Sunday, September 25, 2011

Better Bears but not wonderful Bears

 So we march into the classic battle against division rival and Super Bowl champs, the Green Bay Packers, led by Aaron Rodgers.  Surprise to me, it wasn't a blood bath.  Sure, yes, there were a couple of stupid things -- and I mean STOOOOPID, like Devin Hester getting in a fight with one of the Packers in front of a referee and really smacking said Packer hard in the head -- that made for lost yardage yet I am willing to admit that they played like a pro football team and really mostly had it together.

Still, Jay Cutler got sacked.  The player to whom he might throw -- yes, I suck; I didn't take game notes -- waved at Jay that he was in position.  Jay, instead, got sacked.  I wondered if maybe Jay needs to have his vision checked.  Admittedly, Jay was better at getting rid of the ball this time but he was playing against Aaron Rodgers and his pinpoint accuracy.  Maybe Aaron can give Jay some pointers.

The Packers pack some Bear meat, 27-17.

Last week I posed this question:  Do you agree that Jay Cutler sucks?  I asked five people, three women and two men, all devoted fans of the Bears.  The results were surprising to me.  Of respondents polled, 60% agreed that Jay Cutler sucked, but 40% thought the offensive line was, as one respondent put it, offensive.  The defensive lines of opposing teams had to be held better, people had to be in position to catch the ball, and Cutler had to be protected, said another, and that wasn't happening.  In other words, there were those who simply could not agree that he sucks.  The 40% would agree that he was not worth the money spent on him but, for them, the offensive line carries the burden of suckiness.
In other words, we again agree to disagree.

Yesterday was a lovely day in early fall.  There was a little rain but not enough to keep people inside or acting weird on the streets or sidewalks.  There wasn't a lot of wind and I was invited to join my sister and brother-in-law (more accurately, I found out they were going and I asked if I could go) for a walk at the Magic Hedge by Montrose Harbor.

The Montrose Beach Bird Sanctuary (the "Magic Hedge") is a great destination for urban birding.  It sits right next to Montrose Harbor on one side, Montrose Beach on the other, Lincoln Park behind it, and Lake Michigan in front.  It is a migratory rest area for 300 species of birds coming through the area.  Birders flock (excuse the pun) to the Magic Hedge for the chance to see something that might happen to be off course or maybe passing through Chicago on its twice-a-year migration.

Close up of downtown from Montrose Harbor, sailboats included
My sister is a very good, determined, and patient birder.  My brother-in-law is a good birder, too, patiently listening and scanning the trees and sky.  I was, at one time, very interested in birding.  I quickly realized that my ability to differentiate between birds was pretty terrible.  I also sucked at finding the bird in the bird book.  What I like is going out and maybe trying to figure out which bird is which but really, to have a walk, to be with people who know what they are doing, and to pick up some garbage littering the pathway.  My strength is in being respectful and bringing along the plastic bag so I can pick up some trash.  But not the spent condoms.  There are not tongs powerful enough for that.

After we walked around much of the 15-acre plot, we walked along the water by Montrose Harbor and sat and watched water spouts attempting to form on this overcast day.  That was weird, wonderful, a little scary, and something each of us -- even me -- could figure out and enjoy.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

The day we all agreed

What has the count of 52 last year and 11 this year and we are just two games into the year?  Why, it's Jay Cutler sacks, of course!

Jay Cutler loves football.  He loves football so much he cannot get rid of the damn thing in time to save himself from getting nailed by large defense players whose job it is to nail him.  Jay knows this.  Jay certainly understands this but Jay just cannot productively let loose of that ball.  Can Jay just not see the person or persons to whom he might throw the ball?  Does he have QB's remorse and feel insecure about his decision to throw it to said person or persons?  Does he just suck hard?  All three?  Today's commentators, including Dallas Cowboys ex-QB Troy Aikman, were as baffled as me and ended the broadcast showing a defeated Jay Cutler looking pretty freaking grim and it seemed, to me anyway, as if he were going to cry man tears.

Cry all you want, Jay, because we all have to agree that Jay really doesn't have it so much this year.  I thought Rex Grossman sucked when he was with the Bears but in terms of suckage, Jay makes Rex look like a Hall of Famer.  I also wonder about the coaching staff that should have, after the sixth (6th) sack, taken Jay out and let him (1) recover and (2) think about what he did, i.e. not much after the first half.  They did not.  Instead, it was Oh, hey, Jay!  The Saints turned it around with just two minutes and 53 seconds left on the clock at the the two-yard line so get back out there and do something strong.  So Jay did.  He threw the football away.  Twice.  Out of bounds.  But on these two occasions, the Saints didn't succeed in sacking him.  Of course, the offensive line was nothing to which we can point with pride.  "Things fall apart," is an apt title for what went on with that bunch.  

I think we can all agree that when Jay has a hard time of it, he has a very hard time of it.  So it makes me wonder this:  Has Jay lost his passion for the game?  If he has, he needs to get out because he could get himself hurt very badly and no one needs to see that.

After the game, I listened to fan analysis on a radio call-in show and one fan said he could see Jay becoming an elite QB if only the offensive line were better.  I vehemently disagree.  Elite QBs don't get sacked numerous times because elite QBs find a guy to whom they can throw the ball and then, please pay attention, they throw it to that guy.  The offensive line can hold back the opposing team's defensive line for only so long before the defensive line breaks through and does their job, i.e. to sack the QB.

When I go to work tomorrow, I am going to do Southwest Corner's Straw Poll and ask one question only:  Do you agree that Jay Cutler sucks?  I will question at least five people.  I will post my unscientific findings next week.

The Saints make the Bears do penance with a score of 30-13.

When you were in elementary school, what lesson were you taught that you have never forgotten?  Maybe it was a history lesson or how to climb a rope hand over hand or where we are on the globe in relation to every other country.  Not reading, writing, or arithmetic but the stuff that is slightly different or a bonus.  For me, it was the lesson of time.

It was a Friday afternoon and as the school day was ending, our homeroom teacher introduced the concept of time.  She told us that you can't go back in time, that this particular day would never happen again, that time only moves forward.  I was in the 3rd or 4th grade and this concept was new.  Decades later, it's still in my brain, the number one different school lesson ever taught to me that permeated my brain and stayed there.

She left out the thing that as you get older, time goes more quickly.  My mom told me that one.   We had very elderly neighbors living in the house next door to our first house in Detroit.  When I complained to my mom that things were moving so slowly and next week was so far away she told me that time, for me, went slowly but for our neighbors, days flew by, which happens when you get older.  That might have shut me up for about sixty seconds but the concept remained.  I am now decades older and, yeah, my mom was right.  As you get older, days go by like a shot.

So today, two conceptual reminders:  Time only moves forward and as you get older, time really does fly.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Boom! Boom! BEARS!

Everyone waited all year and, like the TV ads say, football is back!  The yakkety-yaksters and professional guessers and Those Men Who Can't/Won't/Don't Shut-the-freak-up About Football were all saying the Bears were going to lose their home opener.  It might not be a big margin, they said, but the Falcons would be victorious with Julio Jones, the Falcons rookie wide receiver (a/k/a bitch), doing especially well.  Julio did do well (on one play it took two Bears to take him down) but not well enough as the Falcons were summarily defeated by the Chicago Bears in Soldier Field.  The Bears took 'em to the woodshed and showed them their saws and logs or whatever the hell "taking them to the woodshed" might mean.

A favorite highlight:  The Bears WON!  30-12 so everyone can suck it.

In addition to football being back, so is opera.  The Stars of the Lyric Opera concert was last night in Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park.  The weather was just right, the crowd was well behaved (lovers of opera and rich people not usually resorting to fisticuffs), we all sang The Star Spangled Banner (and my sister and I put our hands over our hearts when we sang it, just like we learned to do when we were growing up and attending very good public schools in Detroit; did no one else get this lesson?), and we were all treated to a lovely evening.  Attending the opera isn't cheap and it was wonderful to hear Renee Fleming sing four times -- FOUR -- for FREE.  FREE!  We got to see and hear new singers who will one day have fantastic careers in opera, especially Rene Barbera, Susanna Phillips, and Jamie Barton.  French conductor Emmanuel Villaume moved things along at a brisk pace which made what we were hearing all the more thrilling.  It seemed as if the singer barely got to the microphone and BANG, the orchestra was off and the singer had best have been paying attention because that musical train was going to leave without him/her.

Renee Fleming with Lyric entourage, graciously greeting the hoi polloi
The most amazing of all was about an hour and 45 minutes before the show when Renee Fleming actually came from backstage to interact with the audience.  Sure, it was a Lyric Opera group that was assembled for interaction, she was surrounded by Lyric Opera staff, and it was for about 20 minutes, but first she had to walk by those of us who were waiting to get actual seats in Pritzker Pavilion, and then walk back by us again.  This stroll was the opera world equivalent of Jay Cutler leaving the dressing room to walk by where fans were lined up for a game, saying hello to everyone who was waiting to be admitted, then walking back to the dressing room and being just as nice.  (It is only an equivalent as it would never happen in a million years.)  The picture of Ms. Fleming was taken with my cell phone as she was returning to the dressing room.  Yes, she got quite close to us in line.  Yes, she is as pretty in person as she is in her photos.  Yes, she was as gracious as you would hope.  Perhaps Renee Fleming can sit down with the Bears and give them a crash course in how to be gracious to fans.  I bet the course failure rate would be 78%.  ("I am sorry, Mr. Urlacher, but returning to the locker room without signing a single autograph was not one of the multiple choice options.")  She might also give a course to her fellow opera singers as no one's ever done anything even remotely similar in all the years I've been attending this concert which is many.  (Once after a show, Quinn Kelsey, the great baritone, was standing at the front of the stage and we went and shook his hand.  He is a very large man with giant hands.  He was quite gracious and about the same size as a pro football player, which proves you can be large, in charge, and nice to fans.)

Today marks the 10-year anniversary of the events of 9/11.  As do most Americans who were alive and aware that day,  I remember what I was doing 10 years ago.  But I am only going to share what happened toward the end of evening.

My mom had major surgery the day before so I had a lot to think about in addition to the horrible events of the day.  I make my hair appointments weeks in advance and the next one was scheduled for September 12.  My mom was getting out of the hospital on that day and that would require my attention.  As I was leaving the hospital on the 11th, I called my guy to reschedule.  "Do you want to come now?  I have one person coming but you can come now."

When I got there, my hair guy didn't have another person in the chair which almost never happens.  "Cancellations," he said, "but my next appointment is going to be coming."  He shampooed my hair and we were having an oh-my-god conversation as he cut my hair when the next scheduled appointment swept in.

If this lady were punctuation, she'd be an exclamation point.  She said that after spending a good portion of the day crying, she was determined that she would get a haircut and look good no matter what happened next.  She brought two bottles of wine, pate, and crackers.  The best way to describe our time together is a toast to the departed and a toast to life as we knew it right then.  Thinking about it, I almost feel guilty for how much better I felt when I left there.  Almost.  There were many times of tears, horror, and sadness in the upcoming days, months, years, but right then with my hair looking better and having toasted with lovely people, things were better and I always remember better.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Surprises around every corner

The Bears beat the Browns in their final pre-season showing.  Fingers crossed that they can do some more beating when the new season starts, one week from today at home against the Falcons.  Go Bears!  Final cuts were made yesterday and I really have to plead ignorance on the cuts.  I do wish those cut the best of luck in their future endeavors.  Football ain't the be all and end all, y'all, and I hope the lack of it doesn't screw with your heads and the rest of your lives.

The time of the football pool is back and one I'd neither seen nor heard of surfaced this week.  First, you are fully advised which team is home and which is away and you pick who might win that contest.  Second, you have to list your confidence in that pick from 1-16, with 16 being pretty darn confident who you chose to win will, in fact, win and 1 being not at all confident.  Third, you turn your form into the guy and he enters it into his home computer.  Fourth, all the games are played, numbers are added up, and a winner is declared.

The doctor of this pool advised that picking the winning or losing team is not as important as your confidence ranking.  This is totally different!  No fantasies, no point spreads, just confidence in your selection in an outcome.  Crazy!  I chose teams and based on my knowledge, I put down my rankings.  Trust me on this one:  I would have put down 1 for every outcome but that's not how it is played.  It's all a total freaking crapshoot just like any other pool.

My big WTF is for the White Sox.  They were down to their last 28 games when they went into a three-game series against the Tigers in Detroit (my hometown).  In order to stay in the mix, they had to do very well -- i.e. win -- against their division rival.  On Saturday I had a mini-vacation in a suburban hotel and deliberately didn't listen to news and sports results.  While driving on errands this morning, I heard the Sox had a lead of 8-1 and then LOST 9-8.  I said aloud, in my car, to no one but the air, "Are you f*&#!ng kidding me?"  That is a monumental screwup and, yeah, there's gonna be some White-Sox-letting in just a few weeks and none of who might be let go will surprise me at all.

ADDENDUM:  On Sunday, the Tigers finished the job, winning 18-2 -- yes, you read that right -- over the Sox.  Heads will roll.

This week I've added to my blogroll.  PostSecret is a hugely successful blog that is an ongoing community mail art project, created by Frank Warren of Maryland.  People make homemade postcards and mail them in anonymously.  Since 2005, Frank has selected secrets that are posted on the PostSecret website or used for PostSecret's books or museum exhibits.  Within 24 hours of its release, the PostSecret App for iPhones became the best-selling app in the USA and Canada.

(Occasionally, Frank has shown pictures of the sacks of U.S. Mail that are delivered to his home and has written very nice things about the Letter Carriers who bring them.)

I have been reading PostSecret on line for years and have even read one of the books, a format for which I don't much care.  The best thing about PostSecret is that there are just a few to ponder.  The book gave me the mental feeling of eating too much and not being able to digest as fast as I needed.  No more PostSecret books for me but if Frank comes to the Chicago area again and the event isn't way, way out in the suburbs and it's not winter, I would enjoy giving one of his lectures a whirl.

Once I thought I saw the secret of someone I know and asked vaguely about it and was summarily ignored so either it was this person's secret or it was not this person's secret or it was not either of those two choices because the person never actually read the vague email I sent.  I didn't pursue it further.  It was, after all, a secret.