Month: February 2014

I’m not fighting cancer unless I get a free tote bag*

I’m sorry, I just won’t do it. I mean, don’t have cancer, and if I ever do get it I’ll need all the money I have to fight it then. So if you’re gonna sell me on the idea of sharing my own security blanket, my own disposable income, with some scientist to save the day for someone that’s not me, I better get a damn tote bag out of it!!!

Oh, there IS a free tote bag in it for me? Oh, well then, here, I’m happy to help. Who do I make a check out to?

*End Sarcasm Here

Look at the envelope above. Which words did you read first?

Look at the envelope above. Which words did you read first?

It’s not exactly like that, but when I received a letter in the mail today, the envelope had three things on it: 1) A seashell, 2) the words “Imagine a world without cancer!” in blue above the address, and 3) the words “FREE TOTE BAG DETAILS INSIDE!” in red in the right corner. Despite it’s placement, I read the red text first because, ya know, it’s red. And in caps. Plus, ‘FREE’ … so …

Apparently the concept of a cancer-less world has proven to be not enough for would-be donation givers. The truly stupid part was that I opened the standard-sized envelope fully expecting a collapsed tote bag in there like it were Marry Poppins’ purse. Would I even have opened it if the free tote were not an option? Not sure, since it was the offer contrasting with the cause that got my attention.

“Do people really need a free tote in order to fight cancer?” That was my thought as I opened it. And when no such tote was there, I turned here to, I don’t know, vent? We wear bracelets, run in 5k’s, buy T-shirts, and create hashtags to show we care about things that are so basic on the spectrum of caring that it’s hard not to feel self-righteous when we participate. From “I gave blood today” buttons to “Fuck Cancer” t-shirts, we advertise our generosity. It’s not all to promote ourselves and it’s not necessarily disingenuous, but it does seem like we do a lot more when there is a way to show it off.

I get it, too. If I stand alone against cancer, there’s no way we can win. But if I buy a  bracelet then that makes me part of a group of hundreds, thousands and hundreds of thousands. Then I feel a lot better about contributing to a cause that we can win. And there’s even basic truth to it: the more people we have fighting cancer, the better our chances are of winning. More people, more money, more minds, and more tote bags.

It shouldn’t matter why we decide to help, but that we decide to help. In my mind, the cause should be cause enough, and to many it definitely is. But to energize the masses, it takes symbols of community. Like an N-Y on your hat, a yellow ribbon on the back window of your car, or a rainbow flag on your porch, showing support beyond your monetary or voluntary donations does have an impact.

So, yes, send me my free tote bag and make sure it tells people that I helped; that they can help, too. And that when they do, they can get a tote bag that inspires someone else. Not everyone is equally affected by cancer, but everyone needs a bag to put shit into now and then.

First attempt at a Sketch Guru post

I downloaded Sketch Guru as a virtual drawing outlet for me during downtime at the restaurant. I serve tables and bartend roughly four nights a week. Did I not tell you?

Downtime at a restaurant can be brutal, so I thought I’d draw. My first attempt to post my first sketch resulted in:

I sketch this painting with Sketch Guru on my Android phone 🙂 http://bit.ly/sketchguru

The link went to a place to download the app, not to my sketch or anything usefu

Not sure why, but the default title of this sketch was "recovery" -- I'll take it.

Not sure why, but the default title of this sketch was “recovery” — I’ll take it.

l. So, save to Google Photos, download to laptop, upload to WordPress and attach. Seems adorably antiquated and I probably just am not doing it right or missed a step. Nevertheless, my my first sketch is now public. I don’t have classical training as a drawer or artist of any kind. At best I have classic-ish training, which is to say I draw what I want when I want and if it looks better this time than last time then I did something right.

It’s an outlet, I guess. Not for a specific emotion, but more for a need. A need to feel creative. I’m trying to change that to “A need to be creative” but that’s psychology and I’m not feeling up for it right now.

If anyone is up for it and wants to judge my first drawing as some kind psychological platform, please do. Professional or hilarious opinions only, please.

Fit at 30: A guide to fitness from a guy who’s not that fit

I’m 30. For another week, I’m 30. Then I’m 31. I have an email in to a local professor to confirm that 32 comes next, but I have yet to get a reply. If this trend continues, in nine years I’ll be exactly nine years older.

#AgeHappens.

That’s my new hashtag; tried it a little while ago and was rewarded with a “Favorite” from my favorite professor back at Ithaca College, Brian Sweany. I’m pretty sure he was only there for two years before returning to Texas, but I’m glad those two years came when I was around. He’s favorited or retweeted a handful of my tweets over the past few years, but, whatevs.

“Hit the gym this morning. Turns out I’m 30. #AgeHappens”

Brian was, I believe, in his early 30s when he was at the front of my classroom in Park, and I assume he’s aged at the same rate that I have. He’s got kids, a career in journalism, a life, and I don’t know much more about him than that. But the fact he’s been 30 longer than I have tells me he gets it.

I’ve never been and never will be one to freak out when February 18 comes around again and my cake requires two breaths to put out the inferno of candles. I embrace growing older as long as I don’t have to grow up. While some men are excited to come home to “Dinner’s ready!” from their wives, my favorite Welcome Home Moment so far is:

“Hey, baby, I loaded all of your Nerf guns for you.” She’s the best.

True story. No kids yet (myself notwithstanding) but I’m pumped about that idea and being childish with them. I figure I take my age and their age, split the difference, and we’ll have a blast building forts and blaming the cat for knocking over a vase.

But today, age happened. I recently bought my father-in-law’s workout bench, which he brought over this past weekend. After spending some time online searching for the best exercises, best time of day to lift and best time to eat (before or after), I got back to getting fit.

I should preface with my fitness background: 6-feet tall, 182 pounds (personal high), three-sport athlete in high school (football, boxing and lacrosse), athletic but not a student-athlete in college, spurts of regular exercise after graduation, turned to running and can comfortably run 5 miles right now. Completing my first and only half-marathon in an hour and 45 minutes stands as my proudest athletic feat. I’m not in bad shape, I just don’t work at it, like a lot of the over-30s out there.

So, with my boombox set up in the basement tuned to ESPN Radio, I got started … again. I outlined a list of stretches (even more crucial now) and then hit the bench. The weight won’t impress anyone for 3 sets of traditional bench press and some inclined press, then some legs (extensions and curls), some triceps and I’m sure some other muscles. I don’t know a lot about what I’m doing but I’m glad I’m doing it. I carry amateur status at best.

I want to be in shape, but the most healthy aspect of mine right now is perspective. When I was 16, 17, 18, I wondered why I wasn’t 30 pounds heavier and jacked despite a pretty consistent workout regimen. I resented it for the longest time that my body refused to put on weight beyond 160 pounds. I hated thinking that I would be a great athlete if I could just be bigger. Now I’m 30, and I get it. I didn’t have to be 200 pounds back then and I certainly don’t need that now. I’m not just comfortable, I’m happy knowing what my body is and what it can be.

So I hit the gym. And it turns out I am definitely 30. I’m sore, and the weights don’t weigh that much but for some reason are heavier than I remember. But this is what I want and how I want to be. Instead of having dreams of athletic glory, I have goals of being healthy; of carrying 1 to 3 kids until they don’t want to be carried anymore because they’re all grown up at age 5 and they don’t need me anymore. Apparently, #AgeHappens to them, too.

If you’ve got any tips for at-home exercise, drop me a line. I’m still considering CrossFit and a future post may or may not exist to that end. For now, I’ll be on the Bayer Smoothy diet.

The rise and fall of football

Mention the concept of the NFL or football for that matter falling from its rank as the dominant sport in the United States, and be prepared to be labeled a fool. The NFL is enjoying the greatest success any sport in America ever has right now, and is somehow doing it all under the guise of a non-profit organization. The NFL is in the business of making the rich richer while making the poor feel rich, if only for a while, and it’s more efficient at reaching that end than most any industry.

But like great teams destined to rule for years as a dynasty (Cowboys, 49ers, Steelers, Patriots, etc.), great industries (newspapers, automakers, etc.), and great music (swing, disco, grunge), everything gets old. Everything reaches a highpoint and then realizes that the only thing that can follow a highpoint is decline. The NFL, football is at it’s highpoint. The Fall of Football has begun.

Now watch the Rise of Football. Excuse me … Futbol. American spell check doesn’t know what means, but it won’t be long before that’s fixed.

Soccer is the world’s game, and although we in the States like to think of our stuff as being the best, American football can’t hold a candle to the economic and social impact of soccer.  The figures below are from 2009, but still show the disparity in global popularity and prosperity.

While one argument I always hear about the NFL is that it’s too big to fail. If size matters, then it’s soccer who cannot fail and it’s not even close.  You don’t have to look at the international game to see it, either. In an article by Forbes in November of 2013, the undeniable success of America’s own Major League Soccer (MLS) accounts for the first giant steps to a monumental shift.

According to the article:

Now, there are 19 teams – with another New York City team scheduled to launch in 2015 and one in Orlando in the works. And with Hunt selling his second soccer team, Columbus Crew, for an MLS record $68 million this July, ownership is as dispersed and valuable as ever. Average attendance has surged to 18,600, a more than 35% increase from the 2000 nadir of just over 13,700.

Of course, these numbers pail in comparison to the NFL or even major college football, but the true signs of demise are not at the top, but at the bottom. Youth football is experiencing a drastic decline in participation, the likes of which they haven’t seen in decades. Hinging largely on the health issues of the last five years over concussions, parents simply don’t want their children put in harm’s way. According to a report by ESPN’s Outside the Lines: The nation’s largest youth football program, Pop Warner, saw participation drop 9.5 percent between 2010-12, a sign that the concussion crisis that began in the NFL is having a dramatic impact at the lowest rungs of the sport.

And then there’s market saturation. I used to enjoy watching NFL pregame shows for an hour or two before kickoff. Now, I spend my mornings watching the English Premiere League games that start just as I’m waking up and usually lead me right until 1 p.m. It’s fantastic. The athleticism is astounding and the action is not boring as football purists would have you believe. There are more soccer games available on TV now than ever before.

Should I also get into the shifting demographics of the United States? Suffice to say that with a population becoming more diverse,  most of those different nationalities have one thing in common — their love of soccer.  It is infused in the blood of those who will make up a minority majority.

If this post were a thesis, I’d keep going, but I think the point’s been made. And I didn’t even play soccer, I played football. Pop Warner and high school. I love the game, I’m just not “in love” with it anymore.

It won’t happen soon. Not five or 10 years. But in a full generation, I expect the shift to be clear. Baseball had its run and the NBA’s highpoint proved to come at a time when the NFL was reaching its own so it will never hold the top spot. But when all of these economic and social factors eventually add up, it will be to the sum of soccer.