Reporting, Recording and Relaying - But Always Telling It As I See It

Sunday, January 31, 2010

"Drinking and Gambling with the Catholics."

That was a hell of a party Friday night. There were five kegs of beer, tables of food, illicit (and possibly illegal) gambling and sorority girls. Very few venues can host such an event. Even our college parties lacked the panache that was present here. As my wife told her co-worker that day, she was “going drinking and gambling with the Catholics.” So there we were, at my first Alma Mater, St. Cyril’s of Alexandria, in the church basement…drinking and gambling. All presided over by the resident Priest.

There are two things the Catholic Church is really good at. The first is slathering the guilt on like peanut butter on bread. Miss church? Go to hell. Put “God” in front of “damn”? Go to hell. You get the idea. The second is drinking. And from what I have seen, all Catholics drink. We seem to take the whole “water to wine” parable to heart. The Nuns drank and the Priests drank. In fact, as an altar boy, I drank. I remember sneaking a bit of wine once during a funeral I was serving with Dave Geiger. One chore we had during the service was to take the incense holder outside and empty the burnt incense into this little trough. I guess we had figured what better way to pass those few minutes than to enjoy it with a few snorts from the Sacristy wine stash.

When I was a kid, I remember going to the Church fair. Besides the normal games of chance, there was serious card playing happening on the porch of the school. The World Series of Poker had nothing on St. Cyril’s. In fact, I remember one game finishing up on the steps of the Church. In this tradition, the annual Night At The Races had gambling on horse races that included two daily doubles (the gambling was so sophisticated the races had odds), a 50/50 that would pay over $300.00 to the winner, a Super Bowl poll and a Penguins ticket raffle. Money was changing hands like it was a black market money exchange in Moscow.

I can bitch and complain about some of the edicts of the Catholic Church, but man, they love to party. And as a priest told me one time after a friend’s wedding while I was helping him liberate a half bottle of wine in the back of the church, passing the chalice back and forth, “all in the name of the Lord, right?” I remembered my manners, “yes, Father.”

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Real Athletes

When the Mavericks brought the ball inbounds, the Lakers were holding onto a narrow, hard fought two point lead. Thus far, the game had been close, with neither team leading by more than six points. The lead changed hands no less than seven times. Shooting percentages were way down with both teams shooting less than twenty-five percent. Nonetheless, the fans at courtside were fidgety when the Mavericks team delivered the inbounds pass with four seconds remaining in the fourth quarter. The timeout had been productive as the play drawn on the sidelines sprung their leading scorer loose at half court where he received the pass in mid-stride. He was quickly double teamed, and as the buzzer sounded, heaved a desperation game tying shot that was well off the mark.

The fans erupted, the Lakers celebrated. The victory, 40-38 was earned through a myriad of controversy; missed calls and an apparently corrupt scorekeeper who oddly was the older brother of one of the sixth graders on the winning team. Did I mention this was a sixth grade team?

Dylan and Chris comported themselves very well, combining for sixteen of the forty points. But the team, coming off a two game losing streak played remarkably well with crisp passes, heads up defense and a fierce competitive spirit, raising their record to 3-2.

But sixth grade basketball does have its drawbacks. The games and players lack many of the ancillary products of the modern, professional games in the NBA, MLB and NFL. For instance, there are no: steroids, cheap shots, guns, arrests, domestic violence (other than the boys choking each other out once in a while), posses, rap videos, bling, name changes ala Ochocinco, agents, Crystal, press conferences, money or “tell-all” books about any of the above. The players shake hands after EVERY game and attend practice. If they miss practice it is probably because they had to catch up on homework or go to CCD, so they won’t be indignantly saying, “Practice man. We talkin’ ‘bout practice.” Isn’t that right Mr. Iverson?

We make a lot (at least I do) of watching these pro athletes. Then, I invariably find myself trying to explain away their behavior to a couple of eleven year olds. “No boys, I don’t know why someone would put a knife to their girlfriend’s throat.” Then it hit me after the boy’s game on Monday night as we were racing home to get them in bed. It’s these pro athletes that should be attending a 6th grade basketball game, or pee wee football, or a little league game. Here is the truth, my boys will never play pro sports, but this I know, they are better athletic role models than these dunces who have the bank and the Hummers. They could learn a lot by watching these kids.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Why The Olympics Matter To Me

Sure, the Olympics are slathered in corporate sponsorship, the athletes are in the sights of the Stasi -like World Anti-Doping Agency (see the January/February issue of Outside magazine on this organization) and the whole cabal is under the most (apparently) corrupt organization since Enron, the International Olympic Committee. Still, there are some valid and in fact fantastic reasons to tune into the games of the 21st Olympics.

1. Curling. This is not a stand up and cheer while athletes are separated by thousandths of a second speed demon sport. This is baseball. On ice. A pitcher’s duel. Plus, I love sports that I could play (but not well) and anything that lends itself to drinking while doing so (which I would).

2. Pot. Our neighbors in Vancouver can smoke pot…legally. I guess someone realized that in a society that parcels out prescription pain meds like candy on Halloween, maybe a few stoners around the park really isn’t that bad. (Someone I work with had a bad back and came back from the doctor’s with a fifth of vicodin, about a half gallon of 800mg ibuprofen and thermos of flexeril and all for less than a deli sandwich.)

3. X-Game Sports. So maybe the snowboard half-pipe doesn’t have the historical chops of the slalom but it’s great that slackers can take their anti-establishment hordes and piss off the purists.

4. Female Athletes. Anyone who tunes into the LPGA to see Natalie Gulbis’ legs knows precisely what I am talking about. Women’s sports has taken a huge leap forward ever since female athletes started not only being ultra-gifted athletically, but also being able to successfully model bikinis. I’m sure this is a bane to some feminists…but phooey on them…I likey. For instance, what self-respecting man would actually care about ice dancing? I give you Tanith Belbin.

5. Hockey. I will watch this for two reasons. 1) Players I know compete…I mean, players I know of. 2) If the 1980 Olympic Hockey team is not engrained in your memory…shame on you. (At the bottom of the “sports moments I will never forget” list was watching Bream round third to knock the Bucs out of the Series. I could literally choreograph that entire play.) Plus, I am secretly hoping Orpik lays Ovechkin the fuck out.

So, I will watch the opening ceremonies as the athletes engage in camcorder duels with the spectators. I will be pulling for Kwame Nkrumah-Acheampong of Ghana in the Men’s Giant Slalom. Maybe I will be ringing a cowbell. Are cowbells rung during the slalom or is that the bobsled event? Not sure, but I know during one of them you hear lots of cowbells and people yelling “woo woo woo woo.” Oh, and I will try to convince my wife that I really enjoy grace and elegance of Ice Dancing.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

A Few Items - Feel free to twitter about them

• I was glad I gave 24 another shot…especially when about thirty minutes in Jack Bauer buried, and I mean buried a fire axe into a guy’s chest.

• I am getting tired having my kids fix electronic things for me. TV’s used to turn on and off. Now, one false button and you scramble the thing and it’s tougher to fix then when your dad used to have to fiddle with the rabbit ear antennae. (I wasn’t alive yet when this happened but family rumor has it that dad once got so pissed he ripped the antennae off and beat the TV with them…nice.) (Coincidentally, I beat a weed-whacker to death once when the auto-line feed wouldn’t work…for the millionth time.)

• If what I am hearing on this season of “The Bachelor” is true, what women are looking for in a husband is a guy they hardly know who likes to make out with a dozen women right before them. (Yes, I have seen the show…but until Rock Of Love comes back with Brett Michaels, this is the Gen X dating game)

• For the record, Amanda Bynes is 23 years old and apparently no longer interested in doing The Amanda Show.

• It takes a special kind of fucked-up to stab oneself. Get well Artie.

• The homework I do not get is putting spelling words in alphabetical order. If they want the students to learn something useful with the alphabet, they should have the kids memorize it backwards…great tool for those late night DUI checkpoints. Not sure how knowing “minus” comes before “negative” is helping them.

• Haiti happens and we give. Katrina happens and we blame.

• In a years time we will have had new releases by Alice in Chains and Soundgarden.

• Is it feminine to cry when I see Eric Clapton next month?

• (One more music item.) I am in an ongoing email debate with Mark about music…scary part is that we may agree that Garth Brooks may be one of the biggest influences in music in the last fifteen years…ushering in pop-country. Bad music…smoking hot girls.

• My son “accused” me the other weekend of spending it, “eating nachos, drinking beer and watching football.” To that I say…yes.

• In the words of Stephen Colbert, “For those of you having an erection that lasts longer than four hours…you’re welcome.”

I highly recommend this video of Just Breathe by Pearl Jam...interesting little ditty.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Dylan and Chris-The Soundoff: Issue - Steroids

The great thing about kids is that they are not old enough to have been rolled through the bullshit that life heaps upon us. Their world is pretty black and white. They know what they like (xBox) and what they don’t (food without breading). It was in this spirit that I posed the following question to my kids; should athletes who are found to have used steroids be allowed in the Hall Of Fame?

Chris: “No, I don’t think they should be allowed in the Hall of Fame because using steroids is the same as cheating. Players have disgraced sports by using steroids for strength. It’s almost like they are in a superman like body when this happens and it is not fair and they are not using their own abilities to get in.”

Us jerkoff adults know things in life aren’t always fair…but kids are acutely tuned into what is fair and what is not. They know precisely who took the recyclables out last and the exact out-of-bounds line in backyard football, even though the corner of the garden and the third fence post are fifty feet apart...they can site that in like human transits. Just try to dupe an 11 year old if your big toe was out of bounds.

Dylan: “No because kids could look up to these people and if they find out they did drugs then the kids might think it is OK for them to do drugs. Also, it is cheating.”

Dylan unveiled the role model aspect of the problem. Now, maybe athletes could care less what some kid thinks of them, but does anyone really want to go through life knowing that kids think you are a schmuck? Worse, do you want kids to think that maybe cheating isn’t that bad after all, and that the Police Officer teaching DARE was maybe, just maybe out of touch with reality?

I readily acknowledge that my opinion on these matters is a bit more expansive, but I have been marred by life that is not always fair and have come to be surprised by little anymore. On these complicated matters, perhaps we should turn to the kids to get the unfiltered truth. McGuire, if you are reading this, you have two “No” votes.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Because Sometimes It Does Suck

In lieu of pointing out some peculiarities I have noticed at the grocery store (you can get almonds sliced into tiny slivers but “pre-sliced” bagels are only sliced about 80% of the way through) I have decided to wade into the deeper waters of national security. I have tried to stay out of this territory the way Dick Cheney’s hunting partners stay out of buckshot range, but I am really quite the current affairs junky so I thought I would weigh in…political ramifications be damned.

On Christmas day we had the underwear bomber. Now first, someone deserves credit for actually convincing anyone into thinking the idea of putting explosives around your genitals would be an ideal way of meeting seventy-two virgins. I mean, a sorority party at BYU seems a respectable alternative. In light of shoe bomber Richard Reid and our knee jerk reaction to that, it seems only reasonable that the next logical step will be requiring us to remove our underwear before passing through security. If this indeed becomes reality, I will be scanning for TSA positions. However, I doubt this. What I don’t doubt though, is continued ineptitude at our so-called security measures.

What most people think, but very few will say, is that it is obvious that we need to stop looking for things and start looking for people*. My underwear and shoes are of no threat to this country…although forgotten in my gym bag for a few days after Friday basketball may lead you to think otherwise.

If acts of terror were committed by blonde, very handsome 40 year olds with a taste for nachos and weekend naps, I would fully expect to undergo a little extra scrutiny at check-in. And you know what? It would suck…but sometimes things just do. But look at the bright side, at least you could wear your leopard print lace panties without fear of your body scan showing up on Google image search.

(*I read this somewhere and really liked it. I have no source, but am only stating it is not mine…though I wish it was. File under “where the morals meet the road.”)

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Old Spice and Dog Crap

There is a standing rule in our house for the boys…call when you get home from school. In a minor but important variation, the call today was, “Dad, we’re home. And I threw up.” That is a “stop everything” moment…sort of like the phone ringing in the middle of the night…insta-focus. In this case, windows in the laptop were closed and I was on the move like Jack Bauer bolting out of CTU (24 is returning in January…am really pulling for the non-superhero Jack this time around. I mean, can anyone really fly a Predator drone while surviving a WMD?). The ride home I was regretting my last words, “Don’t worry, I will clean it up.”

As I pulled into the garage, I was thinking about how long it had been since I had the Reuben sandwich at lunch. Actually I was wondering if it had been fully digested and was considering how the Sprite was going to taste coming out through in the inbox in case this was worse than I imagined. What I walked into was a house awash in the tang of Old Spice Body spray and silence. I yelled for the boys and they bounded down from their room. “Hmm,” I thought, “so far, not what I was expecting.”

The story at this point may be best retold in a linear manner…from the facts as presented by two twelve year olds.

1. Boys come home.
2. Boys see that Zeke the dog has, well, shit in the house. (In Zeke’s defense, he is 14 and sometimes just can’t hold it.)
3. To their credit, boys decide to clean up said shit.
4. Chris, baby B in neo-natal terms gets a whiff, becomes nauseous and bolts for the bathroom…makes it in the door before puking (which is my mess to clean, though his lunch is largely digested…Thank you God!)
5. Boys decide the best counter insurgency move is to get rid of the smell…by spraying down the house with Old Spice body spray as if they were fighting a California wildfire.

Tragedy mostly avoided. No sick kid. No juggling work schedules. Dad didn’t puke. We shared a good laugh and I got something to write about…just as I was getting writer’s block. Good things come in liquid packages!

(Author’s note: One of Bonnie’s favorite stories is the time I came back from a night of drinking…shared with a very potent cigar. I crawled into bed…she rolled over and in a very breathy voice I said “Hey honey” with the breath of a hibernating bear who didn’t brush after last year’s salmon dinner. She had a similar reaction that Chris did. What I do to a woman!)