Sunday, October 31, 2010

Bye Week

December 12, 1965 was my 6th birthday. The next day was my grandfather's wake. My dad's dad. Didn't really know the guy very well, but he was the first living human being that I knew, that had stopped living. All day on the 13th I watched people I didn't know pay their respects, and then go join the party downstairs.

Maybe party isn't the exact right word, but it's closer to being a party than it is to not being a party. Oh sure there are a few who don't get the whole Irish Wake thing, but that's really not my problem. There's never any disrespect to the deceased, and as a matter of fact it's because the deceased became deceased, after a lifetime of not being deceased, that everyone is gathered. And, since we are all gathered, we face the option of either lamenting a world without old deady over there, or getting loaded and telling funny stories about O'Stiffman, as well as discussing current events.

But again, the key elements that every Irish wake shares: alcohol. laughing, gossiping, and bullshitting about politics.

In that order.

They don't call the obits the "Irish sports page" for nothing.

And, at my grandfather's wake, the big topic of discussion was yesterday, December 12, 1965.

My 6th birthday.

All anyone was talking about was the number 6.

Only they weren't discussing how fucking cool it was that little Smutty was 6 years old.

They were talking about how cool it was that Bears rookie Gale Sayers had run for 6 touchdowns in the mud against the San Francisco 49ers. To the vast majority of people in the world, roughly 100%, Sayers running wild against the 49ers was the cool thing about December 12th. Well, that and Frank Sinatra's birthday, which oddly is still not a national holiday.

But on that day, after talking about my grandfather, it was all about Sayers. Not Smutty or Frank.


1- Sayers 80 yards with a screen. a run that featured two early moves the defy description. Knee-bucklers. Jock droppers. What Bill Cosby once called Sayers "splitting like an amoeba and going around both sides of a tackler."

2- Sayers 30 yard run that showed how to "get around the corner."

3- 10 yard dash to the corner and wait for the block thing.

4- 50 yards, burst through the line, and gone. The reason he was called the Kansas Comet. A blur. And, showing that he was a mudder in the last 30 yards. Everyone else slippin' and sloppin', he's accelerating.

5- A one yard over the top dive where he landed on his head. Sayers was Payton before Payton was Payton.

6- 85 yard punt return that featured two more what-in-theee-fuck-did-I-just-see? moves at mid-field.

Gale Sayers was absolutely amazing.

6 TDS on my 6th birthday. Just the sort of thing that yanks a 6 year old kid by the throat and forces, that's what I said, forces him to become a fan of the fucking team.

Between 1965 and 1985 , Chicago Bears fans lived through some really miserable seasons, but there was always some reason to watch. Early on, late 60s, it was Sayers and Butkus. After Dr. Fox had his way with Gale's knees, it was down to Butkus.

By the early 70s, the Bears were just bad, and that is not a good thing to be when the owner of your team essentially invented the NFL.

Bobby Douglass. Abe Gibron.

Papa Bear had some smarts though. He hired Jim Finks. And then they drafted Walter. And then they built an offensive line that was solid. And finally, they built a defense that scared the shit out of people.

The 1985 Chicago Bears.

Kinda like.... Disco Demolition coming to your town this week! They just beat the hell out of everybody. Except the Dolphins on Monday Night Football. Fucking Gary Fencik. What? you didn't know he was going to cut inside? The entire world knew he was ...sorry, where was I?

Oh yeah, so we had this one great team, and it was really fun and shit, and then pffffft.

20 more years of mediocre, bad, kind OK, mediocre, bad again, pretty decent, hey look Rex Grossman is starting against Peyton Manning in the Super Bowl!, back to mediocre, kinda bad, pretty decent, and now bad again.

Now, I'm not exactly sure when the NFL started this "bye week" shit, seems like it's been around for a while but I'm too lazy to Google it.

Whenever it was, up until today, I hated the bye week.

Not this year.

This year I love the bye week.

Let's make next week bye week too.

I started watching this team in 1965 and, I am seriously considering calling it quits.

I mean it this time!

Being a Chicago Bears fan sucks.

I've had more fun at wakes.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Grant Park

And as the Chicago police worked their way east on Balbo, they crossed onto Michigan Ave.

There, ahead of them, they saw thousands and thousands of people gathered in Grant Park. The city of Chicago was very concerned.

In Mayor Daley's eyes, the assembly was illegal. No permit had been issued. The police could hear the crowd chanting. Hard to make out clearly, but it was something about dissatisfaction with the American government.

Those in Grant Park felt that they were exercising their right to assemble peacefully. Clearly a First Amendment issue, so fuck you and your permit. This is the United States and we still have that Constitution backing us up.

Another group of police approached Grant Park from the north. They came east on Congress, and as they crossed Michigan Ave. they could see that the two sculptures guarding the entrance, Spearman and Bowman had been vandalized. The two proud warriors still sat astride their horses, but Bowman's bow had been snapped off and Spearman's spear was also missing.

Vietnam War protesters.

The cops on Balbo looked north, past the Hilton, and could see their fellow officers moving east into the park. They entered from the south, and moved slowly towards the mass of humanity.

"Sarah Palin is a fucking retard!" came a shout from the crowd.

"Take it easy. Take it easy. We're all here to have a good time. We can talk about Palin without all that shit. Let's talk about solutions."

"Excuse me, we're with the Chicago police...."

"Oh hey fellas, how's it going?"

"Fine thank you. Do you have a permit for your gathering?"

"Nah. Angie McMahon with the Chemically Imbalanced Theater raised eighteen thousand bucks on Facebook, but the douchebags over at the Park District gave her the old red-tape runaround and refused to issue the permit anyway. Hey look, it's Oprah!! Hi Oprah!!!"

"She raised eighteen grand and they wouldn't..."

"That's right officer. Isn't the city kinda strapped for cash at the moment?"

"Don't even get us started. Our last contract was a fucking nightmare. Somebody offered them eighteen grand for permission to do something they're legally allowed to do..."

"That's right officer. We're not breaking any laws."

"No you aren't."

"Wanna beer?"

"Nah, we're on duty. You have a safe day now."

"You too officer."


Dear Chicago Park District,

Fuck you. Arrest me.



Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Staff Sgt. Robert J. Miller

St. Michael school in downtown Wheaton is where I did most of my 5 year sentence as an altar boy. Aside from the usual drudgery of having to wake up at 5 so I could serves 6AM mass, the job did have its upside. Great view of the babes from up there and communion time was a highlight.

We used to get to leave class if there was a wedding at St. Mike's, ..or a funeral.

Weddings were fun of course, and funerals were a real drag as you might expect. Thing about funerals is that I would actually pay attention to the words spoken by someone I didn't know about a deceased person I also didn't know. It was like getting to know a little about a person I could never know by way of the shared grief of the people they did know. I could tell when someone's death hit hard. It showed in the faces of the mourners. And there were those other times when I'd notice someone checking their watch during the funeral mass. Over the loss already.

On Saturdays, during the final years of the Vietnam War, we had what they called "Benediction and Prayers for Peace." Basically just did the stations of the cross, some incense was burned (which I can still smell Gerlich), and the really big monstrance with the over-sized Eucharist was hauled out. That was only for really serious occasions at St. Michael's church, and the parishioners really prayed their asses off on those Saturdays. I did too. That's back when I still hadn't completely ruled out the efficacy of prayers.

There were times when serving the benedictions that I would see my grade school classmates out there in the pews. Sitting alone. Sheila Murphy lived close to school, and was there quite often. Voluntarily went to church! A foreign concept to me back then. Sheila's the one who sold me my copper Vietnam POW/MIA bracelet which, in hindsight, is kind of amazing. She was in 8th grade, and yet she was already all tuned in to the conflict in Southeast Asia.

Sheila kept track of who had which POW/MIA guy, and would test us in the halls to recall the name without checking our bracelets. (Sheila thought some people were just using the things as fashion accessories apparently.)

Kelvin Maines was my guy, just in case Sheila's reading this.

Saw a lady at benediction one day way n the back just bawling her eyes out. No surprise to see Murph sit down next to her in the pew and start patting her on the shoulder. Sheila was good people. Turned out the lady had lost her son in Nam and would come to St. Mikes for these "prayers for peace" with some regularity, although I hadn't noticed her before.

Maybe it was the crying.

After mass I talked to John Prello, the greatest priest I've ever known, and asked him what it's like to be seen as a source of comfort for the bereaved. He spoke in generalities about giving comfort to people who had lost family members, mainly the elderly, and said essentially he's a sympathetic ear and a trusted friend more than a counselor.

Dealing with someone like the crying mother of son killed in Vietnam was a different story. Prello hated the Vietnam War, and while he never actually came out and said it, I got the impression he resented having to priest up because of it. Hard enough to be a pillar of strength for someone whose son died in a car crash, harder still to tell the parents of a son who came home from Vietnam in a bag that he died doing what he loves and for a good reason.

On Jan 25, 2008, Staff Sgt. Robert Miller, your basic Green Beret, was on a patrol in the Kunar province of Afghanistan, near the Pakistan border along with eight Special Forces ass-kickers and about a dozen Afghan troops.

They came under heavy fire, and by various accounts it seems that Rob Miller charged the enemy, simultaneously firing his weapon and throwing hand grenades, in an effort to draw enemy fire away from his comrades. After being hit, Rob continued calling in coordinates of gun emplacements so they could be targeted for airstrikes. 5 other squad members were wounded, and those who survived credited Rob for saving their lives.

According to Rob's friend, Staff Sgt. Nick McGarry, the last thing Rob Miller said to him was "If I get killed on this mission, I don't want to be remembered for dying, I want to be remembered for who I was."

Robert Miller died that day.

Today, there was a special ceremony held at the White House. Phil and Maureen Miller traveled to Washington to meet with President Obama, and to accept the posthumous Congressional Medal of Honor their son earned that day in Kunar province near the Afghanistan/Pakistan border.

In addressing Rob's parents, President Obama said.."Today and in the years to come, may you find some comfort in knowing that Rob gave his life doing what he loved -- protecting his friends and defending his country. You gave your oldest son to America, and America is forever in your debt."

Today in Wheaton they held a special ceremony to celebrate the life of Staff Sgt. Robert Miller, killed at the age of 24. This afternoon, a mass was held in St. Michael's church to honor the memory of Rob, who graduated from there in 1998. I don't know if they still have benedictions and prayers for peace on Saturday at St. Mikes, but I wonder what John Prello would say about Rob's death.

They're calling Rob a hometown hero in Wheaton, but to completely honest about it, I don't know what the fuck that even means anymore.

Robert J Miller- 1984-2008