More Junk Drawer: Charities, Patriots, Accountability

It’s Sunday and as I write, the Patriots are allowing the Eagles to stay within three points of them at halftime. After Neil Rackers and the Cardinals improbably ruined my chances of winning $600 in a NFL knockout pool earlier today, could this be the worst Sunday ever? I hope not.

With that said, it’s time for the Junk Drawer: more random notes I’ve compiled to stun you with.

-A few months ago, I emailed my blog list asking for their financial assistance for a charitable walk our company was taking part in. I asked for just $10 from each for JDRF, an organization that assists those afflicted with juvenile diabetes. After one round of emails, I got just over $200. Not bad, but from a list over 100, I thought I’d get a bit more considering the small amount I was looking for. I looked at the people that didn’t donate and was pretty surprised, but I decided to hit them up again a few weeks later. When it was all said and done, I raised a company-high $310. I was happy, but admittedly a bit unsatisfied considering how little I was asking for and the amazingly easy process of donating.

In the past few months, I have been hit up with requests from people doing walks and marathons with all benefits going toward several great causes. These come amidst the many traditional charities that are out there, constantly in need and always shorthanded like this one which I have seen first-hand. With monthly disasters and making a living that much harder to do for some families, there is no shortage of needy people and organizations out there. But how much can you be expected to give when there’s so many that need it?

It got me to thinking about that charitable portion of people’s souls that make them commit to a cause either financially or by donating their time. Why didn’t more people donate when I asked? Was it the cause? Do they donate to something already or was it simply human laziness and apathy? A recent release by Fidelity Investments stated that 80% of Americans give to charity annually, totaling over $120 billion, but I just don’t buy it. I look around at people I know and while they seem great, most don’t seem passionately moved to donate to those in need. I’m sure you have have friends and family that are the same way, so where does that number come from?

Regardless, it’s crucial and essential for those of us that can commit money or time to charities to do so, because there are so many in need. As you read this, you probably are coming off a weekend where you spent $50 on stuff you didn’t need or was a luxury thanks to your lifestyle. It’s your right because like the song doesn’t say, you work hard for the money and it better treat you right. Take a step back and now multiply that $50 x 20 weekends and that’s a lot of loot. My plea is to give yourself a charitable goal for 2008. Make it something within your means, but essentially set yourself a budget for donating money and then, do it. Be selective about who you give money to and make an effort to spread it around. Then, when someone comes to you asking for money, make an educated choice based on parameters you have already set up.

People need your help and doing a few less meals out or that not buying that Englebert Humperdink replica smoking jacket will mean a lot to people you won’t ever see, unless you like constantly walking by the homeless people on the street.

(Side note/plug: You may notice a new link up to the right. My friend Teresa is training for a half-marathon as part of a Disney Leukemia and Lymphoma run for Team In Training. She is detailing her travels to the marathon in blog form, which is interesting considering she’s not a runner by trade. If you feel like donating, fantastic. She’s less than $1000 away from her goal. If you don’t, then take a few minutes to learn about the cause and see what she has to say.)

-You deserve it. Next week, you’re getting the One Night Stand column. Get your latex and walk of shame asses ready.

-Back in February, I wrote about how spending time with my parents was proving difficult and that the gap that had begun over a decade ago had started to grow further apart. This holiday season is the first where I have no real travel stress as my pro hockey days are now in my rear view mirror. As a result, I was able to call the shots a bit when it came to Thanksgiving, spending a few hours with one set of parents and then, a few with the other. After both visits, I didn’t feel exasperated but really good. For all of their well-documented faults, my parents are both really good people who do their best to take care of myself and my brother when we’re home. Despite alcohol issues, financial issues and cancer scares, they always put their best foot forward in making us feel welcome, which is something I’ve overlooked in the past.

So while I won’t do the ready-made “I give thanks” schmaltz you might expect, I am finding a bit of solace in knowing that going home isn’t as bad as I originally made it out to be…at least for a few hours at a time.

-You know, verbal sparring can be fun when it comes to celebrities. It’s always entertaining to read when two overly-paid actors, musicians and the like decide they need to feud with each other, either due to a real beef or to sell more product. That’s why I’m a little befuddled at why two of my favorite Bostonites have decided to throw jabs at each other when seemingly each have nothing to gain.

I really don’t want to recount the whole sordid tale, but ESPN’s Bill Simmons and comedian/actor Dane Cook have beef. Simmons (in another one of his tales from the Hollywood era that helped evaporate his everyman aura) has said that Cook wore a Yankees hat to tv tapings and, to paraphrase, is a Red Sox fan phony. Cook has played the “Who is Bill Simmons” card, expected for someone that makes millions off making movies that aren’t funny. This has been going on sporadically for month and it’s Petarded. Who gives a shit?

-You heard it here first: Bud Light has created the next ‘Whazzzup’ catchphrase with their line of ‘Dude’ commercials. Of course, this’ll mean the word will become irritating within two months and basically unspeakable by spring-time. Good times!

-The more I read about it, the more I think the fact Jon Lester came back from cancer in less than a year to become a perfectly capable pitcher for the Red Sox is pretty f’ing amazing.

-Another blog coming up: the sex appeal of women rockers. I really, really wish this had something to do with the one night stand piece, but alas, it doesn’t.

-I find it amazingly hypocritical that the NFL airs a promo featuring Shaun Alexander and former ‘NSYNC member Joey Fatone talking touchdown dance moves when they continually fine players for their post-score antics. Cincy’s Chad Johnson got a big score this past Sunday and jumped into a cameraman’s position for a few seconds. Apparently, the camera is a prop and therefore, he’ll be fined. Really? Seriously, Roger Goodell, this is a bit much, don’t you think?

-Saw Hitman as part of the Nason/Clyde post-Turkey Day beers/movie tradition. Great guys shoot ’em up flick that has a few great naked woman shots. (Hey, I never said it was an Oscar winner.)

-I think upon signing free agents, general managers should publicize exactly what they’re expecting statistic-wise. I thought of this amazing concept this summer after slapping my forehead time after time after time watching Boston’s J.D. Drew flail at pitches whizzing right past him. The front office was quiet on the subject of Drew, giving almost Belichick-ian statements regarding his lack of output. G.M.’s must have some sort of idea of what they expect out of guys they bring on, so why not be publicly accountable for those expectations?

I’m sure the obvious answer would be “that information is private and wouldn’t be fair to the player to have available for public consumption.” My response? As long as I’m paying X to see games and X to buy merchandise and commit hours upon hours of time following this team, I think as a fan, I deserve to know exactly what is expected for this group I’m watching. If part of my financial contribution to the team goes toward player salaries, why shouldn’t we know?

And the Patriots just won…barely. I am now looking forward to the ‘They’re not so good after all’ talk for the next seven days.

Thanks for reading,
Josh

Emptying The Junk Drawer

I am a relentless note-taker when it comes to ideas and thoughts. If it’s a one-liner, a marketing concept or even a note to call Mom, I am writing down stuff constantly. The only issue is that I don’t have a central place to house all of this stuff, hence the collection of scraps of paper around my house. I’m getting better, but old habits die hard. But with the Patriots off this Sunday, I did a little cleaning and collected a lot of these notes for this post, a mental junk drawer of thoughts I’ve had over the past six months.

-When I tune into a media outlet, whether it’s ESPN, Fox News or any of the hundreds of channels devoted to opinion and news, I like when I actually hear experts on the issues. While what constitutes being an expert is debatable 75% of the time, there’s a reason why these people are on air: they have more expertise on a certain subject than the viewers do. That’s why I get irritated when I see networks continually pander to their viewers by trying to get them involved, either by reading chat room posts, random emails or however else they get people to interact with them. Talk radio is based on this interaction principle, giving listeners a voice and a conduit in which they can spout their opinions.

Honestly, I can’t stand it. I watch news shows and absorb media to get away from the everyday opinions of those around me, because they’re just that: everyday opinions. Do I care if ‘BamaFan12’ is upset at Nick Saban for losing to Miss. State this past weekend? No, because it’s safe to assume any Alabama fan would be upset at this defeat. Should I feel impassioned to see a movie if MSNBC posts a message by ‘Minivanmomma’ that it was great? Doubtful. I just don’t see the point in all-inclusive media. It may sound strange, but I like that “fourth wall” feeling of being talked to and not involved. I’d rather the media providers focus on getting the best out of their analysts rather than decide what anonymous poster to feature in their Talk Back segment.

-I feel like we are entering an era of bandwagon Red Sox fan bombardment to an extent like we’ve never seen before. If more fans come on board, so be it. I’m just preparing for the us vs. them mentality that takes place with those that feel like they’re more entitled to cheer for the team because they understand the ramifications of nabbing draft picks if a free agent leaves. Then again, I can appreciate fans that understand a little more about the team than ‘David Ortiz is my favorite player’ and ‘Hey, that Manny is wacky!’ Two titles in four years will do that to a person, I guess.

-Lisbonbathroomwrecka just texted in that he is hoping Mike Lowell re-signs with Boston. More fan opinions coming up!

-Remember the days when there was two 1 pm football games and two 4 pm games, regardless of who was playing? I miss those days.

-In September, I went to a Jimmy Buffett concert and as most shows do, the music inspires people to stand up and dance. In our row, we had some people next to us that wanted to dance a bit so they did just that. Within minutes, there were being yelled at by the people behind them to sit down. What followed was a near-brawl between the standers and sitters, all while the most anti-violent music of all time was playing in the background. Eventually, the dancers moved along to prevent any further issues but as I normally do, I started to think about this subject. I should preface this with saying that I mostly watch shows from the seats and rarely on the floor for a variety of reasons, most involving not wanting to stand up for two or three hours while being shoulder-to-shoulder with strangers.

I’ve been to roughly 30-35 concerts in my life and have found myself in both situations. On one hand, you want to just stand up and just let the music move you and most times, everyone else is standing up so it’s not a big deal. However, there some shows that are more laid-back and you might just want to sit and enjoy it from a sitting position. Then, that one person in front decides to start rockin’ out at the most random time, irritating you and everyone else in Section 119.

It’s completely random as to when the ‘sit down or stand up’ situation arises, but my take is this: if you are a dancer, always go to the floor. If you’re not, let the situation dictate what you should do. If everyone is standing up, it’s majority rule. But if you’re the only person in your section jamming out like you’re auditioning for Flashdance, be respect of those around you. You had the opportunity to get a ticket where everyone wants to stretch their legs out, so unless you want a hot dog thrown at your head, be prepared to park your ass.

-During the Red Sox’ ALCS comeback win over the Indians, a number of understandably bitter Cleveland fans brought up how it was unfair that there was no salary cap and how clubs like Boston and New York can spend on their teams like there’s no tomorrow. (I found this puzzling since three of four teams in the LCS had sub-$62 million payroll, but who am I to argue with fans of Chief Wahoo?) Being a fan of a major market team like Boston certainly comes with advantages, but it was the guys that make minimal salaries (Dustin Pedroia, Kevin Youkilis, Jacoby Ellsbury, Jonathan Papelbon) that made the difference for the Sox in the postseason. Even if you add in Josh Beckett, his $10 million salary seems reasonable for one of the game’s top hurlers.

The fact the Yankees have continually held the mantle of baseball’s top spenders has not made a bit of difference in the postseason where they haven’t won a World Series in seven seasons. Yet, people talk of a cap like it will be the end all, be all for their team being able to compete. How? If MLB implemented a $150 million hard cap, suddenly the Kansas City Royals would be a team prime to make it to the postseason? When discussion centers around a cap, my question is this: how will this help your team win? The answer: it won’t. If there was a cap, does that mean the cheap Twins owner Carl Pohlad would suddenly spend the maximum and keep Torii Hunter and Johan Santana? No, he wouldn’t. All a cap does is potentially restrict the amount players can make and if you think that will get through the union, you may have been struck by something in your head recently. Every team has the opportunity to spend unlimited funds, including yours.

My rebuttal for those that complain about big-market spenders and the need for a cap is to instead argue for a salary floor, a minimum payroll amount that any team must spend in order to sustain a Major League Baseball team. This would force those clubs like the Twins, Royals and Devil Rays to spend a certain amount on their rosters every season, therefore increasing their odds in being able to keep certain players. Is there anyone that would be against this? In looking at numbers, I think any minimum has to start at $50 million. If your ownership group can’t afford that, they shouldn’t be an owner to begin with.

Owning an MLB team isn’t a right, it’s a privilege and if you cannot pay the price to give your fans a chance at winning, you shouldn’t own a team. With the amount of revenue in baseball today, it’s a crime that clubs like Tampa Bay, Florida, Washington and Pittsburgh all have payrolls under $38 million. So all small-market clubs that continue to complain, look at what you’re complaining about. Fight for a salary floor instead of a salary cap and help your own before taking from others.

Wouldn’t you know it, there’s more scraps of paper around the apartment. Look for more Junk Drawer next week.

thanks for reading,
Josh