President Obama Returns to Chicago: Revisits Community Organizing and Civic Engagement

It’s time to Break It Down!

This week marked a special occasion in the annals of Presidential observation. No, I do not mean counting the final 72 hours before #45’s one-hundredth day in office. Rather, I am referring to the return of President Barack Obama to the public square. The former POTUS returned to the city where 14 and-a-half weeks earlier, he delivered his farewell address as Commander-in-Chief; that day at McCormick Place, Monday at the University of Chicago.

Mr. Obama’s return was characterized thusly: a “conversation on community organizing and civic engagement,” with the goal to “encourage and support the next generation of leaders.” His design was to create an environment in which he could converse expressly with young people; a group he believes is critical to reviving a flagging, moribund Democratic Party. To be clear, those are my adjectives, not Mr. Obama’s.

The setting incorporated a stage that included Obama and six students, plus an audience of 300 students. The format included brief introductory remarks by the former President, the introduction of the students sharing the stage, the individuals on the stage posing questions of each other, but also taking questions from the 300 students in the audience, who represented colleges and universities throughout Chicagoland.

Spoiler Alert: Despite the imminent proximity of the much bally-hoo’d 100-day mark of the current President, and the torrential stream of blamesplaining targeting Mr. Obama, the previous C-i-C adroitly avoided mentioning #45 or any of his policy prescriptions. There had been rampant speculation about whether the occasion might be used by Mr. Obama to weigh in on his successor and the administration’s first months. This event, however, was not about that. A source from Team Obama said the adopted Chicagoan had no intention of confronting the current administration’s policy, and the often-professorial Obama declined to be drawn down that rabbit hole. In fact, he was so assiduous in giving a wide berth to the topic of the new administration that he neither deigned to defend his own legacy in the office, nor spoke in support of the Affordable care Act, AKA Obamacare, his signature accomplishment, and a program under perennial assault by the GOP.

The occasion certainly could have served as an opening for the former President to beat back unsubstantiated wiretapping allegations made by the current occupant of 1400 Penn Ave., or to take on the often awkward, and occasionally meandering Republican agenda. Never one lacking message discipline, he blithely passed. Alternatively, he opted to lead a seminar on engaging a new generation of youth and prodding them to become active participants in the political discourse and process. Upon reflecting upon how he sees his role in the post-Obama Presidency era, he intoned:

“The single most important thing I can do is to help in any way I can prepare the next generation of leadership to take up the baton and to take their own crack at changing the world.”

Bypassing #45 was clearly the result of Mr. Obama’s own authentic design. He has determined, at least for the time being, that it is prudent to cede criticism of the current administration to those camps that have already elevated doing so to a cottage industry. This appears, in part to be due to reflecting on and appreciating the space his predecessor gave him in the early going. It’s also fair to note that Mr. Obama and his advisors have reasoned that now is simply not the right time to invest time and energy in confronting the newbies.

They realize, after all, that the current administration drew much of its synergy from the mere existence of then President Obama. To that end, they believe that challenging the current administration would make Obama a foil for #45’s efforts to rally his supporters, which in turn, could buttress the efforts of the current administration to enact its policies, which of course, Mr. Obama opposes.

With those predicates, the event at the University of Chicago, where a pre-POTUS Mr. Obama taught constitutional law, transpired absent any tension related to the 45th President. The former President appeared relaxed, casual, and comfortably ensconced in the moment. In other words, he appeared to enjoy himself.

In a moment of reflection, hearkening back to his speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention in which he introduced the notion of their being no “red” America or “blue” America, he conceded the aspirational nature of the assertion, going on to add, that it’s obviously not true as it pertains to our politics and civic life.

By and large, Mr. and Mrs. Obama have elected to avoid the intense glare of the public spotlight since leaving the White House on January 20th. Both have committed to writing Random House memoirs as they continue to make Washington, DC their home while Sasha, their youngest daughter completes high school. She will graduate in 2019. However, in the intervening three months since the Inauguration, they have spent most of their time on an extended vacation, even as his staff has been establishing an office in Washington. Planning is underway for his Presidential Library, which will be located in Chicago.

It is anticipated that Monday’s event in Chicago was the kickoff of a series of public appearances Mr. Obama will make in the United States and Europe. He is scheduled to appear next in Boston for a speech at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library, where he will receive the institution’s Profile in Courage award.

At the Chicago event, he discussed various elements of civic engagement, community organizing, and the importance of actively facing the challenges confronting contemporary society. For over an hour, he served as the resident Commander-in-Chief & Professor of interviews. He posed the questions, and kept the “show” moving. He initiateded a variety of queries, including:

  • Asking Ayanna Watkins, a senior at Kenwood Academy High School in Chicago, about the importance of access to social studies and civic education. She responded, “Awareness is something that holds a lot of youth back from getting involved.”
  • Asking Harish Patel, a graduate of the University of Illinois at Chicago, why he had chosen to run for the office of state representative last year. His short response was he, “didn’t see many Patels in office and wanted to fix that.”
  • Asking Max Freedman, an undergraduate at the University of Chicago, and the lone Republican on the panel, about issues of political correctness on college campuses. Freedman answered with a personal anecdote from eighth grade, when Mr. Obama was launching his first Presidential Campaign, prompting the former President to note, “I’m old.” “But please continue. Eighth grade!”

Much of Mr. Obama’s conversation Monday echoed themes from his farewell address in January, including a plea not to take democracy for granted. He underscored his continued concern for issues such as economic inequality, climate change, justice, and the spread of violence. He suggested it was a lack of leadership that stopped the country from making the necessary inroads into solving those problems. He said:

“All those problems are serious, they are daunting, but they are not insoluble. What’s preventing us from tackling them and making more progress really has to do with our politics and civic life.”

And so, the venerable former Chicagoan, via Honolulu, came full cycle vis-à-vis his Chi-town roots. He arrived in Chicago as a 31 year-old community organizer, steeped in the ways of civic engagement. During his 2008 Presidential Campaign, his opponents belittled his experience (as a community organizer). Arguably, it served him well, as he went on to win twice, serving two terms in the highest office in the land. And now, as he seeks his next career path, he is reprising the tenets of the career that launched him upon the veil of our collective consciousness. “President Obama Returns to Chicago; Revisits Community Organizing and Civic Engagement!

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Don’t Be Deceived: The Struggle (of America’s Original Sin) Is Real!

It’s time to Break It Down!

All too often when the subject of slavery, or white privilege is broached in contemporary American society, the reactions range from stoic ambivalence, to angry denial, to a rank disbelief that “you people have not let that go yet,” by white people, and inexplicable uneasiness and misplaced guilt by black people. I cite those reasons as evidence of the readily apparent. In the event you did not know, it’s time you knew, the simple truth is, all of those responses are wrong. In fact, they are not merely inappropriate; they are inordinately misguided.

I’ve written posts in the past that discussed in detail how a number of states have approved textbooks that in effect seek to diminish, if not deny the Atlantic slave trade, characterizing the practice as “immigration,’ and referring to slaves as guest workers. Let me put it in the plainest, most direct way I can. There are alternative facts, and there is bovine defecation. The latter rules in this case.

When such heavily laundered euphemisms are substituted for the most brazenly horrific acts EVER committed by Americans against other human beings in the United States, people who were, arguably, just as American as the recent immigrants themselves, people who were forcibly transplanted to our shores. The blatant hypocrisy and sheer thuggery, cannot, and I must add, will not be swept under the proverbial rug of historical memory. Aitch to the no!

I do not often wax religious, though, as a PK, I do have that skill set in my toolkit. Raising this topic in such close proximity to the observance of Easter, or Resurrection Sunday, as its often familiarly called, however, makes it at least worth noting in a passing reference, the role of Christianity in perpetuating the American slave trade. And, to be clear, I refer to by its proper name, slave trade, because that’s what it was. Boom! Daniel Burke, CNN’s Religion Editor, delved forthrightly into the issue.

In 1845, Frederick Douglass wrote “Life of an American Slave.” The formal title was ”Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave.” In this immortal work, Douglass wrote:

There is a wide gulf between Christianity proper and the slaveholding religion of this land. One is good, pure and holy, the other, corrupt and wicked, the climax of all misnomers, and the boldest of all frauds. We have men-stealers for ministers, women-whippers for missionaries and cradle-plunderers for church members.”

It is fair to say, for Mr. Douglass, as was and is the case for many other African Americans, the sin of slavery was intolerable, the complicity of Christians, unforgivable. Without apology, I am compelled to assert that postulate is as true today as it was in 1845, 172 years ago.

I am delighted to live in a world in which despite the ambivalent, the deniers, the disbelieving, the guilty, and all the other misguided souls, including the naysaying bovine defecators, there are others who concur with my sagacious conclusion. The Society of Jesus, or the Jesuit Order, as the group of powerful Catholic priests (including Pope Francis) is more familiarly known, indeed lists the horror of slavery among its immoral transgressions.

In 1838, Jesuits purchased 272 slaves on behalf of Georgetown University, a Jesuit University in Washington, DC. The acquisition of the slaves rescued the then young university, 49 years old at the time, but ruined hundreds of lives, destroyed families, condemning men, women, and children to the horror and cruelty of bondage, subjugation, and servitude.

Yesterday, the Jesuits and Georgetown repented. It took 179 years, but the university’s president and the school’s Jesuit leaders issued a “Liturgy of Remembrance, Contrition and Hope.” The Liturgy included the following statement by Georgetown President, John DeGiola:

“We express our solemn contrition for our participation in slavery, and the benefit our institution received. We cannot hide from this truth, bury this truth, ignore this truth. Slavery remains the original evil in our republic, an evil that our university was complicit in.”

Descendants of over a hundred of the slaves sold by the Maryland Jesuits attended the service. Many of them wore green ribbons, symbolizing hope and new life. Sandra Green Thomas, a participant in the Georgetown service said of her ancestors:

“Their pain is still here. It burns in the soul of every person of African descent in the United States.”

Of course, Hoya Nation is not the only American university community complicit in the slave trade. The entire Ivy League (Brown, Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth, Harvard, Penn, Princeton, and Yale), excluding Cornell, was involved in some way, historians say. Religious groups also founded several of those schools. However, some in the American Jesuit community, particularly, view their slaveholding past in an especially painful light. They (understandably I say) see racism as a lingering stain on our contemporary society.

If slavery is too frequently deemed a slippery slope, leading directly to the abyss of a confrontational conversation, the topic of white privilege is a natural complement. Michael Harriott drove that point home in an article in The Root last Friday. As I noted at the outset, it’s frequently difficult to engender a serious and civil, but frank conversation on the subject. White people, in many instances, feel accused, without specific charges. They tend to think of the concept as something nebulous that seems to reduce a complex potpourri of history, racism, and social phenomena to a nonspecific groupthink phrase.

Nonsense, white privilege is real, and Harriott is quite precise in explaining just how, and why. The historical institution of slavery and the contemporary concept of white privilege are related…but they are not the same, and should not be conflated. According to Mr. Harriott’s dispensation, white privilege is a proper noun, a real, definable thing that we can acknowledge, explain and work toward eliminating. While race may be a social construct, white privilege is an economic theory that we should define as such:

“White privilege: n. The quantitative advantage of whiteness”

He went on to list 4 exemplars to explain white privilege in economic terms.

  1. Education – If education is the key to success, then there is no debate that whites have the advantage in America. In 2012, the U. S. Department of Education reported that about 33 percent of all white students attend a low-poverty school, while only 6 percent attend high-poverty schools. In comparison, only 10 percent of black students attend a low-poverty school, while more than 40 percent of black students attend high-poverty schools. This means that black students are more than six times more likely than white students to attend a high-poverty school, while white students are more than three times more likely than black students to attend a low-poverty school. The logical response to this is for whites to explain the disparity away with statistics of black unemployment and the minority wage gap, but that might not be true. In 2015, a research scientist named David Mosenkis examined 500 school districts in Pennsylvania and found that—regardless of the level of income—the more black students, the less money a school received. While this may not be true for every single school, people who study education funding say that they can predict a school’s level of funding by the percentage of minority students it has. Even though this is a complex issue that reveals how redlining and segregation decreased the property tax base in areas where blacks live—therefore decreasing funding—it underscores a simple fact: White children get better educations, and that is a calculable advantage.
  2. Employment – Even when black students manage to overcome the hurdles of unequal education, they still don’t get equal treatment when it comes to jobs. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of Friday, April 7, the unemployment rate for African Americans was nearly double that of whites (8.1 percent for blacks, 4.3 percent for whites). There are some who will say blacks should study harder, but this phenomenon can’t be explained by simple educational disparities. A 2015 study by the Center for Economic and Policy Research shows that whites with the exact same résumés as their black counterparts are hired at double the rate. In fact, a white man with a criminal history is more likely to be hired than an African American with no criminal past. A similarly named, but different, organization—the Economic Policy Institute—examined 2015 data and discovered that at every level of education, whites were twice as likely to have jobs as blacks. If it is statistically easier for whites to get a better education, and better jobs, then being born white must be an advantage in and of itself.
  3. Income – But let’s say a black man somehow gets a great education and finds a job; surely that means the playing field is level, right? Not so fast. Researchers at EPI found that black men with 11-20 years of work experience earned 23.5 percent less than their white counterparts, and black women with 11-20 years of experience were paid 12.6 percent less than white women with the same experience. This disparity is not getting smaller. The wage gap between black and white workers was 18.1 percent in 1979, and steadily increased to 26.7 percent in 2015. When Pew Research controlled for education and just looked at income data, white men still surpassed every other group. These income inequalities persist to create the disparities in wealth between races, manifesting in generational disadvantages. A black person with the same education and experience as a similar Caucasian, over the span of their lives, will earn significantly less.
  4. Spending – It is a little-known fact that the average black person pays more for almost every item he or she purchases. While there is no discount Groupon that comes whit white skin, there might as well be. A John Hopkins study (pdf) showed that supermarkets were less prevalent in poor black neighborhoods than in white neighborhoods with the same average income, leading to increased food costs. News organization ProPublica recently found that car-insurance companies charge people who live in black neighborhoods higher rates than people in predominantly white areas with the same risk. When it comes to credit, it is even worse. According to the National Bureau of Economic Research, The Atlantic reports, “even after controlling for general risk considerations, such as credit score, loan-to-value ratio, subordinate liens, and debt-to-income ratios, Hispanic Americans are 78 percent more likely to be given a high-cost mortgage, and black Americans are 105 percent more likely.” Even banks as large as Wells Fargo have lost cases for up-charging minorities. According to the Wall Street Journal, large auto lenders have paid more than $200 million since 2013 to settle lawsuits for charging minorities higher rates, but in November, both Democrats and Republicans voted to reduce regulations on the financial institutions that offer auto loans. The National Consumer Law Center filed a 2007 lawsuit that exposed how “finance companies and banks put in place policies that allowed car dealers to mark up the interest rates on auto loans to minorities based on subjective criteria unrelated to their credit risk.”

Instead of hurling the term “white privilege” around as an imprecise catch-all to describe everything from police brutality to Pepsi commercials, perhaps its use as a definable phrase will make people less resistant. Maybe if they saw the numbers, they could acknowledge its existence. It is neither an insult nor an accusation; it is simply a measurable gap with real-world implications. It is the fiscal and economic disparity of black vs. white. In America’s four-and-a-half-centuries-old relay race, the phrase “white privilege” does not mean that Caucasians can’t run fast; it is just a matter-of-fact acknowledgment that they got a head start.

In summary, whether the topic is slavery and it’s still prevalent consequences, or white privilege and its everyday examples, don’t be bashful, and by all means, don’t fall for the okey-doke. The struggle is not imaginary, and neither are the vestiges of slavery, nor the daily disadvantages (and advantages) of white privilege. Don’t Be Deceived: The Struggle (of America’s Original Sin) Is Real!”

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Don’t Look Now, but There’s a New Sheriff in Town

It’s time to Break It Down!

There was a period in my lifetime when the phrase, “What’s good for GM is good for America” was thought by many to reflect the operational orthodoxy of our nation. The source of this perceived wisdom, if you would call it that, was said to be the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of General Motors (GM). A little research reveals that, Charles Wilson did not exactly frame the comment the way it.  was interpreted and subsequently communicated for years.

As it turns out, Mr. Wilson, President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s nominee for Defense Secretary, was asked during a 1953 Congressional hearing whether, if he were to serve in the capacity of Defense Secretary, he could make a decision averse to the interests of General Motors? After responding affirmatively, he went on to say that he:

“Could not conceive of such a situation “because for years I thought what was good for the country was good for General Motors and vice versa.”

So rather than a braggadocios assertion about the universality of the GM brand, Wilson’s statement was more like a little homespun humility about the degree to which he had immersed himself in his life’s work. Be that as it may, even had the erstwhile meaning captured the essence of some level of nationalistic fervor about the goodness and pervasiveness of GM, the page turned this week.

GM was founded in 1908, and from 1931 to 2007 held the distinction of having been the largest automaker in the United States. At that point Ford Motor Company surpassed GM in value. By 2009, the Great Recession had taken the ultimate toll on GM (and Chrysler).

The current company, General Motors Company LLC (“new GM”), was formed on June 1, 2009, following the bankruptcy of General Motors Corporation (“old GM”), which became Motors Liquidation Company. At that point GM Stockholders lost all of their investment.

On July 10, 2009, General Motors emerged from government backed Chapter 11 reorganization after an initial filing on June 8, 2009. Through the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) the US Treasury invested $49.5 billion in General Motors and recovered $39 billion when it sold its shares on December 9, 2013 resulting in a loss of $10.3 billion. The Treasury invested an additional $17.2 billion into GM’s former financing company, GMAC (now Ally). The shares in Ally were sold on December 18, 2014 for $19.6 billion netting $2.4 billion. A study by the Center for Automotive Research found that the GM bailout saved 1.2 million jobs and preserved $34.9 billion in tax revenue.

With that lengthy preamble about GM, which had reclaimed its perch as America’s most valuable automaker, the breaking news is that in successive weeks, Tesla caught and surpassed the country’s top two automakers, Ford, last week, and GM this week.

What exactly is Tesla? Just in case you’ve been under a rock, or in a Rip Van Winkle state of consciousness, Tesla, Inc. (formerly named Tesla Motors, founded in 2003) is a major American automaker, energy storage company, and solar panel manufacturer based in Palo Alto, California. Martin Eberhard, and Marc Tarpenning initially founded the company in 2003, although it also counts Elon Musk, JB Straubel, and Ian Wright amongst its co-founders. The company specializes in electric cars, Lithium-ion battery energy storage, and, through their SolarCity subsidiary, residential solar panels.

Tesla first gained widespread attention following its production of the Tesla Roadster, the first electric sports car, in 2008. The company’s second vehicle, the Model S, an electric luxury sedan, debuted in 2012 and is built at the Tesla Factory in California. The Model S has been the world’s best-selling plug-in electric car for two years in a row, 2015 and 2016.

While the message stands as important in its own right, it’s imperative to acknowledge exactly what it represents, and what it does not. Tesla is…”a global pioneer at the forefront of new technologies including electric vehicles, assisted driving, shared vehicles, digitizing real-world information, sustainable energy generation and scalable energy storage.” It is not outpacing Ford and GM in vehicle sales.

The company’s stock rose more than 7%, Monday of last week, increasing its market value to $48.69 billion. Ford’s market cap is $45.31 billion. This week, Tesla valuation was placed at $51.5 billion, topping GM’s $50.2 billion. The company has yet to turn a profit, and lost hundreds of millions of dollars just last year. However, a couple of days ago, it became the most valuable American automaker, surpassing GM with almost $10 billion in profit on nearly $10 million vehicles. Tesla for its part sold only 84,000 cars last year (with starting prices of $68,000).

The encouraging first quarter numbers come as Tesla ramps up for production of the new Model 3, its cheapest car to date. The vehicle, a sedan, slated to launch this summer, will have an entry-level price of $35,000, and has already garnered nearly 400,000 pre-orders from people who made payments of $1000 for reservations last year.

It should also be noted that Tesla has a long-running saga of production problems, and it has not come close to filling its ambitious and cleverly marketed goals. It not only sells far fewer cars than its rivals in Detroit, it also employs a fraction of their workforce.

The competition has responded to the dubious nature of some of Tesla’s advantages. GM’s vice chairman Bob Lutz had this to say:

“This is the ultimate bubble, which is doomed to bust. Tesla cars are fine, but the business model is not. The high cost of production is not recovered in the sale price. All legacy car companies will soon have a variety of similar electric vehicles.”

According to the Wall Street Journal, David Cole, an investor in Detroit automakers, and chairman emeritus of the Center for Automotive Research added:

“Its (speaking of Tesla) market cap is based on hype and promises versus substance.”

Of course Musk has heard it all. Not surprisingly, he has formulated what he considers a most apt answer, and framed his response in a tweet Monday afternoon:

“Tesla is absurdly overvalued if based on the past, but that’s irrelevant. A stock price represents risk-adjusted future cash flows.”

At this very moment Tesla and GM are both working on expanding their electric vehicle profile and perfecting autonomous vehicle technology. Navigant Research released a report Monday that says Ford is ahead of Tesla and others in the self-driving car race.

GM and Ford have a near century-long or more  head start on Tesla. But there is no denying Tesla’s assault on the Stock Market is having an effect. It has made Musk one of the richest men in America and given him widespread influence across a number of arenas. Even critics who say Tesla could represent a technology bubble in the stock market acknowledge that the company’s success points to a new reality in the automotive industry that will reshape the experience of driving for most Americans. The story of the company’s rise illuminates the contemporary stratification of the American economy. Eco-friendly government tax credits, a boom in financial backing, and the promise of new school innovation coalesce to deliver, in Tesla, a badge for the drivers who can afford its imposing price point. Don’t Look Now, but There’s a New Sheriff in Town!”

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Redemption – Carolina Style: An Ugly Win…Is Still A Win

It’s time to Break It Down!

It took 364 days, more than 100 practices, and 40 games, but this past Monday night, when the University of North Carolina Men’s Basketball Team emerged from the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona, they emerged with a record of 33-7, and having been crowned the 2017 NCAA National Champions. A year ago, on the Wednesday following the first Monday in April, the annual day of the Men’s National Final, I published a post entitled, “One For The Ages: Hail To The Cats” ( At that I summarized what was one of the most dramatic and exhilarating, while simultaneously crushing and dispiriting (depending upon for which team one was rooting), abrupt endings in the history of NCAA Basketball Title Games.

As the title suggests, the Cats (Villanova) won (and my beloved Tar Heels left, having had the chance to chase victory in overtime unceremoniously snatched away in the very last second, literally. For Tar Heel hoops fans everywhere it was perhaps the most sudden and devastating of losses.  To make matters extraordinarily worse, the coup de grace was this dreadful termination was executed on the biggest of all stages in the sport. It is a game whose results are validated, with great fanfare by a poignantly edited video accompaniment of Luther Vandross singing One Shining Moment. The best players in college basketball routinely dream of hearing that song, punctuated by a sea of confetti, falling on both the victors and the vanquished.

The story has been dispersed widely by now. The CliffNotes summation is, over the summer, in preparation for the coming season, the Tar Heels adopted “Redemption” as the season’s overarching theme. In doing so, they dedicated themselves to returning to the Final Four and winning the prize they were denied in such an abrupt and disheartening manner during the 2016 Title Game. By approximately 11:35 EDT Monday night, the Heels had accomplished their mission.

To be clear, under no scenario is UNC equated with the Sisters of the Poor of college basketball. However, in the current era many of the most high profile Division-1 colleges and universities target and successfully recruit what are know as one-and-done prospects to augment their quest to attain a Title. The University of Kentucky, Duke University, and Kansas University are among the most successful at adhering to this strategy. Tt’s worth noting Carolina has not attracted a player who spent only one year in college since 2007, or a decade ago. In a sport such as basketball, in which only 5 players per team are permitted in the game at one time, and in a sport in which any and all players are subject to be disqualified as a result of drawing 5 fouls, or two technical fouls, a one-and done-player or two…or more can go a long way in elevating a team’s prospects of “winning it all.”

This year for instance, Duke had several players projected to be one-and–done, as well as a host of McDonald’s All-Americans (10 in all). They were expected to win the Atlantic Coast Conference (the Conference in which Carolina plays), and they were the odds on favorite to win the National Title. During the course of the Regular Season and Conference Tournament, duke did defeat the Tar Heels twice, splitting a pair of games during the season (both teams won on their home court), and besting the Heels during the ACC Tournament.

As it turns out, that was as good as it would get for the Blue Devils. The Tar Heels finished two games ahead of the field in the ACC; duke was seeded 5th. As a result, when the seeding was announced for the NCAA Tournament, a single elimination competition composed of 68 teams from conferences all across the country, Carolina earned one of 4 Number 1 seeds, while Duke garnered a 2 seed. The Blue Devils won once, losing their second game during the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament. Meanwhile Carolina went on to win twice the first weekend, then repeated that feat again the second weekend, then three-peated it during the third weekend, securing the National Title in the process, two nights ago.

In all, Carolina played and won 6 games to win the Championship. During the opening weekend they beat Texas Southern 103-64, the largest margin in the 2017 Tournament. Their Road To The Final Four ultimately included the following:

  • Defeated Texas Southern University 103-64
  • Defeated University of Arkansas 72-65 (Scored the last 12 points)
  • Defeated Butler 92-80
  • Defeated Kentucky 75-73 (Scored winner with .3 of a second left)
  • Defeated Oregon 77-76 (Didn’t score a basket in the last 3 minutes)
  • Defeated Gonzaga 71-65 (Scored the last 8 points)

In the aftermath, it must be said, an instant classic the Title Game was not. It was however an epic battle between two evenly matched teams armed with a bevy of traditional post players. Some called it a battle of the Titans. The big men inside, on both sides, for the most part spent the evening steeped in foul trouble. As a result, guys on the perimeter became the central players and playmakers. Often as not, the focus leaned more to playmaking than shot making. The Heels shot only 14.8% from behind the 3-point line, the lowest percentage by any winning team in the 2017 Tournament, They went four-for-27 and Joel Berry made all four. The Tar Heels were out-rebounded, and shot a lower 3-point percentage, The Heels did shoot a higher percentage overall, though only an anemic 35.6%. Carolina also had more steals, more assists, more blocks, and fewer turnovers.

By most of the media accounts that I’ve seen, the referees were the stars of the game. Most folks with whom I have spoken that are not Tar Heel partisans seem to think that hurt the Zags more than the Heels. I don’t claim to be unbiased on the subject, but I do know there were 44 fouls called and 22 of them were on the Heels, including 4 each on post players Kennedy Meeks and Isaiah Hicks, and 3 on Luke Maye, with another 3 on Joel Berry who led the Heels and the game in scoring, and who was named the Most Outstanding Player of the Final Four. Unless you are partial to alternative facts, that is not a function of the team I happen to follow and for which I root, but simply a matter of basic arithmetic. Half the fouls called were on North Carolina.

On a macro level the Title Game was big for the North Carolina program, and for its coach Roy Williams. This year’s Final Four run marked North Carolina’s 20th trip (most ever), and Coach Williams’. (fourth most ever). The win was Carolina’s 6th (third most), and Coach Williams’ 3rd (tied for fourth), half of Carolina’s total, and one more than his mentor, Dean Smith, who won twice. On an individual level, the young men who play the game, especially those who played in the 2016 Final Four in Houston, are the real story. Kennedy Meeks and Isaiah Hicks are seniors and, as such, have played their last game for Carolina. In all probability, so has Justin Jackson, who elevated his game immensely, earning ACC Player of the Year, and 1st Team All-America honors. There is also a good chance that Joel Berry, who has said he will test the NBA waters, may not return.

Those stories will play out however they do over the next several weeks. Every young man on this team has acquitted himself well, and been a fine representative of the Tar Heel Nation. There is one more however, that I am compelled to mention. In the post on this topic a year ago, I zeroed in on Nate Britt. He is the adopted brother of Kris Jenkins, the young man from Villanova who hit the shot heard around the basketball universe, sending the Tar Heels home broken-hearted, and in tears. This year, ‘Nova was eliminated early, so Jenkins followed Britt after his own team lost. He could be seen behind the Tar Heel bench in the last several games, including Monday night. Last year I wrote the following about these two guys:

So basically, for the rest of their natural lives, Kris and his brother Nate, both juniors in their respective programs, will have the 2016 Title Game as a shared experience…and Kris’ shot as a reminder of one’s transcendent sports moment and the other’s hoops nadir.”

As a result of a collective indomitable team spirit, a great deal of talent, skill, and ability, along with a healthy dose of good old fashioned luck, the Tar Heels not only returned to the Final Four, they won the Title, grabbing the proverbial brass ring. That embellishes the program’s hoops bona fides, elevates Coach Williams’ stock as someone who actually has a clue about what he’s doing on the court, gave this team “One Shining Moment (, and finally, it provides Nate Britt with a Championship Trophy and Ring. Now he’ll have his own bling to point to when he and Kris are chilling and reflecting back at the crib.

In conclusion, this years’ Title game will not be memorable for an abundance of graceful plays and athletic moves. What it will forever connote is “Redemption – Carolina Style: An Ugly Win…Is Still A Win!”

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