Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Charitable Giving

Christmas time is a time of stress. Forget about those chestnuts roasting in an open fire.  There is even more roasting in store for harassed parents – the mothers in particular, but for everyone. But be of good cheer, it could still be worse.

Those who retain some memory of what Christmas really represents have a leg up here. We remember what it's supposed to be about. For all others, well let's just say we hope their holidays are happy while we ”keep them in our prayers.” There is the treasured bit about “it is better to give than to receive.” All retailers embrace this one, and to be fair, so do most of us.  At least theoretically. Now along come the telemarketers. You know, those recorded voices that come along every time you are sitting down to eat dinner. They have successfully aligned themselves with the United States Postal Service to insure that worthy causes are ever on your mind. Are they ever.

Without question there are needy souls in this world.  There are certainly causes that deserve our energies and dollars.  If you have had cancer, or have a relative or friend inflicted by this curse of curses, how could you not support the drive to cure it?  If you are a veteran how can you turn your back on the Wounded Warrior project?  There are charities and programs that truly deserve our commitment. So, why would there be a problem with charitable giving?

The answer lies in loopholes and lack of a central clearing house for legitimate causes. We are inundated with pleas for charitable giving.  The “No Call” listing that was meant to protect our private phone numbers specifically exclude charities. Add that to an array of similar-sounding charities.  You may get a plea from “Fight Cancer/Your Town” then one from “Your Town Cancer Campaign”, followed by “South/Your Town Cancer Fund” and one or two others. Repeated Cancer telephone solicitations leave you with a bad taste about the worthwhile fight against this dread disease.  It is counter-productive for the charity involved.

In our house, like countless others, we are sensitive to the needs of the less fortunate.  We don't have an iron-clad game plan but ours does include some steps starting with caller ID and not taking any phone calls during meals. We NEVER give out credit card information or make any sort of commitment via telephone, insisting on receiving solicitations by mail (and we do not give out our address if they don't already have it.)

Charity really does begin at home, notably in trying to preserve our sanity.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Great Acting

You don't have to go to the theater district to see great acting. No sirree, it's right there on your television screen and it's free. Football is the new Palace for thespians.
Football games provide a rare combination of sports action and show biz entertainment. Bone crushing mayhem followed by self-centered celebratory prancing in the end zone. In between the danger and the dancing there are moments when very big bodies pile one upon another in a human pyramid. Most often this leaves participants happily out of breath, but I should mention too that real injury sometimes happens to the hapless one on the very bottom.
Like a lot of fans I've been there in-person to see a number of truly great heroes play the game. It's a fact that there is no substitute for being there. And through the magic of television any number of stars and near-stars bring their athleticism right into sports bars and our living rooms every week. Most of us have seen a lot of football but we surely wish we could have seen the real life legends like Jim Thorpe play in their heyday. That goes as well for Red (“The Galloping Ghost”) Grange whose exploits we view from time to time on old black and white footage straight from the collector's vault.
As far as penalties assessed during a football game, plaintive calls of “I didn't do it” usually fall on official ears that do not hear. There is something sad about a 230 pound player feigning innocence like a kid caught with his hand in the cookie jar. While hundreds of thousands of us out here on the couches saw it all, and will see it again on the replay, it doesn't seem to register with our actor-on-the-field that all other eyes say you did do it. I have a mental picture of the late Dom DeLuise prancing along the sidelines singsonging “liar, liar, pants on fire.”
You need a program to tell the players apart.  It's a genealogist's nightmare out there. We are used to seeing “Jr.” on a player's jersey. Then came “III”, which was okay. But now it's “IV” or “V.” As the Boston Red Sox great “Big Papi” reflected: “Who's Your Daddy?”

All ex-jocks share the dream of suiting up one more time to take the punt and score the winning touchdown. And to top it off Jim Nantz will be there doing the television commentary. Hopefully without Phil Simms (“You're right, Jim, “I agree with you, Jim” “I see it that way too, Jim”) as his sidekick in the booth on that glorious day.