We stand…

It appears that we are once again entering a period in America where being an old fashioned patriot has fallen out of favor. Celebrities and “opinion makers” are lining up to tell us how awful things are and why we should be ashamed of ourselves.

Here’s the thing, though. I don’t tend to base my opinions on whatever the cool kids tell me I should be thinking. I didn’t when I was a kid myself and I sure as hell don’t intend to start now that I’m a thinking adult. I’ll form my opinions based on my own experiences, observations and ability to reason. The opinion makers can say what they want.

I grew up as the son of a teacher and a cop during the long slide of King Coal into a faltering business model. It wasn’t a bad childhood. We waded in the neighboring creeks, swung from hillside grape vines, and pedaled bikes from one end of town to the other and back again. There was even a store where you could buy candy for a penny a piece while trains hauling the last of the Big Vein coal out of the valley rattled past just 20 feet away.

That’s the place where I learned that we stand up when the national anthem plays or the American flag goes past. We stand because of the ideals that flag and that song represent. We stand because it’s the respectful thing to do. We stand because that’s what our parents taught us.

In this house, I will always stand. I will stand because it’s the respectful thing to do. I will stand because this country has allowed me to go further and see more than any kid from down the Crick could reasonably expect. I’ll stand because I am a patriot and my love for this country goes far deeper than any passing celebrity cause or presidential posturing.

I can’t make anyone else stand up. You’re well within your rights to sit there like a lump. You can sit there all day and all night and I’ll respect your right to do so… but there isn’t a power in heaven or on earth that can make me respect, support, or in any way agree with the position you’re taking.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. No paper towels. I’m all for environmental responsibility where it makes sense. I recycle. I’m replacing all the light bulbs in my house with LEDs. The new water heater I installed is ridiculously efficient (and has the price tag to match). Some things, though, are beyond the pale. I know that keeping old fashioned paper towels in your public restrooms is a hassle. They’re expensive, they end up all over the floor, and they become bags and bags of trash to be disposed of… even knowing that, I just don’t care. All I want to do after taking a wiz is wash my hands and be able to dry them. The underpowered, barely functional “hot air dryer” just doesn’t cut it since I don’t have 43 minutes to thoroughly dry my hands each time I used the facilities. Public restrooms are an unfortunate necessity. I don’t expect them to be gold plated but for the love of Pete, I’d like to be able to dry my hands.

2. The demand side. Given my predisposition towards fairly conservative economic principles I can safely be called something of a supply sider. Watching the US Coast Guard show off the nearly half billion dollars wort of cocaine and heroin interdicted last month, though, I’m not sure the who “drug thing” is something that we can fight principally from the supply side. As long as there’s a demand, the suppliers are going to find a means and method of supplying that demand – at an increasingly high cost on both sides. I’m not enough of a libertarian to think that flat out legalization of everything is a good idea, but it increasingly strikes me that to get after the issue with drugs means going after it on the demand side. Pouring increasingly large amounts of money into chasing the supply would seem to only garner continuingly middling results. I have no idea what the answer to the demand side is – treatment, sure, that will work in some cases. Start letting the addicts drop dead, or what I like to cheerily think of as letting Darwin have his due? OK, maybe it’s hard medicine but perhaps best in the long run if it means that subset of the population is no longer thieving and whoring and begging, which might help alleviate the impression that every city and small town in the country is well along the process of turning into a filth ridden hell hole.

3. The NFL. Stories are popping up on a number of news sites about the ratings hit the NFL has taken this year. Some sources are blaming the weather, others the rise of “activist” players. As someone who hasn’t watched a professional football game from start to finish since the late 1990s, I don’t really have a dog in the fight, but I can make a few observations. First and foremost, the NFL is a ratings driver. It’s not in danger of going out of business any time soon. With that said, the league would be well served to remember that despite the outward appearance of a nation of fierce team loyalists, the product they offer is entertainment and it’s subject to the same market forces that influence every other competitor out there trying to put their hands on viewer’s wallets. There has probably never been a time when there are more and better entertainment options available to the average American consumer than we have today. The fact that a game run by billionaires, played by millionaires, and marketed to the great swath of Americans who think of themselves as middle class is losing some of its grip on the market shouldn’t in any way be surprising. A good first step in bringing fans back into the fold would seem to be to making sure the paid performers don’t offend their viewers by dragging politics into what would otherwise be a nice mindless Sunday’s entertainment. Don’t put a stick in the eye of the people who you want to hand over enormous sums of money feels like it should be Rule #1.

Spectacle…

Since I don’t yet live in a cave sequestered from human contact, I switched over to the game in time to see the halftime show. Say what you’d like about Americans in general, but I have to admit we put on pointless spectacle better than any other group of people I know. Most other places on the planet seem content with having a sporting event, a concert, or a fireworks display at completely different times.. but not us, my fellow Americans. No, not us. We want it all crammed into one very telegenic package so we can consume it all at once.

I’m not at all sure if that makes me proud or fearful for the future of the republic.

Not a fan…

It was hard to miss the “breaking news” today that the US Patent Office vacated multiple trademarks owned by the historic Washington football franchise. I’m not a fan of the Washington Redskins. In fact I can’t remember the last time I watched a football game from Washington-Redskins-Logostart to finish. It was probably sometime in the 90s. Fortunately, this post is only tangentially related to football because it provides the backdrop for the point I really want to make tonight.

There are a lot of appeals between now and anything that might resemble a name change for the team, but if I were Dan Snyder, I’m pretty sure my plan of attack might go something like this: 1) Halt the sale of all items bearing the Redskins team logo; 2) Discontinue all team related activities – shuttering their training facility, FedEx Field, and offices; 3) Inform the NFL of my intention to sit out the 2014 season rather than being forced by the mob to do business as “Generic Washington, DC Football Franchise.” But then again, I’m the kind of guy who will cheerfully slice off my nose to spite my face.

Look, if you’re offended by the use of the name Redskins, then by all means avail yourself of the opportunity to not purchase a ticket. Show up at the stadium on game day with your protest sign. Send a letter. Do whatever it is you feel you need to do to make your voice heard… but in my final analysis, I get a cold chill every time some random agency of government is allowed to tell us what words are offensive, unacceptable, or otherwise “not nice.” I don’t want government within a country mile of making decisions about what words any one of us can or can’t use, from team owners to town drunks. Words are just words. They’re not imbued with any magical meaning or significance until we chose to give them that meaning.

I have a hunch that if Redskins was really an “offensive” term, we wouldn’t need government to save us from it. It would be reflected by the thousands of empty seats at every home game when when fans were too mortified to show up. I’m not sure when we came up with this idea that we should be able to get through life without ever being offended or having our little feelings hurt, but for my money it’s done us more harm than good.

For the first (and probably last) time in my life, I say this without a hint of sarcasm: Hail to the Redskins!

The draft…

SSSI was scrolling through Twitter last night when I ran across a tweet from someone I follow commenting on watching the draft on television… Which my brain immediately processed as The Draft. The one in which numbers are assigned and men between 18-26 are inducted into the military. The draft that was never part of my personal life experience as it ended years before I was born. Rather than look for a some kind of draft that a normal person might be expected to watch in 2014, my brain rolled low def news footage from the early 1970s.

Apparently, the tweet in question had something to do with the National Football League. Who knew?

The big game…

This past weekend was Homecoming weekend in the little part of the world where I grew up. For anyone who grew up within earshot of Cumberland, Maryland the cross-town rivalry between the city’s two high schools is the stuff of local legend. Without rhapsodizing it, the homecoming game is a big hairy deal.

I don’t hail from the mighty city of Cumberland, of course, so I’ve always watched their version of homecoming with something of a bemused look on my face. You know, in the way that people watch others who are taking something just a little too seriously. But it seems to make them happy, so no harm, no foul.

I’m not going to lie, the idea of homecoming being a big deal is a concept that eludes me. I graduated from high school in 1996, went to college, and promptly moved away. Not long after that, my alma mater, along with a few other schools, went defunct. They ceased to be. They are no more. It became a dead parrot. In its place they opened a shiny new school that presumably is better equipped to meet student needs. I say God bless. Seventeen years after graduation, it’s not exactly like I spend a lot of time pining away for my junior year locker. In fact, writing this post has accounted for more time pondering high school than I’ve spent in total since I walked across the stage to get my diploma.

I have great memories of high school. My closest friends today are the guys who were my closest friends then. I’m pretty sure that’s the kind of thing that only really happens in a small town. Maybe it’s because I moved away, but I don’t lose any sleep about what’s happening at or happened to the school I graduated from the better part of two decades ago.

Maybe homecoming is an anachronism – a throwback to a time when you graduated, stayed put, and the social life of your town revolved largely around the comings and goings of the local school. Maybe it’s different if you have kids and it does provide some kind of continuity from generation to generation. Maybe it’s different if your school is something that exists as more than an ever fading memory. That’s a lot of maybes involved in a concept I clearly don’t grasp.

I guess I’ve just never felt the need for a special weekend designated for homecoming. Whenever I’ve felt the compulsion to stroll down memory lane or stir up the ghosts of the past, I just go do it on my own accord. No parade or big game needed. Then again, crowds always make me nervous so it could just be my inner hermit talking out loud.