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Burnett's Urban Etiquette

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Weekend wrap-up

Greetings, sports fans. I am a sad one tonight.

I've never been a hardcore sports junkie. I mean I played a few in high school. I've spent plenty of time on many couches watching games on TV. For a couple of college basketball seasons back in Milwaukee three co-workers and I shared some three-rows-up-from-the-court season tickets to Marquette University men's basketball games.

But I've never been one to get emotional about sports. Until tonight. The Green Bay Packers lost to the New York Giants in the NFC championship game. It was very likely Brett Favre's last playoff game, and thus his last shot at another Super Bowl. I was fortunate when I lived in Wisconsin to have gone to Lambeau Field and seen Favre play "in person." Our seats were on the 50-yard line, about 10 rows up from the field. Very cool experience to match the freezing cold outside. Anyway, I'm hardly the expert, but with all due respect to Tom Brady and the Manning brothers, Favre strikes me as the last incarnation of that old school warrior type of quarterback. I hope he gives it one more year. I hope the Packers find a consistent running back. I also hope the Packers develop a better defensive scheme than they had tonight against really fast, really tall wide receivers.

Moving right along, I saw Super Bad last night, and I think it's the funniest high school/teen/angst movie since The Breakfast Club. Super Bad cracked me up on a number of levels. First, instead of trying too hard with a complex plot it focused on the heart of the matter for teenage boys: The film's heroes desperately wanted sex before they graduated. And that was pretty much the gist of the film, that and finding alcohol to bring to a graduation party at which they hoped their sex dreams would be realized. Second, these kids cussed a lot. My first reaction to that was to frown. But then I remembered, once we got out of earshot of our parents, my guys and I used to say all sorts of foul things in high school. We weren't very good at swearing though. There's something weak about a cussing virgin. The words lack a certain punch and sincerity and skill.

Finally, it's Monday morning now. Federal employees everywhere, and even a few private industry worker bees have a day off of work in observance of the late Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday. Most will not do anything to mark the day, not even engage in a minute of quiet reflection. Most won't think twice about whether or not the movement he inspired has helped make the U.S. a better, fairer place. Hell, I didn't do anything to mark this day but be one of the black reporters once again called on to write a story about King's impact on modern society. Maybe that would mean something if I'd volunteered to write the article. But I didn't. Never do, come this time of year. So I won't be hypocritical with my snarkiness. As my pops used to say, I have one accusatory finger pointed out and three more plus a thumb pointing back at me. Some folks will even try to politicize King today and question whether he'd align with Republicans or Democrats if he was alive today. King wasn't even close to being a deity. He had problems. He was human. But he had a brass set and proved time and again that he was willing to put his life on the line for a concept so simple as us all just getting along. So when I think about how seriously we don't take his legacy, I think about all those folks who darken the doorway of their neighborhood church once a year - at Christmas, and then go back to the same ole, same ole.

Till next year this time, if you don't already do this. strike up a conversation from time to time with the stranger sitting next to you on the train to work or across from you at the coffee shop, or whose dog is romping with yours in the park. And make it challenging. Pick a stranger who bears no outward resemblance to you. You might be surprised to learn what you have in common. A parting shot: While walking our dog Sunday afternoon, Mrs. B and I stoppped for food-to-go and coffee-while-we-waited at a little cafe in our neighborhood. While she was inside getting the coffee, Cheko the Australian Shepherd/herder and I waited on the sidewalk. A scruffy looking middle-aged white guy sporting an intense look and a ponytail approached from across the street. What can I tell you? I tensed up. Strangers spook me sometimes. But then we made eye contact. In a split second I had to decide whether to look away or hold his gaze. I held. He smiled tentatively. I reciprocated. He stopped and asked to pet my dog. I allowed it. He correctly guessed my dog's breeds and said he had a similar mix back home that he missed terribly. Five minutes later I was shaking hands with Larry from Seattle, who is on vacation in South Florida till Tuesday, making suggestions on where he should dine and drink, introducing him to Mrs. B as she returned with our coffee, and wishing him luck on the decision he'll have to make soon on whether to stay in Seattle or move to South Florida now that his youngest kid is grown and moving out of the house.

Is it a realization of King's dream(s)? No. It's not that dramatic. But considering the state of the Union, it's a good start.

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  • That's a feelgood for a monday morning. Nice.

    By Anonymous og, at 7:59 AM  

  • I live in "Bear Country" where the Packers are the enemy. But I agree with your description of and empathy for Bret Favre.

    I wonder how many times I have looked away from a "scruffy (fill in the blank) guy sporting an intense look" who may have turned out to be another Larry.

    By Blogger David, at 9:09 AM  

  • Every year on MiLK Day, I text my black friend. :)

    Not being a smartass. Just thought of the dude.

    By Blogger M@, at 12:04 PM  

  • Btw, James. You might appreciate the irony. I work for a private outfit where everyone is white but one non-white Caucasian from somewhere in the Middle East.

    We have the day off.

    By Blogger M@, at 12:07 PM  

  • Thanks, Og.

    David, we probably all pass by Larrys on the street everyday and don't even realize it.

    M@, you crack me up, my friend. And yes, that is pretty damned ironic about the makeup of your MLK-celebrating company.

    By Blogger James Burnett, at 12:19 PM  

  • In one episode of Everybody Hates Chris, the teacher tries to make Chris feel more at home (he's the only black kid in an all white school) by giving him a brown egg to take care of in his Health Education class. Naturally, all of the other kids had white eggs.

    Cracked me up -- no pun intended.

    Black reporters being asked to write stories about MLK on MLK Day is a little like that.

    By Blogger thirdworstpoetinthegalaxy, at 2:00 PM  

  • As always - a very good, thought-provoking post on your part. I was just thinking too -I'm not totally home-bound, just seems that way at times but I don't get out like I once used to, have opportunities like I did over the years to strike up conversations with unlikely others -and then, I discovered blogging! In so many ways, on so many different levels, it brings me together with lots and lots of people from around this country - heck, even from around the world - and I learn just exactly how much more we are all alike as opposed to being so different (as many like to try to teach kids at times). I've always been relatively outgoing, not afraid to strike up conversations though, in person, with people from any and all other cultures -not something I fear - but I realize more and more from the blog scene, I do miss not being able to see people face to face when talking to them at times. Great post, James.

    By Blogger Jeni, at 2:21 PM  

  • ThirdWorst, that was a funny episode. Saw that. As for the black reporter on MLK Day thing? Don't get me started. I exhausted myself ranting and raving about that one.

    Jeni, thank you. I aim to please. Well, not really. But I'm glad to please. Either way thanks, as always for reading my posts in the spirit in which they're written.

    By Blogger James Burnett, at 3:08 PM  

  • It is indeed a good start.

    As Vince Lombardy once said, "Individual commitment to a group effort - that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work."

    I believe Dr King would agree.

    By Blogger heartinsanfrancisco, at 8:54 PM  

  • "A scruffy looking middle-aged white guy sporting an intense look and a ponytail approached from across the street."

    That old line that 'you can't judge a book by its cover' is truer than true.

    I once gave a homeless guy $20 to get him out of the rain. He was begging near the post office, it was raining, and I felt that the rain might compromise his health.

    I said, "Here take this. Just get the hell out of this rain."

    He took the money, and I received one helluva big hug. Oh, yeah, I was surprised at this sudden show of affection.

    But that wasn't the end of it. He took me to an area out of the rain, went through his bag of items, and gave me several musical cassettes.

    I didn't want the cassettes, but felt it would've been rude of me to turn down his gift, his gratitude, and his offer of recompense.

    Sometime we have to let others gift us even when the gift is a modest one.

    Every time I see those cassettes, I'm reminded of the man, his spirit, and his joy of being the recipient of not only my money, but my concern for him as a fellow human being.

    By Blogger The First Domino, at 9:23 PM  

  • I'd like to throw my support behind you, Hearts, Vince Lombardi, and Dr. King. After that group, there's not much more for me to say.

    By Blogger The CEO, at 11:53 PM  

  • I still can't post about that game, or the crying afterwards, or my dad calling me as the ball sailed through the uprights and screaming 'Go Giants' in my ear. Too traumatic.

    I took the day off yesterday and worked with Habitat For Humanity. Felt good. (Still finding paint in my hair though - not so good)

    Once again...great post. Keep 'em coming!

    By Blogger WNG, at 1:44 PM  

  • HeartsinSanFran, good use of Lombardi quote. Extra points for you.

    TheFirstDomino, cool story about the dude and the tapes. I like that.

    Monty, good point. Those are three elements that sort of tell their own story.

    WNG, I share your Packers sadness. Kudos for the HfH work. And thank you.

    By Blogger James Burnett, at 9:10 PM  

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