Saturday, August 9, 2014

Ray Rice and the Bathrooms - The Beginning of the Decline of the NFL?

I was a Cleveland Indians fan when I was a kid. We went to a few games each season (when we could afford it) but always followed the team on TV and the radio. I knew the batting averages of all the players and suffered all those years when the team was terrible. John Lowenstein was my favorite player. He was talented, but also had a sick sense of humor - the kind I like! I loved the Indians and I loved baseball.

Despite cheering for an average to terrible team all those years, I remained a fan. I enjoyed the strategy of baseball and the nuances that could lead to a win - or a loss. The combination of the strike in 1981 and the refusal of Baseball to address the rising use of performance enhancing drugs caused me to lose interest in the game. I decided to end my relationship with baseball.

I stopped watching. I stopped listening. I stopped reading about baseball. I stopped caring.

The first year was difficult. I missed the summer pastime and I missed the games. But I stuck to my decision to ignore baseball. To me, they were interested only in money and they arrogantly believed that whenever they reached an agreement on the contract dispute, the fans would return. It seemed that they thought that fans needed baseball so much, they could do anything to watch their beloved game.

I worked a portion of my career in the automotive industry. Strikes were very risky undertakings - both for management and for labor. Why? There were many reasons, but the biggest reason was the risk of losing the customer.  In many pro sports, it doesn't seem (at least to me) that the customer is a factor at all. They will be back. Perhaps, but not me. Not for baseball. I didn't come back.

The other factor, was that I felt that the game was no longer "fair." As more players were enhanced by drugs, regular players that relied on only skill, training and nutrition were at a disadvantage. Management of baseball ignored the problem for many years. It may have even been good for them to do so. How many fans were riveted with interest when players started hitting 50 or 60 or more homers every year?

Since 1982, I have barely watched a few innings of Major League baseball. I doubt that I could list ten active players. I probably could not count all the cities that have teams. I am done with Major League Baseball. When I left, I spent more time with watching kids games. I worked on bonsais. I played music. I don't need baseball.

The Brickyard 400 race run recently at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The big news story wasn't so much about who won, but that the attendance continues to shrink every year.  If you got a ticket to the race the first few years, you were lucky. That has been replaced by smaller crowds each year and many marketing initiatives attempting to draw fans such as music concerts in conjunction with race festivities. Things have changed in 20 years.

So, onto the NFL. The NFL has been king for sports in the US for years. Almost everyone is at least minimally interested in the league and at least one team, and many people live and die with the NFL. Fantasy football is a major pastime. Even though it is fun to be a football fan, if you look at the industry from the outside, there are many issues.

The league clearly is run by the desire for money - and as much as humanly possible. I realize that businesses exist to make money. That is a given. But most businesses balance the desire for money with regard for the customer. I know that if my client is happy and sees value from our consulting work, I will get more money. Money is a result of satisfying or delighting the customer. I think the NFL has lost this realization. Ticket prices continue to go up. Advertising rates go up. Charging for two (generally) terrible exhibition games for the right to get season tickets, combined with having to buy tickets to all potential postseason games have pushed fans toward the exits. I haven't seen a live game at the stadium for several years and it looks to me like fans have reached the limit.

In economic terms, going to a game results in ever decreasing marginal utility. The games are not as pleasant as people would like and they are getting more unpleasant. Ticket prices; exorbitant prices for refreshments; dealing with rude and drunk people; women with normal purses are not welcome; parking, traffic and crowds - the "dissatisfiers" are becoming greater than "satisfiers". Games can be expensive and frustrating. Last season, four cities almost did not sell out for home playoff games. The league threatened to blackout TV broadcast of the playoff games for those cities. "Heroes" came to our rescue and all the games eventually sold out. What happens when the greed of the NFL leads to regular blackouts because people no longer have the money or interest in going to games? If a game is blacked out on TV, customers might react by buying more tickets so they don't miss a game. They also might stop watching altogether.

If you stay home and watch on TV, you can have a party, go to a clean bathroom, eat decent food and avoid drunk people throwing beer or vomiting on you. I guess the last one (drunk people) depends on who your family and friends are. You can sit on a couch and watch a big screen HD TV, pause for bathroom and food breaks and when the game is done, you can do anything you want without fighting a crowd.

The recent Ray Rice incident and the NFL response illustrated what everyone already knew about the NFL. It is a misogynistic organization that doesn't really care much about customers. The game is exciting, but brutal. Most retired players have physical damage that lasts the rest of their lives. The league "celebrates" women in October by having players wear pink shoes or gloves. They raffle the used stuff to raise money for breast cancer. Thanks, but is that marketing to women (1/2 of the population) or disingenuous and manipulative? Does the NFL really care if a player slaps around a woman or are they only concerned about the negative PR?

Will the combination of the realization that the NFL isn't the kind of organization that people should believe in and support and the start of and growth of blacked out games because of increasing non-sellout games spell the beginning of the decline of the NFL? Will you continue to be interested when your local team is not on TV for several weeks of the season? Will you continue to watch the terrible Thursday night games? The safety of the players surely doesn't seem to be very important (only three days of rest before a Thursday game) when the league can get another day of revenue for their own TV network. Will women lose interest?

We'll see, but unabated greed usually doesn't end well. There are plenty of things that I can do on a Sunday afternoon if I choose to leave the NFL behind.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Gays: Please Stop Having Sex in Our Heads!

I recently read a Huffington Post article about Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association and some of his pronouncements about gays. I haven’t fact-checked whether the things he said are true, but some of them sound a little far out to me:

  • Gays are responsible for the Nazi Party
  • God will cure AIDS if Gays stop having sex (Did God tell someone this? I usually check my email daily and I didn’t see anything from God about this. It is not in my Bible.)
  • Speaking out against homosexuals is not bullying and it’s not harassment
  • Homosexual sex should be criminalized
  • If someone complains about homosexual behavior, they will be sent to a Re-education Camp. (I hope they put the camps here in Indiana – we can use the extra jobs.)

He seems to talk about gays and gay male sex a lot – at least based on my non-scientific sample of looking around the Internet.

Mr. Fisher is not alone. The Pope said that same-sex marriage puts the very existence of humanity at risk. Pastor Patrick Wooden claimed that gay men “have to wear a diaper” because of “what happens to the male anus” after anal sex. He thinks that gay men in their 40s or 50’s will need to wear butt plugs or diapers. I know some gay guys in that age group. I’d ask them except I would be embarrassed to ask about diapers and butt plugs and think it would be insulting to ask anyone a question like that. He is further quoted as saying “The God of the Bible made the human sperm, the God of the Bible designed it and it was not designed to be emptied into an area that is filled with feces.” I don’t know how to check, but it seems like guys should have been born with a warning label down there! He also said that gay sex would “most certainly mean the extinction of the human race.”

Matthew Hagee, son of right-wing televangelist John Hagee (I had previously never heard of either of these guys, but they must be someone important enough to get on television) said that contracting AIDS is a choice and symptom of adultery. Again, no fact checking, but I don’t think anyone wants to contract an incurable disease. Do they? If gays aren’t allowed to get married, how can they be guilty of adultery?

In 2003, now Presidential candidate Rick Santorum (uggh – Google it!) said that consensual homosexual acts are not covered by the right to privacy. I hope he is not advocating that they do them publicly! He recently said that if same-sex marriage was legal, it would be taught in schools. Rick and several other Republican candidates said that Don’t Ask Don’t Tell should be reinstated because there is no place for sexual activity in the military. I wasn’t aware that allowing openly gay soldiers to serve was the same as them having sex whenever and wherever they want. Mr. Santorum also said that sodomy (I think that is one of the kinds of sex that gays have) is “antithetical to a healthy, stable, traditional family.” Gays – if you are going to do sodomy (have sodomy?) please don’t do it in front of the family!

I have given a lot of speeches and presentations. I never mentioned gay sex or sodomy once in 30 years of public speaking! But I am not a pastor, pope or politician. It sounds like every time these guys see a gay guy, all they can think about is sex!

If you are like me and grimace a little when people describe other people having sex, and when they talk about it a lot, then you might question why these guys talk about gay sex all the time. They don’t seem to talk about heterosexual couples having anal sex. That is not only open to gay people, is it? I never asked anyone, but I would imagine that over the course of history, at least one heterosexual couple has tried it.

I don’t hear them talking about two women having sex. Either that is not as bad as gay sex (with guys); or maybe it’s bad, but not bad enough that it endangers humanity; or maybe it’s bad, but not bad enough that the pope and pastors and politicians feel that it should be talked about all the time; or maybe it turns them on and it is fine. I don’t know.

I guess I’m in the minority that doesn’t think much about other people’s sex lives. And I certainly don’t study it enough to know what happens to other people when they’ve been having sex a certain way and hit age 40 or 50. I don’t try to get a picture in my head about what happens when others have sex.

I’m confused as to why there is all the hubbub. (If hubbub is not a word, I hope you know what I mean.) I would think that it is not the fault of the good politicians and religious leaders. Therefore, it must be the fault of the gay people.

Then it hit me. The gay people are at fault because they have sex in our heads.

Lots of people think about gay sex all the time. They wonder why the guys do it. They wonder how they do it. Why doesn’t God hit them with a lightning bolt or something when they have sex? They wonder who is the girl? Who is the boy (pitcher and catcher)? Do they change roles? Does it hurt? These are questions that some people must ponder. A lot. All the time. And after they ponder, a lot, they feel the need to talk to us about it.

Not only are the gays having sex, but also they insist on having sex in our heads to mess us up. It is unnatural. It is against God’s laws. And they continue to have sex in our heads. It is just plain rude. I hope you see the dilemma. We will never rid our society of the problem of gay people having sex. They won’t even do it in private. They insist in doing it in our heads. Please stop.

I considered the possibility that perhaps the reason some of the religious and political leaders think and talk about gay sex all the time is that they are gay and are hiding it. That couldn’t be it. Could it?

Friday, January 13, 2012

Still the Biggest Scandal in History

I know a married couple with a child. Actually, I know of them. I’ve talked to each of them, but they never give me a verbal answer. Anyway, when this couple decided to get married, the girl was 14-years-old – 15 tops! The guy was older. No one really knows how much older, but some people guess in his 40s or 50s. Some people think he was divorced or a widower, but he is a mystery man. No one really has much detail. You have to wonder if he was some kind of pervert for wanting to marry a 14-year-old girl.

The girl was about the sweetest person you’ve ever met, always making people feel good in her presence. Seemingly very religious, she was quiet and didn’t talk about it. They got engaged, and no one in the town seemed to say anything even though the girl was so young. Before they were married, this young girl gets pregnant! Again, it should have been a major scandal. Where was the outcry from the good people? The girl inexplicably said it was not the guy that got her pregnant. It was the “Holy Spirit.” Who could buy a story like this? As far as I could tell, no one said anything except for her cousin, who thought it was great. She must be some sick-o. I can’t believe no one took action and had this child-abusing guy arrested.

I guess they didn’t want anyone to be around when the baby was born, so they ignored her health and traveled to another town when she was ready to have the kid. The guy must have been poor or cheap, because she had the baby in a stable. Not only should he have been arrested for child abuse, both should have been arrested for child endangerment.

Amazingly, the kid was born without a hitch and grew up healthy. Everyone seemed to love him until some of the religious establishment had him killed. It all catches up to you eventually!


I’d like you to think of your reactions as you read this story. Did you raise your eyebrows? Did you gasp? Did you shake your head? (I think in the Bible, they refer to is as “wagging your head.”) Did you recognize the story of Jesus, Mary and Joseph? This is a story that almost everyone has heard since childhood. Many cherish this story and it is a pillar of their faith. We are easily influenced by our biases and preconceived notions. We are taught categorization from birth. Were you so quick to judge that you were angry about a story that is the basis of faith for quite an extensive number of people in the world?

Perhaps you recognize the story of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. All true, but most people would never want Joseph arrested. People love Mary and many claim she was the best human ever born. You probably have heard what kind of person Jesus grew up to be.

Rather than jumping to conclusions and judging, we might consider learning about people and enjoying them for who they are. If any of us are lucky enough to be face-to-face with Jesus, Mary and Joseph, I’ll bet we’d react differently than we might have when we were reading the story.

Enjoy other people. Enjoy Diversity.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

JJ's Top Eleven Suggestions for 2012

  1. Let God be God. We do not need to defend the Creator of the universe. Let’s use the time, money and energy used to defend God to help some of his creation - people, the environment, animals in shelters, etc. Also, let’s let God be the judge.
  2. Politicians: Don’t hurt people for your own personal gain. For example – if you make a nasty comment about Muslims, or gays, or Democrats, or Republicans, or whomever, to ingratiate yourself with the haters and grab some votes for yourself, this might be wrong. If you hold up progress to hurt the other side, this may also be wrong. Try to improve things for everyone, not only your backers. And for American politicians – a news note: “The enemy” is not on the other side of the aisle.
  3. Let’s help each other rise up out of this crappy economy. Hire someone; use services; (consultants are an example, but that’s just my opinion since I run a consulting firm!) buy from small businesses; buy local; take risks.
  4. I thought America was the land of the free. Let’s grant equal rights and freedoms to everyone. That includes gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgenders.
  5. Businessmen and women – I thought America was the home of the brave. Let’s act like it. If you have money, maybe you can spend some improving your business, hiring needed people, fixing equipment, planting something around your facilities, donating money, doing good for the community and the world. Hoarding cash, firing as many people as possible and cutting cost regardless of the consequences because you are afraid of the uncertain future is not what Americans are proud to do. I’m not sure, but I think the future has always been uncertain.
  6. Learn something about another country, culture, religion, viewpoint, race, etc. at least once a week. Get out and see what other people, who may or may not be like you are doing. Try new foods. Open your mind and heart to the richness of others.
  7. Religious leaders – Try to be saints instead of gatekeepers, rule makers, and self-servers. As Jesus said, “You know that the Gentiles lord it over them, and the great ones make their authority over them felt. But it shall not be so among you. Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you shall be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave. Just so, the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Matthew 20: 25-28 And if you are a religious leader and not a follower of Christ, Jesus’ words are still wise guidance.
  8. Enjoy the beauty in nature. There is magnificence in the mountains, the oceans and spanning vistas, but also in a single flower, microscopic organisms and a bird enjoying a meal. I particularly enjoy looking at the bare trees in the winter, especially with the setting sun behind the tree. There is something magical about being able to see the outline/skeleton that is usually hidden from our view.
  9. Dance; or sing; or play an instrument; or make rhythm; or clap along; or bang on pans with a wooden spoon. (Our grandson seems to really like the banging on pans!) Enjoy music.
  10. Help a child; teach a child; enjoy being with children; attend children’s games and shows and concerts and recitals and events. Let’s make the children more of a priority. One NFL game (for example - 70,000 seats sold at an average of $85 per seat) yields nearly $6,000,000 in gate receipts. Contrast that with buying musical instruments (say $750 each per instrument) for a school of 2500 students, which would cost nearly $2 million. I am not suggesting we give up on football, but consider what would happen to the lives of children over the next twenty years if we spent a portion of the money expended on watching millionaires play football (or substitute many of the other pro sports) and instead spent some of it on the children.
  11. Enjoy Diversity. Pray for peace. Have a blessed New Year.

JJ Gufreda

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Trying to Reconcile with the Church – It’s about the Saints!

After being a devout Catholic for 50 years, I left the church. I am transgender and after initially supporting me in my decision to transition from male to female, my pastor and the Vicar Judicial (Catholic lawyer) pushed me away. They told me that I was welcome, but I didn’t have the same rights and privileges as others in the church. I was asked to never communicate with my pastor. That was okay with me. My awareness of the Bishop’s campaigns against gay people, the sexual abuses of children and systemic worldwide cover-ups became too much for me. As I described to a friend, “I have been leaking out the (church) door for a long time.” I finally stopped going.

Losing the holy Mass, the community, the sacraments and the people has been difficult. Still, I don’t feel right participating with an organization that does some heinous acts on children ignores the pain of the abused (until ordered by the court) and then fights against same-sex marriage. I was male when I married my wife 34 years ago and since my transition, I realized that when the church was fighting same sex marriage, they were fighting me!

It is not just the Catholic Church – A friend is transgender. She had been active in the Orthodox Church for many years. She recently started her transition from male to female. Her pastor had been supportive (sound familiar?) but recently met with her and told her that the Bishop said that she was no longer welcome at Church. She is not to attend Mass.

I am not a religious scholar, but I have learned a bit and I read the Bible every day. For many Catholics and Orthodox Christians, missing Mass is a mortal sin. If you die in a state of mortal sin, well, you go to hell. I never quite understood this, since I thought Jesus saved us from our sins, but nevertheless, that is what some believe. If the church banishes you from Mass (or at least shows that you aren’t welcome) isn’t that a not so gentle push toward damnation? If they don’t want you, does that give you a “Get Out Of Mass Hall Pass?” I just have a hard time understanding how a Christian leader can push someone out the door or actually tell him or her not to come. I don’t think that behavior is what Jesus had in mind. If it is, maybe I’m not a Christian after all.

I have often talked with God about my gender struggles and He/She never said anything to me about them. I just have the feeling that God loves me. Perhaps God is not consistent and says one thing to the Bishops and another to me.

I try to focus on the positive, but it is tough when the church is doing so many things I think are hurtful. I recognize that there are many beautiful and holy people in the Church. In pondering some of the great people I have known, I realized why the words and actions of many church leaders were so incongruent with what I thought Christian leaders should be.

It is all about the saints.

Have you ever met a saint? How would you know? I am not thinking about saints that have been proclaimed by a church. I’m not thinking about saints that have churches named for them or have their own feast day. I am thinking about a few people that I have met that I was sure were saints. Perhaps it would help to describe the saints I’ve known.

Saints make you feel good and bad at the same time. Good, because they exude a gentle, loving and holy spirit. I felt great just being in their presence. They seem to have a connection to the divine that is apparent, even though I never quite put my finger on exactly how I knew this. I just knew. They inspire; they are role models to emulate; they teach, seemingly without trying to teach. Bad, because at the same time I was admiring and enjoying these people, I also felt bad about myself – about my connection with God, about how I have lived. I kept thinking, “I need to do better. I’m not even close to being as good as this person. How do I get closer to God like him or her?”

The characteristics of those people I describe as Saints is what seems to be missing from so many of the Bishops and leaders. I don’t know any Bishops personally, but I hear them and read about them. They denounce. I have a friend that was denounced by the American Catholic Bishops. They didn’t even talk to him or tell him he was denounced. They announced it in a press release! They fight. They admonish. They criticize. They defend. They exclude. They lobby.

I am not seeing many of the saintly characteristics in JJ’s description of a saint. Maybe the Bishops and leaders should try to get that back. I’ll bet they had a lot of those characteristics when they decided to enter the priesthood. When they were young and struggling with trying to listen to God’s calling. Where is the gentleness, the pure heart, the love the compassion, the spiritual longing I am sure they once had – at least a little? Maybe things would improve if they try to get back at least some of that beauty.

And I’ll give them a hint of where to look:

Visit, listen to, watch, and spend time with the Sisters and Nuns. (But don’t investigate them) You will find some of the gentlest, most patient and kindest souls on the face of the earth or anywhere else in our religious communities. See what they have and pray that some rubs off on you. That is what I hope for when I’m with a Saint. Just a little will rub off on me.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

JJ's Earthquake

Does God listen to gay people? Lesbians? Bi’s? How about transgenders? I know that God listens to me. But, I have to be careful because God batches our prayers (does not answer everything immediately) and God has a sense of humor.

Many Christians believe in Guardian Angels. You probably have heard or may believe the stories – God assigns a heavenly being to be with each of us, to watch over us, to protect us, give us a gentle push – both back on the right road as well as away from those dangerous busses and runaway trucks. What most don’t know, is that a major job of our Guardian Angel is to lobby for us when we pray and try to keep God from having too much of a sense of humor when the angel presents our prayers to God.

I’ll give you an example.

I live just south of Indianapolis, Indiana. In April of 2008, I got the urge to go to Mass at Church in the morning during the week. Daily Mass was at 7:30 in the morning. 7:30 a.m. and me being there just don’t go together. I am not a morning person. Still, I wanted to get up early and I tried a few times to wake up early enough to make it to Mass. It did not happen.

On the evening of April 17, I went to bed and prayed – “Dear Lord, you see that I have been trying to get up early enough to go to Mass. If you help me wake up early, I promise that I’ll get up and go to Mass in the morning.” I figured that I’d have to go to the bathroom, or the dogs would bark, or a loud bird would chirp or something like that. I wasn’t specific in my prayer; I only said that I wanted some helping waking up early enough for Mass. My angel presented this prayer to God and the conversation went something like this:

Angel: “Hey God, (the angels are allowed to be a little familiar with God and God doesn’t mind) JJ has been trying to get up early to go to Mass and she asked that you help her wake up tomorrow so she can go. She is a pretty deep sleeper thanks to you.”

God: “JJ’s asked for that before, right?’ (God knows, but just wanted to be sure the angel was paying attention)

Angel: “Yes. A few times.”

God: “What do you think of this – it would be funny if I had an earthquake around 5:30 in the morning. That would surely get her attention. I’ll bet she’d get right out of bed and have a good laugh because she’d know I was listening. What do you think?”

Angel: “Yes, that would be hilarious, (Nervous laugh), but remember that some of those earthquakes knock stuff off the walls, houses fall down and all that. Maybe that wouldn’t be that funny.” (Nervous laugh again)

God: “It will be great. I’ll just rock three or four states – you know, just a 5.2 or something like that.”

Angel: “Yeah, (not wanting to disagree with the Boss), that would be a funny one.”

So I go to sleep and at 5:23 in the morning, I was awake, I was out of bed, and I spoke out loud directly to God: “OK. I’m up. I got the message.” Sure enough, I turned on the news and the local CBS affiliate already had a map showing where the epicenter was, how strong the earthquake was, damage reports etc.

I had caused an earthquake. Would I get in trouble with the cops? This was uncharted territory for me. I never caused an earthquake before. Fog, I caused some fog once, but that is another story.

Needless to say, I was in the pew at 7:15, a full fifteen minutes before Mass. When Mass started, the priest said, “The Lord be with you.” Everyone answered, “And also with you.” I said, “Yes. I got it. I’m up.”

God listens to me. God answers my prayers. And I’m sure God knows that I am transgender. You can’t slip something like that by without notice!

But be careful. God has a sense of humor and there is only so much your angel can do.

JJ Marie Gufreda

Author – Left-Hander in London

Monday, December 19, 2011

A Message of Peace and Goodwill

"My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord;
my spirit rejoices in God my savior."

And an angel of the Lord appeared to (the shepherds)
"Glory to God in the highest
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests."

Have a very Blessed Christmas
I pray for good will for all
Peace on Earth