Day 1: America So Big

End of day one left me in Richfield, UT.

Population, a lot more than Swarthmore and a lot less than 10,000. Driving was fun for like the first 500 miles, then your eyes starts giving out.

525 miles later, I stopped driving. Only because the 1st quarter of the spurs game was starting and couldn’t miss that for a few more miles.

Gonna attempt an exercise in replication of this “excessive sharing” thing that people with Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, snapcheat, and whatever else there is out tend to do on a daily to yearly basis. So far, I am seeing that the sense of acknowledgement and recognizing you get from other people swiping at a screen is pretty cool but fleeting. And as much as you share it don’t make you any closer to any body, at the end of the day you are still alone on the road heading towards your destination.

Btw, America is hella big.

The Business of Sports: An Ugly Affair

Being an avid sports fan from Los Angeles and an alleged Swarthmore student,  this post was inevitable.

TMZ first reported Sterling’s supposed racist diatribe to mistress/girl-friend V. Stiviano, which if verified might cement his position as the dumbest owner in the NBA. Per TMZ, Sterling allegedly said, “You can sleep with [black people]. You can bring them in, you can do whatever you want. The little I ask you is not to promote it on that (instagram)…and not to bring them to my games.” The audio lasts about nine minutes, including all kinds of outdated philosophy reminiscent of early plantation politics.

But the most important question is why now? This isn’t a moment of lapse of judgment, Sterling has a long history of private vices. In 2006, “The U.S. Department of Justice sued Clippers owner and real estate mogul Donald Sterling for housing discrimination, claiming he refused to rent apartments to blacks and families with children,” according to The Associated Press. But all of this was brushed aside soon enough, when three years later, Sterling, “agreed to pay a record $2.725 million to settle [the] allegations,” according to the LA Times.  We would have seen it on Twitter, if he had not spent millions to cover it up (and if Twitter was actually invented). More recently in 2010, former LA Lakers great Elgin Baylor filed a wrongful termination suit against Sterling for exhibiting racism in the workplace. During deposition, Baylor spoke about Sterling’s ‘plantation mentality,’ alleging that in the 1990s, the owner rejected a coaching candidate, Jim Brewer, because of race. Baylor quoted Sterling as saying: ‘Personally, I would like to have a white Southern coach coaching poor black players.’ per the LA Times. This was all part of public record and the league never denounced him, the players continue to take his money, his business partners (NBA and its other owners) shared his immense wealth, and the fans were loyally subsidizing his business.

But why now? Better late than never right? Not quite.

What TMZ reported on tape had been long-standing practice and strongly-held personal belief for decades now. But the situation has received so much attention in social media and prime time news that his business partners can no longer play “hush-hush” to his vile views and overlook the fact that it is a serious risk to their prosperous enterprise. After all, as much as I like to believe otherwise, the NBA is a business and always has been.

Upon closer examination, some of the other owners in the league (Sterling’s partners and cohorts), aren’t exactly  model citizens either.

Richard Devos, owner of the Orlando Magics, allegedly invested millions of dollars in anti-gay marriage initiatives, because gays “keep asking for favors” and “special treatment,” and marriage is “not vital to them, in my opinion.” per Orlando Sentinel.

Dan Gilbert, owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers made his billions in the mortgage business, helping to pass along sub-prime loans to infamous thieves such as Countrywide, which then greased the derivatives that in part contributed to the economic crisis.

New owner of the Oklahoma City Thunders, Clay Bennett, got his billions through fracking, a practice that produces not only toxic drinking water but also irregular earthquakes. And when his business went bad, he simply left and the landowners out of their royalties.

Brooklyn Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov, Russian billionaire and stylish oligarch, got his piggy bank started using political connections to grab billions in state-owned-assets for pennies when Russia first opened up to the world after the fall of the Soviet Union.

Last but definitely not least, you have slum-lord Donald Sterling, owner of the LA Clippers, who refused to rent apartments to minorities because they “black tenants smell and attract vermin,” and “Mexicans sit around and drink all day” per LA Times.

This is just a short list of the 30 or so individuals who own and operate the league that I support with my viewership, who pay the players who I grew up idolizing and fantasizing about, and who made a business out of the sport that I loved for all of my life. And I am not going to kill myself over this, the NBA has done much good to counter balance the many illegitimate practices of its owners. Though the owners reaped in massive profits in the realms of billions each year, its local and international charity through NBA CARES, which is mostly promotional in purpose and operate on meager millions, has had a great impact on the world. If not through monetary help, then at least through spreading the sport of basketball through icons like Yao Ming and Dikembe Mutombo to two of the largest continents in the world.

Like most large global enterprises, the business of sports is an ugly affair, and most of the time the public is left in the dark or too occupied to care.

PS: I understand that all this evidence of bigotry was obtained in an invasion of Sterling’s privacy, which most of his critics decided to address until further information has been disclosed. I will conformed to the norm in this regard.

 

 

 

A New Breed of “Monks”

Long story short, a long long time ago, like 495 AD during the Northern Wei Dynasty when the Shaolin Temple was first built, there was only one kind of monk, the monk. These monks read scriptures, had prayers in the morning, and spent most of their time sitting down with a scroll in front of them (similar to the hard-working modern desktop cubicle fanatics). So as a result, they had similar problems to those who sit in front of their laptop all day; back pains, shoulder issues, flabby skin, weak physical health, and lethargic attitudes. A few yrs later, an Indian monk named Damo came to the temple and saw this, and he thought to himself “nah man, if y’all ain’t even physically fit, how can y’all carry out the road to enlightenment and spread the practices of Buddhism with passion and diligence.”  So he decided to teach them meditative physical exercises similar to yoga, which concentrates on breathing and increasing the internal movements within your body, this combined with the physical labors of farming and cleaning the temple helped the monk greatly. As the centuries went on, it slowly developed into two groups of monks who both studied Buddhism, but one spends more time dealing with the scholarly and the academic called the Wen Sen, and the other group spends more time keeping their bodies strong and fit to protect the safety of the temple from bandits, called the Wu Sen.

And those have been the two groups of monks ever since, until recently. Nowadays, there’s a new breed of monks in town called the performance monks or the Biao-yan Sen. These people are more actors and super-skilled martial artists than actual monks, most of them don’t even have deep connections with the Shaolin Temple.  But the deceptive part of this for tourists and non-insiders is that these performance monks  dresses the same and has the same bald head as all the other real monks, and when they partake in activities such as drinking “gatorade”, consuming large amounts of red protein,  going to KTVs and nightclubs, spending time with beautiful woman (materialistic activities that they have the right to partake in), it often sheds a bad light on the temple and the name of Shaolin. This is not to say that ALL the real monks don’t partake in these activities as well, some do, but at least they are very discrete and private about it and won’t do it within the vicinity of the respected temple. Most of these performance monks start out in small private martial arts schools all over the country or in Deng Feng, and after a few yrs of fundamentals, the super-skilled and athletically gifted ones with connection to people around/in the temple,  are brought to Shaolin to try-out for the performance team, if they make it, they will practice and eventually travel the world and perform with real martial monks and fellow secular but “I am really good at martial arts and acting, so I made the team” counterparts like themselves, but to the foreign eye they are all monks.

The reason for the creation of this new breed of “monks” is the exponentially expanding popularity of Shaolin kungfu that just took off the late 1980s and is still going strong today. Skilled martial monks are scarce in numbers to begin with, and as the demand for more performances, shows, and martial arts schools increase all around the world, so does the demand for more martial monks. But skilled martial monks, well-educated in the culture and history of Shaolin, aren’t made in a year or even years. So to supply the demand for all these newly needed bodies, the Shaolin temple used it’s allure of a “better life” with opportunities to go overseas and perform to attract the athletically skilled and mentally tough and  hardworking young men of rural China, who through martial arts are seeking not only a better life for themselves but also for their families back home. With the influx of the new performances monks, Shaolin has been able to spread its influence all over the world today from Europe to Australia, South America to Singapore, it is literally everywhere. Before this “Shaolin Fever”, neither kungfu nor Buddhism has attracted this much popularity in this many places around the world at this rate, it has truly helped to spread the Shaolin culture and sell the Shaolin Franchise as one of the most well-ran associations in the world, right up there with the NBA and the NFL (without the unions and the lockouts). And this is how we come to have a new breed of monks, and there is really nothing wrong with it, China has got to catch up and adjust to the world, and so does Shaolin. That is a fact. The End.

PS: Please note that what I write is purely my opinion and a projection of what I perceive to be the truth; a collection of fragmented personal observations, blurry interviews, and self-connected dots. So seriously, take this with a grain of salt, as you should with all things written by people with a mind of their own.