In a by-the-way fashion, Ta-Nehisi Coates mentioned something about The Wire that I found interesting:

One of the reason why Season Two is my favorite is because of the “Oh, you thought this was just the niggers?” vibe. I love the stories–Omar and Brother Muzone, String and Avon falling apart. I loved the whole Sobatka clan. But I thought the decision to shift the cast from Season One to the back-burner, and look at the drug war in a much broader context was courageous, and important.

On watching the whole series the first time through, I ranked them in this order: season 4, season 1, season 3, season 2, season 5. In addition to the other fine aspects of season four–getting to know Snoop and Chris better, the treatment of Bodie as the grizzled old vet–there’s a complex and sophisticated take on education that I’d just never seen before in television or film (though the French film The Class also deserves a mention in that context).

But Coates’ comment reminds me that part of my initial disappointment with season two was exactly what he’s praising. I was afraid, I think, that these great characters were going to permanently fade into the background, never to be seen again. At the time, I didn’t understand the bigger picture of the series; if I had, I might have appreciated these qualities. He’s right: it was a brave and important move for the show, and the later, important takes on politics and education wouldn’t have been possible if they hadn’t made that break early on. Jen and I recently re-watched the first four seasons, and I appreciated it a lot more this time around.

I complained a couple months ago about Malcolm Gladwell’s New Yorker story about concussions in the NFL. And while I stand by my criticism, this story by Jeff Pearlman, about former Oakland Raider Dave Pear certainly lends credence to Gladwell’s overall point about the state it leaves people in.

He is, in basic terms, a train wreck — a football-inflicted train wreck. Pear walks with a cane and, often, simply doesn’t walk at all. He suffers from vertigo and memory loss. Over the past 18 years, he has undergone eight surgeries, beginning with a Posterior Cervical Laminectomy on his neck in 1981, and including disc removal and rod fusion in his back (1987), arthroplasty in his left hip (2008) and, earlier this year, four screws removed from his lower back. Though he chalks up his physical ailments to snap after snap of punishment, he pinpoints the biggest problems back to 1979 and ’80, his final two NFL seasons. While playing for Oakland, Pear suffered a herniated disc in his neck that never improved. Despite the unbearable agony, he says the Raiders urged him to keep playing.

Ta-Nehisi Coates said later that the piece had changed the way he watched the game, that it’s now harder to watch the vicious hits with the same enthusiasm. [Sorry, can't find the link!] I wouldn’t necessarily say Gladwell’s piece alone did that to me, but the combination of that piece, along with the other attention given to the issue of concussions, does make me think twice every time somebody gets blown up, or when someone gets carted off the field. Now if more attention gets paid to all the other ways players get chewed up and spit out, I wonder how the NFL will react.

Writing briefly about the Denver Broncos, Ta-Nehisi Coates wants to know “how they blew it with Jay Cutler.” He links to Peter King, who has this to say:

It was a tale of two teams. Chicago, the team on the rise with the petulant franchise quarterback, Jay Cutler, who forced a trade from the Broncos. Denver, the team on the stumble that let the franchise quarterback go and dealt for Chicago’s retread Kyle Orton. Chicago rising. Denver on the ropes.

On the ropes is too nice. Everything the Broncos have touched in the last five months has turned to crap. Even in the lead-up to this most interesting of practice games there was another slap in McDaniels’ face: Star wide receiver Brandon Marshall had to be suspended for two weeks for insubordination, and there’s no telling if this 6-year-old football player will show up more mature when the suspension ends.

So, all this could turn out to be true. But it’s really separate from the Jay Cutler question. (more…)

Actually, for disorderly conduct, after yelling at police for accusing him of breaking into his own home.

[UPDATE: Per The Root, the disorderly conduct charges have been dropped. Nonetheless, read on...]

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Supporters of a prominent Harvard University black scholar who was arrested at his own home by police responding to a report of a break-in say he is the victim of racial profiling.

Henry Louis Gates Jr. had forced his way through the front door of his home because it was jammed, his lawyer said Monday.

I don’t know the right word for this. Shocking? Bizarre? Horrifying?

Cambridge police say they responded to the well-maintained two-story home near campus after a woman reported seeing “two black males with backpacks on the porch,” with one “wedging his shoulder into the door as if he was trying to force entry.

(more…)

The power of blogging is that it takes back writing, it takes back public thinking, it seizes it from the bichops and archons and gives it to the people. It is the bane of credentialism. We just need more people to take up the fight in earnest. Grab your shield. Let’s go.

~ Ta-Nehisi Coates, on blogging and community.

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