked in my shoes. I do know that we see the power of faith and belief in a higher power or even one's self every day. Many of us watched the Hope for Haiti telethon and heard stories about men and women who had nothing but their faith giving them strength and keeping them alive while they were rescuing loved ones or while they were being rescued. So far, that telethon has raised $57 million for relief efforts.

The main point that I want to stress to everyone is that even when you think there's no reason to hold on anymore, hold on just a little bit longer. Sometimes the plans you make aren't working the way you want them to so maybe you need to alter your vision a little bit or maybe you just need to keep working because you will hit your mark soon. Either way, you need to hold on just a little bit longer. If you're in doubt or hanging onto your faith by a string, then find someone to give you strength because I guarantee you that someone is waiting to give you a reason to hold on a little bit longer.

Isaiah 40:31 - "But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Recycling is supposed to SAVE the environment

Is it just me or do most of the people in control of the movie and television industry severely lack imagination? I started watching umpteen movie trailers on and apart from a couple of interesting movies, I saw trailers for the A-Team, Nightmare On Elm St., and The Karate Kid. I will probably watch the A-Team(when it hits dvd) unless a reliable source tells me it's worth the $10 to see it in the theater, but what's the point of seeing a remake when the original is still in your head? I'm happy that Will Smith's son is getting a chance to star in a movie, but I already know that he'll win in the end, and I just might hear, "Sweep the leg." or something to that effect. Freddie never dies, but he doesn't kill everybody either and Hannibal always "loves it when a plan comes together".

The point is that if it's already been done before, it's time for the new thing. I know that most hollywood types want to use the old tried and true method which explains why there's been 15 seasons of Survivor and why so many people feel that at least half the movies that come out need a sequel. Surprise...they don't! I'm glad that there are still movies like The Book of Eli and The Hangover should already be on AMC so with this in mind, can we please not see another Batman or Transporter movie. Hollywood might be scared that an original idea won't work, but the big budget, big name, CG B.S. isn't always pulling in the big bucks either.

I have tons of ideas for original movies and t.v. shows, and half of them aren't so bad either. Here's a freebie that I'd love for someone to use...the title of the movie is Speedy Jenkins. It's the story of a 14 year old boy who is stricken with asthma, but the twist is that he has the speed of a super hero. So while most people would rather "take it easy" and do as little as possible so that they wouldn't make themselves sick, Speedy is more concerned about helping others before he helps himself. He uses his gift to save the innocent from the likes of muggers and other would be crooks, but in the climax of the movie, he has to decide between catching the bad guy and possibly risking his life, winning the affection of his love interest, or shrinking back into his quiet corner to avoid any chance of personal suffering. I give my blessing for anyone to use this because I'm steadily pointing and laughing at anyone who continues to make crappy movies.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Humanity is an endangered species

"I have great news Mr./Mrs. every day American! We have given you all the medicine and/or treatment that we would ever give a person who doesn't have insurance(like yourself). Even if you just so happen to have insurance, we have done as much as we financially can before your insurance stops paying us. So since we have "stabilized" your previous condition, we are more than happy to send your semi-well(or semi-sick) self out of our hospital. Thank you and come again when you can afford better health care!"

No, the doctors and/or nurses at your local hospital or clinic won't be honest enough to tell you the above spiel, but no matter how much it is sugar coated with "outpatient treatment" or "following up with your family doctor", the above rhetoric is exactly what is being said. Some of us go to the hospital hoping to find a doctor like House who has the medical knowledge of every possible ailment. Others hope to find doctors and nurses who are passionate about their career just like the people on TLC or Discovery Health who are willing to work countless man hours until our particular sickness is correctly identified and we are fully healed. Personally, I still have the blind faith that God will either put people like this in our lives or He himself will touch us and rid us of our infirmity. The one thing that strikes me the hardest is that our humanity is slowly dying.

I am thankful for those among us who willingly donate their time and/or money to worthy causes like the restoration of Haiti, but too many of us only want to help in the "popular" causes. I feel for human suffering anywhere, but I especially hate when it's happening in my own country...the land of the free and the home of the brave. I'm tired of triage no longer being about the person with the gaping head wound being treated before the person with an upset stomach. Now triage is becoming more about the person who has the insurance or the better insurance getting seen first. I realize that money sets a lot of things in motion and unfortunately proper health care is one of those things, but there's something important that many of us overlook.

For every janitor that can't afford insurance means that there's one more person who is forced to take a sick day from work. This means that they lose a day of getting paid to work which can lead to them not having enough money to pay their bills. One of those bills just might be their light bill and if it goes delinquent long enough, their lights get turned off. The more people that can't afford their electricity bill leaves the electric company having to cut costs which will lead to a couple of layoffs. Then what happens when the janitor can't pay their medical bills and the hospital has to cut costs? For every sick person that goes untreated, there's a few less dollars being put into the pockets of more people.

I'm not a genius, but the answer seems painfully clear to me. When we care more about the bottom line than making sure there's fewer people below the poverty line, we are failing ourselves as human beings because humanity at its basest meaning stands for benevolence. There are no "self-made" people anymore because Bill Gates himself wouldn't be a billionaire if you or I had never used Windows. Politicians must come together to enact a universal health care plan that makes sense because they won't be in office for very long if their constituents are at home sick on voting day, and every one in the medical field needs to stand up for their fellow human beings because if they aren't willing to treat us when we are sick, then eventually we will die and they still wind up losing money.

If this sounds like a rant, then it just might be one but all I want to say in the end is that it's up to me and you to show the next man or woman that we will not allow humanity to stay endangered anymore.