Monday, November 16, 2009

Ramble



I just watched “Lars and the Real Girl.” I can’t take it. I don’t have the strength. Watching sad movies, or any movie involving death by anything other than car chase or explosion has become too much for me. I can’t get used to the idea of death. I understand it on an intellectual level of course but I can’t get used to in my life. There are people in our lives who we will never see again for a variety of reasons, but for me that makes death even more incomprehensible. I can’t explain why, but even now the idea that I can never see my parents again doesn’t really register. Maybe it’s because I lived so far away for so long that I only miss them every few months or so. But when it comes it comes so strong that I feel like I should be able to pick up my phone and call and I can’t. I can never call them again.

I’m too young for this. I’m too young to have lost them both so close together. I look at my son and I have so many questions. I wonder if I was like that when I was his age and I have no to tell me. I have no one to tell me who I was. Instead I find myself in the opposite position of having to describe them to him. I have to keep them alive for him. Instead of them keeping the little boy Berto alive in their memories and doling him out in little pieces to me and my little branch of the tree, that little boy who was me only exists in me now. And since my mother’s death tore apart the already tenuous bonds between me and her side of the family she really only exists in me now as well. Here I am, burdened with the task of teaching my son who she was and who I was. The truly crippling thing is that I can see her with him as if I’m actually remembering them together. I can see her holding him, fussing over him, telling me how I was just like that or not like that at all. I remember it even though it’s not real.

So I fear death. Not my own death but death of people around me. I think my mother was used to death. Her brother died shortly before I was born. She’d had friends die and grandparents die. In a way it seemed like the lifestyles of the 1970s and 80s took a lot of people away from her. It makes me wonder at what age or after how many occurrences do we get used to death. I’m not used to it. I avoid loving the people around me much as I want to because I don’t know what I would do if they were taken from me. I don’t think I’m strong enough to handle the death of someone to whom I’ve given my whole heart. So I build little walls. I know, it’s a hackneyed metaphor, but it’s what I’ve got. I build little walls by not looking at people unless I have to. I build little walls by being endlessly sarcastic. I build little walls, not high enough or strong enough to isolate me but just enough so that I can bear to lose people if they go.

I pile worry upon worry. I worry that I don’t love my son enough. I worry that I’ll distance myself from him as he grows older in order to protect myself when I inevitably end up being a bad parent and he ends up hating me. I worry that this worry is exactly what will lead to me being a bad parent and him hating me. I worry that even though I’m aware of all this I’ll be unable to prevent it because I am so afraid of loving anyone to the extent that losing them would destroy me.

I’ve built a life on not letting anything destroy me. I know I don’t have real problems. Not in the sense that people who truly have nothing and have no prospects of ever having anything have problems. And I didn’t have a hard childhood like my mother did. And she didn’t have a hard childhood like my grandmother did. And I was better off growing up than my father who came from that group of people who had very little with very little chance of ever getting more. The one thing I had to deal with was notion the that the people you love can leave you at any time. My father left me for years, and even though I understand why, I was never able to forgive him while he was alive. During my somewhat tumultuous adolescence my mother often threatened to cut me out of her life. It seemed like the members of my mother’s family were always ready to write each other off over whatever perceived slight or inequity. As much as they were proud to be associated with each other they never allowed themselves to grow truly close. They never wanted to depend on one another. For most of my childhood I understood that at any moment you could end up completely alone. Up until my mom died I wanted so desperately for her side of the family to show some real unity, for them to stop backbiting and really support each other. After mom died I got a version of that as they all united against me. I still don’t know why they did it, but I know that I lashed out against them with a terrific fury in large part because I was so hurt that they would all turn on me like they did. As a result my walls with everyone else grew a little higher and a little thicker.

My friend Ben used to say he didn’t need any of us. We were a tight knit group from the time we were 14 all the way through adulthood. We fought and made up just like a family, but in contrast to my real family no one ever walked out or even threatened to. Rarely was anyone ever threatened with expulsion from our little tribe and on the couple occasions when it did happen the idea of it was enough to bring the offender in line. Squabbles could last for months but in the end they were always squashed. Ben used to say he didn’t need any of us. He would say we could all die or decide we hated him and it wouldn’t make any difference to him. I couldn’t understand that. I needed those guys, and I wanted to need them. Ben never had to find out whether he was right or not because he hung himself in my stairwell. Instead, we all had to find out how much we needed him.

His philosophy stuck with me. Losing Ben drove home the point that anyone can leave you at any time for any reason. So you isolate yourself so people can’t hurt you and in doing so you create a world where people can’t help you either. Maybe not needing us was the final piece that allowed Ben to take is own life. I don’t think I could ever commit suicide because I know how horribly it would impact all the people who care about me. There’s a lot of them. Still, I can’t stop myself from trying to reach a state where anyone of them could disappear and I could go on.

When my first wife left me I had to be able to go on. She hadn’t died, she’d left. I grieved the loss but instead of the loss of her life it was the loss of our life. The life I had imagined was gone. The kids I thought we would have would never exist. The vacations wouldn’t happen. There wouldn’t be any of it and I had to learn to cope and move on. Looking back I know that my little walls were partly to blame. They were also what allowed me to go on. The same issues with trust and love have threatened my new marriage from time to time. Strength can hurt. Too much strength can cripple you. Look, I know I’m not unveiling any great new truths here. Other people have been saying this for centuries. I do think that until we hear it from the right source t doesn’t sink in. My mother’s strength kept a lot of people at arms length including me. Her strength probably led to her cancer going undiagnosed for over a year. In trying to emulate her strength I appeared dispassionate to her family and they in turn treated me as though her death shouldn’t affect me. I spent so much time making sure nothing could affect me from the outside I rotted from within. I was never destroyed, but I never grew either.

Trying to be too strong leads to carrying burdens alone. We are not alone. None of us are alone. Having a partner means having someone to share your burdens. Not because you’re weak but because they want to help. Accepting help strengthens both of you. The measure of a man isn’t how much you can bear on your own. It’s how much you can do as a part of your community. I’m finally learning that. I’ve been lucky to find another influence.

I didn’t get to know my father’s side of the family until I was an adult. They lived on the east coast so I didn’t see them much until I moved to Washington DC. Even then it wasn’t until my cousin made a real effort to reach out to me over and over again that I really opened myself up to them. My cousin’s efforts to get to know me are endemic of that side of the family. They fuss and squabble just like my mother’s side but the difference is they do it out in the open. They yell at each other, they criticize, they admonish. Then they make up and move on. I remember my aunt telling me that there were times when she told my father to not call, to not visit, to not be around. But she always told him she loved him and never failed to help him out when he needed it. Even when she knew she could never give him money she still gave him clothes and books and mementos. My father’s side of the family embraces the idea that you can have passionate disagreements with family but you can never turn your back on them. This is a stark contrast to the Japanese side who can cast you out without ever telling you why. As an adult I’ve come to identify much more closely with my Puerto Rican side of the family because they give me the one thing I’ve always craved, unconditional love coupled with unconditional honesty. You always know where you stand with them and wherever you stand you always know that they love you.

That’s what I want people to get from me. I want them to know that even when I’m upset I love them. Before that can happen I need to learn to allow myself to love people beyond my ability to recover. I need to be able to give myself to people without fear. My wife deserves more of me than I’ve been able to give her because I’m afraid of hurting too much if she leaves. My son deserves more than I’ve been able to give him because I’m afraid he’ll suffer some accident and die. My friends and family deserve all that I’ve withheld from them because I’ve doubted the permanence of our relationships. I need to give myself permission to love people the way I believe many of them love me.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Why I Can't Hate the Yankees

Hate:

I am an avowed Yankee hater. I hate the Yankees. I hate them for the playoffs in 2000 and 2001. I hate them for taking Jason Giambi and turning him into a complete tool. I hate them for driving up the price on everything from players to tickets to caps. I hate them because it’s almost un-American not to.

But I can’t hate them for winning. Not this time. Yes the Yankees are still the bully on the block. Yes they are still primarily responsible for the payroll imbalance in baseball. But the fact is this time it feels different. I’m not happy to see them win. I would have been happy to see Philly take them in five. But it’s different this time. For all the talk of the Yankees spending $423.5M on three players this year, they really only spent $62 on those three players this year. This year they won with a collection of stars and role player. Just as they did the last time.

The Giambi Factor:

Jason Giambi was the Oakland A’s from the time Mark McGwire left in 1997 until his own departure after 2001. Giambi’s transformation from hero to complete crapulence was immediate and began before the 2001 season had even ended. Giambi praised New York at the press conference prior to the A’s game five ALDS loss to the Yanks. He went on national TV and denigrated Oakland. He shaved, he cut his hair, he pimped deodorant. He turned his back on everything that had made him great. Then he came back to Oakland and all was forgiven. He was forgiven for the same reason this Yankee win is easier to swallow, he didn’t win. During Giambi’s tenure with the Yankees they made the World Series only once and lost to the Marlins. Giambi not being on this year’s team makes a Yankee win less enraging than it would otherwise have been.

Nine Years, Big Money, No Titles:

Over the nine years since the last Yankees championship the team has proven that simply buying all the big name players at the highest prices doesn’t work. Especially when you’re buying old players long past their primes (Gary Sheffield, Randy Johnson, Kevin Brown) or off the juice (Sheffield, Giambi, Clemens) or never as good as advertised (Carl Pavano, Esteban Loaiza, Jose Contreras). Sure they still have a roster full of the most highly paid players in the world but the core of the team is also stocked with home grown talent and castoffs. Jorge Posada, Robinson Cano, Derek Jeter, Melky Cabrera, Brett Gardner, Andy Pettitte, Joba Chamberlain, Phil Hughs, Phil Coke, and Mariano Rivera all came through the system. Nick Swisher was cast off by the A’s and the White Sox and then almost cut or traded before ever playing a game for the Yanks after they signed Mark Texiera. Eric Hinske, and Freddy Guzman and Jerry Hairston, castoffs all, played important roles this year. Without Jose Molina AJ Burnett may have been a bust. The team stayed afloat for two months with Cody Ransom at third base. As much as the mercenaries were the story this year the role players were the heart. Mark Texiera hit .180 during the playoffs. From that standpoint it’s easier to view this Yankee win the same way I’d view any team winning. After all, every winner since 2000 (aside from the Marlins) has been in the top tier in payroll. It’s not just a Yankee phenomenon any more. The fact that the Yankees haven’t won in nine years, and that everyone else who has is also on the money train, makes this one easier to deal with.

Did I mention that it’s been nine years since the Yankees last won the World Series? It seems it’s true what they say about time healing all wounds. There are people I’ve had tremendous disagreements with who I no longer hate. It seems this now includes the Yankees. Sure I still dislike them, and when the season starts again I’ll root for them to go 0-162. If they win again next year, and/or the next year, and/or the next year I’m sure the old hatred will spark up again. But today I’ll tip my cap.

Quickie

This article mentions that the University of Central Florida has lost it's sponsorship deal with Adidas because Marcus Jordan will only wear his father's shoes on the court.

What a bunch of over entitled bullshit. First off if MaJ were any good he'd be at a real basketball school. Second if I were the AD at UCF I'd sit the kid until he came around. Pandering to him (perhaps in the hopes his dad will bestow riches upon the school) sets a bad example for everyone everywhere. Suck it Marcus. You're not your dad and you never will be. Grow a pairs UCF. Suspend the kid or offer him a transfer to another school. I'm sure the UNC intramural league would let him wear whatever he wants.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Halloween for Sir Rantalot

Recently a friend of mine posted the following on facebook:

“Considering saying screw it and letting the kids eat all their candy and deal with one day of crazyness rather than the whining because I won't let them eat it.”

She got a lot of responses and advice from various people in her life. I for one recalled my childhood habit of trying to make my candy last as long as possible. After trick or treating I would come home and organize my haul. Candies of the same kind were grouped together. Then based on the amounts of each kind I would formulate a plan on what order they would be eaten in and which ones I would allow my mom to poach when she came sniffing around my stash.

On thing my mom did has influenced me to this day. My mother felt that the worst type of candies were lollypops, gummies, and anything else that was hard or sat in your mouth for an extended period of time. Her logic was that due to the duration those candies spent in your mouth they were more likely to give you cavities so she would take them from me. She did this so matter-of-factly that I never complained. The result is that I’ve never really liked those types of candies. In fact I now view those types of candies, especially anything with gummi and fruit flavor, as old people candy. Recently when my wife filled our candy jar, which I always fill with M&Ms, with fruity gummies I came home and had about the same reaction I had when she came home with Daniel Radcliffe’s haircut. “What are these? Why do we have old people candy in here?” (Now I know, the mere fact of having a candy jar makes me an old person but that’s another deal.) I was unhappy for a day or so until my friend came over and happily started eating them. “Oh, I love these!” he exclaimed. I felt silly. I still think they’re old people candy but I didn’t realize why until my friend’s post allowed me to reflect on my mother’s approach to her children’s Halloweens.

The other thing this reflection brought me was a longing for the eager anticipation of a Halloween stash. Understand, I was the type of kid who organized his dollar bills by serial number, my candy stash was obsessively cataloged. I felt a certain sadness knowing that I may never have that kind of feeling again. I could see now why people collect wines or cars, though I’ll never have the money for those. Now I understand my friend’s vast collection of model cars. But the cars are only partially consumable and that’s part of the whole point right? The anticipation and planning of how and when to consume these things that would someday be gone with nothing but a moment’s satisfaction to show for it. I wasn’t sure what could provide that childhood feeling again., until today. You see, the other factor is that you don’t buy the candy you get on Halloween. You go out and get it for free. You go out with your friends, usually on a school night, and people give you candy. The joy of organizing, planning and consuming something you got for free far outstrips the feeling you get from things you buy. Where can we get this satisfaction as adults?

My son was baptized on Sunday and we had a small reception at our house afterwards. Unexpectedly more than one person brought beer to our house. We had about five different kinds of malty goodness in our fridge when the party ended. Of course, since we are adults now no one brought their beer gifts home with them. I had no idea how much beer was left until I opened the ‘fridge that evening. It was just like opening up that loot bag for the first time. There before me lay chocolaty stouts, malty porters, spicy reds, caramel draughts, and nutty browns. Reflexively I did a quick count of how many there were of each and formulated a plan regarding how many there were of each, what order to drink them in, and which ones could be combined to create even yummier concoctions. It turns out we can recapture the joys of our youth in unexpected places.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Ole Miss Shall Rise Again

Long time readers here may remember this post . It was one of the first things I wrote as Sir Rantalot. If you don't have the time to read it now the basic point is that any state or local government that displays the Confederate Stars and Bars should be considered in an open state of rebellion and charged with treason against the United States. Well I doubt anyone at the University of Mississippi reads this blog but they've decided to do the right thing any way.

Recently Ole Miss has changed it's fight song in an attempt to eliminate the chant "The South shall rise again." Follow the link to the ESPN article for the full details. What I thin should be pointed out is that a symbol of the south is taking steps to divorce itself from its sesesh past. Ole Miss has previously dropped its Colonel Rebel mascot.

The University of Mississippi should be applauded for their efforts towards uniting their student body and their fan base. Let me be the first to provisionally welcome Mississippi back into the Union.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

And Take Al Davis With You.

So A guy named Ed Roski is planning to build a football stadium in LA. He's planning this even though he does not own an NFL team. He's planning this even though his prospects of owning an NFL team are slim. Good for him. Now let's hope he can get the Raiders to move back to LA.

That's right boys and girls Sir Rantalot's prayers may be answered. There is now a chance, however slim, that our fine community may be rid of the Raiders once and for all. And good riddance. After all who can tell me that the Raiders return has been anything but a nightmare? Massive debt to the county, an ugly ugly remodeling job to the stadium, black outs, PSLs, high ticket prices, six straight seasons of 11 losses or more, black outs, Darrell Russell, this abomination that I still have sort of blocked out of my memory, black outs, and the list goes on. And we still haven't mentioned drunk violent Raider fans.

The Raiders second stint in Oakland had been a disaster for everyone involved. Al has been looking for a way out since he signed the lease. If he bolts back to LA the rest of us can get back to real double headers on Sundays and not being afraid of getting stabbed for wearing colors other than black. I know Al is unlikely to sell and Roski wants a majority stake in a team before he breaks ground but this may be the time. Al's health is failing and I'm sure he could work out a gradual transfer of power that would be completed upon his death. After all it can't be long before Darth Raider throws old Emperor Alpatine down the shaft right? Best of all if Al leaves then maybe, just maybe, we can get a 35,000 seat baseball only stadium that will keep the A's in town and prevent Al from ever coming back.

So here's to all the decent people of the east bay getting together to find out what we can do to make this thing happen. Sometime dreams really can come true.

PS: I've got things to say about Rush, Crabtree, and the other recent sports happenings but I'm still on vacation so it'll have to wait for another day. G'night y'all.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

LeGarrette Blount Update

It looks like there may be some forgiveness for LeGarrette Blount. It's interesting to see that one of the people Blount's been consulting with is Kermit Washington who I mentioned in my original post.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Checking in on Crabtree

Crabtree II

The question I haven’t seen answered in all the Michael Crabtree analysis is this, how much more money will he have to get to make this hold out worth it? If you examine it in terms of simple math rather than leagalese contract math (discounting various bonus triggers that change what is paid when) it goes like this: the contract on the table is reported as $20M/5years. That breaks down to an average of $4M/year. For some antiquated reason NFL players are given game checks 16 times over the course of the season. Each of Crabtree’s game checks should be ~$250,000. Right now the 49ers are pro-rating their offer so that every time Crabtree misses a game the offer is reduced by ~$250,000. So far he has “lost” ~$750 ,000. If you’re not yet sick to your stomach about a guy turning up his nose at that kind of money read on.

Crabtree has threatened to hold out the entire year and re-renter the draft next year. This plan seems to be based on the fact that he thinks he will be picked higher than he was this year and thus get more money. It is also possible that he believes that the amount of money available next year will get him a better deal. Again, how much more money will he need to get to make it worthwhile? Well for one he’d have to make up for sitting out this year. Essentially he’d have to make six years worth of salary in five years giving us a break even point of $24M ($4M/year x 6 years). But that’s not all.

According to the current collective bargaining agreement (CBA) players can become free agents after five years of service time. That’s when big time players really cash in. Forget for a moment that we don’t know if Crabtree is Randy Moss or Carlos Rogers, he believes he’s a big time player which means whatever deal he gets will have to make up for the fact that he’s now delaying free agency and his big payday by another year. If you look at just the average of the top five cap numbers for wide receivers in 2008 ($9.74M) it means Crabtree would have a new break even number of $34M. If you consider the fact that salaries rise over time it's not crazy to think that number will be higher five years from next year so lets say, accounting for 6 years of salary inflation, he needs $40M to break even. Still this number is only what he would need to make up for missing this year. This is the “the plan didn’t really work and it’s kind of a wash” number. For this hold out to be considered a success he’d have to make a lot more than this.

Now, ready for what he’s allegedly asking? $40 million. That’s right, the guy picked tenth wants $40M. That’s about $2M more than the guy picked seventh, who plays the same position, got. But remember, Crabtree’s whole rationale for this hold out is that he should have been picked fifth.

Beyond the money though is another issue. How good can Crabtree be expected to be? The final answer is we have no way of knowing, but that answer’s no fun to analyze. Instead lets look at other players who have missed entire years. The two that spring to mind for me are Maurice Clarett and Mike Williams. If you don’t remember Mo C. he was a running back at Ohio State who had a great freshman year. He was so good that year he decided he should challenge the NFL rule that forces players to wait three years after high school to apply for the draft. When Clarett won a temporary injunction against the NFL Williams decided it would be a good idea to declare for the draft as well. In the end the NFL rule was upheld (thank you judge Sotamayor) and both players missed the entire 2004 season. In 2005 Williams was taken 10th overall and Clarett was taken 101st. Clarett, who turned down $413,000 in guaranteed money in favor of an incentive laden deal with no guarantees, didn’t make it through training camp and never played in the NFL. Williams ended his rookie year with 29 receptions and 1 touchdown. Not exactly what one looks for in the number 10 overall pick. The next year Williams had just 8 catches and 1 touchdown. In 2007 Williams split time between the Raiders and the Titans recording 7 receptions and 0 touchdowns. He has not played a down since then.

What does this mean for Michael Crabtree? Possibly nothing. Andre Smith, this year’s number six pick was the last player left holding out other than Crabtree. Smith finally reported to camp and was immediately lost for the year with a broken foot the next day. Smith was following the path laid out by 2002 number 6 overall pick Ryan Sims who held out for weeks and then was injured and lost for the year a couple weeks after reporting.

Beyond that sports landscape is littered with guys who thought they could do better. Matt Harrington was drafted by MLB teams four years in a row. He was initially a first rounder but found the offer of a paltry $4.9M to be too little. He played junior college ball, then independent ball and got a little worse every year. Now he works installing tires at Costco. The history of players who turn up their noses at not enough millions and skip a year is littered with stories of failure. In fact the only person I can think of who’s at least made a ton of money after sitting out is J.D. Drew and he at least played a year of high level indie ball while he was off denying the Phillies. But there is no high minor league for football. Crabtree gave up his eligibility for the closest thing to that when he left college. Besides that Crabtree has more to lose in terms of his rookie deal by playing this season in Canada or the UFL than by sitting out. The risk of injury is too great and of he doesn’t excel his stock will drop. Instead he’ll hope that his college resume will hold up through next April. That hope is all he’ll have since he won’t be allowed to work out for other teams before the draft. Here’s hoping the Niners will be in position to draft him again. And again, and again, and again.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Sit Down, Read Rule Book, Shut Up


Pic from ESPN.com

You see what you've brought me to Raider fans? You see what's happening here? No? I'll tell you what's happening here, I'm blogging from my phone that's what's happening here. I swore I didn't want to do this but you've driven me beyond my limits. Read below for the short version.

Get this straight you freaks, you did not get robbed last night. Not even a little bit. Of course, being Raider fans I don't really expect you to this into that black hole in your head. You know, the place where common sense and actual football acumen go to die. But try to pay attention here: it was not a catch. Under no circumstances in no one's interpretation of the rules is that ever going to be a catch.

Since I know you don't actually know the rules here they are:

"A player is in possession when he is in firm grip and control of the ball in bounds. To gain possession of a loose ball that has been caught, intercepted or recovered, a player must have complete control of the ball and have both feet completely on the ground in bounds or any other part of his body, other than his hands, on the ground in bounds.

"If the player loses the ball while simultaneously touching both feet or any other part of his body to the ground or if there is any doubt that the acts were simultaneous, there is no possession. This rule applies to the field of play and in the end zone."

"A player who goes to the ground in the process of attempting to secure possession of a loose ball (with or without contact by a defender) must maintain control of the ball after he touches the ground, whether in the field of play or the end zone.

"If he loses control of the ball, and the ball touches the ground before he regains control, there is no possession. If he regains control prior to the ball touching the ground, it is a catch, interception or recovery."

The guy lost control of the ball. It hit the turf. He didn't Bert Emanuel the ball and get it mostly off the ground. He fully lost the ball and it completely hit the ground. If you go to 1:41 of this recap video you'll see the ball clearly hit the ground before his elbow. After that he never regains possession. Then go to 3:15 of that vid, if the first one was a TD the pass to Higgins should have been a fumble. Higgins also took 2 steps. If that had been a fumble then there would be no TD after that and the same result in terms of the final score.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Instant Reaction

I do not support LaGarrette Blount's actions. I do think we need to try to understand what he did.

For those of you not following this story Blount is a running back for the University of Oregon football team. After a game last night Blount punched an opposing player in the face. The opposing player, Boise State's Byron Hout, sought out Blount immediately after the game and taunted him. The taunt may have been a reaction to Blount's comments to the media before the game to the effect of Oregon owing Boise an "ass whuppin" to avenge the Ducks loss to the Broncos in Oregon last year. I can't condone players punching each other after a game. I do think this kid Blount is getting a bad rap.

I have long contended that this idea that words should never lead to violence is, like communism, a nice idea that has no real practical basis in reality. The fact is you can't just go around saying whatever you want to whoever you want and not be ready to accept whatever reaction you get. Now, if you do something reasonable like honk at someone who darts out in front of your car it is fair to expect they won't smash in your windshield with a crowbar. However, if you roll down your window and yell "Get you stupid fucking monkey ass out the street." I don't see how you can expect to not have your windshield smashed in with a crowbar. Polite society is for polite people. If you can't be polite I hardly see how you can complain if someone answers your rudeness with even greater rudeness. It's like the people who complain when the cops shoot someone and the complaint is, "Well all she did was run at the cop with a knife" (Rosebud) , or "All he did was wave a sword around and yell at them." Well, if you don't want to get shot by the police don't run around with a weapon in public.

Apply this to the end of a game. If you win you should let the fact that you won be all the smack you need to run out there. However if at the end of a tough emotional game you feel compelled to seek a guy out, tap him on the shoulder and rub it in his face you should expect to get punched in the face. If you want to live in a world where you do not ever get punched in the face don't go around taunting angry men who just lost a contest of strength and will. If you want to live in a world where you can taunt large angry men without any repercussion move to Candyland. point: Hout needs to accept some responsibility for his actions and the result.

Some ESPN analysts have referred to the incident as a sucker punch. I don't think this is a fair characterization. If Hout had stood and faced Blount after his comment he would have seen the punch coming. Instead he puts on a shit eating grin and turns to look for props from his boys. Dude, if you're going to talk shit keep your wits about you. In the immortal words of Chris Tucker, "You got knocked the fuck out!" I also think it's telling that Hout's teammates didn't rush to his defense. Maybe the guys' just a dick.

Let me emphasize I am not behind hauling off and punching people. I don't think it's the right thing to do. I just think we shouldn't act so shocked when it happens. Colin Cowherd said something on his show today that stood out for me. He said, "It's not how you act that's important, it's how you react." This is true. Hout is a dumb ass for what he did. Blount could have shown tremendous character and restraint by shining Hout on. That would be the kind of thing we look up to as a society. But Blount isn't that guy. I don't think he should be vilified for it. I'm not that guy. Ask Kermit Washington what can happen in a bad instant. Washington punched Rudy Tomjonovich and his life changed forever. Blount is getting hammered for something that happened in the heat of the moment. we accept temporary insanity as a basis for murder defense. We coach temporary insanity in football players so we can be entertained. But when the insanity carries over by a few minutes we want to act like we're outraged.

Now Blount has been suspended for the rest of the year. I'm fine with that. Just like I was fine with the Mike Vick suspension. Blount needed some sort of punishment. I think a year his a little harsh but he did something wrong and he needs to accept the consequences of his action. I don't think we need to keep hammering on him after this. I don't think we should write him off as a person or a player based on this one incident. It could well be that he's a good person who did a bad thing. We need to look at ourselves and ask if our expectations are really in line with reality. Is it really reasonable to expect that these guys will just turn it off as soon as the whistle blows? Is it really reasonable to expect that we should all have carte blanche to say whatever, whenever, to whomever and expect that it will never draw an unfavorable reaction?

Monday, August 31, 2009

Cop Out

OK, I know this is old news but it has become one of the sticking points of my marriage, Dumbledore the made up wizard character in the Harry Potter series was "outed" by author J.K. Rowling about two years ago. My wife was thrilled. Every gay rights minded Harry Potter fan I know was thrilled. I was not. Honestly I see it as a stunt. First off Dumbledore's sexuality is in no way germane to the books. It simply doesn't enter in to it. second why "out" him now? What's the point? This is no great symbol for gay rights or anything else. It's complete BS.

Rowling went on to say, "If I'd known it would make you so happy, I would have announced it years ago!" I doubt that very much. Cynically I think she was looking for a secondary boost in sales or publicity. If we can posthumously out Dumbledore and have people cheer why not other pretend people? Why not Captain Ahab? Hey, Atticus finch was gay. Does that do anything for ya? It doesn't matter if Dumbledore or Snape or Moaning Myrtle were gay. It's not a win for social justice. It's nothing. If it were going to be a win for anything important it would have been revealed in the books. I think the following quote sums it up nicely.

Ross Douthat of The Atlantic Monthly:

"It seems like a case of J.K. Rowling trying to retroactively bestow a level of adult complexity on her characters that they don’t possess on the printed page. A writer confident in her powers wouldn’t feel the need to announce details like this after the fact."

In an interview with Harry Potter fan site The Leaky Cauldron GLAAD spokesman Sean Lund sees the Dumbledore revelation as a good thing. You can read the interview but I'm not convinced.

Having openly gay characters in books and other media is important for gay rights. Hopefully having visible gay characters helps normalize homosexuality for the audience. But "outing" a fictional person after the character has been killed off after the final volume of the series has been released is baloney. It's a meaningless gesture signifying nothing.

Blah! to you J.K. Rowling. You're no pioneer, no activist.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

1568 Part III

1568 III
Down in the kitchen Jayne put on the kettle and whisked her three-quarters of a cup of coffee into the microwave. Mr. Pelican sat at the table looking out the window at the side yard from the same chair in which Jayne had first seen him. “I sat here in this very spot,” he began, “when I was eight years old. We had woodpile just there and one evening we watched about a dozen raccoons come clambering out, one at a time, from what seemed to be a perfectly solid woodpile.” Jayne regarded him over the rim of her mug trying to picture this old man as an eight-year-old boy. Imagining him very small but still wrinkled and dressed in a suit is as far as she could get with him sitting there in front of her. But when he spoke she felt like she could see the figures of his family moving through the house like a time lapsed photograph.

When the tea was ready he thanked her for the cup and they moved out to the back porch. He told her about his parents putting in the brick patio just beyond the porch, about his mother putting in the greenhouse window over the sink. He spoke at length about how the kids next door and two houses down to the south were all in a close enough age range that their parents took boards out of the fences in the back yards so the kids could go back and forth. He talked about the epic games of hide and seek and make believe the kids played in the three adjoining yards. She learned that his was the only one without a tree house. Jayne mentally committed to talking to June Grunwald about their fence even though her son and Jayne’s own kids weren’t very close.

“Well,” said Walter Pelican, “I’m afraid I’ve ended up giving you a tour instead of the other way ‘round. I hope I wasn’t to forward with my wandering.”

“You were fine.” replied Jayne. “I enjoyed hearing your memories of the house.”

“The one place I was truly happy.” he sighed. “Did I mention that before?’

“You did. Do mind…” she paused and he gave her a slight nod of acceptance. “Do you mind if I ask what you mean? Why you left?”

“Not at all. It’s an important part of the story I guess. You see Malcolm and my mother weren’t married. He wasn’t my father, but oh I wanted him to be. So did she. Then somehow it just didn’t work out. They broke up and sold the house and we moved away. At that time, at that age I mean, I didn’t know what had happened. They both gave me the speech you’re supposed to give kids. It wasn’t my fault, they both love me very much. To his credit Malcolm stayed in touch and would come and visit and take me out every once and while, until he had his own kids and moved too far away. Even after that we were in touch periodically through my early adulthood. But at that time it was like my life had been replaced with another. Like the prince and the pauper, or like when you come to the end of a good book and you look up and you’re back in the real world sitting on a train with a bunch of very average people.

“When my mother was with Malcolm it was the last time I felt like I was part of real family. The kind you grow up believing in like the Seavers or the Keatons. Malcolm’s family was normal. They were all still married for the first time. They had the 2.8 children, and we still went to his parents every year for Thanksgiving and Christmas. When they broke up I lost all that and I never got it back.

“I tried to provide the kind of stable home I’d always craved for my children. I hope they know that.”

Jayne felt an urge to take the old man’s hands, to look into his eyes and comfort the hurt child inside him. She longed to reassure him that he’d done a wonderful job with his children. Instead she turned towards the stove and rearranged the pans that had been drying there. She didn’t want to delve any deeper in to the old man’s pain but she couldn’t stop the question from eking its way from between her lips, “Do you know what happened?”

“Oh, I think it was a lot of things.” he replied. “The kind of things that happen to people sometimes, work, stress, neediness, jealousy, diverging interests or careers or goals. I guess sometimes people just grow apart.”

“You mentioned a brother, was your mom…”

“At some point yes. I think it happened around the time they were breaking up. I found her journals after she died. I read through them, hoping they would provide answers to questions I'd never thought of asking. In them I found that my mother wanted to have a child with Malcolm, that one was conceived but never carried to term. She didn’t write down the reason. I guess it was too painful even to commit to her private notes. Even though she never told me about it I think I knew on some level that I was supposed to have a sibling that never came. I kept hoping for one and when she and Malcolm split that dream died too.

“My mother did end up having another son eventually, with another man. But by that time he was a different kid and so was I. I was thirteen and as jaded as a kid that age has a right to be. But that’s another house and another time, one that I’m not as anxious to relive.

     I’m sorry. I don’t mean to leave you on a sad note. This really was a happy place for me. I’m glad to see it in the care of a family like yours.”

Jayne stood leaning against the range. They looked at each other for a long moment. “Well, I should be going.” said Walter motioning the hat in his hand towards the door. Jayne shook her head slightly as if waking from an extended daydream, “Yes, of course.” she said and followed him towards the door.

When they reached the threshold she opened the door for him and he stepped out onto the porch. He turned towards her and took her hand in his placing his left hand over her right. “Thank you Jayne.” he said. The look of calm in his eyes overwhelmed her and as he turned to go she felt that she couldn’t bear the thought of not seeing him again, of not getting the rest of the story. “Mr. Pelican.” she called after him. “Walter. You can come back again. We’d be happy to have you visit, meet the kids.”

Mr. Pelican paused on the stairs and turned himself halfway so that he could address her without facing her. “Thank you Jayne, but I think I’ve got what I came for. Anything more may be too much.”

Too melancholy to watch him make his way down the stairs Jayne closed the door and looked at the rooms around her. She knew that she would never be alone in the house again. The ghosts of former occupants that she always felt in a vague way, the spirits, the feeling of history in that old house which had helped her fall in love with it had become tangible. Now when she watched her children rip through the house chasing after each other she would see that little boy riding circles on his first bike. When she cooked lunch or did the wash she would do it alongside that other young mother who seemed to feel as happy and as uncertain as she sometimes felt. In the sun room she could see the cradle of the baby boy who was never able to call this house his home, and an alternate space where the happy little boy who grew up to be "Walter Abraham Pelican, Retired," stands cooing at his little brother. Outside the humming birds resumed their frenetic zigzagging flight.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

1568 Part II

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As she stepped back into the entryway to let Walter Pelican in Jayne fixed on the old man’s eyes. As he stood in the sunlight of the foyer his pupils dilated as if to let in as much of past as possible. “I had so many good times here.” He breathed the words as if talking to someone very close by. Jayne felt that his words were not meant for her so she said nothing. Mr. Pelican placed his hand on the railing of the stairs leading to the second story. “I remember running down these stairs on birthdays.” he said still not looking at her. “I would try to peek over the railing there to the dining room to see what kind of cake she’d made.” He looked down the short hallway towards the dining room, then at Jayne still holding the door standing slightly behind as if to ward off the strength of the old man’s memories. She noticed that she was hiding there not wanting to disturb him in a place she had long felt was her own. It was a puzzling feeling. “She always made the best cakes, very creative, in different shapes.

     When we started looking for houses I said that I wanted a house with stairs on the inside. For whatever reason that’s what a home meant to me. They took me on a lot of the trips to look at houses. I remember vetoing a few because they were only one story.” Jayne finally closed the door. His gaze remained fixed on were she had been standing through that spot and on to the sitting room.

“The Christmas I turned six years old I followed a trail of clues to the front porch. Sitting out there was my very first bicycle. Mom let me ride in circles through the sitting room, down the hall, round the corner of the dining room, the living room and back through the sitting room.” As he spoke he traced a path in the air. “It must have been a small bike.”

“Should I show you up stairs?” asked Jayne. She didn’t wait for a reply, uttering the phrase and moving towards the stairs almost simultaneously. She realized she’d taken a few steps up the stairs before checking to make sure he was following. He was. He took each stair slowly always stepping up with his right foot then bringing the left foot up to meet it. She waited for him on the landing before proceeding up the last four stairs. When they reached the top he paused leaning slightly on the railing. He looked at the three bedrooms running left to right from the back of the house to the front. “The middle one was mine.” he said after a moment.

“That’s my son’s room now. Would you like to look inside?”

Walter paused, “No.” he said, “Even though it was my room for those years I don’t have many memories of it.” Instead he moved to the left, to the bedroom at the back of the house. The door was ajar and he paused at the threshold. “You can go in.” said Jayne. “It’s my daughter’s room. She’s older.”

The room’s dimensions hadn’t changed in the eighty-one years since Walter had last been there. In his mind he could see the roll top desk, the couch, and the TV that had once been there. At the back of the room was a door leading to a sun room. The room, about eight feet wide, at the very back of the house, had windows running along its length with a short bench stretching wall to wall beneath the windows. It had been his mother’s sewing room and now was strewn with dolls and games. “It’s my daughter’s play room.” said Jayne. She had been trailing along behind him, allowing what she thought was an appropriate space between herself and his past, and now stood leaning in the doorway between the two rooms. “Ryan kind of dominates the rest of the house with his toys and she needed a place to play without worrying about a little brother crashing through.”

“I think this would have been my little brother’s nursery if I’d had one at the time. But that didn’t happen until much later.” He trailed off and she followed his gaze to the floor at the far corner of the room. Poking out beneath the dollhouse was the corner of a rectangular burn mark. Walter pointed at it.

“That was me.” he said. “The burn mark is from and old toy oven. A really old one like the kind my mother must have had when she was a child. It was all metal with a plug so old the cord was wrapped in fabric, from a time before widespread use of plastics. One day I was playing with it and I realized I’d never plugged it in. So I did and nothing seemed to happen. I put a little plastic pie pan filled with mud in the chamber and waited. Eventually I went outside to play. My mother smelled the plastic burning some time later and when we came up to investigate this electrified hunk of metal had been sitting there getting progressively hotter for over an hour. That’s when I learned about fire safety. I think my mom learned something about child safety too.”

“So there it is.” thought Jayne, “Another mystery solved.” Walter started back towards the hall taking a last look around the young girl’s suite as he went. He proceeded down the hall past the middle bedroom to the room at the front of the house. Although the door was open this time he paused again. Again, Jayne trailing some distance behind him, more curator than tour guide, gave him the OK to enter the room.

The front bedroom was sparse but still homey. Along the south wall a queen bed stuck partway into the room. At the west wall near the window was an old armoire. Otherwise there was no other furniture. Jayne stopped and took up her now customary position leaning in the doorway. Walter stood in the middle of the room and made a full shuffling turn. When he was facing Jayne he began his story again.

“I don’t think I’ve been in here more than a handful of times. My parents slept here. I don’t think it's that I wasn’t allowed in here. I remember the door being open almost all the time. I think it’s that, with so many other places to be, it just never really occurred to me to come in here.

“I do remember my mother had a big freestanding mirror that stood nearly in the middle of the room just about here” he said pointing few feet to his left towards the closet door. “I remember wondering if the boy in that mirror was having a better life than I was.” He paused staring into the mirror that was there eight decades in the past. “I read a lot of Lewis and Madeleine L’Engle when I was kid.” he sighed.

“Can I offer you something to drink?” asked Jayne.

“That would be lovely.”

Continued Here

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

1568 Part I

1568 I

It was the kind of spring day you imagine when you think of spring days. The morning had been bright and clear without the layer of fog that usually took until mid-morning to fully burn off. There were humming birds darting in and out of the creeping flowers that no one had planted but still grew along the south side of the house. The house stood there as it had since 1908. Set back from the street and on a bit of a hill so that you had to climb two set of stairs to reach the porch. The bees buzzed in the north east corner of the yard but she was content to leave them alone since trying to eradicate them in past summers hadn’t worked and the kids didn’t seem interested in playing in that corner of the yard anyway. The erratic motion of the humming birds and the bees highlighted the fact that it was an otherwise still day.

Jayne sat with her second cup of coffee. It was almost eleven-o-clock but she wasn’t rushing into chores today. Instead she was reading, sipping that indulgent second cup and skimming the gossip blogs. She liked having this time to herself though she rarely took the time to really enjoy it. As she clicked through photos of ugly things celebrities had worn it only half occurred to her that she’d seen someone outside along the side of the house. A stooped but well appointed figure somewhat aimlessly walking along the side yard between her and the Grunwalds. The man had such a casual air about him he almost seemed as though he belonged there, as if he were looking at a house he had just noticed had come on the market.

The house was not on the market. Jayne had lived at 1568 Milvia St for about five years and was happy there. It was nice neighborhood, quiet with good schools and walking distance to the more chi-chi Walnut Square part of downtown. Jayne went out the back door to the side yard to see who the man might be. They’d had a couple homeless people wander into the yard over the years. Never with any ill intent, just looking for a quiet spot to sleep or sit. They never gave her any trouble when she approached them, and went on their way without being asked. Once Joe had even found a woman sleeping in his car when he was off to work. “Rise and shine” he’d said to her as she nervously gathered herself and exited through the rear door. But this man did not seem homeless. Though she’d only seen him for a second she did not get the impression that the man was down and out. Maybe he was lost.

When Jayne reached the gate at the side of the house, the gate they’d put in to keep people from getting all the way to the backyard, she could see that the man wasn’t there. She went back in intent on finishing her coffee and figuring out if she hadn’t imagined the whole thing when the doorbell rang, which to her surprise, gave her a bit of a start. As she walked down the hall she could see through the three crystal cut panes of glass, a man’s hat. It was the type of hat she’d seen in the Country Gentleman ad in her grandmother’s old Life magazines. The hat put her at ease as she thought that only very old men wear that type of hat. Despite her new confidence she opened the door they way one does for a Jehovah’s Witness, or someone holding a clipboard. A way that says “You’ve got about six words to convince me not to close the door again.” Sure enough, there beneath the hat, stooped in a way that suggested both age and a lifetime of poor posture, stood an old man.

“I’m sorry to bother you ma’am” he said. He was dressed the way old people used to dress. Rather than the elastic waistbands and jogging tops worn by on-the-go seniors of today he wore a tan shirt with a button down collar topped by a green tweed vest and a brown blazer. Below that his tan slacks, when viewed in the right light form the right angle revealed a hint of very thin corduroy.

“You were at the side of the house.”

“Yes ma’am. I’m sorry about that. It was so quiet I wasn’t sure there was anyone home. My name is Walter Pelican and I am ninety years old just recently.

Jayne briefly pondered the figure standing before her. He didn’t look like a beggar, at least not a modern beggar. If he was about launch into a sob story and request money she knew she’d have a hard time not at least listening so she started to plan her escape. She silently prayed for the phone to ring. “How can I help you Mr. Pelican?”

“Well this may sound a bit,” he paused searching for the right word, “peculiar” he finally managed. “But you see I used to live in this house when I was a young boy. I think it was the only time in my childhood I was truly happy.

     I’ve passed by here now and again over the years on my way here and there and I’ve often wondered about the people living there now. I’ve longed to see the place but I never had the confidence to approach it. I’ve always wanted to knock on the door and see who was here. What they’ve done with the place. Mostly I guess I just wanted to take a few moments to be this space and reminisce about those years. I wondered about it in my twenties when I couldn’t knock the door without seeming suspicious. I wondered in my thirties and forties when I was busy with my children and unwilling to revisit my own childhood. I wondered in my fifties and sixties when the desire seemed foolish and immature for man with grandchildren. Now I’m much older and I’ve finally found courage to knock on this old door.

     So I’m wondering ma’am, if some time, when it’s not too much trouble, if you’d be wiling to give me a tour of the place. I understand it’s an odd request but it would mean a great deal to me.”

He reached inside his pocket and produced a business card, which he handed to her. “Well that’s what I’ve come to say.” And with that Walter Pelican turned to leave. Jayne stood in the doorway unsure of what to say. She looked down at the card in her hand. It read, “Walter Abraham Pelican, Retired” with a phone number. “Mr. Pelican.” Walter Pelican did not turn back but cocked an ear towards her. “I’m not doing anything right now. I’d be happy to show you around.”

“I don’t want to intrude on your morning.” he replied already moving back from the top step to the porch.

“Oh it’s no bother Mr. Pelican.” Jayne answered. “I’m Jayne.”

Mr. Pelican stuck out his hand and stood as straight as he could, “Walter. It’s good to meet you Jayne.”

“It’s good to meet you Walter.”

Continued Here

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Plax

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"Yeah Hi, I'd like to hire that guy from "The Bodyguard." No not Kevin Costner, the guy, the bodyguard guy. Never mind."

So Plaxico Burress is going to prison. ESPN is reporting that Burress agreed to a plea that will send him away for two years. For those who have not been following the story Burress was arrested last season after accidentally shooting himself in the leg in a New York night club when a gun stuck in the waistband of his sweatpants slipped out and fired.

According to the ESPN.com article Burress's lawyer thinks his client was unfairly targeted because of his celebrity status. There are some aspects of the case that back that up. For example no one else involved in the incident was indicted even though there is evidence to suggest a fairly wide ranging attempt to cover up what happened. Plax's gun was not registered in New York or New Jersey. The security guard at the club did not confiscate the weapon at the scene to turn over to police. Instead he gave it to Giants linebacker Antonio Pierce (removing evidence) who then drove then gun to his own home (transporting an unlicensed weapon across state lines) then to Burress's home (and again). The staff at the hospital did not report the shooting to police which they are compelled to do in many states. Still, even though multiple people were involved in actions that point towards an attempt to shield Burress from prosecution only Burress is being held accountable.

That said, the lawyer's comments in regard to the severity of Burress's punishment are boarder line hysterical. here's a sampling from the ESPN.com article:

"This was not an intentional criminal act," Brafman said. "In my judgment, a two-year prison sentence is a very severe punishment."

"Brafman called the case "a perfect example about how bad judgment can have very serious consequences," and said Burress was treated more harshly because he is a celebrity."

"If Plaxico Burress were not a high-profile individual, there never would be a case," he said. "If he were just John Q Public he could have walked out of the club and he never would have been arrested."

Seriously? Lets discuss this further.

"This was not an intentional criminal act?" Really? So tucking an unlicensed handgun into the waistband of his sweatpants and going out to a night club was...an accident? "Oops, am I still carrying a concealed weapon without a permit? Silly me."

"If he were just John Q Public he could have walked out of the club and he never would have been arrested." Really? So if I carry a gun into a public venue, shoot myself and have the bullet nearly hit the security guard standing nearby I'll just get off without any kind of consequences? Cool. I'm thinking that what will really happen if J.Q. Public does this same thing is that the guard, realizing he's OK and that I almost Pacman Jonesed him will proceed to beat me within an inch of my life, then he'll call the cops, then I'll sit in jail until my trial because I can't come up with the bail, then I'll go to jail for whatever the maximum sentence is. I'm thinking people, even "normal" people, don't just get away with this kind of "unintentional criminal act."

So, what do we learn from this? I really don't know. I hope people learn that they should not carry guns around. Especially in the waistband of their sweatpants. I can't even keep my phone in an elastic waistband how did this guy think a gun was going to stay? Also, rich people, use your money to hire people to do things for you. If you're worried about security hire a body guard who is authorized to carry a weapon. If you like to drink call a cab, or a limo, or tour bus but don't get in your car and start driving around killing people. It looks like the Leonard Little days are over. If you are too stupid to remember these simple things hire someone to remember them for you. But for gawdsake stop doing this stupid shit.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

It's Not Who You Know

Berto and Jim Rice
Berto and Jim Rice
About twelve years ago I had the privilege of going to a San Francisco Giants game as a guest of a guest of the person playing the national anthem. This meant we got access to a catered luxury box and everything that comes with it. The game was notable for being the major league debut of future Twins All-Star closer Joe Nathan who began his career as a starter for the Giants. The box was full of people I didn't know which I was used to with these types of events but being an out going type I chatted with the people around me about the game and baseball in general.

When we left my host asked "So, did you get an autograph?"

"From who?" I had no idea what he was talking about.

"Tony Perez. The guy sitting next to you."
"Like, Big Red Machine? Tony Perez?"
"Yeah. The guy you were talking to."
"No. No one told me that was Tony Perez."
"So I guess you didn't meet Cepeda either."
"Orlando Cepeda?"
"Yeah, with the hat."
"I met him. We talked. I didn't get his name. Dude, you have got to tell me these things."

So there it was. I had just spent four hours talking baseball with a couple hall of famers and didn't even know it. Looking back it was probably a good thing I didn't know. I wasn't intimidated or over awed. I probably said somethings that made me look stupid in regards to baseball but I was myself. When I remember that day I don't dwell on the missed opportunity to get autographs and take pictures. I think of the rare chance to sit with legends on an equal footing. They didn't look at me and shake their heads at this kid who thought he knew the game. They engaged me in conversation. What I didn't know that day gave me a rich and treasured experience.

Ten years later I had another rare baseball opportunity. I was hired to work at the boston Red Sox fantasy camp . The camp was staffed by a mix of former Red Sox like Spaceman Lee, Oil can Boyd, and others who didn't have cool nicknames with appearances by current Red Sox coaches, hall of famer Carl Yastrzemski, and future hall of famer Jim Rice. Everyone (except Yaz who was only there for one day) did a great job of integrating the campers, men between the ages of 30 and 75, with the former players. Again here was a group of former big leaguers treating everyone around them as equals. Maybe this shouldn't be such a big deal, but in an age of pampered stars it was refreshing.

The main difference between the camp experience and the luxury box experience is that I knew who most of the players were. I had a chance to read a little bit about them and their careers before I arrived, they were introduced the first day, we spent a week hanging out and playing ball ten hours/day. We got a chance to get to know them. At one point Jim Rice asked me about my mismatched uniform (white home jersey/grey away pants):

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"They didn't give me a uniform Jim. I had to put this together myself."
"Aw c'mon it's not what you know, it's who you know. If you had come to us we could have hooked you up."
"I didn't know I knew you Jim."

One of my favorite guys was Luis Tiant. El Tiante was a good guy. Sox fans love Luis Tiant. I was not a Sox fan so all I knew about Tiant, other than him pitching in the 1975 World Series, is what I learned by talking to him. I knew he was from Cuba. I learned that he likes cigars and he's a jovial joking, kind hearted man. I left camp with a fond impression of El Tiante. It turns out I had only scratched the surface. I if I had known then what I've learned since I would have stood in awe of him.

ESPN recently premiered "The Lost Son of Havana" a film about Luis Tiant's first trip back to Cuba in 46 years. Luis Tiant was playing pro ball in Mexico when the Bay of Pigs Invasion occurred. At that time cuban athletes playing abroad were told to either come home and play amateur baseball or be exiled. Tiant, whose father had played in the Negro Leagues, chose Major League Baseball and exile. I won't recount his entire career here except to mention that Luis began playing in the US under Jim Crow, came back from injury, perception and age several times, and turned in one of the great World Series pitching performances of all time albeit in a losing cause. The crowning moment for Tiant was 1975 when Fidel Castro allowed Tiant's parents to leave cuba to watch their son pitch for the Red Sox. They hadn't seen each other in 14 years. El Tiante's father Luis Tiant Sr. who had pitched the New York Cubans to their only Negro League title was finally allowed to take the mound in a major league park when he threw out the first pitch at Fenway prior to his son's game. A year later both of Luis Tiant's parents passed away within a few hours of each other, his father of cancer and his mother of a ruptured aorta.

The legacy of Luis Tiant is that of a man who gave up everything to follow his dream. He gave up his family, and he gave up his homeland. His desire to test himself at the highest level and to fulfill the dream his father was never able to attain turned him into a permanent sojourner. He faced discrimination here and a mixture of scorn and admiration at home. Luis Tiant is a symbol of strength and perseverance. He is also part of the enduring legacy of Jackie Robinson.

It may seem like a leap to go from Luis Tiant to Jackie Robinson but follow me for a moment. There has been a lot of talk over the past few years about the dwindling impact of Jackie Robinson's legacy. People point to the decreasing numbers of African Americans in the majors as though it's a slap in the face of all the Robinson endured. The claims often indicate that baseball is not doing enough to attract African Americans to the sport and is thereby disrespecting Robinson in the process. This analysis in itself diminishes the impact of Robinson's legacy by overlooking dark skinned Latin American players.

Luis Tiant Sr. was not African American but he was barred from playing major league baseball because of his skin color. Jackie Robinson did not just break the color barrier for African Americans, he broke it for all players of color. Without Jackie Robinson there would have been no El Tiante in Boston, we would never have seen Manny Being Manny, no Pedro striking out six in the all star game. Without Robinson there is no Clemente. Without Robinson there is no Tony Perez or Orlando Cepeda for me to lead off this article with. Without Jackie Robinson there is no Mpho Ngoepe. Haven't heard of him?

Mpho Ngoepe is a Pirates minor leaguer and the subject of a recent Sports Illustrated article. Mpho, or "Gift" is trying to become the first ever African player in the Major Leagues. People who focus on the number of African American players in the major leagues as the sole measure of Jackie Robinson's legacy are doing a disservice to both Robinson and to all of the dark skinned Latino players who have come into the league since 1947. They are also marginalizing players like Gift who will come into the league in future years.

In the end it isn't about who you know. It's what you know about them. Orlando Cepeda, Tony Perez, and Jim Rice are all in the Hall of Fame. Meeting them was a thrill, even if only in hindsight. But everything I know about them begins and ends with their credentials. It's Tiant that I will always remember the most. Thinking about this jovial little butterball that I joked with and drank with for a week one spring, how I saw him then, and everything I've learned about him since will stick with me as one of the most cherished experiences of my life. Knowing that this man who had been through so much, dealt with so much pain, could keep on smiling is something I hope I can carry into my own life. When I sit down to teach my son about baseball I'll teach him about Rickey and Campy, and Manny. But I'll take extra time to teach him about Jackie, and Clemete, and Tiant, the man who gave up everything, and kept on laughing.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Cribbs Notes

Cribbs
Image created by dawgpounddaily.com, hosted on photobucket

So Joshua Cribbs wants a new deal with four years left on his current contract. He says he wants Devin Hester money. Some people agree with him. Some people are Sir Rantalot. And then there's bam28226. As we saw in the Mike Vick debate post the people who get the most passionate about these arguments also have the least to say. So what's the point of these posts? To show how clever Sir Rantalot is? Not really. It's more to show that even when you show people the rationale behind the debate they still refuse to see anything other than what they want to see. It doesn't matter if it's health care or football ignorance rules the roost.

Again, do not debate if you don't have anything of substance to say.

Bertissimo 10:23am

Wah! Wah! Wah! What a baby.

You signed a six year deal, honor it. The only way the team isn't honoring the deal like Cribbs claims is if they don't pay him. If you want to renegotiate this soon you should have signed a two year deal. You sir are no D. Hester.

Oh, and if you can't live off 6 mil for the rest of your life you're doing something wrong. Cribbs makes in one year what I make in 10. My family is doing fine. Learn to budget dummy.

--Oh but he's a triple threat. He's a return man, a WR, a QB, a RB and he sells hot dogs during half time.--

Bertissimo 10:35am

Career

REC YDS AVG LNG TD
16 / 153 / 9.6 / 18 / 1

CAR YDS AVG LNG TD
40 / 239 / 6.0 / 27 / 1

This guy has 16 career receptions and 40 carries. He's not exactly Slash Stewart. He's not even Troy Brown. He's not underpaid, he's getting what he's worth.

--Now it gets fun--

bam68226 10:36am

bertissimo You are a idiot to think hester is better then cribbs. hester avg 20 yrds a return in his career cribbs 28, and as i recall hester lost his return job bc he wasnt preforming for the last 8 games. you dont know nothing.

--A guy who used the word "preforming" just called me an idiot. He also deleted a post where he said I was aliar and there's no way I make $1M/year.--

Bertissimo 10:48am

Bam,

You moron, Hester also has 71 career receptions including 51 last year. He's WAY more valuable than Cribbs. Oh, and if needed he's a better defender than Cribbs. At least you cleaned up your bad math though so kudos on that. Dummy.

bam68226 10:52am

bert you are dumb really cribbs playd QB, RB, WR, defense of special teams, and returner. he buy far is way more versitile then hester. and comin from a hurricane fan hester is whack so hope of his D. you dummy. its hard to carry a team on your back like he did never getting time to catch his breath, but i always say hester on his bench cept when recievin

--"but i always say hester on his bench cept when recievin" Huh?--

bam68226 10:57am

oh and bert yea i think it was daniel manning who took over kick returns at the end of the bears season, #### im a browns fan and i know more bout any team then you do

Bertissimo 11:03am

Bam,

Who cares about Daniel Manning? Considering your spelling and grammar you should chill with insulting people's intelligence. You really are the worst kind of ignorant.

--I usually try to stay off of mentioning people's spelling and grammar in chats because it online but this guy called me stupid one too many times.--

bam68226 11:05am

your right who cares bout him but guess what he was doing his job over hesters thats why hester lost it and right now idc bout my spelling and grammer it isnt school, im heated right now bc your an ignorant piece of S***

Bertissimo 11:06am

The hold out strategy worked in the past but I think teams are over it by this point. It seems that in the past players held out if they had a year left on their deal and they wanted to stay where they were. But this new trend of players wanting to renegotiate with two or more years left on their contracts is terrible. If you want to renegotiate that soon sign shorter deals.

bam68226 11:07am

just bc you cant be famous and make good money like these people and work as hard as hard as they do. its not just the 16 games for his 6 million hes making. its all year round the effort they put outside the field and having talkd to cribbs seen cribbs he is one of the hardest working players you will ever see, bert

--He just kind of threw me in there at the end. Why?--

bertissimo 11:09am

Bam,

You're comparing a returner to a position player you yutz. Who cares if Hester lost his return job? He's a real full time player now, not a gimmick. You're whole argument is based on Hester's primary value being a returner. It's like comparing you to someone with a clue, it's two totally different things.

rgs_13 11:10am

return guys and average WRs are a dime a dozen

Bertissimo 11:10am

"return guys and average WRs are a dime a dozen "

Exactly.

bam68226 11:10am

oh bert your real funny cribbs doesnt have aset spot when he plays the whole damn game, have you watched football before, i mean come on he is every where on the field

bearsclone 11:12am

"If you want to renegotiate that soon sign shorter deals."

The problem is that as a drafted rookie, your rights are controlled by one team, and they can largely dictate terms. If you are a top pick, you have the leverage, because no team wants the PR nightmare of being bad AND having their top pick not sign-- it makes the fans angry and gives them no hope for the future.

If you are outside of that top 15, you have a greatly diminished amount of leverage. A team says "sign this six year deal" and you either sign it or sit out a year and come back a year older, not playing any football for a year, and suddenly you're a 4th round pick or go undrafted.

If you sign a veteran deal (that is, you get a nice fat contract extension with a signing bonus, that you didn't NEED to sign) then I agree. I hate the fact that some one will sign a huge deal that makes them the most highly paid person at their position ever, and then in year four or five of that eight year deal, they want a new one.

Bertissimo 11:14am

"The problem is that as a drafted rookie, your rights are controlled by one team"

He's not on his rookie deal. He signed an extension in 2007 before his 3rd year.

bearsclone 11:16am

"He's not on his rookie deal. He signed an extension in 2007 before his 3rd year."

If that's the case then I can see where people would have a problem with it.

--Thanks bearsclone. Now that's a friendly debate.--

bam68226

bert, he is a KR,PR,QB,RB,WR, special teams defense, and this year soon to be a CB. please tell me hester does all that for his 40 mil contract and 15 mil guranteed. thats right cribbs does it all for 6 mil point in case deserves a raise

--OK, bam's coming around. He said something half way cogent and didn't call me an idiot. Cool. At this point I get behind in a couple responses because I had to go and do some actual work at work. I thin kyou can still foloow the thread though.--

Bertissimo 11:19am

Bam,

Since I don't live in Ohidaho I don't get to see many Browns games. We have our own cruddy teams to watch here. So I'm very familiar with the players that play really well on losing teams around here. I just don't have the time to follow every terrible team in the league to see who's doing just enough to not really matter. It's great that you love Cribbs so much. Good for you.

bam68226 11:21am

Bert i live 3.5 hrs away from cleveland and i went to 7 out of 8 games one missd bc i had a college baseball game, and i bet your team you like is garb. im not sayn the browns are the best in the league we have problems and it was signing mangini as are coach

bam68226 11:22am

by the way its ohio, and i bet i went to more games last year then you did your entire life

OhioDevil 11:23am

Bam are you serious? Do you even watch the Browns play? Cribbs is on the field for maybe 10-15 plays a game, he does not play QB or RB. Every time he lines up back there he ran the ball for 2yds up the middle. The guy is a great cover guy on special teams and a great return guy, but teams kicked away from him last season negating his effectiveness. There is no way a Special Teamer can demand a new deal, just because the Bears were stupid and paid Hester does not open the door for Cribbs. If Cribbs wins a spot as a Safety or Corner, then yes...give him a raise.

Bertissimo 11:26

Yeah, he's a great QB. He's 1 for 5 for 8yds and a whopping 39.6 rating. Hes got 8 total TDs in his 4 year career.

Hester has 17 TDs in 3 years.

bam68226 11:29

bc they kickd the ball to hester, they were afraid of cribbs. and damn i wish i could have the fluke year that hester had to he had 1 good year cribbs has been increasing as his years go on

--Yeah. That year the Bears went to the Super Bowl no one was afraid of Hester. Right.--

Bertissimo 11:30am

Bam,

I already said I don't care about how many games I've watched or been to or seen and I've already said the teams in my area are terrible. Who cares how many games you go to each year? You're still a dummy. You probably should know more if you invest so much time into it.

And it's Ohidaho because I said it's Ohidaho.

bam68226 11:32am

haha well your a #### to say its that where you from north dakota where there are more cows then people haha

--????--

bam68226 11:34am

o and by the way i dont invest my time in it your the one coming up with all the stats, mine are from my head i dont have the time i have a life, sorry i cant sit on a comp all day and look at stats like you

--This from the guy who's been matching me comment for comment all morning. I'll never understand the people who feel like it's a conversational advantage to just spout whatever it is they half remember based on their hazy impressions of events rather than taking ten seconds to look it up. People, research and verification are good things!--

Bertissimo 11:35am

"haha well your a #### to say its that where you from north dakota"

Dude, I work with languages for a living but I have to say I have no idea what this is supposed to mean. I get that you think I'm from ND but that's about it. Are you drunk?

bam68226 11:40

congradulations BERT you work with languages you want a present. i dont give a you know what where you work, your the one that seems to know everything but you still cant give a valid reason, why he doesnt deserve his money

this is to an earlier statement you had o and by the way i dont invest my time in it your the one coming up with all the stats, mine are from my head i dont have the time i have a life, sorry i cant sit on a comp all day and look at stats like you

--But he had time to repeat that comment about not knowing anything.--

Bertissimo 11:44am

Bam,

Looking up stats takes two minutes, far less time than driving from Saskatoon to Cleveland to spend 5 hours at the game then driving home. But you have a life right? And you do have time to spend all day on the computer, you've been chatting it up with me for over an hour. But hey, we know math isn't your strong suit. Neither is English. You're kind of the Josh Cribbs of this discussion, you're all over the place but you don't really contribute to any wins.

thirdfloor81 11:44am

2 receptions for 18 yards and 1 touchdown in 2008... BOO HOO CRIBBS!

bam68226 11:45am

thirdfloor81 hey funny how donte stallworth, kellen winslow, braylon edwards, syndric steptoe, steve heiden are all in front of him of course he isnt goin to get many receptions

--Wait, haven't you been basing your argument on how great a receiver he is? If he's so great why are there five guys ahead of him on the depth chart?--

bam68226 11:48am

bert i havent been on a comp in a week prolly and since your so ignorant how couldnt i stay on and chat with you. bc you think your the man but your cases have all been whack just like you

--Heh. I'm compelling.--

oronatx 11:49am

Bertissmo,

Thats great. You summed this dude up best

"You're kind of the Josh Cribbs of this discussion, you're all over the place but you don't really contribute to any wins"

lmao

--Heh. I have fan.--

Bertissimo 11:51am

Bam, you make no sense pal. What you did last week doesn't matter. It's now that counts. And yes. I am the man.

bam68226 11:53am

bert you are a tool, not the man your the person at work that gets annoying and people tell to shut up bc thats all you been is a pest, that has no knowledge of sports

--Now it's just getting silly. But I'm OK with that.--

Bertissimo 11:57am

Bam, I clearly know way more than you and with less effort. I rule. People at work love me because I'm fun and I'm good at what I do. Man=Me.

bam68226 11:57am

bert normally the people that say that dont have friends, your a no one and its said to see that, but i hope your right in that you do have friends but the way you have been doesnt show any promise just like hesters career no promise hes LAZY

Bertissimo 11:59

Bam, I didn't bring it up. You did.

--Then there was some name calling and a discussion of the 49ers. I went to work for a couple hours and returned to this:--

Irishogs 1:51pm

GIVE THE MAN HIS MONEY!!!! He is our most dependable offensive player. He always plays hard and has done everything asked of him from being a kick returner, to a wide receiver, to running the wildcat, and apparently now playing cornerback. I'm starting to think Mangini is on a mission to destroy the Browns. Consistently, Cribbs makes the plays and catches that Braylon usually drops.

Mr. Lerner - GIVE THE MAN HIS MONEY!!!

Bertissimo 1:59pm

"He is our most dependable offensive player."

He scored 3 TDs last year. He doesn't consistently make catches Edwards can't, he only had 2 catches last season and only 16 in 4 years. If he's the best on the team the team is in big trouble.

Irishogs 2:03pm

Bertissimo:

I'm saying he shows up every game, and he plays every down. Maybe he only had 3 TDs last year, but he wasn't the main guy either. Compare him to the main guys (Winslow, Edwards, Stallworth) and talk to me about efficiency. I put Stallworth in that group because he was supposed to be important to our offense. Although, he was ridiculously underused which isn't entirely his fault.

I'm not saying he is our most talented receiver. I'm saying that he is our most consistent and dependable player, and if he outplays and outperforms the main guys (despite fewer attempts) he should be paid at their level.

--Well said. Next is a response to a few Cribbs apologists.--

Bertissimo 2:36pm

"if he outplays and outperforms the main guys (despite fewer attempts) he should be paid at their level"

--Maybe. But he hasn't done it yet.

"HE PLAYS MORE THAN 1 POSITION"

--And he doesn't play any of them other than KR/PR at an elite level. His best skill position seems to be RB. If he was an elite RB he'd be starting there.

"This isn't him crying over his contract after the 1st or 2nd year"

--Yes it is. This is now the third year of this deal.

"he's a better WR (as of right now)" (than Hester)

--No he's not. He had 2 catches last year Hester had 51.

If you want to look at versatility and playing multiple positions compare Cribbs as a QB and Ronnie Brown (the man who put the wildcat on the map last year).

Cribbs for his career is 1 for 5 for 8 yds and 0 TD. Brown is 2 for 4 for 41 yds and 1 TD. But Brown also rushed for 916 yds and had 16 receptions and 10 total TDs last year. Cribbs had 2 catches 167 yds rushing and 3 total TDs.

Cribbs is not the offensive dynamo some people think he is.

How about Cribbs compared to LT?

Remember Cribbs: 1 for 5, 8 yds, 0 TD.

LT: 8 for 11, 143 yds, 7 TDs

Plus LT contributes way more to the offense. Cribbs has made himself slightly more valuable than as just a good return man. That's how you keep your job, but not enough to make demands with 4 years left on your deal.

FEEZJAMES 2:45pm

BERTISSIMO look, when he gets the opportunities he's not gonna disappoint, I don't agree with the Hester comment either, but understand he was a situational player last year whereas Hester was already put into the system. but since you took one of my quotes (not mad at ya 4 that) you seem to leave the most important one out. WHO LED THE BROWNS IN ALL-PURPOSE YARDS LAST YEAR. and last time i checked All-purpose yards DOES determine who your top 2 (if not 3) best yard producers are, therefore MAKING THEM 1 OF YOUR BEST PLAYERS. Like it or not people, he deserves it and find a better reason other than comparing his bankroll to yours why he doesn't deserve it. Then It'll be a REAL debate here.

FEEZJAMES 2:48pm

ok BERTISSIMO you're sounding real asinine with that one. comparing Cribbs to LT is comparing Elway to Plummer or Cutler, U CAN'T COMPARE APPLES AND ORANGES DUDE, come more sensible than that

Bertissimo 3:03pm

"WHO LED THE BROWNS IN ALL-PURPOSE YARDS LAST YEAR. and last time i checked All-purpose yards DOES determine who your top 2 (if not 3) best yard producers are, therefore MAKING THEM 1 OF YOUR BEST PLAYERS."

I disagree. First off Cribbs wasn't even in the top ten in all purpose yards in the NFL last year. Some of the guys who beat him out were Steve Breaston, Eddie Royal, Johnnie Lee-Higgins and Josh Wilson. These guys are not among the best players on their teams. These are not the guys who make their teams "go." Should Breaston ask for a new deal to put him on par with Larry Fitzgerald? Breaston had more yards.

"Cribbs to LT is comparing Elway to Plummer or Cutler, U CAN'T COMPARE APPLES AND ORANGES DUDE,"

Exactly, but it seems his agent and people in this discussion are saying he's as valuable as other guys with big money deals who do more than one thing. He's not. He's a good KR/PR and below average at everything else. He needs to compare himself to other KR/PR not guys who actually start at a skill position.

Oh and he's asking for a raise after ranking 12th n KR and 18th in PR yards. Outside the top ten in his specialty.

FEEZJAMES 3:17pm

well BERTISSIMO i don't know where you've been but everybody in Phoenix (recent visit) said despite what Fitz has done, they wouldn't have gotten there without Steve Breaston who they refer to as their 'X-Factor'. So that's null and void. Eddie Royal will be Denver's #2 receiver, don't know those other guys but I thought my ? was WHO LED THE BROWNS in all-purpose yards, NOT THE NFL. which validates point #3 (Breaston and Royal the other 2) anything else?

Bertissimo 3:22pm

FEEZ,

My point is that all purpose yards is a misleading stat. It doesn't always point to your best players. You have a good point about Royal, I forgot about him. Breaston did very well, but he's not an elite player at this point. You can get other guys to do what he does.

Teams also wouldn't make it through the year, through the playoffs, to the Super Bowl without kickers. Kickers often lead their teams in points but very few people think kickers should be given huge contracts. Cribbs is a nice player, but he's not great

Players with more impact and less money than Cribbs who have not issued a press release:

Lance Moore

Vincent Jackson

Johnnie Lee Higgins

Steve Breaston

Brandon Marshall

The bottom line is that guys like Cribbs are like utility baseball players. The guy who starts at six different positions in a season usually doesn't do it because he's such a great player. These guys learn to play several positions because that's how they keep a roster spot. If they were good enough to play one position and stay in the line up they would do it. Cribbs doesn't play WR/RB/QB/DB because he's a great player. He does it because he's not good enough at any of those positions to play any of them full time. In short he's a slash guy because he's not good enough to do anything else. Hopefully he, and myopic Browns fans, will figure that out.

Monday, August 10, 2009

I'm a Bad Fan

I'm a bad fan. At least that's what I gather based the fact that I don't want my team to win. I want them to lose. I want them to lose enough to end up with a top ten draft pick, but not a top five draft pick. I'll tell you why.

Recently 49ers first round draft pick Michael Crabtree's "advisor" (cousin) has stated that is willing to hold out the entire year rather than take the slotted money being offered by the 49ers. This comes on the heels of Crabtree's agent, Eugene Parker, saying that Crabtree should be paid like a top five pick despite the fact that Crabtree was drafted with the tenth pick. This is apparently based on where Crabtree was projected to go in the draft . Parker issued a non-denial denial regarding the hold out threat but that has not kept this from becoming a hot story in the bay area.

Of course there are several reasons why Crabtree should not be paid like a top five pick. The first being that he was drafted tenth (see previous paragraph). The second is that not only was Crabtree not the top player in the draft, he wasn't even the top player at his position. That honor went to Darius Heyward-Bey who was also not a top five pick (number seven to the Raiders). Finally many sports including the NFL use an informal slotting system for paying draft picks. That is if the number one pick gets X then everyone else gets less than X with the number 2 pick getting roughly X-(1 draft slot), the number 3 pick getting X-(2 draft slots) and so on. This has the most impact at the top of the draft where there's more ego involved. #2 is never going to sign for less than #3 or #4. So with only six of the top ten picks signed so far it seems like people are waiting to see what Crabtree gets before making deals for players picked higher in the draft.

According to Ray Ratto among others I should be upset with the 49ers. I should be crying out that they do whatever it takes to sign Crabtree. After all we need him in order to win. Right? Right? Uh....right....? Sure the Niners came within a couple plays of beating Arizona twice and maybe making the playoffs but that's not enough to convince me. Who knows, maybe a game breaking wide out would have made the difference. Maybe going with Shawn Hill from the beginning would have made the difference. Maybe Eddie DeBartolo not getting popped for bribing a Louisiana Governor would have made the difference. But I'm not upset with the team. Why should they over pay a guy to come in and not make a difference on a bad team?

I think it's time for teams to go back to the days of taking stands against players and their insane demands. It seems like the teams are with me. You can find evidence of this in the Joshua Cribbs story this off-season. Cribbs wanted "Devin Hester money" but hadn't put up Devin Hester numbers. Anyone remember Sean Gilbert? Yeah. So here's why I'm a bad fan. I hope Crabtree does hold out the entire year. I hope the 49ers lose enough games to land some where between the 6th and the 10th draft pick. Then I hope they draft Crabtree again and offer him a little less than they offered him this year. And if he holds out again I hope they draft him every year until he retires. They won't need a top ten pick every year. After a while they'd be able to get him for a 2nd round pick then a 3rd round pick and so on. I'm a bad fan because I'd rather see an example made of this player than see my team win.

I guess this is what happens when the team is so bad for so long. Maybe I'd feel different if the Niners were winning and adding talent might actually mean something. For now though I'm rooting that no one wins.

Oh and if you want a laugh track back through some of the comments on Josh Cribbs article. There's an even better debate on there between me and a guy coming "off the doom."