Saturday, January 28, 2012

Say My Name!

Let's be honest. The only grizzly bear within 500 miles from here is in the Memphis Zoo. And I'm sure there's some hip jazz bands in Provo, but no great Be-Bop giant ever came from Utah. So, the Utah Jazz should give New Orleans its team name back, only New Orleans is now using the old Charlotte nickname, the Hornets. Everyone knows that the Packers are in Green Bay, the Bears are in Chicago, and the Colts are in Baltimore. Only, they're not. We've got Cardinals in Arizona; Rams in St. Louis; and Colts in Indiana, and the names are all mismatched to the locale. Instead of franchises moving around, I propose a trade of a different sort. Let's have a one-day, giant name swap and return all sports team names to the places where they have meaning. Memphis would be better served known as the Kings; for MLK, B.B., and Elvis, only Sacramento is using that name. What king is from Sacramento? Larry King? Let's swap names. Memphis gets the Kings, and a grizzly bear is featured on the California state flag. Perfect.

It was a sad day in 1957 when two fabled New York baseball franchises packed up and split for the coast, leaving the palaces where Duke Snider and Willie Mays roamed the outfields as rubble for the  wrecking-ball. The Dodgers and Giants' move to California was, for many, the first generational lesson in hardball capitalism. It raised the question of what's more valuable; free enterprise or fan loyalty and trust. Still today, there are wounded men walking the boroughs of New York in tears, wearing faded, old baseball caps, mumbling, "what happened to my team?" The New York teams move west was the also the first example of corporate greed entering pro sports. But, when some greedy bastard sees greener pastures and decides to relocate a beloved sports franchise with emotional roots to a community, at least have the decency to change the name. Imagine Boston's hoops team moving to Salt Lake City and calling themselves the Utah Celtics. (Why is Boston the only place that pronounces it "sell-tics," instead of the correct, "kell-tics?"). Finding a Celt in Utah is as rare as finding a Mormon pimp. When the Washington Senators moved to Minnesota, they changed their name to the Twins. Since Indianapolis is not known for horses, give Baltimore their Colts back, retire the morbid name "Ravens," and rename the Indianapolis football team the Racers. It rhymes so well with Pacers.

Some regulations will be necessary. After all, we don't want the Baltimore Orioles returning to St. Louis to become the Brown Stockings. So some locations get to remain as they are. The Milwaukee Brewers now have a descriptive name preferable to their old one. Atlanta has no business, however, naming their baseball club the "Braves" when their stadium sits on what once was Indian territory. So, Atlanta must drop the "tomahawk chop," and return to the team name they used until the early 60s, the "Crackers." In football, St. Louis gets to reclaim their Cardinals from Arizona. Only they must first return the name "Rams" to Los Angeles, so that city can have their team back. Arizona is then free to choose a new moniker. Since their governor is Jan Brewer, I recommend "the Haints." But, the Rattlers would fit well with the baseball Diamondbacks. "The Haints," however, might go well with the New Orleans Saints.  But "Jazz" is synonymous with the Crescent City, so return the name to its proper place and then Utah can become the "White Polygamists." It's sort of like the Crimson Tide, only kinkier. Finally, give the Lakers back to Minnesota and retire the silly Timberwolves name. L.A can become the "Stars," like they were in the old ABA. Charlotte can then reclaim their Hornets from New Orleans and put the Bobcat mascot in play. Maybe Utah has bobcats. When fans get back their traditional mascots, everyone will be happy, and there's nothing so pliable as a happy customer next time they decide to raise ticket prices.

It's curious that some of the most durable teams are located in the most economically distressed areas. That's because they have owners with a stake in the community that understand the value of long-time fan loyalty. The Rooney family has owned the Pittsburgh Steelers since the leagues' inception. Founder Dan was known for his generosity, and son Art developed the "Rooney Rule," which says any NFL team with a coaching or managerial vacancy must interview a minority candidate. "Papa Bear" George Halas both coached for and owned the Chicago Bears. Born in Chicago, Halas was noted for his philanthropy. The Packers have the only publicly owned franchise in pro sports, with over 100,000 Green Bay fans holding stock in the team. When the Packers leap into the stands after a touchdown, they're just saying "hello" to the boss. But corporate money has corrupted sports. Where teams once played their games in Veterans Stadium, the Polo Grounds, and Soldier Field; they're now in Qualcomm Park, MetLife Stadium, and Bank of America Stadium. Corporations are so fond of splashing their name on every sports edifice in the nation, here's a thought: spend some of that tax-exempt cash putting your names on hospitals, schools and colleges, rather than just college bowl games.

Finally, a word to the Grizzlies front office. I've said this before but in vain, so permit me to say this once again, only louder. LISTEN TO ME! You are wasting a unique opportunity to promote Memphis' most famous export; music. The formulaic techno music used throughout the league is not inspiring, it's annoying. Imagine the excitement if the team enters the arena to the sound of the Bar Kays' "Soulfinger." Rather than "We Will Rock You," picture the crowds' response to the opening two chords of "Jailhouse Rock." And, after a Grizzlies rally, the audience might enjoy a bit of Jerry Lee Lewis' "Whole Lotta' Shakin' Going On." You have everyone from Carl Perkins to Three 6 Mafia to choose from. I'm not fishing for a job here. If you throw a rock in this town, chances are it will come down and hit a music expert. So, pick your consultant, but be bold and plant your own flag. In the words of celebrated philosopher Sam the Sham, "let's not be L-7," and be just another follower of the formula. Sam Phillips once said, "If you're not doing something different, then you're not doing anything." You Grizzlies execs aren't in Vancouver anymore. You're in the town of visionaries like Sam Phillips of Sun Records, and Dewey Phillips, the free-spirited disc jockey immortalized in "Memphis, the Musical." So, like the man said, "let's get hot, or go home!"

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Generation Gas-X

Hi Kids! Uncle Randy here. As a younger man, I found nothing quite so boring as listening to old people complain about their ailments. But I'm here to help you and give you some insight into growing older so that you might prepare yourself. Also, I'm here to remind you to dance as much as you can. You'll miss that. My advice comes with an appeal. Can we finally stop using the infantile term, "Baby Boomers" to refer to my generation? I'd prefer Atomic Kids or Original Mouseketeers, but I'd like to find the person that branded me a "baby boomer," and throttle him. There's nothing baby-like about growing older but the diapers, and hopefully, that's still down the road a few decades. I believe the party that's guilty for the "boomer" moniker worked for Life Magazine? Remember magazines? They're those things that sit on the tables in doctors' office waiting rooms. I'm sure Kindle will make them obsolete before you have a seat. But you will take a seat, nonetheless. The doctor will see you now.

While visiting with a friend and listening to him complain about a hernia, I felt the need to one-up him with my gruesome tales of last year's gall bladder surgery. I've embellished the story over time, though the basics are true. They had to open me up the old fashioned way and remove the gelatinous mass that was my gall bladder, except I didn't have health insurance, so they scooped it out with an old, rusty, garden hoe. It's been over a year, and I'm still walking around like Groucho Marx. Except, I'm not the only one. It seems like all my contemporaries are either being scoped, scanned, prodded, or pricked. In these trying times, I can understand how someone might develop stomach problems, but everybody at once? The number of clinics waiting to probe you for the insurance money are growing like Pizza Huts, and the "oscopy factories" are as efficient as the Cadillac assembly line. The unseen consequence of this explosion of invasive procedures is a generational obsession with digestive regularity. When a group of older people go out to dinner, they'll call the next day not to ask how was the food, but how did the food go down? They say "all things must pass," but not according to my peers. Once, we used to discuss acid, now it's acid reflux. I thought I could once again trot out that joke about "all the old hippies getting together now to drop antacid," but we're way beyond over-the-counter medication now. Even friends who once shunned drug use are now hooked on Senna.

Of course, the exercise gurus are right, you have to get up off of the couch, but football is just so colorful in Hi-Def. I still have several friends that walk, jog, or play tennis, but they're forever complaining about Bursitis and there's always medication and shots involved. My theory about vigorous exercise was always, "no pain; no pain." But of all the workouts of which I'm aware, there is no correct way to exercise the gall bladder. So, this wasn't a case of "use it or lose it," as the doctors advise. Years of expensive tests which failed to detect the problem have convinced me that I am another victim of the Medical/Pharmaceutical/Insurance Axis of Evil, and all the exercises in the weight room won't reimburse me what I've forfeited to the "procedure" industry. And make no mistake, the majority of doctors quietly bought into the insurance scam long ago because it made them rich. It's no accident that Germantown Parkway is dotted with private medical clinics. I think I might have built a wing on one of them. I've been told that there are exercises that I can do that thankfully don't strain stomach muscles, but my career as a promising cage fighter is over. My new motto is "Live healthy, eat right, die anyway."

To quote the great American poet Curtis Mayfield, "I know everybody whose heart is still thumping; is drinking, shooting, snorting, or smoking on something." If there were singles bars for the aging, instead of "What's your sign?" the main pick-up line would be, "What anti-depressant are you on?" We gather now in small groups and discuss the merits of Lexipro as opposed to Effexor; and is Abilify really worth the boost at over $400 dollars a month? When in a group of old friends, our discussions go straight from politics and protests to prostrates and our PSA's. With that particular gland, size does matter. And when you get past six decades, suddenly nobody can pee anymore. For that, the doctor prescribes Flomax, and for sinus congestion they prescribe Flonase, but I know a guy who confused the two, took out a handkerchief, and blew his penis. (Come on, it's original). And what's growing faster than the erection industry? Nowadays, guys without any erectile dysfunction whatsoever will take a Viagra just to make a point. It's enough to give a man restless leg syndrome.

I just figured that a year after invasive surgery, I should be feeling somewhat better, so after yet more tests, my doctor returned with a good news/bad news prognosis. My nerve was cut, so I can expect to live a life in a certain degree of pain, plus I will continue to have unpredictable and sudden gastric episodes, which will keep me closely tethered to my reading room. The good news is it's not going to kill me. How is one supposed to respond to that? "Great, I'll suffer from these maladies then die of something else?" I've been informed that there are preventative measures that will allow Melody and I to go out and socialize without me constantly worrying that I'll pull an Elvis and do a header into somebody's bathroom floor. Melody assures me, however, that she will not allow me to sit and vegetate, which reminds me, I need to eat more vegetables. One of my father's wiser sayings was, "It's better to be rich and healthy than poor and sick," only I never thought I'd have to put his theory to the test. So, I'm grateful to the Church Health Center for looking after me, and I'm going to try harder this year to become more active. But, if you younger folks should happen to see me around town and I have a cane by my side, take a look but don't stare too long, for I am you.

Thanks, Melody, for the title..

Monday, January 02, 2012

Please, Stop That

I've always heard that if you get pooped on by a bird, it's supposed to be good luck, but the day before New Years, it looked like a scene from a Hitchcock movie at my house. Thousands of robins roosting in the trees bombed everything in sight, including the deck, the car, the dog, even the bird feeder. My father used to say, "It's a dirty bird that fouls its own nest," but if this is a portent of things to come, I should be having a shit-load of good luck this year.  I sure hope so, because after 2011, this crappy year couldn't end soon enough for me. In this political climate of wasted opportunity and obdurate myopia, it wasn't the heat, it was the stupidity, and there was plenty of dumb to spread around. Between the reactionary Republicans and the docile Democrats, these annoyances plagued my existence, which is why, in this new year, I'd like to implore the perpetrators to, "Please, stop that." Beginning with:

Hand-held Devices- I don't "tweet" and I don't text for several reasons, the first being that texting has destroyed the public's ability to spell and has given birth to a hundred cutesy abbreviations and a moronic shorthand. If I want to type, I'll do it on a keyboard and not with my thumbs, and I will continue to try and express myself like a person instead of a robot. As for "tweeting," I don't care what you had for lunch. Since CNN has begun adding viewer "tweets" to their broadcasts, the full idiocy is on display for the world to see. I tuned in to see the news, not some hash-tag, half-wit's opinion of the news. For those permanently lost in their hand-held gadget worlds, walking the streets like zombies and altering what it means to be in a "community," please, stop.

Local News- If all you watched was local news, you'd never leave the house. I don't blame the "talent," since most are either established professionals or ambitious telejournalists on their way up. But, my God, if they can't find a gruesome enough murder or rape in Memphis, they will search the tri-state area for an event that's suitably heinous. I've heard the old saying, "If it bleeds, it leads," but local news broadcasts would have you believe that the streets of Memphis are running with blood. I blame the General Managers and News Directors that insist on following the "formula," that's the same in every major city in every state. It's not about news, it's about ratings, and crime does seem to pay after all. Only, don't say that you're "on our side" when your bread and butter is scaring people. No wonder Memphis has lost population in the past decade. Please, stop doing that.

The Tea Party- I suppose the game's about over for the radical right until they form their third party and guarantee Barack Obama's re-election. Then they'll be relegated to the ranks of other loser, fringe parties that peddled hate instead of hope. What a strategy! Oppose every initiative the president proposes, then blame the Democrats for a lack of accomplishment. I hope that when the people go to the polls to literally clean House, they only bounce the right people, the far-right people. Unfortunately, the Tea Party still rules supreme in most state legislatures, including Tennessee, where they demonstrate their dedication to limited government by proposing to drug-test welfare recipients. I say, "You first, Senator." And prescription meds count. After the revolting Curry Todd episode, perhaps we should drug test for gun ownership. A drunken legislator driving around with a loaded weapon in his car is a sufficient reason to say, "Please, stop  that." Which brings me to;

Gun Carry Permits- We have hotheads in jail who shoot someone over parking disputes, yet the NRA has funded enough local politicians for them to continue their efforts to allow gun fanatics to carry their weapons anywhere at anytime. This includes public parks, bars and restaurants, even church. Say what you will about the "Occupy" protesters, at least they're not armed, unlike that other "grassroots" movement. And the carry-permit crowd are always "law abiding citizens," right up until the minute they blow someones brains out. I don't know who I fear more, street thugs, or the person driving in the lane next to me. Take Johnny Cash's advice and "don't take your guns to town." As for the NRA enriched "public servants" whose souls have been purchased, please, stop that.

Basketball Announcers- OK, I'm into the Grizzlies, but every time the arena announcer opens his mouth, my silver fillings begin to rattle. Enthusiasm is one thing, but this guttural hysteria and forced glee is so annoying, it detracts from the game. In the old days of AM rock radio, they called over-the-top, "personality" disc jockeys like this "pukers." You're not Michael Buffer, pal, and we already have cheerleaders, so could you  take it down a notch? I guess I was spoiled by 40 years of the late Fred Cook in the Coliseum, but the Tiger's announcer is similarly afflicted. Also, I know Memphis is stuck in a mediocre conference, but is it too much to ask the CSS network to buy a decent camera? It's like watching Russian television. And if I have to hear "We Will Rock You" one more time, I'm going to stick railroad spikes in my ears. The Griz have the unique opportunity of playing music exclusive to Memphis at home games. If an opponent is called for travelling, Rufus Thomas could sing, "Walking the Dog." I'd offer to help, but I'm not much of a company man. Meanwhile, your recorded musical selections suck, so please, stop that. And while we're on the subject; 

Pro Sports- Lockouts in football and basketball, juicing in baseball, billionaires fighting millionaires over that last slice of the pie- and there's something unseemly about Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones building a billion dollar gilded football palace in the middle of a depression. This is like ancient Rome, when gladiatorial contests distracted the populace from the decline of the empire. It's fitting that their quarterback's name is Romo. Despite my affection for my Texas kinfolk, the Cowboys now truly represent "America's Team,"- opulence and excess in the midst of a losing season. As for Dallas Mavericks' owner Mark Cuban, have a seat Sonny, you ain't on the team. You own Dirk Nowitzkli's contract, not Dirk. And in this era of the "foreclosure society," why are the California Angels paying a 32 year old man $260 million to play ten years of baseball? I believe it was Curt Flood who once said, "A well-paid slave is still a slave." For both arrogant owners and showboat athletes, please, stop that.

Fox News- Fox News is like poison. It won't kill you all at once, just a little at a time. The unapologetic propaganda arm of the Republican Party is the electronic equivalent of the Hearst newspapers of the late 1880s, for which the term "yellow journalism" was invented. At least in the 19th century, you had to be able to read to be affected by a newspaper. Fox viewers soak it up like Brawny absorbent tissue and repeat it as gospel. You hear it in their conversations and read it in online comments and letters to the editor. Unfortunately, it's the gospel according to Rupert Murdoch, the scandal-ridden, right-wing foreigner who fueled and funded the ridiculous "birther" nonsense about the president. Fox's disinformation campaign didn't keep them from firing Glen Beck, the false Messiah searching for a cult. A recent poll by Fairleigh Dickinson University found that, "Fox viewers know less than people who don't watch any news." Murdoch, like Hearst, is a provocateur that will print anything that sells. Hearst came to regret his journalistic sins. As for Murdoch and Fox News, please, stop that. Better yet, go away, and take that sumbitch Limbaugh whicha'. Then we can all have a happy new year.