Halfway to Anchors & Eden

I'm Cassidy. Born in Madison, WI. Raised in Sacramento, CA. Grew up in Lexington, KY. Changed in Nairobi.

The news of James Foley’s unfathomable decapitation at the hands of ISIS militants had already cast a dark cloud over my day before I even got into work this morning. Before lunchtime hit, I’d already read a handful of articles and seen countless grainy iPhone videos recapping the previous night’s activities from the continued protests and police brutality in Ferguson, MO. Before packing my things for the day, I dropped a few silent tears while reading a letter from Trayvon Martin’s mother to Mike Brown’s mother.

Before I could consciously understand what was happening, I was frustrated and in a bad mood. Angry at the countless injustices of the world. Hoping for retribution for ISIS militants, Darren Wilson, the Ferguson Police Department, George Zimmerman and the many other ills that they represent. The irony of a vengeful mentality didn’t happen upon me until I sat down to write…

The time I spent working at Invisible Children was profound for countless reasons. My life focus was altered, my career trajectory changed, my way of thinking was irrevocably challenged, my comfort zone constantly tested and the borders of my family circle were re-drawn.

Perhaps, though, as the memories fade and I lose touch with friends, the most enduring, most tangible gift I’ll have walked away with was something that Jason said when he was asked what he would say to Joseph Kony if he ever had the chance to talk to him. “I’d give him a hug and ask him about his family, his history, his childhood. Eventually I’d ask him ‘why?’”.

The profundity of this statement was simultaneously equal parts lightbulb-worthy simplicity and advanced human empathy far beyond my comprehension. Those thoughts and feelings culminated in an “aha!” moment that I’ve not been able to shake since then. The reality that as human beings, we all have the components of what make Joseph Kony a crazed murderer. We all have the capacity for the unfathomable evil he exhibits. 

In Maya Angelou’s episode of Oprah’s “Master Class”, Maya says, “I am a human being. Nothing human can be alien to me. If you can internalize at least a portion of that, you will never be able to say of a criminal act, ‘Oh, I could never do that.’ If a human being did it, you have to say, ‘I have all the components in me that are in her or in him. I intend to use my energies constructively, as opposed to destructively.’”

This idea, so foreign yet so powerful, has transformed the way I view people, and view myself, as I continually discover what it is to be a human being. 

In the book Small Wonder, Barbara Kingsolver says, “I believe that the things we dread most can sometimes save us. I am losing faith in such a simple thing as despising an enemy with unequivocal righteousness. A mirror held up to every moral superiority will show its precise mirror image. The terrorist loves his truth as hard as I love mine…we are all beasts in this kingdom, we have killed and been killed, and some new time has come to us in which we are called out to find another way to divide the world. Good and evil cannot be all there is.”

Whether we like it or not, we are more bound, more united, by our humanity than literally anything else. More than our race, our religion, our sex, our ethnicity, our orientation, our sports fandom. By association, that means that I have more in common with Joseph Kony than I’d ever care to admit. Like me, he was born from his mother. Like me, he grew up going to church. Like me, he went to school and did his homework. Like me, he has family and friends who love him.

Ultimately, we’re all made the same. We all have the same parts. We’re all cut from the same cloth. We are comprised in the same way both as Mother Theresa and Adolf Hitler. As hard as it is to fathom, I see that very side in myself when I start contemplating revenge for the ISIS fighters and the Darren Wilsons of the moment. That propensity for evil rears its ugly head in the most paradoxical moments to ensure that I don’t forget what I know to be true.

Because I’m a human being, I’ll never cease to form my opinions and take out my frustrations and cry over spilled blood and be angry about injustice. Because I’m a human being, I’ll never stop feeding that desire for vengeance. But because I’m a human being, nothing human can ever be alien to me.

Redefining “slacktivism” post-#ALSIceBucketChallenge

If you haven’t heard the terms “clicktivism” or “slacktivism”, consider yourself a blessed individual. It wasn’t until I was involved in a little Internet campaign (see also: the most viral video in Internet history) called Kony 2012, that I was subjected to this awful, wildly uncreative term.

Before you can understand the basis of this writing, you first must understand the peaks and valleys of a viral awareness campaign. So, if your biggest dreams come true and your campaign catches fire, a la #Kony2012 or #ALSIceBucketChallenge, please refer to the 5 levels of Viral Awareness Campaign, as outlined below:

1. The cause you’ve spent years trying to get people to care about is now the cool thing to do. You’ve already attained greater awareness and more donations than any of your previous years of work combined.

2. The “oh, shit” moment happens when the tidal wave keeps getting bigger and bigger. Now it’s 20 feet high and you’re doing your best to preempt the inevitable.

3. Overwhelmed. Exhausted. Not nearly enough resources or bodies to help you out of the hole you thought you were prepared for, but in reality you had NO idea this hole reaches all the way to the earth’s core before actually hitting magma.

4. By now, you’re no longer the “cool thing”. The early adopters have long since come and gone, and now anyone still participating in your campaign is one of the following: a) “a slacktivist”; b) “a blind follower” c) “an idiot who HASN’T DONE HIS/HER RESEARCH!” 

5. The masses will be convinced of one or more of the following: that your campaign is a scam; that your organization has plenty of money by now anyways and their $10 would be better spent on iPhone games; or that since they aren’t the ones actually in the lab working on a treatment or on the ground in Central Africa bringing child soldiers home themselves, that their role is pointless. Making it through this level without pulling your hair out is the 90’s equivalent of defeating Bowser.

As of August 19th, those fighting the good fight with the ALS Association are probably at around a level 4. For every new ice bucket challenge video I see on my timeline, there’s a snarky comment to match it. Don’t get me wrong, I applaud those who take a step back to look at the bigger picture and question where their money is going. That’s the first step to responsible giving. But once you’ve crossed your t’s and dotted your i’s, anything after that is just negativity.

There comes a point when people want so badly to go against the grain that they singlehandedly begin to derail a movement fueled by hope, love and positivity. If dumping a bucket of ice water over his own head is what will get a 16 year old kid to care about something outside of his own world, you will never convince me of any argument you have against it. We can’t simultaneously beg for the world/our society/our youth to care about global issues and use our next breath to bulldoze the very vehicle designed to make us care in the first place.

Through the peaks and valleys of Kony 2012, I came away with a resounding answer to a question I heard more times than I care to recall-“is awareness enough?”. YES! What’s the alternative? The status quo? Would we prefer a world where no one is electrified by anything outside of their own bubble? If that’s not enough, consider this-at this time last year, the ALS Association had raised $1.9 million. As of today, they’ve raised $22.9 million (and likely much more by the time you’re reading this). The impact that that money will have might never be quantifiable, but I can assure you that there isn’t a logical argument that can hold a candle to that statistic above.

If that kind of impact is representative of slacktivism, then that’s exactly the kind of activist I want to be. At the end of the day, though, the issue is not the derogatory use of the term “slacktivism”, because ultimately it’s a made up word defined by a human. It’s time to re-brand the term so that it no longer hurts when it’s hurled in the form of an insult. How great is it that social media allows us to issue an ice bucket challenge to a friend in Uganda or a sibling living in the Middle East? If I can empower 3 friends to dump cold water on their heads and donate money to an organization fighting a disease that may never touch them personally, then why would that ever be seen as a bad thing? In the same way that someone sitting at their computer can use their Twitter account to spread negativity, I can use that same avenue to raise awareness for any global issue I want. We’re living in an age of slacktivism where everything is a click away, whether we use that click for positivity or negativity is on us.

Having survived an apparent “slacktivist campaign”, I can promise that as difficult as it was at times for us as an organization, the overwhelming amount of good it did in terms of raising awareness, funding projects on the ground and calling International political attention to the conflict is indisputable. If that’s the outcome of slacktivism, then I sincerely hope that every worthy organization achieves viral-going, mud-slinging, slacktivist-calling glory. It’s not for the faint of heart-it will be challenging, it will bring you to your knees and it will make you force yourself to stand back up again daily, it will strengthen your “why”, it will challenge you to find the good in the same people who were patting you on the back just days before, and most importantly, it will be worth it.

*PSA: If dumping frigid water over your head and putting your money toward the ALS Foundation doesn’t move you, then find something that does. Unfortunately, there is no shortage of global/local issues, humanitarian crises or uncured diseases. But fortunately, there is also no shortage of worthy organizations that are thirsty to put to good use your time, attention and money. One shouldn’t be seen as less worthy of money, attention or support than another. Many issues deserve attention and if you’re more compelled to one than another, I applaud you. Focus your time, attention and money on that one, rather than condemning those focusing on this one. At the end of the day, be proud that our fellow human beings are choosing to do something positive with their time and money. You can’t ask for anything more than that from a stereotypically apathetic country.

More Than A Dog

It’s been over 14 years since I knew life without Mia. 

Fourteen years is a lot of years for a dog. Even a superwoman like her, who still swam in the river every weekend up until a few months ago. It stands to reason that her back legs started giving out and her body started slowly shutting down on her. She had done more than her fair share in her fourteen years, after all.

But more than the swims, the happiness, the river walks and neighborhood jogs, more than the trips to Tahoe and Baskin Robbins, it was what she did for me that makes it so damn hard to say bye.

In sixth grade she kept the monsters away from me while I slept with her sleeping in my bed right next to me.

Throughout my awkward middle school years she was a friend I knew was never too cool to hang out with me every weekend.

Throughout high school she was a soft pillow to cry into when things were tough.

Throughout college she was my favorite part about coming home each Christmas and summer break. A majority of the flight home was spent thinking about how I could surprise her when I walked in the door. 

In my post-Kentucky years she remained a die-hard Kentucky fan, wearing her UK collar everywhere she went. She proved that sometimes dogs really do like ‘Cats.

Last year during a long, difficult and frustrating period of unemployment, she was my only constant. She single-handedly got me through those months. No matter how many companies I didn’t hear back from each day or how many arguments I was in with my parents, I knew I could count on her to go on a walk with me every single morning. If it was a good day and her legs were feeling young, we’d walk the whole bike trail. If it was hot she’d lay in the backyard and tan with me. If for nothing else, I’m thankful for those long days because of the time I got to spend with her.

After a big fight with my dad two summers ago, she was the catalyst for a reconciliation that would have taken MUCH longer, had it not been for the two of us, both crying, going to her for solace and comfort in the middle of the night only to find that the other was already there, too. 

And finally, in my last visit home at Thanksgiving, she let me sleep with her on her bed the night before I left. I watched her sleep, her cute face white with wisdom and age, and gave her my blessing to go when she was ready.

I knew this day would come, and in the past few months I knew it would be coming soon. I guess I just didn’t expect it to come on a Saturday morning, five days before I was going to be getting back on a plane to go home for Christmas to see her like I’ve done every other year for the past seven years.

Mia has been a fixture of me, my family, my Instagrams, my best stories and our house for over a decade. If you’ve never REALLY known the love, happiness and companionship of a dog, this statement-and this writing in general-will seem like hyperbole to you, but I genuinely don’t know how long it will take to fill the void she’s left. If you have REALLY know the love, happiness and companionship of a dog, know that it hurts probably just as badly as you think it will, but that it is SO worth it. We grew up together and I can’t imagine the past 14 years of my life without one of my oldest and closest friends. 

Screw The White Flag: A Kings Novel

So Lance doped, Manti was duped and sports comes out the loser, again. 

As it is, we’re conditioned to believe in fairy tales. The fairy tale wedding, the fairy tale romance, the fairy tale ending. But sports, in particular, can’t resist a good fairy tale headline: the fairy tale comeback, the fairy tale underdog, the fairy tale story of the perseverance and triumph of the human spirit in a game metaphorically representative of things much bigger.

Which is why we’re so hurt, so personally betrayed, when an athlete comes crashing down from our self-constructed marble pedestal, fairy tale and all. 

And still we push onward, craving the next fairy tale story and continuing down this self-destructive path because, at the end of the day, at the end of the game, sports is transcendent. More so than most things.

An autistic high school basketball player whose four minute 3 point barrage endeared him to millions and made him a household name; a Miracle On Ice of the unlikeliest kind, which unified the entire nation for a winter in 1980; the relentless adoration of a professional basketball franchise stuck perennially in the NBA cellar, with unscrupulous owners, a sub-par record, a well-worn arena, a die-hard city that’s been given the death sentence more than once and a dire situation that has left Sacramentans with no choice other than to invest everything in the ultimate hail mary fairy tale.  

An athlete, a championship, a franchise. All metaphorical representations of things much bigger. 

And speaking of that last one, that franchise on the brink of elimination, that one is my heart-the reason for my intense, irrational (some might say), passionate love of The Beautiful Game. And for that reason, it’s impossible for me to write about this with the proper emotion and sincerity that it deserves because the words necessary to explain the intensity of the feelings behind this roller coaster of emotions-ranging from anger to betrayal to sadness to pride to hope-just don’t exist. And they especially don’t exist if I want to avoid every cheesy cliche ever used. I’ve been working on this post for five nights now, writing and re-writing, and I’ve decided that in the same way you can’t explain love to someone who’s never been in love, mere words can’t explain to you how I feel about what the Sacramento Kings mean to me. 

image

Re-reading the above paragraph from a momentarily objective viewpoint, it sounds ridiculous. Especially to someone who didn’t grow up playing and watching sports. I can hear your collective thoughts, and I get it: It’s just a game. But it’s so much more than just a game.

It’s bigger than basketball. It’s bigger than 19 years of some of my best memories. It’s bigger than dreams about Mike Bibby’s game winner in game 5 and nightmares about Robert Horry’s game winner in game 4. It’s bigger than high fives with my dad in section 204, row B since the age of five. It’s bigger than Arco Thunder and the Bench Mob. It’s bigger than joining over 1,000 other Kings fans to listen to an impromptu Carmichael Dave radio segment at 12:00 AM on a Sunday night reassuring Kings fans that it’s not over-not be a long shot. It’s bigger than cowbells behind the Lakers bench. It’s bigger than ensuring that the retired jerseys of C-Webb, Vlade and Mitch keep their much-deserved home in the Arco Arena rafters. It’s bigger than Chris Webber’s proclamation on TNT that “The jersey’s not going down. Everything’s going to stay and we’re going to fight…it’s not over, Sacramento.” It’s bigger than Sign Lady. It’s bigger than a Mayor, who’s a Sacramento native and former NBA point guard, who declined Obama’s invitation to the Inaugural Ball because he’s #PlayingToWin for Sacramento. It’s bigger than those nights spent laying on the floor in the loft watching the games with my sister and mom. It’s bigger than the unification of Sacramento politicians because of a professional basketball franchise. It’s bigger than the local grassroots efforts of fans who’ve already pledged over $20 million in season ticket sales under new ownership. It’s bigger than Grant, Jerry, the G Man and Slamson. It’s bigger than all of these things because it is all of these things. 

image

And more importantly, it isall of these things for most Sacramentans. Unlike just about every other professional sports city, we don’t have another big time college or pro sports team to turn to for solace. The Kings are the end all and be all. For a city which is the capital of the 8th largest economy in the world, most people can’t even place Sac on a map. But most of those people do remember the days when the Kings were the most exciting team in the NBA, contending for a championship year in and year out. Most of those people could tell you that C-Webb was the most dominant power forward in the game during those glory years. And they knew that Mike had ice water in his veins at the end of a game and that Peja had “Jimmer range” before Jimmer was even a twinkle in ESPN’s eye.

That’s not to say that the Kings are the only thing that makes us relevant, but for me, and most other people in this basketball-crazed city, the Kings are not only a large part of our identity, but they’re part of the fabric of the cloth from which we’re cut. I always wonder how I got so lucky ending up at the University of Kentucky, a school and state that cares about basketball and its team just as much as I do. Now I’m counting my blessings and wondering how I ended up in that same situation here. The Kings gave me the roots of my love for the game and now I’m getting a chance, along with my other tens of thousands of fellow Kings fans, to repay the favor in a powerful way so that hopefully my kids and my kid’s kids will have the fortune of those same roots.

So that is what the Kings mean to me and to this city- that vague description of things that only hold intense emotional weight to me. That’s my best effort at explaining why the thought of my team being unfairly ripped from us makes my eyes misty. (And if you’re interested in reading my message to the Maloofs in my best effort at a concise, honest and non-profane message to the infuriating owners who are trying their damnedest to lay one last haymaker to finish off a city that’s given them everything, and more, the past 15 years, scroll to the very bottom of this post.)

image

Despite a history of far more struggles than successes, we’ve continued to show up and show out, just as we’re doing now in the face of possible impending doom. Show me another fan base that continues to fill 70% of a decrepit arena in the midst of another lottery season and AFTER the sale of its team; show me a Mayor who’s put just about every other issue on hold while he fights for what he knows his city rightfully deserves; show me another city where this story is dominating damn near every air wave, radio wave, twitter handle and blog from media of every form. Show me another city that’s doing all of this and more, and then try and tell me that city deserves to have its team taken from them. Seattle lost its team in the same excruciating way (although, without equal intensity of political and grassroots efforts), so, yes, Seattle, you do deserve another professional basketball team. You deserve to have a team just as much as Sacramento deserves not to lose ours. And you know the agony of this conundrum better than anyone, which is why you’ll celebrate into the night, as you should, when an NBA team returns. Just know that it won’t be this year and it won’t be this team.

image

The glass Nike Hyperdunk is being fitted, the pumpkin-colored basketball is beginning to transform and our night in shining all-star uniform is setting us up for a movie-worthy fairy tale comeback. The shot clock hasn’t struck zero yet, and the game is far from over, but there are too many people who are pulling out every last stop and there too many fans who are too invested in this franchise for this fairy tale to come up short. This city’s efforts saved the Kings from becoming the Anaheim Royals in 2011 when everyone said it was “a done deal” and I have no reason to believe the outcome will be any different this time. This team has been a unifying force for this city and has revealed the character of Sacramentans, from Kevin Johnson down, and I couldn’t be more proud to associate with a team of people who refuse to lose, regardless of the “done deal” circumstances we’ve been given.

Sports have been in the national news for all the wrong reasons the past week and a half, but this story has a chance to make national news for all of the inspirational, valiant and admirable reasons our culture is so enthralled with sports to begin with. We are in the midst of the ultimate underdog fairy tale and I’ll be proud to take my future kids to Kings games (they WILL be Kings fans, dammit) because of the pride and ‘never say die’ attitude this city has gone all in with. Screw the white flag. I’ll take a purple flag with a SACRAMENTO Kings logo on it.

image

And here’s a reward for those of you (thanks, Mom) who made it this far. After hours spent watching hours of YouTube clips, I decided to eternalize some of them in my blog for my future enjoyment. So, here are some of the best memories I have of my 19 years of Sacramento Kings fandom. Some are more broad, some more specific. But all are awesome and still give me goosebumps every single time.

6: The Kings/Lakers rivalry was one for the ages. And it all started with the punch. 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NvFfFnGcSnU

5: Ronnie Price’s dunk over Carlos Boozer. Probably the best dunk I’ve ever seen live, in person. It just came out of nowhere in the middle of a ho-hum game. Ronnie got a solid 45 second standing ovation afterwards as he shot his ‘and 1’ free throw. 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UcS0xyoQO3w

4: Jason Williams. Known more fondly as White Chocolate. I wasn’t even in my teens when we drafted J-Will, so I never really got a chance to appreciate the unreal handles, passing and flair that he brought to the court. Watching his highlights now, I’d kill to have a guy like him to bring back that Arco Thunder. Bob Cousy -> Pistol Pete -> Magic -> J-Will. Hasn’t been another like him since.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rmvnS69rOr4&list=UUMEKe36S1u-LRIfu80_n_gg&index=24

3: The Greatest Show On Court. Chris, Mike, Vlade, Jason, Peja, Bobby, Jon, Scot, Hedo. The passing was flawless. The construction of the team was beautiful. The chemistry was unrivaled. It’ll be a long time until we see something this special again.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=doDkDrQSp7M

2: This one is hard for me to watch, but the potential final send off of Grant and Jerry after the last game of the 2011 season is priceless. The team was signed, sealed and all but delivered to Anaheim that year (sound familiar?) and after the game ended thousands of fans sat in Arco waiting, hoping, crying, chanting and believing that the team would be back the following year. Grant and Jerry’s emotional send off exemplifies what the Kings mean to Sacramento.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X76R0iu5yk0

1: Hands down the best memory I have in my entire sports career (UK’s 2012 National Championship is a close second). My dad and I were there, in section 204 row B, to watch this game live. Mike comes around the pick and as he rises you can literally feel the air from the entire arena being sucked in. The ball goes through the net and I promise you, if the roof of the arena wasn’t cement, the top would’ve blown right off the place. By far the most beautifully deafening sound I’ve ever heard in my life. 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UZRxCUfpGWI

image

Finally, to the Maloofs: You contemptuous human beings who pissed away the fortune your father built, ironically, on a foundation of customer service, integrity, loyalty and honesty. It’s a business, I get it, and technically you have the right to make a business decision. But when this unmerited business decision effects the lives of millions, when you mess with Sacramento’s team, the gloves will come off. It’s no secret that you’re broke and it’s desperation time because all your other sources of income vanished before your eyes, but what the hell did Sacramento ever do to you? Unless we count setting some of the NBA’s longest home sellout streaks in league history, putting up with your Ed Hardy playboy lifestyles all over Carl’s Jr. commercials, lobbying city council to work day and night to get an arena deal done, only to have you bail on your end of the deal at the last minute, or continuing to buy your over-priced merchandise, popcorn and tickets even when the team was horrible because you couldn’t afford to pay anyone other than mediocre role players and rookies. And in return for all that love and loyalty, you spend years dragging this city through the mud while you flirt with other possible suitors. And still we show up. You vehemently denied for years that the team was for sale and then like the snakes that you are, cut a deal in the dead of night to send the team to Seattle. And still we show up, stronger than before. Thank God that for the 6 of you buffoons that we’ve had to put up with for 15 years, we have someone like Mayor KJ to outwork and outclass all of you, combined. Tenfold. You might win in the end, but if nothing else, at least this city is now free of your incompetent, cowardly chokehold. So, in conclusion, good riddance to you. Don’t come back.

image

There is so much good in the worst of us, and so much bad in the best of us, that it behooves all of us not to talk about the rest of us.

Robert Louis Stevenson (via creatingaquietmind)

Part 1: Welcome to the Big Blue Nation. How’d I get so lucky?

I don’t know how it happened. I loved my freshman year at Sonoma State. I didn’t really have any intentions of transferring until…I did. I’ll admit, I couldn’t have even pointed out Kentucky on a map until I landed in the Bluegrass state and immediately fell in love. All it took was one step out of our downtown Lexington hotel that sold me on my biggest life decision to date: the flower pots that hung from the lamp posts had basketball nets attached to the bottom. Although there were doubts that I had to keep pushing out of my mind, it was a mother’s intuition that eventually put those fears to rest. She somehow, “just had a feeling that Kentucky was the best fit”. You know, they do say Moms always know best…

I’ve always loved the South. Visiting family in Memphis was always an exciting trip that gave me an early appreciation for sweet tea, country music, southern drawls, incessant cicadas and the necessary aversion to humidity. Kentucky was everything I loved about what little I knew about the south, times 100. It had the southern charm: the lush, rolling hills dotted with immaculately sculpted thoroughbreds with bloodlines that the Kennedys would envy, the frat-tastic boat shoes and pastel knee-high kakis, the picturesque, magnolia-draped back roads that somehow always opened up just in time to see a huge, fiery sun sinking behind a horse farm, enough home cooked goodness to comfort you for years, and, most importantly, that history-laden tradition and school spirit that’s only truly done right in the south, of which I’d always dreamt. Above all, though, Kentucky had one thing no other school in the world really, truly had: basketball.

I never really watched college basketball because, unlike every single Kentuckian, I didn’t come out of the womb immediately attached to a college team. Sacramento has the Kings and I took full advantage of my pride and fandom in that one team that was really mine (as evidenced by this post http://anchorsandeden.tumblr.com/post/4581976599/the-color-purple), but California is primarily an NBA state. The Kings, Warriors, Lakers and Clippers far outnumber the main college basketball program, UCLA, and occasionally USC, Cal or Stanford. Kentucky, on the other hand, is ONLY college basketball. More specifically, it’s ONLY Kentucky basketball, but I’ll get into that in my next blog post.

These simple basketball facts make it all the more miraculous that I ended up at the University of Kentucky, the Mecca of college basketball, the winningest school in the history of the game, the only place where my rabid obsession with the sport could even be remotely matched. It was fate, and the Basketball Gods, that led me to the most-tradition rich basketball school in the world and I still look back on my time at UK in amazement. And that’s not an exaggeration. It still baffles me that of all 2,618 public Universities in the country, I wound up at the only school that fit me like a perfect, Big Blue glove.

You can talk about Indiana, North Carolina and Kansas as historical basketball states ‘til you’re (Go Big) Blue in the face, but they don’t hold a candle to Kentucky. The South, full of all its football tailgating glory, is the heart of American college football, as evidenced by the SEC having won the last 5 National Championships, but Kentucky is the anomaly. A proud hoops haven indifferent to the world around it. Make no mistake, Saturday tailgates before UK football games are some of my favorite memories, but football fans are different than basketball fans. Football games are played in the more favorable months where the weather obliges the all-day party that overtakes every surrounding city block, where the grill burns hot and the drinks flow endlessly as the fuzz spin themselves dizzy constantly turning a blind eye. Basketball, on the other hand, requires true investment in the game and the only partying comes when the Rupp Arena security lets you in the breezeway 3 hours before tipoff after you’ve spent the last 5 hours in line huddled with your friends in the snow. By that point, all your hard work and incredible luck of winning a ticket through the flawed (but necessary) lottery system, waiting in line for hours and sprinting to the best available 1 foot standing room spot left in the eRUPPtion zone would be useless if you were too sauced to give the game the full, undivided attention that it deserves. Because of this general understanding, Kentucky fans, young or old, male or female, are some of the smartest-gasping when the opposing team sets a solid back pick before the point guard even finds his open man and jumping out of their seats before the lob to Anthony Davis is even thrown. This intricate attention to detail of nearly every fan is what sets the Big Blue Nation apart and makes me appreciate even more the fan base to which I proudly belong. 

Most of all, though, Kentucky fans know that it’s not “just a game”. In fact, Kentucky fans are God’s heaven-sent retort to the paltry denunciation that basketball is “just a game”. There have been countless clichés about the Commonwealth’s love affair with basketball, all of them as true as the state is Blue, but there aren’t strong enough words in the English language to explain something that is just so inherent. I won’t ever fully understand how it binds generations and divides families, how “just a game” enabled dreams in young men just trying to survive miserable years working in the coalmines or how it unified an entire Commonwealth to endure years of economic hardship.

Despite my propensity to be adopted as a Big Blue diehard, I wasn’t born in Kentucky, don’t have the Wildcat pedigree gifted from the generations, didn’t have the blue blood birthright from my first gasp of air and wasn’t born with that ‘Free Admission’ card to those with Blue gene lineage, but it took less than 3 years in Lexington to understand and identify with a group of people so seemingly different: it’s so much more than just a game, and in Kentucky it’ll get in your blood and turn it Blue.

Hundreds of UK fans waiting at the airport the other day for the team plane to land back in Lexington after advancing to the Final Four.

Brow Down.

That’s real. And not uncommon. And I love it.

Tradition defined.

The Water Is Black: My Dear Wormwood,

Absolutely incredible. Jed is just another example of the brilliant, talented, creative, empowering and caring individuals that Invisible Children collects. Amazing, Jed. Thank you.

thewaterisblack:

I received your letter this morning and I must say I am not the least bit pleased. You brag and gloat that you got the face of the world’s largest youth movement to go mad. To tear off his clothes and cry out to the Enemy in the streets for all the world to see. You list the lies you whispered…

You really should follow our Austin Street Team blog…

ATX Bucket List

This is our first post and our first installment of our ATX Bucket List. We asked the good people of Facebook for bucket list items and have come up with the following (and added some of our own):

Swim in Hamilton Pool-Collapsed cavern-turned-natural-swimming-pool fed by a waterfall

Go kayaking (Town Lake and Lake Austin)

Attend Austin City Limits Festival

Attend SXSW music festival

Eat at Franklin’s bbq

Swim in Barton Springs-spring-fed and over 900 feet long

Hike Mount Bonnell

Play disk golf at Zilker Park

Hike/Bike/Fish Lady Bird Lake

Eat at Torchy’s Tacos

Go to Amy’s ice cream and have them throw the ice cream across the street (apparently it’s a thing?)

Go to Sno-Beach and get sno cones

Eat Gingerbread pancakes at Magnolia Cafe — Just go to Magnolia Cafe in general, says Lindy.

Cliff jumping at Lake Travis

Eat breakfast burritos at the original Whole Foods

Have a cake shake at the Holy Cacao food trailer

Have something from each of the trailers in the iconic South Austin Trailer Park & Eatery (Torchy’s Tacos, Holy Cacao and Man Bites Dog) in one sitting.

Find and take a picture with Leslie, the famous homeless man.

This is phase one of THE LIST. Let us know if you have any more ideas for us to add and follow us here: http://www.tumblr.com/blog/atxstreetteam

Don’t think about making art, just get it done. Let everyone else decide whether it’s good or bad, whether they love it or hate it. While they’re deciding, make even more art.

—- Andy Warhol

A good reminder for creative souls. Never stop being creative and letting your mind go…so important to remember.

Long overdue and still not quite there…

I was asked to write a blog post for a girl who just started a blog about social change and getting involved to make a difference. She contacted our PR department asking if one of the roadies would be interested in writing about his/her experience on the road. I jumped at the opportunity when asked, but two things stood in my way…1) it was right in the middle of our intense, three week fundraising marathon in the office and all my time was spent fundraising and making calls (yes, I left out sleeping for a reason) and 2) every time I did have a minute and sat down to try to put my last year into a few concise paragraphs, it seemed impossible.

I was reminded tonight that the girl was still waiting and the blog post hadn’t been written so despite the late hour of the night and the mental mountain I had to climb to write it, I came up with…something. It’s nowhere near how I hope to some day write about my year at I.C., but considering how low my eyelids are hanging and the epiphany half way through that I’m probably always going to feel like I’m doing it an injustice, but that it’s still important to write about it regardless, it could be worse and I’m going to post it anyways! Oh, and it’s not been edited in the slightest. I’ve been writing and re-writing for two hours so re-reading it sounds even slightly less appealing than becoming a Lakers fan, sorry I’m not sorry :)

"Just go through with the second interview. It can’t hurt." 
I am forever grateful for my mom for those wise words last November when I was going through the interview process to be a roadie for Invisible Children, a non-profit organization working to end Africa’s longest-running war. A 26-year-long war, to be exact, where a madman named Joseph Kony has been leading his Lord’s Resistance Army on a tear across regions of central Africa (Uganda, Central African Republic, South Sudan and Democratic Republic of the Congo) killing, raping, pillaging and, most notably, abducting thousands of children. 
My Invisible Children story started about 5 years before that fateful conversation with my mom when I was a senior in high school. During a free period I sat down to work on homework but my attention was immediately drawn to the film being projected on the wall in front of me. That film, I would later find out, was called Invisible Children: The Rough Cut, and as dramatic as it sounds, my world would never be the same after that, honestly. Having my eyes opened to that level of human injustice and never even having heard of Joseph Kony or the Lord’s Resistance Army was simultaneously frustrating and inspiring. On one hand I couldn’t understand why my parents, teachers and mentors hadn’t ever told me about the most neglected humanitarian crisis of the 21st century. On the other, it sparked something that made me not only want to get involved with ending this war, but made me more conscious of the world outside my bubble.
That spark would remain and would only intensify after I traveled to Kenya twice during college. After my first trip I came home and in the midst of my culture shock of being back in the U.S., realized that I could come back and allow myself to slip back into my world and only talk fondly of my “life-changing experience” or I could actually act on it. So I went to Kenya the following summer, graduated from the University of Kentucky, moved to Nashville to intern for another Africa-related non-profit called Mocha Club and decided to take that next big step and applied to be a roadie with Invisible Children. I got through the first round of interviews and didn’t expect a call back for round two. After all, this was a huge organization with hundreds of applicants from across the world dying for the opportunity to act on the same spark they felt after watching an I.C. film, like I did. Never mind the money I didn’t have to support myself throughout this 15 week internship or my paralyzing, mind-numbing fear of public speaking. 
"Just go through with the second interview. It can’t hurt." 

I got the call for the second interview and if it weren’t for my mom I wouldn’t have just finished my second tour as a roadie for Invisible Children, would’ve missed out on by far the most formative year of my life and I would be a drastically different person than I am today. (Thanks again, Mom!)

Having the incredibly good fortune of touring Texas as a roadie on the Congo Tour in the spring and New England as a team leader on the Frontline Tour in the fall, I grew exponentially and learned things I will carry close for the rest of my life. I got to speak to and inspire thousands of students weekly (yes, I managed to get over my fear of public speaking…for the most part), cultivate life-long friendships with the three Americans, two Ugandans and one Ethiopian I lived with in a van as teammates over the course of two tours, set a new standard for the type of friends and community I will strive for after being in the most loving, inspiring and challenging environment I could imagine while at Invisible Children and countless more that I’d be doing a disservice both to you and Invisible Children trying to put into words.

I will never forget the honor I had daily to get on stage in an Invisible Children shirt daily and inspire audiences to join us on the front lines of this war and do more than just watch Joseph Kony commit these atrocities daily, because contrary to what they’ve heard, and at the risk of sounding cheesy, we can absolutely, without a doubt end this war. I got to do that standing next to a survivor of the very war we’re fighting. Both of my Ugandan teammates, Tony and Grace, had amazingly powerful stories of faith, resilience and strength and I stood in awe every single day as they choked back the tears and fought through the pain to recount their story for a new audience because their commitment to ending this war was so personal and ran so deep, seemingly coursing through their veins. 

As much as my story with Invisible Children began in high school and carried through my trips to Kenya and my time on the road, it was the two of them who kept me going and reminded me daily the enormity and importance of our goal. As much as this story transformed from one I saw on a movie screen to one I was deeply entrenched in five years later, this is their story; they have LIVED it. As much as this past year has given me an epic adventure, lifelong friends and the courage to continually challenge myself and always defy the status quo, in the end it is not about the personal growth, it’s about Tony and Grace and the human connection.

I can’t tell you enough how imperative it is to get involved with something you care about. If Invisible Children isn’t the route for you, find something else. Take that next step and immerse yourself in whatever that is. Give everything you have to helping people and making the world better because you were here. In twenty years when your child asks you what you did when the world was (seemingly) falling apart, be able to say that you showed up. 

I think it’s only appropriate to end with a quote from Invisible Children’s latest documentary, Tony (go here to watch it for free http://invisiblechildren.com/frontline-tony-documentary), “Push yourself, do what’s necessary. The world is waiting for you, don’t miss the invitation to join.”