My Favorite Today: Celtics Star Isaiah Thomas Plays Playoff Game Day After Sister’s Death

With all due respect to the two amazing friends of mine who got engaged this weekend, one of whom is easily one of the five best people I’ve ever been blessed enough to know, their engagement was my second favorite thing from the week. One story from the weekend hit me right in the feels, even more than their engagement.

Read it here. It’s the story of Isaiah Thomas, whose 22-year-old sister died in a single car accident Saturday in Tacoma, Washington, where Thomas is from, and how he played in his team’s Sunday night playoff game despite it.

Spoiler-alert: he played marvelously.

This story chokes me up pretty well. I’m the oldest brother of three siblings. The two closest to me in age are my sisters. Both are around 22 (the eldest being 23, the youngest 19).

It chokes me up even more that Thomas played well and that he got a touching tribute before the game, complete with a standing-ovation by the Boston fans who attended. Like his team, the fans embraced him, and that was wonderful to see.

I can’t even imagine how Mr. Thomas feels right now, but his performance, to even show up and play in the game last night, let alone to play well, can only be described as courageous.

I’ll be praying for him.

I’d encourage you to also.

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My Favorite Today: Ramona Shelburne’s Great Article About Lakers’ Owner Jeanie Buss

I’m not particularly a fan of the Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA. Like most casual fans of professional basketball though, I had heard about the drama surrounding the ownership of the Lakers franchise. I had also heard that Jeanie Buss, one of the daughters of the previous owner, had become the controlling owner of it.

What I didn’t know was why, or how, or what it meant for Jeanie Buss.

This remarkable article by ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne covers that. It’s a beautifully-written article about how Jeanie Buss did the best she could with terrible, awkward circumstances surrounding her siblings and the ownership of the team. Click here to check it out.

My Favorite Thing Today: A Great Piece Gets A Pulitzer

One of my favorite NY Times Magazine pieces in the last few years won the Pulitzer Prize for Feature Writing when the winners were announced earlier this week. This is one that definitely choked me up.

Click here to read it. It’s fantastic.

Here’s one of my favorite parts:

Ashley Volk was home in her kitchen in Chicago. She had been working graveyard shifts tending bar. She knew that Winter had been trying to get Siatta out but did not know about Chambers’s offer, or that a release was imminent. She saw Maureen’s number and answered.

Siatta’s voice was on the other end.

“Love,” he said.

“Oh my God!” she screamed. She fell against the kitchen cupboard and then to the floor, where she curled up, sobbing. Through the phone she could hear Siatta. He was crying, too.

A New Category

I think I’m nearly done stretching this website out too much. I know you, my most wonderful readers, have needed patience to stomach all the random things I’ve written about recently, but I promise we’re done, unless of course a future employer does something contractual that makes me amend that. But I don’t see that happening.

In any case, I want to tell you about a new category/series I’m going to be starting. On my personal Facebook account, I often share an article, meme or something every day or two that I’m a fan of. Sometimes it’s an article that choked me up, sometimes it’s an inspiring meme, sometimes it’s a great quote from which I hope to start a discussion.

This new category, titled “My Favorite Today :)” will be where I do that here, in a more public forum. It’ll give you a reason to come back, new readers a reason to check my site out, and above all just something worth reading that maybe can make your day better in some way. Most of what interests me is generally positive, so I promise I’ll be limited with what political weirdness I share.

These first few posts will be catching you up on what happened earlier this week, but after two or three, I’ll go to one post every day or two. Expect about four posts per week, maybe a few more, but not usually any fewer. Just depends on what interesting stuff I find online.

Knowing that I’m a journalist, you can probably expect a good amount. 🙂

Reporting: Supreme Court Refuses To Hear Social Media First Amendment Case

In Fall 2012, Craig Keefe was removed from the Nursing Program at Central Lakes College in Minnesota for posts made outside of class on his personal Facebook account. After a denied appeal by the school, Keefe sued for violation of his right to free speech and his right to due process.

One of Keefe’s posts included the text “Im going to take this electric pencil sharpener in this class and give someone a hemopneumothorax with it before to long. I might need some anger management,” according to a ruling by 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, filed in October.

On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court denied petitions to hear the case.

The denial means the 8th Circuit’s 2-1 ruling against Keefe will stand.

Frank Lomonte, executive director of the Student Press Law Center, said he was disappointed in the Supreme Court’s decision.

“We’ve got to get clarification from the Supreme Court over where a college’s authority over student speech begins and ends, and I think this was a real missed opportunity to get that,” Lomonte said.

Monday’s decision also means university students concerned about what is and isn’t protected by the First Amendment regarding social media might have to wait a while before the court provides any further clarity, Lomonte said.

“I can’t say right now that I see anything on the horizon that could be that ‘test case,'” Lomonte said. “What I think the Supreme Court is telling us right now is that they are not interested in wading into the area of social media.”

Two issues were central to the case: freedom of speech, including what type of speech is and isn’t protected under the First Amendment and especially regarding social media, and due process rights of students in academic settings.

The first dealt with whether or not posts on social media could be used to remove a student from an academic program when they are not related to in-class academic conduct. Students in the program complained to university officials saying they felt posts by Keefe made them uncomfortable and, in at least one case, “unable to function in the same physical space” as Keefe, according to the 8th Circuit’s ruling.

In the ruling, the majority wrote that lower courts had, in their rulings, “conclusively established that the posts were directed at classmates, involved their conduct in Nursing Program, and included a physical threat related to their medical studies.”

In doing so, the court opened Keefe’s posts to possible interpretation as disruptive to the academic learning environment, and thus possibly unprotected by the First Amendment because of previous court interpretations of the Amendment.

Also important to the case was the fact that the school did not expel Keefe from the university, but instead told him he would need to change academic programs, toward which his previously accomplished Nursing credits would be counted as electives.

Judge Loken, writing the opinion of the majority, cited that action by the college as reason for why the court doubted Keefe had a “cause of action” regarding due process.

The college had argued it could remove Keefe from the program because students agreed in writing to follow the American Nurses Association Code of Ethics when enrolling in the program. The code in part states:

“When acting within one’s role as a professional, the nurse recognizes and maintains boundaries that establish appropriate limits to relationships. . . . In this way, nurse- patient and nurse-colleague relationships differ from those that are purely personal and unstructured, such as friendship. . . . In all encounters, nurses are responsible for retaining their professional boundaries,” According to the ruling.

Also at issue was whether or not public, state colleges and universities could adopt professional codes of ethics by which to govern their academic programs.

Ultimately, the court ruled the college could remove Keefe from the academic program for unprofessional conduct, even which had occurred off campus, as long as the administrations actions “are legitimately related to pedagogical concerns,” the 8th Circuit said, citing the Supreme Court’s ruling in the 1988 case Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeier.

The Student Press Law Center filed a brief on March 27 urging the high court to hear it, arguing in favor of Keefe, saying his right to freedom of speech was violated. Students may not generally be disciplined for conduct outside of the classroom unless it interferes with the academic environment.

“The court has ruled that time and time again,” Lomonte said.

Now, however, Lomonte said, the ruling and the Supreme Court’s decision not to hear the case means free speech is among the least protected rights college students have.

“The government can’t punish you for unprofessional speech anywhere except apparently in college now,” Lomonte said.

While the comments by Keefe cited in the case might have been interpreted as threats by his fellow students, Lomonte said the school did not use this as a grounds for dismissing Keefe.

Instead, they removed him from the Nursing Program for unprofessionalism and for violating the ethical code of of his anticipated profession.

“I think they forfeited that argument, that they needed to remove him for the safety of other students,” Lomonte said. “They didn’t do any of the normal things they would normally do if they thought he was violent.”

Such steps might have included removing Keefe from the university as a whole, rather than just requiring him to transfer to another program, Lomonte said. Instead, the court allowed Keefe’s life to be changed in a way he said he wasn’t sure they took completely seriously.

“This guy potentially lost his entire career,” Lomonte said.

 

 

Independent: Part 1.

(Editor’s note: I originally wrote this poem for a class in medieval literature. I have received permission from the professor to publish it here. Enjoy.)
 
Independent: (Part 1)
 
 
“So this is how it was back then?” he asked her with special kindness.
“Yes. Before the hills burned and the majesties of the castles were
vanquished into barbarism. Before the great darkness
illuminated our hatred for one another, not out of wanting more,
but only wanting. Yes, this is how it was,” she told him.
 
The story I’m about to tell you is true to the tiniest factual detail. It is a story of love,
between two people and themselves
and their surroundings. This is not a love story solely of shallow human love
but of the special kind that can exist only when time, place
pomp and circumstance all are brought to coincide.
 
I.
He stared delicately at her, careful not to stare too zealously.
He was an aspiring young duke who, for the most part, was confined by his rank
not enabled by it
not emboldened by it as was so often the case
but limited.
 
Or at least, limited everywhere else. Here, he was free to be captivated by her.
She on the other hand, was the noblest of seven daughters
to a peasant. She knew nothing
of rank or right because all her life was spent defending her younger sisters
sometimes unsuccessfully as we know was so often the case.
 
They stood together, on a hill overlooking a field
in Spain. A field like any other
except that in those days it wasn’t. In those days it was green
while the fields around the country were dead, burned
like the millions in castles across what is modern day Europe.
 
Everything had been burned.
Castles made of noble stone had been scarred with human ashes,
sometimes inside the castles as the dying tried to destroy the dead,
sometimes on the outsides as the catapults launched the bodies
falling short, hitting the wall, falling onto the attacker’s own troops.
 
Geometry had a long way to go back then.
 
 
II.
But so did love. Somewhere on a field where it doesn’t rain in Spain
except when it does, we find our hero and our heroine.
He is of noble birth, seven generations engraved with the mark of aristocracy
But lacking zeal for power. She, meanwhile is of humble birth
but yearns simply for a quiet spot to rule on her own.
 
“Are you sure you want this particular land?” he asks.
“Though beautifully and certainly unique, it lacks any kind of tree.
There are no fruits to pick for you labors of settling here. No wood
to build a house, no hill to dig your way into. In every way this land is flat
except for the small creek running along its edge. Yet you would still desire it?”
 
“Noble sir,” she confesses,
“I lack the type of ambition of someone trying to build halls held high
by story-tall stones. I lack interest in the material, for material is the way to corruption.
I lack ambition for resources, for as one builds excess, so also one builds enemies
who wish to take it. I wish for no war. Living is hard enough.”
 
“Yet even those who call upon peace find war,” he torts,
“True peace, though a noble ambition, is scarcely ever possible. People always wish
to have others as their subjects, even when those subjects can offer them nothing.
How wouldst thou defend thyself against those from far lands who want
simply what others have?”
 
“My defense is none of your concern,” she replies.
“Surely you will not take this as a comment of disrespect. I am most honored
by your presence and your time. But I am strong, and my father
though ailing, is ripe with the fervor of life when it is needed most.
We’ll be fine.”
 
He acquiesces, promising to fulfill her desire for the land she has requested.
It belongs to her family seven weeks later. Five humble acres, hidden by a hill,
nourished by a creek
empty grassland somewhere in Spain where nobody can know
unless they already do. Unless their ancestors already did.
 
 
III.
 
It is a few weeks later and he has returned to call upon her.
She is his age, or thereabouts. Her little family has set up camp
hidden among the hills by the grasslands from the crusades waging around them.
When someone comes with ill intent, she deliberately entrances them. Her wit, her kindness
her special beauty have the power to neutralize nations as they travel through hers.
 
The boy is not so lucky.
She uses her gifts of wit and intellect
only to infuriate and dodge him. When he remarks playfully,
she responds with one-word answers. When he pokes fun
she lets his jokes stand without retort.
 
Yet our hero knows as all men do that something powerful is at work in her.
He can see beyond her selective passivity
because he and his family have given hers this land. He has seen
her family transform what was once grassy and of little appeal
into a fantastic, well-run estate.
 
And with her being the lone survivor of the plague that is of working health,
he knows it is mostly her who has done this.
So he offers himself
Not in the way you would likely think, but in the way of a nobleman:
he offers to stick around and help.
 
 
So ends part 1 of Independent.

Sports: K-State’s Women’s Basketball Victory Was About More Than Standings.

And I got to write about it!

Read about it by clicking here. 🙂

The reason I am writing today, though, is to tell you about how excited it made me feel to watch such a beautiful game played with such artistic resilience, by both teams, especially K-State. :).

When Kansas State University’s women’s basketball team played undefeated Connecticut earlier this season, they started slow and ultimately couldn’t overcome it. They showed grit in that game, dancer-like determination as they fought back from 25-8 at the end of the first quarter to bring the game to just 11 points later on, but the prospect of an upset never to me seemed realistic after the first quarter. UConn was just too good to give their lead up, and they’ve proven it since, extending their record-setting winning streak to 101 games.

That was a heck of an atmosphere, one I’ll never forget. Bramlage Coliseum, with its 12,528 seats, was completely sold out. Every seat was spoken for, if not actually filled. Friends of mine in the pep-band told me leading up to the game that the band was receiving instructions to be as big as needed to be strong, but to be aware that space would be limited.

Tuesday’s crowd was less-impressive than the one against UConn, 4,377 according to ESPN. The grit shown by the team, however, was not.

If you ever have followed sports for an entire season, regardless of the sport, you can appreciate the value of finishing a season strong. Teams can start rough, but if they finish the season on a winning-streak than they can set themselves up to place well in the standings and enter the playoffs/tournaments feeling confident.

This fundamental truth to competition applies regardless of sport or athletic endeavor. A competitive runner almost-never hears their coach or trainer emphasize starting strong over finishing strong. That doesn’t mean they don’t try to start strong, but they know a powerful push at the end of the race is both the most difficult and most effective way to leave the course, with confidence that you can close the show even if you’re tired.

That applies to dancers too, who try to perform perfectly always but who dream not of opening the show but of closing it. There’s an old sports proverb (from the movie “The Replacements”) that says “Champions always want the ball in their hands at the end of the game.” The same is true for all athletes and performers.

While Tuesday night’s game was not the end of the season for the Wildcats, it was a strong showing by a team which has had its ups and downs this season. Sure, prior to Tuesday’s win they had beaten the No. 12 team in the country in West Virginia, but hindsight is 20-20 and we know now, with just three games left in the regular season, that West Virginia was probably not nearly as good as the No. 12 ranking suggested. They have long-since dropped out of the top-25 altogether.

Oklahoma was a very different story though, and K-State beat them.

The Sooners have lost seven games this season, but only three of those have been to unranked teams (unless you count West Virginia on the grounds of my argument above, who was ranked when they beat Oklahoma last calendar-year but no longer are). K-State was the most recent, but they hadn’t lost to an unranked team since before calendar-2017 started, going 11-3 in that time. They’d lost to Baylor, and Texas, the only two teams ahead of them in the Big 12 conference standings, and to West Virginia, but that was it.

So what the Wildcats did Tuesday night was big. The Wildcats, who have had a much rougher season, ended up busting out to a lead against a much-higher ranked team that was on a five-game winning streak and was playing good basketball at the end of the season.

And despite a furious comeback by the Sooners, the Wildcats held on.

Tuesday’s game likely won’t mean anything to the conference standings, but it should mean a lot to those in purple who were there: both to the fans who watched it, and to the women who played in it.