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Grid Irony
I had thought I would drift away from football and reserve my precious fan time for more worthy sports. I felt good about this decision. It made me feel morally superior to all the yahoos who thirst for the inhumanity and raw violence found in this uniquely American sport.

Sadly, this high-minded posture is no longer available to me. After some years of quasi-abstinence from football, I have fallen back into old habits. It is playoff season in football, and I have succumbed to temptation. This weekend I found myself watching games that involved the likes of the Buffalo Bills, the Houston Texans, and the Tennessee Titans. I have no feelings, positive or negative, for any of those teams (although the Titans’ logo may be the ugliest in all of sport). And yet, I watched those games as if they actually meant something to me. Why?

I could say that my renewed interest is a product of the surprising success this year of the San Francisco 49ers, who are my natural and life-long home squad. But how can I blame the team for my own failings? That would violate my core rooting principles.

Now that I have returned to the world of watching football, however, things have changed a little. For one thing, watching myself watch football has now been added to the experience (and, with this essay, watching myself watching myself watch football). As I hover over myself on the couch, I see that I’m getting the most enjoyment from individual feats of athletic brilliance: stunningly accurate throws, acrobatic catches, and dazzling runs. In other words, all those elements of strength and skill and focus that make sports such a riveting form of entertainment…along with the fact that it is real, and not made up.

I also witness myself reacting to the moments of life-threatening brutality. I cringe, and most of the time, I turn away. I’m not sure, though, whether turning away is a good thing or a bad thing. It shows that am repelled by the violence, but it also shows that I’m willing to overlook it. It’s like going to the arena and averting your gaze just before the lions devour the Christians. To the person who is watching me watching me watch, that seems a bit hypocritical.

At least for now, it appears that I am able to live with that. Go Niners!
No Time for Thinking
Okay, the holidays are behind us now. As warm memories of family recede and the trappings of celebrations are put away until next year, this time in our lives would normally give way to sober reflection.

Normally, that is. This January, we just don’t have time for that stuff. We are on the cusp of what promises to be the most consequential year in our nation’s history. If you like politics, you are in for the thrill ride of a lifetime. If you don’t, you are about to enter Hell. Either way, our options for deep contemplation will be sorely limited. So hang on, citizen.

Most of the pieces are in place already, of course, and moving swiftly. The Articles of impeachment will be sent to the Senate next week. The Democratic field is pretty much set. Global warming is an indisputable fact…except to those with the power to do something about it. Putin has us by the ballot box. The rich are still getting richer and the poor are still getting poorer. And everyone is at least a little spooked.

So right out of the gate, we’ll be going full tilt in 2020. First up: the possible conviction of a U.S. President for high crimes and misdemeanors and his removal from office. It’s hard to imagine higher political stakes than that. And just to crank up the drama even higher, several contenders for the Democratic nomination will not only be taking on a high profile in that trial, but will be called upon to vote on the question. In addition to front runners Warren, Sanders, and Klobuchar, we’ll have Cory Booker and Michael Bennet, all doing one of the jobs they get paid to do —on national TV in prime time. Dropouts Kamala Harris and Kirsten Gillibrand will also be in the mix, no doubt itching to make a mark.

Assuming the Republicans stay true to form, however, the trial and verdict will go through the chamber at warp speed. While the outcome is all but assured, however, we’d be foolish to rule out the possibility that Something Entirely Unforeseen will take place. Such events, after all, are a common occurrence in our daily lives. The only question is whether or not they will affect the imagined outcome.

Even if nothing gets settled in the Senate, February will come anyway, and with it a flurry of votes by actual citizens. The Iowa caucuses arrive Feb. 3, followed by the New Hampshire primary Feb. 11, the Nevada caucuses Feb. 22, and the South Carolina primary Feb. 29.

Not hectic enough for you? If we don’t have a clear favorite by the end of February, we just might get one on March 3. That’s Super Tuesday, when 14 states, American Samoa, and Americans abroad all go to the polls on the Democratic side. That adds up to 1358 pledged delegates chosen on one day. If, after that, we still haven’t got anyone near the 960 needed to win on the first ballot at the convention — which could easily happen since nearly all those states allocate delegates proportionally — then things could really get hairy.

You can count me, by the way, as a vote for hairiness. I like the idea of the system flexing all its muscles here at this turning point in history. If it does get hairy, I can see 4 or 5 candidates still in the running by the time the convention rolls around on July 13. If we get to a third or fourth ballot and still don’t have a nominee, then anything could happen.

And the year would barely be half over! By that time, the number of unforeseen events will really be piling up, including those generated by Drump himself. There has even been talk of more Articles of Impeachment rolling off the House’s production line. And why not? The various court cases that have been grinding quietly along will surely free up more evidence of wrongdoing, and those revelations will have to be addressed, election or not.

Beyond that wild prospect, there will surely be some October surprises cooked up by contestants from both parties, and we can count on Putin turning up in a few headlines before November 3rd. Come November 4th, we’ll either be contending with a colossally sore loser who refuses to vacate the White House or a sore winner who has been taking names.

Either way, we won’t have time to pause and reflect. For that, let's set the timer for January, 2021. 2020 will have given us plenty to think about.
Peace on Earth, Within Reason
“Peace on Earth.”

It’s hard to argue with that idea. Peace on Earth. If we really wanted to get there, it would mean absolutely no killing. And no mean stuff…of any kind. Everyone would have to be on their best behavior — everywhere, all the time, forever. Peace on Earth.

I don’t want to be negative, but that is kind of a high bar. Maybe, if it’s just on Christmas Day, I suppose we might allow ourselves to hope for peace on Earth, good will to men. But let’s face it — the rest of the year it’s all we can do to tolerate our friends and families, much less the rest of humanity. So, for the 26th and all other days, I am proposing a less daunting aspiration:

“Try to be nice if at all possible.”
And Clean the Bowl
What I can't help
Thinkin' is how
The party of
Lincoln is now

Would Honest Abe
Vote to impeach
Or see it more
As overreach?

I'd like to think
He'd look at Trump
And vote to flush
That steamin' lump
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Trump supporters are people who know what they believe.
~ JC, Bonny Doon