Sunday, February 5, 2017

Pats Are Champs, But Life Doesn't Change

Growing up the Patriots were awful.  It was tough being a fan then.  Today?  Well, today it's pretty easy.  That said, the old pessimism wells up when things are bad and tonight was no exception.  28-3 and I was done.

"Let's put on that Tom Hanks movie," I said.

"Are you sure?" said my wife.  She's new to Patriots Nation so optimism hasn't been tarnished yet. Not a football fan by any means, but sucked in by her new family ties. "They can absolutely still win this game, right?"

"Nope.  We're playing awful, I'm done."

We started watching "Inferno" and the ESPN alerts started coming in on the phone.  Then the texts started showing up.

"Are you watching still?"

"You may want to come back"

"'s a one score game."

I watched the plays unfold on the ESPN app and my son, Ben, told me I couldn't turn it back on because it would be bad luck.  I think he was kidding, but if he was it was only half-kidding.


"Put it back on, baby..."

We watched the overtime and, of course, the comeback was completed and now the greatest of all time debate starts (ends?) for Brady...for Belichick. I am, naturally, amped up and very excited.  But my life hasn't changed.

I have a pair of boys that are still the highlight of my life - the best things to come out of my being on this Earth.  A wonderful stepson and a wife who is the love of my life.  I will still be traveling to northern Minnesota to sell slot machines this week; Wisconsin next.  I'll still be irritated with our new president and friends that politicize my Patriots (I thought it didn't matter what celebrities thought but don't get me started on conservative hypocrisy).  I still have great friends (even those previously mentioned!) and an extended family that is the best in the world.

I'm a crazy lucky man. As I was yesterday and will be in the morning - whether we won or lost.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Misdirection by Design?

There have been so many things I've wanted to write about but the sheer volume of them in the short period of time has really set my head spinning.  Too much to stay focused, really.  And THAT got me thinking...

The President wants us to focus on widespread voter fraud.  You know, the voter fraud that literally every secretary of state in every state - red and blue - certified didn't exist; the same voter fraud that Trump's own attorneys argue didn't happen in Michigan when Jill Stein filed for a recount?  THAT non-existent voter fraud!

And not just that, the gag he put on government agencies ("Most transparent administration in history" was promised to us...) has taken up a lot of time and effort as well.

And crowd size.  Let's not forget about the idiotic, pathetic rantings about crowd size. Talk about being a sensitive "snowflake".  We now have a Snowflake-in-Chief.

But perhaps these distractions are by design.

We know that there is no voter fraud.  Perhaps there are millions on voter rolls throughout the country but that's not fraud.  Why?  Well, let's say you have a relative pass away.  At what point in the grieving process do you go down to the town hall and make sure that you remove them from the voter rolls?  You never have? either.

What about when you move?  Did I make sure when I left Nevada for Minnesota that I let the good folks in Nevada know that I won't be voting there anymore?  I simply registered to vote in my new hometown and that's where I vote.  Kind of like Steve Bannon did.  Really, not a huge deal.  That also does NOT constitute fraud.

I can almost guarantee, though, that when this "investigation" is concluded (at what cost to taxpayers, by the way?) Trump will claim vindication when he "discovers" that many states - red and blue alike - have plenty of voters on the rolls that don't belong there for one reason or another.  Not that 3 -5 million "illegals" voted, mind you, just that the rolls need purging.

That's what our President does.  He twists (or completely makes up) facts so they suit his conclusions.  And then repeats them over and over again until the news cycle sweeps it away.

SEE!!  I just went 4 paragraphs on non-existent voter fraud rather than focus on the policies and executive orders that allow the trampling of Native American land rights, virtually closed the EPA, killed science, handed Asia to China, tried to censor the press and removed transparency from our government.  We're now a government in secret.  And there is a segment of the population that just doesn't care.

"Good for him.  He's getting it done.  Fuck you, snowflake, get over it.  This is what winning looks like."

It may be what winning looks like to Trump but it is NOT what America looks like.  I would ask to all you supporters of these antics: if this was done by a Democratic president would you be okay with it?  I think we ALL know the answer to that question. 

And your boy just may be profiting from the DAPL but we don't know because we don't know his conflicts of interest and investments.  Again, would you all allow this from a Democratic president?  Of course not.

There have been real concerns from his own party as well (if he really even HAS a party affiliation other than self-interest).  Republican Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham have been critical of the President as have conservative columnists George Will and Bill Kristol.  I don't agree with these gentlemen on policy but it is hard not to respect their integrity.

As the President continues to tweet about idiotic things with the petulance of a spoiled child, I wonder if it is by design, to try and keep people focused on the ridiculous so he can continue with the important business of dismantling this country.  Maybe not.  He certainly has zero command of facts, governance or policy so I'm probably giving him too much credit.

However, I do agree with Robert Reich when he stated that there is a faction of the GOP that is willing to use Trump to further their agenda and then look to remove him when he's not longer useful.  I would not be surprised if, when Trump is no longer useful or he looks to be a millstone around their necks that the GOP Congress amazingly "discovers" something that is impeachable (hell, they may have it already).  Then we get the Pence theocracy.  Better?  Worse? least not a total embarrassment in front of the world so there is that, I guess.

If Democrats play their cards right - and we have a LOT to get in order in our own house right now - this could be the best thing to happen to the party since FDR.  Though who knows how much irreparable damage will have been caused by that point?

Friday, December 30, 2016

BOOK REVIEW: No Grey Areas by Joseph Gagliano

Joseph Gagliano was a central figure in the Arizona State University basketball point shaving scandal of the 1990s.  He has published a book about that event, his role in it and how his life took him there - and beyond.  I was asked to read the book and publish a reviews.  In the spirit of full disclosure, I was provided a complimentary copy of the book by the Cadence Marketing Group however the review is completely my own and I was never influenced by Cadence.

Admittedly I started reading “No Grey Areas” by Joseph Gagliano with healthy skepticism regarding motive.  He states in his introduction that he wrote the book in the “sincere hope for this story…to influence your thinking as you take your own steps.”

I didn’t buy it.  Even as I started reading it I wasn’t buying it.  It was as if a convicted felon was just trying to find a way to profit by his misdeeds under the veil of remorse.
An interesting thing happened from cover to cover.  By the end of the book, I cared about Joe.  I cared about what happened to him and I truly believed that he cared about what happened to the reader.  He transformed from Gagliano the felon, to Joe the walking, talking, cautionary tale.
He decent into bad decision making was gradual, but steady and unflinching.  An action junkie, Gagliano was seduced by the Chicago commodities market and the lure of easy money.  Scamming came easy for Gagliano, even as the voice in his head was telling him it was wrong, be it rigged Super Bowl squares, 900 numbers or, eventually, game fixing.
It was easy to push that voice back into the depths of his consciousness.  His story is even made more compelling by the legitimate success Gagliano attained through restaurants and then later in car washes.  He had the mind and the spirit to succeed in legitimate business but was unable to avoid the seduction of short cuts.  Eventually even doing the right thing couldn’t work out right and Joe found himself back in jail and writing his story.
While the allure of the book is the Arizona State basketball point shaving scandal of 1993-94, Joe’s story is much more.  More scams; more internal conflicts; more contradictions and, eventually, peace.  His road to redemption becomes more compelling as you read.
Most appealing is Joe’s writing style.  He’s good but not a professional – and it works.  Because it is his story and you can hear it in his voice.  At a time when life was bleakest he found salvation in an ex-football player preacher, an accepting parish community and true love.
I went from skeptic, to empathetic almost a fan.  I am rooting for Joe to make a go of life legitimately.  The breezy read will keep you engaged throughout and by the end you’ll want to see Joe make it as well – and maybe examine some of your own life choices.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Happy Holidays?

"This is for all the lonely people,
Thinking that life has passed them by"

- America, "Lonely People"

The holiday season is a time for family, friends, fellowship and goodwill.  The holidays are also, however, a dark time for many.  In several ways I’ve been reminded of this over the last week or so and it has made me tremendously sad.

Through a variety of events – both natural and man-made – my wife and I found ourselves flying solo for Christmas.  Christmas is also my wife’s birthday.  Because of the dual purpose of December 25th in our lives, we split the day into morning Christmas and afternoon birthday.  Usually we take the gang bowling at our local casino resort and make a night out of it – mostly because it’s the only place open!  This year it would be just the two of us with one friend along.  We would stay the night and have fun.  An ice storm pushed our departure to Christmas Eve and we had two nights there and I spent a lot of time walking around and observing.

He walks on, doesn't look back
He pretends he can't hear her
Starts to whistle as he crosses the street
Seems embarrassed to be there.”  

- Phil Collins “Another Day in Paradise”

One woman, loud and apparently exuberant, was playing a machine and loudly chiding it – talking to no one in particular but hoping someone would listen.  The sparkle in her eye was deceiving. It dissolved swiftly to an emptiness; a longing to be heard; to communicate; to have contact with another person. Funny at first, her act wore on those around her and they stopped playing along.  The more desperate she was, the more outrageous she would become.  Negative attention was still attention.  She eventually left, broke and broken. A smile on her face but a terrible sadness behind her eyes.

An older couple at the otherwise empty bar after midnight.  Eve was becoming Day but here last call was approaching and another drink was in order.  Faces red from time at the bar not from the ice storm outside, they talked at each other.  Heads down, no signs of closeness but a shared sadness was evident.

“Merry Christmas,” he said to her with not even a trace of a smile.

“Yeah…” she replied, never looking up.

No more words were spoken between the two.  Any intimacies they once shared were gone, beaten down by time and circumstance.  What it was that caused such obvious sadness wasn’t evident, but it was there.

“So many faces in and out of my life
Some will last
Some will just be now and then
Life is a series of hellos and goodbyes
I'm afraid it's time for goodbye again”

-          Billy Joel, “Say Goodbye to Hollywood”

On the eve of the Eve a friend passed away in Vegas.  Young guy.  Bright, talented, larger than life in many ways.  The circumstances were sad but ultimately, after losing his wife suddenly a year ago, I believe that he gave up.  I cannot imagine the magnitude of that loss on someone and for him it was the beginning of the end.  Only a couple of days before Christmas he lost his battle with infection and a series of small strokes and went to join his beloved wife.

One of my very dear friends, family really, lost her dad a few days before Christmas.  The man could light up a room and everyone in it.  Now that light was gone. A husband, father, grandfather and all around wonderful man was gone after a very long and courageous battle with cancer. For nearly 20-years I was able to call him my friend and, while my sense of loss is deep, it does not compare to his wife, children and many grandchildren that will now see the holiday season as a sad time.

Are these life’s blows that cause one to find themselves in a casino bar on Christmas Eve, unsmilingly drinking away heartache or causing an isolation so painful that in a desperate desire for human contact you resort to making a spectacle of yourself?

I’d like to wrap this up in a neat bow and a deep and meaningful conclusion, but I’m not sure that there is one.  It just “is”.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

A Letter To My Hetero Life Mate

A Letter To My Hetero Life Mate


I was going to write a blog about procrastination, but I put it off until later *Rim Shot*. I will be here all weekend and don’t forget to tip your waitress and for sure order the salmon special!

There are times when I think that the only reason we are still friends is because we know too much about each other and that the statue  of limitations isn’t up for most of the stuff we have done. Then there are times like last week, when you constantly checked up on me, even with a quick text or call. You have no idea how much that meant to me. You are by far the best man I know.

There are things that will always remind me of you:
  •  Any time I see or hear a reference to “Remember the Alamo”
  •  Any time I see a hot dog vendor or hear a really bad Italian accent
  •  When I find myself lying in bed, with the same clothes on from the night before, but there are holes in the knees of my pants and my palms are filthy and have gravel pressing into them. (Dick move by the way)
  •  Any time I hear Batman’s girlfriends name
  •  Any time I see a Lamborghini and wonder how a fat guy could get in and out of that car
  •  Any time I take a 4 hour lunch break to play craps or miniature golf
  •  Any time I find out that somebody was “raised by wolves”
  • Any time I run into somebody named “Jose Marimba”
  •  Any time I turn a rental car in and they need to just throw it away instead of clean it out
You know, every day stuff!

And there are not so funny memories we share, breakups, illnesses, watching the fall of the World Trade Towers.  You were with me during some of the hardest parts of my life. Every step, and you and I know how rough some of those steps were.

Today we live 1600 miles apart and you are still there for me when I need you. Always giving me advice based on what’s best for me and not just your opinion. It’s like having my own Jiminy Cricket. You are also not afraid to tell me things I don’t want to hear or disagree with.

So today I am sitting here in my favorite pub, drinking bad coffee and laughing at all of our old mishaps and adventures. I miss seeing you every day but know you’re only a call or text away so I can get some of that old fashioned New England wisdom.**Chowda**

I will end this by saying it again; you are the best man I have ever known and thank you for all these years of your friendship. I look forward to many more years of this.

With love and affection (not in THAT way, but there’s nothing wrong with that…)

Your Buddy Chris

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Remember, Be Inspired and Smile

There are moments in our lives that are overwhelming emotionally. Weddings, births and various milestones are all legitimate reasons to become overwhelmed with positive emotion.  For some us, sports can generate that kind of emotion. Not all sports and not all events - and certainly not the same events for all people - but there are a few that resonate across the ages for each of us that count sports as an important part of their lives.

For me, the first such event I remember clearly was the 1980 Miracle on Ice. Watching the game at the time was thrilling.  We beat the Soviets.  WE BEAT THE SOVIETS!  It was a miracle and Al Michaels captured the moment brilliantly.

At the time, though, it wasn't an emotional event.  Later, looking back on it 5-10 years later it was an emotional win.  It meant more later than it did at the time.  Maybe it is the passage of time that makes us look back on the perceived simpler time of our childhoods, though I think that is the easy answer.

I think a part of it is that nostalgia but also a growing appreciation for the event and its times.  The magnitude of the accomplishment.  As the years go by, the accomplishment isn't diminished in the prism of time but it is magnified.  As time travels and the feat isn't duplicated, it's magnitude grows and its impact on the individual deepens.

As I sit watching "Secretariat" on cable (its not like we don't own two copies ourselves...), I think about every single time I watch the 1973 Belmont and hear Chic Anderson erupt "He's moving like a tremendous machine" and how I tear up every time.  The accomplishment was so extraordinary.  So unworldly.  I THINK about the moment and I get emotional.  The same watching the American boys celebrate on the ice in 1980.  Another watching the 2004 Red Sox become the "champions of the baseball world" after 86 years of frustration and heartbreak.

These may not be your moments, but as a sports fan, you have your own, I'm sure of it. These moments land on our own timelines and become our own personal milestones; markers of time that let us remember greatness and bookmark the most extraordinary athletic moments of our lives.

Ultimately, they are happy moments.  Moments that you can look back on and draw strength and inspiration from, especially in times that are less than stellar.  Use them to remember, to laugh, to cry to drive you to excellence in aspects of your own life; to make you transcend the divisiveness and acrimony that seems to slat and pepper each day lately. 

Let it take you back and take you away.  You'll be glad you did.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Kap's Not Wrong...But He Is

It's been a while, but we've been busy - Fat Guys have lives, you know! - but there have been so many things that have sent me off to rant about that I've been totally frustrated and find myself wishing I had kept a list.

Finally, though, I have a moment (contain your excitement) and need to vent my spleen over this Colin Kaepernick brou-ha-ha.  Unlike so many expressing their opinions on social media, I apparently am near alone in thinking that this issue is more complex than memes allow.

Let me start with something really important: I don't agree with Kaepernick's choice of protest here.  HOWEVER, if you REALLY think that the reason behind it isn't valid, then you're living in a bubble. You can't look at what has happened in this country over the last 18 months or so and think everything is hunky dory. 

Kaepernick chose to stand up and have his voice heard by sitting down and he has caught a lot of flack for it from inside and outside the NFL.  He certainly has people talking, though regrettably not about the issues that need to be discussed.  You could say that's the fault of the listeners, not the speaker, but if you want your voice to be heard, you can't bury the lead either.

Here is where I think Kap erred.

The anthem and, by extension the flag, are broad representation of the United States of America as a whole. Neither are symbols of only oppression and divisiveness.  The Star Spangled Banner is an expression of freedom and democracy known around the world.  It is a symbol that our soldiers fight under, sure, but it also has flown (and been played) to honor our athletes in Olympics, welcomed countless millions to Ellis Island, provided broad opportunities for people to rise up through the lowest levels of society to make fortunes or even lead a nation.

Blatantly disregarding the anthem is to disregard all that have died in for this country as well as turning a blind eye to the broad spectrum of society that it represents and honors.  I am represented by that anthem and, perhaps more importantly, George Grevelis, the long gone founder of my family in America is represented by that anthem.  He never fought for his new country (they wouldn't let him, he was too old at the start of WWII and he was laughed out of recruiting offices all over the North Shore of Massachusetts, much to his lifelong regret), but he made it his home and raised sons who did serve and provided opportunities to his now countless great grand-children starting to make their way in, what was for him, a strange new land with limitless opportunity.

Before you think I'm going to get all holier than thou on you, we're not a perfect people.  That flag and then, after 1931, that national anthem, has overseen some horrendous acts of violence and state sanctioned racism. 

The anthem was played in concentration camps or, as we prefer to call them, "internment" camps of Japanese Americans during WWII.  The flag flew over slave trade markets for nearly two centuries before the Civil War.  It was the crusading flag in the banishment and attempted extermination of Native Americans.

These are not pretty or proud moments in our history, but for better or worse they shaped who we are and what we've become.  America isn't perfect but, for all her flaws, she's done a pretty good job being a beacon for the world; a ray of light in some of the darkest of times.  Much has been sacrificed by many - civilian and military alike - to get us where we are and more sacrifice will no doubt be required to make us even better.  The National Anthem will be the rallying cry that will call us all to do our duty like the many before us who already have.  Turning your back on all that represents has buried your point rather than enhanced it.  Ignoring all that is good and right in America by disrespecting the Anthem that now represents all of us, turns many away that would be in your corner.

NBA and WNBA players have protested and brought attention to the same issues you wish to be heard about in a way that educate and tried to bring people together, not by alienating most of mainstream America. They used a scalpel, not an axe. 

Again, I don't think that you're wrong in what you're trying to change, but it wasn't a well thought out way to go about it.  In my opinion, of course.

And a couple of final points before I close.

- Apparently to many of you the only people that can speak out about an issue are those directly affected by it.  Archbishop Iakovos, the late Greek Orthodox Archbishop for North and South America, marched with Dr. King (dark robes, big hat, beard,'ve seen him in the photos).  He was neither African-American nor oppressed, but he saw the plight of others and spoke with his words and actions.  Today's right wing social media would probably show him in a meme in his robes, in a full, ornate church with the words: "Tell me again how oppressed you are?" 

And what of Teddy Roosevelt, FDR and Lyndon Johnson?  All of whom were considered traitors to their class and/or race because of the causes they championed.  The thought that you have to be oppressed to understand it, say something about it or do something about it is simplistic - to say the very least.  Many of you running those memes out there on Facebook are many of the same people I read posting about what the underprivileged segments of our society really needs.  By your own logic there is no way you can know because you ain't them.

- Finally, remember a few months ago when you all were singing the praises of the recently departed Mohammed Ali?  Anyone recall all the hateful comments thrown his way in 1967?  Maybe you threw some yourself before praising him nearly 50 years later as a 'courageous hero'.  Fifty year hindsight can change the complexion of many issues and stances.  Keep that in mind as you attempt to tar and feather someone who might be making you a bit uncomfortable.