Tag Archives: Sports

Conflicting Interests and the Big Game

Another Super Bowl is done and despite the herculean last minute efforts by both teams, the game came down exactly as the prognosticators (read Vegas bookies) predicted it would. Funny how that happens. I’m not a big sports fan—never have been—and I usually only watch the teams for which I root. Since I live in Houston, I root for the Texans. Any other teams, I really couldn’t care less how they play or who they play and I rarely watch the games. In fact, I rarely watch the Texans because I have noticed that they lose the games when I watch. Of course, they lose the games I don’t watch too, so I’m not sure my strategy of support is working. It’s a moot point now anyway, as the Texans didn’t even make the playoffs this year. While the game had its intrigue, there are other shows on TV with more interest for me.

When I was younger, I watched the Super Bowl because my friends all did and I wanted to be able to talk about it with them the next day at school. This was before it became acceptable to miss work or school the day after the Big Game. Then, I watched primarily for the commercials, because the creativity if the commercials airing during the game were far superior to the regular commercials we were subjected to.

I spend most weekends, to my wife’s eye-roll, clearing out the week’s worth of recording on the DVR. Shows I missed because we were out, or because they aired opposite something else we watched or because the show came on after we went to bed tend to pile up. So, we were binge watching Unforgettable Sunday up until about 7ish. Once we finished the episode, I flipped over to the Super bowl just in time for the Half Time show. I thought the game started at 7, so I was a little disappointed that I missed the first half, not because I wanted to see the plays, but rather because I was expecting to see the commercials.

I’m not the world’s biggest Katy Perry fan. I have some of her music in the library, but there are only 2 or 3 songs of hers that I like, because I am not a teeny-bopper and I am male. Michelle holds her in slightly less esteem than I, even though we both acknowledge that she has an amazing voice and, if she wanted to, she could successfully sing much more mature songs very well. That having been said, I was very impressed with her Half Time show. It was a very elaborate and visually stunning technical achievement that used mechanics, pyrotechnics and holographics to accentuate the musical performance. One of the best aspects of the show, however, was that Katy actually SANG the songs, rather than merely dancing around half-naked to a pre-recorded track like Beyonce’s show last year. Big kudos to the half time show.

After the show, the second half started and I watched a couple of plays from both offenses and was impressed with the way the Seahawks were handling the Patriots in those few minutes of gametime. They stopped the drive with an interception and drove down the field for a touchdown to take a ten-point lead. I liked the way the running back fought through the line to get the yardage rather than falling down like a lot of modern players do these days. Impressive. Then it was time to switch over to something more interesting: Downton Abbey.

While the game I did see was good, and from all reports, the rest of the game was just as good, I had no dog in this hunt. I couldn’t get behind either team in this contest. Since Michelle and I have both become mad Downton Abbey addicts, we would rather watch Robert and Cora try to manage their wayward daughters while Mr and Mrs. Bates avoid a prison term for murder and Carsen and Mrs. Hughes flirt with each other in a stiff, starchy British way. It is the one show that exists on TV Michelle will look forward to watching.

Now that the football season is over for the next two weeks or so (there are those for whom the season never ends) I can look forward to watching shows when the schedule says they are going to start, rather than waiting for the game delays that mess up my DVR recording schedule.

If someone can successfully convince me that the NFL has gone back to the pure love of the game playing and officiating that isn’t predetermined by bookies and league officials, I may start watching games again. Maybe. Then again, maybe not. Depends if Downton Abbey is on opposite.

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How Do You Get To The Super Bowl?

The elaborate sensation that is the superbowl is touted as the culmination of America’s dream, if you listen to the NFL-sponsored, celebrity-voiced spots that introduce the game. Only the best teams get to the championship (just ignore the season stats for those other teams with better records)and the NFL spends tons of money hyping the event. Cities spend millions trying to win the honor of hosting the game with the hopes of generating even more in tourist revenue from fans that come to watch it. The Networks spend millions on broadcasting rights and technology to bring it into everyone’s home and then charge millions in airtime for the commercials. Everyone invests huge amounts of time and energy—except, it seems, the artists who sing the national anthem. In case you didn’t hear it, Christina Aguilera messed up the anthem.

In the midst of near record breaking winter storms across the nation and government changes in the middle east, America focuses its collective attention on something much more important and socially relevant: the superbowl (if you believe the hype). Now celebrating its 45th anniversary, the NFL championship game continues to garner more and more of the nation’s otherwise short attention span each year. Where once we just watched the game and it was over in just over two hours (this was before commercial timeouts), Sunday’s exhibition took the better part of the day with programming starting at noon and continuing until almost 9 pm from the pregame show through the game and the postgame festivities. There is also the halftime show which is another matter entirely, and the commercials which have become events all their own.

With all this attention, it seems that the artist given the honor of kick-starting the event by singing the National Anthem—our nation’s song, that song that represents all that our country can be—would want to turn in a performance worthy of the honor. Most people who are called upon to speak or sing or perform or whatever would do something to make certain their performance was as good as it could be like, oh I don’t know, perhaps practice? Or how about actually learning the lyrics of the song? The National Anthem has become something of a joke at sporting events it seems because of how often it is messed up by celebrity performers.

The tradition of singing the anthem is an old one and it happens at every professional and most semi-pro sporting events, where it is sung by local singers from high schools or churches or even locals artists. Even a three-year-old turned in a spectacular performance. These renditions are almost always done right, whereas the professional singers don’t seem to get it. Perhaps they think that, because they are celebrities, they don’t need to rehearse. Christina, perhaps you should have actually rehearsed. Maybe the instead of asking some big name celeb to sing the anthem, the NFL should actually hold auditions for the job. Artists should be lining up and vying for the chance to perform this significant song.

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It’s not the same, no matter how you cut it.

While sitting in the airport recently, I was listening to the endless repetition of HLN (anyone notice that CNN Headline News changed their name?) the anchor woman asked the following poll question: should women be allowed to serve in combat roles?  Now, I am not that old, but have we not debated this point ad nauseum?  Why is it being brought up again now?

The women of America have come a long way over the years.  From housewives and mothers of old, the typical woman today has many more life choices than their predecessors.  The women’s lib movement gave women the right to vote, and during WWII, many women moved into male dominated jobs when the men went to serve in the military.  Women now serve in senior leadership roles in every major corporation in the country.  They even have professional sport teams in basketball and football.  They have come a long way, baby.

Not far enough, evidently, for some.  There are loud voices still clamoring for the NFL to allow women to play on the same teams as men.  There are still cries of pay inequality in corporate America, and—from what I gathered this morning—still loud voices wanting women to serve in combat roles in the military.  My question is why.

Why do women feel the need to compete on a physical level with men?   Women have proven they are quite intelligent and in many standardized tests they score higher on average.  Ok, good for them.  They can solve problems and make tough decisions.  Well, this is why they have gotten as far as they have in jobs and rights.  Women have equal rights as men, that is not in question.  What is in question is ‘are they the same?’

I am not a chauvinist, but women are not equal to men in one very basic way.  Biology.  Women are put together differently.  It is a simple biological fact and one that cannot be ignored.  The average human female is smaller in stature than the average human male (and the key word is average—please don’t offer specific examples of Amazonian-class women who can beat me up).  Between that same average male and female, the male will be stronger with a more defined musculature.  I don’t care how you cut it, if you take the average woman and the average man and put them into the exact same exercise regime and diet, the male will remain bigger and stronger than the woman.

Because of this, women cannot compete on the same playing field as men when it comes to intense physical games like basketball and football.  Sure you can look at tennis and golf and cite the fantastic female players in those sports who can even beat the male players, but really—apples and oranges.  Jack Nicholas would get creamed by William Perry and Tiger Woods couldn’t stand up to Warren Sap, so why would anyone think a woman would fare any better?  I mean, I am sure there are women who could beat me in football, but that’s not saying much.  Football and basketball are too physically intense for a woman to play a man on a professional level.

The same goes for combat.  In the trenches, combat is a physically intense activity.  Few women can pass the male standards for the APFT (at least that was the case in my day); which is why the Army has a different set of standards for females.  Also, on the battlefield, combat can often come down to man-to-man, hand-to-hand fighting and while I know there are some women who can beat some men, they are still at a distinct disadvantage when you average it all together.  Besides, there are so many combat support roles that women can fill that are integral to any war effort.  Why insist on picking up a rifle and shooting at the enemy when the risks involve capture?  Women who get captured may have to endure a whole different captivity than their male counterparts.  This problem is not only with the enemy either.  Our own male troops may be tempted to exploit the proximity of women is an unpleasant way.

The problem comes from those who are not particularly interested in the specific case of women in combat for the sake of national security.  They want women in combat so that the government has to say women are the same as men.  Essentially, they want society to no longer see any difference between the sexes.  The only way to do that is to put blinders on and dispense with intelligence altogether, which does seem to fit into the Liberal agenda anyway.

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Why Watch the Game?

Football! Just that word congers images of stadiums full of loud, screaming fans doing the wave and chanting fight songs and cheers and tailgate parties and beer and cheerleaders in skimpy outfits and big, brawny men in tight, padded, colorful uniforms. It is a uniquely American event (Canada is in North America, so they count) that many of our European friends don’t understand. They think our football is a joke compared to their football (which we call soccer), but the joke must be on them, because I doubt their country has as much money invested in the sport as the NFL earns in rights assignments alone. But I don’t want to get into money or the league.

I just want to talk about football. The game. The Big Game. The game that fans actually allocate time to watch. People set schedules around the kickoff. Vacations are planned with home team home stands in mind. People make college choices based on the football program and even decide on where to live based on the team representing the city. I actually heard someone say that they couldn’t move to a city that didn’t have a professional football team. People paint their faces and bodies with their team colors just to sit home and watch the game on the TV—speaking of which, people invest thousands of dollars for the latest start-of-the-art HDTVs just to watch the big game.

I’ll let you in on a little secret. I’m not a big football fan. Actually, I’m not much of a sports fan at all. Believe it or not, I can take it or leave it. I don’t follow the stats, I don’t even follow the scores or the bowl races. I know the names of the marquee players only because they are in the news (for whatever reason be it drugs, rape, felony convictions). No, I don’t care about most teams at all, but I do follow the Home teams. The Astros (if they are in the pennant race) the Rockets (if they are winning) and the Texans (as long as I don’t watch them). In fact, I can’t watch any sporting event if I care about the outcome—and that is the real reason I’m not a fan.

When I was a little kid, oh maybe 10 or 11, I was at school and trying (maybe a little too hard) to fit in. The guys I wanted to hang out with were standing around at recess talking football. Now, I had played PeeWee league football with the youth association teams (which consisted of sitting on the bench most of the time and running where I was told to run the few times I was allowed on the field) but I did not know anything about football. I didn’t know the whole series-of-downs paradigm (what was a first down and why was it better than a fourth?), I didn’t know what a safety was, nor did I understand touchback. I did know that a touchdown was a good thing, but why was it 6 points instead of 1?

Well, you can see that trying to worm into a conversation with this level of expertise was a futile gesture, but I was not to be dissuaded. They were talking about the upcoming weekend’s matchup between the Cowboys of Dallas and the Pittsburg Steelers. One young man was saying that the Steelers were favored to win while another was saying that Roger Staubach could beat the Steelers blindfolded. Now I knew that Dallas was in Texas and Texas had cowboys and I preferred to be a cowboy rather than an Indian since Indians got shot, and all I knew about Pittsburg was that it was on the east coast and I’d never lived anywhere close to there.

So, I chimed in and said with an authority that belied my experience that the Cowboys would surely beat the Steelers easily. Well, you can only imagine the conversation as it went from there. “Nu-uh. Uh-huh. Nu-uh. Uh-huh,” ad nauseum until the fateful words leapt from the young man’s mouth: “Wanna Bet?” Well, I was no pushover, but then again, I was no Kenny Rodgers either. “What?”

“I bet five dollars that the Steelers beat the Cowboys.” Let me take a second to put that in context. This game was Superbowl 10. In 1976, 5 dollars was roughly equivalent to 20 bucks today. To an 11-year-old, it might as well be a hundred. So, needless to say, I took the bet. I didn’t have the money and I didn’t understand gambling, so it was a chance to get five dollars; more importantly, it was a chance to be accepted.

That was the first football game I actually watched from start to end that I actually cared who won. It was the first game that I followed play by play, even though I didn’t understand the intricacies of the game. It was the game that taught me many lessons about sports, games, football and gambling. In case you were wondering, the Cowboys lost that game when Roger Staubach threw an end-zone interception as time expired; and more importantly, I lost that bet.

I was devastated. How could I face those guys at school? And more importantly, where was I going to get five dollars? Thankfully, my mother loaned me the five, and something happened at school that I didn’t expect. I could actually talk about the game with these guys. I remembered the plays (though I didn’t know the players other than Staubach and Bradshaw) and could discuss the game with some knowledge.

Later in life, I became a fan of the Oilers, which was an exercise in frustration. Though they had a superbowl-caliber team with Dan Pastorini and Earl Campbell, they never won the conference championship, despite three consecutive visits to the game. Now that I follow the Texans, it becomes clear that I cannot watch a game—any game—if I care about the outcome. Whenever I do, the team I am rooting for will invariably lose. I watched Arkansas play LSU and though it was a riveting game, the Razorbacks lost in overtime. My wife Michelle and I spent three hours yelling at the screen and Michelle dutifully hollered “Wooo-pig Sooie” at each kick-off. I am certain that, had we not watched, they would have emerged victorious.

So, I don’t watch sports and I don’t get invested in them—either emotionally or financially. It is not that I am an anti-sports nerd, but I just don’t want to spend that much of my time worrying about the outcome. So, if the Vikings play The Eagles, so what? If the Rockets are eliminated from playoff contention, who cares? Once I care about who wins, I will be tempted to watch, and then I have just ensured their loss.

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The Newest Sports Craze!

There is a new sport taking hold over the country (at least wherever I am) that no one is talking about. It’s fun! It’s exciting! It’s challenging! And it actually serves a beneficial purpose! What is this sport I’m talking about? It’s a simple but challenging game of skill involving timing and hand-eye coordination. It’s a game that anyone can play but few (ok several) can master. It is (drum roll) Shopping Cart Bowling!

The premise is simple: take your shopping cart after you empty your groceries into your vehicle, find the nearest cart corral, take careful aim from across at least one lane in the parking lot, time it carefully, ensure the front of the cart is lined up and then give it a good shove. If the cart fully enters the corral, you win 10 points. If your cart crosses more than one traffic lane and enters the corral, give yourself 10 points for each lane. If the corral is not lined up straight with your position and you still get the cart fully into it without moving your start point you get 10 more points. If the cart you pushed fully enters the corral AND docks with another cart already in the corral you get 50 bonus points. For the docking to count, both carts have to be fully in the corral and your cart must be fully inserted into the first cart from the force of the initial push only. No helping it along…that would be cheating.

See? Simple, challenging and fun. It gets more difficult on windy days, but if you’re good at gauging wind drift, you can compensate. Give yourself 5 additional points if you get into the corral when the wind is greater than 10 mph. Heavy shopping days where the parking lot traffic is high is another challenge. You get a 100 point bonus for threading your cart between two moving cars and still getting it into the corral without hitting any cars. It goes without saying you lose your points for hitting cars, not to mention you can get sued. But, hey, no sport is without risk.

It’s fun to play and it serves a beneficial purpose as well. How many times have you pulling into a parking spot only to find that it has one or more shopping carts already parked there? Ever been to the store and found that, although the lot was relatively empty of cars, all the spots were full of carts? I realize it is not the patron’s job to clear carts, but they put the corrals there for a reason. It is bad enough that we sacrifice parking spots for the corrals in the first place, but to lose those spots and still more spots to carts not in the corrals is lunacy. I saw a Wal-Mart with a corral in every 10th parking spot. But if they are used, they keep the carts from taking up spaces and it keeps them from rolling idly into your door creating that unique art form—the ding-dent.

So, let’s keep parking places clear and have some fun at the same time. Play Shopping Cart Bowling the next time you go shopping. See if you can set the high score! If you are buying a lot of groceries, you can challenge your spouse to a one on one match.

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