Thursday, November 12, 2009

He Got Game...Gamer vs. Player

I was one of the greatest drivers ever on the car racing video game Super Grande Prix in Eastland Mall's video arcade. Period. End of story. The initials "T.E.F" popped up all over the top scorer's screen. You could insert more coins if you wanted to try again to beat my score, or you could just go to the big fountain in the middle of the mall and throw your hard earned quarters in the sparkling water and have about the same chance. Funny thing was, when I got to the driving portion of Driver's Ed., I quickly found that driving a Chevy Cavalier is nothing like whipping through Turn 6 on Super Grande Prix.

Some abilities in one area of life relate easily to another. A person who is a good rollerblader may also be decent at ice-skating. But a Super Grande Prix master is not automatically a great parallel parker. Too many variables don't translate. In this age of technology, with a new gaming system being either introduced or improved upon every couple of months, a new phenomenon is growing and it must be examined. I call it The Age of The Gamer vs. The Player.

Throughout my athletic career (high school, college and now overseas) one of the favorite pastimes of my teammates has always been video games. Especially sports games, namely the Madden series of NFL football and NBA Live. . I am all for some first-person shooter games, but I don't like playing sports video games. Why? Well, I the worst of sore losers. I just can't take how much losing is involved trying to remember which A,B,X or O button makes video Vince Carter shoot the ball and not run out of bounds dribbling and then stand there, flailing his arms. I remember when NBA Jam came out; simple two-on-two format, A was shoot, B was pass, "He's Heating UP!", "He's ON FIRE!" ,that fireball that meant you could dunk from half court. Now that was fun. Nowadays, I just don't find it enjoyable in the least to get my tail whooped in NBA Live '08 by some twerp who couldn't carry my jockstrap in a suitcase on a real basketball court. And there is the rub. The Gamer vs. The Player.

This whole notion of being a sports expert because of how nasty you are on some sports video game is becoming more and more prevalent. You see it on sports message boards and hear it on radio talk shows. Every sports bar has that guy with the New York Knicks jersey that barely fits over his beer belly, hot wings sauce smeared on his face, screaming at the television about how he could coach better than the Knicks' actual head coach. This chap may have been a rec-league all-star 80 pounds ago, but the only basketball he is playing these days is with a joystick in his chubby-fingered hands. Just because your created player on NBA Live averages 54 points and 32 rebounds a game because you make him 7'3" with the skills and athleticism of Kobe does not make you the leading expert on the NBA in REAL LIFE. Doesn't work that way Sport. Sorry. And wipe your face for Pete's sake. You can't be a coach if you don't know how to opperate basic machinery, like a napkin.

But there is a more serious element of this Game System Master vs. Man Having Actual Game epidemic. My friend, The All-Wise Zan, brought it to my attention and bid me write about it with all haste. Ladies, tell me if I am way off but I would venture that all, or should I say most, women can at least appreciate a man with some skills on the dance floor. Those of you who have seen the movie Hitch starring Will Smith know what I am talking about. However, there is a video game out there that is lying to men, giving them a false sense of confidence, and then turning them loose in nightclubs to make things just plain awkward for you ladies during girls' night out. It's called Dance Dance Revolution.

The Dance Dance Revolution game is arguably the greatest example of a video game where the skills that it takes to be great at the game DO NOT translate into real life whatsoever. Unless of course you are the keynote speaker at the Napoleon Dynamite National Convention and you need an ice breaker to get the crowd loosened up and ready for your dissertation on tetherball and delicious bass. The game involves "dancing" or using your feet to touch arrows that light up to the beat of the song being played by the game. This game takes fast (or spastic) feet and a large amount of deodorant to master. The game offers several degree-of-difficulty settings ranging from "Beginner" to "Challenge" and ending at the pinnacle of the Dance Dance Revolution Food chain, "Super Maniac". Now I don't mean to say that just because I don't play Dance Dance Revolution I am some kind of Rico Suave. You won't find any of my dance moves in your favorite MTV or BET video, but you also won't catch Chris Brown rehearsing for the Video Music Awards with Dance Dance Revolution. Lebron James doesn't get off the couch after 36 consecutive hours of playing NBA Live and declare himself prepared for the season. And beating the game of Dance Dance Revolution on its most difficult setting does not make you, yes YOU Mr. Accountant, sweating profusely at the bar of Dave & Buster's after posting yet another perfect score, qualified to keep anyone from "putting Baby in a corner".

So ladies when that way-too-sweaty little fella who is a full foot shorter than you suddenly appears in front of you at your favorite nightclub, gyrating wildly and moving his feet with the speed of an NFL free safety in footwork drills, do not be alarmed. This man is a professional; in fact he has mastered the "Maniac" level of Dance Dance Revolution and has been nationally recognized for his achievement. He is not dancing like this because he wants to irritate you or to make you give your girlfriends the "come save me!" look or to make the rains come and water his crops. He is merely of the conviction that he has a prime opportunity to put his Dance Dance Revolution Academy training into practice. Be kind. Be gentle. It is only a case of the Gamer vs. the Player.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

A Salute to Those Who Serve

Today is November 11th, the day that America has chosen to remember the men and women who serve and have served the United States in the Armed forces. I am not in the United States at present; in fact, I am living in another country where today is just another day in the neighborhood. It is precisely for this reason that, being in my present circumstance, I appreciate all the more the sacrifices of those who lay down their own lives for the sake of their country.

As I live in Italy, playing basketball and living a little boy's dream, I have been able to catch small glimpses of how the rest of the world sees the United States. Some of the notions that my teammates and people I have met have of the United States are humorous; everyone is not rich, we do not eat McDonalds for every meal, and all the women do not look like Pamela Anderson. Which is just as laughable as me as thinking that Italians eat nothing but pasta, drink only the finest of wines, and have at least one family member with major Mafia connections.
But across the board, for all her problems, America is still viewed as a land of great hope and opportunity. Say what you will about the economic crisis, the political climate or what have you; try finding someone who would not want to live in the United States.

Granted, America is having her problems as of late. But the thing that strikes me as I look at my passport, with artwork on the inside front cover depicting Francis Scott Key watching the bombardment of Fort McHenry, is that men and women have gone to war regardless of the state in which America finds herself. When Fort McHenry was being pounded mercilessly by the British Navy, America as a land of opportunity was not yet reality. It was hope. For the men and women serving in Afghanistan, they still serve regardless of the opinion of those at home who bash the war. These men and women still fight and die just so that we as Americans can say, without fear of prosecution or worse, how much we do not like what they are doing. Because of their service, I have my passport that allows me to come live my dream. Even though I am not living within the United States' borders, I still enjoy the opportunities of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

So here's to you, American men and women serving at home and abroad in the Armed Forces. Here is my personal thanks for your service which allows this American to enjoy so much. It is because of your bravery that so many look to the United States as a place where there is fertile ground for the seed of hopes and dreams. Thank you.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Stereo Love

Love and you
Both move through
The speakers of my stereo
You and the melody make it hard for me
To shake your grasp from my soul.

When I dont want to let you go
I reach for the dial of my radio
Tune into something someone else wrote
About the story of my soul

It is not the beat
But you who moves
In the song, you are the rythmn
I would change the song
Turn off the music of my memories
If only I could find a place to put them

I can keep you far from my heart
But you find your way back in
Through a path we both have known
I could stop loving you perhaps
Keep my soul closed
But you know the way to my heart
Is through my headphones.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

"You've Got The Right One Baby"

It was per chance
Love born at first glance
Or perhaps it was
The form of your curvacious shape
That made the soil of my mouth
As parched as the Sahara sands.

Dressed in red and draped
In trimmings white and flowing
How I love to dine
With you at the table beside me
And admire your wonders
Reveling in the heat of desire
By soft candlelight glowing

Oh to high heaven I pray
Do not dash this fragile hope
That I will always have thy
Sensual delight to call mine own
You contain the very nectar of life
Oh you sumptuous bottle of Coke