On Derrick Rose, Chris Brown, And Black Men’s “Non-Existent” Pain

"Walk it off, little bitch."

“Walk it off, little bitch.”

As last season’s NBA playoffs intensified, I found myself rooting for Derrick Rose harder than I’ve ever rooted for any professional athlete. Defending him, even. Sometimes, I’d even feel my temperature rise when hearing or reading a criticism lobbed his way.

This by itself is nothing really worth mentioning. Rose is very popular and plays with an aesthetically pleasing recklessness and audacity that is completely unique to him. Of course I—an NBA diehard—would be a big fan of his game.

Except, well…

Derrick Rose is not one of my favorite NBA players. In fact, if I had to list the 20 or players I enjoy watching the most, Rose probably wouldn’t crack the list. I actually think he’s somewhat overrated.

Also, he did not play a minute of NBA basketball last season.

So, um, why was I rooting for him?

Well, in April of 2012, Rose tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee. For an athlete, this is one of the scariest and most devastating injuries you can receive. For someone like Rose, a man whose livelihood is predicated on his ability to twist, torque, and explode off that knee, it would be especially harrowing.

Between surgery and rehab, it usually takes a year before you “fully” recover. And, “fully” is in quotes because, as long as I’ve been watching NBA basketball, I’ve never seen anyone recover completely from a torn ACL. Sure, players have returned and have had very productive careers, but no one has come back as quick and explosive as they were before.

So, Rose sat out the entire 2012-2013 NBA season. But, as the Bulls advanced into the playoffs—and as reports leaked that his knee was healthy enough to play—he became a national source of ridicule for his decision to not suit up.

“Man, that dude has no heart!!!” men screamed while sitting on their couches in their Dad’s old pajamas, smearing Cheetos stains on the universal remote.

“Derrick Rose is a quitter” others typed on message boards, moments before going back to XHamster.com and searching for Asian DPs.

“F*ck you, p*ssy!” some even screamed at him during games, shouting so vigorously that the rolls on their backs did the Wobble.

None of this surprised me. The sports world is a strange place, and strange things—like people questioning the heart of a kid who scratched and crawled his way out of the Southside of Chicago to become one of the best athletes on Earth—happen in strange places.

It did, however, reinforce the idea that athletes in general—and young Black athletes in particular—aren’t supposed to own their bodies. It didn’t matter that Rose repeatedly said he wasn’t physically or mentally ready yet. A doctor whose salary is paid by the Chicago Bulls said he was ready, so that nigga better play! F*ck how you feel, and f*ck your future. Get on the court, and help us fill up that arena!

You know, I thought about Rose yesterday when reading a piece at Jezebel about Chris Brown’s recent admission that he lost his virginity to a teenager when he was eight. (Eight!!!)

Titled Chris Brown Brags About Losing His Virginity When He Was Eight, it mocks Brown as the author wonders how he was able to turn “…a personal confession into yet another opportunity to showcase how unpleasant he seems.” If you think the author’s tone completely and intentionally glosses over the fact that if Brown was truly eight years old (Eight!!!) when this happened, he was raped, you’d be right.

Although Brown’s admission obviously is in a completely different ballpark than an ACL tear, the flippant reactions to both Brown’s story and Rose’s injury seem to come from the same place: Black men aren’t supposed to feel any physical, mental, or emotional pain.

You blew out the knee your career is dependent on? Who gives a damn? We’re playing the Clippers. You need to guard Chris Paul. You admit you had sex with a person twice your age when you were still at an age where some kids still think Santa Claus exists? You’re a Black male, and you’re inherently hyper-sexual. I’m sure you loved every minute of it, and I’m also sure that experience had absolutely no effect on your self-esteem, your self-worth, or your feelings about women. Go take another nude selfie.

The NBA season is a couple weeks away. The Bulls open up against the Heat. Lebron James is one of my favorite players, and I want the Heat to win. I do not want everyone who questioned Rose’s heart last spring to tear their ACLs while jumping off their futons to celebrate a vicious Rose dunk. But, you have to admit, that would be kinda poetic.

—Damon Young (aka “The Champ”)

Once An Abuser, Always An Abuser…

...or maybe not

Now, it’s no secret that I’m no fan of The Increasingly Bizarre Chris Brown.

He makes shitty music (calling him a “poor man’s Michael Jackson” is an insult to Micheal Jackson, poor men, and lazy analogies), has shitty roles in shitty movies (The shittiest?Takers” — aka “The Screen Version Of Every Hennessy Ad That Ever Made The Inside Front Cover Of The Source”), has shitty advisers, and hasn’t appeared the least bit contrite for that excessively shitty thing he did to Rihanna three years ago (Again, I don’t personally know him. But, from what I’ve seen, heard, and read, he acts as if he was actually the one victimized that night. And, for people who think that people like me need to “let it go,” I’ll let it go when he stops acting like the one who was victimized that night. Actually, “victimized” isn’t strong enough of a word. “Brutalized” is better. For those who think I’m using too much hyperbole, please read the article linked above. Now, shut the f*ck up.)

Despite all of this, Rihanna seems to have forgiven him. Which is (obviously) her choice. They also seem to be dating now. Well, publicly dating now. And, because of Rihanna’s past brutalization, many — myself included — believe that he will inevitably brutalize her again.

But, what if he doesn’t? What if he all of a sudden becomes a model boyfriend, perfect husband, and doting father? Would the second chance he’s received from her be justified, or is the decision inherently bad regardless of the outcome? I realize that the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior — and I do realize that serial abusers are called serial abusers for a reason — but just how I think Rihanna may be taking a very dangerous chance, we — people who assume he’ll beat her again — may be dangerously lazy with our thought process. How can we be so sure, so certain, that he will definitely beat her to a pulp again, especially when — to my knowledge¹ — that brutalization was the only time he abused her?

The Increasingly Bizarre Chris Brown and Rihanna’s star-crossed relationship aside, hearing stone cast beliefs such as like “once an abuser, always an abuser” and “once a cheater, always a cheater” never really sat right with me. They don’t account for any nuance. “Once a cheater, always a cheater” would make more sense if it were an addiction and/or caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain, but sometimes people cheat once and never cheat again. And, more importantly, those types of statements reek of something a group of “good” and “self-righteous” people (read: people like me) created in order to make sure that people who once did something bad are forever branded and never forgiven. It’s our way of making sure they’re not “rewarded” for not being good.

The Increasingly Bizarre Chris Brown may in fact be my 2nd least favorite entertainer of all-time (R. Kelly will forever hold the top spot on that list). I wouldn’t trade a hot bucket of cat piss for one of his albums. I also realize that Rihanna getting back with the man who publicly brutalized her sets a terrible example for her millions of young female (and male) fans; many of whom will look at their situation and think “Well, Rihanna took Breezy back, so a couple punches can’t be all that bad.

But, despite how I feel about him, can I say with any confidence that if he and Rihanna stay together, he will definitely abuse her again?

No, I can’t. And, since I can’t, I won’t.

¹I’m not super well-versed in Chrihanna news, so if there are any other documented instances of him abusing women that I haven’t heard about, please let me know

—Damon Young (aka “The Champ”)

10 Tattoo Ideas For Chris Brown Better Than Rihanna’s February 2009 Face

Starting at the top, I do not believe that Chris Brown tatted the face of a battered woman on his body. Or his neck.

Keep up.

However, I do understand why somebody might think that he’s crazy enough to do so. See, Chris Brown has reached that rare space where if something crazy happens and he’s in the vicinity, there’s probably a better than 50 percent change he’s responsible. Or if something outwardly stupid occurs, and it involves him, it’s highly likely that its intentional or at least not unintentional.

For instance, if you are walking down the street and a chair comes flying out of a window, and two minutes later you see Breezy dance out of the buildling, well, if you assumed he is the one who threw the chair nobody would really dispute or disagree with that conclusion. Or let’s just say that he gets a tattoo that resembles the face of a battered woman – you know, something he’s familiar with – even if it isn’t supposed to be a battered woman, well, assuming that Chris Brown might be dumb enough to get a tattoo that unintentionally resembles the face of the woman he laid his hands on seems totally inbounds, therefore he got a tattoo of a battered woman. Even Mike Tyson would wince at that. You know, hypothetically speaking. In fact, Chris Brown enjoys company with only Ron Artest and Mike Tyson in this club for folks who actually do sh*t that while absolutely insane, seems like just another day at the office. I’m not sure if Chris is proud of bothered by this. Probably a bit of both.

Let’s just say, if Chris Brown walked out on stage holding a wang and a bong and said he was supporting the cause of hermaphrodite tadpoles by discouraging the use of latex mirrors, I wouldn’t even bat an eye.

With that being said, Chris Brown’s biggest problem here is his handlers. So I’m going to officially throw my hat in the ring to be his new Tattoo Czar. He’s got quite the collection already and is obviously hellbent on adding new interesting and questionably tattoos, so I figure that I’ll give him some ideas for tats that will be no less attention-worthy, but won’t really make him look like a deranged d*ck either.

Such as?

Such as…

1. Big Bird f*cking Snuffleupagus

Let’s be real, we’ve all thought it happened anyway. Either way this tat would be both playful and ridiculous and tackle an age old question: are Sesame Street characters asexual?

2. An old woman smoking weed with sunglasses on

This could be in support of medical marijuana usage in California and soon-to-be nationwide! This way he is supporting the AARP set AND the stoner set. This can’t possibly piss anybody off.

3. A white person wearing a Black Panther shirt

This could be one of those big tats that he could show off at concerts in attempts to promote racial harmony and unity. And what’s better than racial harmoney and unity?

Glad you asked…

4. Tupac in a wheelchair coming out the courthouse before going upstate

You know, the iconic photo of ‘Pac. Well, that’s somebody in pain, but nobody would think twice about that. Well, I mean tattin’ ‘Pac on your body is something The Game or Nas would do actually, but still, Chris Brown could tat that in the name of vulnerability or artists who are misunderstood and who do misunderstood sh*t.

5. Beyonce

Though this may definitely cause problems in his own household considering his new chick must absolutely hate Rihanna…so wait, that might be a win actually because Ri-Ri’s natural enemy is Beyonce! Though, he definitely would never be able to smang Rihanna again despite every attempt those two seem to be making to get back together. And he soooooo wants to smang her again.

6. Aaliyah

I mean, Drake has pretty much cornered the market on Aaliyah standom…or has he? After the whole bottle incident that Kevin Hart TOTALLY BOMBED at the VMAs, wouldn’t it just be kind of sneaky good to one up Drake with an Aaliyah tat as well? Not some retarded fill in of the dates either, but like a tat that was a .gif of Aaliyah rocking the boat? I see potential here.

7. A six-pointed pentagram

What? It ain’t like I said a 3-angled rhombus.Seriously, when was the last time you read a blog and saw the word rhombus?

8. Coca-Cola

Since he’s no stranger to odd-ball behavior, being the first rapper to sell skin as ad space might be a good move for him. Plus, that would put him in direct competition with all the famous folks hawking Pepsi. Kanye, Chris is coming for you.

9. An oddly resembling Kim Kardashian face

Talk about your convo starter. It could start a cat fight between he, Kanye West, Kris Jenner, and Kris Humphries. By the way, I know we think Chris is kind of loopy, but is there any doubt that he’d whip Kanye’s ass in a fight? Doubt it.

10. His own face

Not sure how popular this was every where else, but we had this tragic era in Atlanta of people tatting their names in cursive on their arms. Yes. Their own names. Well, what if he big leagued everybody and tatted his own face on his neck? I believe Marlon said it best when he sang in harmony with his brothers, “can you feel it?” I think you can.

So what do you think? Is Chris Brown crazy enough to tat a picture of a battered woman on his person? And how’d I do as his Tattoo Czar? And what OTHER tats do you think Chris Brown should have considered instead of the one he chose?

Talk to me.

-VSB P aka THE ARSONIST aka MR. I AIN’T GOT NO TATS aka GIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIRL HE A 3

Thoughts On The Light-Skinned Beef Heard Round The World, And More…

It was all good just a week ago

1. The Increasingly Bizarre Chris Brown (IBCB for short) is becoming a caricature of himself

You know how in every crime/heist movie, there’s always that one skittish and perpetually sweaty guy who no one really wants to talk to, no one ever wants to partner with, no one trusts with a gun? The guy with strange clothes and “unique” hygiene that’s only involved with the crew because…well, no one really knows why he’s involved with the crew, and the only reason his character was even written was to provide an in-house foil to annoy (and potentially sabotage) the rest of the characters?

Well, I’m not going to say that IBCB is becoming that guy, but IBCB is becoming that guy. His continued descent from “boy next door” to“that sweaty, skeevy, rapey guy with the platinum Caesar and the sleeveless jean jacket doing push-ups in a bar bathroom” has been amazing to witness. You can even argue that Britney Spears is the only other celebrity ever to go from “widespread heartthrob” to “person who creeps the hell out of everyone with an IQ over 86” as quickly as he has.

***“BOY FIGHT! Thoughts on the (Alleged) Drake v. Chris Brown Beef”— my latest at Ebony.com (and an article I obviously did not title) — lists four of my initial thoughts about what could be the most entertaining beef in hip-hop history. While I definitely want you to go over there and read the rest of the list, here are a couple more quick things I want to add

1. As much as I chide toughDrake for being, to quote Big Ghost, “the human electric slide,” I actually don’t dislike him or his music at all. I know his latest album was full of songs that may not even actually be songs, but I’ve stopped expecting him to live up to the expectations he set with “So Far Gone” and “Comeback Season” and just accepted him for who he is — a diabolical (Yes. Diabolical. “Marvin’s Room” was some diabolical-ass shit) stripper-saving “Merchant of Cuddles,” and a talented guy who makes decent albums that you wouldn’t be caught dead actually listening to.

2. Apparently, a three-way series of passive aggressive Rihanna-related tweets between toughDrake, IBCB, and…Meek Mill preceded all of this. Somewhere, Suge Knight is spinning in his grave. (and eating waffles)

3. Rihanna still scares the shit out of me. And by “scares the hell out of me” I mean “somehow simultaneously arouses and scares the hell out of me.” I’ve never been more attracted to a woman who I didn’t think was really all that attractive. Her p*ssy is a paradox, and I somehow feel haunted by it just by typing her name. Basically, she’s the coital “Candyman.”

If this doesn’t make any sense, good. It doesn’t to me either.

***Before you leave today, I want you to go and check out Anything But Style. It’s a fashion blog run by a good friend of mine, and she decided to celebrate her blog’s one year anniversary by launching her own online vintage clothing store today. Although she’s a (gasp) Delta, I’m very proud of her for setting a goal and doing what she needed to do to accomplish it.

***Lastly, check out A.P., this week’s Very Smart Single, and hit us up at contact@verysmartbrothas.com if interested in getting to know her better.

That’s it for me today. People of VSB.com, what’s new on your ends of the world and shit?

—Damon Young (aka “The Champ”)

Having The Birthday Cake And Eating It Too: A Collection of Conflicting Thoughts About Chris Brown

Ever since his infamous assault of then-girlfriend Rihanna, I’ve been captivated with Chris Brown, Rihanna, the myriad different stances people have adopted in regards to them, and the “Whys” behind these stances. Case in point: Along with my recent piece at Ebony, I’ve written about them — well, him in particular — at least four times in the three years since.

First there was “naked: chris brown and the sad plight of the scorned man” — an entry where I used their situation as a convenient segue to talk about how men dealing with effed up relationship situations usually don’t have any proverbial “shoulders to cry on.”

I followed that a few months later in something written about Tiger Woods and his wife, where I made mention of the fact that it seems like some of the people excusing Chris Brown for his role in the incident may not realize exactly how much bigger he is than Rihanna. Not that it should matter. A 5’6” man can inflict just as much damage as a 6’6” man can. But, I thought (and still do think) that some people hear the name “Chris Brown” and immediately think skinny, dancing-ass, teenage pop star, not 6’2” man with muscles formed from years of dancing and working out. Basically, in their minds, him vs Rihanna was a fair fight, but in actuality he dwarfs her in size.

Next, I made mention of them making a “movie” together in “A Sneak-Peek Into “Tyler Perry’s Love Jones.”

And, by the time “Seven Reasons Why I’m Totally Not Upset About Steve Harvey’s “Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man” Movie” was written a few months ago, you could begin to sense my exasperation with this discussion. In a matter of a couple years, I went from “this is some serious sh*t” to “I know it’s serious, but I don’t really give a damn anymore”

“Back to Blonde Breezy. Although I’ve been very critical of Chris Brown’s “redemption” in the past, I think I’ve officially reached the “not a single f*ck was given” point regarding whatever the hell happened that infamous night on the way to the Grammys. Apparently, time heals all wounds and all self-righteous indignations.

But, what remains completely fascinating is how both him and Rihanna have gotten progressively weirder and progressively more famous since that night. Maybe instead of a fight that night, they actually went through the Illuminati’s application and pledging process. Who knows?

I do know, though, that somewhere out there (probably on Mars), Andre 3000 and Erykah Badu are kicking themselves. They already had the weird part down pact. Who knew that all they had to do to keep people actually buying their albums was jab each other a couple times while riding in one of their spaceships?”

I guess today’s entry is me coming full-circle. As you may have guessed, I am fascinated again. Now, though, the best word to describe my feelings about Chris Brown is ambivalent.

From the perspective of a person who follows, studies, appreciates, and, sh*t, depends on pop culture, I’m elated that Breezy and Ri-Ri are making music (and, possibly, love) together again. I don’t give a damn about the “Birthday Cake” song itself (I haven’t even listened to it yet), but I will be tuned in to read, watch, listen to, and attempt to deconstruct people’s reactions to it. For a person who writes about pop culture for a living, you couldn’t ask for a better, more layered story.

But, from the perspective of a man who used to be an educator and knows exactly how damaging the latent message of “It’s ok to beat up your girl as long as you’re handsome and popular because everyone, including her, will forgive you shortly anyway” can (and will) have on their millions of young fans, their very public reconciliation rubs me the wrong way.

Right now, Chris Brown is having his birthday cake and eating it too. And, along with the Gotdamn Idiot factor, I think much of the push back is due to the fact that it just doesn’t seem fair for him to be able to do that. People upset at the situation are interested in and deeply invested in concepts like justice, and karma, and comeuppance, and seeing a person do dirt and still succeed in spite of it is a severe rebuke of the way they see the world.

On the other hand, that — Life just aint f*cking fair. Get used to it. — could be a teachable lesson in itself. Perhaps it’s not a bad thing to teach kids at an early age that popular guys and pretty girls will have advantages that normal folks just don’t. I mean, I’m sure they see it play out in front of them every day, and they’re probably tired of hearing “all people have the same chance” from their teachers and parents anyway. Why not be real with them now instead of setting them up for a lifetime’s worth of disappointment?

I don’t know. I don’t have any answers to any of these questions. I don’t know which side of me — the writer or the human — will win out. Sh*t, I don’t even know if the writer and the human are separate entities. I do know, though, that this will not be the last time I devote space to Chris Brown, and I’m concerned with how easily I’m beginning to be able to write something and feel nothing.

—Damon Young (aka “The Champ”)