October 7, 2008 - September 30, 2008
Monday, September 10, 2007
A sea of scarlet at the Rutgers-Navy
game in New Brunswick Friday night.
Last year I wrote about attending a Penn-Harvard
at Franklin Field in Philadelphia. I didn't tell you that Mrs.
CP's experience of college football was limited to just two games
involving the same schools at the same stadium. So she was entirely
unprepared for the experience of Friday night when she saw her
first-ever Big-Time college football game.
Some surprises awaited me, too, though I had once sat on the fifty yard
line at Michigan's infamous Big House to watch the Wolverines go at it
with the Missouri Tigers. My hosts were a Michigan grad student and her
Brit husband, a friend of mine who had frequently ridiculed American
football players for all the padding they wore. In fact, that's why I
had coerced them into going to the game. We sat right behind the
Michigan bench, just above field level, and the din of the line play --
giants colliding and grunting like angry bulls -- made it impossible to
talk except between plays. As it happened, the first plays we saw were
right at the fifty yard line, and after about three of these, my Brit
friend turned to me and said, "I will never make fun of American
football again." I smiled a superior American smile, of course, and
congratulated myself on the fact that I'd deliberately avoided
introducing him to football at the Ivy League university where he was
enrolled. It's just not the same thing.
Ironically, that's part of what made the Rutgers experience so
astounding. Until just a few years ago, Rutgers was a fixture on the
non-conference schedules of multiple Ivy teams, scheduled (hopefully)
to lose gracefully in tune-up games the same way Appalachian State was
supposed to lose to Michigan last week. A sorry role indeed for the
team which had played -- and won -- the first
college football game
in history, against nearby Princeton, thus
creating the oldest and most one-sided rivalry in college football.
There was a time, sadly, when the Tigers beat the Scarlet Knights 69
times in a row, and Princeton continued using Rutgers as a doormat even
into the era when New Jersey's state university was at least three
times the size of its snooty neighbor. That's a proof of just how
little Rutgers cared about the game it had helped bring into being. One
more: Mrs. CP is a Rutgers alum and a huge football fan, but as a student, it never even occurred to her to see a Rutgers game.
Those days are gone. The Scarlet Knights finished last season ranked
16th in the nation. They're big
now. As they should be. Rutgers is one of the best state
universities in the United States, and it's the eighth
institution of higher learning in the country, founded a
decade before the United States was. It's just plain wrong that so many
of New Jersey's greatest athletes have been forced, for generations, to
migrate to such Johnny-come-lately university locales as State College,
Pennsylvania, Columbus, Ohio, Ann Arbor, Michigan, and South Bend,
Indiana, where their friends, families, high school classmates, and
potential future neighbors and employers almost never get to see them
play. Worse, there's more of a need in New Jersey for a team the whole
state can rally around than in other states, because neither of the two
pro teams that split New Jersey into two opposing camps -- the Giants
and the Eagles -- are even affiliated with New Jersey. It's a
particularly raw part of the longstanding identity crisis that has
enabled the whole country to make jokes at New Jersey's expense with
nary a word said in protest. (Despite the fact, as we have pointed out here
that New Jersey really is
best state in the union.)
I apologize for the long preamble, but you have to know the history to
appreciate what was so moving about seeing the Rutgers-Navy game the
other night. More pleasing than the lovely New Brunswick campus, more impressive than the clockwork organization that
ferried spectators to and from the dozen scattered parking lots, more
stunning than the beautifully designed and spotlessly clean new
stadium, more spectacular than the high-tech scoreboard, more stirring
than the solid sea of red made up of students, alumni, and fans in the
stands, and more potent than the talent and disciplined determination
of the renascent Scarlet Knights themselves. On that night in New
Brunswick I experienced, for the first time in my life, a massive and
profound display of New Jersey state pride
The Scarlet Knights of Rutgers are ours. Not borrowed from New York or
Philadelphia. Not north, not south, but right in the middle, at the
heart of things. We sat there with 44,000 of our fellow citizens, all
of us dressed in red-blooded red, and feasted on what folks in Columbus
and Ann Arbor may take for granted because they simply inherited their
grand tradition. Not so with Rutgers. Here was a long-blighted
tradition reclaimed and transformed in a deliberate
. What is no doubt commonplace at most big-time college stadiums
had special meaning here -- the student body and much of the crowd
actually singing along with the Star
, the scoreboard sound and graphics cues that
invoked spectators to become a direct force in the game on third downs
and critical plays, the intense focus on the game itself that's mostly
absent in the Ivies and other also-rans, being present for the
announcement that Ray
had just broken the all-time record for Rutgers rushing in the
second game of his junior year, the company of colonial militia
who fired the cannon from a nearby woodsy hilltop after Rutgers's
frequent scores, and not least,
the politeness and bonhomie of the crowd. I've never heard less bad
language at a football game and never heard more 'excuse me's' as
people came and went along crowded rows in a stadium filled to capacity.
It was obvious how thrilled everyone was just to be there, for this
most delightful and unexpected of outcomes. Our kids -- football
players, cheerleaders, dancers, band members -- looking this good and
living up to their good fortune so well.
I almost forgot. Rutgers beat Navy 42-24. Navy played well. Rutgers
played like the ranked
they are, and the issue was never in serious doubt, but I
think almost everyone was pleased that the Midshipmen weren't
humiliated. There was no need for that, and Rutgers has a history that
should make them wise on that score. When Navy's team ran onto the
field, there were one or two boos, but more applause. As the man who
stood clapping next to Mrs. CP observed, "I don't think you're allowed
to boo Navy."
You can't boo Navy, but you can
Rutgers has done an outstanding job, and they need no advice from me.
But I do have a wish I'd like them to consider. Get Princeton back on
the schedule. You know, as one of those early tune-up games. For maybe
the next 70 years or so. Let the lordly Tigers get an annual lesson in
humility that may be the only one they'll receive in their college
careers. If the Princeton boys have the guts to learn that what goes
around comes around, I'd be happy to help drive home the point for as
many years as I am able.
It's the least I can do for my home state.
Thursday, September 06, 2007
College of Tenors Meets
Dark smoke from La Scala chimney
means no successor has yet been elected.
While people around the globe are mourning the death of Luciano
Pavarotti, the powerful La Scala College of Tenors has been summoned to
Milan to choose the next 'Greatest Tenor in the World.' Outsiders can
only speculate about the politicking that is undoubtedly going on
behind the ornate doors of Italy's venerable cathedral of opera. Tenors
multiple nations are said to be lobbying hard for an "anybody but an
Italian" selection since Pavarotti held the post for more than 35
years. They also point to the long reign of Enrico Caruso early in the
twentieth century as an indication that Italian parochialism has
resulted in a virtual monopoly on the prestigious title. According to
anonymous inside sources, Tenors from Spain, Ireland, and the U.S. are
particularly grumpy because they believe Pavarotti should have stepped
down in favor of one of their own native sons (e.g., Placido Domingo
, Ronan Tynan
, or Axl Rose
Tynan, and Rose
Also at issue in the current election is the vital question of whether
Tenors should continue the ecumenical outreach initiated by Pavarotti
to make opera singing more palatable to the mass audience. A solid
contingent of hardline conservatives favors the little known candidate
Uggio Cantabile who, despite an admittedly mediocre voice, would ban
the recording of popular songs by Tenors as well as the performance of
famous arias outside the context of the operas that give them meaning.
(Listen to the attached audio file above for a sample of Uggio's voice,
unless it's really Michael
instead.) Cantabile's candidacy is being vehemently opposed
by, among others, the U.S. Public Broadcasting System, which fears that
the network will be unable to raise needed revenues during pledge
drives if it is no longer permitted to broadcast endless reruns of the
Three Tenors and Andrea Bocelli performing saccharine crap for rich
Concern about this grave threat to PBS has also brought prominent
American pseudo-intellectual Bill Moyers into the fray. Moyers has
written an open letter to the College of Tenors in a full-page ad paid
for by PBS in today's New York Times
The letter says, in part: "Preservation of what little remains of high
culture in the United States is entirely dependent upon a steady stream
of mawkish pop ballads sung by famous foreign Tenors. Without the
quarterly injection of funds raised by these entertainments, all the
truly intellectual fare PBS offers could not be produced or broadcast
because the ignorant American masses don't want it, don't watch it, and
would never pay a nickel for it. Needless to say, the civilized nations
of the world cannot afford the American hoi polloi to sink even lower
into the barbaric mire than they already are." In his summation, Moyers
nominates the commonest non-American (obviously) opera singer yet
discovered, Paul Potts
of Britain's Got Talent
Cynics at La Scala respond scornfully that Moyers can afford the
bankruptcy of American public TV least of all, since his own
income is derived from selling DVDs
of his taxpayer-funded PBS shows for personal profit.
Meanwhile, Antonio Cantabile, the don
patriarch of the
illustrious Sicilian family of singers, has placed a small box ad of
his own in the Washington Post
reminding the lawmakers who fund PBS that New York's Metropolitan Opera
and Carnegie Hall are both old and "molto flammabile." There's also a
reference, in an apparently untranslatable regional Italian dialect,
that identifies the address of Moyers's house. The College of Tenors
has disavowed any knowledge of the ad or its purpose.
And so it goes. Politics as usual in the snootiest upper reaches of the
classical music world. We can only hope that the electoral process
doesn't turn so vicious that it obscures the marvelous career of Luciano Pavarotti
who may very well prove to have been "the
last of the great voices
May his legacy live on.
Contrary to our hopes, the international political pressure on the
College of Tenors continues to increase. Now, Oxford's 'University of
Tenors' has denounced Paul Potts as the 'Welsh Pretender' and is
demanding consideration for Thom Yorke
Radiohead, who "hits much scarier high notes" and is also "of the right
sort." In fact, there's open talk of schism between Oxford and La
Scala. The Radiohead initiative is already being denounced by Britain's
Labor Party, which contends that the World's Greatest Tenor should be
low-born and unattractive in appearance, though "not a wog, of course."
Their nominee is Phil
, who -- despite being old and past his prime -- "isn't as
old as Pavarotti was," and "besides, ALL the talented low-born
Englishmen are frightfully old now anyway." Britain's highly
influential 'Gay Regiment' has issued a press release declaring that
age and death are irrelevant in the context of gay genocide and have
launched a vigorous campaign on behalf of the late Freddie Mercury
The Gay and Lesbian Alliance, (backed, of course, by N.O.W.) has
separately nominated Melissa
in protest against the straight patriarchy's oppressive
definition of 'tenor' as an exclusively male voice.
International ANSWER has announced plans for a "possibly violent" demonstration at La Scala
in support of the candidacy of Che
, who did everything better than anyone else.
Canada's getting into the picture, too, insisting that Neil Young's
rendition of Vesti La Giubba puts Michael Bolton's to shame, besides
being higher than a
dog's range of hearing
. But, as usual, no one is paying the least
bit of attention to them.
Back in America, some drunk old white guys are trying to figure out how
to vote for Meatloaf
And some even older drunk white guys have made a bonfire producing tons
of white smoke they say means that the Greatest Tenor in the Whole
History of the World is Roy Orbison
In the interest of full disclosure, we have to admit we're partial to Mick
, at least for
the first few bars.
It's getting ugly.
Tuesday, September 04, 2007
The Future is Almost
...and it's starting to piss us off.
LOVE YOUR DOCTOR?
Freedom? Liberty? Isn't that what the
Democrats tell us they're for? Don't believe it. Scratch the rhetoric
and you'll find that just under the surface they're pure totalitarians.
Get a load of this
from the John-Boy Edwards camp:
backs mandatory preventive care
Democratic presidential hopeful John Edwards said on Sunday that his
universal health care proposal would require that Americans go to the
doctor for preventive care.
"It requires that everybody be covered. It requires that everybody get
preventive care," he told a crowd sitting in lawn chairs in front of
the Cedar County Courthouse. "If you are going to be in the system, you
can't choose not to go to the doctor for 20 years. You have to go in
and be checked and make sure that you are OK."
He noted, for example, that women would be required to have regular
mammograms in an effort to find and treat "the first trace of problem."
Edwards and his wife, Elizabeth, announced earlier this year that her
breast cancer had returned and spread.
Edwards said his mandatory health care plan would cover preventive,
chronic and long-term health care. The plan would include mental health
care as well as dental and vision coverage for all Americans.
"The whole idea is a continuum of care, basically from birth to death,"
I'm sure a lot of you think this is nice and a good thing. Some of us,
though, work hard to stay completely the hell away from doctors and the
whole medical care system. Ramses the Great of Ancient Egypt managed to
live into his eighties without taking a single pill and without ever
having some quack know-it-all shove a telescope a foot up his rectum.
Most of the advances in average life expectancy since then have to do
with reducing the incidence of infant and child mortality. You could
look it up. You could also spend a minute or two pondering the
additional regulations that will probably accompany mandatory
preventive care: government control of your diet, your vices, and your
leisure time activities. All for your own good, don't you know. While you're at it, take just a second to consider the beneficence of government-mandated mental health checkups. Now tell me again how worried you are about the Patriot Act.
If this is the future, count me out. I'll be the lunatic up in the
tower, armed with the biggest arsenal of the biggest guns anyone ever saw.
And I'll shoot the first bastard who tries to come near me with a
Just so you know.