December 17, 2004

I've Got Mail!

Today's Musical Selection: "Put The Yule Log On, Uncle John" by P.D.Q. Bach

Howdy, everyone! There's been a fair bit of quality commentary to chew on lately, so I figured I'd spotlight some of it and continue the dialogue as best I can. (Also, it's Friday and I'm kind of out of material for the week.)

A couple weeks ago I groused about the up-and-down Redskins (who played valiantly and lost narrowly to an Eagles team that seemed more interested in the postgame buffet than the actual contest on the field), which drew a couple comments. First, Ensie sent sympathy (sort of) from sunny San Diego:

Glad you're on the rollercoaster. The Chargers bandwagon is getting full here in San Diego. :)

I want to send my warmest regards to a Chargers, a team I've always felt warmly about. Picked by virtually everyone to finish last, led by a quarterback the team didn't even want and went out of its way to bury, they're sitting pretty at 10-3. Two people in particular deserve to savor this run. One is that quarterback of last resort, Drew Brees. The Chargers sat him behind a sulky wonder child (David Rivers, the replacement for even sulkier wonder child Eli Manning) and America's favorite 41-year-old midget (Doug Flutie). With nothing to lose and his future in football fading before his eyes, he went out there and racked up a terrific season, and now stands ready to collect an enormous paycheck somewhere else while San Diego stocks up on diapers for Rivers and Ben-Gay for Flutie.

The other man who deserves to enjoy this ride is Marty Schottenheimer. That name may have a mildly familiar ring for Redskins fans. The longtime Browns and Chiefs coach came riding into Washington on one of Dan Snyder's spoiled-brat tantrums, the supposed antidote to kindly old Norv Turner. Faced with a depleted and weary roster that hated him, a disspirited and disgusted fan base that hated him, and a sneering media that hated him too, Schottenheimer rallied from an 0-5 start to finish 8-8. In another town, this might have won him public accolades or at least an extension. In Washington, it got him fired, as the boy billionaire Snyder decided to make a big splash and bring in Steve Spurrier. At the time, the public consensus was that Schottenheimer was a cranky old drill sergeant and the game had passed him by. (I shared this opinion, incidentally; I nicknamed him "Sergeant Slaught-enheimer" while he was in DC.)

The big knock on Schottenheimer was that his three-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust system was stale and boring. Well, now he's sitting on a playoff berth, and here we've got the Sainted Joe Gibbs running basically the same offense, only worse. Some might call it karma.

Meanwhile, loyal reader Tripp weighed in from the frozen North:

For years I rocked on with the mediocre Bears, who were dismally dismal. Then I moved to Minnesota and hooked up with the Vikings, who love to build up your expectations, up up up, to then have them come crashing down! Repeatedly. Given the two I think I am actually happier with the predictably bad.

So for my emotional health I've put a nice distance between my feelings and the Vikings playing. They will not seduce me again with their tantalizing Moss catches and the elusive dream that this year, please God this year they will win the Super Bowl. Nope. I am aloof.

Incidentally, the "predictably dismal" Bears currently sit at 5-8, a game ahead of the Redskins. I agree that constant misery is actually better than having hope to salt the wound. (As a Brewers fan, I speak from experience.) If you expect nothing, you can't be disappointed. The Redskins of late have specialized in finding some way to convince you to believe again, luring you in just close enough so they can smack you in the teeth with a hammer. This is why my dad and I get together to make fun of the Skins every week; if we didn't, we'd scream.

Last week I launched my annual anti-Christmas-commercialism rant, which drew support from Tripp:

You supply such fertile grounds for comments. Here is my theory about shopping. I strongly believe the hunter/gatherer theory of shopping, and you are typically male.

Don't try to change, dude, just recognize your inner hunter. When you shop, just stalk your prey, kill it, and bring it home. You'll be MUCH happier.

And, you are right, it IS the thought that counts. Sometimes the oddball gifts are the best. They leave the best stories, stories that are remembered long after the Terrain Twister is banished to the land fill.

I am, indeed, typically male. In fact, I hope I am male all the time. And actually, Tripp's advice was terrific. I hit the stores on Thursday afternoon, my quarry in mind, and I came away with almost everything by the time the day was over. And it felt good. And it will continue to do so unless my friends and family all decide they hate what I got them. If that happens, I'll say, "It's the thought that counts." And they'll say, "You thought wrong." Oh, well, c'est la vie.

Actually, the best gift I ever got was very cheap. It was the junior year of high school, and I was bemoaning my romantic futility. I had a running gag with a friend of mine about our imaginary girlfriends. We'd come in with cheerful tales of our imaginary dates. We amused ourselves and a mutual friend named Kim with these tales of (mild) ribaldry. Well, on the run-up to Christmas, my friend asked if the imaginary girlfriend and I had any plans. I said yes, she and I were planning to snuggle and drink eggnog by the glow of my imaginary fireplace. We all had a good chuckle, and I forgot about it.

Except on the day before winter break, I walked into my first-period class and there on my desk was a quart of eggnog and a red rose. A gift from Kim. Best present I ever received. It is the thought that counts.

On Wednesday, of course, I posted my angst-ridden self-debate on DC baseball. Fellow sufferer BallWonk weighed in on whether or not this is the right time to panic:

"This is no time to panic" is an odd cliche. Unlike most cliches, which are cliches because they're true, "This is no time to panic" is almost always exactly wrong. You always hear it when things are going wrong: The iceberg hit the ship below the waterline, the bulkheads didn't close, the rivets are popping, there are only lifeboats for half the passengers, the water is full of pirrhanas, and the nearest land is North Korea. It's at that exact moment that some wiseacre always says, "This is no time to panic!"

Au contraire. That's exactly the time to panic. What, should we panic when everything is going just fine? "Ahh, the sun is shining, I just got a raise, and, oh, look, here's a free steak. PANIC!"

No, in fact [now] IS the time to panic.

On a related note, Tripp had this to say:

Slippery Jim DiGriz says a moment of panic is perfect for responding to a crisis. It gets the juices flowing and the senses, um, sensing.

I suppose the key is regaining control after the moment of panic.

You're both right, gents. This would indeed be the time to panic, as Mayor Williams is demonstrating brilliantly with his comment about the "jackass Council members" who blew up his deal. But right now, it's time to give that "regaining control" thing a try. Linda Cropp says she hasn't spoken to the mayor since Tuesday, which is appalling. Williams needs to get over his snit fit with Cropp and get back to the table. And if he doesn't like it, he needs to remind himself that a better job of politicking before the vote, or any politicking really, would mean we wouldn't be in this mess.

Not that I can blame Williams for being pissed off. Now Cropp wants to go back and renegotiate the whole deal with MLB, and she wants Williams to help her. Oh, in case you forgot, that was Linda Cropp standing up on stage at the press conference announcing the team. This is like going shopping with your wife and picking out a car, negotiating a price with the salesman and having your wife tell you she loves the car, then when you go to the bank she says that she's not spending more than half the price you negotiated on the car, and she wants you to go back and renegotiate the price with the salesman. Nice kneecap job, Linda.

All that said, there's still room to make a deal here, if everyone involved is willing to be rational instead of rearing up and getting all huffy over perceived disrespect. Which is reason enough to be pessimistic.

Anyway, that's enough for this week. To those of you who wrote comments to Uncle Millie and Aunt Beatrice, they haven't returned my phone calls. Hopefully, we'll hear from them early next week. Also, next week I have an exciting announcement. We have a new addition to the Mediocre Fred team! I'll leave you in suspense for the weekend on that. See you Monday!

Posted by Fred at December 17, 2004 07:47 PM

In my defense, I meant that now is the time for us fans to panic. Those who can actually do something about this whole stadium issue, they should be as cool and collected as Cary Grant and find a solution with their Spock-like level heads. It's the rest of us who should take a moment to run around like the proverbial headless chickens. If we get the team after all, we'll look back and have a good laugh at our pre-Christmas panic. And if instead the Expos become the Norfolk Bays, well, the panic will have been justified. Either way, we get in a good, primordial panicy "yawp" and nobody gets hurt.

Posted by: BallWonk at December 19, 2004 06:49 PM
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