So, GQ has decided that none of the United States’ 323.1 million citizens has better cred than Colin Kaepernick, thus he’s the magazine’s Citizen of the Year.
Well, okay. Let’s all take a knee. Or not.
I mean, GQ’s anointing an out-of-work football player as America’s preeminent person has earned nods of approval yet, at the same time, the salute has tweaked some beaks, including that of a lass named Britt McHenry, an out-of-work Sideline Barbie who harbors the misguided notion that we should care what she thinks.
“A joke,” was the former ESPN gab girl’s rebuke of Kaepernick as Citizen One.
That barb, in turn, inspired author and New York Daily News columnist Linda Stasi to describe McHenry as the “whitest woman on the planet” and, upon further review, the ruling on the field is confirmed—Britt McHenry is Caucasian.
All of which tells me that we have officially arrived at the silly season, during which various publications laud notables and bestow upon them high hosannas, earned or otherwise.
GQ declared Kaepernick to be Citizen One due to the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback’s kneeling stance against social/racial injustice and police brutality in the U.S., writing, “His determined stand puts him in rare company in sports history: Muhammad Ali, Jackie Robinson—athletes who risked everything to make a difference.”
Yes, I agree, comparing Kaepernick to Ali and Robinson rates extremely high on the silliness scale.
Ah, but silliness knows no limits and, for confirmation, we need only peek at the cover of People magazine where, staring back at us with a goofy grin, is Gwen Stefani’s main squeeze and buffoon-in-residence on The Voice, Blake Shelton.
The cowboy crooner, whose record sales far outstrip his talent, is People’s choice as the Sexiest Man Alive (we can assume that Miranda Lambert didn’t get a vote). Imagine that, approximately 3.8 billion men on earth and not one of them has a higher sexy quotient than a hillbilly who walks and talks like he got lost on his way to the set of Hee Haw. If Shelton was a character from the old Andy Griffith Show, he’d be Goober or Gomer, the witless gas jockeys. Or he’d be part of the banjo-pluckin’, jug-blowin’ Darling clan from back in the hills. Every time I hear him speak, I want to order a jug of moonshine. But, hey, apparently that’s sexy. Who knew?
“When people think of Blake, they don’t focus in on abs or a pretty face or what not, like a typical sexy man, but what really wins you over with him is about how down to earth and funny and how sweet he is,” says People staff scribe Melody Chiu. “He’s really exactly what you see on TV. He’s so relatable and he’s so friendly. He just really wants people to love him.”
Aw shucks and gosh darn. If our Blake ain’t just the sweetest boy you ever did see. Doesn’t he just want to make you reach out and pinch his dimples and have his babies, girls?
So what does Shelton think of his coronation as Sexiest Man Alive?
“I can’t wait to shove it up Adam’s ass,” he says.
Oh, my. And, to think, sexy Blake kisses Gwen Stefani with that mouth.
At any rate, we now await the Time magazine Person of the Year declaration and, depending on which bookie you go to for your betting odds, the latest lines list Donald Trump, Kaepernick and French President Emmanuel Macron as the favorites. Should U.S. President Trump get the nod, he’ll be the first repeat winner since former White House crook-in-residence Richard Nixon in 1971 and ’72.
If either Kaepernick of President Macron win, it’s fake news.
The sirens were loud and objectionable, much like so many newspaper and television opinionists, when they first awakened me just beyond 11 o’clock, about three hours after I had lowered my eye lids on Friday night.
They are wailing again, two and a half hours later, disturbing my sleep for the final time.
This is the worst part of living downtown. The noise. Although I normally find the small hours of the morning a time for peaceful reflection, it is different this night. More sirens. My upper body is in conflict, with pain in my shoulders suggesting I’d participated in a sporting endeavor not so long ago, and I feel hung over, which isn’t possible given that a pint of the nectar last passed my lips on Tuesday, about dinnertime. All I’ve done in the three days and four nights since is research, write and watch TV.
Perhaps I’m drunk on the news, much of which is sour and somewhat scary.
When I was a kid, we feared the Soviet Union, convinced it would lob nuclear bombs in our direction. There was a nut named Nikita Khrushchev in the Kremlin. He was the boogeyman of my youth. Now it would seem that the boogeyman lives at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. NW in Washington, D.C. Donald Trump has provided ample evidence for me, and others, to consider that he is off his nut. A crazy man with nuclear codes. No doubt he frightens citizens beyond the boundaries of the United States, perhaps not as much as many of his own people, though.
For the most part, I’d ceased contemplation of nuclear war in the 1970s. Now, with Trump presiding over the 50 United States and territories that include a weather-ravaged Puerto Rico, which he largely ignores, apocalyptic thoughts sprout again as North Korea flexes its military might and the president responds by ratcheting up the rhetoric of war.
If he has surrounded himself with women and men of sane, rational thought and structure, not to worry. Except, as he emphasized this week, his is the only “attitude” that matters. He vows to do “what’s right for the world,” because North Korea is “really a world problem.” I imagine North Koreans see Trump as “really a world problem.”
My mind is in scurry, darting to and fro, from Trump and nuclear warheads to people who like to play with guns…to ruinous, deadly wild fires in California…to ruinous, deadly weather in Texas, Louisiana, Florida and Puerto Rico…to a ghastly sexual harassment/assault scandal that has toppled a Hollywood movie mogul…to the hate and hostility being spewed on social media, most notably Twitter. So much chaos and destruction of life, property and hope. So many days of despair.
Nothing can be done about Trump, fire or hurricane weather, and there seems an unwillingness to holster gun play, but women have risen up against sexual predator Harvey Weinstein and those of his ilk. Also Twitter. A 24-hour boycott of the social media platform by many women has spawned a promise from Twitter to be better. Less uninvited, vulgar sexual improprieties. Less hate language. Less violence. Less nudity. Less obscenity. Alas, no mention of zero tolerance.
That beat shall go on as surely as the wailing outside my window.
The sirens. The sirens. They persist. But what is there to be alarmed about? All of this is just the world being the world.
Random thoughts before the candle goes out and the sun comes up…
So, ESPN has instructed its SportsCenter dinnertime co-anchor, Jemele Hill, to stand in the corner for two weeks due to her refusal to refrain from using her Twitter account as a political pulpit.
Already on notice for labeling Donald Trump a “white supremacist” and the “most ignorant, offensive president of my lifetime,” Hill went off on the U.S. commander-in-chief’s good pal, Dallas Cowboys billionaire bankroll Jerry Jones, who cautioned his employees that there’d be hell to pay if they took a knee during the playing of the Star-Spangled Banner. They either stand or they sit permanently, as in not play. In a series of tweets, Hill submitted that fans objecting to the Jones ultimatum could “boycott his advertisers.”
That, apparently, was in violation of ESPN’s social media policy, thus Hill was considered a repeat offender and shuffled to the corner.
If the Hill tweets are measured as a suspendable offence, what are we to make of other sports opinionists whose take on the U.S. president and his fanatical fixation for protesting jocks is less than flattering?
Dave Shoalts of the Globe and Mail, for example, called Trump “the buffoon in the Oval Office” in a piece condemning the Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins’ visit to the White House. Bruce Arthur, a very active political voice on Twitter, wrote in his Toronto Star column that “Trump is a force for white nationalism and white supremacy. You can’t find a middle ground on white supremacy. When you try, there are suddenly very fine people among the KKK and Nazis.” He also described him as an “argle-bargle-belching president” with a “canker-sore ego.” Rosie DiManno, meanwhile, used her Star soap box to blast Trump as “this most odious of commanders-in-chief.” On the night the U.S. citizenry elected Trump the country’s 45th president, Steve Simmons of Postmedia and TSN tweeted: “The saddest night in American history.”
Apparently, opinionists at the Globe, the Star, Postmedia and TSN are more fortunate than Hill. They are not shackled by the inconvenience of censure. Nor should they be. ESPN got it all wrong.
I have two words for the Major League Baseball playoffs: Damn Yankees.
On the matter of unacceptable commentary, surely the aforementioned Steve Simmons crossed over to the dark side when he openly cheered for the dismissal of Boston Red Sox manager John Farrell during a segment of TSN The Reporters with Dave Hodge on Sunday. Bruce Arthur suggested that Farrell “could get fired it sounds like in Boston,” and Simmons chimed in saying, “Yay.” Should sports scribes and/or talking heads be cheering for people to lose their jobs? I mean, to suggest a player, coach or manager ought to be dismissed due to flawed or faulty performance is part of the gig. That’s analysis and opinion. But for a jock journo in mainstream media to openly root for dismissal, that’s shockingly unprofessional and shameful. Purely and totally shameful.
Sadly, Simmons, who has made a living by being loud, condescending and objectionable, doubled down on his stupidity, offering this on his Twitter account: “Any day that John Farrell loses, gets eliminated and gets tossed out is for my money a good day.” When one follower suggested he get past his ugly fixation with Farrell, whom Simmons has belittled ever since the skipper defected from the Toronto Blue Jays to the Bosox, the Postmedia columnist replied: “Nothing to get over. Guy was given opportunity in Toronto. Lied to management, public. Tried to leave after first year. No respect for that.” No respect because he lied? Everyone in sports lies, including Simmons (see fake Phil Kessel hot dog story). No respect because he switched teams? Again, fake righteousness. Simmons, be advised, secretly and deceitfully negotiated to leave the Calgary Sun for the Calgary Herald while still being paid by the Sun in the early 1980s. Pot meet kettle.
I don’t know about you, but I thought the Pittsburgh Penguins-meet-the-President schmooze at the White House on Tuesday came across as very awkward and uncomfortable. It was almost as if none of the “incredible patriots” really wanted to be there, even as Donald Trump advised the gathering that “everyone wanted to be here today.” The entire scene was creepy and cringe-worthy, including Mario Lemieux’s faux smile, and it was notable that the most notable of all the Penguins, Sidney Crosby, was stuck in the back row. I doubt that was by accident.
What do you call someone who sleeps through an entire century? Rip Van Ditka. “There has been no oppression (in the United States) in the last 100 years that I know of,” Ditka, the former Chicago Bears coach and Pro Football Hall of Fame tight end, said in a radio interview this week. Jim Crow laws, Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr. tossed in jail for peaceful protests, police turning fire hoses and German Shepherd dogs on black people, Stonewall, whites-only Major League Baseball, keeping women barefoot and pregnant…didn’t happen. None of it. Rip Van Ditka later qualified his take on history and allowed that, yes, he has witnessed oppression during his 78 years walking the third rock from the sun, but he didn’t elaborate. He didn’t have to. He’d already lost the debate.
Found out last weekend that legendary singer Lesley Gore was gay. How’d I miss that? Guess I was sleeping, like Mike Ditka. Whatever, Lesley could have cried at my party anytime. Even if it was Judy’s turn to cry.
I swear, Donald Trump might just be the funniest man alive. In a warped way, of course. I mean, the president of the United States believes he invented the word ‘fake.’ He said so in a chin-wag with one of his Republican toadies, Mike Huckabee, the other day. “The word…I think one of the greatest of all terms I’ve come up with is ‘fake,'” the Commander-in-Syntax declared. “I guess other people have used it perhaps over the years, but I’ve never noticed it.” Well, yes, according to Merriam-Webster, folks have been writing about fake this and fake that since it first appeared as an adjective in written form—in 1775. Oddly enough, that’s the same year that ‘burro’—as in donkey—was added to the lexicon. What a coincidence.
Trump’s Vice-Puppet, Mike Pence, ought not be trashed for walking out of Lucas Oil Stadium on Sunday after members of the San Francisco 49ers took a knee during the Star-Spangled Banner. He has as much right to protest a protest as National Football League players have a right to protest racial/social injustice. The difference, of course, is that one is a phony, staged protest meant to stoke the fires of division and stroke the ego of the man in the White House, while the other is trying to bring about change.
Fact is, Donald Trump has done more than any athlete to promote the protest movement, including the man who started it all, Colin Kaepernick. If the Commander-in-Chaos had keep his lips zipped and not called out any “son of a bitch” who takes a knee, we’d only be hearing crickets today.
My normal routine on Sundays is to lay my little, ol’ body on the loveseat and watch movies. Four of them minimum. Well, I made the mistake of choosing Failure to Launch to lead off my flick-a-thon this past Sabbath. It’s a film featuring Matthew McConaughey. I lasted less than an hour. It’s a stupid film. First of all, Terry Bradshaw is in it and he basically plays his real life buffoon self, which is stupid. Also playing himself is McConaughey, who seemingly plays himself in every movie I’ve ever seen him in, which is also stupid. I enjoy a good romantic comedy—Billy Crystal and Debra Winger were terrific in Forget Paris, and Crystal and Meg Ryan were absolute delights in When Harry Met Sally—but there ought to be a law against the kind of stupid you see in Failure to Launch and McConaughey’s one-trick-pony acting. I switched channels and watched four people on CNN engage in a rousing, 15-minute exercise in Trump bashing. It was actually funnier than the film.
My faith in quality film-making was restored shortly thereafter by I’ll Cry Tomorrow, an intense, gripping biopic about singer Lillian Roth. Susan Hayward is absolutely brilliant in the lead role. Up next was Dances with Wolves, a different kind of western that, whether historically accurate or not, was extremely entertaining. And that’s saying something, because I’m not a Kevin Costner fan. Closing the show was Must Love Dogs (love Diane Lane), which more than made up for Failure to Launch.
U.S. President Donald Trump welcomes the Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins to the White House…
“I’m very pleased to have the Pittsburgh Penguins here at the White House, which, by the way, is a dump. A real dump. Really run down. Bad. But I’m very pleased to have the Penguins here anyway. This is a great team. Great team. Skate beautifully. Shoot beautifully. Truly wonderful at hockey.
“And look how many of them are here! There’s never been this many hockey players in the White House at one time. There’s at least twice as many here today as there were to see Obama last year. Maybe more. Great turnout. Biggest crowd ever. They stretch all the way to the East Wing. Did you know that half of the Penguins stayed home last year? That’s true. They stayed home. Not this year, though. They wanted to meet Trump.
“You know what I like best about hockey players? You know what I like best? They aren’t sons of bitches. And you know what athletes who aren’t sons of bitches don’t do? They don’t take a knee. They stand for our great flag and our great country and our great military and our beautiful national anthem. The Star-Spangled Banner is a beautiful song. Gorgeous song. Isn’t it a gorgeous song? Why would anyone want to disrespect that?
“I understand one hockey player raised a fist during the anthem the other night. That’s right. Raised a fist. That’s not as bad as taking a knee, but they should still fire the son of a bitch! Fire him. Get him outta here! That’s what my great friend Jerry Jones would do. He’d fire his ass. Jerry gets it. He knows Trump is right. If that hockey player—and I don’t know his name, but I can guess his skin color—continues to disrespect the anthem and the flag, I’ll have to send Vice-Puppet Mike Pence to the next game to stage a protest walkout. It’ll cost the taxpayers a ton of money—a couple hundred grand at least—but you can’t put a price tag on our beautiful flag. No price tag.
“But I don’t think we’ll have to worry about that, because hockey players aren’t like football and basketball players. They’re happy to be here. Just look at all those smiling faces. So many of them. Great crowd. Record turnout. They love their Trump. That’s why Melania and I are so delighted to welcome them.
“And, by the way, I want to set the record straight on something: Melania is the First Lady, not Ivana. I don’t know what Ivana was thinking when she called herself the First Lady on NBC. Fake news! She was my first wife, but she isn’t the First Lady. Is Marla gonna want to be First Lady, too? Everybody wants to be Trump’s First Lady. It’s amazing. Amazing. Crazy. But there can only be one First Lady, and everyone knows it’s my daughter Ivanka.
“I don’t think they have a First Lady in hockey, do they? Probably not. It’s a man’s game. They still allow hitting, not like the NFL. The NFL’s not the same game anymore. Hit someone and it’s 15 yards! Penalty. Can’t touch anyone. Flag football. Hockey’s not like that. Full of tough hombres. I watched a game once and couldn’t believe it. So tough…so tough. Couldn’t believe it. Tough hombres.
“I was talking to the team captain, Sidney Crosby. He comes from a small town on the east coast of Canada. Very small town. Smaller than my hands. I shook his hand and you know what he said to me? He said, ‘My oh my, President Trump, what big hands you have.’ That’s what he said. What big hands I have. Big hands. Biggest hands he’s ever seen. So all that stuff that the evil media has been writing and saying about my hands, fake news!
“The media’s so unfair to me. And they’re unfair to the Penguins, too. Especially Sidney Crosby. So many in the fake media have been critical of him for coming to visit Melania and I at the White House. So unfair. I told Sid the Kid—by the way, that nickname Sid the Kid…I think it’s the greatest nickname I’ve ever come up with for an athlete. I guess other people have used it over the years, but I never noticed it. Never heard it. I named the Broad Street Bullies, too. I named lots of them. Most of ’em. The Great Gretzky. Named him. The Rocket. Named him. The Finnish Flash. Trump named him. Because Trump knows hockey. Not many people know this, but did you know that no NHL team has ever won the Stanley Cup with a Mexican on the roster. True. No Mexicans. My name is on the Stanley Cup—it’s the biggest type face—but no Mexicans. None. And that’s one of the ways we can make America great again…by keeping Mexicans out of hockey.
“This has been a great day for the Penguins. Special day. Especially for Evgeni Malkin—he’s the first Russian to come to the White House who we haven’t had to hide. Gino knows I’m a friend. You know that, right Gino? Sure he does. All the Russians know I’m a friend. I’m the reason they don’t have to defect anymore to come over here and make millions of our beautiful American dollars. I ended the Cold War. Stopped it. Ordered them to bust down the Berlin Wall. Told them to ‘tear down this wall.’ Famous quote of mine. Look it up. True friend of the Russians. All immigrants, really. There are very fine people on both sides of the ocean. I married two of them.
“I’d like to stay and spend more time with Gino, but I’ve got a tee time with my very good friend Bob Corker. We’re gonna golf and discuss day care. So I’ve got to scoot. Melania and I want to thank the Penguins and let them know that there are some nice parting gifts for them on the way out. They’re beautiful, soft towels. Gorgeous towels. I brought them home from my trip to Puerto Rico. Fabulous towels. Best towels for sopping up a hurricane.”
I’m not black, I don’t live in the United States and I no longer drive a car, so I cannot relate to being pulled over by a cop pointing a gun at me.
I’ve been pulled over by cops, to be sure. On numerous occasions.
Once it was for a faulty left headlight. On another occasion it was for a broken tail light. An illegal left turn in downtown Toronto earned me a brief lecture from a cop. And a ticket. A heavy foot on the gas pedal while travelling down Gateway Road in Winnipeg got the red lights flashing behind me. And another ticket. And, of course, there have been check stops by cops seeking to get drunk drivers off the roads (two in one night, actually). No tickets there.
Never, however, have I been stopped due to the hue of my skin.
I believe that’s called white privilege.
I never asked for white skin. I never asked to grow up in a white neighborhood populated by Catholics and Protestants. I had no black or Jewish friends. Other than when jazz musician/dancer Delbert Wagner broke bread with us in our home on Melbourne Avenue in Winnipeg, or the family visited Percy and Zena Haynes’ Chicken Shack on Lulu Street, the only black or Jewish people I ever saw were on TV.
Oddly enough, Sandy Koufax, a Jewish man, was my favorite baseball player and the elegant Wilma Rudolph, a black woman, was the athlete I most admired. Floyd Patterson, a black Catholic, was my favorite boxer until Cassius Clay became Muhammad Ali, a black Muslim. My favorite singers were Barbra Streisand, a Jew, and Frank Sinatra, a mobster.
Talk about a mixed up white Catholic kid.
At any rate, I was raised in a very white culture that included heavy involvement in hockey, the whitest team sport in North America, if not the world. I never had a black teammate. There was only one black player in the National Hockey League during my youth—Willie O’Ree. He broke in with the Boston Bruins in 1958, playing two games that year and another 43 in 1960-61. Today—depending on opening-night rosters—approximately 30 of the 700-plus NHL players are black. That’s four per cent.
So, anyone thinking hockey players would plunge into the social discussion about racial injustice in the U.S. is quite misguided. I suspect many NHLers don’t see it as their fight because they, like myself and so many others, cannot relate to being pulled over by a cop wielding a handgun due to the color of their skin. But, more to the point, it isn’t the hockey way.
The hockey way is to scrap fiercely for every inch of ice you can claim, even if it means fisticuffs and a trip to the dentist, but once the final whistle blows you must tow the party line. Don’t make waves or noise. You’re part of a team and, always remember men, there’s no ‘i’ in team. Oh, yes, they’ll deliver cliches like they eat them for breakfast, lunch, dinner and a midnight snack, just don’t expect opinion on anything other than the size of goaltender equipment, video replay and Donald S. Cherry’s most recent rant.
That’s what made Blake Wheeler’s comments the other day so shocking. The Winnipeg Jets captain broke ranks, not to mention an unwritten code, when he called out U.S. President Donald Trump for his “son of a bitch” and “He’s fired!” insult to National Football League players who take a knee in protest of racial injustice on the streets of America.
“It’s the First Amendment to our Constitution. The First one!!” Wheeler tweeted. “Regardless of how it makes you feel individually, these are literally the principles the US was founded on. Come on, Mr. President.”
Wheeler, an American, later articulated his thoughts for news snoops.
“It just felt right, kind of, to take a stance,” he explained. “Some of the language (Trump) used, referencing NFL players, I think that was kind of the last straw for a lot of guys, whichever way they feel about it, to finally voice their opinion. I think that’s kind of the whole point. That’s the thing that makes America a great country. You’re allowed to have different opinions, you’re allowed to voice those different opinions, you’re allowed to stand up for what you believe in. When you take a side, you want to be cognizant of the fact that there’s going to be people who don’t feel the same as you.”
That’s not the hockey way. Or at least it never used to be.
The hockey way is what former NHLer Paul Henderson delivered when asked about the Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins accepting an invitation for a photo-op with Donald Trump at the White House.
“Well, I was a team player,” he said dutifully. “I think if the captain said we were going—it may not be my choice—but if the captain says we’re going, I’d probably go. If the captain said we weren’t going to go, then I probably wouldn’t go.”
Paul Henderson, a very nice man, is famous for scoring a goal. The goal. He very much disliked the communist Soviets in 1972, but in the case of athletes protesting racial/social injustice in 2017, he’s Switzerland. “I’m not going to take sides on either side.”
That is sooooo hockey.
So it’s refreshing and encouraging to know that there are players like Blake Wheeler, teammate Jacob Trouba and numerous others who have an opinion. Imagine that. Hockey players with a voice of their own. Who knew?
I’ve seen it from the street—during a drive-by while working as a travelling hockey writer in a distant lifetime—but I never felt the urge to ring the doorbell and ask for a peek inside.
Just as well, I suppose, because it was near the dinner hour that early-November day in 1979 and I’m thinking that the residents of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. NW at the time—the gentleman peanut farmer from Plains, Ga., Jimmy Carter, his bride Rosalynn and little Amy—might have been breaking bread and likely were not inclined to entertain a wandering sports scribe from Canada.
So I merely requested that the cab driver ease his right foot from the gas pedal so I might take a lingering look at the shack sitting on 18 acres of presidential sprawl. Scant seconds later, the White House was in the rear-view mirror and we were soon passing the golden arches of a McDonald’s restaurant.
“How convenient for little Amy,” I recall thinking. “Ronald McDonald and a Happy Meal are only a block away.”
I reflect on my fleeting, non-eventful encounter with the hub of the free world today because the Pittsburgh Penguins have RSVP’d their intention to drop in on the Trumps sometime during the 2017-18 National Hockey League season. No doubt they’ll have the Stanley Cup in tow and we can only hope that the Resident-in-Chief, Donald J. Trump, won’t mistake it for a spittoon.
The Golden State Warriors, meanwhile, were in ponder of their invitation to touch elbows with Donald J. when the United States president, piqued by the hesitancy of star player Steph Curry, went all Soup Nazi and declared his temporary home in Washington, D.C., off limits to the National Basketball Association champions.
“I never promised you a Rose Garden!” he snapped.
Well, okay, the Apprentice President didn’t actually say that. More likely the Commander-in-Tweet called Curry a disrespectful SOB, then sat down to watch a NASCAR race or type out a list of mis-truths for his Paid Pinocchio, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, to deliver to news snoops at her next press briefing. (“When President Trump said that some Nazis and white supremacists are ‘fine people’ and that National Football League players are ‘sons of bitches,’ that’s not what he meant. He meant something else entirely and you’re missing the president’s message completely if you think he meant something other than what you think he meant to say.”)
So I’m thinking: If granted the opportunity, would I want to attend the White House to meet this president? About as much as I want a Happy Meal.
There have been 13 U.S. presidents in my lifetime—in chronological order, Harry Truman, Dwight Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, Papa George Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Barack Obama and Donald Trump. I have recollections of all but Truman, whose term in the White House expired when I was barely knee high to Jackie Kennedy.
Of the 13, I thought it’d be cool to meet three—JFK, Nixon and Obama.
I was raised Roman Catholic and the ruler-wielding nuns at St. Clements and St. Alphonsus schools assured us that JFK winning the White House in 1960 was a big deal. The reason it was important to have a Catholic in the Oval Office escaped me at the time, but my little mind determined it prudent to resist any urge to challenge the nuns on that issue and, thus, spare my knuckles a stinging rap. But I wanted to meet JFK. Maybe ask him about Khrushchev and air raid drills during the 1960s Cold War. You know, just one Catholic to another. I wept when JFK was gunned down. Still do whenever I see the film.
Nixon was a nasty bit of business and a man for whom I harbored no admiration, but he appealed to a morbid curiosity. I always wondered what made him tick. Picking his brain would have been a trip. I mostly wanted to ask him what the hell he was thinking during the My Lai massacre coverup. Shouldn’t the soldiers responsible for killing more than 500 unarmed, innocent Vietnamese civilians (most of them women, children and old men) be held accountable? He deserved impeachment for that, never mind Watergate, and I wanted answers.
I was sitting at the bar at Paparazzi Nightclub in Victoria the night Barack Obama was elected president. Our American neighbors had put a black man in the White House and pure joy in the form of tears fell from my eyes. I never thought I’d see that day. I’ve always wanted to shake his hand. I really don’t know what I’d say to President Obama, but it would be about peace and acceptance.
For me, any of those three would be worth a trip to the White House. The other 10, not so much.
Let us, for a moment, look beyond the cringe-worthy optic of the Pittsburgh Penguins seemingly walking in lockstep with some of the good, ol’ boys in NASCAR Cup racing, where the Confederate flag is as commonplace as country music, RVs and left turns.
Instead, it seems apropos to first point out that Jackie Robinson took a knee.
Not physically, understand. After all, the first black man to participate in a 20th-century Major League Baseball game had an agreement with team owner Branch Rickey to play the part of the obedient, turn-the-other-cheek worker during the formative years of his 10-season tour of duty with the storied Boys of Summer, the Brooklyn Dodgers.
Robinson was, as New York Times columnist Arthur Daley opined, the right type of black man for the pioneering venture of breaking baseball’s color barrier.
“The muscular negro minds his own business and shrewdly makes no effort to push himself. He speaks intelligently when spoken to and already has made a strong impression,” Daley wrote of Robinson’s debut with the Dodgers in mid-April 1947.
That writing reeks of know-your-place-boy racism. It’s almost as if Daley believed Robinson was in Brooklyn to shine shoes and carry luggage rather than play baseball. But it’s just a small sampling of the rampant ridicule and discrimination that challenged the Dodgers infielder, who, as a lieutenant in the United States Army in 1944, was arrested, shackled and faced a court martial for declining a driver’s racist directive to “get to the back” of a military bus where the colored folk belonged. Robinson sometimes was required to eat at different restaurants and sleep in different hotels than his teammates, he received death threats and threats to his bride, Rachel, and their son, Jackie Jr. Long after he had become an established star in MLB, he and Rachel encountered numerous hindrances in seeking a home to purchase, road blocks based solely on the color of their skin.
Little wonder he wrote this in his 1972 autobiography I Never Had It Made:
“There I was, the black grandson of a slave, the son of a black sharecropper, part of a historic occasion, a symbolic hero to my people. The air was sparkling. The sunlight was warm. The band struck up the national anthem. The flag billowed in the wind. It should have been a glorious moment for me as the stirring words of the national anthem poured from the stands. Perhaps, it was, but then again, perhaps, the anthem could be called the theme song for a drama called The Noble Experiment. Today, as I look back on that opening game of my first world series, I must tell you that it was Mr. Rickey’s drama and that I was only a principal actor. As I write this twenty years later, I cannot stand and sing the anthem. I cannot salute the flag; I know that I am a black man in a white world. In 1972, in 1947, at my birth in 1919, I know that I never had it made.”
The great Jackie Robinson, a man who served in the U.S. Military, could not stand for and sing the Star-Spangled Banner. Couldn’t salute the flag. He took a knee.
I wonder, would U.S. President Donald J. Trump call Robinson a “son of a bitch?”
That, after all, is the Apprentice President’s chosen insult for the numerous National Football League performers who, during the playing of the American national anthem, are taking a knee in protest of racial injustice. At least one player in MLB has done the same. Others have raised fists in protest, evoking the image of Tommie Smith and John Carlos at the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico. Still others, such as the members of the NFL’s Pittsburgh Steelers and Los Angeles Sparks of the Women’s National Basketball Association, have remained in their changing rooms.
Trump would like to see all the “sons of bitches” fired.
But not the Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins. They’re a “great team” don’t you know. Bless their bent noses and gummy grins, because they’ve accepted Trump’s invitation to grovel and genuflect at the White House. And those dudes in NASCAR? They’ll fire any driver, pit crew worker or team employee who drops to one knee during the anthem. Hell ya, they will! It’ll earn you “a ride on a Greyhound bus” out of town growls team owner Richard Childress.
“Anybody that don’t stand for that ought to be out of the country. Period,” legendary driver Richard Petty scoffs in concert.
The commander-in-chief is “so proud” of ’em, bless their bent fenders and southern drawls. And, hey, it’s just a coincidence that NASCAR is the whitest sport in the world. They’re his kind of people because bossman Brian France endorsed his bid for the White House in 2016.
“If the people that like and watch NASCAR vote for Donald Trump, they can cancel the election right now,” he bleated. “Nobody else can win. Nobody.”
I’m not sure what Jackie Robinson would make of all this noise, but I know he was heavily involved in civil rights post-career. He campaigned openly for Richard Nixon during the 1960 presidential election and became pen pals with President John F. Kennedy, imploring JFK to get “angry” over racial injustice. So I’m guessing he’d align himself with NFL players and take a knee.
And if Donald Trump called him a “son of a bitch?” Little doubt Robinson would call the president a “son of a bitch” right the hell back.
Put down that brick, mortar and trowel! Construction on the Great Wall of Trump, intended to keep rapists and druggies confined to Mexico, can wait.
Kim Jong Un and his nuclear weapons? Put the Rocket Man on hold.
Tearing apart Obamacare? Tax reform? Revamping NAFTA? Stamping out international terrorism? All minor inconveniences compared to the heavy issue that has just landed on the doorstep of the humble shack at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. NW in Washington, D.C.—ridding the sports world of bums and creeps who dare tweak the presidential beak.
Oh, yes, U.S. President Donald J. Trump has declared it open season on Colin Kaepernik, Jemele Hill, Stephen Curry and those of their ilk.
Just last week, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, a paid Pinocchio for the Apprentice President, wailed against the evils of ESPN co-anchor Hill, demanding her ouster from the cable station’s dinnertime SportsCenter program. Hill had been a naughty girl, don’t you know. Basically, she called the POTUS a POS, and we can’t have sports personalities exercising First Amendment rights.
So fire her!
Steph Curry has no desire to attend a White House function to be saluted along with his National Basketball Association champion Golden State Warriors teammates? Fine. Trump issues a hissy-fit tweet that the “invitation is withdrawn!” No White House for you!
And we also have El Presidente in full howl and delivering off-with-their-heads urgings during a group hug in Huntsville, Ala., a sermon that was shallow in scope and dizzying in narcissism. Seems Agent Orange is unamused by National Football League players who kneel or sit and munch on bananas (hello, Marshawn Lynch) during the playing of the Star-Spangled Banner, so he’ll have to deal with that pesky Kim Jong Un and his nuclear play things at a later date. More urgent is the uprising by large lads in pads who are equally unamused by racial inequality in Trump’s America.
“Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now. Out. He’s fired. He’s fired!” the Commander-in-Chief huffed and puffed on Friday, attempting to blow the NFL house down. “You know, some owner’s gonna do that. He’s gonna say, ‘That guy that disrespects our flag, he’s fired. And that owner, they don’t know it—they’re friends of mine, many of them—they’ll be the most popular person, for a week. They’ll be the most popular person in this country, ’cause that’s a total disrespect of our heritage, that’s a total disrespect of everything that we stand for, okay? Everything that we stand for. And I know we have freedoms and we have freedom of choice and many, many different freedoms, but you know what, it’s still totally disrespectful. And you know when the NFL ratings are down massively—massively!—the NFL ratings are down massively…the No. 1 reason is they like watching what’s happening with yours truly.
“You know what’s hurting the game? When people like yourselves turn on television and you see those people taking a knee when they are playing our great national anthem. The only thing you could do better is if you see it, even if it’s one player, leave the stadium, I guarantee things will stop. Things will stop. Just pick up and leave. Pick up and leave.”
Trump failed to mention that Americans also have the right to remain silent. He should have tried it.
I mean, seriously, the president of the United States of America advocating the dismissal of professional athletes for exercising a Constitutional right? Kind of like Pope Francis excommunicating Catholics for kneeling in prayer, wouldn’t you say? (Not that I think Trump is pope-like.)
Sports and politics aren’t meant to blend together. The games people play are intended to be a diversion, something to provide an escape from the realities of an oft-nasty and angry world. And, I suppose, Trump unwittingly accomplished that very thing by diving gob first into the playground with his off-the-rails rant against the NFL and the way it conducts business. After all, if the POTUS is talking sports, he isn’t talking about blowing North Korea and the rest of the world the hell up.
The thing is, crapping on out-of-work quarterback Kaepernick and pooh-poohing increased safety measures to reduce or eliminate scrambled brains (he stopped short of suggesting the game has become sissified) isn’t productive. Chances are we’ll see an increase in the volume of players kneeling this weekend.
I wish sports and politics were separate entities. Games should be games and life should be life. But it’s never been that way and never shall be. The 1936 Olympic Games were about Hitler’s Germany. Tommie Smith and John Carolos turned the 1968 Olympic Games into a political statement. Terrorists turned the 1972 Olympics into a horrible tragedy. There have been boycotts of varying degrees at half a dozen Olympic Games. And tell me sports and politics didn’t meet during hockey’s 1972 Summit Series between Canada and the Soviet Union.
But I’m okay with Trump imposing his political position on the NFL…just as long as he doesn’t expect Colin Kaepernick, Jemele Hill and Stephen Curry to apologize—or be fired—for doing the same thing.
I sent out 15 Christmas cards on Monday with greetings of “Joyeux Noel et bonne annee.”
At no point during either the design or delivery of the cards did I devote a second of ponder to the possibility that they might put some noses out of joint. I mean, it’s a card. It’s a greeting. It’s my way of telling someone that they’re dear to me and I’m thinking of them. Can’t get more harmless than that, right?
Except it has come to my attention that card-sending can be a risky bit of business.
United States President Barack Obama, for example, is again under heavy fire from conservative extremists because, in keeping with the tradition of his eight years of residency at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. NW in Washington, D.C., this year’s official White House Christmas card is not a Christmas card. It is a “Happy Holidays” card that makes no mention of a messianic birth in a Bethlehem barn some 2,000-plus years ago.
This omission, apparently, qualifies him as President Bah Humbug and aligns him in league with the Devil.
“Merry Christmas…er…scratch that. We are the Obamas and it’s Some Random Holiday,” was a sarcastic, snotty, how-dare-he tweet from that noted still-wheezing Alaskan gasbag Sarah Palin, a self-described “Bible-believing Christian” who, along with her hard-core conservative ilk, ignore the reality that the winter holiday/festival season is not the sole province of Christians.
There are approximately two dozen celebrations between Nov. 1 and mid-January that involve Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus and other religious or secular groups. Yet President Obama must, must, must give Christmas top billing, otherwise he has launched a scud missile at the very heart of America.
“Protecting the heart of Christmas will lead to protecting the heart of our nation,” is how Palin puts it.
Yes, by all means, in his quest to “make America great again,” surely president-elect Donald Trump’s first order of business once he’s hunkered down on Pennsylvania Avenue NW must be to put the words “Merry Christmas” back on White House stationary. ISIS, terrorism and building border walls can wait. The war on Christmas must be won first.
But is there really a war on Christmas? Well, there must be. I mean, this year’s Starbucks holiday cup is green. Yes, green! With a bunch of squiggly faces on it—and not one of those faces belongs to Jesus Christ. The devil, you say! Must be the work of that Obama fella. After all, he sent out all of those non-Christmas Christmas cards.
Look, although raised Roman Catholic, I confess that I have difficulty with the Christian nativity narrative.
A virgin birth? In a barn or cave or stable? Three wise men following the brightest star in the sky and travelling many miles on camelback to pay homage to a messiah in a manger? Angels whispering in Joseph’s ear (or the virgin Mary’s ear, depending on whether you choose to believe Matthew or Luke)? Quite the flight of fancy, I dare say.
Having said that, however, if I’m walking the streets and notice a nativity scene displayed in a neighborhood yard or in a store-front window, I take no offence.
I don’t look at religion-themed Christmas displays or a brightly lit evergreen tree as sales pitches to lure me inside a church for the first time in decades, and it matters not if I believe the Christian nativity narrative to be historically accurate, or if I believe it to be as bogus as most of the Trumpster’s outrageous claims during the U.S. presidential election campaign. To me, a Christmas tree is no more a religious symbol than Santa Claus is an Olympic hockey champion. It’s a symbol of the holiday season.
Similarly, my knickers are not twisted into a knot if someone wishes me a “Merry Christmas” or I’m given a “Happy holidays” greeting. I’m good with it all.
You want to celebrate Christmas because you believe it to be Jesus’s birthday? Go for it. You want to dance and argue around the Festivus pole with George, Frank and Estelle Costanza? Grab your partner. Just enjoy it. It really is the most wonderful time of the year. No matter whose face is or isn’t on your green coffee cup.