Friday, January 29, 2010

How's Your Friday Morning?

I was in blissful sleep until 7 AM came and my wife and I were awoken to the sounds of a large lumber truck and a small forklift arriving at our house. Today, the crew was beginning the framing phase of our remodel, and lumber companies make their deliveries way early in the morning so the crew has the lumber before the job day starts so they can get right to work. Good for them, not so good for the people living in the house or the cats, who were freaking out at the sights and sounds of something strange. I will say this, the cats settled in later because they're now used to seeing the crew in the backyard, so they often sit and stare all day. I feel badly for girl, though, as she spent yesterday dealing with very loud equipment moving and collecting dirt. She said her ears were still ringing that night from all the noise, and I'm not surprised. I can imagine anything like that makes whatever I deal with in the office seem pale in comparison.
I've always had a problem with the way media turns hero worship on and off for athletes, especially when it comes to the standards of behavior. Like many other sports fans, I can be forgiving for certain transgressions simply because these people are human and should be viewed in that light because we all make mistakes. It's easy to equate prominence on the court or field into having the same success in their personal lives, and quite honestly, we find too often that our heroes are as messed up as we all are. And when mistakes happen, some jump on the bandwagon to criticize, lambaste or destroy the very folks they've elevated to this higher standard because of their sporting talents.
What impressed me with Greg Oden as I noted a few days ago was his ability to admit his mistake and not try to run away from what happened. He didn't shy away from the negativity, even though it could have been easy to run and hide from it all. It shows tremendous character to stand up in front of your peers and admit a mistake, and as one particular ESPN commentator puts it, he probably didn't even need to do that. It's not like Oden did something that nobody else did, he just trusted someone that he was dating with very personal information about himself. It takes a lot to build up trust enough to be that open with another person, and this girl threw that trust and feelings into the trash in the search for cash. The fact that there are those amongst us that revel in tearing down people makes me angry, but it's also the delicate balance that we have in our media today. For every wonderful, heartwarming story of triumph, there's trash like this because people are supposedly interested in it. However, before anyone can really judge Oden, shouldn't we all ask ourselves do we really have the right? Would you feel differently if it was your pictures all over the web? Would it matter that most all of us have something that we've done at that age that we aren't that proud of? If you can really say yes, no, and no to those questions, I wonder how truly fulfilling your life might be.
But then again, when dealing with certain media members, I can imagine the desire to be closed up as much as possible. I spent some time reading through a transcript of an interview that Oden did with a certain newsweekly here in town, where the reporter asked one of the most tasteless questions I could ever imagine. It might have been what many people were thinking, but at the same time, telling him he shouldn't be embarrassed because people were impressed was one of the lowest things I think anyone could have said at that point, especially when he was trying to be apologetic about the situation. I get that sex and nudity open up a huge can of worms for many people, and there's an incredible about of double standards about how situations like this would be handled. A reporter making a comment like this to a female victim would have been lynched on the spot, yet somehow because it's a man, the question appeared to be OK. Uh, not really, it just shows that some outlets don't care about having integrity or standards, it's simply about news hits and attention. I realize that by me linking to it, I'm contributing to the cause, but at the same point, this newspaper was one that I religiously read for years because I respected their rather unique spin on events in Portland for years. As of today, I'm no longer going to read them in web or paper form. I can't respect an institution that plays that loose and fast with the ethical rules about other people's lives, especially one that I held in some respect for many years.
I love to play golf, but I hate watching it on television. I don't see the point of watching it when I'd rather be out there playing on the course myself getting some exercise. I've been able to use the WII Fit Plus driving range game as a viable alternative to practice my swing in the blustery, rainy winter weather we have about here, but I don't care to watch professionals on television to help my game. I'm not the best golfer around, but when I'm out there I have fun and it allows me to relax, even when I'm hitting snowman and I'm still 100 yards from the pin. The other aspect of golf on television that I have issues with is the absolute paranoid obsession with the rules. I've never laid witness to a sport where someone watching at home can see a rules violation, call the network and have a player reported because the course marshalls missed it. Can you imagine what would happen if the NBA allowed fans to call fouls from home?? Uh, that might be an improvement..
But then golfers are up in arms over a recent rule change about clubs and grooves, and a prominent left handed golfer figured out a loophole in the rules changes that helps him out. Many of his fellow players equate his use of very old clubs to cheating because he went against the spirit of the rules. Yet most golfers I know when playing their friends use most every advantage in their disposal to try and come out ahead. I've even improved my lie within my loose interpretation of winter rules when I probably shouldn't have, but at the same time, I'm not going to judge somebody simply because they were smart enough to find a loophole. Again, if you can view your conscious as pure and know that you've never done anything to circumvent the rules, go ahead and yell your head off about the integrity of the game. The rest of us will be shanking our drives on the course, living the true spirit of sport.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Still Spinning..

I spent the afternoon yesterday at the Portland City Council to hear testimony about the agreement between the city and Peregrine Sports to bring MLS to Portland. While I'll talk more about my day at my other blog home, there's still a few thoughts that I wanted to share about things.
There's some crazy people out there, and some of them hang out at the council chambers. I can't imagine being a public official and having to deal with people like this, which is why I appreciate those that choose to follow this line of work even if I don't agree with their positions on many issues. It takes a special person to give of yourself in this manner, and despite all of the insanity, back biting, differing viewpoints, and other things, the city still gets things done. I'm not sure if I would call it operating on the edge of insanity, but it certainly appears that way during this MLS process. Granted, I'm sure on the more mundane proposals, there probably isn't this much attention, scrutiny, or this many public figures involved, so it's probably more quiet. One thing I will say is that I'm resolved to continue my involvement on city issues, and write emails or attend meetings when I can. It's important that everyone take their time to share their thoughts with their elected officials, even if you agree with their position. They work for us, and it's vital that they hear from the people that they represent.
Brandon Roy will soon be an All-Star, and all sports radio wants to talk about is whether he should play in the game or not. He's been dealing with hamstring issues and sat out for the past week from games, but I for one think he needs to participate in the festivities even if he doesn't play. His selection says a lot about the reputation of the Portland Trail Blazers and the job that Roy has done despite everything. It's amazing that this team is sitting at 27 and 20 as of today with all the injuries and distractions, and Roy's work has a lot to do with it. It's not just him, though, but until you make the All-Star team for the NBA 30 players, there's always going to be players that get shafted during the selection process. I'm wanting to make sure Roy is healthy for the long haul, but at the same time, he should be able to enjoy the fruits of his labor.
Think we made the wrong choice with the first pick back in 2008? Greg Oden does something that lots of young people do all the time by sending nude photos of himself to a girlfriend, who then turns around and shares them with a website that posts them all over the Internet. Instead of running away from the problem, Oden stood up and admitted his error in judgement and offered his apology to everyone. He could have hidden behind an attorney or other official, he could have allowed the team to put out a statement, but instead, he faced up to his issue and admitted what he did. Seriously, do you still feel the team made a wrong choice here? This guy may have some injury issues going on, but he's simply a great human being and a special person, and we should all be fortunate that he's here wearing our jersey.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Spin the magic wheel of life...

There's lots going on with me lately, and so when I had a spare moment to talk about it, I wanted to share some random thoughts that would be easier to play that the Simpsons version of Life. I'm sure many of you remember the game of Life, which was a pretty fun game to play for everyone. The Simpsons version requires you to have an advanced degree in astrophysics just to understand how to play the game. Girl's brothers came over for Christmas and we tried to play it as a family gathering, and let's just say we didn't make it past reading the instructions. DOH!!
The house right now is crazy, with us having some rooms added to the back part of our house. This endeavor helps the house in many ways: our brood of cats gets their own area where they can live, we can move about the house without the cats zooming about, and we get more space for entertaining. Well, and girl's mom gets more space downstairs while we get room for games and such. Right now, they are on day 10 of the work, and it's impressive how much can get done in a short period of time. It's required some changes around our home, as we need to be up and moving about before the work crew shows up, and they arrive between 7:30 and 8 AM. Things are going to be even more crazy when they start to work inside the house within the next few weeks, but that just makes our vacation plans for March/April that much more special.
We all went to see Craig Ferguson last night at the Aladdin Theatre, and it was one of the funniest shows I've ever seen. If you love his late night show, seeing him live is a must as he's just as crazy in person as he is on television. There were points that I wasn't sure where he was going with his random stories, but at the same time, he was engaging, entertaining, compelling, and just plain nuts. His back story is incredibly fascinating, as he started his career in Europe, dealing with drugs and alcohol, moving to the States, and getting his show during a low time in his life. Now, he's the funniest and most irreverent guy on late night television. I wish his show wasn't on so late in the night, but at the same time, he's worth the effort to watch the feed when you can. The fact that he's Scottish and angry most of the time even helps the situation that much more. As he put it, "Portland is exactly like Scotland with teeth!!"
I'm also trying to work on a trait that proves more annoying at points than anything, as I'm fast learning that I might be the most gullible person in existence. This usually leads to me becoming the butt of any joke or random thought process because there are points where I may believe anything I've been told. While driving to the show, I was talking with girl's mom about the bathroom arrangement with the house remodel going on, and she said the upstairs bathroom was off limits no matter what. I suppose what got me going was her saying there is a garden hose to use while girl said we could join a gym for a month if we need a shower. They had me going for hours until I finally asked girl what she meant, and she couldn't believe that I believed them. I'm not sure what is worse - my embarrassment at believing such an outlandish story or the fact that it just proves that I could be convinced to believe anything. I guess I haven't become too cynical yet at the world, but apparently, I shouldn't make professional poker a career choice of mine.
I'm happy to see the Trail Blazers do well despite the fact that almost everyone on the team is injured. I'm waiting for the day that Blaze, the mascot, is out for 4 to 6 weeks with some injury. OK, apparently that has happened to a few mascots who injured themselves in some random stunts, but at the rate the Blazers are going, the injury list is longer than who is available. Well, at least some of them are returning to action soon, and by the time March rolls about, they should have everybody back by Joel, Travis and Greg. Not a bad group to run into the playoffs.
Finally, I don't have a horse in the NFL playoffs right now, but the story of the New Orleans Saints is one that is hard to ignore. The team has been in existence for 43 years, and have never gone to the Super Bowl. Actually, there were many years that this team was terrible, and not just bad. I mean, winless or near winless, yet the fans kept showing up each game and supporting this team no matter what. The region ravaged by Hurricane Katrina is still dealing with recovery after all these years, but they still love the Saints, and so hearing that they won their way into a Super Bowl was an incredible sight to see. The closets many Saints had been to a Super Bowl was to attend the game when it was played at the Super Dome, and now this team is one game away from the title. It couldn't happen to a better and more deserving city.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Is there anything noble in the world of television anymore?

I'll admit it, I'm probably more addicted to television that I should be, but at the same time, it's a welcome diversion from the day to day events that crop up from life and work. I'm willing to pay more than most folks for the ability to watch certain things, like professional soccer, so we have a digital package with our local cable operator. I've suffered with just normal network television, and now that I've seen the light, I can't go back. It would be like switching from cable internet to dial up, you could make it work but if it doesn't cost that much more, why not pay the extra.
And for the most part, television provides some welcome diversions. I have my stable of shows that I watch religiously each week to see the wacky adventures, and for parts of the year, I'm entertained. It's not a bad relationship on most occasions, except when networks decide to put a lot of good shows on the same night, like Thursdays. I love Community and the Office, but my wife is a huge CSI fan and used to watch Ugly Betty when it was still on Thursdays, so we used VCRs to catch up on episodes we couldn't see. Most Tuesdays we bowl, so any shows that fell on that night got taped for viewing later, but then it became an issue trying to find time to watch. No worries, television on demand now has most of the shows available anytime, so it makes it easy to watch when you have a spare moment. I appreciate the flexibility of this, especially after one tragic night where a VCR consumed a tape of a show that I was watching, and we never did get the tape removed. This led to us having to buy a new VCR, which apparently now is hard to do because most places don't make just plain VCRs anymore.
Technology may take care of some concerns and problems, but there's been some rather disturbing trends that are beginning to bug me about the whole concept of television. While I appreciate that cable has become a big business and most people now have it simply as a necessity, I miss the days where big events were always on broadcast television. The NBA All Star Game hasn't been on broadcast television in years, and over the past few years, the MLB playoffs have been shown between Fox and other cable outlets, and now even regular season NFL games are appearing on cable on either ESPN or the NFL network. Granted, we live in a rather wired society, so most hardcore fans have figured out ways to watch what they want to without having to rely on networks, but I fear the days of being able to choose are slowly fading away.
NBC and Comcast are merging operations very soon, giving a cable communications magnate control of one of the major networks in American, while the other three channels are part of large multi-national corporations that have a media arm. Even large companies now have separate divisions that strictly deal with media and public relation issues, and while that's not exactly a new development, this arrangement is even filtering to smaller firms who need help with the media. Unlike in other parts of the world, television in America is for the most part a free enterprise run by whomever owns the broadcasting rights with very minimal oversight. The Federal Communications Commission provides oversight into mergers, business practices, and ensuring that some federal standards are met, but for the most part, they've let business do what they want on the airwaves.
In many parts of Europe, the government levies a television tax for all the houses that use television, and the tax is then given to broadcasters in lieu of having to generate income from advertisements. American stations on the other hand rely on their network sponsors to provide some content, while they subsidize themselves to a great deal on income from advertisements. This has lead to a spawn of infomercials, a full length program that advertises a product or service. And while I find some of them rather amusing, it's obvious that with them appearing on the schedules a lot, stations make a ton of revenue here without having to buy or create other content. It's bad enough that most shows now have more commercials bombarding our senses, but now many shows have become talking billboards for a product without most folks realizing it. I am all for free enterprise as much as anyone else, but at what point is commercializing everything enough?
And with overcommercialization, it's now become part of the plan to make some things more of a spectacle that they've been before. I know it's crazy when NFL playoff games have halftime entertainment and other events reserved for the Super Bowl, because networks and advertisers are doing whatever they can to have people watch. Even local news has become shills for network programming, often taking away news time from their nightly news to talk about an upcoming show or interesting story that happened on a network show. I suppose that I've become numb to that whole development, but this meshing of entertainment and commercialism has produced two prominent situations playing out as we speak that affect a lot of people.
One is with an FCC decision regarding regional sports networks and sharing content, as the FCC declared that content operators must make a good faith effort to share content amongst various interfaces. This means that cable operations that have a contract with a team or league must work with other vendors, such as satellite providers, to ensure that content is more readily available. This situation has a huge impact in the Portland area, as the rights to the Trail Blazers broadcasts are held by Comcast. While some providers have worked out an agreement to broadcast the game and some games are available locally on KGW, most fans are shut out because of Comcast, who not only has asked for a premium price for their channel from other providers but they've exercised their rights to blackout other access channels available to local residents for Blazer broadcasts, like the NBA Ticket. Since the Blazers signed a 10 year deal with Comcast to create a channel for their games, some fans have been in limbo trying to see their team on television.
While I agree that free enterprise works in most situations, it's hard to make something work efficiently with a limited amount of providers, referred to in economic terms as an oligopoly. Because there are only a few outlets available, most situations require a government agency or group to regulate companies to ensure free access while allowing companies to charge a reasonable fee. And based on what is being said, Comcast is happy to sell their channels to anyone that wants them, but the fees being asked for apparently are appalling. And within the past few months, there have been various cable outlets upset at the increase in fees that most channels are charging for their programming. It's no wonder that cable rates have risen quite astronomically over the past few years, and now to prevent people from moving to satellite or other options, cable systems are trying to play hardball in protecting their exclusive content. Instead of thinking of fans, the companies are searching for more money and keeping control, and in that war, consumers lose. The only problem is that when companies fight, consumers often lose, and that's why most Trail Blazer fans may rejoice the decision but they don't expect any dramatic changes right away. There's too much money involved for either side to back down now, so this whole thing could get ugly.
Not as ugly as the late night wars, which have finally reached a point of truce today. After seven months, Conan O'Brien is leaving the Tonight Show after NBC decided they wanted to move Jay Leno back to late night television. Leno hosted the Tonight Show for 17 years before agreeing to retire this year to give O'Brien the earlier time slot, only to be given a prime time talk show at 10 PM to keep him at the network. When the show failed, NBC tried to move Leno back to late night while keeping O'Brien and Jimmy Fallon on the payroll, but when O'Brien refused the move, it led to a war of words. The retirement agreement was set up a few years ago to avoid the media mess when Leno took over from Johnny Carson and Dave Letterman bolted to CBS in protest.
I'll admit I'm not a fan of Leno, and watched his actions as the retirement date approached wondering if he would really fade into the sunset or if he'd try to move to another show or network. He did, and provided NBC a terrible entertainment option at 10 PM causing other issues with the affiliates. When they got unhappy, instead of honoring the agreement with O'Brien, NBC decided to wedge Leno into the late night fold. And Leno, instead of being noble or a good guy in just walking away decided he wanted to return to the limelight. I can't blame O'Brien for being upset, especially being a loyal employee for almost 20 years, and now given a chance to host a show he's dreamed about for years, he's shown the door after 7 months.
Granted, the ratings have been off the hook and late night television hasn't been this funny in years because the drama is real and hosts are veering from their normally scripted material to mine some comic gold. But this whole situation just reinforces the fact that ratings aren't enough anymore, and shows must worry about marketability and demographics. Leno draws the type of viewers NBC wants, and they made their choice not based on ratings, simply a desire to attract the people they want watching their network, and in the process, have upset many people with their decision. O'Brien may not appeal to everyone, but he's got a manic energy that is reminiscent to the early days of Letterman with his absurdest humor, and to me, that's what late night television is supposed to be about. The only people benefiting from this mess are Letterman and Craig Ferguson at CBS, who stand to benefit from disenfranchised O'Brien fans waiting for his eventual return.
Television is supposed to provide a diversion from the day to day drama we all experience, but as often we see in the world, reality creeps its head into a lot of unexpected areas. Maybe in all of this mess, people will see the value of sticking to your word and doing what's right for the consumer instead of grabbing for every last available dollar.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Rain, Rain Go Away...

I couldn't think of a better title for this entry, although I don't mind the rain one bit most times. I could do without the blustery wind and rain that happens from time to time, meaning it's quite miserable to be outside for any amount of time. I can handle just rain quite nicely, I don't mind being drizzled on because if you avoid being outside around here during the rainy months, you'll be confined inside between late October until early June most years around here. It's part of being around here that we get rained on...
I've also enjoyed the concept of All-Star Games for most sports leagues, because the concept is to have a game that is for the fans showcasing the best talent the league can offer. Just like most other things, selecting teams often generates a lot of controversy because while fans are certainly entitled to their opinions and often vote for the players they want to see, their selections at times don't make much sense. This is very apparent for this year in the NBA where Tracy McGrady is one of the leading vote getters in the Western Conference despite not playing a single game this season. Allen Iverson is also a leading vote getter for the East, despite playing in Memphis for the start of the season. Teams have campaigns to get their fans to vote for their favorite players, which often produce results that don't correspond to actual performance at that time.
I get that sometimes fans vote in players because of past performance or likability, but with the NBA All Star teams only having 12 available spots per side, selections are at a premium, so unlike the MLB and NFL, a bad selection ends up harming the event quite significantly. The MLB mandates all teams need to be represented, but they end up having 32 players a side so one bad selection doesn't harm things, while the NFL's game hasn't really mattered for years because even the players don't seem to care about playing in it. The NBA, meanwhile, tries to balance the fan selection with the coaches selecting the 7 reserves to fortify the 5 selected fan starters. There's always somebody that gets left off the team that deserves to play, and sometimes the players do the right thing and decline the honor to allow a more deserving player to show up. However, you can't always count on people doing the right thing (right, Jay? you're being the better person?), so things like McGrady being voted in are just a product of the system. Unless the NBA gets a handle on this situation and does what is best for the event, nobody can really take the selection process that seriously. I didn't watch an All Star game until Brandon Roy got selected, and otherwise, I just wouldn't care to watch.
Meanwhile, the devastation in Haiti just gets worse, as another quake hit the area today. I just can't imagine what it is like to be dealing with all the chaos, destruction, and stress of trying to simply survive where everything around you is falling apart, literally and figuratively. The pictures and video are hard to watch, as one of the poorest regions in the world continues to get battered by nature while the world comes to their aid. I'm thankful that there are many stepping up to help, including one heroic doctor who simply wouldn't leave a makeshift medical center after orders were put out to evacuate the site. I don't like to throw out the label of hero all that much, but Dr. Gupta's actions are quite simply some of the most heroic things I've ever read about. He could have left the area, but he couldn't abandon the patients who were clinging to their life. If you haven't given to Haiti yet, please do so because it's that important. And it's vital for the Haitians to know that the world is watching and pitching in to help them recover from this devastation.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Trying Not to Be Mr. Cranky..

The original intent of me blogging like that wasn't to bitch about everything, although I've reread a lot of my stuff lately and I can sense some frustration in my voice. Ok, the fact that my household is in disarray because the long awaited house remodeling project has begun probably contributes to my stress level, along with dealing with more responsibility at work and the day to day interpersonal issues we all have each day. There's never a dull moment in what goes on in my world, which is great because there's always something going on, but I also reach the point where I just want the ride to stop so I can get off.
Well, and for many of us, we turn to diversions like entertainment and sports to help us lower the stress and focus on other things. They are supposed to be distractions, time to think of other things but instead those worlds are full of the same issues and hurdles we are all dealing with. There's as much legal, medical and rumor talk in these fields as most people deal with on a regular basis, so what do you do when your distractions carry as much baggage as real life? For me, I write and try to make sense of the things in my world by offering a little peek into what I'm dealing with. I do get advice, fun comments, and thoughts from others, but it also gives me a chance to read over things later and put them into proper perspective. As much as things upset me, it's important to keep things in perspective as much as possible.
Which is why something like Haiti really puts this into practice. Instead of focusing on the troubles of our local basketball team or whether our favorite late night television host is being hosed, we see the ravages and problems that others are dealing with, and suddenly things take on a whole new meaning. Granted, I'm still upset at selected people who have commented about the situation in rather selfish and uninformed ways, but at the same time, these people are dealing with real life issues while the rest of the world watches and tries to help. I'm amazed at how quickly certain organizations are able to mobilize help and get to the scene, although it appears now that in the zeal to help, there's need for better structure in the help to avoid people stealing or misusing aid. At least people's hearts are in the right place...
And I'm not going to stop writing about things and pointing out the crap that I see, because I think that's a huge disservice. It's still cathartic for me to write about things, but I also believe that it's important to maintain some balance in talking about things. The world isn't nearly the craphole that people might think, but at points, we all get wrapped up in life and can't see the forest for the trees. So then something like a disaster in Haiti happens, and suddenly we're reminded of our own frailties, our own mortality, our own future and choices, and who we are as a race.
This weekend, many people will be distracting themselves with watching the NFL playoffs, rooting on their side in the next steps to try and get to the Super Bowl, the home for a football championship and the pinnacle of all that is consumerism and marketing. Everything about the game is sponsored, analyzed and scrutinized, but at the core, it's simply two teams playing to see who is the best. And all the glitz and glamor shouldn't distract away from that, although with the limited amount of action in most football games, that might be difficult.
I've watched enough football to know that this report isn't far from the truth. Football spends a lot of time organizing for a few simple moments of violent collisions in the hopes for a few transcendent moments of glory. Football has a lot of standing around, organizing, and talking about what has already happened in preparation for those quick bursts of activity. And the beauty is that most of the time, it's routine but every once in a while, something extraordinary happens to make it worthwhile, be it a crazy tackle or a spectacular scoring plan. And the magical moments aren't always kept on the field, as evidenced by the Baltimore Ravens and their current playoff run. They've had help from an unlikely source who is battling his own demons, and in watching his battle, he's helped inspire a team to potential greatness. And it's these things that keep a lot of us coming back, simply because you might see something truly unique although you don't know where or when.
We might also hear the interpersonal stories of athletes who have overcome various things to get to the top of their profession, and it puts the crap we all hear about spoiled athletes in perspective. Personally, I'd rather talk about the story of Sundiata Gaines than talk more about what Tiger might do, what McGwire is thinking, or what the Trail Blazers are thinking about doing with their roster. Gaines was playing basketball in that hotbed of civilization, Boise, Idaho, for the D-League Idaho Stampede when he got a call to play for the Utah Jazz due to injuries. He signed a 10 day contract to fulfill his dream, and at the end of ten days, he was signed to another 10 day deal. This might have been the end of his story, but during last night's Jazz - Cavaliers game, Gaines was forced into action and it was a night he won't soon forget, as Gaines ended up on the floor at the end of the game and hit the winning shot. For one night, he's on the top of the world, but at this point, he's as likely to be sent back to Boise as possibly stay with the Jazz. But in that moment, everything came together and he lived in a moment that most of us would only hope to experience, and nobody can take that away from him.
And for all the craziness, pettiness, and insanity that the world has going on, it's these moments that make me remember why I love sports so much, and why I'll keep coming back every time. We all need distractions, but we also need perspective on what is truly important, imagination to believe that anything is truly possible, humanity to understand our gifts, and consciousness and character to honor those special moments where something truly magical unfolds before our eyes.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

I Can't Believe Some of the Words That Come Out of People's Mouth

I've seen and read the comments made by him, and I'm not even going to dignify mentioning his name because I'm still stunned that someone could really see the photos and videos and really believe those words. We hear more about the stories of people missing, massive destruction of cities, family members trying to find out any word about their loved ones, and he said that this was because of a pact to the devil?
I'll preface my comments by saying that I'm a recovering Catholic, having spent many years in parochial school when I was younger, and I attended a prominent Jesuit college and am a proud graduate. I learned my faith from my family, especially my grandmother who attended mass every day of her 99 years because it gave her balance and certainty in her life. During my honeymoon, I got her a rosary from Vatican City blessed by the Pope, because I knew that she would love it, and sure enough, it was all she could talk about in one of the last letters I got from her before she died last year. She loved the church more than anything, and couldn't see anything wrong with how they operated.
And until recently, I could follow that line of thinking until I lost my mom to cancer. In trying to make heads or tails of what happened, I spend some time talking with the priest that presided over my mother's service and he said faith would get me through my pain. So I did what he said and attended church and prayed, and the more of that I did, the more alone I felt, the more frustrated I was that I lost someone important to me. It didn't make a lot of sense to me, and then around this time, it was announced that there were many claims of child abuse by selected clergy members against children in their congregation. It became a crisis for me, trying to believe in an organization that I was trying to achieve direction and guidance from, and in a monumental decision, I decided to forgo what I had grown up around.
I met my wife right around this time, and she is an extremely spiritual person who has a strong belief in herself and the forces out there, and seeing her have a strong sense of self I knew it was possible to find belief outside the confines of organized religion. And knowing what I've encountered over the years, I realize that there are many beliefs and doctrines out there that people follow, and for the most part, most of them follow the same principles. What I've found is that it's important to believe in something, even if it's nothing, even if it's a being, even if it's two beings, even if it's in yourself. And in setting this belief, it's also important to realize that while the things you believe are important to you, not everyone sees things exactly the same way and it's important to respect those differences.
And I would never advocate that my beliefs are more supreme or important than anyone else, much less advocate harm or danger against people that don't follow my plan. Faith is an extremely personal choice, and while I'm sharing part of it with you all, I don't expect that people reading this will completely understand or be able to relate to what I'm talking about. But I respect those around me enough to be able to share this and believe that all of them will support me no matter what because it's what makes me happy. Granted, this is extremely simplistic, but at the same point, boiling some things down to the simple points makes them easier to digest.
So in listening to this person's words that this disaster was caused by an entire region's faith which is different that what he believes, I can't sit here and not say something. I'm tired of living in a society where some people think what they believe matters most, and if you don't buy into their idea of faith or salvation, you're not worthy. I don't understand what gives him the right to be some judgmental, so arrogant, so smug in professing what he believes, but then again, he's said other things like this before and it's all veiled in a "I'm just professing my belief" manner. It might be labeled as free speech, but it's filled with vitriol and spite, not love and optimism, which is how I view the supreme being. I don't think of this force as angry and vengeful, but again, it's my impression. And while I understand our way of life allows people to say and believe what they want as long as it doesn't infringe on others, I'm not happy a message like this is being portrayed as loving, Christian, or whatever.
And that's why I'm writing these words. I don't expect that this will change anything, except to make me feel better about sharing and giving people a peek into my insane world. And I promise that to those that call me friend and I call friend, I will provide you love and support because that's what I do and I believe in treating others like I want to be treated. And in my book, Haiti didn't deserve anything like what has happened to them, and my thoughts and prayers are with them as they try to recover from the devastation. And to him, I hope that at some point, you have a conversation with whatever force or being that you believe in, because I also believe in what goes around comes around, and I'm not sure I would want to be upsetting anything that powerful.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

I Don't Get It, But Know Better Than To Mess With The Forces of Nature

I'm not close to retirement age myself, even though my wife repeatedly jokes about me being old. I still have a lot of years left to do things, and I'm not planning on slowing down anytime soon. I am enjoying my writing projects, we just started a home remodeling project that will transform our living area (ok, we have professionals doing the work, but we still have to choose colors, organize the house, keep the cats in line), and there's plenty of time to travel and see other parts of the world. My dad recently told me that after 67 years of being alive, he's decided to retire because he just doesn't want to work anymore. I can appreciate the sentiment, although I'm not even close to making that same call. Granted, work used to be something that was more to me than just a job, but now having other distractions to focus upon has kept me from the land of workaholics. I work to allow me the time and money to do the other things I want to do, or as it's often put, I work to live, not live to work.
I can't relate to the situation that affects many careers in the public eye where people suddenly need to retire, like athletes or actors. Everything that I do right now I'm able to do now and in the future, mostly because I keep up with technology and current events, I enjoy what I do, and it's also about keeping busy while doing a good job. I can imagine, though, when it's time for me to quit doing all of this, I'll be ready because I'll be tired of working and want to do things on my own terms. But at the same token, everyone of us reaches a point in our lives where we're forced to admit that retiring is the best for us because we may not be able to do what we once did. I know that my dad loves his job quite a bit, and would be perfectly happy doing it as long as possible, but he's tired and he's ready to avoid the toil of the rat race.
Taking the analogy to the point where I was going was we've all seen examples of athletes that have probably overstayed their welcome professionally rather than hang them up on top. For every John Elway, there's a Jerry Rice who while he's one of the greatest receivers in football ever, he should have hung up the shoes before going to Denver. People hang on as long as possible at points because they don't want to admit they can't do what they used to do anymore, which would mean admitting they've aged. I've heard the analogies of the wily veteran and experienced player, but for many a career, there's that pinnacle moment where they are faced with the reality of having to deal with their own mortality.
I didn't want this to be a heavy depressing topic, but at the same point, I see some parallels between this and the situation at NBC, which is moving from a relatively dumb decision to a complete meltdown of epic proportions. To recap what is happening high level, Jay Leno decided to retire from the Tonight Show about 6 years ago, giving Conan O'Brien the job once he was done. As the date of transition occurred, Leno changed his mind about retiring and NBC gave him a show at 10 PM to do each night to keep him with the network. The show has been an unmitigated disaster, and now NBC wants to move Leno back to 11:35 to do a nightly show while bumping the rest of the late night lineup later to accommodate him.
I grew up watching Letterman on NBC after Carson, the Letterman who was completely insane with his absurdest brand of humor and colorful stable of secondary characters. He was targeted to replace Carson on the Tonight Show, but in a move that caught a lot of folks off guard, Leno ended up replacing Carson at NBC and Letterman left to CBS to do his show. Letterman doesn't do nearly the same type of humor from his NBC days, but he's got a "what's stuck in my craw" approach that provides some quality amusement from time to time. O'Brien, meanwhile, I've gotten to know recently after seeing his very late night show a few times, and he followed the Letterman vein of wackiness. His Tonight Show is a bit more restrained, but at points, he's still doing the same goofy humor, the same "look at me being silly looks", and the same random sketches. He's played the hand he's been dealt and doing a good job.
Leno, meanwhile, is doing what he wants to do by returning to late night TV, and I'll admit, I'm not a fan of his work. I find it tiring, predictable, and just plain not funny, and I tried to give him a shot after Carson left. He's just not my speed, but I realize that there are those that appreciate his sense of humor. It's restrained, bland, a bit more vanilla, it's just not for me. Instead of handling this situation with tact and civility, Leno doesn't want to retire into the sunset but rather get his way, regardless of the results. O'Brien remains defiant that he wants to keep doing the show he wants to honor the legacy of the show that has been on the air for 60 plus years, so the whole thing has morphed into this extremely messy stalemate.
I'm all for people following contracts, and I understand that sometimes circumstances change and a decision made years ago might not apply anymore, but that still doesn't mean you don't honor your word. O'Brien has done nothing wrong more than just trying to entertain under some rather unusual circumstances, and instead of getting his time in the limelight, the guy who had it doesn't want to give it up anymore. Leno hasn't reached the point where he doesn't want to do it anymore, even though that's what he said way back when. I would hope he'd do the honorable thing and realize that walking into the sunset doesn't mean there's not things to do, it's just the classy thing to do here, but then again, it doesn't sound like he gets it. The only real beneficiaries from this mess are Letterman, who has rather enjoyed the turmoil, and Craig Ferguson, who continues to amaze me with his absolutely marvelous talent of being funny while walking on the edge of insanity. I can never figure out where he's going with some of his stuff, but it's always funny and scary, which good comedy often is.
I've also begun to notice more about the forces of nature rearing their heads, with the crazy weather in Britain and the eastern US while Haiti is ravaged by an earthquake after dealing with some many hurricanes. With a large world that we live in, disasters happen and they are always tragic as people suddenly lose everything in a split second. It never makes seeing those things easy, even if there's a detachment we can all take because the events are often far away. I don't mean detachment in a bad way, but at the same point, it's easier to process bad news if it's not happening directly to you or someone you know, that's human nature.
The reason I'm noticing all of this is because of the movie 2012, which talked about the supposed end of the world according to the Mayan calendar by virtue of catastrophic events. I didn't see the movie myself, but apparently it's in the same line as Armageddon - loud explosions and lots of destruction. It's hard not to see what's happening and wonder if there's any correlation. I do believe that there are powerful forces out there that influence how things work, and while I'm not ready to admit these things are a sign of unrest, it's also hard to sit back and not notice what's going on and wonder if there isn't a connection.
At the very least, it should remind us that our time on the planet is finite, and it's up to us to do what we can to leave things in good shape for future generations, whether it's drive less, walk more, recycle when you can, or just be conscious of how your actions affect the planet as a whole. We can't just sit back and think what we do doesn't affect others, unlike a certain goofy chinned, snively talk show host who seems to be interested in one thing and one thing alone.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Some Things on My Mind

I haven't really addressed something here, so I thought I would start today's ramblings there. For those of you enjoying these notes on the social networking site BookFace, I actually started my own personal blog a few years ago at and have written about various topics there. It started as sports talk with a lot of emphasis on our local soccer club, the Portland Timbers, but now that I have another job where I write about the Timbers, the sippotters world is more generic sports stuff. If you want to check things out outside of FB, you can follow the link above or keep reading here because I'm able to share the link. I appreciate any and all thoughts about what I write, because it helps me improve as a writer. Social networking sites can be a wonderful thing to keep connected and share thoughts, although I admit it - I don't get the appeal of Farmville.
I'll admit that I try not to operate with a lot of biases, but I'm only human. We all tend to work with what we are comfortable with, although at times, it's nice to push the envelope and see what else might be out there. Human nature makes a lot of us conservative, and when it comes to the business world, tendencies towards the familiar are how things operate most of the time. Certainty rules, chances drool, and in a world where having the most profits makes you better than most, the more constants you can add to the equation the better off the results should be. Granted, certainty doesn't equate to success, but knowing more about what you are dealing with gives you a better chance. And sports actually takes this concept to a whole other level.
Most other business are concerned with the bottom line and making money, but sports as a business has to balance the bottom line with the winning line. You can have a very profitable team that makes a ton of money but absolutely stinks on the court if you don't focus on getting players that actually can play the game (see the Clippers of the NBA). The concepts of these things sometime produce completely different needs, and so it's a balancing game to try and mitigate the risks of spending money against getting talent, marketing the team, etc. So sports tries to do what every other business does and deal with certainties as much as they can, both in the bottom line and on the field of play.
Innovation is sometimes really slow unless you have an aggressive coach who's willing to risk his security to try something completely unorthodox, otherwise, the battle is two sides with essentially a base of talent and coaching talent. Leagues try to maintain a competitive balance in teams by legislating salaries and making sure that information is equally shared as much as possible so that there is a base level of competitiveness. The teams that tend to do better are the ones that find the best way to process this to their advantage without breaking the bank.
Some teams follow the path of spending like third world countries to try and win, like the Yankees or Cowboys. If you have owners that have a boatload of cash or have revenue streams that can support wild spending, it can work at points, but even the law of averages says a team can't dominate year after year because there are far too many factors to control in order to win. Spending may get you talent, but spending can't control injuries, performance, weather, officials, mental state, or other powerful forces. Others follow the nickle and dime process, like the Twins, who don't spend any sort of money unless absolutely necessary and instead rely on the use of younger, cheaper talent and managing expectations so that all things come together as cheaply as possible. The approach sometimes implodes (see the Pirates or Royals), but sometimes lightning strikes and you get success.
Businesses left to their own devices will simply try to acquire as much profit and influence as they can, because capitalism mandates that in its purest form. However, ethics kick in for most people and they realize that pure domination only leads to the desire to control more, and there's only so much profit that people can have, so it's important to keep that in perspective. Where the ethics don't kick in, legislation and regulatory put controls in place to make sure that things are as equal as possible, because we want things to be equatable as possible. Granted for most business, the forces of business keep most groups under control because supply and demand and economies of scale put pressure on things and reward more successful businesses. The rules get thrown out when you are dealing with monopolies (one entity controlling an entire business or trade) or oligopolies (a small group that controls a business or trade), because you don't have the same forces helping keep things in check.
Ok, the roundabout economics lesson aside, the business person in me hates regulation because I believe that all things considered, businesses will survive simply because they will innovate to make themselves more successful. The humanitarian and sports fan wins out in this argument though, because I don't believe that human nature and ethics immediately trigger the right response in a lot of people. Instead of doing the right thing or asking the right questions, it's all about finding the right angle or path of least resistance in the ultimate pursuit of victory, and so you can't just allow business to just do what they want to. For most sports leagues, this is why they have salaries caps, hiring rules, and competitive balance things in place to make sure that things are about as even as possible.
I understand the concept behind the Rooney Rule for the NFL, because most NFL teams tend to fall on known tendencies when they need new management, trying to mitigate the risk as much as they can or walking in with a relatively known quantity. The rule says you have to consider all sides without bias so that the most intelligent decision can be made and everyone gets an equal chance to interview. Leave it to the Hawks and the Vulcan guys to find the most obvious angle to exploit, and now the rest of the NFL sits back and watches what the end result will be.
The Hawks wanted Pete Carroll, whatever the cost, whatever the circumstances, so instead of following logic and process, they cut through the rules, did the minimum of what they needed to, and hired their guy regardless of the result. And while I'm not convinced he's even the right guy talent wise, the move has other moves that I don't think the Hawks have even considered. That's what happens when you have business people making sports decisions and not understanding the full impact of the choice. The team risks not only being fined by the NFL for their coaching hire (although their "interview" probably met the requirements), but now the rest of the league is going to get overly scrutinized for any future hire.
The biases here for the Hawks were simple: they wanted the guy they wanted no matter the cost, so manipulated the situation to get the result they wanted. Congratulations to them for working the system to make this happen, but don't be too surprised if this whole house of cards crashes down on you in more ways than you expect. While it might be more boring or prudent to follow the rules, you also don't run the risk of karma kicking you in the behind.
Finally, I get some fans might be upset at the end of the Packers - Cardinals game on Sunday, which was the only footbal I got to watch this weekend, but at the same point, the game wasn't lost by one simple missed call. Officials are human and try to catch things as best as they can. While there are officials that have admitted to being on the take, I believe that most of them try to do the best job as possible. Officiating is at its best when you don't even notice their work, because the game retained the flow and competitive balance. And for the second half, the Packers and Cardinals traded shots and torched the other sides' defense in about every way possible. I hate to see anyone lose games like this, but most sports mandate that someone wins and somebody loses.
One of the aspects of soccer that I love is that a tie ends up rewarding both sides if it's a competitive game, but that doesn't play well with most other sports because of this "win at all costs" mentality. That being said, the Packers should be able to hold their chins up for playing well, and showing their incredible talent, and they simply got outplayed at one point of the game. It's not the fault of the officials for missing a call, which appeared rather questionable in my mind anyway. What this attitude of blaming only shows is that as fans, we can't admit when the other side simply beat us for whatever reason. There has to be a reason why my team lost, and if I can't blame my side, I have to blame somebody else. Instead of tipping the hat to the other side for doing more to win in the end, it has to be somebody's fault.
It's attitudes like this that bother me in a situation where we had a classic match between two extremely equitable sides. It's a shame that anyone had to lose this, but at the same point, the Cardinals should be congratulated for outlasting a spunky Packer team that gave them everything, while the green and gold shouldn't be ashamed for playing as well as possible without winning. That's the way things happen in sports, and it may not be fair, but it's also reality which is something that sports needs to remember from time to time. 

Monday, January 11, 2010

Worst Kept Secrets in Sports...

Wow, as I read the sports headlines from this past weekend, I'm forced to realize in this fast paced, media obsessed society that secrets just don't mean what they used to anymore. If people want to figure out something, they'll do whatever is necessary to find the answers, and good luck if you are someone that is remotely famous that has something you don't want people to know about. We'll just talk, speculate, spread rumors, the talk itself will overshadow the news itself because that's how things work.
Mark McGwire used steroids. Wow, that's like one of the worst kept secrets in baseball, and he's finally come clean today after years of speculation and hiding from the world in his own little cocoon. People aren't supposed to have biceps this big or heads this large naturally, but here's Big Mac swatting fly balls all over stadiums like nobody could. I actually saw him him a scoreboard in the old Kingdome that was estimated to be almost 600 feet from the home place when it existed, and I venture it was the hardest hit baseball I've ever seen fly in person. It just didn't seem possible that someone could do what this guy could do with a bat, but here we were witnessing it.
And it's what baseball needed after the mess that the strike caused that eliminated a World Series and the good portion of two seasons. The game was in danger of becoming irrelevant, as people tired of the antics of spoiled players, rich owners, and the escalating power play in the search for more money and influence. And then 1998 comes along and McGwire and Sammy Sosa turned a home run chase into a media circus that captivated baseball and non baseball fans alike. The questions about steroids were brought up then, but pushed under the carpet as fans attended games in droves and the luster missing was restored. And now, years later, we live with the ramifications of those choices.
McGwire avoided all the questions, all the allegations, all the evidence, and once he retired from baseball, retreated to a world where he could be himself and avoid the tough questions. The allure and camaraderie of the clubhouse called him, and so he made a return knowing he had to face the music. Today, he came clean, and we'll all wonder what might have happened if he didn't use drugs or he'd decided to talk about things earlier. Let's face it, A-Rod admitted to using drugs almost immediately after the accusations came up, and his career has remain relatively unscathed while Pete Rose and Barry Bonds are shells of their competitive images. Rose admitted far too late that he bet on baseball after years of speculation while Bonds remains quiet about what he might or might have done and he's faded into obscurity.
For a sports obsessed society, we love our hero worship. We want to know more about the people that play our sports, and will do anything to get inside their world. We buy their jerseys, read their stories, and follow their talents without even realizing that athletes share the same frailties, same insecurities, same mortality as we all do, and when these heroes fall whether it's because of misconduct, passing of time, or mistakes, we are usually a forgiving lot for the most part. As long as the people involved show some humility, some regret, some hint that they are bothered, otherwise, the heroes will be chastised as many days as they can be. Rose might have more hits than any other baseball player in history, but there's too many baseball fans that can't forgive him from not being honest about betting until the apology benefited him and a book deal.
McGwire will never be able to fix what happened so many years ago during a home run chase that captivated many baseball fans, but today he made a big start by admitting his transgression. Humility, it's actually an endearing quality, and something that people need to remember about from time to time..
Other thoughts: Pete Carroll is now coaching the Seattle Seahawks in another one of the worst kept secrets of sports, as he bolts from USC amidst allegations of misconduct around the school and recruiting. The fact that the Hawks fired their previous coach was surprising, because Jim Mora was anointed as the replacement coach when Mike Holmgren retired. And after one year filled with injuries, miscommunication, and talent issues, Mora is gone and Carroll is hired in one of the worst kept secrets of sports.
The NFL has a Rooney rule where teams need to interview a minority candidate, so that everyone has an equal chance of potentially be hired for the job. However, the team skirted around it with a cursory interview with the defensive coordinator of Minnesota while various news outlets were already reporting Carroll was hired and agreeing to terms in Seattle. In the zeal to hire somebody, the team cut many, many corners to find who they thought is the right fit. I don't know if he will make things better up there, but at the same time, I can't help but see this as pure panic by the team up there. These are the same clowns that nearly ran the Trail Blazers into the ground, and they're finally righting the ship, so perhaps this is a good thing.
Conan O'Brien is being hosed. I've become a bit of a fan of late night television lately because my wife is a bit of a night owl, but also it's some of the best stuff on television. Granted back in my college days, David Letterman was a staple of late night studying when Letterman was creating his insane brand of absurdist humor. Letterman left to go to CBS and now practices his cranky old guy mad at things routine amusingly, but I miss the days of his confetti cannons and random characters appearing in comedy bits.
O'Brien has the same type of show now at the Tonight Show, but apparently NBC realized their error in putting Jay Leno on each night in a crappy talk show at 10 PM. I never liked Leno, I found his humor to be rather canned and lacking, although his work on the Simpsons was OK at points. Now that NBC sees what is going on, they want to return Leno to his original time spot and bump Conan back a half an hour. I love this trying to play all sides of things, but it's a serious mistake.
Leno said he was retiring and when he changed his mind, NBC should have let him walked but they decided to try and keep both sides happy. Now they have a mess out there that isn't going to end well for most folks. Well, except for the guy that I find the funniest guy in late night - Craig Ferguson. He's brash, he's scottish, he's insane, and he's funnier than anything out there right now, and I hope that Conan finds a home for his humor. When he's on his game, he's extremely entertaining, but I'm sure it's hard to be funny when you're looking over your shoulder to see what your network is doing.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

It's Been A Rousing Start to the New Year

I know it's been a while since I've written anything, which I think happens around the holidays. Not only is there lots of family time and celebrating going on for Christmas, New Years or any other holidays that you might celebrate there, my birthday falls right after the holiday, so things don't slow down as the start of the year happens. Things around our household also were busy as we start a project to renovate parts of our house to give us more room while giving our brood of cats their own space to live in. That's how things work for girl and myself, we just have a crazy schedule which means there's either nothing going on or everything going on. It's kind of a fun ride at times, even if there are points where I would like things to float more in the middle.
That hasn't stopped things from happening around the area that is newsworthy, and so without further adieu, here's my takes on some of the stuff going on:
I don't buy the notion the Trail Blazers are cursed, but you do have to wonder what the heck is going on with this team during the 2010 season. Most of the key players for this side have injury issues, keeping them out for most or all of this season, and on most nights, the team is using a 7 to 8 player rotation. This isn't relating to talent, it's simply because they don't have enough available players.
Greg Oden, Travis Outlaw and Joel Pryzbilla are out for the year, while Nicolas Batum, Rudy Fernandez, and Steve Blake currently are out with various ailments. Add to that LaMarcus Aldridge, Jeff Pendergraph, Paddy Mills, Dante Cunningham and Brandon Roy dealing with various nagging injuries that have kept them out for parts of the year, and you can see that this team is essentially playing with one arm behind their back. Many nights, you don't know who is going to be available, yet here they are after the first of the year within striking distance of first place in the Northwest Division lead and the playoffs.
I'm proud of the team simply for battling most nights when most things are against them, and they've won some games that they probably shouldn't have, but they just simply wouldn't be denied. It also makes strange scenes like Tuesday night (1/5/10) the more palatable when they lose a winnable game at home after a tough back to back (game in LA Monday night, Memphis on Tuesday). Yes, the officiating was a bit uneven (how can you call Roy for a foul at midcourt with 25 second left when Webster gets decked taking a three and the whistle gets swallowed), and the team went into bunker mentality far too early for my taste, but it's hard to look at this and not be entirely happy. No team loses more than half of their roster for most of a season and sits where the Trail Blazers are in the standings now without truly achieving something special.
And for me, it's tough because of my feelings about the organization. I love the players on this team, and am proud of their efforts even with my own reservations about the guys in charge. Satellite TV NBA fans are getting hosed by the team's TV contract, while the team continues to attempt to strong arm the city into their vision for the Rose Quarter area, yet ticket demand is through the roof. We live in a rather unique market, where we live and die with our NBA team, and it takes a special kind of fan to try and ride through the ups and downs.
I did finally relent and attend a game on my birthday versus Golden State, and while it was a win for the Black and Red, I didn't find the overall experience enjoyable. I find myself disliking the overly canned, completely controlled and contrived entertainment that is now part of the NBA right now. At no point do teams let spontaneous chants or cheers start, they fill every spot with something to see, something to hear, something to do. The game itself is almost secondary to all of the other things going on, and being away from it for a bit, I realized how much the environment is contrived. While I still get a kick from how loud and passionate the Rose Garden can be when things are rolling, I could do without the standard two chants of "Defense" and "Let's Go Blazers!" The NBA is more a sport - entertainment hybrid, and for fans like myself, I don't think I'll ever see things go back to a simpler time when fans were left to their own devices at points.
The Timbers will have a 2010 season, although it was touch and go for many months as the USL and NASL sides played an advance game of ego stroking to get more money. I cover the main points of this in my other blog home, but just knowing that the stadium deal for PGE Park is forthcoming next week while the Timbers have a league to play in for 2010 is a huge relief to me. While I can relate to a lot of the moving parts of this dispute at some point, the disagreement simply came down to two sides thinking their idea was better to make money and help soccer along, while discounting any other thoughts about the process. There's no reason this should have taken so long to resolve, but when you have money, influence and egos in the room, nobody wants to relent even if it's for the best.
I had a good holiday season, although it was far more mellow than in previous years. There was no travel outside the area, there was only one big family gathering to visit girl's grandparents at their assisted living home, and I was able to talk with my sister and dad briefly on the day for a short time, which is always pleasurable. It was nice to have a holiday that didn't have a lot of drama and frustration, even though there was the occasional misunderstanding.
I've also come to learn about my own personal shortcomings in greater detail, which has been both an enlightening and frustrating experience. In certain aspects, I take things at face value and I don't question why things are why they are. While that works in some areas, it's important to remember to question things, something I would have thought my Jesuit education would have taught me. I don't like being wrong, and when it does happen, I'm way too hard on myself. I'm probably my own worst critic, but at the same point, you have to give yourself credit for making strides at points. But you can't be complacent, either, because change is the main force behind personal growth. Yes, I've probably oversimplified this as vaguely as possible, but ever since I started this process to improve my outlook, this is the first time I've felt that real hurdles were being crossed.
It's easy to go through the motions and think things are changing, in an attempt to try to improve things, but it takes real work to understand yourself and understand the impact you have on others. Granted, I don't want to be too hard on myself, but I'm learning how entirely hard I've been on certain people in my life, and I'm not happy about it. I'm not a big resolutions guy, but with the new year, I'm resolved to try and be more aware of how I impact others and make sure that I'm not adversely affecting people with my mood and actions.
In addition to that, I'm also working on getting in better physical shape. I've become addicted to the Nintento WII games, especially WII Resort and WII Fit Plus. There's a lot of really cool games to play on both of these programs, and the WII gets you a good workout without too much effort. The first few times I did aerobics and yoga on the WII Fit, I was in pain and dripping with sweat, and I didn't think any video game could do this. The WII does, giving you support when you need it, while yelling at you at times when you also need. it, kind of like a certain person that is near and dear to me.
Finally, I don't talk much about college football around here, whether that is because I went to a school that didn't have college football or I find the whole BCS mess a complete scam. But this year's bowl season had some of the most compelling football action I've seen all year. Yes, it was disappointing that the Oregon Ducks lost the Rose Bowl, but they didn't get blown out and played well for most of the game, unlike the Beavers who got blown out of Vegas with a stiff wind.
But it's hard not to watch the Fiesta Bowl and get caught up in the non-BCS sides battling in a rather competitive game, even if the first half was incredibly boring as both teams struggled with nerves and composure. The game came down to a single moment on a punt play, where Boise State executed a fake punt that worked, and they scored the winning touchdown a few moments later. They then held off a charging TCU side with a very good defensive effort in one of the better finishes this year. Ok, it wasn't the crazy finish of the Humanitarian Bowl in Boise where Bowling Green and Idaho scored 15 points in the final minute of the game, with Idaho getting a two point conversion with no time left to win the game 43 to 42, but the Fiesta Bowl was still a very entertaining game.
Granted, the schools and the BCS are putting out information that says they want this system to continue, despite most fans wanting a playoff in college football, which means that nothing about this championship is going to change anytime soon. But if they keep producing moments like what they did in Boise and Glendale, I don't think most fans are going to mind that much.