Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Choices, Choices...

My friend Page Evans recently penned a piece in which she described doing something that she really didn't want to do but was afterwards glad she did.

As middle age sneaks up on me, I find myself confronting situations like hers all the time.  To do or not to do?  It is easier to stay at home than it is to fight the crowd, pay the price, and incur the hassle, but which choice makes life more enjoyable?  Depends on your perspective, I suppose.  Because my father died early and I felt that I had gotten a bad deal genetically, I used to be the guy that wanted to do everything.  If there was fun to be had, I wanted to be in the middle of it. I just about wore out my poor wife Shannon with my harebrained schemes and last-minute travel ideas. However, that guy has gone missing.

My perspective has tipped in favor of staying home, being low key, doing the things that require the least. I find that I have to remind myself  that I (we) should go and do while I (we) can because at some point I (we) won't, but my desire to be a part of it all has been pounded by the dual realities of declining vigor and fiscal restraint. This change is not necessarily a bad thing because with it has come the realization that, even with less time now to do all the things I want to do, I do what I want and don't worry that my life is less full because of the things I may miss.

Every year my friends in Virginia ask me if I am going to the Kentucky Derby. Every year I say no.  However, they ask a reasonable question. The Derby is indisputably the one thing for which Kentucky is most famous. I live an hour from Louisville and my wife's family is in the horse business.  Why not be part of the spectacle when the sports world focuses its attention on the Commonwealth for the two minutes and change that it takes to run the race? 

Look at all those people. Agoraphobia alert!
Why not indeed. I suppose I would if my affinity for racing matched my love of pro football.  I mean, who wouldn't go to racing's equivalent of the Super Bowl if it were held every year in your back yard?  Racing, however, baffles me and I am sorry to say that I have never fallen in love with the sport. As for the Derby, standing in a ten-minute line to use the rest room is too much for me. Being jamfu-ed in with 100,000 people for an entire day is too much for me. Sitting for hours in traffic is too much for me.  I have been to the Derby a few times and it was exciting, but not so much so that I feel like I have to go every year.  I went and experienced it and now can check it off on my "Things To Do At Least Once" list. 

I don't know whose list this is but I checked off #5 already.
On the other hand, when six years ago it was announced that the Rolling Stones were going to play a stadium show in Charlottesville, it took me all of two seconds to decide that it was something I wanted to be a part of despite knowing that I would have to drive six hours each way, that traffic would be a hassle, and that the crowds would be enormous.  Same set of issues, completely different outlook.  Since it was something I wanted to do and I am the boss of me, I decided to ask Shannon for permission.  Choices. 
One of aging's benefits has to be the realization that we come to grips with who we are and what makes us happy.  It's okay to slow down.  Staying home has definite appeal. I look forward to working in the yard, or to watching a movie with Shannon and any of our three children who can bear to spend that time with us. I prefer smaller groups, more intimate settings, less noise, less hassle. Now, I am not a hermit and I'll still have the occasional throwback throwdown, but I am less willing to pay the cover charge for such youthful pursuits. Waking up at 5AM with a my head in a vice and a mouth full of sand is not something that interests me any more. Not that often, anyway (I didn't want this article to be devoid of all credibility.)

Okay, may be I do stuff like this every once in a while. 
My Mod Squad uniform.  I think my hair did look like this for
real at some point in my life. 
The older I get the less willing I am to deal with the logistics of "live" anything–concerts, sporting events, worshipping at the 10,000-seat mega churches that appear to be the future of organized religion. Uh-Uh. Heck, even "live" shopping is an unattractive option when you can order online and get free shipping. Maybe I should blame 50-inch High Definition television for my seeming laziness, but for a lot of things the virtual reality of Hi-Def beats the actual reality.  I am open to new experiences but am less inclined to repeat those that don't do it for me.  And that's okay.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Tiki Torched

Tiki Barber, who retired from football while at the top of his game, has witnessed the implosion of his public image in the past year. Most of it is of his own doing, but the latest setback is a stunning example of unsportsmanlike conduct by the media.  

A star running back and all-time leading rusher for the New York Giants, Barber retired from football in 2006 at the relatively young age of 32 in order to pursue a media career. Telegenic and articulate, Barber had the tools and looks and every network competed for his services.  He chose The Today Show as the vehicle to transport him to stardom in this next career he had chosen.  It looked like he was on his way. 

Funny thing, though. The broadcasting career never really took off. Success had long been Barber's constant companion, so this flop was a stunning personal setback for him. After having been mentioned by some as the possible eventual replacement for Matt Lauer, NBC declined to renew his contract in May 2010. This occurred about a month after The New York Post revealed that Barber was, after eleven years of marriage, leaving his then-pregnant wife and mother of his two children. The Post also reported that Barber was romantically involved with a former NBC intern named Traci Lynn Johnson. 

Uh oh. 

Thus began the unmaking of Tiki Barber. 

Tiki and his college sweetheart/wife Ginny during happier times. 

Subsequent to this disclosure, Barber went into hiding.  Literally. Last fall, however, he emerged and announced his intention to return to the NFL. The interest in his story and this unlikely comeback garnered him some coverage in the past week's Sports Illustrated. In the article Barber detailed his efforts to elude the media while it focused on him, his failed marriage, and his supposed infidelity. Specifically, he stated that he and his girlfriend hid from the media in the attic at the home of his agent, Mark Lepselter. 

"Lep's Jewish," Barber told Sports Illustrated. "And it was like a reverse Anne Frank thing."

Frank's story is of course well known. In trying to elude Nazi persecution, the Frank family hid for two years in the attic of an office building in Amsterdam before being discovered in August 1944. 

Upon publication, Barber's comment immediately drew reproach. Abraham H. Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, had this to say:
"Holocaust trivialization continues to spread and finds new ways and expressions that shock the conscience," Foxman said in a news release. "Tiki Barber's personal behavior is his business. But our history and experiences are ours and deserve greater respect than being abused or perverted by Tiki Barber.
"The analogy to Anne Frank is not funny, it is outrageous and perverse. Anne Frank was not hiding voluntarily. Before she perished at age 15 in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, she hid from the Nazis for more than two years, fearing every day for her life. The Frank family's experiences, as recorded in Anne's dairy, are a unique testimonial to the horrors of the Holocaust, and her life should never be debased or degraded by insensitive and offensive analogies."
 I'm sorry Abe, but really? I suppose that you were compelled to issue some sort of statement, but this? I'm a historian and know very well the suffering of the Jewish people during Hitler's attempt at the "final solution." Your reaction, and the ensuing media focus on this non-story story, is just too much. 

The media, of course, jumped all over this.  "Cheating Husband Dares to Compare Himself to Anne Frank."  "Tiki Barber, You Are No Anne Frank!" Now those are headlines!  You would think that Barber had proclaimed that the Holocaust was fictitious. Not the case at all. He was not attempting to "trivialize" the Holocaust or insinuate that his situation in any way resembled Frank's other than the fact they that both hid in an attic. That's it. That's all.  He was not claiming persecution, or equating his circumstance to that of the Frank family.  Really.

Lepselter, being the good agent and with a balanced perspective, came to the defense of his client/houseguest with an attempted dose of sanity. 

"In a world where nothing surprises me, where things get completely blown out of proportion, this only adds to the list. All Tiki was saying to Jon was he was shedding light on going back to that time when he was literally trapped, so to speak, in my attic for a week. Nothing more, nothing less.
In this country we hold our freedom to speak above just about every other liberty that we enjoy. Unless what we say offends someone, that is. These days, that means that someone, somewhere is going to be offended by anything you say.  Just about everyone agrees that "political correctness" has zoomed way past its originally intended target, but I suppose that there is no way back from here.  Do you think it will ever again be socially acceptable to refer to handicapped persons as cripples or retards? (Actually, even "handicap" is now a derided term.)  Of course not.  And we shouldn't because those ARE demeaning and offensive terms.  However, when people who live in this country complain that only speaking English is a swipe at our country's other cultures or that public displays of Christmas or the Nativity demeans other religions, we are out of control. The "Law of Unintended Consequences" has claimed another victim.   Tiki has been torched by the media.