Eight Months of Exile

There’s this thing that happens when my favorite football team has clearly lost its game. I can spend the whole time they’re on the field yelling, clapping, covering my face with my hands, bouncing my knee, standing, swaying, leaning forward on the couch and generally being ridiculous for reasons that affect the outcome not at all… but when they’re obviously going to lose and there’s just no way to avoid it, there’s a consistent phenomenon that comes over me: I fall completely silent and go completely still.

For those of you who don’t follow football, don’t watch the Eagles or hate them with the passion that only a Giants fan can summon (right back atcha, by the way), the Birds started out the season horribly. They beat the Redskins in the opening salvo of Monday Night Football while my poor demented neighbor, Miss Ella, seemingly locked herself out of her house (not really – the back door was open – but my three friends who summoned me didn’t realize that). After that, though, the team finished the first half of the 16-game regular season with a pathetic record of 3-5 and such inconsistent play that nobody knew what it would take to get them on track.

Miss Ella was taken to a nursing home weeks before they got out of the basement of the NFC East. She passed away right around the time Mike Vick pulled a hamstring.

And then everything changed. The neighborhood got a lot quieter and the Eagles got a lot better.

Nick Foles, a second-year, second-string quarterback who had only started five games in the NFL before the midway point of this season, came in to take over for Vick… and all of a sudden, the Eagles had an offense. The second half of the regular season, with Vick suited and watching supportively on the sidelines, they went 7-1. Though every blasted game made me nervous (a symptom of a lifelong allegiance to the team), they managed not only to wrap up the regular term with more Ws than Ls—they also wound up beating the Dallas Cowdung… I mean Cowboys… to confirm their spot atop the NFC East conference and head to the playoffs.

Nevermind that the NFC East has been the weakest conference in the NFL for a few years now.

And so we came to last night. Me, alone on my couch after guests had left, because you really shouldn’t watch a consequential Eagles game with me, lest your opinion of me as a woman and a person in control of herself change dramatically. I had taken off the shirt I’d been wearing earlier in loyalty to a college team and was waiting anxiously to see if I was going to have to put on my Eagles t-shirt. This is the first time in my life I’ve ever owned any Eagles merch, and it had proven magical a few weeks before when, while decorating my Christmas tree and unable to see the game because it wasn’t being aired in my market, my sister was texting me play-by-play and told me to put the shirt on in the 3rd quarter when the Eagles were down by two TDs. Exactly one minute after I’d donned the shirt, the team scored, and began their comeback to win. In the ensuing weeks, I hadn’t had to wear it – though I thought about it – because it was clear it could only be used if the Eagles were down in the 3rd, and that hadn’t happened. They were precariously close to losing their lead more than once – and even in the game preceding the Cowboys matchup, when they were up 40 – 11, I wasn’t sure they’d really win. (They eventually did, by 43 points.)

As a fan, the last thing you want to do is screw up your team’s performance by putting on their shirt at the wrong time. In the immortal words of whoever wrote the Bud Light commercials: It’s only weird if it doesn’t work.

But last night, in the third quarter, the Eagles suddenly found themselves trailing. Eighty years as a ball club have demonstrated that when they’re down at this point in the game, they’re not getting back up. The only time I can remember when that hasn’t proven true was the week I put the shirt on.

Ding went my cell phone, signaling a new text message.

Sister 2: Put the shirt on.

Me: Literally just got off the couch to do it.

A tense few minutes of play later, it was obvious that there was some sort of disruption in the Force.

Me to Sister 2: Maybe they don’t know I put my shirt on.

Sister 2: Maybe you should take it off and put it back on.

Me: That’s unprecedented. I fear the potential fallout.

I held firm. Sure enough, it started to work. I didn’t feel a tingle and nothing started to glow, but as I sat bolt upright on the front half of my couch cushion through all play and commercials, bladder and thirst (in diametric opposition) be damned, the team started to come back. It started to look like they might do this thing. They wound up in the lead: 24-23. My hands hurt from hard-clapping.

And then the Saints got the ball with a few minutes left in the game. They weren’t passing. Drew Brees, their annoyingly illustrious quarterback who is two years younger than me and who I remember watching at Purdue when I was in undergrad in Ohio and my friends attended there, was running a ground game. They had decent field position and, perhaps most critical of all, a ground game the Eagles couldn’t seem to stop. No interceptions possible. Less chance of a fumble forced by a hard hit, or of stripping the ball from a receiver’s hands as he tries to control it. First down after first down (could the Eagles not hear me yelling at them not to let the Saints convert?), and exactly the right amount of time on the clock to go the yardage needed. There was no way the Eagles were going to get the ball back without committing some serious penalty that would cost them yardage. The Saints had previously mounted an effective defense run by former Eagles head coach Buddy Ryan’s evil son, Rob, whose eyes, I swear, shoot lasers sometimes. Now with the ball, they could run the clock down, get themselves into good field goal position, kick an easy one and win the game by two.

I could see it all unfolding, like I was predicting the future. Which I tend to do when I watch the Eagles.

At the 2:00 warning, I knew it was over. After 58 field minutes of anxious shouting and twitching, I fell silent and still. Nothing the shirt could do.

With :03 left, the Saints lined up for a field goal.

Ding.

It occurred to me briefly that I shouldn’t read the message.

I clicked the Read button.

My friend Sam: He’ll miss it.

Nnnnnoooooo! Why did you SAY that?!

And with that, the Saints’ kicker sent the ball through the uprights.

Ding.

Sam: Next year. He’ll miss it next year. 

Oh, Sam. How could you?

Me: You had to go and say it.

Sam: The dude’s about to get his AARP card. I thought there was a decent chance he’d shank it.

Maybe if Miss Ella had died again…

Or if I had my hair down, like last time, instead of up…

Maybe if the game hadn’t been broadcast in my market (impossible for a playoff), or if I had been undecorating my tree…

The shirt had worked. The team had come back and taken the lead. But Sam. Sam had effed it up via text.

Sigh.

I guess I can wash the shirt now.

 

Perhaps My Hopes Lie In A Two-Point Conversion

When it comes to fantasies and muscular, athletic men, I usually don’t involve coworkers. But today was my first foray into the world of fantasy football drafts.

How unprepared was I for this endeavor? Um… totally. I’ve done pick-em fantasy leagues for years – toss $10 in the game, pick a winner per week, survival of the winningest. This is a whole new… well… ball game.

Mind you, I love football. But the reason I don’t do fantasy drafts is because I don’t follow specific players if they’re not on the teams I support. So randomly picking a quarterback, wide receivers, running backs, a tight end, a kicker, a defense, a flex player and a bench? When there’s a very good chance that the guy I want in any given round will have been taken by someone else? Pfft.

Also evidence of a lack of preparedness: Turns out, you can’t do a fantasy draft on your smartphone. It’s high-stakes, sometimes rapid-fire picking and you need your finger to hit the right buttons at the right times, without fail, or you wind up picking the defense ranked 33rd in the league.

(There are only 32 teams in the league.)

(I do know some things.)

(I can name all 32 teams, too… but most people would do it by division, whereas I do it strictly by geographical location. Because I’m not most people. Also because if I tried to do it by division, I’d get about three divisions in and then start getting confused, and I’d be mocked for having my divisions all screwy instead of praised for knowing there are 32 teams and knowing where they are and what they’re called. So geography.)

Anyway, our design director took pity on me and my little smartphone and uprooted a Mac from another designer’s desk, lugging it into the conference room and hooking it up for me, then getting me reacclimated (I’m a PC person) and into the draft page with ten seconds to spare before the first round of action. I was then ensconced behind a huge screen like it was a side-by-side set of Trapper Keepers propped up on my desk during a fourth grade quiz, while everyone else looked fervently at their little hippie tablet screens.

Alright. Let’s do this.

I’m picking ninth.

Plblptpltlbptllpptbtpltblt.

First round… the first co-worker to choose is on auto-pick and she gets Adrian Peterson, or as I like to call him, Double-Sided Scooby Snack (watch this to find out what the hell I’m talking about – it is seriously hilarious). I pick Calvin Johnson at WR. He’s Megatron. He’s The proverbial Man at that position: back-to-back leader in fantasy points for the last two seasons. 

This, of course, very likely means he’ll be paralyzed in a late hit in game two. But for now, I’m all in with this guy and very happy to have snatched him up. Things are off to a good start.

Round two! I’m going to pick up Larry Fitzgerald of the Arizona Cardinals, also at WR. He’s great! Oh, wait. He was great in 2011. Or was that 2010? Or 2009? Last year he kind of sucked. Ach. S’aight. He’ll pick it back up. His QB wasn’t doing him any favors last year and now he’s got Carson Palmer and a new coach.

*Squirms a little in chair*

Round three. I’m thinking it’s time to pick a QB before everybody’s taken. Drew Brees, Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers are already off the table. Yep. Here we go. Cam Newton.

I skipped Payton Manning. Mostly because – unlikely though this may have seemed three seasons ago – I didn’t realize he was ranked above Newton. But that’s alright because even though he is by far the smartest football player currently in the NFL and possibly ever, I still don’t think he’s up to par since his neck surgeries, and Denver just hasn’t gelled around him the way Indy did. Plus, Newton’s good with the rush – something the top four guys don’t really do much. Possibly because their OL guys protect them better. Still, I’ll take the versatility.

There. I sold it to myself.

Meanwhile I haven’t figured out why the gap between my picks is inconsistent. I pick ninth out of twelve. Why did only six people go between my first and second picks, and then there were 16 between my second and third?

Fourth turn. Lemme get me a RB. Scooby Snack is gone, and so are Ray Rice, Marshawn Lynch, Jamaal Charles, Arian Foster (autopick and unfortunate, seemingly Nazi-endorsing name when said aloud), Alfred Morris, LeSean McCoy, Chris Johnson and Darren Sproles. I scroll… I scroll… My eyes scan the list of eighty gabillion players as my 1:30 time limit ticks down. I light on Reggie Bush.

Reggie Bush! Cool!

Wait. Isn’t he like 127 in-football-years old?

Oh but hang on, he’s with Detroit now. And this is a PPR (points per reception) league. He can catch, so that makes him a pretty decent PPR choice. I’m okay with this. I’m taking Reggie.

The 22-year-old league owner picks Kansas City WR Dwayne Bowe, the fourth-highest paid WR in the league right now. “I’m taking Dwayne Bowe so I can name my team Skittles: Taste Dwayne Bowe,” he says.

Unofficial points for clever jokes. 

Finally, I work out that there’s a potential method to the madness. I see the positions I still need to pick (at roughly the same time that I see that both my WRs are in bye weeks at the same time, so that means I need a WR either as a flex player or on the bench). I see that I can search players by position rather than scrolling through every player available. I’m feeling a little less clueless for round five.

Ahmad Bradshaw, RB. Boo-yah. Except for the foot surgery.

…-ies.

Huh.

Round six: Vernon Davis at TE. 

ESPN says: “Ranking Davis as a fantasy starter requires a leap of faith, because he was a disaster in 2012, catching fewer than two passes per contest in the seven regular-season games after Colin Kaepernick became the 49ers’ QB.”

Oh.

But: “In the playoffs, Davis had two 100-yard efforts, disproving the cranky notion that he and Kaepernick can’t coexist, and he’s just too darned talented not to figure this out. No question, he’s a tough man to trust. But a bounce back to ’10 and ’11 levels feels like a given, and we’ve seen Davis’ monstrous upside before: He had 13 TDs back in ’09. He’s still only 29, and may be the fastest pass-catcher on his team.”

Combined with the defense, that isn’t bad.

Round seven: DeSean Jackson at WR. He’s an Eagle (my hometown team) but the QB situation is dicey. I’d have preferred a RB or even a kicker from that team, but you can’t hurry love.

Round eight: Time to pick a defense. San Francisco. Solid.

Round nine: kicker. Blair Walsh of Minneapolis. Only the #1 ranked kicker in the league. I congratulate myself, even though the difference between the #1 kicker in the league and the worst starting kicker in the league is probably three points. Good thing, because he’s the only kicker I’ve got.

At round ten, we’re into the bench. I need a backup QB in case something happens to Newton, and the best I can get is Jay Cutler. Meh. Bryce Brown as a backup RB. Now we’re officially into the names I can’t even be sure I recognize. Julian Edelman at WR because maybe he doesn’t start and therefore doesn’t get hurt too quickly. Throw the Ravens’ Jacoby Jones in there, too. Why not – he’s actually pretty good and would be a solid backup if everyone else falls. And finally, Justin Blackmon.

It’s after I make that pick that I learn he’s suspended for the first four games of the regular season for illegal substance violations.

I’m feeling okay. I’m feeling only slightly tighter than loose about it. Then I check the matchups. I’m a favorite over the co-worker I’m matched up against for week one, and sure, I have no idea why I’m matched up against him for week one, but I do know he was an autopick drafter. 

Go team!…?

 

 

Season of Gross

I have spent a significant portion of the last week being gross. It’s summer on the East Coast, and that means one thing: heat and humidity.

Oh. That’s two things. But not really. They’re basically one word around here. Heatandhumidity.

My new gig at the university meant several days of outdoor events recently, and they were perfectly enjoyable and successful (there are few things in life as tangentially joyous as college commencement ceremonies, for example). But running around at commencement carrying ish and taking photos and performing strategery in your head makes you very sweaty.

That was also the case at a major event last week involving every VIP client I have. Said event was seven years of headaches, setbacks and political shenanigans in the making. It was outdoors. On a construction site. In 90+ degree heat. What, then, to wear? The outfit needed to say “big deal.” It needed to be professional. It needed to reflect the awareness that lawmakers and higher-ups in education would be present. It needed to allow me to wear flats. Ideally, it needed to be school colors. And I needed to look gooood. Because this was Rick’s event, and if I can’t have him, well… I might as well make him wish he could have me.

Rick, in a shirt and tie, told me he couldn’t believe I was wearing the very lightweight 3/4 sleeve cover I had over my black sleeveless dress. I told him the truth: it’s partly so I don’t get sunburn and partly to absorb the sweat. (I did not go with the ultimate truth, which was that it was also meant to cover the sweat stains that I’m sure had spread on the back of my dress. Which I had to peel off my body when I got home. Did I mention this outfit also involved Spanx?) This was when I realized the benefit to wearing a suit jacket if you’re a man: you’re going to sweat through your shirt, regardless. You might as well wear something that makes you look good and will cover the embarrassing stains at the same time.

You know those women who just glisten and gleam in hot weather? I’m not one of them. I don’t get dewy with perspiration. I sweat like a whore in an Alabama church right before a thunderstorm. Also? I get sort of splotchy and slouchy and a little grumpy. So I spent the whole event trying to look professional and sophisticated (and desirable) while feeling the sweat run in rivulets down my torso, arms and legs, and praying my spray-on tan didn’t run with it.

Rick said at the end of the event that he needed a shower, but he didn’t look the slightest bit ruffled or wilted. Whereas I’m pretty sure my face had melted off.

Dammit.

Yesterday, I headed to Philly to spend some time with my people. Both sides of my family have started a new tradition of getting together as one big mob to tailgate, walk over to a Phillies game, and then do a little post-gaming. We all bring food and beverages and whatnot, and someone schleps a grill, and we eat and drink and are merry. And then we sit in the stands and yell at the Phils. Well, yesterday was about eleventy-two degrees. It wasn’t quite so awful while we were tailgating, but in the stadium, if you had drawn a line from the ball of fire that lights the earth to the stands, it would have hit us. We could not possibly have been more in the sun.

A bunch of Irish sitting in the sun.

Brilliant.

I stood up after three innings and I swear to you, it looked as though I had peed my pants. I was sweating that profusely. It was basically like spending several hours on the inside of a Crock Pot. Even my undies were wet. Ew. Plus I was covered in two liberal coats of spray sunscreen, which makes me look like a glazed Krispy Kreme donut to begin with. It was in my hair, which had acquired a lovely crunchiness. By the time I left to head home after eight hours of summertime fun, I was officially disgusting. I stank of musky sweat and sunscreen. I couldn’t stand myself on the drive.

By the way, the Phils struggled in the heat, too. Lost 4-3 to the Brewers after a late-game rally that died when a pitcher got tagged out trying to steal third. Because pitchers don’t run so fast.

Not nearly as fast as the sweat down my body.

History In the Making

I used to think my grandparents had lived through amazing times in history.

Now I’ve realized I have, too.

On my days off last week, I watched hours of the Olympics. They are, among other things, a fantastic way to pass time. It goes faster when you watch the Games, I’m pretty sure. Then on Sunday night and the wee hours of Monday morning, I watched the newest episode of “The Newsroom,” which dealt with the night Osama bin Laden was killed. I won’t say where I was or what I was doing that night, but in sum, there are a lot of reasons I’ll never forget it. (No, it wasn’t dirty. Geez, people.) I happened to finish the episode on my laptop at 1:30am, the perfect time to flip on the TV and watch the rover Curiosity land on Mars. Live.

Ho-hum.

It has struck me over and over in the last week or two that we are constantly witnesses to astounding things. So constantly, in fact, that we have become impervious to them. That’s what makes us, sadly, so different from the Greatest Generation. We have lost so much of our ability to be amazed and humbled.

I am typing this – typing it – on a laptop computer no heavier than the slab of ribs I’m defrosting in the kitchen. This laptop can bring me live images of something happening literally a world away. My phone, connected to no wires and requiring me to stay in no perimeter (unlike the days when I was frustrated that the phone cord didn’t reach into the dining room from the kitchen), contains almost as much data processing hardware as the laptop does, but is a fraction of the size.  On either of them, I am able to communicate instantly with friends as close as the next room and as far as Australia and Hong Kong. I can even see them, if I choose.

“The Newsroom” begins each episode with a theme montage that features, first in a series of images, and old-timey satellite soaring through space. Just the fact that there is such a thing as an old-timey satellite is sort of mind-blowing.

These things are parts of our everyday life now. We barely notice.

But for some reason, the confluence of recent events has my mind on a different track. I’m grateful that knowing my grandparents and their experiences as I did has taught me an appreciation for history as it happens. I have parlayed that appreciation into other elements of my life. And so at a time when the Olympics converge with the Mars Curiosity landing, an epic (if nearly intolerable) presidential campaign, a global economic crisis and a chaotic assimilation to endless social media, sometimes I just have to stop, look around, and catch my breath.

Those of us who weren’t awake for it may not have reacted much to the Curiosity landing. After all, it’s not the first time we’ve landed something on Mars. The Opportunity is still there, you know, roving. But this was the first time we landed something the size of a car there, without any real testing to see if the whole thing would actually work. It did. It landed perfectly in the perfect spot, unbroken to our knowledge. Within seconds of watching the live reaction from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California to the news that Curiosity had successfully touched down after what NASA had termed “seven minutes of terror” for its landing sequence, that thing was beaming back images of the planet it was on. Sending pictures through space of a planet none of us have ever set foot on.

Why is that not every bit as awe-inspiring as when we sent men to walk on the moon?

In 35 years, I have lived through the return from an oil embargo; the election of a Hollywood movie star as president; the invasion of Grenada; the Iran-Contra affair; the war in the Persian Gulf; massive world-changing earthquakes in California, Japan, China, Indonesia and Haiti; Hurricane Katrina; the World Trade Center bombing (1993); the Oklahoma City bombing; September 11th; the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan; the impeachment of a president; the election of an African-American as president; the appointments of the first and second African-American Secretaries of State; appointments of the first, second and third female Secretaries of State; the dissolving of the Soviet Union; the destruction of the Berlin Wall; the Velvet Revolution in Poland; the protest in Tienanmen Square; the Occupy Movement; the Arab Spring and similar uprisings in Egypt, Tunisia, Syria, Libya and Iran; countless space missions, landings and discoveries, including the International Space Station in cooperation with the Russians we previously tried desperately to humiliate in the Space Race; the dawn of the personal computer; video cameras (Beta/VHS/digital); the invention of the internet; laptops, cell phones, digital cameras, cell phone cameras, the microwave, answering machines, voicemail, Facetime and Skype, Facebook, MySpace, Friendster, dating sites, Twitter and innumerable other technological marvels; the turn of a century that once seemed only fantasy (without computer meltdown); the arrival of unfathomable diseases and the cures and effective treatments for so many more; pet microchipping; heart valve replacements; artificial hearts; lifelike prostheses; cars that park themselves…

I could go on and on.

And yes, some of these things exist now only to make our lives easier and allow us to be lazier. We may mutter that it would have been better if they’d never been invented at all.

But watching the Olympics… watching people of every race and nation break down in tears at the triumph of victory and the pain of defeat, watching pride and heartbreak combine, watching people do things I could never, ever do… I find myself cheering for every single athlete, every single time. I don’t care that they’re from China or Russia or Korea. I don’t care that they come from a country diametrically opposed to mine. I don’t care that, by and large, we view their nation’s people as threats to ours. Because when they are united in competition and congratulations as individuals, each with a story, each with a suffering, each with hopes and fears and families they have loved and perhaps lost, it is never more clear that we are all the same. I cry when they cry. I cheer when they cheer. Watching the Curiosity land on Mars, it is undeniable that, everywhere on this planet, every person is subject to the life-ending fragilities and immortalizing strengths of the human condition.

What these things, all these histories I have lived through, show is that we as a species crave and strive for purpose, understanding and unity. What almost all of these things do is bring us together, search for life, and sustain life.

I watched a room full of geniuses at NASA’s JPL jump up and down, cry and cheer endlessly over what had been accomplished at 1:31am Eastern Daylight Time on Monday morning when they learned that all their work over 12 years had finally landed on Mars. On Tuesday, I watched an entire Olympic stadium full of people from all over the world roar their heart-swelling support for a Dominican runner who sobbed on the first place podium after kissing his grandmother’s photo on the track where he’d just become the fastest man to run the 400-meter hurdles.

I watched history unfold, with the common strings of pride and sacrifice uniting the planet, and discovering another one.

And I am still amazed.

*******
Video worth watching:
Felix Sanchez’s Olympic Gold Medal Ceremony
http://www.nbcolympics.com/video/track-and-field/highlights-mens-400m-hurdles-medal-ceremony.html

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, CA, Monday, 1:31am EDT/10:31pm PDT
http://www.nasa.gov/mp4/673828main_curiosity.mp4

Moral Crime and Punishment

What are we doing?

As a society, what in the name of all that is holy are we doing?

There is a lot of anger about what’s happening at Penn State University this week. I am a lifelong Penn State fan, a loyal and devoted supporter of head coach Joe Paterno. And I think he needs to pack up his office and leave the campus right this second.

Part of the anger that’s brewing is over whether Coach Paterno should really be taking the heat that he’s taking right now. I understand that there are people who believe that he shouldn’t be fired because he didn’t break any laws. When I first heard about the sickening charges against retired coach Jerry Sandusky, I was heartbroken. When I read the 23-page grand jury report, I was outraged.

Read it. It is not easy. In fact, it’s terrible. And that is why you should read it. Because as a society, we have stopped forcing ourselves to confront and believe that which is unpleasant to us, that which is horrific. And that is why we let these things happen over and over and over.

Legally, Paterno didn’t do anything wrong. When Mike McQueary (the unnamed “undergraduate assistant” who witnessed Jerry Sandusky sodomizing a young boy in a PSU facility shower room) told Coach Paterno what he saw, the coach notified the head of the athletic department, Tim Curley.

The grand jury’s report implies that McQueary and Paterno did nothing else.

Nothing.

And that’s not illegal.

AD Curley took the report to Gary Schultz, a vice-president of the university in a department that oversees the athletic department. Schultz took it to the president and reported it to The Second Mile, the charity organization founded by Sandusky in 1977 to work with at-risk youth in Pennsylvania.

It is the organization from which Sandusky chose his victims; all nine that prosecutors know of… all nine children from at-risk backgrounds who may not have had the support, the family, the sense of self, let alone the age and wisdom to know what was happening to them and to refuse it or report it. Eight of them testified in accounts detailed in the grand jury’s report. The ninth is stationed overseas in the military and unavaialable for deposition or testimony, but the grand jury knows his name.

Sandusky’s first run-in with the law was apparently in 1998, when someone reported him for sexual impropriety with a child. McQueary watched him rape a boy in 2002. A janitor saw him do it again, with another boy, years later. The grand jury’s investigation began in 2008, nine years after Sandusky retired from PSU (he retained privileges at the facilities). That was also the year that a high schoool administrator called police about an incident witnessed at the school with a student who had been part of Sandusky’s Second Mile organization.

All those years. All those children who didn’t have to suffer, if someone had called the police instead of his own boss.

When called upon by the grand jury, Coach Paterno and Mike McQueary testified as to what McQueary said he saw that day in 2002. McQueary told the grand jury that he had reported the matter to Paterno and that he had also had a separate meeting with Schultz and Curley, at which Paterno was not present. He testified that he told Curley and Schultz the same thing he had told Paterno.

When Curley and Shultz testified, they told the grand jury that McQueary had told them he was “uncomfortable” with what he saw, which they say he classified as “horsing around” – nothing sexually inappropriate.

Schultz and Curley are now under indictment, charged with perjury and failure to report the crime. Their defense attorneys are arguing to have the failure to report charge dropped, because the child in question was part of the Second Mile, not a PSU program, and Sandusky was acting as a staff member for the Second Mile at the time, not on the clock with Penn State; therefore, under the law, the obligation to report the crime falls to the Second Mile. Since Curley and Schultz had notified the organization of what McQueary reported, their legal obligation was fulfilled.

Convenient, isn’t it? That a Big Ten school with a legendary football program captained by a coach who’s been there for 60+ years would not be obligated by the law to report to police that Mike McQueary saw Jerry Sandusky raping a young boy in a Penn State facility. It’s a nice way for PSU to protect itself from scandal. At least, it was. And I think they knew it. I think Mike McQueary knew it, so he called his father, who told him to call Coach Paterno, his boss. Coach Paterno knew it, and that’s why he called his boss instead of the police. Tim Curley knew it, and that’s why he called Gary Shultz instead of the police. Gary Shultz knew it, and that’s why he called the Second Mile instead of police.

The janitor? The janitor was a troubled soul already, rocked by his memories of Korea, shaken so badly by what he witnessed that coworkers thought he might have a heart attack. He told his boss, too, because he didn’t know Sandusky’s name, and he was afraid he would lose his job if he blew the whistle. He saw Sandusky sitting in his car in the parking lot later and told his boss, “that’s him!”

His boss told him who, at the university, he could talk to about it.

That janitor is now suffering dementia, living in a nursing home, unfit to testify.

A fellow blogger (and I’ll not name her here because I don’t want people to get upset with her and go comment on her page) suggested that the problem is with the law; that if we want to hold people to a higher standard, our laws have to do so, as well. I don’t agree. The law cannot stop all that is horrible from happening. It cannot legislate morality. I think if we want to hold people to a higher standard, we have to stand up with the courage of our convictions and tell them in no uncertain terms that they were wrong. That, to hell with legalities and technicalities, what they have failed to do is the grave offense.

Who is more culpable: the man whose criminal sickness perpetuates his behavior for as long as he can get away with it… or the men who let him get away with it longer?

Nine children suffered, some of them for years. And there are likely more. Six grown men, four of them powerful, each knew about at least one of those children. Nine years went by since Mike McQueary saw Jerry Sandusky with the boy in the shower.

And the clock kept ticking.

I want Joe Paterno out of his office today. I want Mike McQueary out of his office today. I want everyone who ever knew Jerry Sandusky had done something sick and terrible to a child out of their offices, today. No Nebraska game this weekend. Go home. You’re finished here.

I am so terribly disappointed and heartbroken by this group of people I admired, this group I cheered, this group that was charged with shaping the lives of young men, who let the lives of young boys count for nothing.

The moral crime is willful ignorance. Verdict: Guilty. Every one.

Whoa Nelly!

What is it about sports that turns some people into irrational, angry freaks? And I’m not talking about violence at ball games. I’m not touching that. It’s stupid. It’s wrong. The end. I’m talking about people who get all fired up and mad at other people, or other teams, over something as silly and relatively meaningless to life as a ball game.

I’m a big sports fan. I’ve always loved sports. If there’s no NFL football this season, I will be beside myself. I’ll watch college games, though; I’ve been a Penn State fan all my life, and by invoking a woman’s prerogative, I’ve allowed myself to also be an Ohio State fan even though they’re both Big Ten teams, because Penn State was an independent school until 1990 and I went to a tiny college in Ohio which had great academics, but craptastic sports teams, and therefore I had to adopt OSU if I wanted to maintain my sanity.

That is the only thing in sports for which I’ve invoked a woman’s prerogative, by the way.

I’ve been well-versed on IndyCar racing since 1985. I’m not a huge baseball fan, but I watch the World Series and maybe a random game here and there before that. I don’t generally watch the NBA because I don’t care for that particular brand of showboating, but I’ll watch college hoops, and I do all the same grunting and shouting and throwing my arms up in the air that everyone else does during March Madness. I’ll even put a hockey game on, even though I really don’t understand hockey very well and can’t figure out why its season seems to be approximately 13 months long, nine months of which most people in the Lower 48 are unaware that the game is even being played, and the other four months of which appear to be playoffs.

On any given weekend afternoon, if the television is on, there will be a sport displayed on it. It’s part of the fabric of my life; I’d rather see a golf match on a Sunday afternoon than a bad Lifetime movie. And I don’t really like golf. I suppose, for me, it’s the shared experience and the fact that it’s a measure of actual skills, abilities and talents. It’s also that I grew up with a father who watched sports on the weekends, and that’s how I connected with him sometimes.

But there are a lot of things about sports fans that I just can’t abide. Irrational anger being one of them. How many of us know someone who we like just fine except when they’re watching their favorite team play? My college roommate’s boyfriend (now husband) threw plates at the television during Cavs games when we were in school. My plates. And my television.

I don’t understand people who want pitchers to bean batters with baseballs just to get even. Try winning, instead. I can’t be near someone who spends his or her time trying to shout someone else down or using completely irrelevant arguments roughly akin to “Oh yeah?! Well you’re ugly!” to try to make a point. Why do the successes or failings of a team of people you don’t know have such a profound effect on your feelings of self-worth that you have to pick a fight over them? I’m a loyal fan of Philadelphia teams, and I cannot tell you how often someone’s feelings of inadequacy over their own team results in them yelling at me because, in 1968, some Eagles fans booed Santa. “You booed SANTA!” they yell at me.

Well, actually, no, I didn’t. I wasn’t born until 1977. I don’t even know anybody who was there when that happened.

See, I don’t associate myself with entire throngs of people and/or entire teams of athletes who compete in a sport I don’t play. And you probably shouldn’t associate me with them, either. I’m an Eagles fan, a Phillies supporter, a backer of the Sixers and the Flyers (despite previous declarations of relative ambivalence toward their sports; I get the hometown pride thing, and I’ll never fault anyone for theirs). I’m pretty vocal. I’ll yell at the television. I’ll cheer. I’ll bang on the table or the couch (that’s pretty much just for Eagles games). But I do not play for the team, nor do I behave the exact same way as what in all reality is a very limited number of their fans.

And I don’t think you’re a loser if your favorite team loses. So stop trying to prove something to me with your fury. It’s juvenile.

Also, it makes your face look funny. There’s a vein in your forehead that sticks out when they screw up, and it scares me.

Don’t get me wrong. You’re allowed to have fun and be a goof when you want to lighten up and cheer on the team. Wear a foam finger. A hat that appears to be made out of cheese. A pig nose and a dress (though we’re already going to be at odds if you wear that, because it means you’re a Redskins fan, and I, as an Eagles fan, cannot possibly be your friend.)

But if you ever – and I mean ever – paint your chest and stand shirtless at a game where the temperature is somewhere in the vicinity of non-existent on a thermometer, we’re done.

But that’s sort of extreme, and most of the people in my life are at least old enough to know better at this point.

So those are the really freaky fans. Most people, I’ll admit, aren’t like that. When it comes to what is arguably the average sports fan, here’s what cracks me up, or makes me want to tear my hair out, depending on my mood:

-People who call in to radio sports talk shows and rant about one person – an owner, a manager, a coach, a player – being the entire reason for a whole team’s consistent failure. You’re delusional. Find a new point to make.

-People who don’t call in to radio sports talk shows, but still rant about one person – an owner, a manager, a coach, a player – being the entire reason for a whole team’s consistent failure. You’re delusional, too. But I’ll give you some credit for not being narcissistic enough to think an entire listening area should hear your ignorant opinion.

-People whose allegiance to a team extends only so far as when the team wins. I’ll give you a pass if your team’s suckitude forces you to endure more than ten losing seasons in a row.

-People who start altercations in bars over games (and, by association, people for whom alcohol is a catalyst for argumentativeness).

-People who seem to believe they actually play on the team. These folks turn up on those sports radio talk shows fairly often. “We need to improve the right outside linebacker position.” “We need more depth at center.” “We need better pitching.” Who is “we?” Are you on the roster and nobody knows? Are you 117th in the depth chart?

-People who feel the need to dress head-to-toe in their favorite team’s gear on game day.

-People who feel the need to dress head-to-toe in their favorite team’s gear on a day on which a game is not being played (that’s worse than the game day one).

These last two points have become particularly interesting to me. Jack, who works around sports types, finds it demeaning to wear a jersey with another man’s name on his back. He thinks that people who do so are insecure to some degree, and feel better about themselves via the association to some random person who happens to be talented enough to go pro. He thinks that’s kind of pathetic.

Jack’s kind of a deep thinker sometimes.

But he has a point, and frankly, not only have I come to see it; I’ve come to agree with it. Don’t be offended if you own a jersey with some player’s name on the back. I wouldn’t refuse to associate with you or anything, unless you’re a freak fan, but I think it’s an interesting topic for sociological study. Why do we think that professional athletes or celebrities are better than us? That their signatures mean more than ours? That they have outpaced us in accomplishments or live better lives?

Other than the fact that they’re rich. That’s a given.

My theory is that whatever it is that makes some fans think that those athletes are better people is the same thing that makes those fans irate at the smallest error in a game, or makes them lash out at a fan from an opposing team. Insecurity and immaturity. Napoleon Syndrome, in a metaphysical way.

Enjoy the game. But I’m going to sit waaaay over here, ‘kay?

———
Featured image from nydailynews.com

It’s A Muscle, Not a Dinosaur… and Other Things I Learned On the Massage Table

I have a bit of an issue with my back, as you may know if you read my entry from the day it tried to kill me. I also have trouble with a bad disc in my neck. I used to think of massages as luxurious, expensive things that I wasn’t allowed to have very often. But more than once, after having one (usually via gift certificate from Jack), my voice teacher would notice that my posture was better, I wasn’t doing any of the tiny little things while I sang that indicated alignment problems or pain, and I sounded better as a result. (Singing is a very physical thing, even though it looks like we’re just standing really still.) Between that and the fact that I usually felt better and usually slept better, I decided that I needed to start thinking of massages as physical therapy, since, for me, that’s what they are.

So I joined one of those monthly places where you sign up for a year and you get a massage every month, for about half what you would pay at a spa.

 What a doozy I had yesterday.

I hadn’t been to see Art the Indistinguishably Asian Massage Therapist since February. (It seems rude to ask him where he’s from. It’s already enough of a stereotype that he’s Asian and a massage therapist. Why draw attention to the fact that I’m thinking it?) I’m still having trouble with a lot of stiffness and soreness in the morning since the Great Coffee Filter Incident, and my right hip has been tricky. (My hip? I’m 34 years old, for crying out loud. My hip, now?) I’ve been worried that a massage might do more harm than good in my present state, but after two months of building soreness everywhere else, and the corresponding decline in sleep quality, I gave in and booked an appointment.

Face-down on the warm table and under Art’s skillful and soft hands, I am immediately putty. I will let him do whatever he wants. This is really key to making your massage work, because resistance will only hurt you. Sometimes when Art manages to get my ear all the way to my shoulder, I wonder how I’ve become so Gumby-esque. Other times I wonder if a sheet has slipped a little too far, revealing a little too much, but I can’t bring myself to care enough to open my eyes. By the time the 90 minutes are over, he could ask me to bear his children for the further enrichment of Wherever He’s From and I would say “shhhurrre” in a drooly, gravelly-voiced haze of happiness.

When this session was over and I was still all warm and bendy, Art told me in his trademark soft voice and lilting accent that my back was very, very tight, and my legs are rotated outward in a way that shouldn’t be happening. He believed this to be related to my hips, so he wanted to check my heliocastroneves muscle.

Helio Castroneves. Climbing fences can cause muscle strain. (photo from autoracing1.com)

My which?

“Iliosaurus.” Is what I thought he said this time. 

...This one?

Um… my…? (The accent gets in the way sometimes and I don’t want to offend.)

“Ilio–”

“Yeah, okay.”

“Therapists don’t like to do this,” Art gently explained, “because… it’s not pleasant. It’s not pleasant work. Not a good feeling.”

I nodded that I understood and was willing to gut it out.

So he gently and delicately probed his fingers under every abdominal internal organ I have to make his way to this band of muscle that lives under them.

He was right. Not pleasant. Rather unpleasant, in point of fact. But I relaxed into it. He located the muscle band in question and explained that it is shorter and thicker than it is supposed to be, therefore causing my pelvis to tilt and possibly causing my hip and lower back pain. “But this side,” he said, disemboweling me on the left, “is not so bad.”

He came around to disembowel me on the right, and yowza. I felt that muscle band pop right up when he got to it.

“Ohhhh,” Art intoned. “Yeah, this one’s bad.”

Art explained that lunges with five pound weights on either side could help stretch this iliowhatever muscle, and over time, that might help with the pain.

After he had left the room and I had almost gotten my newly pliable and internally rearranged self up off the table, he knocked. “I want to try one more stretch with you,” he explained from the other side of the door.

So I get to lay here longer? Okay.

Art lifted my right leg so that the back of my knee was resting on his inner elbow. Then he pulled it up and over to cross my body. My entire right side came up off the table and moved with my leg.

Apparently, that’s not supposed to happen.

“Wow,” Art said, still slowly moving my leg across the table.

I don’t generally mind hearing a guy say “wow” while judging my flexibility as I lie relatively unclothed on my back, but this wasn’t that kind of “wow.”

Meanwhile, my body was screaming at me. My groin was killing me and my glutes were stretching like crazy. I was laughing, but only to make the “ow ow ow ow OWWWW” less scary for the massage recipients in the other rooms, and for Art, who kept saying, “This is really baaaad,” but not stopping.

Finally he did, and held my leg where it was. “Do you see your foot?” he said. My lower leg was probably at about a 45 degree angle to the table, so the sole of my foot was directed at the corner of the room. “That’s supposed to be here,” he explained, indicating that my foot should be parallel to the floor. “And your whole body is lifted off the table. That’s bad.”

I took note of my present physical arrangement, resembling a pretzel twist that had mutated in the factory.

“How old are you again?” he asked, grinning.

That’s it, Secret Asian Man. Taunt the suffering woman on the table. You know what? No children for you.

Art explained that this is a really bad state for my iliobrontosaurus to be in, and I really need to work on stretching it. Promising myself I’d google something that sounded something like what he was talking about when I got home, I assured him I would do so.

It’s actually called the iliopsoas (ill-ee-oh-SO-us… the P is silent), and it’s a grouping of muscles that wind around from the lower lumbar spine, over the hip, under the abdominal organs and joins up with the groin. This is what it looks like.

It's that thing that comes down from the spine and then around the hip.

Who comes up with these goofy configurations?

I found a few YouTube videos of stretches I can do. One of them involves lying on my coffee table, which then of course immediately involves fending off the furball that can’t understand why I’m lying on the coffee table, but thinks it means “please climb on me, howl in my face and sit on my chest.” The stretches are, frankly, not a bit relaxing, but since you’re supposed to hold them for so long, you really do start to feel things lengthen and let go. I’m hoping they’ll really do some good. Next time Art wants to relocate a limb, it would be nice if he didn’t mock me.

Why My Neighbors Probably Hate Me

There are times when I feel really sorry for my neighbors. This is despite my downstairs neighbors’ baby screaming like he’s on fire for 20 minutes at a time while his stay-at-home-without-a-car dad mocks him and sings tunelessly (including “Do, A Deer” from The Sound of Music, for which the irony of a tuneless voice is just too much for a music lover like me to bear). I feel sorry for my neighbors despite my loosely Buddhist next-door neighbor playing tribal chants and inviting a random group of hippies over on a quasi-regular basis to “jam” on bongos and cereal-box guitars, leaving a heaping pile of smelly hippie footwear in the hallway because the neighbor does not allow shoes in her home.

I feel sorry for my neighbors because I yell at my television.

I am writing this entry while watching the Butler Bulldogs play the UConn Huskies for the NCAA men’s championship title. (It is to my tremendous advantage that I am a good typist and can type and watch basketball at the same time. For example, I have typed this entire paragraph so far without once looking at the laptop.) I do not have a vested interest in this game, really. My alma mater never makes it to the tournament, because they are Division III and they are awful. But I did spend a fair amount of time on Butler’s campus as a kid, so it does have a special place in my heart, and therefore, I am pulling for them despite the fact that their shooting tonight is atrocious and why won’t they just drive to the basket already and stop turning around and passing the ball back out to set up for a three they’re not going to get?! Drive, draw the foul, and let’s go!

As the clock runs out on this game and I accept the fact that UConn is going to win and once again the charm of the Cinderella stories in the NCAA falls to the WHAT ARE YOU DOING? THAT WAS SLOPPY! 20 SECONDS IN THE GAME AND YOU’RE PULLING THAT CRAP?! relative royalty of a UConn or a Kentucky or a Duke, I realize that not only do I yell at the television, but I tend to do it at ridiculous hours of the night. Presently, it is 11:15pm.

Basketball, however, is not my sport of choice for which to pontificate at the idiot box. That would be football. On any given Sunday from September to hopefully at least January, you can find me yelling at my COME ON GUYS, YOU’RE BETTER THAN THIS! lifelong favorite football team, whose name rhymes with Beagles and whose quarterback did time for abusing dogs. What? I didn’t sign him. I’m still pissed they traded the Other Guy Who Was the Face Of the Franchise For A Decade to that God-Awful Team In the Same Freaking DIVISION.

I am not a manly woman. But I am a competitive woman. I do not have any older brothers. No brothers at all, in fact. What I do have is a sports-minded dad with whom Sundays were father-daughter bonding time, and that meant Dad and his girls watched football together.

Mom somehow has managed not to even learn how downs work.

Thirty-six years, she’s married to my father. No idea how downs work.

How is that possible?

I, myself, am not an athlete. I played baseball from age 5 to 10. It wasn’t because I liked baseball. It was because I thought all kids had to play, like it was some sort of mandate. I stood in left field or center field during co-ed t-ball or slow-pitch or no-strikeout games, bored completely out of my mind. There is a story about how, when I was 6 and playing center field, a ball actually somehow made its way to my position, and when it rolled to a halt in front of me, I just stared at it while even my mother yelled “PICK IT UP!” It is therefore no surprise that baseball is my least favorite of the major televised sports. I played kickball from 5th through 8th grade because, where I lived, kickball was a real sport, played on asphalt, with a ball like a soccer ball, and there was a competitive league (girls only). I played volleyball in middle school and was a pretty decent spiker, but couldn’t serve overhand. I’m blessed with a lot of talents and abilities, but athletic performance ain’t one of ’em.

Eighteen percent for the game, Butler?! Horrible field goal shooting. Horrible!  My grandmothers are better than that, and they’re 4’11” and 5’2″, and dead!

I played basketball for one very bad, very embarrassing season when I was in fourth grade, and during which I guarded on offense. But in my defense, I fractured my wrist at a skating party at the beginning of the season and couldn’t practice. But I still went to practice, sat in the bleachers and watched my team. Because that’s the way I roll. Our first game was the day after I got the cast off my arm. I played.

So, even though I’m bad at sports performance, I’m an excellent… um… athletic supporter.

And I yell at the television.

At the moment, I’m actually doing something more akin to grumbling. “One Shining Moment” is a terrible song, and it really doesn’t matter who sings it.

My sisters yell at the television, too, and two of the three yell equally at basketball and football. At this point, when we’re all together, my father sits and watches us and muses about having created monsters. We aren’t obnoxious unless we’re among family. I personally own zero jerseys and only one team t-shirt, which was actually a gift. I don’t even talk trash, because I’m so used to my team snatching defeat from the jaws of victory in the dwindling minutes of the match-up. So I’m not one of those sports fans everybody hates.

But I am a fan. And I am passionate. And I will be very, very sad if the NFL is still in a work stoppage in the fall.

My neighbors probably won’t be, though.