Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Sitting by the Sprinkler

The Firm may be the most over the top movie of Tom Cruise's career and that's saying something in light of Top Gun, Eyes Wide Shut, Vanilla Sky, the entire Mission Impossible series plus all of the ones that I haven't even seen (and never will) like Knight and Day, Minority Report and War of the Worlds.  Consider that in one of the opening scenes, Cruise's character, Mitch McDeere, does a series of back hand springs down a busy Memphis sidewalk alongside a young street performer to the oohs and ahs of his new mob lawyer friends.  Later in the movie, he beats Wilford Brimley to death with nothing but a soft leather briefcase (so much for "we won't get any older and we'll never die."  Apparently Tom Cruise and a Coach bag trumps eternal life granted by aliens and a steady diet of Quaker Oats).

"What?  A guy named Sonny can't
be a stock broker or somethin'"
But the most over the top scene in The Firm doesn't even center on Cruise.  It features Terry Kinney (Oz) who plays McDeere's young naive fellow associate, Lamar Quinn.  Lamar has just learned that two of the firm's other associates have died in a "mysterious" scuba diving accident in the Cayman Islands because, even though all of their clients have names like "Sonny Capps" and they're getting paid New York money to practice law in Memphis, none of these Ivy League grads have figured out that they work for the mob.  (Seriously, the client's name is "Sonny Capps" as in, "let's pay tribute to Sonny Corleone and Al Capone."   Did I miss the part in the opening credits where the audience is told to accept the premise that none of the characters have seen The Godfather?). 

We know immediately that this news has devastated Quinn.  How do we know?  Because he's sitting in a chair in his backyard holding a beer, staring straight ahead with a look of total shock and disbelief as a lawn sprinkler soaks what appear to be his very expensive Italian leather shoes.  I think part of the disbelief was because he was thinking, "I've been sitting here for an hour, why won't my wife turn off the sprinkler?"  (I imagine the crafting of this scene went something like this.  "OK, we need to show that Quinn is in a total state of shock to the point that he's oblivious to everything that is happening around him.  Ideas?" . . . "We could have a woodpecker trying to peck a hole in his skull." . . . "You're on the right track but I hate working with animals.  What else you got?" . . . "What if we turn on the sprinkler? . . . "I like it but we have to aim low so we don't mess up his hair and make-up but we want it to have serious shock value so put him in really expensive looking shoes").
"I'm so sad.  It feels like my feet are crying."

And sadly, that scene perfectly illustrates how I've felt since Monday morning.  At least Quinn was sitting outside on a warm day in Memphis.  We had the kind of gray, cold and wet weather in Baltimore on Monday that has suicide hotlines putting people on hold.  The Governor stationed two National Guardsmen outside of every door to a rooftop more than two stories high.  And it doesn't help that they're running ads for Man on a Ledge and The Grey every five minutes and it's got us thinking, "maybe I'll just climb out the window and see where it goes from there" or "maybe I'll wander into the forest and a wolf will eat me."

I'm trying to stay positive, however, and I think I have made it to a state of depression which has me 80% of the way through the five stages of loss and grief.  Let's review:

1.  Denial and Isolation:  For about an hour after Cundiff missed the kick, I just aimlessly roamed around my house kind of cleaning-up, not talking to any of the 20+ people who had come over to watch the game.  I think my wife had the good sense to round-up all of the kids and tell them not to speak to me.  Or maybe they did try to talk to me and I just ignored them.  That's one of the great things about kids, you can ignore them when they talk and they don't care because they're not really interested in your feedback anyway.  (Wait a minute.  I think I just described myself).
2.  Anger:  This kicked-in around the 4th quarter of the second game as I watched Alex Smith throw his 11th slider in the dirt and thought about how bad the Ravens would have crushed the Niners (maybe not the Giants, but definitely the Niners).  From there I just kept shifting the target of my ire.  From Cundiff, to Cam Cameron for calling the ill-fated draw play that took the Ravens out of field goal range and finally to Lee Evans who momentarily held the ticket to the Super Bowl before having it swatted away.  I've gone back and forth on whether he absolutely should've made that catch and was finally convinced today when someone emailed me that "he should have handled that ball like it was the last loaf of non-radiated bread on a just nuked planet Earth."  Anquan Boldin would've squeezed that loaf of bread so hard it would have turned back into dough.         

"We've got to get you to your ship
and then it's business time."
3.  Bargaining:  At one point I actually tried to convince myself that at least I wouldn't have to deal with the hassle and expense of getting to a Super Bowl in Indianapolis in February.  I didn't go in 2001 and I always regretted it but my circumstances at the time made dropping several grand to go to Tampa seem like a bad idea.  (I was working as a temp lawyer making no money with no benefits and I had a mortgage.  And there was the small matter of my wife being six months pregnant with our first child so not going to the game was actually the first shrewd financial decision I had made since . . . um . . . oh who am I kidding?  It was the first shrewd financial decision I ever made).

This bargaining argument kind of comes unglued, however, when you realize that it would be like you were a sophomore in high school and the hottest senior calls you out of the blue to tell you that her parents are gone for the weekend and she invites you to come over and "hang-out."  (If only I had a dollar for every time that happened to me).  One problem.  You don't have a driver's license because you haven't gotten around to taking the test (things kept coming up alright) and she lives ten miles away.  The thought of not going due to the hassle might (and I emphasize "might") cross your mind for a split second but three minutes later you'd be on your Schwinn peddling like you're trying to save your creepy little alien friend from the Feds.    

4.  Depression:  And here we are in the lawn chair next to the sprinkler (couldn't someone at least move the sprinkler to the other side of the yard?).  Only instead of a lawn chair in Memphis, it's a desk chair in Baltimore and instead of a beer, it's a bottle of water (actually it's many bottles of water and some aspirin) and instead of a sprinkler, it's just gray ice everywhere you look.  (Isn't this uplifting?).  At least I know from the experience of the last four years that this too shall pass but it's going to take a little longer because of how close the Ravens came and the fact that we as fans took a Mike Tyson body blow followed by a devastating uppercut in the space of about 30 seconds.  Which leads me to . . .       

"That's a lovely accent
you have . . . Arbutus?"
5.  Acceptance:  As I've noted before, we don't have a lot of other options in this town (We've Got Nowhere Else to Go! - November 3, 2011). Ironically, the putridness of the Orioles actually works in our favor because by late June they make us look forward to the Ravens again, regardless of how the previous season ended.  (I'm working really hard to find a silver lining here).  The Super Bowl will hurt, especially if the Patriots win but by March Madness the pain will begin to subside and the next thing you know it's golf season and the Mount Gay Southsides will be flowing like wine and the women will flock to the pools like the salmon of Capistrano.  I'm starting to feel better already.  (That's great but it's 2:00 a.m. and you're rambling into dangerous territory.  You might want to wrap this thing up).

In the end I will cling to one positive from Sunday's game and that is that Joe Flacco has shut my proverbial pie hole.  I had never bought that he was a Super Bowl caliber quarterback despite his impressive record because in the three playoff losses before this year, he stunk.  On Sunday, however, he was one of the best players on the field and, as far as I'm concerned, he threw the game winning touchdown pass.  He may not be Rodgers, Brady or Brees but he proved that has the stuff to get it done so you're telling us there's a chance and, at this point, that's all we can ask.  Now if someone would please turn off that goddamn SPRINKLER!!!


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