When Getting Fired Once, Just Isn’t Enough

I don’t know why, but I’ve been in a nostalgic mood lately; probably due to my ever advancing age.  In any event, while at lunch today, the topic of discussion in the break room turned to the rights which companies have when it comes to terminating the employment of individuals on their payroll.

During this spirited conversation, I mentioned that for ten or so years early in my career, I had been a Human Resource Manager at a large manufacturing facility.You-are-fired

One of my responsibilities was to always be involved in the process of terminating the employment of individuals who, for acts of either omission or commission, had managed to become persona non grata, or for the Latin-challenged in the audience, “an unwelcome person.”

It’s unfortunate that I have to report that in those ten years, I was involved with more firings, as we say here in the States, than I can recall.   But there are two cases which so clearly stand out from the rest that I will never forget them.

What makes these two episodes memorable is that in each case, I had to discharge the individual twice before they finally got the message that they really didn’t work there anymore.

The first case study in redundant termination of employment occurred on a lovely Friday afternoon in early spring.  I was sitting in my office quietly contemplating how I would be spending my weekend when my telephone rang.
You need to get down here.  We’ve got a situation on our hands! 

I recognized the voice as one of the manufacturing managers.  He told me to meet him on a stretch of pavement that passed between his department and an adjacent warehouse.

When I got there, I found him standing beside one of his employees who, at the time, was lying prone and unconscious on the pavement.  As I leaned closer to examine the young man, I caught the first unmistakeable whiff of Eau de Jack Daniels.

The young man enjoying his repose on the tarmac was stone cold drunk.  He apparently had a bottle secreted away somewhere in the warehouse and had stepped over for a quick mid-afternoon restorative, but presumably had enjoyed one too many libations resulting in his untimely and unfortunate faltering on the way back to his work area.

To get on with the story let me summarize by saying that we picked the young man up from the pavement, helped him to regain consciousness in the manager’s office, and then informed him that he was no longer employed by the enterprise.  We also had someone drive him home.

Case closed, or so I assumed.

Early Monday morning, I was sitting in my office quietly contemplating how I had spent my weekend when my telephone rang.

You need to get down here.  We’ve got a situation on our hands! ”  I recognized the voice as that of the same manufacturing manager with whom I’d spent the previous Friday afternoon.

He’s back!  He’s out there working away as if nothing happened.  What are we going to do? 
I went down to the manager’s office and had him bring in the young man.  After asking him if he recalled anything about Friday afternoon, he squinted one eye, cocked his head as he studied the ceiling tiles, and then slowly responded, “Well, now that you mention it, no I don’t really remember much about Friday.

I walked him back through the travails of that fateful day and explained to him that as of the previous Friday afternoon, he was no longer an employee of the company.

He seemed somewhat embarrassed and looking at both of us said, “I guess I’m just going to have to take your word for it.

Yes, you are.”  I responded as I walked him to the door.

The second case of redundant termination which I dealt with didn’t involve altered states of consciousness.  It was a more run of the mill severance of the employment relationship involving a middle-aged man, let’s call him Joe, who was known to have a bit of a temper.

One afternoon, Joe allowed his emotions to get the better of him resulting in his calling into question the virtue of his supervisor’s mother in a loud and somewhat perjorative manner.  Since Joe chose the manufacturing floor as his bully pulpit, everyone in his department, as well as those adjacent to it, were instantly privy to his somewhat biased opinion.

Again, the outcome was never in doubt.  After arriving on the scene and conducting a thorough investigation, I explained to Joe that his services were no longer needed and wished him well in his next endeavor.

Two days later, I was sitting in my office quietly contemplating why I had ever become a Human Resource Manager when my telephone rang.

You need to get down here.  We’ve got a situation on our hands!  He’s back!  He’s out there working away as if nothing happened.  What are we going to do? 

(Is there an echo in here?)

Undeterred, and like the true personnel professional that I was, I went down to the department and walked over to Joe.
What are you doing here, Joe? 

Oh hell!  I’ve been thinking on it and I’ve got to work someplace.  It might as well be here! 

Well Joe,” I replied cooly “Why don’t you just walk along with me while I explain a few things to you …… and wish you well on your next endeavor.

All in a day’s work in the rough and tumble world of Human Resource Management.


Images courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Photo from Hiring-Hub.com

A Fish Rots From the Head Down

Whether Greek or Turkish in origin, like all good proverbs, there’s a large grain of truth in this one.

A few weeks ago, my wife mentioned that she had listened to a very interesting interview on NPR as she had been driving home from work that afternoon.  The guest being interviewed had been Sergio Marchionne, the CEO of Chrysler Corporation.

What she had found so interesting were his comments related to corporate organizations, specifically what he had found at Chrysler when he had taken the top job there five years ago.

She was convinced that I would be interested in his comments because she is also acutely aware of my own experiences working within corporate organizations.  During the first thirty-four years of my career, I had been employed by two different corporations.ID-10050051

The first was what I’d describe as a small to medium sized company which, despite it’s size, was a recognized leader within its business sector.  That’s about the best I can say about it.  In reality, I’d be hard pressed to describe that corporation’s management team without employing words such as pirates and/or bandits.  I spent nine of the longest years of my life working there in a middle management position.  Sadly, but not unexpectedly, this corporation ceased to exist several years ago.

My second, and more than likely last corporate employer, was of the Fortune 100 and multi-national variety.  During my first ten years working there, I often thought, as the saying goes, that I’d died and gone to heaven.

You see, at that time the company established clear objectives and operating strategies to achieve them on the basis of “principles“, not the least of which was integrity.  Those were years of continuous growth in terms of profit, stock price, and market share.  The differences I was experiencing between corporation A and corporation B were frankly staggering.

But alas, nothing lasts forever.  During my last fifteen years there, the company evolved from an organization which was “principle centered” into one which became overwhelmingly “personality centered.”
Values such as the aforementioned integrity, employee involvement, and a commitment to quality slowly but surely became secondary to what I’ll call enlightened self-interest on the part of the senior management team.  Along the way, market share, technological leadership, and concern for employees were jettisoned too.

Which brings me back to the interview with Sergio Marchionne.

Based on my wife’s recommendation, I decided to try to find a copy of the interview.  I succeeded.  It’s on the NPR website in both text and audio formats.

For me, the capstone of the interview came at the point when the NPR interviewer asked Marchionne, “When you first came to Chrysler what did you find there in the way of leadership?

I had to go look for them because they were buried underneath the structure.  And it’s been my experience, by the way, whenever you run businesses that are dysfunctional, that the real problem sits at the top.  And so we changed all of the senior leadership of Chrysler within a matter of a couple of days.

A couple of days….. how refreshing.  I broke into a big smile when I heard Marchionne’s response.
His comments not only validated my own experiences in the corporate world, but Chrysler’s performance and remarkable turn-around under his direction gives two very large thumbs up in favor of “principle centered” leadership.

A lesson that sadly has to be relearned from time to time.


Images courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Parenting Tips and Tricks – #61

Did you read or hear about the Massachusetts ten-year old who called 911 this past Wednesday night because his mother had told him that it was time to go to bed?

The young miscreant apparently felt that his Mom had done him a great injustice and was intent on teaching her a lesson by assuming that the local constabulary would be in full agreement with his side of the story.

Apparently the young man lost his nerve and hung-up on the 911 operator halfway through filing the report on what he believed to be his mother’s unreasonable mandate.  Following normal procedures in such cases, the operator called back to confirm whether or not there was an actual emergency.  This time the mother answered the phone.  I happened to hear this exchange when a local radio station replayed the audio from the 911 call.
As I was listening, it occurred to me that the 911 operator, who happened to be female, must have also been a mother.  You could hear the empathy in her voice and visualize her head shaking in total agreement as the juvenile malefactor’s mother explained the situation.

The 911 operator informed the mother that it was normal operating procedure in handling calls of this sort for a police officer to respond to the scene and that one would be arriving there shortly.

It was at this point, that I believe a brilliant opportunity was missed for teaching this particular ten-year old a very valuable life lesson.

Had I been the parent in this case, I would have taken the police officer aside and asked that he give my son a real dressing down regarding abuse of the 911 system and that he then place him in handcuffs and march him out to the patrol car as if he was going to be taken “downtown.
Please.  No one needs to point out to me that, in these politically correct times, it would be extremely unlikely that  any officer would have been willing to “cuff” a ten-year old.  Just allow me a few moments to savor the thought of it ……… Ah, yes, that was good!

Let’s play out the rest of my scenario.  After giving the policeman enough time to walk the reprobate out to the car and open its rear door, I would bound out the front door of the house and rush across the yard while imploring the officer to show leniency to my son.

After all officer, this is his first offense and I’m sure he’ll go straight to bed and never do anything like this again!  Isn’t that right, son?

Lesson learned, case closed, and most importantly the little blister totally recognizes once again that he’ll never be able to out think his old man.

Alas, just a dream and yet another lost opportunity in creative parenting.


Images courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Is That Rosin and Pine Tar That I Smell?

I grew up in an era when baseball could, without any reservation, lay claim to the title: America’s Pastime.  I realize that the game of baseball is still often referred to in that way, but the reality is that in the intervening years, the National Football League and the game of professional football has replaced baseball as the most popular sport in America.

While I thoroughly enjoy both sports, there’s just something very special about sitting in the sun on a warm spring or summer afternoon, eating a bag of peanuts or Cracker Jack, while watching a baseball game.  I don’t care if it’s a high school, college, or major league game, the action on the field, the crack of a bat meeting the ball, and smell of grass and dirt touches something inside of me.

When I was six years old, my family moved to Tampa, Florida where we lived for a brief period of time.  Even at that age, all of my friends and I lived and breathed baseball.  We played the game every spring and summer, we spent every nickle and dime that we could find on packets of baseball cards and gum, and spent countless hours sitting and chewing in the shade of the front porch as we pored over those cards, trading them, and reading the statistics of our favorite players.

al lang field

Al Lang Field circa 1958

During games, I usually played third base.  But I also caught from time to time.  When I was at third, I always imagined myself to be Eddie Matthews, the third baseman for the Milwaukee Braves.  Behind the plate, I immediately morphed into none other than Yogi Berra.  As far as I was concerned, there was no better catcher in all of baseball.

In February 1958, my Dad took a day off from work and along with my mother, drove my brother and I across the bay over into St. Petersburg to Al Lang Field.  This was truly a pilgrimage to holy ground as far as I was concerned.


Mickey, Yogi, and Whitey

At that time, Al Lang Field was the spring training home of the New York Yankees and had been since 1952.  I remember driving across the causeway connecting Tampa to St. Pete.  I can only imagine how excited I must have been at the prospect of being on my way to watch Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra, Hank Bauer, Whitey Ford, and Elston Howard take on the St Louis Cardinals in a spring training game.  These players, who until that time I’d only seen on television and on baseball cards, were actually going to be on the field right in front of me playing the game I that I was already beginning to love.  To have said that I was awe struck would have been a gross understatement.

I remember that afternoon as if it were yesterday.  My mother brought along our Kodak 8mm camera.  I still have several three minute long reels of home movies showing Mickey, Yogi, and even the venerable Casey Stengel, manager of the Yankees, warming up just in front of our field level seats.  To me those movies, and the images which they contain, are priceless.

After that game, it would be nearly 25 years before I would see another major league baseball game live.  Sometime around 1983, I took a group of employees to Atlanta to watch the Braves take on the Philadelphia Phillies.  That was another memorable day for me because I was able to watch Pete Rose play.  While it was special in its own way, it will never replace the memories I have of that February afternoon in 1958.

Spring training is just getting underway again.  Games will start to be played later this week in both Florida and Arizona as the Grapefruit and Cactus leagues get underway.

I hope that at every game, there will be Moms, Dads, and sons sitting together in the bleachers sharing what will, for them, become their own lifetime memories.

Play ball!


Images from  OrlandoSentinel.com and MyYesNetwork.com

It’s Time to Let Idol Idle

I’ve not been a big fan of the American Idol television series.  Even when it was being hyped as the hottest of the hot “must see” TV shows, I wasn’t drawn to it.  The best that can be said about the show is that it was imported from Britain where at least a last lingering shred of television programming originality apparently still exists.ID-10049815

The concept of the series seemed to me to be little more than a latter day version of Queen for a Day, the 50’s daytime pseudo-reality show in which the woman, from among three contestants, who could churn out the most heart wrenching sob story would win a shiny new Maytag washing machine and a lifetime supply of Bosco.  For those of you not blessed with having been around in the 50’s and 60’s to witness this spectacle first hand, just “Google” it for more details.

The belief that a television show, in this case American Idol, is going to be able to routinely fast-track anyone to entertainment stardom may be appealing, but the show’s actual success in doing so seems to belie the hype.  Aside from Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood, what other winners have acquired any lasting notoriety, much less Idol-status?  Some of the contestants who have so unceremoniously received the hook from the show’s panel of expert judges seem to have had just as much success in establishing recording careers as have the winners.

Last night, I happened to meander through our family room totally unaware that my spouse was watching American Idol.  I chanced to overhear the evaluation which Nicki Minaj, one of this year’s judges, was in the process of giving to one of the female contestants.
I just didn’t find any authenticity in your performance.” she intoned dramatically.

Upon hearing those words, I lost all equilibrium and came very close to careening into the door jamb as I was hastily attempting to exit the room.

I have to ask, is there any reasonable person who would grant even a modicum of credibility to a lecture on the subject of authenticity when it is being delivered by a woman who is wearing:

  1. a platinum blonde wig which looks as if it’s made from polypropylene,
  2. heavily applied day-glo orange eye shadow,
  3. false eye lashes which are longer than the tines on my yard rake, and
  4. finger nails containing more plastic than a Tupperware bowl?

I think not.
Clearly it’s time to pull the plug on American Idol and find out what the Brits have been watching on their televisions for the past couple of years.

It’s just possible that one of our sharper network executives might thereby be encouraged to import it under an assumed name and release it over here as one of next season’s newest #1, smart, must-see shows.


Images courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net
icki Minaj photo from nme.com

Childhood Recollections and Other Trauma

Do you ever find yourself thinking about your earliest recollection?  While it’s not something I dwell on, I do find myself recalling mine from time to time.  Or at least that moment in time which I believe to be my earliest memory.

I’m laying on my side on the kitchen floor of the modest house where I spent the first five years of my life.  It’s summer.  I know this because the door which leads from the kitchen out into our single carport is open.  I’m peering through the bottom half of the screen door, looking over the short wall which forms the far side of the carport.
The carport is empty, which most likely means that my Dad is at work since our light blue Buick station wagon, circa 1954, is nowhere to be seen.  Let me tell you, that vehicle was a real land barge.  I remember it well, the original “family truckster!”  But back to my recollection.  I’m intently studying the various patterns made by the lines of mortar and brick on the side of our neighbor’s house.

And there my recollection comes to an abrupt end.  Probably due to my falling asleep on the cool linoleum floor on that particular warm summer afternoon.  As a youngster, and even to this day, I’m not one who is likely to pass up an opportunity for a quick and restorative siesta when the mood is right.

It’s interesting that whenever I recall this scene in my mind, I always see it in black and white.  There may be some deep psychologically significant explanation for my remembering this moment in monochrome or perhaps it’s simply due to the fact that these events occurred in the era before the advent of color television.  Who knows?  The fact remains that I almost always envision events from the 50’s in black and white.
One memory from this same period which I do recall in vivid color involves a cake that my mother made.  In 1957, or thereabouts, my father and I were stricken with chicken pox at the same time.  Not an especially big deal for me at somewhere around the age of five, but much more serious for my father who would have been twenty-eight or so.

We were sequestered to the isolation of a single bedroom where we rode out of our shared illness, surviving largely on chicken noodle soup.  We’d contracted the pox in early February.  I know this because my mother, in an attempt to bolster our low and quarantined spirits, made a heart-shaped two layer cake for us on Valentine’s Day.  She covered the cake with icing that, in color, was somewhere between red and pink.
Don’t ask for an explanation because to this day I have none, but for some reason when I caught sight of that sickly pink icing, I, along with everyone else in the sick bay, was immediately assaulted by a tidal wave of nausea.  Bad timing, that!  And certainly not the reaction that my loving and very considerate mother had been expecting to receive for her labors.

The event was evidently seared into that area of my brain which controls appetite.  It was months before I could bring myself to eat cake of any variety.  The very smell of a recently baked cake was enough to send me careening through the nearest available exit in search of fresh air.

Thankfully, through sheer force of will, I managed to overcome the debilitating effects of this trauma.

I can now state categorically, that I have hardly ever met a cake I didn’t like!

And may it remain so.


On Becoming Comfortable With Oneself

I’m becoming very comfortable with the fact that I’m now in my 60’s.  I don’t find myself wishing that it would be possible to return to any earlier age.  On the contrary, I’m quite content with my lot in life and with the age at which I find myself.  I can’t imagine going back for another chance to relive those same missteps and blunders which I so thoroughly mastered on the first take.

Some aspects of my advancing age have been expected, such as the speed with which time seems to go by as I grow older.  I first started noticing this when I was in my late 40’s, but my perception is that lately time compression seems to have gotten very heavily into steroids.  Is that a dental drill I hear or the second hand on my watch spinning?
I’m sure that there has probably been some scholarly research into the phenomena of time speeding up as one’s age increases.  Short of that, I’ve always assumed that this appears to happen because as we grow older any particular segment of time, i.e. a day, a month, or a year, represents a constantly decreasing percentage of the total length of time that one has been alive.  For instance, at the age of 10, one year equals 10% of your lifetime.  At age 60, it’s only equivalent to 1.67%, hardly the blink of an eye!  Such is life.

A second aspect of aging that came as no great surprise to me was the onset of a common condition which a good friend of mine referred to as, “Creeping Obesity.”  I’m not talking about out of control weight gain, but rather that almost imperceptible expansion in one’s pants waist size from say a svelte 32″ to 34″; and then on to a husky 38″!  All as a result of faulty metabolic software which invariably seems to go out of whack at around the age of 40.
Now that I think about it, this age of 40 thing seems to be inexorably associated with the onset of many of the less enjoyable aspects of aging.

It was about that age when I first experienced random and otherwise unexplainable aches and pains upon rising in the morning from a well deserved slumber.  One day my right knee would arbitrarily decide not to straighten out properly, this oddity to be replaced a few days later with a crick in my neck or a perplexing spasm in my back.

Naturally, all of these symptoms seemed to heal themselves just as quickly as they had first appeared.  The root cause of this particular joy of maturation appears to reside in our firmware.  Which leads me to ask, where’s a good 40 year or 100,000 mile warranty when you need one?

On the flip side, I’ve been surprised to discover that as I continue to age, I’m becoming more and more sentimental.  It’s not that I find myself wanting to pet kittens, dismal creatures that they are.  Rather, I’m finding that I’m likely to respond emotionally to situations and events which in the past would have left me totally unfazed.  This has been the source of some slight personal confusion as this trait seems to be in direct contradiction to my evolving and very comfortably fitting persona of the Resident Curmudgeon.  This anomaly is going to require additional observation and study before I can comment further.
In the meantime, I’m going to have to avoid any mention of “Old Yeller” . . . . hold on . . . . give me a moment . . . . the very thought of what that rabid wolf did to that little boy’s dog causes me to go all verklempt!



 Images courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

In Memory of Mr. Ambrose Bierce

It’s Friday evening, February 28, 1964.  A twelve year old version of myself sits down in front of the television in the family room to watch my favorite show, The Twilight Zone.  The TV was black and white and received only two channels.

A year later, a third television station would begin broadcasting locally, giving my family access to all three, count them 3, nationwide networks; NBC, CBS, and ABC.  Unfortunately, NBC’s “wonderful world of color” wouldn’t be viewed in my house for several more years and 200 plus cable channels were unimaginable, the stuff of fantasy and science fiction.

I didn’t realize it at the time, but the Twilight Zone episode which I was about to watch was going to so impress itself into my memory, that I would still recall it in detail to this day.  It was also going to introduce me to the writer, Ambrose Bierce.
The episode was based upon a short story written by Bierce entitled, An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge.  In summary, it’s the fictional retelling of the circumstances related to the execution, by hanging, of a Confederate spy during the American Civil War.  In case anyone is interested in watching the film, I was amazed to discover that it’s available on YouTube.  What an age we now live in!

I just finished watching it again.  I have to admit that on second viewing, some 48 years after the first, I found the film a bit slow in getting to the point, but its style is stereotypic of what passed for television drama during the 60s; especially that produced by an introspective and angst ridden French director and crew.

For those so inclined, I’d recommend reading Ambrose Bierce’s original short story before watching the film.  It’s much better than the film version and is also available from several sources on the internet.  Who needs 200 plus cable channels when one has access to the worldwide web?

As much as An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge impressed me, the real reason that I enjoy Ambrose Bierce as a writer is another of his works entitled, The Devil’s Dictionary.
As I continue to age and evolve into a very comfortable state of chronic curmudgeonry, I find Bierce’s definitions of common words to be both insightful and entertaining.

Here’s a few selections from the dictionary almost guaranteed to bring on a wry smile:

POLITICS, n. Strife of interests masquerading as a contest of principles.

CORPORATION, n.: An ingenious device for obtaining individual profit without individual responsibility.

ADMIRATION, n.: Our polite recognition of another’s resemblance to ourselves.

ADHERENT, n. A follower who has not yet obtained all that he expects to get.

SELF-ESTEEM, n. An erroneous appraisement.

QUOTATION, n: The act of repeating erroneously the words of another.

SWEATER, n.: A garment worn by a child when its mother is feeling chilly.

Definitions as accurate today as when they were first published in 1906 and there’s plenty more where these came from.

Thank you, Mr. Bierce.



 Images courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

What We Have Here, Is a Failure to Communicate

We live in a decaying age.  Young people no longer respect
their parents.  They are rude and impatient.  They frequently
inhabit taverns and have no self control.

This sounds eerily like comments which were made by a few of my high school teachers regarding me and some of my closest associates from those days.  In fact, one of my English teachers inscribed the following tribute in my yearbook during my senior year:

To a genuine failure of a student.
Before I explain, or perhaps repudiate, the error in my English teacher’s assessment of my academic credentials, let me point out that the quotation which begins this post was found inscribed on the wall of a 6,000 year old Egyptian tomb, no doubt containing the mortal remains of a wizened Thebes High School language arts teacher.

In fact, I was a very good student.  I took several honors level courses during my senior year and was accepted early in the fall of that year by N.C. State University’s College of Engineering.
In retrospect, I must admit that the early acceptance may have resulted in an ever so slight reduction in the intensity of my studies for the remainder of my senior year.  I do have a vague recollection of a corresponding increase in my participation in regular weeknight poker games and occasional trips to a local Lums, home of the infamous “Yard of Beer“, with fellow scholars who had also received their college acceptance letters.

Nonetheless, the Egyptian tomb inscription and the gracious bon mots left by my English teacher cause me to wonder if, taken together, these somewhat barbed cross-generational assessments may be indicative of a socio-cultural trend which spans many centuries?

The young people of today think of nothing but themselves. They have no reverence for parents or old age. They are impatient of all restraint. They talk as if they knew everything, and what passes for wisdom with us is foolishness with them. As for the girls, they are forward, immodest and unladylike in speech, behavior and dress.

Sound familiar?

There must have been a rambunctious gang of adolescents in Amiens, France for the local priest, Peter the Hermit, to make this scathing pronouncement, circa 1096.  Peter would later let his feet do his talking by leaving Amiens for the relative calm of the First Crusade to free the Holy Land from the Saracens; not to be confused with the motorcycle gang of the same name.

Even Socrates found it difficult dealing with the teenagers who nightly cruised the Parthenon and the Agora in Athens.

Our youth now love luxury. They have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for their elders and love chatter in place of exercise; they no longer rise when elders enter the room; they contradict their parents, chatter before company; gobble up their food and tyrannize their teachers.

Another reference to youngsters being misunderstood by their teachers.  How long has this travesty been going on?

I’m beginning to think that the Spanish philosopher, George Santayana, was on to something when he wrote:

Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.

In closing, I leave you with the optimistic words of Hesiod, an 8th century poet,

I see no hope for the future of our people if they are dependent on the frivolous youth of today, for certainly all youth are reckless beyond words. When I was a boy, we were taught to be discrete and respectful of elders, but the present youth are exceedingly wise and impatient of restraint.

Yeah right!  I’m fairly certain that ol’ Hes moonlighted as an English teacher.

 Images courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

What It Is, Is Football – (or at least it’s supposed to be)

Probably one of the first questions posed to a significant percentage of Americans upon arriving at work this morning was, “What did you think of the Super Bowl?” or some variation of that query.  I think an appropriate follow-up question would be, “Did you watch the whole thing?

As the Super Bowl was being discussed this morning where I work, an interesting trend began to reveal itself.  A number of my co-workers indicated that at some point during the game, they had switched from watching the Super Bowl to viewing the latest episode of “Downton Abbey” on PBS.   This piqued my interest because my wife and I had done exactly the same thing.    

Before anyone makes an unsubstantiated assessment regarding the depth and breadth of my interest in sports, let me state categorically that I am a sports fan.  Frankly, I’m a follower of more sports than your average Joe.

A few years ago, unbridled corporate avarice resulted my unplanned and unexpected early retirement.  Having to find some way to continue to put bread on the table, I turned a passion for sports photography into a business.  As a result, I’ve spent an inordinately large amount of time kneeling on side lines, base lines, foul lines, and goal lines over the past few years.  Without question, I’ve enjoyed every minute of it.

Back to the topic of last night’s NFL spectacle.  I haven’t watched an entire Super Bowl in years.  There are certain elements of the NFL Championship game that I now avoid by design.  You see, my problem is that I’d like to watch a really good football game, not a media circus complete with multiple side shows.

First of all, I never watch the pre-game coverage.  This might seem to be unavoidable given that this coverage now routinely begins no later than the Tuesday or Wednesday preceding the Sunday on which the game is played, but I manage to successfully channel surf around most, if not all of it.
Super Bowl XLVI
On Super Bowl Sunday, I don’t tune to the network carrying the game until 6:31 p.m., just in time to see the coin toss quickly followed by the kick-off.  This strategy proved it’s worth this year as I was able to avoid having to endure Alicia Keys singing, what others have told me was, the longest national anthem in recorded history.  It’s our national anthem.  It’s not an opportunity for the latest chantreuse to dazzle us with her vocal virtuosity and range.  Let’s leave that to the Grammys; which I also never watch.

Likewise, I haven’t seen a Super Bowl halftime show in years.  I don’t have a compelling need to be entertained during halftime, much less endure wardrobe malfunctions.  To my way of thinking, halftime is intended to give the athletes a break from the exertions of the game, time for coaches to make adjustments in their game plans, and time for those watching the game to grab another beer and a refill the chip bowl.

As the saying goes, I didn’t really have a dog in the fight that was last night’s Super Bowl.  If pressed, I would have admitted to hoping to see San Francisco come out with the victory, but that was due to them being the team more closely aligned with the original pre-merger NFL than anything else.
After having to endure the 49er’s sputtering offense and their almost non-existent defense during the first half, switching to PBS and the latest episode of “Downton Abbey” seemed like a very logical option; particularly after Jacoby Jones returned the opening kickoff of the second half 109 yards for a Baltimore TD.

I was pleased when I learned this morning that the 49ers came back and made a game of it.

That’s what I’d like to see every Super Bowl turn out to be, a great game of football.  That’s more than enough for me.