Saturday, August 29, 2020

The Passing of a King


"In my culture, death is not the end. it's more of a stepping off point. You reach out with both hands and Bast and Sekhmet, they lead you into a green veld where you can run forever."
~ T'challa as portrayed by Chadwick Boseman

Sometimes people keep things to themselves, troubling things, because they don't want anyone else to worry. It's an act of love really. The act of being worried is so draining. Especially in situations where the act of worry or concern cannot change anything. Or maybe he was just a private person. I honestly don't know, but his people kept it close. A friend of mine, who was a friend of a friend of Chadwick's sister told me today that she kinda knew he had cancer, but thought that it was under control or had been treated so she didn't even think about it. And after I saw pictures of him earlier this year and expressed concern with other friends those conversations quickly became that he was "naturally skinny" and had just bulked up for his roles or that he was preparing for another acting gig by slimming down. The idea that there might be something else to it did not even occur to us. In reality we've all known people with cancer, but treatment is real, so now we tend think of it as more something you get through than what ends you. It hurts to be wrong.  

The King is Dead. Long live the King. 

Chadwick Boseman studied hard at his craft. And he was good at it. He was someone who had worked enough to not only was able to credibly embody the godfather of soul James Brown, but also display the quiet courage of baseball legend Jackie Robinson, or the spirit of a young future supreme court justice Thurgood Marshall. These and other were roles that required variation of style, of cadence, of emotion. Of a blend of talent and craft. In an industry that still limits the what kind of character that black actors and actresses can be, he managed to widen the field for himself and for others. And then came his star turn, as the African King and superhero T'challa, the Black Panther. The first billion dollar movie headed by a black lead character. A tour de force on so many levels. One that created an image that resonates, as we say now, for the culture. And he did all of them in between chemo treatments and battling his cancer. 

I watch the videos of him visiting children with cancer, of his tearing up during interviews when he says it gave it him a sense of responsibility, and those take on a new weight now. He knew where they were, what they faced. I'm certain he kept his head up, but that's a heavy burden. And he carried it well.

I don't wish to diminish any other death this year, but this one feels different. So much has moved us this year. So many lives have been cut short by tragedy. Some by fate. We didn't see any of them coming. They all hurt. 

We thank you Mr. Boseman.

Wakanda Forever.

Monday, August 10, 2020

What the NFL should have done....

Ramblings Post #385
I like sports. I really do. I played as a youth, still want to play as someone no longer a youth but my body keeps talking about practice (we talking about practice!) and I'm not sure my knees are with it. I watch all kinds of sports, play them on computer games and talk about them on this blog. Sports transcend a whole lot of problems. It's weird. It's bigger than us. But my team still needs to win.

The NBA Bubble should have been the template for how pro football handled this season, but I don't think anyone high up wanted to spend that much money or thought this pandemic would last this long. Such a setup would have made the game safe, would have ensured the season occurred and would have brought a much needed sense of normalcy that we all need. Or at least I need, I haven't been out to eat, drink and carouse since May. Well, my birthday I went out for lunch, but the restaurant had exactly two customers - me and my friend who paid for it - and we still sat outside.

And I've enjoyed this basketball more than any actual real season in a while (NBA2K seasons are lit, reality less so). But I NEED football. Like as I imagine most people in the South and pretty much all of Texas. But I judging by how we've already done things so far this year, this season will not be a ...complete one. Half a season? I hope I'm wrong, I really do. But the prep could have been so much better. And with college football already starting to batten down the hatches for next year, why this wasn't a fail-safe I don't know.

Now, my suggestion is vast because unlike the NBA we're talking about all the teams and all the games. The NBA eliminated the teams not in the final playoff hunt for their lock-down, and that and a few tweaks made it possible to schedule what has basically amounted to all day gym play using the limited TV ready courts. The NFL needs all the games if possible. If someone can think of someplace where there are four or five football fields together (or soccer fields for conversion) and accommodations for for two thousand or so people where they can lock themselves in it would be an easier setup to secure. I've been looking but I don't see one yet.

Barring that, and I've been looking, here's what they should have done:

1. Put the players on a Tour of Duty.

This isn't finishing an already started season like the NBA, this would be playing the full thing through January. As such the players would have to go ahead and accept that they would be in isolation for months. Seriously. They would need to mentally pretend they were shipping off the hotel compound the local team would set up. We ask soldiers to do it for three hots and cot, so sacrificing for a few million isn't really a grand argument. Let's call our little setup the NFL "dome."  Well, dome by location.

Note: The "dome" would also have to have been applied to refs as well, which might mean a loss of experience, as a lot of them have outside careers. They would be a separate national facility and be flown out by private jet to the game and then back.

Each team would really need two in-town hotels, one for the home team's use all season and one for a visiting team, who would travel a day or two earlier than normal. Yes, they would need the whole facility with room for the entire team, the coaches, practice squad, and other needed personnel ~ barbers, medical staff, massage therapists, etc. Room for maybe 120-150 people give or take, because once you go in just like with the NBA Bubble, trips out by anyone would need to be minimized. This plus a rotating staff of 40 would needed for the building - cooks, maintenance, housekeeping, etc. That smaller group would be on 60 day rotations in with a 10-15 lead in to work inside the "dome."  The idea is to create a safe space for them to live, practice and get ready for their games. 

2. Lock'em in

The domes should have to be set up to keep the guys fresh, because a stir crazy soccer mom is one thing, a stir crazy three hundred pound muscled up millionaire is another. I would set up a gamer lounge, a library, open a bar or two, maybe even a small group movie room to give the guys space to move around and socialize. The idea is that they don't just get on the bus to practice (which would be closed to the public), take the bus back to the hotel and go sit in their rooms for four or five months. A little variety. I'm not going to address the obvious missing element - family. But again, this is the tour of duty for the season. Just like a man overseas can't pop out to have brunch with the kids, neither can the players.

But, because people have to occasionally step out, and it will happen, a transition space for them to return would also be needed. A couple of suites, maybe a private lounge and if a player absolutely has outside business that needs to handled then they can do it with compromising the whole team. They would need to be aware that leaving would be like missing a week and automatic game check - with the exceptions for funerals and other serious situations. The teams could even presumably setup two or three family days where properly screened families could be let in after a few days in their own isolation for short periods. A mini-family vacation in the dome.   

Note: The refs dome could probably accommodate family members, which might be a bonus.

Under the current plan of "don't be sorry, be careful" plan it's almost certain that we'll see players drop out all season, and if we're unlucky the Superbowl will be a match-up of the team with most men not infected standing versus the quarterback who was signed three weeks ago behind a center whose been there two months who got lucky in the championship game against a fifth string quarterback. That or halfway through the season the NFL just calls it quits and chalk the season up to a loss. It's possible. 

3. Let'em play

The games would end up being more like high school games for the players  I'm certain the tech wizards who can draw a fake first down line can digitally put some butts in the seats for broadcast, but the feel of an empty stadium while playing is different than a full throttle game. Some noise would have to be piped in, but the energy will be missing and that would affect play. And since the play is the product, their might be a need to let in some fans, not near the lower levels and definitely not in position for Lambeau leaps or ball tosses of any kind. But the NFL needs fan energy. And playing inside a sealed actual dome would be tricky to say the least. 

The announcers would have to handled like the NBA, with their own little booths which also might detract from some of the camaraderie, but they'll work it out. And we'll be so excited to watch the game I don't think we'll notice. 

As the season progresses, teams will slowly, eventually drop out of playoff contention, and for the safety of those players the rest of the games for those teams might need to be worked out on an alternate system. I realize that in a 16 games season every game counts, playoff spoilers are a real thing, and draft picks need ways to be calculated, so this may not be feasible.

So, that's my idea. Or was my idea. There are a lot of details worked out, but I think it would have ensured we get a whole season. Which considering how this pandemic is playing out, I think the country needs a convincing sign like this to give us the resolve to continue. 

Barkeep. It's almost that time. Just bring the keg.