Archive for June, 2013

The thrill and agony

June 25, 2013

It looked like a Game 7.  With 90 seconds to go, Boston was winning 2-1 and I’m sure all of New England and most of Chicago was preparing for the deciding game tomorrow night.  Then, in the space of 17 seconds, the Blackhawks scored twice to steal the Cup away from Boston.

“Bucky Fucking Dent” has now been replaced by “David Fucking Bolland.”

“Miracle on Ice” Thirty-three years later.

For a season that almost never happened, the ‘Hawks sure did make it dramatic.  Twenty four games to start the lockout-shortened season without a loss, two Conference playoff series that went seven games, including defeating my Red Wings after trailing 3-1, and perhaps the best, most closely contested Stanley Cup Finals in at least a generation, it seemed destined to end in a Game 7.  But it didn’t. Unbelievable.

And the Bruins played as well as any team I have ever seen in recent memory.  They had their own miracle in the first round when they were faced with elimination against the Make-me-Laughs, er, the Maple Leafs.  (Sorry for the Bob Page moment, folks) This series was as good as any I have ever seen.  Montreal-Chicago, Islanders-Oilers, Wings and Pittsburgh.

But I don’t think i’ve ever seen anything quite like this.  Two goals in 17 seconds, in the last 80 seconds of a Game 7.  To win the game.  Mike Eurzione just got eclipsed.  And Dave Bolland just landed with Bucky Dent, Harry Frazee, Aaron Boone and Bill Buckner in New England sports angst.

The immortal Jim McKay, may no-one ever forget him, once said that sports was “the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.” In that great opening for “Wide World of Sports”, he also called sports a “human drama of athletic competition.”  He’s right, on all accounts.  But it is also an exercise in a communal gathering, where people who wouldn’t even give another the time of day are drawn together to experience the human drama played out on every level of humanity.

Whether it be the World Series, World Cup, Super Bowl, the Olympics or your local high school team’s biggest game, people gather to watch and live vicariously through winning and losing (or in the case of the local semi-pro football team here in Detroit, losing, losing and more losing).  It draws us together in a way that defies explanation, but hey, it is part of who we are.

One of my favorite things is when there’s a group of Aussies and they all start their “Aussie, Aussie, Aussie Oi, Oi, Oi.” cheer.  It is so joyful and spontaneous.  Sports is the one thing that brings together communities, cities, states and countries.  It is the transcendent constant in our fractured world where thousands, sometimes millions gather to watch the human drama play out our hopes and (for the most part) the best in us.

But enough with the poetic shit. Can you believe that fucking game last night?Image

In my name…

June 23, 2013

Recently, Charles P. Pierce wrote a piece on the Politics Blog at Esquire.com (an excellent spot to spend a few – or a lot of – hours at).  It is probably the best bit of writing I have read in a very long time.  It consisted of a simple question.

What is being done in my name?

With all the talk about the NSA and the metadata collection and all that faux outrage and posturing and tilting at windmills, he broke it down to a simple question.

What is being done in my name?

If you take the time to read the column, you will see that the rhetorical question has some real-life consequences for all of us.  http://www.esquire.com/blogs/politics/A_Simple_Question

Now that I’ve hoped you’ve read it, here’s my answer.

Since 1980, not much.

Yes, there’s your answer.  That ubiquitous year when we tossed aside reality and elected a B-movie actor President.  A man who made up stories and laid the groundwork of the America we have today, Split along regional, class, monetary, cultural, racial and even who you vote for in a given election.

It was the year that brought the term “Moral Majority” to the fore and the term “Religious Right” into our collective consciousness.  Reagan, according to his biographer, was “a man of benign remoteness and no psychological curiosity, either about himself or others. He considers his life to have been unremarkable. He gives nothing of himself to intimates (if one can use such a noun in such a phrase), believing that he has no self to give. In the White House he wrote hundreds of personal letters, and obediently kept an eight-year diary, but the handwritten sentences, while graceful and grammatical (never an erasure, never a flaw of spelling or punctuation!) are about as revelatory of the man behind them as the calligraphy of a copyist.”

In other words, he was just there.  For eight years we had a President devoid of anything but the ability to be jovial and read from a script.  A puppet, a Charlie McCarthy, but instead of Edgar Bergen making us laugh, he began the downfall of this country.  In a slow, methodical way.

Most didn’t notice it at first.  I certainly did.  My summer job was eliminated.  My subsidized transportation costs doubled.  I had to take out loans to pay for college.  When I left school for a few years, I was living in a subsidized apartment and got some of the free cheese the government was giving away.  Surprised i’m still alive today to tell about it.  When I spoke out about it at a rally, the FBI opened a file on me. I saw the file about 10 years later.  I just laughed.

But President Louis L’Amour was just a storyteller.  Like the Wizard of Oz, the real ministrations were going on behind the scenes.  Reagan began the slide by firing the Air Traffic Controllers, demonizing blacks, the poor, the elderly and the disabled.  Well, he didn’t, personally, but his administration did.  He cut the marginal tax rate for the wealthy in half.  He cut medicaid, education and other services.  He made up stories to scare people, like the one about the “Chicago woman” who scammed the system and the 14-year old boy who got hooked on drugs.  Neither ever existed, but Reagan was a master at selling a narrative.

Tell me what is being done in my name?

From the looks of it, not much.  Do we even get to ask that question anymore.  Since Reagan, we have seen a steady erosion of wages, a winding gap between rich and poor and fewer and fewer services to help those who fall through the cracks.  Our elected officials are elected and re-elected over and over again, with nominal resistance or challenge. Districts are gerrymandered and skewered to the point where the elections are rarely close or even contested anymore.

The result is seen in our daily lives.  Friendships end, people become more entrenched in their positions and even families are split along who voted for whom in the last election.  The working people settle for less than they did because there is no other choice.  If the minimum wage would have kept up with inflation, it would be $21 an hour.  But it’s not.  Based on a 40-hour work week, a person making that “earns” $15,000 a year.  Before taxes. You can’t even rent an apartment at that wage.

Tell me what is being done in my name?

Today, very little.  My Medicaid and Medicare “benefits” don’t provide me with much, outside of my Doctor visits.  Due to the screw ups in Washington over the past few years (and Lansing as well), I need to pay for such things as hearing aids and glasses.  Those aren’t cheap and things aren’t likely to be getting better anytime soon.

We live in an America that our grandparents and great-grandparents built.  An America that is coming apart and no-one can compromise or see the need to get off their entrenched position long enough to do anything about it.  Since 2001, we have become more and more fearful, more intransigent, indignant and unbending in our positions to even see the reality of our own downfall.

I had hopes after the Avignon Presidency (and two stolen elections) that things would be different, or at least not as bad as they got under the dry drunk.  But the abject hatred and obstruction and disrespect afforded President Obama has made matters even worse then under President Cheney.  And yes, this administration has made some mistakes, but I can’t recall as an adult, any President being so hated by people who a) were elected to serve in Congress; b) voted against him, and c) even those who voted for him for not undoing everything that 30-plus years has turned us into.

Tell me what is being done in my name?

The question should be, tell us what is being done.
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