Saturday, March 17, 2012

One Door Closes, Another Opens... For Real!

Time for me to testify so cue up the old school church organ in your head as you read this. If it's been a while since you made it to testimony hour, the Kanye West "Testify" track will suffice. Now that we've got proper background music, let me set the context of our tale. Since 2000, my professional life has revolved around coaching and education, and this past summer, it appeared I had reached a minor pinnacle, becoming the Aquatic Director/Head Coach at a brand new pool while also securing an adjunct professor position allowing for the continuation of my dual professional life. In less than three months, the team went from 40 athletes to 180, and while I was getting little sleep keeping up with my schedule, there was at least the pride in knowing that something good was unfolding at the pool and things were going well in the classroom. In addition, there was actually some money in my banking account between checks. Guess I should've known that there would be test coming soon.


I sat down with my aquatic bosses three weeks ago thinking that we'd be taking stock of the recently completed short course season, and making plans for the summer and next year, only to be told that they wanted to go in a different direction. One that didn't include me remaining in my position. Ironically, just before going into the meeting, I had done my daily bible reading and the verse that stuck out to me was that God is with us through all tests and trials. He doesn't say "IF" we make it through the trial, but "WHEN", and as I walked out of the meeting shell shocked after being blindsided, I kept from panicking by reminding myself of that reading. Negotiating to be paid the final months of my contract also helped ease the sting. If it was time for me to hang up the stopwatches and free my weekends of swim meets in favor of karate, hip hop dance, and swim classes, then that was fine. I have had a great ride as a swim coach. What was difficult was to see what was in store for me seeing as there were no tenure-track assistant professor positions being offered to fill the void.


On Wednesday afternoon, I sat in a HS classroom observing a student teacher practice her craft when I got a 911 text from the Mrs. saying that she had gotten a call from one of our many social workers saying that they had a baby that was a match for us as foster-to-adopt parents. A year ago we had started the adoption process through the LA Co. Dept. of Child and Family Services. We had become fully certified in late October, and hadn't heard anything since. Now out of the blue, we were about to be parents of two. "Should I tell her we'll take it?" texted the Mrs. and I immediately texted back that we would. We met the 3-day old on Wednesday night, and brought him home Thursday evening. Elijah Emeka Carroll now has us back in the mode where more than two straight hours of sleep is a luxury, but he is our blessing. Often newborns who enter the foster system have been exposed to drugs, and Elijah is no exception, yet he tested negative for everything. Many of the scriptures that I have read recently discuss the benefits of faith to God's word. Nkechi and I could not ask for a more tangible representation, and we thank everyone for the support and well wishes.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Reflecting on "The Announcement"

Earvin "Magic" Johnson was my favorite player growing up after local legend Dr. J. The big smile, the no-look passes on fast breaks, and the visual of a 6'9" point guard had me glued every time the Lakers played. He never made playing in the NBA look like work. I'll never forget the sinking feeling I had when he announced that he had contracted the HIV virus because my understanding at fourteen was that HIV equaled death, and a slow ugly one at that. The movie Philadelphia, with Tom Hanks and Denzel Washington came out in 1993 and it was easy for me to map the deterioration of Tom Hanks character onto what I thought would happen to Magic. As I watched The Announcement, and relived the context around Magic Johnson alerting the world to his HIV status, I thought about that event in a whole new light.

Magic Johnson was thirty-two years old when he stepped to the podium with his wife Cookie, NBA commissioner David Stern, and teammate Kareem Abdul-Jabbar among others on the dais, and delivered the news that he had contracted the virus through unprotected sex. This was a man who characterized words like "Champion", and "Leader". He was the face of the NBA, and in that moment he became leper. As a thirty-four year old with a family, I marvel at the fortitude that he had to not just confirm it to the media and go into hiding as Karl Malone asserted he could have. He had to face the severe consequence of his actions in front of the world. His wife could have easily left him to deal on his own, and many would have cheered for her as she left. All those years of being the leader of the Lakers along with Kareem were vaporized, and as accountable as he held his teammates on the court, he had to stand there and tell them he had been reckless off the court. And finally, there were his business connections. Athletes depend on these to provide a parachute when they walk off the court, Magic's announcement made him beyond radioactive. Somehow he made it through, and I as I watched him breakdown how he did it, I couldn't help but think about where we are as a country twenty years later as we compare it to where Magic is in his own life.

I was struck by the point Magic made at the end of the documentary when he talked about being a "blessing and a curse" to the disease. A blessing in that he was a public figure who spun the archetype we attached to the disease previously 180 degrees. For a horny adolescent like me, he drove home sex ed lessons in a way that my parents and textbooks could not. His advocacy has brought awareness and money to the fight so that more research can be done. The downside is that you see Magic on ESPN and at events, and you don't immediately think back twenty years, or if you do, you slip into thinking that he's cured, and so maybe that lesson about irresponsible sexual behavior is blurred, and the "downfall" from having contracted the disease isn't as steep when the cautionary tale is told. This is unfortunate to me as I think about how much unfiltered sexual exposure young people get now without the proper guidance and understanding to make mature decisions about sex. For that reason alone, I'm glad The Announcement was made to take us back and allow us to digest that moment again.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Top Cases of "Well Done Young Man"

Today's lesson is about the "Well Done Young Man" phenomena. This happens when a couple gets together and just by the eye ball test, you think to yourself "Somebody came up!", or "How'd he snag that?". Notable examples are when you see the old "gray hair' with the young thing on his arm (salute Morgan Freeman and Harrison Ford) or the dude who's body type is the complete opposite of his lady's (Nutty Professor-style). The most recent example is Wiz Khalifa, who just put a boulder on Amber Rose's finger, so in honor of their impending union, here are some other Well Done Young Man examples:

5. Cash Warren and Jessica Alba - Yes, Mr. Warren is the son of UCLA baller and Hill Street Blues star, Michael Warren, and has lived a comfortable life, but to snag the Dark Angel, Honey, Fantastic Four star at the height or her stardom is still a come up.

4. Sasha Vujacic and Maria Sharapova - "The Machine" couldn't hit enough 20-foot jumpers to stay a Laker, but clearly he was finding the range when it came to trading strokes with the Wimbledon champ.

3. Jermaine Dupri and Janet Jackson - Still scratching my head on how Mr. ATL managed to Control the Nasty Girl for seven years of Anytime Anyplace.

2. Jay-Z and Beyonce - Love the Jigga Man, but I wasn't the only one thinking "For real?" when I heard of this union. Congrats on B.I.C

1. Seal and Heidi Klum - The thing that puts the crooner at the top of the list is that he held on for seven years, successfully planted his fertile seed THREE times.

Honorable Mention: Russell Simmons and Kimora Lee Simmons, Robin Thicke and Paula Patton