Archive for September, 2014

September 21, 2014

#86) Facebook and the NFL: When sucking doesn’t matter

Everyone’s pissed off at the NFL. Everyone’s disgusted with Facebook. Everyone will be watching the NFL this Sunday and letting Facebook know about it.  Yes, despite–or perhaps because of–their efforts to alienate their fan/consumer bases, Facebook and the NFL aren’t going anywhere.

We hate them but we can’t look away. It’s more than the car-crash-staring instinct; it’s a true love-hate relationship. Nobody hates Myspace or baseball. You can only hate something or someone that you once truly loved.

We started loving football in the 1950s and 60s. Football looked better on television than baseball.  Baseball expanded, diluting the talent pool and bringing the game to cities where it didn’t have a chance, such as Miami*. Free agency meant that baseball teams no longer stayed together. World Series games started too late but the Super Bowl was always on a Sunday and the whole family could watch it. With far fewer games than any other sport, each one was an event. We’d anticipate them and spend Monday talking about what those damn Steelers should have done differently. The NFL became so big that it thrived even without a team in the country’s second biggest market, Los Angeles. Rotisserie leagues in baseball became a thing, but NFL fantasy leagues became a bigger thing.

We started loving Facebook in the late ’00s–April of 2008, to be precise, when it officially became the #1 most visited social network site. Myspace had shown us how easy and fun it can be to put together an online scrapbook of photos, websites, songs and pithy quotations, but it had become too messy and impersonal. Facebook made connecting with that kid you used to beat the crap out of (or perhaps vice versa) back in 8th grade simple and easy. Facebook translated better to smartphones.

Then, to use Facebook relationship status terminology, it got complicated. Facebook faced questions about the privacy of its users’ information. Naysayers pointed out that it was losing ground to Instagram and Pinterest. The user experience started to seem more about getting into political arguments with virtual strangers than reuniting with long lost friends. In the NFL, Janet Jackson happened. Michael Vick and Plaxico Burress happened. Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson followed. Yes, it got complicated.

Or did it?

As of this writing, Facebook is ranked as the second-most visited site in the world according to Alexa. The NFL saw a 7% increase in viewers of the first Thursday game of this season compared to the first Thursday game of last season. We may say that Facebook is dead and that the NFL only cares once its sponsors pull out. We’re going to watch anyways. According to Alexa, we’re going to spend an average of 27 minutes per day on Facebook this month. Some of us might even call 911 if we can’t log on. No number of poorly handled press conferences or allegations of privacy violations can change that.

It’s not that we buy in in spite of the fact that the NFL and Facebook suck. It’s not that we buy in because they suck. It doesn’t matter if the NFL and Facebook suck or not. We’re married to them. Myspace was our high school crush whom it was easy to leave when things didn’t work out; Facebook is our spouse.  Facebook and the NFL made good impressions on us when it counted and continued to not suck for long enough to convince us to spend the rest of our lives with them. Yes, some of us might get divorced–we all have the friend who has actually followed through on their plans to swear off Facebook and goes to the park on Sunday to feed the ducks while the rest of us watch ball–but most of us won’t. Years of marriage has taught us that fighting usually leads to great make-up sex.  Besides, is it really worth it just to have to file all of that paperwork and decide who gets what? We’ve all got better things to do.

Like watch the New York Jets and post about it on Facebook.

*Yes, I know the Marlins have won the World Series twice. Nobody gives a fuck.

September 12, 2014

#85) The Storage Unit

The northernmost major street in Long Beach is, oddly enough, called South Street. As I was packing up my gear following my performance at a park concert in the neighboring city of Cerritos, my wife, who had been there, sent me a quick message recommending I take South Street home, as traffic was lighter. Although we moved recently from downtown Long Beach to a residential neighborhood in the northern area of the city, we still live below South Street so I rarely drive it. I hadn’t considered it as an alternate route home. I thanked her for the tip and was on my way.

Like the other major thoroughfares in Long Beach, South Street is lined with a mix of apartment complexes, office buildings, strip malls, gas stations, fast food outlets and a few local businesses. It’s fairly interchangeable with the streets running parallel to the south, although it does dip into some of Long Beach’s, shall we say, less upscale neighborhoods. You can tell by the pawn shops and the storage units. Like many of the features of South Street, the storage units are pretty much indistinguishable from one another, although there was one that did stand out. Most of the drivers passing by it wouldn’t have stopped to give it a second glance and I wouldn’t have either, had I not once rented from them.

I’m sure there are people who rent storage units who are at the top of their game but at the risk of generalizing, it’s safe to say that the majority of them aren’t. I for one was certainly not. When I moved into the storage unit on South Street just after Thanksgiving, 2007, I was leaving the home I had shared with my first wife for almost four years. I was also getting ready to leave town to attend my mother’s memorial service.

My wife had moved out in September, saying she wanted a trial separation. We all know how trial separations end but, holding out hope, I stayed behind instead of looking for my own place. I might have been able to do something more with my de-facto bachelorhood had I not gotten a call a month later. In the two years since my mother’s cancer diagnosis I had seen her get worse, particularly in the last few months, but I hadn’t allowed myself to acknowledge the extent of it. Moving out into a new place now not only became about economics but also about starting a new life. There was no other choice. I found a room in a house in the neighboring city of Lakewood and picked the storage unit on South Street based on that location.

After returning from the memorial service, I settled into the new place. I talked to my dad and brother regularly. I’d occasionally go to the storage unit if I’d forgotten something. Knowing the holidays would be tough, I brainstormed ways to keep myself occupied and decided to spend a day hiking in the Cleveland National Forest. I moved into a new place the following spring, taking more of my things with me and downsizing to a smaller unit. My wife said she wanted a divorce. I started flirting with women online and one of them decided to take me out to dinner on my birthday. I moved yet again and downsized to an even smaller storage unit.

In the summer of 2009, the divorce became final and I decided to move out of the unit. The last communication between my first wife and I was an email I sent her with details about how to access the unit and her belongings. A month later I came back to clear out my things. All of hers were still there. I called the Salvation Army to come pick them up.

Life progressed over the next few years. My brother became a dad. The woman who took me out for a birthday dinner became my wife. We bought a house. My music career, the thing that had brought me to California, started to take off. On paper, it was the best time of our lives.

Yet I often found myself ungrateful, unexcited and at times downright resentful. I allowed little annoyances that I once simply didn’t have the time for–inattentive drivers on the freeway, sub-par customer service, opinions that differed from mine–to outweigh the blessings the last few years had given. I was angry at my first wife for leaving simply because I wasn’t perfect, but I had gotten to a point where I myself had virtually no tolerance for imperfection, in the behavior of others and the ways of the world.

I had planned on doing something worthwhile on 9/11 in the morning, before heading out to perform at the park concert. I really had. After all, friends and families of the 3,000 victims had far bigger problems than me. They didn’t have the luxury to blow off the day as I did. Did I not owe it to them to perhaps at least engage in some quiet reflection?

If so, that debt is still outstanding. After basically frittering away the morning, I turned in a performance at the park concert that was decent, but could have been better had I given it more effort. After packing up my gear I left the park and headed home on South Street.

It had been years since I’d driven by or even thought about that storage unit but when I saw it, I decided to pull over. The unit had long since been locked down for the night but I could still see the gate where I used to punch in my code. The box was on the passenger’s side so you always had to get out of the car, type the code and run back. I remembered how you had to line up the corrugated blue metal slide-down door just right to be able to slide the lock through it. Sometimes I wondered about the stories behind the other units in the complex.

I remembered loading boxes of old photos and souvenirs into the storage unit, wondering if they would ever have the same meaning to us. I recalled trying to weasel the larger pieces of furniture–such as the black metal futon (does anything say bachelorhood quite like a futon?), the desk that once belonged to my grandfather, book cases and chairs–around each other. There may even have been a fridge in there at one point.  I spent a few minutes sitting before, wanting to get home to my wife, I left the parking lot and pulled back onto South Street.

Most of the items that were stored there are long gone, although the desk, some pictures, boxes of CDs and books and a few miscellaneous tchochkes can still be found in our house. The memories of the storage unit and the time in my life it represents can be painful but they also serve as a call to arms: not only to be thankful for the life I now have but to remember where I’ve been. It’s a reminder that it’s OK not to be perfect; it’s OK for others not to be perfect.  We’re all human and there are times when even the best of us need a storage unit.



September 3, 2014

#84) The ten best quotes from the first five seasons of “The League”

I love “The League”. At first I thought it was just a guilty pleasure, but over the last few years, it’s become a full-on obsession; at least if creating Mii characters on my Wii to resemble the cast makes me obsessed. In tribute to the show’s upcoming sixth season, I present a few of my favorite gems from this semi-improvised fantasy football comedy.  If you haven’t watched the show, perhaps this might clue you into what you’re missing; if you’re already a fan, enjoy…and let me know if I missed your favorite.

#10) Rafi: “I am day drunk…get ready to see my dick!” (“The Lockout” – season 3, episode 1)

#9) Kevin: “It’s not about race, it’s about the color of your skin!” (“Carmenjello” – season 3, episode 7)

#8) Jenny: “Sad little man, no!” (“The Expert Witness” – season 2, episode 9)

#7) Ruxin: “Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to jerk off to inter-racial porn.” (“Thanksgiving” – season 3, episode 8)

#6) Jenny: “Kevin, hold my purse!” (“The Usual Bet” – season 1, episode 5)

#5) Rafi: “It’s like the white rain of a thousand loads. You’ll basically be able to climb the walls like Spiderman.” (“The Lockout” – season 3, episode 1)

#4) Jenny: “How big do you think you are, Kevin?” (“Training Camp” – season 4, episode 1)

#3) Sgt. Panico: “Ever have to tell your friend his dick got blown off on the battle field and then realized it was YOUR dick?” (“Chalupa vs. the Cutlet” – season 5, episode 3)

#2) Jenny: “It’s a tur-guinea!” (“Thanksgiving” – season 3, episode 8)

And the number one quote from the first five seasons of “The League” –

Andre: “I’m inside me!” (“Vegas Draft” – season 2, episode 1)

Agree? Disagree? Either way, let’s hope Season 6 gives us some moments to remember. Shivakamini Somakandarkram!