#31: a quick rant about stupid sports journalism

I really don’t like Gregg Easterbrook, the guy who writes the Tuesday Morning Quarterback column for ESPN.com and author of some books, apparently [he really enjoys making sure those of who read his column know about his books. The amount of self-reference borders on parody, if parody were intended to pimp one’s sales]. He’s pompous, he makes contradictory statements within the same paragraph, and his tiresome edict that undrafted / low draft pick players are superior because of their ‘desire to prove themselves’ makes me wonder if he has ever actually watched Peyton Manning play football.

His moral judgement of football’s lack of care for its players, its failure to initially acknowledge and now take on concussions, and the overt way owners hold cities ransom for public funding even though they are all billionaires making billions from these very people already, are things I do agree with. However, this guy also runs a ‘Cheerbabe of the Week’ every column that always makes sure to include a picture of the lady’s boobs in motion. Chauvinism! Football! Tits! Old Rich White Guy trifecta. His definition of football morality extends only to criticize the people in power–it’s really no different than some horny high school dweeb drawing anarchy signs all over the place while trying to look at porn on his high school computer. Gregg’s not actually making a critical analysis of football based on equality; he’s making one based on his own desire to showcase what he considers Manliness Virtues, which, apparently includes oggling underpaid, overworked, not-even-represented, women cheering on the sidelines.

He’s constantly conflating the idea of ‘traditional’ offenses with manliness, lamenting the spread offense and disparaging teams who don’t run the ball when he thinks they should. His entire view of football is that of the 1930s: players should all be Moral, Undrafted Men playing the game for the Sake of Integrity and Grit or some happy bullshit. But then he turns around and talks about how the spread offense isn’t new (which is a fact. Google Mouse Davis) as though this somehow then makes it justifiable for teams he appreciates (the Patriots) to run spread concepts. He will not shut up about Michael Crabtree, the apparent reason San Francisco has not won a Super Bowl since he was drafted. They hadn’t won a Super Bowl for a long time prior to drafting him, and, actually, they were terrible for a while, but don’t let anything like that stop you, Gregg. You keep rolling.

There’s nothing manly about running the football. Plowing ahead for six yards does not prove your penis is enormous, Gregg. Football, despite almost every talking head’s opinion, is not a manly sport. It is a sport of skill, strength, and observational ability. That combination has nothing to do with sex or gender; it has everything to do with being an Athlete, a term, mind you, that is sexless. The idea that football somehow goes beyond Athlete to Manthlete only showcases the ineptitude of football, in general: the placement of a stereotype above the placement of actual success.

[This leads to a second (sub)rant, especially close to me because I cheer for two teams who say this all the damn time: I’m very tired of hearing Michigan people talk about the need to hire a Michigan Man for a coach who will operate a Michigan Football offense / the Steelers owner firing Bruce Arians as coordinator because he called too many pass plays and Pittsburgh needed to get back to running a ‘blue collar’ offense. What the fuck does that even mean? I don’t give a shit if my coach/team ‘identifies’ with the so-called nature of the school/city it plays in. Pittsburgh isn’t even a goddamn blue collar town; it may have been when the steel factories were in full bloom, but it has remade itself into a hipster, white collar, and medical-focused city. What has happened since we fired that goddamn pass happy motherfucker? Well, he took th O.C. job for the Colts, stepped up to interim head coach when Pagano was diagnosed with leukemia, led them to the playoffs, then took over the Arizona Cardinals, went 10-6 last year in the toughest division in football, and has them with a winning record again this year despite injuries to major defensive players. The Steelers, with their tough blue collar offense? Oh, 8-8, and constant bitching about how terrible Todd Haley is as an offensive coordinator. Thank God we’ve proven we’re tough motherfuckers with our ground-and-pound game because otherwise we’d have to look at how poorly we play and actually deal with it. As for Michigan, well, I’d say Brady Hoke is a disaster. He may be a nice guy or whatever, but his best season was his first, when he had RichRod’s players (and pretty much his offense because that’s what Denard Robinson knew how to run and was damn good at it, too) and since then it has been all downhill with one of the most miserable offenses to behold in the last couple of years. RichRod on the other hand went to Arizona, has put up huge offensive numbers, and has Arizona undefeated and about to play a major game against Oregon. I mean, I know he wasn’t a Michigan Man and he plays that sissy spread game that isn’t Michigan Football and heaven forbid the offense isn’t boring (also, RichRod’s offense is mostly designed to RUN THE BALL, YOU ASSHOLES). Did somebody need to yell at RichRod that he needed to fire his defensive coordinator no matter how close of friends they were and that he needed to recruit defensive players or hire someone who could successfully bring quality defensive players to Michigan? Yes, they certainly did. But this bullshit about how he wasn’t a Michigan Man and that being an outsider made him an inferior coach has led us directly to this moment in Michigan football. Guess what? People don’t want this job. You might think people do, but they don’t. The Big 10 is down, Michigan is down, and nobody wants to inherit this mess. Thank god y’all have showed everyone that you have a penis by sticking to your football ideals because who needs wins when you can flash your balls?]

Gregg’s favorite talking point has to do with where people are picked in the draft. He constantly harps on players drafted high who don’t ‘prove’ enough. He loves to cherry pick late draft picks [Tom Brady!] while ignoring the fact that most late draft picks don’t make it. I’m not trying to trash late draft picks; I think it’s great when a player proves people wrong, but it’s ridiculous to act like this is standard operating procedure for the NFL, as though every sixth-round QB is superior to any first-round one because a first round pick who fails is a bust and a sixth rounder is merely doing what sixth rounders are supposed to do: fail. Peyton Manning went number one overall; I don’t believe he lacks a work ethic or that if he had been drafted in the 4th round that he would somehow miraculously be even better because he’d have more ‘drive’ to prove himself. It’s such a straw man argument, one that can constantly be ‘verified’ by highlighting whoever fits your argument, regardless of overall numbers. What Gregg is really saying, once again, is that he thinks players should revere the NFL with unfailing celebration, that the ‘real’ NFL players are the ones who Man Up and Make It All Mean Something–and somehow high draft picks can’t do this because they are spoiled by being high draft picks. It’s an undeniably American view/stereotype: the praise of those who ‘raised themselves up by their bootstraps,’ showing us real ‘Murrican fans what a real ‘Murrican hero looks like.

Here’s Gregg in action with his most recent column, talking about how making major trades at the draft don’t work out for the people who trade picks for moving up to get a player; please, pay close attention to how he contradicts himself in the middle of the paragraph in the span of only a couple of sentences:

In 2012, Washington gave up three first-rounders, plus a second-round selection, for Griffin, who briefly injected excitement but mostly has been a letdown, with a 13-18 record as a starter. The team’s roster is depleted as a result of the deal — add three first-rounders and a second-round selection to the Washington depth chart, and the Persons might not be in the cellar. The Rams, who received the king’s ransom for RG3, hardly are tearing up the league. Since the Griffin mega-trade, Washington is 14-23 and St. Louis is 15-19-1.

If you’re following along at home, if Washington hadn’t traded those picks for RGIII, then maybe they wouldn’t currently be terrible; but those picks that the Rams got that Washington would have used have netted them a losing record. So, why the fuck would Washington not be in last place with those picks when the Rams are? There is no supporting evidence to say Washington is better at drafting players [because there isn’t any. They’re terrible. Dan Snyder is the worst.], nor is there any way to say draft picks equal all the wins. Gregg loves to point out the Patriots as the team who owns this mentality, as they hoard picks every damn draft, but they’ve won exactly as many Super Bowls as Washington in the past 10 years: zero. You know what makes teams good: appropriate personnel combined with quality coaching combined with quality schematics. You know what else? Luck. RGIII was dynamic his rookie season–it’s injuries that have destroyed him and his ability to win games, not fucking draft picks.

The entire premise of Gregg’s football argument boils down to this: we should value and praise those who most resemble the archaic ideals of 1950s manhood. And, yes, I realise this is not something Gregg alone supports; football constantly folds into itself over and over trying to prove how much of a Man sport it is. I expect that from former players, etc. But the idea that Easterbrook is a sportswriter paid to spew asinine, unsubstantiated opinions using cherry-picked data confuses me. Sports journalism can / should be nuanced, developed, and thought-out. I don’t give a damn if his column is an ‘opinion’ piece about football; the fact that he gives credence to the very base idea of Football is for Men renders his column inexcusable for ESPN to run, and having an opinion doesn’t mean you’re allowed to just fit outside data however you want to make your opinion look better.

Oh, and here’s another great one from this week:
Lots of people are climbing onto the anti-R*dsk*ns bandwagon now, and welcome aboard. I’ve been there for 15 years. I wrote a piece for NFL.com in 2004 protesting the R*dsk*ns name, before this became a fashionable cause.

Good for you, Gregg! You’re a fucking superstar! All the way back in 2004! I mean, my junior year in high school was 1997-98 and my history teacher asked the class if
Washington should be forced to change its name, and my guess is my middle-of-nowhere high school wasn’t exactly on the cutting edge of political movements.
Maybe instead of acting like you’re some kind of Movement Crusader, you could write about how important it is that this is gaining traction; maybe instead of patting yourself on the back, you could ask why an obvious racist epithet is taking so long to change; maybe instead of declaring yourself so fucking awesome, you could talk about the cultural impact of using that name and why our culture has, for so long, embraced / allowed its use so openly. No? Well, thank god you’re here, Gregg.

#30: a quick rant about the NFL

In some ways, it’s nearly impossible to know where to start with this mess. So, let’s just start rambling. A lot of response to the latest development in the Ray Rice debacle focuses on whether or not the NFL saw the video from inside the elevator and if the NFL has covered up this fact. This concern is, frankly, not relevant.

The sole reason finding out if the NFL viewed the video prior to determining Rice’s initial suspension is to decide if the NFL is lying to us now. But, again, that’s actually irrelevant. It doesn’t matter because there isn’t anybody who didn’t already know that Ray Rice slapped his wife and knocked her out because that’s what the police report said; that’s why the changed the initial charge to aggravated assault–a felony. The NFL elected, for whatever reason, to suspend a guy for 2 games after seeing–at the very least–visual proof of a knocked out woman being dragged out of an elevator by the man who was charged with knocking her out. The inside-the-elevator video does nothing but confirm what we already knew, what the Ravens and the NFL already knew, and they chose to do jack shit up until the moment the rest of the general public knew. It’s not a cover-up, it’s not ignorance, it’s not a lack of moral fiber; it is a complete failure by the NFL to understand that domestic violence needs to be addressed, and because they did not understand this, because they did not care enough to understand this until the public started to rage against their decision-making, they created a cover-up and showcased ignorance and a lack of moral fiber.

Of course Roger Goodell should lose his job; any argument against it is not a defense for due process–it’s a defense for allowing a person who failed to perform the role his position requires: to uphold the NFL to a specific standard of conduct. He should be fired not just for his failure in the Ray Rice event, but because the NFL has done nothing regarding Greg Hardy and Ray McDonald, two players charged with domestic violence this fucking offseason during which the Ray Rice shit went down. BOTH OF THEM PLAYED THIS PAST WEEK AND WILL PLAY THIS WEEK AND WILL CONTINUE TO DO SO FOR THE FORESEABLE FUTURE.

The NFL does not care; it will not care. The only way for the NFL to address this issue is to force them to reconsider what the NFL is: remove the anti-trust protection that Congress has bestowed on them; take away the public financing; and do not allow owners to take cities hostage in order to get taxpayers to fund their stadiums; and fire Goodell. The NFL will never care about this; they will only ever care about how it makes them appear. They want–they need–angry, over-muscled, over-stressed, players who must conform to a Manliness Culture, in order for their league to continue to bring in billions of [untaxed] dollars in profit. ‘Protect the Shield’ doesn’t say ‘protect the players and the people involved with the players.’ It says protect the money. The NFL is a mafia, and any one who thinks otherwise is a fool.

And there’s nothing worse than seeing all this and still realizing how much I like to watch football. I’m exactly what the NFL wants.

#29: zen and the art of discovering you have way too much anger

It is a disquieting moment, the realisation that one’s anger has reached an uncomfortable level. Mine occurred when I tackled our dog, Dude, a Great Dane who had elected to lose his mind when he saw people and a dog walk by our window. I have lately been frustrated with his continual downward spiral into a dog-aggressive pet, and, when the chance to take out these frustrations happened, I, sadly, was far too brusque with him in my attempt to subdue him. The thing we don’t want to admit about dogs as our pets is that they are a reflection of how we have trained them; yes, they have personalities, and yes, they will see what they can get away with, but, in the end, Dude losing his mind at other dogs is because I’ve failed him in some way, and that failure is a bitch to admit to.

I have long clung to the notion that I am a chill dude, a misplaced beach bum or something along those lines. I’ve worked at developing such a personality, honing it over the past 15+ years, and placing far too much emphasis on the belief that acting like Shaggy from Scooby-Doo is a worthwhile endeavour. The idea, I think, was that limited reactions to the stimuli around me meant I was in control, but I didn’t want to be a control freak, so the best of both worlds equals surfer stoner or something. Clearly, the entire premise of this paragraph is to set-up the following sentence: it’s pretty much all a farce. The problem, if one sees it as such–and clearly I do–is that the enduring belief in chillness coincides with a major problem of mine: an inability to emotionally relate to pretty much any emotional moment. Algebraically, the equation would go something like this: Inability to React to Human Emotions + Anger is a Bad Emotion = Don’t Express Anything.

G. likes to joke that I’m a sociopath, including sending me online quizzes testing my psychopathy. These are all in good fun, but are also because we have had fights created because I completely failed to understand the emotional gravitas of a situation, and, therefore, have basically railroaded right over her emotional upheaval. It’s embarrassing because objectively I’m aware of how a person is supposed to react, but I have no idea how to actually do it. To each other, we call it my emotional retardation. To the outside world, they’d probably call it ‘being an asshole.’

It’s weird to hear people say anger is a ‘human’ trait, because it’s almost exclusively a masculine description. Angry women are never just angry–they’re ‘crazy.’ Anger exists as an expression of one’s manliness. Of course we question when anger becomes overblown, too violent or out-of-control, but that is often seen less as a negative and more of a man who has been ‘driven too far,’ once again finding a way to create blame on someone or something other than the man expressing the destructive anger. We find ways to celebrate ‘controlled’ anger–just look at the glorification of football players. And then we act shocked when they do something like punch the shit out of their girlfriend in an elevator. It was shocking in the terms of an unbelievable thing to witness, but not actually shocking. These are men who have been taught, over and over, to use their anger as a motivating tool, to harness it in an effort to prove themselves better than the rest on the field; in what way is it surprising that a response to a non-football situation would be one of typical football violence? I don’t even react when I watch football players swing at each other (aside from wondering how daft you have to be to swing at a dude wearing a helmet); this is the sport where Albert Haynesworth stepped on a dude’s face because, well, he was pissed, I guess. But, if you can’t handle it, it’s not because anger is bad, it’s because you are not a Man.

When the NFL suspended Ray Rice for only two games after knocking out his girlfriend [now wife], plenty of idiots defended the decision. Stephen A. Smith, ESPN blowhard, managed to suggest that women shouldn’t provoke attacks in order to prevent such situations from occurring, a typical male response that fits right with the ‘don’t do things that might make a guy want to rape you’ mentality. In the simplest terms, a man is incapable of controlling himself, which actually means that a man can never have out-of-control anger because he is apparently incapable of controlling himself in general. And, yet, a man also expresses no emotions, but we don’t actually mean that; what we mean is, a man doesn’t express feminine emotions–does not showcase fear or vulnerability or neediness. Except, of course, a man has needs and therefore there is inherent neediness, but those needs are ‘rights,’ and therefore, it’s not the same. The absurdity of all this, despite the benefits afforded me by my race and sex, makes it difficult to navigate the terrain of daily manhood.

What we actually want is to confine anger/manhood/emotions to specific regions. The Angry ‘Murrican is not the Angry Black Male. The Angry Teenager is not The Angry Adult. The Angry Woman is not the Angry Man. We create definitions that work for us because that way our emotional reactions can be defended. It’s wildly unfair, hypocritical, and makes life far more difficult than it has any need to be. Douchebag extraordinaire Sean Hannity spent quite a while defending the hell out of Angry ‘Murrican Cliven Bundy who threatened federal agents with violence and guns over land rights; then Hannity defended the cops after they shot a teenager in Ferguson, MO, while also saying the protestors were out of control. Angry white guy with guns desiring violence against the government = okay. Angry non-white people desiring an explanation for, and change in, violence against their community = threat. The way we justify anger often highlights how we actually see the world. And, clearly, Sean Hannity is a racist dickbag.

The problem with anger, especially in light of finding ways to justify it, is its cathartic nature; in underdog movies when the bullied person explodes in a fit of rage and ends his torment, it’s a celebratory moment. When G. and I fight, I waver between feeling ashamed of my anger and feeling righteous in it. When I yell at Dude or video games or Michigan football, I can’t help but feel like I’m ridiculous and that I’m powerful. But things that are important where being angry might actually be justified in some fashion? That’s when I bail. It’s a bullying mentality–yell at only those things which I am confident cannot come back at me, and it’s fucking pathetic. Dude needs trained, not yelled at. Video games can’t hear me, and Brady Hoke isn’t going to hire me to run a better offence [even though he should]. G. doesn’t need me stomping around a room showing her my frustration with whatever fight we’re having; she needs me to communicate. And all of that seems simple to follow through on, up until the point where it happens again.

While this is a rather weak defense, it is the only one I have: a lot of this derives from my inability to emotionally connect with people. Anger, even unjustified anger, is an ‘acceptable’ emotion for me to express. It’s also a very easy one. Combined with a constant cynical view of life and a total dependence on sarcasm for dealing with emotional moments, it creates a personality that is aloof at best, caustic at worst. I’m not and probably never will be a chill dude. The problem is, the general consensus of leading a happy life is to ’embrace who you are.’ But if who you are is a difficult person, should you really embrace that? I’m a lazy perfectionist, a guy who wants chores done a specific way, but who also doesn’t want to do chores, wants them to, like, magically be accomplished. It’s unfair to and difficult, especially to G. I want to be a chill dude because it seems like that makes life easier, but I’m not. I’m a guy who has difficulty with hugs with anyone other than G. and my mother. I’m a guy who just called a Fox News pundit a racist dickbag. I’m a guy who goes on weekly rants to G. about the unfairness of corporate political influence, but I’ve never actually voted. Maybe the easiest way to not be angry is to admit to the things that make you angry and then work on fixing them. But, seriously, fuck Sean Hannity.

#8: remembering the awesomeness of Fall Out Boy’s “From Under the Cork Tree”

Wow. It’s been a few days. Kind of like the last time Fall Out Boy had any relevancy. Zing. That’s how we did it in the Holocaust, son.

There was a time, and I believe many people of my age went through this, when pop-punk was the greatest musical invention ever created. Why I believe many people my age went through this is because my friend The Guy, as of the last time I checked, still loved pop-punk and there has to be a reason that the Warped Tour was such a big deal, at least once upon a time. Is it still a big deal? I have no idea. My relationship with such things has dwindled drastically the older I get–unlike The Guy (and, Guy, if this is no longer true, I shall still not apologize because in my mind you are still rocking out to various Drive-Thru bands or whatever). Anyway, without argument, the pinnacle of pop-punk, in all of its conflicted glory, is From Under the Cork Tree.

The Break-Down:

1. ‘Pop and Punk’ – As a youth, I was very determined to discover the essence of ‘authentic’ punk. With a multi-year subscription to Thrasher magazine, JNCO jeans, and a Zoo York skateboard, I was confident in my ability to distill it down to something that could not only be defined, but properly lived. However, I was held back slightly by an attachment to pop music and culture in general. I’m fairly certain no punk rawker would know all the words to Soul For Real’s ‘Candy Rain.’ Nor who Heavy D and his Boys were, as the producer of this Jackson 5 spawn/clone. [insert side rant: I have no idea how to write about music without writing about myself. I see this as both a truth of what music means–it’s highly personal and memory forming, and, therefore, can only be written in reference to the self, as well as obviously narcissistic, in that it may be impossible for me to separate the two things from each other, OR, in fact, it is impossible for me to write such things without the central character of ‘I’ being involved, as in, I constantly see myself as the vehicle for which all of these things occur, thereby making music no longer music, but an extension of myself that I hope, to some degree, becomes shared (why else write anything, after all?) and with such sharing the ‘I’ no longer becomes ‘me,’ but in fact becomes far more generic and therefore the discussion of the music is, in some fashion, a type of criticism that just so happens to indulge my personal relationships with said music. Or, perhaps, I just suffer from lack of real critique and have read far too much Bill Simmons.]
Anyway, defining punk had everything to do with being a screwed up, hormonal teenager. Such definition held within it a type of safety: a knowledge of self, even if that ‘knowledge’ was crafted directly out of a fictional (that’s not really the proper word–less ‘fictional,’ more like ‘fluid and constructed cultural understanding’) definition of a cultural movement that few people could ever agree on its meaning. Even the history of punk was debated, as in, where did it start, who started it, things I had no actual interest in but felt I had to at least feign some sort of investment–MC5 was first, goddammit! White Panther Party, whatup! Kick out the motherfucking jams! (wow, that whole aside is such a lie. I began that construction of punk rock later in college when I began seriously studying the Civil Rights Era, so the past is coalescing in such a way that I’m recreating my own history, and am, thus, making myself highly suspect)–and how is it possible to craft a self out of a feigned definition?

It’s time here for me to interject with an important notice: I started this post in October. It is now nearly February. I have not been able to think of anything to write once i finished the above paragraph. Therefore, in an attempt to pretend that I have, in some fashion, ended this post, I will now continue by making random observations while the Patriots and Ravens battle it out in the AFC Championship game. Perhaps at some point during this collection of meaninglessness, the original point will come back to me. If not, I blame Joe Flacco.

#1. I hate the Ravens. But here’s what is stupid about that statement: it’s rather impossible to hate an entity like a sports team. I mean, I do it, and I do it with fervor. But the Ravens don’t even exist, and I don’t mean in some existential way or some shit or I guess I do, but I’m not trying to use stoner philosophy here. What I mean is, the Ravens are, in fact, a group of humans, and as a group they attempt to form a specific thing: a football team. However, I arbitrarily hate the team regardless of who is on it [an important sidenote, though, is the fact that I really despise Ray Lewis, and I despise the fact that he’s worshipped by “experts” with a god-like reverence usually reserved for people who haven’t participated in murder. Also, you will never convince me that he hasn’t used steroids or HGH, and I recognize the reaction to such a statement is to say I claim this because I despise him, yet I also think the same thing about James Harrison of my beloved Steelers (Hi, I’m James Harrison, I’m 30 and suddenly a demonic beast and defensive MVP. Also, I have no idea how to tackle, but I can hit people like a truck, and as a response for my lack of fundamentals, Roger Goodell is the devil {which, to some degree, I agree with, especially the farce that is ‘player safety’ while doing everything in his power to add two games to the season solely to make more money for the biggest money making sport in the US})]. What I mean is, I’m actually hating something that is in constant flux–roster changes, coaching changes, etc.–and because it is in constant flux, it is never actually a single thing, which means my hatred is something that never actually formulates real hatred because the Ravens have never existed as an entity or thing or whatever that I, the hater, did not attribute to them. For me, their existence is predicated on my hating them, which obviously is not true, because there they are on the field, right now, live, beating the Patriots [goddammit], but should the Ravens move immediately following the season ending, not only would I hate the new version of the Ravens, I would still hate the old version. I would have reasons for hating the old team who now exists only in memory [Ray Lewis] and as such, they don’t actually exist, in terms of being on the receiving end of my hatred. Still, Tom Brady better get his shit together because if I have to watch Ray Lewis dance during his entrance at the Super Bowl after spending two weeks everyone talking about how important this is to him and how it cements his Hall of Fame-ness and how maybe this will be the season he retires and how, hey, killing two people is all right as long you can still tackle people and there’s no reason to be suspicious of a guy who’s been in the league for like 14 years and who hasn’t gotten slower and anything as he gets older, well, if all that happens, I’ll probably sit on my couch feeling defeated by the world and seething with the hatred that doesn’t actually have anywhere to go.

#2. G. and I have been watching How I Met Your Mother quite a bit on Netflix. And by quite a bit I mean that we have basically been binge drinking the show. Things I think about said show include the following: why do they have some random ass ‘themed’ shows, like the one about how each of the smoke, even though at no point previous has there been an idication that they do smoke, so it comes off like a really, really bad anti-smoking ad that happens to involve people from the show; why the hell would anyone date Ted, which is something that may hinder my ability to fully understand the show considering that is the central point of the show–but, seriously, what are his redeeming qualities? He’s somehow both desperately needy with the women he dates AND a douche who leaves them for supposedly romantic reasons of them not being ‘the one;’ we are seriously supposed to believe the following [and yes, a sentence that had a colon already is having another]: Ted is handed, HANDED, a tenure-track teaching job at Columbia, and Robin dates both Ted and Barney and they all still hang out as if it isn’t weird except when they mention that it’s weird, but nothing is ever awkward; Marshall is the best; the most impressive thing the writing staff has done so far is make sure Barney, as a rather one-dimensional and, objectively speaking, an annoying dude with terrible catch phrases, has not worn out his welcome as a character. Granted, I’m only a few seasons in, but when you have someone who’s entire existence is predicated on being shallow to the point of frustration, it’s impressive to avoid that whole viewer frustration thing;  and, honestly, I’ve completely lost my train of thought on this.

#3. Commercials have reached an epic level of uselessness. I’m confident there is not better barometer for the state of our society than commercials. And soon the presidential ads will begin running, which means not only will we have commercials that showcase the strangeness of our society [heavy leaning on total nonsense as a way to entertain, irony for the sake of nothing, humor as a communication tool, not an actual function, etc.], we will also get commercials directly stating what is wrong with our society and who is to blame. Commercially, this upcoming time will somehow be both the most honest and the most contradictory we have ever known. And it will also somehow not involve the Super Bowl. By the way, as a prediction, there is no way Newt Gingrich beats Obama in an election. If Republicans want to win the White House, Mitt Romney is their only chance because it will be easier to sell him as at least as good looking as Obama, which, no matter what your politics, is the single most important factor aside from height. Consider who you want to see on television talking to some other head of state; it sure as hell isn’t a dude named Newt.

#4. Thank you Ravens kicker for missing that field goal.

#5. I have nothing at the moment, but 5 is my favorite number, and I really couldn’t end it on 4. Unimportant, unrelated note to everything: I drink Fiji water; they should sponsor me and this blog. It also appears that I will have to pick up the thread of the original intent at some later time, and by later time I mean, it’s probably never going to happen. You’re just going to have to have faith about the awesomeness of “Cork Tree.” And if you disagree, you’re wrong.

#6: what exactly is home(town)?

I’m currently listening to Eddie Vedder’s Ukelele Songs. This is strange because I don’t like Pearl Jam, but I felt compelled to listen by the notion of Eddie writing an entire album on a ukelele. Here’s what I think: I might go back and start listening to some Pearl Jam albums to see if there’s something I missed that didn’t involve their singles. Random note of no importance: Yesterday I located a number of videos on YouTube’s of songs I highly enjoy, and G. said about The Breeders’ “Cannonball”: ‘I think I could listen to this song all day,’ which I kind of agree with, and I was like, ‘So, this is the MSG of songs?’ It’s a step above ear worm or something.

It is strange to think of ‘going back’ to listen to Pearl Jam albums as if they are a destination, not just a collection of songs that I have long ignored because I’ve never enjoyed anything I’ve heard from them on the radio and / or MTV. Even in present day, when access to almost any band or song is available, I have felt no desire. It’s probably even stranger considering that the band I most dislike out of modern day music or however one wishes to describe bands / musicians originating sometime in the late 80s / early 90s (what is with all the goddamn ‘/’ things?)–essentially, how I want to describe bands that came about when I began to start exploring my own taste in music–is Radiohead and yet I own almost their entire catalog. This has to do with a previous need to find a way to like them so that I could feel better about my musical taste, a desire to understand just what the fuck people think is so brilliant, as well as, I don’t know, a loss of self-worth when I continue to think to myself, ‘Man, this is shit. Fuck you, Thom Yorke.’ I really feel like I’m wrong and should have better music ears or something, but that’s what I think. Anyway, somehow Pearl Jam has actually fielded a place lower than Radiohead and the only thing now that I have with any relation to said band is this ukelele album, with which I’m completely fascinated .

Oh, right, stay on topic: albums = destination. Well, whatever.

If you think about anything for a long enough time, it becomes fucking weird. Consider the sport of [American] football: there’s this strange shaped ball that gets handed, tossed, or passed to players who then attempt to move it forward inside specific zones while other people try to prevent that movement from happening. The field is 100 yards long. There are four downs. You can ‘reset’ the downs by moving the ball at least 10 yards. You can score 1, 2, 3, or 6 points, depending on the play. It’s weird. Not as strange as Australian Rules Football, but that is its own special category of awesome. In football, you have various levels of fandom, almost always determined by one’s location or by one’s parents who elected to be a fan by way of their previous locale or something. There are always random fans, but much of sport is based entirely on a devotion to a place, not so much a team. When it comes to college football, I chose my team randomly, apparently, and, yet, my pick of Michigan over the family’s Penn State was  made possible by the fact that we lived within the Michigan televising area so I was able to watch games and determine that their helmets were the coolest ever. My point is, often when I’m asked where I’m from, I respond with ‘Pittsburgh,’ partly because I lived there for a few years when I was a little kid, but mostly because I cheer for the Steelers, the Penguins, and the Pirates (as sad as that may be). In my head, being a fan of those teams, as well as having lived there briefly, makes Pittsburgh my home town, yet I didn’t, in any substantial way, grow up there. We moved away when I was five; I liked sports, but I don’t remember having favorites. However, my dad rooted for the Steelers, so I did. He could have just as easily been a Buffalo Bills fan, since that was the closest team to where he grew up, but he wasn’t; if he had been, though, would my entire perspective on where I’m from be different? I’d be a Bills and Sabres fan, with baseball and basketball being wildcards. Would I associate myself with Buffalo or are my hometown leanings derived both from sports and from having lived in the city of Pittsburgh?

There are a number of complexities to this, though: I currently reside in Northeast Ohio, the home of Browns and Ohio State Buckeyes fans. In such a place, it is easy for me to begin to dig trenches around my teams and, thus, my ‘place.’ Pittsburgh and Ann Arbor become  places of ‘other’ in which my notion of self and history and home starts to materialize, despite the fact that I have lived most of my years in northwest Pennsylvania and the second longest tenure of area is right here in NEO. Second, I have had no NBA home team. The Cavaliers morphed into my ‘home’ team, simply because they were, in fact, the home team. I rooted for them, for LeBron, yelled about Mike Brown’s playoff coaching, despaired when LeBron threw in the towel during the Boston series, sat dumbfounded when he left, and cheer vehemently against the Heat. Third, I got married, and she loves the Indians, so I have been watching many Indians games, going to games, cheering for them, finding happiness in their stellar start to this season, even buying two hats and a t-shirt. I have justified this turn of events by saying that she has to cheer for the Pirates, but it’s kind of empty simply because the Pirates aren’t on television around here. The idea of cheering is far more abstract when it is just looking up the score. I mean, she does cheer for them to win when checking those scores, but it is still more of an abstract way of going about it. These are strange things to consider for me because there are two clearly developing sides: Pittsburgh and Cleveland, although, “Pittsburgh” also includes “Ann Arbor,” as it were.

Most importantly, though, in all of this, is the fact that I don’t ever seem to consider the small town in Pennsylvania that I lived in for most of my life as my home town. I consider the house my parents live in to be ‘home,’ but not the town itself. I feel that it should receive more credit than it does, yet my thoughts as a teenager were always about how much I disliked it–the smallness, the small-mindedness, etc., etc., etc., the typical dismays displayed by a hormonal and bored teenager who thinks the world is so much better ‘out there.’ I have much stronger connection, in terms of memories and growth and history and everything, than I do with Pittsburgh, but the desire to escape it overshadows my own history within it. And, here, now, I’m confronted with something similar as G. and I are looking to escape Ohio to head down to SEC / ACC country where the seasons are warmer, and I wonder how much of NEO I will take with me, how much Pittsburgh, how much small town, how much adaptation will begin, how much the new place will be home.

I’m not sure it is possible, or if there is a need, to reconcile these things. I honestly think the idea of home would be much easier if I didn’t like sports, or if I hadn’t long ago defined history in part by the teams I cheered for–but, really, that’s not even possible, because no matter who you root for, it becomes part of your history; I mean, in a brief and generic psychoanalysis of LeBron, it is easy to actually see why he chose to go to Miami to play with Wade and Bosh: his favorite sports teams were the Dallas Cowboys, the New York Yankees, and the Chicago Bulls. His NEO roots were not set in the sport franchises; they were set by his family and friends. Without such sports fandom, then, it should be no surprise that what he chose was not a city but his friends. His home isn’t Cleveland, OH; it is, generically, Akron, OH, and more importantly, his family and friends–and those he either brought with him or met up with in Miami. My guess is, if he had grown up a Cleveland sports fan, he would have better understood the impact of his leaving, but because he chose to root for teams because of their success or star power or some combination, the history of Cleveland sports was something he knew but not something he could feel. The things he felt about sports were based in the celebrity of those teams. It is easy to criticize him for being a bandwagon fan or something along those lines, but what did he, as a youth, owe Cleveland sports teams? The Cavs either lost to the Bulls or were terrible; the Indians were up and down; and the Browns, well, they were the Browns. What do I owe the Pirates? They’re terrible and have been for more than half of my life. If it wasn’t for the idea of loyalty to the city of Pittsburgh, created out of this strange confluence of living there, having a parent who rooted for the city’s sports teams, and a desire to maintain a ‘true’ fan status, there would be no reason to cheer for them. What has happened is that we, as sports fans, associate a sports team to a home town to a sense of loyalty to a sense of moral character. If I were to suddenly say, I give up on the Pirates and I will root for the Red Sox, I would be a turncoat, a poor fan, a man without a backbone, a person without morals who sells out for the cheap win, and the only reason that occurs is because we identify person and hometown as this interconnected being determined by nothing more than chance.

Which, obviously, brings me to Eddie Vedder. What I respect, for no apparent reason, is his decision to take a risk and write a bunch of ukelele songs. It seems, in my vague and generic picture of the dude, to run counter to who he is or was. But now I’m wondering if I have been wrong all along, or if, maybe, Eddie is just more comfortable with who he is than I am, and that me asking these questions about hometown has to do with questioning who I was, who I am, and who I am becoming. It seems pretty strange to think of myself as someone who wears an Indians hat and roars with happiness when I get to see, in person, Carlos Santana hit a walk-off grand slam, just as I’m sure it had to be weird, in some part of Eddie’s head, to pick up a ukelele and start writing songs. But I bet it also felt kind of natural.