Whither the Cult of Tebow?

Not surprisingly, the Patriots released Tim Tebow. I doubt this diminishes his popularity among his die-hard fans. If anything, it will give them a brief respite until he resurfaces in the Canadian Football League or among the army of TV talking heads.  His release is likely, however, to end the NFL chapter of one of the more bizarre sports stories of my life time.

Tebow’s popularity in the NFL far exceeded his collegiate fame, which was substantial.  At the University of Florida, Tebow played on two national championship teams and won the Heisman Trophy.  He threw and ran for touchdowns like no one before him.  As we have seen in the few years since he left Florida, this may have had more to do with the changing nature of the quarterback position than his unique skills. He was nevertheless an exciting and dynamic presence at Florida.

His Christianity was on full display at Florida, too.  He wore Bible citations instead of eye black, prayed on the field and spoke openly of his faith.  This, of course, caught the attention of Christians (especially those of an evangelical stripe).  Others found this overbearing–even obnoxious.  Regardless, we all wanted someone who played like him at our alma maters.  As a result, he was a polarizing figure, as is usually the case with popular athletes.  Many love them, and many love to hate them.

Despite his college success, Tebow was never viewed as anymore than a borderline NFL prospect.  Prior to the 2010 Draft opinions varied.  Draft guru Mel Kiper, Jr. didn’t think Tebow could play quarterback in the NFL.  Former NFL Coach Jon Gruden disagreed.  His best shot, according to many, would be to change positions.  His future was brighter as a tight end or H-back.  After all, many college quarterbacks have made similar transitions in the NFL.  Tebow’s size, strength and athleticism would allow him to do the same.

Tebow had different plans.  So did the Denver Broncos who surprised the NFL by using a 1st round draft pick on Tebow in the 2010 draft.  Denver’s young head coach, Josh McDaniels, planned to play Tebow at quarterback, and Tebow had no intention of changing positions.  He and the Broncos were the perfect match.

I was one of the misguided few who believed Tebow would be an effective, if not star, NFL player. This only proves my inability to assess quarterback play. Several years ago, my alma mater–the University of Kentucky–had an outstanding QB named Andre Woodson. He was big, strong armed and smart. He also had poor footwork and a slow release. I thought some NFL guru would fix that. It didn’t happen. I don’t think he ever took a snap in a regular season game.  Even though Woodson and Tebow had many of the same throwing issues, I thought the Broncos got a steal.  For awhile, it looked like I might be right.

After a rookie season where he played sparingly, Tebow got his shot as a starter in 2011 under new coach John Fox.  With Tebow at the helm the last ten games, the Broncos went 7 and 3.  Tebow was hailed as a hero–perhaps a savior, if that is not too insensitive.  I felt vindicated until I watched him play.  Yes, the Broncos won, but Tebow’s play was wildly up and down.  Big plays were followed by inexplicably bad ones–overthrows, misread defenses and just plain bad throws.  “He just wins” was the defense.  The Broncos opted to sign Peyton Manning, another quarterback who wins, plus makes every throw a quarterback can make.

Tebow then spent one forgettable season with New York Jets where he couldn’t get on the field.  When he did play, he was ineffective.  His fans blamed Coach Rex Ryan.  After his release by the Jets, his old coach Josh McDaniels, now the Patriots’ offensive coordinator gave him another shot.  If anyone could make it work, McDaniels and the Patriots could.  They couldn’t.

There are 5 QB attributes : size; vision; arm strength; accuracy; and footwork. Of these, arm strength is the least important. Joe Montana didn’t have a cannon arm. Jeff George did. An arm needs to be strong enough. That’s it.  The other four attributes can be honed in the NFL but rarely are they ever discovered at that level of play.

Of these qualities, Tebow has one–size. His arm strength is below average as is his accuracy–too many off target throws floated to covered receivers. He also doesn’t see the field well. He holds the ball too long or runs when he should wait for a play to develop. He often throws off the wrong foot and his release is slow and mechanical. By the time he loads up a throw, his receivers are covered.

tebow

See how the ball is upside down? That little hitch can be what separates a college and pro quarterback.

Too harsh? No. Professional sports are perhaps the last meritocracy. If you can help a team win, there is a place for you. The need to win is immediate and construction projects are rarely taken on. Even when they are, the time line is short.

I should note that  I like Tebow or, more accurately, I like what he appears to be. He seems to be a nice, sincere young man. I don’t doubt that he is a devout Christian. None of that matters in the context of the NFL.

I grew up in the 1970’s. With maybe the exception of Muhammad Ali, the most popular American athlete was a running back for the Buffalo Bills. There were action figures of him sold to kids–my brother had one. He made movies. His games were broadcast on national TV. He made commercials. His name was–and is–Orenthal James Simpson. If you said “O.J.” or “the Juice” everyone knew the player to whom you referred. His name still resonates, albeit for entirely different reasons.  NFL teams would line up for the next O.J.  They would certainly hope he was a better human being than the original, but most teams would take their chances.  As a hard-core fan, I can tell you that I would rather have a team full of O.J.s than good people who can’t play.

(It is possible to so rotten a person that no NFL will want you, but it takes some doing.  Just ask Tebow’s former Florida teammate, Aaron Hernandez.)

On the same day Tebow was cut loose,  Vince Young and Matt Leinart were also released the same day.   They were also college stars and “winners.”  NFL quarterbacks? No. They just aren’t good enough.  They faced the same fate as Tebow.  This is where some Tebow fans will disagree with me.

Tebow fans fall into two categories.  One is the run of the mill football fan, those who like players who wear the correct uniform.  If you’re a Jet fan, and he’s a Jet, you like him.  The other group is those who liked, even loved, him because of his religion.  To this latter group, Tebow was more than a football and to be judged on something other than his skills.  This mushroomed Tebow’s popularity above that of the typical NFL player.

Tebow is hardly the first devoutly religious professional athlete.  For example, Sandy Koufax refused to pitch on Yom Kippur.  Since this predated evangelical Christianity’s current embrace of Judaism, he was hardly lauded for this stance.  Akeem Olajuwon drew questions about his observance of Ramadan while starring in the NBA.  Muhammad Ali drew much flak for his conversion to Islam.   Make no mistake, it is Christianity, not religion, which helped elevate Tebow above his peers.  This is where Tebow is different.

There is a strong feeling among many that Tebow should be a good quarterback.  Good people should do well.  One need look no further than another Florida quarterback to see that it doesn’t work like that.  Danny Wuerffel was Tebow before Tebow.  He played at Florida.  He is a devout Christian.  He won the Heisiman Trophy.  He also tried for years to succeed as an NFL quarterback.  Wuerffel was never more than a journeyman back up.  That doesn’t make him a bad person, of course, just a bad quarterback (at least by the exacting standards of the NFL).

Christians, like most religions, embrace persecution.  To be persecuted means that you are sacrificing of yourself for God.  We like that.  It makes us feel better.  It was easy for Christians to view Tebow as being a victim of persecution when he was criticized.  If a TV analyst said Tebow’s release was too slow, that analyst was wrong.  People even suggested that the Broncos won under Tebow because of God’s intervention.  When Vince Young, a star college QB with similar limitations, had the same success early in his NFL career, no one attributed it to God or even Young, for the most part.  Good defense and good luck were Young’s allies.  If anything, Young may have been persecuted.  Why wasn’t God on his side?

Tebow’s Christian fan base is perhaps unique in sports.  This is a group otherwise unconcerned with sports who cheer for him as though he was the first Christian to play pro sports.  Social media exploded with posts about Tebow’s greatness.  “He just wins” was the excuse for any of his poor play, as though the Broncos’ smothering defense drew its strength from Tebow’s mere presence.  I knew folks who didn’t know who John Elway is who became rabid fans of Tebow.  His jersey became the NFL’s best seller.

All of this was unfair to Tebow who has never seemed all that impressed with himself.  He just wants to be a quarterback in a league with no patience.  His best–and probably only–chance of making it in the NFL now is at a different position.  At this point, he is unwilling to do that.  That’s fine, and I can’t say that I blame him.  Football is a hard way to make a living.  One might as well have lofty goals.

So, what now for Tebow?  As football fans know, he faces a tough road.  Once a player is released, he joins the vast sea of players looking for a team.  Young, Leinart and dozens of other borderline players are his competitors but without the media circus that comes to town with Tebow.

Even Tebow’s most zealous fans must accept this:  He wasn’t cut because he’s too good a person or a Christian.  The NFL is chock full of Christians.  In fact, I’ve never heard of a team releasing a star player because he was too nice.  It didn’t happen here, either.

That said, I would be remiss if I didn’t recognize that some take great pleasure in Tebow’s struggles, some because they just don’t like the teams he played on.  Others, in truth, dislike his religion and his display of it.  Even a cursory trip through social media will show people taunting like Edward G. Robinson in The Ten Commandments (“Where’s your God, now, Moses!?!?!?”).  Those are the likely the same folks who take pleasure in the failure of others as though it were actually a success for them.

If you are true Tebower, I suggest you take heart.   If Tebow’s calling is truly a higher one, he will find a better stage.  One can easily envision him on television pontificating about college or NFL football.  I suspect he’ll be fine.  I’m not so sure about his fans, though..

©thetrivialtroll.wordpress.com 2013

The Troll’s 2013 NFL Predictions

nfl

Like all right-thinking Americans, I am a football fan.  I am ready for another season of NFL action.  Here are my daring predictions for the 2013 NFL season:

Week 1:  A notable quarterback will run a keeper out of the read option only to learn (too late) that a large and swift defensive end has been waiting for this play since last February.  All NFL teams will wear a black arm patch in memory of the quarterback.

Week 2: The NFL Rules Committee will adopt the Torso Rule requiring all tackles be made between the belt line and shoulders unless the ball carrier grants permission for a hit in another area.

Week 3:  After studying the new tackling rules, NFL legend Jim Brown will come out of retirement and sign with the Browns.  Brown will find the new NFL much tougher than we he last played in 1965.  The 77-year-old Brown will be held to 66 yards rushing in his first game back.

Week 4: Rex Ryan will be fired after the Jets 55-3 loss to the Buffalo Bills.  Ryan will inexplicably bench Mark Sanchez after one play and replace him with a tackling sled.  The sled will lead the Jets to an early field goal, but will have difficulty mastering the playbook, although not as much difficulty as Sanchez.

Week 5:  After being released by the Patriots, Tim Tebow will still be looking for a new team.  Someone will say “All he does is win.”

Week 6:  Al Davis’s family will announce that they are moving his corpse to Los Angeles.

Week 7:  A player will get arrested for DUI.  He will have a frightening mug shot.

Week 8:  Fox’s Super Bowl Pregame show will start.

Week 9:  After the Redskins upset the previously undefeated Broncos 24-17, there are no remaining unbeaten teams.  The 1972 Miami Dolphins will act a bunch of assholes.

Week 10:  Scientists at NFL headquarters will transport the Jacksonville Jaguars back in time to 1972 where the Jags will crush the Dolphins 65-0 in what will be known as The Shut The Eff Up Bowl.

Week 11:  Although it is a bye week for Dallas, Tony Romo will nevertheless throw a late interception knocking Dallas out of the playoff picture.

Week 12:  A Pro Bowl player will be suspended after testing positive for a banned substance.  The player will apologize for using gorilla semen salve, claiming that it was prescribed for syphilis.

Week 13:  Eli Manning will throw an interception and look dull-eyed and stupid in a slow motion replay.

Week 14:  After public outcry, Fox rethinks Bill O’Reilly as Super Bowl play-by-play announcer and replaces him with less offensive Miley Cyrus.

Week 15:  Under cover of darkness, the Cleveland Browns will move to Baltimore again.  This time, no one cares–expect Baltimore.

Week 16:  In a touching halftime ceremony, the Bills retire O.J. Simpson’s prison number.  The NFL also  announces that no future imprisoned NFL player may ever wear the number again.

Week 17:  Ben Roethlisberger will be benched after displaying concussion-like symptoms.  After a thorough examination, NFL doctors will clear him to play, concluding that he’s just not that bright.

Week 18:  With the Patriots in danger of losing home field advantage in the playoffs, Commissioner Roger Goodell will issue a full pardon to Aaron Hernandez.  In a stirring, PCP-fueled performance, Hernandez will score 4 touchdowns to lead the Patriots to a win over Buffalo.  Unfortunately, Hernandez’s comeback will end on a bit of downer, as he shoots and mortally wounds Patriots owner Robert Kraft late in the 4th quarter.

Super Bowl:  The Patriots will beat Green Bay 31-28 on a last second touchdown pass by Tom Brady.  Packer linebacker Clay Matthews will freeze just as he is about to sack Brady to end the game.  After the game, Matthews will say:  “I had him.  Just had him.  Then I locked on to those dreamy eyes.  I just froze, man.  Damn, he’s beautiful.”

These are just the weekly predictions.  There are, of course, things that will happen every week.  These include the following:

  • An official will make a questionable call.
  • Robert Griffin III will hold a press conference to discuss his knee.
  • Jerry Jones will appear on national television.
  • Someone will suffer a concussion.
  • Ray Lewis will be mentioned during the broadcast of the Ravens’ game.
  • A broadcaster will describe a play in terms that make it sound only slightly less complex than the Moon Landing.
  • The Cincinnati Bengals will start at least one player with a checkered criminal history.
  • Rex Ryan will say something just bat-shit crazy.
  • Al Davis will remain dead.
  • Chris Berman’s success will continue to baffle Americans.

There you have it.  Mark my words.  Some or all of this will happen.  Maybe.

©thetrivialtroll.wordpress.com 2013

Wildcats and Cardinals: Can’t We All Just Get Along?

If you’ve read this curious blog of mine, you know that I am an unabashed fan of University of Kentucky athletics, especially basketball.  I hold it too high esteem, and I make no apologies for that.  As a UK fan, I am now faced with one of our periodic conundrums of a bitter rival winning the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament.  In this case, it’s the University of Louisville.

I began writing this before Louisville beat Michigan, but I thought it better to wait a few days to finish.  During the title game I found myself pulling for Louisville, yet disturbed when they won.  A few days’ decompression has allowed me objectivity of a sort.  Otherwise, this could have devolved into a pathetic rant fit only for a therapist to read.  Now, let’s continue.

For the uninformed, UK and U of L are easily the two largest university in the great Commonwealth of Kentucky.  The schools are similar with excellent professional schools.  U of L, situated as it is in the city of Louisville, has an urban flare while UK has a more college town feel to it.  Basketball, though, is where the schools are most similar.  Both programs have been wildly successful and are money-making machines.

For the uniformed, you need to know a few things.  Louisville is pronounced “Lou-a-vull.”  Call it “Louie-ville” and you’re immediately exposed as an imposter.  Also, it’s “U of L,” not “UL.”  Kentucky is “UK”–never, ever “U of K.”  Should you call it “KU,” just leave our state.  We UK fans arrogantly call ourselves Big Blue Nation or BBN, for short.  I have no idea what U of L fans call themselves.

We like to point out that UK has won EIGHT titles to U of L’s measly three.  Truth be told, UK and U of L have each won three since 1980.  Both have also had other Final Four appearances during that time.  There have also been ups and downs for each program.  U of L can claim to be the steadier of the two, having had only two coaches in the past 40 years.  During that same period–coinciding with the retirement of Adolph Rupp–UK has had six coaches.  Fans on both sides can debate these points until the listener is embarrassed to belong to either camp.  Of such things, I suppose, are rivalries built.

I’ve always struggled with the U of L rivalry, because during my formative years as a fan I didn’t hate U of L.  They were like any other state school.  I pulled for them unless they played UK, which they never did.  In fact, I had more bitter feelings toward Western Kentucky University, which had blown my beloved Cats out of the NCAA Tournament in 1971.  Such players as Wesley Cox, Rick Wilson and Junior Bridgeman played at U of L, and I thought of them as Kentuckians, too.  My hatred was reserved for Indiana University and the University of Tennessee in those days.

U of L won its first NCAA title in 1980 beating UCLA.  I remember cheering for U of L.  It had only been five years since UCLA’s last title (beating my Cats, no less), and I couldn’t stomach the idea of them winning yet another title.  Plus, Darrell Griffith played for U of L.  He was a Kentuckian, and easily the best player in college basketball.  I liked him.

Then, it happened.  Suddenly, U of L was exalted as THE best team in Kentucky, better than UK.  One might say that was sensible, given that they had just won the title.  UK, however, had won the title just two years previously, to go with the FOUR other titles won by Coach Rupp.  We chafed at the notion that U of L was now better.

The drum beats started for UK and U of L to play.  Nimrods in our state legislature proposed a LAW requiring it.  This took priority over such things as our state’s crippling poverty and inadequate schools.  Although no law was passed, the demands for a “dream” game continued unabated.  (As an aside, playing UK is only important to our other state schools when they actually have a chance to win the game.  It seems much less important if a beating is in the offing.)

Of course, it eventually happened but not in the regular season.  In the 1983 NCAA Tournament, the Cats and the Cards met, and the Cards won 80-68.  That game has taken on such mythical status that U of L fans now describe it as a thorough pummeling.  That it was an excellent, thrilling OVERTIME game is largely forgotten.  Also forgotten is that UK beat the Cards TWICE the next season–once in the regular season and again in the tournament.  Oh well.

The remainder of the 1980’s consisted of U of L fans declaring their superiority much like UK fans typically do.  Then, it happened again.  The damn Cards won the title in 1986!  By then, my ambivalence toward U of L had been replaced by jealously and seething hatred.  I was in law school at UK (where I had also earned my undergraduate degree) and at the height of my irrational fandom.  My only hesitancy is that I couldn’t help but like U of L head coach Denny Crum.  He was an excellent coach and seemed like a good guy.

I guess I should also point out that the Cats CRUSHED the Cards 85-51 during that championship season.  Freshman Rex Chapman–who spurned U of L for UK–lit them up for 26 points.  While U of L fans probably wore their championship regalia, we had t-shirts that said:  “CATS 85, NATIONAL CHAMPS 51.”

During this time, UK’s coach was Eddie Sutton.  Besides crippling NCAA probation, Coach Sutton made one unforgettable contribution to UK lore.  He is the one who coined the term “little brother” in reference to U of L.  It stuck.  For that, we thank him.

After ’86, U of L began a gradual slide into mediocrity while the arrival of Rick Pitino as head coach in 1989 pushed UK back to the top.  Pitino won the title in 1996 and was runner-up in ’97.  Then, he made his ill-fated departure to the Boston Celtics.  UK didn’t miss a beat, winning the title again in ’98 under Tubby Smith.

Of course, Pitino famously returned to the Bluegrass State in 2001, at LOUISVILLE, re-stoking the hatred, at least of him.  Oddly, though it wasn’t until 2012 that either program won another title.  Now, we have them back-to-back, and IT IS ON again.  I, for one, am glad to see it, but there are legitimate concerns about keeping the peace in our fair commonwealth.

With the rivalry white-hot again, our state is torn asunder.  Well, not really.  Most Kentuckians are UK fans.  By “most,” I mean virtually everyone.  We do have some risk of driving a wedge between our largest city, Louisville, and the rest of the state.  Of course, we already don’t think of Louisville as being part of Kentucky.  It might be in Indiana or even Ohio for all we know.  Regardless, we should make an effort to get along now.  Both fan bases have recent success to embrace.

The main problem is that the fan bases hate each other.  We Kentucky fans think of the U of L faithful as chinstrapped, knuckle-dragging, troglodytes whose penchant for angry, drunken rages is exceeded only by their desire to fight.  The U of L crowd views us as pompous, self-important, egotists who insist that the Cats are always the best, regardless of overwhelming contrary evidence.  Both crowds are right, of course.  How, though, can we bridge the gap and allow each to enjoy its own success?

First, we should embrace the commonalities of our two cultures:

  • Both universities are in Kentucky, although–as noted above–U of L’s exact location is unknown.
  • U of L’s mascot is the cardinal, Kentucky’s official state bird.  UK’s is the wildcat, the official state woodland beast of Kentucky.
  • Each school prefers a truncated version of its nickname–Cats and Cards, as opposed to Wildcats and Cardinals.
  • Each logo bears a fierce caricature of its mascot.  Even the most die-hard Card fan must admit there is only so much that can be done to make a cardinal frightening.  They’ve done the best they can with it.
uk

A fearsome wildcat prepares to maul the on-looker.

uofl

An ill-tempered cardinal preparing to chirp an opponent into submission.

  • Rick Pitino returned both schools to prominence.
  • Neither school is Duke.
  • Both schools hate Indiana University.
  • U of L is in Jefferson County, home to the most Cards fans AND UK fans.
  • Both fan bases are excellent at producing insulting or angry t-shirts:
beatukBIG2

Some are busy and require study.

hatelou

Others are simple and to the point.

  • Basketball is the most prominent feature of both universities, rather than some haughty, egg-headed academic program.

Based on this common ground, I propose we move forward, if not together, then certainly without the animus which has marked our past association.  Toward that end, I offer several suggestions to my fellow UK fans to smooth the waters:

  • Let us avoid calling U of L “little brother” or posting any memes like this one:

calpit

  • Do not continue to point out that EIGHT NCAA titles are far superior to THREE.  This will only antagonize them, plus it requires them to do rudimentary math.
  • Under no circumstances should we write poorly constructed limericks like this one:

There once was a coach named Rick

His style was flashy and slick

One night after dinner

He met a real winner

Now they call him Coach Rick the Quick

  • Do not point out that Pitino has referred to UK as the “Roman Empire” of basketball and “Camelot.”
  • Do not emphasize that UK has won more basketball games than any college team ever.  Ever.  In the history of mankind.  Ever.
  • It is petty to continually note that UK has won 7 of the last 10 meetings between the two schools.
  • It is even more petty to point out that UK is 21-12 in the series since 1983.
  • Do not mention that UK won its third NCAA title before Rick Pitino was born.
  • Do not magnanimously congratulate U of L fans on their big win.  Nothing infuriates them more than UK fans patronizing them with insincere praise.

Any of these actions will just make matters worse.  The U of L fan will foam at the mouth and start pointing to football, baseball, women’s basketball and softball as proof of Louisville’s superiority.  You, then, might start raving about cheer-leading and the rifle team.  Inevitably, the U of L fan will want to fight you.  (Trust me on this one.  It always happens).  You both may then inexplicably hurl homophobic slurs at each other.  Nothing good will come of this.

The last time I encountered a Louisville fan, we had a dust-up over his sitting in my seat.  Nevertheless, I’m pleased to report that my personal animus has receded to the point that I actually wanted U of L to beat Michigan.  As I have aged, my self-esteem is longer wholly dependent on whether a group of strangers wins ball games.  Family and friends  are now more important.  Of course, my beloved Cats are family, and the Cats have the Number 1 recruiting class next year–perhaps the best class EVER.  You better button down those chin straps.  See you next season.

©thetrivialtroll.wordpress.com 2013

Why Mike Rice Paid The Price

rice

Until yesterday, I had never heard of Mike Rice, the now former men’s basketball coach at Rutgers University. Videos of his abusive treatment of players at practice have gone viral thanks to ESPN. Eric Murdock, a former assistant at Rutgers, apparently tried to get the University to intervene earlier. His thanks was the loss of his job.

Forgive me if I am a cynic about stories like these. Yes, Rice’s firing on April 3, 2013 was justified, but to pretend he was fired over the treatment of his players is as laughable as it is insulting to anyone of moderate intelligence. His abuse was well-known. It was the public revelation of it that cost him his job. Oh, and he didn’t win a lot. That may have been his greatest coaching sin.

Consider that his 3 year record at Rutgers was 44-51 with a 16-38 mark in the Big East. Don’t think for a minute that those sad numbers didn’t play a role in his firing. If Rutgers were preparing for the Final Four right now, this would still be a story, but I assure you that there would be a legion of defenders crowing about his “old school” toughness.

What did Rice do? He cursed at his players, physically attacked them and even threw basketballs at them. The video looks like a trailer for Dodgeball II with Rice in Rip Torn’s role. This being a blog and not fit for real publication, I can tell what he said without the need for asterisks. Among other niceties, he called his players faggot (that seems to be his personal favorite), cunt, pussy, bitch and fairy. One foreign player (who has since transferred) was called “Lithuanian Faggot,” which Murdock said practically became a nickname for him. If you’ve played sports on any level, none of this is all that shocking. We all know coaches who act like that.

What of the physical abuse? Rice grabbed players, kicked them, shoved them and hit them with basketballs. We all know coaches like that, too. If they’re successful, we respect them as tough. Who can forget the video of Bob Knight choking Neil Reed? Before you point out that it helped cost Knight his job, remember that the video was simply another nail in his coffin. It also didn’t help that he’d lost at least 10 games each year for five of the past six seasons and hadn’t gotten past the Second Round of the NCAA Tournament in six years. When he was having his greatest success, chair-throwing and cop-punching didn’t hurt his job security any. The psychotic chair-throwing incident is now the subject of a “humorous” commercial for Applebee’s. Perhaps one day Rice can join him with a new slogan: “Don’t be a faggot! Eat at Applebee’s!”

I’m a University of Kentucky basketball fan. We’ve had our own experience with this. After Tubby Smith resigned, UK hired an unpleasant misanthrope named Billy Gillispie. We greeted him with open arms. He was “tough.” Tubby was too soft. Billy Clyde was a stern taskmaster. Tubby was too lenient.

We soon heard stories of two-hour practices on game days, of players’ feet bleeding from running and other inane practices. We didn’t demand his firing. Why not? We wanted to see if he’d win games. He didn’t. Then, we were outraged at the thought of player being put in a bathroom stall at halftime or one being forced to eat Pop Tarts to gain weight! He was a mad man! A mad man who loses too many games and ends up in the NIT will soon be out of work.

Gillispie’s antics continued at his next stop–Texas Tech where they wearied of him after only one year. Tech is now wooing a veteran coach with a much different approach–Tubby Smith. Go figure.

Sports are littered with these guys. In past generations, Bear Bryant, Woody Hayes, Knight and Frank Kush were lauded for similar tactics. Is it any wonder that some in succeeding generations followed suit? Knight is praised by ESPN as a god-like figure, yet his behavior was every bit as contemptible as Rice’s. Dick Vitale loudly condemns Rice, while he fawns over Knight (“Robert Montgomery Knight,” as Dicky V calls him), like a school girl gushing over Justin Bieber. Knight had the good fortune to win. Winning, it seems, fixes everything.

They are hired, and we cheer them, because we think they’ll win. Sometimes, they do win. Then, they are heroes, hard-core old school coaches. Lose, and they’re embarrassments to university, the fan base and even their own families.

I have limited personal experience with coaches of this ilk. Only one time did one of my sons play ball for one of these types. It was baseball and, of course, it was a father who envisioned himself a real coach. This clown was an assistant on the team. My son bore up under verbal abuse throughout preseason practice. We made it through one game where my son was verbally abused in the dugout the entire game. When we complained to the head coach, he feigned ignorance, meaning that he was cut from the same cloth. That was our last game in that league. My son has gone on to play baseball throughout high school without a repeat of this kind of foolishness.

We live in a time now where people are keenly aware of bullies and peer-related abuse. We seem less sensitive to the bullying handed out by adults or authority figures, especially when the recipient isn’t a child. Perhaps it’s because college athletes are young adults and more capable of standing up for themselves. That’s a dubious rationalization to allow humans to be treated like chattels. Indeed, if a video surfaced of Mike Kryzewski kicking a player, he could probably talk his way out of a firing. I imagine that a video of him kicking a dog would likely spell the end of his career. What does that tell you?

One of the persistent myths is that sports build character. There is no consensus that this is true. I’m not aware of any studies to support the notion that mere participation builds anything positive. A study of intramural sports at the Air Force Academy concludes that it is only true if character-building is an intended part of the program. That shouldn’t be surprising. When your character is shaped by bullies, it can’t helped but be warped. I suppose there are people from such poor backgrounds that any type of order–even that imposed by a bully–is to some advantage. Of course, that may be the same type of thinking that causes people to join street gangs–some order is better than none.

Imagine trying to build a young man’s character by the example of Mike Rice. Or Bob Knight. Or Billy Gillispie. What life lessons do they learn? If people don’t act the way you’d like, attack them, physical and verbally. Always attack those who aren’t in a position to fight back. How different is that than Jerry Sandusky’s behavior? Yes, by degree, there is a vast ocean of difference. By effect, there may not be that much.

I’m not suggesting that coaches must be Sunday school teachers. My own children can tell you that I’ve yelled at them over such mundane things as making too much noise (as though my yelling would set a good example). Nor am I sensitive to foul language. In fact, I’m given to use it myself. But to excuse such behavior simply because one is a coach makes no sense.

There’s nothing special about being a coach. ESPN’s Mark Schlereth once said that the words “coach” and “genius” should never be used in the same sentence. That’s certainly true. I don’t have unrealistic expectations of coaches. I know that the vast majority of them are not musing about string theory when they aren’t working.

Winning takes care of most coaching character flaws. Embarrass your university, if you must. Just don’t lose a lot of games while doing so. Lest we forget, Rick Pitino is coaching in this year’s Final Four.

The answer to all of this is to clean out the Neanderthals of the coaching ranks. Zero tolerance would be nice. It would probably be effective, too, at least until one of these fools started winning games.

Incredibly, Rutgers Athletic Director Tim Pernetti claims he didn’t show the university president any of the videos until after the ESPN story broke, months after he’d seen them himself. Once the president saw them, so the story goes, Rice was fired. If this story is true, Pernetti should join Rice on the unemployment line.

One under-reported aspect of the story is that this isn’t Pernetti’s first experience with this kind of behavior.  Rice’s predecessor, Fred Hill, Jr., was fired after a profanity-laced tirade at a Rutgers baseball game.  As a show of support for his father, long-time Rutgers baseball coach Fred Hill, Sr., Junior loudly cursed at the University of Pittsburgh’s baseball coach.  Consequently, Hill, Jr. was fired.  His replacement?  Rice, who had just ended his coaching stint at Robert Morris University with his own tirade at the end of RMU’s overtime loss to Villanova in the NCAA Tournament.  Pernetti, it seems, may not be the best judge of coaching temperment.

By the way, Hill’s record in the Big East was 13-57.  Starting to see the pattern here?  Flip flop that record, and he gets a couple of months of anger management and a contract extension.

The responsibility lies with the administration of these universities–universities which make jaw-dropping revenues from these students. These revenues are not shared with the students but are used to fund the hiring–and firing–of coaches. When a university steps up and cleans out its athletic department, maybe that will change things. Of course, Rutgers is moving to the Big Ten now where it will make even more money. That, sadly, may be how Pernetti’s job performance is ultimately measured.

What of Rice? He’ll resurface. They always do. Some school at some level will think he can win. He’ll be contrite. He may even actually change, like Colorado State’s Larry Eustachy. Regardless, he better win.

©thetrivialtroll.wordpress.com

2012-13 Kentucky Basketball: What the Hell Just Happened?

I am unabashed fan of the University Kentucky Wildcats basketball team.  I have been for over 40 years.  We just completed one of our more disappointing seasons with an ignominious loss to some school called Robert Morris University–in the first round of the freakin’ NIT, no less.

I can assure you that this is only one of many blog posts about our beloved Cats’ season of shame.  I do not write this in effort to contribute to any journalistic analysis of our season.  I do not suppose to have any original insights or solutions.  Indeed, it is far too late now.

Instead, I write this as a form of therapy, a cathartic exercise which will help me deal with my grief.  Oh, I tried to work through it with a series of obscenity-laced tweets during the Robert Morris game, but those only brought me temporary solace.  Twitter tracked my mental and emotional deterioration:

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Before tip-off, optimism abounds.

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Half way into the first-half, despair sets in.

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Depression

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Uncontrolled rage

We feel such losses deep in our souls.  Kentucky Basketball is important to us.  How important?  Far too important, I suppose.  The sun isn’t as bright.  The flowers smell of the foul stench of defeat.  Our value as human beings is lessened.  Other than that, we’re in good shape.

Our fan base’s immediate reaction is to blame our coach.  John Calipari, of course, is our coach.  Cal, we call him, much like we called Joe B. Hall “Joe B.”  Tubby Smith was Tubby.  Billy Gillispie was “Billy Clyde.”  Rick Pitino was just Pitino.  Eddie Sutton was Eddie, until he got us in NCAA trouble, then he was Sutton.  Adolph Rupp was, naturally, Coach Rupp.  We are familiar with our coaches.  We love them until they stumble.  Then, they are blithering idiots incapable of coaching in a church league.

I’m not going down that road.  We won the NCAA Championship just last year.  Cal can coach.  I know that.  You can’t give him a total pass, but he didn’t forget how to coach in just a few months.

WHAT WENT RIGHT?

To be honest, not much about this season went well.  We lost to Louisville.  We also lost to the likes of Texas A&M and Baylor–at home!  We didn’t win the Southeastern Conference Championship, and we got crushed by lowly Vanderbilt in our first game in the SEC Tournament.  Nevertheless, let’s talk positives.

Nerlens Noel is a positive.  He was exactly the type of player described coming out of high school last year–high energy and great on defense.  His offensive game, as predicted, was raw.  Overall, though, he was great.  He had the unfortunate timing of following Anthony Davis at UK, but Nerlens was outstanding.  As a bonus, he seems to like being at UK.  We love that.

Jarrod Polson is a positive.  Polson is the back up point guard.  He is from Nicholasville, Kentucky–about 15 miles from UK’s campus.  He came here as a walk-on and is the kind of player that Kentucky fans love.  Considering his athletic limitations, he played well.  He hustles and is tough.  We like that.  He’s the kind of guy who will be able to live the rest of his life as Ex-Cat, meaning he will always be a celebrity here.

We beat Florida the last game of the regular season.  We thought we had no shot, but did it.  That was sweet.

We signed another excellent recruiting class for next year, maybe the best ever.  But, that’s really a positive for next year.

That’s it.

WHAT WENT WRONG?

Boy, oh, boy, where do I start? I know that a lot of folks say that it’s unfair to criticize college players.  I understand that but disagree.  First, these are grown men–young but adults.  If you can join the Army, vote and get married, you’re an adult.  Second, playing basketball at UK brings with it opportunities disproportionate to one’s contribution.  All UK fans can name numerous men who have made post-collegiate careers of being Ex-Cats.  That may not be sensible, but it’s a fact.  If you’re going to get all the praise, you have to be willing to take some of the heat.  Coach Cal has said many times that “Kentucky isn’t for everyone.”  Indeed.

Recruiting:  Since Cal has been at UK, he’s recruited the following NBA players:  John Wall, Demarcus Cousins, Eric Bledsoe, Terrence Jones, Brandon Knight, Marquis Teague, Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist.  He’s spoiled us.  This year, he brought us Noel, Willie Cauley-Stein, Alex Poythress and Archie Goodwin.  As fans, we just considered the roster reloaded.  It didn’t work that way.

Cauley-Stein was as good as advertised, meaning he’s a raw prospect.  He has a lot of work to do and played like it.  I don’t think anyone was surprised.  He didn’t really improve during the season–a rarity for one of Cal’s players.

Poythress and Goodwin were the two who frustrated us most.  Poythress looks like a player at 6′ 7″, 240 pounds.  He’s quick, athletic and strong.  Unfortunately, on the court, he reminds us of Richard (“Master Blaster”) Madison, a heralded recruit from the 1980’s.  As one of Madison’s coaches said, Richard played “just good enough to get you beat.”  Poythress has the look of a player who doesn’t like playing.  I’m not sure coaching can fix that.

Goodwin plays hard–maybe too much so.  We grew weary of his wild, head-down drives to the basket that resulted in hopeless shots or charges.  He never seemed to understand his role in the offense.  His defense was inconsistent–or nonexistent–all season.  In bygone days, a player of his type would have logged 10-12 minutes a game behind more veteran players.  We probably would have seen flashes of greatness making us carp that he deserved more playing time.

I am convinced that both Poythress and Goodwin have great potential.  If they come back to school, we’ll see different, better players.  I hope we get a chance to find out if I’m right.

Nerlens’ Knee:  Just when started to see signs of consistent play, Nerlens Noel blew out his knee, a gruesome injury that ended his season–and ours.  An under-achieving team lost its best player.  Cal said it best:  “After we lost Nerlens, it’s been torture.”  And so it was.

Point Guard:  In Cal’s three previous seasons, our point guards have been John Wall, Brandon Knight and Marquis Teague.   All three played one year, and all three were NBA 1st round draft picks.  This year’s point guard was Ryan Harrow, a transfer from North Carolina State.  Harrow is the most difficult kind of player to critique.  He doesn’t have the skills to play the position at the level Cal needs.  I feel for the young man.  I really do.  It has to be a difficult, pressure-packed situation.  Facts are facts.

The coaching staff doesn’t get a pass on this one.  Cal recruited Harrow in high school.  He saw a year of him at NC State and a year of him in practice.  He had ample evaluation time.  Again, I feel for Harrow.  I’m convinced he has played the best he can.  He was put in a position where success wasn’t possible.  That one goes on the coach.

WHAT DID I LEARN?

I don’t know that I learned anything new.  It’s more like I re-learned some things (if that’s even possible).  Maybe I was just reminded of some stuff.

Championships are hard to win:  I’ve been a UK fan since 1970.  UK has won 4 titles.  It’s not easy to do.  Winning one year doesn’t mean you’ll win the next year or even make the tournament or even win one game in the NIT.  (see 1978-79 season).

Losing your whole team is tough:  Imagine this:  Your alma mater wins the national championship.  Then, all its starters and its sixth man leave.  They are replaced by freshmen.  Your school is the only Division I team in the entire country that doesn’t return even one player who started even one game.  What would you expect?  At Kentucky, we expected a strong run at another title.  Perhaps we’re unreasonable.

Cal is an excellent coach, but not a magician:  This team never meshed. Maybe it was the lack of dependable veterans.  Maybe it was the wrong mix of talent.  Whatever the reason, the light bulb never came on.  Cal couldn’t get them to buy in.  He’s done it so well before that I don’t think I can hang that one on him.  Like I said, these are men.  They didn’t act like it.

You need a bench:  UK had no bench this year, at least no players upon whom we could count for steady play.  Not only was this an in-game weakness, but there was no risk of any under-achieving starter losing his job.  Cal says this won’t ever be the case here again.  I believe him.

So, there here we are, a disastrous season at an end.  How bad was it?  We were 21-12 and finished second in our conference.  That’s a train wreck at my alma mater.  I’m over it now.  Besides, next year, we are going to be LOADED!

©thetrivialtroll.wordpress.com 2013

The National Invitation Tournament: A New (and Blue) Perspective

The National Invitation Tournament is a college basketball tournament. It has a storied history dating back to 1938, one year before the NCAA Tournament began. Only the NAIA Tournament is older. For many years, the NIT was considered the most prestigious tournament in the country. In those days of Jim Crow, it was an integrated tournament played in legendary Madison Square Garden in New York. Only the best of the best were invited to the NIT.

In the early 1950’s, the NIT lost much of its luster because of a point-shaving scandal. City College of New York, Long Island University and others were implicated. One such school was my beloved University of Kentucky. We’re the only ones who rose from the ashes, although we had the distinction of receiving the NCAA Death Penalty by having the 1952-53 season cancelled. We UK fans like to point out that we were undefeated the next season and had the audacity to turn down an NCAA invitation. (That’s not as brassy as it sounds. Most of our best players were ineligible for post-season play. Adolph Rupp was no fool).

(As unrelated aside, it should be noted that UK played in integrated tournaments well before most teams in the South would do so. The next time you hear the story of Mississippi State playing in the NCAA Tournament in 1963, remember that Kentucky had been doing that for 20 years.)

Although the NCAA Tournament became more prominent, the NIT remained significant. The NIT was still prestigious enough that Marquette turned down an NCAA bid in the late ’60’s to play in (and win) the NIT. Over time, the NCAA Tourney has expanded to 68 teams, making the NIT little more than a glorified intramural tournament. Its glory days, sadly, are long gone.

Today, being invited to the NIT means you suck. You stink. You’re not worthy of making the NCAA Tournament. You don’t even get the play-in games. You’re not one of the 68 best teams in the country. Your program is in shambles. You don’t belong on the Big Stage. The Big Dance goes on without you. It’s the Little Dance for you and your fellow club foots.

Such is the fate now of my University of Kentucky Wildcats. Lest you forget, we won the NCAA Tournament just last year. (If you’re counting, that’s EIGHT titles, my friend). We’ve been in this position before. We won the NCAA Tournament in 1978, only to be relegated to the NIT the next year. We lost in the first round to Clemson, and at home, no less. I would point out, though, that we were playing without Dwight Anderson, arguably our best player that year. That loss deserves an asterisk, as do almost all losses in the history of our program.

Nowadays, folks call it the “Not Invited Tournament” or the “Not Important Tournament.” It has fallen into such disfavor that some schools have even turned down invitations. We won’t do that at Kentucky. Our fans want to see games–any time, anywhere, against any opponent.

We’re no strangers to NIT glory, mind you. We’ve won the NIT, twice–1946 and 1976. Both titles portended bigger and better things.

The 1946 NIT Championship was followed by NCAA Titles in 1948, 1949 and 1951. Our 1976 NIT Title was followed by an NCAA Title in 1978. See a pattern?

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1946 NIT Champs

The 1976 NIT was similar to this year. The previous season, we lost the NCAA title game to UCLA. Graduation took many of our best players. We started the 1975-76 season 10 and 10 and lost of one of our best players, Rick Robey, to injury. Joe B. Hall, successor to Adolph Rupp, was our coach, and the annual cries for his head began. Those were dark days in the Big Blue Nation.

Coach Hall was always at his best when things were bleakest. The Cats won their last 10 games, including the NIT, beating the University of North Carolina-Charlotte in the title game. Center Mike Phillips became a beast during that run. All Cat fans know the names of Mike Phillips, Jack Givens, Jay Shidler, Truman Claytor, Marion Haskins, Dwayne Casey and James Lee. Two years later, we had NCAA title number 5! It is always darkest before the dawn.

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Mike Phillips, NIT All-Time Great

Even today, the NIT isn’t the worst thing that can happen. There is also something called the College Basketball Invitational. It’s for 16 teams that don’t make either the NCAA or NIT. It isn’t to be confused with its competitor, the CollegeInsider.com Postseason Tournament, which has 32 more unworthy teams. So, if you don’t make the NCAA Tournament, you have 80 more post-season slots available. Including the NCAA, there are 148 chances to play in the post-season. There about 400 NCAA Division I basketball teams. You could be one of the 250 or so super-sucky teams which can’t play anywhere!

We UK fans want to be enthusiastic about the NIT, but it’s tough. We view the NCAA Tournament as our birth right. Any UK fan knows the significance of the years 1948, 1949, 1951, 1958, 1978, 1996, 1998 and 2012. To exclude us from the Big Dance after a 20 win season is sacrilege. We know it’s because of jealously or even downright hatred. That’s okay, because we hate the NCAA and its member institutions even more than they hate us.

UK needs to put an indelible stamp on the NIT. I have a few simple suggestions to turn the NIT into the tournament, at least for one year:

  • Unilaterally declare that former UK center Mike Phillips is the “Greatest Living Player” in the history of the NIT and insist that he be introduced as such before each game. Maybe he can wear some kind of crown.
  • Have both our NIT Championship trophies sitting beside the bench.
  • Coach John Calipari will repeatedly refer to the NCAA Tournament as the “suck ass” tournament.
  • Have Honey Boo Boo and her Mom be cheerleaders.
  • Adopted cool team nickname of “69ers” in honor of being the 69th best team in the country.
  • In a tip of the hat to tradition, shave points.
  • UK President Eli Capilouto will profanely condemn the NCAA for not allowing UK to play in both tournaments.
  • Brashly challenge the CIT and CBI tourney champs to a “Loser Leaves Town” playoff.
  • Hire an Amish assistant coach.
  • Run the Jody Arias trial on the Jumbo Tron
  • Bring entire UK team to NCAA Championship Game and loudly berate participants for not playing in Madison Square Garden.
  • In each post-game interview, coach UK players to work in references to Roy Williams as a “mincing cry baby” and Mike Krzyzewski as a “rat-faced bastard.”
  • If we lose, crack opposing coach over the head with 2012 NCAA Championship Trophy

These are but a few ideas. As fans, there are many things we can do to help, too. For example, we have a tradition of burning couches in the streets after big NCAA wins. In keeping with that, perhaps we can burn ottomans or occasional tables after each NIT win. We can wear confusingly arrogant T-Shirts that say things like “YOU CAN’T SPELL NORTH CAROLINA WITHOUT ‘NCAA.'” Most of all, let’s say we’d rather win the NIT than lose the NCAA Tournament, even though we probably would have won that, too.

So, take heart, Big Blue Nation. All is not lost. There are many positives:

  • Our first round game at Robert Morris University will be the biggest event ever in Moon Township, Pennsylvania where, by the way, Coach Cal went to high school.
  • We trail St. John’s in NIT titles–6 to 2. Another title cuts that in half.
  • An NIT title gives us 11 combined NCAA/NIT titles, only one behind UCLA.
  • We will pad our all time wins record.
  • Rupp Arena hosts the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament. Imagine the embarrassment to that haughty exhibition when rounds 2 and 3 of the NIT outdraw it.
  • We’ll proudly hang our NIT banner, adding to the already-cluttered rafters of Rupp Arena.
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There may not be room for another banner.

Remember, too, that UK fans are also known for our almost unbearable arrogance. An NIT championship would the perfect chance to take this seeming character flaw to new heights. Let us all rationalize that we got on a roll in the postseason and would, in fact, have won the NCAA Tournament were it not for the petty jealousies that kept us on the sidelines. If we lose, we will simply dismiss the NIT as beneath us and unworthy of our time, anyway. How could we possibly be motivated for it? The NIT Trophy is little more than a door stop, and the banner wouldn’t be fit to be a floor mat in our opulent locker room.

After all, it’s just the NIT, for God’s sake–unless we win it.

©thetrivialtroll.wordpress.com 2013

My Over 50 Not-To-Do List

I’m in my 51st year on the planet.  Although many people have exceeded my longevity, this impresses me.  Of course, lots of folks lived less time than I have and did much more–Mozart, for example.  All in all, though, living longer is a good thing.

I now read AARP publications.  AARP recently ran a tongue-in-cheek article about things NOT to do after age 50.  It was somewhat humorous.  Somewhat.  Like a lot of things, it got me thinking.  Now, that I’m 50 (and have been for several months now), what won’t I do?  Here are five such things:

PLAY BALL!  I’ve written before about my mediocrity as an athlete.  That never stopped me from trying to play sports.  No more.  No basketball.  No softball.  No flag football.  Nothing where I risk injury.  Why?   I don’t want any other injuries.  The older you get, the more injury-prone you are.  My sports are now limited to baseball and basketball with my youngest son and even then I don’t go all out.

I’ve never had a serious injury.  I’ve never worn a cast or had surgery or used crutches.  I did tear a muscle in my shoulder once, but they can’t do much about that.  I had a stress fracture in my foot, but it went away.

In my 30’s I scraped the outside of left calf sliding during a softball game.  It looked like a burn and hurt like hell. It scabbed up in a couple of days.  Then, the scab disappeared, and it looked like an orange peel, except oozy.  You know how your mother said that a cut with red lines running from it is bad?  It had those, two.  It was something called cellulitis.  The doctor said it was a “galloping infection.”  I had to elevate my leg and put a heating pad on the open wound.  I also had to draw a circle around it with a Sharpie.  If the red spread past the outline, that would be bad.  When I stood, the blood rushed to my leg and it felt like a thousand needles.  I  had to get a shot every day, too, for a week.  The shot gave me diarrhea.  For days, I was reduced to lying down with a heating pad on an open sore which burned like it was on fire while trying to control my bowels and drawing on my leg with a magic marker.  I’m just too old for this kind of thing.

Even if I wanted to play sports, I probably can’t.  The simplest of sports may be beyond me now. A few months ago, I passed baseball with my 17-year-old son who is a high school baseball player.  He can throw 80-85 mph without much effort.  I was terrified.  Enough of that, too.

Fortunately, my youngest son is almost 11 now.  If I had a younger kid, I’d hire someone to play with him.  No sense taking unnecessary risks.

ANGRY UP MY BLOOD:  The great baseball player Satchel Paige once cautioned against eating fried food, because it would angry up one’s blood.  I don’t necessarily agree with that, because I like fried food.  I do, however, agree with the caution about angrying up the blood.

I was an angry young man.  Angry about all kinds of stuff–my job, politics, religion, sports–pretty much everything.  I had a short fuse which was easily lit, too.  I was an unpleasant person.  I’m too old for all that, as well.

It seems that my peers become angrier with age while I mellow.  I am aging in reverse, like a far less handsome version of Brad Pitt as Benjamin Button.  It seems that everyone my age is mad about liberals, conservatives, the rich, the poor, taxes, drones, sports, religion and life in general.  Here’s the deal:  We all have opinions.  So do I.  I’m certain that mine aren’t all that important.  In fact, I may be flat wrong on many (most?) of them.  Same goes for you.  I’m sure that pisses you off.  Relax.

I’m confident that being mad shortens my life.  How?  Well, every minute I waste fuming about something, I could be doing something else.  So, there goes part of my life down the old crapper.  As a live and let live guy, I really don’t care if you’re mad, even at me.  Just don’t ask me to play along.

GET IN MY CUPS:  I was once quite fond of strong drink.  I may still be, but I haven’t partaken in several years.  Understand that I have no problem with those that do.  I just believe that such indulgences are a young man’s game.  Hangovers had bad for my brain.  Why else would my head hurt like that?  Vomiting is no good under any circumstances.  Also, not remembering conversations or where I’ve been or what I’ve done is problematic.  Soon enough, age itself will cause such problems.  No need to speed the plow.

Here’s the kind of thing I did when I drank.  A few years ago (not as many as you might think), my wife and I went to a party.  I drank quite a bit before the party and quite a bit at the party.  Oh, I had a grand time–or so I’ve heard.  When we came home, I retired to the basement whereupon I quickly dozed off (the more crass of you might call it “passing out.”)  A couple of hours into my respite, I had the urge to relieve myself.  Rising from the couch, I was unsteady on my feet.  No doubt this was from the deep REM sleep.  As I staggered toward the bathroom, somehow I fell forward, striking my head on a wooden post.   Oh, I also broke my glasses.

No problem.  Holding my forehead, I made it to the bathroom and did my business.  My right brow was really throbbing, so I thought I might take a look at it.  Leaning close the mirror–remember my glasses were broken–I moved my hand from my right eye to get a good look.

The funny thing about cuts to the head is that they bleed far in excess of the severity of the actual injury.  When I moved my hand, blood fairly gushed from a small slice in my right eye brow.  It ran into my eye and down my face.  It just kept coming.  There was only one thing to do–I puked and went into a full-blown swoon.  Then I sat in the floor convinced that I was bleeding to death and would be found covered in blood and vomit–not a glorious demise.

So, I did the only thing I could do.  Holding a towel to my head, I climbed the two flights of stairs to the master bedroom and consulted my dear wife.  Let’s just say that the evening suddenly took an even uglier turn.

I’m too old for this kind of foolishness now.  Let the young men bleed profusely and copiously vomit.  I’ll sip my Starbucks, work the crossword puzzle and retire for the evening at 9:30 or so.

EAT WELL:  This takes some explaining.  I don’t eat all that poorly.  I don’t have a weight problem.  I’m a lean, mean 160 pounds.  Perfect middle-weight size.  Think of me as a whiter, less-imposing, soft version of Marvelous Marvin Hagler (if you don’t know Hagler, you’re not my age).  At one time I weighed 176 pounds, which was a little too much.  I quickly shed that weight.  That’s just a genetic thing.  Don’t get all pissed off (see section above).

People want me to eat well, and I guess I should.  My family has a bit of a history of heart disease.  Regardless, there are things I like to eat.  They include, but are not limited to:

  • High fructose corn syrup
  • Sugar
  • Chocolate
  • Ice Cream
  • Eggs
  • Bacon
  • Pork in general
  • Deep fried anything
  • Gluten
  • Peanut butter
  • Hot dogs
  • Red meat
  • White meat
  • Meat

I also don’t mind my food being laced with preservatives.  Why not?  Hey, I like it preserved until I want to eat it.  Call me crazy.

I’m not diabetic.  I don’t have celiac disease. Or diverticulitis.  Or any food allergies.  If you do, please watch what you eat.  The key here is to watch what you eat, not what I eat.

If YOU don’t want to eat this stuff, I’m okay with it.  I won’t force it on you.  I don’t have people to my house for dinner anyway.  Eat what you want.  You can eat free range horse for all I care.  Just don’t tell me what to eat.  I enjoy food and fully intend to continue to do so.

FIGHT CLUB:  Chief Joseph said:  “From where the sun now stands, I will fight no more forever.”  That’s a good philosophy, and I agree wholeheartedly with him.  Fighting isn’t good, especially if you run the risk of getting the crap beat out of you.

Like heavy drinking, fighting is a young man’s business.  When you’re young, fighting can be a test of your manhood.  It can also be provoked by heavy drinking.  Either way, it’s usually a one-on-one situation and little harm is done.

Unlike in the movies, real fights rarely result in a lot of punching.  A good punch is almost always a “sucker” punch which the recipient doesn’t see coming.  Otherwise, punching is mostly a bunch of embarrassingly wild swinging.

It hurts to be squarely punched in the face.  It also hurts to squarely punch someone in the face.  Your hand explodes in pain.  I don’t like pain.  That said, real fights end up with a bunch of rolling around on the ground.

Another thing about real fights.  No one gets punched in the face repeatedly and keeps fighting.  Nor do you punch anyone in the face repeatedly.  The human head is hard.  It’s like a bowling ball with a few soft places on it.  Go punch a wall five or ten times and let me know what you think.

At a certain age–maybe 30–I realized that people who are willing to fight might be dangerous, especially if they, too, were in their 30’s.  These folks also tend to carry weapons, because they’re looking for trouble.  I don’t want even a remotely deadly weapon used on me.  I don’t want to throw a punch and miss, only to end up with a Chinese throwing star stuck in my forehead.

One possible exception is that I might fight a younger man.  Why would I do that? Wouldn’t youth put me at a terrible disadvantage?  Possibly.  However, don’t discount the power of being Old Man Strong.  We all reach an age where our years create a certain toughness without us even knowing it.  Some suggest that perhaps we lose the will to live and become fearless.  I prefer to think of it as God’s way of rewarding us for surviving.

When I was in high school, a friend of mine foolishly punched his dad.  His dad didn’t flinch.  Old Man Strong. Fight over.

So, if you’re a young fellow, be careful.  If you get mouthy with an old guy and he just chuckles or, worse yet, takes a step toward you, run.  It may be all that saves your dignity.

CONCLUSION

This is hardly a comprehensive list of things I won’t be doing.  Such things as starting a meth lab, amateur pornography and polygamy are also taboo.  These, though, are things I wouldn’t have ever done, as far as you know.

I’m not perfect.  Maybe one day I’ll be shooting basketball with my kid, and you’ll wander into my yard spewing about politics and telling me to reduce the MSG in my diet.  Like Clint Eastwood in Unforgiven, I’ll take a swig of whiskey and then start a fight with you.  Let’s try to avoid all that.

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