Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Just Another Reason to Hate UT

As a strong supporter of college athletics, I sometimes find it unbelievable that there are people who are adamantly opposed to them. But then there are moments when I can see why they might believe that college athletics are just as rotten as many pro sports. This past weekend, for example. Now I didn’t get to watch the College World Series, but I’ve read enough about it to know what happened. Texas, the heavy favorite, swept easily through their side of the bracket, but then lost two straight games to Cal State Fullerton in the championship game series to end the season as the second best team in the country. Not what they wanted, I’m sure, but still better than every other team but one. However, instead of handling the loss graciously, the University of Texas was a completely classless act. After their second defeat, the Texas team didn’t go to offer their congratulations to the Fullerton. (Not surprising, as they didn’t shake hands with us either last year.) But the Longhorns didn’t stop there. Instead they retreated into their locker room and refused to come out to accept their second place trophy, even after being asked twice by the NCAA. They also locked their locker room, not allowing any media access to the players, and when the coach, Augie Garrido, and two or three select players showed up for their post-game press conference, they had not one word of congratulations to offer Fullerton. No standard “They were a better team than we were today.” No, “I wish we could have won, but you have to hand it to them. They earned it.” Nothing. And when Garrido was asked what he thought about the job the Fullerton coach did (a man who used to be his assistant coach and who called Garrido “his best friend and mentor”), he said that all he could think of was how badly his team was hurting. Excuse me. Just say “Congratulations.” Just say, “Yeah, he’s a heck of a coach.” Just say something that shows that you have the slightest sense of propriety, of respect, of decency.

What Texas did was appalling. Fullerton won fair and square. They were the better team. They are the 2004 Champions. Give them their props. And don’t snub them, the College World Series, the NCAA, the fans, the city of Omaha, or the game of baseball by refusing to accept your second-place trophy. I spent almost two weeks in Omaha last year for the College World Series, and it has to be one of the best sporting events in the country, if not the world. The city of Omaha does all it can to accommodate thousands of baseball fans, who come from all over, not just to support a certain team, but to see good baseball. The players on all eight teams come to win and they play their hearts out, but if they don’t make it all they way, they still have a great time and go home with memories to last a lifetime. Hundreds of teams throughout the country play college baseball. Only 8 make it to Omaha. Only 2 make it to the championship game. Only 1 wins the title. That’s the way it goes. That’s baseball, and that’s life. You can’t win them all. You take the losses and you learn from them. You don’t cry, pout, and act like something you deserved was unfairly taken away from you. Yeah, if it were a different weekend maybe Texas would have won. And maybe Rice would have won if the Regionals had been a different weekend. The fact is the NCAA Division I Men’s Baseball Championship is decided in a three game series on a weekend scheduled a year or more in advance. This year, Fullerton won that series and was thus deservedly crowned National Champions. Don’t take away from their glory by drawing attention to yourself through shameless and classless acts like refusing to accept your trophy or declaring in a press conference that you were the best team there which makes the loss really hard to accept.

I support athletics because I think they teach us about life. We learn about dedication and hard work. We learn about self-improvement and teamwork. We learn about being good winners and gracious losers. But Texas stuck their tongue out at all of that. They loudly and clearly announced that the only thing important to them about sports is winning. And that’s where the problem with college athletics lies. It should be about all the things I stated first, but it’s got to the point where it’s all about doing whatever it takes to win. It’s a real shame. There are a lot of things to love about college athletics. But Texas made it a point this past weekend of reminding us that there are also a lot of things to hate. Way to go. Hope that not accepting your trophy was really worth it. But as it doesn’t seem that the UT coach and players are able to at all care about anyone except themselves, I doubt they’ve given it a second thought. After all, Garrido doesn’t seem to think that he did anything wrong, since all he managed to apologize for (in what I’m sure was a university-forced announcement) was the “perception of wrongdoing.” Yes, he’s sorry we feel hurt, but he’s not sure what in the world he has to do with it. It’s UT, after all, and in case you weren’t aware, they’re God’s gift to the world.

Proceed With Caution

If you're driving in Louisville, be on the lookout for a light blue Dodge Intrepid or a bright blue Corsica, because there may be a crazy driver at the wheel. Yesterday, Mark turned 16 and through some miracle was able to pass the extremely tough test and acquire his permit. He said it was looking if-y for a while with stumpers of questions like one showing a picture of a Do Not Enter sign and asking what the sign meant. Apparently my little brother is extremely bright and was able to pass with flying colors. Congratulate him when you see him.

Anyhow, I can't wait until next Wednesday when I arrive back home in Louisville. He has promised to drive me home from the airport. Yes, folks, only one week after getting his permit, he plans to drive on the interstate in the dark. I'll remind you again of this next Tuesday, so you can plan to stay off the roads.

Just kidding. I'm sure Mark will be a great driver, just like the rest of us Dowells. I'll be anxious to see what he hits first. Will it be a fellow student's car like Theresa? Will it be a cop car like Matthew? Or will it be a telephone pole like Gregory? Now taking bets. Place yours here. Actually, here's hoping he keeps a permanently clean driving record.

And Happy Birthday Mark!!! If you forgot yesterday, I know he has no qualms about accepting late gifts. So step up.

Sunday, June 27, 2004

Fraidy-Cats and Psycho Cats

On Thursday evening, Kate, Despina, and I were watching Monster, a well-done but extremely disturbing film, when we got a huge scare. No, it wasn't the movie, which did have us kind of creeped out. It was a cat. A big, stupid, crazy cat. It's true...I am not an animal person, and I have a particular hatred of cats, but this cat was insane. I don't understand why people like cats in general though, sane or insane. They have no interest in being your friend the way dogs do. They are sneaky and stuck-up, and when they do decide they want attention, they relentlessly rub their nasty body up against yours.

Anyhow, about the crazy cat. So in the middle of the movie, Kate got up to get something in the kitchen when she lets out a scream and yells that there's a cat in the house. D and I don't really have time to react to this bit of news before she walks in the living room and not a few seconds later, the cat follows. It doesn't just saunter in though, it guns in, heading straight across the room towards the computer. It takes off, flying from the ground and slamming headfirst into the wall above the computer, before dashing back out of the room. During this whole episode, which couldn't have lasted 10 seconds, all three of us were standing on the couch screaming. After calming down, we rationalize that we have to get the cat out of the house. We move out of the living room, closing the door behind us, and through the kitchen, again closing the door in the hopes of containing it. So at this point we have all the bedrooms and bathrooms to check. D and I hate animals in general, so we hover while Kate actually goes through each room. She pokes around but can't find the cat. We decide that it must have gone down in the basement to Darrell's room, which we later realize is how it got in, seeing that Darrell left his door to the backyard open. Anyhow, we finish the movie and eventually go to bed. I searched my room again, not wanting to have the cat surprise me in the night. Thankfully, although my room smelled like it had at some point been in there, it wasn't in there that night. Kate, however, wasn't as lucky. After reading in bed, she turned off the light and was suddenly attacked by the cat. It must have been hiding under her bed between boxes, suitcases and other such stuff, because when the light went off, the cat jumped onto Kate's face. Of course, she freaked out and started screaming, and the cat went crazy like before, running around her room, knocking everything onto the floor, and climbing the walls before again disappearing under the bed. By now, people are up...I'm still in my room though. I wasn't going out there with a crazy cat on the loose. Laurie emerged from her room though, and Kate told her to guard the hall door while she poked under the bed with a broom to get the cat out. The plan was for it to run out of her room and out the open front door. When it emerges though, Laurie freaks out, realizing that the cat is indeed crazy and we weren't just retarded scaredy-cats, and she lets the cat down the hall, where it almost gets into D's room. Thankfully it doesn't, and they are able to chase it down the hall and out the door. The next day we saw it in the front yard and we all yelled curses at it.

So all in all it was a crazy restless night in our house. And afterwards I felt totally justified in my hatred of cats. Nasty, nasty animals.

Saturday, June 26, 2004

Taking To The Streets

Last night, Greece beat France, the defending champion, in the quarterfinals of the Euro Cup 1-0. Prior to this year, Greece had never even won a game in any Euro Cup competition. Although Greeks love soccer, their teams aren't usually all that good. They're certainly no Real Madrid or Manchester United, and they don't have the likes of a Beckham or Ronaldo. They've even been known to consistently lose to the USA. Gasp.

So last night for Greece was like Christmas (or Easter, since that's really the big holiday around here and does involve a rather huge miracle.) From 9:45pm until about 11:30pm, the entire country was glued to the TV. About 15 minutes into the second half, Greece scored on a beautiful cross/header, and I swear in my living room I could hear the whole country screaming. Okay, maybe that was just Despina, but she was doing a fine job representing. For the next 30 minutes, the Greek team protected their lead, while every Greek in the nation prayed to God, Mary, and any saint they could think of. It worked, because Greece won, and the entire country celebrated.

We had post-game plans to go to a friend's going-away party, so we had to go down to Kiffisia, the main road through our end of town, to catch a cab. You'd have thought that Greece had just been liberated from the Nazis. It was like it must have been when the American troops paraded through the Arch de Triomphe in Paris. The road was jammed with people in cars and on motorbikes, all hanging out of their cars, waving Greek flags, blowing their horns, and singing the National Anthem. People were lighting flares and setting off fireworks. Everyone had their windows down and were high-fiving the people in the cars next to them. Nobody was a stranger. The whole country was united. Like the Vodafone billboard of the soccer team had been saying for weeks leading up to the Cup: "They are not 11. They are 11 million."

When we left the party at 3am, we sat in front of the Hilton hotel for a while and just watched the people still streaming past with their flags and songs. It was neat to be a part of it. For a minute, I wanted to be a Greek. I think I was jealous that there's nothing that can unite the USA like this. We're too big and too diverse. We have had more than our share of victories throughout history, so something like this wouldn't be the cause of massive celebration. Not that I'd want to change those things. But I sure wouldn't mind having one night where the whole country put aside its differences and took to the streets to celebrate such a pure and uncontroversial victory.

Sunday, June 20, 2004

Even Better Than In The Movies

Excuse the fact that I haven’t posted in quite a while. I’ve been off on some adventures. Gregory and Mark came to visit on June 3 and just left this past Thursday. In that time span, we spent a week here in Greece and a week in Egypt. It was an exciting and exhausting time.

Egypt was magnificent. Our itinerary was as follows:
Day 1: Cairo/Egyptian Museum
Day 2: Pyramids of Giza
Day 3: Aswan
Day 4: Luxor/Valley of the Kings/Queens/Luxor Temple
Day 5: Luxor/Temple of Karnak/Felucca Ride
Day 6: Hurghada/Snorkeling in the Red Sea
Day 7: Islamic Cairo
By train, bus, cab, and foot, we saw the best things that Egypt has to offer. I’d be hard-pressed to pick a favorite, because it was all unbelievably interesting and impressive. Really, the whole country should be designated a wonder of the ancient world. Everywhere we went, there was something that made us stop, stare, and marvel at how anyone created such a thing.

The one thing that struck me most about Egypt though was that it was exactly the way I imagined it to be. I think this may be the first place that has been like that for me. Whenever I travel, I have an image in my head of what the place is going to be like. The image is formed from books, movies, history texts, and other people’s stories about traveling to that place. In my mind, I had certain ideas about what it would be like to go to the Eiffel Tower, to see the remaining sections of the Berlin Wall, to bike through the Chianti region of Italy. My images, however, turned out to be different from the actual experience. It wasn’t that these places were disappointing, simply different than I had imagined they would be. As a consequence, I expected this to also happen with Egypt. After all, Egypt has filled the pages of our history books since we were in the first grade, has been the subject of countless museum exhibits, and has been the setting for numerous stories and movies. We’ve all seen so many images of the pyramids, the treasures of Tutankhamun’s tomb, and the wide expanse of Egyptian desert, that it seems impossible that seeing it in real life can still be impressive. Will it even live up to its hype you have to wonder. But yes, it does. It’s all as good as, if not better, than its hype. The pyramids are awesome. The desert is boundless. The treasures are richly ornate. The temples are massive. Egypt is an overwhelmingly impressive place. It’s impossible to really grasp it all. It’s all too big for your mind to get around.

I’m still recovering from the mental and physical exhaustion of my trip, but I will write more over the next week. Also, be sure to check Gregory and Mark’s blogs, which are linked on the sidebar, because they will also be posting about the trip and I’m sure they have lots of interesting and amusing things to say. But if you have a hankering to travel, I suggest Egypt. Put aside any hesitation and do as the man in Cairo told us as we were waiting to cross the street: “Close your eyes, pray to Allah, and just go.”