Numb To The Reality Of College Football – Go P U!

Pink Floyd’s 1979 hit “Comfortably Numb” contains the lyrics

“When I was a child I had a fever
My hands felt just like two balloons
Now I’ve got that feeling once again
I can’t explain you would not understand
This is not how I am
I have become comfortably numb”

I’m not a Pink Floyd fan per se, but every time I hear that song I think of my experiences with sickness.  Every time my temperature spikes I get the same dream and I wake up knowing that I am ill.  I can’t explain the dream, I can’t explain the feeling but I just know that I am not feeling well.  When I hear this song on the radio or on Muzak somewhere I know instantly what Roger Waters and company are getting at.

In many ways this malaise appears in all aspects of life.  We can’t escape the reality that nothing is truly what it seems.  Individually, our experiences may be different but we feel the same.

I believe we’ve come a long way as a society and as humanity but there’s so much more that needs to be done.  I’ve tried to document my sports world.  My background of growing up in a SEC football driven world led me to believe that nothing was bigger than Saturday. Praying to the touchdown gods and the first down saints was what fueled my weeks.  The offseason was a place where you looked in the mirror and asked questions about the team’s focus.  Was it the coach?  Was it the institution?  Was it the players?  Why can’t they win every year?  What is wrong with them?

The answers were not always clear.  Even now I struggle with one question in particular. When it comes to sports there’s one huge question I ask.  If everyone’s ultimate goal is to win a championship, does that mean every losing team’s season is a waste?  Did every other player on every losing team waste their time, energy, sweat and blood for that year because they didn’t win?  We could say that some may never win because they play on a less talented team than others?  Are there a multitude of other reasons?

For all those kids who went to a school like Vanderbilt, just an example, and played a season of college football, did they waste their years of sports?

Some would say that these kids were given the opportunity to continue to play.  Maybe players are stepping on the field for more than just the chance to win.  Maybe they just want the scholarship to get an education.  If they move to the pro level do they just desire that pay check?  Maybe they just want to get some stats.

I guess it’s all up to us what we do things for.  Whether it’s why we go to work or why we do things on a daily basis.  We get in a pattern – a habit – of doing things and we can’t shake our way out of it.  It becomes too simple.  It’s too easy to keep doing the same thing, flipping on football on Saturday because we always did it but we don’t know why we did it.

Or maybe we did it because Saturday was our day to go out and get tanked with the crowd? Hang out with those alumni we went to school with and remember the glory days from times long past.  Think about the years when there were no daily demands and the living was easy.  When we were numb to the outside world.  Maybe even dare I say it comfortably numb to everything.  Our little world revolved around that campus.  Go P U!

Getting older after we left college we never shook that feeling that we should return on game day to keep that old tradition alive.  Again – creatures of habit.  Some of these we never want to think about or break.  Bring the kids to the tailgate and see the drunk alumni grill meat before the game.  Go inside a million dollar plus stadium funded by pledges we can’t afford but because we love the school “so much” we’ll give our last penny.  Inside our coach, signed by some athletic company for millions, drives young men up and down the field for the glory of the school.  Those 18-22 year olds never see a dime for all the cash they bring into the institution even though they can’t afford to go out after the game or even sometimes get a bite to eat.  Because they are on an athletic scholarship they can’t get a job – so don’t even go there.  So much cash floating around the athletic programs to be gobbled up by the school in donations, endorsements, television and bowls but don’t buy the kids a meal if they can’t afford one.  What have we become?

We are so numb to the notion that athletics is so pure that we don’t want to accept the notion that it’s all driven by the mighty dollar.  Good old P U wants to win a championship so they can get exposure and bring more money in to build an even bigger stadium.  If P U could get their stadium sponsored they’d bring in every company they could to slap their logo on the side.  “Welcome to Connecxto Stadium and P U Field.”  It’s not pretty but it pays for all the scholarships P U will say.  Sure it does.  The players can’t have a meal when they are hungry but the alumni giving hundreds of thousands are sitting high up in Connecxto Stadium in a furnished suite watching them beat each other’s brains in for P U glory.  I guess it’s all worth it.

Then again I think we’re all numb to the system.  We know that markets and money are involved in the world around us.  People don’t do things out of the goodness of their hearts – it’s what they can get out of that action.  Unfortunately I’m one of those people who would like to think that people do things for the greater good, but I guess I’ve become numb to the world.  I’ve become numb to the reality that greed takes many forms and one of them is human.  I’m certainly not comfortable with it.

Advertisements

The Hip Of Humanity

Ever since I heard “New Orleans Is Sinking,” I’ve appreciated Gord Downie’s lyrical genius.  As I listened to other Tragically Hip songs I learned about Downie and the things that he was interested in.  Expanding my Hip knowledge is like asking me if I have read the encyclopedia, how can I finish something that is so deep?

Take “Wheat Kings” for example, a song that I always thought was about the Brandon Wheat Kings until I read the lyrics and learned about David Milgaard who was wrongly convicted for murdering Gail Miller.  Milgaard would spend “twenty years for nothing,” because he did not commit the crime and would even have twenty chances for parole being denied every time.

In 2012, Downie said in a CBC interview with George Stroumboulopoulos, “I don’t think you can throw over science and research for ideology.”  Downie, lead singer of the Canadian band The Tragically Hip, was speaking on the cutting of funding and support to small communities in Canada and how it affects their well-being.  Something that can lead to long-term issues like cancer, an issue that Downie knows all too well.  Downie’s ex-wife, Laurie survived breast cancer and Downie has terminal brain cancer.

The announcement of his diagnosis was followed by the band releasing a schedule of nationwide tour dates finishing up in Kingston, where the group has a street christened after them.

As Downie and the Hip toured Canada this past Summer on what was termed a final tour it made me think about what he was going through.  I pondered a man who has spent his life exploring his country, standing up for the people in his country, making people realize that those people need help and even though the Hip are one of Canada’s most cherished bands he’s never let that get to his head.

He’s opened people’s eyes to social injustice – to things that matter not just something random or nonsensical.  Obviously the world is going to miss someone like this.

However, the world is going to miss a man who asks questions.  A man who gets people to asks questions of themselves as well.  Questions that we might not ask unless a poet like him framed it in a melody.

A question like “how do we start dealing with our well-being?”

No, not just about eating the right things and going to the doctor more often, I don’t think that’s the message I get from looking at his last hurrah.  His lyrics seem more cutting and shrewd to be so simple as take care not to get the common cold.

He strikes me as the man who says “when I’m gone pick up where I left off and take care of one another.”  The man who in what could be his last year of his life toured his home country making people smile and spreading the good will of a band that never quit.  For a man who is so intent on keeping his personal life private, he made this last chapter the most documented part.  As someone who is private I can’t imagine announcing something like cancer on a website like he did, knowing that millions of people suddenly know.  With the advent of social media the diagnosis would be known almost instantly throughout the world.  His condition could never be private again.  Downie could never keep this secret again.

Maybe at this point though, it didn’t matter anymore.  There’s nothing left to hide.  It’s all up to us to continue what he started.  It’s all up to us whether we are Canadian or American or whatever nationality to look out for one another.  To keep the hope for humanity alive.  Downie’s hope that the fight against social injustice doesn’t stop with him.  Everyone, especially the people of Canada, continue to learn, love and take care of their land.  I’m proud to be a Hip fan even though I’m American.  I’m proud to have been introduced to Downie’s words before he left this world and to have been influenced by a man who never forgot that everyone matters no matter what they believe in because at the root of it all, we are human.

I’m Not Hip On Not Being Able To See The Hip

As a curious and culturally diverse American teenager, I walked into a Toronto music store at 18 and bought a CD set of Juno award winners.  Among some bands that had made the American music charts was a group with a cool name and a song that referenced what could potentially happen to an American city.  If you are Canadian or a Canadian music fan you probably know where I’m going with this.

The Tragically Hip “New Orleans Is Sinking.”

I was on a band trip when I purchased that cd set and I listened contently as we passed mile after mile from Toronto back to the southern United States.  I found myself going back to The Hip and playing them over and over.   There was something about them that drew me in.

When we got back home I went to my local music store and I found their EP.  I snapped it up as quick as I could – I didn’t want anyone to steal it out from under me!  I took it home and found out about the last American exit.  I kept playing that EP over and over.  

The problem become access to The Hip’s music.  At the time, Napster was taking off and I wasn’t going to steal their music (we didn’t understand the change it was making at the time) and the music stores didn’t carry Canadian bands.

Time went on and I got older.  Eventually I found Phantom Power and absolutely loved “Bobcaygeon” and “Fireworks.”  Then I found Yer Favourites and felt like I could somewhat understand what I’d been missing. 

But that time is too late.  I’m too late.  A couple of months ago The Hip’s lead singer and amazing lyricist Gord Downie announced that he had been diagnosed with brain cancer.  Terminal brain cancer.  The Hip and Downie are doing a farewell tour across Canada.  Unfortunately I won’t and will never got the chance to see them.  

Gord introduced me to the Wheat Kings.  Not just the Brandon Wheat Kings but the  story of wheat and the story behind a wrongful conviction.  

I was introduced to Bobcaygeon.  To which I laughed and thought he made that up.  Nope it’s an actual town in Ontario and it was the home of riots in 1933.  

I was introduced to the Hundreth Meridian.  What is up with that?  It separates Western Canada from the rest of the country.  

Then one of my favorites is “you said you didn’t give a fuck about hockey and I never saw someone say that before.”  Gord’s godfather, Harry Sinden, was the coach of Team Canada when they played the Soviet Union in 1972.  Paul Henderson  scored the winner in the series and Foster  Hewitt made a legendary and unmistakable call of the goal heard ’round the world.

It’s things like this that seem so minor to some but are huge to me.  I could go on and on with other songs and the way they’ve helped me to explore other parts of the world.  I am not ready to let Gord go.  I never got the chance to see The Hip in concert.  Most of all I’ll never get to see  more of the world through Gord’s eyes.  He won’t die of vanity but I would hope we can get Ry Cooder to sing his eulogy.