Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Premiering My 1st Inaugural Inauguration Thoughts

Allow me to make the unreliable claim that this is the first DC blog entry of the week that doesn't mention "inauguration," "Obama," or "Metro." Yes sir. There will be no mention of John Roberts messing up the Oath of Office's word order and pacing, nullifying Obama's legal taking of the title of POTUS (see Article II, Section I of the Constitution). Of course in the unlikely event it's ever challenged if not done again in private, the case would end up in Roberts' court. Nope, this belated entry will not dip into the political pool of opinionated posts out there.

Actually, I can't avoid writing my two cents about what went down yesterday. Ten years from now, I'll be able to look back on this post and instantly remember what insignificant things I chose to record for eternity. The blogosphere will be better for it, humanity will triumph from it, and a day will come "when black won't be asked to get back, when brown can stick around, when yella will be mella, when the redman can get ahead man, and when white will embrace what is right."

Wow. And to think, 1 porta-potty for every 300 attendees.

On Monday night, I was oh so close to talking myself into making a run for the events downtown.  I'd have only had myself to blame for cold extremities, using an overflowed porta-potty, and watching on a jumbotron when the warmth of my apartment, a clean toilet, and Tivo seemed so much nicer. I decided to not make the trek. Sure it would have been great to say I was there, but for what? To see Barack talk on a jumbotron; watch a parade of bulletproof, chemicalproof, anythingproof limos; and battle for Metro platform space? No thanks.

I tried watching coverage of the day's pomp and circumstance on the broadcast channels, but the blowhards kept talking about inane things, feeling the need to remind me yesterday's events were historic and would impact the future. Ya don't say? They tried cramming in so many insignificant facts like Bush #2's helicopter name change, that they were closer to NFL announcers, filling time with facts about a player's high school career, than journalists. Granted TV newscasters haven't been confused for journalists for at least two decades so it does become moot.

If only broadcasters didn't love hearing the sound of their voices with facts about Bush's chopper.

For the first time in C-Span's history, someone from my 18-35 demographic watched for more than the 1 second it takes to flip past the channel. In fact, I watched for six hours, or at least had it on in the background for that time. C-Span showed the entire ceremony, luncheon, and parade sans broadcasters; the silence was spectacular. In a most novel idea for our time, C-Span let the video and natural sound tell the story. I guess that that's how the channel presents Senate hearings and Congressional testimony. Who knew!

Leaving me to reach my own conclusions in silence was wonderful. The same cannot be said for Chief Justice Roberts' attempt at memorizing 35 words.

C-Span showed VIPs make their way through the Capitol Rotunda to their seats for the swearing-in ceremony. During this procession, everyone except for Chaney had to walk down about 30 steps before reaching the stage. Maliciously, I only watched to see someone take a mighty fall. To my dismay, the shock of cold air wasn't enough for anyone to stumble even a little. Because I never followed up on becoming President as predicted by my 6th grade classmates 17 years ago (on video in our time capsule), a clumsy trip down the Capitol steps won't happen for me.

The ceremony had very few highlights. I didn't care for the Yo-Yo Ma pre-recorded performance with Itzhak Perlman, pianist Gabriela Montero, and clarinetist Anthony McGil. I'm sure it was a grand collection of talent, but I thought it shouldn't have taken place between the swearing-in of the VP and the President. The poem by Elizabeth Alexander was unremarkable like all poetry read at inaugurations, while the benediction by Reverend Joseph E. Lowery was mediocre, only saved by his closing rhyme.

Olive green gloves and heels?

Obama's speech lacked any oomph or memorable phrase and won't be a top 100 speech. I can only think he did this to lower the speculatory expectations some folks have for him. He talked about changing things in Washington, but like all political ideas for change, it's not easy to undo the way things have always been done when Congress holds all the power, checks and balances be damned.

His line about putting out our hand if the other country unclenches its fist was nice, but that was more Bartleby's Book of Quotations than "Ask not what your country can do for you..." or "The only thing we have to fear...." That's fine. What he did convey in his 2,406 words was hope and that's about the only thing not going wrong these days.

A photograph of Obama in his car during the parade wasn't worth the wait and creature comfort sacrifices required.

After Obama waved goodbye to Bush #2 and completed his luncheon, it was time for the worst ordered parade ever. After the motorcades of the President and Vice-President pass, why would anyone stick around for the 10,000 marchers to follow unless they're friends or family? I think there's a limit to the number of marching bands anyone can see before they've seen'em all. It happened for me at the St. Patrick's Day parade and bagpipes. While getting a photograph of Obama walking would have been great, I wasn't about to sacrifice my backpack to get that close, and at that I would need some location luck.

I'm okay not being able to say I was at the inauguration of Obama. It was a moment to remember for sure, but saying you're there for an event doesn't have as much weight when even your camera is unable to overcome your distance from the action. I saw things just fine on my TV, perfectly warm with instant restroom access and C-Span.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

A (NY) Giant Season of Promise No More

It's no secret that I'm a fan of the New York Football Giants, living in the I-95 corridor between the Baltimore Ravens and Washington Redskins, with a sprinkling of Pittsburgh Steelers fans in every cul-de-sac. It's tough. So when my Giants lost today in a most disappointing fashion, I was doubly saddened to realize that two of the three "local" teams are still alive to win it all.

Another round of local team hope means enduring a week of Ravens' car flags and Steelers' hats. And though it means that at least one of them won't make the Super Bowl, it also means that one of them will. Despite this, today's loss to the Philadelphia Eagles pains me more than hearing Baltimoreans say, "Howya think them Ravens are gonna do hon?" for another week. It's the Giants who should still be playing.

Now they're everywhere!

Coming off of last year's improbable Super Bowl title, we (meaning all Giants' fans) had high hopes and wanted the team to make a good run to prove last year wasn't the fluke it seemed. I suppose the team accomplished that by having the best regular season in the NFC, clinching a 1st-round bye and home-field throughout. Unfortunately, home-field advantage didn't help the Giants today. It's not any easier to accept because 3 of the 4 home teams in the Divisional round lost, as did 2 of 4 in the Wild Card round. Regular season titles aren't celebrated, playoff wins are.

The Giants just weren't as crisp as I knew them to be this year. A few 20-yard outs that were just missed always seemed to connect before. Uncharacteristic penalties like blocking in the back and hands to the face meant this team would never recapture the magic. Rushing three in a prevent defense to end the 1st half, when blitzing Donovan McNabb had worked, was not the Giants' way.

The defense could have called for Michael Strahan today.

Call me an armchair quarterback, but if Manning was having trouble throwing accurately beyond 15 yards, maybe, just maybe, the Giants should run the ball with the league's top rushing offense and keep passes to under 10 yards. It certainly worked for McNabb converting 7 of 13 3rd downs to the Giants' 3 of 13. John Carney's 2 missed field goals are not to blame here, this was a total team failure and it sucks.

It wasn't supposed to end this way.

Through the first 11 games of the season, the Giants looked, played, and carried themselves like the worldbeaters they were. Outside of a fluke blowout loss to the Browns in Week 5, the Giants rolled through the league beating the likes of the Steelers on the road and running over the Ravens at the Meadowlands. Despite losing Michael Strahan to retirement and Osi Umenyiora to a knee injury in the preseason, the Giants were rolling along with a perfect balance of power running, pressure defense, and a respectable deep passing game with Plaxico Burress.

At least we had a better run than the Redskins season of starting 6-2, but missing the playoffs. There, now I feel better after that reminder.

Now the team just had to avoid injuries, we thought. They needed to avoid any drama or team distractions, we thought. Coach Tom Caughlin wouldn't let that happen, we thought. We also thought the first 12 games came a little too easy for them. Standing at 11-1, my father and I were ecstatic, yet weary for the other shoe to drop.

The shoe dropped, or rather Plaxico Burress' gun dropped from the pocket of his sweatpants, at which point it, or rather he, shot himself in the thigh. Like your atypical gunshot victim, he got the hospital ER docs to not report the wound to police (who found out about it on TV) and was treated under an alias. Oh yeah, he also had no license to carry a gun in New York. So much for avoiding drama.

We'll never know how far they could have gone because someone didn't leave his gun's safety on.

Following Burress' suspension, the Giants lost 3 of their last 4, though the final game wasn't played with the starting team the entire time, but still the team wasn't the same. In a sheer moment of stupidity, the never-neverland of football superiority vanished, but nobody wanted to admit it. Losses to the Eagles and Cowboys were written off as ways to rest the team for the playoffs, especially with a playoff spot already clinched. Plus, the team did beat Carolina to solidify the Conference's top seed. With smoke and mirrors the team was swimming along by treading water.

The 1st-round bye afforded the team the rest it needed, but didn't undo what Burress did to himself, the team, and the fans. His marksmanship cost the Giants a sound run at a repeat title. He was as important to the offense as Eli Manning, the triumvirate of running backs, and the spectacular offensive line. He commanded defenses to double team him leaving one less defender to rush Manning or tackle a ballcarrier. Attention to Burress opened up the field for the likes of Amani Toomer and Domenik Hixon to run crossing routes or sideline routes in single coverage.

When Burress was suspended by the team (coming after missing two games for injury) the franchise chose a drama-less locker room over a singularly selfish player, and a fair chance at a Super Bowl. The Giants ran the playoff table last year and dominated the regular season this year because they played as a team (plus one distracting superstar) in a sport that demands teamwork over the individual (see the Dallas Cowboys when a team has many distracting superstars).

Look how far we've fallen since the winning TD.

That's all well and good, but couldn't the Giants have allowed Burress to play in the playoffs? Penalize him for a few games with the division wrapped up, but let him play when the team needed him most. Cut ties with him after this year, but at least see where they'd go with him. Plenty has been stated anonymously that he's an awful teammate in addition to his training camp holdouts and spouts with the coaching staff so maybe this was the last straw.

Sometimes you look past a player's diversion for temporary achievement. Every sport faces the dilemma of winning with a diva athlete who backs up their talk and brash ways, or letting him go for the sake and sanity of everyone else. I give the organization credit for taking a stand, but I'd be fine if they stood up for their morals after this year.

Sometimes a player is worth his all-cameras-on-me attitude.

All of which leads us to today's loss at home against the Eagles. McNabb made the short throws needed and the Giants never got on track after losing Burress. I don't care who represents the NFC in the Super Bowl anymore. I guess I'll resign myself to watching what should be a classic battle between the Steelers and Ravens, picking the Ravens to win 20 (crabcakes) to 13 (Primanti Brothers sandwiches). Not that it matters after a season with legitimate title dreams didn't come true. Hon.

Excuses are easy to create, but harder to legitimize. You could say it was cold and windy, but it was the same for the Eagles. Perhaps the Giants were rusty having not played a meaningful game in a few weeks, yet the Steelers played just fine today.

Or maybe, just maybe, the team needed Plaxico more than they wanted to admit.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Now I Know The Pain Of Childbirth

I was admitted to the ER at 1700 hours. There was no waiting in triage this time, no ID bracelet, not even a request for my health insurance card. I was no longer going to belabor my labor. I had carried this creation to term and it was time to cut its cord(s).

I was immediately rushed to the set of "ER" for care by Dr. Mark Greene, then we shot some hoops.

Two weeks ago, I embarked on a life changing journey - I grew a beard by going two weeks without shaving. What remained were plenty of gray hairs, a mustache and beard that never connected, and comparisons to an Amish lumberjack in Rabbinical school.

I'm a lumberjack and I'm okay (except for the wearing women's clothing part).

The first week was the toughest because of unkempt stubble. Hairs were regularly getting caught in my fleece's collar when they weren't catching food crumbs (always convenient to eat later). When I removed my cell phone from my cheek, a few hairs would go with it, making me wonder if this beard was worth the agony.

A few people confused me for George.

Eventually the hairs started to relax and incidents of discomfort ended. Suddenly I looked 10 years older, was called "Sir" at the store, and received tenure as an English professor. Things were looking up!

Hockey players don't shave during the playoffs...why should I?

My electric razor's sideburn trimmer would be the surgical instrument of choice. It's not the ideal method for this operation, but it'll have to do. I began with a trimming of the sideburns and moved around to the neck. Very little discomfort was felt. Now it would get tougher with the area for a goatee that I wasn't able to grow.

Toughing it out like me without painkillers?

The trimmer immediately got stuck and wouldn't release the hairs easily; meaning a few hairs were pulled taught, and maybe even out, in order to remove the trimmer from my face. Because I wanted this to be a natural event, I refused offers for an epidural and continued on in agony; wincing with every cut, keeping a leather belt between my teeth, and wondering how giving birth could be any tougher.

I don't need any of your medicine...this will be a natural event.

After 30 minutes of crocodile tears and many pulled hairs, my face was back to a 5 o'clock shadow. A quick shave in the morning wiped out the rest.