Friday, February 25, 2005

Roids and Rage

Sometimes in sports it is hard to get around the headlines and the most interesting headlines recently involved the goings on in college basketball and major league baseball.

First we take note of last Tuesday night's brouhaha in the Atlantic 10 where the St. Joseph Hawks defeated the cross-town rival Temple Owls 63-56. The game featured both non-stop bitching at the refs by Temple's coach, the notoriously highly strung John Chaney, and by exceptionally rough play in the second half. The meltdown during his post-game press conference was remarkable even by Chaney standards.

During said conference Chaney admitted to being so frustrated by the failure of the referees to whistle the visiting Hawks for allegedly setting numerous moving screens on his helpless Owls that he sent in a "goon"-his words-to mete out rough justice. Said goon, seldom used 6'8", 250 lb. Nehemiah Ingram, did so with ruthless efficiency and set the land speed record for fouling out in the process after collecting his 5th foul in 4 minutes.

The next day, Chaney apologized for his "reprehensible" behavior and suspended himself from participation in the upcoming game against Pittsburgh. The problem is, it was subsequently revealed that one of the St. Joseph's kids that got popped by Ingram during the hack-a-thon ordered up by Chaney, wound up with a broken arm and is lost for the season.

Chaney's behavior was not just "reprehensible" it was stupid. He forced a kid-and these are still just kids folks- to choose between disobeying his coach and starting World War III under the boards. An opposing player is lost for the season due to the deliberate acts of his player. He has exposed himself and his employer to liability. And according to Hawks coach Phil Martelli the worse thing Chaney did was refer to of his players as a "goon."

"That was a mistake." Martelli said. " That kid is somebody's son."

As is the young man with the fractured elbow. You can't swing a dead cat in Philly without hitting a lawyer. There's a good chance his parents are consulting with one even as we type.

Look, we at TMFW have seen much basketball in our day. We do not blanche at spirited play that crosses over into the realm of the physical. Stuff happens out there on the court. High words are exchanged. It was ever thus. But the coaches are there to keep a lid on that stuff not instigate it.

John Chaney should be suspended by either Temple or by the Atlantic 10 Conference for the rest of the season and post-season. If they do not, they are complete and utter cowards.

Turning to the Boys of Summer, one of the questions put to Barry Bonds during his coming out party with the press the other day concerned whether he thought taking performance enhancing drugs was "cheating." To which he replied:

" I don't know what cheating is. I don't believe steroids can help your eye-hand coordination, technically hit a baseball. I just don't believe it."

Which is completely disingenuous.

If getting the ball in play was all about hand-eye coordination and contact, Bonds might have a point. But if we possessed the Popeye like forearms that Bonds owns, we would sure wait that extra split-second longer to get a good look at a pitch that might be fooling us, reposing trust that we could generate sufficient bat speed to turn misshits into long foul balls if not shots to the opposite field.

And if we are illegally using a controlled substance to gain and maintain that power, well yeah, that's cheating. Duh.

But steroids aren't even the drug of choice in baseball. It is amphetamines. Greenies. And everybody does them. And guess what? So ubiquitous is their use during the 162 game grind that is the regular season that the Player's Union would have gone to war over testing for this substance. And the suits at MLB didn't press the point in order to get the deal done on steroids.

Is this a great country or what?

So just remember. Next time you see a batter fidget in the batter's box, the next time you see a pitcher not named Rick Ankiel throw one over the backstop, consider that it just might be more than nerves. It might be better living through chemistry.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Remain in Light

One of our best friends is a woman who has a lot going for her. She is lovely and scary-smart. She retains the lithe figure of the dancer she once was. She has two beautiful daughters and two handsome sons. She has a loving, hard-working husband who dotes on her. She lives in a lovely home. She is a very serious person. She is serious about her relationships, about her religion and about social justice. And yet, she doesn't take herself all that seriously. Indeed, we have seen her resplendent in torn jeans and pink Chuck Taylors. And we were tremendously impressed when we saw her turn cartwheels across the fairway of a local golf course one fine autumn day. After all, and we are trying to put this delicately, we would have thought that her cartwheel days were well behind her. From this side of the glass, anyone looking in at her could hardly be faulted for thinking that she leads a charmed life.

She does not. She suffers from severe depression. And has for most of her life.

Her latest e-mail is typical of her when she is having one of her bad days: " I'm severely depressed. I'm not sure how to handle what is happening. My mind feels like mush. This isn't good for the depression. The winter is long. I haven't seen the sun in weeks. The new medication has made most anxious and suicidal and so I'm thinking it was not the best idea"

And so on.

All of us have experienced sadness and disappointment. All of us have been blue. It is part and parcel of our humanity. However, not everyone of us has struggled with the 200 lb. Gorilla that is major depression. And not many of us that have suffered from major depression have experienced it on a chronic basis, as one would experience MS or asthma.

It is so easy to try to say encouraging things, to urge the sufferer to "snap out of it" or to suggest activities to "take your mind off of your troubles." And yet, we forget, or worse we do not know, that depressed people are by definition extremely inward. As our friend Dr. G, a local shrink described it to me, " It's like you are at the bottom of a silty pond. Chronic depression is a continual attempt to swim upward through the murk to get to the light up above."

Which must be every bit as exhausting as trying to cope with "real" illnesses.

We have seen it all with our friend. The medication changes, the anger at psychiatrists, the fights with the insurance companies, the constant research, the fervent prayers for healing. We also remember the completely brilliant decision on her part to quit the meds and to try to get well through diet, meditation and exercise which ended up in the predictable disaster.

None of this is very romantic. None of this is the special province of the sensitive or the artistic. She hates her illness. She despises feeling like a burden. She wants nothing more than to be a happy mom with the dancer's wheels in the pink hightops.

But we have seen something else: courage. We tend to sling words like "bravery" and "courage" around for acts which hardly seem worthy of them. But it takes a brave woman to get up out of the bed to face another day of incandescent sorrow. It takes courage to tamp down the velvet voice in her ear that urges her to give in to the occasional impulse to yield to the unthinkable and to pack it all in. To join Sylvia Plath, Anne Sexton, the kid we went to high school with who threw himself of a water tower on an Army base after he got the "Dear John" letter, the former model we knew who put a 9mm to her face and the guy we used to play tennis with at the Club. To join the ranks of the souls with broken hearts that got away when the rest of us weren't looking. It takes more nerve than I possess to stare that evil bastard down on a regular basis.

Thank God my friend mostly speaks of suicidal ideation with a shrug of her shoulders, the way allergy sufferers talk about itchy eyes. It is mostly a side effect. Something to deal with. And yet, we write and we call just to take her temperature from time to time. To make sure that she is still swimming toward the light. Even on those days when she has her doubts that there is a light once she breaks the surface.

This recent episode came hard on the heels of her losing out on a job opportunity that she was hopeful of securing. She loves chocolate, and so it being Valentine's Day, we sent her a box. She called us sounding for all the world like an eight year old on Christmas Day. She said she took the candy to work and that she has a piece whenever the bad feelings descend. She also said that her teenaged daughter had appropriated the ribbon on the box for a belt to wear with her jeans.

Damn. That's one skinny little girl.

We made a deal with her. As long as she keeps hanging in there, we will keep the chocolate coming. After all, chocolate we can afford. We could not stand it if we lost her.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Is That A Bottle of Pills In Your Pocket or Are You Just Glad To See Me?

The New York Daily News recently reported that a New Jersey businessman has sued the manufacturer of Alzare which is a pill that purports to enhance penis size. The plaintiff, Michael Coluzzi, claims that Alzare is guilty of false advertising when after paying $59.95 for a 30 day supply, he discovered after a "careful examination" that he had "experienced no increase in penis size."

Our friend Miss J, in what can safely be described as a candid assessment of our interpersonal skills, recently graced us with the following syllogism: " All men are idiots. You are a man. Therefore, you are an idiot." Which struck us as unduly harsh.

But just when we think that our women's near universal low regard for men in general is the by-product of mere hysteria on their part, we need only look to the newspaper. Recently, the sports page alone has provided much grist for the idiot mill. The NHL season was cancelled when both sides couldn't find a way to split the difference between a mere 6 million dollars. Former baseball player Jose Canseco has been popping off to a fair-the-well about about all the guys he claims were using steroids back when he was playing. And using steroids. Reggie Fowler, the new owner of the Minnesota Vikings had to amend his official biography when it was revealed that he really didn't play in either the National Football League or the Canadian Football League as stated therein. Neither had he earned certain degrees from the University of Wyoming. A note to Reggie: You can bs about your accomplishments but you can't bs about your credentials. Facts are troublesome things.

And now we have Michael Coluzzi, who through the instigation of this lawsuit has admitted that a) he thought he was a worthy candidate for a good enhancing, b) that he was stupid enough to buy this product and that after a "careful examination" (entailing God knows what) he c) "experienced no increase in penis size."

How would one go about proving this anyway? His word alone? Before and after pictures? A urologist with a tailor's measuring tape? The testimony of either a sobbing Mrs. Coluzzi or the amused guys back at the gym? We at TMFW are certain that we do not wish to know.

This lawsuit proves once again that some people will simply not let modesty or human dignity get in the way of a buck. But anyone that watches "American Idol" or looks at porno would know that.

It will not surprise Miss J to know that we think she has got it mostly wrong. All men are no more idiots than are all women emotionally labile and nuts.

But some guys sure seem to go out of their way to make her case for her.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Enough About Me. What About You? What Do You Think About Me?

We have many women friends and our many women friends tend to unburden themselves around us concerning the state of their relationships with their men. We do not know why this is so. It could not be that we possess any particular insight into relationship issues. Indeed, the Significant Other will soon go off on a weekend sojourn with her girlfriends during which we are certain we will be depicted to the fellow travelers as a no-good, insensitive, drag-assed son of a bitch. And her friends will describe their men in similar fashion. Twas ever thus.

Rather, we think that the reason we get to hear all of these god-awful stories is because we are easily found, we are not judgmental and we always have alcohol in abundance. One does not have to exactly be the second coming of Carolyn Hax if one can make a good martini and knows how to keep one's mouth shut.

After years of dispensing chardonnay and Kleenex in equal we may safely state that the common denominator, the specific gravity of the despair for most of these women is that they are drawn, as the moth to the flame, to narcissists. We can see the eyebrows going up among the, oh, 6 or so people that actually read this blog. We can hear the phrase "Takes one to know one" escaping certain Revloned lips.

No matter. We at TMFW are informed by these women, albeit second handedly through the shrinks, marriage counselors, hairstylists and other mental health care employed by them, that we all fall into destructive patterns and are drawn to certain types in our relationships and that the key is to recognize this and to avoid the less desirable people and patterns. For example, one woman told me " You could put me in a room full of Mormons and I would wind up talking to the one that was a drunk."

So, as a public service, we will provide a list of questions that women should ask themselves prior to getting involved with a man in order to cull out the narcissists on the front end. You may print this off for future reference.

Many narcissists tend to gravitate toward certain professions.

1) Is he a physician?
a) If so, is he a surgeon?

2) Is he a lawyer?
a) II so, is he a trial lawyer?
b) Is he a judicial officer?
c) Is a federal judge?

3) Is he a politician?

4) Is he a member of the clergy?
a) If so, is he a Southern Baptist or Assembly of God minister?
b) Or is one of those non-denominational, powerpoint presenting, "Big Box" congregation preachers?
c) Is he a Minister of Music?

5) Is he a professional athlete?
a) Is he the head football or basketball coach at any NCAA Division I school?
b) Unless he is the head football coach at Rice, Duke,Vanderbilt or Tulane.

6) Is he a financial advisor?

7) Is he in the restaurant business?
a) and we don't mean Shoney's.

8) Is he a musician?
a) does he play the organ, the piano or the violin?
b) If he sings, is he a tenor?

9) Is he a writer?
a) Is he an editorial writer?
b) Is he an editor?

10) Is he a tenured professor?
a) In the liberal arts?

Whatever his chosen field does he refer to himself as
a) a "high-achiever?"
b) someone who "thinks outside the box?"
c) "self-motivated?"
d) Scott Peterson?

Many of our institutions of higher learning produce narcissists the way roses produce scent.

1) Does he wear a class ring?

2) And is the school inscribed thereon (in no particular order)
a) Harvard
b) Yale
c) Princeton
d) Ole Miss
e) The University of the South
f) University of Southern California
g) Clemson
h) The United States Naval Academy
h) 1) Any of those fake military academies like The Citadel
i) Notre Dame
j) Texas or Texas A&M
k) any Division I school in North Carolina except North Carolina State
l) Williams College
m) Haverford College
n) Wharton School of Business
0) Boalt Hall-Berkeley
i) The FBI Training Academy

One can often tell a narcissist by his leisure activities.

a) Did he play Division I sports?
1) And did he play football, basketball or tennis?

b) Does he insist upon coaching all the sports in which his kids are involved?
1) Even the ones he doesn't know the first damn things about?
2) And does he insist upon being referred to as "coach?"

c) Does he still play tennis?

d) Does he play golf?
1) Don't worry about this one. Golf is sufficiently impossible that it leaves the ego of even the most self-reverential in a puddle by the door.

e) Is he involved in the arts?
1) Does he do musical theatre?

f) Is he a bodybuilder?
1) Does he fool around with steroids?

g) Does he collect stuff?

h) Does he participate in fantasy leagues?

i) Does he root for the following teams?
a) The Boston Red Sox
b) Any SEC school except Vanderbilt
1) Especially Alabama, LSU, Tennessee and Ole Miss
c) Notre freaking Dame
d) The Chicago Cubs
e) The Duke Blue Devils and Indiana Hoosiers basketball teams
f) The Philadelphia Eagles
g) The New Orleans Saints
h) The New York Knicks, Giants and Yankees

This list is by no means inclusive. And as those ads for investment firms all say, "Individual results may vary." There are exceptions. But if you get involved with a man who is waving any of these red flags and and it all goes down the crapper, you can't say you weren't warned.

So don't come crying to me. Unless you bring some gin.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Royal Wedding Redux

We heard the news today that Elizabeth Rex has blessed the upcoming union of Prince Charles and Camilla Parker-Bowles. This was a bigger story on Good Morning America than the amusing news that North Korea has a nuclear weapons program.

We at TMFW say that it is about time he made an honest woman out of this flower of English womanhood. He has only been carrying on with her off and on for the last 30 years. It was hardly a state secret, even less of one than North Korea's nuclear program.

Actually, we don't much care as we have very little use for the Royals. We will not go so far as to state that they should all be lined up and shot as an acquaintance of ours recently suggested to us. But is there any institution less relevant to the modern world than a monarchy? WWF wrestling perhaps and the Electoral College come to mind.

Perhaps we could come up with more examples if we actually thought these things through before writing them. But that is neither here nor there.

Rather, think of all the money Great Britain could save just by turning the shiftless lot and their Nancy-boy servants out to fend for themselves. Think of how the coffers of the Bank of England would swell if they liquidated the holdings of the House of Windsor? It's not like Buckingham Palace is nearly so useful as your average Presidential Library or anything.

About the only time you see Prince Charles in public he is snow-skiing, horseback riding or taking a tour through a shoe factory (or something) wherein he will condescend to offer insights such as " These boots are of splendid quality" or " That is certainly a fine wage" or somesuch. Indeed, about the only time you typically ever see the Royals make the news is when one of them dies in a spectacular and horrific fashion (Lady "You-Know-Who). Or when one of them does something incredibly stupid such as when Prince Harry recently arrived at a costume party in Nazi regalia, thereby giving great offence to Britian's WWII vets without whom you would be reading this in German.

But there is romance in the notion of monarchy and this holds sway over millions even here across the pond. A friend of ours got up in the wee hours of the morning to watch Diana's funeral. She said she did it to be "part of history."

She wasn't part of history. She was watching TV. History is goddamn North Korea (which is run by someone who is smooth running crazy) announcing that it has nukes. Or did we mention that already?

Anyway, I remember as a child reading books where the handsome king married the fairest girl in all the land and that they live happily ever after. Here's where the romance ends for us. We must say it in no uncertain terms. Camilla ain't much to look at. Depending on what you read, Lady Di was either a scheming backstabber or nuttier than a pecan pie depending on which side of the bed she got up on.

But she was hot.

No. If we are going to run the risk of pissing off not only our Mum but the woman who is our Sovereign Liege (which sounds considerably more scary than it actually is at this point in history), if we are going to risk the opprobrium of the subjects, we are going to do so after asking Scotland Yard to get us the phone number of Britain's last contestant in the Miss Universe pageant. We are not going to take that kind of PR hit over a woman who is only slightly more sultry than Margaret Thatcher.

But we cannot pretend to know the mind of the Prince of Wales. As we understand it, his is a mind uncluttered by complicated things. And yes, we know. Physical beauty is over-rated and as fleeting as the clouds. As an elderly friend used to say, "Love goes where it's sent." And this is certainly true.

But we don't get it.

Maybe she can make biscuits as big as his fist.

Friday, February 04, 2005

Patriots, Eagles and Wings

We suppose that we are somehow obligated to make a prediction about Super Bowl XXIXXXIXXXIXXXXIXXXIIIIXIXX or whatever the hell it is by now. We have been reluctant to do so mainly because we are always wrong about these matters. But we are also depressed. We are old enough to vividly remember Super Bowl I.

First, an aside about this year's halftime "entertainment." It is our understanding that Paul McCartney will be performing. We usually don't even bother watching most halftime shows and we shall return to that practice now that we know Sir Paul will be featured. But even we were aghast at last year's event which resembled an open casting call for "Boys in the Hood" as much as a halftime show. This is despite missing the infamous "wardrobe malfunction" as the Significant Other and I were making fajitas at the time. Sir Paul is safe as farm buttermillk by comparison. Never mind that he pretty much sucks. With his pleasant voice and still boyish "Hi Mum" looks, McCartney isn't likely to throw the FCC into a screaming hissy with bells which is all that matters to the suits at the NFL.

Concerning the game itself, suffice it to say that if flapping gums and woofing constitutes preparation the Eagles will win by 2 touchdowns. Underachieving punk Freddie Mitchell has called out the New England secondary. Not to be outdone, known man of prayer Terrell Owens has claimed that God has intervened in human history to render sufficient healing to his fractured leg despite the fact that his surgeon refused to clear him to play.

Some people have raised the question as to whether the Eagles have the ethical obligation to hold Owens out for his own good. Ethics, shmethics. This is the NFL where General Managers would run over their mothers to get a win. Hell, Al Davis has probably sacrificed infants. If Owens can get out there without a walker he will play. Trust us on this one.

We at TMFW don't claim to be experts on NFL football. Until the playoffs we had not watched a single game in it's entirety. But it seems to us that both defenses are pretty damn salty and should do a pretty good job shutting down the run. Noone has run on the Eagles all year and 2 weeks ago the Patriots stuffed Jerome Bettis on 4th and 1, which is like unto stopping a runaway barge.

We think Andy Reid's unwillingness or inability to tell Owens to sit for the good of the team will come back to bite him on the ass. If Owens is in the game, the Eagles' wideouts might revert to their alligator-armed ways when they are not basically standing around a la the Los Angeles Lakers waiting for TO to make a play. On the other hand, New England's receivers have been pretty good all year. Unheralded even. And as wondrous as is Donavan McNabb, he can't catch his own passes.

So, do the long suffering fans of Philadelphia, the narcissitic football equivalent of the followers of the Cubs and the Red Sox, finally get their championship? Or does the Lombardi Trophy return to Beantown, to be displayed next to the Red Sox's World Series hardware?

We say the nod goes to the Patriots. New England by 7 in a low scoring game. Owens will be a non-factor. Freddie Mitchell will get knocked out much to our amusement.

And Paul McCartney will do a medly of lame-ass stuff from his Wings phase.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Meanwhile Back In Indiana Alfred Kinsey Spins

Just when you think things couldn't possibly get any stupider this quickly out at the Ledge, along comes Rep. Bob Adams of Sheridan packing HB 1119. HB 1119 would prohibit gay people from adopting or serving as foster parents. However, as if to prove that the backers of this tripe are not completely draconian or thoughtless, the bill carves out an exception for a person who merely " appears to be a homosexual or has a homosexual orientation."

Which instantly leads one to the child's question, "Huh?"

The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reports that Adams explained what passed for his reasoning thusly, in what may be one of the most ignorant-assed pronouncements in the history of a legislative body famous for ignorant-assed pronouncements , when he said that he wanted to protect prospective foster parents that might be thought of as gay such as "a man whose voice is high pitched" or "one of the Williams sisters that plays tennis who bench presses 300 pounds."

We are certain he is referring to Serena. Venus couldn't bench press the Little Rock phone book. But we digress.

Surely to God Adams has heard that appearances can deceive.

Oh, this is too easy. Off the top of our head, there are any of a number of people that could get in under the radar by this criteria. Starting with the tennis world, since that appears to be a special interest of Rep. Adams, we give you GiGi Fernandez ,an awfully cute Olympian. Gay. Rod Stewart has a "high pitched" voice and has shagged more chicks than Frank Sinatry. Or for sure more than Rock Hudson who was a baritone. And really gay despite being repeatedly photographed in bed with the likes of Doris Day and Susan St. James.

In our personal experience, we know at least a couple of women so drop-dead gorgeous we would gladly drink their bathwater if given the opportunity. Alas, we will never get that chance because a) they are far too sensible to put up with such foolishness and b) they are gay. We know some guys at the gym who work out on weights simply because there are no human tractor-pulling contests. They are big strong strapping examples of manly men. They are also gay as lilies.

We at TMFW are not unmindful of our public responsibility. So we will make the following modest suggestion: If the Ledge is really serious about coming up with a handy-dandy criterion for excluding a class of people from contact with children out of a fear of sexually inappropriate behavior we know some people proven by FBI statistics to be dangerous as hell.

Little League baseball coaches.

Sports Illustrated did a series of articles on this issue a couple of years ago, proclaiming it to be a national scandal. Further, the newspaper is replete with other recent incidents involving inappropriate conduct on the part of coaches. And get this, according to Sports Illustrated, virtually all of men who have sexual contact with young boys consider themselves to be heterosexual.

Which quite frankly we don't get on any of a number of levels. But the larger point is that this would kind of throw a kink in the "homosexual orientation" litmus test prescribed by HB 1119.

So, that's our proposal. If they are really serious about protecting children they should amend HB 1119 to ban heterosexual men who coach youth sports. Though this bill in its original form pretty much set the land speed record for stupidity, it can be fixed.

There. We have done our duty. We can now turn to more important matters like the point spread of the Super Bowl.