Tag Archives: assholes

I think I’m about done attending actual college football games

It’s my favorite sport to watch; in fact, it’s the only sport I watch on a consistent basis. But I think I’ll be doing it from my recliner for the rest of my life. I just don’t much like going to the games.

Reasons, in no particular order:

Stadium: long march and/or climb to uncomfortable seat–and I’m not even counting the weather as a negative, since I’m pretty hardy. Recliner: short walk into living room with dedicated, comfortable chair.

Stadium: bathrooms force me to miss action or join enormous scrum in foul-smelling wait. Recliner: bathroom is down hall, can pause DVR so no action is missed, and is as clean as I choose to make it.

Stadium: drunk, noisy assholes who believe they bought a daylong asshole license. Recliner: no one even gets in the house without my will to unlock the door, and no one who would become drunk and abusive is getting in at all.

Stadium: can’t see the action too well. Recliner: can see all the action, as many times as I might wish.

Stadium: subjected to garish, paid-for displays of ostentatious patriotism. Recliner: can choose my own level of patriotism, from total fast-forward to standing up and singing along with the anthem, without peer pressure.

Stadium: total cost of attendance exceeds $100 per person at the very least, at least for major college action. Recliner: total cost of attendance involves paying my satellite bill of about $64 per month.

Stadium: food is either great but leaves me feeling like a mooch (tailgating) or meh and hugely overpriced after a long hike and a longer wait (concessions). Recliner: food is whatever I decided it should be, prepared and obtained when and how it suits me, priced reasonably.

Stadium: either take a bus, or hike from an adjoining state, or park in a nightmare scrum at high cost. Recliner: walk from office to living room, for free, without becoming annoyed at anyone.

Stadium: pretty much stuck watching halftime show, as there’s nothing else to do. Recliner: either build up footage and fast forward through halftime show, or watch instead updates and commentary on the day’s action.

Stadium: for the introvert, four hours of hard work trying to forget that one is surrounded by a crowd of random people. Recliner: for the introvert, four hours of relaxation surrounded only by people one wants around.

Stadium: analysis provided by random clods sitting in vicinity. Recliner: analysis provided by professionals experienced in the game, and sometimes even able to convey insight and/or humor.

Stadium: phone calls mostly happen to other people nearby, who then must yell into the phone so we can all hear. Recliner: if phone rings, pause DVR and answer it in civilized voice

Stadium: swearing frowned upon. Recliner: swear at will without penalty, and without harming the sensibilities of any elderly people or destroying the fragile innocence of youth.

Stadium: many people whom it would be morally okay to punch. Recliner: no one it would be morally okay to punch, because people who need to be punched aren’t welcome.

Stadium: potential for ejection if one objects to abuse, especially as a visitor. Recliner: no abuse, no potential for ejection.

Stadium: people may stand up and want past me at any time, including during a play, to get more brats or nachos with plastic cheese. Recliner: if someone needs to go in front of me, I pause the DVR.

Stadium: garbage thrown at random, leaving entire place looking like a slum by the fourth quarter. Recliner: garbage thrown in suitable receptacles.

Stadium: decent seats usually cost one kidney, and student seats are usually crappy. Great seats require enormous wealth. Recliner: all seats are great, and are the same price, and I’m welcome to invite students to partake as equals.

Stadium: pouring money into the increasingly corporate college football machine no matter how expensive they make it. Recliner: only money pour is by having premium TV to begin with, and whatever sponsored fan gear I felt inspired to buy.

Stadium: all marketing, all the time. Recliner: fast forward through all marketing I find annoying, which is substantially all of it.

Stadium: when everyone else stands up, I must as well or miss the action, and I were very short, it might do no good. Recliner: when I stand up, it’s because I have a reason, and it never relates to ability to see what’s happening on the field.

Stadium: watch one game. Recliner: watch for up to fifteen hours if I want, taking in up to five full games.

Stadium: searched at gate like common criminal, Dayquil taken away from sick person attending game two thousand miles from home, foldable stadium cushions taken away from persons who drove twelve hours and spent hundreds of dollars to be there. Recliner: bring anything I want, including a blanket fort over my chair if I so desire, or my heroin and syringes, or Scotch, or a cigar, or cold medicine; no one cares who is in a position to object.

Let’s be fair. The stadium does have advantages:

Home crowd energy can be good, and some venues treat visiting fans quite acceptably.

One will not have to miss part of the game because the Pac-12 Netbucks, Faux Sports 1 or 2, or the Eternal SEC Pimpage Network did a bad job of scheduling coverage.

Lots of calories burnt walking, climbing, hiking, and enduring weather.

Some stadiums have gorgeous views.

Direct experience of traditions: the Stanford band, Jump Around, calling the Hogs, singing the fight song, snickering at people with odd objects on their heads.

To people for whom it matters, they get to claim they were present.

Some halftime events which one might want to see, one will not be denied in favor of listening to Lou Holtz give his opinions.

Petros Papadakis is not doing the analysis.

The compensations exist, but are not worth what is asked of one.

Recent read: Assholes*, a theory

No, that’s not for shock value. My dear and longtime friend Melissa recommended this book to me.

Melissa is not a constant or pushy TV, book, or movie recommender. She is an advanced thinker currently studying at an institution where ‘advanced thinker’ is a baseline expectation, and a hell of a nice lady. We disagree on a lot of things, but I respect her viewpoint.

Thus, when she recommended Assholes* to me, there were many possibilities, including ‘good read,’ ‘thoughtful discourse,’ and ‘broad hint.’ Such is our friendship that, had it been a broad hint, I would have valued the hint. I struggle in some ways with social situations; they do not come naturally to me. Now that I’ve read it, I’m glad to see it wasn’t a broad hint (or if it was, it sailed over my head), but an analysis of how to see and evaluate some of society’s bad actors. Including, at times, ourselves.

Prof. James proposes a straightforward definition of the Asshole. The Asshole considers him or herself exempt from social conventions (waiting in line, using a turn signal, tipping the waitress, taking the cell phone call outside the restaurant, taking the screaming baby outside the restaurant, holding the door so it doesn’t slam in the next person’s face). But motive matters: the Asshole is exempt because s/he is entitled to exemption. No other reason. The Asshole is special, and entitled to ignore the social contract, just by existing.

Thus, the person who acts like an Asshole once in a while on a bad day is not an Asshole, because most of the time that person knows and does better. The person who acts that way but knows it and seeks to dial it back is not an Asshole, because unrepentant privilege is part of the core definition. The Asshole does not self-examine, except perhaps to self-admire in a mirror.

Melissa and I had been engaged in a discussion of racial privilege that afternoon, and her intent may have been to illustrate how the privileged appear in the eyes of the unprivileged. I see the point. I can drive through most areas without risk of being pulled over for being black, since I’m not black. I get different and more favorable reactions in some situations, because I’m white. I probably got paid more because I was male. It represents a natural advantage. Because of that, goes the logic, I should seek to forgo this privilege. We don’t agree about the suitable reaction to that reality, but we agree that it exists and is unjust. The author brought the question up as it applies to his own favorite pastime, surfing. Evidently surfing has an accepted etiquette, and some people show no regard for it.

For me, nothing says Asshole like bad cell phone etiquette. You can be in the middle of a restaurant, having a conversation, and someone two booths away blares in with his outside voice. His cell phone rang. He would not want all of us to do that, but he is entitled, so he does it. He feels no remorse for behavior to which he is entitled. I do not understand how a group of people can gather around a meal table, or in a room together, and all stare down at electronic devices. When it happens, I just want to leave. Yet it does, and with increasing frequency, and evidently it’s the social consensus. Perhaps it is so much the social consensus that I’m being an Asshole by believing myself entitled to interaction when the expected behavior involves staring at a small rectangular communication and research tool. Who do I think I am, anyway? By not owning one, or wanting one, am I spitting on the social convention, making everyone around me uncomfortable as they post selfies, photograph their food, seek a video for the Daily Outrage, argue with strangers on Facebook, and manipulate the fall of multicolored candy pieces?

I liked the book. James’s style is readably articulate, the tone of a learned person not out to prove that to anyone. His examples will resonate with many. There’s only one issue I have with James’ stance, and it comes late in the book, where he has the discussion of how best to respond to the Asshole. His proposed solutions never involve the one I consider most obvious, which is to give the Asshole a consequence beyond “Hey, asshole, get to the back of the line.” I think James is right; if the Asshole were correctable, we would see evidence of the correction in progress. If there is no way to reform the Asshole, then the question is how we take least harm from him or her. James proposes selective assertion, which makes sense in that it’s not practical to challenge every instance, and we have to pick our spots. What he does not propose is selective assertion with real consequences, something that makes the Asshole actually suffer. Not to help correct the Asshole, but to warm the souls of the non-Assholes present.

Of course, not everyone is equipped to do this in safety. If the Asshole is trying to bull to the front of the line, and he’s built like an NFL lineman, the woman standing five feet high and weighing one hundred pounds only after a chocolate binge isn’t going to stop him. It could be risky for her. But what if, where possible, the Asshole gets a real consequence? ‘Vigilante justice,’ people will complain, as if that phrase is an automatic invalidation. Now and then it does happen, and we applaud. I think we need more of it, not less. While it doesn’t have to involve violence (could be as simple as a milky coffee thrown on the Asshole, or a bumper sticker that says “Certified Asshole” slapped onto a Mercedes taking up two parking spaces), I’m not opposed to the notion that it might now and then take tangible and painful form.

Some people really are Assholes, and now and then, someone will kick their asses. I’m in favor.

The day we faced down the Phelps gang

When thinking of people who have no purpose on earth but to hate and harm–real, true emotional terrorists–everyone but about fifty or so Americans agrees that Fred Phelps and his gang take the cake. Out of respect for my Christian friends, I’m not going to dignify the Phelps gang by calling them a Baptist church except in quotes (and tags). As much pain and indoctrination as real Baptists have inflicted on me in life while I was defenseless, even those involved in those abuses would not approve of the Phelps gang. Thus, I’m not cooperating with fake ‘Baptists’ in the effort to steal the title of authentic Baptists. I may not agree with much of anything that comes from the latter’s ecclesiastical leadership, but when it comes to Phelps, I’m okay singing a stanza of Onward Christian Soldiers with the real ones. (With my atrocious singing voice, they may not think of it as much of a joyful noise.)

Being a non-Christian here is actually pretty painless, because the Tri-Cities live by a quiet ethic of staying out of your face. It’s the same way with regard to homosexuality. If one doesn’t wash everyone’s face in one’s difference, and simply lives one’s life in peace, one is left in peace here. My gay, pagan and gay pagan friends living in other states tell me I shouldn’t take that for granted, and I believe them.

On 2 Feb 2007, Marine SGT Travis Pfister of Richland, WA died in Iraq. Always sad, but also an ever-present part of war. A memorial service was scheduled in early March for SGT Pfister at the TRAC (a trade show and expo center) in Pasco, to which one could presume his family, friends, and supportive community members might join in honoring his life and sacrifice. The Phelps gang announced that they were sending a picket.

Where there is a Phelps gang visit, counter-protests appear. For this one, attendance was triply obligatory. Phelps’s gang lives in my home state, in gutless Topeka which snivels and cowers before its barratry rather than taking concerted action to encourage them to find a new state. A civilized Kansan thus had to represent. Considering how many of my good friends are gayer than the 90s, I couldn’t look them in the eyes if I didn’t show up. I’m no patriot, but I respect service and sacrifice, and I don’t appreciate anyone–especially outside thugs–showing up to offend the family of someone who died keeping his oath of service. Deb, of course, was as dead set on attending as I.

We had company.

It was a pretty spring day, though I’m sure it didn’t feel springy for those who came to mourn. The law in Washington is that protests may not approach within 500′ of a funeral. The Pasco Police decided to confine the Phelps gang to a vacant lot across the street from the TRAC, well away from the main entrance and avenue of approach for mourners. A thin line of police officers manned the street with obvious reluctance, to prevent the crowd from physically tearing the Phelps gang to pieces. The air was filled with the sound of big motorcycles, for the Patriot Guard Riders had shown up with about 140 bikes. In most situations, to put it mildly, I am not a motorcycle enthusiast. For that day, I was happy to hear the rumbling sound. This organization travels around organizing counter-protests where necessary, and presumably doing other things associated with veterans’ causes. They do add a sense of muscle to the event, just by looking the way they look, not that we needed extra muscle. There were about two thousand people there, and it was a little difficult to get up the front of the police line. There was no way the family and attendees could see the protesters unless they worked at it. There was no way they could fail to see the rest of us, as there was barely room for cars to get around in the parking lot.

Across from us on the vacant lot were five pathetic individuals. I only remember a wild-haired adult male and a little girl. They were holding up their usual disrespectful signs, insulting military service, Christianity and homosexuals. What struck me was the great diversity of the crowd, a full representation of the Tri-Cities. Black, Hispanic, Asian, white; male, female, somewhere in between; straight, gay, still not sure; old, young, middle-aged; atheist, evangelical, Catholic, pagan, Mormon, Unitarian, agnostic; veteran, union, average joe or jane. At last, something we could all agree on and get together about! I am not a person for whom a sense of belonging or membership comes easily. I truly felt like part of the Tri-Cities that day, and proud to be so. We were supposed to turn our backs to them, or at least the Patriot Guard Riders tried to get us to, but not everyone did. I guess that’s the train wreck factor: it’s hard to look away.

In case you have never seen a Phelps gang protest, it works like this. They only send a small group (they’re a busy bunch, with a lot of people to offend nationwide). Their goal is to get attacked, or have some other event happen that will get them media time. If they do not get it, they lose. So they keep ratcheting up the outrage, in order to see what they can provoke, with increasingly offensive yells and signs. At the end, they had the little girl angrily stomp a U.S. flag into the dirt, which I gather is their ultimate step: if that doesn’t get them assaulted, nothing will. In this case, it didn’t. When it becomes obvious they won’t get what they came for, they leave. They may even have been gone before the family arrived at the memorial, which would be an added bonus. I think four squad cars of Franklin County Deputies escorted the Phelps gang’s car to the county line, off to whatever mission of antipathy awaited them next.

On the way home, I wondered if we’d done any good. I decided that we had. We couldn’t prevent the Phelps gang from doing what they did, but to whatever degree knowing of their presence made it worse for the family, perhaps a 400:1 support:hate ratio made it more bearable for the bereaved. It had gotten us all together, in all our different forms and ways of being and living, in good spirits. I didn’t see anyone showing disrespect for the police, who were doing a necessary and unpleasant job in a professional manner, and deserved cooperation from the good guys and gals. It must have been a moving experience for the gay counter-protesters, seeing so many of their neighbors so forcefully rejecting homophobia–which, after all, is the whole basis for this Phelps crap.

If nothing else, at least a few people learned that the Phelps gang is not representative of Kansas or Kansans. The heavy-bearded character in the KU t-shirt, looking like Gimli the Dwarf after a growth spurt, had something to say about that.