LaVar Ball’s Mouth Writing Checks His Sons’ Bodies Can’t Cash

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The National Basketball Association Playoffs are currently ongoing and, to be honest, to say that they have been a bit dull would be the understatement of the year. The two best teams in each conference – the defending champion Cleveland Cavaliers with “next evolution in human existence” LeBron James and the 2015 champion Golden State Warriors with smooth-as-silk shooter Steph Curry (among others) – have literally steamrolled past their opposition, with both sides only losing one game so far (did anyone see that decimation the Cavaliers laid on the Boston Celtics in Game 2? On their home floor? That the Celts came back for a squeaker win on Sunday in Cleveland was shocking). Sometime next week, these two teams will meet for the third year in a row (never done previously) to determine the NBA Finals championship.

But the collision course these teams are on hasn’t been the big story in the Association…not by a long shot.

The NBA Draft, like its cousin with the National Football League, has become almost as big a deal as its pro football brethren. Players from around the world and the best “one-and-doners (players who went to college to meet the NBA requirement that they be one year removed from high school)” vie for one of the 60 slots (the draft is two rounds, with the first-round picks guaranteed to be on an NBA roster) in the draft. With these stakes, players are trying to make their best impressions…except for one.

Lonzo Ball is, giving the player his due, one of the better prospects in this year’s NBA draft. If it weren’t for the idiotic “one year” rule that the NBA has implemented to prevent kids from going straight from high school, it is thought that Ball would have been one of the success stories to come straight from the high school ranks. After winning several high school Player of the Year awards across the country, Ball enrolled at UCLA, looking to improve his resume with the one year he plainly told everyone he would be there for.

In his one season with the Bruins, Ball’s statistics were nice but not mind blowing. He averaged 14.6 points per game, shot 55% from the field (and 41% from three-point territory), averaged six rebounds a game and almost eight assists as a guard/forward with UCLA. The 6’ 6” Ball was duly awarded many post-season honors, including the Wayman Tisdale Award for best college freshman and was first-team All-American (the team made the Sweet Sixteen in the NCAA Tournament), as he held to his promise to only stick for one year on the campus of Westwood by declaring for the draft almost as soon as his Bruins team heard the final buzzer and was defeated in the NCAA Tournament.

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With such accolades and achievements, you would figure that Ball would be the talk of the draft. Unfortunately (for him), he has been overshadowed by his father, LaVar, who will tell anyone that will listen that his son(s) (that’s right, there’s two more following Lonzo) are going to change the basketball world. What the senior doesn’t realize is that he is writing checks that none of the Ball brothers will be able to cash.

Who is LaVar Ball? A quick look at his college life shows that he was a basketball player of no renown (averaged 2.2 points per game at Washington State over two seasons in the late 1980s) and found even less success when attempts were made to turn him into a football player. Ball would play in the World League of American Football (appropriate acronym of WLAF) as a tight end. In one season, he played with the London Monarchs and found time on the practice squads of both the New York Jets and the Carolina Panthers. Other than this, there was absolutely nothing that would mark him as a “game changing” athlete, although even having the proverbial cup of coffee with a professional sports franchise is quite an achievement.

Apparently, this is about the time when Ball had his epiphany, even to the point of picking his wife for the express breeding purposes of creating basketball players. Don’t believe me? Ball himself said, “I see this tall girl, very attractive, walking down a hallway and I go, ‘I don’t know what we’re going to do, but we’re gonna be doing something!’ Once that was in her head, I had her. I picked a big girl who was beautiful. A big stallion.”

When’s the last time you called your significant other a “big stallion” – and you were SERIOUS about it?

This wasn’t the end of it for Ball. He’s has said that Lonzo is better than Curry, who was only the Most Valuable Player in the NBA for the past two seasons. Ball has trashed Cavaliers’ point guard Kyrie Irving for coming from a single parent home, ignoring the fact that Irving’s mother passed away when he was four. Ball has said that, in his heyday, he could beat Michael Jordan one-on-one. Ball criticized Lonzo’s UCLA teammates, saying they were “too white” to win the championship (and, forgetting the fact that his wife is white, there’s a mixed heritage to Lonzo). He’s also created the family company “Big Baller Brand” and is currently marketing Lonzo’s signature shoe to the tune of $459 (you want them autographed by Lonzo? Make it $759…) – only after the three major shoe brands Nike, Under Armour, and Adidas, turned down his BILLION dollar demands for shoe deals with all three of his sons.

Having overbearing parents in sports is nothing new. You can see it pretty much every weekend when you go to a Little League baseball game or watch Friday Night Tykes (about PeeWee football) on television. It’s when those overbearing parents actually think they are doing their child(ren) a favor by pushing them hard does it usually blow up in their faces. One only should look at the career of former quarterback Todd Marinovich – basically engineered by his father to be an NFL quarterback, to the point that the senior Marinovich said that Todd had never eaten at a McDonald’s – or the up-and-down career of tennis player Jennifer Capriati (pushed by her mother) to see the down side of these types of actions.

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There has been at least one success story. The Williams sisters, Serena and Venus, were driven by their father Richard to excel at tennis, while at the same time inciting similar vitriol from the public for comments that he made regarding taking his girls from South Central Los Angeles to the pinnacle of tennis greatness. It is arguable, however, that the Williams sisters didn’t really reach their peak form until after they removed themselves from Richard’s tutelage and began to think and act for themselves.

The elder Ball may think that he’s helping his children achieve their goals and wants to take the family along for the ride. And that is something that all mothers and fathers want to ensure for their kids. At a certain point, however, that assistance becomes an overbearing, maniacal obsession and needs to be ended. That is where the elder Ball finds himself right now.

While Lonzo may be a high draft pick in this year’s NBA draft (the Celtics have the first pick and the Los Angeles Lakers – whom LaVar Ball has said he wants all three of his kids to play for – have the second), there is still a very close-knit professional community of athletes that will not take kindly to LaVar’s statements. Lonzo, through no fault of his own, is going to be targeted by these professionals for retribution. You don’t think that LeBron James won’t light him up for some of the things that LaVar has said about him? You don’t think that Curry or his teammates, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, and Kevin Durant, won’t smoke Lonzo at every opportunity? The utter failure of Lonzo Ball – and the “Big Baller Brand” – is a very realistic possibility and it would be a warning to others coming down the road that they aren’t bigger than the game, something that LaVar seems to think his family is.

Elijah Stewart,Lonzo Ball

Where Lonzo Ball goes in the draft – publicly NBA general managers and scouts are saying that Ball’s father isn’t going to affect his draft status – is still up in the air, but even he recognizes that his father rubs people the wrong way. “My dad’s a funny guy,” Lonzo said to Bleacher Report in an interview. “People were coming up to me and saying, ‘Are you embarrassed? Your dad said you’re going to win the championship.’ No, I’m not embarrassed. I know how he’s going to act. I just go out there and play. Let him be him.” There will come a point, however, where the junior Ball – and, if not him, one of his two brothers (who haven’t done jack shit yet) – will have to tell the senior Ball when enough is enough and cut ties with him if they are to reach their true success in professional basketball, just like Serena and Venus did in their pursuit of greatness.

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So, What Are You Going to Say to…

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In what passes the monumentally stupid vote by the United Kingdom earlier this year to depart the European Union, the United States – riding a wave of Bubbas, white nationalists, racists, gay-bashers and just enough people that didn’t like seeing someone beneath them rise above their situation – elected a total buffoon to the leader of the free world. That’s right, if you’re just waking up…Donald Trump – he of “grab them by the pussy” fame, who said “why don’t we use nukes? We got ‘em?” who says he knows more about a foreign terrorist organization that those who have been tasked with fighting said organization (and I’m just getting warmed up) – will, come January 20, be inaugurated as the 45th President of the United States. To say the U. S. shot itself in the foot isn’t enough…it literally shot itself in the head and spattered the White House with cranial goo.

Let’s get this out of the way first. The Democratic Party was somehow blindsided in the 2016 elections, much like the GOP was in 2012 with their insistence that Mitt Romney was going to win in a landslide. Instead of being aware of the level of vitriol from a frothing, rabid pack of hyenas, the Dems instead thought they could get by with Hillary Clinton. Clinton’s list of issues too numerous to mention here became the albatross that eventually strangled her, and the party, for which there wasn’t a method of recovery. Like Al Gore in 2000, Clinton can sit back and say she took the popular vote, which she can use with a $1.50 to get a cup of coffee at McDonald’s.

And before we move on, the “Bernie Bros” can sit their ass down, too. Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders was spared the “oppo research” that a serious candidate would have faced in an election. Clinton went gently on him and, if Sanders had reached the General Election, the GOP machine would have ripped open the seal on every vote Sanders had cast in his 35 years in Washington, D. C. Then there would have been the opportunity for Trump to rip him with the “socialist” and “communist” labels, dog-whistle words that still have a bite in today’s world.

So now we enter the alt-right world, that where everyone is wrapped in the flag and carrying a Bible. So, what are you going to say to…

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Your LGBTQ friends – One of the major platforms of the Republican Party – and supported by Trump – was the rescinding of LGBTQ rights that have been earned over the past couple of years. Marriage equity, workplace rights, such things that made members of the LGBTQ community equal legally among the rest of us will be torn away as soon as Paul Ryan (well, maybe not him…he’s probably pulling a Boehner and saying “fuck this” as soon as possible), Mitch McConnell and the Bible thumpers can pen the bill. And then there’s the point that Mike Pence – now the Vice President-Elect – is a supporter for allowing for CONVERSION THERAPY for gays, something that has been proven to be inconclusive at best, harmful to the person at worst and ILLEGAL in five states.

What do you say to those – your friends, family, co-workers – that will become a second-class citizen again? Do you think your “Make ‘Merica Great Again” jingoistic slogan is going to work when your gay brother can’t see his significant other in the hospital (or make decisions on his care) because he isn’t “married” to him? Do you think that, when they’re being marched to the conversion camps, your lesbian co-worker is going to think “boy, my friends really had my interests at heart?”

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20 million newly non-insured people – Once the Affordable Care Act, or “Obamacare” is rescinded and the Republicans provide exactly nothing to replace it, what do you tell that five-year-old cancer patient who lost their health care because of Trump’s election? What do you tell that Muscular Dystrophy patient that, after finally getting the health insurance necessary to be able to afford their medications and be able to function in their daily life, they no longer will receive insurance? “Well, I’m not paying anymore for them…let them eat cake!”

Pregnant women – Hopefully for those of you who have daughters they don’t make a mistake – or have a pregnancy that is life-threatening – in the future. The reversal of Roe v. Wade has been the goal of the GOP and its Moral Supremacists since the 1970s, that the ability of a woman to make choices regarding her health care should be taken by the federal government because a group of men whose only experience with a vagina is having emerged from one that “they know best.” Get ready for the increase in back-alley abortions performed by charlatans who can’t even enter medical school, let alone be licensed as a physician!

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Libertarians – So you don’t like “big government?” Well, the entry of an entirely GOP dominated Executive, Legislative and potentially Judicial branch only ensures that there will be laws mandating what you can do in your bedrooms, what you can and can’t say regarding the leaders of the country (Trump himself supports weakening the First Amendment to allow for jailing of opposition and has “jokingly” supported the murder of journalists) and that you must prostrate yourself when you’re in your living room and “The Star-Spangled Banner” comes on.

There’s one truth to the GOP – they are only for small government when it is things that they object to…they’ll enact every law possible to take every right from the people if it is necessary to maintain power (Patriot Act?). So, you don’t like a couple of environmental laws to protect the sand newt? That will be the least of your concerns.

There is a litany of other things, but let’s not give the StormTrumpers any ideas about who to attack next.

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The date 11/9 will go down as the last stand of the American Racist. It will also go down as the birthdate of the American Taliban, one that will look to rule by religion rather than logic, that will castigate anything that’s darker than its alabaster melanin and will, when presented with 21st century change and challenges, will return us to an 19th century age when children were fodder for the meat grinders in the slaughterhouses in Chicago, women were a subjugated class that shouldn’t be heard from at best and insignificant at worst and minorities, foreigners and “Muslims”  knew to get their asses out of town – or to their “section” of town – before sundown.

It is also oddly ironic that today is the anniversary of Kristallnacht. Kristallnacht, or the “Night of Broken Glass,” was the destruction of Jewish properties by both agents of the Nazi Party in Germany and German citizens who believed that the Jewish population was to blame for the demise of their nation in 1938. Over two days of rioting, 1000 Jewish synagogues were burned to the ground and 7000 Jewish businesses were destroyed. The estimate of the number of Jewish people killed was 91, although some historians state the actual count may have been higher. There were also 30,000 Jewish people who were “taken into custody” and sent to the concentration camps. We may not have as much broken glass but, since we’ve elected a fascist, we’d better get used to what they can do once in office.

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Is it possible that this was all just a ploy by Trump to get elected and he’ll magically change once he is inaugurated (I’ve had a supposedly intelligent person say that to me)? No, 70-year old men – and the vapid followers who will be looking for their own piece of meat from the vulture feast – don’t change their spots when presented with great power. They become more entrenched and see what else they can steal before they are told they can’t have any more. We’ve allowed the American Taliban to take over and woe will the nation be in the future.

(And, as a final note, get ready for the upcoming pardon from President Barack Obama to Clinton in one last “kiss my ass” to the American Taliban, because it’s coming.)

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Why Does Big Business Have a Bad Reputation?

No matter who you are or where you are in the world, you are going to have some interaction with big business in today’s world. Whether it is a trip to the local Target, a quick fast food lunch at McDonald’s or Burger King or, on the more serious end of the spectrum, a hospital or a pharmaceutical company, anyone in the world and U. S. citizens in particular are constantly in contact with the world of business. However, these companies don’t seem to grasp the concept of “customer satisfaction” but entirely get the concept of “maximizing profits.”

There are many that try to defend big business by saying “it’s just a few bad apples in the bunch” (an argument heard far too often on far too many subjects, to be honest), but historical evidence doesn’t support that connotation. Upton Sinclair’s novel The Jungle depicted the atrocities that occurred in the meatpacking industry in the early 20th century, including people losing body parts in food vats (or, in some cases, entire bodies), child labor, long working hours and inadequate wages (and Sinclair knew about these cases by experience; he worked in the Chicago meatpacking industry for several weeks researching the subject). A couple of decades later, John Steinbeck penned the story of the migrant farmer in his epic novel The Grapes of Wrath.

Throughout the last century, the mistreatment of those who worked in the coal mines of West Virginia, Kentucky and other Appalachian area by big business has become well known to the world, including coal companies cutting back on safeguards that might keep their employees alive. The rail industry, construction industries (how many men were killed just during the building of the Hoover Dam? Officially 96, in case you’re wondering) and other high risk jobs also have many incidences where those that employed the workers cut corners or unnecessarily risked their employees lives all to make a little extra money. Following the financial crash of 2008, only 15% of U. S. citizens trusted business leaders to make the proper choices – the ETHICAL choices – when faced with a decision, something that got worse during the British Petroleum oil spill in 2010 and the insistence by the then-President of the company, Tony Hayward, that he’d “like his life back.”

The actions over the past week aren’t exactly looking to improve on those numbers any further for big business. First up was the automaker Volkswagen, who was found last week of purposely sending out 11 million vehicles with a serious defect in their product. These vehicles, for the most part the diesels that Volkswagen is known for producing, had their emissions software tampered with to make it appear that the emissions weren’t violating U. S. regulations. VW attempted to call the tampering with the software “an irregularity” but it soon became apparent that it went much further.

Other countries such as Germany, France, Italy and South Korea – all big customers of Volkswagen’s product – are examining their own laws to see if there were any violations and the company itself is looking to stem the damage. Officials with the company have decided to put together a $7 billion war chest to help pay for damages to customers, potential fines to government authorities and other costs. There is still a huge question as to how Volkswagen will make this right, but their first step instead of fixing the issue was to pull all unsold diesels off the market.

Now, some would say this is an example of “free market” economics working (Volkswagen’s stock has fallen 41% in the past week), but that isn’t enough to cure the reputation of big business as being callous to its customers in putting the almighty dollar over its performance.

One of the most heartless acts that big business committed over the past week was done by Turing Pharmaceuticals. The company and its CEO, a former hedge fund manager by the name of Martin Shkreli (because he couldn’t go by the name of Richard Dick), in August bought the rights to a critical drug called daraprim, which is used by those with weakened immune systems (primarily infants and AIDS patients). Almost immediately, the company raised the price on the pill from $13 (still pretty pricey) to $750.

It isn’t uncommon for the pharmaceutical industry to pull bullshit like this. Many times a company will obtain the rights to a drug and, by putting a couple of useless changes into the chemical makeup of the product, be able to change its name and resell it, usually at a higher price. If the drug is a “one of a kind” product – meaning that there isn’t a generic equivalent – the price for the drug can be outrageous from the start. But this case, and in particular Shkreli’s response to criticism of his company’s actions, has shown how bad big business can be.

In 2012, Shkreli tweeted “Every time a drug goes generic, I grieve,” demonstrating that he didn’t care about helping society but only helping his bank account. He was on Twitter again on Monday attempting to diffuse the situation but only seemed to throw more gasoline on the fire. Shkreli disparaged those that disagreed with him, including fellow industry leaders, the media and other opponents by snottily responding to complaints on Twitter before heading to CNBC to further insult people.

If there’s any justice in the world, then there will be reaction against drug price gouging like this. Democratic Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has stated that she will be presenting a plan against this type of price inflation; currently, the GOP candidates do not have any response. But perhaps the only things that big business might understand are humongous fines and the long arm of the law.

Also over the past week, the former CEO of a Georgia peanut company was sentenced to 28 years in prison and two other high ranking executives received jail time for their part in causing an outbreak of salmonella that killed nine people. Stewart Parnell, the CEO of Peanut Company of America, could have received life in prison for his actions but only got the 28 year sentence. His brother Michael, a broker for the company, received a 20 year sentence and a quality control manager at the plant in Georgia, Mary Wilkerson, was sentenced to five years.

So what did these people do? The Food and Drug Administration, upon inspecting the plant where the tainted peanut products came from (the company sent peanut paste to several outlets for usage in different products), found rat feces in the warehouses, dirty equipment used to process the peanuts into paste and forged certifications that said products were untainted despite actual lab results that indicated differently. Perhaps most damning was an e-mail reporting to the elder Parnell that salmonella levels were high on a shipment. His reply to the e-mail? “Shit, just go ahead and ship it.”

Look, we know that the object of a business is to make money; hell, there isn’t another reason to be in business unless that is what you’re doing. Along with the ability to make money, you also have to have the interest of your employees and your customers first and foremost in your company’s mind. You have to provide a decent job and wage to your employees; perhaps more importantly, you have to provide a product to your customers that is safe for their consumption (we could talk about how weak the laws are regarding this in some areas of business, but that is an argument for another time). If a business cannot do these things, then they shouldn’t be in business.

Ethics seems to be the weakest area of knowledge for plenty of businesses and industry’s biggest players. Perhaps if customer sentiment following a company’s error or fines implemented by government officials had an effect, the companies would work from an ethical standpoint rather than one simply driven by greed. Unfortunately, this starts with the customers because, by the time the government acts on any incidences of misconduct in the business world, the companies have already made their millions (billions?) from the product they’ve foisted on the public and are more than willing to part with a bit of those profits to escape jail or some other punishment.