God, Gays, and Good Grades (g)

15 Apr

In a perfect world, otherwise rational people would not fear homosexuals.

When I was planning out what I would write about for this A-Z series, I had planned to address gay marriage with letter G.  My plan was to speak in general terms about allowing gays and lesbians to marry, and how a committed loving relationship is no different when it’s between a man and woman or a man and a man.

But sadly, the universe dropped a specific example on my doorstep.

Recently, I became aware of a petition on change.org seeking to “end employment discrimination against Mr. Eledge and future faculty” of a local high school.

The petition introduces us to Matthew Eledge, an English teacher and speech coach for five years at Omaha’s Skutt Catholic High School.  He is said to be an excellent teacher and a top flight speech coach, with his teams winning multiple conference, district, and state championships.

From the petition text:

“Mr. Eledge is being fired from Skutt Catholic for being in a gay relationship.

In December of 2014, Matt and his partner, Elliot Dougherty, made the decision to get engaged. He went to the administration to let them know, and they told him he would not be invited to teach next year. Furthermore, if he told students, he would be fired immediately.

A living example of what it means to be a SkyHawk, Mr. Eledge has spent hundreds of hours striving to make sure that the students at Skutt have an incredible high school experience. He soars above the rest in accolades, talent, and character for Skutt Catholic. After months of contemplation, Mr. Eledge discussed the idea of postponing the wedding so he could come back to Skutt Catholic. He was then informed that he must end his relationship with Elliot.

A core belief at Skutt Catholic is to inspire “moral and ethical leadership by not only educating, but also requiring students to provide service to, embrace diversity within, and seek justice for their communities and the marginalized in our society”. As parents, former teachers, alumni, and individuals who support the Skutt Catholic community: we demand the administration embrace diversity and stand up for justice by not discriminating against a teacher that has inspired hundreds of students and future leaders in the community.”

I’ve never met Matthew Eledge or his partner.  But I do know what it is like to be a student learning from a teacher and coach that you look up to.  A person you respect, learn from, and whom pushes you to be a better person.  I was blessed to attend a high school with several excellent teachers on staff.*  I’ve been out of high school for over 20 years, and I can easily name a half dozen such educators who had such an impact on my life.

*The quality of the teachers I had at Gretna High School is one of the main reasons I believe so many of my high school classmates and friends became teachers.  Many of them are teaching in the same district we graduated from, which I think is amazing.

One of those teachers who had a positive impact on me was Matthew’s father, Kirk Eledge.  Like his son, Kirk Eledge is an educator, coach, and mentor.  My Coach Eledge was physical education instructor and the head coach for my high school’s football team*.

*If you’re looking for anecdotal evidence that homosexuality is not a choice or a “life style”, I would submit that being the openly gay son of a high school football coach in red state Nebraska is not something one “chooses” to be. 

I was, by every account, a mediocre to bad football player.  I knew what I should do on the field, but I could rarely convince my nonathletic body to do it, especially at game speed.  I’m guessing Coach Eledge knew early on that I would not amount to much more than a career backup, but that never stopped him for coaching me, supporting me, and encouraging me to improve.  He treated me, a career bench-warmer who just wanted to be apart of a team, with dignity and respect – the same way he treated the star players.  My guess is the students Matthew Eledge worked with at Skutt would say that same things.

*   *   *

Ignoring outdated stereotypes about speech and drama kids, it is an absolute certainty that Matthew Eledge has had a gay or lesbian student in his classroom at some point in his five years at Skutt.  What message does Eledge’s firing send to these students:  Be ashamed of who you are?  Come out at school and risk persecution?  There is no place for a homosexual at Skutt?  Follow the Church’s teachings or else?

Aside from being counter to a Skutt core belief (the petition cites inspiring “moral and ethical leadership by not only educating, but also requiring students to provide service to, embrace diversity within, and seek justice for their communities and the marginalized in our society”), there are numerous published studies showing that gay teens are up to seven times more likely to attempt suicide.  I cannot fathom how or why any educator who would willingly put teens at risk by creating a culture of intolerance.

*   *   *

I don’t want this to come across as an attack on Catholicism, or on those who are loyal to the teachings of the Catholic Church.  I respect your faith.  I can understand, in principle, how having an opening gay teacher on your faculty could send the wrong message to your families, alumni, and donors.  I respectfully disagree.  I read an ABC News article stating that Catholic educators in the Omaha Archdiocese have lost their jobs for being “single, pregnant teachers and those who’ve divorced and remarried outside the Catholic church”.  I disagree with those firings too.  Know that I’d feel the same way if Skutt was a Catholic, Lutheran, Christian, non-denominational, or public school.

I read a blog post where the author makes the case that if Matthew Eledge is being fired for “openly violating Catholic doctrine”, then we should take a closer look at the Skutt administration to see where they stray from biblical teachings.  No disrespect to that writer, but I don’t want to cherry-pick bible verses (especially those from Deuteronomy or Leviticus) as a justification for getting rid of those who chose to fire Matthew Eledge.  In my opinion, that solves nothing.

In my previous job, I worked with (and in) Catholic and faith-based schools across the country.  I sat with nuns and priests who serve God daily by educating our youth.  While I cannot claim to know their stance on this issue, I can assure you that they taught love and respect in their schools – not fear and denial.

That is why I struggle to understand why Matthew Eledge is being fired.

Is the school concerned about going against the teachings of the Church?  Is the decision coming from school administration or the Archdiocese of Omaha?  Are they afraid that retaining an openly gay teacher will trigger a backlash from concerned parents and alumni?  Do they fear that students will “catch the gay” by being exposed to Mr. Eledge or *gasp* the man he is in a committed and loving relationship with?  Or is Skutt seeking to avoid alienating their donor base, which likely contains older, conservative folks – the type of people who may choose to avoid organizations that willingly support gays and lesbians?

All I know is that good teachers are hard to find.  The hours suck, the pay is horrible (especially at most parochial schools), and they have to deal with a lot more crap from students and parents than they ever did before.  So when you find an educator that is passionate about what they do and is very successful in doing it, I think you should allow them to enrich the lives of students.

In a perfect world we would #LetMatthewTeach

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(Author’s note:  Wondering why there is a random letter in parentheses in the title of this post?  Not sure how this post corresponds to the daily letter in the April A to Z Challenge?  Like clicking on links?  These questions are all answered here.)

Husker Hot Takes – Fiala and Phillips Edition

15 Apr

I’ve got a handful of post-Spring Scrimmage thoughts I’d like to share, but I want to focus on the two biggest Husker stories of the week:

Former Husker linebacker and broadcaster Adrian Fiala passes away at age 67.

Adrian Fiala was a standout linebacker on the Bob Devaney teams of the late 1960s.  Although he graduated just before Nebraska won back-to-back national championships, he is widely credited for helping to elevate the team’s play from 6-4 mediocrity to a 9-2 team on the cusp of greatness.  Fiala was a two-sport standout, serving as a catcher on the Nebraska Baseball team.

But for most Nebraska fans, Fiala’s biggest impact was as a broadcaster.  He was a fixture in the Husker broadcast booth between the end of the Pavelka/Sadlemeyer era and the current Sharpe/Davison team.  He was a fixture on NET’s Big Red Wrap-up show.  He was blessed with a deep, booming voice, a humble folksy charm, and a level of preparation that inspired his colleagues.  When you think of the greatest Husker moments between 1996 and 2010 – Stuntz to Crouch, Alex Henery’s 57 yard field goal, and countless others – you could count on Adrian Fiala sharing your excitement and enthusiasm in the radio booth.  Was he a homer for Dear Old Nebraska U?  You bet your backside he was, and I never heard him apologize for supporting his home state alma mater with everything he had.

Personally, I enjoyed his work on countless NET Nebraska Baseball broadcasts more than his football broadcasts.  I always felt his strengths as a broadcaster:  a friendly demeanor and a gift for story telling, were perfectly paired for the rhythms of a baseball game.  I will greatly miss him the next time NET does a game.

Speaking of which…I would humbly suggest that NET honor Fiala during their next Nebraska Baseball broadcast (Saturday, April 18) by remaining silent during the home half of the first inning.  It would be a cool tribute to a man whose words accompanied so many Husker games.

Fiala fans should check out 93.7 The Ticket

After leaving the Husker broadcast booth, Adrian Fiala gave his talents and credibility to upstart Lincoln sports radio station 93.7 The Ticket.  The transformation of The Ticket from small time sports radio operation to one of the best Husker voices in the state is largely due to Fiala’s work mentoring the talented group of young broadcasters at 93.7.

The station’s staff – especially program manager and Fiala’s “Husker Legends Show” co-host John Gaskins – has done an amazing job of paying tribute to Fiala.  They have collected several beautiful and touching stories from a who’s who of Nebraska legends.  I encourage you to listen to the clips on their podcast page.

If for nothing else, you’ll want to hear the unbelievable story of the priest who gave Fiala the Last Rites on Monday.  While in college at Nebraska, the future priest performed as Herbie Husker.

Yes, a Nebraska legend received his last rites from Herbie Husker.

There is truly no place….

*   *   *

And on the opposite end of the spectrum…

Lawrence Phillips is accused of murdering is cellmate in a California prison.

The publicly available facts are rather limited at this time, but Lawrence Phillips is believed to have killed his cellmate last weekend.  Before I explore the Nebraska-centric angles and implications, let me acknowledge that very little of what follows is as important as a man being killed by another man – even if the deceased was serving 82 to life for first degree murder.  As much as it upsets me to see every transgression Phillips commits reported as “former Nebraska running back” instead of “ex-NFL running back”, I get that grievance is beyond trivial compared to the loss of life.  That said…

Can we stop referring to Phillips as “Former Nebraska Running Back”?

While I did see several articles and tweets referring to L.P. as an “Ex-NFL running back”, many still reference his 27 games (and just 14 starts) at Nebraska.  Admittedly, this comes from a fiercely proud Nebraska native and alumnus who wants to protect the name of his school.

I get that his first criminal acts took place in Lincoln, but at the same time, it’s been almost 20 years since Phillips was a member of the Nebraska football team.  Is there a statute of limitations that kicks in eventually?  Are other former NFL players accused of felonies identified by their pro team(s) or by the college they attended?

Many national pundits are taking advantage of this crime to attack Tom Osborne’s decision to reinstate Phillips.

Among the “highlights”:

Sports Illustrated’s Richard Deitsch linked a 20 year old Jim Murray column from the LA Times.  Deitsch refers to the column as “ahead-of-its time“.  I agree in that the style of one-sided outraged indignation used by the legendary writer seems lifted from today’s #HotSportsTake culture where clicks are more important than being measured or balanced.

Yahoo Sports’ Pat Forde retweeted the Deitsch tweet and chased it with this gem:

A respected national media member attacking Osborne’s integrity because he reinstated Phillips*?  Sheesh.

*I can’t remember if I’m on record or not about T.O. and L.P., so here goes:

Tom Osborne did not need Lawrence Phillips to win the 1995 National Championship.  That team would have been considered one of the greatest teams of all time with Ahman Green, Clinton Childs, or Damon Benning as the feature back.  To argue otherwise displays complete ignorance on that team’s talent, and the dominance they displayed throughout the season.  Remember, on the very first play in NU’s first game without Phillips, Clinton Childs went 65 yards for a touchdown (against a respectable Arizona State team a year away from a top 5 ranking and Rose Bowl berth).

Faced with the decision of what to do with Phillips, there should be no debate that the easiest option for Osborne (and Nebraska) would be to kick him off the team, expel him from school, and completely wash their hands of him.  Keeping him on the team – even if for the asinine reason of “winning at all costs” – is much more difficult for everybody involved.  The potential for distraction derailing a special season goes up exponentially with Phillips in uniform after September 10, 1995.  Period.

I truly believe Osborne knew in the depths of his soul that the best chance for Lawrence Phillips, human being, to be successful was to remain in the structured and supportive environment of the Nebraska Football program.  I have no doubt that Osborne, a devout Christian, believed he could turn Phillips’s life around.

Could Osborne/Nebraska have handled the Phillips situation better?  Hindsight always says yes.  Certainly, there is the notion that Osborne should have cut his losses and tossed L.P. to the wolves.  I’d listen to the argument that Osborne should not have reinstated Phillips until after the bowl game – giving him structure without opening the door to the “win at all costs” columns.

Clearly, the extra chance(s) Osborne gave to Phillips ultimately did not work out.  His reputation will be forever tarnished nationally (and to a lesser extent, locally) for choosing to support Phillips.  But what if Lawrence Phillips had left Nebraska, gone to the Rams and put together an average NFL career?  What if Phillips had gone through the last 20 years without arrest, professional insubordination, or anything worse than a parking ticket?  Would national pundits still take shots at Osborne’s “integrity”?

Or would they laud him for helping to turn around a troubled kid?

Damon Benning provides a raw and poignant look at who Lawrence Phillips is

Tuesday morning on 1620 AM’s excellent “Sharp and Benning in the Morning” radio show, they devoted two segments to Damon Benning speaking eloquently and passionately about Lawrence Phillips.

Damon Benning gives an in-depth look at who Lawrence is.  At one point, Benning says he is trying to “tell the story without excuses”.  It is a powerful listen.  You can hear the normally reserved Benning become emotional multiple times.

As fans – and likely as people who grew up in better environments than Lawrence Phillips – it is very easy to attack, dismiss, and write Phillips off as a thug or a piece of garbage.  Certainly, that is your right, especially if you feel that Phillips has done irreparable damage to Nebraska and Tom Osborne.  But the main thing I took from Benning’s words is it is not always easy to try to understand who the man is, where he came from, and how he processes life.  Benning describes Phillips as a smart, yet complex person built on a “shaky foundation”.  Benning notes that in his experiences “hurt people hurt people”.

Benning does not defend what Phillips has done or what he is accused of doing.  Nor does he attempt to justify his actions by sharing details of L.P.’s childhood and Nebraska career.

The first segment starts around the 2:05 mark.  The second picks back up around 5:00.  I strongly recommend listening to both segments.

*   *   *

If there is any positive we can take away from these two stories, it is that both have resulted in local radio hosts elevating their craft to exemplary and memorable levels.

But I wish this week was more about some silly scrimmage.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blurt and Ernie (e)

7 Apr

In a perfect world, Ernie Chambers could make his points without controversial hyperbole.

During a recent committee hearing in the Nebraska Legislature, State Senator Ernie Chambers said “My ISIS is the police. Nobody from ISIS ever terrorized us as a people as the police do us daily. And they get away with it.”  In the same remarks, Chambers said that he does not own a gun, but if he did, he would use it for protection against the police:  “I would want to shoot him first and ask questions later, as they say the cop ought to do.”

Naturally, Chambers’ remarks have been denounced and criticized by fellow senators, Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts, police chiefs and unions, and people all across Nebraska.  The story drew national headlines after an article on Nebraska Watchdog was picked up by Fox News.

It’s pretty easy* to condemn Chambers for these outlandish comments.  No police force in the United States comes close to the heinous acts of violence and terror committed by ISIS.  It’s unthinkable for any elected official to suggest violence against police officers.  Therefore, the condemnation has been loud and prolonged – to the point where a state senator interrupted a parade of floor speeches attacking Chambers with an admonition to “get on with the people’s business.”

*Not to be lost in the rebukes of Chambers – especially from those calling for his censure or resignation – is the fact that Nebraska’s longest-serving senator is not a popular figure in the state.  Chambers is widely regarded as a master of Unicameral’s rules and procedures, and he regularly uses them to kill bills that he disagrees with.  One of the first, and loudest voices in this current controversy belongs to Senator Beau McCoy, who has been on the receiving end of Chambers’ ire.  

I’m not saying that this controversy is without merit, nor that McCoy is only pushing the issue because he has a grudge with Chambers.  But I do think that some of the people calling for Chambers to resign are being opportunistic having sensed a rare chance to have a thorn in their side removed.  It can easily be argued that Nebraska’s term limits legislation, approved by voters in 2000, was directed at removing Chambers from office.

 *   *   *

There is an uncomfortable truth about Ernie Chambers’ ISIS comments:  In the context of the remarks, he kind of has a point.

Consider:

The comments took place during testimony on LB635, which would allow concealed carry permit holders the right to carry a concealed handgun in an establishment deriving 1/2 of profits from alcohol – i.e. most bars and restaurants.  You can watch the hearing in question here:  (Skip forward to the 51:00 mark).

During the testimony, State Senator Tommy Garrett was asked “what are (concealed carry advocates) afraid of?”  Senator Garrett’s response references ISIS and the Taliban.  I don’t know if you’ve ever been to a bar or restaurant in Nebraska – particularly in the small towns west of Lincoln – but the odds of running into a member of any international terror group in say, Kimball or Neligh are Powerball-esque.

In his remarks, Senator Chambers referenced two former Lincoln Police Department officers who were dismissed for excessive force.  According to Chambers, one was recruited by the Nebraska State Patrol, and the other by the Lancaster County Sheriff.  Chambers, a black man representing a largely African-American district in Omaha, also noted the racism that can occur on police forces.

In my mind, the point Senator Chambers was trying to make is that for many people (particularly people of color in his district), they are much more likely to be injured, shot, or killed by a member of law enforcement than by ISIS or any other terrorist group.

With all due respect to the friends and acquaintances I have who serve honorably in various Nebraska law enforcement agencies, I would agree with that presumed point.  I’m in no way implying that cops in this state are dirty, racist, or seek out opportunities to be violent.  It’s just that compared to Senator Garrett’s example of ISIS as a justification for expanding concealed carry rights, the police do represent a bigger threat to the safety of citizens.

That may not be easy to hear, and you may not choose to believe it.  It’s definitely not an absolute truth, but one would be foolish to pretend racism and excessive force doesn’t exist.  In my mind, the police are far less of a threat than drug users, gang members, and the mentally unstable.  But of course, I’m a 40-year-old white guy who lives in southeast Lincoln – not a 20-year-old black man in north Omaha, so my worldview is limited.

*   *   *

Does the possibility that Ernie Chambers had a legitimate point – whether or not you agree with it – excuse or dismiss what he said?

No.  They don’t.  And that is where Senator Chambers failed.

Chambers’ claim of two officers excused for excessive force being recruited by other law enforcement agencies is, if true, rather concerning to me.  But those claims have been all but lost in the coverage of this incident.  Why?  Because of bombastic and hyperbolic nature of the “my ISIS is the police” sound bite.

A handful of people saw through the rhetoric of a man who once tried to sue God.  Former Lincoln chief of police, Tom Casady, tweeted that Chambers was “far more likely to give birth than shoot a police officer.”  Another senator, Les Seiler, said the remarks were “Ernie being Ernie”.  But this time, Chambers went too far in an attempt to make his point.

In today’s society, the media and the public will focus on the outrageous (and our need to be outraged) than on things that may truly be wrong.

In a perfect world, Senator Chambers could make his points without stirring up a tornado of controversy.

 

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(Author’s note:  Wondering why there is a random letter in parentheses in the title of this post?  Not sure how this post corresponds to the daily letter in the April A to Z Challenge?  Like clicking on links?  These questions are all answered here.)

Fixing Facebook (f)

7 Apr

In a perfect world, Facebook would continue to be a useful and relevant social media platform.

A year ago, I read an interesting post on Deadspin entitled “Facebook is Dead“*.  In it, Drew Magary opined that “anyone with a brain knows that Facebook is terrible.”

*In a hall of fame caliber moment of irony, I saw the link for the article on…wait for it…Facebook.

Why you ask?  In Magary’s eyes, Facebook is a “one time” tool where you find people from your past and connect with them outside of Facebook.  After that, the site is left to be occupied by “sad asshole zombies” – which is his spin on the perennially popular ‘here are annoying Facebook users lumped into a handful of categories’ post that half of the Internet has created (including me!).  Once people turn into zombies, you quickly become annoyed with them:  “This is how Facebook works. You re-discover people, and then you re-discover everything you disliked about them.”

Magary’s opinion seems to be based upon something I’ve noticed too:  the participants are shifting.  The early adopters – who likely make up a big portion of Magary’s core circle of Friends are increasingly inactive on Facebook.  Many of my closest friends, who were quite active 4-5 years ago rarely post/share/comment anymore.

But the biggest reason that Facebook is becoming a smaller and smaller part of my online routine?

Facebook does an increasingly poor job of giving me what I want.

As an illustration, I have my phone sitting beside me.  I tap on the Facebook app and my news feed presents to me, in order:

  • A post from a buy/sell/trade page I follow from 30 minutes ago.
  • A post from 10 am this morning that Styx is coming to Lincoln’s Pinewood Bowl amphitheater.*
  • Status update from a high school classmate from 9:45 pm, which ironically is in reference to a different social media platform (Pinterest).
  • A viral YouTube video shared by a former co-worker at 10:03 pm.
  • A Deadspin post from about 30 hours ago.
  • A picture posted by the same former co-worker at 9:12 pm.  We got along, but weren’t buddies.
  • Another Deadspin article, this time from 11:15 am.
  • A link to an article in the Lincoln Journal-Star shared at 9:38 pm by a different former co-worker whom I probably haven’t seen in 12 years.
  • A status update from yet another former co-worker at 10:25 pm.
  • A third Deadspin article, this one from 10:17 pm.

*With Loverboy!  On my birthday, no less!  Domo arigato!  Mr. Roboto is working for the weekend!

What a sad collection of crap and things that I don’t really care about.

What’s worse?  This is what Facebook considers the “top news” for me.

Now, I go in an perform the ritual that I have to do every single time I use the Facebook mobile app:  tap on the three horizontal lines, scroll down to Feeds, tab on Most Recent.  This (in theory) shows me everything in reverse chronological order (i.e. newest to oldest).  Frankly, the stuff I see here isn’t that much more interesting, but at least it’s in a logical order.  But I have to specifically ask to receive it – and even then I sometimes see posts in the Top News feed that I never saw in Most Recent.  That level of persistent annoyance is a pretty crappy way to get me to come back, over and over, on a daily basis.

No disrespect to the random folks from high school and past jobs who fill my timeline, but I’d rather see what’s new with the dear friends that I don’t see or talk to as often as I would like.  I want to see all of the new interaction from my friends (statuses, photos, shares, etc.) presented to me newest to oldest.  I don’t need to see that somebody liked a status from somebody I don’t know, made a comment on some post with 3,000 other comments, or yet another stupid affirmation or bumper sticker saying.

I get it:  Few sites – especially ones as popular as Facebook – are as “good” as they were way back when.

But in a perfect world, they would at least try.

 

I apologize for not being able to cite the creator of this graphic, but I cannot take credit for it.

I apologize for not being able to cite the creator of this graphic, but I cannot take credit for it.

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(Author’s note:  Wondering why there is a random letter in parentheses in the title of this post?  Not sure how this post corresponds to the daily letter in the April A to Z Challenge?  Like clicking on links?  These questions are all answered here.)

Delicious, delicious…Soap? (d)

4 Apr

In a perfect world, hand soap would not be described as “buttery & delicious”.

IMG_20150401_225109277

 

Seriously.

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I’m not making this up.

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What is the target market for delicious, buttery soap?  Kids with potty mouths?  Ultra hygienic foodies?

For the record, I can neither confirm nor refute Bath & Body Works’ claim that their Merry Christmas Cookie hand soap is buttery or delicious.  If I’m going to taste test any of the products in our bathroom, I’d probably go for the coconut and lime verbena lotion my wife has.  It would be a like a little taste of a tropical vacation before I call Poison Control.

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(Author’s note:  Wondering why there is a random letter in parentheses in the title of this post?  Not sure how this post corresponds to the daily letter in the April A to Z Challenge?  Like clicking on links?  These questions are all answered here.)

Cut the Cord, Keep the Sports (c)

4 Apr

In a perfect world, cutting the cable cord wouldn’t mean cutting sports out of your life.

Last year, I lamented* how my life has been changed without cable TV.  Replacing cable with Netflix and Hulu (via a Roku) has been a success for most of the household – except when there is a sporting event that I want to watch.  Then I’m mostly out of luck.

*Or, as my wife might say, “cried like a b___ baby”.  Six of one…

For the most part, I’ve learned to deal with this.  My friends are great about letting me join them to watch my beloved Huskers play their road games – even that game at Fresno State last fall that didn’t kick off until 10 pm.  Otherwise, I’ve accepted that I’m only going to experience TV sports second-hand through Twitter comments or a highlight clip shared online.

But then, my beloved Kansas City Royals started playing good baseball.  All summer they were either in first place or in contention for a wildcard spot.  I would listen to games on the radio while I was out running errands, but I rarely saw them play on TV.

Once late September hit, it really started to get serious.  The Royals could clinch their first playoff spot in 29 years.  This was something I had to take in.  Fortunately, the MLB TV app was offering a free upgrade so I was able to listen to most of the game without sitting my car all night.  But as the Royals inched closer to that playoff spot, the itch to watch became too much.  I hopped in the car and went down to the neighborhood bar to watch the last inning on TV.  The Royals won and earned a wildcard spot.

For the wildcard game, I needed to step up my game.  The game was on TBS, so I tried the TBS app on our iPad.  Problem:  you needed to be a cable subscriber to access the app.  But if I had cable, I wouldn’t be watching a baseball game on my iPad, I’d use the 50″ screen in my living room.  Back to the bar for that game.

For the ALDS, I settled on MLB.tv, where for $3.99 I was able to access the TBS broadcast on the iPad.  However, that was not a perfect solution.  On the bright side, you could pick which camera angle you wanted to view (center field, catcher, first or third base angle, home or visitor dugout, etc.).  That’s pretty cool.  The downside was you were locked into that camera angle.  For example: if I was watching the center field view, I could see the pitch come in, but if it was hit, I couldn’t see the rest of the play – my view was still coming from that one camera.

MLB.tv did offer a “Quad View” option, where you got the center field and catcher angles (along with two other views) in a split screen.  Unfortunately, the other two angles were locked into the home and visitor dugouts.  I saw A LOT of Ned Yost during those first few games of the playoffs.  Plus, my already small view of the game was now even smaller.  And even though you were listening to the TBS broadcasters, you did not get to see the TBS graphics or replays, so you had better pay attention.

A family mini-vacation aligned perfectly with two games of the ALCS, so I was able to watch those games in the hotel room in full HD glory.  Game three was back to the iPad with MLB.tv.  The clinching game four, started during the afternoon, so I didn’t get home from work until the late innings.  Not wanting to watch the final outs on the Mini’s screen, I scooped up my one year old daughter and ran down to the neighborhood bar*.  We watched the Royals clinch the American League pennant while she ate orange slices from the bar.

*Yeah, I did.  And I’d do it again.

With this crazy, improbable playoff run culminating in a World Series berth, it was time to do something different.  I looked into live streaming options for the Fox telecast, but it appeared to me that I would need a Fox app (and likely, an active cable subscription).  A coworker suggested a website where you can view streams of various sporting events, provided you can navigate a maze of pop up ads and spam links.

Finally, I found the MLB app for our Roku player.  With a $9.99 purchase, I am able to stream the full Fox broadcast (replays and all) on my big TV.  Even better, the app has options to jump to a specific inning which meant I could wait to start Game 2 until the kids were in bed.  Even though the World Series ended in heartache, it was a joy to be able to watch live sports in the comfort of my home on a screen larger than nine inches.

I had the itch for live sports.

*   *   *

You can currently subscribe to services like MLB At Bat to get “out of market” games streamed to your mobile device, but as I mentioned last time, it seems ridiculous to watch a game on a four-inch phone screen when most homes have a 40 inch (or larger) TV set.  Yes, there are ways to get content from your device onto your plasma, but I want something that doesn’t involve buying a new device/TV, tethering my device to a HDMI cable, or some third-party app.

Recently, I discovered that I can cast the screen from my Android phone to our Roku.  That’s been great during the NCAA Tournament, as the March Madness app streams all of the games, but I would not describe the picture quality as “crisp” or “clear”.  And with this set up, I can’t use my phone for calls, texts, tweets, or a quick game of Candy Crush during a commercial.

*   *   *

During the heart of the past college football season, a miracle happened.

No, I’m not referring to Jordan Westerkamp’s ridiculous behind the back catch.  A kind-hearted angel, who will remain nameless, signed into the Watch ESPN app on my Roku with the info from their cable account.  Suddenly, I had access to live college football, and it was glorious.  I thought about the moral and ethical implications of receiving content that I was not paying for.

I also thought that averaging $75 a month for cable TV over the last 20 years – which is probably low – I’ve given the cable companies around $18,000.  Suddenly, watching Wisconsin and Rutgers didn’t seem so horrible.

*   *   *

So where do we go from here?

With every passing year, the likelihood of me going back to cable, or trying out satellite gets lower.  Today’s internet and streaming apps have given us the expectation for content on demand.

In short, I want to view what I want, on my big TV, without having to pay for crap I don’t care about.

The sports networks (ESPN, FOX Sports, Turner, etc.) should follow the lead of a true pioneer:  The WWE.

Yes, you heard me.  World Wrestling Entertainment.

Last year, they launched the WWE Channel for the Roku streaming player.  The 24/7 channel has original content, “classic matches”, and other rasslin’-centric programming.  But most importantly, the WWE Channel offers the monthly pay-per-view events (including WrestleMania) as part of the subscription price.  The price ($9.99 a month) isn’t bad considering each PPV match costs $44.95 ($59.95 for WrestleMania).

I would love to see other leagues and teams follow this model.  Imagine an NBA fan being able to subscribe to see all of the games for their favorite team along with the programming on the NBA TV network.  Or a college football fan being able to subscribe to the Big Ten Network to get access to games.

Major League Baseball has the MLB.tv service that allows you to watch “out of market” games on mobile devices.  You can upgrade to the Premium version for an extra $5 a month (or $20 a year) to be able to use a streaming device like Roku or Apple TV, or XBox).  But the kicker here is “out of market”.  Even though my house is 200 miles away from Kaufmann Stadium, my ZIP Code is considered to be in the Royals’ market – so even if I paid $129.99 for the full season of MLB.tv Premium, I would only get a handful of Royals games.  Heck, even if I was a fan of, say, the Pittsburgh Pirates, I’m still paying for a bunch of content that I’m not interested in.

*   *   *

In my perfect world, there would be options for all types of cord-cutting sports fans:  the diehards who live for the individual sports, passionate fans of individual teams, and the casual sports fan.

That guy who lives for the NFL, MLS, or NASCAR?  He buys a league pass package giving them all of the games.  Casual fans could subscribe to the ESPN or Fox Sports apps without having to get 95 other channels of garbage.  And passionate fans of a specific team could buy a “streaming season ticket” giving them access to all of their team’s games – regardless of the network they are on.

Until that day comes, I’ll be praying my kind-hearted angel doesn’t change the password on their cable account, or my children will be accompanying me to the sports bar for those can’t-miss moments.

*   *   *

(Author’s note:  Wondering why there is a random letter in parentheses in the title of this post?  Not sure how this post corresponds to the daily letter in the April A to Z Challenge?  Like clicking on links?  These questions are all answered here.)

One Dollar, Bob (b)

2 Apr

In a perfect world, Bob Barker would host The Price is Right forever.

Don’t believe me?  Watch this:

Look:  this is no disrespect to Drew Carey.  I loved him on Whose Line Is It Anyway?, enjoyed many an episode of the Drew Carey Show, and his old stand up comedy routines are still pretty damn funny 30 years later.

But Drew is no Bob.  He never will be.

Bob brought a sense of stately professionalism to a campy show chock full of silly games and goofy college kids.  You always got the feeling that he truly loved what he was doing.  Drew has never struck me as somebody who is doing his dream job.  The quick, sarcastic wit that was a major asset on Whose Line and his stand up career is a hindrance on The Price Is Right.   He comes across as condescending outsider mocking a beloved institution.  I’d be shocked if Carey is the host for the next 10 years, let alone the rest of his career.  I think he’ll get bored and want to do something more suited for his talents.

In my perfect world, Bob Barker would never age, and would continue to host the show every weekday at 10 am.  They’d play all of the classic pricing games – including my personal favorite:  Cliff Hangers.*

*Admit it, just seeing those two words put that Alpine yodeling classic “On the Franches Mountains” in your head.

And in Bob Barker’s perfect world, I’m guessing the microphones would be slender, the models non-litigious, and he wouldn’t have to remind you to help control the pet population.

Have your pets spayed or neutered.

*   *   *

(Author’s note:  Wondering why there is a random letter in parentheses in the title of this post?  Not sure how this post corresponds to the daily letter in the April A to Z Challenge?  Like clicking on links?  These questions are all answered here.)

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