Thursday, August 23, 2007

Stalking My Friends

It's that time of year again; for six years now, I've been heading up north to play war with my buds. Paintball on privately owned land, with a group of friends I've had for 25+ years, is something I look forward to all year long.

Yes, we are playing war; even as our brave men and women overseas are in the shit for real. Lately they've been making headway, much to my quiet relief. My friends of course, they being of the Berkeley school of "War is bad NO MATTER WHAT" are aghast at my periodic e-mails expressing my relief that things are not completely awful right now.

Bush is a monster. The war is hopeless and unjust. Yaddah yaddah yaddah. That's fine and dandy. But what is continually perplexing to me, is the sinking feeling that my homies really want the United States to fail. I'll take that a step further, and say that the possibility of their being a positive outcome from this whole thing, for them - simply doesn't exist.

I can concede a lot to them. The war IS awful. I feel bad for the Iraqis, I feel bad for our troops, I feel bad for our country. I truly and frequently pray for all three. But my mind can't wrap around exactly why they always insist on not only seeing the glass half empty, but not even really acknowledging the glass at all.

In their eyes, the United States went into Iraq - from the get go, as profit seeking ransackers. Invading (not liberating) and plundering resources. Of course my friends conveniently forget that most all Democrat congress members, and all Democrat senators, voted to go into Iraq. But even when I remind them, the shrill "Bush lied!" is all I get.

Then they say they support the troops. "Okay, so you support the mission right?" This is when the needle gets pulled off the record.

"Well, no the war is wrong."

"Okay, the war is wrong, I get that - but you want our troops to win right?"

"This conflict is unwinnable."

Long pregnant pause on my end. "Okay, the war is wrong, the conflict is unwinnable, and you SUPPORT our troops?"

"Yes, absolutely."


I know we all want peace. But am I crazy to think that it's not going to magically just happen? We can't sit by and wish for peace, and we certainly can't talk with fanatics.

Bush recently spoke about the potential parallels between the fallout of our withdrawal from Vietnam (systematic liquidation of millions) and what might happen if we are to cut and run. I mentioned this to my fellow Berkeleyans, and immediately received a six person lecture on how the anti-war movement of Vietnam bore ZERO responsibility for the Vietnamese/Cambodian genocide that erupted in the mid 1970's. I could certainly accept that the US governments presence in the first place, helped put events in motion - but history shows me quite clearly that it was the US brokered "peace agreement" and withdrawal that basically directly resulted in the horrific killings by Ho Chi Mhin and Pol Pot's forces.

Or maybe I'm just a right wing nut job.

Anyhoow, that will all be water under the proverbial bombed out bridge this labor day weekend. As I take to stalking and shooting my friends in the woods. At night, as the cards fly and the liquor flows, I will no doubt be subjected to more "lecturing" about the evils of our president and even the evils of our troops; the "torture" at Abu-graib and Gitmo, the "crimes" of our soldiers (gasp!) shooting unarmed men in the streets; which of course never happened in the "good" war -WW2.

I plan, as usual, to sit quietly and smile - lest I be subjected to a gang bang of stern finger pointing. And the subject will pass, and we will shuffle up and deal.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007


I have to say, the Barry Bonds thing bores me, and ultimately I'm more sad than anything about whole thing. Small consolation that he is a junkie and a cheater and will always be known as such. Others have said that if we are to condemn him, then we must condemn all others - but I disagree. I condemn first and foremost the one with the biggest record in baseball. For his visibility and prominence and for his utter lack of remorse or conscience. I also despise McGuire and Sosa for their "alleged" drug use, but in 10 years no one will care about them (or any other 'roid users for that matter.) Bonds discrace will last generations, and for that - he gets magnum vilification.

In other, more shocking sports news; the story that has literally put a knot in my stomach is this NBA referee gambling scandal. Tim Donaghy, a highly rated veteran ref, has pleaded guilty to two counts; conspiracy and fraud, and faces 20 years in prison for betting and getting paid for tips on games that he refereed. Wow.

As someone who was almost a professional sports official in his life, who had a chance to live and breathe the professional mindset at umpire school for 6 weeks; I cannot even begin to fathom how to tell you how earth shattering this is. Just so far beyond words, for one of these men, who truly devote their lives, not just livelihoods, to fair play - for one to succumb to an alien sickness such as this - is beyond comprehension. My brain has basically shut off, as it did when I saw the towers fall. Right now, this does not compute.

I suppose I'll sort it all out eventually, but for now my mind is both racing and numb.

When I was 12, I bought a cassette tape from the National Association of Sports Officials, that had a lecture on it by the late great Durwood Merrill. (No relation.) A crusty old major league veteran umpire. He talked about balls and strikes ("I'm a striker. I look for strikes!") and safes and outs ("You've got to watch the ball and the runner!" -Bad advice it turns out, at least according to my instructors years later). But at the end of his lecture he waxed philosophic about the life, and even touched on temptations. Yes, there are baseball umpire groupies, and yes - umpires are human beings. But Durwood briefly spoke about and warned of the most evil thing at all. He didn't say it by name, but it was clear he was talking about the temptation to take money for affecting the outcome of the game. He said, and I'm paraphrasing; "Watch out, they're going to get one of us one of these days."

That shiver down my spine is the prescience of his words. He was right. I couldn't comprehend it then, and I can't even think about it now. But he was right.