Monday, April 25, 2016

Truth Versus Power: Free Brady!

Power wins.

Tom Brady's 4-game suspension was upheld earlier today by a Federal Appeals Court in New York.

This really comes as no surprise.  The appeals court proceedings seem to favor the NFL and observers felt that the suspension could very well be over-turned because virtually all of this brouhaha wasn't about truth, guilt or innocence.  It was about labor law and collective bargaining.

Ultimately a Federal court was not going to overturn what was collectively bargained by the players. I know that there are fans all over the country right now cheering and jeering at the Pats and their fans (like myself, I admit it) but they should think twice.

Through all the craziness over the last year over this debacle, a few things have been determined:

The NFL really botched things.  There were holes so big in the Wells report you could drive a truck through and inconsistencies in the way the League handled the measuring of footballs in the first place.  And you'd think after all the bad press and inconsistencies they would have been dogged and forth-coming when the 2015 season rolled around: measuring the inflation of the balls before games as well as at half time and after the game and tracking the results so they could prove their case.

But they did no such thing. 

Maybe it started that way but when the data didn't support the conclusion they jumped to they stopped?  They sure as hell didn't publicize any findings.  I'm not sure, but I would have expected, if the data supported Goodell and his minions they would have shouted it from the mountain tops.

They did not.

Instead they relied on labor law and, perhaps, they were correct. The majority, though not all, of the appellate court thought so. The collectively bargained power given to the Commissioner by the players allows him to punish as he sees fit.  Proof be damned.  Ultimately, though, the players did this to themselves. 

The problem is that the test case involves arguably the greatest quarterback who ever played on a team that has enjoyed one of the longest runs of continued success in NFL history and is nearly universally despised by anyone west of the Hudson.  Fans can't rally around Brady or the Pats.

But beware fans of other teams who are smugly self-satisfied right now.  The next time Goodell acts like this - and he will - and nails your player to the wall THIS will be the precedent he will point to when tells you, "though shit, I can because I can".

And I shall sit...smugly self-satisfied.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Prince and the Soundtrack of My Life

"We're gathered here today,
To get through this thing called life..."
Prince was a musical genius.  Like him or not, it is hard to deny that he was something special.  He could play the hell out of a piano and was one of the best guitar players of his generation.  Listen to him in the clip below and tell me he wasn't a wizard.
But losing a talent like that at a relatively young age isn't why I find myself feeling his loss so much; though that in and of itself is tremendously sad.
Prince carried me through a large swath of my youth.  His death carried with it the death of part of my past. 1999 came out when I was in high school.  Cruising North Shore beaches with my friends, senior dances and trips to Fenway Park were all soundtracked by "1999", "Little Red Corvette" and "Delirious". 
In college, Purple Rain stepped in and picked up where 1999 left off.  The week I moved into my dorm at American University in the summer of '84 to start a summer internship in Congress was the same week "When Doves Cry" hit number one.  The week I went back to Colby College for my sophomore year is when it was finally toppled.  That summer was one of the greatest on record and Prince's Purple Rain, along with Springsteen's Born in the USA, provided the music. 
Purple Rain was part of the soundtrack of my college years.  Parties, road trips and even the romance of my friend Dave and his wife were all soundtracked by Purple Rain.  I still know every word to every song on that album. 
As I write, Heather and I are watching the movie Purple Rain on MTV.  No, it wasn't a classic, but it means a lot to me.  While the music and live segments are tremendous, the fact that I watched it with my closest friends at the time in a dorm lounge on laser disc is what is special. It was also shot in and around Minneapolis - a fact that meant nothing to me then but means a whole lot to me now.
Friendships have come and gone.  Hell, friends have literally come and gone: two of my best friends, one from the 1999 years and one from the Purple Rain years are in heaven to greet Prince and I find myself mourning fresh again for them both.  Both young men lived the soundtrack with me.  And like Prince, they are gone.
These songs and this music is part of the soundtrack that is my life.  Music is woven into me like a tapestry.  I can't play a note.  I can't carry a tune in a bucket.  However, I have music in my head nearly all the time. Songs take me to a time and place very vividly, much like smells do to most people. 
The music and the memories of course remain but they are now different, inexorably altered by recent events.  Prince's passing has taken a part of my youth with it and I mourn for them deeply.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

To Be Able to Pee Like That Again...

My mom once told me that growing old isn’t for wimps.  I didn’t know what she meant at the time, but I totally get it now that I’ve hit fifty.  My knees sound like Rice Krispies, my back aches most mornings, my hair is grey and I’m asleep by 10, up before dawn.

This all didn’t happen overnight, of course.  My back went south at 40.  The grey peppered in my late thirties and now, during occasional on air stints, it shimmers silver.  The snap, crackle and pop in my joints started around fifty.  I shudder to think what sixty will bring.
Looking older than I is nothing new.  Parents of opposing teams in Little League wanted to see my birth certificate.  I had a relatively long-term relationship with the folks at South Peabody Liquors back in high school. Looking older may have been an advantage as a teenager, it certainly is no advantage now.

Some folks insist on aging me prematurely.  When I was 47 I stopped for coffee at a White Castle one morning before a work trip.
“That’ll be seventy cents at the first window,” said the voice in the box.

I pulled around wondering what the special was on coffee today.
“Here you go,” I said, handing over a dollar. “Why so cheap?”

“Your senior discount!” the older-than-I lady chirped to me cheerily.
“Um…I’m not quite there yet.”

“Really?” she exclaimed, making me feel all kinds of warm and fuzzy.

“Hmmm…must be all the grey hair that threw me,” she added.  “It’s okay, I’ll let you have it anyway!”
Really???  Thanks!  It really was the least you could do after banging me over the head with how old I look - several times in a single interaction!

Last year Heather and I went to dinner at Treasure Island.  She had to make a stop on the way to the buffet so I struck up a conversation with the gentleman next to me.  When she re-joined me I excused us, explaining we were heading to dinner.
“It was nice talking to you,” he smiled. “I hope you and your daughter have a nice dinner.”

Good Lord!
At least I get an AARP discount now.

Last week, at a rest stop in Iowa, I glimpsed my future.

As happens when driving for a billion hours straight you have to pee and, usually, pee badly.  I parked at the rest stop and hustled on in.  I was well behind an elderly gentleman with a cane who had bellied up to the lone urinal by the time I got to the restroom.  I sidled into the stall nearby and proceeded to do my business, strong and steady. 
I heard the old man mutter under his breath, “Ah…to be able to pee like that again…”