Monday, October 31, 2011

Protesters in Zuccotti Park - Will This Be Their Valley Forge

Article first published in Blogcritics

I know lots of people who said the protesters in Zuccotti Park in lower Manhattan wouldn't last beyond Columbus Day, but they are as wrong as those people who once said that the Beatles were just a fad and would be forgotten in a few months. Now, after the first snowfall of the season and close to freezing temperatures, the protesters are still encamped in the park, even after the FDNY took away their generators because of "safety" precautions.

Pretty soon we are going to start thinking of these people as a new breed of protesters. Perhaps they are not even protesters anymore, but revolutionaries, freedom fighters in every sense of the word similar to Washington and his men at Valley Forge. If they can last the winter there it will be amazing, and then who knows what kind of long term change can come out of this?

Of course, life for the Occupy Wall Street gang is not all land of milk and honey stuff. I hear from people who work down there that the encampment is actually split into two distinct groups: the original protesters who are hunkered down for the long haul, and the drop-in variety of hangers-on who got the notion to get in on a good thing, grab some free food, and crash the party. The committed group is on the East side of the park, and those with little interest in the cause (and some of them committing crimes) are on the West side.

Of course, this is to be expected. Hundreds of people are living in a small space, and as the temperature drops things are going to get harder. Still, those whose voices have shaken not just this city but the world are in position not to be taken for granted. Too many people have shrugged off the notion of the 99%, but celebrities and politicians have shown their support, and the truth is that the 1% folks better face the reality that this protest has brought into focus: these people are mad as hell and clearly not going to take it anymore.

I think that the protesters in lower Manhattan are evolving, and the more committed they are to their cause the stronger they will become. All over the country and all over the world they have inspired others to do the same thing. These tent cities filled with people who are raging against the machine are not an aberration, so maybe those fat cats on Wall Street and on all those other streets where the wealthy look down on the people in the streets from their ivory skyscrapers, will not take them seriously, like those who mocked the Beatles by wearing the mop-top wigs. However, something that started as a protest has become a movement, something that the 1% cannot fathom or appreciate, at least not yet.

In the end, and yes, the Zuccotti Park gang will eventually disperse, it is not how long that they are camped out but the fact that they did it at all, and Mayor Bloomberg and all his 1% pals could do nothing about it. The Zuccotti Gang are there until they choose to leave, and then it will be on their own terms. Whenever that happens is not the point, and the truth is that change is coming. Long ago those men who were freezing at Valley Forge knew it, and the Zuccotti Park crew know it too. Before King George knew what hit him, America was lost; perhaps the 1% will be in for a similar awakening.

Photo Credits: Valley Forge -; Zuccotti Park - Reuters

Sunday, October 16, 2011

As Gang Green Turns: Humpty Dumpty Rex Teetering On the Wall

Article first appeared on Blogcritics.

Rex Ryan, Jets head coach and intimidating master of his domain, seems ready for a big fall. It isn't enough that he has negotiated his path with his foot in and out of his mouth going on three seasons, but now all the king's men are not loyal to his service, so even if the big guy falls off the wall, it is unlikely they will all rush to put him together again.

"Controversial" seems to be a word that is always connected with Ryan. He brags about his team, sometimes without thinking, and oftentimes even if he has time to think he still blabbers about things that are potentially damaging to the team. He is like a parent who keeps telling his kid that he is a prodigy, but the kid can barely play the piano and hits all the wrong keys. Then he goes on bragging to the other parents about how great his son plays and puts him in the spotlight, only to see the child fall apart on stage. Incongruously, he learns little or nothing from this and continues to push the child without ever doing the most sensible thing - teach him how to play the piano the right way.

This turmoil on the Jets is nothing new. Ryan seems to enjoy it, even if it is a subconscious pleasure, and manifests situations which continually mix things up. Unfortunately, the big guy is not just a straw that stirs the drink, but rather a blender that has the cover off. But if Rex doesn't like the heat, why does he keep putting himself in the kitchen you may ask. The answer is not because he is looking for a gargantuan snack, but more likely that he is unable to stop himself, sort of like the shark that eats its own intestines after you slit open its belly.

If the things I hear on talk radio on sports stations here in New York are even half accurate, the Jets locker room has more protesters than can be found in lower Manhattan in Zuccotti Park. Many people see this unrest as a key to the team's terrible start (2-3), but the problem is inherent in the culture that Rex has established in the team. Anyone who watched the HBO show Hard Knocks last season can tell you that Rex wants his guys to win and aspire to be a bad boy bunch as they mow down the competition. Sometimes this has worked for him, but now his methodology seems to be imploding.

When questions have been rightly raised about quarterback Mark Sanchez and his throwing problems, suddenly the focus shifts and it's the offensive line that is to blame, or even more specifically offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer. Derrick Mason complains about the line, and before you can say Gang Green, Mason is traded to the Texans. This goes a long way to qualifying King Rex's rule over his kingdom, as obviously he is ready to banish those who do not show loyalty to him or his minions.

Now we have Santonio Holmes complaining about the offensive line. Apparently Plaxico Burress has also complained, and right guard Brandon Moore is accusing Holmes of being "disrespectful" and causing dissension on the team. Center Nick Mangold has indicated that he has no problems with Holmes, but one wonders how true that can be. Clearly, the writing is on the wall and Rex, not that light on his feet to begin with, is walking a shaky path on top of it.

Rex can say that none of this matters, that his offensive line has "skin like an armadillo," but there is a fear for this Jets fan that this season is on the brink of being lost. I am not at all certain that you can blame the linemen for Sanchez's performance thus far, and perhaps it is legitimate to blame Schottenheimer (but he is not the guy throwing the ball), who says "The team's a family and all families have disagreements." Is Schottenheimer pretending not to notice the jeers of the fans? They and some of the players think it best if he goes, but Rex is standing by his man (at least for now).

So the chicken or the egg question this week is this: is it just that Sanchez is not throwing the ball well, or is it because the line is not giving him enough time to throw it even if he were? The painful process of watching the last three games seems to clarify things for me: poor blocking, the lack of Schottenheimer's "pound and ground" game of running the ball, and no success putting the ball in the air either because of Sanchez throwing poorly or receivers not catching the ball.

In the next episode of the ongoing soap opera that is As Gang Green Turns, the guest star this week is the Miami Dolphins (0-4), coming into the New Meadowlands Stadium for the big Monday night game. The Jets are coming off three losses in a row, and there should be no doubt about the outcome of this one, but right now there is nothing but uncertainty. If the Jets should lose this game, Rex may indeed have that big fall from the wall, and all his horses and all his men are going to run in different directions. If that is the case, Rex will lie there in the hot sun for a long time, and the season may well be over after six games. How do you pick up the pieces after that?

Photo Credits: Ryan - New York Daily News; Sanchez - New York Post