Civil Responsibility

We have met the enemy and they is us.
~ Pogo

You know, it’s a weird time here in the United States. There’s a lot going on. A lot.

In case you haven’t noticed, everyone has an opinion these days. Which is fine. The freedom to share various opinions is the foundation of this country.

However (of course, with any rant worth its salt, there’s always a “however”) … at least from where I’m sitting, the way these opinions are being expressed isn’t always that great. Or respectful. Or constructive.

We are a nation divided at the moment.

Right. Left.

Liberal. Conservative.

Republican. Democrat.

MSNBC. Fox News.




Sexual preference.

Skin color.

The Great Divide runs right down the middle of the Canyon of Ideology. And it’s getting wider and wider with each passing day, with each refreshing of your Twitter feed and your Facebook timeline, with each action or incident that affects people. Which these days is just about anything and everything.

Civilization is a method of living and an attitude of equal respect for all people.
~ Jane Addams

I'm not concerned with your liking or disliking me... All I ask is that you respect me as a human being.
~ Jackie Robinson

As a reasonably aware person I know that politics, nay, every day events are intense places to be. We’ve had one hell of a summer here in the US. Emotions are running high. Facts and reality are not easy to look at right now. The immediacy of the way we communicate allows voices to be heard, both accurate and inaccurate information to be shared, action to be discussed – in the blink of an eye. All with passion. Emphatic passion. Which is both good and bad.

What’s missing, as I see it, from this scenario?

Respect. And listening. Not just hearing -- but listening. They are not the same thing, you know...

There's a behavioral meme I would run with my Children's Choir Urchins, back when I was directing, at least three times during a rehearsal period – I'd call it a Gimme Five. When Miss Jane said “Gimme Five,” that meant she wanted looking eyes, listening ears, quiet mouths, hands to yourself, feet on the floor.

We could all use a Gimme Five moment, y'all.
 Tout de suite.

Because right now, we’re mired in the muck of disrespect. Closed-mindedness. Single focus. And not hearing anything but what we want to hear – which is most likely a parroting of our own personal views. So many voices. So few pauses. So much cacophony.

Birds of a feather are flocking together. And forming big, squawking, virtual gangs.

It’s not getting us anywhere. Anywhere productive, anyhow.

It’s been about talk. Not so much about action.

It’s been about blame. Not so much about responsibility.

Vitriolic language is bantered about to make points. It’s become sport.

Guess what?

Writing IN ALL CAPS won't provide the solution to the volatile issue that is gun control in our country. Neither will name-calling, deliberate sharing of mis-information and callous flippant responses in the light of horrific events.

Incendiary language doesn’t put food on a table.

Snarky 140 character blips don’t help a family facing a mountain of medical bills and a moat of insurance issues

Divisive comments don’t diffuse the powder keg that is race relations in this country.

Constant criticism and piling on with those of your ideological ilk -- and the incessant sharing of media advocating your position -- won't change minds.

Making a tragedy about yourself when it didn’t affect you or anyone you know directly helps no one and only serves to show you in an unflattering, selfish light. FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) has now seeped into the aftermath of horrible events.

Sticks and stones may break my bones but words take up residence. Bones heal. Takes a lot more to evict words that hurt or sting.

Lest you think I’m merely pontificating from up here on my soapbox… I’m not innocent. I own my culpability in this one. I can wield my tongue with a sharp snarkiness that points and pokes. I have opinions -- just ask me. Sometimes I keep them in check; sometimes I don’t, usually to regret later.

But as I watch the war of words and worlds escalate on social media between ideological opposites every time there's an incident that leads to a tragedy that raises questions about laws, government and eventually morality, it becomes obvious that this nonsense doesn't help the situation. At all.

It’s damaging. It’s ridiculous.

Most of all -- it’s not productive.

And above all, I’m about things that are productive.

Anonymity has made people bold when it comes to opinion sharing. Hiding behind a screen name and then blasting incendiary rhetoric has become commonplace.

I have had to stop reading the comments on many online articles because they make my blood pressure rise. I shared my opinion on a recent issue on Twitter recently. I was called many, many profane names, had my intelligence questioned and repeatedly told how worthless my opinion and I were.  I was able to retaliate by blocking those individuals but I’m sure that made me feel better more than it made them upset. These were people who did not know me but chose to blast me because I have a different opinion than they do. I know this sort of behavior occurs with the advocates of every single position possible – believe me, it’s not just limited to one side of an issue. Had anyone chosen to respond to my opinion with a respectful argument from an opposite position, I would have gladly engaged in civil discourse. Didn’t happen.

Thoughtful discussion seems to be that rare creature on social media – it’s fleeting and you’d better embrace it when you do see it.

Somewhere, somehow, in a world when we know about news almost before it happens and the court of public opinion is fluid and viral and fickle -- we’ve lost sight of what matters.

The art of compromise.

The impact of collaboration.

Our listening skills.





When did life become one giant pissing match? When did everything become so self-absorbed and personal? How on earth is that constructive or productive? Seriously.

So often I will see someone claim “you disrespected me” when an opposite opinion is offered. It’s not the differing perspective that suffers from lack of respect – it’s the way things are communicated and how people are treated.

The seduction of a soundbite or a re-tweet is palpable. And like it or not, pundits have solidified their place in our society where processing news filtered through ideological cheesecloth is a national pastime. However, said pundits have a tendency to become the news themselves further muddling the real issues. Politicians have embraced this communication to a fault now, making headlines more for their social media activity than their campaign ideas.

When all is said and done, the one thing that cannot be disputed (and should NEVER be disputed) is that everyone, in his or her own way, loves this country. Just as it’s no one’s place to pass judgment on whether another person is religious-enough, it’s no one’s place to judge whether another person is patriotic-enough.

I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should 'make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,' thus building a wall of separation between Church & State.
~ Thomas Jefferson

Politics and religion (apologies, Mr. Jefferson, sir, for mentioning these two things together) are dancing around each other a lot these days. There are those who take violent action in the name of religion.  There are those who wish to legislate in the name of religion. Which to me is both terrifying and offensive. Zealotry in any form from any side involving any religion is dangerous for it comes with massive tunnel vision and uses a sledgehammer approach to everything it finds offensive.

Not everyone sees the world the same way. You might want to sit down for this one:

Yes, it is possible to be a Christian and a Democrat. Believe it or not.
Yes, it is possible to be gay and a Republican. Believe it or not.
I could go on, but you get the point.

And PS: all those folks who look at things differently than you do, who have a different perspective than yours, who literally look different than you do – they are not bad people. They are not stereotypes. They are individuals. Part of the whole. And they should be respected and treated as such.

I once spent an afternoon driving through the tidewater region of Virginia. An area rich with American history. A place where sweat was dropped to form this country and blood was shed to preserve its unity. While I was overcome with the beauty of the road down which we were driving (and totally geeked out when we crossed the James River) I couldn't help but think about what had transpired in that place. So much physical activity that made a difference. Immigrants in search of their own space for religious freedom. For legislative freedom.

This land really is our land, my fellow Americans – from California to the New York Island. It belongs to all of us, regardless of our ideology. Civilly engaging in discourse and working together to make it our country the best it would do more to honor the intent and action of our founding fathers than any amount of spewn rhetoric could dream of doing.

I’m ready. Are you?

So let us begin anew—remembering on both sides that civility is not a sign of weakness, and sincerity is always subject to proof. Let us never negotiate out of fear. But let us never fear to negotiate...

...Let both sides explore what problems unite us instead of belaboring those problems which divide us...

...And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country.

~ President John F. Kennedy


It's Time

It was as hot a day here in my part of the F-L-A as I can remember. And I’ve seen a lot (aka a half century) of hot days in my native state. The city pool where I take my water fitness classes was busy to capacity, as is typical for a summer morning. Swimming lessons, lap swimmers, retirees getting some sun. About halfway through my fitness class, a group of kids in a city-sponsored summer camp arrived; you could hear them before you saw them. They were excited, and rightly so, about having a chance to goof off and cool off. On this particular day, my aqua fitness class wasn’t crowded, so there was room in the shallow end of the pool for other swimmers. The summer camp kids soon started a spirited but orderly game of Marco Polo; they policed themselves, watching to make sure they didn’t interfere with our class and only got asked not to run and jump by the lifeguards a handful of times. A couple of the girls copied our Zumba moves, dissolving into giggles when they missed a step.

After class was over, I went to the side of the pool and continued stretching, trying to extend my time in the cool water because it is hotter than the surface of the sun here in Florida right now. Two of the Marco Polo players were standing on the steps; I smiled at them and asked if they were having fun. Thus began a delightful conversation during which I was asked how old I was (they guessed 25; I immediately made them my two favorite people in the world), did I have any kids, what my favorite sandwich was and did I want to come play Marco Polo with them?

Oh… did I mention that my two new friends were black?  And boys? Aged 10 and 7.

I’ve been thinking about them a lot over the past two days, in light of the police shootings of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling. About how charming our conversation was. About how we all felt comfortable chatting – a middle-aged white woman and two black kiddos.  About what their future will look like in this society under these conditions. About how that scares me to tears.

We – yes, WE – have a racism problem in this country.  This is not new information. This is not secret information. This is cold, hard factually-based information. It runs deep. It runs long. It’s ugly. Shameful. And it’s time to talk about it.  Past time, honestly.

For a long time, I observed. As a child, I listened as older relatives matter-of-factly showed their bigotry, whispering the words “negro” or “black” in the manner one does when one is discussing something distasteful. This was the post-Civil Rights Act South with pre-Civil Rights Act Southerners. My kin were good people, raised in a different time. I don’t know if that excuses their attitudes but being only a generation or two removed from the Antebellum South, I’m not sure there was room or opportunity for alternate thought.

As a young adult, I heard tell of the time my parents were driving the back roads of north Florida and came across a Ku Klux Klan rally in an open field. Hooded figures. Lighted torches. They didn’t stop or play lookey-loo to gather more information, to make sure that what they thought they were seeing was real. The smart decision. This was the early ‘60s. One hundred years after the Civil War. So much had transpired. So little had changed.

I am a middle-class white woman. I have had opportunities along my path my entire life. I have had privilege afforded me my entire life. Some because of my abilities and talent. Some because of my family. Some because of the color of my skin, my professed religion. I’m not special.  Not by any means. I've been fortunate.

Apologies if this sounds awkward. I’m not sure how to say what I want to say. But I’m trying. Because I think it’s important. And in some small way, I want to help. It does feel a bit presumptuous commenting on this because it’s not something I’ve experienced first hand. Not sure it's my place to say my piece.

But. My heart hurts every time I see a hashtag roll by that signifies another black life has been taken at the hand of law enforcement in a questionable situation. It’s all very wash/rinse/repeat: he should have listened; he was wearing clothes (like a hoodie) that raised suspicions; most police officers are good people; he had a record. Evidence is discovered; eyewitness accounts are taken; questions are raised about both. The adage about shooting first and asking questions later is both antiquated and offensive. And yes, there are so many brave women and men in law enforcement who have lost their lives in the line of duty. We mourn for them; we are better for their heroism. But wanting those who serve and protect to be held to accountable standards is not mutually exclusive from that. Both can and should exist together.

This issue of race and bigotry is much broader than police shootings. What happened to Philando Castile and Alton Sterling is part of a bigger problem. Which has existed for centuries. This hot button is not symbolic of a racism revival – I think it’s more currently visible because our means of communication has multiplied greatly in this age of technology. What might or might not be covered hours or days after it happened on a TV news broadcast 30 years ago is now viewed in real time across many platforms. I personally do not get my news from traditional mediums – Twitter gives it to me via both acknowledged news source accounts and by people who give eyewitness reports in 140 characters. Sometimes I feel like I know about events almost before they happen.

Those 140 tweet characters can also show you the nature of someone’s character, of his or her belief system. Racial slurs. Religious bigotry. Sexism to the nth power. Homophobia. It’s amazing how much vitriol can be packed into such a small space. It’s also amazing how much empowerment, protest and support can also fit into those 140 characters. Social media is many things for many people. But for all of us, it’s the stethoscope for the pulse of society.

I put myself on social media time-out the other day for breaking some of my personal rules: reading comments on news articles (talk about something that will raise your blood pressure); discussing religion and politics in an open forum; beating myself up for breaking my rules. But after learning about Philando Castile and Alton Sterling, I lifted that time-out rule and took to writing. It’s all become too much. More often than not, when you catch up on current events, *something* has happened. A white college man rapes a woman and his excuse is that he drank too much while she is victim-shamed for the exact same thing. A nightclub frequented by members of the LGBTQ community is decimated by a shooter with an assault firearm. I could go on and on. Suffice it to say, enough is enough. For me. It should be for all of us. I am tired of biting my tongue in polite company when the conversation takes an offensive tone. I love my country deeply, fiercely, passionately -- but there are things that need to be fixed in its society. It's tough love time. 

The worth of a life should not be evaluated based on skin color.

The color of one’s skin does not make one automatically a better person or a lesser person. 


No one is all saint. No one is all sinner. We are all human. Yes, there are differences between us – that individuality thing which makes us unique and keeps life interesting. But to hate someone without just cause who you do not know because of the color of his or her skin or his or her religion or his or her sexuality or his or her gender… that’s wrong. 



There’s a phrase from Hamilton that resonates deeply with me:
Talk less; smile more.

This concept would seem to be very applicable when trying to bridge a divide. Talking less opens you up to listening. Never a bad thing. And a smile is the easiest way to break the ice.

It’s what I did with my young friends at the pool. And look what happened there.



We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed, by their CREATOR, with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.


Clubhouse Rules


Two words that are music to my ears. It’s that time of year. The most wonderful time of year.

Baseball season.

Just like the swallows to Capistrano, America’s Pastime has come home once again.

And while I love all sports (save for NASCAR – what the hell is the deal with that, anyway? Around and around on a track? Just driving? It's like rush hour on the Perimeter in DC. I just don’t get it. At. All. No offense to you lovely people who do. Promise.) baseball and the boys of summer are an intrinsic part of who I am. 

Chalk it up partially to genetics – both my dad and brother played, with Daddy getting drafted while playing college ball but having to change gears due to an ankle injury -- and partially to an innate affection for a game that’s deceptively simple on the surface and always accessible.

A happenchance discovery several years ago of a blog piece written by a Houston Astros fan about his own personal baseball creed inspired me to develop my own similar statement. I’ve unearthed it, dusted it off and given it an update.

Call it Janey’s Baseball Manifesto. Version 2.0.

Manifesto (noun)
A public declaration of intentions, opinions, objectives or motives, as one issued by a government, sovereign or organization. Made by people who are passionate about things. Like the Unibomber. And me.

It goes well with peanuts and Cracker Jacks.

As well as with a cold Bud Lite drought and a soft pretzel with light salt.

Maybe a hot dog. Ketchup and onion only. No mustard.

Make that two Bud Lites. Because I like my beer cold and cheap.  It’s my wine that I prefer to be expensive. But who drinks wine when watching baseball – not this girl, anyway.

A good cigar is like a beautiful chick with a great body who also knows the American League box scores.
~ M*A*S*H, Klinger, "Bug-Out," 1976

I am a fan of the game of baseball. Period. Then, now and forever. I’ve been watching bit for as long as I can remember – Saturday afternoons were all about the ML Game of the Week on NBC with Joe Garagiola. Weekday evenings were spent with posteriors on rough wood bleachers watching my brother play ball and my dad coaching his team. 

This is probably why I love the purity of the Little League game, with its crazy scores and earnest players, as much as I do the nuanced finesse of the Big League game. Give me an afternoon/early evening on a field one step up from a sandlot with a steamed hot dog, a Pepsi and kids engaged in a good, sportsmanlike game (I prefer the antics be saved for the Big Leaguers. Ahem. Parents.) and I’m a happy, giddy girl. Plus a very cheap date.

The other sports are just sports. Baseball is a love.
~ Bryant Gumbel, 1981

I will always have a passionate opinion about my team:

They’re wonderful!

They suck!

They’re great!

They’re awful!


Damn, they suck!

These opinions will be spewed forth fast and furiously and quite often in the span of a week, a three/four game series, a day, a game or even an inning.

I’m going to shoot straight yet tactfully when it comes to my take on my team. That doesn’t mean I don’t love my team (because I do) or that I’m a bad fan (because I’m not.) I’ve been called a “bad fan” before simply because I didn’t just blindly rubber stamp everything that was happening with the team. I’m going to call it like I see it. You might call it tough love. I call it being an intelligently invested fan. But no less of one than anyone else.

Can you tell this is a hot button of mine? Because it is.


Hey. My passion. My rules. Y’all are free to do your own thing.  This is a no judgment zone right here.

There have been only two geniuses in the world. Willie Mays and Willie Shakespeare.
~ Tallulah Bankhead

I’m going to defend my team’s players – through stupid comments and dumbassedness (a new word! Add it to your dictionary!) and bad behavior. Most of the time, anyway. Unless it’s illegal or immoral or horrendously bad.  Then no way.

That’s just how I roll. Love my team, love its players. Regardless. Usually.

However, once a player that dabbles in the aforementioned dumbassedness is no longer a member of my team, he is automatically Dead To Me and his actions, most of which I previously ignored or overlooked, become abhorrent.

See, Spurrier, Steve as a classic example of this. He’s a Jackass. Through and through. Once upon a time, he was My Jackass. The football leader of my alma mater and the alma mater of my parents and grandmother before me. We are currently a four-generation- and-counting University of Florida family. And it was OK. The HBC’s antics and arrogance didn’t bother me one whit. I embraced it.

Then he wasn’t part of My Team anymore.  And for a while, he was Dead to Me.

But now, time, distance and the behavior of others (giving the side eye to you, Urban Meyer and Will Muschamp) has made my stance towards the HBC a little softer. Nothing can help erase the Dead to Me mark next to your name on my list like the emergence of another, greater jackass. When Ron Zook is your second favorite ex-head coach, you know bad, bad things have gone down…

(Yes, I know that I’m mixing sports analogies here. You know the deal: My blog, my rules. Have we just met?)

And given that my baseball team, my Tampa Bay Rays, underwent a complete makeover during the off season, there are many, many, many players who are no longer members of my team. I can’t say that these guys qualify as Dead To Me, since many of them changed uniforms not of their own volition. Must admit, jury’s still out on those who did leave of their own free will.  We. Shall. See.

Baseball is a ballet without music. Drama without words.
~ Ernie Harwell, "The Game for All America," 1955

My prerogative: as a fan, I get to criticize and lambast and bemoan the fate and play of my team. My heart’s with them – nothing wrong with a little tough love and constructive criticism.

However… when anyone else opens his or her big trap to criticize or lambast or bemoan the fate or play of my team or anything related to my team… pffft. Not cool.

Even worse: I really don’t appreciate being mocked or taunted or goaded about my team and their standing, success or otherwise. Don’t do it to get a rise out of me – unless you want to fall into Dead To Me status along with Muschamp. And seriously – no one wants to be there. I take my sports teams very seriously – thinking it’s “funny” to mess with me about them is the fastest way to end up on my Very Bad Side.

And once you're on my Very Bad Side, you usually don't leave. I defend my teams like a mama bear. Fiercely.

You got that, Sparky?

Baseball? It's just a game - as simple as a ball and a bat. Yet, as complex as the American spirit it symbolizes. It's a sport, business - and sometimes even religion.
~ Ernie Harwell, "The Game for All America," 1955

Let’s be honest: try as I might, there’s no way I can be objective or impartial or benevolent with a wrong call when it comes to my team. Yeah – that ump really does need glasses if he thought that pitch was a ball. And please – Kevin Kiermaier was SAFE by a mile, dude. When I love, I love unconditionally and with a biased, affectionate eye.

Suck it, Joe West. Yeah. You heard me.

Don't tell me about the world. Not today. It's springtime and they're knocking baseball around fields where the grass is damp and green in the morning and the kids are trying to hit the curve ball.
~ Pete Hamill

Embedded in the fiber of my being and the foundation of my soul, there lies a well-bred, genteel Southern lady who was taught not to say unkind things about anyone (at least in the presence of those to whom she would be referring.)

However – that engrained character trait goes out the window when it comes to the main rivals of my team – specifically the Red Sox and the Yankees.

I loathe them.

Despise them.

Would even go so far as to say I hate them. Yeah. I know. Hate’s a powerful word. I don’t wish them ill-will or harm.  Just many, many, many losses.  Lots of calls that don’t go their way. Perhaps an ejection or two.

I heckle their players whenever they appear on the telly, even if just in a commercial. I would root for the Devil himself in a three game stand at Fenway.

It must be noted, however, that while I despise the Yankees on a global, more general level (c'mon -- they're the Yankees.) my disdain for the Red Sox is much more specific. I cannot even hear the name Pedroia without automatically saying "I hate that guy." Just rolls off the tongue, no thought given. Pavlovian almost.

By the way, this venom is also spewed at my always-and-forever athletic nemesis, the horrid Florida State Seminoles. In case you were wondering. My blood runs orange and blue. This animosity is just part of the natural order of my things.

There are three things in my life which I really love: God, my family, and baseball. The only problem - once baseball season starts, I change the order around a bit.
~ Al Gallagher, 1971

I am a true, through and through sports-loving girl. Let's emphasize that "girl" thing for a moment... while I'm going to appreciate the game and the stats and all the things my fellow testosterone-laden fans do, my estrogenical sensibilities are going to come shining through periodically. And I'm going to make periodic comments that reflect that. Like "nice tuchus" or "damn, he's hot" or my all-time favorite “Chicks dig the well-placed bunt.” 

I try to curtail this, because yes, it is sexist and yes, I do fight against the rampant sexism in sports fandom/reporting. But I own it. And am up front with it. I like men and I realllly appreciate what they bring to the physical aesthetic. So sue me.

I spent several years in the early '80s following the Los Angeles Dodgers simply because I was in love with Steve Sax and his outstanding posterior. No apologies here.

But. BUT. But. I am a baseball fan first and foremost. I'm no groupie nor obsessive superfan. While the scenery might be easy on the eyes, my long-term love and devotion is for the game. Players come and go. But teams are forever. In my heart, anyway.

So there you are – the Janey Baseball Manifesto. Read it. Learn it. Know it.

And I’ll see you in the cheap seats. First dog and draught are on me.

Love is the most important thing in the world, but baseball is pretty good too.
~ Greg, age 8


We're here. We cheer. Get used to it.

I love sports. Passionately. I’m the chick asking the bartender to switch the channel so I can watch SportsCenter and check scores. The one whose iPad pings every time there’s news from MLB AtBat. The one who has two columns in TweetDeck just for sports – one for news, one for my like-minded crazy fan friends – about half of whom are female.

Yep. It’s true. Women like sports. Women follow sports. Women know sports.

Ta. Da.

More than ever, the theoretical sports fan clubhouse is co-ed. The reality is that women aren’t always being welcomed in with a hale and hearty how-do-you–do. Sometimes that clubhouse is locked. Or the front door slammed in a face. And sometimes windows are opened and trash in the form of vitriolic comments hurled out onto bystanders.

Riddle me this: what is it about a woman who is a sports fan that is so threatening? Especially in the online world of sports information and commentary. Why do some men find it necessary to demean, harass and threaten female sports fans? That’s not a simple question. And there’s no simple answer.

Some personal background: I cannot remember a time when I was not a sports fan. On the nature versus nurture spectrum, I fall smack in the middle when it comes to who I am. In the words of hotel desk clerk and alleged twisted old fruit Tucker Smitty Brown, “I am just as God made me, sir.”** Both naturally and nurturally. Sportingly.

Sports were just a part of life growing up in west coast Florida. Daddy played college baseball and was drafted by a Major League team – but had to change gears due to an ankle injury. My parents had season tickets to Florida Gator football games. We as a family sat through every single disheartening game during the Tampa Bay Buccaneers first season. I watched tennis. Golf. Football. Baseball. Basketball. Hockey was foreign to me – in those days, when dinosaurs and such roamed the earth, hockey was not part of the Florida sports market. It was played up north, where things were cold.

I took lunch money from a boy named Harold (name changed to protect the sucker) when the Reds took the ’75 World Series from the Red Sox. Lost lunch money to a boy named Wally (name changed to protect the jerk) when the Vikings bit the big one and lost to the Raiders in the ’77 Super Bowl. I can still name the field by position of the ’75 Reds.

Had a poster of McHale/Bird/Parrish, aka The Jolly Green Giants hanging in every post-collegiate apartment in which I resided until it fell apart. Cried when Len Bias died (which I still contend led to the decline of the Celtics empire.) Not so good at reading defensive structure but I do know what’s what on the offensive side of a football play. I still can’t distinguish one kind of pitch, save for a knuckleball, from another. And when you start talking about sabermetrics, my eyes do kind of glaze over – I’m so right-brained, it’s ridiculous and you know… statistics.

Suffice it to say -- I'm a legit, life-long sports fan. Know enough about it to be able to watch with purpose and to hold my own in a deeper-than-small-talk conversation. Many of my gal pals are also sports fans. We enjoy sports. We attend sporting events together. We are involved with sports talk on social media.

FYI: We are not unusual. Or weird.

We’re here. We cheer. Get used to it.

Fortunately, I can’t speak to being harassed in person over my love of sports, since it’s never happened to me to any serious degree. When some chucklehead has given me a hard time in a bar or at a game, I can either defuse the situation with charm (hush) or shut things down with "just the facts, sir."

However... there was that time at the ’04 Peach Bowl when the Mister had to physically pull me away from getting into a verbal-or-maybe-more altercation with an asshat Miami fan because he inserted himself into my conversation after the game to express his stupid opinions about the Gators and… over 10 years later and I’m still a little agitated about the whole thing.

But I digress.

Even though he was a gigantic asshat.

So. What is it about female sports fans that male sports fans finds to be so awful? Are we threatening to them? Earnest questions. I ask because I do not know. I ask to seek understanding -- and to perhaps help shepherd solutions.

Women don’t watch sports like men do. We’re not wired the same way (Mars/Venus/Yada/Yada). We are generated by emotion. The experience. We’re passionate by nature. And that transfers to the emotions we feel when watching a game, particularly one in which our favorite team is playing.

Ashley Judd is a passionate, educated and well-spoken fan of the teams of her alma mater, the University of Kentucky. When she deigned to express her opinions on Twitter about game play during a recent basketball game in the SEC Tournament, she was barraged with crude name-calling, offensive innuendo and a backlash that was both horrific and perplexing. All because she shared her take on a basketball game. A BASKETBALL GAME. No one – NO ONE – should be subjected to such treatment in such a situation. Would you want your mama hearing you say such things? A clichéd question, but it’s true. If you don’t have anything nice (or polite. or respectful) to say – don’t say it.

And PS: when you speak before you think or show your ass via words on Twitter or Facebook or Tumblr or Reddit… WE CAN HEAR YOU. There is no such thing as off-the-record in cyberspace.

The anonymity of the Internet provides social media users with a cloak behind which they can hide and just vomit out verbal venom. I believe Ashley’s situation belies a bigger issue with gender perception and relationships – but that’s not new information. And a topic for another soapbox on another day. I am fortunate to have guy pals who respect me and my opinions when it comes to sports. No backlash there, save for banter when it comes to being on opposite sides of the aisle in a team rivalry. Or when I snake a player in a fantasy football draft. Mwah ha ha.

When I was a contributor to a local sports blog, I received my share of snarky comments. That’s when I learned to not read the comments (a good rule of thumb for life in general.) I took it as a sign that at least people other than my parents and friends were reading what I wrote. I’ve also been on the receiving end of some combative tweets thanks to tracking via hashtag when I’ve live tweeted a sporting event.

I’ve been...
... told to shut up
... called stupid
... declared to be “out of your league”
... labeled a bitch

The one that really pissed me off: I was told to calm down "little lady" when I got my dander up over something.

No one tells me to calm down. No. One. Especially if you’re someone I do not know. Let's not even discuss the "little lady" bit. I'm trying to keep the profanity down here.

For the record, the most emotion I’ve ever seen expressed during a sporting event happened at the ’91 Super Bowl, which was held in Tampa at the Big Sombrero. Buffalo Bills versus New York Giants. The Gulf War had just started and we all pulled ourselves away from CNN to undergo heightened security checks (Tampa Stadium was just a stone’s throw away from Command Central at MacDill Air Force Base) and to hear Whitney Houston sing her iconic rendition of The Star Spangled Banner. It was an emotionally-charged environment, even before the game started. And then came the Bills’ missed field goal that sealed a one-point victory for the Giants. I was sitting in a section full of Bills’ fans. As the clock ticked down, grown men had tears rolling down their faces, unashamed to demonstrate their heartbreak. Fathers comforted sons. Husbands and wives clung to each other.

A purer representation of the Agony of Defeat I’d never seen, nor have seen since.

Calm down my ass.

Gents, we don’t want to best you with our statistical knowledge nor do we want to be tested on facts and figures to prove our worthiness as a fan. We don’t want to crash your inner sanctum or smoke your cigars while we watch football on Sunday afternoons. We might comment about how nice a player's smile is or about the fit of the uniforms (and if you have a problem with that, here's a copy of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue for you to peruse while you ponder this...) We don’t want to be relegated to wearing pink sports apparel – the gear in the team colors suits us just fine. We want to watch games and matches and meets and tournaments in the way that makes us happiest. Whatever that may be.

More than anything, we want to be respected.

Not too much to ask, is it?

** A This Is Spinal Tap reference. In case you were wondering.


Driving Miss Janey

As you might have surmised from the name of this blog, I am a bit of a diva. I like what I like. And make no bones about it. Usually with grace and dignity. Always dignity. Opinionated dignity. Or dignified opinion. Take your pick. #owningit

One of those things that this diva likes is riding in cabs, especially in the big city. Don't get me wrong --the subway is not without its charm. And atmosphere. But as one who is not completely familiar with the myriad subway lines 'round here, I often find the process a bit daunting. Heaven forbid I look like a tourist, staring at my map while bored students consume themselves with music, commuters peruse newspapers and the guy across the train from me reads porn. (True story. About the porn. Not about me with the map. Please. That's much worse than the porn in my book.)

So I like a good cab ride when distance and weather conditions necessitate it. I've got the hailing technique down. Know where to stand. When shift change is. How to give proper directions to the cabbie. The whole bit. And most rides are uneventful. Cabbie is either silent or listening to the radio or carrying on complicated phone conversations. That usually only happens to/from the airport for some reason. I jump in at point A. A few stop lights, a little speeding, some perilous lane changes and ta da -- here we are at point B. Pay the man (not being sexist -- just have never had a female cabbie. so there.), jump out, head on my way.

As with everything, though, there are exceptions.

I was headed to the hotel from the airport on my first solo city trip a couple of years ago. Saturday afternoon. Hotel was on the east side of Midtown, away from the cacophony of Times Square and the Theatre District. There was a big protest of some sort (the reason escapes me now... let me think about it) in Times Square and apparently my cabbie was very interested in it. We looped around twice so he could roll down the passenger side window and listen to the speakers. OK. Fine. I was in no rush. It was the kind of interesting I could appreciate. Once he was sufficiently finished there, we sped to 3rd Avenue, headed for my hotel. Moving so quickly that a hard stop was necessary at a red light. The car behind us found it necessary to make a hard stop as well. Right into the back of the cab. 

Let's just say that if this had been an early '70s sitcom, I would have found myself a neck brace and taken the cabbie and the dude in the car behind us to court, where John Astin would have been my attorney and Norman Fell would have been the judge and ruled in my favor for whiplash and damages incurred despite Gomez Addams' lawyering antics.

Despite the fact that I'd gotten a BAM hard enough to give me a neck-and-headache, no one got out of their cars. No words exchanged. Nothing. My response was a very loud profane word and a "DUDE!" which got no response from the cabbie. His tip = greatly reduced. His penance = unloading my very heavy luggage with no help. Hrumph.

And then there was the time I was going back to the hotel, laden with purchases from establishments (read: Macy's sale) in the Herald Square area. The cabbie was chatty, asking me where I was from and so on. Fascinated with me being from Florida. Wanted to know if I liked going to the beach. Did I get a good tan in my bikini. What was I planning to do while I was in town. How was the view from my hotel room and what floor was I on. Were there any "adult" beaches in Florida and had I been to any of them. I then placed a pretend phone call and ignored him the rest of the trip. His tip = greatly reduced. No woman with as many packages as I had has ever gotten out of a cab so quickly as I did. Paging the Guinness Book of Records people. I set a record. *shudder*

Yesterday. Ah, yesterday. Pouring rain. Took me 15 minutes easily to hail a cab. Jaywalked across 8th Avenue, Gator scarf over my head like a babushka because I'd forgotten my umbrella in the hotel room and I was not going to lose valuable time going back up to get it. Grabbed a cab out from under some douchey guy's nose. Gave the cabbie the details of my destination and settled in for the ride downtown, glad to be out of the rain and excited to be heading to an unfamiliar new spot in the city to meet friends to watch the Gator basketball game.

While I was busy text-chatting with my galpal, who was already at the bar, a long sharp horn blast startled me. We were on a side street, caught in a bit of a traffic jam at the entrance to a parking garage. The cabbie was laying on the horn and, growing impatient, decide to try and squeeze the car through an opening between vehicles. And then I heard it. That familiar, sickening sound of metal moving onto metal. Screeeeeeeech. Grossly misjudging the cab's ability to compact and squeeze through anything. the cabbie had careened sideways, fender-bendering into another car. A lovely little Fiat. Whose owner was pissed. Natch.

What happened next was like a scene out of a movie. No joke. Total cliché. Car doors opened. Irate drivers jumped out, already yelling and slamming doors. I couldn't hear what was being said after that, mostly because I was trying to disappear into the floorboard. Hiding my face, like I was working through a crowd of media outside a courtroom. But I assume there was a lot of swearing. Next thing I know, the Fiat driver was snapping pictures of the back of the cab as the cabbie hurled himself back into the car, locked the doors and threw the damn thing into drive. Let's just say it was pretty much a hit-and-run with a little drama added for flair. 

The minute I spotted my destination, I told the driver. The words "no charge" floated out his mouth and with a "no kidding" I was out the door, moving through the rain without a look back. Pass the beer.

Given all that, you'd think that the Fiat fender bender would be the most memorable cab ride I've had. But no. There's one more...

I was leaving the theatre one night, headed back to my hotel on the east side. Walked over to 8th Avenue to take advantage of a busier street and more opportunities for vacant cabs. I waved down one with a lit sign that was stopped at a red light. As the car approached the corner, an older woman with a sour expression and a big pointy umbrella tried to step in front of me and grab the cab. Unashamedly, I cut her off at the pass, opened the door and jumped in, pulling away as she told me I was number one with a hand gesture. Sometimes, it's run or be run over in this town. Literally and figuratively.

The cabbie, an older gent, noticed the Playbill in my hand and asked me what I'd seen. We chatted a bit about the show and then he asked if I'd ever seen "Jersey Boys." I replied that no, I had not yet seen it and with that, he was off, telling me about the show and about having seen Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons in their prime when he was in his prime. My driver, a native New Yorkers, had grown up in the Bronx and was part of a street corner singing group back in the day. He told me tales of dancing on Alan Freed's tv show and being there the night that Frankie Lymon danced with a "white girl," which "made people in the South upset because Frankie was colored and you know what the South was like back then." I nodded and just kept listening. He talked. I was a rapt and attentive audience. I asked him to drive around a little, if he didn't mind, so I could hear more stories. Which we did for a bit. Tales of meeting Frank (Sinatra. Please. As if there was any other.) and seeing this act and that act before they became "big," as he put it.  

When he finally pulled up to my hotel, I had tears in my eyes. What a treasured moment. What an experience. As I handed him my fare and tip, he shook my hand and told me thank you -- "thank you for listening to an old man's stories." I said no -- thank you for sharing with me. I stepped out of the cab and into the night with some stars in my eyes and a smile on my face that could not, would not move. The hotel front desk employees noticed my face and asked what had happened. 

I told them I'd just had a quintessential New York moment. Something that I -- and only I -- would experience. 

And sometimes, because of moments like that, it truly pays to be a diva.