Monday, December 30, 2013

NFL: Chiefs’ J.V. Awarded AFC's Sixth Playoff Spot

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell announced this morning that the Kansas City Chiefs B Team will replace the San Diego Chargers in this weekend’s opening round of the AFC Playoffs.

The League cited several reasons why it decided to override its own formula for choosing which six teams would represent each conference in the quest for this season’s Super Bowl, to be held February 2 in New Jersey. “After reviewing the film of yesterday’s game in San Diego, we believe it would be an insult to the integrity of professional football for the San Diego Chargers to represent the American Football Conference in this year’s wildcard playoff game,” said Goodell, reading from a prepared statement.

The Chiefs, with its fifth seed sealed, gave the Chargers every opportunity to route them in yesterday’s game, but the San Diego club took advantage of none of them, barely escaping with a tainted 27-24 OT victory on their home field. The Chiefs played its scout team and did not even activate many of its eight pro bowlers.

 What’s more, the Chiefs denied their starters a pre-game meal and withheld Gatorade until the game reached overtime.  “We did everything in our power to give them the game except to take a knee,” said Chiefs’ coach Andy Reid in assessing the loss. “I’m not sure what more we could’ve done. You know, we don’t much like Todd Haley and all but we had to make it look like we were at least trying so as not to insult the Steelers. Shoot, our scrubs made that redneck Philip Rivers look like he was wearing a tutu out there,” exclaimed Reid. “I was like ‘Phil-take a valium and put on your big boy pants,’” he said as he shook his head laughing.

The Chargers could not take advantage of any of the Chiefs charity, but instead were forced to rely upon errors from the officiating crew, which it was later determined to be a holdover “scab crew,” from last year’s referee strike. “The zebras clearly blew two calls,” said Goodell in a departure from his prepared remarks. “The Chiefs kicker (Ryan Succop) should’ve gotten another chance to make a 36 yarder at the end of regulation because of that illegal formation, and then I don’t know what they were thinking when they gave the ball back to the Chargers on that fake punt in O-T,” admitted Goodell. “In my book, that was either a fumble/T.D./Chiefs’ win or Chiefs ball on the San Diego 22. Either way, ‘Good Night Chargers!’”

“While the NFL acknowledges that this decision is both unorthodox and certainly controversial,” read Goodell as he returned to his script, “we believe it is in the best interests of this game we all love to implement this decision.” He continued: “It would be an absolute joke for those sissy Chargers to go to Cincinnati Sunday to take on the 11-5 Bengals. I’m sorry, but if those pantywaists in San Diego can’t convincingly beat a bunch of rag tag B-teamers, then what in the world will Andy Dalton and the Bengals to them?” he said. “That’s simply not going to happen on my watch.”

Many around the NFL were immediately critical of the League’s decision because it did not choose the Steelers to take the Chargers’ spot, instead giving the nod to the Chiefs’ second string. When asked about that, Goodell, clearly annoyed, simply stated: “Bottom line—we  chose what we thought was the best remaining available squad from what we had to pick from. This decision was about putting the best 22 guys on the field against the Bengals. Period.  No more, no less. I can’t involve myself in conjecture and ‘what-ifs?’ If Rooney’s boys had taken care of their own business throughout the season we would not have had to step in. Let them go cry on their collection of Lombardi trophies,” said Goodell.

The Chiefs’ Reid was clearly pleased with the NFL’s decision, which will allow him to coach games on consecutive days this weekend and allow backup QB Chase Daniel additional meaningful work. “I think our staff is up to the task,” said Reid. “We’ll practice like we always have—starters vs. scout—during the week. We’ll all head to Indy Friday, then the J.V. will bus to Cincy at halftime Saturday. Both squads will be without backups but hopefully we’ll remain injury-free,” said Reid. “The only other thing we’ve got to figure out is how to get Ryan (Succop) and Dustin (punter Colquitt) down to Paul Brown (Stadium) by noon Sunday,” he said. “We’re essentially approaching this like the Royals do a split squad game out in Spring Training,” said Reid.

The NFL declined to meaningfully address the possibility that the Chiefs’ first and second strings could play each other for the AFC Championship January 19. “There’s a lot of football to be played between now and then,” said Goodell. "Let's not get too far ahead of ourselves."

He paused, then added: “I can tell you one thing for certain: If the Chiefs end up essentially having an intrasquad scrimmage for the AFC Title, then that game will definitely be played at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City,” he said.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Is Dr. Heimlich in the House?

Kansas City BBQ addicts have a dirty little secret. Sometimes, in exercising our passionate desire to consume smoked meats, we forget to chew.  Such was the case last night at Jack Stack in Martin City, as Sandee and I met our old high school friend Roger Denney there for dinner. 

Roger, raised in Kansas City, is as fine a connoisseur of Kansas City BBQ as you will ever meet. Now he practices anesthesiology  in the D.C. area where he sports a Virginia license plate that simply says “KC BARBQ.”

So you see barbeque is serious business for Roger. He knows his stuff. Since Jack Stack is his favorite stop when he comes back home to visit his mother, we were only too happy to share a decadent Jack Stack meal with him, the last such one he will enjoy until his mail order shipment of burnt ends and such arrives for his annual Christmas Eve dinner back East.

After devouring some famous Martin City fare, we were enthralled in post-dinner conversation. But as we relaxed, piecing together the better part of the last thirty years, a commotion from the other side of the room distracted us. Tables were pushed aside, people rose to their feet, and a voice cried out: “Does anyone know the Heimlich?!?”

Suddenly before my very eyes, Roger Denney, 17-year-old post player and all-star student, was transformed with phone-booth-like speed and precision into Dr. Roger “Heimlich” Denney, Man of the Hour.

Roger sprung to his feet, raced across the room, and was presented with a petite young woman who had fallen prey to a giant cube of burnt end of brisket. Roger quickly assessed the situation, found the proper location of the woman’s sternum, then raised her forcefully from behind in an effort to dislodge the giant hunk of beef that was obstructing her air flow.

After a couple of tries it looked like the woman had been freed from her barbeque-induced trauma. So Roger turned to her and asked her to speak. She could not. He then resumed the procedure with three more pushes. The offending morsel was then freed from its esophagul berth.

Roger returned to our table amid fanfare and appreciation from our fellow diners. We told him it was fortunate that he, Dr. Roger Denney, had been in the house and had gone to medical school and had done all of those E.R. rotations and the like. All of that experience for this moment. Roger could have agreed with us, but dismissed the act as basic first aid, presumably anything the local life guard could have done.

Maybe he’s right, but he performed the Heimlich on this young woman with such skill and care that she was barely impacted by the entire experience. I don’t know about you, but if I almost perish in a crowded restaurant in Death-by-Choking fashion, I may ask for the check and go home and make a fruit smoothie and call it a night. I may pause for a bit and wonder if I need to at least call my mother to have her come and cut up my meat.

But this woman was a BBQ Woman superhero. She jumped back in the saddle and ate the hair of the dog that bit her. It was like someone had told her “As You Were,” and she rejoined her Burnt End Euphoria in progress, barely skipping a beat, even though a table or two around here, with contorted faces,  had cleared out and headed home rather than enduring to the end with her during her plight.

Jack Stack was very appreciative of Roger. Our server came over and told him that for his efforts the restaurant would like to buy him a dessert.

I guess this was a nice gesture, but if I’m Jack Stack brass, and Dr. Denney had just performed life saving heroics in my dining room, I’m springing for more than a piece of carrot cake. I’m naming a sandwich after him. I’m dubbing him the new “Martin City Mayor.” I’m shipping him Kobe and babybacks once a month for life.

A free dessert is what you get for complaining that the service is poor. A free dessert is what you get when it’s your birthday. For last night’s efforts, Roger needs a statue erected of him at the corner of 135th and Holmes!

But the ever-humble and gracious Roger, thanked Jack Stack for their generosity, and asked them to give him his dessert to go. For this kind soul, it was all in a day’s work.

But the rest of us...we were treated to a tiny glimpse of how some very fortunate patients are treated in Washington D.C. each day.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Ponzi For Dummies

Editor's Note: This essay was originally submitted to the Robert Benchley Society as an entry into its 2013 writing contest. Since the essay did not reach the finals of the contest, it is published here to endure further ridicule. Looking back, the essay lacked several key qualities, not the least of which was the writer's lack of familiarity with Robert Benchley's (grandfather of Jaws author Peter Benchley) style. The essay was further encumbered by a 500 word limit and the author's aversion to review and editing, but we hope you enjoy it nonetheless.

All I hear about these days from financial pundits are warnings of Financial Armageddon.  Cries and bellows of “Credit Tsunami!” and “Global Economic Collapse!” litter the business landscape.   It’s enough to make a person think about alchemicing gold.

I don’t know who to believe, so I’ve decided to get back to the basics. In doing so I’ve discovered an oft overlooked and as of late much maligned investment strategy called the Ponzi scheme.

I don’t see what all the fuss is about Ponzi schemes. If we take the word “scheme” away (which I will henceforth do here) the term “Ponzi” becomes quite benign.  Its biggest problem is that its namesake, Charles Ponzi, evidently swindled a bunch of people in a scam involving stamps—probably S and H Green Stamps. People will stop at nothing to get a free toaster….

Ponzis have developed troublesome reputations because they provide returns to initial investors from contributions tendered by successive investors. Everyone is up and arms about this and acts like it was contrived from the depths of Sheol.  But there is nothing new under the sun.  For decades this investment strategy has worked handsomely for the Social Security Administration.

A successful Ponzi, like any investment worth its salt, is a function of proper  timing. Neophyte Ponzi investors often miss this critical fact. They hear stories of third, fourth, seventh and so on level investors who came to the Ponzi after the well had gone dry.  So they sit around wringing their hands when they could’ve already been in-and-out, down the road perusing the next  Ponzi prospectus.

But unfortunately not everyone is as savvy and enlightened as me. The SEC (short for Southeastern Conference) has issued a white paper on Ponzis and  urges investors to consider various  “red flags.”  

The SEC creates unwarranted panic by asking questions such as these:

1. Does the investment guarantee certain returns?
Actually, the lack of an offer of a guarantee does not ensure you are not being bilked or swindled. If a prospectus would actually guarantee me a loss, I might not doubt the veracity of its money managers’ claims, perhaps forwarding to them even my very last dime. Honesty from a money manager is my top priority.

2. Do you understand the investment?
Implicit in this statement from the Southeastern Conference is that such investments, if not understood,  should be avoided. But if we followed this advice religiously, who in the world would own life insurance? Speaking of which, it is only a deluded Ponzi investor that would, as the last man in the world standing, expect to collect on that double indemnity.

3. Is the seller registered?
I assume the SEC is talking about being a registered securities dealer. But even Bernie Madoff, the  mother of all Ponzis, was “registered” when he “Made-Off” with billions.

Don’t listen to the naysayers like the Southeastern Conference.  Follow me. Together we’ll be Positively Ponzi. 

Better come quickly, though. Before you know it, I’ll be long gone.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Head Bobs and Finger Nods--The Country Wave

If we are anything out here in the country we are wavers.

We wave at every available opportunity. We wave at our rural mail carrier. We wave at the UPS man. We wave at the meter reader from the water district. I think I’ve even waved at a suspected meth chef or two as they’ve whizzed on down the road.

Although country waves are effective while sitting, standing, piddling and what-not, our best waving out here occurs while driving. It is a major country faux pas to not wave at an oncoming vehicle while behind the wheel. Waving expectations heighten with particular road and vehicle types. Case in point: In some counties, if one fails to wave at a pick-up truck while driving on a gravel surface, the local prosecuting attorney may file misdemeanor charges.

There is not a specific prescription for how one waves. Most simply raise their pointer finger slightly above the top of the steering wheel. You want to lift this finger high enough to be noticed, but not too aggressively lest you startle the oncoming driver.

This is the so called “finger nod,” One can use any finger he wishes during the conveyance of the finger nod. Certain fingers should be avoided, for obvious reasons and to avoid confusion with the sort of less-friendly gestures that are used in the city. And, use of the pinkie is sort of frowned upon. It’s considered a little half-hearted and likely to betray suburban roots.
One should also stay away, while driving, from the literal raised hand wave. A literal wave is seen by most country folk as sort of desperate and screaming for attention. It implies you don’t have enough country business on your mind. The wave is never about the wave itself. It is a vehicle for delivering respect. It’s a subtle, dignified acknowledgment that we’re all in this together.

In some townships waves may be replaced by head nods, or more accurately head bobs. The head bob can either be a slight lift of the head about five degrees backwards, or a slight downward head movement that is quickly returned to the starting position. I often employ the head bob during the operation of a riding mower. This gesture is universally accepted by passers by. No one expects a man on a lawnmower, tractor, combine or any other piece of machinery to hinder the safe and productive operation of said machinery by ceasing to steer the machinery—even momentarily—for  the sake of a wave.

Another thing about driving and waving on the road is you start to recognize your neighbors and other folks by the grille on their pickup. Then thoughts just run through your head…’Yeah, that’s Jim. He needs to apply some bug and tar remover….’ ‘….Billy Wayne is missing the "G" from his" GMC"….’ ‘… Mr. Blake still has that big old crack in his windshield….’

 I came to the country wave late in life. I was exposed to it initially during college in the early 1980s while driving along Farm Road 1217 outside Springfield, Mo. My first reaction was a childlike curiosity on how the nice farmer might know me. My curiosity turned to panic as it occurred to me that he might just sort of know me but really know my parents. I finally realized something bigger was going on along Farm Road 1217 after three of the next four oncoming drivers also waved at me. It was then that my love for the country wave was born. When I eventually moved to the Kansas City hinterlands,  I could finally own it.

When we leave the country and venture back to the city, we can’t turn off this habit of waving. It’s now a built-in reflex. Sadly, no one in the city waves back. In fact they look at us like I looked at that farmer in Springfield back in 1983. My son Davis has grown up waving at folks. While far from a country bumpkin in all other ways, the country wave has become part and parcel of who he is. He’s working is in Panama City Beach, Florida this summer. Much to his chagrin, no one there waves back at him either.

I hope Davis and my other children raise my grandchildren to be wavers. Even if they live in the city, training a child to wave the country wave should be an integral part of child rearing. It’s as respectful as a Georgia father teaching his children to say “Yes sir” and “Yes ma’am.”

Let’s not forget, however, as we teach our children and grandchildren to wave properly, that there are real live human beings behind those steering wheels. Let’s not just blindly wave at them without being willing to step into their worlds. Let’s not substitute the country wave for real, live, down-and-dirty interaction.

The next time you look over the steering wheel and see me coming at you, flag me down and pull me over. I’ll have a thermos of coffee that we can share right there in the middle of that gravel road.

And if you don’t like coffee, I’ll have some bug and tar remover and we can go to work on that grille.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

The Aspiring Couch Potato

I am lower than a couch potato.

How do I know this? Because I installed the iPhone workout app called Couch to 5K (C5K) and I can’t get through the first day’s routine.

C5K (changed from the politically incorrect “Couch POTATO to 5K”) is a workout regimen that is designed to take you, over a period of nine weeks   from being a so called couch potato to a living, breathing specimen that can run a 5 kilometer race.  Five kilometers.  As in 3.1 MILES.

At first blush the idea seems plausible. The plan is to alternately walk and jog for a thirty minute or so session three times a week. Each week the workout transitions into more jogging and less walking until, voila’, during week nine you jog for 30 minutes, which at the pace of 6.2 mph should carry you about five kilometers.

But as with all seemingly plausible schemes, there was for me one glaring flaw in this app. The flaw, I have discovered, is that the C5K’s definition of couch potato is apparently  “world class athlete.”

I’m not sure who wrote the code for the C5K app. I think it was written from some college kid who was either juiced or blood-doped. I don’t think the programmers actually identified a focus group of bona fide couch potatoes to see if they could actually finish the first day’s workout.

Let me take you through the C5K routine to see if you agree.

The program starts Week 1, Day 1 with a five minute warm up walk.  So far, so good. This caused me to break a sweat but my heart rate only got about 25 points above resting. No cause for concern or reason to have Life Flight on standby.

 But after the five minutes is up a woman’s computerized voice softly says “jog.” That’s when the trouble began for me.

I started jogging at her prompt but I had only gotten about 12 seconds into it when my body began to writher and convulse. My heart rate skyrocketed and by blood pressure catapulted to life-threatening levels. Or so it seemed.

I started to get dizzy and unspeakable things started happening at the cellular level. Impurities from the bowels of my stored cholesterol  fought  through the layers of pizza rolls, frozen burritos and late night Taco Bell runs to be released.  Lipids, long ago forgotten, fought to free themselves from their plaque-covered berths. Every saturated fat and empty carbohydrate I had ever consumed paraded before my mind’s eye, mocking me and daring me to quit.

I was taken to the woodshed for every slab of ribs, every Big Mac, every Chinese buffet,  and every slaw dog from  my favorite drive-in at Panama City Beach that I had ever eaten. All of them, and other unidentified toxins, commenced a no-holds-barred assault on my cardiovascular system.

Finally, after what had been only a minute but felt like an eternity,  I was saved by the woman’s voice that said, “let’s walk, ” which sounded more like “let’s croak.”

This walking reprieve lasted only 90 seconds and then I was pressed back into duty as that annoying voice once again told me to jog. During this second jog I was transported back into junior high school  when  I had eaten 10 for $1 hamburgers at Smak’s. Then some post-little league baseball game onion rings from Paul’s Drive In on Blue Ridge Blvd. were released from a special storage compartment inside my liver.  Paul’s onion rings did not leave quietly.

Once again my 90 second walk saved me. But it was during this walk that my mind immediately shifted into high gear. I had to figure out a way to modify this workout regimen or I would have to be scraped off the ground by emergency medical personnel.

I finally decided I would skip jogs 3 and 4 (there are 8 total during Day 1) and would simply walk until I could pick up the  5th jog in three or four minutes. Then I jogged the sixth leg but walked until the 30 minutes were up.

This altered routine saved by live, but it left me in despair as I realized I was not worthy to be called a couch potato.

But I did not linger in grief. I realized that I must simply write a new program for a new app for people like me who aspired to achieve  a level of fitness worthy of the name “couch potato.”

My new app is in development and I am currently learning various codes like Morse and the like so that I can properly market this new app to Apple and other manufacturers. I think I’m ready to announce its name.  After rejecting my first two ideas—“Comatose to Couch Potato” and “Drone to Prone,”  I’m pleased to announce that I have decided to name my new app “Insulin Resistant to Couch Subsistent”  or IRCS for short.

IRCS is still in beta testing, but here is what I’m thinking the first few workouts will look like.

Week One, Day One:  Sleep For 30 Minutes
Week One,  Day Two:  Lie Quietly for 30 Minutes, Sleeping for 25 of those.
Week One, Day Three: Alternately Sleep and Wake for Five Minutes until 30 Minutes has expired.

Week Two, Day One: Sit upright in recliner watching the U.S. Open Golf Tournament.
Week Two, Day Two: Sit upright in the recliner for 30 Minutes without the benefit of television, focusing on your pain and vowing to push through it.
Week Two, Day Three: Sit upright without TV for 12.5 Minutes; stand for five minutes, then return to upright TV-watching position for another 12.5 minutes.

Week Three, Day One: Stand for ten minutes; then sit and take your blood pressure. If still alive, stand for another ten minutes the replenish fluids with Gatorade.
Week Three, Day Two: Walk for 15 minutes around the hospital’s emergency room parking lot. Sit for the remaining 15 minutes in the E.R. waiting room. Note: do not eat anything from E.R. vending machines during this segment
Week Three, Day Three: Walk for 30 minutes while hooked up to portable EKG monitor.

I’m still working on the remaining six weeks, but you get the idea. By the end of the ninth week of IRCS, anyone should be in couch potato-ready form and will be promoted up to level  C5K.

I believe my app will save many unsuspecting lives thought they could just start C5K straight away. This app will provide a great service to mankind, and will remove the long-held stigma associated with couch potatoes nationwide.
So download my app as soon as it comes out. I’ll get you in tip-top shape.

And if I don’t, I’ll meet you at the Chinese buffet.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Late or Early? You Be the Judge

As June draws near, it’s a time for us to ask ourselves some serious and probing questions. Questions like:  Is it too late to take down Christmas lights?

When I was growing up my father made it abundantly clear to me that nothing spelled “L-O-S-E-R” quite like the homeowner who could not get around to taking down his Christmas lights by Groundhog Day. We scratched our heads at those neighbors who would head into Spring with their decorations still screaming “winter!”

So now, here on May 21, I stand sufficiently humbled. I've become the loser of my childhood, as my Christmas lights remain firmly attached to my house, dangling innocently above my wife’s Mother’s Day flower baskets. They  now stare down at me each day, a mocking reminder of my inability to even master one of the seven habits of highly effective numbskulls.

I find solace in the fact that even though we’re in late May, the season we know as summer technically doesn’t begin for another month, when one of the most important solstices—the MLB June Amateur Draft—takes place. This critical solstice should not be confused with the lesser-known “Summer Equinox,” which does not exist. Great Astronomers and weathermen from Galileo Galilei to Al Roker  have recognized that the equinoxes are celebrated only in March (Vernal—after Vern Gosdin) and September (Autumnal—after “Fall”) when we have nothing better to do than note that the days and nights are equal in length at the equator (right…as if we’re ever actually going to be there).

But the point is that I have four weeks or so before it’s really summer. That’s a lot of time to evaluate my options. But by then the U.S. Open will have concluded and we’ll be thinking about buying fireworks so if you can’t call it summer by then, well then, you must be in New Zealand.

But what really should be the deadline for taking one’s Christmas lights down? Is there a point on the Roman or any other lesser calendar at which a guy should just yield to his loserness and decide he’s simply going to parlay his sloth and inability to launch into getting a jump on next year’s decorating? According to my calculations, the mid-point between January 1 (the theoretical appropriate time to take down the lights) and November 15 (perhaps the earliest anyone would put up their lights) is a none other than June 14—Flag Day. Yes, Flag Day. I am now declaring June 14 the “Official Point of No Return for Christmas Light Takedowns.”

I think Flag Day makes sense for a variety of reasons. While you’re walking outside to put your US Flag in its holder, why not spend a little extra time and drag out the ladders and take your lights down? You’re already in a decorating mood. The neighbors will hear your clanging ladders but not look over because they assume you’re just putting up flags. By the time they again look at your house they will not have noticed that you have removed all empirical evidence of your loserness. They may even forget you even forgot to take them down in the first place. Also, the last summer thought your neighbors will have of you will be of that nice Patriot who zealously celebrated Flag Day.

But what, you may ask, happens if Flag Day comes and goes and your Holiday Display is still firmly attached to your sagging gutters? You may wonder how I personally will handle this situation when I wake up on the morning of June 15. I fully intend to handle this situation by acting like it was my plan all along. I will simply acknowledge that I have a 5-6 month head start on all other 2013 Holiday Decorators.

Think of the benefits of leaving your Christmas lights up throughout the remainder of the summer. First, you avoid endangering your life by climbing on ladders, roofs, and hornets nests. Instead, you use your time much more wisely by enjoying various summer activities such as smoking baby back ribs, watching your sons cut grass, or sipping Arnold Palmers poolside. Second, consider an Independence Day lightshow on July 4th. You can invite your friends over and have a “countdown” ala New Year’s Eve then flip “the big switch” and illuminate the night sky. If you want to save money on fireworks, simply have one of your children stay inside and vigorously flip the light switch on and off for 35-40 minutes, thus simulating a patriotic fireworks display.

The benefits will endure throughout the remainder of the summer and pay big dividends long after the first autumn frost. Come Thanksgiving, you’ll be out frying turkeys instead of crawling up to your attic to untangle the lights which had mysteriously since last year wrapped themselves around that highchair your wife is saving “for the grandkids.” If that doesn’t get you going, then picture yourself this coming December parked in a lawn chair on your property line, sipping a steaming triple espresso, as you watch your neighbor traverse his ladder and downspouts, leaning at a 45 degree angle right before he rides down his icy roof to his frozen concrete driveway below. If that’s not entertainment I don’t know what is! And YOU made it all happen by getting a jump on everyone else in the neighborhood. You bucked the trend, didn’t succumb to peer pressure, and stood your ground while others thought you were an idiot.

We may be onto something here. Don’t let those pesky neighbors or homeowners’ associations bother you. You’re making your life easier!

And while you and I may be losers in June, we’ll have the last laugh in December.