Thursday, August 28, 2008

motorcycle mania

There is a constant background rumbling in the air, the unmistakable sound of motorcycles revving and idling and roaring away at the green light. This weekend is the 105th anniversary of Harley Davidson and the world around this part of Wisconsin is saturated with the sounds of thousands of motorcycles giving voice to the celebration.

Just 4 blocks from where I am sitting there is a major Harley dealership. That dealership is one of many focal points in the surrounding county that is playing host to bikers from around the country, even from around the world. In my neighborhood, five blocks of a major thoroughfare have been blocked off so that the vendors of Harley paraphernalia and the purveyors of food and drink can set up their tents and trucks to feed those frenzied visitors. This scene is repeated many times around our metro area. And there is a grand stage prepared in our lakefront park that will host the Boss himself, Bruce Springsteen, for a Saturday concert to keep the festivities rocking.

The signature sound of a Harley Davidson motorcycle idling at a stoplight, the potatopotatopotato gurgle, is as much a fixture of this celebration as the shining chrome pipes and custom paint jobs. The riders themselves adhere to a dress code that is also a signature of sorts-- tee shirts emblazoned with all manner of Harley logos and sentiments from the demonic to the frivolous, blue jeans with black leather chaps, bandanas tying back long flowing hair or protecting shiny shaved heads, and tattoos worn like armor on every exposed inch of flesh. Something made of black leather must be worn at all times lest they feel naked and exposed as the poseurs they are.

Despite all the racket they produce, there is something endearing about a Harley. Maybe it is the pride we take in something uniquely American made that has stood the test of time. The belligerent throaty rumble and raucous roaring dopplered sound of a racing Harley speeding past embodies the power we like to accrue to our country. The macho rumbling underscores our notion of power at the top of a world of uncertainty. Not for us the effete murmurs that foreign bikes produce. The Harley full-throated majesty says we are bigger, faster, louder, cooler than you. If all Americans rode Harleys there would be no doubt of our global supremacy.

But Harleys are not just noise makers. They are machines that are all function in a package that is incredibly beautiful, At times both sleek and massive, they forge an interplay of various pipes and gears and gizmos that taken together make a machine that is both workhorse and sculpture. The various models may differ in size and complexity, but they all adhere to the design principles that make them so attractive. There is never a doubt that the motorcycle that just passed you is a Harley.

The pride in ownership is always apparent whenever you see one these machines. Grease and grime are outlawed at all times. Chrome is always glistening. The paint is never nicked or scratched. The seats are not cracked or worn. Harley owners treat their bikes like a treasured member of the family. No matter what their personal or family circumstances might be, Harley owners will never let that bike deteriorate into something that is less than iconic of the American way.

So happy 105th anniversary Harley Davidson. You make us proud.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

let's move on

Time for me to weigh in on the Brett Favre fiasco in Green Bay. I’ve watched and listened to the ongoing saga just as everyone else has, but have yet to hear anyone say anything resembling an intelligent statement about the whole thing.

First of all, Favre retired in good faith, deciding that his career was over and he was ready to move on. Fine. We, the fans who cheered and occasionally jeered him, accepted his decision and were ready to move on. But in the back of our collective minds was the possibility that he would change his mind. After all, every year for the past few years there was the season end speculation about would he retire or wouldn’t he? Is he coming back or not. Favre would keep us all waiting while he rode his lawntractor back home in Mississippi, waiting for the moment when he felt ready to tell us all whether he would play again or not. We would wait anxiously, hoping that his special brand of football would be part of our Fall land Winter once again. He had a way of holding us in suspension, toying with us and the Packer organization and seeming to relish the power he held over us.

So finally last March he made the decision we had all anticipated with both dread and relief. When Favre announced his retirement in a tearful press conference, all Green Bay Packer fans cheered him, thanked him, and wished him well. We were all grateful for having the chance to share in all the excitement he provided over the seventeen years of his tenure in a Packer uniform. We were ready to move on to the post-Favre Green Bay Packers. A lot of emotion was invested in those days following his retirement announcement. A lot of love was spent on him. But in the back of everyone’s mind was the possibility that maybe, just maybe, he was fucking with us one more time.

Now July rolls around. Football training season starts. And guess who feels the pull of football once again? Our poster boy for indecision is at it again. “Maybe I was too hasty after all. I really want to play again. I’m not quite ready to retire after all.” The shock for him was that the Packers and many of their fans were ready for him to retire, and when he wasn’t welcomed back with the fervor he anticipated and expected, his ego was hurt and he started acting like a petulant child who wanted his way or else. He started moaning and whining about how the general manager of the Packers, Ted Thompson, wasn’t jumping for joy at the prospect of having him return. The head coach, Mike McCarthy, was equally unenthusiastic about the Favre circus returning to Green Bay. Then there was the speculation of his being in touch with several other teams about possibly playing for them instead of the Packers. Not only was that a blatant act of extortion, but it was against league player tampering rules as well. When the commissioner of the NFL dragged his feet reinstating Favre to his Packer contract, that only added to the drama, or farce if you will.

Then we get the press conference with the coach who says he spent most of a day talking with Favre about his state of mind and whether he was ready to invest the kind of effort needed to play football at the high level required of an NFL quarterback. That that was even a question that needed to be asked is ridiculous. If Favre truly wanted to play again there would be no doubt about his mental condition. That Favre himself expressed doubts about his commitment to making the effort and sacrifice necessary to play as a starting quarterback says volumes about his motivation.

It looks more and more like Brett Favre needs a lot of ego stroking in order to live with himself. He says his feelings were hurt by the way his return was handled by the Packer administration. Gimme a break. There are no hurt feelings in football. Be a man, not a wuss. He bemoans the fact that he was not welcomed back as the god he pictures himself to be. He assumed that the job was his if he just showed up after changing his mind about retirement. Apparently it never occurred to him that the world keeps spinning and we all move on to the next phase and that rescinding a decision doesn’t make it all the same as it once was.

Now we are faced with the very real possibility that Favre will play football once again, but in the uniform of a team other than the Green Bay Packers. If Favre was really as attached emotionally to the team and its fans who worship him, how could he even contemplate playing for another team. How could he even fathom the possibility of wearing the uniform of the reviled, hated Vikings, the arch enemy of all Green Bay Packer fans? Favre’s legacy is tarnished already by all this nonsense. If he took the field with another team against the Packers, his legacy as a Packer would be destroyed beyond salvation.

While it is true that this whole situation could have been handled better by both the Packers and Favre, there is no reason to drag it out any longer. Brett, stay retired. Go home and cut your grass and play some golf to satisfy your competitive needs. The Packer organization should hold the number retirement ceremony they planed for the first league game this season and heap all the praise and adulation you that you so richly deserve and obviously need. It’s time to move on. Let’s’ try to pretend that all this nonsense never happened.