Thursday, December 31, 2009

Presenting the Best of 2009


What a year this was, huh? Barack Obama's first year as president has been a wild ride. Well, not so much "wild" as in exciting so much as "wild" in how even more ridiculously divided we all got. Still, for all the crap once again slung upon the American people (often by the American people themselves), it was a year...

Yeah. It was a year.

Here now are my top picks for blogs of the year from Not Right About Anything. Enjoy, again.

EVERYDAY HIJINKS

1/27: Ice Ice Baby

Some sage advice an old man gave me at the doctor’s office.

Several months after writing this blog, I saw this same car with a “for sale” sign. It looked the same, except that the “Not the FIVE-O” had been conspicuously painted over. Apparently, this street theater reached its emissions limit. But I’m happy to say the speed limit at Conco Quarries remains 17 mph.

Seeing this church sign near my apartment nearly caused me to lose control of my car. As soon as the dark hit, I immediately grabbed my camera and ran back over to catch the hilarious irony of it. Within days, the sign was fixed. I wonder who noticed it and when, but I like to think my little civic journalism helped.

A conversation I had with a friend.

A recurring dream that I still have, and which apparently other people involved the dream have had as well.

Today’s lesson: How not to buy cigarettes for your underage daughter!

Added Kansas and Illinois this year!
I've visited only 17 states so far (34%)

PARALLEL LINES

Talking about the Middle East like it was my Middle American neighborhood.

A response to the popular conservative meme about how liberals and conservatives evolved and how beer played a part in that. And of course, conservatives are Manly Men and liberals are effete Frenchies. I rewrote it and made it better and more accurate. Pretty much anyone could have.

OBAMARAMA!

It’s not THAT far-fetched.

Amid the hoopla and hysteria about President Obama’s birth certificate, I review my own to ascertain my future political fortunes. By the standards set by birthers, it doesn’t look good.

A Not Right exclusive, this transcript from 1961 proves that Obama is the end product of a longstanding conspiracy to overtake the United States. And boy, did all the pieces fall into place!

Obama’s going to talk to schoolchildren! NOOOOOOOOOO!!!!

Of course it did.

I argue that much of Obama criticism is racist. Somehow, this irritated Obama critics.

THE DEEP END: YEAR ONE

3/18: So true for so many

No, this isn’t the review for Going Rogue; look for that in 2010. This is the review for Sarah Palin: A New Kind of Leader, a shameless fanbook that makes shameless fanbooks look bad.

A take on the controversial political cartoon in which Obama was portrayed as a monkey, which of course was vociferously defended (and not by me).

Included mostly for the easy jokes.

I like talking about marriage and politics, especially when the two wed.

The key difference between liberals and conservatives these days.

Tea parties? Why not burn bras while you’re at it?

Protests are all well and good, but the tea partiers should have learned a thing or two from seasoned demonstrators in looking slightly less ridiculous.

My response to a glut of allegations that the political system and government of the U.S. is too far gone to save. Wonder what happened this year that led to all that talk?

What defines success in this country? Well, here’s what shouldn’t.

Some definitions for those who think profit should rule all in this country, including the pesky democracy aspect of it.

Any blog titled “Deep breath” is worth proceeding into with caution. This rumination on the death of George Tiller is no different.

They took it.

Running on fuming: A series on conservative rhetorical tactics

BONUS RUNNING ON FUMING DRAFT: Maybe?
Be they local newspapers, Facebook, Democratic Underground or any variety of blogs or advocacy group sites, I read a lot of online forums. Just within the past few days, I've noticed a glut of comments on all of them that read like this:

"As a lifelong Democrat who voted for Obama, [far-right talking point]."

They go out of their way to express just how Democratic they are, sometimes more than once per sentence, in that tellingly defensive way ... They then follow it up with a statement that, were it not for this disclaimer, would be more at home at a John Birch Society meeting. Or maybe David Duke's house.

"Oh, Ian, you hate everyone who doesn't toe the Democrat line exactly!"

There's a difference between ideological purity (which doesn't exist among Democrats anyway) and being so far off the radar that it doesn't even make sense. Disagreement with an Obama policy is not going to send someone to the right of Ann Coulter, OK? But even it it did, good riddance to such an unprincipled person!

Has anyone else noticed this?

Government spending is a worthwhile topic until it overrides all sense of rationality and compassion.

A suggested antidote to the suspiciously proletariat Labor Day.

No one rose up to my challenge for a serious debate, so I had to do it myself. At least I won!

During a late-night drive home in the rain, I consider how my rear wiper is a lot like health care reform.

In this entry in my yearlong Generic Title series, I take on Fox News, right-wing voices and the majesty of the free market.

My most recent screed against the death penalty, updated in the wake of the execution of Beltway sniper John Allen Muhammad.

I was accused of making this one up, as if I needed a backstory. I will say this — if I really had made it up, it would have been more interesting.

7/18: R.I.P., Uncle Walter

A LIBERAL AMOUNT OF CRITICISM

This year has seen a quick, and sustained, wave of contrarian dissent. Some of it necessary, some of it reactionary, some of it just plain annoying. What surprises me is how early it started.

The only thing more frustrating than health care reform is those who are frustrated over health care reform. Myself included.

SAINTS AND OTHER SPORTS STUFF

3/30: Any given Sunday
(Photo by Nathan Papes)

The NFL really showed where its priorities lie when Chad Ochocinco received a much larger fine for a good-natured joke than Tommie Harris for punching an opponent in the face. What is the league afraid of, losing its family-friendly image?

A satirical piece on how sports pundits seem to never give the New Orleans Saints their due, even when picking them to win the Super Bowl. Easily mistaken for real articles.

Written immediately in the aftermath of the Saints’ first loss of the season to the Dallas Cowboys. Well, maybe not immediately, because that blog would have read, “DIE COWBOYS DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE AGGGGGGGHHHHH!!!!!” So I gave it a few hours. It helped somewhat.

ECLECTIC RECOLLECTIONS

People really like to make you eat. Especially if you don’t want to.

My thoughts on the death of Michael Jackson.

4/29: In retrospect, a bad idea

BONUS DRAFT FROM 2/10: One of those parallels I'm fond of

I recently inherited a vehicle from a relative who can no longer drive. He bought it new eight years ago, and at the time everyone was awestruck. We all loved to hunker down in the passenger seats as he'd red-line it and give us a speed thrill we could feel in our toes. As the years went by he got even bolder, jumping it off ramps and drifting with the best of them. And he never, ever wore his seat belt. Some of our family members objected to this disregard for safety, but we laughed off their concerns and dismissed their party-pooping ways.

(I don’t even know what that was supposed to mean...)

Oh, and don’t forget the Rules! Wrote 93 new ones in the best rule year yet.

Peace, aughties.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Louisiana voted happiest state (not even counting the 2009 Saints)


I can understand that. It's got a wonderful cultural mecca in New Orleans and has historically been a point of convergence for multiple cultures from all over the world.

But "happiness" is an arbitrary notion. Some people are happy never doing a meaningful thing in their lives. Others are not happy but live productive lives. Some people are happy because they don't have any other frame of reference. Others have seen too much and are never satisfied. Is one better than the other? It's hard to say.

And who says it's a function of where you live anyway? After all, my apartment in Missouri looks the same as my previous place in Louisiana, with most of the same things and access to the same phone lines and Internet that allow me to keep in contact with the same people. The main difference is less Mardi Gras and fewer mutual Saints fans. Otherwise, it's not that different.

One of my more conservative acquaintances made the observation that the most miserable states were liberal states with higher tax rates. I personally think that's projection, because it's generally conservatives who moan the most about taxes and they always think they pay too much, even if they live in one of the "happy" states.

Still, there are certain tangibles, such as sunshine and quality of life. And, shockingly enough, people who live in states with cheery weather and who are safe, happy and know how to have a good time are happier than those who live in gray, frigid climes and are miserable. And I never met people more willing to drop all personal and political differences in the name of good times than in Louisiana.

Seems like a no-brainer to me.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Time for some football cues

Cue every sportscaster in America: "The Saints were never for real anyway. When we said they'd run the table, we didn't really mean it. The Vikings now look like the team to beat in the NFC."

Cue every friend and family member I have in or from Dallas (which is many): "WOOOOOOOHOOOOOOOOO!! That's why they're America's Team! What great news that they won."

Cue every friendly stranger who saw me sporting my Saints cap in public last night: "Aw, tough break, huh? Your boys went down. Ouch."

Cue every sportscaster again: "Colts Colts Colts Colts Colts Colts Colts Colts Colts Colts Colts Colts Colts Colts Colts Colts Colts Colts mmmmmmfffffffffffffffffffffffff..."

Cue, hopefully, a reality check in the Saints' locker room.

I now despise the Dallas Cowboys with all the fervor that I hate the Chicago Bears and the Minnesota Vikings. Forget the NFC Championship game; I still hold a grudge against the Bears for booting the Saints out of the playoffs in the 1990-91 season. And I was 10 years old then. I will always hate the Cowboys from here on out. They are bad guys. Fuck them.

It's not all their fault, though. I hate that the Saints played with no heart for three quarters. At home. Against a team from a city that represents neocon, overcompensatory America at its most excessive. One that hadn't beaten the Saints in 15 years and was known for its recent collapses in December. One with a quarterback about as likable as Tom Brady but without the redeeming qualities. A team I had nevertheless consistently pulled for all season, but who had shown staggering incompetence seemingly every time I did so.

When I felt bad for DeMarcus Ware last week, I had no idea his astonishingly fast recovery would contribute so much to the Saints' downfall. Between that and the rash of injuries to the Saints last night, I'm rethinking my longstanding scoffing at the notion that the Cowboys are God's team. They must be. Thanks, God. Jerry Jones owes you one.

Sorry if I seem a little dramatic. But this loss has led to exactly what I feared most: a barrage of fluke talk, smug superiority from Dallas fans and questions about whether a 13-1 team is any good based on one loss because they happen to be the Saints.

The Saints mean more to their city than most teams do to theirs. They certainly mean a lot to me, and were pretty much the last thing giving me unconditional joy in these past few weeks. So it's going to hurt this week to not only not be able to see a lot of encouraging political commentary, but also not be able to revel in the Saints' apparently fleeting run at the top (at least in the analysts' minds).

With a victory over the Cowboys, I would have considered this a perfect season, even if they lost their remaining two games. But as it stands, Dallas is the only team the Saints have played this season that they didn't beat (this counts the preseason, where the Saints dropped to Miami but beat them in the regular season). It's possible the two could square off in the playoffs, so that's still on the table. Would be an interesting matchup, to say the least.

One thing's for certain: Dallas killed any chance of making the Super Bowl this year with this win. Even with all their injuries, the Saints might very well have just gotten the catalyst they need to return to their original (and rightful) routing ways, and the road to Miami stops in New Orleans. In that respect, last night's game was the wrong outcome for the Cowboys as well.

Friday, December 18, 2009

A rant

There's been a lot of reasons for my lack of blogging lately. Work, personal projects, chores, outside activities and, in the words of a co-worker, "Your Saints are doing so well that I had to check to see if your feet were even on the ground." Knock on wood.

But another reason is that I'm just burned the fuck out on politics. There are two main reasons for this:

1) I'm disappointed in health care reform. Everything about the issue, from Obama to the self-defeating Democrats to the obstructionist Republicans, has me reaching for the nearest vomit bag. Granted, I knew that this country was too big to accept the best (and, in the long run, only curative) option for our ailing, corrupt health system: socialized, single-payer health care. You know, like every other developed country on this planet. But even if we aren't going to do that, then a true public option offered by the government, alongside the private insurance options, would work some free-market magic in the citizens' favor. Hell, maybe there's still good nuggets to mine from the current trainwreck. But as I see it now, the Senate bill is one big blunder. It's the worst kind of compromise, one that might actually be worse than the status quo. We'll see.

This isn't self-righteous indignation, or the kind of hand-rubbing, poll-tracking, I-told-you-so cynicism expressed by many eager to see Obama go down in flames, no matter what the cost to the country. It's not the kind of concern that has me thinking about the Democrats' political chances in 2010 or what this will mean to Suzy Q. Demographic in Peoria. It isn't what the Republicans are apparently pinning all of their hopes on to have a prayer in 2010 or 2012. It's a genuine sadness that has me questioning whether or not reconciliation is even possible anymore.

And that brings me to the second major cause for burnout:

2) I'm just as sick of 90 percent of liberals and progressives at the moment. One thing I've always criticized about the right - and is true now more than ever - is how politics and purity are everything to them. How they really believe that there is a real America and an un-American America, and only one is worthy of the name.

In recent months, the GOP has been undergoing a purity test, with a statement of values that aims to sharpen the old canard that Republicans fall in line, as opposed to love. And we, as liberals and Democrats, mock them for this, wondering why they pimp so hard for a Sarah Palin instead of a Charlie Crist or even a Bobby Jindal. Obviously, an extremely partisan, divisive figure is not going to get you votes. I've always admired the Democrats for understanding that better than the GOP.

But now, whenever I hear a friend refute their support for Obama or read endless threads calling for Howard Dean or Dennis Kucinich to challenge the president in the next cycle, I realize how that's exactly the same thing.

Hey, I understand. I've taken political ideology quizzes that ranked me as 100 percent aligned with Kucinich. In the 2004 primaries, I thought Dean was the best candidate. But if there's one thing that I've always known about myself, it's that I'm not, and never have been, the norm. That's both the beauty and the curse of living in such a large, democratic society as ours: in order to have an effective leader, you can't swing too far one way or the other. Kucinich might have been the best president ever, but a country as diverse as ours would never give him the chance to prove it. And without that chance, he can't be effective and the other side has seized the reins.

Obama won not because he appealed to liberals; it was because he appealed to far more people as well. You have to do that to get elected president, especially as a Democrat. He had an otherworldly aura about him that was largely made-up in a lot of people's minds, which is the major source of disappointment these days. After all, he did promise to escalate in Afghanistan. I didn't care for that, and that's one campaign promise I wouldn't have minded him not keeping. But I still supported him overall, because that's one issue, and anyway I feel anything he does is the result of at least some thought on his part. For that alone, he is miles above the previous White House occupant.

Does that make me a shameless Obamabot? No. There's nothing wrong and everything right with holding his feet to the fire. But because of everything he has shown himself to be, I'm able to at least understand where he's coming from when he makes a decision. And there's always the chance that he is, in fact, doing the best with what he's been given and with the political labyrinth in which he operates. And that he is thinking 10 moves ahead. In that respect, Obama actually gives me more hope than anyone else that could have been in his spot.

If that's too nuanced for those of you who think Obama is already an irrevocable failure because of his perceived sellouts, then I'm sorry. I've been called naive before for saying these things, but the real naivete comes from those who think that political change happens on a dime, with no resistance, and that instant gratification is possible or even preferable to lasting change.

When discussing the Saints-Colts path to perfection, football analysts often shortchange the Saints, saying they've lost for so long, they don't know how to win. This is, of course, a ridiculous notion. But many Obama's supporters seem so eager to desert him, that I wonder if that would apply in this case. And if so, who would they ever stand by? It's all too easy for me to imagine President Dean or Kucinich falling hard the first time they made a centrist move. Imagine the massive sense of betrayal! And that's what it would be, because too many liberals are contrarian hipster cynics who know little more than how to oppose. And that's no different than those on the right who insist on their way or the highway.

Let's hold Obama and Congress accountable, not out to dry. There's far more at stake than some petty political squabble. Like the world.

Monday, December 14, 2009

For the record...

I really hate going eight days without a post. It's not that I haven't had a ton of things to write about, but this week was incredibly hectic. It involved a head injury, though not my own this time, as well as long work hours, getting beaten in flag football by 100 points and various equipment malfunctions. Oh, and sleep being about as scarce as platinum in my lair.

I'm also in the throes of redesigning this blog for 2010. Nothing huge, but...well, you'll see it.

And now back to catching up on all the laundry, bills, dishes and exercise that didn't get done last week.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Colbert 'a jerk,' or at least plays one on TV

Perhaps the best sign of Stephen Colbert's greatness is that so many people don't get his act.

He's said to be a favorite of liberals and conservatives alike. I find that interesting, because his on-camera persona is a complete excoriation of self-assured, conservative TV pundits such as Bill O'Reilly, Sean Hannity and Glenn Beck. But he's so good at it, that many people think he's serious. Quite possibly because those guys sound so funny to begin with.

The latest unwittingly witless victim of the Colbert act is U.S. speedskater Shani Davis, who has reportedly called Colbert a "jerk."

When I first saw this headline on ESPN.com, I assumed that Colbert, whose show sponsors the U.S. Speedskating team, had handed out some nasty behavior behind the scenes, or perhaps tried to enforce some sort of political litmus case on the athletes. Could it be true?

Davis isn't really saying. But it's believed that his Canadian ties have left him at odds with Colbert's remarks about "syrup-suckers" not granting the team sufficient access to Canadian training facilities. Others on the team have lauded Colbert's support.

If this is the case, then it's an almost comic misunderstanding. Colbert engages in Canada-bashing the way Chris Rock engages in racism. They speak the language, but only to rip their respective notions to shreds. It might be a bit dry at times, but they figure you're smart enough to get it.

When Rock says, "I wish they'd let me join the Ku Klux Klan. There'd be a trail of dead n*****s from here to Brooklyn," it has an entirely different meaning than if Larry the Cable Guy said it.

When Colbert calls Canadians "syrup-suckers" for denying wide access to Olympic facilities to the U.S. (which, for all I know, isn't even a real issue), it has an entirely different meaning than if O'Reilly or Beck said it.

Why? Because Colbert is a satirist. On purpose. And the last laugh is on those who take his show at face value.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Flag football recaps for those in the know

11/22: The Nov. 22 SOFA match was not known for its particularly high turnout, but it was known for its one-handed catches.

Ian netted a one-handed touchdown deflection in the sun and Tyree caught a one-handed TD pass to close the first half as Tyree’s Trio (him, Jack and Stephanie, I think) topped Triple Jeopardy (Ian, Sam and Chad?) on their way to a 53-48 win.

Sam notched an impressive long touchdown for TJ, while Tyree Tyreed his way to a long fluke of a TD for TT. Ian also scored a long TD.

The score was 24-20 at the half. The record doesn’t show which team was winning.

To be honest, my notes are a little screwy for this one. You’d think a 3-on-3 game would be a little easier to remember in terms of lineups, scores and plays. I used to think Chris didn’t write recaps for 3-on-3 games because he was a punk. But now I realize that it’s a lot like guessing a four-letter word in Hangman — you think it’d be easy, but it’s actually way harder because there are just so many four-letter words in the English language. Damn!

Well, I certainly overcompensated for that the following week, as you’ll see.

Game Balls:

Sickest Hit in SOFA History: Stephanie collided with Tyree early in the game. It sounded like a melon getting brained. She’s OK, though. She’s beginning to look like the Stephanie we all knew and loved before she got all bruised up and freakish.

11/29: The Nov. 29 SOFA matchup was one for the ages. At least as far as SOFA ages go. We’re not that old.

A 5-on-4 matchup that only grew as time went by led to a game far more fun and unpredictable than its 100-60 final score would suggest.

Monster Squad (Tyree, Jack, Ian, Jerome, Emily and later Toi) ran away with the game after a bruising early shootout against the Princess Brides (Sam, Joe, Kenny, Chad and later Mike).

Sam struck first for the Brides very quickly to jump to a 6-0 lead. Emily answered for the Monsters, and Jerome pulled in the extra points to snuff out that fire. Somebody forgot to tell Sam about said snuffing, however, as he scored another TD with a Joe PAT to make it 14-8 Brides. Jack didn’t stand for that and magically changed the score to 14-all.

Tyree then nabbed his obligatory pick-six to make it 20-14. I think it’s in his contract.

Sam, who never learns, notched yet another TD pass from Chad to make it 20-all. Jerome then took it upon himself to score a response score and PAT to make it 28-20. That came off a Tyree interception, but that probably goes without saying.

Kenny narrowed the lead to 28-26 Monsters, which got Emily and Jerome to thinking. That thinking led to scoring, as Emily notched her second touchdown of the day from one yard out, and Jerome converted the two. 36-26 Monsters.

The Brides, feeling jilted, rallied around Joe, who ran in a long score to make it 36-32. This was on a fake reverse, where Ian’s ignorant cry of “REVERSE!” totally sold the play. Nice going. At least they didn’t get the extra point, which they never seemed to do.

The Brides had a chance to retake the lead when Kenny intercepted the ball. But they turned over on downs, enabling a Jack-and-Em point package to widen the Monsters’ lead to 44-32. A final first-half push by PB stalled after Jack nipped Sam in his bud at the gun.

The Monster Squad led 44-32 at the half. And as you’ll see, they led a lot longer than that too.

Tyree drew the first blood of the second half, with Jerome capping the PAT. 52-32. Joe responded with a PAT-free TD. 52-38. Tyree and Jerome weren’t quite sure if the Brides heard them before, so they repeated their one-two punch. 60-38.

At this point in the game, if someone had told you the score was 60-38 and the final score would be 100-60, you’d probably hope for an inspiring comeback. One that would make a great book and movie, perhaps starring Sandra Bullock and Cuba Gooding Jr.?

Naah.

Ian temporarily got over his fear of completing passes and lobbed one to Tyree to extend the lead (Jerome PAT), 68-38. Joe helped his team get over their fear of scoring by answering in kind (Sam PAT), 68-46.

With 15 minutes left in the game, two guys passed by and became the latest SOFA acquisitions. Ten minutes were added to the game to accommodate our new friends. Toi (Monsters) rocked a Reggie Bush-style triple-stripe haircut (and shares a first name with a former Saints cornerback who used to give my grandfather conniption fits). Mike came in for the Brides and played less than a minute before embarrassing Ian with a field-length pick-six. 68-52.

“Are you 14?” Ian could be heard gasping after the play. “That’s usually who does this to me.” Mike said, “No. I’m 18.” Oh, OK. That’s not so bad then.

Tyree took command once again, as he and Jerome added eight more to the board. 76-52. A nice interception by Jack set up a Jerome/Toi eight-pointer. 84-52. Sam and Sam again for the Brides, 84-60. Jerome and Emily. 92-60. I have more game info than ways to express it at this point. Finally, Tyree with a walk-off TD, 100-60.

Game Balls:

Least mentioned in this recap: Chad. He enabled most of the Brides’ scoring at quarterback, a position that doesn’t often get a lot of glory.

Best impression of a helicopter: Jerome, with his spectacular spinning play for a long gain late in the game. With a few more flags flying, he could have resembled a carwash.

Party like it’s 1987: Both teams in this recap are named after movies released in 1987. Mike and Toi were not yet born in 1987. But they are still not the youngest to play in SOFA; that would be a several-way tie between a handful of 14-year-olds who have played with us (and always won).

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Saints 10-0, but somehow still suck

NEW ORLEANS — According to NFL analysts, the New Orleans Saints, one of two 10-0 teams in the NFL, don’t have what it takes to be 10-0.

Off to their best start in franchise history, the Saints have found themselves in the hunt for the one thing which has always eluded the team even in their best years: a whole new way to be completely and utterly dismissed by the experts.

NFL power rankings consistently feature the Saints and the Indianapolis Colts in the top two spots. Commentary generally praises the Colts for pulling off close wins, while questioning how long the Saints can last after blowout victories.

“Drew Brees is a monster quarterback, but it’s too early to put him in the class of Peyton Manning, Tom Brady and Brett Favre,” said Pat Kirwan of NFL.com, of the quarterback currently ranked No. 2 overall in the NFL, between Favre and Manning, and three spots above Brady. “And, boy, how about that Brett Favre!”

Kirwan then spent the next 30 minutes talking about Favre.

“Simply put, the Minnesota Vikings would blast the Saints anywhere at any time. Why? Two words: Favre. Peterson,” Kirwan said. “They drive that team to excellence. The Saints are simply too balanced to match that star wattage.”

Former St. Louis Rams head coach Mike Martz, also of NFL.com, voiced similar concerns about the Saints’ defense.

“And how about that New Orleans defense? They’ve given up 204 points already this season,” Martz said. “Moreover, they’ve completed just 20 interceptions and have scored only seven touchdowns in 2009. The Saints’ defense is, at best, a mediocre offense.”

Will Holt of Bleacher Report is even more blunt: “The Saints suck. They’re the cheapest 10-0 team in history. Their schedule is so easy, I’m pretty sure I saw some Pop Warner teams on there. Who have they played? The Giants? They lost four in a row after the Saints beat them. The Jets slid, too. Every time they’ve played an undefeated team this season, that team has fallen into a severe rut. It’s almost like New Orleans is literally generating losers every time they take the field.

“Name one team that the Saints have played that were better than them. You can’t do it. I rest my case.”


Some sports experts have more faith in the Saints. In its Nov. 16 issue, Sports Illustrated picked the Saints to beat the Pittsburgh Steelers in the Super Bowl in a glance box placed at the end of a six-page story on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. On the cover of the issue was New Orleans’ favorite golden-boy quarterback — Peyton Manning.

The Big Easy to Overlook

Football fans in New Orleans have endured decades of losing. In this notorious party town, winning has almost always taken a backseat to just letting les bon temps rouler. This combination of laissez-faire attitude and lovable losership has given a rough edge to even the most hard-core Saints fan, who even in the glory years always seems to be waiting for the countdown to collapse.

“I’ve been a fan since the first disappointing loss back in 1967,” said season-ticket holder Jeff Robideaux of Metairie. “And ever since, the Saints have always found a way to lose that keeps me coming back for more. But this year is unbelievable. I can’t believe how bad they are at losing! It’s at epic proportions. Bench Brees! Fire Payton! Who Dat?”

Analyst and native New Orleanian Marshall Faulk, at least, recognizes the Saints’ high-powered offense, its potent defense and the team’s ability to find wins even with several key injuries and huge deficits to overcome.

“New Orleans is the most complete team in the NFL,” Faulk said. “With that in mind, I don’t think it’s too early to forecast a Vikings-Colts Super Bowl.”

Former New Orleans head coach Mike Ditka, now of ESPN, thinks the Saints can run the table. “New Orleans can beat every team on their schedule. But they probably won’t.

“When I coached the Saints, they sucked,” he said, referring to his 1997-99 tenure. “I’ll bet Billy Joe Tolliver doesn’t even show up Monday night.”

And what a Monday night. In less than a week, the unproven 10-0 New Orleans Saints welcome the majestic, dynastic New England Patriots (7-3) to the Superdome in front of a national audience on Monday Night Football. The game is being touted as one of the biggest of the year, particularly because an undefeated season is on the line.

“Any game featuring the Patriots is going to be huge,” Pat Kirwan said. “When you think of perfection, you think of the Patriots.

“They went 16-0 in 2007,” he added.

As for the Saints’ prospects, Kirwan isn’t quite convinced.

“Sure, the Saints have come through every time in the clutch. They’ve won blowouts. They’ve won after overcoming serious deficits. They’ve never relinquished a lead all season. They’ve won with their Pro Bowl starters. They’ve won with their backups. They’ve won on the ground, in the air and on defense, at home and on the road. They’ve won pretty much every way there is to win.

“But still, we don’t know how New Orleans would handle a situation in which they take the lead, relinquish the lead, take the lead again and then find themselves down by five after a safety late in the fourth quarter removes the possibility of getting a game-tying field goal as time winds down. Until that happens, I can’t be sure this 10-0 streak isn’t a fluke.”

Staying humble

For their part, Saints players aren’t letting the attention swell their heads.

Head coach Sean Payton has kept his squad’s feet firmly on the ground since arriving from Dallas in 2006.

“We take it one week at a time and don’t live in the past,” said Payton, who famously buried mementoes of the superb 2006 season in a grave as a physical metaphor in 2007. “Maybe one day, everyone else won’t either.”

The team, much like its home city, is full of colorful characters and inspirational tales of redemption.

Defensive tackle Anthony Hargrove has made occasional Page 2 headlines for his comeback story. After a yearlong ban due to substance abuse and a stint in a halfway house, the defensive tackle has been a force for the Saints. He notched a key turnover against Tampa Bay and scored the game-sealing turnover touchdown against Carolina.

“I remain ever-grateful that the Saints gave me a chance to play,” Hargrove said. “I hope my story serves as an inspiration for others in my situation, as soon as anyone ever hears about it.”

As for quarterback Drew Brees, he isn’t listening to any of the naysayers.

“We’re trying to avoid the hype and just get out there and play the best we can,” Brees said. “It’s pretty easy, actually, the avoid the hype.”

(*-Quotes are not actually those of the analysts listed, though for the most part they've all said very similar things.)

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

A potentially controversial post

Let’s face it. Much of the vocal opposition to President Barack Obama is racist in nature.

Contrary to what some critics might suggest, this isn't an easy allegation for me to make. I'm not a believer in the notion that every injustice against a minority is necessarily a race issue. Nor do I believe that all criticism of Obama is racist, or that everyone who opposes Obama is a racist by association. This allegation is not an attempt to trivialize any genuine, pressing concerns that anyone may have. But I do believe that many of the primary attacks made against Obama are inspired, at least in part, by an undercurrent of racism. And that such attacks undermine any real, healthy dissent that's part of every presidency.

This is most obvious in what critics choose to highlight about Obama. His birth certificate. His alleged Muslim upbringing. Rev. Jeremiah Wright. Michelle Obama saying she was proud of her country for the first time ever. Endless references to "Hussein," "Barry Soetoro" and "BHO." Then there are the caricatures: The monkey T-shirts in Florida. The depiction of Obama in whiteface as the Joker. The White House watermelon patch Photoshop circulated by a Republican official. The presidential portrait chart that illustrated Obama as a pair of eyes in the dark, also pushed by a GOP aide. The protest sign depicting Obama as a witch doctor. This is all a concerted attempt to prove Obama is Not One Of Us. This diverges wildly from elections past, when even the most caustic attacks fell along political/ideological lines. It even diverges from the other side of the 2008 election, when John McCain faced little scrutiny over his own birth in Panama.

Criticism of Obama's stances on the issues center mainly around expanding services to those on the margins, i.e., immigrants and the poor. The most common of these accusations is that Obama will impart socialism in the United States. Setting aside the fact that numerous government services (including the Armed Forces and the Postal Service) have always been socialist, the true flaw of this argument is its undercurrent: that socialism rewards lazy people as much as the productive class. Naturally, those who object loudest to supposed socialism are those who fancy themselves the productive class; conversely, they accuse advocates of social justice to be lazy themselves, or simply coddlers of such. It is from this stance that we often hear an admonition along the lines of, "When you get a job and pay taxes, you'll understand." As if the only people advocating for government support are freeloaders.

It's strikingly similar to the arguments against welfare, which accuse its recipients (usually in racially tinged stories) of government dependency. Terms such as “welfare queen” and “lazy people,” as well as the idea of dependency in general, are all intended to evoke minority stereotypes — blacks in particular.

It is, of course, uncouth to outright say that these programs (allegedly) coddle black people at the expense of the employed taxpayer, which is why such euphemisms, as thin as they are, exist. No one wants to be considered racist, at least outwardly, even if that’s exactly what they are. Their views are so repellent that even a free-speech society such as the U.S. largely condemns them. This inability to be direct has led to more than a year of creative (if not especially clever) ways to cover up the core prejudice.

To wit: this year’s tea parties.

The tea parties were billed as a nonpartisan protest against taxes in general. But not only was that stand a cop-out, it was a bad one. It would have served the teabaggers far better to take a firm stand against the president, because this was an anti-Obama movement at its core. No gathering of outraged conservatives and libertarians in 2009 can, or should, deny that. It's not only pathetic to deny such a connection, but it's also very telling about how even they view their beliefs. In brushing off the anti-Obama sentiment, those who spoke out came off as defensive and insincere in their intentions. And it afforded them scrutiny that ultimately derailed their legitimacy.

Facts don't back up the arguments the teabaggers made. If higher taxes really were the problem, these protests would have happened during the Bush administration, when the tax burden on the middle class increased. But the tea parties instead happened in early 2009, when President Obama and Congress had already passed income- and payroll-tax cuts on everyone earning under $250,000. Given that most of the protesters were not in that tax bracket, the basic premise of the tax protest had been undermined.

Furthermore, the idea that the government was too powerful and too spoiled with our money was disingenuous, given that nary a peep was made in the streets as Bush created the largest bureaucracy in U.S. history (Homeland Security) and that two wars and massive tax cuts ran up record deficits. Obama set a course to pare down the bureaucracy and reduce the scope of Bush's most controversial measures.

So what changed? What changed so diametrically that the same people who equated government dissent with treason suddenly saw it as a patriotic duty? As I've pointed out, it couldn't have been the tax burden. The only explanation is that a new president was in office. So what makes that racist?

Because if there had been any justified cause for that opposition, they would have been eager to admit it.

Even THEY realize that to take a stance on Obama based on visceral factors such as race is not socially acceptable. They have to couch what they say in more flowery language. It isn't about race. Hell, it isn't even about Obama, or party, or any specifics whatsoever. We just feel like we're Taxed Enough Already and that's that!

At that early point, Obama had yet to pitch, much less enact, much of his agenda. His most high-profile decisions had been the order to close Guantanamo Bay and the aforementioned tax shift.

Criticism of Obama has not shifted much since he first hit the national scene. It doesn’t show a particular flexibility as new issues and debates emerge. The buzzwords of ACORN, socialism, Obamacare, etc. were as prevalent a year ago as they are today, if more frequent now. All depict some sort of racial/economic bias perceived as a threat to the conservative power structure.

Then there’s the gun issue. Always a favorite when a Democrat is president, it has only ramped up under the Obama administration.

As it has been for more than a year now, sales of ammunition are up all across the country. Demand is so far through the stratosphere in some areas that some manufacturers have switched to a 24/7 production schedule, with one manufacturer saying he's never seen anything like it in his 30 years in the business. People say they are concerned that gun control legislation will curtail their ability to buy later, so they're stocking up now. But actions by Obama and Congress don't back up that fear; in fact, Obama recently signed legislation allowing concealed weapons in national parks. As far as rounding up all weapons goes, that's a pretty lame start. And Obama has never suggested a repeal of the Second Amendment; not only would that have eliminated him very early in the campaign, but virtually no Americans support it.

Additionally, some weapons owners have made a point of bringing loaded firearms to town hall meetings where Obama has been in attendance. They say they're doing this as an expression of Constitutional rights. But again, what's the point of such passive-aggressive action if it isn't an anti-Obama statement?

So what can be the real reason people are hoarding ammunition and carrying guns around the president? It's hard not to consider race, especially with the lack of other rationales. Anti-government paranoia, already high thanks to a combination of Reagan-prompted distrust and fears of a Bill Clinton planet, is reaching a new peak thanks to Obama. Whereas anti-Clinton rhetoric was based on the idea of black-helicopter encroachment (not entirely unjustified in the wake of Randy Weaver and Waco, if drastically overstated), anti-Obama fears have an almost supernatural bent. He's going to indoctrinate us. He's going to corrupt our children. He's going to redefine government. He took our cars and he's going to kill our grannies.

So the link between our first black president and record numbers of bullets sold cannot be explained away by any rational fears.

Then again, these are not rational fears. But they demand only the most rational attention. Far from being a favorite crutch of liberals, the race issue is very much a big deal with the Obama administration. Those criticizing Obama with the aforementioned notions would serve their cause better to focus on his actions rather than some caricature of what they think he is. It’s up to them not to play the metaphorical race card.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Flag football recap, 11/15

Here are the notes I have for the Nov. 15 SOFA game:

“50-40 half
91-90 final (FG)”

The rest of the notebook is waterlogged, because it was a wet one. Hoo boy.

I aired out the flags for several days after. On Friday night, I put them in my car. An hour later, my car smelled like death. Always the mark of good, down-and-dirty football game.

The Sopping Wet Saps (Tyree, Emily, Kenny, Jack) edged out the Dripping Wet Drips (Ian, Sam, Jerome, Stephanie), 91-90, once again with a last-play score. If you want know who scored, see the names above. They did. Pretty much everyone had a killer day. And an emotional one too. Rain and loud winds can do that.

The final score was a masterstroke of effective clock management, as Jack ran the ball out of bounds with two seconds left. This allowed Tyree enough time to chuck the game-winning field goal.

By then, Stephanie had already left. Again. The rain peaked shortly after her departure, so in this case her quitter attitude kind of makes sense. Kind of. SWS chose not to rotate players in and out to make up for the discrepancy. Which really means they should have won a lot better than this.

Game Balls:

Best sport: Kenny. At halftime, the Saints-Rams game (nearing its end) was in full tossup mode. Ian said, “I can’t believe the Saints are gonna lose to the worst team in the league!” Kenny said, “The Rams are my team. I grew up with them.” Sorry, Kenny. I know you wouldn’t have said that if the tables were turned. I have no class. But like I said later, the Rams did in fact play a very good game.

Most uncomfortable way to play: With an inch-thick stopwatch and its big steel clip in the pocket of your soaked-through beach shorts. Ow. Ow. Ow.

Scariest firsthand lesson in conduction: The Kickapoo High external power outlet is protected enough to not shock one dead when unplugging a radio surrounded by rain and wet notebooks.

Miracle of the week: Despite my dropping two CDs and two cassettes into a puddle of water, no permanent damage was incurred, even to the paper inserts, which did get wet.

I hate when I'm right

Recently I was invited - evidently through Facebook's ironic algorithms - to join the group "Nationwide Tax Day Tea Party." It's got 56,088 members, 27 videos and 2,060 photos.

The photo album is a particular source of enlightenment. For one thing, you don't see a single protest picture until you're 91 deep. Most of the first 90 are anti-Obama/anti-liberal graphics and T-shirts that are graphic, indeed. The gallery is open and spans across several groups, but this is still telling. (Though I don't know what the Tyra Banks obsession is all about.)

Then you see 22 protest pictures, most of which are anti-Obama signs. Then, more anti-Obama/anti-liberal graphics. Then, rattlesnakes upon which you shall not tread. Then, more protest pictures, nearly all of which are entirely anti-Obama.

After that, to be honest, I just stopped. I went through 33 pages of photos, about one-quarter of the gallery. The protests chronicled took place all through the year and took place in numerous different locations. The common thread in nearly every photo is anti-Obama talking points.

As long as we've been having these tea parties, I've been looking for proof of what I get told all the time: "This isn't about Obama or any president. This is about runaway spending in Washington, and how we're not taking it anymore." Circumstantial timing, I guess. But the more I look, the more I reinforce my own point that the protests are the work of people who simply hate President Obama for whatever reason (be it political platform or, seemingly more common, just because of who he is).

Frankly, I'd have a lot more respect for these people if they'd just outright say they don't like Obama. I didn't like George W. Bush, either as a leader or as the kind of person he came off to be. I had no problem saying that; I didn't pretend it was something else. I didn't couch my disgust in a pet issue that I suddenly cared about. I wish these people wouldn't either, because the fa├žade is about as thick as the Emperor's clothes.

If I'm wrong about the tea partiers' true motivations, then I'm open to proof. Until then, consider me unconvinced.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Confidential to the millionaire heir I talked to yesterday

Don't insist my politics are based on jealousy over how much money you make.

"Make." Huh. That's a joke! You say you work, and I'm sure you do, but let's face it - you inherited a fortune. All this talk about just providing for your family - and your sneering declaration that I'll understand someday - only hurts your cause.

And what is that cause? Why, lower taxes, of course. Apparently, I'm supposed to sympathize with your horrible plight. How dare Uncle Sam taxes your precious gift! After all, your daddy (or whoever) already paid taxes on that money. I'll avoid the tax-dodge nitpicks and assume he actually did. So? It's your money now! It's not double-taxation for that very reason. If someone leaves me a car, I have to pay a gift tax on it. Yes, even though the previous owner paid all applicable taxes as well. It's just how the system works. That's America.

Yes, America - you know, the nation whose economic system enabled you to amass such a fortune in the first place. Like it or not, you do owe society. We all do; that's why it's called society. You might think it's all about about the bootstraps (or, in your case, coattails), but there's no way you would survive without the same government works and protections that we all enjoy. Paying your fair share is not socialism; it's an act of citizenship. And, yes, you are a citizen, no matter how much more fun it is for you to sit atop your perch and point at the little people.

I don't want to tear you down. But I also ask that you don't tear the rest of us down. As it is, you're on thin ice lecturing me on the value of hard work. I know the value of hard work. But I'm not sure you do. If you did, it might go a long way toward erasing your unjustifiably superior attitude - an attitude which, by the way, makes me glad to be among those who work hard and appreciate that which I've earned and which I've been given.

I'll take that over your attitude any day. Thank you for the reminder.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Not to belabor the point...

Peyton Manning is officially in Tom Brady territory with me.

I can see why people like Peyton, both on and off the field. I do too. I even initially thought after the Colts' comeback win over the Patriots on Sunday night that the Colts might just be the best team in the league right now. But after some more thought, I changed my mind.

Yes, the Saints played a sloppy game against a 1-7 Rams squad. But they played without three of their four starting defensive backs, and kept St. Louis in the game mostly via turnovers. And the Saints, as always, found a way to win. A scary, perilous way, but still a way.

The Colts mounted an impressive comeback over the Patriots long after the game seemed settled. They deserve credit for that. But if Bill Belichick had punted on 4th and 2, all bets would have been off. Even the fluffiest of puff pieces note the Colts' lack of running game. They don't approach the Saints' point totals. Their defense isn't known for its pick-sixes. They are known for going to the Super Bowl three years ago, so that's good, I guess.

Again, though, it's now that matters. And I think the Saints are still the better team, at least for now. Even in their worst games, they're making smart personnel decisions that will benefit them when it counts most. And they're somehow still flying under the hype radar, which is a lot less pressure to deal with. They're grounded.

In any case, I'm watching both teams closely, and hope they can meet in Miami. If both can keep up the rhythm, of course.

Flag football recap backlog

These are for the players who cannot read them through the social networking sites, where I tend to post them on Fridays or Saturdays. Starting with the newest one, I will start posting them here when freshly written. Enjoy.

11/8: The nail-biters continued this week at SOFA as, for the second week in a row, it all came down to the final play.

Nov. 8 brought out 12 players and two fans for a fine afternoon of action. Among them, three new players, two of which we hope will return (Dustin, you’re too fast).

Six-Cylinder (Dustin, Stephanie, Chad, Jerome, Kenny, Sam) beat Sixth String (Nathan, Joe, Ian, Emily, Jack, Aaron) 48-47. But that isn’t such an achievement when you consider that the Cylinders once had a 30-point lead. There’s a lesson to be learned there, kids. And the message is this: you should never be complacent even when life hands you a 30-point cushion. But you’ll probably win anyway.

Nathan, a newcomer to SOFA but in no way a stranger to the gridiron, scored a touchdown on the very first play of the game. That would set the Strings’ pace in the second half. Unfortunately, there was a first half first.

Dustin, a new guy nobody knew about, came in and lit up the field. He was so fast...(how fast was he?) he was so fast, even Ian couldn’t catch him. (That’s fast! And humbling too!) Dustin amassed two touchdowns in the first half, and Joe bat .500 on field goals to make the score a surprisingly sparse 18-9 at the half for the Cylinders.

It gets a little fuzzy after that. But soon enough, the score was 42-12. Jerome was undoubtedly involved. This much is clear: the Strings got burned playing man-to-man defense.

But then two momentous things happened: Stephanie had to leave. And the Strings went to a zone defense, rotating out a player in every series. SOFA teams who rotate players are 767-2 all-time, so this seemed like a safe bet.

Tide, consider yourself turned.

From there, 42-12 turned into 48-27. Then 48-33. Then 48-41. On the final drive, the Strings scored one more TD to make it 48-47. One final PAT would decide it all.

The two-point conversion failed.

I’m sure it involved some heroics on someone’s part. But I don’t remember who. And they don’t write these things anyway. So there! Good game to you. Or should I say, good first half of the second half.

Game balls:

Inspirational comeback of the game: Ian. While trying (and succeeding) to get open during a failed point-after, Ian’s much-maligned right ankle caught a divot, sending him to the turf. Jack and Nathan had to all but carry him off the field, and he sat on the sidelines for the next series. But then the pain went away as quickly as it arrived, and Ian swiped a pass right out of Jerome’s intercepty hands for a long TD, making the score 48-39.

Best completion taken out of Jerome’s hands for pay dirt: See above.

Best newcomer: We’re all winners here. But Dustin...damn. Two first-half TDs that I recollect, many runs I don’t because it’s hard to see things at warp speed. Nathan and Aaron also came through in the clutch with important runs and stops.

Best distraction for the Strings: The music. Jack took time out of an offensive drive to blast the radio station to which Ian’s boombox was set. Specifically, the song playing was “Lucky Star” by Madonna. Ian was quick to point out that the station played Springfield’s widest variety of music, and even they don’t know what they’re going to play next. So stay tuned! When “My Sharona” by The Knack came on, Jack relented. Wouldn’t we all?

Luckiest drive for the Strings defense: Sam caught a pass and ran nearly full-field and nearly to the house. But Ian didn’t give up and ripped his flag about 10 yards from the end zone. The defense then held on downs to avert a score.

Luckiest drive for the Cylinders defense: Anything in the first half of the second half (tie).

11/1: Last Sunday’s SOFA matchup was a thrilling game that came down to the wire. Depending on who you ask, though, that wire could have swung either way. Or whatever it is wires do when they flip-flop. I just woke up.

The official version is this: Down 59-54 on the final drive, deep in their own territory, Team We Won (Tyree, Ian, Jack, part-time Stephanie) led a quick, nail-biting, long-bomb drive down the field with mere seconds to spare. This led to a last, Hail Mary toss from Jack to a double-covered Tyree in the end zone, which Tyree turned into a touchdown and a 60-59 victory.
But others dispute this official account. Namely, Team No, WE Won (Joe, Jerome, Emily, Kenny). According to Joe, a two-point conversion by Jerome on one of their final TD drives actually had them up by seven points, not five, and thus WW should have gone for the points after.

This is possible because the actual score was mostly lost in the tumultuous final few minutes of the game. However, Ian kept track of the deficit, which both he and Jack (in separate recollections) remembered being five at the end. Going back to the last concrete score I remember, it was 47-40, then 53-40, then 59-47, then 59-54, then We Won won 60-59 on the last play.

But if Joe is correct about “a two-point extra conversion with Jerome bobbling it on the ground, but finally brought it in,” then the score after Tyree’s TD was, in fact, 61-60 NWW, and a two-point conversion was in order. You know WW would have gotten it, though.

Game notebook: Remind me to bring the notebook tomorrow. I forgot it last week, and the only note I had was the halftime score I had to scrawl on a leaf. 34-23, if I’m reading the leaf correctly.

And his Joey Porter...and T.J. Houshmandzadeh...and Chad Ochocinco... Both during and after the game, Tyree said that he “was getting his Michael Crabtree on.” He excelled at all positions on the field Sunday, and especially wanted his pal Gerald to know this. Gerald, like Tyree a former MSU football player, has played with SOFA in the past. “I can pass, I can catch, I throw field goals...I’m a complete player. Gerald isn’t. He couldn’t throw those passes like I could.” Sounds like a challenge, Gerald.

10/25: After this week’s SOFA game, Ian met with Jack to watch the Saints-Dolphins game. After a brutal 24-3 thrashing for most of the first half, the Saints found their groove and won 46-34. “Hmm,” Ian thought (as did Jack, in between cries of “NOOOO!!”), “Where have I seen that score before?”

As further proof that SOFA has a cosmic foothold on the universe (as if you needed any more evidence), 46-34 was also the tally of Sunday’s game! True, it was nothing like the Saints’ inspiring comeback, because the outcome was almost never in doubt. Also, unlike with the Saints game, the wrong team won at Kickapoo High. Also, I lost my knit cap, which I have yet to do at a Saints game. Really, the only thing that was the same was the score.

JErK (Jack, Erin, Kenny) beat Sam’s Club (Sam, Stephanie, Ian) and made it look easy. At least that was true at the beginning, when Erin drew first blood with a long TD. Sam immediately responded with a kickoff return for pay dirt. This would the last time SC responded immediately to anything.

After a futile series of turnovers on downs and a pick by Kenny against the Ian-led SC offense, Kenny scored a pair of unanswered touchdowns for JErK. This made the score 22-6. JErKs.

Ian sort-of redeemed himself not long after by intercepting a Jack pass batted by Sam in the end zone, running it the distance for the score. That would been even sweeter if anyone had chased him. But apparently he was too fast or something. Yeah.

Of course, this game being the case of embezzlement that it was (one for you, two for me), the JErKs scored two more touchdowns (and a Jack field goal) to make the score 39-12 at the half.

JErKs.

Sam’s Club, not content with scoring only on kickoffs and defense (occasionally), decided to shake up Ian’s patented Bend But Don’t Score offense by giving Sam some snaps. This opened up the game a bit, as both Sam and Ian were able to find targets. Stephanie made several key catches, and Ian was able to find Sam in the end zone (and vice versa). Still, the effort was too little, too late.

But then again, somebody had to be the Dolphins on Sunday.

Game Balls:

Player of the game: Kenny. Nearly invincible, Kenny consistently evaded coverage on his way to scoring numerous touchdowns. He also had an impressive day on defense. Way to go, Kenny. No, really.

Incriminating phone message of the game: Pete. Once a SOFA mainstay, Pete has been on Whipped Reserve since getting a girlfriend (admittedly, a very long list). During the game, he drove past the field and called Ian, but only to get Tyree’s number. Pete has not been suspended, but he’ll probably serve it out anyway. Come back, Pete!!

Speaking of Saints-Dolphins... During one SC red-zone drive, Jack crept up on Ian. Jack was wearing a Dolphins cap. As Ian ran his route, he said, "Get that ugly thing out of my sight!" to which Jack replied, "It's beautiful!" Ian reacted to that by catching the touchdown pass from Sam. Now THAT was beautiful.

10/18: Put another nail-biter into the SOFA almanac.

Heat Wave (Jerome, Emily, Ian, Leann) weathered a shootout to top the Chad Sacks (Chad, Sam, Stephanie, Joe) 44-42 in a game that came down to the final point-after.

Chad had particular impetus to bring his A-game, as his family was in town for a visit (they came down from Michigan just for the game). He didn’t disappoint, scoring three touchdowns, two of them long bombs, and having a consistently solid game on both sides of the ball.

He also unwittingly helped Emily nab a crucial interception, after a pass by Joe intended for Stephanie bopped off the top of Chad’s head straight into Emily’s hands. Oh, it was pretty. Chad helped everybody today. Such a good reporter, showing no bias on the field like that. If only all of us were so selfless.

Ian handled most of the quarterbacking duties for Heat Wave, finding Jerome, Emily and Leann nearly equally. Hey, when you have weapons, fire ’em. Football-wise, I mean, not literally.

The score at the half was close, 28-22. This in large part was due to Ian being somewhat absorbed in the Saints-Giants game playing out on the radio he had brought. So he didn’t get to score all the touchdowns that he normally does. Yeah, that’s the ticket.

Not long into the second half, Sam turned up in a big way for CS, taking a deep pass from Jerome intended for Ian and turning it into a nearly field-length pick-six. In a related development, Sam’s name is now Darren. Official SOFA directive.

The final drive of the game was Chad Sacks’ chance to tie it up and force overtime. Sure enough, they found the end zone, and went for two (as common sense dictates). However, Chad was unable to secure the pass due to strong coverage by Emily, Jerome and Leann, and the game was over. Heat Wave win.

Afterwards, Joe asked Ian if the Saints game was over, but really, it was over at halftime.

Game balls:

Player of the game: Chad. Three touchdowns and a lot of hustle on defense.

Most memorable first down: Stephanie, because it was the only first down important enough to make it into my notebook.

Hands of the week: Emily. Several consecutive catches down the middle helped Team A score on a critical drive near the end of the game.

Hamstrings of the week: Joe and Leann (tie) for staying relatively unhurt.

10/11: Another game, another hamstring pull. The Oct. 11 game saw Joe go down in agony after a snappy interception and swift return. His play set up a touchdown from Ian to Kenny on the very next play. Other than that, there wasn't much hope in the second half for Half Fast (Ian, Kenny, Emily, Joe), as Tyree and Three Other Guys (Tyree, Chad, Jack, Blue?) Tyreed their way to an 85-58 rout.

The first half of the game saw two very balanced teams with a lot of hustle. Kenny, in particular, deserves defensive kudos for breaking up more passes than were possibly even thrown. Emily notched several sacks and a key interception as well. Yes, it seems ironic to tout the defensive exploits of a team that got shellacked 85-58, but sometimes history ISN'T written by the winners. Hah!

All members of HF scored touchdowns as well, including a late mini-surge. So what happened? Tyree. That's not to take away from solid play by Chad and Jack, both of whom put many yards and points on the board (Jack had a key interception on HF's goal line). But Tyree was just ridiculous. He gained a key first down on 4th and 18 to keep one drive alive. He was also Ian's top receiver at quarterback, notching about 94 pick-sixes. Tyree called that amount "lies, lies." And it was. But not by much.

10/4: Team Talent (Jerome, Sam, Joe, Emily, Stephanie) beat Talented at Other Things (Leann, Ian, Jack, Trey, Chad) 46-27.

The game got off to a controversial start even before it started, when Ian pumped up the football, rendering it uncatchable to those used to catching an underinflated ball (all of us).

Dropped passes made the difference after a close, low-scoring first half (14-7 TT) yielded to a mutual score-fest. Jerome was unstoppable for TT, taking advantage of his previous bye week to recover from a performance in which an unusually capable Ian shut him down. Stephanie also made phenomenal catches and scores for TT.

TOT, however, went down fighting. A comeback effort in the second half fell short, not helped by Leann's hamstring scare that forced her to sit out the rest of the game. Trey, a SOFA newcomer, said he "felt out of shape," which made us all feel a little older inside. He turned 20 two days later.