Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Hopper's NFL Watchability Problem

OK, so I’ve read a bunch of articles and posts here and there about how the NFL is having problems. Primarily ratings problems, though one website labeled it a “watchability” problem. And that immediately lit up that invisible light bulb above my head. That’s exactly it for me, this season and last.

I’ve watched the NFL pretty regularly since the 94-95 season. Over time, I found myself getting too emotionally involved in my team – the New York Giants – my “tribe” as the sociologists may categorize it. I didn’t like that. The cliché “it’s just a game” does have more than a grain of truth, after all. I have zero skin in the game. In the long run, a game / season / playoff run doesn’t affect me in the least. So why was I going to bed royally pissed off after a close loss? I am, after all, a fan of the perpetually 9-7 Eli Manning Giants, so all games are close and only slightly more games are won than lost. So why the mental discombobulation from an activity that’s supposed to be fun and – even – relaxing?

In 2013 I decided to switch sports allegiances and began watching the Mets. Right off the bat I found the enjoyment and relaxation that had been missing. I wasn’t so emotionally invested, the games were slower paced, a loss wasn’t that catastrophic since ten baseball games equaled a football game in importance.

The past two season with the NFL, though, I’ve grown more than annoyed. I just don’t like watching the games anymore. Loyalty demands I do watch, though, but I may not after the Giants lackluster 0-2 offensive desert this year. But to me the NFL does have a watchability problem, and it’s not just due to the lousy New York teams.

In no particular order –

ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) Syndrome: More bells! More whistles! More camera angles! Up close shots! Let’s cut to the replay, several times from several different angles! Let’s hear the grunting on the field, the play calling! Let’s put humongous CGI robots battling on the field! Zoom in on ecstatic epileptic fans! Let’s cut to sideline reporters yelling over the loud crowd! Quick – cut to our man in NFL headquarters discussing the last penalty! More colors! More noise! More hard cuts!

Commercials, commercials, commercials … and more commercials: There’s the kickoff. Then three minutes of commercials. Then, if the Giants have the ball, a three-and-out before five real-time minutes elapse. Then three more minutes of commercials. There was a famous study a few years’ back showing that an average football game only lasts 11 minutes when the ball is actually in play. 11 minutes spread out over three hours. The game clock actually runs for an hour – and the game’s three hours long! What fills those extra two hours? Commercials!

Thug culture: A proliferation of criminal behavior on and off the field, gangsta swagger, an excess of tattoos, stupid overlong celebrations in the end zone. Including some classy crotch grabbin’ from a Giants rookie in their loss Sunday night.

Overexposure: Sunday afternoon, 1 to 7. Sunday evening, 8:30-11:30. Monday evening, 8:30-11:30. Thursday evening, 8-11. And four London games airing at 7 am on various Sunday mornings. That’s anywhere from 15 to 18 hours of football a week. Not counting the hour-long pregame analysis shows. Throw them in and you’re at around 20 to 24 hours of football a week. Too, too much. The product is diluted.

Announcers who want to date Tom Brady, Dak Prescott, etc.: Good Lord, get a room! The effusive avalanche of gushing love praise from the broadcast booth slathered on the select elected stars of the league is often quite embarrassing, if you take the time to actual listen to what is said. (Oh, announcers, one other thing, and I think I speak for all Giants, Eagles, and Redskins fans: just because you call Dallas “America’s team,” doesn’t mean everyone in America loves them!)

The kneel-down protests: Personally, I haven’t seen any at a game I’ve watched. I watch mostly Giants games, and I believe they’re one of the teams that hasn’t allowed this infection to fester to its sideline. But, yeah, the nationwide attention has had its effect, and I blame more the league itself for a cowardly, half-hearted, fence-sitting response more than the actual dopes taking a knee.

Ah, that’s enough. Giants lose this weekend to Philly, I may just ditch the entire season and resume bird-watching.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Birthday Weekend

Well, the Hopper birthday weekend officially came to a close late last night. And not only am I, straddling the half-century mark, utterly and completely exhausted, so is almost birthday-buddy Patch, now age nine, as well as Little One, age twelve (for only ten more days), and even the Mrs.

Thankfully, work was slow. As was I, at work.

Anyway, it launched with a blast. I am not a social animal. I’m probably best suited in this life for Carthusian monkhood. But the Lord in His wisdom decided to place me in a family of decidedly extroverts. I put my foot down months ago and told the wife not to plan any party for me, save for a quiet dinner with her and the two little ’uns. That lasted about a day or two. “Listen,” she said, “you’re turning fifty. Your family is not going to allow you not to have party.”

So we compromised. Something small, eighteen people, all relatives, aunts uncles cousins parents children. At a local pizzeria. Truth be told, I had a blast. I chugged some beers, guzzled some thin crust slices, wolfed down some birthday cake. And best of all, the wife got me this:


This is an Epiphone Les Paul, kind of an economy-classed Gibson Les Paul. No matter – it feels great. The size and curvature of the neck, the fit and heft of the body. I love the shiny black finish and the gold frets and tuning pegs. She also bought a small Fender practice amp that lays down a nice basic tone to build up on. As of the writing of this post I’ve already put about fours hours of jamming into it.

So an enjoyable two-and-a-half hour 50th birthday party, capped off with the wife dragging out a black guitar case behind my back for me to open. It’s no exaggeration that I will probably remember that moment the rest of my life.

Saturday was no day of recovery for us. Got up early and ran some of the usual errands with the girls (recycling, dry cleaners, post office, library). Went to Home Depot for a couple of items – there’s a post in itself I won’t go into. Then I had to race back, shower, get into some biz cazh and motored a few towns over for a pre-Tax Season meeting with my second job. Went over my “report card” with my district manager, set some goals for the near future.

Got back home and actually dozed for twenty minutes while the girls kicked the soccer ball around in the backyard. Then the wife pulled up with Patch’s big birthday gift – a bicycle! She was electrified, super-excited. So, despite the unseasonably hot and humid weather, I hauled it and Patchie to the local running track to teach her how to ride.

And, father of the year that I am, I did. After much bruising and tears on her part. But the Mrs, in her wisdom, also included elbow and knee pads with the helmet with the bike.

Saturday night we chilled at a local eatery – just the four of us. Now I’m not a foodie, but I had one of the most delicious meals I’ve ever had outside of Hilton Head, S.C. I can’t recite the details two days later, but it was basically short ribs over creamy potatoes with some leafy veggie thing. But it was superb, I tell ya!

Sunday was a similarly action-packed day. Feeling somewhat spiritual entering my second half-century of life – O! forgot – I managed to find time yesterday for an afternoon confession – it’s good for the soul! – I got up at 6:45 and went to 7:30 mass solo (I allowed the ladies their beauty sleep). Got back, then the rush was on for Patch’s travel soccer game a few towns away. Poor little thing got rocked in goal for the first half, and we hoped it wouldn’t affect her birthday weekend. The wife actually had to bite her tongue and go for a walk as Patch was getting no help from her teammates. But after recharging with some oranges at half-time and going back in on offense, she got her fighting spirit back. Only one shot on goal, though, and it didn’t go in.

Once back and all showered, the wife took Patch to the beauty salon – where they met five of her fourth grade friends to get all their hands and feet done. Me and Little One picked up the cake and some balloons and met them all at that local pizzeria again, the scene from my bash Friday night. More pizza and cake followed. The parents came to pick up their little ones, we all mingled for a bit, then I headed home to shower yet again (like the third time of the day – it was unseasonably hot).

Because me and my pal were going to see It in the theaters. Had a chocolatini at his house (don’t ask – his wife makes them for me just about every time I come over there, something about both of us being chocoholics), then we drove over to experience the unexpected blockbuster. What a birthday, eh? It, my third all-time favorite book, now finally brought to the big screen in all its gloriously hideous and beautiful splendor (the 1990 miniseries does not exist in the world I inhabit). Normally I hate lengthy movies, but I absolutely loved every minute of the 135 minutes spent in Derry with the Losers Club battling ol’ Pennywise. A+. Easy A+. Best movie I’ve seen all year, best possibly since … I can’t recall. Definitely want to see it again on the big screen. Want to take Little One, but she’s still too little. Needs to mature at least another year, maybe when she’s in ninth grade.

So, that was the Great Birthday Weekend of 2017. Forgive my stream-of-consciousness post, too damn tired to edit it properly.

But it was a great 50th birthday.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Grant Hart RIP

Grant Hart, drummer, singer, songwriter, most famously for the proto-grunge alternative rock band Husker Du, died yesterday.

I was a HUGE Husker Du fan in the late 80s, turned on to them by my lead guitarist / pal Rich, and though it took a while for them to grow on me, by the summer of 1989 I must’ve listened to Zen Arcade, Candy Apple Grey, and Warehouse countless times. And by countless, I literally mean “countless.” Why, that summer alone in my virtual convertible Corolla, I blasted my cassette tape of Candy Apple Grey something like every single day, every single commute, every single lunch hour, from early May to late September. And I would throw on Warehouse in that brand-newfangled CD player thing I just bought every single night and jam along with it.

Now, as far as Husker Du goes, the band is absolutely one-hundred percent phenomenal, no doubt about that. To the Eighties what the Ramones were to the Seventies, plus some. Perhaps the greatest unknown-band-to-the-masses ever. And though I appreciated Bob Mould’s droning, wall-of-sound guitar and moody, dark, depressive lyrics, I enjoyed Grant Hart’s drumming and singing more. He had a mischievous, impish quality to everything he recorded, a hyper prancing galloping aggressive style of play that captivated me. Though I hold him not as a role model (serious drug abuse and worse), I always thoroughly enjoyed everything I ever heard him play or sing.

Died yesterday at age 56 (ach!) of “kidney cancer.”

Rest in peace. You gave a couple thousand of us some great entertainment over the years.

Grant Hart singing and drumming on Dead Set on Destruction from Candy Apple Grey:

Well, I’m standing in the queue
And I can’t stand anymore missing you
And I, I can’t stand the pain
And I can’t get home ’cause of a hurricane

Dead set on destruction
Dead set on destruction

There’s no flights home today
And no services out on the motorway
And I, I can’t leave the ground
And I can’t find a place now to put her down

Dead set on destruction
Dead set on destruction

The Atlantic winds are high
There’s only one virgin and if she don't fly
And they, they can’t land the plane
And they can’t get home ’cause of a hurricane

Dead set on destruction, etc, etc, etc ...

From the near-perfect Warehouse, the penultimate-penultimate song She’s a Woman and Now He is a Man

Well I can see her loading boxes in my mind
Into a belvedere with a trailer pulled behind
Well things didn’t go exactly as they planned
She’s a woman and now he is a man

Well there’s a vacancy between them everyday
And a sense of guilt that’s not going away
When they get older perhaps they’ll understand
She’s a woman and now he is a man

And now he’s into something that her heart cannot forgive
She’s saying to herself, “This is not the way to live”
Well he’ll never listen to her ’cause his mind is like a sieve
Oh brother! Oh brother! I’m telling your sister
No way can I resist her

With a guilty feeling hanging in their brain
And the two of them are potentially insane
Well they’ve had enough which is more than they can stand
She’s a woman and now he is a man

Well I can see her loading boxes in my mind
Into a belvedere with a trailer pulled behind
Well things didn’t go exactly as they planned
She’s a woman and now he is a man
She’s a woman and now he is a man, etc…

Solo Hart, from 2009: You’re the Reflection of the Moon on the Water

You’re the reflection of the moon on the water
You’re the reflection of the moon on the water
You’re the reflection of the moon on the water
But you’re not the moon

You are the scent of the sea on the night wind
You are the scent of the sea on the night wind
You are the scent of the sea on the night wind
But you’re not the sea

You are the shadows from the light of a fire
You are the shadows from the light of a fire
You are the shadows from the light of a fire
But you’re not the light

You are the sound of the rain on the dry earth
You are the sound of the rain on the dry earth
You are the sound of the rain on the dry earth
But you’re not the rain

[Repeat …]

(Husker Du live: Greg Norton, bass; Grant Hart, drums; Bob Mould, guitar)