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Category: Sports

The Celtic Ripper

I got a high-end chef’s knife and a Bill Russell #6 Celtics jersey for Xmas. I will henceforward be known as The Celtic Ripper. Beware!

Click to enrippen.

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Small world moments

Several things happened today that reminded me how we’re all connected.

First, a poem I wrote ended up on a show I love, The Basketball Jones. The poem was inspired by a line one of the hosts said on the show and I Tweeted him about it. I certainly never expected it would be read on the show. The reading was hilarious, as were the hosts’ comments afterward.

Second, in the comments for that episode of the show, one of the viewers said that in addition to The Basketball Jones, his other favorite show is The Jazz Session. How crazy is that?

Finally, I went to a job counseling meeting yesterday that was part of the requirements for my unemployment benefits. Today I got an email from a guy saying that he was sitting behind me at the session yesterday and that he’s a fan of and follows me on Twitter.

Totally crazy.


POEM: tell the story when the ball is in the air

Listen to this poem using the player above.

The title of this poem comes from a surprising place — 3:03 into this episode of The Basketball Jones. Tas Melas says it, and based on J.E. Skeets’ reaction, I think it may be something originally said by Stan Van Gundy. In any case, as soon as Tas yelled the line, I paused the show and wrote the poem. It just about wrote itself. This is not, of course, a poem about basketball. Like much of what I write, it took a turn into Relationshipland.

On a side note, if you’re a basketball fan, The Basketball Jones is a must-see show.

tell the story when the ball is in the air

not after she’s left and the crowd goes home
tell it when he can still be the last-second hero
a hometown Jesus on the shoulders of adoring men
tell the story before she cried, before he made her
tell it while the boy in the nosebleeds
clutches a program to his chest and yells because
this is what men do
tell the story so we can all cheer and buy the jersey
so we can tell the guys at the bar that we were there
tell the story when the ball is in the air


POEM: Weight (November Poem-A-Day 16)

Listen to this poem using the player above.

This is poem #16 for the November Poem-A-Day challenge. The prompt was to write a “stacking” or “unstacking” poem. I struggled with it until this evening when I was re-watching Unforgivable Blackness – The Rise and Fall of Jack Johnson, a documentary about the first black heavyweight boxing champion, Jack Johnson. Then this came to me.

(for Jack Johnson)

in this pile are:

nearly one million gallons of African blood

enough wood to put a COLORED sign on every water fountain

with enough trees left over to hang those three-quarter people from

ten thousand or ten times ten thousand children ripped from their mothers

blood snap of the leather whip on the backs of who knows how many

no one knows how many becaue no one bothered to count

and I ask you:

what does this pile weigh?

and who is strong enough to lift it?

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POEM: Cheerleader

Listen to this poem using the player above.

This is not part of the November poem-a-day thing. I wrote it at the basketball game tonight.


I am waving.
I am waving.
I am waving.
No one is waving back.

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BOOK REVIEW: Dock Ellis in the Country of Baseball

Donald Hall, one of the country’s great poets, writes with passion about Dock Ellis, one of baseball’s most colorful figures. If all you know about Dock Ellis is that he once pitched a no-hitter on LSD, then you need to read this book and learn the other 90% of his story. And if you, like me, have never heard of Dock Ellis at all, Hall’s engrossing account will acquaint you with a man who deserves wider recognition, as much for his constant support of the black community and his commitment to fighting drug addiction as for his on-field stats. Highly recommended.

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Brother of the Fist: The Passing of Peter Norman

This is from the always provocative sports writer and cultural commentator Dave Zirin. I don’t see it on his Web site, which is at If it gets posted there, I’ll take this down and provide a link. In the meantime, Dave’s words are worth reading:


Brother of the Fist: The Passing of Peter Norman By Dave Zirin

Almost four decades later, the image can still make hairs rise on unsuspecting necks. It’s 1968, and 200 meter gold medalist Tommie Smith stands next to bronze winner John Carlos, their raised black gloved fists smashing the sky on the medal stand in Mexico City. They were Trojan Horses of Rage — bringing the Black
revolution into that citadel of propriety and hypocrisy: the Olympic games.

When people see that image, their eyes are drawn like magnets toward Smith and Carlos, standing in black socks, their heads bowed in controlled concentration.

Less noticed is the silver medalist. He is hardly mentioned in official retrospectives, and people assume him to be a Forrest Gump-type figure, just another of those unwitting witnesses to history who always end up in the back of famous frames. Only the perceptive notice that this seemingly anonymous individual is wearing a rather large button emblazoned with the letters O-P-H-R, standing for the Olympic Project for Human Rights.

Only those who see the film footage notice that he never throws a furtive glance back at fellow medal winners as they raise their fists. He never registers surprise or alarm. At a moment that epitomized the electric shock of rebellion, his gaze is cool, implacable, his back ramrod straight, a fellow soldier proud to stand with his brothers.

Only those who go beyond official history will learn about the true motivations of all three of these men. They wanted the apartheid countries of South African
and Rhodesia to be disallowed from the Olympics. They wanted more coaches of African descent. They wanted the world to know that their success did not mean
racism was now a relic of history. The silver medalist with the white skin stood with Smith and Carlos on every question and it was agreed before the race, that
if the three, as expected, were the ones on the dais, they would stand together: three young anti-racists standing together in struggle.

That silver medalist with the nerves of steel and thirst for justice was Australian runner Peter Norman. Norman died of a heart attack last week at the age of
64 and Monday was put to rest.

Two people who knew the depth and conviction of Norman’s solidarity were the two who acted as lead pallbearers at his funeral: Tommie Smith and John
Carlos. Over the years the three men had stayed connected, welded together by history and the firestorm they all faced when the cameras were turned

The backlash endured by Smith and Carlos is well documented. Less known are Norman’s own travails. He was a pariah in the Australian Olympic world, despite
being a five-time national champion in the 200 meters. He desired to coach the highest levels, yet worked as a Physical Education teacher, the victim of a down
under blacklist.

As John Carlos said, “At least me and Tommie had each other when we came home. When Peter went home, he had to deal with a nation by himself. He never wavered, never denied that he was up there with us for a purpose and he never said ‘I’m sorry’ for his involvement. That’s indicative of who the man was.” ”

When the 2000 Olympics came to Sydney, Norman was outrageously outcast from the festivities, still the invisible man. In a conversation at that time with
sportswriter Mike Wise, Norman was absent of bitterness and wore his ostracism as proudly as that solidarity button from 1968. “I did the only thing I believed was right,” he said to Wise. “I asked what they wanted me to do to help. I couldn’t see why a black man wasn’t allowed to drink out of the same water fountain or sit in the same bus or go to the same schools as a white guy. That was just social injustice that I couldn’t do anything about from where I was, but I certainly abhorred it.”

Norman never strayed from a life of humility. When a sculpture was unveiled of Smith and Carlos last year in California, Norman was left off, the silver medal
platform purposely vacant so others could stand in his place. Smith and Carlos protested it, feeling it fed the false idea of Norman as political bystander. But Norman himself who traveled from Australia to California for the unveiling said, “I love that idea. Anybody can get up there and stand up for something they believe in. I guess that just about says it all.”

Norman didn’t define himself by self-promotion, book deals, or the lecture circuit — only by the quiet pride that he was a part of a movement much bigger
than himself. By happily surrendering his personal glory to the greater good, Norman earned the love and respect of his peers.

As Carlos said about sudden passing of the man his children called Uncle Pete, “Peter was a piece of my life. When I got the call, it knocked the wind out of
me. I was his brother. He was my brother. That’s all you have to know.”

Dave Zirin is the author of “‘What’s My Name Fool?’: Sports and Resistance in the United States” (Haymarket Books) You can receive his column Edge of Sports, every week by e-mailing Contact him at

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Iron Man (no, not that one)

My good friend Stephanie Lovato sends this from down south:

For those of you who have the OLN network (actually, formerly OLN…it is now “Versus” network or something), Ironman Arizona is being televised tomorrow (Sunday, October 8th) at 3pm ET. It will be aired again on Monday at 4pm, and Wednesday at 5pm (all eastern times). I thought this might be of interest because my brother was the winner there this year (so I am quite proud), and usually they do a pretty good job of making the coverage interesting and fairly quick (a 9 hour race in less than an hour!) Anyway, I know it interferes with football tomorrow, but if you feel like flipping channels to check it out… do it!

Stephanie is very hip and so is her brother, seen below winning the race. So tune in!


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Vallow saves two PK’s … and we still lose?


What a nail-biter at PAETEC Park tonight. The Rochester Rhinos played the New England Revolution of MLS in the U.S. Open Cup, the oldest continuous cup competition in any sport in the U.S. After 90 minutes of regulation and 30 minutes of overtime, the score was tied at 0-0. It was on to penalty kicks. Rhinos goalkeeper Scott Vallow saved the first TWO penalty kicks, which in almost any game means that’s all she wrote. Then two Rhinos players missed their shots, and we ended up losing to the Revolution. Oy!

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Jacques Chirac, head-butter

What a difference a good copy editor makes. This New York Times story on the Zinedine Zidane head-butt incident contains a photo with the following caption:

As Italy celebrated, France wondered why Zinédine Zidane, with President Jacques Chirac, head-butted an opponent.

Unless the secret agents of a shady global conspiracy edited out the footage of Chirac joining Zidane in his whacking of Materazzi, I think that caption may need a little tinkering.

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Ghana 2 – 1 United States

Clint Dempsey, who scored the only U.S. goal of the World Cup.

And that’s the way the ball bounces. The U.S. Men’s National Team is leaving the 2006 World Cup after an exceedingly craptacular game against the Czech Republic, a heroic match against Italy, and a match against Ghana that featured some spirited play by the same chronic trouble putting the ball in the back of the net.

I hate to say that the refereeing cost us the game, because our play on the field is what cost us the game. That said, the call against Onyewu was a bad call. It wasn’t even a foul, let alone worthy of a penalty kick.

I watched the game in a packed Monty’s Korner here in Rochester. The place went nuts when Clint Dempsey scored his fabulous goal. Then it was as if someone had thrown a heavy blanket over the crowd, as the shouts and chants were instantly muffled by the penalty kick.

I’ve always said that my soccer loyalty comes in three levels: first, the US Men’s National Team; second, the MetroStars (now Red Bulls); and third, the Rochester Rhinos. It’s sad to see the U.S. exit in the first round, but exciting to think about all the great soccer to come at every level.

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