Parlor Spider...Step In, Little Fly

Insightful thoughts and/or rants from atop the soapbox from one who wishes to share the "right" opinion with everyone.

Monday, March 31, 2008

"I Don't Care if I Never Get Back..."

I think, for me, this is the one day I actually look forward to on the yearly sports calendar: Opening Day in Major League Baseball. The openings of other seasons just don't have the same allure to me, despite the fact that basball has by far the longest season of them all, including the two or three different deer hunting seasons here in Wisconsin. Maybe it's because the other sports trumpet the opening six months ahead of time and scrutinize each team's prospects beginning the day after the previous season ends. Don't believe me? Come to Green Bay where even the local university's April Fool's student newspaper issue made NATIONAL news when it heralded the imminent return of a famous quarterback to the Green & Gold next year. (I used to respect C.N.N.)
I ruminated on that today as I watched a rainy, chilly opener from Wrigley Field. It was raining here in Green Bay as well, but I was inside. I had my peanuts and cold beverage (green tea because I had to go back to work tonight), and I soaked up the ambiance of the wind blowing out that is Wrigley Field without soaking up all the precipitation. Even my wife professed to a desire to watch the least until the eight inning of a scoreless, near-hitless pitchers' duel. Then, just as the peanuts disappeared, it got "boring." Just as I was about to explain the workings of the "inner game" of baseball, she left the room. I guess some people just are not fascinated by the nuances of the game!
Anyway, it struck me that there are several important reasons why the first day of baseball season is my favorite:

1. Spring is almost here...well, THERE, maybe. (It's going to snow tonight, according to our crack meteorologists here in town) I say, "It's about time! We've been training for spring to arrive for six weeks, so it had better get here." I have actually seen three robins (and a vignette on Robin Yount)thus far, in addition to most of my lawn.

2. Many people whom I encounter still don't know who my favorite team is, which will give me a few more weeks of anonymity until the Yankees haters come out in full bloom. Now that Boston is the Beast in the East, I can catch some slack, perhaps.

3. It takes me away, however briefly, from all the pre-, pre-NFL draft selection shows and the boat, RV and camping expos. I don't care who's going to be taken by what team in the last round, but Mel Kuiper seems to think I do. Every "selection" show has become a spectacle, and I, for one, would rather watch "America's Number One Dance Crew" on MTV than another selection special. (Give some love to Jabber Wokies, by the way)

4. I enjoy seeing people play under conditions that my mother would not allow, especially if I can be comfy and cozy while doing it, all the while admiring the hardiness of "real" fans.

5. The pitchers' hats are still pristine. I cannot tell you how much I hate to see pitchers come into the game in the late summer with a five-inch sweat and grime mark around their hats. I mean, surely they can afford to either clean the hat or get a new one. Perhaps they are trying to convince the average working stiff that they, too, sweat while on the job. That,however, is to me as disgusting as chewing tobacco spitters who carry plastic bottles around...ugh!

6. Nobody is mathematically eliminated, except in the analysts' view, and the Royals can compete with the big money teams like, alas, my boys!

7. I think, most importantly, that baseball reminds me so much of the halcyon days of youth during which we played hour after hour with no uniforms, no coaches, no umpires, no parents screaming from the stands, and no humiliating shame upon losing. In short, baseball reminds me of just what can be good about sports.

Play Ball!

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Joined at the Eyeball

Oh man, this is just too good to be true...too good to keep to myself as well. It's like the time one gets that first kiss and realizes that THIS is what life is all about. Every waking moment from that heavenly moment is spent on plotting and planning to get the next kiss! The slowly dawning thought that life as one knew it has changed forever. (Something like the beginning of "2001--A Space Odyssey")That's what it was like recently when I made two very important discoveries.
Television was a big deal to me as a kid. We didn't even HAVE a set until I was in second or third grade, so that advancement was earth-shaking to me. Internet? Ha! We even ahd to wait for an operator to give her the number we wanted to call. Stereo hadn't even been invented yet, so my iPod was quite a ways off...hell, we didn't even have 8-track tapes until I was in high school! So, you can understand how those early TV programs provided a spark of wonder in my life. Guess what...IT'S BACK!!! I'm not talking TVLand back, either. I'm talking about watching my favorite programs whenever I want to! Of course, this has probably been available for years, but I was busy rewinding my reel-to-reel tapes. I'm going to let you in on this, though, because I cannot keep it to myself. is a web site that features all sorts of media, including many episodes of the TV programs that I always watched. I mean, we're talking "McHale's Navy," "Bob Newhart," "Starsky & Hutch," "Barney Miller," "Lou Grant..." Newer favorites like "Saturday Night Live," "The Office," "My Name is Earl," and "The Simpsons" are also available. It's nirvana...I'm not kidding. Caveat Emptor: there are commercials, just like regular TV. :(
To top things off, now features every single episode from all 11 seasons of South Park.
I may never leave the computer screen, unless it is to hook my comouter up to the big TV downstairs.
Still waiting for "Hogan's Heroes," though.
Pass the Ho-Hos.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

In Defense of Stretchers

Poor Hillary Clinton! She's getting lambasted again, this time over a "misstatement" she made about danger in Bosnia. Mark Twain called such prevarications "stretchers," and he certainly had the cred to do so. I reckon he stretched the truth on just about everything though he did it with such aplomb that it was hard to really doubt what he was saying. And while Mrs. Clinton is getting grilled over saying she had to avoid sniper fire, this is, to me at least, not the most outrageous thing we've ever swallowed. Of course, she made the mistake of repeating the same "stretcher" a few times, and somebody wised up to it. However, I think, in no particular order, there are far worse examples of playing loose with the truth for us to consider. To wit:

"Aw, c'mon. Eat it. God knows you'll be as smart as He is. That's why He told you not to eat it!" (Satan...not to be confused with The Great Satan)

"I have never taken steroids in my life." (pick any athlete here)

" That bat with cork in it was the one I use for batting practice." (Sammy Sosa)

"I never had sex with that woman." (Ex-President Clinton)

"They are stockpiling weapons of mass destruction in Iraq." (you know this one)

"I'm not fat. I'm big boned." (Eric Cartman...a bit of a stretch since nobody believes him)

"I was young and I needed the money." (Cartman's Mom, Vanessa Williams, etc. etc.)

"When I'm good, I'm good; when I'm bad, I'm even better." (Mae West...ok this WASN"T a stretcher...just checking to see if you're paying attention.)

"God will call me to heaven if you don't send in 10 million dollars by next week." (Oral the way, I would have LOVED to see what might have happened had people NOT sent in the money, though, sadly, they did)

"What, me worry?" (can you think of anyone who needed to worry more?)

"This isn't mine. I'm just holding it for somebody." (most of us at one time or another!)

There you have it..."stretchers" even more egregious than Hillary's claim that she was fired upon in Bosnia. If you think (and no need to wrack your brain), I'm certain you can add many more to this list. Just remember that little white lies can come back as big white albatrosses hanging around your neck...unless you happen to be Mark Twain.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Spring Broken

It can't be just the age thing...but, then again...
This year I was given the luxury of a spring break. Mind you, I never really had one before. While all of the other kids in college were heading to Texas for spring break, I was in the middle of track season and unable to travel, let alone ogle quasi-nekkid women and guzzle beer. My first year out of college, I did take the occasion to go to Galveston for a break, but the weather was terrible, and my bike got washed into the Gulf: immediate rust bucket. (Actually, I did somewhat laugh this year to see tornado warnings near South Padre Island...if I can't go, why should anyone else have fun?)
Public school teaching, especially in Algoma, did not afford me any kind of break because "those damn teachers only work nine months out of the year anyway...and besides, who's going to watch my kids for that week?" Needless to say, the thought of having that break seemed like a real bonus. Not necessarily so.
Since my sweetie was working, I really did not have the opportunity for any extended physical time away. We did plan a three-day trip to Chicago which was short-circuited by 14 inches of snow...heavy sigh. I found myself rejoicing that at least I didn't have to shovel any of it. REALLY! Can this winter get any longer?
Thus, I found myself sleeping just a bit later but still wandering over to work for a bit every day. There was nothing on TV, and few household chores to tackle (though I probably would not have wanted to if there had been).
I got to read for pleasure which was nice, but it was inside, not on the beach with something cool to drink in my hand (slippery from lotion). Activity was limited a bit by the weather though I did manage to run four times. All in all, it just was not what I had hoped it would be.
It was almost a relief to get back to work.
It MUST be an old(er) age thing.
Next year I'll do it up right.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Fill Out the Bracket...If You Are Able

The NCAA Tournament is ready to begin, and boosters, coaches, players and fans are all agog over the fact that their team a) got in b) got in but got screwed on their seed c) din't get in and has to play in the NIT or WNIT or d) sucked.
It is, of course, all about money: money for conferences, money for extravagant locker room facilities, bonus money for coaches and money for the university in terms of booster ducats.
"Amateur" athletics, it isn't, with the possible exception of the players. They get shafted twice--one by not getting money and two by not getting educated. Consider this fact: only one school among the top seeds in the men's tournament this year graduated 50% of its eligible players over a six-year period ending in 2001, according to a study just released by Rich Lapchick of the University of Central Florida's Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport. The University of North Carolina graduated 86% of its eligible men's basketball players over those six years, while the University of Kansas graduated 45% and UCLA and Memphis graduated a paltry 40% of all men's players during that six-year period. To be fair, players who transfer or who go to the NBA are counted against the schools they left so the numbers might be deceiving. In addition, we don't know what the graduation rates are for the regular students. I would think this might make a fair comparison. What we do know, though, is that black players still lag far behind white players in achieving that diploma.
Thirty-three of the schools in this year's tournament graduated at least 70% of their white players over the period in question, while only 19 schools managed the same percentage for black athletes. While the improvements in black graduation rates among athletes has gone up 14% since 1984, still there are only 36 schools among the 65-team field who have graduated at least 50% of their black basketball players. A total of 45 schools graduated at least that many of their white players.
It's also interesting to look at the #2 seeds from this year's tournament. For the same period, the University of Texas and the University of Tennessee graduated a mere 33% of their eligible players. Georgetown and Duke, the other #2 seeds, did better, averaging 82% and 67% respectively. So I'm picking the smart schools this year in my bracket:
Western Kentucky graduated 100% of its men's basketball players during the six years studied. Butler University graduated 92% while both Notre Dame and Purdue graduated 91%. What does this all mean? Send your kid to Indiana for school: three of the top four are Indiana schools.
The University of Wisconsin-Green Bay did not make the tournament field again this year but continues to graduate men's basketball players at a 100% rate. It must be the tutors.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Methinks She Doth Protest Too Much

You all know how MySpace and FaceBook work. These social networking sites allow anybody to post photos, blogs and just about anything else that is not considered indecent by the webmasters. (though I keep getting "friend" requests from people who invite me to yet another web site to view their "adult" photos that MySpace won't allow them to publish. Honestly!)These sites basically allow people to keep in touch with other friends as well as troll the internet for future friends who may share a great deal in common. One can put out as much or as little information as possible, and there is always the opportunity to deny someone specific access to one's page by denying his or her request to be added to the "friends" list.
Thus, is certainly surprised me that Ashley Alexandra Dupre (you know her as Kirsten while ex-Governor Spitzer "knew" he biblically...for a price) is outraged that pictures of her have surfaced all over the internet like a rash on a baby's bottom. Duh! The sleuths at the New York Times really had to dig for these photos...they went to her MySpace page. Posting such things on the internet is bound to get anybody publicity. I'm sure there is probably some kind of video on YouTube as well, though I don't intend to look for it.
Let's see...having sex for money but don't want people to know about it...must be tough to get customers unless the VIP place has a steady supply (and it won't be long until we find out who is on THAT supply list!). The "I came to New York to be a singer" line is just short of hilarious,too. As I see this whole deal, it's just a matter of KNOW Playboy and Hustler are vying right now for exclusive rights to airbrush her nekkid form onto the pages of next month's publication.
So, sorry, I don't feel much sympathy for the fact that these photos got splashed all over the internet. Spitzer got his for being a slimeball, and "Kirsten" will be getting rich for magazine photos. Think she'll go back to being a call girl?
Even though her current pad in New York costs more than $6,000/a month, my guess is that her "singing" career is just about to take off...along with all articles of clothing; but then, that's nothing new, just more profitable now.
I'm going to try my luck on the lottery instead.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Sports Hero or Politician? Tough Call

With the embarrassing debacle over New York Governor Eliot Spitzer's getting nabbed in a high-priced prostitution scandal, several points seem to stand out. Having spent an estimated $80,000 on call girls over a period of time, Spitzer put himself in the sex-scandal tabloids along with former politicos Jim McGreevey, Larry Craig, David Vitter and...uh...Bill Clinton. Clinton was really the only one who got off without major political scandal costing him his job. Maybe it's just to hard to impeach a president, depending on your definition of...oh, never mind.
Anyway, upon reading about the news and seeing a wife standing next to him who was probably carrying a weapon behind her back, the internet was flooded with the "aoplogy" picture which included all the previously-mention scandal-ridden politicians with their wives bravely standing by their side, most of whom looked ashen as if they'd JUST found out themselves. I'll admit that Hillary looked a little more upset than the others. Needless to say, things will be a little frosty for Spitzer now that both the Feds AND his wife are onto him (figuratively). Anyway, back to the sevceral points which this case brought out.
1. Everybody loves a sex scandal (except the guy getting caught and his significant other)
2. Wives then have all the power (see Kobe's wife's HUGE diamond purchased shortly after his arrest some time ago.
3. Politicians can RARELY get away with that type of indiscretion (Clinton being the political exception. I'm sure Hillary did not let him skate on that Monica thing)
4. Professional athletes almost ALWAYS have their trysts forgotten as long as they are athletically productive or are not part of the Cincinnati Bengals organization. Think about it: after the initial outrage, even that boat incident with the Minnesota Vikings a couple of years ago is barely remembered. Nobody went to jail; nobody got cut from the team. And Wade Boggs...remember THAT deal? He had a wife at home and a "wife" for road trips (Margo Adams). Heck, Boggs is a HOF'er.
5. Sex scandals are OK for athletes, but illegal drugs are bad, even if they were not illegal when they were used. Mark McGuire, HOF'er. NO way. We will not forgive that.
What lessons are there to be learned? I'd say...don't run for public office; practice sports instead; open a money market account instead of spending your money on ho's: it's safer for you in the long run and more profitable.
As for me, I've seen the seriously angry looks on those wives' faces, and I would NEVER want to be in those guys' shoes! All the pictures I've seen have shown the couples from mid-chest up...there is probably a good reason.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Don't Call me, I'll Call You...Uh, No I Won't

The number 42 mysteriously appeared twice this week. That rift in the space/time continuum (I don't know what that means, but it sounds cool) was enough to elicit a comment from me. First, the odd news.
The government wants to stimulate the economy by sending me money. That's not news. Of course, it will still take them months to get it to me. OK,OK, that's not news, either. What IS news, however, is that it will cost the government $42 million dollars TO SEND US ALL A LETTER TELLING US WE'LL BE GETTING A CHECK! Dude, email me and send me the money you save on postage. I mean, USPS is already jacking up the price for a stamp...probably they saw this mailing coming. By the way, does this mean it will also cost them $42 million dollars to mail the check? Here's a plan: call me after 9 when the rates are lower or email me for free; then,send the check with the first mailing and save some cash. I even went so far as to try to find a number where I could call THEM and offer this brilliant solution, but the US Gov't. site is as indecipherable as some of the policy decisions we've seen lately.
Now, the really odd news anout the number 42.
It seems that marriage is a tenuous proposition, even in China. Breaking up is hard to many respects. Recently, a man dumped his word why. He just did. His 37 (not 42, unfortunately)year-old wife, referred to only as Wang in the news report, decided that she was not about to let such an offense go unpunished. She piled the inventory of their business, a cell phone distributorship, on the floor and set it ablaze. The 400 (again, not 42 hundred, sadly enough) cell phones were worth an estimated 300,000 yuan, which, in American greenbacks, amounts to...$42,000.00. Firefighters rushed in to extinguish the blaze, but the damage had been done. She was probably apprehended running down the street screaming, "Can you hear me now, you no-good SOB?" (in Chinese it almost sounds poetic, but it was too hard for me to write).
This was brought to you by the number 42 and the letter you'll be getting from the government which will begin "You may already be a winner!" or "You have been named in a will here in Nairobi. Send me $42.00 and I will send you a check for millions."

Thursday, March 06, 2008

It's All Over But the Fishing

It's been three days since Brett Favre announced his retirement, and it's STILL all that's on TV and news reports. "Oh, by the way, 52 poeple were killed in Iraq" gets a mention right before the commercial breaks. They will replay his final news conference in its entirety without commercial interruption every night for the next week. I even got a special edition of the local paper featuring 12 pages of's probably already going for big money on EBay. It is a phenomenon, to be sure, and I really don't know what to make of it.
I'm not a huge football or Packers fan, but even I know a legend when I see one (and hear about it over and over). My buddy Joseph today (who is from New Jersey) was lamenting the ad infinitum coverage and wishing for any kind of respite. I had to set him straight.
People lead rather ordinary lives, they feel. I think we underestimate ourselves, but we all think we're rather ordinary. Brett and all other personalities grab our attention and hold it...whther it's the money, the fame (tha financial ability to retire at 40!) or something else, these people actually mean something to us. While we all realize that there's no way our fifteen minutes of fame will compare, the vicarious enjoyment we get compensates somewhat. Of course, Joseph sees it differently.
He is completely satisfied being himself, having done all the things in his life that he's done, and perfectly willing to go on without Brett, or Paris (the person not the city), or Barack or anyone else. Great attitude, but he needs to understand that many people aren't all that satsified...for them, the comfort of watching someone like Brett Favre week in and week out makes life seem, well, more livable. It makes going to work on Mondays more fun because there's a topic of interesting conversation. Like it or not, we're usually all joined by something like this, and sports seems to be the most accessible. Wear a hat with the "G" on it anywhere in the mostly civilized world, and I guarantee that you'll be recognized...and respected. And when you consider that Green Bay is three stoplights bigger than a small city, it is even more amazing.
We now return you to your regular programming, already in progress.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Vignettes: Often Not Enough

I must admit to watching the political season more closely than ever becasue I realize that I have to select SOMEBODY in a few months. I've seen Obama up close and in person; I've listened to speeches/debates, etc. until I can almost recite the answers myself. I though Hillary was great on "Saturday Night Live" last night. What it's taught me is that a single sound bite or press conference-type appearance is hardly sufficient when it comes to forming an opinion about someone. That's why ESPN has me more than a little "p'ed o." Their use of a 60-second clip and corresponding implications really wasn't fair. If you didn't see the replay of the press conference held by Michigan women's basketball coach Kevin Borseth after a particularly tough loss last week to Wisconsin, you must live in a cave. (the link follows for your edification) The ESPN analysts implied that this historic meltdown was Coach Borseth's one defining moment and generally left the audience to bemoan the fact that yet another coach has lost sight of what's important. WRONG!
I know Kevin Borseth. I "worked" for him as a tutor in the athletics program when he was toiling in relative anonymity at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay. Was he intense? You bet. He was that intense about his athletes' grades and their contributions to the community. He was NOT all about basketball, and he is not today, either; however, when results are measured on a scoreboard, and your job depends on the attitudes and abilities of teenagers day in and day out...well, I suspect most of us would be intense as well. Fortunately, cameras do not record our every emotion after a bad day at the office. We are not subject to hearing soundbites of our worst moments replayed over and over and over and over. The press does not call us out on our every move at work or hound our families (see Rich Rodriguez). We get to toil in relative anonymity. Lucky us.
Coach Borseth has turned Michigan around...they are no longer a weak sister (that's still Northwestern's domain in the Big 10). Somebody asked me if I thought he'd get fired for the tirade. "Are you kidding me? That's exactly what Michigan women's basketball has been missing: someone who is passionate enough to lead," I replied.
Good for him. Remember, though, that his essence is not what you see on camera. His essence is the way players feel about him (even here at UW-GB after his departure!).
We should all have such passion for our jobs.