Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Men are Weiners

I was sorry to see TNT's "Men of A Certain Age" canceled after two seasons. 

The show had a great cast and was smartly written, so naturally it drew a few more viewers than a public access zoning hearing.  I suppose without "very special episodes," DNA tests or brawling hillbillies it was doomed. 

"Men" focused on the lives of three middle aged guys played by Andre Braugher, Ray Romano and a third guy I had never heard of (Scott Bakula, who was good). 

One memorable episode had the boys heading off to Palm Springs for colonoscopies in celebration of Terry's (Bakula) 50th birthday. 

As an aside, if my wife is reading this, I would prefer a tie or golf balls. 

When the boys weren't playing candid camera they ate at a diner and hiked a mountain. 

Sound boring?  It wasn't.

Every time I watched I thought "these writers get it."  To paraphrase Bruno Kirby in When Harry Met Sally, it "spoke to me."   

More importantly, it was television's most honest portrayal of middle aged men in recent memory. 
Let's face it, most guys can't honestly portray themselves.

I was also struck by the timing of "Men's" cancellation on the heels of the Anthony Weiner scandal. 

For those of us trying to forget, Weiner is a now former member of Congress forced to resign after taking pictures, not of his colon but just about everything else.   He sent the pictures to women he had never met throughout the country.  After 10 days or so of denial, he finally admitted the pictures were of him, by him. 

Then I came across an interesting article about men and the Weiner scandal:


My two takeaways:

1.  Women are upset with mopes like Weiner who can't seem to control themselves as they bathe in the raw sewage of power. 

2.  A psychologist (Michael Bader) suggests that we "look with curiosity and compassion and see these (powerful) men as complex human beings, full of feelings of longing, anxiety, and guilt." 

So because men are complex it excuses their behavior? 

I, for one, hope if Weiner's wife was given the explanation, "I'm complex, misunderstood, needy or some combination thereof," her initial reaction was "Boo hoo" and that there were no sharp objects in the room. 

Yes, men are complex.  So are women.  The difference is that most men aren't willing to examine their complexities, preferring to slog along through life holding the proverbial wooden club over their shoulder.  

They're out of touch.  With themselves. 

As a result, women do back flips for a man who is even remotely emotionally available.  I think women tuned in to "Men of A Certain Age" for a glimpse of men as they want to experience them. 

It's sad when a show like "Men of A Certain Age," with its honest examination of men's complexities, is bagged for a lack of viewers.

And men metaphorically canceled.

When men expose complexities it isn't very welcome, even in a fictional setting.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Oh (No) Starry Night

There was big "hoo ha" over this year's major league baseball All-Star game. 

And not because the National League won 5-1. 

It seems that nobody watched, with ratings hitting a record low.  Baseball meets C-Span. 

A few years ago Commissioner Bud Selig made the idiotic decision to give home field advantage in the World Series to the winner of the All-Star game, thinking it would make the game more competitive. 

Not so much.  Players barely care about the game.  They certainly don't identify with their league.  I doubt the Cubs Starlin Castro will gush with pride, knowing he contributed to NL home field advantage, as he watches the World Series from his couch.

"See Kids,"  I can picture Grandpa Castro saying one day to his little ones, "My league won a practice game, which is why the other 162 games mean bubkes."

One player is required from each team, another silly rule. Did Chicagoans tune in solely to watch the White Sox Ray Durham in 1998?  I can't tell you the first thing about Florida's Gabby Sanchez (this Marlins lone All-Star this year), and I suspect most of south Florida wouldn't recognize him if they shared a cab. 

I like the MLB All-Star game because it's mid season, players wear their real uniforms and it is fun to see guys like Josh Hamilton and  David Ortiz on the same team.  The home run derby is cool. 

As an aside, when did we start playing baseball in glorified water parks?  Watching a fan dive into the center field swimming pool during this year's home run contest reminded me of an inflatable gorilla on top of a car dealership.  Anything for attention, deficit. 

The All-Star game is getting out of hand.  This year over 82 players were "selected" for the game, a new record.  In 1980 only 60 players were named. 

Think about it. 82 players from 30 teams.   The American League had 19 pitchers.  Are you telling me with a straight face that nearly 40 pitchers are worthy of being an All-Star? 

Here's the rub - rosters have exploded because the reaction of many players to being selected is "non moi" (not me).

Players are voted in by fans or named by managers and opt out.  In the case of Yankees pitcher C.C. Sabathia, he declined faster than he could drop a dime to his agent.  So did Derek Jeter, fresh off becoming the newest member of the 3000 hit club.

Jeter claimed injury and exhaustion, while Sabathia pitched the Sunday prior. 

It's lame.  Growing up, at least players acted like they wanted to play.   And since when did "not playing" mean "gone fishing?"  Can't an injured player show up and tip his hat to the fans who fund his Robin Leach lifestyle?

Some ideas to revive the Midsummer Classic:

Since players have contracts with bonuses for making the All-Star team (some up to $250,000), how about they only get the bonus for appearing at the game?

How about deducting $5 from the ticket price for each player who "opts out"? 

What happened to Old Timers Games?  New rule - when an All-Star declines to play, we will replace him with a player from the "Senior Tour."  No Derek Jeter?  Ernie Banks is ready.  If C.C. Sabathia won't pitch, let's give Nolan Ryan a chance to lay some chin music on Prince Fielder. 

If he misses, I'd pay to see the aftermath. 

Friday, July 8, 2011

The Social (Media) Reunion

Last weekend I attended my 25th high school reunion.

The Facebook reunion. 

Everything took place virtually, from the planning to the invites, until the event itself, which made it somewhat surreal.

Ever meet up with hundreds of your "friends" at once in a shotgun chat room?

Don't get me wrong.  I had a great time.  But there were two big differences from reunions of yore. 

First, I am guessing when my parents attend reunions people whip out photos of the kids, grand kids, or a Super 8 Motel with an AARP discount.

No pictures for us.   Not needed. 

Who needs pictures when you can whip out a smart phone and learn all about little Taylor's first trip to the dentist.  Better yet, you can pose for a reunion picture and post it to a Facebook page, so classmates who weren't able to travel (or locals who had more important things to do, like watch a Law and Order marathon) can instantly feel the love.

Events aren't "real" until they show up on Facebook, right?

The other big difference is the way a lot of us "knew" each other.

Let's face it.  Social media is an eavesdropping tool.  You drop in, anonymously, then drop out.  A cyber one night stand. 

Facebook is like a museum, sans the noisy field trippers and ludicrous parking fees.  You can tour the galleries at will without detection, or consequence. 

If relationships are ultimately about boundaries, then Facebook is the open border. 

One classmate said attending reunions requires "real confidence,"  which I suppose is true.  But what distinguishes a 25th reunion from a 10th reunion is the lack of posturing.  

By the time you hit middle age the pretenses are gone. We are who we are, whether fat, thin, bald, married, single or on work release. The women looked sharp, while a lot of guys dressed like they had just cleaned out the garage. 

Reunions, like high school,  are ultimately viewed from our own prism.  We sit in classes (most of them) for four years with rows of students who's experience might be completely different than our own.   Reminiscing is a contact sport, and it's not for everyone. 

Unless it's online.