Football Blues

Now begins the long drought – from the end of the SuperBowl to the long wait for the next season to start. Usually, it’s a tough one – what do I do with my Sundays? And Monday nights? (And Sunday and Thursday nights, too).

This year is a little different. Apparently, I’m not the only NFL fan cooling on the league. I’m sure I’m not the only Washington fan cooling on my team.

Then I saw this: Some 80% of NFL fans are white, and they are 20% more likely to be Republican. There’s nothing wrong with that, of course, except that America is on a path to being a majority minority nation. And polls indicate the electorate – which in this case will have to stand in for the populace – is pretty evenly divided between the two parties.

Could that over-indexing have something to do with the NFL’s slipping popularity? If millennials are the most diverse generation ever and the NFL – for whatever reason – appeals primarily to white men, then even if the NFL is capturing its same percentage of white male interest among younger men, the overall percentage would go down.

Then there’s this: maybe Trump is right. If the average NFL fans leans that right, maybe the protests this year are making a dent. I decry the politicization of the NFL, but not by the players who have legitimate grievances and are using their platforms. It’s the politicians trying to score cheap points, often at taxpayer expense, that I can’t stand.

Of course, there’s a larger problem with the NFL. It is a huge cash machine, and those involved are only concerned with preserving, or even accelerating, that income stream. I mean, the owner of my team allows his employees to sell skunked beer to the ticketholders. We are just walking ATMs to him.

And Goodell? I suppose he was in a no-win situation with the protests. He couldn’t satisfy everyone. I suppose he thought the protests would dwindle when Kaepernick didn’t sign on with another team … Then I look at all the other issues that he and the league have passed on: domestic violence among the players, CTE among retired players. I suppose a society as misogynistic as ours can overlook hitting of wives and girlfriends (just read the comments, there’s always a healthy share of “you don’t know what she said before he hit her”), but seeing your childhood idol barely able to remember his own name? Even the majority of NFL fans won’t stomach that.

Even then the league could only protect its revenue. Even now with the evidence tying CTE not to concussions, but to hits to the head (!) the league is oddly silent.

I hope they realize that by not taking action that might risk a fan backlash, they are slowly stoking one.

What does this all mean? For the NFL, we’ll see. For me, I don’t know. I’m seriously considering giving up my season tickets … but then I think, I don’t want to miss the big rivalry games or miss seeing future Hall of Famers. I can always give away tickets to the games I don’t want to go to …

In other words, just like the league: no change in the short-term, but underneath the surface, something is roiling.

 

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NE DC’s Costco For The Win

To the many things millennials are killing – cereal, napkins, etc. – we need to add Costco. That makes me sad. It’s not that I go to Costco so often, maybe quarterly or twice a year, but when I do, I’m generally made pretty happy by the experience. What’s not to love about leaving with a car load of goodies at a good price. And there’s no better place to stock up for a party.

I think I have a party to thank for one of my newer Costco hacks: the “new” Costco in NE DC, off New York Avenue on your way out of town, has an excellent hard liquor selection. I came home with a handle of Johnny Walker Black label, large format bottle of Patron Silver, liter of Grey Goose, as well as Jefferson bourbon. I took a hard look at the Kirkland stuff, too, picking up a bottle of unbranded 18 year blended scotch – probably a Chivas or something similar judging by what else they carry. As I said, happiness.

So when I had a mid-morning meeting in Baltimore recently, I decided to swing by the Costco on my way up. I got to the parking lot right before the 10 am opening, so I could run in, grab my booze, then get to my meeting on time. (There’s nothing incongruous about that sentence – at all!)

Here’s the thing, I wasn’t the only person at the Costco parking lot at 9:55 am. At 9:58 or so, I saw people stream out of their cars to pick up carts and line up right in front of the warehouse door as the employee rolled it back. Then we were off.

I ignored the other temptations and went straight for the goods – the booze. After I piled up some large bottles, I looked longingly at the locked cabinet. That’s when I saw it, Yamazaki Japanese whisky.

If you’re not a fan of Japanese whisky, you’re missing out. Sometime in the early 2000s the Yamazaki won the top prize at a major international whiskey competition. This is similar to the Chateau Montelena moment which put California wines on the map. Since then, Japanese whiskies have slowly made their way into select stores and menus, gaining a small, but dedicated following.

For a while, I would look for it at Japanese restaurants (naturally). I would sometimes see it at the liquor store, and even less frequently pick up a bottle.

But more recently, something terrible has happened: Japanese whisky got popular. It became trendy. And hard to find at liquor stores. And really expensive at bars.

In other words, millennials.

That’s where Costco came in to save the day. I found an associate who filled out the special form for me – I had to pay first, then go to the special window with my stamped form to pick up the goods. Apparently, he had just found the Yamazaki that morning, on a pallet mixed in with a bunch of other stuff. In other words, who knows how it found its way to Costco or how long the supply would last. While we were talking, a young man overheard us and exclaimed, “do you know how hard it is to find that?” I bought a second bottle.

Please, millennials, become more interested in going to Costco periodically, and I wouldn’t mind if you moved onto another trendier booze and left the Japanese whisky to me.

 

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Getting Ready For Year Two of the Resistance

It’s hard to believe that the Trump White House is about to enter year two – I’m reading Fire and Fury right now, – and remembering the early days. Just amazing we all survived the first year …. There are 3 more ahead of us?

I’m definitely a cope-by-doing type, so here’s a short list of how I intend not just to cope in year two, but hope to build on year one to make a bigger dent:

  • Give to charities that help those Trump’s policies hurt the most. This might be the easiest part. Last November, I signed up to give on a recurring, monthly basis to Planned Parenthood and the ACLU, two groups actively helping those on the front lines of Trump’s policies. I’m going to continue in 2018. And guess what? It’s a wonder that I didn’t do this sooner. It’s easy – the money is sent automatically on a regular basis, so I’ve made the adjustment and don’t feel the dent. 2018 challenge: Look for other opportunities to help similar groups (there are so many); this includes supporting friend’s efforts, causes and fundraising drives.

 

  • Support progressive candidates, particularly women. Last year, I joined a group that supports women running for office. Our DC-area chapter defines our priority issues and candidates. I’m re-upping my commitment and increasing it with the 2018 mid-terms coming up. I’m also reaching out to like-minded friends to see if they want to join. 2018 challenge: Identify handful of progressive candidates running at the local level to support on a smaller scale. (I’ve been surprised at how many friends of friends are running for office, particularly those returning to red states or tilting red states where they grew up. Will my small donations and social support make a difference? It can’t hurt.)

 

  • First quarter moratorium. You know how people pledge to abstain from alcohol for the first month of the year, no I’m not doing that …. I’m continuing what I started last year – abstaining from buying clothes and shoes through the end of March. I think I made it *almost* to the end of March last year. Again, it was surprisingly painless. I’m going to buried in Winter until early March anyhow, then can get through the beginning of the transition before I determine what to do … In the meantime, that money I spend on stress online shopping can be directed to better causes (see points 1 and 2 above).

 

  • Increase in-person engagement. This one’s tougher for me, and I need to think through where this makes sense, particularly on the political front. In addition to my regular volunteer activities, I want to add more in-person outreach. For now, this means dropping off cold weather hats, gloves, coats and first aid kits to an area homeless shelter – rather than just giving a donation. Closer to the election, this might include a voter registration drive, or other grassroots efforts to support people and causes. I started last year with the Women’s March, and loved the person-to-person feel. I want to get that back.

 

  • Be more mindful. Does this one sound too new age-y? Along with so many other people I know, I struggled to cope with Trump Year 1. He dominates conversation – everywhere. I don’t want it to be the new normal, but I can’t let it drive me to distraction, either. (Easier said than done). Do you ever wonder if years from now we will see a spike in stress-related conditions – heart disease, high blood pressure, poor diet/obesity, alcohol dependency, etc., that correlates to this man’s Presidency? If social media is any indication, it’s definitely happening. 2018 challenge: find balance between engagement and enragement.

What else? How are others coping? What other activities should I embrace? And if you have candidates I should support – even if it’s local dogcatcher – send them my way.

Here’s to Year 2 of the Resistance.

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A Year of Escapist Reading

When reality becomes too much like (bad) fiction and (poorly-written) alternate history, maybe the best way to cope is to escape – to a different historical time or a different dimension all-together. Looking back at my reading list of 2017, I did exactly that. Should I be embarrassed that it was a year of reading books about magic – what’s more, that I enjoyed it? Well, if it helps me get through the day, week or year, then why not!

Six of Crows duology – I just finished this, so it’s fresh in my mind. A gang of six minor criminals in a 17th century version of Amsterdam set out on an impossible heist. In this multi-ethnic crew, each has their own skill and motivation, sometimes putting them at odds with each other. Much like the Fast & Furious movie franchise. Good plot twists, with our crew always trying to stay ahead of the bad guys. Just the right touch of magic. This is made for the big screen.

Court of Thorns & Roses trilogy – A trilogy about fairies, or faeries in this case, only not the Tinkerbell kind. These faeries are immortal, of course, but also deadly and some are sexy as all hell. The story centers on a human woman who finds herself tangled up with the faerie world and all its politics, feuds and internal and external threats. Naturally, she finds herself in the process and changes the outcome in the faerie world. Probably the most fun escapist read of my year – easy to truly immerse yourself and go with the ups, downs, drama and curveballs.

A Legacy of Spies – Weren’t things easier during the Cold War? Isn’t this what spy novelists and maybe even some of our international experts lament? A Legacy of Spies, a sequel and prequel of sorts to The Spy Who Came in From the Cold, would beg to disagree. Things have never been clear cut, there’s always a good guy who skates too close to the line, and there are always consequences – and collateral damage, even with the best of intentions. I recommend reading or re-reading Spy, or at least watching the haunting and atmospheric black and white movie starring Richard Burton, before diving into this one.

Book of Joan – This is a short, but intense read, a disturbing, dystopian meditation on the consequences of treating the earth as a disposable commodity, the ease of falling into authoritarian rule, the gap between rich and poor and the need for self-expression, myth, self-actualization and (of course) love. It retells the story of Joan of Arc, set in the future, except it’s much more complicated than that.

American War – At a time when the country seems more divided than ever, it’s easy to see how we could be headed to a second American Civil War. But this time, with modern weapons and new divisions. Yet the consequences in terms of human lives are still all too familiar. There are echoes of modern sectarian struggles, of the hopelessness afflicting too many young people – here in the US and abroad – and the ways that recruiters and spotters exploit those feelings to seduce people to their causes.

Grant – I haven’t finished Ron Chernow’s biography, but I think it’s one of the best books I read in 2017. He’s a great storyteller and spends a good amount of time chronicling the early life, struggles and failures of a pretty ordinary person. Then the Civil War comes along and propels Grant into the spotlight. You see how his experiences – in the Mexican-American War, in the American West, as a business failure, his exposure and evolving thinking on slavery – all put him in the right place to win the war and drive Reconstruction. Chernow’s book is particularly timely given the divisions we still face over race – in many ways, the legacy of a failed Reconstruction. Although even that isn’t really accurate. Did Reconstruction fail? Or did someone cause it to fail? The deification of Robert E. Lee and the Southern “Cause” comes at the price of Grant’s reputation. Will this biography change the narrative? To be seen.

The Golgotha Series – This is the year I really “discovered” Tom Shippey of the Wall Street Journal. He recommends the most random books in his semi-regular science fiction/fantasy column, but he hasn’t steered me wrong. That’s how I found this series which starts with The Six-Gun Tarot, set in the American West (of sorts), with classic archetypes – the sheriff, the deputy, the upstanding store owner, the widow, the young man escaping his past, etc., but mixes in a Mormon mayor, a Chinese gangster, a gambling saloon owner … and then angels (as in Milton’s Paradise Lost) and layers on Native American traditions, myths about good and evil from a number of cultures, folklore and more. And he makes it work.

Also of note:

The Kingfountain series. The series starts with an alternate history proposition: what if Richard III had won at Bosworth Field instead of Henry Tudor? His characters are loosely based on historical figures from the Wars of the Roses and early Tudor era. But again, with magic. Our hero finds himself “Fountain-blessed,” grows into his abilities and makes choices that define himself and the kingdom.

Queen of the Tearling – Emma Watson is set to star in the movie version of this book, which has been touted as Game of Thrones meets Hunger Games. There are certainly elements of both. An untested young woman assumes the throne and deals with politics, an impoverished kingdom, a deadly enemy and as the series progresses, the history of the “Crossing” which adds a surprisingly modern and dystopian element.

The Drive – In keeping with the escapist theme, this memoir by a friend chronicling her drive down the Pan-American Highway as an adult and comparing it to the trip she took with her parents some 30 years before as a child is a good way to travel through geography and time. It’s not my usual type of book, but the writing is very descriptive – and the photos help tell the story as well – and it addresses the question: what if I just packed up and left?

Happy reading in 2018!

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What’s It Werth To You?

Should I be alarmed? Building management had come by my office several time to “talk” to me. Then I got an email that I should contact building management when I was off my conference calls. Several colleagues mentioned that building people were in the halls looking for me.

Oh-kay.

Then this teaser: It had to do with a cleaning mishap. So I looked around my office and that’s when I noticed my figurine of Jayson Werth and his great dane were, well, smashed to bits.

Poor Jayson and Magnus … lots of broken limbs everywhere

I’m not sure how anyone could have broken the ceramic figure into so many pieces. It’s like they went back after the initial break to make sure it was truly smashed. Or as G notes, the cleaning person must have been a Phillies fan.

Was I sad? Sure, but hardly inconsolable.

The building, however, had other plans. The head of security came up with the building management. She had to file a report. They both insisted that they would replace my collectable. Then, they stumped me with this question:

How much do you think the piece is worth?

Um, nothing. I got in line early to a Nats game and they gave it away. It’s not “worth” anything. I didn’t pay for it, it was free. Although now that I think of it, I believe that I didn’t even go to that game – I was on vacation – but my colleague took clients to the game and gave me hers. Or maybe someone in the group didn’t want theirs. I think it was a condition of giving them the tickets, that I would get a collectable. But what is it worth? Still, really, nothing.

Jayson and Magnus back together again

That said, G went on eBay (thank goodness for eBay!) and purchased me a replacement.

So now Werth and pet are happily standing on my window sill again.

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