Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Thanksgiving Football: A Brief History

My Midwestern family had two Thanksgiving traditions. One involved placing a pot of boiled cranberries outside to chill. The second tradition revolved around watching football . . . or at least having the game on in the background while cards were played, the Almighty invoked, drumsticks munched, and arguments rekindled. As the 2013 holiday season arrives, let’s quickly examine how a day of feasting and gratitude hooked up with a robust game of inches.
Professional football on Thanksgiving started in the 1890s. From then into the first half of the 20th Century, teams such as the Canton Bulldogs and Massillon Tigers clashed with their leather helmets, no facemasks and few rules.  And while various teams in various cities continued Thanksgiving play, it wasn’t until 1934 that T-Day football as currently recognized formed thanks to G.A. Richards.
Mr. Richards had recently purchased an NFL team, the Portsmouth (Ohio) Spartans. He moved them to Detroit and rechristened his team the Lions. But the baseball Tigers were the Motor City darlings. Wanting to start a buzz, Richards scheduled a Thanksgiving Day contest with the undefeated Chicago Bears. As it turned out, the Lions had an excellent 10 – 1 squad primed to meet the 11 – 0 Monsters of the Midway. Tickets sold out two weeks prior to the clash. The Lions lost 19 – 16 but a tradition was born. Except for six years from 1939 – 1944, the Lions have played on every Thanksgiving.
But it would take another 22 years for Detroit’s T-Day tussle to go national. In 1956, the first Thanksgiving Day game was televised as the Lions dropped a close one at the wire to the Green Bay Packers, 24 – 20. What we now assume normal was born: televised pro football on Turkey Day.
Our last contemporary puzzle piece took another decade to drop into place. In 1966, the Dallas Cowboys commenced their run as the second T-Day game. For the last 47 years, with only two exceptions, the Cowboys and Lions have played on Thanksgiving Day. Starting in 2006, the NFL added a night contest featuring two at-large teams. Now tryptophan-filled football junkies can have their fill in several ways.
But let’s close with the American tradition of do-it-yourself. On Thanksgiving, in backyards and parks all across the country, ad hoc Turkey Bowl games will be underway. Touch or tackle, these contests pit family and friends against one another for bragging rights or just a way to let off holiday steam. And while such games are legion, let me single out one such Turkey Bowl from my old hometown. Now in its 14th year, the Indo-Jew Bowl takes place every Thanksgiving at a different park in Skokie, Illinois. Old high school classmates of Jewish descent line up for nine-man tackle against their sub-continent rivals. Last year saw the Jews roll to a 41 to 27 victory. But the Indos are hot for payback come November 28.
So whether you put your cranberries outside to cool or not; play, watch, or listen to football, have a most Happy Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

CSUN 10K Race Report from Back in the Day

This is an updated version of an old post from six years ago. A rare race report on something other than a full or half-marathon. Just 6.2 miles around a college campus. Plus I left out my encounter with The Incredible Annoying Man. Back then on Mondays or Tuesdays, Melissa Foley and I would meet at the Rose Bowl and run four miles. She wanted to break four and half hours at the Long Beach Marathon in the fall. I wanted to break four hours at the Chicago Marathon, also in October. (My result is chronicled here.) At the time, I was training for the inaugural Santa Barbara Wine Country Half-Marathon.  My friend Ernesto and I were signed up. I had a room booked and everything. Ah, but interesting events loomed in my immediate future.

Ran a 10K today at Cal State University Northridge. After injuring my calf running last Monday (locked up tight), I spent the week either in the pool or doing yoga to loosen up the muscle. And while it's still not 100 %, I felt strong enough to give 6.2 miles a go.

Except I didn't want to run.

I didn't want to get up, or drive to Northridge, or run once I got there. And a very annoying guy with a strange, over sized bill on his cap out of a Terry Gilliam film decided to mentor me. First he said I wasn't drinking enough water pre race. When I blew him off, he decided to critic my stretching. I told him I'd like to listen, but I needed to be somewhere else and wait for the race to start.

Racing feet, but not mine. Image: Utah Valley

Horn sounds and the race begins. Off I go anyway. I wanted to quit at the second mile. Then I wanted to walk for long periods. Then I wanted to quit at mile 5. Yes, it was sunny and hot and the course teemed with race-etiquette challenged "Kids Run L.A." But I've been there/done that before and bounded along like a young deer. Today was different. A most unusual attack of the "quits." 

Maybe 10Ks remind me too much of tempo workouts — hard, long mid-week runs at a faster-than-usual pace. They build endurance. And grumpiness.

Despite all that, I set a 10K pr of 52.56. That comes out to an 8:32 pace. (Note: My official gun time  places me at an 8:36 pace.)

Afterwards, I drove to Brookside Park near the Rose Bowl for World T'ai Chi Day. This is a yearly gathering of L.A. County T'ai Chi players and Chinese yoga practitioners. Marjorie was there. We hugged good-bye again. She drives to Texas this Friday. I hung out with old chums Loren, Ed, Iren, Dave and Dede from my T'ai Chi class. Then I bought an official tee-shirt and left.

Acres of writing, but it'll keep.

I don't want to do that either.

Turns out I was running with a torn calf-muscle. No Santa Barbara and no running at all until July. My training was thrown off for Chicago, but I really got into spin bikes and that stands me well to this day.  

Monday, November 18, 2013

Why Kindle Tasks Me

My jury duty essay, "Unreasonable Doubt," has sustained a name change to Jury Doody. I'm now in the process of prepping the MS document for transfer to a Web page and eventual upload to Kindle Direct. I'm using a Kindle book specifically for Mac users and it seems straightforward. But I'm the king of formatting workarounds like lots of hard returns that create forbidden extra paragraph symbols. Spacing, hyperlinks, and other formerly ignorable details must be executed within the  program. I'm glad I chose the shortest of my "books" to upload first. Now I understand the peevishness of Khan.

h/t: thatjohnkydd

And Gutierrez

h/t: Brendan Owens

Thursday, November 07, 2013

Novel Update Plus Free Bonus Writing Tip!

i z quotes
Oh, hahahahaha! The second draft is finished. What a crawl through gravel that was. But there's a story there. I see it forming. Now I'll let the whole thing simmer and finally PUBLISH SOMETHING ON AMAZON! Yes, within two weeks, an electronic version of my jury duty essay, "Unreasonable Doubt," will be for sale to the general public on Amazon Kindle. (The specific public may also partake. I'm not an excluding guy when it comes to such matters.) Off to find cover art.

Free Bonus Writing Tip
As my spirits dragged toward the end of the second draft, I used a trick to transition me into writing.
I would spend five to ten minutes copying text from a story onto a page, then switch over to my latest chapter. This got me writing judgement free for the few minutes that I needed to warm up. My teaser texts were:

The Mammoth Book of Monsters edited by Stephen Jones

Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned by Wells Tower.

Incidentally, Tower is a kick-ass writer who can really sling a metaphor. Worth a look.

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