Sports Update

So reading through the old blog, I found a post from six years ago that could do with an update. Therefore:

NOTE: “Then” equals 1991-96, roughly the peak of my sporting obsession. “Now” is 2010.

BASEBALL THEN: Obsessive. Atlanta Braves every day, Birmingham Barons twice a week, on top of all major developments and dialed into the minor league situation for the Braves and White Sox alike.
BASEBALL NOW: Eh. Will look in on the Giants once or twice a week, but rarely for a full game. Vaguely aware of the A’s, esp. if it’s a long night and there’s nothing on TV. Will look at the World Series if the Red Sox are in it. Not really sure who the Giants farm teams are. Barons connection limited to a cap.

BASEBALL, 2016: Will watch the Oakland A’s anytime Sonny is pitching. Will go to the San Jose Giants anytime for any reason. Will probably root for the SF Giants again once Tyler Beede is in the rotation, but not until (because it’s getting to be like rooting for the dealer). Very interested in the fortunes of Vanderbilt baseball and its many alumni in the big leagues. Own a Vandy Sunday jersey (red white and blue America themed).

NFL THEN: Everything, all the time. Redskins obsessive, though unable to see every game. Also a vested interest in the fortunes of (deep breath): Chargers, Saints, Jets, Chiefs, Packers, Raiders, and (later) Jaguars and Titans. Watched every preseason game, every instance of Sunday and Monday Night Football, damn near every playoff game. Obsessive scribbling of plans for realignment/expansion of NFL (including something approximating the actual 8-division 32-team form that finally came to pass in 2002).
NFL NOW: Redskins, either on satellite radio or at my dive bar up the road, plus every time they’re on national TV. General interest in the welfare of the Saints (because of my high school connections) and Chargers (family connection or two). Unadulterated loathing for the NFL as an organization and firm conviction that the Super Bowl is to football what St Patricks Day is to real Irish bars.

NFL, 2016: I get angry if I have to actually watch. One Redskins ridearound per year. Mostly only pay attention to the Skins inasmuch as it informs the escapades of the Sports Junkies.


NBA THEN: Everything, all the time. Suns fan, Blazers fan, could name the starting five of almost every franchise, never missed a playoff game or an NBA on NBC Sunday double-header. Could do a passable Marv Albert impersonation. Had Barkley and Majerle jerseys. Obsessive scribbling of plans for realignment/expansion of NBA with an especial eye toward an eventual team in hometown.
NBA NOW: Vaguely aware of Warriors. Even more vaguely aware of Wizards (via podcast of DC sports show) and Kings (because I know Sacramento is in the area and I know people who root for them). Unable to get stuck into actually paying attention, especially with hated Lakers and hated Celtics in prominence.

NBA, 2016: Thanks to Festus Ezili, I became a Warriors fan in the fall of 2012. I’d have to say it worked out OK. Hands down my top local sports affiliation these days.

NHL THEN: Watched Stanley Cup playoffs to conclusion annually. Also regular attendance at minor-league ECHL games in hometown. Occasional scribbling of realignment/expansion plans to include team in hometown (and possibly maximize presence in Canada along the way). Missed half of own college graduation party in 1994 hunched around TV with friends watching “MATTEAU! MATTEAU! MATTEAU!!!” game.
NHL NOW: (crickets)*

NHL, 2016: (crickets)


SOCCER THEN: Watched US team in World Cup.
SOCCER NOW: No longer have access to Celtic, but DVR’d every available game when possible. Still casting about for a team in English Premier League. Watched entire 2010 World Cup obsessively thanks to streaming video at work.

SOCCER, 2016: Will attend San Jose Quakes at any opportunity. Regularly DVR games from Tottenham Hotspur and Everton even if I don’t always watch. DVR and watch Men In Blazers weekly. Considering taking in a game in London this August…somewhere.


COLLEGE FOOTBALL THEN: Alabama Crimson Tide obsessive. Would watch any D-I game turned on in front of me. Schemed up plans for bowl-based playoff system and conceived experimental “Division IV” for major powers to field non-scholarship one-platoon football teams to replicate old-style football and experiment with rule changes. Wanted Keith Jackson to provide running commentary on my life.
COLLEGE FOOTBALL NOW: Season tickets for Cal, faithful follower of Vanderbilt, vested interest in Alabama if not full attention. Will watch any D-I game turned on in front of me.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL, 2016: I’m out. Will attend Alumni Band Day at Cal, or if they have the Grambling Band coming in to play, but now avoid games wherever possible, including Alabama and Vanderbilt. Gave up a regular Sunday postmortem column on Vanderbilt football at a prominent Vandy blog. I just can’t do it anymore with the game as it’s currently constituted. That said, I will support Alabama in national title games if it’s against a team I dislike.


COLLEGE BASKETBALL THEN: Hardcore supporter of undergrad team – pep band, alumni booster club even before graduation, sports editor of campus paper, known as “SF” (for “Super Fan”) by players living in same dorm. Would watch any D-I game turned on in front of me. Obsessive interest in NCAA tournament and NIT.
COLLEGE BASKETBALL NOW: Obsessive follower of Vanderbilt, including alumni gatherings in the city and even a live game vs St Mary’s in 2009 in Moraga. Will be distracted by any D-I game turned on in front of me. Obsessive, all-consuming interest in NCAA tournament, up to and including foolish decisions about buying tickets and attempting to ditch work at the appropriate times to maximize viewing opportunities. Want Gus Johnson to provide commentary on my life.

COLLEGE BASKETBALL, 2016: Tough call.  Kind of punched out, but dragged back by March Madness and an exciting new young coach at Vanderbilt. Stay tuned. This might be a harder one to shake.

It’s basically Donald

Sic transit the GOP.  After a convincing sweep of the “Acela primaries” last nigh, it seems there is very little standing between a reality TV star-slash-thirty year figure of fun and the nomination of a major American political party for President of the United States. This is only possible because of the final meltdown of the GOP, succumbing to the drug overdose of Confederacy that they started getting high on in the Nixon Administration and started mainlining in the 1990s.

The Republican party is without form, and void. If there were any sort of effective leadership available to the party, there would never have been 17 candidates for the nomination running at once. Ciphers and jokes like George Pataki or Jim Gilmore or Bobby Jindal would have been shown the door with a quickness. But as long as there were over a dozen candidates, it was possible for anyone pulling 6 to 8 percent in the polls to believe they had a shot up until Iowa, and sure enough, everyone stayed in, which only worked out for those candidates who already had name recognition.  Only two did, and while the name Trump was its own sort of joke, the name Bush was shorthand for disaster, and a lot of money and resources were wasted in the service of the delusion that what America really craved was a third ride on the Bush-Go-Round.

So. In the absence of any real leadership or guidance, the teabagger elements of the GOP – which were always the base, never some independent entity; the Tea Party branding was a remarkable feat of identity-laundering for Republican base voters – went with what they always wanted anyway: the person who could most effectively sling the shit.  No need for experience, no need for coherent policy, just an endless barrage of talk-radio-style bullshit and a personality and track record that could only be described as a moron’s idea of what a rich person is. No one ever broke the momentum, because the field never consolidated – and even if it had, around whom could it? Ben Carson, another political zero whose entire claim to fame was being a black doctor who told off the President at a prayer breakfast once? Carly Fiorina, whose claim to power revolved around two X chromosomes and a stint as the worst CEO in Silicon Valley and the most inept losing candidate for Senate in California history? Ted Cruz, whose own GOP colleagues hate him worse than being caught in bed with a dead girl and a live boy at once? Too late, the party seemed to realize that John Kasich was the only viable candidate with a sufficiently conservative record – made much less risible by his surroundings – but that ship had already sailed by the time they figured it out.

So now we get Trump. Which is a handy out for the GOP again: if he gets his ass kicked up between his shoulderblades in November, they can write him off as a fluke, a one-off, a freak accident, and not a true conservative anyway – and double-down to the right. The GOP’s big money donors, many of whom may actually believe in Never Trump, will probably stack their money behind congressional candidates in a Stop Hillary movement, ensuring that even if they get a second Clinton in the White House they’ll be able to keep everything tied in knots as they have for most of the last six years. And come 2020, we probably get another Ted Cruz run or something else, because this is all the GOP has left anymore. Had Cruz been the nominee, and gotten keelhauled by the Dems in November, it might have finally broken the back of the Confederates and convinced the GOP that they needed to go a different direction – but just as with Romney and McCain, Trump can be written off as a bad candidate and not a Real True Authentic Conservative, and they’ll keep going down the same road.

The wheel is still spinning, but the hamster’s dead.

flashback, part 77 of n

April, for me, somewhere became a very reflective month, and not always in a good way. So much is bound up in April 1997, knowing that my career was coming to an end with no plan B to speak of (of course, on April 1 1997 you could have told me “six months from now you’ll be living in the suburbs of Washington DC and taking the Metro every day to your job at National Geographic, when you aren’t spending the weekends driving to see your girl in Akron Ohio” and I would have burned you for witchcraft before you could say “and if you think that’s a show wait until ten years from now”). Of course, ten years on in April 2007 I was suffering from the knee trouble and stress anxiety that would contribute to my leaving Apple. In April 2013 I was suffering the after-effects of the wrong turn work had taken, and by April 2015 I was going to Japan just to get away from the nonsense.

But April 1989 found me in Washington DC, because I spent something like six weeks that semester in out-of-town academic competitions. Jacksonville, Tuscaloosa, and all of a sudden in DC knowing West Point and Orlando were coming. Staying in the hotel where Reagan was shot, going back and forth between the Mayflower and the Omni Shoreham and who knows where all else, and a big dance party at the Old Post Office pavilion where between the band sets, a DJ was spinning tracks. And there’s one song that even to this day captures all of that – the whole sense of “my life is going crazy out of control and there is no limit to the future, and I am doing everything I ever wanted in life with more to come.”

It was “Baby I’m A Star.”

Thanks, Prince.

I’m (Finally) With Her

The run-up to the New York primary was basically the last straw. The spectacle of so many Bernie Sanders supporters screaming that having to be registered as a Democrat to vote in the Democratic primary was somehow a crime of unspeakable proportions – when their own man wasn’t registered as a Democrat this time last year – was an instructive spectacle, as is the proliferation of “Bernie or Bust” types – the millennial equivalent of our own Gen-X and Boomer morons who genuinely thought there was no difference between Gore and Bush and that voting for Nader would only hasten the onset of the revolution.

That isn’t how this shit works.

We go through this over and over. One side commits itself to its deepest true belief, supposedly brings in a lot of new participation and energy, convinces its stalwarts that they’re going to change the world – and then they go out there and get their ass handed to them. Goldwater. McGovern. Jerry Brown in ’92. Ralph Nader in 2000. Barack Obama is no exception; had he gone out there as a white guy named Barry O’Brien, he would have been acclaimed as an inspiring yet pragmatic alternative to a cripplingly-flawed candidate.

“So what changed since 2008?” I hear you ask. A couple of things. For one, there’s less of a Lurleen Wallace feel to the Hillary crew this time: they are not running the same 1990s DLC playbook, they are not in thrall to the white working class Southern vote, Mark Penn is far away from the controls. For another, four years as Secretary of State gives HRC real honest foreign policy credibility of a type you can’t get as a mere Senator, especially in the New York Senator Pothole seat once held by Al D’Amato (not to demean that spot, because the emphasis on local issues and constituent service made it possible for Clinton to establish real workhorse-not-showhorse bona fides and experience). And honestly, it was chastening and a learning experience. She’s not relying on inevitability this time; she’s going out and hustling.

But the thing that really tipped it for me was the hot sauce.

Hillary Clinton is a hot sauce fiend. Famously, for anyone paying attention the last twenty-plus years. She had hot sauce in her bag when Beyonce was still filling her diapers. And yet, because it plays into the meme and the narrative, no sooner had she mentioned it on a trip through Harlem than it became yet another convenient excuse for a lazy media to club a woman they’ve had it in for ever since the 60 Minutes interview and the “standin’ by my man” remarks that happened while I was riding a bus in Central Europe waiting to hear the results of the Redskins’ last Super Bowl appearance. That long.

And for me, something snapped.

And comes now Bernie Sanders, self-avowed socialist from Vermont, reliable Democratic vote but not a Democrat until he decided to run for President, whose most eager supporters seem intent on turning into the 21st century Ralph Nader: the last honest man, the only alternative to an undistinguished mass where Democrats and Republicans are the same and there will be no difference in electing Trump or Hillary.

Horse. SHIT.

I’ve said it so many times it hurts, but I’m going to scream it again: POLITICS IS THE ART OF THE POSSIBLE. IF YOU WANT DREAMS COME TRUE, GO MAJOR IN THEATER.

There is no finish line. There is no place where the lion lies down with the lamb, there is no land of milk and honey and fried catfish for all. It never ends. Election day isn’t the end, it’s the beginning, and the disappointment with Obama about which people are crying crocodile tears is the precise result of thinking that a successful Presidential election means we can all go home because the war is won. The war is never won, because that’s what politics means. People get out there and say they hate politics and politicians so don’t vote for Hillary – the alternative to politics isn’t fucking Kumbaya, the alternative to politics is Somalia.

It’s a job, and a thankless one. You go out there and grind away at the coal face day in and day out, and at the end of the day, your arguing and horse-trading and blood and sweat and tears gets you half a loaf, and then you come back the next morning and punch the clock and do it again – forever. That’s how the political system works, in this country and in every other that isn’t some sort of autocracy. Maybe you don’t get everything you want, maybe you have to take some stuff you don’t want to get some of what you do – that’s how it works. That’s the reason why the people screaming bloody murder about the 1994 crime bill are so full of shit – yes, there was bad stuff in there. There was also good stuff in there, and taking the bad stuff you didn’t want was the price of getting the good stuff you did. That’s why the people complaining about Obamacare are full of shit – yes, it would have been nice to have single payer, and yes, it would have been nice to have a public option, and yes, it would have been nice to have Medicare For All, but the fucking votes weren’t there. You take what you can get, and you come back the next day and fight for more.

Bernie Sanders may understand this. He may not. Increasingly, his supporters sure don’t seem to. I don’t know how many of Hilary’s understand this, and the Democratic party establishment has its own set of issues and could use with a good mucking out (and to be honest, I wouldn’t mind giving Howard Dean the controls again, because his 50-state planning is the reason Obama even had a majority to work with for as long as he did). But you know who does understand this?

Hillary. Rodham. Fucking. Clinton.

I’m with her.

Flashback, part 76 of n

From 1990 to 2005, I lived exclusively in dorms and apartments – with one exception. For a little over a year, I lived in an aging house in a suburban neighborhood in Arlington. And the thing I keep coming back to with that house is the porch. 

It was necessary. The house had no central air conditioning, so the one window unit was dedicated to keeping the bedroom tolerable. With no fog or marine layer, the “open windows at night to cool off” was minimally effective – and with enough tree cover to make DirecTV a nonstarter, there was shade over the flat porch above the garage. I bought some sort of Adirondack-type lounge chair at a wine festival, and just like that, there was a place to recline with a cigar and a bottle of cider, with fresh air and a breeze and maybe sun, maybe shade, depending on season and leaf coverage. 

It occurs to me that’s the only time I had that. The dorms never really had outdoor space and the apartments never had balconies, and while my house this last decade has a porch, it’s narrow and doesn’t have legroom or reclining space. And let’s face it, cigars probably aren’t happening in Northern California in a tight-packed neighborhood like this. 

But it occurs to me that some of the things I miss most about DC are things like my porch, or my then-girlfriend’s balcony, or the rooftop deck at the 18th Street Lounge, or the patio space at the Mudd House or Mackey’s or the 4th Estate. Maybe what I need is some good old-fashioned alfresco drinking with the gang, assuming a suitable venue can be found that isn’t overrun with skinny-britches techbags.

the miracle of septoplasty and turbinotomy

To be concise, to boil it down to the essence, what the otolaryngologist told me was “you came to us with a quality of life issue, and we believe we have identified a root cause of the problem which is not of your own doing and no fault of your own in any way. We can fix this in a straightforward fashion. It will be painful and inconvenient, but if you do exactly as we say and follow directions, by this date certain you will have significant relief of the problem.”

Can you conceive of what a dream come true this is?

None of the usual dissembling. None of the “you must adhere to this diet/adopt this meditative practice/follow this exercise regime/take these medications regularly and at some point in the indeterminate future you may see some change in some aspect of your life” which invariably ends with your blood pressure higher, your weight creeping up, your heart rate no better, your cholesterol unchanged and your depression symptoms shifting away from sad-and-mopey in favor of angry-and-drinky. This was simple. Part of the inside of your nose is misshapen and obstructing your breathing? We’re going to straighten that sonofabitch, and in two weeks – if you keep using the saline rinse every chance you get, sneeze through your mouth and sleep sitting up in a chair, and we know you’ve never been able to do that sober and not on a plane – you’ll be breathing like you never breathed before.

And damn my ass and pull the plow myself, I can breathe.

There’s still some swelling to go down, internally, which will open things up further. There are some sinusitis-like rebound effects from the Afrin which I was using to help control the bleeding, most of which subsided once I gave it up like I was told. There’s still some snoring because I haven’t yet started using the breathing apparatus again, which should perform much differently. And there’s one sore spot where the biggest suture was, which I just have to wait on healing. But when she vacuumed out the sinus cavities and sent me on my way, I was breathing like I literally have not breathed in thirty years, and it was transformative.

Would that everything worked that way.

the eggs and the basket

There’s a notice of transfer of license in the window of the public house of my frequency. It’s not a good sign. It’s the only place I found reliably offering Irish music on a Sunday evening, and it’s easy to get there and back, and if it stops being an Irish bar I don’t know quite what I’m going to do with myself. Yes, I can fill up the insulated growler for $14 and have all the beer I need of a Sunday evening at home reading in the recliner with the headphones on, but sometimes there’s just no substitute for potato skins and Guinness and someone with actual stringed instruments plinking out “Whiskey In The Jar.”

This reminds me of the news a few weeks back that Wal-Mart was closing about a hundred stores in the United States.  You don’t see much of Wally World in this part of the country – there’s one in the less fashionable end of Mountain View but I literally couldn’t name another location and there are at least three Target stores more readily accessible – but there are places I used to live where closing the Wal-Mart means a torpedo at the waterline of competitive commerce in at least a twenty-mile radius. In places where main-street commerce went down a couple decades ago at the hand of the Beast of Bentonville, losing your Wal-Mart is a nontrivial hit.

And that in turn puts me in mind of Uber, slowly meat-grinding the taxi sector even as it struggles to avoid the twin perils of regulation and an IPO which might mark it to market as less valuable than General Motors. What happens when Uber becomes the entirety of “transit” in an area and then either folds or decides it’s unprofitable to continue service? To be honest, Uber coming to Birmingham alarms me simply because Birmingham needs improved transit infrastructure, and while the bones of a viable streetcar system are still present in the east-to-west layout, you’re never going to get uptake from people with money if they’re counting on just pushing a button on the app.

The moral, I guess, is that if you have to put your eggs in one basket, that basket had better be triple-walled vibranium alloy sunk into bedrock with an Aegis-grade radar-guided antimissile defense. There aren’t a lot of those baskets around.

flashback, part 75 of n

March Madness first became a thing in college. Not just because it was a big thing everywhere, but because college basketball became a thing for me -the undergrad team was the defending NAIA champion when I arrived, and by the time I joined the pep band my sophomore year they were back in the NAIA tournament, that famed 32-team small-school championship in Kansas City. So I spent two spring breaks in service there, lining up with the other kids in the lobby for a $40 cash per diem, and believe me when I say that if you had $40 cash per diem in 1992 you were a bigger baller than Puff Daddy. (My section lead turned a profit on the trip, but that’s another tale for another time.)

The point is, I was exposed to all the basketball, not just the Big Dance. There was the NIT on weeknights between tournament weekends. There was the first tournament with the new-look SEC, with ten thousand Arkansas RVs with Bill Clinton signs descending on Birmingham. I left my ushering duties early and missed seeing Dale Brown run onto the floor to “defend” Shaquille O’Neal from the Vols, went home and saw live games taking place twenty miles away where I’d just been. And I first realized that the weekend of the conference tournaments was as tumultuous and exciting a weekend as anything that happened the first two days of the actual field-of-64 Big Dance.

This was a new experience for me all around. It reminded me of the Olympics: all-consuming for a couple of weeks, everyone talking about it, places and names you’d never heard before becoming overnight sensations. And in the tournament itself, only CBS had the coverage, having paid a billion dollars for exclusivity – so you never turned the channel and just hoped they would whip around. And they did, in the main; there was barely time to celebrate a shocking upset or a thrilling buzzer-beater because no sooner did the clock hit zero than you were off to the next, one long three-or-four-day roller coaster ride. It set the stage for every spring since.

Because it’s honestly more fun when I don’t have a dog in the hunt. When it’s just 64 random teams – some national powers, some utter Cinderellas, some programs making the leap from just-happy-to-be-here to we-belong-here to oh-was-that-YOUR-Final-Four-berth? Bill Self at Tulsa, Jim Larranaga at George Mason, Gonzaga when they were “who?”, Florida Gulf Coast University as “Dunk City” and Harold “The Show” Arceneaux at Weber State and Bryce Drew of Valpariaso still making Ole Miss fans angry decades later. It’s a magical time. And it is one of the few things that reflects back from the era of the early 90s before everyone knew about the 12-5 upset and when there were a hard 64 seats on the starship, no exceptions. There are not a lot of things from my college years that still carry on; this might be the best one.