With a record of 2 wins and 1 loss, the Dallas Cowboys are already ahead of where many local pundits thought they would be. Predictions of a 9-7 season were the norm, a record which would likely not give the Cowboys a chance to make the playoffs.
Game 1 Loss to the New York Jets
In game 1, the Cowboys played on the road against a very good New York Jets team, and they came very close to winning it but blew a 14-point lead in the 4th quarter. Quarterback Tony Romo threw a last-minute interception after fumbling in a previous goal line play in which he pretended he was former running back Marion Barber trying to bulldoze his way through a pile of bodies. It was a play reminiscent of those that the former coach of the Cowboys, Bill Parcells, feared most about Romo's decision-making ability in pressure situations. Fans of the Cowboys will remember Parcells' cautionary remarks when he was responding to criticism about staying with veteran quarterback Drew Bledsoe as the starter, whom many thought to be on his last leg before he ever arrived in Dallas to play.
Romo the Worst Quarterback in History
Like every win and every loss in Dallas, the tendency is to overreact. During the following week, the local and national press jumped on the bandwagon in blaming Romo for the loss, despite the Cowboys having given up a blocked punt for a touchdown and a botched field goal attempt earlier in the game from extra-point territory.
Romo the Messiah, Victory in San Francisco
The following week, playing the San Francisco 49'ers on the road, they pulled off a narrow victory in which Romo and kicker Dan Bailey both redeemed themselves. In a storybook scenario, Romo left the game with a broken rib and sat out much of it while old-timer quarterback Jon Kitna handled the Cowboys offense, that is, until Romo came running onto the field to lead the team to its first win of the season.
The following day it was reported that Romo had not only broken his rib, he had also suffered a slight puncture in his lung. It was played locally as an "outhouse-to-the-White-House" comeback for Romo given the bad publicity from the week before. Like I said, it's an overreaction city and always has been since the days of their earliest successes under Coach Tom Landry.
Victory in Dallas Over Nemesis Washington Redskins
Finally coming home for their first game in Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, they faced their age-old nemesis, the Washington Redskins, now coached by Super Bowl winner Mike Shanahan, whose record was 2-0. Fighting through miscues, 4 premature snaps of the ball on offense, injuries to star receiver Miles Austin, Dez Bryant, and a couple of interior offensive linemen, Tony Romo did something fans have been waiting to see. Not only did he overcome the pain of his injury, but he exhibited field leadership in his handling of the players on the field. In similar situations in the past, Romo has been criticized for becoming a loner, with his head down and withdrawing to the end of the bench.
Still, with the victory over the Redskins, the Cowboys offense did not score a touchdown. They scored six field goals, Dan Bailey now having experienced the full redemption of his first-game miss, that is, until he misses his next one. They beat the Redskins 18-16, so their record is now 2-1 which ties them for first place in the division with the Redskins and the New York Giants.
Defense, Defense, Defense
Probably the best off-season decision by the Cowboys was hiring Defensive Coordinator Rob Ryan. In spite of key injuries to Cowboys cornerbacks, the defense is playing very well. The new all-out blitz schemes are hiding the weaknesses in the Dallas secondary.
Could Sean Lee Be the Second Coming of LeeRoy Jordan
One very bright spot is 2-year linebacker Sean Lee who replaced Keith Brooking in the starting role. Lee was named NFC Defensive Player of the Month for September, the first time a Cowboy player has won this award since its inception in 1986 (Source: ESPN website). Sean Lee's numbers are impressive after three starts. He is credited with 36 tackles, of which 23 were solo, two interceptions, two fumble recoveries, not to mention his style of play which exhibits. Veteran DeMarcus Ware has been phenomenal as well, lining up all over the field to avoid double-team blocks and giving him just one blocker to overcome on his way to the quarterback.
Don't Forget, It's Still the Cowboys
There are problems however. At some point very soon — the Cowboys play the undefeated Detroit Lions this weekend — the mistakes on offense will thwart any effort to come from behind. Romo is demonstrating better field leadership, but play-calling and offensive schemes will eventually have to pick up the pace as well as just plain "football smarts." Receivers and Romo need to get on the same page fast! Missed routes and terrible secondary reads by inexperienced receivers will frustrate the entire team, and the Cowboys will sink back into the muck and mire of the recent seasons under Head Coach Wade Phillips.
It is still questionable whether the Dallas defense has been fully tested. Folks in Dallas did not expect them to be as good as they have shown to be so far. The biggest test in this young season will be the Detroit Lions this Sunday. A Lions drought spanning two decades appears to be over. They bring their 3-0 record to Dallas this weekend with their quarterback, Matthew Stafford, who has shown brilliance thus far with 997 yard passing and a 67% completion average with 9 touchdowns. Rob Ryan seems to be made for this kind of challenge, and fans expect to see just how good his defensive schemes and players are this week.
It is still hard to tell how the team will fare. It is a long season, and injuries have come early and often. Knowing the pulse of the local fan base, even though many folks thought the Cowboys would win no more than ten games, expectations are high, way too high. They have weaknesses that have not yet been exposed by great teams. I'm still holding to my prediction of 9-7, but of course, like all lifelong Cowboys fans, I'll overreact at every loss and every win.
Sunday, September 11, 2011
Layer upon layer of heroic stories, opinions, and interpretations of 9/11 have taken on the character and power of myth in the ten years since tragedy struck the United States in the form of hijacked airliners exploding into New York's World Trade Center and the Pentagon in Washington D.C. Not forgotten is the attempt of other hijackers to attack government buildings in Washington D.C., only to be thwarted by courageous passengers before the mission could be accomplished.
Dr. Benjamin J. Luft is the Director of the Long Island Medical Monitoring and Treatment Program at State University of New York. In his work there, Luft has provided care for over 6,000 responders and workers who were exposed first-hand not only to the tragedy of 9/11, but also to the health hazards of "the pile" on which they worked for over a year to clear the site.
His book, We're Not Leaving: 9/11 Responders Tell Their Stories of Courage, Sacrifice, and Renewal, is a collection of first-hand accounts drawn from the voices of the people whose lives have been marked permanently by doing society's hardest work of removing the sad, visible reminders of a nation's vulnerability.
This layer of stories and reflections are those at the core, those in the pre-interpretive time period in which the concerns were the facts, the people, the deceased, and the horror of never knowing if one can take another breath before succumbing to the death that surrounds them all.
Lost in the ten years since, amidst the growing American story of its heroes and its struggle to memorialize the events in the most meaningful way, are the accounts of those who were most exposed to the hazardous aftermath of the rubble, the random body parts, and the suffocating air and odors of "the pile." Luft has compiled 32 first-hand stories of workers, medical personnel, clergy, and common citizens who for months dedicated themselves to be the hands and arms of a nation to cleanse America's landscape and to enable its citizens to begin its processes of grief and tribute.
Divided into five sections, covering the minutes after the attack through the continuing years of healing, Luft has chosen stories that come from virtually all sectors of the recovery team. Some stories are centered on the worker himself and his own struggles with coping with the tragedy while others exhibit the selfless, sometimes self-denying, reflections of heroes.
We're Not Leaving is a book which should be consumed in small bites, a story at a time, to avoid losing the substantial impact which each story provides on its own. It serves best those who want to know what really happened at Ground Zero regardless of what happened in the skies above or in the politics abroad. In an effort to assimilate the 9/11 story into one's own life, this collection of stories provides stark points of identity for any reader.
Article first published as Book Review: We're Not Leaving: 9/11 Responders Tell Their Stories of Courage, Sacrifice, and Renewal by Benjamin J. Luft, M.D. on Blogcritics.
Thursday, September 1, 2011
David put his hand in his bag and took out a stone and slung it and struck the Philistine on his forehead. The stone sank into his forehead, and he fell on his face to the ground. So David prevailed over the Philistine with a sling and with a stone, and struck the Philistine and killed him. There was no sword in the hand of David.I Samuel 17:49-50
Taking on the United States government, who has shown itself capable of printing as much money as it needs when it is deemed necessary by circumstances to do so, is to face an infinite army of Goliaths. When the challenger is one person, an African-American woman, and her attorney who is working on a contingency basis, armed only with the twin modesties of truth and persistence, to hold any hope of success seems foolish, if not mad. Yet, it is the force of facts upon which justice rests. Marsha Coleman-Adebayo, for ten years, was its champion, a relentless pursuer of the protective guarantees provided by law.
No Fear is Ms. Coleman-Adebayo’s account of her long struggle to correct the systemic racism within the Environmental Protection Agency, from which she had been fired, during the early years of the Clinton-Gore administration through the early years of the Bush White House. Dubbed as the first civil rights and whistleblower legislation of the twenty-first century, the No FEAR Act assures federal government employees that the law is on their side when they report corruption, criminal activity, and unlawful discrimination within the government.
After being reared by her mother Marsha Coleman attended Barnard College, and later earned her doctorate from MIT where noted activist, Noam Chomsky, served on her dissertation committee. She became passionate about African studies while at MIT and quickly became active in human rights issues in South Africa in the early years after Nelson Mandela’s release from prison. While at MIT, she met her future husband, Segun Adebayo, whom she frequently credits in her book as being a source of endless strength and spiritual support.
By all appearances Coleman-Adebayo was on the fast track. She earned a position with the EPA under the administration of Carol Browner and was appointed as the lead person in the Gore-Mbeki initiative, presumably to aid the new government in its exodus out of the throes of apartheid. Coleman-Adebayo took her mission seriously, too seriously for the EPA.
Thrust upon her in South Africa was a deadly environmental illness occurring in workers who were exposed daily to the mineral vanadium, a lightweight mineral considered strategic because of its ability to strengthen steel. It became apparent to Coleman-Adebayo that the EPA was interested in serving big business rather than alleviating human suffering. She watched as her position of leadership was handed to lesser qualified colleagues who were more willing to provide the kind of emphasis the EPA had in mind, that is, the enhancement of business opportunities for American multinational companies. Not clearly stated in her book, but implied, is that the EPA was serving the interests of the Vice President’s office.
The book details the long journey to justice, her victory over the EPA in its discriminatory practices resulting in an award of $600,000 in her court case, her long trek through the legislative process, aided by a unanimous vote in the House of Representatives, then the struggle to get out of Senator Joe Lieberman’s Committee on Governmental Affairs for a Senate floor vote, and finally the signing into law by President George W. Bush in 2002.
The strengths of Coleman-Adebayo’s book are its fine details, its personal passion and warmth, and the template it offers to aspiring activists. Readers who reach for such details, those who have more than a cursory interest in the workings of massive government bureaucracy and the corruption that often accompanies it, will give No Fear a prominent place on their bookshelves. Coleman-Adebayo is engaging, and her story is well-told.
Standing against the forces of giants, speaking truth to power, is one of the loneliest places one can stand. It causes one to question her own abilities, her own faults, and her own motives. The author says, “All I had to do was stop being me.” Almost unanimously, people choose the easier path, one of non-resistance, ultimately complicit, the “play along to get along” mentality. But, tide-turning historical events are those whose champions, sometimes armed only with small stones, deliver their arsenal of truth with divine precision and unwavering commitment. This is the story of No Fear.
Article first appeared on Blogcritics as Book Review: No Fear: A Whistleblower's Triumph Over Corruption and Retaliation at the EPA by Marsha Coleman-Adebayo.