An Open Letter To Mike Brown…

Dear Mike:

Excuse me, but I’m paying for your stadium, so you owe me, the taxpayer, some of your time and attention.  And speaking of time, the time to permit you any more excuses has come.

Last season, we thought it was over.  The Bengals made it to the playoffs with the promise of going deeper in the 2010-2011 season.  Well?

The lost 49-31 to the fracking Buffalo Bills?!?!?!? They’ve dropped eight straight?  What gives?  Not only do you have the same talent as last year, but you added TO and Pacman Jones.  At the moment, Pacman and Cedric Benson are about the only two players worth a damn now.  Naturally, Pacman’s injured (but to his credit, staying out of trouble.)  You no longer have a team.  You have a group of highly talented football players who can go to the Superbowl if they actually played as a team.  They don’t.

So the time has come Mike.  Here is your homework assignment:

  • It’s time for Marvin Lewis to go.  Yes, Marvin is a damn sight better than your last three coaches.  Dick LeBeau?  His only turn at head coach nearly ruined his reputation.  Thankfully, he’s shown what a smart ownership can do for a defensive coordinator.  Bruce Coslet?  Same thing.  Dave Shula?  Mike, being the son of Don Shula no more qualifies one to coach a football team than being the son of Paul Brown qualifies you to run one.  Speaking of which…
  • Hire a GM and stay the hell out of his way.  Hey, I got an idea.  Your daughter Katie’s smart.  She lobbied for Marvin to come to town and told you to let him run the team his way.  Make her the GM, let her find a new coach who’s a defensive whiz (like Lewis) and a real hard-ass with the players (like Bill Belichick.  You know.  A winning coach?)  Then stay the hell out of her way and let her run the franchise.  It’s been almost two decades since your father died, Mike, more than long enough for you to figure out how to run an NFL franchise.
  • Carson Palmer.  You need to light a fire under this guy.  In the pocket or the shotgun, he’s more timid than the Cowardly Lion surrounded by flying monkeys (Pre-molten Wicked Witch.  Post-melting, they were more like the chimps in The Planet of the Apes movies.)  You know what I would do?  I’d cut his little brother Jordan, who has never played a down of regular season ball anyway, bring in a veteran second-stringer (like Jon Kitna.  Hey, just bring back Kitna!) who can step in and find openings like Glenn Quaqmire blindfolded whenever Carson has to stop and think about it, then draft UC’s Zach Collaros.  Then tell Carson he can lose the QB’s position at anytime.  Want some ideas?  Ben Roethlisberger is on really thin ice with the Steelers, who seem to do fine when he’s not in the game.  He’s not nearly as clunky.  So if Big Ben manages to blow his sweet gig in Pittsburgh, call his agent.  Or just pick whoever the hell the Ravens’ QB is this week.  It’s a figurehead position in Baltimore anyway.
  • Call Chad and TO into your office and ask them, “So, do you work for me or for VH1?  A yes answer will mean you two show up for minicamp next year.”  Then make them go to work for Metro so they can learn how to run their routes.  Then go find some receivers who can, yanno, hang on to the ball.
  • Whenever the county, which has generously handed you a stadium, decides to tax tickets or ask for your help in keeping said stadium running, shut up and stay out of the way.  You were handed a honey of a deal you are not going to get anywhere else in the country.  No one can blame you for taking it.  They can blame you for not doing your part to make sure you still have a place to play.  It would be embarrassing if Paul Brown Stadium had a “Forclosure” sign on it because you decided an extra five dollars a ticket (How much are you charging again?) to pay off the loan was more than people would pay.
  • Oh, yeah, and since we’re paying for your field, your seats, your office, your practice facility, all the parking around the stadium, and the dwindling number of police assigned to it, how about you focus on…  yanno…  winning?  Instead of making excuses, why’n’t you go down to the locker room (early in the season would be good, before the losses become humiliating) and throw some chairs.  Get mad.  Scream.  Right now, you sound like you only care that the checks are clearing.  Hey, bud, we’re writing those checks.  Everytime I go shopping in and around Cincinnati, I pay for your team.  So make like the cheap date and start putting out when we buy you dinner.  We’re not asking for a Superbowl (yet).  But two or three games deep into the playoffs would be nice.

Happy Turkey Day!

It’s Thanksgiving here in America, a day where most of us give thanks for what we have.  When I say most, one particular avian species is excluded for obvious reasons.


wild turkey

(C)2006 Wing-Chi Poon, creative commons

Yet when I gaze upon this bird, I am most thankful that natural selection altered the turkey’s ancestor to the point where it’s no longer on top of the food chain.

VelociraptorYes, that’s right.  Thanks to millions of years of mutations, the velociraptor has evolved – or maybe devolved – into two distinct species of bird, one of which we will dine on this afternoon.  The other spawn of raptor is frequently found extra crispy in the presence of 11 herbs and spices.  T Rex would be pleased.

But what else am I thankful for?

Well, for starters, I’m thankful for my family, Nita and AJ.  It’s been nearly three years, now, since Nita and I got together.  I can’t really imagine my life before her, nor can I imagine a time when I wasn’t a step-parent.

I am thankful I’m relatively healthy, even if there’s more of me than there should be.  I have nothing wrong with me at the moment that keeps me from working or leading a normal life.  And really, most of my health problems can be summed up in one phrase:  “Dude, you’re fat!”  I’m working on it.  Just not today.  Dieting on Thanksgiving?  That’s just crazy talk!

big bellyI am thankful to be employed.  I may be swinging from contract to contract until I can land a long-term assignment or a permanent job, but I didn’t get laid off until late in the Great Recession.  Granted, the recovery is glacially slow, but it beats the hell out of a second Depression.  (And no, I don’t want to hear what Glenn Beck says on the matter.  He’s just yanking your chain anyway.)  The fact is, I was handed a severance check, was able to find contract work almost immediately, and, with the exception of walking off a bad job this past summer, have worked steadily since August.  I won’t lie and say it’s been easy and painless, but it’s manageable.

Unemployment lineDespite the rancor, the loss of prestige, the uncertainty, the fear, and the Forever War we seemed to be mired in, I am thankful I live in America.  War, plague, and famine haven’t touched our shores in a very long time.  The things we call out our leaders over are damned polite compared to what other places in the world have to endure.  I don’t share my fellow citizens’ need for a boogie man, nor do I think we’re any better than anyone else.  We’re just damned lucky.  That luck can continue if we stop eyeing everyone else suspiciously or acting like any change is a threat.  Change happens.  Embrace it.  Otherwise, it will run you over.

I am thankful I can write.  And I’m thankful people will read what I write.  I may have curtailed my crime fiction activities and taken on a different approach.  And now, it’s not about getting a big contract, chasing markets, or awards.  It’s just about writing what I want and subbing the best stuff for everyone to read.  Pretty liberating when you stop caring about making any money off it.  Ironically, I probably will start making money now.  Go figure.


Monkey typing

I am thankful for vets.  I never got a chance to serve.  (Note to military recruiters:  Don’t send your recruits to the induction center when they get the flu.)  But I’ve always been thankful for those who did:  One grandfather, two uncles, a handful of cousins, an ex-brother-in-law, countless friends.

No matter where you are, whether you are here where we give thanks by pigging out or somewhere else where you have to go to work today, if you have friends or family close to you who make your life worth living, make sure you thank them.