Friday, October 9, 2015

What He Said: Anne-Marie Slaughter's Husband on Having it All

Anne-Marie Slaughter's Atlantic cover essay Why Women Still Can't Have it All is one of the most-discussed things ever written in that magazine's long history.  Her husband, Andrew Moravcsik, wrote in the current Atlantic about the same issues from the husband's side.  The Slaughter-Moravcsiks are a serious power couple who play in rarer waters than we do.  Still, I found myself mm-hmming over and over again.  He says things I've thought about saying here, but he says them better.  Click on the image to read his take.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Pirates Predictions: Season Wrap-up

Well, a great regular season ended too abruptly in the wild card game.  We're all sad that the Pirates won't go further this off-season.  Charlie looked spot-on at mid-season and claims his third crown out of five in our annual family predictions.  His optimism looked possibly fatal when the Pirates started slowly, but they really powered from mid-May to the end of the year to exceed all of our expectations.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Six Reasons for my Self-imposed Football Exile

Last year around this time, I was somewhat surprised to find myself morally uncomfortable getting ready to watch the NFL.  Ray Rice's domestic violence and the NFL's handling of the situation, which dominated so much off-season coverage, made me really uncomfortable.  So, I decided to essentially not watch the NFL.  I watched a few games for social reasons, including the Super Bowl, which is probably hypocritical, but I am an American, after all.

I'm taking this year off as well and - unless something radical changes - it will be my second of forty-some years away from football.  And yes, I'm extending my self-imposed exile this year to football at all levels.

Here's why:

1.  Domestic violence/sexual assault/rape culture - Respectable sources have
documented that the rate of domestic violence among NFL players is actually lower than the national average among men of the same age.  Still, it feels like there's as much police-blotter coverage of football players as there is game coverage, and too much of the crime hurts women.  [Edit:  Thank to a friend, I now know that the author of the above-linked article actually posted a follow-up saying that he was distressed by the response to that article.  He wrote a follow-up saying that the NFL does have a domestic violence problem.  It's not just my perception.]  Amy Schumer nailed this topic, surprisingly enough in a humorous fashion.  But watch all the way to the end to see the underlying connection. 

2.  Concussions - Will Smith's Christmas present to the culture is a movie that will raise everyone's concussion awareness.  The high-profile suicides of Junior Seau and others have made it feel just plain wrong to watch today's players endure the same kinds of risks. From what I have heard about Chris Nowinski's research, concussion risk is as high or higher in practice than in games.  That makes the thought of children and young people playing football that much less palatable.

3.  Instant Replay - OK, they aren't all moral reasons.  Football offers incredibly fast changes of momentum and fortune, like when what appears to be a sure touchdown for team A becomes a turnover converted into a touchdown for team B.  As such, replay ruins the visceral experience of watching football more than it ruins that experience in other sports.  For the gain of officials calling plays more accurately more often, we have lost the sheer joy and surprise of watching sports.  The NFL has tainted and ruined its own entertainment value by forcing players and fans to look around and wait to know whether they can celebrate any touchdown and most every exciting play.  No thanks.

4.  Roger Goodell - This guy has less integrity than a credit card thief.  He dispenses justice so arbitrarily and unilaterally, it's head-spinning.  Of course, he's just a symbol for how rules always seem to get bent for football players.

5.  The NCAA - After taking last year's NFL season off, I have to expand my football ban to college and high school because of issues 1 and 2.  Taylor Branch's exhaustive Atlantic cover story on the NCAA explained how its history of policies and decision-making make Roger Goodell look like Cory Booker.  Should this article and the Ed O'Bannon case make me give up college basketball, too?  Possibly, but a) it's a long winter, people, b) basketball has fewer of these problems than football and c) give it time.  For now, though, college football's exploitation vibe trumps basketballs for me personally.  Without seeking it out, I've happened upon the NFL combine on television.  In this event, draft-eligible college players (er, excuse me, student athletes) wear identical numbered spandex suits and run through the same drills in a regimented, measured fashion for NFL scouts to observe.  There is also a weigh-in, pictured at right.  Fans, front-office execs
NFL Combine Weigh-in
and team owners soak up the results of these weigh-ins.  Actually, it goes beyond height and weight to other, more specific body measurements

Now, I've never seen a slave auction, but having studied the cultural history of slavery, nothing in our current culture comes closer to an auction than the combine.  "Owners" putting men the rights to whom they can acquire through their paces at a big public event?  I'm not the first to say this either.  Anyway, the college system exploits thousands of young men who sign on for the chance at the ultimate mutual exploitation opportunity: an NFL career.

6.  Steve Almond's Against Football -  Steve Almond wrote a "reluctant manifesto" against a sport on which he too grew up--and he does way better than I do here.  In his short book, he outlines his own process that brought him to the point where he had to swear off the game.  Even if you plan to go on with your Red Zone channel and fantasy league, read Almond's book and at least see what the most articulate of us wackos has to say about not watching football anymore.

Those are my reasons.

The smaller-time the football I'm giving up, the more I'll miss it.  Following my alma mater's fortunes in the Ivy League is as futile as it is highly entertaining.  The university I work for plays in a conference you've never heard of against schools you've never considered; I've listened to their games on the radio and read the tiny writeups they merit in the local paper.  I live in a top-5 high school football region in the country.  I've taken my boys to high school games picked at random from the listings in the newspaper; they have immediately become loyal fans of the home team.  I've consumed every single media production that has ever resulted from Buzz Bissinger's masterpiece Friday Night Lights (including, of course, the masterpiece).  Football's pageantry and entertainment value at all levels make this decision difficult.  

The excesses Bissinger exposed 25 years ago planted the first seed of finding football a little too squicky to stay married to.  Actually, maybe some of the assholes on my own high schools' teams did that.  For as likable as many of the characters in the FNL TV series turned out to be, the original book pointed out the gonzo disproportion of resources devoted to football in schools.  It also highlighted how the free pass given to players in their glory days can come back to bite those very players in the butt when their football lives come to an end.

If you see me watching a football game or somehow weighing in, you can call me a hypocrite.  I'll have some excuse like my kids, neighbors or alumni association making me swallow my moral opprobrium for familial or social reasons.  I don't actually know what I plan to say to my kids about all of this.  They still get a lot of joy out of football; I'm not sure what right I believe I have to impose more than a decade of my creeping discomfort on their young hearts and minds.

Already, I have a lot more time on my hands.  Football games are long, and I read a surprisingly small number of the pages in the sports section.  That creates a certain pressure to do something valuable with the extra time.  My March Madness bracket better perform very well next spring. 

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Friday, August 7, 2015

Dad's Summer Reading Program: Satisfying Book Recommendations

Having started Dad's Summer Reading Program two years ago, I can now qualify it as a moderate success.  The original objective of getting our younger son to read more might have happened anyway, but it seemed to kick start him that year, and he's been a pretty solid pleasure reader since then.

This year, the boys raced out to their first incentive milestone and then flagged a bit.  Family vacation and two weeks at camp cut reading time, although our older son reprised his adorable vacation habit of reading Dave Barry books aloud with his cousin who's about a year older.

Although the quantity of reading has not been fabulous, I was very satisfied when two books that I picked up at the library unbidden for our rising eighth grader resonated nicely.  Competent Mother and I both really enjoyed Lois Lowry's A Summer To Die.  Actually, that's the book that turned me into a reader-for-pleasure.  CM also loved Madeline L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time.  Although the boy raved about neither book, he finished both of them before we knew it and said - with a thirteen-year-old's* nonchalance, "Oh yeah.  I liked them."  Super pleased that the (recent) classics still appeal, despite all of the new options.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Particle Roundup July 2015

One in an occasional series, a roundup of parenting articles (particles) that have caught my attention or been virtually shoved in front of my wandering eyeballs.

The Letter your Teenager Can't Write You
Weeks away from having a teenager, I was interested in this one.  It makes a strong argument for hanging in there when it feels like there's no point. 

I raised an addict - what could I have done differently?
Knowing some addicts of different ages, I have often wondered about whether a moment occurred that - if handled differently - could have changed a path.  This essay implores parents to be knowledgeable about the availability of drugs because even raising a kid well to the point that he or she looks happy and ready for life does not ensure against that child finding a source at just the wrong moment and throwing a ton away.

Screen Addiction is Taking a Toll on Children
In other bleak addiction news, screen addiction in China and elsewhere. Pretty happy my kids are at a no-electronic-devices old-school summer camp for two weeks.  Maybe there's one of those for me?

What if Everything You Knew about Disciplining Kids was Wrong?
Stats on suspension can be disturbing, especially among really small kids.  As a kid who got high marks in everything but penmanship and conduct and who knew his way around the elementary school principal's office because of the latter, this was an interesting read.

The Mixed-Up Brothers of Bogota
Not strictly about parenting, but the latest, most fascinating contribution to the nature vs. nurture question.  Two sets of identical twins in a Bogota hospital get crossed up.  Each family ends up with a non-biological son who happens also to have a twin out there.  All four twins meet in adulthood. 

For what it's worth, I read all of these articles using Pocket on my phone, here and there when I could.  Actually, for the letter from your teenager, I listened to it via Pocket's text-to-speech monotone robot.  That was an interesting medium for the raw emotion of that essay.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Poem: Mining in Tandem

I didn't write this poem in response to Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner's marriage and divorcePunditry about their divorce, which is either (charitably) hair-splitting or (more viscerally) asinine, did inspire me to post it now, though.

Mining in Tandem
an original poem by Jeff Forster

In the wedding cards of
family and friends,
we write,
"Welcome to the institution." Ha!
"Marriage is fun."
We don't write,
"Work like hell."
But we probably should.

It's hard to picture one of those
not-believably-rustic Pottery Barn plaques
with the slogan printed in
some harmless font:
"Fall in love.  Stick together.
Work like hell."

There's a lot to overcome
deep down in any one of us.
When we put two down deeps
together, why wouldn't we
guess that it would be a ton of work?

It's like mining in tandem.
Holding onto one another while chipping
away at all that lies down deep.

Holding the line.  Shining a light on
each other.
Working.  Like hell.

The reward for all this work is not
some pile of gold or jewels
or even coal.
The reward is discovering
that it is possible
to bring each other out of the dark.