MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:
This is TELL ME MORE, from NPR News. I'm Michel Martin. We cannot say goodbye to 2011 without asking the Barbershop guys to give us their final thoughts on the year.
So, sitting in the chairs for the final 2011 shape-up are author Jimi Izrael, civil rights attorney and author Arsalan Iftikhar, Sports Illustrated reporter Pablo Torre and Republican strategist and former White House aide Ron Christie.
Take it, Jimi.
JIMI IZRAEL: Thanks, Michel. Hey, what's up? Welcome to the shop. How we doing?
ARSALAN IFTIKHAR: Hey, hey, hey.
IZRAEL: OK. Got to keep...
PABLO TORRE: What's popping?
IZRAEL: Can we get a little caffeinated? Seriously, it's a new year. I mean...
MARTIN: I know, right? They haven't even had the champagne yet.
TORRE: It's been a very long year, Jimi.
MARTIN: That's true.
IZRAEL: Tell me about it. Well, let's talk about the big stories that really define 2011. We're going to go around the shop and see what everybody remembers as their biggest story of the year.
Let's start off with you, R.C., Ron Christie.
RON CHRISTIE: What's up?
IZRAEL: What's your top story, brother?
CHRISTIE: Well, my top story, believe it or not, is the Occupy movement. I think one of the things that folks never would have thought that a group of people - either occupying a park in New York City or Boston or cities across the country - would really turn the political spotlight such that people would say there's an income inequality in this country, and we need to do something about folks who are not as fortunate.
That was my big story for the year, and I have to tell you, for having - as Pablo and I were just talking, having spent the last four months at Harvard University, there was even an Occupy Harvard and...
IZRAEL: Oh, my.
IZRAEL: Oh, my.
CHRISTIE: There was. Yes. The 1 percent, actually, holding out for the other 99 percent.
CHRISTIE: But, for me, actually having had the opportunity to sit and talk with the folks at Occupy Boston and to hear about many of their grievances was just a fascinating experience for me. So that's my pick for the year.
IZRAEL: That's interesting. A-Train, Arsalan.
IFTIKHAR: Yes, sir.
IZRAEL: What's your big news story? I know you've been paying a lot of attention to what's been going on in the Middle East with the Arab Spring. Yeah?
IFTIKHAR: Yeah. It's, you know, an Occupy movement about 17,000 miles away. I mean, I think that's why Time magazine named as their person of the year, the year of the protester, you know, both with Occupy Wall Street and with the Arab Spring.
You know, if you told Middle East observers 10 years ago that both Hosni Mubarak in Egypt and Moammar Gadhafi in Libya would fall in the same calendar year, we would have probably laughed at you.
MARTIN: Well, you know, can I ask you about that?
MARTIN: Because one of the - look, we have to give credit where credit is due. You were one of the people who had argued that there was a democratic spirit and a movement in the Middle East that often was obscured by authoritarian regimes and...
MARTIN: ...by other movements, like sort of Islamic fundamentalism and so forth.
MARTIN: If I would have asked you this last year, what would you have said?
IFTIKHAR: I would have laughed. I would have been like, you know, here we have, you know - between Gadhafi and Mubarak and Ben Ali in Tunisia, you had over 100 years of dictatorial rule. And then, you know, one 26 year old fruit stand owner in Tunisia setting himself on fire created a seismic geopolitical change that we have not seen, you know, from the United Nations or any other, you know, international entity.
I mean, it really was our Berlin Wall moment in the Middle East, and I think that that's probably the biggest story of 2011.
IZRAEL: Well, you know, as we all know, it's been a rough year in college sports. First, there were scandals with the football programs at the University of Miami and Ohio State for violating NCAA rules. Then we got a really, really sad and tragic story with the child sex abuse allegations leveled at coaches at both Penn State and Syracuse University.
IZRAEL: What was the biggest, biggest sports story of the year for you?
TORRE: I mean, remember when this was going to be, like, the year of the lockout and we were all going to cry about how there was no NFL and NBA and now...
TORRE: ...those two things, obviously, are back and better in some ways. But those scandals that you talked about - I mean, the Penn State and Syracuse deals are just such a different species from Miami and Ohio State.
I mean, those two - I mean, Penn State, Syracuse - general child molestation institutionalized in sports is really, to me, the sports story of the decade. I mean, it's the most controversial, explosive college sports story ever, I think. And it really - I mean, what it does, ironically, given its place in this sort of succession of college scandals, is give perspective to what a college scandal used to look like.
Like, Miami boosters paying money, it's like, that's such small potatoes. This is a reimagining of what we thought to be possible in terms of what could go wrong in college sports, and that's going to be something - a cloud that hangs over how we think about sports, and college games particularly, for years and years to come. And, to me, that's by far the biggest sports story of the year, just how those college leadership - the leadership at those colleges really, really failed a number of innocent kids. And that's just the worst part about all of this.
MARTIN: Jimi, obviously, I want to hear what your biggest story of the year was, what was your pick. But I wanted to ask you this, though, because this is another - giving credit where credit is due - one of the things that you've written about in the past is the sexual abuse of boys and young men and I do wonder - and this is one of those - obviously, the sexual abuse of any child, of any gender is a tragedy and something that we all need to fight about and against and do whatever we can to prevent.
But I do wonder whether you think that this is a sea change or might represent a sea change in our vigilance and our awareness of this because I just think it's one of these things that we just seem to pretend doesn't exist.
IZRAEL: I hope so. I've thought this before in the past, but I've yet to see any serious vigilance take place so I certainly hope so.
MARTIN: So what's your biggest story of the year?
IZRAEL: Well, for different reasons than R.C., the whole Occupy movement is my big story because it underwhelmed me, as a movement, to overpromise. And I have a unique perspective because I grew up as one of the 99 percent. I mean, I grew up in what was, at the time, one of the poorest suburbs in America, East Cleveland, Ohio. Then I went to go live with the 1 percent in Shaker Heights, Ohio, so, you know, I know the Occupy-ers.
I went to high school with them. I sipped latte with them, you know. And let me just say this. Let me just say, you know, if you're not ready to die for your movement, if having Wi-Fi is more important than your want to die for what you believe in, then as far as I'm concerned, you have no movement of note. So somebody asked me the other day, what was the - you know, they said to me that Occupy was just like the civil rights movement.
I was like, yeah, I guess, you know, if you subtract the death, the blood, the hoses, the, you know, the other stuff, and you add Wi-Fi, then I guess, yeah, I guess Occupy was just like the civil rights movement.
MARTIN: Well, there have been deaths. Let me just say this about that. There have been deaths.
MARTIN: And I'm reminded - I hear - I respect your opinion, of course, as always.
MARTIN: But I am reminded when Reverend Jesse Jackson went to Serbia to try to secure the release of the three American service members who had been captured by Serbian forces and he was negotiating with Slobodan Milosevic and Slobodan Milosevic said, you know, our people will die, you know, pounding the table, our people are prepared to die for our beliefs. And Reverend Jackson said, but are you prepared to live?
And so, while I credit your perspective on this, I do wonder if being prepared to die is the only standard that we have for what we believe in. Isn't part of the issue here that too many people have had to die for things that they believe in? Isn't that kind of...
IZRAEL: There's too many kids wearing Abercrombie & Fitch at these (unintelligible). I've been to a few.
MARTIN: All right. But let's let Pablo in there.
TORRE: Real quick. I mean, I think it's kind of cool that the Abercrombie kids are actually caring about something. I mean, granted, I don't group them in with anybody from the civil rights movement, certainly, but the fact that that generation really cared enough to go stand somewhere and stand for something theoretically noble, at least, is great to me. It's something I did not expect coming into this year.
MARTIN: And I also want to say about the - I totally get the point you're trying to make about the Abercrombie, but having had the opportunity to interview a number of the Freedom Riders over the course of the year, because we're acknowledging the 50th anniversary of the Freedom Rides, which is where these college students, you know, literally did risk their lives...
IZRAEL: That's right.
MARTIN: ...in order to end American apartheid in the South, they were always beautifully dressed. They were always beautifully dressed to make the point that they were serious people so again, you know...
IZRAEL: But they weren't beautifully dressed to look good on the Internet, though.
CHRISTIE: But here's the point, though, Michel. I think...
IZRAEL: Go ahead, R.C..
CHRISTIE: I think that the point here is the civil rights movement, there was a clear objective of, you know, people are being suppressed because of the color of their skin. With the Occupy movement, the thing that I found most problematic is a lot of these folks didn't know what they were protesting against. They knew they were against something, but they couldn't actually articulate what they were for.
IZRAEL: Thank you.
CHRISTIE: That was my problem.
IZRAEL: Thank you.
MARTIN: I think I know what they were against, though. I think those are two different questions. I think you can say they aren't necessarily sure of what the solution is that they would prefer, but I think it is not right to say they don't know what they're against. They do know what they're against. They do know what it is that they're aggrieved by. You know what? This is almost a theological...
CHRISTIE: Right, right, right, right, right, right, right, right.
MARTIN: This is almost a theological conversation about...
CHRISTIE: Yes, exactly.
MARTIN: You know, can you imagine the future? I mean, we all know it's - no, stop and don't is a lot easier than yes and to what? That's all I'll say about that.
IZRAEL: All right.
MARTIN: And then, because I'm going to start preaching after that so...
MARTIN: ...the difference between Revelation and Proverbs.
MARTIN: That's all I'm going to say.
IZRAEL: All right. Say it sister.
MARTIN: All right. Let me just say that this is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. You're listening to the end of the year edition of our weekly Barbershop roundtable with author Jimi Izrael, Republican strategist, former White House aide, Ron Christie, civil rights attorney and author Arsalan Iftikhar and Sports Illustrated reporter, Pablo Torre. Back to you, Jimi.
IZRAEL: Well, OK, Michel. Well, last year, what happened? Didn't we...
MARTIN: Oh, you know what? You're right, you're right, you're right. Because this is where I get to bust you out.
MARTIN: At this time - a couple of you were with us at this time last year and we asked some of you to play fortune teller and give us your best guesses for what 2011 had in store. Ron, you're lucky. You're off the hook. So, you're getting your pass. Jimi, here's your - you just happened not to be here that day, but Jimi, here's your 2011 prediction.
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IZRAEL: I think we've seen the end of the sex tape celebrity. I don't think we're going to see any more Kim Kardashians or Paris Hiltons or people whose careers have been manufactured because we've seen what they do behind closed doors or in back seats of cars.
MARTIN: Kim who?
IFTIKHAR: Not Kim Kardashian.
IZRAEL: Well, no, no. What I meant to say was - I didn't mean to say we wouldn't see Kim Kardashian again. What I meant to say is we wouldn't see celebrities being born of the sex tape.
MARTIN: Oh, right.
IZRAEL: That's what I meant to say.
MARTIN: Oh, yeah. What happened was - Arsalan, don't get excited. Don't get excited. Don't get excited. OK. Arsalan happened to be here...
IFTIKHAR: Bring it.
MARTIN: ...at this time last year. Here it is.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED AUDIO)
IFTIKHAR: And someone who's picked the last two out of the three NBA champions here on the Barbershop, I'm going to say that it's going to be a Celtics/Lakers rematch again in the NBA Finals come June 2011 and I think that the Celtics are going to bring it home.
MARTIN: Let me just check and see if he has his green pants on today.
IFTIKHAR: Not today. Not today.
TORRE: I hope you didn't put your mortgage on that bet.
MARTIN: What happened? What happened?
IFTIKHAR: The Dallas Mavericks happened is what happened. It was a great story. It was great to see Mark Cuban and Dirk Nowitzki win their first NBA final and hopefully we'll see that Celtics/Lakers rematch this year.
IZRAEL: Pablo, you had your own prediction, man.
TORRE: This is going to be bad.
IZRAEL: Can we hear what he had to say?
MARTIN: I think we should. Pablo, are you ready? Here it is.
TORRE: Oh, God.
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TORRE: Tiger Woods, Brett Favre, all these other guys who accidently texted photos of themselves in indecent ways, I'm going to show faith in our sporting population. I'm going to say that we're going to see fewer major incidents of cellphone related matters.
TORRE: In a related story, Anthony Weiner started playing basketball right after that.
MARTIN: So what do you have to say for yourself?
TORRE: I was so young and innocent then.
TORRE: I was so innocent then.
MARTIN: Well, you know, you were right about one thing in that cell phone related scandals did not seem very important, you know.
TORRE: Thank God.
MARTIN: I mean, although, look, let's just say sexual harassment, inappropriate behavior, particularly toward people who - in Brett Favre's case, he was accused of being inappropriate with people who had to work there, who were the sports therapists and stuff and that's not funny.
TORRE: No, it's not.
MARTIN: But you were right, that the sports scandals took a different turn.
TORRE: But the mode of communication is not only incredibly dumb, but also something that apparently will never go away.
IZRAEL: All right. All right. OK, guys. Well, in keeping with our tradition, let's see what you think about 2012 and, you know, what 2012 has in store. Of course, in November, we're going to be talking about - well, we're going to be looking at who's going to be living in the White House for the next four years, but is there anything else that you guys are keeping an eye on? Arsalan, A-Train?
IFTIKHAR: Hide your kids, hide your wife.
IZRAEL: What's going to be the big story, brother?
IFTIKHAR: Hide your Kim Kardashians. My 2012 prediction, God willing, is that we will hear the name Kim Kardashian even less after her 72-day marriage fiasco to Kris Humphries, who now, apparently, is getting booed at every NBA stadium that he's - I hope that ABC picks Kris Humphries as the next bachelor and he regains his - that poor guy. You know, for anyone who thinks that, you know, gay marriage somehow, you know, taints the sanctity of marriage, I got two words for you: Kim Kardashian.
IZRAEL: Amen brother, say it again.
TORRE: The more we doubt her, the stronger she goes.
IZRAEL: Go ahead, Pablo. Pablo, weigh in, man. You got the mic.
TORRE: Yeah, I'm going to say that, you know, in sports we've seen a great movement about the gay marriage thing, actually. About the It Gets Better movement, you know, sports really adopted that. You know, I'm going to go out on a limb and say we're going to see a current American athlete come out voluntarily of his own volition and that's going to be the next big step in terms of the ongoing relationship between sexuality and sports.
IZRAEL: Wow. OK.
MARTIN: That's interesting because I understand Pablo's - in part, that athletes who had been professional athletes, upon retirement...
MARTIN: ...the number of high-profile athletes upon retirement have come out or even years after their retirement have come out, but...
TORRE: That threshold, yeah.
MARTIN: ...not while they're currently...
MARTIN: ...professionals. And currently...
TORRE: Right. Endorsements, all of the public pressure is all tied to that and easier to deal with when you're out of the limelight. But when you're in it, that's going to be the next big step.
IZRAEL: R.C., Ron Christie, check in, brother. What's going to be the next story?
CHRISTIE: Stepping up to the plate.
IZRAEL: All right.
CHRISTIE: I think there will be a new occupant in the Oval Office in January of 2013. I think the 2012 elections do not portend well for President Obama. The unemployment rate will not drop beneath 8 percent. I think housing starts still remain low and people will look for a new direction and new leaders. The question is do the Republicans have that person that can step up to the plate? I say, yes, they can. And here's my other prediction...
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IZRAEL: All right. In December, you wake up. Go ahead Ron.
CHRISTIE: Yeah. Here's my other prediction. The Harvard Crimson men's basketball team, presently ranked number 23 in the country, will surprise all in the March Madness dance. They will make the tournament for the first time and go far.
IZRAEL: All right, R.C..
MARTIN: Oh, that's so sweet.
IZRAEL: All right, R.C.. Pass the Grey Poupon, brother.
MARTIN: As an alumna of the Harvard women's team, I'm touched.
IZRAEL: That's right.
MARTIN: What about with you? Come on, man. (Unintelligible)
IZRAEL: Listen, man. All right, R.C. fails to realize that - here's what I think the big story's going to be. That the big idea continues to allude the GOP. You know what I mean? These candidates, you know, their platforms are like unplanned wedding toasts, you know, which are always a bad idea. You got to just get up and say the first thing that comes to your mind, then hope that it's not too inappropriate.
And if you look at some of these candidates' platforms, that's what we're seeing so as the big idea continues to allude the GOP, Obama's going to be swept into the White House and then he's probably going to hire The Roots to play at his inauguration.
MARTIN: Oh, my goodness.
IZRAEL: That's going to be the big story of 2012.
MARTIN: That's the 2012 one? Well, that certainly would be a big story. All right, this is terrible. I'm going to put you on the spot here. What are your resolutions, do you have any? Jimi, do you have a resolution?
IZRAEL: I'm going to resolve not to make any resolutions.
MARTIN: Oh, that is so cheap.
CHRISTIE: Oh, what a copout. Come on, man.
IZRAEL: The only thing I resolve every year, just to be a good friend, good dad...
MARTIN: What's the metric that we get to judge that - judge you on that, on the friend part anyway? What's the (unintelligible)? Arsalan, go ahead.
IFTIKHAR: I resolve to make the Barbershop into a television reality series...
IZRAEL: Oh, my.
IFTIKHAR: ...ala "Keeping Up with the Kardashians."
IZRAEL: Oh no. Yikes.
MARTIN: Oh, no. Ooh. Pablo?
TORRE: I'm going to resolve, you know, I spent the holidays staring at my phone too often than I should have and I realize that that's something that I'm going to cut back on for the benefit of everybody who loves me so I can actually engage with them when I'm in their presence.
MARTIN: That is nice. Ron Christie?
CHRISTIE: Well, for having spent most of 2011 traveling on the road, I resolve to be a better husband, to be around and home a lot more with my wife in 2012.
MARTIN: Aw. Well, that's so sweet. And what's the metric? Do we get to know how many days you travel? Do we get to check with her to see if you kept your resolution?
CHRISTIE: Yeah, I was going to say, keep an eye on her and, you know, she'll let you know how I'm doing.
MARTIN: OK. Well, let me just take a minute to thank all of you for your contribution to the program throughout the year, to wish all of you a happy New Year, to say how much I've appreciated your being with us every week to tell us - to give us a little shapeup. More to come in 2012. Jimi Izrael's a freelance journalist and author of the book "The Denzel Principle," Arsalan Iftikhar is a civil rights attorney and founder of themuslimguy.com and author of "Islamic Pacifism: Global Muslims in the Post-Osama Era." They were both here with us in our studios in Washington D.C.
Ron Christie is a Republican strategist and former aide to President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney. He was with us from New York along with Pablo Torre, reporter for Sports Illustrated. Thanks, everybody. Happy New Year.
IFTIKHAR: Peace out, 2011.
CHRISTIE: Happy New Year.
TORRE: (Foreign language spoken).
IZRAEL: Yup yup.
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MARTIN: And that's our program for today. I'm Michel Martin and this is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. Let's talk more next year. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright National Public Radio.