Losers. No More. Eagles Are Champions.

I didn’t cry until I heard Merrill Reese, the longtime radio voice of the Eagles, on YouTube the day after the Super Bowl. His call of the Tom Brady fumble with two minutes left in the fourth quarter pushed the release button. The emotions, the memories, the Sundays, the halftime catches in the backyard, the Monday mornings discussing the game, the plastic cups and t-shirts emblazoned with a mean green eagle, the cheesesteaks, the fireplace and TV on cold winter afternoons, the time with my family. Three generations watching our beloved birds struggle toward the excellence other teams seemed to stumble into. Continue reading

Advertisements

What I Think About the National Anthem Protests: NFL Players Can Kneel & Trump Is a Bum

A grandfather, father and son; three generations of William Sabia’s; three generations of Philly sports fans used to go watch 18 baseball games every summer. We watched them together from our right field seats all through my younger and more vulnerable years. We watched the best years with the mullet brigade of 1993 that lost the World Series to a bunch of Canadian hosers. We also watched the worst years of Philadelphia Phillies baseball. The years when future Hall of Shamers Von Hayes or Steve Jeltz were the best players, the years when the stadium was a non-descript, circular, multi-purpose green hole called Veterans Stadium. Continue reading

How to Fix Boxing in 3 Easy Steps

Floyd “Money for My Lawyers” Mayweather and Manny “No Birth Control” Pacquiao recently fought to a unanimously boring decision in Mayweather’s favor. A total of 229 punches were landed in the fight, which averages to six per minute or 19 per round (a small number compared to the real “fight of the century” Ward v. Gatti in 2002 when those punch-happy crowd-pleasers combined for a staggering average of 17 punches landed per minute and 51 per round). Continue reading

Hunting, Hemingway and Eating Meat

The Internet helps us keep up with trending topics such as Toronto mayor Rob Ford’s amazingly embarrassing but slightly humanizing descent into crack-smoking, drunken hilarity, awesome viral videos like JCVD doing badass splits on the side mirrors of two massive big rigs, and moral outrage through informative posts about gay bashing, dolphin killing or suffering in general. Sometimes there is a post that comes through the newsfeed on Facebook that touches me, or hurts me, or makes me LOL (:>) Continue reading

Steroids Are The Future

It’s old news now that Lance Armstrong, the promoter of the LiveStrong campaign, the man who won a grueling 2,000 mile bicycle race 7 times in a row, lost a testicle to cancer, and still had the balls to leave the mother of his children who supported him after the cancer treatments to get together with Sheryl “Horse-face” Crow, is a lying, doping, remorseless man. He repeated ad nauseum about how he was racing clean and didn’t need any performance enhancing drugs (PED’s). Then, he told Oprah, who told us, that he did in fact use them. It reminds me of Bill Clinton with his infamous “that woman” speech. Both should have just been honest, but we know perjuring yourself usually seems the better option until you’ve been caught. I was let down because I really believed he was the special kind of human with supreme natural abilities. It led me to wonder, as a professional, are the natural abilities the most important part of the game?

Recently, I’ve been thinking about PED’s and I don’t think they are of that much assistance to athletes in all sports. Also, I think their negative effects are more self-inflicted than upon society. The arguments I’ve heard during the baseball steroid trials are about setting a good example for the young athletes, and the sanctity of sports. What a bunch of crap! Hardly any athlete is a good example for kids. They always go to the team who offers the most money, they rarely graduate college, and they are sometimes arrested for murder, manslaughter, DWI, assault, possession, drug dealing and sometimes rape. No, not all athletes fit this bill, but not all athletes use PED’s. Athletes are modern gladiators, not role models. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t seen as role models. No matter how bad their behavior may be, as long as they win, they will inspire youngsters’ sporting fantasies. Remember in the Kirk Douglas movie, when all the men stood up and exclaimed, “I’m Spartacus!” I bet at the Staples Center, on a random Friday night, if the lights went out, all the guys would rise and scream, “I’m Kobe Bryant!” Steroids won’t help Kobe put the perfect touch on a game winning 3-pointer. Steroids won’t help Tom Brady put the delicate arch on a fade route to the corner of the end zone. Steroids couldn’t have helped Barry Bonds see the spin on an 80mph curveball or even to put the bat in the right place to hit a homerun. Steroids won’t help soccer or hockey goalies’ agility in stopping a sudden shot. From what I understand about steroids, they help in the building of muscles and also in the turnaround or the rebuilding phase. So, yes, it helps muscles, which athletes use. But it doesn’t help passion, agility, reaction time, or game knowledge.  

Alex Rodriguez said that his huge contract with the Texas Rangers back in 2001 made him feel very pressured to play at a high level, so he starting juicing. He should feel pressure; a big salary obliges effort and results. If we are paying top dollar to watch sports, we want our athletes to be the best they can be. So combining the muscle magnification of steroids with their own innate abilities, we can be treated to quite a spectacle of sport. But, NFL is cutting back on big hits, NHL is trying to stop concussive hits, MLB is testing for steroids, and the NBA made a one year in college before drafting to stop high school hopefuls. It’s a nanny state for sports. It’s good to prevent career ending injuries, and perhaps with bigger, stronger, juiced up dudes playing, there might be more devastating hits. Why are we always worried about the children? There will still be delusional hopefuls, dreaming of glory, injecting themselves and ruining their own lives despite our best efforts to prevent that behavior. As the amount of legal PED’s grows, so will the players and concurrently will the concussions and homeruns grow. I know that athletes are people too, but we, as paying spectators, deserve to see their best, which is sometimes augmented by PED’s.

Now, back to Lance Armstrong. Riding a bicycle is something everyone can do, not like throwing a 50-yard spiral accurately or dribbling a sick crossover or hitting fastballs. In competitive riding, your performance is decided by both your conditioning and determination. Maybe, with a winning attitude and the right cocktail of enhancers, sport riding will get more competitive, instead of the guy who knows how to best dilute his urine winning 7 years in a row. Armstrong was certainly given an edge by his use of drugs. BUT, what if all the others were on the same drugs? If the field were level, then we could be sure it was just his strong will and perhaps his knowledge of wind currents in the Loire Valley that gave him the victory. My idea is let all drugs be legal in all non-contact sports. So, football, hockey, rugby, lacrosse etc.—sorry, stay clean. But finesse/normal sports, like basketball, baseball, soccer, car racing, riding, etc., let the ‘roids fly. Steve Nash will not be better because he puts on 100 pounds of muscle. It’s science, we made something that helps us and are scared to use it. Oh, Viagra, no, I want to be aroused naturally. Xanax, no, I want to keep my panic attacks refreshingly uncontrollable and unpredictable. I think one day, we will see leagues full of human gorillas competing. Then, sporting events will be like going to the zoo, except all the animals will be active, instead of sitting on logs, licking each other and picking at orifices.

Football Runs on America

Most sports fans in America are a fan of two sports, football, and any one of the others. I know I’m generalizing, but it is certainly the most popular sport in the USA. Living abroad, the NFL season appears out of nowhere. We are not subject to the onslaught of misleading preseason games, training camp dramas, draft day projections or constant SportsCenter coverage. It’s not to say I wasn’t unaware that it was approaching, it just wasn’t in the forefront of my mind. Football is the opiate of the masses in America. It is the great pacifier of the American male. As long as they have NFL games on Sunday, they could never assemble into government attacking militias, and I think those powers that be understand this fact. They would never have allowed that strike to happen at a time when unemployment is high and houses are being foreclosed. It is a desperately symbiotic relationship.

I watch the games onDemand through the Internet. The season opening game of defending champs NY Giants and the Cowboys of Dallas began as most games do, with the national anthem. It is the rallying cry for unity in the stadium and in the homes before the brutal, concussive combat and geographical animosity expressed by the colors of the jerseys turns average men into anxious Romans at the Coliseum salivating for violence on God’s day of rest. We know the feeling of testosterone surging and the way we catch ourselves gritting our teeth on 3rd and long or 4th and 1. We know the way we hate a player and know he is a disgrace—until he plays for our team. We know that Sunday is for football; it is comforting. The national anthem is that unifying moment where we all can remember it’s just a game and that it’s freedom that makes it possible. What is a little too symbolic is the flyover.

“Please rise for the singing of the national anthem…followed by a flyover of three Blackhawk helicopters,” said the announcer. Queen Latifah had a cool, new, hip-hop version of the song, which surprised and slightly annoyed me at first, but quickly grew on me. I like that it can be updated. And any excuse to repeat the favorite line of armchair singers “…home of the brave,” will be a desired change. The helicopters flew over the giant, glistening MetLife stadium in North Jersey after the last goose-bump inducing line was delivered, and a wild roar surged from the crowd. I realized they were cheering because those flying machines were on our side. They were cheering for how safe having those flying machines make us feel. They were cheering because war, and the elements of war, makes us feel something. It makes us feel a strange humility bred with arrogance for our great nation. Americans alive today have grown up on warfare and only had a handful of years when some foreign war was not involving the USA. We have tacitly given consent over the last half-century into the military-industrial complex. It is our economy. We produce beautiful celebrities and beautiful weapons. I’m not quite sure where it’s leading us, but being involved in two wars, the purposefully endless War on Terror and the fact that Hollywood will never run out of a pretty face to manipulate, makes it a safe bet that behavior continues. Beyond the subliminal jingoism of a flyover, it also reeks of an unintentional indoctrination though. It’s as if some invisible powers are telling us: “These jets and helicopters make this game possible, so don’t worry about the inconceivable amount of tax money we spend to keep them shiny and updated, and just enjoy the game.”

It’s completely natural to respect your country’s military. It’s natural to feel a bit of flag-waving patriotism when you see the might that is our arsenal. Somehow it just felt like a commercial when those helicopters flew over the Meadowlands.

You Never Get a Second Chance.

Missouri football coach, Gary Pinkel, said he believes it’s “wrong” to place sole blame on Joe Paterno for the colossal clusterf#$% that has happened at PSU. He believes Joe would act differently if he could; that if he could “do it all over again” he would have acted differently and done more. Unfortunately, nobody gets that option. If you did have the chance, you wouldn’t make mistakes because you would know through hindsight what was the right decision. If Napoleon could do it over, he wouldn’t “get involved in a land war in Asia” and Bush has said repeatedly he would do things differently if he could go back. Nobody is afforded that luxury, which is what makes life so hard, you aren’t given second chances, ever.

Sci-fi movies have looked into this idea on many occasions, hardly ever with a positive outcome. Although theoretically, the idea of relativity posits time as an unending line of outcomes whereby the past, future and present exist in one eternal moment, and all your choices have already been chosen, by you, so if we can bend it by speeding rapidly between two points on that line, we could move through time. However, we are far from the light speed, or even “ludicrous” speed necessary for such travel. Until then, we are left in our limbo of present.

I believe it’s unfair to place sole blame of child abuse on Paterno. He was not the one responsible for it, but he did not stop it. Paterno ran that show; he could have had them erect ten statues of him on campus. As soon as he found out about wrongdoing to children, he should have ended it, because that is what you do when you have power to end suffering. But, anyone old enough to have moved past the powerful naiveté of the post teenage years knows that once you have power, you are more susceptible to misconduct. Look at politicians who harass, caress and sexualize the women around them. Look at priests who do the same to the alter boys around them. Look at the CEO’s of AIG or Lehman Brothers who duped their stockholders, but kept their jobs because they were in charge of hiring and firing. It takes a special kind of person to remain judicious and fair once given the keys to a kingdom.

I’m so upset by this scandal, and how a man who I used to watch (with great admiration) on Saturdays, all my life, could have had such indifference to one group of people, while having such misplaced dedication to another. He reminded me of my grandfather; he was such a goofy looking guy with his giant (hipster before hipster was fashionable) glasses, huge Italian nose and floodwater rolled khakis. Appearances can be deceiving. He lost his truth in the vacuum of fallacy that is modern college athletics. Division 1 football is a moneymaker, and once money reaches a certain priority, it is protected at all levels, at all costs. Although the good he did cannot be erased by what he failed to do, it is marred and scarred forever.

Today, I finished reading the biography of Steve “Crocodile Hunter” Irwin, written by his wife, Terri. I was always a fond fan of his shows, his Australian patois, his ceaseless energy, his complete love of all wildlife and his dedication to conservationism. I knew how the story ended, I knew almost all the events, but it was nice to get the inside version of how it happened. Throughout the book, I learned that Steve had premonitions of not making to age 40. He was committed to making each moment count. I cried when I got to the death section, even though I knew by the title it was coming. I tried to remind myself, here was a man who lived his life, how he wanted to, with pure energy and elan, and presumably had no regrets. It got me thinking.

I used to think I wanted to live my life with no regrets, but as I am learning—that is impossible. I regret not talking to this or that girl who passed me in the street. I regret not seeing the Musee D’Orsay. I regret not spending more time with my 3 deceased grandparents when they were alive. I totally regret not seeing Steve Irwin’s Australia Zoo when I passed through Brisbane in 2003. He might have been there and I might have seen him do a show in the “crocoseum,” his specially built gladiator ring to show off the big “salties.” Beside the Museum in Paris, I missed those chances. Regret is just another part of the anxiety of life, unavoidable at times. It is remorse we must avoid.

Steve Irwin won’t be remorseful for diving with those stingrays, he did it before; he also wrangled venomous snakes and fish, wrestled four-meter crocodiles, chased down emus, and climbed trees with orangutans. He did it for a living, and he knew he couldn’t last long with those odds stacked against him. He may regret leaving his young children and true love behind, but he loved them while he could. What early, untimely death isn’t filled with that stinging regret of lost time to give more love where it was needed? He died leaving his love spread as wide as the outback.

Paterno has a different culmination. He most certainly died filled with remorse. He was probably a good man, lost in that vacuum that supreme power can create. He probably let the regret of keeping Sandusky around bite into him every day until it became a cancerous mound of remorse. I know he was 85, and had lung cancer, but he died three months after the indictment of Sandusky. Could the regret have metastasized into a cancerous form of deathly remorse?

One of my favorite Beatles songs, “Within You, Without You,” written by George Harrison, has a line that seems apropos to this situation. “And to see you’re really only very small, and life flows on within you and without you. We were talking about the love that’s gone so cold and the people who gain the world and lose their soul.” Poor Joe definitely had the world of football in his hands: respect, awards, championships, and unbreakable records. He lost his caring, giving soul (the one that must have led him to coaching) in the process of reaching those dizzying heights of success.

The Dalai Lama understands people, and the human condition; he feels the flow of the universe in his veins. Steve Irwin understands animals this way. You can tell he actually believes that that cobra in his calloused hands is “gorgeous,” or that the thorny devil with her mottled brown spots and scaly exterior is truly a “pretty little bugga.” I have cried during every single “Crocodile Hunter” episode I’ve ever watched. At some point in his bush excursions, Steve would come upon a dying echidna or a kangaroo that was hit by a car, and you couldn’t help but be affected by Steve’s genuine concern for them. He would sit by them, stroking and consoling them, but realize they were too far-gone and tell the camera, “It’s too late, all we can do is stay here as long as we can and make them as comfortable as possible.” I remember one episode where there had been a huge bushfire due to drought conditions, and Steve and Terri ran around frantically collecting spiders from the burning charred desert landscape. He cared so much for the plight of wildlife, and it was contagious. Steve Irwin is a recognizable and legitimate hero. I don’t even want to think how let down I would have been to find out that Steve was arrested for allowing people at his zoo to sell crocodile skin for tacky shoes or shark fins for some overpriced soup.

Who is Penn State?

The abuse scandal at Penn State has new findings. Former FBI director, Louis Freeh, interviewed hundreds of people, went through millions of emails and came to the startling conclusion that Paterno, Spanier, Schultz and Curley, the four highest posts at State College, blatantly covered up Sandusky’s behavior, thereby making them culpable via sin of omission. Whatever minimal effort they may have put into alerting child safety officers or police, they didn’t solve the problem. Several boys were raped after the “four heads” learned of Sandusky’s deviant sexuality. They knew that to fire him, and bring criminal charges against the architect of “Linebacker U” would be accepting a deathblow to the football program and ultimately the university that was built through that same football revenue. They allowed Sandusky to retire in 1999, leaving him with keys to the Lasch building, a 170K$ severance payment, and “emeritus” status. This child predator was given a license to perpetrate his heinous sickness. I don’t believe the “four heads” knew exactly what was happening with their actions, which would be a malicious act against the children who were harmed. I do believe they wanted to sweep as much as they could under the rug, hoping nobody would ever check for dust.

The culture of capitalist America, the idea of making and selling your brand can be a successful idea. However, it rarely comes without a cost. Nike sells 100$ shoes, made for quarters in sweatshops in Indonesia. Martha Stewart listened to stock tips outside the general knowledge and served time for it. Their brands were damaged but not ruined. Penn State’s brand of hard-nosed football and strong defense, pioneered by the legendary JoePa, is now a brand that is showing the detrimental effects of what protecting that brand over natural morality can do. I’m wondering if PSU can come out of this.

I’m becoming rather numb to the ridiculousness of modern life. The mortgage scandal of 2008, the lies of explanation for the Iraq War, this new LIBOR problem that I definitely haven’t wrapped my mind around are all part of rich or powerful people thinking, while isolated in their own warped worlds, that something is a good idea and in their best interest. People will always act according to their best interest. Bankers thought they could make a pile of money on credit-default loan gambling, Bush thought he could make a name for himself as “the great liberator” of Iraq, ensuring a 2nd term, and I’m certain LIBOR is about some wealthy idiots trying to make more money than they already have. Paterno probably thought he was protecting his image by hiding his knowledge and sticking his head in the sand. The point is that people are flawed individuals. Sandusky is flawed, Paterno is flawed, government, banking, even society is flawed. We are all imperfect and trying to live our own way. Sandusky, in many of his interviews, admits to naked “horseplay” with showering pre-teens the way someone might admit to eating sardines, they know it might sound weird to others but it’s normal to them and they like it.

It’s a terrible story; it’s a story that should never have existed. It’s a story that could have ended back in the 20th century when the patriarch of Pennsylvania found out that his creepy eyed, vampire toothed LB coach was accused of sexual impropriety with children and removed him from the PSU program in all forms. Granted, it’s hard to see someone you’ve known as a friend to be such a pervert, but sometimes people pull their wool over you. JoePa’s responsibility was to make a good football team; he did, with two national titles and over 400 wins. His responsibility was to make sure his student-athletes graduated from school, he did, PSU has the highest graduation rate of any major D-1 football program at 89%. He also has a responsibility to set a good example, which he did not do. All the millions of fundraising dollars for the campus, all the wins, all the bowl games do not forgive this oversight of justice. People are furious on ESPN, people are furious who read the Freeh Report, people are furiously writing about a dead man who has never given his complete side of the story. Joe’s son, Jay Paterno, when interviewed, came across in a rather stuttering, lawyer-speak version of “Let’s wait until all the facts are in,” type of manner. Joe will never get to speak and that may be a good or bad thing. We are left with only questions to his part in this mess, the worst collegiate scandal we have ever seen. He had a long, prolific, honorable sporting career, but as two wrongs don’t make a right, two rights can’t undo a wrong.

Penn State students, who rioted back in 2011, after the unceremonious firing of their hero, look quite foolish in retrospect. The video, only nine months old, looks so tragic to see smart, energetic young people filming and cheering with extreme delight in the fatuous mind of herd mentality. Screaming their chants in confused rage while flipping news vans interspersed with support for Paterno was only an emotional response to an emotional subject. They were wrong to blindly support based on faith. Would those students ever come in such numbers to the aid of one of their teachers, or priests who were fired by phone? He was the face of Penn State and by firing him in such a hasty manner it was like the students were told all of Penn State is to blame. It is important to remember that Paterno was not the perpetrator of the crimes, merely a subdued ally.

We are Penn State is the rallying call of “Happy Valley.” They should remain so. The good people who teach, coach and run that school should feel no shame for their institution. It was merely a failure of that institution’s former leaders to stop this ball from gaining the momentum it has now accumulated. Unfortunately, this hideous ball of undeterred child molestation is now rolling over the entire university. Criminal and civil cases will be part of the campus news for the next 20 years, if not longer; and that is if the school can handle the negative press that will be thrust upon it, not to mention the financial strain inherent in such scandalous occasions.

Having dozens of friends and family who graduated from the great institution of Penn State, I can only imagine the pain they feel seeing their alma mater being dragged through such a muddy, disgusting road. I can only imagine the pain of Sandusky’s family knowing he was so troubled and injured mentally. I can never imagine the pain of the children whose lives are forever changed after their encounters with that grey-haired, twitching wretch of worm excrement. Lives, careers, legacies, universities and ultimately sports, will be changed now.

I have long believed that morals, all morals, are subjective. There is a long list of things you can say are intrinsically wrong, yet the prisons are filled with those who commit those very same crimes. Do they all believe what they did was wrong, not all of them. We all must act according to our own morality judgments. We must all be judged by our actions. If we judge on conscious action, we must also judge on conscious non-action. There is only what is done and what is not done. Joe Paterno, in one chapter of weakness and egoism, set among a lifetime of strength and charity, falls under the not done column.