99. happy third birthday, chiefers

The long hot of the day had ended, but the heat hadn’t burned off. It was warm for the first night in half a year.  

I opened the driver’s side door, and he climbed over to the passenger side. He was patient as he waited for me to roll down his window. After two years with each other, we have certain understandings about things. The window is one of them. The towel that hangs next to the back door, blackened by the dirt that never made it into the carpet — that’s another.

He set his head on the window, resting an ear outside. When he sits like that, a world of smells can drift by his nose. Sometimes, he’ll close his eyes, his nose in overdrive, for the length of the drive.

I stretched my arm into the night and took a lazy left onto Ellis. Tick meds. Now that it’s warm, I have to get back into the habit of treating him. They make his skin crawl, and the thought of him escorting them into my bed makes my skin crawl.

A and I took him to the reservoir for his birthday, and I was disappointed that I didn’t realize until days later that during the trip, he was a literal Reservoir Dog. He got peanut butter for breakfast, half a pork chop for dinner. And he was too tired to move after a full day of hiking. That’s a pretty good third birthday for a pup, right?

Coffee in hand, I turned my music up and drove past my street. He was enjoying the night as much as I was. No need to hurry.

Dogs are funny. Having one, or even how you treat one, says as much about you than anything else. A good dog, who listens, who loves and knows… What’s better than that? What does that say about you, about your capacity for love and patience? Am I patting myself on the back too much for taking a West Coast farm rescue and turning him into my East Coast wingman?

When his legs got tired from propping himself up, he curled into a ball on the seat. Dog geometry is so naturally abstract. That was my cue. I looped back onto Lander and pulled into the driveway. He perked up. Home. He ran ahead of me to the front step and licked the hand holding the coffee when I dug around for my house key.

Ten years. That’s the goal. Good dogs, healthy dogs, get ten years. Anything else is frosting on the cake. He’ll get gray around the muzzle. Maybe the hips will go. The geometry is untenable. His eyes will cloud up, and one day he won’t retrieve. There will be a vet appointment, a shot, an easy lasting sleep. Tears. Later, much later, another pup.

But not yet, buddy. Not for a long time.

Happy third birthday, Chiefers. Thanks for everything.

91. April Fools’ Day

Three steps to celebrating this great holiday just like I do:

1) Believe nothing.
2) Set your profile picture to something appropriate.
3) Watch and enjoy.  

I wrote a very dumb, fake serious poem as part of a prank. Here it is.

Out on the prairie, far from the lights
No cares could reach the young boy
He ran and he played with his jacks and his kites
So graced by an uncommon joy

But childhoods end, and upward he grew,
Determined to make life his own
His ideals were pure, his compass was true
And he struck out into the unknown

What he found there I can’t rightly say
Heartbreak, perhaps, or much worse
But under grey skies among moral decay
His bliss soon began to disperse

Now he’s a man, expectedly stern
Who plays by the world’s set of rules
One day a year, though, the boy will return
And remind us both how to be fools

82. the best hope if you’re a laker fan

Eighty-two games in an NBA season, and the Lakers are bound to lose 60 of them this season. Pretty depressing.  

For as bad as they’ve been, Mitch Kupchak has been hard to fault. The Lakers aren’t saddled with a cap nightmare, they seem a lock to hold on to their top five draft pick this summer, and even the contract extension for Kobe, which was immediately labeled an albatross around their neck, rode a wave of goodwill, good PR and good basketball sense.a

The key will be navigating the gravitational pulls of the league’s current star players. Scientists detect celestial bodies that are too far away to see by observing how light is bent and shaped by other, closer bodies. They calculate the missing variable and assume a certain invisible body in a certain place has a certain weight.

In the NBA, LeBron is still the player with the most pull, and whether he stays in Cleveland will trigger another wave of reactionary roster moves.

Jalen Rose thinks Kevin Love will end up in LA. I don’t see him staying in Cleveland. I don’t see Cleveland even needing him, as crazy as that sounds. But Love also isn’t a player that would care about Hollywood’s shallow benes. Maybe he’d pick LA to be close to Westwood. No one really seems to know how Love thinks, so maybe it would all work out perfectly.

Still, the best hope, if you’re a Laker fan, is that Julius Randle is studiously receiving BAMF lessons from Kobe in the bowels of Staples Center every night while his broken leg heals. And that kind of hope seems almost as empty as the last month of a 60-loss season.

81. coat

My coat will forever remain a sacrifice to St. Patrick himself.  

I walked into The Tavern in Downtown Hartford with it lovingly zipped to the chin. A cheap Merona peacoat I prettied up with a yellow Oregon lapel pin. It’s been left and retrieved from bars in two states. Those instances were my fault, though. Induced forgetfulness, I think, is the gentle euphemism.

This time, though, amid the carnage of Saturday’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade, I knew exactly where I left it — Slung over the back of the chair behind the pool table, still there at least hour before I was forced to leave without it.

That was right around the time a hulking dude in a garbage chartreuse polo knocked over a stranger’s drink in front of God and everyone and just walked off.

I demanded he apologize — because apparently this is my crusade now, demanding verbal restitution for drunken accidents I had nothing to do with, like the world’s lamest, sloppiest vigilante — and he immediately asked if I wanted to fight about it. That was his first recourse.

It was a fight we both knew he would win, even though I’ve added 15 pounds of muscle since January and I feel stronger and denser than ever– especially in my arms and back. Doing tricep dips doesn’t make it easier to take one on the chin, though. He would’ve hit me, then hit me again.

I was, however, holding a pool cue from our ongoing game, so I dug it into the ground in front of me like a pole vault pole.

He turned to a short, nerdy guy dressed like a leprechaun that was standing next to our table. I had pregamed with hours earlier, but I couldn’t remember his name.

“Are you friends with This Asshole?”a The Hulk asked, pointing at me. It was a perfect 1980s teen-movie farce, an oversized trope putting the tiny, bespectacled clown in a moral crisis.

The littler guy wasn’t friends with me. He had known me for six hours. We shared an Uber. But he also knew who was right. He did, after all, see the spill.

For one moment, he hesitated, and I thought maybe I had misjudged him. Nope.

“Naw, I’ve never met him,” he said, refusing to meet my eye contact. It was so infuriatingly predictable that I immediately fulfilled my destiny as This Asshole.

“Are you KIDDING me, dude?” I yelled, waving the cue. I turned toward the room to hold court, a young Cicero at the Roman Forum. “You’re just gonna pretend like you don’t know me? Like we’ve never met? I was just at your house!”

It was more effective than I thought it would be. It cut him down entirely, and he shrunk and left the room.

Instantly I felt rotten straight through. It was mean and easy, and I was embarrassed at how quickly Doing The Right Thing decayed into Being A Dick. So I sat back down, righteous and ashamed, and I postured a little more to the people at our table.

At least the conflict with The Hulk was resolved. We went from being two Alphas in a stalemate to accomplices in the destruction of a leprechaun. Our business was finished. The guilt was shared.

An hour later, my coat was gone. I probably got what I deserved. But damn, I’ll miss that coat.

80. another perfect day

The sun hung low in the sky longer than I could have hoped, longer than seemed possible or fair. It gilded the trees and hills in a cozy glow and warmed my burned shoulders. Across the lake, it blazed a stripe of white.

We listened to the gentle lap at the boat dock, and when I opened my eyes, she was sipping her IPA so carefully I knew it was for my benefit. Dainty acting for her one-man audience.

It would get chilly soon, and she and I would paddle back in and towel off, but not just yet. We were hellbent on wringing every drop out of another perfect day.

The selfishness of a relationship, one so new it hadn’t been defined or labeled, is intoxicating. I wanted to know everything; how old she was when she went to her first hockey game; if she ever skinned her knees falling off her bike or cried when her pet goldfish died; where she kept her diary in middle school; when she first learned of the devastating effectiveness of tossing her blonde hair over her shoulder — a move as beautiful and calculated as it was ancient.

I wanted to pry open her vault and revel in her, learn things she had never told anyone. I wanted to protect her and help her protect herself. I wanted to be her every superlative — the biggest, the best, the most, the only.

She hooked a long, tan leg into my tube, and we talked. About what, I can’t remember. Wry acknowledgements of our situation, maybe, or charmingly reductive nothings.a It’s hard to focus on the future when you’re drenched in the present.

We were running out of days to exhaust. The sun was dipping lower.

Such a disgusting cliche, I thought. Graduation was around the corner, and these self-indulgences were fading behind me. But not her. Even if we fought and failed, I would always have that memory, permanent but a little hazy, like an over-exposed photograph.

Her smile, that sip, one leg, forgotten conversation. Just for me, the volition and affection of a beautiful girl is forever.

79. maybe next year

I won’t pretend I thought Oregon had a realistic chance at beating Wisconsin at any point before tipoff. In every single bracket I filled out, I had the Badgers advancing past the Ducks.  

But then the game was tied 52-52 with three minutes left. Oregon had firmed up inside, relentlessly chased shooters out to the perimeter and made Sam Dekker and Frank Kaminsky look like, well, big, slow, white guys.

So you can forgive me if just for a moment I let myself entertain the notion that Oregon could do what NC State did and knock out a No. 1 seed in the tournament.

Welp. Maybe next year.

(I also can’t pretend I’m a rabid Pit Crew wannabe. I watched two games this regular season before catching Oregon’s complete postseason run. Even against Wisky, I was still learning the names of the guys at the back of Dana Altman’s rotation.

But it’s still my alma mater, dammit, and still hurts to see them lose to a team I love as much as Wisconsin.)



I’m in the process of tearing through John D. MacDonald’s Travis McGee series. As you can see, I’ve a long way to go.

1964 The Deep Blue Goodbye X
1964 Nightmare In Pink
1964 A Purple Place For Dying X
1964 The Quick Red Fox
1965 A Deadly Shade Of Gold
1965 Bright Orange For The Shroud
1966 Darker Than Amber
1966 One Fearful Yellow Eye X
1968 Pale Gray For Guilt
1968 The Girl In The Plain Brown Wrapper
1969 Dress Her In Indigo X
1970 The Long Lavender Look
1971 A Tan And Sandy Silence
1973 The Scarlet Ruse
1973 The Turquoise Lament
1975 The Dreadful Lemon Sky X
1978 The Empty Copper Sea
1979 The Green Ripper
1981 Free Fall In Crimson
1982 Cinnamon Skin
1985 The Lonely Silver Rain

72. kipling

At the Bristol Savers, I found a 1951 edition of “Kim,” by Rudyard Kipling. Inside was an inscription from a headmaster to a student, upon the latter’s completion of “Form III,” whatever that is.  

It was really a cool book, in great shape for being 65 years old. Weird to think it was a 50-year-old classic even when that book was made. At trivia last Wednesdaya, I learned Kipling was the first to call prostitution “the world’s most ancient profession,” way back in 1888. Twelve years later, he wrote Kim.

There’s no lesson here or any big takeaway. I just think Kipling is a fascinating dude, and “The Jungle Book” is a great book.

Speaking of Mowgli & Co., here’s a fantastic excerpt from Brian Phillips, one of my all-time favorite writers, on Kobe Bryant from last January.

A few months ago, I read The Jungle Book to my 8-year-old niece. She listened with huge eyes to Kipling’s story of talking wolves and vengeful tigers and the Law of the Jungle; as soon as we were finished, she demanded to hear it again. One of the places where her eyes got biggest was the part about Akela, the Lone Wolf, who rules the pack from atop the Council Rock. Do you remember this? It’s silly, like Kobe Bryant, and also kind of moving, like Kobe Bryant. Akela is strong and cunning. But he knows that one day he must lose his strength, and that when that happens, the young wolves will challenge him and pull him down and kill him — which, of course, nearly happens in the course of the story. There’s a lot of talk in basketball about players who are alpha dogs; an October 2013 Sports Illustrated cover depicted Kobe as the last of the breed. But ask my niece what happens when alpha dogs reach the end.

Boy. That’s some good writing.

68. SAE

By now, you’ve seen the video of SAE’s Oklahoma Kappa chapter singing racist chants on a party bus. I have some thoughts about it.

The news hit my newsfeed just before midnight last night. BroBible’s Brandon Wenerd was talking about how, if the video was a true representation of events, it was DEFCON 5 for SAE. That dropped my stomach into a cavern of fear and resignation before I even knew what was going on or what had happened.

What is it this time?

The video was tough to watch more than once. The zeal is what turns my stomach, the happiness in his face as he repeats something he’s said God knows how many times in darkened basements and brotherhood events.

It reminded me of old footage of Hitler Youth summer camps, where fresh-faced enthusiasm is envenomed by hatred and institutionalized racism. There’s no excuses to be entertained and no sympathy to be dredged up for those even tangentially involved. It’s disgusting.

I was a sophomore when I was appointed president of Oregon Beta. Our chapter was on the brink of losing its charter as a result of hazing charges that, compared with this video and other incidences across the country, seem comically trivial. We painted the chests of pledges purple and yellow. It was a celebration of the completion of a successful rush. It was a silly activity everyone — especially the pledges — looked forward to, but we deserved the sanctions we got.

And those were the circumstances under which I took over. Backs against the wall. No room to fail.

I actually don’t remember much from my sophomore year because my brain was constantly maxed out. I was taking the first serious journalism classes of my life and had just started working at The Emerald. My life was the busiest it had ever been, and on the weekends, the pressures of managing 80 dudes determined to drench their insides with alcohol were almost overwhelming. When I was supposed to unwind and recharge, I was instead on red alert.

As president, you’re on call 24/7. Somebody pulls the fire alarm, you talk to the firefighters. Somebody tosses a chair out the window — “I lost in FIFA, dude” — you help clean house inside and out. A girl drinks too much, then comes over to your house? You’re the one responsible. Some weekends, Chris and I would just pray to get to Sunday night without any problems. We rarely made it without putting out at least a small fire, even if it was just a disagreement between brothers over the last piece of Jack’s pie. That’s just how it was.

It was a master class in conflict resolution, diplomacy, communications, public relations, politics and damage control.

And I loved it. It made me the person I am today, for better or worse. It gave me confidence and real-world knowledge. It stoked my ambition and forced me to deal with my lifelong aversion to conflict. It made me a leader, an effective communicator and a better son, friend and boyfriend. It grew me up.

So I can’t sit here today and say I’m not proud to be a member of Sigma Alpha Epsilon. That would be disingenuous.

Were there components of my rush, my pledgeship, my house and my brothers that embarrass me? Yes. There are moments I regret, and actions I wish I could take back. Who doesn’t have those?

Nothing, thank God, was ever in the same zipcode or even hemisphere as the video. That makes our most blazing crises look like matchsticks.

But how can I convey to anyone who hasn’t lived through this experience that I am not, in some small way, a product of the same organization and societal structure that produced the ugliness in that video? How can I prove we’re not all like that?

I just can’t.

This will — and should — spark another wave of conversations regarding the usefulness of Greek Life in America.

Haven’t we moved past this? critics will say. They will point to sickening campus sexual assault stats and the raft of accidental deaths due to hazing and underage drinking, each of them problems Greek Life hasn’t ever, and will never, solve or eliminate. Now they have this twisted, abhorrent display of racism as another rotten bulletpoint in the argument for Greek Life’s obsolescence. Tear it all down, they will say.

And the most frustrating part is that the logical, rational part of me absolutely agrees. How can it not? How can anyone in 2015 that has a shred of humanity watch that video and not come away certain that being in a fraternity is what allowed that kid to feel safe in giving voice to his racism?

The worst of Greek Life is filled with the kind of people that use organizations as a blanket of entitlement to further their own agenda. I don’t know if some fraternities are worse than others; if some regions are worse than others; if some campuses are worse than others. In the end, I suppose, none of that matters. Hate is hate.

But I never found anything remotely as sinister or bigoted in my four years in SAE. That’s not why I joined or what I encountered. It never played a role in my status as an active member. It simply wasn’t there.

Instead, I experienced personal and collective trials and triumphs with a group of guys that are now my permanent friends. I’ve seen them grow into men with careers and fiancees and fulfilling jobs across the country. One of my brothers is black. More than one is gay. We’re rich and poor, smart and dumb, but we’re all brothers.

And the cliches are true too. They’ll be at my wedding. I’ll be at theirs. There’s a mutual respect and a certain understanding that goes beyond words and taps into a tribalism essential to human nature. I love those guys. Always will.

Today, March 9, is Founders Day, a day to celebrate the precepts upon which SAE was established. The irony is palpable. The days ahead will not be bright for anyone in Greek Life. A wound has been opened that may never heal. And still, at the bottom of all my convictions and testimonials, there’s one question I can’t shake.

When will we be better than this?

Marcus Mariota’s Trophy Case


Across three exhilarating years, Marcus Mariota authored the greatest career in Oregon football history.

He’s bound for the NFL now, but Carli and I wanted to pay him a farewell tribute by imagining what his theoretical trophy case might look like. One of us graduated from Oregon and the other lives there, so even though he’s gone, we’re not about to forget Mariota’s legacy or accomplishments.

But here they are anyway.

I can almost picture this bookshelf tucked away in a shady corner of a study in Honolulu, mellowing in the sun and sweet wind…

And yes, Buckeye fans, we know there’s one glaring omission to this collection. All we can say is, hope we see ya next year.

Go Ducks & Mahalo, Marcus

Marcus Mariota’s Trophy Case
From left to right, top to bottom:

+ Sports Illustrated cover (Nov. 4, 2013)
+ 2014 Davey O’Brien Award
+ 2014 Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award
+ 2014 Pac-12 Championship Game MVP Trophy
+ 2014 Manning Award
+ Sports Illustrated cover (Dec. 29, 2014)
+ 2013 CFPA Quarterback Trophy
+ 2013 Valero Alamo Bowl Trophy
+ 2012 Fiesta Bowl Trophy
+ 2013 Valero Alamo Bowl Offensive MVP Trophy
+ 2012 Pac-12 Freshman Offensive Player Of The Year
+ 2012 Fiesta Bowl Offensive MVP Trophy
+ Sports Illustrated cover (Aug. 19, 2013)
+ 2014 Maxwell Award
+ 2015 Rose Bowl Offensive MVP Trophy
+ 2014 Walter Camp Player Of The Year Award
+ Sports Illustrated cover (Sept. 22, 2014)
+ Lei from Heisman Trophy ceremony
+ 2012, 2013, 2014 Pac-12 All-Conference First Team
+ 2014 Associated Press Player Of The Year
+ 2015 Rose Bowl Trophy
+ 2014 Pac-12 Championship Game Trophy
+ 2014 Heisman Trophy

** Additionally, he earned a host of team recognitions throughout his career, as well as more assorted Player Of The Week designations than any bookshelf can hold.

63. redefining destruction

What Russell Westbrook is doing to the NBA right now isn’t fair or safe for children. It’s a scheduled biweekly evisceration of whomever has the misfortune of getting in his path to the basket.  

Consider: Four straight triple-doubles, the most in history behind vintage MJ in the late ’80s. No one in thirty years has been as widely productive per game for this long a stretch.

Tonight he notched a career high in points (49) and rebounds (16). No one in history has ever scored more points in the course of recording a triple double.

Oh, and he’s wearing a mask due to a surgically repaired zygomatic bone he broke last weekend. Please, please, please just watch this:

You ask me, that’s worth more than two points.

And it wasn’t like it was a sleepy night across the league. Anthony Davis dropped a 39/13/8b in his first game back from a shoulder injury. Hassan Whiteside hauled in 20+ rebounds for the FOURTH time this year. Marc Gasol and Tyler Zeller each hit game-winners. Essentially, if you made the decision to turn on basketball, you couldn’t avoid watching a thrilling NBA game. Well, almost.

But none of it matters because Russell Westbrook is a Class 5 twister currently redefining destruction in Tornado Alley. At this point, he’s appointment viewing. He’s got the Bulls on the road tomorrow, and that should be a logical end to this streak. But that’s exactly what I said about him playing the Blazers last Friday, so he’ll probably put up a cool 35/12/10.

If LeBron wins the MVP with Harden, Curry and Westbrook all playing this well, I think I’ll spontaneously combust.