Memorial Day: What Your Teacher Never Taught You! (Edition V)

It’s time to Break It Down!

(Please enjoy a reprised edition of “Break It Down!” This post was originally published May 30, 2012 at:, reposted May 27, 2015 at as Memorial Day: What Your Teacher Never Told You!, again on May 31, 2017, and last on May 29, 2019.

This year, courtesy of COVID 19, we were presented with, what for most of us was a unique Memorial Day experience. It’s been more than a century since the United states has been caught up in a worldwide pandemic, the likes of the novel coronavirus. As such, the vast majority of Americans have never experienced anything quite like what we’ve been dealing with the past couple of months. But this is not a post about the so-called, “invisible enemy.” While there are those who insist the pandemic is over, the death toll continues to tell a different story. While the rate is slowing in many states, the nation’s total count is still on pace to eclipse 100,00 this week. More about all that in another post.

OK, so Memorial Day was earlier this week.  You may be familiar with my holiday week philosophy, which is: make it easy on the readers, who are always otherwise engaged, no matter the holiday.  Of course, in the process, I am also giving myself a break.  That makes for a natural win-win scenario.

With that overarching thought in mind, I will endeavor to apply three elementary rules of communication:

  1. Utilize the KISS PrincipleAKAKeep It Short & Simple (also Keep It Simple Stupid)
  2. Convey new or “not widely circulated” information
  3. Always remember to emphasizepoints and 2 above

Memorial Day is a federal holiday to honor America’s fallen soldiers.  It originated after the Civil War.  Falling between Easter and Independence Day, it is often equated with a late spring break, or a pre-summer respite.

The weekend typically includes a cornucopia of sports.  For example this week included the NASCAR Coca-Cola 600the NBA PlayoffsCollege Men’s Baseball playoffs, and College Women’s Softball competition, among others. I mentioned COVID-19 earlier, right? Scratch the sporting events.

Historically, there have been a plethora of activities thrown into the mix. As a result, the holiday is sometimes almost lost in the shuffle. That was less problematic this year. But wait; Memorial Day has a special cultural significance.  In fact, it is because of that nexus we should pay special homage to this late spring holiday.

The first well-known observance of a Memorial Day type was held May 1, 1865 in Charleston, South Carolina.  Over 250 Union soldiers that had been prisoners of war, died in Charleston, and were quickly buried in makeshift graves. A group of blacks, mostly freedmen, organized the observance and led cleanup and landscaping of the burial site.

Most of the nearly 10,000 people who attended were freedmen and their families.  Of that number, 3.000 were children, newly enrolled in freedman’s schools.  Mutual aid societies, black ministers, and white Northern missionaries were also in attendance.

David W. BlightProfessor of American History at Yale University, and Director of the school’s Gilder-Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, & Abolition, described the day this way:

“This was the first Memorial Day. African Americans invented Memorial Day in Charleston, South Carolina. What you have there is black Americans recently freed from slavery announcing to the world with their flowers, their feet, and their songs what the War had been about. What they basically were creating was the Independence Day of a Second American Revolution.”

Professor Blight conceded there is no evidence that the Charleston event led directly to the establishment of Memorial Day across the country.  But the record is clear they formed the earliest truly large-scale event, complete with media coverage.  Their effort was the prototype, if not the catalyst.

Having said that, I believe I honored the rules established above for this post:

  • Told this story in a direct and uncomplicated fashion
  • Presented information I am confident most readers did not know
  • Recognized points and 2, were accomplished and closed the post

Enjoy your bonus time, and be sure to reflect on “Memorial Day: What Your Teachers Never Told You! (Edition V)”

I’m done; holla back!

Read my blog anytime by clicking the links or /

A new post is published each Wednesday. For more detailed information on a variety of aspects relating to this post, consult the links below:



He Started From The Bottom: Now He’s Here!

It’s time to Break It Down!

For the previous 5 Sunday evenings, I carved out a two-hour window to watch the 10-part Last Dance documentary, detailing, in general, Michael Jordan’s career as a member of the Chicago Bulls, and more specifically, the 97-98 Title run; the last in the second 3-peat. Hoops fan that I am, I decided before the series started, that I’d render an ode to it, afterward.

You don’t have to believe Mike is the GOAT, you don’t have to want to be like Mike, you don’t even have to like the guy…he’ll be fine. But if you appreciate hoops, especially the NBA variety, he set the bar very high, and the Last Dance documentary more than adequately filled in for the MIA League action. It played over the course of 5 weeks (every Sunday night), 10 hours (distilled from more than 500 hours of footage) of filling in the details about events you knew how would end. It’s hard to imagine it could still be gripping decades later…but it was.

Below is a summation, admittedly gleaned from a Tar Heel lens, that is one of the best things I’ve seen so far, in capturing the flavor of the series.

By Thad Williamson (Inside Carolina):

“The Last Dance: Owning the moment

Millions of Americans tuned in Saturday night to watch LeBron James host an inspiring TV special honoring the high school graduates of the Class of 2020. Many of those same millions no doubt tuned in to watch Episodes 9 and 10 of “The Last Dance,” completing the chronicle of the final running of the dynastic Chicago Bulls in 1998.

Earlier in these rapid reactions to this documentary, I said I was not a big fan of “greatest of all time” debates, and here’s why: true greatness comes in many forms and many shades, and greatness recognizes greatness. LeBron James wouldn’t be who he is as a basketball player without the impact and example of Michael Jordan, and he has used the template of cultural and commercial impact that Jordan largely created.

If in some respects, including his outspokenness on issues (which the elder Jordan has supported), James has taken that template a bit further, good: one would hope there is progress and growth from generation to generation. It’s possible to appreciate and be a fan of both men, both for what they have in common and who they are as individuals.

But leaving the “GOAT” debate aside, here are two claims I feel pretty safe in making:

First, Michael Jordan is the most influential player in the history of pro basketball. This is not just about his obvious impact on James, Kobe Bryant, and countless others. There’s no other pro basketball player that could be judged by serious people to be not only a definitive emblem of American culture but as a symbol of global capitalism (see historian Walter LaFeber’s 1999 title “Michael Jordan and the New Global Capitalism.”)

Second, Jordan is unsurpassed in modern pro basketball history in helping his team get it done in championship-level competition, every time. I’m not prepared to say “greatest” even in this category because no one can ignore Bill Russell and his 11 NBA titles in 13 seasons, including the last two as player-coach (averaging over 45 minutes a game in the playoffs!)

But the expanded, modern NBA is a different league than that of the 1960s, and here’s the baseline fact: Jordan’s record in the NBA Finals is 6-0. Every time his team got close, they got it done, by hook or crook.

Episodes 9 and 10 don’t really introduce any new themes or revelations, but do present a lot of details reminding viewers just how hard both the 1997 and 1998 championships were, and the full range of circumstances those teams had to overcome. Here are some standout points:

The “flu game” in 1997 vs. Utah was actually food poisoning. Jordan’s performance in Game 5 of the 1997 NBA Finals while physically ill can only be characterized as super-human. Episode 9 lays out the full story that the real issue was a bad pizza that caused Jordan food poisoning. Jordan shouldn’t have played in the game, but did anyway. Overcoming a slow start, Jordan score 38 points on 13-27 shooting, including the go-ahead 3 point shot with 25 seconds left to give the Bulls a 3-2 lead.

Reggie Miller is right: In 1998, the Indiana Pacers were loaded, and perhaps had the best team. But Reggie Miller is also right that in the end, when it actually mattered, on the court on game 7 of the epic series between the Pacers and Bulls, the championship DNA of the Bulls rose to the occasion. Or as a friend of mine used to put it, the Pacers got “out-Michaeled.” (Also of note: that push-off by Miller on Jordan in Game 4 before his game-winner was ridiculous!)

The Bulls were definitely better team than the Jazz in 1998, period. Here’s evidence for that point: Chicago 96, Utah 54. The Jazz could legitimately have been expelled from the Finals for their Game 3 performance in Chicago. But they still had a chance in the series because Chicago was just about out of gas.

Rodman being Rodman. I’ll be honest, I completely forgot about the mini-drama about Rodman skipping practice during the Finals prior to Game 4, to go hang out with Hulk Hogan. Rodman then came off the bench to grab 14 rebounds and hit six critical free throws in a close Bulls win.

Scottie Pippen’s bad back in game 6. Just as the Bulls had to struggle to overcome Pippen’s absence at the start of the 1997-98 season, in game 6 Pippen’s ailing back seriously limited his movements. He soldiered anyway, acting as a decoy and even sinking some big baskets, but his pain meant even more of the load fell on Jordan in that decisive game. Jordan scored 45 points, taking 35 of the team’s 67 shots from the field. Dennis Rodman stepped up too (just like earlier in the year), draining an unlikely 20 foot jumper in the fourth quarter, but the end was all Jordan: two baskets against Bryon Russell in the last 41 seconds, and a critical weakside strip of Karl Malone to set up the winning basket. Jordan sunk the dagger jumper against the Jazz, and the Bulls won again to complete the repeat threepeat. That kind of record in the Finals isn’t luck, nor was it a case of the Bulls being vastly better than their opponents all those years.

The edge was Jordan, specifically, as these episodes emphasize, his superior ability to be fully focused in the moment and to play without fear or thought of failure. That mental edge, plus the skills and physical gifts, is what allowed him to “out-Jordan” the competition: every single time.

Other highlights from Episodes 9 and 10:

  • A moving segment focuses on Jordan’s relationship with long-time security man Gus Lett. Lett became a father figure to Jordan after James Jordan’s death, and is shown making a triumphant return from cancer treatment to the United Center for Game 7 against the Pacers in the Eastern Conference Finals. The Bulls win, and Jordan makes sure Lett gets the game ball.
  • Scottie Pippen revealing his thoughts as Jordan brought the ball upcourt after stealing the ball from Malone to give the Bulls the chance to take the lead in game 6 of the Final: “Get the hell out of the way.”
  • The footage convinced me that I have for over 20 years mistakenly believed Jordan got away with a push-off on Russell on that final shot in Game Six. As Jordan and Bob Costas both observe, Russell was already faked out beyond repair by the time Jordan’s left hand made contact with him, and Jordan did not cause Russell to lose balance. Contact yes, but an actual foul? Not then, not now.
  • I loved the footage of Jordan in the hotel room in Utah after winning the sixth title, banging on a piano and displaying sheer joy in the moment. Someone asks him about going for a seventh title and Jordan declines to answer saying he wants to be fully present right there, right then. Channeling Phil Jackson, Jordan says “It’s the moment, man it’s the moment. That Zen Buddhist sh*t — y’all get in the moment and stay here! Just stay in the moment!” A fitting final thought from an athlete who did just that better than anyone else, time and again, from 1982 to 1998.”

For several years now, there has been an ongoing debate about basketball, and the individual most worthy of the title, Greatest Of All Times (GOAT). We live in a world in which the culture is often dominated by youth. To wit, the names I hear most frequently mentioned are, Kobe (may he RIP), LeBron and MJ. The second wave usually consists of Kareem, Magic, Tim Duncan, and Bill Russell. The Top 10 is rounded out by, Elgin Baylor, Larry Bird, and Wilt Chamberlain. Folks who know me best, particularly my sports/hoops proclivities, know three things:

  1. I’m a Tar Heel partisan through and through
  2. I’m am/was a Jordan fan, except when he played the Hornets (I’m a homer), and that one time they played the Lakers in the 1991 NBA Finals (I’m a Laker-lifer)
  3. By my reckoning, Wilt (100 points in an NBA game/Are you kidding me) is the greatest (Convince me I’m wrong)

Having stipulated the three points above, I hope you enjoyed today’s post, especially Mr. Williamson’s excellent commentary. For those who believe LeBron has eclipsed Kobe, and many do not, I believe he’s in hot pursuit of Michael. I expect him to surpass a number of Mike’s records before he retires. Perhaps, I’ll reassess at that time. For now, my vote goes to Jordan. No, I’m not going to turn to stats. Moreover, since it’s my blog, I don’t have to explain myself. And today, on this question, I will not. But if you want to take it up with me later, you know how to find me.

For now, as Thad said of Jordan, he owned the moment. And to paraphrase Michael in the link below, and Drake’s “Started From The Bottom, He Started From The Bottom: Now He’s Here!”

I’m done; holla back!

Read my blog anytime by clicking the linkhttp://thesphinxofcharlotte.comFind a new post each Wednesday.

To subscribeclick on Follow in the bottom right hand corner of my Home Page at; enter your e-mail address in the designated space, and click on “Sign me up.” Subsequent editions of “Break It Down” will be mailed to your in-box.

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Trump’s Voting Paradigm: Vote For Me, Or Don’t Vote

It’s time to Break It Down!

Mr. Trump is on record opposing mail-in voting. He calls it rift with fraud, and he insists that it puts Republicans at a disadvantage. He tweeted last month:

“Mail in ballots substantially increases the risk of crime and VOTER FRAUD!”

And here I was, totally unaware that the GOP was burdened with some kind of postal phobia. Here’s to new information. As I recently inquired of a GOP acquaintance, does this pox apply to service men and women, stationed abroad, who’ve been routinely voting by mail, for decades, when stationed overseas?

Apparently, Trump also has reservations about in-person voting, if it’s made available in areas where some residents may not vote for him, and or, for his candidate of choice. Over the weekend, Trump labeled efforts to make voting easier in a Special Election in California’s 25th congressional district, a “SCAM!”, demanding that “These votes must not count.”

A fair question, it would seem, is, does Mr. Trump support voting, of any kind? After all, he has previously railed against voting by mail. Now, he’s arguing against in-person voting. What is his deal?

As is so often the case with Trump, and by necessity, for his supporters, he has glammed onto positions that are polar opposites. As first glance, you may think, well, those two things are not exactly opposites. That, however, is because, there is a third tier to this story; voting by mail. An aspect that, oddly enough, despite Trump’s previous loud (and inaccurate) pronouncements, he finds voting by mail, in the 25th district, completely acceptable. So much so, that he, for all practical purposes, went out of his way to endorse it.

How so? In this case, Trump isn’t taking issue with the fact people in California’s 25th district — located in North LA and eastern Ventura County — can vote by mail if they so choose. After all, he even tweeted that this election was “supposed to be mail in ballots only” — perhaps because of reports that more GOP voters have mailed in their ballots to date than Democratic voters.

The reality is, experts say that mail-in voting doesn’t actually advantage one party relative to the other. However, as we’ve learned, over time, it’s not Trump’s thing to listen to experts — especially since he claims to know more than anyone us else about a long list of topics from “technology” to Democrats to terrorism.

This stable genius based brilliance, I suppose, explains Mr. Trump’s continuing to spew baseless claims (also known as “lies” when uttered by other people) that mail-in ballots are “corrupt” and “they’re forgeries in many cases.” As real experts have repeatedly made clear, voter fraud with mail in ballots is “relatively rare” and has dubbed Trump’s claims as “misinformation.” Take that for what it’s worth. I understand, Trump supporters prefer the musings and tweets of the self-proclaimed stable genius rather than the meticulously researched data collected by social scientists, trained in the field.

Fast forward to Trump’s claim that adding a new voting location in Lancaster, California is somehow about trying to “rig” the hotly contested election to fill a Congressional seat left open by the resignation of Democratic Rep. Katie Hill.

What apparently triggered Trump’s claim that Democrats “are trying to steal another election” was that Los Angeles County election officials recently added a new in-person voting location in the city of Lancaster — described by Trump as “the most Democrat area in the State.”

Ergo, why Trump has demanded these ballots cast by real, registered, eligible to vote Americans, “must not count.” #MAGA?

How Trumpian! That a President would call for votes not to count because they are cast in a polling location that he believes favors the opposition party, is, well, downright anti-American. It should not be overlooked that giving voice to what would be a transparent act of voter suppression, if carried out, would also make it more difficult for those in one of the most diverse cities in the district — Lancaster’s population is nearly 22% African American – to cast their ballot.

The clearest of ironies in this case is that, with the nearest in-person voting center nine miles away, Lancaster Mayor R. Rex Parris joined Democrats in pushing for this voting precinct to be opened up to in-person voting. Parris, a Republican who supports GOP candidate Mike Garcia over Democrat Christy Smith, last week called for the county’s election officials to “immediately” open a polling location in the city, noting that, ”There should not even be the appearance of affecting the outcome by limiting the ability to vote. I don’t want to ‘jimmy’ the election.” Oh yeah, I guess you caught that part about the mayor being Republican. That stubbornly inconvenient fact directly undermines Trump’s tweeted claim that Lancaster is the most Democratic area in the state. What’s new?

Just based upon the previous points, this whole matter screams, “Trump doth protest too much, methinks.” But there’s more. It’s quite interesting that Trump’s outrage about Lancaster’s voting location does not extend to the two voting locations set up in Ventura County, which backed the losing GOP congressional candidate in the 2018 election. In fact, one of the Ventura County in-person voting locations for yesterday’s election is the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library. Imagine Trump’s reaction if it had been scheduled to place at a venue bearing the name, the Barack Obama Presidential Library!

Trump is gonna be Trump. His supporters are insistent that he do so; they love it. If you don’t, it’s up to you to respond in-kind by supporting candidates whom you believe represent you, your values, and your interests. Not those of this current regime, which it is increasingly clear, are”Trump’s Voting Paradigm: Vote For Me, Or Don’t Vote!”

P.S. At midnight Eastern Daylight Time, as expected, Garcia led Smith by a considerable margin. With 76% of precincts reporting, hr led 78,701 to 62,054, a 16,647 vote margin. It’s safe to say that amounts to an insurmountable lead.

I’m done; holla back!

Read my blog anytime by clicking the linkhttp://thesphinxofcharlotte.comFind a new post each Wednesday.

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Don’t Be Afraid: Pssst, Don’t Be Stupid Either!

It’s time to Break It Down!

This is a short post. I often write that at the beginning of the blog. Then I write more than I intended to say. As a result, I have to go back and remove that statement. That won’t be the case today.

I have on a number of occasions to discussed COVID-19 with people of varying ideological persuasions. At the end of the day, it seems, the chasm that separates opinions on politics and political ideology is alive and well in the coronavirus debate. If that’s really true, as I submit,  in all likelihood, even in this brief post, you’ll either really like it, or you’ll find it, and me, totally devoid of reason. And that’s OK.

I saw an individual write yesterday, as best as I could discern, in response to a comment I wrote, something to the effect of,” If you’re scared stay the hell home but don’t expect my life to be run by YOUR fear.” (sic)

That sentiment was expressed in response to something I wrote on the FB page of someone who fully embraces such notions, as do many. Believe it or not, I respect anyone’s right to feel that way. Period, The End…of my response.

Initially, the first death attributed to coronavirus in the U.S, was thought to have occurred February 26, near Seattle. It was recently determined by an autopsy, that a February 6 death in Santa Clara County, California was related. Even with that earlier timeline, it means that more than 71,000 people have died from the virus in just three months. That’s roughly 10,000 more than died due to this year’s 6-month Flu Season…for those who deign to compare COVID-19 to the flu. The pertinent detail about the distinction is, flu season ended a month ago; coronavirus deaths are still mounting, and current estimates, conservatively, are expected to more than double that number.

Even Mr. Trump, on Sunday, sharply revised upward his projected number of U.S. coronavirus deaths, saying that fatalities could reach 100,000. At the same time, he defied warnings from leading public health officials, renewing calls to expedite reopening of businesses across the country.

Also, on Sunday, in an interview with Fox News, Dr. Deborah Birx said the administration continues to operate on the assumption that the more likely scenario called for as many as nearly a quarter-million deaths – even with shutdown measures taken to date. She explicitly stated the following:

“Our projections have always been between 100,000 and 240,000 American lives lost. And that’s with full mitigation, and us learning from each other how to social distance.”

If you happen to be a person of color, in general, or African American, in particular, the odds are greater that you will contract the virus, and also disproportionately higher that, if you have it,  you will die from it. There are numerous reasons for this dynamic, including, a higher likelihood of being a frontline/essential worker, and as a result, being unable to shelter -in-place, or practice social distancing, living in crowded housing conditions, inconsistent access to healthcare, chronic health conditions, stress, income inequality, discrimination, violence, and institutional racism.

In Chicago, where African Americans comprise 33% of the population, they account for half those tested positive for coronavirus, and nearly three-quarters of the deaths.

Similarly, in Milwaukee County, Wisconsin, African Americans make up 26% of the population, but 70% of deaths due to coronavirus. These examples are the norm, not the exception. Moreover, the trend is not limited to African Americans. Latinix/Hispanic, and Native American communities are also adversely impacted.

Today’s blog has but one point, and one point, only. That is to illuminate the relevant facts surrounding COVID-19, in order to enable you to make informed decisions that directly affect your well-being, and quite possibly save your life. All manner of misinformation, and frankly, misanthropic advice, is being floated about in our respective orbits.  It’s worth noting, early indications are, just because businesses have been permitted to re-open, doesn’t mean all business owners think circumstances are exigent for a safe return of their customers, of their employees, or for that matter, of themselves. As consumers, you are responsible for making that determination for yourself. Remember, in effect, you are the President and CEO of, You, Inc. I close, as I began. By saying, “Don’t Be Afraid: Pssst, Don’t Be Stupid Either!”

I’m done; holla back!

Read my blog anytime by clicking the linkhttp://thesphinxofcharlotte.comFind a new post each Wednesday.

To subscribeclick on Follow in the bottom right hand corner of my Home Page at; enter your e-mail address in the designated space, and click on “Sign me up.” Subsequent editions of “Break It Down” will be mailed to your in-box.

Consult the links below for more detailed information on a variety of aspects relating to this post: