Currently displayed on Tygpress.com. You guys did it!
Well damn! You guys actually did it! I’m impressed. I was going to take my ball and go home, but you folks with your outrage went at this entity with your cease-and-desist and your pitchforks, and they didn’t want any of that smoke!
I know most of you were just as pissed-off as I was, and I’m grateful that you acted on your own senses of justice instead of turtleing like I planed. I am the undeserved benefactor of your righteous actions, and I thank you all. This little guy is grateful that you collection of little guys didn’t take this lying down.
I honestly hope that this the last time I find myself writing about blog harvesting, but I suspect it won’t be. We’ll cross that bridge when it comes, but for now, let’s get back to our scheduled programming.
So, yeah, someone is harvesting my content for clicks and kicks, and that’s not really ballin’ to me, so I think this just might be my penultimate entry, folks!
“…the moon steals its shine from the sun, and no one ever gets the two confused. Take it as a compliment.” -Art Teacher to Riley, The Boondocks, Season 1 Episode 12, “Riley Wuz Here”
So, yeah, my blog has been harvested without my consent. My online friend who runs the idorun blog was kind enough to notify me.
What does that mean exactly? I’m not entirely sure, but it certainly seems like a type of plagiarism. Go ahead and see for yourself, witness the theft of my hard-earned shine – granted you may be buying the underwear gnomes who run that site another free pair of underpants by clicking the link, but I’m not tripping. The reason will become clear when you continue reading.
My initial response to potentially being plagiarized was a weird sense of pride (“Say, word? My craft is now actually good enough to be stolen from? That’s kinda dope!”) Next, for a moment, I became vexed (“How dare someone steal my intellectual property! I worked long and hard on those navel-gazing ghazals about all those attractive women I wish I had slept with! If anyone should be making money off those self-satisfied missives, it should be me!”)
But the more I thought about it, and the more I learned about it, the less sense it made. It’s never been about the money for me. Sure, I had grand designs as a wide-eyed youngin’, but my learned poetic excursions have been a moderately inexpensive hobby to me.
Let’s discuss my poetic content at face value; For nearly two decades, I’ve been dabbling in online poetry using various media (including a poetry collection I self-published through Lulu). During that nearly-twenty years, my net income from my poetry could pay for a cup of coffee and exactly half-a-haircut.
No one is clamoring to pay for any of my web stuff on the strength of the content, and I get that. But crimes of economics have taught me that people usually steal things for – oh I dunno… some type of profit? If there’s no profit in my words at face value, then where does the profit reside?
My instincts tell me that it must be the site traffic that is somehow fraudulently aggregated to a point where sponsors unwittingly pay the cyberthief a fee for driving clicks their way. Which means that I wasn’t singled-out (I average less than twenty unique views per day; not exactly rolling in Skillshare sponsor dough) but I was harvested along with countless other unwitting blogs.
In fact, if you’re a blogmate of mine hosting your blog on free\public blogs like Blogger or WordPress, chances are high that you’ve been harvested too. Go ahead and check for yourself. Buy those dickheads another pair of undergarments in exchange for knowledge of your own site’s harvesting.
I’m not as special as I thought. Oh well. I’ll get over it.
So I’ve been harvested, and some nefarious entity is probably getting paid in cryptocurrency or some other underwear gnome-economics I don’t know about. Now what? What do I do about it?
Many bloggers are justifiably outraged enough to jump through the hoops of a DCMA takedown. Others have found that the harvesting blog is just an unsophisticated blogroll-type of aggregate that can be foiled by making their copied posts private.
I’m inclined to go another way.
I’ve been thinking about this quite a bit. Perhaps this is the very catalyst I need to shutter this blog for good (as well as my old one over at Blogger). Fighting some damned greedy money-bot trolls over my hobby is not why I got into online poetry. Life is too short, and the absurd time and economics of this make it a non-starter for me.
I will miss the wonderful community we’ve cultivated here, especially my friends at dVerse, Poets United, Imaginary Garden with Real Toads, as well as all of my online friends too great in number to mention individually. I haven’t decided on a switch-off date, but it will most likely be fairly soon.
So, what next then?
Well I’ve been flirting with the notion of hiding all my nonsense behind Medium’s $5 monthly paywall. (I have a free presence there right now.) Again, I don’t expect to be swimming in a pool of money over poetry about some naughty dreams I had, but the economics makes more sense to me now. At WordPress, I bought the domains cosmicrubble.com and mylibidowearsatuxedo.com for $100 annually. Well recently, they lowered their price to $60, assumedly to remain competitive with Medium’s plan.
But here’s the rub; while WordPress’s response to intellectual theft is basically “We’ve already got your money, we’re not being robbed directly, we don’t see a problem here, so ¯\_(ツ)_/¯”, Medium’s paywall won’t allow for some random yokel to do a drive-by smash-n-grab on my shine, ya dig?
Also, if I develop enough traffic, my $5 monthly fee could eventually pay for itself. Imagine having a secure online presence essentially for free. I know this is beginning to sound like an ad, but I have imagined it. This may sound naive or glib, but I don’t want to think about intellectual theft anymore than I have this weekend. I just want to write about my love of my family, life, and words without worrying about someone turning it into a click for free underpants.
A friend once told me that I’m worth more than I give myself credit for. Well actually, several friends have told me this, including my best friend, the Wifey. I think I’m finally starting to understand what they mean.
Imagine, if you will, training most of your life perfecting a difficult skill most don’t understand or respect. You hone your highly-specialized craft in a world where most risk life, limb, and brain-trauma fighting for that extra yard, and yet few who fight for those yards can replicate the one thing in which you have invested the most.
Now imagine developing a reputation for succumbing to external pressure and frequently failing at the one task you’ve spent most of your life perfecting. Your brothers who risk life, limb, and brain-trauma fighting for that extra yard continue to believe in you and try to boost your confidence as external forces clamor to see you fail again so they can tear your embattled spirit to pieces.
Lastly, imagine that the very thing you fear most comes to pass; failure on the greatest stage of your life, melting beneath the microscope of notoriety, your greatest effort summed-up in an onomatopoeic, “doink-doink”.
I sat on my floor, having just slid off my couch, staring at my screen in silence, no longer feeling January chill born from an old furnace and poor insulation. Numb to external elements, I didn’t feel the anguish I expected in typical expected terms. The team wearing the laundry I’ve rooted for since I was four had been bested by an apparent missed kick, and as I watch an entire city prepare to heap hatred upon the kicker’s slumped shoulders, a single thought echoed repeatedly in my head…
“That poor kid.”
frail sun slips away
winter night falls unannounced
I have faced both ways
I was stopped for speeding earlier this week, and justifiably so, unless the cop was just profiling every black guy who just happened to be going 43 in a 25mph residential area. (I was late for work. That’s no excuse for driving like a menace, but it is a valid reason.)
In the aftermath, I couldn’t stop my hands from shaking for the remainder of the day. As a child, I never grasped why my family collectively feared police, but by age 45, I completely understood the subtle nuances. I laughed at the long, subtle transition of perspective, especially in this era when one false twitch can make guys who look like me into a hashtag (#BarryD #HeWasHarmless #HeWasScaredOfSpidersAndCopsAndBeingLateForWork).
My boneheaded commute had earned me a two-hundred-dollar citation, but I wasn’t lying lifeless face-down on the pavement riddled with peace-keeper rounds, so I considered it a net-win. All things considered, it was just a bad day that could’ve been far worse.
I discussed this with wifey, and she said that us humans have a one-hundred-percent survival rate during bad days. I supposed that was true, even while dismissing this as a bland “You miss one-hundred percent of the shots you don’t take” motivational slogan. But then I began to analyze this statement, and while technically true, on the occasion that a bad day is not survivable, depending on various lifespans, your bad-day survival rate drops anywhere from 90 to 99.9999 percent, which is not too shabby, all things considered.
Granted, your percentage will never again increase on account of you being dead and all.
So, you will either survive your bad day, or you will perish from it. But more often than not, you will survive it. I consider that a net-win. I told Wifey there’s a poem in there somewhere, and I hoped to fish it out. She urged me to reconsider, but you only miss one-hundred percent of the shots you don’t take.
frozen rain stings rosy cheeks
I blush through the grey
Trimming the Fat: Streamlining my Social Media Presence
Lieutenant Reginald Endicott “Reg” Barclay III is a recurring fictional character from both Star Trek: The Next Generation and Star Trek: Voyager. He is socially awkward, hilariously uncomfortable in his own skin, and is initially the butt of cruel jokes among his peers. He often retreats to the comfort of his imagination, which manifests itself in acute holodeck addiction (which lands him in hot water on more than one occasion). On the upside, he also frequently mines his own imaginative thought experiments, using innovative, unconventional solutions to resolve complex problems.
Lt. “Broccoli”. (Image source: Google)
Lieutenant Barclay has his own Wikipedia entry if you want to learn more about him. I can’t imagine why you would want to. Just know that I hated this character intensely. I don’t anymore, but in the moment, he felt like a cruel slap in the face that I took personally.
I hated Barclay because he reminded me of myself.
This isn’t news for anyone close to me, or who has tried to become close to me, but I am an introvert who also frequently suffers from debilitating social anxiety and depression. Oh, I can function in goal-oriented social functions like work (where the goal is solving technical problems to get PC users back to work) or team sports (where the goal is to come together to defeat opponents), but the moment the focus switches to happy-hours, wine parties, or just hanging out, I struggle greatly and must rely on a series of complex coping mechanisms to get by.
Or I just flake-out and bail, or I spaz-out and make a jackass of myself before flaking-out and bailing.
Like Barclay, I have a rich, active imagination, but as a young adult, I slowly came to realize that living inside my own head wasn’t enough. Even a social weirdo like me craves social connection of some type. Social media filled that void handily.
I first discovered social media several years after its commercially embryotic phase in something called Yahoo! Chat. I tried it for about ten minutes, and was hooked instantly (Say what? Instead of focusing on improving the tragedy which was my life, I could escape to the internet and make fun of celebrities, kings, and sinners who dare to live in the real world? What a concept!) Before I knew it, I had lost count of how many chatrooms and message boards I frequented.
It wasn’t all escapism though. Occasionally, if I found a fellow chat-head compelling enough, I would sack-up and attend a real-live meet-n-greet to see if their reality matched their online persona (which, much like my own online duality, was almost never the case). Once, I was digging this female chatter and our chemistry was intense. We agreed to meet at the birthday party of a mutually-acquainted chatter to see where things might lead. We didn’t hit it off in person, but she introduced me to her friend, and four years later, her friend and I were married. By transitive property, I owe my twelve-year marriage to social media.
As social media evolved, I came along for the ride. GeoCities, Open Diary, LiveJournal, Friendster, OkayPlayer Freestyle Forum, MySpace, Google+ for some reason… and then onward to my current dopamine connection go-to’s; Facebook (my primary social surrogate – more on this later), Blogger, WordPress (well hello there!), Tumblr (where I do most of my fanboying), and two Twitter accounts (one for my back-of-the-bus mocking of all things pop-culture, and one for my poetry, which, I guess means that if I ever become famous, I’ll have to mock myself? Not sure how that would work.)
But something has changed within the past two or three years. Interacting on Facebook use to leave me with an improved outlook, but recently, I’ve found myself angrier, sadder, and even more depressed after perusing my newsfeed. Obviously, my country’s uglier aspects and the rise of toxic nationalism, leading us to this vile new administration manifested itself in Facebook, as did the Fake News Era. We all know of the many ways that Facebook and many other social media outlets have betrayed our trust, and I won’t be getting into any of that.
I decided to take a series of breaks from Facebook to see how I felt. My absence was probably unnoticed, as I continued posting via my Twitter link to Facebook (I call it “face-twat” for short because I exist simultaneously as a high school sophomore and a dirty old man.) My last break was during the month of April as I participated in NaPoWriMo for the tenth consecutive year. In each of my breaks, including the last one, I noticed that I wasn’t as down in the dumps as I normally am.
That’s when I decided that I would permanently deactivate my Facebook account.
I have selected a target date of Labor Day to finally and completely rid myself of this oddity that has oddly become a sad, compulsory element in my life. That gives me time to ensure that I find other ways of keeping in touch with online friends dear to me; friends who make me laugh, who make me think, and who make me want to become a better person – but not necessarily friends who I wish to see every day, as I still lack the social ability to make that a comfortable experience for me.
Also, I suspect that this won’t be the only social media that I give up on. In fact, the only social apps I’m certain that I’ll keep are my WordPress site and my poetic Twitter feed that links to it. All other apps are open to further evaluation.
It may seem trivial to some who read this, and I totally get it, but seeing how Facebook was (and in a way, still is) my social surrogate for the past decade, this is a big deal for me. The fact that it should not be a big deal is one of the main reasons why I must make this change. Lieutenant Barclay was compelled to severely curtail his holodeck usage as it was impacting his ability to exist in the real world. Those peers who initially mocked his oddities made a good faith effort to accept him, and he did the same for both them and himself. It was far from perfect, but Barclay formed lasting friendships.
I’m no fictional character, but I am compelled similarly, for vaguely similar reasons. As always, thanks for putting up with me.
The path beyond the garden hidden among evergreen titans rises and falls on gentle sloping hills that seem to roll upon each other like sleepy lovers playfully jostling for their share of the asphalt blanket. The rain, ever present in a fine mist, tamps down much of the troublesome pollen, while simultaneously opening the senses to pine, fir, rhododendrons, and that smell that smells of renewal; the smell that shocks the lungs into expanding to take in as much as possible.
Children play at the end of the cul-de-sac with a sense of oblivious urgency as they sketch in chalk the scaffolding of worlds only they understand, their shrill voices, quaint little bells of amusement amid mild relief that they’re someone else’s problem as long as the squeals don’t turn into sobbing. Kids at play yield to love songs performed by the neighborhood bird choir, who then yield the stage to the sunset, next then a frog symphony, and if you’re extremely lucky, an owl or two might quiz you.
The path curves, rises, winds, and falls, weaving between tree line and homestead, painting unhurried, sleepy tracers from where love lives to where she wanders to prove herself. She need not travel far; all that is needed is within reach. It is a wondrous balance, living inside a temperate rainforest that hosts a town that hopes to remain sleepy; remote enough to be considered a hassle to visit, and yet somehow, at the center of all that matters.
green giants shush me
it’s the wind rousing the trees
yielding their secrets
Today, we’d like to challenge you specifically to write a haibun that takes in the natural landscape of the place you live. It may be the high sierra, dusty plains, lush rainforest, or a suburbia of tiny, identical houses – but wherever you live, here’s your chance to bring it to life through the charming mix-and-match methodology of haibun.
Anyone who’s been sniffing around this blog from the beginning knows how much I love writing haibun. Still, I’m glad there are no haibun police, as I’m a habitual haibun rule-breaker. I think I did ok with this one.
“The fuck you talkin’ about?” I asked. “I got real syrup. It’s right there. See the bottle shaped like a lady?”
“I see it,” she said. “It’s okay, but it’s not real maple syrup.”
“There’s a difference?” I asked. “You fuckin’ with me, right? It don’t get no realer than the lady-bottle!”
“I’m talking about the real shit from the tree,” she replied. “Not this processed stuff.”
“Oh. My bad,” I said, trying to mask my wounded pride. “I honestly didn’t know. Must be a Black thing.”
“That’s no excuse,” she said. “Meh. Just squash it.*”
And I squashed it, because she was right. It was no excuse, but it was a valid explanation, though a poorly-worded one lingering in that grey area.
It wasn’t a Black thing; it was a poverty thing.
Growing up in poverty, syrup was an unconventional indicator of how a family was doing financially. Strange, I know, but true. Another surprising thing about urban-American poverty; even when faced with syrup-sandwiches-and-sleep for dinner, we sometimes had the audacity of being picky.
Sometimes eating nothing was preferable to eating crap (which I’m just now understanding, is a relative term).
I’d wake up on a Saturday to the heavenly scent of pancakes only to find they were drowned in the sticky muck of something in a non-lady-shaped bottle with the word “Syrup” labeled in plain black-n-white font.
I’d take one look and be like, “God bless you for trying, mom. You did your best. Why don’t you just take a break and let me throw these pancakes in the garbage for you?” That obviously never went over well, but that’s another story.
But occasionally, Saturday pancakes were accompanied by the creamy, artificial goodness of the lady-shaped-bottle, alerting us to two things; (1) breakfast was going to be delicious, and (2) one of the parents had a come-up **, which meant there were many more delicious things in the pantry besides lady-shaped-syrup-bottles.
It’s funny for a forty-something male to not know the difference between real maple syrup and processed, lady-shaped-bottle syrup. I know this. But when I bought that crap, I was speaking a love language to my beloved that only I understood. My bad. It’s fun learning new things.
crisp, grey morning sky
sunshine drizzles her sweetness
memories of you
I know I said I was taking a break from prompts to work on a passion project that I’m almost done with, but to quote Pacino as Michael Corleone:
*squash it – urban slang, to abandon the conversation, agree to disagree, and move on to more positive topics.
**come-up – urban slang, an unexpected windfall, bargain, success, or other positive outcome benefitting a person or a group of people.
(Editor’s note: Much like Mrs. Butterworth’s isn’t “real” maple syrup, I’m aware that this post isn’t a “pure” Haibun. But y’all know ya’ boy likes to stir the pot a bit, so let’s just squash it. 🙂 We good, fam?)
Today I was featured on Poets United, Life of a Poet. Sherry Blue Sky was kind enough to ask me a few questions and then sit back and let me ramble on like a brain-trauma victim. It was great fun! I’m honored to be asked to take part in this.
Wifey made tuna salad today and offered me some. I gratefully heaped a pile of it into a cereal bowl, but stopped short of eating. It was missing something. I diced up two hardboiled eggs and mixed them with the tuna salad. Much better, but it was still missing something. I sprinkled paprika onto the dish and tasted it. It was good, but one more thing was missing; Ritz crackers. Sadly, we were out of Ritz, so multigrain gourmet cracker nonsense had to do. I tasted, and was transplanted back to Chicago housing projects during the many times momma made this special snack for me.
grayer than most light
noon sky, counterfeit silver
I pocket the fee
Minus the Ritz, I had inadvertently made momma’s special way of making tuna salad, which on the surface, was probably unremarkable to most. But it was the one meal she made where I didn’t feel like a poor person while eating it. I could imagine all wage brackets having a tuna salad craving, and I imagined people from all walks of life savoring this delicacy in some fashion. It felt good to be on some kind of universal level with wealthy ones who enjoyed tuna salad occasionally.
clouds hide sky-scrapers
visibility is poor
to what lies beneath
I had always known I was poor, but it wasn’t a big deal because everyone I knew was also poor. We lived the same struggles, went to the same government check-cashing places, shopped at the same discount stores, ate the same public school free lunches, wore the same knockoff-brand clothing, and feared the same criminal element and/or corrupt, racist police shakedowns. I didn’t experience any stigma or shame for being poor until I began being bussed to the magnet school Beasley Academic Center. I have nothing against the school, as it was an expansive learning opportunity, but it was perfectly apparent to me that I was one of the poorer kids in attendance. Many kids were from stable, successful 80’s Cosby-sitcom-style homes. They wore Guess jeans, Genera button-ups, Nike, Adidas, Reebok, BK’s, you name it, and they always had the latest technological marvels like Walkmans, mini-synthesizers and etc…
rain bathed in streetlight
all will be covered
I recall being teased for many things; being shy (back then, nobody mentioned introverts as otherwise normal folks content to keep to themselves; we were “shy” kids who needed to be “fixed” so we would be more social like a “normal” kid), being a nerd (back at regular school, being a nerd just meant that I was smarter than the average sixth-grader or had greater intellectual curiosity than most; being a nerd at the magnet school – where I was rendered intellectually average due to all the other “gifted” kids being bussed in – just meant that I was the funny-looking kid with the coke-bottle glasses), and being rather unfriendly and all too eager to throw hands for someone so tiny, shy, and nerdlike (if all you wanted was to be left alone, but others kept screwing with you, I suspect you would develop a chip on your shoulder as well).
But for all the random teasing, nothing left me as defenseless as being teased for bring poor. Being a shy nerd who fought a lot was in my DNA, and I owned all of that, but I had nothing to do with being born poor. I had no say in it. Those were cards I had been dealt.
sunshine reveals you
true colors rich, emboldened
the shade, deeper still
The hilarious part was that after three consecutive days of being teased, bullied, getting fed up and fighting back, and ultimately, losing said fights in overwhelmingly one-sided fashion, a teacher decided to counsel me. She wanted to “crack my shell” and find out why I was always so angry and depressed. She wanted to know what in my home life could possibly make me so enraged and isolated. It had to be something at home, right? Perhaps my mother was abusing me, or had boyfriends with boundary issues.
I never opened up, partially because at the time – though an undiagnosed schizophrenic initially losing her grip on reality – mom was the best thing going for me and I didn’t want any outsiders screwing that up by revealing her secret. Also, I never opened up, partially because I felt like asking for help was a sign of weakness, and I felt compelled to endure on my own. But mostly I remained silent because I couldn’t fathom why the teachers couldn’t see the bullying right in front of their faces and understand it for what it was. I was baffled at having to show them what was happening and having to explain why it hurt so much to have to endure it. So, I never did.
birdsongs vibrate moods
gathering for the ride home
we flock and migrate
I would bus home after a particularly rough day of being teased and bullied for wearing generic versions of Converse shoes and a Michael Jackson jacket only five years out-of-style. Sometimes mom would have tuna salad on Ritz crackers waiting for me. I don’t think she knew all that was going on with me, but I suspect she knew I was traversing a rough patch. She never asked about it, but she would talk with me, cracking corny jokes to get me to crack a smile and laugh a bit. She always succeeded. I don’t know if the tuna salad was her secret weapon, but it was often present while she was peppering me with corny jokes. I miss those jokes, as well as the sound of her laugh. But the tuna salad I accidentally made in her honor was pretty tasty.
bluest sky leans west
surrounding me with comfort
memories of you
Written for Terri Ann Dawson, on the ninth anniversary of her death.
“The man who views the world at 50 the same as he did at 20 has wasted 30 years of his life.”
— Muhammad Ali
I have been a die-hard Chicago Bears fan since I was four years old.
I became a Bear fan because in general, everyone I knew and loved who loved American football was a Bear fan, and specifically, because my dad was a Bear fan.
Circumstances from The Great Migrations of the early and mid-twentieth century led to our eventual fandom. Millions of black families migrated from the harsh inequities of the Jim Crow south to the marginally less harsh discriminations of northern city life. It gives me chills to think that things could’ve turned out much worse for me had my family kept going past Chicago, settling in Detroit instead.
Phew! Dodged a bullet there.
Dad became a die-hard Bear fan because his family moved to Chicago from somewhere in the red mud of Mississippi. Mom’s family moved to Chicago from somewhere in Tennessee, according to my brother, who I assume gleaned this info from our maternal grandmother. Momma became a casual Bears fan because she met dad and thought he was cute, and plus everyone she knew was a fan, so meh, why not?
The Bears had a young unknown halfback called Walter Payton. His nickname was Sweetness, and somehow it fit that soft-spoken brute. Dad didn’t think much of him at first, but Payton quickly ascended as the third male hero of my early memories behind Muhammad Ali and Dad. Like Dad, he was also from Mississippi. I sometimes fantasized about Dad hanging out with Sweetness as small children, or Payton somehow being my long-lost uncle.
Before we knew he would be enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame – before we knew that Walter Payton would become WALTER PAYTON – I marveled at how he never, ever quit on a play, not even when it was obviously doomed to fail. Not even when his teammates obviously lacked talent, effort, or otherwise played like hot garbage. Not even during the very last play of the 1984 NFC Championship game, with the game already decided, on the ass-end of a 23-0 ass-whupping at the hands of the San Francisco 49ers.
Not even in 1979, when his father Edward Payton died under mysterious circumstances inside a jailcell in Columbia, Mississippi after being arrested by a white police officer.
Sweetness seemed to approach any challenge the same way; he kept his head down, kept using his body as battering ram, kept moving forward, seldom spoke above a whisper, and never complained. I admired and wanted to emulate him, but I usually fell short.
But the greatness that was Sweetness was a welcome outlier among the years (decades?) of comically-sad futility that passed for Chicago Bears football. As a Bear fan, you quickly became acquainted with words and terms like grit, and moral victory, and maybe next year, and almost had ‘em that time, and “why did he do that?!?” and “Why not try the second-string QB?” and “Holy shit, OK we’ve seen enough of the second guy; how about the third-string QB?” and “Fuck me, that third-string guy blows; how about the punter? Can he throw?” and “Jesus! Is there anyone on defense willing to make a tackle, or are you all just gonna wait to get the ball-carrier’s autograph later?”
I have watched decades of mostly-bad Bears football with little complaint. Sure, I’ve flung a remote or two and broken a few TV’s in the throws of defeat, but after each tantrum – and even the mantrums of my adult years – I always returned for more, head down, moving forward in silent fanaticism.
But the Chicago Bears were not just a mostly bad football team in a civic vacuum. When I was eight years old, I realized that the city of Chicago hosted mostly bad professional sports teams across multiple venues. In baseball, the Cubs were the “lovable losers” who made me hate all of baseball. I guess that made the White Sox apathetic losers since they were usually slightly better than the Cubs, but few cared because who really gives a damn about a team that’s only marginally better than dogshit?
In hockey, the Blackhawks blew too, and nobody cared that their mascot was an indigenous people that were mostly wiped out by the U.S. government, and therefore, it’s a really racist mascot if you think about it too much, or at all (it is now 2017 and guess what? Nobody seems to care now either.)
In basketball, we had the Bulls before they signed some guy named Mike Jordan. And let me be clear; the pre-MJ-Bulls squads of the late 70’s/early 80’s are not teams you will ever see featured on the network ESPN Classic. In my entire childhood, I might’ve watched a single quarter of their basic chest-passes and bricked shots before getting bored and switching over to Trapper John M.D.
One night, I recall Momma tucking me in. This was two years after my parents separated, and the second time that Momma failed to pave her way alone as a single parent. This was the second time that she had to crawl back to her mother’s house with me and my baby brother Phil in tow. I knew she felt like a failure because she said as much in my presence without knowing I was listening. Plus, it was in her body language.
There was something about the accumulation of these moments that struck me. My parents failed in marriage. Dad failed in his own autonomy and had to rent a room from his mother. Mom failed in her autonomy as well, but with her kids watching her every misstep. I had recently failed to stand up to my bullying maternal uncles with Grandmother’s admonishment falling down upon my incredulous ears for daring to try standing up for myself against grown men who should know better than to abuse their power.
My Bears took L’s, my other teams took L’s, my parents took L’s, and I was taking L’s daily; It began to feel like maybe I was born to lose.
I guess at that moment I was the right amount of dejected and inquisitive to form a few questions in my head.
“Momma,” I asked, “why do all the teams from Chicago lose so much? Is it because of me?”
“Oh, no baby! You didn’t do anything wrong at all!” Momma reassured me, kissing my forehead. “All the Chicago teams lose so much because their owners are too cheap to hire good players and coaches, and because the people they hire to run their teams are very bad at math. Goodnight, sweetie.”
To steal a phrase from Forest Gump, Momma always had a knack for breaking down complex ideas into terms my young brain could grasp.
But oh, what a difference four years makes! Dad had leveled-up to renting a swank townhouse in an affluent suburb, and Momma moved us out on her own, though we were in a housing project one of the more dangerous southside Chicago neighborhoods. This was a source of friction between Momma and me. Obviously, I wanted to move in with Dad in the safe suburbs with the delicious dinners and unending chocolate chip cookies, and Dad wanted me with him too.
The main thing that being a Bear fan taught me is that even when we get a come-up, it almost always comes laced with some type of L. Some kind of moral defeat always piggy-backing on a fleeting victory, if you will. Perhaps that’s just how life works, though it seemed that it was just how my life worked. Sadly, for Mom to remain eligible for the government assistance she needed to maintain her independence, Phil and I were required to live with her.
Mom had asthma, and I mean that she had the type of asthma that got her laid up in hospitals for long stretches of winter. On more than one occasion during her hospital visits, her heart stopped and she had to be forcibly brought back from the other side. Basically, her illness rendered her unemployable, but the government dragged their asses on approving her medical disability.
It was all a bunch of convoluted bureaucratic nonsense that mostly went over my twelve-year-old head. All it meant to me was that I couldn’t go live with Dad because Mom needed me with her. From my limited, selfish perspective, I couldn’t grasp why Momma would be so selfish, not knowing or caring how much my words and actions wounded her. I seethed and resented her and we clashed and butted heads frequently. I took ass-whuppins from her like hotcakes, but I could never silence my resentment. I couldn’t keep my head down and move forward quietly.
I’d take it all back if I could.
But oh! Four years and my Bears were good! I mean, really good! I’d spend Sundays high-fiving with Dad and weekdays being surly to Mom and counting the days until I could spend Sundays high-fiving with Dad again.
This all came to a head on Super Bowl Sunday, when my Bears would destroy the New England Patriots! The game was a formality, really; a coronation I’d waited for my entire thirteen-year life. Leave it to Momma to throw a curveball and guilt me into watching the big game with her and her sister, my aunt Judy. Momma didn’t even like football! But we’d had a pretty rough month of beefing, and all mothers know how to lay on just enough guilt, you know? Just enough.
So, I stayed and watch the Super Bowl on our wack-ass TV in the wack-ass projects with Momma, lil’ Phil, aunt Judy, and her wack-ass husband, my uncle Fred. It wasn’t ideal, but for the most part, I got over myself. (I can only assume that wack-ass uncle Fred had also lost a battle of wills that day, because nobody wakes up in a three-bedroom, two-bathroom suburban palace with his own den and decides, “You know what would be even better than this? Returning to the ghetto I barely escaped from not even twenty years ago just so I can watch the Big Game on a wack-ass TV in the wack-ass projects with my sister-in-law and my wack-ass sass-mouthed nephew!” Sorry about that, Fred.)
Things took a dark turn just after the game ended, and I take full responsibility for my actions. I wanted to bask in the glory of my team’s win, watch them hoist the trophy, listen to the postgame interviews, and all those wonderful things.
Mom wanted me to take out the trash. Immediately.
In the grand scheme of things, we basically just disagreed about how I would spend the next 15-20 minutes of my life. But things escalated quickly. I pleaded, begged, whined, and used all the basic negotiation tactics of a thirteen-year-old mini-supervillain, up to, and including the tantrum-to-end-all-tantrums. But Momma, merely a casual Bears fan, failed to grasp how important this was to me, and she did not yield one inch.
Left with no outlet to adequately vent my frustration, I calmly gathered the kitchen trash, tied it off securely, picked it up, and flung it across the living room as hard as I fucking could. The bag tore and some garbage spilled out, but it was only a little. No big, right?
I know. I know. You can stop looking at me like that. I know, OK?
Mom knew too. That’s why she beat the shit out of me. And she was right to do so. I had that one coming. But at the time, I was filled with righteous rage, and so I decided to run away. In Chicago. During January. Wearing only jeans and a t-shirt.
I bolted down the stairs and made it the length of the building before realizing that I should probably turn back before I froze to death. I could give Momma the silent treatment from the comfort of my room after I finished taking out the garbage.
To recap: at the pinnacle of my favorite team’s most triumphant moment, just after they finally became the best NFL team on the planet, and I mean directly after that happened, I got my ass-whupped and almost gave myself hypothermia. All my come-ups come with L’s included. It’s just my lot in life.
I could stop right here and write, “And that’s what being a Bears fan is all about, Charlie Brown,” but I’m not quite done.
A few hours later, after we had time to calm down and make our apologies, I finally voiced the crux of my frustration. I wanted to watch the game with Dad. Dad would’ve understood why the end was so important. Why had Mom imposed herself upon me if she just didn’t get it?
This is what my sweet, loving Momma said to me, verbatim:
“Oh boy, hush! Quit being so dramatic! You can watch with your dad the next time the Bears win the Super Bowl.”
Momma died of complications with asthma in 2009. Doctors couldn’t force her back to us that last time. Dad died of throat cancer four years later.
The Bears went to one more Super Bowl in 2007, where they faced the Indianapolis Colts during a freak monsoon. The Bears were easily the superior team on defense, special teams, and running game. The Colts were easily the superior passing team, as they had Peyton Manning and the Bears historically suck at passing the ball through the air. All the Bears had to do to win the game were two things:
Make the game as ugly, muddy, and unwatchable as humanly possible.
Do NOT, under ANY circumstances, try to pass the freaking football through the air, which again, is historically the Bears’ weakest freaking attribute, especially during a freak monsoon.
Well, my Bears only accomplished one of those two things as they were defeated. They haven’t sniffed a Super Bowl since, and they probably won’t until well after my own dirt-nap. So, if you believe in some form of afterlife, technically, Momma was right. I’ll probably be watching with Dad the next time the Bears win the Super Bowl.
And that’s what being a Bears fan is all about, Charlie Brown!
Except I’m not a Bears fan anymore.
To be more specific, I’m not an NFL fan anymore. At least not a die-hard, pay for streaming, watch every game fan anymore. Ironically, my mother’s casual fan approach turns out to be the best way of dealing with the modern NFL. Who knew?
Why am I taking several giant steps back from NFL fandom?
You see, there’s a gentleman named Colin Kaepernick who played for the San Francisco 49ers. You’ve probably heard of him because last year he famously took a knee during each of his game’s National Anthem Ceremony in protest of police brutality and police killings of unarmed African Americans (people who look a lot like me).
There are many (myself included) who viewed this gesture as a brave act to draw attention to egregious injustices occurring across the U. S. Unfortunately, there are others who view this protest as disrespectful to the troops and veterans who fight for the freedoms us Americans share, which baffles me (I am a U.S. Navy Veteran, so if you disagree with me, you have that right. I just ask that you please try not to disrespect me in the comments area while you’re disagreeing with me.)
It would seem that most NFL owners fall into the latter camp, as Kaepernick cannot seem to get a job in the NFL. Kaep isn’t an elite QB, but he is certainly better than half the QB’s in the league who already have jobs, including the guy currently starting for the Bears. For the Bears to not even look at Kaep via a workout tells me that NFL ownership in general, and Bears ownership specifically, would rather make their ill-conceived rhetorical point than win football games. And that’s where I get off the bus.
Please do not misunderstand me; this is not a boycott. A boycott is me withholding my time, energy, and money until certain conditions are met. I have no reason to believe that me withholding my one lousy NFL Sunday Ticket subscription, or pairing down my cable sports package will register as even a blip on the NFL’s revenue stream. I am just one guy, so who gives a shit where my chump-change goes?
No, this is not a boycott; this is me severing ties with an organization that I spent two-score foolishly and overzealously treating like an extension of my family. As the NFL said in their disingenuous anti-domestic abuse ad; No More. I can and have tolerated four decades of mostly bad football and moral victories from this team. I must part ways with any organization who would rather settle for being on the wrong side of history than – you know – actually try to win football games.
Failing to even look at a free-agent that could be best equipped to help your team win because you find his activism uncomfortable? I thought my Bears were made of sterner stuff than that. I cannot keep my head down while The Bears can take that L by themselves; I’m not taking this one with them.
Perhaps I’ll see you guys on free network TV if I can’t find any Trapper John M.D. reruns to watch.
For anyone cringing at my suffering so-called child abuse at the hands of my mom after the Super Bowl or whatever, please stop and consider this. Three years later, my dad punched me out when I was 16. That was probably abuse. What my mom did to me in ‘86 was not abuse; it was an old-fashioned ass-whupping, and I had it coming.
What can I say? It was the 80’s. We lived in the ghetto. We didn’t know then what we know now.
My kids are adults now. In their childhood, I maybe spanked them three times. Knowing what we know now, that was probably three times too many. But like I said, different time, different era.
Momma didn’t have the luxury of discussing my feelings with me while I was flinging garbage across her clean floors like a jackass. For all she knew, I could’ve also been acting like a jackass outside in public where the very real possibility existed that I could’ve been shot and killed by a gangster or police officer or arrested and left to die a jailcell under mysterious circumstances.
In 2017, perhaps this is abuse. But in 1986 in the projects, it was just damn good Johnny-on-the-spot parenting.