Friday, June 25, 2010

Ten Years After

As I was pondering a past personal milestone, it occurred to me that a fair number of the celebrated “events” in our lives - birthdays after the first one, wedding anniversaries, class reunions and many of the holidays - are not actual occurrences but commemorations of past happenings. I suppose there aren’t really that many truly significant occasions, so we get as much mileage out of them as we can.

The event in my life that led to that incredibly obvious observation isn’t one I care to celebrate. At the end of this month it will be ten years since my first wife left me. Hmmm….as I look at that last phrase I realize that it’s not commonly used in polite conversation. When people talk about such things they’re usually less specific; they say “since my first divorce” or “since my first wife and I split up”, perhaps because those phrases sound less accusatory and emotional, and divorcees don’t want to make others uncomfortable by sounding too bitter, especially after a certain amount of time has passed. In my case no such negativity is intended; that’s simply what happened. To paraphrase Jimmy Buffet, I could claim it’s the woman to blame, but I know it’s (partly) my own damn fault.

(I must digress momentarily to note that I can’t help but be a little impressed that Buffet has managed to create a very successful business empire as well as a laid-back, generally positive vibe from a song about a man drinking himself to death. I often scoffed at marketing while I was at KEVN, but sometimes it can do amazing things.)

Looking back at the ensuing months, I realize I definitely bit off far more than I could chew emotionally, resulting in a series of very bad decisions, some of the results of which I will probably live with for the rest of my life. On the other hand, some of those decisions put me in a position to meet my current wife, so I guess I should say all’s well that ends well. Overall, I can pretty easily divide my life into before and after Divorce 1.

Coincidentally, it was at this same time six years ago that my second wife left. What to say about that? Well, while some people can completely mess up their lives with one divorce, I needed two. I’m not sure if that’s good or bad. I do know that while there were certainly other problems, a fair amount of what led to Divorce 2 was collateral damage from Divorce 1.

This has been on my mind for another reason: a co-worker is currently going through the same thing. His wife left him earlier this year, and his anger and bitterness would peg meters if such existed. Yet he has already begun pursuing a new and fairly serious relationship. Beyond the general skepticism, the fact that I did the same thing and paid a high price gives me special pause. Yes, it’s entirely possible he found the right woman, and you can’t control the timing. But I can say from experience that the situation is fragile and fraught with peril. I hope in ten years he’ll be looking back at a smaller mess than I am now.

The idea of “getting over it” and “moving on” naturally comes up at a point in time such as this. It could even be said that noting the date is itself evidence of lingering emotional soreness. If so, well, I have heard it said that for every year of marriage it takes a year to get over its end, which means I have four years to go. But I think anyone who has been through a divorce will agree that getting over it and moving on are separate and distinct yet interrelated processes, each with its own pace dictated by the individual’s emotional makeup and personal circumstances (kids’ needs don’t go away while the parent curls up on the couch and cries). The big hazard comes from trying to move on too quickly while still too far from getting over it to make good decisions. That was my failing.

The Other Football

I’ve been watching the World Cup and idly pondering big-time soccer’s lack of success in this country. The games haven’t been too bad. While there hasn’t been a lot of scoring even by World Cup standards, most of the games I’ve seen have had fairly aggressive offense and ball movement; there hasn’t been much standing around at midfield kicking the ball back and forth waiting for someone on the other side to fall asleep. Much has been made of Americans simply not liking certain aspects of the game, but I think that is changing as more kids who have played it grow up (I just saw an ad for the local soccer association for kids from grades 7-12).

The big problem is, as always, how to make money at it, which in this country means TV, which (unless someone can figure out how make pay-per-view work) means advertising, to which the nonstop nature of soccer has always been unfriendly. The electronic billboards along the edge of the field seem like a good idea, although I don’t know how effective they actually are. I have noticed a number of points in a game where a billboard-type ad (the company logo accompanied by a quick “this game is brought to you by….”) or an audio-only ad, either recorded or by the announcer, might be squeezed in, although the audio-only ad may not work too well during this World Cup, where I would guess many people are, like me, watching with the sound as low as possible due to the vuvuzelas.

The basic structure of the game actually has one very TV-friendly feature: the predictable length. The constantly running clock, even with some extra time added for injuries, etc., makes it possible to assign a fairly precise time slot with some confidence. For this the willingness to end in a tie, which is one of the aspects frequently derided, is actually an advantage. As someone who frequently had to make on-the-fly programming decisions based on when a sporting event might end and how the network was going to handle it (NBC used to send lengthy teletype messages in advance listing various scenarios and how they would deal with them), I can say that this isn’t a trivial consideration for a broadcaster.

Soccer’s larger problem might simply be finding space. While there are many TV channels out there, only a few offer the ability to attract the large number of viewers necessary to bring in the ad dollars required to support a big-time league, and many of those channels and advertisers already have established relationships with other sports. Advertisers only have so much money to spend, so anything soccer can get would have to come out of another sport’s pocket.

Perhaps the best strategy might be to stay small for now and take the long view, supporting soccer at lower levels to build future fans and players as demographics bring more soccer-raised immigrants into the U.S. sporting scene. Of course, people have been trying that plan for a long time. They just haven’t been able to hang on long enough to see it through.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010


I heard the Spencer Davis Group’s “Gimme Some Lovin” on the radio again, and I still marvel that the lead singer was a white English teenager. I may have to get out my Blind Faith cassette (recorded from an original vinyl LP back when I had a turntable, and now carefully stored along with the album in the depressingly large “Wow, is he old!” section of my closet) for some more vintage Steve Winwood, who is still doing fine.

The recent coincidence of Rue McClanahan’s death and the release of Sex and the City 2 brought to mind an idea for a future movie; put the Sex and the City women in the Golden Girls’ situation. They’re not that far from being in the same age group: Kim Cattrall is actually older than McClanahan was when The Golden Girls started. It wouldn’t be hard to contrive the appropriate circumstances without being outlandish. Death, divorce and/or financial setbacks would do, and would be more believable than a lot of what has passed for plot in that franchise.

I saw a ghost at a stoplight the other day: an unrestored white Vega 2-door, GM’s second attempt at an import-fighting small car (assuming you count the Corvair as the first) apparently being used as a daily driver by some poor unfortunate soul I couldn’t see. Its condition didn’t look to be too bad, and I can’t help but wonder about its history. A long-time owner who has seen no need to change? Hand-me-down teenage transportation? One of those that just got made right and has held up from owner to owner? Possibly a combination of all three; it’s been around long enough.

I’ve been trying to tune out the “political angle” of the Gulf oil disaster because I find it irritating. I keep reminding myself that most of it comes from people who never supported Obama anyway, and that he’s far from the first politician to take heat for things he can’t control, but it still bugs me. I have never been able to understand the idea that the President has some kind of supernatural power to fix incredibly difficult and complex problems or stop disasters. As far as I can tell, he’s done about all he can so far; he’s making sure BP is going to pay for the mess, and he’s trying to see to it that resources are in place to start clean up once the oil flow stops. I have a hard time imagining anyone else doing better. This thing is simply really bad, and it’s going to be bad for a long time. Ask the people who are still dealing with the Exxon Valdez.