Tuesday, September 25, 2007

The Sins of The Father

I never ask for help.

Whether it be to ask for directions, need help with a work project or dealing with personal crisis I am completely self sufficient. I will begrudgingly accept help if offered, but only if I'm in way over my head or to appease the person offering the help, to make them feel better. As a kid in my neighborhood during pickup tackle football games or sandlot baseball games I was always a captain in charge of picking one of the teams. I would purposely pick an inferior line-up because it always felt better to win (or keep the game close) with less talent than to dominate over a weaker opponent.

I grew up with an over inflated ego. This was not due to constant, undeserved praise or coddling, but because from a very young age I knew that the adults in my life were fucked up and could sense that I was more in control of my emotions and reactions than almost every adult that I knew. My parents were an absolute mess. They never possessed an ounce of emotional regulation. The smallest of issues became huge fights in which ensued tremendous physical and emotional abuse. They divorced when I was seven, but my father was no where to be seen the last couple years of their marriage. He was around enough to knock her up a few more times, but soon disappeared into the selfishness and self-absorption of the 70's.

I don't talk about my father to anyone. Some of the things I witnessed as a young child are best kept in far recesses of my hippocampus. I don't have any regrets about my relationship with my father. To say that I have regrets would be to say I could have done something differently to change the situation. What I have concerning my father is more pity possible bordering on empathy. He never had a chance to enjoy his first set of children (he had six children with my mother, remarried and had another three, there could be others out there according to family lore). He never got to experience the unconditional love that comes with being a parent (my sisters profess to have loved him as they developed a relationship with him as adults, I doubt it was unconditional). He died a guilt ridden, painful death (my sisters tell me that he was calling out for me and my brother Greg during his last minutes on earth, although we have the same name, so the selfish bastard could have been calling out for himself).

A long time ago, while I was in my teens, I knew that I would never get an explanation as to why my father abandoned his family. My father was a low level criminal who was as full of shit as the day is long. He was a compulsive liar. Even as a seven year old I knew that he wasn't just embellishing a story to make it more interesting, he was an outright liar. My mother wasn't blameless in the situation, she had a myriad of emotional and mental health issues on her plate. In hindsight it was a good thing that they didn't remain together.

Of the many sins my father committed there are only two which I can't forgive.

The first is that he left my mother to raise five children (my brother Derek died at two months) with zero financial or emotional support. She had a stroke at 34 years old which left her paralysed on her left side and caused numerous other health problems until she died at 52 years old.

If he had helped her out financially even a little, at Christmas.

If he had taken us for weekend visits, once a year.

If he had been available for us kids to call him, to vent and receive validation.

Then maybe her burden would have been lessened just enough to keep her petite, frail body strong enough to raise her children to adulthood and maintain her sanity.

The other sin I will never forgive my father for is the fact that by not maintaining contact with us he robbed me of a relationship with the side of the family for which I am named. I never got to know my Uncle Tommy, his son Jimmy or his wife Connie. I never got to know my Uncle Jimmy. I did meet my Grandpa Sullivan a number of times, but never did anything with him, just sit in his apartment on Washington Street in Roslindale watching him and my dad smoke cigarettes. My Aunt Lorreta and her kids, Joey and Joanie kept in contact with us even after the divorce, but my father and mother were running so much interference with the situation that the relationship soured. My father went as far as to lie about our location to his sister. She didn't realize that we were still in the state until she read about my Grandma Norton's passing in the Boston Globe (I read this in a condolence letter she sent to my mother that I found amongst my mother's possessions when she passed). My brother's and sister's could have used all of the support possible when my father left, but instead we were left only with the Sullivan name.

This weekend I saw my cousin Jimmy for the first time in 40 years (read Jimmy's story here). I made contact with him August one year ago after seeing names on the grave where my brother Derek is buried and doing some Internet research about the Sullivan side of the family. I found Jimmy's (aka Suldog) blog and started reading. As I read stories about his life and some concerning family members I had never met I became angry. Angry at my father for denying me the chance to know my family, good or bad. Angry at my mother for not maintaining relationships for the sake of the kids. Angry at the Sullivan's for not wondering or caring about their nieces and nephews and their well being, knowing their brother had committed one of the worst crimes a man can commit, abandoning his offspring.

Moments and people from the past loom over our psyche and get bigger by each passing year.

When I got out of my Jeep after a two hour drive down the Mass Pike to Boston on Saturday I spotted my cousin Jimmy standing in front of the movie theater at Cleveland Circle, our rally point. As I got closer to my elder cousin I realized he was much smaller than I imagined. I am 6 feet and 200+, so most people are smaller, but in my mind he was my older cousin and I expected him to be bigger. I had the same feeling when I saw my father for the first time in over a decade at my sister Chris's wedding. I was 24 and hadn't seen my father since I was 13. When he introduced me to his wife Marie I barely looked at her, but was sizing him up. I promised my sister I would not pound him and it took every ounce of self restraint to not ruin her day (my brothers took the same oath and to this day we still haven't received any props). He looked frail and much smaller than I remembered. He had a tentative, frightened look in his eye. I wondered if it was the same look that I had when he broke down our front door during a fight with my mother. Jimmy had the same tentative look in his eye, but there was no fear or guilt. It was more the look you would have on the first day of school or a new job.

We walked up Chestnut Hill toward Alumni Stadium and a Boston College football game. We talked about our families, our lives and the sins of my father. After 40 years it was good to know that I had a connection to my surname and that there was another Sullivan that I could relate to. The sins of my father are buried with him. May they rest in peace.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Jena 6

Today in Jena, LA there is expected to be a gathering of at least 50,000 to protest the arrest and imprisonment of 6 black students who beat up a white student this past December. Read the story here. CapCity wrote a piece in her blog recently concerning this case and asked her readers to support the "Jena 6" by wearing black to support the students. I posted a comment on her site that was more like a post:

"I'll wear some black that day and I will pass along the story which has gotten little to no coverage here in the Northeast. (I Googled Jena 6 and read about 10 articles on the case.)I can't say that I condone violence of any kind including the beating of the white boy, but I can't say with a clear conscience that I wouldn't have done the same (I've done worse for less, we beat up people who wore orange on Saint Patty's Day because Orange symbolizes the Orange Order which marches through Catholic Belfast neighborhood's each summer to commemorate William of Oranges slaughter of the Irish 400 years ago. This is the cause of many of the riots in Northern Ireland during the past 40 years) I might actually kill if I were Black and saw nooses hanging in my or my children's school yard. I grew up in Boston during the early 70's when there was forced busing and the desegregation of schools. I don't agree with desegregation per say, but what the fuck is it with all the white kids hang here and all the black kids hang here? A white tree? Black bleachers? WTF!!!! Its 2007 and this shit is still an issue!?!My mother in law lives in Mississippi and segregation is alive and well. Its fucked up, but its the way everyone likes it Black and White alike. We should take some of that 10 billion per month we are spending on the war and we should have an empathic curriculum developed in all public schools which focuses on the struggles of every group that has come to the US, then exercise some good old American propaganda and emphasise that we are all Americans and not a country of separate, but equal people. We all live here and breathe the same air and watch the same shitty TV and eat the same crappy food which causes us to access the same dreadful health care and should focus on togetherness and the future of the good ol' USA. I just erased three more paragraphs because I realized that this was becoming a post not a comment."

Tuesday, September 18, 2007 6:50:00 PM

This case was highlighted on the "Today" show this morning as well as the "Boston Globe" and my local paper.

We need to dissolve this separate, but equal society we live in. 99% of our existence as human beings has nothing to do with the color of our skin, the god or gods we pray to or the country we live in. The majority of our time here on earth is managing our interpersonal relationships in order to meet our own individual needs (Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs).

People need to focus on themselves as individuals and not as the member of a group.

This contradicts slightly my heat of the moment statement ("We all live here and breathe the same air and watch the same shitty TV and eat the same crappy food which causes us to access the same dreadful health care and should focus on togetherness and the future of the good ol' USA. ") , but when the majority of people who immigrated to America (of their own free will), it was as individuals, separated from family, friends and birth-country.

Individual thought and individual actions are as American as baseball, apple pie and Chevrolet.

That said, the rest of the world views us as a bunch of money grubbing, arrogant, loud, opinionated, violent thugs who have no morals or sense of their place in the world. Whatever skin color you have, this is the world view of us and as long as we continue to have inequities like those in Jena, violent acts like those in Jena and segregated tribalism like that practiced in Jena then we are a country of hypocrites.

I fucking hate hypocrites.

"A long habit of not thinking a thing wrong gives it a superficial appearance of being right."
Thomas Paine

Monday, September 17, 2007

BC/Georgia Tech Challenge

Plez, a proud Georgia Tech Alum whose blog I peruse and admire, and I had a small wager over the BC vs GT game on Saturday night. If BC won he would have to put the BC Eagle flying proudly on his blog for 1 week and conversely I would do the same with the G Tech Yellow Jacket on my blog. Plez had all the confidence in the world when he accepted my wager.

Matt Ryan and the eagle receivers ran buck wild over the "Ramblin Wreck's" D while Frank Spaziani's D completely shut down the Tech's highly touted running attack leaving them no option but to attempt to throw the ball with the "noodle" armed Taylor Bennet. The announcers for the game actually uttered the words "Heisman" and "Ryan" in the same sentence on a number of occasions. Check out the Eagle over at Plez World. Oh and by the way, send your condolences to Plez. He is done crying in his bright yellow "We are number one" foam finger. It is dried out and ready to be worn next week while watching the "Wreck" pick up the pieces at Virginia in the hopes of facing BC in the ACC Championship game.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

NFL 2007

Week one of the NFL season is in the books. I scribbled down my picks for this season while on the Cape two weeks ago, so week one had no influence on these picks. My MLB Picks are doing alright, better than most, but my NFL picks are a lock!

AFC East:

Pats, Pats and Pats. They will wrap up the division by Thanksgiving. The AFC East will not have another playoff team. I can see Buffalo, NYJ and Miami all finishing at 8-8. The Patriots will finish no worse than 13-3.

AFC South:

Indy, Indy and Indy. Indy will finish 11-5 and struggle defensively. Tennessee will be a surprise and sneak into a wild card spot. Jax and Houston will be non-factors, but the Texans may surprise as their young talent begins to gel pushing them toward .500.

AFC North:

This division will beat the crap out of each other with no clear cut favorite. I like Baltimore to win 11 and take the division, but can see Cincinnati challenging for the division crown. Pittsburgh will be mediocre and the Browns will be looking for a new coach after Week 4.

AFC West:

Denver will tame the west with a 11-5 record and will beat the Chargers twice which will give them the division. The Chargers will also be 11-5 and get the Wild Card.

NFC East:

Dallas will be the cream of the crop in the NFC East but will have a serious challenge from the rest of the teams in that division. Washington and the Giants will get the Wild Cards from the best division in football.

NFC South:

Carolina and New Orleans will be in a "Dog Fight" while Tampa Bay and the "Vickless" Falcons watch from the basement (he,he). New Orleans will eek out the division over the Panthers.

NFC North:

Bears, by default. The worst division in football.

NFC West:

Seattle will win the division handily, but the rest of the teams will be competitive. SF will make a run at the Wild Card and Arizona will be entertaining with their potent offense, but come up just short of a playoff spot.



The Pats and Indy will get byes.

Denver will beat the Titans in the first round. Baltimore will beat San Diego.

In the second round The Pats will pummel Baltimore while the Colts will be upset by a resurgent Denver team.

The Pats will beat Denver at home for a fourth Super Bowl birth in seven years.


Dallas and Seattle will get the byes.

In the first round the Bears will beat the Giants, while the Saints will beat the Redskins.

In the second round Dallas will beat the Bears while the Saints beat Seattle.

New Orleans will go to their first Super Bowl at the expense of a playoff cursed Romo.

Super Bowl XLII

The Patriots will raise their 4th Lombardi trophy in seven years in another close Super Bowl in which the defenses dominate. Brady to Moss will be the theme as the Patriots win 20 to 10.

Check back in week 9 for my self-assessment.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Ther Swamps Of Jersey

Yesterday I drove 400 miles round trip to tour the swamps of Jersey. The Meadowlands are an absolutely miserable place to attend a football game. They are in the middle of doing construction at the complex which includes Giants Stadium, Continental Airlines Arena (Nets) and a race track. This construction has limited the available parking, so if you aren't a Jets or Giants season ticket holder they park you 2-3 miles from the stadium and bus you in. The only plus to that was the "satellite" parking lots were a sea of Pats fans and the beer flowed freely. I haven't been to Giant Stadium in years and it appears old and outdated compared to the state of the art Gillette Stadium. It was 90 degrees and sunny which you would think was great except there is absolutely no breeze in that stadium because it completely enclosed. Sweltering.

Being typical New Yorkers, the Jets fans were loud and obnoxious to the point of being living caricatures (In pre-game warm-ups they played lots of Springsteen and Beastie Boys which added to the parody). Their boorish behavior peaked when their QB Chad Pennington sustained a knee injury and limped off the field. They cheered his injury hoping to see the back-up Clemons, who, from what they say, tore up the pre-season (big-woop!!) . Pennington was16 of 21 with 2 TD's and no picks. I am no expert but that seems like a good day to me.

It was a good day for the , I would estimate, 10,000 Pats fans in attendance. It may be the only chance many of them would have to see their team this year, being tickets at Gillette are scarce. I picked up my tickets Saturday AM on Ticketmaster (15 rows up in the East end zone!!). Lucky. Many I spoke to at the game planned this trip for months knowing they had no chance getting tickets in New England. The rest areas on Route 95 heading back to New England were packed with smiling, content Pats fans.

I was struck by two things on the field.

1) Adelius Thomas may be the biggest man I've ever seen not playing on the line. In this defense he is a guaranteed All-Pro.

2) Randy Moss is the real deal. He dwarfed the Jets D-backs making them look like JV'ers playing on Varsity.

The lasting image I'll have of the Swamps of Jersey won't be the Swamps, but the view from the Swamps.

The NYC skyline looks naked without the WTC.

It is the first time since 9/11/01 that I have seen the skyline from the Jersey-side view over the Hudson (I have seen it from the air and it is not so dramatic). Stuck in traffic with lots of time to stare over at Manhattan I was transported back to that infamous day six years ago.

As much as I despise New York and New Yorkers, I have to give it to 'em. They are a bunch of tough, resilient bastards.

Tune in tomorrow for my picks this season. (Sunday's games didn't change a thing!!)

Friday, September 07, 2007

The Snow Game

January 19, 2002.

The Snow Game.

The greatest football game in New England football history.

I was there.

The New England Patriots have played bigger games (as of the date of this writing they have played in 5 Super Bowls), they have played in closer games, had games with more controversy (1976 playoffs vs Raiders, sno-blower-gate) and they have played games in worse weather conditions. There has never been a single game in their history that could compare with this games combination of magnitude, atmosphere, suspense and exhilaration.

The Pats had a season that was typical of those since Bob Kraft had bought the team in the early 90's, competitive, hopeful, but missing some unknown key ingredient. The one difference between this team and the others in recent history was that they were peaking. They had earned a home playoff game and in every possible scenario it would be their only home playoff game thus making this game the last game played in the drab, dismal Schaefer... Sullivan...Foxboro Stadium. As horrible as it was a venue, it held a vault of beer soaked memories that could never be replaced by a state of the art stadium. Going to Foxboro Stadium was like going to a football game in the town of Bedrock circa 2500 BC. Touch football in the rock strewn, gravel parking lot. The smell of meat cooking on ridiculously huge grill fires. Drunken fights at 11:00 AM, two hours before kick off. Blood and beer.

The week leading up to the game my buddy Billy and I had been scouring the net for tickets to the game. Billy is a hard drinking , hard living guy who bought his father's roofing business back in the 90's and was my golf partner. He had bought season tickets back when Kraft bought the team, but had sold them recently to a vendor of his. We had gone to lots of games together, but were on a mission from God to go to this game. We wanted to experience one last game like cavemen, drunk, eating meat and watching fights. On Friday afternoon I found some tickets for $200 a piece and immediately called Billy, excitedly. He had already gotten us tickets from a vendor, for free.


Saturday we got on the road at 11 AM. packed with beer and a crock pot full of meatballs and sausage. The game was an 8PM start, but we had a plan. Drink. Check into our hotel we booked knowing it was going to be a late, drunken evening. Spend the afternoon in Providence drinking. Get on our cold weather gear and head to the game. Things pretty much held to plan.

During our ride down the Mass Pike the snow had already started falling as predicted, but was not yet sticking to the frozen pavement. It wisped back and forth across the road blown around by the speeding cars. We checked into our hotel in Attleboro on Route 1 about 5 miles from the stadium at 1PM. We plugged in the crock pot and hopped back in the car for the 15 minute ride to Providence and its warm, inviting stripper bars. The snow was still light as we made our way into "Club Fantasies". We opted for this joint on the recommendation of the front desk clerk at the hotel over the infamous "Foxy Lady". There is nothing like sitting in a warm, cozy stripper bar with 50+ naked women prancing about while drinking beer and shots of Jaegarmeister as the snow piles up outside. Its like Apres Ski without the Apres or the ski. Billy and I sat at the bar for the most part occasionally heading into "The Pit" (a squared off section next to the main stage) for a $5 sample table dance(an R-rated version of the $25, X-rated, private table dances done upstairs. We had lost time while in the joint and when we walked out sometime after 5 PM it was into "white out" conditions.

It took us 45 minutes to make the 15 minute ride back to the hotel. We put on our "long johns" and waterproof gear, gathered up the meatballs and french bread and headed toward the stadium. My Bonneville handled surprisingly well in the snow and the trip to the stadium went smoothly. We stopped at a liquor store 2 miles from the stadium and Bill went in. He came out with 12 nips of Grand Mariner. We pulled in to the stadium parking lot and there were no discernible parking spaces. The snow was at least 8 inches deep. I had plugged the crock pot into my a/c converter which plugged into my lighter on the way to the stadium from the hotel, so we expected some steamy, hot meatballs to go with our beer. No go. The converter not only shorted the lighter, thus making our meatballs cold, it shorted out half the electrical system including the defroster, heater and inside lights. We sat in the car eating luke warm meatball grinders washed down with ice cold beer. 45 minutes before game time we filled our pockets with beer and nips of Grand Mariner and headed for the gates of the stadium. At the gates there were ticket takers and droves of security. I thought for sure we would have all of our booze confiscated. I handed the ticket taker my ticket and got a token pat down by a disinterested security person. I know he must have felt one of the five beers I carried in in my jacket pocket or one of the six nips I tucked in my socks. I turned to Billy as we headed to our seats in Section 216 and said "I guess Kraft is trying to save money on demo and is hoping someone brings in a bomb". "I'll drink to that" he said as he hoisted a Grand Mariner in a mock toast.

The scene at our seats were something that could not be duplicated by the best of Hollywood's special effects artists. Snow was falling sideways under the dim lights. The grounds crew was walking back and forth over their respective yard line snow blowing the line so you could see the yardage. Players were warming up mainly by running in place or doing jumping jacks as to not get injured before the game even started. A fog was enveloping the stadium caused by the breath of 60,000 strong anticipating the kickoff.

The game developed slowly. The only scoring in the first half was a Raiders touchdown, Gannon to Jett. In the third quarter the Russian born Sebastian Janikowski and the South Dakota born Vinateiri, both seemingly oblivious to the weather, accounted for dueling field goals with Janikowski winning 2 to 1. With the Pats down 13-3 the crowd got restless. Our half of the stadium, on the Pats sideline, spontaneously started chanting "We want Drew" in response to Brady's inefficiency. Drew was warming up on the sideline and seemed to zip the ball a bit stronger as the pleas for his entry became louder.

Then there was the forth quarter.

Brady appeased the masses by driving the ball down field early in the quarter and ran one in cutting the Raiders lead to 3. Miss cues on both sides ensued. With under two minutes to go Brady dropped back to pass and was being tackled when the ball popped loose. The crowed groaned collectively as a Raider pounced on the ball. I started yelling hoarsely, drunkenly "His arm was going forward, they are going to reverse it." I repeated it a number of times while people stood in dead silence or headed sullenly for the exits. Some guy a few rows in front turned around and told me to shut up. Just as I was about to dive over a couple of rows to fulfil the trifecta of booze, meat and blood the ref said the play was being reviewed. I suddenly went from drunk "belligerent" guy to drunk "knows what hes talking about" guy. The call was reversed and everyone was hugging, high 5-ing and kissing like it was New Years Eve. The guy that told me to shut up even gave me a high 5 which I reciprocated as hard as I could.

Brady took advantage of the second chance, but couldn't get us within "chip shot" range which on a night like that would've been inside the ten, if that. He got us to the 30 with just under 30 seconds to go. The snow seemed to pick up in intensity when Vinitieri was lining up the field goal attempt. As the ball lifted off the ground into the falling snow I immediately sunk my head. The trajectory of the kick was way too low to travel 47 yards and I didn't want to see it miss. As I stared at the pile of beer cans and bottles of Grand Mariner, covered with snow, piled at my feet the roaring erupted. The kick carried just enough over the cross bar to tie the game at 13 - 13. Every hair on my body was standing on end. People were falling over their seats. For two straight minutes everyone in the stadium was bouncing in unison, screaming and laughing.

This never happens to us, we never get the breaks.

The ghosts of Ben Dreith, Buckner, Piersall, "The Fridge", Desmond Howard and Bucky Dent who had been lingering over the moment retreated hastily from the joy and ectasy rarley experienced on a January night in New England.

Over time was anti-climactic. We won the coin toss, drove the field and AV made a chip shot right in front of us to win the game. As Lonnie Paxton was making snow angels below the stands were a sea of euphoria. People were screaming, jumping, cackling, hooting, hollering and even crying. I stood there like a lifeless spector not making a noise, but soaking in the sights and sounds of the moment until Billy bear hugged me bringing me back from my daze. No one left their seats for an hour. Every fan stayed there listening to the post game interviews being broadcast over the loudspeakers, drinking smuggled booze and telling tales of this game and games prior. It was like an Irish wake, drunken and raucous, but touching.

We made it back to the Bonneville about 2:30 AM, but didn't get out onto Route 1 until after 3AM. We passed out at our hotel immediately. I woke up at 7 AM to take a piss. As I stood over the bowl, still drunk, I noticed that my right hand was killing me. I inspected it figuring I must have slept on it the wrong way, but the palm was black and blue. I sat on the end of my bed flummoxed, then it hit me. As I walked out of the stadium I high fived at least 1000 people on my journey out of the stadium.

We got on the road by 10 AM. At home I alternated between worlds on my couch while watching the Steelers and Rams win. Every time I closed my eyes I could see the breath rising and the snow falling. It was a mid-winter nights dream.