Sunday, August 17, 2008

Девочка моя (My Little Girl)

Shortly before my third year of law school, Lindsey and I learned that I had at least one Michael Phelps in the group (I make this reference only for Lindsey’s sake. The other night I told her that now that Michael Phelps has supplanted Mark Spitz as the greatest gold medal Olympian in a single Olympics, in popular culture we will refer to sperm that actually succeed in their purpose as the “Michael Phelps of the group” instead of the “Mark Spitz of the group”). Forgive my unseemly metaphor. Anyway, we learned that Lindsey was pregnant as I prepared for the third of three exhausting years of law school. Other than feeling overwhelmed by the weight of responsibility that I would soon assume, I began, as any prospective first-time father would, to envision myself roughhousing, throwing a football, and hitting a ball off a tee with my son in the back yard. It never even occurred to me that my first child might actually be a girl instead of a boy.

Lindsey quickly gave me the prospective first-time mother’s perspective. She began talking of pink dresses, cute hair-dos, and sweet sixteen birthdays for our daughter. I was naturally quite dismissive of Lindsey’s first-child-a-girl pipe dream. After all, it seemed only fitting that I, who would love nothing more than to settle even the smallest conflict with a wrestling match, would sire an heir to my legacy of machismo. Imagine how I must have felt then, when the ultrasound technician stared into my expression of incredulity and slowly repeated the news – “Yes, it’s clearly a girl.”

I will freely admit it – I was a little disappointed that my dreams of backyard brawls and downstairs donnybrooks with my oldest child, a son, had been shattered. I was glad that Lindsey and I elected to learn the gender of our child so that I could prepare myself mentally for pink receiving blankets and everything else that goes along with welcoming a little girl to the family. I want to make clear my feelings on this point – Just because I was disappointed that my first child would not be a son, I had no mind to withhold any affection from my daughter. I was truly excited that I would be a father, irrespective of the gender of my first child… I just had really hoped that the first one would have a Y chromosome!!!

Fast forward nearly two years to the present, and I am thrilled with the level of enjoyment and satisfaction I have experienced as father of a first-child daughter. God must have known that if he was going to send me a girl, he should send me the most persistent, fearless, and durable available. My daughter Annabelle possesses each of those attributes in abundance, and constantly provides me with precisely the type of enjoyment I thought possible only with a son! We chase each other. We tackle each other. We bowl together (she is the pin, and if my wife’s sister-in-law is reading this, no, I do not use a real bowling ball). We jump over each other. She chokes me with my neckties when I get home from work. My favorite part of all is that she has an insatiable appetite for adventure. Lindsey has scolded me for tossing Annabelle in the air too high on a number of occasions, but as soon as I place Annabelle back on terra firma, she immediately demands to be thrown again! It’s fabulous!

As I look back on my wife’s and my initial conversations after we learned that we would soon be parents, I realize that the oft hoped for, but rarely achieved “best of both worlds” situation ultimately materialized. Annabelle does have pink dresses aplenty. It just so happens that while she is wearing them, she frequently soars through the air, runs through the sprinklers, or gets grass stains on them!


Wednesday, November 7, 2007

The Asterisk

Don Shula, former coach of the Miami Dolphins, recently suggested that if this year’s New England Patriots finish the season with a perfect 19-0 record, there should be an asterisk next to the record. In case some of you have forgotten or are unfamiliar with the circumstances giving rise to Shula’s comment, let me revisit what happened in week 1 of the NFL season this year. During a game between the New England Patriots and the New York Jets, officials discovered that a member of the Patriots’ staff was operating a video camera to capture footage of the Jets’ coaches across the field on the other sideline, presumably to steal their defensive play calling signals. NFL rules explicitly forbid a team’s use of a video camera for any purpose other than filming action on the field. The officials quickly confiscated the video camera and the game ended with a convincing Patriots victory.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell acted swiftly in response to the scandal, now popularly known as “spy-gate,” by stripping the Patriots of a future draft pick and levying a $500,000.00 fine against Patriots coach Bill Belichick. Perhaps the most disturbing aspect of the scandal is that not only was the Patriots’ video camera use expressly forbidden by NFL rules, shortly before this incident, the league sent a memorandum to every NFL team emphasizing and reiterating that such video camera use was forbidden. Caught with his hand in the cookie jar, Bill Belichick feigned ignorance by alluding to “his interpretation of rules about a video taping procedure,” but it was clear to anyone with an IQ above 80 that Belichick is a cheater, and possibly worse, that the entire Patriots organization is a group of cheaters.

In the days following the revelation that Belichick openly defied the NFL and cheated, most sports broadcasters and commentators criticized him for breaking NFL rules, but most downplayed the possible impact the video taping could have had on the game because, after all, the taping was discovered in the first half and the Patriots dominated the Jets throughout the game.

Since the incident, the Patriots have dominated the NFL, compiling a 9-0 record and winning all but one of their games in convincing fashion. In a sport ruled by the axiom “winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing,” the spy-gate scandal quickly faded in significance as sports media personalities quickly grew weak in the knees watching Tom Brady and Randy Moss hook up for one touchdown connection after another. Suddenly, what was once an embarrassing blemish on the Patriots’ young season became an annoying little memory that served to distract Brady worshipers from the task at hand – to coronate Tom Brady as greatest NFL QB ever and to rename the Lombardi trophy after the genius Belichick.

After the Patriots’ recent victory over the Indianapolis Colts, the likelihood of an undefeated season for the Patriots has increased dramatically. Recognizing this possibility, Don Shula weighed in on the Patriots’ season. (Shula coached the 1972 Miami Dolphins, the only team in NFL history to finish a season without a loss.) He obviously has an interest in the preservation of his legacy, so it was not terribly surprising to hear him say that if the Patriots finish the season undefeated, their record should go down in history with an asterisk next to it to indicate that spy-gate tainted their accomplishment.

Shula’s comments have sparked harsh reaction from virtually the entire sports world. Commentators are resurrecting their arguments that the video taping probably did not aid the Patriots much at all and that it only happened during one game. Moreover, they argue, the Patriots have played so well since the incident happened that it is obvious they did not even need to cheat in the first place. These Patriots apologists completely miss the point.

The following example is illustrative: I recently took the Colorado bar exam. As part of the exam, I took the Multistate bar exam, a difficult 100 question multiple choice exam most American law school graduates must pass before receiving their license to practice law. The exam was, as advertised, very difficult. When I received the results of my exam, I was surprised to learn that I passed by a fairly comfortable margin. Let’s pause for a moment, and imagine that while answering question #79 of the exam, in a moment of weakness, I had looked over at another student’s scantron sheet and copied his answer. Let’s also imagine that I answered the other 99 questions completely on my own. Should I receive a license to practice law? Under the Patriots apologists’ reasoning, absolutely! After all, I only cheated on one question and, as it turned out, I passed the exam by much more than one question, so my cheating proved unnecessary. This argument is flawed and completely fails to recognize the crucial elements of integrity and honesty. While I realize that receiving a license to practice law and an NFL game are not perfectly comparable, the comparison is compelling. A lawyer’s honesty and integrity are essential to the proper functioning of the judicial system. An NFL team’s honest, good faith compliance with established rules is essential to the legitimacy of the sport, not to mention the good reputation of the team’s coaches and players. If NFL fans had no assurance that the outcomes of games on the field were the result of fair play and equal opportunity, the league would hardly be the multi-billion dollar entity it has become. Ultimately, the taint in the Patriots’ season comes not from the extent of their cheating, but from the fact that they cheated at all.

Shula’s comments concededly came from a biased source, but they are nevertheless meritorious. The Patriots, without argument, have put on a spectacular offensive display this season. However, no number of offensive yards or Tom Brady touchdown passes can remove the pall of suspicion and disgrace under which the Patriots fell when they knowingly cheated. The proverbial bell cannot be un-rung. The Pats tainted their season. They deserve an asterisk.

Monday, October 15, 2007

The Anti-Metrosexual

More than ten excruciating weeks of anxiety finally came to a blissful conclusion last Thursday morning when I learned that I passed the Colorado bar examination. Prior to my learning the results, my wife, Lindsey, encouraged me to celebrate passing the bar exam by purchasing a new suit for my new career. I detest shopping for clothes, but nevertheless agreed with her idea because my current first string suit has certainly seen better days, and in a profession where pretentiousness and superficiality abound, what better way to make my entrance than by picking up some new threads? So last Friday we threw Annabelle, our recalcitrant seven month-old daughter, into the car and drove to the Men’s Wearhouse, located in the trendy Park Meadows shopping area.

Generally speaking, I strive to spend the least amount of money possible on any given purchase. However, since I intend not to go on another suit shopping expedition for years (for reasons that shall become abundantly clear below), I decided to buy a little higher quality suit than what I might pull off the rack at J.C. Penney. When we arrived at Southeast Denver’s shopping mecca, I realized that I had a perfect opportunity to kill two birds with one stone by buying new dress shoes on this same outing. (I have been wearing a pair of “hand-me-up” – a term coined by my father – dress shoes that my younger brother gave me two and a half years ago.) We quickly accomplished this leg of the trip when I picked up a pair of stylish square toe Kenneth Coles from Macy’s.

We then entered the Men’s Wearhouse. I’ve dealt with this situation before. I knew it would be only a few moments before a smartly dressed “wardrobe consultant” would accost me and begin peppering me with questions about the occasion that prompted me to search for a suit that day. Before I relate what happened next, we should pause briefly to discuss the vocation of “wardrobe consultant.” What is a wardrobe consultant anyway (besides one of the most emasculating job titles I think a man could ever hold)? It’s basically that guy that wasn’t good enough to make any of the varsity sports teams in high school, so he assuaged his insecurity by dressing up in expensive clothes and hanging around girls. He was the guy with lots of girl friends, but never a girlfriend. He was the guy that paid over a hundred dollars for designer jeans that came with pre-made holes in the legs and frayed hems. He was the guy that ironically spent twenty-five minutes in front of the mirror gelling his hair to make it appear as though he hadn’t spent anytime at all on it. My friends, I have just described the background of the quintessential wardrobe consultant, but you know him by another name…metrosexual. Yes, these metrosexuals are annoyingly ubiquitous in shopping centers, especially the men’s clothing stores.

Back to the story – As I predicted, it wasn’t long before an unimposing guy in his early thirties approached me and, using a tone that seemed more fitting for a pick up line asked me if he could help me. I stated my purpose for being there – to buy one or two suits without spending a fortune. Clark, my metrosexual wardrobe consultant presented me with a bevy of choices, ranging from a charcoal pinstripe to a navy three-button to a classic blue pinstripe two-button. I appreciated his assistance in helping me find the appropriate size of suit coat of the various styles, but what I absolutely did NOT appreciate was the way he insisted on helping me put on the jacket and then gently, almost caressingly, running his hand down my back and shoulders to illustrate how the jacket would “fall” on me. It was unbelievable! Just as I asked myself how any reasonable person could possibly believe that this approach would lead to my buying a suit, I reminded myself with whom I was dealing – a metro, a new-age, trendy man who is apparently very comfortable insisting that he help dress other men for a living.

After I had selected the two suits I wanted to buy, Clark enlisted the help of his more conspicuously metrosexual co-worker, wardrobe consultant Jeff (Metro #2). At this point I nearly demanded that they quit referring to themselves as wardrobe consultants and, much like a sanitation technician should call himself a garbage man, begin calling themselves what they -really were – clothes salesmen. Let me paint you a picture of Metro #2, so you can visualize the ridiculous scene that was unfolding in front of me. He was slightly built, wore wire framed glasses, and sported a hideously weaksauce goatee. His facial hair didn’t grow thick enough to have a normal goatee, so he grew out the chin hairs he did have to a repulsive extreme to give the appearance of thickness. It wasn’t fooling anyone. Anyway, Jeff’s role in this whole operation was to help me “accessorize” with my new suits. How can any self-respecting man offer to help another man “accessorize”!?!? Unbelievable. Anyway, in a cracking voice that sounded like a twelve year-old’s on the precipice of puberty, Metro #2 explained to me that he was going to show me some looks that are “staples of any successful attorney’s wardrobe.” (The amount of ingratiating that took place after I told the metros that I was going to be an attorney was nauseating.)

Metro #2 explained to me that I simply had to buy an ecru shirt, retail price $49.99, to go with the navy suit I was buying. In an act of triumphant frugality (and contempt for the metros incessant suggestive selling) I categorically refused to buy not only the ecru shirt, but every other silly shirt, suspenders, cuff links, and ties they attempted to foist on me by insisting that I would be committing fashion suicide by not buying. I confidently strode to the counter, satisfied that I had accomplished the purpose for which I came. As I was checking out, Metro #2, clearly dissatisfied by my choice not to purchase the $500 and up suits leaned forward and queried, “Can I give you my professional opinion on something?” “Professional opinion?” I thought. “Professional of what? Clothes sales?” Ignoring my incredulity, Metro #2 told me that when shopping for suits, I was really going to get what I paid for. He told me that if I only wanted to spend $200 on a suit, it would only last two years, whereas paying $700 for a suit would result in the suit’s lasting seven or more years. Unimpressed by his ability to take two zeros off the price of a suit to arrive at its life expectancy in years, I thanked him for his “professional opinion” and left.

The problem with metrosexuals is that they apparently do not understand that they comprise a very small percentage of the male population. They do not understand that most men take pride in the characteristics that make them men. I love the fact that after I step out of the shower, I dry my hair off with a towel, and I’m done! I love the fact that I can wear my decade-old hunter orange hooded sweatshirt wherever I go and in any climate. No accessorizing. No mirror sessions. No ecru shirts. I am the anti-metrosexual.