Thursday, August 23, 2012

Learning from your little sister

In a few days my baby sister, Abby, leaves for Penn State.

She's sweet, adorable, loving, patient (mostly), and tries her best to bring people together in peace, but also makes sure not to ignore the important facts while doing so. I will never let her believe she's done growing, but I will always be immensely proud of who she's become. Not only because she's grown up, but because in many ways she's learned to be a grown up faster than any of us.
She has a skill set that pairs humility with courage that I can only wish I'd developed before heading into college.

What make's Abby's story remarkable is that she learned it all the hard way. In her first eight years of life, I remember loving my sister, though not always being fond of her. In the hoity-toity opinion of her older brothers, she was ridiculously spoiled.
We buried our parents in accusations of robust gratuity. They treated her like a princess. Ask and she shall receive.
The symbol of Abby's spoiling, we believed, was an ever-enlarging vein in her neck. Sure, you see the baby pictures of the last Michael now and she looks like an absolute darling. Those that have never seen will never know.

I'm not sure anyone ever captured a picture of the wrath. Deny Abby a pleasantry that she believed was her God-given right and a change came about her. Her eyebrows fell into the bridge of her nose, her lip snarled and her entire upper body turned rigid as a noise unwriteable would climb from her throat. An angry, constipated growl escaped through her open teeth, one that echoed the imagined pain of betrayal and the anger of her brothers' resentment. At times, she'd even stand on her toes, clenching her lower leg muscles to get her entire body into it.
Naturally, the reaction of her three older brothers was to laugh, mimic, then laugh again — like the buttheaded brother of Kevin McCallister.
That's when the unholy incarnation showed itself — a vein the thickness of her pinky finger, filled with blood and rage, spawned from the left side of her neck.
I really can't say if my parents spoiled her out of love or fear. The thing was terrifying to look at and we had a real concern for what it may mean for her future. Would any husband take her knowing what one selfish act could reveal? Would she even be able to have friends? How many necklaces and scarves would she break?
Andy, Zach and I put together an office-pool style wager, selecting days of the month on which she'd finally rupture an artery and be sent to the hospital for a stroke. Not that we were hoping for it. It just seemed inevitable.

One summer during this stage of Abby's life, we were headed to the western side of the state where my brother was competing in a Little League baseball tournament. These types of trips were mostly forgettable, except when they forged family moments, a la Little Miss Sunshine.
We'd spent the morning making our parents miserable as they drove. With four active, but very different minds clinging to any thought that might diversify ourselves from the group, it only took one inspired jab in a game of Pediddle to turn four hours of silence into a nightmare of name calling and fisticuffs.
Two hours into the trip we weren't even close to using up our energy. However we'd shredded our parents last nerve, resulting in a forced game of Quaker's Meeting. To begin the contest, my mother would sigh loudly, then recite a silly rhyme at a volume contradictory to the purpose of the game.
"Quaker's meeting has begun. No more laughing, no more fun, no more chewing bubble gum. Crack a smile, walk a mile. Quakers meeting has begun."
With that, we were banished to competitive solitude.
Minutes later, my mother's wittiness to turn our competitive nature against us came to perfect karmic fruition as the Suburban hit a bump in the road and my father's tennis bag, filled with all our rackets and a dozen cans of tennis balls, fell from the top of the car.
In the back seat, my brother Andy and I noticed immediately, and our eyes met for a brief moment. He, being the more cut throat of the two of us, looked at me with expectation, waiting for me to forfeit the game by alerting my parents. I quietly giggled at the irony of our forced silence in a moment of turmoil.
Concerned for our rackets, I finally informed my father, who slammed on the breaks then pulled off to the side of the road, quickly emerging from the car to try to salvage the bag before any damage came to it.
Andy and I always hated the back seat simply because it was furthest from the front. That day we excitedly adjusted in our seats, finally able to utilize the rare front-row view. We smirked as my father's movement evolved: first walking casually, then very quickly, then jogging as car after car swerved to miss the bag.
Eight or nine vehicles easily spotted the lonely sack within six car lengths and were able to adjust to the other lane, but one particularly inspired tractor trailer had no interest in playing any variation of Samaritan. Surely having plowed countless animals in his past, an inanimate, lifeless object was not about to force him to shift into the left lane, even with plenty of room to maneuver.
My dad couldn't have been more than 15 steps away from the still untouched bag when the big rig turned battering ram. In one moment of gorgeous chaos, the bag split open. As it did, the tennis balls, which were still in pressurized canisters, shot forth with great velocity in all directions. Our bag had become a junkyard firework display.
Crowding the back window, Andy and I took in the full glory of this momentary bliss, blocking off our family's view.
In an instant where we were unsure of how to react, we simultaneously agreed upon overwhelming joy. "OHHHHHHHHHHH!" we shouted, throwing our hands up in the air, probably punching the ceiling of the vehicle.
I'm sure it never happened, but I picture my brother and I smiling while hugging and slapping each other on the back, similar to the way a group of caricatured 1940's business men would celebrate a new deal.
Our mother sat in the front seat confused, still trying to see out the back window. "What happened. What HAPPENED!?" she squawked.
Abby, who always demanded to sit in the seat immediately behind my father, was also unable to see. But through our mean-spirited cackles, she'd quickly come to realize all was not well with the family tennis bag.
The brother closest to Abby's age, Zach, was the only one of us near a door who was not pinned in by high-speed traffic. He heroically hopped out of the Suburban and ran down the road to help my father collect the rackets and scattered tennis balls that could be salvaged, then to assist in cleaning up the shattered aftermath.
On their return to the car, Andy and I quickly realized we'd better flush our faces quickly. The blood in our bodies had rushed to our heads as we seized in laughter, turning our faces bright pink; our smiles stood broad and defiant of our own will. My father would not be amused.
Biting our lower lips with our cheeks puffed out, we hung our heads as we realized just how lousy we were at cloaking our emotions.
My father, who's stern jaw was as immediate a giveaway as Abby's bulging neck, could not have been more rapt in his ire for the driver. Unable to put his frustration into words, he instead decided to clamp shut — his head could not have been more vertically compact if it were wedged in a vice grip.
My sister had moved to the side of the car where Zach had been sitting, but realizing the carnage that was to return, moved back to her seat with a look of concern on her face.
"My racket survived!" Zach exclaimed as he jumped back into the car. Andy and I looked up, finally having a real reason to smile.
My sister's face still showed distress as she locked eyes with my dad, who stood outside Zach's passenger door.
"D-d-dad? Is m-m-my racket okay?" she asked, through quivering lips and heavy eyes ready to burst with tears. Even knowing the potential for what was about to come, I couldn't help but appreciate such an  adorable moment.
Still unable to stop chewing his own molars, my father never lost eye-contact with my sister as he answered her question without saying a word.
Quickly and with little remorse, he reached into the bag for the handle of a shattered piece of fiberglass. With a flick of his wrist he yanked the racket, now smashed into the shape of a crooked-L with its strings frayed everywhere, out of the bag. Its relatively brand-new red paint was scratched and jagged with chunks of pavement still embedded in the molding.
I'd like to say if I'd heard my sister begin crying before my brothers and I started cackling, I might not have laughed. But even as I type these words, I'm overcome with knee-slapping fits at my father's unintentional comedic genius.

Mark Twain once said, "Everything human is pathetic. The secret source of humor itself is not joy but sorrow. There is no humor in heaven." In the place in my mind where humor and sorrow meet, I still can't help but remember this as a defining day of my family's humanity.

I don't really remember where this story fell in the timeline of Abby's transformation. It could have been the beginning, but it was more likely the middle, and it certainly wasn't the end.
She heard us crow and cackle. She saw the tears streaming down our smiling faces as hers filled with tears of temporary agony. But she also heard our apologies within the laughter.

In that moment where we could see nothing but the humor, it would have been very easy for her to see nothing but the embarrassment. And maybe she did for a time. But my sister learned grace from those moments of chaos. She (sometimes begrudgingly) learned to see that our joy wasn't malicious, it was just a reaction in the spirit of fun. Our own way of making good out of a bad situation.
Unspoken apologies are the ones most people take a lifetime to understand and accept. Abby's first came when she was no more than eight.

I left for Penn State later that year at the age of 18, and somewhere between the ages of 19 and 20, I returned to find this absolutely wonderful, reformed not-yet teenage girl. Somewhere, through all of our brutality (and sadly, yes, there was much more fun at her expense) she'd learned humility but still kept the confidence of the rage monster she'd once been. To this day, that still inspires me.
My parents have confidence that Abby will make the right choices in college, but are also scared because their youngest child and only daughter is about to leave the nest. I suppose it's the politically correct thing for a brother to be filled with anxiety as I look at the new world that will surround her as well, but to say I'm nervous would be a lie.
Abby's proved to be mature beyond her age in a lot of ways. In just one example this year, she took a reserve role on her softball team without a complaint. Seeing the greater picture of her team's success, she was unable to stay angry at what some in our family perceived as a lack of opportunity.
She's still a little girl in other ways, and I'll never allow any amount of praise thrown at her to take away her innocence as she learns how to fail, then how to rebuild herself. That's the fun part of growing up. No one should be robbed of it.
What I know most is that my sister has a huge heart. Big enough to forgive a older brothers' cruelty, big enough to adopt a stray cat she found in the woods, and big enough to care about the people she loves enough to tell them the truth when they need to hear it. I also know she'll ask for advice when she needs it. For that reason, I can't be afraid to see her go to college. She's earned our faith.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Penn State Plays Chicken with the NCAA

This column was first published in the July 25, 2012 edition of the Gettysburg Times.

The NCAA doesn’t realize it, but it’s just set up a game of chicken with the Penn State community, one that neither organization can afford to lose.
They've locked eyes with the Penn State community and said, we think you’re crazy. You deserve punishment. We will strip you of your culture and reduce you to nothing with a slow bleed of the program.
I’ve been told I’m overstating this when looking at a $60 million sanction, a four-year football postseason ban and a vacation of all wins dating to 1998. Penn State also must reduce scholarships each year for a four-year period. The Penn State athletic program is also on probation for five years and must work withan athletic- integrity monitor of NCAA’s choosing. Any current or incoming football players are free to immediately transfer and compete at another school.
Essentially they’ve rolled the clock back to 1998, asked what Penn State feared in losing by acting in accordance to its moral obligation, then retroactively put those doomsday scenarios to work as if they’d acted righteously.
Now Penn Staters have to make a horrible choice: continue investing in the program regardless of the inevitable decline that is to come, only to be labeled as a fanatical fan base that still puts football over all else, or abandon it and let it die.
The very culture that the NCAA is publicly suppressing is now being challenged to financially save the thing that supposedly made us blindly evil in the first place. It’s a trap, and it’s one we need to fall into. Not because we’re evil, but because we believe in Penn State.
We believe in nameless jerseys and shared sacrifice. We believe in 110,000 fans showing up every game in an 11-1 or a 4-8 season. Some days the attendance might not hit six figures, and others the student section will only fill for the middle quarters, but we show up.
We’re not strange to get wrapped up in sports. Just like any fans, we live and die with our team throughout a season. It’s silly to attach our emotions to the team’s success, but if you’re reading this in the sports section, you probably understand it.
While we care as much as any other fan base about the wins and losses, we also care about the communal quality of our presentation. Before Penn State became a crazy cult in the eyes of the outside world, it would marvel at the power of our tailgates.
It’s hard to take a walk through the vehicle-covered fields without a handshake, beverage or meal offered. You might even meet the parents of one of your favorite Penn State players and be invited to meet their son after the game.
And guess what? When it comes to looking at our football building and realizing what took place in the locker room showers all those years ago, we are disgusted too.
We feel pain every time we think of it. Not nearly as much pain as the victims felt and are still feeling as adolescents and adults, but damn it, this is hard!
With or without the punishment of our program, this has forced us all to look at the triviality of a win-loss record. That’s why most Penn State fans didn’t even blink when the program was forced to vacate
victories that reduced our former coach, Joe Paterno, from 409 to 298.
What we have trouble understanding is the mean-spirited glee that comes from people saying, “I told you so.”
Every time someone looks at Penn State, laughs without a thought and says, “Yeah... well you should have thought of that before...” I ask, before what? Before putting our trust into something good? Something that felt wholesome?
If having faith in goodness is a crime deserving of at least a half decade of public embarrassment, then hasn’t society failed elsewhere? I’ll take that we put a little too much faith in our athletic regime to make the right decisions, but no more than any other university in the country. Name one school where the players, students and alumni WOULDN’T be shocked to have this happen to them?
My friends that still live in State College are going to pay economically through this revenue loss. The students and alumni will pay just as much.
The University will need funds never before necessary, which may come at the expense of extinguished extra-curricular programs, research and potentially even branch campuses. Anyone that believes Penn State will pay without a decreased utilities or a tuition increase has never witnessed crude accounting wizardry.
The readership of this paper is probably evenly divided on feelings of empathy. Fifty percent is promising — the majority of the country can’t wait to see us fall on our faces.
The deal made between Penn State President Rodney Erickson and NCAA President Mark Emmert is, by design, intended to allow the surrounding world its glory in watching the Nittany Lions fall on their faces. It places the players in the stocks for embarrassment to satiate the country’s call for blood.
The allowance for a season that includes broadcast rights — looked at as a positive for Penn State in regards to revenues — assures that we become a spectacle for their amusement. In essence, to survive, we must submit to cruel and unusual punishment.
This would not be so vile had the NCAA installed ground rules to make sure that deeds like this never occur again. Instead of taking the disciplined road, writing out various levels of sanctions for all levels of offenses that make a joke of amateurism, they’ve instead installed a cloud of fear that is governed by chaos.
In this cloud, the NCAA lords without regulation. They can choose to act with vengeance; or to disregard actions entirely.
This sounds eerily similar to the way in which the infamous Penn State group, Paterno, Athletic Director Tim Curley and Penn State Vice President Gary Schultz acted, and in at least one important case, failed to act.
Talk continues about unprecedented crimes at Penn State, when, in fact there were two separate crimes that occurred. Only the combination of the two was unprecedented.
The first, children were sexually abused. The second, an NCAA program tried to cover up its wrong-doings and failed to self-report.
Penn State is paying a king’s ransom for the crimes of an individual, but the law Penn State violated that gave it a competitive advantage is one that happens several times a year: acting in self-preservation through denial and failure to self-report to protect the interests of a football program.
The NCAA has handcuffed these violations together for the ultimate punishment, but will it continue to handcuff criminal or unethical behavior to programs as they work in self-preservation?
A precedent is not wrong, so long as there is consistent follow through. The ball is now in the NCAA’s court to ensure all bad behavior is met with strict consequences.
Anything less than that mirrors the same “make it up as we go along” mentality that became the crux of Penn State’s obliteration.
As a Penn State fan who’s looking forward to actually being able to cheer for a team that will be held to a higher standard, I still support strong sanctions against our school. My question is, how can a fan from another school say Penn State got what it deserved, then shrug when the NCAA puts no strict guidelines and punishments in place for those who act in self-preservation by failing to report?
If this madness continues to occur throughout the country, then the Penn State and State College communities have taken a shot in vain. That is something I will not stand for. I care too much about that community to see it suffer for nothing.
So, Penn State nation? Rise up. Take back your football team. Be the yahoos they believe us to be, but cheer for it for the right reasons. If the rest of the NCAA is corrupt, let us become the true beacon that Paterno once envisioned when he unleashed The Grand Experiment. If it doesn’t result in national championships, we won’t care. Any kid and coach that has the guts to stick this out has as much character as any champ. We’re going to be the start of something new. We are Penn State. We can be more.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

ESPN reaps what it sows. None of us are better for it.

The criticism of ESPN in the Bernie Fine case is misdirected, though the network deserves to be criticized for an entirely different reason. I suppose eventually bad business practices will come around to bite you eventually.  
First, the Mothership was correct not to report in 2003. With two accusing sources and a phone conversation between a deranged wife and an accuser is not enough sourcing to ruin a man's life when it's just as possible a vendetta against him. 
As a news gathering service, part of ESPN's duty is to look for foul behavior, make sure that it's foul, either through strict cross-examination of witnesses if not by substantial police interrogation. Like any other cover-up or corruption, a news source is not supposed to report until they have enough credible evidence that it holds up. 
The moral obligation of a news network in this situation is to get the facts straight, then report to the world. To do anything else would lead to TMZ style journalism.
In Penn State's case, educators had a moral obligation to make sure one of their own wasn't abusing kids in their own locker room, particularly after another educator on staff witnessed it firsthand.  That the media reported a failure to do so was in no way irresponsible.

Both Penn State and ESPN failed to live up to these moral guidelines and both should be punished appropriately. However, 
ESPN was wrong to publish the story at all. Penn State failed to act that it could even become a story in the first place. This is not the apples to apples comparison Penn State fans want it to be. 
I am not taking a stance on Bernie Fine's innocence, but it's not clear cut. His wife's recorded phone conversation certainly draws a lot of questions, less about Fine's behavior and more about her own.
Obviously this creates enough of a distraction at the school that he can't do his job properly. It also endangers the players and coaches he works with.
Without a proper investigation, Fine should have been placed on a leave of absence until the dust settles. Perhaps the same is true of Joe Paterno, but with Fine, there is not a three-year researched, 23-page document that shows credible evidence suggesting a cover-up. Paterno may have gotten his leave of absence if he hadn't tried to call his own shots; something the board of directors finally got sick of.

ESPN's going to face the consequences from both ends because of its unfair treatment at Penn State. With the NBA in a lockout and college basketball not yet started, the Network needed to fill their news cycle and Penn State provided an easy mid-week target.
Now other networks are going to use ESPN's failure to report in 2003 as an easy story, even though all of them would have done the same for ethical and moral reasons.
With ESPN's ridiculous defense of its actions a few weeks ago, it will now have to face the same unfair scrutiny or be labeled hypocritical.
Maybe ESPN will finally learn the value of civil rights, even as it applies to business. As Brother Ali asked,
"The moment you refuse the human rights of just a few/ What happens when that few includes you?"

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Burn in hell, Jerry

Last night I sat in the bar thinking, either Jerry Sandusky is truly innocent or he has the confidence of a serial killer not yet apprehended on this planet. As if he hadn't inappropriately touched his victims enough in their lives, Monday he sent another painful reminder.
Any time someone tells you Bob Costas isn't the best sports broadcaster or interviewer in the nation, show them that clip. The dude has the calm of a Hindu cow and the composure and focus of a lion on the Serengeti, lying low in the grass, waiting for its prey.
Even when Costas likes his interviewees, there are no softballs to be found. If he's got a point to make, he'll find your weakness and won't even flinch as he slowly but surely puts all his emphasis on the pressure points. His words are weapons.
"Obviously you're entitled to a presumption of innocence and will receive a vigorous defense,"  Costas said. "On the other hand, there's a tremendous amount of information out there and fair minded, common sense people have concluded that you are guilty of monsterous acts. They are particularly unforgiving about the type of crimes alleged here. So, millions of Americans who did not know Jerry Sandusky's name until a week ago now regard you, not only as a criminal, but I say this, I think in a considered way, some sort of monster. How do you respond to that?"
Jesus. How DO you respond to that?
The first time I watched it, I couldn't help but grin. The first ounce of justice was being served with a  through national embarrassment on television.
I couldn't contain my laughter, and neither could Sandusky when Costas said, "It seems that, if all of these accusations are false, you are the unluckiest and most persecuted man that any of us has ever heard about."

Reading between the lines, Sandusky's so confident with how he left his victims, he believed they would watch  in fear or, what sickened me worse, adoration of the man who violated them. He couldn't possibly believe this for all of them, could he?
I'm beginning to think his lawyer, Joe Amendola, must be secretly working for the other side. The only reason you'd put a client in this position is if you could guarantee the silence of the other victims. This only works when they are murdered and buried.  Even friggin' Hector Salamanca had a bell. 
I wrote my brother to tell him it was the single dumbest thing a man guilty of these types of crimes could do. More would come forward, disgusted by his cavalier attitude
And here... we... go. Again.
I never say this without feeling bad about it later, but this time I think I'm safe. Burn in hell Jerry.

Monday, November 14, 2011

We Are and Always Will Be Penn State

(This column originally ran in the Nov. 11 edition of the Gettysburg Times)
I went to Penn State to become a sports writer. I left Penn State a complete person who had an affinity for writing about sports.

Growing up, there were two traditions in our house every fall weekend. On Saturdays, we watched Penn State football. On Sundays, we went to church. Perhaps each was an indoctrination to what I would hope to become.
I never really understood the myth behind Joe Paterno. For me, he was just a goofy caricature behind thick glasses and rolled up pant legs. I believed in him almost the way I believed in God; not because I wanted to, but because my parents told me it was the right thing to do. At 11, I wasn't sure I'd ever felt the hand of God, but I hoped it felt like the chill that ran down my neck when Ki-Jana Carter ran for a long touchdown. I went to Penn State because I wanted to feel that way every Saturday. That the school had a good journalism program was a secondary benefit.
However, when I began attending classes, I took an interest in religious studies, psychology and journalism. While studying Christianity, Buddhism, Judaism, Hinduism and Islamic religions, I noticed similar trends in all of them. The story was important only as a teaching tool. While traditions were meant to keep people mindful of their philosophic origins, fundamental extremism created more hatred between groups than peace amongst them.
The encoded messages within the texts were the important strands that connected the religions: be kind to others but do not let people take your kindness for weakness, stand up for those who are unable to stand up for themselves, moderation in all things, remove emotion from experience when making important decisions. 
During my time at Penn State, I stopped believing in the football program and started believing in the community. There was a special unity in major celebrations like THON, but pep rallies, parties and the first warm day of spring also made us feel alive. State College is a city built for hopeful, excited youthful minds to meet and discuss ideas. I truly believe that was JoePa's vision of The Grand Experiment.
However, working at the school newspaper, The Daily Collegian, the university administration was swift to deny information that could make it look vulnerable to mistakes. The football team, while still mostly representative of the strong culture at Penn State, also seemed more corruptible than anything on campus. One of my favorite Daily Collegian alumni, Chris Korman, wrote a fantastic blog entry for The Baltimore Sun entitled "The Toy Department: How we got here," that details it far better than I ever could.
We want to believe that glorious men with bold visions can do no wrong. As we grow older, we're encouraged to fortify our moral code and our ethics. However, our intrinsic vision is not a simple spinal column, but an extravagant display -- an entire nervous system. When it's running perfectly, it has massive potential. Sometimes we encounter an idea that spreads like a disease, or even worse, a cancer. It's our duty to protect our own intellectual health, but we depend on others to help keep it in check.
When we look at our leaders and our communities, we forget that they have this same potential for dysfunction.
Obviously we could never have dreamed a horrible scandal like the one that's now claimed our president and head coach would swallow the school. The truth is, we should have seen the potential. We propped up Paterno and the football team without enforcing the same discipline he expected from us. As outside observers, we could see that he was falling behind his own intellectual vision, yet refused to keep him in check.
In 2003, wide receiver Tony Johnson was pulled over for a DUI, blowing a .136 after crossing over the median twice. Paterno said he was a good kid who made a mistake and didn't need to be punished. In 2006, when referring to Florida State's A.J. Nicholson's sexual assault case, he opined, "He may not have even known what he was getting into. … A cute girl knocks on the door. What do you do? Thank God they don't knock on my door. I'd refer them to a couple of other rooms."
These are just two of several examples. Forty years ago, Joe could have gotten away with saying either one of those things. In the modern era, he was shouted down. Johnson served a two-game suspension after the university decided to redirect. Many supporters respected Paterno less after the Nicholson comment.
The point is not that Joe didn't know right from wrong; it's that the lines of modern morality -- which remain fluid -- shifted beyond his comprehension. It should have been clear, even then, that he was no longer fit of mind to coach 18-to-22 year olds.
With our faith in Paterno so large, we missed the signs and did nothing to act. Ritual becomes dangerous when we forget why we practice it. The whole point of 'success with honor' was that discipline, work ethic and integrity could prevail. With athletics, if we're not careful, we forget that.
Paterno may not have been the conductor, but if he'd stayed true to himself, he'd have kept the program on the right path.
JoePa will always be more complex than the cardboard cutout a purist or cynic wants us to believe. He is more than just a man with 409 victories and a Grand Experiment. He's more than just a man who, through loyalty to his cause and possibly to his perverted friend, enabled a predator or at least endangered his innocent victims.
Evil prevails when good men fail to act. Joe Paterno was and is a good man. Evil prevailed.
There is potential for a great void where high moral authority used to stand at Penn State. Wednesday, we saw the misplaced anger of a small percentage of students rioting to try to fill it -- a literal rejection of the halo of silence that continues to irk us all as we search for answers. Though most students and alumni do not agree with the rioters' actions, we certainly understand their sentiment.
We should take our time to mourn, but we cannot wait long to take action.
We expected more from a leader, but we should also be aware that our leaders need a break. We should assist them – be their bridge as they enter the next chapter of their life. As we move forward, we must expect more from ourselves to make sure that bridge from one leader to the next is frictionless.
If WE ARE to be taken seriously as a school and as a community of Nittany Lions and Penn State pride, we must stand up for what the lively Paterno of old would have if he had been born into today's society.
My friend and fellow Nittany Lion, Pat Abdalla of the York Daily Record, suggested Penn State use the proceeds of this weekend's game toward an institute for abused children, taking the lead on education for preventing similar cases. Others have suggested a moment, quarter, half or even game of silence against Nebraska to show solidarity for the victims.
I've never been a man of grand gestures. Moments like this force me to look at myself and ask if I'm living up to my own moral code, one that not only I, but also my community can be proud of. Have I acted with discipline, or in my own self-interest with disregard for my community? Do I understand what makes my community proud? If not, how can I get back in touch?
We must not allow ourselves to become tools of those who wish to control us -- caricatures of a time that once was. We must strive for progress while maintaining moral discipline. Maybe after saying, "We are Penn State," this weekend we should follow with, "We can be more."
I forgive Paterno for losing sight of his values and failing to realize he needed a break. If he's true to his retirement speech, he will return a great hero, ready to improve the university and the world. He already has a great track record for it.
Thanks for the great coaching memories, JoePa. Hopefully you still have a few more lessons to teach.

Friday, January 8, 2010

2010 and why I'll never be a poet

On my way home from work last night and I had a rare, sensitive moment. I couldn't help but feel the magic of the snow fall, flakes moving slowly, glistening, sparkling. it was so majestic, I took out my Flip Camera to record the drive home so I could show my friends one of the few benefits of working until 1:30 in the morning.

The vision was still perfect in my head, and I didn't want to cheapen it be re-watching the video that night, so I left it until morning.

Unfortunately, I didn't think of the background music - a song called Lyrical Murderers by Slaughterhouse totally turned a beautiful voyage into what looked like a drunk slide home.

Original Video - More videos at TinyPic

The following is a brief description of my actions this morning while watching.

--look at video.
--Internal monologue: "aww how pretty!" 
Slaughterhouse gang- "...and a brotha shoot a n*gga head off"
My Facial expression :-(

A friend suggested that I remove the sound from the video and play another song over the top, but I'm too honest to cheapen a moment. The only way I know how to rework things is to be even more awkwardly sensational.

Besides, there's something beautifully tragic about the way the video came together. I tend to think of myself as a deep thinker, and while I never believed myself to be poetic, I probably give myself too much credit for my ability to sense special moments and capture them perfectly.

My "perfect" verbal illustrations are more often than not nothing buy lyrical homicide - chaotic fantasies that have some artistic merit, but are more or less clusterfucks of thought, even if they have the best of intentions.

The fact that every dear friend that read that description responded with either a laugh or a smiling confirmation rather than trying to comfort me and convince me otherwise makes me believe that description may be one of the truest self reflections yet.

My brief moment seemed like a perfect way to introduce my blog. It's been too long. New Years forced my hand in fixing my life. I picked four things, figuring I'll throw a ton of stuff at the wall and see if anything sticks. Blogging once a week is the first I'm going public with. Consider it resolved.

This is also a good introduction to my life as a rap enthusiast. There will be an entry about how hiphop saved my life in the coming month. For now, I leave you with a video that tinypic suggested for me based on the one I just uploaded... the suggestion is once again hilariously telling. (I envy those who have a rotating monitor.) Happy New Year everyone!

Original Video - More videos at TinyPic

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

King of Popping Out

It's hard to believe, but it's been two months since the world began to mourn Michael Jackson's death.

Since he died, fans have been so affected that they have cried, swayed, moonwalked, been tardy at their jobs, completely overreacted, and up to a dozen have reportedly packed it in and fallen on their swords for their idol. If only we had known that man nor God's laws were good enough for some, but under the law of Jackson, justice and peace prevail. Hopefully these men were not detained for following that law to the T... or underage P or the V, if you get my drift.

I have not begun to mourn over the death of Jackson, and it's not because I wasn't a big fan. In fact, since I was a fetus, I've been getting down to the King of Pop. My father literally put headphones on my mother's womb while I was still inside so that I could begin my appreciation at an early stage.

My brothers and I grew up with Jackson. I determined I sucked at dancing when, at the age of 7, I got dead last in a breakdown contest for doing a jig something like the unnamed character wearing the orange shirt in Charlie Brown's Christmas. My brother was a fantastic dancer, though, learning nearly everything he knew from Jackson. As my own tribute, I memorized every Weird Al parody of Jackson's songs (even at the age of six, my voice wasn't high enough to touch Michael's soprano). We never even cared that he coddled little boys. We just enjoyed his legal talents.

The reason I haven't begun to let go of Michael Jackson is because I don't even think he's dead. Don't throw the evidence in my face. It's that very evidence that leads me to believe good old Michael will be popping out of that casket just like these guys. Hee-hee indeed.

Here are the facts, mostly taken from a much more detailed timeline.

  • Michael was training for a comeback tour with Lou (Incredible Hulk) Ferrigno prior to his death.
  • Jackson was $400 million in debt and was extremely cash poor at the time of his death.
  • Some who knew Jackson make contradictory statements about his health in the days before his death. Video shows him appearing healthy and doing signature dance moves including the moonwalk, but reports persist that he was thin, frail, and dependent on painkillers.
  • A day after his office was searched, court documents say Dr. Conrad Murray is the target of a manslaughter investigation into the singer's death.
  • Two days ago, a law enforcement official tells The Associated Press that the Los Angeles County coroner has ruled Jackson's death a homicide. The official says the coroner determined a fatal combination of propofol and sedatives was given to Jackson hours before he died.

Interesting financial facts
  • All 10 albums on's bestseller list are Jackson's; the 25th anniversary edition of "Thriller" is No. 1. Sales figures from Nielsen SoundScan show that in the three weeks following his death, 2.3 million Jackson CDs have been sold.
  • The mayor of Los Angeles says the city will pay an estimated $1.4 million for Jackson's memorial service. He says a Web site seeking donations from the public is "ridiculous."
  • The Web site offering tickets for the Sept. 26 Jackson tribute in Vienna crashes after a million people log on even before sales are due to start.
  • Sony announces that a film called "Michael Jackson: This Is It" will be released Oct. 28. The film is built around rehearsal and behind-the-scenes footage for Jackson's comeback tour. It will play for two weeks in theaters worldwide. Columbia paid $60 million for rights to the film, but Jackson's estate is to receive 90 percent of its profits.

Just to line things up, Michael Jackson is working out every day to get ready for a concert, but even at the age of 51, there's a chance that even the friggin' Hulk can't get MJ up on his tippietoes for a moonwalk anymore. These guys conjure up a way to get some more time.

Jackson can't just push back the tours. He's already got too much money invested in the thing, and he owes 400 million bucks. Instead, Jackson fakes kicking the bucket at his ranch, the paramedics rush in, pull him out while he's in a coma and he "dies" at the hospital. While the family mourns privately, the fans buy CD's to remember him. Jackson's stock goes up a bajillion dollars.

The cops have enough evidence to put Dr. Murray in jail and throw away the key but the progress on the case is slothful. A month after the Jackson died and weeks after his autopsy is finished, his family announces they're pushing his funeral back EVEN LONGER without offering any sort of reasoning. Their logic to the fans is that Michael's skin is made out of the same thing action figures are made out of, and if babies can't chew threw the stuff, then there's no friggin way bacteria is getting in. We say, 'Oh, Michael'

The LAPD keep pulling out the charades. The verdict turns slowly from manslaughter to homicide. They still aren't charging anyone with a crime, even though Dr. Murray basically admitted giving the drugs to Jackson to help him sleep. This is perfect because it keeps the media on the hook to keep plugging the story all the way up to Sept. 6 when Jackson's ready to come out of that box like he's God damn Huck Finn.

Sure, the Brits are a little pissed because they lost their concerts, but they're just happy that people don't have to off themselves in the name of a guy who dangles his baby over balconies for fun. Jackson's completely out of debt because the cash-strapped citizens of the world all found the 21.99 to buy the special edition of Thriller. Sony's thrilled because they get to shoot Jackson coming out of the coffin, which is worth the 60 million even with proceeds going to the estate. They're also now in line for cheap rights for a movie on his life, with Jamie Foxx playing young Michael and Johnny Depp playing less-black, more messed in the head Michael (I wish I had the creativity to have made that up, but I read on a rumor site weeks ago that was the plan). The fans are ecstatic to have their hero back, and even Michael wins because, so happy are we, that we've forgotten how much he enjoys pleasures of the prepubescent flesh.

And the government isn't going to to SHIT because the L.A. police knew it was going on the whole time, as did the Mayor who was more than happy to lay down 1.4 million of the city's money, knowing there was an even bigger financial return. Hell, Barack Obama was probably even in on it. He can tell you it was the buyouts and Cash for Clunkers that are bringing our economy out of recession, but really it's the Michael Jackson sales. How do you think Reaganomics worked? (Thriller hit store shelves the same year that Reagan went into office.)

Far fetched? Maybe, but I'm not the only one suggesting this. Hold on to your butts.

Monday, August 24, 2009

addition by subtraction

The problem with social networking is that an addicted person never knows when they're violating codes that affect the enjoyment of others.

It was ironic that, while servicing my facebook addiction, I noticed a link in my friend's commentary that forced a face-to-face with my problem . If it weren't for a conversation with my dad's conservative friend Bob one night earlier, I may have checked myself into a clinic. "Adam, I'm proud of you for reading the news. But don't take everything on CNN so literally, they're biased. You should check out FOX news."

Since I'm not about to go the extreme of actually reading something that tells me I'm wrong in my fundamental beliefs, I just decided a days worth of skepticism of all news would qualify for an effort in diversity. It was a good thing that I did because that was the day I stumbled over my friend's link that described, in detail, facebook's 12 cardinal sins. Among them:

The Let-Me-Tell-You-Every-Detail-of-My-Day Bore. The Self-Promoter. The Town Crier. The TMIer. The Bad Grammarian. The Sympathy-Baiter. The Lurker. The Crank. The Paparazzo. The Maddening Obscurist. The Chronic Inviter.

Of these 11, I could not claim to be a saint. Most of the sins, I'd found annoying as well. Occasionally I'll give too much information, but anyone that's agreed to be my friend should have known that attention to detail, good or bad, is my pride and glory. Even with lapses in judgment in that category, I wasn't peddling the online corner that intersects Sodom and Gomorrah.

Just when I thought it was safe to say I was one of the cooler cats in all the cyberland, I came to the description that jarred me from my perch atop Mount Internet.
The Friend-Padder. The average Facebook user has 120 friends on the site. Schmoozers and social butterflies -- you know, the ones who make lifelong pals on the subway -- might reasonably have 300 or 400. But 1,000 "friends?" Unless you're George Clooney or just won the lottery, no one has that many. That's just showing off.
I hadn't checked my friend count on purpose in a while, but while checking my profile only a few days before had only noticed the number because it was 911. Americans are inclined to notice when a number reads 911, both because it is a number called during emergencies and because of the tragedy suffered on 9-11. In any context, it draws the viewer to stop, the way a red octagon or perhaps a female's nipple hair might.

Not thinking myself to be a show-off, I looked at my reflection in the mirror and realized I was no George Clooney. I'd just spent 65 cents of my last dollar for a Diet Pepsi, later regretting the decision. The 3 Musketeers would have been much more satisfying. That pretty much eliminated the possibility that I'd won the lottery without knowing it.

In a mental tsunami that could only be considered a flashback, I remembered a few facebook friends that I'd met, not on a subway, but on the Blue and White loop that transferred students to and from class at Penn State. People that had agreed with me how ironic it was that 50-cent could not hint at drug use in his songs, yet The Grateful Dead could flat-out say "Driving that train, high on cocaine," and it was considered art. That, my friends, is racism -- Hello Gamblar, my name is Bruce. I too am not a racist, nor am I a fan of those stupid dancing bears. I've done coke once, but it didn't appeal to me.

Another friendship forged through collegiate liberalism.

As that memory faded from the forefront of my mind to the wrinkles in my brain ironed flat by another well known collegiate practice, alcoholism, I realized what must be done. It was time to say goodbye to Bruce.

Not even taking a moment to check my news feed, I began working through the friend list. Along with Bruce there were other drifters, squatters and outliers in my book of allies:
Cuties I'd wanted to date after meeting them at a party, only to find out that sometime between 3 a.m. and noon the next day I'd either pissed away my liquid confidence or realized the lighting at the bar/party hadn't been honest with me.
Former raquetball partners - people that only really gave me pleasure when I hit them in the back of the head "on accident."
Former co-workers; people I'd never wanted to be friends with, but was too afraid of confrontation to deny their awkward overtures.
Friends of friends that were far to fratastic to be considered from any other world than Planet MTV, but were able able to find me a beer college parties.

What a whore I had become. It was time to let go of some customers.

Only one man has summarized perfectly the feeling one gets while deleting these people who you once, at least hoped would be friends. Though George Carlin was talking about erasing dead people from his address book, the emotions involved were eerily similar. The feeling of permanently removing people from your life is one that should never be as easy as the click of an x-button. yet somehow, it's also kind of empowering. World War II might have been prevented if only Hitler had been a facebook addict.

Since I moved back to my home town after college, the deletion project was not a complete demolition.
There were friends from high school that probably wouldn't miss me until they saw my name on the "suggested friends list" on the top-right corner. In this scenario there are two reactions that are likely to occur.

The first is a bar scene confrontation which only leaves everyone uncomfortable, except for the bartender, who's benefiting from serving an extra couple of rounds of make-up Yager.
The second is the one that I've only experienced once, but it chilled me to the inside of my jibs. Only a few days after I'd deleted a Chronic Inviter who had moved from my elementary school in second grade, I randomly ran into her at the outlet mall. Without a thought of her borish dismissal from my life, I greeted her with a warm smile and hello. The look she sent back would have made you think I killed Bambi's mother. So thick was the guilt trip, it wouldn't have poured through a sieve.

I knocked my number down from 911 to 868, effectively ending 43 friendships that had lasted anywhere from six months to five years, even if only hanging by a microfiber on the web. I did not shed a tear.

For spin control, I posted a note on my facebook feed.

"Just cut 42 friends from facebook. If you're reading this, congratulations. You've made the cut, or else facebook just reaaally sucks at making instant updates, in which case if you're offended, then I'm sorry for hurting your feelings but I barely remember hanging out with you."

Though the number of friends had decreased, I hoped that this would only make the friends that I kept feel more valuable in my life. I laid down to take a nap symbolic of a moment of silence for my lost brosephs and brosephines.

When I awoke I was shocked to find that, within the first hour of having left the message, 13 comments had been left. Some were tongue-and-cheek approval but a few were in true appreciation. By the end of a 24 hour period, 19 had commented. Even though 19 was still a small percentage of my friends, it was far more than I'd ever anticipated. The plan had been a great success!

The Great Friend Sacrifice in order to save my facebook reputation hadn't really cut loose people that would have cared, but in some ways seemed to further solidify friendships that had been coming to a standstill. Before I got home from work that night, two more people had added me as a friend. One even said that she read my status while logged onto another friend's status and felt she had to add me. I realized how foolish it was of me to let CNN make me believe that having so many people that I associate with was anything but a luxury.

It was because of this monumental error that I decided, from now on, the only news source I will trust is FOX news. Don't get too excited, Bob. I'm just yanking your chain.

Friday, August 21, 2009

There's the rub

The one where playing wiffleball almost forced my hand in my abnegation of back massages.

Last night I found myself at work an hour late, still panting and sweating after showering and dressing. Even though my lungs and hamstrings were burning, I felt better than I had in months - all because my brother asked me to play in a wiffleball game.

First, it should be known that I'm not in the best of shape. I ride an exercise bike, but more to avoid being lethargic than for any serious workout. At the same time, wiffleball was a way of life at our house for years. We woke up in the summer with our sneakers open on the floor and the phone by our bed with our friend's number's programmed on the speed dial. My brother and I had no-hitter duals that would make Nolan Ryan jealous. He'd throw a riseball that mowed the lawn before coming back into the strike zone. I dropped a curveball that would give a left handed Pinocchio a nose job before it cut back into the strike zone.

We were intense.

Following the game, all I could think about was how fulfilling it was to be active in athletic competition rather than just writing about it. There's something about baseball -- even the plastic, holey ball variation that uses a bat no thicker or heavier than an Olsen twin's wrist -- that always leaves out-of-shape men feeling that they're only a diet and year's workout away from making Class AA baseball. I went to bed with a smile on my face after dumping photographic evidence of our game on to facebook.

I'm pretty sure that smile carried through into the evening, right up until my phone began chirping with the "Whistling Wizard" alarm clock ring tone; normally the worst part of my day. The only reason I haven't changed the tone is because songs performed on anything other than a dog whistle instantly move on to the list of things I hate, if they wake me up in the morning.
I'd put eight more slugs in 50 cent to make him stop with In Da Club before 10 a.m.

Alarm noises aren't the only thing. Cereal. Apple juice. Coffee. Showers. Sunrises. My sister's cat, which pounces on me, hoping that will encourage me to feed it. Before 10 a.m., these all rank up with Wild, Wild West as things I never want to experience again. By programming the songs you hate as a ringtone, the only thing lost is a little bit of sanity.

Today was different, though. As I reached to turn off my alarm clock, I only prayed that the wind-singing wizard could conjure me a spell to soothe the crick in my back, or at at least walk/hover (whatever wizards do) to the kitchen to get an aspirin tablet and half a glass of water.

Laying there in my bed wishing I'd never enjoyed sports, (I'm sure I'd have made an average chess player, never facing any injury worse than carpal tunnel) I thought to myself how nice it might feel to get somebody's fingers all up in the painful areas. Then, as I always do, I pushed the idea out of my mind.

It's not that I don't appreciate a good back massage. There's few things better than being delicately prodded by unbiased, familiar phalanges. The problem with massages is, unless you've got a significant other that is willing to administer them when necessary, you're really just teasing yourself.

First of all, no one, save maybe a specialist, gives an ideal massage the first time they get into a back. It takes knowing where the sensitive areas are, where to knead, to prod, to rub, to gently scratch. You can't just get in there all nimby-pimby.

Even if you would happen to find a friend or relative that has just the right touch, there's no way they're going to be able to take care of it every time you recklessly decide to: play a sport you're too old for, dig up a tree stump, lift something that everyone said you wouldn't be able to carry, try a new sex move like they do in the erotica movies during a one night stand. Your mom is not coming near that one.

Back rubs are like heroin. You're not going to be able to get one fix, walk out the door and call it a day. You need mental therapy just to get over the physical therapy that, in just in one session, you learned to love.

There's also the chance that the person you ask to stimulate your spinal column has no friggin clue what they are doing. This is so much worse than the one-time tease. I've never even been close to marriage, but to all the lovers out there, test out your sig-other before you tie any knots because when it comes to massage time, they'll be the one lacing up your back.

People to watch out for:
First there's the steroid user - You can tell who this is long before they get to your back. When they shake your hand, they want to crush it. When they work on your back, they push until you're squeamish. They'll tell you that's the true trick to a massage, and you believe it until you wake up with your spleen stuck under your shoulder blade.

Mr./Mrs Delicacy - Working the back too softly is also no bueno. Lightly rubbing over the top of someone's shirt only teases the muscles, eventually forcing them to tense up. A good masseuse shouldn't be worried about getting a little dead skin under their fingernails. They're also gonna need a somewhat developed bicep, tricep and forearm. There are certain knots in the back that require more than a rub. Failing to do so just leaves a person chiropractically frustrated.

The honer - This is the very worst type. They are the ones that never learned that there can be too much of a good thing.

The honer begins rubbing the back confidently, but inside their head, they're panicking. They have no idea what you want or what they are doing, so they're looking for signs that they are succeeding. The second you make a noise that suggests you like what you feel, or make a motion that appears to be one of relaxation, they believe repetition is the key to victory.

Pretty soon the fingernails that once felt like probing ridges are now knives from a slasher movie. Your skin is starting to turn red, but the honer thinks it's just the blood beginning to do its work.

They continue on.

You don't want to seem impolite, asking them to stop or telling them they're doing it wrong so you let it go. Meanwhile inside your head, all you want to do is travel back in time, find their six-month-pregnant mother and push her down a flight of stairs. It's a horrible way to think about someone trying to do a favor for a friend or lover.

So unless you have someone that you trust that will always be there for you, be a tough guy and skip the massage.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The return of a villain breaks blogging slumber

For the two or three of you that have missed me in your lives, you have one person to thank. You may be the only ones to thank him so make it loud and proud, like Rainbow parades.

Taking a cue from his best buddy Michael Strahan, Favre sent a message to Green Bay. Favre will STOMP... you out!

Once, twice, three times a lady is what Brett Favre has become, crawling back to the only thing that has ever cared about him, the NFL. One could argue that this only really happened twice but others would argue that Favre's last three years in Green Bay were really just a constant, flower pedal, "Love me, Love me not" game for the Packers as they waited for the return of their precious. I'm sticking with three because the song isn't called two to five times a lady.

Earlier today a friend asked which quarterback I'd prefer, giving the options of John Elway, Payton Manning, Tom Brady, Steve Young and Brett Favre. Prior to the last three years, I'm positive Favre would have been somewhere in the middle of that list. At this point I'd put King PorkSkull...aka Ben Roethlisberger in the mix higher than Favre. Even riding a motorcycle without a helmet and still being revered as someone who's not a complete freaking moron isn't this annoying.

In the Dark Knight, a movie which should be treated as gospel because of how friggin cool it was, Harvey Dent says, 'you either die a hero, or live long enough to become a villain.' Favre had his opportunity to go out as a hero with the Packers. He could have gone out as a fallen angel, like one of the Watchmen if he'd have chosen to retire after a shoulder injury finished his days with the Jets. But going from the quarterback who never died to the quarterback who never knew when to give up has made Favre the villain, and unfortunately, the worst kind.

Favre is like that dorky second grader, or perhaps that 35-year-old single guy at a baseball game with no friends, who cracks a decent joke and much to his surprise, people laugh. To his delight, he continues to throw out variations of the same one-liner until people eventually grow sick of his antics and stick gum in his hair/ poor a beer on his head.

Some chose to ignore our Wrangler man. He put his special fragrance of B.S. out there so many times that even -- his own personal live blog -- didn't jump on the story until it was official this time. Others are just waiting for the chance when the teacher/usher isn't looking so they can get a couple shots in.

"After all those years of not being able to hit him, do I want to hit him? Of course I want to hit him," said (Green Bay linebacker) Nick Barnett "He's an awesome guy. I wish him the best."

Unfortunately Barnett finished with what I pray is an insincere addendum, when he said, "He's an awesome guy. I wish him the best."

The sad thing is that at this point, Michael Vick has to be happy that Favre is out of retirement. How the hell does a convicted felon and murderer of Lady and the Tramp get to breath easy before he even gets into the NFL?
Here are the reasons that people hate Brett Favre:
  1. He flirts aggressively with the truth -- Not only did he reiterate just how retired he was in April and again at the beginning of August MAKING HIM A BIGGER LIAR THAN BILL O'REILLY, but he also came back to a team that was his enemy for the first decade and a half of his career. Trading sides is for hunchback turds that can't fight.
  2. Fantasy football --1/3 of all fantasy leagues have already drafted under the impression that Favre would not be playing this year. Now some asshole who didn't even really pay attention to his draft will pick up Favre who will somehow pull a statistically significant season out of his underpants and take them into the playoffs, screwing someone who drafted carefully.
  3. Time for a quarterback-- Many people were shocked to find out that Michael Vick was killing dogs, but later and later in Vick's career, there were things that made you wonder just how good of a guy he was. Flicking off the fans. Trying to sneak wacky-tabacky through airport security. These things helped people cope with the fact that the QB who was supposed to reinvent the position was actually just a dumb asshole. Besides that, football players are expected to be a little violent in the mind, and crave destruction. It's part of the sport.
    Favre was different. We all wanted to celebrate the man, even though his 85.4 career passer rating wasn't a thing of complete beauty. It wasn't until his second and third go-around that we really started to analyze just how mediocre several of his seasons were. Part of what drew attention to this, was that, even in retirement he SUCKS AT MAKING DECISIONS. Quarterbacks are supposed to make better decisions with more time. Not worse ones!
    There's a chance this Hail Mary into the Twin Cities with two minutes left in his career will pay off for him, but there's an even bigger chance that he gets picked off, destroying the chances of a team that still, even in desparation mode, had a chance to win this year. If this doesn't work, there's no way the Vikings personel recover from this.

Lewis Black once said that Michael Jackson was his own walking punchline, and didn't even need a reason to be included in a joke.

"Michael Jackson. That's all I gotta say. That really is all you have to say. You don't even have to say anything. You don't even have to say a joke. Everyone has a vision in their head, as soon as you say 'Michael Jackson,' you see a guy, a (freaking) deformed (dude), running around with a God-damned monkey, you go 'what the (heck)!' He's become a punch line. He has. Michael Jackson is a punch line to any joke you want. If you forget the punch line, all you have to say is 'Michael Jackson.' Two Jews walked into a bar...Michael Jackson. Why did the chicken cross the road... Michael Jackson. Knock knock, who's there? Michael Jackson."

The gutsiest man on the football field for almost two decades may eventually head down the same path as the King of Pop - not a road to fame, but a road to ridicule. He didn't even have to touch little kids to do it.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Incomplete assignment

The one where a crabby teacher and a girl I sorta liked helped me to understand life on a broader scale.

If a teacher ever wanted to make me hate their soul, all they had to do was say, "Turn in something. A zero is better than an incomplete."

In my freshman year of college, when I still had visions of becoming a computer scientist (I've never heard of this title in any working environment so I guess they change it to sound more professional once you graduate with the degree), I had a teacher that would say that very phrase periodically throughout the semester.

I was never a stud with math past algebra, but the last time I checked an incomplete WAS a zero. For me to spend even fifteen minutes trying to put in a code that makes a '1' turn into a '2' by the press of the 'k' key is only going to make me hate myself for realizing I could never do it. Besides that, there already IS a '1' key, AND a backspace key AND a '2' key. Bill Gates wizards already conjured that spell. I wanted to learn something those super sleuths haven't put their stamp on.

It was not immediately obvious to me that my comprehension of computer science was about as poor as my understanding of women, so I gave the first one or two assignments a shot.

The furthest I got was making it so when I struck the 'k' key, the screen remained blank. I did this by disconnecting my keyboard and throwing it against my wall.

Without a keyboard, it was pretty difficult to turn in anything. I was pretty okay with that.

The next time my teacher ended a lecture talking about zeroes and incompletes, I only wished I'd hung onto my keyboard so I could smash her across the face Wanted style . I will take my incomplete with a couple shots of Southern Comfort, thank you. Hold the ice.


Last weekend I was supposed to hang out with a girl that I've been friends with for over a year and a half. I would only be telling a half-truth if I didn't say I had feelings for her. We met in an Orioles facebook group, and have spoken daily since, either by chat or by phone. Even without meeting her face-to-face, I've already told her in a moment of weakness I'd probably marry her if I had the opportunity. I'm 99.9 percent sure she looks as good as her pictures advertise and isn't actually a troll kept shacked up in a basement.

I've known since about our third conversation that she was out of my league and that having a female friend who updated me on the status of my fantasy team while I was at work was going to have to be victory enough.

As any spaznoid in the presence of a gorgeous girl does, I gave her an out clause, telling her if she changed her mind for any reason, just to let me know before Thursday. Through Wednesday we spoke on the phone and texted throughout the day. Things were looking up.

On Thursday afternoon, we conversed about the Orioles, and about an opportunity I recently received to cover the Lingerie Football League for a story (expect a future post). That was about where our communication ended.

Thursday rolled into Friday. By Saturday morning, I was sure she wasn't coming, though I never received official confirmation.

For five years I'd done everything I could to forget the tragedy that was my computer science class. I received a D+, and because of my several incompletes, could not even talk my way into a C-. I hated the teacher even more for throwing her faulty math in my face.

Fast forward back to last weekend, where, for the first time in my life I eased up on the teacher. I understood that she wasn't even necessarily trying to get us to work harder, but to teach us a lesson about the perception of effort in accompaniment with how much we really care.

My friend had her reasons for not coming, and I don't hold it against her. We were friends for a year and a half without meeting one another; waiting a little longer isn't really a big issue.

I'm even glad to have experienced it, and not because I want to give the crabby teacher that ruined my first semester of college her due.

It took getting stood up to realize how many times, on smaller scales, I've done the same thing to friends, failing to send in my R.S.V.P. for weddings or parties I can't attend and later being unmoving and even sometimes cold when they approached me about not responding.

Sometimes a zero really is a whole lot better than an incomplete.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Melissa Means Business

I hate to shop, especially with other people, and supercalifragilistespecially when they don't know what they want.

I'll gladly sit in traffic with the radio on, I don't mind standing in line for hours at an amusement park, but tell me to be patient for five minutes while someone is trying on some clothes and I start to get the itch.
During that brief moment, claustrophobia and depression overcome whatever thoughts were rolling around in my brain while I try to suppress tics and twitches. My temples pulsate and I pray for the clothing of my friend, significant other or family member to rip, sending them into their own fit of depression. That way we are at least birds of a feather.

There's only one thing that can make this scenario any worse. A child, usually three-to five-years-old walks around the corner and sees an airplane on display, one that's not for sale, but is only there to draw the attention of the kid so that when he points, mommy looks at the clothes and says, Little Tommy would love like a young Jerry Mathers in that outfit.
Only this particular mom has no interest in the outfit because she spent the rest of the week's paycheck on Newport Lites and Daddy's "really big root beer barrel" in the garage.
She explains to her son that the plane is not for sale, and besides, she's already bought him four toys similar to the the object of his affection and he's turned them all into Wall-e chores.

This doesn't suit Thomas and pretty soon a vein bulges out of the side of his neck big enough for even Mr. Magoo's vampire reincarnation to suck with sweet succulence on the first bite.
Before you know it, you can see Tommy's nipples, his t-shirt is so wet from his own tears. He's planted his feet so firmly into the ground that he's begun to take a number 2 in his Spiderman undies, and the noise coming out of his mouth makes you wish wonder how much of your arm will fit down his throat before he chokes. We all sit and wonder when super-mom is gonna get her wits together and figure out a way to make this little sucker shut up, but she just turns her back to him and says she'll deal with him when she gets home.

This is my own private 9/11.

Then Melissa Means steps into the picture.

Means, apparently a mom of few words, seemed to have noticed that the public was not in favor of her son's similar sobfest, and took matters into her own hands, dragging her son through a Rome, Ga. Verizon Wireless store, using a leash connected to his bookbag.

My first thought... FINALLLLLLY! I mean, the kid doesn't look like he's really struggling much. In fact, it's hard to say that he doesn't enjoy it. Sure, it might look a little like when Achilles dragged Hector around the city of Troy, but come on.... there's no stones or anything in the kid's way. He actually looks to be gliding pretty effortlessly.

"Means, of Gaylsville, Ala., told police that she suffered from lupus and pneumonia and that her son was refusing to walk and because of her health problems, she could not pick him up."

Okay, I understand that, being a mom, sometimes you have to go out when you're sick to pick up emergency supplies: medicine, food, condoms, etc. But what the hell did this lady need at the Verizon Store while she's suffering from pneumonia? That shit kills people!
"I understand I look a little under the weather sir, but I really want my ring tone to play the Beyonce remix of Fever, you know, to put me in the proper mood."

"According to the report, Means said her son liked being 'pulled around by his monkey.'"

Are we sure the police weren't confused by the nature of this pulling when they made the arrest?

The inspecting officer said that the child had a bruise on the left side of his cheek from the backpack strap, but how could he be sure that wasn't from the car's seat belt that the kid was probably too young to be wearing? Could it not be from hand-to-neck strangulation?
"Representatives from the Division of Family and Children Services (DFCS) were notified of the incident and the child was later released to his grandmother.Means was charged with cruelty to children and taken to the Floyd County Jail."
Well I know I'll sleep better tonight knowing that Means is in jail. I'll also shop better next time I need something, knowing that at least one child has learned that he can't always get what he wants.

The moral of this story, of course is, don't perform crimes or even misdemeanor in a store where every single product in it comes equipped with a tiny camera. Save those wifebeater-collar crimes for K-Mart or the Costco.