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Football Thoughts 9/22

connerI had written a couple of football-themed posts last week, but faced with finishing them up and posting them here, I just wasn’t feeling it.

Perhaps it was because my beloved Steelers looked terrible over the first two weeks of the season, especially getting hammered by the hated Ravens in week 2–but I don’t so.

It’s been a real up and down season for my favorite teams.  The local high school has been masterful and dominant at home, with the players I knew personally having very good performances, but both of their away games have been resounding defeats. It’s good that they’re winning at home in front of family and friends, but those losses have to be just as difficult as the wins are gratifying.

My university alma mater, IUP, has been similarly up and down, losing an ugly one last week after an initial blowout win, then winning yesterday–albeit barely–over a feeble Lock Haven team.  It’s difficult to get excited about that, but until this weekend Pitt was chugging along behind an old school running back, James Conner, and a quarterback, Chad Voytik, with a heart of Everest proportions.  It is difficult not to cheer for a high character kid like Voytik, and his very young and inexperienced Pitt was 3-0 and looking like they’ll be competitive as the season moves. Still, they blew it Saturday against Iowa.  They just let it slip through their fingers  Pitt has been mediocre since–since forever, it seems–and just good enough to raise our hopes before dashing them with a late season collapse. I hope that’s not what we’re in for this season.

I realized Sunday that it is all the controversy over domestic violence and child-beating that has let the air out of my NFL fandom.  Jonathan Dwyer, the latest player to be accused, played for the Steelers until last year.  He allegedly gave a head-butt to his girlfriend when she turned him down for sex, then threw a shoe at their 18-month old for good measure. Not the best seduction tactic, eh? As numbskulls go, he’s worse than the spreadsheet guy. The idiot.

But seriously: you make a million bucks to play a child’s game, and you head butt a woman?  As I said: idiot.

He had a lot of promise, and a few good games, but never managed to stand out.  Still, I cheered for the guy.  I hate that most of all because I feel like I got played for a sucker. I hoped he’d get things going and succeed. Now, I hope to hear that he’s flipping burgers after a nice vacation in a very small room.

I was talking to a fellow today who was trying to make the point that lots of guys hit women and kids, not just football players, but the media goes after athletes because they’re famous–and because most of them are black.  While I wouldn’t rule out a racial factor in terms of enforcement, the argument that “lots of people do it” doesn’t carry a lot of water, and I told him so.

He said, “it’s that German word: Shay-don-froid.”

Schadenfreude?

“Yeh, that one.”

And I suppose it’s true.  Charles Barkley famously said that he was not a role model, and not coincidentally he has been one of Adrian Peterson’s more vocal supporters, taking the “its a southern black thing” route.  It makes me wonder how those folks feel, having Charles Barkley calling out the entire group as child abusers–but more importantly, Barkley is wrong about being a role model.  It’s not something he gets to choose, or dismiss.  Part of cashing that check and living in those rarefied heights–all for playing a child’s game–is the public stage.  For all an athlete would like to say that he gets paid to perform, not to be a celebrity, there’s a compact he’s making, an agreement to be our hero, to thrill us and disappoint us.  It should be no surprise, when they fail us so completely, not as athletes but as human beings, that we are compelled to cast upon them our amplified, collective scorn and disappointment.

Adrian Peterson has earned several hundred million dollars between his salary and his corporate sponsorships, all because people enjoy watching him run up and down a green carpet 16 weekends a year.  It’s a pretty good gig.

The Steelers played the late game, at 8:30 pm.  I wouldn’t have watched if it had been regular mid-afternoon game.  I had better things to do, like mulch the flower beds, and as it was I didn’t bother to raise my “Steel Nation” flag on the porch, but I did watch the game, though without my usual rapt attention.  There’s something about my fandom that died when Rice cold-cocked his fiancee, and I’m not sure that it’s going to grow back.  The Steelers won convincingly last night, with both LeVeon Bell and LaGarrette Blount running for over 100 yards–a rare feat, and just the sort of football I love: hard-nosed rushing.  At the end, I was pleased by not exhilarted, as I’ve been after some games.  I couldn’t help thinking of perspective: in the pre-season, the young, bone-headed Steelers running backs got busted for posession after firing up a joint in traffic, in broad daylight, in a fancy black camaro convertible–because nobody in Pittsburgh, a city that is not only still working out it’s racial issues, but as invested in it’s football team as any city in the nation, is going to notice a pair of  handsome, young, muscular African American dudes in an enviable car firing up a big joint at a red light.  Duh.  A lot of folks probably recognized these guys on sight.  There were calls for their suspensions after their arrest,  not so much for the drugs but for missing the team flight.  Now, compared to the alleged crimes of their NFL brethern, those charges are mentioned only as an afterthought, which actually is a good thing (but that’s another post).

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Sunday Morning Rumblings

I don’t have a particular topic in mind, and while it occurs to me that I could open up my links to news pages and scour the daily dose of mayhem, gloom, and marketing for the latest tragedy/outrage/scourge/feel-good moment of the day, so that I might feed my hungry inner commentator, I sometimes feel that the media–like well-intentioned advice–is best left ignored.  There’s something to the old “ignorance is bliss” chestnut.

Dedicated readers, after waiting all weekend, crowd around screen to drink from my cup of wisdom.
Dedicated readers, after waiting all weekend, crowd around screen to drink from my cup of wisdom.

Before I go further, here’s a picture I’m including because, let’s face it, people don’t click on, let alone read, blog posts that don’t have any pictures.  (Ignorance tempered by cynicism should be mistaken for wit.)

The real reason I haven’t posted this weekend is that Peter Freuchen, the subject of my previous post, is so awesome a figure, and the photo of him and his wife so magnificently iconic, that I have been reluctant to create a new piece that would–that does–push him down the feed.  That’s the kind of photo that might actually justify closing a blog with a sigh and a “I can’t do any better than this.  It’s over.”  But not to worry, I’ll trudge on.

Has that ever happened to any of you–you like a post so much you don’t want to post “on top” of it and make it slide down from the top of the blog.

It’s been a mixed bag weekend.  The Steelers got hammered by the Ravens (which, admittedly, is better than getting hammered by teams I don’t respect, but still)–yet I missed most of the game in favor of dinner with friends.  The local high school won in dramatic, overwhelming fashion, and my Alma mater got pummeled despite being nationally ranked before than game.  Pitt won, tipping scales towards the positive.

ForSalePics1035My 3-year old lawnmower broke and requires a real pain in the ass repair–I can do it, but I have to remove the mowing deck and drill a hole–and while that sounds straight forward enough, it’s hours of fun.  Sigh.  The good news: my wife bought me a really sweet vintage cub cadet from a guy up the street, for a great price.  It’s built like a tank and the engine purrs like new.  I started it three times.  Fourth time: nothing. There’s a minor electrical hitch somewhere, or maybe the starter died.  Talk about “Are you kidding me” moments!  Even needing a repair, it’s a great deal on a great machine, but enough is enough.

warlockOn the plus side, my neighbor gave me a big, beautiful  beer for no other reason than he’s a good guy, and my daughter went out for Chinese food with her boyfriend.  The latter might not sound like a big deal, but you want to know what I found in the refrigerator at midnight last night.  Opps!–I stumbled and that General Tso’s accidentally fell in my stomach.  I hate when that happens.

the general

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HIPSTER GOD–Beards are Best

I’ve been enjoying the current prominence of hipsters–I say prominence in respect to the temptation to write “fad” or “trend” because, unlike a lot Hipster%20beard.jpegof trends, hipsters are not so broadly defined, and much like polygamists and Seattle Seahawks fans they’re always out there, we’re just not used to seeing them in full plumage.  I like hipsters because the most fashionable of them wear great hats and the absolute best vintage suits–but mostly I like them for the beards.  And, of course, I’m a HIPSTER GOD because I’ve been rocking the whole fuzzy beard thing since, oh, 1986.  I’m enjoying the company

photoGrizzlyAdams
Grizzly Adams had a beard. And a Grizzly.

I’m not bragging.  It’s been lonely.  For nearly three decades I’ve lived beneath the tyranny of the baby-faced, listening to peach-faced corporate functionaries drone on about “looking professional” and hearing the sad, fetishisticly fastidious pontificate the virtues of being “clean cut” as if that sort of shorn cleanliness has anything to do with manliness–or if it’s any measure of cleanliness at all.  It’s certainly not next to godliness.  God had a beard.  I’ve seen pictures.

228740-20111004-140514-640x360
The Guy On A Buffalo has a beard, too. Can’t ride a buffalo without one. It’s a rule.

And here’s the thing: simpering suburban worker bees fear the beard, clinging to the notion that “good grooming” is in some way actually “good,” quietly judging–and only the most tremblingly weak may judge, but we judge too.  When I look into the eyes of a clean shaven man I assume, until proven differently, that man is not capable of summoning the testosterone necessary to build a better beard.  It’s unfair, but I’ve been ask too many times “what are you hiding.”  (Answer: my snide sneer.)

brad-pitt-beardBlessedly and quite suddenly, beards are in.  Bigtime.  Famous actors like Brad Pitt are rocking beards, and professional athletes like Brett Kiesel as well.

Brett Keisel
Click to enlarge–this is a GREAT picture of a great guy.

 

Of course, bad-ass rugby guys have been pulling full-bore facial fur for a long time now and nothing says testosterone like a sweaty, mud-covered rugby player.

Jason-Eaton article-2056335-0E1AC8DF00000578-143_468x662Josh-Strauss

The list goes on and on.  Bearded men are superior.  Check out these guys, these bearded bad-ass Pakistani heroes saving the day:

p17_24563813When men shave, they do so in shameful obeisance of an inner force that sings, day and night, of their inadequacy.  Ulysses S. Grant and William Tecumseh Sherman didn’t bother with razors.  Didn’t need to.

hagridHagrid had a beard.  So did GI Joe, Barbarossa, Leonidas, Robin Hood, The Allman Brothers, and all those Old Testament Dudes.  Even Jesus had a beard.  Jesus and Santa and Mr. Edwards on Little House on the Prairie.  Mr Edwards was the only redeeming quality of that steaming pile–him and Nellie Oleson, that bitch.

Paul-Bunyan-Babe-13or6ndYou want to know who had a beard, you really want me to say it? Paul Bunyan.  Paul Bunyan had an awesome beard–not to mention a blue ox.

You know who didn’t have a beard?

Peter Pan.  Think about that the next time you’re looking in the mirror. Peter Freaking Pan.peter

So, you know what, I’ll thrilled as apple pie that so many guys are sliding out from beneath the yoke of middle American homogeneity and daring to live like nature intended.  I’m happy to fit in, even if it means sacrificing a little bit of my uniqueness.  It’s not so bad, fitting in, when it’s society bending to match me, and I enjoy the company.  The brotherhood of beards–we don’t even need a secret handshake.  It’s like the turtleneck sweaters I love in the winter–when they come back around, style-wise, I’ll enjoy them while they last, store a few in the attic for the future, and look–for just a few, fleeting moments–like I actually give a shit what someone else (except my wife) thinks.

Of Interest:

http://sabotagetimes.com/life/an-open-letter-to-bearded-hipsters-stop-ruining-my-beard-fetish/

http://nypost.com/2014/02/25/hipster-wannabes-forking-over-thousands-for-facial-hair-transplants/

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An Exhausting, But Damn Fine Weekend Part 1: Swimming District Championships

I don’t keep a diary or journal all that often–scrawled notes, here and there–of things I want to remember, but the majority of my life I’ve confined to the dark recesses of my increasingly lethargic memory.  Occasionally, I take an exception and inflict the journaling on you, gentle readers.

Cardiac_Hill; Michael Rosella 1953
That’s me in the skirt.

At the end of last week my kids and their team-mates traveled to Trees Pool at the University of Pittsburgh for the WPIAL District Swimming Championships. It’s a love-hate thing–we love our swimmers, but this event is perennially noted for sub-zero temperatures and nearly impossible parking.  The Pool is located at the top of a step hill, and the University parking lots are reserved for faculty and students, the hospital and business garages are posted “lease only”–some have even made special signs, just for us “NO SWIMMER PARKING.”  Pittsburgh is a very friendly town, but UPMC –whose garages had those signs–is another matter.  Their signs pretty much screamed “Fuck You.”  Big surprise.

trees-poolIt seemed hellacious at the time–we parked about a mile away–and half a mile vertically–in the bitter cold.  Afflicted with a nagging cold and what turned out to be bronchitis, my throat seized shut the moment I began exerting myself in those temperatures, which was scary but gave me new understanding of what it’s like to deal with asthma.  It sucks, by the way.

FFH-FullHouseFortunately, I survived, as did my friend Skip who, wearing just a thin leather jacket, stuck with my slow progress up the hill, didn’t flinch at my frequent stops for binges of disconcerting hacking-coughing-gurgling-convulsing. The guy had to be freezing his ass off–and he also dealt with navigating his Suburban through all that city traffic.  Kudos to Skip.

IMG_6573The meet went well–our girls finished high in both relays–200 Medley and 200 Freestyle, qualifying for the PIAA State Championships, with both of my daughters posting significant time drops.  One of the girls did very well in an individual event, also, nailing another spot at States.  On the boys side, the results were similar. On day two, the girls qualified a third relay and one of our other swimmers finished second overall in her premier event.  All in all it was a spectacular pair of days in what was supposed to be a “down” year with a diminished roster–the boys finished IMG_7375fourth overall, the girls fifth, and the only that lack of depth kept us from contending for the District Championships, but we won our Section handily–as we usually do–something none of the marquee teams (football, basketball, etc) can boast.

We stopped for a celebratory visit at a TGI Fridays which was fun, but not awesome.  They refused to take reservations for our party of 40 parents, coaches, and athletes, so the kids didn’t get to sit together or even get seated or served at the same time–but those of us who weren’t behind the wheel got to down a few cold Yeunglings while we waited for tables to open.  The great thing about swimming is that the parents and athletes are all pretty great–not just on our team, but in general.  I think it comes down to the fact that it’s all about quantifiable results.  If your kid makes a relay over my kid, it’s generally because your kid is faster–it’s difficult, and counter-productive, for coaches to play favorites.  We cheer for our kids as individuals, but the big accolades come from team success, which also helps.  Finally, swimming is AWFUL–it’s grueling, mind-numbing, exhausting, repetitive, and somewhat lonely.  Success requires great discipline and sacrifice, which more than anything else serves to weed out the assholes.  Even the most naturally talented kids ultimately fall short if they don’t do the work.  Those left are quality–though sometimes quirky!–individuals, an almost literal crucible.

 

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Football: Ugh. Pitt 21, Navy 24

https://i0.wp.com/cdn3.sbnation.com/uploads/chorus_image/image/21677195/20131012_jla_bb4_070.0_standard_352.0.jpg

Seriously?  Pitt throws the game away to a team playing triple option, filled with players recruited mostly for their ability to fit into a submarine?  Why do I care about this team?

When I started this, my most successful and sustained blog in a long history of failed, half-assed blogs* I made a decision that I wouldn’t allow ranting posts that, being a basically bitter, mean-spirited, cynical old son-of-a-sea-serpent, I’m prone towards.  Now I’m thinking that maybe I could save each week’s worth of bile and throw it out each Monday morning. Could be cathartic–but possibly annoying to readers.  It is possible that I’m the only person entertained by snarky negativity.  Hmmmm.

*Maybe there’s a connection?