Hat Tales

Dave Looking Askance at his Rams Cap

Dave Looking Askance at his Rams Cap

I biked on Saturday, for the record, my mileage was well short of 4000 miles. It was very windy, which always makes for harder cycling. I kept being passed by the younger, more spritely riders. This made me feel old and tired. Since Anne is not yet regularly riding and I am currently riding alone, I listen to podcasts to pass the time. This normally works well, except that day, when I turned into the wind; I could hardly hear the shows, over the baffled wind noise in my earbuds.

This is Super Bowl Sunday, one of those unofficial, official holidays. I mean, what else are you going to do on a Sunday in February except watch football on TV? I’m going to root for the Niners, like most of the nation. I haven’t queried Anne on her allegiance yet, but I don’t think that she has any real dog in this fight. I don’t either, but I don’t want to stir up my California Bros. I do have a few asides to add.

My first aside is of a literary nature. The Baltimore Ravens are named for the poem by Edgar Allen Poe, “The Raven”. I did not know this until this week. Poe, America’s first commercially successful author came from Baltimore.

I guess that the biggest human interest story of this game is the duel between two brothers. The two team’s head coaches are brothers. Whether you call this game a Harbaugh Bowl or simply a Harbrawl, this nationally televised family spat makes for great press. My aside on the John and Jim Harbaugh controversy is that they both attended my high school. I was long since gone, but John, the one year older Ravens coach, graduated from Ann Arbor Pioneer High School. Jim, the San Francisco Forty-Niners coach, the younger brother returned to Ann Arbor as a quarterback for the University of Michigan. They are both roughly Jane’s age, but since they went to Pioneer and she went to Huron, it is unlikely that she met either of them.

About the hats, a while back, Anne knitted Dave a cap [loosely] based upon the design of the Saint Louis Rams football team’s helmets. Both Dave and Anne’s pictured facial expressions, are more attributable to the iPhone self-portrait process than any criticism on the knitted cap. Although, Dave did complain the cap was too big for his head. He needs more college education, if you ask me.

Speaking of the Rams, they were victorious in their arbitration decision this week. This makes them more successful off the field than they were on it this season. The Rams and Saint Louis entered into arbitration over their stadium dispute. Saint Louis offered modest improvements to the existing stadium, while the Rams are seeking a more comprehensive makeover and have threatened to leave town in 2015, when their lease is up. There was a nasty spat last year, when the Rams proposed a trial separation, by playing a number of their home games in Europe. With Rams home games already looking like an endangered species, Saint Louis offered some serious pushback to this idea.

My final aside is also about the Rams and comes courtesy of the NRA. On their website they have their long enemies list. This list enumerates organizations and individuals that have had the temerity to support gun control legislation. Most of the individuals are Hollywood actors and most of the organizations are healthcare related. A notable exception to the later generalization are the Saint Louis Rams. Go Rams!

Anne Documenting Her Work

Anne Documenting Her Work

Ramdom Fandom

Rams Knit Cap

Anne is seen modeling her latest knitting creation, a Saint Louis Rams’ cap for Dave. It is a lovely cap; she did a great job on it. It looks a lot like the Rams’ football helmets, but not enough to infringe upon any NFL copyright, in my humble opinion. Like I said, it is a lovely cap. I’m sure that Dave will love it, when he gets it. He is an avid Rams fan. I can just see him now, parading around town in it, on game day, or any other day for that matter too. All this being said, it somewhat grieves me that this post is going to be a hate on the Saint Louis Rams. It is such a lovely cap.

Originally, I was going to crank on how the NFL in general and the Rams in particular has plundered Saint Louis. Their initial haul of booty included a new publicly financed stadium, with fans paying thousands of dollars per seat, just for the opportunity to purchase tickets in it. The Rams repaid their Saint Louis fans with the greatest show on turf and a Super Bowl victory. That was twelve years ago and the Rams’ decline since then has been inexorable. Now, like they are warlords who have picked clean their kleptocratic fiefdom, they are scouting for their next victim city. While the Rams are dickering with Saint Louis for a new lease of another new stadium, they are also wooing new fans, by giving away to the British, what could very well be some of Saint Louis’ last few NFL home games. It is almost enough for a disgruntled fan to say, just go, except that it is such a lovely cap. Did I tell you the cap is reversible?

No, the heart of these anti-Rams rants was sparked by recent news reports about the Rams’ new defensive coordinator, Gregg Williams. NO Saints, former defense head, he has garnered notorious notoriety of late, for his practice of putting hits on opposing team’s players. Putting the hurt on opposing offences, is the job of every NFL defenseman, but creating an 18,000 document paper trail of how you planned and executed to injure, maim and “take-out” opposing players, is a personal injury lawyer’s dream come true. “Mr. Fisher, I’ve got Brown & Crouppen calling on lines, one, two, three …” The lawsuits will come. As of now, the sharks are only circling the Saints and maybe the Redskins and the Bills, all former employers of Williams.

What happens next year, when an incident occurs, because surely it will. Do the Rams really want to remain associated with this man? Does Saint Louis want to host a team that does? Football is a violent sport. Any given play contains thirteen or more felony assaults, anyplace except on the field. The difference with Williams is that he has left a paper trail of every aggravated assault that he called for and then paid for. My advice to the Rams, drop this case now. Otherwise, Dave might not wear the cap and it is so lovely.

Sliding into the Weekend

Friday’s forecast for freezing rain made the commute home interesting. MODOT is responding to this winter storm with vigor, attempting to silence the criticism generated after last week’s storm. There was plenty of white-stuff on the roads tonight, but none of it was water. I swung by the grocery store on the way home and true to form; Saint Louisans had flocked to the store. The parking lot was full and the bread and milk shelves were nearly empty. Whenever there is a threat of a winter storm, Saint Louisans rush to stock up their larders. It’s not like we are going to be snowed in for days, the forecast for Sunday has highs in the fifties. [Update: accidents are now being announced on radio.]

In Congress, the SOPA anti-piracy bill was withdrawn today. I’d like to believe that my little black “Stop Censorship” ribbon had something to do with it, but realistically, it was the big boys, Google, Wiki, et al. that swayed the issue. My ribbon is scheduled to display to the 24th. Let’s hope it won’t be necessary to resurrect it again.

Is it an Eagle? No, it's a Seagle

There are just three more games left in the NFL football season. This weekend’s games will decide the two Super-Bowl participants and then after that game, football will be gone again. Something called basketball, will run the picket fence, until pitchers and catchers report and spring training begins. By then, this year’s winter loose grip should have slipped even more and signs of spring should be around.

This football season has not been a very good one for the Rams (2-14). Tied for the worst record in football, we were beat out of the first draft pick by Indianapolis. To add insult to injury, Indianapolis will host this year’s Super-Bowl. The Rams fired their head coach and hired the former Titans coach, Jeff Fisher. With this move a Rams fan can hope for some improvement next year, but to what extent? A 6-10 record would be an improvement, but hardly anything to get excited about. Yesterday, the Rams announced that they will play one game each season, for the next three seasons in London. These games will be Rams home games, reducing the number of regular season games in Saint Louis to seven.

So, Saint Louis is guaranteed 21 more home football games, because in March of 2015, the Rams are free to roam. If Saint Louis doesn’t promise to fork out for a new stadium by then, then say bye-bye to the Rams. The NFL would love to see the Rams return to LA, a much larger market than Saint Louis and currently without a team. Indianapolis spent big and bought the Super-Bowl. The question now on the table is, will Saint Louis submit again, build another large publicly funded stadium and prove to the world that Saint Louisans are sheep? 

[After all of this ranting, Anne reminded me that the Blues are doing well. Oh, well.]

My Vince Lombardi Moment

My Vince Lombardi moment is really more my Mom’s rather than mine. Vince Lombardi was the legendary football coach of the Green Bay Packers. The National Football League’s Super Bowl trophy is named in his honor. In 1969, Lombardi, a devout Catholic moved to the Washington D.C. area to coach the Redskins. He ended up joining our parish.

One Sunday morning, as usual, we were running a little late. Mass was about to start and it was crowded. The only empty seats were in a pew, almost to the front. Sitting on the aisle, in this nearly empty pew was an older couple. This was Lombardi and his wife. I don’t think that my Mom knew who he was, as if that would have mattered, she asked him to move over. He grudgingly slid his butt down the pew, a bit. My Mom insisted again and he move some more and he eventually moved over enough for the five of us to squeeze in there. I knew who he was and was as mortified as a 15 year-old could be. He died a year later. In retrospect, maybe Mom was just trying to help him move on closer to God.

Finally, the day of the big game has arrived, Super Bowl Sunday. For the record, I will be rooting for the Packers. The Packers are the unofficial Yooper team, don’t you know? They will be playing the Pittsburgh Steelers and the game will be held in Arlington, TX, my folk’s home for many years. I explain all of this, because even though the Super Bowl is great spectacle and almost an American holiday, its viewership is “only” about 100 million, which means that most Americans don’t watch the game.

I’ve laid out the basics here, the who, what and where of Super Bowl XLV (that would be 45), so that all my readers will be prepared on Monday morning, during the inevitable postmortem discussions around water cooler. But, now it is time to delve into the details. I’m not speaking about the football, the game hasn’t even been played yet; no, I’m speaking of the commercials, the other part of the Super Bowl.

The Super Bowl is annoying in this respect. It is a TV show that you can’t afford to breakaway from during the commercials, because the commercials are part of the show. During the first Super Bowl, it cost advertisers $42,500 for a thirty-second spot. This year the cost is $3 million. Most advertisers secret their ads until their big moment, but more and more advertisers are beginning to socialize their wares before the big game.

This Volkswagen-Darth Vader spot is a choice one. You don’t know the power of the dark side of the Force. The other venue for advertisers is the banned Super Bowl ad route. This approach allows more creative freedom, alleviates the $3 million cost and can garner comparable exposure via YouTube and the web. I’ll not going to share any heavy Peta ads here (sorry guys), but this E-trade baby medley is relatively tame.

So considered yourself educated about this Super Bowl. Go forth and don’t watch the game. I’ve got you covered. Get out, go shopping, do something else. But know this, I will be watching, not you, the game. Try not to forget checking out the Monday morning news to see who wins. Remember it is the Packers versus the Steelers and you’ll do fine.

Michigan Football

On Friday, Jay and Carl flew back to Seattle. On Friday night, Anne and Bill hosted a dinner party. Karen, Janet and the dogz flew down from Grand Blanc. It was good to see them again. Anne, Bill and I managed to solve most of the world’s problems that night or so it seemed at that time. I was not so sure of that though the following morning. I have chosen two landmarks of downtown Ann Arbor as photo fodder for this post, the Michigan and State Theaters.

Saturday morning we went to the Arboretum. Rey, Anne and I met Banana and Mr. Bill outside the Arb. Ann Arbor’s Arboretum is set in a narrow valley that trails downhill to the Huron River. The weather was cold and windy, but the sun succeeded in poking through the clouds every once and a while. The two Annes and I ended up on the Devil’s Leap, an exciting, but also dangerous sledding and tobogganing slope. In the intervening forty years since high school, it has been fashioned into a scenic overlook and it has been crafted to discourage its further use for winter sports, even if the University of Michigan‘s emergency room door is just around the corner.

Afterwards we retired back to Chez Harry’s to watch the big football game, the Michigan and Ohio State game. The game was pretty much over by halftime, but we watched it to the bitter end. Anne, Michigan State and I were hoping and depending on Michigan to beat Ohio State, but that was not to be. Michigan State, Ohio State and Wisconsin are in a three was tie for the Big Ten championship. If Michigan beat Ohio State and if Michigan State beat Penn State, which we did, then Michigan State would have been the Big Ten champions. But Michigan lost. We never should have sent a boys team to do a man’s job. Now in all likelihood Wisconsin will be the Big Ten Champions, but failing them it is Ohio State’s and all because of the crummy BCS system for ranking college football teams. Michigan State beat Wisconsin and Wisconsin beat Ohio State, so it seems clear to me that the Spartans are clearly the best team in the Big Ten this year. Just because Michigan State and Ohio State did not play each other this year is no reason to let some buggy computer code pick the winner. The BCS sucks. Now instead of our team going to the Rose Bowl, we’ll probably end up going to the Humanitarian Bowl or the Feed the Hungry Bowl, how humiliating. I hate you BCS!

2 Minute Drill

Last weekend was a pretty good football weekend here in the RegenAxe household.  Starting on Friday night, Maplewood-Richmond Heights beat Carnahan 70-6.  Dan and Dave graduated high school from Maplewood and Anne continues to teach there.  Carnahan is a relatively new charter school, named for former Missouri governor, Mel Carnahan.  Mel Carnahan is also remembered as the dead man who beat John Ashcroft.  Carnahan died just weeks before the 2000 election, but with his name still on the ballot, he was elected.  His widow was appointed to serve his term.  Maplewood is now ranked number two in the state’s small school category.

On Saturday, Michigan State beat Illinois 26-6 in East Lansing.  Although the first half seemed conflicted, the second half was all MSU.  Adding icing to this Big Ten victory was Ohio State’s defeat.  They fell to Wisconsin.   Michigan also lost (again), but there is no need to pile it on, right?  Most of the challenging opponents that MSU has this year, have already been faced.  Michigan State and Ohio State are not scheduled to meet this year, at least not in regular season play.  Can you say Big Ten Champions?  Not yet?  How about now?  Now?

Finally on Sunday, the Saint Louis Rams overcame the San Diego Chargers, 20-17.  Sorry Ski.  No, not really.  The Rams have surprised Saint Louis this year, they’re actually winning.  Monday morning, I overheard a discussion between Aaron, the Starbucks barista, and one of his more sports savvy customers; they were parsing the Ram’s chances for the rest of the season.  This was a conversation that wouldn’t have happened a year ago, or even three weeks ago.

In football parlance the two-minute drill is what the losing team does around about the time that the two-minute warning whistle is blown at the end of a half.  They’ll use a variety of tactics like, the hurry-up offence and sideline passes, all designed to squeeze as much time out of the clock as is possible.  This election cycle has two more weeks to go, not just two more minutes.  But, if you consider that this election cycle began on November, 5th, 2008, the day after Barack Obama was elected president, then a two-year election cycle telescopes these last 2 weeks into the last 2 minutes of this political football game. 

The Democrats are down in the polls and certainly have more to lose than the Republicans, but I think that it is we the people, who have the most to lose.  The dominant issue for this election cycle is the economy, by which I mean jobs.  Many people in this country are out of work, but many more people fear for their jobs.  Overlaying this election cycle, with its political issues was the Supreme Court’s ruling that free speech = money.  This ruling has allowed corporations to funnel hundreds of millions of dollars into the electoral process all with the motive of buying this election.

Switching back to the sports paradigm, our two predominant national sports are baseball and football.  Baseball has settled upon a system that has allowed the Yankees to buy their pennant for about a quarter of the time over the last one-hundred years.  Conversely, football has their draft, which regularly turns over the winning and losing teams.  How about those Saint Louis Rams?  I fear that our country is moving from a world where one man person = one vote to a world where one dollar = one vote.  I pray that the American public shows the gridiron grit to prevent this.  Should we just punt or go for the Hail Mary?

In addition to the picture of this year’s crop of political yard signs, I have also included a photograph of the vintage cycling poster for Les Cycles Wonder or Wonder Bicycles.  They are fast and flexible, sont souples et rapides.  The photo was taken at the City Diner, a great Saint Louis greasy spoon, that features all sorts of eclectic artworks.  This poster is for my bike buddies.