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A different New Year’s Eve?

This is how I spent my last 5 New Year’s Eves:

Mexico City in 2008. (12 grapes and the Zocalo, oh my!)

Beale Street in Memphis, TN in 2009. (They actually have a guitar drop.)

Charles Barkley’s NYE party in Arizona in 2010. (I plead the 5th.)

The Dominican Republic in 2011. (I’m going to move to the DR eventually.)

Atlanta in 2012. (They actually do a peach drop.)

And, this year, I’ll be bringing in 2014 in New York City, the New Year’s Eve mecca!  But, don’t let that fool you.  I won’t be partying.  I won’t be in Times Square.  I won’t be attending a friend’s house party.  I won’t be at a sexy Manhattan event.   I’ll be in the house and steps away from my sleeping 11-month-old who has a bedtime of 6 p.m.

Given my proclivity for partying on New Year’s Eves in the past, this year’s “celebration” seems out of character, but truth is, there’s something sweet, symbolic, and satisfactory about starting the year this way: steps away from my sleeping daughter … who can sleep a little more soundly knowing that daddy is right there watching over her as she starts the first full year of her life.  That is how 2014 should start, and symbolically sets a tone for my 2014 priorities.

OK, who am I kidding?!  We’re looking for a last-minute babysitter right now!  It’s New Year’s Eve in New York City!!!!!!!!  We’re about to go get it on!

I’m happy to see her go

One of the highlights of moving to New York 3 months ago is that I’d get to hang out with my friend, Zoraida Sambolin.  Apparently, she didn’t feel the same about me because she’s now decided to leave town!  (I have that effect on people.)

Actually, Zoraida has decided to leave CNN and move back to her hometown of Chicago.  She announced not long ago that Friday, December 13th would be her last day as anchor of “Early Start,” and I’m happy to see her go.

Please, don’t misunderstand: for selfish reasons, I absolutely wish she’d stay here in NY, and since I’m always up by 5 a.m., I watched her show every morning, and I’ll miss seeing her do her thing.  But, after her breast cancer diagnosis earlier this year, I’m so proud of her for making a personal decision about her happiness, her family, her health, and her future.

I know it can seem perplexing to those on the outside for someone to give up an anchor chair at a national network.  But, Zoraida was good enough to earn that chair in the first place, but it’s more impressive that she’s smart enough and secure enough to know that her life isn’t defined by what she does but by who she is.

In her farewell note on her Facebook page, she wrote: “When I was diagnosed with cancer, I entered a dark place..not once did I think about not achieving career or material success. Rather, I thought about all the missed moments in life and how I was not ready to sacrifice missing any more. I wanted to live to see my kids grow up. I wanted more soccer games, basketball games, proms, weddings, grandchildren…. I am healthy, cancer free and strong but I know a long life is not promised.”

With that, I can’t be too disappointed that Zoraida is leaving CNN and leaving town, just as I’m getting here.  So, if I want more time with my friend Zoraida, I’ll have to move to Chicago.  I’m sure I won’t be able to run her out of that town, the place she feels she truly belongs.

We have to stop calling black women angry

We immediately go there.  A black man being enticed, lured, and put into a trance by a white blonde while his black wife/woman fumes and prepares to fight for what’s hers.  Yes, the same storyline from the movie “Undercover Brother” is now being applied to the President of the United States and Michelle Obama.

I have enjoyed reading the online comments as much as anyone.  Many should be taken as good-natured, and some are creative and downright funny.  But, it’s not funny in the least bit that even the first lady isn’t immune from this narrative.  Once again, she’s being cast (by the media and on social media) as the angry black woman.  But this time, the narrative comes with an added racial component regarding why she’s angry: even a black woman as polished, accomplished, educated, confident, and impressive as Michelle Obama has to protect her house when the Danish Denise Richards shows up.

We have no idea what was going on in Michelle Obama’s mind at the time those pictures were taken.  We have no idea of the context and what the interaction was like between all of them.  But, short of those answers, what does it say that, even when talking about this country’s first couple, we immediately revert to old storylines about black men, the black women who love us, and the white women in the next seat?

My Razorbacks and my limited morals

Two seasons ago, my Arkansas Razorbacks finished the football season ranked #6 in the nation.  That hadn’t happened since the year I was born!  (1977)  But, perhaps even more impressive than the #6 ranking is the #8 ranking.  Forbes listed the Razorbacks as the 8th most valuable college football program that year, valued at $89 million.  That was a 59% increase in value from the previous 2 years, and by far the highest growth of any college program in that span.

But in the midst of arguably the most successful run in program history, Arkansas fired the head coach that got us to that point.  Why?  You may remember then-coach Bobby Petrino’s “motorcylce accident.”  Turns out, a woman half his age (who wasn’t his wife) who he had recently hired to work for the football program was riding on that motorcycle with him.  What followed was a series of Petrino lies to the public and to U of A officials, a scandal, a revelation of his affair, and finally, his firing.  At the time, I supported my university’s decision to fire Petrino.  But, today, a coach who is a liar, a cheater, AND WINNER doesn’t sound so bad.

Like many other southern states, college football is king in Arkansas, and a lot of people in the state didn’t want Petrino fired.  He had taken the team to national prominence and contention.  So what if he cheats on his wife and lies about it!  I, at the time, was in the camp that was proud that the U of A took the stand that winning isn’t everything.  But, that was before the Razorbacks endured this historically bad season, losing the last 9 games and going winless in the conference.  I supported them the whole way and watched almost every one of those miserable games.  And, it made me realize something about myself:  my morals have limits.

My stance is in line with a broader culture that will often overlook someone’s moral failings for the sake of celebrating their talent, beauty, athletic ability, fame, or knack for winning football games.  I’m sure that if the Razorbacks had finished this season 10-2 with Petrino as head coach, you wouldn’t have heard me complain one bit about his off-the-field shenanigans.  In fact, you’d probably see me in a picture smiling with my arm around him at a Razorback event hoisting the bowl trophy we’d just won.

What does that say about me?  What does that say about us all?  I’ve been thinking about this a lot since Nelson Mandela passed.  This has been a rare opportunity for all of us to celebrate someone as a moral example.  Mandela’s death should be a wake-up call to us that much of our admiration and praise should be reserved for those who exhibit selflessness, sacrifice, grace, humility, honor, and service to others.

But, this football season was a wake-up call to me as well.  I realized that I’m as guilty as anyone in this star-crazed culture of ours: willing to not only overlook someone’s personal failings but also hold them up and celebrate them, as long as they’re talented, or in my case, can win games for my beloved Razorbacks.

What I miss about Atlanta …

After moving to NYC just over 2 months ago, there are some things I’m starting to remember fondly about the place I spent the past 7 years.

1. Doing my own laundry

2. Malls

3. About 2,000 square feet of living space

4. Hartsfield-Jackson Airport

5. A halfway decent NBA team

6. An NFL team that plays in a dome

7. Kasim Reed

8. Numbered streets that only go up to 28th St.

9. Being the most famous person on my block

10. Wine, liquor, and beer can be sold in the SAME store

11. Cobbler

12. Grass

13. Central heat and air

14. Republicans

15. Isha Sesay

16. Thursday nights at the Four Seasons

17. Not having to make a reservation for brunch

18. Not having my groceries delivered

19. No GPS needed; just need to know one street (Peachtree) and one highway (I-285), and you’re good

20. Pasta di Pulcinella

“What I’m loving about NYC” coming soon …





Racial slurs on live national TV

Earlier today during a segment on MSNBC, one of my guests used a few racial slurs, including the n-word as well as a derogatory word for Jewish people.  The segment was about the origin of “Redskins” as Washington’s mascot.  My guest was a historian who is a law professor at Marquette University who has written extensively about the topic.  It was a good segment with a lot of good information.

I ended the segment immediately after he used the racial slurs, but not because he used the words.  Truth is, we were out of the time for the segment and up against a hard break.  Literally, there were only 20 seconds left in the show at that point, and we were going to get cut off.

I’m so disappointed I didn’t have more time to discuss that moment with him.  After a few high-profile media stories recently, the debate continues over who can use the n-word and when.  Is it appropriate for a white professor to use the n-word in historical context on national TV?

I think I know my answer.