Monday, February 24, 2014

Something Must Be in the Water

'Tis the season for breakups, apparently.

Since last fall, no fewer than five of my friends who had been in serious relationships of various lengths of time found themselves suddenly single.  They included, but not limited to, my ex-roommate, my new roommate, one of my closest buddies (who has quickly become my wingman and vice versa), and the latest addition the list, that being another buddy of mine who was supposed to get married last fall.  Unfortunately he lost his job and had to push back wedding plans until sometime in 2014.  This past weekend I found out he and his fiance had been dealing with issues for the past two months, and officially called it off earlier this month.

What is going on here, exactly?

I've never been in a circle of friends where so many breakups happened in such a short period of time.  There's an element of solidarity to appreciate in knowing I'm not the only one who's had to deal with a longterm relationship suddenly crumble, but there's only so much solace to take from that.  A pat on the back and a "Hey things will get better," feels phony and cliche after a while.

Only recently have I come to terms with my breakup and gotten to the point where I'm ready to starf dating again.  There's no specific lass on the horizon or anything yet, but my therapist has worked with me fairly extensively over the last couple months in helping me address my areas of weakness so I'm better prepared for when I do meet someone.

Still, it's amazing to think that so many relationships could end in a fairly short period of time.  It also put things in perspective for me because as much as I had griped to myself and vented to my therapist over how I had to restart my entire life all over again, I realized my problems were fairly simple and quickly resolved compared to some of my friends and their breakups.  For instance, my buddy who was engaged has a house with his now-ex, so they have to settle ownership of that house and who has to move out.  That's way more stressful than anything I went through last year.

There is relief in knowing that my circle of friends is tight enough that we've all been there to pick each other back up.  That goes for both those of us who had been through the breakups, as well as those who didn't have to deal with a relationship ending.  I've always been grateful for my friends, but I think three years ago when I had lost my job my eyes were really opened to just how lucky I am to have them.  The last six months or so has been a reminder to me of how good a group they are, even if they have a little too much liquor in their systems on a given night.

Maybe that's how I can pay things forward.  I hope that I can help pick up one of my friends when they're down or dealing with some kind of stress with an ex.  Life won't slow down at all after a breakup even though many of us may need a breather (which I surely did), and that's when a friend can lend a helping hand the most.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

That's Gratitude For You

When I was a kid, I watched Sesame Street like it was on the verge of being cancelled every day.  I even watched some of the feature-length movies with many of the characters from the show, especially Follow That Bird.  I even recently bought that movie for my niece (who is now, shockingly, about to turn 3) in order to pass the entertainment on to the next generation.

I don't remember much of Follow That Bird, except that somehow Big Bird got lost and wound up somewhere in Asia, possibly China.  He struggled to find his way home, trying to find anyone who could help him along the way.  He eventually did find a woman who could help him, and when she spoke English clearly, he was shocked, saying, "She speaks American!"

The line was obviously meant as a joke, and by now you're probably wondering why I'm talking about any of this.  First, thanks for indulging me for a minute, but now I'll get to where I had planned on going all along.

I brought this memory up because it was the first thing I thought of when I had read about the controversy surrounding Coca-Cola's "America the Beautiful" ad it ran during Super Bowl 48 Sunday night.

Here's the ad, in case you want to refresh your memory:

Pretty awesome, right?  Pays tribute to the various cultures who live in this country, and how language isn't a barrier that separates patriotism, right?

So why is there such negative blowback to a commercial with such great intentions?

The link I posted there mentions Twitter exploding with all kinds of xenophobic reactions to the commercial, made by people who clearly missed the point of what the commercial was trying to do.  There wasn't any political agenda behind this commercial at all; it was designed to highlight people of all ethnic backgrounds and languages sharing the love for America.  What's wrong with that?

I also question those who claim this commercial is liberal and drives this country further apart as to whether any of them have family who speak another language.  I'm a first-generation American; my father was born in Lebanon and came to the U.S. not being able to speak a word of English when he was 20.  If you met him now, you'd never know he was born outside the States, but I do have plenty of relatives who speak very broken English at best, starting with my grandmother.  I can only speak very slowly and very simple dialogues with her, so I wonder if any of the people who hate this Coca-Cola commercial have relatives who speak little to no English as well.

That brings me back to Follow That Bird.  I never would have thought that a simple line from Big Bird expressing shock that someone in a foreign country could speak "American" would come to have a tragically ironic and prophetic meaning today.  I don't know if Coca-Cola plans on responding to all the blowback from its ad, but I for one am disappointed to say the least that a number of Americans think this country is all about them and not for everyone.  It's sad to think that even now there is a significant number of people who want to isolate this country from people of other cultures who love America, even ones who live here legally.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Super Bowl 48 Snap Judgments

And there you go, kids.  The Seattle Seahawks are champions of the NFL for the 2013 season.  They managed to do the one thing that no other team really could achieve this season, and that was make Peyton Manning uncomfortable in the pocket.  Heck, almost no one was ever able to do that for most of Manning's career to date.  If there was a way to award the entire defensive unit for the Seahawks as MVP, that would have been the most fair option since no one player really stood out as a game changer.  Still, it was refreshing to see the award given out to someone on the defense since it so rarely happens in the Super Bowl.

On with my thoughts....

1. Is it too soon to declare Russell Wilson as the best quarterback from the 2012 NFL draft?  Sure, Andrew Luck has largely lived up to the hype.  It wouldn't shock me if he led the Colts to a championship at some point once he reaches his prime.  RGIII is still a hard guy to figure out, but if he's 100% healthy next season he may show signs of just how good he truly is.  Wilson, however, came into the league with virtually no hype, and the only thing people really know about him is that he's short for a quarterback (around 5'10").  Now he's got more wins under his belt in his first two seasons in the league than anyone else in history, plus a championship.  He doesn't light up the stat board the way Luck or RGIII could, but he's extremely versatile in his mobility.  His throwing ability can do just enough to keep defenses worried about the passing game in addition to his running, and the team as a whole will be together for the foreseeable future since they are one the youngest teams in the league at the moment.  The Seahawks will be one of the dominant teams in the NFL for the next few years at least.

2. The Seahawks' defense has to be the best defensive unit since the 2000 Ravens.  I have not seen a team's defense look so dominant and break apart what had been previously known as an unstoppable force since the first Ravens championship team.  Obviously the Ravens' opponent in Super Bowl 35 didn't have the offensive pedigree that this Broncos team had, but they did pound the Vikings in the NFC Championship Game that year 41-0.  There have been other great defenses since the Ravens, namely the 2002 Bucs team that went on to win Super Bowl 37 and the 2007 Giants team that won Super Bowl 42.  Neither of those other teams were nearly as dominant as this Seahawks defense though.  They dictated the flow of the game, holding the Broncos scoreless until the very end of the third quarter.  I was impressed they even held the Broncos in check for the first quarter, much less two additional ones.  Dan Quinn's devotion to his players won him a championship but cost him a head coaching job in 2014; a year from now he will be at the very top of the list of candidates for teams who will be looking for head coach.

3. The Broncos' best chance at winning a title with Manning may have passed them by.  In a season where much of the AFC had performed below expectations, the Broncos had emerged as the one team who could truly contend for a title.  Next year, I expect the conference to bounce back with several teams playing much better, including the Ravens, Colts, Chiefs, and Patriots all improving between now and August.  I also don't expect Manning to play beyond next season either, so John Elway will have to consider what life after Peyton will look like.  The Broncos also find themselves sitting right at the projected salary cap max for 2014, so they have some hard choices to make regarding what they are going to do for next season.

4. Peyton's legacy is now a really murky call.  Calling any quarterback the "Best Regular Season QB Ever" is, in my opinion, a very backhanded compliment.  Yet it's somewhat appropriate for Manning.  He's a five-time MVP, something no other player in NFL history can claim.  He's set and re-set the record books in more ways than anyone can really count.  He already set himself up for the Hall of Fame years ago.  The only reason why there's any debate over his rank among the greatest QBs ever is because of his postseason performances.  Once again, he didn't come through for his team when a championship was on the line.  He now has the most postseason losses as a starting QB in NFL history, and his career record is under .500.  That's a fairly large shadow cast over top of everything else he's accomplished so far.  It isn't just about losing two Super Bowls now; it's about losing all those other postseason games where he essentially choked when his team needed him to come through most.  For my money, he's still in the top five of all time, but he will always be in Tom Brady's shadow.

That puts a bow on the 2013 season.  The predictions and weekly recaps will be back for next season.