September 12, 2014

The Game

There are a lot of different reasons to think about and comment on the Ray Rice issue.  One might have opinions one way or another on the man himself and his actions; on the actions of the League and the Commissioner, on violence against women overall, on why Mrs. Rice stays or doesn't stay.

The brilliance and wretchedness of instant social media, is that every Tom, Dick and Harry can have an opinion and put that opinion out there for all to see.  Myself included.

My issue with all of this comes from a slightly different place, perhaps, than many. I've written on here before about my dad - one of my closest friends, thankfully, and also an NFL Hall of Famer. The NFL has been in his life for 48 years now.  It has been in my life for its entirety.  My mother and sisters and I "grew up" in the League.  You name it, it touched upon our lives in every way possible, and it dictated, to some extent, who we all have become as individuals.  Good individuals, if I dare say so myself. 

I think that's why today - out of ALL the stuff that is out there, being said, being implied, being argued and sworn over - the issue that nicked me the sharpest, was the statement that Janay Rice herself put out on her Instagram account.  In addition to being upset that her life was too public- a sentiment I actually feel for her on, (despite the fact that she chose to lament this on SOCIAL MEDIA) she was also very angry about how "unfair" it was that something her husband had worked his ass off for all of his life had been taken away.

How else can I say this, but welcome to the fucking real world, Mrs. Rice.  Actions have consequences, no matter how much we might love someone, and frankly, no matter how hard they may have worked to get to a certain point.  They screw up, there might be a price to pay.  Life is about choices, and your husband made a choice that night, as did you, and since then many others have joined in, and - well - here we are today.  It's hard for me to understand why you're struggling with that, but whatever.  That aside, what really annoyed me the most was that your comments, in my own humble opinion, spit on the hard work, determination, sacrifice and GOOD CHOICES of all the other NFL players, past and present, who didn't punch their wives in a public elevator; the ones who worked just as hard, if not harder, to get to that level as Ray Rice did.   My dad and many of his teammates and friends being some of those men.

It is not an easy achievement, the world of professional sports. It is not all happy and cool and pretty and sparkly like TV wants you to believe.  It is a hardcore, brutal business.  I think, in part, that's why we celebrate it.  We're Americans - we celebrate grit and resiliency and resolve. And it is a truly special and hard-won achievement to have your name on a jersey.  90% of the guys who play football will never even get CLOSE to a shot at making a professional team.  Of the 10% who do, half those guys won't actually make the team or if they do, won't see much playing time.   Mrs. Rice is correct in that to get to that level, the focus and sweat and strain is immeasurable.  Having said that though, I don't believe that excuses unprofessional  and unbecoming behavior.  Side-stepping the "politics" of this situation, the fact remains that the man punched his finance and knocked her unconscious and then dragged her body out of the elevator by her hair.  For the world to see.   He disrespected himself and all of his hard work.  He disrespected her.  His team.  His teammates.  The League.  The fans.

He made a choice, and choices have consequences.

Look - was it fair that your husband was terminated?  Honestly - fuck fair, Mrs. Rice.  What does that even mean, anyway? Fair. Life isn't fair. The world isn't fair. Unfair shit happens to every single one of us all the time.  Fair is a personal viewpoint - and usually, a somewhat selfish one.  How about instead asking the very tough question of is it "right" that your husband was terminated?  For me, the answer is yes.  Plain and simple.  Listen - did he work hard to become a professional football player? Yes he did.  Can I empathize with you on that point? I sure can.  My father, who now hobbles with his broken and arthritic hands, his knees that he's had more than 10 surgeries on, and his hips that are twisted, not to mention the numerous other injuries he's suffered, can empathize too.  He worked very hard to get to that level and to endure in the sport.  No one is denying the hard work and dedication of Ray Rice.  But did your husband pretty much shit on all of that?  Yeah, Mrs. Rice, he did. Time to own up to that.  Whether you like it or not, he did.  He made a choice.  Sadly for you both, in this day and age, a very public choice.

And this time - finally, and I believe rightly so, there was a price to pay.

You and  your husband are unfortunately going to deal with the ramifications of your choices that night, for a very, very long time.  I don't envy you, and I personally wish you well.  You will need support.  You will need faith.  But you will also need to move on, Mrs. Rice. You need to move past the dishonor and disrespect.  We all do.  We need to stop commenting and stop whining and stop focusing on all the bad, on all the politics of the game, and instead see if we can find our way back to the good in professional football, and in the majority of men who play the game. 

Because there is good, Mrs. Rice.  You know there is. I do too. Ray probably did as well, at least at one point.  I look at my dad and see it clear as day.  I look at the letters he gets from kids who tried and didn't quite get there, and see the things they say about how he inspired them to be better - not just at football, but at life, and I see it.  I watch and listen to him and his teammates as well as opponents from his days on the field, see how much they are giving back to the communities that supported them, and to organizations and charities that need them, and I see it.  I see it in the eyes of men older than myself, who when they learn who my dad is, tell me their favorite story about him - and it is amazing how many people have stories, and how many of those stories are based on public actions my dad took, once upon a time.  I don't hear stories about punches and violence and drugs and disrespect.  I hear stories about how he came to their kids' football game and helped them fix their stance, or how they saw him at a school athletic event and he was telling kids to stay in school, and I hear stories about how once on TV, they saw him get called for a penalty that later was reviewed and determined to have been a bad call.  But he never argued, he never complained, he just kept going and at the end of the game, he shook the refs' hand.

There is GOOD in professional football, Mrs. Rice. There is good in all those men who sweat and toil and break their backs trying to make it, for the love of the game, and their families, and their communities, and their dreams.  You've already had to go through a lot, and I'm very sorry for that, but please do not disrespect the majority of players (and yourself) any further with the continued whining about how this isn't fair.   Be better than that, please? 

Be better than that.

July 23, 2014

That Moment....

Ah - that moment.  That moment when you realize you are no longer "young" and if nothing else, you are no longer interested in acting young.  As I always suspected, it was indeed a moment. And I thought it would be harder to accept.  I thought when it came I would be sad, possibly freaking out a little, desperate to cling to my youth and my simple views on the world.  I thought I'd wail and moan and deny it....stop calling me ma'am, do I look like your mother?  Stop it - I am young! 

Basically folks, I thought "the moment" would be more MELODRAMATIC.

Um, yeah, I was so wrong.  I didn't do any of those things.  I was actually relieved when it hit me, when it all came together and I suddenly looked with very clear eyes out at those around me who were doing truly ridiculous things, and thought "these people are idiots, and thank God I'm not like them."

So what prompted the moment?  Karaoke, Taco Bell and two huge bottles of Wild Turkey.  Not exactly my usual Saturday night stuff, but perhaps the unusual is what prompts the wake-up calls in life.

So I was at my World Championships this past weekend.  As has been mentioned in this blog before, I'm a Chief Instructor at a school, which I own, so I always go to this event.  I try to get my students to go as well. Big fancy hotel, two days of a crazy tournament, evenings out with friends, some you only get to see every 2 years.  It's a fun time.

So on Saturday night, one of my friends, a 4th Degree, was having a 30th birthday party.  I grabbed my folks and we went to support.  It was lovely - sitting outside, having drinks, inside was the karaoke, farther out was an awesome thunderstorm.  We ate dinner, we made a few toasts, I thought everything was under control. 

How did I miss that two of my guys were BEYOND drunk?  Their bills were each over $100 - that's a hard thing to do in the middle of North Carolina, where drink prices are NOT like the big city prices.  How did I miss that they were slurring, and that one of them was on stage singing a Men at Work song?  Poorly.  I mean, ear-ringingly bad.  How did I get there with 2 people in my car, and now had 5 of them?  How was it that I was being asked to stop at Taco Bell for something called a Quesarita? What the hell is a Quesarita?  But there I was, going through the drive thru with 4 wastoids, all yelling and drooling and chanting "TACO BELL, TACO BELL".  How was it that as we drove through, they decided they wanted a picture in front of the windows that had the big ad for a Quesarita or whatever the hell it was called?  And I was standing there, in the pouring rain, being the one to take the stupid picture.  How was it that we made it back to the convention center and the huge hotel parking lot, and we got all the way up to the 24th floor, before karaoke boy figured out his wallet was missing?  And of course it was me who went down to the car to look for it and then it was the both of us who had to drive back to Taco Bell to recover the wallet which was lying in the parking lot, in a huge puddle of water.  And then how was it that we ended back at the hotel room, and by now the birthday girl and her girlfriend had shown up and had devoured almost an ENTIRE bottle - a huge bottle, mind you - of Wild Turkey?  

How did all of this happen??? 

Cut to the chase - 20 minutes later, I was being begged by the crying girlfriend to break into the bathroom where birthday girl was puking and had locked herself in and passed out in front of the door.  I got her to unlock the door.  I went back in and pushed my way through.  I picked her up.  I'm a strong 5'10", and she's a slight 5'5", but she's all muscle.  Picking up a drunk person is like lifting bricks.  I got her inbetween myself and drunk Quesarito boy and we were on our way to the elevators to get her down to the service entrance where I figured no one would see her.   We were almost there, when she woke up, looked at me, and puked. A lot.  On the floor, on me, in a trash can that the crying girlfriend had rushed into the hallway with.......  As she puked, the gag reflex of the other 3 drunk folks, who were by now all in the hallway with us, failed. Epic fails.  ALL FOUR OF THEM WERE NOW PUKING OR GAGGING.

That was "the moment", by the way.  Standing there with my friend's puke all over me, watching the rest of them gag and/or puke and race back into the room for the toilet.  I stood there trying not to breathe thinking "I am way too old for this shit.  How is any of this even fun?  How is getting this stupid and acting this dumb on ANY level, fun or cool?"

I didn't cry.  I wasn't sad.  I didn't think to myself "goodbye youth... I will miss you."  I didn't wax nostalgic for a single moment.  I carried my friend into the room.  I laid her on the bed, and I turned around and did what I do best these days - I fixed things.  With authority, mind you.  You, clean up the hallway -NOW!  You, clean up the bathrooms, NOW!  You, get her into the bed, get her a glass of water and some aspirin, and call the cab and cancel it.  You - get rid of the alcohol, party is over, this is done.  Clean it all up - NOW!  The rest of you - go back to your rooms, go to bed, brunch at 11am - be packed, be cleaned up, be ready to go.

Maybe it was the fact that I am their Chief Instructor and therefore they sort of have to do what I say.  Maybe it was the fed in me coming out.  And maybe it was that they too, figured out that I'd just had "the moment" and that this was beyond stupid.  But I got a resounding "yes ma'am" from all of them, and within 10 minutes, everyone was either gone or in bed, puke was cleaned up, and I was on my way back to my room, ok with the fact that I was indeed "ma'am".

"That moment" has finally come, and has now gone.  With it, the arrival of the next chapter of my life.  As long as it doesn't involve karaoke, Taco Bell or Wild Turkey, I think it should be pretty interesting....

June 30, 2014

Daily Bitch: Moving Cubes

I've worked at my current agency for 9 years now.  Not as long as I once worked on Capitol Hill, shorter than I've worked at other agencies.  I'm somewhere in the middle.

I am, however, a senior member of the staff in the Division where I work, as with the turnover, at nine years, I'm one of the "old and wise ones."  I'm one of the people folks come to for answers and I've thankfully been promoted to the top of the chain, so I'm not in that awful race to try and move up a ladder.  I still have a ladder to climb, but I'm not desperately clawing at the straws that might get me there.

I work my ass off for these people, and I will state that definitively and with a clear mind.  I work an average 10 hour day, I work at night, I work on my days off, I've never actually had a real sick day..... what I do or don't do will never result in an agent's death, which is a good thing, BUT it sure as hell can result in what you see (or don't see) on the news each night - so there is some importance to doing my job well and not taking it for granted.

Let it be known though, my loyalty and pride in my job?  It gets me SQUAT.  No office, no big salary, no parking, no perks.  Just the satisfaction that I play a part in making sure that you who are reading this, get to go to sleep each night and the only thing you're worrying about is what to wear tomorrow, or how you're going to get the kids to soccer and ballet at the same time, etc.  You don't have to sweat the big stuff, and I'm pretty proud of the fact that I get to contribute in a small way to making sure it stays that way.

So no perks.  Except location.  Cube location - let's be clear.  I sit in a cube farm, which drives me nuts, but I do it and I make it work.

So am I crazy that today, after 7 years in the same spot, my boss tells me I need to move cubes because a new agent is coming in and he wants the guy to feel like he's a part of the unit?  And if he moved into one of the other, still vacant cubes that is - oh, let's measure this for posterity's sake - 3 feet removed from the other people, that this inclusion might not happen?

I just feel really annoyed; I feel like that is a bunch of bullshit and if the guy is an agent, who is USED to moving offices and desks, etc. that his sitting 3 feet away from the others isn't going to be that big of a deal.  But it's me - the senior member of the unit, who chose this cube for a reason, way back when, and who all my contacts know sits here, with this phone number... it's me who has to move.

I get it, I'm whining.  I feel justified though, I really do.  Oh - I put in the order for everything to be taken care of, and I just finished moving 7 years of my life down the aisle to another seat.  It's not like I'm going to cause a stink.  I bitch to you guys, not to my management. That shit would fall on beyond deaf ears.  I mean, who knows - I might even end up liking that desk more than this one.  It's just the point of it all - which is to say there IS NO POINT and I work for a bunch of men who are f***ing pansies and babies.....

Maybe I should leave a binky on the desk as a welcome to the unit present.  Then again, it's not the new agent's fault.  So maybe I should leave a big old pair of Depends on my boss's seat. Do you think he'd figure it out? I did already tell him today that he sucks.  More than once.  (don't tell anyone, but oh my GOD was that liberating and awesome! I fully recommend it to everyone.)

Only 17 more years until retirement.