Thursday, September 4, 2014

A WORLD WITHOUT HATE



like a world without oppositional wattage like a world without the florescence of rage like a world without the geometry of dangerous hours like a world without the confetti of isolations like a world without a single amplified misapprehension like a world without dark maps of suspiration like a world without fear pinning like a world without purpose crossing purpose as when the purpose of haste crosses the purpose of defenselessness in the witch light of early condemnations like a world without the mask of the voice fracturing like a world without cycles unmodified in obstruction like a world without you perhaps and perhaps without me a world without hate like a world without / the inevitable.

 

Thursday, August 28, 2014

STEPHEN JOEL TRACHTENBERG SPEAKS WITH FUNDAMENTAL INDECENCY ON THE TOPIC OF SEXUAL ASSAULT.



Two days ago, the former president of The George Washington University, Stephen Joel Trachtenberg, spoke about sexual assault during an episode of the Diane Rehm show that focused on “The Role of Fraternities and Sororities Today.” In the process, Trachtenberg demonstrated a fundamental lack of decency with respect to an issue of personal safety that affects women on college campuses across the country. His remarks included:

“Without making the victims responsible for what happens, one of the groups that have to be trained not to drink in excess are women. They need to be in a position to punch the guys in the nose if they misbehave. And so part of the problem is you have men who take advantage of women who drink too much and there are women who drink too much. And we need to educate our daughters and our children in that regard.” (Stephen Joel Trachtenberg, August 26, 2014)

Blood And Gutstein would like to make a few observations about this line of thinking.

(1) Trachtenberg eventually contradicts himself by, in fact, blaming the victims for what happens to them.

(2) He says “one of the groups”, in his example, but how many “groups” (in the context of sexual assault) does he think there are?

(3) By saying that women need to be “trained”, does he think they’re animals at obedience school?

(4) Does Trachtenberg believe that a simple “punch in the nose” will free a woman from an attacker who is, in all likelihood, much bigger than her?

(5) The former president refers to guys who “misbehave” as if rape were just a little bit of poor behavior.

(6) Trachtenberg further refers to “daughters and children”, again seeming to be confused about basic groupings of people.

(7) Trachtenberg apparently continues to teach at GWU, so perhaps the University should adopt these statements of his, and convert them to fliers that would appear on campus bulletin boards, in freshman orientation packets, and as part of required syllabus statements in every GWU course.

(8) The former president was the sitting president during one of the darkest days on the GWU campus, when this blogger’s friend and his girlfriend were murdered. A sexual assault was part of that crime. Trachtenberg should remember something like that, before he speaks on this matter ever again.

Owing to point #8, Blood And Gutstein takes a particular interest in this topic, and vows to stand against the kind of irresponsible, hurtful worldview espoused by a public figure like Stephen Joel Trachtenberg. As an educator, and as a former leader of educators, he seems particularly under-educated on the issue of sexual assault on campus. He leads Blood And Gutstein to think that, of the “groups” who require training, it may be people like Mr. Trachtenberg who require it the most.


Tuesday, August 19, 2014

ÇA VA?

Hoots mon!


My friend Aerobespierre comes over to fix himself a cheese snack. “Ça va?” he says, carrying off the knockwurst, too. He’s French, he’s revolutionary, and he’s the most oxygenated person I know: his blood-gasses must be epic. I could shrug, I could make a hundred gestures, but I shrug, ça va. (Last week, he ate all my ethnic chowders, and the week before that, all my ethnic filets!) His wife might be pregnant, he’s saying, between mouthfuls, and if it’s a girl, they’re going to call the kid Anaerobespierre, after her father. But that’s not the big news, no, his interview with the new Hiberno-English mope-pop band, Sinn Féin Young Cannibals, has hit the press. The piece covers a wide swath of territory, but focuses on the band’s debut album, When Domestic Animals Answer Lonesome Train Whistles. The band claims that train whistles offer a maudlin commentary on the nocturnal intervals of middle distance. He shows me an excerpt: “Ça va?” he says; “What’re you like?” says the band; “Pardon?” he says; “Christ on a bike!” says the band. There is (1) Work and there is (2) Pain, we agree, if one requires a simplified system of categories, in order to deposit the experiences of our lives. A human being is to bonfire as Pain is to darkness, we agree, if one requires a visual on how Pain (darkness) grapples with the human being (bonfire) in a person’s daily exuberances; all else can be classified as Work. Aerobespierre toils to avoid any mention of the guillotine, or words that rhyme with guillotine. I’ve caught him more than once in a cold sweat on Rhymezone clicking around between histamine, kerosene, Philistine, and nicotine, and I think, as a Frenchman, he fears all four transpiring at once—an allergic, gasoline-wielding ruffian (“Regardez!”) just about to Zippo a cigarette.

Friday, August 8, 2014

DRAWS.

The great Duffy Daugherty with two Spartans.


The legendary quipping (American) college football coach, Duffy Daugherty, declared that “A tie is like kissing your sister.” Daugherty, who led Michigan State University to some of its finest gridiron achievements, won an outright national championship in 1965 and a share of the national title in 1966. He head-coached 183 games at MSU, drawing five times. We understand that the pronoun “your” in Daugherty’s quote doesn’t refer to anyone’s specific sister—it’s not an insult—but rather, the “any brother” kissing the “any sister” as part of a tepid, passionless, formal greeting. You play your guts out, you muddy your uniform, you bleed, you curse, and you weather the cold rain only to hobble off with a tie; that’s “kissing your sister” according to Daugherty. The quote probably matters more than we think. Many sports, including college football, have done away with ties, and in some cases, break ties in ways that smack of the artificial. Is Daugherty right? Or can some draws matter? And who do you get to kiss if you win?

In 1996, college football instituted an overtime procedure, in which both teams get possession of the ball on the 25 yard line. If each team scores the same tally of points (or none at all) the procedure repeats, until one side prevails. In 2003, Arkansas defeated Kentucky by an inflated count of 71-63, after seven overtime periods. It’s a famous game that ultimately produced a winner, and Arkansas players, in the end, didn’t have to kiss their sisters. At least college football plays actual football to avoid a tie. Not so in the National Hockey League, where teams participate in a “shootout” to break a draw that has survived a five minute overtime. The shootout does not involve hockey, which I’d define as five-on-five, plus the two goalies. No, the shootout involves a player skating in, one-on-one—a situation that rarely transpires in the flow of most hockey games. (Although, even in those cases, many other players are skating, somewhere, on the ice.) In world football tournaments (but not league games) a draw that survives two added periods will be decided by dreaded penalties, which, like the hockey tie-breaker, doesn’t simulate the sport.  

I haven’t delved too deeply into Duffy Daugherty’s collected quotes, but I don’t automatically conclude that he advocated for sports to abolish ties altogether. If an underdog team travels to face a powerful foe but prevents the powerful foe from winning in their own park, hasn’t the underdog team gained a valuable result away from home? In a week’s time, my (world) football team, Swansea City, will travel to Manchester, to face storied Man U in front of 75,000 people, most of whom will expect to see the Red Devils stomp the Swans by three or four goals. If Swansea, however, escape with a draw, I think the players should kiss some very attractive women to whom they are not related. The EPL incentivizes winning by offering victors three points in the table; teams who draw receive one point apiece. Famously, the Notre Dame football team played Daugherty’s Spartans to a 10-10 tie, in East Lansing, in the final game of the 1966 season. The Fighting Irish, ranked #1 in the polls, preserved their position atop the rankings, but with the tie, Daugherty’s #2 Spartans ultimately won a share of the national title that year. A home draw counted.

A win, of course, in any sport, guarantees greater treasure than a draw, but as we’ve shown, a draw, under some circumstances, should be cherished. Perhaps we can modify Daugherty’s quote a little bit. We can allow that a poor tie—i.e., a powerful team drawing a weaker foe at home—is like kissing your sister. On the other hand, the reverse of that—an underdog team tying the big club on the road—might be like kissing your cousin. I mean, if it’s a third or fourth cousin, the kiss, perhaps, could lead somewhere. The OED defines “kissing cousins” as “relatives or friends with whom one is on close enough terms to greet with a kiss.” It doesn’t say what kind of kiss, and it provides no additional reflections on what might be appropriate after a sports team draw. I think we can all agree that a player on a losing club should go home and train harder for the next contest, but should receive no kisses, at all. Maybe that player should receive a somber handshake—that, or the fake nudge of the chin with the fist.

Sports Week #1 of 5: My Grandfather, Emil Ringel
Sports Week #2 of 5: The Landover Football Team

Thursday, August 7, 2014

SPORTS WEEK #4 OF 5: WHO I HECKLED AS A YOUNG MAN.



Many years ago I participated in a basketball match during a spring break trip in Charlotte, N.C. I say “match” in jest. The game grew chippy in a hurry and many talented, towering people participated. I’m no basketball player, so I helped out by knocking people around, getting rid of the ball the moment I got it, et cetera. In this game may have played Michael Jordan’s brother. “Hah!” you say, but focus up: he looked like Michael Jordan, he leapt higher than all, and he shot the ball into the hoop, like, a lot. (Plus, locals said he was Michael Jordan’s brother.) His last shot circled the rim once or twice before dropping in—“toilet bowl!” someone shouted—for the W. The other team won. A guy on my team, whose name I remember as Ron, slumped down on a playground bench. He played D-1 ball for UNCC and it miffed me that we lost, with him on our team. “Ron,” I said, “I bet—I bet you can’t dance!” I couldn’t come up with another insult. This, however, irked Ron considerably, and people had to separate us. Later, a group went out to some club where a giant hose sprayed fog into an empty cavern. Blunt-force techno played from huge speakers. Ron had come with us. He tried to dance. He did some kind of arms akimbo, knees like a hoot. His teammates were there. I’m telling you, people were falling down laughing.

As a young man, I attended several sporting events at Memorial Stadium in Baltimore, including Orioles games. I went with family or friends. We sat in the outfield a lot. In my best moment, I heckled the relief pitcher, Jesse Orosco, who visited Memorial Stadium with Cleveland, but I’ll get to that later. I’m remembering another game: the Orioles hosting the Red Sox. I was sitting in left field, pretty close to the front row. Lots of people in the stands were having a good time heckling Jim Rice, the Red Sox left fielder. So I joined in. I said stuff like, “You suck, Rice!” and “Rice, you suck!”, about fifty or sixty times. But I did not dump the beer on him when he went up for a fly ball on the warning track. In my recollection, he closed his eyes and the beer, like, splashed all over him. We’re not talking “craft ale” either, we’re talking warm National Bohemian or Tuborg Gold. He made the catch! Let’s say it was the third out in the seventh inning, but who knows? Rice lingered there, shaming us with a kindly look and shaking a small smile around on his face. Several ushers waddled over to our area between innings. They wanted to see beer cups. One by one, the fellows in our section demonstrated various levels of suds in their plastic cups, all except one. No, his cup was empty. And he, my friends, got the heave-ho.

The St. Bonaventure baseball team had come to D.C., to play a series against GW. I knew several guys on GW, and enjoyed attending their games, which they played at an RFK auxiliary field. In the same season, GW hosted the Russian national team inside RFK. GW had amassed a 20 run lead, but Big Fish, who’d pitched into the fifth, gave up a long dinger. As the Russian rounded the bases, all his teammates ran out of the dugout doing backflips and front flips. The officiating crew called the game. It ended 20-1. Maybe 250 people attended, including a local CBS reporter, Ken Mease. “Mease!” I shouted. He looked at me. “Isn’t this great?” I said, beaming a phony smile. He just shook his head, sadly. But I digress. Back to St. Bonnies. Their pitcher was warming up on the auxiliary field, for the home half of the first. All his teammates were yelling, “Let’s go, Spence!”, and so forth. So, I joined. “Spence!” I shouted. “They’ve got a relief pitcher warming up already!” He stopped his delivery and looked at the St. Bonaventure bullpen but nobody was there of course. Spence glared at me. The St. Bonaventure coach looked down, kicking a pebble. Ah, the power of suggestion. An inning later, there would be a relief pitcher warming up, and Spence, having allowed many runs, would be pulled from the game.

I liked to work out at my college’s athletic facility. It had a good weight room. I also played squash, if that’s the game with the little ball and racket. I could jog there and kid around with the hot girls who checked IDs at the front desk, and one time, I bench pressed a lot of weight. Many of the scholarship athletes couldn’t bench that much weight, and so, the story went around, and I enjoyed some small celebrity. Once, while playing squash, I noticed a player in the other squash theatre who appeared to resemble Mark Murphy, the former safety for the Washington Football Team. (Now the Landover Football Team.) He was a big tall guy with a little head, he had red hair, and people called him Mark Murphy. I’d add this: he looked like he could chew nails for breakfast. I just didn’t believe he was Mark Murphy. I mean, why would Mark Murphy (several years retired from football) be playing squash at my college’s gym? Also, he wore a suit and tie afterwards. Ridiculous. So, one day, hanging out at the front desk, I says, “Hey, Mark Murphy.” He says, “Yes.” I says, “You’re not Mark Murphy. Come on.” He says, “Then who am I?” I says, “Another Mark Murphy.” He didn’t answer that one. No, he fixed me with that look like he chewed nails for breakfast. He stood “stare down” close to me, but hey, I was the bench press champ.




Let me first say that I like Jesse Orosco. He won two World Series titles. He even had an RBI (as a relief pitcher) against the Red Sox in Game 7, in 1986. No pitcher has more career appearances than Jesse Orosco, seeing as Jesse Orosco could get out most every left handed hitter he faced, and he played until he was 46. So, he’s a great pitcher. I did some Internet investigation via the Baseball Almanac, and I believe I heckled Jesse Orosco at Memorial Stadium on June 28, 1990. Orosco was warming up in the bullpen, with Cleveland up, 7-2. I’m from Cleveland but I like the Orioles. I wanted to help my team get back into the game. We were sitting in the outfield, near the Cleveland bullpen, me and my friends. Man, I cursed that fellow up and down. I unleashed some foul curses from above. But Orosco kept warming. He waved his glove up to signal a fastball. He waved his glove down to signal curve ball. All the while I cursed him—but no reaction. A friend who played some college ball told me, to tell Orosco, that I’m gonna put a coat on his hanger. I looked at my friend crooked but he said, “Trust me”, and I did, I said, “Hey! Orosco! I’m gonna come down there and put a coat, on your hanger!” Orosco stopped pitching, and looked up, with a big chew in his cheek, and shouted a big F bomb in my direction. I had insinuated that his curveball hung so long—I could put a coat on it. Orosco entered the game and surrendered two runs, but Cleveland won. Meantime, ushers threw out the guys behind us.

Sports Week #1 of 5: My grandfather, Emil Ringel
Sports Week #2 of 5: The Landover Football Team
Sports Week #3 of 5: Wilfried & The Swans
Sports Week #5 of 5: Draws


Wednesday, August 6, 2014

SPORTS WEEK #3 OF 5: WILFRIED & THE SWANS PREPARE FOR MAN U.

Wilfried Bony aka ‘Daddy Cool’


I support a small club, Swansea City, in the English Premier League, arguably the most competitive professional sports league in the world. The Swans will face Manchester United in the first fixture of the 2014-15 season, a daunting first opponent for many reasons. Aside from their storied past—20 top tier titles; the most in English football history—United finished a lackluster seventh in the table last year, having sacked their manager late in the campaign.  The Red Devils, therefore, will have something to prove, as they open the season at Old Trafford in front of more than 75,000 people. By contrast, the Swans will return from Manchester to play their first home fixture in front of 20,750 people at the Liberty Stadium in South Wales, but the differences between a big club, such as United, and a small club, such as Swansea, extend well beyond stadium seating capacity. A larger club, by virtue of its payroll and the profiles of its players, can expect to challenge for the league title, as well as entry into lucrative European club competitions, such as Champions League. The allure of winning titles and competing with other powerful European clubs often proves, to the star players and coaches on successful smaller teams, too difficult to resist. Smaller clubs enjoy little peacefulness from season to season, as their best performers receive offers from suitors across the continent.

Last year, the Swans themselves competed in Europa League, a demanding European club competition that unfolds in parallel with the domestic league calendar. Swansea traveled throughout the season to Sweden, Romania, Spain, Switzerland, Russia, and Italy, in addition to enduring physical matches in the Prem. The Italian giants, Napoli, who entered into Europa League after failing to advance in the more prestigious Champions League competition, eliminated the Swans, 3-1, in Naples, after the two sides played to a 0-0 draw in Wales. Swansea had bulked up for the Europa League mission, by adding players at most positions, but in the end, the schedule wearied and battered the club, and they found themselves drifting downward in the league table. At one juncture in the second half of the campaign, Swansea sat just two points above the drop. Had their fortunes continued to sour, they could have faced relegation to Football League Championship, the immediate under-tier to the Premier League, into which three clubs tumble every year, and from which, three teams climb every year. Just as Manchester United parted with manager David Moyes, the Swans board of directors, reeling from the club’s tepid performance, sacked their manager, the legendary former Danish star, Michael Laudrup, replacing him with favorite son Garry Monk, a 35 year-old defender still on the active roster.

Monk, a long-time Swansea captain with no managerial experience, led the club to a respectable record of 5 wins, 3 draws, and 6 losses after Laudrup’s departure, with a plus-6 goal difference over that stretch. (Laudrup had amassed a record of 6 wins, 6 draws, and 12 losses, with a minus-6 goal difference.) Swansea’s triumph at Sunderland on the final day of the season earned the club a 12th place finish in the table, but it didn’t quite erase the club’s yearlong struggles. Many players, including the previous year’s ace, Michu, faced layoffs with injuries. The club owned the ball during many of its matches, employing its trademark passing schemes, but the possession, at times, rang hollow, with the club unable to create opportunities. In addition, the Swans often conceded a maddening early goal. They produced fewer clean sheets (shutouts) than in previous seasons and only took two points from big clubs: an early draw with Liverpool, and a crucial draw at Arsenal, where Swansea stalwart Leon Britton carried the ball into the defense, forcing a late own goal to earn the point. Captain Ashley Williams anchored the team with 34 league starts, the most on the club. Williams, a defender, had played on the back line with Garry Monk, before Monk became the club’s manager. Nobody will forget Ash hugging Garry on the sidelines after the club took a 1-0 lead in the second Welsh derby versus Cardiff, Monk’s first game as gaffer.

Wayne Routledge scored that goal, before tallies by Nathan Dyer and Wilfried Bony gave the Swans a comfortable 3-0 triumph over their arch-rivals. Wilfried, the undeniable man of the year for Swansea, scored 16 league goals—with his feet; in the air; from the spot—for Swansea, none finer than a blistering inside-out strike versus Manchester City at the Liberty Stadium, as part of a 2-3 home loss. The Côte d’Ivoire international, who arrived at Swansea last year from Vitesse of the Dutch Eredivisie, would finish tied for sixth in the Premier League scoring race. It was, however, another player to join Swansea last year, Jonjo Shelvey, who would produce the club’s greatest highlight, a wonder goal blasted from 45 yards away, that broke a 1-1 home tie versus Aston Villa. Shelvey, who joined the club from Liverpool, also scored crackers against his former club at Anfield and against Newcastle at the Liberty Stadium. His distribution from midfield led to several assists and frequently opened up the field for his teammates. Other players, such as defenders Angel Rangel and Chico Flores, rewarded the club with valuable minutes, although supporters sometimes bristled at Chico’s histrionics. Still, Swansea scrabbled toward the end of the season, garnering points in the table, avoiding a relegation battle, and offering the kind of likability and intense promise that inspires the club’s ardent supporters.


Ash Williams embraces Garry Monk after
Swansea take a 1-0 lead against Cardiff.


I could write about Ben Davies’ and Michel Vorm’s departures to a wealthy London club, Tottenham, or the likelihood that Dutch World Cup star, Jonathan de Guzman, won’t return to Swansea, or how the club, once dubbed “Swansealona”, has rebuilt without its star, Michu, and many of its other Spanish players who emulated the Barcelona style of play. I could explain my fears that some big club, either in the Prem or perhaps the Bundesliga, will prize Wilfried from the Swans, depriving us hooligans of seeing him partner with Bafetimbi Gomis, a promising recent addition from French Ligue 1 side, Lyon. In the end, small club supporters don’t expect their sides to actually win the Premier League title, but instead, hope the team will achieve the highest possible finish outside the big clubs, or, in some miraculous way, maybe sixth or seventh, should one of the big clubs stumble. According to the Guardian, Swansea City spent £49 million on player wages in 2012-13, a scant 27 percent of what Man U spent, £181 million, in the same campaign. There is a very tangible underdog purity in seeing your scrappy club step onto the pitch against a heavily funded, heavily favored big club, with a growing possibility—now three years in the Premiership and counting—that Swansea City will compete for the win, the three points, every time they battle a colossus. I wish them well at United and for the new campaign. Up The Swans!

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

SPORTS WEEK #2 OF 5: DANIEL SNYDER & THE LANDOVER FOOTBALL TEAM.



I blogged about Daniel Snyder and his (American) football team last November, hoping to add some small voice to the impressive collection of voices already calling upon the embattled owner to discontinue the franchise’s nickname and logo. Since then, Snyder has experienced considerable additional pressure to recast the team’s image—including the “Proud to Be” television advertisement sponsored by the Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation—but he seems even more determined to retain a brand that slurs Native Americans. The National Football League has not demonstrated obvious interest in addressing the matter, despite the example set by the National Basketball Association in the wake of Donald Sterling’s comments that offended African Americans.

The NBA of course levied a staggering $2.5 million fine against Sterling, the owner of the Los Angeles Clippers franchise, and banned him from the league for life. (He may lose ownership of the team, as well.) Sterling’s words, recorded by a female associate, drew wide condemnation from many quarters, including the team’s corporate sponsors, prominent athletes across the country, and President Obama. I see little difference between Sterling’s hurtful comments and the symbols of Snyder’s franchise, except that the nickname and logo of Snyder’s team appear every day—and are mentioned every day—online, in news broadcasts, and in print, all across the country. Should we, as Americans, punish one example of prejudice but leave another example alone?

The Washington Wizards NBA franchise discontinued the Bullets name more than fifteen years ago. Not only has the team has survived the switch, but it has relocated itself (from Maryland) to downtown D.C., where it has contributed to the renewal of the Penn Quarter. Snyder’s franchise, however, plays in Maryland, and as such, both parts of the team name should be scrapped. In the meantime, I call upon leaders everywhere to join a growing group of institutions and individuals in addressing Snyder’s team as the Washington Football Team, or better yet, the Landover Football Team, to reflect geographical accuracy. Joe Gibbs, after all, coached Washington toward three super bowl wins at RFK Stadium, in D.C. proper, but Snyder’s team has largely sputtered at Landover’s FedEx Field.

Critics will point to a handful of recent polls that show broad support for the name, even among Native Americans, despite the fact that the National Congress of American Indians and several tribes support the change. I can’t imagine a scenario in which the NAACP, for example, would disparage the remarks made by Donald Sterling, but polls would show broad support for the Clippers owner among African Americans. Even if a significant majority of Americans truly do approve of the Landover Football Team’s nickname, it’s obvious that a significant number of people take offense from it; hence the recent Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation ad that ran during the NBA finals. Surely Daniel Snyder—net worth $1.2 billion—could afford to rebrand the Landover Football Team, and turn a profit, to boot. Perhaps the goodwill inherent in such a move would lead to a few wins on the gridiron.