Friday, November 27, 2015

How 49ers QB Blaine Gabbert's Press Conference Really Happened

Suppose they gave a press conference and nobody came?

Last week, the 3-and-7 San Francisco 49ers held a press conference for their new starting quarterback, Blaine "Yo Gabba" Gabbert, but forgot to actually tell the media. When Gabbert showed up, he was the only one in the room, other than a 49ers staffer there to record the event.

It was Gabbert's second week as the starting quarterback, after he replaced former starting quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who was benched after seven games and only two wins.

"Hey, good to see you," he said from the podium. Then he sat in the front row and said, "I'll be the one asking questions." Local media reported that Gabbert chatted with the staffer for a few minutes before leaving.

Except the camera was rolling the entire time, and it captured the questions Gabbert actually asked.

"So what do you think of the team's chances this week?" Gabbert asked from his seat.

Gabbert ran up to the podium to give his answer. "Well, the Cardinals are a tough team. At 8-and-2, they're leading our division, which is some sort of record for the NFC West. I think they're on pace to win at least 10 games going into the playoffs, so we're all pretty excited," said Gabbert, referring to previous playoffs, where NFC West teams flolloped their way into the first round at 9-and-7, while certain AFC South teams barely made it in at 11-and-5.

Gabbert raced to the back row, and raised his hand. "How are you preparing for your first game against the Arizona Cardinals?" he asked, without waiting to be called on.

"Excuse me, excuse me, pardon me, excuse me," Gabbert said, squeezing past his fellow reporters on his way back to the podium.

"Well, they beat us 47 – 7 when Kap faced them in Week 3, so we already know how tough they are" said Gabbert. "I just hope whoever organized this press conference isn't responsible for organizing my O-line." Gabbert returned to his seat for the obligatory insider-joke laugh.

"But seriously, the Cardinals are a great team. We're keeping a close eye on Deone Bucannon, their leading tackler. And Dwight Freeney has three sacks this season. It's not the nine and ten sacks he was getting in Indianapolis, but man, when that guy does his swim move, you hear the 'Jaws' theme in your head."

"Do you think Coach Tomsula is taking a big gamble on starting you in place of Colin Kaepernick? What do you think that means for his future with the team?" Gabbert asked.

Gabbert took a long drink of water from his bottle, playing for a little extra time. "A big gamble? No, certainly not. I mean, sure, I was brought here as a backup. But backing up Kap isn't like backing up Peyton Manning. His backup barely has a chance of getting into a game. Hell, I think they listed Y.A. Tittle as his backup one week, and he's gotta be100 by now."

"But what about Kap's future with the team? Do you think he'll return to the starting lineup this season, or are you their Golden Boy?" Gabbert pressed. A scowl flickered briefly across Gabbert's face as he listened to the question.

"Do I think it means Kap's going to be traded?" Gabbert said, referring to recent rumors that the once-favored QB was now being shopped around. "Of course I have no way of knowing. We're just focused on the Arizona Cardinals right now. We just take the season one week at a time."

"Is it true that you're actually Coach Tomsula's favorite, but he can't say so in front of the rest of the team?"

"Well, I can't speak for Coach, but I think I'm at least in his top ten. Top five, at best." Gabbert paused for the obligatory laugh again, which he delivered from the second row.

When Gabbert returned to the podium, he continued. "I have been spending a lot more time with Coach Tomsula for the last couple of weeks, as well as (offensive coordinator) Coach Chryst and (quarterbacks coach) Coach Logan. I spent time with them anyway, but now I've become one of their favorites as well."

"Is Kaepernick still contributing to the team?" asked Gabbert?

"Absolutely," said Gabbert. "Kaepernick has been making solid contributions to the team. He is constantly contributing and providing a lot of contributable support. He's one of the most contributive members of the team, and his contributiveness is unmatched."

Gabbert looked over to his handler, Blaine Gabbert, who signaled that it was time to wrap it up. "Thank you everyone for your time. We'll talk again after the game."

"Good luck this week," called Gabbert from the fourth row. Gabbert stopped for pictures and answered a few follow-up questions as he left.

Photo credit: "Gabbert, Blaine" by San Francisco 49ers - Author. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons - Wikimedia Commons

You can find my books Branding Yourself (affiliate link), No Bullshit Social Media, and The Owned Media Doctrine on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million, or for the Kindle or Nook.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Loving On People And Hugging Your Kids

What does it mean to "love on" someone? Why is that even a thing? It sounds weird and awkward, and I don't know whether to appreciate it or be creeped out by it.

I hear it a lot, especially in church when people describe what they do in their small groups.

"We get together, do life, and just love on each other."

We'll ignore the "do life" thing for now. You know, the phrase that means "to live" or "spend time together." It's an empty phrase that doesn't actually express anything.

You're "doing life" right now. You were "doing life" when you got up this morning and made coffee. You were "doing life" when you went to work. And you were "doing life" the entire day right before you met with the small group of people you "do life" with.

"Doing life" is not any different from what we've been doing all along: living. It just sounds so. . . California.

But we're ignoring that part, remember? I'm still stuck on "love on each other."

It makes me think of being grabbed by a particularly loud and gregarious aunt who clutches your arm, hug-smothers you in her ample bosom, and then plies you with food and hovers nearby while you eat.

I asked friends on Facebook what they thought it meant, and got a variety of responses.

For some, it means embracing or caring for someone deeply. Giving hugs and kisses, like a parent or grandparent. For others, it means just paying attention to someone, letting them know you're thinking of them.

One Facebook friend said it best, "Youth pastor with a soul patch and a tattoo, who isn't afraid to be XTREME. 'Somebody's gotta love on these kids, man. I love Creed probably.'"

A few people said they didn't like the phrase. They found it off-putting, like when someone you don't know very well hugs you too long.

Personally, my only complaint is with the additional "on." Since when did love need a preposition?

Other than being "an appalling lack of grammar," as another friend said, it doesn't mean anything. No more than "loving toward," "loving near," or "loving around," although that last one sounds a little slutty.

I did learn that "loving up" is another prepositional phrase that means something not suitable for this newspaper.

Still, "loving on someone" is not so terrible. I can live with it, even if I still silently judge people who say it.

No, the thing I hate is being told to "go home and hug your kids extra hard" any time there's tragedy in the news.

Major car accident in your city?

"Go home and hug your kids extra hard tonight."

Terrorist attack?

"Go home and hug your kids extra hard tonight."

Simon Cowell taking Howard Stern's place on "America's Got Talent?"

"Go home and hug your kids extra hard tonight."

Constantly being ordered to hug my kids makes me want to shout, "You know what? Screw you, and screw my kids! I was going to hug them today until you ruined the moment. Now my kids won't get a hug today, and it's. All! Your! Fault!"

I hug my kids several times a day, every day. I don't need to be reminded to do it just because something bad happened in the world. Something bad always happens in the world, every single day. Does that mean I have to go home and hug my kids extra hard every single day?

Being told to hug my kids extra hard, willy-nilly, raises more questions than it actually answers. Like, are there rules to this kind of thing?

For example, what if I work from home that day? Do I need to leave and come home again before my extra-hard hugs? Or should I just do normal hugs? Can I just give a normal hug, but make it twice as long?

What if I really do hug them extra hard every day? Doesn't that level of squeezing become the new norm? When that happens, do I have to squeeze even harder the next time something bad happens? How hard can you squeeze a kid before the authorities are called?

And what if I'm a back patter? Should I pat their backs extra hard too?

I don't understand what extra hard hugging is actually supposed to do. Sure, I'll feel better, but it doesn't do much for the people involved in the original tragedy.

"Steve was in critical condition after the car accident, and we weren't sure he was going to make it. But then Erik hugged his kids extra hard, and Steve pulled through. He's going to be okay!

"Now we can love on him."

(Special note: That's our friend, and Maddie's old youth pastor, Josh Reynolds. This is the only photo of any youth pastor I have. As far as I know, Josh does not like Coldplay.)

You can find my books Branding Yourself (affiliate link), No Bullshit Social Media, and The Owned Media Doctrine on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million, or for the Kindle or Nook.

Friday, November 13, 2015

How About "Big Daddy?"

Erik is out of the office this week, moving to his new house, so we're reprinting a column from 2003, because we didn't think anyone would notice.

I've wanted a nickname ever since I was a young boy. I like my name, but I've often wondered what it would be like to have a name that would sum up my passions and interests, like "Stein," "Wheels," or "Collectible Elvis Plates."

I'm named for Erik the Red, the famous Viking explorer. Although my dad says he liked the name because he smoked Erik the Red cigars. I tried them once many years ago, and thought they were nasty, so I don't tell that story. I prefer not being named after something that can kill you. At least that's what I tell my friend, Ernie "Barbecue Ribs" Tutwiler.

I was four years old when I lobbied for a new name. One of my friends at preschool was named Sam, and he was a fast runner. I thought if I was named Sam, I could run fast too, so I asked my parents if they would rename me Sam so I could guarantee my spot in the 1984 Olympics.

Sadly, they said no, so I was doomed to a life of average running ability, thus ensuring I would never win an Olympic medal.

Olympic announcer: "And your three medalists in the 100 meter dash are Sam Johnson, Sam Lewis, and Sam Bannister. Meanwhile, Erik Deckers has tripped for a third time, and will not cross the finish line until Wednesday."

So I gave up my dreams of a new name altogether. Instead of some cool and unique name like John or Bob, I'd decided to accept my fate of being named after some Viking explorer who discovered a whole new continent.

But when I started the 7th grade, I discovered the magic of nicknames. With a nickname, I could get a whole new name without having to go through the hassle of changing the one stitched in my underwear.

So when my history teacher told us we could be called by any name we wanted, I desperately wracked my brain for one: "Spike? No. Flash? No. Studly McStudmuffin? Definitely not." Finally, because I couldn't think of anything that didn't make me sound like a dork, I chose my uncle's name, and told my history teacher he could call me "Pete."

As I think back, I have no idea why I picked that name at that particular moment. Which is why it never sunk in with me. I realized I'd made a bad choice when my teacher called on me that first day: "Pete, do you know when the Declaration of Independence was signed?"

Since no one had ever called me that before, I didn't realize he was addressing me.

"Pete? Pete?" he repeated a couple of times. I just sat there, looking at the blackboard, wondering why the heck this Pete kid wouldn't answer. Finally the kid next to me nudged me and said "He's talking to you."

The Pete experiment lasted for three weeks, before I got tired of trying to remember my new name, and asked my teacher to call me by my real name again.

I gave up on the idea of nicknames after that. And except for a brief window in college when a guy in my dorm called me "Elmo," I've been nickname free for 30 years.

At least until now. For the last few months, all sorts of strangers have given me nicknames: Dude, Guy, and Buddy. Someone even called me Sport once. (I've avoided Old Man Deckers so far; I've got a few more years before I have to start shouting at the neighborhood kids to get off my lawn.)

I just have to walk into the hardware store, and hear a "Hey, Buddy!" Or I stop by my favorite coffee shop, and get a "S'up, Man?" Or my personal favorite, "you want a biscotti with that latte, Dude?"

I'm 48 years old! When did I become Dude? I should have been Dude 20 years ago. I could have been Dude 14 years ago. I'm nearly freaking fifty, and NOW I'm Dude?! Where were you people when I was in college? I would have loved being "The Dude." Or even "A dude." Now, I've outgrown nicknames altogether, and they're finally being showered upon me.

Of course, none of this compares to the pain of the worst imaginable insult I've ever been called. "Will there be anything else, Sir?"

Photo credit: Wikipedia (Creative Commons)

You can find my books Branding Yourself (affiliate link), No Bullshit Social Media, and The Owned Media Doctrine on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million, or for the Kindle or Nook.

Friday, November 06, 2015

A Rational, Scientific Explanation of Luck

I don't see the point in good luck charms. I don't believe a little trinket can bring good luck, so I've never carried one.

Sure, there are times I wanted a good luck charm, but rational scientific thinking stopped me. How can a fake crystal strung on a cheap necklace made in China, which I bought from a street vendor for five bucks, affect whether the entire universe will grant me favor?

Actually, I do carry one good luck charm in my wallet: a $2 bill my mother-in-law gave me many years ago. It's a reminder of her hopes for me, more than a belief that my efforts will fail if I forget my wallet. Of course, I take my wallet with me everywhere, so we'll never know, will we?

Carrying items for good luck is completely different from preventing bad luck. Everyone knows that. But you don't do it with charms or little tchotchkes in your pocket. That's just silly.

Instead you speak little incantations, make signs with your hands, or complete some small action to ward off evil spirits.

This is also rational, scientific thinking, because I read it in the back of a magazine at the supermarket checkout line. And if it's in print, it must be true.

See? Rational and scientific.

When I was growing up, there was a girl in our school that everyone called "Smelly Shelley." She didn't actually smell, she just had the misfortune of having a name that rhymed, and as 9-year-olds, we lacked imagination. Also, she was a bully and picked on us a lot.

The sidewalk on the way to school had two sidewalk squares with manhole covers in them. We declared these the Smelly Shelley Squares, and said if you stepped in them, it meant you liked her. It also meant other awful things would happen, but we were pretty vague on what those were.

When you're nine, the worst thing that can happen to you is liking another girl.

At that age, liking a girl was terrible, but liking this particular girl was the kiss of death, mostly because she would pound you. We all avoided the Smelly Shelley squares so consistently that we wore little paths in the grass.

Once, when I was in college, I walked from my dad's to my old elementary school, and walked around the squares, both ways. Old habits die hard, and I didn't want Shelley to pound me.

Theater people — a particularly superstitious lot who rank right up there with gypsies and baseball players — are very concerned about avoiding bad luck. They have an encyclopedic knowledge of Things One Must Not Do In The Thea-tah.

Like never turning off the Ghost Light, a light that is left on onstage, to keep away mischievous spirits. Or not whistling in the theater to prevent sandbags from falling on you. Or saying a theater is "dark" rather than "closed," because it could bring down plagues. Or never, ever saying the name "Macbeth." Instead, one refers to Shakespeare's work as "The Scottish Play."

In fact, if you say "Macbeth" or quote lines from the play inside a theater (other than when actually performing it), you must go outside, turn counterclockwise three times, swear (or spit), and then knock to be readmitted.

There's also the tradition of saying "break a leg" before a show, because wishing someone good luck is actually bad luck. It can catch the attention of the theater Sprites, who like to do the opposite of whatever is asked for.

If you wish someone good luck, the Sprites can cause bad luck. Instead, you wish someone bad luck so as to confuse the Sprites, and have them bring good luck.

Theater Sprites are not very smart, and can easily be tricked into doing things for other people, like helping friends move on the weekend or taking them to the airport.

Which raises the question, are there degrees of wishing someone good luck through bad luck? If I only want someone to do a little well, should I say "get a hangnail?" Or if I want them to do really, really well, do I shout at them to "FALL IN A DITCH AND DIE!?"

Should this tradition carry on outside the theater into any public performance? Should I tell public speakers at a conference to "get a concussion?" Or musicians to "get laryngitis?"

Maybe it's not such a bad practice. Theater Sprites seem to follow people around sometimes. We can trick them by wishing the opposite of what we want to have happen.

So, if you're reading this column, I hope you DO cut your finger, get ink poisoning, and have your hand amputated.

See? Rational, scientific, AND thoughtful.

You can find my books Branding Yourself (affiliate link), No Bullshit Social Media, and The Owned Media Doctrine on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million, or for the Kindle or Nook.