Have I Got a Deal For You!


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Back when my wife and I first got married, we did the garage sale/flea market tour about once a month. As graduate students with little money (and not much pride), we picked up our furniture, dishes, and clothes (no mattresses or underwear–we did have some standards). Early in our shopping days, we struggled with the haggling, almost always offering either too much or not enough. No one scowls quite like a garage sale worker insulted by a low-ball offer.

Eventually, experienced hagglers learn the artful dance of making an offer without actually making an offer. You begin by discussing flaws, sighing loudly as if your mere interest is a favor to the seller, walking away, wandering back (as if on accident), and then feeling out the seller. All the while you recognize haggling Rule #1: never make the first offer. Nothing feels worse putting your new found treasures in the trunk than wondering if you overpaid. “He took the offer too quickly. I should have offered $.25 less!”

This is a negotiating tactic that we see at all levels. When my two boys were younger, we did our level best to teach them both how to share and how to negotiate a fair deal. I’m not saying we were cheap, but our approach to gift giving was somewhat communistic and revolved around shared ownership. Why get two toys when we can just learn how to share? Unfortunately, for those of you with children, elementary-school morality is a little less communal and a little more capitalistic–he who has the most toys wins. Or, more apt, possession is 9/10’s the law for the bigger kid.

Don’t misread our goals and methods as achieving success. Negotiation worked as long as the bigger, older son controlled the conversation. (Or their mother stepped in–“You agreed to clean his room for WHAT!?”). The younger brother, and I’m a younger brother too, always has to navigate dicier waters and the smaller, younger brother always learns Rule #1 first: never make the first offer. (Rule #1A: Hold out and hope mom steps in.) The hope is the older brother, in his arrogance and power, will slip up and offer too much. Maybe you get the toy for longer or you get a supplemental toy or you get some future relief from torment. Honestly, my wife took the lead here, being much more willing to step in and broker a deal. (Evidently, she didn’t appreciate my survival of the fittest ideology when it came to the boys.) The problem was the older brother negotiated until he got bored: then he just took the toy. There was a point where he realized talk didn’t cook rice. (And bedtime was looming so play time was getting shorter.)

The drawback to this approach is that the dinner table eventually becomes a little like the market square. “I’ll eat my peas, if . . .” and “If I take out the trash, can I have . . .” but, in theory, this can help kids realize that we are constantly negotiating with the varying ideas and expectations around us. Life, in essence, is about negotiating our wants and needs with the varying groups and individuals around us. Decisions, actions, and negotiated agreements have consequences. Yes, we might tell the older son, you can trick your brother into giving you the toy, you might even be able to beat him into giving you the toy, but at what cost? (That, by the way, sounds really good in retrospect, but if your older son is anything like mine, his answer is that there was no cost. “I’ll always be bigger than him,” he says as if I’m the one who doesn’t get it.)

As we head toward the Fiscal Cliff, I’m reminded daily that our political leadership either imagines life and the financial health of our nation is like a flea market or they’ve never stopped acting like elementary school students. Neither party is willing to make the first offer, preferring to wait, afraid that if they offer a cut here or a revenue increase there, they will have offered too much or too little. The difference, though, is that our garage sale businessperson and our buyer at least seem interested in making a deal. While there is some measure of ego wrapped up in the transfer of goods, at the end of the day, I want a truck full of “necessities” and the owner wants an empty garage.

My kids are a good bit older now and while the younger one is still smaller than the older brother, he’s learned enough to avoid making bad deals. Negotiation is a little less dangerous and tends to end much more amicably in our house. They aren’t always happy, but such is the nature of living with and around other people. They are also figuring out that haggling might give you a chance at a better deal, but it slows the process down. The quickest way to make a deal is to make an offer. You don’t for instance argue for days over the last piece of cake. Cut the damn thing in half and enjoy.

As we inch toward December 31st and economic chaos, perhaps our political leadership needs stop acting like a bunch of 8 year olds and stop treating the tax code like a worn out couch and knickknacks we don’t want anymore. If they can’t do that, let’s get their mothers in the room and see what happens.


Big Brother Is Watching–Let’s Close the Door

The Northside Independent School District in San Antonio has installed tracking chips in student IDs. Ostensibly, the chips are in place so school officials can improve attendance statistics (to help with funding issues) and increase safety. But, school officials, tell us, the system doesn’t track students outside school. Sure. And social security numbers will never be used for national identification purposes.

The chips are in the news this week because a student has refused to participate in the program because, her “father has compared the chip to the biblical Book of Revelation’s “mark of the beast” and said wearing it is tantamount to submitting to idolatry.” Yeah. Okay. The ACLU has jumped into the fray, arguing the chips are a clear violation of any number of civil rights (privacy, search and seizure, human decency). Can I just guess the lawyer for the ACLU shook her head when the father spoke publicly. Of all the reasons to oppose the chips, I’m guessing the mark of the beast is the least defensible.

And there are great reasons for us to oppose these chips. What’s most disappointing about the program is how few parents are willing to oppose the program. Our zeal for safety has blinded us to the dehumanizing nature of constant supervision and has allowed too many parents to abdicate responsibility for teaching their children how to work and live independently.

We should first note that these chips aren’t new. A 2003 position paper on the use of RFID technology opposed the use of these chips for a variety of reasons. As you can imagine, the violation of speech and association take precedence.

But we can’t ignore the way in which constant tracking conditions children to passivity. Tracking at a young age conditions them to accept surveillance and this is a clear long range abdication of civil liberties. More important, though, is the mindset we begin to create among children as the train for the real world.

When my children were in elementary school, I would tell them “Keep your pants up and your lips to yourself.” (This, by the way, strikes me as pretty solid advice at any age. Ask General Petraeus.) These days, with both boys in high school, I remind them to “Be smart, or, at least, don’t be a dummy.” Such vague advice might seem less than ideal, but my job as a parent isn’t to stand ever vigilant against the big, bad world. My job as a parent is to teach my kids how to make good decisions, or, at the least, to avoid letting the undeveloped frontal lobe (and fully developed lower lobe–if you get my meaning) put them in a jackpot. When they make mistakes, my job is to lay out the consequences not save them from them.

While my job is to teach them to make good choices, my job is to also let them fail. I have a human right to be an idiot. We have to extend that right to our children if we want them to grow up to be true citizens of the world. Certainly, we can limit the opportunities they might have and we can help them avoid situations that truly put them in danger, but we have to stop our American obsession with providing this bubble of safety around our kids. If we keep them from hitting the ground when they fall, they might never realize the ground is down there.

This isn’t necessarily a complaint about over-protecting children. Certainly, when we wrap our kids in helmets, elbow pads, and knee pads and when we organize their days for them around camps, play dates, and social groups, we are doing our best to keep them alive and safe. But, we are also not teaching them how to take care of themselves. When we begin tracking them all day long, whether via a chip in their id card or the GPS in their phone, we are only protecting them in the short term. We are allowing them to develop a dependency that will inhibit their willingness to take chances and explore. We take their need to evaluate and synthesis situations and control the environment, robbing them of the critical thinking necessary to live a full life.

We also stop them from taking charge of their own lives. When my children have issues at school, they are the first responders. If they have a question about the grade, that’s their job. We talk about how to approach the teacher, we talk about how to make the case, and we even talk about whether my kid has a valid complaint. But, at the end of the day, we talk about who is ultimately responsible.

And they learn to take responsibility and to value independence. Simply put, tracking chips are a dangerous tool. They might ensure we know where our children are, but they might also ensure our children never have to grow up. When we develop a nation of teenagers who know someone is always watching, they either work harder to be sneaky or they become the passive recipients of our protection.

I don’t know where my kids are right now. And I’m glad.


Open Minds and Open Borders

I find it ironic that the political party that celebrates Ronald Reagan’s demand that the former Soviet Union “Tear down this wall” has morphed into a party ready and willing to build one on the southern border of the country. More powerful, of course, is the figurative and metaphorical wall too many Republicans feel compelled to impose on the country and immigrants. For a party that professes love for individual freedom and capitalism, they sure work hard to create big government intrusion on a businesses’ freedom to hire workers and the human right to work.

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No one disputes, of course, that America is a nation of immigrants and Jon Stewart’s Daily Show has already skewered the media arm of the Republican party. We are living in troubled times, though, when Nationalism trumps human rights. Reagan’s call to open the border was a recognition that political parties and national identity shouldn’t hinder economic and human freedom.

Most Americans would argue that businesses should have the right to hire the most qualified candidate regardless of skin color or gender. At our core, we recognize ability should triumph over intrusive policies handed down from on high. Hence, I think, our difficulty with affirmative action policies. Most thoughtful people recognize past government policies created inequities, and most of us realize we’ve made great progress. The question is how long that impact lasts and whether corrective action is still necessary. (And, admittedly, whether we think our current government is capable of developing effective corrective action or just digging a deeper hole.)The shame, like it is on so many issues today, is the lunatic fringe has occupied Main Street for so long we can’t seem to have meaningful conversations about immigration. But not any more. The Republicans, stinging from their defeat at the hands of a man many still believe is our immigrant (and terrorist) “president,” have had their come to Jesus moment on immigration. Or so they say.

Yesterday, Sens. Kay Bailey Hutchison and Jon Kyl offered a new, softer face on immigration. I’ll first say that I kind of like Senator Hutchison. I’m convinced that if John McCain had chosen her as a running-mate instead of taking a right turn down crazy street and asking Sara Palin, he would have beaten Obama in 2008. (McCain’s choice was awful, but, more importantly, his choice confirmed for many of us that he had truly lost touch with reality. It also showed his binder was pretty thin.)  The proposed legislation, so far not endorsed by the Republican Party’s new immigration expert (he’s the expert of the week, I guess, because he has two names that end in “o”) Marco Rubio, has been dubbed the Achievement Act. Evidently, Hutchison and Kyl assume any proposed law listed first in the phone book will take precedence with voters. Forgetting that Kyl is the Senator from a state with the most restrictive immigration policy in the country, ignoring the fact that the Senators agree the plan will likely gain little traction considering the looming fiscal cliff, and turning a blind eye to the fact both Senators are retiring . . . well, as the unnamed Democratic aid notes–“it’s not exactly a profile in courage.”

Consider me underwhelmed. And add me to the list of people arguing that the Republicans just don’t get it. Immigration isn’t about citizenship or taxes or protecting American jobs. For a party that trumpets competition and free enterprise, they can’t seem to recognize that true free enterprise involves getting government out of the hiring business. If I’m a small business owner and Julio Sanchez, a person from Mexico, is a better potential employee than John Smith (whose family probably showed up from England 500 years ago and changed their name) then I should be able to hire him. If John Smith wants the job, he can either 1) do the job for less or 2) get better. Certainly, government has a role in monitoring job conditions within the workplace but government has no role in restricting who goes into that job.

Nationality does not equal employability anymore than skin color or gender does. If the Republicans want to truly return to their Conservative roots, Sens. Hutchison and Kyl, considering they are on their way out the door, should be advocating an open borders policy with a clear path toward citizenship that doesn’t hold those born outside politically drawn boundaries to higher standards than those whose parents (or grandparents) had sex on American soil. If one of our holdups is the path toward citizenship is complex and a winding road, perhaps, and I’m just spit-balling here, we should reform the bureaucratic mess that is the path to citizenship.

Perhaps I’m being unfair to our two Senators who have had years (and years and years) to address this issue when they had real power at the Congressional level. Their AA plan (doesn’t that just scream Saturday Night Live Skit–“Hello. I’m Carlita and I’m an immigrant.” Smoke filled room with stale donuts at the back.) is, really a response to the president’s DREAM Act, an attempt to stop holding young kids responsible for where their parents moved them. Perhaps their hearts are in the right place and they truly do want to follow the law so new arrivals don’t jump to the front of the line. But lord a’ mercy (as my Scottish ancestors might say), we are talking about people who have lived on American soil long enough to either serve in the military or graduate from college. If we don’t want them as citizens, who the heck do we want? Hell, there are some of my own relatives (American citizens all) who can’t meet the criteria (or pass a citizenship test). Can we set up an exchange? We’ll take the foreigner and send my cousin to Guatemala.

In a social system that should be much more highly evolved, we are still working with immigration policies built around distrust of foreigners and a nation building philosophy derived from the relatively ancient idea that “blood will tell.” The American Constitution and Bill of Rights isn’t unique because it defines us as Americans. They are unique because they protect our human rights and that desire should define us as Americans.

Compromising Positions

I’m certainly no expert on game theory and, admittedly, my basic understanding probably comes as much from the Russell Crowe movie A Beautiful Mind as any reading I’ve done. At a simplistic level, though, game theory posits that compromise often fails because the two sides can’t recognize the similarities they share. Because the two sides are most interested in the process (and definitive wins/losses), they miss areas of compatibility and suboptimal deals are brokered.

As Americans head for the fiscal cliff (or don’t head for the fiscal cliff as the case may be), compromise, in theory, is in the air. Or, at least, the word compromise is in the air. President Obama, my Republican representatives tell my local paper, must compromise. “We’re flexible,” they tell us, as long as we get what we want (they imply). I’m sure if I dig deeply enough (like reading another newspaper), I’ll find a similar statement from a variety of Democrats.

The problem, of course, is that compromise is not in the air. Or the water. Or the ozone. Or, certainly, in Washington. The very nature of compromise has been tainted by increasingly extreme views on everything from taxes to abortion to gun ownership. Compromise, the willingness to sacrifice some of our own goals in search of a larger good, has been corrupted to imply capitulation, weakness, and immorality. Some of the blame lies on the American two party political system but most of the blame lies on the shoulders of the American voter. While C-students around the world rejoiced when one of their own was elected president, we should recognize this as the culmination (and perhaps watershed moment) of years of dumbing-down government.

It’s not an issue, necessarily, of increasing radicalized bases: our problems are increasingly ignorant legislators. Compromise requires balance and tolerance. It also demands seeing beyond narrow self-interests and anticipating long-term consequences. Most importantly, governance requires critical thinking skills. As we saw yet again last week, our major political figures, evidently, lack even a basic understanding about science.

Unfortunately, politics has become as much about bravado as governance. John McCain chooses to call out Susan Rice for her Benghazi statements instead of attending an intelligence briefing, a position he has to later recant as he learns the facts. (Please don’t miss the irony of his ignorant comments caused, in part, by missing an intelligence briefing.)  I could list more and more examples of politicians who choose to speak without knowledge, but why keep picking the low hanging fruit. (I was going to write–“but that’s like making fun of the kids who ride the short bus”–but that’s insulting to kids with true special needs.)

When we couple electing intellectually weak politicians with complicated issues (taxes, revenue, and budgeting), we get a fiscal cliff where compromise means, in essence, each side is flexible, but only if the other side will compromise. Or, at the least, if we can make it look like the other side compromised and we didn’t. If we add in an increasingly ignorant (and I don’t mean stupid–I mean ignorance as in we don’t understand issues as their complexity increases), we get, both literally and figuratively, what we pay for.

America probably won’t go over the fiscal cliff. I’m guessing we will have a deal brokered at the last minute to save us from ourselves and our political choices. But the “compromise” will be on paper only. Most of the hard financial choices will be “back loaded” in any deal and deficit savings will kick in about the same time tax increases start–sometime in 2018. Both parties will pledge to “reform” the tax code, leading us to believe either party understands the tax code. Bipartisanship, they will tell us, has triumphed over politics.

And we will believe them. And we will re-elect them. And, unfortunately, we’ll be caught in a compromising position from which we may or may not recover.

Carve the Turkey, Pass the Gravy, and Slide the Discover Card

Thanksgiving is the the quintessential American Holiday. Forget Christmas with its heavy dose of contradictory materialistic Christianity. (Plenty of time to write about that later.) Thanksgiving is our Dionysian festival, our reminder that America is still a super-power, a land of plenty, a veritable cornucopia goodness. It’s our moment to nobly step up and flood the great economic engine with cash.

I’m not here to condemn the materialism and gluttony that drives the holiday. There are plenty of stories of fights, tramplings, or men who forget their daughters at Wal-mart after buying the big screen tv. But those mar the reality that Black Friday sales topped $11 billion dollars and over 300 million people went shopping the day after Thanksgiving. (Your welcome China.) With that kind of traffic and activity, there will be problems but the good outweighs the bad. Certainly, there are large swaths of people out there on Black Friday (and sitting at computers on this Cyber Monday) buying things for themselves. Black Friday, though, isn’t about getting: it’s about giving. And that’s the glory of the holiday.

This is, after all, a holiday where the president of the country pardons a turkey (sorry wrongly convicted criminal–if you tasted better with brown gravy maybe we would run that DNA report) in the morning and then carves up his younger and plumper brother that night. Millions of us grew up each year enacting the first Thanksgiving, dressing in poorly made pilgrim costumes and increasingly politically correct native American costumes. Elementary schools across American looked like badly dressed Village People. (“Thank you for this food. Now, everyone, “At the YMCA.”) At least we thought it was the first Thanksgiving. The story itself was always a mask for the true purpose of the holiday–a way for us to pretend that Thanksgiving didn’t mark the holiday shopping season.

History sometimes gets in the way, though. FDR declared the fourth Thursday Thanksgiving for the sole purpose of boosting the economy in the early 1940s. The harvest celebration, the philosophical thanks for those natives who gave our ancestors succor in times of trouble (hey, we gave them smallpox–no takebacks!), those were lost in the true meaning of the holiday.

And FDR had it right. What makes Thanksgiving so unique is that we spend this limited amount of time with our families and it reminds us that we want to give. (It also reminds us that we want to get out of the damn house, but maybe that’s just my family.) Sure, in theory Christmas is that time of giving and sharing, but it’s also a time of getting and receiving. Thanksgiving, on the other hand, is all about buying and gifting.

No one over 8 gets up at 4:00 in the morning to get gifts. We all know, the older we get, that the fire truck doesn’t have a used by date and that at 9:00, after a cup of coffee, that special gift will still be special. But on Black Friday by 4:00 am the best gifts are gone. And we are out there buying gifts. Without expecting to get. We might expect to get a good deal, but most people are economically savvy enough to know the deal isn’t that good. For every $100 off that one item, the rest of the deals are pretty standard fare.

But that’s really not the point. In a world where we look for our adventure on reality tv, Black Friday offers us a chance to suffer for the greater good and express our American-ness. I don’t mean to imply that materialism is limited to America, either. Flaubert’s Madame Bovary serves as the great literary warning about trying to keep up with the Jone’s (or whatever the French equivalent might be). But I do mean to imply (or, I guess I’m saying it outright) that our materialism on Black Friday (and Cyber Monday) is something we should celebrate and embrace. When we are out searching for deals, when we are out standing in lines at midnight with the snow falling around us, and when we slide that credit card, we are being American.

Trust me–Sally will love that snow globe with Justin Bieber. The thought counts, but the 40% counts more. It means you can buy two.

Root, Root, Root for the Home Team–Or Else!

click to view George Carlin on sports

Over the course of late October and early November, I’ve spent various weekends at NCAA sponsored meetings as the faculty athletic representative. One of the notable elements of the American higher education system is, in fact, the way in which we link sports and university affiliation. As many college presidents will tell you, their athletic programs, in particular football and basketball, take up 2% of their time, 2% of their budget, but generate 80% of their publicity.

This is an easy thing to criticize from the outside. We struggle both inside universities and outside with the notion of the “student-athlete.” These are kids whose athletic ability opens educational doors.

More important, though, is the way college sports, at both major universities and at smaller schools, creates community and bonds people together. On any given Saturday in the fall, 100,000 people will fill the stadium to watch the University of Michigan play anyone. The NCAA basketball tournament in March generates billions of dollars for NCAA schools. In fact, and a little known one at that, the basketball tournament generates almost the entire NCAA budget. All those football bowl games generate revenue for the bowls and the teams.

But the sports fanaticism isn’t unique to American culture or universities. Jerry Jones built a palace in Arlington for $1.2 billion so the Cowboys could win half their games and the city of Arlington pitched in $360 million. Countries vie to host the Olympics so they can spend around $40 million. The jury is still out whether those investments pay off economically.

But they aren’t necessarily meant to pay off financially. In the NCAA, only about 15-20 schools have athletic programs that operate in the black. Yes, you read that correctly. For every University of Texas and Ohio State, there are hundreds of college athletic programs losing money. Last time I checked, though, I haven’t heard anyone cutting their football or basketball teams.

We are often identified by our affiliation and, whether we like it or not, more people watch the Super Bowl than vote. (Then again, the Super Bowl has a half time show. Maybe the presidential election should follow suit.) Sports has historically bound communities and nations together. We might vote for different parties, but when Real Madrid plays, or when Usain Bolt runs, we are all Spanish or Jamaican. (Unless you aren’t Spanish or Jamaican.)

Sports and athletic contests abound across the world culture. The European Association Football Leagues (that’s soccer to my fellow Americans) averages around 11-13 million fans a year in five different leagues. That’s 11-13 million times 5. American football (that’s the one where they try to kill each other every Sunday) only totals about 17 million fans per year.

And each week, fans live and die with their teams. Quite honestly, there’s little in life more fun than being in an Irish Pub during a World Cup match, especially if Ireland is winning. Drinks flow freely! But I would hate to be in Scotland or England should their teams lose. These “hooligans” riot and take to the streets. Their violent outbursts are rivaled only by American footballs fans who, periodically, go on burning sprees after a victory or loss by the home team. Fans become belligerent in cities across the world. 

These crazy people are our neighbors (or perhaps ourselves) who lead normal, productive daily lives, but each week they turn into fundamentalists whose moods are tied to various men (or women) whose exploits help define our cultural expectations for excellence. Athletes and the home team, quite simply, bind us to a community with shared interests.

This past summer, my family and I attended 6 major league baseball games in 14 days. Beyond the beer and hot dogs (Minneapolis has the best dogs, but Chicago has the best beer. Texas had the best game.), we see people with shared interests come together to support (and occasionally boo) grown men as they try to perform feats most of us can only dream about. Our expectations are part envy and part desire. When my home team wins, my choices are validated, but more importantly, my place gains prestige.

For a good long while, sports has replaced the sacrificial battles of the past. We’ve created, justly so, symbolic contests to test the will of our best and brightest. Like epic heroes of old, these men women are our ideals. When they win, our ideals win. When they lose, a little piece of us recognizes that our choice, our identity, might not be the best.

When I talk with my students about culture, I always ask them to look around as they try and understand a place. What do we see and how does that indicate value? Churches, streets, schools, bars, sports stadiums, businesses: If you landed in Arlington, I might ask, or Houston, Madrid, Mexico City, or any major city, what are the biggest buildings? Which ones hold the most people? It’s a softball question, isn’t it?

I’m no fan of violence (especially if I’m the victim), but I understand where it comes from. Sports, world-wide, offers us the opportunity to vicariously tap into our base, elemental physical humanity. I once interviewed the great sports writer Frank Deford and someone asked him why we are so adamantly opposed to steroids in sports. We have no such compunction about our policemen, firefighters, and military personnel. Deford told us that the steroids taint the human achievement. Great athleticism is like great art, Deford noted. Watch Michael Jordan fly through the air, Peyton Manning throw a football, Usain Bolt run, or Mary Lou Rhetton flip and you can see some of the best humanity can produce.

There’s our passion: sports offers us hope for humanity. Our emotions ebb and flow not because of the wins and losses, but because the wins and losses represent something about ourselves and our identity. Our teams, our home team, binds us together and gives us a shared sense of purpose with those who attend our classes, go to our church, or shop in the same stores. You might say tomato and I might say tomatah, but on Sunday, we all root, root, root for the home team.

As Dull as the Cowboys’ Offense

One of the best student papers I’ve ever graded was written by a young man at the University of North Texas who wrote about his abiding love, and occasional hatred, of the Dallas Cowboys. His was one of a trio of papers that semester that restored my faith (long sense in decline again) in freshman as intelligent human beings. The other two papers, one about film soundtracks and one about why women’s lingerie should always match (not as titillating as you might think), each earned an A, a feat that hasn’t happened since.

But the paper that really stands out (probably because the lingerie paper didn’t include photos) was the paper about the Cowboys. I’m reminded of his essay just about every Sunday during football season as my mood rises and falls each time Tony Romo drops back to pass–I’m just hoping he hits the right colored jersey.

The young man’s paper detailed his entire family’s Sunday rituals: Cowboys cereal bowls and coffee mugs, dad’s Cowboys tie, anxious glances at the Cowboys wrist watch as the minister droned on (he wrote that his family almost converted to Catholicism at one point so they could start going to Saturday mass), grey truck with blue seats–you get the picture. The first time I saw Dallas Cowboys toilet paper, I realize his is the family that would buy such a thing. When the ‘Boys win, it sits proudly on the shelf: when they lose, I’m sure there’s a strange satisfaction in putting it to its proper use.

I thought of the essay again yesterday afternoon as I drove toward Dallas. The Cowboys started at noon and I stuck around the house for the first quarter, but the drive loomed. Fortunately, the Cowboy’s play by play radio guys are great and coverage rolls throughout Texas. Except just outside Weatherford. As overtime started. I hit one of these dead spots where you lose radio service and phone service–the bermuda triangle of audio waves. In his essay, the young man wrote about his pain after a particularly hard fought Super Bowl loss. He pulled out his Dallas Cowboys pocket knife, flicked it open, prepared to slice his pennant to shreds. He soon realized the futility: the knife, bought when he was nine, was as dull as the Cowboys’ offense that day.

On my drive, the last thing I hear is the Cowboy’s driving toward the end zone, at the 9 yard line, ready for a field goal attempt to tie the game. And then it’s white noise, barely audible over my pained cursing. I can only imagine drivers passing me to the left, slowly edging away at 75 miles an hour, as they watch me bang on the wheel and push the seek button on the radio. Over. And Over. Because we all know that if you push it hard enough while cussing loudly it’s bound to work. Eventually.

Thirty-five minutes later, 5 miles outside Weatherford, I finally pick up the start of Cowboy’s post-game. And I know exactly how that young writer felt. “About all you can say,” the announcer begins, “is that at least they won. It was, in my memory, the best game between two bad teams we’ll see all year.” And you missed, I imagine them adding just for my benefit.

But I’m relieved nonetheless. The sun shines a bit brighter Monday morning and time heals the wounded soul whose post-game reaction, and over-reaction, dissects all the reasons the Cowboys were lucky.

After a Cowboys’ loss, it’s easy to declare them done, to vow never again will I waste three hours, and wonder when the Texans play. But sports fans have short memories and on Wed, I sneak a peak at the schedule, read the scouting reports, and make sure  the coffee mug is clean.

Things I Read

And Things I Learned

Washington Monthly

Do I contradict myself? / Very well then I contradict myself, / (I am large, I contain multitudes.)

Joanne Jacobs

Thinking and Linking by Joanne Jacobs

Inside Higher Ed

Do I contradict myself? / Very well then I contradict myself, / (I am large, I contain multitudes.)

NYT > Politics

Do I contradict myself? / Very well then I contradict myself, / (I am large, I contain multitudes.)

Balloon Juice

Do I contradict myself? / Very well then I contradict myself, / (I am large, I contain multitudes.)

Scott Adams' Blog

Do I contradict myself? / Very well then I contradict myself, / (I am large, I contain multitudes.)

The Full Feed from HuffingtonPost.com

Do I contradict myself? / Very well then I contradict myself, / (I am large, I contain multitudes.)