Country Last

13 10 2017

“I think there has been this rhetoric that has been spewed out over the last couple of years – players have to go to Europe. If you want to go to Europe that’s fine, but I would guess that come 2018, 80% of our roster will be made up of MLS players. It is not about where you play, it is about what you bring to the team and how much you care.” ~ USMNT Goalkeeper, Tim Howard – January 2017

The U.S. Men’s soccer team will not be participating in the 2018 World Cup Finals. That bad news was finally determined a few days ago, and it has taken me that long to gather my thoughts. While there are many reasons for this elimination and many more problems with U.S. Soccer, the statement above is at the core.

The sad trip ended on Tuesday night, but we started down this road in April 2013 when Clint Dempsey left Fulham FC in English Premier League to play in MLS. He left arguably the most competitive league in the world to come home and play in the U.S. Michael Bradley, Jozy Altidore, Tim Howard – the core of the USMNT – soon followed, leaving their teams in Europe. That was the beginning of the decline that eventually eliminated our country from participating in the 2018 World Cup,

US Soccer has exhibited a cockiness that is unfathomable to me. Soccer is the most popular sport in almost every civilized country in the world, and it is played the same way everywhere. The rules of the game are the same. Professional league rules are the same. Except in the United States. Player development differs, and one can certainly argue that passion for the sport is key. But for some inexplicable reason, our players and supporters ignore a belief shared around the world – Country First, Club Second.

One of the true principles of development in soccer – or any sport – is that if you play with and against better players, you become a better player. It works consistently at the youth and professional levels.  In a list of the Top 100 Footballers in the World published by The Guardian in 2016, only five of the top twenty-five played professionally in their own country. So Howard’s belief is false to me, but he was close to right about one thing: The roster for Tuesday night’s match against Trinidad and Tobago was 72% MLS players. So we may reach his 80%, but since we won’t be in the World Cup in 2018… who really cares?

The passion for the sport is much less here, but it is growing. MLS is trending up in popularity and succeeding financially, but it will be decades before it rivals top European leagues – if ever. It has been said that part of the success is due to its close relationship with US Soccer, and I agree. But while MLS continues to grow, expected growth in domestic talent and development has not happened. That makes the relationship very one-sided.

I’m keying on one issue, but there are others. Player development must be examined more closely than ever, and many have been crying out for the heads of manager Bruce Arena or Sunil Gulati, president of the United States Soccer Federation. While those steps may be necessary, the core issue will remain. If our players and fans want to compete on the international level, the national team must be the priority.

By the way… the ladies understand that.

The USMNT-less World Cup will go on, and I will watch all of it. But I’ll really miss screaming and yelling and singing for my country with my son and hundreds of others at a local drinking establishment. And that makes me sad.

Our country is experiencing unprecedented conversation about national pride. Our citizens question each other daily… Do you have pride in your country? Are you American? Or more accurately, are you American enough? But looking at the last two years of US Soccer, one can see that being the greatest country in the world must be earned… it isn’t a given.

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Prayers For (Insert City)

6 10 2017

“We can’t tolerate this anymore. These tragedies must end. And to end them, we must change. We will be told that the causes of such violence are complex, and that is true. No single law — no set of laws can eliminate evil from the world, or prevent every senseless act of violence in our society. But that can’t be an excuse for inaction.” ~ President Barack Obama, December 16, 2012 in honor of the victims of the shootings at Sandy Hill Elementary. 

This link contains a list of the people murdered this week in Las Vegas. Take a good look now… see their faces, and read their stories. News cycles (fake or not) in 2017 are shorter, and these people will all be forgotten by the weekend. Like the names and faces of Orlando, Virginia Tech and Sandy Hook.

Gone, and quickly forgotten.

We have to move on because the world is chock full of interesting stories – some that inspire, some that make you sad, and some that scare the crap out of you. North Korea will be back in the news, as well as BREAKING NEWS Russian-election-collusion stories. Khloe Kardashian’s pregnancy must be analyzed. Big World Cup Qualifier match for the USA tonight, and there’s an Eagles game this weekend! Jeez… I hope no one kneels.

My attention span is short too. When I look back on my social media this week I see posts and comments about soccer, Puerto Rico, Tom Petty, flights to Ireland… and just a few things about our President. I posted some cartoons and videos about guns too, but not to be funny.

There are lots of things going on. Who can keep up? It’s just human nature, so we should be forgiven if we can’t continue to focus on just 58 lives out 322,000,000 plus in our great country.

Umm… No.

I remember the Sandy Hook school shootings and the sadness we felt. I remember the beautiful words above from President Obama and all of the other lawmakers. And then nothing was done. Nothing. Twenty children were brutally murdered that day, and our country did nothing. Those children were just a number… like the Orlando 49, the Virginia Tech 32, and now the Vegas 58.

Are we all just numbers?

Maybe we should be honest for a change. Let’s remove those “Prayers For Las Vegas” Facebook and Twitter photos. If nothing is going to be done, we should save our prayers and good thoughts for other things.

Keep making those awesome 2nd Amendment arguments, and the classic – “Guns don’t kill people. People kill people.” And let’s stop the sideshow Rose Garden moments of silence by the first families because their heads are dealing with spinning policy to protect their jobs, not grief.

We should keep supporting the NRA, the gun lobby that says they support gun owners but only exist because of gun manufacturers.

Since the number of mass shootings in America is so, so offensive, let’s debate the exact amount of people dying that makes it an official “mass” shooting event. Four isn’t enough for a good statistic… ten is a better number. Problem solved!

We should be posting more clever memes about how lack of mental health care and parental discipline is the real problem, and more prayer – not gun control – will stop people from being killed.

Most importantly, we should all keep our fingers crossed that the next massacre is somewhere else. Some other person’s neighborhood or workplace. And that our friends and family members are not in the next set of numbers.

Or we can speak out.

All assault rifles, ammunition, and supplies should be illegal. Automatic, semi-automatic, bump stock, tripod, high capacity magazines… everything. Immediately. Period. It should be illegal to sell them and a crime to possess these items. If you have them, too bad. Turn them in or go to jail. It is as simple as that.

As simple as pulling a trigger.

If you disagree, please say it out loud for everyone to hear. All of your friends should know and clearly understand that you have a basic disregard for human life. Not speaking out against these dangerous weapons makes you part of the problem. I will no longer be part of the problem.

And if you are denying that this is the biggest danger we face as a country, or you are actively taking a position against gun control – that makes you a murderer.





B-Musings – Get Up, Stand Up Edition

12 01 2017

“B-Musings”… sharing random blurbiage and ping-pong balls rattling around my dome.  

The Purge – Every year, I make a conscious effort to trim down my Facebook Friends List. Not to be mean-spirited or anything like that… it just a process of cleaning up my timeline. It’s kind of a “new year” thang.

unfriendI tend to “friend” people haphazardly. If you reach out to me, and we have a few friends in common, I’ll usually make the connection. I’m always eager to expand my network. But once a year – usually in January – I trim down the list.

If I haven’t had any meaningful dialogue with someone in the past year, he/she gets whacked. That is my only requirement, except for people in my list who have passed on. If you die, we are friends forever. Weird, I know…

But this year I was forced to add some new criteria, mostly because of the heightened political atmosphere. Tough decisions were made, deleting some long time connections.‪ But at the end of the day, social media is supposed to be fun. Right?

So if we are no longer connected, some of the reasons are below:

  • Our morality differed… for example, I don’t make jokes about gun violence.
  • You bullied my other friends.
  • You repeatedly shared fake news or websites to further some agenda (whether I agree with that agenda or not).
  • You were a dick.

Doesn’t seem like much, but it added up to 159 people. Sorry… do better. Be nicer. Don’t be a dick.

Social media was invented to be fun. (Well… Facebook was actually invented so Zuckerberg could get laid. But that’s fun, right?)

We may not always see eye-to-eye, and if we disagree I always appreciate a good, respectful argument. So, I’m glad we are still friends… for now!

Feral MerylMy mail carrier is terrific. She is consistently on time, and knocks the door when delivering a package. She is always smiling and happy. But while she is very good at her job, her political views are not important to me.

nixonelvisI’m not a fan of celebrity. I respect and appreciate the talents of actors, musicians or sports figures, and anyone who excels in their chosen fields. Are you an expert on politics because you’ve won an Oscar, Emmy, Grammy or a Super Bowl? Um… no. I don’t tune in to a movie or sporting event to hear the news or political opinions. I’m escaping from that stuff.

Sports figures, especially coaches, hate when they are questioned about tactics or strategy. The general public knows nothing about the intricacies of their sport. So why should we care about your political views, Charles Barkley?

Meryl Streep is the best actress in history. Challenge that statement, I dare ya. So when she took the stage this week to accept a lifetime achievement award, I expected her usual funny and humble acceptance. And when she launched into her political speech I started to cringe.

Don’t get me wrong… I agree with every syllable of her speech. It was delivered beautifully, and it clearly resonated with the audience in the theater and around the world. Of course it did… she is the best actress on the planet reading from a very professionally written script. But I turned the TV on that night for entertainment, not a political speech.

I love you, Meryl. I agree with your statement. You deserve every acting award in the world, and I will continue to watch your movies. Now sit down and shut the fuck up.

You too, Scott Baio and Ted Nugent! (Trying to be fair…)

An Appreciation – I wrote these words last April: “At the end of the day, I want my President to represent our country positively and professionally, and be committed to keeping my family safe.”

fullsizerender-19For the past eight years, I’ve had that with Barack Obama.

I didn’t always agree with his policies. In fact, I sometimes disagreed strongly. But that is to be expected with the complexity of issues faced by a President.

But in January of 2009, he entered the office with so much raw energy, optimism and hope. He still has all of that, and a few more gray hairs. We pretty much knew he was a good man, and he proved it to us. Every day, he worked tirelessly for his country while facing unprecedented opposition and unfathomable hatred.

And for every minute of those eight years, President Obama and his family have represented our country with dignity and grace. History will determine if he was a good President – I think it will show him to be a great one.

Like many people, I’m scared for my country. But I won’t dwell on that.

Today, I’ll just thank the President of the United States for a job well done.

As with anything I write, I welcome your comments and spirited, respectful debate. 





I Used To Be Amused, Now I’m Just Disgusted

12 12 2016

campaign-finance-reform-corrupts-banner

“But if you don’t want your tax dollars to help the poor, then stop saying you want a country based on Christian values. Because you don’t.” ~ Comedian John Fugelsang

A short post today, because this feeble-minded writer needs some help. I’m hoping someone out there on the World Wide Webs can explain this.

I’ve been doing some quick research into presidential campaign spending. I’m not a numbers guy, so don’t look here for exhaustive data and structure.

According to information culled from sources like the Federal Election Commission and Bloomberg.com, the Trump and Clinton campaigns combined raised a total of $1.84 billion to support their candidates run for President.

Currently – after expenses – they have about $39 million left. So I have to ask some questions:

campaign

Click To Enlarge

Why are both campaigns still actively seeking donations? (The photos on the right are screen shots from the home page of each candidate’s campaign website.)

And…

Why would anyone contribute?

And…

Do these numbers make anyone want to vomit? I do.

I have no answers, just questions. Sorry…

I’m not singling out specific people, parties or organizations. And I thought of expanding this post to a full diatribe about wasteful spending – inauguration parties, televangelists private jets and mansions, tax exemptions for corporations and churches, etc. But I exist in the blog world, without space for information probably the size a bible. Ironically…

For today, I’ll keep it simple and ask no more questions. There is way to much blame to go around for allowing this ridiculous balance of wants versus needs, and or greed versus good.

We can’t drain the swamp and risk flooding the rest of the country.





Supporting President Trump

14 11 2016

“Now it’s time for America to bind the wounds of division; have to get together. To all Republicans and Democrats and independents across this nation, I say it is time for us to come together as one united people. It’s time. I pledge to every citizen of our land that I will be president for all Americans.” ~ President-Elect Donald Trump, November 9, 2016

I will start by stating something that I feel very strongly about… Donald J. Trump is the President-Elect of the United States of America. And I respect that.

Anyone close to me – or anyone who has read my blog posts – surely knows how difficult it was for me to type that last sentence. Truthfully, it was equally difficult not to place quotation marks around the word United.

trumpwh03Many years ago I was sitting in pizza place with some friends, in a loud conversation ripping into then-President Ronald Reagan. A man sitting next to us interjected, “Gentlemen, I understand your points about these issues. You have every right to disagree, but do it respectfully. I’m a former Marine, and I will always respect my Commander-In-Chief. I will always respect the office of the President of the United States.”

One of the things that has bothered me in the past eight years has been the complete lack of respect for that office. Many of the attacks on Barack Obama were vicious, degrading, and had nothing to do with policies or issues. And some were offered by former and current members of the armed forces, which certainly struck a chord with me because of the previous story. I railed publicly against this behavior, and it would be hypocritical of me to behave in the same manner. So I will not. The name of our country describes our states – random sections of land – being “united”. But our people should be united, so I hope our new President does what is needed to make that happen. I want that more than anything, so I will give him that clean slate going forward.

That said… a couple of things I must note.

I’ve recovered from the disappointment of this election… mostly! I take some solace that I wasn’t the only one surprised… people more qualified than I are in complete shock. And that is a huge group!

I didn’t sleep much on election night. I was in Boston for a marketing conference, so I channeled some disappointment and a decent amount of anger into more positive efforts. On Wednesday night I was walking to my hotel after dinner, when I turned the corner and saw hundreds of people on the street. They were dispersing after a peaceful protest on Boston Commons. I immediately felt better that I wasn’t alone in my disappointment, but I felt discouraged later when I saw on the news that protesters in other cities were not so peaceful.

Protesting is fine, and I respect that. I don’t respect the violence that happened and those people need to be dealt with under the law. And I find it humorous that so many Trump supporters have spoken out against the protesters, as I’m sure some of them would have been on the streets if their candidate had won the popular vote and lost the Electoral College. But everything will calm down soon… if this election has taught us anything, the American people have a short attention span.

hoperopeI accused Donald Trump of a few not-so-great things in this election, and I still disagree with most of his positions. He successfully targeted a portion of the electorate that had lost faith in their government, and I certainly respect that. But his campaign and presentation over the past fifteen months revealed dark things about some of our people, and beliefs that I thought were less prevalent or refused to acknowledge. There is a small, but significant population of our country – some in public, some hiding – that embrace hate. It fuels and guides them. And I’m sad to say that some are people I know.

Their decision processes were very simple: Vote against the candidate who supports the LGBTQ community. Vote against the party that has the nerve to give us a President who isn’t white, and doesn’t have a Christian sounding name. And vote against the female candidate because of that one adjective, nothing else.

Donald Trump spoke to them and they stirred. Hillary Clinton called them a name, and it galvanized them. And it cost her the election.

Sure, there are many ways to analyze why this election was won or lost… many other things possibly determined the outcome. But ignoring this aspect is unforgivable, because the “positive” results have already emboldened these hateful people and groups. Discouraging their racism and bigotry should be our new President’s highest priority.

And while we are at it, let’s get rid of the two party system… and call out the media for their bias, ratings-based reporting… and stop the viciousness and hatred on social media… and severely limit the disgusting amount of money spent on electing a President! (Calm down, John… you are writing a blog post, not a novel.)

sealOver the past year I have spoken out against Donald Trump for his erratic behavior and divisive words. I do hope that I was as wrong about him as I was wrong about the election. I joked last week that I personally don’t have to worry too much. I’m solid middle class, and my wife works in healthcare so our insurance is not bad. I’m white, and though I am not religious I was raised in a Christian family. I also joked that President-elect Trump seems to be already softening his stance on some of the hot button issues, so maybe I should have voted for him!

Those jokes will only be funny if Donald Trump keeps our country, and my family, safe. I hope he disavows his most disgusting rhetoric, surrounds himself with good people, and works for solutions.

I will respect, as always, the office of President of the United States. But I will be watching President Donald Trump’s every move, and if necessary I will fight the fight.





Ten Fingerprints On My Imagination

31 10 2016
elvisme

EC, and some bald guy…

I’m always eager to offer opinions on my likes or dislikes in any conversation about music. If you are familiar with me at all, you know that I willing and ready to offer opinions on everything!

My range of musical preferences is wide. I’m a rock guy, especially the 80’s… but I like a lot of different genres from classical to some jazz to oldies to… whatever! But I do draw the line at country music… ugh.

But if asked about my favorite artist, the sun rises and sets on Elvis Costello.

I first heard his music in 1979 when my friend’s sister played the “This Year’s Model” cassette in her car, and I’ve been hooked ever since. No artist speaks to me with a clearer voice. I’ve purchased every record, and have searched and downloaded dozens of rare and live performances over the years. I have seen him live about thirty times, and met him in person at a book signing last year. THAT was a great night…

I love his music and songs, but not every one of them. I don’t think it possible to like everything someone produces over such a long career. I always say that while Elvis has taken his fans on a very varied musical journey for close to forty years, he’s really not concerned much whether we are enjoying the ride. But without exception, every record has some gem that keeps me coming back.

nashville

October 17, 2016 – Nashville

Elvis has been on my mind more than usual. I was on a business trip to Nashville recently, and was surprised to find out he was playing at the Ryman Auditorium that very night. All other planned activities ceased, and I was witness to a fabulous night of music. Completely unexpected, completely enjoyable.

Inspired by that night – and just for fun – I thought I would list my Top Ten Elvis Costello songs. I’ve attempted a similar list on this blog, so I will state the same caveat: The criteria is completely subjective. This is MY list. I’d love to hear your comments, and I hope you like my choices. If you don’t, go make your own… So there!

A quick message to fellow EC fanatics… I’m sure you will have additions and subtractions, and hopefully an appreciation of the difficulty producing a top ten list from the roughly one thousand songs that I have on my iPod.

My Top Ten Elvis Costello Songs (So Far):

10. Mystery Dance from My Aim Is True – I’ve attended several shows where this was the opening song. It starts with drums in concert, and guitar on the record. Would any other artist write and perform a song about sexual inexperience with such raw, frenetic energy

9. She from Notting Hill Soundtrack – Yeah, it not written by Elvis so quit yer bitchin’! Costello sometimes tries to round out his sharp edges by slowing things down and speaking with a softer tone. He doesn’t succeed very often, but he does with this beautiful love song. Strong lyrics that he makes his own, sung with so much heart.

8. Man Out Of Time from Imperial Bedroom – I remember Rolling Stone called this record a “masterpiece”. And at that point of his career it was exactly that, but just a small peek into how he would expand his musical reach. This is the best song of the fantastic bunch.

7. Shot With His Own Gun from Trust – In 1980 I traveled to Toronto for the New Wave Festival “Heatwave”. After a long day of great music, I got my first ever live glimpse of Elvis Costello and the Attractions. I’ll never forget the lone spot on Steve Nieve, then the second light on Elvis, and his announcement “Good evening, we are the Clash.” (who had cancelled the week before). After that, the opening bars of this song… I was hooked.

heatwave

6. Deep Dark Truthful Mirror from Spike – This song is when I figured out that Elvis Costello was more than a singer-songwriter… he was a poet. “One day you’re going to have to face a deep dark truthful mirror. And it’s going to tell you things that I still love you too much to say.” I’m not sure how I missed it for so long… I think the awareness may have coincided with maturity. But that realization of caused me to go back and rediscover so much of the lyrical magic of his catalog.

5. Brilliant Mistake from King Of America – It could be argued that this record was Elvis’ second masterpiece… a great of example of his eagerness to change, to try new things with new musicians. This song always reminded me of his road traveled, and all of us. Beautiful music, heartfelt singing, and pure poetry.

4. Big Tears from This Year’s Model (Bonus), Taking Liberties – I loved this song immediately. The production and mix was so clean, separating the drums and guitar. I loved it even more when I heard that Mick Jones from the Clash played lead guitar. I would have loved to have heard those conversations…

3. I Stand Accused from Get Happy!!Get Happy!! was Elvis’ fourth album in his first three years and contained twenty high energy pop classics… TWENTY!! This became my favorite Costello record, and that ranking still remains. The story goes that the recording sessions were madcap, alcohol-fueled affairs, and this song clearly captures that raw energy and unabashed fun.

2. How To Be Dumb from Mighty Like A Rose – Supposedly this song is Costello’s final response to the very unflattering book written by Attraction’s bass player Bruce Thomas. Have you ever walked away from an argument thinking you could have done better.. should have accused him of “masquerading as a pale powdered genius”! Elvis was early typecast as the angry, young man… to me, this was only the only song where he deserved that description. Is there such a thing as hateful genius?

1. Peace, Love and Understanding (What’s So Funny’Bout) from Armed Forces – So many reasons why this epic song lands at the top of my list. Yes, it’s a cover of a brilliant lyric by Nick Lowe, but Elvis Costello and the Attractions made it their own and set the stage for their tenure as one of the best touring band in the business. The song is a timeless message of optimism that still works today. The casual fan knows that Elvis closes almost every show with this gem, and I’m sure he wants to leave us with that optimism.

PLU is not just my favorite Elvis Costello song, but my favorite song by any artist. I play it a couple of times a week, especially when I need a little pick-me-up. At a show I raise my arms and jump out of my seat when the opening notes begin, and I dance, sing and pump my fists. Then, toward the end, I get sad because I know it’s the last song of the night. And I’ve shed a tear or two, for the realization that I don’t know when I will get to experience an Elvis show again.

I had the same feeling recently in Nashville, but as always that optimism returned quickly. I hope to spend another night with the King very soon.

>> Check out another one of my Top Ten Lists 





Pants On Fire

17 08 2016

When you’re a liar, a person of low moral fortitude, really any explanation you need to be true can be true. Especially if you’re smart enough. You can figure out a way to justify anything.” ~ Samuel Witwer

Former NY mayor Rudy Giuliani spouted this doozie yesterday at a Trump rally in Youngstown, OH… “Under those eight years, before Obama came along, we didn’t have any successful radical Islamic terrorist attack in the United States. They all started when Clinton and Obama got into office.”

Wow… wait a minute… damn. But no one paused, and the crowd went wild.

So I said to myself, “Self… this MUST be sarcasm, because he seems to forget the main event that gives people a reason to know his name.”

This blog post began as an attack on the GOP, highlighting another stunning example of the ineptitude of Donald Trump and his team. My question was going to be, “Has Donald Trump’s propensities to lie and pander to his audience become an airborne virus, affecting the entire team?”

But as my ideas started to coalesce, I began thinking about the larger issue – everyone’s propensity to lie, and accept the lies presented to us. I’ve touch upon this in a previous post, but I’ll try to expand here.

When I was a young man, one of the worst things you could call a person was a LIAR. It was an insult that cut directly to the core, and usually ended up with someone receiving a punch or two. Over the years it became less derisive, bandied about with equivalent terms like “cheater” or “bull shitter”.

You’re a liar. Uttered so matter-of-fact… with so little emotion.

One of the frequent statements I hear and see on social media is, “All of the politicians lie.” This is definitely true. The existence of websites like FactCheck.org and PolitiFact.com support that argument, or why would we need them?

liar-liar-pants-on-fire-your-pants-are-actually-on-fire-400x303It became bothersome to me in the primaries, when both Republican and Democratic candidates were wielding the word like a sword. But when the accusation was offered, no proof was required. That’s a lie. All of these wannabe leaders have embraced this willingness for lying by degrees – fibbing, or trying to be honest, or their brilliance of using the lie to make a point. Okay, he’s not the “founder” of ISIS, but you know what I’m saying… wink-wink…”

Seriously?

The statement by Giuliani is just a microcosm of American politics. The Republican side will say that this is a just a sound bite, part of a larger speech where he talked numerous times about 9/11. Or maybe it is a mistake… an error in the math. I’m predicting numerous excuses, and attacks on the media for highlighting this blunder and not focusing on the real problems in the United States.

I’m guilty of this as well. As an outspoken critic of Donald Trump, I have frequently referred to his PolitiFact Scorecard, that currently has a range of 4% “Truth” to 19% “Pants On Fire” (there are four more levels in between, which is hilarious). I’ve touted Hillary Clinton’s scores in comparison (22%, 2% respectively). They are better… but why should any of us settle for anything less than 100% truth? I know some of the subjects are complex, but anything they say is really just true or false, right?

Nope. Clearly, I’m wrong. And it’s not because candidate statements require room for latitude. It’s because we allow it as an electorate. We demand the truth, but along party lines. Red demands the truth from Blue, and vice versa.

In a perfect world, it’s either a lie or it’s the truth. Why do we accept this huge middle ground, instead of giving it a huge middle finger? What if we demanded the truth from both sides, would we get it?

And what if we demanded it from each other? Now I’m wondering about John Langan’s PolitiFact Scorecard…

Damn… That’s too many questions. I’ll shut up now.