Wednesday, November 5, 2014

So the Raiders had another terrible loss, this time to Texas, but it was momentous for one reason: a third-string quarterback named Vinny Testaverde got to play. Now I'll be the first person to admit, I don't know the whole story, I'm not even sure this was the first time he played. But when I heard his name, I said, I've heard that name before, and sure enough, his father was once a quarterback for the Cleveland Browns, among other teams. Like father, like son. Son gets on the Tech team, walks on, gets to play quarterback. I wish him a successful career.

I almost went over to the Cowboys for a while there. I come from a territory where it was pretty routine to hate the Cowboys, not only if you were from the DC area, but also if you were from the vast NY area, everyone hated the Cowboys, and they hated them even more if they won or were successful more than a couple seasons in a row. You'd see them every Thanksgiving, for example, and they were an example, to me, of something you didn't especially want to see with your turkey. But hey, down here I find out they're God's team. And, they have a nice blue star and everyone wears that star. And, they're kind of middling, they blow it a lot, they are definitely not the Man U of football. So I begin to soften up, and say, if I take on the Cowboys, then I'll have two teams the Cowboys and the Indians, the Indians being the number one team on account of I love baseball, and I was born in Cleveland. Being born in Cleveland, I've taken on all the teams, Browns, Cavs, Indians, whatever, and in the end, I decided to stick with them, because, for what it's worth, doesn't matter if you have Jonny Football, or Bernie Kosar, or what. If you're a Browns fan, you stick with the Browns, good or bad. No Cowboys for me.

Now the Tech team, that's a different story. I work for Tech, I wear the red and black everywhere, I'm going to be for them on the weekend when Texas comes to town. People wear orange for Hallowe'en, and I said to them, how do we know you're not for Texas? Different kind of orange, they say, Texas Longhorn orange is kind of burnt orange, dark orange, whereas Halloween glorifies a kind of brighter orange. The Longhorns apparently weren't playing their best; they're not so good this year, but at least they weren't as horrible as we were. But what happened? Maybe our first two quarterbacks got injured, or just got exhausted. maybe they got the wind taken out of their sails, is how we used to say it.

What surprises me is the way Lubbock lives and dies for this stuff. People notice and care, who's quarterback, who's injured, what are our chances for any of our last games, do we really have a chance against Oklahoma, etc. Maybe some people have moved on and taken on bigger issues, like how to get dinner tonight, but for many people, it's a big deal. This is bye week. So, the paper is full of how we'll reconsider, move things around, practice a lot, etc. Nothing is happening. We get to watch all the other college football games this weekend. And the Cowboys, of course. The Cowboys are doing ok, apparently. Maybe they have a chance. Tech certainly doesn't.

You can be pretty bad, and still get a bowl game. That happened the first year we were here. Tech was bad, but it got into some bowl, and won, and everyone was in a pretty good mood all during the spring and summer when it seemed like the team was getting better, and had hope, and had a chance. I don't think we'll be in such a good mood this year. We won't even make it into a bowl.

Unless, of course, Vinny Testaverde catches fire. You figure, he grew up with football, his father was in the Hall of Fame (didn't win too many games, but racked up pretty good stats?)...anyway, what if he just does really well? I'd say, there's always a chance. It's his chance to go pro, and he'll want to. So I think, on some level, he's got the ability too look at that chance coldly, and rise to the occasion. There's hope.

So says the perpetual Browns/Indians/Cavs fan, who has seen season after season of disappointment.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

it happens everywhere

Oklahoma St.: Misconduct allegations 'unfounded' but 3 possible Level II violations found, Fox Sports

OSU-SI timeline: A look at how the Sports Illustrated investigation went from magazine cover to NCAA ruling, Tulsa World

Oklahoma State football: Sports Illustrated's dark cloud dissipates for Joe DeForest, The Oklahoman

Oklahoma State players arrested after falling asleep in drive-thru, Sports Illustrated

stillwater runs deep

I've become somewhat obsessed with Oklahoma State recently, not so much because they beat us, as they always seem to do, but more because they were cleared of all charges, by the NCAA, relating back to last year or the year before, when I first got here, that they'd done all kinds of inappropriate things with recruits like give them free call-girls etc.

Now this was the racket. T. Boone Pickens, an eccentric billionaire, had already given them hundreds of millions to spend on the football team, and it didn't matter; he'd given hundreds of millions more to the school itself so the library wouldn't go wanting for books. These hundreds of millions, of course, they spent recruiting Texan kids to come up to Stillwater and then turn around and beat those Texas teams where all their friends had gone to play football. There was a serious grudge any time an Okie team played a Texas team and they play big and rough and everyone knows this is serious business in both places. So, if you're good at this stuff, and you're able and willing, they'll court you big-time and you can come up, have a free education Oklahoma-style, whale on those Texas boys, and nobody'll be any the wiser. Somebody told the NCAA, obviously some sore loser, so now they have to spend a couple million more trying to get everyone to shut up and especially let people know this kind of stuff happens at every school, they've all got a few million when it comes to getting a better coach or making sure the NCAA boys are happy.

Meanwhile back in Texas, we're like, how come these boys keep beating us every time, we need to raise $800 million for football only, not to forget the library of course, but it's time we can compete ourselves for our own Texas boys and make sure that coming here is at least as attractive to them as going to Stillwater or some such place. Now it's true, as they say, everyone is giving these football players stuff, free cars to use, free hookers, night on the town, whatever. That might look a little different in Lubbock than Stillwater, or Austin or Fort Worth or wherever, but the key word is free and remember it's a four-year deal, by the time you're done you go pro and then you have a few million of your own, provided of course you still have a collarbone and interior fibula. That's your job. You work out, take care of yourself, take whatever you need to take to make sure the pain goes away and come the weekend, you can get out there and bash some head.

Remember they do this stuff at every school. They're all in competition for the best players. This means making class look easy and the education look valuable, the time available to practice and work out and live a little, whatever. So this Ok-State cornerback was passed out in the drive-through of the Whataburger, 4 am the other day, and they finally released him even though their other cornerbacks are injured, they have to look to the NCAA like, we're following the rules now, we promised, we're not going to tolerate any of this night-on-the-town wildness that somehow ends up in charges and lawyers in court eating up whatever's left of that four hundred million or whatever. You going to mess around, get caught, stay up all night during football season, you're out of here. This is serious business, this football, and we don't need any of this crap.

chto deliot (what to do?)

Lubbock is the most boring city in the world, agreed my Turkish student, who is from Istanbul, one of the busiest most historic cities in the world, full of ancient Turkish art and museums, and the loot from the Ottoman Empire, and all the previous empires back to when it was Constantinople. No, of course Lubbock is not Istanbul, it's only been around for a few years, and besides, it was a cowboy's town, never spent any time fixing up the facades and making it appear like some fancy European capital. In fact it's kind of the opposite of that, it prefers to have no pretense whatsoever, and it took them years to even allow for any public art, or pretty carvings on bridges or murals or anything. Just wouldn't pay for it. it has wide avenues, so that when the sun is shining, which is most of the time, you couldn't see most of that stuff anyway. It's only when the sun goes down that you can even see any of the rest of it.

It actually does ok with parks and such, lots of city parks and pools and open areas where people can enjoy real grass and walk around in the open with the nice cool breeze blowing, blue sky, freshness and lots of kids and dogs everywhere. Lately the police have been swooping down on these parks and giving people with unleashed dogs these enormous $200 tickets but I suppose if these people can really control their dogs as well as they say they can, they should just tell the dog to get lost, of course it can outrun the policeman, while they maintain firmly that the dog doesn't belong to them, it's just a stray dog that happens to follow their orders. It's easier to say that a dog that has run away is not yours, since they can't catch him and read his collar anyway, than to maintain that some dog which is in your arms but not on a leash, is actually fairly easily controlled in spite of the law, and the various prejudices the police carry around with respect to them, as if they poop everywhere, and bite kids' faces, and attack other dogs. This is a current dispute in Tech Terrace Park, where they swoop down regularly, and all kinds of people are bit with fairly stiff tickets. We runners and walkers occasionally step in warm, squishy piles left right by the sidewalk there, not picked up even though someone has gone to the trouble to provide them with free plastic sacks.

It's not boring if you know everyone, and have some idea how much fun people really have, mostly by going out to the mountains, or over to the sea, or out to California or Florida in their free time, with their cotton money or their oil money. They are actually aggressively, assertively fun-loving, and don't mind extremes of weather, or the oppressive traffic of the city, or the fact that a few hundred new houses are going up every month. This is a city expanding,

to the people who live here, it's beautiful, because they can drive around, and they know everyone, like they know somebody who has a pool, and someone who happens to have a boat or some kind of cool thing like a truck to go out and spin mod and have really good time. this kind of person objects when some survey done by a couple of yankees who never set foot in the place, really rubs them wrong, and they don't feel like they should have to explain why we don't have all this neon and clubs and the kind of dazzling stuff you see all over the big cities. Yeah, sure, it is what it is, with a lot of churches, and it has a lot of fast food restaurants, and it comes up first on these dudes' list, and in fact we who live here day in and day out do ok, it's really friendly and besides, who needs a whole city full of facades? This place doesn't have a pretentious bone in its body.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Woke up to learn that the Red Raiders had lost but played fairly respectably, in Oklahoma State. But what, I found out while I was using the bathroom at the Market Street, their quarterback was injured in the process.

Travesty! As a loyal Red Raider fan, I hate it when we have to run with some stringer for a while while this poor lad heals. But another side of me says, another victim of the crunch. This game wipes out more bodies than ISIS.

OK State - aren't they the ones who got a few hundred million to blow on their football program, so they took it all, and went about recruiting kids from Texas, and offered them the moon, and they even got caught, got their wrists slapped by the NCAA because they'd offered some stuff illegally to recruits? Well it really rankles us here in Texas, given the fact that they're using the money to grab these Texas boys and turn them against their own home state. But, one person told me, when it happens, hey, every school is doing something like that, they just were stupid enough to get caught.

Every school? I suppose they have to compete. If one school offers recruits a free trip all the way up here by plane, we'll pick you up, give you this and that while you're here, some of it might be bawdy or memorable or whatever, hopefully you'll come here and pound heck out of those Texas boys you used to call friends. Then when their quarterback comes up here, we'll crunch him.

Not that these injuries are on purpose. They teach everyone to tackle so it doesn't hurt anyone. But things happen, we all know that. Bodies only bend certain ways, sometimes we come at ya from some other way. It's survival of the fittest. Injuries put these teams down, set them back, you only notice it when it's a quarterback, but it happens to them all. A little bit of attrition. All to feed the insatiable appetite of American television.

Somehow I've become a little cynical. But I still wear my Tech hat, especially on Fridays.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

special election

Could not believe the results of the SD28 election last night: Charles Perry 53%, Jodey Arrington 30%, Wortham (the Democrat) 13%, two more Republicans and a Libertarian, all under 2%.

Actually I could believe it, as I've come to believe lots of wild stuff, but I couldn't explain it. Republicans divide their vote four ways, and a Dem can't even come close? The hard right, which could be said to be, in large part, fundamentalists and/or tea party, apparently unites behind Perry? While the loyal mainstream Bush Republicans, represented by Arrington, gets less than a third?

From the Democratic perspective, I can say that clearly Democrats are voting for Republicans just so they can have some influence on the election. But, in that case, I would imagine they voted for Arrington, who is the more liberal of the two clear front-runners. And if they did, that says even less about the strength of the traditional Bush establishment Republicans. Or, the Dems just stay home, unless they have someone like Obama (or presumably Wendy Davis) on the ticket. Wortham doesn't have a chance, so they stay home?

Then I look at the 53/30 number again. OK, SD 28 covers 50 counties, most of it is ranch country (or cotton-growing? oil? I'm not sure) - and West Texas is very conservative. The whole area was roughly 70-30 for Romney, with some counties, like Lubbock, more like 68-32, others more like 74-26. Voting for Romney didn't show how truly conservative they were, but it's possible they've become more conservative, or they have some serious issue that they wanted to be represented with, in a more conservative way. But here are some more possibilities: that they really really liked Charles Perry. Or, that they really really distrusted Jodey Arrington, or policies he professed.

But here's another theory. There was a lot of outside money in this campaign, and most of it went to Perry. Where was it from? I have no idea. Presumably it was from in the state, but not in SD 28. Presumably it was from someone who would benefit greatly from a Charles Perry victory. And presumably, it worked. Perry bought television ads, sent lots of mail, poured the money in. A friend of mine received lots of mail with guns all over it, all pushing Perry. Did the NRA care about this election? The oil people? Or the chemical industry? Apparently the Senate is evenly divided, and it was an important race for the rest of the state. So who opens their wallet in this case?

Recently, upon hearing that Kliff Kingsbury would receive $3 million a year for many years, I remarked that he might be the richest guy in Lubbock. Not even close, somebody said; there's a lot of money here. So people are making more than three million a year? and they're doing what with the money?

I have no answers; I'm new here. If I'm wrong about any of this stuff, fill me in. At the moment, I feel somewhat tricked. I voted Democrat on the assumption that it would matter. As it turns out, it might not have mattered no matter who I voted for. I'd like to know why people do what they do; where this money is going, in the district, and why it matters so much who represents SD 28.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

of zoos & critter-fests

I think cities feel like they need a place for kids to stare at the hugeness of an elephant, and somehow it's all worth it to get that moment when a kid reaches out and actually pets some horse or goat or whatever, and feels that kinship with the animal world. The animals, for their part, must live in captivity, and do as their trainers say, but they eat pretty well, don't have to fight for their food or worry about predators, and somehow seem to know that it's all about reaching out to the kids and they dutifully are pretty nice.

At the Science Spectrum / city Critter-fest there was a tiger show, a crocodile/alligator show, horse and elephant rides, even maybe a camel ride, and lots of other attractions, so it was about as close as the city of Lubbock could get to actually having a zoo for a few days. I was happy with it, because, even though they soaked us parents every time we turned around, and even the animals recognized and responded to the temporary nature of the crowded quarters, everyone did what they were supposed to: the animals gave the kids rides, and let themselves be petted, and everyone came out with a better sense of what animals are really like.

When you get right down to it, an animal will just pee or poop right where it is, because somebody is always there to clean it up, and it's one of the perks of living in captivity and letting kids pet you all the time. To the kids, who are right at the level where it all seems to fall right near them, it might be the most amazing thing about the animals, besides the general smell of hay and animal breath. In the tiger show, once, one of the tigers let out a mighty roar; I was really amazed. In the end I didn't know if they permitted that routinely or even if they encouraged it once in a while. In general they led the tigers around by a stick but the stick had raw meat out at the end of it, and you knew that the tiger was a little depressed to be in this huge cage, but then, he had plenty of raw meat all the time. It's a living, eh?

I obviously have mixed feelings about the whole thing, but I'll say this: I'm not sure the alternatives are all that much better. I think these days they figure that in order to be humane they have to have an enormous space for the animals before they even start, so a permanent zoo would have to be out of town or at the very least take up most of some park. And people like me aren't crazy about permanent open-air jails for creatures that have to be locked up at night, that require permanent guides and regular employees who feed them and, every once in a while, fall in the moat.

But there's another option: a permanent buffalo prairie, somewhere just outside of town, with a place where people could come up to certain animals and get that moment of recognition, where they could peddle their wildlife preservation schemes and people could relate to the natural world in the kind of way that they used to around here, by watching buffaloes get up a good speed along a wides stretch of grass. This of course would require a huge commitment of land and money by the state, but would at least be feasible, and would run itself with very little upkeep.

When I lived in Kansas they had one of these across the border in Missouri, a place called Prairie State Park, in or near Lamar. The locals were mad for several reasons. One was that the local tax base was eroded and that put pressure on the schools to survive; these were schools that had trouble surviving anyway for lack of kids. A huge chunk of land carved out of the countryside, and put to buffalo, and there's that many fewer kids. But the other problem was brucelosis; the buffalo got it and gave it to the local cows, maybe? I can't remember the problem exactly, but it was something like that. It was kind of like the wolves at Yellowstone: actually preserving, or rebuilding a natural environment was very threatening to people who had basically devoted their lives to taming that environment.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

e pluribus haiku 2014

e pluribus haiku 2014 is out. 875 haiku, better packaging, more complete. I'm really proud of it. click on the picture to order it through amazon or by kindle. my intention was to publish on July 4, but if you think about it, the season is already over by then. The season is now. so pass this along, and celebrate the diversity of this country, its 50 unique states (and the District of Columbia); and the expression, through poetry, of a traveler's view.

Friday, February 21, 2014

If you don't mind, we would appreciate your being respectful to the members of the opposing team...

It was what, the Oklahoma State basketball game, where the "Super-fan" went overboard, and the OSU player shoved him, and got a three-game suspension. Shame on everyone! What's up with the bad behavior?

Apparently bad behavior is somewhat of a tradition here; the guy had been doing it for years, it was well known that he did it, his reputation preceded him. And they let him do it because, he paid big money, he was a "Super-fan," and they just don't like telling people to shut up here. It's a free country. You can say what you want, generally.

Now I'm sure I've offended just about everyone already, so I'll just keep on going. Not only Bobby Knight, but also most of the Tech sports establishment, including a good friend of mine, directly defended this guy as a really nice guy who just apparently lost his cool, because he gets so involved in the game. And, they said it was impossible that he used a racial slur then or anytime, or meant any of his insults as a racial slur, because he wasn't that kind of guy. OK. And that he feels bad about the whole thing, and has even stopped going to games for the remainder of the season.

Whoa now, that's what seems like the tragedy to me. Here they're losing the business of a loyal fan and a "nice guy" all because what, they were never able to tell him when he'd gone over the line? seems to me, a couple of words would have been all that it would take in this situation.

People here were pretty quick to blame the player, and ok, I can see how he was at fault, and he lost his cool, and he shouldn't have pushed anyone. I don't have an argument with that, he was at fault, he shouldn't have pushed anyone.

But Tech should make a venue where people are respected, and that's the norm, and if you use a foul mouth, you have to go to some other place, because we don't act that way, because it makes our team and our stadium and our people look bad. If that wasn't stated at some point, maybe it should have been.

Basketball is the new rage on campus. Kids are going to the games. Maybe it's because it's so hard, or so expensive, to go to the football game, or they've made it so you have to behave. Whatever the reason, they're filling up the arena. And that's nice, because our team is good, and tries hard out there. Also, basketball doesn't give you concussions, and is generally easier on your legs, knees and ankles than football. So they're not paying money to watch people get killed - and that should be encouraged. If we have to be subtle about this new "politeness" idea, which, I admit, has never really caught on, then we have to improve general manners among a steadily growing and younger crowd which is sure to have some pretty good & wild times here in its near future.

More power to 'em, I say. The time is now.