Tag Archives: Psrhea

Classic Psrhea: The Worlds Most Civilized Game (Part Two)

A reprint from the groundbreaking Psrhea Magazine literary website.
This article saw first published in April 1996.

The Worlds Most Civilized Game
(Part Two)

The Games People Play
by Abdullah Shabazz

Read Part One

I love how soccer is run as a business. Here in the US we have the franchise system. The leagues themselves are the business, and rich individuals or consortiums buy a franchise in that league. The main benefit of this is that it guarantees a certain degree of business stability; when was the last time a major sports franchise in America went out of business? They don’t. Entire leagues like the USFL, WHA, and WFL may go out of business, but franchises do not, because the NFL, NBA, MLB, and NHL will keep them in business; they can actually operate at a loss. Conversely, soccer internationally operates on the club system.

In the club system, athletic clubs not unlike the Downtown Athletic Club, Capital Athletic Club, or 24-Hour Nautilus form their own soccer teams – with youth development squads. A bunch of clubs get together and play each other in a league. Unlike the franchise system where the league controls virtually every team’s existence, in the club system the league only makes the rules for competition. Furthermore, there may be so many teams in the league that the league is broken down into several levels of play.

Lets use England as an example. There are 92 teams in their major league, the Football Association, or FA. Because it is impossible for every team to play each other at least once, the FA is broken down into four levels, the top 20 teams being in the top level, the Premier League. Those twenty teams play each other twice, the team with the best record being the league champions. The next level of 23 teams is Division One, and so on down the line for all 92 teams, four divisions in all.

Any team not in the Premier division of the FA can get there by playing into it. Let’s say you have a club in Division Three. If you are one of three teams with the best record at the end of the season, you move up – or get “promoted”– to Division Two. In order to make room for you in the next level, the three teams in Division Two with the worst records at the end of the season are sent down – or get “relegated” – to Division Three. Keep finishing in the top three in each proceeding league and you eventually make it to the Premier division. As a result, the season is everything. That is, there is no playoff to decide a league champion; those 38 league games decide the champion, who gets promoted and who gets relegated. Every game is important. That means that if you lose the championship by one point then that stupid loss against the last-place team at the beginning of the season did as much to contribute to you losing the championship than that tough last-second tie to the third-place team towards the end of the season. There are no early season honeymoons; one misplaced goal allowed could be the difference between promotion to the Premier division and staying in Division One, or one goal scored could mean the difference between staying in Division Three and relegation out of the league. And have no illusions – there are scores of non-league teams waiting to take your place. In England, there are quite a few former league champions who for some reason have played their way out of the league.

While the Premier division winner is the winner of the league (recognized as the best of all 92 teams) there are in-season league-wide tournaments played in which every team at all levels of the FA play each other in an elimination format and win a league wide championship. The two major ones in England are the FA Cup and the League Cup. The early-round games usually pit a Premier division team against a lower division team, and it’s not unusual for the lower division team to not only beat their higher division counterpart, it has happened in the past that the eventual cup winner has come from a lower division.

The reward for all this is international exposure. The Premier division champion is recognized at the English soccer champion, and they advance to a tournament in Europe, consisting of the soccer champions of 15 other countries, called the Champions Cup. The Cup winners are recognized as the English tournament winners, and they advance to a tournament in Europe, consisting of the tournament winners of 31 other countries, called the Cup Winners Cup. The next four finishers in the Premier division even are rewarded for consistently good play by playing in a tournament in Europe, consisting of the top four finishers in 15 other countries, called the UEFA Cup. In essence, throughout the FA there is always something to play for, so there is no “being out of it by mid-season”. The mantra in every European country with pro soccer leagues is “Get To Europe.”

Playing other teams from other countries is the ultimate result and is made possible by the fact that there is an international soccer organization, FIFA, that insures that every soccer league world-wide plays by the same rules. Which means that interchanging players is commonplace – but there are no trades. Players come and go by “transfers”. Unlike the franchise system, under the club system a player’s contract is with his club not the league. If another team wants your player, you set what is called a “transfer fee”, for which the other club must agree to pay it. Once they agree to pay it, you get the transfer fee and the player’s contract is voided. The player then negotiates a new contract with his new club. If you have a player whose contract has expired, and you don’t wish to resign him, then he gets what is called a “free transfer”, and is free to sign with whomever he wishes (remember, these are less teams and more clubs).

Now this is a system that I think would work well in the states. Let’s use the just completed football season as an example, using the NFL and NCAA’s Div I-A, Div I-AA, Div II, and Div-III as an illustration. Since the season is everything, that means that the Kansas City Chiefs, as the team with the best record, would be the league champions. If there was an international tournament of football league champions, the Chiefs would go. For lack of any other tournaments, the Dallas Cowboys, as winners of the post-season tournament culminating in the Super Bowl, would be the cup winners (in this case, the Lombardi Trophy; we’ll call it the Lombardi Cup). If there was an international tournament of football cup winners, the Cowboys would go. The four teams with the next best records to the Chiefs and Cowboys, the San Francisco 49ers, Pittsburgh Steelers, Green Bay Packers, and Buffalo Bills, would go to an international tournament with 15 other country’s four best teams (if it existed). The New York Jets, Jacksonville Jaguars, and Arizona Cardinals, by virtue of having the worst records in the NFL, would get relegated to NCAA Div I-A. The Nebraska Cornhuskers, Florida Gators, and Tennessee Volunteers, by virtue of having the best records in NCAA Div I-A, would get promoted to the NFL. It would work the same way for Div I-AA, Div II, and Div III, with teams being promoted and relegated depending on how good or bad they were.

Now who could not get behind this? Who wouldn’t want to see the Cornhuskers (a pro team anyway) play the Cowboys in a game that mattered?. Who gets tired of seeing the Cardinals play like shit year-in and year-out? The promotion/relegation system would force the Cardinals to do the best they can to put the best team on the field at all times without any thought to cutting costs or making a profit. Winning games would be objective one. If Bill Bidwell can’t do that, then Arizona gets sent down until they prove that they can by winning their way back up here. If Bidwell doesn’t have the money to sign quality players in order to maintain or improve his competitive standing in the league, tough shit! Either he figures out a way to compete, or the Cardinals keep getting relegated until they are at the bottom of the food chain.

You can be the richest person in the world and have the wherewithal to sign the best players in the world; in the club system, if you introduce a new franchise, you have to start at the bottom division and spend years working your way up. You don’t get to just come in at the top level or anywhere you please. It’s survival of the fittest – social Darwinism at its civilized best. That’s Life!

Which is exactly my point. Sorry, Mr. Boswell, but life imitates soccer more than it does baseball.

© 1996 Accurate Letters Enterprises/Psrhea Magazine

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Classic Psrhea: They Just Don’t Know I’m There

A reprint from the groundbreaking Psrhea Magazine literary website.
This article saw first published in December 1996.

They Just Don’t
Know I’m There

Makes Me Wanna Hollar
by Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man

I am a taxicab driver in Sacramento. Individuals in customer service-oriented occupations deal with an eclectic array of people from all walks of life. It seems we cab drivers deal with the public’s more colorful personalities who, probably because they have nobody else, feel a need to express their frustrations to us as if we are their analyst – or worse, their bartender. Because I am a “virtually” invisible man, I get to hear what some customers wouldn’t divulge if they knew I was there. Here are a few examples…

I was called to a four-star hotel in midtown Sacramento to pick up a gentleman going to a private airport in the south. He was a middle-aged, white pilot from Kansas City in town to pick up an airplane and fly it back to Missouri. With a country twang we struck up a conversation about our respective cities and how much alike they were (If you’ve never been to Sacramento, understand that even though it is in California, it is less like its more flamboyant counterparts in the Bay Area and Southern California and more like middle America. In relation to Kansas City, it pretty much has the same population, same demographics, same social/political/economic attributes and attitudes). This customer seemed to be a very outgoing and eloquent man, and considering that he was only in town for a little over eight hours and really had no opportunity to see the town or speak in length with anybody else, I thought we had had a very enjoyable conversation (at least for two strangers whom had just met and only had about 12 minutes with each other).

Anyway, upon pulling into the small airport and being paid, I noticed that he was wearing a blue and white Kansas City Royals’ baseball cap. I commented to him that I have a Kansas City baseball cap, but not the Royals. In honor of my heritage and history, the cap I possess represents the red and white of the Kansas City Monarchs. You know, the old Negro League team that gave the world James “Cool Papa” Bell, Satchel Paige, Jackie Robinson, Ernie Banks, Elston Howard, and Buck O’Neil.

Upon hearing this, the customer coolly and without hesitation responded, “Oh, Yeah, that’s that old Nigger League team!” (emphasis mine). And, without missing a beat, he seamlessly continued his thought without ever realizing the enormity of his statement. “They have Old-Timers day twice a year at Kaufman Field, and the Royals wear the old Monarchs uniforms. They are the most popular home dates on the schedule.”

I didn’t know whether this guy didn’t know he had said something baldly offensive or, me being very light-skinned, bald, and wearing a baseball cap, he simply didn’t know I was a member of the race he had just baldly offended. Either way, he just kept on talking about baseball. That is when I realized: Oh, that’s right, I’m INVISIBLE! To him I don’t exist, I’m just the entity that drives the car. So there’s nobody here to insult. With that epiphany, I stopped talking and listening. Not that he noticed; he just kept on glibly and lightheartedly chattering. Upon departing the cab, he cheerfully said, “Take care there, buddy. It was nice talking to you.”

About 5:00 AM on a dark winter morning, I was called to pick up at another four-star hotel just north of downtown Sacramento. The customer, another white male, was a resident of Sacramento having an overnight “tryst” at this particular hotel. Upon entering the cab and telling me of his destination, I asked him why he was calling a cab to take him home when he had driven himself here to the hotel – he was obviously not drunk, quite wide awake, but also quite sullen and upset.

“Oh, man, I was just robbed and had my tires slashed by these four niggers!” exclaimed my customer. I’d like to claim that it was because it was dark and that he couldn’t see that I was black, but that would be making excuses; whether he knew or not, he kept on talking. “That just ruined my fucking night, man. These spearchuckers just walked up to me as I was going to my car and asked me for a ride. Then they rolled me right there at my car in the parking lot, and then one took out his switchblade and slashed all of my tires. It’s bad enough that they robbed me, but why the fuck did they have to slash my tires?”

He continued like this for the entire ride – twenty minutes of having to listen to him rant and rave about his robbery and tires. I can understand why someone would be upset and frustrated at having gone through this, but it’s hard to feel sympathy for a “victim” when he blames his plight on the fact that the “perpetrators” are black, thereby blaming a race rather than the individuals who did this – and by extension, blaming me. But like I said, he probably didn’t know I was black – remember, I’m “INVISIBLE!” I said nothing the entire trip.

At the end, he wanted to tip me a couple of bucks, but I just took what was on the meter and gave him back his entire change. “You don’t want a tip, man?” he asked.

“Not from you…and I’ll let you figure out why.” I replied, as I jumped in my cab to leave. I’ve come to realize that you can really anger a customer if you give him/her back his/her tip.

Late one evening I was called to Oak Park, the predominantly ethnic section of Sacramento, to pick up a family at their residence. I pulled up to the front and went to the front door to let them know I was there (that’s right, I’m not afraid to get out of my car at night in the ‘hood, and it has nothing to do with the fact that I’m black). This very big, overweight black man answered the door and told me that he and his family would be out in a minute. I went back to my cab and sat there for over five minutes waiting for them. Now, our policy is that if we drivers are left waiting by a customer for a significant amount of time after they have been made aware of our presence, we can then turn on the meter.

So I did. A few minutes later the overweight black man came out to the car and got in the back seat. “Whassup, homes,” he said. “Yo, why the fuck is the meter on ?”

I told him that there is a wait charge and that I had not turned it on until only a few minutes ago.

“Aww, fuck this shit,” he screamed. “You gonna play a brotha’ like that, man? Whassup wit dat?”

I then told him that I have calls holding and that any wait time causes calls to wait. I then asked him if he was ready to go.

“Naww, man, we still gotta wait on my lady and child. You gonna cut us a deal, bro? You gonna give a brotha a break?”

Now I am not adverse to giving a customer a rate, but this customer had left me waiting with calls holding (and I was still waiting), and he still had not told me his destination, so a flat rate was not in the offing. I explained this to him.

“Man, fuck you, punk-bitch,” he yelled at me. “This is bullshit! Fuck you, niggah! You can’t even give a homey a break, bitch! ” At this time his “lady” and child got in the car, but he kept on screaming invectives at me. “You gonna play me like a punk? I’d beat da shit outta you. No, wait, I wouldn’t even beat da shit outta you, I’d bitch-slap you, punk! ”

It was like this the entire trip (only about five minutes, but having to put up with all his ranting made it seem longer), with his wife having never said anything. At the end of the trip he paid me and said, “Fuck you, punk! I want all of my fucking change, niggah-bitch! ” When I gave him his change, he noticed the Malcolm “X” hat I was wearing. “Get the fuck outta here, bitch! You shouldn’t even be wearing dat hat. You don’t even know what Malcolm was about. You a fucking embarrassment to the race, sellout!”

Never mind that Malcolm X believed in “cooperative economics” among blacks, not giving services away to the black community for free like this “customer” incorrectly thought. Well, at least he noticed that I was black. That I am a human being, well, that didn’t occur to him, so I just took his abuse like I just wasn’t there. Remember, I’m INVISIBLE!

What I just don’t understand is why I’m invisible in situations like those outlined above, but when I walk into a swanky four-star restaurant or an exclusive haberdashery I’m the most visible individual there? As if I’m going to rob them or “start some shit”, I’m being followed from the moment I walk in. I just can’t seem to control when I’m seen….

The Invisible Man is neither a movie creation nor Claude Rains. He was first publicly revealed through Ralph Ellison’s now-famous novel. He most recently was among the 600,000+ other obviously-invisible men that the Washington, DC Park Services failed to count during the Million-Man March.

Copyright 1996 Accurate Letters Enterprises/Psrhea Magazine

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Classic Psrhea: Out Of Sight, Out Of Mind


This is the first in a series of reprints from the groundbreaking Psrhea Magazine literary website. This article saw first published in August 1996.

Out Of Sight,
Out Of Mind

Makes Me Wanna Hollar
by Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man

I was sitting outside the television station where I work, under a tree trying to shade myself from an oppressive early spring heatwave one afternoon. Cooling off on the lawn near the side door of the station, I noticed two co-workers walk out having a very quiet conversation. Both of them white, one female, they stole a quick glance at me and continued their conversation, oblivious to my presence. I could overhear them talking about an upcoming studio production they were planning, and the conversation turned to who they were considering getting to direct.

After bantering about a few names they would ask, my name was mentioned by the male. The female replied to her co-producer, “I think we can ask *&^%$#@ now if he’ll do it. I seem to recall seeing him here somewhere.” She and her partner then proceeded to glance around for me, remembering that I was outside the building yet not remembering where they had seen me just a few short moments before, and absolutely unconscious of the fact that I was right under they’re noses.

I waited a few precious seconds, while they just totally overlooked my plane of existence, before I spoke up. Taken aback by my sudden appearance, the male exclaimed, “Oh, *&^%$#@, there you are.”

Hide in plain sight – I am The Invisible Man

…But I didn’t just get this way because of a lab experiment gone awry. I’ve been this way all of my life. I just wasn’t acknowledged until Ralph Ellison discovered me and gave countless others like me a life. I call it Invisible Man Syndrome – IMS for short. It is an affliction particularly characteristic to North America…

…You know us, the ones brought here centuries ago against our will, then cast aside as so much rubbish when we demanded recognition as human beings, with the right to participate in this society just like anybody else. Well, that is when we ceased to exist. Don’t acknowledge the problem and there is no problem —

Out of sight, out of mind.

But it’s not just me and people like me. Ralph Ellison just scratched the tip of the iceberg when he discovered that it was sometimes convenient for society to think of me and people like me as invisible. Take a look around, though, and you discover that there are several subsections of the population who are not thought of.

Ever notice how it is that you never really hear about Native Americans much any more. This society has succeeded in putting them on reservations and isolating them from the rest of the world. So much so that Native Americans have the highest mortality rate of any group of people on this continent.

Did you know that? I’ll bet not…

Out of sight, out of mind.

Ever notice how people avert their eyes when they see a homeless person, or ignore them when they ask for a little change? We then demand from our elected officials that we “do something about the homeless.” Not “something about the problem of homelessness.” We demand that laws be passed deterring the homeless from soliciting us, hoping that they will just go away…

Out of sight, out of mind.

Ever notice how a neighborhood watch program will take a stand to drive the neighborhood crack house out of business, oblivious to the fact that the crack house has not been put out of business, they’ve just been driven into another neighborhood?…

Out of sight, out of mind.

Same with prostitution. You never really get rid of it, but the police crack down on where they do business, and get enough of them off the streets long enough for a big convention to take place in the city. Then, as soon as said convention ends, back on the streets go the ladies of the evening…

Out of sight, out of mind.

Recently, the “problem of the moment” has been homosexuality, same-sex marriages, and gays in the military. This would not have been a problem if those that think this is a problem had not been so concerned about what we do with our orgasms. Having concerned themselves with such high-minded things, however, they want to legislate them out of existence, claiming things “were so much better when they were in the closet…”

Out of sight, out of mind.

When voicing this to a group of lunchtime friends once, a nearby eavesdropper — whom I’d never seen before, will never see again, and was neither directly nor indirectly a part of the conversation — felt it his “patriotic duty” to straighten me out by rudely interrupting my conversation with: “You know, you could be living someplace else like Iran or North Korea. You wouldn’t have the right to say any of this stuff. Is this the greatest country in the world?”

Perturbed, I looked up at the interloper and replied, “You know, this probably is, but that’s just like being the best player on the Los Angeles Clippers. When was the last time anybody mistook him for any good?”

* The title is borrowed from the book Makes Me Wanna Holler, authored by Nathan McCall of the Washington Post. We give credit where credit is due, and we certainly think that Mr. McCall’s book title certainly conveys how the author of this article feels about his subject matter.

Makes Me Wanna Holler is a regular feature of Pshrea, penned by a guest writer each month. The identity of the Invisible Man of the month will remain just that.

Copyright 1996 Accurate Letters Enterprises/Psrhea Magazine

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