Monday, July 23, 2012

The Aurora Theatre Massacre: A Veteran's Take

I was up early last Friday morning when I first heard the news of a shooting at a movie theatre in Aurora, CO via Twitter. Soon I saw the news on CNN and MSNBC with more detail. To my horror the updates kept getting worse. There was the cell phone video footage from the scene showing people covered in blood. There was the news that the apartment of the...person...who did this being booby trapped with explosives. Those details and others disturbed me as I fell asleep.
It got worse when I woke up.

That's when some of the those that died from this massacre were identified.

Among the most prominent was a young woman named Jessica Ghawi, who was an aspiring journalist that loved the sport of hockey. Most people knew Ghawi as Jessica Redfield since she went by that name in her bylines and Twitter handle. It was learned that Ghawi wend by the moniker Redfield as a tribute to her grandmother who wanted to become a journalist but never got the chance.

The worst parts of Ghawi's death was her brother Jordan live-blog finding out about his sister's death and seeing her boyfriend, Jay Meloff, tweet his heart about.

Another prominent death was Veronica Moser, who is the youngest victim. She was only six years old. Her mother Ashley was also wounded in the massacre and has faded in and out of consciousness at the hospital she's in asking about her daughter. She found out about her Veronica's death Saturday.

Counting Ghawi and Moser, there are currently 12 casualties in this massacre. Three of those casualties hit home to me. The reason can be seen in this article's title.

I am a U.S. Navy veteran, an experience that I've come to appreciate more as the years go by.

The deaths of U.S. Navy Petty Officer Third Class John Larimer, U.S. Air Force Staff Sergeant Jesse Childress, and U.S. Navy veteran Jon Blunk all hurt the Armed Forces community in many ways.

We have a volunteer army in this country, meaning one has to choose to serve. Veterans and active duty personnel consciously know that they are giving up some civil liberties in exchange for wearing the nation's uniform. Subconsciously though, these two groups acknowledge two things when they take the oath to serve for the second time. Those two things are that they are willing to kill and are willing to be killed in the line of duty.

Even as we acknowledge this, those in the Armed Forces expect those things to happen in the battlefield.  We don't expect them in our off time from duty known as 'liberty.' It's during liberty that we unwind a little and try to at least gain some normalcy of a civilian life. That's what these three men were doing that night. They, separately with their own groups, went to see the new Batman movie, one of the most anticipated pictures of the year. Instead they watched tear gas canisters being thrown in their theatre and this...person...begin to shoot innocent people. Luckily in this chaos these men proved to live up to the motto of the U.S. Navy, something that can be applied to all the branches of the Armed Forces.


These men didn't run away while they were shot at. They instinctively protected the ones they were with. In the cases of Latimer and Blunk, their girlfriends. In Childerss's case a work colleague. In doing so they sacrificed their lives.

Part of me is sad to hear this. Another part of me grew more angry as the details of how the arsenal (a 12-gauge shotgun, two .40 caliber handguns, and an AR-15 assault rifle loaded with a 100-round drum) to commit this massacre. That part of me is still angry.

I'm angry that the National Rifle Association, whose leaders don't seem to listen to their members, have co-opted one major political party and have scared the other party into not even daring to discuss sensible gun control laws. (By the way, I do believe in the Second Amendment so don't come at me with the 'you want to ban all guns' bullshit.)

I'm angry that hack politicians are using this massacre for their purposes or are mocking it. Take for example Congressman Louie Gohmert (R-TX), who said that if more people were armed in that theatre this tragedy would have been stopped (Yea, let's have more people with guns in an environment where the instigator has already gained the tactical advantage of having a gas mask on while throwing tear gas canisters at his victims. That won't make the situation mare horrifying...) There is former Arkansas governor and Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, who said this massacre happened due to lack of religion in our schools. (Yea...) There is former Arizona state senator Russell Pearce, who wrote a Facebook post with similar sentiments as Rep. Gohmert.

One part that many people I know are angry about is how the media has and the public at large have reacted to the...person...who committed this massacre. It's no secret that the Black and Latino communities have felt that when one of their own commits similar acts to this massacre, the suspects are viewed differently than a White suspect. I will agree that there are indeed racial elements that bring their ugly heads up when something like this happens. However, now is not the time to address them. That will come later.

For now families and communities have to grieve. No one has been buried yet.

For the Armed Forces community, right now we have to mourn for our lost brethren.

May fair winds and calm seas bring you safely home Mr. Blunk, Mr. Childress, and Mr Latimer.

Rest in Peace

Thursday, July 5, 2012

2012 NBA Free Agency aka. MADNESS!

Free agency, those two words can bring both pure joy and demoralizing agony to sports team front offices and their fans.

In the U.S. the free agency period of the four major team sports each have their own unique charms. However it is the free agency period of the National Basketball Association that is the best compared to the other sports. Here are the reasons why when comparing to the other sports:

In the National Football League free agent contracts are not guaranteed, meaning that teams can get out of a bad deal with only losing about half of the amount that the contract was worth (half being the usual amount teams guarantee.)

The National Hockey League is still recovering from losing a season due to a lockout. That leaves them in a position where signings of their biggest stars don't have a big ripple effect outside of die hard fans.

In Major League Baseball there really is no salary cap, meaning that the big spenders are usually the same teams (New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox) with a couple of surprises every few years. The Miami Marlins being that in 2011.

Now looking at these reason one can think the NFL has the best free agency since teams tend to have smaller risks of franchise-impacting mistakes. However, that doesn't take into account the very nature of both sports.

Unlike football, basketball is the one sport where one player can have the biggest impact on a team. This is particularly true in the NBA. When forward LeBron James left the Cleveland Cavaliers to sign with the Miami Heat, it turned the Cavs from having the best record in the NBA to a lottery team with the #1 draft pick.

It is also that very nature that causes NBA front offices to make grave mistakes when free agency comes up. Then there are the franchises that somehow turn nothing into gold during this time. Those are the reasons that make NBA free agency the best. This ongoing free agency period is a perfect example of this. Here are some of the more prominent free agency moves so far:

The Brooklyn Nets coming to terms with forward Gerald Wallace at $40 million over four years, pulling off a trade with the Atlanta Hawks that sent guard Joe Johnson to Brooklyn, and coming to terms with guard Deron Williams at $98+ million over five years.

The Houston Rockets reaching an agreement with restricted free agent center Omer Asik for $25.1 million over three years, and reaching an agreement with restricted free agent guard Jeremy Lin for $30 million over four years (the fourth year being a team option.)

The Portland Trail Blazers reaching an agreement with restricted free agent center Roy Hibbert for $58 million over four years.

The Phoenix Suns reaching an agreement with restricted free agent guard Eric Gordon for $58 million over four years, and coming to terms with guard Goran Dragic for $34 million over four years.

The Toronto Raptors reaching an agreement with restricted free agent guard Landry Fields for $20 million over three years, and acquiring guard Kyle Lowry from the Rockets via trade.

The Los Angeles Clippers coming to terms with guard Jamal Crawford for $25 million over four years, coming to terms with guard Chauncey Billups for $4.3 million over next season, and acquiring forward Lamar Odom from the Dallas Mavericks.

The Boston Celtics coming to terms with guard Jason Terry for $15 million over three years, and coming to terms with forward Brandon Bass for an undisclosed amount over three years.

The New York Knicks coming to terms with guard Jason Kidd for $9 million over three years.

The Los Angeles Lakers acquiring guard Steve Nash via sign-&-trade at $27 million for three years.

Free agency only started on July 1 & there are still major moves to be made mainly involving the deals mentioned above.

The main dominoes mainly deal with the restricted free agents. Due to their restricted status these guys can agree to deals with other teams, but their current teams can match the deal. That has put some deals in limbo. The New Orleans Hornets have vowed to match any offer made to Gordon. The Knicks have said similar statements regarding Lin. The Pacers have to think before matching Hibbert's offer knowing they can acquire a cheaper option in center Chris Kaman. The Chicago Bulls have a tough choice when it comes to Asik whom they want to keep, but not in the deal that the Rockets made with him. The only restricted guy that most likely will be on the move will be Fields. The Raptors offered Fields their deal as a strategic move to get the Knicks off the Nash chase. With Nash now being a Laker the move doesn't look so bright.

Of course the Raptors haven't had as horrible of a free agency as the Mavs.

After winning the 2010-2011 NBA title Mavs owner Mark Cuban watched his team be dismantled via free agency by his own design. His plan was simple, free up as much cap space to after Williams and Orlando Magic Center Dwight Howard. This was virtually a copy of how the Miami Heat landed their Big 3. Unfortunately for Cuban this plan has fallen apart. After Williams decided to stay with the Nets, He focused on Nash, and when that failed he focused of retaining Kidd. It looked like Kidd was going to stay until today when he decided to become a Knick

There are still some dominoes left to fall. Guard Ray Allen is now deciding on either returning to the Celtics or joining the Heat. He is currently meeting a Heat contingent for dinner as of 10 pm tonight. Then there is the cruel and unusual punishment that the Magic are going through with Howard. With his eyes set on the Nets, Howard has put the Magic in the position of both trying to get equal value for him and trying to get rid of  forward Hedo Turkoglu's contract at the same time.

This free agency period has been a roller-coaster so far with it promising to get even wilder once the moratorium on signing contracts is lifted on July 11. Fans and journalists will love every minute of it.

Madness, pure madness.