Without a Vision, the People Perish

As many of you are aware, the United States Men’s Basketball Team recently recaptured the Gold Medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Although this wasn’t an African-American first by any stretch of the imagination (black basketball players winning the Gold Medal), the run up to recapturing the gold and the way it was done is! The 1992 Barcelona, Spain Olympics marked the first time the United States put professional basketball players on the Olympic court. Many of you remember this team by their nickname ‘The Dream Team’, so-called because of the world class players on this team. Some names on this team (and the 1996 team) were Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Charles Barkley, etc. Anyone who was familiar with basketball in those days knew this team would win Gold and the only question to be settled in both the 1992 Barcelona Games and 1996 Atlanta Games was who would capture the silver and bronze medals.

U.S.A. Basketball made this move to put pros on the floor after our senior men’s team of Olympics past were college players who weren’t winning gold, while the teams from around the world, who all had professional players from their own countries playing in the Olympics. Charles Barkley made a statement after the 1996 Olympics which made many U.S.A. sports fans upset, he said (and I am paraphrasing here) “Sooner or later, the world is going to catch up with the United States in basketball and we are going to start losing games.” Barkley’s statement proved to be right starting at the 2000 Sydney Games when the U.S.A. didn’t actually lose a basketball game, but came close to losing in the Gold Medal Game.

After those games, an attitude of selfishness started to take hold of many of our best players. Kobe Bryant wouldn’t or couldn’t play due to various injuries (or so he said), Shaquille O’Neal made the excuse that it ‘was time for the younger players to take over’, Kevin Garnett pulled out and the house of cards tumbled from there. From the 2002 World Championships, to the Athens’s Games in 2004, right up until the 2006 World Championships, the U.S.A. Basketball team lost tournaments, embarrassed themselves and the country.

Enter former Phoenix Sun’s owner Jerry Coangelo! Coangelo held a forum to discuss the woes of the program and in attendance were the likes of Michael Jordan, John Thompson and many other legends within the basketball community. They all agreed that the program had to change and Coangelo set about to do that. Without going into all the particulars as I understand them, the Team that was put together was different than ones past where U.S.A. Basketball just put the best players on the floor and expected results. The whole mindset of the program changed and a vision, in my opinion, was put into place that was lacking from all previous Olympics.
It was “Let’s get the right players who will play as a unit, teach them the expectation and hold them accountable to them, get a 3 year commitment before each Olympics from these players, secure the services of the right coach, and anything less than Gold is failure.” Apparently this vision was the right one as the U.S. Men’s team didn’t lose a single game in Beijing, captured the Gold, and after watching the game and its’ finish where they beat Spain, all of the players seemed to be genuinely happy about the win! Kobe Bryant’s demeanor and comment after the game really made me emotional. Not only was he happy and full of joy, he said “I am just excited, we all are.”

This coming from a man that up until recently was seen as selfish! When the team was on the medal stand, I would say there was a net worth of at least $300 million dollars on that medal podium in Beijing. Most of them have endorsement deals worth millions and surely they weren’t getting paid any large sum of $$$ to do this. They did this because ‘The vision was cast’, they bought in, and they believed. Going forward, Mr. Coangelo has to keep that vision fresh because the truth is, at their core, all of these guys main mission was to ‘Bring the Gold Medal back to the U.S.’ This cause was a worthy one, but now that the Gold Medal is back, how does Mr. Coangelo and U.S.A. Basketball keep the momentum? The answer is simple, ‘Keep casting the vision because sometimes, vision, like a bucket with holes in it, leaks!’ Remember the title of this post, ‘Without a vision, the people perish.’


Gold Medalist in BOBSLEDING! Olympic Firsts...Part 3

"You know some people them say they can't believe, Jamaica we got a bobsled team!" So went the song from the mid 1990's movie titled 'Cool Runnins' starring Leon and John Candy. The jist of the movie was 3 sprinters (and 1 other friend) all wanted to go to the summer Olympics as sprinters. Through a twist of fate, at the Jamaican Olympic trials, all three are involved in a fall during a race and none qualify for the Olympics. Derese, played by Leon, really wants to go to the Games and since he can't get to the summer games, he settles for the Winter Olympics as a BOBSLEDDER!

Although the characters were fictional, there actually was a Jamaican Bobsled Team made up of sprinter from this small island. This story isn't to dissimilar from the subject of this post, Winter Olympian and Gold Medal Winner (Bobsled) Vonetta Flowers. She dreamed of being a track star in the Summer Olympics also, but injuries kept her from achieving it. There are many reasons why there are VERY few African American Winter Olympians but I will share with you a few. The 1st reason is winter sports tend to be more expensive! Hockey, skiing, ice skating, and the like cost alot more $$$ than summer sports that black folk dominate. However, as black folk become more financially prosperous, this trend will change, IF we can get past reason #2, THE COLD!
There probably are African Americans who actually like the cold weather (there are many including myself who love the snow), but in my 36 years, I have yet to hear one say "Child I just love it when it is freezing outside." Nevertheless, as the other 2 Olympians previously featured on this blog, Mrs. Flowers stepped outside of the norm within the African American community and became the first African American to win a Gold Medal at a winter games (2002 Salt Lake City). Great going Vonetta and to all of you Youth in the inner-city, yes your so-called friends are going to make negative statements if you want to do something different like this, but it is up to you NOT TO LISTEN to them and 'Live the dream'.


Remembering Dominique Dawes. Olympic Firsts...Part2

In my continuing series 'African-American Olympic first', this post highlights one of my favorite Olympians, the ever elegant Dominique Dawes. In the summer of 1996, I was living in Perth, Western Australia. These were the Atlanta Olympics which, at the time, were much for famous for the 'Olympic Park Bomb' than anything else. Ms. Dawes, as a black gymnast, really stood out because I didn't see (and really wasn't looking for) any other black folk in gymnastic competition. The 1996 Women's Olympic Team in gymnastics was nicknamed the 'Magnificent 7' in honor of their improbable Team Gold Medal win against very long odds.

I am not going to sit here and write that Dominique Dawes was MY FAVORITE athlete in those games because that title belongs to her teammate, one Ms. Kerry Strug! Ms. Strug was the American Gymnast who made that famous vault on an injured ankle, stuck the landing, and injured her ankle even more. Afterwards, she was carried around the stadium by her coach.(Please click on link)


Listed here are some of Ms. Dawes' accomplishments as an African American Gymnasts

- 2008 inductee into the USOC Hall of Fame – Dawes was inducted along with her teammates on the “Magnificent Seven” group that won gold in 1996
-First African-American female gymnast to qualify for the Olympics (1992) prior to selection committee; first African-American female gymnast to win an individual medal (1996)
-1996 Olympic Gold medalist with U.S. team in Atlanta
-1996 Olympic Bronze medalist (individual) in floor exercise in Atlanta
-1992 Olympic Bronze medalist with U.S. team in Barcelona
2000 qualifier for the Sydney Olympics
1993 Silver medalist (individual) in uneven bars and balance beam at World Championships
1994 National All Around Champion 1st V, B, BB, FX
1994 Silver medalist with U.S. team at World Championships
1996 Bronze medalist (individual) in floor exercise at World Championships

A few writers have referred to these female athletes as 'Pixies' in reference to the nice, soft, miniature, wand waving fictional characters that appear in fairy tales. Are you kidding me? Out side of female gymnast being of short stature, this comparison is way off base! These women are the polar opposites in that they are hyper-competitive, strong as steel, tough as nails, and they don't have a magic wand to wave around to make something they want happen, they work for years to get there!

In closing, I know that someday Ms. Dawes, her publicist or whomever has been charged with making sure her image is kept to a high standard will run across this blog. Please tell Ms. Dawes, for me "Thanks for not sitting around and waiting for someone else to be the first black to obtain such accomplishment, thanks for believing that anything is possible especially because it hasn't been done before, and much thanks to her parents that obviously didn't believe that black folk shouldn't try something new."


CONGRATULATIONS Cullen Jones! Olympic First..Part 1

I was watching the 2008 Olympics on tonight in Beijing and I happened to be watching swimming. I, like many Americans, have been intrigued by the US Olympic Swimmer Michael Phelps quest to win 8 Gold Medals in a single Olympics, which would break Mark Spitz's record of 7 in the 1972 Olympics in Munich, Germany. During the 3rd leg of the 4*100 Free-Style relay, featuring Michael Phelps as part of the relay team, I saw a dark skinned streak flying through the water for the Americans. As NBC showed a side shot, I realized that there was a black dude swimming for the American Team. I yelled out to my wife, Sister Dale, "Baby, there is a brotha in the water swimming for the Americans!" The Americans SMASHED the French, who had made the statement earlier in the meet that they would CRUSH the Americans in this event.

Before I go any further, I want to point out that Cullen didn't win the Gold Medal alone. He was a part of probably the best 4*100 swimming relay team in sports history as proved by this team of Americans smashing the World Record in this event by over 4 seconds. But the accomplishment is none the less impressive. The first African American Swimmer to win Olympic gold is the man pictured on this post, US Swimmer Cullen Jones. As many of you know, part of the feet I am attempting through this blog is to bring to light some of the amazing accomplishments of African Americans who participate in sports not normally participated in by black folks. Pictured in the right margin of this blog are some of those African American firsts. Cullen gets added now!

If you are wondering why this is such a joyous moment for me, when I was growing up in the 1980's and early 1990's, I lived in a place where there were HUGE stereotypes of black folks. Unfortunately, many of those stereo types didn't come from people of another race, but from the blacks within our community. If you were black, in Waterloo, Iowa when I grew up, if you tried to participate in any other sport besides Basketball,Football,Track and wrestling (in that order), you were considered 'Trying to act white'. Stupid I know. Not many blacks where I come from could swim either. The stereo type in those days was 'Black people can't swim because we can't float.' So basically, when the generation before us gained the right to get into the same swimming pools as whites, my generation succumbed to a racial stereo type that kept us from pursuing greatness in the pool.

Obviously Cullen Jones didn't and now he has the distinction, as a swimmer of African American descent to be the first to win an Olympic Gold Medal in the pool. Keep handlin' your bizness Cullen!


It's Time to Fight the Good Fight

(Old School Fighter) Over the last 1 year and a few months, I have been super busy sketching my bicycle designs. Although I have over 100 designs. I have settled on 10 designs to roll out my 1st line of Signature Bicycles by 'Marshall Taylor RYDZ'. I told all of you last year sometime, I am not an artist by trade, but I had to do SOMETHING to get my designs out of my head and on paper so I trained myself to sketch them as best I could. This was a very tedious process. Imagine if you will having over 100 designs and having to re sketch them all until they are just right add on top of that having to provide 4 viewing angles (Side profile, Top, Front and Rear).

I didn't stop there! I created my own Handle Bar Designs (they are hot!), wheel designs (admittedly my weakest area) tires patterns with colors and you can get a general idea of how much work that is. Nevertheless, I was to focused on getting proto-types produced that I had forgotten the ONE THING I have the ability to do myself, and that is produce a basic, funky, Hand Made design by myself. The title of this posting says it all, IT'S TIME TO FIGHT the Good Fight! I am going to Longmont, Colorado to pick an old frame up this weekend and get the process started. I will give you all something to chew on until my next post though. I am going to use a WILD lime green color, magenta highlights, plaid patterns, a tire that is going to freak you out, specially designed logo graphics, and a few other things. I let yall know!



Whenever you think of the word NUVINCI (name of the design posted), the only thing that should come to mind is the title of this post.............MVP! MVP! MVP!This is a design by Ellsworth...I am sorry if I seem to be stuttering, but DAAAAANNNGGGG! Mr. S.... (You know who you are..a brotha like me ain't gonna put you out there on Front Street)who emailed me and said nobody would buy this because it was an Ellsworth....Stop Hatin' the player and hate the game man! I want to challenge you to send me any of your designs from the last 20 years that are HOOOTTTTEEEER than this. OK, that's not fair to Mr S because there are very few people on the planet who can get to this level. Mr S... It doesn't have to be exactly your design, even if you collaborated on one hotter than this..... I will post them, apologize to you on my blog, take THIS FUNK BALL DOWN, and shout out the same thing about your design.............. MVP! MVP! MVP!


An Urban Entrepreneur After My Own Heart

During my worldwide search for that 'Other Level' Urban Bicycle Design I have been ranting and raving about over the past year and a half, I ran across an urban bicycle entrepreneur from Northern California Tyrone Stevenson Jr., aka "Champ". Champ has been a bicycle enthusiast and builder since his teens. He is from the inner-city Bay Area and his love for bikes led to him building them out of any parts and design material he could get his hands on. Champ is a 'Real Hustler' yall in that he started his company with almost nothing and was creative enough to take old bicycle frames and project his personality through his creations.
Another thing that caught my attention was the 'Grass Roots' level guerilla marketing this guy has undertaken. He started in his neighborhood and ventured out from there. He is selling T-Shirts on his website and various other clothing items that will get the word out long before he undertakes any production level bicycle designs. This is creating demand for his product, educating people on his company while at the same time building the 'Ground Swell'. I am sure that there are other key people helping him with this, nevertheless, the vision is what drives the process!
He literally used scraps to build bicycles. To all of you bicycle designers and others who think that you need huge investment $$$ to live your dreams, take a page from this dude's playbook and just look around you at what is already available, use it and go from there. Champ has 'Street Promoters' out there in Cali pushing his concept, believing in the dream and following wherever he leads. Man, I am speechless.

His website is http://www.scraperbikes.net/ and not only am I going to recommend that you visit his site, but also support him through the purchase of some of the T-Shirts and apparel he has for sale there. Today, I am truly humbled and blessed to know that fellas like this are keepin' it real and hustlin' out there to make their bicycle design and funk dreams come true. Champ is truly a Bicycle Design Urban Funkmaster after my own heart and more than anyone or company featured on my blog, he is someone that will be a part of resurrecting the Marshall 'Major' Taylor legacy. Champ, keep hustlin' and making your designs 'Do what they do'!