Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Page Mill Properties, Zennie Abraham, and Middle Ground


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YouTube, MySpace, and Viddler

I just received a call from Paul Hogarth who's a tenant activist, lawyer and a singer. He seemed interested in why I would write anything even half-way supportive of Page Mill Properties, which has been embroiled in controversy surrounding tenants and the rent control system in East Palo Alto. To recap, Page Mill Properties now owns over 1,700 units that they took over (not built) and rehabilitated. I got a tip that was a hot story and so went down to get information via video. What I found was that Page Mill would talk to me but the tenant activist at the center of the story, Chris Lund, would not.

That did not stop Lund from calling me every day sometimes four times a day asking about my association with Page Mill. Each time he never wanted to go and talk with me on the record. Then via a weird set of associations, Julian Davis who I helped on the Prop H Campaign told Andy Blue that I was a paid blogger and so must be in this case -- not true. Again, at the time, no one from the tenants side would talk to me, and Page Mill did on video.

I've called Tenants Together and hope that they will sit down with me; I'm told by Page Mill Properties Tenants Together has never sat down with them to help resolve anything at all. But as for Paul, I think he's less interested in telling the story which includes the East Palo Alto Redevelopment Agency and more interested in shutting me up.

As for me, and perhaps this will help, I'm pro-developer and pro-Redevelopment Agency but not anti-tenant. I believe governments should do the work of making it affordable to develop and maintain affordable rents. My good friend Kofi Bonner runs Lennar Development here in San Francisco and while the project is not perfect and the Redevelopment Agency needs to merge all of their project areas (more on that latter) I know what the issues are and how to solve them. I am an expert on how redevelopment agencies work and what they do. I know how to make and read housing development balance sheets. And I have a right to my point of view without harassment.

Paul Hogarth can try to shoot this messenger, but I'm going to keep talking and pointing a finger at the East Palo Alto Redevelopment Agency.

What bothers me most is every week I get an email from someone using the "N" word and that I can't identify. Hogarth asked me "Why are you with SFGate?" as if I should not be here and while I don't think it's him or anyone associated with him, given their behavior how do I know?

What's going on, I do not know.

It's not a good thing to have to delete these emails let alone get them; how do I know where they come from, especially if I get weird treatment from activists? As to how I make money, I'm a YouTube Partner. More about that later.

Susan Boyle v. Hollie Steel? Boyle Should Quit BGT Now!


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The Worldwide sensation Susan Boyle, who was discovered to rave reviews on the show Britains' Got Talent is now faced with her second "big challenger" in as many weeks on the show, 10-year-old Hollie Steel and a process that threatens to dampen Boyle's chance for real success. The small girl from Britain wowed the crowd last Saturday on yet another show.

Steel makes the second talent to emerge as a possible challenge to Boyle for the winner of the competition in as many weeks, as we were introduced to 12-year-old Shaheen Jafargholi just the weekend before, and calls into question the ability of Boyle to maintain the high level frenzy that catapulted her to stardome. What I fear is that as BGT rolls out new challengers, Boyle's ability to capture a high dollar record deal will be impacted. The only solution for Boyle is to drop out of Britains' Got Talent, and sign a record deal before the end of May.

Why the end of May?  It's simple. 

Because to date this entire affair has been engineered by the producers of BGT, who taped the show in January and are engineering the release of auditions and information on all of the talent that appeared, including Susan Boyle. With each passing week that a new talent is trotted out, two things happen: 1) the appetite people have to see her online lessens, and 2) the new talent draws the attention of the people who were hungry for more of Susan's voice, but weren't getting it.

By quiting BGT, Boyle takes the PR control away from that show's producers and puts it into her lap. She can take advantage of this by recording one or who "teaser" songs and putting them on YouTube and other video distribution channels, and working on a record deal that will fetch more money now that one two months from now.

I think Ms. Boyle's brother is right on. Susan Boyle, while you're out on that date with BGT Judge Piers Morgan, talk to him about getting you out of BGT (after all, he just said you would not win it) and into a record deal so we can hear more of you before it's too late and the system eats what it created.

Ah, that's you.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

NFL DRAFT Sets record for Viewership and Internet page views

Record 39 Million Fans Tune Into 2009 NFL Draft On NFL Network, ESPN & ESPN2


First-Round Coverage Outdraws All Weekend
Basketball, Hockey & Baseball Games

Fans Spend More Time on

A record 39 million viewers tuned in to watch the 2009 NFL Draft on NFL Network, ESPN and ESPN2, according to Nielsen Media Research. The total audience for the 2009 NFL Draft is an increase of nearly 2.5 million viewers from 2008 and tops the record of 38 million viewers set in 2007. Total NFL Draft viewership has increased 66 percent from 2001 to 2009 (from 23.5 million to 39 million).

First-round coverage of the Draft drew a combined average viewership of 6.3 million viewers on ESPN and NFL Network – exceeding the average viewership of the ESPN Sunday Night Baseball (Yankees-Red Sox; 4.6 million viewers), FOX’s Saturday Baseball (Yankees-Red Sox and Cubs-Cardinals; 4.1 million) and all other weekend NBA and NHL playoff action (topped by NBA Playoffs First-Round Game 4 on ABC, Cavaliers-Pistons; 5.4 million viewers).

Fans visiting on Draft weekend spent a record average of 45 minutes on the site – up 153 percent from a year ago. Visitors to over the weekend increased 28 percent over 2008 while video streams accessed were up 65 percent. In addition, fans viewed three times more Draft content on their wireless devices than a year ago.

More than 48,000 fans followed the NFL Draft via the NFL's Twitter pages. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell's Draft tweets were read by 3,690 followers. NFL Network's Rich Eisen drew 4,383 followers and posted 309 updates throughout the network's two-day draft coverage. NFL Network analyst Jamie Dukes had more than 1,500 followers.

Oakland A's Owner Wolff's Anti-Oakland Words Called "Sob Story" By Oakland City Attorney


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In a strongly worded letter I just received as of this writing from the office of Oakland City Attorney John Russo (and is reproduced in full at the end of this post), Oakland's lawyer penned what is without a doubt the strongest attack on the Oakland Athletics attempts to leave Oakland by and Oakland City Official. Russo writes:

Oakland A’s managing partner Lew Wolff is a talented and smart businessman.

But if Wolff thinks anybody is buying his sob story about why the A’s have to leave Oakland, he’s seriously underestimating the intelligence of the team’s fan base, the press and the people of this city.
Oakland City Attorney John Russo with me in 2008 in his office. 

What started this has been a process of dissing and trying to excavate the team from Oakland almost since it was sold to Ken Schott and Steve Hoffman after the beloved Haas Family sold the organization in 1994; Schott and Hoffman then sold the team to the ownership group headed by Wolff. In fact, the Haas family put the team up for sale under the condition that it remain in Oakland; a desire basically ignored by the last two ownership groups, at least by their actions.

Schott and Hoffman entertained the idea of moving the A's to Sacramento as far back as 1996, (and I know this personally because when I was Economic Advisor to Mayor Elihu Harris I met John McCasey, who was then and still is now the Executive Director of the Sacramento Sports Commission at a Cal Football game, and who sold me openly they were trying to lure the organization out of Oakland and the owners were receptive; news I quickly communicated to Mayor Harris.) Mr. Wolff and his operatives have - according to a source via email - talked with San Jose officials about moving the A's there as far back as just after they gained control of the Oakland A's in 2005.

That means the "moves" Wolff was making to keep the A's in Oakland were for all practical purposes not "real" and considering the impossible timetable Wolff gave the City of Oakland to come up with a development plan, then the politically unrealistic one that Wolff wanted which called for the relocation of 80 businesses, it seems Oakland was being "played" all the time.

That, and other actions including my intelligence that the current meetings with the Major League Baseball Committee regarding assessing Oakland's ability to be a host for a baseball team aren't going well, and you have Russo's tirade of a letter. He also writes:

Here is the truth: A’s owners and Major League Baseball have been plotting to abandon Oakland for at least 10 years. They have never been partners in the city’s efforts to build a new stadium and keep the franchise in Oakland.

Collusion between A’s owners and the league has been evident since 1999, after a settlement gave Oakland and Alameda County the right to force a sale of the team to different owners. A team of buyers committed to keeping the club in Oakland stepped up and a price was set. But, for the first time in anyone’s memory, Major League Baseball denied the transfer of a franchise to a qualified ownership group.

City leaders – former Mayor Jerry Brown and former City Manager Robert Bobb – even tried to attend a baseball owners meeting to present the plan to transfer ownership. But they were treated as presumptuous interlopers and denied the opportunity to pitch the plan. The Lords of Baseball made it clear that they do not see American cities as partners, but rather as ATMs that exist to provide them with ever greater amounts of taxpayer dollars.

I exchanged text messages with Russo to determine if this meant the City of Oakland was preparing legal action against the A's and Major League Baseball. He wrote: "I was thinking about other interested parties who might feel that an A's move to San Jose would violate that interested parties contractual rights."

He means the San Francisco Giants.

The Major League Agreement, which governs the actions of Major League Baseball and its member organizations, spells out exactly what counties in the San Francisco Bay Area belong to the Giants:

The Giants' territory includes San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Cruz, Monterey and Marin Counties, plus Santa Clara County with respect to another major league team.

Again, read that. Santa Clara County includes San Jose. Thus, San Jose is the San Francisco Giants' official territory, a fact that seems lost on some media types down there.

And with respect to the A's..

The Athletics' territory includes Alameda and Contra Costa Counties;

Now many observers will say that all the Athletics brass needs is for 75 percent of the owners of Major League Baseball to approve the move, but a little known rule "52" blocks that action allowing the Giants to block the move of "any major league or minor league team from playing within 15 miles of its territory without permission."

The Giants could argue the A's are already within their territorial limits established by Rule 52 and any closer move into it would be economically harmful. But what's more important and interesting to me is the possible joint legal assault this seems to signal, one pitting the Giants and the City of Oakland against the Oakland A's and Major League Baseball. With such heavy-hitters as Senator's Boxer and Feinstein on the side of the City of Oakland and the San Francisco Giants, and the City and County of San Francisco, I would not bet against them.

Here's Russo's full letter:

Keeping the A's in Oakland
By City Attorney John Russo

Oakland A’s managing partner Lew Wolff is a talented and smart businessman.

But if Wolff thinks anybody is buying his sob story about why the A’s have to leave Oakland, he’s seriously underestimating the intelligence of the team’s fan base, the press and the people of this city.

Wolff has been telling reporters and anyone who will listen that the A’s have done everything possible to build a new ballpark and stay in Oakland. As Wolff put it in a recent press release, the team has “exhausted (its) time and resources over the years” with the city.

Claiming the A’s have made an exhaustive effort to stay in Oakland is like George W. Bush saying he did everything he could to stay out of Iraq – it’s not a “reality-based” statement.

Here is the truth: A’s owners and Major League Baseball have been plotting to abandon Oakland for at least 10 years. They have never been partners in the city’s efforts to build a new stadium and keep the franchise in Oakland.

Collusion between A’s owners and the league has been evident since 1999, after a settlement gave Oakland and Alameda County the right to force a sale of the team to different owners. A team of buyers committed to keeping the club in Oakland stepped up and a price was set. But, for the first time in anyone’s memory, Major League Baseball denied the transfer of a franchise to a qualified ownership group.

City leaders – former Mayor Jerry Brown and former City Manager Robert Bobb – even tried to attend a baseball owners meeting to present the plan to transfer ownership. But they were treated as presumptuous interlopers and denied the opportunity to pitch the plan. The Lords of Baseball made it clear that they do not see American cities as partners, but rather as ATMs that exist to provide them with ever greater amounts of taxpayer dollars.

A few years later, when Oakland hired HOK, the nation’s most respected stadium architects, to look at possible sites for a new ballpark, the A’s refused to provide any support for the firm’s search. The city brought together a commission of business and community leaders to work on options for a new stadium, and spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on staff time and consultants. However, the team demonstrated no interest in the process or in the architect’s favored site – a spot in downtown Oakland, next to two BART stations, with enough land for the city and the team to build a dream ballpark. Instead of a new ballpark at the site, we now have condos.

It’s telling that Wolff’s only proposal to stay in Oakland depended on the city using eminent domain to take the property of about 100 blue-collar businesses in East Oakland. The proposal came in August 2005, just two months after a Supreme Court ruling – Kelo v. City of New London – that decidedly turned the public against the use of eminent domain for private development. Wolff is too smart to not know that his proposal was totally unrealistic.

Mayor Ron Dellums and other Oakland leaders have made it clear that the city is prepared to continue working on feasible options for a new ballpark.

Moving the A’s to San Jose – which is contractually Giants territory – would require a special deal with Wolff’s old fraternity brother, Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig. Such a deal would be a blatant example of collusion in baseball and would likely be tied up in court for years.

The idea that the A’s have made a real, exhaustive effort to stay is disingenuous at best. With some imagination and a real partnership among the city, the business community and the ball club, the A’s could build a new ballpark and remain the team of the people of the East Bay.

It shouldn’t take an act of congress to compel the Lords of Baseball to give Oakland a fair shot.

Oakland A's On

FBI Arrests Oklahoma Teabagger For Twitter Threats

An Oklahoma City man who announced on Twitter that he would turn an April 15 tax protest into a bloodbath was hit with a federal charge of making interstate threats last week, in what appears to be first criminal prosecution to stem from posts on the microblogging site.

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The Daily Show on Bachmann “speaking crazy to power”

“Minnesota Representative and free-range cougar” Michele Bachmann got prominent play on The Daily Show last night as a key example of conservatives “speaking crazy to power.” At 2:50 into the clip (below), host Jon Stewart plays Bachmann’s recent comments that an expansion of the AmeriCorps program might lead to PC “re-education camps.”

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Judge Says It’s "High Time" We Legalized Marijuana

A state lawmaker from San Francisco has introduced legislation to decriminalize marijuana and regulate it like alcohol. It has been endorsed by a retired Orange County judge who used to be a federal prosecutor. In his view, it's 'high time' -- so to speak -- for another approach to marijuana.

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How an FBI agent got Abu Zubaydah to talk without Torture.

‘We Could Have Done This the Right Way’

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GOP Legislators Fought Pandemic Preparedness

When David Obey (D-WI), a longtime champion of pandemic preparation, included $900 million for that purpose in the stimulus package, he was ridiculed by conservative operatives and congressional Republicans. The Republicans essentially succeeded: the Senate version of the stimulus included no money whatsoever for pandemic preparedness.

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Fox manipulates Obama video to produce false quote

During the April 24 edition of Fox News' Special Report, White House correspondent Wendell Goler cropped a comment by President Obama and took it out of context -- effectively reversing the statement's meaning -- to falsely suggest that Obama supports creating a health care system "like the European countries."

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Arlen Specter To Switch Parties ... Dems now filibuster-proof!

Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter will switch his party affiliation from Republican to Democrat and announced today that he will run in 2010 as a Democrat, according to a statement he released this morning. Specter's decision would give Democrats a 60 seat filibuster proof majority in the Senate assuming Democrat Al Franken is eventually sworn in.

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Monday, April 27, 2009

YouTube and Apple Almost One: QuickTime Sync With YouTube


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For whatever reason - proximity to each other in Silicon Valley, a mutual admiration for the culture of each firm, or more concretely Apple's constant drive to make its computers the best for video-bloggers - it seems Apple Computer and YouTube are all but one company.

Consider that according to Apple Insider, Apple now has built in support for YouTube across all of the latest versions of its main product lines: IPhone, Apple TV, iMovie, and now QuickTime. Soon, you will be able to directly upload your QuickTime-based video to YouTube right from the upcoming QuickTime X Player software (and part of the Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard operating system to be released this summer).

Why is this a big deal?

Consider what a video-blogger has to do as of this writing to upload a video. Let's take the one I installed today regarding ESPN and The Oakland Raiders. First, I used my Flip Video Camera to record my monologue, then took the camcorder and plugged it into my MacBook. That action opened the Flip Video software and I downloaded the clips I created. Then I opened iMovie6 (I'm not a fan of the current version of iMovie), edited and compressed the clips, and the result was a ".mov" file that I can open in QuickTime. Instead I used TubeMogul to upload the video to multiple sites including YouTube,, and Viddler.

(As a note, never use just one video-distribution site. You'll be sorry. More on why in a later installment.)

Now there are occasions where my video files are larger than 500 MB, making TubeMogul unusable. For those scenarios and this new provision I could just open QuickTime and do the uploading from there. What I love is Apple Computer has made creating video-blogs a nearly super simple task. And YouTube has altered its site such that its easier than ever to actually earn revenue from making videos and promoting ones channel. To digress for a moment, I can now embed a small version of my YouTube channel on a blog or website, like so:

But the bottom line is the constant advance of the mating of Apple and YouTube for the benefit of video-bloggers. Videoblogging is the next frontier of media but many people are still intimidated by it. Hopefully as these developments continue, more and more people will take up videoblogging in much the same way they blog today.

ESPN: No Oakland Raiders Bias - NFL Draft Notes


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My long-time friend Richard Lieberman is prone to hyberbole and god-love him, this is one of those moments.  The San Francisco Chronicle blogger may have made some hay by charging ESPN with a "bias" against the Oakland Raiders, but where I am in New York, and where I was at Radio City Music Hall for the NFL Draft, the notion was quickly put to rest.  I'm going to spend about as much time on this as ESPN did, but the bottom line is a lot of people didn't like the Raiders draft, almost from top-to-bottom.

I was editing videos in the Interview Room when I overherd NFL Network's Pat Kirwan, and Clark Judge of CBS Sports doing a take for NFL Network, and both were almost laughably derisive of the Raiders decision to take Darrius Heywood-Bay, who's the third ranked receiver in the draft over Michael Crabtree who was picked in an almost regional slap-in-your-face move by the cross-bay San Francisco 49ers.  The preseason game will be interesting.

This is what one scout at wrote about Heywood-Bay:

A smooth, fluid athlete...Long strider with rare speed...Explosive with great acceleration and a burst...Quick and agile...Terrific height and bulk with long arms...Excellent leaper...Nice body control and ball skills...Tough and not afraid to work the middle...Vertical threat who can separate...Also a dangerous weapon on reverses...Great work ethic...Could also contribute  as a return man...Still has a ton of upside.

Is inconsistent catching the ball and does not have great natural hands...Questionable instincts and awareness...Still very raw as a route runner...Not much wiggle and won't make people miss...Doesn't break a lot of tackles...Average strength...Marginal blocker...Has little or no special teams experience...Wasn't real productive..Workout Warrior?

As to the best draft? Well, that's three years before anyone can determine, but I'm going to give props to The Miami Dolphins for getting West Virginia Quarterback Pat White in the second round of the Draft.  It's the best mating of man, scheme, and need I've ever seen. In the "Wildcat" offense they run he will succeed and perhaps be in line for "rookie of the year" honors by seasons end.

Print that.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

NFL Draft: Mark Sanchez Interview, New York Jets


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Sporting a dark green tie purchased by his aunt Marlene and a New York Jets sports cap, now former USC Quarterback Mark Sanchez came down to the Interview Room at Radio City Music Hall to a small group of media people including yours truly about 30 minutes ago from the start of this blog post.

Sanchez fielded a set of questions starting with my query to determine if it was true he left USC early to avoid the possibility of losing to Cal this year. The Jets' newest signal called got a kick out of that one and recalled the last game played at Berkeley, a rain-soaked affair that USC won when John David Booty was the quarterback, 24-17.

On the matter of how it feels to be a jet, "Oh," he sighed, "It's really special. I'm really grateful that Mr Mike Tannenbaum (Jets GM) and Mr. Woody Johnson (Jets owner) made the trade (up to the number 5th pick, trading places with the Cleveland Browns, who gave their first- and second-round picks, and adding defensive end Kenyon Coleman, safety Abram Elam and quarterback Brett Ratliff)

But Sanchez added "Nothing's been accomplished yet, I've only gotten into a uniform. It's going to take a lot of practice and hard work.

The underclassman Sanchez who has a 14-2 record at USC offered that the reason he came out early (he has one more year of eligibility) was a personal decision arrived at after the Rose Bowl and after talking it through with his family and his high school coach Bob Johnson. "I thought about it long and hard and ..this is what I really want to do."

Will Not Hold Out On Jets

Sanchez' agent David Dunn told me they don't anticipate a hold out situation to develop, but he's concerned about the economy's impact on the ability to get good endorsement deals. "It's definetely a factor, Dunn said.

NFL Draft: Mark Sanchez Has Entered The Building in NYC


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Sporting a dark green tie and a New York Jets sports cap, now former USC Quarterback Mark Sanchez came down to the Interview Room at Radio City Music Hall to a small group of media people including yours truly about 30 minutes ago from the start of this blog post.

Sanchez fielded a set of questions starting with my query to determine if it was true he left USC early to avoid the possibility of losing to Cal this year. The Jets' newest signal called got a kick out of that one and recalled the last game played at Berkeley, a rain-soaked affair that USC won when John David Booty was the quarterback, 24-17.

Mark Sanchez Photo by Bill Chachkes

"That was a lot of fun," Sanchez remarked.

There's more in my upcoming video with Sanchez. It's being compressed and edited now.

As to the matter of who had the best Draft, I'm putting early my vote in for The Denver Broncos, then the Phili Eagles snagging Jerry Macklin as a companion to DeShawn Jackson at wide receiver, and then Miami Dolphins because they took the man I feel is the best quarteback in the Draft, West Virginia's Pat White, who's perfectly suited to their "Wildcat" system and in the second round, and got the zone cover corner and hitter they needed in CB Vontae Davis of Illinois in round one.

As to the worst draft, I'm sorry and its not personal as everyone here at Radio City Music Hall has the greatest respect for Al Davis, but the Oakland Raiders passing on Michael Crabtree was a real shocker here. People are still talking about it today.

More soon.

Art Torres, California Democratic Party Chair Sends Letter of Resignation

This came to me via email just three minutes ago:

My Fellow Democrats,

It has been an honor to have served for thirteen years as Chairman of the most incredible state Democratic Party in the nation. Together we have made great strides in improving our Party by registering voters with the Bounty program, by grassroots activists opening up offices and creating a sense of community and service to many, and by electing Democrats to the Assembly, Senate and Congress who are protecting the values we all cherish in our state.

Our Party has also embraced our young people and they have joined with us as never before, creating a new generation of Democratic voters and activists. We have elected the first woman Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi of California -- one of the highest offices in our country. And of course, California proudly provided a strong margin of victory to elect President Barak Obama.

We are all proud of what President Obama has accomplished during his first 100 days, giving our nation strong initiatives to renew and reinvest in our economy and improve the quality of our lives in the most difficult of times. He is a President who will provide great leadership for our country and our world.

Since 2004, we have added six blue counties with the help of dedicated folks in Alpine, Stanislaus, San Bernardino, San Diego, San Joaquin, and Ventura. We also increased our numbers in Orange County to nearly 34% Democratic registration. These are not small achievements! This is the result of a huge amount of hard work by very dedicated Democrats.

In short, I leave the new Chair and Party leadership a healthy Democratic Party, both politically and financially, as I move to another chapter in my life -- the Vice Chairmanship of the Independent Citizens Oversight Committee of the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM), which was created by the voters as Proposition 71 in 2004.

As a colon cancer survivor, I will also be a patient advocate for CIRM in my new role. I join a team of dedicated scientists and policy makers to help raise the more than $400 million needed to fund the research necessary to target diseases that have plagued so many California families. Every day I spend at CIRM headquarters, I sense the excitement of a field of science moving forward rapidly, in fact more rapidly than anyone on the science staff there imagined possible even a couple years ago. When CIRM adopted a scientific strategic plan in October 2006 the scientists there envisioned reaching a stage this year where they could fund “disease teams” that would combine basic researchers and clinicians to work together to develop a therapy ready for clinical trials three-to-four years from now.

In 2006 they predicted funding one or two such teams that would be ready for this challenge today. But when the initial grant applications for the Disease Team Awards were counted a couple weeks ago, there were 73 of them. That is 73 California research teams that think they can get a stem-cell based therapy ready for clinical trials within four years. These teams are targeting a broad array of diseases from osteoarthritis and blindness to cancer and a host of neurodegenerative diseases. Only a subset of these applications will make it through CRIM’s rigorous grant review process, which strives to bet on only the very best science in which to make California’s investment, but no matter the outcome of the grant reviews, this represents a tremendous acceleration toward reaching the promise of stem cells.

The California research community has been able to get to this point in large part because of three years of sustained funding from CIRM. Since the agency issued its first training grants in April of 2006 it has been able to provide consistent support for its new cadre of stem cell researchers. All the scientists I talk to tell me that this type of sustained funding is what science requires to get the results that create new therapies and even cures and, in turn, the jobs that the fast growing biotech industry will provide for Californians. CIRM’s ability to continue this sustained funding is linked to the budgetary health of the state and the state’s ability to issue bonds that support CIRM’s work. So the health and well being of patients in California – and around the world – is one more thing to keep in mind as we vote on the budget initiatives May 19.

This letter is not a goodbye for me, but rather a fulfillment of new path ahead – as we all continue to make a difference in the lives of Californians.

God speed my fellow Democrats!


Art Torres

Sen. Art Torres (Ret.)
Chairman, California Democratic Party

NFL Draft: Day Two Rounds 3 Through 7 At Radio City


As I write this Bill Chachkes and I are sitting in our "upstairs" position at the NFL Draft at Radio City Music Hall. Yesterday I was downstairs and he was here but that area's closed today.

The NFL Draft from our seats on Day Two

We're at the 89th selection where the Tennessee Titans have just took South Carolina Tight End Jared Cook, who I consider a steal in the third round because only Vernon Davis (at 4.4 in the 40) is faster than he is.

Where we're sitting is right between the ESPN and NFL Network stages and right behind a rowdy crowd egged on by ESPN runners and the appearance of the Philadelphia Eagles Cheerleaders, who made their way up to the second floor for a photo shoot with the fans. While that was going on, I sent a note to Coach John Gruden who I first met in 2000 when I formed the bid to bring the 2005 Super Bowl to Oakland (we lost to Jacksonville) and then again in 2004 at Sports Agent Leigh Steinberg's Super Bowl Party in Houston where I drew up a pass play on a napkin.

See, the first time we met I had this kind of "formed bunch" play in mind that the Raiders would shift into out of a split backs formation. Gruden invited me to come to the Raider headquarters and talk strategy but I was so busy with the City of Oakland I never took him up on the invitation. Then we reconnected in 2004 where I drew up the play on a napkin and as a nice little group of people including Coach Gruden's wife and my friend Rachel formed and just talked. Gruden kept the play.

Now, seeing him on the stage I drew up the play on a note pad and one of the NFL Network aides passed it to him. He remembered it, smiled, and gave a thumbs up.

Today's more relaxed that Day One and quieter by far. Just about the right noise level to hear a killer playlist of music piped in by the NFL. It has everything from Prince to The Smiths and whatever pulsating themes represent a good cross section of pop music. It's so good the ushers are dancing.

No kidding.

NFL Draft: Aaron Curry Interview: New Seattle Seahawks Linebacker


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Of all the players invited to the 2009 NFL Draft, Wake Forest Linebacker Aaron Curry is one you just want to root for. Curry's got this "I'm just happy to be here" look and when NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell called his name as the 4th pick in the Draft going to the Seattle Seahawks, he cried. He was just plain happy to have the entire ride over with and delighted to "get to the mountaintop" as he said later.

This video introduces Curry to the NFL Media and the world where you can see just how positive a person he came accross as being, especially when I asked him to give a message to those impacted by the slumping economy. After the video is the full list of Curry's quotes.


(on impression of Seattle area) “You know I’ve never been there. All I know about Seattle is from he said/she said. I was told that there is beautiful weather up there from time to time. I’m pretty sure it’s a very exciting area. I just can’t wait to get there.”

(impression on Draft Process) “You know before today I thought it was all just craziness and madness, but now I just feel like every bit of it was worth it.

(on crying once being selected) “Well you know I’ve been through a lot growing up. The first thing I thought was ‘thank you Mom for putting up with me and my older brothers and really supporting me all my life to be able to reach this point.’”

(on whether he was surprised where he ended up) “My mindset was always this draft is unpredictable I never knew where I was going to end up. I never fell for what the experts were saying because I knew that the GMs and the team owners would make that decision. I had faith in what I’ve done on film. I just wanted to be able to relax and wait to see who called my phone.

(reaction to being chosen by Seahawks) “I wasn’t too surprised being the fact that they just gave up Julian Peterson. He was a big player on their defense so why not replace him with another young talent to try and fill his shoes?”

(on communicating with Seahawks after Pro Day/Combine) “Well you know what was inte
resting is that I worked out for Coach Rollins, their linebacker coach, and I had a visit scheduled and after my workout they called back and said there was no need for me to come out to Seattle. So I mean I never got to take my visit but they also told me not to take it in a bad way that they knew what they were getting out of me as a linebacker and as a person and up until this day I had no clue where I was going to land.”

(on what he will miss most about Wake Forest) “My teammates. I’m going to miss my teammates. I’m going to miss Coach Lambert. I’m going to miss Coach Grobe. And I’m going to miss Miss Bonnie Rae the receptionist at the desk. I’m going to miss “Big Daddy” Coach Bill Faircloth, head of football. I’m going to miss everything about that building where I used to go and just relax that’s where I had the most fun.”

(on knowing any teammates on Seahawks) “I never kept in touch with anybody on the team. I know that Steve Vallos is out there and Ryan Plackemeier was once out there. The last I spoke with Vallos he told me to continue to work hard and continue to do the things I’ve always done.

(on being homeless at one point) “It’s interesting Coach Rollins, linebacker coach from Seattle gave me a book when we worked out it’s about peaks and valleys in your life and it made me look back on that situation where it may have seemed like the lowest part of my life but I realize it made me a stronger person and it made my family stronger than ever and it really drove me to always be the best and put myself in the situation where my family will never have to worry about anything else.”

(on fitting in with Seahawks) “I think it’s definitely a no-brainer to go and play the Sam linebacker just like Mr. Peterson did himself and try to fill his shoes and make just as big of plays as he did.”

(on preparing for speed and toughness of the NFL) “No, I’ve just been approaching every workout like it’s my last one…like I’ve always done.”

(on Seahawks colors) “I think it’s a beautiful color. I’ve always been a fan of their uniforms and their jerseys…I can see myself now with lime green cleats and lime green gloves.

NFL Draft: Train Ride To Radio City Music Hall


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This video captures the train ride and cab ride my friend Bill Chachkes and I took to Radio City Music Hall for the NFL Draft Day One events.

Bill, a 35-year-draft veteran, talks about the needs of the Raiders, Niners, and NY Giants on the way there. We then get out and Bill gets into one of his celebrated arguements with a Giants fan over the receiver they should pick in the Draft. Oh Boy!

But Bill's one of a breed of New Yorkers who follow the Draft religiously. ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr., their "Draftnik" as they're called, came from this pool of people as did Pro Football Weekly's legendary expert the late Joel Buchsbaum and Pat Kirwan who contributes to the NFL Network and

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Saturday, April 25, 2009

NFL Draft: Oakland Raiders Pick Of Heywood-Bey Panned


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The Oakland Raiders picked University of Maryland'Darrius Heyward-Bey even though he was rated by many behind Texas Tech Wide Receiver Michael Crabtree. Even in cyberspace, Crabtree's a better rated pass catcher.

On Madden Football, Michael Crabtree is rated ahead of Darrius Heyward-Bey 84 to 79, but Darrius Heyward-Bey was taken ahead of Crabtree. For the Raiders, Draftniks here in NYC think it was a question of speed. Heyward-Bey runs a 4.3 40 yard dash versus Crabtree's 4.5 time, but Crabtree's a gamer.

Still his underclassman status and his recent injury have caused Crabtree to be down-graded by some. But not so far that the San Francisco 49ers took him as the 10th pick. A number of people here at the Draft are questioning the Raiders decision to pass on him for the lower rated Heywood-Bey. Here's a video example: a conversation featuring our Bill Chachkes and Dewie from Yardbarker both in the Interview Room:

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NFL Draft: Commissioner Goodell Discovers Twitter


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For the past three years I've been litterally pestering the NFL brass about "getting into the 21st Century" because they didn't have videos or use live streams or use social networks.  The NFL's concern has long been the possibility of "losing control of its brand" which to me is a statement marketing people make that always goes unquestioned when it should be challenged.  When its done, I find that the person making the statement really didn't think through what they meant and the fear is less than imagined if it was ever there at all. 

As other large firms have, as they say, moved into the social network space, the NFL's started to see the light, first with videos on, then a live stream of the NFL Draft that was done starting in 2008 (after I did it in 2007) and now Twitter. 

The NFL  started Tweeting with the last Super Bowl and "upped" its efforts with this Draft.  NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell even has his own Twitter page.  Here's the full list of his updates:

  1. passing the podium role to Ray Anderson, our football ops chief
  2. among the hilites of every draft is saluting our military. it is nice to hear applause for them #nfldraft
  3. josh said it was longtime coming. he wanted to be a Buc!
  4. cushing another player out of new jersey. good 2 c so many family/friends here
  5. i told crabtree that at least he gets to keep his same college colors
  6. eugene says it's unreal. just unreal
  7. aaron invited 12-yr boy w/ leukemia. i gave aaron card 2 give 2 Bryson
  8. Jason Smith wouldn't let me go. he was so happy and surprised to go.
  9. wished Matthew a long productive career and said u look good in blue
  10. are u ready for some draft picks? I'm ready to get started #nfldraft
  11. ok, here we go. great seeing so many fans outside #nfldraft
  12. headed up to Columbia to talk with some grad students. Looking forward to it.
  13. I'm looking forward to the Draft on Saturday

Now here's my take: I think it's great Commissioner Goodell's using Twitter, but he and the NFL can get far better use out of it. The Commissioner should use his Twitter page as a press release to get out information he wants to share without the usual media filter. It could be something as simple as making sure NFL Draft patrons visit with a link or URL reference, which in turn drives traffic to that site. You get the idea. But the Commish just posts random things he's doing; by contrast Twitter for me is a device to get the Word out and send people to my daily updated blogs and Twitter.

It's not enough to be on Twitter, you have to have something to say too!

NFL Draft: Michael Crabtree, Interview With SF 49ers New Receiver


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After a bit of suspense that saw Texas Tech Wide Receiver Michael Crabtree fall to the Oakland Raiders at the 7th pick in the NFL Draft, he was finally selected number 10 by the San Francisco 49ers and then joined us in the Interview Room for a lot of questions all over the place in subject. Here's the interview on video:

To his credit, Crabtree handled it all very well, saying that he's not familar with the San Francisco Bay Area or San Francisco itself, but he has met and does have a great relationship with the Niners legendary receiver Jerry Rice, having met him at Deion Sanders home in Dallas. He likes and is looking forward to playing for head coach Mike Singletary, and Crabtree observed the coach wants you "just to work hard".

The hard work ethic is no stranger to Crabtree, who's preparation habits and focus led to one of the most amazing plays in College Football history, a stirring 32 yard catch and run against then-number-one-ranked Texas that scored a touchdown and led to a shocking upset of the heavily-favored Longhorns last year. It was that catch which put Crabtree and Texas Tech in the public spotlight and elevated his draft status.

Now he's a 49er.

(Photo credit: Bill Chackhes) 

In the Interview Room,Crabtree never stopped smiling. His mother and about 20 people, family and friends, all came downstairs to see his first official interview as an NFL player. His mother was just plain relieved to see it all end, as she told me as she slumped down into a random seat with a drained look. The ordeal of where her son was going was over.

Michael Crabtree Quote Sheet From The NFL:


(on the city of San Franciscco): It has great weather. I can't wait to play football in that weather.

(on playing in San Francisco instead of Oakland): I feel like I'm in the position where if somebody wants me and needs me, I just can't wait to play.

(on SF QB situation): I have no idea. As soon as I get there I'm looking forward to working hard with all these guys and try to make each other better.

(on his draft day wait): The key to this situation is being patient. I feel like I did that my whole life and can't go wrong.

(on Mike Singletary): Mike Singletary is a great coach. He's a good guy. He's very positive. The main thing he wants you to do is work and make the program better.

(on whether he wanted to be picked earlier): I'm just glad I got picked. This is a true blessing.

(on the adjustment to the NFL): It's a big adjustment. It's a challenge. It's going to take a lot of film watching and play watching. A lot of practice and running on the field. I'm looking forward to that.

(on if he feels he was the best receiver in the draft even though he wasn't the first selected): I always feel like I'm the best. I work to be the best. I have some big shoes to fill when I go to the 49ers with Jerry Rice. I'm looking forward to that too.

(on the pre-draft speculation): I'm one of those guys that really doesn't watch TV at all. The only way I know is if one of my little brothers tells me about it. Whatever they say I just feed it into motivation.

(on what he will say to the governor of California if they meet): Well, I was trying to see him while I was down there. But I’ll tell him: "I'll be back"

(on why he was not the top receiver picked): I still feel like I'm the top receiver. I don't really pay any attention to what everyone else does. He's a good receiver, the person who went ahead of me. I choose not to worry about that.

(on three people from Dallas in the top 10): That's a good deal. It's never happened in history. The top 10, three people from Dallas. I bet Dallas is going crazy right now. I can't wait to go back.

(on his football idol growing up): My football idol was Barry Sanders. I loved Barry Sanders. I loved Deion Sanders, too. There's something about these Sanders guys.

(on comparisons to Jerry Rice): It's a privilege to be compared to Jerry Rice. He's a great player, if not the best receiver to play the game. I just take all of that in and I listen very well to what they say about comparing me to all these different receivers. I'm just going to take it and run with it and try to get better every day.

(on if he has friends in the San Francisco area): I don't have any friends out there. I've talked to Vernon [Davis] a couple times, but I'm looking forward to meeting new people.

(on meeting Jerry Rice): He's a good guy. Behind the scenes, we mainly don't talk about football. We talk about the off-the-field things. And he just told me to keep a level head.

(on what he will miss most about Texas): Texas football! There's nothing like Texas football. It's probably the best football you can play.

(on his foot surgery): I will be 110%. My doctor told me I could start running. But he told me to wait until one of these teams picked me.

(on if he feels extra motivation to play against the teams that didn't select him): I really do. I keep all of that in mind. Like I said, I feel like I'm in a situation where someone wants me and needs me. And I can't wait to put this red, black, and gold on.

(on if Graham Harrell is underestimated by NFL teams): Graham Harrell is a football player. When I was working, he was working with me. He threw all the passes to me when I was working hard, so I know he's a hard worker. Anybody who gets him is going to get a steal. He’s going to progress every year. So I'm looking forward to seeing where he goes.

The Crabtree Zone has a great bio, which I repeat here for information me:

Michael Crabtree (born September 14, 1987 in Dallas, Texas) is a college football wide receiver for the Texas Tech Red Raiders. He has received much recognition as one of the nation’s most prolific wide receivers, including being a 2007 unanimous first-team All-American and the winner of the 2007 Biletnikoff and Paul Warfield Awards, which are given to the nation’s top college receiver.

High school

Crabtree attended David W. Carter High School in Dallas and played quarterback for the football team. As a senior, he passed for 870 yards and eleven touchdowns on 45 completions out of 100 attempts. He also ran for 646 yards and nine touchdowns on 100 carries. He was a four-star football recruit as an athlete.

In addition to playing football in high school, Michael Crabtree was also on the basketball team and ranked among the top 50 recruits going into college. During a visit in 2004, Texas Tech basketball coach Bob Knight asked Crabtree which sport he was going to choose. Though the decision was not an easy one, he opted to play college football exclusively.

Crabtree was offered football scholarships by Baylor, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas State, Oklahoma, Texas A&M, and Kansas. He was also offered a scholarship by Texas Tech, which he ultimately chose to accept.

Freshman season

Michael Crabtree redshirted his freshman season of 2006.

In 2007, Crabtree started his redshirt-freshman season against SMU. The Red Raiders won 49–9, and Crabtree stood out with 106 yards receiving on twelve receptions for three touchdowns. The next week, in a 45–31 win over UTEP, Crabtree continued his performance with 15 receptions, 188 yards, and two touchdowns. Against the Rice Owls, Crabtree put up 244 yards on eleven receptions for three touchdowns. In Tech’s first loss of the season, against Oklahoma State, he had 14 receptions for 237 yards and three touchdowns. In a 75–7 win over Northwestern State, Crabtree had 145 yards on eight receptions for three touchdowns in only two and a half quarters of playing time. In the contest against Iowa State, Crabtree had 10 receptions for 154 yards and three touchdowns. During that game, Crabtree broke the season record for most touchdown receptions by a freshman receiver. The previous record of 14 was shared by Jabar Gaffney in 2000, Mike Williams in 2002, and Davone Bess in 2005. In the October 14, 2007 game, Crabtree tacked on 170 more receiving yards on eight receptions but had no touchdowns in a 35–7 win over the Texas A&M Aggies. This brought his total yardage to 1,244. In the next game, against Missouri, he again did not score but still added 76 more yards on ten catches. In spite of having two consecutive games without a touchdown, CBS Sports still ranked Crabtree as the top freshman in the nation.

During the game against Colorado, Crabtree made his 99th catch. This set three records simultaneously—most single-season receptions by a freshman in I-A, most single-season receptions by a Red Raider, and most single-season touchdowns by a Big 12 player (18).

Sophomore season

Before the beginning of his sophomore season, CBS Sports listed Crabtree as a Heisman hopeful. Tech quarterback Graham Harrell’s name also appeared on the list.


Michael Crabtree has received multiple honors. In addition to being a unanimous first-team All-American, he won the Biletnikoff Award and the Paul Warfield Award.

NFL Draft: Update From The Interview Room


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As I sit here in the Interview Room at Radio City Music Hall waiting for and now having just made a video of Houston Texans Linebacker Brian Cushing and Tampa Bay Bucs Quarterback Josh Freeman , here's some updates real quick, because another player's coming down here in 3 min.

First, who was selected as of this writing:

1 Lions Matthew Stafford QB
2 Rams Jason Smith OT
3 Chiefs Tyson Jackson DE
4 Seahawks Aaron Curry OLB
5 Jets Mark Sanchez QB
6 Bengals Andre Smith OT
7 Raiders Darrius Heyward-Bey WR
8 Jaguars Eugene Monroe OT
9 Packers B.J. Raji DT
10 49ers Michael Crabtree WR
11 Bills Aaron Maybin DE
12 Broncos Knowshon Moreno RB
13 Redskins Brian Orakpo DE
14 Saints Malcolm Jenkins CB
15 Texans Brian Cushing OLB
16 Chargers Larry English DE
17 Buccaneers Josh Freeman QB
18 Broncos Robert Ayers LB
19 Eagles Jeremy Maclin WR
20 Lions Brandon Pettigrew TE
21 Browns Alex Mack C
22 Vikings Percy Harvin WR
23 Patriots
24 Falcons
25 Dolphins
26 Ravens
27 Colts
28 Bills
29 Giants
30 Titans
31 Cardinals
32 Steelers

Second, the controversy over The Oakland Raiders selection of Darrius Heyward-Bey over Michael Crabtree, who went to the 49ers is heating up. On Madden Football, Crabtree is rated ahead of Darrius Heyward-Bey 84 to 79, but Darrius Heyward-Bey was taken ahead of Crabtree. For the Raiders, Draftniks here in NYC think it was a question of speed. Heyward-Bey runs a 4.3 40 yard dash versus Crabtree's 4.5 time, but Crabtree's a gamer.

Third, for some reason Michael Crabtree's representatives had him bypass the media in the second interview room for "some business with the 49ers" according to Michael Orenstein, the man who tried to market Reggie Bush and now represents Crabtree. What's coming is the table interview, but not an up close one as of this writing.

Forth, Crabstree says he met 49ers Wide Receiving legend Jerry Rice at Deion Sanders home in Atlanta. Crabtree says Rice gave him a lot of advice but most emphasized that he should just work hard.

NFL Draft: Radio City Music Hall Interview Room


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I'm stationed in the Interview Room at the NFL Draft at Radio City Music Hall where everyone with a camera's assigned to go. It's the place where all of the invited NFL Draft rookies will come to give interviews after they're selected by a team.

I'm waiting on Matt Stafford to come down as he was just picked as the quarterback of The Detroit Lions. The Interview Room is actually two rooms and while I could describe it to you, it's better to see it in video-blog form:

NFL Draft: OT Michael Oher On His Life and Football


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The University of Mississippi's Michael Oher's one of the best offensive tackles available in the NFL Draft, so good that he was invited to New York City for Draft Day. But he also has a background that's the total rags to riches story. Oher's Mom was adicted to crack cocaine and his father was not involved in raising him. He attended several different elementary schools and was even homeless at one point in his life. Then Oher met Leigh Anne and Sean Tuohy, who took him in and helped him become a better student.

I talked to Oher at the "NFL Play 60" Event in Central Park, where he did talk briefly about his life, but said he was blessed to be taken in by the Tuohy's and came from a neighborhood where "zero people make it out" as he said. "I've always been a good guy and a guy who cared." Oher says his friends have not changed and everyone's the same even with his new fame and income to come.

Jawing With Brandon Spikes

Every offensive and defensive lineman has a story about what kind of talk goes on "in the trenches" and Oher's no different. He likes going against Brandon Spikes of Florida because "He's a funny guy. He talks a lot is a hard-noser. He calls me by my middle name (as they're playing) Jerome."

Oher explains that while he has his favorite players, he never hates a player. Another "good character" gentleman at the NFL Draft.

Oher may not be the best offensive tackle available in the Draft, that honor generally goes to Baylor's Jason Smith, but I think he has the most to live for and will work to become the best tackle in the NFL.

NFL Draft: Matt Stafford, Michael Crabtree, Stupid Salary Questions


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I'm in New York for the NFL Draft and its related events, one of them was held Friday, and called NFL Play 60 in Central Park. This fun affair on a sun-drenched day served as the backdrop for media interviews with the nine top college football players invited by the league to attend the draft.

Given that many of the reporters, bloggers, and columnists were not experiencing their first rodeo, as the saying goes, one would think the questions would be good ones. Well, not at all. In fact some of the most seasoned writers asked the stupidest questions and Georgia Quarterback Matt Stafford and Texas Tech Wide Receiver Michael Crabtree had to deal with them.

Without naming names, there are two gentlemen in my video who fall into that category. They were fixated on asking about something that doesn't even exist: the rookie salary cap. There's a school of thought advanced by these writers and some NFL players that there should be such a limit on what first-year NFL players make. But since the cap doesn't exist, and therefore doesn't impact this year's players, why raise the issue with them?

That bit of logic was beyond the reach of our fearless journalist-type heroes. They pressed on with the question and it only served to show how well-adjusted Stafford and Crabtree were as people, especially at their young place in life. When Stafford, who appears to be headed to the Detroit Lions as their first pick as of Friday night, got the question, he deflected it, saying in so many words, "Ask the Commissioner." Crabstree looked at the questioner as if he were from another planet - it's on the video - then said "I feel like what I do is fun. I'm blessed to be here" to which the reporter said sarcastically "We're all blessed to be here" in one of those moments that answers the question "Why are newspapers dying?" It had nothing to do with the real subject at hand: the new NFL rookies at the event and what they were all about.

When the question bottle spun to me, or really when I made it do so, I wanted to know who these guys were and the best way to determine that is how they treat you when you ask a question about how they handle relationship difficulties. More to the point, are their friends treating them differently since fame and the possibility of fortune came on to them?

Stafford said he had the same friends throughout the affair. Crabtree said he kept a tight circle of family and friends long ago. An interesting difference as Crabtree seemed more prepared for the ills of the process and the ups and downs, were Stafford is more laid back about the whole deal and in a way almost "Brett Farve" like in his country-boy attitude. I suppose both schools of thought work but we shall see as they grow in the NFL.

Stafford's Favorite Passes

As to "favorite" passes Matt Stafford likes to throw, he thought long and hard before answering "skinny post" which should be a tip to the Lions braintrust as they plans the teams passing game. Stafford also seemed determined not to be molded by the expectations of others. For example, one reporter asked about how he would deal with making "all that money"; Stafford offered that he'd never seen that amount of money to know! A great, simple action!

Crabtree Was "In A Daze For Texas Catch"

Michael Crabtree, one who's not a fan of passing game systems but of solid play ("Everyone has a system; the whole thing's overblown", he told me) is known for a jaw-dropping, quick-as-light catch and run that beat The Texas Longhorns last year. Asked what was going through his mind at that time, he said "I couldn't hear nothing. I was so focused, I couldn't hear nothing...I could see the whole field. I could see the linebackers. D-Line. I was like, hey, I can see everything." Many teams hope he can bring that focus to the NFL and there's every indication he can.

Indeed, if their play is as good as the way they deal with stupid media questions, Stafford and Crabtree will be all-pro players for a long time to come.

Friday, April 24, 2009

NFL Draft: Zennie62's Draft Coverage On The Fly


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I'm in New York City and staying in Hicksville, NY with my good friend Bill Chachkes and his wife to cover my fifth NFL Draft. As I write this, I'm now in a Starbucks about to upload an introductory video and then head over to the EA Sports event.

This video:

I had to take some time to check emails and write this blog after attending the NFL Play 60 Program in Central Park, which was a great time. I was able to get a number of interviews with several of the college football players bound for the NFL who've been invited to New York for the Draft: Georgia Quarterback Matt Stafford, Kansas State Quarterback Josh Freeman, Texas Tech Wide Receiver Michael Crabtree, Ole Miss Offensive Tackle Michael Oher (who came from homelessness to the NFL) and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. You will see each of them in video uploads today and Saturday.

As to what the players are like, the word "polite" comes to mind, as they stand with hands behind their back and say "Yes sir" and "No sir" and have mastered the art of "deflecting a question". For example, one reporter was bent on asking Matt Stafford what he thought about the rookie salary issue; Stafford's simple answer was "You'll have to ask the Commissioner that question."

Good answer.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell fielded questions at the NFL Play 60 Event on the rookie salary cap and the upcoming collective bargaining agreement negotiations. The Commissioner expressed the view that the economy itself would play a role in the eventual outcome of contract negotiations with rookies, in other words he expects them to be lower than before but not for any attempt to control or reduce rookie contracts, but because we're in a recession.

More soon.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

NFL Draft: Zennie62's In New York For The 2009 NFL Draft


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I'm staying in Hicksville, New York and with my friend and fellow draftnik Bill Chackhes and his wife. Later this morning we're going to take the train to Manhattan, to events related to the 2009 NFL Draft and we'll be here all weekend.

This is my fifth straight year covering the Draft with Bill, and Chackhes 35th year at the Draft. In each year we've used New Media to give you a different perspective with web accounts, photos, blogs, and videos. In 2007 we even had a live stream of us talking to you about the Draft events as they unfolded at Radio City Music Hall but the NFL's took control of that last year. Good for the league.

But this year's different and for another reason not related to media technology: the economy. The NFL's downsized "Draft Week": last year and in previous years, the league had parties and symposiums starting the Wednesday before the Draft and each day leading up to it. This time, the events are only on Friday and of a different nature.

The NFL Draft Luncheon held at Chelsea Piers and a must-attend event in years past has been replaced by an event scheduled for late Friday morning in Central Park and based on a program called "Keep Gym In School" for which the NFL has been an active sponsor and promoter. Then we'll go to a local hospital and then the EA Sports party at 2 PM, with the players and current NFL stars like Arizona Cardinals Wide Receiver Larry Fitzgerald.

The NFL has invited a record 9 players to attend the Draft and all are expected to be at the events on Friday before "D-Day" according to the NFL: Texas Tech WR Michael Crabtree, Wake Forest LB Aaron Curry, USC LB Brian Cushing, Kansas State QB Josh Freeman, Virginia T Eugene Monroe, Mississippi T Michael Oher, Texas DE Brian , Baylor T Jason Smith and Georgia QB Matt Stafford.

I should add USC Quarterback Mark Sanchez is also in the Big Apple, but if he will attend the proceedings today is anyone's guess. There's talk Sanchez may be the 4th pick, going to the Seattle Seahawks; also the Washington Redskins have expressed strong interested in the underclassman. Which brings up a sore point for me. When Sanchez announced he was "turning pro" USC Head Coach Pete Carroll famously said he wasn't ready and for good reason: Sanchez only has 16 starts and hasn't even seen his senior year of play, hence the designation "underclassman".

In fact, Sanchez, Stafford, and Freeman are all underclassman, yet ranked higher than West Virginia's Pat White, who won four bowl games and was the MVP of the Senior Bowl, a game where NFL-bound talent is evaluated in a "real game" setting. What's going on here?

I think some comparisons of the NFL Draft and how much choosing pro athletes was like slave selection apply here. In this, the player's physical makeup is prized even over "on the field" performance. From that perspective, Stafford, Freeman, and Sanchez are all bigger and taller than the six-feet tall White, and so must be better, even if White's won more games and was MVP of the Senior Bowl, not to mention an NFL combine standout. White broke 19 school, Big East and NCAA records, and became the first quarterback to start four bowl victories in U.S. college football history.

Enough said.

Am I saying White's the better player? Yes. I will stand by that. He's got a powerful track record as quarterback. Plus, he's finished his four years in school and has the speed and footwork to excel at "the next level".

But the beauty / slave contest judges will ignore that, and pick the bigger guys first.

Catch me on Twitter

I'm going to be posting constant updates on Friday's events at Zennie62 on Twiiter, so follow me if you've not done so. It's going to be a fun day!

Racism: The Mental Illness I Will Not Stop Talking About

What's interesting about the Internet are the different audiences and their responses and characteristics, especially on the issue of race and racism, a problem that is on the constant collective mind of the African American community and people of color in general because historically we've been the most negatively impacted by it.

I don't claim to be the spokesperson for the Black community and such a designation would be the stuff of comedy. But what does vex me and really egg me on to continue to raise the issue of race and racism is the number of racist acts that are "done" in society, how some would have us believe society is colorblind, and those who try to stop me from talking or writing about race.

Those who speak of being "colorblind" are the stuff of humor to me, and do so only in the matter of talking about how people are judged by their skin color, which means they do see color, otherwise they would remain silent. The fact is, everyone makes a determination of how they will treat someone based in part on their skin color. What's unfortunate are those who want to silence people like me. I call them the "people under the stairs" who don't want to be seen and don't want you to be heard especially if you dare talk about race.

This point of view is particularly evident at and it's not the fault of the editors or the managers, but the particular brand of commenter -- nasty -- that's active. Some commenters believe I'm supposed to be a "journalist" who gives both sides of a story but I've noticed they only make that claim when I write something they don't like. My raison d'etre is to give an opinion, have a pulse, and shake you up, hopefully to cause you to do something to change the World around you in a good way.

That's why shining a light on racism is so important.

Much of racism today is institutional. In other words there are common habits in society that you are used to and don't question, but many people of color are harmed by in some way. Some of those institutional actions are, for example, how a movie star is created by an entertainment and public relations consortium. (Zac Efron) Other institutional actions include assuming someone of color may be a bad or corrupt politician even if that person has a stellar record. It has also been a factor in how students are graded by teachers. I can go on and on.

Racism is a mental illness that must be curbed. It's judged as such by some like Dr. Alvin F Poussaint, who state's that for one to (my example) risk their own job as a waiter by the act of throwing a plate at a Black person because the waiter hates Blacks indicates the presence of a mental illness. Because the question is how far will that person go?

Society will not change if we sweep this issue under the rug. Race and Racism is to be talked about, not ignored. That - in part - is what I'm here for. I will not stop writing or talking about race or racism and I will not be silenced. But I will listen to the voices of those who disagree, as long as they do it agreeably.