Sunday, September 28, 2014

Knockoff Football Jerseys - Addendum

A closer inspection of a couple of my jerseys showed me two more thing to be aware of, as you evaluate your next jersey purchase.

First off, do you know how they have those size labels on the bottom hem of the jersey?
 Usually these are sewn on, and I thought they were on my newest jerseys as well.  But when I wore one to work on Friday (for Jersey Day), I noticed that the edge of the label was peeling up.  I could see it was ironed on.

Because I’m not really crazy about broadcasting my size as I move around town, I figured I’d just pull it off.  What was underneath cracked me up.
Nothing says “quality” like Quan Shihu.

Being even less crazy about broadcasting cheapness than I am about broadcasting size, I used my thread cutting tool to remove the “Quan Shihu” tag.  Probably means “Cheap white man.”

The other issue to look for; make sure all patches are straight.

I understand it’s easier to square up a square, but still, you can see the angle of the word “Steelers.”  It needs to be straight.  Of course, if someone is looking at me with their head tilted, (as is likely, in a sports bar), the logo will appear fine… but the numbers will be crooked.  Can’t win, I guess.

In a completely unrelated note, Happy 9th Birthday to my nephew Sammy! 
 Kid’s growing like a weed.  Pretty soon, he’s going to be big enough to give his older brother a real tussle.
No 3rd grader rocks a tank top like Sammy!

Thursday, September 25, 2014

The Best Beer I Ever Had

I was talking with friends about a month or two back and the subject of the “best beer we ever had” came up.

I didn’t even have to think twice about mine.  And the funny thing is; I don’t even know what kind of beer it was.  That wasn’t as important as the circumstances.

This was back when we were living in the farmland outside Toledo, Ohio.  We didn’t have a huge parcel of land… it was an acre and a third… but it would have been an awful lot to mow by hand, so we had a lawn tractor.

Coming from the suburbs, I thought that was the coolest thing ever, especially because as the oldest son, I was about to inherit primary ownership of the family grass cutting chores.  I still had to use a regular lawnmower to “trim,” because the tractor couldn’t really get into all the nooks and crannies around our several out-buildings (a garage, two sheds and our Barn).  But it was far better than doing the whole thing by hand.

Me earning my keep, the first summer we lived in Toledo.  I was about 14, wearing a shirt from my old junior high in Columbus.  (As well as hideous pants, but that’s another story.)

It was fun at first, but the novelty quickly wore off, especially during the dog days of summer.  Cutting the grass then was a long, dusty, sweaty, allergy-provoking endeavor which was most definitely not fun.  But it was my job, so I did what I had to do.

One day, when I was around 16, I was just finishing up cutting the back yard, on a hot, muggy, dusty summer afternoon.  After I finished up one last strip over by The Barn, I came cutting back across the yard to head over to do the other side of the garage, when I saw him.

It was my dad, standing out in the yard along my intended path, with his arm outstretched.  As I drew closer, I could see he had a beer in his hand, holding it out the way the people hold out cups of water to people running a long-distance race.

Now, I’d grown up on sips of everything, from beer to whiskey, to gin and tonics, to martinis, or a small glass of wine with dinner on holidays and birthdays.  But I’d never been given a beer of my own.  Until now.

I pulled up beside Dad, accepted the beer and took a long pull on it.  It was absolutely perfect, and exactly what I needed right then.  I think I asked to confirm that I could have the whole thing. 

Like I said, I don’t know what kind it was; probably something standard… a Bud or a Miller Lite.  Maybe it was a Hamms, which Dad used to bring back from his business trips to Chicago.  But it didn’t matter because it was cold, it was beer, and my dad gave it to me.  It was one of those father-son moments you don’t forget.

I continued on to finish up the side-yard, beer in hand, feeling much more mature than my 16 years.  In fact, I felt like a million bucks.  Not only did Dad trust me with a loud, powerful spinning-bladed death machine, he trusted me to drink a beer and not do anything stupid.  I know it sounds risky in retrospect, but even then, I never copped a buzz from a single beer. 

But it set the stage for future such moments.  No, they weren’t always hand-delivered out in the yard, but I knew that when I came in from a long day’s lawn mowing, there would be a cold beer in store for me, and before long, maybe a gin and tonic instead. 

You know, this would have made a really good beer commercial.  Too bad about that pesky “drinking age” thing.  The kids of today are missing out…

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Meme Debunkery - Free Meals

I’ve been wanting to do this for a while now, so why not take a shot?

You know how you scroll through Facebook and sometimes you see an otherwise smart and well-adjusted person post or share a meme that is just… wrong?  I see it all the time, and I always let them go.  I have no plans on getting into political arguments of Facebook with family and friends.

BUT… there’s no reason I can’t copy the image and discuss it here.  That way, I’m not calling out anyone in particular, just poking holes in some piece of topical tripe that seems like it makes sense, but folds under the slightest scrutiny.  And you know there’s nothing I like more than a good debunking.

Should I continue to see these weak-ass arguments, and I have no reason to think I won’t, I may make this a semi-regular feature; at least until I get bored with it, or it stops being fun.  So, here’s the one that got my attention this week.

[hand up] Yes, I have a question.  Are you saying that poor and hungry people should be treated like animals?  Because that’s what I’m getting out of this.

Yes, I know this little witticism is supposed to be sarcastic, but scrape it just a little bit, and starts to fall apart.

First, there’s the obvious observation that animals may very well be conditioned to beg for food, because there are very few jobs out there for animals. 

No, sorry, it’s because they’re animals, who tend not to have higher reasoning capabilities.

Humans, on the other hand, ARE capable of taking care of themselves, but from time to time, fall upon hard times, like if their plant or factory closes, or their jobs get shipped overseas, or they come back from serving their country with pieces missing!

The obvious message in this meme is that people who get free meals or food stamps are lazy, and apparently deserve to starve to death.

Is that the kind of country we wish to inhabit?  One where people are left to starve to death?  Really?

What do you suppose happens to people who are jobless, for whatever reason, and left to sink or swim or starve?  Sure, some will find and take whatever jobs they can.  Some will take classes to update their skills, and some will move in with friends and family.

But all of that takes time.  Bettering yourself for your next job isn’t going to feed your family tonight.  The SNAP (food stamp) program is essential to fill in the gaps until people can get back on their feet.

We need to stop and look at the people that are getting these “free meals and food stamps.”  All kinds of people can end up needing help… like those who are laid off from jobs in dying industries, or senior citizens who can’t live on social security alone, or mentally challenged people who are unable to work, or young mothers whose baby daddies have buggered off, or the hundreds of thousands of veterans back from Iraq, Afghanistan or Iraq (again), suffering from PTSD or other more visible injuries.

Are they all lazy?  Are none of them worthy of a hot meal?  Are we to toss them aside and maybe consider “There but for the grace of God, go I?” 

As a side note, do you know what happens when desperate people are under pressure?  They don’t sign up for computer classes, they start robbing stores and houses and people on the street.  But then, I suppose that really IS the conservative answer… just put these people in jail.  Bonus: it keeps the prison industry flush with cash.

And as another side note, have you also seen the memes pointing out, amid a great tsk tsking, where people on food stamps have bought something that appears extravagant?

Seems to me people are only in favor of food aid if the food is disgusting.  Conservatives would be much more inclined to support the idea if it involved long lines of people getting thin gruel ladled into bowls.

Usually these memes focus on a single instance, usually where there is a receipt to be found, and make it into a broader point.  That’s a logical fallacy right there.  One case doesn’t make a trend.  Show me where it’s rampant, and then you might have a point. 

And I only say “might” because there are other factors. What if a person had been saving and skimping and doing without, just to splurge on a nice anniversary dinner?  Or to celebrate a homecoming after a long absence?  Or coming home from the hospital?  Or getting a scholarship?  Or maybe just getting a decent piece of meat for a change. 

As a culture, we tend to demonize anyone who we see as getting a benefit that we’re not getting ourselves. 

Also notice the subtle anti-government conservative sniping in the meme, with the inference that the Department of Agriculture and Interior are issuing contradictory statements.

The reason that’s a subtext is because it is complete nonsense as a central point, and the only hope is to sneak it in. 

See, it’s quite simple, if not necessary, for different branches of government to release contradictory messages, depending on the nature of their job.  For example:

Department of Defense: We’re going to attack them and bomb them and cut the head off the snake.

The FBI (or National Guard, or any police organization): Our focus is on decreasing the level of violence and making the streets safe.

Smarmy Tea Party meme: Oh, is our big government telling us to fight or to lay down?

That’s almost as bad as the Speaker of the House criticizing the poor as a bunch of lazy lay-abouts, then recessing Congress for 5 weeks’ vacation.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

How to Spot a Knockoff Football Jersey

Last July, I wrote a post about how to spot a knockoff baseball jersey.  You know about the knockoffs, right?  They’re made cheaply, overseas, and at first glance, look just like authentic, licensed MLB apparel.  But when you look more closely, you can see the lapses in quality.

Today, I want to go over the same thing, only with football jerseys.  The topic came to the forefront here in Baltimore this weekend, when the Ravens had a Ray Rice Jersey Exchange, wherein Ratbird fans could bring in an official NFL Ray Rice game jersey, and exchange if for one that doesn’t pay tribute to a wife beater.

The operative phrase there was “official NFL.”  I wonder how many people brought their jerseys in for exchange, only to find out that they weren’t so official after all.  Just in case one of YOUR favorite NFL players goes off the reservation and you need to attend a similar exchange in the future, here are some ways you can tell if a jersey is an official NFL product, or a foreign knockoff.

In general, almost everything I said about the baseball jerseys is applicable to football jerseys. 

The Collar
The knockoffs always get the collar wrong.  The proper collar should be stretchy and firm, like a tee shirt collar.  This is the correct collar:

It’s kind of hard to tell, but the material is completely different between the collar and the shoulder piece.   That’s how it should be.  The collar should never be from the same material as any other part of the jersey, except the sleeve cuffs.

You can see above that the collar is the exact same material as shoulder piece.

The collar needs to be stiff, not made from limp, satiny material.

The collar should NEVER be made from the mesh material.  You can see here that the mesh collar split, because it has no elasticity.  (It needs at least a little stretch, to get over my giant dome.)

While we’re up at the collar, that’s also where we find “the shield.”  Whether it says NFL Equipment or is just the plain shield, it should be embroidered and not a cheap piece of plastic.

The Body
The non-mesh part of the body of the shirt shouldn’t be shiny and satiny, it should be sturdy.  The design varies from year to year, especially when they change manufacturers, (like the recent change from Reebok to Nike).

The mesh is fine and the sleeve is fine, but the fabric in between looks like a cheap decorative hankie.

I don’t know how they keep getting this wrong, but I don’t think I have any two jerseys were the sleeve stripes match.  You’d think they could just get the dimensions and roll with it.
 The one on the bottom comes from an authentic jersey.  The middle one, the inner black stripes are too thin.  On the upper, the whole stripe pattern is too small.
The thick outer black stripes are all wrong.

Logos and Patches
Not all teams have a logo or patch on their jerseys, but a lot do, and they’re good indicators of authenticity.  The Steelers have their emblem on the front of each jersey.  Here is how it’s supposed to look:
 See how uniform the outer gray ring is?  And how there are no stray threads anywhere?  Compare the picture above to this one:
Not only is there a black border that isn’t supposed to be there, it’s misshapen and unevenly sewn.  The three colored shapes don’t touch in the middle, as they should and the font is off on the “Steelers” text.
This is from a 1976 Super Bowl X throwback, when the Steelers wore a bicentennial patch.  Look at the stitching cheats, where there’s a black thread going from letter to letter.  The border here is poorly stitched and uneven, as well.

Similarly to the patches, you have to watch the stitching on the lettering as well.

You can’t help but notice the big yellow thread cutting across the top of the “O.”  That’s not just a loose end, that’s stitched at each side… another sewing shortcut.  Also notice the uneven stitching and pulled threads at the bottom of each letter, especially on the “B.”

You also need to mind the size and spacing.

The Harrison lettering is too small.

The Miller lettering is spaced too widely across the shirt.

That does it for today’s lesson.   Going forward in your online or in-person jersey shopping, you’ll have some things to look for before you spend your hard-earned money on NFL gear.  Or if you choose to go the “knockoff” route, you know what you may be getting.

And more importantly, if the Steelers ever have to run a jersey exchange, I hope they’ll hire me as a jersey inspector.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Not Exactly the Clinch I Was Anticipating

Sometimes Lady Luck smiles upon you when you least expect it. In a very quick turn of events on Monday, I learned that Sitcom Kelly’s mom was able to get her company’s seats for the Orioles game on Tuesday. And because the O’s won on Monday, a win on Tuesday would clinch the American League East division title for the first time since 1997, and the first time in their home park since 1968.

Rather than going to our usual pre-game bar, The Bullpen, we went to our regular happy hour spot near my office building. Sitcom Kelly was tired of eating nothing but nachos and fries, which was the only meat-free fare they had there. 

Naturally, she got nachos anyway. Frankly, I stopped trying to understand her ways.

But for me, I got their game-day special, The Oriole Dog… a large dog with mac & cheese, and crab.  Man, that was good. I wish I had taken a picture, but as you might guess, the window of opportunity was rather small. Having devoured the dog, I helped Sitcom Kelly out with her nachos. Had to be careful not to have too many jalapeños though.

As you may recall from prior posts, Sitcom Mom’s seats are primo; 10 rows back, directly behind home plate.

Our view for the night.

The only downside is the netting, which makes the players look like they’re in some kind of zoo exhibit.  But on the upside; there were no screaming foul balls smashing into our faces.

I was nervous about the Orioles starting pitcher, Ubaldo Jimenez. He was a high-priced free agent signing this winter but has been generally atrocious all year. And he didn’t give me much confidence as he walked four in his first couple of innings. Luckily, he settled down and only gave up one run.

A three-run homer by Steve Pearce in the first inning helped set my mind at ease, as the O’s jumped out to a lead, which they would never relinquish.

Steve Pearce being congratulated by Nelson Cruz and Nick Markakis, after his 3-run jack.

As the game went on, and the Orioles gradually padded their lead up to 8-2, I could feel a subtle change occurring, something I could feel in my gut. No, it wasn’t the impending celebration of 17 years’ worth of losing coming to an end.  It was literally something happening in my gut. Sometimes, Lady Luck can be a fickle bitch. Who knew both the Orioles and I would erupt with the runs?

I was getting sharp pains that came and went, accompanied by lots of “soap-bubble gurgling.” By the 5th or 6th inning, I began to suspect that something I ate was about to cause me some distress. I don’t know if it was the jalapeños or the crabby mac dog, but something was about to make me lose containment. It felt like I was trying to process a bowl full of ground glass.

About the 7th inning, I realized that I was going to have to do something drastic; something I’ve always tried my best to avoid… sitting down in a stall in a crowded public restroom. 

I tried to get in there while the game was going on, but it was well occupied nevertheless. When someone opened the door to the stall I was lined up behind, I got a peek inside… Ew. No, I am NOT going in there.

I quickly jumped into a urinal line and made a quick pee, so as not to look like a restroom lurker. Then when I left through the restroom exit, I circled back into the entrance and ducked into a different stall.  It still required some cleanup, but it was marginal.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t produce what I was hoping to, but at least I “took a little off the top.” I hoped that would get me through the rest of the night. But alas…

As the game wound down, the vibe in the ballpark was electric; like the soul-crushing effects of years of losing baseball seeking to break free. With a six-run lead, it seemed like the game was a done deal. They just needed another couple of outs.

I tried my best to hold my camera steady as I shot video of the last batter, but just as surely as I knew the O’s would win, I knew I’d have to take another stab at hitting the bathroom. I could barely stand; there was no way I would survive the subway ride home, let alone the penguin-walk I’d have to take just to get to the station.

The last batter grounded out to first, which commenced the big celebration. It was my first time attending such an event, (other than Super Bowl XL), and it was really something special.

Think these moments don’t mean anything to jaded, high-priced professional athletes?  That’s slugger Nelson Cruz, with a GoPro camera duct taped to his hat.

As the Orioles retreated to their clubhouse, I indicated to Sitcom Kelly that A) we really needed to go because B) I really needed to “go.” It was too bad because, after the players' champagne celebration, they came back out on the field to celebrate with the fans, most of whom were still there.

Meanwhile, I had to take another crack at using the stall. Now, for a guy who never uses a public stall unless the whole restroom is empty, having to go with a whole crowd in there was somewhat traumatic.  However, an unexpected upside was that all the celebration and commotion provided a nice masking effect of my own little calamity. This time around, it was a full-on jailbreak. Before I went in, I should have put a sign on the stall door that said, “Don’t even line up. You don’t want any part of this.”

As I left, I hoped I’d taken care of the problem, but I swear, I didn’t get 3 steps away from the restroom when the bubbles returned. I met up with Sitcom Kelly, and we walked directly to the very next restroom so I could repeat the process. At least that time, she was close enough to the right field flag court that she could get some shots of the players lapping the field.

Darren O’Day, relief pitcher and next candidate for Sitcom Kelly’s Silence of the Lambs pit.

The subway ride was uneventful, although I chose to stand the whole way. Sitting down made the top of my jeans dig into my gut, which was not helpful at all. The troops began to amass along the border again, as I drove home from the station. Needless to say, I drove “briskly.” Any officer attempting to give me a ticket was going to have to chase me right into my bathroom.

I made it without a moment to spare, but at least I was on home court.

So, I know what you’re thinking.  What are the mojo considerations of all this? If you go to a playoff game, would you still go to the local bar and get an Orioles Dog, knowing your team would win but you’d get a case of the screamin’ meamies? 

The answer is, “Oh hell no.  I might take one for the team, but not four.” They’re on their own, next time.

Unless, of course, the real culprit was the ham sandwich I had for lunch…

Looks like I better start a new spreadsheet…

Monday, September 15, 2014

Odd Bits - The Asterisked Edition

I was watching some of the Palladia music channel over the weekend.  They often have some really good stuff, like major acts in concert, from past to present.  Saturday night, I tuned in to see Guns ‘N Roses.

To perfectly honest, it really should have had an asterisk after the name, because the only original members were singer/maniac Axl Rose, and rhythm guitarist Izzy Stradlin.  Guns ‘N Roses without Slash, Duff, or one of the old drummers really ought to be called Guns ‘N Roses*.

A fair Guns ‘N Roses tribute band.

Watching this lineup was like seeing the Rolling Stones* without Keith Richards, Bill Wyman and Charlie Watts.  Or like seeing AC/DC* without Angus Young, Phil Rudd and Cliff Williams.  Van Halen without Eddie or Alex.  Or the Beatles*, without John and Paul.

Sure, Guns ‘N Roses* pretty much sounded the same, but they lacked that visual swagger that guys like Slash, Angus and Keef bring to the stage.  But it was good enough to switch to during commercials.

The Old Switcheroo
Speaking of switches, there was more trouble in the NFL this week, as Vikings’ running back Adrian Peterson was deactivated for a game, essentially for spanking his son.

Now I know there’s a very public anti-football player violence jag going on, but I think they should tread carefully here.  There’s a big difference between cold-cocking your fiancé and spanking your child.

Obviously, there were extenuating circumstances; in this case, it was that Peterson used a “switch,” or in other words, a tree branch stripped of its leaves.  He left marks on the boys butt and legs. 

Was he too rough for a 4-year old?  Probably. It wouldn’t have been my choice to use a switch.  But whose decision is it on how a child should be disciplined?  While I’m usually against “slippery slope” arguments, this one seems like it’s covered in oil.

When does an outside party get to decide how a family maintains order?  And who gets to be the arbiter?  Those are some serious questions to be answered before we start meddling in how families function.

All I know about switches is what I learned from Richard Pryor.  According to Pryor, it wasn’t just getting beaten with the switch, it’s that they made you go out and get it from the tree yourself, and bring it back to them.  That’s some psychological drama, right there.

I don’t know about you, but I got my little ass beat a couple times, but good.  Dad never used any other implement but his hand, and believe me, that was enough.  I believe I got spanked twice.  Why twice?  Because I didn’t want a third.  The message was received.  But that was the culture in the 60s.  It was perfectly acceptable to smack disobedient kids not only at home, but at school.  And if you talked back to the neighbor, they’d give you one too.

Anyway, I’m not saying what Peterson did was right or wrong.  I’m just saying it’s not like the kid’s life was in jeopardy.  There are serious cases of abuse and neglect out there, where intervention is warranted.  This doesn’t seem like one of those times, to me.  And where’s the next step?  Will someone be called out because a third party didn’t like what he served for dinner?  Or what the kid is wearing?  Where does the non-parent parenting stop?

To be brought into the police station and arrested, and then to be suspended from your job, because you did to your son exactly what was done to you and generations of other kids across the country, seems like a big fat case of “Mind Your Own Freakin’ Business.”

If we’re going to collectively dictate how parents raise their kids, I also want action taken when someone’s little angel is running amok in public, while Mommy or Daddy is yapping on the phone, or peering intently at their next purchase.  If someone’s rugrat is screaming and tearing around my store,  moving stuff around, and smearing their sticky little hands all over my merchandise, I want that parent suspended… from their job, or from the ceiling. 

Rice Appeal
I read that the NFL Player’s Union is appealing Commissioner Goodell’s indefinite suspension of Ray Rice, following last week’s TMZ video meltdown.  At first I was alarmed; like how can they possibly be so dense?  But then it came to me.

They have to appeal if they want concrete terms.  I suppose if I was a player, I’d have a problem with an “indefinite suspension” too.  Indefinite can mean anything… until next week, next year, or forever.

The league and the player’s union need to come together and agree on specific terms of discipline for domestic abuse, child abuse, and any other abuse that might turn up on TMZ.  That should take the mystery out of any disciplinary action.

The fact that the Commissioner has basically unchecked authority to do whatever he wants, leaves a huge gap in the pursuit of consistency.  Not only do the players need to know the consequences of any future actions, but so do the fans and media.  So when the next incident occurs, the league can point to the agreement and say “Here’s what is going to happen, IF AND WHEN the appropriate legal steps are completed.”

That way, the players are protected from an unreasonable media or fan base demanding action before all the facts are in, and society has predictable recourse from out of control, self-entitled jocks.

So appeal away and get the terms defined.  Then we can evaluate if the NFL is getting serious about their athletes’ behavior, or if it’s just so much window dressing, designed to mollify the masses until the heat dies down.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Our Parents Had it Made

I saw this article online this week, entitled “5 Things our Parents Did That Would Get Them Arrested Today.”  It was an interesting read, albeit a bit misleading.  Some of their examples were one-offs, or something that rarely happens now, which makes it technically possible.  Possible enough for the click-bait headline, anyway.

Regardless, I thought I’d give it a lookover and see how many times MY folks would have hit the pokey.

1. Taking Naked Kiddie Photos.  The article reports of one couple in Arizona who in 2008, had the photo shop call the cops on their kiddie bath-time pics.  The judge immediately dismissed the case.  This is one of those one-offs.  I just wonder who in the hell was still taking film photos in for developing in 2008.  That’s the crime here.

The Verdict: Guilty.  Just like every other parent in the 60s.  Everyone took pictures of their kids running around bare-assed, or sitting in the tub.  (In my case, I was usually surrounded by toys called “Soakies,” which were cartoon and super-hero shaped bottles of bubblebath stuff.) 

Judging from Facebook, it’s still going on now though.  Cassie, you haven’t heard from the cops yet, have you?

2. Leaving Kids Home Alone.  They mention that several states have laws stating you can’t leave your child home alone until the age of 12.  (14 in Illinois.)

The Verdict: Not Guilty.  None of us were ever left home alone until I was in junior high.  In 7th grade, I was in a split shift school, and my shift didn’t start until noon.  Mom would go off to work and I would get myself ready for and then off to school.  No biggie.  I would also babysit for my younger brother and sister occasionally when my parents needed a break from our bullshit went out to eat. 

However, we certainly weren’t supervised once we were out of the house.  We pretty much had full run of the neighborhood during the summer or after school.  And we had watches and knew enough to get home for dinner.  There was no such thing as a “play date.”  I would die of embarrassment before I’d let my mom arrange for me to play with some other kid.

3. Smoking in the Car. Six states have laws on the books preventing smoking in cars with young children, due to their still-developing lungs.  Apparently it’s perfectly fine to kill your older children.

The Verdict: Guilty.  I wish they had those law way back when, because that’s one I could have used.  Mom used to smoke in the car, and I hated it.  Gave me a dizzy headache every time.  It was bad enough being cooped up in the back seat with my siblings for long car trips, where all we had to do was torment each other and try not to get swatted from the front seat.

This one went hand in hand with:

4. Seat belts.  Laws mandating seat belt use are relatively modern, but they are prevalent.  Plus there’s the car seat thing, which mandates the use of car seats until the kid is practically a teenager.

The Verdict: Not Guilty.  Technically, I can remember a time in the early 60s when our car didn’t have seat belts in the back seat.  But by the mid-60s, when we got a new car that had them, they became mandatory for us.  Of course, we hated them.  Nothing like being strapped down for that 8-hour car trip, with nothing to do but torment each other and try not to die from the cigarette smoke.

Sometimes we’d try to silently release the latch for a little breathing room, but Dad always heard the click.  It was like trying to get into the candy dish or cookie jar, only you were within swatting range.

5.  Weight gain.  Another one-off.  Three years ago, a boy in Cleveland was taken from his home because he was 200 lbs by third grade, and health officials said his mother didn’t know how to make him lose weight.  I don’t think this is a widespread thing… the child removal, not having big fat kids.  That seems to be an epidemic.

The Verdict: Not Guilty.  We certainly never wanted for food… sometimes it wasn’t the food we wantedcough-PopTarts-cough, but we had plenty to eat.  But between the well-balanced diets, only having 4 channels on TV, and the non-existence of video games, we ran off our extra calories by playing outside.  None of us ever had weight problems as kids.

So that’s the five the article featured, but I’d add one more:

6.  Providing alcohol to your kids AND all the neighbor kids. 

The Verdict: Guilty.  Once we moved out to the outskirts of Toledo and my friends and I commandeered The Barn, the drinking lamp was lit.  When we had parties, everyone in the neighborhood attended.  For the small gatherings, my buddies and I bought our own beer, but for the big events, like New Year’s Eve parties, my parents would get a keg and plenty of wine.  My friends and I were mostly over 18, (which was all you had to be at the time), but my brother and sister, and their friends and all the neighborhood kids were vastly under-age.

And that was just fine.  We had parties where my parents chaperoned (when not cutting it up on the dance floor) and we collected keys at the door.  Drinking never cause a single accident or incident at our parties.  Granted, a couple of relationships came to a messy end, but hey, that’s life.

So in summation, we have a split decision… 3 guiltys, 3 not guiltys.  Hung jury, case dismissed.  We seemed to have survived the things that would have gotten the folks in Dutch nowadays, and the others didn’t apply.

Maybe it’s time to take off the bubble wrap and let kids go back to being kids.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Opening Day and Fried Rice

It was with great anticipation that I set off for my favorite sports bar, yesterday, to partake in the beginning of a new football season.  (And a number of beers.)  

The week got off to an inauspicious start here in Baltimore, with the unveiling of the new Ray Lewis stature, outside the Ratbirds’ stadium.  (No, I did not go for the ceremony.)  I had an idea of what the statue would look like, and my suspicions were correct.  It was not a pose that featured him screaming motivation and Jesus references at his teammates, nor was it a pose of him flying to a ball carrier, nor delivering a thundering hit.  It was a statue of Ray doing what he does best… calling attention to himself before he’s even stepped on the field.

They should inscribe it right on the statue: “LOOK AT ME!” (Source)

As a football fan, I’m offended that they dared to place him in the same plaza as the statue of Johnny Unitas.  The two were polar opposites in physicality, demeanor, and class.

But I’m really kind of amused by it all, because I can’t wait to see what the local (or visiting) Steeler fans do to deface it before this week’s game.  I’m guessing someone straps a knife to his hand, or drapes a bloody fur coat over his shoulders.  There are a myriad of things that could be used to fill that gaping mouth.

Back at the bar, I’ve worked hard of the last few years, to build a rapport with the locals; even the Rattie fans.  Lucky for me, there are also a number of fans of other teams too.  There’s one guy I see every week, and every single time I stop by for lunch on a non-game day.  Dude must have a locker there.  But he’s a die-hard Tampa Bay Buccaneers fan, and enjoys harassing the locals as much as I do.  So we usually cheer (loudly) for each other’s team while we’re there.

This week, as we had discussed a month or two ago, I brought him in a Steeler jersey of mine, for him to wear and keep.  (It was a Lamarr Woodley jersey, which I was unlikely to wear ever again, ever since the Steelers cut him after last season.  It was a knockoff, but looked like the real thing.)  I tell you, it was totally worth it just to see the look on the face of the crusty guy he sits beside every week.  Anything I can do to sow a little discontent…

That’s him there in front of the window, sandwiched between Ratbird fans.  And that’s me taking up the left half of the shot, sporting my new Ryan Shazier jersey.

I assumed my usual spot on the end of the bar, in the well between the overhead video screens.  I’ll admit, it’s kind of a challenge to keep up with all the games, so I try to focus on just two.

The Ratbird game is up in the middle, and my Steelers are there in the lower right.  There are also two more screens to the left of the big screen, and 4 more to my immediate right.

This week had a mixed bag of omens for me.  On the bright side, there were 3 other Steeler fans, sitting directly behind me, another fan sitting upstairs, and a whole table full of Steeler fan moms sitting on the railing of the 2nd level behind me.  That meant a lot of high fives whenever my boys scored.

On the down side, they pissed away a 24-point lead to the Brownies in the 2nd half, although they hung on to win on a last second field goal.  Could have been worse, I suppose.  But compared to the Ratbirds, I got off light.

First, they lost to the Bengals, and looked pretty bad while doing it.  And then this morning, TMZ released the rest of the video they had, showing Ratbird running back Ray Rice cold-cocking his then-fiancée in a casino elevator.

I wrote about that situation back in August, making fun of the whole “Oops I made a mistake” defense.  Like he “accidentally” smashed a woman in the mouth.

So with the unvarnished video out in public, the football Powers That Be had to make some bold moves to save face, following the embarrassingly light punishment they handed out.

Early this afternoon, the Ratbirds cut Rice, and the NFL followed by suspending him “indefinitely.”

It was a total joke; one that never would have come to be if there hadn’t been video of the incident.  When the story first broke, the league and the Ravens tried to soft-pedal it, and intimated that Rice’s fiancé bore some responsibility for what happened.  They let it come out that the video documented her role in the brief skirmish, and that would make Rice look more sympathetic.

What the video showed was that they were all full of shit.  If you haven’t seen it, you can see the two of them get on the elevator, quarrelling.  Ray kind of bump/pushes her, she shoves him and runs toward him, then he hits her in the jaw with a straight left cross that would make Mike Tyson proud.  She falls like a sack of potatoes.  1-2-3 out.

The Ravens and the NFL both claimed they had never seen the second video, but a report on Deadspin tells another story.  Months ago, two national sports reporters, Peter King (SI) and Chris Mortensen (ESPN) had sources tell them that both parties saw the video and described the contents, which the video release just bore out.

I believe that they both did see the video, but rather than take the publicity hit by coming down hard, they tried to downplay the savagery of the attack and throw some blame on the woman.  Unbelievably, they were counting on the video never coming out.

Never coming out??? The video always comes out.  Always has, always will.

But the thing is, even if they never did see the video, (which I absolutely don’t believe), it shouldn’t have made a difference.  Did they seriously think there was any other conceivable way the future Mrs. Rice gets knocked unconscious by benevolent means?  As my friend the Carpetbagger said on Facebook, “Did they think it was a tickle-fight?

The NFL had one chance to do the right thing and they botched it completely.  And now they’re trying to put the toothpaste back in the tube, un-ring the bell, and close the barn door after the horse ran the Kentucky Derby. 

As for Mr. Rice, I’m sure he’ll become “unsuspended” sometime late this season, or for next season, and another team will pick him up.  Probably the Raiders or Browns. 

As for the league, they’ll recover from the PR hit.  They always do.  I mean, I’m still watching and so are zillions of others.

And as for the Ravens… well, I’ll let you know when they plan to unveil the new Ray Rice statue.

Maybe first, they ought to stop drafting guys named “Ray.”

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Inconsider This

Our culture is a mess right now.  Every day I read about or experience another episode that tells me how this place is swirling straight down the toilet.  And I also found the common denominator: inconsideration.

Look at the two airline incidents where passenger squabbles over reclining seatbacks were so severe, the flights had to be diverted and landed.  With the first one, a guy was using a device designed to prevent the seatback in front of him from being reclined.

Note: As a tall guy, I am completely on his side.  In fact, I think they should bring out a model that has a taser setting built right into it.  I’m completely sick of people jamming their seats all the way back, so that my knees are trapped in place.

Anyway, my point is that the person in front, the recliner, assumed it was her unalienable right to recline, regardless of rights of the person behind her to maintain the minimal space he was assigned.  “Me first.”

Look at the problems I had at the Boston concert, (and numerous other concerts and sporting events) where certain people claim because they bought a ticket, they have the right to stand up whenever they please, regardless of what’s going on around them.  They paid their money, so it’s “Me first, screw you people behind me.”

Look at the myriad of traffic incidents that happen across the country on an hourly (if not minute-ly) basis.  People who don’t use blinkers, or who cut you off in traffic, or who pull out right in front of you going 10 mph slower than you were going are saying, “Me first, screw you.  I don’t have time to wait five seconds for you to pass, but you can certainly wait behind me while I drift along 5 mph under the speed limit.”

I’m convinced that the reason so few people use their turn signal is that there’s nothing in it for them.  It’s all to benefit others, so why bother?

Look at the people riding public transportation, and take up two seats on a crowded vehicle, with by lounging across both seats, or spreading out their shit and daring you to say something.  “Screw you.  I need a place for my giant bag far more than you need to sit down after a long day.”

After which, they get on the escalator, pull up on the left beside someone else, and stop, forcing everyone who has someplace to go or little time to get there, to cool their heels while they enjoy the ride.  “Screw you.  I don’t have to take a step to my right and let you pass, because you need to dance to MY tune.  In fact, I’m not even aware you’re there.”

Look at the retail experience, where customers abuse clerks because they disagree with a price or the return policy, or clerks ignore customers so they can finish a texting session with their BFFs.  “Screw you, my concerns are far more important than yours.

If you look at it, most criminal activity has inconsideration all over it.  Theft, violence, destruction of property… it’s all a big “Screw you.”  They’re saying, “I get to do what I want or take what I want, no matter how badly it hurts or affects you.”

All of this is why we keep seeing stories in the news about long “Pay it Forward” chains, 6-year old girls who raise money for animal shelters, or other random good deeds… because they’re so rare.  If it happened all the time, in proportion to our population, it wouldn’t be noteworthy.  When someone does something nice for someone else, it goes against the grain of what our culture has become: a breed of people obsessed with ourselves, and utterly convinced of our own inflated worth.

Now I’ll admit, I could be under the influence of the East Coast Effect.  I seem to remember people in the Midwest looking out for one another a little more.  Or, maybe that was just a different time.

So what’s next?  Beats the hell out of me.  But I know we’d all be a lot better off if we looked around once in a while, and cut the people around us a break.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

We Are Killer Nuts

What a busy week it’s been… I had to pass up dinner with my folks last night, just to rest up after the afternoon Orioles game.  (The game being played in a humid, low 90s sauna didn’t help.)  I hope I remembered to close the blinds before lying naked in front of the fan.  I didn’t get a call from the landlord, so I probably did.

As I alluded to last post, I had a steady stream of activities lined up for the week, consisting of a concert, a day at the State Fair track, and three Orioles game.  But the big treat was Saturday’s Ohio State/Navy football game, played right here in Baltimore.  I haven’t been to a Buckeye game since 2003 (at Wisconsin), so it was nice to get back on the Scarlet and Gray train.

My brother Ed bought a boatload of tickets, so Mom and Dad came out for the game and we all tailgated down at the stadium.

We could tell right off that the crowd would be made up predominantly of Buckeye fans.  In fact, the night before, Camden Yards was crawling with people in OSU shirts.  There were still a good number of rabid Navy fans though... they even brought their counterparts to the legendary "Cheeseheads."
I guess these are called "Shipheads."

Because it was fairly early, we went with the “breakfast” version of the tailgate, featuring eggs, brats and breakfast sausages.  My brother combined these into a wrap, which I dubbed, “The Sausage McEdward.”

Now that’s good eatin’.

Because we had a spot right on the main aisle, we got to see the bands walk up to the entrance.  As usual, the Ohio State Band, aka “The Best Damn Band in the Land,” made a scene, chanting, “We are the Buckeyes, we are killer nuts!

This was my first game seeing one of the military academies, so I was impressed with their spectacle as well.  For the pregame, it seemed like they brought the entire Naval Academy onto the field.

That big-headed kid in the middle must be there on Affirmative Action.

If I had to guess, the entire left side of the field was Buckeye fans, and about 40% of the right.
With the white unis in the end zone, and the entire left side of the stands clad in red, you could very clearly see the line of demarcation.

As opposed to most of the football games I attend, this one seemed to have a genuine air of respect, between the teams and among the fans.  In fact, before the game, they had a handshake line, which you usually don’t see until after the game. 

The only thing missing was a flyover.  I’ve seen them do flyovers for Ravens games right here in this same stadium; I have no idea why they wouldn’t have one for a big Navy game like this.  Budget cuts, I guess.

I did have concerns about how the game was being handled by stadium management.  See, one of the cool things about college football is the excitement generated by the bands filling in the down times with music and fight songs.

I suspect the Stadium Authority hadn’t been to many big-time college games, because they kept drowning out the bands by playing music over the PA system.  I mean, who does that?  It’s not like these were paid advertisements; they were just standard rock and pop songs.  There was no point to them, and they certainly shouldn’t be squelching the extensive efforts of the bands, one of which had come clear across the half the country to perform.

Halftime was great though, because that’s where the Ohio State band got even.

First, the Navy band played a couple of songs and marched around a bit.  I could barely hear them.
They were finishing with Anchors Aweigh.

After that, TBDBITL came on to show everyone how it’s done.  No, they didn’t do any T-Rexes, or Michael Jackson moonwalks this time, but they did a nice anchor while doing Anchors Aweigh (again) as a tribute. 
The Ohio State Marching Band demonstrates some anchor management.

Then they busted out their trademark, the Double Script Ohio.  Gets me every time when they “dot the i.”

When the Ohio State band ends with double (or single) Script Ohio, it’s their version of doing the mic drop before walking off stage. 

Oh yeah, there was a football game in there too.  After a nervous first half, when the Buckeyes couldn’t get out of their own way, they finally put a couple of TDs on the board and won 34-17.  Quite entertaining.

Because the Orioles were scheduled to play that evening, and the two venues share the parking lots, they didn’t want anyone hanging around too long for post-game tailgates.  We bolted pretty quickly and got away before the lot got gridlocked.

Had a decent day at the track on Sunday; I broke dead even over the nine races.  Of course, technically, I started off $26 in the hole if you consider parking, entrance, racing forms and a Pepsi, but it was worth it for four hours of entertainment.

And because I’ve been so busy and it took me a couple of days to get this video loaded onto YouTube, I’ll include a quick clip of Boston from last Tuesday night, playing my favorite keyboard and drums extravaganza, “Foreplay.”