Kindness Amidst Chaos

Tebow

There were two news stories yesterday about air travel. One was about the terrorist attack at the airport in Istanbul, Turkey. The other was about a man who had a heart attack during a flight he was taking with his wife and her friend. Which one would you guess had the most emotional impact on me?

It was the one about the man who had the heart attack.

The reason is that the man’s fellow passengers on the plane tried to help him. In particular, the former football player, now sports broadcaster, Tim Tebow, left his seat in business class and came to the man’s aid. He led prayers for the man along with other passengers around him while the man’s wife and her friend cried on his shoulders, picked up the family’s luggage when the plane landed and went with them to the hospital, staying until the family was told that the man had passed away.

You might think that it’s insensitive to not have a more emotional reaction to the terrorist attack. In fact, I thought that to myself after reading both stories. I think the reason the Tebow story impacted me more is because the terrorist attacks have become routine and have numbed my senses. Also, because there are so few positive stories that make the news. Indeed, I wonder if this story would have made the news were it not for the fact that a celebrity was involved. I suspect that there are many such occurrences every day that go unreported because the people engaging in such acts of kindness are regular, ordinary people, doing the right thing in obscurity.

That’s a shame, because I think that reading about acts of kindness promotes that type of behavior, just as the terrorists think that media coverage of their doings recruits some people to that type of behavior.

I wish the media would run a story about an act of kindness every day, not just when it involves a famous person. Maybe doing that would balance out the negative stuff and encourage the type of behavior the world desperately needs right now.

My thoughts, prayers, and condolences to all affected by the attack in Turkey.

Super Bowl Carousel

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I went to Las Vegas for the Super Bowl, as I’ve done the last five years now. A ton has already been written about the game itself, so instead I’m going to write about other stuff, mostly.

This year me and my crew stayed at the Wynn. In past years we stayed at another place that shall go unnamed because we couldn’t stand to stay there again; it was that bad. The Wynn, by comparison, is the best place I’ve ever stayed in Las Vegas. The photo above is of a carousel decoration in the lobby that looks like it came off a Rose Parade float. The hotel itself is very nice, but the service is what sets it apart. If you plan on visiting Las Vegas I recommend the Wynn. It’s more expensive, but well worth it if you can afford to stay there.

Which brings me to the topic of tipping. I always try to stick with 20% unless the service is sub-par. This is true especially when you’re accessing a premium service, like a nice hotel or restaurant. My theory is that if you can afford a higher-end place, you can afford to tip generously. A friend asked, what if you order a thousand dollar omelet? Well, then you can afford a two hundred dollar tip. If you think of all the things that money gets spent on for recreation, the tips are impactful to a segment of the workforce that relies on tips to supplement income.

In a previous post in advance of my Las Vegas trip to the Super Bowl, I said I wasn’t going to bet on the game. Well, once I got there and it was two hours before game time, I couldn’t resist, even though I’m not a fan of either team. This was a game that didn’t really have an underdog. The Patriots were one point favorites when I placed my bet. As I was standing in line at the Sports Book my brother texted me and predicted a Patriots win. He’s been correct in his Super Bowl predictions for 15 years out of the last 16, so I went with that, plus the over parlay, which means the combined score between the two teams had to exceed 47.5 points.

If you watched the game you know what happened. I thought I was going to lose my bet there at the end, when Seahawks player Jermaine Kearse made an incredible juggling catch to give his team a chance for the win. Then came what is undoubtedly the most head-scratching play call by an NFL coach I’ve ever seen. The Seahawks were one yard away from a come-back win, and their coach calls for a pass, which was intercepted.

So I won my bet, but even better, there was a slow motion replay of Richard Sherman’s reaction to the interception. He looked like a six year old that had just been told there’s no Santa Claus. Classic.

All in all, a fun trip. My gambling success almost paid for the whole thing.

Next year the Super Bowl will be held in Santa Clara, so I may hang around the Bay Area for that one.

 

 

Beach Weather

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It’s the end of January and I took this photo a couple blocks from my house. This is the beach fronting the east side of San Francisco Bay. It was 72 degrees and people were walking around in bathing suits.

For those on the east coast, I’m not sharing this to make you jealous. It’s a real problem, actually, because it hasn’t rained at all this month. That’s right. For the first time since they started keeping records there has been zero precipitation in the region during the month of January.

So the drought continues. There is still a chance it will break in February and March, but it’s going to have to rain like hell. Meanwhile my relatives in Amador County, California, have placed a water tank on their property because their well ran dry.

In the grand scheme of things perhaps I shouldn’t even mention that the ski season is a bust so far, but it’s not just that I’m getting burned on fair use of my season pass; the people who live in the Sierras rely on ski season for their livelihood.

At this point I almost feel like planning an expensive trip to Whistler as sort of a rain dance. You know: as soon as I blow a wad of cash to hit the slopes in British Columbia, it’ll start snowing hard in California.

I’m heading out to Las Vegas tomorrow for the Super Bowl. I should have some good fodder for the blog on Monday. Happy Super Bowl, whatever your loyalties. I’m not betting on either team, though I may do the over under thing.

To go off on a tangent for a moment, Marshawn Lynch of the Seahawks is a clueless turd. He thinks he doesn’t need to speak to the media during Super Bowl week. Newsflash: you’re an entertainer, Marshawn! Yes, you play football, but you do it for the entertainment of the fans. There’s a wrap-around structure called the National Football League. Without that wrap-around and the media that goes with it, no one would care if you played football. Your media strategy during Super Bowl week is not entertaining in the least. Neither is grabbing your crotch after scoring. So get over yourself and act like the highly compensated entertainer you’re supposed to be.

Deflate-Gate

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In a prior post I made some predictions about the NFL playoffs and said if I was wrong I’d blog with my tail between my legs. But…but…I’ve decided to blog with partly deflated balls between my legs instead.

Why? Because the Green Bay Packers were leading their opponent, the Seattle Seahawks, by 19 to 7 with a little more than two minutes left in the game. 999 times out of 1000, the Packers win that game. And my predictions regarding their quarterback, Russell Wilson, and their star cornerback, Richard Sherman, came true. Wilson game sacked real good early in the game and proceeded to throw six interceptions. Talk about a pick six. Sherman got burned by a touchdown pass, too, and looked none to happy about it.

So I don’t feel like I got that one wrong, really. Except the Packers didn’t win. Watching the Seahawks come back the way they did had a surreal quality to it. It never should have happened. Still, I guess I have to accept that I got that one wrong.

I had also predicted the Colts would beat the Patriots. But you know what? The Patriots are cheating scum! Cheaters! It turns out that the Patriots used partially deflated footballs in the game, in clear violation of league rules. You could give them the benefit of the doubt were this an isolated incident, but the Patriots have been caught cheating before, so it seems to be part of their DNA. When a team is cheating and wins the game, it doesn’t really count, or at least the win deserves an asterisk.

I’m going to Las Vegas for Super Bowl Sunday, as I’ve done for the last five years, but I’m not going to bet on the game. Not only do I not like the Seahawks, but they looked terrible for most of the game against the Packers. And how can you bet on a Patriots team that cheats?

I’ll leave my gambling for the card tables, after I watch this Super Bowl matchup with morbid fascination.

All Things Football

Ghost Duck

I haven’t posted in a few days because I’ve been pre-occupied with other things. I’ve had plenty to write about, so daily posts will follow until I’m caught up.

Take for example the college football championship game. For those following this blog who don’t follow American college football, there used to be a very odd, opaque process for determining the top college football team that did not involve an elimination tournament. I never fully understood the old process, so I won’t bore you trying to explain it. Let’s just say that it was very controversial and, more to the point, boring.

Americans are used to playoff games, like they have in the National Football League. The top teams play each other, with the winners eliminating the losers until the last two teams standing play each other for the championship, otherwise known as the Super Bowl. College football didn’t have a corollary, until Monday.

On Monday, fans got to see the first college equivalent of the Super Bowl, with the Oregon Ducks taking on the Ohio State Buckeyes. I watched the game, as did millions of others. It was a ratings blow-out.

Ohio State won the game convincingly and were anointed the champions of college football. It’s worth pointing out that, under the previous system, Ohio State would not have been the championship team.

It’s also worth pointing out that when I began watching the game, before any play had been run, I texted a relative to predict that the Ducks were doomed to lose because of their uniforms. The Ducks weren’t wearing the traditional Oregon colors, which feature green and yellow. Instead, they were wearing a special uniform designed by Nike that made them look like ghost Ducks (see the photo, above). Sure enough, they performed like ghosts of their former selves.

I had a minor rooting interest because the Ducks are a Pacific coast team and my relative has a close friend who is an Oregon alumni. So I take no joy in pointing out the issue with the uniforms, but let’s hope that next year the Ducks stick with the traditional colors instead of shilling for Nike. It’s like putting your champion hound in an ugly Christmas sweater at the Westminster dog show. Even a dog knows when it’s wearing inappropriate attire, not to mention an elite college football player.

Switching gears, the local pro football teams have hired new head coaches. The 49ers went for an inside candidate, Jim Tomsula, while the Raiders went with an outside candidate, Jack Del Rio.

I mention this, in part, because I met Jack once very briefly. His girlfriend at the time was a member of my cover band. He seemed like a nice guy. Good luck, man. As a Raiders fan, I hope it all works out. Reportedly, Jack grew up a Raiders fan, too, so that’s a plus. The reality is that the Raiders have fired a lot of head coaches in the past few years, so I appreciate the fact that Jack decided to take the Raiders up on their offer. It’s not like people are breaking down their door to get into that organization, given the track record. Maybe he’ll help to convince other serious football people to sign up for the Raiders’ program.

As for Tomsula, it seems a bit pathetic. I don’t mean he’s pathetic, but when you fire a guy that took you to the brink of a championship three out of the last four years, it seems like promoting a guy into that spot who’s obscure by comparison shouldn’t be seen as an obvious, genius move. Whatever.

I’m going to Las Vegas for the Super Bowl, so I’m going to predict the whole thing, right now. I’ll blog with my tail between my legs if any part of this doesn’t come true.

I can’t possibly predict that the Patriots will defeat the Colts. I’m still mad about the Patriots beating the Raiders in the AFC championship, even though their quarterback fumbled the ball toward the end of the game. There was so much controversy about that call it resulted in a new rule; the “tuck” rule. Total BS. So Colts go to the Super Bowl.

The other game is a coin-toss. Green Bay against Seattle. If there’s any justice in this world, Aaron Rogers and Green Bay will torch Richard Sherman and the Seahawks. Why? Because Sherman has been begging for a comeuppance, and because Seattle’s quarterback, Russell Wilson, is one good sack away from being exposed as the overrated player that he is.

So it’s the Packers vs the Colts for the Super Bowl. In my opinion the Colts will win that battle because Peyton Manning needs to end his career and a Colts win will be a bittersweet salve to heal his many wounds.

Thanks for your continued interest in this blog.

On Any Sunday

Derek Carr

Wow! The Oakland Raiders have just defeated the San Francisco 49er’s, likely ending the 49er’s playoff hopes for this year, and possibly ending the 49er’s coaching career of Jim Harbaugh. There is speculation that Harbaugh will leave San Francisco at the end of the season to take the head coaching job…in Oakland.

That’s a weird aspect of this win for the Raiders. More about that later.

First, the Raiders’ quarterback, Derek Carr, was outstanding today. He’s the reason they won the game.

Second, no one saw this coming. Not realistically, anyway. The Raiders lost last week in a blow-out. There was absolutely no reason to think that a team with one win this season would even be competitive against the 49ers. The Raiders had nothing to play for except pride.

This is what I love about sports. The intangible elements somehow come into play from time to time and dictate an unexpected outcome.

So, on the question of whether Harbaugh moves to the Raiders, I think this game made that unlikely. This game is a manifestation of Harbaugh’s recent problems controlling his team, as evidenced by unattributed reports from 49er players that he has lost the confidence of the players.

It would be interesting to see if Harbaugh could help turn around the Raiders, but I think it would be more interesting to witness the second coming of the last great Raiders coach, Jon Gruden. If I had a vote, I’d take Gruden over Harbaugh any day. He’s won a Super Bowl, knows the Raiders organization as well as anyone, and doesn’t carry the baggage of Harbaugh’s recent problems.

I sign off with a hopeful comment: Go Raiders!

Garbage Time

Raiders Losing

The picture doesn’t tell the story. All the really bad shots have been taken off the website already.

I was a Raider season ticket holder for 10 years. I quit when I took my daughter to a few games and figured out it was an inappropriate atmosphere for an infant. Now that the Raiders have become an embarrassment, I’ve concluded that they are inappropriate for adults, as well.

At least for this season. Gawd, it’s pathetic that I can’t be more definitive and just cut the cord; say Adios to Raiders fandom completely.

For I have seen this season, and, in particular, last Sunday’s game.

This is the first and probably the lone post I will ever do flaming a sports team. That it is focused on a team I care about is a measure of the shame I feel after witnessing the completely lame Raiders performance against a team, that, while competent, is not on the level of the Kansas City Chiefs. The Raiders beat the Chiefs last week (their first win in over a year), which makes the manner of this week’s loss that more ignominious.

The Raiders lost.

But more than that, they didn’t score.

At all.

Zero.

Meanwhile, the other team (who I won’t mention; this post is not about them) scored 52 points.

The Raider’s season was lost way before this latest humiliation. It was already garbage time. But garbage time exists in the context of a game, or a season, or in general. This last game was garbage time in any possible context; the pure manifestation of an NFL franchise in the process of creating bad, no, unacceptable, content.

They’ve been doing it for years now.

I don’t presume to know how to lead the Raiders back to greatness, but here’s a thought.

Mr. Davis, please realize that, while you may one day possess the smarts to make the right hiring decisions to restore the team to greatness, you can retain ownership, but for the time being, the key hiring decisions should be made by someone who has more football experience than you have. The only hiring decision you should make, with close consultation with trusted experts (and with listening to people you don’t necessarily trust; you want to know what your enemies don’t want you to do); is to hire someone to make key decisions for you.

This Sunday the Raiders play the 49ers. I have cognitive dissonance around this game, because the Raiders’ season is already over, while the 49ers need to win to have a plausible chance of making the playoffs.

As it stands now, I prefer rooting for the local interest than rooting for garbage time, as much as that hurts.

Happy Thanksgiving!

turkey

It’s hard to decide whether I like Thanksgiving better than the 4th of July. They’re both unique to America and rooted in it’s history. They’re both identified with a particular sport; football with Thanksgiving and baseball with the 4th of July. The main difference is that the 4th of July is a celebration of the nation, while Thanksgiving is more a celebration of family. I guess maybe it comes down to whether you prefer hot dogs or turkey.

This year I’m thankful for my continued good health and that of my daughter. I’m thankful that she is doing fairly well in school. I’m thankful that her broken leg is completed healed, though the jury is still out as to whether she will resume snow skiing this season or next.

I’m thankful to have a good job. Two of my close relatives are out of work right now and struggling a bit to find new employment, so steady employment is definitely something to be thankful for.

And, if all that weren’t enough, it’s going to rain starting Saturday! And not just a little bit; it’s going to rain four days straight! Maybe the drought is finally coming to an end. You know it’s bad when you get all excited about rain on the weekend.

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone and remember to take a few moments thinking about what you’re thankful for as well. It makes the holiday that much better.