“Ballers” on a budget:a review

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Pictured:"Ballers" Executive Producer Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson and Executive Producer/Show Creator Mark Wahlberg

By Ashanti C. Bradshaw

In a post-“Entourage” world, many people were left with a void so big that only Drama’s ego could fill it.

Enter Ricky Jarrett.

Ricky is the young, hungry WR whose off-the-field antics leave him to be a less-than desired acquisition for any NFL team which is a story as old as time:player’s highly talented but is his rep worth the risk long-term?

Welcome to “Ballers”, HBO’s new Saturday night dramedy from “Entourage” creator Mark Wahlberg (whom the show’s premise was also loosely based upon). This is a program whose premise isn’t all that new to viewers, the characters as well as their storylines all mirror what plays out in the NFL on a daily basis:from newly drafted players yet to realize how, if done smartly, spending wisely benefits them greatly (meaning keep everyone except only the best accountant out of your wallet, Vernon) down to how not investing wisely will leave you scrambling for financial security and relevance post-football(Sorry it had to be you, Charlie).

Sensing a theme here?
Right. Wu-Tang Financial said it best “Diversity Yo Bonds!” Truer words have never been spoken……seriously.

What I do find interesting is that “Ballers” only has black players in the main cast, which sadly is no different than what we’ve come to know about players entering/currently playing in/retired from the NFL but a part of me thought that Wahlberg and his writing ta would’ve thought outside the box just a bit on this one. Why players aren’t taught early on about how to properly handle their finances to avoid the pitfalls of poverty is beyond me, it’s a pattern with black players and I had hoped we’d get a little bit of variety with this primary cast.

I will say that I like Johnson’s character (Spencer) deciding to take initiative on shouldering responsibilty as Vernon’s agent and Ricky’s consultant, though I can’t quite pinpoint just yet which of the two needs the most help from him. His intents and motives show that his concern  comes from a genuine place, definitely not something you see or often hear about in the NFL regarding retired players helping current ones. It’d be great if life imitated art but for now all we can do is sit back and let fiction unfold as the season goes on.

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Hawks bottle Lightning, Win Series 2-0

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3 in 6 mafia

By Ashanti C. Bradshaw

The Chicago Blackhawks defeated the Tampa Bay Lightning at the United Center 2-0 to earn their third Stanley Cup in 6 years. Duncan Keith was the proud recipient of the 2015 Conn Smythe Most Valuable Player Award, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman was met with jeers and boos while declaring this a “dynasty” for the Hawks. Hawks Goaltender Corey Crawford, who didn’t allow a third-period goal in the last three games of the series and gave up only two total goals in those games, tied Tony Esposito for Most Playoff Wins In Franchise History at 45.

It was later reported that Tampa Bay Goaltender Ben Bishop olayed tonight with a torn groin, an injury he sustained during Game 2, and Lightning’s leading goal scorer Tyler Johnson played with a broken wrist.

After a day marred with tornado sirens, hard rains, and heavy flooding that delayed the award presentation a bit it didn’t stop Lord Stanley from arriving and making his presence known to the awaiting crowd of 22K fans at the Madhouse On Madison.

I would like to close this out by taking a moment to say my thoughts are with Stan Mikita and his family, who earlier today was reported as battling “supposed dementia”. If you’ve ever witnessed an older relative dealing with an affliction such as this it resonates with you. Hopefully he was able to enjoy this win tonight as well.

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“Other side of the pillow” remains forever cool in honor of legendary ESPN journalist

Stuart Scott 1965 - 2015

Stuart Scott 1965-2015

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Welcome to the NFL and history books, Michael Sam

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Salud, indeed, young man

In one of the most prolific moves ever made in NFL draft history, with the 249th pick the St. Louis Rams selected Michael Sam.

To say that he was elated by this announcement would be an understatement. Surrounded by friends, family, and most notably his boyfriend (whose kiss has been replayed numerous times on ESPN and those who support Sam cannot get enough of the emotion behind it) Sam could barely contain the myriad of emotions that took over him since announcing publicly in November that he is gay.

Sam caught much criticism for his stalled performance at the NFL Combine earlier this spring, but the league continued saying that any team who drafted him would be doing so based solely on performance and not because of his sexual orientation.

Back in November I wrote about the NFL’s resistance to go forward with the inclusion of a homosexual player and I waa asked yesterday about two other players, both gay, who were never picked up by a team despite having gone through workouts and been considered worthy candidates if they had gone public would they had made the 53-man roster? Would drafting them come from pressure to not catch heat from LGBT groups or would it really be from teams liking ther on-field work?

No one’s certain on what those instances may or may not have birthed, the only real true focus is on going forward now with Sam and completing training camp. The sports world, meanwhile, will continue to Stand with Sam.

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The Brandon Marshall Foundation, OPI Go Green For Mental Health Awareness

Photo courtesy of The Brandon Marshall Foundation

Photo courtesy of The Brandon Marshall Foundation

By Ashanti Bradshaw

Ladies, we’re in the heart of the 2014 spring season and what better way to celebrate shaking off those cold shoulders than by getting a fresh mani-pedi right?

What if, at the same time, you were also able to bring attention to the disparities placed amongst those suffering from mental health issues by society’s many stigmas?

Well, now you can! Thanks to the brilliant minds at The Brandon Marshall Foundation, a non-profit headed by Bears Pro Bowl WR Brandon Marshall, his wife/VP/co-founder Michi Marshall and CEO Louis Correa, they’ve partnered with OPI to unveil today their newest color Crazy Stigma Green in honor of mental health awareness. Marshall created the foundation after being diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder in 2010, it was then that he and wife Michi decided to be the light for those who struggle daily with their own darkness like my 20-year-old cousin who’s now fighting schizophrenia.

So for a donation of just $25 or more you can make everyone green with envy as your fingers smile from their bright green hue, but you’ll also be doing something huge for the mental health community as your contribution (100% of it, none goes to an overhead) will help with furthering research, education, and treatment because a healthy mind is a happy mind and I don’t know about you but fresh pedicures make me happy. Green is also my favorite color so this bottle might not last the month of May & I will happily donate again and again and again. Perhaps Sephora might wanna carry it? Hmm…

For more information on The Brandon Marshall Foundation and to see what he and his crusaders are doing for the mental health community please visit TheBrandonMarshall.com, there you’ll also learn how you can get involved with volunteering your efforts as well as information on how to get help if you or someone you know is battling mental health.

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Men in the mirror-NFL’s real view on women and sports

You're best seen & not heard, don't forget to buy some PINK Bears cheekies!

You’re best seen & not heard, don’t forget to buy some PINK Bears cheekies!

By Ashanti Bradshaw

This has been a week shrouded with rather unflattering off-season news for two NFL superstars, one active and the other now contributes his time to the NFL Network (same network that thought bringing on a certain former Raider/Buccaneer blowhard/crumb snatcher/cancer amongst women would be a banner idea).

I know who they are. You know who they are but for laughs let’s just refer to them as Beavis & Butthead.  Why “Beavis & Butthead”, you say? I say “why not?”
                                                         
Beavis is currently facing 2 counts of allegedly drugging and raping 2 women, as if the Saints needed more negative exposure post-Bounty Gate. Meanwhile Butthead was spotted in a casino channeling his inner WWE entertainer by choke-slamming his fianceè (was The People’s Elbow not a good enough move to get your point across?) and dragging her.

I know you’re saying “Wow that’s digusting!” and I absolutely agree, this behavior has been going on for much longer than most would like to admit to. Some would ask “Is anything being done about it?” Well there is the Personal Conduct policy that players agree to, in no way do I feel domestic violence is covered the way it needs to be. This is a learned behavior, no one starts abusing women the minute that ink dries on their contract.

Even with the NFL launching tactics geared towards female fans, like the form-fitting jerseys and NFL apparel line found in stores like Victoria’s Secret, no amount of bejeweled pink jerseys or pink cleats for Breast Cancer Awareness Month is going to deflect my focus away from the fact that the league truly has no deep respect for women nor does it plan to even entertain trying to see us as anything but subserviant breeders who should only respond to “Kitchen, now!”.

Also consider the fact that famed tennis powerhouses, Venus and Serena Williams, are both minority owners of the Miami Dolphins, another team that had a whopper of a shadow cast upon it when the Incognito/Martin incident began. An incident that was rife with bigotry and racist names, which is ongoing in locker room culture but in the case of what the media has deemed a “bullying scandal” amongst the Dolphins’ club one could ask if the Williams sisters felt insulted by having players on the team who think so little about minorities(in this instance, women and blacks)? Do they even care this is tolerated? I’m sure they had an inkling as to what they were getting into before agreeing to take a stake in the franchise but I know that they’re really just “one of the gang” for the sake of exposure. No matter how that exposure makes you look.

Do I expect sweeping changes in response to the ongoing lapse in the league’s understanding of women & how it should be known from the front offices down to the mascots? Of course not. But I’m not going to act like  I’m not fully aware of how out of touch the NFL is & that they aren’t really ready for change, they’d just rather give the impression that they’re hip and cool and “down” when really they’re mumbling under their breath about your worthlessness simply because of who you are and that you exist.

Just as I mentioned in my previous piece “O Gay Brother, Where Art Thou?”, on the surface the league isn’t as ready for out & proud players as they want to elude to* just like they will never take women seriously. But so long as you’re willing to fork over all your money to help add to sales in NFL merch, then the greater good is beyond pleased and all that ugliness about how players treat/view women is swept under the proverbial team emblem-ladled rug….

….you know, til one of us is killed by a player. Maybe by accident, maybe for not staying in our place. But you know it’s coming. What’s that thing people say about history repeating itself & how “it has to get worse before it gets better”? Right. I would rather my extreme example not be the end result that shakes things up but clouds are also not made of cotton candy so all one (woman) really can do is pray to your religious deity (be it Jesus, Buddah, that shrine of Tom Brady complete with a lock of his hair and a pair of unworn classic UGGS, or Aquaman) and hope for the best.

* (UPDATE:as I wrote this news broke that the Brooklyn Nets will sign Jason Collins so I’ll definitely be watching to see what type of reception spawns from this)

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O Gay Brother, Where Art Thou?

By Ashanti Bradshaw

Mike Freeman of Bleacher Report released an article Wednesday on the current status on homosexuality in the NFL and the stalemate between two unidentified players who are, not only ready to be signed and play football, they’re ready to announce to fans and players of the NFL that they’re gay.

Why is it stalled? Simply put:fear.

At a time when states are finally realizing the importance of same-sex marriage to their everyday livelihoods, the NFL says that it’s ready to embrace gay players but deep-down it isn’t nearly as ready as it thinks. For example, the instability of the Dolphins’ locker room and how it now paints a grim picture on locker room culture. For a male already having to struggle with gaining judgement-free acceptance from society, hoping to get anything close to the same brotherly protection his hetero counterparts have reads like a pipe dream.

I commend the optimism in those still wanting to embrace these men into a league shrouded by that brute, simplistic Old World mentality when it comes to the sexuality of others. They fully intend to lead by example because as the years change so does that of the mindset of generations to come.

Some currently active players come from upbringings that either taught tolerance of others or shared ignorance, many of whom have personal experiences based solely on what the male figures in their lives deemed as “feminine behavior” or “not of God’s will”, a.k.a. “The Adam & Eve, Not Adam & Steve Mentality”. This starts at home, bleeds into college and develops over many lifetimes.

Individual tolerance starts at that very point, on an individual level. Only this one person can decide for themselves if they will open their heart and mind to many differences including cultures and sexualities, the world is after all still a melting pot.

Hazing in the locker room has gone on for much longer than people want to accept, and certain behaviors just grew acceptable but with the idea of ushering in a sexually-open NFL changes to those behaviors won’t be an easy feat. Again it will have to start on an individual basis, with many of those in leadership positions showing younger players this is a new NFL and the old way of doing things is now passè.

No one really knows for sure the timetable on when we will have a more accepting NFL, even with the league’s Personal Conduct Policy policing tolerant behavior we still have players who are tough nuts to crack. Will future changes be made to the policy once everything is official, but not so much that players will feel like they’ll have to coddle gay players? I sincerely hope not. Eventually they will have to ready themselves for gay rookies and in a perfect world they’ll do so with open arms.

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