Monday, June 14, 2010

Nurse the Hate: Hate the World Cup

Almost every media outlet has been working overtime to convince me how great the World Cup is. Seriously, you can't open a magazine without some article on how wonderful this month will be thanks to the World Cup. I have tried to understand and appreciate futball for years. I'm just not getting it. I mean, I have spoken to wire rimmed glasses guys in pubs. I have spoken to convicted soccer hooligans. I just can't get anywhere on it. The problems as I see it are as follows:

1) Games can, and usually do, end in a tie. They way I see it, if you go to the trouble of flying to fucking Africa to play a contest of some kind, there should be a definite winner and loser at the end of it. What is the point of Dudes in ponytails running up and down a field for 90 minutes if there is little scoring and no real outcome. Terrible game design...

2) There appears to be no real strategy of any kind. As far as I can tell game plans are designed like this... "OK, let's see if we can keep the ball on their end of the field early. If we do, maybe we'll get lucky and actually get to take a shot at the goal. If it goes in, we'll stop playing any offense whatsoever, and just kick the ball down the end of the impossibly long field and see if we can win 1-0." Once again, terrible game design...

3) With no real strategy to talk about, the announcers have nothing to comment on. They just sort of blabber on about how some guy should have kicked it somewhere else to actually have let someone take a shot. It's hard to tell for sure what they are talking about because of...

4) ...the sound of those Goddamn horns that sound like buzzing bees. I appreciate the traditions of Africa. As far as I know these include blowing on those stupid fucking horns continuously for 90 minutes, poaching elephants, and giving young pre-teen boys AK-47 machine guns so they can shoot people and use the victims small intestines for road blockades in places like the Congo.

Soccer is a really stupid game that hasn't caught on in the United States for one simple reason. It's not as interesting as football, baseball, basketball or even volleyball. Why do you think the only people that play soccer on a regular basis in the USA are 9 year olds? Because the rules are simple and it's cheap to play. By the time high school hits, all the good athletes play football or basketball because those games are about 100 times more fun, and people in our society actually care about them.

You want to get to sleep in Europe? Turn on a sports channel in a hotel room. The best is listening to British announcers drone on about field conditions, and the upcoming action on the pitch. They have nothing to talk about. (Remember, there is no actual game strategy...) It makes NFL Gameday seem exciting like the first time you saw "Jaws" by comparison. And for those of you wise enough not to have ESPN on at 930a on a Sunday morning in the Fall, those Gameday guys are morons...

The only redeeming quality I can see for this World Cup thing is you can bet on it at work and follow it online. Me? I made a cool hundo today on that Italy v. Paraguay game. You know how? That's right. I bet on a tie. Cha-ching. Fuck soccer.

Update: I had to put Dexter to sleep last Monday night at 3am. It was the hardest thing I have ever had to do. I loved that dog, and he was a big part of my day everyday for 12 years. Now everywhere I look in the house it reminds me of him.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Nurse the Hate: A Great Dog

I bought Dexter in 1998 in Maple Heights. Lest you think Dexter was some boy I purchased in a backwards slave auction in Maple Hts (which I believe still allowed the practice until sometime in late 1988), let me clarify. Dexter is a basset hound born to a giant father with the most pronounced overbite I have ever seen on a dog, and a rather nondescript mother with a poor coat (like many of the women in Maple Hts I might add).

Dexter is the finest dog I have ever owned. He is really large like his father, about 65 pounds. He is also extremely long. When people would see me walking him, they would remark, “That is one LONG dog.” to be followed shortly by “Look at the size of the mitts on that dog!” His front paws are literally the size of a man’s fist. But what made him the best dog ever is his uncompromising personality.

I always spoke to Dexter like a roommate, and I think this was one of the main reasons he thought he was an equal to me or anyone else he might run into. He is a lot like living with a really headstrong little man, like a roommate you were thrown in with via some sort of terrible roommate match service in New York. For example, he liked to go to bed after eating his full sized carrot at 9pm sharp. If I happened to have guests in house after he was ready to go to bed at 9:02, he would make them so uncomfortable with his glaring at them and his scratching the carpet, they would voluntarily exit the house while he stared triumphantly from the top of the stairs. The guy knew what he wanted.

He was also the most loving and gentle dog I have ever known. When I was sick, he would lie by my bed and refuse to leave the room until I got out of bed. He had always greeted me at the door with a big basset “woof” and a wag of the tail, and helped me start my day on his walk every morning. Easily the most popular dog in the neighborhood, I have been known as “Dexter’s Father” since 1999. (As in, “Honey, who is that creep loading band equipment into a van with those degenerates?” said the neighbor. “Oh, that’s Dexter’s Father.” answered the neighbor’s prim wife.)

Deter turned 12 this year, and with it have come a host of health issues. A basset is expected to live 10-12 years, so this is not unexpected. Still, when the dog’s health turns, it always comes as a surprise. I guess I always expect my dog to be immune to the ravages of time. I was surprised when my relatives died, why wouldn’t the dog thing catch me off guard too?

Dexter’s problems mounted. First it was a sinus issue. Then his hip started to give out. Then a weird throat noise started. Visits to the vet. Then a barrage of pills. More pills. Last weekend he had so much trouble getting down the stairs I had to carry him. On Tuesday morning he walked out onto the wet grass at 5am, and sat down in the far corner of the yard, something he had never done before. I walked out to him to bring him in, and he was unresponsive and confused. He has stopped eating the day before. It didn’t look good.

He had always been such a proud dog, and now was reduced to being carried across his front yard to the car. It was heartbreaking. I carried him to the car, and drove him to the vet. Then a battery of tests to figure out what was going on. A host of ailments that included the possibility of nasal cancer, a problem with his esophagus caused by a nerve disorder, arthritis in his back legs, etc. After a couple of days it became apparent he was coming to the end. The vet tried some new medicine, but the basset still wouldn’t eat. The vet said that unless we saw something to provide us with light at the end of the tunnel, we would have “some decisions” to make later tonight. (Decisions=giving the dog the needle to end his life while you bear witness like a death row execution. It’s like “Dead Man Walking” but with paws.)

I became completely grief stricken. I thought I was bad before when I had to take him in with dire symptoms, but this was as final as it could get. My chest hurt, and wondered how much worse I could feel. It seems like I was at the lowest point I had ever been. I would have to put my beloved dog to sleep tomorrow. The vet wanted to know if my girlfriend and I wanted to visit him tonight. This would be the last time we spent with the dog prior to “The Procedure”. I drove over with a mixture of fear at being unable to control my emotions and intense guilt in that I had somehow failed to keep him safe. It was as horrible as you imagine it would be.

We arrived to sit in the waiting room until a room became available. I looked on with envy at the other dog owners leaving with their happy healthy dogs. Finally we were called back and went into the room to see Dexter. He unsteadily walked in, gave us a wag of his tail, and flopped weakly on the blanket. He looked spent. Out of gas. I was so relieved to see him in no obvious pain tears welled in my eyes. I knew we had done the right thing in seeking the medical options, and we had clearly reached the end of the road. It was still so hard and painful, but at least I knew he looked ready.

The vet tech told us how he would not eat, and how much she tried to get him to eat something without any success. Dexter was laying on his side on the blanket staring blankly ahead while we both pet him. My girlfriend reached into her purse where she had put a hot dog inside a plastic sandwich bag and asked, “Dexter, do you want a treat?” Dexter lifted his head slightly, and glanced towards the bag. What was this?

The hot dog went quickly. I stood up and saw some soft treats in a jar on the shelf. “Dexter do you want some treats?” The dog unsteadily stood, and walked with increasing confidence across the room to get the food. He finished the entire jar of soft treats, and then I started him on hard kibble, which he also gobbled hungrily. What now? “Dexter… Do you want to go for a walk?” Dexter strode confidently towards the door, and I leashed him up to take him outside.

While I walked Dexter outside, my girlfriend fetched the vet to ask him, “Did you see Dexter?” The doctor walked outside and looked on with as much incredulity as I must have had on my face. “Wow… He’s doing so much better than before. Why don’t you guys take him home and we’ll just keep him on this medicine and see what happens?” I asked Dexter, “You want to go home?” His tail wagged as he looked up at me tiredly. This was a rally nobody saw coming. This guy was about ten hours from the needle. If not for his greed and love of a good turkey hot dog, things would be different for this basset.

So here I sit a few hours later. Dexter is sleeping on the carpet to my left. I opened a bottle of 1998 Pomerol (the year of his birth after all), and typed this. I don’t know how much longer I have with him, but just to have this extra day alone is such an unexpected gift.

He’s truly the best dog I have ever known.