Sunday, January 25, 2015

Saucy talk

Yesterday, I made a funny and virtually nobody noticed: 

Why did nobody notice? Because I'm weird.

See, I can't stand secret sauces or anything else that is mayo-based. Cane's sauce, to paraphrase Ron Burgundy, particularly stings my nostrils. It reminds me of crawfish dip (ketchup and mayonnaise), which nothing should ever remind me of. But I do love Raising Cane's chicken fingers, fries, toast and lemonade, so setting the sauce tub aside is a minor inconvenience (anyway, it rarely goes to waste if I'm eating with a friend).

That said, most people love Cane's sauce. It's a signature blend. In many cases, it's why people choose to eat there. And unlike most standard condiments, it's not given out like candy on Halloween. So it makes sense for those reasons that an instant-winner contest would offer a free tub of the stuff. But thanks to my atypical palate, I just began laughing uncontrollably when I peeled this sticker off my lemonade.

The first reason I laughed is because it says, "A SAUCE," which is something I'd expect to find in a 1980s video game: "YOU HAVE ACQUIRED A SAUCE OF DIPPING."

The second reason is because of the words above it: "YOU JUST WON!" Well, that's awfully presumptuous. I guess for most people this would be a genuine win, but this is what would be poured on me if I lost on Personalized Double Dare. One person's treasure and all that.

The third reason is because of course this is how I would win something, all Pyrrhic-like. I might as well have won a sideline pass to next week's Super Bowl. Or free cauliflower for life. Or keynote-speaker billing at the People Who Aren't Fantastic convention.

I guess you have to know me well to see that I regard those as undesirable things (though the third should be obvious to everyone, hurr hurr). Same thing with this photo. Most people would love free Cane's sauce, so when I post it jokingly, they think I'm straight hailing it. And now they think I love it, which is likely to eventually result in this exchange:

Them: "Hey! Nice to see you! I got you a sauce!"
Me: "Err ... I don't like it, actually."
Them: "What? Everybody likes it! And your Facebook status —"
Me: "— Was a joke."
Them: "Oh. Uh ..."
Me: "Yeah."
Them: "So I'm too dim to get a joke, is what you're saying."
Me: "So you don't know me, is what you're saying."
Them: (Sniff)
Me: (Sniff)

Tough crowd.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Of balls and disruption

Yesterday, I watched Tom Brady's news conference live, and afterward saw clips of Bill Belichick's previous presser. Up until that point, I saw Deflategate as something that could be a major scandal or could be nothing — and if it was something, it was up in the air as to who was responsible for it.

For two years, I was the equipment manager for my high school team, which gave me an appreciation for how many different footballs get used in a game, and how they have to be handled. For all the stringent protocol that the NFL follows with its own footballs, it's an undeniable fact that no one can constantly account for dozens of footballs during a game, and that lowering the air pressure of one is a quick act that can be done very discreetly (I never did such a thing, but I know it's possible). If anything, it's worth checking to see if every other team isn't also doing this from time to time.

That said, however, the New England Patriots have already been caught cheating in recent years, so it's not hard to imagine that still-intact regime doing it again. I have no way of knowing if or who, of course, but my suspicion was that it started at the top. Before the presser, that is. Now, I'm not sure if Belichick knew and I'm not sure Brady didn't. Belichick (the consummate leader) sounded genuinely befuddled and Brady (Captain Confidence) was uncharacteristically flustered and halting.

In any case, it does seem strange — if the allegations are true — that a team as good as the Patriots (who throttled the Colts 45-7 in the AFC Championship) would feel the need to breed an unfair advantage. I hope it's not true. I'm no Patriots fan, but I want to believe their tremendous dynasty is solely a testament to their skill. We'll see.

I went into the Slate article linked above feeling some sympathy for Belichick, and hoping I might gain a perspective on the coach that I might have missed in my anti-fanhood. And sure enough, the writer, Luke O'Neil, raises the interesting phenomenon of a team evolving from scrappy underdogs to hated champions. But then he lost me with this:

As a rational human being, the sullying of my favorite team’s name admittedly stings, and the right thing to do here might be to apologize for Belichick. But instead, to the rest of the football fans out there I say this: You’re welcome. Without a villain like Belichick, the NFL would be a much less interesting place. 

I've long said that I like personality in the NFL, even when I don't like the personality, because it makes the game interesting. But he is asking us to bow to a team — his team — for disrupting the status quo.

I'm all for that in theory, but I don't think that's defined by flouting the rules of the game. To indulge my own fanhood, Sean Payton's onside kick to start the second half of Super Bowl XLIV is the kind of disruption I think enriches the game. It compels the other team, and the game in general, to rethink how they play. All the best teams in NFL history innovate this way.

If, on the other hand, a team is stealing signals and deflating footballs, that's not innovation — that's cheating. Anyone who values that kind of disruption and the heroes-villains dynamic over fair play should watch professional wrestling instead.

Anyone can disrupt the game with dubious methods. A real villain is crafty enough to do it within the confines of the game.

Breathe easy

New Orleans is perhaps the last place I expected this to happen, but good.

Secondhand smoke is a very real health menace and no one should have to be subjected to it just to make a living. And from a business standpoint, a ban opens up your establishment more to nonsmokers, who are the majority. Since smoking bans have become the norm, I've visited many places I otherwise would have avoided, and many of my friends who don't smoke have done the same.

Yes, there are times when nonsmokers subject themselves voluntarily to a smoky atmosphere. But not a single person should ever do so as a contingency of employment or otherwise because they have no other options available to them. Smoking is an intrusive habit that can harm others — and even if it didn't, it's about the most disgusting smell to endure both in your nose and on your clothes.

I live near a cluster of casinos, which I don't visit often. But when I do, I'm struck — literally struck — by the smoke in them. Most of them still permit smoking in the gaming areas. And it doesn't matter if the lighting up is light or if the place is an ashtray — it's mentally jarring to sniff that in a public place anymore. I detect it even in the slightest concentration. And yet, I realize that just a few years ago, nearly every place I went reeked of that odor. I didn't always notice it, but it was there. Who knows what effect that had on me and on so many others? 

There are still places smokers can be and nicotine alternatives exist. E-cigs are still a gray area. (Personally, I prefer being near e-cigs to real ones, but prefer fresh air to e-cigs. Also, the jury's still out on e-cigs' health consequences. And the vapor looks real enough to potentially cause a problem.) In any case, there's no justification for allowing smoking indoors.

Smoking might be an addiction, but it's also a choice. If the decision is between limiting nonsmoking activity and smoking activity, I'd choose to limit the one that fouls up other people's spaces with deadly carcinogens. I'm quirky like that.