Monday morning funnies

Yeah, because I needed a post-NFL Sunday laugh …

Via Deadspin, St. Louis Rams offensive lineman Harvey Dahl had something to say about a penalty …

I don’t know what’s funnier. The lineman cussing at the ref … the TV announcers apologizing … the ref calling an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for “disrespect for the intended official” … or that the Rams face first and 30.

It’s like the Anti-Tebow …

So a friend of mine in Southern California lost power yesterday, and she lives in the San Diego Chargers viewing area. But, she explained, the power came on just in time for her to watch the Chargers beat the Baltimore Ravens.

Definitely gives new meaning to “Super Chargers.”

And, hey. At least James Harrison has a sense of humor.

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Home for the holidays

After careful consideration, I’ve decided I’m going to enjoy the holidays this year.

Did you ever notice that as you get older, the holidays become more stressful? And, frankly, I can’t think of a non-stressful Christmas holiday since …

In college, there was the year I got into a car accident. That was the year after my mother and I argued the entire Christmas break.

Then, I got into the workforce.

There was the year my brother called my parents, who were visiting in Colorado, and chewed my mother out for no good reason, other than for him to serve the purpose of being a holiday-ruiner and life-ruiner.

There was the year a coworker decided he wanted to make my life hell (at the urging of another coworker), at the same time I was considering taking a job in another part of the country.

There were several years I was called into commission to write a story – including two years in which I worked Christmas Eve. One year, I did it because a coworker “didn’t feel like coming into work” that day. Another year was because a story broke on my beat that afternoon, and I had a laptop and a phone with me. (Those aren’t complaints – it’s part and parcel of journalism.)

But after interviewing for a job out West last month – a job that I did not get – I thought for a bit about what I would have to do at one of the busiest and more stressful times of the year. It would mean packing up and moving my entire house, or at least some of it. It would mean driving across the country and leaving my husband. It would mean searching for a new place to live.

In addition to spending money on Christmas presents, preparing to host family and friends, visiting with family and friends …

It would mean not being able to fully enjoy a holiday for another year.

And away he goes …

Charlie Coyle didn’t want to be a college hockey player anymore. And Friday, both Boston University and Saint John of the QMJHL confirmed this: Coyle, a sophomore center, is leaving school to play major-junior hockey in Canada. Coyle leaves the Terriers after 16 games this season, in which he scored three goals and 11 assists and was a plus-7.

(Coyle is also the second departure from the BU hockey team in two weeks, as Corey Trivino was dismissed last week, stemming from his arrest after an incident in which he allegedly broke into a female student’s dorm room and assaulted her.)

Some would be alarmed by yet another player leaving NCAA hockey for the major-junior proving grounds, given a trend that spiked about a year and a half ago: players committed to or playing for college hockey programs, then leaving after a certain amount of time with the program (or even not practicing with the team at all, leaving after making a commitment and before the first practices) for a non-academic-centered hockey program, such as junior hockey or the NHL.

The biggest point of contention in this trend? Players who renege on college commitments to join a major-junior team, or to turn pro instead of exploring their options as a student-athlete. It’s part of the reason why College Hockey, Inc. was established. (Disclosure: I have done freelance writing for College Hockey, Inc.)

College Hockey, Inc. isn’t going to keep college hockey players in college. But it’s a marketing organization to continue to raise college hockey’s profile, and it gives players and their families the proper information on the option of playing NCAA hockey, one of the many options players may have in regards to their future in playing hockey.

But to stay, to depart or to not go at all? It’s like my father used to tell me: No one is forcing you to stay. Or leave. Or not go at all. You have a choice.

***

When he’s asked, a player’s reasoning for his departure in this situation typically goes something like this (if he says anything at all):

“I wanted to develop my game in order to have a better shot at the NHL.”

And that’s a fair assessment. Though there’s something to be said for the virtue of not only making a commitment, but fully honoring it. With our culture shifting towards favoring short-attention spans and instant gratification, will a pattern continue?

And in the wake of these departures, there’s a question: How much of this departure had to do with academic issues?

Coyle said this much via text message to the Daily Free Press, Boston University’s student newspaper:

“Yes, I have made my decision to leave BU because I’m done with being a student-athlete and I want to focus on just hockey  I was not failing out.

“It was definitely a hard decision to make and I will miss my teammates and coaches. BU was a great place to be and I enjoyed my time there.”

In addition, Coyle’s agents emailed a statement to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, saying that “Charlie Coyle has decided to leave Boston University. Contrary to
speculation he did not flunk out of BU.”

But has anyone truthfully answered this question?

Or have federal guidelines – FERPA, also known as the Buckley Amendment – stifled the response to this question? Or stifled someone from asking the question?

One of the Buckley Amendment’s provisions states that a student must give a school permission to release academic records. It also limits what information an educational employee can release about a student’s attendance, behavior or enrollment.

And has anyone answered this question? Was it solely your decision to go this route, or was it the decision of the NHL team that holds your rights?

Coyle is a former first-round draft pick of San Jose, and is currently property of the Minnesota Wild.

This one’s for you, my friend

So I told a less-than-glowing story about bullying earlier this week, and I hope it inspired someone to stand up for themselves. Likewise, I hope it caused a few bullies out there in the world to consider their past actions.

But today, let me share the story of one of my dearest friends – who, at one point, sometimes made me her target of ridicule. I wasn’t very nice to her, either. It took years and distance for us to see our differences and realize that we were both wrong, on some level or another.

When you read about the aftermath of bullying – some of it has been tragic, such as the suicide of Phoebe Prince or that of Jamey Rodemeyer (Yale University studies have found that victims of bullying are up to nine times more likely to consider suicide than non-victims) – you have to wonder if there is closure. There is, for some.

I had known her since the first grade and we didn’t treat each other very well. In the fifth grade, I had enough of her crap, and the crap of the three girls who always stood behind her when she approached me. I told her so. She slowly began to create distance from me after that, and we both gave each other a certain amount of respect – something you don’t see often among pre-teenagers or teenagers.

Then, in the ninth grade, she and her family moved across the country. And I was sad to see her go. Someone who I knew for nine years but whom I did not know well enough to call a friend at the time. Still, I would miss seeing her in the halls every day. She was one of a small (and getting-smaller) group of us who began elementary school together, and with whom I expected to graduate from high school.

Nearly 20 years later, here’s that Facebook thing again – we had enough mutual friends that she came up in the “friends you may know” category. That pesky Facebook …

I don’t remember who reached out to whom, but at first, I was conflicted about it. Still, I gave her the benefit of the doubt and told her, “Things weren’t the same at our school after you left, and I always wondered what you were doing.”

A funny thing happened. She admitted to me years later that she moved away and that she had found out who she really was. And she apologized to me. And I apologized to her. I told her, “I forgive you.” Because I did.

Today, I call the person who used to antagonize me “my friend.” I look forward to every email, text message and funny card I receive from her. In fact, she sent me an email this morning and I read it over coffee, wishing she and I (and her baby son and husband) could have coffee together soon. I am honored to be able to learn about her and to be able to share my life with her. She  is an intelligent, caring, funny, inquisitive and loving mother, woman and friend.

***

From a TeenHelp.org forum, the honesty of a former bully:

I will not deny it – people have a right to know what I have done…how cruel I have been to someone who absolutely did not deserve this and how many times I have hurt him so deeply that he will possibly never fully get over it although I would now do anything for him he wants to make atonement – but I know even that will never be enough. I endlessly regret it now and I will for the rest of my life mourn it and feel absolutely sorry. I blame no-one who despises me because of what I have done or wishes that I will never again be happy in my life or that something really bad will happen to me. I cannot blame anyone because I actually despise and hate myself because of it.

There was NO reason, justification or excuse for bullying someone in the ways I did – there never is. All I can say is that I tried and am still trying so very hard to repair at least a part of the damage and suffering that I have caused.

A high-octane exit

Remember this?

And this?

This, too?

Erase most of those images and words from your memory. No, not that last one. It’ll serve as a painful reminder of Todd Graham’s short, um, legacy at Pitt.

Today, Graham notified his team – via text message – that he was leaving Pitt and heading to Arizona State to become its next head football coach. Yes, he’s leaving on a jet plane … 

And Pitt sent out the release on Graham’s departure this afternoon, stating that “his decision was based solely on personal family reasons” – and that his resignation came after Pitt athletic director Steve Pederson denied Graham permission Tuesday night “to speak to another institution.”

“This is the first job I’ve ever taken that’s benefited my wife,” Graham said during the Arizona State press conference.

Arizona State officials would not comment on the timeline or the process of their coaching search, citing privacy issues. Later in the press conference, broadcast via the web, Graham said this:

“You never want to leave a program, and I never thought I’d have to leave a program, under these circumstances. … It did not allow me to speak to the team, and I really regret that.”

***

Each time I watched a Pitt football game, I tried to figure out who was more of a fraud:

  • Pitt quarterback Tino Sunseri, who struggled all season to quickly adapt to the “high octane offense”;
  • or his coach, Graham, the purveyor of said offense and Pitt’s second choice as this year’s head coach. (What did Chris Rock say in “Never Scared”? “‘Cause you ain’t her first choice!”)

This afternoon brought about the answer:

Yes, Blair Philbrick, Pitt’s assistant athletic director/football operations, forwarded Graham’s text-messaged/emailed statement to his players regarding Graham’s departure, per the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

“I reached out he only way I knew how,” Graham said during tonight’s press conference. “The only other alternative I had was to not communicate at all.”

Yet today proved that Pitt’s quarterback, to a certain degree, was simply a pawn. That Graham ultimately was in search of his fourth greener pasture in less than six years. While you can’t hold someone down from chasing their dreams, you have the right to question how they did it if it appears at all scurrilous.

Still, Graham’s departure – less than a month before the BBVA Compass Bowl in Birmingham, Ala., Pitt’s second appearance in the bowl in as many years (and second without a permanent head football coach) – reiterates a certain truth about college athletics: That while there are some exceptions, college coaches tend to be about as virtuous as a case of cheap beer. They won’t trust you, but you will put all your faith in them … until they leave you with nothing but an empty, painful feeling after you drank it all in.

Remember Roy Williams’ infamous declaration after the 2003 NCAA basketball championship game that, “I don’t give a @&*^ about Carolina right now …” ? Or Alabama Coach Nick Saban, then at Louisiana State, declaring ‎that “Anyone who doesn’t win their conference has no business playing in the national championship game.” (He’s not saying much about that now, is he?)

Insert sarcasm font here: There was so much virtue in those statements, wasn’t there?

No wonder some of us, as sports fans, struggle with some truths.

But Pitt fans, did you trust Todd Graham? Did you have any faith that the system – an offensive line that has allowed a Big East-high 56 sacks, an offense that is seventh (of eight teams) on third- and fourth-down conversions, and a team that leads the Big East in penalties – would pay dividends? Did you believe that with Graham, there would be better days ahead at Pitt?

There still might be. Just without Graham. As for Sunseri? He said this:

The bully found me … years later

The problem with Facebook? You run into some of the people you want to avoid.

Last night, the bully came back to me by sending me a friend request on Facebook.

Let’s talk frankly about the bully. What does the bully have to gain from putting other people down, other than those few moments of feeling better about themselves at the expense of someone else?

A few statistics about bullying, per the CDC:

  • In a 2009 nationwide survey, about 20% of high school students reported being bullied on school property in the 12 months preceding the survey;
  • During the 2007-2008 school year, 25% of public schools reported that bullying occurred among students on a daily or weekly basis. A higher percentage of middle schools reported daily or weekly occurrences of bullying compared to primary and high schools.

Among the root issues of bullying: low self-esteem, the need for personal validation, lack of respect in the home or lack of assertiveness in interpersonal situations.

But statistics aside, here’s a rhetorical question: what justifies bullying, if anything?

We’ve been reading all about anti-bullying initiatives and tolerance, and while these are great values to espouse, we need to teach kids something else: stand up for yourself. Something I didn’t do years ago … but something I had to do now.

The bully had gym class with me. She used to ask me very pointedly, in front of her friends and our classmates, if I showered at all, if I had any friends, about my sexuality, how much I weighed, why I even bothered to show up to school, why I wore certain clothes … basically trying (and sometimes succeeding) in driving a stake through my self-esteem.

via girlshealth.gov

We have 12 mutual friends, all from high school. She didn’t send a note, just a friend request.

There was nothing left to lose. Years later, I was ready to stand up for myself – something I couldn’t do 20 years ago, for whatever reason: fear of being socially ostracized, fear of detention, fear of – gasp! – causing a scene in the locker room.

But sometimes you need the closure. Point blank, I asked her:

What did you gain from making fun of me that year?

She wrote back:

I don’t know what to say except I’m sorry. It truly makes me feel terrible to think that I said or did anything mean to you in the eighth grade. Honestly, I was just a girl trying to fit in, and really didn’t have many friends back then. So, to answer your question, I’ve gained exactly nothing from my past behavior.

You found me. You gave me the answer I needed to hear. And you’re right. You gained nothing.

And because of our communication, I’ve forgiven her.

Why should grammar matter?

This query landed in my inbox the other day:

“What you doing?”

You mean, “what are you doing?”

There’s still some uncertainty as to whether or not this was just a simple mistake … but come on, create some grammatical cohesiveness. You’re better than an absent verb.

Now, I’m no ace when it comes to grammar and punctuation. A former coworker once called me “Comma Girl” because I used WAY too many commas in my stories, and one of the best editors I worked with even told me, “Take a few minutes to read through your story and check for mistakes.” (Editors still tell me that, and I need to listen to them a little more. In fact, I just had a careless cut-and-paste mishap this morning.)

But when I go through emails, press releases and even a lot of the content I read online, the grammar and spelling mistakes jump out at me. The misspellings. The improper punctuation. The dangling participles. Yes, the dangling participles. But that’s bordering on grammatical zealotry.

Some days, I have the urge to go on Facebook and post a correction in the comments section of every mistake I see. Whether it’s “your” versus “you’re,” “sewn” versus “sown,” “parity” versus “parody,” “principal” versus “principle,” “hook-and-ladder” versus “hook and lateral” … oh, the horror of malapropisms.

Or using words whose meaning have nothing to do with the message that’s being sent. The worst offenders in sports writing: “So-and-so potted a goal” and “So-and-so plated two runs.”

You pot plants. You score goals. You plate food. You score runs.

Clean grammar, spelling and punctuation are reasons why copy editors and proofreaders are worth their weight in gold.

It’s why spellcheck (Or is it spell-check? Or spell check?) is actually a good thing. So is proofreading.

Have you ever seen the Facebook group titled “I judge you when you use poor grammar“? Yes. It’s true. We judge you. Your poor grammar and careless spelling are, in a certain sense, a reflection of you.

(And if you see any overt grammatical or vocabulary shortcomings in this post, please, let me know ASAP.)