Tuesday, February 23, 2010

It's Been A Tough Day, But It's Getting Better

I know that everyone has tough days, days that you would just like to hide from the world or ask the world to stop the ride becaue you'd like to get off. I remember many times growing up hearing about character building experiences, which I equated to situations where adults wanted to torment kids for whatever reason, but now that I'm older and trying to get things figured out, I see things differently.
I'd like to say that I learn a lot from winning and success, but honestly, the only thing that I can consistenly say that I learn from that is that I should keep doing whatever it is I'm doing cause it worked. Mind you, it could have been pure dumb luck or the efforts of one or many that led to success, but we all know that being a superstitious lot, we tend to try and mirror successes to build upon things later. I've learned far more from the hurdles and drama that I've had to deal with, because those situations force us to examine ourselves and who we are, and either make the decision that things are OK or things must change because they can't work the way they were. I've faced a lot of challenges lately, from my own past trauma which we all have to challenges at work, but nothing has presented as many challenges as losing my mother.
For those of you that know me, this is rather old news, but for me, there are things that remind me of her that push me back to the day we lost her. Today happens to be her birthday, and while it's a lot better today mentally, I still feel a bit of apprehension and stress simply because I know what day it is. Granted, I know that she's moved onto a better place and I'm living in the here and now, but that doesn't change the fact that she was an important influence to me, good and bad. And if you had talked to me late in 2005 after her death, I still had the rose colored glasses and eternal optimism that things were good with us and I had a really good childhood.
The years and events since then have pulled a lot of the tarnish from that rose colored view to make me realize that things weren't nearly as good as I envisioned because I only focused on the good stuff. I didn't focus upon the divorces, her desire to try and find someone to love her as much as she loved others but settling for what was available, and her inability to kick me in the butt when I needed it. Instead of allowing me to fail or succeed based on my terms, I got the kid gloves treatment for the most part, and so it's no wonder now that I try so hard to avoid failure because I never learned until recently that it's ok to fall on your butt. I thought I had my life all figured out until I was forced to look at it and I realized that it wasn't anything like what I wanted.
I had a studio apartment in NW Portland, living the relative high life by myself and trying to manage things for me. But when I met girl and realized how important she was to me, I realized that I needed and wanted so much more, even if I didn't know it at first. I missed the simple joy of pets coming around to sleep on your lap, or rubbing against you when you've had a crappy day, or even the simple ability to share the events of my day with someone that cares. Not that I didn't have friends and family that don't care, but when you are in an intimate relationship, it becomes a big relief to have someone to help carry the burden. And while I drive my wife crazy quite a bit, I can't think of anyone else that I'd want to spend my life with. She gives me love and kicks my butt when I need it, and I appreciate that quite a lot, even if there are times where I fight it or don't appreciate what she does for me.
And while today has been a relatively busy day at work, I've still thought about the day and my mom, and while I miss her terribly, I know she'd be happy because I'm happy with my life. She would be ecstatic that I have someone to share things with, inspire and support, and playfully tease once I figure out a good comeback to some of her jokes (hey, I get tripped up when she tells me I suck and I can't think of a quick reply), because it's like finding your other half. Today, while I've thought about my mom and talked to my sister by email, I've spent as much time thinking about the future and the things I want to do later on. I suppose you could say that I'm living my life, which I'm sure that my mom would want me to do more than anything.
Olympics Banter - Hockey fans are still way upset about Sunday and with good reason. I watched the game Sunday afternoon and it was one of the best events I've seen in a while. While I'll agree with this blogger that some of the technology used for this coverage has been top flight, the coverage overall has been terrible. You might have some of the best camera angles and graphics that show some pretty cool stuff, but when your coverage is extremely minimal and more based on tape delayed snippets and back story filler, it doesn't matter how many cool toys you have. I want to see events and have the drama unfold in front of me rather than being told what I should like or what I should support.
And something I can't support is ice skating, which is something the coverage dedicates itself to quite a bit. I can't support any activity that depends on judging that is hard to understand, I don't care how compelling the costumes might be or how much adversity they've overcome to get here. At least with aerial skiing, I can relate to the difference between certain tricks and there's a danger factor that provides some thrill, but skating doesn't provide me any of that. It's the same beef I have with the Summer Olympics and gymnastics. But I won't say that the Olympics needs to get rid of any sports at all, because I understand that people have differing tastes in competition and I'm not going to badmouth the choices in sports unlike other fans who hate the game I love soccer.
It's just that for a sports fan, you relate to competition and the drama that builds up during the event, and putting things on tape delay and not allowing the event to unfold as it happens takes away the most compelling reasons to watch sports. It would be like boiling the Super Bowl to an hour show with only the key plays and lots of stories about the players. Nobody would ever agree or watch something like this, but for the Olympics, NBC is convinced this is what we want to watch. Well, not me, I've been watching what I can on ctvolympics.ca, a site run by CTV. It's not on delay, and while it's biased for the home side, it's still some of the best stuff to watch if you simply want to watch people battle in the arena of sports.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

My History with the Olympics - part two

So the torch was finally lit for the Vancouver Olympics Friday night in a cavalcade of spectacle. The opening ceremony had it all - a parade of nations to challenge your understanding of geography, special effects to dazzle or confuse the senses, a crazy poet with the worst chinbeard ever, and a celebration of the torch that was comic yet touching. The comedy was present when the torch cauldron inside BC Place stuck, and one of the doors protecting the arm didn't open. For two and a half long agonizing minutes, the torch bearers (4 of them) stood in place wondering what would happen, but then the three other arms came up, the torch was lit inside and everyone celebrated. It was like the fortress of solitude for Superman broke, and they couldn't get it fixed, but it was historic in that more than one person lit the cauldron and they did it inside.
But then in a scene that was amazing, the great Wayne Gretzky ran to catch a ride, and suddenly he was in the back of a pickup driving down the streets of downtown Vancouver. They were lighting a second cauldron outdoors, and the great one was going to be the person lighting this one. And sure enough, it went without a hitch and the crowd erupted in approval. Watching the truck glide through the city and seeing the residents jump up and down in celebration was interesting. The world's biggest celebration of sports was underway, and Vancouver opened its arms to the world.
Not that it hasn't been without other incidents. Earlier in the day, a luger from Georgia was tragically killed in a training accident up at Whistler, which put a damper on some of the celebration. Accidents are part of the game in sports like luge, where athletes hurl themselves down a sheet of ice at speeds that most of us don't drive our cars at, but in this instance, the luger lost control on the final turn and shot off the track into a steel pole. The officials there made some tough but quick decisions to alter the competition starting points and put up extra barriers around that fateful turn, but apparently, there were some questionable decisions made prior to the Games that had some competitors up in arms. Organizers tried to make the fastest track in the world, and in succeeding, they pushed the envelope to the edge which means the margin of error should something bad happen is minuscule. Plus, Canadian luge officials apparently didn't make the track as available to other competitors before the Games, meaning that racers hadn't had the chance to really get comfortable with the layout unless your helmet had the maple leaf on it.
Officials also said afterwords the track was safe and the accident was rider caused, which led to a lot of firestorm as well. I learned later that the luger had taken 26 training runs on the course before Friday, and to compete at this level, you need to have a certain amount of skill just to be there. It's not like we're talking about a complete rookie here, but then again, even the most experienced racers were having problems with the course. I get that you want the most competitive and even handed course available, but in attempting to make things more interesting, there has to be a balance between speed and safety, otherwise you are tempting fate and things like what happened on Friday will happen more often. I'm sure the debate about this will continue as people try to point a finger and determine a reason why something happened. But while it's important to understand the why, it's also important to deal with the what happened, and continuing the competition was the right decision to make as long as they are being safe about it.
Also, protests earlier in the day marred the torch relay, making course reroutes necessary to get the torch to its destination. The demonstrations continued through Saturday, taking a more destructive stance as protesters turned violent with property destruction in downtown Vancouver. Nothing brings out people looking for a stage for their cause like an event that is drawing worldwide attention, and sure enough, those wanting a sympathetic ear are trying to state their case, no matter the consequences. I'm all for social activism if the heart is in the right place, but nothing excuses the destruction of other people's property just to prove a point. I get that there are serious issues about that need attention, and it's important to deal with those things rather than sweep them under the carpet, but I can't be sympathetic with those that decide their need to be heard comes at the cost of harming others directly or indirectly. Maybe the homeless in Vancouver need some help, but trashing stores in the downtown Vancouver area isn't the way to inspire people to do something.
Lastly, I couldn't believe how much disdain people have for Olympics coverage from NBC, including a person who created a Facebook group about it. NBC is already dealing with the controversial decision in their late night programming and the ramifications there, and now their coverage of the Vancouver Games is drawing similar levels of criticism. From not showing the United States - Canada men's hockey competition on their main channel relegating the game to MSNBC in lieu of ice dancing, putting most of the events on tape delay instead of showing them live and admitting they're doing it, and using integrated advertising within the games coverage themselves, I don't know of anyone that is happy about anything the peacock network is doing.
And they don't seem to care despite all of the anger being shown on blogs and other media outlets, because despite all of it, we're apparently still watching. Me, I'm upset that two shows that I absolutely love, the Office US and Community, reside on a network that things manipulating coverage to fit their needs instead of letting things happen naturally and telling the story as it happens works. Seriously, this network couldn't figure out what to do with the Tonight Show when the guy promised the job was doing what he was supposed to while the guy that had the job suddenly wanted his job back, and so they nearly destroyed their network framework in the process of trying to solve the issue. So how can I trust them to cover these events in the way that helps sports fans.
I get that the Olympics draws a lot of casual sports fans, and a lot of them love skating for whatever reason. I can't stand it because I hate sports that have subjective judging that doesn't allow me to completely understand why one person spinning four times in the air is better than another person that does the very same thing. At least with most skiing, bobsled, hockey, track skating, it's easy because the person that gets the course done first wins and although I can't ski like that, I can relate to the competition of knowing the best person won. But the Olympics aren't about me or any sports fans anymore, it's all about ratings and fierce corporate logos, complete with overpriced souvenirs. I've finally figured out that there are some wonderful websites available where I can watch what I want when I want to find out what's going on, and avoid the pomposity and blatant slant that NBC is portraying, and if I really want to watch the games, I should just watch the Simpsons version anyway. If you want to watch it, you can do it here. And now, let's welcome Albania, Ghostbusters style!!

Friday, February 12, 2010

My History with the Olympics

I know some people have a bucket list, those things that they want to accomplish before they leave this life for parts unknown. I've accomplished quite a bit in my time so far, and plan on doing a heck of a lot more before I depart, mostly because I want to see things for myself. And no surprise that most of my things that I want to do involve sports and sporting events. I've been able to witness soccer across the pond, more that a few baseball parks, a few NFL games, and traveled to various parts of the world to walk and see the sights. But nothing has carried quite the appeal for me than the Olympics.
I think it was the 1984 Los Angeles Summer Games that piqued my interest, although the 1980 Lake Placid Winter games certainly stuck with me after the Miracle on Ice. I also enjoyed seeing many of the sporting events that the Olympics have that up to that point you just didn't see on television, like speed skating. But the LA games were a big deal, as my cross country coach was going to see some of the events himself, and he talked about it quite a bit in class before the summer break. As the summer wore on, I didn't think much about it until I got a call from him asking me what I was doing on July 4th. The Olympic Torch Relay was going through Boise, and he wanted to know if I was available to escort the torch runner. Apparently, the USOC asked local cross country coaches to find team members to run in the event, and of course, I was honored to be asked and so of course I said yes.
It was a hot July 4th day when I met my coach and some of my teammates at the Boise Amtrak Station. The plan was to meet the torch runner here, and then run from here to the State Capitol for the relay exchange. I hadn't run much since the track season has ended, but I figured I could wing my way along good enough to keep up. But as I put on the uniform and put on my running shoes, I didn't think about that. I was just honored to be part of history, and as the gentleman ran up with the flame, I got caught up in the moment. It was historic, breathtaking, and overwhelming, and by the time I realized it, we'd ran to the capitol and the exchange had been done. The moment was over, but it was truly a moment that I treasured. And when a good friend asked the gentlemen if he could hold the torch for a picture and then asked me to join him, I didn't hesitate. And sure enough, there's a picture of me and my friend John R with the torch.
I watched events that year as much as I could as I wanted to learn more about this athletic competition, and I tried to obtain as much Olympic gear as I could. I still have the 1984 Olympic album, and some glasses from those games, but I'd caught the bug. So when 1988 rolled around and I found out the Winter games would be in Calgary, Alberta, I decided I wanted to see the games for myself. It wasn't hard to convince my friend Skywalker to decide to go, and we worked out an agreement to see certain games and go up for a long weekend. Going to school in Spokane meant that we had a 8 to 10 hour drive to get there, but it seemed worth it to go see things live.
Surprisingly, it was easy to get tickets, and we found a hotel north of Calgary in Crossfield, Alberta that had rooms, and so it was a done deal. And the trip was a true adventure from going through the border, me trying to ski in Banff and crashing quite a bit, watching the last hockey game between the USSR before they broke up and West Germany before they unified, and seeing Calgary in its Olympic glory. I was impressed with how well the city ran despite the large crowds, and we also ran into some great surprises during our stay. Watching the games from a tent in downtown Calgary was crazy, and everyone was really friendly and happy to have the world watching them. I was happy that I could take some time away from school to see what all the fuss was, and it was worth it. I still have some pins from my trip, and pictures and game tickets somewhere in my boxes of treasures.
I kept track of the games during their changes, from putting the Winter Olympics on a different schedule from the Summer games, the wonderful performances that occurred quite often, and the adventures of the games coming back to the US in 1996 in Atlanta. I thought about trying to get tickets again for these games, but after seeing the competition for tickets, I felt as though it would be better to watch the games on television. And sure enough, the multi channel approach of showing the games worked for me as I could watch events as they happened while also watching the main coverage which showed event highlights and compelling back stories. But Atlanta was the first time that I began to notice some changes in the Games that I'd grown to love, as commercial interests became more apparent and the coverage seemed to change quite a bit as the compelling stories become more of the focus and the events seemed almost secondary.
You couldn't help but notice that subsequent games followed this approach on television to the point where I was wary when the games came back to the US in 2002 with Salt Lake City taking hosting duties. I wanted to try and get tickets being close to that area, but the process was so confusing, I got shut out of everything that I wanted, even trying to target some of the more obscure events. I did get some lanyards for my effort of attempting to order tickets that I still have, but it seems odd to have that and no tickets to put inside. But then the coverage on television went more on human interest that term, and it was almost rare to see any actual events in their entirety unless it was figure skating. The Games that I'd grown to love became an afterthought as the broadcasts became nothing more than a focus on American athletes and back stories instead of showing actual game footage. I didn't appreciate the fact that the coverage was also on tape delay in most cases, so most of the events that were marked live were actually on delay to maximize ratings.
Granted, I'm happy to see that Vancouver, BC is the home of the 2010 Winter Olympics, because it's a city that I've traveled to quite a bit and know quite well. I've made the trip up there following the Timbers, spent a Canada Day up north, and feel that Vancouver would be a great place to host the world for this event. The city is one of the most friendly places I've been to, the residents are proud of their corner of the world, and they love their country and city. Based on attitude, I put Vancouverites on par with Portland residents in having pride in their area, and wanting to show things off. And with Canadians being some of the most polite people on the planet, I couldn't think of a better place for people to visit for any reason, even a big event like this.
Granted, Canadians become a little insane when you get brew in them and give them a hockey stick, and they have an unnatural obsession with curling, but that's one of the more endearing qualities. I just have yet to meet a Canadian that I didn't like, because they are so likable. Based on this, I'll probably pay attention to the Games simply because of that, but at the same time, I'm not holding out hope of seeing much on television. And I don't want anyone to think that I don't have a heart or understand compelling situations and overcoming obstacles, but at what point does that become too much?
I'm a sports fan, and while I like learning knowledge and hearing how people have acheived their success, I'm not a fan of being force fed back stories or talking about certain athletes because the network has decided that is what is compelling. The Olympics used to be about allowing stories to unfold, and celebrating performances as they happened, and now it's just a prepackaged collection of highlights and backstories. I want to see the events happen as they happen, but unfortunately, I think I'm just resigned to falling back on my memories of a time when things seemed a bit more simple and a bit less obsessed about marketing and dollar signs.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Wait, MTV is still relevant?

Uh, MTV doesn't play videos anymore? Wow, I couldn't have guessed after watching hours and hours of supposed reality TV with people who seem more obsessed with being outrageous or memorable than actually being entertaining. Instead of Headbangers Ball, we get Jersey Shore, instead of Remote Control, we get Road Rules. There hasn't been a video on this channel in years, and now today, the iconic logo that has been around since the days when MTV first went on the air has been changed to remove the words Music Television. You only hear music during poignant moments within their reality TV shows or in short sound bites during commercial breaks.


Ok, I'll admit I did watch early seasons of Real World and Road Rules because they were at least interesting and it didn't seem all that contrived. Now, the shows bring together 7 or 8 characters that fit a role and the show puts them in precarious spots full of booze and compromising situations. Their new shows about teen pregnancy are compelling in their very real portrayal of what happens when kids have kids, but it's sad to see an icon of your youth basically get turned into something completely unrelatable. I remember spending hours during my teen years watching videos, seeing the artists that I liked perform their music. It changed music quite a bit, MTV did, and now, music is just a memory there.


Granted it's probably part of getting older that you realize that things just aren't the same anymore with many of the things from your youth. I can't keep up with a lot of the current trends in things, mostly because I'm too busy with living my life to worry about it. I don't care if I'm not wearing the latest clothes or listening to what's the hot music now, I find what I like and stick with it. I suppose it's a sign that you can move away from the caring about the current trends. And of course, there's all the horrible pictures of things back when that could be pulled out to remind you of the horror of things back when. Seriously, people, day glow colors and mullets, what where we thinking?


But in terms of music growing up, I relied totally on the radio and MTV to hear about new bands and what was going on in the world. It was amazing to see the people that made the music, and the cross promotions between videos and the corresponding releases really influenced why certain bands flourished while others flamed out. I remember my very first Walkman, which allowed me to listen to cassettes so I could take music portably, which allowed me to do my chores and enjoy a little bit of piece.


Now, IPODs can store an entire catalog of music in something as big as a cell phone, while musical genres are fractured, as we now have so many different categories of music, it's hard to know what band fits where. And in like most American cities, the radio has becomed a jumbled mess of channels who seem to be more interested in selling crap and promoting their latest promotion rather than playing music. Portland compounds that issue with having radio stations that don't fit into a true genre, instead playing selected tunes that fit somewhat together. We don't have a true classic rock, alternative, or rock station, it's a mish mash of songs that sort of fit together.


I can prove this with just how our stations are organized. One, I like the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and the likelihood of me hearing a song of theirs on our stations is good, because they appear on the rock station, alternative station, the adult alternative station, the we play everything stations, and the lite rock station. If you like them great, but if you want to hear something different, well, it's hard when a band like this could appear anywhere. Insert Nirvana or Evenescence, and you get the same thing. I personally hated the song that the Evenenscene people did, not because it wasn't a good song, but because I couldn't get away from it being played everywhere. We might play everything or be different here, but at the same time, we're here to make money. And the corporate interests that control the airwaves say that radio here is very controlled and regimented.


It's no wonder that people have retreated to their own musical selections in their players, or finding radio stations on the Internet to find a reprieve from corporate run radio. At least with these options, there's a bit more diversity and a lot less obnoxious ads. I've even tried listening to sports radio as an alternative, but I'm sick and tired of pulling up one station that is talking about football constantly and the other is strictly Trail Blazers all the time. I like to talk NFL and NBA, but not all the time. I guess the radio folks are just trying to tell me that I'm better off playing my own tunes instead of trying to have them play songs regularly, much like MTV is telling all of us that insipid people are much more fun to watch than actual artists producing music. I wished I could say that turning it off or changing the channel would matter, but at this point, I've got more important things to deal with.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

A game for the ages

I've talked a lot about my rekindled fandom with American football lately, which has been a slow and drawn out process. I think I got a bit burned out of the game after years of watching every game I possibly could each weekend, turning Sundays from a mildly productive day in preparation for work into a day filled with football as long as my senses could handle it. Now, I really only watch games that have some significance for me, such as when the Flaming Horseheads take the field or it's a compelling match-up. Well, and then there's the Super Bowl, which has become the grandiose spectacle of gridball.
Everything at the Super Bowl takes on bigger significance from how the coin flip works to endless hours of talking and back stories before the game even happens. The kick happens, and the game takes almost a back seat to everything else during the day - the spectacle of the commericials, the halftime show, and hopefully an amazing finish. This past Sunday though, the game was as compelling a match-up as I'd seen in a while. You had the Indianapolis Colts with their honored leader, Peyton Manning. It was expected the Colts would be here, as they had dispatched most of their opponents all year rather easily except for a two game period where the Colts rested their regular players. Their opponents were the New Orleans Saints, a team with a 42 year legacy of spectacular ineptitude. In their history, the Saints were so bad many seasons, the fans resorted to wearing paper bags over their heads when they watched the games. The fact that many fans did this in their homes was even more remarkable. The city also remains a shell of itself after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina so many years ago that there are still parts of the town that remain in shambles.
It was a classic matchup between the expected and unexpected, the anointed winner before the game was even played versus the team that nobody was that sure should be there. Despite the Saints being the number one seed in the NFC, they weren't expected to beat an Arizona team that had been scoring points like a basketball game, but they did. They weren't supposed to beat a Minnesota team that had a future Hall of Famer as their quarterback, but they did when the quarterback named Farve made a rookie mistake in throwing a pass that put the game in overtime and the Saints won the game on a field goal by a relatively inexperienced kicker during a season that kickers were having all sorts of issues. I wasn't sure if I was watching the game on Sunday because I'd grown tired of the hype, but on Sunday afternoon, I ended up watching the game. Ok, my wife said she was watching it and basically chided me into admitting I was a gridball fan. Yes, I run a pretend football league and I like the game, but I also hang with some soccer fans who love nothing more that trashing other sports because of the lack of respect those fans give to soccer. I should just be honest with myself and them and admit I love both games quite a bit, but for very different reasons.
I love soccer because of the relative beauty of a very simple game played extremely complexly, where the crowd goes nuts at those moments when a goal happens because it might only happen once or twice. The game seems very simple on the surface, but there are incredible nuances that can't be appreciated unless you really pay attention. The constant motion and running of the clock also lends to an ultimate sporting experience that is done usually within 2 hours. American football on the other hand is more of a chess match punctuated by moments of violent collisions. It's not a sport for the faint of heart, but when it is played well, it can be pagentry watching a quarterback dissect a defense with precision passing or watching a running back make players miss tackles with a simple change of direction or a well timed hit. And when you have a game like what happened on Sunday, even the non-football fan was treated to a classic game.
The commercials were better than average, and the halftime show was CBS subtly advertising their CSI franchise with the band that does all the theme songs, but the game itself was one of the best I'd seen ever. I didn't have a horse in the race, I just wanted to see a good game and that happens. The Colts jumped out to an early lead with Manning hitting passes all over the field and causing some confusion for the Saints offense. The Saints adjusted in the second quarter by putting together two very long scoring drives while keeping Manning on the bench, and the game was close at the half.
In a move that will go down in history as one of the biggest gambles in football, the Saints tried an onside kick to start the third quarter, and caught everyone in the stadium by surprise. In the crazy scramble for the ball, the Saints recovered and took the ball in for a touchdown, and the Colts and Saints traded scores in a back and forth quarter until the Saints kicked their third field goal and the game was within one point. The Saints started the fourth quarter on a drive, and then scored their second touchdown to take a 5 point lead. They went for a two point conversion, and got the points after a successful challenge (the receiver caught the ball but was pushed from the endzone and fumbled the ball so the play was originally ruled as an incomplete pass). They then put the target on their defense to stop Manning and the Colts.
And so the Colts marched up the field with precision passing and some well timed runs, but the drive was taking more time that usual as the Saints kept the Colts to short yardage gains. When the Colts had gotten to within the shadows of their endzone, Manning threw a short in pass when the receiver went slightly out, and Saints cornerback Tracy Porter ended up making a great interception that he ran all the way back for a Saints touchdown. Nobody saw Manning making a mistake like this at a critical part of the game, but he did and the Saints took advantage of it, much like they'd done all season. The Colts made one last run for the endzone, but fell just short as their last gasp pass fell incomplete on fourth down and the Saints ended up victorious 31 to 17.
At that moment, the history of the Saints didn't matter as the city partied like they did after beating Minnesota and Bourbon Street became an impromptu celebration of the Saints victory as the winning field goal flew through the uprights. The victory was more than a celebration of a city that has dealt with adversity in so many ways, but for players like Saints quarterback Drew Brees who chose New Orleans because they wanted to be part of the rebirth of this ravaged area. Brees had a nice career with the San Diego Chargers until he injured his shoulder and the Chargers chose to go in a different direction. Brees visited New Orleans and wanted to make a difference in an area that needed people to step up, and even moved his family within the city limits. And here he was, leading this team with the history of losing that was now crowned the champion of football.
It was a truly moving and trandescent moment, and one that all sports fans could relate to. Fans live for the moments where their team makes the right play, the ball finds the right spot, everything comes together, and there's a time to celebrate the accomplishments of a championship. The journey is often filled with distractions, injuries, bad luck, and whatever other hurdles can be thrown in there, which makes victory all that more sweet. And for a city and a team that needed a huge boost, it got one because of a special group of players that not only had good football talent, but understood their role in helping a city heal. It's one of the most memorable games I've witnessed in a very long time, and I couldn't be more pleased for the Saints.
It's easy to parallel the Saints and their situation with that of our hometown basketball team, who have been putting their medical staff on overdrive this season with an incredible assortment of injuries. And yet here they sit at 30 and 23, 7 games over .500 and within the playoff race despite having more games lost to injury than any other NBA team. Despite the adversity, despite the player losses, this team continues to scrap and claw to win games that they honestly shouldn't have with the talent on the court. Yet, here they are, and it's a testiment to the hard work of the players that are playing and the coaching staff that we're at this point.
Many sports fans jump from bandwagon to bandwagon, wanting to be part of the winning programs yet a lot of them don't put in the heavy lifting that being a true fan takes. Being a true fans means loving your team whether they win or lose, whether the wheels fall off the wagon or the team overachieves dramatically. The Saints fans put up with 42 years of absolute chaos and distractions, and suddenly, things fell into place and they are the Super Bowl champions. I admire those that took on the ride for all those years for those moments of true celebration, true exhaulation, and true fandom. It's why we keep coming back to sports time after time, despite everything, and why we should love our team no matter the challenges.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Where the &()^*(%%% Did I Put the Aspirin?

I love my wife most dearly, as most of you already know. I'm probably not the best at showing appreciation at points, but I'm trying to learn to be more perceptive and appreciative about all the things she does. I've never met anyone who deals with so much in such an efficient, logical manner, and yesterday, I gained quite a bit of appreciation of what she deals with when I get to escape to the relative quiet of my cubicle farm.
Granted, our house is going through major upheaval with a construction project to put extra rooms in back, so things aren't exactly normal around our place. But then again, we live with seven cats and my mother in law, so normal is a relative thing. There's always something going on, as it's rare to have a quiet day with nothing going on. Tuesday night, girl wasn't feeling too well and so skipped out on bowling, and asked me to work from home the next day so I could be here to deal with the chaos of the day. I agreed, because I have the flexibility to do that and I wanted to help.
And things got off to a raucous start with my first conference call at 8 AM and the construction crew arrived. I've worked around construction before, so I understand there's noise about, but I'd forgotten how constant it can be, especially with a rather chatty crew. Our contractor is a great guy, and his crew is extremely professional, and when they are in the mode, they are very detail oriented while having fun loudly. Well, and playing with loud tools means lots of constant noise. While humans can relatively tune it out, our cats aren't as tuned in so they tend to cling tenaciously to any familiar humans because of the unfamiliar sounds. Granted, we are blessed with some of most visible cats ever as they are constantly about, unlike other cats I know that only tend to appear when they want something.
As the day wore on, I spent my time balancing my work calls and emails along with interruptions from the crew about questions (thankfully, they told me they'd be making a hole in the roof so we could prepare for it) while the phone rang a bit. Oh, and the doorbell rang because of a stream of deliveries of random stuff. I can't imagine how difficult it is to get anything done amongst the constant stream of interruptions, especially since there's not too many places to hide in our house from the noise. My office has the same interruptions and randomness, as I'm sure we can all relate to, but I have the option of putting on headphones or finding a conference room to escape to for some space out time until someone kicks me out because they have an actual meeting. I should remember to put in a real conference room reservation before I just wander into a room...
But what my day at home did was make me realize how much she has to deal with, and I often time take what she does for granted. I'm sure that if she had to deal with what I do at my cube farm, she would see the same thing as I did, but this is about me and my putting into words how impressed I am with what she deals with, and how much I appreciate what she is doing. And all I can say is that the end results of this project will be well worth the temporary insanity. I'll just remember to bring the aspirin home and try to pitch in where I can.
In other news, I was reading the headlines and found a most recent email interview with Bill Watterson, the creator of the comic strip Calvin and Hobbes. Watterson is a remarkably talented artist who is also a major recluse, as he shunned most publicity interviews during the time he was drawing the strip that became wildly popular. Everyone could relate to the adventures of Calvin, a wonderfully adventurous boy whose imagination was unbridled by the bounds of reality. His near constant companion was Hobbes, his stuffed tiger who provided his thoughts that only Calvin could understand. The strip was required reading for me every day, as I could relate to the craziness that Calvin dealt with each day, and it became a worldwide phenomenon. Calvin and Hobbes also ushered in the golden age of some of the new strips that became pop culture repositories, often putting the world into insanely funny snapshots. I'd say that Calvin and Hobbes ranks with Bloom County and Get Fuzzy as some of the best comic art ever done in a daily newspaper.
And as soon as Calvin and Hobbes reached a near pinnacle status, Watterson announced he was done doing the strip. After starting his strip in 1985, citing stress and a few other issues, he decided to stop it all together. Unlike other strips that have carried on for years, Calvin ahd Hobbes left at the top of the game and fans have always wanted more to this day, as the reprints are still widely popular. We all see things in pop culture that have stayed way beyond their useful shelf life. I can't figure out the appeal of the Chipmunks myself, but hey, apparently I'm alone in my disdain for furry rodents warbling out today's crappy hits in high pitched shreaking. Calvin and Hobbes departed on their terms, and being a big fan, I was dishearted to learn that there would be no more adventures of Spaceman Spiff, Stupendous Man and what would the transmogrifier screw up this week. But I can imagine that it's a wonderful feeling to leave a legacy like this on your own terms, never having to compromise the vision of the creation, and be able to truly inspire and entertain so many. Plus this summer, I'll have to to buy the stamp!!
Being a Trail Blazer fan, I'm really happy to hear that we've finally got some misery in our company. Our beloved NBA team and city were listed amongst the 15 most tortured sports cities, with our history of near misses, spectacular meltdowns, a first round draft pick the city can't forget (Sam Bowie), and a most recent first round pick that can't seem to stay healthy. I moved here right before the 1989 championship run, and watched the near misses in 1991 and 1992, thinking that things couldn't get much worse. That was before the 2000 championship meltdown and the dark ages of the team that shall remain nameless. Now here we are with a collection of really good guys this season, playing out of their minds and hovering about the .500 mark despite leading the NBA in player games missed due to injury. I would expect most teams to fold up like a tent if they had to deal with the uncertainty we've dealt with this season, and despite all of that, we keep winning. If you took this sports history and linked it with the Timbers' near misses in their history, there are many sports fans that probably would have just given up already, not being able to take the losses, the pain, the suffering. That's why it takes a special breed to be a sports fan in Portland, it's not for the faint of heart.