Tuesday, 30 January 2018


Very Bad Optics

Stop the world, I want to get off. Because most of us are not blind and because most of us have two eyes, I’m going to restrain myself to remarking upon just two active news stories that make me want to add vodka to my morning shot of cranberry juice.

German automaker Volkswagen is still reeling from last year’s jury-rigged software emissions scandal. It has since come to light that the company has been testing the toxicity of its vehicles’ exhaust on primates and people.

As is the case with many countries, Germany is burdened with some evil history. Volkswagen’s latest misstep leads to the ultimate “What the fuck were you thinking?” question. This is bigger than a car manufacturer attempting to make good or disprove poor past behaviour. The global takeaway is succinct: Germans, experiments, gas, humans. Das epic public relations national disaster.

Meanwhile in Washington, Tweeterdumbest is set to purse his lips and flash the A-Okay index finger and thumb symbol at his first State of the Union address, a revered and important annual tradition in American politics. And didn’t a batch of tickets invite VIPs to attend the “State of the Uniom?”

Granted, the White House did not issue the ducats and the letters N and M are neighbours on the QWERTY keyboard. But doesn’t a typo and a lack of proof reading sum up the current presidential administration rather neatly? Details? Who needs them?

Those involved in contentious debate about the Second Amendment understand that even the placement of a comma is problematic. One wonders about the little legislation that’s been passed on Tweeterdumbest’s watch and what’s been pinned onto it to ensure a yea vote and whether any wonk involved has actually read the text through before the lawyers pile on in courtrooms?

There’s much, much more going on in the world to rant about and despair, drive me to drink. I’m restricting myself to two for now.

Sunday, 28 January 2018


Our Species and Technology at a Crossroads

In the mythology of the blues, the crossroads is where a musician decides whether or not to shake hands with the devil. The unpaved cruciform is always remote, rural. There’s a signpost but no distant homestead lights visibly flickering like hope in the wee, wee witching hour. The bargain to be negotiated is Faustian, Biblical; a universal and ancient trope. Until this moment, the myth has embraced the destiny of a single man, be he a prophet, a doctor or a guitarist.

Times have swiftly and extraordinarily changed. The moonlit deal on the table now has become a collective decision, one involving all of wired humanity and those of us who soon will be. Which way will we turn at the intersection? Is dystopia or utopia to the left, the right or straight ahead? Well, that all depends and, anyway, it’s far too late to backtrack. Tip of the Spear: Our Species and Technology at a Crossroads is a thoughtful and engaging book by Jim A. Gibson. His thesis, asked and answered is simple: “Now what?”

Jim and I have been friends for more than 40 years. We met in high school. We played extramural football and intramural hockey together. I spent a lot of time in his parents’ basement. In the early 80s I visited him at his duplex in Toronto’s Beaches neighbourhood from Montreal. One morning we watched his orange Beetle get towed to the Cadillac ranch. We sat down afterward in the living room. I picked up a black plastic coaster with a sliding metal clip sticky with the previous night’s spilt Drambuie. “What’s this?”

“That’s a computer floppy disc. It can store hundreds of pages of text.”

“Eight and a half-eleven, 250 words per page?”

“Yes. That, my friend, is the future.”

In retrospect, that was the moment our career paths diverged; me with my new electric typewriter. I’ve since dallied in advertising and literature. Jim joined the digital revolution and became in his words, “a serial entrepreneur.” Decades later our career paths converged. Jim asked me if I would read his manuscript. I read every draft, five or six of them discounting the jet-lagged cut and pasted one. I offered some editorial and style suggestions. In exchange, Jim managed to incorporate a Bruce Springsteen reference of his own volition and it flows, my brother.

Tip of the Spear addresses big, important, complicated and sometimes abstract stuff. Where will I file my copy in the Crooked 9 library? The book is at once philosophy, business, technology and sociology. Jim understands that everything is in some way connected, especially in this age of information and data, our new economic drivers. Like any clever storyteller, he manages to unsnarl some of the narrative threads, make some sense of some confusing concepts. Jim is a positive thinker but no Pollyanna. The sun will come up over the crossroads, as it must, and we will choose a direction in the new dawn. Jim has written a guide.

For more information visit jimagibson.com.

Wednesday, 24 January 2018


The CEO’s Dilemma

The scene is a well-appointed private office. Dark wood bookshelves stuffed with framed diplomas, journals and textbooks stand behind a heavy, ornate desk inlaid with a gilt pattern. The fixtures, the lamp, the floor ashtray, are brass. A man wearing a rumpled tweed jacket sits in a leather wingback chair, a fountain pen and notebook on his lap, a cigar, just a cigar, in his hand. In the foreground, another man in an expensive Italian suit lies on a backless couch, his head resting against the scroll at one end. Smoke swirls in the muted light.

Chief Executive Officer: Thank you for seeing me on such short notice, Doctor. I’m in the middle of an existential crisis.

Doctor: Hmm? What has precipitated this suddenly agitated state of affairs? Your progress to date has been remarkable.

CEO: As you well know, I provide leadership to a multinational corporation. On my watch, we have embraced our social responsibilities to the best of our abilities. I have always made the well-being of our customers and employees a priority, sometimes to the dismay of our shareholders and the derision of industry analysts.

Dr: We’ve addressed your feelings of enhanced self-esteem and affirmation in previous discussions. Now you have doubts?

CEO: God knows I’ve tried to be a good corporate citizen.

Dr: What has changed, hmm? Please continue.

CEO: One member of our family of legacy brands is laundry detergent. We’ve reinvented the category numerous times before. We eliminated phosphates; transformed flakes into powders, powders into liquids, liquids into concentrated liquids. Remember in the nineties when every product sold - cola, beer, dish soap - had to be clear? Well, we transformed detergents, cleaners, into gels. The Marketing people wondered if we could colour the gels to match a brand’s logo and packaging. Research and Development got on board, and then they came up with the idea of an organic plastic pod container that would not dissolve quite entirely but at least breakdown quickly enough in hot water into smaller molecules; less petroleum in other words, and decay within hours instead of centuries. Brilliant! The perfect measure of detergent for every washing machine or dishwasher load for every home supplied pre-packaged. No spills. No muss. Just reliability and convenience.

Dr: Genius, hmm?

CEO: Thank you. So I thought. One hundred times better than our flushable baby wipes that didn’t flush, I thought. Trouble is that teenagers around the globe have started gobbling our gel detergent pods by the fistful, like candy. The products are so attractive, swirling primary colours. It’s some kind of craze we inadvertently helped create.

Dr: Mass hysteria, hmm? But surely laundry detergent is poisonous?

CEO: Thank you for your valued input, Sigmund. Of course it is. You’d have to be insane to ingest one. It’s been a public relations nightmare. There are actually people out there who think we somehow engineered this fiasco on purpose, started the whole thing for publicity. Trust me, I’m not that devious nor is anybody who works for me. We make and sell quality soap. And yet…

Dr: Go on.

CEO: On the other hand, our brand awareness has since achieved an absolutely staggering level of familiarity. We’re getting column inches in the traditional press and trending upward on social media. Sales of our detergent pods and their sister brand dishwasher pods are soaring. I’m taking calls from restaurant and bar chains who want to use them as ice cubes, convenience retailers who want to stock them on the bulk confectionary aisle.

Dr: How does this make you feel?

CEO: Massive opportunity knocks! Take the detergent pod challenge! Eat as many as you can! Put them in your Slurpees and martinis! Die! I’m torn.

Dr: Surely you cannot murder your customers?

CEO: Why not? Other industries do: guns, alcohol, tobacco, opioids. Maybe I can just make them as sick as the processed food and soda corporations do? Maybe I can sell them vehicles with safety mechanisms that deploy like hand grenades? Maybe I can sell them brand new homes, leaky firetraps? Doctor, cleanliness is next to godliness and God help me this is the only consumer behaviour we’ve tried to encourage through the loyal usage of our innovative gel pod detergent products. But, you know if people want to eat them, I’m not pulling them from the shelves; I’m not to blame. In fact, I’m inclined to make more. Maybe add fruit flavouring, blue raspberry, citrus.  

Dr: Hmm, I have a sense of your dilemma. You are conflicted. Your feelings remain unresolved. However, our session is coming to a close. Would you like to book another appointment?

CEO: Things are busy at head office, top floor boardroom bustle. I was lucky to get away today for an hour. I’m of two minds, Doctor.

Dr: This I understand of course, hmm?

Monday, 22 January 2018


Atlantic Trap and Gill

Edmonton’s south side is slated to lose a bevvie of imported local colour come March. The Atlantic Trap and Gill, a pub that caters to the Down Home diaspora, is closing its swinging doors.

There were tell-tale signs, more modest crowds and modest price increases. Word has it that there are not enough homesick Maritimers left in town to keep the business going. This reflects the flat-lined state of Alberta’s oil patch, and perhaps improving career prospects along Canada’s east coast. The timing of the legislated increase to the provincial minimum wage was likely inopportune.

Located a few blocks south of the midpoint of the Whyte Avenue entertainment strip, the Trap always had a neighbourhood feel. The stand alone building is a converted automotive garage that backs onto streets of squat, walk-up apartments. The décor is ocean pedestrian, fishing nets and buoys augmented by Moosehead and Alexander Keith’s beer signs, St. John’s antique kitsch, the walls and pillars papered with snapshots of regulars past and present. The long tables are communal; the live music kitchen party.

The menu is cheesier than a loaded donair, replete “wit” regional pronunciation and slang; no doubt a “big arsed” bastard to proofread and spell check. Because atmosphere affects publicly prepared and purchased food, the Trap’s fish and chips are arguably the best in the city. The hefty burgers are garnished with traditional toppings and condiments leaving no “fuckin’” space for a precious, apple-smoked-bacon-infused aioli. The sweetly sauced Halifax donairs are a chronic belcher’s delight.

The Trap was never a big game destination. The televisions are old and small by current sports bar standards. The pool tables are no longer the colour of money. The dart boards are decorative. The men’s room, “the shitter,” is problematic for particularly persnickety patrons. One can only speculate about the condition of the food prep area.

So, in five weeks or so Old Strathcona will lose a little bit of its character, become a little more generic. The window of an independent business on a busy streetscape already strip mauled with chain store and franchise signage will be papered over.

Wednesday, 17 January 2018


Time Was…

A disc jockey on Alberta’s public radio station last week introduced a live track by Calgary’s Co-Dependents as a cover of “an old Rolling Stones song.” Granted, the CKUA morning host wasn’t the usual grizzled old veteran who I suspect sprinkles Purple Windowpane on his granola sometimes, but still, the description tripped my expectation to a Jagger-Richards composition from the mid-sixties. The golden oldie given a reverent run-through spun out as ‘Faraway Eyes,’ released in 1978. Because every notion in my head has been dumbed down to social media shorthand I thought, “WTF!?”

Gee, I guess four decades gone, baby, gone qualifies a tune as “old” even though I consider ‘Faraway Eyes’ a relatively recent addition to the Stones catalogue as their studio output has since dipped, dived. I was 18 then, so much wiser than I am now because I knew everything and if I didn’t know what I was talking about, I at least formulated a passionate, uninformed opinion.

Honest to God, it was just last week in Montreal, though I haven’t even lived there for 28 years, that I bought the Some Girls album at Deux Mille Plus on Mansfield the day it came out. A day or two later a dream came true, I scooped the extended, eight-minute version of ‘Miss You’ backed with ‘Faraway Eyes’ on pink vinyl, an expensive French import with a spectacular sleeve featuring a rose-hued duotone portrait of the Stones, at Rock en Stock on Crescent.

This recent CKUA collision of the passage of time and the elasticity of memory prompted me to buy a new telephone address book. Other people freeze in a crisis. My old book was indispensable. It has travelled the continent and across oceans. It began life with block printing done with a soft lead pencil, complete with left-handed smudges. Various colours of updating ink were added; bits of sticky correction tape. Antiquated business cards crammed inside gummy plastic slots. Directional detour arrows drawn, the alphabetic sequence gently nudged out of order at the M tab due to space limitations.

I spent Monday flipping through the back pages of my life in Alberta and my career in advertising. Why did I have dealings with the general manager of the Medicine Hat Blue Jays? Must’ve been program ads and outfield wall signage; regrettably I never did get down that way to watch a baseball game under the prairie sun. Does Palmer-Jarvis even exist anymore? How did I ever cross paths with Steve from McCann Erickson’s Seattle office? Numbers too for pre-press film houses and a photography developing lab; how quaint.

My friend Tim has been a bit of a gypsy. My contact information for him stretches from Montreal, to Calgary, to Toronto and back to Calgary. I even have his mother’s phone number because she was so kind to me when I was growing up and much later on when I would visit Montreal in the guise of an adult I would always make an effort to say hello to Tim’s mom. My friend Marty has been a stalwart in North Vancouver for years although I don’t believe I need Marty’s home fax number any longer. Kevin, Rene, Jim, Paul and Dean could be master criminals, changing area codes and ditching burner phones in dumpsters behind 7-11 stores.

My old address book is a melancholy treasure chest. X marks the spot: ex-bosses, ex-colleagues, ex-friends, ex-wives and ex-girlfriends. Exit. The truly painful part is the roll of the dead within its pages: disease, natural causes, suicide. They comprise the letters I can no longer write, the e-mails I can no longer send and the long distance calls I can no longer place. My little black book of the blues.

My new address book is like a resolution made on a cold, late night in December: slim, fit! I’ve culled my dead contacts, written the survivors down in harder graphite. Tim’s been pared from a full page to a name, a city and a cell phone. If he moves again I won’t have much erasing to do. If I ever require his street and house number, I can just call him or send an e-mail request.

Meanwhile, I’ve read that the Stones are working on a new album which just goes to show that nothing’s really changed: not my friends – old and new - no one, nobody and certainly not me and so I need an updated address book even though I really don’t.

Sunday, 14 January 2018


A Bullet Dodged


I have to say I prefer my emergency alerts more benign in nature, EXTREME COLD for instance. I’m thinking that if Ann and I had been back on Maui yesterday, we would’ve grabbed some chairs, beer and cigarettes and gone to the beach, held hands and watched the fireworks. Nuclear Armageddon, a ruined holiday; tell me, what else would we do? Make love.

Though the advance warning of the apocalypse was no drill, it was a mistake. A simple human error transmitted to every digital device in the state. Given the tensions between a fading empire overseen by a “dotard” and a failed state under the inherited heel of a “little Rocket Man,” its timing could not have been more exquisite. We are cursed with interesting times dominated by plump, unstable individuals and the idea of an unprovoked missile attack is no preposterous Pentagon thought experiment.

“It’s not a mere threat, but a reality that I have a nuclear button on the desk in my office. All of the mainland United States is within range of our nuclear strike.”

“I too have a Nuclear Button, but it is a much bigger & more powerful one than his, and my Button works!”

Aloha! Hang loose! Panic! The Cuban Missile Crisis cranked up to a Spinal Tap 11. Hawaiians and their tourist guests on Saturday lived an absurd alternate reality, sort of a conflated conflagration of Dr. Strangelove and On the Beach for 18 minutes. Meanwhile Tweeterdumbest kept playing golf because Hawaii is a blue state. Knowledgeable Republicans were quick to lay the blame for the emergency fiasco at the feet of former presidents Clinton and Obama because those men were soft on an insignificant point along the “axis of evil.” Of course.

One miracle is that the inadvertent incident did not escalate beyond embarrassment. Perhaps golf isn’t such an idiotic game after all. Still, I wonder about the ultimate fate of a world hackled by the machinery of war. Just how reliable are the systems and their operators? I’ve no desire to be incinerated because somebody else was having a bad day; wasn’t paying attention. Procedures and protocols are easily circumvented, just read the business, politics and sports sections of the morning paper.

I suspect the other miracles born of this latest brush with insanity will be delivered happy, healthy and innocent about mid-September.

Saturday, 13 January 2018


Off to a Great Start

My father’s parents were English émigrés who met and married in Montreal prior to the onset of the Great War. A delightful consequence of these roots for me was that as a child I could look forward to the gift of a Rupert the Bear book each Christmas. Last night before I fell asleep I thought of my grandparents and Rupert; it wasn’t nostalgia.

On one adventure Rupert went to the North Pole and stayed overnight as the guest of the North Wind. His room was so cold that he spread his red jumper and checkered yellow pants atop his blankets for additional warmth. I went to bed last night wearing a fleece pullover, a t-shirt, shorts, flannel pants and heavy socks. I snuggled under the duvet, a Hudson Bay blanket and a sheet. Outside, it was 33 below zero. Inside, important components of our furnace had given up their ghosts. Early Wednesday morning I’d been awakened by strange new bumps in the night; I thought nothing of them, too sleepy.

Ann is encased in so many layers of clothing she’s bouncing off the walls like the Michelin Tire Lady. Yesterday she telephoned our survivalist neighbour across the alley hoping to borrow a space heater. The fellow has cached guns, bottled water and tinned food in his basement, all set for the apocalypse, the obvious guy to call. Shockingly, he was unable to help. Perhaps the triumph of the Tweeterdumbest regime south of Canada has renewed his faith in humanity.

The first week of the New Year was no better. Last Friday we learned about a phenomenon our home contractor termed “attic rain.” About three years ago Ann and I undertook an extensive renovation of the Crooked  9. The house was wrapped with an additional envelope of insulation before the exterior planking was upgraded and replaced. The tar and gravel roof was shingled. The aluminum windows, top of the line before MS-DOS existed, were replaced. The result was cozy: our home cool in the summer months and warmer and more efficient during the winter. Little did we know that these improvements would create a new and unforeseen problem.

We need moisture in our house, especially in this northern climate, for our wood furniture, our potted plants, our own dry, cracked skins. The excess, in the form of vapour, needs to be vented efficiently. Extreme temperature fluctuations, sudden 30-degree swings anomalies no longer, flash froze condensation in our rafters before it could be expelled and eventually flash thawed it. Attic rain tripped our hardwired smoke and carbon monoxide alarm circuitry.

Ann and I did not realize the cause of the emergency at the time. How could we? Between the screeching beeps the lady who has voiced every call centre prompt there ever was instructed us to call 911. “Fire!” “Carbon monoxide!” I did a jog-through inspection of the house, somehow remembering to feel for heat through a closed door before opening it. A cigarette was probably a bad idea. Ann and I stood facing each other in the hall by the front door, indecisive. No one in their right mind wants a community’s first responders to actually work. Especially because of a false alarm. Then again, neither one of us desired “stupidity” listed as cause of death on our morgue forms. We called the hotline. The fire trucks screamed up. We shivered on the driveway. I thought, “The cats are still inside. Wait, make that cat, singular.” The afternoon before we’d irrevocably changed the internal dynamic of the Crooked 9.

Mungo, aged 19, was dispatched to his tenth life on January 4th. He was just a grey tabby but his looks were somewhat exotic. His face, his muzzle, his ears… he was assembled with triangles lifted from harlequin paintings and kindergarten puzzles. His eyes were shaped like almonds, aslant. He lost so many fights through the years that we suspected brain and nerve damage, a NASCAR cat always tilting to the left. As he lost his wits, he lost weight and his balance. We knew the major organs inside that skinny frame were failing. Mungo’s bucket kicker was utilizing every room he could get into as a litter box. Puddles and piles of stench. We could cope with his constant vomiting, but that was our limit.

Ann always says, “Everything’s fine until it isn’t.” Rocker Joe Walsh rhymed similar wisdom in Life of Illusion: “Pow! Right between the eyes/Oh! How nature loves her little surprises.” Things can always get worse. What’s next? At this moment, the Crooked 9 is spic-and-span, warm, dry and not entirely catless. It’s all good. Still, there are 50 more weeks to go in 2018. That’s worrisome.

Thursday, 4 January 2018


And I Frowned at the Crumbs of a Crust of Bread

Third generation grocery scion Galen Weston has admitted his family-run conglomerate of retail outlets, food processing plants and bakeries have been inflating the price of bread across Canada for 14 years. He is very contrite and swears that his employees who engineered the scheme no longer work for him in any capacity. Naturally, he had no knowledge of their activities and as such will keep his royal blood title with Loblaw Companies Ltd., his head, and his rap sheet pristine.

It has been speculated that the miracle manna which sustained the Israelites on their exodus from Egypt was a type of bread. “Give us this day our daily bread.” The world famous Bavarian purity laws were not decreed for the greater glory of beer nor quality control. Limiting a brew’s ingredients kept demand for grains aside from barley low thereby reducing costs for bakers. The fourth Earl of Sandwich, on a gambling jag, demanded “some meat between some bread” so he could eat without fuss and keep playing. Revolutions are not ignited by a single spark, but surely the inflated price of a loaf of bread did not work in the favour of France’s remote and removed aristocracy. “Let them eat cake.” In the last weeks of his life, the late musician Warren Zevon advised television talk show host David Letterman and his live studio audience to “Enjoy every sandwich.”

Loblaw has had some very bad ink in the business pages of the newspapers lately. Stores will be closed this year, 22 of them, their locations secret; naturally some long term employees must be shown the automatic EXIT door. Vendors have been pole-axed by significant and arbitrary invoice processing fees. Now the rat fink who’d been living large lapping up the purposely spilt flour on the bakery floor has cut a deal with the authorities, crumbs both for the good cop and the bad cop in the interrogation cell.

The squealer sang for his self-preservation. He fingered rival grocery banners as complicit in the scheme even though they don’t possess the resource of granddad’s massive baking operations to fix prices. In fact, he sells his expensive bread to his competitors.

The admission of guilt is followed by a pathetic mea culpa, a paltry public relations exercise hinging on the distribution of $25 Loblaw gift cards. Because, really, how many loaves of bread would the average household consume over the course of 14 years? Who can know because even the most insane of anal retentive grocery shoppers will not hoard 14 years’ worth of receipts. The cynical beauty of the complimentary SORRY! cards is something to behold: online registration will provide Loblaw key customer data; the cards will drive traffic to Loblaw stores; nobody ever spends the exact amount of a gift card; finally, usage may deprive hasty disgruntled consumers from sharing in the infinitely more lucrative proceeds of a successful class action lawsuit.

Fixing the price of a global human staple takes a gallon of casual, entitled arrogance chased down by a quart of unmitigated gall. This is James Bond villainy. This is worse than Coca-Cola selling your free tap water back to you in a branded, tinted plastic bottle. Our daily bread is as real as it gets, not as abstract as a software-rigged Volkswagen diesel emission test result. Canadians have been gouged by a corporation who had the means to do it and who had no ethical dilemma about doing it until it was apparent they were going to get nabbed for doing it. Many Canadians have already queued in the Loblaw digital bread line; starting next week they can expect to receive their crummy apology.

Monday, 1 January 2018


Goodbye to All That

On the first day of the year, the morning after its coldest night, it’s time to pause and reflect on the recent past. Because I’m a deep thinker, my topic is sports. My consumption of this form of entertainment is off the chart; it barely registers anymore.

Last summer I attended three Edmonton Prospects games. The ball is low level, collegiate. The attraction is the yard situated down on the river flats. The grandstand offers a sweeping view of the city’s skyline up on the ridge and the stacks of the disused Pink Floyd power station behind the left field wall. The park is a different backdrop for banter and beer with friends.

I made an effort to turn on the television for just one major league game this season, game seven of the World Series. I cannot sit still for four hours. I took three innings off to go outside and shovel freshly fallen snow. I spent time in the kitchen grinding coffee for the morrow. I puttered around the house, fussing, straightening, put the garbage and recycling out in the alley.

Football was my best sport in high school and here out west football still matters. The clubs existed long before professional hockey set down roots. In November I got around to paying attention. I tuned into four games: the Canadian university Vanier Cup championship, the Canadian Football League’s East and West finals, and the Grey Cup finale. While the games were being played I managed to vacuum the house and scrub the shower and the bath.

I have not seen a single down of American football this fall or winter. I used to follow the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears. I can’t quite put my finger on what turned me off exactly. Just like baseball, jingoism disguised as patriotism invaded the stadia. Politics turned up and said, “Watch this, hold my keg.” The inane, jargon-heavy commentary from the broadcast booth became intolerable. I tired of judging the morals and ethics of the interchangeable players, the owners and the executive.

Hockey when played skillfully and creatively is the greatest sport on Earth. That’s my Canadian bias, an opinion from a country defined by winter. The game, like other sports, has curdled, over-coached, overly specialized and like football, made boring to watch, a tremendously difficult achievement. Like football, hockey’s protective gear has become weaponized, utterly altering the dynamic of the sport. Conversely, but related, armoured baseball batters have no qualms about crowding the plate no matter how hard the pitcher throws. The end goals of these matches have not changed but the means have been fundamentally buggered.

I love the Montreal Canadiens. I have made just three attempts to watch their games on television since the hockey season revved up in the fall before Thanksgiving. I left the sound off on each occasion because coiffed, concussed talking heads have nothing to say to me. The team itself is a marketer’s nightmare, unexciting and lousy. They’re done. Game on! Think I’ll go and sweep out the garage or get down on my hands and knees and scrub the baseboards in the hallway.

I have not watched a sports channel newscast in more than a year. I’ve not looked at highlights on any digital platform. I still open my morning newspaper to the sports section, as has been my custom for 45 years. I don’t read the columns of type, just scan the headlines and the words jump out like a potboiler jacket blurb: money, sex, drugs, domestic violence, dementia, death.

The magic of sport remains the lure of a narrative with, ideally, an unpredictable ending. The saturation of stories makes them matter less and less, too many games on too many nights. Still, all of us, the fans, can join together with our tribe and rally against a common enemy. Unfortunately, the enemies are now too numerous and anonymous to get worked up about.

I must conclude from my shrunken viewing habits and my declining interest that the spectacle of sport no longer provides a worthwhile distraction from the day-to-day realities of my ever-shortening life. There are far more enjoyable and interesting ways to spend my time, squander it even.