Archive for January, 2010

Brett Favre the Human

I went to bed last night so pissed off it took me almost 8 minutes to fall asleep. Granted, my 2 hour nap from 1:00 to 3:00 before the first football game may have contributed, but I’m sure the main culprit was the NFC Championship game between the New Orleans Saints, and the Minnesota Brett Favres.

Why was I angry?

YOU DON”T THROW THE BALL BACK ACROSS THE MIDDLE…EVER, EVER, EVER! Hall of fame quarterbacks know this to be true. Joe Montana knew this. John Elway knew this…SHIT…Babe Laufenberg new this…most of you have probably never even heard of Babe Laufenberg. Peyton Manning and his baby brother know this…this football “no no” has been taught since they invented the forward pass.

Brett Favre doesn’t know this? Do the rules apply to everybody else but him? WTF! (I have never wanted to type out the f-word as badly as I want to right now…but you know…The Large Man is classy).

What a shitty ending to one of the best sports stories in recent memory. The 40-year-old Brett Favre leading the storied Minnesota Vikings back to the big game (I can’t use the Super word because of copyright laws)…the dream season ends  with a nightmare interception of a pass that should NEVER  have been thrown. I thought this was a sad, sad, SAD ending to a season, and maybe a career.

Or is it?

I certainly felt that way last night as I fell under the sandman’s spell. I felt the same as I woke up today.  I’m traveling, so while I stuffed a week’s supply of khakis and oxfords into my beat up old suit case this morning I was still upset. As I stuffed dress socks and my low-rise silk briefs of crimson and navy polka-dot into this battered roller bag, I did so with anger and frustration. Why Brett? Why can’t you be like this trusty old suitcase? This suitcase has never let me down.

As I drove today, and I listened to all the sports talk show hosts lament about what this legendary player did…AGAIN…at pivotal moment in a crucial game, I heard one voice that pushed me toward different point of view. Tom Jackson of ESPN, an old school linebacker from the 70’s & 80s Denver Broncos simply said, “That’s Brett. You have to accept the whole package.”

I’m paraphrasing, but he supported his position by saying that these catastrophes will happen in a game of inches when you invest in a player that has a “go for it” mentality. “Brett is not afraid to throw a pick, and I admire that quality”. Hmmmm… (I write “Hmmmm” to represent a ponderance on my part)

I have watched Brett Favre play football for 18 years, and while I believe he is only barely in the conversation of “the best ever”, I believe he has been the best…the most fun …to watch. As luck would have it, I watch football for fun. Peyton Manning is a lot of fun on credit card commercials, and on Saturday Night Live. As great as he is on the football field, I don’t think watching him play is necessarily fun. Impressive…yup. Effective…absolutely! Fun? Not so much…not for my money.

Brett Favre is fun to watch, on and off the field. He’s like an action adventure movie, with a comic twist – every Sunday in the fall Brett attempted the improbable at least once. If Brett were a movie, he would be Die Hard.

If I had to win one game with any quarterback that I’ve ever seen; my pick would be John Elway. If you asked me who is the best quarterback to ever play the game, my reply would be Peyton Manning, but I would listen to your arguments for Joe Montana, Terry Bradshaw, or John Elway. However, if you told me I could buy one ticket to see one football player play the game, I would pick Brett. If I could only watch him play one game, I think I would have picked yesterday’s game.

Over the years, I have watched this man play the game with the enthusiasm of a child. I have watched him throw footballs into windows that were not open; sometimes those windows broke, but that’s okay…shit happens, it’s a game.

I watched him agonize over the death of his father, worry over his wife’s battle against breast cancer, and I watched him embarrass himself with indecision. Then we all got to watch him make fun of that indecision in TV commercials. For 18 years, Brett let us watch him be human. I love that stuff.

Then on Sunday, I watched this old battered man take hit after hit, then get back up. I watched this hero get carried off the field, and limp back. I watched this barbaric and beautiful warrior fight until the end…until “sudden death”…(pun intended).I watched his ego ultimately end his chance to win the game. BUT, that’s the same ego that drove the warrior to never miss a game…not one in 18 years. I love that stuff too.

 Now that I’ve had a day and several hundred miles to think about it, to me, he’s just as much a hero in defeat as he would have been in victory. That’s Brett. When nobody else on the field would ever think about making a throw like that, he does. He does it because even though everybody else says it can’t be done, he thinks he can.

My old battered suitcase has never let me down, because it’s a well made article. Shit usually doesn’t happen to stuff like that. With people, shit happens. With old warriors, shit happens. Just like with kids, with wives, fathers and mothers. It’s the human thing; it’s what comes with a beating heart. It’s what comes with soul. If heroes were perfect, they would be boring…they wouldn’t be fun. I watch football for fun.

I hope I get to watch Brett play again, but if I never have that privilege, this was enough. This flawed human owes me nothing…I’m grateful for the ride. It was fun.

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I’m reading a book about writing books, and it could be one of the coolest pieces of literature I’ve ever read. Have you ever read something and it spoke to you in a way that made you feel that it was more like a personal message to you than a piece written for the masses? It could be anything, a book, an essay, a magazine article, just something that seemed like you and the author had your own little secret. Songs can do that to me every once in a while too…it’s like there’s this special message, and I’m sure that I’m the only one in the world that really get’s it. Bonnie Raitt’s Too Long at the Fair did that to me the first time I heard the song.  It’s a very superior feeling…when you’re so much smarter than everyone else. This is rare territory for me, but I’m feeling it with this book. I get it.

However, my smart, superior self-image came crashing back to reality this afternoon (where it should be) when I realized that I left the book on my night stand at home. What a dumbass.  I’m traveling this week, and I feel like I’ve left a good friend behind and alone at a biker bar, or like I drove off and left my kids at a rest area.  This book may become part of my soul, and I treated it as if it were an afterthought. I will punish myself for this crime…not sure what the penance will be, but it will be severe.

Somebody somewhere once said, “You know you’ve read a good book if when you finish you feel like you have lost a good friend”…I have no idea who to credit for that clever thought, but its brilliant, and true.  I love it when I feel that way about something I’ve just read. Lonesome Dove, To Kill a Mockingbird, Fluke, Lamb, The Count of Monte Cristo, Florida Road Kill, The Contender, King Rat, Papillion, Red Storm Rising, The Catcher in the Rye…and now Bird by Bird are all in my posse…my crew. I would do anything for them, and I know they would do the same for me, because we have a bond… we are good friends for life.

A good book (or a good song) can comfort you or make you cringe, keep you warm or throw you into an icy sea of despair, satisfy your hunger, quench you, or leave you thirsting for more. They make you laugh or cry out loud…just about every physical or emotional condition can be realized when the words have been put together in a way that connects you to the story, or even the characters.

I’m not exactly sure why I decided to share my thoughts on parenthood, my livelihood, the neighborhood, husbandhood, WHATEVERHOOD, but I really do enjoy it. I take pleasure in the process more than the applause.(Thank goodness!)  Other than obsessing over whether I need to insert a comma, or a semicolon, or an ellipsis… or nothing: it’s just so damn fun to put a story together! 

Then, if the response is good and positive it inspires me to do more. However, if the response is not as favorable, or if the piece is not well received, I’m still inspired to do more…just do it better.

Most of my life I have been able to make people laugh.  My original concept of The Large Man Chronicles was to simply create laughter, maybe provoke a little thought or pluck at a heart string, but for the most part I had humor in mind. Now I want my stories to become a friend that the reader won’t soon forget. Good company on a chilly night, a place of comfort and refuge. That’s a lofty quest, but that’s okay, I dream big. I’m just dumb enough to be comfortable thinking: Someone else has done this, why not me.

Not long ago, I dreamed that I was nominated for a Pulitzer for a piece that had been in a small market newspaper. Excluding dreams that have involved beer or Baywatch it was the best dream I’ve ever had, except for the end.

My BIG Dream…

Everybody posted congratulations on Facebook. The people I work with were trying to decide who would get to go to New York for the award ceremony. My wife was trying to work out child care because the Pulitzer folks would only give us two tickets to the event, and she didn’t want to miss her opportunity for a red carpet walk. She had a dress picked out, but oddly she was going crazy trying to find shoes. My parents didn’t believe it, not as in “This is so exciting JC, we can’t believe it!”  It was more like “Oh BULLSHIT JC, you couldn’t pass ninth grade English!”  But that’s how they are, and I wasn’t going to let them ruin my moment.

I was honored, humbled, and of course, so excited. It was the first time I had been nominated for any kind of award since I was in high school, and that was just “Best Weed” in the senior superlatives . I didn’t win because of some Columbian import shit that showed up a day before the votes were tallied. The voters all got stoned and gave the award to a Latin teacher that nobody liked. He got fired, I lost the only award I was ever nominated for, we both got shafted. Such is life.

I was preparing an acceptance speech, (for the Pulitzer, not the weed) but because it was my first nomination I was mostly preparing for the barrage of interviews that were sure to come. I repeated over and over, “Well thank you Barbara, it has been an amazing couple of weeks.”… “I appreciate you having me on the show Jay. It’s an honor just to have been nominated”. I had the “awe shucks” routine down so well you could smell it on me. You would swear that I was wearing an aftershave squeezed from fresh-cut hay and country rain.

As the dream continues…I’m picking out new shoes, and trying to decide if I want to go classy & glam in a tux, or go artsy & eccentric in a pair of jeans, sandals, a Harris Tweed jacket with suede patches on the elbows over a tee-shirt that said “Writers do it on a desk”. This was my moment and I wanted to make an impression…who knew when or if this would ever happen again.

I leave the shoe store, and now I’m on the set of Conan doing the pre-show interview with a hot little intern named Bay…I think it was short for Bailey. I’m scheduled to go on right after Bruce Willis; if he stays I’ll be on stage with him, Conan and Fergie (the singer not the Jenny Craig royal). Bay has a list of questions clipped to her brown clipboard and asks me what I’m most excited about.

 “Hmmm…I guess being in the same room with the Pulitzer bikini team, I hear they’re hotter than the Hawaiian Tropic bikini team…brains AND beauty” , I reply with excitement.

…she laughs and says, “That will be hilarious, go ahead and use it.”

I reply, “I will, because it’s the truth.  I love hot women, smart women, and anyone  who pushes the intellectual envelope.”

She just stares at me for a minute then she says, “I…I ahhh don’t think there really is a Pulitzer bikini team. Are you trying to be cute? Or are you making fun of me?”

I say, “Of course not! This is what the caller from Columbia University told me…my wife and I would be sitting in the row behind the Pulitzer Bikini team.” I laughed nervously as I said this, I didn’t want to upset her, but that’s what they said.

This is where the dream gets weird…

She stands up and pulls a 3 foot saber from out of her 14 inch clipboard. The weapon is huge and shiny and heavy-looking, but it’s in the shape of a ferret. Her face turns into Mel Gibson’s painted William Wallace face from Braveheart, but she’s still a girl. She screams at me and swings the sword in a complete three hundred sixty degree circle while in mid-air and just before she makes impact with my skull, I wake up and I scream


I’m now wide awake, my chest heaving, I’m covered with sweat, sitting upright checking the left side of my head and face to see if it’s been crushed. My wife rolls over half asleep, pats me on the hand and says, “I know honey, I trust you”, then falls back asleep.

DAMN IT! I hate coming out of a dream like that. That always happens when I’m going to score a touchdown, kiss a supermodel, get a piggy back ride from Muhammad Ali, or when I win a prize. SHIT!

I’ll never know if I won, or if there really is a Pulitzer bikini team. I guess I could Google it, but I’m afraid. The truth is, I don’t want to know the truth…I like the story that was the dream.  That story became my friend.

Until next time…when I’ll do better.

The Large Man

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