Is it getting
Each morning I wake up and feel a little different than I did the one before. The tragic events of Tuesday, September 11, 2001 have irreparably affected all of us, with some more hurt and angry than others. We know the advisory platitudes by cultural rote: “Walk it off; get back on the horse; it ain’t over ‘til the check clears, and time heals all wounds.” Last week was my 200th weekly column and for many weeks, if not months before, I’d planned to call it quits after achieving that personal goal. As I experience America struggling with itself to define some new semblance of normality and return from the dark doubt of insecurity, I know that between the two choices of going or not going on, one stays in the game and the other admits defeat. Maybe the 300th column would be a better place to stop. Maybe.
Some have been critical of last Friday night’s telethon, America: A Tribute to Heroes, however, I was impressed by the unprecedented cooperation among the major networks and moved by the quality of the programming. All my life I’ve heard the viscious innuendo and paranoid accusations that the entertainment industry is as selfish as this or as ruthless as that, controlled by anti-Americans, and has the ethical capacity of a can of baked beans. Last Friday night I didn’t hear the spew of hate-filled rappers or the inane and innocuous harmonies of young boy-bands; no, I heard from musicians who truly cared. It was the finest two hours of television I’ve ever seen and I’m very proud of my support of an industry that can show that level of professional responsibility. Well done!
We’re a divers bunch and our varied response to tragedy is as numerous as the hairs on Robin William’s back. In times such as this, some respond best to the arts or to examples set by friends and family, while others are moved by facts, figures, and stewed prunes. We’ve always been united in our diversity; a tradition we should never abandon. Oh, it remains a struggle, as in tolerating a place for Marilyn Manson, though a Michigan court may soon weigh in on that. We’re the “mutts” and “mutants” Bill Murray’s character talked about in Stripes. We’re Americans, and while some may dismiss any significant meaning to that self-categorization, many are prouder than ever to be so considered.
Though I played sports as a kid, my teenaged years with a separation of freaks on one side and jocks on the other, greatly influenced what I judged to be important at the time, and I ended up selling my baseball card collection, autographs, a three foot high stack of The Sporting News, and never looked back. Well, some exercise and fun with friends over the years, but watching sports? Watching someone else exercise and have fun? No, not unless it was a playoff, series, or bowl game. And then only because of cool commercials and side-bets. I don’t have a problem yawning in the face of anyone who drones on about some dumb game from the night before. I’ve no use for it. Besides, I’m from Chicago and baseball there has been acid reflux for years now, football since Ditka makes me cry, hockey has lately put me to sleep, and basketball is a waste of sweat since Jordan retired. This week Mike came back, he returned to the sport where he was king, and I’m not used to my heart beating so fast. I thought I was over all that. I was wrong.
Recent quack commentary on apparent numerological synchronicities concerning September 11, 2001 have soured me toward even a casual interest in discussing coincidence and such imaginary constructs as fate and destiny. Yet, with Jordan returning to basketball and playing for the Washington Wizards, of all teams, I find myself smiling more. The Wizards suck! Last season they posted the worst season results in franchise history! If this idea would’ve originated in Hollywood, it wouldn’t have survived the second margarita.
Okay, as I was born in Chicago, there’s a hometown bias involved, but I can live with some excuses. I’m somewhat amused that of the three NBA Rookie of the Year awards that Chicago has received, the first was in 1961 with Walt Bellamy and the Chicago Packers, the second was in 1962 with Terry Dischinger and the Chicago Zephers (nee Packers), and the third was with Jordan and the 1984 Chicago Bulls. The current Washington Wizards franchise traces its roots back through the Washington Bullets, Baltimore Bullets, Chicago Zephers, and began with that 1961 Chicago Packers team that finished 18-62, despite the efforts of Bellamy. It’s a stretch, I know, but it somehow seems fitting that 38 year old Michael Jordan is trying it again and with a team with Chicago roots. Maybe I might watch a few games... Or videotape them.
Returning television series are already cutting into my evening hours, and some new shows, such as UPN’s Enterprise, the latest Star Trek adventure, will further increase my investment and push me ever closer to a status of not having a “life.” I find it reassuring that a new season of cartoons, sex, and violence on PBS, as well as the network stuff, is there to educate, enrich, and entertain me. Summer reruns force me to fill hours and hours with reading, writing, art, and a couple of pastimes which require physical activity beyond what may be accomplished with the fingers only. Mike returns to the court, exiled King Mohammed Zahir Shah wants to return to any court in Afghanistan, and I’m courting a return to a Brian O’Blivion period. It’s good to be back.