Labor Day Weekend

Normally on the big holidays I like to write a little about the true meaning of that day and encourage people to take just a moment or two to remember that holidays are not just a day off from work but are meant to honor someone who did something great for our nation.

But this is Labor Day Weekend.  And Labor Day doesn’t honor any heroes.  It’s not a time to remember fallen soldiers or anyone else who did anything of note.  Nope, Labor Day is a day off to honor every Joe and Jill Schmoe that works for a living.  And while that’s becoming more and more of a rare concept in this land of ours (where 1 in 7 people are on food stamps and nearly half the population gets more money from the federal government than they ever pay in taxes), I still refuse to honor people just for showing up to work five days a week.

It’s also important to note that Labor Day only exists because President Grover Cleveland wanted to appease the communist-backed labor unions but didn’t want to explicitly condone their movement by observing May Day (also known as International Workers Day, or Communist Workers’ Holiday).  So really, Labor Day is nothing but a holiday for pinkos and commies.

If I were truly a man of conviction I would refuse to even acknowledge Labor Day.  I would show up to work on that day and put my nose to the grindstone for eight hours to protest this evil day, this piece of the puzzle in the great international communist conspiracy.

But, alas, I am not that brave, nor that noble.  I’m a drunk.  And rather than making a stand against this great evil, this injustice against working Americans, I’d rather just get drunk and bitch about how the commies are still destroying our country even after Rambo won the Cold War. 

The really sad thing about Labor Day is if it were any other meaningless holiday, like Columbus Day or Flag Day or Arbor Day, it would be my favorite day of the year.  After all, it’s the opening weekend of college football!  It’s the last hurrah of summer, one of your last chances to see girls running around in bikinis, and the last big weekend where it will be warm enough to pass out drunk in a gutter and not wake up with hypothermia.  I love everything about the three day weekend.  Except for the whole communist conspiracy thing.

So, with that in mind, I have a couple suggestions to make Labor Day a truly great American holiday we can all enjoy without the nagging guilt that you’re contributing to the downfall of the free world:

1) Let’s re-name it Football Day.  A day to honor the greatest and most American of all sports.  Traditions don’t have to change at all, people can continue to drink and watch football all weekend long, only now it will actually show your patriotism to do so.  It’s a win-win for everyone!

2) Or, if we insist on continuing to call it Labor Day, let’s truly make it a celebration of working Americans.  How about this: anyone who has a full time job gets the weekend off, while anyone who collects a check from the government that isn’t a paycheck or retirement check has to work as a servant of working Americans for all 24 hours of Labor Day?  In other words, anyone on welfare, SNAP (Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program, formerly known as food stamps), unemployment, public housing assistance, LIHEAP (Low Income Housing Energy Assistance Program), WIC (Women, Infants and Children) TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families), or any other government assistance program will have to spend Labor Day serving the people who pay for them to be leeches on society the other 364 days a year.

But until my ideas take off across the land, don’t feel bad, don’t fret and worry that celebrating Labor Day will lead to the downfall of America.  Nope, drink away, watch football to your heart’s content, ogle young girls in their little bikinis, and pass out anywhere you please.  Together we can take this holiday and make it ours!

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This Day in History

Today, June 19th,  is a great day in American history.  Anybody know why?  First person to comment with the correct answer gets the respect and admiration (and public acknowledgement) of the Single White Alcoholic.

I’ll give you a hint: we killed someone…

Devastating Losses, Part II- The Patriotic Edition

My buddy Gotham and I were debating my post on the most devastating losses of our lives, and we decided that since not everyone who reads this is a Fighting Illini fan (and count yourself lucky if you’re not!), we should try to come up with a list of excruciating losses that most any sports fan could relate to.  Maybe we’ll even make a series of posts, with guest entries from all my readers.  But for Part II, I’ll limit myself to the worst losses for Team USA in the Olympics.  If these don’t get your blood boiling then get the &%^$ out of my country!

So with a big assist from Gotham (who, BTW, hosts the definitive site for everything Illinois sports, www.illinoisloyalty.com) here’s a few of the worst days ever in the life of American sports fans.

#4- 1988 Olympics, USA basketball vs USSR.

I’m a child of the Cold War, so my hatred for the Soviets will never leave me.  In my book they’re even worse than the Nazis.  So when you combine my passion for sports with my pathological hatred for a country that murdered uncounted millions of people (40-60 million of their own people, God only knows how many hundreds of millions more worldwide), it’s no longer just a game.

1988 was supposed to be payback for the ’72 Olympics (more on that later).  After losing our first Olympic basketball game ever in 1972, and a US boycott in 1980 followed by a Soviet boycott in ’84, this would be the first chance at redemption.  Unfortunately, the US had the misfortune of having possibly the most overrated coach of all time, John Thompson.  Besides only putting one true shooter on the roster (Hersey Hawkins), Thompson’s ego also compelled him to constantly berate and belittle a young center you might have heard of, David Robinson.  When Hawkins went down with an injury early in the semifinal matchup with the Sovs, they were toast.  The commies packed in the paint, daring the US to shoot, while using 7’4″ monster Arvydas Sabonis to rough up the younger, slighter (and now short on confidence) Robinson.  The result was a demoralizing defeat to the Evil Empire.

In retrospect, there is small consolation in the fact that this was about the last thing the Soviets would ever win in anything, sports or geopolitics, and by the next Olympics most of the Soviet players the free world despised so much would be wearing the uniform of their newly freed republics and disavowing everything the Evil Empire stood for.

#3- 1988 Olympics, Roy Jones vs. Park Si-Hun

The most blatant case of bribery in Olympic history.  Jones outpunched Hun 86 to 32 in three rounds and dominated every second of the fight.  The referee admitted he was “dumbstruck” by the judges’ decision.  Legend has it Hun even apologized to Roy for his undeserved victory.  This fight led to massive reform in international boxing; reviews of how judges are selected, a new scoring system, and investigations into bribery of judges.

The silver lining to this travesty was it no doubt helped contribute to the fire in Jones’ belly that made him the most dominant fighter in the world for a good 14 years.  For my money he’s the greatest pound-for-pound fighter ever, and watching him claim titles from middleweight all the way through heavyweight was a true joy.

#2- 2010 Olympics, USA Hockey vs. Canada

At the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City nobody really thought the US had a chance.  But playing in their home country, they pulled together and made a great run to the gold medal game against the Birthplace of Hockey, Canada.  Unfortunately, the amazing run came to a screeching halt against one of the greatest teams ever assembled.  (Even non-hockey fans will recognize names like Lemieux, Yzerman, Brodeur, Iginla and Sakic.)

After Team Canada celebrated Olympic Gold on our home ice, 2010 loomed large as a chance for payback.  This time it would be on Canadian ice, and although Canada would again be the most talented team in the world (most people didn’t think the US even had a shot at a medal), GM Brian Burke assembled a group of gritty, gutsy youngsters that would capture the hearts of all American hockey fans.  When they beat Canada 5-3 in the preliminary round, you could just sense it was going to be a magical ride.

The Gold Medal game was a rematch with the Canadians, and it was everything it was hyped up to be and more.  USA goalie Ryan Miller stood on his head, making 36 saves and keeping it close until Zach Parise could tie it up with just 24 seconds remaining in regulation.  Parise’s goal, and Doc Emrick’s call, to me is still one of the greatest moments in sports history:

Unfortunately, it wasn’t meant to be.  After the emotionally draining comeback, the US came out flat in overtime, and although Miller made several big saves, he couldn’t stop Sidney Crosby from putting the clincher in the back of the net.

A sad day to be sure, but I’m already counting down the days to 2014!

#1- 1972 Olympics, USA Basketball vs. USSR

Without a doubt the greatest travesty in the history of sports.  Kind of like the United Nations, the Olympics are rife with politics, and this game was a shining example of anti-American zealots banding together to steal our victory.

It would take pages and pages to adequately describe everything that happened in this game.  The short version is the Soviets, down 1 with three seconds left, were given three tries until they finally managed to score the winning basket.  The officials bent, broke and made up rules to hand the game to the commies.

Here’s a fairly good video of all the BS that transpired in order for the Soviets to steal our Gold:

But even that doesn’t do justice to the full extent of the conspiracy involved to steal our Gold.  In 1972, the US was undefeated all time in Olympic Basketball, 63-0 and 7-for-7 in Gold Medals.  The biased officiating, the corrupt scoretable crew, the 3-to-2 jury of appeals (three commies vs. two free-world), it was a perfect storm of corruption and indecency.

I don’t often have much nice to say about President Richard Nixon, but I’ll give him credit for his restraint on this one.  If I had been President there would have been a nuclear war that night.

*If you would like to make a contibution to future “devastating losses” posts, share your pain with the world, contact me and we’ll see what we can do to “put you on the therapy couch.”*

Devastating Losses

Going into yesterday’s game, I thought the prospect of my beloved Bears losing to the dreaded Packers in the NFC Championship game would be the most demoralizing of all possible scenarios in my entire life.  I mean, the evil Packers, hoisting Papa Bear Halas’ own trophy in our own stadium?  Unthinkable.  Suicide-inducing.

And I’m not gonna lie, the loss hit me like a heavyweight’s body blows.  Every big 3rd down conversion by Aaron Rodgers; every blown opportunity by not one, not two, but three different Bears quarterbacks, they were all like daggers.  Every shitty, second-rate high school play call by the so-called genius Mike Martz; every punt by the Pack downed inside the 10 yard line. (Who the hell is that punter anyway?  I’ve never seen a punter dominate a game so thoroughly.)

But after sitting in my darkened apartment for a couple hours, iPod blaring the angriest music I could find, I realized that this loss really wasn’t as bad as some I’ve experienced in my life.  Not nearly as gut wrenching as some, not by a long shot.

So now, for your reading pleasure, I present the five most devastating losses in my life:

#5- February 14, 1998.  West Lafayette, IN.  College Basketball.  #8 Purdue 75, Illinois 72

 Although the Illini would later back their way into a share of the Big Ten title, at the time this loss seemingly cost them their first conference crown in 14 years.  Worst of all, the loss was caused almost entirely by bad officiating.  Purdue outshot the Illini 37-7 at the foul line (37-9 actually, but I’m not counting the two foul shots on Gene Keady’s technical foul, which he intentionally drew to fire up the home crowd).  And yet the gritty Illini still clawed back from a double digit deficit to tie the game at 70 before finally falling.

And I have a more personal reason for the game causing me such pain.  This was back before I was the veteran alcoholic you see before you.  At that point in my life I might have been drunk twice.  Ever.  And a friend of mine took advantage of my moment of weakness and got me the drunkest I have ever been in my life.  In all honesty, I’m pretty sure I had alcohol poisoning.  Threw up for an entire day and I think I was still drunk 16 hours later.  I had a hangover for about two and half days.  I probably should have died.

#4- June 19, 1999.  NHL Hockey.  Buffalo, NY.  Dallas Stars 2, Buffalo Sabres 1 (3OT)

Yes, I’m a hockey fan.  I won’t apologize.  And a Buffalo Sabres fan.  I know most of you don’t care, but this was one of the greatest robberies in sports history.  With the Stanley Cup on the line, Dallas leading the series 3-2, game 6 was an absolute classic.  It was well into the 3rd overtime, almost six hours of edge-of-your-seat drama, when Brett Hull finally put the Stanley Cup-clinching goal in the back of the net.

But here’s the problem: the goal shouldn’t have counted.  I’ll try to keep this simple for you non-hockey fans, but basically in 1999 it was ILLEGAL for a player to be in the crease (that’s the blue ice around the goal) unless the puck was also already in the blue paint.   As you can see in the picture above, the puck was clearly not in the blue paint.  And Hull’s skate clearly was in the crease.

The NHL reviewed literally every single goal in the 1999 season.  Roughly 1300 games throughout the entire regular season and playoffs.  And yet, with the Stanley Cup on the line, the most important goal of the season was not reviewed and the Dallas Stars were awarded a Stanley Cup they didn’t earn.

#3- September 23, 2000.  Champaign, IL. #10 Michigan 35, #19 Illinois 31

Another game stolen by the officials.  (I think that’s a trend.  Losing fair and square hurts, but you can live with it.  Getting screwed just leaves a sickening feeling inside you that never goes away.)  This was the game that brought instant replay to college football.  The officials blew three fumble calls (all in Michigan’s favor) in the final 6 minutes to hand the game to the Wolverines.  The next year the Big Ten instituted the first instant replay.  Within another year or two it had become the rule all across Division I-A.  Too bad it took the Big Ten blatantly stealing a game from Illinois for it to come to fruition.

#2- April 4, 2005.  St. Louis, MO.  College Basketball.  #2 North Carolina 75, #1 Illinois 70

The National Championship.  The culmination of the greatest season in Illinois sports history.  A team of unbelievable will and character.  Dee Brown, Deron Williams, Luther Head, James Augustine, Roger Powell, Jack Ingram.  Even today just their names make me smile.

I could blame this one on the refs too.  James Augustine, who didn’t foul out of a game all year, played just 9 minutes and drew 5 fouls.  But although the officiating was pretty shitty, the reality is the Illini played probably their worst game of the year at the wrong time.  Just 12 of 40 from the 3-point line (and it was a lot worse than that before they made a furious run in the last couple minutes).

I’ll go to my grave believing that if this had been a best-of-7 series like the NBA, Carolina would have been lucky to get to game 6.  The Illini would have run them out of the building on almost any other night.  But unfortunately all that matters is that one night in April.

The worst moment of all came right after the game.  Walking out of the dome in St. Louis, I walked by a warehouse that had, no shit, at least 30,000 “Illinois National Champs” T-shirts ready to sell.  I almost started crying right there.

#1- February 21, 2007.  Champaign, IL.  College Basketball.  Illinois 54, Michigan 42

What, an Illinois victory is the most devastating loss ever?  Well, yes.  Because 2/21/07 will always go down as the last time Chief Illiniwek ever represented the University of Illinois as its honored symbol.

It would take me days to finish my rant on the political correct bullshit that led to the death of the most honored and revered mascot in all of sports.  So I’ll just say this: I cried like a baby during that last dance.  And after the game, I walked out of the Assembly Hall and haven’t been to a university event since.  I didn’t lose a ballgame that day, I lost my alma mater, the school I had cheered for since before I could walk.

I’m fairly fortunate in that I haven’t had a great deal of tragedy in my life, I haven’t had any truly close family or friends die yet.  But I can still say without a doubt that Feb 21st, 2007 was the worst day of my life.

RIP, Chief.