Thursday, February 18, 2016

Good riddance, DirecTV

...and the horse you rode in on.

Once the Seahawks got eliminated from the playoffs, I eliminated DirecTV.

When you live outside of your home team's market, NFL Sunday Ticket is the only way to ensure that you can see every Seahawk game in the comfort of your own home. And subscribing to DefecTV is the only way to get NFL Sunday Ticket.

When you roll in taxes, fees and nickel & dime equipment charges, RegreTV gouges customers about $100 per month for basic service--about double what cable costs, for essentially the same channels! And then, when football season comes, you still have to pay several hundred additional dollars to get NFL Sunday Ticket.

To add insult to injury, InepTV's college football offerings have always been feeble, unless you pony up another several more hundred dollars for yet another sports package. Penury forced me to choose between the Huskies and the Seahawks, and that's not right.

It almost used to be worth it to pay DiureticTV. Before I had a family, I played fantasy football and watched every televised NFL game, every Thursday and Monday night and all day on Sundays. Now I can barely make time for the Seahawks game once a week.

Aside from football, I've never watched that much television. I'm in the dad zone right now: I don't have much time to watch anything my son can't watch with me. In the unusual event that he falls asleep when I'm awake, watching television is generally dead last on my list of things to do.

However, when we had DefecateTV, my son could not get enough of the several Disney channels, the Cartoon Network, Nickel Odious, etc. While there is some good kids' programming (Wonder Pets, Octonauts), much of it is stultifying (Thomas & Friends), ugly (computer-animated everything), ultraviolent (superheroes, A Clockwork Orange) or idiotic (Paw Patrol--the dumbest thing to come out of Canada since Loverboy).

So, when Carolina eliminated Seattle, I leapt at the chance to cancel Hubris UncheckedTV.

Of course, it's not easy to cancel JesusWepTV. On their website, you can upgrade your package (i.e., agree to pay them more money), but you can neither trade down to a lower-priced package nor cancel your service altogether.

To do anything that might result in SuspecTV taking less of your money, you need to dial it back to the 20th century, pick up the phone and spend an eternity navigating an inefficient automated labyrinth designed to thwart you from speaking to a human being.

When you do reach a customer disservice representative, the conversation somewhat resembles the horrible experience that one guy had trying to cancel his service with Comcast.

Of course, Dick (not his real name... probably) asked why I wanted to cancel. I didn't feel like baring my soul to Dick, so I told him it was a purely financial decision and I politely asked if we could complete the transaction as quickly as possible.

"Are you aware that you are still under contract with us?" Dick asked ominously. He explained that I owed HenpeckedTV five more months and it would cost me money to break my contract.

"What's the damage?" I asked.

Dick did some math and said I would need to pay $120 to be done with GenuflecTV.

"That's a bargain!" I exclaimed. "That's like paying one month to get out of paying the next four months. Yes--please cancel my service now."

"Is there anything we can do to encourage you to stay with us?"

"Nope. I need to save money, so unless you are going to pay me to keep DirecTV, please cancel my service immediately."

"We can give you 5% off per month for the next year," Dick offered hopefully.

"No. That's not you paying me. That's still me paying you. Please cancel my service."

My broken record routine eventually got through to him. After twentysome excruciating minutes (hold time plus talking to Dick), I was a free man.

I enjoyed boxing up their equipment and shipping it back to them. Die, Wrecked TV!

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Manning hobbles into the Hall of Shame

Manning in happier times (Photo Credit: Denver Post)
Along with most of America, I was hoping that Peyton Manning would play well in the Super Bowl.

Like many, I admired his dad, his distinguished career, his gaudy stats, his cerebral approach to the game, his heroic fight against injuries and Father Time, his quest for redemption after the Colts cut him and Seattle humiliated him in Super Bowl XLVIII.

I worried a little about the Al Jazeera allegations of performance-enhancing drugs, but not too much, because I don't regard Qatar's news leader as a particularly credible source for US sports news.

More than anything, though, I appreciated the goofy and likable persona he cultivates in all of those commercials.

Don't get me wrong: I didn't want Manning to win the game, because John Elway and the Broncos already have too many rings. I just wanted him to play well enough to retire on a high note.

I didn't get my wish: He played rather poorly, and the Broncos won.

Five years after he retires, Manning will be voted unanimously into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

But today he earned a more dubious honor, joining Bill Cosby, Jared Fogle, Ben Roethlisberger, OJ Simpson and Woody Allen in the Hall of Shame, where formerly beloved figures rot in the eternal discredit generated by their creepy and downright criminal behavior.

Earlier today, the New York Daily News broke a story that USA Today inexplicably buried 15 years ago.

In a nutshell:
1. Manning allegedly sexually assaulted an athletic trainer he disliked at the University of Tennessee.
2. She filed a complaint.
3. Manning allegedly taunted her after the fact by twice mimicking the sexual assault in her presence with his teammates;
4. UT chose the star quarterback over the trainer. University officials allegedly...
a) invented an alibi for Manning, which he used;
b) lied to support that alibi;
c) pressured another football player to lie to protect Manning, and revoked his scholarship when he refused to do so;
d) asked the complainant to frame one of his black teammates for the offense, instead; and
e) terminated the trainer, but UT ultimately paid her a large settlement. As part of the deal, Manning and the trainer made a nondisclosure agreement.

That's bad enough, and it should have been the end of it.

In 2001, Manning violated the nondisclosure agreement. He and his father published a book (Manning) that included several vindictive allegations of unprofessional and inappropriate behavior against the trainer. Case evidence casts serious doubt on all of that defamation.

Nevertheless, The trainer--by then an assistant professor in Florida--lost her job due to the slurs in Manning. She filed suit. Ultimately, the case was settled on undisclosed terms.

Elsewhere in Manning, Peyton wrote of his Christian faith: "My faith doesn’t make me perfect, it makes me forgiven."

I think Manning's response to today's report will tell us everything we need to know about the sincerity of his religious convictions.

Shaun King, the author of the New York Daily News article, wrote, "Peyton Manning... is the Captain America of sports.... He's also a prolific pitchman, the friendly face of several multi-billion dollar corporations...." Citing the available case evidence, King concludes "it's all a facade, an act, a well-designed for-profit creation, maintained and manicured at all cost."

I think King is wrong about that last point. The frightening thing about people like Cosby, Allen, OJ and Manning is that they are authentically fun and charming. That's what makes it so hard to believe when we encounter evidence that they have done evil things. And that's why it's so easy for them to get away with it.

In other news...

In other news, we note with sadness and gratitude the retirement of Marshawn Lynch. Beast Mode has left the building.

It was nice to see Russell Wilson and Michael Bennett play well in the Pro Bowl and claim offensive and defensive MVP honors.

Other than that, the playoffs were a drag after Seattle's elimination.

I had hoped Arizona would show some life against Carolina and get another Super Bowl ring for my man Red Bryant. It would be nice for the Cardinals to take home the Lombardi Trophy once. I confess to being a little soft on Arizona after living in the state for a dozen years.

After Carolina crushed the Cardinals, I was rooting for the Panthers to win the Super Bowl.

I don't buy into the Cam hate.

Yes, he's arrogant. There's a lot of that going around in professional sports, including on the Seahawks. ("I'm the best corner in the game!")

Yes, his celebrations sometimes border on gloating and taunting, but since Seattle has two Stanford grads prone to "drop a deuce" celebrations, we can't really claim the high ground there, either.

Yes, he tossed a 12th Man flag when a fan offered it to him after the Seahawks game, but in the exuberance of victory people don't always make great decisions.

Yes, it was unwise for him to say, "I'm an African American quarterback that may scare some people." Not because racism is over--it's not--but because the good guys won the black quarterback debate a long time ago.

We won it in 1988 when Doug Williams won the Super Bowl.

We won it again when Warren Moon won five consecutive Grey Cups, made nine Pro Bowls and entered the NFL Hall of Fame.

We won it again with the careers of Randall Cunningham, Steve McNair and Donovan McNabb.

And, of course, we won it once and for all when Russell Wilson hoisted the Lombardi Trophy two years ago.

So, I wanted Carolina to win because they've never won a Super Bowl.

But the game revealed that Cam deserves not our hate, but our pity. Early in the game, when the going got tough, the newly anointed league MVP started pouting, and he continued to sulk throughout the game. It is deeply demoralizing when a team leader displays such downcast demeanor and defeated body language. Oddly, for most of the game, his execution remained decent--he is that good at his craft--but if I'd been coaching, I would have benched him, anyway, until he could pull himself together and act like a man and a leader.

The nadir, of course, came when Cam quit/wussed out/made a business decision, by declining to dive for a fumble with the championship on the line. That will haunt him forever.

Denver's defense was extraordinary, and I'm very happy for Von Williams and Wade Phillips.

But I wanted the Broncos to lose because John Elway is such an insufferable jerk.

And now we know that Peyton Manning is as bad, if not worse.