Tuesday, July 31, 2012

No Michael Phelps

Was anyone else charmed by the American Judo athlete? After her improbable bronze medal, the daytime NBC guy interviewed the young lady with the memorable name of Marti Malloy (Riley's sister-in-law, perhaps?*). Platitudes galore? The judo equivelent of "They have a fahn football club"?

No. She was delightful. A "professional eater" she says about herself on Twitter. Told that another medal winner had dropped his medal in the shower and broken it, she exclaimed "In the shower?!" Asked if she would take hers into the shower - "NO!" which also looked a whole lot like "Hell, no!"

Her Olympics are over and she has time to kill. "What events will you go see?" she was asked. She rattled off a couple of obscure sports, including table tennis. Why? Her friends and roomates are competitors. She was off to root for them.

Michael Phelps seems a fine man. My nephew Bryce, an exceptional swimmer in his own right, is friends with gold medalist Missy Franklin, and says she's a genuinely nice young lady. I'm glad.

But somebody ought to drag Marti Malloy in front of a camera in prime time and introduce America to her.

*If you don't know who that is.... Why haven't you read Out of Ideas?

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Feel the Rhythm

"I'm feeling very Olympic today!"*

Men's volleyball is on, and the US just got a point because Serbia's "backup opposite was clearly over the three meter line."

Of course. How could he be so clumsy?

BeachvolleygerI love the Olympics. I've been –with my Aunt Mary and Uncle Jim to the Munich Games, 1972 (yeah, those Olympics), and with our girls to Salt Lake City in 2002. I get choked up watching the opening ceremonies, amazed at the costumes (I don't really care who made them) and...where is Andorra? I soak in the human-interest stories. I root for Americans, but enjoy every athlete's efforts, be they gold medal or merely "making their only appearance in the Games." I listen to the great martial music year round and wait impatiently for the next Olympiad, when "Summon the Heroes" greets me morning, noon and night. The Greer Family lexicon is animated with Cool Runnings quotes like the above – can you imagine any other occasion when "Tallulah!" is an appropriate exclamation? The politics are dull and pointless, but whenever human beings gather there are always boorish souls among them who can't resist. The commercials ("Only Human," for example) have been Super Bowl good.

I amaze myself, too, with expert commentary about sports I watch every two years. "Well played," I suggest admiringly, watching curling during the winter games ("It's kind of a winter sport, you know.). Curling, the only sport playable with a cold Molson's Canadian in one hand, a lit Export A dangling jauntily. Curling, about which I know next to nothing (there is ice, and rocks with handles. Brooms). In the Summers, I tut-tut when the judges deduct a tenth for some imperceptible hop after a high-wire routine (or is it high bar?) and oh-my-God did you see Abby Wambach get sucker punched? And stay the hell away from me when water polo is on...is it true the referee goes through three whistles in a match?

Like any other Olympic geek, gear has an allure all its own. The archery apparatus seem a fascinating combination of William Tell and the mortar guy's gun sight in Stripes. Timing devices that can measure a hundredth of a second difference in a pool – are you kidding me? The boat races are very cool – how much sailing coverage this year?

The dogs are sleeping, I'm writing and the Olympics are on. This time, the Beach Volleyball women are wearing what looks like Under Armor full body suits, with their itsy-bitsy bikini tops on the outside. A new option – something about allowing more of the world's women to participate. The Dutch woman just did the "jump float serve." The Brazilian woman's set was perfect, her partner dropping it right down the middle.

Nicely played.

*Sanka Coffie (Doug E. Doug), Cool Runnings, 1993

A Cotton Pickin’, Finger Lickin Chicken Plucker

"I want to be a cotton pickin', finger lickin' chicken plucker,
The same as my old man."*

The only time I've ever had a Chick-fil-A sandwich was at the Democratic National Convention at the Pepsi Center in 2008, where we were assigned interior security. The organizers had arranged to feed us once per shift – and (ironically) the first day provided a cooler full of chicken. They were fine.

I have no dog in the current "fight" with Chick-fil-A, its president or his opinions. I strongly support gay marriage, however, so maybe I'm at odds with the "Eat More Chikin" folks. I wasn't really paying attention to what is an entirely silly, contrived dispute. That is, right up to the point the Mayor of Boston got involved.

"If they need licenses in the city, it will be very difficult — unless they open up their policies," Menino told the Boston Herald, referring to Chick-fil-A. "Open up their policies" apparently means…. What? Absent any evidence that the company actually engages in discrimination, presumably the company president cannot voice opinions with which the City of Boston officially disagrees. If he does, there is a price to pay.

Shall we fiddle with the facts?

Sunday, July 22, 2012

A Hard Heart

"Your rifle is only a tool. It is a hard heart that kills."*

This undated photo released by the Clark County Sheriff's Office in Ohio shows Clark County Sheriff's Deputy Suzanne Hopper. Hopper, a 12-year veteran of her agency and a former officer of the year who frequently won commendations for her work, was killed Saturday, Jan. 1, 2011, in a trailer park standoff. (Clark County Sheriff's Office/AP)The Aurora victims' pictures grasp my heartstrings and rip them asunder. Portraits of living, loving men, women and child with no notion of the horror to befall them. Innocents, chosen at random, swept up in a vortex of madness. It's hard not to look at them, hard to meet their eye and know what their last moments held in store. Photos snapped by family members, friends, colleagues now left to fill an unfillable void, still an unappeasable longing and search, often in vain, for a way to stop the pain. Aurora police officers rushed headlong into danger and unfathomable carnage, and saved lives. A job well done by men and women who will carry the sights and sounds of that movie theater to their own graves.

The booking photo of the murderer, self-satisfied smirk forever underscoring an empty vessel, looks hauntingly familiar. It is the face of sociopathic indifference, of a lack of empathy for others so profound it defies common sense definitions. To label him evil is to distill out the bitter poisons of human loathing inside of him, only to reveal his deeds in the frankness surrounding the five o'clock news. This is a man who will never again be free, if there is any justice in this society. The perpetrator of another gun crime.

Guns. The mere mention of them turns a normal conversation into a raging inferno. In the aftermath of "another massacre" at the hands of a gunman, normally kind people carry on like preachers at a revival, all fire and brimstone about banning weapons, banning ammunition, banning trigger fingers. Removing the means of killing so many, so quickly. Rage, against the dying of the light.

They have a point. What would the average citizen – hell, the average police officer – need with an AR-15 magazine that holds fifty rounds? In fact, to go farther, an AR-15 is an assault rifle. Why should someone outside of the military or law enforcement (with restrictions) have access to such a powerful, frightful tool?

Friday, July 13, 2012

Painful Introspection

The Penn State internal investigation is out. I have read lowlights. I have listened to writers on talk radio discuss it. I have been made heartsick and disgusted.

Nothing perverts the goodness of men more readily than fame and fortune. In a post "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil" I discussed the preliminary information available when the scandal broke. The new information tends to suggest I was wrong.

It was much worse.

The takeaway is obvious. Serious individuals with important jobs made clear their priorities - their reputations and that of a powerful university over the safety of children. Covering for the criminal, corrupting themselves, guaranteeing that more children would become forced victims.

I look in the mirror each work day and hope I am worthy of the uniform I will wear. I'm no different than any other adult vested with responsibility for the welfare of others. I refuse to believe otherwise.

Even now.

Do You Copy?

"Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery." Charles Caleb Colton.

In the world of radio communication, nothing is as important as ensuring receipt of a transmission. A police officer sending out vital information to another is wasting her time if the intended recipient does not "copy," does not receive the data and understand its import. That kind of stuff slips into day-to-day conversation as well - "repeat?" or the ever favorite "en route" entering not just my speech patterns, but the Greer family lexicon as a whole.

A different kind of "copying" finds its way to the pages of social media, with an entirely different communication agenda. It is highly annoying and lends little to personal exchanges.

I refer to the popular and useless practice of copying political punditry links and pasting them, accompanied by a helpful observation or two, onto social media. What was once a fairly harmless neighborhood comprised of friends and family, vacation pictures and grandkids is now awash with charts, graphs and boldly defamatory rhetoric of the most vile kind. It has made being available for conversations with my out-of-town children daunting.

Open FB in the morning and I am likely to be told that - Republicans want the sick and uninsured to die, Barack Obama is a socialist from Kenya, or that Mitt Romney should be arrested for felony violations of Securities and Exchange Commission rules. Often, these posts are accompanied by slick and colorful visuals that helpfully reinforce the less-than-faithful treatment of the facts. The posting "friend" adds "Fairly balanced observations," or "I highly recommend this." My favorite - "HELL, YEAH!!!!!!!" as if the caps and punctuation somehow lend themselves to making the point.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Another Arresting Tour

"Cofidis [bike racing team] hotel raided, [racer] Di Grégorio arrested at Tour de France." Cyclingnews, July 10, 2012

"This Court is not inclined to indulge Armstrong's desire for publicity, self-aggrandizement or vilification of Defendants, by sifting through eighty mostly unnecessary pages in search of the few kernels of factual material relevant to his claims."* U.S. District Court Judge Sam Sparks in Austin, TX July 9, 2012

Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/sports/2012/07/09/armstrong-lawsuit-to-block-doping-charges-dismissed/#ixzz20Ex0IdTB

Thirteen years ago, Lance Armstrong put US cycling back on the map with a stunning and unexpectedly dominant Tour de France win. Previously, he had ridden to stage wins and made a bit of noise, but had never been a serious contender. Then, the nearly fatal bout with cancer, admirable comeback, seven straight TdF wins and international scorn. Doping accusations seem to haunt him even after his "retirement." How can that be?
Simple. There are two very good reasons Sir Lance is hounded by investigators.

First, several of the riders around him during his best years have been convicted of doping offenses. Roberto Heras, Jan Ullrich, Tyler Hamilton…. On and on, teammates of his as well as the competition. It is hardly defamatory to say that professional cycling in the 1990s and 2000s struggled with performance enhancing drug use among its elite riders. One might comment, based on a reasonable inference, that attaining success during that era such as…perhaps…winning seven Tours in a row, would require either an athlete of monumental ability (possible) or the use of something other than Powerbars for strength, endurance and recovery. Call me a sentimental fool.

Second, when asked point blank if he used performance enhancing drugs Lance's reply has often been "I've never tested positive" or some variant. Oh.