Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Patriots Fans are Probably Caught in the Middle

You know what I’m talking about right?

Unless you’ve been underground with no access to the outside world for the past few months, then you know about the situation that took place back in January in the NFL that sent the internet world into a tail spin.

Of course I’m talking about a team and their deflated balls.

Actually, after this week, I think I’m talking more about a league Commissioner and his overly inflated balls because the more I read and hear the more I feel the following 2 things:

1. This has nothing to do with footballs.
2. The NFL has done a bang up job of taking over the world with their push to use controversy as a means to encourage discussion and (more likely than not) ticket sales for next season.

Because, hello? It’s May, not August or January, and yet here we are, still talking about football.

Does anyone give a shit that the NHL is just weeks away from the Stanley Cup Finals?

Does anyone care about the NBA playoffs that are currently happening?

Does anyone realize it’s baseball season?

Does anyone care that the NFL season doesn’t even start for another 3 months?

The answer (to all of the above) is no. Because this week all anyone can talk about in the sports world is whether you’re for or against Tom Brady. For or against The New England Patriots. For or against cheating in the league.

Well frankly I’m sick of it all.

The bottom line is that every team cheats. Plain and simple.

And The Pats’ recorded violations aren’t at the bottom (Browns/Cardinals who BTW did the same thing in 2005 with NO PUNISHMENT) but they’re nowhere near the top (nice work Broncos).

However, that’s just the NFL.

I don’t care what league you play for, if it’s one of the 4 majors or if you toss in MLS, NASCAR, Golf, Tennis, or any other professional sport as well because every single sport holds an element of “how far can we push it until someone calls us out?”

AKA: cheating.

For The Patriots that call-out time was this past week.

But when the penalty came down on Brady and the team – 4 game suspension for Brady, loss of 1st round pick in 2016, loss of 4th round pick in 2017, a $1million team fine, and indefinite suspension to the 2 equipment guys (without pay) – I started shaking my head.

Actually, scratch that. I started getting irrationally angry at this entire thing and that irritation has only built, not dissipated.

Why am I irrationally angry?

Because of the severity of the penalty over something that could have conceivably happened due to weather.

Or someone being sneaky.

Or both.

But no matter what caused it, I read that entire report and there isn’t one single definitive piece of evidence, not one definitive statement that Brady actually was involved.

But they sure said “probably” an awful lot.

Brady was suspended for the same number of games that a player caught doing performance enhancing drugs (PEDs, steroids) gets. And for those keeping track it’s 2 more games than Rice got (initially) for brutally beating his now wife in an elevator.

Rice was only suspended indefinitely when the video from that elevator incident leaked to the public and the outcry forced Goodell to make that decision or risk looking like he didn’t care that a top rated running back just perpetuated brutal domestic violence on a woman until she was at the point of unconsciousness.

Of course, Rice appealed and the penalty was lifted. Yes lifted. He’s free to play again right now.


In fact, the league standards on game suspensions are pretty wishy-washy since Goodell came in as Commissioner in 2006. Certain things are pursued with aggression (Michael Vick and his dog fighting – 2 season suspension) while others are a slap on the wrist at best (Donte Stallworth killing a pedestrian while driving drunk – 1 season).

According to this list here’s a very small sampling of violations and their subsequent penalties that I (as a human being) consider just a bit worse than alleged knowledge of release of air pressure from a ball:

2006 – domestic violence – 1 game
2007 – 2 DUI arrests – 2 games
2008 – child endangerment – 3 games
2010 – alleged sexual assault – 6 games (later reduced to 4)
2010 – battery of a woman – 1 game
2013- repeated player safety violations – 1 game

Note how every single one either matches or is less than the suspension given to Brady?

And that doesn’t even include PED suspensions, which range anywhere from 1 game to life depending on the player and whatever criteria deemed to matter by the league.

So where do the Patriots fit into this whole thing?

Thin air, that’s where.

Because Brady, according to the “investigation” conducted into this whole debacle, was probably “generally aware” that more than the allowable pounds of pressure were probably released from 11 of the game balls.

Now please re-read that last statement and look for the reasonable doubt.

See the word probably? In the 243 page “report” the word probably appears 7 times.

Well I’m probably a best-selling author, probably a millionaire and probably the most attractive woman in the history of history too.


What the league stated was they want to try to maintain the integrity of the game of football and that’s why this penalty is so harsh.

I don’t care about footballs and their air pressure. If Goodell and the rest want to preserve the integrity of the game of football they need to get into their time machine and go back to 1920 when the first professional football league was formed and start there.

Because in this day and age there really is no way to preserve any of that integrity he talks about. It’s all tainted by corporate money and sponsorships. The fact that (if this suspension upholds) Brady's first game back will be against the Colts (the team who allegedly blew the whistle) can't be coincidence.

Plus, if you’re backed by the right people and suck up enough to the media/general public for your personal redemption then you’re untouchable. Just ask someone like Ray Lewis or Ben Roethlisberger.

Better yet, don’t bother. Instead, come over my place and let's watch a civilized game like ice hockey where the players aren’t above the law but also don’t need to be because they tend not to get into all that stupid shit to begin with.

From now on that’s probably the only sport I’ll be supporting.

Image courtesy New England Patriots

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Friday, March 6, 2015

Best and Worst - The Concert Edition

So earlier today my friend Keith asked us Facebook friends to answer his curiosity question:

“Best & Worst Live band you ever saw? 1,2,3 Go!!”

I thought about it because I’ve seen a LOT of live music over the years.

Since my first concert at age 11 – The Cars where the people in front of us smoked weed during the whole show – to  the last show I’ve been to as of this moment – Banana Gun and Sugar Thieves January 2015 – almost every band/singer/songwriter I’ve seen perform has had a definite impact on my life.

But the reasons are almost as varied as the styles of music I listen to. Because it’s not always just about the music.

Music has permeated every aspect of my life. In fact, that scene in High Fidelity where Cusack’s character is filing his records autobiographically is just about right. So it’s no shock that live music will have an even greater impact on me because of where I am, who I’m with and what made that journey amazing.

Including, but not limited to, the music.

Those songs that remind you of another person can be a blessing or a curse depending on the person in question, am I right?

It kind of hit me that’s probably the real reason Keith and I have maintained such a strong friendship for so many years – we’re both music junkies. Bonding over music is a very powerful thing.

And our tastes, though different at times, are both pretty well varied. As a DJ my friend has to have a healthy appreciation for all kinds of music. Knowing the exact right moment to play the exact right tune is a talent. For me, a writer, I need to feel the music because it helps me with character and story development.

So there was no way my answer to his question would be short. In fact, I opened my comment with:

I could write a book on this (and I've actually considered it)

Starting with the best and then in no particular order, the concerts that came to mind today include…

Best - Jason Mraz at Irving Plaza in NYC 7/21/2006.

He’d been touring his second album, Mr. A-Z, non-stop and Irving was either the last or one of the last tour stops from that year. This was a while before he started getting healthy & quit smoking so the road had taken a definite toll on the poor guy.

I was a Jason live junkie back then – anything and everything I could get my hands on from his live shows I wanted to have it in my music collection. So I knew his usual personality on stage but that night at Irving his tank was empty. He went through the motions but anyone could tell he needed to stop and go home to sleep.

Despite his one big hit, he was still relatively unknown in 2006. There were only about 100 people in the place.

I was 10 feet from the stage, and feeling bummed that the show was so devoid of character, when someone yelled out 'Jason, have my Asian baby!' and he LOST it. He half chuckled then had to turn away from the mic for a second because of laughing. And it seemed to be just what he needed. He finished the set with a little more energy.

I like to think that Asian baby helped get him through when he just wanted to give up.

Because I like to wonder about those moments in an artist’s life. Moments that could have possibly been a turning point whether realized or not. What if that never happened and he barely held on for the rest of the tour, went home and decided it was too strenuous? What if he’d quit music?

That would have changed the material fabric of my life.

People I know as friends wouldn’t be in my life. Life experiences may never have happened – like one of my backup favorite shows when Matt and I went to see Jason opening for Dave Matthews Band in Hershey, PA. And we saw Centralia that weekend too. Would we have never done that either?

It’s crazy to think about but I like wondering the what if’s. Like I said, character development.

My best backup concerts in no particular order:

  • Godsmack in Amherst, MA in 2000 or 2001. I won tix on WAAF and went alone because I was going straight from there up to Waterville Valley, NH where a group of work friends were skiing all weekend. Met a limo driver and convinced him to use my other ticket. We left before the end so he could get back for the clients at the end of the show and we hung out smoking a joint in the limo.
  • Godsmack in Manchester, NH a few days after 9/11, every time a plane flew overhead the whole crowd cheered. It was flipping awesome.
  • Ozzfest June 2,1999 in Charlotte, NC. It was about 115 degrees and I passed out from heat exhaustion, weed and exertion. I laid down on the lawn then woke up during Pantera, asked my friends for the keys and went to sleep in the car. Totally missed Ozzy! I got in a pit during Godsmack and came home with a bruise on my leg in the shape of Martha's Vineyard.
  • DMB in San Diego 2013 . He played “Sister” and in 15 years I'd never seen them perform it before. I danced my freaking ass off all night and it was a really special show.
  • Melissa Ferrick at the MFA. Matt and I met her after the show. I was a total fan-girl!
  • Tony Bennett 8/23/2014 because who knows if that chance could come again, he IS about 1000 years old. But man, he’s still got it!
  • Grownup Noise in Fountain Hills, AZ 2011 (this one is personal because I know the bassist so the band crashed at our apartment that night)

As far as Worst…

Keith knows I was the original Blockhead. New Kids on the Block fan to the nth degree. He even played “Hangin’ Tough” at our wedding. So I knew he wouldn’t believe it but two of the worst shows I ever saw were NKOTB back in the day, at The Garden & Great Woods.

I was 16 years old or thereabouts and getting to see them live was definitely an experience, shows sold out in like a millisecond those days. The problem? That’s 20,000 screaming girls in one place.

Of course they were cute and I was really excited to see them too but that level of squeal is probably the main reason I have tinnitus today.

Even all these years later after endless clubbing, seeing loud as hell bands like Limp Bizkit, Staind, Metallica, Disturbed, Pantera, Megadeath, Godsmack, etc. I have NEVER come home as deaf as I did after a New Kid’s show. Which sucked because I didn’t pay to hear girls scream, I couldn't hear a single thing the band was saying or singing so what was the point? Wasted money.

And the worst backup award goes to Fiona Apple at Jones Beach, LINY in July 2006. One of the reasons I always loved her is her jazz-smooth voice mixed with raw, emotional, angry lyrics. The juxtaposition of those polar opposite things is something few bands can pull off (think: Sublime).

From the opening word Matt and I were shocked and disappointed. She maintained ZERO control over her voice and I don’t think it was because she was sick or anything like that. She was just angry screaming every lyric. No melodic softening. No balance to the torture. It was too much. That was the only time we've considered walking out of a concert we paid to attend.

All in all this is just today’s list. Ask me again in a week, month, year, decade and my answers will likely change!

How about you? What were your best and worst live music experiences?

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Wednesday, December 31, 2014

I Resolve to Blah Blah Blah

Why is it that we look to the first day of a new calendar year to kick-start actually living our lives? But instead of looking forward to the promise of that new year, why do we spend hours looking back over the year we’re still living in to qualify the things we plan to do in the new year?

Resolutions are supposed to be about making changes while moving forward. Seems pretty impossible to do while facing the other way right?

It’s like we need to see what great times we had, or mistakes we made, and then we resolve to either fix or do more of that shit starting on January 1. But what’s the point right? I mean all we’re doing is looking at what we used to do; thinking about what could have been.

Not what is.

I’m guilty of doing it too. Especially this year.

But I truly think the people who “fail at resolutions” don’t really fail. They just weren’t facing the right direction.

So this upcoming year I’m facing the future, not the past.

I fully intend to take this year by the balls and make it my bitch.

Or something like that.

The definition of resolution in the case of New Year’s is “firmness of purpose or intent.”

But I’m not getting hung up in the meaning of the word, the definition as purported by millions, if not billions, of people worldwide.

Because as far as I’m concerned the calendar year isn’t really a crucial part of the plans I have, other than it being a gentle guide for the things I plan to do.

See, for me this upcoming year isn’t about resolving to do anything.

I will set goals.

Because goals challenge me. They make me try harder. They make me focus, get down to work, and then get down to celebrating when I achieve them.

And I don’t care if I achieve all of them within the tight restrictions of January 1 – December 31. I’m setting my goals and working to achieve them, so if they come to fruition this year then great! If not, that doesn’t mean I give up. It means I keep trying no matter what the date says.

As we all know goals can change mid-stream. They’re fluid, flexible and always evolving in order to get you to the best version of yourself you can dream up and go after.

New Year’s resolutions come with a built in pass/fail mechanism. You either do the thing or you don’t.

Bleh. How limiting is that?

I have four goals I want to tackle this year:

Release new books (yes, multiple).
Learn to cook (meals that aren’t boring).
Read more (books specifically).
Be more active (watching less and doing more).

Yup. That’s it.

Because if I can set out on a course to do all of those things then all the other stuff I might think about in terms of resolutions will just fall into place.

Eating healthy, exercising, getting my career on track, traveling, saving money, or anything else I could dream up that I’d love to change about myself, I’m simply striving to be a better version of me in 2015.

But I’m not going to consider the whole year a failure if I take 3 days off from writing or veg out in front of the television occasionally either.

I’ve always got the next day to get back on track. There’s no point in looking at a little misguided step as a fail. Like I said, facing backwards doesn’t help me achieve my goals.

So as my vacation comes to an end, and a brand new calendar year gets started, I’m looking forward to doing my best to achieve all the goals I’ve got laid out in front of me.

Have a safe and festive New Year everyone!

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