Cha-cha-cha Changes

I just watched a little pre-season football and noticed that some players are wearing wigs over their helmets.  I looked it up and they are called Guardian Caps and they help absorb the shock, especially in helmet-to-helmet collisions.

With all the danger of concussions, why did they wait so long to do this?  Actually, they didn’t.  These things came out two decades ago, but only two players wore them, so when their playing days were over, so was the Guardian Cap, until now.

It made me think of the great free-throw shooter in Basketball, Rick Barry.  He proved that you could improve your free-throw percentage, simply by tossing the ball underhanded.  It worked for him, but it didn’t catch on.  Wilt Chamberlain tried it and sunk the basket, but went right back to doing it the old-fashioned way.  My guess is that athletes who are wearing a Guardian Cap or throwing free-throws underhanded are probably considered to be “sissies,” and players want to be macho. Basketball players who shoot free throws underhand don’t wind up sleeping with 23,000 women like Wilt claimed he did.

Sports are very slow to change things even when they are obviously positive changes, because nobody wants to look like a sissy.  I remember the days when hockey goalies didn’t wear masks.  Their faces were heavily scarred and they didn’t have any front teeth, but they didn’t want to look like sissies.  After previously getting both cheekbones broken during a game, Jacques Plante became the first NHL Goalie to wear a mask in a season game on November 1, 1959.  Fans must have thought it was left over from Halloween.

“It’s the coming thing in the game,” said Montreal coach Toe Blake. “The time will come when they’ll have an even better mask than Plante’s and it’ll be standard equipment for goalies.”

1975-76 O-Pee-Chee WHA #34 Jacques Plante

 He was right.  Today every hockey goalie wears a mask.  For you trivia buffs, in 1974 Andy Brown of the Pittsburgh Penguins was the last NHL goalie to play without a mask.

All sports are very slow to change.  I’ve been waiting 50 years for someone to start putting sneakers on horses instead of the antiquated method of nailing on metal horseshoes.

Peace & Love, and all of the above,


Eat, Beat, Treat

Brother X sent me a cheesecake for my birthday, and my friend Catherine came over for Scrabble and to take me out to dinner.  Cat and I always joke about eating dessert first, so I told her that the theme for my birthday this year was a play on the book and movie “Eat, Pray, Love.”  My theme would be EAT, BEAT, TREAT.  We would EAT dessert first.  Then I would BEAT her at Scrabble, and then she would TREAT me to dinner. She agreed to the Eat and Treat, but the BEAT part seemed a bridge too far. I very rarely beat her at any game.

So, after eating our fill of cheesecake (with me doing most of the eating) we started playing Scrabble, and I was feeling lucky.  My luck showed up on the very first word, when I started the game with HOOKERS, a 7-tile word that gave me an instant 84-point lead.  It was a birthday present from the Scrabble gods.  Cat tried desperately to overcome that 84-point deficit, but she never caught me, even though she did manage to make it a very close game by the end.  That took care of the BEAT portion of the evening, so we then headed to the restaurant, Shot & Bottle, which I hadn’t been to since President’s Day 2020, when I went there for a special James Buchanan night.  We walked to the restaurant, so that we could both drink.  It was a long 5-block walk, but my arthritic hip will cowboy up when there’s a free dinner and beer waiting.

Since I got back from the wedding of Jessie and Dylan in New York, the previous week, I’ve been craving the one thing I didn’t get around to having while I was in NY, a Pastrami on Rye.  Pizza, bagels, and Pastrami on rye are all on my to-do list whenever I visit NY, but I never got around to the pastrami this time.

So, when I saw that on the menu, I knew what I had to have, with a tall cold beer, of course.  The Pastrami sandwich turned out to be nothing like a NY Pastrami sandwich, though.  You know the one I’m talking about, the sandwich with nothing but piles of steamin’ fatty pastrami all piled high in the middle of soft rye bread so that it looks like it’s an inch thick when they cut it in half, even though there’s very little meat around the edges of the sandwich.  The Shot & Bottle pastrami wasn’t like that. It was more like a pastrami Reuben on rye toast.  In addition to the pastrami, it was piled high with cole slaw, lettuce, tomato, red onions, and sauce. It was a salad and a sandwich at the same time.

Cat TREATed for dinner, but the TREATing didn’t stop there.  She insisted on buying me drinks on the way back to my place, and it didn’t take a lot of arm-twisting to get me to agree to that plan.  We barhopped our way back to my place, which turned the long 5-block walk into a couple pleasant little walks.  When we got to my place, I was feeling the buzz, but she was still sober, which was good for her, because she had to drive home to get a little sleep before he 6-hour rock-climbing class she was taking in the morning.  I was a bit tired from all the walking and drinking, and I just sat down at the computer and did the NY Times Wordle.  I got it in only 3 tries.  Surprisingly, the Wordle word of the day was TREAT. How big a coincidence is that?

So, thanks to Brother X, the Scrabble gods, the Wordle gods, and Cat, who all contributed to giving me a birthday to remember, and a really good time. My EAT, BEAT, TREAT birthday turned out even better than I hoped it would be.

That night, I wondered how grueling Cat’s 6-hour rock climbing class would be for her the next morning.  I was glad that I wasn’t signed up for that event, too.  The only climbing I had to do was to climb into bed and sleep as late as I wanted. Now that I’m 74, that part of the birthday celebration was looking really SWEET.

Peace & Love, and all of the above,


We Fought the Law, and Nobody Won

Recently, I watched a couple videos about the causes of the American Civil War.  Naturally, slavery was the central issue.  That was the cause of the tension, but I don’t think that was the cause of the actual fighting, though.  Slavery was nothing new.  It had been practiced on our shores for over 200 years.  The way I see it, the American Civil War was caused by our inability to amend the supreme law of the land, The Constitution. 

With a total of 4,440 words, the U.S. Constitution is the oldest and shortest written Constitution of any major government in the world.  James Madison, “The father of the Constitution,” did an amazing job of outlining the legal masterpiece.  It was packed with detailed instructions on how to operate the brand-spanking-new government, yet it was only 4 pages long.  I have appliance instruction manuals that take several dozen pages just to show me how to use a simple appliance.  Government of the people, by the people, and for the people is exponentially more difficult than operating a microwave oven.  To get all the power of the U.S. Constitution condensed into just four pages was brilliant, but it was not perfect, and both the designers and signers knew it.

Things change, and the young country was bound to go through massive changes if it survived.  Nobody could predict the future, but the designers of the Constitution knew it would be way different, so they allowed for that.  They made the Constitution flexible.  They made it so that it would be able to change with the times.  They incorporated Amendments, a brilliant idea.  The first ten Amendments, known as the Bill of Rights, gave U.S. citizens certain specific rights that we treasure to this day.

Unfortunately, the Constitution did not provide these rights to all people.  Despite the bluster of the Declaration of Independence about all men being created equal, the Constitution did not treat all men or women equally.

When it was ratified in 1787, the Constitution enshrined the institution of slavery through the so-called “Three-Fifths Compromise,” which called for those “bound to service for a term of years” and “all other Persons” (meaning slaves) to be counted for representation purposes as three-fifths of free people. The word “slavery,” however, did not appear in the Constitution until the 1865 ratification of the 13th Amendment, which abolished slavery in the United States.

African Americans were not considered citizens, and women were excluded from the electoral process. Native Americans were not given the right to vote until 1924.

The problem with the Constitution is that it is too difficult to amend.  On some issues, it is literally impossible to change.

The Congress, whenever two thirds of both Houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose Amendments to this Constitution, or, on the Application of the Legislatures of two thirds of the several States, shall call a Convention for proposing Amendments, which, in either Case, shall be valid to all Intents and Purposes, as Part of this Constitution, when ratified by the Legislatures of three fourths of the several States, or by Conventions in three fourths thereof, as the one or the other Mode of Ratification may be proposed by the Congress…

Thirty-three amendments have been proposed.  27 have passed, but that includes the Bill of Rights.  So, only 17 amendments have been added since September 25th, 1789.  Since the 21st Amendment just repealed the 18th Amendment, there have really only been 15 additions in 233 years.  That’s only one new amendment every 15.5 years, not nearly enough to keep pace with the rapid changes in the country in the last 233 years.

The Constitutionality of any law is determined by the U.S. Supreme Court, and since being a Supreme Court Justice is a job for life, they can be quite a bit older than the average American and have far more conservative views than the country as a whole.

In 1861, a bunch of conservative old Supreme Court Justices mostly from the South, gleefully determined that slavery was protected by the U.S. Constitution in their Dred Scott Decision.  A nation, stirred up by Abolitionists and horrific stories about slavery such as Uncle Tom’s Cabin, wanted to abolish slavery, so this Supreme Court Decision was quite unpopular in the North.

Actually, though terribly biased, their decision was a rather accurate interpretation of the Constitution as it was at that time, because the Constitution was absolutely archaic on the subject of slavery, and it was in desperate need of change. We needed an Amendment to abolish slavery everywhere in the country.

However, with the country equally split on slavery, there was no way that an anti-slavery Amendment could get a 2/3rds vote in both Houses of Congress, let alone the approval from 3/4ths of the states.  There was no way for the problem to legally go away.  Slavery, as morally wrong as it was, had the backing of the both the Constitution and the Supreme Court.  The “will of the people” alone would never be enough to change the Constitution.

There were only two ways to correct the Constitution.  Let the slave states leave, so that the remaining states would have the necessary majority to be able to amend the U.S. Constitution, or go to war to force the slave states out of business.  President Buchanan chose the peaceful way, by letting the Southern States secede from the Union.  President Lincoln chose war, and though he forced the country back together, the wound has never really healed.  Ironically, it was Abraham Lincoln who often quoted John, Viscount Morley, “You have not converted a man because you silenced him.”  I guess he didn’t get the irony.

Today, the President who chose the peaceful solution is reviled as one of the worst Presidents ever, and the President who chose a Civil War in which more than 630,000 Americans lost their lives, is revered as one of the greatest Presidents.  We, Americans, just love our wars, don’t we?  When we don’t have an outside enemy, we just fight each other.  Just look how many Generals were elected to the Presidency.  War, huh, what is it good for?  Getting elected President of the United States, for one thing.

More than a century and a half after the Civil War ended, slavery has long been legally abolished in the United States, but the country is still bitterly divided by racism.  We need to be able to solve our most serious problems with the Constitution much more easily.  We need to be able to add Amendments more quickly.  We may make a few mistakes in our haste to improve things, but like the 18th and 21st Amendments, we can always repeal our mistakes.

We also need to amend the Second Amendment.  Sure, let anyone who wants to own a musket have one, but stop selling military weapons to school kids.

A bunch of old guys on the Supreme Court recently shredded Roe v Wade.  We need an Amendment to the Constitution to give woman back control of their own bodies, and we need it quickly.

Getting 75% of the states to agree on something is next to impossible, nowadays.  Compromise is a thing of the past.  We live in a fast-changing world, and we need to be able to act quickly to pass Constitutional Amendments that will provide workable legal solutions, so that we don’t wind up settling all our disputes by fighting one another. 

Peace & Love, and all of the above,