Monday, December 31, 2012

With Steel Wheels Singing....

I will provide for you and I'll stand by your side
You'll need a good companion now for this part of the ride
Yeah, leave behind your sorrows, let this day be the last
Well, tomorrow there'll be sunshine and all this darkness past
.
 
Today 2012 comes to an end.  Finally.  At times it seemed as if there were considerably more than 366 days in it.  Perhaps it was just that there were too many terrible days this year.  Too many "Boy I hope I never see something like this happen again" days....until the next one. 
 
2012 was a year in which death visited Margaret's family again - this time coming for the seemingly indestructible Uncle Sal.   I watched good friends suffer losses as well.  It seemed to be a year in which good people buried their fathers.  The optimist in me hopes that 2013 reverses that trend.  The realist in me knows that the movement of 2013 to the fore shall have little effect upon it.
 
Selfishly speaking, 2012 was not a bad year at all.  Sure, it had its down moments.  Every year does.  But it was also - for our little family unit - a year of tremendous highs and great promise.  Yesterday afternoon, with cold, windy weather having driven me inside and onto the treadmill as opposed to running outdoors, I spent a couple of minutes looking at the photographs that line the walls of our office (it is actually a spare bedroom but we euphemistically refer to it as an "office" as if actual work has ever been performed in it).  Among the photos that caught my eye was one from a lifetime or two ago - the day I was sworn in as a member of the New Jersey Bar. 
 
December 1994
 
December 1994 was a long time ago.  I like that photograph - and not just because I have no gray hair either on my head or on my chin.  I like it because it serves as a reminder that time - for all of its harshness - has its benefits.  Chief among them is that when we look backward at the path on which we have travelled to get to this particular point in time, the memories that are rekindled are often wonderful ones. 
 
Life is a forward-moving enterprise of course.  So, while photographs are useful tools in marking time - and helping us retrace our steps they are also useful tools in helping mark the road ahead....
 

 
Christmas 2011
 
Those two little kids in that long-ago photo from a December afternoon almost two decades ago are all grown up.  And as 2012 cedes the stage to 2013 Suzanne shall take the next important step in her life:  she will marry Ryan - the outstanding young man who is her life's love.  Before 2013 closes, I shall add a new title to my resume:  father-in-law.  It is a role that I am looking forward to playing next year....and again in 2014 when Rob and Jess - who is simply extraordinary - get married. 
 
Yes, this train carries saints and sinners
This train carries losers and winners
This train carries whores and gamblers
This train carries lost souls

I said, this train carries broken-hearted
This train, thieves and sweet souls departed
This train carries fools and kings thrown
This train, all aboard

I said, now this train, dreams will not be thwarted
This train, faith will be rewarded
This train, the steel wheels singing
This train, bells of freedom ringing.
 
 
And it shall carry us forward - this train on which we are all riders.  It shall carry us forward into 2013.  May it bring you and yours into the new year healthy and happy.  And may it keep you so not only on New Year's Day but on all the days that shall follow behind it. 
 
 
-AK




Sunday, December 30, 2012

Holding Onto One Another As They Go....

With all due respect to Father Time, Baby New Year, Auld Lang Syne and Ryan Seacrest, the holiday season is already over.  I need not concern myself with dropping balls - well perhaps one day I shall have to but mercifully neither is the size of the one in Times Square (or nearly as sparkly either) - and countdown clocks.   

What was a simply terrific time bade farewell today when the second set of future newlyweds made their way to the airport for the (not quite all the way) cross-country jaunt back to Colorado's Front Range.  Life awaits Jess and Rob back in their Colorado home.  And let us not forget Tillie either.  She has been without her beloved humans for almost a week now.   I am not certain how the conversion rate works from human weeks to dog weeks - having sought the sanctuary of a career in the law to escape the travails of hard math - but I doubt not at all that she will be beyond ecstatic to see them.

I know that I always am.  But I am happier still knowing that while a piece of each of them shall always be here in the State of Concrete Gardens for as long as those of us who love them and those who they love are here, their flight today carries them to the best possible place....

....Home.

-AK






Saturday, December 29, 2012

Sayonara Batman....

It was more than a decade ago when the New York Yankees big free-agent, off-season signing was not an established major league player but - instead - the biggest star in a league three-quarters of the world away.  Hideki Matsui was that year's most expensive Japanese import - costing the Bombers the equivalent of a whole freighter's worth of Mitsubishis.  Not to mention a whole lot of Benjamins.
 
The myth of Matsui that was sold to us who root for the Yankees on this continent was that he was a masher.  He was built to bludgeon the short porch of the Stadium with his compact, left-handed swing.  They sold us on the notion of him by referring to him as "Godzilla" and inviting us to imagine a left-handed basher in the heart of the lineup who - while he would be ill-equipped to do anything else - would hit a whole hell of a lot of home runs. 
 
Thankfully for all concerned - but for those of us in the fan base - the myth of Matsui never came close to approximating reality.  He was not the standstill defensive liability who would hit forty to fifty home runs annually while achieving nothing more than a mediocre batting average.  In fact, in the years he spent in the Bronx he never came close to putting up the "as advertised" home run totals.  And it mattered not at all. 
 
For irrespective of how much he was advertised, he was far better than the hype promised he would be.  He was a major presence in the heart of a lineup that made the playoffs every season but one.  And he was arguably the most clutch of all of the bats in that lineup.  But he made his bones NOT by mashing home runs but by being what we had been told he was not:  an exceptional all-around player.  His first at-bat as a Yankee told the tale for his career in the Bronx:  opening night vs. Toronto and facing future first-ballot Hall of Famer Roy Halladay with a man on second and two outs, Matsui drove in the run.  By whacking the ball into the bleachers at Sky Dome?  No.  He did it by chopping a base hit into left field - in the hole between short and third.  We were told he knew nothing of little ball.  It took him less than ten pitches in the Bigs to expose that lie.
 
He ended his career in the Bronx in 2009.  He was the World Series MVP of the Yankees 4-2 triumph over the Phillies.  Although he played in only half of the games, he was the offensive star of the Series - delivering three home runs.  Hmmm.  Maybe he was "Godzilla" after all?  Not a chance.
 
On Thursday evening - three seasons removed from his final one in New York, Hideki Matsui retired from professional baseball.   Perhaps all one really needs to know about what he meant to the Yankees one can learn from listening to what his uber-famous teammate (and team captain) Derek Jeter ("I've had a lot of teammates over the years with the Yankees, but I will always consider Hideki one of my favorites.  Despite being shadowed by a large group of reporters, having the pressures of performing for his fans both in New York and Japan and becoming acclimated to the bright lights of New York City, he always remained focused and committed to his job and to those of us he shared the clubhouse with. I have a lot of respect for Hideki") and his first big-league manager Joe Torre ("Hideki came to the Yankees as a superstar and immediately became a team favorite. Not only for his talent but for the unselfishness he brought to the game every day.  Hideki Matsui is a winner and I was proud to be his manager") said about him on Thursday.
 
 
All I need to do is think back to the cold day in early November 2009 when the Missus and I joined a few hundred thousand other souls in the Canyon of Heroes at the parade to celebrate the World Series win.  There - alone at the front of the lead float - stood Matsui.  Unlike many of his teammates he was not bundled up against the cold or shielded from view by a multitude.  That sly grin that I captured as he passed by our vantage point was present on his face the entire day.  A man content to soak in all that a well-earned and (for many) overdue triumph for his team and for himself had brought him.   
 
I could not help but notice that in the photos I saw from his retirement gathering on Thursday, he was sporting that same grin.  Proof positive that even when it announces its retirement from the game, class never goes out of style.  
 
-AK

Friday, December 28, 2012

Has Anyone Seen Phil Ford?

For a lot of us today is the final work day of 2012.  While I know for example that Rob's office if open on Monday, mine is not.  Candidly I do not quite get why one needs to have one's place of employment shuttered on New Year's Eve Day.  Speaking solely for myself, I tend not to hit the bars until noon or one o'clock in the afternoon at the earliest to get my "revel" on for the coming of the new year.  A half-day therefore would have been more than sufficient for my purposes.   You can imagine how disappointed the people who share space with me at the Firm are not that my point of view - clearly the minority viewpoint - is not carrying the day this year.  Sadly, if they have peeked ahead to the Firm's 2013 holiday calendar they will see that next year on December 31st the office will be open for a half-day.  The boss does read the suggestion box.  Who knew? 

Today also marks the end of the college football season for the young men who call the banks of the old Rar-i-tan home.  Rutgers is playing Virginia Tech late this afternoon/early this evening in Orlando, Florida in something known as the Russell Athletic Bowl a/k/a "the Bowl that does not have fans in the stands but rather has athletic supporters".  Truth be told, no one refers to it by that alleged "a/k/a/" and I doubt highly if at any time between opening kickoff and final gun anyone associated with either the bowl or the broadcast shall do so.  

I am a fan of Rutgers football and will likely watch at least some of tonight's game.  It feels to me as if RU last played about three and one-half years ago.  In fact, they last played a touch more than four weeks ago.  I was part of the crowd that watched them squander a 14-3 halftime lead against Louisville and lose a game that - had they won it - would have earned them their first-ever conference title in football and a birth in one of college football's "big money" bowl games.  They would have been part of the Bowl Championship Series.  Alas, it was not to be.   

I read in the Star-Ledger shortly before Christmas that playing in this game might actually end up costing RU and Va Tech money.  Apparently both schools were/are obliged contractually to sell 15,000 tickets for tonight's game.  As of seven to ten days ago, neither school had sold more than approximately one-third of its allotment.   Kudos by the way to Frank Beamer's Hokies.  Virginia Tech is itself a school and a community that has spent its unwelcome time in the national spotlight due to a single-day, mass killing of innocents.  Tonight the Va Tech players will wear decals on their helmets honoring the memory of the fifty-eight people who were murdered in Blacksburg, Virginia and Newtown, Connecticut and the efforts of the surviving members of those respective communities to ensure that that single incident shall not define them.  

Perhaps the lords who preside over college football will take as a sign of some sort the fact that two schools that historically travel well to whatever bowl game they play in are having extreme difficulty peddling their tickets for this game as support for the position that there might be one or two (dozen) more bowl games than necessary.  For some reason I doubt it.  

This is after all the same group of geniuses who corrupted the best sports-viewing holiday of the year by taking steps to ensure that New Year's Day is no longer the end of the college football season.  This year the BCS title game - Notre Dame vs. Alabama (known in the Clausen family as "Catholics vs. Cousins") will be played on January 7.   Bear in mind if you will that the first bowl game was played almost two weeks ago when Arizona and Nevada met on December 15 in the New Mexico Bowl - where sadly not one person associated with the game proposed playing without a play clock in an effort to introduce the "Four Corners" offense into college football.  Wherefore art thou, Phil Ford? 

While there will still be a slew of games played on New Year's Day - including the Rose Bowl and the Orange Bowl - between the final gun sounding at the Orange Bowl on New Year's night (and the game is being played in Miami so here is to hoping that the gun being fired is the one in an official's hand) and the Championship Game on January 7, not fewer than five other games shall be played.  The two that immediately precede the Notre Dame/'Bama tilt?  The always-popular and tradition-rich BBVA Compass Bowl (January 5) and the GoDaddy.Com Bowl on January 6.   You know you are glad you asked.  I know I am glad that I took the time to look it up....

....for now we both have close to ten days to figure out what we are going to do next weekend.  The Five Ps.  Ain't they grand? 

-AK

Thursday, December 27, 2012

The Promise

Welcome to "Running on Fumes" Thursday.  It was a hectic, exciting and joyous past few days in our neck of the woods.  I hope it was for you and yours as well.  As luck would have it, when the Texas twosome jetted home to Houston yesterday morning they were doing so in order to do what Margaret and I did yesterday (save for the multi-state commute):  go to work.   I get up every day for work at 3:00 a.m.  Yesterday I rang in Boxing Day by having my alarm clock punch me in the face at 2:00 a.m. 
 
2013 - as well as its linear descendant 2014 - is shaping up to be one hellaciously fine year in our family.  I welcome the coming of the new year not simply because of all that 2012 has wrought but because of the promise that 2013 is bringing with it. 
 
A promise that I hope very much to enjoy watching it keep.
 
-AK

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

This Too Must End....

Very early this morning - so early in fact that I (someone whose alarm clock goes off at 3:00 o'clock in the AM to shake me out of bed and on my way to work) will actually awaken earlier than I do on a typical Wednesday morning - Suzanne and Ryan shall board a plane taking them to their "for present purposes" home in Texas.  The time they spend in these parts always seems to pass too damn fast.  I reckon that phenomenon is not likely to ever change. 

The next time I lay eyes on either of them shall be after the first of the coming year.  That means of course that by the time I see them next we no longer shall be speaking of the distance between that particular day and their wedding day in terms of years but instead in terms of months.  2013's very first Sunday is January 6.  2013's most-anticipated Friday is September 6.  Not a lot of sixes in between; eh?   

Much to do between this date and that date.  First order of business is a critically important one:  getting them from New Jersey to Texas safe and sound.  

-AK 

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Their Future Is Our Present

While the Missus and I were spending our Saturday evening at McCarter Theatre in Princeton enjoying that house's production of "A Christmas Carol", Rob and Jess were having a dramatic moment of their own.  Shortly after the curtain fell on Saturday night's performance of "Almost, Maine" - in which Jess was one of the quartet of featured performers who played nineteen or twenty parts between them - Rob decided to trod the boards himself.  And with apologies to both staged dramas referred to in this paragraph - for I have seen both in person and can attest to the extraordinary quality of both - Rob proved again that unscripted drama far exceeds even the best of the scripted variety.   He proposed.  Jess accepted.  And the rest - for the two of them - shall be history.  One I hope that is written in peals of joyous laughter.  

This morning the Missus and I shall welcome Christmas into our home.  Her father Joe shall be with us of course.  And with us as well shall be the quartet who represent the future of this familial operation.  For all that 2012 wrought that shall make it a year that goes down in infamy for many, it shall also be a year that shall hold forever a special place in the little charcoal chip that I call a heart.  It is the year that the two who Margaret and I love more than any others found their two.  

It is the year that the two extraordinary young people who Margaret raised - and I assure you that I am being neither false nor modest when I say my contributions were limited principally to driving the car and making sure that adequate fundage existed to pay for what that which was necessary - took the next big step in their lives.  The step at which one realizes that when you find that one who you love completely and absolutely, you have indeed found the one with whom you want to build a Life.  When the line between plurality and singularity becomes blurred sufficiently that two become one, you have arrived at your destination.  This year Suzanne and Ryan arrived at that point in mid-September.  And just in time for Christmas, Jess and Rob arrived at that point this past Saturday.  

Life is a journey, not a destination.  When you find the one with whom you want to make it, you are well on your way.  As 2012 draws to a close, I take comfort in knowing that Suzanne and Rob are well on their way.

Margaret and I awakened this morning and saw the future....





....and there is not a spot in the world from which the view is any better. 

Merry Christmas. 

-AK 

Monday, December 24, 2012

Veils and Tears

 
I do not know Greg Lake.  No set of circumstances presently occupies space in any corner of my mind that suggests to me a scenario by which he and I would ever be in one another's company.  Yet I am willing to wager that when Lake uttered those words as the final lyrics sung in "I Believe in Father Christmas", which is one of my favorite pop/rock performer Christmas songs, he never foresaw a day on which someone would attempt to corrupt not only his words but the sentiment behind them. 
 
Yet this year in these United States individuals have undertaken just such an effort.  From coast-to-coast - all the way from Oregon to Connecticut - those with malice towards all and charity towards none have slain innocents.   Whether those left to mourn a loved one's loss at another's hands have had several months to prepare or - in the case of the twenty-six families added to the roll call of "Next of Kin" in Newtown Connecticut ten days ago - have likely not even had sufficient time to make it through grief's first phase yet, they are most assuredly not getting this year the Christmas that they deserve.  They may never in fact see its arrival again.
 
This year has been an incredible grind.  It is my hope that all of us are presented the opportunity to spend it in the company of at least some of those who we love most of all.  In a calendar year where good will towards men has been in periliously short supply, this is a year in which it might serve us well to believe.  To believe in the possibility of hearts that heal irrespective of the amount of pain searing through them at this very moment.  To believe that perhaps - finally - we have reached the furthermost, heretofore thought to be unattainable depths of the darkness of humanity and that what awaits all of us is the hope of a coming dawn.   To believe in Father Christmas.
 
Merry Christmas to you and yours.  Never doubt for a moment that you deserve it.  We all do.... 
 
....each and every one of us.  
 

 
 
-AK


 

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Drop It!

The puck that is. 



One might think that being a long-suffering fan of the Broadway Blueshirts, I would welcome the respite from the perpetual heartache visited upon those of us who attend regular services at the Temple of Giacomin that the non-start of the 2012-13 NHL season.  Nothing could be further from the truth. 

If this year was a one in a million occurrence then perhaps the labor-related silliness would be easier to digest.  However, this season marks the third time in the past twenty years that the NHL's season has been significantly impacted by the inability of the billionaires who own the teams and the millionaires who play for them to unwedge their heads from their Bauer skates long enough to do the right thing by their fans.  It is outrageous. 

And as for me the overwhelming amount of my outrage is directed at the owners and their lackeys:  Commissioner Bettman and his Deputy Bill Daly.  The depths to which the owners are willing to descend were pushed even deeper last week when - after breaking off negotiations with the NHLPA - the league ran to Federal court in New York and filed a lawsuit seeking a judicial declaration that the lockout was legal

As of right now, the NHL has cancelled games through January 14, 2013.  The head of the NHLPA - Donald Fehr - whose mere presence likely scares the shit out of the owners who have witnessed what he had accomplished for his membership when he was in charge of the MLBPA - has been quoted extensively saying that the union and the players are eager to continue negotiating with the owners and the league but that since they last met face-to-face on December 6 but that their efforts to re initiate the process have been rebuffed.  "(We aren't talking) because the owners have not indicated a desire to resume," the NHLPA's executive director said Wednesday night before a charity hockey game. "We've indicated any number of times that we're willing to resume when they are (and) we're willing to resume without preconditions."

Hall-of-Famer Jerry West has been known as "the Logo" for a number of years because it is his likeness that festoons official NBA swag, merchandise and gear.  Given the propensity of those who run the NHL to inflict wound after wound upon themselves and their product perhaps instead of Jerry West, the league can adopt an image created by the late, great Walt Kelly for all of its official gear. 

Who would ever argue that Kelly's Pogo, well known for observing "We have met the enemy and he is us" is not indeed the poster boy for the NHL? 

Regardless of where we live and the team for whom we cheer, for all of us who are hockey fans this goddamn lockout is ripping out the heart of our inner Canadian farm boy.   And we just want the hurting to stop.  




-AK  




Saturday, December 22, 2012

Night of the Three Tenses

Sometimes my ability to overcome my own inherent laziness astounds and surprises even me.  The smart money would have been on waiting until the witching hour of 11:11 a.m. on 12/21/12 had come and gone to see if there remained here a (cyber) space that needed to be filled.   I did not.  Unlike the one I enjoy with the Missus (I would love to say that she enjoys it too but I suspect that "endures" it is a more apt description), I have never had much of a relationship with "smart money".  

This evening Margaret and I shall be at McCarter Theatre in Princeton to see the Theatre's production of "A Christmas Carol".  We first saw it in 2010 and tonight will mark our third consecutive trek to see it.  It is - I suppose - a "tradition".  At the very least it is in the nascent stages of becoming one. 

For reasons that my whip-smart daughter would likely attribute to some long-undiagnosed mental health issue perpetually confronting me, we are going this year as we have the past two years on the Saturday night before Christmas, which is by deliberate design.  I suspect that somewhere in the recesses of my addled mind the part of my brain that craves order and rejects randomness is the driving force behind my ticket-purchasing decision.   

I know less about "the theatre" than any adult human being alive (and truth be told a significant percentage of those of the dead persuasion as well).  However, I know that each of the past two Christmases this event has been a highlight for me.  I not only enjoy the show but at some level it seems as if I need to see it. 

And tonight I shall. 

-AK

Friday, December 21, 2012

And Now It May Be Too Late To Teach Charlie To Surf....

"So it's an apocalypse now?"

If you missed the most clever political advertisement of this or any campaign cycle, then click here to check out the West Wing Reunion ad that Bridget McCormack used as part of her winning effort to become a Justice on the Supreme Court of the State of Michigan.  The spot is terrific from start to finish but getting Martin Sheen's President Jed Bartlett to pose that question to his trusted advisor Josh Lyman is the singular, standout moment.  It is at the 2:50-2:51 mark if you want to skip forward to it. 

Today is the shortest day of the year here in the Northern Hemisphere.  We have arrived at the Winter Solstice.  From this day forward until we reach this day's celestial twin - the Summer Solstice - each day in our neck of the woods shall have a minute or two more of daylight sprinkled into it than its immediate predecessor.  Will it make you feel any warmer when it is -11 degrees on January's third Thursday or some such thing?  Probably not.  But facts are facts.  You cannot escape them.  You cannot ignore them.

Unless of course the Mayans are right and today is not simply the shortest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere but the final day of ANY year in EVERY hemisphere.  I doubt very much they are right but candidly if they would settle for a compromise along the lines of that skillfully crafted by Tom Perrotta in his most recent novel, "The Leftovers", I think that would be fine.  If the Mayans are looking for candidates to "take one for the team" as it were, I volunteer. 

I am forty-five years old (almost forty-six) and have spent the past two decades of my life earning a nice living doing something that I loathe.  At the risk of sounding immodest (as if!) I am quite good at what I do.  Experience has taught people that when shit and fan are fast approaching the point of intersection retaining me to make certain that the two, much like the twain, shall never meet is a very fine idea.  But being skilled at something and deriving a lot of enjoyment out of doing it are two different things entirely.  Facts are facts.  You cannot escape them.  You cannot ignore them. 

I am my father's son so no thought terrifies me more than the thought of not working - even at something that brings me little personal satisfaction.  I am not a "retirement" kind of guy.   The good news is that I am heavily insured so my value dead outweighs my value warm and alive by a significant margin.  Should the Mayans come a-knock, knock, knocking at my door today, Margaret shall be well provided for financially. 

Again, I fully anticipate that the sun shall rise in the east tomorrow - and a minute earlier than it did this morning - and that you, me and the rest of the planet shall be present for it.  I merely wanted the record to be clear that if - in an attempt to avoid public humiliation and ridicule - the Mayans needed to save face with a finely honed and pinpointed apocalypse they can leave the rest of the world alone and pick me.  I have a history of brightening rooms upon leaving far more readily than upon arriving.  I cannot foresee this particular departure being received any differently. 

Facts are facts.  You cannot escape them.  You cannot ignore them.

-AK



Thursday, December 20, 2012

And Up Sprung A Lemonade Stand....

It is nigh on to impossible to find anything that masquerades as good news to have come out of last Friday's mass killing in Newtown, Connecticut.  Then again, it may just have to be a matter of knowing where to look.

If they are not the most reprehensible, hate-filled group of mouth-breeding ass wipes sowing evil "in the Lord's Name", then the virulent sheep who comprise the Phelps Family's flock of the Wasteboro Bastard Cult are not anywhere lower than in the silver medal spot on the platform.  These are misery's pricks who crash funerals of service members and others proclaiming that the death was all part of God's master plan and his state desire to punish the United States for such evildoing as gay marriage and homosexuals in the military. 

Their conduct - while so vile it only aspires to one day be benign enough to be considered despicable - has been decreed by Chief Roberts and the Supremes to be Constitutional.  Thankfully the WBC jagoffs discovered this week that just because something is legal does not mean that right-thinking humans shall allow it to occur.  

For present purposes, the hate-mongers from America's Heartland have met their match.  And the name of their foe?  Anonymous.   While I have no idea what a "Hacker Collective" is, from what I have read and seen these past few days, it appears to be a group with which I have no desire to ever get sideways.  Several days ago - on the heels of the WBC's predictable yet nonetheless repugnant announcement that it intended to protest at the funerals of the children and school personnel murdered in Newtown, Connecticut last week, Anonymous took WBC down.  Literally. 

It started with a video posted on Vimeo and entitled "Anonymous - Message to the Westboro Baptist Church"  In the event that you either lack a media player or the 3:40 needed to watch it in its entirety, here are the highlights:

As you may not have acknowledged our existence, we, on the otherhand, have recognized yours. We have seen your depraved methods of disseminating your message of hate throughout The United States of America. We have witnessed you defaming the memories of those who sacrificed themselves for the security of our nation, disrupting the peace of the educational environment within high schools and universities, breeding hatred within the fragile minds of your own next of kin, desecrating the name of God by protesting in the proximity of churches and synagogues, and mangling the biblical text to conform in accordance with your malevolent cause.

Your pseudo-faith is abhorrent, and your leaders, repugnant. Your impact and cause is hazardous to the lives of millions and you fail to see the wrong in promoting the deaths of innocent people. You are self-appointed servants of God who rewrite the words of His sacred scripture to adhere to your prejudice. Your hatred supersedes your faith, and you use faith to promote your hatred....

.... From the time you have received this message, our attack protocol has past been executed and your downfall is underway. Do not attempt to delude yourselves into thinking you can escape our reach, for we are everywhere, and all-seeing, in the same sense as God. We are a body of individuals who fight for a purpose higher than self, and seek to bring the malevolent intent of the malefactors to light.

We will not allow you to corrupt the minds of America with your seeds of hatred. We will not allow you to inspire aggression to the social factions which you deem inferior. We will render you obsolete. We will destroy you. We are coming.

And in case anyone at the old WBC thought that the folks from Anonymous were just doing a little mind "hand job" on them and really were not going to do the things they threatened to do, they were quickly diabused of that notion.  By Tuesday, they had shut down the cult's website.   Anonymous used Twitter to answer the question that likely did not need to be answered in the mind of any humane, decent human being, "Why is Anonymous doing all of this to WBC?" with a response that should end up on bumper stickers nationwide:


Anonymous cannot lose.  After all, God is on their side.  Cosmo the God that is

Keep kicking them in the balls folks.  Whoever you are....

-AK


Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Bawdy Humor With A Snack Wrapped Around It

December.  The month in which an old, white-haired, jelly-bellied man completes his annual pilgrimage all in one night.  The old goat to whom I refer is - of course - Santa Claus.  Once upon a lifetime ago, he did not ride alone. 

At the time of his death in May, 1981 William Patrick Kenny, Sr. was fifty-seven years old.  Smart as a whip yet thick as a brick my old man was.  He used to love to tell everyone - whether you inquired or not - that he was the perfect height for someone nine feet tall - a lofty goal to be sure....and one that he fell approximately three and one half feet short of attaining.  When he died, the smart medical people told Mom that he had the arteries of a ninety-year-old man.  Had he lived to tell the tale, today he would be blowing out eighty-nine candles atop his birthday cake.  Presuming of course that an eighty-nine year-old man with the lung capacity of a one hundred and twenty-one year-old could manufacture enough air to blow out a single one - let alone one plus eighty-eight more. 

Some of my best memories of Dad are Christmas-related - including but not limited to the year his great friend Shelley Koplowitz (Mike and Jenny's mom) gave him a big bag of "X"-rated fortune cookies.  Bawdy humor with a snack wrapped around it?  'Twas enough to make Dad wish every day could be like Christmas. 

 Dad spent the final dozen or so years of his life at Wardlaw - first in its all-boys original recipe form and thereafter in the co-educational iteration.  Between school, ski trips and Saturday play group he was a magnet for Christmas gifts.  He received them from students, parents and faculty alike.  Born with an excess amount of the great Irish gift of blarney - his withering honesty was saved principally for those of us who shared space with him within the four walls of the familial home - he could make anyone feel as if whatever it was they took the time to purchase for him was the greatest gift he had ever received. 

Of course not every gift could be the greatest gift ever.  He was in fact a notorious regifter - passing off this year on one teacher something he had received from another teacher a year earlier.  If only he had ever bothered to keep track of who gave him what - and when he received it.  He did not.  Thus one year shortly before his death "his" gift to one of the female members of the lower school faculty (to this day I know who it was and since it matters not for purposes of this story, tell it I never shall) was the identical trinket he had received from her one Christmas earlier.  I suppose he could have tried to tell her that he was so impressed by the gift that he thought enough of her to buy her one for herself....had he not kept pieces of the original wrapping paper affixed to the parcel when he had only "kinda, sorta" opened it upon his receipt of it. 

Not a lot of reason to laugh or smile in these parts these past few days.  I will gladly take what I can get - whenever and wherever I can.  And even if you had as little chance of living to see eighty-nine Dad as you did of growing to reach nine feet, I appreciate the smile.  



-AK

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

One Wish To Grant....

Given how horribly it went for parents and families not too damn far at all from where the Missus and I reside here in the State of Concrete Gardens, I feel more than a modicum of guilt about the fact they this weekend we were able to enjoy the first parts of Suzanne and Ryan's great Christmas migration north and east from Texas. 

Margaret and Suz spent a considerable portion of Sunday shopping 'til they dropped.  The afternoon was spent as half of a quartet on a mission to find dresses for Suzanne's bridesmaids (two of the three - Nicole and Ashley accompanied them), which mission they apparently accomplished in some sort of bridal-store record-setting time.  Then after dinner they shifted gears into the Christmas shopping part of the program - again accompanied by Ashley.  I spent my afternoon watching the Falcons repay the Giants for Sherman's March to the Sea.  I spent my Sunday evening dog-sitting a couple of playmates Ashley brought over to hang out with Rosie.  At least my evening was enjoyable. 

One week from today is Christmas.  Yesterday little children were buried in Connecticut.  I reckon that between this day and Christmas Day those who still need to be laid to rest shall be buried as well.  The pain this living brings will resonate with those directly affected by it long after the last-remaining mourner has laid his flower at a grave site.   

I did not take any of their children from them.  Nor do I possess the power to bring them back.  If only I did.  If only any of us did.  A Christmas wish that we would happily grant....

....irrespective of one's position on the big man's "naughty or nice" list.


-AK

Monday, December 17, 2012

The Hands of Time

I have no idea how the parents and the families of Newtown, Connecticut shall bounce back from the murder of the innocents that was perpetrated in their midst on Friday morning.  The things that many of us - and so no one ever mistakes the 'us' of whom I am speaking Public Offender #1 - take for granted in our day-to-day were exposed again on Friday for the trivial bullshit they truly are. 
 
Christmas season will never be the same for the families whose innocents - and innocence - were taken from them violently on Friday morning.  The fear that stalks every one of us who is a parent is that we shall outlive our children.  No parent wants to ever have to do that.  And yet thanks to one person's treatment of the lives of others as disposable, twenty such services shall be held this week in bucolic, rural Connecticut at which the person being buried is not older than the age of seven.   I have no idea as a parent how you come back from such an occurrence. 
 
I sat Saturday evening in front of my television and watched an exceptionally brave young man named Robbie Parker.  One day earlier Parker - who appeared about ten years younger than his stated age of 30 - woke up the father of three little girls.  The oldest among them was his oldest Emilie, age six.   He described her as being always willing to try new things - except food - including new languages.  Their final conversation on Friday morning included Portugese.   He called his little girl his hero and told all assembled how lucky he was to have been her father.  His grace and composure against a backdrop of incalcuable grief was nothing short of remarkable....and heartbreaking.
 
Sunday afternoon - home by myself as I was - I found my eyes drawn to one of the few Christmas decorations that we have up in our kitchen.  It is something that Rob made a lifetime ago.   He signed and dated his artwork at the time he made it - way back when in 1990. 

 
 
Twenty-two Christmases ago.  When he was not quite five. 
 
-AK
 
 

Sunday, December 16, 2012

That Same Small Town In Each of Us

The fact is prosperity has a purpose. It is to allow us to pursue "the better angels," to give us time to think and grow. Prosperity with a purpose means taking your idealism and making it concrete by certain acts of goodness. It means helping a child from an unhappy home learn how to read....It means teaching troubled children through your presence that there's such a thing as reliable love. Some would say it's soft and insufficiently tough to care about these things. But where is it written that we must act as if we do not care, as if we are not moved?  

Well I am moved. I want a kinder, gentler nation....

....In the quarter-century since George H.W. Bush said those words as part of his speech accepting the nomination of the Republican Party to run for the office of President of the United States in New Orleans, the world has changed remarkably.  Has that change brought us any closer to his declared desire?

I have used this space to vent my spleen on this issue previously and - guess what - the events of Friday in Connecticut have served to remind me that it is a sentiment that bears repeating.  All that separates those of us of the human persuasion from the rest of the animal kingdom is our ability to reason and our thumbs.  As a people, we the people of these United States, need to stop accepting one's willingness to wear mittens as some sort of palatable alternative to making them use reason, considered thought and common sense. 

If you cannot agree that a society in which one enters a place where children - little, tiny, moppet-aged children in grades K-4, with firepower to shoot at and to murder twenty-six people INCLUDING 18 CHILDREN needs to take a good, hard, soul-searching look at itself then do me, my children and my as-yet-unborn grandchildren all a favor:  go find some other fucking planet to inhabit. 

I know not what infuriated more when I first learned of the events in Newtown, Connecticut on Friday - on my way back to my office from court.  The mere fact that such a thing had happened "again" or the fact that I feel cuckolded by my inability to do a single goddamn thing to keep it from being repeated.  For whether it happens on a college campus, an office building, a shopping mall or - in an elementary school as was the case this past Friday, it assuredly shall happen again.  And when it does we shall engage in the same inevitable exercise in which we always engage when something like this happens.  We will search for an explanation - as if the behavior of a psychopath is something that can be readily explained - and we will look to assign blame to someone for letting it happen.  Assignment of blame has become big business in these United States.  It wiped the floor with acceptance of responsibility a generation ago and never looked back. 

Radical thought for me, you and everyone else.  Want to assign blame for this sort of depravity?  Look squarely in the mirror at the image looking back at you.  Unfortunately, we are all complicit in it.  President Obama's words - spoken with the pain a father of two school-age children would feel for mothers/fathers of such children whose babies had been taken from them violently in the most unlikely of settings - were pitch perfect.  And he was correct.  Those children belonged to all of us.... 

....So our hearts are broken today for the parents and grandparents, sisters and brothers of these little children, and for the families of the adults who were lost.

Our hearts are broken for the parents of the survivors, as well, for as blessed as they are to have their children home tonight, they know that their children's innocence has been torn away from them too early and there are no words that will ease their pain.

As a country, we have been through this too many times. Whether it is an elementary school in Newtown, or a shopping mall in Oregon, or a temple in Wisconsin, or a movie theater in Aurora, or a street corner in Chicago, these neighborhoods are our neighborhoods and these children are our children. And we're going to have to come together and take meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this, regardless of the politics.

This evening, Michelle and I will do what I know every parent in America will do, which is hug our children a little tighter, and we'll tell them that we love them, and we'll remind each other how deeply we love one another. But there are families in Connecticut who cannot do that tonight, and they need all of us right now. In the hard days to come, that community needs us to be at our best as Americans, and I will do everything in my power as president to help, because while nothing can fill the space of a lost child or loved one, all of us can extend a hand to those in need, to remind them that we are there for them, that we are praying for them, that the love they felt for those they lost endures not just in their memories, but also in ours....

If the young children who were murdered belonged to all of us, then so did the young man who murdered all of them.  Like it or not, he is ours as much as each of them. 

Why would I say such a "Hey Don't Pick On Me - I Just Wanna Snuggle" type of thing about me and you?  It is true.  I deserve the criticism and - at the risk of making you feel too badly about yourself - you probably do too.  Too goddamn long ago we opted out of doing that which must be done in this country, opting instead for doing exclusively that which gives us pleasure and/or that which is easy.  I know not what I am talking about?  See for yourself.  Spend some time on YouTube scouring national political advertisements - you know the ones for that nominally important position of President of the United States - and see the "issues" to which they speak.  Irrespective of age, we have morphed into the "Attention Span of a Gnat" generation.  As long as we keep getting the kibble, we will keep pressing the button.   When all day, every day is all about me for me and it is all about you for you, it makes it easy to ignore the disaffected and the discontented.  Really easy.....

....until one of these "boo-hoo, feel sorry for himself" ass wipes does something to get a moment's attention all for himself here in the land that made the Hilton Sisters stars and turned the Kardashian Spawn into a media empire.  All hail the Attention Whore!

What the fuck is wrong with us?  A question that each of us should spend a little time trying to figure out how to answer.  And until we come up with that answer we shall continue to dance the dance of the impotent.  And mourn the loss of our future:  our children and their innocence....

....as the tall grass waves in the wind.


-AK



Saturday, December 15, 2012

Incoming

Among the many things I do not carry in the little burnt ember in my chest that masquerades as my heart is an excess of Christmas spirit. Today is a day that shall move the needle - and not in an insignificant way.

At some point today the Texas contingent of the family business shall touch down here in the State of Concrete Gardens.  As I write this I know not whether I am on "airport pickup" duty.  I expect I shall know the answer to that question at some point between right now and when I go to sleep tonight.  For the sake of Suz and Ry I hope like hell that is the case.  One can get damn cold standing outside Newark Airport waiting on one's ride....especially in December.

It shall be damn good to see them both - especially in view of the day's events yesterday in Connecticut....

....Your kids are never too old for you to hug.

-AK

Friday, December 14, 2012

The Ballad of the Hudson River Brotherhood

I watched only bits and pieces of the 121212 Concert for Sandy Relief Wednesday night.  Truth be told, its scheduled wrap-up time was eerily close to my Thursday morning wake-up time.  Instead of battling drooping eyelids, I used the DVR feature on Direct TV.  Now I can watch it at my leisure.  Life as a lazy man is a good thing.

Truth be told, given that the act whose music I enjoy the most is Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band and given that they were the evening's first act, everything that aired post-8:15 pm or so was gravy.  Although if I never see/hear Jon Bon Jovi and his too pretty by THIS MUCH voice sing "Born to Run" again it will be too soon, I enjoyed Bruce's abbreviated set.  For a group of 50 and 60-somethings who played a full concert in Mexico City less than forty-eight hours earlier I thought Messr. Springsteen and his band of merry men kicked the evening off in fine style.  Every time the camera panned to Mrs. Springsteen (Patti Scialfa) at her appointed place on the stage, I found myself wondering if Suzanne was eyes-on deep in the heart of Texas and - if she was - whether she was hurling expletives at her tv tied to a certain "Fisher-Price" guitar. 

I enjoyed watching Roger Waters - as I always do.  I have a recollection - ever fading into vagueness - of a story Bill told me a lifetime ago about an opportunity he had to meet and interview Roger Waters, which has embedded Waters permanently in my good graces (as I am certain he would be thrilled to discover).  While I can name fewer than three Pearl Jam songs, I enjoy Mr. Vedder's voice.  For my money - and it was a charity event after all - his work with Waters on "Comfortably Numb" was compelling stuff. 

Among the portions of the show that the Missus and I did see live from our living room (technically the den) on Wednesday night was Adam Sandler's "borrowing" of the great Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" into a Sandy-themed anthem.  The further removed Sandler gets from making movies (a) that make me think such as Reign O'er Me; and (b) with Drew Barrymore the easier it gets for me to ignore him at the multiplex.  Given the diminishing returns on his several most recent films it appears as if I am not the only one who has witnessed the separation of bloom and rose.  That being said, and in spite of his borderline brutal singing, I sat with a smile on my face throughout his entire performance on Wednesday night.  If it is just me, then so be it but when I see him in action at one of these events I never get the vibe that he is doing schtick or going through the motions.   He is there because he wants to be there doing his part to help out folks in need of help.

Let us just hope that Leonard Cohen has a sense of humor....



-AK

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Coach Mac Redux

Earlier this week, slightly more than two weeks after it fired his predecessor Jon Embree, my Alma mater hired his replacement.   After a search that took slightly longer than that for Godot and slightly less time than that for Mr. Goodbar, CU hired 47 year-old Mike MacIntyre.  Other than knowing that the new Coach Mac has spent the past three seasons on the sidelines for the San Jose State Spartans, transforming them from a 0-12 doormat to a 10-2, nationally ranked and bowl-bound team, I know not a thing about him.  Truth be told, if you had asked me the day prior to Jon Embree being escorted to the ramp for 36 East to tell you the name of the San Jose State University football coach, I would not have been able to answer correctly - even if you had spotted me the "Intyre" and asked me simply to fill in the first syllable of his last name. 

Since no environment cultivates expertise quite like the anonymous laboratory known as the Internet, it appears that I am alone in my ignorance of all things MacIntyre.  I have read no shortage of opinions - both favorable and not so much so (although in fairness to Coach Mac II most of the negative press has come from fans/commenters who I presume have spent as much time examining his coaching career as have I) - regarding what his hiring means.  I have discounted all of them equally.  The man has signed a five-year contract that shall pay him $2,000,000 a year in a results-first gig at an institution where the last head football coach to get signed to a five-year contract was shown the door after Year Two.

I know that a university I love with all of my heart has - through a series of bad institutional decisions - become increasingly irrelevant in a sport that is important to it - if for no other reason than its ability to generate revenue.   Yesterday, for the third time in the past seven years, the man who oversees the Athletic Department, Mike Bohn, has stood before a gathering of the media and declared that he is about to introduce them all to the man who is going to return the Buffs to relevancy.  It would help this alum's faith in his decision-making prowess if I had the ability to erase the images of those first two gatherings from my mind's eye.  

Coach Mac's new players are ready to go - excited for the chance to start building something anew under his guidance.   I hope that he knows full well what awaits him at the foot of the Flatirons.  In our recent past, it certainly has not been pretty. 

-AK

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Boxcars Thrice

Welcome to the final "Echo Day" of the 21st Century.  We were bequeathed a dozen of them and today we have cracked the seal on the last remaining one in the carton.  If you have enjoyed them, then give thanks to the Salad boys (Julius and Augie) for having had the opportunity to enjoy twelve of them.  But for those self-impressed asshats we would have shot our load way back when on 10/10/10.  There is a joke in there somewhere about Italians and math and the fact that the "tenth" month (December) became the twelfth courtesy of their meddling but I shall not tell it. 

Alas, next year there shall be no 13/13/13.  We shall not pass this way again for eighty-nine years - until 01/01/01 in Century 22.  Here is a thought to perhaps give you pause:  irrespective of your age if you are alive today the overwhelming likelihood is that you shall not be so when 01/01/01 ushers in 2101.  Today is the last one of these occasions you shall live to see.  Cheery thought is it not?  Remember - I am here all week and am available for children's parties and corporate functions.  For booking information/rates/availability just go to my website:  www.perpetualsourceofsunshine.com.  If it is any comfort to you, I will most assuredly not be here to see the next Echo Day either.  There, I thought that might make you feel a little better.

I did not take the time this morning to check any of the sportsbooks or betting lines in Las Vegas, which I meant to do simply to check to see whether they have posted odds (or an over/uinder at least) on the number of people who shall play "12-12-12" in lotteries across the country today.  I am willing to wager that on the local news tonight - if not on one or more of the vapid "news programs" (expanding the concept of relativity to - if not beyond - its breaking point) this morning - viewers shall be subjected to at least one story on that topic. 

One thing you might want to spend a bit of time on this evening is checking out the 121212 Benefit Concert for Sandy Relief at Madison Square Garden.   There are a number of acts on the bill that I have either paid money to see or would certainly pay to see perform.   The event has been put together by the Robin Hood Relief Fund and 100% of the money raised through ticket sales, donations, etc. is going to be given to those affected by Hurricane Sandy.  While I tend to view charitable organizations through a somewhat jaundiced viewpoint, the good folks who operate the Robin Hood Relief Fund have an excellent track record for getting the money they collect to the people who need it.  There is every reason to anticipate that they shall do so here. 

If you are like me and either your schedule, your wallet or both kept you out of tonight's audience at MSG, regardless of where you are in the world (well, pretty much anyway) you can watch and/or listen for free.  The link to how and where to watch is right here.

Happy Echo Day '12 to one and all.  May the positive energy and good work associated with what shall emanate from the World's Greatest Arena this evening reverberate far and wide for years to come.  Enough to carry us through to our first such Day in the 22nd Century?  Perhaps....

....leave a note for my not-yet-born grandchildren to stop by Pop-Pop's grave and let me know the answer to that question; OK?  Much obliged. 

-AK  

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Roots and Branches

Margaret's mom - the one and only Suzy B. - died on June 2, 2009.  In less than two weeks her family shall gather as they have since time immemorial at her home on Christmas Eve.  It is on Christmas Eve - and not on Christmas Day - that the lion's share of the Christmas celebrating gets - well celebrated I suppose - on my wife's side of the family. 

What once was able to comfortably be conducted in the kitchen at 113 Howard Avenue has outgrown its original environs.  The combination of the horizontal growth (expansion) of the family unit from its orgins and the vertical growth of its individual, component members has driven us underground.  We shall celebrate this Christmas Eve as we did last year - in the basement at my in-law's home.  

While it seemed to me from my day-to-day exposure to them that Nanny (Margaret's grandmother) and Suzy B. applied themselves with unparalleled zeal and fervor to every family event and occasion, Christmas Eve was the one that they geared up for months in advance.  It was their night.  And in the Christmases since she said goodbye first to her grandmother and thereafter to her Mom my bride has picked up the Yuletide ball and run with it.  She has deputized Joe (and to a far lesser extent her ne'er do well spouse) to assist her in her efforts but truth be told (and who wants to chance a fib THIS time of year) she is a one-woman organizational gang. 

In the last few years of her life as Suzy B battled valiantly against the bastard that would eventually kill her, she and Joe had a small, tabletop Christmas tree on the table in their living room.  Margaret decorated it with pink ribbons and pink balls in her Mom's honor - a color scheme emblematic of the war she waged every day against the ravages of that insidious disease.  These past few years, while Suzy B. is no longer with us in person, she remains very much involved in Christmas Eve.  On Sunday afternoon I helped the Missus as the Nona Christmas Tree was set in its place of honor.  It is now situated in the space it shall occupy on Christmas Eve and from which the family matriarch can look down upon those she loved most of all spending Christmas Eve in her most favorite place of all....

....in one another's company.





Suddenly it is beginning to look a lot like Christmas.  Quite a bit in fact.  Quite a bit.

-AK

Monday, December 10, 2012

Bravery's Face

In the late spring/early summer of 2009 a very bad thing happened to a very good young man.  Gabe Hurley - who it has been my pleasure to know since he and Suzanne attended grammar school together - was critically injured when another driver lost control of his car and after crossing into Gabe's lane of travel hit Gabe's car head-on.  Gabe sustained life-altering injuries.  Among other things, he was left sightless.

He may very well be the most resilient young man I know.  He is most assuredly the bravest.  Once upon a lifetime ago - when he was in high school - he used to run.  A lot.  Back then he lived about a half-mile from us and our house was part of his regular running route.  I used to see him run past my driveway on a regular basis. 

Among the many things he had not been able to do in the three-plus years since his accident, which had been part of his day-to-day prior to it, was run.  I know that for at least the past year to eighteen months it was an itch he was dying to have the chance to scratch.  On Saturday morning - ably assisted by Wendy - he did. 





This past Saturday morning Gabe was one of the thousands who lined up on College Avenue alongside "the Barn" for the 10th annual Big Chill 5K.  His first post-accident 5K.  According to the official timekeeping system at the race his finishing time was 39:48.  However as those of us who run tend to do, Gabe kept his own time at the race - and with good reason.  I love the Big Chill.  But it is a mob scene, especially at the start. 




His official "clock" time did not take into account the time that passed between when the gun went off and when Gabe actually stepped across the starting line.  In a race that has several thousand entrants and a "we all start together" system for getting onto the course, getting from your starting place to the starting line can be a journey of several minutes.  Smartly, to ensure he could keep track of his point-to-point time on the course, he wore a watch.  It is the same reason I wear a watch to every race I run).  One likes to have an accurate accounting.  Gabe's ACTUAL time?  A jaw-dropping 32:41. 

On Saturday, he reminded those of us who know him just how remarkable a young man he is.  Same as he ever was. 





-AK

Sunday, December 9, 2012

One Final Time Out


Dave Brubeck, music icon and American treasure died this past Wednesday.  At the time of his death on December 5 he was ninety-one years of age.  His death occurred with a musician's sense of timing.  He would have celebrated his ninety-second birthday on December 6.   

More than a half-century ago - in 1959 - his album "Time Out" went somewhere that a jazz album had never gone before:  #2 on the Billboard pop album chart.  It was certified platinum, signifying more than 1,000,000 units sold.  Far greater than the significance attached to the number of copies sold was the record's sound.   Those who have forgotten far more about jazz music than I could hope to ever learn were I to live ten times as long as Dave Brubeck describe it thusly:  groundbreaking

Every Sunday morning for as long as I can remember, my favorite earthbound radio program "All Mixed Up", which Jim Monaghan hosts on WDHA 105.5 FM here in the State of Concrete Gardens has closed with "Take Five", a song written by Brubeck's musical partner and alto sax player Paul Desmond, which was the first single Columbia Records released off of Time Out and which became the first jazz single to sell more than 1 million copies.   He shall do so again this morning. 

It turns out it is one hell of a way to sign off on a Sunday morning.....



-AK


Saturday, December 8, 2012

For the Love of the Game

College football's regular season - at least as played at the Division I Level - comes to a close this afternoon.  The Midshipmen of the United States Naval Academy and the Cadets of the United States Military Academy shall meet in the annual Army-Navy Game.  It has been a long, long time since either Navy or Army was a "player" in big-time college football. 

For the kids from West Point it likely feels as if it has been almost as long since they were last relevant in this rivalry.  It has been more than a decade since the Cadet Corps has celebrated a win over their arch-rivals from Annapolis.  The Middies carry a ten-game winning streak into this afternoon's 113th meeting.  Last year - for what felt like the first time in a very long time - the Cadets from West Point came close to winning before ending up on the wrong side of a 27-21 decision.   They come to Philadelphia this afternoon completing a twelve-game schedule that has seen them thus far win only two of their first eleven.  They have not won a game in more than a month.  But what a win it was.  Army defeated Air Force at West Point on November's first Saturday 41-21.  If they can manage to spring the upset today and beat Navy, they will win the Commander-In-Chief Trophy for the first time since 1996

For the Midshipmen, putting the lumber to the Black Knights of the Hudson has seemingly become a rite of passage.  Unlike Army, Navy is bowl-bound again this year.  To date, the Middies have tallied a 7-4 mark playing a schedule that has seen them play Penn State in State College and Notre Dame in Dublin.  Their seven wins also include a win over Air Force.  So this afternoon they play not only to try and hang an eleventh straight defeat on the Cadets but also to retain the Commander-In-Chief Trophy.   Navy has won the C-I-C each of the past five years.

Today marks the first time in fact since 2005 that the Army-Navy Game shall also identify the winner of the C-I-C.  And if you think that does not mean pretty much everything to the players, coaches and institutions on either side of the scrimmage line, then you should spend a bit of time acquainting yourself with the history of this game. 

I love this game because it is played by young men who - as a general rule - shall wrap up their competitive football-playing days when their college career ends.  It is played - this year - as it has been for more than a decade by young men who made a commitment to attend one of this nation's Service Academies armed with the knowledge that the debt owed for that education was a commitment to their respective branch of the military of a nation that is at war.  When each of the young men playing at Lincoln Financial Field this afternoon opted to attend their respective academy, each knowingly and willingly accepted the fact that irrespective of how heated and how tense things get out there today, a far more tense and far more dangerous field might be waiting for them on an as yet to be determined Saturday.  Still they signed.  Still they honor their commitment.

It seems to me that today is the best part of being President of the United States (well, except for never having to wait in security lines or at baggage claim when you fly).  Today is the day that the President gets to spend his afternoon watching football - spending one half of the game on the Army side of the field and teh other on the Navy side.  If this particular Saturday is not on the short list for President Obama's "Favorite Saturday of the Year" then color me stunned. 

Even if your schedule does not permit you the opportunity to watch all of the game today, do yourself the great service of catching the end.  At game's end, the teams take turns standing before the student bodies and signing their Academy's alma maters.  

In case you were wondering, winning team sings last.  It has been a hell of a long time since the kids from Army have gotten to hear their counterparts from Navy sing first.  This year perhaps?   We shall see. 

Enjoy the game.  And be grateful for each and every one of them:  the kids on the field and the kids in the stands. 

-AK