A short while ago, Doug Pacey of the Tacoma News-Tribune wrote this article on fans’ “nastiness” during the recruiting process. The piece could not have been more precise in explaining the ever-narrowing gap between fans and prospective college athletes, a divide that has been lessened with the rise of the internet age.
While college recruiting has always been a sleazy industry, hardcore fanatics have only really been brought into the fold over the past decade, as sites like Rivals.com and Scout.com (host to our very own Dawgman.com) have made prep athletics — and all which that entails; namely, recruiting — their primary focus. At the same time, social media websites like Facebook and Twitter have given fans direct access to the recruits themselves, a caustic union akin to mixing Tim McGraw and Nelly (every time I hear Over and Over, I’m quite positive a child in a third-world country is stricken with malaria).
While Pacey’s piece nailed it from one end (I’ll admit, I just wanted to say “nailed it from one end” in an article) by placing the onus for this behavior on the adults in the situation, the stupidity of recruiting is not a one-way street. And here’s where we run into problems. Who do we blame when things get out of hand? What I mean by that is, can we really convince ourselves that fans are the only ones at fault for turning the process sour?
Fact is, there are no winners here. None. At all. On either side of the fence.
Sure, adults should know better than to pick on juveniles. But most of the adults doing the internet bullying are basically kids themselves. These are the same morons who procreate just so they can beat their children at Wal-Mart. Trusting them to do anything with any amount of sense is like handing Richard Reid a shoebox and asking him to faithfully look after it for you. “Here, Rich. I just got these Nikes. I’ll be back in five. Don’t be running off now!” BOOM! That just happened.
Likewise, if a high school athlete — with his future and a scholarship on the line, no less — has any intelligence at all, he’s not sitting on Twitter and Facebook interacting with people dumber than him. Yes, young Jedi, it is entirely possible that there are adults out there who have lower IQs than you. Adults aren’t always right. Adults aren’t always knowledgeable or informed. It doesn’t mean you’re some kinda genius or anything (so don’t get too high up on that saddle), but it does mean you have the chance to improve yourself through a very small dose of adversity.
You know what, though? Before we give high school athletes too much credit for dealing with these imbeciles, allow me to offer some words of advice.
First of all, highly-touted recruit, stop being so damn sensitive. I’m getting sick of hearing 17-year-olds say stupid shit like, “I didn’t choose School X because the fans were saying things to me on Twitter.” Really? REALLY?! Here you are about to have a free ride to a university of your choice, you’re going to be hooking up with beautiful sorority girls in a couple months, you have the chance to make millions upon millions of dollars, and you really have the wherewithal to play that card?
Kid, you KNOW you created that Twitter account to get virtual blowies from all the fans out there. Don’t act like you didn’t. Don’t turn innocent on us now, player. You’re seriously turning the tables on the public because you don’t like what they have to say? Grow the f**k up. I don’t care if you can’t legally buy a skin mag yet, you need to start the maturation process NOW. Why? Because of all the reasons I just listed: the free ride, the jersey-chasing hos, the potential fame and fortune…in a word, the pressure. If you think having people talk ill of you isn’t fair, then you better get that education because you’ll never make it in this world. Life isn’t fair. And when you’re afforded opportunities that the average person can’t have, the average person gets jealous and says some things that maybe aren’t so nice. Deal with it. Rise above it. Learn to be better than it. It means you’re fortunate.
And not only that, but you’re really going to let the actions of a few dumbasses dictate your academic and athletic future? I hope you wouldn’t pick a school just because the fans were nicer to you. That’s incredibly vain and illogical. Pick a school because it has a major you’re interested in, or a coach you like, or a gameplan you want to be a part of. Don’t let the fans steer you here or there. That’s not how the rest of us pick our higher learning institutions. You have a brain. Please use it.
Secondly, no one has any empathy for you, kid. We haven’t been in your situation before. Ninety-nine-point-nine-percent of us will never be in your situation. So we can’t feel your pain. Because we don’t know your pain. And therefore, we really don’t give a shit about your pain. You’re a talented, capable, young human being with all the potential in the world. You happen to be the subject of a bittersweet process. You will benefit from this process. You will also be used throughout this process. I apologize for that. You deserve better. But as it is, this is the way of the world. This is the unfair part of life I was talking about. Handle it. Don’t let it handle you.
Thirdly, there’s this, an old saying that I bequeath unto you: Never mud wrestle with a pig, because the pig might like it. These fans, these crazy neanderthal fans that are causing you trouble, they are your pigs. They’re dragging you into this mud pit and demanding you spar with them. Don’t do it. If attention from a teenager inspires these goons, you want nothing to do with them anyway. Walk away and let it go. It’s not worth it. Not even in 140 characters or less. Not. Worth. It.
It’s stupid. It’s stupid that I have to waste a thousand words on this article, telling people how stupid they are for being stupid. Recruiting is the bane of our very existence. It elicits the worst traits of mankind, it pisses everyone off, and it sets humanity back by generations.
We’re better than this. I swear to God, Allah, Buddha, Tim Tebow…we are better than this.
Adults, grow up. Kids, grow up. Stop fighting. Stop being morons. Stop acting like bitches. This ends in a zero-zero tie. Done.
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I love Twitter. Which is also why I hate it so much. It’s like cocaine for media whores. Every time you think you can go a day, an hour, a minute without it, you start scratching your neck funny and you’re back on the rock before you know it. It’s absolutely dangerous.
There are any number of things I loathe about Twitter. Not so much the things we all know about already — like the fact that most athletes are uneducated morons, for one — but rather the things that have come to dictate our social behaviors as a result of 140-character status updates.
Take, for example, the fact that Twitter gives us a false sense of surrounding at all times. Think about it. If you’re alone or even feel for a second that you could be alone (ex. party wallflower syndrome), you can grab your phone and peruse your Twitter feed. You can tune out from the real world and tune into a universe that accepts you for the two or three sentences you, or others like you, might be able to cram into a text box. That’s a powerful distraction, one that rivals drugs and alcohol in its ability to divert the discomfort of a situation.
If you need a boost — an ego boost, an enjoyment boost, a laughter boost, a knowledge boost…I feel like Jamba Juice with all these boosts — Twitter is there to give it to you. There’s a never-ending stream of tweets from those you follow to keep you company. And if you’re really lucky, a bevy of followers clamoring for your attention will catch your eye by tweeting at you. With that much information going back and forth, it’s a wonder we ever look up from our feeds at all. To digest this much knowledge, we would need more alone time than Tom Hanks in Castaway.
And that’s the scary thing about Twitter. It allows us to feel wanted, to feel loved, to feel important, to feel needed entirely through characters on a screen. As a result of that, we don’t need to look someone in the eye to know they care. We don’t need to hug somebody or tell them we love them. There’s an emoticon for that. There’s a retweet button. We can retweet someone we care about all day long and never actually tell them how we really feel. Because it’s easy. And it does the job. At least temporarily.
We, as a people, demand instant gratification. When we see something we want, we need it now. Why have we made credit cards so popular? Why are loans so common? Why do we like fast food? Immediacy. We put an incredible amount of stock in immediate feedback. First dates, first impressions, first kisses, first place. No one ever talks about the second or the third of anything. We want the first. It makes us the best. We hedge our successes on the immediate. You can have that iPhone, but if you’re the last person to have that iPhone, you’re not nearly as cool as the first person to have that iPhone. The end is only slightly more important than the means by which you, or I, or anybody got there. Nobody wants to work for what they’re after. We know that there’s a heavy premium on getting that thing we want as fast as we can possibly get it. That’s the power of immediacy. That’s what makes Twitter relevant.
The immediacy of Twitter allows us to forgo the effort we put into making relationships work. I speak from experience. I’ve gotten dates because of Twitter. I’ve met friends because of Twitter. I’ve made enemies because of Twitter. But Twitter doesn’t actually tell anyone who you are. What Twitter does is provide a window to your brain. I’ve always said that the things I post on Twitter are my thoughts on steroids. They are fleeting blurbs that dash across my brain, captured in a nanosecond, typed up, plastered onto the internet, and shortly thereafter forgotten about. Thing is, while I may forget them, others do not. And because their only exposure to me is through a 140-character medium, they will either love me or hate me based entirely off a social networking application. How crazy is that?
Back in the day, we used to have to meet somebody face-to-face. Then call them. Then go out with them. Then call them again. Then keep going out with them until we were convinced that this relationship would either work or it wouldn’t. We got to know people by being around them. That’s not the case anymore.
Look at it this way. There’s a girl that I like. I talk to her almost every day through some form of communication. But I started thinking about all the ways we’ve communicated in the past few weeks and it blew my mind. There’s Twitter, of course. Then there’s Facebook. There’s email. There’s texting. There are phone calls. And then at the back end of all that, there happens to be the most infrequent way we communicate: face-to-face interaction. For every time we’ve hung out together, there are hundreds of messages back and forth through some other means. And yet the most meaningful thing I can get from her isn’t a text or a tweet or a chat or an email. It’s simple. It’s a smile.
Maybe that’s why Twitter is that thing I hate so much. It’s stealing the moments we can never replicate through words and replacing them with commentary. How do you describe a smile? You would never be able to do a smile justice in a thirty-page dissertation, let alone 140 characters or fewer. But we try to do it every day. I, myself, am guilty of that. I try to do that nearly every hour. Not with a smile, but with an explanation of who I am. Twitter is this thing that confounds me. There are people out there who are interested in those fleeting blurbs that dash across my brain. As a result, I share as many of them as I can. And in the end, no matter how many tweets or retweets come my way, I am left feeling incredibly unfulfilled by my contributions. I imagine I’m not alone in feeling that way, either.
There is something quite ironic about Twitter. It leaves us wanting more. And in leaving us wanting more, you would imagine that we would leave Twitter to find it. Maybe click on a link that leads to an article, or dig deeper to get in touch with a person we find especially compelling. While we explore these avenues from time to time, the irony is that we keep coming back. We always return to that thing that leaves us wanting more, searching for a certain fulfillment that we may or may not ever find.
Twitter is our drug of choice. We’re addicted and we can’t find the rehab clinic.
I love you, Twitter.
But I hate you so, so much.
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When I was in middle school, I suffered the misfortune of enduring a horizontal growth spurt, rather than a vertical one. My grandma called it “a phase,” which was fairly accurate, except the “phase” ended up lasting four years. During that time, there was no denying that I was what one might call husky. Or, to put it more bluntly, chubby. So chubby, in fact, that I claimed former University of Connecticut point guard Khalid El-Amin — who was also quite rotund — as my favorite basketball player.
The association with El-Amin only paid dividends one time in my entire life. I was in seventh grade, sitting in Spanish class working on some sort of group project, when the girl I had a huge crush on asked me if I knew the name of UConn’s portly little superstar. I looked around first to make sure she wasn’t talking to someone else, then picked my jaw up off the ground and managed to stutter, “Uh, you mean, uh, Khalid El-Amin?”
“Yes!” she replied. “That’s him. He’s my favorite player. Thanks!” End of conversation. I should have asked her to marry me right then and there, but I didn’t. I was 13. And probably sweating at the time, too. Both due to nerves and girth. Sweating is a problem for the nervous and girthy. That was half my teenage existence. One big nervous, girthy sweatfest. Sounds as lovely as one might imagine.
As a chubby teenager, your life essentially becomes the script from the movie Angus. You get picked on a lot, you have to be quick with comebacks, and most importantly, you have to have a sense of humor. By the way, if you haven’t seen Angus, I highly recommend it. Whether you’ve ever been semi-obese or not is irrelevant. The flick itself is straight awesomeness.
Anyway, suffice it to say I was a target back then. Luckily, I had a good group of friends, I was a pretty decent athlete (in spite of my stature), and I developed the type of wit that would make most parents cringe. Which is really the one thing that stuck with me as I exited my “phase” and became more or less normal (loose definition of the term) by the time I was a sophomore in high school. I liked making people laugh. Laughter is an expression of happiness, and happiness (along with love) is what I believe makes life worth living. So to watch people become happy around me, well, that was satisfying, to say the least.
I’ve grown up now. At least on paper. The number next to my name keeps getting bigger, and I’m sure I get a little smarter, but mostly I’m still a kid where personality is concerned. I enjoy being that. We don’t have enough of that. When we’re kids, we have dreams and ambitions and innocence and hope and a desire to play. As soon as we reach adulthood, those things seem to go away. I don’t want that to happen to me or to anyone else. We can all still be kids at heart, even if we do occasionally get consumed by the real-world issues of our everyday lives.
Point is, I’m a goof, and I love being a goof. Which is why I want to thank all of you for the gift you’ve given me.
This time of year, we tend to reflect on the things that really to matter to us, and in many cases, we give each other gifts. The gift you’ve given me is simple, really, but it means the absolute world. You’ve granted me the opportunity to be a kid every single day, to goof off in front of the masses and, amazingly, have people respond to it in the most gratifying way of all, with laughter and happiness.
You see, when I decided to make my life pseudo-public three years ago, I never thought I’d pay witness to all the things I’ve paid witness to so far. You’ve responded to me, you’ve joined in this extended recess we’ve been enjoying together, you’ve given more back to me than I could ever give to you. The other day, someone asked me why I don’t try harder to get paid for my writing. I told her I didn’t have any desire to do that. I have a great job that pays me already. This is my hobby, and the benefits I get from this are far greater than anything money could ever buy. I like the autonomy of being free to do what I want, when I want for my audience. And while I’m not ever able to write as much as I would like — and lately, yes, you’ve probably noticed there has been even less writing than before — I’ve tried to focus the quality (i.e. goofiness, weirdness, grabassery, etc.) of the articles to be more meaningful than perhaps they used to be.
Beyond that, I’ll admit that all this writing is an outlet for me. I don’t know who I am yet. I’m still trying to figure my life out. Writing helps me do that, and there are quite a few times when I selfishly burden all of you with my life’s emotions. What I’ve discovered, though, is that most of you are just like me. We all have our own trials and tribulations, but at the end of the day we’re all people facing the same questions about who we are, what we’re doing, and where we’re going. Sports often reflect life, and I’ve tried to use every possible avenue in discussing sports to bring our lives to the forefront. I want there to be relevance and value in every story I tell. If I can’t do that as a writer, then there’s really no point in writing.
So to everyone who’s ever found any value, however fleeting, in who I am or what I’m writing about, in all the inherent goofiness and stupidity, all the moments of passionate exuberance and overzealousness, and all the borderline craziness, thank you. You can never be everything to everybody, but there’s always the opportunity to be something to somebody. That’s what all of you have been to me and I’m very grateful for that.
To those who celebrate Christmas on this day, as I do, I wish you a very merry Christmas. To those of you who celebrate any holiday this time of year, I hope you find happiness in being around your friends, family, and loved ones. The most important things in life are the ones we often tend to take for granted. This is the time of year to take note of that and reflect on it. Happy holidays.
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I was standing outside CenturyLink field on Saturday with three of my closest friends (Matt, Mikey, and Jen, all of whom I’ve really only “known” known for the past year-and-a-half) at a tailgate hosted by my buddy Jason Puckett (yes, Jason Puckett the notorious WSU alum of Sports Radio KJR infamy), when a Husky fan by the name of Jeff walked over and told me he enjoyed my work. I was caught off guard. I never know what to say to someone in that type of situation. I wish I had some profound message to deliver, but mostly I stutter, try to get the person’s name, and express as much gratitude as I can in a one-minute interaction.
Jeff walked away and my friends giggled a little bit (in a very distinguished way…perhaps “giggled” was the wrong word), while Puckett shook his head and muttered something about my standing in the community, I’d imagine.
Three nights before that, I was out with my friend Ryan Divish — who writes for the Tacoma News-Tribune and who I’ve known for almost two years — and Erin Hawksworth — a sports anchor at Q13 TV who has been the gracious recipient of my not-so-smooth online courting for the past few weeks — for an impromptu get-together dubbed by some in the Seattle media as “Elimidate.” It was classier than it sounds. More or less. Anyway, later in the evening we were sitting in a bar when a horrible rendition of Ginuwine’s My Pony was blasted through a karaoke mic onto the eardrums of dozens of patrons, including the three of us. We cringed until the song came to its merciful end. Shortly after the shrieking stopped, who walks up but the crooner himself, my pal Josh Sabrowsky.
“That was you?” I asked.
“It was,” he replied.
“Are you drunk?” I inquired.
“I am,” he responded. And then he staged his own Occupy Elimidate movement for the next half-hour.
I first met Josh when I was in college. We used to play basketball together at the IMA, the University of Washington’s student gym. Josh wore a pink headband and antagonized our opponents with verbal taunts. I, on the other hand, tried to pacify the uprising, break up fights, and issue apologies after the fact. It was more fun than you’d think. Regardless, after our freshman year, we didn’t see each other again until 2010, when Josh contacted me on Facebook about joining the Ian Furness Show on KJR — the place I’d ultimately get to know Puckett — to talk sports.
After a few formalities, Josh reminded me that he was the dude who I used to play ball with six years prior, the douchebag that got into trouble from time to time. I had completely forgotten who this guy was until I remembered the pink headband. That was all it took. We’ve been friends ever since.
About fifteen months ago I met Jerry Brewer. A lot of people know him as a columnist for The Seattle Times. He also wrote a book a few years back, Gloria’s Miracle. Jerry’s a sportswriter, but the book is the hallmark of his career-to-date. In it, he tells the story of Gloria Strauss, a young girl with an ultimately-incurable form of cancer, who changes the lives of many with an effervescent personality and determined resolve throughout her fight against the disease. At the same time, Jerry juxtaposes the lives of the members of the Strauss family with his own personal self-discovery, a journey that is jump-started by a drive home in which he breaks down and questions his own purpose in life.
Having read the story, and now having befriended the person behind the words, the message resonates with me stronger than it might for your average reader. I know how Jerry felt. I’ve often found myself in the same position, questioning what really matters and wondering what it all means. It’s a precarious place to be, made even more unique by the fact that in media, one is subjected to a personal vulnerability that isn’t necessarily experienced by someone who isn’t tasked with sharing their words on a regular basis. When you broadcast your thoughts to the masses, you just never know how everyone will react. Media is a business that can have you feeling great one minute and horrible the next.
Many media members would have you believe that they’re invincible, but in reality we’re probably more insecure about ourselves than most people. We hide behind bombast and driving critiques of our subject matter. We create public personas to deflect the bullets fired our way. We separate ourselves into two different people: the media self, and the real self. We try to protect the real self from our audience. But there’s something distinctly unfulfilling about that.
I’ve used sports as a vehicle for my life. Sports are what I like to talk about, but they’re only a small part of my existence. I started this website thinking I’d just discuss sports, but then it dawned on me that I can do more than that. This is my thing. Why shouldn’t I dictate it? I’m not doing this because it’s my career and I have to. So why limit my vulnerability? When you expose yourself with nothing to lose, you can only gain from it.
I was 24 years old when I created Seattle Sportsnet. I had lofty goals for what this site would ultimately become. The goals I had were far too ambitious for any 24-year-old to legitimately make. And yet at the time, they gave me the foundation upon which to build a structure for my writing.
Over the course of the past three years, I’ve written more and more about things that matter to me, personally, than perhaps those things that appeal to the typical sports fan. I’ve strayed from the box scores and the recaps and started using my investment into this domain name as my own journey towards self-discovery. I’ve tried to be as honest as I can about who I am when I write. I’ve always felt that that’s something that gets neglected in journalism, but happens to be a part of the equation that both writer and reader value. Professional scribes are taught to remove themselves from the equation. And yet we haven’t replaced our writers with robots, so how important can omniscience really be?
On top of that, in my 27 years of life I’ve fallen under the impression that we might be going about interacting all wrong. Despite my humble stature, I’ve tried to change that a little bit. You see, we always find ourselves getting to know people we meet by asking them what they do, where they’re from, who they know. We want the CliffsNotes version of your life, and chances are as soon as you answer our questions, we’ll forget all about your responses. I don’t like that. You can be a carpenter from Spokane who happens to be the cousin of the guy hosting this party and no one will care. I’ve learned nothing about you of substance. What really matters to me, you, and everyone else is what you love.
What do you love? What is it that gives you reason to wake up every morning? It can be a person, a place, a thing, an idea, a hobby, anything. There is something that is keeping your spirit alive, that you care about more than anything in the whole world. And we’d rather hear about your location or profession. No offense to all the jobs out there (mine included), but work does not define us. No one has ever sat on their deathbed and started worrying about an Excel spreadsheet (at least I hope not). You want to exit this world doing what you love with who you love by your side. It’s how we all want to go.
I think about the interactions we make on a daily basis and question why it can be so difficult for people, in the most general sense, to get along. You may be an accountant, he may be a construction worker, she may be a doctor, and if that’s all you happen to know about each other, you’ll probably never see eye-to-eye on much of anything. The idea of a job or a social status defining who we are only divides us. If we were to ask an accountant, construction worker, and doctor what they love, however, we might find that they have something in common that unites them. It’s that which we fail to capitalize on.
And so since the day I created this thing — it’ll always just be a thing to me — my lofty goals have gone by the wayside and more rewarding objectives have replaced those previously sky-high intentions. I’ve stripped the site of all the ads and sponsorships it used to possess — I don’t really need the extra money. I’ve asked you to give to two charities that mean a lot to me — and I thank you for that. I’ve abandoned a traditional sports blog format — I have no desire to compete with mainstream media. And I’ve tried to do one thing above all else: bring people together.
Matt, Mikey, Jen, Jeff, Jason, Ryan, Erin, Josh, and Jerry are just examples. I probably wouldn’t have shared my interactions with them if it weren’t for what I love, if it weren’t for this passion I have for writing. None of them got to know me on the grounds of what I did or where I was from (account manager, Bellevue). It wouldn’t have mattered anyway. Instead, we were united by this thing that I happen to care so much about.
And so I’ve seen the power behind what it is that I’m passionate about. And I’ve started to enjoy the successes of this website, provided we can all agree that success is the achievement of a goal. It is the mission I’ve been on, the guiding light at the end of this tunnel that has allowed me to take steps towards finding out who I am. I’m not who I want to be yet, but I’m getting there. The same can be said for the writing; it isn’t where it needs to be yet, but it’s on its way.
I have other goals. I have other missions. I still have loftier ambitions that any 27-year-old may not be qualified to legitimately make. But I’m achieving one goal, one mission, and I couldn’t be more thrilled about that.
We are defined by our love. It sounds kind of ridiculous, I know. But it is that idea that has already brought people together through a stupid sports blog. If that doesn’t give you reason to believe, then I don’t know what would.
In closing, I leave you with this quote from the late Jim Valvano. He spoke these words at the 1993 ESPY Awards. The video of his moving speech — given while in the final stages of his fight against cancer — is included below, in its entirety. Amongst all the other advice that he left behind as part of his legacy, I choose to focus on these two stanzas from Valvano’s memorable night:
It’s so important to know where you are. I know where I am right now. How do you go from where you are to where you want to be? I think you have to have an enthusiasm for life. You have to have a dream, a goal. You have to be willing to work for it.
I urge all of you, all of you, to enjoy your life, the precious moments you have. To spend each day with some laughter and some thought, to get your emotions going. To be enthusiastic every day and as Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Nothing great could be accomplished without enthusiasm,” to keep your dreams alive in spite of problems whatever you have. The ability to be able to work hard for your dreams to come true, to become a reality.
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It’s almost not fair. Why should we have to make concessions for them? They are the ones who suck. They are the incompetent ne’er-do-wells who can’t do their jobs. They are the malcontents who draw our ire. And yet like a giant traipsing among a crowd of midgets, we’re the ones constantly tiptoeing around their shortcomings. Where’s the justice in that?
For every ill-advised whistle, every hastily-thrown flag, every muddled attempt at an explanation, every boo-inducing, venom-inciting, vein-popping, mind-boggling, dumb-shit-effing-mother-crapping-what-the-hell-was-that-are-you-KIDDING-ME?! call they make, we acquiesce. It’s a manic, unhealthy experience having to deal with these morons. We flip out at their utter asininity one moment, then are forced to bring ourselves back down to earth seconds later when the game resumes. Every time they screw up, we’re left reluctantly rolling over in the wake of their ineptitude.
We’re all subject to their unmistakable follies. For microcosmic evidence, look no further than a head-scratching second quarter from Saturday night’s Washington-Arizona game.
In what should become Exhibit 1A for the reason stupid people shouldn’t procreate, our striped nihilist foes did everything they could to leave their imprint on a contest that was being broadcast to a national television audience. Never mind the fact that football fans would rather watch, you know, football. The clowns in black-and-white didn’t wake up to sit idly by and play the role of Carlton to the game’s Will. Damn it, they wanted to be from West Philadelphia born and raised, they wanted to be the Fresh Prince, they wanted the Independence Day lead. They wanted all that. And no one was going to stop them.
A trio of questionable rulings ensued in that mystifying second period, punctuated by the most surreal incomplete pass one has ever witnessed. Allow me to briefly recap the madness of the play:
A deep, downfield toss from Huskies quarterback Keith Price (KP4H, to the uninitiated) landed in the waiting arms (or, rather, arm) of tight end Michael Hartvigson. The redshirt freshman from nearby Bothell corralled the pigskin in one paw, palmed it with undeniable control, then staggered towards the end zone as he struggled to keep his feet. After taking no fewer than four steps towards paydirt, Hartvigson succumbed to gravity and hit the deck just short of the goal line. As he landed, the ball popped out of his grasp. Whistles blew. The play was dead. The call: incomplete pass. The crowd reaction: anarchy.
The ruling on the field was dead wrong. Everyone knew it except the people in charge of making the call. Catch? Definitely. Catch and fumble? Maybe. Catch and down before the ball came out? Most likely. Incomplete pass? No freakin’ way.
In an ultimately futile attempt to persuade the officials to change their mind, Washington burned a time-out. The officiating booth — which one can only assume is a section of the press box off-limits to all humankind; it’s probably inhabited by monkeys — reviewed the play. They upheld the call. Everyone and their mother voiced their displeasure. It was the worst call I’ve ever witnessed in any sport in my 27 years of existence. It was disgusting. A disgrace to the game.
We’ve relented to these godawful Pac-12 officials for far too long. The aftermath from that single play, that one badly-botched verdict, is a testament to my point. Fans we’re left to shrug their shoulders when the hometown Huskies went on to win the game. Media members were relegated to joking amongst themselves and making witty, snide remarks on Twitter. The broadcast crew was tasked with trying to explain a blatant, egregious error made by the stooges in stripes. And coaches — including Washington’s own Steve Sarkisian — were forced to hold their tongues, make mention of the fact they were holding their tongues when asked, and otherwise do all they could to say, “Yes, these guys suck” without actually saying, “Yes, these guys suck.”
We shouldn’t have to hide behind our politically correct veils for any longer. It’s one thing to complain about a call here or there, whine about an outcome every now and then, lament an entire game, perhaps. But every fan in every Pac-12 borough from here to Tucson knows that these referees are the bane of our collective existence. It’s not acceptable to just scoff at their foolishness any longer. They need to know that they’re terrible. They need to know that they don’t deserve paychecks. They need to read this and they need to be upset and get mad and hate us for hating them.
There is no other officiating constituency in the entire nation that does as poor a job as the one from the Pacific 12 Conference. They are bumbling blowhards with a clear-as-day vendetta against the spirit of athletics. They shouldn’t be allowed to call a friend on the phone, let alone a major college football game. They need to be ripped. They need to be brought to trial. They need to be incensed and embarrassed and accountable for every ridiculous ruling they’ve ever spewed unto the masses.
Pac-12 officials, after further review, the ruling on the field is confirmed: You guys are f**king idiots. Welcome to your nightmare.
Filed under: Featured Articles, Husky Football
Why don’t we care about the lockout? It seems like we should, right? Wrong. There are just so many reasons why we shouldn’t. And I’m here to give you all of them.
In no particular order, here we go.
There are no heroes
Back in 1998, when the NBA endured their most recent lockout, the league was heavily populated by big-name attractions. Veterans like Charles Barkley, Karl Malone, and John Stockton were entering the twilights of their careers; budding stars like Allen Iverson, Kobe Bryant, and Kevin Garnett were on the rise; and future Hall of Famers like Jason Kidd, Shaquille O’Neal, and Vin Baker were in their respective primes. Just kidding about Baker. The only prime he enjoyed was at the nearest Ruth’s Chris.
Then, of course, there was Michael Jordan. Though Jordan was just settling into his second retirement, fans were still reminiscing about his exploits in the ’98 NBA Finals (including the now-infamous Bryon Russell step-back, push-off, whatever you want to call it). While MJ was technically out of basketball, his performance the season prior — and, naturally, throughout his career — left an indelible mark on the game that had fans longing for a product they simply could not live without.
Fast forward to 2011 and the landscape has changed entirely.
Instead of superstars, the present-day version of the NBA is saturated by a number of good-not-great talents. Even the most elite names are only halfheartedly received by hoop aficianados. The LeBron Jameses, Carmelo Anthonys, and Blake Griffins of the world battle public opinion to an undying degree and similarly evoke unwarranted — and, perhaps, unfair — comparisons to the generation of ballers that came before them.
Worse yet, where Jordan was once the undeniable figurehead of an entire regime of ball, there is no Gladys Knight in the modern era to lead a league full of Pips. The “LeBron versus Kobe” debate rages incessantly because neither party possesses enough of Jordan’s qualities to warrant being christened the next Greatest of All-Time. Kobe has the championship rings, but happens to be a prick. LeBron has the raw talent, but lacks a trophy and exudes forced charisma.
Like Bonnie Tyler, the league needs a hero. Problem is, there are none to be found.
Fans lack sympathy
Forget the millionaires-versus-billionaires argument we always hear about when players square off against owners. That very point was brought up in conjunction with the recent NFL lockout, but proved inconsequential. Why? Because fans showed enough sympathy towards the players to force the owners into making concessions to start the season on time. So you can say you didn’t take sides, but the vast majority of people out there did, and they chose to side with the millionaires. You might be asking yourself why fans haven’t done the same for NBA players. Good question. There are three main reasons why not.
One, NBA owners have been dishing out ridiculous salaries to mediocre employees for far too long. In the NFL, a single piss-poor performance can have even the priciest of veterans looking for a new job. In the NBA? Not so much. Guaranteed, long-term contracts to goofy-ass bastards like Mehmet Okur (sorry to throw you under the bus like that, Mehmet) have soured the average joe in “these rough economic times,” to abuse an emerging cliche. No middle-class American wants to shell out primo dinero to watch a wealthy European stiff try to overcome his own inherent lack of athleticism. Nothing about that is fun or appealing.
Two, unlike their NFL brethren, NBA players have no “poster cause” upon which to grandstand. What is a poster cause, you ask? Well, for NFL players, it happened to be the plight of their ancestors, retirees who had incurred all sorts of physical maladies — or even perished — due to injuries sustained during their playing careers. Throughout their lockout, NFL players could trumpet this cause (and in turn promote safety and long-term care) as the foundation for their discontent. And frankly, it would take a heartless villain to remain apathetic to that. What can current NBA players cite to induce a tear or two? Scottie Pippen’s bankruptcy? Allen Iverson’s bankruptcy? Antoine Walker’s bankruptcy? Yeah, we just feel so, so bad for those guys.
Three, there’s the ever-present obvious: these guys have everything we don’t. They have the job we want, the skill we want, the cash flow we want, and perhaps most importantly, the girls we want. Nothing has changed in this regard since professional sports became big business. It’s always looming out there and will always loom out there. Your average fan rarely feels bad for the well-off jock because of human nature, otherwise known as envy. It might seem like an unfair shake for the athlete, but at least he has high-class whores and replenishable bottles of Cristal to ease the pain.
A Dark Fantasy
No, we’re not talking Kanye West. We’re talking the power of fantasy sports, something basketball simply does not have. While football — and to a lesser degree, baseball — can draw in the casual fan with rotisserie points and statistical categories, basketball cannot.
When football suspended its operations over the summer, fans were panicking not because they wouldn’t get to see the hometown eleven take the field, but because social happy hours spent on fantasy drafts with the guys were being threatened. Why does football possess such a passionate television viewership? It’s not the product on the field that matters; it’s the name on the stat sheet. Millions of Americans cite Adrian Peterson as their favorite NFL player not due to their loyalty towards the Minnesota Vikings, but rather teams of their own creation. That’s the power of fantasy.
Have you ever participated in a fantasy basketball league? It’s the most boring thing on the planet. Which is probably why no one cares to play it. If you’re the NBA, you might think you’ve peeked the scene; you haven’t.
You can get it if you really want
And you don’t even need to try, try, try that hard.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’re probably aware that a litany of NBA players are barnstorming across the country, playing in showcase games in what are essentially glorified rec leagues. These traveling trunk shows have become so popular that ESPN has started broadcasting highlights from select contests on SportsCenter. While it’s great to see professionals playing for the love of the game, the product is being devalued by the pro bono handouts being given away.
Here’s the thing. If you’re like me, you could care less about the NBA. Why? The college game offers a purer rendition of basketball, while also flaunting unbridled passion from its players. The appeal of the NBA is represented in flash, pizzazz, acrobatics, and can-you-believe-that moments. A fan of the pro game can get all of that by watching Kevin Durant light up Rucker Park for 66 points, or by paying witness to a team led by LeBron James battle a squad led by Carmelo Anthony in a sizable arena.
Fact is, we’ve never seen anything like this before. The advent of the internet (go to YouTube, search “Kevin Durant,” and look at the first autofill option) has allowed these currently-unemployed hoopers to air their highlights all over the place, something that wasn’t nearly as possible back in 1998. Likewise, you’d never catch football or baseball players running exhibition pickup games during a strike or lockout. Not because they lack the passion, but simply because it’s far too difficult to organize such an event with either of those sports.
As long as NBA players keep hooping for free, owners can sit back, twiddle their thumbs, and wait for the players to fold. Fans are still getting what they want — albeit in a modified platform — at zero cost. If Costco has taught us anything, it’s that absolutely no one will protest a free sample.
A nomadic empire
Here in Seattle, we know it all too well. The pain of losing our beloved Supersonics hasn’t healed and likely never will. That said, we’re not alone. Other cities across this continent can reciprocate our feelings. Charlotte’s been through it recently. Vancouver has, too. Nets supporters will see their team relocate from Newark to Brooklyn whenever play resumes, and the Sacramento faithful managed to squeeze one more year out of their Kings before a possible relocation to Anaheim. All in all, the constant migration has left fans from coast to coast feeling scorned by a league that now employs a Relocation Committee (headed up by our dearest Clay Bennett) to deal with all the movement.
While baseball and football have encountered little in the way of seismic shift over the last few decades, basketball has struggled mightily to grasp the concept of geographic loyalty. Like a gold-digging jersey chaser, it’s all about money and always on to the next best thing with the NBA. That’s no recipe for success, and has subsequently kept enough big-ticket regional markets rooting for this lockout to never end.
An evil emperor
Sitting atop the NBA’s steaming pile of crap business model is none other than David Joel Stern, commissioner of the Association since 1984. Over the course of his twenty-seven year administration, the league has experienced its ups and downs, with perhaps no down as lowly as this one. It hasn’t been all bad for Stern, though. During his tenure, the NBA has enjoyed its most profitable and successful years. Unfortunately, those successes have inflated Stern’s ego to the point where he’s currently incapable of making rational decisions for the good of his product.
In his glory years, the 69-year-old attorney was a deferent leader content taking a back seat to the drivers (Jordan, et al) of his billion-dollar vehicle. As more and more of those spotlight-dwellers began to ride off into the sunset, however, Stern assumed greater control over the image of his league.
These days, the face of the NBA isn’t throwing down tomahawks or knocking down jumpers. The face of the NBA, as it turns out, is a senior citizen with a degree from Columbia Law School. And that’s not a good thing.
As his role has changed, so has David Stern — and not for the better. What Stern has devolved into is a pompous, senile, media-hungry, out-of-touch dictator who cares little about his employees and demands total subordination from everyone beneath him. He tells his ball players what to wear and how to behave, then empowers his minions, in the form of officials and fine-distributors, to punish anyone who refuses to conform. No one says players have to get along with their commissioner, but there certainly wasn’t this much friction when things were going well for the league back in the Roaring Nineties.
At the same time, Stern has done little to engage the people paying his salary: the fans. Shuffling teams from city to city is one thing, but the constant maneuvering of franchises stems from a larger issue: arenas. Stern has demanded that arena owners (in many cases, those venue proprietors are municipal governments) kowtow to his plan for the bigger, larger, and more luxurious. Again, to refer back to a bad cliche, this is much easier said than done in “these rough economic times.” Civic organizations cannot afford to shell out tax dollars to pay for multi-million dollar projects like the ones Stern is asking for. And furthermore, why should they? NBA teams aren’t making money like they used to. It’s a bad product. And that falls directly at the feet of Stern, who’s overseeing this entire operation.
Additionally, what kind of message does it send to Joe the Fan when the Sheriff of Nottingham comes collecting taxes from the already-stretched people of Sherwood Forest? Stern wants your money, but he intends to spend it on the wealthy. His vision of an arena includes dozens upon dozens of suites and skyboxes, where wealthy businessmen can congregate and drop change into his waiting pocket. Families? They’re irrelevant. Kids? They don’t matter. Stern is targeting the rich and poaching from the middle-class. If you happen to buy into his plan and shell out a week’s salary to take in a game with your children, all the more power to the NBA’s Napoleon.
Since the lockout began over the summer, Stern hasn’t done anything to better his image with the American public. Instead of working to resolve the issues between two distant parties, the angry little man has done just the opposite, spouting off to the media and seemingly threatening the players to concede to the owners’ stipulations. To borrow from Nike, Stern might as well be touting a “Just Do It…Or Else” slogan on his t-shirt each day.
We don’t really know who David Stern is as a person, but in recent years he’s gone from an enigma we didn’t care all that much about to a guy who comes across as a total jerk. Among all the other problems facing the National Basketball Association right now, Stern is irrefutably the most glaring. Until his monarchy collapses, labor disputes — and in turn, fan apathy — will continue to reign supreme.
Filed under: Featured Articles, NBA
We make mistakes, we err, we’re judged by our flaws, and we overcome adversity that serves to remind us that we are only human. In the end, we reach an equally imperfect outcome and, ironically, are remembered in death for all the good we’ve done. We celebrate life only once its ended. While we’re breathing, however, we disregard such achievement, striving instead to find perfection.
Perfection. It is something that does not exist. Knowing full well we’ll never find it, we search for it anyway. All the while we remain blissfully ignorant to what it really is that we’re searching for.
Perfection is impossible. We demand the impossible from one another. We look for the impossible in our spare time. We do everything we can to become the best versions of ourselves, never thinking for a minute that the best versions of ourselves might not be that hard to attain. We’re never satisfied. We’re rarely pacified. We can’t accept failure. We reject disappointment. We are, in a word, foolish.
I bring all this up because of one man. One walking disappointment. The definition of the imperfect life, wrapped up in a bow of twisted perfection. In a utopian world, on this particular day, he is our pariah. He is a football player. He is a millionaire. His only similarity to the rest of us is his mortality. We know nothing about Aaron Curry except this: he is the perfect bust.
The term itself is abstract. Bust. What does that even mean? The closest literal definition alludes to bankruptcy, which in itself implies certain inadequacy. But even that doesn’t do the word justice.
Bust crosses the threshold of one’s lips with all the villainous texture of an evil grimace. Bust evokes emotion, raises the blood pressure, inspires humiliating laughter, elicits jokes at another’s expense. Bust is bad. Bust is wrong. Bust is a four-letter word for failure.
We hate failures. Never mind the fact that we’ve all been failures at one time or another. We hate them. Even if we embody them. Even if we are them. We acknowledge failures to distract others from failures of our own. If he’s failing, you see, then I am not.
It’s hypocritical. We probably shouldn’t do it. We strive not to be hypocrites. It’s part of that futile quest for perfection. Don’t do it, they say, because if you do, well, we’ll judge you.
Alas, in this world of imperfection, we find ourselves in a bit of a quandary. To judge the perfect bust or not? We have all failed, as has he. In spite of his money, his talent, his ability, his relative fame, he has fallen just as we have. A stronger man would withhold judgment. The perfect bust would tell you, in fact, that only God can judge him. We are mortal. We’re not capable of such assessment. But keep in mind, we are subsequently not perfect. And part of the imperfection of life, as it turns out, is being ever imperfect in our own right.
Against our better morals, we evaluate this man. In the process, he becomes the poster boy for two very contradictory facets of humanity: a) our quest for perfection, and b) our inability to ever achieve that by doing things like this.
Aaron Curry probably isn’t a bad person. What he is, though, is complicated. We don’t understand him. We don’t understand how so many people’s expectations of him could be so far off. As a result of our lack of understanding, we get upset with him.
We need knowledge to feel comfortable. Who on earth has knowledge about how badly Curry failed as a Seattle Seahawk? How did this happen? Why did this happen? This was the fourth overall pick in the 2009 NFL Draft. A man paid millions of dollars to maximize his talent and ability for our football team. He should not have failed. Every indication says he would not fail. And yet he did. Miserably. Epically. We lack fundamental knowledge about this failure. We’re uncomfortable as a result. Discomfort leads us to a strong feeling of disdain. And an emotion that powerful leads us to judge. So we judge.
He had it all. Almost. He had the talent. He had the physical capability. What he lacked was the drive. He didn’t care to give his all for the cause. He had no desire to relinquish his happiness in that quest for perfection. He cared more about his family. He cared more about the Lord. He cared more about things other than football.
You see, in a perfect world the perfect bust would not even be playing football. He would be a father and a husband, perhaps a man of God, perhaps a scholar. He wouldn’t be a linebacker, that’s for sure. He wouldn’t be in pads and a helmet. He wouldn’t be running after quarterbacks.
In a perfect world, Aaron Curry wouldn’t be the perfect bust because he would have realized long ago that when your heart isn’t in something, you cease to pursue it. But in this imperfect world we live in, our quest for the paragon leads us to a means, which in turn carries us to the end. The means is a job, the end is our passing. We do these things we have to do — and not necessarily those we want to do — in order to deem ourselves successful. The more successful we are, the more likely we are to be perfect.
Perfection is our goal. Our goal is unrealistic. Aaron Curry exemplifies that. He’s doing what we all do. He’s putting himself through hell in an attempt to get to heaven. Even this man — with his entitled opportunity, his ability, his foundation, who doesn’t yet realize that he doesn’t care about football — even this man is perfectly imperfect.
When asked what surprised him most about humanity, the Dalai Lama once said this:
“Man. Because he sacrifices his health in order to make money. Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health. And then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present; the result being that he does not live in the present or the future; he lives as if he is never going to die, and then dies having never really lived.”
Aaron Curry made half the sacrifice, but has never been willing to fully devote himself to his career as an athlete, to his money-making endeavor. Very likely, his well-being remains more intact than that of the rest of us as a result. Money does not buy happiness. Success does not breed happiness. Happiness is a by-product of what we love. And I’m quite certain that Aaron Curry loves many other things more than he does football.
In society’s eyes, Curry is the ideal screw-up, the antithesis of a winner. He hasn’t bled for the system. He hasn’t forsaken happiness for a career. Aren’t we supposed to do that? Isn’t that what we were put on earth to do? If we have to do it, why shouldn’t he? Why shouldn’t that man be like the rest of us? Frankly, we don’t know if he has it wrong or right.
But damn it, wouldn’t it be weird if Aaron Curry, of all people, was on to something? Failing to give your all at a task you don’t give a shit about, in spite of the fact that it may bring you all the fame and money you could possibly desire, simply so you can live your life better. It makes no effing sense. And yet it makes all the sense in the world.
I’ve never liked Aaron Curry. But his shortcomings may be exactly what we need to absolve ourselves of a quest for the unattainable. And in the end, put our imperfect lives in perfect perspective.
Filed under: Featured Articles, Seahawks
Between games of Swashbuckler, Word Munchers, and Sticky Bear, I somehow learned to write on that thing. I would type anything and everything: nonsense, stories, I even made greeting cards with Print Shop (seriously). For lack of anything better to do, I kept myself occupied with that computer. I didn’t have video games. So this my outlet when it was raining outside and no one wanted to play.
When I was about eight or nine years old, my parents brought home a Macintosh Classic. This was a major step up. For one thing, this was the same computer we had in my classroom. For another, this was the same computer that D.J. Tanner had in her room on Full House. The occasion was momentous.
On that little grey box, I became a writer. A real writer. I wrote fiction and non-fiction. I published my works, stapled them together, and handed them out as gifts. Most kids got their dad a tie for Christmas. I penned a novel. As a third grader.
As I grew up, Macs became irrelevant. The power shifted to Windows and Microsoft. Many of us (myself included) have still not re-warmed to Macs. I haven’t used a Mac since high school. I’ve never had an iPhone. My exposure to Apple is limited to the iPod. But I do love my iPod. (You got me there, Apple.) So as I write this, just know that I don’t even really like Apple products. They just happen to exist in my world (or maybe it’s the other way around…).
With all that said, you, me, and everyone else you know is well aware by now that Steve Jobs passed away on Wednesday after a battle with cancer. Who was Steve Jobs? None of us really know for sure. I mean, outside of being recognized as the founder of Apple, we can’t say we knew the guy. He was just a person like the rest of us. Except he happened to do a few great things. And became famous as a result.
It’s interesting though, because when you think about it, all the stuff that Jobs did had a lasting impact on society. Chances are, every single one of us has been impacted by one of his creations. Whether you were stricken by dysentery on the Oregon Trail, devastated by a falling rock on Super Munchers, or addicted to the App store on your iPhone, Steve Jobs had his fingerprints all over you.
For me, though, the relationship went deeper than that.
I’m confident I wouldn’t be communicating with you right now if it weren’t for Steve Jobs. I developed a passion for writing using his machine. And now, in between the rigors of daily life — work, the gym, dating…typical first-world obstacles — I do this because I love to do it.
There are dozens and dozens of people who help each one of us find the things we love. Our family, our friends, educators, coaches, the list goes on. What we rarely find, however, is one person who has shaped so many of us. And that’s what Jobs was. A guy who had an impact on average scrubs like you and me, who transcended different walks of life to the point where he’s being talked about on a sports website.
So why should you care? Well, that’s a good question. Because in reality, this article has no business being here. But there is a reason. And now it’s up to me to tie this all together.
Back in 2005, Steve Jobs gave a speech at Stanford University’s commencement ceremony. He talked about life and death, about the things he had invented, and about finding meaning in the everyday. I’ve embedded the video at the bottom of this post. I’d urge you to watch it if you get the chance.
The thing is, I’ve found it coincidental that Jobs’ machine gave me my passion for writing, and similarly, his words in this one speech reinforced my own desire to perform an action that pays no bills and may prove to be little more than a hobby in the end.
I am a realist. People live and they die. None of us are invincible. We may postpone death, but we will never thwart it. And that’s what makes living so special.
With his passing, Steve Jobs will be memorialized for any number of reasons, from the material to the ephemeral. I choose to pay his life tribute for the simplicity of what it was: the act of living.
This dude lived for all the right reasons. He found something he loved to do and he did it. Very few of us can say we’re doing that with our lives right now. With adulthood comes obligation, and with obligation we tend to leave behind the things we actually enjoy doing. We squander our existence fulfilling obligations when we should be allowing ourselves to become the passionate forces of life that we’re capable of becoming.
So regardless of whether or not you care about him, me, or anyone else, I urge you to live. Think of how much trouble we’d all save ourselves if we just lived every day. No worthless emails clogging the inbox, no animosity towards those who probably don’t deserve it, no wasting our existence.
I live to write and write to live. I’ll do it until I die, whether that’s next week or next century. This website, and every one of you who happens to read it, is a testament to that. I’m incredibly grateful for the fact that my life — through writing — is impacting yours. You’ve made my life more worthwhile just by being around.
And so with that, I request just one thing of you: find what you’re living for and go do it. It’s that simple.
Thanks for the help, Steve.
Filed under: Featured Articles
One week ago, my boss asked everyone in our company to come up with three things we do well at work. It was a simple task, but as the week wore on, those three things kept looming in the distance. Coming up with a trio of positives should not have been this difficult. Yet somehow, it was.
I’m not a bad worker. Not by any means. But I’d never actually sat down and thought about what I was proud of, related to work or otherwise. Fact is, we never take time to acknowledge those things that give us a great deal of pride. We’re so consumed by negativity in our everyday lives that we rarely focus on the good. We’re conditioned to believe that perfection is our goal and we can only improve. And yet there’s so much we have to celebrate, to be thankful for, to enjoy.
Eventually, I found three positives I could live with. I took them to our weekly company meeting, exactly seven days since we were given the assignment, and proceeded to share these positives. All my coworkers did the same. And as we went around the room, you could feel the mood change. Even the smallest details were warmly received. We had joked about the Kumbaya session, alluded to campfires and trust falls and the like, but as we revealed our stories, we all felt better. About everything. For a brief moment in time, all the crap we deal with on a daily basis was ejected from our conference room. In that brief moment, we became happier.
While pride can often be mistaken for ego, there is certain value in acknowledging the good that you’ve accomplished. I don’t know why we don’t do it more often. It’s like we’re so determined to trudge our way through life that we turn a blind eye to those things we’re genuinely ecstatic about.
So I want to try something. I want to share three things I’m proud of with regards to this little website. And I want all of you to take time and share three things you’re proud of, too. You can do it with your friends and family, do it in your own online space (on your website, your blog, your Facebook account, your Twitter), do it right here in the comments section if you want. Just take a minute and think about what you’re proud of and why. When it’s all said and done, you’ll feel better, I promise.
Without further ado…
1. I’m proud of this article.
I didn’t really expect an article entitled “Welcome To Seattle Motherf**king Washington” to be all that popular. First of all, I dropped an f-bomb (albeit a censored f-bomb) in the title. That’s usually a red flag right off the bat. A deterrent for the morally-conscious readers out there.
But shortly after I published that column, people started passing it around. There was positive feedback. There was resounding pride from other Seattleites. People were proud of this town because I blasted my emotions onto the keyboard (heh, note the double entendre…don’t think because this piece is a little touchy-feely that I’ve grown up or anything).
Eventually, 20,000 people shared that article on Facebook. Twenty-freakin’-thousand. Do you know how many that is? That’s 2,500 more than Key Arena can hold. Ridiculous. Thousands more found it through Twitter or some other link. At work, my boss shared the article via all-staff email as a motivator of sorts. He didn’t realize at the time that I had written it. I wasn’t planning on owning up to the authorship — this was another side of my life that should never mesh with the corporate world — until another coworker refused to let my work go unnoticed. It was, in a word, surreal.
I’ve written many things in my life, but none have made me as proud as that one. I had a goal when I started Seattle Sportsnet. That goal was to bring people in this town together. There’s so much that divides us, and yet so little that unites us. That was maybe the first thing I’ve ever scribed that united so many people around here. I couldn’t be happier to have achieved that goal, if even for a day.
2. I’m proud of the charities represented on this page.
I’ve written about both of these charities at length before, so I won’t go into too much detail. But I will say that both charities mean a lot to me, and for those of you who have donated your time or money to either of those two causes, thank you.
The two individuals who inspired the charities, Ashley Aven and Robert Vasen, were both taken from us far too soon.
I didn’t know Ashley personally, but I’ve gotten to know her family over the past year and they’re an amazing group of people.
As for Robert, we go all the way back to our days in elementary school together, and I know how much of an impact he had on the lives of all the kids I grew up with, as well as so many other people along the way.
I know how it is. We hear so much about charities on a daily basis that it can become cliche. Give to this, donate to that, read about this, sign up for that. I’m a realist. I know that while most people would like to give, the act of giving can be hard to do. And that’s just fine. Relinquishing money is not always easy. Neither is setting aside free time to volunteer. We lead busy lives, we have bills to pay, it is what it is.
But at the very least, I encourage you to read the stories of Ashley and Robert. Because maybe there will come a day when you can give. And when that day comes, if you have nowhere else to donate some small part of your paycheck or an hour of your day, I want you to be able to have two good causes you can fall back on. And these are great causes, inspired by great people with great stories.
3. I’m proud of the people around me.
In the nearly three years that I’ve had this website up and running, I’ve gotten to know a number of good people. People that have made my life better. People that have become some of my closest friends, that have inspired me on a regular basis, that have kept me going when my world was a little shaky. These are good people. And sometimes I think we take for granted all those good people surrounding us.
Before any of my existence was ever shared on these pages, I was lucky enough to have a great group of family and friends already installed in my everyday. And without a doubt, those are good people, too. Among other things, I never would have had the fortitude to start writing if it weren’t for that group of people. That group has shaped me into the person I am today. It goes without saying that I’m extremely grateful for them, as well as everyone in my life.
But when it comes to this website, all those good people have directly impacted everything that goes on here. There are people that promote the things I write, people that endorse almost everything I do, people that I can’t help but depend on when I need a second to lean.
This is a domain name and some words. It’s nothing. It could be gone in an instant. There are billions of domain names out there. There are trillions of words on the internet. Only a tiny percentage of either of those mean anything at all. And yet because of all these good people in my life, this domain name and these words have some semblance of meaning to many readers out there.
I could write all day long and no one might read a single sentence. But because of you, because of the good people I’ve surrounded myself with, there are others who care about my grab-ass humor, my strong opinions, my weird way of thinking, my Saved By the Bell references, all that junk. That is amazing. Absolutely amazing. No one paid me to do this. No company endorsed me. No one told me this was my job. I just started doing it and you responded. This thing was borne out of nothing. Because of you. It’s crazy.
So thank you for believing in me, for making my life better, for caring, for being here when you didn’t have to be. We are nothing without each other, but we’re something right now. I’m proud of that most of all.
What are you proud of?
Filed under: Featured Articles
I hate refs. Hate them. I have never felt more passionate disdain for a certain species — and refs are arguably the lowest species on the face of the earth, just below amoebas — than that of which I feel for those devils in stripes.
My god. Did you see what they did to the Husky football team on Saturday? Did you see that? That was the true definition of injustice. Granted, there were other things the Huskies could have done to ensure victory — like play a little defense and cleanly field kickoffs, for starters — but there is absolutely no denying that the referees impacted the outcome of Nebraska’s victory over Washington.
Credit the Cornhuskers for taking advantage of afforded opportunities. Every time your opponent gets dicked by poor officiating, it’s up to you to capitalize on the moment. The refs opened the door for Big Red, and Big Red responded by walking right in.
While the Big 10 officiating crew that presided over the Washington-Nebraska game managed to wrongfully call three kick-catch interference penalties on the Dawgs, it was kick-catch interference penalty No. 1 which arguably stood out the most. It was this phantom call that set the tone for the other two, and likewise changed the mentality of a Huskies’ ballclub that held all the momentum prior to that pivotal moment.
Perhaps even more egregious than the call itself, though, was the reaction of the officials. After they were given a chance to review video of the play during intermission, the crew returned in the third quarter with an emboldened stance on their blatant blunder. As ABC sideline reporter Heather Cox informed the viewing audience, the officials emerged “very adamant” that they had made the right call.
This is why I f**king hate officials. Because they happen to be the least accountable individuals in the entire world. They can screw up time and again with little to no consequence.
On top of that, I hate the arguments made by those who defend officials. “They’re human,” they say. Human. Human. Imagine if every time you f**ked up at work, you could just pull that excuse out of your ass and everything would be okay.
“Johnson! We lost our biggest account and you’ve been late every single day this week! Not only that, but I’ve heard rumors that you were spotted screwing your secretary on our brand new copy machine! What do you have to say for yourself?”
“Uh, well…while all that may be true, boss, the fact is…I’m human.”
“Oh, well. Okay then, Johnson. My apologies. Didn’t mean to interrupt your day. Back to work!”
You see! It’s ridiculous! We can’t use that BS excuse, so why can they? Yes, we’re all human. Yes, we all make mistakes. But you know what? Most of us are held accountable for our mistakes. That’s the difference.
On top of that, I hate sympathy towards officials. There are too many people out there who act like these miserable stiffs put on the stripes because they have to. Like, they couldn’t get a job anywhere else, so they were forced to become referees. Lo and behold the poor ref, everyone. Turned down by McDonald’s, Wal-Mart, and 7-11, he succumbed to a lousy job market and took a job as an official. How bad it must feel to be him.
No! NO, NO, NO! Fact is, these bastards signed up for this role. They did this by choice. And you know why? Because they enjoy the feeling of power they have over other people’s lives. Just like the president of your homeowner’s association, the meter maid, or the 5-foot-6-inch male police officer. Somewhere in their past, they endured some sort of slight or taunt that turned them into an obsessive control freak. And in developing this enormous insecurity about their own pathetic existence, they decided they’d take it out on the world. At which point they went out and bought their first whistle. They will never, ever admit to this. But you know it’s true.
Finally, I’d like to take a brief moment to recognize that very special individual who’s saying to him or herself right now, “Hey, douche, quit crying about the refs.”
First of all, there’s a very distinct difference between crying about the refs and hating them with every fiber of your being. Anyone can cry about the refs. Anyone can whine. Anyone can tell you how much they might suck from time to time. Most people can’t pledge 1,000 words to their abysmal wretchedness. So that’s one.
Secondly, you are an enormous hypocrite. You are. And I’ll tell you why. Because even you — yes, you, you perfect son of a bitch — have lamented a blown call at least once in your life. That puts you on par with all the rest of us who might be a little ticked off that our team had one or more opportunities stolen from its grasp because of the ineptitude of an official. And when I say “ineptitude,” know that I mean it in a very distinct way. For some officials, ineptitude may be permanent. They may be failures of life. There’s nothing they can do about it. They’re just cursed or something. For others, ineptitude may be fleeting. Maybe they screw up one out of every one-thousand times. That one time, that one error, is an example of temporary ineptitude. So the description, however harsh it may seem, is fitting. Whether you like it or not.
I hate refs. I hated them prior to Saturday. I hated them on Saturday. I hate them now. If you are unlike me (and I don’t blame you if you are, I’m very bitter about officials), let me promise you one thing:
There will come a time when your team is playing a game and a call gets blown. You will react angrily. It’s human nature. You will try to cool yourself, fight your natural impulses. You may or may not succeed. But for that period of time where you’re upset and ready to punch the guy who just stole your happiness, remember this article. This article, this author, we are your dark side. You are Anakin Skywalker. You can be Darth Vader. Do the right thing and give in.
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It started with a simple thought when I was in the bathroom. I’ve found that most simple thoughts originate there. The bathroom has never inspired great debate, analytical dissemination, or even philosophical discussion. The bathroom, as it turns out, is perfect for simple thoughts.
So it was that I thought to myself, Hey, why don’t those pretentious eco-friendly hipster jerks ever consider personal waste (and you know what I mean when I say personal waste) when calculating one’s carbon footprint? Are they too scared to ask the question? Are they too classy to admit that everyone, themselves included, produces personal waste? What’s the deal with that?
I was a geography major in college. And if there’s anything I learned in becoming a geography major, it’s that a lot of other geography majors are holier-than-though world-savers who flip shit over plastic Solo cups and can’t handle the fact that humans drive cars. For six (yes, six) years of undergraduate study, I heard all about carbon footprints and environmentally conscious habits and all sorts of Captain Planet-y garbage that wouldn’t be so bad if it wasn’t communicated to you by someone who, frankly, considers themselves to be better than the common man. So I know about carbon footprints. And I respect carbon footprints. I just think it’s a bunch of BS that carbon footprints don’t include one’s propagation of digestion. Is that so wrong?
I took my question back to my coworkers and asked them what they thought. They agreed that this was a joke. “Think about it,” one coworker surmised, “those hipsters are all vegetarians.”
“And when you’re eating all those vegetables,” I concluded, “you’re always going to the bathroom! In doing so, you waste a gallon of water per flush AND leave a mess upon society.” Rat bastards with their rat bastard tricks. Framing their questions and manipulating data to make us omnivores look foolish, while simultaneously abusing the facilities and making this world a dirtier place. Effing douchebags.
Somehow, this led us to a loosely-related discussion of trough urinals.
(You may very well notice that everything leading up to the previous sentence has almost no correlation with the remainder of this article. I might have been able to slip this professional segue past the little goalkeeper in your brain, but I figured I’d call attention to my own fallacies as a writer, instead. Why? Why not. Most writers try to sneak things past you enough as it is. I’m here to be your friend. And friends don’t betray friends. Just remember that next time you’re reading an article and the turncoat author segues without letting you know that he or she is segueing. That’s betrayal. We don’t do that here at Seattle Sportsnet. Back to the article.)
For those of you who frequent sporting events, you may be quite familiar with trough urinals. For those of you who either don’t frequent sporting events or aren’t privy to the inner workings of the men’s bathroom, trough urinals are rectangular basins that hold communal urine. It’s pretty simple, really. I’ve included a visual aid up and to the right.
Our discussion on trough urinals eventually led to a spinoff conversation about trough urinal etiquette, which as any male sports fan knows, is a fairly important issue. That led me to pen this, a collaborative dissertation on the proper means upon which to use the trough urinal.
If you have a penis, I urge you to read ahead. You may find yourself in agreement with many of these points, or discover that you are in fact a violator of proper trough urinal etiquette.
If you do not have a penis, I urge you to read ahead, as well. While you may not be able to sword fight or spell your name (whilst peeing, mind you), you may come to find out something about the man you claim as your significant other, will claim as your significant other, or have claimed as a significant other in the past.
Without further ado, here are my findings on stadium trough etiquette.
Point of Etiquette No. 1: It goes every other.
The stadium bathroom almost always begins with a line. You will find yourself standing at the back of a queue, proceeding ever closer to your relief-inducing destination.
In many cases, your line will mirror that of another line on the opposite side of the restroom. Your lines will converge before the trough urinal, where you will peel off one at a time, every other — your line, then my line, then your line, then my line, and so on — until everyone in both lines has found his way to the trough.
Ah, but wait. What happens when two parties from the same line hightail it towards the trough simultaneously? Good question. I’m glad you asked.
This is an infraction punishable by death. Or if not death, then at least public humiliation.
Everyone knows that you are to break from your line only when a) you are at the head of your line and b) a person from the opposing line has broken off before you. This is a standard rule of thumb. Should two men from the same line break off together, you should yell at the perpetrator — something like, “Hey, f**ker! What do you think you’re doing? Get back in line! I’m up next!” should suffice — and use as much force as is necessary to assert yourself in the vacant slot at the trough.
If you need to throw a punch, throw a punch. If you need to deliver a well-placed roundhouse kick, deliver a well-placed roundhouse kick. Do whatever it takes. WHATEVER. IT. TAKES. This jackass just violated Point of Etiquette No. 1! The very first point! Send him home crying.
Point of Etiquette No. 2: Do not look left. Do not look right.
There are only three places where your head can rightfully go when at the trough: up, down, or straight ahead.
You will either a) look towards the heavens as if to praise God, Himself, for this wonderful piss you’re enjoying, b) look straight ahead, as if to bore a hole through the stone wall that sits mere inches from your nose, or c) look down at your dick like it’s the most interesting thing you’ve ever seen.
There is no gray area here. AT ALL! Should your eyes so much as shift along the latitudinal plane, you are risking both reputation and personal well-being.
Even homosexual men understand and respect this rule. You may very well find yourself standing between two gays at the trough. It could happen. But you know what? You’d never know. You know why? Because this is guy code. It just is. And if you find yourself in violation of guy code, you are bound to get your ass kicked and bring shame upon your entire family. I’m serious about this. It’s as critical as it sounds.
Point of Etiquette No. 3: Streams shall never cross.
We’ve all been there. We’re a little tipsy, we’re prone to leaning, and — whoops! — we’ve missed. We’ve missed the entire freakin’ trough. Unbelievable, I know. But it certainly does happen. Let’s just pray to Buddha and Allah that when it does occur, your stream will not cross the path of another man’s stream. Otherwise, well…awkward.
Lucky for me, my drunken lean happens to be forward. So I’m more at risk of falling into the trough than I am of violating this point of etiquette. Although I will say that I’ve had fellow drunks lean into and onto me while at the trough over my 26 years of life. It’s rather uncomfortable having someone invade your personal space while you’re both intoxicated and watering the plants. There’s really no nice way to put it. It’s just…weird.
That said, never ever cross streams. EVER. This is acceptable in kindergarten and kindergarten alone. After that, it’s over. I hope you had your fun. Now grow up.
Point of Etiquette No. 4: Do not take out your cell phone.
I cannot stress this enough. There are a litany of reasons for you to heed my advice here. What could happen if you remove your cell phone? Well…
1. Everyone will assume you’re taking a picture of your junk.
“Look at that guy over there, taking cock shots and sending them to his girl. Who does he think he is? Jeff Reed?”
2. Everyone will assume you’re taking a picture of another dude’s junk.
This is far worse than the prevalent thought that you may be taking pictures of your own junk. Now everyone assumes you’re some kind of weirdo that has no moral bounds. Likewise, you’re probably going to get your phone smashed and your ass beat if anyone falls under this impression.
3. Your phone could fall in.
I have had nightmares about my phone falling into the toilet. Seriously. Nightmares. Like, you’re holding it, you’ve got a kung fu grip on that bad boy, and — oh no! — it slips and gravity takes over. There goes your $400 smart phone, submerged in a sea of yellow water. Doesn’t look so smart now, does it?
The only thing worse than dropping your phone in the toilet has to be dropping your phone in the trough urinal. My god. What a horrific thought. I don’t even need to take this any further. You know how very, very bad this would be. Nothing good could come from this. Your day would be ruined. Your only thought at this point would be, Do I leave it in there and cut my losses? Or do I flush away my dignity, reach in there, and fish it out? The true definition of a no-win situation.
So I beg of you, DO NOT TAKE YOUR PHONE OUT AT THE TROUGH! You’re welcome.
Point of Etiquette No. 5: Speak not and forever hold your piece.
The trough is no place for a conversation. About anything. It doesn’t even matter if you’re having the most manly conversation in the world.
“Hey, did you happen to watch that Chuck Norris movie on TV last night?”
“Hell yeah, I did! While bangin’ my girlfriend and eating a two-foot-long sub sandwich. It was f**kin’ great!”
Not even that conversation would be appropriate at the trough. So you can see how incongruous any other discussion on earth could possibly be.
Talking in the restroom is frowned upon to begin with. Talking while taking a leak shoulder to shoulder with twenty other sweathogs is borderline insane. You’re bound to be thought of as some sort of leper if you strike up a conversation in this situation. What the hell is wrong with you, dude? Shut the hell up!
You should have three goals and only three goals when at the trough: unzip, uncoil, uncork. The three U’s. That is it. You’re done. Move on. Get back to the game. Maybe wash your hands first. Whatever.
Just so long as you abide by the proper etiquette, you can go on with life knowing you’re a pro’s pro when it comes to using the trough urinal. Congrats.
And now I leave you with this video:
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“4 those sincerely concerned, I’m doing ok & plan 2 B back by opening day. 4 those worried abt your fantasy team, u ppl are sick” -Arian Foster (via Twitter, @ArianFoster)
Fantasy football is like planking, Justin Bieber, and the Dougie all rolled into one. It is the biggest thing on the planet, and if you don’t believe me, just check the numbers.
It’s estimated that roughly 19 million people partake in fantasy football each year. Nineteen million! Try and put that number in perspective. If you’re having trouble grasping the sheer magnitude of this many human beings doing any one thing, consider this: if fantasy football were its own country, it would be the 60th-largest country in the world, bigger than such nations as the Netherlands, Greece, Guatemala, Ecuador, Belgium, Portugal, Sweden, and the list goes on. And God only knows how wealthy a nation of fantasy footballers could possibly be.
Everybody and their mom is seemingly affected by this “sport.” If you don’t play it yourself, chances are you know someone who does. Perhaps it’s a coworker, a friend, a relative, or maybe even your significant other. In the latter scenario, you may often find yourself wishing that fantasy football would die. It won’t. So you can stop wishing and start tolerating its existence. Treat it like you would Tyler Perry or George Lopez. You might not like it, but, well, that’s just too effing bad.
Fantasy football, in a word, is huge. And it keeps getting bigger. To the point that real, live athletes like Houston Texans’ running back Arian Foster are affected by its presence.
You see, Foster tweaked his hamstring in a preseason game against San Francisco on Saturday night. He left the contest and wasn’t heard from until Sunday morning, when he posted the quote at the beginning of this article on his Twitter account. If we’ve learned anything about Arian Foster in the wake of this injury, it’s that he isn’t a fan of fantasy football.
While I can respect Foster’s opinion — and I do — I choose to disagree with his assessment of the situation. Respectfully, of course. Well…respectfully enough, I suppose. Actually, it might not be that respectful. But whatever. Hear me out.
Arian, dude, I’m sorry about your injury, but you are an idiot. Bashing fantasy football players is essentially the same thing as bashing the majority of your fans.
You jump on the people who care about your stats and before you know it, all you’re left with is a collection of Twitter hoochies who want to virtually suck your dick over DM. I realize that doesn’t sound like a horrible thing, but it is. Trust me. Those girls only want your cash, your seed, and your current level of fame. Beyond that, you mean nothing to them.
Think about the impact of the statement you’ve made. You single-handedly insulted 19 million people in fewer than 140 characters. That’s impressive. Most guys can’t do that. But somehow, you’ve managed.
Fantasy football isn’t some cult or fly-by-night fad, either. The people that participate are normal (mostly normal) individuals who happen to enjoy sports and competition. A lot like real athletes in that regard, minus all the physical tools to get the job done on the field.
On top of that, Foster was made popular because of his prowess as a fantasy football Hall of Famer.
Ask the average American to give a synopsis on Arian Foster. Most won’t even know who he is. But ask a fantasy football player about the 25-year-old University of Tennessee alum and he or she will overwhelm you with knowledge. To those who know of him, Foster’s reputation is staked on one season of fantasy domination and nothing more.
Look. I get it. When you’re hurt, you want people to care. And in wanting people to care, the last thing you want to hear about are stats, numbers, or business in general. But that’s what this is. It’s business. It’s not personal, Arian. Just business.
There are millions of people out there who have a vested interest — financial, or otherwise — in your health and well-being. Fact is, most of those people don’t know you, won’t know you, and may not care to know you. To them, you are a name on a page, a pixelated image on a TV screen, a commodity. You are larger than life because you strap on pads, make tons of money, and play a game for a living. You may be human, but to many you’re more than that. You are a celebrity, a figure, a brand.
You have the wherewithal to be put on a pedestal, fair or unfair, above the common man. There are pros and cons of this lofty status. One con is that your emotions lose their importance. People don’t care what you think or feel. They want what they want from you and nothing more. Including real production for fantasy points. And yes, that sounds harsh. But sadly, it’s the truth.
We are a society of competitors. We want to win, we want to be successful, we want to outdo the next guy. This is why we do something as stupid as devote ourselves to fantasy football. Because we can’t get enough competition in our everyday lives. It makes no sense and all sorts of sense simultaneously. It’s the world we live in.
Likewise, this is why we classify human beings (like Arian Foster) as commodities, because they directly impact our ability to achieve the success we so desire.
Is it fair? Not necessarily.
Is it reality? Most definitely.
Filed under: Fantasy sports, Featured Articles
I was rolling down Interstate 405 the other day when I came upon a crappy sedan plodding along the highway at about 50 miles per hour. Forced to spend a miserable ten seconds or so behind the Casey Kotchman of automobiles, I noticed that this slow-moving bastard had an Obama sticker on his bumper.
Now, I’ll be honest, I like Obama. He seems like a cool guy. I’m not really big on politics, but I can tell that he’d be a good dude to hoop and drink with. That sort of thing goes a long way in my book. He’s a guy’s guy, basically. And being a guy’s guy myself, I appreciate that.
At this precise moment, however, I was experiencing frustration. Frustration brought on by the operator of this clunker compact car. Frustration instigated by someone who happened to be advertising the current President of the United States of America.
That got me thinking about what Barack would do if he knew that this testament to vehicular failure was going around promoting him in such a way. As the leader of the free world, he should really have some sort of say in who peddles his name around town. Because if it was my name, I wouldn’t want it on the rear of this sloth-like scrap heap. And you know me. I’m an attention whore. If I’m drawing the line, I imagine everyone else would be, as well.
It’s tough when you’re a politician being represented by less-than-desirable constituents. But what do you do if you’re God?
When was the last time anyone asked God how He felt about having His name associated with malcontents and ne’er-do-wells? Or worse yet, professional athletes who suck.
God doesn’t judge like that, you say. But alas, if God was a sports fan, you know He’d be able to decipher good from bad. He’s God. He knows everything. Don’t insult God with your assumptions about His fanaticism. Show some respect.
Take, for instance, Aaron Curry and Justin Forsett. Teammates with the Seahawks, both men not only devote themselves fully to the Lord, but spend much of their time promoting His word through their Twitter accounts. Only problem is, neither Curry nor Forsett is exceptionally good at his job. Curry, for one, is an especially polarizing figure for local sports fans. You think God might want to weigh in on this mess?
“Hey, guys. I know you like Me and all, but can you cool it until you get a little, ya know, better? Thanks. Amen.” I think He knows what He’s doing, folks. This is God we’re talking about.
And it’s not just professional futility that should have God questioning the legion of ballplayers who perpetuate His goodness.
For years, pro athletes have been hiding behind God when things didn’t go their way. Rather than acknowledge their shortcomings, respond to interview questions, or admit they’ve done wrong, they’ve used God as a shield, deflecting all criticism by way of our Lord and Savior. It’s kind of unfair, when you think about it. Why should God have to take the bullets for your missed layup, a dropped pop fly, or that late-night arrest for soliciting a prostitute? God didn’t do those things. You did. Own up to it.
Like LeBron James, for example.
Shortly after his Miami Heat lost the 2011 NBA Finals to the Dallas Mavericks, James had the wherewithal to pin the team’s loss on none other than God, Himself.
“The Greater Man upstairs knows when it’s my time,” James said. “Right now isn’t the time.” Of course not. How could we all be so naive?
In this era of social media, we’ve come to see athletes for more than just the players they are between the lines. We know what these guys are like out of uniform, we learn about their likes and dislikes, and we gain an understanding of their character (or lack thereof). It seems that for many athletes, character goes hand in hand with faith. And likewise, faith trumps all missteps.
To many athletes, committing infraction after infraction, failing at life, or just generally being a douchebag is nullified by a few quotes from the good book and a trip to Mass every now and again. Never mind the fact that Curry is notorious for penalty-inducing plays, or that James is a heat-seeking (no pun intended) missile for public controversy, or that none of us laypeople could ever get away with shirking responsibility simply by pointing to the sky. They’re immune to criticism, these athletes, because they’ve elevated themselves above the rest of us. Clearly.
It’s a divine life full of divine rights for those athletes who make the most out of the Big Guy’s name.
And it’s about time we had a divine intervention.
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When I was a kid, I was a baseball nerd. I played ball all year long, went to dozens of Mariners games, watched Baseball Tonight religiously, knew every player in the bigs (seriously), and collected cards like a klepto poker player. I was chubby and dorky and devoted myself to that accumulation of cardboard artwork like it was my baby.
My collection was thousands deep, spanning an era when baseball cards would essentially become worthless over time. Card companies were flooding the industry with new brands, new sets, new subsets, new inserts, new everything. Demand was high, but supply was even higher. The baseball card industry broke the first rule of economics, oversupplying their consumers with the goods, devaluing their product to the point of running their businesses into the ground.
For me, however, it wasn’t about the money. I cherished my collection. I curated it, sliding my most valuable possessions into plastic sleeves, organizing my anthology alphabetically. Even as I grew up and began moving from place to place, I often toted parts of my collection with me, a reminder of a childhood I had pledged to paper heroes.
Around about the time I was fourteen, I got into autographs. Autographs, to me, were the coolest thing ever. Owning the handwritten signature of a big league ballplayer seemed like such an absolute rarity. This was before the advent of social networking, meaning even the scrubbiest of scrub athletes was a distant superstar twinkling on some team’s bench. Athletes were mythical figures back then. No one knew what they thought, knew what they did away from the playing surface, knew how bad their grammar could be in one-hundred-forty characters or less. And as a kid who idolized these demigods, I wanted to get my hands on those Sharpie-embellished collectables.
I first learned about obtaining autographs through the mail online. There were websites that posted the mailing addresses of every major league club, including Spring Training sites. On top of that, there were numerous pages out there (think Geocities and Angelfire) that listed which players were likely to sign and return materials sent to them, as well as instructions on how to get autographs by mail in the first place.
The process was simple, really. All you had to do was obtain the team’s postal address, then send off a self-addressed stamped envelope with a brief letter and whatever you wanted signed. I always sent two baseball cards of the player I was contacting, along with the cheesiest note you’ve ever read. I found the template for what was deemed a “good” autograph request letter on one of those Geocities pages. The text read along the lines of this:
My name is Alex Akita and I’m a huge fan. You’re one of my favorite players of all-time and it would be an honor if you’d sign these two cards for me and send them back in this envelope. Thanks a lot for taking the time to do that, and good luck on the rest of your season!
Straight provolone. And yet the shtick couldn’t have been more effective.
In the summer of 1999, I sent out probably twenty or twenty-five requests for signatures. I targeted younger players because that was the thing to do. Veterans received hundreds of letters each day and were prone to ignoring their mail. Up-and-comers, however, were ready and willing to open every envelope that passed through their locker. Most were more than happy to make some goofy kid’s day by inking a baseball card or two. And so it was that I built my autograph collection.
The first player to ever respond to me was former Mariners outfielder Shane Monahan. Yes, that Shane Monahan. The very same Shane Monahan that would go all Benedict Arnold on his teammates a decade later. On the day I got that first self-addressed stamped envelope back, I couldn’t have been happier. Monahan was one of my favorite players from that day on as a result. So what if his career in pro baseball was short-lived? Dude had made my whole year by sending back my cards with his name in cursive splashed right there on the glossy parchment. I was thrilled.
After that, envelopes began to roll in every few days. There were some notables names in the bunch — Luis Gonzalez, Carlos Lee, Mark Grace, Mike Lowell — and many more not-so-notable names. In retrospect, obtaining the John Hancocks of Rolando Arrojo, Tony Armas Jr., C.J. Nitkowski, Manny Aybar, Peter Bergeron, and Chad Hermansen may not have been the best use of resources.
There were a number of Mariners who hooked it up. Dan Wilson and John Olerud were kind enough to sign three cards for me. Aaron Sele personalized his autograph, then added the blessing of God as a bonus. Jamie Moyer lived up to his nice-guy reputation by returning my cards with his endorsement. David Bell came through, as did a right-handed pitching prospect by the name of Gil Meche.
In between the big names, the no-names, and the hometown heroes were a handful of interesting stories.
There was Oakland A’s catcher A.J. Hinch. His career as a player was shorter than his second line of work as a coach. He would later become one of the youngest managers in the majors when he took the reins of the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2009. These days, he’s the vice president of scouting for the San Diego Padres.
Michael Barrett was a catcher with the Montreal Expos. As one of the game’s top prospects, getting his signature seemed like a major coup at the time. He would later be best known as the guy who started a brawl by clocking A.J. Pierzynski.
Philadelphia Phillies outfielder Doug Glanville autographed two cards for me. I would later discuss journalism with Glanville when he became a writer after his playing career ended. As nice a guy as I’ve ever had the pleasure of corresponding with.
The aforementioned Carlos Lee apparently found his first name to be troublesome; he signed both his cards “C. LEE”. Yes, in all caps, too.
Carl Pavano (he of Alyssa Milano’s romantic past) penned his name for me. He’s one of only five players still active in the majors that happen to be a part of my collection.
Of course, there were times when I got stiffed. Jorge Posada and Terrence Long stand out as two notable guys that neglected to return my cards or my envelope. More often than not, however, my cards were returned. With ink. Occasionally with a letter.
Looking back, I’m glad I took those few weeks between my eighth and ninth grade years to do something as geeky as I did. Any kid could go to the store and buy a pack of baseball cards. Few kids ever got the chance to interact with the players on those cards, even in remote fashion.
It’s not the most beautiful collection in the world. It certainly doesn’t have much monetary value. But those cards will stay with me for the rest of my life, without a doubt.
And as for all the players that ended up being a part of what I did that summer, they’ll never be forgotten. No matter what their career stat lines may look like, regardless of what their lives have become or will, in spite of any transgressions that may dot their paths, they’ll always be more than just your average ballplayer, more than just a common card, more than just numbers on paper to me.
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