Sunday, October 31, 2010

Bye Week Fever and Reflection

That "feeling poorly" of last week turned into a full-blown festival of fever that made me miss two days of work.  It seems I'd literally rather die than miss work as I was sitting at my desk and taking calls with a temperature of 101.4.  I finally called my doc who got me some lovely antibiotics (it wasn't the flu; I know the difference and so does my doctor) and I went home and took the meds and then my fever went to 102.4 and stayed there long enough for me to reflect on my actions.  I decided that if I survived I would never again go to work with a fever in excess of 100.  I also decided that I will buy a new car in 2011.  That is pretty much it for honest disease-inspired reflection.  I was relieved that October 31st would be a bye week because then I could write about something easier like the upcoming political races.

It occurred to me that sports statistics are very much like history except that those who know statistics are not doomed to repeat them.  Because they are affixed to something someone might find pleasurable or interesting or simply worthy of their attention because it is less serious in nature, the knowledge of them is more easily acquired.  That is why Joe Blow might not give a crap about the mid-term election but is really concerned about Drew Brees and what he and the Saints will do to the Steelers tonight.  It isn't a weighty issue so Joe can give it his full-on attention and still be able to pay attention to other issues like the Rangers vs. the Giants in the World Series or how satisfying his favorite beer is.  Joe will even get impatient with his neighbor who is very much into Democrat vs. Republican vs. Tea Party vs. Independent because does it really matter?

Yeah, Joe, it does.  This and every other race is pivotal as it sculpts the face of our day-to-day lives.  It says who will be running things, passing bills, using his/her connections for whom or for what, and enforces opinions to be the boss of you, i.e. pass laws.  The big game, while pleasurable, is a game.  The election shapes your life.

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As a guilty pleasure, I enjoy screaming at my television set.  I usually save it for the years of presidential elections or months that end in "R" as in "screams at the TV set 'R' always in season" but I found a new source of being aggravated this morning.   It is the local Fox affiliate that has Fox Game Day Live featuring a couple of ex-Bears, a guy who used to be on a different channel doing something else, and Jeff Joniak, a local broadcaster. One of the two ex-Bears actually wondered if the offensive line were intentionally playing this way per the coaching of Mike Martz.  That was when I started screaming.

"NO!  NO IT ISN'T INTENTIONAL! OTHERWISE MIKE MARTZ WOULD NOT HAVE LOOKED LIKE HE WAS GOING TO BARF DURING THE 4TH QUARTER LAST WEEK! INTENTIONAL?!?  RISKING THE LIVES OF HIS QUARTERBACKS IS INTENTIONAL?"  Otherwise, I have no strong opinion there except for "ARE YOU THE ONE WHO HAD THE FEVER THIS WEEK THAT COOKED YOUR BRAIN?"  There was other bout of light yelling which made me see I need to watch this show regularly during the remainder of the season.  Usually, I grow tired of the political stuff that's winding me up and simply change the station; but this is football and all their blabbing is so ridiculous and nonpartisan that after the show is over I feel well vented, pleased, and refreshed.

The local show was followed by Fox Sunday NFL Sports Spectacle of Frippery and Fanfare Live, which everyone knows I love/hate for the Pocket Squares and Ties Guys.  They did not disappoint.  Curt wore yellow-yellow.  Howie had red-red.  Terry was bedecked in purply pink-purply pink while Jimmy got purple-purple.  Michael Strahan wore a grayish three-piece suit and a chartreuse-striped tie and, of course, won my admiration again for not caving to what appears to be sports-commentator convention.  I saw exactly three minutes of the show and then family members very kindly came and fetched me and we went out.  After being sick all those days and it being Bye Week, it was nice to be out among people, breathing fresh air, and not sitting and watching the TV, screaming because someone is a bigger knucklehead than me about football, which is really saying something.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Bears and Skins and the Matchy Men of Fox

After I watched CBS Sunday Morning, in spite of not feeling good, but aware that if I didn't get the things I needed they would not be had for another week, I got myself to Target and Costco and then home to watch Fox NFL Sunday Live or whatever the heck they call it. After last week's lambasting of the same show, why did I want to rush home to see it? It's the pocket square effect.

Curt Menefee, Jimmy Johnson, Terry Bradshaw, and Howie Long all wear ties with matching pocket squares.  Every single week.  I noticed this two weeks ago and noticed that Michael Stahan does not wear one.  Michael looks good, wearing a vest under his suit jacket this week, but he does not wear a pocket square.  The others are so freaking natty, tidy, pulled together, and perfect that they could be women.  I like Michael Strahan.  He talks, I listen, he sounds good. Curt (red tie, red pocket square), the basic host, is easy to listen to but he is well groomed to the point of perfection.  Howie (yellow, yellow) did not seem to be in the "me, me, me" school of on-camera this week but, of course, Howie is perfection, isn't he?  At his age to have hair that good?  I hope he thanks his luck stars each and every washing.  I never know what Jimmy (hot pink, hot pink) has said because the whole time he is on screen, what's going through my head is, "Go away! Get someone else!  GO AWAY!" or else "If he smacks someone upside the head with the giant ring he wears, I bet they'd remember it forever if they were able to remember anything at all."  I do like Terry (purple, purple) because when he listens, he actively listens.  His body says, "I hear what you are saying, it is good to hear you say it, I will have something to say, too."  Sirs!  All that matchiness is just too much!  Do their socks match their ties and squares?  What happens if they all show up wanting to wear aqua?  Do they thumb-wrestle it out?  (I call them pocket squares because handkerchiefs are what you use to eliminate nasal volume and those square just don't seem up to the task.)

And so the Chicago Bears hosted the Washington Redskins.  Offensive coach Mike Martz looked like he might barf at one point in the fourth quarter.  Why?  Because the offense was having another Stink Festival.  Dudes, how many Stink Festivals can you have?  Going into this game, Jay Cutler had been sacked 23 times. This game, I lost track at four sacks but 23 + 4 = STINK FESTIVAL.  Yes, there is much going on out on the field and everyone is rushing and racing and moving, moving! But I said it last week and I say it this week again - PROTECT YOUR QB!  It was not a game that made my skin crawl but Donovan McNabb and his Redskins got the job done which is not my preferred result.  The Bears should be the ones getting it done.  Two weeks to the bye game!  Then I won't have to hear Troy Aikman saying things like, "I expect Julius Peppers to be impactful in the game today."  I paraphrase except for the word "impactful."  Dear Troy, It's a real word but using it belabors the English languarge needlessly - kinda like this sentence. XOXO, Southwest Corner.

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The Texas Rangers (a former owner of which was ex-President G.W. Bush, around the time he wanted to be Commissioner of Baseball) and the San Francisco Giants will be going to the World Series.   The opener is Wednesday in San Francisco.  Don't ask me who I think will win because I have honestly given it not a bit of thought and won't either because as I stated above, I don't feel well.

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Congratulations to Lord and Lady Football who welcomed a baby boy into their family.  Prince Football was born on 9 October 2010 and I wish their family a lifetime of happiness.

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Health Haiku
Leave me alone, you!
I have a low-grade fever.
Gonna go lie down.

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The Mysterious Johnson
Brett says it's not his.
Yes, he left the messages.
Johnson pix not his.

Now, let's say you are Brett Favre and you cannot leave the NFL -- you have a great talent and a wife and people still want to see you play (but not with your wife) and you like the adulation too much.   Why would you be so dopey as to (1) come onto a young woman in a voicemail and (2) think no one will know it's you and (3) send accompanying pix to seal the deal?  I am thinking the league's best example of "how can we miss you if you won't go away" doesn't realize the pictures came by PHONE.  From a PHONE NUMBER.  I would smack my head to try to make sense of it but it will be very windy in Chicago today and I am saving head smacks for possible flying debris.  The why gets down to that most embarrassing of them:  hubris.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Chicago vs. Seattle and a trip west

Welcome to Chicago, Seahawks, and please don't let the door hit you in the ass. The Seahwaks had been having a bad season on the road but coming up against the oh-so-sackable Jay Cutler (six times), they managed to win. Devin Hester ran a zillion yards at the two-minute mark to get us so very close to a tie (and then on to overtime) but, alas, the Seahawks out performed the Bears, 23-20. BEARS OFFENSIVE LINE: What the heck are you doing? COVER YOUR QB! I am no fan of Mr. Cutler but dang, dang, and double dang (quadruple dang in total), keep the other team off your QB. Stop thinking about lunch, birds, girls, dinner, the color of carpeting in your house, and snacking. GUARD YOUR QB! The other team is looking to prance around you and knock down the QB, or smack the ball away, or yank it from his hands, or crash into him like they are the evening express to Downers Grove and he is a poor wrong-place-wrong-time deer. See how that works? Guard your QB! While football is a teenage-girl pillow fight compared to other sports, you know the QB has the ball and you know the other (large) men in the defensive line want that ball, so stop them from getting to the QB. Yeah, yeah, gain yardage but you can't gain an inch if the QB no longer has possession of the ball. How can he get the ball to the bitch (yeah, yeah, wide receiver) if he doesn't have the ball?

On a side note, I was not despondent after this week's loss because of Hester's masterful touchdown run and realized I am finally -- FINALLY -- getting into the mindset of "it's a game to be played poorly or well." There were elements of both and I didn't take the loss personally.

I made the giant mistake of watching some of the pre-game show on Fox with Terry! Michael! Howie! An older guy! And another guy who is well groomed! Bla bla bla stats and hats and stats and cats and stats and rats in flats on mats. Stats don't matter before the game, gents, and predict nothing. Stats are for after or for comparisons. Stats are for guys in bars when the dick measuring contest needs to be subtle ("For Chubby Guys Who Have Considered Dick Measuring When the Statistics Aren't Enough," soon to be a major motion picture starring Kevin James and The Actor Formerly Known As Drew Carey) or in the hallway at work, trying to impress guys who don't know you very well. Blabbing about stats just proves you know stats, that your prediction has as much value as my prediction, and that Howie Long likes looking in the camera way too much. That last part has nothing to do with actual football stats, but statistically speaking, the chance of him not glancing toward the camera to see if it's on him is slight. What's Howie thinking? "Is it on me? Now? Is it on me now? Now? How 'bout now?" No, Howie, it's not. We are also not there yet, just in case there's a car trip in our future. The Stats-en-jammer Kids so aggravated me that I opted to listen to the first half of game in my car while also going to Jewel-Osco and Target, where I scored black mascara.

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Thanks to the stanky economy, it had been a long time since I'd made reservations for air, hotel, and car all for me, got some fine travel insurance, and went to the airport for a trip out of town. It had been even longer since I'd gone on my own so it was, therefore, quite the occasion. My destination was Austin, Texas.

Highlights of my fave things:

LBJ Library Isn't it funny? I thought this would be of marginal interest but it was fascinating and well worth the time I spent there. Plus, for the frugal among us, it is free and parking is free (but make sure you are in the correct LBJ Library parking lot).

The Bats The largest urban bat colony in the world lives under the southern end of the Congress Street Bridge. There are hundreds of thousands of Mexican freetail bats and every night at dusk, they head out to eat insects. I watched from the park on the side of the bridge (across the Colorado River) and the thing that impressed me most is (1) the bats really do have a smell all their own when they take to the skies and (2) it is hard to see anything when it is almost dark (but you can hear the flapping wings and there is that aforementioned stank) so (3) maybe next time watch it from the bridge. Plus, for the frugal among us, it is free but parking is free-opposite.

Road from San Marcos to Johnson City Yeah, yeah, I went to San Marcos and scored underpants (I had a stellar coupon) and a handbag (60% off) at the Prime Outlet. I got directions and a very good Texas map from the San Marcos Tourist Information Center. The route they suggested was fantastic (there was a major discussion about the best way but they all agreed this was the most scenic). It wound through Texas Hill Country and the views were wonderful. After about 30 minutes of this, I realized I was smiling because what I was seeing was making me so happy. I later found out this particular stretch of road from San Marcos is called the Devil's Backbone. From I35, take 12 west to 32 west. That is where you will get the best views. The road winds so don't have some adult beverages before you start driving. There are not a lot of scenic overlooks, so be prepared to pull over to the side of the road to enjoy this lovely place on earth. (Continue on 32 west to 281 north to 290 west to get to Johnson City.)

Original Texas White House
The LBJ Ranch and the Texas White House A joint venture of the Texas State Parks and National Park Service, visiting the ranch is, for the frugal among us, free. At the state park, you are given the free loan of a CD that details what you are seeing as you drive (yes, you can stop along the way at designated points). The tour of the Texas White House is USD2. Per the agreement made with the Johnson Family when they acquired this 650 acres, it's a working ranch and there is a good chance of some large beef animal wandering on the road which totally adds to the charm. Splurge on the tour because only then can you see the lovely views of the Pedernales River from the front porch of the house. The park ranger offered info I'd never heard before -- like LBJ's favorite music was Muzak/elevator music and that is what was played on KLBJ, the radio station the Johnsons owned (now Austin's premier heavy metal station).

Texas State Capitol and University of Texas campus The Capitol is huge. It is historical. The tours are free. The campus is a few blocks north and is huge. Walk from one to the other and back again. If the Tower at UT is open when you visit (being renovated when I was there), remember that you can bring ONLY a camera up there. Anything else has to be left in a locker at ground level. (It reminds me of visiting Mao's tomb in Beijing except there you can bring nothing in your hands. And when leaving, there is the most wonderful view of two temples from a vantage point you get only there. Where is your camera? Across the street, all checked in. They don't want you to take pictures. UT sensibly doesn't want you to take potshots, thanks very much.)

My bottom line is this: I really enjoyed my Texas trip. Austin has a lot of traffic (a lot lot lot lot lot for a city of that size) but the people are genuinely nice. Public transportation is woefully lacking-to-nonexistant. (If [insert fave deity here] had intended us to pay attention 100% of the time on the way to work, s/he would not have invented iPod movies, magazines, and books.) Texas Hill Country is every bit as pretty as I'd heard if not more so. Finally, the new Nissan Sentra I rented made my 1998 Honda Civic seem like a piece of crap that probably needs a brake job.

The Texas Book Fair was going on the weekend I was leaving and who should I see in the airport? Laura Bush and her daughter, Barbara. What struck me about them is that they did not seem to carry handbags. How the heck do they get away with that?

Laura and Barbara Haiku
Where are your purses?
What about tampons or combs?
Don't you need money?

Sunday, October 10, 2010

This week, no one said "sheesh"

Last week's monumental loss to the NY Giants gave Jay Cutler such a smack that this week he was sidelined to get over the concussion. We won't discuss the overly-large orange t-shirt he was wearing on the sidelines today at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte that made me wonder if he were still concussed, or if he perhaps owns no mirror, or if he just doesn't give a sartorial crap. Yeah, whatever. I thought Messrs. Collins and Haney did a fine job of it, although one of the statistics I heard by the commentators is that Jay Cutler, he of the 9-time sacking last week, is ranked third among all quarterbacks in the league and Mr. Collins is way down on the list. How is that possible? I will be summarily drubbed with "well, you admit to not knowing anything, so you obviously don't know" but come on, he was sacked nine times and has yet to impress (me, that is) as being anything special. Okay, okay, I modify -- he works with a verifiable offensive line and we don't have to count on Robbie Gould to save each and every game as we did when Rex Grossman was the first-string QB.

On to the show -- we won. We held the Panthers -- whom the commentators kept saying was a young team and that was why they sucked so hard -- to two field goals. Matt Forte had a great game, running for 122 yards and two touchdown carries. Julius Peppers, Brian Urlacher, and Charles Tillman all had interceptions, the it's-mine-now play. Robbie Gould kicked two field goals, the second of which was a career-long 53 yards.

The Bears win 23-6.

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The Chicago Marathon men's division was won today by Olympic-champion and last year's winner, Samuel Wanjiru of Kenya, who beat out Ethiopia's Tsegaye Kebede in the last 800 yards of the course. Not wanting to miss a minute of CBS Sunday Morning, I tuned into the TV coverage of the Marathon in time to see a terrific footrace between these two elite runners. When Sammy Wanjiru had passed Kedebe for the last time and was well ahead, Sammy Wanjiru did something wonderful: Sammy Wanjiru smiled. Had I tuned in earlier, I one (me) would have been reminded of the spectacle of paint drying. The women's race was also run by last year's champion, Liliya Shobukhova of Russia. This marks the first time there have been back-to-back winners in both categories at the Chicago Marathon, which started in 1977. I missed Ms. Shobukhova crossing the finish line because I was blabbing on the phone to my friend who actually watched most of the race but had to leave before the finish. I snapped the TV back on to advise of Ms. Shobukhova's victory, that the top spots in the race were won by superfit, supersleek Ethiopians, Kenyans, and one American, and that the women seem to run in bikinis and while the men wear baggy tanks and shorts and what the heck is that about? Yes, it was a warm day for a long run, but the humidity was low and the sun was shining and the leaves were turning and those of us who didn't run enjoyed one of the last great weather days of the year without once claiming it was too hot.

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Last night was the Blackhawks season opener at the United Center. The Stanley Cup won't be back until we win it again and they really mean it this time. The banner for the win was raised to the rafters. Everyone showed off their Stanley-Cup-victory ring including team ambassadors Bobby Hull and Phil Esposito. It is one garish piece of jewelry. It almost looks like something overblown you'd buy on late-night TV. It is so over the top you could probably wear it on the CTA and no one would bother you because it just doesn't look real. The Detroit Red Wings won the game but the season for hockey (and for basketball) goes on so long that there are many opportunities to make up for it. So many opportunities that I probably won't make mention of it for some time.

This year the Blackhawks brought great joy to Chicago and I am still enjoying thoughts of that high. I celebrate with this haiku:

Raised to the rafters!
A banner celebrates the
Stanley Cup success.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Sacks-a-poppin' in the Meadowlands

Last night's bloodbath in the Meadowlands featured the New York Giants not so much outplaying the Bears as making Jay Cutler look like he outbid others in a charity auction for the chance to be the starting QB. As you may recall from earlier posts, I am sometimes watching other TV shows or sleeping instead of devotedly watching a game. Last night I watched the whole sad thing, even crying out, "Oh, come on!" when His Jayness was sacked for the fifth time. I wondered why Lovie didn't just yank him, out because if there was "stuff" in Jay, said "stuff" had gone to other parts of the Meadowlands, maybe looking for a good spot for birdwatching. On the ninth sack, a personal worst for Jay and probably anyone else ever (but maybe not for someone who won the job at a celebrity auction), the Giants defensive line knocked him so hard that he knocked his head. And thus ended the first half.

The second half featured Todd Collins, 16 years in the NFL but super-duper sackable, to be just like Jay. Once sacked and suffering a neck injury, Todd went away and was replaced by Caleb Hanie, who, in fact, managed to get sacked. Yay! Everyone participates!

Brian Urlacher seems be back on it and as one of the Olympic Gods, he should be on it. Julius Peppers is proving to be a driving force who is well worth the loot that was spent to get him. Robbie Gould scored our only 3 points with a 40-yard kick and is, as ever, my own personal favorite Bear. Otherwise I was gobsmacked, flabbergasted, shocked, and dismayed by what I saw which was QBs dropping like things that get hit hard and then fall down similarly hard.

Fingers crossed that Messrs. Cutler and Collins are okay but, seriously, we ditched Kyle Orton who appears to be having a great season and hasn't been sacked nine times in the first half of one game.

Head injury haiku
Sacks, sacks, and more sacks.
Concussed QBs leave the game.
WTF was that?