Thursday, September 29, 2011

Wiffleball 2011 Wrap-up

Despite not being a man of regrets, I regret not having kept you up to date on the summer's wiffleball action. It leaves me in the difficult position of prolonging suspense until the end or "giving it up," as my college creative writing instructor begged us to do. Relying on suspense is a cheap technique. Which I will employ.

By the way, no one gives it up better than the writers for "Breaking Bad." If you're not watching that show, I understand. It's dark. If you are watching that show, you have to be amazed at the writers' ability to avoid prolonging suspense. Things happen. My five favorite shows currently on television:

1. Mad Men
2. Louie
3. Breaking Bad
4. NFL Redzone
5. The Walking Dead

If you're counting, that's three AMC shows, two cable shows, and no HBO or network shows. Granted, I do like "Parks and Recreation" and "Sunday Night Football." Still, let's pick it up HBO.

Now, with only a bit of further ado, I'll get back to wiffleball action. I will try my best to avoid humblebragging ("I hit only two homers this year--must be getting old") by boasting in a more straightforward manner (examples to follow).

Regular Season

When I last discussed wiffleball, I believe it was midseason, and we were undefeated. After we slaughtered the only other undefeated team 7-0, I pitched the next game, and we lost 1-0. At the plate, I was 0-3 and hit into a double-play. Bad day. It was the only run I gave up all season, in part because I twirled a few gems, as they say, but mostly because we added a new guy on our team who was one of the top three pitchers in the league. He also gave up only 1 run during the season, even though he pitched twice as many games as I did.

We finished the regular season with the #1 seed.

This year, we had a statistician keeping score of the games. While he hasn't gone back and compiled all the statistics yet, he did gather the stats for all six playoff teams. I finish third in BA (.480), first in runs (13), and second in RBIs (13). When he finishes the statistics, I promise to return and update these figures.

The Semifinals

In the first round of playoffs (#3 vs. #6 and #4 vs. #5), there were two upsets. First, the #3 team, which defeated us last year in the finals, got beat 5-4 after leading 4-0 in a single-elimination game. One of the three best pitchers in the league got shelled for 5 runs by a team the squeaked into the playoffs. (I admit to being secretly delighted. I can't hit against him.) The #4 seed, which beat us 1-0 in our only meaningful loss of the season, also went down in defeat. (I was not delighted. I wanted revenge, which was a certainty in my mind.) That pitted us (Ken Wiffey) against the #6 seed (iWiff).

Quick scouting reports for both semifinal teams:

Ken Wiffey - Much better team than the one that lost in extra innings of the finals the previous year. Lost two mediocre players to injury and picked up one of the best pitchers in the league, who didn't play the previous year due to a sabbatical. Of the six hitters in the lineup, four hit consistently with power, and the other two force the pitcher to throw strikes. A fifth excellent hitter is unavailable in the playoffs due to travel in Europe.

iWiff - Young team with 20-something interns who hit for power and don't need to stretch out before the game to avoid injury. Seven-man lineup with four excellent hitters, two solid hitters, and one guy who looks athletic but strikes out a lot. If the strikeout guy weren't playing, the two lineups would be a wash. iWiff's weakness is their pitching. They have only one pitcher. He has good stuff, but struggles with control. Bad matchup against a patient hitting team like Ken Wiffey.

The first game went as expected. We were patient at the plate, had tons of runners, and Ken Wiffey won 3-1.

For the next game, I couldn't get out out bed due to either a cold or a flu. I had a fever and nausea and all that. I still seriously considered driving in to work to play in the game, but when I got out of bed and grabbed my keys, I got wobbly and whimpered, "No, it's just wiffleball." That shows how sick I was. Just wiffleball? Pfff. Ken Wiffey lost 5-0.

I should mention that iWiff consists of the digital publishing team I work with. In a meeting, there were taunts and challenges hurled my way which I did not appreciate. OK, that's not true. I appreciated almost all of the taunts, except for the one in which a tester claimed that it wouldn't have mattered if I had played--they would have won anyway.

In Game 3, our ace got out of jam in the top of the first. I led off the bottom of the first with a home run. Crack! Slow trot around the bases with an attempted glare at the suddenly silent tester. We added a couple more runs, played solid defense behind great pitching, and won 3-0.

Back in the finals

The Finals

You know how before the Super Bowl, prognosticators talk about what an advantage it is for the team that's "been there before"? They're right. In the wiffleball finals, the league organizers go out of their way to make it a spectacle. There are announcers, a hot dog vendor, an umpire in full umpire dress, still photographers and motion cameramen all over the field, at-bat music for every hitter. The game starts with a national anthem and a first pitch thrown by a vice-president.

When you're a spectator, going over the top like that is fun and ridiculous. When you're a player, it sweeps you up in it. Last year, it made our team extra tense. I reacted to the tension by oddly not playing as hard. I was flat. This year, the lunacy made us more focused, and several of us went out of our way to joke around and stay loose.

Quick scouting report for both finals teams:

Ken Wiffey - They've been here before. Excellent pitching, dominant hitting, solid defense. Leadoff hitter batting 1.000 in playoffs.

Muse - Only one pitcher, but he's lights out. Excellent heater, nasty curve, good control, mixes up pitches. Average hitting team that added a strong hitter near the end of the year. Only lost once all season, but tied four times, usually in 0-0 games. Their one loss was to Ken Wiffey.

Game 1 went as expected. It was a pitching duel between two of the league's top three pitchers. I lost confidence at the plate. The guy was throwing fast, and I let him get in my head. I swung too hard to try to catch up with the speed, and it put me off balance. I struck out 3 times and went 1-5 with an infield single. Before that game, I had struck out only twice all season. We loaded the bases in the bottom of the second extra inning and won the game on a sacrifice fly.

One of the things I love about playing sports is the constant battle between your mind and body. In Malcolm Gladwell's most recent collection of essays, he talks about choking. If I recall, he broke out choking into two different reactions: panicking and freezing. If a fire breaks out in the kitchen and you run outside and jump behind a bush, that's panicking. If the same fire breaks out and you sit on the couch with a quizzical look, that's freezing. Against this pitcher, I somehow managed to panic and freeze within the same at-bat.

In Game 2, I somehow managed to regain my composure. I didn't let an incorrectly called strike 2 get to me, I fouled off a couple good pitches, and then I tomahawked a loopy curve into left field for a double. The next three guys struck out, but I was feeling good.

We made a game-time decision to let our other pitcher take the mound instead of me. He's the guy who lost 5-0 in the semifinals but he's also the guy who took a shutout into extra innings in Game 3 of the 2010 finals -- a memory that still haunts us. He said he wanted to pitch, and since he put together the team, I agreed. (OK, I was secretly relieved.)

I played left field and made a couple of running catches that had the announcer talking in cliches ("Bringhurst has effectively taken away the entire left side of the field...").

When we came up to bat, we had one of those moments that NFL Films captures and makes you realize how much you can learn about a team by standing on the sidelines. I was thinking we were tightening up. As I approached Matt and Todd, I was going to say, "This guy's hard to hit." But in the middle of my sentence, I decided to say something else. "This guy doesn't have it today. I'm going to get to him." Todd (the league leader in BA and RBIs but who fell off in the playoffs) jumped in and said, "Yeah, I can hit him too."

Matt nodded and went up to the plate with a man on first. Smack! Home run. Todd belted a triple off the top of the fence. One of our lesser hitters struck out, and then I singled in Todd with a hard liner off the pitcher's leg. We're up 3-0.

Muse kept getting runners on base, and we kept making running catches. In the bottom of the last inning, they had runners on 1st and 3rd with one out and their best hitter at the plate -- the only guy on their team who can hit home runs. He smacked a one-hopper to Todd, who flipped it to Matt for the double-play.

Ken Wiffey wins 3-0! Ken Wiffey is the 2011 World Seattle Adobe Wiffleball League Champions!

For the moment, we can bask in glory. Unfortunately, we all know what happens next. The Disease of More sets in. Role players want to be perceived as stars, stars want to be perceived as superstars, and everyone wants more. Some players will switch teams; other players will take business trips to Asia. In wanting more, the players lose just enough of what got them there -- teamwork, sacrifice, indomitable spirit.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

August Musings


In the Adobe Seattle Wiffleball league, our team is off to a solid 6-0 start, recovering nicely from a crushing defeat in last year's finals. So far, we have given up only 1 run all season, and we won our last two games -- both against two of last year's semi-finalists -- by a combined score of 17-0. In sports lingo, we are a "juggernaut," which in German means "blitzer of plastic kriegs."

On Tuesday, we play the only other undefeated team in the league. Their matching 6-0 record is deceptive in that they have won several close games against the league's doormats. I do not fear them. My prediction: our team will overpower them. We are, after all, a juggernaut in the truest sense of the word.

I will admit, however, that we will be vulnerable in the playoffs, specifically against one pitcher whom I'll refer to only as "Mike." We won a 1-0 game against Mike's team earlier in the year. Hardly convincing.


  • This emerging faction of the Republican party appears willing to burn down the country and rebuild it from the ashes. It's a scary bunch. The fact that it tries to pick dimwitted leaders like Michelle Bachman and Sarah Palin is telling. The fact that they have taken control of the Republican party is awful.
  • Obama has taken an approach to leadership that makes him look weak. He wants to come across as a reasonable leader who is willing to reach across the aisle and compromise, but he's ending up looking like Neville Chamberlain. Granted, the Republican party is breaking new ground in political obstruction, but Obama is failing to combat their strategy.
  • By all appearances, it appears that political efforts have sparked phase two of a double-dip recession.
  • The Republican party is actively trying to sabotage economic recovery in order to gain political power. They know they can blame it on Obama because most voters are uninformed, sporting an average IQ of around 100.
Look at the facts. At the end of the Clinton presidency, we were running a surplus.1
When Bush and the Republicans took control, they wiped away those gains, started two expensive wars, and cut taxes, with the tax cuts heavily favoring the wealthy.2 Their intense deregulation and lack of oversight heavily contributed to the housing bubble and meltdown. In 2008, Obama was elected. 3 Since he took office, Republicans have thwarted the Democrats in every attempt to revive the economy.4 In 2012, a Republican will likely be elected President because -- get this -- the economy is so bad that we need change.5

1 Remember the debate in the early months of the Bush presidency about what to do with the extra Social Security money being generated? Guh.

2 "Deficits don't matter." - Dick Cheney

3 In retrospect, I wish Hillary had been elected. I can't see her getting punked like this.

4 "We've got to get this deficit spending under control no matter what the cost." - Random tea bagger

5 The Republicans are absolutely correct in assuming that voters will think that Obama caused this economic crisis. The "liberal media" will try to set the record straight by saying that both parties are equally at fault. The reality is that one party caused the economic crisis and has battled the other party's efforts to help the recovery, and the other party is at fault only in its political incompetence.

Mountain Bicycling

Nick came into town from Australia, so I dusted off the mountain bike and did a couple of rides. First, we did Tapeworm, and then we did Volker's Loop/Duthie. The second ride has officially cracked my list of Top Five Mountain Bike Rides. Here's the list:

1. Gooseberry Mesa - near St. George, Utah
2. Tibble Fork - American Fork Canyon, Utah
3. Gold Bar Rim - near Moab, Utah
4. Slickrock - near Moab, Utah
5. Volker's Loop/Duthie - near Seattle, Washington

Sorry, Porcupine Rim and Little Creek, you're off the vaunted top 5 list.

This new addition starts with a long grunt of a climb that I can barely do on a singlespeed when I'm in solid shape. Then there's a long bobsled descent followed by rolling climbs that take you up to Duthie. Duthie is a mountain bike park designed for all levels. When you're done playing in the different sections of Duthie, you go back out the way you came.


Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Race Report: XTERRA Vashon Island

I decided to do a triathlon even though I'm not in top form. To be truthful, I'm not even in middle form. I have been riding my bike to work casually while listening to audiobooks. I have been jogging now and then but never more than 2 miles because of a bum knee. And I haven't swum laps in, um, about five years.

That last bit isn't precisely true. During our trip up to Vancouver last week, I swam in a gigantic pool in Stanley Park in which a small section of the pool includes a set of 50-meter lanes. I knocked off 600 meters and declared myself fit.

Speaking of Vancouver, I'm proud to report that Luke has a fancy walk. Of the few people who happen to have fancy walks, not many are willing to break it out in a big city. Luke's not afraid. His fancy walk is eerily similar to the dance that Gene Wilder breaks out when he's wearing black shoe polish on his face in "Silver Streak." I'll stop there. I need to be careful about the whole gushing parent thing.

Now that I've covered my training regimen, I'll go into specific race details.

The Swim (800 Meters)

The race packets included the appropriate color swim cap for everyone's starting time. The first wave (Men 39-) started at 9:00 am, the second wave (Men 40+) started at 9:07 am, and the third wave (Women/Relays) started at 9:14 am. They do a staggered start in this race to avoid a bottleneck at the start of the steep bike ride.

The race takes place in a cove of the Puget Sound, so the water is cold (60 degrees). I wore a wet suit that I purchased back when I weighed 170 pounds. I bought it a little tight for me because I thought I should weigh under 165 to compete in triathlons. I weigh 185 right now, so I had the "Fat guy in a little suit" ditty from Tommy Boy going through my head as I stood on the dock waiting to jump in the water. I tried to hang my arms casually by my sides, but they kept popping up at 45-degree angles.

The start of the race was anti-climactic. Instead of a gun going off, the race director said, "OK, go." Not even an "OK, go!" That's probably for the best since overly excited swimmers do crazy things. When I started to swim, I had an ice cream headache and foggy black goggles that made me feel like I was swimming in a cave. I could barely make out the bubbles from other swimmers. About every ten strokes I would pop my head up to make sure I wasn't swimming out to sea.

One of the great things about wet suits is that they're a great equalizer. With little effort, I finished near the back of the pack.

I got my wetsuit off just fine thanks to the clever trick of spraying my lower legs with Pam cooking oil. (Note for other triathletes eager to take advice from a near DFL competitor: Another trick is to have a towel and a water bottle in your aid station for squirting mud off your feet.) Unfortunately, while I was trying to put on my Fat Cyclist jersey, it got all twisted up. When I finally got unsnaggled, I snapped on my helmet and ran my bike out of the transition zone.

The Mountain Bike Ride (15 Miles)

I hopped on my Ibis Mojo (purchased when Bill Clinton was president, George W. Bush was a governor who boasted about his ability to compromise, and Barack Obama was in his 30s) and started the ride up a steepish set of switchbacks. By the way, this was my first mountain bike ride of the year.

If I were in decent shape, I would have ridden up the pitch without too much effort. Instead, I overdid it for a photographer, went into oxygen debt, and had to get off my bike to put my head between my knees. The slower swimmers from my wave and the faster women from the next wave passed me with words of concern and encouragement.

Fat, I pushed my bike along a section that I should have been riding in the middle ring. I finally was able to get back on my bike and ride along the rolling trail. The first 5-mile lap was not fun, but I did manage to recover from my swoon.

The next two laps were actually fun. I managed to convince myself that I was actually doing well in the race. In fact, I didn't find out until later in the day that I had finished near the back of the pack, second to last in my age group (45-49).

The Run (3.6 Miles)

The trail run consisted of a 1-mile climb followed by a loop through a forest and down a paved road, a repeat of the loop, and then a full descent. Despite my gimpy knee, I managed to jog the whole thing.

I crossed the finish line to the tepid applause of volunteers who wanted even the worst racers to feel proud of their accomplishments.


Deep down, the main reason I signed up for the race is because I knew I needed to get my ass kicked. I need to lose weight and start training. To quote George W. Bush, "I know that. Don't you think I know that?"


Friday, June 10, 2011

Review of HBO GO

Once upon a time, Elden, Dug, and I shared a blog in which we reviewed every single thing that was important. Unfortunately, I don't think that site is still up and running, which has left a review vacancy of sorts on the World Wide Web of the Internet.

Before wiffleball season consumes my attention, I have a few reviews to post.

Review of HBO GO

I downloaded the HBO GO app on my iPad. At first glance, it's spectacular. All you need is a subscription to HBO, a computer or iPad, and a good internet connection. When you sign in, you have access to every single episode of every single series that HBO has ever created. At no extra cost.

Let me say that again -- you can view every single episode of every HBO series ever created.

Deadwood? Check. The Wire? Check. The Sopranos? Check. Band of Brothers? Check. (By the way, I listed those series in order according to their combined Greatness and Rewatchability scores.)

You can also watch every episode of Six Feet Under, Oz, Eastbound and Down, Curb Your Enthusiasm, The Pacific, and EVERY OTHER HBO SERIES EVER CREATED. Free.

And you can watch the current run of movies, documentaries, sports events (mostly boxing), and comedy specials. Oh, and there's even a Late Night category. How did that get past the Apple censors?

If it's that spectacular, why did I qualify it by saying -- and I quote -- "at first glance"? I have a nit to pick.

Looking at all the great HBO series in one place reminds me of the experience I had when I added my entire CD collection to my iPod. At first, it seemed great to be able to zip through the catalog and play any of 19 Bob Dylan albums, 6 Radiohead albums, or my "Motown" or "Guilt Rock"1 playlists. Still, there was a jarring flattening effect because Bruce Springsteen and Billie Holliday appeared on the same level. Music I used to listen to got lost, especially music by artists whose names start towards the end of the alphabet.

1 My "Guilt Rock" playlist includes songs by Boston, Kansas, REO Speedwagon, Badfinger, Head East, and The Left Banke. But no Styx. I have standards.

My browsing method changed. Back in the day, thumbing through the album collection, deciding on an artist, and carefully placing the record on the turntable was a satisfying ritual, even if the record happened to be The Steve Miller Band's Greatest Hits. Same with CDs. On an emotional level, which experience is better: pulling a record out of the White album sleeve and hearing the speakers crackle when the needle touched down, or scrolling to the B section on the iPod and clicking The Beatles > White Album > Back in the USSR?

Sacrificing ritual for luxury has its drawbacks.

Back to the HBO GO experience, on some level, I'm overwhelmed by choice. I'm also put off by the fact that it's too easy to watch Rome or ANYTHING ELSE. With free, ready access to so many great shows, The Sopranos doesn't feel as magical as the set of DVDs on my shelf, where I could keep it next to Five Easy Pieces and The Wire, and away from Toy Story and Pride & Prejudice. In HBO GO, I don't want to see Deadwood on the same level as Carnivale.

This may seem odd, but I want a way to filter HBO's selections. I want to be able to watch, say, four series seasons, three movies, and eight Late Night specials. Before I can add another item, I have to remove something else.

Still, that's a nit I'm picking. Once I start playing an episode, I forget about the context and enjoy Stringer Bell and Sheriff Bullock and Major Winters and, most of all, Little Carmine.


Monday, March 7, 2011

My Most Recent Interview Transcript

A reporter from The Daily Times recently caught up with me. Here is the transcript:

Times: It's great to catch up with you. How are things?

Me: Good. Pretty good.

Times: Fascinating. What are your thoughts regarding the whole Charlie Sheen saga?

Me: I haven't really been paying that much attention. I would act like I'm above it all, but the truth is that I'm just getting too old to care. Twenty years ago, I would have eaten this story up. Now, I'm too concerned with the fact that my father-in-law is stuck in Wyoming, the closest real town is Deadwood, and we need to find -- and pay for -- a place for him to live. He smokes two packs of cigarettes a day and has grimy dogs, and I don't want to get into it.

But at least I'm looking for a way to use "Winning" in a humorous way. Maybe in the next department meeting when we do one of those around-the-room deals in which everyone says what they're up to, I can say "Winning" in a deadpan way. I'm sure that joke won't get old.

Times: Speaking of winning, you've won the Academy Awards betting contest for three years running. Did you make it four in a row?

Me: Sadly, no. It was a tough year. I can usually pick up points by doing a little research, like finding out which documentary shorts deal with the holocaust. This year, there was not a single holocaust movie. No easy points in those weird categories. Apparently, we've finally let ourselves forget about the holocaust.

But there were easy points to be picked up with The King's Speech. It's a British costume movie, for crumpet's sake! If I had picked that movie for Best Director, I would have won. Or if I had picked Melissa fucking Leo.

Towards the end, I did have one chance to win my fourth straight Oscars betting pool. I needed Gwyneth Paltrow to win for Best Song. My thinking was that the Academy doesn't necessarily like the perception that it's a leftist group, and I thought they would throw the red states a bone by giving an award to "Country Strong." When I heard Paltrow perform the song, I realize that the Academy actually knew what they were doing in this case. That song sucks.

Plus, I didn't realize that Randy Newman was up for the same award. For some reason, people from L.A. LOVE Randy Newman, they LOVE him, even though he's only ever written one lounge song with different lyrics.

I blame myself.

Times: You're still a winner in my book! What's going on with the kids?

Interesting that you should ask because it's something I want to write about. We're looking for a new school for the boys to go to. Budget cuts and mismanagement have made the local school a bad choice. Things have changed since we did research on Gatewood Elementary before sending our kids there:

Then: 260 students before school closures.

Now: 460 students, including a bunch of Somali refugees who speak English as a second language and wear unflattering burkas.

Next year: 520 students, with new double-wide trailers for overflow classes filling half the playground.


Then: Seattle parents could choose any school to send their kids to, and the school district would pay to bus the kids. This plan came about as a well-meaning attempt at optional desegregation, but it ended up diverting too much money into unnecessary transportation costs.

Now: The school district makes parents send their kids to the local public school, but with a grandfather clause. This means that kids from the nearby poor neighborhoods can keep attending the better elementary schools, causing severe overcrowding in some schools, including ours.


Then: 18 students per class. The principal took advantage of the active PTA to get funding for a few extra teachers so that she could reduce class size. To make this work, the principal got rid of full-time positions for an art teacher, a music teacher, and a P.E. teacher.

Now: 28 students per class. Schools are no longer allowed to manipulate class size, so Gatewood's class sizes are now the same as those of the nearby schools -- but with no full-time art teacher, music teacher, or P.E. teacher.


Then: Full-inclusion policy. Excellent learners, good learners, bad learners, problem kids, ESL students, and Swedes are all part of the same class. Children are not separated. They learn together.

Now: Same policy. Only now, each teacher has 30% more kids to worry about, and many of those additional kids demand more attention. Oh, and some of the better teachers will be laid off because they haven't been teaching long enough.


Then: Children who score well could attend a Spectrum program at a different school.

Now: Children who score well could put their names on a long waiting list to attend a Spectrum program with dramatically reduced funding.


To make matters worse, the Seattle School District was recently rocked with a scandal. Basically, a guy named Silas Potter was involved in a program to qualify minority and women owned businesses to bid on district contracts. Many a dollar went missing. Anyone who asked questions about the program was called racist. Winning!

So what now? One option is a private school. The less expensive private options are religious schools. I did some research though. While the tuition costs are relatively low, hidden costs such as indulgences and hair shirts add up. For the price of a new Honda Civic, we can send the boys to a non-religious private school. If we get accepted, that is.

Another option is putting the boys on a ferry and sending them to a school on Vashon Island. It's a good public school that gets state funding for each student, so they want non-island kids to attend. The drawback is the commute. Drop-off, ferry ride, and bus ride add up to about 90 commuting minutes each day. Not winning! I don't want to put second graders through that kind of commute.

I'm sorry. I kind of went off on a tear.

Times: Not a problem! I enjoyed it! I'm turning off the interview tape now, but I'd like to keep talking with you! Do you mind?

Me: I don't see why no-


Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Super XLLDIVX Preview

The Steelers are a-fixin' to hook horns with the Packers. I am not excited about this game, so I unfortunately will not be able to give my usual in-depth analysis and informed set of predictions.

Tempered Contempt

In most instances, I would be rooting fiercely against the Steelers because I can't stand Pittsburgh fans. They are like Dallas fans, only with smaller hats and better diction. But this year, because their quarterback is a rapist (or at the very least rapey), I don't have to worry about Pittsburgh fans getting in my grill.

And if they do get in my grill, it's pretty easy to start cracking wise. I can begin with a few subtle lines: "Ben is really taking it to the opposition. He's having his way with them." Then I can go with less subtlety: "Roethlisberger is attacking his prey the way a rapist attacks a woman. To put this in perspective, if Ben were a rapist, the Packers defensive secondary would be a young college girl he has trapped in a bathroom. He's just tearing them apart."

I can't watch any pregame analysis because I can't stand to hear this little nugget of insight: Roethlisberger's rape case truly changed Ben, making him a better leader who is more accessible to his teammates. Right, so that whole rape thing ended up working out well for the Steelers. Super.

Sometimes I hate sports.

Personal History with Packers

For those of you who knew me during my childhood, you might wonder why I don't care more about this game. You've likely seen a family portrait in which everyone is wearing their Sunday best while I am wearing my John Brockington #42 Packers jersey. And you likely remember my tattered Bart Starr book and my Green Bay Packers trash can and beenie.

I didn't stick with the Packers. At some point in the 80s, when I was busy with college, I stopped following pro football. I cared only about college football. When I started paying attention to the pros again, I rooted for the teams that had BYU quarterbacks. I loved the '84-'87 Bears teams with Jim McMahon and the Raiders teams with Marc Wilson. And then I hopped on the 49ers bandwagon when Steve Young took over.

During those years, one Green Bay Packers player body slammed McMahon after an interception, and Brett Favre led the Packers to an upset win over the Niners when they San Francisco could easily have won the Super Bowl.

I haven't liked the Packers for years now, but I'm rooting for them, just because I want the Steelers to lose. Then I'll return to feelings of indifference towards the favorite team of my youth.


Neither team knows how to protect a big lead. I think it's going to be a close game. At the end of a close game, I'd rather have Roethlisberger driving my team than any other quarterback playing today, including Manning and Brady and Brees. He's clutch. He's determined. He's fierce. He's dominant. He's got that strong internal drive that allows him to block everything else out and take what he wants.

Steelers 34 Packers 29


Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Out of the Frying Pan and Into the Fire

I agreed to sign up for The Seattle Times again. Three months for $25. I like the Sunday NY Times crossword puzzle, and it's kind of nice to scan through the paper and read local coverage that I don't get online. Plus, it's useful to have discarded newspapers around for kids' craft projects. In other words, I have nothing new to say about newspapers.

Except maybe this. I have a difficult time with the "ignore the elephant in the room" approach to most newspaper reporting.

Here is an online version of the article that suffers from the elephant in the room problem. Unfortunately, I can't find the printed version online that was so maddening, but this one will do.

If you read the article, you'll see that five people were killed in an apartment fire -- a father and four boys between the ages of 2 and 11. The mother survived the fire by running outside.

If you're like me, you want an answer to a question that the reporter ignores. Specifically, did they have renters insurance?

In addition, you may wonder what events could lead to the mother fleeing the house without any of her children. Of course, a reporter has to steer way clear of this, because it reeks of subjective judgment. But a blogger? There's no Lou Grant figure at The worst thing that can happen to me is having to delete a nasty comment or two by people who don't like the fact that I am calling the woman's behavior into question.

The thing is, I genuinely wonder how she could leave her kids behind, and that's all I could think of while reading the article. Perhaps she was groggy and thought she was the last one in the apartment. Perhaps she was overcome with sheer terror, the kind I've never experienced, and fled without control of her senses. Perhaps when she breathed in the smoke, her only thought was to get away, with no care for anyone else. Perhaps she ran out to get help, and then it was too late to go back.

My assumption is that if my house were on fire, and I saw flames and inhaled hot smoke, the first thing I would do, apart from grabbing my iPad, would be to run to the kids' room, pick them up, and drag them out. I assume I would run through blinding flames to get to the kids. I don't have this same assumption about my actions in battle or under fire. In fact, I suspect that I'd be capable of great cowardice in war. But if my children were caught in a fire? I assume that nothing could stop me from rushing toward them. My actions would be beyond heroism and cowardice. I would simply have no choice in the matter.

But maybe I'm wrong.

I'll bet the poor woman had the exact same assumption. With no concern for her own life, she'd run through the fires of hell to save her babies.

What a perfectly awful experience.