Archive for January, 2011

A Tough Week

I am a fan of the Pittsburgh Steelers. I started liking the black & gold team from western PA when I was a 7-year-old who collected those miniature football helmets you could get in a gumball machine for a quarter. Although I lived in the middle of Redskin territory, I liked the Steelers because they had their logo on only one side of their helmet. They were the only team who did that, and for some reason I thought it was cool. 

 I became a true “fanatic” on December 23rd 1972. I was a 13-year-old kid in 7th grade, watching the Steelers play the Oakland Raiders in a divisional playoff game.  I was in my living room with my family and a few of my neighborhood buddies when it happened. That was the day of The Immaculate Reception. 

In one of the most famous and controversial plays in the history of the NFL, future Hall of Famer Franco Harris caught a ball that was deflected off of  his teammate, “Frenchy” Fuqua, and the Raider’s bruising strong safety,  Jack Tatum.  Harris took the ball into the end zone for a game winning touchdown with only seconds left on the clock. It seems like it was the first time I ever saw a game winning final play – maybe it was. It’s the first time I remember seeing my father get excited in a positive way…I had seen him pissed off plenty of times, but on this day, I saw him truly excited, delighted, with the outcome of something as insignificant as a football game. 

 It was an amazing play, and it was an amazing moment that I’ll remember forever; probably as much for the surprise of my Dad’s reaction as for the play. I remember how my heart pounded, I remember all of us screaming, and giving each other five (the “high-5” had not been invented yet). I remember my dad kicking the foot rest on his recliner shut as he jumped out of his chair. It is a fond memory. 

Those `72 Steelers lost their next playoff game to the undefeated Miami Dolphins team that went on to win the Super Bowl. But the victory against the Raiders, and perhaps that one single play, changed the culture of the perennial losing Pittsburgh franchise. That team was loaded with future Hall of Fame players, coaches, and executives. They have maintained a winning tradition, and they have developed a rabid fan base that is as loyal as any found in American sport. I travel to every major and mid-market city in the US. I can find a Steeler Bar in just about any town I visit. This is not my opinion, this is simple fact. 

Now here is some opinionBased on what I see when I travel, there is only one other football team that instills the level of passion in places other than their own home town, the Green Bay Packers. Dallas certainly has their fan base outside of Texas, and the Raiders have remained a popular team despite their pathetic performance in recent years. But to those of you who hate my beloved Steelers for their winning tradition and aggressive style of play; to all who want to smack that arrogant smile off of the face of Hines Ward (the “Dirtiest Player in Football”) as he trots back to the huddle after another first down, and to you fans who live in cities of Steelers divisional rivals…I understand how you feel. But, if there is an “America’s Team”, it’s the Pittsburgh Steelers, and they’re in the Super Bowl. 

 If you are a Ravens fan, this is going to be a tough week, because it’s Steelers week (and to a much smaller extent, Packers week too I guess – wink wink!!). The Ravens are a great football team. Please understand that while I can’t stand the Ravens, simple football common sense tells me that other than a few head case receivers, and an aging linebacker that can’t shut his annoying yap, one must appreciate and respect their roster. The Ravens can, and should, beat any team in the NFL. They just have a hard time beating the Steelers when it really counts*.  Now if you are a Browns or Bengals fan, every week pretty much sucks for you, so you’ll get no Large Man tip of the hat. These poor Ravens fans are really suffering, and they deserve better. 

Yup… gonna be a tough week. It’s will also be a tough week for Ben Roethlisburger, but his tough week is deserved.  This makes it a tough week for me as a football fan. 

I really like watching football. I don’t really like football players that much anymore. 

 I remember how I admired the star players of my youth. I didn’t admire only the Steelers players, although Terry Bradshaw and Jack Lambert were once heroes to me – I was always a fan of the sport, and all of the sport’s standout players. My favorite player ever was Lynn Swann – a Steeler, but Earl Campbell, Bo Jackson, John Elway, and Mike Singletary played for other  teams, yet I still considered them some of the most exciting players I have ever watched snap on a chin strap. This was because I loved the game

 I could tell tales about these men, and their amazing athletic accomplishments all day long. It’s one of my favorite things to do, but it does make me feel old… bragging about the sports legends of the past. Because of these heroes of my past, I don’t really admire many of today’s players the way I did as a teenager and a young adult. Again, simple football common sense tells me that because the players of today are bigger, faster, and stronger than their predecessors, they’re probably better football players too. I’m not sure they are better men though. To me, it doesn’t really matter anymore.  Nobody is a hero for what they do in a game on a Sunday…this includes Terry Bradshaw or Lynn Swann. They were just great football players. 

I’m a little more selective about who I label “hero” these days. This is because I’m older, and if not wiser, at least more experienced. Now that I’m “more experienced”, my heroes are in the military; my heroes fight fires and crime, and teach children. My heroes walk for days to raise money for cancer research, they work to protect our environment, and they make sick people better. My hero is anyone who hauls their tired ass out of bed and goes to work every day – that’s friggin hard! My hero is a 10-year-old boy who looks for the best in people, an 11-year-old girl who works hard to get good grades, my heroes are the friends who stand behind me in a time of tragedy, or stand next to me in a moment of triumph or joy. 

 With all these heroes, I don’t really need football players to fill that role. I just want to watch them play. It would be nice if ball players treated us regular folks with some sense of decency, and honored the laws of society – but that’s pretty much all I’m looking for. I think most professional athletes are decent, if not excellent people. I also think it’s a shame that the Ben Roethlisburgers, the Mike Vicks, Leonard Littles and the Donte Stallworths get all the press. I know that there are real heroes in the NFL…men that give back to their community, men that make a difference in the lives of people less fortunate. We need to spend more time telling those stories. Maybe I will. Good guys and victims always seem to get lost somehow. 

 It’s gonna be a tough week for Ben Roethlisburger because his dumbass actions put him in this position. So I guess he deserves whatever he gets. He does have a chance to show us something this week though. Four touchdown passes on Sunday would be great, but a little bit of humility and contrition on Tuesday when he’s getting peppered with questions about his alleged sexual assaults would be even better. 

I don’t know if Ben is a good guy or not, at this point it’s hard to defend anything about him; I hope he is. I hope his brush with the legal system taught him a lesson, and even if he wasn’t a good guy before, that he can become one. I hope he realizes that he has the good fortune of living in a country where you are innocent until proven guilty. And, if you have a shitload of money and you’re white, for some reason it’s really difficult to be proven guilty. 

Smart ass remarks aside, I do believe everyone deserves a shot at redemption, whatever that redemption may be…because without the possibility of redemption, there is no possibility for hope. Hope is an essential element to life – just like calcium and vitamin C. I think you have to hope for Ben. I hope he has a great football career, and that the stupid decisions he made while he was in his twenties won’t haunt him or define the rest of his life. 

 Just like the decisions made by an underage girl who had too much to drink and a fake ID shouldn’t define her life…or the idiot bouncer or club owner that allow underage girls into the club. We could pass around a lot of redemption here.  It is truly shameful and ugly, but it’s also part of our world – it’s a scab that we have to pick at. 

In all candor, I wouldn’t want the worst decisions that I made in my twenties to define me today – I could insert a few funny jokes here, but the reality is that I’m lucky to be alive, lucky that I’m not in jail, and I’m lucky that I never injured or killed anyone…and that sobering fact just isn’t very funny. I’m damn lucky. Maybe Ben Roethlisburger, Michael Vick, and all the a-holes just like them deserve a little luck too.  Damn…that is a difficult thing to say – even tougher to write, but I believe it’s true. It’s a tough week.

Thanks for reading. We’ll have more fun next time.

The Large Man

*While that comment may be “rubbing it in” a little, I also realize that the Steelers pee down their legs every time they play the Patriots – we all have our demons.

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A Good Place to Be

I felt the warmth of the sun on my face today for the first time in months.  I’m holding an icy cold beer, and I’m finished with a work day that was mostly easy, and quite rewarding.  And, I’m being hit on – big time! 

This hunter is no slouch either, obviously athletic, and from the look of the clothes, there’s some money here. Good hair, nice tan, all carried with a striking presence.  I’m well aware that I’m a married man, but it needs to be noted that I’m far removed from my home zip code and area code; so technically, I can do anything I want without penalty. If you Google The Geneva Convention and go to section 115, it’s all right there. I’ve never actually looked, but this is what I’ve been told.

The German accent is absolutely charming as hell too, but unfortunately – he just isn’t my type.  My man is simply barking up the wrong tree. I don’t roll that way. I don’t judge, and I don’t hate, I leave that for Higher Beings.  Although I don’t like to disappoint anybody, I’ll have to disappoint this guy. He’ll probably survive…probably.

The probably, is not a definitely because as vain and arrogant as this sounds; I’m looking marvelous.  I can’t blame a man with confused hormones for being attracted to me tonight. The shirt I’m wearing brings out the earnest qualities of my soul as seen through the window of my steel-blue eyes.  My freshly shaved head is as clean and round and smooth as a baby’s bottom. Speaking of bottoms – the jeans I’m wearing make my butt look like it was carved out of the finest Italian marble. To complete the package, I’m wearing topsiders with no socks – my ankles (maybe my best feature) are completely exposed. I can’t explain how it all came together – generally speaking, I’m not an attractive man. But tonight, it just happened. I knew when I walked out of my hotel room that magic was in the air.

If I were not a gentleman, I would be working this dude and half the female patrons of this fine establishment for free drinks and a plate of wings. I know women who use this tactic on a regular basis, and I’m sure there are dudes that do this sort of thing too. That’s just not my style.  Again, no judging here, I just prefer to pay my own way.

So you’re probably asking, “What is it Large Man? What made the magic happen for you tonight?

I don’t know. It was a great day, but at the same time, it was nothing really special. In many ways it was just like any other day. Maybe the only thing different is that I had a chance to slow down and look around a little bit.

 God’s favor was a contributing factor, I can’t overlook that. Some call it “luck”, I call it favor. I got a great parking space at the airport.  I had some great deli at an “off the beaten path” sandwich shop. I ended up spending time with a couple of key people in my industry by maintaining my course and making “just one more call”. I didn’t plan on any of this, it just happened.

My daughter won her school Spelling Bee for the second year in a row – and while that success is all hers, it certainly adds some luster to my day. I’m so  proud that my wife has created an environment at Casa Del Hombre Grande that allows a kid to be successful. This woman sends our children out into the cold, cruel world of academia feeling relaxed, comfortable, self-assured, safe, and loved.  These are nice things for children to carry in their backpack as they step onto the bus…as they step into life. This happens every day – this is “normal” at our house. The thought always humbles me.  My home is a good place to be.

I have struggled for things to write about for the last few months, I wasn’t seeing anything (in my head, or out in the world) that seemed worthy of a story. I didn’t see anything, because I stopped looking for some reason. Anything I tried to write just wasn’t good enough.  I’ve received a few notes recently that were (loosely) related to the subject of Good Enough vs. Perfect.  I’ve been having a disjointed debate on that subject in my head for a while now, and today…probably around 1:30 this afternoon (after finishing that sandwich), the debate reached a conclusion. It occurred me that I’m not capable of perfect – nobody is. If you are a writer, and you realize that good enough is going to have to work, and that it’s okay, you have found a good place to be. I’m sure this works if you are a salesman, a backhoe operator, a teacher, or a Mom who is sending her kids off to school. No things of man are perfect – except maybe my ankles.

So, armed with a fresh revelation, I land in my hotel parking lot with a decision to make. Car keys are in hand, I am ready to go. Do I drive 7 miles to the recommended micro-brew pub, or do I choose option B…TGI Fridays? I usually avoid chain restaurants (save Hooter’s & Outback) like the clap. For the most part, they have no soul, style, or general appeal to me, but I’m waffling tonight. Maybe I’m thinking, chain or not, TGI is better than a DUI, and TGI is in the same parking lot as my hotel. As I considered my options, and what I was in the mood for, I realized that I was feeling more thirsty than hungry. Fridays, here I come.

And it all came together just like that. It ended up being a good place to be.

Jessica and Matt are behind the bar. Jesse draws me a Drifter Pale Ale from Widmer.  This usually respectable brew suffers a little tonight because the tap has flattened it out a bit. It’s not terrible, but it’s not a home run – what do you expect from a Fridays? I order a salad, (no shit, I really did) a gay man sits on one side of me at the crowded bar, and an idiot sits on the other side of me…and just like that, more magic.

I don’t have to share the dialog, but the action goes like this:

  • Well dressed, carefully coiffed gentleman says nice things to me, admires my freshly shorn noggin (yet mentions nothing about my ankles…hmm?) and when I reply with only a moderately clever line, he laughs like he’s hearing Billy Ray’s Achy Breaky Heart for the first time. Yup…he’s gay alright.
  • The bartenders notice, and smile at me, and gauge my level of discomfort. I’m fine. Not interested obviously, but there’s no trouble brewing – I’m more upset by my beer choice than anything else.
  • On the other side of me sits an overweight, under loved, intolerant… person. He has the look of Jabba the Hut, but very little of Jabba’s charm. He orders a salad too – this is about all we had in common. As he notices the intent of my admirer, his level of discomfort could be measured on the Richter scale.  He’s visibly shaken.
  • I explain to the “friendly” guy that I’m not in the mood for conversation and that I just want to watch the game, eat my salad, have a beer, and try to figure out where the rash on my private parts came from. He gets the picture, finishes his Banana Daiquiri* and leaves without incident.
  • Just as my dude get’s out of earshot, Matt the bartender pours another Pale Ale and hands it to me with a wink and a smile. I’m chuckling to myself over my admirer’s attraction because it was very open and obvious. This doesn’t happen every day, and to me, it was funny. Jabba interrupts my thoughts with a phlegm laden and rattled voice, “That guy’s lucky he didn’t come on to me.”

Now, this comment presented too many opportunities for humor – so many, that I overloaded my smart ass circuit board and just started laughing out loud at all the jokes inside my head. I finally settled down, and simply said through a broken smile, “I don’t think a dude like that would be attracted to a guy like you.” Jabba seemed surprised by my comment, maybe even a little hurt. Jessica overheard my remark and was forced to take her laughter to the other side of the bar. She couldn’t risk the tip!

He then made the expected comment about how I should have kicked the dude’s ass.

“I’m not a fighter,” I reply. “I couldn’t kick my own ass.”

 This is true. Furthermore, this was not in any way, shape or form, an “ass kicking” worthy incident. It wasn’t comfortable by any means, but nobody was in any danger. It was just funny.  Jabba was again disappointed when I wouldn’t join him in a hate filled lament about the decline of civilization. I didn’t feel that way; I just wanted to watch the game. I disappointed two men in one night – I might as well be back in the office.

 And I’m not sure, but I don’t think the incident is gonna make me gay either. I’m not feeling gay at all right now, but I’ll check again in the morning.

While not fight worthy, the incident did make me want to settle up early, head back to room 1105, and start typing.  Not fight worthy, but hopefully blog worthy. That’s for you dear readers to decide.  I have been feeling a hunger to tell a tale for a few weeks, and this just flopped in my lap…in a TGI Fridays, south of the Mason – Dixon line, smack dab in the middle of a blessed life. This is a good place to be.

Thank you for reading.

The Large Man

*I don’t judge, and I don’t hate; but I’ll stereotype for the sake of humor. Just sayin…

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