Monthly Archives: December 2008

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For Those Who Must Drink Coffee in Church


I know that a few of you will be in church services this evening, because many churches hold New Year’s Eve services. And because it’ll be an obviously late evening, many of you will probably do something you normally do when you come to church — bring coffee.

With that in mind, I offer a parody of one of my favorite songs, Kirk Franklin’s “My Life Is In Your Hands.” Here’s a rendition on Youtube if you’ve never heard it.

Like many parodies, it’s actually much funnier if you actually sing it. If I had more time at my disposal, I would record it myself and send it around. (One of these days I may do just that.) Until then, those of you with taste for satire, feel free to actually sing it on your own, out loud even.

By the way, I wrote this parody over a year ago, and I’m realizing now that I was in a much darker place than I thought. Writing this was a form of stress relief, methinks. When I shared it with my wife, she didn’t find it as funny as I did — probably because she drinks coffee and I don’t.

To each their own, I guess.

My Latte’s In My Hand

(sung to the tune of Kirk Franklin’s “My Life Is In Your Hands”)

I don’t have to worry
I don’t have to be afraid
The lines are short at Starbucks
And the coffee is Fair Trade

See, every Sunday morning
This routine is what I do
I can only sing with one hand
Cause really praising Him takes two

Oh, I hope the church will make it
I hope it’s in God’s plan
But no matter what may come my way
My latte’s in my hand

I used to go to small group;
But it took up all my time
We studied from a workbook
And I kept forgetting mine

Now my ministry is different
Now consuming is enough
And I find my inspiration
From the quotations on the cup

Oh, I hope the church will make it
I hope it’s in God’s plan
But no matter what may come my way
My latte’s in my hand

Without it I feel naked
And in a year, I’ll spend three grand
But no matter what may come my way
My latte’s in my hand

Some people don’t drink coffee
That’s a promise I can’t make
If I don’t have my latte,
Then I cannot stay awake

Cause I used to get in trouble
When I fell asleep alot
But all I need to hear the Spirit,
Is a couple extra shots

I hope the church will make it
I hope it’s in God’s plan
But no matter what may come my way,
My latte’s in my hand

If there’s a need, let pastor take it
He seems like a good man
But no matter what my come my way
My latte’s in my hand

I hope the church will make it
I hope it’s in God’s plan
But no matter what may come my way,
My latte’s in my hand

I still might send an offering
To that mission in Sudan
But no matter what may come my way
My latte’s in my hand

Let the church say amen. And if you can’t say amen, say ‘ouch.’

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The Seven Pound Blues


In the neo-beatnik classic Blue Like Jazz, Donald Miller extols the virtues of the titular great American music (I’m referring to jazz itself, for those who don’t know what titular means) by saying that it, like life, doesn’t resolve.

I’m curious, then, about what he would feel about the latest Will Smith vehicle, Seven Pounds, for many of its qualities share a commonality with jazz. It’s mysterious, beautiful, enigmatic.

And it, too, refuses to resolve.

Which isn’t to say that the film doesn’t come to a conclusion, because it does. And it’s not that this conclusion isn’t believable or emotionally satisfying, because on many levels, it’s stunningly, breathtakingly beautiful. It’s just that, well, it doesn’t pass the reality test. You know, the that’s-just-not-how-real-life-works test. Will Smith’s character makes a choice that is well intentioned, but ultimately misguided. The film works, sort of, but only because what’s happening is onscreen.

I dare not reveal much else, because the effectiveness of director Gabriele Muccino’s storytelling is rooted in not giving the audience too much to work with on the front end. Eventually, the viewer is tossed morsels of plot, one at a time, until the protagonist’s journey begins to finally make some sense.

It’s the journey, of course, that makes the film so compelling. In Seven Pounds, Smith’s IRS agent Ben Thomas is bent on executing a plan with unflinching determination. In a great display of emotional range, he is alternately ruthless and sympathetic, someone who can punish wrongdoers yet still be drawn to beauty and wonder. Those two qualities are epitomized in spades by love interest Emily Posa (Rosario Dawson), whose unexpected vulnerability sparks a bond between the two.

One of the pivotal scenes in the film comes when this bond is still in its initial stage. (Minor spoiler!) After Ben has done his best to engender trust and favor from Emily by serving her and generally becoming her friend, she asks him a few probing questions, and he recoils. “That’s not part of the deal,” he says. This angers Emily, who retreats into her own shell as a result.

This exchange illustrates the problem Ben faces in his attempt at redemption. Ben wants to help others, but only on his own terms. His refusal to alter his plan short-circuits his desire for relationship and connectedness. In a way, one could say that Ben is playing God. Like all others, his attempts are well-meaning, but futile.

The pain of a life-threatening situation like Ben’s makes his adamant, steely-eyed resolve toward redemption sympathetic, but ultimately the finality of his choice forfeits the moral high ground that the film works so hard to establish. As such, the screenwriter shoots himself in the metaphorical foot. By placing the protagonist on such a rigid collision-course with his fate, the ending sabotaged all of the audience’s built-up goodwill.

If film theory analysis isn’t your thing, I’ll put it this way: I know what it’s like to be stung by the pain of regret that drives you to make things right, but I guarantee you, if I made the same choices as Ben Thomas, my story would NOT end up being memorialized in a theatrical tearjerker.

Thus, it doesn’t ring true. And no, it doesn’t resolve, at least not in my book.

But that doesn’t mean it’s not enjoyable. Smith and Dawson are both in fine form, and their on-screen romance is touching and visceral. It’s too bad they couldn’t have been in a real love story, or at least one that isn’t such a freaking downer. That this film comes so close to being really good is a testament to the chemistry between the two leads. Saying they carried the film would be an understatement on par with ‘These Detroit Lions are terrible’ or ‘the economy isn’t doing so well.’

By the way, if you’re like me and you finished watching it only to still be confused by the title, then you might want to brush up on your Shakespeare.

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The Upside Down Kingdom Does Football


If you’re tired of giving the regular answer, and someone asks you what Christmas is about, you can tell them that sometimes it’s about football.

(And not the Charlie-Brown-and-Lucy kind either.)

Some people refer to Christianity as a backward religion, but I prefer to think of it more as an upside-down kingdom.

Obviously, I’m not the first person to coin such a phrase, but sometimes I think it just fits. Because, when you get right down to it, Christianity at its core tends to run counter against everything this world tends to stand for. And sometimes the contrast is downright startling.

Like, for example, this story, brought to the masses by Sports Illustrated’s ESPN’s Rick Reilly. I’m not usually one to prop up the work of a mass media juggernaut like ESPN, but in this case I think this story deserves all the hits it can get.

Suffice it to say, though, it won’t make everyone happy. I’m sure that Christopher Hitchens could read Reilly’s piece and think, those dumb Christians… they can’t even figure out which side they’re on. And in a way, he’d be right. Most of the time, we don’t.

But every once in awhile, we figure it out, and the results are priceless.

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Don’t Just Do Something: Experiencing God In Snowpacalypse 2008


(My apologies to a commenter at Eugene Cho’s Beauty and Depravity, from whom I so judiciously ganked the term “snowpacalypse” … considering all the hysterics from Seattlites and Portlanders who aren’t used to a ton of snow, it just seemed perfect.)

First, I offer a passage from the latest edition of Experiencing God, a Bible study that I have recently embarked upon:


Don’t Just Do Something

We are a doing people. We always want to be doing something. Every now and then someone will exclaim, “Don’t just stand there; do something!”

In contrast, I think God is crying out to us, “Don’t just do something. Stand there! Enter a love relationship with Me. Get to know Me. Adjust your life to Me. let Me love you and reveal Myself through you to a watching world.” A time will come when doing will be called for, but we cannot skip the relationship. The relationship with God must come first.

Truer words have never been spoken or read, especially for me in this time.

Most of my heroes in the faith are men of action, people who identified injustice and were led by God to do something about it. People like my friend Kevin Bruursema, whose heart for God is the engine that turns his holy motor. (As an aside, doesn’t Holy Motor sound like a Christian metal band?)

I am reminded, by this Henry Blackaby passage, that action is always a byproduct of, rather than an avenue toward, relationship with God. And this truth has been made real to me in a very practical way.

Today is the eighth straight day of snow and subfreezing temperatures in the Portland area. I am not unfamiliar with such weather after spending eight years in Chicago, but this kind of heavy snowfall almost never happens in the urban centers of the Pacific Northwest.

This time of year, most of the conversation I have about weather usually consists of bragging about how people here don’t know how to operate in snow, how after an inch or two the whole city shuts down.

Only this time it’s not an exaggeration. After almost a foot of snow in the last 24 hours, the city really has shut down. And the most visceral part of that shutdown was that yesterday morning, we canceled church.

Yes, we canceled church. And we weren’t the only ones. Most of the churches in the area canceled service.

On a normal week that would actually be a relief for me, but this week it was particularly sad. See, yesterday was supposed to have been our big Christmas service. We had all kinds of special music planned, and a little pageant for the kids. It was going to be the highlight of the season.

Only, it never happened.

Yesterday, during a time of pensive contemplation, Holly mused that maybe this was God’s way of telling us we all need to slow down. Maybe He’s trying to humble us. She thought of James 4:13-15 (rendered by Eugene Peterson’s The Message):

And now I have a word for you who brashly announce, “Today—at the latest, tomorrow—we’re off to such and such a city for the year. We’re going to start a business and make a lot of money.” You don’t know the first thing about tomorrow. You’re nothing but a wisp of fog, catching a brief bit of sun before disappearing. Instead, make it a habit to say, “If the Master wills it and we’re still alive, we’ll do this or that.”

Even though service was canceled, I headed down to the church anyway, because I’m sorta stubborn like that, and I wanted to be there to greet anyone who didn’t get the word of our cancellation and trekked out in the snow anyway.

(Plus I wanted to have fun doing doughnuts in the church parking lot.)

While I was there, I had a lot of time to think.

So much of what I’ve been trying to do for God has been so fruitless. My motive has been good, but I’ve just gotten into the habit of hunkering down, squaring my shoulders, and soldiering on in the work of the Lord. Preparing music, scheduling rehearsals, sending emails, making phone calls, following through on action items, et cetera, et cetera.

As our church has gone through so much drama and decline, I think I was partially motivated by the desire to provide a seasonal respite from the neverending church drama. No matter how bad it gets for our church, went my thinking, the least we can do is do Christmas right.

But in the end, my specially-arranged Christmas music (including a hip-hop rendition of “Hark the Herald Angels Sing”) was no match for a foot of snow blanketing the metro area. Apparently, God had other plans.

One of the best things about twelve inches of snow (and still falling!) is that the monumental effort required to go anywhere provides a disincentive for running errands and scurrying about. Weather like this beckons us to just sit, and be calm, be thankful, behold the beauty… to just be.

This, I am stubbornly and painfully learning, is where God wants me right now.

So despite my pride at finally putting chains on my Pontiac for the first time, I will resist the urge to go out just because I’m not afraid of driving in the snow. I will be satisfied with loving my wife and taking some time for introspection. I will learn my lesson and be grateful for the humbling experiences God has blessed me with.

I will sit and be.

And I will experience God in the process.

I’m Jelani Greenidge, and thanks for Mixin’ It Up with me.

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Just Saw Fred Claus. No, Really. It’s Good.


So I gave into a small guilty pleasure tonight.

I watched the movie on the airplane.

Usually if I’m watching a movie on an airplane, it’s something I’ve brought myself for that express purpose, and I’m watching it on my computer. I normally can’t stand watching the movies that the airlines play, because I hate craning my neck, staring at that tiny little screen, and listening to the terrible audio.

But I made an exception, and I’m glad I did, because I enjoyed it pretty thoroughly — more evidence that a fun story with compelling characters can cover a multitude of shortcomings. If a film’s characters are cardboard cutouts and the story does nothing interesting, then it can be showing on an IMAX screen ten times a day, for free, and I’ll still probably avoid it like the plague.

My guilty pleasure was last year’s Fred Claus, starring Vince Vaughn (The Break-Up, Dodgeball) and Paul Giamatti (Sideways, The Negotiator). Like many interesting pictures, Fred Claus is a mashup of three time-worn story archetypes, the wholesome holiday fairy tale, the fish-out-of-water tale, and the slacker-does-something-good-for-once story.

The heart and soul of the movie comes from the bond of two brothers – Nicholas (a.k.a. Santa Claus) and his maladjusted younger sibling Fred, frustrated and misunderstood after living in the shadow of his jolly, charismatic older brother.

I had relatively low expectations for this film, but found myself being pleasantly surprised over and over. Some of this was Vince Vaughn’s patented blend of abrasive charm. Despite maintaining the grounded, smart-alecky style of delivery that made him a star in the first place, many of Vaughn’s lines as Fred sound downright conservative. This is what makes Fred such a sympathetic character, because even though Fred doesn’t always make the best decisions, his heart is always in the right place – like when he lectures a young girl who attacks him for repossessing her family TV. That scene is golden.

Mostly, though, it was the interesting family dynamics that really pulled me in. In a sense, Fred Claus is like many holiday films based around families (The Family Stone, Dan in Real Life, This Christmas), except that the deftly-cast family involved just happens to belong to good ol’ Saint Nick.

As such, the movie has a winning way about it, because it manages to depict a well-known — but normally boring — character as a three dimensional figure. Sure, he’s Santa Claus, but first he’s a regular guy, who has regular guy issues. He struggles with enforcing his boundaries. He’s got weight issues. He has to deal with tension between his wife and his mother.

Most distressing is the pressure he receives from a joyless suit (Kevin Spacey) intent on cracking down on inefficiency at Santa’s workshop. This is the first movie I’ve ever seen that manages to make Santa Claus seem not only human, but downright vulnerable.

Fred Claus is not without its issues, of course. It still maintains many common Christmas movie clichés, including wrapping up every conflict way too neatly — gift-wrapped and bow-tied for the convenience of screenwriter and viewer alike. And for those who suffer from acute saccharine intolerance, there are a few scenes that will prompt bouts of eye-rolling and plenty of oh-please-give-me-a-break.

But staving off the overdose is a nice combination of levity and gravitas. Two of my favorite scenes have good amounts of both.

[MINOR SPOILER ALERT!]

There’s a scene where Nick confronts his brother and the confrontation goes downhill, first into name-calling, and then into a full-on brawl. And then later there’s a scene where Fred visits a support group for siblings of famous people. (Cameos aplenty here.) In both scenes, the humor is undergirded by the simmering tension of decades worth of unresolved issues between the two brothers.

As Christian, I have to learn how to extract the laudable and virtuous elements from the other aspects that might not be in line with my standards or worldview – otherwise, I just wouldn’t watch any movies at all. Fred Claus is no exception. The main message is that troubled kids are just as deserving of love and attention as nice kids, and this is a great message that I wholeheartedly endorse. That this message is saddled with the baggage of ambiguously relativistic morals is unfortunate, and occasionally annoying.

Key example: the film’s shining reunion between Fred and his love interest [ANOTHER SPOILER] culminates in him magnanimously announcing that he’s moving into her apartment and they’ll be living together. The scene is written, shot and edited as a climactic, romantic proposal. His proposal, though, is mere cohabitation.

NOTE TO SCREENWRITERS: in a real family film, this couple would’ve actually gotten MARRIED. It’s called commitment, Vince Vaughn. Check it out sometime.

On the plus side, though, there is no profanity whatsoever, and very little crass humor. (One suggestively-costumed, cleavage-showing woman, and one fleeting reference to marital sexuality.)

That, combined with the powerful relationship between two adult brothers, makes Fred Claus more than worth the price of a rental. It might actually be the rare holiday film that is, dare I say, rewatchable.

Just make sure you don’t let any of those Santa-themed Christmas songs get stuck in your head. Those things are brutal.

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MTCC: Making Training in Columbus Count


I’m tongue-tied and bIeary-eyed, but I made it through.

I have emerged, healthy and generally in my right mind, from what has affectionately come to be known as “J.R.’s Hostage Weekend.” That term, admittedly melodramatic, is actually a pretty fitting description of what I’ve just endured (and for the second time, no less).

The “J.R.” in question is J.R. Cifani, one of the head honchos at the Monster Worldwide subsidiary Making It Count. And I just spent three days certifying on two – not one, but, count ‘em, TWO – presentation scripts at the training weekend in for the MIC spring season of 2009.

If those details mean nothing to you, they’re just more evidence that I have the privilege of stringing together seven of the coolest words in the English language:

I am a Making It Count speaker.

For the uninitiated, Making It Count is a company that convinces large companies to help underwrite the cost of sending speakers into high schools and colleges, then trains and deploys those speakers to do the presentations, educating the students and giving the partner companies positive branding opportunities in the process.

While it doesn’t necessarily pay that well, it’s quite addicting work. There’s nothing quite like the high you get from corralling a bunch of students, establishing a connection with them, and then imparting to them information that could impact their trajectory for the better.

Of course, in order to experience that high, you must first be certified by MIC to present the material. So that’s what I was doing this weekend, going through the grueling process of learning the content and refining my technique, and collaborating with others doing the same.

One of the coolest things for me about attending a Making It Count training weekend is that I get to spend three intense days with a bunch of people who are a lot like me. It’s a great change of pace from the everyday grind, and a great opportunity to make and develop relationships. And not just in the networking sense, but you know, actually making friends. It’s a blast hanging out with people with whom I have so much in common.

And I mean that on several levels. Not only is the whole conference populated with a whole crop of dynamic, engaging personalities, but a significant portion of the speakers – a sizable majority actually — are people of color. So both hotels were besieged by African-American, Hispanic/Latino, and biracial folks from all across the country. Growing up in the Pacific Northwest, I’m not used to seeing so many passionate, intelligent, good-looking Black people at any event that’s not a concert or a church service. So gettin’ to chop it up like that in a corporate training environment is always a special thing for me. We worked hard, but we had fun.

And speaking of church, that’s the other thing that many of us had in common. I met so many people who were in some form of Christian ministry in their “other” lives. Pastors, youth pastors, even a few music ministers. During my first training in August, I thought it was just a big coincidence.

Now, I can see why.

Most people in some kind of vocational ministry need some form of supplemental income. Working for Making It Count means we can get a little extra cash by giving people a message of hope and empowerment, which is what we would normally be doing anyway. The chance to travel, do some networking, and still maintain the flexibility we need to continue in ministry, practically makes it a lock.

Now I’m not gonna lie… even though I really enjoy this work, I wasn’t particularly excited about coming to this training. The holiday season is always busy, especially for a church music director. I had a lot of stuff going on, and I didn’t get to engage in the weekend as fully as I wanted to because I was still spending some of my downtime taking care of tasks related to church.

On top of that, just getting there was a challenge. The first leg of my trip was delayed about 8 hours, which means instead of taking a noon flight to Houston and getting into Columbus that evening, I didn’t even LEAVE Portland until almost 11pm. Instead of spending the day flying and the night in a hotel room, I spent the day at the airport and the night in cramped airline seats that I couldn’t sleep in. It threw off my body clock something fierce, and the next morning I ended up oversleeping by two hours and nearly missing my opportunity to certify.

But still… it was all so worth it. I’m not kidding. Flight delays and bitter cold and hustling from concourse to concourse for almost 24 hours straight, if it means I get to spend a weekend with likeminded (read: insane) people, all reaching toward the same goal of strengthening our ability to reach people, then I’m down.

If I had to do it all over again, I absolutely would.

I’d just make sure to get a loooooooooong nap first.

I’m Jelani Greenidge, and thanks for Mixin’ It Up with me.

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Really, Apple… A Vending Machine?

I’m not the type of cat to throw stones at an innovative company like Apple, Inc.

(Even though I don’t have a problem with laughing with others who do.)

As a Windows man, I have a healthy amount of respect for Apple’s slick, easy-to-use products — many of which (including the ubiquitous iPhone and all the iterations of the iPod) have achieved significant market penetration for Apple, if not outright domination.

But I do believe there can be too much of a good thing, and I saw it with my own eyes during a layover in the Houston airport recently – when I walked past an iPod vending machine.

Yes, that’s right. A freaking iPod vending machine.

It’s always been my understanding that vending machines depend primarily on foot traffic. So in this economy, it seems like a major stretch to expect Charlie and Cathy Consumer to shell out several hundred dollars on an impulse purchase, even one as popular as an iPhone or an iPod.

Yet, there it was, in the middle of the concourse.

So I guess that must be what the brain trust at Apple is banking on. Either that, or they’re just expecting spontaneous brand conversions, as consumers cave to the massive waves of peer pressure that result from such market domination.

Or maybe this is just one big ego boost.

Screw it, I’m Steve Jobs, and I say we sell iPods in vending machines. Don’t give me figures, lets MAKE THIS HAPPEN.

I enjoy seeing that kind of moxie when it’s depicted as comedy – like the fictional Gillette exec in this great archived piece from The Onion (WARNING R-rated language).

But in real life, it’s not as funny. I hope nobody loses their shirt over this, because as far as I know, they’re not selling those in vending machines yet.

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Links To Make You Th–LAUGH (Obama Edition)


Okay, so these are Obama-related but I promise they’re not political.

Mac enthusiasts are in an uproar over what they perceive as a stunning betrayal of their biggest brand celebrity, because someone saw President-elect Obama working out with a Zune music player — a Microsoft product, instead of an iPod or an iPhone.

I can see the editorial from Huffington Post already: “School Vouchers, Maybe, But a Zune?!”

Oh, the humanity.

The line of the day from this story came from a commenter on Gizmodo: “Duh… he is the change candidate.”

Also, a Florida Republican had to be contacted by a member of her own party before she believed the two phone calls she had just received were actually from President-elect Obama and not an impersonator pranking her. She had to be told because she’d just hung up on him — twice.

And finally, only in a city like Chicago does it take a reporter — from out of town, mind you — to file a story about how Chicago drivers aren’t intimidated by anything, including presidential motorcades.

The headline from the NBC Chicago story: Don’t Mess With the Black SUVs.

Speaking as a fan of 24, I call those words to live by.

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Conservative ‘crazies’ have a lesson to teach


I am a fan of Eric Zorn, the liberal progressive columnist of the Chicago Tribune, mostly because he is usually well-reasoned and honest. I share his frustration with the legions of Obama-haters who are latching in vain onto whatever they can to attempt to prevent him from taking office — in this case, a half-cocked attempt to disqualify him on what appears (to me, anyway) to be a fabricated technicality related to the geography of his birth.

But his latest response (“Sigh. The crazies are back.“) seems petty, partisan, and short-sighted:

Silly me. Here I’d been thinking that the wild-eyed foamers who were driven nearly to madness by the prospect of Barack Obama’s election to the presidency would have crawled back into their basements and waited for Obama to be sworn in before they began waving their arms and ranting again.

But no. Political insanity knows no holiday.

Sorry, EZ, but the truth just isn’t that simple.

First, the necessary disclaimer: I am not beholden to either political party.

I’m certainly not conservative, at least not how the majority of the electorate tends to use that word in its most simplest sense. I voted for Obama, and I helped to vote in Portland’s first openly gay mayor. I’m in an interracial marriage, and I’m on staff at a multi-ethnic church founded in a denomination that is leading the charge for diversity among others of its kind.

I recycle, I read Slate, I ride my bike, I rail against corporations, I’m a fan of NPR. I’m a college graduate, I’m part of the creative class, and I run my own business. From a demographic standpoint, I’m probably every Prius salesman’s wet dream.

But I’m not really liberal either.

I may be a registered Democrat at the moment, but I only registered this year, for the express purpose of voting for Barack Obama in the Oregon primary. (In fact, I had to restrain myself from openly laughing at the guy who knocked my door yesterday, because his pitch included all kinds of wrongheaded assumptions, starting with the idea that I would ever give money to the ACLU.)

On many — dare I say, most — bellwether issues, I fall just right of center.

So forgive me if this sounds preachy or vindictive; it’s just that I feel so uniquely qualified to make the following statement:

Conservative crazies won’t let up on Barack Obama because liberal crazies never let up on George Bush.

I hate to oversimplify issues, but on this one, I really do think it’s that simple.

Portland is the land of the leftist bumper stickers, and I’d bet a pair of NBA playoff tickets that the “Is it 2008 Yet?” bumper stickers went into circulation as soon as Dubya won the right to a second term.

It wasn’t fair then, and it’s not fair now. But if you fail to acknowledge this, all the complaints of fairness reek of liberal partiality.

Zorn, if you’re reading this, I know you’re not a fan of the Bible. So forgive me for alluding to Hosea 8:7a in this case:

If you sow the wind, don’t be surprised when you reap the whirlwind.

I’m Jelani Greenidge, and thanks for Mixin’ It Up with me.

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The Definition: More Than Just A Nickname


When it comes to this year’s Portland Trail Blazers, I can honestly say that I really like our players.

All of them.

And I don’t just like them as players, I like them as people. Granted, I don’t know them all that well, I only know them as much as any fan can know a professional athlete — through quotes, interviews, video clips, et cetera.

In my 20s, I spent many formative years cheering for all the talented-but-troubled players who have worn the red and black over the years (Rasheed Wallace, Bonzi Wells, Isaiah Rider, Zach Randolph, etc.) so it makes it all the more satisfying to actually be able to cheer for a group of guys that are just as likable off the court as on.

Brandon Roy is the star, the go-to guy, the clubhouse leader and one of the main faces for our team. Because of this, and because the Blazers are starting to get more national press, there will continue to be throngs of people lining up to praise B-Roy — dubbed as “The Natural” by Blazers radio personality Brian Wheeler.

I share in that adoration, and I continue to be impressed by the way Roy continues to deliver in key moments, game after game after game. As is has been said ad nauseam by writers off every stripe who cover this team or the NBA in general, the Portland Trail Blazers have a great foundation in place with Brandon Roy, LaMarcus Aldridge, and LastYear’sNumberOneDraftPick Greg Oden (yes, that’s his full name now).

But none of them are my favorite player.

My favorite player is Martell Webster. He’s the guy I put on the masthead of this blog, and he’s the one with whom I identify most. He’s articulate, he’s honest, he’s ambitious, he’s confident, and he’s from the Pacific Northwest.

(Yes, I know he’s from Seattle and not Portland. Nobody’s perfect.)

I still remember when I heard the news that the Blazers had drafted Webster… I was very, very pleased. I was living in Chicago at the time, and since there weren’t any other Blazer fans in my immediate circle, I was resigned to reading the OregonLive Blazers Blog.

And since we weren’t any good, really, most of the hope for our team was to be found in scouring stori about potential draft picks. As I sifted through all the information about which players would be available and where, I couldn’t help but notice that everything that was written about Webster seemed loaded with potential: ‘Good NBA body,’ ‘long range shooter,’ ‘eager to learn,’ ‘good work ethic,’ yada yada yada.

I’m thinking, where’s the downside? Is there some cocaine problem we don’t know about?

The clincher was when I read in a pre-draft story about the nickname that Webster had given himself. Normally I frown upon guys trying adopt a nickname on their own (that’s usually your friends’ job) but this one seemed to fit so well: The Definition.

A play on his surname, Webster stated in no uncertain terms that he wanted to be the very model of a modern NBA player. And he wanted that for all aspects of his game. He didn’t just want SportsCenter highlights. He wanted professionalism. He wanted consistency. He wanted to be great.

So I’ve been following Martell’s quest for greatness ever since. Over the years, he’s had his ups and downs. He’s been known mostly as a great shooter with confidence issues, who lacks the consistency to take it to the next level. When he first came into the league, Martell appeared to be somewhat of a sensitive soul who wore his earnest desire on his face at all times.

Now in his fourth year, Martell has been maturing all along. And he’s always shown evidence of that fire for greatness within, particularly in the way he’s responded to less-than-ideal circumstances.

He could’ve gotten upset when the Blazers drafted Brandon Roy, a guy who played the same position and who came up in the same city. But he didn’t. He could’ve taken veiled shots at the coaching staff when he was demoted to the D-League in his second year. But he refused. He could’ve been upset when he wasn’t invited to the Three Point Shootout, even though he shot pretty well from downtown last season. But he wasn’t.

And he could’ve pouted or gotten frustrated when he went down with his first real injury earlier this year. But he didn’t. And the evidence of that is in this interview with official Blazers blogger Casey Holdahl, where Marty says all the right things, and sounds like he actually means them:

When some players get injured they withdraw a bit from the team, but you’re on the bench for every home game and always at practice. Why?

Martell Webster: There’s no “I” in team. Just plain and simple. I know that’s just an old saying, but I always feel a part of this team. I love my teammates. The chemistry is incredible. We have a bond. Why would you want to be away from that? You want to be at ever game. Unfortunately I couldn’t go on the road trips because I was in the boot, but being here at home, sitting behind the bench at every game just makes me feel that much closer to getting back on the court. I love being there. It’s not a matter of needing to do it; I want to do it because I love being with this team.

Do you feel like you have a good balance right now between your personal and professional life?

Martell Webster: Yeah. When you think about it, kids commit more hours in school than we do to basketball all day. We come to practice for two hours and I get the rest of the day with my family. I feel blessed. We don’t deserve it, but I make sure that I play hard and I have no regrets. The most important thing is your family, but this is your job so you have to take care of this first. But two hours a day? Why would anyone complain about that?

How can you NOT root for this guy? Between this interview and his potential to get even cranky ex-journalists like Dwight Jaynes excited, the sky is the limit for Martell Webster.

So all you Blazer fans who keep bellyaching about how we could’ve drafted Chris Paul instead, put a sock in it. Trust me, you’ll forget all about Chris Paul when Martell starts raining down threes in the playoffs with regularity.

And I hope that one day, if I have a son, and my son expresses a desire to play basketball, I can buy him a poster or a bobblehead and say the following:

“You wanna know what a basketball player should be like? Here’s The Definition.”