The Sobering Reality That Black People Are Still Only A Call Away From Being Unjustly Executed By Police

Back in 2002, like many other black kids who witnessed Tiger Woods’ reign, I became heavily intrigued with golf. And by intrigued, I mean I was obsessed. Golf Digest was my personal bible. I became Bagger Vance at a local country club just so I play free rounds (and make a lot of tax-free cash money). Instead of watching 106 & Park after school like many of my high school friends, I was studying slow-motion swing videos courtesy of the Golf Channel. While other black boys growing up in Detroit were emulating Michael Jordan’s fade away, I was trying to master the trick shots I’d seen in Nike golf commercials.

I dedicated every ounce of available free time to practicing. But since I didn’t live near a country club or a public golf course, majority of my practice took place within the confines of my backyard. On most nights I would split time putting on a 10 foot mat and hitting plastic, shallow golf balls into a net until my hands grew sore. It wasn’t uncommon for me to be out well past midnight trying to hone my craft.

Sometimes errant shots would miss the net entirely, ultimately landing in neighboring yards, in which case I would quickly jump a fence, retrieve the imitation golf balls, retreat to my yard, and resume practice. I did so because I thought if I dedicated enough time I too would become a mainstay on the PGA Tour. I was comfortable swinging a piece of metal in darkness because I felt safe within the confines of my backyard. The only thing in any danger on nights like this were the many blades of grass I hacked up, much to my father’s disappointment and rage.

So yesterday morning when I read that two Sacramento police officers killed Stephon Clark—an unarmed, 22 year-old, black father of two—then subsequently watched the video footage released by the police department, my immediate thought was, “Damn, that could have been me.”

Because in that moment, it’s not difficult to imagine hitting golf balls in the middle of the night—an act that is neither criminal nor threatening—and a neighbor calling the police because they mistook my retrieval of stray golf balls as someone breaking into or vandalizing cars. And if the police failed to identify themselves, and ran up on me screaming with guns drawn, I would have instinctively ran behind my detached garage. And because a golf club looks more like a gun than a white cell phone, I would undoubtedly be dead.

I don’t know what Stephon was doing on that fateful night. I doubt he was practicing his golf swing. Maybe he was trying to clear his head. Maybe he was just getting home. We’ll never know because the police frantically murdered him. Nevertheless, I’m compelled to think that he wasn’t engaging in illegal activity.

What I do know is that whatever he was doing wasn’t enough to warrant an immediate execution. 

I also know that we’re running out ways to displace blame to the unfortunate victims of police brutality. We’re running out of ways to falsely justify the use of deadly force. And we’re running out of strategies, and actions that we as black people can employ to avoid being another murder victim at the hands of the police. 

Which makes Clark’s death, and other state-sponsored executions of unarmed black people so horrifying. Because each time there’s a Stephon Clark, a Philando Castile, a John Crawford, a Walter Scott, a Mike Brown, a Tamir Rice, an Oscar Grant, a Jordan Edwards, or a Rekia Boyd, there’s another black person somewhere logically, fearfully thinking, “Damn, that could’ve been me.”

My Fatness Is Preventing Righteous Basketball Justice

A few months ago I wrote about how I was determined to get in shape after regaining some of the weight I lost a year ago. In that post, I promised to be more accountable and share my experiences via this blog. I was going to post recipes and workouts and comical anecdotes about my frustrations. I was going to conquer this weight-loss shit once and for all. It was a compelling, funny, and honest read that was thoroughly convincing. And since then, I’ve done none of that shit. I’ve lost a little bit of weight since then (and by a little, I mean about 10 pounds, 20 if you count the dehydration I’ve experienced courtesy of being sick this past week). Yet I’ve posted nothing. Not a recipe, or a workout, or frustratingly honest humorous reflection. I’ve thought many times about penning something here or there only to envelope myself in some other competing priority. Like work. Or sleep. Or delicious sandwiches from Blunch and Flour.

I also haven’t had much motivation to workout. In the abstract, I want to lose weight. Because that’s apparently what you’re supposed to do if your body type is more Anthony Anderson and less Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. But if I’m being brutally honest, I haven’t found the necessary motivation to follow through. For one, I’m not a paid athlete, or a personal trainer, or a model, or any other profession that requires me to maintain peak physical fitness. My current job consists of finding fun ways to sell shit. Although I hoop regularly and play golf occasionally, I’m not chasing endorsement deals or max contracts. I get buckets and birdies with a belly intact.

Additionally, my rotund stomach hasn’t gotten in the way of garnering attention from the opposite sex. I may not be melting hearts like Idris Elba or Michael B. Jordan, but if I really tried I don’t think I’d have trouble finding someone’s daughter to cuddle with on a Friday night. You can credit that to my impressive sneaker collection, wit, and way with words. Oh, and vibes, because apparently, that shit’s important.

But this past weekend I had an epiphany; I need to lose weight because I’m tired of non-hoopers out hooping me. Out-hooping may be a bit of a stretch. Let’s say hitting timely, lucky-ass happy birthday shots.

One of the benefits of being in shape is that your body is capable of moving on-demand whenever and wherever you want it to, with varying degrees of quickness and speed. Want to get up and run like a deer? Then you can get up and run like a deer. Want to jump a fence because a Rottweiler is suddenly chasing you? Then you can jump a fence and not have your ass mauled to pieces.

When you’re fat, shit doesn’t work like that. Things take time. A lot of time. Stretches must be employed early and often. And there’s some shit that’s out of the question. Like running up and down the court without taking a few—or in some cases a all—necessary plays off.

I love playing basketball. And to my surprise, the older I’ve gotten the better I’ve become. I can outshoot most people and have held my own in competitive rec leagues. I’ve watched enough NBA League Pass that I now have an above-average basketball IQ and have developed an efficient step-back bank shot. Again, I’m not hooping for a contract and would most definitely get embarrassed by someone with Division 1 or D-League experience. But against average everyday dudes, I’m a solid first or second choice in pickup games. If we’re playing to 15, you can pencil me in for at least 6 points. If we’re playing to 21, twos and threes—which is the only way pickup games should be played—then I’m definitely getting at least 10. Bet money!

But the one person I can’t stand during pickup games is the overzealous, high school junior varsity bench warmer, “I’m here to fuck some shit up, bro” hooper. The asshole that’s built like Zach Efron, can’t dribble to save his life, throws up errant jump shots from half-court, but out hustles everyone. The only speed he knows is fast and uncontrollable as fuck. He usually hoops in running shoes or some athletic kicks he recently snagged at Marshall’s. He crashes every board and contests every shot from anywhere on the floor. He talks all the shit, is the king of phantom fouls, and annoyingly screams “and 1” after every shot attempt but gets pissed off when you call him out for tackling someone or taking four steps when he picks up his dribble. He’s basically an embodiment of Zaza Pachulia, Grayson Allen, and Patrick Beverley without any of the basketball skill.

And for some reason, this motherfucker always guards me. ALWAYS. Maybe it’s because I dominated in 21 before we started 5-on-5. Or because I put up some buckets in a game prior. Whatever the case, this dude singles me out, spews some nonsense about how I’m not going to get anymore buckets, and begins to hand-check me like he’s in a fucking karate class.

And though I have more skill, a far superior jump shot, and an impressive barrage of footwork and post moves, this clown regularly bests me. Like this past weekend when I put up 10 points but his team still won because he cherry-picked the game-winning layup (and because my team was trash). Or the time before that when I hit a game-winning 3, only to have it waved off because this bum said my foot was on the line (it wasn’t) and then ran like a gazelle to the tune of five straight buckets. Or countless other occasions when this clown only scored because I was either too winded, too aching, or too fat to stop him.

Well that shit ends today. I can’t sit idly by and let this abomination continue. Because lord knows that if I was as agile, and fast, and nimble as this Sir Hack-a-lot I’d put him in the dirt. Every. Single. Time. So, that’s my mission. To become fit for the sole purpose of ridding the world of hustle bros in gyms everywhere. Or at least the ones I get buckets in. They must be stopped. They’re not hoopers. It’s time

Full disclosure, I won’t commit to posting about my journey this time around because I have so much other shit to worry about. But dammit, my cardio game’s got to get better. I can’t be winded after two plays. And “my bad, I got you next time” is the worst kind of help defense. (Seriously, my fatness paralyzes me to play James Harden level defense.)

Also, for what’s worth, my oldest son is maturing to become a deftly skilled hooper and it’s only a matter of time before he’s taller and routinely LeBroning my ass. So, I need to stave that off for as long as I can.