Are You Buying What Trump is Selling?

I won’t. I know his business record, and had him pegged as a douchebag by 1989.

1.  Drive through Detroit, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Akron, Erie or many other cities, and assume you have a son working for almost nothing. “See that abandoned factory? Your great grandfather worked there.!” Go a few blocks over, and tell him his grandfather worked there. Drive a way further to another abandoned factory, and say ‘”I worked there.”

2.  Then, drive through the neighborhoods and see the boarded up homes. “That’s where Grandpa lived.”

3.  While driving through the neighborhoods, let him observe the Negroes doing drug deals on the corners.

4. Get back home, and observe the landscapers speaking only Spanish. In a fit of ire, you yell “En Estados Unidos, habla Inglés, por favor!”

5. Then, look at your household goods, and see “Made In China” on almost all of them.

6. Then, turn on your cable news network (any of the three), and it’s All Trump, All The Time. The more outrageous things he says, the more coverage he gets.

EXTRA POINT: You might just buy what Trump is selling. I will not. He has shown no integrity, but plenty of opportunism. He wants to deport the illegal aliens out of the nation, but who would work at the properties he put his name on?  When I heard about the Trump Doral Golf Resort in Miami, I almost threw up. I’ve ridden past it and wanted to play it, as it is a beautiful course. I have no idea when he put his name on it. It used to be just Doral.

I know the GOP is split, and maybe it should be. Yes, I want jobs to come back to America, but I am a strong believer in “Live And Let Live.” If another person is gay or black, I do not care. I know who I am, I have my own skin tone and preferences, but if you are gay, black or Latino, I do not care. You’re as American as I. Trump has no government executive experience, and is most likely nowhere nearly as wealthy as he claims. It’s a crazy thing with this progressive agreeing with the right, but I, along with them, align with the Dump Trump agenda.

Football Season In America.

Baseball once was called the national pastime. That was generations ago. Now, it’s football, as it always was in my region of the United States. Young men get permanent brain damage from playing our favorite game, and some can hardly walk by the time they reach middle age. Others, tragically, take their own lives after playing.

But, it is our de facto national pastime, and Six Points is here to try to explain it. Here goes…

1. What Makes Football Special?

Baseball teams play 162 games in a season.Lose on Tuesday, screw it. Play again on Wednesday, win, and all is good. And is there anything more worthless than April basketball in the NBA? ‘Eighty-two games is much more than enough.

With football, on the other hand, every game is an event.It takes a week, not a day, before every game, and we have the build-up to each game, the review of the last game and the projections of the next game before kickoff.Over coffee pots in offices and water fountains in factories, we all discuss our teams with anticipation.

2. Old Friends, New Friends And Rituals:

.In elementary school, when school started, I would reunite with people who lived miles away, and the small talk would turn to football more often than not.

“How do you think the Browns will do this year?” “What do you think about the Buckeyes?” “My cousin plays  for the Knights.”

In this region, where the forerunner of the NFL was founded in a Hupmobile dealership, that was normal. In fact, it was expected.

Later, when we were barely of drinking age, we would gather around 19-inch color TVs and watch the Browns while becoming inebriated. It was the age of “Just Say No,” and we were playing along. Alcohol good; marijuana bad.

After that, I had season tickets in the original Dawg Pound in the now-demolished Cleveland Municipal Stadium. I’d like to say our tailgate parties were legendary, but I am sure they have been surpassed.

We were still poor college kids from the suburbs then, but we fed the homeless from our grills, and we even gave them beer. That which came from our grills (and our coolers) were probably the best meals they had all week.

Now, I refuse to set foot in the new stadium, named after FirstEnergy, the electricity provider in my region. A city that cannot graduate half of its high school students had no business spending $350 million in corporate welfare on a stadium used  ten times annually..

And,, it’s great to make new friends over football games. I’ve made several over the new national pastime.

But, these days, it’s still great to fire up the grill and get together with people over a game.It’s been a long time since fifth grade, but football season still brings people back together. And, win or lose, that’s why I love this time of year.

3. Transitions.

In my region, we begin football season wearing T-shirts and shorts and end it wearing North Face parkas and thermal underwear.

We begin with steaks on the grill, and we end with steaks on the grill. Yes, we love our football here.And, we love to grill.

In this region, hayrides, carved pumpkins  and clambakes come with football season, along with Oktoberfest beer and racks of ribs.

We begin the season with optimism about our chosen teams and end it with pessimism, or if we are fortunate, the beginning and the end are inverted.

International crises will occur, energy costs will fluctuate, politicians will say asinine things, but we will still have our football. And, we love it.

Buy groceries in my area. The dominant supermarket, ironically based in Pittsburgh, displays plenty of apparel supporting the high school that serves my township.

We love this sport. Even though it literally kills some who played it. And, I am as guilty as anyone.

4. The High School Level

I never played in high school. I loved the game, as I still do, and a friend of my parents coached a high school team. I came to understand the game in fourth and fifth grades.

But, where I went to high school, our defensive line was twice my size. Literally. By the time I graduated high school, I weighed a buck-twenty. When I was in eighth grade, our whole D-line was over 200, running a 4-3.

I decided I had no death wish.

The high school I graduated from was relatively young at the time, being a product of the merger of two rural schools after World War II. Northfield High and Macedonia High had become Nordonia, and most years, you did not want to play them.

Now, you still don’t want to play them. Now, grandfathers sit with fathers in that school’s stands to watch their offspring play.

A few years ago, I was playing trivia in a Garfield Heights (OH) bar, it was autumn, and football talk came up.I mentioned where I had gone to high school, and an older man, who played linebacker for Maple Heights in the 1970s, said “We hated playing you guys! Big farm boys! We’d play you on Friday, and we’d  still  be hurting on Wednesday!”

Now, Nordonia has fast black kids along with their big white kids. Maple Heights, predominantly white in the 1970s, is now overwhelmingly black. Several years ago, Maple won the state Division II title with its all-black team, and pictures of their stands showed middle-aged white men.

The Beach Boys once sang “Be True To Your School,’ and in this region, we still are.true.We still cheer for our Knights, as those who live in Streetsboro cheer for their Rockets and those who are alumni of Farview cheer for their Warriors. That’s who we are.

5. The college level:

Where I went to college, we had no football team.

But, our entire state roots for the Ohio State Buckeyes. Every Saturday, more than 105,000 people fill Ohio Stadium to contribute to a deafening cacophony previously unheard by the human species.

Even people who had graduated from MAC schools, such as Akron, Kent, or Ohio University watch the Buckeyes on Saturday.That’s us. We’re that.

We don’t even care if our quarterback prospect says “I’m going to the University of Ohio State.”

Just win, baby.

6. The Pro Game.

I was in a bar once, and I said “I remember when the Browns were good!”

The response?

“Damn, dude, you’re old!”

When I was in elementary school, the Cleveland Browns were competitive. In my parents’ generation, they were dominant.

Thus, we grew up as fans of the Cleveland Browns.

Their generation had certitude of victory with Otto Graham and Lou Groza, and ours had prayers with Brian Sipe and Bernie Kosar. Nonetheless, we watch every Sunday to this day, expecting disappointment but praying to this day that the Browns will be somewhat less brown, but something that lives up to the name of the late Paul Brown.

Now, we have plenty of Pittsburgh Steelers fans here, and I can’t blame them. Why not root for a winner? Your team is two hours down the road, and our team sucks. I remember the Steel Curtain, but I still remained a Browns fan. But, I had something to cling to.

After the City of Cleveland spent $350 million to build a generic excuse for a stadium for a home for an embarrassment of a team, the Browns have barely worth been watching.

This is a city that could not graduate half of its high school students when that corporate welfare was spent on the NFL. I refuse to set foot in that building.

And, as adults, let’s think about the NFL for a moment.

Picture this: You and I both went to college with the same major. Only one corporation is hiring in our trade. That corporation has 32 divisions.

The Cleveland division of that corporation hired me. The Pittsburgh division of that corporation hired you. Shit, we studied together, smoked pot together, and now, we should hate each other?

And, a milion morons in Pittsburgh hate me and a million morons in Cleveland hate you for just doing our jobs?

We’ll make money, but we’ll  walk away if we’re able after numerous concussions, and we’re likely to blow our brains out by the time we reach age 50.

I love football, it’s a social ritual of the autumn, but is it really worth it?

Is this sport really worth it?

Extra Point: Be Careful Out There!

That comes from the 1980s series Hill Street Blues, where the staff sergeant admonished his patrolmen to do just that. Six Points doubles down on that.

Yes, it’s football season. Yes, we like to party during football season.

And yes, municipalities and courts like to make money, and we can be easy targets.Four beers during the course of a game can put us over the legal limit of 0.08 percent alcohol, and our Fourth Amendment rights are basically nonexistent these days.

Have a designated driver, or better yet, be one. If you are the designated driver, you will not be as disappointed when the Browns lose again. Walking into and out of the situation sober, you will accept that the Browns still suck. Better yet, after not paying the court, you’ll easily be able to afford that Steelers jersey.

They Said It! (3.0)

OK, time to keep the blog running with more quotes from other folks. It’s an easy way to keep it going, and this way, I don’t have to do much of anything besides copy and paste. Here’s Six Points getting lazy again:

1. Long before Hitler or Stalin, this man nailed it:

“Those who believe absurdities can easily be led to commit atrocities”

– Voltaire

2. God said what?

“I distrust those who know so well what God wants them to do because I notice it always coincides with their desires”

– Susan B. Anthony

3. Fools Need Rules

“Rules are meant for the guidance of wise men, and the obedience of fools.”  

– Benjamin Franklin

4. The Bliss Of Never Being Wrong…

“Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t; you’re right.”

– Henry Ford

5. This man would hate being a Browns fan today…

I always turn to the sports pages first, which records people’s accomplishments. The front page has nothing but man’s failures.

-Earl Warren

6. Idiocracy Again:

“Think about how stupid the average person is, and then realize that half of ‘em are stupider than that.”

– George Carlin

Extra Point: I’m slacking, but have an appetizer….

You’ll read more about the late, great George Carlin in a future post in the pipeline called “The Fools Rule.” Other great comedians who could also make you think will be featured. This installment will take some homework that’s not done yet, but there was your appetizer. Thanks for your patience.

Things I Miss.

Well, when you get a little bit older, you get nostalgic. Please do not confuse nostalgic with neuralgic in my case.

Warning: For my out of town readers, this post contains many Greater Cleveland-centric references. Mea culpa. I’m from there, and I live there.

Over the years, we have lost some things we miss, and we have every right to miss them. They made life better, and as I sit behind a MacBook Pro typing this, those things that vanished (or vanished as they once were) before this computer was even thought of are sorely missed by Six Points.

Here, per format, come six of them:

1. Service Stations.

That’s where my parents bought gasoline. There was no such thing as self-service gasoline in Ohio then, and when you rolled up to the pump, a uniformed attendant would walk up to your car and pump your gas for you.

He would also check your oil and fluids, wash your windows, and give you service advice.

“Sir, you’re down half a quart in your engine, and your left rear tire looks a little low.”

Motorist: “OK. top the oil up and check the pressure in all four tires.”

“OK, that will come to $7.50, and I’ll bring the hose out to take care of those tires.”

There was no charge for the air, nor for the attendant putting it in the tires.

Better yet, at the service station, if that left rear tire eventually failed, they could actually replace it for you on the spot.

You could not buy fast food or beverage alcohol in a service station, but they could give your car a tune-up, fix your brakes and do basic mechanical work. If you look at many gas stations these days that have been around for a while, the area they will sell you pastries, hot dogs and beer were once called “service bays.”

Those were the places you could actually get your car fixed where you bought gasoline. Now, with MADD going mad and the nationwide BAC level for DUI at 0.08 percent with DUI/OVI offenses being a revenue source for courts, police departments and insurance companies, they are selling alcohol in the same place they sold tires a generation ago.

Any problem with filling your tank and buying that which will get you tanked at the same location?

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot!

2. Oldsmobiles.

Nothing said “White Middle Class” like an Oldsmobile.

In the 1970s, the Chevrolet division of General Motors ran a commercial jingle with the lyrics “Baseball, hot dogs, apple pie and Chevrolet.”

The jingle for Olds at the time could have been “Big Ten degree, Porterhouse, acre yard and Oldsmobile.”

Situated squarely in the middle of the GM model hierarchy, the Olds division sold plenty of cars. In the midst of much corporate infighting over positioning the marque as either a performance brand or a near-luxury brand, Oldsmobile engineers delivered both, to a large extent.

Oldsmobiles came from the same body platforms as comparable Chevrolets, Pontiacs and Buicks with the same displacement of engines, but each division designed their engines differently. For enthusiasts, the Olds “Gold Block” 350 is a prized engine, along with the division’s prized “W-30,” “W-31” and the very rare “”W-32” big-block 455 V-8s.

An Olds was slightly more expensive than a Pontiac and much more expensive than a Chevrolet on the same platform, but the Olds came with much more standard equipment and an engine that would outrun either in stock trim. In 2001, the year GM announced it was phasing out the Olds division, 90 percent of the cars in the Indianapolis 500 used Oldsmobile engines.

The engineers also upgraded the suspension to improve it over the lesser brands, and made the suspension, along with the drivetrain overall, more durable than the upper-level Buick.

Oldsmobile had another advantage that made people in the know attracted to their cars. The division had its own plant in Lansing, Michigan that had the highest reputation for quality of any GM plant.

In the late 1990s, reports hit the media that GM might kill the Olds division, and I was still driving a Subaru. Actually, it was my third Subaru. They were good, high-quality cars. They rarely needed repairs, but when they did, grab your ankles!

By 2001, I was ready for a new ride, and the news had just broken that GM was phasing out the Oldsmobile division. I was ready to make a beeline for a Toyota Corolla, but I saw a newspaper ad offering a fire-sale price on an Alero.

I went to the dealership that ran the ad, did a test drive with a complete douchebag, and did not want to deal with them. I drove the Alero, liked its performance and refinement over the Corolla, but I would not buy a demo from those clowns.

I went to another dealer, got $3500 off of sticker up front on the fire sale, and had a 5-year, 60,000 mile warranty tossed in.

I decided the Alero was the car Olds was betting its life on with an Olds-designed DOHC 2.4-liter, decided to make the leap of faith, and signed the papers. I wanted the manual transmission, so I special ordered it, and waited about two weeks before I took delivery. It came to me with nine miles on it.

From Lansing, Michigan.

Around a month after my purchase, I actually got a call from the plant where it was built, asking me about any quality issues, such as leaks, squeaks or rattles. I told the woman who called I found the quality overall to be at least equal to the three Subarus I had previously owned,.

I had to take it back to the dealer exactly once. Covered by warranty.

I got almost 13 years out of that Alero, and it did not perish from mechanical, electrical or structural failure, but from the insurance company totaling it after Bambi ran out in front of me. The engine had never been opened, the transmission had never needed service, and I had to put the car down in February 2014 with 154,312 miles on the original clutch.

What did I buy to replace that car? I didn’t want a payment, found an immaculate car at a Subaru dealership traded in by a senior citizen, paid cash, and bought another…

Oldsmobile.

More than 14 years after I bought my first Olds, I still consider the demise of that GM division to be one of many canaries in the coal mines for the American middle class.

3. Good Commercial Radio.

Such a thing used to exist. Believe it or not.

One station that is legendary still bears the same call letters, but is now unlistenable. It was locally owned when it was great, but not surprisingly, it’s now owned by iHeartMedia, better known as Clear Channel.

When I was growing up, WMMS had a “progressive rock” format. Back then, major market radio stations could “break” bands and artists, as program directors and even DJs had autonomy and playlists often did not exist. You could call a station, make a request for a song, and they would actually play it.

WMMS “broke” David Bowie, Rush and Bruce Springsteen in the American market. We listened to WMMS, and WMMS was successful because it listened to us.

Sure, WMMS was for-profit, but you could get a musical education from WMMS. In an evening of doing my homework for school with WMMS playing on the stereo in the background, not only would I hear Springsteen and Led Zeppelin, but everything from Stanley Clarke to Miles Davis to Johnny Paycheck.

Now, how did commercial radio turn to shit? Six Points has a few reasons.

Back in the day, a company could own a limited number of radio stations in the same market. Now, iHeartMedia owns over 850 AM and FM stations in the United States, with a decidedly conservative bent. We’ve gone from a wide variety of music on a progressive rock station to endless, mindless repetition in all formats.

Do you like country music? Tune in and hear the same ten songs over and over. Same for rock and all other formats, and if you like talk radio, prepare to hear the same ten conservative talking points over and over. Drive around the United States listening to the radio, and it sounds the same everywhere.

Commercial radio used to reflect its regional markets. It no longer does. See, we used to have this thing called “regulation.”

Not only could you only own a limited number of stations in a market, you were required to broadcast news and public affairs programming as a given percentage of your content. As a result of that regulation, you would hear more actual morning news on progressive-rock WMMS back in the day than you hear on “news-talk” WTAM now.

Sure, the public affairs programming was usually buried on Sunday mornings, but it was there. That’s how I became aware of Cleveland’s City Club Forum.

There was also something called the Fairness Doctrine. Repealed in 1987, it was based on the principle that radio stations, who owned their own equipment but leased the airwaves that belong to all Americans, had to provide equal time to all viewpoints. It worked something like this: Go ahead and play three hours of Rush Limbaugh, but balance it with three hours of an Ed Schultz or Stephanie Miller.

The repeal of the Fairness Doctrine begat the right-wing cesspool AM radio has become. The airwaves that belong to 100 percent of Americans now serve a small fraction of them.

Plus, with a handful of companies owning most commercial radio stations in the United States, so much for competition. So much for the free market. Adam Smith would be ashamed.

Thank All That Is Holy for NPR.

When rock and roll radio was actually listenable, it would send you to places called…

4. Record Stores.

Whether mom-and pop stores, regional chains or national chains, that’s where you went to buy the music you heard on WMMS.

The best ones were not just a place to shop; they were communal experiences. I still remember being in my teens and going to the original Record Revolution on Coventry and looking not only at the records; but at the musicians’ signatures on the walls. Like today’s coffee shops, they stimulated conversations.

“When were Led Zeppelin here?”

“Oh, they stopped by in 1970.”

Record Revolution was a rock lover’s Mecca.

There were other great record stores as well, including the now-defunct Quonset Hut regional chain, with its roots in Canton. It also had stores in west Akron and Parma. Quonset Hut stores were way cool. Not only could you buy CDs there, but greeting cards with an edge,  blank cassette and VHS tapes (yes, I’m old)  and even darts and dartboards. Quonset Hut employees would even order music for you if it was still available.

The people behind the counters in some record stores would sometimes see what you were bringing up to purchase, ask if you had a few minutes, and play something akin to what you were buying by a different artist. Predating Netflix by a generation (since you watched X, you might like Y), the best employees often sent customers home with two or more LPs or CDs instead of one.

Record stores were often places where couples would first meet. Never mind the cheesy “Do you come here often?”

Much more natural was something like “Good band! I saw them at the Agora in October!”

Now, there’s no need to burn fossil fuel to buy music. We have iTunes, iPads and hard drives that will hold more music on a laptop than an entertainment center full of CDs. I like the technology, too.

But something special has been lost. The community aspect of music itself.

5. Intelligent Political Conversation.

Way before I was even thought of, Budweiser ran a print ad in 1956 with a cartoon donkey and elephant, both dressed in suits, toasting with pilsner glasses.

The copy consisted of four words. It had the Budweiser bowtie logo, and the type beneath simply read “When gentlemen agree.”

An old Irish saying I learned when young was “Agree to disagree without being disagreeable.”

And while this may fit in one of my They Said It! posts, it’s germane enough to this point that it belongs here:

“Everyone is entitled to their own opinion. No one is entitled to their own facts.”

– Daniel Patrick Moynihan

In our age of cable news and toxic talk radio, and with both media spreading deliberate falsehoods, rare is a respectful, intelligent conversation among people who love their country but disagree on its direction.

It used to be something like “X” (agreed-upon fact) is a problem. How should we approach it?

Person A: “I think Y and Z are responsible for X, and we need regulation to eliminate X.”

Person B: “I think we don’t need intervention, since X is so unpopular the free market will solve X out of enlightened self-interest.”

A: “My problem with that theory is that Y and Z report to shareholders quarterly, and their goals often don’t go past 90 days. That’s why I support regulation.”

And so on. Neither person may have been persuaded, but they could respect the other’s opinion based on logic, finish their meals and remain friends.

Now, if you are firmly on one side or another, you can go into an alternate media universe where the grass is blue and the sky is green.

If you get up watching Fox News, get in your car and listen to Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Mark Levin and Laura Ingraham, have more Fox News over dinner before you retire to read the next chapter of your Ann Coulter book after hitting the Breitbart site, your sky is green and your grass is blue.

And, friends from back in the day who listen to NPR, watch MSNBC and read the New York Times just might stop talking to you.

Once upon a time, we had reporting based on facts. Damn, I miss it.

In my childhood, of the three television networks, NBC’s news with Chet Huntley and David Brinkley was considered the most liberal, ABC’s the most conservative, and the legendary Walter Cronkite of CBS News the moderate.

But all had something in common. They were factual. They may have placed different emphasis on what they reported and had different interpretations of those facts, but none of the three deliberately lied.

Now, the conversation would go like this:

Person A: “We have a problem with X.”

Person B: “X does not exist!”

A: “A, B and C all say X exists, and they have evidence!”

B: “But what about Y?”

A: “Y never happened! It’s a blatant lie!”

A and B simultaneously: “Fuck you, moron!”

Welcome to Idiocracy. Thank you, toxic media. Problems cannot be solved with bumper stickers.

6. Newspapers.

Yes, they still exist. Sorta kinda.

I grew up reading the Akron Beacon Journal. A small-market paper, it would nonetheless land on the front porch on Sunday with a resounding THUD!

The Knight family, founders of the Beacon Journal, grew a newspaper empire from their Akron beginnings. That empire grew to include the Detroit Free Press, the Philadelphia Inquirer and the Miami Herald.

Although Akron is considered a small market, the Beacon Journal was funded like a large-market paper. It was still John S. Knight’s baby.

It had a Columbus bureau, a Washington reporter and not only a business section, but also a labor section. Now, the Cleveland Plain Dealer does not even have a Columbus bureau. When I was in my teens, the Plain Dealer even had a London bureau. That’s England, not Ontario.

I remember spreading the comics out on the floor on Sunday mornings. By age 9, I had started snatching the sports section. By 11, I was all over the rest of the paper.

The Beacon Journal had both liberal and conservative columnists; local and syndicated. When the Beacon Journal was functioning at a higher level, I could read George Will and Molly Ivins side by side on the editorial pages. That newspaper was actually fair and balanced before Faux News used it as a slogan.

The Beacon Journal has Pulitzer Prizes to prove it.

On Sundays, the Cleveland Plain Dealer could be weighed on a bathroom scale. Editorially, it leaned slightly Republican in a blue area, but its politics were tempered by the realities of its market. Its Republican leanings were more WASP old-money, not culture warrior.

But, it let its reporters report, and kept its politics out of its news sections for the most part. And, to a 10-year-old during football season, its sports pages were Nirvana.

In my best Edith Bunker voice, Those were the days!

Of course, things have changed. Those days were before the Internet, but there was something about the ritual of reading the newspaper over coffee and breakfast, or during the week in the case of the Beacon Journal and the long-defunct Cleveland Press, over dinner.

Knight-Ridder Newspapers saw the writing on the wall and elected to dissolve, and the Beacon Journal is now a shadow of its old self. Locals call it the “Canadian Beacon,” as it was purchased in the Knight-Ridder fire sale by Black Publishing of Canada. It, still, has fared better than its neighbor to the north. It still has “good bones,” and does a good job for what is left of it.

The Plain Dealer, long privately held by the Newhouse Newspapers chain, is still privately held, but its parent firm has renamed itself Advance Communications. After Advance stopped publishing its New Orleans Times-Picayune as a daily, the rumor mill started churning in these parts over whether the same fate would befall the Plain Dealer.

It didn’t, but it did. Stop at the store and pick up a Tuesday Plain Dealer, and it’s the sum total of 26 pages. Forget home delivery. On Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, a subscriber has to walk or drive to the store to buy it. Now, why would I pay $1 for a paper smaller than the Lorain Morning Journal or the Medina County Gazette?

When Advance made its cuts, it also did a Stalinesque blood purge of its unionized newsroom. The sportswriters all survived. Web  hits, you know?

It’s not much better elsewhere in the United States. The Cincinnati Post is long gone, and the Cincinnati Enquirer has shut down its printing plant, converting to tabloid format and being printed 90 minutes to the north by the Columbus Dispatch.

The Beacon Journal also put its pressmen on the unemployment line, subcontracting its printing to the presses of the Canton Repository.

Yes, times have changed. But some things are done better in print. Print has a permanence that cannot be replicated on a computer. It also has been the source of something I also miss.

Real journalism. From a place where you could get sued for lying.

Extra Point: We’ve gained a lot, and lost a lot.

I would not trade this computer for a lifetime supply of old-school Beacon Journals or Plain Dealers.It’s a better window on the world than any other medium.

But, there’s something very disturbing about media outlets sounding like drunken morons in a bar you would have experienced prior to the Internet.

The other stuff? A loss of community, for the most part. We humans are social animals, and all of our 785 friends on Facebook, 745 of whom are corporations, aren’t the real thing.

We need those dinners together. We need that coffee together. We need those interactions. We need to work together and solve problems.

And we do not need to be toxic.

Trivial Pursuits.

There’s a company called NTN, begun as National Trivia Network, that runs a service sold to restaurants and bars called Buzztime Trivia. I became addicted to it in 2000, and here’s my AA-style “lead” on how I got addicted, what my life was before recovery, and what it is now.

Strike that. I’m still addicted.

If you don’t like that, take twelve steps off of an eleven-step pier.

Here’s how it started:

1. Thirsty Dog Brewing Company, Fairlawn, Ohio.

This is the place I first found NTN/Buzztime in 2000.

Thirsty Dog, at the time, was a restaurant and/or sports bar that had NTN, and that was the first time I had ever seen the interactive trivia game.

Over their delicious Rocky Mountain Trout, I saw two people playing as MADDOG and BLKDOG. All of Thirsty Dog’s beers, brewed on premise, were named after dogs, including their excellent Old Leghumper Porter. The square bar in the restaurant was shaped like dog bones, with larger rounded sections on all four corners.

Over the meal and an an Old Leghumper, I was looking at the TV with the trivia players’ scores, and my friend said “Don’t even think about it, Einstein!”

There was no need to think. BIGDOG (my trivia name) was born, and MADDOG and BLKDOG were shamed.  Thirsty Dog no longer exists in its previous incarnation, as it had brewpubs in Fairlawn (suburban Akron), North Canton, Ohio and Dayton, but for microbrew aficionados, Old Leghumper lives on, available at finer supermarkets and beverage stores.

Unfortunately, Thirsty Dog’s current brewery in Akron does not have either a restaurant or Buzztime. But, their beers win medals, and are still named after dogs. And, a friend I would not have except for Buzztime looks forward to his annual delivery of Old Leghumper, which is not distributed in his neck of the woods. More on that later.

2. After the dog is gone….

In 2000, I took a second shift job I despised, and my trivia play dropped off. Five years later, Thirsty Dog in Fairlawn went out of business. Bounce paychecks, and lose your staff. Done deal. Dog gone.

Two  years after  that, after  a job interview in Cleveland’s western suburbs, I found a place called Harpo’s, a sports bar near the airport, and BIGDOG was reborn. I did not get that job, but I got a new place to play trivia. Later, I found the company I interviewed with was an abysmal place to work.

Harpo’s, which closed in 2013, was a sports bar with great food, and although they did not brew their own beer, had a great selection of craft beers on tap.

Harpo’s also had a regular crew of trivia players who would sometimes team up to try and beat me, but it was all in good fun. I would actually drive there after work from downtown Cleveland to laugh and play there. But, all things good and bad come to an end.

3. Closer to Home.

In the blue-collar village of Northfield, about 4 miles from my residence, Scorchers (now Wing Warehouse) opened and adopted Buzztime.

Their food was, and is, consistently inconsistent, but they still have Buzztime, and a beer selection surprisingly good for their municipality’s demographic.

This was the site of The Battle Of Northfield. If the right wing predicts a second civil war, I may have fired the first shot.

I would stop up to play trivia, and sweet daytime bartender went on to better things and was replaced by Idiot Daytime Bartender, who made sure a large-screen TV was tuned to Fox News. She even went so far as to drop the birther argument on me.

I objected; she called me a communist, and I said “If you think I’m a communist, fine. My capital will no longer be spent here.”

Back went BIGDOG’s home site and points to Harpo’s until she and her manager who green-lighted Fox News being shown in a bar were fired. BIGDOG then returned.

He plays there on occasion now.

4. Being A Team Player

NTN/Buzztime once had its own message boards on its site (I would not mind it coming back).

On that message board, I got an invitation from a west-suburban Cleveland attorney to join his team to play Six.

Six, formerly known as Trivial Pursuit until copyright issues forced Buzztime to change the name, has questions in six different categories, namely The Arts, The Shows, The World, The Games, The Past and The Sciences.

I played on that team, and I look forward to returning to it.

Their home bar is West Park Station, where the food is good and the neighborhood, in the West Park section of Cleveland, is largely Irish and Italian, with plenty of the city’s cops and firefighters. Those cops and firefighters patronize that bar, and it may be the safest bar in Cleveland.

Our team is good. Damn good. On Thursday nights, count on seeing “West Park Station, Cleveland” in the top 20 sites in North America, and often first on the continent.

And, it’s a blast to play on a team. We laugh, and we often win.

5. The Fellowship.

Playing with a small group, I mentioned that I play with a group called The Fellowship on Tuesday nights for Showdown, Buzztime’s capo di capo of its premium games.

Her response?

“Are you born again?”

She had no clue. I explained that our team was named after J.R.R. Tolkien’s “Fellowship” from Lord Of The Rings.

We might as well be called The Nomads. The Fellowship has played at a minimum of four locations that went out of business before landing at its current (or maybe pro tempore) home in Kent, Ohio.

Cleveland’s West Park Station team, competitively, is like the Israeli military. Pound-for-pound, maybe the toughest. While low in numbers, their victories show they are formidable.

The Fellowship, however, is more like the U.S. military in terms of competitive power. Many of its members have doctoral degrees, and in terms of numbers, often 30 or more show up to play Showdown. How a bar score is determined for Showdown is by averaging the top six scores at a location. For all other games, Buzztime averages the top five scores.

Now, imagine several Ph.D’s on the same team who have their degrees in history, botany and chemistry along with lawyers, executives, engineers and other professionals, and you have the trivia equivalent of the United States military.

Compete with The Fellowship at your peril on Tuesday nights.

But, The Fellowship is incredibly welcoming. I was grateful to be invited to join them, and proud to have contributed to their success, albeit knowing my contribution was minimal.

6. Triviapalooza

OK, late pop culture reference from Six Points.But, you knew it was coming.

Obviously, this was named after the Lollapalooza music festival held in the “sheds” in the 1990s, and Triviapalooza 8.0 is coming up shortly.From what I have heard, more than 100 people from all over North America and even Europe will show up to play, laugh and drink together at Bargo’s in Springdale, Ohio.That town is a northwestern suburb of Cincinnati.

I can’t make it this year, but I’ll be there in spirit. I’ve even passed the name and password of one of my alternate accounts on so an aficionado of Old Leghumper can play for me in absentia.

Triviapalooza attendees are like Grateful Dead fans back in the day. They travel well.

Last year, one member of my trivia family (we are a family, and if you can’t understand that, you don’t play) came to Elkridge, Maryland, a suburb of Baltimore, with his girlfriend.

They came from Calgary, Alberta to Baltimore. In a 1998 Chevy Cavalier. Dedication, anyone?

In 2013, the topic of the music-focused Playback game on Saturday night during Triviapalooza was “Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame.” When the topic came up on the screen, someone said “We have someone from Cleveland here!”

That meant me, and I said “Thanks for the pressure!”

Our impromptu team of about 80 players completely dominated the competition, winning by about 15,000 points. Those who attend Triviapalooza tend to be the creme de la creme of players, and we have many Mensa members among us.

All walks of life come together for this event, and for one extended weekend, we reunite as one loving family of people whose brains are repositories for almost-worthless information.

We play, we drink, and we laugh. And we bond.

May those bonds never break.

Extra Point: Whither Buzztime?

Yes, my name is BIGDOG, and I’m a Triviaholic.

First, I admitted that I was powerless over retaining worthless information.

Forget the other eleven steps, whatever they are. NTN, the parent company, has been going through several upheavals over the years and their stock has come perilously close to being de-listed.

The moves they are making now are promising; the first one being to having all locations, east and west coast, playing the same premium games at the same time. Once again, on Thursday night Six, West Park Station in Cleveland can go head-to-head with Danny K’s  in California.

In 2008, NTN decided to cater to a younger demographic with making all their non-premium games 15 minutes in duration and introducing disastrous games like “Duh!” and “Know Your Server.”

That, in turn, alienated their core customers.

I know when I went to bars when I was barely 21, I did not go there to play trivia. If NTN wants to chase that demographic, they will never catch it.

There are some NTN/Buzztime games that have been sitting on the shelf, so to speak, for years. Veteran players will know them, and bringing them back may attract the 30-plus crowd that is their “base.”

There was a game called “Wipeout,” in 30-minute Countdown format, that had no clues and penalized a wrong answer with a loss of 250 points. It could attract new players while bringing nostalgia to veteran players.

Another game, “Abused News,” focused on offbeat news items from the week, and in 30-minute, 15-question format, would make a great lead-in to the Friday evening Spotlight game. This could also expand the player base.

Also, “Glory Daze,” a game about culture and history from the 1950s through the 1970s, could be returned to its one-hour format and be made Wednesday night’s premium game, but its time span could be expanded to include the 1980s.

These are just a few suggestions. I, and the “family” I will miss at Triviapalooza, do not want NTN to go under. Besides, Buzztime is the only reason I would even consider going to a bar these days.

If anyone from NTN/Buzztime reads this, 30 percent of American adults do not drink. Some never started; some just gave it up. Independent coffee shops might be a great untapped market for your product. As a longtime player, it would be great to go someplace I could play without being “DUI bait.” For non-drinkers, it would give them another entertainment alternative, and expand your market.

Wishing my whole “family” good skill this weekend at Triviapalooza.

We’ll Have A Gay Old Time!

What would a Six Points post be without a pop culture reference? Of course, Baby Boomers will remember the headline of this piece as the last line to the theme song from The Flintstones, an animated TV series that ran on ABC from 1960 through 1966.

In the light of the June 26, 2015 Supreme Court decision legalizing gay marriage nationwide, I’ll do my best to be fair and balanced on this one.

1. That word once had a different meaning:

In my parents’ time, the word “gay” was synonymous with “happy; joyous; carefree.”

If, in my time, I had said after a few drinks, “I feel really gay right now,” it would have had a completely different meaning from what that statement would have meant in the 1940s. If I had said that in the 1980s,  everyone else at the table would have left.

Myself, I never thought I would be happy, joyous or carefree if I had another man’s schwantz in my butt. But, I’m not wired that way. Some people are, and they deserve the same rights we have.

2. When I was a child, I spake as a child ….

Don’t freak out with a Bible quotation from Six Points. Baptized Catholic, I went to Baptist Sunday school in Akron, Ohio in the first and second grades. Sunday school was the highlight of my week then. That was before the Baptists went batshit crazy.

I was taught we are all sinners, no matter how pure our hearts are, and Jesus came to Earth as God’s only begotten son to forgive us if we accept Him.

On the upside, I was also taught the maxim of “Hate the sin. but love the sinner,” and, of course, the Golden Rule of “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

OK, Bruce, do not put your tool in my poop chute.

And, I always thought “Mr. Rogers” was not exactly right.

3. What was the worst thing you could be?

Where I went to school, it was either gay or black. Here’s an example of one of our eigtth-grade jokes:

“Go ahead, call me a fairy:”

“OK, you’re a fairy!”

“Poof, you’re a nigger!”

In the high school I graduated from with an enrollment of around 2,000, no one “came out” as homosexual. If they would have, they would have faced four years of harassment, along with some severe beatdowns. And that school was predominantly middle and upper-middle class.

I’m sure it would have been far worse in the ghetto.

Collectively, we hated both the sinner and the sin. Only later in life did I discover the book of Leviticus, which calls homosexuality an abomination in the eyes of God, also considers touching the skin of a dead pig to be the same.

Think about that during your July 4 barbecue!

4. OK, off to college:

I remember bathroom graffiti where I went that read “AIDS: Anally Inflicted Death Sentence!”

Our bigotry had softened toward blacks, but in my milieu, homosexuality was still unacceptable. Looking back on that time, we were Schicklgruber in terms of our views toward “those homos.”

We could identify them, or we thought we could.

Once upon a time, I was kinda young and cute, and some homo propositioned me. Solution?

Three of my buddies beat him within an inch of his life.

Shit, I came from a place and time where masturbation was a sin. What else were we supposed to do?

5. And now, off to work:

I had to deal with people who were my equals, and sometimes superiors, who were homosexual.

Never mind that the American Psychiatric Association had removed homosexuality from its list of personality disorders since the late 1970s, it still wasn’t right with me.

The first “out” homosexuals I encountered in the workplace were completely stereotypical, and they reinforced my prejudice.

When you’re a lean straight white man, and a co-worker of your same gender rolls his tongue in his mouth, sticks it out, and smiles at you, you want to put your fist in his face rapidly.

Of course, you’ll lose your paycheck.

Thank you, Nancy Reagan! I Just Said No.

6. Off to work in other places:

I then went to work in another place I still miss, where you could not only take your child to work, but take your dog to work.

Charlie (not his real name) happened to be gay, and he was an excellent account executive. I didn’t even know he was gay until someone told me.

In fact, we had advertisers who were aimed directly at the gay community, but they were served not by Charlie, but by a straight man with two children.

Charlie had brought his big mix of God knows what it was to work, his dog liked me, and my dog, a huge mix of black Lab and Rottweiler, liked him.

And, as professionals, we respected and liked each other.

As human beings, can’t we also respect each other as long as we don’t intrude in each other’s space?

Extra Point: Different Wiring Is No Abomination

I’m left-handed. I’m wired that way.

In childhood, I had my left hand slapped when I picked up a pen or pencil with it. It was not considered “normal” to be left handed. I’m not kidding.

It took me over 40 years to accept that homosexuals are not subhuman, but just simply not wired the way I am.

I got a break. It took about eight years for people to accept I’m left-handed.

Left-handed or right-handed, straight or gay, my rights as an American citizen should be the same whether I’m in Ohio, Alabama, or anywhere else.

Finally, apologies to my female readers. I’m straight.

Two-Point Conversion: Let Them Marry

In 2004, Kenneth Blackwell, Ohio Secretary of State, got an issue on the ballot to prohibit gay marriage in Ohio. It passed by about a 60-40 margin, and with the social conservatives it brought out, delivered the election to George W, Bush.

Now, it’s 2015. An amendment to Ohio’s  constitution on the same issue would most likely fail by a 60-40 margin. Gay rights is the fastest sea change on an issue in American history. In one generation, we realized some of us are, just, wired differently, and we accept them. And, in many cases, we befriend them.

To my friends on the right, the government will force no church to perform gay marriages. If Bruce and Jeremy want to get married in church, the United Church of Christ will gladly perform the ceremony, and I’m sure the Unitarian-Universalists will. The conservative Baptists most likely will not. And, those Baptists should not, and will not,  be forced to perform same-sex marriages.

The separation of church and state works both ways.  As it should.

We heterosexuals have proven we can fuck up marriages enough. Let them have their turn.

And, imagine the hilarity of Divorce Court in five years with Bruce and Jeremy fighting over the Hummel plates!

They Said It! (2.0)

Here come more quotations from smarter people than I. It’s also an easy way to keep this blog alive. If you want my latest take, there’s one in the pipeline titled “We’ll Have a Gay Old Time.”

1. Darwin sounds more Christian than many Christians:

“If the misery of the poor be caused not by the laws of nature,
but by our institutions, great is our sin.”

— Charles Darwin

2. Idiocracy Again:

“There are only two things that are infinite. The universe and human stupidity. And I’m not so sure about the universe.”

– Albert Einstein

3. Homeland Security?

“Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

– Benjamin Franklin, Historical Review of Pennsylvania, 1759

4. Freedom Isn’t Free:

“I would rather be exposed to the inconveniences attending too much liberty than to those attending too small a degree of it.”

– Thomas Jefferson, to Archibald Stuart, 1791

5. Freedom of Speech:

“I may not agree with what you say, but I will defend to my death your right to say it.”

– Voltaire

6. Government sucks, but:

“It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried.”

– Sir Winston Churchill

Extra Point: But Wait, There’s More!

These are the takes from wiser people than I. In a few days or maybe tomorrow, “We’ll Have a Gay Old Time” will hit the electronic version of print. No trees or animals will be harmed.