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Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Rob’s Rants on Disability: The Cure Question; Daydreamin’ of an Online Publication; A Few Good Blogs; Competition

I’ve had a few things about disability on my mind recently. Summer is a slow time for other topics I plan to write about a lot, so I thought I’d try a disability-centered Rob’s Rants. Except for sports, I don’t expect to use the format for one particular topic. Disability will certainly be in the mix quite frequently, I’m sure, but it will be thrown in with everything else. This post isn’t necessarily timely, instead, focusing on a few general or fairly recent subjects.

Here’s my rants on some disability topics I’ve mulled over lately:

  • “Would you take a magic pill to cure your disability?” In varying forms, the question occasionally arises in disability circles on social media. Years ago, I posed the question on a site I produced called PhillyACCESS. I intended the site as a local informational resource and a place to connect for people with disabilities in the Philadelphia area. I also tried generating some interaction among readers (and myself) at times. When I posed the cure question, I added the caveat that taking the pill caused you to forget everyone you ever met specifically because of your disability—for instance, friends you made while participating in an adaptive program of some kind. Simply put, I didn’t think there would be much debate without it.
I used to think the question was a good way to get into a discussion of how we feel about our disabilities—how much weight we give them in our lives. Yet, I’ve heard and read enough people claim they would not take the hypothetical cure (caveat free) in an attempt to slap the label of disability advocate across their chest that I’ve done an about face on the question. It doesn’t work. I’m calling BS. Obviously, you’d take the pill. Do you take medicine when you’re sick? Do you use assistive technology to be more independent? Would you get a broken bone set? Of course. If there was a cure for your disability, it would become the same type of thing. Besides, it’s easy to turn down a cure that doesn’t exist.

For the record, hell yes, I’d take the pill. I’d hesitate on the caveat I proposed, but, ultimately, I would still take it. Why wouldn’t I want to be able to play a game of hoops in the driveway or go golfing with my brothers? Why wouldn’t I want every move I make, every word I speak, to be easier? (Sorry for lapsing into Police-like lyrics.)

I understand disability is more than a broken bone or a cold. I also understand the real message being sent by the “I wouldn’t take a cure crowd”—there is no cure and society needs to deal with disability better. People with disabilities aren’t waiting around for a cure. We’re proudly living our lives. Agreed. But when the no-cure crowd speaks, people hear an extreme argument that is counter-intuitive. More importantly, it undermines the basic tenant of the “disability movement” (at least as I understand it) that we are equal to able-bodied people, we just happen to have limitations beyond our control. The minute the idea that we wouldn’t want to remove our limitations is introduced, none of that makes sense. You want accessibility—often read, tax dollars—for something you’re choosing to live with? Good luck with that. And that’s the tip of the iceberg. Carry the hypothetical out far enough and the no-cure respondents look silly. It’s a well-intended message being delivered terribly.

  • Sometimes I allow my mind to wander into the idea of attempting to create an online publication with other disabled writers. Despite feeling a disconnect with some of the disability discourse that I read on social media, I’ve been intrigued probably as far back as PhillyACCESS by the idea of a well organized publication with strong writers who happen to have a disability. The publication I daydream about now isn’t centered on disability. Of course, the question would become, what’s the hook? I’ve written for a couple other sites that were/are disability-centered. Both seem like just one article after the other on disability, dominated by articles about autism, mostly by parents of autistic children, or “invisible” disabilities. (The hierarchy of disability rides again.) This isn’t sour grapes—I enjoyed the exposure, and would submit again—just my observations. Like most daydreams, my thought of an online publication is far from complete and wrought with holes. It’s still fun to have once in a while.

  • I stumbled across an article by Joanne Grana, a woman living with a disability, who describes having to move into a home after an anonymous person called social services about her. While some details may be missing, the thought of being forced to move out of my home after my mom passed away based on an anonymous call and the opinion of a social worker scares the hell out of me. Grana’s also written numerous compelling posts on her own blog about life in a long-term care facility. While I’m pointing out good writing on disability, I’m never disappointed when I read Rebecca Levenberg’s A Thousand Miles or Andrew Pulrang’s Disability Thinking.

  • I recently checked out the 2016 Powerhockey Cup, held at the Pennsylvania Convention Center hosted by the Philadelphia PowerPlay, a power wheelchair hockey club. (For full disclosure, I briefly played on the team a few years ago.) I didn’t quite get to a game—couldn’t find parking when we drove down—but I watched PowerPlay via live streaming in the semifinals and finals. The local team came up just short against Minnesota. The teams play to win, which is great to see. I wonder a bit about faster wheelchairs having a clear advantage, since everyone uses power chairs, and the lack of substitutions. I’m sure it’s a tough balance for organizations looking to offer recreational opportunities for people with disabilities and providing true competition. Overall, though, I love seeing an event like this that brings people with disabilities together. 

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

The State of Philadelphia Sports: Sixers, Phillies, Flyers

Philadelphians know that the Eagles dominate the sports discussion in our city, especially on sports talk radio. The success of the NFL and the relative futility of the other major sports franchises in town made the Birds the one thing worth talking about for quite a while. I do think it’s a bit forced sometimes, as sports talk hosts know they can “light up the phone lines” any time of the year by bringing up the Birds. It’s a bit ironic as the Eagles are the only team in town not to have won their modern day championship. When the Phillies and Sixers were making championship runs in the 2000s, fans proved that they wanted to talk about those teams. I’ve always believed that given the chance, fans would talk more about the other teams. I think hosts drive the conversation to the Eagles because it works better for them.

Here’s my take on the other three major sports franchises in Philadelphia in Part II of my State of Philadelphia Sports post in a rapid fire Rob’s Rants format:

  • The Sixers actually are being discussed on local sports radio lately, and I’m excited at the thought of finally watching this team again. The few people who actually follow me on social media know I was never onboard with what Sam Hinkie was doing—it was a complete disgrace. Those praising him now as if we’re finally reaping the rewards of his plan are dead wrong. He never had a plan. He just kept kicking the future down the road, somehow getting people excited about “optionality” and prospects. Never mind that he would never commit to a date of fruition for his genius to become clear. Essentially shutting down a franchise to stockpile high draft picks should have been—and apparently was—unacceptable. Fans of Hinkie still don’t get that wasting three years didn’t guarantee future championships. With him gone, I’m hoping the franchise will finally be attempting to win. Games. Not assets. Now, as I’ve been saying all along, we still have to see if all of these wonderful assets fit together. I don’t think they will, but, unfortunately, trading away Nerlens Noel or Jahlil Okafor doesn’t make sense until we know whether or not Joel Embiid can actually get on the court. Obviously, it’s exciting that Dario Saric is finally in town, and I liked the Ben Simmons pick, though honestly I haven’t seen either of them play. Simmons dazzled in summer league, but I’m still waiting to see him with real competition before buying that he can play point-forward. “Experts” say he can’t shoot, which means the Sixers just created more of a potential logjam down low. We still have to “wait and see” with the 76ers, but at least we’ll start seeing something in November, not some unspecified date in Hinkie’s head.

  • Believe it or not, I think the Phillies are the best positioned team to be the next Philadelphia team to win it all. Granted, most of that is based on the ineptitude of the other franchises in town. And, there is something to be said for the fact that the they’re the only franchise to have done it this century, not to mention the last 34 years. Yes, they were terrible for a while after a decent start, but they seemed to have picked it up before the All-Star Game. I’m thrilled they finally “turned the page,” moving on from Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley (the one guy in this group I think they should have kept as a veteran presence), with Ryan Howard (what happened, big guy?) and Carlos Ruiz soon to follow. Obviously, I would have liked them to keep Cole Hamels, who I think could have still been productive when the Phillies are good enough to compete again. But, if he wanted out, I guess he needed to be moved. It’s impossible to make the argument right now, but they at least have a potential supporting cast—Maikel Franco, Odubel Herrara, and Camron Rupp. The problem is they don’t have the core players to be supported. If Tommy Joseph can live up to the potential he showed when he was first brought up from the minors, he’s a big piece to the puzzle . . . no pun intended as he replaces Howard, sometimes called “Big Piece.” The pitching rotation did lose Chad Morton for the season, and briefly Vince Velasquez, who has shown some signs of being very good. And Jeanmar Gomez had an impressive amount of saves early on. Obviously, they need Aaron Nola to return to form after his recent slump and improve into the ace people hope he can be. I’m not saying plan the parade route. But everybody clamored for this team to get young, and they did. They deserve patience more than any other franchise.

  • What I know about the Flyers could fill a thimble. Maybe. Ironically, hockey is the only sport I’ve played (for fun) in any sort of organized fashion. It’s not that I don’t respect the sport. It just always came in second during the winter behind hoops, and even with the Sixers being unwatchable lately, the Flyers haven’t grabbed my attention. All I really know about hockey is that you need a very good to great goaltender to win a Cup, and according to ESPN the Flyers ranked 12th in goals against last season. That doesn’t seem like stellar goaltending, and their main goaltender, Steve Mason, is an 8-year veteran. Presumably, he doesn’t have an untapped upside. Ultimately, all I can say is that I like the fact that Ron Hextall is firmly in charge of running the team, and he finally broke the trend of the Flyers making a flurry of trades at the deadline to try to make a run at the Cup. I don’t want to speak ill of the recently departed Ed Snider, but even I knew the old way of doing things wasn’t going to work.

Read Part I on the Eagles here.
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