Soft Footballs?


Seriously? Those bad boys on Team Patriots. Serving up underinflated balls? Yes, I can only imagine the lewd comments from some of my friends to that line. But I can think of no better way to state the problem. The crime! The unthinkable! There are so many issues revolving around this dirty deed that I can’t even begin to go there. The most disturbing thing of all: Jane Watkins is writing a blog about football. In spite of his continual coaching, I still can’t remember what Bob told me is an offsides infraction. [For strictly educational purposes—thus making my blog an educational endeavor—I offer the following definition: In gridiron football, offside is a foul in which a player is on the wrong side of the line of scrimmage when the ball is snapped. This foul occurs simultaneously with the snap. Unlike offensive players, defensive players are not compelled to come to a set position before the snap.]

One of these quarterbacks has underinflated balls. Let’s just say you can’t judge a book by its cover.
What? It’s not me? I’m sexy too!

I can’t even recall what I’ve been told countless times are touchbacks. [Again, In American football, a touchback is a ruling which is made and signaled by an official when the ball becomes dead on or behind a team’s own goal line (i.e., in an end zone) and the opposing team gave the ball the momentum, or impetus, to travel over or across the goal line.]

HOWEVER, I believe I do know injustice and downright tomfoolery when I see it. When the Patriots’ deceit aired on the news earlier this week, Bob and I made a collective gasp at the treachery. Then what can only be described as “a knowing glance” shot between the two of us. Our Denver Broncos! Research shows that the Broncos have lost five of the last six games with the Patriots. Now we know why! It couldn’t have been our offense. I mean really. We have Peyton Manning. Shabby defense? Give me a break! They were the ones with the underinflated balls. (EEEKK.) I mean to say, they were fighting against an offense with underinflated balls. [Something I ALWAYS suspected about the Patriots.]

I know what my critics are about to say: altitude. That’s right . . . not attitude, but altitude. In The Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports, Levine, Stray-Gunnersen, and Mehta state the case in their abstract for this scholarly article: Altitude will impact football performance through two separate and parallel pathways related to the hypobaric (physical) and hypoxic (physiological) components of terrestrial altitude: (a) the decrease in partial pressure of oxygen reduces maximal oxygen uptake and impairs ‘‘aerobic’’ performance by reducing maximal aerobic power, increasing the relative intensity of any given absolute level of work, and delaying recovery of high-energy phosphates between high-intensity ‘‘interval’’ type efforts; (b) the decrease in air density reduces air resistance which will facilitate high-velocity running, but will also alter drag and lift thereby impairing sensorimotor skills. These effects appear to have their greatest impact very early in the altitude exposure, and their physiological/neurosensory consequences are ameliorated by acclimatization, though the extent of restoration of sea level type performance depends on the absolute magnitude of the competing and living altitudes.

Oz showing next running play to Scarecrow.
Oz showing next running play to Scarecrow.

If you read that entire passage you may understand why my quoting this makes me feel like I’m the Scarecrow reciting the Pythagoras Theorem right after receiving the much sought after Th.D. diploma [Dr. of Thinkology]. Yet I must cite this for those skeptical of the Broncos losses to the Patriots. First, if the Patriots are at an altitudinal disadvantage, the Broncos are just as compromised in that heavy New England air. Second, the Broncos are not responsible for the effect of altitude on the Mile High City; the Patriots and their underinflated balls, not so much! [I realize that I could be using the word footballs rather than balls, but I do so love double entendre.]

Now for the two most compelling issues for this blogger:

1) The punishment for this is $25,000? Seriously? What NFL team wouldn’t pay $25,000 each and every time they play if it would skew a victory their way? Most NFL players could drop $25,000 just for a new watch. Team owners? A trusty source tells me that they wipe with $100 bills. You must search your own heart to decide what they are wiping.

Hint, hint . . . .
Hint, hint . . . .

I say let the punishment fit the crime! The Boston Globe states: If the Patriots are found to have deliberately doctored footballs, the organization can be fined a minimum of $25,000, and if the NFL finds the incident egregious, the Patriots could potentially lose a draft pick. In 2007, Commissioner Roger Goodell took away a first-round draft pick and fined Patriots coach Bill Belichick after determining the team had spied on an opponent. Yes, friends. They were punished in 2007 for “Spygate.” Now we are looking at “Deflategate.” [I SO didn’t make that up. See The Globe!] $25,000? Loss of a first-round draft pick? Give me a break. Let’s levy justice and make them FORFEIT THE GAME.

2) My second issue has nothing to do with football, but more to do with constant abuse of the English language. My dearest friends will not be surprised at my angst at hearing commentators constantly speaking of “soft footballs.” This is the way they are referring to the underinflated footballs. Think of it this way: I’m a sales clerk trying to sell you a sweater saying, “You will love this one! It is as soft as an underinflated football!” Or you are a guest in my home and I offer you my favorite blanket saying, “You will feel so cozy with this blanket. It is as soft as an underinflated football!”

Light bulb moment: TV commercial blares “Try the all new Belichick Fabric Softener! Your clothes will come out of the dryer as soft as underinflated footballs!” Yeah. I’m so gonna buy that.

You! Buy my fabric softener. I'm soaking in it. And I'm just a big ole softie. Yessiree. I'm soft as an underflated football.
You! Buy my fabric softener. I’m soaking in it. And I’m just a big ole softie. Yessiree. I’m soft as an underinflated football.

I believe this particular rant has spent itself out. So, with apologies to my dear sweet friends who are Patriots fans, I leave you with this idea. Let’s not call these underinflated footballs since it leaves way too much room for double entendre. Let’s not call these soft footballs since it is just gauche and grammatically poor. Let’s call them exactly what they are: Patriot Missiles! If you doubt that, just ask the Colts.

Nota bene: Ultra Grip Technology. GRRRR. You . . . you . . . bags of underinflated wind!

My Inner Cynic

I have known all my life that I was cynical. I suppose many of those who know me best would agree, even though in all my years I’ve never once mentioned this. I am quite OK with talking about other strengths: I am witty, I am creative, I am humble (?) . . . etc. But for me to admit that I’m cynical? Well, that would be a negative, wouldn’t it? Here is a definition for cynical:

Cynical, adjective

1. distrusting or disparaging the motives of others;

2. showing contempt for accepted standards of honesty or morality by one’s actions, especially by actions that exploit the scruples of others;

3. bittery or sneeringly distrustful, contemptuous, or pessimistic.

I mean, really. Why would I want to admit to everyone that I’m sneeringly distrustful? Contemptuous? Pessimistic? But I just did that, didn’t I.

While I don’t really see myself as pessimistic, I do believe I have a lifetime of distrust followed by keen contempt for things that just didn’t/don’t ring true to me. This self-reveal about my inner cynic came to me last night at about 2 a.m. I’ve been experiencing some insomnia for the past six weeks. Usually I spend these quiet minutes and hours rearranging furniture and hanging pictures in my immaculate (in thought) house. Sometimes I do menu planning or devise projects for my husband. For some reason last night took a crooked path to my childhood where I saw myself in vivid color as a five-year old cynic.

Janie: “Mother, is Santa Claus real?”

Ruth: “Why do you ask?”

Janie: “Because I don’t think anyone can drive through the air to every kid’s house in one night and get out of the sleigh, go down the chimney, drop off gifts, go back up the chimney, get in the sleigh and mush on.” (OK, at five I didn’t know the word mush.)

Ruth: “Well, honey, you are right. Who do you think Santa is?”

Janie: “You.”

Ruth: “You are right. Now please don’t tell your brother.”

Janie, with cynicism boiling up in her throat like acid: “The Easter Bunny?”

Ruth: “Yup.”

Janie: “The Tooth Fairy?”

Ruth: “Yup.”

At this, Janie turns and goes to her room to sit in her little rocking chair and ask herself why people who propose to love her could have fleeced her like this. The dishonesty! The shame! The birth of cynicism.

The Cynic in Kindergarten (5 years old)

Three years later, after several years of perfect Sunday School attendance followed by pre-baptismal classes, the following conversation occurred.

Janie: “They keep telling me that this is the ‘one true church.’ And if you aren’t baptized in this one, you might go to a lesser glory. Is that true?”

Ruth: “Yes. That is what we believe.”

Janie: “What about the aborigines? They might never-ever hear of us!”

Ruth: “Ask your grandpa.”

At the time my grandfather was an apostle in the denomination, meaning he was among the top 20 honchos of the world church. He would have been the expert to answer this, but my vocal chords were paralyzed by cynicism and I simply never asked. I already knew what I believed. After all, I WAS 8.

At around the same time I had another theological discussion with my mother.

Janie: “Don’t we believe that God is all powerful? God can do anything?”

Ruth: “Yes, honey. We surely do.”

Janie: “Then how can he have a crazed angel running amok all over ruining peoples’ lives? Why doesn’t he just smite the devil?” (OK again, I didn’t know smite or kick his ass. I probably said get rid of him.)

Ruth: “Ask grandpa.”

I adored my mother, yet I realize many of my early cynical moments were at her expense. I was born a night owl. At least I believe we are born-in to being night people versus morning people. Since I was a sleepy-head, my mother would recite: “Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.” First of all, I wasn’t a man. Second of all, I can attest after decades of living in the morning-person’s modus operandi, I am still neither healthy, wealthy nor wise.

A lot of my cynical moments came at the dinner table in the guise of well-meaning advice from my parents. You will note that by this time my cynical self no longer felt that any of these ridiculous things deserved a reply. [So I thought.]

“Janie, eat your carrots. They’ll help you see at night!” [Hello, I’m a kid, not a kitten.]

“Janie, eat that spinach. It will make you strong.” [Really? I’m a girl. I don’t have that much testosterone.]

“An apple a day keeps the doctor away.” [Then why does he take me for those annual shots?]

“Eat the crusts of that sandwich. It will make your hair curly.” [Then why, oh why, did you give me that Toni permanent that left me with a white-girl’s fro for half of 5th grade?]

“Chocolate will give you pimples!” [Oh well. I’ll take the zits.]

In spite of this inner cynic, as an adult I’ve still made some grievous mistakes about trusting people who I blindly assumed had my best interests in mind. I’ve taken the word s of people as their bond, only to find that I should have gotten it in writing. [I thought they were my friends?] It is interesting that once you’ve ruled out the devil’s existence, you tend to think people are a teensy bit more trust-worthy than you might have if you believed that Satan was lurking around every corner using your friends to trick you.] I’ve been up-ended, hurt, beaten down, bruised, lied to, and stomped by people I trusted. I’ve railed, cried, cursed, and exploded over those hurts. I’ve also consumed a lot of medicinal ice cream in the name of healing.

The Cynic Today

But at 2:15 a.m., after all these thoughts spun through my head, I realized that maybe—just maybe—my inner cynic has receded somewhat. And I think that’s a good thing. After all, I’m someone’s grandma! I should begin to get sweet and mellow and wise rather than harsh and cynical and suspicious. And I can’t help but cite some recent findings that put to rest some past lapses: chocolate is good for me; red wine is good for me; nine hours of sleep is good for me. Hurrah! I think I shall indulge in all three so I can live to be 100.

But in the meantime, until my mellowing is complete . . .  please don’t tell me that people shouldn’t marry whomever they choose (in spite of gender, age or race). Please don’t tell me political things that folks really know nothing about . . . even the president has advisors. Please don’t talk to me about stewardship of the earth unless you are recycling. And for goodness sake, don’t talk to me about peace and justice until you are living it.

The Anti-Cynic, Thinking Grandmotherly Thoughts

You see, I don’t want my inner cynic to emerge. You won’t like me when she does.

The Monster in the Closet


My sweet grandson Jordan (just 24 days shy of his 7th birthday), was convinced that monsters are living in my closets. Until very recently it was almost impossible for him to go to sleep in our guest rooms because of the possibility that my bedroom closets housed Zombies. We would start out with him in bed, read to him, turn down the lights and then sit with him, reading our own novels quietly, while he drifted off to sleep. But within hours he was up and moving into our bedroom to lie on the floor by our bed or climb in between us. I, Gigi, am the cooker of fine cookies, purveyor of art projects, and Sorry game-board-competitor. Bob, who is Papi, is replacer of batteries, fishing coach, and instructor of all things remote-controlled. In addition to our other grandparental responsibilities, we are Zombie Warriors. It seems that if we are in the room, Zombies are afraid to show themselves. They wait until we go to bed and then, surreptitiously sneak peeks out of the closet to scope out Jordan’s position and vulnerabilities.

After working tirelessly to convince Jordan that Zombies are not real, along comes the cell phone commercial with the rotting customer whose ear drops off. The clerk looks knowingly at him and he states, “I’m a Zombie.” To that, Jordan says, “Gigi! I told you they are real!”  In order to combat this fear for my treasured little one, I decided we would draw pictures of monsters. Somehow, if we could draw them and label them, I felt we might be taking the power away from them. Sort of like removing their batteries or vanquishing them from the closets. So I drew some free-hand coloring pages and away we went!

The following pictures show some of the many foes we drew to post on the door of the kitchen pantry.

monster1Who hasn’t received a monstrous sweater? Who could have foreseen the popularity of the ugly Christmas sweater party . . . and why haven’t I hosted one of those?


This is the monster that bedevils me at night, whispering her evil seduction: chocolate, mint, cookies and cream . . . oh no!


In keeping with his parentage, Spawn is a natty dresser. But in typical rebellious-sire style, he tries to outdo Daddy Dracula by wearing a blue silk cape rather than black. He has a Hermes inspired silk shirt, Dolce and Gabbana purple leather belt, and soft butter  leather boots by Louis Vuitton.


Although Slime Foot appears at first glance to be quite fierce, I think it bears observation that in spite of serious dental work, he has several things against him: 1) his slime foot is located on top of his head (obviously an evolutionary foible), 2) his hands look like he could participate in a glove exchange with a T-Rex, 3) his slime appears to be dissolving before it hits the ground. Sadly, I identify with this M.O.


Too bad this fish can’t loan some of those tootsies to Slime Foot. (Slime Feet?)


This monster was developed by Jordan. He said this guy is a brother to TUR Anchula, a big old hairy spider. Don’t you just love kids?


This was obviously designed by me. Can anyone think of a monster much bigger than tedium?


This is, remarkably, Big Bird’s cousin, Bad Bird. This is the difference between growing up in Manhattan and the South Bronx. Sadly, this guy belongs to the Beaks Gang. We are planning an intervention.

As you can imagine, we spent several hours laughing and mocking monsters. I’m not sure if this did the trick, but I can say that Jordan now sleeps peacefully. His jury is still out about Zombies. He has given up the idea of monsters in the closet. Only last night he said, “Isn’t it funny that I thought monsters were hiding in the closet when it is stuffed with Christmas decorations?” Yes, funny. And he is getting too wise. Use the word “wise” any way you deem appropriate.


All he wanted for Christmas was his two front teeth. Trite, but true!


Imagine this. My life was going along at a clip. Retirement was just a few months old and life was sweet. Everything was “going my way . . . “ to quote Uncle Remus from his song  Zip-A-Dee-Doo Da­h in Disney’s 1946 movie Song of the South. And then the unthinkable occurred.

I went to the doctor with a few minor concerns: stiff neck, constipation, sleeping difficulties, gravely voice, trouble swallowing, and a teeny-tiny tremor in my little finger. The stiff neck is what sent me to the doctor because I had struggled with it for six months. Not one of these symptoms seemed worrisome. No siree! I am woman, hear me roar! I can bring home the bacon and fry it up in the pan. I’m okay! I’m great! Aren’t I Doctor?And then he opened that closet door and there WAS a monster lurking inside. He said, “Jane, you have early onset Parkinson’s Disease.” And just when I thought monsters weren’t real.