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Sunday, June 24, 2012

Trials of Roger Clemens and Jerry Sandusky

Sports Figures Facing Justice

This week, we've seen two sports figures put on trial and come away with very different results.

Roger Clemens, a pitcher with Hall of Fame statistics, was on trial for lying to Congress about whether he had violated baseball's rules and used steroids.  Due to weaknesses in the Government's case, most notably Andy Pettitte's admission that it was 50% likely that he misunderstood a conversation with Clemens regarding HGH, Clemens was acquitted. 

Once again, we are reminded that in the United States, an accused is presumed innocent unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.  Maybe the Rocket was juicing, maybe he wasn't, but clearly the testimony of Brian McNamee, who had credibility issues of his own, was not enough to lower the boom on Clemens. 

On the other hand, we have Jerry Sandusky.  As of this past Friday night, this "man" was convicted of molesting an obscene amount of young boys on the Penn State campus, who were there under the auspices of his charity, "The Second Mile."  Some may say that the testimony of a now-grown man as to what he recalls Mr. Sandusky doing to him decades beforehand is not, in and of itself, unassailable proof.  Memories could be faulty, stories may have been rehearsed, and someone might be "out to get" the defendant.  Only problem is, there were 48 separate counts of him doing this!  Sheer numbers and congruent consistency have away of overcoming uncorroborated and dated testimony.

Regardless of the result, both men exemplify what happens when sports set the wrong example.  Baseball, in its purest form, does not require its players to lift weights and bulk up.  Pitching is governed simply by control and accuracy, while hitting is governed by speed, timing, geometry and physics.  Throwing and catching are governed by simple speed and skill -- while it's always thrilling to watch a center fielder try to throw someone out at home, smart ballplayers use the second baseman or shortstop as the "cutoff man" to ensure a greater degree of accuracy.  Point being, THERE IS NO REASON TO USE STEROIDS IN BASEBALL, BECAUSE THAT MUCH UNNATURAL POWER IS NOT NEEDED TO WIN. 

Sadly, this game has changed in the last 25-30 years, so that performance-enhancing drugs are sometimes needed to give players an "edge."  A 98-mph fastball, home runs that only hit the upper deck and above, and golden arms that can throw someone out in Yankee Stadium when you're playing cross-town at Citi Field are the tools of championship teams now.  Some players feel the need to inject chemicals into their veins to freakishly enhance the skills that already made them Major Leaguers, without regard to the unspeakable side effects that steroids cause, or the fact that their use is illegal.  It may take another ice age before the game is restored to its natural and untainted perfection.  Until then, this former Red Sox pitcher who may have only joined My Yankees to get himself a ring will always be convicted in the court of public opinion, and his phenomenal stats will never see Cooperstown.

Football is a sport rich in tradition and honor.  Players are taught to be fierce, bold, courageous, and aggressive to an extreme, but to always respect and honor those in positions of authority above them.  The decision of the coach, or his assistants, are never questioned, but are followed in the same chain of command as the military.  Notwithstanding the knowledge or tactics that they possess, the players, and all others who work beneath the coaches are taught to respect and revere them.  This is because they're the ones who foster and encourage the qualities that will most likely make their players winners.  Unfortunately, this coach used the shield of his position, and the respect that automatically comes with it, to abuse future players for his own gratification, and to convince them that they would have no recourse against him.

In his wake, the entire Penn State football program is irreparably tainted.  Many recruits will now reconsider whether to accept scholarships from this institution, or even be associated with the program.  The huge amount of deference reserved for this position seemed to prevent any serious inquiry into Sandusky's activities once rumors began to circulate.  In fact, this deference was so strong that any eyewitness to one of these acts foreclosed himself from taking the proper actions because he was concerned about ensuring that the internal chain of command was followed to a "T."

Bottom line, the traditions of both sports unfortunately need to give way to common sense.  Here's to hoping that one day they do.

No video tonight, it's late -- get one to you this week though.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

The Other Side of the Mary Kennedy Suicide

A Re-Post For Father's Day.

Re-Posting for Father's Day!

Hey People --

As you may have noticed, there have been times in the past I've posted something for a holiday that I think requires a re-posting, rather than re-inventing the wheel, because what it says is just as good now as it was then.  I've tweaked last year's New Day post where I felt necessary, and also added a section of another prior post because it seems like the natural continuation of the first one.

A year and a half ago I heard some distressing news from my Mom. I had already known that Dad had to be taken to the hospital for some sort of stress test, but this took an unexpected turn.
During the test, an angiogram was taken, and it revealed that the main artery to Dad's heart was 99% blocked. According to those facts alone, he should not even have been able to walk around, miracle of miracles. So they administered emergency triple bypass surgery to remove the blockage. This took the better part of the day, and I kept calling Mom almost hourly to check in Dad's progress. Between that and the text messages I sent to everyone else I knew about Dad, the battery did not last by the time I finally got home.
It really made me step back and think about my father, too. In my family, my Mom had the more outgoing personality, so he tended to disappear in the shadows.  When he did, however, he truly was  the Power Behind The Throne. :)
I also remembered one episode from childhood that forever defined the type of man he was. I was about 8, maybe 9, and he wanted to show me some work he was doing on the car. He wanted me to be mechanically inclined, so I'd know what I was doing once I had a car of my own. I tried to look interested, but it didn't work.
As unforgivable as I'd later realize this to be, growing up in a blue-collar town, I was anything but mechanically inclined.  I would have given anything at that time to go back inside the house, watch cartoons, and do anything that would allow me to put my mind in neutral, after the previous 5 school days of having various adult authority figures demand, in tones of righteous indignation, that I "Pay Attention!!!!!"

I would learn acting skills in later life, but that day, my performance was a failure. Finally, my Dad gave up out of frustration and told me to go back inside. I said "No, Dad, really, I'm interested," hoping to avoid another lecture, but he wasn't buying it.
So I did watch my cartoons, but I did so with a heavy sense of guilt.  Once again, I had disappointed someone without doing anything at all.  But later, he came into my room, and we had a talk.
He said, "David, I can't play the saxophone, but you can.  I also can't draw cartoons, do funny voices, or sing those Michael Jackson songs on the radio, but you can.  I'd like you to one day learn how cars work, because it can save you a lot of money and give you a good hobby.  But if this is not something you want to learn about now, that's OK.  You really don't have to do everything that I do, because you're your own person."

The reason why this moment remains so important to me is because it was the first time in my young life that an adult authority figure did not yell at me when I was being myself. In fact, this was the first time in my life any authority figure told me that I was OK, and that I should feel OK about it! In that moment, my father, with his quiet, gentle, and thoughtful ways, became Bill Cosby, Ward Cleaver, and Mike Brady all rolled up in one!

From that day to this one, my father has remained a man of patience and dignity. The thought of him undergoing the bypass made a lot of things clearer to me -- that he deserves a lot more accolades and praise than he's received.  For all things he's done, for his family and his country, he deserves a ton of recognition.

In later life, my father would enlighten me with his simple, almost Daoist wisdom.  As a teenager, sitting at the dinner table, I would sometimes go on my oft-repeated rants over who made me angry and how wrong they were.  In response, Dad would patiently say, without the slightest trace of annoyance in his voice, "David.  Eat your dinner."   At the time, I'd get belligerent when he said this, because I thought he was trying to shut me up.   He certainly was, but he was trying to do it in a way that would teach me that the anger and rage I was feeling was not going to do me any good when a plate of my mother's cooking was sitting in front of me undigested.   Right at that moment, at dinner time, I couldn't travel back in time and suckerpunch the miscreant who'd aroused my ire, but I certainly could enjoy the meal instead.

Yes, the past happened, and we were all stuck with it. But through my father's gentle repositioning, I learned projecting it on others around me, all of whom were actively engaged in the present moment, did precious little to help things.  In his own way, he knew I was upset and he wanted me to be happier, but he also knew that dwelling in the anger and enabling feelings of permanent victimhood would not be effective solutions. 

So, I dedicate this reposted and re-edited post to my father.  I'd also like to wish a Happy Father's Day to all the men out there who accepted this most challenging role, and to thank them for the examples they have always set for their children.  I'd also like to thank my father for the support and encouragement he gave me earlier this year when it was most needed.

Good night, All!

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Are You Ready For The Summer?

On To Summer!

Hey All --

This was a nice weekend in NYC -- Round 1 of the Subway Series was this weekend, and my beloved Yankees swept it!  Also, those NJ Devils came this close to being swept in the Stanley Cup Finals by the LA Kings!

This one might seem a little bit early, but before you know it, summer will be upon us.  The kids will be out of school, and possibly on their way to camp.  Half the college kids we know will take summer jobs that involve the option of fries on the side, and the other half will be seeking internships to allow them to ride above the storm of unemployment once they graduate.  And for those of us "grown-ups" who have jobs and/or careers, there's a perfect chance for a summer getaway, as well as barbecues and trips to choice hot spots like Jones Beach, Long Beach, or Fire Island.

I'm registered for the NYC Marathon, so a big part of my summer will be training in the heat to get myself up to speed.  That means some training runs will need to be either super-early in the morning, or maybe in the early evening, in order to beat the heat.  Otherwise, it's about taking it eeeeeasy and slooooow if need be, and not skimping on the hydration.

One other thing I'm doing this summer is keeping a journal.  Yes, I know, I already post a lot my thoughts and feelings up here for all the world to share.  However, there are still a few things that I like to keep private just for my own self-growth.  Like a letter home to Mom from summer camp that I never send. 

As many of you might already know, one of the best ways of getting rid of those stressful and worrisome thoughts that aren't always assuaged or preempted by aerobic endorphins is to get it all out on paper, or laptop, as the case may be.  I mean get it alllll out!  The stuff you want to say to so-and-so but can't, due to the inevitable consequences that arise from his or her artificially elevated status.  The stuff that keeps you lying awake at night.  The stuff that rubs you the wrong way and distracts you from the focal points that you should be striving for. 

Once that's out of your brain and on paper or "saved as," you're free.  Your thoughts, your attitude, and your general well-being are completely and totally free, just like us kids busting out of the school doors at 3PM on a Friday in June!  Believe me, you don't want to be stuck in "summer school" with those "left back" thoughts, fears, and stresses.  Expel them, please!

So that's my assignment, class -- consider it your "summer book report" for extra credit.  However, rather than submitting it for a grade, once September rolls around, do yourself and your thoughts a favor -- take the entries you used to really get things out of your head, and get rid of them.  Shred them if they're only on paper, and delete them if they're on your hard drive.  And DON'T email, Facebook, text, or Tweet them!  The idea is that they were temporary thoughts, and you don't need to keep them with you permanently unless you want to use them in a book one day.  And you better edit yourself wisely too . . . .

So whatever you're all doing, have an awesome summer -- and keep the heat outside in the sun, not in your head!

Feel free to comment, re tweet, like, follow, etc.!

Sunday, June 3, 2012

John Edwards and RFK Jr. Video

Recent Betrayals.

How Wrong is Wrong?

Hey all, back with this week's post.

This past week, we saw yet another disgraced politician show up in Court to answer for what may have been a criminal act.  John Edwards, a man who stooped low enough to (a) cheat on his wife while she was dying; (b) impregnated his mistress; and (c) lied about it, was found not guilty on one count of campaign finance fraud, and received a hung jury on the remaining five counts. 

Once again, we have been reminded that while there are bad things, wrong things, and actions comprising complete and utter assholery that are committed by those who should know better, some of them are not crimes.  Although the Government did a good job smearing the filth and mud all over Mr. Edwards during this trial, so bad that even his daughter couldn't bear to hear it, it still didn't prove that he violated campaign finance laws.  The issue was, did he receive campaign contributions, which must be reported to the SEC and used only for the campaign itself, in an amount that exceeded statutory limts to fly Miss Rielle and the baby back and forth across the country to hide from the press.  And according to some of the jurors, the answer was, "maybe, but they didn't prove it."

We live in a democracy that values rights and liberties over criminality.  The states are granted the police power to enact penal statutes and enforce them.  In this case, where the issue involves interstate commerce and/or campaigns for national office, Congress is entitled to enact laws, and the SEC has the power to prosecute violations of those laws.  However, Congress cannot criminalize adultery, and it remains to be seen whether the state of North Carolina, or wherever he and his mistress had their trysts, does.

(As a point of reference, adultery is a Class B misdemeanor in New York, punishable by up to 90 days in jail.  However, it is rarely, if ever, prosecuted, because most District Attorneys have bigger fish to fry, and because it is already effective enough to use as grounds for divorce).

John Edwards will remain a free man, since it appears that the Government will most likely not attempt a retrial on the five hung charges.  Since this is not as much of a slam-dunk as the Blagojevich trial, they would do well to save taxpayer money on more compelling cases.

That being said, he is also a marked man.  How can he return to politics?  Who would vote for him?  Who would be forgiving enough to get past the betrayal of a dying wife?  And how can he return to prosecuting medical malpractice cases as a plaintiff's attorney?  What credibility would he now have with a jury anywhere? 

Thankfully, he did earn millions for himself in legal fees as a courtroom dynamo before he entered politics.  He still has children, some from his late wife and one from his mistress, that need his support.  However, where can he go, other than college bars filled with young honeys, to get any amount of respect?

Probably nowhere.  Someone like Bill Clinton, who was nearly removed from office due to dishonesty relating to his own extramarital affair, can be forgiven, can still survive, and can still be respected.  The fact that his wife is still living, and still married to him, certainly helps.  John Edwards, however, is no Bill Clinton.  He is merely a southern plaintiffs' lawyer with the swagger and style of a young Matlock, who knowingly stepped into a large pile of refuse because he assumed that he could merely scrape it off his foot and leave it for an all-to-willing volunteer to soil his own shoes with it.

So now, all John Edwards need do for us is to exit stage left.  We already know that he needs to ask forgiveness for his sins.  The problem is that the only one he should ask forgiveness from has departed this realm, knowing that she was betrayed. 

We may wonder whose death was worse -- Elizabeth Edwards' or Mary Kennedy's?  Apparently RFK Jr. did nothing illegal -- it's not his fault he was born a Kennedy, he just preferred not to stop living like one.  Still, he and Edwards are both guilty of leaving women to die with broken hearts. 

We men may have had unsuccessful relationships with women, but let's please remember that they are just as human as we are.  Just as flawed, just as imperfect, and just as mortal.  I'm not saying you should run out and send a candy-gram to an ex -- that's not not appropriate.  But just the same, think about how you would feel if your last conversation with someone involved hurting them deeply, and then it became too late to apologize.

Have a good week, all.