Monday, February 18, 2008

When World's Collide

This weekend I participated in two worlds that I had very little prior knowledge of, but threw myself into the mixer of them both and hope I would come out without too much self-inflicted damage.

The first of these unknown worlds was Texas A&M University in College Station. I had worked with Aggies at Philmont and I currently work with them at the Dynamo as well. I have known about their traditions, rituals, etc. for quite some time, but there's nothing quite like experiencing the real thing. Friday night my Philmont Ranger buddy Jameson had his ring dunking party. At TAMU, class rings are a big deal and everyone gets one because that is the tradition. When an Aggies gets their ring, they drop it into a pitcher of pitcher, chug it, and the time it takes you to drink to drink the pitcher is something you are supposed to remember your entire life. I don't quite get it either, I'm sure Aggies would find IU's traditions a little strange too. But it doesn't stop there, my friend Jameson is in the Corps of Cadets. TAMU was originally founded as a military academy and did not enroll women to the school until the 1970's. These days it is basically the "Purdue of Texas" but it still holds true to its military traditions by keeping the Corps of Cadets program. So at 0800 Saturday morning, Jameson joined his Fox Company "brothers" for PT on the quad. I was still hungover. That afternoon we went to a basketball game. TAMU does not have cheerleaders. They have Yell Leaders that are from the Corps and every yell is done hunched on your knees. During one of their songs, everyone interlocks legs and sways back and forth and all I could do was hang on for the ride. I like checking out other universities to get an idea of what other experiences were like. It also makes me appreciate my time at IU even more because it shows how unique and special my alma mater really it. Even though I had fun, I still like TAMU is a cult. Sorry Aggies. You can try to gig me later.

After a two hour drive through thunder storms, down pours, wind, and possible tornado conditions, I arrived in Dallas to see my sister compete in a cheerleading competition. But this wasn't just any cheerleading competition, it was the NCA National Championships- which still means nothing to me. Anyways, I enjoyed seeing my parents and sister. My good friend Cory was there in the exact same hotel for a pharmacy conference. We bought beer and cigars and I hung out with his school friends for the remainder of the night/early morning. But no amount of alcohol, nicotine, etc. could have prepared me for what I was about to witness the next day and I'm not talking about visiting Dealy Plaza and standing on the Grassy Knoll. I'm talking about the actual cheerleading competition itself. I had no idea how big this other kind of cult had become. I don't even know where to begin. Walking into the convention I saw a grown man wearing a bright purple tracksuit that had "Cheer Dad" embroidered on the chest. This same man wore a purple afro wig as well. Inside, I saw more skin in one place than ever before and none of it looked to be over the age of 16. Jailbait. Nothing but jailbait as far as the eye could see. The costumes were flamboyant and covered in rhine stones. These "girls" were caked in make-up and other "add-on" type features. Some things were so unbelievable they cannot be described because such words do not exist. The whole event was easily a multi-million dollar operation. I was impressed by the level of skill and athleticism required for the routines I saw, even though short- 2.5 minutes are allowed. T-shirts, giveaways, lights, fog machines, an emcee- I could go on and on. I was blown away.

I think it's great for girls to be involved in athletic competition, but the only thing that I really really had problem with was the number of guys I saw there. I'm not talking about innocent bystanders like myself, but guys that were on actually competing on these squads. Guys wearing varsity letter style jackets and trolling around wearing rhine stone covered outfits like it ain't a thing. My bitterness and anger only comes from the fact that there is a huge shortage of real men in America these days. No one knows how a real man is supposed to act and behave. In our world of material possession and pursuit of health, wealth, and happiness, the current generation men does not take the time nor effort to teach the generation below him. This neglect has been going on for years. Manhood is becoming a lost art and I don't how guys jumping around like a bunch of fruitcakes helps the situation. Maybe I'm just old fashioned and a homo-phobe. I guess this is what it's like when worlds collide.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Where did my weekend go?

My latest work schedule of 10-7 has really cramped my style since we started it back in January. By the time I get home around 7:30, I'm tired and hungry, and when that's done it's much too late to do anything else. I've tried to get up early and workout or ride my bike before work, but it's next to impossible to avoid morning commute traffic. Since my life is consumed by work all week, I've had to reserve the weekends completely for my extracurricular activities. I look forward to the weekend more than ever these days, but every Sunday night I think to myself: "Where the hell did my weekend go?"

Weekend Re-cap:

Let's been honest, we could all use a few extra dollars. I've looked for part-time employment since my arrival in Houston, but with a schedule as hectic as mine working for a professional sports team, it's hard to find a company that will hire you. I needed something flexible. My solution was to start refereeing soccer games. Every person I know who has done it said it was some of the easiest money they have ever made and it paid straight cash. Perfect. So I took the class and started looking for soccer clubs close to where I live to get affiliated with. I made my soccer referee debut this past weekend with Bellaire Soccer Club playing host to a U-14 girls exhibition tournament. Being a referee in any sport is the most thankless job in the world. You really have to concentrate. Even though these games were just for practice, I had parents and coaches breathing down my neck. I completely missed seeing the offside flag once, and by the time I did see it play had already gone on and the team who would have had the advantage already was in possession of the ball. My class instructors said I would have my fair share of embarrassing referee stories before it's all over. I just didn't think it would happen this soon. That same game, I thought the game was over and started walking toward the car when it was really only half-time.

That evening, my dad's college friend invited me out to his house for an awesome dinner of baked potatoes, BBQ ribs, salad, and of course beer. After that I went over my new drinking buddy's apartment to pre-game a little before heading out. This guy is a recent IU alumnus I met on the social networking sight Facebook. I know it sounds lame, but I was really struggling to meet people my own age in an incredibly huge city. Anyways, after a couple beers we met up with a girl I met on a flight from St. Louis who just graduated from Purdue. I find it funny at how small the world is sometimes. One of this girl's friends went on a trip to London with one of my fraternity brothers. So strange. My buddy and I hung out with the Boilermakers for a while before heading to country bar Whiskey Creek for my coworkers birthday celebrations. I had never been to Whiskey Creek but everyone said it was my kind of place. The place was awesome playing kick-ass music, but way too crowded. I have to admit, I'm starting to not enjoy going out. In college I used to love the thrill of the hunt, but I knew most of the people at the places I went to and it was easier to network. I enjoy going out with a group of friends but I'm no longer a fan of going to bars to meet random girls. To conclude the night, my friend and I ate a late night breakfast at a 24 hour diner close to our apartments.

Unable to sleep in, I arose for Sunday school a little after 8am Sunday morning. I went to church and then to lunch with my class. Now that I'm starting to meet some of the guys, I'm actually starting to connect with a few of them. I still think they're way too uptight, but it's better than nothing. My IU buddy and I went looking around for a new place to live once our leases expire and then we took a random trip to Galveston. Galveston is a dump and a total disappointment. Don't ever go there. By the time I got home from that and made some dinner, all I could think was: "Where the hell did my weekend go?"

Thursday, February 7, 2008

USA-Mexico Soccer "Friendly" Re-cap

Last night the city of Houston's Reliant Stadium played host to an international soccer exhibition between the national teams of the United States and Mexico. The game was the talk of Houston for several weeks and was by far the hottest ticket in town. All day long, the only thing the Dynamo staff could really concentrate on was making their predictions on starting line-ups and the final score. 5:30pm rolled around and most of the office had departed for Reliant. Everyone but the sales team now working some unpleasant hours in our effort to lock in as much new business as possible before The Men in Orange take the pitch on March 19. Finally 6pm rolled around and we walked out. I changed clothes in the parking garage while my friend Neil bought beer. We drank a few beers in the parking garage while we waited for other work friends to join us before jumping on the Metro Rail to the stadium.

As I expected, a sea of green awaited us at the stadium. Although there were several patched of Red, White, and Blue. I wasn't worried because I had requested tickets in a USA section. When Neil and I got to our seats, we were the only gringos to be seen. Luckily the people around us were there to have fun and see a good game. We talked smack but nothing was meant by it. The way it is supposed to be. The Yanks took the lead early and held the lead twice. All in all it was a hard fought match. Both sides clearly wanted to win for the purposes of regional bragging rights. The US played sloppy defense, lacked touch and could not finish. In the end the 2-2 draw was the best result possible given the circumstances.

Former IU player and friend Drew Moor was the brunt of several jokes this morning. Several Dynamo staff believe he had no business being out there as well as several other young players. Yes, the USA squad lacked poise, a fine touch, and turned the ball over. Yes, this was USA-Mexico. Yes, this was our biggest rival and all, but at the end of the day- it’s just a friendly. Is it really worth risking our best players for a game that doesn’t mean anything? Is it worth the risk when the Olympics are this summer and then World Cup qualifying shortly after? This game had bigger, broader intentions. Last night's game was about getting the next generation of U.S. National team players some invaluable big-game experience when the "big-game" didn’t mean anything. The game atmosphere resembled something straight out of the World Cup. The Yanks played in front of a largely pro-Mexico crowd of 77,103. If that doesn’t simulate World Cup conditions then I don’t know what does.

2010 South Africa will be here for we know it.