I Traveled to Dallas and Survived: My Story

It was last Thursday, about 6:00 PM EST, when the wheels on the American Airlines jet I was in retracted its wheels and bore a fateful farewell to my serene city of Pittsburgh. At that moment I knew that my journey had reached a point of no retreat; my ass was going to Dallas.

“Why Dallas?” You might ask. Well it’s funny what a man does for love and a chance to see the artwork of George W. Bush in person. So there I was, next to a kid with an iPad, throttling into the fiery nexus of a global pandemic. Was I terrified? Of course. But how do you think Floyd Mayweather feels about being exposed to books every day? I had to be brave.

3.2.1. Touchdown. As the plane skidded to a halt I peered at the tarmac outside. No body bags in sight. I remember my heart lifting a little bit at this point; maybe this wasn’t a suicide mission after all. I made my way safely to the car port managing not to let any of the local citizens cough into my mouth along the way. Quickly, I located my girlfriend’s car and dove into its sterile ecosystem.

At that point she started asking me questions. I could see her mouth moving, open and close, but its message escaped me. After a few frantic, disoriented seconds I realized where I was. Dallas. Current hometown of Michael Sam. I was distracted. I honestly hadn’t felt that dumb in a while. For all of my preparations, the Emergen-C, the Neosporin, the Orange Juice, I hadn’t done anything about being distracted by Michael Sam. That’s when my training took over. Any sports fan can tell you, the best way to avoid being distracted by Michael Sam is to continuously talk about being distracted by Michael Sam. I discussed the effect of his make-out on the locker room as we approached the hotel.

Over the next couple of days I made sure to drink lots of alcohol to kill any parasites that could be in or around my general vicinity. I also made sure to pad my ribs with sustenance in case the virus hijacked my ability to eat. The fatter I became, the safer I felt. Drink, eat, eat, drink. Repeat. I was invincible from the invisible beast and too husky for Michael Sam’s taste.

At the peak of my arrogance, my conquest came to a close, because shit is expensive and I had work on Monday. As I sat in Terminal C at DFW Airport, I couldn’t help but smile. I, Luke, messed with Texas. I did something that you are explicitly told to not do, and came out scotch free. Pleased with myself, I did not notice the airport police officer on the Segway next to me, staring down. “This is it,” I thought,”here it comes.” But instead of diagnosing me with Ebola, he went down a different path.

“I can’t watch sports anymore,” he said.

“Why is that?” I replied.

“Ever since I found out that Andre Agassi was on meth, sports have just been ruined. Now you tell me, two Andre Agassis playing each other, one clean, one on meth. Who wins?”

“The one on meth?”

“You’re damn right. Now if he betrayed our trust like that, what does it say about everyone else?”

With that, the officer swiveled his Segway around and rode off into the abyss. Would he ever enjoy sports again? I never found the answer. What I did find in Dallas was a renewed sense of pride in myself. I entered the weekend facing certain death. I doubt anyone was expecting me to return still breathing.

But I showed them, I survived;

and found out that some people went all in on Andre Agassi.

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Goodbye to Robin Williams

There are some of us who can make people laugh, tell jokes that can split the sides of a whole room. Some of us can wrench tears from that same room. There are very few that can do both, and today we lost one of them.

I can recall singing “Prince Ali” in the living room, my sister and I forming our own parade. Most of the jokes from Mrs. Doubtfire went over my head the first time I saw it. I still laughed. Years later, I laughed again. Of all of Robin Williams’ performances, though, his portrayal of Will Hunting’s psychiatrist in Good Will Hunting remains my favorite. His heartache felt real, and his faith in a troubled soul even more so.

Beyond that he had countless other iconic roles, not to mention a legendary career as a stand up comedian. I admired how he toed the line; one moment manic and the other under complete control. A savant of human expression, he could massage every curve of our emotions. Selfishly, I wish we could have had more.

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WE AIN’T DEAD

All of the words were written, playing across the screens of the reporters who conjured them as if they wrote themselves. One kick later and they were obsolete. A single looping, guided missile of a pass from the hobbled master shredded the narrative of the American arrival. Perhaps this is what American fans deserve, or rather what they need; a bit of perspective.

Forty-five minutes into the most widely viewed match in U.S. Men’s national Team history, the Yanks looked as if they were destined to shrink from their moment and fade back into the sticky haze of the Amazonian night. Fans watching began to do the math and ask themselves, “How does one beat a German?”. Then, a goal, a fucking great goal at that. Suddenly, the math became more favorable. The anxious grip on Budweiser bottles across the nation collectively loosened. By the time Clint Dempsey thrust the ball into the net with his belly the elation was palpable.

That is when the fingers jumped up and down on the keyboard in Manaus like the American fans in the stands. AMERICA THE THROUGH-TIFUL the NY Post might’ve read. However, the story, dressed like Forrest Gump, revealed itself more I Know What You Did Last Summer, and true to form, the killer came back for one last strike. Delete, delete, delete. The narrative turned to “I think we tied. Did we tie? Felt like we lost.”

Now, a day older and wiser. American fans can take a breath and realize that their dreams did not fizzle away Sunday night. An examination of the scenarios shows a lot of promise mixed with a drop of peril. From a loss, to a win, to a draw Yankee supporters need to realize that their fortunes did not change with the headline. Chins up boys and girls, there is football to be played yet.

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Happy Father’s Day (and sorry about that)

When I was little, the first sport I was signed up for was soccer. I can see why: all you need is a pair of shoes, nobody gets hit in the head with a bat, it is damn tiring. There are basically zero sunk costs, perfect for parents. Kids have fleeting hopes and dreams after all. I took to soccer, though, and wanted to play more and know more. Think of it like an arranged marriage that ended well.

My dad had never played before, so this is where the pupil-sensei dream scenario ends. However, my dad loved me and my sister, also a soccer player, fiercely and made learning about the game his business. He read books, ran practices; he made our path his. I am sure the learning curve, and all of the aimless drills, induced some mental pain on his part. But the pain was only that, mental.

One year we decided to go out to Arizona to visit his parents and see the Grand Canyon. We took a soccer ball because god forbid I sat my ass down for one second on a vacation. At a local park, my dad agreed to play goalie while I shot the ball at him. I loved doing this. My dad is a very tall  man so scoring on him was a great accomplishment all in itself. At one point I wound up and kicked a shot right at him. He easily stopped it, then, holding his hand, turned to my mother and said, “We’ve got to go to the hospital.”

I didn’t really know what was going on. After the fact I learned that while stopping the ball he had suffered a compound fracture in his pinky finger. For those unfamiliar with what a compound fracture is, it’s when the goddamn bone breaks through the goddamn skin. My dad is a tough man. Still, he never raised his voice with me, just walked off the field with a bone jutting from his body.

Things got better from there; I never broke his finger again, and ended up playing for years and years. As I watch the World Cup this week, and call him to discuss the surprising vitality of the English squad, our path makes me smile. He got into the sport because I loved it. He suffered through a compound fracture and the nuances of a foreign game because it made me happy.

Fathers will take unintended paths following the dreams of their children, and sometimes it hurts, yet their resolve remains unflinching. To my dad, happy Father’s Day and thank you. To all of the other fathers, wear goalie gloves.

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The Week in Sports 6/2-6/8

I had to put the smarmy sports talk on hold last week to celebrate my mom’s career. It was lovely, thank you for asking.

Sorry for the tardy posting

NBA

The NBA finals began with Game 1 in San Antonio. It was, as expected, a very good game given the caliber of the two teams. Unfortunately, the air conditioning broke, and consequently, Lebron’s leg cramped. As is typical of situations involving serious cramping, Lebron found himself unable to walk. Normally, such an occurrence would be understandable given the level of physical exertion and the heat of the arena. But, this being Lebron, the sight of him cramping and not BEING CLUTCH tore a hole through America’s fragile moral fiber.

Within 12 hours, multiple memes emerged out of the deep recesses of hell juxtaposing his trials with the those of American servicemen. Upon gazing at these spectacles of ignorance, my head hurt as if I had gulped a Slurpee of unfounded virtue. Seriously, what the hell internet? You know what, you’re right. Let’s get Mr. James some fatigues and jettison him to Kandahar to see how he does in the perils of combat. Then, and only then, may we know what he is TRULY made of. Don’t you know how many tours Jordan had completed by his age?

MLB

Remember last year when the Blue Jays looked not just like a couch fire, but a Restoration Hardware couch fire? The kind of couch fire that you celebrate vigorously because a real team is BUILT NOT BOUGHT. Well, those days are long over because the Jays have been laying waste to the AL East. Mark Buehrle is doing Mark Buehrle things and Encarnacion/Cabrera/Bautista is the best combo going right now. These are strange times.

NFL

Johnny_Manziel_Riding_Inflatable_Swan_Champagne_Bottle_Picture_Video

 

NHL

The Rangers are getting Gregor Clegane’d. No two ways around it.

NCAA Sports

Monday, June 9th will see the opening of Ed O’Bannon’s lawsuit against the NCAA. It is being heralded as the battle for the future of college athletics; whether or not student athletes will receive compensation for their university sponsored exploits. Unsurprisingly, the discussion of further compensating full-ride students during a time of unprecedented tuition prices is a hotly contested one. Do the students deserve direct compensation? That is debatable. After all, does the status of the second string punter, or even the star of the baseball team, really have any affect on the ability for the school to generate revenue? However, if a student athlete is able to independently profit off of his fame, he should be free to do so. The cries of hypocrisy are typically only heard in the case of a Johnny Manziel or Shabazz Muhammad.

Regardless of opinion, the base issue here will most likely not be addressed: major college sports shouldn’t exist in the first place. Neither party will push for this because neither would stand to gain, but it’s the truth. Basketball and football achieved their collegiate prominence out of a lack of professionally sponsored developmental infrastructure. Because they are substantially younger than baseball, their professional ranks did not need to develop their own farm systems, preferring to contract that function to colleges and universities. You’ll notice that college baseball really isn’t in this discussion.

So, of course things are not going to seem kosher through the scope of amateurism. Colleges aren’t designed to be farm systems. A real solution would be the creation of working “academies” by the NFL and NBA. This will never happen because:

A. Colleges would lose a healthy revenue stream.

B. The NFL and NBA get prepackaged superstars without having to invest any of their own capital into the endeavor.

Pay the athletes, don’t pay the athletes, a decision will be made and people will be simultaneously jubilant and outraged either way. Just remember that all parties are too entrenched in the money to seek the real solution.

The World Cup

Preview coming tomorrow!

Until then, they’re not Ghana get us!

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Memes Save Democracy Claims Economist

WASHINGTON – In an amazing turn of events, the United States of America managed to erase the deficit and solve all major societal issues within a matter of minutes Wednesday. Economists worldwide are still shaking their heads in disbelief after the most miraculous social turnaround in modern history. However, word is coming out of Washington that this was not the result of divine intervention. The real reason for the massive betterment of American life? Anti-Obama memes.

Yes, according to science, enough photographs of the polarizing President frowning with negative phrases accompanying were uploaded to the Internet that all of the Nation’s crises solved themselves. “It is truly remarkable,” said noted economist Paul Krugman, “when I went to sleep Tuesday night, we had no hope, no jobs, and no cash.”

It’s difficult to pinpoint the exact moment that everything returned to harmony, but the academic consensus is that recently released footage of Obama lifting weights pushed the scale in America’s favor. One young man, Colton Wright, a gas station attendant from Raleigh, NC, believes that it was this meme that he posted on his Facebook page that saved the world’s greatest democracy.

obama

“I just saw him lifting, and he was struggling, and he doesn’t struggle to raise taxes,” said Wright, “It was really an ‘A-ha’ moment, and whaddya know I saved the country.”

Whichever meme it was that brought the USA back from the brink of failure, one thing is for sure: one cannot deny how constructive Facebook memes can be for social change. In fact, after seeing the incredible success of his great rival, Russian leader Vladimir Putin ordered millions of memes created. Unfortunately, not every nation can be as industrious as America, and the meme campaign quickly failed on the heels of a massive de-friending across Russian social media.

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The Week in Sports Memorial Day Edition

To set sports aside for a week shouldn’t be an unnecessarily difficult task, however much it must feel from time to time. I am going to do that this week as my publishing day falls upon Memorial Day. People love Memorial Day for their own reasons: as a brief respite from a mundane job, as a gateway to what the summer months could become, as an excuse to showcase that new grill with the chrome handles. I am not here to proclaim from my soapbox and tell everyone that their celebration of Memorial Day is misguided, because what do I know? I am also not here to admonish companies for accompanying every immense deed to a serviceman with an equally immense marketing campaign because they must wrestle with their own conscience.

This is more of an open proclamation of my inability to comprehend selflessness to the degree that generations of Americans have shown. Growing up, I loved the idea of war as it existed to me. The idea of war in the form of the Tom Clancy books that I gobbled up or the plastic M-16 that I slunk through the woods adjacent to my house with. The visions of victory, power, and valor were intoxicating. I certainly was not the only kid with a GI Joe fantasy. What I did not understand, still don’t, and never will, were the details.

I do not understand feeling the warmth of your friend’s blood as it tries to escape his body. I do not understand living in a hole confided only by the tattered picture of a distant love. I do not understand the emptiness of finding out that the face in that picture doesn’t have the same feelings anymore. Most of all, I do not understand never coming home. There is a lot I do not understand. On Memorial Day I am reminded that there are men and women who do, whether they want to or not.

Wherever you are today, consider the details. Consider all of the American bravery, grief, fear, triumph, and sacrifice that has been spilled alongside the gallons of blood. Maybe you will find it incomprehensible like I do. And, if you don’t have to consider, if it is all too real to you, thank you shouldering a burden that defies the physical and mental limits of the human body.

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