Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Royce White and Our Ever-Damning Fixation with Being Right

“Speak your heart, don't bite your tongue. Don't get it twisted, don't misuse it. What's your problem? Let's resolve it.”

Lyric from: We Need A Resolution from the album Aaliyah
Written By: Stephen "Static" Garrett and Tim "Timbaland" Mosley
Performed by: Aaliyah and Timbaland
Photo of Royce White, Courtesy of Pat Sullivan/AP Photo

The Houston Rockets return to action tonight in a home game against the Toronto Raptors.
It’s been a difficult four days off for the team.
The daughter of Rockets head coach Kevin McHale, Alexandra “Sasha” McHale, passed away on Saturday.
Team owner Leslie Alexander said in a statement that he extends his “deepest condolences” over the loss and that the “entire organization is mourning.”
The team has been without McHale since November 10 when it was announced that he was taking leave to deal with a personal family matter.
In his absence, Kelvin Sampson has been the interim head coach. There is reportedly no timetable for Kevin McHale’s return.
For very different reasons, the team is also without rookie Royce White.
The Houston Chronicle reported Saturday that there is still no timetable for his return to the Houston Rockets even as the power forward and team GM, Daryl Morey, are continuing to talk.
White is continuing to talk on Twitter as well, engaging supporters and critics alike in exactly the type of impassioned exchanges one would expect from someone so fervently committed to their cause.
Admittedly, I am not following White on Twitter so I have not had a front row seat to how things have played out for him day to day on the social network. I have only tuned in to his timeline for some of his more well-publicized rants.
This angry outburst aimed at Adrian Wojnarowski from Yahoo! Sports a few days ago is the latest to grab my attention.
In it, White is intent on discrediting this recent article from Wojnarowski about the details surrounding his absence from the team.
White calls the article “baseless” and “not factual”.
He goes on to say that “if hearing the truth annoys you…UNFOLLOW ME! I’m going to keep telling the truth, have to confront lies or they become truth!”
Since being drafted 16th overall by the Rockets, it seems White has spent more time confronting lies than he has playing basketball. He has been relentless in his crusade.
He has called out the Rockets for not providing a safe workplace, one where his mental illness is in consideration. He feels that he is justified in asking for consistent acknowledgement and for protocol to be put in place to address these issues.
Simply put, White feels that the Rockets are wrong and, that he is right.
I am making no grand declarations about mental illness, more specifically anxiety disorder, with this column. I do not pretend to understand the challenges or difficult circumstances that those with this disease experience in their daily lives.
White has been open, confrontationally so, about his struggles with the illness in a way that we are not used to seeing, especially from a young black man. In the black community the stigma attached to mental illness cuts deep and many families suffer in silence as mental disorders and defects go undiagnosed.
For White to dare to prove that we have been foolish in our association of mental illness with weakness using sports and athletics, where only the strong survive, as his platform is beyond noble.
But I wonder if he has gotten caught up in the debate for debate’s sake.
We’ve all been there. We are discussing an issue with a friend, colleague or loved one. We want to find a solution. But as the voices get louder and more forceful and, as the opinions get stronger; we experience a near imperceptible shift.
Mid fight we lose our way. We decide we want to win, to be right, maybe even at the expense of a favorably shared resolution.
Early in my career, a young co-worker of mine chatted with me over lunch about counseling sessions that she and her husband had begun attending to help resolve some issues in their marriage. She talked about how for the first few sessions the therapist let them bicker incessantly, not interrupting as they went on and on blaming each other for this wrong thing and that wrong thing.
Finally, at the close of the third session, the doctor asked them both a game-changing question. She asked, “Do you want to be right or do you want to save your marriage?”
Of course I have not been privy to the private conversations between White and Morey, or to those that he’s had with family and friends.
But there’s no time like the present for someone to ask him if he wants to be right or if he wants to play basketball.
The Rockets certainly want him to play basketball. And who can blame them for that. I don’t imagine that the decision to draft White came lightly for them as they were well aware that his being on the team would require some special accommodations. As immediately as they selected him they pledged to put support in place to help White thrive in the NBA.
White has found that support to be negligible and maybe he’s right but he shouldn’t let right and wrong distract him. Being right is, more often than not, overrated.
There’s no reason to think it impossible that Royce White can be an advocate for more awareness of the fair and appropriate mental health considerations in the workplace, have the Houston Rockets be his partner in that campaign and play basketball-all at the same time. He and the team can take that journey together but it is certain to be a learning process for both sides.
He has spent so much time setting the record straight, however, that it has likely been detrimental to his relationship with the Rockets.
White has, possibly unknowingly, defined the team as his enemy along with the journalists and pundits who have formed their own opinions about why he has failed to do what he is being paid to do. He is mistaking this battle for the actual war, and, his NBA career is liable to be the first and only casualty.
He said some time ago that he would be willing to walk away from his career but has since softened that stance. In all actuality, he probably doesn’t really believe it will come to that.
But chastising your current employer publicly sends a troubling message. One could be inclined to interpret White’s message as, perhaps, an implication that the Rockets have been malicious in their unwillingness to show respect for his condition. Bad Rockets. Bad, bad Rockets.
And “bad Rockets” is probably a moniker the organization is unwilling to bear.
They may find it easier to cut ties with White, conceding that he was in fact right to expect more and admit that they fell short while vowing to review the team’s policies so that this never happens again and ensure that moving forward the team will be better prepared to handle these issues.
All wrapped up in a nice little PR bow that lets them off the hook with minimal damage and ultimately sends White home and out of the NBA.
The world will know he was right and all it will have cost him was his career and a valuable platform for his cause.
He should decide now if it’s worth it and let that answer inform his actions going forward.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Michael Vick on the Verge of History as the First QB to Fumble Away Two, $100 Million Contracts for Two Very Different Reasons

“Hang onto the world as it spins around. Just don't let the spin get you down. Things are moving fast. Hold on tight and you will last.”

Lyric from: Someday We'll All Be Free from the album Extension of a Man
Written By: Edward Howard and Donny Hathaway
Performed by: Donny Hathaway

Photo of Michael Vick, Courtesy of Hunter Martin/Getty Images
Last night the Philadelphia Eagles lost to the New Orleans Saints 28-13 and gosh, was it ever painful to watch.

The Eagles squandered four trips to the red zone, only managing to come away with a couple of field goals instead of touchdowns.
Michael Vick was sacked 7 times, on pace to take that punishment a total of 46 times this season.
Last week Andy Reid said that he was “going to evaluate all of his starters” after his team lost to Vick’s old team, the Atlanta Falcons 30-17, leading to days of speculation that Vick would lose his starting job in favor of rookie, Nick Foles. If Reid’s remarks were meant to serve as a threat they turned up empty as he eventually declared that benching Vick was not an option he was considering.
He reiterated that declaration after last night’s whipping at the hands of the Saints.
Michael Vick will be the quarterback,” Reid told reporters.
Who can blame him for not blaming Vick?
The offensive line is an embarrassment and, the team is suddenly without guys who can make plays on offense although DeSean Jackson did score on a dazzling 77-yard TD reception last night. And their defense is a far cry from the menacing ball hawks that the late Jim Johnson once directed, this despite two high profile free agency additions to their secondary a couple of years ago in Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Nnamdi Asomugha.
But, it’s hard not to expect more from Vick. More anger, more irritation, more yelling, more calling out of teammates for not executing, being accountable or living up to his expectations.
As I watched number 7 calmly head to the Eagles sideline last night, however, as one inexplicable miscue after another cost his team sustained drives, momentum and points, I had a thought.
I wondered if Vick might no longer be capable of those kinds of self-important outbursts.
We all know the story. The Falcons rewarded Vick with a $130 million dollar contract after he rewarded them with a thrilling resurgence while rewarding detractors and fans alike with a newfound confidence in the advantages of a run first, athletic QB.
What we remember next is a rapid fall from grace though it may have been more of a cascading tumble. Vick was suspected of dog fighting, got caught with some weed in a secret compartment of a water bottle at the airport and then got indicted for operating a dog fighting ring.
He lost everything-his freedom and his millions.
After two years in prison, and then an unbelievable job replacing Donovan McNabb, the Eagles rewarded Vick with a $100 million contract after he rewarded them with a thrilling resurgence while rewarding detractors and fans alike with a newfound confidence in his ability as a pocket passer.
No doubt that Vick is now a man with an insightful understanding of reinvention and a profound appreciation of redemption.
And the path to that type of enlightenment is often paved with humility.
My guess is that a prison stint has a way about teaching life’s hard lessons in the most painful of ways. A loss of status, respect and prestige can be a debilitating beginning to a regretful, bitter end.
Those who survive that plight are usually driven to do so by a strong desire to restore their good names but often experience an intense, grounding adjustment in their opinion of themselves.
That said, these days Vick’s annoyance and fury are most certainly tempered with a heavy indebtedness and a keen awareness of his being smack dab in the middle of a second chance.
This is about more than a criminal playing the part of a rehabilitated, model citizen. This is likely about a man with a brand spanking new perspective.
“I love each and every guy in that locker room, and if I could make every play right I would,” Vick said last night.
He offered that quote apologetically after learning that his brother, Marcus Vick, had criticized the Eagles O-line and demanded that the elder Vick be traded in a rant on Twitter during the game.
Vick's words there reek of the gratefulness and indulgent patience of a wounded soul now resurrected.
But alas, something must be done about the Eagles and whether sooner or later, a change at QB may be the easiest to implement.
Vick has intimated that he will support whatever decision has to be made.
And with that, he will have killed two birds with one stone.
Having made history as the first QB to not live up to two, $100 million dollar contracts, he will cement Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie’s place in history as the league's first to have awarded a $100 million contract to two different quarterbacks without a Super Bowl win to show for it.