Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Dear NFL

Professional football is my favorite sport. From August to February I live, eat and breathe football. For the past few months it looked like the 2011 NFL schedule of games might be cancelled as the players and owners were in a fight over who should get how much of the $9 billion the game makes every year in revenue. As you can imagine this left me in quite the emotional state until the stalemate ended this week. The aggrieved parties are friends again, awash in cash, and the season has been saved. It prompted me to write this letter:

Dear NFL,

So, you’re coming back to me after all. I was beginning to think our 40 year relationship was over. I know why you’re upset, but it didn’t have to come to this.

Yes, after the Super Bowl each year I have my affairs: college basketball and baseball. I’ve been with baseball nearly as long as you. College basketball is younger, but it’s not like that, don’t make it dirty.

I honestly thought you knew about my other sports, I’ve never tried to hide it. As much as you claim to need me, it’s you who leaves every February. One last blowout that’s supposed to just be for the two of us but you have to make it a party and invite millions of other people. By the end of the night I’ve hardly gotten to speak to you much less enjoy your company. Then I wake up the next morning and you’re gone. The house is eerily empty. No note, no apologies, no explanations, just a ticking clock amid the silence telling me it will be 6 months until you return.

Now you’ve found out about my dalliances and you’re angry. What did you expect from me? I’m only a sports fan. If you abandon me I’m going to turn elsewhere. I won’t just sit in front of the TV watching Law and Order reruns waiting for you to return. Besides, I’ve said all along that if you’d stay I wouldn’t need these other sports. You leave a gaping hole and think I won’t reach out to fill it?

Baseball and college basketball want to be with me. I know that shocks you, but it’s true. My fandom is attractive to other sports and they don’t take me for granted. If I stop watching their games, they notice and try to woo me back. You? You just keep counting your money while the cheerleaders dance for the drunks in the stands. I’m important to baseball, but to you I’m just another Sunday afternoon cheap trick that will sit and watch the Browns vs. the Redskins and think I’m being entertained.

So now you’re back and I’m excited just like you knew I would be. I guess our dysfunctional relationship will never change because I can’t let you go. Although I’m not going to just be available anytime you want to play a meaningless pre-season game in Buffalo. Baseball season is in full swing and my Phillies are in first place. I know a good thing when I have one.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Republicans vs. The Economy

I don’t understand the economy. I’ve listened to talking heads on TV, read newspaper and magazine articles and its still over my head, much like understanding the popularity of Ugg boots. I will also admit that until recently I had never heard the term “debt ceiling”. I’m sure it’s been bandied about in previous years and I just didn’t pay attention. It took an about-to-be catastrophe to pull me away from my Hogan’s Heroes reruns and learn something about how our country pays its bills. I like learning new words and phrases so I guess I have to thank the Republican Party and their on-going stupidity for teaching me “debt ceiling”, although they could have just taught us “zugzwang” (a situation in which a player is limited to moves that have a damaging effect).

The main point I don’t understand is why Republicans won’t listen to the experts. Republican representatives don’t understand the economy either. They’re just people, like you and I, who we elected to represent us. The actual experts, economists and such, are screaming that not raising the debt ceiling would be a very bad thing. But the republicans keep desperately trying to appease the Tea Party wing nuts by sticking their fingers in their ears and singing, “la la la, I can’t hear you, la la la!” Ignoring people smarter than you on an important subject makes no sense.

Let’s say I woke up one morning with a toe growing out of my forehead. I get two opinions. First, I ask my friend Don, and his response is “Cool! You should get it pierced and tatted.” I ask my doctor and his response is: “Dear God! Do you live next to a nuclear facility? Why did you make a 2:15 appointment with me, go to the hospital you moron!” Hmmm, whose advice should I take? Don is a helluva nice guy, however, his only medical experience is watching “Dirty Nurses: volume 34” 116 times. My doctor on the other hand has degrees on the wall and has been practicing for 40 years.

The Tea Party boneheads are sitting in their offices yanking it to a video of a Reagan impersonator reading the constitution as God Bless America plays in the background while sending emails to John Boehner and Mitch McConnell threatening to have them replaced. With all this going on the Republicans can’t hear the economists bleating like lost lambs that there are Chinese wolves at the edge of the pasture, red saliva dripping from their fangs.

So, stay tuned. Either a deal will get done or on August 3rd you’ll see a lot of rickety card tables on the White House lawn and a hand-painted sign: Yard Sale, 8 am – 8 pm, rain or shine. I might swing by and pick up a moth-balled SR-71 Blackbird spy plane for 75 cents.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

To the Max

I found myself at Office Max again over the weekend. The mythopoeic Joey was not being discussed on this day so the mood was understandably sedate. My whole experience was very relaxed. I found what I was looking for easily, debated with myself over which brand to purchase and then tripped giddily to the check-out counter. Ok, I wasn’t “giddy”. I only achieve that adjective when one of my favorite sports teams wins a championship, but darn it, I was happy.

As I approached the register the customer in front of me was just saying “thank you” and picking up his purchase so I was able to slide my ink cartridge and magazine holders onto the counter. Reaching for my wallet I was greeted by the forced cheeriness of a young man with a prepared speech that nothing except a blow to the head with a blunt object was going to stop him from reciting:

“Good morn . . . uh, after . . . yeah, afternoon, sir. Would you like to sign up for our new rewards program?

“I don’t . . .”

“You will receive a card which you can use with every purchase made at any Office Max store location . . .”

“That’s ok, I . . .”

“You can earn points towards discounted merchandise . . .”

“The thing is . . .

“Oh, and I see you are buying an ink cartridge. With the new rewards program . . .”

“Can we just . . .”

“. . . you can bring this back when it is empty and we will refill it for free. Also, by signing up you will ensure that I don’t lose my job.”

I still wasn’t biting so this is where I believe the kid started making things up:

“The Office Max rewards card is very valuable, sir. The edges are lined with gold flakes. You can also use it to gain entrance to any level 3 security government facility or your local Shur Fine Market after hours. And . . . that’s not all . . . here are some other points of interest.”

The lights dimmed and a Power Point presentation appeared on the front wall of the store. First up was a pie chart showing that 67% of Americans with a rewards card have lowered their blood pressure and lessened joint pain. Then a bar graph informed me that the only people farther down the evolutionary scale than people without a rewards card are Sean Hannity viewers and congress. The Aaron Copland score reached a crescendo with photos of smiling, happy families taking their rewards cards out for a walk, feeding it ice cream or teaching it to surf at the beach. The presentation ended with a video appeal from Willie Nelson:

When I’m on the road again, I’m usually on my way to any convenient Office Max location. They’re always on my mind when I need any type of paper, pen or other office product. You’d be crazy not to sign up for a rewards card today.

I still didn’t want one but finally said yes before my next birthday passed inside the Office Max store. I thought the saucer-eyed teenager behind the counter would ask me my email address, maybe a phone number: a few keystrokes later we’d be done. I was wrong. He reached under the counter and hefted up a binder with 64 pages of personal questions, a vial for my blood sample, a polyethylene bag for skin flakes and hair follicles, and a plastic case for nail clippings. He then took my picture for the Office Max Rewards Wall.

It was a little after midnight when I was finally permitted to leave the store, ushered out by a sleepy security guard and his geriatric cocker spaniel watch dog. My shiny new rewards card was tucked away in my bag yawning with indifference. I was yawning with exhaustion. I have got to start going to Staples.