Sunday, November 28, 2010

The Sport of Kings and the Bears Played, Too

For ten days, I was internally fretting about Michael Vick and the Philadelphia Eagles coming to town and doing horrible things to the Chicago Bears.  Either my fretting was for naught OR my fretting was powerful and caused ripples in the Universe that made the Eagles lose.  Or maybe with ten days to rest up, the Bears just outplayed the Eagles, giving the Bears a victory in a 31-26 game.

Let's look at some facts, y'all.  Jay Cutler was sacked four times but Michael Vick was sacked four times. And the Bears won.  Each of the teams went into the contest with three wins in a row.  And the Bears won and now they have four consecutive wins.  Who doesn't?  Philadelphia, y'all.

To put it all in perspective, it looks like some nice January ball might be played in the frozen north, i.e. here. Have you ever been to Chicago in January?  Sometimes it never gets above freezing the entire month. If I could have a wish for January it would be (1) we get some playoff action and (2) we play guys who just left 75-degree weather and forgot their long johns at home and (3) are so cold they can't toss, run, kick, or catch. That is my January wish.

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The day after Thanksgiving is Black Friday here in the US, so called because it is the day retailers finally get their accounting books into the black.  It is also the Sport of Kings, when the kings and queens of retail acquisition get up at oh-dark-thirty, get in line at stores, and wait for doors to open so they can BUY!  We never did anything like this when we were children, but my sister and I have embraced the tradition and look forward to it.

On Thanksgiving Day, my sister and brother-in-law cook and I bring over two newspapers.  We scan the circulars and determine our plan of attack.

I fetch my sibling in my 1998 Honda Civic at 5:30am (sometimes earlier).  We never get the big-ticket items everyone else is trying to buy.  We look for the $3 mixers, the complete third season of The Big Bang Theory, and winter gloves that are reduced by 60% until 11a.m.  We are doorbusters but we don't hold the actual battering ram of commerce.  We follow in the second wave, the wave of wallet-wielders wanting wares.  We get the quilts, the frying pans, the cheap gift wrap.  We save a bundle, stuff the car, and then we have breakfast.

This year offered an interesting twist.  I woke up at 3:30 and could not get back to sleep.  On the television there was only Tess of the D'Urbervilles, Thomas Hardy's tale of misery, unhappiness, and zero laughs so I got dressed and went to Target for the 4 a.m. opening.

I was in the store by 4:05 a.m. and missed out on the $3 hand mixers. Where those mixers were stacked now stood only a sign and four $3 toasters.  There were dwindling numbers of $28 vacuums.  The $1.50 towels, while thin, were also quite thinned out.  In the Sport of Kings, I am a low-level countess or maybe a court jester. My sister and I scored some great personal-victory bargains all the same and I look forward to participating again next year.

Friday, November 19, 2010

While Visions of Shutouts Danced In My Head

We all know that there is no way to make a pro-football game go much faster.  A baseball game can be played lickety-split (or drag on interminably), but a professional football game is pretty much going to take three hours.  Sometimes, they seemingly defy physics and go by in a joyful blur.  This is how it was for me when I watched the Bears pound the stuffing out the Miami Dolphins last night.

The Bears played this past Sunday and had one practice, singular, uno, before this out-of-town game.  Even with the tiny bit of time to rest and prepare, the Bears played shockingly good ball including Jay Cutler, who everyone (and one may be the right word) reading this blog knows I don't worship.  Tyler Thigpen, the game-day QB for Miami, was sacked six times. (The Chads (Henne and Pennington), the main Miami QBs, are both out with injuries). I am all for sacking a quarterback as long as it's not a Bear getting stripped, knocked down, or whomped.  My favorite moment was not one of the Robbie Gould field goals (three from which to choose) nor the Matt Forte touchdown. My fave was in the fourth quarter when Danieal Manning tackled Miami bitch (wide receiver, WHATEVER) Davone Bess.  Bess leaped in the air and caught the ball thrown by Thigpen.  While he was still in the air, he was tackled by Manning, a move categorized under "Wow, That Had to Hurt."  The Bears beat the Dolphins 16-0 and have 10 days to prepare for their game against Michael Vick and the Philadelphia Eagles at Soldier Field on November 28.

The Bears-Dolphins game was brought to us on WGN-TV, good old Number 9, a local Chicago station whose morning news I really enjoy.  We were not given the benefit of any WGN sportscasters and were instead had put up with NFL Broadcast TV guys including Joe Theisman.  At the half, they regaled us with stats about Cutler and Thigpen but then added that the stats were deceptive because they didn't show how the game was actually progressing.  Then why share them!?!?!??  Because they would run out of things to say, that's why, and the network would find someone more verbose.  (I've said before how I feel:  Statistics are fine after the game and in newspapers and for those unit-measuring contests guys seem to enjoy in bars or at work, but they are useless predictors of how any game is going to be played or even one that's in progress.)

I am hoping, hoping, dreaming that the Bears will get to play some January ball.  That would be a nice 2011 gift for us all.  I don't want to talk about past January as that would surely jinx the works.

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National Opt Out Day.   Please do not participate.  While you're exercising your right to freedom of expression, the airline could very well be operating right on schedule and if you are not at the gate and on board in a timely manner, they will leave without you.  "But," you will say at the gate and the agent will simply advise that one needs to allow extra time for checkin and security.  Consider this as well:  You may want to protest, but maybe the guy behind you has been away from home for three weeks and all he wants to do is hug his kids and hold his wife in his arms, or maybe a lady's mom is dying and if she gets there in time, she can say goodbye.  A better suggestion is to write Janet Napolitano (the head of Homeland Security, y'all), your congressman, your senator, President Obama, the CEOs of your preferred air carriers, and even the mayor of the cities where you travel most.  There might be a better way of screening -- think El-Al anywhere; think Incheon Airport in Seoul, S. Korea, where they give you slippers to wear while they are x-raying your shoes; think Dubai where your goods are x-rayed and you go through a metal detector when you enter the airport and again at the gate and if a pat-down is required, you and the screener step into a tent, out of view of passersby -- but until it's implemented, try to not be left behind and don't screw it up for someone else either.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

The Bears Don't Need Me to Watch and Six Things of Which I Am Fond

This morning I was given the opportunity to go out to couple of stores, to lunch in Chinatown, then to the library and the post office with family members.  I could do that on a lovely day in Chicago or I could stay home and watch Fox Football Sunday Featuring Men followed by the Bears vs. the Vikings.  As regular readers (mostly unidentified) of this blog will note, I love me some Chicago Bears.  Why, I don't know, but I love 'em.  Loving me some Chicago Bears goes against everything I have every thought I believed in my life and no, I don't have a brain tumor.  Things change and since I really do enjoy learning new things and am very curious about almost everything, it is really not that weird that I have said affection for this team.  However, I like socializing with people and I especially like having a good meal in Chinatown and getting my mail so I chose to not assist the Bears with my viewing and went out instead.

We visited T.J. Maxx where I scored a reusable shopping bag with shades of pink and a silhouette of the Eiffel Tower for 99 cents.  Then we were off to Chinatown.

We had a meal of lamb with cumin, eggplant in garlic sauce, and I-don't-know-the-real-name-but-it-was-pork-belly-and-mushrooms-as-a-stew.  There was rice.  There was lovely spicy cabbage as a starter.  The mystery pork belly must assuredly be prepared in a delicious and satisfying form but this was not it.  It was okay and I did try it twice to make sure, but it wasn't my favorite.  One day we'll stumble on the preferred way to eat it.   But I ask this:  If we don't try different things, how will we know it's not our favorite thing?

And then we went to Target.  There were some sensationally bad fake Xmas trees but WTF was with the lime-green aluminum Xmas tree?  We saw huge, steroidal Xmas ornaments and poorly executed ornaments that with a smidge more thought and care would have been fabulous but instead just looked cheap.  We looked at charming Xmas lights that were pine-cone shaped or shaped like small round balls.  I spent $3 total on some things I can use like Trident.  I know -- let's go crazy.

When I go to the library, I like checking out lots of books of various subjects like psychology (mostly that offer a way to a new better me which is slamming the old me and that person doesn't even know me but whatever), wedding planning (step one, find a spouse), home decorating (step one, tidy up, girl!), or exercise (step one, crack open the book, even for a glance).  We all gathered books, walked over to the post office, and then I was taken home in time to have missed the entire game.  This is when I went to the computer and made my discovery that the Bears don't need me.

The Bears beat the Vikings and are tied for first in the NFC North.  It seems Brett Favre -- the actual Thing Who Wouldn't Leave -- was intercepted thrice and the Bears won 27-13.  Great news!  Maybe what they needed was me not sitting and watching.   Somehow, the Universe sent the message that I was out and about, that I like a nice winning game where the opponent is crushed decisively, and it was a good idea to play that game today.  Which is fine.  Bears fans are happy, I am happy, I don't have to talk about how the offensive line sucks or how Mike Martz looked like he might barf.  I can just say, "Yippee!" and think about the nice afternoon I had.  This doesn't mean I am not going to watch; it means I didn't watch this week.  Thursday they play against the rumored-to-be-not-so-good-this-year Miami Dolphins.  This means they will have one (1) day of practice before they play but I have all kinds of fingers that are being crossed.

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Six Things of Which I Am Fond

1.  Paris, France.  If I am feeling flush and the dollar is doing well against the Euro, there is nothing I like more than a trip to Paris.  The aforementioned Eiffel Tower?  I am pretty in love with it.  Yes, I speak enough French to get me around.  No, I don't think the people are rude.

2.  United States Post Office Boxes.  I've had a post office box since 1989 when the mailbox of a neighbor in a not-so-secure building got popped open and their mail stolen.  Since then I've enjoyed the luxury of someone else looking after my mail.  Even though the present Chicago location where I've my PO box is experiencing a severe work slowdown in that people retired and were not replaced; even though I won't renew my Newsweek and Time magazine subscriptions because getting news a week late is useless; even though I know mail delivery in the suburbs is far superior, I will not get rid of my PO Box because I just love not having to worry about mail being stolen.  (Note on 28 December 2010:  A new box person has been hired and things appear to again be timely.)

3.  The Chicago Bears.   I wish I weren't but I am fond of them.  This fondness is accompanied by my fondness Fox Pocket Square Men in Suits Featuring Excessive Bla Bla Bla and Sports Stats Live.

4.  Trying something new because the new thing might turn out to be my favorite.

5.  Vacations out of town (non-Paris).  I am energized by a vacation where I am going from morning to night.  For me, a beach vacation is akin to torture to which sand and water vistas have been added.

6.  Dannon coffee-flavored yogurt.  It is 6 ounces of tasty.  It used to be 8 ounces of tasty but don't get me started.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Buffalo Bills Won't You Come Out Tonight; What Will Save Detroit

The Bears went to Toronto to play the Buffalo Bills and kept the Bills' record of wins at zero for the season.  The Fox commentators, Sam Rosen and Tim Ryan, waxed lyrically, enthusiastically about the Bills.   The Bills QB, Ryan Fitzpatrick, went to Harvard, they reported, even though they admitted he was the starting QB because there was no one else to be had.  See how smart he is?  HARVARD!  One of the commentators said, "He is so smart he wears his wedding ring on game day."  Running out of  things to say?  The answer is yes.   Rosen and Ryan seemed Bills-centric in their commentary but har-dee-har, losers, the Bears WON 22-19.  The offensive line managed to keep Cutler from getting sacked except for once (it is the Bears offensive line and Jay Cutler, after all), Greg Olsen, the golden bitch (yeah, yeah, tight end) scored a TOUCHDOWN, Matt Forte made me want to find him and shake his hand.  The bye week seemed to have made the offensive line a much more cohesive unit.  When the Bears were at 20-19 and Matt Forte getting the two-point conversion to make is 22-19, Rosen and Ryan suddenly were all about the Bears.  Yes, the Bills have some very good players including that one guy whose neck seems wider than his head, but the Bears won, the Bills lost, and onto next week when the Bears play the Minnesota Vikings at that alligator-in-a-kangaroo's-pouch next to the Field Museum of Natural History, Soldier Field.

I ran errands at Target and Costco (heaven help me, I love love love Costco with its big lots, harsh lights, steroidal chickens, giant cakes, cheap drugs, and concrete floors) but managed to get my rump home to watch Fox Game Day Live with the Pocket Square Guys and Michael Strahan.  This week's tie and square action actually addled my brain as much as that 102.4 fever.  Here was the lineup:
Howie Long = Blue tie with lavender spots and a lavender square
Curt Menefee = blue tie with yellow stripes and a blue square (or was the tie yellow with blue stripes?)
Michael Strahan = three piece suit, tie, NO SQUARE (thanks, Michael)
Jimmy Johnson = yellow tie, yellow square
Terry Bradshaw = orange and blue tie and TWO SQUARES of orange and blue
Yes, I think Terry Bradshaw's combination is what made my eyes cross.  I readily admit that I am obsessed with this issue.

I am shocked to report that I think Curt, Terry, Michael, and Howie are very smart and very good commentators.  They know what they are talking about and express it with great intelligence.  I wish Howie would stop looking for the camera but he is no dope.  Jimmy, oh, Jimmy, I did not scream at the TV when you were talking but sorry, Jimmy, I want you to please, please retire and let someone else come in there and say something that is more worthwhile.  Yeah, you balance it out agewise but Jimmy, what have you to say?  What you said this week was instantly proven to be wrong by, oh, everyone.  Sorry, sir, everyone else is just so bright, so charismatic, so well spoken about the game of professional football that I wonder why you are there.  Fox Game Day Sunday Football Live (ah, if only I would bother to learn the actual name) is one of my new favorite  guilty pleasures but I don't care for Mr. Johnson and I don't care how much NFL experience he has. (This week they said he was on Survivor which made me superglad to have stopped watching that show after Season 2.)

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There is much talk in the media about what can save Detroit.  Earlier this week, I read about large cities that are running out of water and I realized that water, its availability, its presence, is what will save Detroit.  The southern part of the country has been enjoy major growth but plenty of large cities in the south -- Orlando, Houston, Tucscon, Los Angeles to name a few -- are running out of water.  Detroit, by the Great Lakes, is in no danger of this.  (Of course, winter is a real bitch (and I mean neither a tight end nor a wide receiver) and the southern part of the lower peninsula is the only place I've ever experienced white-outs:  one minute you are looking at a normal landscape and within minutes there is so much snow so that you either can't see or simply have trouble driving or walking.  Once I went for a walk with my dad and when we were five minutes from home, we suddenly could see nothing in the swirling white wind.  Just as suddenly, the whiteout was over and large puffy clouds danced in the blue sky.  But it is the north; winter happens.)  There is plenty of water for thirsty families who want jobs that can be just as easily created in Detroit as in Dalla or Tampa or Atlanta.  There are highways that are already built, neighborhoods that are ready to be reinvigorated.  There is water, the essence of life.  Someone else can, no doubt, express this better than me, but it stands to reason that a place with as many lakes as Michigan (Great and lesser) is a smart option for someone looking to expand their company without worrying about having to relocate one day because the well simply went dry.