Sunday, May 29, 2011

They can teach us about life and they can teach us about everything but we can learn nothing from LeBron James

Let us agree right now:  something is seriously wrong with LeBron James.  I am going to get to this reasoning the hard way.

I used to work in a place where a woman who was neither young nor "all there" also worked.  The rumor is that she came with the place when the company moved into that location but the truth was that her family was friends with the man who owned the company.  He asked them to find her something to do and she passed out the mail and ran errands among other minor jobs.  Of course, she was who she was and you could not change her.  If she didn't like someone, she would walk into their office, fart, and leave, or casually stop and cut the cheese and then continue on her way.  She would get very upset if things did not go her way; they weren't huge things but she liked things the way she liked them.  The best example of this is that she liked using the handicapped stall in the restroom.  She had no physical disability, she just liked the bigger stall as did others.  Whenever she would try to use it and someone else had beat her to it, she would pound hard on her chest with her fist.  My female coworkers who saw her do it would attempt to calm her while the stall was occupied so she wouldn't do it again and they were mostly successful.  Still, it was a primal statement that was alarming.

I have neither cable nor satellite television.  On Friday, three different people came to me and asked me what I thought about the game four of the Eastern Conference finals.  First, this is a big compliment to me because two of them really know what they are talking about and they asked me my opinion.  Second, I do enjoy chatting about certain sports and this was a delight.  Third, I had to remind them each that no, I don't have cable.  ("You don't have cable?  I would die if I didn't have cable.  Why don't you have cable?  I can't believe you don't have cable."  Cable television is a price I am not willing to pay but my cell phone is also not at all smart.)  However, since game clips were available, I said I found LeBron James pounding on his chest when he won to be a primal statement like the lady I worked with who just wasn't all there.  It was survival of the fittest.  It wasn't particularly sportsmanlike.  It was excessive celebration (on which the NFL frowns but this was the NBA).  It was also pointed out to me that Derrick Rose went to block him and was a few feet away from him and James fell down like Rose, who is smaller than James in every way, had knocked him down.  The refs called a foul and as James scampered away, he winked at the camera.  There is something seriously wrong with him.

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Last week I talked about the fellow with the three kids whose son no longer likes LeBron James.  This fellow is one of the three people who spoke to me about sports.  I have a picture of Derrick Rose, airborne and about to sink a basket backwards and over his head, declaring him the MVP, hung on a cabinet over my desk.  It is one hell of a photo.  The fellow said about Rose, "Now there's a role model. He's modest, he's humble, he cares."  Yes, Derrick Rose is a very good role model.  However, I had to add, "You know something?  The best role model those kids have is you.  You are such a great dad and you are there for your kids every single day."  Say what you want about a sports figure, if you have great steady parents who are there all the time, those are great role models.  Derrick Rose is great, don't get me wrong, as are Israel Idonije of the Bears and Troy Polamalu of the Pittsburgh Steelers, but sane and constant parents cannot be beat.

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Since the Bulls and the Hawks are done and, really, the Cubs and Sox are pretty stanky this year, and we know nothing about soccer in this town, everyone is waiting to see what happens with the NFL lockout.   This means a couple of months of writing about who the hell knows what up until the Bears start training but also if there is an NFL lockout.  Maybe I can track down a Bear somewhere and ask him questions about things.  As if a Bear would speak to me.

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When marionettes roamed the earth
This past Thursday was Members' Night at the Field Museum of Natural History and we always go because we are big old geeks and nerds and we love that science stuff.  It's a great night for those who enjoy learning new things of the scientific variety.  Attendees are allowed almost everywhere, even in the second sub-basement.  I got to let two different tarantulas walk on my hands (feels like pipe cleaners having a stroll) but, like always, I had nothing to do with the Madagascar hissing cockroach.  I mounted a dried daisy on a sheet of cardboard in the herbarium.  I got a pretty close look at a live falcon in the ornithology department and saw excellent examples of convergence there as well.

Of special interest were the meteorites. My 23-year-old niece, who is, well, a genius, asked what we could learn from meteorites.  The geologist was very excited about this question and answered, "They can teach us about life and they can teach us about everything," with everything being the planets, stars, black holes, but not the Big Bang.  I have thought about that many times in the three days since and it is an interesting concept to ponder:  They can teach us about life and they can teach us about everything.

We were warned
There are many behind-the-scenes labs and storage places to visit but the oddest experience was in the mammal lab where they had the head of an okapi and had not yet removed its eyes.  The okapi looked as if it were checking out each of us with its left eye, which was the eye we could see.  There was no blame in its expression, no implied guilt, no rejection.   Kind of weird, kind of troubling, and supremely cool for a bunch of science geeks to see.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

It's okay to hate when it's LeBron James you detest

I know a fellow who has three kids (two boys and a girl) and they are really great kids and he is a good dad.  The boys love basketball and last year, while he was still on the Cavaliers, one of them was a great fan of LeBron James.  When the Cavs came to town at the end of the 2009-2010 season, this fellow, at no small expense, got tickets for the three men to go to the game.  The fan of LeBron was so excited because he'd finally get his idol's autograph on his Official NBA LeBron James jersey.  So what happened?  LeBron James dusted the fans who waited for his autograph, totally dissing every single person in the crowd.  It was Chicago and it was probably a pretty chilly night.  He didn't care; he went home.  His fans went home too but they were disappointed.  Still, the kid who was a fan of LeBron James got over it and forgave his fave because he so admired his talent.

It's been a busy year but this past Friday, I finally asked this fellow what his son thinks about LeBron James now.  "He hates him," he stated plainly.

Last night I went to hear White Dove Resurrection in their Chicago debut and right before the band started their set, I spoke to a good friend about the Heat.  This is how the conversation went:

Me:  So what do you think of the Heat?

Friend:  #*#%$&$#*&!!)!)!)

Me:  I know, right? #F^&!!&$#FF#U!#&&#*$&#(!!! But I don't mind Dwyane Wade as much.


Friend:  @@^&@$!&^!@(#(& Dwyane Wade!  Chris Bosh AND LeBron James!  #*#*$&@*&!(*!$$~!

Me:  LeBron James $#*#&*@&(@*&@!&$&$&WTF????  Chris Bosh #*#&@*&@(!&!!

It was a most enjoyable conversation because any time is a great time to talk smack about LeBron James and the Miami Heat.  My friend swayed me and now I see that Dwayne Wade really does suck, too, and deserves all of my displeasure.

Tonight in Miami, it's game three of a best-of-seven series between the Chicago Bulls and the Miami Heat for the chance to go to the NBA Finals.  They are tied, 1-1.   All of a sudden, LeBron and crew seem to realize they are a TEAM and not a package of gourmet hot dogs.  However, I have full confidence in the Bulls and believe that good will triumph over three freaking egomaniacs who live in too-close proximity to alligators.

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Portal to heaven?  Nope, those are called clouds.
I am sure you all noticed that the Rapture didn't come to pass and those parents who stopped putting money in the college funds of their kids, or spent all their life savings, might be feeling a smidge conflicted.  (I hope their money went to a useful foundation and not something disgusting like Miami Heat season tickets.)  Oh, and congrats on losing the respect of your children forever.  In the future, they might look at it this way:  life is joyous and life is hard; life is simple and life is beautiful; life is ghastly and life is fantastic; there is no hell because earth is hell enough; there are no guarantees, religious or otherwise.   On Friday, I said if the Rapture came,  I wouldn't be at work on Monday.  Now I have to be there, on time, with a smile on my face because that's what adults do.  I'm just sayin'.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

College Grad

Photo courtesy of www.troy43.com
If you have read this blog offering with regularity, you will recall that it pisses me off to no end that NFL athletes have often come out of college with nothing to show for it but the chance to play in the NFL.  They might attend very good schools but when their NFL careers are over, if they weren't careful with their money they might struggle to get on with their lives with some sort of dignity and equal success.  Many are drafted before they graduate and don't ever bother going back to finish their degrees and prove to themselves that they have the brains to do it.  I am very pleased to say that Troy Polamalu, Safety of the Pittsburgh Steelers, isn't one of them.  During this lockout when the owners are probably thinking about making more money and the players are thinking about staying in great physical condition so they can get right back to it when the lockout ends, Troy Polamalu finished up his coursework for a Bachelor's degree in history at the University of Southern California.  In his blog - www.troy43.com - he says that while it is a blessing and privelege to play football at the highest professional level, he wanted "to emphasize the importance of education, and that nothing should supercede it."  Hooray for Troy Polamalu!  I wish more media outlets would have picked up the story.  Kudos to Troy and his family on completion of his degree.  So, Troy?  What are you thinking for grad school?

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On a different course during the lockout, Pittsburgh Steelers Wide Receiver (I didn't realize he's a Steelers "bitch," which is what I call wide receivers) Hines Ward is in the semifinals of "Dancing with the Stars."  My regular readers don't watch DwtS so I will explain that it's a reality show that features professional ballroom dancers teaching the specificity of what they do -- both Latin and Ballrooms dances -- to non-ballroom dancers.  Athletes, used to competing and enduring long practice sessions, do especially well.  Apolo Anton Ohno, Helio Castraneves, Kristi Yamaguchi, Shawn Johnson, and Emmitt Smith have each gone home with the Mirrorball Trophy.   I wish good luck to Hines Ward -- it's down to four couples and that guy could win.

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The best-of-seven series between the Chicago Bulls and the Miami Heat start tonight.  Derrick Rose, NBA 2011 MVP (congrats, sir!), and his teammates, including Carlos Boozer, Luol Deng, and Joaquim Noah, coached by Coach of the Year Tom Thibodeau (congrats to you too, sir!), will meet LeBron James and his teammates (none of whom is half as icky and full of himself as that super-inflated-egomaniac L. James) at the Madhouse on Madison.  I will agree that when it gets down to it, the playoffs are a whole other scaly fish, but I think LeBron James' ego will get the better of him and he will turn into the non-team-playing hot dog that he was for much of the season.  I hope the Bulls so crush the Heat and dash the selfish dreams of LeBron that he spends a great deal of the off season sitting on his Big South Beach Talent Chair in Miami shaking his head and asking over and over, "What happened?"  And we can all say, "The Bulls happened, jerk," and smile from ear to ear.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Scourge

This week, the Boston University School of Medicine Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy announced that Bears great Dave Duerson's brain showed moderately advanced chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a/k/a Punch Drunk Syndrome, a/k/a Dementia pugilistica.  Duerson's ex-wife and all four of their children were in Boston when the announcement was made.  Tregg Duerson said this gave the family some measure of closure and that his greatest hope was his father's death was not in vain and that through the research of the center, his legacy would live on and others would not have to suffer as Duerson and his family had.

Yes, I read it and teared up.  Even now as I think of it, I tear up.  Read about it yourself:
http://www.cnn.com/2011/HEALTH/05/02/nfl.player.suicide/?hpt=Sbin

Everything I've read about Dave Duerson, every TV interview I saw over the years, showed a really smart, eloquent man.  In high school he was given the chance to play with the 1979 LA Dodgers but declined.  He was the 1979 Indiana Mr. Football and was part of the National Honor Society and the Musical Ambassadors All-American Band.  He went to the University of Notre Dame and played football -- as a starter all four years -- and graduated with honors with a BA in Economics (he served on the Board of Trustees).   He won Super Bowl rings playing for the Chicago Bears and the New York Giants.  He and Alicia had three sons and a daughter.  Tregg went on to play football at the University of Notre Dame, like his dad, but stopped after the first year to concentrate on his degree.  

At last week's Bears Expo, former Bears Steve McMichael and Tom Thayer expressed the opinion that  the game of football is getting soft.  I wonder what they think in light of these findings.

I keep thinking about a hypothetical guy who has a great career as a professional athlete.  He married a wonderful, bright woman who is his soulmate.  They believe in the same things and have a family.  Their kids are encouraged to do their best and to work hard.  Maybe he helps his daughter dye her hair for Halloween or with a pedicure when she is feeling down.  He doesn't care what his fan base might think; she is his daughter and that's what dads do.  He helps his kids with homework.  He attends their concerts, debates, plays, games, and loves their mother.  He is totally devoted to the whole family.  They camp, jog, play, listen to music, hang out, eat dinner at the same time every night, and talk for hours.  Then one day, it falls apart.

Dad can't remember words, has a super short fuse, is inexplicably sad, and has changed into someone they sometimes just don't know.  Things go slowly downhill until one day they get way worse and then unimaginably worse.  If it were your dad, you'd be confused, hurt, disappointed, sad, and probably relieved if you one day figured out what happened to that terrific guy, even after he passed on.

CTE is the scourge of the NFL, the NHL, boxing, and any other sport where a brain takes a beating.  Yes, they are exciting sports, the triumph of man over his own muscles and those of his opponents, but at what cost?

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Alan Schwartz writes about CTE for the New York Times.  This is yesterday's article:

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/08/sports/football/08duerson.html

Sunday, May 1, 2011

A visit to Soldier Field

I was pleased to win tickets for Bears Expo 2011 and since not a single person with whom I am friendly expressed the wish to join me, I went alone and had a great time. 

For sale:  Tight end on a stick
Bears Expo is an annual lovefest for Bears fans, young and old.  There are activities for the kids and wish-they-were-still kids -- kicking a ball over the goal post (or trying to), running and catching a ball (mostly succeeding).  A family (or a middle-aged single woman) could have their picture taken on the field.  I ended up walking around inside Soldier Field at least twice; I got a tour of the locker room which exited through the inflatable Bear, just like the Bears do on game day; got to sit in on a four-person Q&A session with former Bears greats Steve McMichael, Reggie Phillips, Neal Anderson, and Tom Thayer; play Bears Bingo -- a huge fan favorite featuring free crap with Bears logos, Bears signatures, and a portable grill, and a lot of Bears fans who sit quietly and orderly, listening for their numbers; and have my picture taken with the son of late Bears great Walter Payton, Jarrett Payton, proving I am not crazy because Jarrett Payton is very handsome and who wouldn't want their picture taken with a young, handsome man who has put his arm around one?   I also took my picture with Staley, the Bears mascot.  (Literally.  I like holding the camera, jamming heads together with someone, and taking the picture myself.)

Guys awaiting their chance to not kick the ball through the goalpost
At the Q&A, someone asked the former Bears if they thought football had gotten soft.  Steve McMichael, a/k/a Mongo, thought yes, the rule about hitting the quarterback in the head was soft (and no fights in hockey was also soft) but added with great sarcasm that the owners were smart to protect the cash cow that is the QB.  (McMichael is also of the opinion that when a coach runs a drill, he is not doing the kids any favor by not having them run the drill at 100% of their ability which makes good sense because it is the same in theatre but there is no risk of head trauma in theatre unless you are in the Broadway cast of "Spiderman.")  Neal Anderson said yes, he thought it had gotten soft, but when he watched his kids, ages 12, 7, and 5, play, he was glad it was softer (Neal is very proud of his kids, mentioning them at least three times).  Tom Thayer, every bit the solid piece of manmeat he was as a player and, really, a good football broadcaster, opined that people in professional football know exactly what they are signing up to do.  So yes, football is softer for them which surprised me in light of all that has come out about CTE in the last year.  I was glad I did not ask any of my questions about their concerns and fears about CTE because, frankly, the crowd was not there to wonder about whether professional football should continue as it is; they were there to love them some Bears and I just went with the sweeter, less provocative, more loving approach the other fans offered.

Not a loser, but solid proof I am not the opposite, either
As soon as the Q&A session was over and the fans swarmed over for autographs and pictures, the Bears Drumline set up right next to where I was sitting and starting playing.  I assure you, and this you can take to the bank, sitting next to a drumline is every bit as loud as you think it is.

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The NHL has teamed with the Rothman Research Intitute in Toronto to recruit former players to track the brain health of retired players.  They are trying find those risk factors that contribute to cognitive decline and the changing mental health status of aging players.  Here is the New York Times link:
http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2011/04/27/sports/hockey/AP-HKN-NHL-Alumni-Head-Injuries.html?_r=1&emc=eta1

No, I don't think the NHL is doing it because they are getting soft.