Friday, December 9, 2011

The Cain Mutiny





I miss Herman Cain. Don't get me wrong. If even one of the sexual harassment allegations is true, it's deplorable and I wish he could still be prosecuted. Adultery certainly shouldn't be a requirement for the Presidency, either. However, for sheer entertainment purposes, I miss the guy. In fact, I think there's a good chance of things being so dull that I may skip the 278th Republican debate which I think is next week.

One of the most interesting aspects of Cain's decision is that political experts feel that his support will go to Newt Gingrich. The irony here is that Gingrich has been married three times and is known to be an adulterer. I guess our political parties always have to have someone running for the Presidential nomination who has – allegedly – been engaged in these activities.

We are used to political wives standing in the background as their husbands either deny or admit sexual transgressions. Mrs. Cain took this wifely devotion to a new level. While Cain announced the "suspension" of his campaign, she didn't just stand there. She acted like a cheerleader for her hubby. She nodded, she smiled, and she applauded. Maybe Cain has bewitched, bothered, and bamboozled her. It shouldn't surprise us. Henry Kissinger once said, "Power is the ultimate aphrodisiac." And let's face it. What could be a more powerful and sexy position in the world than President of the National Restaurant Association?

Some people have a major problem with Cain's "poor memory." The way he responded to the first allegations was to say that it was unfair to expect him to remember everything from 18 years ago. If you or I had been charged with sexual harassment, we would remember that fact whether it was 18 days or 18 years ago. Does this mean that Cain was lying about his forgetfulness? I don't think so. I think he really has a bad memory. How can we expect him to remember something like sexual harassment, when the guy can't even remember what Libya is?

The children of America are probably disappointed about his dropping out because they must have been looking forward to easy civics and history questions had Cain been elected. For example, they might have been asked on future tests:
Which of the following Presidents made his fortune in the pizza business?

A. Herman Cain
B. George Washington
C. Both of the above

What well known person is famous for saying to a female colleague that she was the same height as his wife?

A. Herman Cain
B. Mahatma Gandhi

Frankly, I was hoping that Cain was going to deny everything the way Clinton did. I was looking forward to him staring directly into the camera and saying, "I did not have inappropriate sexual behavior with all of those women who have accused me, and I definitely didn't do anything wrong with those women that nobody knows about yet."

We have to remember that American politics isn't just watched by Americans. It's watched by people all over the world. So in a situation like this, we often ask, "What does the rest of the world think of us? What does the rest of the world think of our candidates?" Well, rumor has it that when a noted German politician was asked if she thought Herman Cain would make a good President, she replied, "Nein, Nein, Nein."





Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Circumcision: The Outlaw Cut?





When Shakespeare spoke of Brutus betraying Julius Caesar, it was such an awful act that Shakespeare broke the rules of grammar when he said, "This was the most unkindest cut of all." Today, there are people who are so upset about something that they might refer to it as, "the most unkindest cut of all." These are the people who feel that circumcision should be banned.

Evidently, there are enough of these anti-circumcision folks to get an initiative on the San Francisco ballot for this November. If passed, this initiative would make it a crime for anyone to perform a circumcision on boys under the age of 18. The position of this group is that circumcision is "mutilation," and since genital mutilation of girls is forbidden, it should also be forbidden for boys. I guess this is based on the obvious medical fact that male and female bodies are identical. We've all been at the beach and heard the lifeguard yell, "Hey, this isn't a topless beach. Cover up those breasts, guys."

The other reason that they are against circumcision, especially on babies, is that they feel that the child getting the circumcision is too young to consent to it. I guess they think that since we didn't agree to it as babies, we should all be walking around with our umbilical cords dangling down.

The anti-circumcisioners refer to people who are uncircumcised as "intact." In fact, their movement is called, "Intact America." (Apparently, they don't care about people in the rest of the world living un-intact lives). Obviously, they believe that those Americans who are "intact" are more fortunate than those who are not. What about babies whose lives were saved by doctors performing surgery on them to remove lethal things from their little bodies? Should their parents have spurned the surgery in the hope that their kids could brag to everyone that they are still "intact?" I guess it would be silly of me to suggest that maybe these people are also against haircuts.

Russell Crowe, the well-known actor and I guess, part–time medical ethicist, has weighed in on this debate. He has said that he believes that God made all babies perfect and that circumcision is "barbaric and stupid." At least he's willing to debate the issue intelligently.

I've never been someone who has railed against the "Nanny State." In fact, I have always liked nannies. You'll never hear me saying anything against "Mary Poppins" or "The Sound of Music" or "The Naughty Nanny And The Pizza Delivery Guy." But having a law that tells people what they should do with their babies' private parts is just going too far. Leave it up to the parents. If anything should be a personal decision for a mother and father to make, it's this. In the past, we've heard people decry that the government should stay out of our bedrooms. I'm saying that the government should stay out of our underpants.

While doing research for this column, I learned that circumcision is the most frequently performed surgery in the United States. Living in Los Angeles, I thought Number One was the breast implant. I understand that just because it's so popular doesn't mean it's the right choice. That would be like saying since "America's Biggest Loser" is popular, it contributes the most to our culture.

Anyway, there are people on both sides of the argument who claim that their way is healthier. The Centers of Disease Control and Prevention feel that circumcision contributes to healthier men and that uncircumcised men are much more susceptible to all kinds of medical problems. On the other hand, Intact America can point to its experts who say the opposite. That's why this shouldn't be a law, but should be an informed choice that parents make. And those parents should be informed that the World Health Organization is for circumcision, and Russell Crowe is against it. See? It's not such an easy decision.






Monday, May 30, 2011

I COULD' VE BEEN DR. PHIL




This might surprise you, but I was not invited to Oprah Winfrey's two-day party that celebrated her 25-year-old show ending. I'm sure I would have enjoyed hanging out with people like Aretha Franklin, Tom Cruise, and Michael Jordan. And I probably wouldn't have been able to resist telling Maria Shriver, "Eat a little something." But I wasn't there, and that's okay. It's fine with me that Oprah was praised by people for two days. Why not? She earned all that adulation.


Oprah's story is an "only in America" one. She started with nothing, and ended up one of the richest people in the world. She turned unknown writers into literary luminaries, and was responsible for several people getting their own TV shows. She had four former presidents on her stage as well as President Obama. And me.


That's right, back in 1990, an entire Oprah show was devoted to a "My Turn" column I wrote for Newsweek. I wrote that kids were playing too many video games instead of real games with actual bats and balls and mud and the occasional scraped knee. Apparently, a great number of people wrote to Newsweek lauding or decrying my article. So, Oprah decided to devote an hour to the topic and have me on the show.


I barely got to talk, as it seemed that whoever talked the loudest got to talk the most. Parents of kids who played video games 15 hours a day bellowed about how wonderful their kids' hand-eye coordination had become. Others sobbed loudly about the whole family going to support groups because of their electronic game addiction. I was the only one who didn't come with rehearsed remarks. It never occurred to me to do that. I figured I'd throw in something clever now and then. That didn't happen. Most of the time, I just sat there looking almost as uncomfortable as I felt.


Despite my poor on-camera performance, Oprah wouldn't have had that entire one-hour show without me. Don't get me wrong. It was a thrill and an honor to be on her show, but let's face it: her show really took off after I was on it, and it continued to soar for the next 21 years. Coincidence? That's possible.


I'm not the envious type, but when I see what she did for so many others who appeared on her show, I can't help thinking that she could have done a little bit for me. She didn't have to make my career skyrocket, but she could have used her magic to give it a little boost – or at least keep me employed. If she had hinted that she was going to make me a best-selling author, I might have actually finished writing that book that I've been talking about starting for years.


Look at Dr. Phil, Phil McGraw. He was an unknown psychologist who earned his BA in psychology from Midwestern State University. Have you ever heard of Midwestern State University? Do you even know what state it's the midwestern university of? And this guy gets his own TV show because of Oprah. He's so successful that he doesn't need a last name. He's just "Dr.Phil." You've made it in our culture when you're known by just your first name – like Barack or Madonna or Lady Gaga. If you say, "Lady Gaga," everybody's going to know which Lady Gaga you're talking about. Similarly, if you say, "Dr. Phil," nobody is going to think you're talking about that credit dentist at the mall.


So Oprah, if you're reading this, and I assume you are, I congratulate you on all of your success and wish you well on your new ventures. I really don't want anything big from you, but I would love you to do something for me that you did for Dr. Phil. Could you please just make sure that everybody will think of me whenever they hear someone say, "Mr. Lloyd?"



Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The Butler Didn't Do It

This was the game that millions of fans waited for an entire year to see, and yet it wasn't much of a game at all. Last year, when Butler played Duke, even though man for man Duke was probably a better team, Butler hung with them and almost won. This year, UCONN was the better team, and well, they played like it.


Butler’s shot a pathetic 18.8%. You want it to sound worse? Okay, they missed 81.2% of their shots. More than 8 out of 10! I can miss eight out ten shots, and I haven’t been practicing for four hours a day for eight months. UCONN didn’t shoot all that well, either, but at least their game didn’t make you wince.

Even she thought the game stunk.


Obviously, when you watch a big game like this and it turns out to be a dud, you’re more disappointed than if it were just a regular season game. Our expectations were too high. We were waiting and waiting for a fantastic game, and then when it didn’t come, well, it was a little depressing for all but the UCONN fans.


And if we felt bad because it was such a crummy game, imagine how the Butler players felt. For some of them, this was the last game of organized basketball they’ll ever play. I mean, how many of them are going to play in the NBA? And even for those who will still be at Butler next year, don’t count on them being in the Championship Game again. The basketball gods might give you two chances in a row, but not three.


I wonder about the impact this game will have on their lives. Actually, I wonder about the impact on the UCONN players’ lives, too. Often, we’ll hear that a night like this – playing for the National Championship – will be the biggest event in these kids’ lives. And if you perform so dismally in the most important thing in your life, that’s got to be depressing.


Of course, not every athlete holds onto his sports days as the best possible days ever. Some find other things that are fulfilling. But some don’t. And it’s no wonder. It’s doubtful any of these kids will ever hear 70,000 people cheer for them while millions more watch them on TV – unless they find a cure for some horrible disease or figure out how mattress stores make money.


Some on Connecticut may very well turn out to be those guys who are still bragging about the big game long after it’s an emotionally healthy thing to do. Whenever there’s a lull in a conversation, they’ll bring out that game DVD that they always carry with them. And what about those guys on Butler? Will they still be haunted by missing shot after shot when they’re grandfathers?


Most of us know deep down that continuing to obsess about their sports careers for the rest of their lives indicates that their personal growth stopped the night of the big game. We know that being a good person, falling in love, or becoming a parent “should be” the most important thing in one’s life, not the score of some game. It’s somewhat pathetic for someone ten or twenty years after a game to still feel it was the most important thing they were ever involved in. Those of us with families, friends, and real adult lives know what’s really important.


Despite knowing all these wise things about life, how many of us wouldn’t change places with these athletes just to play in that one game? Even with the guys on Butler.


Monday, April 4, 2011

Basketball Hangover



Nobody gets off Scott free after watching two amazing basketball games in one evening with only a 40-minute break in between them. To one degree or another, all of the 75,421 people who were in Reliant Stadium Saturday night and saw Butler beat VCU and UCONN’s triumph over Kentucky are suffering from a basketball hangover right now. Semifinal Saturday is always elating and deflating. It’s also draining. That’s not just from watching the ups and downs of two great basketball games. It's also from having to sit through a trombone blaring into your ear for more hours than an auditory nerve was meant to be tortured; it’s having to watch some sweaty student inside a dopey costume dancing at seemingly random times; and it’s putting up with the person next to you checking for emails. After the final whistle blows, you leave the arena, thirsty, simultaneously sweaty and chilled from the air conditioning, yet still calculating how many hours you’ll have to wait until Monday night’s game.



Those fans who watched the games at home are not immune to the hangover feeling. Watching a double header is just as draining for them. They also have to deal with things like family members who don’t care about the games and actually talk during them, the phone ringing and nobody answering it, and their TVs suddenly losing reception for ten seconds when the score is tied. They know they should conserve their strength for the Championship Game, but sometimes they’re weak. They’ll record the games, and then sneak down and watch them again after everyone else is asleep.



You want to get over the hangover so you’ll be ready to focus on the next game. I chose to go cold turkey. I knew if I even drank in one more rerun of the game, one analysis on TV, or one heated discussion about who’s going to win the next one, it would all be over for me. Sure, I thought about Saturday night’s games. I had trouble falling asleep. When I closed my eyes, I’d see Kemba Walker making that spectacular pass and Matt Howard making yet another put-back. However, I didn’t let things like that control me.




Whenever I’m in a situation like this, I know what to do. I try to stay busy, and I drink plenty of water. I spent as much time away from the hotel on Sunday as possible. I knew there were NBA games on TV, and I didn’t trust that I could resist watching them if I stayed. I went to what is perhaps the opposite of a basketball game – an art museum. By the time I got back to the hotel, the games were over. I had avoided temptation and become that much stronger for the big game ahead.



I felt really good about myself. Then after dinner, as I was walking through the lobby, I saw a bunch of people watching something on TV. It was the UCONN-Notre Dame women’s game. I knew I never should have sat down. Now I’ve got another hangover to get over – and the clock is ticking.


Saturday, April 2, 2011

Killing The Clock Before The Clock Starts



I’ll bet you think that writers just kill time all day, waiting for a 5:00 P.M. game. Not true. I spent most of the day watching other people kill time. It's a few hours before game time, but that hasn't stopped fans going to the arena. They aren't even allowed to go in yet, but they seem perfectly happy sitting on the grass in front of Reliant Stadium. Like everything in Texas, the stadium is big. How big? It’s slightly smaller than Rhode Island. One fact about the stadium that will probably surprise you is that it’s the only stadium with a retractable roof, and natural grass that hosts both an NFL team and the rodeo. Really? I thought the White House gym was set up like that, too. (By the way, now I’m seeing the players warm up, and they definitely are not playing on real grass).


It never seems like it’s a big sports event until I hear our national anthem. Okay, our second national anthem which is: “Who needs two? I’ve got two right here.” Well, I heard this called out many times by guys in dark glasses today, so this is officially a Big Event. There are rumors that another illegal activity takes place during the Final Four. People bet on who’s going to win, how many points are they going to win by, end even whether the two teams in the game will have a combined higher or lower score than the bookies predict. That last kind of bet is called, "under and over." I was just walking around for about an hour or so, and I have to tell you that the under and over for the temperature and humidity is about 182. If I were a betting man, I’d go for the over. This is a rare situation in which the fans who walk to the stadium might actually sweat more than the players.


As I watch Butler and VCU warm up, I can’t help wishing what so many other people have been wishing for ever since these teams made it to the semi-finals. Like most fans, I wish that it were possible for these two teams to meet in the Finals. That’s what America would like to see. That way, an underdog-ish, mid-major school would be guaranteed of beating the big guys. But Butler and VCU are on the same side of the “draw,” so one of them won’t be playing on Monday for the Championship. That dream Championship game can’t happen. Or can it? It was “impossible” for VCU to win one game, let alone be in the semifinals. It was impossible for Butler to get this far without their star from last year. So maybe something “impossible” will happen in the next couple of hours to make these two teams play for the championship. Maybe the NCAA will disqualify Kentucky and UCONN for some violation that nobody ever heard of.


Speaking of the NCAA, they always claim that they are open to suggestions and that they try to make the game better. Oh, really? Well, this year there are a couple of things that can cause so much confusion that I think the Competition Committee should consider changing the rules. First of all, three out of four of the teams have the same colors – blue and white. Isn’t that a big excessive? Is there any wonder that there are turn-overs? It also causes problems outside the stadium. Three-fourths of the people walking around town are wearing blue and white T-shirts. I have to look at their chests to see which team they’re rooting for. It’s gotten me some very dirty looks. VCU had the common sense to wear black and gold.


There’s another confusing T-shirt that people are proudly wearing. It says, “Coach Cal.” The question is, do they mean Coach Calipari or Coach Calhoun? Maybe they’re hedging their bets. Regardless, it is confusing. VCU fans wouldn’t have the same problem with their coach. How many “Coach Shakas” do you know?

Before Tipoff: Against All Odds


The games haven’t even started yet, and it's already among the most exciting Final Fours in memory. It’s obvious that this will go down in history as one of the most amazing Final Fours even before the tipoff of the first game. Ever since these four became The Four, sports fans' pulse rates haven't gone back to normal. Up until a couple of weeks ago, millions of people wouldn’t have been able to tell you whether VCU was a college or a mobile phone carrier. Similarly, it was only a year ago that the Butler Bulldogs became the nation's underdogs. According to predictionmachine.com, before this year's tournament started, the likelihood that these four teams would face off in the Finals was 1 in 93,297,507. Even if these guys are off by 10 or 20 million, those are still pretty long odds.



So instead of trying to beat odds like that to make a few bucks, I’ve got a sure thing to share with you. Every February, buy stock in companies like Ticonderoga, Eberhard, and Art Gum, Inc. That's right. Put all your money in eraser companies. That way, you're guaranteed to make money each year when all those people show up at work dubiously shouting, "I had it all the way. Check out my brackets." If you look closely at their brackets on the piece of paper they don't want you to look closely at, you'll see that their real picks were erased. If you bring a forensic team in this year, they'll be able to tell you that his Final Four were actually Ohio State, Duke, Kansas and Florida. So the sure way to make money during the NCAA tournament every year is to buy eraser futures.



Every year when I arrive at the Final Four city, I try to get the flavor of the place on the bus ride from the airport to the hotel. One of my observations after arriving in Houston is that it's a good city to get sick in. There seems to be a hospital or medical center on every block. Maybe that's why there are so many gun and weapon stores: people feel that if they accidentally shoot themselves, it’s no big deal. There’s a gun wound specialist just around the corner.



I saw a great billboard on the way to the hotel. It was an ad for a lawyer whose phone number is 713 – WASN'T ME. I'm not kidding. After seeing this, I kept hoping that the next billboard would be from the prosecutor’s office with the phone number 1-800-OH YES IT WAS. Unfortunately, the second billboard didn't pop up. It shouldn't have surprised me. I mean, what are the odds that those two billboards would be on the same street? I can’t do the math and answer that question, but I'm pretty sure the odds of that happening are a lot smaller than the odds of seeing these four teams play this weekend.



Enjoy the Final Four.


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