What An Opportunity

Archive for April, 2012|Monthly archive page

The beauty of sport.

In Sports on April 22, 2012 at 2:05 am

There are so many reasons to love sports (Feel free to leave your favorite reasons in the comments section).

And there are many reasons that sports are beautiful. But I want to talk about “that one moment”.

“That one moment”, or TOM, is the ratio of “DID YOU JUST SEE THAT?!?!” to watching time. So for example, american football has a  relatively low TOM because of the amount of things that occur (hits, runs, catches, etc.) versus watching time. Soccer, on the other hand, has a relatively high TOM because of the long periods of comparative inaction surrounding moments of pure athletic wonder.

If there was an index, it would look something like this:

High to low

1) Golf

2) Soccer

3) Baseball

4) Hockey

5) Football

6) Basketball

So with the TOM in mind, it has been great to be able to watch sports recently. With playoff hockey in full swing and playoff basketball around the corner, the TOM meter has been put aside. There have been more than enough moments to get excited about. However, as a fan of baseball and soccer, it can be a little more…difficult. So this past week has sent my TOM meter out-of-whack.

#1: Ronaldo and Messi make La Liga defenses look like Swiss cheese…full of holes.

Let’s be honest: These two are the best soccer players on the planet right now (all apologies to Pele and his affection for Neymar). Their individual teams are immensely talented but their consistent dominance cannot be denied. Their record goal race was much more intriguing than McGwire vs. Sosa especially in hindsight (That is my personal opinion and is probably more of a question of what is harder to do: hit a home run or score a goal in soccer?). So to have soccer, #2 in TOM, have these two be such ambassadors of the game is pure joy. Not to say that other soccer teams don’t have wonderful moments but watching Barcelona create an attack from their backfield, through the middle of the field, on to the forwards, back to midfielder, and through to a runner for a goal all in a fluid 45 sec. sequence is all that I could ask for.

#2: The Humber Games…yes, I stole it from ESPN.com but you have to admit that’s clever.

Baseball, #3 in TOM, does have it’s moments. From home runs, to great outfield catches, and infield plays, baseball delivers (kind of). But is there anything more “DID YOU JUST SEE THAT?!?!’ than a perfect game? There had only been 20 in history, before today. A relative unknown, unless you’re on the South Side of Chicago, Phil Humber threw a dominant perfect game. He threw less than 100 pitches and had a ridiculous amount of thrown strikes. While watching basketball with some friends, we saw the update on the ESPN ticker and I wanted to watch it immediately (Remember, #3 in  TOM). That did not happen. My friend brought up a good point: If he’s in the 9th inning, we’ll find it. Sure enough, he makes it to the 9th inning and we switch over. 3 outs, and a very cool team moment later, and the channel was back to basketball.

So does TOM matter? I think it does. I think there is something to be said for those moments. Because of the continuous build-up, you feel more keyed in to the little things. The instances that they would put on replay, you were attentive enough to notice. So when there is finally a breakthrough, you find yourself fully immersed in it.

Just hope that the moment was for your team.

It’s not that we’re scared…

In Life on April 20, 2012 at 7:20 pm

Dance across these hot coals with me.

And sing the songs that I never knew I wanted to hear. Those sweet-as-sugar nothings that touch the better parts of me.

It’s not that we’re scared, it’s just that it’s delicate.

Scream from the top of buildings with me.

As the startled birds take flight, pull me into your embrace and let your lips tell me of your love.

It’s not that we’re scared, it’s just that it’s delicate.

Whisper under the blankets with me.

Tell me all that you’ve dreamed of. Or hoped for. With that subtle smile of yours when you’re drifting away in your thoughts.

It’s not that we’re scared, it’s just that it’s delicate.

Winner winner chicken dinner.

In Sports on April 18, 2012 at 7:06 am

Don’t lie to me.

Ok, NCAA.

Don’t lie to me.

Because I’m not stupid (contrary to popular belief).

You exploit Division 1 athletes, mainly males in football and just a little less in college basketball, for profit.

I know. You know. We all know. Just don’t lie to me.

Lie #1: They are student-athletes and are amateurs.

Seriously? They’re students? That’s your argument? That they are students? You understand that athletes that play these sports have a graduation rate that is less than 50%? That the dream of playing professionally in the United States has about a 1% chance of occurring?    So you can’t pay them because that would jeopardize their schooling. They would be paid in return for their services (an unimaginable notion). Coaches, and various other administrators, make millions a year and the schools receive endowments from boosters and the like. But you can’t possibly pay the athletes. Because they are students.

The mythos of the college athlete, who is an amateur, should have went out the window the day the first million dollars was made. This idea that a young man goes to class, then practices at specific times with the team, and builds character, responsibility, and all other manner of positive ideals is significantly out-of-date. To say this doesn’t happen is a gross hyperbole. But to imagine that the sport does not overshadow academics is ludicrous. These young men are not amateurs. At their level of play, they had to significantly well-known. They were recruited and sold every pitch known to man. You bring them in, have them make you money, and then argue that they are too young and immature to handle said money. They take the brunt of public opinion and Sportscenter highlights while you sit back and enjoy advertising deals.

Don’t lie to me.

Lie #2: We give the money back.

Um…no you don’t. And if you do, show me where. I want to know. Seriously, publish a report about your earnings last season and show me how you spent that money. Because that would just a little too much transparency, wouldn’t it? Sigh…

Lie #3: We can’t have a playoff.

SERIOUSLY?!?! AHHHHHHH!!!! YOU CAN’T HAVE A PLAYOFF? BECAUSE IT WOULD MAKE THE “KIDS” TRAVEL TOO FAR FOR MUCH OF THE YEAR? INTERFERE WITH EXAMS? YOU UNDERSTAND THAT THE BIG EAST, BASED ON THE EAST COAST, NOW BOASTS OF SCHOOLS LIKE  MEMPHIS, SMU, AND BOISE STATE? TENNESSEE? TEXAS? IDAHO?!?!?!?!?!

But in all seriousness, this just a bunch of mike mularkey (that’s a bad pun. please just ignore it and keep reading. bills fans will remember his quality coaching.) You can’t have a playoff because of academics? That you couldn’t possible book all the stadiums? How about you don’t feel like splitting the revenue with all the potential playoff teams? How about having two teams in the national championship game means you split the money with the teams, the conferences, and you? Five ways at most. If you make a playoff, everyone’s gonna want some of the take.

Now, a couple things. The NCAA is not an evil empire seeking to exploit athletes for greed. I get a bit carried away sometimes. I mean, this idea of amateurism was seemingly alright until the games were broadcast. With broadcasts came viewers. Businesses saw consumers. Broadcast companies saw contracts for said broadcasts. Advertisements were needed. Contracts were doled out. Billions of dollars later, here we are. Like anything else in life, it started innocuously and has grown out of control.

And, I will readily admit that I have absolutely no idea what to do about the current situation (except we need a playoff. like seriously…that lie just gets under my skin. i mean, how does every other level of football have playoffs and D-1A doesn’t? arghhhh…).

Also, I don’t know how to rectify the situation. There has been mention of a $2000 a year stipend to help athletes but less affluent schools argue that the bigger schools will give more to lure prospects.

And I still watch my favorite college sports teams and buy their apparel. But this all really gets to me. Because this is a blatant problem that the NCAA seems to continuously try to push under the rug. And the amount of “violations” that seem to come out every month speaks to a culture of turning a blind eye as long as the money keeps coming in and no one asked you any questions.

So I guess I’ll do my best “hakuna matata” phrase-that-gets-you-through-when-you-are-frustrated-enough-to-actually-consider-just-how-soulcrushing-each-buffalo-bills-monday-night-football-game-since-2007-has-been and remember Sportscenter LA’s Neil Everett:

Winner winner chicken dinner.

Doubts?

In Life on April 18, 2012 at 6:01 am

There is something to be said for living as a human being. We are creatures capable of unspeakable horror and intense compassion. Immense pain and incredible love. The same orifice that conveys empathy holds a biting tongue with sinister intentions.

Maybe here lies why we emphasize guilt. We find “humanity” in our ability to feel bad. to feel…sorry. But chances that we will repeat the same course of action remain remarkably high for such a heartfelt apology.

So this human condition is not a continuous stream of positivity (believe it’s safe to make that assumption). But we can’t just wallow in our innate characteristics. We are able to rise above them. We have to rise above them. We take time out to be selfless. Giving. Faithful.

Which leads to a multitude of questions about the strength of the human condition but one comes to mind now: what about doubt?

Doubt is not random. It is not socialization. Doubt is the natural inclination to consider past actions and events, in conjunction with known facts, stereotypes, and schemas, to convey an opposing message to the overbearing thought process between our ears. An intellectual “checks and balance” if you will.

Sometimes feel like we are told to fight doubt: “Doubt holds you back. Rah rah rah. Buy my motivational tapes.”

We look Doubt in the face and tell it who’s boss. Because Doubt is evil. Doubt is why we never did that thing. Not our personal fear. or trepidation. or lack of faith. or personal flaws. NO. It was Doubt. Doubt did it. That’s why we’re sitting here. Because Doubt made me.

We design these clever schemes. We take this “holier-than-thou” approach. Nothing can get us down. We have it all under control. Because God forbid we messed up. Because we couldn’t possibly take responsibility for our own actions.

Because then we would have to admit that we do not have it under control. That we are taunted by the thoughts that come into our minds. That the fear of being alone…of missing out on dreams…of the future…of…everything is too much to bear. That doubt is constantly in our minds. Because we are so very afraid of admitting to others that we need them. That we need help.

Then again, what if we’re not? What if we are able to see doubt for what it is. Instead of fighting it and hanging on every word in the self-help section, we admit that this life is not easy. That taking time out to actually enjoy that cup of coffee will do more than downing it on the way to something else because your schedule is so packed. We have no time but seem to be able to force-feed every possible second with activity.

What if we took our doubts and wrote them down. Looked at Doubt with Reason, Humility, Conscience, and Hope.

Conscience would say, “Doubt’s right. What if this happens? Are you willing to admit responsibility?”

Humility would whisper, “You are a colossal failure sometimes. But consistently trying to be the best person you can be will yield positive results. Don’t make sure everyone knows just how great you are. Even when you don’t receive recognition.”

Reason would argue, “Doubt can’t be right all the time. Take a step back. Look the whole thing over. Ask for advice from those who know more than you about this situation or the emotions that you are enduring.”

Hope would just nod like, “We got this.”

Then again, we could just keep doing what we’re doing. But the thing is: life is fragile. Much too fragile for us to do it alone. Because sometimes, when you shake that magic 8-ball in your mind, the purple triangle replies, “I doubt it”.

But it’s nice to have someone to say, “I don’t know how you’ll do it, but I got your back.”

Act of Valor

In Culture, Life on April 17, 2012 at 6:35 am

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Before venturing to the theater and forking over ten or twelve dollars to see the newest release, moviegoers typically check movie review sites to hear about critics’ and viewers’ experiences. And why not? Hearing a variety of reviews almost always provides an accurate picture of the movie’s quality, so viewers can avoid wasting their time and money on a dud. I almost always check Rotten Tomatoes before I go see a movie – going in blind is just not worth the risk. I’ve had some really bad movie watching experiences doing that.

With that being said… critics’ opinion should not always be the final word. It seems to me that a good deal of the people who evaluate movies for a living eventually lose touch with what is actually good. (And don’t even get me started on the Academy.) In one particular case recently, I was extremely glad that I disregarded the critics’ acrimony; otherwise, (well… I hate to exaggerate… actually, never mind, I’m not exaggerating) I would have missed one of the greatest movie watching experiences I have had the pleasure of enjoying. Act of Valor was simply tremendous.

When my friends and I heard that a movie starring real Navy SEALs was being made, we immediately made mental reservations for opening weekend. We were disappointed when that weekend arrived, and with the movie came a 25% critical approval rating. We could only conclude that it was poorly written, horrifically produced, dreadfully directed, or some combination of the three. Nevertheless, we decided to press on, because of something between a desire to support the members of our military who acted in the film and a desire to just enjoy an action-packed “guy movie.”

With my expectations lowered, I was nothing short of astounded by Act of Valor. This movie has it all. I experienced an extensive range of potent emotions in those 101 minutes, an agreeable departure from a typical “guy movie.” But it’s no chick flick either – there’s an abundant amount of superbly executed action (not surprising, given the real Navy SEALs in starring roles). In addition, even beyond these traits, it was Act of Valor’s intangibles that took it right into the stratosphere of movie experiences. The burning reaction of patriotism, gripping depth of gratitude, and even several reflexive (and audible) “wow’s” that this movie engendered from me were simply breathtaking to experience. It is a real art to be able to powerfully move an audience to such deep emotion, and I commend those who accomplished this through their work on this film.

Given this analysis, it’s pretty clear that I find the 25% critics’ rating completely ridiculous. In scenes heavy on dialogue, it was pretty clear that the Navy SEAL actors weren’t professionals… but I thought that added a terrific dimension of sincerity and realness to their characters. In fact, the line between documentary and feature film gets slightly hazy, which was extremely cool as well. The plot flies forward, the action pulls you aggressively in, and you are wholly immersed in a unique movie experience from the moment the lights go down. I could talk all day, but I’m gonna stop here. Just go see the movie. I can’t wait to see it again.

By the way, Act of Valor’s audience agrees with my assessment. The viewers’ rating on Rotten Tomatoes was 80%.

My first comic-con and its greater societal reflection

In Culture, Life on April 16, 2012 at 6:15 pm

I didn’t dress up for UBCon – the University at Buffalo’s own massive anime/gaming convention – this weekend. I didn’t even know it was going on until I saw some Facebook statuses and tweets on Friday night. But when I strolled into the Student Union to get The Spectrum ready to print this rainy Sunday morning, there were dozens of people donning dozens of quirky costumes, consumed by character, galvanized for a day full of festivities.

Is…that…Ash Ketchum? Making out with Zelda? At college, you get used to seeing some pretty strange stuff, but this was a new level of curious. I didn’t recognize most of the outfits, and when they asked who I was dressed as, I looked down at my shirt and tie and muttered: “Clark Kent.”

I was an outsider. Here’s the strangest part of it all, and what sparked this column: when I was standing in line at Tim Hortons, scanning the bizarre crowd, and listening to the “nerdy” conversations, I spotted something that made me feel at home: a kid holding a basketball.

I sighed, relieved: there is a normal person. I’m not alone. Then I got to thinking: why do I think this kid is normal? What if he and I are the peculiar ones? Certainly, to this crowd, we are pretty weird.

When I surround myself with sports guys like me, it’s easy to look like I know what I’m talking about. Those are the things I like, the things I grew up focusing on. Meanwhile, the kids at UBCon grew up on comics, video games, and cartoons – and there is nothing wrong with that.

Why is it OK – or, I guess, more socially acceptable – that I always had the NBA, NHL, MLB, and NFL standings memorized when I was a kid? Does that make me a nerd?

To some extent, I think it does. But in society’s eyes, I am a dude, and guys are supposed to care about sports.

I played into the stereotype when I watched a meaningless Raptors-Celtics game Friday night instead writing my Criticism paper. I played into the stereotype Saturday when I played football with my friends instead of cleaning my room. I played into the stereotype today as I flipped through Sports Illustrated with The Complete Poetry and Essential Prose of John Milton sitting on my floor.

So who is to say that I’m more socially normal – or cooler – than the kids who show up, outfits and all, to comic-cons? And why am I so socially conditioned to cringe when I see a large group of people that look different from me?

Maybe it’s because we like feeling accepted. And when we’re surrounded by a huge group of people that don’t look like us, well, we don’t feel accepted.

Did you know that people who feel rejected are likely to have shorter lives than those who feel accepted? It’s scientific fact – their immune systems break down and they’re prone to severe depression and anxiety. I’m not saying all “nerds” feel rejected, because I know that’s not the case. But I’m guessing that if we continue to propel these social theories of what is cool and what is not, we’re headed down the road to alienation – if we haven’t reached its apex already.

I found some fascinating analysis on psychologicalscience.org:

“Exclusion isn’t just a problem for the person who suffers it, either; it can disrupt society at large…People who have been excluded often lash out against others. In experiments, they give people much more hot sauce than they can stand, blast strangers with intense noise, and give destructive evaluations of prospective job candidates. Rejection can even contribute to violence. An analysis of 15 school shooters found that all but two had been socially rejected,” according to the website.

So when we call someone a “nerd,” we are essentially calling them weird, and when we call them weird, we are essentially saying they aren’t like us, and when we say they aren’t like us, it all comes back to haunt us.

In my opinion, nothing positive will ever come from making fun of someone else. Do you feel good about yourself after you demean someone? I know I don’t.

I’ve wanted to write on this topic for a while, but it’s such a slippery slope. I tried to write on how girls always hate on others girls for the worst and pettiest reasons, but that could be interpreted as sexist. And now, as I try to grasp this particular social divide, I could look like a typical jock “bro” asshole.

Here’s where the circular mocking starts: It’s easy to get full of yourself when you accomplish something, and in college, it’s pretty easy to accomplish stuff: get an A on a paper, get a promotion for your club, run train in intramurals. It’s a simple theory: when you get full of yourself, you automatically get lower on others.

And when you get lower on others, you belittle them (whether you’re conscious of it or not), and when you belittle them, it will come back to bite you, one way or another.

We will not progress as a society until we accept that it is never all right to feel above someone else just because that person is different.

Where to draw the line

In Sports on April 15, 2012 at 3:15 am

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A most unfortunate event occurred on March 22nd; Joba Chamberlain, a pitcher for the New York Yankees, suffered an open ankle dislocation while jumping on a trampoline with his young son. This is a seriously gruesome injury… perform a Google image search at your own risk. Anyway, Chamberlain is expected to miss significant time this season as he recovers. His is one of countless injuries suffered by athletes who were performing various activities outside of their sports. Obviously, Joba’s was more of a freak accident than something that should be criticized, and I don’t think the Yankees could chastise him in good conscience for being irresponsible in this situation. However, what happens when this is not the case? We have many examples of athletes who have been hurt in much more dubious manners. A few of them:

  • Kellen Winslow Jr. suffered a torn ACL in a motorcycle accident in 2005, despite being contractually obligated to avoid riding motorcycles.
  • Ben Roethlisberger was also injured in a motorcycle accident in 2006, breaking his jaw and nose, lacerating his head, and losing or chipping numerous teeth. He was not wearing a helmet.
  • Plaxico Burress receives my personal Darwin Award, for shooting himself in the leg in a nightclub in 2008 with a Glock that was tucked in the waistband of his sweatpants.
The teams who employed these players had every right to discipline them for their appalling decision making. But not every case is so head-scratching. Where does a team’s right to dictate their athletes’ decisions end? I’ll never forget a horrifying moment that occurred my sophomore year of college that made me question this. A bunch of guys in my dorm were playing pickup basketball, and Notre Dame wide receiver Golden Tate joined us. About halfway through the game, on one of his freakishly quick drives to the hole, he hit a wet spot on the floor and went down HARD. Every person there froze… and just looked at each other terrified. We thought we had witnessed ESPN’s top story of the night – “Notre Dame’s leading wide receiver tears ACL – out for 6-8 months.” Fortunately, Golden’s fall wasn’t as bad as it looked, and he got up and walked it off.
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My fear in that horrifying moment was two-fold; not only was I worried for ND’s football team, but also for Golden. I knew the entire football team was forbidden to be playing basketball at that point in the year, and that he might encounter serious trouble if he got injured doing so. But is that even right? I understand banning motorcycle riding or other inherently hazardous activities, but telling an athlete he cannot even play pickup basketball? That seems to cross the line. Injuries do occur in basketball… but they also occur on bikes. Or riding in cars. Or while sneezing.
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Teams, I think you need to chill out. Sure, demand responsibility from your athletes, and require them to act in a way befitting of the millions they’re making. But you cannot control their lives. Realize that freak accidents are a part of life, and at the end of the day, your players deserve to be able to live their lives without having to walk on eggshells, no matter how much you’re paying them. If a little bit of moisture on a basketball court can cause Golden Tate to face serious consequences, then something’s wrong. Let the boys play – you don’t own them.

Why won’t we ever be happy?

In Culture, Life on April 14, 2012 at 6:24 am

My mind has been everywhere this week. Perhaps it’s the stress of the end of the semester (and the looming final grades that will undoubtedly be my worst thus far in life), or perhaps I’m bugging out about my new job, or perhaps I’m over-tired…I’m not really sure. I’ve felt like a miniature Socrates riddled with ADHD this week, thinking about all kinds of deep stuff but never being able to connect the dots because my head keeps bouncing around. I think I’ve finally centered on one topic that has bothered, perplexed, intrigued me: everyone’s never ending discontentment – or, in other words, people will always be pissy about something, no matter where they are in life.

I’m not immune to the epidemic, but I think I’m finally becoming aware of it. Understanding is the first step to change, right? So no matter where we are, we’ll always want something else. Pretty normal example: a lot of high school students complain about their lack of freedom. “Ugh, I just wish I could drive!” or “High school is so boring!” Meanwhile, a lot of college students (myself included) miss high school. They miss seeing their friends everyday, miss playing sports or a specific team they were on (I think about my basketball brotherhood every day, though today I’m only in contact with a couple of those guys), miss the easy classes (okay, college is easy sometimes too, but high school was pretty much laughable), miss not having to pay for everything, and just generally miss adolescence.

Here’s another example: when people are single, they tend to seek relationships. They strive to feel wanted, needed, loved. They want someone to sleep next to, someone to validate their existence. But when people are in a relationship, they envy their “single self” who had the freedom to do whatever he/she wanted, who didn’t have to worry about the significant other’s problems, who could chase anyone.

I think of some lyrics from the Trace Adkins song You’re Gonna Miss This: “These are some good times, so take a good look around. You may not know it now, but you’re gonna miss this.”

Let’s not talk about how I got on this train of thought by watching 17 Again – hey, it really wasn’t that bad, and I swear it was the only thing on TV – but instead let’s talk about why this sad reality is, well, reality. When posed the question of why people will never be satisfied, one of my friends said something interesting on Facebook: “When you’re happy in the moment, it’s likely you’re not conscious of it. You’re living it.”

Isn’t that a sad thought? Any time you’re happy, you won’t be aware of it. And any time you’re aware of how you feel, you’ll be missing the time you were happy…because that’s when you were actually living, not reflecting. I guess I just wish we could be doing both at the same time.

My point here: soak up life as much as you can. It’s gonna be gone soon. We are such a minor blip in the scale of history – Here today, gone tomorrow. Grandchildren today, grandparents tomorrow. How did it get so late so soon?

Soak up everything, during every time, as much as you can. Close your eyes, take a long, deep breath, and just thank God. Try to be happy and appreciate the moment, because you will miss exactly where you are right now.

“Now and then it’s good to pause in our pursuit of happiness and just be happy.” – Guillaume Apollinaire

8 (not so) simple rules…

In Culture, Life, Women on April 13, 2012 at 7:46 pm

Haven’t been on earth for a long time but I have noticed some things:

Uno: Waking up on a Saturday morning with nothing to do that day is one of the best feelings on the planet.

Dos: Conversations with someone where there isn’t an awkward pause in the natural ebb and flow of words except to laugh or ponder is something you should never let go of

Tres: Holding back a fart is really not (read: never) worth it in the end

I have also noticed some “rules” that go into any relationship with the opposite sex. I will admit that I have not always been the best, and I have multitudes of things to work on, but there are certain things a young man should remember when being with a girl:

#1: Listen.

Listen. Actively listen. Listen with the purpose to contribute. For no other reason than to listen. Do it. Seriously. Moving on…

#2: Remember.

Remember the little things. Remember the big things. It shows you care.

#3: Forgive.

She’s not perfect. Moreover, you’re not perfect. Take the time to forgive. Take some time to yourself and remind yourself of why you are here.

#4: Be sincere and honest.

Be who you are. Not what she wants or what she needs but who you are. This might be the hardest because who we are is not the projections of what we want others t0 see. But sincerity can go a long way. Sincerity in all things allows you to see the whole picture. With sincerity comes honesty and with honesty comes truth. Isn’t truth a good foundation for love?

#5: Be a loser.

Don’t be afraid to lose. Don’t be afraid to lose a fight, lose some pride, or lose something you want. Sometimes we think that we just need to stand up this one time, and sometimes you do, but most of the time it’s an excuse to win. To be known as the winner. And all that gets you is a very hollow victory.

#6: Talk.

For some reason, it’s a true measure of masculinity not to talk. As if you really don’t have something on your mind. Talk to her. She should be willing to listen. And talking makes listening a million times easier.

#7: She likes you.

She likes you. Say it with me: “She likes me.” Now say it slowly: “She…likes…me.” Now say it in an English acc…I’m getting off-track. Look, she’s into you. Don’t forget that.

#8: Treat her with respect.

This can manifest itself in many ways. From her mind to her body and everything in between. Treat her with respect even when you disagree and it gets really hard not to.

We all mess this up. In fact, it’s inevitable no matter how hard you try. But one of the measures of a healthy relationship is a desire by both parties involved to work at all of these things.

God Bless.

A.D.A.

The disillusionment of a young fan

In Sports on April 13, 2012 at 1:10 am

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My Red Sox have been in the news a lot lately. As I watch the coverage, my recurring thought is, “Who IS this team?” To understand my emotions, we have to go back to 2001, when I was a young, impressionable fan seeking a team. As a Buffalo, NY native, I have no natural major league baseball affiliation. Cleveland is 3 hours away, but also 2 states away. Toronto is 2 hours away, but it’s in Canada. The Yankees are also in New York, but my dad taught me to drink Yankee Haterade from day one. So, as a 12 year old free agent fan, I watched a Yankees-Red Sox game on Fox. The announcers harped on the 83-year old “Curse of the Bambino” the entire game, and my attachment was, oddly enough, born out of that game. I was going to be a Red Sox fan. It was a natural fit; between my disdain for the Yankees and my natural propensity toward affection for the underdog, the Red Sox were the perfect choice. So off I went, recklessly throwing myself into the raucously devoted, self-loathing, beaten down mob that was Red Sox Nation at that time. I was still young in my fanhood when the Sox reached the playoffs in 2003, and the clutch game 5 win in the Division Series in Oakland was glorious. It was my greatest baseball moment to that point, and it meant only one thing; an ALCS showdown with the hated Yankees.

Sports fans have a tendency to apply a kind of spiritual, universal context to their team’s contests, and think about them in terms of life and death, good versus evil, etc. With the Yankees, it was all too easy to do so. With George Steinbrenner at the helm, throwing money around as fast as he could print it in the mint beneath Yankee Stadium (it exists… I promise), the Evil Empire was an oppressive force hanging over the Red Sox. They had won 26 World Championships since the Red Sox had last won one, a mere 85 seasons before. And there is nothing that I hate in sports more than a perennial power. My least favorite teams are the New England Patriots, USC Trojans, Los Angeles Lakers, and New York Yankees (it’s a rough life, always rooting impassionedly against the best teams). Needless to say, in the 2003 ALCS, I was engaged to the point of near obsession. The moment Aaron Boone’s series-winning homer left his bat, I was completely demoralized. I didn’t recover for days. But this depth of emotional trauma and despair set the stage for an other-worldly experience the following season.

2004 was an ALCS rematch, and as game 4 neared its end, the apparent outcome threatened to send me even further into a funk. The Sox were down to their last inning, losing 4-3 in the game, and 3-0 in the series. It was just a formality at that point. Their best chance at the Yankees had come and gone in ‘03, when they were up 5-2 and five outs away from the World Series before being Grady Littled. In 2004, in the 9th inning of game 4, with the greatest closer in history ready to slam the door, the fat lady was all but belting out her sayonara. But that was the exact moment when the spunk, looseness, and all-out gusto of that band of balls-to-the-wall Idiots saved the season, and made history. Those crazy Sox came back from that impossible hole to become the only team to EVER win a series after being down 3-0. They kept on rolling, and swept the Cardinals to win their first World Series in 86 years. As they piled up on the field, I was in a state of shocked amazement, disbelief, and utter joy. My team, the underdog that had been kicked all its life, had most unexpectedly completed the greatest comeback in sports history, and FINALLY ridded itself of the ghosts that had haunted the franchise for 86 years. It was a magical run, in so many ways.

In the days since, that same franchise, a cast of lovable losers just 8 years ago, has suddenly become one of the fat cats that I hate so much. They overspend on free agents, eat fried chicken and drink beer during games, and backbite each other in the media. Tim Wakefield and Jason Varitek, two of the lovable elder statesmen of the ’04 Sox, retired last season, leaving no members of the 2004 World Series winners on the current roster. The team I loved so much has ceased to exist. In many ways, I don’t even recognize this version of the Red Sox. They have new road uniforms, new personnel, new coaches… and a new aura. And I don’t like it one bit. The sports fan in me hasn’t changed at all, and 12 year old me hated teams like today’s version of the Red Sox.

So what should I do? I can’t just pick a new team to root for, and I love baseball too much to just stop watching. But a little part of me dies when I hear “Red Sox” and “173 million dollar payroll” in the same sentence. In 2002, the cursed Red Sox were so beaten down… I felt like they needed me. Now I feel like they couldn’t care less. There’s no worse feeling for a fan to have. I think 12 year old me just died.

 

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