life matters

life matters.

subject: life

verb: matters

whenever i see characters on tv or in movies submerged under water, i instinctively hold my breath for the majority of the scene (which may explain why i blacked out when trying to watch spongebob). i won’t realize i’m doing it until i get light headed – that’s how natural it is for my body to fight to live.

life matters. if you are in a burning building, how quickly do you exit? during severe weather, are you walking the dog or seeking shelter? if a car skids off the road in front of you, do you stop to help or at least mumble ‘i hope they’re ok?’

our initial instinct is to preserve and defend life – our own and of others. it can show in parents staring at the baby monitor even though everything is fine, the fact that life preservers dot the sides of boats and pools, and our own fight or flight response.


check it – sports do not matter. they don’t. we call them ‘games’ and the verb associated with them is ‘play.’ sports are an escape – a valuable one, a place where we can learn about and express ourselves through our own competition or being a fan.

sports bring together a nation – the biggest churches on sundays are nfl stadiums, where gladiators and the shield are worshiped (or booed). but the games themselves do not matter at all not one bit. everyone goes home once the clock hits zero.

life is what matters.

a symbol is meaningless if it cannot be understood (i mean, that’s why it’s important to be able to read, ya know?) or if it does not represent the audience.

the greatness of this nation, in principle, is that it is built to be open to interpretation. that is why we are, in theory, a free people, why speech and religion and the press are protected for all citizens.

so we can say and show what we think, feel, and believe.

i’m beyond tired of waking up to the news of another unarmed or unaggressive black man being shot by officers sworn to protect and serve. and i’m damn sure a lot of other people are, too.

there is no ‘but’ or ‘yeah, ok, but what about ______’ in this place.

life matters, period. the life of people and of person. colin kaepernick kneels because he believes life matters and believes, urgently, an earnest and paradigm altering conversation must take place.

considering i’m a middle class white dude, and *i* get nervous imagining myself kneeling during the anthem at an nc state game and the repercussions i might bring upon myself, i see kaepernick as one of the bravest living men in our nation.

he threatened his job security (he’s a backup and nfl contracts are not guaranteed – he could have been immediately cut and blackballed, for all he knew), his safety (he is receiving death threats) and drawing the ire of police sworn to protect (who have threatened not to provide off duty officers to provide security at games until he stands for the anthem).

love is love and love is courageous when love corrects instead of standing idly by. a family that has an intervention for an alcoholic does not hate that person – there is so much love that there is willingness to sacrifice comfort now for a greater

wait for it




in the future.

kaepernick is a patriot because he stands for life for his people and does not cower. kinda sounds like the dudes who threw all that tea into boston harbor because they weren’t represented.

i, too, will kneel, and no, that act unto itself will change nothing, but it will also open up conversations and, honestly, it will just help me sleep a little better to have expressed what i believe as opposed to what others think i should believe and do.

what does the hawk say?

athletes are entertainers.

right? no matter what ‘else’ they are – role models, inspirations, symbols of nations, to name a few – what they do is entertain.

within the context of their professions,

athletes do not build, do not teach, do not invent. between the lines, they contribute (wonderfully!) to their communities by providing entertainment; entertainment based between those lines and governed by rules that cease to exist outside the chalk.

the language we use around and about athletes serves my point – athletes play.  we name them ‘players.’

‘my favorite worker is lebron!’

sounds a little odd, i think.

athletes are for show.  for spectacle.  that’s why the games (games! not ‘works!’) are played in stadiums with seats around them, televised for the world to see. i do not curse an inability to get a wifi signal of espn3 at a wedding reception because i intend to be bored.

let’s be real, folks – don’t nobody watch cspan. even our ‘reality’ shows are more scripted than sports.  sports are where we go to watch, to be entertained, to unwind with friends, to celebrate things that don’t really matter because they (sports and our athletes) are a part of our culture, region, but do not dictate things like taxes, fixing the potholes down the block or reenergizing a stagnant economy.

* * *

candidates for political office, men and women who hope to lead in local, state, and national governance of us, the people, insult their competition, down talk those across the aisle, tell half-truths,

but heaven forbid

a player

say something wildly entertaining *moments* after the most important ‘play’ of his career. appalling, isn’t it, a man telling the truth about how he feels in the moment?

richard sherman, standford grad (in three years, phi beta kappa), entertainer, is a thug because he *backed up his talk* and was, i dunno, excited or something.

* * *

the things I’ve said on roller coasters, in games of pickup basketball (i once threatened to break a kid’s nose i’d never met before. now we’re friends. we both know i’d have done it) to my friends while joking, make sherman’s interview with erin andrews play like an acceptance speech in sweden.

i’m really glad people haven’t judged me based only on those moments, the tiniest of windows of me.

or the selfies i take.

* * *

really, i adore russell wilson (i refer to the seahawks as ‘the fighting russell wilsons’), but the viral image comparing his instagram feed to kaepernick’s is eerie and i felt a little icky that it got so much attention. besides the muted potential racism of the selected pictures

(a keyword, here, is ‘selected.’  this was put together by a seahawk fan who, clearly, had a little bias going)

showing wilson with smiling white people and kaepernick with straight-faced black people doing stereotypical ‘black’ or self absorbed things (the club!!!! shirtless!!!!! shoes!!!!), it was just . . . weird.

so, here’s the image, again – created by a seahawks fan, pulled from the huffington post (my mom is thrilled by my use of this source, i’m sure):


‘boy, joel, that looks pretty bad.  kaepernick sure looks like a scary black man who i shouldn’t trust or support in a game of football!’

aha!  well, in the honor of saying we shouldn’t judge people based on snapshots of themselves, much like i think it’s plumb crazy to judge richard sherman for his 12 second sound bite, i provide a second image, also pulled from the huffington post.  this image was put together by a 49ers fan, and, what i think is pretty cool, doesn’t find pictures of wilson that intend to denigrate him.  the new image simply provides better partner photos to the pictures of wilson from the first image.  for your viewing pleasure, please scroll down to see the second image.


see?  smiling white people!  he’s not that bad of a guy!  (it would take way too long to delve into the fact that accepted ‘better’ picture is a bunch of whities.  let’s just say it’s noticed and is evidence that the whole ‘race thing’ isn’t really over, and then let me kind of get back to my point that i’m not really sure i’m making)

* * *

i’m white, i smile a lot, i have a baby girl, i’m married to a half-peruvian white woman who teaches third grade, i’m about to finish (or my wife thinks i am) a master’s degree, i have been a teacher, i write poetry and shamelessly plug myself,

and (not ‘but’ – this is in addition to, not a contradiction of myself.  ‘but’ negates or cheapens whatever came before it in a sentence.  if someone uses that word, he or she didn’t really mean whatever was said before the conjunction)

i take pictures of my shoes when i get new pairs. i take shirtless pics *all the time* and try to send them to my wife when they would embarrass her. i don’t have pictures of me visiting a cancer ward because i haven’t done it. i once tweeted a picture of a handgun (bad. bad. bad idea, as the raleigh police knocking at my door told me) next to a peanut butter sandwich i made when i thought i heard a noise one late night, didn’t, and got hungry.

am i a thug?  (don’t answer that, james)

is richard sherman a thug because he owned michael crabtree and let us know? is kaepernick a worse person (how do we even qualify that? i’d imagine the image comparison made wilson uncomfortable once he learned about it) than russell wilson?  why is so much energy spent judging these men in tiny, tiny windows?


these men are entertainers.

they are role models outside the lines, coaches outside the lines, ambassadors outside the lines.

between chalk and chalk, though

they play, i watch, i try not to drop my baby.

so, on the day celebrating a man who challenged racial expectations within our nation, who changed our world by telling the truth, i beg richard sherman (please don’t be lazy and think i’m saying sherman is a parallel to King Jr), an entertainer saturday night (not an activist or candidate for governor – and i’d consider voting for him),

preach on, and also let your play (play!) do the talking.