Category Archives: Politics?

An open letter to star athletes from a media member (with love)

You have no reason to know who I am – and that’s OK with me. I’m not the story here.

But I am a member of “the media.” I’m not sorry about that, either.

You see, just like a lot of words that have become victims of overuse, the words “The Media” now have a negative connotation – like the words liberal and conservative. These nebulous, undefined groups of people are placed in these categories, and it’s like signing your birth certificate – it can’t be changed. You ARE THE MEDIA. You’re with us or against us. You’re someone who fawns over us, or you’re a detractor.

The media itself has become a sort of whipping post for athletes. Not that the media isn’t used to it – over the years, it has taken the blame for various and sundry illnesses, conditions, social behaviors and accidents in athletic and news fields. Your kid is a hellion? Media. You don’t like the president, or what he’s saying? Media spin, liberal media, lamestream media. Tired of nearly-naked people gyrating on TV? Clearly all the media’s fault. Your kid saw something violent on the news and re-enacted it? Not the parents fault – it’s the media.

Or my personal favorite: “I’m just here so I won’t get fined.”

Did you ever have to do something that you knew you were going to get yelled at about? Did you ever think, “God, I wish I didn’t have to do this, but my job requires it of me.”

Well, Marshawn, and those he’s inspired with his faux-rebellious “revolution” against the media, guess what – we’re just doing our jobs so we don’t get fired. And we know you hate it, but we have to. Just like you have to lash out because you’re so very tough.

The media, you see, didn’t just decide to cover you one day. The media, your red football for anger lately, has been kicking with you since that first scout saw some potential. The media – or maybe, just one member of the media – saw you one day and said, “Wow, check this dude out. The scouts were right. I’m going to watch him, write about him, do a Sunday package about him.” That reporter, or editor, or columnist, became, in essence, a fan with a pen and forum. You were the new subject line, and we had to learn everything we could about you. FAST.

In fact, Marshawn, when you were in high school, you welcomed the media. You shouted into microphones about winning your high school state title. You beamed with sunshine and light as cameras captured your real feelings about the win:

You were joyous. Funny. A pleasure.

Then you went and got too big for your britches, as we’d say in my home state. And we, the media, had a hand in creating some of that too. But instead of saying, “You know what, I don’t really want to talk about this –can we just talk about the game? Or whatever” you decided to make it personal.

I’m not saying the media is perfect. Heavens to Betsy, no. But in Marshawn’s case, and in those under the cascade of ire that fell beneath him, it seems like you just want a kick dog, a cause, something to be angry at. SOMEONE TO BLAME. I want to remind you of this – we’re people too. And athletes used to say they didn’t care what people wrote, didn’t care what reporters said about them. Something changed, and I’m not sure what it was, other than maybe social media.  Do you like it when you’re blamed for losing a game? Of course not. We hate losing at our game too.

Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant, two of my favorite athletes ever, are buying into what Marshawn was selling, and so will countless others. Marshawn, trendsetter and junk-grabber that he is, created a wide-open path of hatred that can easily be trod, with him skipping down the center of the aisle, strewing vitriol left and right like an overgrown flower girl. Others saw how much attention the media gave his antics and thought, you know what, I’m sick of them too. Russ and KD are angry, which, as a fan, kind of excites me. They’re taking on an “us vs. them” mentality, which is sometimes good for the win-loss column. But, as a member of the vile “media,” I am kind of scared by this too.

Selfishly, I want my guys to be the good guys. I want them to be the guys in white hats, not a bunch of Bill Laimbeers (though I’d like to see more Laimbeer style on the court!) I like my media darling KD. I love being able to say, “He’s one of us Oklahomans.”

But they’re mad. And I kind of get it. I really do. Having to sit at a table surrounded by people clamoring to know more about you — that’s got to be hard. Now that I work for the Worldwide Leader in Sports, I understand the push and pull from us vs. them. We swarm, like other members of the media. We are always there, watching you play, following you on Twitter and Instagram, tracking your every move. We say things about you in print that are hurtful sometimes. We write headlines that we didn’t mean (Mr. Unreliable, anyone?) We jump on you when you’re down, and we probably don’t do enough to tell you that you’re doing a good job. Because we’re the biggest dogs on the block, we absorb the most hits. But we’re ESPN, so we can take it. (But it does suck reading bad things about your business all the time on Twitter.)

I am a good empathizer. I can understand how it must feel to be under the microscope your entire career. I can understand how you just really want to be left alone, how you think we don’t know what we’re talking about (agreed, we sometimes don’t), and how you just want to get away from all of it and be by yourself and not deal with any of this.

Now I want you, dear athlete, to empathize a little. Do your part – it’s that simple. Show up, play the literal game, then the figurative one after the game – the media part.

Think about it – you’re a big enough deal that the entire country wants to see you on TV. You’re a big enough deal that people write about you on a daily basis, checking your stats, your trends, your ebbs and flows, EVERY SINGLE DAY.

You’re a big enough deal that kids, adults and grandparents wear your name on the back of a T-shirt or jersey TO CHURCH.

Now, if we, the media, ignored that, we’d be sucking at our jobs. Most of us are just as competitive or fiery as you (though not in as good a shape, we admit.) We want to be good at our jobs. We want to get a scoop. And some of us don’t do that in the best ways.

But we, really, aren’t a “we.” Behind all of it, we’re people, writing about people. Sometimes writing about people makes people mad. But you move on – and you should too, athletes. Move on – read something else. Pay no attention. Quit saying you ARE paying attention in the media scrum. Comments like “You don’t know anything” and “You’re just the media, I hate you” don’t do much for me, and make you look small in my mind. Plus, it creates a hostile workplace for us. More and more athletes will join this crusade against the media, when really, they should just weather the storm and keep moving. And fans are joining in now too. The same fans who will buy our papers by the dozen when they have your face emblazoned on the cover, hoisting some sort of trophy over your head. They’ll love us then. For the moment – the ever-fleeting moment.

Because guess what? Just like our non-athletic asses will someday be dragging the floor, yours might too. This “blame the media” thing won’t fly if you’re not performing. It just won’t. It will look weak. Marshawn’s antics came from a catbird seat – he’s at the peak of his game now. We just sit in awe as he slashes and burns his way to the end zone (and in my case, turn around in disgust when he grabs his business. I mean, come on, it’s gross) and can’t say much else to him, because, well, he’s a stud. Same can be said about many athletes today who are angry at the media.

 

But we have to report about them NOW. Someday, we won’t. Someday, their stars will fade. Someday, when their knees have been surgered too many times to count, they might see what we were trying to do – build around the excitement of THEM. Of that moment. Of that One Shining Moment. We were giving them a moment – THEIR moment, that they earned. Do you want future fans to look back at you and think, “Why was he such a jerk to the media?” Maybe you do. And that’s your bidness.

I don’t blame you for being annoyed sometimes. Super Bowl week, during the whole Marshawn situation, I tried to get to the bottom of who assigns these guys to talk, who enforces them to come to the podium, if it’s part of their contracts. Well, it’s not an easy answer. It’s a little of this, a little of that. Media participation is included in contracts, as well as mammoth TV deals that give teams and leagues huge amounts of cash to play with and millions of eyes watching. Deciding who has to talk to the media  involves the team, reporters, publicists, and the league itself, as well as the league’s union and Collective Bargaining Agreement. The league and team don’t come to the media’s defense during the Blame Game, even though they, too, have a hand in sending athletes to the podium. But they sure don’t mind letting the media be The Fall Guys. I can’t say I blame them. Pretty smart move, actually.

So just like you, the athlete, think you’ve got it all figured out, look around – is it really JUST us that’s doing all this to you? And in the grand scheme of things – considering that there are starving people, kids being killed, etc. – is it really THAT big of a deal?

I guarantee you, any – ANY – athlete struggling to come up would trade spots with you. Why not enjoy, endure and excel? Be the bigger person. Channel your inner David Robinson.

DeMarco Murray, or St. DeMarco as he is known in Norman, Okla., said it best during Super Bowl week. I can’t find the exact quote, but it went a little something like this: Yeah, it kind of sucks. But it’s an obligation. I’m lucky to be here. I can do this and I won’t be any worse for the wear (unless I say something stupid out of childishness.)

I guess what I’m saying is, lighten up, guys. You have won the Life Lottery. You make billions in your career to play a game. Just talk to the media, play your game and WIN. Then they won’t have much to say to you, except WOW GREAT JOB.

I am bothered by how many athletes are turning against the media. I want us to get along. I want us to be able to tell your stories, and I want you to be able to tell us how you feel, or how the team feels.

We are not evil lying manipulators  — well, not all of us. We are literally the narrators of the game – the ones who write what you just saw and try to give you some context surrounding it.

We just want to get along with you, share the arena with you and the fans. Most of us – not all – but for the most part, we just want to do our jobs.

We’re just here so we won’t get fired.

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under ESPN, Haters, Kevin Durant, NBA, Politics?, Russell Westbook, The Media!, TV

Today’s song: “America,” Simon and Garfunkel

I’d love to know why this song hits me the way it does. Perhaps it’s my unbridled patriotism – you know, the stuff that conservative types say we  free-thinking progressives don’t have. Well, I have it in spades. Acres and acres of spades. I don’t think I’ve ever made it through a National Anthem dry-eyed. In Concert Choir in high school, we performed the U.S. songs of military service as a huge flag fell behind us. I was probably the only kid on those risers looking down, tears dropping quickly onto the stage.

I’m a sap, yes, but a proud sad.

The intricate, fine-filigree beauty of Paul Simon’s lyrics here just slays me. And now, in this climate, with bombs blowing up elsewhere and cops shooting kids nearby, we should all go look for America.

The America we dream of. The America that just says, “Hey, you know what? Your way isn’t my way, but that’s OK.” The America that sees black, brown and white as merely an abundance or absence of melanin, which makes pigment. An America that doesn’t split hairs on its original amendments, and does what’s right to protect the many, not the few. The America that doesn’t shoot people first and ask questions later – even if that person is doing something illegal.

I am a moderate politically. I believe in working hard and earning your pay. I believe in caps on Welfare, Disability and other funding. I believe in my brother’s plan – if you’re on unemployment after two years, you’re put to work in the military – not on active duty, necessarily, but in civilian roles. Something. Anything. That small job might lead to a career in something. I know my career has saved my life — maybe it would work for others. Put repeat drug offenders to work in the fields. Something useful that didn’t cost taxpayers as much and might result in a well-adjusted person coming out, looking for that freedom that we all crave.

But I also believe in helping people who have nothing and working within communities to spread positive messages about ALL walks of life. I believe in ultimate civil rights and freedoms. Love is love, and love yields love. And what it yields – a child who is gay, or a child who isn’t what you thought they would be – deserves all the freedoms of the others.

So before I go off on yet another tangent, back to “America.” Something about these two broke wanderers, traversing America in the back of a bus with a belly full of cheap food, brings out the Kerouac in me, my inner rambler (a persona I have seldom lived out, due to my fear of my inner civilization breaking down). Two people in love (or something) head out on their own, making jokes along other passengers… romantic, in an odd, wistful way. It encapsulates the “lost” feeling of youth, the place you are at when you realize you have no roots, and aren’t sure where you want to put them down. The place when you realize so many others are lost too –

 “Cathy I’m lost I said though I knew she was sleeping
I’m empty and aching and I don’t know why
Counting the cars on the New Jersey Turnpike
They’ve all come to look for America
All come to look for America.”
 

 David Bowie sang this song for “The Concert for America,” after 9/11. It was so poignant to me then, and I didn’t know why. I now know that its timing was perfect — we were lost then, and have become lost again. We need to find our common ground, our peace, before we become a nation torn asunder. We need to realize that zealotry in any way– saying your way is the only way — is akin to the Taliban or Isis or whatever the hell else is out there. We have to work together, and we’re not.

I may never know all the mysteries of why this song evokes all these feels. But I love it, and won’t question it too long. I’ll just listen, and wish for peace, justice and prosperity for all.

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Filed under Music, Politics?

The Electric Christmas Card: It’s not lazy, I wrote like 2,800 words!


Festivus is tomorrow, Hanukkah is behind us, Christmas is two days away and Kwanzaa
starts the day after Christmas, which coincides with Boxing Day.
Folks, we are in the thick of a holiday season that grows bigger
each year. And as usual, I’m as tardy as ever. Because I suck at
holiday correspondence, and frankly all correspondence, I have
turned to the Internet to let ya’ll know I’m not a cruel,
heartless, thankless wench this Christmas. Yes, I’m letting my blog
be my Christmas wingman. Consider it an effort to be green, but
know that really, I’m lazy and pressed for time, a noxious
combination that really cuts into my sitting around time (Trey,
that’s one of my favorite lines of yours.) So with those caveats
out of the way, I’ll turn this into a yearlong wrapup. But first,
happy holidays to all, and thanks for tolerating me this year. This
year, like the one before it, has been a complete blur. I started
out the new year working, and that trend continued at least five
days a week
for 52 weeks. It’s like those people at ESPN expect me to come in
FIVE DAYS A WEEK and work! Actually, I love my job. I have
continued to become more and more entrenched in Connecticut life,
and it’s starting to feel like home. People still don’t understand
my accent all the time, but I don’t understand theirs either, so we
just usually laugh at each other and call it a day. One co-worker
of mine, Brian Tully, likes to point out when I really slip into
Okie. It’s funny because when I lived in Oklahoma, I often got
accused of not sounding country enough. One time someone said I
sounded like I’m from Boston. Well shit ya’ll, I just don’t know
where I stand! But back to work, which has been what I’ve done most
of this year, and with glee. I love my job, love the people I work
with and am challenged each day to immerse myself in the mode of
TV. My print journalism ways are falling away, and I find myself
straying from AP style more often. I don’t like it, but it’s
happening. I was promoted in September, from
associate news editor to news editor I, which bumps me into the
management pool. It’s nice, and a nice pay bump. With the
promotion, I adopted a fake British accent and started wearing
full-length gowns and white gloves to work, along with minks and
diamonds (that’s for you Ward, who said I sold out to the corporate
monster and was now part of the 1 percent.) Still, it was a sellout
that I was willing to do. And the day after my promotion went into
effect, my job got more complicated. I feel I’ve earned it, and
hope to keep earning it as I go. I thought it would be fun this
year to write a weekly football column to send to our anchors,
analysts, producers, etc. It was called “Under the Radar Love.” And in typical Sarah
style, I bit off more than I could chew. It was designed to
showcase some of the games that might slip through the cracks in a
society obsessed with SEC football. It worked, and it was fun to
write, but I became like a crack fiend with it, toiling over
numbers and stats and patterns to try to come up with new entries.
I call that success! I’ll probably be doing it again next year. And
for my Okies out there, Oklahoma schools were
mentioned in nearly every installment. They had kind of an
under-the-radar year, so it worked out well. I’ve become the
sort-of Twitter Girl on my news desk, and I’m trying to come up
with new ways to implement guidelines in the finding of and
fleshing out of tweets. I won’t bore you with gory details, but
know this – I follow the maximum amount of people (2,000-ish) and
am on Twitter for at least 10 hours a day. So if you thought I was
rampant on Facebook, wooh boy, lemme tell ya. I moved from my quaint little
riverside town of Collinsville, Ct., to bustling Bristol, Ct.,
because I was really tired of the drive. I work until 3 a.m. at
least twice a week, and often have to be back at work by 2 p.m. the
following day. So it made sense to me to cut out the drive time.
Plus, my friend/colleague/supervisor Ken got engaged and decided to
move elsewhere, opening up a fantastic house for me to live in. I
moved right after Thanksgiving, and my stuff is kind of getting
settled. My cat Penny has taken over the second floor of the house.
I haven’t seen her in a month, but she’s eating and all that, so I
know she’s alive. Or I have really hungry mice up there. Leon is
basking in having a fenced backyard again. He’s back to his old
pre-move-to-Connecticut self, frisky and butt-waggling. He’s 8-ish
now, and a little gray around the eyes. But who among us isn’t? Not
to say this in the same breath, but my old family is doing pretty
well too. I’m still single, unless you count my spouse ESPN. I hope
this singlehood doesn’t last forever, but if it does, I’ve reached
that point in my life where I’m not waiting anymore. I’m doing all
the things I was meant to do – travel, explore, work, write, enjoy
my many blessings. It would be nice to not have to do it alone, but
I’m extremely picky and I’ll know it when I see it. I haven’t seen
it yet. And Ryan Braun is engaged, so really, why
bother? {Side note, I became a huge baseball fan this year. Not
strictly because of the aforementioned/sexy Braun, but also because
I think I finally understand it. I found myself this year applying
baseball knowledge to real-world situations, like algebra. I
finally get it. And baseball people are just cool people. It’s
something more Okies should embrace. } My dad and Melissa are still in (Colleyville%2C%20Texas)&t=h" target="_blank" rel="geolocation">Colleyville, Texas, and Melissa
announced earlier this year that she is retiring from American
Airlines after a really long career with them. Just like every
other corporation, money is somehow tight and she’s taking a
buyout. She’ so great and so boisterous and full of life, I know
she’ll be doing some other job in no time, living life to the
fullest. She continues to be an inspiration and I’m so lucky to
have her in my life. My dad had a minor health scare – well, he
played it minor, I of course had a meltdown – but he’s in great
health again and still kicking ass. He continues to be my best
friend as long as we don’t get into political talk. My sister
Natalie is expecting her first child in March, and I’m planning to
go to West Palm Beach to see her and Baby Boy Garrett shortly
afterward. I’m so proud of her, and she’s just beautiful in
pregnancy. She’s beautiful all the time, but she just positively
glows right now. She hears every single one of my problems and is
so good to me, as she always has been. She is the glue of our
family, and having her son will be yet another tether that keeps us
together. My sister Lila is raising two perfect boys – I got to see
my nephew Jesse, a senior, play basketball while I was briefly in
Oklahoma for Thanksgiving. He’s really good, and has gotten offers,
both academic and athletic, to go just about anywhere in the (United%20States)&t=h" target="_blank" rel="geolocation">United States. I’m trying to
talk him into coming
to UConn. He says it’s
too cold up here – but it’s so close to so much great stuff. JT is
the cutest child ever born, and he’s precocious and charming and
doll-like. She’s got her hands full with him. I’m dragging my
brother Nick to Bristol at some point – he graduated a few days ago
with a master’s in kinesiology and now awaits a dream job. He wants
to be a strength coach. Anyone who’s seen him knows he’ll be good
at it. But I’m forcing him to come see me next year – he helped me
move with two cats and a dog in the car and a bitching sister
driving, so I can understand why he’s hesitant to come back. I’m so
proud of him – he just skated through his master’s degree without
an iota of effort it seems. He’s just too smart for his own good.
My sister Katy lives in Seattle because she wanted to be as far
away from me as possible, I guess. She’s loving life and doing
great, working as a bartender in a hip establishment. She’s hip and
cool, she’s got a super-nice, hilarious boyfriend (Robbie) and
she’s entertaining entrepreneurial possibilities. She’s a dreamer,
and that’s what I love about her. She’ll do what she wants when she
wants, thank you very much, and she’ll be damn good at it too.
She’s so much like me – sad for her! But she’s more self-aware and
confident than I was at her age. She’s just beautiful and
wonderful. Anna and Joel live on the Southside in Chicago – they
moved away from a ritzy area to be with the regular folk on the
Southside, very similar to my move to Bristol. Anna is closer to
graduating from nursing school, and Joel just completed his
theology program. They’re two of the most-fun people I’ve ever been
around, and I’m not saying that just because they’re family. I
honestly don’t know anyone like them, and I cherish every moment I
get with them. We spent several days together at Thanksgiving and
it was basically a laugh riot the whole time. I got to see
my California cousins (well, two of them) a lot this summer! As
well as their mom and dad. I finally got to go to our family
reunion on Keuka Lake this summer, a trip I’ve only made once
before. Keuka Lake is one of the Finger Lakes in upstate New York.
I spent a week with my dad and Melissa, Aunts Sandee and Maribeth,
and Uncles Jack, Rick and Steve. My cousins John and Ryan were
there, and again, laugh riothood ensued. Dear God I love those
boys. It was a week of fun, sun and frivolity. Our cottage was next
door to a bar. The water was about 10 degrees, so swimming wasn’t
the norm. In that time, I also got to meet/see a whole lot of
family I haven’t seen in YEARS or ever met, my Troll cousins, who
live in upstate New York and Alaska. It was so great getting to
spend time with this part of my family. They’re the artistic side
— so much I could learn from them. I look forward to many more
gatherings with them. A few days after returning from Keuka, I went
to Los Angeles to work from the ESPN offices in downtown LA. While
there, I got to meet my cousin Richard’s daughter Maelle, who is
eight months old now. She’s gorgeous, and her mom, Kay, is doing
all the heavy lifting while Richard finishes up his Navy assignment
in Meridian, Miss. They live in Mar Vista, and my Auntie Maribeth
is often there to help. She, Kay and I had a luxurious dinner at
home with Maelle, and I was so glad to be able to have the
opportunity to travel for work AND see my family. My last day in
LA, I elected to take the redeye out of Cali so I could hang with
my cousin Ryan in Laguna Beach. He’s a pilot and showed me around
where he works, then we spent the day in beautiful Laguna Beach
where he lives across the street from the Pacific. Holy crap, I
could’ve gotten used to that. I LOVE the East Coast, but I can see
myself in California should the opportunity ever arise. Ryan and I
went to a great restaurant, offended and were offended by an
accusatory bartender, then wandered around Laguna Beach so I could
find souvenirs. I took two trips to Oklahoma-Texas this year, the
first time to go to a mini-college folks reunion and the second for
Thanksgiving. Both were great, and I got to eat Taco Bueno both
times. What the Connecticut folks refer to as Mexican food makes
Bueno look authentic. I got to hang with Renae, Trey, Oliver, Mark
and Margaret a couple of times, and shared a trip to Dallas with
Elena, which was an unexpected, wonderful event. Nothing like being
in a car with an old friend for more than four hours to make the
trip go by quickly. washmonI traveled by train to go
to Washington, D.C., to see Natalie and our nation’s capital. I had
never been, and went on no sleep, so the train ride there was kind
of a sleepy blur. I’d also never been on a train, so that was cool.
But we saw just about everything I’ve ever wanted to see, and of
course, I bawled like an infant at every national monument. My
sister the archaeologist knows everything, so she was an excellent
narrator/companion and didn’t shoot me in the face when I started
complaining about blisters. (Nat, I’ve since bought good walking
shoes, so please give me another chance.) jaI went to see Jane’s
Addiction in Waterbury, Ct., in March with my Tahlequah/Manhattan
friend Clark Brown. I saw Bruce Springsteen in New Jersey with my
real-life Jersey Girl friend Fran Rotella, who entertained me
greatly with fantastic Italian food and diner grub. I’ve had pork
roll – it’s not just something Ween made up and sang songs about.
It’s like sausage and bologna had a baby. And it’s heaven. The
Italian place we went to in Jersey was across the street from where
they filmed several Sopranos scenes, so yeah, pretty authentic. I
went to New York City twice, and I’ve got many more in me. I fell
in love the second I stepped into Grand Central Station. It’s
intimidating, but awe-inspiring too. My plan is to stay at the
Carlyle Hotel in January so I can see how the other half lives. As
my dear friend Stacy Pratt reminds me, we earned our money, and the
starving poet in each of us won’t hate that we’re making money now
and possibly spending it lavishly. I hope she gets to go with me on
my trip – she lives upstate. She and her husband Joe came to
Connecticut over the summer too, and we got to spend a few days
together. The funniest thing that happened this year was
meeting Snoop Dogg while I was under dentist’s anesthesia. I had
four shots of Novocain in my face and had to go to work for a few
hours – no makeup, messy hair, stretchy pants – and of course,
Snoop was there. I had my picture taken with him, but felt the need
to tell him about my harrowing dental visit. Snoop told me I was
beautiful and wrapped his 6-6 frame around my shoulders for a
picture. I look like Rosie O’Donnell in the shot, but he is
grinning like only Snoop can. So at least I can say, I made Snoop
Dogg and his posse laugh. I also met Mike
Gundy, Donovan McNabb and Jerome Bettis. I saw lots of other famous
people but was either too intimidated or too busy to go talk to
them. I truly have a dream job. It’s an insane, brain-draining
dream job, but it’s great nonetheless. Jerry Rice being in the
newsroom still makes me giggle maniacally every now and then, but I
am getting used to it. I attended a summit of bureau reporters and
producers that was like meeting the Mount Rushmore of sports
journalism – it was so fun. I am so glad I found my calling, and am
thrilled to be working in such a fun medium as sports and in such a
large spotlight. I hope it doesn’t come off as braggadocios – I
still just feel extremely lucky. The Thunder made it to the Finals,
which was the sports highlight of my year. The second best sports
story of my year was the Brewers being 14 KDgames out of the playoff
picture and then getting to within 1.5 games before injuries and
the Nationals came to town. And the most important part of the year
was that we all made it through the Mayan Apocalypse without too
many scratches. Of course it’s only the 22nd. Seriously though,
thanks for reading my slop and for supporting me. Happy holidays,
and please keep in touch. You don’t have to write a novel like I
just did. And if you find yourself in the Northeast quadrant of the
United States, come on up to Bristol-town.

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Filed under Brain Disorders, Connecticut, ESPN, Family, Fun!, General Nonsense, Kevin Durant, Moving, New York, Oklahoma, Politics?, Sports, Tahlequah, Travel, TV

The Serious Chicken: ‘Philadelphia’ almost 20 years later — progress and hope

I made the egregious error of watching “Philadelphia” tonight because apparently I wasn’t sad enough after the Oklahoma City Thunder’s loss in the NBA Finals to the malodorous Miami Heat.

I made this error, also, with a pain in my heart because my Big Man Cat, Percy, has gone missing. It’s my fault, I guess, for letting him be an outside cat. But he had the spirit of a wildcat, one that just couldn’t thrive inside. He became a happier, nicer cat after being allowed outside. Now I can’t find him – it’s been two days. I hope he comes home, but I am not optimistic.

But my woebegone state isn’t the reason for this blog. No, it’s the subject matter of the movie “Philadelphia,” a movie that contains  not only my favorite actor (Tom Hanks) but some of my other favorites, too – Denzel, Mary Steenburgen, Jason Robards… it’s a fantastic film. And it’s kind of old, I guess, though I don’t see it that way. It came out in 1993 and is one of the first mainstream movies to deal with AIDS.

I remember the day I went to see the movie — it was in a crowded theater, I think in Texas, and when I left the theater, I went to the bathroom, and huddled around the sinks were women leaning on each other, crying uncontrollably. I was angry. I was angry at how Hanks’ character was treated — I was angry at how Denzel Washington’s character treated that gay man who approached him in the drugstore. I was touched by how Denzel came around, however, and saw the movie for its powerful points more than the horrific death scene. The other times I’ve watched it, I’ve cried about the obvious. But the first time, I was just sad about the whole sorry state of affairs.

It seems so archaic now, fewer than 20 years later. In the last month, someone living with HIV has recovered and says he feels great. I share a business umbrella with the most famous HIV-inflicted person, Magic Johnson (it’s still weird to think Magic and I are co-workers. He has just a tad more cache.) It’s 19 years since “Philadelphia” came out. The first known AIDS death in the United States was 1981.

When Magic was diagnosed, I didn’t know any gay people, let alone anyone with AIDS.

And I still don’t know anyone with HIV, or not anyone who’s public about it. That’s because that great fear, that rampant bias and “gay plague” that was stoked in the 80s and 90s has fizzled —  thanks mostly go to safe sex missions, clean needle missions and changes to the rules of blood donation and transfusion. One of the characters in “Philadelphia” is a woman who got AIDS from a blood transfusion. There’s an nonverbal exchange between that character and Tom Hanks’ Andy while she’s on the stand. She says she feels no different than anyone else who has AIDS. It’s tender, it’s merciful, compassionate and soul-crushing.

It’s been 20 years-plus since Magic made his announcement. He’s doing great – and that announcement’s china anniversary was made into a documentary by the company that employs both Magic and I. It touched on the phobias, the fear, and how grown men much like Denzel’s character in “Philadelphia” put it all aside and played with or fought for their friend.

My, my my – I love this progress. I do wonder, however, if Magic hadn’t come along and made his announcement, would it still be called the gay plague? Would the uneducated masses be circling hospitals with “GAY: GOT AIDS YET” signs jutting into the air?

I like to think not. I like the direction our world is going in, this embracing of compassion and love. Now that I’m away from a state that’s doing its best to keep its large gay population unhappy, I see that it’s kind of a select deal. I honestly believe the next generation won’t see any difference. The learned behavior of gay bashing and racism isn’t being taught by as many teachers anymore.

I thank God for that. I also thank God for people within my home state of Oklahoma who fight for what is right, be them gay or straight. Two dear friends of mine who happen to be a married couple, Sharon Baldwin and Mary Bishop, have fought for marriage equality for as long as I’ve known them. I worked with them for more than  nine years. They worked in separate departments at my newspaper, but across a small divide from each other. They lived, worked and fought marriage inequality together. I never once doubted their commitment to each other or their mission. I just wished they didn’t have to fight it. They walked into the offices of our newspaper and told the Powers That Be that they were going to do this – and the newspaper kept them employed. They keep fighting and refuse to move out of Oklahoma just because the number of people pushing Bibles down their throats has increased.

Do those pushing the Bibles really know what they’re talking about? Of course not. The basic tenets of Jesus’ teachings is love for all. Therefore, preaching any type of hate or participating in any kind of racism, exclusion or hate is against Jesus’ teaching.

It’s that simple. And what I said about the next generation being pro-gay marriage? All it takes is a look at another Oklahoma, Carrie Underwood. She’s a country girl, born and raised in Checotah, Oklahoma, and a proud alumna of Northeastern State University, the school from which I graduated. She came out (haha) recently as an advocate of same-sex marriage. A country singer from Oklahoma – so very proud of her. Also proud of our president, who many think may have hurt his campaign by coming out as pro-gay marriage. How could he not? Gay bashing, racism and gender bias go hand-in-hand. As a woman, I’m a member of the most-discriminated against sect of the population. How women can be racist, anti-gay or anything else is beyond me.

See, I’ve been this way for my whole life and my mind will never change. I didn’t know any gay people when “Philadelphia” was released– or at least none who had come out. Now I know hundreds of gay people. I don’t care – I don’t even think about it. Just like I know hundreds of black, Asian, American Indian, Hispanic and otherwise “brown” people and don’t care.

I’m not trying to toot my own horn here – but I am so lucky not to have absorbed any of that learned behavior. My mother certainly didn’t teach it to me, but I was faced with it. I did grow up in Oklahoma, which has its share of haters. But it also has its share of freedom fighters – and they go beyond the three I mentioned. It’s refreshing, and it gives me hope for the future. Kind of like “Glee” does. Imagine if something like “Glee” had come out before AIDS – would there have been less hatred? Would “Philadelphia” never have existed?

I don’t think so. We had to learn to be tolerant, sad to say. We had to learn to appreciate everyone for their uniqueness. Even if we don’t really feel that way deep down. We had to learn to tamp down that hatred. And that’s what progress has taught us since the days of “Philadelphia.”

Also, since I’m a 14-year-old girl at heart, I am watching the show “Pretty Little Liars” lately. It features a young, gorgeous lesbian who’s coming out. Can you imagine that, even in 1993? It was such a big deal. Heck, it was “Star Trek” days when people were freaked out that a white man kissed a black woman. It’s just mind-blowing.

I was blessed to have been born with bedrock in my spirit that doesn’t seek to hate. It could’ve gone the other way, but it didn’t, and I’m thankful for that – to God, to my many gay friends, to my parents for letting me be me. And I’m not alone at all — thank God there are millions of people who think with less hate in their hearts these days. If you call that a sign of the end of days, maybe it’s time for a reckoning. It’s nice to know we’ve got a little more peace and a little less hostility in our future.

And while the idea of “Philadelphia” might be outdated, it’s what it took to wake us up from the sleep of hatred and ignorance. It took that movie, and the lyrics to the song the movie inspired, “Streets of Philadelphia” sung in Bruce Springsteen’s blue-collar, anguish-filled brogue, that had to get us there.

Here they are, in case you forgot them. The line that gets me to this day is “and my clothes don’t fit no more.”

I  was bruised and battered and I couldn’t tell
What I felt
I was unrecognizable to myself
I saw my reflection in a window I didn’t know
My own face
Oh brother are you gonna leave me
Wastin´ away
On the streets of Philadelphia

I walked the avenue till my legs felt like stone
I heard the voices of friends vanished and gone
At night I could hear the blood in my veins
Black and whispering as the rain
On the streets of Philadelphia

Ain’t no angel gonna greet me
It’s just you and I my friend
My clothes don’t fit me no more
I walked a thousand miles
Just to slip the skin

The night has fallen, I’m lying awake
I can feel myself fading away
So receive me brother with your faithless kiss
Or will we leave each other alone like this
On the streets of Philadelphia

And while we’re at it, here’s the video

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