Archive for the On Sports! Category

A Beautiful Moment in Time

Posted in On Sports! with tags , , on May 23, 2014 by playthell
Seahawks at the Whitehouse II If you hear a little Noise…It’s Barack and the Boys!

As I watched President Obama aka “Chilly B Knowledge” rapping with the Seattle Seahawks at the White house, I reflected on the magnificence of the moment.  Given the history of race relations in the USA, none of them should have been there.   It is a moment I never thought I would see in my lifetime: an Afro-American President congratulating an Afro-American quarterback who had just won the superbow, and it is without question irrefutable evidence that the status of Afro-Americans has undergone a paradigm shift since I fled Florida in 1960.

What it means, among myriad of other things, is that most white children and youth have a black hero that they idolize, and many of their parents do too.  Considering the fact that Rush Limbaugh’s audience averages 67 years of age – the geriatric crew that grew up in the golden age of white supremacy and are so bewildered by the radical changes in race relations they no longer recognize the America they grew up in, thus they roam about like disoriented zombies chanting “we want our country back!”

I am now convinced that the amazing success on black athletes paved the way for other changes in race relations, beginning with Joe Louis and Jackie Robinson.  However I did not always recognize the critical role of sport in promoting social change.  During the height of my revolutionary days, when everything that wasn’t about the revolution was cast aside, I stopped watching sports.  And I became so self-righteous about it that I began to bug my friends who remained sports fans.

One day when I had become a particular pain in the ass, my main boon coon Booker T. Quattlebaum, who taught writing on the college level, pointed out that the greatest writers in history were sports fans and produced a volume from his shelf that had selections on sports which began with the ancient Greeks. He also pointed out that the revolutionary socialist countries that I so admired was all sports fanatics; in fact they used sports as a measure of their social development.

I eventually saw his point and began to look at sports through new eyes.  The mere fact that in the ancient world the largest buildings were temples to the Gods, but in modern societies they are often sports stadiums, is eloquent testimony to the importance of sports in human affairs.  For one thing it is an alternative to war in supplying an outlet for male aggression – especially sports like football!

However in the context of American society, a society based on “white male supremacy” black success in sports  gave birth to a crude counter-argument.  Once it was obvious that white men were not physically superior to black men then the argument became…”well they can play sports but we are intellectually superior.”

The response of many well-meaning folks in the black community is to disparage sports as unimportant and only intellectual achievement matters. This is a false dichotomy, and it reflects a retrograde way of thinking – despite the self-righteous claims of those who hold this point of view.  When I was a boy growing up in racist apartheid Florida, our elders used the brilliant exploits of Jackie Robinson, Joe Louis, Sugar Ray Robinson, etc to point out that just as whites folks claimed we were not good enough to compete with white men in professional sports was a god damned lie….their claim to intellectual superiority was an even bigger lie.

jackie-robinson- Calvery Officer

Lieutenant Jackie Robinson: Calvary Officer

The example of Jackie Robinson – a handsome, eloquent, ebony black UCLA graduate, US Army Calvary Officer, four sport college athlete, star of the Brooklyn Dodgers, eloquent gentleman, corporate Vice President upon his retirement from Major League baseball –  as irrefutable proof that achievement was a matter of preparation and opportunity.

They went on to point out that given the education and opportunity to compete we could beat white men at anything just like Sugar Ray Robinson and Joe Louis and Jackie Robinson were kicking their ass in the sports arena. The lesson for us was not that we could only be great athletes, but that the athletes were setting a standard of excellence that we should emulate in all of our endeavors.

The great Paul Robeson was held up as the gold standard.  A super athlete – who made All-American in football and starred in basketball, baseball, and track- Robeson also graduated first in his class at Rutgers, while working  as a tutor to his white class mates in Greek and Latin, and singing in the Glee Club. Robeson was the greatest example of human perfection in his time.  He went on to earn a law degree from Columbia University, became an internationally acclaimed Shakespearean actor and concertized as a singer world-wide.   He was so widely revered in Russia that they named a mountain after him.

Paul Robeson: The Greek Ideal of Mind Body Perfection


He would have made a better President than his white Contemporaries
 Robeson of Rutgers: All American

Paul Robeson - All American

The Greatest Football Player of his Time

This is the message that contemporary black critics of athletic achievement fail to understand.  Instead they have embarked on a silly, self-destructive, self-righteous denunciation of black achievement in sports – an arena that has brought us more wealth and glory on the world stage than any other field.  Among those who have offered vociferous critiques of this wrongheaded argument is Dr. Nathan Hare, a former professional boxer who holds two Ph.Ds.

This false dichotomy of sports vs. intellectual achievement was thoroughly critiqued by a distinguished group of black scholars in a conference at New York University hosted by Dr. Jeffery Sammons, a history professor and author of “Beyond the Ring: The Role of Boxing in American Society,” which is hands down the most important book ever written on boxing in America.

The conference was called to respond to Darwin’s Athletes,” a book written by a Dr. John Hoberman, a German American history professor at the University of Texas, that promotes the Athletic vs. Intellectual achievement argument;  he attributes the disparity between black athletic and intellectual achievement to socio/cultural rather than biological factors.

I have written an extensive essay that is both a report on the conference and a critique of Hoberman’s spurious thesis.  See: “On Race Culture and Sports,” which exposes Hoberman’s argument for the pompous misguided prattle that it is.   There are examples all around us that black men are quite capable of outstanding athletic and intellectual achievement.

They are everywhere, from Hall of Fame NFL tackle Allan Paige, who became Chief Justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court, to Tampa Bay linebacker Dewey Selmon, who took a Ph.D in ancient philosophy at University of Oklahoma, to John Wideman, All-American basketball star at the University of Pennsylvania, who turned down an NBA career to pursue study at Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar, and became one of the greatest American writers of the 20th century.

I believe it is in recognition of the extraordinary achievement of the scholar/athlete that president Obama gave such props to Richard Sherman, who has been mercilessly maligned by white racist for being to vocally assertive for a young black man and tried their best to unjustly hang the “thug” label on him.  Just as they have done to President Obama himself – who has been called a Chicago thug more than once by these deranged creeps.

But the love the President showed Sherman as he recounted his remarkable achievements has obliterated the chatter of the haters and raised Sherm up where he belongs.  Thus when I sat and watched the world champion Seattle Seahawks, the reigning Super Bowl champions, hangin out in the White House, it was a very beautiful moment to me.

Barack Reaches out to Richard Sherman

Seattle Sea Hawks barack shakes hads with Sherman

 In a Single Gesture Barack Raised Sherman to Worldwide Celebrity
 Sherman Studies the Master Rapper at Work

Seattle sea Hawks at the White House- Sherman

Looking Beyond football?

In the Huddle

Seahawks at the White house

An Image of real black male power: Physically and Intellectually!


Playthell G. Benjamin
Harlem, New York
May 22, 2014

An Evening at Madison Square Garden

Posted in On Sports!, Uncategorized with tags , on March 4, 2014 by playthell

Samori Live at Madison Square Garden

Sportswriter Samori Benjamin at the Garden Hoping for a Win

 In the Mecca of B-ball with a Knick Icon

Going to check out a New York Knicks game at the Garden is an exciting experience under any circumstances – the grandeur of the massive arena, the roar of the crowd, the celebrities from show biz and politics, the exciting floor shows….and then there is the game – but going to the Garden as the guest of Dr. Dick Barnett, a Kick icon who played on the only World Championship teams in franchise history is a very special trip.  This became immediately clear as we entered the building to watch the Knicks Play the San Francisco Warriors.

The guards at the entrance recognized Dick in the bustling crowd, which was moving at a snail’s pace due to the body scans by electronic metal detectors and hand searches of bags, and waved him to the front of the line along with me and Zach Husser – a former Columbia University football and basketball player who originally introduced me to Dr. Barnett and invited me to attend the game with them.  Once inside we went straight away to the Delta Lounge on the 5th floor, a VIP sanctuary where the big shots and their guest congregate.  The average fan does not know this place exist, and even if they do they have no idea of its extravagance.  Everything – food and beverages – is free, except for alcoholic drinks. And this is no mere finger foods, but lobster tails, corned beef, loads of fresh steamed vegetables, fruit juices, exotic breads and the like.

There were large flat screen television sets everywhere, so the swells could watch the game without mingling with the boisterous mob in the stands.  Actually, this was a place to meet and greet, see and be seen, to “network” with Gotham City’s movers and shakers.  The congregants in the lounge, like the common lot of fans, were mostly white and about half of them seem to have been invited by somebody else with juice, since they were running around gawking like Alice in Wonderland.  After a while it became apparent that some of these people were much more interested in networking than watching the game.  Perhaps because they knew the home team would break their hearts before the evening was over.

After a while I went to the exit that led into the arena and the Knicks were just going through their pre-game ritual, a kind of primitive male war dance to hip hop beats in a darkened house, while a voice on the loud speaker egged the crowd on, prodding them into such a state of excitation they let out a blood curdling collective primal scream that ricocheted off the walls and echoed throughout the cavernous arena.  I was anxious to get to our seats by tip off time but I had to prod Dr. Barnett in order to get him out of the lounge where he was comfortably ensconced in a prominent place so that everybody who came through could see him as he chatted with passersby.

Doc was lukewarm about getting out into the arena because he too has lost faith in the ability of the Knicks to win a game, and it is a source of great disappointment, having played on the Knicks team with legendary ballers like like Earl “The Pearl” Monroe, Walt “Clyde” Frazier, Willis Reed, Dave Debusshere and “Dollar” Bill Bradley, that won the NBA Championship in the 1969 -70 and 1972-73 seasons.   As he pointed to their Jerseys hanging atop the arena, it must have been painful to watch as these imposters in Knicks uniforms disgraced themselves and abused the fans; which had parted with their hard earned coin and trudged out in sub freeing weather to watch them stumble around the court in a danse macabre; a comedy of errors that was more embarrassing than funny.

The Only NBA Champions in Knicks History
New-York-Knicks Championship team
Dick Barnett is seated to the far right next to Earl “The Pearl” Monroe

As the game plodded on I began to suspect that perhaps success and failure may both be imposters after all.  For as I watched the hapless Knicks fall behind by 21 points at halftime I wondered how these jokers had ever won a game in the NBA.  How they had once been thought of as serious contenders.  While it seemed that everything the Warriors tossed in the direction of the basket went in, as they ran a series of razzle dazzle plays, the hapless Knicks were stiff as stuffed owls anchored to their pedestals.

What masqueraded as an offensive strategy for the Knicks consisted of passing the pill to Carmelo Anthony, then cavalierly watching the giant overhead monitor screens waiting for him to put the ball in the hoop.  But, alas, on this night Mello was as cold as the icicles hanging on the roof outside; the boy couldn’t throw a grape through a hoola hoop. But aside from an occasional three pointer from the point guard, J.R. Smith and Tim Hardaway JR, they just kept passing the ball to Mello and staring up at the monitor screen.

Perhaps because Mello had been on a scoring streak the last few games, shooting forty points or more had become common fare, his team mates thought he was a gift that would just keep on giving. Alas they were wrong, and nobody seemed able to come up with a second act.  Every time Mello got the ball the defense collapsed on him with two and sometimes three players guarding him; yet it never seemed to occur to him to look for the open man and pass the ball off.   He seemed to believe, like the rest of the team, that scoring the ball was his gig.

Mello Shooting the Ball
A human scoring machine

Carmello shooting

But he needs help…especially when he’s cold!

As halftime approached the drubbing the Knicks were undergoing became so painful for loyal fans it was akin to witnessing a loved one being pecked to pieces by diabolical crows from an Alfred Hitchcock movie.  My son Samori, a sports writer who has been covering the Knicks for years on WBAI radio and, assured me that the suddenly silent crowd was anxious to go crazy but the Knicks gave them no cause for applause.

Thus in what appeared to be a desperate attempt to give the home crowd some reason to cheer, a picture of Mark Jackson, the San Francisco Warriors coach, appeared on the giant overhead screens with the caption “All Time Knicks Great Point Guard,” then they proceeded to show video highlights of some of Jackson’s smooth moves. The crowd finally had a reason to cheer and they went crazy cheering for the coach of the team that was kicking the home team’s ass!  It was, to say the least, bizarre.

Dr. Barnett flashed a smile of approval as he watched the video of Mark Jackson in action, but when the Knocks flashed a tribute to “Sweetwater Clifton” the former Globetrotter who became the first African American player to wear a New York Knickerbocker Jersey, Doc’s mood went from mirthful to salty.  “There are playing Sweetwater up big now, but they didn’t do shit for him when he was driving a cab later in life to put food on the table.  Walt Frazier managed to bust in the organization beyond the court as an announcer, but the Knicks usually don’t do shit for black players.” he said.

Dick Barnett in 1972
That Championship Season!

As an aside he commented “The Pearl just had knee replacement surgery a couple of days ago.”  Dick Barnett had escaped the fate that befell Sweetwater Clifton and many pro-Athletes after their playing days are over – the great Allen Iverson of who played in Philly is the latetest example – by acquiring a PhD, becoming a professor of Sports Management and writing several books.

We departed at the conclusion of the first half, unable to bear any more of the drubbing, since the Knicks were down by 21 points in a half where the Warriors had scored over 70 points, and only the real fanatics operating on blind faith believed things would get better in the second half.  Alas, we felt the Knicks were engaging in fan abuse and we had had more than our share; would enable them no longer.  Doc decided to hang out in the Delta Lounge, and wait for his old pal and former Knick Cal Ramsey, who was wheelchair bound.

As me and Zach were leaving a couple of the guards who saw us come in with Dick  came over to us shaking their heads “couldn’t take it no more huh?” one of them asked….”It beats me how they manage to fill up this place for every game, win or lose the people still show up come rain or shine”  As I listened to this rather incredible revelation, I thought to myself: I guess that’s why the call them fans….which is short for fanatics.


                  Double Click on Link to view Documentary On Barnett
Playthell G. Benjamin
Harlem New York
March 3, 2014

Tajh Boyd: The Next Tom Brady?

Posted in On Sports! with tags , , , on February 19, 2014 by playthell

Tajh Boyd !!

The all Tim Passing Leader in the ACC

 Is the Smart Money about to hit the Canvas….Again?

I continue to be amused by the all-knowing commentary of the football “experts” when they project where a particular player should go in the draft, and the smugness with which they make their pronouncements.  The careers of scouts, coaches and General Managers have been buoyed to great heights by such predictions and the decisions they make based on them…and they have also crashed and burned. This is because in spite of their computers, which can analyze a veritable mountain of information, there are intangible factors that don’t show up in the computer generated numbers or in the sight of scouts whose eye witness accounts of a player’s performance is impaired by such “objective data”.

Mis-judgment of a player’s potential employing these methods are so numerous, and dramatic, it would require a sizeable essay to do the subject any justice.  Hence I shall cite just a few cases that will leave no doubt as to the massive failures of this approach to predicting a players potential to succeed in the NFL.  The wise guys who pick the players in the NFL overlooked Joe Montana, Jerry Rice, Walter “Sweetness” Peyton, Russell Wilson, Emmitt Smith, Tom Brady, Everson Walls, et al.  Every one of these guys have won at least one Super Bowl, and all but one is in the National Football League’s Hall of Fame!

It would seem that this experience would be humbling for those who are the deciders in professional football.  Alas that is not the case; for they seem as smug and certain of their choices as ever.  Of course smugness and self-certainty is a vice not entirely confined to this group…the present writer must constantly struggle against succumbing to its powerful lure, especially since I not only have an impressive record of prognostications, and I get such a bang out of seeing the wise guys go wrong.  I sometimes suspect it is a perverse pleasure, something akin to dancing on an adversary’s grave, yet I can’t help it: I’m funny that way.

Although most of my prescient predictions are in the political arena – see “The Prophetic Commentary on Iraq, posted on this blog. The accuracy of this prediction is such that Nostradamus might wish to claim it – I nevertheless have had some impressive calls regarding football games too.  The latest example were my Super Bowl predictions.  See “Dangerous!” on this blog.  Yet because human potential remains a cosmic mystery, I cannot claim with certainty that my predictions about the outcome of football games are reliable enough to bet my money, nor anybody else’s, on the outcome.

Nevertheless, it is quite literally true that I have gone against the conventional wisdom and more often than not was proven right by subsequent events.  Which, at the risk of being accused of braggadocio, I remind the reader is the essence of prophesy. In fact, in a truer world, I would by now be routinely addressed by supplicants with bowed heads as “Playthell the Prophet.”

Alas, the course crowd upon whom I bestow my prescient prognostications, untutored and ungrateful mob that they are, gleefully take their place in the forefront of the malicious wags who take perverse pleasure in denying me this universal honorific.   But that shall not retrain me from venturing a prediction about the future of Tajh Boyd as he ascends from the college rank to the National Football League.

As I listen to the chatter from the football wise guys they are singing the same old tunes…it’s SOS, same old shit we heard about Russell Wilson and Colin Kapernick and Cam Newton.   He can’t pass from the pocket; he runs around too much; he can’t make the secondary and tertiary reads when throwing the ball down the field: yahda, yahda, yahda.  Yet Cam Newton broke all quarterback passing records for rookies racking up 4, 000 yards, and just two years later he won his division and played in the AFC Championship game…against Colin Kapernick, who took his team to the Super Bowl in his second year in the NFL, after only eight games as a starting quarterback!    He would have won it except for a badly blown call by the referee.

And Russell Wilson, who not only runs around all the time but we were assured is way too short to make it in the big league. The scouts thought so little of him coming out of college he was drafted in the third round and expected to amount to little more than a practice squad player.  But he stole the starting job from Matt Flynn, a newly acquired 10 million dollar man during practice sessions, went on to tie Peyton Manning’s all time rookie passing record, with far less interceptions, and took the Seattle Seahawks to the playoffs for the first time within the memory of many fans.  By the end of his second season he had compiled the best winning record of any quarterback in NFL history in their first two years.  He won throughout the playoffs and ended up playing in the Super Bowl  and winning just a few weeks ago!

Wilson was facing the magnificent Peyton Manning, a sure shot first ballot Hall of Famer, who had just completed the greatest regular football season the history of the NFL.   By the standards of the football gurus Peyton was designed by the gridiron Gods to play quarterback: a 6” 5’ pocket passer with a cannon arm that could throw all of the various passes with perfection.  And he had a platoon of great receivers to catch them.

Russell Wilson was given no chance at victory; he would be lucky to escape with some semblance of self-respect the wise guys chanted, echoing each other like a Greek chorus.  Well, employing a marvelous combination of magic and art Wilson wiped Peyton out in one of the worst ass whuppings in the history of the Super Bowl!

Like the bumblebee, which according to the engineer’s calculations cannot fly due to the size of his wings in relation to his body, but in his ignorance flies anyway, cool hand Russ took the field and blew the God’s quarterback away!  He walked away holding the coveted Vince Lombardi trophy held aloft in the victors pose…just like I said he would!

Yet as the NFL draft approaches the know-it-all football “experts” are spouting that same tired ass yang again! I am astonished that these guys just don’t get it; they are so fixated on the stiff, stand in the pocket i.e. “white” quarterback style they even deny the hard evidence that’s right before their eyes.  The kind of stuff they would usually bet the ranch on.

For instance, Tajh Boyd’s measurable assets are off the charts.  He is 6” 1’, 222 pounds and runs a 4: 54 in the forty yard dash.  He is a crafty runner with the power to break tackles.  And he has a great passing arm.  He is first in the history of the distinguished Clemson football programs history in passing yards.  First in passing efficiency, first in passing touchdowns, first in passing completions, first in completion percentage, first in 300 yard passing games, first in total offensive yards – due to his great running ability – first in consecutive starts and snaps taken by a quarterback – due to his powerful physique and great durability – first in top 25 wins by a starting college quarterback and he is first for all time in touchdown passes and total touchdowns – passing and running – in the ACC conference!

Simply the Best!

tajh boyd clemson

A True Dual Threat!

By all objective measures Tajh Boyd is a great quarterback; yet the wise guys are telling us that he may go as low as the fifth round and list ten quarterbacks that stand a chance of being selected before him.  Well, Tom Brady – whose record makes him arguably the best quarterback ever to play professional football – went in the seventh round and there were quite a few palookas selected before him, none of whose names I can now recall.

In fact, unlike Boyd, Brady didn’t get a chance to start in college until his senior year at Michigan, and then only because the starting quarterback opted for a baseball career and quit the team.  However he made it to a bowl game and won an impressive victory over the perennial football powerhouse LSU.  That should have told the scouts something about his potential on the next level…but, alas, there is none so blind as those who refuse to see.

Brady was selected by New England because he was still hanging around and they thought he might develop into a descent back up player after an extended stint on the practice squad. He began as a third string quarterback and only got a chance to play because the starter and his back-up got hurt.  Tom Brady came off the bench and never lost a game for the rest of the season…including the Super Bowl!

There are many scouts, coaches, general managers, owners and bookies still scratching their heads and wondering how they blew it; how could they have slept on Brady?  And I predict that when they finally pull their heads outta their asses a few years from now and recognize that Tajh Boyd is better than Terry Bridgewater and the much hyped “Johnny Football – a black quaterback with a white style and a white boy with a black style – they are going to be asking the same question about Tajh …unless they read this essay and come to their senses!!!

 Three Studs the Wise guys Missed!

Tom Brady

Tom Terrific!  the Best Ever?

The Elusive Colin Kapernick

Colin Kapernick

Exposing the Folly of the Wise Guys!

Cool Hand Russ




Double Click on Link to watch Tajh’s Highlights

Harlem, New York
February 19, 2014

The Winter Olympics In Russia

Posted in On Sports! with tags on February 8, 2014 by playthell

Russian winter Olumpics

Grand Illusions at Opening Ceremonies

 And Evening of Magic and Majesty

Despite the looming fear of terrorists out to disrupt the games to make a political statement, and the possibility of demonstrations by openly gay athletes intended to flout Russia’s repressive anti-gay laws and embarrass President Putin, the opening ceremony at the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia was a marvelous spectacle to behold.

A celebration of Russian history and culture, it provided a magnificent showcase for the artistic treasures of Great Russia.  While the average American’s vision of this faraway land on the other side of the world is distorted by ignorance and disinformation, watching these ceremonies  last night provided a different view of these remarkable people and their culture.

Until recently the vision of Russia held by most Americans was shaped by Cold War rhetoric, thus the only thing that most people in the US knew about the Russians – which was then the Soviet Union – was that they had thousands of Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles armed with nuclear warheads aimed at all of our cities and towns, capable of obliterating American civilization in a flash, and that we were ready and able to retaliate with even greater destructive power.  It was not the kind of thing that made for good vibes between the two peoples.

However the American parody of Russians obscured the great achievements of Russian culture, especially in the performing arts.  Russian is the Mecca of classical ballet and the circus, which has produced a tradition of great designers of costumes and theatrical settings.  And their achievement in music – both instrumental and vocal – is second to none.

Their composers are performed all over the world and their ballet masters – dancers and choreographers alike – have shaped the art of classical European dance around the world.  For instance, George Ballanchine, mastermind of the world renowned American Ballet Theater housed in Manhattan’s magnificent Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts was a Russian Exile.   All American Ballet lovers have genuflected before its Prima Ballerinas and Dansuers.

The designers of this ceremony combined the best of the Russian classical traditions in music, dance, theater and ice skating with the brave new world of computer-generated imagery, employing myth and fabulation to create grand illusions of magical fantasy figures from the past and future, synchronized to musical scores that made the animated illusions appear to dance.  It was a powerful statement about Russian capabilities in the arts and technology.

One of the high points in an evening with many illuminated moments was a massive number where music, song, dance, and grand illusions combined to make a powerful statement on Russia in the twentieth century.  A period when the Russian people experienced three revolutions in four decades: the bourgeois revolution that overthrew the Romanov dynasty, the Bolshevik Revolution that brought the Communist Party to power and the Industrial Revolution that converted Russia from a backward semi-feudal society to a modern state.

These powerful visual vignettes were a cacophony of magnificent sound, massive images that allude to the industrial age, ballets celebrating the working masses whose labor and ingenuity ushered in the industrial era, accompanied by heroic music performed by a grand orchestra with strings, horns and thunderous tympani.  By any measure it was world class stuff that made all of the American commentators who insured us the games would expose Russian incompetence look pretty silly.

All who witnessed this innovative show, performed in a massive sets that combined elements of classical and modern architecture, must confess that it was a worthy salutation to the Olympic Games.  The NBC commentator said “it was part Hollywood and Part Broadway.”  It was no such thing!  It was part Bolshoi ballet, part Moscow Circus, and part Russian Opera.

Fantasy and reality blended into a mesmerizing spectacle where giant pillars of multi-colored fires seemed to flow like a fountain, as massive explosions of fireworks timed to explode on cue to the powerful music playing in the background brought the ceremony to a close with great drama. It was a fine prelude to the magic moments we will witness in days to come, when skaters wearing sharpened blades on their feet will elegantly pirouette on ice, while skiers and skateboarders leap off mountainsides and fly through the air in death defying stunts.  It may well turn out to be the greatest show on earth!

Pillars of Fire

Russian Olympic Fireworks

A Chorus of Singers

Russian Olympics 2013

Dancers in a hail of Laser Lights

Russian Olympics dance number

Russian Dancers Weave Visual Alchemy

Russian Olympic Dancers

Giant Laser Men Smacked Hockey Pucks in the Sky


And Rainbow Colored Castles floated in the Air


Set in Fantastic Computer Generated Landscapes 


A Fantastic Pillar of Fire
3b3de640-902c-11e3-96cc-e979eb8d5362_467610951Towered over All
As the World’s Greatest Winter Athletes 


Marched in the Parade of Stars!


(Double Click to view Shani Davis win Olympic trials)

(A 4 time Olympic Medalist with 2 Golds)
Playthell G. Benjamin
Harlem, New York
February 2014

Why Not Russ?

Posted in On Sports! with tags , , on February 3, 2014 by playthell

Russell wilson IV

Russell Wilson: Super Bowl Champion

 Russell Wilson was the Real MVP

As has been pointed out repeatedly by sports commentators analyzing yesterday’s Super Bowl game: Russell Wilson is the only quarterback with his stats to play in that game and not be named “Most Valuable Player.” This is not mere speculation; these guys are pros who do this for a living and they are armed with a veritable mountain of statistics to support their claim.  Wilson passed for over 206 yards, two touchdowns, no interceptions and no sacks!  Hence I could not agree with them more.  They are spot on.

Beyond the hard statistics there are the intangibles such as his irrepressible optimism, brilliant decision making, mistake free play, maintaining his cool under pressure and the ability to inspire and rally his troops.  In terms of what is required in a winning quarterback, this kid has the right stuff…Russell Wilson is the real deal.  I would love to hear what the panel that selected the MVP used as their criteria.  Some people feel their decision was driven by racial resentments, and I must confess that the thought also crossed my mind.

Run or Pass…
Russell-Wilson V He does it all!

However after listening to Stephen A. on ESPN’s First Take this morning I am uncertain as to how much racism had to do with it.  Although it need not be either or…it could be a bit of both.  While Skip Bayless, a white sports reporter who partners with Stephen, A said he would have voted for Russ, Stephen A. thought the Seattle victory was totally the result of how the defense played.  This only confirms my long held opinion that he should stick to commenting on basketball…which is his true area of expertise.  Russell Wilson is the engine that fires the Seahawk wreaking machine.

With the Super Bowl victory Russell Wilson has won more games than any quarterback in the history of the National Football League over their first two years, yet our famous sports pundit Stephen A says he is “not a game changer.”  However Eric Davis, a former All-Pro cornerback looks at Wilson’s performance, pointing out the many third down conversions that resulted from great play by this quarter, by passing or running the ball, and scratches his head in puzzlement because several quarterbacks have won the MVP award with less impressive performances.  And he offers an explanation “I guess people just don’t see him as “that guy who can step in and save a game…but he does it all the time!”

The person who appears to be the least concerned with this question is Russell Wilson.  When asked about it he just laughs and with his customary grace and says it doesn’t matter, that he is happy for his team mate, Malcolm Smith, who plays on the defensive side of the ball, and talked about how great the defense played.  And then he says that he knows what his talents are, and he is quite satisfied with that.  He says that he views his role as a facilitator who distributes the ball to others to make plays.  With characteristic calm, Russell says he got what he really wanted: A Super Bowl Championship.

Of course, that’s the object of the game, and it is of greater value to a quarterback than any individual accolade. The gracious way he handled this historic victory, the magnitude of which was unimaginable to knowledgeable football fans, was the essence of the sporting ideal.   He is unflappable, a trait which is most obvious when he is questioned as to whether he was nervous before the game due to the pressure.  Russell flashed his boyish smile and said “I was never nervous and I didn’t feel any pressure.”

Russ Constantly Pays Homage to Dad
Russell and Dad Whose Wisdom shaped his Self-Concept

He went on to say that pressure was when his father was in lying a coma in the hospital dying and his mother was futilely trying to revive him.  “That was pressure, football is fun.  It’s what I love to do.”  There is a simple honesty about this kid that leaves no doubt in my mind that he is telling the truth.

I kept thinking that whatever those who chose the Most Valuable Player were using as a measuring stick they got it wrong.  The Seahawks could easily have won this game without Malcolm Smith’s contribution, as exciting as it was, but they could not have won without Russell Wilson…which in my estimation makes him the Most Valu Player.

His coach says that the things people look at who evaluate his quarterback are irrelevant, because he feels that Russell is at the center of all that they do.  “Russell never turned the ball over once in the playoffs…that’s big time football”  So in choosing the Most Valuable Player I ask the same question Wilson’s beloved father, who taught him the game: Why not Russ?


Double Click On Link
To see why Russell Wilson should have been MVP
Playthell G. Benjamin
Harlem, New York
The Morning after the Super Bowl 2014


Posted in On Sports! with tags , , , , on February 2, 2014 by playthell

Russell wilson III

Russell Wilson: Magician at Work

 Spinning That Old Black Magic that he Weaves so Well

The reason I’m going against the smart money and picking the Seattle Seahawks to win the Super Bowl is because of Russell Wilson. I find it amusing that among those who give the Seahawks a chance to win they quickly point to the play of running back Marshawn Lynch, or cornerback Dick Sherman.  While no knowledgeable observer can minimize the importance of Lynch running over people in “Beast Mode” or Sherman and “The Legion of Boom,” as hard hitting ball hawking defensive backfield of Seattle is known, it wouldn’t mean a thing without the spectacular play of quarterback Russell Wilson.

In sports you are what the numbers say you are, and the numbers say that Russell Wilson – along with Ben Roethlisberger of Pittsburg – is the winnings quarterback in the history of the game over their first two years in the pros.   And as coach Herman Edwards points out: “you play the game to win!”  Hence I find it beyond annoying to listen to the chatter of those who want to talk about things like total passing yards which, if it does not put you in the championship game and you win it is an irrelevant statistic, a meaningless ornament.

Such numbers would insure a championship if they were engaging in a passing contest where the objective was to test passing skill, but if it does not lead to victory in a football game its much ado about nothing.  This self- evident fact manages to escape many of the sports pundits that dominate the discussion evaluating quarterbacks.  In the case of Peyton Manning, the Quarterback Wilson will be facing in the Super Bowl, the tremendous numbers in the passing game has put him in the Championship game, and we shall see if he wins it.

However Peyton puts up tremendous passing statistics every year, but in over a decade in the league he has gone to the Super Bowl only twice and won it only once.  Russell Wilson, a third round draft choice who was originally intended to be nothing more than a bench warmer to the starter, won the starting job in practice and took the Seahawks to the playoffs for the first time in years during his rookie year.  Now, in only his second season, he has guided his team to the Super Bowl…and there is no question that without spectacular plays from him they would not be there.

Although it was a great play from cornerback Richard Sherman that won the game which put them there, without some great throws from Wilson, made possible by his spellbinding ability to run around outside the pocket and give his receivers an opportunity to make big plays, they would be sitting home watching San francisco in the Super Bowl.  Russell is also very fast and the threat of his keeping the ball and running downfield provides opportunities for the powerful and elusive running back Marshan Lynch to make plays.

They run the “read option” better than anyone in the NFL, and if the defense loads the box to stop Lynch from running up the middle, or going off tackle, Russell will keep the ball and burn them by running outside. And if the defense concentrates on stopping the run, Russell will scorch them with passes down field.  A myth has developed that Seattle cannot put points on the board, but I will remind such critics that this is a team that scored fifty points in back to back games this season.

He’s a Dangerous Passer too!

russell-wilson IV

He makes some great throws…and rarely throws picks

By any objective measure Russell Wilson is special, a little man in a big man’s game; a marvel in a league filled with gifted athletes – a stand out amidst a spectacular collection of driven personalities striving to always perform on the highest level.  The uniqueness of their talent is verified by the millions of dollars they are paid to perform, and the multitudes who spend hours watching them do what they do…ranging from the presidents and kings, wise men and fools, plutocrats and paupers.

The importance of sport as the measure of the character of a society was demonstrated by CLR James, one of the most original political theorist and cultural critics of the twentieth century, in his path breaking book on the British sport of Cricket.  After studying the game as a reflection of the values of the Victorian society in which the game was perfected he remarked “He knows no Cricket Who Only Cricket Knows.”

The same thing can surely be said about American football, for there is no truer reflection of the values cherished by most Americans.  That’s why major college football games often resemble some form of pagan religious ritual and pro football seem like symbolic warfare between city-states.  However since I have already written about this elsewhere I shall simply quote from that earlier essay “On the Cusp of History,” which was written when two black coaches – Tony Dungy and Lovey Smith confronted each other in the Super Bowl for the first and only time.

One cannot fully understand Americans and our society if one does not understand the game of football.   It is no accident that football is the most popular national sport…Football is the perfect metaphor for American civilization.  If Jazz, our nation’s great contribution to fine art, embodies the best American values – love of liberty, exaltation of democracy, and promotion of invention – football symbolizes some of our fundamental vices: the conquest of land through organized aggressiveness, and imposing our will on weaker adversaries by brute force.  The teams are organized like military platoons and their tactics are described in military metaphors, with the quarterbacks routinely referred to as “field generals” and the long pass labeled “the bomb!”  

Thus football is the ideal sport for a civilization born of genocide and slavery, a nation whose national anthem is a war song, and whose symbol as a nation is a vicious bird of prey – the great Bald Eagle!  And it is no accident that the Bald Eagle resides in the West, that theater of some of the bloodiest American aggressions fueled by a hunger for other peoples land.  It is also the incubator of the great American myth of “Manifest Destiny” and the noble mountain man and cowboy, those paragons of American “rugged individualism “- an ideal which is embodied in the football player for many fans. “

Thus one could argue that football is a steam valve that allows Americans to vent their aggressive impulses on the playing fields, which is certainly preferable to violent crime, civil conflict, or war.  And when the game is represented by a mild mannered well-spoken gentleman like Russell Wilson, who embodies the essence of sport – to lose without rancor and win with grace – it can indeed become a cathartic experience for some violence prone personalities in our midst who might otherwise commit aggressive acts if there were no football games to watch.

Both Russell Wilson and Peyton Manning are soft spoken sportsmen who did not come up in the hard way that makes some football players potential felons if not saved by the game.  Hence their play is not fueled by anger or rage.  Peyton Manning grew up the son of a pro-quarterback, Archie Manning of the New Orleans Saints, and lived a life of fame and fortune in one of America’s most beautiful cities.  Russell Wilson grew up in a family that treasured education and intelligence.

His grandfather and grandmother on his father’s side held PhD’s and his father was a Dartmouth grad and college football star who went on to a distinguished law career in Richmond Virginia.  It is from his father, that he learned the game of football and acquired his tenacity, mental toughness, work ethic and eternal optimism.  As a wide receiver good enough to get a tryout with a pro team Russell’s dad knew all the throws a quarterback would have to master in order to play at the highest level, and he was running routes for Russell to throw since he was a little boy.

This is why Russell never gets rattled when the game is on the line; it’s like he has ice water flowing in his veins as he calmly makes great plays where others might lose their poise.  And he does it over and over again!  He is highly intelligent and supremely self-confident without being braggadocios, barely ever raising his voice. But he is an extremely competitive and gifted athlete who was  good enough at baseball to have played the game professionally.  Unlike most players, he loves to come from behind with the clock running out.  With his ability to run, throw, and improvise while thinking on his feet….it is no wonder that Russell Wilson’s nickname is DANGEROUS!

A True Dual Threat

Russell wilson II

Pick Yo Poison!


Double Click on Link to watch Russell “The Magician”
Witness a quarterback that can do it all!!!!
Listen to Wilson discuss quarterback play with coach Gruden
Witness wilson’s high intelligence and supreme confidence
Playthell G. Benjamin
Harlem, New York
Super Sunday 2014

Johnny Mack’s on the Attack!

Posted in Cultural Matters, On Sports! with tags , on January 28, 2014 by playthell

John McCain

 McCain in Beast Mode

 Is this Senator Suffering from Penis Envy?

When I first heard John McCain’s attack on star NFL cornerback Richard Sherman, trashing the entire Seattle Seahawks football team, my immediate response was “What tha fug is he doing jumping on that bandwagon?”  Why is he joining an attack on this young football player whose offense pales into insignificance when compared to the racist assault that has been launched against him by white football fans after a trash talking tirade against Michael Crabtree, a receiver on the San Francisco 49ers, whose lack of sportsmanship in defeat sparked the confrontation.

 What is even more grievous than  a sitting US Senator, who is old enough to be their grandfather, calling them names on national media, is the fact that Johnny Mack never even bothered to get his facts straight. It was enough that he saw a young black buck – which is the way old crackers talk when they are among themselves – asserting himself in an aggressive way. Considering the senator’s silence about the rampant violence in hockey, a virtually all white sport, it must be the sex and race thing that’s got him in hissy fit.  Like my grandfather would say: “dat boy’s out there cutting tha fool in public.”

These guys, rightwing Republicans, just can’t help them self, they really don’t like Afro-American men:  That’s why all the black men in the Grand Obstructionist Party are poot-butts and pussies!  Considering the outright disdain that the Republicans hold for any black person who dares to speak about the rampant racism and economic inequity that is institutionalized in the US, only a self-effacing coon could find a home in the GOP.  That’s why they all come across as grotesqueries. – like that crewcut-wearing lunatic Alan West, or that obsequious lickspittle Tim Scott.

I have not heard a peep out of any black Republican, although the Senator’s statement was clearly racist.  McCain left little doubt about his feelings when he held the blond golden boy Peyton Manning up as a model of virtue, denouncing Richard Sherman and all of his team mates as thugs.  Hence the senator has cast the two football teams in stark Manichean terms with the white guy symbolizing virtue and the black players as villains. He could not have been more obvious had he spelled it out by writing it in the sky.

The entire kerfuffle over Sherman’s trash talking after making the play that sent his team to the Super Bowl is absurd.  In a country where the World Wrestling Association and cage fighting are big business, the outrage over a little trash talking at the end of a football game makes no sense if the race and gender of Richard Sherman is removed from the equation.

One need only read the virulent racist rants – calling him a nigger and a monkey characterizes the bulk of the comments…and some have called for his death, even said they hope he runs into George Zimmerman!  The entire episode reveals the torrent of rancid racism that lies just beneath the placid surface of an American society which the racist right says is “post-racial.”

The experience of Richard Sherman is especially troubling because he is everything American society prizes.  He is a law abiding young man who worked himself up from an impoverished inner city neighborhood in Los Angeles, wisely avoiding all of the pitfalls that destroyed so many of his peers.  He graduated second in his class in high school and then went on to earn a degree from Stanford while starring on the football field. He is the personification of the American dream.

Sherman switched positions as a college senior and in a few short years has become the best in the NFL at one of the most demanding positions in football.  Sherman is tall, dark, handsome, elegant, eloquent, and a millionaire mega-star.  Its easy enough to explain the source of the smoldering hatred directed against him by working class white sports fans: The big boob blond white girls they have wet dreams about are having wet dreams about black Richard with the lion’s mane!

Yet the question remains: In the midst of this madness, with these atrocious assaults on a 25 year old young man who by all objectives is a splendid fellow that I would be proud to call my son, why is John McCain, a rich over-privileged old white fart, joining in the media lynching? I believe it’s because he is a very unhappy man; a sad old cracker who has a serious problem with assertive athletic young black men who attended elite universities….and are the best at what they do. Maybe they remind him to much of that young smartass silver tongued black guy who whipped his ass in the presidential race.

While he he may look enormously successful to most people – rich blond wife, seat in the US Senate, celebrated war hero, more mansions than he can remember – I believe the Mack Man feels like a bit of a failure.  When he looks in the mirror he sees something different from those looking over his shoulder.  It’s the half empty, half full enigma.

The truth is that John McCain has failed at the things that are most important to him.  What he wanted most was to rise higher in the world than his father and grandfather, to move out of their shadow and cast his own.  Hence he followed them into the profession of arms, but didn’t even have the gumption to enter a different branch of the service.  Since he became a flyer, it would have made better sense to join the Air Force than the Navy.  Alas, if Johnny Mack had gone into the Air Force rather than the Navy he would have had to get in on his own merit!

The son and grandson of Admirals, each of whom had a wartime command and served with distinction, John McCain aspired to the same status when he joined the Navy air corps.  Evidently a mediocre pilot – he graduated from Annapolis at the bottom of his class – McCain wrecked a jet plane during an exercise, and then he got shot down over Vietnam. He was held in captivity for the balance of the Vietnam war and squealed like a pig!

A less well connected Swabbie might have been Court Martialed for giving “aid and comfort to the enemy.”  Hence his chance at military glory as a combat officer went down the drain.  And he acts as if he has been looking to start a war in order to experience the thrill of victory ever since.

Shot Down
Mccain in 1967-vietnam_
Captured by the Vietnamese 

Unable to match the success of his pop and grand pop in the military, Johnny Boy decided to go into politics, because the only way he could rise above their pay grade in the military establishment is to become Commander-In-Chief!   But when he ran for president, cast as the silver haired war hero and paterfamilias of the nation, he picked a motor mouth barbarian from the Alaskan wilds as his running mate.  He made a shameless Faustian bargain in the hope of victory that would have put an irrational dumb bell, Sarah Palin, a heartbeat away from the most powerful office in the world.  Even so, he got his assed kicked bigtime by a mouthy, brilliant, Harvard trained black guy!

That was the stake through the heart that is still driving him batty.  I heard on the Washington grapevine that the Great Mack Daddy took the defeat so badly he used to wonder out loud if his balls were as big as Barack’s.  And it is only natural that, when he compares Cindy to Michelle – one a rich, white, pampered, spoiled, dope fiend; the other a daughter of the black working class with an undergraduate degree from Princeton and a Harvard Law Degree, just like her honey in the Oval Office – despite Cindy’s millions Johnny Mack must feel cheated in a wife.

Finally, there is McCain’s curious silence on the ongoing sexual assaults on women serving in the US military; there you have some real criminal thugs.  But John has been silent as a butterfly pissing in the breeze regarding the behavior of his fellow white brass!  Once again he reveals himself to be a shameless hypocrite!  Thus it is reasonable to conclude that there is no question of principle or proprietary involved here. I suspect that Richard Sherman is just a nameless, faceless, black guy upon whom McCain projected all of his hostilities and angst toward President Obama……he may even be suffering from penis envy!

Richard Sherman
 Richard Sherman
The Best in the Business!!!


Playthell G. Benjamin

Harlem, New York

January 28, 2014


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