Monthly Archives: January 2012

Puppy Love #creativenonfiction

Puppy Love

            Recently on Facebook and Twitter, I stated that those who say they wouldn’t change a thing about their pasts are either lying or overly stubborn. I caught some flack for that claim. One of my friends misunderstood; he argued that he wouldn’t change a thing along the way because he’s happy with the destination. Another said that, because she constantly critiques herself, she wouldn’t change much. As for the latter, I can only envy my friend’s comfort with most of her decisions and actions. I constantly self-critique, too, but in retrospect, I still find that I’ve erred much of the time. In terms of the former, my statement wasn’t about changing who I am today. It’s about wishing that my present self could go back and say to the younger me, “Even though you think you know what you’re doing, you are about to make a mistake. Don’t be dumb/selfish/mean/insensitive.”

            Many of those past actions involve wronging others. And while I could—and, eventually, will—write about my struggles with relationships and family, today I am thinking of my failures to take care of an old friend. His name was Tank. He was a dog. He loved me, as dogs love people, unconditionally and with his whole being. And, as is often the case with people and their “love” for animals, I cared about him when it was convenient and ignored him when it wasn’t. Now, when I try to sleep at night, I often see his face—dark fur with brown patches, a white chest as if he were wearing a cummerbund, eyes so radiant they could melt a glacier. He always looked so happy, until the day he got sick and I abandoned him.

            I still remember the day I brought him home. It was during my first marriage, when things were always volatile. I was nineteen years old, with a wife and daughter. I was a student at Louisiana Tech University and was majoring in engineering, which I hated. But I had come out of high school with dollar signs in my eyes, and since I had taken all the college-prep math and science classes my high school offered, I felt well-prepared. I didn’t particularly enjoy the work in those courses, but I believed that I could work a job I didn’t like if it meant that I could make enough money to do whatever I wanted otherwise. And since even in 1989-90 we could tell that computers would soon rule the world, I declared a computer engineering major.

            I hated my classes. Hated them. My favorite things to do were reading and writing, and there I was, taking Calculus II and Chemistry and Introduction to Computer Programming. As I sat there taking notes on arcane formulas and weights of gases and ways to make a “DO WHILE” loop or whatever it was called, I saw my future stretching out before me, endless days of sitting in front of a screen and writing code so that other people could use computers to do the kinds of things that I really wanted to do. But I have never been a quitter, and my parents were proud of me and my scholarships, and my wife and her family constantly expressed money concerns in ways that told me changing my major to, say, English would lead to full-scale civil war. And so I trudged on, miserable and bitter, angry at myself for declaring a major that I didn’t want and at them for pressuring me to stick with it.

            My strategy—if you can call unconscious decisions a strategy—was to self-sabotage. I stopped going to classes I didn’t like and never got around to dropping them. I skipped tests to go home for a weekend. I went to see Aerosmith and Joan Jett the night before a Trigonometry final, which I showed up to twenty minutes late and left before anyone else. When the university put me on a one-semester academic suspension, I packed up my family and moved back to southeast Arkansas, where I enrolled in the University of Arkansas at Monticello without declaring a major. After drifting for a semester or two, I finally pulled the trigger and declared. I was an English major. I have never looked back.

            But in between realizing that I hated engineering and finally making the right decision, I went through several varieties of hell. And since my family life caused a lot of the tension, I wanted something else to love, something that, like my beautiful daughter, would not judge me or pressure me to live a life I didn’t want. I thought a pet might strengthen the already-firm bonds between me and my daughter. So I decided to get a dog.

            A lady I knew from work was giving some away. They weren’t any special breed, but I knew when I got mine that he would be fairly big—not Great Dane or Saint Bernard big, but not poodle or Pomeranian territory, either. I chose him because he was gorgeous and gregarious, and because he had a great name already—Tank. It conjured images of unstoppable canine energy, powerful runs through tall grass. I brought him home in the back seat of my car. He was good.

            Of course, Tank would later royally piss off my wife, who wanted no dogs bigger than her mother’s Boston Terriers. As he grew, he barked gruffly at inopportune moments and refused to be housetrained even to the extent of scratching on the door. Thus we would awake to find the newspapers we had left out still as spotless and crisp as the day they were printed, while a steaming pile of poop sat on the floor right next to them. He pissed on the tile floor of our mobile home’s kitchen and soaked the carpet more than once. I was constantly cleaning up after him, and none of the old tricks I had learned worked at all. And so I became hyper-aware of any noise in the night—light scratching, the staccato clicks of toenails on tile, whining. And I would rise up out of my deep sleep, already shouting, “Tank, NO!” as I bolted down the short hallway.

            More often than not, I was too late or found it was all a false alarm. Tank kept me on my toes that way.

            I couldn’t leave him outside; we lived in a trailer park that did not allow loose pets, and we had no money or permission to build a fence. I had no desire to chain him to a tree or a doghouse just for my own convenience; I was at least that selfless. And so I would sleep a few hours at a time, these restful periods broken up by anxiety and stress and nasty work that I had little patience for.

            Oh, I still loved the dog. During the day, we’d go outside and I would let him run around in the thirty yards or so between our trailer and the next one. He would chase insects and frolic and play fetch with whatever ball I could find. I’d run with him, trying not to trip over him or step into a hole. I’d tackle him and ruffle his fur and scratch his belly, and he would chase me and rear up on his hind legs, his forepaws on my stomach. Sometimes I’d take those paws and walk with him, fashioning an awkward dance.

            Yes, our life together waxed and waned between frustration and boy-and-his-dog joy. Until, that is, we moved back to Arkansas.

            Our new life brought all kinds of changes. We lived next to my in-laws, who had multiple dogs and two or three cats. Our trailer sat at an intersection between a road leading to a highway and a gravel road that wound through the more rural portions of town—the dangers of traffic and big trucks in one direction, the song of small patches of woods in the other.

            I now had to commute around an hour and a half every day. I was taking a full undergraduate load and working a part-time job that actually drifted toward full-time hours, though the pay was rotten in those days of three-dollar-and-thirty-five-cent-an-hour minimum wage. I had homework and old friends to see and relatives to visit, as well as a wife and daughter that needed and deserved my time and love. And as all this coalesced, my nineteen-to-twenty-year-old self made some good decisions and some bad ones.

            Good: I took care of my school, work, and family responsibilities. I made time to hang with my friends, to throw parties, to read for pleasure and play video games every chance I could.

            Bad: I had less and less time for Tank. And because I was so busy, I was able to rationalize it. “He’s got a lot of other animals to play with,” I said, letting him out more often and hoping that he would not find his way to the highway, where he would almost certainly be flattened. “It’s not like I’m being lazy,” I said, and that much was true. “It’s not like I don’t care about him anymore. There’s just so much to do.”

            Easy words. In many cases, justified. But empty and hollow and insufficient nonetheless.

            Because eventually, Tank got sick. One day I came home and he did not greet me with bounds of joy. He looked my way and dragged himself over to the car as I got out, his head hanging as if he were ashamed of his poor efforts. He moved like a dog four times his age. It struck me as odd. I asked everyone about him, but no one had paid him much attention. So I sat with him awhile, scratching behind his ears and telling him what a good boy he was. I talked with him as if he could understand (which, for all I know, he could) and might reply at any time. I told him about my day. But as evening descended and the temperature dropped, I patted him on the head and said, “See you later, buddy.”

            By this time, Tank was a full-time outdoors dog. His refusal to take to house training, along with my in-laws’ always-open and comparatively warm laundry room, led my wife to insist on it. I was too tired and distracted to fight about it, and besides, in southeast Arkansas dogs with worse places to sleep led full and happy lives.

            Around this time, my school workload increased, and my employer wanted me on duty more often than not, as the cold months had descended, bringing with them the approaching holidays. And so for several days in a row I came home at odd hours—3 pm or six or eleven—exhausted and hungry and ready to fall into bed.

            I didn’t see Tank. And, to my everlasting shame, I didn’t even think about him.

            Finally one day my wife was waiting for me. She looked both upset and angry. “Tank’s sick,” she said. “He’s in the laundry room.”

            “Shit,” I said, more annoyed than concerned. The weight of the day settled on me; I felt it in my lower back, my shoulders, my aching head. I dropped my things on the living room floor and crossed over to my in-laws’. I pushed open the door of the laundry room.

            Tank lay there on his side, breathing shallowly. When he craned his neck to look at me, his movements were stiff and labored, as if the very motion pained him. It probably did. His eyes were dull and weeping; his fur looked matted. And yet, as I came in the room, his tail beat a weak tattoo on the concrete floor. I thought I heard him make a low sound in his throat. It might have been an abortive bark, or a whine, or nothing at all.

            I sat down with him and took his head in my lap. I stroked his fur and spoke softly to him and promised him that he was still my dog, even though I had failed him lately. I told him that he would be all right, that whatever had taken hold of him would let go. That he would stand up again, and frolic and leap and bark and wake the neighbors and dig in the hard fall dirt. I apologized for being gone so much, for not realizing how he felt.

            And yet I couldn’t think of what I could do for him. I was an undergraduate, meaning I had no income at the college. We had already spent the overage from my financial aid that semester. I doubted that any of my relatives would have lent me money to take Tank to the vet, and all of my friends were either off at college somewhere or broker than I was. And I could not stay out there with him much longer. I was starving and tired, and I had to go do it all again the next day.

            So after a while, I lowered his head back down to the concrete and promised him that I would be back as soon as I could.

            I never saw him again.

            The next few days were even busier than before. When I came home, I was in no mood to take care of anybody besides my daughter. I would do what she required, and then I would sit on the couch and vegetate or go to bed or slog through some homework. I thought about Tank, and I asked about him; apparently his condition had not changed one way or the other. I took this as a positive sign—no news is good news, right?—and went on with my day.

            Then one day I came home and was told that Tank was gone.

            “What do you mean, gone?” I asked. “Did he die? I thought he was stable.”

            At this point, my wife revealed that her brother had gotten tired of watching Tank suffer on the laundry room floor. He had loaded Tank into a truck and carried him out into the woods, where he laid him down on the ground and shot him. It was a mercy killing; my brother-in-law had no malice toward Tank. He was doing the only thing he knew to do, which was put Tank out of his misery, because I, Tank’s owner and friend, had done nothing.

            When I heard this news, I felt as if someone had stabbed me with a coring knife and hollowed me out. Into that emptiness spilled conflicting feelings that threatened to crack the foundation of my self-image. I was furious with my brother-in-law for killing my dog. I was grateful to him for doing something to help Tank. I was sad that Tank was gone; I was happy that he wasn’t in pain anymore; I was relieved, damn me, that I would not have to take the time to go into that room and comfort him. Yes, I actually felt relief for myself.

            What kind of person was I?

            Tank had done what very few people have ever done for me. He accepted me and loved me and gave me his loyalty without question or condition. He loved me when I played with him, and he loved me when I ignored him. He greeted me every day as if he hadn’t seen me in years, during a time when my own wife seemed to wish I would disappear forever. He lay on that cold concrete and fought against whatever was ripping him apart and looked at me. He tried to wag his tail.

            And what had I done? Had I gone to every friend and relative I had until I had found enough money to take him to the veterinarian? Had I begged a vet to work out a payment plan with me so that my friend, for whom I was responsible, could live a longer and happier life? Had I sold something precious of mine to finance his treatment? God help me, did I take him out and shoot him myself if I could not be bothered to do anything else?

            No. I let him lie there in his sickness and rot from the inside. Because I was busy. Because I wanted some time for myself. In truth, because I was lazy and selfish.

            As I have gotten older, I have come to believe that how a person treats animals says a lot about how much they value life itself—the Earth, the people in their lives, people in general. If Kalene’s diet allowed it, I really think I would try to become a vegetarian because I simply cannot abide how animals are treated in the food industry, how each animal’s life must be as important to it as mine is to me. I believe that animals have souls, emotions, desires, maybe even dreams and goals. And I want to do as little as possible to hurt them, my meals notwithstanding.

            But in those days, no matter my intentions, I was not a good person. I mistreated that dog, even if I did so for what seemed like good reasons and mostly by omission, rather than commission. I was responsible for his life, his health, his happiness. I failed him in every way possible, even in my own heart.

            But I didn’t emerge unscathed. I have never stopped thinking about Tank, or the other pets I had before him. And every single thing I’ve done for my pets since then has been influenced by his presence in my life. It’s why I gladly put off getting things I want or going on trips when my cat needs medical attention. It’s why I advocate for animal rights, why I speak out against things like puppy farms and kill shelters. It’s why, even when I take a bite of steak, I remember that it was once a part of a living, breathing creature that did not want to die and that had done nothing to me.

            Tank taught me one of the most important lessons I’ve ever learned, one I’ve tried to pass onto my children. Animals aren’t interchangeable tokens we move around at our leisure. They are important, soulful beings with whom we share this planet, this life. If I ever see him again—and I believe that I will—then I plan to tell him that. And I will run with him, talk with him, pet him, and throw that ball to him for as long as he wants.

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Returning with …

Returning with Some Random Thoughts

So I guess I should start out with an apology for not updating this blog over the last three or four months. Last semester got really crazy and pretty much stayed that way, and then the Christmas holiday travel and gift-shopping schedule took over, and then I had to prepare for this semester. In short, I’ve been swamped. I got very little done on my ongoing projects, including this blog. But I’m trying to start off this semester on a better note. I’ve been working on my young adult novel and have finished first drafts of two other projects. I continue to submit finished works to various places. And I’ve got a comic-book project percolating at the moment. As for this blog, I will do my best to update regularly, though when the grading crunch arrives, I’ll probably have to take some time off. Sometimes there aren’t enough hours in the day.

As a way of reconnecting to all my faithful readers (all three of you), I thought I’d return to this blog with some random thoughts on things that have happened since the last update.

The Political Circus

In no particular order:

1)      I support the Occupy movement. It’s good to see Americans returning to their roots as protestors, dissenters, and activists. Naturally, the mainstream media’s dismissal of the now-worldwide movement was both expected and disheartening, but it’s done very little to stem the tide of the movement. Keep on occupying, folks. When they try to dismiss you as if you don’t matter, you know you’ve at least gotten their attention.

 2)      I have stated before that many Republicans seem to have gone functionally insane in the post-9/11 world, but this latest round of–*ahem*–“candidates” should make any thinking Republican shudder with fear and contempt. As they all scramble to take ever more reactionary positions in order to appease the fringe nutjobs, they get more and more laughable yet dangerous. Is the moderate Republican (and no, I don’t count Romney in that bunch after some of the things he’s said) really extinct? I hope not.

 3)      Barack Obama should have this election sewn up since the right can’t find anybody even remotely appealing to run against him. I’ve got mixed feelings. As an Independent, I have no particular loyalties to the Democrats, though the ever-more-radically-conservative Republicans present no candidates I could stomach voting for. That pretty much leaves the Democrats, since this country has no viable party beyond those two. It’s a damn shame, because we should be able to choose the best candidate, not the less-crappy one. As for Obama himself, I like a lot of what he’s done—ending the Iraq war and DADT, passing some semblance of health care reform, and so forth. But I’m troubled by other things he’s done or failed to do. He hasn’t addressed true financial reform; you can’t do that and still leave the same guys that got us into this mess in charge. I didn’t like the compromises in the health care bill, especially the lack of a public option. Some sources claim we’re the only first-world country without universal health care. If that’s even remotely possible, we’re not whom we claim to be as a people. And we still need to address LGBT and women’s rights, especially given how they’ve come under fire from the Republican candidates. Those are just a few of the actions and positions that please or disturb me, but I hope they demonstrate my concerns with the country’s directions. We’re much more on track now than we were under that jackass Bush, but we’ve still got a long way to go, and too many people still want to live in 1830, not 2012. I hope the President and his party gets off the fence and start addressing more of those issues.

Mixed Martial Arts

1)      I truly think that Shogun Rua vs. Dan Henderson was the best fight I’ve ever seen, but the end result was wrong. The fight should have been scored a draw, and I can’t believe that not even one judge saw it that way. Under the current scoring system, the winner of a round gets ten points, the loser nine or less. Judges are supposed to score rounds 10-8 or below only when one fighter truly dominates the round. Under that system, I would have given the first three rounds to Dan Henderson, all of them 10-9. Henderson’s camp has argued that you could have scored the round a 10-8 because Henderson dominated Shogun and almost finished him, but that only occurred over approximately one minute of a five-minute round. Later in the round, Shogun came back to stagger Henderson with several hard punches. That’s hardly a dominant round; it’s a dominant minute. But, demonstrating the kind of heart that both fighters have and that made the fight so special, Shogun came back and completely dominated Henderson throughout the fifth round. He stayed on top, much of the time in full mount, and bashed Henderson throughout the round. Henderson did nothing offensive and very little that could be called defense, other than rolling from side to side and covering up. If that wasn’t a 10-8 round at least, I don’t know what is. Thus, since the bout went to a decision, the final score should have been 47-47. This is especially true because, earlier in the night, these same judges gave Stephan Bonnar a couple of 10-8 rounds, even though he maintained less dominant positions (fighting in half-guard, for instance) for lesser periods of time. Inconsistent judging caused Shogun to take a loss, when both guys deserved equal status.

 2)      I’m glad Brock Lesnar is healthy again, but I’m not shedding any tears if he’s really retiring. I’ve never cared for the guy on a personal level, and it isn’t as if he needs the money. Go have a great life, Brock, and let the martial artists get that money now.

 3)      Jon Jones is hard to figure out, and I don’t mean his fighting style. One minute he seems like the most humble, respectful guy you’ll ever meet. The next, he has to be told to check on a downed opponent after a win. Weird.

 4)      So both Anderson Silva and Lyoto Machida have knocked people out using what is essentially a Karate Kid-style crane kick, and now Edson Barboza has knocked out Terry Etim using a spinning-heel kick. I can’t believe either move worked in real life, but I watched it happen. What’s next? Shooting-star presses? Asai moonsaults? Crazy stuff, man.

The BCS Championship Game

The LSU Tigers had what may well be the greatest regular season ever. You’ve all heard the numbers—wins over eight ranked teams, a division title, a conference title, wins over two or three top-three teams, wins over two BCS-bowl-bound AQ conference champions. Certainly no team has accomplished so much in my lifetime, and only that one Notre Dame team from seventy or eighty years ago has come close. I’d say it’s much harder to accomplish today, too, given the methods of preparation and the state of today’s athletes.

But the team that played in the regular season was not the team that showed up in New Orleans. They looked flat, lifeless, uninterested—especially on offense. The regular season showed that they were the best team in the nation, but on that night, I’m not sure they would have beaten anybody. As an LSU graduate, I’m very proud of them for the year as a whole, though that final game leaves a bad taste in my mouth. In theirs too, I’m sure.

Most of LSU’s problems over the last four years can be traced back to two things—poor quarterback play, and Les Miles’ refusal to take Jordan Jefferson out of the game. I don’t like to pick on college players; they’re all very young. They are amateurs. They have their whole lives in front of them, and I don’t want to throw them under the bus. But four years of Jefferson’s lack of pocket presence, middling accuracy, and panic-mode bone-headed mistakes have tried my patience. I truly believe that LSU would have been near-unstoppable over the last four years if we had had a strong quarterback. What else have they lacked? The offensive line was porous for only one year. The running backs and receivers have all been awesome. The defense has been great. But at the most important position on the field, we’ve been lacking.

I don’t know what Jefferson has on Miles, but it must have been really damning. I can’t think of any other reason Miles would have stuck with Jefferson against all logic, common sense, and evidence. It took Jefferson’s arrest to get him out of the lineup, and even then, Miles seized on the first opportunity to yank Jarrett Lee out of the game—when he had two interceptions in a row against Alabama. Lee seldom saw the field after that, in spite of his excellent play in the first two-thirds of the season. And when did LSU’s offense start struggling? When did they suddenly find themselves trailing in games, needing the special teams to give them the spark they needed to come back? It all happened after Jefferson took over.

All of this was never more evident than in the title game. Jefferson was the only player on the field who looked terrified, overwhelmed not by Alabama (whom he has faced multiple times and beaten before) but by the stage he was playing on. He made bad decision after bad decision, looking completely lost. And yet Miles never pulled him. When asked why, Miles claimed that he thought about going with Lee, but that given the pass rush, he needed a quarterback that could run.

Yet Jefferson was not running effectively. More often than not, he folded like a cheap card table. At some point—trailing, in the last half of the last game, the national championship on the line, the crowd chanting for Lee—why not try something?

I still don’t get it. But at least now LSU goes into next season with new people at quarterback. We don’t know if they’ll be better yet, but we know they can’t be much worse. And on behalf of Tiger Nation, I’d like to wish Jarrett Lee a great life. You deserved better than you got.

Aftermath of the BCS Title Game

I’ve been really dismayed by the responses to the game I’ve seen, both from the national media and from people I know personally.

The AP ruined its credibility in my eyes when they failed to vote for a split championship. If ever a year screamed out for co-champions, this was it. Look, the Alabama Crimson Tide are my second-favorite college football team. I have worked at the University for six years. I don’t begrudge them their national title; they were certainly the better team on championship night.

But they weren’t the best team this season. Not even close. Like I said above, no one had a season like LSU’s—not this season, perhaps not ever. They won their division; Alabama didn’t. They, not Alabama, won the SEC. The Tide did not beat every SEC team they played, or Oregon, or West Virginia, and so forth. Going into the title game, everybody in the nation agreed that LSU should be there. The controversy revolved around Alabama, given that they didn’t win any championships to get there and lost to LSU during the regular season.

The voters have split the national championship several times before, for much worse reasons. LSU certainly did a hell of a lot more this year than USC did when they got to split the championship with LSU.

No, the refusal to split had nothing to do with credentials, or fairness, or a holistic view of the season. It was borne out of a backlash against the SEC.

In the wake of the all-SEC title game rematch, the BCS is considering changes to negate any such possibility in the future. Before the rematch was announced, fans and sportswriters from all over the country lamented the possibility and voiced their displeasure with the SEC’s dominance, as if the conference’s strength was somehow a bad thing for which it should apologize. Tons of people threatened to boycott the game, even though the only non-SEC team with any claim on the title game was Oklahoma State. I publicly claimed that Oklahoma State had an excellent argument for being in the title game; they had a better regular season than Alabama, even though I still felt that Alabama would beat them if they ever played. Eventually, Alabama got its rematch, leaving the rest of the country out of the sixth straight SEC national championship. And the whining, kvetching, and tantrums commenced.

None of that was LSU’s fault. It wasn’t Alabama’s fault. But LSU—the only team to truly dominate on a national scale—was the only team to pay the price. I truly believe that the AP was terrified of the backlash against their own writers and voting system if they let not one but TWO SEC teams take home a national title. So they acted like chickens and voted for the team that won, even though all logic, evidence, and precedent screamed for a split title. Shame on you, AP writers. As far as I’m concerned, you undermined your own integrity.

Some of my Alabama friends and acquaintances have also been a bit overenthusiastic about how things turned out, to say the least. When LSU beat Bama in the regular season, theoretically ending their national title hopes, I could have rubbed it in. I could have acted immaturely. But I knew that the game and the team were really important to my colleagues and students, so all I did was congratulate the Tide on a good game and a great season.

Unfortunately, in many cases, that courtesy was not returned. As soon as the game was over, I saw several Facebook posts whose contents might be summarized thusly: “Nan-neh nan-neh boo boo, my team won and your team sucks! Ha ha-ha-ha-ha!” The LSU jokes flew fast and furiously. In other words, even though many people knew that my team and that game were important to me, they did not congratulate my team on a great season. They took the opportunity to poop on something that I cared about. And these are highly-educated, really nice people that I like very much.

I even had one fifty-to-sixty-something acquaintance who got on Twitter and taunted Tyrann Mathieu. He’s like nineteen years old and can thus be excused for a certain amount of immaturity. I wonder what my acquaintance’s excuse was.

Then there’s the contradictions in attitudes that drive me crazy. Bring up the idea of a split title with some Alabama fans, and they’ll shake their heads firmly and say, “No way.” Uh-huh. Right. But I guarantee you that if the situations were reversed—if Bama had had the kind of season that LSU did, and beat LSU on Nov. 5th, and won the division and then the conference, but lost the title game—this entire state would be screaming bloody murder for a split title. (Well, probably not in Auburn, but you get my meaning.)

The advent of social media has taught me that there’s something about sports that make people act irrationally, even with mean spirits. You don’t have to like LSU’s football team to respect me and have some courtesy for my feelings. Why are your loyalty to your team and your investment in them more important or legitimate than mine?

I saw a lot of this earlier in the season from some of my Arkansas acquaintances. I grew up in Arkansas, so, according to some people, I’m legally and morally required to root for the Razorbacks. I reject that notion. I’ve got actual ties to LSU and Bama; I’m going to root for them over a team that happens to be located in a state I used to live in. But according to some folks, I’m not allowed to choose my own teams.

Moreover, there’s been a real double standard about who can say what. My Arkansas friends can apparently make all the LSU jokes they want, even when such “jokes” attack the character of the young men on the team or the intelligence of the schools’ personnel. I find nothing funny about those kinds of jokes. They’re just mean and have nothing to do with football. But these folks claim that they can do whatever they want, whenever they want. If I say anything back, though, all bets are off. I made some football-related Arkansas jokes and got lambasted for being unfaithful to my home state (whatever that means) and for taking college football too seriously. I should also point out that when my team beat theirs, I didn’t rub it in. You can bet I wouldn’t have gotten the same consideration. I know, because I didn’t last year.

See how that works? When they do something, it’s fine, all in good fun, light-hearted. When I do the same thing, it’s overly sensitive, disloyal, grumpy. I didn’t think you could have it both ways.

Here’s grumpy: “Oooh, I see what you did there. I’m shocked the Nobel committee doesn’t know about you—your depth of thought, your awesome creativity, your sheer originality! You actually managed to rhyme the word ‘who’ with the letter ‘U!’ Wow! I bow to your awesome intellectual and comedic prowess!”

I didn’t say that. I have tried to be light-hearted and generous and kind in both victory and defeat. I’m not perfect, but I’ve sure tried. I wish everybody I knew would do the same.

Basically, social media is ruining sports for me, not because people root for different teams but because so many are hateful or hypocritical about it. We’re all mean and distant from each other for so many reasons already; do we really want to let sports divide us even further?

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Kalene and I went to see it on our ten-year anniversary (yes, I know it’s hardly a romantic choice). We both liked it a little better than the original. Excellent film, but for God’s sake, don’t take the kids. Hoo boy.

More soon, I hope. And more focus next time.

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