Friday, July 31, 2015

The proselytizer and his shirt.

It was Sunday a week ago.

I was walking down one of the main north south roads in Toronto.  I think it was University,  It was near the time for the closing ceremony for the games and I thought I might go down to the Rogers Centre and mingle with the other tourists.

Never got there.  Decided to stop in a tavern called the Loose Moose and met a fellow who fascinated me when speaking of board game cafes which, according to him, are lucrative enterprises sprouting up all over north america.

But before I got to the Loose Moose I saw a fellow wearing an unusual tee shirt. And it is this fellow and his tee shirt which is the focus of this blog entry.

The fellow had dark hair and a little weight on him, I figure late twenties. He was walking with a crony or two.  The twenty something fellow was wearing a black tee shirt that had white letters.  The letters formed the following sentence,

"On the back of my shirt, two people are fucking."

Well, I had not seen that one before.  And, of course, as I passed by the fellow I turned to look at the back of his shirt.

On it was a picture of the Christian messiah.  Above the picture were the words.  "Just kidding." Below the picture were two words, "Know Jesus."

Okay so let's say you were in the proselytizing business and you felt strongly that others should adopt your faith.  I have two general thoughts.

Is it appropriate to gain attention by suggesting something which, I will assume, is an abomination to those of your ilk who adhere to religion religiously. I am essentially a non believer, but my hunch is that among those on the other side of the line, there is an aversion to promiscuity and capricious engagement.  Also I doubt that even those who are engaged in only monogamous consensual legitimate missionary intimacy, that it is within the boundaries of permissible church doctrine to draw a picture of such activity on the back of a tee shirt that any stranger in a city can see.    I know the proselytizer is in the proselytizing biz, but isn't there something heretical about luring people to your side of the aisle by suggesting something that is considered an abomination in that section of turf?

My second thought is this:  If one is looking for converts, I guess one is not discriminating. That is, one is interested in numbers.  But do you really want people in your fold, who wouldn't mind a good long staring look at two people doing the slow dance. Such gazing would not bother me,  but I figure it would bother others who don't think like I do.  Instead of seeking people who wouldn't mind a long look, wouldn't you prefer to seek out the emotionally bereft?

My suggestion is that this sort of tee shirt activity would be a good subject for a conference among the proselytizers.

For what it's worth, the shirt didn't work for me.   I continued on my way as a non believer, went into the Loose Moose, watched a volleyball game and baseball game on the televisions, and discussed cafe boards while drinking a malt beverage.

Last day in Toronto

I felt a bit sad today when I had to check out of my hotel after a nine day trip that included the Pan Am games, a trip to western new york to visit friends, and a return to Toronto on Wednesday for a conference.  I sort of know Toronto now. I think I can get around downtown, certainly by foot, and even a little bit by car. I was able to get to the conference venue easily and found myself giving directions to newbies.

Pretty city.  Extraordinarily diverse. Friendly as cities go. And for sports enthusiasts, Torontonians like their Blue Jays, Maple Leafs and to a lesser extent, the Argonauts.  I have never really got a feel for Canadian football but after a week here catching snippets of games I found myself sort of into the BC Lions, Winnipeg game that was on tv last night.

The conference that ended a few hours ago was on sport and society. I drew the final session so was a bit disappointed in the number of attendees, but enjoyed relaying the results of the study nonetheless.

 In two days I was exposed to quite a few new things, new even for someone relatively familiar with sport.  I met a woman at lunch yesterday who gave a paper on longboarding.  Longboarding is skateboarding with longer boards. Instead of doing tricks on the boards, participants fly down hills on their longboards competing against similar athletes.  The woman was very thin and looked like a good shot on cement might take her out, but she is a serious participant in these races and claimed to be one of the few, or the only person, doing research in this area. She plans to move to New Zealand next year to study with another longboarder. Today she showed me a video of a longboarding race down a mountain. Not for me.

I heard a disturbing paper about the BDS campaign against Israeli competitors. This is an attempt to preclude Israeli participants and teams from international competition.  I should not be surprised. Under the guise of political opposition, the leaders of this campaign are exercising their anti-semitism.  Using the three Ds of Double Standards, Demonization, and Delegitimization (i.e. Israelis have no legitimate rights to the land) these neo nazis with nicer hats are manufacturing a new flavor of persecution.

A woman at lunch today told me about the new roller derby. When I was a kid I watched roller derby which was a vicious sport played by men and women that had elements of professional wrestling on a track with competitors on wheels. The new roller derby apparently is catching on.  Boy did she know a lot about roller derby past and present.

A fellow gave a paper on how sport can create nationalism among those who are not nationalists but follow a national team. So immigrants or asylum seekers come to a country with no real allegiance to the country but pull for their national team and then begin to identify with the country.

I now know more about the problems related to engaging young Canadians in the game of curling than is probably necessary, also the nuances of fantasy sports journalism, the so called fight of the century, the history of medical marijuana in Canada (the product is consumed by athletes), cricket match fixing in New Zealand, and certain bathing suits which provide an advantage to racing competitors.  Oh, and preseason basketball polling is biased and these biases can give the haves pecuniary advantages.

My head is spinning and I am ready for the return flight.  The Porter terminal at the Billy Bishop airport in Toronto looks more like a bus station than a plane terminal.  Not much in the way of amenities here and my flight does not take off for two hours.

I'll miss Toronto.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Scenes from the last Sunday

Before I left Toronto at the end of the Pan Am games I made some notes on the day of the closing ceremony.

The games were exciting to watch.  I have written before about the problems related to nationalism. Nationalism does nothing to blur the ersatz boundaries--no more than social constructions--between us all. That written, it was fun to watch the Brazilian fans and Argentinian fans chant for their squads when watching team handball.  I was rooting for the USA in the Canada/US basketball game but I still enjoyed observing the energy in the arena for those cheering for the home country.  The racquetball contest I observed was fascinating- as much because of the aficionados I saw and spoke with near the arena--than the game itself 

I liked how the city was prepared for the games.  Lots and lots of volunteers telling you how to go where you needed to go. The city was filled with yellow shirted young men and women clearly indicating their affiliation with the games. It took me three days to get it, but the subways were free to anyone who had a ticket to the games.  This would have spared me a shekel or two from the cab rides to the exhibition center,  but regardless, I am/was impressed with the infrastructure.

I met some interesting folks.  A fellow at a sports bar called The Loose Moose told me that he worked for a game board company.  Maybe I should know about this, but apparently there are cafes in most big cities where people come in to play, not electronic but old fashioned, board games. So, you walk in with a bunch of cronies and you want to play Chutes and Ladders, or Monopoly. You get a board, grab a table, have a cup of coffee and play.  He said it was a booming business.  

Another fellow tells me that he worked the games and was involved with transportation. His company is hired by clubs and athletes to make sure the players or coaches or representatives get to the where they need to go. So, you are the team from Puerto Rico and your basketball team has to play at the Ryerson arena at 6. You don't call Ghostbusters, you call this person's company and he arranges the flights, hotels, busses, who gets the bags--the whole deal.  You sponsor a famous athlete and want him to be seen at the superbowl, you call this guy's company and he arranges the travel and all logistics associated with the visit.

My dad would say wisely (as was often the case) Capitalism stinks but it is better than anything else. And here you have two companies that exist because someone had ideas and there were incentives to realize them.

The city, and perhaps the country, has a healthier attitude toward sex than we do in the US.  I saw a commercial for--of all products- a Maytag washing machine that was steamier than any tv ad I have seen in the states.  A report on a news program reported the injury of a "sex trade worker."  Hmm. Sex trade worker would be referred to as prostitute where I come from and the word would be coated with stigma.  On a radio program I heard a female dj describe a fellow at the beach with a funny hat, a pot belly, and an incongruous speedo but opined that given where he was at, "he will probably get laid anyway."

Then there was the proselytizer with the shirt.  I will write about him later.

Rose Mary Woods

When I first heard the news about Brady destroying his phone prior to the NFL appeal on June 23, I started to think about what it would have been like to have been a supporter of Nixon during the Watergate scandal.

If you are in your late 50s, 60s, or older the name Rose Mary Woods likely rings a bell.  Woods was Nixon's personal secretary. When Nixon was forced to hand over the White House tapes the White House acknowledged that there was an 18 1/2 minute gap.  Woods claimed she had inadvertently erased the segment while taking a phone call. She posed in a position by her desk to indicate how she might have inadvertently erased the tape while stretching out to take the call. The picture of that pose was on the cover of Newsweek. She looked liked a contortionist. It seemed improbable that she could have retained that awkward position for any length of time thereby erasing the tape segment by accident.

Before Nixon was forced to hand over the tapes he had resisted, claiming executive privilege.  He contended that it was necessary for national security not to turn over the tapes.

I was a beneficiary, in a small way, of Nixon's decision not to turn over the tapes as the incident was the catalyst for my very first publication.  I wrote a letter to Newsweek that was published arguing, in my 24 year old strident--I am sure of everything--manner, "If those tapes were exonerating, he'd play them on prime time and anyone with half a brain knows it."

So, when I heard on Tuesday about the cell phone, I felt a little bit like some of my Republican friends in 1974.  If Brady's cell phone was exonerating, would he destroy it?

One of my New York Jet fan buddies who is quite successful at getting my goat sent me a sweet e-mail this morning with the subject line, "Nixon and Brady".  He did not need to remind me.

But it is 48 hours later from the initial report and I have some questions.

(1) The news about upholding the suspension headlined that Brady destroyed his cell phone--as if that was the evidence that clearly supported the perspective that Brady was culpable.  Hmm. The information that Brady had destroyed the cell phone was relayed to the NFL on June 18th--five days before the hearing and about 6 weeks before the ruling this past Tuesday.  If the cell phone was the key piece of evidence, why did it take this long to render a verdict  UNLESS, that is the only thing they have to incriminate Brady.  That is, the appeal and the original decision provided no evidence that Brady had done anything.  They just extrapolated that he must have done something because he had trashed the phone. It is not an unreasonable bit of reasoning except...

(2) When I send a text, the person who receives the text has the text. I could throw my cell phone into the Atlantic Ocean, but whoever received the text would have it on her or his phone.  The NFL, I thought, has the cell phones of the ball boys who allegedly deflated the balls.  Maybe I am incorrect about this, but I have texts on my phone now that people sent to me ages ago.  I could have some from people who are dead.  My cell phone should not be crucial if someone wanted those texts.

(3) If all they have is the fact that he trashed the cell phone, they still have nothing.  With Watergate there were several other conspirators-especially John Dean the white house counsel--who attested to Nixon's culpability. Nobody but nobody has incriminated Brady.

(4) Breaking the rules regardless of the result of the infraction is reprehensible, but IF HE DID THIS, and that is a big if, is it 2 million dollars reprehensible and 1/4 of the Patriots season reprehensible, and two draft choices reprehensible?---particularly since after the balls that were allegedly deflated were inflated, Brady and the Pats went on to clobber the Colts in the second half. And then, oh yes, won the superbowl against the "invincible" Seattle Seahawks when the balls were certainly inflated appropriately.

(5) Goodell must realize that the victims here are not just the player or the team, but the fans.  All the crazies who make me look normal have their superbowl elation deflated every time this fakakta story gets more legs.

Is it possible that the commissioner still has another card to play and is trying to preserve the Pats and Brady's reputation?

I think and hope that is the case, because otherwise this guy is a bigger horse's ass than I thought he was. The house judiciary committee found a smoking gun.  Goodell better have one as well.

Sunday, July 26, 2015


I've not been to a more ethnically diverse city as Toronto seems to be.  It is not only the racial diversity that is striking, it is the coupling, that makes inter racial relationships seem as common as not.

I've not been everywhere like some, but I have been out of Boston now and again. In recent years to Rio, Dublin, Montreal, London, and Paris.  Go back a dozen years or so and I've been to Quebec and Tel Aviv.  And domestically, of course, I've travelled to New York and Chicago many times and San Francisco, Miami Philadelphia, DC, and other large cities with diverse denizens.  I'm hardly a world traveller like some of my colleagues who talk about Iceland and Vietnam like I talk about Pennsylvania.  But still I have been in an airport or two.

And never have I seen the kind of diversity as I do in Toronto.  A kind man gave me a lift from the Exhibition Center on Thursday. He is 80 and told me that until he went to high school he had never seen a black person.  He made the comment as we were driving through the city and it was clear that we two Caucasians were clearly in the minority. He commented, and I agreed, that this multi-ethnicity and the concomitant blurring of racial significance was a good thing.

It is such a good thing.  Even in Boston and New York an interracial couple gets a second look. Here heads would need to spin around necks if people were giving second looks to every interracial couple on the street.  And the wonderful beautiful offspring from these relationships are padding along behind them.

Imagine all the people living life in peace.

At the same time, I smirk when I pay for coffee in Toronto with a different kind of paper.  An hour from here in Buffalo, the money I am using in Toronto is alien.  I cannot make phone calls to the United States unless I have a package that includes "international" calls.  Can't get pandora here and the car I will rent tomorrow has some restrictions if I drive to Niagara Falls.

It's not the kilometers/miles distinction or the fahrenheit/centigrade differences. That is nothing. You say tomayto I say tomahto.  I say pop you say soda. That's just regionalism and custom. But why are there restrictions based on political constructions.

We are one.  I am an American and the fellow who sold me coffee this morning is a Canadian and that means what.  It means nothing. It's too bad I won't be around in ten thousand years when schoolkids will marvel at the fact that in 2015 there were these things called "countries" and they had separate rules and, in some cases, fought over borders.

 Imagine there are no countries. It isn't hard to do.

There is no they. Just many who are part of a very large we.  Toronto seems to be a city that in some ways gets that clearly.

A Convert: Brazil takes the Gold

The championship Handball game last night was a thriller. Truly.  Argentina and Brazil faced each other in the second half of the doubleheader. Earlier I had seen Chile defeat Uruguay for the Bronze.

The Gold medal match was nothing like the preliminary.  I could see--as one might predict--there are different styles and strategies to the game. While Chile and Uruguay played a slow down game with a big fellow playing what amounted to a post--Brazil and Argentina had a wide open running style. Both Chile and Uruguay defended using a zone approach--Brazil and Argentina had man to man elements to complement a four man zone.

From the very beginning, as soon as a goal was scored by Argentina, the Brazil goalie looked to sling the ball down to an open player and run a fast break.  Rarely was a big man clogging up the lane. Each team ran what in basketball is called a weave.  Very tall lanky coordinated athletes were catching the ball and leaping to slam the ball into the net. Sometimes they would come down, jump up again and then attempt to ram the ball past the goaltender.  In addition to the jumping and hurling there were some clever plays, behind the back passes, spin shots, shots attempted through the legs of the goaltender, and double pumps while in the air.

I was very impressed with the athleticism of both teams. And it was fun to sit in the stands with people dressed in powder blue stripes cheering for Argentina--and right nearby--gold dressed Brazilians. It was my good fortune to sit next to two Brazilian zealots.  This couple had traveled from Brazil to be at these games and they were fierce fans--the woman, more than the man who was as committed but less vocal.  I had no problem with the woman's incessant chanting, but a few of my neighbors asked her to calm down a bit.  For me, it was fun to watch a fan cheer so hard for her country. I mentioned to the couple that Brazil had beaten the Canadians to win the Gold. The fellow said the best thing was that they beat the Americans. When I told him I was an American he was a bit embarrassed, but I assured him that was fine.  We then talked basketball a while and this guy knew not only Handball, but basketball as well.

The game was tied with four seconds left in regulation when Argentina was called for a foul that awarded a Brazilian a penalty shot.  Penalty shots, I learned, almost always go in.  A player is within three yards of the goalie and goal and can slam the ball after faking a shot.  In the two games I saw maybe fifteen of these. Thirteen went in.  The Brazilian who was taking the penalty shot that would have guaranteed the Gold for Brazil, had taken several of these previously and made every one. This time, with the Gold four seconds away,  the Argentinian goalie made a great save, and the player from Brazil dropped into a sad sack puddle near the goal line.

Overtime consists of two five minute periods.  Very exciting.  Brazil was ahead by one, when their best player got ejected on a controversial play.  Argentina had a man advantage for two minutes. The Brazil coach was screaming at the officials. Despite the disadvantage, Brazil was able to thwart Argentinian advances, score a goal short handed, and win the Gold by two goals to the delight of my bleacher sitting neighbors and the yellow clad in the arena.

I am a convert. This was a very exciting game and I could see following this sport if I lived in a country where it was played.  Athletes are very, well, athletic.  Great ability to catch and run with the ball.  Some terrific body control. The goalies must have incredible reflexes.  The thing about the game is that it would be a good one for those with limited resources.  You only need this tiny ball and a couple of nets.  No equipment. Goalies don't even wear a mask or pads. You don't need an expensive racquet.  Just a ball a little smaller than a volleyball.

Brazil lost the trifecta as the US woman beat the Brazilians in volleyball last night.  Basketball and Handball Gold. Volleyball Silver.

 In addition to learning enough to get by as a Handball fan, I also learned enough about the subway system to get by and make it to my hotel before midnight.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

chile takes the Bronze in Handball; Brazil the Gold in Basketball

When I watched Brazil beat the United States on Thursday night I kept waiting for the United States to show themselves to be superior. They never did. Brazil was the better team.  They played tougher defense and worked to get open shots. Last night, Canada's victory over the United States was different. In it, Jamal Murray in the fourth quarter played like Michael Jordan and that is why Canada prevailed.

The combination of Canada likely celebrating, Brazil having a day off from their celebration, and Brazil being the better team, were the ingredients that led Brazil to the Gold. They won by over ten points.  I did not watch the game as I am currently at the Exhibition Center watching team Handball, but I did follow on the internet.  Brazil was no slouch, a good team with several strong players both physically and in terms of their game.

The Bronze match is over here at the Handball courts (can't stop thinking of PS 194 cement playground when I write handball courts).  Chile won and by about five goals.  I have sort of the handle on the game now--like a novice might, not as an aficionado does.  Here's what happens. Six players plus a goalie play for each team. The offensive team can pass to one another, dribble a few times and can jump, come down with the ball, and retain possession. (unlike basketball where that results in a turnover).  The defenders gather around a semi circle and essentially form a wall. The object is for the offense to somehow penetrate that wall and then ram the ball past the goaltender who gets pelted throughout the 60 minute contest.

I am not sure what muggings are legal and which are not.  There are some big fellows out there and it takes more than saying swordfish to get into a shooting lane.  It looks like if you are hit while shooting then there is penalty shot and you can be penalized so that your team is short handed but, again, it seemed like you could pummel an opponent and not have anyone wag a finger at you.

There are a lot of people here for the final which will follow in 40 minutes.  Argentina is squaring off against Brazil. This ticket (sitting in the bleachers with no backs) was 50 bananas and yet there were not too many empty seats for the Bronze game so I am assuming the second game will be even more crowded as some folks might just be coming for the Gold match.  

Brazil could wind up with three Golds today. At about the same time as this Handball final begins, the Women's volleyball team from Brazil will be taking on the United States for the Gold medal in that. They are playing just a few yards from me, but there is a wall that separates that arena from this one.


PS 194, where I started my formal education--on the corner of Knapp Street and Avenue W--had a schoolyard.  In it was a softball "field' made of cement with the bases darkened in with white; two basketball hoops on the Knapp Street side of the school; and sort of in the middle of the schoolyard were two vertical cement walls. It was on these walls that I played handball.

Later when I went to college I noticed that there was a course called Handball. I did not take it preferring one semester to take a course in running (God knows what possessed me to sign up for an 8am where I had to run two miles every Tuesday and Friday) and another semester--when I was wiser-- I took bowling.  But I looked in on the guys taking handball and this was another game entirely from what I played in Brooklyn. It was in a four wall rectangle and you could bang the ball against any wall. I got the hang of this four walled handball game in later years and then switched to racquet ball which had a similar setting and rules.

I am now at the Pan Am games about to watch the bronze medal match in what is called Handball. What I am looking at  bears no resemblance to my elementary or college school handball games.

I have seen this game when watching the olympics, but never in person anywhere.  The court looks like a basketball court only longer.  At each end is a  net a little larger than a hockey net but smaller than a soccer goal.  The object of the game is to advance the ball and then slam it into the net past a goaltender.

Right now both teams are doing their calisthenics and it looks like a Rockettes choreographed routine. The team in red, Chile, is advancing en masse to the half court line kicking this way and taht and then retreating. Uruguay in white is doing something I can't adequately describe kicking their legs peculiarly. The ball looks like the kind of basketball you buy for your five year old.  I think you have to bounce it to advance, but am not sure. I don't think I would want to be a goalie for this game. I see no equipment. Uruguay and Peru are in gym shorts and tees.

Having played a bunch of games in my youth, ring o leevio, johnny on the poney, catcha flier's up--it--spud, barrelball, and variations of kick the can I know more than the average bear about games, but this one I cannot tell the reader anything.  Next door they are playing volleyball, that I know. On the other side racquetball, that I know, but it will be two hours before I can report on this phenomenon.

Go Set a Watchman

All of us in our 60s read To Kill a Mockingbird or saw the movie.  Most did both. I often comment in these blogs that--for me--for a book to be a good one--it has to stick around in my head for a while.

I read To Kill a Mockingbird when I was 15.  At the time I was into sports books and likely had to be collared by my dad to read this.  My m.o. at 15 was to initially reject dad's recommendations because, after all, what did he know.  But I read it then and it has stuck around in my head for 50 years.

Apparently, I am not alone. When Harper Lee's "new" book Go Set a Watchman went on sale bookstores opened at midnight to sell it to legions of fans who wanted to read the only other novel that Lee ever wrote.

To Kill a Mockingbird was published in 1960 and is still in print.  Last night I brought the book Go Set a Watchman to the Ryerson Center to read between games of a basketball doubleheader.  A kid working the concession stands in Toronto saw the cover (which is akin to the cover of To Kill a Mockingbird) and gushed at how she just read Mockingbird "in grade 10" and it was "the best book she ever read."

Go Set a Watchman was written before To Kill a Mockingbird. From what I have read when reviewing the book's publicity, Watchman was submitted to a publisher and rejected.  However an editor thought it had promise and suggested that the author take a particular episode in the book and expand on it.  That she did and the result was To Kill a Mockingbird.

It is unfortunate that Go Set a Watchman was published.  Lee, now 88, is supposedly not as mentally there as she once was. I imagine a publisher urged her to release the initially written book and she agreed whether she realized what she was doing or not.

It's not just that the book is weak-and it is--it's that a main character in the book, Atticus Finch, the narrator's father, is portrayed as a different sort of man than the one who has been in our head since we read the book or saw Gregory Peck play the role. (The movie is one of those few that stays true to the novel or at least that is how I felt at the time).

Go Set a Watchman,--if it was written before To Kill a Mockingbird as is claimed--had to be written in the mid 50s, shortly after Brown vs. Board of Ed.  Watchman is the story of a daughter who had moved to New York from a tiny Alabama town. She returns home for a visit and when she does, she finds that the God she knew as her egalitarian father, is a segregationist.

This could work except all of us who read Mockingbird remember the father as a man who--despite the small town bigotry--stood tall and defended Tom Robinson who had been accused of raping a white woman when he clearly did not.  Atticus Finch looked right in the eyes of the townsfolk and the white jury and, despite the danger his stand meant for his family, defended Tom Robinson.  This put his daughter in jeopardy only to be rescued by another person marginalized by the standards of the day (played in the movie by a very young Robert Duval).  To kill Tom Robinson or to marginalize Boo Radley would be to kill a mockingbird.  As corny as it sounds I get chilled now thinking of that novel.

Go Set a Watchman portrays Atticus, now in his seventies, as someone who might have--before Brown vs. Board of Ed--championed equality, but is reconsidering when looking front and center at it.  I could deal with that as a premise of a novel, but the book just doesn't develop his devolution. And Atticus's segregationist philosophy is not thoroughly rejected.

The book is a, "girl comes home to visit this one and that one and discovers that the old friends are not who she thought they were." Not especially profound. And the conclusion--certainly by 2015 standards--will not meet a welcome audience by anyone except those clinging to what once was and trying to muster some kind of rationale for the inequality that prevailed.

I can't recommend this book.  There are some references to the trial that is central to Mockingbird, and Calipurnia figures in it meaningfully. There are a couple of humorous flashbacks which I had to assume were autobiographical as they are the kind of wild incidents that seem like "you couldn't make this up."

Bottom line is that Atticus Finch, as he was, is worth preserving.  I don't think he would have morphed into the man depicted in Watchman.  Maybe he would have.  But then, I think Scout would have been able to remind him upon her return of what he had taught her when he defended Tom Robinson--and once sat in a jail cell to make sure that bigoted neighbors did not kill a mockingbird.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Canada and Murray surprise the Yanks.

Earlier today I wrote that yesterday, between games of the doubleheader at the old Maple Leaf Garden, I noticed a fellow who was sitting in front of me a few rows who was getting a lot of attention.  I had just watched Canada beat Mexico so you might think I would recognize him.  Also, I profess to know a thing about college basketball so you might think I would be familiar with the fellow.

Groups of star struck kids came in clusters asking to get his autograph or take a selfie with him.  Eventually, I discovered that he, at only 18, is on the Canadian team and has been recruited to play for John Calipari at the University of Kentucky this season.

Anyone who gets recruited by Calipari has to be good, but I never heard of this guy.

I know him now. Tonight against the USA this 18 year old played a game for the ages and, during crunch time, made all the plays so that Canada could upset the United States in front of a delirious crowd.

My voice was one of the few shouting for the U.S.  The arena is not the largest and it was close to packed with people wearing Canada garb.  This kid Murray, in a span of about twenty seconds, made a three, blocked an attempted three, and gave Canada a chance to win the game in regulation. That did not happen despite him faking a USA player out of his socks before taking the last shot.  In overtime though the kid took over and with really one player, him, defeated a USA team with some players with NBA experience and a few who will have experience.

A Canadian fan sitting near me told me that most experts (of which I apparently am not one) think he will play one year for Kentucky and then may be the number one pick in the 2016 NBA draft.  Only 6 3, but if he does not get hurt, he will be rich some day.

An interesting sidebar to tonight's spectating. When I left the arena I happened to find myself near a gate where tall players were exiting. I noticed quickly that this was the US team.  I  would certainly not characterize them as jubilant, but not morose either.  Met with their girlfriends, cousins, and in at least one case moms and chatted about mundane things like, where they were going to have dinner. Ron Baker who played well tonight was met by a Wichita State colleague and they went on their way but not before at least four people stopped him and asked if they could take a photo.  I wonder what that does for your head, having strangers practically begging you to take their picture with you.

Pan Am--day 1 and 2 July 23/24

The Pan Am games started July 7th, but I just arrived-- so yesterday was day 1 for me.

Back in late March/early April I decided that since I have often wondered what it would be like to go to the Olympics, the Pan Am games would be a nice preliminary event to attend. That, plus the fact that a colleague of mine and I are presenting a paper right here in Toronto in a few days, made this trip to Ontario to see the Pan Am games seem like a good one to plan.

Even though I went to buy tickets in March, the tickets were not easy to come by. I had tickets for the games last night on the 23rd, racquetball this morning, and another set for the doubleheader semifinals this evening a half mile from my hotel.  On Saturday I see the Gold medal match in Team Handball.

Despite the fact that the game tickets were difficult to get, there were empty seats at the basketball arena last night. I had purchased the best seats available for all the games figuring how often will I get to an Olympic event.  Nevertheless, my seats last night were not great. High up, no backs, and hot.  I still cannot quite understand why there were so many empty places to sit. The second game of last night's doubleheader was between the US and Brazil. Since Canada had already played and won, the place was really empty for the US game and I was able to move down to more temperate climes and seats with a back.

It was fun to see so many people there with Canada shirts rooting the home country on. Lots of little kids with their parents with hats and flags.  And Canada won easily in the first game beating Mexico by close to twenty.  The US game was surprising to me. I have always thought of the US as an international powerhouse in basketball.  Yet, the team was beaten and, last night at least, it was no fluke.  Not ever really close. Some guy from Brazil was banging in the threes like he should be playing in the NBA. Nobody on the US team could really stay with him.

Between the two games a bunch of fans approached a Canadian player who had parked himself near where I was sitting after his evening of toil.  In waves people came to take their photo with the guy.  Eyeball popping adolescents asked fawningly for a picture with him and came away giving each other skin when they were successful. I never heard of the player but later found out that he is only 18 and was a heavily recruited high schooler last year who will be going to the University of Kentucky next year.  His name is Jamal Murray and must be great as the University of Kentucky only recruits star high schoolers.

Lots of workers are here trying to make the experience at the games pleasant.  Today at the Exhibition Center where the racquetball matches were played there was even more of a presence and signage all over.

Lots of workers, but a shlep to the Exhibition Center from where the cab driver dropped me off.  The area is roped off and no motor vehicles can get close the venues there. It was a very long walk for even a young college professor, let alone one who needs a hip replacement. Fortunately, a golf cart swung by and I got a lift half way.  Even after she dropped me off it was a long walk to the center itself.

I have found with sport that there are of course big fans of the major sports, but also very serious fans of some minor ones.  It was my good fortune today to just happen to park myself at the racquetball venue next to someone who was a former president of the international racquetball confederation or some organization like that.  I was a fair to above average racquetball player in my days with hair, but this guy was in another level. He told me he was in the Racquetball Hall of Fame and spoke of a guy he had beaten who I had heard of as the number one player back in the late 70s. This fellow was quite nice and filled me in on new rules and strategies. Extremely knowledgeable, all racquetball all the time. It was fun to sense his enthusiasm.

In the stands were a vocal group from Mexico as Mexico had both a woman's finalist and a finalist in the men's competition. The Mexican woman beat her Argentinian rival for the Gold medal to the delight of her cheering friends.  At match point the cluster of fans chanted "Uno, uno, uno" either to indicate she was number one or that she had one point to go to win the Gold.  And Paola Langoria did indeed prevail.  I was told she is the number one athlete in Mexico in terms of popularity and endorsements.

The men's final featured a fellow from California versus another Mexican athlete.  In this one the US fellow prevailed to the delight of his parents, who had come from California, and a section of supporters who knew not only the victor's  name, but the names of the USers who would be playing in the doubles gold medal match later.   Nobody seemed disappointed. The shots both players made were brilliant and I found myself "oohhing" and "aahing" marveling at their capabilities.

Toronto is an ethnically diverse city as anyone can deduce from just walking around.  A fellow I met as I was leaving the arena was kind enough to give me a lift back to my hotel. He is a former racquetball player and looks fantastic at 80.  He told me he has lived in Toronto is entire life and the city has morphed from a parochial "hog town" to the multi-ethnic metropolis of today.  I don't remember it being a hick town when I visited in the 1970s but it sure is happening now. I left the arena last night at close to midnight and walked the half mile back to the hotel.  Thursday night, middle of the week, the route was jumping nearly the entire way back to the Doubletree.

Off in a few minutes to cheer for the red, white, and blue as the US plays against Canada in a semi final match up. My voice will no doubt be drowned out by the army of Canadian fans.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015


Roger Goodell's behavior as it relates to the Brady appeal is unconscionable. There is no other word for it. I do not understand how the owners can retain him unless Goodell has a smoking gun somewhere, all the owners have been told about the loaded weapon, and for some inexplicable reason all have agreed to wait for the shooting.

NFL training camps open this week. The rookies for the New England Patriots report on Thursday July 23rd, two days from today.  Roger Goodell said today, July 21st, that there is no timeline for rendering his judgment on the appeal of June 23rd, on an alleged offense that took place on January 19th.

 In the best case scenario, a decision has been made and both parties are now negotiating regarding the proposed agreement.  Even if this is the situation--and both the Patriots and the NFL are working behind the scenes--the delay cannot be defended.

However, let's say

  • there is no proposal that is being negotiated and Goodell has the goods on Brady. 
  • How can he justify the delay in announcing the decision and the rationale?

Or let's say

  • there is no proposal and Goodell knows that the penalty must be rescinded. 
  • How can he justify waiting so long to announce the decision and the rationale?

As a Patriot fan, my fear is that Goodell has one helluva smoking gun, and is making Brady wait and twitch.  But even if this is the case, Goodell must go.  He is acting like an arrogant military leader of a tiny south american country after a coup. Those folks are eventually ridden out and forced to live in exile.

Saturday, July 18, 2015


Jeffrey Eugenides won a Pulitzer for Middlesex, a novel about an hermaphrodite.  I found myself thinking that it is amazing that someone could have conceived of this story. And, as was the case with another of his books, The Marriage Plot, there are some sections and sentences that make you stop, shake your head, and wonder how anyone could be so skilled at expressing an idea or depicting a scene.

Yet, I'm surprised this won a Pulitzer.  It is imaginative and, in parts, very well written, but the focus is diffused.  Is it about the immigrant experience? first generation Americans? the erosion of Detroit? the Black Muslims? the tribulations of early love? confused identify? the residual of ancestors' sins? the sixties? familial jealousy and the long term effects of unrequited love? It would be fine if Calliope's saga was somehow the focal point of all of these segments, but while s/he narrates the novel the various pieces do not really coalesce.  

Most of Calliope's story takes place when she is a young teen, but the narrator is in his early 40s.   There are some references to what occurred between 15 and 40,  but not a good deal and considering the time spent on Calliope's experience in San Francisco and with "the Object"; and with his grandparents' migration to America, it would make sense that the evolution of Cal, should have gotten a bit more time.

The level of anatomical detail is far beyond what is necessary and while I get the gist about the complex factors that determine one's identity and sense of identity, was all the medical jargon and analysis necessary?  

And the real life figure of Wallace Fard somehow figuring in and transforming to a (peripheral) fictional character in the novel--seemed strange and unnecessary.   

I can't really recommend the read.  With all the great books out there, I think the 500 plus pages are not worth the effort.  Maybe the transgendered community would find the book informative, though there does seem to be a big difference between Calliope's story and those who are transgendered.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

look what's happening out in the streets

What happened to the revolution?

When I was graduating from college there was a good deal of talk about the establishment and the system.  "Look what's happening out in the streets. Got a revolution. Got to revolution."

Clever use of revolution as a noun and then a verb.

I read in today's newspaper that the GOP is paying millions in an attempt to find the best ways to attack Hillary Clinton.  The headline reads "The Best Way to Vilify Clinton: GOP Spends Heavily to Find It."  Seems as if the Republicans are conducting focus groups to discover what will be the best type of character assassination that could work to damage Hillary's candidacy.

I figure that the people who designed and are orchestrating this plan are about my age--maybe a little younger.  I wonder if they sang the songs from the Volunteer album.  "We should be together. Come on all you people standing around."  I wonder if they marched to protest the war.

My guess is that they did. It was cool to do that, then.  My guess is that the people who orchestrated the million dollar campaign--not to do anything constructive--but to figure out a way to nail a popular candidate--sounded and looked like everyone else in the early 70s.

But then they figured that revolution--either as a noun or a verb--was too much work and besides they realized that they had it pretty good.  Daddy bought them a car, maybe got them into the family business or knew someone to whom they could bring their resume.  And now they have a shekel or two and are not crazy about a sitting president who is less than concerned with those who have a shekel or two.

And they are not crazy about Hillary. For all the crooning that "the times they are a changing" --which they may have hummed in the early seventies in an attempt to wow and woo some fellow bogus politico into an intimate embrace--those who are conducting focus groups to malign Hillary, were not real happy about a black person in the white house, and the idea of a woman is really over the top.

I am not surprised that a political party is less concerned with using its moneys to improve our schools and more concerned with obtaining power.  But it is jarring to read this article and see that the objective is not getting the Republican message out, but to discredit and malign an opponent. And my best guess is that--across the street--the Democrats are doing something not wholly dissimilar.

Break on through to the other side?  Probably not.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

NFL Penalty

The longer the wait for a decision regarding Tom Brady's appeal, the more foul the air that surrounds the commissioner's office.

Brady was suspended for four games for allegedly being complicit in the deflating of footballs prior to the AFC championship game. Brady contends that he is innocent.  An "independent" consultant hired by the NFL found that Brady was more likely than not to have been aware of the activity.

The independent consultant claimed that there was scientific evidence to suggest that the balls were deflated.  This evidence has been controverted by truly "independent" agents who decided to examine the studies conducted by the hired consultant.  The science behind the determination that the balls were deflated is flawed.

In addition to the four game suspension, the Patriots have been fined a million dollars and have lost two picks in next year's draft.

The accusation of foul play occurred six months ago.  Why is this taking so much time?

As I have written previously, if Brady and the Patriots are guilty of tampering with the balls to gain an advantage then the Patriots deserve to be penalized and the four game suspension does not seem to be sufficient.  However, if there is no evidence, then there should be no penalties whatsoever.

My concern is the decision will not be based on what is the truth, but on what is now being called "the optics" i.e. how will it look.

Goodell may be concerned that if he eliminates the penalties he will be seen as a weak leader.  His record is horrible as it relates to penalizing players for offenses.  It seems that his decisions are based on notions du jour of what are appropriate penalties without any real system for determining that offense x, deserves penalty y.  

Either there is evidence that Brady knew about this and encouraged the activity, or there is no such evidence.  If there is no evidence you admit you made a mistake, and move on. If Tom Brady was complicit, then it is time for him to own it, take the heat and the penalty, and move on.

Despite his suits, coiffed mane, and "I'm in charge"demeanor, Roger Goodell is sullying the reputation of the NFL.  He should have acted four months ago on what has been called "Deflategate" and he should not be concerned with the optics.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

The Big Kahuna

In early September of 1967, a high school friend pulled his car up to the front of our house. While I was chummy with Kenny in high school, we did not know each other all that well.  We'd learned late in the spring of 67 that we both were accepted and would attend the state university of new york at Albany.

Kenny hops out of the car while I happen to be by the curb.  The guy was a dynamo talking about all the things we were going to do at Albany--few of the activities had much to do with the library. It was exciting just to listen to him, but I was afraid that if my father happened along and heard our "plans" I'd never be able to get on the bus at the Port Authority.

Kenny, aka, the Big Kahuna and I became very close buds in college and have maintained that friendship for nearly fifty years. It has taken us on jaunts to Lake Placid, canoe excursions, cape cod tennis matches, water skiing trips, assorted pubs in London, and enough locales for me to regale anyone interested in listening for hours without exhausting all I could relay.

Today I visited the big Kahuna in a rehab center where he is recovering from knee surgery.  At the end of May he walked down a short set of stairs in his home that I have negotiated at least a hundred times and he must have walked down a hundred thousand times.  On this excursion he caught his heel on one step and then launched himself like a guy on a diving board into, not a swimming pool, but onto an indoor outdoor carpet that barely covered a cement floor.  He landed smack on both of his knees and needed nearly immediate surgery to connect the shin bone to the knee bone or something like that.

So, for the last month he has been in a rehab facility.  I've spoken to him on a number of occasions and while not real happy about being strapped to a wheel chair for six weeks and with a future of more months in the same spot, he sounded okay.

Despite the upbeat phone calls, I was still startled when I saw him today. He looks fantastic. His legs are locked with a contraption that looks uncomfortable, but he seems relatively happy and in a classic example of making lemonade out of lemons, talked about how the rehab is strengthening muscles that needed work, how he is losing weight because of the dining regimen in the rehab center, and about the books he has had a chance to read.  And he also started to speak about some new adventures we should undertake as soon as he can walk.

What a model for a positive outlook on life.   We arrived on planet earth four days apart; he got here earlier--and I can assure you that was the last time he ever got to anyplace before I did.  A notorious late arriver, but a ray of happy sunshine on my life and many others'.

I'll take 8.5

I read on Friday that the Sacramento Kings have signed Rajon Rondo to a one year contract paying him 9.5 million.

For those who read this blog and recall my spewings on the subject of Rondo, it will come as no surprise that I find this decision head shaking stuff.

Rondo is a very talented athlete who plays indifferently as often as not. For all his skill, he was a liability for the Celtics when he played in Boston.  He was traded to Dallas last year and the Mavericks thought he would be the missing piece who could lead the team to a championship.  On the contrary, Rajon Rondo was counterproductive.  He regularly got into battles with his coach and became so obstreperous during the playoffs that management, essentially, kicked him off the team in the middle of a series.

There is a stat called a plus/minus used in basketball and hockey.  It refers to how many points/goals up or down a team is, while a particular player is on the court.  So, for example, if I am playing and my plus/minus is +16 this means that while I was on the floor during a game my team scored 16 more points than the opponent during those intervals.  For the Mavericks, Rondo had one of the highest if not the highest minus scores.  This means while he was playing he was hurting the team regardless of his athleticism.  And besides he could not hit a foul shot with a cannon in his ear.

Yet this corrosive force will be paid 9.5 million (million!) dollars next year to play for the Kings. I wrote this previously when Rondo was traded to the Mavs, so this is not new.  You will have heard it here first: Rondo will hurt the Kings. His plus/minus for the Kings will be negative.

What could the Kings be thinking paying this irresponsible player 9.5 million.  Every player on every professional team should be hired for one reason and one reason only.  The player will help the team win.  Rondo has never helped a team win.

Rondo will help you lose.  If you don't care about winning, why not sign me. While I may be eligible for social security, I am nevertheless a good foul shooter and, if left alone, can hit a jump shot even with an arthritic hip that makes me look like I should be in today's 4th of July parade with a flute.

 I will sign for 8.5 million.

Friday, July 3, 2015


Is our behavior a function of

  1. the limitations imposed by our history and 
  2. the boundaries we have imposed on ourselves, 
  3. such that these historical and self-imposed limits 
  4. circumscribe and shrink our experiences 
  5. consequently restricting our ability to think and act rationally?  

Limitations is one of Scott Turow's court/lawyer novels. I've read many if not all of them. This is not one of the better ones, but still an engaging read.

No court novel can be better than Presumed Innocent, Turow's first novel.  If you have not read that, and like to read courtroom mysteries, go get it. The movie is just okay (and changes a significant part of the ending). The book is not just okay. It is a masterpiece that I cannot characterize any other way.

Limitations is not nearly as good.  It seems to me to have potential, but whereas his other books are well developed and nuanced, this short novel reads like he had a good idea,  but maybe got a better idea along the way and wanted to get to project number 2--or had to have a hip operation and something sapped his energy for project number 1.  Only 197 pages, the doer of an important sub-plot is predictable, and the message is not that profound.

Yes, we are limited by our history and some of us place boundaries on our lives to the extent that we just don't get to experience what we might otherwise so that we stay within a tiny comfort zone. Such limitations can be suffocating and can reduce our ability to think and do rationally. And some others--and there is a character like this in the story--have had no such self-inflicted or other encumbrances so that there seem to be no limits on what they can do. And yet another character who could have been so encumbered because of history appears not necessarily to be so hampered.

If you are a fan of Turow, then you will probably enjoy Limitations some, as I did. Though I would recommend most others before this one.

There is a central issue that is intriguing.  If you are thinking of reading the book, I would stop reading the blog here--though most of what is described below you find out early on.

The case is about four 25 something year old men who are appealing a conviction.  At a party when they were seniors in high school, they were among many revelers who drank a good deal. One, a 15 year old high school sophomore, got smashed by her own admission and passed out in a bedroom.  The boys decided to have their way with her and videotape the acts. The girl was barely conscious during the episode, such that the next day--while sore--she did not recall what all had transpired.  So she did not go to any authorities.  Years later, (the statute of limitations had passed) one of the boys--now young man--brags about his prowess and shows the videotape to someone who coincidentally knew the young woman who had been violated.  This person tells the woman about the tape.  When the woman, now at 19, sees the recording she decides to prosecute. The boys are convicted. Their appeal is based on a number of factors-- one is that the statute of limitations has run out.  One of the three appellate judges who listens to the case is nagged by the fact that he was witness and participant to a not altogether dissimilar incident 40 years prior. The judge wonders if there should be a statute of limitations on t/his reprehensible incident.

So the judge is limited as an arbiter because of his experiences, some clerks are limited by theirs, and there is a side story which reveals the limitations of several other characters in the plot.

To what extent are our abilities to function rationally in this one life we have, limited?

Well, they are.  You probably don't need to read this book to realize that.   Still, limits--even self imposed ones--can be changed with some introspection and subsequent adjustments to our comfort zones.  And I think this may be the positive result of reading a book that highlights others' limitations.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

in the saddle

Rights are not and should not be up for a popular vote or up to the states to determine. Rights are absolute and cannot be dependent upon anything other than the fact that the person is a human being and is a citizen of the US. If those two conditions are met, YOUR belief system about what is MORALLY or spiritually right or wrong does not matter and should not.

I excerpted what is above from a facebook post I saw this morning. It caught my attention because it reflects how I think and expresses what I have said to anyone who has been within earshot of me when the subject has come up.

Way back, around 1972, a candidate running for office in New York State suggested that the state have a referendum on the issue of whether abortion should be legal. This was, of course, before the right to have an abortion became the law of the land.  

I was just a young man at the time--certain I was an old wise one--and my reaction to this notion was that such an idea was laughable and preposterous.  I reacted similarly a few years later when the Equal Rights Amendment was, in fact, put to a popular vote.  I can recall getting into some heated discussions about that one. I was already a college professor at that time. At work, with my family, and with friends-- I missed no opportunity to express my frustration that equal rights would come up for a vote.

You can't vote for or against human rights. As we approach July 4th we should remember this--and remember this every other day as well.  You can't vote to decide if it is okay to do something that deprives another person of a right.  The Equal Rights Amendment was especially frustrating perhaps because of its title.  Can you really vote against the concept of equal rights?  Apparently in the state of New York and throughout these here United States you could.  

I understand that with the ERA, despite the title, the content of the amendment was vague such that even libertarians feared that its passing could result in less rights not more.  However, I will argue with anyone that many of the people who voted against the ERA did so because they felt that women are inherently inferior--and this includes women themselves.  Some of the conversations I heard during that time were mind boggling. "Women don't want equality."    Ridickalus.  

But it would not matter if women, gays, members of religious groups, political parties did not want equality.  You got it. And you can't vote to decide not to have it.

Several months ago I saw a youtube post about some folks in Mississippi who were voting for politicians on the basis of how religious they were. One opined that the country will be in good shape "once we put God in the saddle."

If you believe in God, God is in the saddle whether you like it or not.  Regardless of whether you do or do not believe in God, there are certain truths that govern our universe despite humankinds attempts to steer the horse in an unnatural direction.  In the saddle, as Thomas Jefferson penned nearly 240 years ago, are certain "inalienable rights."   And you can't vote on whether someone has these rights or not.  Our country has the huge scar that even after the declaration of independence, the lawmakers deemed that black men and women did not have these rights and it took 100 years, a courageous president, and a war, for that outrage to be outlawed.

The last line of the excerpted quote is something to be hammered out to your children. 

Your belief system about what is morally or spiritually right does not matter when it comes to human rights.