Frederick X vs. We The People

We The People and Mr. Unremarkable battle another tyrannical King and his Intolerable Acts.

This is an Unremarkable work of fiction. Whether you believe it to be a work of historical fiction or a story created in the mind of an angry, Unremarkable old man is up to you. The resemblance of any individuals or corporations in this work to actual individuals or corporations is purely coincidental and in the imagination of the reader. Angry, Unremarkable old men occasionally need a villain to blame for the injustices which make them angry. Sometimes that villain is a king.

When in the course of human events…it sometimes becomes necessary for the rabble to rise up and challenge the financial strains placed on them by a king who resides far from their homes, yet uses them to enrich his vast coffers. That ruler, who sneers down from on high at those he believes not worthy, is FREDERICK X, from here forward referred to as FRED X, and who besides being an iron-fisted monarch, was a no-good, money-grubbing, glory-hound of a businessman.

And he was smart. Fred X surrounded himself with cut throats, lackeys, yes-men, idea-men, both good and bad, and a horde of lawyers to defend those good and bad ideas. It seems the only thing Fred X’s castle didn’t have were mirrors with which to look yourself in the face, and a singing conscious-guiding cricket. But even with all of the aforementioned pirates to help guide and defend his business, there was one thing that perplexed Fred X, how could he make the rabble pay his taxes and expenses from said business? His lackeys were stumped, his yes-men agreed with him…but thought he was crazy, and his idea men were clueless. It wasn’t until the cut throats met with the lawyers over lattes at a local coffee emporium that a solution was found.

And here born was the Independent Contractor. Independent as in refusing to be under obligation to others and contractor meaning someone who is party to a contract. This position the cut-throats and lawyers reasoned…as much as cut-throats and lawyers can reason, would sign what they laughingly termed an operating agreement to work for Fred X, and only Fred X, and in return Fred X would give them their own territory, a protected primary area of service it could be called. Those who bought into this skullduggery would think themselves entrepreneurs, like fools they would pay the king’s taxes, absorb some of his expenses, they would wear Fred X’s colors and display his coat of arms, and they work from sun up until sun down and later with not so much as a hint of overtime pay or paid time off.

Fred X was beside himself with delight. The cut-throats and the lawyers had done it. And as thanks he would give the cut-throats the new title of Contractor Relations. The lawyers he knew would get their enjoyment finding new ways to plunder future Contractor earnings. He would also allow them to discharge his yes-men. They would have fun doing that, and if needed he could hire new yes-men later. And most important, those zany financial talking heads would adore his company and heap praise upon the genius that was Fred X.

Like all great rebellions, it’s not exactly known where or when its seeds were sewn. Employee unions and Fred X’s largest competitor spent time and money railing against the Independent Contractor model. We The People were not businesses they screamed, but simply mis-classified employees being used by the king. And as the word spread, more and more lawyers around the country arrived in courts to sue Fred X for his terrible mis-treatment of The People… and to put their own hands into the pockets of The People. Lawsuits were filed in far away courts on the left coast, still others combined multiple locations and jurisdictions into one bundle to be ruled on by learned judges of higher courts.

“We strongly disagree with the challenges to the Independent Contractor scheme”, Fred X and his lawyers repeated over and over again. But legal challenges  to the king’s business model mounted and the lawyers soon saw the hair on the wart that was the Independent Contractor lie. So the lawyers and the cut-throats met once more over lattes and came up with another business scheme. This one they called PIS, short for Provider of Independent Service.

This time even Fred X was initially taken aback by the level of deceit the lawyers and cut-throats had established. Their new business plot was both brilliant and devious and oozed with the legal sliminess only the most talented lawyers could invent. Single service area contractors, the backbone of the Independent Contractor model will be required to purchase additional areas of service or sell out to other providers. If they are unable to do so…we will thank them for their years of service and financial investment, take back their service area and assign it to a different provider. And all of this legal jibber-jabber will allow us to announce that we are no longer working with Individual Contractors and that we only work with businesses that use employees. The owners of these new employing-using businnesses will be allowed to negotiate with Fred X the value of their services. And, here is the best part, these new businesses will sign away their right to sue Fred X in the future as part of the PIS scam. Past lawsuits with The People could now be settled for pennies on the dollar. Fred X nearly passed out as he sat upon his golden chair, thankfull there were no mirrors upon which to look himself in the face or singing crickets offering conscious-guiding advice.

But this my friends may not be the end of this tale, this assault on We The People. For many of these businesses Fred X works with are the same Independant Contractors he abused before, just re-branded to fit into the king’s new PIS model. How long will it be until they experience the same level of displeasure with Fred X’s new model? How long will it be before they learn the art of contract negotiation with Fred X, which is to say, no matter how much you value your business contribution to Fred X, it will be the king and his court of jesters who will determine your worth to the king. How long will it be until dissension among The People sets in as they learn through the grapevine the value of one business vs. another?

And now, in a Podunk little town in the southeast corner of the newly re-named territory of Wentzylvania, new voices cried out to just themselves. Older voices, long-time servants of  Fred X, disturbed by the amount the bundled lawsuits were settled for. If We The People were indeed employees of Fred X, then these settlements come nowhere close to our investments into the King’s business. The attorneys in the action of We The People vs. Frederick X had settled, and We The People had been weighed on the scales of justice…and have been found wanting. Congratulations King Fred, the riches of the kingdom remain yours…but don’t spend them all in one place. This isn’t over until We The People say it’s over!

 

Sports…in My Americana

Part 4 in my series of remembering the things that help to define my Americana.

Sports has always been a big part of everyday life in my America. Baseball is known as America’s National Pastime and for many kids was probably the first professional sporting event they attended with their fathers. I can still remember a couple of chartered bus trips my father took me on with the gang from Skippers Seafood Restaurant and Sports Bar. These were always meant to be father-son outings, not meant for the whole family. Unlike tickets to the other 3 major sports, baseball tickets were always affordable, and in the case of the hometown Fightin’ Phillies of my youth, always available.

As I was growing up in South Jersey, time away from my family was dominated by playing sports. I lived in a large residential neighborhood that had enough kids to play full pick-up games in every sport. Back then, you could always tell which pro-team was doing well, because that’s what we’d be playing. When the Flyers were winning their two Stanley Cups, we built our own nets with 2 x 4’s and chicken wire and played street hockey every day. Sofa cushions made good goalie pads and those of us without shin guards were relieved when Mylec came out with the soft blue hockey ball, replacing the hard orange ball which stung and left bruises when you were hit with it. And being Flyers fans, no game would be complete without a fight. Usually by the same brothers, and more of a wrestling match than a fight with actual punches. Once in a while we would all join in, allowing the opportunity to payback a friend for an earlier slash or cross check. More than the score, this often signaled the end of the game

We also played football in the street, where parked cars made for great picks and an easy pass completion and the curbs were out of bounds. Like the other sports, using different balls could change the way the game was played. How much different was it playing the game with a  Nerf football where the quarterbacks could throw the ball higher, farther, faster, and with more control? Balls thrown in tight spirals instead of the wobbly wounded ducks thrown with regulation sized balls. Frisbee football was another favorite, although it was best played on a field, which usually changed the game to tackle football, instead of the two-hand touch played in the street.

Basketball backboards, rims, and sometimes nets, were attached to telephone poles…there were no expensive retractable Goaliath or Goalrilla set-ups like kids have today. The greatest change to the game we experienced was the red/white and blue ABA basketball. Since the games were always in the street or a dead-end (known to today’s middle-class as a cul-de-sac) they were always half court and sometimes played with rules based on who was there. Who wants to see a 6′ 2″ teen knicknamed Lurch take a 5′ 7″ middle schooler to the hoop. So rules were made to keep dominant players inside or outside the foul line. Rules which usually went out the window after the first infraction. Games of H.O.R.S.E challenged your shot-making, shot creativity, and spelling. The game of PUTBACKS could be played with any number of players. Player 1 would score points taking foul shots. The other player(s) would stand half-way between the shooter and the basket. When the shooter missed, the rebounder would have to jump, rebound the ball, and take a follow-up shot before he landed again.

Baseball and the even harder-to-play, half-ball,  were played using tennis balls and mom’s sawed off broom stick…and never take the broomstick/bat home for fear it would be used for a third, more painful activity. The most popular version of baseball however was whiffle ball, where a player who could make the ball curve, drop, or rise when he wanted became a neighborhood legend. Of course, having money to buy new whiffle balls, and a bike to get you back and forth to the 7-11  quickly also assured your place in a game. Other games used skills required in baseball, Run the Bases was played using 2 bases, 2 fielders and any number of runners, Pops and Grounders was played with one batter hitting balls to a group of fielders, all looking to catch imagethe same ball, with no drops, and after cleanly fielding a pre-determined number of balls, becoming the hitter. And the game requiring the least amount of  players and equipment was Wireball. All you needed was a tennis ball, 2 players, and telephone/electricity wires strung between two poles. One player, the batter, would stand underneath the wires and throw the ball straight up in the air, or as straight as possible, accumulating hits and runs when the fielder was unable to catch the ball. Hitting different wires had different outcomes, single,double, triple, or home run as long as the fielder was unable to catch the ball.

As a professional driver, my work takes me everyday into many of the neighborhoods in the town I live in. Occasionally I will see a couple of kids throwing a football or shooting a street hockey ball at a net, but I don’t see them playing the high energy pick-up games the way we used to play. Pick-up games help to build freindships and provide exercise and will always help to define my Americana. It’s a shame it just seems to be one more disappearing part of our Americana. 

Mr. Unremarkable vs. The Power of No!

Another historical fiction from South Jersey’s favorite 1970’s SuperHero In Training.

Anyone who has ever participated in Superhero (S.H.I.T.) training or simply struggled to find an answer to a personal question knows the power of this one simple word. The word No can be a bulldozer in training, it oozes with negativity and can often be the final opinion in the daily decision making process. It’s probably one of the reasons there are so few superheroes around. Just like me, you may have experienced this verbal phenomenon early in your own life...

Hey Dad, since I haven’t mastered Fire Manipulation yet, can I soak these cattails in gasoline (not to be confused with cat tails or cat’s tail), imageand don’t you think they would make great torches for running around the neighborhood?” Of course my Dad replied with the one and only correct answer in his mind, “Noooo!” This was followed by a fast trip into the garage to see what fresh hell I had dreamed up. I swear he had developed Teleportation skills. Now as somewhat of an adult I can see why he was concerned,  but as a S.H.I.T. I was disappointed his No put an end to my daring idea.

Like most regular kids in the neighborhood, I spent many weekend summer days winning the imageWorld Series. Unfortunately, unlike so many other kids who had one of those pitch back nets, my bottom of the 9th inning was played out using a tennis ball thrown against a broken mirror propped against the side of the house. It worked pretty good for me once I broke the glass in the mirror, on just the second pitch I’m proud to say. Mom and Dad…not as proud however. And after a wild pitch broke 2 shingles on the house, the power of No won out once again. As in No more balls against the side of the house. The garage then? “No!” It was here that it became painfully obvious, if I was going to pitch in the World Series it would only be by my superpower to change reality, known in the world of S.H.I.T.’s as Reality Warping.

As a youth playing baseball in rural South Jersey in the ’70’s the yes vs. no debate was also a mental altercation I had with my coach during my first year in Little League. While I knew that Yes, I could and wanted to pitch, he felt that No, I wasn’t a pitcher, his son was, and my best talents that first year were to keep the official score book. And I have to give him credit, no matter how much I used my power of Mind Control, he fought it all season.

Unfortunately for my coach, league rules said I had to play at least one inning in each game, meaning someone else had to keep the book. So around the 7th inning of each game I would get up off of my glove (I liked to sit on it so I didn’t lose it) and take my place in right field or wherever he chose to play me. And God love him, he over-managed us all the way to the league championship game. And in that game, all of the double switches and pitching changes he made finally caught up to him. I would have to hit. With a runner on first and one out, down by a run. The air was filled with drama, or the remnants of Billy Zawatawicz’s last flatulent masterpiece, I’m not sure drama ever smelled like that. Happy to be off the bench, away from Billy, I made the most of my at-bat and lined a 6-hopper through the infield into center field allowing the runner on first to go all the way to third.

As a bench player, you would think that would have been my biggest accomplishment and I would be satisfied. It was, but I was not. Anyone, and I mean anyone, who has ever coached at the Little League level knows what should have happened next. A double steal. Make the other team throw the ball. Worse case, I might be out at second, but the runner on third would score on the throw to second base and tie the game. It was that obvious. Except to the coach who treated every game like it was Game 7 of the World Series, but was now incapable of that type of second-level thinking. And after no sign from him on the first two pitches, it would be up to me and my Superhuman Speed. When the next pitch crossed home plate, I was off and running to glory. About half way there I looked back to see the catcher had made up his mind to attempt and throw me out at second. It was working, by God my plan was working!

Now, following up on part 2 of my plan, I took a look over to third base, and what I saw shocked me. Not only was my coach there, waving his hands over his head in a, “Who told you to do that?” kind of way, but the runner on third was still there, standing on the base, laughing at another round of commotion Billy had caused on our bench.  As I started my slide, several questions popped into my head, the most critical of which was “Why was I the only one running?”  But as my foot touched the bag, barely ahead of the tag, I felt only vindication for my decision to run. It was up to the home plate umpire, the game’s only umpire, had he actually seen the play, would he make the right call? The answer was No to both questions. And as I laid there in the dirt, I had an epiphany. “When trying to think like an adult, sometimes you remove logic and common sense.” I’m still not sure what that means, but as we stood in line to get our Second Place trophy, my coach questioned my decision to try and steal second base. Would he ever have the logic to see the strategy in what I tried to do? Would he ever question his own lack of vision that stranded a runner at third base? Would he suggest to Billy’s parents a common sense low flatulent diet for Billy? Maybe, but if I had to make a guess, it would be No, all three times.

 

I Really Hate It When…

Is there such a thing as a journalistic code of ethics in sports? If not, when and why did it disappear?

Does anyone share my irritation when the sports media uses “sources close to”… or “sources with knowledge of”… as their way to substantiate information used in a report or column? To be honest, if you won’t name the source, then you’re report simply amounts to here-say. 

…and if you’re a source willing to give information, go on the record.  If you won’t go on the record…again, how can you be considered a credible source?

I know, this is only sports, grown men playing kids games, not the Watergate Scandal and it’s confidential informant Deep Throat. That kind of journalism brought down a President and earned a Pulitzer Prize for The The Washington Post. Much of today’s sports commentary is just not that important. And if an important event occurs, whether an actual sporting event or something in an athlete’s personal life, be it legal or illegal, just about any caller can get on the air and present him or herself as an expert, someone with inside knowledge, someone with a phone, someone given the use of public airwaves to say just about whatever they want. Mostly unsubstantiated. Not vetted. Just like information we get from some members of the media.

Consider the 2014 release of the Eagles DeSean Jackson. The original NJ.com report quoted only “sources within the organization” regarding Jackson’s ties to 2 Los Angeles gang members. The story also quoted the “infamous” source within the organization saying the team was concerned about Jackson’s influence on younger players.

Meanwhile, Derrick Gunn from Comcast Sports Net broke this story wide-open with information from his well-founded sources:

“I talked to someone (?) this morning that basically said that when a player is one of your highest paid players in the Eagles’ organization, especially with the new culture and the new attitude, the new direction they’re trying to build now in Chip Kelly’s regime,” Gunn said, “they expect you to hold yourself to a certain standard both in the locker room and outside the locker room as well.” 

You could almost see Chip Kelly’s hand in D. Gunn’s back manipulating his mouth. 

“And there’s a lot of stuff (really, someone and stuff?) that probably hasn’t even come out about DeSean yet (and it never did) that we’re going to find out in the days, weeks, months and even a year from now that we’re going to learn about, but he was not the kind of player in the locker room that the Eagles wanted to have an influence on the younger players.” and…“I was told by a couple of sources that he did not have the best work ethic in the locker room.

So D. Gunn, gives us “someone?”,”a lot of stuff?” and “couple of sources?” See any Pulitzer Prize winning journalism there? I realize that DeSean Jackson getting cut is an old story, but this story says more about the not so ethical environment that exists in the world of sports talk radio, internet reporting, and even TV news and talk shows. And let’s not be naive, sports teams use these guys all the time to advance their own agenda. And the media knows it, sometimes they have to walk a thin line between what information the team wants released versus the opportunity for future stories.

Remember all of those book reports and term papers we did in school? If we wrote that something was a fact, we had to list the source of that information, be it encyclopedia, newspaper article or some other source. “A lot of stuff” wouldn’t have been accepted as fact, and “unnamed source” wouldn’t fly as a reference. When did members of the media decide that this fundamental rule no longer pertained to their reporting?

I know, I can hear the battle cry now, ” We have to protect our source. If sources can’t remain anonymous then we won’t be able to get the information needed for the article. After all dear reader (or listener), it’s all to keep you better informed.” I have a different theory. How about the lack of naming a source comes down to a couple of simple factors…

…the unwillingness of the reporter to keep digging for a credible source who will go on the record and the competition between news agencies to….get it first!

Honestly, I can’t see how it matters who got a story first with the way the the news is reported, especially in the case of sports, where stories are hashed and re-hashed by multiple hosts over and over again on multiple media outlets for days and weeks at a time.  After beating a story like a rented mule for a day or two, most fans don’t remember or care who got the story first. And if you listen to multiple stations as I do, often times you can recognize the same caller on those stations voicing the same ideal or opinion. Over and over and over…To be honest, it must be difficult for some sports talk hosts to show up for work everyday given the repetitive nature of their industry.

So in the true spirit of some of today’s media employees…

“Unnamed sources with first-hand knowledge of the decision, say the Sixers are considering trading this year’s first pick in the draft Ben Simmons, to the Cleveland Cavaliers for the Cavaliers 2017 and 2018 first round picks. Someone said he believes the Sixers need more assets if they are going to make a run at the 2022 playoffs. The source also said Sixers coach Brett Brown couldn’t be happier and is excited about starting the 2016 season with the same team that finished last year.”

There, see how easy that was? I didn’t even get off the couch or call anyone. And if it doesn’t happen, I’ll just blame it on my source, that I can’t name. You heard it here first!

Like many sports fans I listen to sports talk radio during the course of my workday. I understand that interviews are a part of the job, but isn’t it somewhat disingenuous for a host to call for the dismissal of a team’s general manager or openly criticize an athlete’s play (pick a player, any sport) then fail to bring up those criticisms when interviewing that front office person or athlete? Consider the end of Phillies G.M. Ruben Amaro’s tenure with the team. Talk show hosts openly called for his immediate dismissal daily, then complimented him on his “honesty and his availability to the fans”. A typical interview might consist of a question or two about what to do with Ryan Howard, the teams current home stand or road trip, and maybe a hot prospect in Reading or Lehigh Valley. In other words, largely vanilla and lacking any controversy, and filled with clichés like, “one game at a time”, ” I can’t say enough about him”, or “he always gives 110%.”

Some members of the media bill themselves as the voice of the fans…and I guess that’s true, however with that claim comes the requirements of objectivity, accuracy, fairness, and accountability. And adhering to those principles are where some members go off the rails.

Don’t be too hard on yourselves sports media, at least you’re not sensationalizing the weather like our local TV/radio stations or The Weather Channel.

More Origin Tales of Mr. Unremarkable 

More disappointment and underachieving from the one who wasn’t expected to deliver much else anyway.

As I mentioned in the first origin story of Mr. Unremarkable, also known to the super-poweredpowerless and most muggles as, Me, I already had mastered the power to Outswim, as demonstrated by my ability to make it to the egg first. And as I learned in my high school Math class, with two destinations to choose from, the subpower of Probability Manipulation gave me the ability to choose the correct tube the required egg had dropped into, creating the most unremarkable of superheroes. So I also had that going for me.

Yet, for reasons unexplained, it was felt that I needed swimming lessons during my adolescent summers. Were my parents not there during my creation, did they not know of my heroics, what were they thinking? Swimming lessons? And, since I didn’t know how to generate the power of  Superhuman Speed, I was forced to take the slowest, most pedestrian form of transport available to every kid in the summer swim  program, a school bus. And not a good school bus, this was one of the buses they didn’t use during the school year. This was a bus they rolled out when all of the good buses were taking the summer off. A bus with no suspension to speak of, a bus that appeared to be spraying for mosquitoes as it choked and sputtered along the road, a bus where the front appeard to be going to the right while the back appeard to be going to the left.

I won’t say that I didn’t enjoy those early morning swim lessons at Cedar Creek Lake…in the cold refreshing waters of their…well, cedar lake. What I will say is that I would have preferred to have my lessons in the comfort of the heated pool not far away from that cold lake. I really feel like I could have reached my true Aquability with such a simple change to my training venue. But instead, those who taught me, as usual, failed to identify and match my true potential with the proper training environment required for one with my certain set of skills. So, just like every other kid there, I would stretch out my beach towel and learn to overcome another one of the hindrances to becoming my true heroic-self, Sand in my Shorts. Not exactly a battle with a kraken, but truly uncomfortable in many ways.

For some reason, Mr. Forrester, who owned and operated the Creek (my little nickname for the place), along with his staff decided that myself and the super-powered powerlesses needed to learn four different swim strokes. Freestyle, which let’s face it, I already had that one, the Breast Stroke and the Butterfly stroke, and finally, the Backstroke. Master them all and I would achieve true Aquability, if not then I would be just another kid battling Sand in my Shorts. 

There was one unintended distraction that both Inspired and Motivated. It could Elevate young males to swim faster and father than ever before, or Reduce lesser-willed males to something like a cedar lake jellyfish. I’m sure by now you’ve guessed it-a female swim instructor. Complete with blonde hair, a black one-piece bikini bathing suit, and a whistle just in case the first two characteristics didn’t capture the attention and imagination of the older pre-teen boys. I however, still saddled with Balls That Haven’t Dropped, hardly took notice. I was there to achieve Aquability only, anything else would only Distract and Deter me from achieving that goal

These training sessions were hot and grueling early morning tests meant to discourage the super-powered powerless. Or Camp Fishes as I would refer to them. These Camp Fishes all had jobs to do. Some were there to challenge my Swimability, some were sent to simply kick Sand in my Shorts, you know, the kids with the suddenly big feet who felt it necessary to kick sand on you and your towel as they trudged by. These older, usually bigger than me kids, who hadn’t learned to even float yet, also helped me develop the power of Danger Sense, a sense that would serve me well with two older sisters and a little too much attitude for someone my age.

Using my sub-power to Skip the Details, the culmination of all of this training was the traditional Test of Strokes. The annual Ordeal where all of the little Camp Fishes and little S.H.I.T.(s) (this was the acronym the instructors used for those of us SuperHeroes In Training) swam the length of the Creek to the amusement of the instructors…and of course to see who could swim the farthest using the strokes taught us. This is where I would separate myself as a little S.H.I.T. from the simply ordinary Camp Fish. Of course, on my way to growing my legend as Mr. Unremarkable, I failed to achieve my desired result. I did not swim farther than everyone else. I did not swim faster than everyone else. As I sat in the lake, marking my spot for the length of my swim, I watched, as even some of the Camp Fish stroked right by me. Kicking their legs, leg kicks that propelled them further and faster, leg kicks I forgot to employ. And I wondered, why had my instructors failed me…again? And from who or what did this sudden small flow of warm water emanate from?

And in the end, when it was time for my certificate, “Old Man Forrester”, handed me my “has participated in” certificate and not the “has achieved True Aquability” certificate I needed to further my cred as a superhero. But then the Old Man did something that brought the whole Cedar Creek Lake experience into perspective. Along with a coupon for a Famous Cedar Creek Lake Teenie Weenie and a free drink from any water fountain on the property, cup not included, (not redeemable on date of issue) Old Man Forrester gave me a leaflet to give to my parents so they could sign me up for another round of swimming lessons.

Riding the bus home from Cedar Creek Lake, my sisters in the front of the bus going right, me in the back and going to the left, I stared at that leaflet, at that certificate that represented my newest disappointment, and it finally came to me. This whole thing was a simple money grab. Cedar Creek Lake would continue to give me a “participation” certificate until I was too old to take their training lessons. It would be years before I received a “has achieved True Aquability” certificate, if at all. How could I continue to swim in that cold lake water each morning? All so I could end up with a teenie weenie and a certificate?

…No, not me, not this little S.H.I.T.

My Best Friend And A Ball Game

Baseball, probably more than any other sport, is constantly promoting the next big give-away day at the ballpark. Teams also have “special events” such as a 4th of July Fireworks show to lure in more fans. As a Phillies fan, one of the biggest events the team has each year is celebrating the Phillie Phanatic’s birthday. Mascots from everywhere show up, some recognizable, some not. This year marked the Phanatic’s 38th birthday in human years, not really sure what that adds up to in Phanatic years, and of course his mom Phoebe was there to help celebrate the big day, along with the Zooper Stars (Ken Giraffey Jr., Shark Mcguire, and the umpire-eating Clammy Sosa).

Unfortunately the Phanatic and I don’t get along ever since he climbed into my car at a public appearance and knocked a box of popcorn out of my hand, (true story) making my then 2-year old daughter cry. Apparently it’s okay for him to unroll that tongue of his in your face, but don’t ever give him a playful slap to the back of his fuzzy green head. He doesn’t like that. Of course my daughter being just 2 got over it, but being somewhat of an adult, I just can’t let it go. 

This month’s Can of Corn Challenge is to write about your favorite give away day that you’ve attended. For the sake of transparency, I’ve never been to a baseball game where something was “given away”. I did almost get a foul ball once, however my friend was able to grab it from underneath of the woman’s seat next to him before I could get to it…

…the ball’s live until it’s in someone’s hands. Beneath someone’s seat doesn’t establish ownership.

That was our rule back then, but to be honest, I always thought he should have given the ball back to her so she could give it to her grandson. Especially since he was sitting right next to her. But, it was the Vet in the late 1970’s after all, a place where manners and common courtesy went to die many deaths.

My choice of games to attend would be one of the newer, more popular event days baseball teams have, an event that is on the schedule of over 20 Major League teams…Bark At The Park.

Dog days, or nights, have become so popular in 2016 that many teams are offering them multiple times during the season. In Arizona, the Diamondbacks have made dogs welcome every Sunday in 2016. The Texas Rangers even combined a bobble head give-away, (for you traditionalists), followed by a post game concert by Cody Johnson. I don’t know who that is since my music knowledge ends at 1990, but I’ll assume he’s a Country & Western singer?

In May this year, the Phillies held their Bark At the Park Day for 300 of our Best Friends and their families. Dogs were encouraged to wear their Phillies gear for the chance to win the Becst In Show contest, and participate in the on-field parade prior to the game. The opportunity to be on a Major League Baseball field was a dream I was encouraged to give up when I was 12. Who would think a 13 inch Beagle would give me the best chance to ever “live that dream” imagesome 40+ years later? Of course, just like my inability to hit a curve ball, his love of a good cheesesteak would make it a challenge to get him by the concession stands in Ashburn Alley and make it on the field for the parade. I know, I know…the Phils are too smart to allow dogs in Ashburn Alley, they prefer them to be on the field. (You can interpret that last statement however you want.)

Bark At the Park Night also helped to raise money and awareness for PAWS (the Philadelphia Animal Welfare Society) and ARF (Tony La Russa’s Animal Rescue Foundation). Representatives from PAWS had some adoptable pets on-hand and fans were encouraged to bring much-needed items like food and cleaning supplies.

Maybe someday Bailey and me will make it to a Bark in the Park game because I can’t think of a better way to spend a day with a loyal best friend. 

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PA House Bill 1947…

…and the protests of the Catholic Church.

I never planned to use this blog site as a forum for a discussion on social or political issues. However, events in Harrisburg last week and at the church I attend have given me a reason to reconsider that plan.

The issue at hand is PA Houuse Bill 1947 which amends current child sex crime laws in the state. The bill was overwhelmingly passed (180-15) by the House in April and discussions in the Senate were held last week, much to the dismay of the Catholic Church in Pennsylvania.

The Bill and my understanding of it:

House Bill 1947 would allow any survivor of child sexual abuse who has not yet reached age 50 to seek civil justice and file a lawsuit against perpetrators of sexual abuse and other responsible parties which permitted the abuse-i.e., a priest and a diocese or a teacher and a public school district. The current civil statute of limitations gives victims until only age 30 to bring a civil lawsuit.

House Bill 1947 would also eliminate the criminal statute of limitations for sexual abuse crimes going forward, and would eliminate state law immunity for public schools which act in a negligent manner in permitting the sexual abuse of children.

To sum it up: Both Public and Private sectors would be liable both civilly and criminally for all sexual abuse crimes until the victim reaches the age of 50 once the bill is signed into law. But, only private sector institutions, such as the Catholic Church could be held retroactively, possibly allowing many out-of-date suits to now be filed and opening the Church up to additional financial liability. In addition, the threshold for suing public institutions are lower than those in the private sector due to the law of sovereign immunity.

Recently many churches in our Archdiocese read a letter from Archbishop Charles Chaput voicing the church’s objections to the bill from a political and financial viewpoint.

Before I start to comment on this, I’ll give you my personal disclaimer: I am not Catholic. My wife is however, and we’ve raised our kids as Catholic. I attend church almost every Sunday, however I chose not to convert to Catholocism for personal reasons.

I will include some excerpts from the letter if you haven’t seen it along with my thoughts on its content and what I feel is its meaning. I found the content of the letter to be an insult to my intelligence and obviously, extremely self-serving:

“A bill is currently pending in our state senate, HB 1947, that poses serious dangers for all of our local parishes and for the ministries, charities and schools of our archdiocesan Church.”

  • Is Archbishop Chaput telling us that due to the possibility of increased financial liability from victims of clergy abuse that church programs may be cut and churches or schools closed? And why if money is donated through the church to fund a specific charity, would that money go anywhere other than to that charity?

“…and especially to oppose any retroactivity provision in the civil statute of limitation covering sexual abuse.”

  • Eliminating the retroactivity portion of the bill would eliminate any currently out of date civil liability. The church would clearly benefit financially from maintaining the current statute of limitations. The Archbishop doesn’t even mention the criminal portion of the bill which tells me the objections are clearly driven by money.

“All of us are rightly angered by the crime of sexual abuse. Over the past decade the Church has worked very hard to support survivors in their healing, to protect our children and to root this crime out of Church life.”

  • The church has absolutely worked harder to make children safer. Parishioners who take part in ministries such as the CCD Program and other ministries are now screened more responsibly and must be certified that they have not been charged or convicted of this heinous crime. As for Priests or Deacons, I don’t know what the process is, I only hope it is enough to weed out any child predators.

“The problem with HB 1947 is its prejudicial content. It covers both public and religious institutions — but in drastically different and unjust ways. The bill fails to support all survivors of abuse equally, and it’s a clear attack on the Church, her parishes and her people.”

  • Simple question. Would the church be satisfied if the bill inPublic and government institutions are covered by the laws of Sovereign Immunity. It’s not a new concept and the church knows that. They choose to ignore it however in any discussions of the bill. Today, the general rule is that public institutions such as our state and federal government have immunity from actions that arise while carrying out their official government duties. Otherwise, most claims aren’t precluded by sovereign immunity. If I understand this, would child molestation be included in carrying out official government duties? Would the Vatican enjoy the laws of Foreign Sovereign Immunity? It does, and don’t think they won’t use it. HB1947 is not an attack on Catholic parishioners. Predator priests and the criminal actions of hiding them by church hierarchy are however.

“This is not just an archdiocesan problem. In other states where similar legislation passed, local parishes have been sued, resulting in parish and school closures and charity work being crippled.”

  • Is that because the courts have already ruled on the constitutionality of recent changes in other states? They did and it is. And again, the Archbishop uses the threat of school and parish closures as a result of this bill passing and not the abusive acts or mismanagement of the church. He doesn’t get it.

“Please act now to contact your senator, and members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and urge them to oppose HB 1947 and any effort to impose civil statute retroactivity.”

  • Again, only mention of the civil portion, or the financial liability of the bill, not the criminal portion. As I said earlier, I think this is just totally and wholly a money issue. In the past insurance companies may have paid for part of any past settlements, but there is a growing sentiment that these actions are deliberate and heinous and should not be covered under a church insurance policy. For once, I agree with the insurance industry.

This bill is a Pennsylvania House Bill, however similar bills have already been passed in other states including California, Minnesota, and Delaware. 

In an article written by The Pennsylvania Catholic Conference, a Catholic advocacy group, and posted on their website:

“In Delaware, where a retroactive law was adopted, more than half of the individual parishes in the state were sued. One parish in Delaware was hit with a verdict of over $3 million. Very few could afford to go to court; none were able to defend themselves on their own. Financially, they had no choice but to join a group settlement without establishing the facts of individual cases. The Diocese of Wilmington had to close two struggling inner-city Catholic schools because diocesan funds were drained paying out settlements. The diocese had to lay off 10 percent of its workforce, and shut down or severely cut back on its Catholic Charities programs that help all people regardless of creed.”

Two immediate questions come to mind. Were the displaced students transported to a different parish school (on public school buses, which is what happened at our parish), and again, why would the Catholic Charities program be affected. Up to 65% of the money received by them comes from the federal government. Is PCC saying the money was used for paying lawsuits incurred by the church because of its predator priests? If so, the government needs to investigate its relationship with the church. In my opinion, that action borders on the criminal.

The sexual abuse of children in this country continues to be a hot button topic, unlikely to go away anytime soon. And it shouldn’t. The abusive actions and cover-ups at both Penn State University  and the Catholic Church should not be forgotten. No matter what your opinion of HB1947, take the time to understand the issues involved and the ramifications of any law changes that might take place in your state.

The opinions I have expressed are mine alone based on how I understand HB1947 and interpret the letter from Archbishop Chaput. Please feel free to comment, agree or disagree, on the contents of the bill and/or the letter.