Friday, July 21, 2017

Trying to understand college football

I am a big college football fan. I love the SEC. I live in Tallahassee so I have a healthy respect for the ACC. I tend to be an FSU baseball fan in the spring and summer holding season tickets to the Seminoles, Howser stadium. With football it is the Crimson Tide of Alabama. I attended classes there and lived in Montgomery Alabama for 10 years. I earned my degree from Huntingdon College a small liberal arts school in Montgomery. If you happen to live in Alabama you must choose to be an Auburn fan or an Alabama fan. I chose the Crimson Tide and had mixed feelings of warmth and appreciation for the Auburn Tiger, War Eagles. I like the Florida Gators having sent my youngest child there. My wife is a Brigham Young University alumnus so, of course, her allegiance is to the Georgia Bulldogs. In other words we just love college football, like so many other Americans, and I would spend every spare moment watching games, analysis and repeat games during the season. If you are a southern football team then you have my attention.

I have to admit that I struggle to understand the more's of the coaches, fans, administrators when it comes to the deportment and character of their programs. News comes out of Oxford, Mississippi that Hugh Freeze has resigned under extreme pressure from league officials  The story is ongoing and developing. It seems that we have a violation of team ethics by Freeze having used a university issued cell phone to order, pick one: Pizza, an Uber ride or kinky sex from an escort service. Whatever the case the right reverend poobahs of the University and the league ain't having any of it. Raising their noble chins and speaking in hushed tones before the press they report that Coach Freeze had to go.

Now let me take you back a few years to an event that happened right here in our home town of Tallahassee, Florida. It was 2013. The story develops concerning a very talented football player, one Jameus "Famous" Winston. This player was all world. Not only in football but also in baseball. The rumor had it that the head he-coon of the Alabama Crimson Tide wanted Winston so bad that he was drooling. Jimbo Fisher of FSU out foxed the old he-coon by telling Winston that he would be allowed to play baseball at FSU. Not so at Alabama. Saban, in fitting regard to his dictatorial style, insisted that he play football only. Therefore I got to watch Jameus pitch relief at FSU and throw out runners at home plate while leading the 'Noles to a national football championship in 2013.

Now, consider the juxtaposition of the application of more's, standards, ethics however you want to slice the scenarios concerning this players conduct. Word comes that he had raped a student at FSU. A huge investigation resulting in charges comes rolling down the pike in Tallahassee. A very nationally focused trial occupies the sports news seemingly forever. The girl was a willing participant in the sex? She was brutally raped by a huge athlete? She was setting him up for a later pay day by her switching a consensual encounter to an alleged rape? As we know he was exonerated by a state attorney who was a big 'Noles fan. This young man was involved in Saturday night activity that goes on at any campus housing in any university setting all over the country. He just happened to be a national figure and the poor little fellow was victimized by the mean old press and the competition all over the country. We all know the rest of the story. He won the national championship in football and the Heisman and now counts his money, or what is left of it, after settling with the girl he allegedly raped back on the FSU campus in their civil law suit.

I just don't get it. In the SEC a coach gets fired for a one minute call to a Tampa escort service. Back in the ACC this Winston fellow does not miss a single down while being accused of a brutal crime. Not only does the ACC and FSU turn their backs on the situation the Heisman club awards their trophy to this player when there were countless nominees who had much less slimy resume's. Surely we have given up on there being any semblance of character in the awarding of the Heisman long ago with Cam Newton at Auburn.

Is there any more glaring of a double standard anywhere else? Yet we anticipate the kickoff of the season like we do the second coming. There is not a huge gap between watching college football and the Game of Thrones is there. Could it be that it is entertainment with total abandonment to the cause of ethics, morality and good taste? Could it be that it only matters that our team wins and wins often?

Roll Tide and pass the popcorn.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Mr. I'm Sorry But That Beard is Nasty

I am struggling to remain a fan of Major League baseball. I was mad at them for a very long time after their last strike. I just cannot get over a bunch of primadonnas who go on strike when they are already making millions of dollars . Forget the poor slob who cannot take his family out to the ball game because he cannot afford the $500 it takes to secure tickets, parking, hot dogs, peanuts and cracker jacks. I'm sorry that is just flat out wrong. On top of it all every team has to have a brand new updated park, i.e. the sorry Atlanta Braves. They finish dead last in their division in 2016 and what is their punishment? A brand new, state of the art baseball facility named Sun Trust stadium. On top of that they often look to tax dollars to supplement those construction moves. This is the collective group of geniuses who dealt Craig Kimbrell, to the San Diego Padres. Kimbrell is without debate the very best closer in the game. He was then and he is most certainly now. What is he a 5 time All Star? He now closes for the Boston Red Sox who may well be on their way to another post season appearance  on his 100 mph fastball. They are certainly hanging tough with the Orioles and the Yankees in that division within this very young season.

I digress however. What I mostly want to complain about, especially in MLB, are those scruffy, ridiculous, insane, disgusting, nasty, unhealthy, unwholesome looking BEARDS. It has gotten beyond unprofessional. There seems to be a contest out there as to who can do the best Alley Oop impression. What on earth has happened to our boys of summer? It used to be that managers would levy fines to players who did anything that brought the character of the game down. Nowadays not only has management turned a blind eye to this disappointing trend they seem to have embraced it. A clean shave conveys to most of us in this culture of middle America a crispness in personna. The professional in the well fitted suit with a nice tie to match and shoes that are shined and a nice conservative haircut with a close shave portrays a certain level of couth in my vernacular. If I wanted to hang out with people who are able to tie their beards behind their heads along with a pony tail in order to eat a meal I would travel to Afghanistan and hang out with the Taliban.

Can you just imagine being the HR chief in charge of recruiting, interviewing and hiring personnel these days? You want to hire a customer service manager at a big department store. You line up 50 people to interview and here they come. Males and females in the mix. The females sport countless tattoos and piercings in wierd places. These are most like covered up strategically during the interview. 3 of every 4 guys is sporting a beard and perhaps a pony tail. Throw in ear rings and tattoos on these guys and the choice becomes very simple in my world. Give me someone with a conservative haircut, clean shaven and no tatts and nose rings. He has got the job 100% of the time in my world.

Remember back to when we were young and the game of the week was brought to us by Gillette? I can almost hear that jingle. "To look sharp, and feel sharp too...................." The rest of it ran out to the conclusion that you could accomplish this image by going out and buying a Gillette razor and using the Dad-Blamed thing. What has our world come to? I still love baseball and am drawn to it in the summer time. When there is a baseball game on I am in heaven. I love watching Heidi Watney on Quick Pitch every morning and catching up on what has gone on all across the various leagues.

I guess I am just in a bad mood because I never could grow a decent beard. I have too much Hispanic in me to be terribly hirsute. But I gotta tell you. MLB has become a Petri dish for bacteria and micro organisms living in many of those beards they so proudly wear. How do they ever wash those things? I'll just bet the dugouts smell like a shed full of wet goats as a result of all that wet hair.

I guess I will hang on and continue to follow my teams. But, I am telling you. The day that Heidi Watney comes out wearing a full beard to give me the happenings of baseball on Quick Pitch, I am done.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Hitch hiking with the American Express card

Today I post about Uber. This is an intriguing phenomenon. It can be considered a major disruption. Whereas the internal combustion engine automobile was a major disruption in public conveyence so is the development of the Uber ride. I remember when I first heard of it I thought "no way is that going to last". Somewhere along the way a piece of legislation or a new regulation is going to shut that puppy down. Not so. It is more popular than ever and the company is a $10 billion dollar success story. The taxicab industry has been relegated to the back seat and are barely casting a shadow anymore.

I remember back about 25 years ago. I had a day meeting in Hoffman Estates, Illinois. That is about 20  miles from O'hare airport. I flew out of Tallahassee into O'hare. Got in by 9:00 AM CST and hailed a cab. As I got in I said Hoffman Estates and I noticed a smile from the driver. I then immediately said " How Much ?" The answer: $ 75.00 ONE WAY. I then said " Pull over." I go to the National rental car desk where I was a member of the Emerald club. Do you have a car? How much? $39 for the entire day, unlimited miles. Now I am not a math genius but I determined that I was saving my company considerable denero by renting that car. At least $100, plus I provided 3 people rides back to O'hare.

The taxi industry has its own greed and abuse of the consuming public to blame for the Uber movement. You can literally save yourself 50% of the local transportation cost by using the Uber system. It has even garnered competition nowadays so it is here to stay until the next disruption, driverless autos.

It all is made possible by an App that was designed by some genius that anyone can download and become a user and or a driver. Any driver keeps 75% of the fare. The money moves via your credit card so it is basically a cashless system.

You have to ride with a stranger in a strange car. However, does that not apply to most cab drivers who, some say, are potentially part time terrorists? It also makes me think back to how I got around in Jacksonville, FL. when I was a young teenager. My mother would give me money for the bus to come home from school however, I could play pinball and get some gum in a local store with that money. So how did I get home? I walked out and stuck out my thumb along Beach Boulevard and hitch hiked my way. True I got picked up by some weird people with weird motives but I survived to make this post.

The Fifth Dimension sang about living on the American Express card. Uber is hitch hiking on the American Express card.................Visa, Master Card, Discover.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

My Lucky Penny

Several years ago I was pumping my own gas in the Circle K convenience store location in my subdivision. While engaged in this mundane task I looked down at my feet and saw a penny. I am still cheap enough to stoop and pick up any and all coinage. As I examined this penny I noted that it was a 1946 plain. It even had the little wheat tails on it that we no longer see on pennies. Nowadays they have some sort of shield on the back of them.

Now there is another significant date that fell within the year of 1946. If you guessed that would be my birthday then you would have guessed correctly. I was born on May 27 in that exact year. I have not ever been overtly superstitious. But this event struck me with some sort of relevance. I decided that this was a special totem that had fallen from another era into my possession. I claimed the penny and dubbed it my lucky penny.

Now when you have the clumsiness and scatter brained tendencies that have always afflicted me, the logical question is how am I going to keep track of this special penny? I decided that one thing I have not ever lost is my drivers license. So I found some scotch tape and taped my lucky penny on the face of my drivers license. I made sure that it did not cover up any vital information on the license. I was asked occasionally by an airline agent or others what the penny was and I would give them a quick response and be on my way. They were assured of my identity, deemed me a little weird but I moved on down the road of life undetained. Never would I have guessed that this lucky penny would pay off handsomely for me in later years.

On December 5, 1995 I was on my way home from Pensacola having been on a business trip. Anyone who has ever driven that stretch of highway knows that it is the most boring drive on the entire planet. I was hastening home on this particular day to join my family around the dinner table in a birthday celebration for my middle child Beth. It was her birthday. I was making good time when all of a sudden I came to a halt. I was 4 miles from my exit to home. I-10 looked like a parking lot with some sort of untoward event having occurred in front of me. I was stuck. It was a few years before I purchased my first cell phone so no capability of calling and letting the family know of my whereabouts.

I sat there and contemplated my options. I had just passed under US highway 27. It was possible for me to access my home by that route. Lo and behold I noticed that some of the people in front of me were driving across the median and then across I-10 Westbound and up the ramp, accessing Monroe St. Processing this for a bit and assessing the relative safety aspect of this action I determined that was what I needed to do. I eased across the median watched for a break in the traffic and accelerated up the ramp. Half way up the median the blue lights went off to my rear.

I immediately pulled over and waited for the law enforcement officer to come to my car. A state trooper appeared and asked for my license and registration. I handed both to him through the window. He studied them and asked me why I decided to cross the median and drive up the ramp. I explained that I was late to a birthday dinner for my daughter. Everyone else was doing it so I decided to go along with the crowd. He told me that I just happened to be unlucky enough to do it in front of him. He then asked, " What is this penny taped across your drivers license.?" I responded with " Oh, that is my lucky penny." In light of his recent declaration I paused to think about the irony in that statement. He looked at me and I looked at him and we both broke out laughing.

He handed me my license and said Mr. Vass have a good evening, be safe and don't do that again. I then went on my merry way. I then realized that my lucky penny had just saved me several dollars in fines. Indeed, it had done its job. I still carry it today.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Religious Burning

When I was a boy I lived in a remote part of southern West Virginia. The little community I lived in was referred to as Hillsdale. Hillsdale was the site of the Hillsdale Presbyterian church. I happened to live right across the street from the church so, I was asked by the head Deacon, Mr Siebold, to build a fire in two old pot bellied stoves a couple of hours before the 20 or so parishioners assembled to listen to Reverend Shiflett, our circuit riding minister.

The old church was pretty typical of most churches that dotted the landscape of this area of the Appalachians. They looked very much like barns with a steeple on top. Later in life I would hear the term shotgun houses. The term referred to very simple looking homes that were occupied by the lower realm of society who could not afford better. The term applied meant that you could open the front door and the back door and stand in one or the other and fire a shotgun through the house and not hit anything. Well, the term applied to this old shotgun church. Heaven only knows what the vintage of this old place might have been. At that time it could have been 50+ years old. A virtual tinderbox.

This was approximately 60 years ago from where I currently stand in my sojourn through mortality. I remember what a great weight of responsibility I felt in the assignment to build those fires. There was ample kindling wood and kerosene that was stored right there in the church. Also plenty of coal to fuel the stoves with after the initial fire was set. I was being paid 75 cents every Sunday that I performed this task.

By the time I got those two stoves going in time for the Sunday school attendees to sit around, their underbellies would be red hot. That was the nature of an old iron, pot bellied stove. To me it was terrifying. I was convinced that the fire could get away from me easily. I envisioned a headline in the Watchtower of Union, West Virginia, our little regional newspaper, Local kid burns down the Presbyterian church in Hillsdale. 

I sweated bullets over that little job I had. It was pure angst that I felt every Sunday, November through April, when I was called on to build those fires and prepare the building for the preaching and teaching of the gospel.

I ultimately ended up having a career in sales with a huge, global company. I even lobbied the legislatures in 3 southern states toiling over issue after issue that came along that could have impacted our business by millions of dollars. I felt the heat in those assignments. However, I never felt more heat than I did as a ten year old lad building those fires there in the Hillsdale Presbyterian church on those frosty cold West Virginia mornings.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Groundhogs Day (Repost from February 2, 2012)

Happy Groundhogs Day to all my friends, relatives and the other two people who might follow my BLOG. I just watched Punxsutawney Phil's prediction from Gobblers Knob in Pennsylvania. They held the chubby little fellow up and took him to his podium where the President of the Punxsutawney Phil club via his magical cane deciphered for us what Phil's prediction was. Today it was for 6 more weeks of winter predicated on the length of shadows cast about on the Knob and of course, Phil’s own shadow.

One of my favorite movies, starring one of my favorite actors, Bill Murray, is Groundhogs Day. Of course the plot is a train of recurring days that are just alike in every detail. I sort of feel like the election cycle we are in is sort of a Groundhog’s day. Every day we hear the same stuff, almost verbatim, from the same candidates.

In place of the President of the Punxsutawney Phil club on Gobblers Knobb, Pennsylvania we have the ever present news media to interpret what the candidate is really saying. The left media takes whatever the right says out of context and vice versa. Ergo the final product we have going into our ears is about as reliable as the same pronouncement we had from Phil this morning. America has largely given up thinking for themselves and judging by their own shadows the remaining days of winter or who is right in the Presidential posturing. We have our own “Phil” prognosticator be their name, Beck, Limbaugh, Krauthammer, Malkin, Palin, Coulter, Hannity, etc.

It is enough to drive you mad as the meteorologist played by Bill Murray in the movie. Let me give you some advice. Stop listening to all of them. Get yourself a good book and read it. Watch C-Span. It is so boring it will coagulate your blood but it truly is fair and balanced. That is except for the crazy people who call in on the open lines who all have anger issues, dementia and just downright mean spiritedness.

So for those of you who believe that a groundhog can predict the weather, get a life. I used to shoot those things back on our farm in West Virginia. They are very destructive to pasture land and golf courses ( reference another Bill Murray movie “Caddy Shack’). For those of you who think all the talking heads have any more insight than you do about who needs to be President, rethink that issue. Determine who has the tool sets to fix the economy, keep us safe and lead the country and vote. Forget all the vindictive chatter that America likes to feed on. You will be better off.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Buzzards Without Feathers

When I was a boy I lived on a farm in southern West Virginia, about 45 miles from the Virginia line. We had a limited amount of livestock. Cows, pigs, sheep, chickens, turkey, duck an old lame horse and a few cats and dogs. I was painfully aware of these barnyard members of our family. The reason being my brother and I had to feed and water them morning and evening. I even had to milk 3 members of the cow family morning and evening.

Life was pretty simple there in those hills. Little in the way of TV programming. No computer with games and such. It was a dreary day to day agenda of up early and work until your dropped in the evening. There was little to break the monotony of routine.

I remember the fascination I had with a certain member of the Cathartidae family, in particular the turkey buzzard. These creatures could be seen gliding through our skies, over our pasture land in a seemingly effortless gliding path. When they began to accumulate in numbers and began to circle in a particular space you knew there was trouble in "River City". When it was on your property you knew that you had a member of your barn yard family likely missing having fallen to accident or pestilence.

Our father would send us boys out to track what was going on when he read the skies bearing the mark of the buzzard. It was an interesting departure from routine for us. We became explorers, adventurers, detectives in the effort to unearth the cause of this mystery. We would head out to the far reaches of our farmland, usually on foot to observe, return and report. The news was always received with mixed results. The barnyard gang were investments to my father and mother. Death striking them was not a positive outcome.

Now at 70 and 1/2 I am a city dweller. I still see buzzards surveillancing the skies overhead but the mystery of that creature has dwindled in my life. I am involved in the race of various pursuits. None of them as mind numbing as hoeing potatoes or shocking corn. One of my more pleasant involvements has always been traversing my neighborhood on foot pushing a baby stroller or on the business end of a leash for our energetic little hound dog. I have made the acquaintance of numerous neighbors over the years in this fashion and have always enjoyed stopping and catching up on their news.

One such neighbor was Mr. Irving Bornstein over on Tipperary. He was a friendly sort of a fellow. I would encounter him as I walked past his place and catch him when he was retrieving a trash can or putting out mail or getting his mail. He would come out and check to see how much little Bellamy was growing. I learned about his family, his wife, his daughters. What the neighbors were doing that annoyed him. He was from Jacksonville and made his living as a tile setter. He had apparently been a successful one judging from the luxury cars in his driveway. He was in his 90's. I encountered him one day on the arm of a daughter and learned that he had suffered a stroke and was fighting hard to stay at home.

Bellamy moved away and I had fewer occasions to pass his home. I began to walk that way again after my physician ordered me to get active again. I did not see Mr Irv ever when I passed his house. There was not a lot of perceptible activity at his place and I feared the worst.

A couple of weeks ago I came up to his home and there was enormous activity ensuing. Cars were parked up and down the street and people were coming and going in droves.It became obvious to me that this had all the markings of an estate sale. I turned up his driveway with Petie the wonder hound and asked a fellow who was in charge if there was any family present. He advised me that Mr. Irv had passed away some three months earlier. His wife had moved to south Florida to be near a daughter.

People were picking the bones of his personal possessions. There was a lot of cash being exchanged. So much that the liquidators had an armed deputy sheriff present. While I spoke with the head liquidator a realtor came up and handed him a card and said to please have his widow contact her about listing their home.

As I walked away I mused concerning the similarities between my earlier experiences with the buzzards providing evidence of the passing of one of our barn yard citizens by their circling activity. The same evidence caused me to investigate the welfare of my neighbor Mr Irv. The only factor that was dissimilar was the fact that none of these buzzards possessed any feathers.