Wednesday, July 1, 2015

WWE Payback Will Make or Break The Summer

No, not Summer Rae. I'm actually losing interest in the Rusev/Dolph Ziggler feud now that Summer Rae is involved. When it was all about Lana, it made sense. It had a driving factor. It put Lana in a light where she could shine. Now, that light is dimmed. A shadow cast over the feud by creative's fat sack of horrible booking decisions. But Rusev v Ziggler is not the only story in trouble.

Seth Rollins and Brock Lesnar are being properly booked, but once again, Rollins is hiding behind The Authority. The same Authority that just two weeks ago was getting the crowd behind them. Kane once again teasing becoming a monster, instead only becomes "same old shit." J&J are more entertaining than ever, and yet here we are again with them thrown right under Rollins' gear in the sweat bag.

Sure, it makes sense. Lesnar is the most dominant superstar we may have ever seen. Rollins didn't pin Lesnar. But Rollins had attacked Lesnar in 1v1v1 situations before. Sure, one of those 1's was John Cena, who far eclipses the combined credibility of Kane + J&J. But Rollins was still able to snake his way into attacking Lesnar and Cena. I felt like WWE was onto something incredible with Rollins' win over Ambrose at Money in the Bank with no help at all. And Triple H's hype-speech to Rollins about being both smart and scared seemed to hint at Rollins being able to out-think his fear and go toe-to-toe with The Beast Incarnate. Does it make sense for Rollins to dispatch of Lesnar cleanly all on his own? No. But did Rollins need The Authority? To quote Seth himself, "No!" Perhaps it would have been wise to just have The Authority return to Seth's side when he had emptied the tank at Payback and was still unable to defeat Lesnar. Or perhaps WWE should have just flat-out gone with the rumored angle of Corporate Sheamus (with Kane + J&J) cashing in on Lesnar moments after Seth had been beat. I just do not believe Rollins benefits from suddenly needing help again. It also does no benefit to Ambrose to be beat clean only to have to watch Seth need the world at his side vs. Lesnar.

Ryback won the forfeited Intercontinental Championship and was sent to a returning Big Show who many felt should have just retired after Reigns demolished him. *Way to make good on your promise, Roman. Are you going to keep disappointing us in your future as face of the company?* Then add in The Miz who has done nothing substantial of late, and you're left with three guys who can't work a good match out of each other if their lives depended on it.

Meanwhile King Barrett is feuding with Imaginary King R-Truth over who is the actual king of the ring......... way to undermine Barrett's opportunity at redemption. Why the Hell did they ever take the mic out of this guy's hand and force him to stop delivering bad news!?

Unless this Bella/Paige/Divas feud ends with the 4 Horsewomen (keyword WOMEN, not Divas) coming up and destroying the entire WWE Divas roster, I don't give a damn about a single second of it. I don't care what happens. You could have Nikki come up one day short of AJ's reign and lose to a returning AJ with Punk in her corner as her manager and I still would not give a damn. If this is what #GiveDivasAChance is all about, then damnit #GiveWOMENaRealChance.

Cena and Owens is not a major concern of mine. I'm almost certain Owens drops the NXT title to Balor in Tokyo on July 4th, and moves on to become the United States Champion. Cena could win. I think Owens looks strong regardless, but it does far more for all involved if Owens walks out with a clean victory over Cena to win the feud and become the new United States Champion.

What I'm most concerned with is Bray Wyatt vs. Roman Reigns. We all know Reigns is being set up as the New Face of WWE. But the New Face of Fear is being set up to be a major disappointment. Bray Wyatt revitalized his career when he dropped the Husky Harris gimmick and flat-out denied being called a Rotunda. The Wyatt Family entered as a major success. They broke off and Bray started on a solo path that seemed to be dominant from the start as Ambrose was his target and he decimated him. Now we're at a crossroads. Bray called out Taker at Mania, got his wish, and lost. But Bray declared himself the new face of fear and started creepier and creepier promos. He got the upper hand on Ryback but the feud ended abruptly as Ryback became the new choice for the IC title. Now Bray is just a man on a screen talking a lot. Sure, the few run-ins and attacks are cool. The crowd still lights up with fireflies. His promos are still among the best. But if he loses all his in-ring feuds with formidable opponents, what good is it all? We know for certain that Reigns is destined for great things and has the support of everyone in the WWE. But he does not need this win. It does not hurt or help Roman to win or lose this feud. He is in great standing either way. Bray, however, could catapult and eclipse expectations were he to defeat Reigns at Payback and end this feud victorious. It may even do more for Reigns who has to reach deeper in the future to defeat foes. And in doing so, sets us up for years of possible Reigns/Bray feuds to play out this Batman/Joker story they have going on.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Leaked Sony Emails About Spider-Man Misinterpreted

In an endless cycle, Sony has once again fallen victim to 'leaked' emails. This time to Marvel in regards to the handling of 'their' property, Spider-Man. Aside from learning that the deal was struck as far back as 2011--why the long silence, Marvel?--there were a lot of clauses as to how Marvel could portray a live-action Spider-Man in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Listed in article a.:

a. Mandatory Spider-Man Character Traits. Spider-Man (whether Peter Parker or an alternative Spider-Man character) must always strictly conform to the following "Mandatory Character Traits":

  • Male
  • Does not torture*
  • Does not kill unless in defense of self or others*
  • Does not use foul language beyond PG-13
  • Does not smoke tobacco*
  • Does not sell/distribute illegal drugs*
  • Does not abuse alcohol
  • Does not have sex before the age of 16, does not have sex with anyone below the age of 16
  • Not a homosexual (unless Marvel has portrayed that alter ego as a homosexual)


In article b.:

b. Peter Parker Character Traits. Depiction of Peter Parker or his Spider-Man alter ego must conform to the following character traits:

  • His full name is Peter Benjamin Parker.
  • He is Caucasian and heterosexual.
  • His parents become absent from his life during his childhood.
  • From the time his parents become absent he is raised by Aunt May and Uncle Ben in New York City
  • He gains his powers while attending either middle school or college.
  • He gains his powers from being bitten by a spider
  • He designs his first red and blue costume.
  • The black costume is a symbiote and is not designed by him
  • He is raised in a middle class household in Queens, New York
  • He attends or attended high school in Queens, New York, and he attends or attended college in New York City, New York.
The entire world seems utterly focused on two key details - that neither is permitted to be homosexual--aside from the addendum to article a. that Marvel portrays the alter-ego as a homosexual--or that Peter Parker is not allowed to be any other race than Caucasian. In fact, many people are ignoring that Spider-Man IS allowed to be another race, and can even be homosexual.

Peter Parker is Spider-Man. But so is Miles Morales. Any search on Google of "Spiderman" "Spider-Man" "Spider Man" will bring up results of Miles Morales on the first page hits. In fact, among the very first hits is news via The Guardian of Marvel moving forward with Miles Morales as Spiderman in comics and cartoons. Although there is a level of certainty that the Cinematic Universe will stick with the original web-slinger Peter Parker, Marvel Studios has not denied the possibility of using Morales in the Cinematic Universe in the near future.

The key to what I am saying is that people are freaking out for no reason. Among the complaints is that Peter Parker and Spider-Man are too clean-cut. I mean, how dare Marvel use a straight-edge, poster-boy role model to be an icon on the silver screen for children to look up to!? But the complaints edge towards the race/sexuality points. If Marvel wants to use another alter-ego for Spider-Man than Peter Parker, he can be Japanese and Gay. He can be Miles Morales.

Was it necessary to bullet-point that Peter Parker/Spider-Man can not be homosexual? No. It was not. I do not agree with Sony/Marvel needing to hash that point out. It goes without saying based on his love interests, who should be represented within the MCU as women based on the current storm of fans disappointed in the handling of women, that Parker/Spider-Man are not gay. Having said that, I do not find anything negative about not wanting a homosexual Peter Parker/Spider-Man. Just because the discussion in popular culture recently is about giving gay fair representation does not mean the world needs to strongly consider or actually make the push to represent gay people in every possible medium.

The bullet that Peter Parker be Caucasian does upset me a little bit. We have seen Marvel recently go the direction of a black Captain America. Nick Fury was made black. In Thor comics and Norse mythology, Heimdall[r] is portrayed with white skin, but the MCU Thor movies granted the role to Idris Elba. We got Miles Morales. Even in a piece of crap film a few years back with Fox's end of Marvel - Daredevil featured a black Kingpin (R.I.P. Michael Clarke Duncan). The problem is that we can count these examples on our fingers. While Marvel has certainly been open to the idea of making historically white characters black, they could always do more.

While I understand being outraged at either of the conditions for the character(s), please keep in mind that comprehension is key. Nowhere does it say that Spider-Man 100% has to be heterosexual, or that Spider-Man HAS to be Peter Parker. And considering that Marvel Studios struck the deal with Sony in 2011 right around when Miles Morales was launched/created, it's safe to assume Marvel was creating an alter ego for Spider-Man that they could use and not breach the bullet points with Sony.

Either way, the deal was struck and we should be thankful.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Don't Laugh, God Complex

I started Don't Laugh, People years ago, before I ever moved to a blogging platform. It was on forums, but I did not call it "Don't Laugh, People" at the time; it was know simply as "Why You're Bitches." The idea then was to chastise the way of thinking that was crippling society and humanity, sports and news, schools and careers. The themes have followed. In a sense, looking at my blog posts... it's just me bitching about why others are bitches.

I thought upon a time that was a fair way to grab attention. Do unto others so they can see how cheap and petty their way of life/everything really is. I suppose it works in many circumstances, but much the same as a great hero has to learn not to kill to avoid becoming the villain, I too have realized I need a different approach. I could not figure out how, nor could I devote the time and capacity to research it.

I used to think "the truth" was enough. But "being neutral" is difficult when you're "spewing truth." One man's "truth" is another man's "bullshit" and that will always be *fact (*not truth). "Being neutral" has become "being subjective" in the mind's of today's world--the ones who care. The apathetic just brush it all off. But I can not become apathetic. Not when there are viewpoints like the ones expressed on Don't Laugh, People by Allan Graye. Not when there are social injustices against all peoples every single moment of our existence. Even the privileged are treated like pariah by those who are *fortunate (*apathetic) enough to live life without concern.

I have not truly written for Don't Laugh, People for a while. I have drafts I start both on the platform and in Word documents. I save and close them, promising myself to finish them tomorrow. But tomorrow becomes 27 days ago in the blink of an eye. It is not an issue with will, desire, wanting, needing, or responsibility--I want to write. Even when I rant away on Twitter and get it all out of my system, I still want to bring it here for permanence. But I want Don't Laugh, People to transcend my shitty subjective neutrality of "the truth" and represent something more concrete, more fluid, more undeniable. It's my God Complex; grandiose delusions--I want Don't Laugh, People to be God. Not God the infinitely religious contemporary. Not God the warmonger. Just God, one-with-all *creation (*creativity).

I want to write. I want to entertain. I want to inspire. Educate. Motivate. Engage. Inform. Change. My writing is not unique. I am not the best writer on Don't Laugh, People, in my family, among my friends, on Blogger, on Tumblr, on Twitter, on WordPress. The only way I see myself being unique is that I have a direction I don't think others have. I do not have an endgame. I have a means to an end leading to a new beginning. I don't have an outline, I have a one-day-at-a-time (or 27 yesterdays) journey. My desire to change society is not to mold it into a vision of my own, but rather of our collective ideas.

I believe we can all coexist. Not the shitty religious symbolic bumper sticker type of coexist. The type of coexisting that only happens when humanity realizes our differences are our similarities. Our weaknesses are our strengths. As cliche as it all sounds, it's fact. Not truth. Truth is that a weakness can never be a strength. Fact is that a weakness can be manipulated into a strength.

So I ask that you forgive my inactivity. Forgive my upcoming inactivity. I will not promise activity again. But I will promise that there are goals here on Don't Laugh, People and those goals are to share more and more. More creativity. More *God (*no religion).

Monday, March 30, 2015

Wrestlemania 31 Review

Photo Courtesy of WWE.com
Last night, WWE put on their annual show-of-shows, Wrestlemania 31, live from Levi’s® Stadium in California. A show of this magnitude, I did not believe prior that WWE's creative team had the proper build for the entire card. Turns out, most of the card absolutely did not need it.

In this review, I will recap the event's matches and face-offs, and provide a prediction for what I think is next for certain parties.

On the Wrestlemania pre-show, WWE kicked the event off with the 4-way tag team championship match, in which Tyson Kidd & Cesaro defended against The Usos, A New Day, and Los Matadores. I was a bit surprised to see the match moved to the pre-show, and the superstars in the ring must have felt disrespected, because they put on a helluva match, with Kidd & Cesaro ultimately retaining their titles. In the coming months, I'd be interested in seeing a new tag team in the title picture. Perhaps The Ascension?

Then there was the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal, which was, well, what you expect. Once the fat was trimmed and NXT-representative Hideo Itami was eliminated, we were left with The Miz, Mizdow, and Big Show. Mizdow turned on The Miz and eliminated him, and then had an awesome 1-on-1 with The Big Show for about 5 minutes. The crowd was even more alive for MizSandow than they were the tag match and the battle royal prior. In the end, Sandow was eliminated by Big Show, much to the crowd's dismay. But looking to the future, Sandow may have some serious momentum, and Big Show may end up going after one of the single's titles.

The Intercontinental Championship 7-way ladder match kicked off Wrestlemania 31's main card. With superstars like Daniel Bryan, Dolph Ziggler, CodStardust, and Dean Ambrose, you just knew it was going to be a major spot-fest. Throughout the match, there were 1-on-1 brawls that made you think "they really should have put these two in a singles match," but fans were still treated to a great battle. At the end of the match, Daniel Bryan had fought off all others and became the new Intercontinental Champion. Also, the crowd chanting YES! along with Daniel Bryan during his celebration ended up being the biggest chant of the night for what it's worth. Going forward, I would expect to see WWE finally give us the long-rumored feud between Daniel Bryan and a heel Sheamus.

Photo Courtesy of WWE.com
Next up was Randy Orton vs. Seth Rollins, and this may have proven to be match of the night. J&J Security had a presence in the match early, but Orton took care of that. Orton and Rollins ended up having a solid back-and-forth with both men controlling for a fair part of the match before exchanging momentum and finishers. Orton was a step ahead, however, and after landing the most impressive RKO spot we have seen to-date, pinned Rollins in the middle of the ring. Moving forward, I fully expect to see Orton in the WWE World Heavyweight Championship picture. Especially if he is cutting promos like this:


Following Orton and Rollins was The Icon Sting and Triple H. Sting's entrance was not anything too fancy in-terms of props, but he had a group of percussionists wearing his face paint in a clear and cool homage to The Crow. Triple H however, spared no expense. The Game ascended from beneath the stage in an Exo Suit, surrounded by ascending Terminator droids. Then the T-800 Model 101 Terminator, Arnold himself, showed up on screen declaring it is time to play the game. Triple H's entrance was bad-ass if I must say so myself. The crowd was insanely into the theatrics and the moment, as a "This Is Awesome" chant filled the stadium. The match was not too fast-paced, but The Game and The Icon played psychologically perfect with the crowd. As things started to get chippy, Degeneration X made their way to the ring in order to help Triple H. Then came Hogan, Hall, and Nash as the nWo to even the odds. Shawn Michaels broke up the Scorpion Death Lock with a Sweet Chin Music, and then it was back to 1-on-1. In the end, The Game used the remnants of his sledgehammer to knock out Sting for the pin. After the match, the two were in opposite corners with their respective groups and Triple H offered his hand to Sting and the two shook and embraced. I do not have a prediction going forward, other than that I do not believe this was Sting's last match with the WWE, or his final Wrestlemania appearance.

Photo Courtesy of WWE.com
To follow WCW vs. WWE, we had The Bellas vs. Paige & AJ Lee. I did not find much reason to care for this match going into Mania, but in the end, after some awesome spots, I'm glad they gave these ladies enough time to do a little. I'm still not a fan of the Bellas, but AJ and Paige did a great job carrying this match and making it watchable. Next up from these ladies? It's time for Nikki to drop the title, and I expect Charlotte to get the call-up after Vince McMahon witnessed first-hand on Friday Night 5,000 NXT fans chanting "THIS IS WRESTLING" to Charlotte and Sasha Banks' match.

Next was the United States Championship match, as Rusev defended against John Cena. After the theatrics from both for their entrance, they got into a physical contest and both men repeatedly locking in their submission holds. Lana, who made her return after a few weeks of absence, was on the apron and took a nasty bump from Rusev to the outside. Cena took advantage of the moment and beat Rusev to become the new United States Champion. There will be a rubber match at Extreme Rules, but I would not be surprised to see Big Show get a shot at the US Title vs. Cena at some point.

Stephanie McMahon and her husband Triple H hit the ring to tout the crowd turnout. Then Stephanie and Triple H ran down the crowd, saying they owned the people. All of a sudden, "If ya smelllllll" and out comes The Rock and the crowd at first erupts, then boos a bit, then goes apeshit. Rock makes his way to the ring and cracks a few jokes and insists he's ready to fight Triple H. Stephanie gets in the way, slaps him, then tells him to leave her ring, since he won't hit a woman. Rock exits the ring, then stops and starts walking around ringside, and invites the baddest woman on the planet--Ronda Rousey--over the barricade. The two enter the ring and Stephanie McMahon's tone changes a bit until she realizes her tactics are not working. Rock decides to attack Triple H, Rousey gets a shot in on The Game, then she manhandles Stephanie's arm. Rousey and Rock celebrate in the ring in front of the crowd. This would be a fun mixed tag match next year at Mania, but I think we're likely to just see Rock vs. Triple H. Regardless, WWE is making a lot of fun headlines at the expense of UFC and Dana White this past week.

Photo Courtesy of WWE.com
The scene was set for Undertaker and Bray Wyatt now. Bray made his way to the ring with a bunch of scarecrows lined up, coming to life after he touched their head and escorting him to the ring. The only thing that would have made this entrance any better is if it was dark in the outdoor stadium when it was happening. Then came The Undertaker, who at first look appeared to be in the best shape he has been in since his second match with Shawn Michaels 5 years ago. Undertaker controlled the match early, and hit Old School and landed firm with the rope flip to the outside. So much for all those rumors once again of Taker having no hips or knees left to stand or walk on. Deafening "You still got it!" chants ring out directed at Undertaker, who could be seen at one point smirking at the suggestion. After some exchanges and kickouts from each other's finishers, Taker nailed one final Tombstone and pinned Bray Wyatt in the middle of the ring and celebrated with the WWE Universe. It would not thrill me to see Taker leave for another 12 months right now, so I would expect to see him soon to at least do something to write him out of storylines. Maybe even let Bray finally get the upper hand and put him down for a while until Sting resurrects Taker himself for Wrestlemania 32.

Photo Courtesy of WWE.com
Finally we got to the main event. Roman Reigns' music hit and he came through the crowd, shoving some hostile fans. Reigns had more security for this entrance than any of his others. He hit the ring to boos. Brock's music hit and the place erupted. The two had a staredown, Heyman took the mic to introduce his client BROOOCK LESNARRR, and we got underway. Brock dominated Reigns for the first 5 minutes with suplexes and stiff punches. He even landed an F-5 thirty seconds into the match. Reigns started landing some stiff shots to Brock, but it just always seemed to make Brock more aggressive. Reigns, however, took each suplex and punch and smiled, begging for more. He kicked out of a second and third F-5. Reigns started getting the upper-hand after pushing Lesnar into the post on the outside. Lesnar bleeding the hard way. Reigns with a couple Superman punches, and a couple spears, but Brock still managed to kick out. Brock countered a third spear attempt with an F-5 but couldn't make the cover. Seth Rollins' music hits and he comes out to cash in his Money in the Bank briefcase. Brock tries to F-5 him, Reigns spears Brock, Rollins curbstomp to Reigns and pins him to become the new WWE World Heavyweight Champion. I'm interested to see if Brock cashes in his rematch on RAW or even at Extreme Rules. Reigns didn't lose his 1-on-1 so I expect him to be in the title picture. Orton beat Rollins earlier in the night, so no chance in Hell he does not try to insert himself into the title scene. Ultimately, we may see a Fatal 4-Way at Extreme Rules. Or we may not have Brock around until SummerSlam. No matter what, RAW tonight will be incredible.
Photo Courtesy of WWE.com




Sunday, March 29, 2015

We're In This Together.


"Who really cares?
Who's willing to try
to save a world
that is destined to die?

When I look at the world
it fills me with sorrow.
Little children today
really gonna suffer tomorrow.
Oh, what a shame.
Such a bad way to live.
Oh, who is to blame
when we can't stop living?

Live, live your life.
Live, live for life.
But let live everybody.
Live life for the children."


In a world that, on the surface, exalts and even overvalues childhood, there exists the dual reality of a world that denigrates the worth of a child's life. Time and time again, the lives of youths, the lives of human beings are snuffed out, and we who survive them argue over the corpse to no end.

Having just discussed it with a friend who held a different viewpoint, I turn to the Tamir Rice case. I don't know if Officer Loehmann was acting maliciously. I can't say one way or the other what provoked said officer to shoot that child, but Tamir Rice lost his life as a result of this man drawing a firearm and firing. There is no contextualization that can change this. Tamir Rice is a victim, his victimhood cannot be erased on any grounds. The only immutable fact in all this is that Officer Loehmann ended Tamir's life, anything else is speculative and unfounded. But still, there are those among us assigning blame to Tamir, there are some of us absolving Officer Loehmann of all blame and there are some of us laying all the blame at the feet of law enforcement officers in general.

I cannot assign blame to anyone, to any individual person, nor to even groups of individuals(e.g. "whites", "blacks", police officers, etc). I assign blame to the institutions that inform our perceptions, as these institutions, originally perceptions themselves, invite the occurrence of such situations. Institutions are perceptions and concepts that have been perpetuated by enough people through enough generations to be now be codified as social norms. The psychological and physical ramifications of being taught to perceive certain people a certain way based on subjective criteria, this is what is meant by institutionalized racism/sexism/etc. Institutionalized racism is not a mythic "White Man" out to destroy minorities. It is, instead, a set of attitudes ingrained in American minds that lead people to criminally, but generally unconsciously, undervalue the abilities and even the lives of people who register as unfamiliar. Institutionalized prejudices are a set of attitudes that lead people to act sans any critical assessment beforehand. Institutionalized prejudices are a set of attitudes that cause people to vastly underestimate the vitriolic messages even the simplest of actions can send(i.e. microaggression). Prejudice on its own(i.e. racism, prejudice against someone for their phenotype, or sexism, prejudice against someone for their genitalia/gender identity) is not what we struggle against. No, we struggle against prejudices that have been operationalized into agents of oppression through the process of institutionalization.

With respect to all that, it is clear that Tamir was the victim of an event that involves multiple things beyond just his skin color and a toy gun. It's deeper than race and even government regulations of toy gun manufacturers(not that those things aren't factors, but that they're secondary). There is a fundamental issue with how we as Americans understand violence. Violence is the oldest human institution, it stands above and supersedes all other modes of oppression and separation. As such, I believe that it is a social issue that can't be resolved by reducing the terms of engagement to race, ethnicity, orientation, gender identity, etc, or even to the individual actors who participated in the event. These things have been intertwined and made inexorable from each other. Though each -ism is indeed worthy of individuated study, to understand them as separate things does a disservice to the cause of resolving them, as they are each different aspects of the same thing.

But let me make it clear: It is of the utmost important to recognize that we ARE different, that there are "White" Americans, "Black" Americans, Hetero Americans, LBGQT Americans, etc etc. To say that you are color blind in regard to race(i.e. to reject skin color's very existence), is to say that you are both willfully ignorant(there are very obviously different skin colors) and uneducated("it is the mark of an educated mind to entertain an idea without accepting it" - a quote that I understand this way: an educated person can listen to, absorb and retain the points of a different/conflicting view without it destroying or immediately replacing their own worldview). So no, do not pretend to be color blind in an attempt to be inclusive. Instead, communicate with the people who are different from you, learn from them and broaden your worldview(more than even that, simpler than even that - make some friends, man!). And to truly and properly communicate means that we have to recognize that when people who identify as Black find the courage to admit that they are suffering, we have to give them the space to express their suffering and not derail their expressions with "NO YOU'RE WRONG, ALL LIVES MATTER NOT JUST YOURS!"-esque comments. That means that we have to step back and allow transgender persons to express themselves and their struggles, we cannot tell them "WHY CAN'T YOU JUST BE A BOY/GIRL, WHY DO YOU HATE YOURSELF." Said simply: shut the hell up and listen.

Regardless of how well-intentioned we may be in offering our opinions, the reality is that our opinions are not as valuable as our time, our ear, our patience, our attention and our love. In offering our opinions without prompt, all we are doing is imposing ourselves on their already frayed consciousness, obstructing our own cause of developing a genuine sense of community and togetherness. As people working toward resolving human strife, we must quiet our uniformed opinions and allow those who suffer as we all do to inform us of the nature of their suffering. And even where our experiences may be similar enough to encourage bonding, it must be kept in mind that we can never, ever completely and absolutely translate our experiences to the experiences of another. We each experience ourselves and our lives in a way that is too intensely personal for anyone outside of our minds to know the absolute truth of our experience. But in spite of that, all is not lost. Though we may never know with absolute certainty, we as human beings are gifted with one true power: the capacity to understand. The potential for understanding each other is why it is imperative that people are not only given the time and space to express themselves, but also having a loving and inclusive audience to receive them.

I may never know all there is to know about you, it is probable that I never will.

But if I quiet myself and genuinely listen to you, I can understand you. As a human being, it is within me to understand all things. Therefore, to "tolerate" you as though you were a burden to be endured, this is insufficient and unacceptable.

Our work is not done until we can all turn to each other and say: My friend, I am come to be with you, to share this harrowing experience of life with you. Though we experience life alone, I am come to see that you will never again know loneliness. Where you have been broken, I am come to restore. Where you have felt forgotten, I am come to recollect you. I am come not to tolerate you. I am come to understand you. No, I am come for more than even that.

I am come to love you.




"Father, father...
we don't need to escalate.
War is not the answer...
for only love can conquer hate.

You know we've got to find a way
to bring some lovin' here today..."

(forgive the continued allusion if it offends, but to know me is to know music.. anyone who has seen me has seen music. lol)

From a perspective of love, another distinction must be made: inclusive =/= politically correct. To be inclusive is to communicate more effectively, to be politically correct is to attempt to avoid conflict. The sturdiest and truest friendships are forged in the context of openness, there can be no avoidance of conflict. It must be faced head on, together(and doing so comes with the added benefit of deepening the relationship after the conflict has been faced together). Therefore, the point of inclusivity isn't to say we should, for example, take someone who murders children and ask them why in an attempt to relate to them emotionally. Instead, the idea here is that we can't reduce enormous social issues to our differences. We will never be able to absolutely know one another, this is currently impossible given the nature of human perception. But we can work toward being more than tolerant. The way inclusive parents love their transgender children because said youths are their children, this is the way we must love one another because we all are human. Love does not require accepting another's choices as ones we might have made ourselves given their circumstances. Rather, it requires understanding ourselves as separate from one another regardless of circumstance, it requires that we afford every human being we meet the same respect we desire ourselves(in respect to a child murderer, I believe that a trial, in theory, is as much love and respect as can be shown such a person, making the effort to hear their side speaks to a very nearly inhuman level of patience and respect, given the common inclination toward vigilantism or vitriol against such persons).

More to the point - focusing on our differences would not resolve our issues because our differences are not why our issues exist. Were we all one race, one faith, one sex, one gender and of one language, there would STILL be violence, still oppression. That we are different is only an excuse for aggression and violence. The essence of all human strife is, to me, rooted in need and the fear of not having. Violence itself, this is a thing fundamental to American culture, it is the foundation upon which this nation was built(to suggest anything else is ahistorical). So "but what about black on black crime!" is a ridiculous stance to take if you're honestly trying to solve this thing, as every American race perpetrates violent against itself - you're going to find that people tend to act criminally toward the people closest to them(and it just so happens that many Americans segregate themselves according to creed and color) . That isn't to say we should overlook topics such as "black on black crime" but rather that we should understand it as a subset of a much larger thing and not use them as ammunition to derail conversations about understanding the humanity inherent in the persons we, historically and currently, tend to marginalize.

The American institution of violence transcends faith, ethnicity, race, nationality and anything else we identify ourselves by. It affects each and everyone of us, whether we are the one being harmed or not("An injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."). It's not about demonizing police or exalting Black Americans, it's about recognizing that people everywhere are destroying one another, killing one another. And there is no solving this issue until we recognize that while we are all human, our experiences are separate, unique and different and have to be respected as such. More, there is and will be no resolving our issues until we recognize that while we are all unique and different, physical, emotional and mental need is universal.

How we understand violence must change.

And a paradigm shift of this magnitude, from a viewpoint grown through centuries of bloodshed to a viewpoint centered on inclusiveness will inevitably invite violence, it's the nature of many people to resist change, perhaps even violently so. But there will be no future for our children and their children if we don't at least try.

tl;dr - We all in this together, fam.

-----------------
May love ever possess you, may peace come into your life.

p.s. - I'm willing, Marvin... I'm willing.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

WWE Fastlane, A Disappointment

Sidebar: This was supposed to go up Monday before RAW, so read it with that in mind and do not incorporate Monday's storyline advances

WWE entered last night's Fastlane special event (formerly PPV) in uncharted waters. The only thing we knew for sure going into Wrestlemania 31 this year was that Brock Lesnar would be defending his title in the main event. There was a leak two weeks ago saying that Vince decided to change the Mania main-event to a triple threat match and adding Daniel Bryan, but the company decided against that, it appears.

The show opened with Dolph, Ryback, and Rowan facing off against Big Show, Kane, and Seth Rollins. The end of the match was every bit as the Royal Rumble. Kane and Show teamed up to knock Ziggler stupid and pin him in the middle of the ring... not even letting Seth finish the job. The Authority trio began decimating their opponents after the match and apparently referees cannot reverse their decisions when The Authority decides to do this. But waiting in the wings was Randy Orton, making his long-awaited return as he sprinted out to take out the Authority. Orton was clearly aiming to take out Rollins, who ran through the crowd and all the way out of the building to escape.

While I was ecstatic to see Orton return, I was disappointed that once again the WWE does a one-man run-in to decimate multiple people while superstars in the ring got destroyed almost the entire match and the whole post-match segment. Dolph, Ryback, and Rowan could not look formidable in the match, but Orton--with ease--dismantled the entire Authority + J&J Security to try and get his hands on the coward Rollins. Not exactly the best nod at the legitimacy of the three opponents.

Next up was Goldust vs. Stardust, and the two had a decent-at-best match. However, the finish was a major botch as Goldust got a roll-up pin on Stardust and the referee's hand never hit the mat for a third time, yet he jumped up and called for the bell to declare Goldust the winner.

Then we had The Usos defending against Tyson Kidd and Cesaro. The match was high-paced, very fluid, not a lot of wasted movement. While many fans (including myself) have grown a little tired of The Usos outright dominating the tag division, we were treated with yet another great match by the two with a few new spots added in. One of those spots was a brutal Samoan Drop to Kidd into the barricade. In the end, despite the referee being out of place, slow, and late (without distractions), Kidd and Cesaro picked up the pinfall win after a roller coaster of momentum swings to become the new tag team champions.

Then came the Sting and Triple H face-off. Triple H started talking about himself, then called out Sting. The crowd went nuts, as they have every time he showed up, and the two stood face-to-face in the middle of the ring. Sting didn't say a word. He barely changed his expression. I've begged on Twitter for a month now to not have WWE make Sting talk too early (would prefer he never actually speaks at all, to be honest), and WWE delivered. Sting did not accept Triple H's offer to keep his legacy alive in turn for walking away. Triple H's claims that this is all about removing Trips and the McMahon's from WWE to end the business come off as genuine belief from Trips, but not at all valuable to fans. I'm almost certain that in kayfabe, this feud for Sting is strictly about Trips not giving the young guys a chance... and while that contradicts Sting in much of his should-be-forgotten TNA run... that's the angle I hope it is for Sting if he ever does talk. Triple H went for a cheap-shot, got the upper hand, then grabbed his sledgehammer from under the ring. When he went to strike Sting, there was a bat to his throat and he was shoved to the corner, surrendering the hammer. Tensions flared a few times as Trips got bold, but Sting nudged the bat into his throat more and pointed at the WrestleMania sign. As he turned to leave, Trips tried to strike but sting countered with the bat to the gut. A few minutes later, it was officially revealed the two would face off at Wrestlemania 31.

Nikki vs. Paige... well... it was exactly what the WWE DIVAS division has been for years... a rushed match with no real build or potential to grow. While McMahon believes that his company is more than wrestling, it says something that a feud that brews on a "reality tv" show does not garner any interest in comparison to the WOMEN'S feuds on NXT which develop strictly in, around, and about the ring. People care about the wrestling, Vince, and since you'll never realize that, you will never fully capitalize on the tremendous product and talent you possess. The match was rushed for time that could have been taken from others, and the result was a bunch of botches which further exposed Nikki Bella as a horrible in-ring performer and made yet another legitimate WRESTLING WOMAN look like a steaming pile of shit.

We also got Ambrose and Barrett in one of the worst-booked finishes I have ever seen. Before the show, there was an interview with Ambrose talking about the title and its relevance and people who fail to make the most of the title, the opportunity, or themselves. WWE is clearly who he was talking about as they booked Ambrose to get disqualified for not listening to the referee (yes, one of the same idiots that botched the entire show up to this point anyways, not giving any of the superstars a 5-count in the corner), and then Ambrose walked away with the title anyways. Even with the idea that you can set up a rematch at Wrestlemania... it was still a shitty idea. While I'd love to see something like Dean vs. Wade in an IC ladder match at WM31... it's still not a good set up. Disqualify the heel so he doesn't lose his title while losing the match and making the crowd invest a little more... don't DQ the face and have him steal the title.

Rusev vs. Cena followed, and the match was OUTSTANDING. Cena got some good momentum, Rusev dominated plenty of the match. It felt even for a majority. Rusev would not break to Cena's finishers. Cena fought as hard as he could through Rusev's onslaught. In the end, Rusev used some cheap heel tactics to get the upper hand, and I'm all for it as it further establishes him the heel, but he also got the in-ring victory. A rematch is clearly in order for Wrestlemania, and hopefully WWE are intelligent enough to know that Cena does not gain much to beat Rusev, it does not truly legitimize the US Title if Cena wins it, and Rusev stands to gain the world if he does defeat Cena clean to retain. Hell, if you REALLY want to make Rusev a bona fide badass, you might even want to make Cena TAP.

Then comes the main event. All of my emotions aside about wanting the match we truly deserve (and I did blog that I was a fan of Reigns vs. Brock 1-on-1), this match was as good a match as I've seen in a while. There was brutal violence, stiff punches, forearms, elbows, knees, and kicks. Both men played up their recent injuries and attacked the other. Reigns fought through the adversity, as did Bryan. The two literally put everything they had into every strike, and you could see it. Bryan worked as good a match as a quick, smaller, more-experienced wrestler could work, and Reigns used more than just his size, power, and toughness to make the most of his opportunity in this match. While part of me feels Bryan showed more that he COULD indeed hang in a legitimate-looking contest with Brock than Reigns showed he could persevere... we did see Reigns fight Bryan in the way you would expect Brock to fight... more of an MMA-style approach with ground-and-pound. The only thing I disliked about the match is that it ended when and how it did. Reigns became the first man to kick out of Bryan's Knee Plus... something even Super-Cena was not booked to do. My problem isn't with the fact that Reigns kicked out... it's with the fact that Bryan was not booked to kick out of the Spear. It almost felt like the booking was to veto Bryan's toughness as much as it was to enforce Reigns'. Still, Reigns walked out of a hard-fought match looking strong. And while I will forever parallel this match in my head to CM Punk vs. Cena on RAW for Cena's opportunity to go face Rock, I stand by that it was a tremendous match and Reigns does deserve this opportunity and looks more and more ready for it every week. I was never a Reigns hater... I just wanted to see more out of him. Have we seen enough yet? I don't know... but he is showing more with every match and he looked forreal against Bryan.

Overall, the show was a major disappointment that could have done so much more. Once again, WWE delivers a HORRIBLE event immediately following an NXT Takeover. By that trend, it's a damn-good thing that WWE moved Takeover to the month before Mania and not the week of...

Friday, February 13, 2015

Vince McMahon Has Lost It

According to F4WOnline.com, Vince McMahon earlier this week held a meeting to announce that he was going to change the Wrestlemania 31 main event previously slated to be between Brock Lesnar and Roman Reigns into a triple threat match, adding Daniel Bryan into the mix. The report states that Vince is making this change because fans have been outspoken in their displeasure of WWE forcing Roman Reigns on us before all parties are ready.

Roman Reigns won the January 2015 Royal Rumble match in order to ensure his placement into the main event with WWE World Heavyweight Champion Brock Lesnar at Wrestlemania 31. The problem, however, is that this was long-reported to be the case, and Reigns has yet to show enough growth in his character and on the microphone to be deserving of the top spot. Fans booed Reigns out of the building, but it wasn't so much a dislike of Reigns, but rather of the booking of the entire Rumble match as well as the decision of Vince & co. to spearhead "the next John Cena."

While most fans (myself included) were pissed that Bryan was not the hand-picked winner (and furthermore how he was eliminated), I think it's safe to assume that fans would have been fine with a number of outcomes--including Reigns--had WWE known how to book their spectacle battle royal. Bryan was eliminated from the match by Bray Wyatt very early on, and it left us with no direction for Bryan going forward. Then we watched as Big Show and Kane teamed up to dump everyone over the top rope, including Dolph Ziggler and Dean Ambrose, all the way up until Reigns, when Kane and Show decided to try and fight each other. There was no sense of urgency to get Reigns out of the match. Barely an attempt. Why? Because WWE got lazy in their booking of the finish, like they always do.

But let's go back a couple years to Royal Rumble 2013, when CM Punk's historic championship reign ended to The Rock leading to Cena's Rumble victory to set up the "epic" rematch of Once in a Lifetime. Fans knew ahead of time what the case was. WWE had an opportunity then to find a way to write Punk into the matchup instead of feeding him to The Undertaker. Even at RAW when Punk challenged Cena for his position, WWE could have done then what they've now seemingly done the two consecutive years following, and righted their wrong. But Punk was written out, because Vince & co. felt it was "best for business" to go with Cena vs. Rock II.

Punk eventually went on to have arguably the best match of the night--and maybe the best Undertaker has ever had at Mania--while Cena and Rock more or less stunk the place up for a second year in a row, saved only by the spectacle that is The Rock wrestling.

Fast forward to January 2014 when Batista was set to make his big return and CM Punk was booked at #1 to enter the Royal Rumble match. Batista entered the match to cheers. He got blown up, fans had no reason to care. Meanwhile, a younger Roman Reigns bullied the entire roster to set the single-match record for eliminations. Punk was tossed unceremoniously over the top rope. Entrant 30 showed up on the screen, and fans were ready to erupt for the hottest star in the company--Daniel Bryan--only to be presented with Rey Mysterio. Mysterio took on the role of top heel for the night... his first tenure as a heel in WWE. Fans revolted. Fans wanted so badly for anyone other than Dave Bautista to win the Rumble that they booed Mysterio because he wasn't Daniel Bryan, and cheered Roman Reigns because he wasn't The Animal (this year they cheered for super athlete villain Rusev because he was the last surviving non-Reigns guy).

Batista won, got booed out of the building (starting the trendy name Bootista) and set up his date with Randy Orton and WrestleMania XXX. Obviously, the wise choice would have been Bryan vs. Orton to culminate their 8-month feud which started at SummerSlam when Bryan beat Cena cleanly only to have Orton cash in after Triple H hit Bryan with a Pedigree. WWE's reasoning for Bryan not being in the Rumble match was that he was concussed the previous monday night on RAW, yet he still had a grueling match with Bray Wyatt which all-but-stole the show at the Rumble. Having Bryan come in at 30 and get a couple quick, easy eliminations surely would not have been more brutal than what he went through with Bray Wyatt.

The Yes! Movement kicked off and WWE re-wrote their plans after fans voiced their displeasure, and Bryan was added to the Mania main-event, capping off a long, emotional road. Bryan went on to victory in the main event over Orton and Batista and fans gathered from all over the world to participate as Bryan celebrated. All too suddenly it was over, as Bryan's demanding in-ring work had worsened his condition, forcing him to the sideline for surgery on his neck. Bryan was out for most of the year while Cena was forced back into the title picture before Brock Lesnar capped off the most dominant performances we had ever witnessed as wrestling fans.

On the December 29th episode of RAW to close out 2014, Daniel Bryan announced his intentions to return to the ring and compete in the 2015 Royal Rumble. The Verizon Center in Washington D.C. exploded with Yes! chants, unlike anything I have ever heard. I would know, because I was there in the building that night.

Now, after fans voiced their displeasure with Reigns winning and Bryan not even having a fighting chance at the end of the Royal Rumble match, Vince has back-tracked. Even in what I called the most fortunate circumstance in WWE history with a blizzard cancelling RAW from an arena the following night, Heyman and Reigns went on to set up the main event perfectly. Paul Heyman made Reigns vs. Lesnar the perfect main event. It also helped that Daniel Bryan and Dolph Ziggler engaged in setting up their own match on Twitter.

Now, Vince has pulled a 180 because fans did not take to Reigns, who appears to be turning heel now because of the booking change and Vince thinking that the heat is on Reigns, and not the company or himself.

I am ecstatic that Bryan is now included in the main event, because he should be. This is Bryan's position in the company. Every week, he gets the biggest reactions. It is not just the YES! chants... it is a cheer for the guy. When he is in a rest-hold, the crowd gets more hype for Bryan than it does anyone else. The only guy who comes as close is Dolph Ziggler. Brock Lesnar was as over at Royal Rumble; Seth Rollins was when he crashed through Lesnar and the Spanish announce table. Nobody else really comes close.

Bryan vs. Brock was the perfect main event on paper. Bryan is the underdog who never lost his title. Brock is the beast who has conquered all, almost in ease, at will. Bryan defeating Brock cleanly one-on-one would have been the ultimate booked victory. It would have allowed us to suspend disbelief. We know if Reigns wins that it was the creative decision the entire time. There are ways to book in the reality era, no matter what Triple H tells Steve Austin. Booking the underdog that everyone loves is one of those ways. And despite what the WWE thinks, we're fans of the wrestling... the movies barely mean anything to anyone in this world. If the movies were that important, the triple threat match at Mania this year would be Mizdow vs. Orton vs. Santino.

Vince McMahon could have just stuck to his guns and given us Brock vs. Reigns and Bryan vs. Ziggler (preferably an hour-long match, if not an iron man match). Instead, he has decided we are best off getting Brock vs. Reigns vs. Bryan (even though he introduced a stipulation of Bryan vs. Reigns for that shot). We all know Reigns still wins this match. Bryan is only there to appease us for one more night. Yet another hero of the fans buried because he is not the guy that was made by Vince McMahon. He no longer has fortitude... testicular or intestinal. Vince McMahon is out of touch. Word to CM Punk.

I am a Roman Reigns fan. He has a lot of potential and clearly could be the top dog for a long time. But right now, Daniel Bryan is organically over with the crowd, live and at home, and WWE has missed on every opportunity with the guy on their own behalf. Going forward, WWE is in horrible territory with the Royal Rumble. Splitting the titles again and going with two brands would not be a wise decision, either. And if Vince or Triple H think that those "heel crowds" or "smart towns" are rare, I caution them to consider that Wrestlemania and the following night on RAW both qualify as "smart, heel crowds." Not the best way to label your feature audience going into your version of the Super Bowl. Bash the NFL all you want, WWE... you're in for a flat-tire ride if you keep at it.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Marvel and Sony Reach Agreement For Spiderman

A quick glimpse into our archive would reveal we here at Don't Laugh, People are fans of comic books and their respective movies. I do not often divulge into a battle of DC vs. Marvel vs. the others, because I typically enjoy plenty from all (but yes, I do think Marvel is the best for art and for stories). However, "the last 24 hours have been really exciting."* Kudos to you if you didn't need to look up that quote... damn you if you did. *Dr. Okun - Independence Day

It was announced by many sources late last night/early this morning, that Marvel Studios and Sony Pictures had finally reached an agreement for their partnership in order to introduce Spiderman into the Marvel Cinematic Universe (where The Avengers live). Marvel will reportedly allow Sony to retain Spiderman's rights to let Amy Pascal produce films in the title, but she will be aided by Marvel's top man, Kevin Feige, in her endeavors. Feige will be involved in Spiderman's 2017 standalone film (presumably without Andrew Garfield), but several outlets are reporting that Spiderman will be in one of Marvel's films before then... and the likely, obvious, rumored choice is Captain America: Civil War.

Marvel will then be able to use Spiderman going forward based on his story with Sony, which Feige will have a hand in crafting. In other words, if Marvel can not have Spiderman to themselves 100%, this is as good an option as there is.

It was rumored for years that Pascal had been willing to work with Sony in this venture, while hemorrhoid-anal-warts Avi Arad had long been blocking the deal. When Sony was hacked late last year, there were chains of emails in which Pascal seemed to be in favor of a deal. It was noted throughout all of the emails that Arad and Raimi seemed very reluctant to play ball with Marvel (for some obvious reasons to any with common sense). Arad has long tried to take all of the credit for Marvel, slander Feige's name, and spill the beans on any negotiations going on between Marvel and Sony about the webslinger.

Perhaps Arad got himself in over his head when he last made comments that Sony would be stupid to consider allowing Feige some creative control, as that appears to be the case with the new deal. Marvel states explicitly: "Sony Pictures will continue to finance, distribute, own and have final creative control of the Spider-Man films." I am certain Pascal is more than willing to allow Feige to tinker in the creative process as she has long-shown her respect for Feige's ideas.

Needless to say, we're excited that Spiderman is coming home to Marvel in some form! Congratulations, Sony... you've made a wise decision after all. And congratulations, Marvel! Thanks for bringing Spidey back where he belongs!

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Washington Redskins Hire Scot McCloughan As General Manager

The Washington Redskins today, January 7, 2015, hired Scot McCloughan as their new General Manager. McCloughan is known around the National Football League as one of the best talent scouts. He has previously worked as a GM for the San Francisco 49ers where he started as a talent scout. McCloughan also has two stints with the Seattle Seahawks, most recently as their senior personnel executive where he assisted in bringing in a large portion of Seattle’s 2013 Super Bowl roster.

The move came as a shock to many for a number of reasons. Firstly, Dan Snyder has not shown a tendency to get a personnel guy to be the GM of his franchise in the past, recently sticking with now team President Bruce Allen, and before that a lesser talent evaluator in Vinny Cerrato. While Joe Gibbs and Mike Shanahan had a fair amount of power in the personnel department, both worked alongside Cerrato and Allen, respectively.

Secondly, McCloughan was not only reported to have been asking for a job, but a lot of power, such as the ability to select his own coaches and choose the personnel. While it is unclear for many whether McCloughan can select a strong coaching staff, what is clear is that he is capable of building a talented roster, particularly through the NFL Draft.

The Redskins have been very underwhelming in finding talent through the draft for nearly 20 years. The team also within the past week granted former San Diego Chargers GM A.J. Smith more power in the personnel department, making McCloughan’s hire even more shocking. While I have expressed many times why I feel A.J. Smith is a good eye for talent, I have also stated I am disgusted by his handling of his own veterans and pending free agents. McCloughan may be the necessary filter between A.J. Smith’s desires to let players walk before their prime.

The hire makes Bruce Allen the team’s new President, which will allow him to be a politician in public, but he will also remain in strength in structuring contracts. All capgate jokes aside, Allen is regarded as good as any at putting together contracts which favor the organization financially. Being able to use this on players McCloughan grabs would be an ideal situation, one outlined numerous times by many reporters and fans as the ideal solution to a number of problems.

McCloughan has recently been out of football, but maintained his own private scouting service, assuredly staying as close to the game as he always was, just without the official job title within an organization. McCloughan had stepped down from the Seahawks, citing personal issues. A brilliant inside look into these issues, the man, and his brilliant football mind, are highlighted in an article from ESPN The Magazine’s SethWickersham.

McCloughan is directly responsible for the 49ers and Seahawks acquiring All Pro players during his tenures. Some notable names linked to McCloughan are Patrick Willis, Frank Gore, Richard Sherman, and Russell Wilson, among many others.


Needless to say, this is exactly the kind of change the Washington Redskins have needed.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Washington Sports Aren't A Lost Cause

No, this is not a post about how terrible the Redskins are now, and will forever be hereafter. They may be. But while the Redskins' season has come to a horrible yet merciless finish, the focus for sports fans around the DC Metro area should turn to hope.

You see, there's a star who had early success, struggled, dealt with fan and media backlash, came back from injury and showed flashes. No, I'm not talking about embattled QB Robert Griffin III. I'm talking about Washington Wizards' point guard John Wall. The major difference between the two, is that John Wall has now found his groove and started to really come into his own.

Wall is perhaps the most exciting athlete to watch in Washington sports right now. He's very young, and has a lot of growing left to do on the basketball court. But the promise he shows now only makes his capabilities later that much more intriguing, and hopefully special. Wall is as complete a defender in the NBA as there is, whether he earns honors or not. Wall is one of the most dynamic, electrifying offensive players in the NBA, whether he earns honors or not. Wall is one of the best teammates and leaders in the NBA, whether he earns honors or not.

The addition of Paul Pierce has been somewhat of a Godsend for the Wizards, but more so for John Wall. Pierce is playing on younger legs than he has since he was holding the trophy in Boston. But what Pierce brought to Washington besides his athleticism, is his savvy and mature presence. Pierce knows all the little tricks of the trade on and off court, and while he may not be the most outstanding and boisterous motivator, it's apparent the team looks up to him. In situations where last year the Wizards would have been likely to cool off or become complacent, Pierce is urging his teammates to hustle and push through. In the final moments of the game, the Wizards are not just trying halfheartedly to leave the arena with a win, they're fighting as if they have to take a lead they may already have.

But Pierce has rubbed off on John Wall. We saw hints of it last year after the All Star break. Wall was clearly aware of things he could do as a teammate that other stars around the league do. But this year it's different. Pierce is not the only player urging his teammates to keep fighting through. John Wall is actively sprinting back on defense after a score, not only signaling strategy, but getting his teammates to recognize they need to keep up the tempo and control the pace of the game. Defensively, every single one of Wall's teammates is able to play more sound, because Wall is playing defense at the highest level in the league for a point guard.

It reflects in the Win/Loss columns. The Wizards have gotten off to one of the best starts in franchise history, and they are on pace to have one of the best seasons in franchise history. Washington went from a team that could make the playoffs and push any team to the limit, to a band of brothers who can give fans hope that they will not go down easily.

John Wall and Bradley Beal both broke down in tears on the court after losing in the playoffs a year ago. Marcin Gortat's expression was utter disappointment. They knew they were better than losing to a Pacers team who had all but begun to crumble, but they needed to learn a lesson. They needed to experience more and have it taken away from them. Much like Wall needed that All Star appearance to realize what his contemporaries did to be successful, the team needed to get close.

Regular season performances and wins do not guarantee you can win it all. The Wizards may be in striking distance, and they may come up short. But there will be even more fight in them this year than there was a year ago.

Bradley Beal still has a lot of room for growth. There are times when you see hints of him trying to get it, and there are times when you wonder just how far away he may really be. But Beal, like Wall, shows that potential and has plenty of time left to develop into that player. His journey will be even easier with Wall leading him, not just on the court, but through the progression of becoming a more complete player. And when Beal one day finds his groove and starts to come into his own, John Wall should already be the complete player we believe he is becoming, and that day will spell Hell for every team in the NBA.

But for now, the focus is on getting through the regular season healthy, continuing to grow as a team and being able to communicate on the floor. No matter how many tattoo stories there are from Jason Reid or how many times Colonoscopy Cow-turd tries to suggest John Wall is just an exciting player who is not ever going to win a championship, the important thing is there is a team in Washington who has a legitimate shot at competing for a championship soon, and if all goes as planned, will be able to compete for them for many years.