Thursday, January 22, 2015

227. How Bailey became family

His official name is “Bump” Bailey, playfully named after the somewhat fictional character in the baseball classic, “The Natural.” He is also known as “Tater Tot” and our “Itty Bitty Pitty.”

Bailey is our newest dog, arriving in late April under unusual circumstances.

Last year I served as president of Erie Shore Greyhound Adoption of Ohio (ESGAO), whose sole purpose is to place “retired” racers into loving homes. While we fell in love with dozens of rescues, we knew that we could not take on a third dog. Our beloved bulldog mix, Petey, has cancer and we wanted to wait. We’re a two dog household, it just works better—though we’d have a dozen or more if we could.  We gave the same spiel many times and looked forward to the day we could add another greyhound to the family. Sky, our current greyhound, is just such a beautiful and wonderful dog.

Twice a year, April and October, ESGAO hosts a membership event on a beautiful farm in Medina. We have games, silent auction, vendors, refreshments, raffle and greyhounds—lots of them. It’s a busy day, which requires lots of preparation and set-up.

For our April event, we went the night before to set-up. The farm also has a kennel, where the owners care for and train dogs. During our entire two day visit to the farm, we could hear one dog in the kennel just letting out the largest and saddest cry over and over. Though we didn’t know his situation, and as heartbreaking as it was, we assumed that his family was out of town and would come back to get him Monday. We tried to ignore the whining.

As luck would have it, we were just about to leave the event when my wife asked the farm owner about the dog in the kennel. She told us that he was a stray that she had picked up. She said she checked everywhere, such as local vets and dog shelters, looking for his owner.

However, the farm owner and her husband were battling health issues and were not taking borders. Therefore, this sweet pup was in the kennel, alone, for four months in the big barn, without sunlight, the entire time. She was so kind to save him and care for him, but that was his reality.

We weren’t home a day and my wife just couldn’t get him out of her mind. And I could still hear the cries in my head. A few days later, my wife could not handle it and off she went to get the dog.

As sweet as he can be, the all black tiny pit bull mix of about two years, spent the first couple of weeks in our garage. We got him fixed, of course, and made sure he was healthy and healed. Each time we peaked in the garage, he came to life running and jumping, as he now had someone to play with him.

We had hoped to find him a home, still believing that we’re a two dog household, but it was a losing battle. He playfully leaped into our hearts and we made only a halfhearted effort to really find him a home.

Shortly thereafter, we couldn’t imagine life without him. We introduced him to Sky and Petey with minimal complications. It turns out everyone loves this cute little energetic dog. He’s small enough to be a lap dog, barely—though playing is a full time gig. My brother said he is the happiest dog he’s ever seen.

His youthfulness and spirit is new for us—we’ve rescued mostly adult dogs in the past. He wakes up every morning like it’s the best day of his life. Knowing how happy he can be, and how much he seems to enjoy life, it makes us sad to wonder how he got through four months of isolation.

Life is sometimes most fun when it doesn’t go the way you plan. We’re lucky to have Bailey—and I think he likes it here.

But our next dog will be a greyhound. I’m certain.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

226. Clinging to the Browns and memories

As I get older, it’s more and more difficult to spend my free time watching sports. It’s not that I still don’t enjoy sports, I do. There is something about competition, training to be the best and working as a team that appeals to me. It is a part of my childhood and something I enjoyed with my family and friends—particularly my father.

Today, you can see almost every game your favorite team plays.  I remember back when not all Browns games were sold out and the games were blacked out locally. I used to spend Sunday mornings with my Dad trying to get our roof antenna, rabbit ears and aluminum foil aligned perfectly to get just some reception out of channel 13 in Toledo.  I also recall staying up late to watch the tape-delayed Ohio State games on the 19 inch television I proudly saved up to purchase.

While I enjoy and supported the Cavaliers, Indians, Ohio State and Duke basketball, the Browns have always held a special place in my heart.

The Cavs have given us some great moments. I recall the Miracle of Richfield, loathed Michael Jordon during the Mark Price era and enjoyed the time LeBron was here. But I readily admit that I am a fair-weather Cavs fan. When they are bad, I do not watch them.

The Indians were special because baseball was the sport I played from little league to college. The 1990s were a magical time—made more special because I got to shared it with my wife. We started dating in 1995 and married in 1997. We spent our honeymoon in Florida at the same time the Indians were battling the Marlins. However, the lack of a salary cap and watching our best players leave year after year wore on my support for the Indians and Major League Baseball. It was too much like real life—the haves versus the have nots. To compete, the stars need to align perfectly for the Indians.

Ohio State may have provided some of my fondest moments as the only home team to win a championship in my lifetime. I watch most of the Ohio State football games, but college sports have become dysfunctional and self-serving in many ways. And Ohio State only plays three to four games a year that they could realistically lose. There are only a couple “big games” each year.

But the Browns, they are the exception. I rarely miss a game—and one of the few times I actually sit still through the whole game. To the annoyance of my wife, I like the pregame shows, watching other relevant NFL games and often listen to the local sports talk shows.

The Browns were special growing up—in particular because they were good in the late 1980s when I was in high school. It was a family affair often shared over mom’s homemade pizza. My Dad and I took a bus to Miami in 1985 to watch the Browns blow a 21-3 halftime lead in Kosar's first playoff start. My brother and I spent the night at the stadium in 1986 to get AFC championship tickets and witness "The Drive." The last game I watched with my Dad was in the hospital, the Browns first victory as the “new Browns”—on a Hail Mary pass.

We have had great moments, and we have had more than our share of heartbreak.  Either way, it was exciting and emotional.

Unfortunately, it hasn’t been the same since the Browns returned in 1999. Over the 15 years since their return, the Browns have made the playoffs once and have had only one other relevant season.

The consistent turnover of management, coaches and players—particularly quarterbacks—has resulted in nothing but disaster. Each time, fans get their hopes up—thinking maybe things will turnaround.

In fact, in the NFL, it is statistically difficult to be bad that long.

I won’t share the almost unbelievable list of negative statistics. Fans all heard them—the awful second half of seasons, 22 different starting quarterbacks, the terrible drafts. It’s been dreadful, even appalling football at times—when simply completing a pass is a challenge or when coaches can’t figure out the math behind calling time outs.

The way this season ended is indeed “the same old Browns.” The lack of maturity displayed by their most hopeful prospects is disrespectful for anyone who makes a living at a real job, at a real wage. It alienates fans who cannot understand the arrogance.

Jimmy Haslam and the Browns get one more year to turn this around. I don’t need a Super Bowl, but I do need entertaining and competitive football. I am tired of the drama. I’ve been a loyal and faithful fan well beyond the definition of insanity. I’ve done my part; It’s time for them to step up.

My father passed away in 2000 and remarkably, when it comes to the Browns, he has not missed a thing—except maybe mom’s homemade pizza.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

225. What should the oppressed do?

Recently our country has been riveted with lots of protests, and protests of the protests.

Protests are nothing new in the quest to initiate change or express dissatisfaction. It’s usually reserved to issues where people feel powerless or change through legislation has been unsuccessful or slow. As public displays, they come in many different forms and may be peaceful or violent. They may be directed at countries, governments, corporations or individuals.

Among other forms of protest, there is rioting, picketing, strikes, boycotts, marches and civil disobedience. Sometimes they are meant to shock the public and gain media attention; other times, it is to affect those being protested either through fear of bodily harm, property damage or financial impact. The form depends on the issue and unfortunately, unless it is really capable of instigating change, it is useless.

Occupy Wall Street, in protest of social and economic inequality, eventually attracted widespread media attention, but fell far short of making a significant impact. As far as wealthy individuals, corporations and banks were concerned, Occupy Wall Street could protest all they wanted, but as long as they controlled Congress, no reform was forthcoming.

Conversely, the Earth Liberation Front, used property damage against corporations they felt was not listening to their environmental concerns. Through illegal actions, it was successful, in part at least and certainly more than its legislative efforts, in getting the attention of the companies it targeted or even shutting them down.

Of course, there are many others. Caesar Chavez, through years of hard work, led the efforts of farm workers through successful boycotts of companies that engaged in unfair labor practices. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, known as PETA, employ—sometimes controversially— a wide variety of protests to gain media attention and embarrass companies and individuals who needlessly harm animals.

Much attention has been given to the widespread protest of the police killings of young black men across the country recently. The protests have been largely peaceful, but there have been episodes of violence and property destruction. “No justice, no peace,” is sometimes the mantra.

Rioting is often a little like terrorism; it usually affects people who have nothing to do with the perceived injustice. It serves little purpose and often turns public opinion against the protesters.

I always favor non-violence over violence, fear or destruction. I think economic protests are often quite effective, but it requires a significant effort enacted by a lot of people for a long time—often against their own personal interest. Even with social media these days, it is very hard to organize and sustain.

So what if an economic boycott does not work? How do you demand the accountability of a police force? How do you stop a country from engaging in war? How do you boycott diverse a multi-national corporation? How do you financially impact a billionaire or Hollywood star? In these cases, it takes more.

This is where I think we enter a gray area. What are the oppressed supposed to do? Most Americans feel pride in its revolution, in which protest turned into a war for independence. Many also believe that the country’s civil war was a worthy cause as a measure against slavery. Unfortunately, the issue was resolved through violence and the death of thousands.

It’s a shame when change cannot be initiated on its own morality. It often takes committed radicals, willing to make personal sacrifices for their cause. In this regard, I am an admirer of Saul Alinsky and his methods of community organization as described in Reveille for Radicals. An expert in understanding human nature and how to get the attention of oppressors, he did not identify himself with Republicans or Democrats, Christians or Muslims, Blacks or Whites; for him it was the “haves” and “have nots.”

It basically comes down to “hitting them where it hurts” to commence a climate of change or negotiation upon those imposing the injustice or immorality when legislative or voting changes are unlikely to make a difference or be realized.

Alinsky wrote, “From a general point of view, liberals and radicals desire progress. In this they differ from conservatives, for while a conservative wishes to conserve the status quo, liberals ask for change and radicals fight for change. They desire a world rid of those destructive forces which issue war. They want to do away with economic injustice, insecurity, unequal opportunities, prejudice, bigotry, imperialism . . . They want a world where life for man will be guided by a morality that is meaningful—and where the values of good and evil will be measured not in terms of money morals but social morals.”

In a way, America was built on protest. We are defined by our freedoms—the most precious being the freedom of speech. We are afforded the right to speak out against immorality, oppression and injustice. And, we have the right to act as radicals, to protest in its most effective form, when those who carry out those injustices turn a deaf ear.