Archive for December, 2004

Christmas Stress

Rick O’Shea frowns into his cup of coffee and then steals a glance at the television in the corner of the restaurant.  There is an image on the screen of Santa Claus using his favorite AA battery.  “Christmas is making me crazy,” he says, returning his eyes to the cup. 

What do you mean?  Doesn’t your wife do all the work? 

“Yeah, she does most of the shopping, but it’s all this fake Christmas spirit that drives me insane.  The stores start selling Christmas earlier and earlier every year.  Everyone is in such a hurry to get to Christmas that they almost skip Thanksgiving.”

Wait, doesn’t your wife also do all of the decorating, write out all of the Christmas cards, wrap all the gifts, and cook the meal?  Shouldn’t she be the one who goes crazy? 

“No, she loves Christmas.  She hums Christmas carols in July.  You’re missing my point.  What really drives me crazy is how fake everybody is because it’s Christmas.” 

Everybody?  Your wife acts fake about Christmas?  I thought she really enjoyed it? 

“She does.  Stop trying to make this about my wife; I’m not talking about her.  What I mean is, for example, my office.  In my office, thanks to some whacky Christmas enthusiast, I have to be a ‘Secret Santa’ this year.” 

Secret Santa?  That doesn’t sound so bad. 

“Doesn’t sound so bad?  Secret Santa means that I have to shop for some person who they need to PAY me to spend time with.  We open the gifts in front of everyone, so if I don’t get three nice gifts, everyone will know that I’m inconsiderate.” 

Do you really think they don’t know that already? 

“You’re not helping.  Do you realize how difficult it is for me to come up with ONE thoughtful gift for my wife every year?  Now I have to come up with THREE thoughtful gifts for someone I can barely stand.” 

You bought your wife a full scale wooden rhinoceros last year. 

“So?  She loves animals.  Thoughtfulness is stressful.  Guess what I’m going to get her this year.” 

Hmm…that’s a tough one.  A vacuum cleaner? 

“Nope.  New floor mats for her car.  The ones she has now are getting pretty gross.” 

Wow.  I never would have guessed that. 

“Yeah, I put a lot of thought into that one.  Do you know the part of Christmas that I really do enjoy?” 

Which part? 

“I enjoy Christmas Eve, when all the presents are wrapped and all the work is done.  I sit with my wife on the couch with soft Christmas music playing in the background and just look at the tree.  There is none of the craziness.  There’s no traffic, no shouting, no trash bags full of wrapping paper, and no gassy Uncle Earl.  It’s just me and my wife in the soft glow of the tree.”

That sounds nice. 

“It is nice.  I look forward to it every year.  To be honest, it almost makes the rest of the annoying stuff worth it, just so I can get to Christmas Eve.  Look, I have to get going.  Merry Christmas.” 

Merry Christmas, Rick.

The Day to Day Grind Tim 24 Dec 2004 No Comments

Hot Flashes

Pedro Martinez is the best pitcher I have ever seen.  In his seven seasons with the Red Sox, I was either marveling at his incredible skills on the field or waiting for his right arm to fall off.

His unique abilities with the baseball transformed his starts from ordinary games into grand events for the people of New England.  Red Sox fans might not have had a World Series since 1918, but we knew that we had the best pitcher on the planet.  Watching him pitch was an experience to be savored, for we knew that it would not last forever. 

Now Pedro has his World Series ring, a fact that probably made the decision to leave Boston easier for him.  He is no longer the best pitcher on the planet, but he is still solid enough that the Red Sox offered him over $40 million to stay. 

I can’t blame the Red Sox for refusing to give a pitcher with a questionable arm a 4 year contract, but I can’t blame Pedro for getting paid now that he has his ring.  It was a lot of fun while it lasted.  Vaya con Dios, Pedro Martinez. 

While I’m at it, here are a couple of other sports-related items that have been rattling around in my brain: 

…NCAA Division 1 football is a total joke.  There are 3 undefeated teams this season, USC, Auburn, and Oklahoma, and there is no system for these teams to play for the national championship.  Gymnastics and figure skating are sports that rely on voting to determine victories.  Football titles should be decided on the field. 

The NCAA needs to adopt a tournament for the top 4 ranked teams.  This would allow them to keep their beloved bowl system while creating a playoff for the national championship.  It would immediately be just as popular, if not more popular, than the NCAA basketball tournament. 

The argument of the school officials that they are concerned that a tournament would interfere with their students’ studies is ridiculous.  These are the same school officials who regularly send their basketball teams to the Great Alaska Shootout and the NCAA Tournament.  Do the basketball players study at halftime? 

At the start of the year, the NCAA officials might as well have told the now undefeated Auburn football players, “No matter what you do, no matter whether you win every game or not, there is no way that you can win the national championship.”  Ridiculous… 

…After watching the Patriots squeak past the Cincinnati Bengals last Sunday, I was looking forward to watching the Pittsburgh Steelers defend their AFC lead against the New York Jets.  Instead, I got Bob Lobel’s face on my television, telling me how it’s not his fault, but that CBS isn’t allowed to show the Pittsburgh game. 

The NFL has the most ridiculous television policies around.  How do they expect people to follow the league if their best games aren’t even available?  Fox was showing a Tampa Bay-San Diego snooze fest while CBS was not allowed to show me the game I wanted to see.   I’m not sure who makes the marketing decisions for the NFL, but shouldn’t fans be allowed to watch the most exciting game of the weekend?  What NFL fan would be happy watching San Diego vs. Tampa Bay when they know that there is a better game being withheld? 

I should be used to this, however, since the networks usually insist on showing me the New York Giants (otherwise known as THE MOST BORING TEAM IN FOOTBALL) against my will. 

On top of that, even if I wanted to PAY for a TV season ticket package to watch the games I choose, I would first need to buy a DirecTV satellite system.  DirecTV recently renewed their exclusive contract with the NFL for the season ticket package, so it won’t be showing up as an option on my cable system any time soon… 

Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to vent.  I try to talk about these issues with my wife, but she’s no help.  Every time I bring them up, she says something about getting off the couch and putting up Christmas lights or cleaning out gutters.

Sports Tim 17 Dec 2004 No Comments

The Reunion

It was a week or so before Thanksgiving when my mother handed me a folded up yellow piece of paper.  “This came in the mail for you the other day, we opened it by accident.” 

I unfolded the paper and saw that I had been invited to my 15-year high school reunion.  It was enough of a shock that I completely forgot to press charges against my mother for opening my mail.

Despite the cold hard facts staring me in the face (2004 minus 1989 equals 15), I wondered if it has really been 15 years since I graduated?  I knew that it had to be, but it’s funny how facts seem to move around in the timeline of my brain. 

Other things that happened in 1989 seemed to be in the distant past: 

Let’s see…the Berlin Wall fell…thousands of protesters were killed in Tiananmen Square… Kim Basinger bought a town in Georgia…Rob Lowe was one of the first in a long line of the sex tape scandals…Milli Vanilli pioneered the lip sync technique that is so common today (ever watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade?)…and Pete Rose got himself banned from baseball. 

Graduating from Algonquin Regional High School seemed somehow more recent than all of that.  When it happened, however, I was happy to have my high school years behind me. 

I know this is going to come as a shock to many people, but I was not popular in high school.  As a fat kid with a bowl cut, extremely limited social skills, and no sense of fashion, I feel that the deck was fairly stacked against me.  This isn’t some plea for sympathy, however.  I realize that I made a decision, on some level, to be a fat kid with a bowl cut, extremely limited social skills, and no sense of fashion. 

That decision pretty much kept me out of the “popular” cliques in school. 

I don’t want to give the impression that I didn’t have any fun at all while I was in high school.  I did have a few good friends, and we had some really good times.  But then college happened, and I stopped keeping in touch with my high school friends for one reason or another. 

Now with a reunion staring me in the face, I had to balance the pros and cons of attending.  On the one hand, there would be the chance to catch up with some those old friends.  On the other hand, there was the fact that none of my old friends (or even any of my old acquaintances, for that matter) had shown up to my 10-year reunion, forcing me to talk to people who hadn’t been my friends in high school.

These people, who were at the reunion to catch up with THEIR old pals, were nice enough to make polite conversation with me, but not much else. 

So, I had a decision to make.  If I went to the reunion, I might be forced to talk to people who never really liked me, but I might get a chance to see some old friends. 

It was while I was struggling with this decision that I remembered a column I had written with predictions for 2004.  In that column, I had predicted that my high school class president, now a local high school wrestling coach, would once again break his campaign promise and fail to organize a class reunion. 

Normally, I wouldn’t even care about something like that, but I remember when he made the promise.  He stood up in front of the whole class and took a cheap shot at his competitor by saying, “Between the two of us, I’m the one who is responsible enough to organize our reunions in the years to come.” 

Well, I couldn’t say something like that and then blow off the reunion, so I went and had a really nice time talking to some people that I hadn’t seen in years.  I found that I wasn’t as concerned about how much people had liked me back in 1989. 

I had a good time despite the fact that none of my old friends were there.  Not one.  Hopefully they’ll show up in 2009. 

The class president wasn’t there, either, but I did notice that his competitor was responsible enough to show up.

The Day to Day Grind Tim 03 Dec 2004 No Comments