Archive for January, 2007

>By CEAN BURGESON
Associate Editor

I recently watched the 2004 movie “Sideways,” which I thought was well written, because the way in which the two main characters, played by Paul Giamatti and Thomas Haden Church, spoke and acted — was just like real guys do.

Case in point: when they’re playing golf and the group behind them hits up on them, they do the typical guy thing. They turn around and hit their ball back at them.
Now, this may seem childish. It may even seem mean.
But it is what guys do.

And I have to admit. I’ve done it too.

More than once.

And I know that there are other guys out there who’ve done the same thing.
So what makes us so competitive? We all have day jobs. We aren’t professional athletes. We aren’t kids, or high school athletes, even. But, we still seem to play our sports as if we’re pros, and we’re getting paid for it.

I’ve also witnessed this zeal for adult sports in my hockey league. Grown men, who have families, kids, and go to church on Sundays – will still drop the gloves when they catch an elbow in a recreational league game from time to time. And they’ll use words on the ice that they wouldn’t want their mothers to hear.

I may have even once or twice had a potty-mouth when I’ve played. I come from a long line of highly competitive, amateur athletes (very amateur, as a matter of fact.)
Usually, in the hockey league, everyone is polite, and we all get along. But once in a while, that male competitiveness rears its ugly head, and scuffles ensue. A couple of times, we’ve even had to clean some blood off of the ice — but not very often.
We can’t help it. It’s in our genes somewhere, right next to the gene for waging war, not asking for directions, and drinking cheap beer by the keg.

Grown men cannot help playing every sport as if their livelihood, honor, and reputation depend on it. I’ve seen it in hockey, golf, softball, pool, bowling, videogames, horseshoes, fishing, hunting and lawn jarts, to name a few areas. I doubt there is any aspect of daily living that men haven’t competed at, and taken it seriously.

Sometimes way too seriously.

But isn’t that what makes sports fun? What good is playing if something isn’t at stake? Competition is healthy. It’s fun. And it’s why we play.

It’s also why we watch. We take pride in OUR team, OUR team’s record, and OUR chances for the playoffs, series, tournament, etc. We take this ownership as if we are actually playing right along with our heroes on the ice, courts, arenas and fields.

It’s this sense of belonging, of being part of the group, of competing — win or lose — that makes us human.

While I know that we take it too far sometimes, I think our sense of competitiveness is good for us – it makes life interesting, fun, exciting, and meaningful.
So if you’re the group behind me at Manistee National and you think I’m playing a bit slow, go ahead and hit up on me.

But be ready.

I’m gonna hit it right back at ya.

Cean Burgeson can be reached at cburgeson@pioneergroup.net

>By CEAN BURGESON

Associate Editor

As I sit on the precipice of becoming a father for the third time this April, I wonder what it will be like when all three children finally meet each other.

Our home is already like a combination between a zoo and an insane asylum with two children and the dog — getting the kids ready for school and daycare, drop-offs, pick-ups, hockey games, feeding time, bath time, bed time…

How will this new one affect the fine balance we have achieved in our household? Despite how mad it looks to outsiders, we’ve kind of gotten things down to a science. While it may not appear that way to the untrained eye, there is an order to things. But will this order be broken by the new youngling?

As we desperately attempt to potty-train my two-year old so we won’t have two children in diapers at the same time, my daughter fights us with every fiber of her being, determined not to comply. She also has a constant inner-dialogue going with herself, only it manifests itself as an outer dialogue — she continuously talks to us, herself, her baby-dolls, strangers at the mall, inanimate objects. And when she isn’t talking, she is screaming. This is one little lady who wants to be heard.

And while she loves her brother, and he loves her, they also both love to compete with each other. This usually builds to a crescendo of screaming, crying, and the separation of the two inmates into their own cells.

My seven-year-old son, while much easier to take care of as a rule, still refuses to ever stop moving, even to eat dinner. One foot is always on the floor, ready for him to sprint away at a moment’s notice. He runs from room to room of the house, or skoots around on his Heely shoes, rolling everywhere and spinning in the aisle at the grocery store.

When he isn’t running or rolling around, he plays hockey in every room of the house, with all manner of sticks, balls, pucks, and nets which are set up in various places. Keeping up with him is no small chore. And he wants to be an athlete when he grows up. So he plays hockey, baseball, soccer, does karate,… and I’m sure I’m leaving something out.

So how will our new baby boy, Owen, get the attention he needs from us? Will he be drowned out by his siblings and their constant bustling, chatter, and mayhem? Will he be a victim of third child-syndrome?

Maybe he’ll be the quiet one. The easy one. The one who is a dream to take care of.

Or — God forbid — he’ll become one of them. They’ll turn him.

The crazy Burgeson kids with their sibling fighting, yelling, screaming, tackling, and general high-level tom-foolery. The kids who scare telemarketers off of the phone when they call and hear my daughter shrieking at her brother to give back her toy, and him yelling back a her, to which the telemarketer usually says, “it sounds like you’d better go.”

I have to admit, at least it gets the telemarketers off the phone. And sometimes the grandparents.

Owen has to hear all of this going on outside of his comfortable little amniotic world.

What does he think of all of this?

I can feel him moving in the womb now, with the palm of my hand on my wife’s belly. He moves a lot.

I think it’s because he hears everything his crazy brother and sister (and parents, for that matter) are doing on the outside, and he’s getting ready. I picture him working out his little arms and legs like a boxer, readying himself to join the others, ready to defend himself.

You’ve got two more months, buddy. Get in shape.

Cean Burgeson can be reached at cburgeson@pioneergroup.net

>By CEAN BURGESON
Associate Editor

Labels. Americans love ‘em. They make things simpler.
But they divide us.
Let me explain.
A while back I sent in a submission to a popular handgun magazine of a column I wrote about being a pro-gun democrat. The editor returned the submission and said he wouldn’t print it. No big deal. Rejection is part of the business.
But his reasoning was that he didn’t agree with my point. My point was that pro-gun individuals aren’t always conservative. I am not a conservative but I am pro-gun. I’m living proof of my own point.
How can he refute the point, then?
Because some liberals, conservatives, democrats, and republicans insist on categorizing everything. If you are a democrat you have to be pro-choice. If you’re a republican, you have to be pro-life. Says who?
Why can’t we choose which philosophies are right for us based on the issues alone — without having to declare a party affiliation, or live with a label that doesn’t exactly fit us? The two party system is no longer working.
People need to pick their elected officials based on how they represent their constituency, regardless of the party label. And a lot of people do this — by voting for candidates from both parties when they go to the polls.
Other people find comfort in not having to think about who to vote for; they enjoy just pulling that lever with the D or R on it, and then getting on with their lives. We have become complacent. We have become lazy. We need a third party. Hell, we need a fourth and fifth party. In the very least, we need independent candidates who can give us an alternative to the malfunctioning two party system.
Yeah, we have the Libertarians and the Green Party. We also have the Socialists, Communists, Libertarians, and others. But they are more often than not considered the fringe, not the norm.
The elections of Reform Party candidate Jesse Ventura of Minnesota to the post of governor, and Green Party candidate state legislator Audie Bock of California, have highlighted the roles of third party and independent candidates in American politics in recent years.
Independents and alternative parties seem to be what the public is looking for; why else would Minnesota have elected a former pro-wrestler and actor as their governor? And how did Independent Ross Perot, who won almost 19 percent of the popular vote in the 1992 presidential campaign, get his foot in the door?
The American public was obviously crying out for change.
The number of independent voters has grown steadily in recent years. And politicians are having a difficult time appealing to the less predictable group, which includes everyone from ex-Libertarians to young people who think of political parties as irrelevant. These growing numbers suggest that maybe people would vote in greater numbers if they had more choices, with independent candidates or a third party which appealed to them.
We still have the power to vote independently, and split our ticket (except for in some primaries). But how many people exercise this option?
Although third party or independent candidates rarely win elections, they play an important role in democratic government. Third party or non-party candidates draw attention to issues that may be ignored by the majority parties. If the issue finds resonance with the voter, one or more of the major parties may adopt the issue into their own party platform. Also, a third party may be used by the voter to cast a protest vote on an important issue.
But protest votes are often wasted if they are in the minority. They may, however, have an effect on the outcome of the election. In the 2000 Presidential election, George W. Bush won the deciding state of Florida by fewer than 600 votes. Some Democrats accused Green Party candidate Ralph Nader of having cost them the election, and in discussion of strategies for the U.S. presidential election in 2004, both parties weighed the costs to the Democrats of another Nader presidential run. While Nader really didn’t have a chance, he had an impact.
This doesn’t mean the current parties need to go away. If people feel that they are in agreement with the Democratic or Republican campaign platforms, there isn’t anything wrong with that. I’m not advocating scrapping the existing parties. It just might be time for some thinking outside the traditional boxes.
People need to spend more time researching and really getting to know what their parties represent, what their candidates represent, and take the time to decide if that agrees with their own personal ideologies. If we start to find that neither party really represents us, it might be time to consider supporting the independents.
And we need to examine the labels. What is liberal? What is conservative? Can’t someone be a little of both? Why do we just believe what the commentators on television and on the radio, or the politicians tell us is one or the other?
Can’t we decide for ourselves?
Cean Burgeson can be reached at: cburgeson@pioneergroup.net

>By CEAN BURGESON
Associate Editor

Many people in the U.S. probably don’t know who David Beckham is. In Europe, everyone knows him. He is a talented athlete. He makes the women faint. He is married to a former Spice Girl. In Europe, he is a superstar.
I came to know him when I vacationed with my family in London and Norway this past summer. Our trip fell at a very opportune time, as we found ourselves smack dab in the middle of World Cup Soccer, or “football,” as the rest of the world calls it.
Soccer in the U.K. and Europe, is bigger than any sporting event that I have experienced here in the states. These people go absolutely NUTS for the sport. Men, women, the young, the old. Everyone has their favorite team, and an opinion about a certain player. Fathers and sons, husbands and wives, brothers, are divided in their football team allegiances.
My entire family, too, was swept up by the whole mania of World Cup Soccer, the event which happens only every four years. The 31 day, 64 game extravaganza in Germany last year was some of the most exciting sports action I have ever followed.
I’ll admit. I was surprised.
Soccer has always had a slim following in the U.S., cited with having too little action, and too few goals. I bought into this analysis, too.
But once I gave the sport a chance, and had the opportunity to learn from our English and Norweigan hosts, my eyes were opened. This is a sport which we just haven’t given a chance yet in this country.
Enter Beckham.
He is to the U.K., and to the soccer (football) world what any sports superstar in the U.S. is. He is a Michael Jordan, or a Tiger Woods. His charisma and play brings that much to the sport.
Captain of the English team during the cup, he currently plays for the Spanish team, Real Madrid, which he joined in 2003 after a hugely successful run with Manchester United, where he won six league titles, two FA Cups and the Champions League title. But Beckham did not win a single major trophy with the Spanish club, and his spell coincided with Madrid’s worst slump since the early 1950s.
So now, because of recent changes that Major League Soccer, (the league here in the states) has made, he is coming to play for the L.A. Galaxy when his contract runs out in June.
This is huge.
“David Beckham will have a greater impact on soccer in America than any athlete has ever had on a sport globally,” said Timothy J. Leiweke, president & CEO of Anschutz Entertainment Group, which owns the Galaxy. “David is truly the only individual that can build the bridge between soccer in America and the rest of the world.”
While sitting in an English pub during a match. I saw the power of Football, and of Beckham. The packed room had an almost electric feeling. Anticipation filled the air. Fans were mesmerized by the many big screen TV’s, carrying, of course, World Cup Soccer.
They cheered, they screamed, they cursed the referees. The fans wore their favorite team’s jerseys. They spilled their beers and stomped their feet. They were fans, rabid ones — as dedicated and in love with the sport as any American football, baseball, basketball or hockey fan.
And I think this feeling can cross the pond. That’s why I’m excited that Britain’s golden boy is coming to America, and to Major League Soccer.
Because if anyone can energize the sport in the U.S., it is Beckham.
Cean Burgeson can be reached at: cburgeson@pioneergroup.com

>By CEAN BURGESON
Associate Editor

It seems like every few years when I was a kid, we had a major snowstorm, i.e. “the blizzard of ‘76!” when the Detroit area would be paralyzed with snow, and we would miss multiple days in a row from school.
We would invariably have a yearly ice storm, too, which froze the roads, downed power lines, and made it impossible for my parents to drive to work, or for the school bus to make it down our street. One year my sister and I ice skated on our frozen street for two days after one particular storm.
Most of the time we had a white Christmas, too — allowing us to try out our new sleds and cross country skiis on Christmas Day in the state park by our home.
So, here we are — fast-forward to the 21st century — in the beginning of January with spring like temperatures; and I’m wondering what happened.
Some say global warming, resulting from factors such as the greenhouse effect, and El Niño have made their mark on the current meteorological situation. A lot of scientists, politicians, and media types, as well as members the general public, are very concerned.
The greenhouse effect actually is a bit player in global climate (although without it’s benefits the average temperature of the Earth would be minus 18 degrees celsius, or four degrees farenheit). Human’s did not cause the greenhouse effect, but critics maintain that human additions to atmospheric greenhouse gases may cause global temperatures to rise too much.
Generally understood, but rarely publicized, is the fact that 95 percent of the greenhouse effect is due solely to natural water vapor. Of the remaining five percent, only 0.2 percent to 0.3 percent of the greenhouse effect (depending on whose numbers you use) is due to emissions of carbon dioxide and other gases from human sources.
The other suspect in the warming game, El Niño, is an oscillation of the ocean-atmosphere system in the tropical Pacific, which has important consequences for weather around the globe.
The impacts of El Niño upon climate in temperate latitudes show up most clearly during wintertime. For example, most El Niño winters are mild over western Canada and parts of the northern United States, and wet over the southern United States from Texas to Florida. El Niño affects temperate climates in other seasons as well.
So, if the warming we are experiencing is mostly a result of natural factors, why do we humans keep beating ourselves up about it?
I agree that the citizens of this planet should work to slow the growth of emissions which contribute to the greenhouse effect, try to strengthen science, technology and institutions in order to protect the global environment, and enhance international cooperation in these efforts.
Don’t get me wrong.
What some people don’t realize, however, is that massive global climate change has been going on here on planet earth for millions of years. There were ice ages and warming trends back when humans weren’t even burning fossil fuels.
There is a plus side to all of this warmer weather that we might be forgetting about.
Milder winters aren’t such a bad thing. When I lived in California, I enjoyed being able to engage in outdoor activities year round. It was nice not to have to shovel snow, scrape ice off of my windshield, and pay those high winter heating bills.
Sure, it isn’t so great if you enjoy snowmobiling or skiing, but there are still places to go if those types of outdoor winter sports are your thing.
How many of us here in northern Michigan would really be all that sad if we could go to the beach year round? Or wear our shorts in December? Or get a suntan in February?
So I say, relax, all you scientists. Take it easy, Al Gore.
Lets protect the environment, do our best to save those species which are endangered as a result of the warming process, and embrace the global climate change. We can’t stop it, so why let it keep us up at night?
I, for one, would enjoy having to put on sunblock to golf in January at Manistee National.
And I don’t think I’m alone.
Cean Burgeson can be reached before the dawning of the next ice age at cburgeson@pioneergroup.net

>By CEAN BURGESON
Associate Editor

It’s one of the ultimate Christmas cliche’s, sitting down to watch Frank Capra’s classic, “It’s a Wonderful Life.”
Before there were VCR’s, DVD players, 200 cable channels, and pay-per-view, you could only see this film once per year on television, maybe twice if it was replayed. This is the way I remember the film from when I was little.
Just about everyone has seen it. Most people love the film. Some are sick of it — probably because it gets played and re-played so much now that it’s been run into the ground a little.
But I still love the movie, and I think most people will agree with me. With my timeworn copy on videotape, which I only view once a year, and only at Christmas time, I watch every season — just like when I was growing up.
And I only watch the black and white version. I remember when they colorized it and had a “world premiere” several years ago. Whoever it was who had the idea that we wanted to see our favorite black and white films re-mastered in color (I think it was Ted Turner), must have been smoking something.
I remember fighting with my Dad one Christmas because I turned the color setting all the way down on the TV so I could watch it in black and white, and he just didn’t understand why. I have been a movie purist since I was old enough to appreciate films, and tampering with one of my favorites of all time was the equivalent of blasphemy.
The reason I love this film is because just about anyone can relate to George Bailey. I have felt like him at several points in my life — the guy who always had big plans, but whenever he felt close to accomplishing one of his dreams, something happened to foil those plans. To put it simply — life happened.
Jimmy Stewart is my favorite actor of all time, not because of this film alone, but because of his entire body of work, from another Capra classic, “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington,” but also his westerns, like “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance,” and “Winchester 73,” to his work in films for great directors, like Hitchcock’s “Rear Window,” and Otto Preminger’s “Anatomy of a Murder.”
One of the greatest Christmas gifts I ever received was a framed collage of movie stills from “It’s a Wonderful Life,” along with Stewart’s autograph, from my wife, over 10 years ago. It has hung on the wall of every apartment and house we’ve lived in since then.
One of my favorite scenes in “It’s a Wonderful Life,” is when George, coming home to his “drafty old house,” frustrated by yet another setback, begins to make his way up the steps, and that piece of the bannister comes off in his hand. He wants to throw it, wants to take out some of his aggression, but wills himself to put it back where it belongs. I can relate to this type of frustration, just wanting to blow up, and then re-composing myself.
That is what George does for the entire film. He is constantly fighting frustration, disappointment, and adversity – and overcoming it all, dusting himself off, and continuing on. We can all learn something from George.
We all know that the overall theme of the holiday classic is seeing how life would be without you. Yes, we all have it better off than we thought we did; we can all stand to remove ourselves from the grind of every day life to realize how much of a difference we make to others. There are other lessons at work in the story, as well.
Everyone has a Potter that they eventually need to stand up to. And hopefully, we all have a Mary to keep us sane, and to be our partner when times get rough.
I can also relate to George when he yells at those poor kids. There are angry words I have used towards my children when my patience runs thin, maybe the bills need to be paid, or something has gone wrong at work. That’s why, when George rushes home and hugs his kids, and kisses his wife, I know how he feels.
We’ve all been a little short with our friends and loved ones at times, and need to let them know we’re sorry. My kids have such short memories for these events, much shorter than mine. They forgive pretty quick, and realize when it really isn’t directed at them. The Bailey’s knew their father’s true nature, too.
George’s character arc in the story is certainly the most important, but not the only story of redemption we can learn from. There’s Violet, who realizes the grass isn’t always greener on the other side, Mr. Gower, who George saves from making the biggest mistake of his life, Uncle Billy, who just needed someone to believe in him despite his careless ways, and all of the other citizens of Bedford Falls whose lives George Bailey touched by sacrificing so much of himself.
Every one of us has our own demons, our shortcomings, misgivings, regrets, and broken dreams. At some time or another, we’re all George Bailey. This is the biggest lesson to learn from the film in the coming week when you and your family sit down to once again view this timeless holiday classic.
It’s really a story about second chances. We need to give them to other people, and we need to take them when they’re offered to us.
Most of all, we need to give them to ourselves.
Cean Burgeson can be reached at: cburgeson@pioneergroup.net

>By CEAN BURGESON
Associate Editor

It’s that time of year again.
Time to make all of those sports New Year’s resolutions.
I have ‘em every year. This year, I have quite a few. Break 25 minutes in my 5K time, run at least 3 triathlons, go to another hockey camp, run a snowshoe race, work out more, get leaner.
In short: get more motivated!
I also have goals as a fan. Every year it seems like I promise myself I’ll go and see the Tigers and Red Wings at least once. Maybe shoot down to East Lansing and catch a Spartan hockey game. I also try to pledge to be a better fan — following the teams more, watch more games on the tube or on listen on the radio.
Those who know me will tell you that I’m not a rabid sports fan. I have my favorites: baseball and hockey. Football and basketball hold no special interest to me. I enjoy seeing a game from time to time — but I find trouble keeping interest. I have to specialize because, like most people, time is so sparce.
Life gets in the way. There’s work, spending time with family, chores to be done around the house. It becomes hard to be the kind of dedicated fan and athlete I want to be.
But this year, I hope, will be different. 2007 is the year, baby.
The lawn may get a little longer than usual this August. It might take all summer to get the shed painted. Perhaps the laundry will get to the point where it’s easier to just buy more underwear than to carry the entire load to the machine in the basement.
For sports, we must remember, are a diversion — an escape from everyday life. On the fields, courts, and ice rinks of America, we go to be entertained. It doesn’t matter if you watch or play, folks, I urge you to make more time in the coming year to be a part of sports.
I do hope you will participate rather than just watch, though.
Besides the physical benefits of athletics, the teamwork it fosters, the stress it relieves, and the pure enjoyment it provides, there is also the escape from the grind of everyday life sports allows. To coin an overused phrase, the benefits are seemingly endless.
Everyone makes the same New Year’s resolutions to lose weight and exercise more. For 99 percent of us, it lasts about a week into January.
Then its back to eating Doritos on the couch.
The reason it fails, is because we forget that exercise should be fun.
For most people, going to the gym is not fun. Running is not fun. Lifting weights is not fun.
That’s why we fall out of our exercise routines. We forgot the fun.
My son has zero body fat. He runs around from day break to sunset. He plays baseball, soccer, football, hockey, and every other sport he can. My seven year-old son has never once asked if he could lift weights or go to the gym.
He goes with what’s fun.
So, why do we forget this when we get older?
For some reason, we feel that exercising has to be work. I’m not sure where this idea came from. Probably the people who built the Bo-Flex. Two things.
One: there’s no way 20 minutes per day three times per week gives anyone that body we see on the commercials. Two: There’s no way that goofy looking contraption is fun.
So, when making those same old New Year’s resolutions, resolve to set aside some more time for sports — not just to watch on TV or buy tickets to a pro game — make a resolution to actually play sports. I don’t care if its softball, hockey, swimming, basketball, frisbee golf, or lawn darts. Just get out there.
Why should kids or the professionals get to have all the fun?
Cean Burgeson can be reached at: cburgeson@pioneergroup.net