Saturday, May 28, 2005

A heartfelt tribute

It was the summer after I graduated from high school, the world was at my feet, and between June of ’89 and July of ’90 the nine of us were inseparable. Quite literally our group formed one night in the Mullet Man’s cul-de-sac. I had never met half these guys before and I was sure I’d be treated like an interloper. See, Mullet had gone to a Lutheran prep school with these guys and had grown up around them. Mullet, the enigmatic Lurch, and I had formed a fast friendship in class at Bear Creek High and they were anxious to introduce me to the boys. So we met at Mullet’s house in preparation for a Friday night out. My apprehension was abated when Marky Mark shook my hand, tossed me a beer, and made me feel as if I’d been part of the group all along. It was like slipping on an old pair of comfortable shoes. What happened that night was a true cosmic convergence. It was perfect.

Our trip to South Padre Island for spring break in ’90 was one of those mythical road trips that have become a right of passage for every American male. We all piled into Q-Tip’s green & white ’65 Ford F100 pickup, Leonardo’s ’88 Nissan pickup, and my girl friend’s Jeep Wrangler. We left on Thursday night and got to our hotel around 6 p.m. on Friday. The drive took us through west Texas, which incidentally is like driving through the bowels of Hell, and we were praying Tip’s POS would hold together until we got to South Padre. One memorable night we went to this bar (I think it was Tequila Frogs but don’t quote me) and mainlined tequila (ever after pronounced ta-kill-ya) for a few hours. Afterwards Tip, Mullet Man, Hop-along, Hollywood, and I broke out the golf clubs and played midnight nude golf on the beach. Marky Mark, the Whiner, Lurch, and Leonardo headed back to the hotel to sleep of their bender. Once we got bored with smacking around a golf ball we went exploring and found a golf cart that belonged to one of the hotels. Being the drunk and butt naked dumbasses we were we decided to abscond with our new mode of transportation and drove around for a while. Somehow we found a pier and proceeded to drive the cart into the water. Laughing and flailing we scrambled back to shore, put our now soaking wet clothes back on, and stumbled back to our hotel. Somewhere in the Gulf of Mexico is a golf cart with our names on it.

There were those nights spent playing Risk and shooting the s**t until the wee hours of the morning. Poker night in Leonardo’s garage was always something we looked forward to. We’d get our paychecks on a Friday afternoon, cash them, and assemble at Leo’s and play poker until dawn. Lurch showed up to vainly try to recoup past losses, Mullet Man loved the pizza we got from Beau Jo’s, and Tip always started the peanut war. Lurch threw parties that were legendary. These were the type of party where you sleep where you fall and his back yard always looked like the Jonestown Massacre. Hollywood would host impromptu pool tournaments that usually degenerated into a giant smack talking festival. Mullet’s mom always cooked the bomb ass dinner for us and the look on his father’s face was priceless as the nine of us ate him out of house & home. He was always found later in front of the TV muttering something about how we all had hollow legs to be able to eat that much that quickly.

Marky Mark and Q-Tip grew up to become fire fighters and will always have my undying respect. Marky Mark has three daughters while Tip’s first kid was born about a year and a half ago. Mullet Man is still a serial monogamist and went into the real estate business with his dad. Funny, I always thought he hated the man. Lurch is now pulling down a mid six-figure salary at Charles Schwab. Leo lives in Fort Collins and works for Hewlett-Packard. The Whiner is an investment consultant and does some estate planning. Hop-along does part-time modeling, or so he says, and God only knows what else. Hollywood is married, has a kid, and works for Invesco.

My most vivid memory of these guys was July 2, 1990. We had all gathered at Mullet Man’s for a barbecue and beer. It was your average low scale get together with us and the women folk. Nothing significant happened…other than it was our last night together.

The next night, July 3, I was driving to Lake Granby to meet up with the boys for a night at some cabin and 4th of July golf tournament the next day. It was raining cats & dogs and visibility was crap. I rounded this bend on Berthoud Pass and came up on a gas tanker that was backing across the road with no running lights on or signal flairs. I had no time to stop and my Honda Civic T-boned the tool box underneath the tank. I broke my neck and have been in a wheel chair ever since. I was nineteen.

I haven’t seen Mullet, Leonardo, Hop-along, or the Whiner since Marky Mark’s wedding in ’91. Q-tip and I try to go to at least one Bronco game a year and I saw Hollywood about five years ago. I ran into Lurch at our ten year high school reunion.

I’m not trying to preach about friendship or to teach some kind of all encompassing universal truth. This also isn’t meant to be some cheap, not-so-subtle tug at the heart strings or a heavy-handed plea for sympathy. This post is simply a tribute in a very public forum to youth and eight old friends. Gentlemen, wherever you are let me say thank you and take care.

Friday, May 27, 2005


Let us take a trip in the Way Back machine. The year is 1913. Crackerjack puts its first prize in their candy boxes, the temperature in Death Valley hits 134 degrees which is still the hottest recorded mark in American history, Ford Motor Company introduces its first assembly line, construction on the Panama Canal wraps up, and Thomas Woodrow Wilson is sworn in as President. Also in 1913, Rosa Parks, Richard Nixon, Jimmy Hoffa, Gerald Ford, Jesse Owens, Burt Lancaster, and J.P. Morgan all draw their first breaths while Albert Einstein worked on the theory of general relativity. This was also a dark year for the country and especially the Constitution.

In barely a two month span both the Sixteenth Amendment and the Seventeenth Amendment were ratified. The 16th ushered in the era of a national income tax and the 17th took away a birthright of the individual states. The really stunning part is the clandestine maneuvering that took place to ram these draconian measures through. These two amendments will be forever linked in annals of American history and as with all things political nothing is as it seems.

Originally proposed in 1909 the national income tax was dead on the vine. The 16th Am. languished in the state legislatures with little chance for ratification. Then the federal brokers arranged an unwritten back-room deal that would assure passage of a federal income tax. The power mongers in Washington knew that Amendment XVI would exponentially increase their supremacy and influence over the sovereign states and they were desperate to push it through. Likewise, the states were equally eager to rid themselves of the hassle of having to appoint their own senators. Thus a deal was struck. The states agreed to ratify the income tax and the feds vowed to back Am. XVII. There is nothing in writing to support this conspiracy theory but the timing was dubious at best. Amendment XVI was ratified on February 3, 1913 with Amendment XVII receiving the stamp of approval on April 8 of the same year. That’s a difference of 64 days. What a coincidence. And as we all know there are no coincidences in the world of American politics.

So, in a ravenous power grab the federal government dramatically increased its power to undreamed of levels while the states surrendered what was at one time their duty imposed by the original framers of the Constitution and endowed by our Creator. In one fell swoop the intent of a government that operates from the bottom up was turned on eats ear. No longer could the states dictate to the feds because the last vestige of state influence over federal power was handed over on a silver platter. And the US Congress took the ball and ran with it all the way to the bank.

To put it into perspective the federal budget in 1900 was $550 million. In 2004 the budget was $2.294 TRILLION, and when you do the math that’s an average yearly increase of 40%. Between 1917 and ’18 the federal coffers grew from just under one billion to over four, a boost of 400%. In 2003 federal spending topped $20,000 per household for the first time since WWII. That same year the feds taxed $16,780 per household, a deficit $3,520. Under George Bush Jr. we’ve seen the largest proportional increase in spending since Lyndon Johnson. With Ronald Reagan at the helm the budget deficit quadrupled. Lyndon Johnson spent money like a drunken sailor on shore leave and Jimmy Carter pumped up the deficit to $990 billion. The 16th Am. created a rabid monster that has yet to be tamed.

The 17th Am. was no less insidious. Because of overt laziness and political skittishness the states abdicated their ability to influence federal legislative policy. The Senate was meant to be an arm of the state legislatures, not a tool of the people, that’s what the House of representatives is for. Of the appointment of senators by the states Alexander Hamilton said this, “Among the various modes which might have been devised for constituting this branch of the government, that which has been proposed by the convention is probably the most congenial with the public opinion. It is recommended by the double advantage of favoring a select appointment, and of giving to the State governments such an agency in the formation of the federal government as must secure the authority of the former, and may form a convenient link between the two systems.” The question is not which method is the most accurate reflection of the will of the states but which method affords the states their greatest opportunity to protect their sovereignty. To acquiesce to a central government the states’ rights of self determination is to create a system where the government rules and legislates from the top down. The 17th Am. gave the feds absolute power over the states and as the old axiom says, “Absolute power corrupts absolutely”, not to mention the basic principle of s**t ALWAYS flows down hill.

As a professed registered Democrat I realize on a prima facea level that my condemnation of the two Constitutional amendments that have done more to expand the federal government than all other amendments combined seems disingenuous but hear me out on this. But for the 16th we’d have no Social Security, welfare, Medicaid or Medicare. But for the 17th we’d have no Senate blood bath over judicial nominees or Borking, no NAFTA, or no Kyoto. I have supported many of these policies in the past but no longer can I turn a blind to the sinister influence of such a mad governmental expansion. No longer can I ignore the disastrous affects of the deterioration of state sovereignty. December 7, 1941 was a day that will live in infamy but 1913 is a year that inexorably altered the foundations of our republic and therefore scarred the very fabric of our society. 1913 was a dark year indeed.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

17th Amendment: An afternoon conversation

I was breaking bread with a dear friend of mine, hereafter known as Forest, on Friday over a couple bland burritos. He’s a staunch conservative and a huge fan of George Bush Jr. and I’m a registered Democrat who views the current president as a harbinger of Armageddon so, naturally, our political discussions are spirited to say the least. We were bandying about the current judicial filibuster flap and the now infamous Newsweek brain fart. Eventually our talk turned to my theory that the 17th Amendment should be abolished and boy did the fur start to fly. It is my recent contention, call it an epiphany, that choosing U.S. Senators by popular vote is contradictory to the original intent of the Constitution. Article I states; “The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each State, chosen by the Legislature thereof, for six Years; and each Senator shall have one Vote.” The 17th Am. unequivocally obliterates this provision and gives the power to the people to choose the members of the Senate.

As he is apt to do Forest brought up a couple of interesting points to refute my contention. First, he said that returning the senatorial selection method to its original framework, i.e. state legislatures select senators, political cronyism and nepotism would hold sway over the process. Second, Forest feels that this would add yet another layer of cumbersome bureaucracy to an already sluggish governmental instrument. Forest went as far to say that my theory is symptomatic of my supposed allegiance to expanded government. Third, he says that the current electoral process is as accurate a reflection of the legislative will of the states as the original Article I stipulation was.

Forest always keeps me on my toes but he’s utterly wrong on this one.

The Federalist Paper No. 62 says, “The qualifications proposed for senators, as distinguished from those of representatives, consist in a more advanced age and a longer period of citizenship. A senator must be thirty years of age at least; as a representative must be twenty-five. And the former must have been a citizen nine years; as seven years are required for the latter. The propriety of these distinctions is explained by the nature of the senatorial trust, which, requiring greater extent of information and stability of character, requires at the same time that the senator should have reached a period of life most likely to supply these advantages; and which, participating immediately in transactions with foreign nations, ought to be exercised by none who are not thoroughly weaned from the prepossessions and habits incident to foreign birth and education.” This is a clear manifestation by two of the Founding Fathers, Alexander Hamilton and James Madison, that Senators need to be more mature and qualified because of the nature of their unique responsibilities. The only way to ensure this is letting the state legislatures appoint Senators, cronyism and nepotism be damned. ‘Tis better to err on the side of a quid pro quo arrangement than to let a glorified beauty contest that is a general election choose members of the most powerful and influential legislative body in the land. General elections have degenerated into a preening contest where one-upmanship carries the day. Eliminate the frenzied election, replace it with an appointment mechanism and you create a system where candidates have to run on their qualifications and not on whether their hair is styled correctly or the cut of the navy-blue suit is flattering or dignified.

Admittedly, as seen by the bloodbath in the Senate over judicial appointments, the process for appointing anyone to a position higher than little league coach can be a bit tedious. It stands to reason that a state legislature would grind to a halt should they be entrusted with appointing members of the Senate. The very first session of Congress saw the state of New York without a senator because of a gird-locked state legislature. Thus was born the 17th Amendment, a little modification that was supposed to solve the problem of endless debate on the state level. Seems that the states no longer wished to be burdened with the arduous task they had been entrusted with. But we’ve exchanged one bureaucratic nightmare for another. Infinitely more costly, general elections also ensure that senators can literally ignore their constituency for four years and campaign for the last two years of their tenure. General elections and the onerous campaigns that are a little ancillary effect are expensive, mind numbing, and quite frankly boring. A state level dog fight would be far more entertaining than watching still-born stuffed shirts pontificate about issues they’ll do nothing about four 2/3 of their term anyway. Give me the state feud and you can have your multi-million dollar election. If anything abolishing the 17th would save millions of tax payers' dollars. How does this increase the size of government? Tell me, I'm dying to know.

The most important and intriguing question is which scheme is a more accurate reflection of the states’ will. However, there is an even more fundamental threshold issue that must be addressed; should the Senate be a vassal of the states or of the people. Clearly Article I intended for the Senate to be a voice for the individual states. Therein lays the rub. The framers of the Constitution never intended for the Senate to be in the hands of the people. That’s what the House of Representatives is for. Forest’s third point appears to be moot, especially when you apply another proviso to the equation. Article V stated, “No State, without its Consent, shall be deprived of its equal Suffrage in the Senate.” Echoing this sentiment, James Madison wrote in Federalist Paper #43, “The prohibition against the adoption of any amendment whereby a state is deprived of its equal suffrage in the Senate without its consent involves two things: first, that if the state chooses to consent, it may be deprived of its equal suffrage in the Senate; and, second, that it may not, by any amendment, be deprived of its power to give or refuse its consent.” Simply put, any state that does not wish to acquiesce to Am. XVII doesn’t have to. This is one of the most stunning bits of political trickery in American history.

The more research I do the more convinced I become that the 17th Amendment has done irreparable damage to this country. This insidious concoction of legal slight of hand has led to the rampant partisanship that stonewalls nearly all meaningful change. The states have lost their voice in Congress due in no small part to laziness and apathy. Contrary to original intent the states have literally no say in the process that fundamentally and profoundly affects their sovereignty and we have Amendment XVII to thank for that.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Best of the best

In yet another effort to bring my own brand of enlightenment to the world I’ve done minutes of copious research and my list of the best television news personalities. Reporters like these are why I watch the news. So in order here are tops in the business…

1. Trish Regan CBS
2. Heather Nauert ABC
3. Shanon Cook CNN
4. Jane Skinner FOX
5. Brooke Anderson CNN
6. Christi Paul CNN-HLN
7. Claudia DiFalco MSNBC
8. Lara Logan CBS
9. Robin Meade CNN-HLN
10. Contessa Brewer MSNBC
11. Laurie Dhue FOX
12. Susan Hendricks
13. Megyn Kendal FOX
14. Asieh Namdar CNN-HLN
15. Kiran Chetry FOX
16. Martha MacCallum FOX
17. Daryn Kagen CNN
18. Alex Witt MSNBC
19. Betty Nguyen CNN
20. Juliet Huddy FOX
21. Sibila Vargas CNN
22. Elizabeth Vargas ABC
23. Paula Zahn CNN
24. Amy Robach MSNBC
25. Alexis Glick NBC

Honorable mention: Julie Banderas FOX, Linda Vester FOX, Lisa Daniels MSNBC, Julie Chen CBS, Erica Hill CNN-HLN, Kit Hoover ESPN

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Survival kit

In my continued attempt to enlighten I’ve come up with ten rules for surviving any horror movie.

1. Never get naked or have sex. The nude frolicking sex pots are ALWAYS the first to die.
2. Never go in the basement. The cellar of any house o’ horrors is invariably the nest of the blood thirsty psychopath bent on human misery.
3. Don’t run backwards. How many scared nymphets have we seen run backwards through the woods at night? Idiots! Which brings me to…
4. Don’t go out into the dark foreboding woods at night. If you do you’ll be dead in two minutes.
5. Subscribe to the Henry Fonda workout plan of “Lie down and be quiet” for the duration of your stay at Crystal Lake. Find a nice crawl space, storm cellar, or secluded storage area and nap until the spawn of Satan has killed to his heart’s content.
6. Take a valium. We all know it’s nearly impossible to think when your heart is pounding so fast you can’t hear your own inner dialogue. The impulse of “Get the f**k out of the house” is drowned out by the thumping of your heart. If you’re all wazed out your heart will beat nice and slowly thereby allowing you to react to the panicky inner voice.
7. If you find a severed head in the toilet or a body nailed up across a door frame resist the impulse to warn your friends of impending doom. Just run like hell.
8. If you run into a crazy, overall wearing, front teeth missing, grease stained red neck sitting on a porch of some rotted out back woods hillbilly haven turn your vehicle around and proceed immediately to the nearest Starbucks.
9. Don’t go in the water!
10. The last and possibly most important rule is always, ALWAYS, drive a properly maintained vehicle. How many senseless deaths could have been prevented if people wouldn’t drive these POS’s up into the mountains?

You see, escaping the clutches of a denizen of evil is really simple if you just obey the rules.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Down with the 17th

For years the federal government has had carte blanche to enact laws and implement policies that have slowly whittled away that which made our form of representative republicanism so unique. From the Patriot Act to the Brady Bill, from the abortion debate to the fight for legitimizing gay marriage, from Bush v Gore to United States v Morrison, the federal government has been in a ravenous power grab as it snatches up control like a rabid Pac-Man. Meanwhile, the very people that the Constitution was written to protect have signed off on the power grab like so many sheep being led to slaughter. The Police said it perfectly; “Pack black lemmings into shiny metal boxes, contestants in a suicidal race.”

Time has come to end destruction of the autonomy of the states. Time has come for the people to regain their birth right. Time has come for the people to extract their collective craniums from their collective rectums and reign in the monster we have created.

Some have claimed that the downward spiral of America can be linked back to August 18, 1920 when women won the right to vote. I think it goes back further…to 1913.

So I’ve stumbled upon the perfect solution. Abolish the 17th Amendment. Now I’m by no means the first to forward this idea or by any stretch of the imagination the most prominent (unless you count my two regular readers) but I’m a patriot who has a vision and wishes a return to the days of yore when our federal government was fairly limited in its control over the states.

Enacted in 1913, Am. XVII states; “The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each State, elected by the people thereof, for six years; and each Senator shall have one vote. The electors in each State shall have the qualifications requisite for electors of the most numerous branch of the State legislatures.”

Before the adoption of Am. XVII U.S. Senators were appointed by the legislative bodies of the individual states. Article I, section 3, clause 1 of the Constitution states, “The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each State, chosen by the Legislature thereof, for six Years; and each Senator shall have one Vote.”

Correct me if I’m wrong but Am. XVII is the first amendment that directly obliterates a clause from the original Constitution. Other amendments, such as the XI, XII, XIII, XVI, XX, XVI, and XVII Amendments, have modified some original clauses, but none has erased the precursor so completely. (Arguably Am. XVIII which imposed the graduated income tax vacated the non taxation clause but you could make the contention that Congress’ power to levy taxes also directly countermands that clause also but that’s another argument for another day.)
What, pray tell, does all this mean? Simple, the founding fathers saw the Senate as a direct check on federal power. The appointing of senators was seen as a more accurate barometer of the political will of the states than a direct election would be. The legislators on the state level are far more cognizant of ramifications of the actions of the most powerful arm of Congress. And the architects of the Constitution knew this. The Senate has sole power to try articles of impeachment, approve the appointments of Supreme Court Justices and Cabinet officers, and ratify treaties. This is an enormous responsibility. Alexander Hamilton said it best in Federalist No. 65, “The convention, it appears, thought the Senate the most fit depositary of this important trust. Those who can best discern the intrinsic difficulty of the thing, will be least hasty in condemning that opinion, and will be most inclined to allow due weight to the arguments which may be supposed to have produced it”.

Since 1913 many legislative battles have been fought and the majority of Senators on the front lines have been chosen by an ill-informed populace instead of being hand picked by the state legislators. Before the ratification of Am. XVII the Supreme Court was a fairly restrained body whose justices fully appreciated the Pandora’s Box that accompanies tampering with states’ rights. It’s no accident that the overall quality of Supreme Court Justices has gone down hill since 1913. Yes there is Thurgood Marshal, Felix Frankfurter, Byron White, Hugo Black, Benjamin Cardozo, and Antonin Scalia but the blood lines have run thin in 20th century jurisprudence. Before the full effects of Am. XVII could be felt titans such as Oliver Wendell Holmes, Louis Brandeis, John Marshal, Joseph Story, and John Harlan shaped Constitutional law and were all appointed before the Senate was subject to the constantly changing winds of public opinion. Then there’s the myriad of ultimately foolish international treaties approved by the Senate as well as the botched appointment of Robert Bork who was torpedoed by a puritanical Senate despite a nearly spotless judicial record…hence the coining of the verb “borked”.

It’s obvious the U.S. Senate has a unique purpose and has been entrusted with monumental responsibilities. It is also obvious that this most influential of Congressional houses through its powers has trampled on states’ rights. The reason for this is the states have lost their voice. The people have their federal legislative body in the House of Representatives but the states don’t. Give the states back their voice and you’ll quell the monster that runs rough shod over the Constitution. Give the Senate back to the states and all will be right with the world. I hope.

Monday, May 09, 2005

Lest ye forget

Today is the 60th anniversary of VE Day. Let us all pay homage to the millions of WWII vets who fought so bravely. And if you're listening grandpa I miss you and know that you're up there in heaven with the 164th looking down on us. I hope I can make you proud.

The misadventures of a misguided youth

As another manic Monday winds down and my stomach heroically begins to digest that five pound chicken burrito I ate at my mom’s & I favorite restaurant for no reason in particular, other than a few hours earlier I watched my beloved matriarch nearly launch her new Sony Vaio lap top into the parking lot, I began contemplating the scariest moments in my life. Now let me preface the following list with the caveat that my mother’s temper is legendary, lethal, and a destructive force of nature. She has the kind of temper where you see her neighbors on the news saying, “She was always so quiet. We had no idea there were bodies covered in lime buried in her crawl space.”

10. When I was five we lived in a run o’ the mill townhouse complex. I had a friend, BJ, who was black and lived just around the corner. BJ and I were supposed to go to the park but he canceled at the last minute. I was pissed and stormed into the house and shouted, “That f***ing nigger!” My mom shot me that gaze that every child comes to fear and told me to never use that word again. That was the first and last time I ever used the “N” word.

9. During the summer of 1990 I got into some legal trouble. I got busted for public drunkenness, disobeying a police officer, DUI, and minor in possession. I had no money and my first court date was fast approaching. There was no way I was going to ask my mom for the money to pay the fine. So I thought my grandparents, particularly my dear sweet granny, would loan me the money. So I and Hop-along went to the grand folks’ house to beg for the money. Much to my dismay my grandpa was the only one around and I knew he wouldn't be as easy of a mark. I told my grandpa about my legal trouble and I knew I was in trouble when he got a glazed look in his eyes that I saw my mom get on a number of occasions. Let's just say at that moment I found out about where my mom got her temper from. With my trusty sidekick Hop-along at my side my grandfather proceeded to lay into me about how kids of my generation did not know how to keep their damn mouth shut and how when he was a kid his father would've beat the living daylights out of him. Here’s the kicker. My grandfather was quite the craftsman and had more power tools in his garage than you’ll find at Ace Hardware. So the whole time he’s berating us about respect for authority and whatnot he was cutting pieces of lumber on a big ass table saw for a project and throwing the discarded kindling out onto the driveway. Needless to say I never asked my grandparents for money again, at least if my grandpa was at home. I also found out where my mom got her propensity for throwing things in frustration.

8. During winter of 1990 I was a man slut. I wasn't looking for Ms. Right I was looking for Ms. Right Now. So predictably being the dumb, 19-year-old male that was I tried to play both ends of a doubleheader. Meaning I tried to date two roommates at the same time. Well needless to say my primary girlfriend found out and was not happy. She also had severe anger management issues. When she found out that I had slept with her roommate she sent me the most unforgettable Valentine's Day gift I ever received. The UPS man delivered a box addressed to me that afternoon. I open up the box to find a pig's heart nailed to a 2 x 4 with barbed wire wrapped around it. A week later I found that two of my tires had been slashed. That was my last attempt to date two roommates at the same.

7. One night I went to a party with my girlfriend at the time. The one thing you have to know about this girl is that she had a big mouth and when she drank it got bigger. So she gets wasted off gin & tonics and starts mouthing off to one of the biggest guys I had ever seen in my life. She apparently said something to him that was so offensive he pushed her back and she tripped and hit her head on the fireplace. Me being the chivalrous guy that I am quickly rushed to her aid, made sure she was okay, and confronted the mountain of a man that had just laid hands on my girl. I hit this guy as hard as I could square in the jaw and he barely flinched. At that moment one of the most valuable lessons I've ever learned in my entire life flashed before my eyes. My high school history teacher, who to this day remains my favorite teacher ever, told me once that if you ever get in a fight and you hit the guy as hard as you can and he doesn't go down run like hell. I was in the middle of the living room and had nowhere to run. The next thing I remember is a fist the size of a bowling ball catching me in the temple. I dropped like I'd been shot and proceeded to get the living hell kicked out of me.

6. I was in history class one day with the afore mentioned teacher Mr. Mac, who was a 6’4”, 230 pound former marine and not a man to be trifled with. We had built up a great rapport and he considered me one of his faves. Until the day I got lippy in class during a debate. I mocked this dipshit across the room from me and called into question his parentage. Well Mr. Mac got so pissed he picked up the stool he was sitting on and threw it up against the blackboard. The room got deathly quiet and I knew I had pushed my luck passed the breaking point. I sheepishly slumped in my chair and didn’t utter a word in Mac’s class for two weeks. I eventually threw myself on my sword and apologized to Mac and the fellow student I had insulted. The day after the stool toss incident I examined the damage done by Mr. Mac. He had bent the stool nearly in half and cracked the chalkboard in two.

5. When I was twelve I was a fledgling wannabe expert skier. My two cousins and I went to Arapahoe Basin one day and I decided to throw myself down Pollovicini, one of the most infamous chutes in Colorado. I went off the edge at the top and I swear to God that sucker curved under. Well I did one of those ass over tea kettle crashes. My cousins refer to it to this day as the hand grenade crash. It took me over an hour to retrieve all of my equipment.

4. It was January 1998 and the Broncos were on their way to another Super Bowl title. I and Captain Herbalife were getting back from the AFC Championship game. I have no idea what was going through my head but I performed a maneuver that broke both bones in my right lower leg. And in case you were wondering, yes I was sober. Stupid but sober.

3. One night I was with my girlfriend (yes the same one that triggered the beating I mentioned earlier) and we were making whoopee and a number of other unsavory things. We had finished our little bout of coitus uninteruptus not thirty minutes before we heard the front door slam. I looked up and there at the top of flight of six stairs leading to the dining room/kitchen area was a Beretta 9mm strapped to a hip. Yes ladies & gentlemen I had just tarnished the golden child of one of Denver’s finest. Had her father arrived home half an hour earlier I have no doubt that he would have tasered, maced, cuffed, and pistol whipped my ass. And then for good measure he would have tattooed his badge number on my forehead with his night stick. He had the same look in his eyes Mad Max did when he rigged that wrecked car to explode, handcuffed that guy to the bumper, tossed him a hacksaw, and said CHOOSE.

2. It was my first day in third grade. I was staying with my Aunty because my mom was out of town on business and I was excited to get to school. Aunty at the time smoked two packs of Camels a day and drank two pots of coffee every morning. Well Aunty was late getting up and she had no breakfast food for me. So I convinced her to take me to the store to grab doughnuts then take me to school. That was the longest car ride of my life. Just a tip for all you out there: never go ANYWHERE with a heavy smoker and coffee drinker before they’ve had their morning ritual. I give thanks everyday that Aunty never had kids because she would have eaten them.

1. When I was fourteen my mother and I fought like cats & dogs. During a particularly heated exchange I made the colossal mistake of calling her an “F’ing bitch”. You remember that look Hannibal Lecter got just before he beat the life out that security guard in Silence of the Lambs? My mom’s eyes glazed over and I knew I had not just crossed the line but pole vaulted over it. Once again that was the first and last time I ever uttered that epithet.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

The poetic irony of it all

I just learned that Denver’s Ocean Journey, the only aquarium in Colorado bigger than a bath tub, is now owned by the same company that owns and operates Landry’s, the national sea food restaurant chain. So, one of the biggest sea food restaurant chains in America runs the only public aquarium in Denver. Now here’s the twist…as part of the multi-million dollar renovation and expansion project Landry’s is opening a full service restaurant on site. I’m not making this up. I’m not that clever.

Imagine being able to walk through and pick out your victim for that lemon-dill tuna steak. “I’ll take the fat one that swimming slow”. That’s like opening a steak house in the middle of a dairy farm. I can just picture the chefs leaving the kitchen with pole in tow and snatching a 35 pound salmon out from in front of little Timmy as he watches the river exhibit. I just hope otter isn’t on the menu. I can already hear the new slogan..."Just for the halibut you otter eat with us", or "When your porpois is fine dining or you're fealing crabby try us".

Football vs. Baseball cont.

There really is no disputing baseball’s historical significance in 20th Century America. Not only has baseball been a constant in the lexicon of our society it has been at the forefront of many turbulent and ground shaking events. The Black Sox scandal where members of the 1919 Chicago White Sox were accused, confessed, and eventually banned from baseball for life shook the foundation of sports. This event forever changed the way we viewed sports and tainted the reputation of the only significant professional sports league in America at the time. This sordid episode also shoved the problems of gambling and organized crime into the lime light.

However, the most important event in major sports history and perhaps in 20th century American history was Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier in baseball in 1947. Branch Rickey, then owner of the Brooklyn Dodgers, had the courage to do what no one else did, hire an African-American player to play the nation’s most visible sport on its biggest stage, in New York. Up until ’47 baseball had been a staunchly all-white institution while hundreds of gifted black players starred in the now legendary Negro Leagues. Josh Gibson, Satchel Paige, Cool Papa Bell, Pee Wee Butts, Smokey Joe Williams, and other gifted black baseball players toiled away in relative obscurity while their arguably inferior white counterparts dominated the major leagues. All this for the sake of racial segregation.

That is until a man with a vision, Branch Rickey, chose to make a historical statement. Jackie Robinson was not chosen because he was the best Negro Leaguer but because he was the best suited to endure the hatred that awaited him in the majors. Had the best player from the Negro Leagues been chosen the unbelievably talented and volatile Josh Gibson would have pegged to break down the door for blacks in MLB but Rickey knew that Gibson’s arrogance and abrasiveness would have alienated the very fans he desperately wanted to embrace this experiment. And in Robinson Branch Rickey found the perfect marriage of talent and temperament. Robinson proved to be the right choice and he became the ambassador everyone hoped he would be. Jackie Robinson’s dignity and unflappable nature forever changed the climate of race relations in America.

Football has no such claim on historical significance, unless you examine its effects on American pop culture. The 1958 NFL Championship between the Baltimore Colts and New York Giants is generally regarded as the first defining moment in sports television history and the moment when the NFL “arrived” on the scene. Since that night almost every major advancement in sports broadcasting has been pioneered in football. In 1970 the NFL and ABC struck a deal that would thrust football into the spot light forever. Monday Night Football drew huge audiences and massive advertising revenue. The marriage of football and TV was consummated, an arrangement that would vault the NFL into the position as America’s most watched, most followed, and most popular sport. The Super Bowl has become a cultural mainstay and a global phenomenon. It’s been estimated that over 1.5 billion people in 150 different countries tune in to what is arguably the single biggest sporting event on the planet outside soccer’s World Cup.

What is striking when you examine these two sports side by side is the overall health of the respective power structures. Since 1987 when the players union in the NFL was broken by a labor war with the owners (in 1993 after free agency was fully implemented the NFLPA was reformed as a union) there has been very little acrimony between players and owners. In fact not a single game has been lost due to labor disputes in the NFL since the ’87 strike. Since the 80’s the NFL has adopted a salary cap, comprehensive revenue sharing, a strict drug policy, and TV revenues and attendance figures remain steady. The NFL is now one of the strongest and most lucrative professional sports leagues in the world.

The same can’t be said about Major League Baseball. In 1994 baseball ceased operations ending one of the most exciting seasons in that sport’s history. Before play was stopped and the World Series cancelled for only the second time in one hundred years Tony Gwynn was making a run at .400 season average, Matt Williams was on pace to break Roger Maris’ 61 home run mark, and the Montreal Expos with the lowest payroll in the league were in first place. Only in the last couple years has baseball attracted fans on the scale seen before ’94. And trouble still looms large on the horizon. This year baseball finally adopted some semblance of a drug testing policy but the specter of steroids threatens to unravel the fabric of the most hallowed records in the game. Barry Bonds’ 73 HR’s in 2001, Mark McGuire’s 70 in ’98, and Sammy Sosa’s 66 & 63 in ’98 & ’99 all come with significant baggage. The death of Ken Caminiti, the admitted steroid use of Jason Giambi, and the cloud constantly hovering over Bonds’ head suggests that baseball still has an extremely difficult time policing itself. This is due to a dysfunctional brain trust that is more bent on reaping the spoils of war than in preserving the sport. Bud Selig is a puppet of the owners and his arch nemesis Donald Fehr is the Don Corlione of the players’ union. These two have had more public spats than Al & Peg Bundy. Together Fehr and Selig have worked in concert to destroy whatever credibility baseball may have once had. Franchise success in baseball is largely due to deep pockets rather than to professional competency. Why else would the Yankees be able to compete year in & year out for a World Series trophy despite having possibly the worst minor league development system in the game? Simple, because George Steinbrenner has the deepest pockets in the league.

Baseball for the most part is a rich get richer kind of league whereas football has a genuine competitive balance. In order to compete in the NFL you need to be an astute talent evaluator, be a master mathematician, and relate well to fans and players alike. In baseball you need only have a fat TV deal, a gilded bank roll, and a willingness to shell out $2.5 million a year for an average middle reliever. In 1998 the NFL inked $17.8 billion in network television deals that averages out to about $73.3 million per team per year. The average Major League Baseball franchise clears barely $11 million a year from network TV. Even if you factor in local television revenue the NFL still dwarfs MLB in the TV wars.

Another symptom of baseball’s dysfunction is the manner in which it flaunts its antitrust exemption. Baseball is the only major industry in America that has an exemption from antitrust laws. This means that teams can’t move without league approval, control of individual franchises can be stripped from owners (ask Marge Schott), and the league can contract teams at any time. Bud Selig flirted with this idea a couple years ago and the Expos and the Minnesota Twins were nearly wiped off the major league landscape. Instead the Expos were shipped to Washington D.C. to become the Senators. Another little ancillary effect of the antitrust exemption is that collusion amongst the individual teams has been commonplace, especially during the era of free agency. In the late 80’s the MLBPA filed three different grievances against the owners violating the anti-collusion clause of the 1976 Collective Bargaining Agreement. An independent arbitrator found that baseball owners were indeed guilty of collusion and awarded the players union a $280 million settlement.

When you view the picture as a whole you find that undoubtedly football is a better sport. You don’t find the acrimony between owners and players that exists in baseball, there is not the ominous presence of a massive steroid scandal that exists in baseball, and the athletes are superior in football. While baseball will always lay claim to being the more historically important sport the fact that the powers that be are a moronic band of nincompoops will always be, pardon the pun, strike one against our nation’s pastime. Strike two is the steroid problems baseball still refuses to address properly. And strike three is the nature of labor relations. The ’94 season was lost and it will happen again…guaranteed. Football is by far a more sound business entity with a more marketable product. I’ve weighed the merits, examined the history, and dissected the facts. The verdict is in and football is king.

Friday, May 06, 2005

Football vs. Baseball

As the 2005 NFL Draft draws to a close and the Cincinnati Bengals draft yet another bust (witness Ki-Jana Carter, Akili Smith, David Klingler, Peter Warrick) I was confronted on another blog with a foolish contention that baseball is somehow a superior sport than American football. So I decided to analyze the two sports side-by-side and offer up a detailed and objective, or not so objective, juxtaposition of America’s two most popular sports.

Baseball can trace its origins back to the days of William the Conqueror in England around 1085. Throughout the last thousand years games that resembled baseball have been mentioned in literature and historical texts. There was even mention of a game called “base” in letters home from Valley Forge during the American Revolution. Jane Austin mentions in her classic Northanger Abbey, “it was not very wonderful that Catherine should prefer cricket, base-ball, riding on horseback, and running about the country, at the age of fourteen, to books”. The first organized baseball club in America was the New York Knickerbockers in 1842. Alexander Cartwright and Dr. Lucius Adams formulated the original rules in 1845 that form the foundation of modern-day baseball. The first league was established in New York during the 1850’s. Baseball was a diversion for prisoners of war during the Civil War and the first paid professional league was started in 1871 in New York City. In 1903 the first World Series was played.

In 1823 a game resembling modern-day American football was played in merry old England. The game was quickly adopted in the United States on the collegiate level. Schools such as Harvard and Princeton played as early as the mid 1800’s but organized games weren’t played until after the Civil War. In 1860 in Boston the first high school football games took place. These early contests were a hybrid of rugby and soccer and it wasn’t until 1873 that rules were set to paper. During the late 19th century a man named Walter Camp influenced the adoption of a whole new set of rules. The father of American football, Camp, reduced the field from its original dimensions of 140x70 yards to the more conventional 110x53 yards. Camp also reduced the number of players per side from 15 to 11, developed a system of downs, and called for the center snap. By 1895 professional football had begun. In 1921 the American Professional Football Association adopted its first set of bylaws and expanded to 22 teams. In ’22 the APFA changed its name to the National Football League.

Both sports are literally replete with mythical moments that will live for eternity in the pantheon of American sports. Baseball has Bobby Thompson’s homerun off Ralph Branca in 1951 the now legendary “The Shot heard Round the World”. Football has Dwight Clark’s touchdown thrown by Joe Montana, a.k.a. “The Catch”. Baseball has the infamous ninth inning collapse of the Boston Red Sox in the 1986 World Series against the Mets where Bill Buckner let a little dribbler slip through the wickets giving millions of Sox faithful nightmares for nearly thirty years. Football has “The Drive” where John Elway led the Denver Broncos on a game tying 98 yard drive with five minutes left to send the 1986 AFC Championship game to overtime. The Broncos eventually won and Cleveland Browns fans and Marty Shottenheimer have yet to exorcize the ghosts of that game. Baseball has Don Larson’s no-hitter. Football has Joe Montana’s last minute game winning drive in Super Bowl XXIII. Baseball has Sammy Sosa’s and Mark McGuire’s epic run at the once fabled 61 homerun mark and Cal Ripken’s consecutive games streak. Football has Dan Marino’s all out assault on the record books and Jerry Rice’s staggering numbers.

Both sports also have their fair share of super stars. Men such as Willie Mays, Mickey Mantle, Babe Ruth, Barry Bonds, Ted Williams, Satchel Page, Roger Clemens, Sandy Koufax, and Steve Carlton are deities amongst fans of America’s pastime. Likewise, stars like Lawrence Taylor, Jim Brown, Dick Butkus, Johnny Unitas, Joe Montana, John Elway, Dan Marino, Barry Sanders, Ronnie Lott, and Reggie White will live on forever in the minds of football fans.

Some of the most colorful nick-names in sports were spawned on the diamond or gridiron. The Sultan of Swat, The Galloping Ghost, The Splendid Splinter, Crazy Legs, The Yankee Clipper, The Minister of Defense, Mr. October, The Rocket, Tombstone (the best nick name in sports history, IMO), Night Train, The Say Hey Kid, Dizzy, Stan the Man, Hammerin’ Hank, The Wizard of Oz, The Big Unit (sounds like a porn star’s name), The Assassin, Mean Joe, Broadway Joe, Sweetness, The Freak, and Prime Time became synonymous with the games’ biggest stars.

Where the separation between the two sports occurs is in the athletes. While the toughest feat in sports is hitting a baseball there really can be no argument that the best athletes reside on the football field. The likes of Barry Bonds, Ken Griffey Jr., Alex Rodriguez, and Jim Edmonds are great athletes but they don’t even compare to an even average NFL player or even those in college football. Players in the NFL routinely run the forty in 4.3 seconds or better. It says something when the best athlete to ever play baseball, Bo Jackson, was also a football player. While sheer athletic ability doesn’t translate to be being a gifted baseball player you must be a sensational athlete to play football. You must be physically strong and tough to even survive in the NFL but the same requirements cannot be said to exist for baseball. The main requirement for baseball is supreme hand-eye coordination, a feat which can be found in a professional billiards player.

We will examine the historical and societal significance of these two sports tomorrow then pass down a final verdict.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Stop the madness!

This from the Associated Press:

CLEARFIELD, Pa. (AP) - The burger war is growing. Literally. Denny's Beer Barrel Pub, which lost its crown as the home of the world's biggest burger earlier this year, is now offering a new burger that weighs a whopping 15 pounds.
Dubbed the Beer Barrel Belly Buster, the burger comes with 10.5 pounds of ground beef, 25 slices of cheese, a head of lettuce, three tomatoes, two onions, a cup-and-a-half each of mayonnaise, relish, ketchup, mustard and banana peppers - and a bun.
It costs $30.
"It can feed a family of 10," said Denny Liegey Sr., the restaurant's owner.

My God! I can hear myself getting fatter.