9/11: CONSPIRACY OR NOT?

At approximately 8:55am Tuesday morning, September 11, 2001, I was purchasing Jay-Z and Babyface’s newest cds when I heard over the counter New York radio station Hot 97’s morning hosts Star and Miss Jones announce that there was another tragic plane crash(R&B star Aaliyah had tragically died in a plane crash a little over two weeks prior in the Bahamas). I thought nothing of it until I arrived at work 15 minutes later and saw several of my co-workers conjugating outside. They were talking about how two planes 20 minutes apart had crashed into the World Trade Center’s Twin Towers. The entire agency convened in the cafeteria as we watched the news report on this horrific tragedy. Before anyone could catch their breath, the media throughout the United States assumed Osama Bin Laden and Al-Qaeda were responsible for the heinous attacks. To this day, the United States government has not proven to me that these were the people responsible for the thousands of lives that died that day in New York. All I ever heard was conjecture and propaganda. I have always relied on factual evidence to support any arguments or crimes. The number one song in the country was “I’m Real,” by Jennifer Lopez and Ja Rule. At the time, I didn’t know what was real when it came to the September 11 attacks.

When President George W. Bush was informed of the attack, he was reading a book to an elementary class in Florida. After being informed, he continued reading to the class. You are the President of the United States and the leader of the free world, yet instead of jumping into action to inform the American people about any information concerning the situation, he keeps reading to a group of children. Then he is flown around the country on Air Force One and hides for the rest of the day! Meanwhile Mayor Giuliani uses the events of the day to reshape his image. He goes on television and acts like he himself will bring justice to the thousands of people who died that sunny morning in New York City. Throughout the rest of the year, Giuliani was exploiting 9/11 for his own fame and fortune. His mayoral term was to expire at the end of the year, yet he had the audacity to demand that he remain mayor so he could help lead the city through this crisis. He was laughed out of the state and city legislatures, who thankfully did not give in to this foolish demand. Giuliani began a talk show campaign where he was constantly being referred to as “America’s Mayor.” David Letterman opened up his talk show the week after 9/11 thanking Giuliani for his leadership. What the hell am I missing here? Giuliani was a media hog that entire week after the tragedy. He also proclaimed that the air around the towers was safe and not hazardous, yet there have been several reports of people who lived, worked, and participated in the rescue efforts that acquired diseases from being exposed to the toxic waste caused by the bombings. I will begin to discuss some of the inconsistencies of the events that occurred that day.

The media claimed that American Airlines Flight 77 crashed into the Pentagon, killing 184 people, all 59 passengers and 125 people in the Pentagon. How in the world can a 757 Boeing, weighing 100 tons and traveling at 250 miles per hour crash into the Pentagon on the ground floor? Have you ever heard of a plane crashing into a ground floor? The explosion at the Pentagon occurred at 10:03 that morning. The Associated Press first reported that the explosion was caused by a booby trapped truck. The Pentagon quickly denied this and claimed that it was a plane that caused all the damage. How could this be? And what in the world happened to the Boeing? I have studied the pics of the Pentagon aftermath and not one shows a picture of the supposed jet that crashed into the ground floor. Why is this? What really happened? All these questions, and the media failed to question the government about such inconsistencies with a plane hitting the Pentagon.

There is a reason why the media didn’t question the authenticity of the 9/11 attacks. The major media outlets in the U.S. were afraid to question the government’s account of the attacks for fear of being painted as “unpatriotic.” Bill Maher show “Politically Incorrect,” was unceremoniously kicked off ABC after he made a statement discounting Bush’s statement that the terrorists who allegedly pulled off the attacks were “cowards.” Maher made a reasonable claim that it took a lot of courage to pull of such a heinous crime. For his honesty, Maher was dismissed off network television. President Bush, after coming out of hiding, not only called the so-called terrorists cowards, but proclaimed to the world that anyone not with the U.S. in their attempt for revenge, was otherwise “against them.” This began a period in which the U.S., led by Bush and his number one war monger, Vice President Dick Cheaney, became an “isolated power.” Only Great Britain and it’s Prime Minister Tony Blair unconditionally supported Bush and Cheaney on its faux “War on Terror.” Bush even named enemies; the so-called “Axis of Evil.” Allegedly, the collective triumvirate of this axis were North Korea, Iran and Iraq. This too did not make sense as there was never any history of North Korea dealing with Iran and Iraq, and Iran and Iraq had been at each others throats for years because they follow different Muslim sects. The Iranians have been ruled since 1979 by Shiite Muslims and Iraq is predominantly Sunni Muslim. The two countries engaged in a bloody eight year war from 1980-1988, yet once again the media failed to mention this.

There is a theory that if you tell a lie enough, people will believe it. The most outrageous plot that the government claimed occurred that day was that several passengers on the allegedly hijacked United Airlines Flight 93 began fighting the terrorists and caused the plane that was headed for the White House to crash in an open field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania. I have always felt that the government shot the plane down. Several relatives of the passengers received phone calls right before the plane went down claiming that they were fighting off the terrorists, and the now famous “Let’s Roll,” was stated by passenger Todd Beamer. Theorists believed that was the battle cry for the passengers to overthrow the terrorists on board, yet too many assumptions were being made. Cell phone lines throughout the east coast had been shut down due to the World Trade Center bombings, and at the same time these relatives claim to have full conversations with people who are held hostage and claiming to revolt? Also, no human remains were ever found at the crash site. Why not? Something has always smelled rotten to me about the events of that day. Finally, ABC News(we were watching WABC TV while convening in the cafeteria that entire morning) reported that there were six hijacked planes, yet no one has ever explained why only four were accounted for. The media dropped the ball on its coverage of 9/11. Almost as though they were in co-hoots with Bush and Cheaney.

At around 12:30 that afternoon, I agreed to walk four of my female co-workers uptown. Two of them lived in Harlem, and two others lived in the Bronx. Sheltering Arms was located on 29th Street and Lexington Avenue, and we had no choice but to walk because Giuliani shut down the subway system and the city buses were packed like sardine cans. Walking home northbound on Lexington Avenue, I saw people who had dust and debris all over their clothing as a result of the explosions. I saw people of all ages, shapes and sizes crying. I saw huge lines at pay phones(all cell phone lines were down; that’s how I know those calls from Flight 93 were bogus) and people handing out free water to whoever needed it. It was a 90 degree day, so midway through our walk we were sweating profusely. When we reached 125th Street and Lexington Avenue, we had to walk to First Avenue in order to walk across the Willis Avenue Bridge to get to The Bronx. I left the final two women after we crossed the bridge at 138th Street and Willis Avenue so they could take the bus the rest of the way. I went straight to my nine year old son’s school, which was three very long blocks away. Just a few yards away from the school, my knees locked and I felt like I was about to collapse. I was breathing heavy and closed my eyes in an attempt to catch my breathe. When I opened my eyes, an ex girlfriend of mine was looking at me with real concern in her eyes. I explained to her that I had just walked over a hundred blocks. She gave me a hug and told me to be careful. She also announced that she was re-enlisting into the Army to help get the bastards who did this to her. I was in no condition to talk her out of it. I thanked her for her concern and wished her good luck as I made my way to the school. My son Peter’s principal was in the front of the school and told me that my mother had picked him up already. I walked home, went upstairs, and collapsed in my bed. Peter took my shoes and socks off, then laid next to me. We both fell asleep instantly.

Less than four weeks after September 11th, the United States invaded Afghanistan. Afghanistan is where the Taliban, an organization that Bin Laden was the head of, had ruled since the Soviet Union was overthrown in 1988. Bin Laden was an ally of the Bush family and became a CIA operative in 1977, a year after George H Bush became CIA Director. George H Bush and his wife Barbara would stay at Bin Laden’s parents palace when they would visit Saudi Arabia. Bin Laden and the Taliban were financially supported by the Reagan Administration in their battle against the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan on Christmas Eve, 1979. The United States, completely paranoid about the spread of communism throughout the world, would do anything to force the Soviet Union out of Afghanistan. It also did not want the Soviets to gain control of Afghanistan’s vast resources, the two biggest being opium and petroleum oil. The Taliban was given military aid as well, not only helping Afghanistan run the Soviets out of their country, but also resulting in the Taliban being the rulers of Afghanistan.

When the Taliban refused to surrender Bin Laden to the U.S., the United States and the British Coalition began bombing Afghanistan on October 7, 2001. It would be almost another 17 months before the U.S. would invade Iraq. This time was needed so the propaganda for war against Iraq could be sold to the American public. Bush and Cheaney inferred on several occasions that Saddam Hussein was an ally of Bin Laden and that they possessed tons of “weapons of mass destruction.” I am still waiting for them to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Fox News talkies Sean Hannity and Bill O’Reilly on their nightly shows continually beat the drum for invading Iraq. The nerve of these war mongers to engage in wanting to send our young men and women to die for a war that to this day has yet to be proven just. While they were describing the evils that Bin Laden and Hussein did, they failed to mention how the CIA helped fund and put both of them in power. During the 1980-1988 war between Iran and Iraq, the U.S. overtly funded Hussein with both money and weaponry. If they did have weapons of mass destruction, it was the weapons that the United States had provided Iraq with. Even those weapons weren’t found. The number one song in the country was “Fallin,” by Alicia Keys. The U.S. citizens had indeed fallen for the bullshit their government was feeding them.

RUDY GIULIANI’S REIGN OF TERROR

Between 1993 and 2001, Mayor Giuliani’s led NYPD illegal tactics against Blacks and Latins led to several violations of human and civil rights. Giuliani has been praised by many of his supporters as the main reason why New York’s crime and murder rate was substantially reduced from the late 80’s to early 90’s levels. Giuliani had already inherited a city who’s crime rate had been reduced three years in a row. He also took over(1994) at a time when the use of crack had seriously declined. By the mid to late 90’s, heroin, a much more serene and less violent drug, had once again become the reigning drug on the street. It was the heroin king of New York, Nicky Barnes, who in turn aided Giuliani and enabled him to become a national figure. In 1978, Barnes had been given a life sentence for his role as the major heroin kingpin in New York during the 1970’s. In 1985 Barnes struck a deal with Giuliani, then a United States attorney under Ronald Reagan, which put him in the witness protection program and put several of Barnes’ associates in prison. Giuliani used his new found popularity to twice run for Mayor, finally winning in 1993 against Dinkins.

On December 22, 1994, at approximately 1:30am, Anthony Baez and his brothers were playing football in the Mount Hope section of The Bronx. They inadvertently hit a police car window, causing the officers to order the Baez brothers to go home. The Baez brothers took their football game down the street. Officer Francis Livoti followed the brothers down the block and told them to stop the football game and go home. The Baez brothers were minding their own business and not bothering anyone. They took the high road and played down the street so as to not to hit Livoti’s car again, yet Livoti had to show who’s boss. He first arrested David Baez for failure to obey his orders, and when he attempted to arrest Anthony, Anthony crossed his arms in protest. Livoti engaged in a fight with Anthony, then four other officers intervened and Livoti choked Anthony so hard it caused him to have an asthma attack. Subsequently, Anthony died while in handcuffs on his way to the hospital. An ambulance that had been dispatched to the scene of the choking never arrived. Livoti was acquitted of all charges in October, 1996. Thankfully, one of the officers at the scene, Daisy Boria, came clean and told Federal authorities the truth that occurred that day. Livoti was finally convicted in June, 1998 for violating Anthony Baez’s civil rights and sentenced to seven and a half years in prison

During Giuliani’s eight years in office, he was nothing more than a racist, fascist bully. One month into his term, he had police raid The Nation of Islam’s mosque in Harlem, causing a near riot. No illegal drugs or weapons were found, yet Giuliani and Police Commissioner William Bratton did not apologize for the inconvenience it caused to the members of the mosque. In 1997, Giuliani was well on his way to being re-elected when Haitian immigrant Abner Louima was sodomized by two of New York’s “finest” in Brooklyn’s 70th police precinct. Officer Justin Volpe kicked Louima in his scrotum and then proceeded to stick a plunger up Louima’s rectum, causing major damage to his colon and bladder. Louima told Internal Affairs that the officers called him “nigger,” and shouted “Giuliani time,” while he was being sodomized. Volpe was sentence to 30 years in prison. I believe this only happened because Louima was the only victim during this period who survived the brutality.

During the summer of 1998, I began organizing several youths around the Bronx MillBrook Housing Projects to attend the Million Youth March. The Million Youth March was a rally organized by former Nation of Islam national spokesman Khalid Abdul Muhammad. Giuliani criticized the rally from the very beginning it was announced, claiming that the seediest elements would be there and advised that New Yorkers not attend the rally. He even denied a permit for the rally; it took an 11th hour appeals court decision to get the permit. I wanted to take my six year old son, but my gut feeling told me to keep him home. I took over 40 kids to the rally. The rally took place on September 5, 1998 on 118th Street and Malcolm X Boulevard in Harlem. The rally itself was very uplifting and peaceful. It was the events after the rally that made me want to put a bullet in Giuliani’s big head. The permit stated that the rally must end by 4pm. Muhammad was still speaking when at 4:03 the NYPD attacked like they were a military squadron. Several fights broke out between the police and rally attenders. I could not believe my eyes; the rally was so peaceful and Giuliani’s orders to shut down the rally ASAP caused unnecessary injuries to several police officers and civilians. My buddy Brian was being pushed down by an officer, so I picked up a barricade and hit the officer upside his back. Brian and I escaped, running down the street while the rest of the youth we brought chased behind us. At 125th and Malcolm X, we made sure everyone we brought was accounted for. Luckily, they were all unhurt and we boarded the number 2 subway train going uptown.

The single, most horrific brutality case that occurred during Giuliani’s reign of terror happened in the early morning hours on February 4, 1999. An African immigrant from Ghana, Amadou Diallo, was coming home after eating dinner when he was stopped by four police officers outside his home on 1157 Wheeler Avenue, which is located in the Soundview section of the Bronx. Diallo, no doubt spooked by the officers presence, reached for his wallet. Officer Sean Carroll yelled “Gun!” and fellow officer Edward McMellon fell down the stairs while reaching for his gun. Diallo was struck 19 times by the four officers, who overall shot at Diallo 41 times. Diallo had no weapons on him, just his wallet. The four officers were charged with murder but acquitted a year later. Although the murder took place in The Bronx, the trial was moved to upstate New York. The officers’ lawyers claimed change of venue due to what they perceived as a “racial bias” in The Bronx. They were granted the change and gained the acquittal for their clients. An injustice that made my stomach crawl.

I was so fed up and disgusted by the Diallo murder that I organized the members of my labor union to march to 1157 Wheeler Avenue in solidarity against the police. We held a candlelight vigil and several of the members said a prayer for Diallo and his family. It was such a moving sight to see all of my fellow union members from the shop get together. They were fed up with the same b.s. that had been going on for years(the only members who didn’t show up were the two White members). The following day I received a missive from my local union; it stated that what I did violated union rules. I was not allowed to engage the union members in political rallies or functions without first gaining approval from the local office. I ripped up the memo and ignored it. I had been Chapter Chairman for three years and not once did the local office help me. This was the last straw; by the end of July, I had resigned as Chapter Chair. No one had to tell me what was right; I knew in my gut what was right, and standing up against police brutality was always right. The local union office was upset because they never want to anger political leaders. That’s pure bullshit! I believe in going after everybody if it’s justified. No politician is safe from criticism if he deserves it.

In the early morning hours on March 16,2000, Haitian immigrant Patrick Dorismond was gunned down by NYPD undercover officer Anthony Vasquez while standing outside the Distinguished Wakamba Cocktail Lounge, which is located on 38th Street and 8th Avenue near Times Square. Vasquez approached Dorismond in a very hostile manner. Dorismond told Vasquez to leave him alone(Dorismond thought Vasquez was a drug dealer). A scuffle occurred causing Vasquez to shoot Dorismond, who like Diallo was also unarmed. This shooting resulted in the termination of Giuliani’s run for The U.S. Senate. He was to be the Republicans choice to run against Hillary Clinton, but after his callous comments about Dorismond “being no altar boy,” his release of Dorismond’s juvenile record(which by law is to remained sealed and confidential) and his continual backing of the NYPD after every shooting without looking at the facts, led to Giuliani having no choice but to pull out of the Senate race. Dorismond in his youth had actually been an altar boy. Coincidentally, he was an altar boy at the same Catholic Church once attended on the regular by the miscreant mayor.

Despite a witness who saw Vasquez initiate the fight against Dorismond, in July, 2000 a grand jury did not indict Vasquez. Once again, a renegade cop during Giuliani’s administration got away with cold blooded murder. Every person that was murdered by Giuliani’s band of malcontents were Hispanic or Black. In my entire lifetime, I have yet to see a White person murdered by police officers unjustly. Why is it that only Black and Hispanics get murdered with no weapons on them or for just minding their own business? It is the mentality of the police across this entire nation, that’s why. During the Spring of 1999, former Mayor Dinkins was a guest lecturer in one of my grad school classes. I asked Mayor Dinkins that same question, and he responded by stating it is the conditioning of the police in urban areas to fear Blacks and Hispanics. I told him and the class how I’d been stop four times for just walking the streets of the Bronx by the NYPD. One time this White cop demanded to see the contents of my book bag. I refused; I asked for a warrant, so he let me go. As I walked away, his squad car followed me all the way to my building. After the class ended, one of my fellow classmates, a police officer, attempted to justify the NYPD’s actions. He talked about rap videos and how rappers brag about their guns and money. He tried to use a fucking rap video as an explanation for stop and frisks of young Blacks and Hispanics. I told the racist bastard to get the fuck out of my face. He unfortunately has probably been a willing participant in a police brutality.

The only time I can recall a White man possibly being murdered unjustifiably was on August 30, 1995. Gary Busch was a 31 year old Hasidic man who lived in the Borough Park section of Brooklyn. Busch had over his house that day a homeless Black man named Percy Freeman. Freeman would visit Busch on occasion to get food and clothing. Two of Busch’s neighbors, undoubtedly threatened by an “imposing Black figure” in their neighborhood, called the police. The police upon arriving at Busch’s home threw Freeman to the ground and handcuffed him. Busch tried to help his friend, but was quickly pepper sprayed by the police. Busch then picked up a claw hammer and started screaming at the police to let his friend go. There were six cops surrounding Busch and by all accounts they asked Busch several times to put the hammer down. Busch screamed “this little hammer is going to protect me!” and began swinging at the officers. After Busch refused to stop swinging the hammer, one of the officers fired a warning shot. After a short pause, the police fired 11 more shots, killing Busch instantly. No such restraint had ever been shown to Black or Hispanic suspects. Busch’s murder caused an outcry among the Jewish population of Brooklyn, but things calmed down after the grand jury refused to hand down indictments to the officers in question. If a grand jury cannot find enough evidence to indict police officers in the killing of a White man, then it definitely had to have been a justifiable murder.

The New York media shares culpability with Giuliani during his reign of terror. No matter how horrific the police brutality was or the severity of the violation of Black and Hispanics civil rights, the New York Post, Daily News and 24 hour cable news channel New York One turned a blind eye. Giuliani was their champion of justice and fearless leader. They criticized President Clinton’s extra-marital affairs, yet gave a free pass to Giuliani who cheated on his wife Donna Hanover to the point where she threw him out of the bedroom and forced him to sleep on the living room floor in the mayor’s home, Gracie Mansion. They never challenged him on any of his illegal gestapo tactics. Did you know that before September 11, 2001, Giuliani and his administration was being investigated by the federal government for the inordinate amount of times New York residents civil rights were violated? Then September 11th happened, and all of a sudden he was “America’s Mayor?” Giuilani was the most vile, racist, despicable mayor New York ever had lead the city. Ask the families of Patrick Dorismond, Abner Louima, and Amadou Diallo what they think of Giuliani. They love him as much as I do.

ALL TIME NEW YORK METS TEAM: MIKE PIAZZA

Mike Piazza is the perfect example of how hard work, dedication and determination can guide you to fulfilling your dreams. Piazza wasn’t considered a blue chip prospect coming out of high school in 1986. Matter of fact, it was his father’s lifelong friendship with Los Angeles manager Tommy Lasorda that led to the Dodgers drafting Piazza in the 62nd round of the 1988 MLB Amateur draft. Four years later, Piazza began a six year run as the greatest Dodger catcher since Roy Campanella. Beginning in 1998, he began an eight year run as not only the greatest catcher in New York Mets history, but their greatest offensive player of all time as well.

On May 22, 1998, the Mets traded for and acquired Piazza from the Florida Marlins. It was the first time since Darryl Strawberry’s departure in 1990 that the Mets had a marquee offensive star in his prime. Piazza immediately delivered as he batted .348 with 23 homeruns and 76 RBI’s as the Mets fell one game short behind the San Francisco Giants Chicago Cubs for the National League Wild Card spot. Piazza, however, was not to be denied the following season.

The 1999 season was arguably the greatest offensive team ever in Mets history, led by Piazza’s stats of .303, 40 homeruns and 124 RBI’s. The Mets also had four other players hit over .300(Rickey Henderson, Roger Cedeno, Edgardo Alfonzo and Robin Ventura). Despite a starting pitching rotation that lacked a true ace, the Mets won 95 games and defeated the Cincinnati Reds to earn the National League Wild Card and their first postseason berth since 1988. In an epic six game NLCS, the Mets fell short to their nemesis, the Atlanta Braves. Piazza again was not to be denied the following season.

Despite winning 94 games, the 2000 Mets were not as good as the 1999 Mets. They lost John Olerud, Roger Cedeno and Rickey Henderson and replaced all three .300 hitters with the aging Todd Zeile, Derek Bell and journeyman Benny Agbayani. These three replacements numbers didn’t come close to the departed trio. The reason the Mets were able to repeat as the NL Wild Card team and go all the way to the World Series was because Piazza carried them on his back.

The 2000 season was Piazza’s finest as a Met as he hit .324 with 38 homeruns and 113 RBI’s. It was apropos that with the Mets season on the line in Game Five of the 2000 World Series against their crosstown rival Yankees and legendary closer Mariano Rivera that Piazza would make the final out. Piazza hit the ball as hard and loud as anyone had ever hit Rivera. I swore that ball was going out. Instead, the ball died in centerfield as Bernie Williams caught the ball to end the series and Mets season. The 2001 season would see Piazza hit the biggest regular season homerun in Mets history.

After the events of September 11, the sports world in America was shutdown due to the terrorist attacks. The first sporting event to take place in New York following the attacks occurred at Shea Stadium on September 21, 2001. The Mets were losing to the Braves 2-1 in the bottom of the 8th inning when Piazza came to the plate with a runner on. Piazza proceeded to hit a dramatic two run homerun that sent Shea Stadium into a deafening roar. In my 43 years as a Mets fan, it was the loudest I ever heard the Mets fan cheer in what will always be considered the greatest regular season moment in Mets history.

The 2001 season ended with the Mets finishing third in the NL East. Piazza had another outstanding season, batting .300 while hitting 36 homeruns and 94 RBI’s. It would be the last time Piazza hit .300 or better in a single season.

The next three seasons saw the Mets a struggling and mediocre team. While Piazza still made the NL All-Star team two out of those three seasons, his numbers seriously declined due to injuries and being in his mid 30’s. Finally, after the 2005 season, Piazza left as a free agent. He would play two more seasons before finally retiring at the age of 39.

In 2016, Piazza became the first Mets everyday player inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. He set an offensive standard for catchers that hasn’t been approached since. He carried himself with class both on and off the field. Despite alleged PED use, he was never proven to have used them. Teammates and management loved him. Most of all, he will be forever remembered as bringing New York City a moment of joy during a time of despair.

ALL TIME NEW YORK METS: DAVID WRIGHT

Throughout the 57 years of the New York Mets existence, there have been a handful of homegrown talents with hall of fame ability that, due to unforeseen circumstances, failed to reach such lofty goals. David Wright, the greatest third baseman in their franchise’s history, is possibly the greatest example of such circumstances.

From his 2004 debut in a Mets uniform at the tender age of 21, Wright was immediately the most complete player in the team’s history. A contact hitter with tremendous power and an excellent glove, Wright was a can’t miss potential great. In that rookie season, Wright hit 14 homers and 40 RBI in only 69 games. Adding to his incredible ability was Wright’s golden boy looks and a photogenic smile. He was the Mets answer to their hometown rivals Yankees Derek Jeter: a complete ball player who was not only a matinee idol, but one who said and did everything right on and off the field. In 2005, Wright continued his ascension, batting .306 with 27 homers and 102 RBIs, and along with fellow Mets young star Jose Reyes, led the Mets to their first winning record in four seasons. 2006 would be a breakout year for Wright, Reyes and the surging Mets.

The 2006 Mets were easily the greatest offensive team the Mets ever assembled. The lineup, besides Wright and Reyes, consisted of Puerto Rican stalwarts Carlos Beltran and Carlos Delgado. All four players put up incredible numbers, with Wright batting .311 with 26 homers and tying Beltran for the club’s leader in RBIs with 116. This offensive juggernaut led the Mets to 97 wins and easily winning the National League East by 12 games. Unfortunately, the postseason would end in disappointment, as the Mets lost in seven games in the National League Championship Series to the St. Louis Cardinals, the eventual World Series champions. Wright had a horrendous NLCS against St. Louis, only hitting .160 with a paltry one home run. It wouldn’t be the last time the Mets choked during Wright’s career.

In 2007, Wright became the third Met in franchise history to have a 30/30 season with 30 homers and 34 stolen bases. In addition, he batted a career high .325 with 107 RBI. With 17 games left in the season, the Mets had a seemingly insurmountable seven game lead over the Philadelphia Phillies. Incredulously, the Mets blew the lead and missed the playoffs in one of the greatest collapses in the history of sports. Wright was tremendous during the last month of the season, batting .352 with six homers and 20 RBIs. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough to stop the late season bleeding.

2008 was almost an exact carbon copy of 2007. This time, the Mets blew a three and a half game lead with 17 games to go. Wright had his third straight All-Star season batting .302 with 33 homers and a career high 124 RBIs. He once again flourished the last month of the season, batting .340 with six homers and 21 RBIs. Unfortunately, it was all for naught, as the Mets once again collapsed down the stretch and missed the playoffs.

The 2009 and 2010 seasons were huge disappointments for both the Mets and Wright. Wright only had 10 homers and 72 RBI. Wright’s low power numbers were greatly affected by the Mets move from Shea Stadium to the brand new Citi Field. Citi Field was initially built as a cavernous, pitcher friendly stadium. In 2009 and 2010, Wright hit a combined 17 homers at the new ballpark. While he did drive in 103 RBI in 2010, his fifth and final 100 RBI season, he struck out a career high 161 times and batted a career low .283. It was obvious to everyone that the new field had adversely affected Wright’s hitting.

In 2011, Wright suffered a back injury that would be the beginning of the end for him. It was a testament to Wright’s enormous talent that he was able to have back to back .300 and All-Star seasons in 2012 and 2013 despite the power numbers being down and battling back and hamstring injuries.

Wright had his worst offensive season in 2014, the result of injuries that slowed him down, despite only being 31 at the time. In 2015, Wright was diagnosed with lumbar spinal stenosis, which rendered his lower back to the point where Wright had a hard time getting out of bed. Because of his dedicated work ethic, Wright was able to come back late in the season and play a part in helping the Mets win their first National League East and playoff berth since 2006. Wright even hit a homer in his only trip to the World Series, a losing effort vs the Kansas City Royals.

Wright suffered another major injury early in the 2016 season, a herniated disc in his neck that unfortunately ended his career. Wright fruitlessly attempted to come back, but after missing virtually all of 2017 and 2018, announced his retirement. In a class act by the Mets organization, he was allowed to get two last at bats in the final two games of the 2018 season.

David Wright’s career was a microcosm of many of the disappointing seasons and potential greats throughout the Mets history: incredible potential struck down by unbelievable bad luck. Wright was the most complete player in Mets history. Seven seasons of hitting over .300. Five seasons of driving in over 100 RBIs. Two gold gloves for his defensive acumen. Add these on the field attributes to his off the field charitable work and a work ethic second to none, and you have the dream athlete any ball club would play huge money to acquire. Despite his setbacks, Wright is not only the greatest third baseman in Mets history, he also set the standard for sportsmanship for a franchise who’s had their share of malcontents.

ALL TIME NEW YORK METS TEAM: JOSE REYES

In the 57 years that the New York Mets have existed, few players have been as polarizing as Jose Reyes. Regardless of whether you love or hate Reyes, there is no denying that he is without a shadow of a doubt, the greatest shortstop in franchise history.

Reyes made his major league debut for the Mets at the tender age of 19 in 2003. The Mets were in the midst of one of many multi year malaises the franchise has experienced. Not unlike 1984 when a 19 year old Dwight Gooden made his major league debut, Reyes’ call up from the minors was an attempt to infuse life into a struggling team. Reyes played in 69 games his rookie season before suffering a severe sprained ankle while batting 307. The 2004 season once again saw Reyes battling an injury that resulted in him only playing 53 games while being moved to second base. Reyes was moved to second base in order to accommodate the newly acquired shortstop from Japan, Kaz Matsui. Whatever success Matsui had in Japan didn’t find its way to the United States, as he was one of the worst free agents ever signed by the Mets. Starting in 2005, Reyes was placed back at short. He then proceeded to have one of the greatest four year runs offensively in Mets history.

From 2005-2008, Reyes averaged 113 runs scored, 195 hits, 32 doubles, 16 triples and 65 stolen bases as the Mets lead off hitter. During that four year span, he led the National League three times in stolen bases and triples. He was the table setter for the 2006 Mets team that won 97 games and won the National League East before losing an incredible seven game NLCS to the St. Louis Cardinals. Despite his consistent excellence, Reyes received an enormous amount of criticism for the Mets epic regular season collapses in 2007 and 2008. Baseball is a team sport, and Reyes was not the only Met that both slumped and choked both seasons. It was the beginning of both the media and fans being overly critical of a player that had given his all for the Mets.

After two seasons of struggling with injuries, Reyes rebounded and had a sensational 2011 season in becoming the first Met to win a batting title. Once again, Reyes was unjustly criticized as in the final game of the season, Reyes took himself out of the game after getting a hit in his first at bat. Reyes had a .337 batting average and his closest competitor, Ryan Braun of the Milwaukee Brewers, was batting .335. I figured Mets fans like myself would be glad that Reyes would try and protect what would become the first and so far only batting title in team history, but instead, he was heavily ripped by fans, media and Mets management. It made no sense. Reyes was the highlight of a horrible Mets season. It was the final game of the season and the only thing worth watching was to see if Reyes could create team history. He did, and yet was rewarded by heavy criticism and no significant contract offer as Reyes became a free agent after the 2011 season. Reyes signed a huge deal with the Florida Marlins, and the Mets were left with a huge hole both at leadoff hitter and shortstop.

From 2012-2015, Reyes battled several injuries and was traded twice. Then a domestic dispute with his wife resulted in Major League Baseball suspending Reyes for the first 50 games of the 2016 season. The Colorado Rockies then released Reyes, resulting in Reyes coming back to the Mets. It was a lukewarm return at best for the greatest shortstop in team history. After a slow start, Reyes was huge for the Mets in September. He helped lead the team to secure a Wild Card birth in the playoffs. His strong September convinced the Mets to retain his services in 2017. Unfortunately, both the Mets and Reyes started off horribly in 2017. Reyes, although only 33, looked like an aging player who had lost both bat and foot speed. A great second half saw Reyes’ anemic batting average raised to .246 while ending up with 15 home runs and 75 RBIs, strong numbers for a club that went nowhere. This earned Reyes another one year contract with the Mets. Unfortunately, Reyes’ resurgence the second half of 2017 was his last hurrah. In 2018, he was a complete shell of the player who was once the fastest man in baseball, batting only .189 with a paltry five stolen bases. It was the end of both his Mets and MLB career.

In my opinion, Jose Reyes has never been given his due by the New York media, Mets fans and the Mets organization. Reyes was an electric player who gave Mets fans several memorable moments. The most exciting play in baseball during Reyes’ prime years was him racing to third base in attempting to get a triple. He was unfairly criticized and maligned during the 2007 and 2008 collapses, as well as his decision to take himself out of the final game of the 2011 season to secure his batting title. Jose Reyes was one of the most exciting players I’ve ever had the privilege to see play live in person. He was also the undisputed greatest shortstop in Mets history.

GOLDEN AGE OF TELEVISION: THE SOCIAL CONSCIENCE

GOLDEN AGE OF TELEVISION: THE SOCIAL CONSCIENCE

In the history of television, there have been a minimal amount of programs that outlined the inequalities of “minorities” in the United States. In the 1970’s, iconic television series such as Norman Lear’s “All in the Family,” “Good Times,” and “The Jeffersons” all shed light on racism and politics through comedy. The greatest example of this was the late 80’s Bill Cosby creation “A Different World,” which in my opinion, set the standard for sitcoms centered around social conscience issues that to this date has yet to be equaled. The last few years, three television dramas have set the standard for social conscience in the 21st century: “Hap and Leonard,” “The Chi” and the incredible Netflix limited series “When They See Us.” All three series have stamped their mark on this new “Golden Age of Television.”

Michael K. Williams is in the midst of an incredible run as an actor since he debuted in 2002 as the iconic Omar in “The Wire.” He followed with almost equally iconic roles in “Boardwalk Empire” and “The Night Of.” “Hap and Leonard” was his first television starring role as he co-starred along with James Purefoy as two lifelong interracial friends attempting to maintain their friendship in the racist climate of late 80’s Texas. Williams’s Leonard, like Omar, is another anomaly he portrayed; a homosexual Vietnam War veteran. Purefoy portrays a White draft dodging, ladies man and hippie who detests guns and violence. Both men are diametrically opposed in both their race and political views, yet they unconditionally love each other as brothers. This is shown over and over again as both men risk their lives to save each other time and time again.

“Hap and Leonard” aired for three seasons on the Sundance network from 2016-2018. The second season was the best of the three. Season two centered over Leonard being falsely accused of being a serial killer of children. In the town Hap and Leonard live, several young, black children were murdered over several years. Hap and Leonard fight a racist hometown police force to prove Leonard’s innocence, culminating with a scene that is heartbreaking when the real killers are revealed. Incredible acting by not only Williams and Purefoy, but Irma B. Hall as Leonard’s elderly surrogate grandmother. I was extremely disappointed when Sundance canceled the series after another incredible social conscience season three, which had Hap and Leonard battle White supremacists. I highly recommend that if you’ve never seen this show, to seek it out, especially seasons two and three.

Williams recently appeared in the Ava Duvernay directed limited series “When They See Us” as the father of Antron McCray, one of the five adolescents that were falsely accused and convicted of the 1989 rape of a female Central Park jogger. This four part series is an emotional roller coaster to watch. It will anger you to see how these young men were railroaded, especially 16 year old Korey Wise, sensationally portrayed by Jharel Jerome. Williams, Niecy Nash and John Leguizamo all shined as parents of three of the accused. Although you know the result of the verdict in the courtroom, this series gives you raw and unforgiving dramatizations of the illegal methods used by NYPD detectives while interrogating the five young men. The courtroom scenes, especially the testimonies by both Williams’ and McCray’s characters, will move you to tears. Finally, the abuse Korey Wise suffers in prison is a testament to his intestinal fortitude. Imagine being convicted of a crime you didn’t commit and be physically and mentally tortured everyday in prison? It is unfathomable. “When They See Us” is must see television.

It saddens me to talk about “The Chi” because of the recent allegations that lead to the show having to terminate the star of the show, Jason Mitchell. Mitchell has had an incredible run the last five years, beginning with his phenomenal portrayal as NWA founder Eazy E in “Straight Outta Compton.” In the two seasons of “The Chi,” Mitchell’s portrayal of Brandon, a struggling African American chef struggling to fulfill his dreams while dealing with personal tragedy and financial woes is as great as we’ve ever seen on television. “The Chi” is very similar to “The Wire” as it’s large ensemble cast is set in a major city, this time being Chicago. The show focuses on the major issues plaguing Chicago: gun violence, gentrification, drugs, single mothers, and racism. Without spoiling the events that occur in the first two seasons, both season’s arcs center around Brandon and throughout you find yourself heavily rooting for this young man to overcome his strife and succeed. Showtime and “The Chi” will have to find a way to overcome Mitchell’s absence next season and beyond.

The entire 21st century has seen an incredible run of television dramas. Although “Hap and Leonard” was canceled, we will no doubt continue to see Michael K. Williams shine in future classic television as he did in “When They See Us.” I’m hoping the same can be said of Mitchell, as his sexual harassment allegations on the set of both “The Chi,” and the upcoming Netflix series “Desperados” has caused him to not only be fired by both shows, but being dropped by both his management and talent agency. If the allegations are true, here’s hoping that Mitchell gets the help he needs to get back to an acting career that has currently been short circuited.

ALL TIME NEW YORK METS TEAM: EDGARDO ALFONZO

There have been an infinite number of second basemen that have played for the New York Mets in the now 58 years the franchise has existed. Two of the greatest second basemen in MLB history, Roberto Alomar and their current second baseman Robinson Cano, have patrolled the position for the Mets. Neither one came close to the impact that Edgardo Alfonzo had while at the helm between 1999-2001.

Alfonzo originally was a shortstop while playing in his native Venezuela. Venezuela has produced many incredible shortstops over the years: Dave Concepcion, Omar Vizquel, Luis Aparicio, Chico Carrasquel, Ozzie Guillen, Carlos Guillen, and Elvis Andrus. Concepcion, Vizquel and Aparicio are three of the greatest shortstops to ever play the game. While in the Mets minor league system, Alfonzo eventually switched his position to third base and was the Mets regular third baseman beginning in 1995, his rookie season. After the Mets signed free agent All-Star third baseman Robin Ventura after the 1998 season, Alfonzo was forced to switch positions again. It was this move to second base that coincided with his greatest years both at the plate and in the field.

The 1999 New York Mets were one of the greatest teams in the history of the franchise. Led by future Hall of Famers Mike Piazza and Rickey Henderson, the team had a machine of an offense. There were five everyday players who batted over .300. They also sported one of the greatest defensive infields in the history of the sport, with gold gloves won by Ventura at third and Rey Ordonez at shortstop. First baseman John Olerud would win one the following year and many felt Alfonzo was robbed of the gold glove at third base in 1999. Despite not winning the gold glove, Alfonzo did win the silver slugger award for the best offensive player at third base that year, batting .304 with 27 home runs and 108 RBIs. Finally, to top off his incredible year, Alfonzo hit two home runs in game one of the divisional series playoffs against the Arizona Diamondbacks, including a ninth inning grand slam in the top of the ninth inning that proved to be the game winning hit.

The 2000 season was another stellar season for Alfonzo both in the field and at the plate. Alfonzo batted .324 with 25 home runs and 94 RBI’s and once again helped lead the Mets to the playoffs. He had a phenomenal National League playoff series at the plate, including batting .444 in the Mets five game defeat of the St. Louis Cardinals to reach the World Series for the first time in 14 years, eventually losing to their crosstown rivals the Yankees in five games.

Alfonzo’s numbers dropped drastically in 2001 due to several injuries. In 2002, he was once again moved back to third base as the Mets acquired future Hall of Famer Alomar to play second. It was a disastrous acquisition as Alomar proved to be past his prime and was a complete bust. Alfonzo batted .308 in what would be his final season as a Met.

My father loved the way Alfonzo played the game. When my father first saw Alfonzo play for the Mets in 1995, my father proclaimed that Alfonzo would go down as one of the greatest Mets of all time. Alfonzo proved him right, as his clutch hitting and superior defense makes Fonzie, as he’s affectionately called by longtime Mets fans, the greatest second baseman ever to wear a Mets uniform.

THE INEVITABLE DEFEAT OF MISTER AND PETE

I can’t believe it took me over five years to finally see this incredible movie. “The Inevitable Defeat of Mister and Pete,” is one of the greatest films ever in the depiction of at risk inner city youth. Masterfully directed by the always great George Tillman, “Mister and Pete,” keeps the audience glued to the movie praying that the movie’s two protagonists do not become another fatal statistic due to their dire situation. As I will go into a comprehensive detail of the movie, I urge those who have yet to see this masterpiece to watch it before continuing to read my review.

When “Mister and Pete” was first released in theaters October, 2013, I wanted to go see it, but it only lasted three weeks in the theaters. Then, it appeared on Netflix for a few years. Unluckily for me, when I finally began subscribing to Netflix, the movie was pulled from the streaming service the day after. It was not until last weekend that I finally saw the movie on HBO. Wow, I can’t believe I allowed this cinema classic to go unseen by me all these years.

“Mister and Pete” is the story of two young boys, ages 13 and nine, who bond through an intense summer of abandonment. Mister, the older, 13 year old Black adolescent played effortlessly by Skylan Brooks, has endured years of poverty and embarrassment due to his mother’s heroin addiction, brilliantly played by the always capable former Oscar winner, Jennifer Hudson. Mister has been hardened by his mother’s behavior and results in him becoming very stubborn in seeking outside help for his strenuous situation. Pete is a nine year old Korean boy who also has suffered due to his mother’s addiction. Pete’s mother has physically abused him with an iron. Both mothers work as prostitutes to support their addictions. After Mister’s mother is arrested for drug possession and Pete’s mother disappears, the boys are forced to fend for themselves with no money or relatives that can help them. This is where the survival instincts of Mister take fold.

Mister does his best to care for his younger friend while avoiding bullies, the police, child welfare authorities and a Brooklyn housing project that is unsafe for children with parents, never mind ones left on their own. Brooks and Dizon’s facial expressions and eyes show both their desperation and despair. Yet, the bond these two create during their two months alone together in this struggle is the ultimate positive out of this immense negative.

Director Tillman has directed three incredible movies: “Soul Food,” “The Hate You Give,” and “Mister and Pete.” Each movie focuses on social issues that have burden Blacks throughout the years. “Mister and Pete,” brilliantly illustrates how drug addiction continues to destroy inner city families predominantly consisting of black and brown families. The crack epidemic of the 80’s and 90’s destroyed several black and brown families that still affects these communities today. Whether it’s 1985, 1995, 2005 or today, drug addiction of parental figures has continually contributed to the destruction of black and brown families.

“Mister and Pete” though heart wrenching to watch, is an authentic look at the damage that children could suffer due to their parents drug abuse. “Mister and Pete” although bleak and full of heartbreak, shows the strength of two young boys who would literally die to save each other’s lives. The movie ends with both boys gaining a brother for life and their lives at a better place than when the movie began. Brooks and Dizon continue to excel in movies today at their respective ages of 20 and 16. I have a feeling both these talented young men still have their best work ahead of them.

CLASSIC DUETS: THE PEABO BRYSON EDITION

In the history of R&B music, you can make a strong case that Peabo Bryson is the most underrated singer of this genre. Bryson has one of the most powerful and smooth Tenor voices that ever existed. Bryson’s incredible Tenor has been the perfect compliment in the recording of several tremendous duet records with equally outstanding female counterparts. In 1979, Bryson recorded one of the greatest duet albums of all time: “We’re the Best of Friends,” with the late, great Natalie Cole. Then, beginning in 1983, Bryson recorded the first of three iconic duets with three different partners: “Tonight, I Celebrate My Love,” with the legendary Roberta Flack. A decade later, Bryson would record two of the greatest duets and motion picture songs back to back. We will start with his 1983 hit duet with Flack.

Bryson and Flack were no strangers to each other. In 1980, they recorded their own duets album together: “Live & More,” a live concert album that featured several of their own solo hits. Flack previously had several huge duet hits with her close friend and one of the greatest soul voices of all time: Donny Hathaway. With the success of both singers’ in duets, both with each other and others, it wasn’t a shock that their 1983 duets album “Born to Love” would go on to be both a financial and critical success. The highlight of this album would be the aforementioned “Tonight….”

“Tonight, I Celebrate My Love,” written by Gerry Goffin and Michael Masser, is a beautiful ballad that describes a couple’s feelings before they consummate their love. Flack’s soprano voice blends perfectly with Bryson’s tenor to produce a song both tender and seductive, as they go back and forth and together throughout the song: “Tonight there’ll be no distance between us. What I want most to do, is to get close to you. Tonight I celebrate my love for you. And soon this old world will seem brand new. Tonight we will both discover how friends turn into lovers. When I make love to you. Tonight I celebrate my love for you. And that midnight sun is gonna come shining through.” “Tonight….” would peak at number 16 and five respectively on the Billboard Pop and R&B charts. Eight years later, Bryson would record a duet so incredible that it would launch his partner’s career as one of the greatest female pop stars of all time.

Following the success of “Tonight….,” Bryson continued to embark on a very successful solo career. In 1984, he scored a top 10 Billboard Pop and R&B hit, the heartbreak song also co-written by Masser, “If Ever You’re in My Arms Again,” and in 1991 another heartbreak melody, “Can You Stop the Rain?” which went to number one on the Billboard R&B charts. That same year, producers of the Disney movie “Beauty and the Beast” were looking for someone to redo a pop version of the titular track. The original version was a standard sung by legendary actress Angela Lansbury. While Lansbury did a phenomenal job in her version, Disney execs knew that her version would not sell at the popular music level. They reached out to music producer Walter Afanasieff, the same writer and producer of “Can You Stop the Rain.” It was the perfect choice for Bryson to be the lead singer in what would now be a duet, as his past success with both duets and Afanasieff made that decision a no-brainer. Bryson would be teamed with a fledgling French Canadian female singer, Celine Dion. Dion had just learned how to speak English when she received this opportunity of a lifetime.

The musical chemistry that Bryson exhibited with Cole and Flack once again was on display with Dion in “Beauty.” Dion’s Lyric Soprano vocals blended perfectly with Bryson’s smooth and seductive Tenor. The very beginning of the song captures the audience as Dion’s voice sets the stage: “Tale as old as time. True as it can be. Barely even friends. Then somebody bends. Unexpectedly.” Then Bryson chimes in: “Just a little change. Small to say the least. Both a little scared. Neither one prepared.” The song captured the theme of the movie: a beautiful woman and a beast become friends and than fall in love. Bryson and Dion capture that essential theme with their amazing voices, especially when the song reaches its crescendo. “Beauty and the Beast,” would be both a commercial and critical success, going to number nine on the Billboard Pop charts and winning both the Grammy award for Best Pop Performances by a Duo or Group and the Oscar award for Best Original Song in a Motion Picture. The song helped propel Dion’s career, which ultimately resulted in becoming one of the greatest female pop vocalists. Bryson would follow this duet with another iconic Disney theme song the following year.

The third and final iconic ballad featuring Peabo Bryson, “A Whole New World,” was also the theme song of the Disney animated film “Aladdin” once again produced by Afanessieff. This time, Bryson teamed up with one of the great R&B songstress of that era, Regina Belle. This wasn’t the first time Bryson and Belle recorded a motion picture duet. In 1987, the two recorded “Without You” from the movie “Leonard, Part 6.” Unlike “Beauty…,” Bryson sung the lead verse on “A Whole New World,” and set the tone for what would be the biggest song for him, Belle and any Disney movie as it was the only song to go to number one on the Billboard Pop charts for all three: “I can show you the world. Shining, shimmering splendid. Tell me, princess, now when did you last let your heart decide? I can open your eyes. Take you wonder by wonder. Over sideways and under. On a magic carpet ride. A whole new world. A new fantastic point of view. No one to tell us no
Or where to go. Or say we’re only dreaming.” Then when it was Belle’s turn, her verse was just as magical: “Unbelievable sights. Indescribable feeling. Soaring, tumbling, freewheeling. Through an endless diamond sky. A whole new world (Don’t you dare close your eyes). A hundred thousand things to see (Hold your breath, it gets better). I’m like a shooting star. I’ve come so far. I can’t go back to where I used to be.” Finally, the chorus were the two sing together brought everything home.

“A Whole New World” would garner Disney’s second consecutive Oscar award for Best Original Song from a Motion Picture. It also was the second year in a row Bryson and Afanessieff would win a Grammy award, this time for Song of the Year. It would also be Belle’s only Grammy win in her storied career, which is just as underrated as Bryson’s. It would also be the apex of both artists’ career, as neither would ever come close again to such lofty heights commercially. Despite that, both artists’ continue to record and have established themselves as two of the most underrated soul music greats of all time.

GOLDEN AGE OF TELEVISION PART 5: THE SUPERHERO

As I’ve stated several times over the course of this column, we are living in a new golden age of television. Never before has so many wonderful takes on comic book superheroes, both in motion pictures and television, have occurred at the same time. 2018 has been an incredible year for the Marvel Universe on the big screen with the incredible success of both “Black Panther” and “Avengers: Infinity War.” That being said, it is the Marvel Universe portrayed on Netflix that has captivated me even more.

“Daredevil” was the first Marvel show on Netflix that set the tone for the rest of their shows on the streaming channel. Fifteen years ago, “Daredevil” the movie starring Ben Affleck as blind lawyer Matt Murdock during the day and vigilante at night was, despite doing big numbers at the box office, panned by critics. It wasn’t the casting that killed the movie, as Affleck, Jennifer Garner as Elektra and Michael Clarke Duncan as Kingpin were more than capable in their roles, but the writing and directing that resulted in just an even more disastrous prequel “Elektra” starring Garner. The Netflix series was a different story.

Charlie Cox as the lead character brought an intensity to the role that Affleck didn’t. Cox was made to play the role, and his scenes with Elodie Yung, the actress portraying his love interest Elektra, captivated the audience with the intensity and desire that both characters have for each other. You want to see these characters happy, but circumstances continue to get in their way, culminating in Elektra’s death. Vincent D’onofrio is devilishly evil as Daredevil’s archenemy Kingpin. Daredevil also was the introduction to another great Marvel franchise on Netflix: “The Punisher.”

Jon Bernthal was born to play The Punisher/aka Frank Castle. With his rugged looks and piercing eyes, Bernthal was the perfect actor to portray a man who’s grief stricken after seeing his entire family murdered in front of him. In the second season of “Daredevil,” Castle murdered the entire crime family he thought was responsible for their death and then faked his own death. Castle reappears in “The Punisher” as a construction worker under an assumed name. He is still mourning over the loss of his family when he discovers that it was the United States military that killed his family as a way to silence him because of an illegal mission he was involved in Afghanistan.

Castle teams up with a National Security Agency analyst who is also believed to be dead, David Lieberman, played by the excellent Ebon Moss-Bacharach. Together the two fight evil U.S. intelligent officials attempting to keep the truth from coming out. The ensemble cast is tremendous; especially Ben Barnes and Jason R. Moore as Castle’s best friends Billy Russo and Curtis Hoyle. For those who have yet to watch “The Punisher,” the tension and action through the entire 13 episodes of its initial season keeps viewers in suspense. Bernthal’s expression of his pain and angst, as well as his vulnerability due to the fact he has no superpowers, has the television audience rooting for him.

Before “Black Panther” premiered this past February, Netflix premiered “Luke Cage” in September of 2016, the first Black superhero television series. Based and filmed in Harlem, the show is authentic because the backdrop of Harlem itself is a central character of the show. It also, like the aforementioned shows, consists of a tremendous cast. Mike Colter as Luke Cage has incredible charisma and is built like a tank. Colter’s character Cage was wrongfully imprisoned and like Castle, his wife was murdered. It was his wife that as a prison doctor helped arrange Cage being a guinea pig in a prison experiment that gave him his superpowers, which include being bulletproof and superhuman strength.

The rest of the cast has major star power. Oscar winner Mahershala Ali and Emmy award winner Alfre Woodard play cousins who are phenomenal as Cage’s primary adversaries, Cottonmouth and Black Mariah. Rosario Dawson as Cage’s love interest, Nurse Claire Temple, lights up the screen as the chemistry between her and Colter is sizzling hot. Finally, Simone Missick as Detective Misty Knight is not only a Black detective, but a Black female detective who assists Cage in battling evil in Harlem. Creator Cheo Hodari Coker has created a masterpiece and assembled a cast that makes this Black superhero series one of the greatest superhero television series of all time. It is the first time that a dramatic television series with a predominantly Black cast has been given a golden opportunity to shine and prosper.

Netflix has set the standard with its Marvel lineup of superhero shows, which also include “Jessica Jones,” “Iron Fist,” and “The Defenders.” Cox, Bernthal and Colter are perfect in their roles because of the vulnerability each man portrays when faced with adversity. Each hero has had loved ones murdered and they use that grief in exacting revenge against the evil perpetrators of those murders. Despite being considered vigilantes, all three men are true heroes as they do their best to bring justice to the men and women who wronged them.