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Playing Well With Others
Europeans (and Latin Americans) have hooliganism.
Americans (as in citizens of the USA) have xenophobia.
More about this later.
In sports, as in “Real Life,” it’s becoming readily apparent that Americans don’t play well with others. In a series of international sporting events this year, it seems that we, citizens of the USA, tend to forget that we are also citizens of the world as well. Our story begins with the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin (or, if you prefer, Torino), Italy. The people we advanced as being our best hopes fell flat on their collective faces. These are the games that featured Jeremy Bloom, the 2005 World Cup freestyle skiing champion finishing sixth, the failure of America’s sweetheart Michelle Kwan to appear and Sasha Cohen choking to silver in figure skating, the feuding of Shani Davis and Chad Hedrick in speed skating and the performances of Bode Miller. You remember Bode, don’t you? He’s the one who said when his Olympic competition was completed:
The expectations were other people’s. … I’m comfortable with what I’ve accomplished, including at the Olympics … I wanted to have fun here, to enjoy the Olympic experience, not be holed up in a closet and not ever leave your room. I got to party and socialize at an Olympic level … I just did it my way. I’m not a martyr, and I’m not a do-gooder. I just want to go out and rock. And man, I rocked here.1
In other words,
it’s not whether you win or lose, it’s how you play the game.
Fast forward to the inaugural World Baseball Classic. USA Baseball assembled a squad ostensibly equivalent to the first “Dream Team” assembled by USA Basketball. The roster included such luminaries as Roger Clemens, Derek Jeter, Ken Griffey, Jr., Johnny Damon, Chipper Jones, Derrick Lee, and Alex Rodriguez. There was even controversy. Rodriguez was roundly criticized for waffling between playing for Team USA versus playing for the team representing the Dominican Republic.
So what happens? Team USA finishes the Classic with a record of 3-3, out of contention. In the first round, Team USA and American fans learned a lesson about international play. After the second game of the tournament, which Team USA lost to Team Canada 8-6, the Americans learned that they could be eliminated because of the rules of the tournament, which Major League Baseball and its players helped to draw up. In a three-way tie with Mexico and Canada with a record of 2-1, Team USA could be eliminated because they allowed too many runs.
Told the scenario, Mark Teixeria eyes widened, he turned, took a gulp of water and said,
Ah, I’m not really sure how that works.2
Now comes, arguably, the biggest event in World sport: the FIFA World Cup. In Korea and Japan four years ago, Team USA surprised all by advancing to the quarterfinals. In the ensuing time, the team re-qualified for the 2006 tournament, playing a variety of international opponents and sending its players to a variety of professional leagues in Europe and the United States. Team USA was so impressive that it entered the 2006 matches with a number five ranking.
So what happens? Team USA loses the first game of the opening round to the Czech Republic 3-0. Of course, panic reigns supreme. Manager Bruce Arena hired, after the 1998 debacle in France, to bring unity and not dissension to Team USA promptly fingers midfielders Landon Donovan and DaMarcus Beasley for not being aggressive enough in the match versus the Czechs.
Against the Czechs, Arena said only three of his starters had good games. “I think our best players on the night were certainly Claudio (Reyna), I think Gooch (Oguchi Onyewu) had a pretty solid game. I thought Bobby Convey at least had the courage to attack. Everybody else, the performances were not good.” … As for the team’s best young players, Donovan and Beasley, Arena said, “Landon showed no aggressiveness tonight. … We got nothing out of Beasley.”3
Bodes well for Italy, doesn’t it?
Once the World Cup is over, we have the FIBA World Championships in Sapporo, Japan to look forward to. Once again, the American powers-that-be have assembled a world-class squad (Dwayne Wade, Lebron James, Carmelo Anthony, Kobe Bryant, among others) and a world-class coach (Mike Krzyzewski) to take on Puerto Rico, China, Slovenia, Italy and Senegal in round-robin play beginning on 19 August. I shudder to think if this will work better than our last appearances in the 2002 World Championships in Indianapolis, when we finished sixth in a field of 16, or the 2004 Olympics when we finished with a bronze medal.
xenophobia: n. An intense, abnormal, or illogical fear of that which is foreign, especially of strangers or foreign peoples.
I want to conclude with a story segment I read on the Washington Post Online. Camille Powell, the Post’s soccer writer, participated in a chat prior to the USA/Czech Republic match last Monday. Here is a transcript of one of the exchanges.
Normal, Ill.: Reception of the US team has been hostile in recent tournaments-e.g. the US national anthem was booed all the way through [during] the 2003 Confederations Cup; in a qualification match with Mexico fans were chanting ‘Osama, Osama’. What sort of reception would you expect during today’s match and future matches, based on your experiences so far? What are Germans doing to prevent or disencourage such activity?
Camille Powell: I don’t expect the reaction to the US team to be overly or unusually negative today. However, if they happen to play Mexico…. The American fans in town seemed to be very well-received by the Czechs, German, British, etc. In fact, the only time I heard any boos today was when a man walked through the crowd carrying a Mexico flag. The Americans booed and shouted, “Go home!”4
As Linda Ellerbee is wont to say…
And so it goes…
Ciao for now!
- 1Shaun Powell, “Bode Miller: 0-for-Olympics, without regret”, Newsday.com, 25 February 2006, <http://www.newsday.com/sports/olympics/ny-spobode0226,0,4351876.story> (16 June 2006)
- 2Bob Elliott (Toronto Sun), “USA gets wakeup call”, slam.canoe.ca, 9 March 2006, <http://slam.canoe.ca/Slam/Baseball/WBC/2006/03/09/1480030-sun.html>, (16 June 2006)
- 3Kelly Whiteside (USA Today), “Arena blasts Team USA players after lackluster start vs. Czechs”, USAToday.com, 14 June 2006, <http://www.usatoday.com/sports/soccer/worldcup/2006-06-13-team-usa-analysis_x.htm>, (16 June 2006)
- 4washingtonpost.com, “World Cup 2006″, 12 June 2006, group discussion, <http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/discussion/2006/06/09/DI2006060901292.html>, (16 June 2006)
Coming Soon: The Avian Flu
From the government that gave us duct tape and filter masks comes another safety device: yardsticks.
Avian flu, more technically known as H5N1, is coming. This virus, first encountered in Vietnam and Thailand in 2004, is spreading across the globe and headed for the Americas. We’ve been told that if this virus mutates from one which affects birds to one which affects humans, it will create a world-wide pandemic.
pandemic: An epidemic over a wide geographical area and affecting a large portion of the population
Scientists tell us that since the deadly virus for all intents and purposes doesn’t exist (despite the deaths of 113 humans), they cannot develop a vaccine to protect us from it. Emergency managers, the people who brought us the response to Hurricane Katrina, tell us that even if scientists had a vaccine, there isn’t enough manufacturing capacity in the United States to make enough vaccine to protect this country’s citizens, let alone the rest of the world’s population which might also need it.
All of which brings us to a news item I heard this morning on cable news. The United States government has recommended to employers that should avian flu indeed reach our shores that they should keep workers at least three feet apart during their workday to reduce the possibility of transmission from human to human.
I’m headed out, right now, to Ace Hardware to buy me a yardstick!
I hesitate to point out that, unlike those working in Washington, DC, many of us don’t work in offices. Also, since we don’t really know anything about the virus, there is a possibility that it could be transmitted by touch.
I think I’ll pick up some gloves and toilet shields, too.
And, if any dates come over, bring your own toothbrush!
Perhaps the virus could possibly travel airborne beyond three feet.
(Filter masks, again!)
All of this to avoid, once again, telling the American people the truth. In this instance, that translates to, “sorry, citizens. We really don’t know what to do.”
Well, at least in these times where all things retro are embraced, it will bring back a time-honored line from the 70’s…
Ciao for now!
On The Road To Insanity
Does anybody even bother to watch the news anymore? I’m beginning to wonder if it’s worth it. After all, how many more murders, rapes, fires, and other sundry natural and unnatural disasters can we watch. Which brings me to the point of this piece.
I never thought you’d catch me saying this, but I’m beginning to side with those who think the government is out of control. It’s unresponsive to the people it’s intended to serve. That worries me, because if we all opt out of the program, what’s going to replace it. We have some clues.
Into the vacuum have stepped the Republicans, whose mission it seems is to save us from ourselves and those ne’er do wells, the Democrats. On the Democrats, I’m tending to agree but I’m also beginning to wonder if what we’re replacing them with is any better. You know the old bromide — that the cure is no better than the disease.
Consider that after the sound and fury of the Contract With America that nothing has really escaped the Capitol Beltway which would effect let alone benefit our lives save the abolition of the 55-mile an hour speed limit. Is that to be the legacy of our times? Are we better served by the endless Whitewater investigation? Are we better served by the focus on the fiasco of the White House travel office? What’s the point of belabouring the notion that Vince Foster was murdered by Hillary Clinton and her cronies? Does anybody really believe that? And, lastly, what’s the point of shutting down the government and paying its workers to do nothing, especially after nearly driving those same workers into default and depression? Who’s minding the store?
Which, lastly, brings me to the real point of this commentary. The people who should be minding the store is us. Last I looked, the Constitution, which we claim to hold dear, began “We, the people”. That doesn’t mean the politicians. That doesn’t mean the news media. That means us, you and me. Are we really more concerned about satellite dishes, what’s on television, and going online than we are about that which affects our daily lives?
It’s popular for my generation to lambast the generations that follow about apathy and about Beavis and Butthead, among other things. However, maybe that says more about us than it says about them. After all, we raised them. We’re the ones who taught them about mindless consumption while giving lip service to taking care of our fellow man.
At work, like many people, I say:
“Don’t bring me problems! Bring me solutions!”
Well, I’m sorry.
No solutions today.
Ciao for now!
If you’ve been paying attention, and there’s no reason why you should, you may have noticed that I haven’t been around for a couple of months. I didn’t get tired. I have plenty of things to say. Rather, I suffered a shoulder injury. Throughout the entire month of November, it was unbearable to sit at a terminal and whack away at the keyboard. That’s a problem since my profession requires I do just that.
Since then, it’s been trying to regain my balance and catch up on work. So, of course, I wasn’t happy when the holidays rolled around starting with Thanksgiving. Who wants to fool around with a turkey when you can barely lift it? That passed quickly and my partner wanted to have our Christmas tree up that weekend. Sheesh! That did NOT pass quickly. It took a week.
After that, it’s been the unbearable, incessant running around to get prepared for the Christmas holiday. I had gifts to find, gifts to purchase, gifts to wrap, gifts to ship, and gifts to hide. Who needs it? Bah! Humbug!!
Does anybody really like this time of the year? I’m getting so that I hate it. The stores, the crowds, the cars… yuck!
Finally, though, in the last two days, we got to the part of the holiday I tend to like. You know. The part where we get together with the people we work with and realize they’re not SO bad, after all. The part where we contact long-lost buddies and renew friendships from time immortal. It’s the part of Christmas I like most. The gifts are great, but good friends are better. If we have a loving family to spend it with, that makes it all the more worthwhile.
So, I’m not such a Scrooge — even if I am ill-tempered. I’ll call my family back East and say “Hi! Merry Christmas!!”. I’ll make contact with my friends and acquaintances before the big day. My partner, Dave, and I will spend the day together quietly playing with our new boy toys. And, somewhere along the way, I’ll pray for the proverbial peace on earth, etc. etc.
I’m sorry. Pain makes me grumpy.
Has anyone seen my Kwanzaa candles??
Ciao for now!
One In A Million?
Lord Byron (1788-1824)
It is not one man nor a million, but the spirit of liberty that must be preserved. The waves which dash upon the shore are, one by one, broken, but the ocean conquers nevertheless. It overwhelms the Armada, it wears out the rock. In like manner, whatever the struggle of individuals, the great cause will gather strength.
I was not fortunate enough to be able to travel to Washington D.C. today to be a part of yet another historic occasion. After spending time in another of the “masses” in April, 1993, I can only imagine what it must have felt like to have been there. Rather, today, I sat and observed the happenings on CNN and C-SPAN. At various times, I cried. I laughed. I worried. I criticized. Generally, though, I came away happy, with a sense of good will and with hope for a better tomorrow for myself, my distant family, my people, and my nation. (I even learned a new word: diaspora.)
It was called the Million Man March, a gathering of African-American males from across the land, as far and wide as the land itself. There were many things said about the March, true and false. Probably still so. That women were not invited. That admission was charged. However, most charged were the comments that Black people should not participate because of the leadership which suggested the March.
Last week, when discussing the March with a Black male friend of mine, I was disquieted that Minister Louis Farrakhan was the principal voice behind the March. I’m still disquieted as I write this. I sat today and heard co-organizer Benjamin Chavis say that you cannot separate the messenger from the message. Al Sampson of Fernwood United Methodist Church in Chicago implied the same thing. Still, many others feel that the message and the messenger are indeed separate. Regardless, Minister Farrakhan should be respected for making the call. As stated in the American mythology Star Trek, “Only Nixon could go to China”.
However, I am even more disquieted by a gnawing at my insides. I’m sitting here wondering how I, a black gay male, would be received in the Black community’s new world order. Minister Farrakhan asked us to return to our neighborhoods, join an organization, join a church, give up drugs, and black-on-black crime. Is there tolerance enough in this movement to include me and those like me? Or, are we to suffer a distinction that will keep us apart from our communities?
I don’t have an answer for that; I’m not sure I should even care. For if the messenger is listening to his own message, then it should not matter whether I am gay or not. All that should matter is that I have something to offer like the other million or so men on the Mall today.
Ciao for now!
How To Make An American Quilt
My apologies to those who might think this is about the new movie starring Wynona Ryder and others. I admit it. I did it deliberately to draw you in.
Two weeks ago, outside the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, I was fortunate to view once again the AIDS Memorial Quilt. I first saw it in April, 1993 when I attended the March On Washington. It was then and now a powerful experience.
The Quilt is massive. I was told in Pasadena that it is 35,000 panels large. And, it grows at the rate of 5,000 panels a year. If you get the opportunity to see each panel, it can represent one or more persons who have died of AIDS and its complications. In my two experiences with the Quilt, I’ve become overwhelmed by its awesome size and by what that size represents. That’s thousands upon thousands of Americans who have died of this painful scourge. Thousands and thousands of Americans who have been seemingly ignored by their own government.
The Quilt holds a special place in my heart. My sister, a practicing heterosexual, died of AIDS in 1991. She was 41. In fact, I didn’t realize until this moment that in terms of years, I have outlived my sister. Marcia was a beautiful woman who had five children. Two of those children, my youngest nephews, have NO parents. Their father had also contracted AIDS and died years before. Marcia was much on my mind when I first saw the Quilt in Washington, D.C. that spring day. I looked at the panels, thought of my sister, and looked at those alabaster buildings which seem to contain an uncaring, unfeeling bureaucracy uninterested in the plight of millions of Americans.
Some of my friends from The Fireplace and I are getting together next October in Washington D.C. We want very much to put faces and human contact on the correspondence of people we’ve only met on cyberspace and on the telephone. We also want to view the entire AIDS Memorial Quilt on the Mall. It will be a massive effort, but I — for one — feel that it will be necessary to demonstrate to the American government and the people it represents the awesome responsibility it faces every day until this plague is wiped out. I can’t think of a better time, one month before the National elections, of making this pilgrimage.
I wish you will join us there.
Don’t settle for misinformation. I hope you’ll check out some of the resources below the line for information about AIDS and HIV. Thanks!
Ciao for now!
And Now… The President of The United States
As an Afro-American male, I’d be less than honest if I didn’t say that I’d be proud to have Colin Powell as my President (and, obviously, as yours as well). I think he represents what’s best about America and just coincidentally happens to be an Afro-American (or if you prefer, an African-American) himself.
As a gay male, however, I am disquieted by Gen. Powell’s dual nature about gays in the military service. On the one hand, there is the General’s public persona where he claims that gays and lesbians would be disruptive to the military services. On the other, there is the private persona where, if I am to believe what I am told, he openly accepts gay military on his staff. Now, I understand the necessity of having a public persona and a private persona. However, to have such diametrically opposed views as these seem to be seems to me to be a cause for concern.
Earlier this week, I had the opportunity to meet and listen to David Mixner, whom you may recognize as President Clinton’s advisor on gay and lesbian issues. (I hesitate to describe Mr. Mixner as that considering how Mr. Clinton has treated him since the inauguration.) Mr. Mixner stated that gay and lesbian politicos will be meeting with Gen. Powell to determine what his stand is on issues important to the gay and lesbian community. Mr. Mixner feels that, although the President has been a firm (albeit invisible) supporter of the community, we should not put “all our eggs in one basket.” This is a sentiment to which I wholeheartedly agree, as a gay man and a Black man. Mr. Mixner also stated that Sen. Dole, who had been a supporter of gay and lesbian equal rights recently returned a contribution, presumably so as not to appear beholden to the gay and lesbian community.
Of course, all of this is so much conjecture, but it gives us pause — time to reflect on the things that we should be doing with one year remaining before the presidential and Congressional elections. I, for one, will be reading Gen. Powell’s book, My American Journey (Random House, 1995). Realizing that the views that I am reading are distilled, I want to be able to understand where the man is coming from. Also, I’ll be looking into Mr. Clinton’s and Mr. Dole’s records regarding the things I heard about them as well. I’m already registered to vote, as you should be, and I participate in all national, state, and municipal elections, except party primaries as I am not a member of a political party.
I remember my awakening as a gay male in January, 1993 when President Clinton proposed the abolition of the ban on gay and lesbian military personnel. I also remember my disappointment when the President failed to appear at the 1993 March On Washington. And my disappointment when the government imposed their “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy on the military. It seems that for as many moves as we make forward, we take as many in reverse.
The time is once again coming for us to step us and make our voices heard. Let’s do it intelligently from a position of knowledge. Let’s not do it from a position of fear and intimidation.
Ciao for now!
It’s Not My Fault
Hey! It’s not my fault.
He was just standing there.
I can’t help it if he didn’t have any clothes on.
It’s the homophobe’s worse nightmare.
A gay man let loose in the locker room of any of your trendy health clubs. And, yes, the gay man is me. The time was yesterday.
I was changing clothes, not lingering.
It’s not my fault.
I have eyes. I wasn’t staring. Not too much anyway.
If I looked straight ahead, he was in my field of view.
I looked straight ahead. Several times. But, I didn’t stare.
It’s not my fault he wasn’t wearing any clothes. I’m not responsible that he had just the right amount of fur covering his nice tight butt.
Hey, I was moving as fast as I can!
Seriously, though, a lot of heterosexual men get really uptight about being seen (or watched, if you prefer) in the locker room. Why? I don’t know. I just think they think that we (the gay men of America) are all out to get them. I don’t know about that. Gay men just have a healthy fantasy life. Personally, all men are gay. It’s much simpler that way. It would be even simpler if those homophobic dudes just chilled out and accept whatever attention we’re giving them. After all, there’s nothing to fear from us, right? We’re all girlie men, eh?
I think the problem is that those guys are afraid… of a couple of things. They’re afraid they might enjoy the attention. Or, that they might be treated by us the way they treat women. Maybe they think that we won’t take “no” for an answer. Hey, “no” means no, unless they’re being coy like they accuse women of being.
Remember what FDR said.
To paraphrase, you have nothing to fear but fear itself.
So, homophobic men of America, be cool. The next time you’re in the locker room, or on the streets, or anywhere, and you catch me giving you the eye, don’t fret about it. It just means you’re a hot looking dude and you should be proud of that.
After all, it’s not my fault!
Ciao for now!
Cry The Beloved Country
Dateline: Los Angeles, CA
The airwaves have been full of the sound of the so-called Fuhrman Tapes for two weeks now and the sounds are deafening.
Lawyers hurling insults back and forth;
jurists becoming part of the game;
reporters covering the trial like the latest soccer match.
Two people are still dead.
Dateline: Washington, DC
Like the Baltimore Colts before him, Sen. Robert Packwood skulks out of town in the dead of night. Despite a Senate process which would result in his explusion, Sen. Packwood is allowed to resign with an apology and a Federal pension in his pocket.
Men’s Fitness, September 1995 issue
©1995 by Men’s Fitness Magazine, Inc.
Today’s guest editorial comes from an unlikely source, which proves, once again, that there are no unlikely sources.
…I know it’s a long leap from parking violations to terrorist bombings. But while the disease is different, the symptoms are the same: If a person doesn’t personally approve of laws that managed to work their way through our system of checks and balances, he feels no obligation to obey them. … the winds of anarchy — of self-absorption taken to a dangerous extreme — are blowing. We ignore them at our own peril.
Folks, pick up the issue.
It’s worth it for Mr. Weider’s Publisher’s Letter if nothing else.
Personally, I enjoyed the hunky dude on the front cover!
Random thoughts today. My apologies. It’s a little hard for anything to break through the morass of the Simpson nonsense and a twice daily 35 mile commute; so, I don’t really have any one thing on my mind today. In fact, I don’t have anything on it at all.
Thank God It’s Friday.
Ciao for now!