Tag: football

Super Bowl LV

My parents were football fans when I was growing up. My dad still watches football, but perhaps with less enthusiasm than he once had. My brother and both brothers-in-law are football fans. As it happens, none of their teams made it to Super Bowl LV.

It’s hard to believe that the Super Bowl is only five years older than I am. It’s a baby compared to the World Series.

Somehow, I never really got into football, beyond playing touch football with friends in empty fields when I was a kid. My most exciting football moments came on the long car rides between Rhode Island and New York in the early 1980s, when my brother and I would exercise our fingers and football prowess with Coleco Electronic Quarterback. (I wrote about these games back in 2015 over at SFSignal).

Monday Night Football increased my disdain after we moved to Los Angeles and I discovered the game would often preempt TV shows I enjoyed, like MacGyver. When I got older, I used to try to spend Super Bowl Sunday at Disneyland because the park was relatively empty on that day.

I grew scornful of football, and would cheerfully announce how happy I was that the season was over the Monday after the Super Bowl.

Decades later my views have mellowed. People get set in their ways, but I find that a good dose of empathy can and often does change my mind about things. No, I’m still not a football fan, but I try not to complain about it anymore, especially around those I know who enjoy the game. In this instance, it was a short essay by Andy Rooney from way back in 1980 that I came across a few years ago that changed my mind. In it, Rooney pleads:

Could I ask a little favor of some of you tonight? Please don’t sit there saying you hate football and you’re glad it’s over. Don’t say that. Some of us are very sad. There’s a hole in our lives you could drive a truck through, as Frank Gifford might say.

While some of what he wrote in that short piece was in jest, it reminded me of how I feel when anything I enjoy is over: the baseball season, a good movie, a great book, the end of a vacation. I really do feel left with an emptiness inside that isn’t easy to fill. This, perhaps, is why it is so difficult to pick a book after finishing a great one. Nothing will live up to it until that hole is filled.

I won’t be watching the Super Bowl today, but I hope that those of you who do watch it enjoy it, and that you get an exciting game. I know that Super Bowl Sunday is as much about the experience as it is the game itself, so have a great Sunday. As Hawkeye Pierce might say, “Take two wings out of petty cash.”

And while I don’t have any skin in the game, I’m rooting for Kansas City, since my friend Bart is from Kansas City, and he is awfully fond of that place.

Some 2020 Books I’m Eager to Read

With just a few hours left in 2019, I thought I’d list a few of the books I’m looking forward to reading in 2020. December is a terrible month for book releases, and January doesn’t look much better, but beginning in February 2020, there are several books I’m eager to get my hands on. Here are just a few:

  • Citizen Reporters: S. S. McClure, Ida Tarbell, and the Magazine that Rewrote America by Stephanie Gordon (2/18/2020). I was fascinated to read about Tarbell in Doris Kearns Goodwin’s The Bully Pulpit and I’m happy to see a book about her and McClure’s magazine come soon.
  • America’s Game: The NFL at 100 by Jerry Rice and Randy O. Williams (2/4/2020). I’m not a football fan, but I always enjoy sportswriting and this seems like a good entry point to learn more about the history of the NFL.
  • Lou Gehrig: The Lost Memoir by Alan Gaff (3/10/2020). I mean, a lost memoir by Gehrig? How could any baseball fan pass on that?
  • Until the End of Time: Mind, Matter, and Our Search for Meaning in an Evolving Universe by Brian Greene (2/18/2020)
  • The Impossible First by Colin O’Brady (1/14/2020). I read about this book in Outside magazine a few months ago. O’Brady walked across Antarctica. That’s got to make for a book at least as interesting as Endurance or The Worst Journey in the World.
  • Tombstone: The Earp Brothers, Doc Holliday, and the Vendetta Ride from Hell by Tom Clavin (4/21/2020). I’ve enjoyed Clavin’s other histories of the old west, and I’m looking forward to his next one.
  • If It Bleed by Stephen King (5/5/2020). King’s next collection of 4 original novellas. His previous novella collections, especially Different Seasons have been remarkable.

So that’s what I am looking forward to right now. What are you looking forward to in 2020? Anything you would recommend I look at?

Happy New Year!

A Football House or a Baseball House?

Me, on the field at Yankee Stadium in 2012.

Do you come from a football house, or a baseball house? Some probably come from neither. I come from a hybrid, but I quickly found my way to baseball, which is the superior of the two. I have very early memories of baseball. I remember watching parts of the 1978 World Series in our family room. The Yankees won the Series, and I was happy because I was a Yankee fan. I remember drives out to Shea stadium to take in a Mets game, and knew from the start the Mets were a second-division team. What, but a second-rate team would build a stadium under the flight path of a major airport, so that games would have to be paused each time a 727 and L-1011 flew by?

Football was also popular in our house growing up, although I think it was more popular with my Dad than with my Mom. I remember going to a college game at Rutgers. I also attended several New England Patriots games in the early 1980s. I was unimpressed with football from the start. In one of those Patriots games, I seem to recall the goal post in one end zone falling down. How could any respectable football team allow that to happen. My Dad is a Giants fan, and I suppose I would be a Giants fan, too, if I enjoyed football. Interestingly, I don’t ever recall going to a New York Football Giants game at Giant Stadium in New Jersey.

Growing up, I played organized baseball, but disorganized football. I played the former in a league, and the latter with friends in the street, or in a field, typically with a Nerf football. Time was defined by baseball. Spring meant a new baseball season, and fall meant baseball playoffs. Football, on the other hand, always seemed to intrude on life. I grew to hate football in the mid-1980s when, while living in Los Angeles, Monday Night Football often pre-empted episodes of MacGyver. Decades later, when I had season tickets to the Baltimore Orioles (mostly to catch Yankees games), I began to loathe the August games because the scoreboard and sound system would report the current football scores during the 7th inning stretch. Hey, if you want football scores, go to a football game why don’t you?

My relationship with baseball reached its low point in 1986 when the New York Mets won the World Series. I suppose I wasn’t as disappointed as Red Sox fans were.

Thinking back, football and baseball weren’t the only two sports my family watched, although I think they were the preferred sports. I seem to recall a lot of basketball games on the television. Watching basketball seems boring to me, except for the last few minutes of the game. I suppose people think the same thing of baseball. My Dad watched hockey games, but I think he was the only one. I tried, but I could never follow what was happening on ice, and it wasn’t until recently that I learned that basketball, soccer, and hockey are all variants of Lacrosse. I have John McPhee to thank for that.

There must have been some kind of sports hierarchy in our house because if baseball or football or basketball or hockey wasn’t on the TV, then golf was, although I hesitate to call golf a sport. Golf is a mystery to me. I had a golf lessons for my 16th birthday, but I don’t think they helped to reveal the mystery to me. My Mom is a very good golfer. My Dad is a very good golf-watcher. The last time I played golf with him, he got fed up halfway though, and stormed off to the clubhouse, swearing he’d never play again. He left his wallet in the golf bag which he had, just then, willed to my brother.

He did play again.

If golf was not on television, then it was tennis. Tennis was even worse on television than golf. At least with golf there was scenery. Tennis is nothing more than watching two people hit a ball back and forth. And while I am sure there is some valued tradition behind it, tennis has the most ludicrous way to keep score of any sport I know. Keeping score should be simple. In baseball, each time someone crossed home plate safely, it adds one run to the score. Soccer and hockey are also simple. Football and basketball are more complex because different actions have different score values: a touchdown is 6 points, a field goal is 3, a safety is two, etc. Tennis’s scoring system is baroque. Why is no score called “love”? Why do you get 15 points each the first two times you score, but only 10 on the third time?

Boxing was on TV in our house now and then, but rarely any of the so-called “good” fights because those required Pay-Per-View and we didn’t have Pay-Per-View. I had no interest in boxing whatsoever when I was a kid. I had no interest in it as an adult either, at least until I read The Sweet Science by A. J. Liebling a few years ago. After that, I decided that if I could go back into time and take in some of the small club fights in the 1950s, I’d do it.

When all else failed, there was horse-racing. I’ve watched a few horse races over the years, and the two minutes during which the race is taking place is one of the most exciting things I’ve seen in sports. If the television broadcast started at the bell and ended when the horses crossed the finish line, I might consider horse-racing among my favorite sports. Unfortunately, the broadcasts last forever, and that spoils the entire event.

Many people consider this time of year to be football season. Growing up in a hybrid household as I did, my brother, my Dad, and possibly my Mom consider it so. But really, it’s just baseball’s “off-season” where all kinds of interesting things are happening. You could read about it in agate type in the sports pages, if the sports pages still printed the transactions in agate type, or any type for that matter. You’ll just have to take my word for it.

Superbowl Sunday 2011

I’m surprised that Superbowl Sunday has not yet been declared an official National Holiday, for all of the publicity it gets, and for how little ends up getting done. It has to be one of the least productive Sunday’s of the year. Unless you count gluttony, in which case, it has to be one of the most productive Sunday’s of the year. I say this as a die-hard baseball fan, with little patience for the lesser sport. From what I recall of the actual event, the best part is the commercials–unless Janet Jackson is performing, in which case the best part is the peep show.

When I lived in L.A., my Superbowl Sunday was typically spent at Disneyland. Really, it’s one of the best days of the year to go if you want to avoid the crowds. Today, Kelly and I are heading to a shower for some friends of ours who are having their first baby sometime soon. I have no idea what time the Superbowl is on TV, but it’s a safe bet that I won’t be watching it.

All that said, this is a free country and I can be both derisive about the lesser sport and at the same time, choose sides. Or as Kelly likes to say, vote for a team. In this case, I’ll stick with my comrades in Pittsburgh and vote for them to win the game. (Yes: I had to go and look up who was playing.) Go Steelers! (Weren’t the Steelers big in the 70s. Or maybe the early 80s? I seem to recall a time in grade school when you were either a Steelers fan or a Cowboys fan. I don’t think I knew there were any other teams.)

So if you’re a fan of the lesser sport, happy Superbowl Sunday. (I believe that term is trademarked.) And if you don’t care for football: good for you! Way to declare your independence. After all, we know in the end that baseball is the superior sport.


A world without football?

Not long ago, Kelly mentioned how she found it interesting that I could hold my own in a conversation about football, despite not being a fan or even following the sport. Really, it’s not that difficult. You pick up things here and there, and learn to respond with vague generalities to various statements.

“Think Farve is going to end his starting streak?”

“With the way these things go, who knows?”

You know, stuff like that. You generally can’t miss getting the local scores and that can help, especially when there are outliers.

But I am not a football fan, and I don’t think I ever have been. Baseball is enough to keep my occupied. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed playing football when I was a kid. But I can’t stand it when football is on TV. In part, this is pure rebellion. My parents were (and still are) big football watchers and the Sundays of my youth were filled with enough football to last me a lifetime. Then, too, Monday Night Football (at least when I lived on the west coast) tended to preempt my favorite shows, and that didn’t earn it any sympathy from me.

I never understood the football pre-season, either. They begin their practices in the hottest part of summer and then play scrimmage games in which a large number of players injure themselves and are out for the season. Add to that the price of football tickets, the length of the games relative to the actual action (I think I once saw a stat saying that a 3 hour broadcast could be boiled down to 15 minutes of action–but perhaps the same is true for baseball), the seemingly constant unsportsmanlike conduct of the players, and I would be perfectly happy in a world without football.

As it happens, such a world may be on it’s way. An article caught my eye today, indicating that there may be a players lockout in 2011. Players are being urged to save at least 3 paychecks this year to weather the storm. I look upon the idea of such a lockout with eager fascination. What would the world be like without professional football? What programming would fill the void left on Sundays and Monday night? I wouldn’t have to come into work on Monday and listen to everyone around me talk about how terrible the Red Skins are, or how fantastic Dallas is. I would not longer have to wing conversations about the latest round of games because there would be no games.

Of course, there would still be college football, but I can tolerate that because it barely enters my consciousness.

In fact, I can think of only one downside to a world without football: we would miss out on those clever ads that run during the Superbowl.

But that is a sacrifice that I am willing to make.

The Golden Rule

I am a firm believer in the Golden Rule, which when properly stated, is roughly: “Treat other people the way you would want to be treated” (but is often misstated as: “Treat other people the way that they treat you.”)

It is because of my firm belief in the Golden Rule that I did not call up strausmouse on Saturday evening and gloat over UCLA’s victory over UCS. I’m not a big football fan, but I caught some of the game while having dinner at the Outback. I don’t know much about the college rankings, but it seems to me that this loss messed up USC’s ranking somewhat. Well, in any event, knowing that I would not want people to call me and gloat after a rare Yankee loss, I did not call Eric after UCS lost on Saturday.

One last thing: while the title of this post is “The Golden Rule”, I was strongly tempted to call it, “The Gold ‘n’ Blue” but I was afraid it would sound spiteful. See what a nice guy I am?

Alice in First Class?

Here I am at SFO, with about another 2 hours to go before I board my flight back home to Baltimore. I got here at about 7 PM local time. My flight from Seattle was uneventful. In fact, the Seattle airport was pretty empty, even though my flight was full. My upgrade went through, so I was sitting in First Class. As I was preparing to get off the plane, I noticed the people sitting around me all had Alice In Chains attire. Furthermore, one of them had a huge binder with an Alice In Chains label on the outside. I don’t know Alice In Chains from Alice In Wonderland. But these guys looked like they could be in a band. So once I got into the terminal, and seated in a bar, I got online and looked up some photos–and I am pretty sure that these guys really were members of Alice In Chains.

I watched the second half of the UCS/Notre Dame game at a bar in the terminal, accompanied by a BLT and two Margaritas (the idea would be that the Margaritas would help me sleep on the way home.

I also finally broke down and picked up one of those airplane power adapter laptop kits. In First Class, there are power outlets for plugging in laptops and I fly first class often even to make the purchase worthwhile. Now I don’t have to worry about using up power on my laptop sitting here at the terminal. When I get on the plane, I can plug my laptop into the power adapter and have power for the entire flight. So if I can’t manage to get any sleep, I can watch episodes of Seinfeld without worrying about my battery running out of power.

It’s a good thing tomorrow is Sunday. I am scheduled to arrive in Baltimore just after 7 AM, which means I’ll be home by 8 AM. I have all day to get some rest (assuming I don’t get much on the plane), do some grocery shopping, laundry, clean up the house, etc. Or just relax. I can use that after all of this travel.

UPDATE: According to vickyandnorm, Alice In Chains had a concert in Seattle yesterday and have a concert in San Francisco on Monday. That pretty much puts the nail in the coffin that it was, in fact, the band that I sat next to on my flight from Seattle to San Francisco.