Category Archives: POP CULTURE

Fans Singing the National Anthem In Wake of Boston

The last five days have been very difficult for myself and many of you. Monday started with me watching, via my computer, the Memorial Service at Anfield for the 24th Anniversary of the Hillsborough Disaster in the morning. Only a few hours later, as you all know, bombs went off at the finish line of the Boston Marathon. On Wednesday night, the fertilizer plant in Waco, Texas exploded. Last night, I listened to a Boston Police scanner describing a manhunt for the two suspects in the Boston Marathon Bombing, discovering that they had shot and killed a Campus Policeman at MIT. The manhunt for one of the suspects, was completed only hours ago. Exhale. I could continue and cite other events that have taken place this week, but I feel as though I would just be repeating what you already know and reopening the wound.

Before I start going into a tirade, I’d like to reiterate that my sincere thoughts and prayers go out to those affected by the terrible tragedies in the last week; not just those that I have mentioned, but everywhere in the world.

These events in the last week have enabled Americans like myself to see both the best and worst of human behavior. While we can clearly see that there are people who are hell-bent on disrupting our lives and ruining all that we hold dear, we also see that there are people who can stare mass hysteria, chaos and terrorism right in the eyes and say “you cannot break our spirit.” The first responders in Waco and Boston, as well as all those who acted in the aftermath of the tragedies, have reminded us that human nature is inherently good.

The last week has put things in perspective for myself, and I’m really upset about it. I feel extremely immature for needing events like this to put my life into perspective. For years, my life has revolved around sports. As a fan of numerous sports and leagues, my schedule has revolved around when my favorite teams are playing and what time the big game is on TV, followed by my schoolwork. I’ve always had political beliefs and a strong grip on the following of the news cycle, but I’ve never really put events outside of the pro sports world above the news cycle. I feel as though I need to live in my own little bubble from time to time. It makes life a lot easier for me. I don’t understand why these events have shaken me so much, but I’m hopeful that I can become a better person because of them.

One of the few things that has brought a smile to my face in the last week is when I watched the Sabres-Bruins game on Wednesday night, before the Waco Explosion happened. I needed to see it because I felt as though watching it would encourage me to embrace normalcy and return to my usual life cycle. Being able to see Boston get back to normalcy should’ve done the trick. Watching Rene Rancourt let the Boston fans sing the National Anthem brought tears to my eyes. It was one of the most beautiful things, and it reminded me of a game I attended as a child 12 years ago.

When I was 8, my Dad took me to a Devils game when they were playing Washington. The date was December 8, 2001 (do not ask me how I remember this), less than 3 months after 9/11, and we were in the upper deck at Continental Airlines Arena on a Saturday afternoon with the building half-full. We stood for the National Anthem. Continental used to play this recording of the National Anthem for its sporting events, and, with the building in the midst of a gradual decline, the recording on that day blasted out the first two seconds and then stopped, completely broken. A few fans in the building were singing it from the beginning, and didn’t stop after the recording crapped out. Slowly but surely, the whole building started singing it, and it got louder and louder until, eventually, the fans were screaming it. It was one of the weirdest things I’ve ever experienced at a sporting event, and it is something I will never forget.

As I watched those fans in Boston sing the National Anthem, I cried and smiled. It reminded me, for a split second, of the joy I got from singing the Anthem on that day. It makes me feel as though we need to let the fans sing the anthem more often at sporting events in this country. It’s not because of the national pride you get from it or how it makes us feel a sense of unity, but because it’s the right thing to do.

One of the many things I’ve been saying for years is that the National Anthem is being disrespected in this country and has been disrespected for far too long. I was at the Final Four last weekend. One of the things that I remember from the Championship Game was that fans were pulling their phones out during the National Anthem, talking to the people beside them and simply not caring. Since when did this become acceptable?

What’s worse is that the anthem is being disrespected by those who are given the “honor” to sing it; I was at a Washington Wizards game a few years ago where the woman singing it took four or five minutes to get through the whole thing. I got upset because it wasn’t the first time I’ve seen it happen like that, and it has happened far too often. If any other country had their national anthem treated the way that we treat ours, the people disrespecting it would be arrested and executed.

Fan groups at games don’t give proper respect to the Anthem either. I was at the first round of the NCAA Tournament last season in Columbus. I specifically remember NC State fans shouting “Wolfpack!” over “brave” in the last line of the song. Red Bulls fans love shouting “RED” when the word comes up during the line “and the rockets red glare.” Baltimore fans, for some reason, love to shout “OH” for the first word of the line “Oh say, does that star-spangled banner yet wave…” Anybody singing the song from the beginning wouldn’t do that because it wouldn’t fit and it would be blatantly disrespectful.

If fans sang the National Anthem more often, I believe we would treat it better than how it is currently treated in this country. We would sing it with pride and reverence, the way that it is intended to be sung. Just look at how a Vancouver Canucks Crowd sings “Oh Canada,” or just watch one game involving the United States Men’s National Team. When the anthem comes on before a USMNT match, the fans and players sing it with respect. There’s no designated singer. They just play the song and the country’s players, coaches and fans sing it as loud as they possibly can. Astonishingly, they’re able to sing it in harmony without any problems, and the song is shown the proper respect that it deserves.

If there’s one thing that being a fan of football has taught me, it’s that singing is one of the few things humans can and do use to express their emotions accurately and effectively. If fans in this country were to sing our National Anthem more often, I guarantee you that it would be sung with more passion, emotion and respect than any Hollywood singer you could possibly roll out onto the field or ice with a microphone. It’s not gonna solve all our problems, nor will it make us better people, but it’ll make us feel better. I highly doubt that this will happen in the future, but I hope it does.

Follow Greg Visone on Twitter @njny

NFL Fans Who Hate The EPL, In Fact, Do Exist In London

Two Sundays ago, I spent my first Super Bowl outside of the United States. It felt a bit sacrilegious to spend America’s Greatest Holiday in a country where they call NFL football “that elbow and rugby thing,” and refer to it as “armored egg chase.” Everywhere outside of the United States, and especially in England—the birthplace of association football—”football” is the beautiful game played exclusively with feet, not with hands and helmets.

For the first Super Bowl in four years, I didn’t have a vested interest in the game. I had no bets wagered, the Giants weren’t there to root against, my Packers weren’t there to root for, and the Drew Brees wasn’t there playing with all of post-Katrina New Orleans on his back. Still, with a considerate 11:30 PM kick-off time in London and no class until 2 PM the next day, I ventured out to the University of London’s bar for their Super Bowl party.

On the walk to the bar, I noticed that every single pub I passed (it was a half hour walk, and given that there’s at least one pub per block on London, I must’ve passed at least 3,000 pubs) was open and advertising “the Big Game.”

At UL’s bar, I expected a handful of Raven and 49er fans, a small sect of Americans wanting to watch the Super Bowl just to attain a sense of American normalcy in a foreign country, and nothing more. It was late. Kids had class the next morning. The half-time show would be on YouTube the following morning. It’s just the NFL. To my surprise, half of the bar was full of British NFL fans, all cloaked in NFL apparel, and NYU students were aplenty. Never underestimate the drawing power of a Ray Lewis speech and a Beyonce performance.

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British NFL fans are nothing new to me. At my first Packers game at the old Giants Stadium a few years ago, I met some British Packer fans in the parking lot. With the expansion of NFL broadcasts overseas over the past twenty years, they had watched Brett Favre’s Packer teams dominate the mid-90s, and had adopted the Pack as their own, despite not even knowing where Green Bay was on the map.

I get the Packer connection. It’s a historic franchise that has produced winning seasons for the past two decades. It’d be the American equivalent of picking Manchester United as your favorite team. When there’s no natural connection, you fall in love with the consistent winner.

What didn’t make sense was the group of British NFL fans wearing Donovan McNabb, Mark Sanchez, Roy Williams, Tom Brady, and Eli Manning jerseys in the heart of London. The jerseys could’ve been just a novelty. When I go to MLS games at Red Bull Arena, it’s common to see American fans wearing whatever soccer jersey they happen to own to the game. The Red Bulls could be playing the Houston Dynamo and you’d still see about 30 Lionel Messi jerseys around the stadium. To these fans, wearing any soccer apparel to says, “Hey, we’re here because we know something about the sport.” In actuality, they probably know very little about the MLS, and could probably name only five European soccer players, but they know Messi. It’s a shame that Mark Sanchez was the finest representative the NFL had to offer for one British NFL fan.

At the bar, the NFL Brits noticed my Liverpool jersey. Worse, they saw that Joe Allen, the much lamented midfielder, was the name printed on the back of it. I should’ve known to not wear that shirt in public. It was only a matter of time until the crows came out to give me a hard time.

Here’s how the conversation went down, edited for appropriateness (you can probably guess where the warm beer-fueled expletives came in):

“Ey mate, are you a real Liverpool fan or a joke?”

“What? Why?”

“Well you’re wearing your crap club on yer chest with the name of a midget Welshman on the back.”

“5 European Cups, and 18 Leagues, that’s what we call history. Anyway, you have a JETS jersey on. You’re a disgrace to my city, the NFL, sports fans who grew up with a pre-sensationalist SportsCenter, and TMZ.”

“What’s a ‘European Cup’?”

Pause.

I had just encountered a Londoner wearing a Mark Sanchez jersey who knew enough about Liverpool to insult me but not enough about international soccer to know about the European Club Championship… WHERE WAS I?

After further conversation and a round shared with his mates, I learned that these guys actually hated the English Premier League, and only had anecdotal knowledge of their national sport through their friend’s Twitter rampages. Mr. Sanchez has a friend who’s a Liverpool fan, so the “midget Welshman” name was fresh in his mind. They admired the physicality of American football as opposed to European soccer’s divers and whiners.

Going around the table, I got to know the background stories behind these NFL Brits. Mr. Sanchez started following the Jets after a visit to New York two years ago, at the peak of the Rex Ryan era. The lad wearing the Tom Brady jersey picked the Patriots because he’s a history student and thought the Patriots’ Minuteman logo from the 90s looked cool—ironic, considering, well, you know, these Minutemen blasted his ancestors back across the Atlantic en route to Independence. The Cowboys fan had read about Tony Romo dating Jessica Simpson in the tabloids (“She has great knockers,” according to my new friend), and started tuning in every Sunday night to Cowboy games.

They couldn’t afford to make it out to the NFL In London annual games at Wembley, but those games are “the third biggest day of the year” according to one NFL Brit. The two days above in his pecking order of grand occasions: the Super Bowl and Christmas.

These were all very random roads to fandom fueled by either whims or pop culture references, but all backed up by an exceptional knowledge of the game. These fans knew the difference between a 3-4 and 4-3 defense, wondered how Kaepnerick and the 49ers’ pistol offense would fair against a strong Ravens front 7, and lamented the fact that European sports didn’t have a hard salary cap like the NFL did. Any novel reader of the game could dissect a 4-3 defense, but these guys actually knew the difference between a “hard” and “soft” salary cap. They were practically Sport Management majors!

Eventually, I left their table to participate in matters concerning Beyonce, but these fans had genuinely impressed me. I’d be hard pressed to find well-versed soccer fans at a World Cup party back in the States.

Before leaving, I asked them whether they’d like an NFL team in London one day. A resounding “YES!” was blurted in my direction. Roger Goodell, I just found your first 6 season ticket holders for your future London franchise. Finding 85,994 more to fill Wembley every Sunday shouldn’t be so hard now.

Follow Justin on Twitter @jblock49

The Lonely World of the Football “ITK”

I’ve been following European soccer/football/association football/the-British-invented-the-term-soccer-so-whatever since 2008, and last weekend marked my 5th season of English Premier League fandom. Through JLBSportsTV’s videos on football, specifically Liverpool FC, I’ve been engaging in the peripheral world of the sport for five years now. I’ve been actively using Twitter since 2009, and it’s become my one-stop shop for every piece of news I could possibly care about. It allows me to pick and choose what news I want to know. I don’t care about what Rush Limbaugh said yesterday, so I won’t follow a smörgåsbord of political journalists and media outlets. I do, however, care about what company makes Michael Vick’s rib plates, so I’ll follow ESPN sports business reporter Darren Rovell. Although I’ve been engaged in footy news via Twitter, I’ve never taken the interest that far. I like to keep my timeline clean, and my following count at or around 350.

When I opened up shop with this website, I also opened up a Twitter account for it, @JLBSportsTV49. I’ve used it to spread news, plug the website, and engage in friendly banter with other football fans. To help get the account going, I decided to follow back it’s first 200 followers for their early support. Because this site is built off the strength of the JLBSportsTV YouTube channel, which is almost exclusively viewed by football fans in the UK, most of the early followers were just that. With them on my timeline, I was introduced to an entire world of sports “media” I was previously unaware to: agents and front office personnel who share their “inside” knowledge with clubs about transfers. These ITKs (stands for “in the know) are giving us the scoop on the most surprising transfers of the summer market—a period that’s full of hysteria, anger, and the occasional triumph from fans, all of whom become more concerned with the check books of millionaires and billionaires than their own outstanding credit card bills. Why worry about keeping the lights on when Matt Jarvis is worth £11 million and Nuri Sahin thinks he’s Dwight Howard?

But the Jarvis transfer and the Sahin saga are all facts—stories that have been thoroughly covered by the BBC, The Times, and other reputable news agencies. The Twitter accounts of ITKs, insiders, and agents produce news like this, which is totally baseless, salacious, and fear-mongering to a hyper-sensitive fan.

(A day later, this same “agent” would backtrack on his Evra report, stating that the deal will be done in January. By then, everyone will have forgotten about this false news, and the person behind this Twitter account can continue to rack up followers.)

Every day, it at least one ITK or fake agent gets retweeted onto my timeline, and I block and report them as spam. “Kill them all and keep moving.” The problem is, people genuinely put their faith in them, because it feels good to get wrapped up in transfer talk. Evra to LFC? Time to start a Twitter rant about how that’s a crazy move for LFC. Did Suarez approve it? I should tweet my buddy and get his thoughts. It’s all part of a ploy to make you more social, and when you feel social, you feel good. You’ll probably remember who told you that Evra was going to LFC, and since that news made you feel good, you’ll give a follow to that Twitter account.

It’s clear, however, that these accounts are run by people who aren’t on any club payroll, and are certainly not agents. They spread false rumors, or just report on rumors that the mornings tabloids run, but with an inside twist, an inside ethos based on nothing. So why do people open up Twitter accounts to blatantly lie about transfers? Well to gain Twitter followers of course. But why does a person who hides behind the veil of a name like “agent_153″ and an avatar of a pair of hands shaking want to gain followers? Nobody will recognize them in person, and what good does 30,000 followers do you if there’s no sense of personal acknowledgement in the real world? And since there’s no money to be made off Twitter, where’s the personal gain?

These people are undoubtedly lonely, and all they have are their Twitter followers and hundreds of mentions a day to keep them cozy. Last night, @agent_153 and @FootballDave01 said they had received news about Edinson Cavani’s transfer and a striker Arsenal is after, but would only reveal the news if their tweet was retweeted—an obvious and pathetic attempt to gain mentions and followers to fulfill a late-night social desire.

The real-life image of a football ITK is this in my mind: a male in his 30s who is divorced, hates his middle-class job, and needs something to do. People to interact with. A sense of place and accomplishment in a single world. A few statistics back up my image. The average Twitter user is 39 years old, and 57% of all users are between ages 30-44. According to the Office for National Statistics in England, people who are 40-44 years old get divorced the most, and three of the four most divorced age brackets are from people ages 30-44 years old. Additionally, the largest cluster of English Premier League fans are 35-44 years old (or 1 in 3), are overwhelmingly male, and are non-season ticket holders who earn £31,000 a year. That unhappy divorced male 30-something who doesn’t make a ton of money seems to fit the bill.

The profile of people likely masquerading as ITKs, insiders, and agents is clear, and kind of sad. These people have had to create a character of important stature who spreads fake rumors to drum up a following built on lies (kind of like Rick Ross, but way less rich). It can’t get much lower than that in the football world, unless you’re an Arsenal fan this transfer window. And even then, at least you have your fellow fan to lean on—all @agent_153 has to keep him up are 43,000 followers and a timeline full of inventive fiction.

Follow Justin on Twitter @jblock49

The Newsroom Briefing: We Got Em

“5/1″ took place on May 1st, 2011.

I had forgotten the significance of the date 5/1. There are many dates we all have in mind: birthdays, anniversaries, Super Bowl victories, holidays, and dates of historical importance. I had forgotten that 5/1 was the follow up to 9/11. It’s the date Osama Bin Laden was killed by US Special Forces.

“5/1″ began with a Charlie taking a mysterious call from someone who informed him that he’d be getting an email from the White House press secretary in an hour and a half. That someone didn’t identify himself, but right on que, Charlie got that email. Charlie, along with the rest of the “News Night” staff was at a party at Will’s apartment. They were celebrating the one year anniversary of “News Night 2.0.” Although we’re only seven episodes into the series, a year has passed. Mackenzie is still the EP, Will’s still busting balls for an hour a night, and relationships are continuing to progress.

Right now, there are two shifting plot lines on the show. There’s the Love Front, which covers the Will-Mackenzie struggle and the Jim-Maggie-Don love triangle. There’s also the Corporate Cold War, which deals with the political games News Night and network CEO Leona Lansing are engaging in. There were minor developments on each front tonight. Don is over-analyzing every aspect of his relationship with Maggie out of paranoia, Maggie continues to hide her feelings for Jim, and Jim keeps pursuing Lisa, because he’s not the homewrecker type.

Near the end of the episode, Charlie got a call from that someone again. He revealed that he works with the NSA, and has been tracking ilegal electronic monitoring within the network. Could Lansing be tracking Will to try and find a smoking gun to fire him? We’ll see.

Although “5/1″ dealt with the most important news story since 9/11, this episode was by far the driest. Reliving coverage of important news events with The Newsroom has proved to be less than exciting. Were it not for the strong characters Sorkin has crafted, the show would be more of a dud than advertised. “5/1″ didn’t get entertainment points, but it certainly got nostalgia credits.

I can remember where I was for only a few specific events in recent memory, and all of those memories start with 9/11. In fact, I can only remember a few things prior to 9/11. It’s like that when my adult consciousness began. During 9/11, I was in elementary school gym class, and a school nurse came out and whispered something in my gym teacher’s ear. She shrieked, started sobbing uncontrollably, and ran into the building. That was the first and last day she was our gym teacher. I always assumed she knew someone in the towers. I was only in 3rd grade, and it’s taken many years to fully understand what happened. I don’t have any emotions registered from 9/11, since I was so young, and so naive to the severity of everything.

I remembered where I was on 5/1 too. I was in my kitchen, and I stood the whole time. I remember thinking, “Oh cool,” but nothing more than that. In many ways, my generation will deal with the aftermath of 9/11. In US history class, we always analyzed the economic, political, and social ramifications of watershed event. I can only imagine what students will draw from 9/11 decades from now. We’ll probably go down in history as the first post-9/11 generation to emerge. We were old enough to remember, but young enough to not feel the tragedy, unless a close family member or friend was lost. Seeing an actors portrayal of how people reacted on 5/1 was weird. Men shook hands and hugged, adults cheered, and everyone had a look of relief on their faces. Charlie told everyone to “take three seconds” and remember where they were on 5/1.

“5/1″ was an episode of emotional remembrance. Everyone knows someone who was affected by 9/11. We all have different degrees of separation to that point, but we all know a victim.

Follow Justin on Twitter @jblock49

Notebook dump: Why did that wrinkle of Will being high while broadcasting the news have to be added in? Kind of random. For someone who ate two weed cookies, he was pretty responsive. That was more unrealistic than Jim’s girlfriend having the foresight to break up with him before Jim did with her. What girl gets into a man’s head like that and does that?

Things Overshadowed By The Olympics

The Olympics end next Sunday, and by now, we’ve all had enough Gymnastics, Water Polo, Archery, Swimming, and Darts to hold us over for the next four years. The only marquee events left are the Basketball and Soccer Finals, and the 100 meter mens race. The Summer Games have taken up all of NBC’s programming across five networks, and a considerable amount of SportsCenter time (it’s a shame that they can only devote 8 minutes to talking about Tim Tebow being a backup quarterback instead of the usual 12). Looking back on the past week and a half, I’ve realized that many things in my life have taken a back seat to watching 24 hours of Olympic coverage. Things like:

Showering. I’m home all day watching NBC, and see no reason to leave my house. Why bother to be groom and primp for people I’m not going to see? (Interesting side-note: I attended a panel discussion featuring ESPN executive John Walsh last semester. He said that NBC outbid other networks for the Olympic contract by billions. ESPN’s reason for not ponying up $4.38 billion for the rights? It’s a lot of money to devote for only two weeks of content. Makes sense.)

Baseball. I’m not a huge baseball guy like I used to be, but exactly zero fucks were given about the Trade Deadline (even though my Yankees hotly pursued a needed starting pitcher) or all of the VERY tight pennant races raging.

Work. I don’t have a summer job or internship. Instead, this website, it’s YouTube channel, and my other website have been my “jobs.” I’m self-employed and living off Google AdSense pennies. Content across the Justin Block family of networks has slowed recently, because the Olympics are the perfect procrastination tool. I think, “Oh I’ll write that article after this soccer match is over.” Then another match comes on. Then another event comes on. And another. And another. And because NBC tape delays all the good events, I watch their replays of the live streams from earlier because NBC’s tape delay coverage gives the event new life. With all of the added graphics and commentary, I was able to relive Phelps’s last race last night with the same Olympics-level joy. Before I knew it, it was midnight and no work had gotten done, thanks to 12 hours of Olympics watching. For people who work in an office all day at a computer, I’m sure NBC’s online streams of every event has killed productivity.

Diet. Because I don’t leave my house, I haven’t been able to make trips to the grocery store. I’m currently on my last bit of canned and frozen foods. Marie Callender, Abraham Stouffer, and Mr. Trader Joe have prevented starvation. Domino’s delivery deserves a shout-out as well.

NFL training camp. My Packers are apparently ready to start Charles Woodson at safety, and their first pre-season game is this Thursday. I learned all of this information three seconds ago after a quick Google search. Thanks to SportsCenter though, I’m an expert on Jets and Broncos training camps. Those two teams who have no training camp stories but ESPN is hell-bent on talking Tim Tebow starting into existence.

Fantasy Football. The NFL kicks off in a month and I don’t have my fantasy shit together. Aside from Arian Foster and Ray Rice I don’t know who else is a sure-thing at running back. Help!

Other television endeavors. I have yet to start Breaking Bad, and I need to catch-up on three missed years of The Office and House. I still, however, frequent Keeping Up With The Kardashians and The Newsroom. Clearly my television judgement has been impaired thanks to the 30th Olympiad. Oh, and I haven’t even begun to anticipate HBO’s Hard Knocks either.

Chelsea’s John Terry. Shortly after a court found him not-guilty of racial abuse, England’s Football Association has charged him with the same thing. He’ll likely be convicted by the FA, because their legal burden of the “balance of probabilities” is significantly less than the “beyond a reasonable doubt” of a court. England’s former captain, and the current captain of London’s biggest club and the reigning champions of Europe is about to be deemed a racist, but the entire court case and FA charge has been totally swept under the rug thanks to the London Olympics. Andy Carroll’s failed transfer from Liverpool to West Ham caused more of a stir than Terry’s racism.

Great Britain’s Xenophobia. Liverpool’s Luis Suarez, competing for Uruguay, was booed throughout the Olympics for reasons stemming from his own racism charge last season. British fans even booed during Uruguay’s national anthem. (Short run-down of why they were booing: In a match against Manchester United, Suarez called United defender Patrice Evra a “negrito.” In South America, “negrito” is actually a term of endearment. Patrice Evra himself said he didn’t think Suarez was racist. The FA and their “balance of probabilities” handed Suarez an eight match ban anyway, because even referring to another player’s skin is enough for a charge. In their next match, Suarez refused to shake Evra’s hand in the customary pre-game team handshake—a poor decision on Suarez’s part.) Meanwhile, John Terry continues to be cheered when he wears an England shirt and isn’t jeered across England when he plays for Chelsea. This is an Olympics story, but it got little attention because it was overshadowed by the larger Olympics at hand. It was a black-eye that wasn’t, but for myself and other sensible fans, this was the low-light of the Olympics.

Click to enlarge. Proof that England’s media has been less than fair about the whole situation.

Shark Week. Shark Week promo and reruns of past Shark Week shows have been nonexistent in my life. Shark Week actually starts the day the Olympics end, but who’s going to remember? This is a legitimate problem.

Rick Ross. His hotly anticipated 5th solo album was released last week, but I’ve only had time to take a few cursory listens. I have, however, taken the time to remove Rick Ross from “Sixteen” so it’s just Andre 3000′s verse. Thank you Garageband cut tools.

My Amazon seller account. I’ve been flipping old books and DVDs for a few dollars on the Amazon marketplace, but I haven’t kept up with my recent orders. I’m late shipping out seven different items. RIP to my Feedback Rating.

Bills. Actually, let me call the NYU Bursar Office now so I can figure out how to pay my $28,595 first semester bill. I should have Sallie-Mae conferenced in too. This USA-Turkey women’s Volleyball match is about to end anyway.

Follow Justin on Twitter @jblock49

The Newsroom Briefing: Bacon Makes You Stay Awake

“Bullies” happened during the April 2011 nuclear disaster in Japan.

Six episodes into The Newsroom, and it appears that Will McAvoy is beginning to wrap his head around, well, his own head. “Bullies” took place from the luxurious leather chair of Will’s psychologist, who he’s had appointments with the past four years, but has never kept. Meaning, he’s been paying a psychologist for an hours worth of time every Wednesday, but never seeing him.

Playing character psychologist, it’s easy to see why Will does that: he feels better about knowing help is there, but he doesn’t have courage to face his problems. Will’s a man who suffers from anxiety and depression, which has led to his long-running bouts of insomnia. He does a hell of a job of masking it externally, and coddling himself internally. Until this episode, of course.

The episode was a series of flashbacks that Will recalled from his shrink’s office. In one flashback, while on-air, Will bullied a gay Black aide for former presidential candidate Rick Santorum, after Santorum had repeatedly voiced his lack of respect for the gay community. It led to the man taking over Will’s own air, lashing out at Will for defining him by only his race and color—a powerful moment where Will’s own crusade for the truth at the top of an all-protecting high-ground crossed moral grounds. In another flashback, Will gave a pep talk to Sloan, who had been tapped to fill in for Elliot for the 10 pm broadcast. Will berated her for letting her guests get off the hook too often, and not asking tough follow-up questions. Emboldened by his speech, Sloan went rogue on air while interviewing a Japanese plant worker about the reactor meltdown, which then led to Charlie getting frumpy at her (despite all of the yelling, Charlie’s hair didn’t move one inch. Remarkable), and Sloan making the best cutie-pouty face I’ve ever seen. We’re not any closer to getting Sloan half-naked (damn you, Sorkin), but watching her speak fluent Japanese was a weird fucking turn-on. Who’s with me on that?

But what would an episode of The Newsroom be without a little love? Don, growing concerned about the way Jim and Maggie interact in the office, went to Sloan for advice. He’s finally catching up to the rest of us. Mackenzie, who found out that Will had almost moved to LA in 2006 to host a late-night show on FOX while they were dating, stormed into Will’s office. Apparently the LA move would’ve meant an end to their relationship, and therefore no marriage. While Mackenzie ranted on, Will unlocked a drawer in his desk, and presented Mackenzie with a Tiffany ring that he had bought for her in 2006. This did nothing but upset Mackenzie even more. The thought that they could’ve been married had she not cheated on him ruined her day. Oh, what could’ve been. As it turns out, Will anticipated all of this (somehow), and had just bought the ring that day as, in his words, a “prank.” His psychologist described it as “not normal.” He’s got that right. It was no prank—it was another Will McAvoy mind game to win Mackenzie back. After claiming that he’d return the ring, the closing scene showed Will ripping up the receipt.

Will’s determined to be with Mackenzie again, but he’s too stubborn (not strong—stubborn) of a man to beg for her. No. She cheated, so she’s coming back to me. “She make me beg for it, till she give it up.”

“Too busy thinking about my baby.”

After a few weeks of corporate struggle, it all took a backseat to Will’s sleepless mind. The themes of love and workplace stress are nothing new to Will, but his guilt about Sloan and the Santorum aide interview caused everything to come to a T. The psychologist ended up prescribing a sleeping pill, but only after telling Will to stay away from his nightly eating bacon, egg, and cheese sandwiches before bed—bacon contains tyramine, which is an amino acid that releases norepinephrine, a stimulant that keeps people awake. Tyramine is also found in ham, cheese, sausages, tomatoes, peppers, fish, smoked meats and chocolates. It’s about midnight my time, so I think I’ll go with a bowl of cereal as a snack instead of chocolate ice cream this time. I’ll be up thinking about Olivia Munn’s pouting face all night if I don’t.

Follow Justin on Twitter @jblock49

What A Kanye West Olympics Opening Ceremony Would Look Like

After watching London’s Opening Ceremony, I immediately began wondering how Kanye West would do the whole thing. Ye has his hands in everything nowadays—art, fashion, music, sports, television, movies—so I wouldn’t put a Kanye directed Ceremony past anybody. Here’s how it would go down:

The negotiation process to get Kanye to direct the games would legendary. He’d demand a budget of at least $500 million for the concert. London Olympics organizers would remind him that it’s not a concert, that China spent $70 million on their Opening Ceremony, and that no, Austin Powers is a fictional character. After agreeing to direct the show for a lush sponsorship package (DONDA would be the official sponsor of the entire Olympics. Even though DONDA lacks a logo and any real products, it just would be.)

Working with a measly $15 million, Kanye would conceptualize, plan, organize, rehearse, and create the entire Ceremony in 3 days. After determining that $15 million isn’t enough, he doubles the ticket prices of the Ceremony, and contributes $30 million of his own money (most of which he wrangles from Def Jam) to offset the now $50 million budget.

London organizers repeatedly ask for outlines of the show, but Kanye points out his “Kanye Kontrol Klause” (short-sightedly abbreviated as “KKK”). The KKK allows Kanye to work in total secrecy. He makes no promises to pay homage to the United Kingdom, the games themselves, or the international community watching. He declares that “I’m universal” when pressed on the matter.

The show starts in total darkness. Everyone in the audience, including international broadcasters, would be asked to remain totally silent. (Matt Lauer would ignore these directions.) A singular light shines upon one man standing on a massive, white circular stage. He’s a Black man wearing a Horus mask dripping in gold. Faux Horus is also wearing the $100,000 Horus chain that Kanye wore in 2010 to perpetuate his greatness. Horus begins to fly, and as the audience tracks him into the dark of the London night, the white circle stage disappears. An all-black pyramid emerges from the ground, flanked by a 7-screen movie setup. This instantly causes a problem, because half of the stadium cannot see what’s happening on the screen. The trailer for Cruel Summer plays, and the screens explode. Beneath the pyramid, a clear-glass bottom surface has emerged.

It quickly becomes clear that the glass surface is actually a giant in-ground aquarium. Great white sharks swim throughout, eating the carcases of dead male Lions. The moment first blood is drawn, aggressive “Love Lockdown”-like drums pound away. Hundreds of ballerinas dressed like 1850s-era African-American slave women emerge from the pyramid as the drums continue to roll. They begin some stupid routine. A man representing Nat Turner breaks the glass aquarium, climbs to the stage, and shoots a make-believe Ronald Reagan character in the head.

(At this point, everyone—Black, White, Asian, Purple, English, Young Money—is offended.)

The ballerinas all suddenly swoop towards the middle of the stage. They huddle up, chant some wild nonsense, and when they break, Kanye appears dead-center. He’s wearing nothing but a Givenchy loin-cloth, with the letters “KW” embroidered on his crotch, and “DONDA” on his ass cheeks. He begins pounding away on an MPC, using samples from the Inception soundtrack.

Giant floats of great African-Americans cruise around the stage. The heads of Nat Turner, Dred Scott, Booker T. Washington, Frederick Douglass, Malcolm X, MLK, Carter Woodson, Muhammed Ali, Jackie Robinson, Fred Hampton, Ray Charles, Marvin Gaye, Basquiat, Michael Jordan, Steve Urkel, Michael Jackson, Will Smith, Oprah, Obama, and Black Jesus parade around. All hope of the Ceremony having anything to do with the UK, the Olympics, or the world is now lost.

Jay-Z, dressed in a suit, rides onto the stage on the back of Tinie Tempah (who’s crawling on the ground). Kanye and Jay perform that song about African Americans In Paris. After performing the song 30 times (finally, the Olympics are referenced. This is the 30th Olympiad after all), the Queen joins them on stage. All three pop bottles of champagne, spraying the bubbly on Prince Harry, the Olsen Twins, and Sir Paul McCartney. “Twist and Shout” by the Beatles plays, and everyone on stage (including the Queen) is suddenly wearing a leopard print vest. Horribly awkward dancing ensues. Kanye smashes his bottle on Mr. Hudson’s head, and screams “I AM KANYE WEST, AND I AM NOT MAKING HISTORY. I AM HISTORY,” before the whole stage goes dark.

The Ye-lmypics have now begun.
Follow Justin on Twitter @jblock49

The Newsroom Briefing: Coach McAvoy

“Amen” was set during the Egyptian Revolution of 2011.

Aaron Sorkin has written sports movies before, the Olympics are around the corner, and this is a sports website. I want to say that because I’m addicted to sports, I was able to see how the entire episode was just one giant sports team metaphor… But Sorkin made it so painfully obvious that by the end of the episode, “Coach” McAvoy might as well have had a Gatorade cooler dumped on him.

The entire episode was built on the concept of coaching, and what coaches do for their players. They’re supposed to mentor their players in the game and in life, and pass down whatever knowledge they have. They’re role models and authority figures. In “Amen” Will, Maggie, Don, Gary (I was going to say “The Token Black Guy” but IMDB and my senses know better), and Sloan were the coaches. Here’s how the teams broke down compared to past coach-athlete tandems:

Maggie-Jim
Maggie, concerned for her own Valentine’s Day with Don, planned the perfect one for Jim and his “girlfriend”/her roommate Lisa. Jim, reluctant to force love upon a girl he’s been on four dates with, is apprehensive. Maggie persists, as she’s already booked reservations at Lisa’s favorite restaurant, bought her a charm for her bracelet, and picked out some lingerie to top the night off. Instead of Maggie balking at Jim and Lisa’s relationship, she’s now embraced it so she doesn’t have to deal with Lisa’s “I’m Single Why Don’t Guys Like Me?” routine. Think Mike Shanahan and Jake Plummer in 2005. Shanahan created an offense perfectly tailored to Plummer, but Plummer still shat the bed in the biggest game of the season. Jim ended up forgetting about his perfectly planned Valentine’s Day and his date with Lisa.

Don-Elliot
While Elliot was in Cairo reporting on the Egyptian Revolution, Don ordered him to leave his hotel do some on the ground reporting. Elliot was subsequently beaten and bloodied by a mob. Once Elliot returned, Don wanted to put a bruised and maimed Elliot back on the air to show the human interest side of reporting. Don wanted to prove that not all journalists are in Ivory Towers with typewriter. They’re on the ground, putting themselves in harms way for the news. At one point, Don even told Elliot, “You’re benched.” Sorkin was really trying to drive the sports metaphor home I guess. This one has Dusty Baker-Mark Prior written all over it. Dusty rode Mark’s prodigious 22 year old arm 225 innings in 2003 while trying to win the pennant. Prior averaged 113 pitches per start, including 126 PPS in his September starts and another 120 PPS in the post season. Since 2003, he’s never thrown more than 166 innings in a single season, and hasn’t pitched in the majors since 2006, all while struggling with elbow, shoulder, groin, and achilles injuries. Both Don and Dusty rode their guys too hard, got them hurt, and wanted them to return early from injury to prove something.

Gary-Will
Yes, even Will McAvoy got a little coaching advise here. The gossip magazine TMI had been attacking Will for his crazy dates, and were now prepared to go after Mackenzie. Her boyfriend was planning on running for Congress, but he never told her, instead using Mackenzie to get him on News Night to raise his own profile. TMI slammed the News Night crew for that, and were now preparing to go after Mackenzie for almost getting her team killed while reporting in Pakistan, and Will for hiring his ex-girlfriend to be his executive producer—a conflict of interest to an outsider. Gary, who used to work at TMI, told Will that the magazine could be paid off to not run the story. Think Michael Jordan’s first retirement. Jordan retired so he could play baseball, but that’s not what really happened. Why would Michael Jordan, the most pathological winner of all-time, walk away from basketball at his absolute peak to go 0-3 with 3 strikeouts and ride minor league buses in the hopes of making to the majors? Saying that he “lost the desire to play the game” is absolute bullshit. Months before he retired, it came out that Jordan had been gambling millions away, which depending on the gambles, could’ve been a violation of NBA rules. NBA Commissioner David Stern probably told Jordan to retire for a year or so, and let the controversy die down so Stern wouldn’t have to hand down a crippling suspension. Walk away, and your problems will be solved. In Will’s case, he could’ve secretly paid TMI, and his troubles would’ve been solved as well. He either paid the secret price (Jordan’s faux retirement in this case), or dealt with the harming media blitz to himself and News Night (Jordan’s suspension/black-eye for the league and himself).

Sloan-Mackenzie
Mackenzie needed to learn about economics for a panel she was invited to speak to about the media and the economy. Sloan, who’s News Night’s economics analyst and someone who could be a millionaire on Wall Street, was enlisted as Mackenzie’s economics coach. Mackenzie didn’t know the difference between an investment bank and a commercial bank before Sloan coached her up. After some coaching, she was an amateur on the Glass-Steagall act. This one has Happy Gilmore-Chubbs all over it. Happy, who couldn’t even make a putt before Chubbs came along, had to get better at golf to win the Tour Championship. Sloan was Mackenzie’s Chubbs, except Mackenzie didn’t accidentally kill Sloan with a dead crocodile head.

Will-News Night
At the beginning of the episode, a mini-argument broke out in the conference room about the movie “Rudy.” Jim had never seen it before, so Will explained the plot: a kid works hard to get into college, then works even harder to make the football team’s practice squad. Every week, he dreams of being named to dress for the game on Saturday, and every week for four years he gets disappointed. Rudy gets his ass kicked in practice, but he sucks it all up for the hope that he’ll suit-up one day. Before the last game of Rudy’s senior year, his name doesn’t get called to dress. One of the last scenes shows every player on the team handing in their jersey to their coach, because they want Rudy to take their spot on the team. Yes, the plot of “Rudy” was actually explained on The Newsroom.

At the end of “Amen,” the same exact thing happens with Will and his staff, but checks replace the jerseys. His show had acquired a freelance Egyptian nicknamed “Amen” to report on the ground in Cairo. While on assignment, Amen was abducted, with his captors demanding $250,000 for his release. Corporate was unwilling to pay, so Will stepped up and paid the ransom. His reason? “He’s one of our guys.” Mackenzie got the entire office to write checks to Will to help contribute to the ransom, and in “Rudy” fashion, they lined up and dropped the checks on Will’s desk, with “Coach” written in the memo of each check.

Will has been a staunch defender of his staff, and showed that fire in his monologue to a TMI reporter who demanded money in exchange for not running the story on Mackenzie. Will said: “Come after me all you want Lena. Come after me everyday, look through my garbage, invent things out of thin air—that’s what you’re paid for. But you touch my staff, and you’re walking into a world of hurt. I have an hour of primetime every night and I will rededicate my life to ruining yours.”

There’s a cross between Bill Russell’s dedication to the team, Jack Twyman’s care, and Michael Jordan’s commitment to vanquishing opponents in Coach McAvoy. We’re all waiting for him to buckle his broadcasts under the pressure of Leona Lansing’s juggernaut, but it appears that Will has no plans to—he believes in his cause and his teammates too much.

Between all of the coaching and the bizzarre array of injuries (Elliot’s mugging, Don’s shoulder sprain, Jim’s concussion, and Neal’s broken fingers), “Amen” should’ve been named “Hail Mary”—a play that only Will McAvoy’s team could draw up.

Follow Justin on Twitter @jblock49

Time For Tiger To Get Back On The Prowl

Here’s our first article from our newest contributing writer, Michael Pakkala. Micahel is an English/History major at Michigan State University. Be sure to follow Michael on Twitter @MichaelPakkala

As the Open Championship commenced yesterday, the whispers of Tiger Woods chasing his 15th championship emerged. The sporting world is eager to see if this is finally the major where Tiger gets his (golf) mojo back. More importantly, the way people have discussed Tiger has changed. Leading up to the tournament, he was talked about in a positive, golf-only light, something that hasn’t been done in literally years. It’s an interesting shift in dialogue about Woods that seemed almost out of place. But for Tiger Woods, golf hasn’t been the main topic of conversation the past two years.

Ever since that “devastating November” when his world came crashing down and his life changed forever, we didn’t talk about Tiger the same way. From then on, 90% of the time when an article about Tiger was written, towards the end of the article, it would mention that Tiger went through a extramarital affair, and hasn’t been the same on the golf course since. But what do his actions off the course have to do with his actions on the course? It’s almost as if people seem to think that his infidelities had anything to do with his abilities as a golfer. Sure, his mind has been in other places, and his laser focus has waned because of the scandal, but what does that have to do with his pure golfing abilities? The man took a year off from professional golf so he could deal with his personal issues. When he returned, he had to redevelop his game. End of story.

Anyone who has played golf knows that the first couple rounds you play after an extended absence from the game are dedicated to reviving your swing. (In my case, reviving what little game I have and trying to get comfortable again.) So when people yet again bring up his personal issues, it makes me wonder: Are we giving Tiger excuses to fail? He hadn’t played golf in a year, so why are his personal issues continuously brought into the analysis of why he isn’t performing up to par? Save LeBron James, no other athlete has had so much pressure been put on to keep playing at an extraordinary level year in and year out for so long, all while dealing with personal scrutiny. Simply put, he hadn’t played in a year and within that year he probably didn’t focus to much on his golf career. Let’s make the conversation about the problems with his game, and not his personal life. It’s going to take a hard fought battle to get back to being the best in the world. He has to play at the highest level round to round to win tournaments.

From his first tournament back in April 2010 to his first win since his return in December of 2011, he dealt with a multitude of normal problems that every golfer, including Tiger himself, have dealt with in their careers. He changed his swing again (which can just go along with trying to get his swing back), changed his caddies, and had an injury plagued year in 2011. All these things happened in only year and a half and the only thing that was referred to over and over was his infidelity issues off the course. Of course, he also dealt with problems that only Tiger Woods could have: his ex-caddy started a war of words with him through the media (ESPN turned into TMZ for that one), had he had that awful apology ad that Nike made him do (featuring his dead father no less).

If we could peer into the personal lives of all the athlete’s we love, we could find hundreds if not thousands of replica Tiger stories. That’s what makes Tiger’s case so confusing. Why is it so wrong and deplorable what Tiger did when hundreds if not thousands of other athletes did the same thing? Brett Favre texting other women, Wilt Chamberlain sleeping with thousands of women over years and years, Tony Parker cheating on Eva Longoria—athlete infidelity is nothing new. Yet Tiger Woods is the first to have his sporting career turned upside down because of it.

But Tiger is different than Wilt, Favre or Parker. Wilt hung his dick hat on his sex life. Favre was a drug addict in the late 90s. Parker’s French. Until November 2011, Tiger was the perfect sports superstar. He was legendary on the course and he was legendary off the course. The perfect athlete and role model. He was the reason people of my generation even watched golf, and to see him fall in that manner that hard really hurt us, so he was held especially accountable. Personally, while I don’t condone his actions, I didn’t see how it was really the public’s business to meddle into his personal life. Yes, he’s a superstar athlete that millions look up to, but does that mean that he is completely responsible for his imperfections? Human’s make mistakes, and he made quite a few. The athlete without any weaknesses had finally shown a weakness and in the worse possible way. It wasn’t his game slowly deteriorating after years and years of abuse. He chose to leave due to his poor management of his personal life. That’s what hurt us. Now we’re ready to forgive him for is transgressions.

Sports is the greatest reality TV show on television. But with actual reality television, we love to talk about its characters outside of the show itself. We discuss and recap what happens on Keeping Up With The Kardashians, but the peripheral events outside of the show are what’s discussed even more. That’s why KimYe is a thing, and why Ray J reminding us of how Kim got famous in the first place matters. ESPN doesn’t just cover the games anymore—they cover the people playing those games. Everything outside of the game itself is now news. Human interest stories surrounding sports are getting more headlines than the actual sport. Anytime an athlete has a chance to be turned into a celebrity worthy enough of the gossip columns, it’s pounced on. We pounced on Tiger.

Returning to the course, in all honesty, I’m unsure how anyone can say that he’s not back on top. He’s won three of his last seven events. Has anyone else matched those numbers in that time? No. Maybe that’s just our expectation of Tiger from the years and years of extraordinary numbers and wins. If Tiger isn’t dominating every category, then there’s something wrong. Things are also changing on the media front for Tiger. People are remembering why they loved the guy in the first place. Gene Wojciechowski is writing good pieces about the guy again. So all must be well. Fresh off a swing change and a year off, he’s finally playing the way “our” Tiger should. Going into the second round on Friday, Tiger is at 3 under par and 3 behind the leader. Right where he should be. He’s reminding us why we loved him so much before November 2010. I don’t care what you say, in some way or another you want Tiger to win. We want him to surpass the Golden Bear and take the All-Time majors lead because he deserves it. He’s been the overall best in the world since 1997 and since I was 9 years old. Hell, ESPN still has “Tiger Tracker” on their website, even through the scandal. So you can’t tell me that the world doesn’t still love Tiger. They just hated to see him fall.

Follow Michael on Twitter @MichaelPakkala

A Eulogy For Jeremy Lin

I’m not going to say I knew him his whole life. Up until February 4th, 2012, I didn’t really know who Jeremy Lin was. When he averaged 13 points and 4 assists in during career at Harvard, I still had no idea who he was. I was more interested in Greg Paulus, Kyle Singler, and Gerald Henderson than Jeremy Lin. When he signed with the Golden State Warriors, I heard about him in passing. He’s some Asian kid playing for the Warriors. Still, nothing registered. When my hometown New York Knicks picked him up shortly after Christmas 2011, I read his Wikipedia bio, but nothing more. I wasn’t even really a Knicks fan at that point. I attended their last playoff win in 2001, but my 7 year old self didn’t fall in love like many kids do at their first game. I watched Knicks games on television at college every once in a while, and rooted for them when they played, but my NBA fandom was like this: I was going to wait until the Nets moved to Brooklyn and got me excited, or until the Knicks got good. I was going to hop on whatever bandwagon came riding up first, buy a seat for life, and not budge. This was my lifelong fanhood that was at stake—I wasn’t going to blindly pledge to either team.

In a fantastic twist of fate, I landed a couple Knicks-Nets tickets at MSG on February 4th. I took my buddy Rohtas along with me, and his obsession with the Knicks was contagious. If I was going to sit through a game with Rohtas, I had to root for the Knicks. At MSG, I bought a Carmelo Anthony jersey—my first piece of Knicks merchandise. After throwing down $80 for a jersey, I was literally invested in the Knicks cause.

Early on in the game, Carmelo got hurt. Going into the night with a 7-15 record, Coach Mike D’Antoni, fearing a loss to the Nets would cost him his job, went all Lin, and gave the gangly Jeremy Lin his chance to run the point. As a 19 year old Chinese-American, I was glued to Jeremy’s every move. I cheered every basket, rebound, and assist he made like I would celebrate a goal in soccer. My shouts of “It’s the Year of the Lin,” “That’s my Chink Balla!” and “Kung hei fat choi motherfuckers!” rained down onto the court after every one of Jeremy’s moves. I remember being enthralled after he scored 10 points, ecstatic when he topped 20 points, and euphorically foaming at the mouth when he ended the game with 25 points after sparking a 4th quarter comeback.

After the game, I scoured the MSG concourse for any vendors selling his jersey. They had Mike Bibby, Iman Shumpert, Toney Douglas, and Landry Fields jerseys printed, but no Lin 17 shirts. I had to rep my new favorite athlete and my new favorite team immediately. I went to the NBA Store the next day in hopes of scoring any Lin merchandise. Nothing was there, but people had been customizing $300 Knicks jerseys with Lin’s name and number all day. I guess I wasn’t the only one who was hooked and needed a little retail therapy.

The Knicks went on to win 10 of their next 13 games, hitting the tipping point when Jeremy scored 38 points against Kobe Bryant’s Lakers. The day before the game, Kobe scoffed at the notion that he’d personally be guarding Jeremy. After Jeremy torched Derek Fisher, and traded baskets with Kobe in the 4th en route to a big Knicks win at MSG, I’m sure Kobe wished he had paid a little more attention to my man. Rohtas was at that Laker game, and he said that the Garden was buzzing like it was a playoff elimination game. In a way, this was Jeremy’s elimination game. Four games and three starts into Linsanity, Jeremy still had more doubters than lovers. If he had shat the bed against Kobe Bryant with the world watching, Linsanity would’ve been tempered to just Jeremy Lin, Knicks starter. Nothing is Linsane about being a starter on a team below .500.

Instead, Jeremy took himself, his expectations, and my pride to heights I’ve never felt as a sports fan. A week after the Nets game, I purposely showed up late for a test so I could go and buy the last Lin jersey at Paragon Sports in Union Square (I ended up getting a C+. I’ll take it.) I was at his 28-14-4 performance against the defending champion Mavericks (After the game, I told an ABC reporter outside of MSG that I was Jeremy’s third-cousin removed. I don’t even know what that means. My interview ran that night on the 6 o’clock news. No, I am not actually Jeremy’s third-cousin removed). To this day, I still don’t understand how he nailed that 3-pointer over Dirk Nowitzki. I’m waiting for Sports Science on ESPN to figure that one out for me. Since I was born (and became a fan of my respective teams. I wasn’t wearing a Yankees cap out of the womb) my Yankees have won five World Series titles, my Packers have won one Super Bowl, Michael Schumacher won everything, and Liverpool FC has been successful. None of those championships and wins mattered as much as Jeremy’s two month run at the top of the sports world.

That’s why it hurts losing him so much. He mattered more.

It wasn’t just that he was good. It wasn’t just about the wins, the worldwide hysteria, and his underdog story. Jeremy Lin mattered to me, because he was doing all of those things as a Chinese-American kid. He’s just like me. (Technically, he’s Taiwanese, but as far as I’m concerned, he’s Chinese.) I’ve never been able to identify with anybody like that before. I’m a bi-racial kid, but I usually don’t self-identify. Being half-white doesn’t give you the White Privilege in America that’s afforded to every other white man—it only gets you sideways stares at family weddings or gatherings featuring my “Block” side of the family. I look Asian. I don’t look white. I don’t look like them.

The “Lew” side has brought me personal shame. During baseball games, everyone teased me and compared me Ichiro or Hideki Matsui. Actually, I hit righty. While I was pitching in an All-Star game once, the announcer compared my unorthodox motion to Hideo Nomo’s. No. I based it off of Black pitching great Bob Gibson’s windup, and I like Huston Street. They called me the “Blazin’ Asian.” My friends usually just call me J. Block. At school, I was picked on viciously for being Asian, despite living in a town that falsely prides itself on diversity. No, I do not have squinty eyes. My penis is the same size as yours. I’m actually bad at math. Fuck you Carlos Mencia. I’ve been conditioned to be self-ashamed when faced with other Asians. I’m embarrassed when I see an Asian mother struggle to order a hamburger at McDonalds. I’m disgusted when I see nerdy Chinese kids in matching outfits play on their Gameboys at dim-sum. They’re all playing into the stereotype that I was ridiculed for, and I used to blame them for it.

Jeremy Lin changed all of that.

He made me proud to be Chinese.

He made me proud to be me.

It takes a long time for everyone to get comfortable in their own skin. Some people never get used to themselves. Everything is cool when you’re a kid, and then puberty blows everything up. We get fat, skinny, tall, wide, muscular, acne-scarred, ugly, pretty, handsome, busty, or just lame. I became Chinese. Jeremy Lin made that okay for me. I’ll gladly self-identify in a world where Jeremy’s playing basketball.

Jeremy related to me in a way that Yao Ming never did. Yao was from China; I’ve never been to China, and he couldn’t have been more different than me culturally and physically. Yao was over seven feet tall. He looked like a basketball player. He was always going to be one. After all, what’s a seven foot Chinese kid going to become in a country where he’s a full two feet taller than the average man? He was built to play basketball. Jeremy, however, could be just another American man. I’m sure that his six foot three inch, 200 pound build is more imposing in person, but on an NBA court, he looks like a college freshman. He got knocked around like one too. Drive after drive, he’d get hit at levels only Dwayne Wade and Derrick Rose know, and he’d get back up after every fall. Jeremy’s got five inches and 50 pounds on me, but I figured that if he could go out and dominate a Black man’s game, then I can hold my own in pickup games at NYU. At the very least, I could carry myself with more confidence. Want to call me “Young Jeremy Lin” anytime I play ball? That’s what I want to hear.

Even in totally random situations, Jeremy’s affected me. I was in the hospital this past weekend with an intestinal problem (I’m fine now). While I was sitting in bed in agony, all I could think of was this picture that Jeremy put on his Facebook after his knee surgery in April.

If Jeremy could be in the hospital and stay strong, then so could I. That seems like what a kid on one of SportsCenter’s “My Wish” segments would say, but that’s how I felt. Every time I play beer pong, write an article, or play a video game, I often shout “I do it for Jeremy Lin!” as if Jeremy is somehow being empowered through my nonsensical chants. He inspires me to live my life.

During Linsanity, I wasn’t the only person in my family who became Linsane. My father, who hates basketball, began watching Jeremy’s games after work instead of watching Glee. All my mother could talk about was Jeremy, and she’s clueless about sports. Even my 84 year old Chinese grandmother watched Jeremy play on TV. These people could’ve cared less about LeBron’s playoff redemption, which was arguably the sports story of the 21st century. My family stopped and watched Jeremy and only Jeremy, and millions of other families around the globe did too. He became a worldwide icon, and my personal hero.

I’ve been heartbroken by athletes before. Brett Favre coming out of retirement twice to play for the hated Minnesota Vikings was treacherous. Fernando Torres, after declaring his undying love for Liverpool FC for years, burned us out of nowhere and forced a move to the empirical Chelsea FC. Jeremy’s broken my heart today, but unlike Favre and Torres, I won’t harbor any ill-will towards him. He’s a Houston Rocket now because he wanted to get paid after the Knicks gave him every indication that they’d hand him a blank check. Jeremy did what every other 23 year old with a limited resume and a chance at the jackpot would do. He took the money, and still should’ve been a Knick. I’ll never forgive the Knicks for letting Jeremy go. My brain and I had a meeting about becoming a Nets fan, but I’m too loyal of a person to do that. I was at MSG for their first playoff win in over a decade against the vaunted Miami Heat. There’s a different energy and passion that Knicks fans give that building, and I want to be a part of that for the rest of my life. I won’t, however, be giving the Knicks a single penny as long as Jeremy is playing NBA basketball.

We all have that one friend who we accept and deal with just because they’re around. By all accounts, they suck and they’re a total snake, but we still call them up to hang out. The Knicks are now that friend to me. Jeremy Lin, however, isn’t my friend—he’s my idol, and idols don’t just wear uniforms.

“I love the New York fans to death. I wanted to play in front of those fans for the rest of my career.”

We did too Jeremy.

RIP

Linsanity

February 2012-July 2012

“To know Him is to want to know Him more.” 

Follow Justin on Twitter @jblock49