Celebrating Something

July 6, 2014

A collection of quotes about America at 238:

We start out with the original:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.—That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,—That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.” – Thomas Jefferson, et. al. July 4, 1776.

And perhaps the greatest rebuke of that, some 180 years later:

“In a sense we’ve come to our nation’s capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the “unalienable Rights” of “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note, insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked “insufficient funds.” But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. And so, we’ve come to cash this check, a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice.” Martin Luther King, August 29, 1963.

And this, from a fictional News Anchor:

” And yeah, you… sorority girl. Just in case you accidentally wander into a voting booth one day, there are some things you should know, and one of them is: There is absolutely no evidence to support the statement that we’re the greatest country in the world. We’re seventh in literacy, twenty-seventh in math, twenty-second in science, forty-ninth in life expectancy, 178th in infant mortality, third in median household income, number four in labor force, and number four in exports. We lead the world in only three categories: number of incarcerated citizens per capita, number of adults who believe angels are real, and defense spending, where we spend more than the next twenty-six countries combined, twenty-five of whom are allies. None of this is the fault of a 20-year-old college student, but you, nonetheless, are without a doubt a member of the WORST-period-GENERATION-period-EVER-period, so when you ask what makes us the greatest country in the world, I don’t know what the fuck you’re talking about! Yosemite?
Will McAvoy: [pause] We sure used to be. We stood up for what was right. We fought for moral reasons, we passed laws, struck down laws for moral reasons. We waged wars on poverty, not poor people. We sacrificed, we cared about our neighbors, we put our money where our mouths were, and we never beat our chest. We built great big things, made ungodly technological advances, explored the universe, cured diseases, and we cultivated the world’s greatest artists and the world’s greatest economy. We reached for the stars, acted like men. We aspired to intelligence; we didn’t belittle it; it didn’t make us feel inferior. We didn’t identify ourselves by who we voted for in the last election, and we didn’t scare so easy. We were able to be all these things and do all these things because we were informed. By great men, men who were revered. The first step in solving any problem is recognizing there is one. America is not the greatest country in the world anymore.
Will McAvoy: [to moderator] Enough?  – Jeff Daniels, “The Newsroom,” HBO.

Another quote, from another fictional character:

For the last couple of months, Senator Rumson has suggested that being president of this country was, to a certain extent, about character, and although I have not been willing to engage in his attacks on me, I’ve been here three years and three days, and I can tell you without hesitation: Being President of this country is entirely about character. For the record: yes, I am a card-carrying member of the ACLU. But the more important question is why aren’t you, Bob? Now, this is an organization whose sole purpose is to defend the Bill of Rights, so it naturally begs the question: Why would a senator, his party’s most powerful spokesman and a candidate for President, choose to reject upholding the Constitution? If you can answer that question, folks, then you’re smarter than I am, because I didn’t understand it until a few hours ago. America isn’t easy. America is advanced citizenship. You gotta want it bad, ’cause it’s gonna put up a fight. It’s gonna say “You want free speech? Let’s see you acknowledge a man whose words make your blood boil, who’s standing center stage and advocating at the top of his lungs that which you would spend a lifetime opposing at the top of yours. You want to claim this land as the land of the free? Then the symbol of your country can’t just be a flag; the symbol also has to be one of its citizens exercising his right to burn that flag in protest. Show me that, defend that, celebrate that in your classrooms. Then, you can stand up and sing about the “land of the free”. I’ve known Bob Rumson for years, and I’ve been operating under the assumption that the reason Bob devotes so much time and energy to shouting at the rain was that he simply didn’t get it. Well, I was wrong. Bob’s problem isn’t that he doesn’t get it. Bob’s problem is that he can’t sell it! We have serious problems to solve, and we need serious people to solve them. And whatever your particular problem is, I promise you, Bob Rumson is not the least bit interested in solving it. He is interested in two things and two things only: making you afraid of it and telling you who’s to blame for it. That, ladies and gentlemen, is how you win elections. You gather a group of middle-aged, middle-class, middle-income voters who remember with longing an easier time, and you talk to them about family and American values and character. And wave an old photo of the President’s girlfriend and you scream about patriotism and you tell them, she’s to blame for their lot in life, and you go on television and you call her a whore. Sydney Ellen Wade has done nothing to you, Bob. She has done nothing but put herself through school, represent the interests of public school teachers, and lobby for the safety of our natural resources. You want a character debate, Bob? You better stick with me, ’cause Sydney Ellen Wade is way out of your league.

[pauses]

I’ve loved two women in my life. I lost one to cancer, and I lost the other ’cause I was so busy keeping my job I forgot to do my job. Well, that ends right now. Tomorrow morning, the White House is sending a bill to Congress for its consideration. It’s White House Resolution 455, an energy bill requiring a 20 percent reduction of the emission of fossil fuels over the next ten years. It is by far the most aggressive stride ever taken in the fight to reverse the effects of global warming. The other piece of legislation is the crime bill. As of today, it no longer exists. I’m throwing it out. I’m throwing it out writing a law that makes sense. You cannot address crime prevention without getting rid of assault weapons and handguns. I consider them a threat to national security, and I will go door to door if I have to, but I’m gonna convince Americans that I’m right, and I’m gonna get the guns. We’ve got serious problems, and we need serious people, and if you want to talk about character, Bob, you’d better come at me with more than a burning flag and a membership card. If you want to talk about character and American values, fine. Just tell me where and when, and I’ll show up. This is a time for serious people, Bob, and your fifteen minutes are up. My name is Andrew Shepherd, and I *am* the President.” Michael Douglas, “The American President, 1995.

Now, for some real people, including me…

“238 years later, that document and the one written 12 years later, both are fraying at the edges. I have an ancestor who has his name on that Declaration and he, along with Adams, Jefferson, Franklin and Hancock, would be appalled at the bastardization of their words. Our favorite craft company took out full-page ads in most major newspapers today, extolling the words of the Founders. Actually it was more like distorting.

I’m sure the Sovereign Citizens, (aren’t we all “sovereign” to this nation?) Tea Party and the “real” people behind the scenes are crowing about this, but I think their time is just about up. For those who scream about wanting “their” country back are increasingly becoming more aware that narrative won’t work as long as those in the course of human events see these people as nothing more than armchair patriots who purport to love a country that sees right through their righteous indignation for nothing more than a knee-jerk, childish reaction to the continual evolution and changes they don’t like. Martin Luther King, Jr. said “the arc of history is long and bends invariably towards justice.” But, as we have seen, justice takes some disconcerting twists and turns, none more since December of 2000 and culminating with the decisions made by the five men cabal masquerading as Supreme Court Justices.

The pursuit still continues. No one said it would be easy and we are still trying to get a “more perfect Union.” We have come to this crossroads and neither way looks smooth, but if we don’t try, surely we will become a new version of Yugoslavia.” July 4th, 2014, The Esquire Blog, with Charles P. Pierce.

“True patriotism isn’t simply about securing our borders from outsiders. It’s about coming together for the common good. True patriotism requires taking on a fair share of the burdens of keeping America going, not finding tax loopholes and squirreling money abroad. It’s about preserving and protecting our democracy, not inundating it with big money or paralyzing it with partisanship. True patriots don’t hate the government of the United States. They’re proud of it. Generations of Americans have risked their lives to preserve it. They may not like everything it does, and they justifiably worry when special interests gain too much power over it. But true patriots work to improve the government, not destroy it. And they don’t pander to divisiveness; they don’t fuel racist or religious or ethnic divides; they aren’t homophobic or sexist. To the contrary: True patriots seek to confirm and strengthen the “we” in “we the people of the United States.” – Robert Reich, former Treasury Secretary under President Clinton, July 4, 2014. (Thanks Linda Andress for posting this)

” We live in a time in America where an entire political party – a whole political movement – believes that “freedom” is for those who can afford it but have the freedom to not pay a fair tax on their income or wealth. But that same movement does not think the same kind of freedom is for those who are poor or hungry or sick or old or infirm or without a job.

They believe freedom is for those who walk down the street with a loaded gun but not for those who walk down the street armed only with a bag of candy.

They believe that freedom is for those who demand all war all the time but not for those who shout “Enough!” because we have no right to march around the world imposing our will on the unwilling.

They believe that freedom is for those who have a “traditional” family and attend the correct church but not for those who want to spend their life with someone who has all of the same sexy parts, or who not only do not attend the correct church but don’t attend any house of worship because they can’t accept the notion of relying on an imaginary friend in the sky.

They have distorted and perverted the meaning of freedom, using it because they want to exclude many rather than include all. Until that changes, none of us will be free and nothing will really be self-evident.” Charley James, The Politics Blog, Esquire, July 4, 2014.

And last, but not least, the sage of the Plains, Barry Friedman, with the last words on this:

“There is a narrative problem in this country, especially on holidays such as this. Those on the Right see a country unrecognizable to the rest of us; it celebrates a memory, a hyperbole really. To them, the United States is full of tough, gruff men in boots and well-behaved women with retarded libidos–the men screaming about freedom, the women nodding reassuringly. The Right doesn’t acknowledge a government that built roads and schools and lifted a generation of seniors out of poverty and prevented little children from dying from mad cow disease at Steak and Shake because some bureaucrat found bad meat. The Right defines itself (and its schema for America) by Allen West, not Alan Grayson; Sarah Palin, not Sarah Silverman. All religions are welcome, they will tell you (well, maybe not all), but all except Christians are guests and should stay off the good furniture and not make a fuss if there’s a manger at City Hall. They talk of American greatness and freedom and vision and offer up Hobby Lobby and Chick-fil-A and guns and fat ranchers and Gadsden flags. Ben Carson, a black man, is invited to speak at their conventions, so why are we still bitching about equality?

All is good. Move on.

To win the future–hell, to have one–we not only have to beat back the worst instincts of those yelping incessantly in bumper-sticker sophistication that we are increasingly told to be proud of–entitled racism, sexism, elitism, jingoism, religious certainty–we also have to take back the story and the country we remember.” – July 4, 2014.

 

 

Sterling’s True Character

April 29, 2014

From all accounts, Donald T. Sterling is a vile man.  He is a man of avarice and greed, of prejudice and rigging the system in his favor.  He has prevented blacks, the elderly, disabled, Mexicans and others from moving into his vast holdings of apartments in Southern California.  He also owns a basketball team, famous for its ineptitude and penny-pinching ways, even though Sterling is a billionaire several times over.

This isn’t about Sterling or the reaction of what he said or didn’t say to his ex-“girlfriend.”  It is still more about where we are as a society and if we are ever to move past racism. It is the Original Sin of America, a boil that has never been lanced, a wound never allowed to heal.

I could give a shit less about Sterling or his views.  Or whether Magic Johnson is HIV-positive.  Or the NBA for that matter.  This isn’t about them and the majority of players who are African-American who play in the “Association.” It is about race.  Sterling brought the Clippers in 1983 and moved them to Los Angeles in 1984 without permission using the Al Davis excuse.   Which goes something along the lines of “It’s my team and I’ll move them anywhere I want.”

See this is the lesson that we never learn. Rich and powerful people think the rules of society don’t apply to them.  That they, because of their status or pocketbook, can say and do whatever they want and get away with it because “hey, I’m Chevy Chase. And you’re not.”

Now, 40 years ago, that was a funny line.  Today, it applies to anyone who is “famous” or a “celebrity.” People who are on TV or in a movie or own a sports team get treated like they come out of the book of Jewish Fairy Tales, well, because they have the looks or the wealth to do things that others, if they tried it, would fail and miserably in the attempt.

Sterling is just the latest in a long line of owners who were racist. Walter O. Briggs once said “No (black) player will ever play for the Detroit Tigers as long as I’m owner.” In the 1950’s. It wasn’t until after Briggs died the Tigers brought in their first black player, the second-to-last team to do so.  Charles Broffman was once asked why he brought the Montreal Expos. His response, “I was tired of being an anonymous millionaire.”

It doesn’t matter anymore that this tape of Sterling making the remarks he did was obtained by Harvey Levin, the liberal’s answer to Bernie Goldberg.  Or that our national blowhard Rush, has weighed in.  Or Roger Murdoch, who’s a pilot. Or that Sterling once employed him under an assumed name of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Actually Kareem made some good points in his article for Time magazine (http://time.com/79590/donald-sterling-kareem-abdul-jabbar-racism/) and on Rachel Maddow’s program last night.  Ex Clippers GM Elgin Baylor has had a lawsuit going against this man for five years and through wranglings and delays, somehow the message that this guy isn’t a very nice man who treats his employees fairly got lost because well, his team, until recently, has stunk.

But just to prove the old adage that even a blind squirrel finds a nut from time to time, the Clippers are actually good. Better than their more famous counterparts in the City of Angels, the Lakers (who somehow managed a worse record than the woebegone Pistons this season) and are currently playing the Golden State Warriors in the playoffs.  Now, winning and advancing seems rather unimportant  in lieu of recent events.  In reality, Sterling never cared about winning or having an environment conducive to winning.

If this had been said a few years ago, when the team was a perpetual lottery pick, then it might have gone unnoticed.  But in this age where everyone is a “journalist,” with a smartphone and nothing is private anymore, anything and everything will be used against you in the court of public opinion.  But if you dig a bit deeper, you find that this man has always been this way, a member of the “Big Club,” as Carlin once said, “and you and I ain’t in it.”

Like Fishing in a Dry Lake

April 19, 2014

In my four years on this blog (partially inspired by a then-unemployed friend doing the same at 3 AM), I have written about things that I have experienced, my political views, a few sports related posts, my family and what is like to be a middle-aged man facing the future, changes, and the undiscovered country. I have even picked up a few fans along the way and drawn inspiration from other bloggers, like the rude pundit, drift glass, Charles Pierce, Daily Kos, Rachel Colyer and the wonderfully funny, sometimes annoying (especially with his Friday Lists’ on Facebook), but always enlightening Friedman of the Plains, Barry Friedman.

In my 35 plus years of writing, sometimes even for money, I have seen our country go from being the best educated to behind countries that didn’t exist when I graduated high school.  I have seen people come and go – in and out of my life – and loved a lot of them.  I have been accepted, rejected, mocked, threatened, accused, duped, dumped, blackballed, evicted, homeless, hurt, traveled the world, been lied to, about and betrayed.

And you know what I’ve finally figured out?  That life, for me, is like fishing in a dry lake.  I could have fought it, but with age, I have learned to accept that there are things I can change and things I can’t. Some people call it serenity.  Well, I’m not serene, that’s for sure.  I am still fighting, still struggling to figure out my place in this world and why I am still here while other, more deserving people aren’t.

Fishing in a dry lake.  Sounds like a lyric from “Honky Cat”, by Elton John.  “Like trying to find gold in a silver mine/like trying to drink whiskey from a bottle of wine.” Or maybe the lost first line from “Maragritaville”. “Fishing in a dry lake/watching the sun bake.” Either way it works.  But what does it mean to me?

A lot of things.

It means we are headed towards a barren future if we don’t put aside our differences and work together.  It means that  we are heading the same direction as the former Yugoslavia.  Torn apart not from the outside, but from within.  It means that I have as much a chance of growing old gracefully as does most of my generation.

My adult life, I have never “earned” more than $12,000.  I once worked three jobs and got paid for just two of them.  I worked at a high-end restaurant that was owned by a friend and he “shafted” me, too.  I have gone through so many state programs and the only “job” I got out of that was a “store greeter” position and once the manager got transferred, I was suddenly “not on the schedule” and supposedly was to transfer to another store, closer to where I was living at the time.  Three months later, I finally found out I was fired, only after calling the corporate office.  I once worked at a movie theater and a substitute teacher.

I gave up a long time ago on the “American Dream”.  Or any kind of dream for that matter.  I hold no illusions or delusions anymore.  No one, except those who’ve known me a long time, have any idea what my life is like.  Heck, I just got “threatened” the other day – a joke really, which is why I won’t repeat it, but to think I wasted 12 years of my life on this person, well, another case of fishing in a dry lake.  I somehow survived the worst winter in my life and I’m still here.

Years ago, someone gave me a piece of paper. It was called “My autobiography in five short chapters.” The first three dealing with falling in holes.  Well, I’ve fallen in those holes and survived.  The fourth hole deals with walking around it and the 5th simply states “Chapter 5. I walk down a different street.” I think we all reach that point in our lives. Here’s the complete version:  http://www.dwlz.com/Motivation/tips26.html

In the past six months,  I’ve lost two friends near and dear to me and I just found out another one died today.  There comes a point in one’s life when you realize that all you have is your wits and will.  I still have my wits, but my will comes and goes.  Some days are better than others. Making changes in middle life isn’t easy, but sometimes, they have to be made.  I think it’s time to try a different lake.

What I’ve Learned.

March 18, 2014

(Disclaimer: “What I learned” is a regular feature in Esquire magazine. Since it is highly unlikely I will ever be asked to do one for them, I’ve decided to do one for myself).

Kent Anderson, 55, Sterling Heights, Michigan. Writer, part-time athlete.

I’ve been all around the world, but Detroit is my home.

I don’t like liars or people who lie about me, lie to me or lie to others about me.

I don’t like cowards either.

I don’t remember much about my childhood, but what I do remember is crying a lot. And being laughed at. I hated wearing braces and I hated being teased.  Today, it would be called bullying.

I don’t remember doing much with my family.  The last thing I remember doing with my parents before they got divorced was them driving me out to Jamestown, North Dakota to go to boarding school. I don’t remember crying so much until I was 40.

I have been called every name in the book. They might have started a whole new chapter based on me.

People are mean. They are nice to your face, but then they back-stab you the first chance they get. Cue the O’Jays.

Once they point the finger at you, that’s it.  In their minds, that’s what you are.

Forgive and forget are not in my DNA. I don’t forget and will never forgive. Maybe on my deathbed.

Starting something is easier than finishing it.

I don’t remember much of my childhood before Jamestown.  But I do remember my grandmother.  My mother will be pleased.

My dad didn’t teach me much, but he taught me honesty and loyalty.

I was at a bar once and as I paid for my drink, a woman said to me “what a poor man.” I started to confront her about it and her husband jumped in and said “she didn’t say it.” But she did.

Whoever said “50 is the new 30,” lied.

Whoever coined the term “Best friend and soul mate” is full of it.

The friends you make between the ages of 15-30 are the most loyal.  Everything else is a crap shoot.

The people who have had the most influence on me, both living and dead, good and bad, are long out of my life.

If I had a do-over, I would never have gone to Wisconsin in 1998, let alone moved there.  I don’t think I’ve ever heard of a case of being used for one’s income, but that’s me.

If it weren’t for my mother, I wouldn’t have made it through the aftermath of that decision.

My grandfather lived to be 94.  I hope I don’t live that long. I never want to be a burden. To anyone. Whether they love me or not.

If you call me a moocher or taker, then we have a problem.  Try “living” on what I get a month. You couldn’t. Trust me.

If I could have on more day with anyone, I would pick my grandmother, who died shortly before I was 10, my dog Brutus, and a girl I knew from North Dakota who died before she was 30.

My cousin Tom died of an overdose in 2002.  I still have a problem with that.

My distaste for religion doesn’t mean I don’t have morals or a code that I follow.  Watch “The Big Kahuna.” It’s on Netflix.

Sometimes the most profound things come from the least expected places.

Johnny Carson.

George Carlin.

Richard Pryor.

Rodney.

The end.

 

This Relentless Winter

February 26, 2014

“This is the winter of our discontent.”  John Steinbeck, 1961.

When I was a child, winter’s sucked.  I remember wanting to go out in the snow and once I got out there, wanting to go back inside.  I have never liked the cold.  But I have always lived in the cold.  In the 60’s and 70’s the Michigan Licence Plates always had “Water Winter Wonderland” on them.  I always found that rather different, bMichiganut then my childhood was different.

But this isn’t about that.  It’s about THIS winter. A brutal, brutish, unrelenting stream of polar vortex’s and snow unlike any in my memory. The New Years’ Day Blizzard in 1966, the December blizzard in 1974, the Ice Storm in 1978, those are events that you remember, but this winter is the most singular because it has affected everything and every one of us in North America.

From the drought in California to the Great Lakes nearly frozen over for the first time in 35 years, this winter has been one for the record books.  The expected high today (Wednesday, Feb. 26) is 16, tomorrow, 14.  (-12 C) Tomorrow night’s low is supposed to be -8 (-22 C). The normal high this time of year is supposed to be 40 (5 C).

People can’t get rock salt.  It doesn’t work in these temperatures anyhow.  They have started advising people to buy kitty litter and sand.  It is like “Doomsday Preppers”, except with the weather.  Weird stuff.  Except now, we’re all in it.

Back in December, I went to California for nearly two weeks.  When I came home, it was your typical December weather. Right after Christmas it warmed up to about 50 degrees.  I went out for lunch with a friend on the 28th. Little did I know it would be almost 40 days until I left the house again.  The last day I was out? Feb. 8, when I went to see my Doctor.  I’m supposed to go out tomorrow.  We’ll see.

I went nearly half-a-month (12 days) without mail.  The snow began to fall. Five inches, then 7, then 11. Snow up to my door. Wind-chill factor’s -20, 30 below zero. We are close to 79 inches of snow.  The record is 93.3, set in 1880-81, the year that Benjamin Harrison was elected and sworn in as President and my great-grandmother hadn’t even been born yet.

Of course, the Right-wing nut jobs have come out in full force on this. Jobba the Rush said “There’s (chomp) no such (chomp, chomp) thing as a polar vortex.” And Al Rocker pulled out his college textbook to tell Flush to “Stuff it!!!” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q5k4Xz65zjU

My brother got caught in it and he lives in Alabama.  He had to go pick up his daughter (my youngest niece) from school.  Because they don’t plan for these kind of storms, the state was ill-equipped to deal with the storm that blew through the Birmingham area last month.  He ended up driving four-and-a-half hours with what is normally a 15-minute drive.  Ended up spending the night at the school.  The school didn’t let anyone out until 10 Am the next day.  Even then, it was a two-and-a-half hour ride home.

Climate change is not the same as weather.  Climate change affects the weather. This polar vortex will eventually recede and spring will come. When? Well, that’s the $64,000 question.

The winter has affected my mood.  I have lost weight.  I have slept a lot. I am tired. Not just physically tired either. Emotionally, psychology tired. I have tried to keep a sense of humor about it, but it is hard.  The days all seem the same.  Even the Olympics got boring after a while. I feel like a prisoner in my own home. I have a friend who says I should have stayed in California. I told him, send me $3000 and I’ll be on the next plane out.

Right now, the sun is out at 10 am.  It is, according to the weather app on my phone, six degrees outside.  (Wind chill -4) There was a time, not that long ago, that weather wouldn’t stop me. I had places to go, classes to attend, interviews, deadlines, dates, games to attend and cover.  Not even snow could stop me.

“The Winter of Our Discontent” was Steinbeck’s last novel.  It’s protagonist, Ethan, is a man obsessed with getting his good name back after his father lost the family store.  He becomes borderline paranoid and seeks revenge against those whom he sees wronged his family. The bank, the community, the man who brought the store at auction from the bank at pennies on the dollar.  Ethan is out looking to restore his family’s good name and his father’s honor. He suspects the store’s owner is an illegal immigrant and reports it.  After reclaiming the store and acquiring land needed to build an airport through less-than-honest means, the pressure gets to be to much for him after his friend’s “accidental” death, drive him to the brink, only to be saved by his daughter.

Ethan gets saved by his daughter.  His “winter” is more psychological than a real winter.  This is a real winter for many  of us. People have died because of this winter.  Winter usually comes in like the tides.  The ebb and the flow. The sustained nastiness of this winter is the wrath of Mother Nature and the first warning shot for human beings to clean up our act.

 

 

Commentary on Stray dogs in Sochi.

February 7, 2014

Keith Olbermann’s searing commentary on stray dogs being killed in Sochi ahead of the 2014 Games. Disgraceful. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SyX3x8YZwiA

Meet the New Boss…

January 15, 2014

Chuck Knox’s wife.  And Joe Falls.

Who and what are you talking about, Kent?  You might ask.

I’m taking about Chuck Knox, the former coach of the Seahawks, Bills and Rams (when they were in Los Angeles and Anaheim). Before becoming a head coach in the National Football League, he was an assistant under Joe Schmidt with the semi-pro local football team here in Detroit who happen to sometimes resemble a professional team.

Back in both 1977 and 85, the Lions offered Chuck Knox their head coaching job. He accepted both times, but his wife nixed the deal both times because she didn’t like Detroit.  (Yes, there’s that old stereotype about Detroit popping up again) Instead, the Lions ended up with Monte Clark and the woebegone, out-of-his-element, totally disinterested Darryl Rogers who once asked “What does one have to do to get fired around here?”  Oh, just go 18-40 in just under three years will do the trick. My personal favorite Rogers story is one where we were outside at the Silverdome and an obviously bored and disinterested Rogers looked up at the top of the dome and asked “How many (birds) could you shoot from here?” We just stood around and laughed. He was serious. Weird guy.

Today, the Lions introduce Jim Caldwell as the franchise’s 15th head coach since Joe Schmidt quit in 1973.  No coach since Schmidt has has a winning record and none, save Dick Jauron (who was the interim coach for five games following Steve Mariucci) has ever been hired by a NFL team.  The hiring of Caldwell is reminiscent of those of Clark and Rogers in that they were both not who the Lions wanted.  In the case of Caldwell, the Lions wanted Ken Whisenhunt, the former coach of the Arizona Cardinals and the offensive coordinator for the San Diego Chargers.

Now Lions sufferers, (we’re not fans anymore, after 56 years, we’re suffering) are admittedly skeptical about this latest hire.  Caldwell’s credentials are passable, as are Whisenhunt’s, but it’s a case of “if we have all this talent, where’s the elite coach that’s going to get us there?”

I’ll tell you where those elite coaches are. At Black Rock and 30 Rock and you ain’t getting Bill Cowher or Tony Dungy out of those high payin’ cushy gigs unless you’re the Cowboys or Bears or some other elite team.  If Bill Belichick quit tomorrow, Dungy would be in Foxborough faster than you could say “Where do I sign?” There’s a reason why the Lions and Cardinals and Jacksonville don’t get these coaches…It’s called prestige and Detroit and Cleveland (and 25 other teams) don’t have it.  The Lions even tried getting Dungy after Whisenhunt accepted the Titans job.  He said thanks, but no thanks.

Caldwell is a mixed bag, as far as I’m concerned.  Had Peyton Manning not missed the 2011 season, he’s probably still the Colts head coach and Manning has the Colts playing this Sunday for the AFC title instead of the Broncos.  But, as we all know, the NFL stands for “Not For Long” and a 2-14 season will get you fired faster than throwing up on Dean Wormer will get you kicked out of Faber.  And some have never forgiven him for throwing away (possibly) a undefeated season his first year in Indy.

Caldwell becomes the Lions’ first African-American Head Coach, nearly a decade after the NFL instituted a rule about minority coaching candidates after a previous General Manager (who’s name shall never be spoken in my presence) hired Mariucci without interviewing anyone else, including minority candidates. Hey, I’m a minority, why don’t I get an interview?

I really did think that the Lions were going to give the departed Schwartz one more year.  But, by the end of the year, after losing six of their last 7, including the last three to Baltimore (on a 61-yard Field Goal no less) the going nowhere New York Football Giants and the last place Minnesota Vikings, it was a foregone conclusion he would be fired.  But in the aftermath of the 15-day odyssey (“odd” being the operative word) one local columnist is saying the Lions should of kept Schwartz.

A known unknown is what I think Caldwell is at this point.  Do his 24 wins in his first two seasons in Indianapolis represent his coaching ability or the fact that he had arguably one of the best quarterback’s in the league’s history throwing the ball?  Or do his two wins in a season without Manning and his mediocre record at Wake Forrest foretell his real ability?  All questions we will find out starting today.

The one constant in all this is the owner of the Lions. William Clay Ford, Sr. has owned this team for 50 years now.  He has hired 17 coaches, all but three have been fired.  In 1964, in his nascent days as sole owner, he sought out to hire a young assistant coach who would replace George Wilson, the last coach to win a NFL Championship with Detroit in 1957, a year before I was born.  An offer was made, contract signed, and Ford was set to name his first head coach.  Except for one thing.  The Free Press’ Joe Falls got a scoop and published the story.  Ford went into a rage and tore up the contract, called Falls and told him, “I’m not letting the media name my coach before me!!!!” The young assistant was crushed, but was quickly hired by the Baltimore Colts, who had just lost Weeb Eubank to the rival AFL’s New York Jets.  The name of that assistant you ask?

Don Shula.

In the meantime, like the late Monte Clark, we pray to the football gods…Image

12 Things About Me

November 17, 2013

OK, so over on Zuckerberg’s revenge toy, the rage this week has been to assign a number randomly (five and eight seem to be the prevalent requests) to reveal yourself even more than you already have on the interboobs.

Most people have put up mundane stuff, but some have been very interesting. So, last night, my friend Ken Story put up his eight things. And then he assigned me a number -12 – which seemed a bit unfair at first but the more I thought about it, it would be a challenge for me to mention 12 things about me that most people don’t know.

1. I was born at least nine weeks early. I should have died, my mother thought I was stillborn. Nah, I was just stubborn. I decided to stick around and have some fun.

2. I wore full-length leg braces that were heavier than me until I was at least 10. I remember crying when my mother would put them on me. They hurt like hell.

3. The last thing I remember doing with my parents before they got divorced was driving from Detroit to Jamestown, North Dakota to enroll me in the Crippled Children’s School. We stopped at “Paul Bunyan Land” in Brainerd, Minnesota. We entered the Park and there was this huge voice that came out of no where that said “Hello, Kent, welcome to Paul Bunyan Land.” Scared the crap out of me, but it was fun. It wasn’t Bob-Lo, but then, this is Minnesota we’re talking about.

4. I still have a great-aunt who’s alive. I think.

5. I once rolled my chair down the left turn lane on 6 Mile Road for nearly two miles getting home from school. No one stooped me, offered a ride or the Livonia police show up to assist. Life in the 1970’s.

6. I am the oldest of three. I have a younger sister and brother and we are 55, 53 and 51, yet aren’t close. I have four step-siblings that I haven’t seen in decades.

7. I made out with Mackenzie Phillips. Yes, I know, who didn’t?

8. I interviewed Dick Vitale on the day he resigned from the University of Detroit. For my high school paper. We won awards for that year.

9. I haven’t been in the hospital since I was 13.

10. After all the traveling I’ve done, the best part is waking up in your own bed.

11. I wish I could say “I love you,” to my Grandma Franks one last time. She died when I was 9.

12. I am still here.

The Cruelest Month

November 1, 2013

November.  The cruelest month. A reminder of how quickly things can change.  The days get shorter, winds start to get stronger, things get shut down.  Pools get drained and covered, patios closed, baseball is done, temperatures go up and down like a pogo stick.  The warmth of the summer, gone. The color of Autumn, fallen and crumpled to the ground.  Cold rain falls from the sky, chilling the bones. Snow comes.  Hunters hunt for deer, with rifles. Sometimes, they hunt for more than just Bambi.

“We interrupt this program…”

I was five.

November.  It is where life and legacy intersect, where families gather for Thanksgiving and feast on turkey and all the trimmings, where generations interact and feelings, jealousies and hard feelings are put aside, if just for that one day.  

One day.  In November.

It is the last time I saw my grandfather alive, in 2007.  He was 93.  He died the following April a month after turning 94.

“Shots at the President’s motorcade in downtown Dallas”

He was a young man. He never saw his children grow up, never got to grow old like his brother. His other brother ran for President and never got out of the hotel after winning the California Primary. He had, in two-and-a-half years, set this country on a course that, had he lived, would have looked a lot different than the country we live in today.  

November. The cruelest month. Relationships end, lives altered.  The fates intervene.  

“You can’t say the people of Dallas don’t love you.”

It was the last time a President rode in a motorcade topless.  No President since has ever ridden in a crowd of people without a bullet-proof car.  

“The flash, apparently official. President Kennedy died at 1 pm Central Standard Time. Some 38 minutes ago.”

The cruelest month. November.  Abrupt and sudden, like a cold front coming down from Canada. Or shots coming from the Texas Book Depository on Elm Street, Dallas, Texas.

“I’m just a pasty.”

Maybe, maybe not.  We’ll never know. Movies, books, novels have been written. Fifty years later, no one knows the facts or the truth.

The fates intervened that day. A marriage ended.  Two children lost their father. A country lost its way. 

A few years ago, a friend was part of a focus group. They were each asked “What day changed America?” Almost in unison they said “September 11, 2001.”  My friend said “November 22, 1963.”

He was right.

 

A Commissioner’s Legacy

August 7, 2013

Nineteen years ago this month, Baseball stopped. For what reason is still debated to this day, but in August of 1994, the players went out on strike. I had gone to Chicago to watch a Cubs game the day before. I remember Mark Grace saying the player’s going on strike was “a matter of principal.”

Of course, it wasn’t.  It was an attempt to keep the Players Union’s winning streak going.  It didn’t. The public had no sympathy for players making millions playing a game. It also backfired on the owners because the strike cancelled the World Series and went into the 1995 season with “replacement” players.  A federal judge put a halt to the charade, effectively ending the war between the players and owners which had been going on since the late 1960’s.  The judge’s name: Sonia Sotomayor, who some 16 years later, would become the first woman of Latino heritage to sit on the Supreme Court.

What changed in the aftermath of that strike/lockout?  Nearly 20 years of labor “peace” and now, a distorted view of the game, it’s players and the so-called “Lords of the Realm.”  The owners, fed up with Fay Vincent actually acting like a commissioner, (how dare he?) decided to stage a coup-de-tat and replace him with one of their own.  Which was against the rules, but screw the rules. The man’s name was Bud Selig.

At the time, he was the owner of the Milwaukee Brewers, who had started out as the Seattle Pilots in 1969.  How Bud came to own the Pilots in 1970 is still a bit murky, but by 1994, he was feeling the pinch of baseball’s out-of-whack economic system. Milwaukee had won a pennant in 1982, by ’94 baseball’s inequality was making it increasingly difficult for “small-market” owners like Bud to compete with teams like the Cubs, Braves, Yankees and Mets, each of whom had huge revenue streams through “superstations” like WGN, TBS and WPIX.

In 1994 “Used car Bud” was brought in as “acting” commissioner.  As early as September of 1994, the players were ready to go back and complete the season. Bud said no.  Then there was talk of a Montreal-New York World Series.  Bud said no.  Then, over the winter, it became apparent that the owners wanted to break the Union altogether, Bud ordered the teams to stock their teams with replacement players, the fix was in and the joke was on baseball.  Sparky Anderson’s refusal to manage replacement players was the last straw for the owners, the strike then turned into a lockout and the players went to court to put an end to the nonsense.

Baseball came back, but not the fans. Attendance dropped off 40% from previous years in 1995 and the subsequent years didn’t show much improvement.  Then came 1998, when Sammy Sosa, who was traded to the White Sox by a dry drunk Texas Rangers owner who later stole two elections and took us into two unnecessary wars (Gee, I wonder who Kent could be referring to?), and an already well-known slugger named Mark McGuire proceeded to bring in the asterisk era in baseball.

Sosa, who had never hit more than 40 home runs in his previous eight seasons, hit 66 in 1998, besting Roger Maris’s 61* by five home runs.  It set the National League record, or would have had it not been for McGuire.  McGuire was a known commodity when he was traded by Oakland to St. Louis in 1997, smashed 70.  In 2001, a mere three seasons later, Barry Bonds hit 73.

In the 15 seasons since 1998, the record book has been altered to the point where in might never be able to look right again. 500 Home Runs used to mean automatic entry into Cooperstown. Not anymore.  Ask Rafael Palmeiro. Break the all-time home run record?  Sorry, Barry.  Hit over 600 home runs, play on the most famous team in American sports?  I highly doubt Alex Rodriguez will ever see the Hall, unless he buys a ticket.

And yes, the players who juiced and got caught and those who didn’t and either lied to Congress, “60 Minutes” and ESPN about it are most culpable, but the owners and the Commissioner who turned a (not so) blind eye to the fraudulent era are equally at fault, if not more so.  Which brings us, in a most roundabout, zig-zag through every accusation, denial, investigation, conspiracy theories and indignation, to Monday and what baseball hopes will close the book on the  “Steroid Era.”  Or at least Bud does. In truth, I doubt it.

To the other extent, this is also about the biggest jerk going.  Rodriguez’s claim that he is “fighting for his life,” is an insult to all those who ARE fighting for their lives. The kid with leukemia or someone with lymphoma or about to lose their house, for example? The mind reels from his selfish, obtuse, obsessed-with-himself attitude.

This is, in truth, about an old man on the verge of retirement who wants to set things straight. The 1994 coup-de-tat and the unnecessary strike which, to this day still haunts him. Fay Vincent stood up for “the good of the game,” Bud just saw a chance to break the union. Then, in order to restore baseball’s “greatness” he allowed  McGuire, Sosa and Bonds (and others) to break records which were tainted and most fans don’t accept. The discomfort shown on Selig’s face as Bonds broke Hank Aaron’s record is telling and tragic.

Rodriguez will lose his appeal. Quite possibly most of the 12 others will never play again. The game will survive. Bud will retire at the end of next season. As much as the press wants to make this about Rodriguez, Perralta and Cruz, it really is about a tainted legacy and an old man’s futile attempt to flush it down the toilet. He can’t.


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