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The NFL Draft Luncheon held at Chelsea Piers and a must-attend event in years past has been replaced by an event scheduled for late Friday morning in Central Park and based on a program called "Keep Gym In School" for which the NFL has been an active sponsor and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.