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Voice of the Voter - This Week's Articles

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A Class Act

In this modern era of athletes with egos bigger than their mega contracts and scandal after scandal rocking every sport, there are a few real class acts in professional sports. They are the elder statesmen of sport and ambassadors of that which makes up the finest of American society. Between the Kobe Bryant and the Terrell Owens type headline grabbers there are the Phil Jackson and Don Shula type coaches who bring a touch of class to the sport.

This week one of the greatest coaches of all time and true class-acts of sport passed away. In his career, Bill Walsh took a franchise that was an eternal cellar dweller and turned it into one of the finest football dynasties the country has ever seen. While he was doing that, he also brought a sense of dignity into a sport that had been previously viewed as a rough-neck sport for the lower class only. He did not do it by buying up the most expensive talent in the league or paying his way up the draft ladder every year. He did it by seeing talent in people that nobody else saw. He did it by drafting third round quarterbacks that nobody else wanted and picking players from colleges that nobody had ever heard of. He took those outcast players and dug deep to find their talents that eventually catapulted them to the level of being the greatest athletes to ever play their respective positions.

Bill Walsh walked the sidelines looking not like the rough, gritty football coach of old but instead more like the businessman going to work at the office. He didnít spend the entire game screaming at his players and coaches. He would pull them aside and talk to them. Thatís not to say that he never got excited or angry. He was a human being but he never let situations degenerate to the point of losing his composure. He brought balance and discipline onto the field with him and it took the sport to a higher level.

Among the players he coached were, Joe Montana, Jerry Rice, Steve Young, Ronnie Lott, Roger Craig, Dwight Clark and too many more to mention. His distinguished career brought him three Super Bowl titles and the team he built won another two under his successor after he left. The notable thing about the players he coached is not that they started out as super stars but that they ended as such. When Coach Walsh drafted Joe Montana, people scoffed at the prospect of Montana as a starter. When he drafted Jerry Rice people again scoffed at the guy with the weird hair from the unknown college who many said wasnít fast enough to be a good receiver in the NFL. Bill Walsh saw something in them that nobody else could see. He saw their heart and desire to win. He saw the talent under the surface and found ways to bring it to the top for everyone to see.

When interviewed about the passing of his former coach Jerry Rice talked about how Walsh refused to allow cliques to form. He routinely changed up bunking arrangements and would not let the same guys eat together day after day. He moved lockers around, etc. to make sure that everyone interacted with everyone else. On a Bill Walsh team the team came first and the players were made to understand that the team was more important than any one individual.

At the end of the day Coach Walsh was the glue that held a dynasty together and the force that brought more respectability to the NFL. Sadly in this era of professional sports, scandals like the Michael Vick dog fighting ring and Ricky Williams repeated drug test failures are destroying the respectable image that people like Bill Walsh and Don Shula worked so hard to bring to the sport.

As we remember the passing of a legend, perhaps we can honor him best by not supporting the people that are tarnishing the reputation of the sport. Maybe we should show that we donít support the people that are destroying what the class-acts of the sport have tried to build. I submit that the best thing we can do to honor men like Bill Walsh is to throw out the jerseys of people like Michael Vick, Ricky Williams, Terrell Owens, Keyshawn Johnson and any other players that selfishly put themselves ahead of the team and the sport that has given them so much. As long as they dishonor the sport and the fans we should rip up their cards, throw out their action figures and turn our backs on them. Maybe if we do that they can learn how to behave in a manner deserving of admiration.

That being said, I think that now is a time to put the debates about the state of the sport aside for a time and recognize the significance of the passing of this great coach. We were privileged to be able to witness a great man doing great things on and off the football field. I for one mourn the passing of Bill Walsh not just as the man who was instrumental to bringing five Super Bowl trophies to San Francisco but also as the man who brought a little more class to the game I love so much.
Troy Wilson-Ripsom - Staff Writer | Give your feedback on this article. | Visit Troy's blog at http://reform-america.blogspot.com | Visit Troy's MySpace page at www.myspace.com/reform_america

Bigotry and the Family

Before sitting down to write tonight I got a call from one of my cousins. I love him because he's family and we shared a lot of time growing up but while I grew in some ways on a more intangible level, he seemingly did not. For whatever reason, he seems incapable of understanding how words of hate can hurt even when used in jest.

To put this in perspective I need to give you a little background on myself. I come from what was a small town when I was growing up in Nevada called Sparks. It was a pretty Caucasian town then and people had somewhat closed-minded ideas about people that were different. Racial epithets were not uncommon in every day language and people of color were rarely referred to in politically correct terms. When I was nine or ten I used the words as well not understanding the ugliness they carried with them.

When I was ten we moved to Berkeley California and I went through a pretty rough period of cultural adjustment but eventually learned that the stereotypes I had been exposed to were the ideas of fools and had little to do with reality. I also learned that the words I used to refer to people of color hurt them and had no place in civilized conversation. After a time I even learned to embrace other cultures and learn about them to open my own mind to the wonders of the diversity that is our unique nation.

In 1987 I first exchanged vows with my wife Nikole and began sharing my life with her. In 2002 we were officially married on the 15th anniversary of our original vows. In 2004 we had a son. Both my wife and son are African-American. While this should be completely unimportant, it is at the crux of the issue I'm writing about.

So, now that I have given you a little background I can get to the point. My cousin called tonight to find out why my mother had been upset with him at the family reunion that I did not attend this last weekend. She was upset because he had said something to my sister that frankly offended me when I heard about it and was a small part of why I did not attend the family reunion.

While he was working with my sister to clean up his dying sisters home, my sister asked him if he would like an orange soda. He replied that he didn't drink them because they were "n**ger drinks". That would be offensive at the best of times but it got worse. In a later conversation with my sister, his wife was trying to think of words to describe something that was messed up and although apologetic could not think of anything but to say it was "n**ger rigged". I care for him and his wife but I cannot help but be offended when both if them denegrate my wife and son whether directly or indirectly.

When he called this evening, I tried to find a way to explain to him why it was offensive but I did not have the time for an in-depth conversation because I had my son to put to bed and my wife was out of the house. The frustrating thing for me was that he tried to first justify it by saying that he would never refer to my wife or son that way but that if I was so offended by the word I should never go to a comedy club and that blacks use the term all the time. I did manage to explain that it actually makes me even angrier when African-Americans use the term because they are promoting ignorance that is detrimental to their own lives. The thing I was not able to convey was that it hurt more coming from his family who I have welcomed into my home and never asked for anything but respect.

Sadly, he and many others don't seem to understand that every time they use that word and words like it, they hurt everyone that is described in any way by the words. My son will have to work harder and be better than all of his white peers just to have an equal chance at success in life because of the stereotypes that exist in our society. When my cousin or others in his family use that word, whether to refer to my wife or son or not, it denegrates them. It lumps them into a lesser category of people and says that they are not individuals. It says that they are merely defined by their skin color. No group of human beings deserve to be treated like inferiors or superiors merely for the color of their skin.

I suppose I will sit down and write my cousin a letter to try to explain to him why his words were offensive even if not directed at my wife and son. If nothing else, I hope that maybe someone who reads this will have that moment where they "get it" and decide to stop using epithets to refer to others even in jest. It's not funny to the ones being denegrated and every time the words are used, they lend credence to the hateful ideas that spawned them in the first place.

Martin Luther King Jr. spoke of having a dream of a world were men were judged not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. That is a dream we should all try to embrace every day.
Troy Wilson-Ripsom - Staff Writer - | E-mail Comments on this article. | Visit Troy's blog at http://reform-america.blogspot.com | Visit Troy's MySpace page at www.myspace.com/reform_america



Get Involved

Do you sit and yell at the TV when politicians come on? Do you shake your head sadly whenever you see a homeless veteran? Is that all you tend to do?

It's time to put up or shut up America. We all love to talk about how we could do things better or how we would do it if we were in charge. Well, it's time to put your money where your mouth is. If you can think of it, you can write it down. If you can write it down, you can type it. If you can type it, you can e-mail it and if you can e-mail it, you can send it here.

We at Reform America are committed to giving voice to anyone who wants to put their ideas out there to make our nation a better place. As the readership grows, we are able to take those views to a wider and wider audience. Grassroots campaigns begin with voices speaking out. You have opinions. Voice them. We aren't about conservative or liberal. We aren't about pro-this or anti-that. We're about Americans and the First Amendment. Reform America is about politics by, for and of the people. You are the people. You only need to speak up. America is listening. Send your article to: stories@reform-america.net



Have You Been Downsized Due to Outsourcing?

For several years now we have listened to some within the business community tell us that America can't compete on a global scale unless they send our jobs overseas where they can be done cheaper. The question becomes, if we don't have good paying jobs here, how can we sustain our own economy? We want to hear from you. Have you lost your job? Have you been forced into a lower wage job due to outsourcing? Has outsourcing been a success for you? Did you end up in a better job?

Tell us your story so we can make sure the politicians see how outsourcing really impacts the workers who are backbone of America. Send your story to stories@reform-america.net

 

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