Friday, December 30, 2011

Twenty twelve talk

This is my 280th blog of 2011. There seems to be an inverse correlation between how well my years go and how often I blog here, and this is the second-busiest blog year I've yet had, so I'll let you deduce that one.

Well, maybe that's not fair. It's probably more correct to say this has been a weird year. I can accurately describe it as one continuous road trip, albeit one where I got tired of driving and hoped the next turn would finally be the one with the gas pump and toilet already.

At the same time, I haven't been out of Louisiana since the moment I stepped back in it on Feb. 13. This 10-month-and-counting stretch is the longest I've spent in one state in almost six years. I once went eight years between trips to New Orleans, and that's when I lived in Lafayette. I've come a long way. Literally. I hope it isn't turning into a round trip back into that.

To put it in football terms, my friend-turnover ratio was like -123 this year. Some of that was from moving away from Missouri, but not all of it. At least I got to hang with various family members for the first time in many years. Not to mention, have Christmas with my family for the first time since 2006. That was pretty cool.

I'm very ready for 2012. Something about a new year always gives me the motivation to do things I've been putting off, like updating the "Behind the Blog" profile and starting the Facebook fan page for this site I've been leaving in limbo for while. Among many, many other things.

I have many New Year's resolutions. I know what they are, and that's what matters.

Hey, 2012 is an election year, isn't it? Somebody ought to tell the Republicans. Oh. Sorry, four years of rust is tough to shake off. Re-elect change!

I'm going to be 32 in 2012. And you'll still be 21. That's what I like about college girls.

The Saints would make my year early with an appearance in Super Bowl XLVI. I wonder if, when they win, the state will issue revised decals for the Saints license plates? If they do, what happens if they wind up with a dynasty? Seems like a nice problem to have.

Oh, apparently I owe the state of Missouri property tax today. Oops! Missed that form in the mail. If I vanish in the middle of the night, you know where to find me.

Happy New Year, everybody.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

A bizarre spin on the passing record

I really hope the New Orleans Saints win the Super Bowl again this year. Mainly because they’re my boys, but also because I can’t wait to see how creative haters will get in minimizing the feat:

“Yeah, the Saints won the Lombardi Trophy, but they lost to the Rams! Remember that?”

“Big deal. What about all those loserly years when they didn’t win it?”

“The Miami Dolphins did it in fewer games back in ’72.”

“Everyone knows the Packers are better, even though the Saints beat them to get to the Super Bowl.”

“Only a dirty offense would employ a basketball player like Jimmy Graham.”

“Only a dirty offense would employ a short stack like Darren Sproles.”

“Only a dirty defense would give up so many yards yet so few points.”

“I heard Will Smith took a piss right there in the urinal! Poor sport.”

“Whatever. They never would have beaten the 1985 Bears. It was a different game back then.”

“The Saints get all their wins in stadiums. But how would they fare in a quarry?”

“Only a nefarious coach like Sean Payton would run up the score in the fourth quarter when the Saints were already four points ahead.”

“Drew Brees threw for only 427 yards in the game. Dan Marino threw 5,084 in 1984!”

As the sports universe witnessed on Monday Night Football this week, Brees topped Marino’s longstanding pass-yardage record with a snappy 9-yard strike to Sproles for a touchdown. On the surface, it couldn’t have happened on a more perfect play — on Brees’ final pass of the game, a touchdown, in front of a national audience, in a rout of the Saints’ archrival, the equally playoff-bound Atlanta Falcons. Seeing the NFL’s ultimate team player and go-to good guy get the New Orleans crowd roaring and celebrate with his teammates is why I watch football. It’s why I watch anything. Hell, even Marino couldn’t help but tweet his congrats.

It wasn’t until well after the game that I realized I was seeing not the exuberance of a team and a city over an astounding accomplishment, but a rubbing-in and piling-on by one of the league’s dirtiest and most arrogant teams. I had a lot of articles to link for this piece, but my browser crashed under the weight of all of them. Most of them boiled down to this: “The Saints were winning by a huge margin! It was mean of them to pass like that. Brees had a whole other game to get that last 30. I’m an anonymous Falcon and WAAAAAH!”

Well, Payton doesn’t regret it and I’m glad. Let me count the ways why:

1) The timing was perfect. Like I said already, Monday Night Football, aka D. Brees’ Playhouse. He had time and momentum on his own turf against the Saints’ most-hated rival. Why not?

2) The Falcons had every opportunity to stop them. That’s kind of the point of football. You can’t really fault a team for continuing to play offense when there’s still several minutes left on the clock and the defense can’t stop them. Running up the score is one thing; running up the score with a subdued offense because the defense is paper is another entirely. See the Colts game for an even more acute example of this. (In this case, there’s also Mike Smith’s decision not to punt on fourth down, thus giving the Saints the short field to begin with.)

3) There’s no mercy rule in pro football. There’s exactly one time in the game when teams pull back, and it’s the victory formation. And even then, the offense puts someone in the backfield in case something goes wrong. The record-breaking series wasn’t even a case of that. That said,

4) The Saints are usually the most conservative closers in the game. Ahead 42-17 in the 2006 game against the Cowboys, Brees actually knelt out his final series near the red zone, giving the ball to the Cowboys with time to spare. The Saints could have scored easily, but didn’t. They often do this at the end of assured wins, which annoys me as a fan but probably is the classy thing to do. So I didn’t really see their chase of the record (which I consider something to play for) as a terrible stain on their character.

5) Brees threw for 307 yards. If that isn’t playing it close to the vest, I don’t know what is.

6) Brees came up short last time. In 2008, Drew fell 15 yards shy of the mark, with one incomplete pass ultimately making the difference. That game was against the Carolina Panthers in the Superdome. Which, as you might know, is exactly what he faces this week. Not the 12-4 powerhouse of that year, but still...why take the risk? It’s stupid not to embrace the opportunity when it rears its head. As Steve Winwood sang, while you see a chance, take it.

Which I own. On RECORD. Did your head just go boom?
7) The fact that it’s a different, more pass-happy era is irrelevant. Nutrition has improved since the 1930s, but that doesn’t mean anyone’s come close to being as tall as 8-foot, 11-inch Robert Wadlow. And if someone ever does, it’s still worth noting because it doesn’t happen very often.

8) Some Falcons have vowed not to forget. Apparently they already forgot how badly they lost, which seems to be the more immediate issue if the two teams are to meet again in the playoffs.

But that’s all in the history books now. Cue Patriots fans claiming the record will be short-lived because of Tom Brady. Now there’s a team that likes to run up the score...

Sunday, December 25, 2011

My (re-gifted) present to you



Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays! I hope you have much better things today than to read this blog. But if you don't, you'll (probably) enjoy my recollections of Christmases past. I wrote these last year and have updated many chapters this year with all-new old photos and all-new corrected facts! This continues to be a work in progress, by which I mean I still haven't found all the pictures I want. So you'll probably want to check back next year too. But you should want to anyway. Now do go something festive!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

An X-rated Christmas lesson

"Xmas" is not an attempt to eradicate Christ from Christmas. It comes from the ancient Greeks, for whom X (chi) was the first letter in Christ's name. They often affixed giant Xs to their catacombs for that reason and also because the letter resembled the cross. That's why we have Xmas.

Happy C-mas! War is over.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Wishing you the best Christmas Adam

My brother Colin just texted to wish me a happy Christmas Adam. I hope you're all giving this day the reverence it deserves. On this morning around 1987, my brother Colin woke me up and said excitedly, "Ian, today is Christmas Eve Eve!" And I replied sleepily, "So, it's Christmas Adam?" That's what we've called Dec. 23 ever since. 

That would make Dec. 22 Christmas Adam Eve, Dec. 21 Christmas Adam Adam, and so on. If you take this to its logical extension, every day of the year can be Christmas. Even Dec. 26 is Christmas Adam Adam Adam Adam Adam Adam Adam Adam Adam Adam Adam Adam Adam Adam Adam Adam Adam Adam Adam Adam Adam Adam Adam Adam Adam Adam Adam Adam Adam Adam Adam Adam Adam Adam Adam Adam Adam Adam Adam Adam Adam Adam Adam Adam Adam Adam Adam Adam Adam Adam Adam Adam Adam Adam Adam Adam Adam Adam Adam Adam Adam Adam Adam Adam Adam Adam Adam Adam Adam Adam Adam Adam Adam Adam Adam Adam Adam Adam Adam Adam Adam Adam Adam Adam Adam Adam Adam Adam Adam Adam Adam Adam Adam Adam Adam Adam Adam Adam Adam Adam Adam Adam Adam Adam Adam Adam Adam Adam Adam Adam Adam Adam Adam Adam Adam Adam Adam Adam Adam Adam Adam Adam Adam Adam Adam Adam Adam Adam Adam Adam Adam Adam Adam Adam Adam Adam Adam Adam Adam Adam Adam Adam Adam Adam Adam Adam Adam Adam Adam Adam Adam Adam Adam Adam Adam Adam Adam Adam Adam Adam Adam Adam Adam Adam Adam Adam Adam Adam Adam Adam Adam Adam Adam Adam Adam Adam Adam Adam Adam Adam Adam Adam. 

Or we could make two Adams equal a Jesus to simplify things. That would make Dec. 26 Christmas Jesus Jesus Jesus Jesus Jesus Jesus Jesus Jesus Jesus Jesus Jesus Jesus Jesus Jesus Jesus Jesus Jesus Jesus Jesus Jesus Jesus Jesus Jesus Jesus Jesus Jesus Jesus Jesus Jesus Jesus Jesus Jesus Jesus Jesus Jesus Jesus Jesus Jesus Jesus Jesus Jesus Jesus Jesus Jesus Jesus Jesus Jesus Jesus Jesus Jesus Jesus Jesus Jesus Jesus Jesus Jesus Jesus Jesus Jesus Jesus Jesus Jesus Jesus Jesus Jesus Jesus Jesus Jesus Jesus Jesus Jesus Jesus Jesus Jesus Jesus Jesus Jesus Jesus Jesus Jesus Jesus Jesus Jesus Jesus Jesus Jesus Jesus Jesus Jesus Jesus Jesus.

How about just say Christmas God and be done with it? Jesus!

Another question is, I don't know whether to wish you Happy or Merry Christmas Adam. I should take a poll. What do you think?

In the meantime, Happy Preseason Holidays!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

"KIIIIIM! KIIIIIM!"

If ever a moment epitomized North Korea, this is it. Dear Leader Kim Jong-Il has passed onto the great video store in the sky, and the people of the DPRK cannot contain their grief. And boy, is it ever grief...



I can’t be sure, but I suspect that the masses are sort of upset here. I mean, that’s the vibe that I get. I could be wrong. But how else do you explain the everlasting, exhausting chorus of crying? The uncontrolled, yet oddly orderly, paroxysms and hysterics? Sure, mass remembrances tend to be quieter than this in America, but that’s only because we don’t understand the concept of a DEAR LEADER.

Experts on body language will tell you that a woman who is shouting, “OH YES OH YES OHMYGOOOOOOOOOOOD I AM SO NOT FAKING THIS RIGHT NOW,” is faking it. On the other hand, if she’s making a very unattractive face and is grunting, chances are she’s too into the moment to care how she looks.

If you asked me in sixth grade to act like my favorite grandparent had suddenly dropped dead, and threatened to kick me out of school if I didn’t act with enough passion, this is exactly how I would have acted. It’s precisely the performance you get from a sheltered person who’s pressured to exhibit an emotion that they’ve probably never fully understood.

This is staged, is what I’m saying. Not necessarily that the people are complicit in it, or that they aren’t truly upset that the man they’re conditioned to worshiping suddenly dropped dead, but they’re definitely hamming it up here. And considering what consequences no doubt loom if don’t show sufficient sadness, I can’t blame them for overcompensating.

Crying is like fire — it’s often portrayed as much louder of a force than it actually is. Even big fires tend to make a quiet licking sound, and silent weeping is more common than sustained wailing. And that’s true no matter how insular the culture.

In any case, the death of Kim invites the possibility, however minuscule, that North Korea could one day no longer be the world’s clown-prince pariah.

Cue tears of joy.

Monday, December 19, 2011

The one-handed clap of patriotism

It’s Shockey, y’all! Have you forgotten? Well, here he is putting a boot in your ass, courtesy of the Red, White, Blue, Silver and Black:

Panthers tight end Jeremy Shockey is a patriot. Disrespect this country, he will notice -- and take exception. 

Case in point: During the performance of the "Star-Spangled Banner" before his team's 28-13 victory over the Texans on Sunday at Reliant Stadium.

"Personally, myself, I was really upset they weren't showing respect to America during the National Anthem," Shockey told reporters, according to KILT-AM. "There were about 10 players who didn't put their arms across their chest.” 

Yes, Jeremy Shockey is a patriot. So what? Saying someone is a patriot is just as nonsensical as saying they like food or families or not being dead. It’s meaningless. Everyone is a patriot in the sense that they hold allegiance toward something they feel is right, whether it’s their country or simply themselves.

But I get what the article is trying to say. Maybe we need a more accurate term to describe the kind of love for country that can be measured in flags and sufficient symbolic gestures. Actually, I think there is a word for that — jingoism.

Like most Americans, I learned all the rote gestures you’re supposed to do to prove you love your country. I did them at every opportunity, lest people think I sympathized with Saddam Hussein or something. It became every bit the OCD tic that prayer was, and after a while I realized that God probably wouldn’t spank me if I didn’t feel like doing what Uncle Simon says. And that’s the beauty of this country: our patriotism lies in exercising our freedom, not in our reverence of symbols. And that’s why our symbols mean so much in the first place. So I don’t fault Shockey for feeling perturbed, even if I don’t share his particular brand of patriotism.

But he is going a bit overboard by saying that not covering your heart is disrespecting America. As far as being unpatriotic goes, it isn’t exactly burning the flag. Then again, flag burning is protected freedom of speech, so maybe that’s a bad example. Maybe the U.S. would be a better nation if we all made like Shockey and policed others for sufficient patriotism. It works for those bastions of liberty over in China and North Korea.

You don’t have to put your hands in someone else’s idea of the right place to be a good American. And plenty of Americans who cover their hearts demonstrate through their actions that they have no hearts; indeed, they’re often the same people who make the biggest deal out of the act.

Anyway, Jeremy, you’re talking about the Texans here. It’s like a whole other country.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Bowled over in New Orleans

As far as football weekends go, seeing my two favorite teams cap historic seasons with huge wins made for one of the most memorable experiences I’ve had in a long time.

And that’s an understatement.

The worst thing about living in Missouri is that New Orleans isn’t there. So when I moved back to Louisiana earlier this year, I vowed to visit the Big Easy as often as I could. This weekend, I made two days of it by attending the New Orleans Bowl with good friends, and then watching the Saints-Vikings game with those friends on Sunday.

The University of Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns earned their first bowl bid in 41 years, squaring off against the San Diego State Aztecs on Saturday in the Superdome. Having worked closely with the UL track team and athetic department for seven years (during some of the football team’s most dismal seasons), I knew I couldn’t be anywhere else this weekend. I made sure to dress for the part.

It helped that it was cold, but it probably wouldn't have mattered either way.
Game notes:

• According to my Facebook feed, traffic from Lafayette to New Orleans was bumper-to-bumper all through Friday and Saturday. Not wanting to risk being late for my friends’ planned 3:15 departure time from their place on Esplanade, I left Baton Rouge at noon. Turns out traffic was completely clear the entire way, and I cruised to New Orleans with more than an hour to spare. I spent that hour walking along Canal Street after blowing $4 because I forgot that those pay parking lots don’t issue change.

You have to go pretty far down before you realize it doesn't issue change — like when you're reaching down for your ticket.
• Though seemingly the entire population of Lafayette was concentrated on a handful of streets in the French Quarter, and that my main problem in Lafayette is knowing 90 percent of the people I run into, I didn’t run into anybody I knew there.

• The tour bus for Kyle Turley’s band made a cameo on Canal Street. It was the second-closest I’ve ever been to Turley, the first being the time I attended one of his shows and bought his CD directly from him.

If this was a parade, that bus would be throwing helmets.
• After meeting up with my two friends (former Ragin’ Cajuns and high school classmates who are now married) at their place, we made our way through the French Quarter en route to the Superdome. At one point we stopped by a party tent, where a mutual friend gave me one of her extra tickets. So now I had two seats to the game. I hadn’t had this much luck since the time my sister’s high school chorus performed in Branson, and I got a free ticket from a parent. But in both cases, I’d already bought a ticket, so I don’t how how lucky you could consider this. I could just stop buying tickets altogether, but life never works out that way.

• The friends I was with had received tickets for a free pre-game party in the Superdome’s Iberville Club Room. It had an unlimited buffet and free drinks. The caterers offered red beans and rice, sausage gumbo and other culturally relevant dishes that my palate is not mature enough to like. Even the vegetables were a smorgasbord of every plant I can’t stand. I went all the way down the table with only baby carrots and dry tortilla chips on my plate, blasting my rotten luck. Just then, at the very end of the table, a plate of chicken tenders materialized out of nowhere. It seemed so bizarre, out of place and exactly attuned to what I wanted to eat at the moment. Can something can be photoshopped into reality? Whatever the case, I ate about 140 of those tenders. Mmmm.

• I went with the better vantage point of my two tickets, which of course was the one that cost me $47. Here’s what I saw for my money:

During kicks, nothing but net. 
• I didn’t get to sit with my friends for the game. Instead, I sat next to two empty seats. That’s another thing that always seems to happen. Is it my breath? Still, the seat gave me a chance to really concentrate on the game, no matter how much that annoyed the constantly-texting, apathetic college girl in front of me. Fortunately, plenty of other people were around to high-five during the Cajuns’ many five-worthy moments. And there were waves. Plenty of waves.

• Above us sat several flatscreen TV monitors. The game feed hopped from the Superdome’s closed circuit to ESPN’s live broadcast at random intervals, leading me to think that signal continuity was a problem. I noticed early on that it was really bad luck for me to watch any game action on the screens; when I focused on the field, plays turned out better for UL.

• The officiating sucked. But it did help us in the very end.

• Brett Baer’s last-second field goal kick after San Diego State’s late rally didn’t suck. In fact, it was awesome and quite the redemption for the two extra points he missed.

• After the game ended, I eventually reconnected with my friends after stupidly jogging the entire perimeter of the Superdome looking for the gate that was actually right next to mine. At least I got to run into (sometimes literally) several people I knew along the way.

• My friends and I went to the Boondock Saint to meet other pals. We caught ESPN’s rebroadcast of the game, where I was pretty sure I saw myself in the cheering throng after the game-winning kick. Once I got home, I recorded the footage onto my laptop and, after further review, determined that the overhang in fact had obscured my row.

• At the Boondock Saint, we struck up a conversation with a man who said he lived in Houston and had traveled to watch his son play for UL. He said he had been unable to buy a program and offered to pay any price to buy mine. I gave it to him.

• We stayed out at the bar until nearly 5 a.m. I had fallen asleep on a bench. It was at that point that my friend insisted I wasn’t driving back to Baton Rouge tonight. I didn’t argue. I did, however, drive us to their place, because tired > drinking until 5 a.m. any day.

• We slept in until about 11:30 a.m., at which point we headed back to the Boondock Saint to watch the New Orleans Saints destroy the Minnesota Vikings. In addition to the expected Saints cheering, news of the Packers’ loss to the Chiefs and the Colts’ win over the Titans drew considerable fanfare as well.

• I love driving through New Orleans and Lake Ponchartrain on a clear Sunday afternoon, listening to WWL after a decisive Saints victory. Friends, football and the open road — I couldn’t ask for more. Except maybe for more of all of those things.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

The UL name game

It may come as a shock to many of you, but I have an overactive imagination. That imagination fueled my childhood aspirations of being the best pro athlete in America. Now that I’m old, I no longer harbor such fantasies — these days, I picture myself merely as a reliable stalwart of the Saints secondary. Hey, you have to be realistic, right?

One of the perks of being a pro football player is being able to say your own name and alma mater on prime-time television. I’ve practiced it in case that day ever comes. “Ian McGibboney. Free safety. University of Louisiana.”

It’s probably for the best that I don’t get to say that. As it is, people in Baton Rouge tend to want to jump you for having the audacity not to say, or emphasize, Lafayette in the name. It’s a very weird battle that I have a hard time imagining happening anywhere but south Louisiana.

Here’s a little history: In 1984, what was then the University of Southwestern Louisiana (USL) changed its name to the University of Louisiana. It appeared on bumper stickers and on the diplomas that year. However, the state forced the school to return to its previous designation. It did, and everyone went back to dancing to “My Toot Toot.”

Fast forward to 1999: As USL entered its centennial, it successfully petitioned to change its name to the University of Louisiana once again. With one caveat: it could only change its name if another state school also changed its name. To the same name. So Northeast Louisiana University became the University of Louisiana at Monroe, and USL became the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. This ensured that the two schools, despite having no connection to each other and barely even a friendly rivalry, would be associated with each other from that day forward.

Why did this happen? Because the University of Louisiana system shares members with the Louisiana State University system. And LSU is the flagship university of Louisiana. To make a very long and complex story short, the LSU board saw the name change as a threat to its dominance. And because it is in fact dominant, it was able to undermine USL’s goal of strengthening its reputation (which apparently is a zero-sum commodity in Louisiana).

(Side note: I lived in Springfield, Missouri, for four years. The city is home to Missouri State University, which had recently changed its name from Southwest Missouri State. I don’t know if the University of Missouri objected to the idea, but it’s hardly put a dent in Mizzou’s popularity. But it has helped Missouri State a lot.)

When the University of Louisiana-Lafayette took its new name, people weren’t sure what to call it. The university actually had to issue a list of acceptable acronyms (which ESPN has ignored ever since); ULL, which at the time was the most popular in the community, was not among them. Some high-ranking people told me they wanted to shake people of the habit of saying ULL because it was too close to USL and still highlighted the regional connotation they were trying to ditch. So the push began to rechristen the school UL, or UL Lafayette. The city name was downplayed on athletic logos, on campus and on official documents. Today, practically everybody in Lafayette refers to the school as UL. Athletic teams are often introduced as “Louisiana’s Ragin’ Cajuns.” Oh, and LSU still has every ounce of its prestige and flagshippery, and has one of the best college football teams any human has ever witnessed. Everybody wins!

Living in Baton Rouge, I often see a condescending attitude toward UL, especially regarding its name. People seem horrified that anyone would call it UL. “You mean, ULL?” Twelve years after the fact, it’s hard to imagine people do that because they’re ignorant of the name. They’ll tell you that the school’s official name is the University of Louisiana-Lafayette, so you have to always include the Lafayette. Which is why people in Lafayette now sometimes refer to the state’s flagship university as LSUBR or LSU A&M. But usually as a joke. Because really, do you have to?

Fair enough.
(Side note: ULM is correct for the Monroe school; they use it in references and in their athletic logos. Further proving my point.)

As I did in my seven years there and still do today, I will call my alma mater the University of Louisiana and UL. I don't do it to spite LSU, and no one else does either. Just as the LSU community takes pride in its school (which does not go by its full name either), so do the Ragin’ Cajuns. All schools deserve to grow and flourish, and Louisiana should be proud of all of them. I know I am.

And with that, I’m off to the New Orleans Bowl, because WE’RE IN A BOWL GAME!! Geaux Cajuns!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Hitch fit

I will miss Christopher Hitchens. But amid all of the fawning tributes I’ve seen in the hours since he died, I’ll offer one more fitting of the kind of guy he was.

Which is to say, a douche.

Seriously, the guy was a monster prick. Ever seen him on TV? His personality was so abrasive that I always wanted to speak in tongues after watching him. As much as I despise know-it-all religious fanatics who judge all others and want to run the country like the world will end tomorrow, the opposite extreme is also grating — someone so arrogantly self-assured in their fatalism that you don’t want them to be right either.

The thing is, I agreed with a lot of Hitchens’ points. And where we diverged, I at least respected and/or considered his view. But it was always hard for me to get over the “Look at me, I’m a contrarian” pose. I’ve known plenty of people in my life whose attitudes boiled down to, “I’m better than you. You wouldn’t understand.” Hell, I’ve been that guy at times. But seeing Hitchens (and other politically minded pundits) act that way helped me get over myself and realize that reaching out to others is way better than trying to go undefeated.

Absolute moral certainty and superiority is off-putting no matter who does it. Hitchens had it, and he loved it. And I loved to hate him for it. And I think he’d love that I said that about him.

I’d tell you to rest in peace, Chris, but I know how you felt about that.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

It's written in the stars

Aries (3/21-4/19) — You will meet a tall, dark, handsome stranger. At which point they will cease to be a stranger — and, for some reason, cease being tall and dark as well.

Taurus (4/20-5/20) — You share a star sign with Ian McGibboney. What else needs to be said?

Gemini (5/21-6/21) — I used to think as a kid that all Geminis were twins. Can you imagine if twins were born two minutes apart on June 21 and 22, One a Gemini and the other a Cancer? Would the world explode from the paradox?

Cancer (6/22-7/22) — You’re a true disciple of the stars — especially that giant yellow one. No wonder you have cancer.

Leo (7/23-8/22) — Leo may be a lion, a lion may be the king of the jungle and Leo DiCaprio may be king of the world, but Leo’s a Scorpio. Astrology fail.

Virgo (8/23-9/22) — Yeah, sure you are.

Libra (9/23-10/22) — What is plural of libra? Libras? Rush Limbaugh hates you.

Scorpio (10/23-11/21) — Let me guess...your favorite musician is Sting?

Sagittarius (11/22-12/21) — Your parents got frisky from 2/22 to 3/21. Beware of centaurs firing arrows and Old Spice.

Capricorn (12/22-1/19) — You will come into a pile of money. Only then will you realize you read Ayn Rand too much.

Aquarius (1/20-2/18) — Don’t let fears get in the way of your destiny. Those football players aren’t going to quench their own thirst.

Pisces (2/19-3/20) — Pain is weakness leaving your body. And by weakness, I mean oxygen. So take some time to breathe today. Because you kind of need oxygen to live. Duh.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Whistle-blowing smoke

The Saints-Titans game was ugly. I know someone in Lafayette whose father is an NFL official, and she posted a plea tonight on Facebook to stop the criticism because they're doing what they have to do, not necessarily what's popular. And I understand that.

But that was still some of the worst officiating I've ever seen. At first I was saying that as a Saints fan, but I still felt it when the zoo crew began piling on the Titans as well. Both teams did indeed play sloppy, but as my dad says, "You could call holding on every play." The frequency of the flags smacked of corporate directive, as if someone said the officials prior to the game, "we have to crack down on all this subordination and make an example of them."

Did Darren Sproles officially have any yards during the game? It's hard to tell, because literally every major gain he had came back. Timing is everything. Cough.

Jimmy Graham's end zone catch, which was ruled incomplete because of literally a single blade of grass, makes me wonder if the technology has surpassed the spirit of the game. I understand that a catch is supposed to be inbounds, and rules is rules, but something seemed wrong about that. Had a Titans receiver made a catch like that with the same call, I would have gasped at what a bullet the Saints dodged. And I would understand fully why Titans fans would be bitter over that. 

So of course I was pissed when Jake Locker leapt over the pylon in the next series and got a score that took about two seconds to review. Reggie Bush made a similar dive two years ago against the Dolphins, as have others, so I'm not saying that it wasn't a score. But it does seem strange that a player can be halfway out of bounds in midair and score, and yet one blade of grass when your entire body is inbounds nullifies the catch. 

Also, the Tuck Rule is the Suck Rule.

Ironically, the refs let plenty of blatant infractions by both teams go throughout the game. All in all, I thought it was a poor performance by Mike Carey and his crew, who are usually the best in the game. Maybe they were more on the ball than usual against two sloppy teams. On the other hand, it still seems wrong somehow.

I'm just glad the Saints pulled it out. Though now some Titans are apparently accusing New Orleans of using whistles on the sideline late in the game. I don't see how a whistle would logistically help the Saints on the field, or not get noticed by the real officials. I hope it isn't true. But given the sheer weirdness of the game, would anyone be surprised about it?

Why I don't live in Montana

I have this weird phobia that I haven't thought about in a while, but just popped up in my head tonight. I can't remember why. All I know is that it began at a very early age, it requires very selective circumstances and I can't think of a time it's ever happened.

That selectiveness makes it even harder to describe, because it doesn't apply to most situations. But here goes: mirrors pointed to the sky give me the creeps. Natural reflections are fine, as are rearview mirrors and windows. Specifically, I don't like when someone moves a large, freestanding mirror toward a wide-open expanse of open sky (or water such as a lake or river). For some reason, I feel like I'm going to see something I don't want to see — as if there's going to be a giant, scary-looking ceiling fan or something else unnatural up there (and maybe a sea monster down there). 

Again, it's not like small mirrors or skies or anything like that bothers me; I love beautiful, wide-open expanses of nature. But if someone put out a giant mirror that reflected the whole thing back at me, I'd probably also see my own face in an uneasy expression.

Has anyone else ever had that fear? What, if anything, does it mean?

Alien nation occupation

I’m strongly opinionated, but I’ve never considered myself an activist. Part of it is that I’m an introvert. Part of it is that I’ve spent most of my career in the media, where advocacy is generally frowned upon. Part of it is that I don’t think you change the world by shouting on street corners — at least, not anymore.

That doesn’t mean I don’t support the underlying causes of many protests and events. What I do object to is a certain kind of activist, the kind that may not realize they are doing more harm than good in terms of attracting people.

I believe ideas take root when people find common ground. Ultimately, we’re all more alike than different. We’re human, with all the common needs that implies. But you wouldn’t know that with the standoffish nature of a lot of activists.

Somewhere along the line, many activists apparently decided that the way to change people’s minds is to confront them and accuse them of wasting their lives. I don’t know if there’s a name for it, but you know the type:

“While all of you sheeple are out watching your football games and your TV shows and other distractions perpetuated by corporations to keep you occupied, brainless and dumb, the whole world’s about to collapse before your eyes. Do you really want to say you did nothing?”

Apparently you can’t be both a football fan AND someone who cares about the planet. I hate false dichotomies like this; not only are they untrue, they usually serve to make the speaker less relatable. I’m all about effecting positive change, but I don’t think that means spending every waking moment immersed forehead-deep in sustainability solutions. If that’s your bag, more power to you. But don’t rag people for having interests outside of that. There are enough ignorant and/or apathetic people out there, not to mention those just trying to get by, without alienating those who would otherwise be interested in making a difference. People have a right to their diversions, because it’s a rough world out there.

That extends to President Obama. Apparently a lot of people are dissatisfied with his time management, saying things like:

“Why is President Obama on TV when he should be out saving the economy?”

Obama must be a powerful president indeed if the few minutes he’s on TV are what is thwarting him from solving all of our problems. I, for one, don’t care if Obama wants to offer some analysis on a football game, because 1) he’s not that powerful, nor is any president; 2) he can’t be focused on solving the worst economic crisis in generations 24/7 any more than the rest of us can do our jobs non-stop; and 3) such a sentiment ignores the complexities of American politics and the fierce opposition he faces in getting things done. Indeed, I don’t think I’ve ever heard so many people complain that a president is on TV too much. Do they really think TV appearances are the reason Obama hasn’t solved all of our problems? Do they think being a recluse and never getting any sleep will help things? Like the aforementioned activists, could this in fact be just a showcase for underlying resentments? Whatever it is, it’s hard for me to get behind this outrage.

Work on it, guys, and maybe we can work together.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

The Ironic-Contraception Affair

Normally, I’m a staunch defender of President Obama. But he really, and tragically, goofed on this one. And his reasoning makes me all the madder about it.

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama on Thursday defended his health secretary's decision to stop the Plan B morning-after pill from moving onto drugstore shelves next to the condoms.

"As the father of two daughters," he said, "I think it is important for us to make sure that we apply some common sense to various rules when it comes to over-the-counter medicine." The president spoke the morning after his administration stunned major doctors' groups and women's health advocates with the decision. ...

For now, Plan B will stay behind pharmacy counters, available without a prescription only to those 17 and older who can prove their age.

I’m not a parent, and maybe I’d agree if I was. But that is exactly what bugs me about this: that Obama backs such a decision because of paternal sensitivity. Has being reactionary ever made a situation less complicated?

If he or any other parent is worried about this, then they should have a dialogue with their children. I don’t think the answer is to err on the side of blocking access. Especially given that:

Sebelius' decision is "medically inexplicable," said Dr. Robert Block of the American Academy of Pediatrics, one of a number of major medical groups that contends over-the-counter access to emergency contraception would lower the nation's high number of unplanned pregnancies.

Pediatricians say the morning-after pill is safe — containing a high dose of the same female hormone that's in regular birth control pills — especially compared to some existing over-the-counter medicines.

I believe that one of America’s stupidest and most consequential blunders is how we treat contraception. It should be available to everyone who wants it, period. Teen pregnancy is a huge and preventable problem in the United States and worldwide, where lack of pills and condoms often leads to rampant spread of disease.

And yet, we’re less judgmental about pretty much anything else. We don’t not pump children’s stomachs because they shouldn’t have been drinking that bleach. We don’t deny teenagers treatment for mono because they might have gotten it from promiscuous kissing. We don’t tell lung cancer sufferers to screw off because they shouldn’t have been smoking all their lives.

Yet, our national attitude against birth control goes like this:

“Yeah, we’ve got it, but if you’re too young, you should be taught a lesson. If you have sex and conceive, it’s clear you’re too young to be making these kinds of choices. So you have no choice. Harlot.”

I expect that of the right-wing Jeezus freeks, but not from smart people like President Obama and Kathleen Sebelius, both of whom have previously shown support for the notion that science exists.

Are we going to start doing this for condoms too? Boy, that’ll help trim our dependence on social programs.

The issues are the same regardless of how the pills are available. And the morning-after pill, in particular, is not something I imagine any girl wants to buy because it’s on the shelf. What is the Obama administration afraid of? That someone’s going to abuse the pills? Can you can get high off birth control? Is 486 the new 420?

I’m tired of repressive religious mores driving how people can deal with very personal and painful decisions. Really, really tired of it. Especially since those same people want nothing to do with the parents or the baby once it’s born. If we’re going to legislate morality, how about declaring that we, as a country, have healthy and honest attitudes about sex and contraception that aren’t derailed by fears and passions?

Even Ditka knew to complain about the urine

As the late Don LaFontaine would have intoned, “This Sunday ... Jared Allen IS class.”

Officially, Jared Allen serves as defensive end for the Minnesota Vikings. But a more apt description might be whiner, non-diner and 69er. Or, the Ochocinco of Outrage.

"I'm not trying to be mean, but it's just depressing when I go there," he continued. "There's two cities like I don't go out to eat or don't do anything. It's Detroit and New Orleans. New Orleans looks like I'm driving through a third-world country every time I get off the plane, I'm like, 'Oh, flak jacket.' I'm trying to get down. I'm like, 'Ah, crap, I can't carry my gun here. This sucks.'"

The douche density of this quote is thick. Let’s take it one piece at a time to avoid an overdose:

"I'm not trying to be mean...” 
Every single time this phrase has been uttered in human history, the speaker has followed it with something mean. No one ever says, “I’m not trying to be mean, but this weather is terrific!”

“But it's just depressing when I go there...” 
If you think that’s bad, try living that way for decades on end as industry and infrastructure fails all around you, the result of decades of trickle-down government and institutional prejudice against the poor and minorities. Now that’s depressing. But hey, you can always fly back home and stroll the Mall of America to feel better. After all, you’re a rich football player and have such options. And you think you’re the depressed one?

There's two cities like I don't go out to eat or don't do anything. It's Detroit and New Orleans.”
I’ll bet these days you don’t like playing Detroit or New Orleans either. Last I checked, both teams were kicking your Viking ass. The Lions are smoking Minnesota in the NFC North, and a late-season stumble is the only reason they have only five more wins than the Vikings.

And really? You don’t like to eat out in New Orleans? That’s kind of THE POINT OF GOING THERE. It’s conceivable that you can enjoy the French Quarter without having a drink, but you can’t not eat. You can find delectable food in random NOLA garbage. You almost have to physically dodge culinary excellence in New Orleans. The streets are paved with it. What else do you avoid in major American cities? The Liberty Bell in Philadelphia? The White House in Washington? Broadway shows on Broadway?

“New Orleans looks like I'm driving through a third-world country every time I get off the plane.”
First off, that’s about as mixed as metaphors get. It’s like if I said, “Jared Allen really hit it out the park with that backboard-shattering sack. GOOOOOOOOOAL!!”

Second, Jared, I’m glad you noticed that. A lot of New Orleanians have been making the same point since Hurricane Katrina. You know, the whole disaster-wiped-out-entire-neighborhoods-and-towns thing. Maybe you should take that disgust to FEMA. Or maybe not.

“I'm like, 'Oh, flak jacket.' I'm trying to get down. I'm like, 'Ah, crap, I can't carry my gun here. This sucks.'"
Talk about sour grapes! It’s like if Dan Orlovsky of the Colts said, “Green Bay is cold. If I lived there, I’d freeze. I’d need a down jacket. Hurr hurr hurr.” Did I mention the Vikings are having a historically terrible year?

Yes, folks, Jared Allen, one of the best defensive ends in pro football, is afraid of even setting foot in New Orleans. I guess all those smaller, non-footbally people who breeze through there every day and night are just ignorant of the danger, huh?

Above: Jared Allen decides not to stroll Bourbon Street after realizing he left his bicep armor in Cadillac Heights.
If the Saints are looking for a creative way to beat Minnesota next week because the normal ways have become too boring, they now know what to do: bring some Ninth Ward residents to stand on the sidelines. Just the piss stain on Allen’s pants should merit a SportsCenter highlight.

Go Lions! And Saints! Time for back-to-back VIKING FUNERALS.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Give me some credit!

So I just tried to buy a ticket for the New Orleans Bowl. I should have learned by now to do these things earlier, not because they're sold out, but because more random weird glitches are going to happen to me. And that's the better of the two options.

See, Ticketmaster is not accepting my card. They say "cash or credit card only," but I'm never clear if that means they don't accept debit cards. But if it is the case that they accept credit cards and not debit cards, what kind of terrible business model is that?

I use debit cards exclusively. I have never held a credit card, and don't plan on having one. I've built up my credit in other ways and I don't buy anything I can't afford. Instead, I have a valid debit card linked to an account with way more money in it than I need to buy a $47 football ticket. So if it's true that I need a credit card, then what Ticketmaster is telling me is that it's better to go into debt than to buy something with actual money.

The interface could at least tell me that, so I know for sure if I'm justified in my outrage that my sensible spending habits have bitten me in the ass. 

I'm still trying to figure out life.

The invisible hand of your heart

SEX! 

Got your attention yet?

In what I’m sure is much to my readers’ collective disappointment, I rarely talk about sexual issues here. Mainly because I don’t have any. Issues, I mean. Boom.

Part of this is because sex, to me, is like food — fun, but kind of boring to talk about. Also, I’m extremely picky in my tastes and think sharing my experiences with both gets you closer to me than you want to be. Also, I’m a gentleman. I don’t eat/kiss and tell.

There’s also the idea that those who talk about sex the most do it the least. So, ....

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Who Dat!

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Instead, let’s talk about other people’s sex lives. And whose better sex life to talk about than those who claim not to have sex but who talk about sex the most: evangelical Christians!

(CNN) –True love doesn’t wait after all. That’s the implication in the upcoming October issue of an evangelical magazine that claims that young, unmarried Christians are having premarital sex almost as much as their non-Christian peers. ...

While the study’s primary report did not explore religion, some additional analysis focusing on sexual activity and religious identification yielded this result: 80 percent of unmarried evangelical young adults (18 to 29) said that they have had sex - slightly less than 88 percent of unmarried adults, according to the teen pregnancy prevention organization.

The article highlights what challenges abstinence movements face. Movements such as “True Love Waits,” encourage teens to wear purity rings, sign virginity pledges and pledge chastity during public ceremonies.

Now, this is just anecdotal, but I don’t think anything’s changing here except the degree of honesty. And while that may make many people sad, I think it’s a good thing to acknowledge what’s been clear since the beginning of time and/or Book of Genesis: we have libidos, and we use them.

From the first time I heard of them as a teenager, I thought purity campaigns were hokey. I don’t know if it was the overly Christian aspect of it or the implied pressure of commitment or what, but I never signed on. The kicker is, I actually didn’t want to have sex until I was married. I made that choice on my own and stuck to it all through high school. I think it was more a matter of responsibility than of shame or guilt or holiness or anything else. I found it to be a very easy standard to keep, and never felt pressure one way or the other. (Indeed, I may have been the most peer-pressure-immune teen ever. It’s as if everyone knew not to even try. I’m still trying to figure that one out.) And I think I know why I waited so long: because from an early age, my parents made sure I understood sex and procreation. They foisted books and pamphlets on me from the first time I ever asked where babies came from. I knew what a fetus was at age 3, gametes at 6 and ejaculation at 9. I knew so much, in fact, that the knowledge did more to scare me off sex than any abstinence horror story ever could. Are you listening, educators?

My biggest beef with purity campaigns is the same that I have with any culture that promotes a virgin-whore dichotomy: the expectation sets teens up for failure and self-loathing. It’s a lot to ask of a teenager to make what is essentially a life decision, particularly when said decision is (ironically?) loaded with peer pressure. And it can do unfathomable damage if that person then gives in to their natural desires, and subsequently hates themselves for it. They might feel as if they’ve ruined their purity for all time, and that they are no longer worthy of love, affection and spiritual fulfillment. It sets them up to go hard in the other direction, whereas someone without such pressure could handle it in a more tempered way. Let’s face it — your first time is awkward and fumbly enough without that overbearing shame on your conscience.

I felt as a teenager, and still do today, that you should have sex only when you’re ready. It should never happen under peer pressure; at the same time, pressure or shame should never curb a potentially wonderful experience. Your conscience should be your guide, always. And, I hope it goes without saying, you should be smart and safe about it. Because the abstinence crowd is right about one thing: sex is a big deal and carries significant potential consequences, both physically and emotionally. What the puritans leave out, though, is that sex is also one of the best feelings two people can share. And it looks to me like more and more religious Americans are admitting that to themselves. Healthier attitudes about sex can never be a bad thing.

And with that, I’m out. As a 31-year-old unmarried blogger, I feel like I’m talking more about sex than is good for my reputation. Was it good for you?

Tim Tebow and nuclear power

Feel like being inspired? Read this!

Jason Whitlock credits Tim Tebow’s success not to some Godlike godliness (which is refreshing, granted), but to the fact that he has both of his parents. It’s exactly the kind of riches-to-riches, overcoming-no-adversity story that warms all of our hearts!

My parents were separated until I was 8 years old. No wonder I’m a failure like Vince Young.

OK, OK, I get it. Whitlock is saying that having both parents in a child’s life matters. I agree. But come on. Roughly half of American kids grow up in a non-nuclear family these days, and it’s not like it’s something they can help. Hell, maybe it’s even for the best if the parents clash all the time.

People should never be made to feel inferior, or superior, due to factors beyond their control. Children of divorcees especially should never be made to feel like they are lesser people, or that they will always lack an advantage that comes from nuclear families. That’s an obnoxious, self-defeating and hyper-judgmental notion. Not to mention wrong — last I checked, some successful NFL players come from so-called broken homes. Four, maybe even five or six, by my count.

There’s nothing wrong with celebrating a loving family — but only with sensitivity toward those whose circumstances aren’t necessarily such. And it shouldn’t be forgotten that those who aren’t so lucky have a unique strength all their own, which can translate to the same kinds of success.

The universe tends to unfold as it should. And that’s why we are who we are. Let’s celebrate it.

Monday, December 05, 2011

Rulings on the field

Rule #181: Don’t Aaron the Side of Caution
The Green Bay Packers should be required to go for 16-0. When you’re that good, why not chase perfection? You owe your owners, the people of Green Bay, Wisconsin, no less than the best possible product every time you take the field. Surely you’re not afraid of injuries, are you? You’re the Packers! Taking risks and playing with confidence is why you’re 12-0! Keep up the good work and don’t put your backups in like some scrubs!

Rule #182: God’s Green Turf
Dear God, please let someone other than Tim Tebow be your manifestation on the football field. I like to think that a field general made in the image of a benevolent creator can throw a pass in the pocket. At the very least, he should impress John Elway, who was impressed by “John Elway’s Quarterback.” Ever try to pass in that game? You look like ... whoa! Talk about a divine coincidence!

Rule #183: Oh, S Can E C ...
If you’re preparing to spend $4,495 on a sideline seat for the BCS National Championship ... just know that, eventually, you’ll have to return it. And that those of us watching on TV from much better angles will be laughing at you.

Rule #184: Another Run Bites the Dust
Hey, Packers! Know how you can stem all that annoying 16-0 talk? Lose!