Category Archives: Opinion

WTP: There’s never a place or a time for hate speech

Note: This is my Write to the Point column I wrote for the May 4 issue of the Cheney Free Press.

“Hate radio, hate speech, hate groups, hate crimes really don’t fit in, in the America that we know today,” — Kweisi Mfume, former President/CEO of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

I’ve seen hate speech in different forms, but vandalism seems to be one of the more common types of spreading it.

One example of this was last Friday (April 28) when graffiti was found on the back door of the Community Building in downtown Spokane.

It’s not uncommon to come cross graffiti in a city like Spokane or even in smaller municipalities like Cheney, Airway Heights or Medical Lake. If you look hard enough, you can see graffiti almost anywhere — under bridges, on entrance signs or even in bathroom stalls. However, this display was a bit jarring because it included anti-Semitic messages, including one proclaiming that Adolf Hitler “did nothing wrong.”

To read the rest of the column, follow the link.

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This presidential election is creating too much stress

Note: This is the Write to the Point column I wrote for the Oct. 20 issue of the Cheney Free Press.

I’ll be honest, I am a little sick and tired of the election and I am waiting for it to be over.

Don’t get me wrong, I understand the importance of this year’s presidential race, it will decide the next person — Republican nominee Donald Trump or Democratic hopeful Hillary Clinton —who sits in the Oval Office for the next 4-8 years. But the election itself is not the problem.

What is aggravating to me is all of the mudslinging, insults and name calling that is going around, not just between the Trump and Clinton camps, but also the toxic environment created by their followers. Political campaigns have gotten heated in the past, but I can’t recall anything like this.

The political talk is almost impossible to escape. Every day there seems to be a new story about Trump’s remarks towards women or something Clinton did in her past that gets people riled up. It’s impossible to decipher the facts from fiction.

Then there are the Facebook status updates, tweets and memes that try and inject some humor into the election, but can be downright cruel to the candidates, their campaigns and people who agree or disagree with them.

It is election season and we should be talking about the presidential race and the candidates, but we should be doing it with cooler heads. Instead, conversations between friends on opposing sides escalate into arguments about who is right and who is wrong.

My personal favorites are the folks who write “I don’t care if you are a Trump/Clinton supporter and unfriend me for this” or “I blocked this many Trump/Clinton supporters. It felt really good.”

I’Il be honest — it’s stupid to cut ties with friends and families because their political beliefs don’t align with yours.

That’s one of the things I enjoy about working here at the Cheney Free Press. We have different political opinions, but we don’t let that get in the way of a productive conversation during editorial board meetings.

Seeing all of the hate between everyone almost makes me want to jump on the radio — like Mister Senor Love Daddy from Spike Lee’s “Do the Right Thing” — and tell everyone to “Hold up! Time out! TIME OUT! Y’all take a chill!”

To read the rest of the column, follow the link.

Mariners 2016: At least it was better than last year

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Note: This was my column I wrote for the Oct. 6 issue of the Cheney Free Press.

On the way to the Oct. 3 Airway Heights City Council meeting, I was listening to “Patchin, Lukens and Osso” and playing their “Buy or Sell” segment — a ritual I normally engage in on Monday nights.

One of the questions that night was “The Mariners’ season was a success, buy or sell?” — buy, meaning “yes it was” and sell meaning “no it was not.”

My answer was “buy.”

The Mariners wrapped up their 2016 season on Sunday, Oct. 2, with a 3-2 loss against the Oakland Athletics. This was a day after Seattle suffered a 9-8 heartbreaker to the A’s in extra innings and were subsequently eliminated from the postseason — making it the longest playoff drought of any current Major League franchise.

Saturday was bittersweet, but fans can say the Mariners fought until the end. This was not like 2015 where some experts and fans had Seattle penciled into the World Series contention at the beginning of the year, only to have them fall as the season progressed.

The Mariners, which celebrated their 40th year as a Major League franchise, came into the season with a new general manager Jerry DiPoto, who replaced previous GM Jack Zduriencik and new manager Scott Servais, who took over for former manager Lloyd McClendon.

DiPoto came into the season with many expectations, a new front office and the eyes of the fans and critics on him. But fans knew it was going to be an uphill battle for the new GM.
Seattle started out the year hot, making it to first place in the American League West standings by late May, before they dropped to 45-44 at the All Star break. In September, they were six games out the playoffs, but then went on to win 16 of 22 their games.

Sure, Seattle did not make the playoffs, but the season was not a complete failure. The Mariners finished 86-76 and second place in the AL West. It wasn’t the team’s best finish in recent years — in 2014 they finished 87-75 and barely missed the playoffs — but it is an improvement from 2015 where they went 76-86 and ended fourth in the division standings.
There are also several small victories the Mariners can hang their caps on this year.

Second baseman Robinson Cano finished the season with a .298 batting average, 39 home runs and 103 RBIs, which is better than he did last year. Cano also smacked his 250th career home run in May, becoming the only second baseman to hit 250 home runs in the first 12 years of his career. Nelson Cruz and Kyle Seager shined at the plate as well. Cruz finished with a .287 average with 43 homers and 105 RBIs while Seager finished with .278, 30 home runs and 99 RBIs.

Pitching wise, the Mariners bullpen set a club record for strikeouts with 1,318 — one more than the previous high of 1,317 set in 2014.

Another small victory is pitcher Felix Hernandez earning his 150th career win after the Mariners’ 3-2 win over the Los Angeles Angels in August, four years after his perfect game. Overall, Hernandez did not have the best season, missing seven weeks because of a strained calf muscle.

Former Mariner Ken Griffey Jr. being inducted into the baseball Hall of Fame and his No. 24 jersey retired was another highlight. It didn’t really contribute to Seattle’s success, but they were moments that made fans smile.

Speaking of Seattle fans, the Mariners’ season attendance was over 2.268 million, which is the highest it’s been since 2008.

The Mariners will have a few free agents and should be able to add some players to their roster next year. Hopefully they will bring on a shortstop and a consistent first baseman.

While we’re at it, they should try and bolster the bullpen with more pitchers in their rotation, not only because of injuries that could happen during the season, but also because three pitchers, Taijuan Walker and relievers Steve Cischek and Tony Zych, will possibly undergo surgery during the offseason.

The team will have a core group of returners next year, including Cano, Cruz and Seager.
Fernandez is optimistic about returning next season, saying he will work on his “mechanics,” a little, as well as play winter ball and possibly compete in the World Baseball Classic, which will be held in March 2017 in Los Angeles.

So I’ll tip my cap and raise a glass to the Mariners on their season. That said, I think fans should raise their expectations for next year.

Crunch Time: Holm’s win earns her a place in combat sports history

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Note: This is a Crunch Time column I wrote for this week’s issue of the Cheney Free Press.

One thing I’ve heard UFC commentator and comedian Joe Rogan say is “anything can happen in mixed martial arts.” I’ve also heard from several fighters I’ve interviewed over the years are that even the best athletes experience defeat at some point in their careers.

MMA fans learned this first-hand last Saturday after “The Preacher’s Daughter” Holly Holm defeated “Rowdy” Ronda Rousey to win the UFC women’s bantamweight championship. Many are calling Holm’s win over Rousey the biggest upset in not only mixed martial arts, but all of combat sports. She also made history by becoming the first fighter to win world championships in boxing and mixed martial arts.

Rousey came into the fight as the unbeatable opponent, with an unblemished record of 12-0 prior to the fight, six successful title defenses – three in the last nine months – and the best grappling of any fighter in the women’s 135-pound division. Although Holm had a 9-0 record and an extensive boxing background – a 33-2-3 record and a plethora of world championships – fans and critics considered P.D. an unworthy contender for Rousey. And why shouldn’t they? Holm’s grappling and takedown defense has improved since she transitioned to MMA but it’s nowhere as efficient as Rousey or her previous opponents. Prior to fighting Rousey, Holm’s octagon run consisted of back-to-back decision wins.

Rousey opened at -300, making her a 3-1 odds favorite, with Holm as a +250 underdog, according to Best Fight Odds. Those numbers shifted with money coming in on Holm’s side – dropping Rousey to as low as about a -140.

I’ll admit that I counted Holm out, believing that Rousey’s judo, aggressiveness, strength and preparation would be the keys that would result in the champion finishing Holm quickly like she had many of her previous opponents.

But Rousey’s aggressiveness seemed to work against her. Holm out maneuvered her while landing many strikes on Rousey in the first round. Holm’s strength seemed to match her opponent’s as she escaped from a couple of submission attempts. As for preparation, Holm executed a seemingly perfect game plan in getting Rousey to chase her. In the second round Holm landed a vicious head kick that sent the champion to the canvas. Rousey later went to the hospital for a busted lip.

Holm’s win was a shock to many, but big upsets in mixed martial arts are more common than we think.

There have been several upsets in MMA prior to Holm’s win over Rousey. In 2007, Matt Serra shocked the world when he finished Georges St-Pierre in three minutes to win the UFC welterweight championship. Chris Weidman ushered in a new era for the UFC’s middleweight division after he defeated Anderson Silva to win the belt, snapping Silva’s 16-fight winning streak. Last year T.J. Dillashaw beat Renan Barao to win the bantamweight belt, becoming the first man to defeat Barao since the latter’s first fight in 2005.

Boxing fans will remember when Buster Douglas knocked out Mike Tyson in the 10th round to win The Ring, World Boxing Council, World Boxing Association and International Boxing Federation heavyweight championships. Douglas entered the contest as a 42-1 underdog.

UFC President Dana White intimated that Rousey will get a rematch against Holm, who agreed to defend her newly won championship against the former titleholder. Rousey released a statement on her Instagram account, thanking everyone for their love and support.

“I appreciated the concerns about my health, but I’m fine,” Rousey wrote. “As I mentioned before, I am going to take a little bit of time, but I’ll be back.”

While the annals of combat sports history are filled with upsets, fighters like Weidman and Dillashaw who are still the champions in their respected weight divisions, will continue to carry that momentum throughout their careers.

Then again, Serra lost the welterweight title back to St-Pierre in their rematch while Douglas dropped his championships to Evander Holyfield in his first title defense.

As for Holm, she’s already considered the underdog in the rematch with Rousey despite coming in as the champion. Who knows, maybe lighting will strike twice and The Preacher’s Daughter will add the second loss to Rousey’s MMA resume.

Alman on Miesha Tate retirement talk

Former Strikeforce champion Miesha “Cupcake” Tate has been making headlines about her recent comments regarding being skipped over for a women’s bantamweight title shot.

Tate supposedly earned third bout with UFC women’s bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey after defeating Jessica Eye earlier this year. UFC President Dana White said Tate vs. Eye would be a title eliminator bout during a press conference shortly before Rousey’s title tilt with Bethe Correia at UFC 190.

Tate did her job and defeated Eye. There was speculation that the fight would be the co-main event of a supercard – with Jose Aldo and Conor McGregor as the headliner – in Dallas. However, the UFC had other plans. Shortly after Rousey’s win over Correia, the champion appeared on “Good Morning America” to announce she would be facing Holly Holm in January. The fight was moved to Nov. 15.

Some fans jeered at the notion of Holm as the No. 1 contender, saying she wasn’t ready or that Rousey would easily beat her. Meanwhile others were upset because Holm was bumped up over Tate.

Fast forward two months and the former Strikeforce champion is still disappointed about the events. In an interview with Brett Okamoto, Tate said she didn’t think the UFC was being malicious and she knows they were doing their job – promoting fights – the decision to pass her over was something that affected her career and life.

Tate is currently 0-2 against Rousey. She dropped the Strikeforce women’s bantamweight title in March 2012. The two met again – this time for Rousey’s UFC title – in 2013, where Rousey prevailed. The fight was memorable because Tate became the first fighter to take Rousey past the first round, something no opponent has done since then.

It’s easy for the UFC to look at Tate vs. Rousey III and say “well fans have seen that fight twice, why do they need a third one so soon?” True, but that fight was almost two years ago. Since the loss to Rousey, Tate has gone 4-0, defeating every opponent the UFC has put against her. Some would argue that those victories weren’t impressive – all four went the distance – but a win is a win.

Not to mention that Tate has repeatedly said she’d face Cris “Cyborg” Justino in a catchweight bout.

While she understands the UFC brass is doing their job, she’s not willing to bend or break. Like many fighters, she’s lost money because of the UFC’s deal with Reebok She’s looked at several options and retirement has to be one of them.

Tate’s comments aren’t necessarily bashing the UFC like other fighters have done – like Tito Ortiz. She’s seems to be taking the high road, but also focusing on her own career and brand, which more fighters are doing. She’s going through what many fighters have experienced – empty promises from promoters – and she’s looking to take her destiny in her own hands. Some folks could argue “anyone would be happy fighting in the UFC.” True, the UFC is the biggest stage for anyone in mixed martial arts, but what good is it if management isn’t delivering on their promises and it’s negatively affect your professional and personal life.

Fans and critics complain about a lack of depth in the UFC women’s 135 division and Tate’s absence from the octagon could validate their point. Folks could argue that Rin Nakai, who Tate defeated a year ago, wasn’t in the top 15. However, Sara McMann, Liz Carmouche were former title contenders – and Eye was someone people saw as the future of the division. Apparently the UFC offered Tate a fight with Amanda Nunes, who is 4-1 in the octagon – as an opponent. Tate turned down the fight because of still “being shell-shocked” about Rousey vs. Holm, according to the Okamoto interview.

I’m sure any MMA promotion would love to have Tate in their organization. She’s done apperances and commentating duties for Invicta Fighting Championships. Organizations like Bellator, ONE and World Series of MMA, which aren’t as big as the UFC, that could use Tate in different roles to increase their star power and possibly bring in talent.

There’s different avenues for Tate to take if she does hang up the gloves, including movies and philanthropic efforts. She’s created a strong foundation for her brand and she can build upon it as time goes on.

Since her debut in 2007, Tate (17-5) has earned many accolades, including two Strikeforce titles – one world and one tournament – and has fought some of the best in the world. She’s accomplished more than most female fighters who step into the cage and doesn’t really have anything else to prove.

Preventing high school football injuries through education

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This is my Write to the Point column that was printed in the Oct. 22 issue of the Cheney Free Press.

Football is a dangerous game — fans and athletes know that. It’s been that way since its inception in 1869.

Recently, the sport has been under a microscope due to the number of injuries at the high school level. Even Medical Lake High School had two players who were injured during games. Nationally, six high school players have died due to injuries related to the game.

I have heard some friends talk about not letting their sons play football, at least until they are older. Some writers and critics have advocated their schools to ban it. In September, Camden Hills Regional High School, in Rockport, Maine, canceled its football season after the team’s third game.

According to an article in the Boston Globe, the school cited safety concerns and low numbers as reasons to cancel the season. There won’t be a Camden Hills varsity football team next year either, though the school might allow a JV team.

I don’t think schools should ban the sport, but measures should be in place to ensure players are healthy and safe before and after games. According to the National High School Sports-Related Injury Surveillance Study, there were more than 500,000 injuries related to high school football just last year. While muscle strains and sprains represented just over one-third of all the injuries, concussions were about one-quarter.

Schools and regulatory bodies do what they can to prevent and mitigate injuries. There are athletic trainers at practices and medical personnel at the games. The WIAA (Washington Interscholastic Activities Association) implemented a concussion policy in place for the 2015-16 school year.

According to the WIAA website, officials will ask the coach if he or she has a licensed health care provider that is authorized to evaluate possible concussions on site.

If the answer is yes, the medical personnel must be on site and able to be summoned to evaluate a potential concussion. If an official removes an athlete from play for possible concussion signs or symptoms, that player could return to play if they are medically cleared. If the team does not have an approved health care provider available and the official removes a player for possible concussion signs or symptoms, that athlete will not be allowed to return to play for the rest of the game.

Every year each school district’s board of directors work in concert with the WIAA to develop the guidelines and other information and forms to inform and educate coaches, athletes, and their parents and/or guardians of the nature and risk of concussions and head injuries including continuing to play after concussion or head injury.

Abdominal injuries are another concern when it comes to high school football. In 2008, during a football game, Niceville High School’s Taylor Haugen suffered a ruptured liver after being hit hard in the front and back while reaching up to catch a pass during a home game in Niceville, Florida. His parents, Brian and Kathy Haugen, removed him from life support after doctors were unable to repair his liver.

The Haugens established the Taylor Haugen Foundation and Youth Equipment for Sports Safety to educate high school football players about protecting themselves from abdominal injuries and providing equipment such as rib protectors and back plates to better absorb the hits they take. They have donated 2,500 custom moldable shirts to athletes.

Part of the responsibility of player safety falls on parents and coaches to stress the importance of safety to athletes, if they haven’t already. It also falls on athletes to tell their coaches, parents, athletic trainers or anyone who is around, when they are hurt or experiencing symptoms.

USAFootball.com has several educational pamphlets for coaches and parents to help recognize and develop action plans for concussions, heat exhaustion and sudden cardiac arrest. There are also step-by-step tutorials for heads-up tackling and blocking.

There isn’t a way to make the game of football 100 percent safe. Accidents happen on the field whether it is a miscalculated hit or a player moving his limb the wrong way in the middle of the play. But through education and measures, we can make the game a little safer while still keeping it fun.

Dipoto could lead Seattle into a new era

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There’s a new sheriff in town and his name is Jerry Dipoto.

The Seattle Mariners announced, on Sept. 28, they hired Dipoto as the team’s new general manager. He was officially introduced at a press conference on Tuesday.

Dipoto couldn’t have come to the Mariners at a better time. He replaces Jack Zduriencik, who Seattle fired in August. Zduriencik, led Seattle for seven seasons and while he enjoyed some success in 2009 and 2014, his seven-year plan to bring the team to the postseason failed.

While initial reports had Seattle looking for a younger, more analytical candidate, president Kevin Mather was also looking for someone with experience and Dipoto fits the bill.

In an interview, Dipoto said he was honored to be a member of the Seattle franchise and looks forward to the challenges that come with charting “a fresh course for the future of Mariners baseball.”

Dipoto spent the last three-and-a-half years with the Los Angeles Angels. He resigned in July after friction with manager Mike Scioscia. Issues between the two include Scioscia’s resistance to data prepared by Dipoto and his staff, and the firing of hitting coach Mickey Hatcher in 2012. Bill Stoneman, who was the Angels’ general manager from 1999-2007, has been acting as interim GM since Dipoto’s departure.

During Dipoto’s time with the Angels, the team went 89-73 in 2012 and 78-84 in 2013. Last season they ended 98-64, the best record in baseball that year, and captured an American League West division title.

After a professional baseball career that lasted from 1993-2000, Dipoto’s tenure in Major League front offices began in 2003 as a scout for the Boston Red Sox. He later became the scouting director for the Colorado Rockies, a team he pitched for from 1997-2000, and the Arizona Diamondbacks. He acted as the Diamondbacks interim general manager in 2010 after GM Josh Byrnes was let go in the midseason. Prior to Seattle hiring him, Dipoto was a consultant for the Red Sox.

In a news release, Mariners president Kevin Mather said Dipoto’s familiarity with Seattle was a “big plus” in his hiring.

“During our conversations over the past few weeks, it became clear to me that he has a very solid understanding of our team and organization, both where we are and where we want to be,” Mather said in the release. “And he has a strategy to get us there.”

Dipoto will have a lot on his plate now that he’s in control of the Mariners’ ship. His analytical nature and scouting experience should help replenish its farm system and how the team drafts college players. His familiarity with the team will somewhat ease the learning curve he’ll go through as he works with a new roster and a new front office. He’s also not afraid to spend money on talent.

One person’s fate in his hands is Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon. In an August interview, Mather didn’t specify what capacity McClendon will work under the new GM, though he hopes it will still be as the team’s manager.

Dipoto’s dealings with an “old school” manager like Scioscia didn’t sit well and there’s speculation that he might walk into a power struggle with McClendon — that’s even if he decides to keep him on the team. McClendon, in an interview with MLB.com, said he spoke with Dipoto and the two had a conversation that went “very well.”

Dipoto’s appointment as Seattle’s new GM gives fans something to look forward to in 2016. It also gives him a chance to erase some of the bitterness that came from his departure with the Angels over the summer — or even get some payback with both teams being in the AL West. He’s also got an uphill battle ahead as fans and critics will look to him to hear his plan and methods to bring Seattle to the postseason, something that hasn’t happened in 14 years.