Wednesday, April 28, 2010

No "sir"

There's a group going around Facebook right now called, "I say yes sir and no ma'am because I was raised in the south."

So far, everyone I know who's in it still lives in the south.

I say "yes sir" occasionally, if addressing an old veteran, for example. But that's about it.

In many parts of the country, relentless saying of "sir" and "ma'am" makes the above group's name redundant. They'll immediately know you're from the south. They'll think it's adorable. Precious, even. But they're just as likely to think, "Oh, it's a dyed-in-the-wool southerner" as, "Now there's a respectful person."

The main reason I've never liked saying "sir/ma'am" is because of the regimentation behind it. You're simply supposed to say it. Growing up in the south, you get drilled that the proper way to address people is in this manner. Parents scream at their children when they mess it up. Legislators actually pass laws mandating students say it to their teachers and administrators. It connotes respect — more accurately, the sort of automatic, synthetic respect you're expected to give anyone older and/or above you. If you don't, you're a raging jerk, even if everything else you do is the nicest thing in the world. It's a difficult habit to shake, even if you were only a mild practitioner to begin with, for that reason.

But the truth is, it's not spoken so reverently in all parts of the U.S. It's a colloquial thing, just like numerous other patterns of speech. Every American understands it, but it's not always automatic. And if you say "yes" to someone as opposed to "yes sir" in these areas, you aren't going to be made to feel like a bad person.

I try to treat everyone with the respect they deserve. I do it in ways that are genuine and, hopefully, are noticed. Regimentation and forced pleasantries strictly optional.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Mental niblets

• On April 16, I attended a speech by Robert F. Kennedy Jr. at Missouri State University. He spoke about the necessity of saving the environment, and why a green future is not just our best, but only, choice. A lot of people say that. What got me really excited about Kennedy's speech is the way he approached it: almost like a pitch, the way President Obama talks straight to critics and says, hey, not only am I not your worst nightmare, but I'm a lot like you. Kennedy wasn't speaking in pipe-dream terms of things that could happen by 2064 if we dismantled all corporations tomorrow; he talked about measures other countries are taking right now that America has the resources to adopt within the next few years if we choose. Extremely efficient solar panels like in China. An electric-car future with utility-owned batteries that you can swap out at gas stations, like can be done in Israel. And many more examples, all of which he said will require the hands of business. Kennedy might have gone over the top when he said, "I love corporations," but he did issue a passionate call for corporate reform and regulation, singling out Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship as a big part of the problem. For the most part, though, Kennedy's speech was positive, pleasing and promising. He's a sterling example of how all sides of the political spectrum should compose themselves. I hope his vision can come to pass, not just for that reason, but also because it's the right thing to do.

• The new Arizona "papers, please" law is horrifying, but it does deserve some morbid modicum of respect for being transparently political. You see so little of that these days. The legislation allows law enforcement officers to demand proof of citizenship to anyone who looks like they might be in this country illegally. On second thought, "allow" is not quite the right word, because citizens can report any officers they deem to be insufficiently enforcing this law. Many officer groups have gone on record as strongly against it, citing drains on resources and the sheer Jim Crow-level evilness inherent in it. And, really, they have a point. Who the hell carries their birth certificate around with them? It's not even a good idea to do so. At least one man, a U.S. citizen and truck driver who was arrested after failing to produce his birth certificate at a weigh station, has felt the effects firsthand before the law has even taken effect. Joe Arpaio's wet dream is every brown-skinned person's nightmare. Still, respect. That level of obvious bigotry takes some kind of twisted moxie to own up to. And after more than a year of "no, really, we don't hate Obama, we're just tired of taxes and don't think he's a real president," this is almost refreshing.

• After giving it some thought, I've decided to curb my use of the term "teabagger." I initially found the term amusing, because the tea party movement adopted the term before it realized the scrotal connotations therein. But two recent incidents made me do a 180 on this: 1) On "The Daily Show" last week, Jon Stewart had a conservative guest who used the term "Obamacare," but was otherwise making reasoned points. The guest insisted "Obamacare" was just a popular term adopted for health care reform. Jon disagreed, saying it was in fact a pejorative term. I agree — has anyone ever said, "I support Obamacare?" And while early tea party supporters might have indeed said, "I support teabagging," I think it's otherwise the same case with that word. It's not a term that will get us anywhere in the debate. Thus, I figure that if "Obamacare" irritates the health out of me (sorry), then I shouldn't open myself up to the same kind of disdain. Especially when facts are on my side. Which brings me to my second catalyst for change: 2) a recent, extremely heated debate I had online with several longtime friends. They spoke in apocalyptic terms about the Obama administration and met my attempts at engagements with the same kind of vicious personal attacks and partisan allegations typically reserved for anonymous trolls on this blog. And these were guys I hung out with with well into my 20s. And even though I didn't use any terms like "teabagger," I knew it would only have reduced me to that level. And I want to be better than that. So it's a start, at least.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

SOFA recap, sterilization edition

4/18: In a game featuring two of SOFA’s more historically stacked teams, T-Pain (Dustin, Kenny, Tyree, Jack, Larry) beat T-Boned (Joe, Jerome, Ian, Travis, Sam) 72-66.

That the game was as close as it was is a testament to the refusal of TB to give up. Down by as much as 26 points, TB clawed back into in the game by, per Jerome’s request, just having fun. It was tough, but having fun seemed to work. The commissioner hereby orders players to have more fun out there.

Both teams’ offenses ably marched down the field throughout the game; the wild card for TP was a run of timely interceptions. For the second straight week, Dustin and his crazy hands notched a long pick-six off Ian and his even crazier hands. Tyree later followed suit against Joe, though he didn’t go the distance, thus snapping his extended streak of pick-six games. For TB, that’s almost better than winning. Still, the resultant series led to a score that helped TP pull away further.

I think Jack had an interception too. I’m sure he could recount every detail of that better than I can.

Larry scored the first (and first of his many) points in the game. Tyree and Jack split time at quarterback for TP, employing a sterling offensive scheme that exploited the numerous gaps in TB’s “What are we doing” defense. Kenny was unusually silent this week, scoring only several times.

But TB was able to get back into the game with an improved defense and key stops on fourth down, as well as stepping up the offensive effort (i.e., scoring). Joe ran a tight ship at quarterback for TB, spreading the ball around. Travis and Sam did more than their share of work by catching short passes and scoring with regularity. Later in the game, Ian sought to draw defenders off Jerome and Sam in an attempt to get them open. Travis successfully employed crossing patterns to keep TB in the game near the end.

It didn’t help, at the outset, that Jerome couldn’t hold on to the ball for anything. This wasn’t entirely his fault; the ball’s only been out of the box for three weeks, and pretty much everybody was dropping it more than they should have. I guess it seemed to happen more to Jerome because he’s such a solid go-to guy. I mean, no one ever says, “Ian dropped the ball? What’s going on here?!!” But Jerome, like a certain Super Bowl-winning receiver named Marques Colston, got the first-time jitters out of his system halfway through the first half and never looked back, returning to his naturally score-happy ways. Eventually, the rest of the team also got over their fear of fourth downs.

Ian fared well as a receiver this week, catching most of his passes, including three touchdowns. He recovered his only fumble, forced by a zealous Larry at the goal line, with his legs. And no one will ever take that away from him, literally or metaphorically. Ian also made up for a near-interception on one play by catching one on the very next down and running it back for a substantial gain.

Near the end, Dustin intercepted a two-point conversion try and knelt it, thus proving to TB that it’s possible to feel disappointed and relieved at the same time. By then, it didn’t matter; TP had the ball and the game in the bag, with the final gun sounding on the least necessary Hail Mary pass ever. Good game, good game, good game and all that.

Game balls:

Player of the game: Larry, just for showing up.

Player of every game: Dustin. Bloody Dustin.

Plane crazy: After an early touchdown in which Ian executed a perfect Reggie Bush leap to lunge the ball into the end zone before getting his flag pulled, reaching out became a common thread throughout the day. Several TDs and PATs came down to just penetrating the plane, while others stopped just shy despite similar efforts. As per SOFA custom, these plays largely depended on which cone you were looking at, because straight boundaries have never been our strong point.

Hello Larry: One of SOFA’s charter players, Larry returned from extended paternity leave and picked right up where he left off, scoring several touchdowns and PATs. He said he was compelled to take the field for, as he put it, “sterilization.” OK, that’s completely out of context, but he didn’t give me any of his usual age-related material to work with this week. He’s old. How old? Almost as old as Jack. So, not really that old.

Sausage festivities: Halftime entertainment consisted of someone realizing that no women were playing, and all of us naming past female players and speaking reverently of their respective fates. TB further spoke of how we could really have used Emily at that point.

Sarah Palin impression of the week: Tyree wore a play sleeve favored by real quarterbacks, which upon closer inspection actually contained an ample playbook’s worth of play calls for reference. Why he doesn’t just get a tattoo on his forearm that says, “Black 90,” is beyond me.

Barack Obama impression of the week: Ian, whose ankle, arm and head injuries highlight the need for better health care.

Quotes of the game: Ian: “I want to take safety this series.” Joe: “No, we need someone fast.”

Quotes of the pre-game (After Ian chose Tyree and Travis as captains): Ian: “This way, each team has a former MSU star.” Travis: “Well, who’s the other team’s star?”

Monday, April 19, 2010

Obama: DQ'd from the presidency?

From an e-mail forward that, like so many of its counterparts, is wrongly attributed to a source who abhors it:

"And finally, we have elected a man that no one really knows anything about, who has never run so much as a Dairy Queen, let alone a town as big as Wasilla , Alaska .."

Most anti-Obama tripe is fear-based and stupid, but at least the points are linear. He's evil; we don't want evil in the White House. And so on. But I'm confused as to the writer's point here. Let me count the ways:

1) Do we really know nothing about Barack Obama? I thought he was a foreign-born, madrassa-attending, racist community organizer and terrorist sympathizer who wants to turn America into a Marxist, socialist welfare state! Judging by Obama's performance in office so far, none of that, in fact, seems even remotely true. Then again, YOU NEVER KNOW!

2) Is he saying that, to be a qualified president, Obama needs to have run a Dairy Queen? I seem to recall a lot of laughter in 2008 over Obama's past as a community organizer. Ha ha ha! And how about that stint in academia as a constitutional law professor? Bustin' a gut here! This isn't the stuff presidents are made of. Real, America-loving presidents cut their teeth working as fast-food franchisees. Or any other kind of business. Even if they ran it into the ground.

The thing is, Obama's past vocations involved helping poor people in dangerous neighborhoods and learning the intricacies of this country's foundations, both of which have helped him throughout his political career. To me at least, that seems a better basis for leadership than making sure the Blizzard machine is calibrated for maximum efficiency.

3) Is he calling Wasilla, Alaska, big? Or is he saying that Obama's never even run such a small town? Either way, it's a moot point; Obama's Illinois senatorial district is more populous than the entire state of Alaska. Hell, even the university where he taught constitutional law has much more of a population than Wasilla. And he served longer as a state senator than did a certain governor of Alaska.

Yeah, maybe this is too easy of a target. But that doesn't mean it wasn't worth the pitch.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

SOFA recap, April 11 (Note new time this week)

4/11: Leave Them in the Dustin (Dustin, Kenny, Chad) left Door Matt (Jack, Ian, Sam, Matt for the first half) in the dust with a 78-66 win. Though, technically, they won by forfeit, because the second half was called after about 15 minutes.

Door Matt could have easily come back in that time. Yeah.

The game was never close but, interestingly enough, the teams did swap leads several times (the team ahead tended to be WAY ahead). Especially in the first half, when newcomer Matt gave DM enough of an advantage that trade talk brewed prior to halftime. That talk waxed and waned considerably with each play. “Yeah, we should.” “No, definitely not; you’re beating us even though you’re outnumbered.”

Oh, and Dustin even said he wasn’t sure if his team could keep up their winning ways without getting really tired. Apparently, he’d forgotten the name of his team that I just gave it.

Dustin is not known for ever looking tired, and Sunday was no exception. He played like an acrobat the entire game, scoring several touchdowns that would have felled lesser men like the rest of us. He notched one field-length pick-six off a previously confident Ian, and always seemed to come out of nowhere on defense. Well, offense too. Even a second-half DM defensive-scheme switch, which boiled down to “Everybody on Dustin and pay token attention to that other speed demon,” wasn’t terribly effective.

Kenny, of course, was the other speed demon, long known for having some of the best and most persistent hands in SOFA. Kenny scored two amazingly notable touchdowns, including one that bounced off his hands, Sam’s hands and Ian’s hands, then right back into his hands as he popped Ian’s lip on his way to a score. The other one was notable too, though the exact nature of its notableness has been lost. But I believe it involved a touchdown pass that everyone thought was uncatchable. Not with Kenny! Jeez, do we ever learn?

And was he wearing a different shirt than usual? This didn’t occur to me until after I’d gone home, so it could have been a mirage. Anybody?

Chad was his usual assured self at quarterback, making smart reads and selling plays with expert moves. He also made a few pivotal catches of his own.

And let’s not overlook DM’s exploits. After all, even though they’re losers, DM still scored 66 points, which not even NFL teams can surpass. Jack intercepted in his own end zone and ran it back for a pick-six. Matt had two touchdowns in his debut, continuing a proud tradition of insecure newcomers who post stellar stats (an all-newcomer team would absolutely destroy us). Sam did the majority of QB duty, scoring frequently on both sides of the pass. Ian also threw some touchdown passes.

DM lost Matt at halftime, citing work (the old Stephanie excuse). At that point, the score was 48-44. After that, the game tippled heavily into LTITD’s favor. And yes, as I said, the second half ran only about 15 minutes. Where else will you see a 30-22 game in that span of time? I mean, that isn’t basketball?

At the end, though, the game pretty much belonged to LTITD. Coverage problems, morale issues and salary disputes allowed them to amass a lead that led Jack to abruptly walk right off the field.

Well, that and work.

We’re turning into a league of Stephanies here. I mean, really, how are we supposed to play any decent football around here with such rigorous work ethics?

On that note, I have to work at 4 p.m. tomorrow, so we will be moving the game up to 1 p.m. this week. If you can’t make it that early, just come when you can. Also, I probably won’t be there next week, because of a work function. So, yes, I’m a blatant hypocrite.

And don’t call me Stephanie.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

New rules

Rule #154: A simple wish
Simpler is not always better. There’s lots of talk about making the tax code simpler, or repealing one existing law for every new law, or making a slimmer health care bill. “You could do your taxes on the back of a postcard!” “The country has too many laws.” Um, no.

First off, I don’t want to do my taxes on the back of a postcard any more than I want Exxon-Mobil doing theirs that way. As far as time-suckers go, filling out my 1040-EZ takes about two commercial breaks, tops. Those with more complicated forms generally employ help and, even if they don’t, probably find the deduction process worthwhile. Protesting the tax structure is one thing; but don’t insult my intelligence by suggesting the problem is that it's all hard and stuff. I personally don’t think saving three seconds on my tax form is worth giving petrochemical giants a huge flat tax break.

As for too many laws? That isn’t simple; it’s simplistic. If you don’t like a law, argue it on its merits. Numbers and/or pages are irrelevant. God help us if somebody’s in a car accident, and their only legal recourse is the Preamble.

Rule #155: Petitioning a grievance
Any activist who can’t honestly articulate their cause deserves to have their petition invalidated. So many times, I’ve come across something like this: “We’re tired of people getting special rights. Is that fair? No it isn’t. Special rights for none! Equal rights for all. We just think people should be allowed to vote on this. Oh, and a black guy supports this.” Wha?

I’m not so concerned for myself as I am for the hippie chick who shrugged and signed because she heard keywords “rights...fair...equal...vote...black” and she was in a hurry. Anyway, you can’t vote on rights...I think? Either this is the most pointless rah-rah cause in the United States or it hides a very sinister effort to deny minorities and gays basic civil rights. Either way, I’m not signing. Thank you.

Rule #156: Shrill, baby, shrill
Every time Sarah Palin speaks, an angel rips off its wings and dives off a cloud.

Palin’s speech at the Southern Republican Leadership Conference was a new, fascinating low in American politics. The notion that Republican politicians incongruously slam government as both incompetent and evil is nothing new; but at least in the past, some measure of articulateness and/or alternative proposals came with it. Palin is all hate, all demagoguery, all red-meat, with no regard for the English language. She is every ignorant e-mail you ever got throughout 2008, living and breathing. It isn’t just that I disagree with her; I’m offended by her presence on the political scene. If she’s running for president, she’s a guaranteed disaster (apparently the SRLC agreed). If she isn’t, then the GOP is clearly keeping her around for the ratings, which is even worse.

“How’s that HOPEY-CHANGEY thing workin’ out for ya?” It seems to be working out well for both of us, thanks, Palin.

I’ll bet that if President Obama spent all of his time quoting Bill Maher’s rants on how Palin sucks, he’d be criticized for being a bitter drama queen who should spend his time in the spotlight coming up with positive, proactive solutions rather than proudly banking his legacy on his opponent’s failure. Exactly.

Rule #157: Feeling no glee
Pop culture has to make something that interests me. Granted, I was born in 1980 and have the precise cultural sensibilities of someone born in 1970; but still, something? Must everything involve some sort of combination of high school, singing, vampires, Jesus and reboot? Rolling Stone hasn’t released a cover without washboard abs or frilly pinkness since Obama took office. It wasn’t always like this, you know!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Any given Easter Sunday

4/4: Sometimes, you have to put things in perspective. Football is just a game. It’s not something that should ever tear a family apart. On the other hand, that’s sometimes the best part about it.

Phillips Screwdriver (Jack, Jerome, Amber) bested McHammer (Ian, Travis, Tina) 86-78 in a battle that literally pitted husbands against wives and mothers against daughters.

On a gorgeous Easter Sunday, Jack brought his family (wife Tina, daughter Amber) out to play. SOFA welcomed Tina and Amber with enthusiasm, partly because it’s always great to see smiling new faces eager to play, and also because they boosted our numbers by a third on an inexplicably sparse holiday turnout.

The Easter Bunny apparently had better things to do. So did the guy whose name is literally Joe Easter. Come to think of it, how come I’ve never seen them in the same room together? Hmmmm...

PS plotted, bickered and Jeromed its way to victory on the strength of its never-give-up attitude. Amber, who had never previously played (and had only shown up once before, as the official non-stop sideline texter of that particular game), made an auspicious debut, scoring a touchdown and a two-point conversion. She was also an effective decoy, often succeeding in the monumental task of getting the McHammer defense to turn its attention from Jerome. She provided the short game that made the long plays possible. It was also fun to watch her and QB dad Jack occasionally differ on playbook philosophy (by which I mean, feud hilariously).

Also, the PS defense was like Rick Astley in never giving up. Jerome netted not one, but two pick-2s on conversion attempts. At least Ian plowed behind him, forcing Jerome to earn those four points. Heh. Ian also deflected numerous passes intended for Jerome, straddling the pass-interference envelope in many cases, but even a bad day for Jerome is still better than a good day for most NFL receivers.

On McH’s side of the ball, Tina flourished with a touchdown, a PAT and an impressive long-bomb catch from Travis that set up a crucial late score. She also had a pivotal block that allowed Travis to go the distance. On defense, she dropped people to the ground more than once, sometimes throwing herself down in the process. I can only hope all of SOFA learns from her dedicated example.

Travis, a former Missouri State defensive end playing in his second SOFA game, notched multiple touchdowns, including a majestic tiptoe grab that resembled a hybrid of Riverdance and the Ickey Shuffle. When the straightness of your field’s boundaries are sketchy to begin with, foot control is of utmost importance.

Ian also scored a bunch of touchdowns. But you knew that already. Yawn. Probably his best was one that he called on defense, in the PS red zone: “Pick six, right here,” which is exactly what happened. Boom goes the dynamite.

By the way, if anyone wants to sponsor our red zones, that would totally defray the mounting cost of new flags. And grow your brand’s exposure and other assorted jargon.

Game balls:

Democratic play of the game: Tina snapped to Ian, who then found Travis in the end zone for a touchdown. It was the first known play in SOFA history that involved every player on a team touching the ball for the score. And by “known,” I mean that I've noticed. It’s actually not that difficult to get every player on a three-player team to touch pigskin. For all I know, PS did it too. What was my point again?

Glad you asked: Though I wrote down numerous highlights immediately after the game, I apparently didn’t feel the need to jot down the score. Fortunately, Stephanie had asked me about it on Facebook, so the tally was preserved for all time in my reply. Thanks, Stef! I’ll bet you’re glad you stayed home this past week.

Self-indulgent possible non-trend of the week: According to SOFA records, Ian has not been on the winning team since Jan. 17. Of course, the Super Bowl Sunday game record is forever lost to laziness, so I might have won that day. But I don’t think I did. And anyway, it’s felt like a long time, dammit. I sure have gotten soft since my Super Bowl victory.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

What a concussion feels like

On the night of Jan. 14, 2000, four months prior to my 20th birthday, I suffered a Type III concussion. This injury is a bizarre phenomenon that I think offers a telling insight into how the human brain works. I have an elephant’s memory, so for me to lose an entire block of time is something I’ll, uh, never forget. Here’s my story. And please, take my word for it!

I arrange to meet a group of friends to go ice skating. Earlier that day, I had washed and affixed my new university parking decal to my truck. The day had been cloudless and warm. I remember it well. That night, I drive myself to the Hockeyplex in Carencro, Louisiana, about 15 miles from my home in Lafayette.

Christian rock blares at the rink, and the skaters are mostly young children and a handful of teenagers. I didn’t know any of this would be the case when I went, but it doesn’t really matter; the energy is there, and I’m with six or seven of my best friends. What could go wrong?

Here’s what you should know about me as a skater — I’m not one. At least, not a proper one who uses both feet. I can ultimately get rolling (or blading), but it’s entirely with my dominant left foot, so that from the waist down I look like Marty McFly on an invisible hoverboard. Invariably, I go home with a swath of skin missing from my ankle. And forget trying rollerblades. But I always have fun, and generally keep the casualties to a minimum.

My friends and I make our rounds on the rink for about an hour without incident. Some of the more daring among them cut the ice with grace; even I manage to artfully dodge some of the more erratic kiddies. Before long, I have a nice groove going, stopping only for a hot-chocolate break.

I remember mingling with my friends, laughing non-stop as we always do. I finish my hot chocolate and decide to hit the ice once again, so to speak. Most of the others stay at our table. I get back on the ice and work my way into the first left turn.

From what I’m told, a small child got in my way and I tried to dodge him, losing my footing.

I’m told I lunged forward and plowed headfirst into the ice with my right temple, hitting it so hard that my head bounced off and hit it again. I’d later be told that this led to bruises on both sides of my brain.

I’m told that several of the children surrounded me afterward, some of whom laughed.

I later recalled being scraped off the ice and feeling the chill of the ice shavings that covered my body.

The next thing I know, I’m sitting on a training table in a bright room with a dull headache, seeing millions of dancing yellow stars. A woman whose face I can’t decipher is holding an icepack to my head, and all of my friends are sitting around me.

“What happened?” I ask one.

“You fell,” she says simply. I’m then told I’m still at the ice rink. I ask how long I was out. I was never out, I’m told.

The woman asks me my name. I don’t know it. I do, however, know my driver’s license number, and tell her that. I also have a quick flashback to high school, when this happened to our quarterback during a football game. I recall his name too, but not my own.

“Is it 2000 yet?” I ask. When the woman asks me what day I think it is, I say, “Dec. 13, 1999.” One of my friends later recalls I actually said a different month in 1999, so who knows what I actually said?

“Can you tell me your friends’ names?” the woman asks, pointing to each one in turn. I say all the right names, but not necessarily to the right people. I flip last names and misidentify one girl’s middle name as that of my brother’s girlfriend, who shares her last name. As worried as they are, my friends immediately rib me about this.

“I think I’m OK to go home,” I say. “My truck’s outside. I didn’t sell it yet, did I?”

The woman begs to differ, and says I need to go to the emergency room immediately. But before we leave, I have one more question:

“What happened?”

I’d later remember that I left the rink on my own two feet, but with two friends clutching my arm on each side. As we walk out the doors, one of them says, “Hey Ian, I’ll bet you never guessed you’d be walking out of here tonight with two cute girls on your arms, huh?” I laugh, or slur, in reply.

Another friend helps me into his Camaro and drives me to the hospital. A Michael Jackson song comes on the radio. I sing every word of it. At some point during the ride, I ask my friend a pressing question:

“What happened?”

Next thing I know, I’m sitting in the bright ER. You know that feeling you get when you first open your eyes in the morning, and it takes a few seconds to realize what you’re seeing? That’s me every time I move my eyes. I can see well enough, but it takes a few seconds to focus on anything at all. At some point I flash my driver’s license - one which I’ve had for only a few months - and an ER clerk says they can’t believe it’s me.

My mom arrives in the lobby. I’m surprised, but happy, to see her. “How did you know I was here?” I ask her.

“You called me and told me what happened,” she says. I did? Yep, as it turns out, I had called her back in that odd little room, and had even dialed the number. I’d later get a hilarious re-enactment of that conversation.

I look down and realize I’m now wearing a medical bracelet. When did that get there? I deduce that my name is spelled correctly, but my address appears to be wrong. Nothing on the bracelet even remotely resembles an address.

“Poor Ian,” somebody tells my mom, “All that time he spent not drinking and smoking and he killed all his brain cells anyway.” They laugh. Even I laugh at that.

Magically, my surroundings morph into the inside of a CAT scan machine. It’s trippy how it spins like a drum above my face. After about a minute of that, I spend about three seconds being pushed in a wheelchair down a hallway. Then I’m in a room with things that might be toys and a children’s mural painted on the wall. Everything cuts rapidly like a poorly edited film. I swear I even hear the click of the transitions.

A doctor steps outside to talk to my mom, which scares me. He tells me I sustained a Type III concussion, the worst kind that doesn’t lead to permanent brain damage. I accuse the doctor of lying to me. “You’re telling me I’m OK to make me feel better,” I tell him groggily after he returns. “You told her I’m gonna die.”

“Ian,” he says reassuringly, almost cheerfully, “It’s against the law for me to lie to you. You’re hurt, but you’ll recover.”

One of my friends, a former girlfriend with whom I’m still close, comes in and tells me that I’m strong and kisses me on the cheek. My friends head for home.

I walk into a bathroom to wash up. I take a look at my face for the first time since the accident. Aside from a small Y-shaped bruise on my right temple, there’s no outward signs of what has happened. I merely look incredibly drunk.

Later I would receive a letter from the hospital, apologizing for the considerable delay in treatment. So I wasn’t there for only 10 minutes?

On the way home, Mom and I pop into Eckerd to get the ibuprofen I’m prescribed. Yes, I’m prescribed Advil (Super Advil, maybe?) and told I can take that and just go to sleep. My mom explains to the pharmacist what happened to me while I stagger behind her. I don’t remember what they say, except that the pharmacist uses the word “clearly” at some point. I have to sign for the pills, so I put the pen to paper and in a flash, my full signature suddenly appears.

Once home, I take the pills and go to sleep. If I had a dream, I don’t remember it, and it was probably freaky anyway.

The next morning, I’m due to travel across the state with my university’s track team. Obviously, there’s no way I can do this. In this pre-everybody-has-cell-phones age, I also have no way to contact anybody, so my mom and I take the drive out to campus. I want to vomit out the window the whole way. When we get there, I find an athletic-trainer friend and explain the situation. “That’s a good reason not to go,” he says in his dry, witty way. We head home, and I manage to keep everything down.

Later, my mom and brother go out to retrieve my truck. My brother asks me where we were, and I can’t recall the name of the place. I do manage to describe, in detail, the facility and the roads he has to take. That’s enough for him. He finds the place and drives my truck home. I actually take it out that very night, to meet other friends at Barnes & Noble. I still can’t focus very well, and my friends can’t believe I’m out when I tell them what happened the night before. Stupid!

Having a job at 2 a.m. did not help my recovery. A week later, coming home from that job, I run a stop sign and get my first (and so far, only) traffic ticket. Not long after, I get lost in a familiar neighborhood. At school the following week, I am as glassy-eyed as any pothead. For the first time in my life, I am completely clear of thoughts. Scary. I also have a dull headache for a month. The weird thing is, knowing that the pain is from the concussion makes it extremely tolerable.

In the following month, I would bounce back. Some effects do last quite a while — I find myself frustrated far more often, lashing out by punching pillows or kicking walls. Also, I second-guess my recovery at times when I hear muted conversations about me. It becomes an instant punchline for everyone I meet afterwards, who upon hearing of the accident would say, “Oh, THAT explains it!”

I guess you could say I learned my lesson. Except that I went back to the same rink with the same friends a couple of years later. I didn’t suffer a concussion that time, though ironically I don’t recall much else about that night. Maybe that’s for the best.

Monday, April 05, 2010

I'm trying. What's your excuse?

A good way to test the integrity of political beliefs is to ask, “How much sacrifice is involved?”

The way I see it, your beliefs - political or moral - should compel you to be better. Even if you aren’t perfect - and who is? - you should at least strive to be the best person you can be.

I’ll admit that my life is not 100 percent in sync with my views.

I’m a proponent of a healthy and ethical diet, but my choices of groceries and stores don’t always reflect that.

English is my first language and French is a distant second. I know very little Spanish, even though I feel like all Americans should learn it in this global society.

I drive my car, run by fossil fuels. Even though it is a relatively cheap and efficient car, I’m still releasing pollutants every time I drive it (and I’m usually alone when I do). I want clean transportation, but I can’t always choose it.

I recycle, but I still throw away a lot of trash. I’m always looking for ways to cut down on garbage, but I’m limited by what facilities recycle in my area.

I use energy-efficient light bulbs and turn out the lights whenever I leave a room, but my utility usage is still higher than I want it to be. Missouri winters leave you no choice but to use your heater six months out of the year, and sometimes background noise in the form of the TV or stereo is soothing.

When shopping, I use as few bags as I can, sometimes to the point of absurdity; it is a very common sight to see me juggling eight packages as I open my apartment door with my teeth. Still, I have an entire kitchen closet full of plastic and paper bags.

The point is, I try to make choices in my life that make a difference, however small. It doesn’t always work, and sometimes I outright get picked on for it. But I press on anyway, because I’m always trying to be a better, prudent and thoughtful person. And I have the utmost respect for anyone who lives their life with the same objective.

I’m often asked why I’m so harsh on modern conservatism, particularly the far-right, tea party faction. Plenty of reasons abound, but most can be distilled into a single point:

The right is not about improvement, but about rationalization.

There are no inconvenient truths in the tea party. The closest thing they have to a genuine bugaboo is terrorism, and even that fits right in with their lust for kickin’ ass.

Everything else they stand for just happens to jibe perfectly with their views:

They oppose taxes because they’re greedy, and/or because they really think “millions on welfare are depending on you.”

They vigorously deny global warming, because they don’t want to feel guilty about driving a Hummer.

They want to make English the official language because they can’t be bothered to learn any foreign tongue.

They’re nostalgic for an era when things were simpler and people knew their place, because they envision themselves at the top of that pecking order.

They define freedom as the right to smoke and carry guns absolutely anywhere, and to not have health insurance. Also, the right to shirk responsibility over the social contract whenever convenient.

They want to “take our country back” because they feel like it’s theirs and theirs alone.

I can see why conservatism, particularly the more hard-line variety now in vogue, seems attractive to people. Most Americans are struggling and are rife with genuine anger, and don’t know where to direct it. And it’s reassuring to hear Republican politicians and TV pundits say that you’re fine and that it’s The Others who need to change. It’s comforting to adopt a set of principles that don’t challenge your ways in the slightest.

It’s no accident that religious fanaticism thrives here.

David Koresh and Warren Jeffs often said that God commanded them to marry and multiply with numerous, and increasingly younger, women. Do you think either of them ever said, “But why, God? I want to follow your word, but that doesn’t seem right”? Or is it possible that they just liked screwing underage girls?

Similarly, going to war didn’t seem like such a burden on George W. Bush and Dick Cheney; Sarah Palin didn’t have much to lose by quitting the governorship of Alaska and hogging the spotlight; the various right-wing militias don’t seem too eager to avoid confrontation; and Orly Taitz is clearly risking her reputation to get the TRUTH out about President Obama.

Where is the introspection? The dissent? The sacrifice? I’m not seeing it. You know what else I don’t see? Integrity. I only see a convenient self-centeredness. That’s the truth. And the truth hurts.

Friday, April 02, 2010

SOFA recaps, along with my April Fool's joke

Attention SOFA participants of all levels of attendance:

******MANDATORY DRUG TESTING******

In light of national sports scandals and recent unparalleled (and questionable) feats of athleticism seen on the field, the commissioner has decided to institute drug screening for all players in the Springfield Open Football Association.

The service will be provided by In-Quest Technologies of Springfield, and will cost $10 per person. It is compulsory for all on-field participants. Those who miss or skip the session will not be allowed to play. For those who choose not to attend on account of Easter Sunday, an extra round of testing will precede the following week's game. Anyone who tests positive will be banned from playing until they pass the next round of testing, to be announced at a later date.

This urine test will screen for all anabolic steroids, hormones, masking agents and stimulants, with a particular emphasis on the following:

Amphetamines (Greenies, speed)
Dehydrochloromethyltestosterone (Oral-Turinabol)
Human Growth Hormone (hGH)
Insulin Growth Factor (IGF-1)
Pseudoephedrine (Meth, Sudafed)
Stanozolol (Stromba, Winstrol)
Tetrahydrocannibanol (THC)
Diuretics (Alcohol)
Nicotine (Nicotine)
Acetylsalicylic acid (Aspirin)

On-site testing will begin at 1 p.m. on Sunday, just before this week's game. This applies to both male and female players, who will be called individually to give a specimen under the close supervision of a medical technician. As per usual custom, men will duck under the stands and women will just have to be creative.

So make sure you come on out on what promises to be a gorgeous spring day, and make sure you drink lots of fluids prior to arriving. RESIST THE TEMPTATION TO PEE BEFOREHAND!

Thank you for your understanding in this sensitive matter.

--Commish Ian

3/14: After weeks of scoreboard-shredding blowouts, SOFA notched its closest and lowest-scoring game in quite some time. Ian, Trevor, Jack, Joe, Jerome, and Caleb divided up in some combination to notch a 61-56 final score.

It could have been a blowout. But the losers — meaning the team I was on — clawed back from the abyss of a 20-odd point deficit. So, as our late commissioner Chris would say whenever he lost, it was a moral victory.

3/21: A freak snowstorm limited turnout, so we didn’t play. Instead, I went to the mall to buy a new pair of jeans.

3/28: Early in the game, Dave intercepted an attempted two-point conversion and ran it back to his end zone. Ian gave chase, but didn’t have much of a shot at stopping it.

“It was just two points, man,” Jerome told an out-of-breath Ian afterwards. “It’s no big deal.”

“Yeah,” Ian replied, “But he’s still gotta earn it.”

Alas, that play was ultimately the deciding factor in a game that seemed to have been decided for the losing team throughout. After trailing for nearly the entire game, Trevor’s Team (Jack, Caleb, Dave, Trevor) rallied in the final minutes to beat Trevor’s Other Team (Joe, Ian, Jerome, also Trevor), 76-74.

TT drew first blood on a touchdown by Dave to take a 6-0 lead. But TOT quickly ran up a lead that neared 20 points at times. With Joe steering the sled at quarterback, Ian scored three touchdowns and Jerome added several more. The TOT defense bent but didn’t break, relatively speaking, making several key fourth-down stops. Ian intercepted Caleb in the end zone, running it back to midfield, setting up a TOT score. Jerome had a pick as well.

TT was not too shabby itself, however, tightening the lead when it mattered most. Jack, Caleb and Dave each took turns at quarterback, employing a varied offense featuring play-action(-esque) trickery. Jack’s expert reading at quarterback, combined with Caleb’s versatility and Dave’s general craziness, kept them a formidable force even when the game seemed decided.

Ultimately, a fluke play turned the tide. With the score 74-70 in TOT’s favor, and faced with a fourth-and-short with less than 30 seconds left, Joe tossed an easy pass to Ian for the first and to cement the game. But Ian, whose hands had been reliable the entire game and was wide open on the play, dropped it. Paging Jackie Smith.

This led to TT taking over and driving down the length of the field (less impressive than it sounds) and scoring on a Jack pass to Dave. Alas, the play was called back after Ian, playing safety, questioned why Joe had not covered his man. Turns out that Joe was in the midst of clarifying a time issue when Jack called hike. So the down was replayed. Not that it mattered much, because soon after Jack threw the game-winning TD to win it. Technically, TT should have gone for the extra points, because that would have given TOT a chance to tie it with a pick-2 per NFL rules, but nooooooooo! Instead, a thrilling game ended with the wrong team winning yet again. At least it was thrilling.

Game balls:

Player of the game: Trevor. Rumor has it that Trevor had not even wanted to play this week, fearing he wouldn’t be any good. But playing all-time offense, he turned out to be a serious playmaker, scoring three touchdowns and at least one PAT, and serving as a successful foil for his teammates on both sides. The mercenary.

Quote of the game: Trevor, to Ian: “I like it better when I’m on your team.” But hey, maybe he said that to the other guys too. The mercenary.

Every little bit helps: Caleb threw an impressively long field goal for TT. So I guess you could say that was the deciding factor, but I already said Dave’s 2-point runback was the deciding factor. The point is, TT had to earn it.

Catch of the game: Earlier in the game, Ian bobbled a kickoff reception. But on a later kickoff, Ian was still resetting when Jerome alerted him to a ball headed straight at him. “Oh, oops,” Ian said, twisting nearly 180 degrees and executing a perfect catch and substantial runback. Since then, Ian has vowed to stop paying attention more often.

Sorry, Starship — something will stop you after all: Dave, who’s usually good for a score or 19, often found himself stopped on several plays like a mere mortal. And while he did rack up the points, no one can ever take that away from the TOT defense.

We’ll be out again for Easter Sunday, so get your priorities straight and come on out! You can be among the first to try our BRAND-NEW FOOTBALL! And for Pete’s sake, don’t come out early for drug testing. Ah, Pete. Where have you gone?