Monday, August 21, 2006

Spork and Football

Okay—now I am ready to talk about football.

It took me a little while to learn to love football. I really hated it as a kid, but like most prejudices it was because I did not understand it. This is possibly due to our never having a unit on football in PE. We had units on basketball, soccer, and softball, as well as playing games like dodgeball and kickball, but we never had football for some reason.

Still, even if they had never taught us anything about basketball, I think I could have picked up the basics from watching. If you have the ball, you try and get it in the hoop. If you don’t have the ball, you try and get the ball, and keep the other team from getting it in the hoop. There is a definite logic to it. I’m not sure that there is any way of intuitively grasping first downs and point conversions. My brother would watch a game, and I would be noticing the flowers on the line markers, or the colors of the uniforms.

There was an attempt once to get together a powder puff football match for a field day when I was in high school, and I got on that team, but we only had a few practices and it got called off. My positions were alternating between nose guard and right tackle, and frankly, you don’t have to know a lot to do those positions right. Don’t let anyone past you—that’s it in a nutshell.

I have already mentioned that my friend Sid was the resident advisor for my dorm my first year in college, and we spent a lot of time together, and occasionally took classes together. That spring, Football Coaching was one of the classes offered.

That whole slew of classes was going to be going away due to budget cuts, so although basketball coaching would have really been where I could have excelled, I took what I could get, football, and then baseball coaching a couple of terms later.

After all, I figured, I would have friends in the class (Jack and Lani were taking it too), and I was sure that I would come out of it understanding football and maybe even appreciating it. I was right, as far as that went.

I did come out of the class appreciating football, and understanding it. It’s just that everyone else in the class came in with that sort of understanding already, and you needed to understand a lot more to do well in the class, where you could understand various plays and strategies and, oh, things a coach would do. I was so lost.

I really set myself up for failure, though I did not know it at the time. I completed a lot of AP credits in high school, which is good because money was a big issue. I worked through summer and fall term, and started in January of 1991. I was not sure of my major, or what sorts of classes were even needed to move towards graduation. I did meet with a peer adviser, but without my realizing it, I ended up with a very wimpy schedule of twelve credits, all lower division, and one of the classes canceled out some of my English credits.

My grades were pretty good that term, despite the fact that I did not study much or work very hard, and this left me with a false sense of confidence. Spring term, I initially started with twenty-one credits, and they were largely upper-division. I did drop the science class because the professor was quite boring, and that left me with eighteen credits: Accelerated Italian (6 200-level credits), French Short Fiction (3 300-level credits), French Novel (3 300-level credits), a Spanish Conversation and Composition class (3 300-level credits), and Football Coaching (3 400-level credits). So, I was essentially taking four languages, mostly at junior level, while I still had the study habits of a lazy high school student. I was soooo lost.

Well, the Italian class was the second part of one I had taken my first term, and I continued to do pretty well in that. As my grades for the others started to slide and I started trying harder, I also began to see that I did not know enough about sex to understand French Literature. An unfulfilled woman is staring at the stars and it’s so overwhelming she falls off the porch—how I am supposed to know that was an orgasm? There was a language barrier all right, but there was even more of a mindset barrier.

That leads back to my problem with football. One of our assignments was to attend one practice and write about it, but I found myself out there almost every day trying to grok this thing. And I did get to understand the sport, but I could never coach it and I barely passed the class. Put all of those classes together and my cumulative GPA never fully recovered. I just wanted to get it above 3.5, and I ended up in the 3.4 range. Again, with the AP credits, I only attended eight terms total (spread out from ’91 to ’96) , so I only had six terms left to get it back up, but I felt that.

Now, I don’t regret this at all, because I have good memories of the class and of football. I just wish I had gone in better prepared. Anyway, this is where I begin to care not just about football but about football players. Remember, high school was largely about caring for athletes, be they soccer, basketball, or track. I was already doing things for the basketball team at college, it was only natural to start caring about the football team. You can’t do as much, though, because there are so many of them.

For me, it was mainly that I would keep track of them, and congratulate them when they made honor roll or got elected captain or things like that. At one point, I did think of making a football mural. I had made a basketball mural two years running, where I did cartoons of the team members and got them to sign it. When, after working through summer and fall again, I came back to school in Winter ’92, I picked up a press guide (a collection of player stats and bios that the press can use as a reference) to practice sketching them. After going through all ninety of them, I realized I was not going to do a poster, but hey, I got some more drawing experience.

I am not a great artist, but every now and then a face will come out just right. If I really applied myself, I could probably become skilled, but you only have time to pursue so many things, and right now that is not one of them. Some came out horribly, some pretty well, and the one that I thought would be the most difficult of all came out best. The one I cared about most came out looking like a pirate. I’m not sure how it happened. His photo in the press book was not at all pirate-like. There would be a lot more to tell about that in general, but I will share a couple of different things.

One is that the press book also had birth dates, and so I would also often know when it was someone’s birthday, and if I saw them I would wish them a happy one. No baking, because there were just too many of them, but I would at least wish them well. Although it should have been strange, no one ever acted like it was strange. It didn’t occur to me until years later that they may have recognized me from practice. I rarely knew whom I was looking at because they were wearing helmets and there were a lot of them, but it is possible that the girl with the notebook stood out.

In addition, as I was taking the class, Bill Musgrave was graduating and there was some question about who would take his place as starting quarterback, with four main candidates. The one who ended up winning out was Danny, who was my least favorite. I knew Brett from church, and liked him and his wife a lot. Doug was Bill’s brother, and very smart, and Kyle was fairly good looking, and all I saw with Danny was that he was young and cocky. I believe he admits to having been cocky now, so I feel okay saying it. Anyway, I was kind of resenting him, even though starting order really had nothing to do with me.

Anyway, the morning after I realized I needed to go on a mission, I was walking to the Institute, and I felt great. A weight had been lifted, and I was really happy, and things were good.

The Institute is on 16th and Alder, 16th being a one-way street. The drive that goes into campus is a little to the left of Alder, and I was walking down the sidewalk on this drive. At 16th, Danny pulled up to the corner the same time I did, him in a truck, me on foot. He was waiting there, and I sort of wanted him out of the way, and there should have been no reason for him to be waiting, but he was, so there I was irritated again. I decided, Whatever, I’m going, and as soon as I was across he illegally turned right, making the quick cut down Alder instead of going all the way around. It just stuck me as funny and I have been fond of him ever since.

On a final note, my favorite thing to happen in football is getting an interception and taking it all the way for a touchdown. Either one is good on its own, but put them together and that is an exhilarating play. I think Ricky Whittle had the main one I remember, but it’s been a long time.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Celebrity Hate Extravaganza!

Although I do have a lot of deep thoughts about current events and religion and literature, my tendency for the blog has been to keep things fairly light; some nostalgia, some travel, some humor. Generally the postings sort of build upon each other, in that writing about meeting famous people lead to my basketball memories, which led to memories of student politics. Now, what I wanted to do next was write about my football memories, to round out the topic of sports, but I have just been so irritated with celebrities lately, that I think I need to vent.

The most disturbing part is that I am not really even that into celebrity gossip. When we go on vacation my sisters will usually buy a People magazine that I will read, but we don’t read any of the more focused, tabloid like publications, and we don’t watch E! or anything, so the information I get is from tertiary sources like the gossip section of the Oregonian or the headlines on AOL. So why do I know so much about Suri Cruise and Nicole Richie? It just doesn’t seem right. And as annoyed as I get with what I do find out, are the people who read the Star and watch Hollywood Extra apoplectic, or does this stuff not annoy them?

So, I am just going to throw out some vitriol here, and hopefully then be cleansed of it for another several months. Maybe not, I’m going to San Jose for a few days with my sisters next week, so who knows what I will find in People?

First off, Paris Hilton. You know, there are very few people of whom I can say that the mere sight of them makes my entire being scream slut, but apparently I am wrong because she says she has only slept with two people. Again, it’s just a little appalling that I know that. Anyway, my irritation here stems from an interview that I kept seeing segments of, and I think I actually read the whole thing after searching on one of the quotes, the one about her being the blonde icon of our age, right up there with Marilyn Monroe and Princess Diana.

Can that really be the icon of our age? Wealth without elegance and fame without accomplishment? That speaks well of us. I guess I should be happy she is only the blonde icon—maybe the brunette icon is better. Ultimately, I am not sure that you get to name yourself the icon anyway. I’m pretty sure Diana never did. Marilyn might have, but at least she became famous by acting, as opposed to getting “acting” roles because she is famous.

As an animal lover, I must add that I was horrified that when her dog was missing it was eventually revealed that she just forgot and left him over at her grandparents’ house. Okay, Project Runway aside, animals are not fashion accessories. If you leave a pair of black pumps over at Grandma’s, there is no problem with food, water, bathroom outings, or loneliness. How can you forget a living, breathing creature that probably adores you?

Also in that article was a repudiation of various claims that she was getting into fights with other girls like Lindsay Lohan and so on. At first it seemed like it was heading into the direction of the tabloids making things up, and I could buy that. What she was actually stating was that the other girls are making it up to increase their fame, and that’s just a little too self-serving, okay. If you want to defend yourself fine, but turning it into a declaration about your infinite superiority to all those other wannabes is less cool, even though this leads us into my next tangent of hate, pop princesses.

I haven’t seen much difference in the boy bands of my youth and today; I’d say New Kids on the Block and the Backstreet Boys are about equivalent. The other side of the coin though, is completely different, because Debbie Gibson was way less annoying than Britney Spears and company.

Initially, it was just a lot of buzz and I wasn’t paying much attention, but I did catch the names Britney, Christina, Jessica, and Mandy. Christina differentiated herself by getting a lot nastier, and Mandy actually had a song a liked, and never seemed to be as much in the mainstream, so I am not including her in this. Then, we had two who started more as actresses, Lindsay and Hilary, get into music as well. Fine, it’s not like I’m watching music videos anymore, or listening to pop radio, so it doesn’t really affect me.

However, as I was reading an article about Britney coming to town, someone was pointing out that the stage props she was using were the same kind that get used in porn, and seeing some of the dance moves that they showed on the news, well, they were pretty sexual. This was driven home again when I accidentally came across a Jessica Simpson video that was all about making love to the camera. The problem with this is that their audience is young girls. I know there are adult men who really appreciate Jessica Simpson, but it’s not for her music. So for their key audience they are role modeling sluttiness, and I don’t like that.

In addition, there was a time when I watched music videos because, oh, the music stations actually played them and also I like the music, and the thing that stuck with me is how good a time the musicians appeared to be having. They loved playing, and there was a joy to it, that you knew they would always be doing music in some way, whether they were famous or not. I don’t see any joy or love in these over-choreographed hyper-sexual routines. I am not a huge White Stripes fan, but I could totally see where they made such a sensation at the beginning. It was such a relief to hear something stripped down and raw and real again.

I mean, I suppose they can’t really just let go and let their talent carry them, because none of them seem to be that good, but it’s sad. Did you see Ashlee Simpson on Saturday Night Live? The first thing I noticed was that there was no professionalism there, but in addition, there is no ability to adapt or improvise at all.

That was the other thing that really annoyed me about this group. Every single one of them has a sister also in the business (Jamie Lyn, Ashlee, Alison, and Haylie). I know it’s not a huge threat to say that if Dakota and Elle Fanning ever put out a record, I won’t buy it, but I won’t.

Also annoying, is that even with my shriveled black raisin of a heart, I can’t help feeling sympathetic at times. I mean, look at them:
· Britney’s life is pretty much a train wreck.
· I suspect Jessica has severe Daddy issues, which can really be an obstacle to healthy relationships.
· Lindsay’s skin seems to be heading for thirty a lot faster than it should be, but no matter how leathery and tough her skin gets, her ego appears to be tissue fragile.
· Hilary is looking really weird, and if it is because of surgical alterations or an eating disorder or creative dentistry, well, that would indicate some self-esteem issues.

It is possible to simultaneously feel pity and disgust. Naturally, this brings us to Mel Gibson.

Mel, it is nice of your Hollywood friends to defend you, but being able to compartmentalize the Jews in your life from the big bad ones running the worldwide conspiracy does not mean you are not a bigot. Alcohol does not put things inside you, it lets them out. It was a good apology in general, but that line was false. Also, I detect a smack of chauvinism, maybe even misogyny, but we’ll let that slide for now and focus on the anti-Semitism.

First off, you wonder where it comes from. I suspect your father. I suppose it could be possible for a Holocaust denier to not be anti-Semitic, maybe, but the thing is, there is just so much evidence of it, that you have to be really strongly motivated to maintain that denial, and they just kind of go together.

So fine, you had a head start in that department, but you have been able to function well for the most part with people of many races, but should probably never drink. Here is where I develop some sympathy, because at about the same time there was a shooting in Seattle, again, apparently someone upset because the Jews cause all the wars in the world. This was far more serious, because people got hurt, and one died, but no one was famous so I guess it was not that interesting.

I suspect the common thread is that all of the conflict, and seemingly hopeless conflict, can tip people over the edge. If you believe in the Apocalypse, which I do, watching the news can be kind of scary. (There are reasons it should be comforting too, but that’s a longer discussion.) If you are already heading in the direction of unhinged, the news will not help.

That being said, there are a few key points that are being missed. First of all, while Israel’s behavior is often arrogant and destructive, it has not been as relentlessly hateful as that of the PLO, or Hezbollah, or Hamas, or other groups we could add.

If the root of Anti-Semitism is revenge for the Crucifixion, there are some problems. Not the role of Pilate and the soldiers—they would never have gotten involved if not for the Jewish religious leaders—but really, is anyone who participated in that still alive? Or were they when Hitler started his death camps, or when pogroms occurred in Russia, or any of the other events going back. Any persecution for the interested parties had to have been done by the Romans, not quite two thousand years ago.

Yes, they said, “His blood be upon us and our children,” but I am not sure they should have the right to say that. The Gibson children may be mocked because of their father, and they may have inherited the gene for alcoholism, but I’m sure Mel does not wish that on them, and we shouldn’t either. We inherit enough baggage from our parents already, their sins should not be held against us.

Besides that, Christ does not hate them. What they did was wrong, but it was all in His plan, and He will be coming back for them. When Jerusalem is surrounded by her enemies, the enemies will be destroyed, and the Jews will be converted and be healed. If you believe in the Bible, you should never take sides against the Jews. That would be crazy. But people in Hollywood go crazy all the time.

So, if I may close with a few more peeves, celebrity couple nicknames (TomKat, Brangelina, Bennifer) are stupid, the more Scientologists say that they have seen Suri and that she is beautiful, the more people will believe there are birth defects (are you looking for a replacement baby?), and Jennifer Aniston, quit skanking up Vince Vaughn.