The Dude vs. The NFL – A Look Back into the Archives

I’ve been in a writing funk recently, so I’m going back to my old (and original) blog from 2007 for some material.  I feel this entry is an apt one to repost, since my favorite football team played on Thursday and today I was left adrift with NFL games I truly didn’t want to watch.  But this Sunday, unlike my choices from 9 years ago, I decided to read a book instead of subjecting myself to the shitty games that were broadcast here in Honolulu.

But fun to look back at a Sunday almost a decade ago . . .

Thursday, December 13, 2007


This year The Patriots have played many games out of the normal Sunday afternoon schedule. And while it’s great to see your team compete on National TV, it presents challenges. If you’re married or in a serious relationship, there probably isn’t much of a problem. You clean your garage, you cut the hedges, you go to the multiplex to that romantic comedy with your special lady friend, or you spend a little more quality time with your children.

But if you’re single and live in a studio apartment. . . .

My God, it really forces you to take ugly looks at yourself.

The Patriots beat The Steelers last Sunday, and it was their first normally scheduled game in the last month. The previous three contests were all played at night, and it’s made Sunday afternoons extremely taxing. Take for example December 2nd. Living in San Francisco, the only game on my TV set was the 49ers and the Carolina Panthers. I didn’t want to watch even a second of it, but for some reason I switched the channel to Fox. I guess my brain waves have been wired to pant like a Pavlovian Dog for QB sneaks and shotgun formations and safety blitzes.

But I regreted my decision quickly. Only three minutes into the game the announcers (guys I’ve never even heard of . . . the Z team of Fox) have referred to Vinny Testerverde as “The Old Guy” at least 12 times. They even put it on their graphics as San Francisco’s key to the game: “Don’t Let The Old Guy Beat You”.

And here are the highlights of the first quarter:

*San Francisco calls a timeout before they punt.
*The timeout seems to be a genius move when Carolina muffs the punt and the 49ers look like they recover the ball. On the field the officials first signal SF ball and then give it back to the Panthers.
*It looks like the officials blew the call, but The 49ers coach, Mike Nolan, doesn’t challenge.
*Vinny, aka “The Old Guy”, has 1st and goal from the 3 but cannot score.
*It’s week 13 and the Panthers have yet to win a game at home.

I check ESPN hoping they’re showing The World Series of Poker. Instead it’s The Great Lakes Classic, a bowling event. Walter Ray Williams needs two strikes AND two pins to beat the immortal Mike Scroggins. This is tense. First strike wipes out all the pins quickly. His next strike is more dramatic, with the last pin wobbling before it falls. He only needs two more . . . and gets the win when he knocks down seven.

This is what happens when you live in a city with two bad NFL teams.

I shudder knowing the game after this will be the 3-8 Raiders. But I switch back to the “football” game. Here are some more stellar statistics:

*With 10:07 left in the half Carolina has used all their timeouts.
*Testerverde throws a TD, and it’s the Panthers first TD at home in something like 80 quarters.
*The 49ers somehow convert a 3rd down and keep a drive alive. Of course they end up punting four plays later, but damn they must have felt good about getting 10 yards in a series.

Back to bowling.

It’s now the women’s championship. It’s Carolyn Dorin-Ballard vs. Diandra Asbaty. Dorin-Ballard has a lunch lady vibe about her. She could easily be a tough aunt from your Dad’s side of the family that nobody fucks with. Asbady is actually cute, a red head with a nice smile who seems as if she enjoys drinking beer and, well . . . bowling. Both of these women have their names on the back of their shirts. Not printed, like a football player, but their signatures embodied into the material. When I notice this I flip back to the other game.

Trent Dilfer, who for some reason is the starting QB for San Francisco, gets sacked. It is only the 11th sack of the season for The Panthers. Dilfer then throws an INT which is returned for a touchdown. It’s 17-0 Carolina.

Could professional women’s bowling be better?

Yes. Yes it is.

Asbaty makes two strikes in a row. While I’m trying to figure out how old she is (my guess is 29), the announcers say she “has finally figured out the lane”. Figured out she was throwing a ball at ten pins from the same distance as every bowler does in the world? Is there a sand trap that creeped up without us noticing?

Then the announcer says that Asbaty wanted him to give a “shot out” to her grandmother.

Okay . . . switching to the football game Dilfer gets sacked again (The Panthers now have 12 on the season . . . my God- this is exciting). But I somehow pry my vision from the intense action and glance at the ticker tape at the bottom of the screen. The Dolphins lead the Jets 13-10. For a few seconds I ponder whether I’d rather be in Miami watching their winless club duel the hapless NY Jets. It’s a tough choice- their shit sandwich to the one that is now on Fox? There is no way to answer that question except to watch some bowling.

It’s too bad I’m not watching The Dude, Walter, and Donnie advance to next Round Robin.

Instead we’re now in the last frame of The Great Lakes Classic Championship. Asbaty needs a mark to win. They flash a graphic that says she was part of a NCAA Championship team from Nebraska in 1999 & 2001. That would put her at about 27 or 28 (I was close). I wonder how it would feel to date a professional bowler. Would she talk about 7-10 splits while in bed? Does she have a bumper sticker that says “I’d rather be bowling”? Could she drink me under the table?

And then Asbaty rolls . . . she gets a nine. I was hoping for somebody to yell “OVER THE LINE” and pull out their “piece” on the lanes. Mark it an 8! Am I the only one that cares about the rules?!!

No such luck. This is not The Big Lebowski come to life. One more pin and Asbaty is the winner. She gets it and is all tears. And then a guy rushes up and hugs her, who The announcers say is her husband. The dream is over.


With the “NFL Game” Dilfer has just thrown an interception with 1:24 left in the half. But Carolina doesn’t have any timeouts, and the “Old Guy” has to rush. The second quarter comes to an end after Vinny throws a ball that is astutely described by JC Pearson as being “way underthrown”.

It’s getting close to noon and I have yet to step outside. I would like to have the last hour and half back in my life, but I’ll simply have to use it as a good life lesson. I get outside for a walk and some lunch, and when I return I see the San Francisco 49ers were somehow worse than the Carolina Panthers today. Next time I will show more fortitude: when The Patriots are not playing on a Sunday morning/afternoon I will immediately leave the apartment.

15 Years


Ten or twenty or whatever-even-year-anniversaries are easy opportunities to reflect on an important moment, whether it’s completely personal or a shared experience of the world.  In a way it’s lazy, but I guess it’s human nature to repress things until we’re prodded by external forces (such as a calendar) to confront them.  So here it is . . . fifteen years since September 11, 2001.

Has it really been fifteen years?

We all remember where we were.  I was at 3270 Descanso Drive in the Silverlake neighborhood of Los Angeles   I was scheduled to work at 10 am that morning at California Pizza Kitchen and awoke at my usual nine am, just enough time to shower and scramble and get in my VW Pasaat Wagon that would zoom me through the surface streets to downtown LA.  I did the same thing every day.

But something was wrong.

That morning the phone kept ringing and ringing.  I’m almost positive my roommate Fozzie was gone that day.  I can’t remember why . . . the details are escaping me, but I think he had gone up to Ventura because I can’t remember speaking to him.  But for sure nobody answered the phone and there had to be at least 3 calls.

The night before I had gone to Taix, the French place in my neighborhood that was an old- school upscale restaurant with this great retro lounge.  I went there with a few of my CPK  compadres to drink after our shift and watch Monday Night Football.  I can’t recall who was playing, but I do remember flirting with the hostess and experiencing an overall feeling of fun.  Our group in that dark lounge on Sunset Boulevard was a good one, doing shots and laughing and it was the kind of night, although very simple, that at 31 you’re old enough to realize how lucky you are to experience it.

But back to the wretched morning, Tuesday, September 11, 2001.  I wasn’t hung-over, but the night before I certainly had too many drinks and not enough sleep.  The phone rang several times and I was too tired to answer it.  So when my alarm went off at 9:00 am, I hit snooze and tried to get a few more minutes of glorious slumber.  When the clock radio went off again, something told me to listen to the answering machine.  Nobody called us that early, and back then (when the land line was the only show in town) hearing the phone ring during the dead of night or early in the morning almost certainly meant bad news.   When I got out of bed and listened to the answering machine, I heard the shaky and sullen voice of one of the lead servers at CPK.  His name was Tirso and he said something to the effect:

“Hi, Mike.  We’re not going to open today.  I’m sure you probably know why.  I’m calling everybody and, um, I don’t know if we’re going to open tomorrow.”

I immediately went to the TV.  Just past nine am Pacific Time the Towers were already gone.  It was all so terrible, but I sat there and watched for hours.  I recall going online and getting the instant reaction to what was being called the worst attack on U.S. soil since Pearl Harbor.  At some point that morning I called my Mom, and I remember being scared and feeling so happy to hear her voice.  I know I also called a bunch of friends, but other than my Mom I can’t remember any of the conversations.

After digesting more news on TV and online, I had to get out of the apartment.  I had a basket of dirty clothes and took it to the laundromat.  There was one other person there, the attendant, and we nodded to each other when I entered.  I can’t remember if there was a TV there, but I certainly didn’t look at it.  After loading my items into the washer I sat outside in one of the plastic chairs and just zoned-out in the sunny and warm day.

I’ll never forget sitting there, questioning myself on whether or not I should be doing laundry.  I remember getting a flash in my head, imagining my future grandchildren asking me what I did on September 11th.  I would have to look the kids in the eyes and tell them I cleaned my dirty socks and underwear.

But what else could I do?  I was alone and I needed to get away, from the television, the internet and from the spot I learned the world had changed.  A cute girl in her 20s walked in to do laundry at some point, and when she went outside for a cigarette we chatted for a few minutes about the shock of the day and she went back inside.  I had brought my notebook with me that day and this is what I scribbled:


September 11, 2011

3:28 pm


     The World Trade Center is gone.

     Both towers.


     Six years ago I was on the top of one of those buildings in the outside observation deck, getting my photo taken and basking in the beautiful New York day.  You know there were people on top when it happened.  It sickens me to think of that.

     I really haven’t been able to digest all this craziness.  U.S. commercial planes smashing into the buildings.  Thousands of people dying.  Hijacked jets flying into the Twin Towers and Pentagon.

     How do you react?  How can one comprehend something that doesn’t seem real?  It’s as if you’re watching a movie or a computer simulation.  With such a horrendous act of terrorism on American soil how can life go on as normal?

     How can it not?

     Our best defense as an individual is to try and go on with our daily lives.  Because what’s the alternative?  Cowering in complete fear underneath our beds?  Crying and moaning over the fragility of our existence?   Yes, we need to understand the horror of today.  Yes, we can never forget this fucking cowardly and insane act.  But we can’t let these assholes ruin or even change our spirit of freedom.

     As I wrote earlier, I need more time to articulate all of my feelings.  Sitting here on the corner of Glendale and Fletcher in Los Angeles, I’m trying to keep it all together.  Laundry is something that needs to be done in everyday life and I’m here doing it.  Should I be with friends and loved ones now?  Perhaps, but my family is 3,000 miles away, I don’t have a girlfriend, and I guess there is a big part of me that just wants to be alone and think and contemplate my life.  Fuck . . . I don’t know what else to say now.

As much as I try I can’t remember what I did later that evening, but I definitely had a lot of booze.  All I can recall is sitting on the back stairs, staring out to the skyline of L.A. and being spooked that there were no airplanes in the sky.  At some point I picked up my journal and here is what I wrote later on that night.

Early Wed- 1:07 am

September 12


     It might not be over.

     Shit . . . I mean how can we be certain?  L.A. is a huge fucking target, and nobody can know if we’re not next.  I work on the bottom of a stupid skyscraper.  And while the Ernst & Young Building isn’t a symbol of America it’s a tall goddamned building in the heart of downtown Los Angeles.  Do I even want to go near the place, or even such a major metropolitan area that could be attacked in all kinds of nefarious ways?


     This is fucking ridiculous.  I’ve seen the TV clips of the towers collapsing over and over and over again.  It’s so insane.  The sound gets to me almost as much as the images.  Crunching metal and screams and the explosions.  And the people jumping off the 70th floor, tumbling through the air while the buildings burn and smoke billows out of them.  It can’t be real.  It has to be some hoax . . . some reality show stunt.

     But it isn’t.

     ABC, NBC, CBS, FOX, CNN, and the local stations are giving us the video reality of this tragedy round the clock since it happened.  Although I might be 3,000 miles away from it, in the year 2001 that doesn’t matter.  Live and in stereo . . . the country in flames for everybody to see.  I hate to admit it but I’m scared.  

     What does it mean . . . what does anything mean??


Fifteen years later . . . I don’t think anybody has an answer.  Or else you can only have the personal answer that works just for you.  We mourn the people who lost their lives.  We never forgot the horror.