Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Gary Bettman Sucks

The internet has been dominated recently by stories of East Coast shark attacks and arguments about gay marriage.  Can we please turn our attention to something important?  Like why the heck the NHL approved playing 3-on-3 overtime for regular season games?

Maybe I am way off base here.  Maybe come October I will love 3-on-3 OT.  But for now, I think 3-on-3 should be reserved for memories of the pick-up basketball games of my youth.  I have heard the arguments for the change:  Too many games end in shooutouts and, though it is exciting for the fans, the shootout decides a game in a way that is too different from how the previous 65 minutes were played.  So the solution was to further bastardize the game to fix the way it was bastardized when the shootout was created ten years ago?  I suppose it might be better than the shootout, but when was the last time you saw 3-on-3 played in an actual NHL game? 

Three skaters aside could be interesting when you have the best players on the ice allowed more room to show their skill.   In fact, if it is so great let's play 3-on-3 all the time.  Wide open play, lots of goals, goalies under siege, the scoreboard lighting up like a video game-what's not to love?.  (Mr Bettman, I am totally kidding.)  There could also be precious seconds wasted chasing pucks that were not held in the offensive zone.  3-on-3 overtime is just more circus trickery that, unfortunately, will still end in a shootout if no one scores in OT.  I have some suggestions that might work better, especially for those concerned about excessive wear and tear on those poor, over-taxed star players.

*Flip a coin. (See this quarter it used to be a nickel.)

*Instead of letting the pros finish, we will let the Mites that play during intermission settle things in overtime.

*No sticks or pucks during OT.  A team picks its five best skaters to figure skate a routine to music.  The team earning the best artistic and technical judges marks earns a standings point. 

*At the end of regulation, one monkey will dress in the sweater of each team.  The team whose monkey flings its poo the furthest wins!

Ooh, Ohh. Pick me! Pick me!

Yes, you there in the back that looks like you have been sitting on a good idea for ten years.

I have a plan. I know how we can make it so fewer games end in a shootout. 

Let's hear it.

GET RID OF THE SHOOTOUT!

So simple, yet so brilliant.  The shootout is exciting for fans, but it is more like an exhibition contest or a game to end practice.  Nothing of value should be decided with an exhibition.  (I am looking at you and your "All-Star Game winner earns home field advantage in the World Series" fiasco, Major League Baseball.)  I say we go back to the old days when games could end in (GASP!) ties.  A team earns one point for a tie and two points for a win.  This fixes four problems.  One, we get rid of the ghastly shootout.  Two, we eliminate a team earning a point for simply reaching OT.  I know my Capitals have benefited mightily from this system, but awarding a point to a team that loses is foolish.  Three, the standings get easier to decipher (Goodbye ROW and OTL).  Four,teams have to win (or at least tie) their way in to the playoffs.  Tell me why I am wrong.


Monday, June 29, 2015

Marriage Is So Gay

Boy, the internet pisses me off sometimes.  Friday, in the wake of the Supreme Court decision on gay marriage and the terror attacks in Tunisia, France and Kuwait, I read someone questioning whether terror attacks might be looming in the U.S. (legitimate question) and whether said attacks would be God's way of showing us that he was displeased with SCOTUS (eye-rolling, forehead-slapping, heavy sigh-inducing question.)  Who, besides the Westboro Baptists, thinks like this?  And for those that do, why?  What's the problem here?

I think the biggest issue is a lack of empathy.  For two seconds, put yourself in someone else's shoes.  If you were gay, would you not seek the same things?  What are gay and lesbian couples really asking for?  To have their bond with their partner recognized by the state.  To be able to visit their sick lover in the hospital.  To help make end-of-life medical decisions.  To reap the same tax benefits.  To have the same perks that married straight couples have.  Sir, nobody is asking you to marry a dude.  Mam, no one is suggesting you take a wife.  Nobody is saying you can't find it repulsive or against God's will.  I submit that same-sex love is perfectly natural, but if you don't subscribe to that thinking, nobody is saying you must.  Likewise, empathy is not required. I just ask that you try it on for size and ask yourself, "How does it harm me?"

I say to the fervent believers that feel God should smite homosexuals-"Be patient."  We will all learn the truth when our Earth time ends.  Maybe there is an afterlife.   Maybe we'll just be a bag of bones.  Just be patient.  If you are right and gays are sinners doing the Devil's bidding that are doomed to literally be flamers as they burn in Hell, you have all Eternity to gloat.  But while you are Earthbound, how about showing some empathy, showing some compassion, showing some respect for those that are different than you.  Different, by the way, in ways that affect you not one iota.

Like the esteemed philosopher, Forrest Gump, I am not a smart man, but I know what love is.  I know married gay men who express their love and affection better than most straight couples.  I know women who, if they decided, in addition to being awesome aunts and great mommies to their  fur babies, that they wanted kids of their own, would be amazing moms.  It may not fit everyone's definition of family.  It may not fit everyone's defintion of marriage.  So what?  I often hear we should be more religious in this country, a more Christian nation.  What about the significant percentage of the population that does not believe in God or any Supreme Being?  Why on Earth would they feel compelled to be bound by the rules and authority of a figurehead they don't even think exists?  People of faith should use their faith to guide themselves; the Rule of Law should be the Rule of Man (and Woman). 

So what do we do next?  I have seen it suggested government should have nothing at all to do with the union of two people.  That smacks a little of "I'm taking my ball and going home.", but I could get on board with this for the most partI think keeping taxes or assets an individual thing would be fine.  It is the medical/death decisions that I think would get sticky.  Maybe, since we can't agree on a definition, we should simply eliminate the word "marriage" from government.  Everyone gets a Civil Union.  Man to woman, man to man, woman to woman, transgender to transgender, man to goldfish; everybody gets a civil union.  We don't have to worry about  Natural Law; we can just worry about the law.  Marriage remains a religious institution.  Churches get to enforce their definitions within their domain.  Civil Unions can give equal rights to estates, medical directives, taxes, hospital visits, etc.  It might be a little awkward at first for those that have been married a while.  Honey, here on our anniversary, I love you more than ever.  I can't believe it's been fifteen years since we were civilly united. But awkward is okay.  Love is awkward and messy.  Love is hard.  But, at least on Friday, Love wins.


    

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Happy Father's Day

From Clark Griswold to Ray Barone, from Fred Flintstone  to Homer Simpson, dads are often portrayed as bumbling idiots.  Even though it is a portrayal that I sometimes reinforce for laughs here on my own blog, it really is an unfair stereotype.  Most of the dads I know are working hard to get it done right.  Fortunately, my father, before he passed, and my father-in-law are more Heatcliffe Huxtable, setting a positive parenting example through word and, more often, by deed.  I don't know exactly where I  fit on the scale from Homer to Heathcliffe, but I was recently reminded that, no matter the situation, dads are always on duty, because our kids are always watching.

On Memorial Day I grabbed The Wife and The Girl and we headed to Baltimore for some holiday baseball.  Grace, at age six, is beginning to grasp the game, but her love of Camden Yards is still mostly driven by the thrill of riding the light rail, dressing in Orioles' orange from head to toe and her love of peanuts, popcorn and cracker jack (and cotton candy).  Or the fact that she likes to be where the action is.  And on this Memorial Day we had a little action.  On the way in to the ballpark, Grace, employing the wisdom and expectations of a six-year-old, announced that she wanted me to catch her a baseball while at the game.  Sure, we were arriving early enough to watch some batting practice and have a chance at a ball, but I needed to temper expectations.  I explained to her that, yes, some BP homers and game foul balls and home runs would land in the stands, but also that thirty thousand other people would be here too.  The odds of getting a ball were extremely low.  Undaunted, with that awesome hope of a youngster not yet beaten down by reality, she shrugged her shoulders and said, "Okay, but we should still get a ball."

Not two minutes later, as we worked our way down Eutaw Street, the plaza just outside centerfield, I look up in time to see a ball screaming from the clouds like a missile.  Not too many balls, even in batting practice, reach Eutaw Street; somebody has really put a charge in to this one.  Suddenly, like a wish granted, I see my opportunity to be a hero to my kid literally falling from the sky.  I judge Opportunity's trajectory. Calculating that it is not heading straight at us thereby posing no danger to Grace or Amanda, I head for the ball's likely landing spot, not twenty feet from me.  (I don't normally chase balls at the ballpark; to me, getting one is just not that big of  a deal.  I think people get a little crazy over chasing down fouls and homers.  However, when your wide-eyed daughter has asked for a ball and it is this close, you better spring into action.)  The ball spucks off the ankle of an unsuspecting fan and rolls right toward me.  I look up to see there are a whole bunch of fans running towards me that have been tracking the ball's flight path much longer than I have.  I begin to crouch down to reach  for the ball when I realize without a Brook Robinson-like dive I have no chance at getting it.  Common sense and a forty-year-old's notion of self-preservation prevail.  I pull up and let some kid grab the ball.  Unfortunately,  another lumbering oaf, likely influenced by some batting practice beers, was not able to pull up in time.  He crashed into me as I was standing up.  Though he was not shirtless, we had an Along Came Polly moment where the side of my face met his belly and got slopped with his alcohol sweat. Not thrilled to be wearing my new cologne, Eau De Sweaty Douchebag, I put my hand up and say ,"Easy." He mumbles something clearly  unapologetic so, a little sharper this time, I say, "Hey, take it easy." Meathead wittily retorts with a ,"Fuck you." And again, in that long drawn out way that indicates he means business, "fuuuuck youuu."

Great, now we have a confrontation. Standing a few feet from this guy a thousand things rush through my mind at once.
Terrific. I have ruined our family day five minutes after entering the stadium.
We are about the same size. I can handle him if it gets ugly.
Am I really ready to do "this" if he takes a swing?
What exactly  does "this" mean?
Will anybody notice if I pee my pants?

I remained calm with no intention of escalating the situation  further.  Little did I realize that it didn't matter; Mama Bear had her claws out. One "Hey Asshole, not in front of my kid!", from Amanda was all it took to defuse the situation. Meathead turned back towards the field and we headed for our seats. (I'd like to point out here that I am the only one that did not use profanity in front of the six-year-old.) Grace, while not shaken up, did have questions  about why the man was mean and worried if we would have trouble from him later. Assured that everything was fine, she enjoyed batting practice , even getting close to nabbing a few homers, and an Orioles victory.  A fine day that could have ended much differently.

And there are the lessons. The kid is always observing and learning, so you are always teaching. She will do as we do. I hope by staying calm and not further escalating the confrontation I taught her to do the same. And, of course, lesson number two: When in doubt, let Mama help you out.
Happy Father's Day!

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Dispatches from the Armpit of New Jersey

This past weekend, The Wife surprised me by secretly securing me some days off from work so we could take a mini vacation. Awesome, right? The long weekend was our first trip away without The Girl since, well...since Grace was born.  To say we both needed the time away is an understatement.  We tossed around various destinations-time and budget meant not too far or too expensive- and once Amanda decided she wanted to drink, gamble and beach it, the decision was easy.  Look out Atlantic City, you Ersatz Paradise, here come the Haileys.  Of course, our decision was met with scoffing from every corner.  You know A.C. is called the Armpit of New Jersey, right?  Oh my God, Atlantic City is a shithole!  Why do you want to go there? Everything is closed. Amanda was unbowed, confident in her suggestion.  Personally, I was just happy to be away.  Did I mention the trip was alone with my wife, away from the kid for a few days?  I would have happily spent the weekend in a dumpster.  (Which some people no doubt feel I did. *Rimshot*.)  Ready to relax, we packed the car and headed for the coast.

While in Atlantic City, I learned and confirmed a few things:
* Time well-spent with a beautiful woman is about as good as it gets.  My wife is witty, sexy and a great person to relax away a day with. 
*People watching never gets old.    From the oiled-up old timer that squeezed his leathery hide into a mankini to the lady smoking a joint walking down the street in broad daylight, there is plenty to see.
*I am a terrible gambler. Like "cooler" bad.
*Massage and parlor become two skeevy words when paired together.  Seriously, there were like a half dozen massage joints within a few blocks.  And I mean the "Love you long time/Happy Ending included" kind of massage "parlors".
*Don't outthink yourself when your wife says, "Sure, I'll go into Scores with you."  It might not have been a trap.
*Meals taste better when you don't have to ask your kid to stop dancing in the booth every five seconds.
*Some people passing you on the street take a simple "Good Morning" as an opening to inquire exactly how straight you are.  First time I have been propositioned by a large black man before breakfast.

Most importantly, I was reminded that any situation is what you make of it.  Sure, Atlantic City is a shell of what it once was.  It's equal parts shithole and sweet vacation spot.  But guess what, three blocks from Camden Yards is a war zone.  Guess what, I don't wander too far from the National Mall after dark, either.  Guess what, I see more panhandlers on a daily basis in Salisbury than I did in three days in New Jersey.  Every place is what you make of it.  Yes, the faux opulence is stacked on the pretend luxury is piled on the last remnants of a bygone era of high rollers and fat cats.  Yes, the desperation wafting off many casino patrons  mimics the sagging desperation of the entire town.  But these are all part of the charm.  With a little imagination you can lie on the beach and daydream that you are in another era.  An era when, with a pretty lady on your arm, a drink in your hand and a little change in your pocket you can be a high rolling king of the boardwalk.  Every place is what you make of it and we made out just fine.

Sunday, June 07, 2015

You Can Dance If You Wanna

Ah, Dance Recital Day.  Witness the pageantry, the artistry, the cloud of hairspray and glitter.  A day where a year of sacrificed Tuesday nights culminates in being let off the hook for the summer a grand dance spectacle.  A day where you spend two hours watching other people's kids bump into each other and succumb to stage fright just so you can spend three minutes wrestling with your cell phone camera as you pray your kid does not bump into someone or succumb to stage fright.  A day, in our house at least, marked my hairstyle negotiations and arguments about how and when the performer will get dressed. A day where you can squander all the Father of the Year points you think you earned as a Dance Dad by nodding off in the cool, dark auditorium during the recital.  In short, a day to look forward to every year.

Don't get me wrong, I support my daughter, Grace, and love that she enjoys dancing.  And Grace goes to a great dance school with a wonderful director and teachers.  It is a non-competitive environment with a laid-back recital.  One of the many reasons we selected this studio four years ago was that girls are actually treated like girls.  Unlike some other schools, the routines are not too "mature", the uniforms (outfits? costumes?) are modest and the neither the girls, nor the boys look like they have raided Mommy's make-up bag to do their best Joker impersonations.(Side note: Are male ballet dancers called Ballerinos? If not, they should be.  Yes, the mind does wander during a two hour recital.)  Perhaps most importantly, the director mercifully breaks up her recital into two separate recitals so parents are not subjected to a marathon show in which their child only performs a few minutes.  She also does extra homework to ensure that students, like Grace, who take two different types of classes perform in the same recital.  Of course, sometimes this is not possible.  For our family, this year was our sometime.

That's right, the only thing better than one recital is two recitals in one afternoon! By my count, we were on site for 5 1/2 hours yesterday.  That's a lot of tutus and sequins, a lot of whining and snacks.  Then there's the dancers.  Fortunately or unfortunately, the second leg of our long recital day was anything but boring.  A technical music glitch and then something I have not seen in three previous years kept the audience on their toes (or running for the restroom).  Halfway into Grace's first performance, one of her poor classmates, due to sickness or nerves, lost her lunch up on stage not once, but twice.  Grace and her other classmates, looking confused and horrified, froze mid-pose, uncertain what to do next.  After a few seconds (but what seemed an eternity), someone off stage closed the curtain on the mess.  I was just happy we didn't have a Stand By Me-style pie eating contest chain reaction. ("Lard-Ass, Lard-Ass, Lard-Ass")    I felt so bad for that little girl, but was a tiny bit relieved for the break in the monotony.  Does that make me a horrible person? Please don't answer that question.  I guess I am just happy that it was not Grace projectile vomiting in front of a packed auditorium.  Then I would have had the ethical dilemma of deciding whether to post one of my daughter's finest moments on YouTube.  As it was, after a ten minute delay, the rest of the recital was relatively incident-free (only a couple on-stage stumbles) and we made it out unscathed, if a bit sleepy and hungry.  I think by that time, even I was happy enough to dance.   

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Neither Strong Guy Nor Fat Guy, He Was The Genius.

Many years ago, I stupidly suggested my parents watch Pulp Fiction.  When they were done with the viewing my dad called me and asked, "What the %*@# did we just watch?"  They may have had the same reaction had I suggested they watch Late Night With David Letterman when it debuted 33 years ago.  (Of course, they may have also wondered why a seven year old was making 12:30am television viewing recommendations.)  No, Late Night was not hilariously violent like Tarantino's masterpiece. No, Letterman didn't accidentally blow of Marvin's head or "Bring out the Gimp", but he brought out Larry "Bud" Melman, Stupid Pet Tricks and the dumbest gags night after night.  Discovering Letterman ten years later as a seventeen year old college freshman was a freakin' revelation.  In the ensuing twenty-plus years, the only person to bring more joy to my late nights than David Letterman is my wife. (If you know what I mean. Wink.)  While it isn't as funny as Adam Sandler's lyrical tribute or as  emotional as Norm McDonald's, I wanted to write a brief tribute to the King of Late Night as he signs off for the last time tonight. 

Letterman being passed over for the Tonight Show in favor of Jay Leno may have been the best thing to happen to him.  He left for CBS and never looked back.  When the Late Show debuted in 1993, Dave came out swinging, crashing the 11:30 hour with a force that he may not have had if he had been handed the Tonight Show.  We were all better for it.  Dave was fearless, sarcastic and hilarious.  Jay was safe, comforting, boring, there to tuck you in.  Dave was your buddy that dragged you out of bed and said, "Let's get drunk and throw a TV off the roof.  Dave made wacky okay.  Acting like a dope moved you from the dunce corner to the head of the class.

"Voice of a Generation" is perhaps too strong a designation to hang on a TV host.  Maybe that moniker should be reserved for an author, poet or musician.  But for twentysomethings in the early 90's was there a better arbiter of cool, hip and funny than Dave Letterman?  Maybe the aforementioned Quentin Tarantino.  Maybe Kevin Smith.  Maybe Dan Patrick and Keith Olbermann glibly doling out the highlights anchoring ESPN's Big Show.  But my money's on Dave.  He was the ringleader and chief entertainer presiding over a circus five nights a week.  Acerbic and absurd met nutty and shameless night after night.  Whether throwing footballs into moving taxis or piercing the bloated ego of a celebrity with sarcastic precision, Letterman was defining funny.

My friends and I slurped it up with a spoon.  In the pre-internet/pre-DVR age, monologues and Top Ten Lists were appointment television.  Dave's catchphrases and comedy bits seeped into our collective consciousness and populated our lexicon.  I can all but promise you that the simple act of me writing, "Freeze, Hair Boy!" will elicit a chuckle from my friend Rob if he reads this.  And that was a throwaway line from a throwaway bit twenty years ago.  But we remember.  Our own gags, from shopping cart races to Wacky Hat Night, from a Rascal parade through Wal-mart to a little student film called "Charmin: Not Just for the Bathroom Anymore" were, if not inspired by, were at least unwittingly sanctioned by our TV pal Dave.    

As I've gotten older, I am not usually up at 11:30 unless I am weeping through a Capitals' NHL playoff overtime or addicted to a Netflix binge.  I had not watched much Late Show over the last few years.  When I did tune in, Dave seemed a little tired, not as sharp.  (Until these last couple weeks leading to the finale.  He seems happy and energized.)  Clearly Jimmy and Jimmy,thanks in part to social media and a change in how we consume television, have passed Dave.  I'm sure they know the debt they owe Letterman.  It's a debt we all owe Letterman.  He has been directly or tangentially responsible for millions of laughs.  Late night will never be the same.  Thanks, Dave.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Cap-sized! Rangers Flip Series, Sink Washington In Seven

I want you to try something.  Call a buddy over, you are going to need some help.  Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart.  Now ask your buddy to kick you in the nuts as hard as he can.  I don't mean a gentle toe tap.  I mean a kick that drives one of your testicles so far inside you surgery will be required to remove it.  Go ahead, I'll wait... Hurts doesn't it?  Why would you ask somebody to do that?  Are you stupid or somethin'?  Now you know how it feels to be a Washington Capitals fan.  We stand, feet spread, wincing as we accept, practically beg for,  a big 'ol nut punt Spring after Spring.

It's like some sort of decades-long fraternity hazing.  Thank you, Sir! May I have another? Yes, I will stand here and endure all these Daniel-san crane kicks to the ballbag, but it will all be worth it because at some point I will get my pledge pin and get to play beer pong with pretty girls, right?  No dumbass!  You are going to take all those scrote-ripping groin busters and the big Swedish goaltender is still going to kick in the door, steal all your Milwaukee's Best and take your woman upstairs.

I mean, seriously?  Can something be inevitable and impossible at the same time?  101 seconds from Round 3.  A disallowed goal.  A puck deflecting off a defenseman's skate, through the goalie's pads to be tapped in for a goal with .3 seconds left in the period.  Simply more markers on the road map charting the Hockey Heartbreak Highway that Caps fans have traveled for decades.  Run your fingers along the route with me.  (Not that longtime fans need a map.  We can find every exit and way station with our eyes closed.)  Gonchar falling in OT.  Joe Juneau failing to convert an overtime penalty shot.  Tom Poti's penalty.  Esa Tikkanen. I've  got a dozen more, but you get the point. 

This blog, whether discussing my dad skills or my favorite teams, is frequently fueled by pessimism and incompetence.  In this regard, the Capitals are a flippin' nuclear reactor.  The negative energy emanating from this franchise is unreal.  Almost literally unreal.  It seems impossible that every time they land in a Game 7 after blowing a 3-1 series lead they end up completing the fall.  But here we are, 5 for 5.  Impossible yet inevitable.  Who didn't think when they lost Game 5 in OT that they were done? Liar.  Then a frantic comeback in Game 6 provided false hope that maybe they could pull something off in Game 7.  Lucy pulling the football from Charlie Brown one more time.  Good Grief indeed, Chuck.  There will be fans talking about what a great game Game 7 was.  They will tell you it could have gone either way.  They will tell you the Caps stood toe to toe with the better, favored, President's Trophy-winning Rangers through seven one goal games.  This is all true.  Also true, however, is that Washington once again choked away a 3-1 series lead.  I don't care how big an underdog you are, you must finish that series. 

Because if you don't, despite having a new coach and a new GM and new players and a new attitude and new resolve, you are still just the same old Caps.  Is it October yet?