Wednesday, October 21, 2009

I’ve never been one addicted to sports. 

I have early memories of my father sitting in front of the T.V. for hours at a time screaming at the top of his lungs over a baseball or football game.  I just was never that interested in sports.   

In school I played sports like everyone else, but was never good at much of anything until I picked up a tennis racket one summer, somewhere around 1973.

In my junior year of high school my coach placed me on the varsity tennis team after I had participated in a tennis camp the previous summer.  I quickly rose in the ranks until I had beaten the top sixth seed on the team, quite an accomplishment for me, one who had never excelled at sports. 

I remember well, the girls coming out of the woodwork to flirt with me.  They weren’t interested in me so much as they were interested in dating a sports figure.   

My glory while on the varsity tennis team didn’t last though, as I quickly lost interest and dropped in the rankings to something like number 56, eventually refusing to suit up and weeks later just not showing up for practice, spoiling my chances for lettering.

Now, at age 54, nothing much has changed except I do enjoy watching soccer on T.V. with my wife.  She goes nuts over the games, but I remain only mildly interested.   

The one thing about sports that has always managed to catch my interest is when sports figures get into trouble.  It’s typically the highly paid professional sports figures, those making astronomical dollar figures, who get nabbed doing drugs, selling drugs, getting into gang fights, investing in illegal gambling, etcetera.  Heads hung low, they exit the court room in handcuffs, sent off to prison for something that could easily have been avoided, their highly paid careers ruined. 

The news is full of announcements heralding unbelievable amounts of money being paid for a transfer to a new team with deep pockets.  Suddenly, a kid who played high school ball and whose acne hasn’t even cleared up yet, is catapulted into bankrolls reaching into the millions and multi-millions. 

Christiano Ronaldo is twenty-four years old.  He recently received one hundred thirty million dollars for his transfer to Real Madrid.  Above and beyond that, his yearly salary amounts to a cool 12.3 million, not to mention his numerous endorsements. 

Frankly…that pisses me off.   

The world is screaming “Economy!  Economy!” but the sports world doesn’t appear to be screaming anything, other than "More money!  More Money!

Every day I see neighborhoods wrought with poverty here in Southern Thailand, yet families living in run down housing sit around their small T.V. (If they even have a T.V.), and watch commercials featuring the likes of Christiano Ronaldo telling everyone that he uses such-and-such a product.  Quite honestly that disgusts me. 

My dad used to say, “If something bugs you son, don’t bitch about it, write about it!

So, that’s what I’m gonna do. 

I recently googled “Highest paid American sports figures,” and clicked on the following link:

It was mentioned on the website that current salaries and endorsements were used (exception: 2008 for NFL), except in the case of winnings (auto racing, golf, tennis) where 2007 calendar year amounts were used. 

Attached is a breakdown of the salaries for each of the fifty players (Whose names I didn't include, but who represent auto racing, golf, tennis, the NFL and NBA, baseball, and boxing).  Click HERE to take a look at the figures or to check my math.

The total was a breath-taking…


Eight hundred seven million, fifteen thousand, six hundred seventy dollars!  That is enough money to pull a small, poverty stricken country out of the hole!  And that's only fifty players. 

How many professional sports figures are there in the U.S.?

Answer:  Approximately four million.

You do the math. 

So, here's my proposal…

Order an immediate cap on all professional sports salaries.  Let’s give them...oh, say about the same salary a postal worker makes in the U.S. 

They get to keep their winnings (if applicable) but let’s put a cap on that too.  Something reasonable like say five thousand dollars or so (Sorry Tiger..).    

No millions, no hundred thousands, just five thousand. 

The only thing we don’t mess with is their endorsements.  If the ad companies want to pay them some ungodly amount of money, let them go for it.  Heck, if you look at somebody like Tom Brady of the NFL, his salary is a paltry eight million, whereas his endorsements total more than ten million. 

Then get somebody in the government, somebody good at accounting, to figure out the difference.  Then take that money and spread the wealth around.  Don’t tax it, don’t fiddle with it, no strings attached, just dole it out to those who need it, like soup kitchens, homeless shelters, volunteer agencies…let your imagination run. 

In my humble opinion, that money would be much better spent instead of being in the hands of some immature, often irresponsible ego-maniac who’s only going to end up sucking on a bong, or fighting dogs illegally, or jamming steroids up his or her butt. 

Oh, and if the players don’t like it?  Let them quit.  There will always be somebody in line behind them, just waiting for the opportunity to get a try out!


Friday, October 09, 2009

Some unsolicited advice:

Never attempt to repair something while drinking alcohol....

More specifically, Beer Chang from Thailand (6.4% by volume)....

This is my wife’s good shoe.     

Mam and I were headed home on our motorcycle after a long morning shopping in Hat Yai.  We had just turned onto the kilometer long (0.62 miles) road bordered on both sides by a huge rubber tree plantation heading to Klong Tong Nûea Buddhist Priest Residence and Meditation Center, and our small village of Klong Tong Nûea, when suddenly a large tree branch fell directly into our path. 

Mam tried to react quickly but ended up over-steering and we crashed onto the dirt and gravel road.  We really weren’t going that fast since we’d just turned onto the road and were only in second gear, but the result was damaging all the same.  

Mam got pretty scunned up, and broke the heel off her right shoe.   I got the worst of it, gouging out a big hunk of skin and tissue from my left lower leg, which ended up pretty bloody. 

Once we go home and washed up, everything was okay.  Mam is still a little sore, but she’ll live, and me…I dressed my leg wound and I’ll live too.  

Once I recovered sufficiently, I cracked open a Beer Chang, followed by another and possibly even another and…well, who knows.   

Anyway, at some point I had the bright idea that I could fix that broken shoe so I grabbed the hammer, some super glue, a screwdriver and all the professional tools a jack-of-all-trades-master-of-none like me would need, and this is the result…

Once finished I stood back to admire my work and…began laughing hopelessly.  In fact, I thought I’d never stop laughing. 

Once Mam came over to see what I was laughing at, she too began laughing.  If anybody had come around our cottage at that particular time, they surely would have thought we’d gone mad.  

Next time (should there be a next time), I’ll fix the shoe first, then crack open the beer to celebrate!


Saturday, October 03, 2009

Typical evening at the Anderson’s…Mam and I are upstairs in our bedroom watching T.V. Suddenly we hear a loud noise on our roof. Our roof is corrugated steel so even the slightest stimulus causes a loud sound.

Over the years, both of us have heard all sorts of things on the roof. We’re surrounded by a thick jungle of fruit trees, Sataw trees (very tall trees that produce a popular, edible stink bean), and Mangda trees (popular with Thai’s for their edible leaves).

Some evenings it’s rats. Other times a “widow maker” falls from high above, crashing loudly on the roof and jolting us awake or causing us to jump if we’re quietly watching T.V.

In the early evening and early morning, we hear the scritch, scritch, scritch of teacher birds on our roof. I nicknamed them "teacher birds," since one of their many, varied calls sounds just like they’re saying, “Teacher, teacher, teacher.” Upon looking them up in our well-worn “bird book “sitting on our dining room table, we’ve found that “Teacher birds” are what is known as the “Common Mynah,” here in Southeast Asia.

There are hordes of teacher birds all over the place. Similar to blue jays in the Northeastern U.S.

The sound we heard this particular night was different though. It was definitely an animal, but different than we had heard in the past.

“It’s a bird I think,” uttered Mam, both of us looking up at the ceiling as if we could somehow see through to what was causing the commotion.

“Nope. Too loud and too heavy for a bird,” I said.

“A rat?”

“If that’s a rat, we’re in trouble. That would be the biggest rat I’ve ever seen. It’s heavier than that. Listen…hear how heavy?” Mam turned the volume down on the T.V. and listened as it was actively scurrying across the roof and back again, nodding in agreement.

Then the noise stopped for a while.

Mam and I both were still riveted by the new sound though, so we both were lying in bed silent, waiting.

Three minutes passed…five minutes….nothing.

Mam looked at me and I at her, we both shrugged, and Mam turned the volume up on the T.V. when suddenly it happened again.

A loud scurrying across the roof. Something quite heavy scurried quickly across the roof to the opposite side. If I weren’t in Thailand I’d swear it was a raccoon.

Mam and I got out of bed and went into the adjacent room. Again, looking up at the ceiling we pinpointed approximately where it was, picked up a broom and poked the ceiling underneath the sound with the broom handle.


Things were quiet for some time and we finally turned off the T.V., settling in for the night. No sooner had we drifted off to sleep when suddenly we were jolted awake with another burst of activity on the roof.

Thinking what to do, I figured my only recourse was to go outside with a flashlight and climb the ladder leading up to our water tower…

We’ve got this huge water tower beside the house, which is approximately twenty feet (6.09 meters) high. The thing holds nine-100 gallon blue plastic barrels of water our landlady uses to irrigate the fruit trees during our dry season.

…to see if I could get a good vantage point in which to spot whatever it was on our roof.

I was as silent as I possibly could be. Eventually I reached a height where I had a fairly good view of the south-side of our roof. Positioning myself, I hooked my leg through one of the ladders rungs and hung myself outward, training the flashlight onto the roof.

There, on the lower back corner, was something that at first looked like a takraw ball, a small plastic ball of weaved plastic used to play “takraw” a game like volleyball, but only using one’s feet.

Then the ball moved.

“What is it?” Mam shouted up to me. “Damn-est thing I’ve ever seen,” I uttered.

Finally things began falling into place. I suddenly remembered seeing a picture of this thing somewhere…

And here it is…..

To a Texan like me, my first thought was, “Well I’ll be damned! An armadillo!” Having seen many armadillo’s in Southwest Texas, most of them road-kill though.

Then suddenly it moved. The thing unraveled, got up and in a sort of dragging motion, scurried across the roof to the other side. I quickly descended the water tower ladder and went to the opposite side of the house to see if I could find it, only to discover the animal had disappeared. Most likely it had climbed onto one of the many trees that brush the side of our house, coming into contact with the roof.

After searching the tops of the trees adjacent to the roof, shining the flashlight around to see if I could spot the animal again, I finally gave up and went into the house. Upstairs I had a box of newspaper articles I had clipped and saved, remembering an article I had cut out about the very same animal, which had been found hidden in a trucks cargo hold as the driver tried to cross the border, smuggling several live animals into Cambodia.

Finding the article I didn’t have to read much of it before I came to the name…Pangolin. Quickly scanning the article, it told of the animal being critically endangered, a delicacy in many Asian countries, primarily China, and commanding a hefty price on the black market since it was becoming scarce.

Then I turned to the Internet. A couple of quick Google searches and I was an amateur expert on the thing.

As it turns out, this heavily scaled animal is not related to either an armadillo, or an anteater, two animals it is often confused with. This thing on our roof was in fact, not related to any other animal at all, it’s species being fully unique.

The Pangolin has no teeth, and strikingly similar to an anteater, has an extremely long, sticky tongue used exclusively for reaching into termite mounds and ant nests to lick out its prey.

The Pangolin’s scales are somewhat different than an armadillo, in that they are razor sharp and if handled incorrectly will inflict severe, deep razor-like wounds.

It also has the capability to emit quite a noxious odor if provoked, leading one to understand that this animal is more than adequately equipped to protect itself. How ironic it’s most dangerous predator is man.

One entry on a Pangolin website said this:

“Should you ever spot one of these animals in the wild count yourself extremely fortunate as they are endangered and very rarely seen. If you are lucky enough, your view might be of it rolled in a tight ball; this is one of its main defense mechanisms.”

Well, I certainly do feel fortunate! But I do wish it would pick somebody else’s roof!

Just scanning the area around our home, you can easily see why a Pangolin would choose this area to live. Scattered throughout the area are several huge termite mounds popping up here and there among the various fruit trees and thick jungle vegetation.

For more information about this rather interesting, highly endangered animal, take a look here, or here, or here.

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