Monthly Archives: May 2012

Thank You Adam Yauch

It has been almost two weeks since Adam “MCA” Yauch passed away after a two-year battle with cancer. During those two weeks I have read, watched, and listened to countless tributes. It was during one of these tributes that I finally realized that a larger piece, than I originally thought, was gone from my past. 

I first heard “(You Gotta) Fight For Your Right (To Party)” like most kids my age on MTV in 1987. An older cousin of mine had the cassette of Licensed to ILL, and I remember him playing it on this huge silver boom box most of that summer. The Beastie Boys were brash, young, and stupid, the perfect combination for a 9 year-old boy. I might not have understood everything they were rapping about, but I liked it. 

The story could have ended right there. As I grew up I remember seeing the videos for “Hey Ladies,” and “So Whatcha Want,” but I totally missed the albums Paul’s Boutique and Check Your Head. I was too far into my grunge phase to let anything without sludgy guitars, and flannel into my CD collection. 

Then “Sabotage” happened. It was 1994. Kurt Cobain was dead, and I was slowly emerging from my Seattle-fueled haze. “Sabotage” was the coolest video I had ever seen. It was funny, and the music was killer. It fit perfectly into my post-grunge listening that included Beck and Pavement. I either ordered Ill Communication from Columbia House, or bought it at the local pharmacy that had a case full of music at the front. It also doubled as my comic book shop. It was a pretty awesome pharmacy. 

After I picked up Ill Communication it stayed in my CD (I will admit I might have had the cassette) player for weeks. I went Beastie Boys crazy. I bought t-shirts, copies of Grand Royal magazine (I still have a GR magnet on my fridge), I started getting into Spike Jonze videos, and I doubled back and bought the albums that I did not have. I also started to listen to what the three guys in the band were saying about the world. 

I will admit that at 16 I was not the most political guy at Pinckney High School. We once had a walk-out over privitization of the school, and I stayed at my desk because I did not actually care. I did not even see it as a reason to get out of class. I was not the brightest guy at 16. 

In fact, it took me a few years to really grasp the message that Beastie Boys and Rage Against the Machine were throwing out there. It also took some changes in friends, and growing up to help the process along. At the time I did not realize that Yauch, Adam “Adrock” Horovitz, and Mike “Mike D” Diamond had done the same thing. They were naive young rappers from New York City, and over the course of seven or so years they grew up, and realized they could help make a difference in the world. 

Now I did not become a militant protestor. I am still kind of shy about my political beliefs, and how I express them. Most of my friends know me as a liberal guy who keeps himself abreast with the goings on of the world. I have no issues with having a Barack Obama sticker on my car, but there are other issues I support quietly with my vote, and through other means.

I know that was a struggle for groups like Beastie Boys, RATM, and Pearl Jam. They had legions of fans, but most of them were (and stilll are) more interested in music than the message. It is still a struggle for me as I try to be the best human being I can while still shopping at Target.  

I am not sure Adam Yauch ever realized the impact he had on a large number of Beastie Boys fans. How he helped change their worldview, and made them realize that we are a part of a world community not just an American community. Some of those fans are probably sitting on Wall Street, or Capitol Hill voicing their opinions loudly. Some might be inside Capitol Hill, or the United Nations working on improving the world. And at least one is sitting in Ypsilanti, Michigan working to make sure his sleeping son becomes a smart, open-minded, human being that loves the world. 


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My Son Will Not Play Football

One of the first agreements my wife, and I had about our son before he was born was that we would not push him into doing anything he did not want to do. We also would not discourage him from doing things he wanted to do. Essentially we were going to see how it played out. If he wanted to play basketball, bang the drums, write poetry, or travel South America we were not going to discourage it.

Unfortunately, I think my wife, and I are going to have to break that rule. Our son will never play football or hockey.

Yesterday, former NFL linebacker Junior Seau reportedly shot himself in the chest, and died. He is the eighth member of the 1994 San Diego Chargers to die, and another in a growing list of ex-football and hockey players to commit suicide. The leading candidate for the cause of this issue is traumatic brain injury. An injury occured while playing a sport.

My son is 20 months old. I have no idea if he is even going to be interested in playing football, or hockey. I also understand that the likelihood of him playing either sport at a professional (or even collegiate) level is astronomical. The NCAA estimates that the probability of my son playing hockey at the professional level is .32%, and football a measly .08%.

You may say that I am overreacting. That the highest level my son will probably play these sports is high school, and he will be done when he is 18 years old. Sadly, newer studies are showing that these brain injuries are occuring in high school athletes, and even earlier. The speed of the game is slower, but the continual slamming of heads together is still there. Add to the fact that pee-wee football, and high school football have lower tech equipment, and fewer trained professionals watching over the action, and you have created a perfect storm for brain injuries in kids.

Things could change. The NFL and NHL could work toward providing better equipment, and training to the lower levels of their respective games, and rule changes could create safer leagues. The truth is that both leagues come up short when dealing with concussions, and continually fail to provide care for their players, especially after retirement, and during the off-season. Who can blame them? Both leagues are multi-billion dollar industries, and scandals are bad for business.The problem is that player suicides become front page news, not just sports page news, when they are happening at an alarming rate. These leagues will need to deal with it at some point.

I suppose you could argue that my son will have some sort of issue in whichever field he decides to enter. He could be a depressed poet living in a studio apartment dreaming of becoming the next e.e. cummings, or the alcoholic drummer for a crappy Coldplay cover band called The Scientists, or he could be kidnapped while hanging out in Rio. Those things could all happen, I am not denying that, but if he plays football or hockey he is almost assured of suffering from head injuries. Injuries that over time become neurodegenerative diseases, and in some cases lead to suicide.

Maybe I am overreacting, but is it not my job to keep my child safe? In fact, I am sure it is my number one job, and if keeping him off a football field, or hockey rink, ensures he is around when he is in his forties then I am OK with a bit of overreacting.


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