Monday, July 27, 2009

Vick's Comeback Story Shouldn't Happen

America loves a comeback story. But Michael Vick's comeback story should not happen.

Yesterday, Vick got his dispensation from the Pope of the National Football League. Roger Goodell re-instated Vick to play in the NFL. After being released from prison, he served out the rest of his prison sentence for operating an illegal dog-fighting ring back home in Hampton Roads, Virginia under house arrest and working a construction job for 10 bucks an hour.

But Roger Goodell wants everyone to know that he will not be a pushover commissioner.

Vick can begin training and taking part in training camp immediately, and he could be allowed to play by week six. Goodell says he will rule again, giving Michael a chance to transition back into the NFL.

Vick is happy to be given a second chance to play in the league saying through his agent, “I would like to express my sincere gratitude and appreciation to commissioner Goodell for allowing me to be readmitted to the National Football League. I fully understand that playing football in the NFL is a privilege, not a right, and I am truly thankful for the opportunity I have been given.

So far, and surprisingly, there haven’t been any teams interested in having Vick even be a third string QB on their team.

I am shocked that not one team would be so desperate to take (another) a chance on an agile, scrambling quarterback who can make plays on the run.

But if there is a general manager or coach wanting to give Vick a spot on their roster, I offer you some free advice: don’t take him. In fact, don’t even talk to his agent. Vick comes with not only enough baggage to get a Samsonite endorsement, he will also come with an unlikely entourage.

Back when we first started learning about what an inhumane and cruel operation Bad Newz Kennels was, and read the news reports of how many dead dogs were buried on Vick’s Surry County, Virginia property, (the rape stands, the dog pits, and the thousands of dollars that were bet on this senseless sport), People For The Ethical Treatment Of Animals made a promise.

It’s a promise they are still more than willing to keep and your franchise doesn’t need the head ache and the angry and offended fan base.

If any team decides to pay Michael Vick to play, PETA has vowed to show up and protest. In a day when people protest everything and anything, when television news outlets have their pick of what group is protesting where, this may just sound like an empty threat or cacophonous din and nothing more.

But PETA will not just protesting outside of the stadium of the team Vick plays for on any given Sunday. They have vowed to go on the road and protest at the opposing teams stadiums. PETA has vowed to show up at any camp, appearance or event that is directly or indirectly involved with Vick or the team.

They say that the NFL has a short memory when it comes to talent. Just ask the Dallas Cowboys last year when they hired Adam “Pac Mac” Jones, as well as a host of other teams.

But if you’re an NFL owner, do you really want that kind of entourage following your team around? Just because you’ve “conveniently” forgotten what Michael Vick did?

This is one comeback story that should never have been.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Summer Television Disappointment

The summer television season is here. And it stinks.

Every fall when the network television season starts, it’s a frenzied thrill ride of plotline twists and turns, great characters and stellar shows. Whether it’s who is going to win the Amazing Race on CBS, or will Liz Lemon find true love (or something close to it without stalkers being involved) on 30 Rock on NBC, or can Mike and Susan every really stay together on Desperate Housewives on ABC? One thing is an assured constant: each week brings a steady stream of good, and sometimes great, television.

Spring is when the television schedule starts to sputter. Some shows take two weeks off, which the networks coyly call a “hiatus” starting in February, or the networks aggravatingly space the rest of the season schedule in between insipid and pedestrian specials, or pompous, navel-gazing awards shows. And before you know it, season finales come way too soon in mid-April, or, (if a series can pace itself longer than 13 original eps) the show wraps up in May leaving a TV addict like myself to wander the desolate arid wasteland that is network and basic cable throughout the summer.

But this particular summer has been brutal. Not just because I live in Phoenix and the temperatures like to hover around 100 degrees at night, (see my Five Stages of Summer Heat blog posted on 7/21/09) but the shows that the networks have held off because of last year’s writer strike and waited to dump them on the airwaves over the summer, (a pathetic link to what was great in the spring and an optimistically looking fall) have been poor. Really poor.

Rescue Me has been on a roller coaster ride of late. The show that has been critically acclaimed and well received by the public has fallen on hard times lately. Denis Leary has been the creator, the driving force and the main character since its debut on F/X five seasons ago, but it lost its way last year, ultimately ending up with a WTF ending that left you scratching your head and questioning why you were watching the show in the first place. This season has been like the monsoon season here in the Valley: hailed as one of the biggest and the best, but actually being spotty, all wind and dust, no lightning and thunder, no torrential downpours flooding viewers with great plot lines and emotionally sweeping viewers like myself away, looking forward to next week.

Entourage is all about fluff. But it’s good, not always clean, fluff on HBO. Unfortunately this season, we are left without any kind of compelling story lines because the show has become formulaic, grinding itself into a predictable story arc every episode. E.g.: The boys get into some kind of trouble, Ari yells, Vinnie sleeps with a gorgeous woman, Drama kvetches, Turtle is…Turtle, and E desperately wants to be taken seriously. At the end, trouble is averted and all is good in Hollywood. Yawn. Roll credits.

Because of my utterly crippling disappointment and strained relationships with the new but uninspired summer season of shows, I have been put in an awkward position. I have been looking elsewhere for summer escapes. That’s right, I’ve been cheating on my TV shows. And I am not proud.

I have been watching Next Food Network Star on Food Network and ashamed to admit that it’s got more drama and more unexpected twists and turns than Entourage, while packing more passion and hubris (without the alcoholism) than Rescue Me. I have also been absolutely hooked (no pun intended) on Deadliest Catch on Discovery Channel. Watching one episode of these fishermen makes any guy with a desk job and an expensive car look like a teat-sucking, sissy-Mary.

I’ve also rekindled my interest in Major League Baseball, watching games on ESPN and Fox Sports. Too bad the Diamondbacks are finding ways to lose instead of winning games. Note to Arizona Diamondback President Derrick Hall: this makes it incredibly hard to root for the home team. Enough said.

So where does that leave me for this summer? I have been patiently, almost forbearingly waiting for one of the best dramas on television to start on August 16th on AMC. Mad Men is on its third season with Don Draper at a crossroads. Season two was one of the best culminations of style, substance, and plot I’ve seen since The Wire.

Unfortunately, the way my summer’s been going, I am hesitant to get overly excited. The summer malaise has hit so many of the shows I used to watch. But something tells me that creator and producer Matt Weiner isn’t going to rest on his laurels and shouldn’t let Don or anyone at Sterling Cooper coast on their retro good looks and suave (and sometimes lurid) behavior.

I just want my summer malaise to be washed away like a good monsoon storm in the middle of a hot summer in Phoenix. So, I am putting my trust into a guy who drinks like a fish, smokes like a fiend, recklessly cheats on his wife while always looks dashingly dapper in a grey flannel suit. I guess there’s a first time for everything.

I hope it’s not too much pressure.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Shine Comes Off the Penny

Last week the president realized that his Health Care Reform bill was stalling in Congress. Not only were Republicans balking over nationalized health care, but Blue Dog Democrats were expressing hesitation and concern about cost as well as feasibility; just how could we pay to insure every America while our national deficit just topped a trillion dollars the week before?

As he has done in the past, the president took his case to the airwaves, before the American people holding his fourth (fourth!) press conference since taking office in just over six months. Obama was emphatic and stridently determined; laying out a plan to make sure that not only would 47 million uninsured Americans (a “fuzzy math” stat, by the way) be covered, but also all Americans would have a choice under the government’s plan.

As usual, the president was long on rhetoric and short on specifics, with reporters tossing softball questions for him to expound upon. It was the lowest rated press conference so far. In fact, NBC had to be talked into carry his address; the Fox network completely passed.

Then, toward the end of the press conference, a reporter asked President Obama about the arrest by the Cambridge, Massachusetts police of his long-time friend, Harvard professor Henry Lewis Gates, Jr. The president said the police, “acted stupidly.”

With that one comment, the president inserted himself into a story that was about race and law enforcement in a city that has had a long history of strained race relations. Forget the particulars, the president became part of the story and suddenly, his message about health care and insuring every American faded into the back pages of newspapers and television coverage. Now the story was about the president calling into question the integrity and responsibility of the Cambridge Police Department.

When you step into the cow pasture, you are bound to step into a cow patty. I can only imagine as soon as the president walked back into the Oval Office after the press conference, his staff was not pleased. Now he would have to do something that presidents loathe to do: damage control and try to get the self-inflicted stink off of his shoe.

For the latter part of the week, the president has come close to apologizing about his remarks, but will not fully give a mea culpa for his stinging, personal words about a local matter that has ballooned into a national debate.

Barack Obama had been the master of the media. His oratory ability and calm assurance not only in front of the camera but the American people as well got him elected. Not this time. Not this past week.

A new Rasmussen poll indicates the president’s approval rating has dipped below 50 percent. This is lower than Jimmy Carter and George W. Bush’s poll numbers in their first six months of office.

I thought that Barack Obama’s first real enemy would be from an outside threat: North Korea, the ecomony cratering, or a natural disaster like Hurricane Katrina. Instead, this past week Barack Obama has had to deal with another kind of enemy: himself.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Five Stages of Heat

This is my second summer in Phoenix and I’ve noticed a pattern of behavior that I don’t understand. Starting in April, the temperature, without exception, starts its slow, steady climb into the triple digits.

We laugh at people back East and the Midwest who are still digging their way out of another frigid winter. We scoff at the inevitable sun and heat. That’s why we live here…in the desert, we delusionally proclaim.

Then July comes and the temperature (like every July) climbs past 110 and we suddenly are outraged, insulted. We go through what I call the Kubler-Ross Five Stages of Summer Grief.

First, we are in denial. June was unseasonably cool this year. So by June 20th, we absolutely convinced that there was no freaking way we could see 110 degrees this summer.

Second, we get angry. This happened last week as the temps shot past 110 for more than two consecutive days. It was as if Mother Nature punked us, played us for a sucker, took us for a mark. Yes, our anger was righteously deserved, we thought. How DARE she trick us and invite the Heat Miser to stay in our town and burn everything under the sun to a crisp. Our anger was palpable.

The third stage happened on Sunday. We start bargaining with God. We sit in our house or apartment and as we wipe the dripping sweat off the back of our neck as we sit three inches from an industrial fan used in hog barns, frantically trying to get cool, trying to get God to turn down the sun. We make deals with the Almighty that are ignored and unheeded. We promise to stop nefarious habits or give copious amounts of money to a religious charity, swearing up and down that if only God would talk to Mother Nature and stop this ridiculous heat wave, we would all be better people. Bargaining never works. The sun rises in the east, roasts the Sonoran desert for about 14 hours and then sets near Tonopah around 7:30PM.

The fourth stage of our collective Summer Grief is settling in the Valley now. It’s depression. In the morning you hesitate opening the front door to the oven that is the outside. You dread getting into the car and having your back instantly turn wet with sweat as you wait for the AC in your car to move enough air around to promote a stale breeze. You have no energy; you don’t want to go to Starbucks or Taco Bell because you’ve seen birds burst into flame in mid-air and snakes sweating because it’s so hot.

And this depresses the Hades out of you. In fact, you imagine Hell is a nice place this time of year compared to the Valley of the Sun as the temperature hovers around 118 degrees during the day and doesn’t go below 100 at night.

You pray for death, but even Death doesn’t come to the Valley this time of year. That robe he wears is too heavy and that scythe he carries is just too heavy when lugging it down Van Buren in the concrete inferno.

The final stage comes late; too late for you to realize that summer and Summer Grief is almost over. It’s the most interesting stage because you don’t realize you’ve reached it until it’s too late.

It’s Acceptance.

By the time late August sluggishly arrives, you’ve adjusted to the blazing cauldron that is the Valley. You’re mind is so numb that you forget to sweat. You’ve become quasi-Saharan. You enjoy taking three showers a day just to feel mildly fresh. You have finally figured out a system to get your Starbucks, get back in the car and not look like a bad comedian on stage in the midst of being soaked in flop sweat.

And it’s around this time that September comes and the temperature only (ONLY!!!) hits 100 degrees. You feel like Prometheus finally capturing and taming fire. You regale your friends with “it wasn’t that hot” stories and how you survived a 118 day with nothing more than a pair of khaki shorts and an old ASU t-shirt, your only liquid refreshment being a warm bottle of Yoo-Hoo.

Then it hits you – summer is over. The heat wave has broken and Mother Nature has moved back north because she doesn’t like the snow birds either.

And we’ll go through the Five Stages of Summer Grief all over again next year.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Most Selfish Mom

Maria del Carmen Bousada decided to become a mom after caring for her own mother who died at the ripe old age of 101.

But Maria wasn’t in her 30’s or 40’s. Instead of a selfless decision to bring another life into the world, she made a selfish decision to have a child at 66.

Yes, she decided to have a baby a year after she could receive a Social Security check.

Modern medicine has provided some great and fantastic procedures to not only lengthen but also improve the quality of our lives. But to have a child at the age of 66 is not only irresponsible – it’s inherently reckless. Maria thought that she would live well into her 90’s, being able to enjoy a good 20-25 years of being a mom.

Unfortunately, she died at the age of 69 from stomach cancer. I guess that’s relatively young for her family. She was a mom for three years to twins. Upon receiving the news she had the deadly disease, she said she didn’t regret giving birth to twin babies. And no matter what, they would be cared for by her extended family.

What I cannot comprehend is why someone would try to push the bounds of medicine but could not see the folly of that decision, nor have the foresight to realize that what she did was unfair and terribly selfish to those two babies. Maria wanted the immediate gratification of being a mom, without realize a mom is a life-long job.

Maria lied to her doctors claiming she was 55, which is the cutoff age for being inseminated. When she gave birth to her sons, she was listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the oldest woman to give birth.

Congrats, Maria. I hope your record is never broken. But you were a terribly selfish mother. You sons deserve better.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Still Scratching My Head

After John McCain “went maverick” and picked Sarah Palin to be his running mate, I was left scratching my head. And, unfortunately, I still am over her latest (and not so greatest) move.

Last week, Sarah Palin announced, rather abruptly, that she is stepping down from being governor of the state of Alaska to pursue something, to do something. The blogosphere and talk radio has been swirling with punditry and prognostications about what Sarah is going to do.

Some of the theories that have been floated, flummoxed and tweeted are, in no particular order that she will run for the Alaskan Senate seat in 2010. She’s getting her own tv show on Fox. She is being investigated by the FBI, which has already been shot down by the Bureau. She is sick of being criticized so she’s going rogue once again and will start up her own consulting business, and, of course, that she is preparing for a 2012 challenge of Barack Obama.

On Sunday, she came out and threw the media another curve ball. She told the Washington Times something that left me scratching my head – again. She stated, “I will go around the country on behalf of candidates who believe in the right things, regardless of their party label or affiliation.”


Some people are still hanging on to Sarah with these delusional last vestiges of saving the GOP.

Far from it.

This woman isn’t a savvy politician. She’s become a low-rent media hound. Obviously, quitting being Governor to start campaigning goes against her “I am no quitter” stance she railed on during her oft-missed opportunity campaign. We saw how badly she handled the media and yet, she keeps popping up. Whether it’s by her own press conference or late night talk show feud, Palin hasn’t gone away to re-tool, refresh and gone back to run Alaska, she’s kept a slow burn relationship with the media; to the point where many Americans are burnt out on Palin-mania.

This also opens her up to more and strongly worded criticism. This is a page from Al Gore’s playbook after her lost in 2000. Instead of going quietly, he insisted on reforming and remaking his image and placed all his chips on saving the planet. If Sarah is to be believed, never mind her abrupt quitting, and her secrecy) saying it’s not about ideology but about the “right things” just leaves me where I was when John McCain announced her as his running mate.

So where does this leave Sarah Palin? Who knows. She told the Washington Times that her goal is to keep going, to make some kind of difference. “I’m not ruling out anything — it is the way I have lived my life from the youngest age,” she said. “Let me peek out there and see if there’s an open door somewhere. And if there’s even a little crack of light, I’ll hope to plow through it.”

Even the bull doesn’t hit destroy every piece of fine China in the shop…Palin may just take down the whole building.

Which leaves me still scratching my head.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Steve McNair, RIP

When the crawl at the bottom of the screen read, “Former Titans QB Steve McNair found dead of multiple gun shot wounds in Nashville apartment,” I was in absolute denial. Steve McNair wasn’t that guy. He couldn’t be THAT guy.

McNair’s story is as American as they come: a small college guy, with an incredible arm and toughness and determination not seen on the gridiron since Johnny Unitas, Bobby Lane or Joe Montana. Most people don’t even know where McNair played ball (it was Alcorn State in Mississippi) or that he was a Heisman Trophy candidate. Players and coaches respected him, communities and towns embraced him. He had poise and a natural likeability factor that many players in the NFL lack or simple don’t care about.

Steve McNair had poise and control on the field as well, taking the Tennessee Titans on an 87-yard march down the field to almost beat the St. Louis Rams in 2000. If only the field were 98 yards instead of 100, we would be talking about a Super Bowl champ cut down at the age of 36.

We have heard repeatedly of how people like Plaxico Burris and other NFL players (and even coaches) have been charged with illegal firearm possession, illegal weapon discharge, illegal sale of firearms, etc. Players will say it’s a necessity to be armed in the NFL, fearing for their and their families' safety. Players fear being robbed, and arming themselves is a necessary evil of the seedy underbelly of making guaranteed millions in the NFL. Players recall how Sean Taylor of the Redskins was fatally shot during a robbery attempt at his home in 2007.

But Steve McNair didn’t fit the mold of someone who hung out in questionable company, didn’t go clubbing and get into brushes with the law like Pacman Jones, Tank Johnson or Dante Stallworth. But as the investigation into his death deepens and more is learned about Steve McNair’s death, questions bubble up about his character.

The Associated Press reported that, “the death of former NFL quarterback Steve McNair raised questions Sunday about his relationship with the 20-year-old woman whose body was found alongside him in his downtown condominium.

McNair…who was married with four children, was found Saturday with multiple gunshot wounds on a sofa in his living room. The woman was killed by a single gunshot wound and a pistol was discovered near her, police said.
Authorities didn't immediately say who was to blame for the killings, but they weren't looking for any suspects.”

Steve McNair was an all-American story, tragically cut down on an all-American holiday – July 4th, 2009.

May he rest in peace as authorities search for answers that many of us have surrounding his tragic death.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

July 4th

In a recent study done by the Goldwater Institute, students were asked sample questions from the U.S. Citizens and Immigration exam. Sadly, not many students passed.

One question hit home with me, as this weekend is the day we celebrate the founding of this country. The question was, “Who wrote the Declaration of Independence?”

Thomas Jefferson had the unenviable task of drafting a letter, an epistle, and a grand and bold statement to England that stated succinctly and effectively that tyrannical rule wasn’t acceptable. It’s because of Jefferson’s writing ability and the foresight of brilliant minds in the Second Continental Congress, that we celebrate this Saturday.

This weekend, do me a favor. In between having another burger, before you get into the pool or watch a spectacular fireworks display, remember what July 4th is really about.

This bold and grand experiment (called the United States of America) has succeeded, (no matter what other countries say) for better or worse for over 200 years. There is no denying that what happened in Independence Hall in Philadelphia was the work of great people, brilliant minds and divine intervention.

Think about it: words on a page. A short, but direct document, written by one man and generally agreed on by a group of people has gotten us to where we are today. I think Thomas Jefferson or Alexander Hamilton or Ben Franklin would be more than proud to see the way America has evolved, transformed and inspired not only its own people, but people around the world – based on one simple truth – that all men are created equal.

More importantly, on Saturday remember that from this document one of the most memorable lines ever written still resonates today: Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.

Think about that when you’re downing another burger off the grill or enjoying friends and family. Think about how you have been pursuing your life, your liberty and have pursued your happiness. Then think of the impact of how one simple yet instrumental document has affected your life.

Have a Happy Fourth of July weekend.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Cowboy Culture Needs to Stay

Richard Wayde Hamar of Colorado was competing in the Little Britches Rodeo when he was thrown, then stepped on by a bull that weighed 2,000 pounds. He tragically died of a ruptured heart.

Wayde was 12. His parents said he died doing something he loved. Others disagree.

There are many people in the blogosphere who are outraged that a young man would even be allowed to stand next to an animal that big, but then to get on it and ride it for 6 seconds is just plain crazy.

There is a real disconnect in this country of people who think that a parent who doesn’t do everything in their power to protect their child is tantamount to abuse and those who celebrate what I call the Cowboy Culture

Wayde Hamar wasn’t abused. Far from it.

Under his parents watchful eyes, he started riding six years ago and was fully padded and wearing a helmet when the freak accident happened. But for some, this is an inevitable event, an accident just waiting to happen.

Tell that to the parents who allow their children play soccer, football or baseball and have a ball hit their child in the chest and suffer a heart attack. Again, that’s another example of a freak accident. But if it’s a mainstream sport, then there’s no outcry. It’s a tragedy, but more acceptable because we are a sport-centered culture. Our cowboy culture has dwindled to the outskirts of cities, away from the bright lights and our modern towns. The idea of a lone person, wandering the plains with nothing but a horse, his wits and using tools like knives and guns is anathema to our modern society.

But we should remember and celebrate the Cowboy Culture, as it is our culture. It’s as American as baseball or apple pie. So let’s keep the rodeos, roping and yes, even riding bulls.

Life is dangerous and no one wants to see a child die of a careless act. But what Wayde Hamar was doing wasn’t careless. It’s homage to out cowboy past. And something I wouldn’t want to see stopped or legislated out of existence.