Orlando’s Week

November 12, 2016
Note: The part of Orlando Bishop will be played by Viola Davis.
Monday: Orlando reviews the projections and the electoral map.
Tuesday morning: Orlando casts his vote and imagines watching his wife and daughter celebrating.




Tuesday afternoon: Family’s getting nervous… Orlando preaches calm.

Tuesday night: Now, Orlando gets nervous. “They are not this hateful…”
Tuesday night (later): North Carolina goes red. “Now, she needs a path…?”
Tuesday night (even later): She called him.
Wednesday morning: Orlando wakes up, randomly, at 4am. “Please tell me that was a dream.”
Thursday: Orlando reads comments about how this was not about hate.


Friday: Orlando gets a link to a petition, asking the Electoral College to elect Hillary.






Cliff… Bill… and Me.

December 30, 2015

As I’ve developed my own storytelling, I’ve studied Billy Cosby’s storytelling… his delivery… his inflections… his movements… his efficient writing… his other worldly timing…

I read his book “Fatherhood” when I was 16 years old — That’s just weird. — imagining the day when I would have a family of my own and the hilarious frustrations they’d provide.

One year, for Father’s Day, The Girl watched “The Cosby Show” with me. That was my gift. That’s how much the show and the man meant to me.  I didn’t like Bill Cosby. I didn’t love Cliff Huxtable. I revered them. I aspired to be, someday, what my soul feasted upon every Thursday at 8.

I think of Cliff Huxtable, full of lessons on integrity and honesty… I think of the respect Theo showed as he risked a beatdown to prove to the father HE respected that it was not his joint in that book…. I think of… all of it… and all it meant… and wonder, “What would Cliff think of Bill?”

Would he trust him around Claire? Sandra? Denise? Vanessa? Rudy? Olivia? Would he want Theo defending him on social media, especially considering that the boy was checked for even disrespecting girls by calling them “burgers”?

I think Cliff, the “man” who shapes my own parenting, perhaps more so than my own father, would be disgusted by Bill Cosby. I think he would fume at the hypocrisy, the savagery, the unfathomable lack of humanity. I think he would curse at his laptop as he read account after account, all sickeningly similar, though offered by 50+ women over several decades. Yeah… I think Cliff would be done. So am I.

Bill Cosby can rot. In fact, I hope he does. Like Cliff, I’ve gained a little wisdom over the years, enough to know some things ain’t no joke and can’t be made right in a half hour. Let him rot. And let him rerun entirely different episodes than the ones he sold me.


Me… WE!

November 18, 2015
Well… that’s that… for now.
I can’t begin to thank you all enough for a remarkable season. We’ve taken a giant step forward as a program and the future is looking pretty bright. As I listened to all the names called and the coaches talking about some of the stories of the season, I must admit I was more than a little proud. It took a lot of self-control, once I finally got to the microphone, not to launch into all the stories that filled my puffed-out chest and put a lump in my throat.
I wanted to thank every single player for giving us their all, on the field and beyond. I wanted to thank them for their effort, for their persistence, for their courage. You see, it takes courage to go out there and fight when the other team is bigger and older, when you are learning a new sport, when you don’t know if you can do it. They did take the field, though, and on more occasions than anyone would have imagined, ruled it.
Thank you, parents, for trusting us to care of your kids, to train your kids, to teach your kids. I feel comfortable speaking for all the coaches when I say that we take the responsibility more than seriously. I know what it is like to stand on the sideline, excited yet scared, seeing both a player and, in my case, the 5 lbs. baby who dropped to 4 and had more surgeries before kindergarten than I’ve had in my lifetime. I promise you… I know. Thank you for cheering loudly, caring deeply, and bringing a brand of WISH passion to the sports fields that leaves league officials slack jawed.
Thank you to everyone who came out to the championship game, to those who had a designated texter sending out updates, to those who monitored social media for updates. Thank you to every member of the WISH community, many of whom had no child in our program who supported us through thought, word or deed. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
“Thank you” seems too small, too commonly used a phrase to express what I feel toward the eight men who gave… and gave… and gave… of themselves. Coaches, I say with a sense of humility not hubris that we have created something special here. You have jobs. You have families. You have lives. When I asked, though, if you would join me in building this program, you each said, “Yes.” When I asked you to attend meetings in my living room to review everything from formations to practice schedules to our offensive and defensive philosophies, you said, “Yes.” When we asked that you extend way past the “couple afternoons a week,” you always said, “Yes.”
Thank you, Coach Bayano, for stepping forward to be a Head Coach. You had the youngest, least experienced team. In many ways, they took the lumps some of the other players experienced a season ago. That said, your team COMPETED. They took our “This day… This game… This play…” chant and brought it to life. They can’t see what we can see, the foundation they built for future success. Thank you for keeping their spirits up and their heads held high. I thank you as Head Coach of this program as well as a parent whose son’s life is enriched with every interaction he has with you. Thank you for saying, “Yes.”
Thank you, Coach Marc, for being there. Whatever was asked you were there. Whether your boys were up or down on the scoreboard, you kept pushing, prodding, encouraging them. Your commitment to our kids is obvious to anyone who watches closely. There’s a phrase I used to use a lot: Don’t talk about it. Be about it. As a coach in this program, you have been that idea writ large. Thank you for saying, “Yes.”
Coach Rich… Passion. Thank you for your passion. When you pointed out to me that we weren’t covering the middle of the field well enough, I seriously wondered if you might take a swing at me, if I didn’t fix it. (HA!) You were willing to do anything for the kids, for the program. You gave out some tough love, but it was obvious to the kids that it was love. That’s not an easy balance to strike. I hope you’ll keep striking that balance for our program. We are better for your having joined our ranks. Thank you for saying, “Yes.”
Coach K… You have been here since Day One. And, as much as anyone, you know what it has taken to get our program headed where we want it to go. You are a fierce competitor and a dedicated educator. WISH is lucky to have you and so are we. Despite having, at last count, 37 jobs, you continued to work with us. I’m deeply glad you did. I’m beyond impressed that you were so willing to extend past your deep and and obvious commitment to your own family to contribute so much to our football family and all the families in it. You are something we need more of in this world; you are a good man. Thank you for saying, “Yes.”
Coach C (aka Rashim)… You know a lot of football for an Eagles fan. Seriously, your calm intensity showed in Blue’s play on the field. Your intelligence showed in the way the defense played, always adjusting, doing their jobs, being a team. We are a better program for your presence in it. Thank you for taking my calls and talking through my latest idea whether about covering the middle of the field more effectively or making sure we’re sending the right message about academics. Thank you for saying, “Yes.”
Coach Simo, thank you for being an absolute force of nature. You push our players, getting kids who are afraid of contact to block and take on blockers. We know that you are actually teaching them to take on much more than blockers and, on some level, so do they. Your mind brings us more than enough football knowledge to teach our most advanced players, yet your heart brings us the compassion and love to “coach up” the least experienced, most challenged players, making sure that they are more than included, that they are embraced. In many ways, you and I, we are birds of a feather. You can hear us from the parking lot, regardless of whether we are glad, sad or mad. We both have daughters that we coach hard, on and off the “field.” You have something more, though, an ability to be honest with these kids while remaining caring. Just so you know, I openly steal your sayings and my kids are reminded every morning that “Today is a good day to be great.” Thank you for being a source of strength and inspiration. Thank you for saying, “Yes.”
Coach Rice, thank you. At one of our first gatherings I said I was really glad you were joining us and you asked, “Why?” Well, though few people have ever used the phrase to describe me, I know very well that “still waters run deep.” I had no idea, though, how glad I would be just a couple months later. I watch you send hand signals into the offense and swell with pride, “Those kids are well coached.” My appreciation goes beyond X’s and O’s, though. I appreciate the character you bring to every moment and the way you model for our boys who they can be, competing hard… but doing things the right way. And, not for nothing, but when the rest of us are openly wondering if we can put the kids through 24 hour practices, somebody has to be the voice of reason that reminds us, “That’s child abuse, guys.” (lol) Seriously, you’ve been an invaluable addition in more ways than I can capture here. Thank you for saying, “Yes.”
Ivey… Without you, none of this exists. Thank you for being you, all day, every day. Thank you for loving football and the program we’ve brought to the kids. I’m not sure many people knew that it was you who tricked me… I mean, er… recruited me to lead this program. Thank you for getting me to say, “Yes.” That is one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. (By the way, I’m hoping that our championship means that our owner, Jack, will grant me an extension on my coaching deal.)
Coach Casey… Thank you for tolerating us. We are aware that everything from the state of the shed on down, should be better. We understand that overseeing scheduling for four teams is a beast of a job. We understand that our choices fill your inbox with email messages. We know. We know. We know. Thank you for your hard work, your passion for our children, and for respecting what we are working to build for WISH. You get a turn taking the trophy home, Stanley Cup style, you’ve more than earned it.
Finally… thank you, Coach Steve. In two years, we took a group, half of whom had never played organized football of any kind and turned them into… Well, I’ll get back to that. Thank you for always giving… for literally carrying the water for our program… for walking the kids back and forth to Cowan… for turning your car into a team bus… for letting those lunatics into your house before and after games… for… EVERYTHING. This is probably the best, smoothest working relationship I’ve ever experienced. Thank you for poking holes or simply pointing them out, forcing us to get better every day. Thank you for getting me back to basics when I stray too far from what we do. Thank you. Thank you for recording pretty much every play we ran this season. We know what others don’t, that we knew what would work against Park Century and what they’d expect because you made sure we were one step ahead of them. (Neil’s touchdown happened on Howard, the devastating counterpunch your work identified!) I know I can be… a bit much. Thanks for making room for my insanity in our partnership. It turned out to be a pretty potent one. My last words to you here capture what we did and who we were together, even as they date us: WE ARE THE CHAMPIONS, MY FRIEND! I cherish the friendship every bit as much as the championship and you, of all people, understand just what that means coming from me. Thank you for saying, “Yes.”
What a season… Thank you to every single person who has played… cheered… or even snapped a picture. I know that this may seem like a pretty big deal to make over some little football program for kids, but I think our kids are a pretty big deal. I think the lessons learned are a pretty big deal. I think greatness is a pretty big deal. I think it’s a very big deal that we all “hold the rope.” In so doing, we enjoy the comfort of knowing that we are never alone, not even when we fall, and that we are strong enough, should our teammates ever fall, to lift them up and fight on.
It’s funny, I have been arguing with a lot of folks over the last couple of years over participation awards. I’m told that they are meaningless. However, this morning I looked over at the WISH Flag Football player who lives in my home and he was proudly sporting his dog tag, the very dog tag every player received last night. He understands that the fact that every WISH Flag Football player receives one doesn’t cheapen it, but infuses it with immense value.
WE WILL FIGHT! We. From the biggest to the smallest… from the fastest to the slowest… from the strongest to the weakest… WE will fight! Without any one “me”, “we” would be diminished. It is my honor to hold the rope, today and forever, and to wear the very participation “trophy” we give to everyone who has stepped up to hold it with us. As a coach, you learn that “Sometimes, the greatest ability is availability.”
Meaningless??? What could be more meaningful than giving yourself over to something bigger than you? That dog tag is proof that we stepped up, we grabbed the rope, and we sweat together to create a better season, a special season, a championship season.
Here’s one example of what it looks like when we fight… together: https://youtu.be/6qi10AvTA5U
And if you think that was something… wait until next season.

He Did It!

November 6, 2015

There are many stories that highlight why I love coaching kids and put so much into it (sometimes at the expense of, you know, my work). However, a moment I had yesterday will stick with me for a long time.

During the summer I was at a small party with some other families from WISH, our kids’ school, and asked one of the kids what extracurriculars he planned to do in the fall. When he said, “None,” I went right into recruiter mode. (I am almost ALWAYS in recruiter mode.) This kid, by his own description, was no athlete, certainly not a football player, and had ZERO interest. My final sales pitch went something like this, “Tell you what: You come out for two weeks and if you don’t like it, after giving it a real shot, I will never bother you again.” We had a deal. We shook on it and everything.

Come August, after just one week, he informed me that he’d be sticking around. I watched him all season, getting more competitive during sprints, yelling louder and louder during team chants/break downs. Just a couple weeks ago, I laughed out loud as I watched HIM directing traffic, telling other kids where they needed to line up as he played safety.

Yesterday, this kid who said he couldn’t do it, caught a two point conversion. I threw my arms in the air and screamed his name. He couldn’t hear me — And that’s saying a lot if you’ve ever heard me scream. — over the cheers of his teammates and the parents on the sideline.

After the game, I barked, “Come here, you!” He smiled and walked my way. “Look at you. You’re what this is all about, man. Look what you did.”

He replied, “Look what YOU did.”

I smiled, “You did the work.”

He shot back, “I wouldn’t have done it, if you didn’t make me.”

I gave him the last word to spare myself the embarrassment of a cracking voice. Respectfully, though, we must agree to disagree. HE did it. I doubt we’ll be seeing him on Sundays, as they say, but the rest of his life, when faced with something he “can’t” do, maybe… just maybe… he’ll remember that time, the time he did it.

And that’s why I coach.



My Late Mother

September 15, 2015

My Late Mother

my late mother

she was always late

my mother

until she left

too soon

Arnetha V. Bishop (September 15, 1933 – March 17, 2005)



September 15, 2015

NOTE: I originally wrote this piece on March 17, 2011, the anniversary of my mother’s death. I repost it today, September 15, her birthday, because she is in head and in my heart especially today. Hope it reaches… you.

My mother, Arnetha V. Bishop, about to hug me, her "just married" son.

My mother, Arnetha V. Bishop, about to hug me, her “just married” son.

An Open Letter To… You:

This may be the strangest thing I’ve ever written.  And believe me, I’ve written some strange things over the years.  I have no way, though, of knowing whether you’ve read any of my writing, because… well, I don’t have the slightest clue who you are.

I’m sorry.  I’ll try to make some sense of this.

You see, over the holidays, I had a chance to do some thinking.  I thought about my mother who died in 2005.  And I thought about my father who died four years earlier.  I thought about how Christmas could never be the same again without – at the very least – the sound of their voices, wishing me a “Merry Christmas.”

I thought about loss.  I thought about grief.  I thought about you… out there… grieving… struggling through the part of the year when everyone is supposed to be so fucking happy.  And I thought, “I think I’m supposed to help.”

“All I have to do is push that button.” I was exhausted.  I sat there in the two car garage beneath the townhouse I shared with my wife, my skin cold from resting against my sweat-dampened clothes, my hands sore from another day of pounding the heavy bag.  More than a year after my father had died,  “I feel better, but I still feel like shit.”  I gazed up at the button above my rear view mirror, the button that controlled the garage door. 


By now, you may be thinking, “What’s it to you, Orlando, if I’m depressed?  What’s it to you, if I’m suicidal?  It’s none of your damn business!”  I couldn’t agree more.  If you want to off yourself, that is your business.  As a matter of fact, I respectfully refuse to blame anybody for killing themselves.  Who am I to tell someone else when to say, “Uncle?”  My apologies.

But, you see, I’m an artist.  And sometimes these damn bolts of inspiration hit me and if I don’t get whatever pain in the ass piece of creation out, it just follows me around like a lost puppy, taking up space in my mind and soul when I got other shit I want to be focusing on than writing crazy letters to… someone. *smh*  So, you ain’t gotta read this shit… but after trying to shake it for damn near three months it seems I do gotta write it.

“All I have to do is push that button.”  But what, I wondered, would become of my wife?  What would it do to her to come downstairs and find me there after I’d gone to such great lengths to act like things were getting better?  “That’s pretty fucking shitty, Orlando.”  And my sister, my poor sister… She’d gone through the same thing I had.  He was her father too.  How could I add this?  “Don’t be an asshole, Orlando.”  And with that I dragged out of the car and into the house.


I don’t want to say that I know what you’re thinking, but… well… I bet I know what you’re thinking.  You’re thinking no one will miss you if you go, no one will care.  Recently, a friend was telling me about the funeral of a grad school classmate who’d killed himself.  The thing that struck him was how many people showed up, how many people loved, cared about, respected this man who obviously felt all alone.  I told my friend I understood how the man felt.  I told him my story about the garage.  He was quiet for a moment, then he just said, “I’m glad you didn’t press that button.”  I couldn’t even have imagine it in that moment, but I guess he would’ve cared.


“OH MY GOD!”  My wife came scrambling up the stairs.  “What?!  What’s wrong?!”  She pointed down toward the garage.  I ran down there.  I opened the door.  The heat punched me in the face.  I’d left the car running.  I opened the garage.  It began to air out.  I pulled my wife’s car out for her.  “I was distracted, I guess.  I‘m sorry.” Distracted. That was the best I could do.  And with that she left for work, shaken.  And I returned to my truck, pretty shaken myself.  I turned the car on and – no surprise – that little gas tank was lit up on the dash.  I chuckled, “I’m literally running on fumes.”


I pulled out of the garage and up into traffic, wondering if I could miraculously have enough left in the tank to get to a station.  There was a Chevron a few blocks away.  It was my only chance.  I’d never noticed the incline, the hill I’d driven up many times.  But when your empty SUV begins to slow several blocks before the station, you really take notice of little things like inclines.  You also start strategizing.


“I can’t let it stop.  I’ll never be able to push a 5,000 pound truck up a hill from a dead stop.”  I took advantage of the last little bit of momentum, slapped the truck into neutral, opened the door, jumped down and started pushing. 


“You got this shit.  You got this shit.”  I called on my legs to remember driving the sled in the August sun.  (Those two-a-days produced a different kind of pain.  Those were better days.)  Short, choppy steps.  “Holy fucking shit!  I should’a bought a Corolla.  Fuck!”  I could feel the heat in my thighs and I knew what was coming next.  In a moment the real burn would set in, the feeling I would get during the last 50 meters of an 800 as I chased down some asshole from Horace Mann or tried to hold off some other asshole from Collegiate.  “GODDAMN!”  There it is: Rigamortis.  And I’m not even at the top of the hill yet.


“Do not fucking stop!”  By this point, I’m saying this shit out loud.  I needed to get to the top of that hill.  At least then, gravity would be working for me.  I knew I could push myself just a little further, push the car a little farther, before I was really done.  I’d done squats ‘til my head was over a garbage can.  So, as long as I wasn’t staring at my breakfast on the pavement, I knew I’d pushed myself further than this.  Before it came to that, though, I got to the top of the hill.  Not as big a change as I had hoped.  Turns out 5,000 pounds is still 5,000 pounds even when you have a little decline.


“I know these muthafuckas are laughing at me.”  As cars passed, I’m sure people laughed.  It must have been a funny picture: a guy literally having to push his gas guzzler to a gas station to get where he’s going.  Joke was on them.  I hadn’t gone empty trying to go anywhere.  I was just trying to go.


My mother and I had depression in common.  Looking back, she suffered in silence. She hid, basically.  Over the years, despite often being the life of the party, I’d learned to do the same. When the darkness set in, my mother was always “tired.”  And off into her bedroom she’d go.  Sure, she’d feed us, take care of us.  She was a single mom, raising two kids in Flatbush, on her own.  The woman was, in her own way, a fucking titan.  But that doesn’t mean that after she fed us, she didn’t disappear back into that room. Are you hiding?  Be honest.  I bet you have all sorts of tricks you pull, ways you get out of going to social engagements, jokes you tell to throw “them” off your trail, excuses you’ve crafted to explain it all away.  Depression is a cunning muthafucka, boy.  Makes you feel so shitty, you wouldn’t dare tell anybody how shitty you feel.


“I can’t make it.”  Even as I continued to put one foot in front of the other, reality set in alongside the “rig.”  I wasn’t going to make it.


“Need some help?”  I turned.  The man in the car rolling slowly behind mine poked his head out of the window.  “Yeah.  I just need to get to the end of the block to the Chevron.”  I stopped.  He stopped.  He jumped out of the car and his teenaged son popped over to the driver’s seat.  He followed, as his father and I pushed… and pushed… and pushed… until, finally, we got there.  I shook the man’s hand.  As I remember it, I offered to buy him a tank of gas and he turned me down.


“I’m hungry,” I thought as my truck’s tank filled.  (Pushing a Sequoia around town, you build up quite an appetite.)  Once the pump stopped, I climbed into the driver’s seat.  I started the car, pulled into traffic and drove off to get myself something to eat. And as I did, I took a look up at the button, the one that controlled the garage door.


And that’s it.  I guess I should try to sum things up, though that feels a little dumb.  I mean you can draw your own conclusions, identify which lessons – if any – you take from my decision, in that moment, not to push that button.  Maybe you’ll decide to “push that button” and, like I said earlier, as far as I’m concerned that is your business.  It certainly ain’t none’a mine.  But as I’ve been writing, a few things have struck me.

The first, we’re not alone.  My friend would have missed me.  My sister would have too.  My mother certainly would have, and – who knows? – disappeared into her room to blame herself.  I’m not saying you shouldn’t do it for the sake of other people, but at least do it fully informed.  You are not alone.  If you can’t think of anybody in your life who cares, know that I do.  Shit, I must.  I just wrote you this long-ass letter and I still haven’t got the slightest fucking clue who you are.  You’re not alone.

The second, you’re stronger than you think.  It may not be a 5,000 pound truck, but something’s weighing on you.  I’m here to tell you that you can push through it.  You may choose not to, but know that you can.

Finally, just when you think you can’t possibly take another step, someone – maybe a stranger – will try to help you.  You’ll have to decide whether you’ll let them.  Be on the lookout, though.  Your help could come in the form of a father and son, who take pity on you.  It might also come in the form of a letter from a guy who had been where you are, who had a feeling you were out there and thought he could help.


I apologize if this letter seems weird or strange.  It’s weird and strange to me that I felt compelled to write it.  But if I was going to write it, I thought I should write it today.  You see, my mother died on March 17, 2005.  Today’s the anniversary.  And I guess I’m having some of my buttons pushed.




The More Things Change…

August 26, 2015

Today’s shooting of WDBJ TV journalists, Alison Parker and Adam Ward merges two distinctly American issues: race and guns.

Funny that I performed at Rant & Rave just days ago. Race was where my mind and heart took me when the topic was justice. Guns… that’s where my mind and heart led me when the topic was competition, a little over two years ago.

The optimist in me continues to hold out hope for change in both these areas and several others, trying desperately to resist the cynic in me, who simply repeats the refrain, “The more things change…”