Monthly Archives: November 2013

How’s about trying some new things?

Last summer–the summer of 2012–I did something called the Beachbody Ultimate Reset. After a couple transition days, you eat a vegan diet on the reset for 19 days. During that time period, I ate some yummy, yummy stuff, and some less-than-yummy stuff. It changed how I look at food. Unfortunately for me, it didn’t permanently change how I eat food. Spiced gumdrops are still among the many portions of my dietary Kryptonite.

Tempeh is some yummy, yummy stuff!

I’m not saying I’m going vegan any time soon. But I have been thinking about the way I related to things.

It’s been hard this year to figure out what to ask for for Christmas. I don’t really want that many things. I want to run in Tough Mudder and maybe one other mud race next year. I want P90X3. Other than that, I don’t have a lot of strong wants. That changed a little, of course, as I looked over the circulars in preparation for The National Day of Greed™. I found myself looking at tablets and thinking that would be nice to have, even though I already have a perfectly fine iPad mini. Which is stupid, right?

I credit my relative lack of want to not watching nearly as much television. I watch the news in the morning if I don’t work out. And now that baseball’s over, I don’t watch very much live television at all. That means less commercials. That means I’m not sold to as much. And the television I do watch it typically DVRed. Beyond some old baseball games on YouTube and binge watching How I Met Your Mother, I don’t see as many commercials as I used to. I think the relative lack of want comes with age and lack of exposure to commercials.

So I’m thinking on reducing the exposure even more–maybe catching up on How I Met Your Mother and then laying off until Mad Men, Longmire, and The Bridge start again.

Nice taste in television shows, bro.

Similarly, I’m thinking of locking down what I eat some more. I don’t think I’ll ever become a pure vegan, but I’ve found that a veggie sandwich can really rock the house. And that cereal for dinner is really okay. And that roasted veggies can be the dietary highlight of my week.

Until kind of recently, I’d never considered trying these ways of living. Now that I’ve tried them, though I haven’t completely changed my approach, I’ve modified it and I’m happy. Makes me wonder what other changes might fit that approach.

Black Friday? Black Friday? THAT’S…THAT’S…not so bad actually.

Either it’s Black Friday, or the Sta-Puft Marshmallow man is outside.

A few years ago, some morons in the greater New York City area acted like morons on Black Friday and people got trampled. One of those people, a Wal-Mart worker, died as a result. Just to be clear, it’s not okay to trample anyone–with the possible except of the Wilpons, current owners of the Mets–in pursuit of cheap electronics.

Since that happened in 2008, the image of shoppers behaving really badly has been a staple of Black Friday coverage. And that image got re-enforced this year when Black Friday started on Thursday…Thanksgiving Thursday. (Click here.)

Being the heartless bastard that I am, I went out last night, Thanksgiving night (click here) to do some shopping. Wal-Mart had televisions for less than $80. I almost pulled the trigger on one of them, but the TV I use works just fine and there are some mud runs I’d prefer to use the $80 for. I got a wireless mouse and a gift for the lad. Then I went to Kohl’s and saw lines I expected would end at Space Mountain or a bunch of plywood (Florida joke) and decided no pair of pants was worth it.

At both places, there were a lot of people. There were people working who probably didn’t want to work. But there was no one, using other shoppers the way <insert professional athlete name here> treats his <wife/girlfriend/fellow offensive lineman on his team>. In fact, most people were pretty stoked at being able to get nice things for the people they love.

I made an effort to say thank you to every Wal-Mart employee I talked to. I mean, if they had to work, at least someone could be nice to them. I even got the linekeeper at Wal-Mart, who did not want to work, to smile and chuckle. Victory is mine.

And hers.

I decided it was probably okay to go to Wal-Mart for a few reasons:

  • When I went running, the CrossFit box (gym) up the road from the bike path had a ton people, which meant someone there was working.
  • On the way to my in-laws, we passed open restaurants where people could relax and get Thanksgiving dinner without all the hassle, which meant someone there was working.
  • We also listened to the radio, which played that techno and rap crap, on the way to my in-laws, which meant someone at the radio station was working.

None of those things are vital to society. One might even say we would have a perfectly fine Thanksgiving without any of those people working. And yet no one was pitching a fit over them.

So what the hell? I wanted a wireless mouse for my work computer and I got them. Some people worked at a crappy time and got paid for it. Maybe because of the extra hours, they can get something nicer than they would have for someone they love.

And I made a cranky woman smile. Overall, it wasn’t a bad haul.

Sorry football, I’m just not that into you

It used to be, back in the day, that fourteen Sundays each year, I’d turn on television–channel 13–at 12:30 and stay put until 7, or, if things were good, until the game ended a little after 7 pm. I regularly picked between eight and twelve winners out of fourteen. Of course, it was easy back then. It seemed like the playoff teams were the Dolphins, Steelers, Raiders, Cowboys, Vikings, Rams, and two other teams who rotated.

Sunday meant Curt Gowdy and either Al Derogatis or Don Meredith and Pat Summerall and Tom Brookshier. (John Madden was still yelling at refs.) I don’t remember many teams–outside the 1972 Dolphins–playing the month of December to try to stay sharp because the division was already won.

Even into the 80s, it was the game I loved. The 49ers replaced the Rams. The Bears replaced the Vikings. The Giants replaced the Cowboys. And the AFC was as inferior as the AFL had been when it started.

Today, three games are ongoing–the Cowboys and Lions host, as they always do. And the Steelers play at the Ravens. And unlike Thanksgivings when I was a kid (how about that Clint Longley?), I don’t care.

As much as I’d like to say I’m not into football because of the head injuries–and the NFL covering it up–that’s not it. And it’s not because the divisional titles seem to be sewed up in football just after they’re set in baseball. And it’s certainly not because Richie Incognito is a jerk.

When I started watching football, the players looked like human beings with football pads and uniforms on. Too Tall Jones looked like a human being. So did Joe Greene. So did Joe Klecko and Art Shell and John Hannah. Now, these guys look like overbred mutants, the result of generations of genetic engineering designed to create 6-7, 330 pound mountains built solely to run block. (This is not a racial thing. Mostly because I don’t watch enough to know the race of any of the current linemen.)

Some of it has to do with the ongoing crap-storm in baseball about how performance-enhancing drugs ruining the integrity of the game while not much is said about football. Lyle Alzado’s death occurred in large part because of steroid abuse. Roid rage has been an issue with football for years.

As much as you hear about thug culture in the NBA and baseball players beating up their wives, Rae Carruth was a football player. So was Aaron Hernandez. And Michael Vick. And Daryl Henley (41 years, drug trafficking and conspiracy to commit murder). And Dave Meggett (30 years, criminal sexual conduct). And Lawrence Phillips (assault and probably got away with rape while playing at the University of Nebraska).

Former Steelers center Mike Webster, whose life was destroyed by head injuries

The number’s not statistically significant. Most NFL players aren’t a danger to society. But that, coupled with the way the game destroyed guys like Mike Webster (perhaps the best center to ever play), Junior Seau, Dave Duerson, and Ray Easterling. Tony Dorsett has said he has major memory problems. These are guys I watched play.

Three of the four players in the Steel Curtain line (Ernie Holmes, LC Greenwood, and Dwight White) are dead. Only Joe Greene survives. All of the infielders of the Dodgers teams from the same period are still alive. (That’s anecdotal, I know, but it’s also symbolic.)

Now if I watch football, I’m watching the next generation of Mike Websters and Junior Seaus and Tony Dorsetts. And I remember it every time I see a freakish mutant hulk who can run as fast as wide receivers did when I was a kid.

It’s not fun any more.

One last thing–I’m not telling you that you shouldn’t enjoy the game. I’m not saying that I’m a better human being for my stance. It’s just where I am right now.

And yeah, I know baseball, basketball, and hockey aren’t pure. Horse racing breeds horses until their legs break. And the day will probably come when I turn my back on them, too. But for now, football, it’s been nice. I’d like to see it’s me, not you. But it’s both of us.

It’s been fun, though.

About God and stuff

There was a song we sang at church this morning called Oceans (Where Feet May Fall) and on the video display–we have those as my church for guys who are easily distracted by TV, to get us to pay attention. Anyway, the song is about Jesus walking on the water and Peter telling him to call him out on the water.

Jesus does. Peter says, “I accept your challenge,” and actually walks on water. Until he realizes holy crap, I’m walking on water. The laws of physics don’t allow for this. At which point, Peter stops walking on water and starts to sink.

Until Jesus reaches out his hand and grabs Peter before he sinks completely.

Great story, you may be saying, except if there was such a person named Jesus and another guy named Peter, then there’s a pretty good chance that Jesus never called Peter to walk upon the water and that whole thing is a fairy tale.

To which I heartily say, so what?

If there is a God and he gave us each a mess of gifts, then it’s a pretty good bet he wants us to use them for everything we’re worth. In other words, even if Jesus didn’t actually literally call Peter to walk on the water, then he’s asking anyone who received his gifts to figuratively walk on the water.

Walking in the water is dangerous. Common sense says it can’t be done, especially in a storm. And yet, Peter did walk on the water for a few seconds. He did the impossible. Maybe it’s not walking on water for you.

Maybe it’s something really mundane like keeping a stiff upper lip while your heart breaks as you see cancer eating away at a loved on. Maybe it’s pulling your body out of bed for yet another day because you have to when you want nothing better then to pull the covers up and hibernate. Maybe it’s walking into a no-win situation because that’s what you have to do .

That stuff is like walking on water, too. It sucks, but sometimes that’s what life demands.

God isn’t some angry tyrant who’s going to condemn you because you thought the wrong thing or slept with the wrong person or even did the wrong thing.

God is the guy who reaches out and grabs you before you drown. He’s the guy who sits in the room silently with you while a treatment attacks your body while it attacks what grows in it. He’s the guy who listens to you when it’s too much. He doesn’t scream at you or hold your biggest failure in your face because it defines you.

Though because God doesn’t have physical manifestations here, for whatever reason, He counts on…well, me among others, to be the guy.

Anyway, that’s what I think. If I’m wrong, then damn me. But when I try to live that ideal is when I feel the most peace.

Post-racial racial slurs?

Charles Barkley, the round mound of rebound, in happier and thinner days. No one know what he’s saying to Michael Jordan, but it’s probably not for your kids’ ears.

Skip Bayless, who never met a potentially offensive word or topic he didn’t think should be banned, believes it is time for the n-word to die. It’s an ugly word. To many, it symbolizes a dark period in this country’s history, extending from the first slaves kidnapped and brought here, to the death threats against Hank Aaron for daring to hit home runs while black, and beyond.

Charles Barkley knows a thing or two about being black. Barkley is a former NBA superstar, an NBA television analyst, and someone who’s not afraid to say what’s on his mind. His thought about the use of N-word–particularly as a term of endearment by and about black people? “What I do with my black friends is not up to white America to dictate to me,” he said.

Barkley went on to say that the professional sports locker room is an insular culture filled with coarse language that’s not acceptable outside the locker room. “The language we use in the locker room, sometimes it’s sexist, sometimes it’s homophobic, and a lot of times it’s racist. We do that when we’re joking with our teammates, and it’s nothing personal.”

As the debate about the Redskins, Braves, Indians, Blackhawks, Chiefs, Illini, Fighting Sioux, and Seminoles continues to rage on, Barkley’s words act as a caution.

What many people refer to as political correctness grows from an honorable intent: let’s don’t be schmucks. In general, that’s a good rule. But when white people tell black people not to use a word some of them have co-opted–to reduce the power of that word–that reeks of paternalism. When white people tell Indians that they should be offended by Redskins (and, in some cases, the rest of those names), that’s also paternalism.

I got into an online argument with a successful blogger about Florida State’s use of Seminoles. At the time, the blogger said that it didn’t matter that the Seminole nation endorsed the use of their tribe name. It was still offensive. My response was that it’s a good thing the Seminole tribe has great white father to look after their interests, as they clearly can’t.

In general, the let’s don’t be schmucks rule guides us to pick and choose our battles. Charles Barkley isn’t being a schmuck when he uses that word for another black man and that man isn’t offended. Richie Incognito probably wasn’t being a schmuck when he used that word, either, if the reports of his “honorary blackness” in the Dolphins locker room is true. It’s also very possible that the lack of anger about Eagles wide receiver Riley Cooper’s use of the word–and the relatively small reaction within his team’s locker room–stems from the locker room culture Barkley spoke of.

It’s also possible that the casual use of incendiary words in closed societies–such as sports locker rooms–is an indicator of progress.

I couldn’t understand the culture that resulted in people threatening Henry Aaron for homering while black. And I don’t understand the culture that says it’s okay for that word to be tossed around, even by some white guys, without there being a problem. But maybe it’s not about me and what makes me comfortable. If Incognito’s teammates weren’t offended by his use of that word, maybe my opinion shouldn’t count.

And maybe when you trivialize a word, you’re trivializing the people who try to use that word in hurtful ways.

In which a football coach gets fired for cursing.

Until yesterday, the head football coach of Eastern Michigan University was a man named Ron English. Ron English’s teams haven’t been the most successful in college football, compiling a record of 11-46 during his tenure, including a stellar 1-8 mark this year. It’s enough to make even the most mild-mannered football coach want to let loose.

And that’s what Mr. English sometime around his team’s most recent loss, a 55-16 stomping at the hands of Toledo. During their nine games this year, Eastern Michigan have been beaten by an average score of 46-19. During a locker room tirade, English used the type of language you wouldn’t use in polite company, an explosive rant peppered with the words f***, motherf*****, bitch, s***, and a few others. During the rant, he’s quoted as saying some of the following things:

  • I haven’t been around players where so many go bad, so s***bird. I mean this is s***bird football!
  • I have no f****** respect for you b****. I have no respect for you little quittin’-ass b****. That’s why you got your ass kicked, quitter. That’s what I call y’all, all little f***ers.
  • I respect football players, but I respect football players, mother******. But you ain’t no football player, you little b****. You’re a little f****** b****, that everybody laughs at over and over, because they know you’re a f***** quitter. They know from the third quarter and halftime that you quit.

English ended the recorded portion of his tirade by saying, “Do you know why it happens? Because you allow it to happen out here. You just come out here on Thursdays and f*** around, come out on Wednesdays and f*** around…”

Anyone using this kind of language after his or her team missed a deliverable in a professional workplace would be fired so fast the HR person would be breathing heavy from sprinting the room where the tirade took place.

This isn’t a professional workplace. And it’s not a Pee Wee football team. It’s a college football locker room for a losing team that just got its clock cleaned again. At the end of the day, Ron English is ultimately responsible for the 1-8 record and the 55-16 loss because he’s the coach. He recruited these guys and coached them. If they’re screwing around during practice, he’s the guy who oversees all that.

Ron English didn’t get fired because his team is bad. He didn’t get fired because his team is screwing around in practice. He got fired for using profanity in the locker room.

I concede the point that it would be a lot nicer if Ron English used different words. But in a football locker room, when a team isn’t responding to anything, sometimes you have to go thermonuclear. Let’s be clear here. Ron English was not fired for physically assaulting a player. He wasn’t fired for a pattern of bullying (like the accusations against Richie Incognito). He wasn’t fired for using a racial slur (though he did use one word that causes great offense to the homosexual community).

He got fired for swearing at a football team in a closed locker room. Without the media there. Without outsiders–though someone decided to record his rant. (In fairness, most of the coverage of this story involves one locker room rant–the rant the University said it was firing him for.)

In higher-level men’s sports, coaches swear at you. They break clipboards. They are hard and unyielding. They do things that aren’t acceptable in Little League or Pop Warner or even high school.

If they’re good coaches and decent human beings, they do it because they want to get the best out of you.

Vince Lombardi is generally considered the greatest football coach in NFL history. Of him, a player said, “He treated us all the same, like dogs.” But Lombardi’s passing brought out an outpouring of grief and affection from his players. It’s very likely Vince Lombardi cursed in front of his players. He was a football coach.

Bullying is wrong. Physical assault is wrong. Sexual assault against women is wrong. These are all things that have been too visible in football lately.

But Ron English didn’t do any of those things. He yelled at a team that needed a wake-up call.

If that’s over the line, then that’s a problem.