Monday, August 26, 2019

Did not see that one coming...

Ramblings Post #376
Sport is BIG. Real BIG. Sport crosses lines that other subjects can't cross and brings together people who otherwise would have nothing in common. It unites and galvanizes. And understand in Europe it can lower GDP, cause wars and make people question their whole reality. Which makes me wonder if the amount of crazy we have about football in the South is just the right amount of crazy? 

In the midst of being take away lots of positives from the Cowboys pre-season play, 34-0 versus the Texans, and starting to get excited again for college football as Florida survived Miami in a barn burner, a blurb dropped on the crawl that made me pause. Andrew Luck announced his retirement. 

Wait, what? 

Andrew Luck was not even really in the prime of his career, as for me a QB doesn't really get rocking until he's 31. (Note: Yes, this means that Patrick Mahomes may be not allowed to be second halves by then - by a new NFL fairness rule or something). With all the injuries he'd already been through, and with the way the league is, one could figure that another rehab was par for the course. But his calf injury was lingering too long and despite QBs now playing into their late 30s and now 40s, don't get it twisted: Always be kind for you never know what battle someone else is waging. 
First, if Andrew Luck feels the need to retire, then he should go enjoy his life. That's it. Football ain't everything and injuries can continue with you long after you've hung up your helment. Most of those who made the snide comments about how he needs to man up haven't played the game. They don't know. Everyone who suits up isn't going to bite off the end of their finger or play though a broken neck for sake of the team or the game. Or be expected to do it three or four times. But it was that he said that his enjoyment of the game was gone was more telling to me. It takes a special mindset to suit and then run full speed into another person or let yourself be run at with the intention of full contact. Or go out in front of 80,000 screaming fans to be tested to your peak physically and mentally for three hours. Doing it and not feeling that joy, a sense of accomplishment or that it's your purpose, is just unfathomable. If the challenge leaves him empty, then it was past time to leave. 

My suggestion to him is go get healthy, rest his soul and the figure out what's next.  It might be going into real estate, or youth sports or back to school. After being away for a while you might even want to get back into football, who knows, but the important thing is the get your mind right first. This is admittedly less than perfect timing, at least from a team point of view, but then when is it ever the right moment? Better he leave now and give them a chance to mitigate than find himself unable to muster up that certain something in a crucial tight game moment.   

But more importantly I'm worried about Sporty, who is a big Colts fan. I have actually purchased Colts paraphernalia for her. For several seasons. I know she's not happy right now. Do you think now would be a bad time to suggest maybe becoming a Cowboys fan? Yeah, probably a bad time.

Barkeep. A tall cold one for Mr. Luck. May the next leg of his journey bring him peace. And no, that wasn't a joke about his calf injury...

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

If you come for the King....

Ramblings Post #375
This week I'm your correspondent from here at the front lines of America's most important battle this week. On Twitter. Over Chicken Sandwiches. Hey, everything doesn't have to be that serious. I could be arguing over grass or AstroTurf. Or the whole Jay-Z and Kapernick thing. But sometimes you need to have a little fun. Or at least not as serious. Not the same thing. 

It was supposed to be a salad day.

As part of my personal betterment program I have salads for lunch at least twice a week, usually on Monday to get the week started right and another day along the way. I find the roughage surprisingly refreshing for some reason.  And although I love beef, I also have cut back the red meat to twice a week just because it stays in my system so long but that's whole other story. I generally try to limit not only my total intake, but also try to cut back on excessive fried foods and the like. All my pants feel lose now, and I working notches down on the old belt.

Right around the ranch there are a host of sit down lunch, pizza, sandwich, Mexican, Chinese, and other ethnic options within in easy strolling distance. A lunch costing between $10-15 is the usual. And parking is funny, so I try to limit my off the grounds trips. About two or three times a month, provided the joint isn't too crowded - which is never - I venture over to the Chick-fl-a for lunch and get a sandwich or more regularly the nuggets to keep the bread intake down. I still see it as a treat, as my hometown was too small to support one and so I didn't even discover them until college. But that there is what you call good eating. But also about once a month or so I will also venture to Popeye's, but only for dinner. They're very good, but if you've ever been in a Popeye's you know what it is. I try to keep both of them far back in the rotation. But since we're now apparently in the midst of a chicken sandwich war, I decided before I pick sides I needed to get that intel. 

That's right... war. Over chicken sandwiches. Of course on Twitter. I read the back and forth and chuckled.

I ran a couple errands, swung by Popeye's and got a sandwich combo and headed back to the south forty to eat in peace. I got back to my spot, got my um, "charges arranged" and unpacked lunch. First, the Popeye's sandwich is bigger. The number one at Chick-fil-a always seems smushed a bit when you get it, but it's still a good eat. A small white bread bun, take the pickles off, add in a dab of mustard and some mayo and it's a good chicken sandwich. The sandwich from Popeye's by contrast is on a nice toasted Brioche bun, the pickles looked thicker, even though I took them off, and no need for mayo or mustard as it comes with sauce. It just looks better. BUT, how it looks is not how it tastes. I dug in.

Damn. I mean damn.

Chick-fl-a got trouble coming. Wendy's and BK might need to head for the showers. I didn't think I would ever refer to having a chicken sandwich as a "religious experience" but here we are. I had to put the sandwich down twice to stop from eating it too fast. It was juicy, spicy (but I got the spicy), the toasted bread set it off just right, I don't know what that sauce was but damn. Popeye's may have come to the chicken sandwich party late, but party didn't start until they walked in. Now, let's be upfront here, the fries at Popeye's are horrible, and the service is not for the impatient or faint of heart.

But this sandwich just might be worth it.

I can't go back. it's like I know I like sweet stuff so I limit myself intentionally. Bruh. I would overdose on these.

Barkeep. You got any good cognac back there? 

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

We not even gonna wait for the season to start?

Ramblings Post #374
This long dreary season is almost over. No, not summer. It's been Africa hot this summer. Swing low sweet chariot negro spiritual hot in this piece. It's been a lot things this summer, and although long and dreary both apply, the season ain't the topic. No, I mean the NOT Football Season part of the year. Yes, in the southern US it's either Football season or it ain't. Everything else is semantics. So here we go again, and thank God someone is happy.

I almost like the Cowboys don't love me back....

First Zeke decides he needs an extension, or to re-negotiate, or be blessed or whatever, with two whole years left on his deal. Look I'm all for a player getting paid, but I'm also one in favor of fulfilling your obligations that you willingly agreed to. A year left might be okay to sidle back over to the table if you're looking for peace of mind, but two years just feels wrong.

And then Dak. *Really heavy...really really heavy...sigh*

Him. He's the someone happy. For now.
Look, let's be honest. Dak has been underpaid plain and simple. He was drafted as a placeholder/project with the commensurate deal (less than 700k per season) but due to a couple of injuries got an opportunity to shine and just went buck. It's the American dream honestly. He has lead his team to division wins two of the last three seasons, only the magic of Aaron Rodgers kept them out of an NFC championship game, and his numbers have been favorably comparable to guys who are considered the game's elite. All that while playing in an unimaginative offense and without a primary receiver for half a season or his top-tier running back for another. Now truth be told I think he benefited greatly his first year from having Romo in his ear, but that he's been able to keep most of going on his own since then is just incredible. And this season with a more creative coordinator I want to believe he might be going to back to a form closer to that of his rookie year. So he deserves a serious raise at this point. But it seems like he's trying to make them pay for what they did the Cold Crush.

Is he worth twenty million? Yes. Is he worth thirty? I can see it, but I'd need to dig into his numbers to justify it. Is he worth Forty Million American Dollars per season? He's still just playing the one position, right?

Look, I understand negotiation, they go low, you go high and then ya'll meet in the middle - so on that side of the table it behooves one to set the anchor as far up as you can. Makes sense, moves the numbers to your benefit. But this ain't the no-cap MLB or the Bird exception-SuperMax NBA, this is the "yeah, we're gonna need our playbook back" NFL. And in the NFL as it turns out sometimes the difference in a Superbowl season and a rebuilding year is the second string linebacker or reserve guard. Depth is the key, and that's hard as hell to achieve with a fifty three man roster when you're forced to put 30% of the payroll on a single person.    

I'm in favor of the man getting his money, but I'm of the opinion he (and his agent) need to look at the larger picture - Career and Money-wise.

On the career side, I think he needs to bet on the team and dial back his expectations so they can get and keep the talent in place around him. A great quarterback can only be great if the receivers catch the ball, and the half season between Dez and Amari should make that clear. They need a second and nice outlet receiver to complement their primary to keep the defense guessing. They also need a stout offensive line and of course Zeke, the engine that makes everything else work. All that costs money, and we've still got the whole defensive side to go. This team potentially has NFC East champ written all over it. I can even legitimately suggest Superbowl. If they can hold it together.

Money-wise, Dak already has some endorsements, and the addition of a Superbowl ring (or even an appearance) only makes those deals more lucrative to the interested parties. And that's where the real money lies if you're paying attention. Jordan hasn't played a game in decades but is still a marketable figure. Manning doesn't suit on Sundays but is still selling insurance because he has rings. Winning makes the big endorsement deals possible. And winning is a product of the efforts of the whole team.

Yes, it's a gamble, betting his future on the team's success. And not a particularly good one either. The NFL season is unforgiving and can be made or destroyed in the blink of an eye by forces you never even saw coming. You could run into another team on a hot streak and get demoralized early, a first string corner is hobbled and the pass defense goes to shit, an opposing defense discovers a weakness you didn't even realize you had, your mojo decides not to buy a season ticket, etc.. I fully understand the get your money idea. 

But I'm a fan. A die-hard fan. And it's been a long time since there was joy in Mudville. Er, I mean Dallas.

Barkeep. Just a beer. I'm tired.   

Thursday, August 8, 2019

Toni Morrison

I haven't read a lot of Toni Morrison. I think it's odd that I'm about to write a piece about her when I wasn't that into her work. I thought she was an important literary figure, that her voice was powerful and commanded the space it required to be heard, but her subject matter wasn't in my area. But she didn't publish her first piece until she was almost forty, which in an of itself is inspiring to those of us still nursing our dreams. The reality is that she was majestic, her writing just not for me. It's kind of like recognizing the greatness of Gretzky. I didn't watch hockey, but what he had was undeniable. Morrison possessed that same something in a literary sense.

Even though she was the esteemed author of The Bluest Eye and Beloved, Nobel Laureate, and Pulitzer Prize winner, to me it was the interviews where she sounded like what she extremely smart woman who wasn't about to take any shit. Oh, she was going to be dignified about it, but it was clear you could take all that whatnot to the other room. I remember the interview when a reporter asked her a question that seems to be re-occuring theme for all acclaimed black content producers - Jordan Peele was asked a similar question just recently - concerning when will they turn their focus to white characters. With a quiet grace, that seemed tinged with both disgust and weariness, she pointed out to the interviewer the ridiculousness of their question.

In the age of social media and vociferous outrage, she was an eloquent warrior from a before time, when the ideas we take for granted today were still fresh. No less passionate than those who rage and rend at the currently outdated bits of fabric of our reality, she had honed the articulation of those injustices to elevate comprehension of those who needed to hear. Her voice was to me a kind of feminine version of Morgan Freeman - warm,  soft, wise, thoughtful but hewn with gravitas that made even the simple sound like the words from on high. Maybe it's generational, but it made me feel comforted and secure that the person speaking knew of what they spoke. And then some.

I find myself relieved that she found success within her lifetime and that her voice was not only heard, but listened to.

Thank you Ms. Morrison. 

Monday, August 5, 2019

The Breaking News is breaking us

This is a political post. 

How bad is it?

It's so bad that the Dayton shooting barely registered with me as I was still processing the El Paso incident. Two mass shootings in 24 hours? What are we doing?

I often wonder why some people seem to want to return to the days of the OK Corral, or rather what they imagine those days must have been like. In reality in most western townships and settlements the sheriff had folks turn in their guns when they got to town.  The people actually in the old west were well aware that guns were lethal and actually took steps to mitigate the issue, something we seem to have recently forgotten. And in this modern age rife with political demonization, personal overreaction and a complete lack of accountability this apparently deep seated need to add guns to the mix is just terrifying. But there it is. So here we are.


Again and again. Damn.

Just to be clear, Texas is an open carry state, and the people in Walmart at the time actually had their loaded weapons on them. There are multiple stories where an average citizen took their gun out in the face of danger. Still, the shooter in was able to kill 20 people and wound many others. I say many others because it is believed a number of people who were wounded simply left, fearful of their immigration status coming to light, which is a whole other conversation. But 20 people are dead in what clinically speaking was a perfect case scenario for the Good Guy with a Gun Theory for a safer America. And yet it failed. So could someone explain to me how it's supposed to work again? 

And the gunman in Dayton managed to kill nine people and wound almost thirty more even though the police responded less than a minute after the first shots were fired. That's faster than it happens in the movies. That's action hero timing. The only way a faster response would be possible is if the officers were standing right next to the guy. And yet nine lives were lost and nearly thirty injured. And had the response not been quite so quick, or ineffective due to the body armor of the assailant, the man had a hundred round clip loaded. What could have been is a terrible thought.

We've started the usual routine: incident, thoughts and prayers followed by the insistence that now is not the time to talk about it (I'd like for the record, what the appropriate amount of time is). And if anyone cares, I will be directing my thoughts and prayers to our legislature, in hopes they come to their senses. Please note, that as El Paso police sifted through the carnage and while people in El Paso were lined up to donate blood, our great leader took the opportunity to crash another wedding. So we're not exactly getting shining leadership here. But the rest of them, the what we assume should be semi-reasonable ones need to wake up and realize that the blame lies not with video games or mental illness, but with our current political and economic climate along with our lax gun laws. I doubt, no I'm pretty sure that this rising to the moment won't happen. We live in an age of un-accountability. 

We are A) the only country where this sort of thing seems to happen with regularity and B) refuse to to bring ourselves to do something about it. We seemed to be striving to the be the wild wild west of the Western world. We no longer live in the age of balance, only extremes. There is no nuance, only fevered outrage. Where are the calm voices and measured thinking? Our national question has become when will it be extreme enough to trigger a response from the willfully blind? Shooting up a church, an elementary school or a whole country music festival wasn't sufficient. So one has to wonder what will? And if nothing will, who are these people and what do we do with these fanatics?  

I still of the opinion we just do what they did in California. When the Black Panthers started openly brandishing machine guns, guess what the Republican governor (one Ray Gun Ronnie Reagan) immediately decided need to be banned?