I didn’t heed financial advisers So what I now own is my own fault. I find I envy lonely old misers Clinking their coins in a lonely old vault. It’s not their coins I desire, but their quiet.
Quiet’s so rare I cannot conceive it. In my house women rampage and riot. Four generations! Can you believe it?
My friends who loved money gained fat pensions And were without wives. All their cares were shed; They should have known joy, without tensions. Instead loneliness swiftly struck them dead.
Me? Don’t ask. I’ve no time to reflect. I get no quiet. I get no respect.
One interesting aspect of Rodney Dangerfield’s humor is that it is an appeal for pity, but rather than pity it earns laughter. (“I know I’m ugly. I’ve always been ugly. When I was born the doctor slapped my mother.”)
Within the laughter is a joy that laughs at our sorrows. It is a recognition that, despite all the evidence to the contrary, it is good to be alive. It sees the glimmer of God even in a devil of a day.
All the same, I wouldn’t mind some pity, at times. (Preferably cash.) However I have a bad habit of always comparing my lot to people who are worse off, and that spoils my ability to play the violins. I start out with the violins, and then have this strange urge to insert a tuba.
For example, as a writer I prefer quiet, but despite the fact all my children are grown I never seem to experience the so-called “empty nest.” I have taken to getting up in the middle of the night to write, for that is the only time it is really quiet. Consequently I often lack sleep, (even though I go back to bed, and get to sleep twice a night, whereas others only get to sleep once). When I get up to go to work I feel like death warmed over, and want some pity.
Then I compare myself to a person who actually was the most unfortunate person in the world, for a day. I’m referring to myself 33 years ago. I was spurned and broke and living in a desert campground, and wrote this unhappy song:
I think I am going to die soon. I see a skull’s face in the full moon And high in the sky hear a mad loon Luting a lonely and sad tune.
Why am I staying here grieving? Who do I think I’m deceiving? Why am I staying here groaning? Life’s just a way of postponing.
Some body some body Ask me to stay.
All I need to do is remember the horrible loneliness of that mournful twilight and all the noise I experience now doesn’t seem so bad. However I figure that shouldn’t disqualify me from pity. Maybe I don’t deserve a whole concerto of violins, but a lone fiddle might be nice, once in a while.
Recently my mother-in-law deserved the pity because she couldn’t go to her warm place in Florida because she was recovering from an operation. I agreed that the sooner she went to Florida the happier everyone would be. Finally she was able to go, provided someone went along to help her open up her house. I was willing to sacrifice the beauty of snow for a bit, however I was too indispensable to my workplace to go. In the end my daughter took on the task, but that meant my wife and I had to watch our granddaughter, who is three.
My sleep was even more disrupted, for the small child had the habit of crawling into bed with my wife and I at all hours of the night. It was cute, the first time, but the little girl kicks a lot in her sleep. Also sometimes she’d wake before me, and seemingly decided my upturned face was a good road to drive her toy cars over. It was a strange thing to wake up to.
However it was a perfect thing, when it came to getting me some pity. When people asked me, “How’s it going?” I didn’t need to respond, “Fine, and you?” Instead I could answer, “Things are not good.”
This forces people to raise a sympathetic eyebrow, and ask “Oh?”
Then I could say, “I’m terribly run down. This morning I was run over by a cement truck.”
I would then look at them and wait for them to correct me, saying something like, “You mean you felt like you were run over by a cement truck,” but no one ever took the bait. Maybe they know me too well. Instead they tended to look curious, and wait.
So I’d add, “Can you believe it? An actual cement truck ran me over. I took a picture of it with my cell phone, and can prove it to you. Here. Take a look:”
When I last posted a relatively mild (but below freezing) feeder-band was feeding the last incarnation of “Ralph” at the pole, and making a mild spike in temperatures at the Pole, for Alarmists to cheer about.
However the feeder-band stopped feeding, and the heat swiftly drained away to outer space, and the air-mass over the Pole cooled, giving the coldest temperatures of the winter, and giving Skeptics their chance to throw confetti.
The surge of air streaming north to feed Ralph pushed the edge of the sea-ice north, creating open water north of Svalbard nearly to Franz Josef Land, and there was wild cheering among Alarmists. (Note the polynya in western Kara Sea, formed by strong west winds shifting sea-ice east.)
However the winds swung around to the north and brought bitter cold to Svalbard, and the sea-ice reformed on its north coast. Skeptics looked smug, and a few were so rude as to go, “Neener-neener-neener.” (Notice the polynya in the western Kara Sea has vanished, as ice reformed and skimmed the surface.)
The sea-ice extent graph was down at levels lower than any other recorded year, when Ralph was being fed by Atlantic gales, and there was wild cheering on one side of the stadium, however the extent has since poked upwards and even surpassed last year’s, at this date, so the other side of the stadium is now raucously yelling.
All this cheering is too much for me. I can’t take it. I still haven’t recovered from the Superbowl, and any extra suspense surely can’t be good for my health. Therefore I am carefully nurturing an I-don’t-care attitude.
I have decided to have the detachment of an elderly scientist with a magnifying glass, down on my creaky hands and knees, utterly engrossed in my study of particles of dirt, and completely unconcerned with the fact I’m moving into an arena where a bullfight is going on.
Of greater interest (to me at least) is the thickness map, which is very different from last year, for the pattern has been very different. (Last year to the left; this year to the right.)
The eye immediately leaps to the yellows in the Canadian quadrant last year that are missing this year. The ice is as much as six feet thinner over a large area. However part of the reason for that thicker ice last year was because ice was crammed up there, being blown away from the coast of Canada by strong southeast gales. Big polynyas of open water repeatedly formed in the Mackenzie Delta region (and also off the north-westernmost point of Alaska) This year there have been more west winds, and ice is crunched in towards the Mackenzie Delta, and rather than six inches thick it is six feet thick.
I’ll be watching the Mackenzie Delta to see if the winds swing around to the east, and a polynya forms. Why? Because last year it was explained to me, by a person who claimed to know, that the water by the delta, barely skimmed by baby-ice, would be swift to melt and become open water early, absorbing a lot of summer sunshine and creating warmer water that would hasten the melt of sea-ice further out to sea. But that will not happen this year if current conditions persist. Rather than open water by the delta there will be six feet of ice, reflecting summer sunshine and only stubbornly melting when the Mackenzie River’s spring floods finally hold water warmer than ice-water, (which isn’t until June.) This should completely change the melting equation, (if the person explaining things to me last year wasn’t completely talking through his hat.)
Besides the NRL thickness map I like to check out the DMI thickness map, not merely because they don’t always agree, but also because the DMI map takes area and thickness and makes a crude attempt at stating the volume of the sea-ice. There are all sorts of complicated complaints about their approach, but, just taking them at their word, volume is at a very low level this winter.
It isn’t wise to use low volume at this time of year as a predictor of summer sea-ice levels, for I was one of many who made that mistake after the low-ice summer of 2012. In January, 2013, the sea-ice volume was as low as this year, and a big gale in February smashed up the ice in the Beaufort Sea, creating leads that were in a few cases a hundred miles wide, and many were certain the summer’s ice would be frail, and would swiftly melt. However, if you look at the red line in the above volume-graph, you can see that by October 2013 the volume-for-October was at the highest levels seen in recent years. (As I recall, nobody saw this “recovery” coming.) (Though “Tallbloke” suggested recovery might be possible, at his site, it was a “possibility” and not a “certainty”.)
The Russian quadrant is fascinating this year, as Ralph has kept the winds largely west along the thousands upon thousands of miles of Siberian coastline, deranging the textbook flow of sea-ice, which traditionally should look like this:
This winter Ralph has reversed the Beaufort Gyre, and robbed the Transplar Drift of a lot of its ice, instead shoving the sea-ice from west to east in the marginal Siberian Seas, creating polynyas on the west sides, as ice piled up on the east sides. On the east side of the Kara Sea ( and west side of the Laptev Sea) the piled-up ice was able to squeeze like toothpaste from a tube between islands and the mainland, creating a long train of thicker ice between the Laptev Sea and the Pole.
It is difficult to determine whether the Russian quadrant has more or less ice than last year. Theoretically it should have more, if the Transpolar Drift exported less, but all the lilac-purple areas represent polynyas that have barely skimmed over. On one hand they may represent areas that will be quick to become ice-free next summer, and on the other hand they represent sea-water that has been more exposed to arctic winds, and may be colder next summer. Of course, there is a lot of winter left, and with Siberian Rivers largely frozen solid and barely trickling, a lot more ice can be produced along the shores, and the lilac areas may thicken greatly.
Surprisingly the European quadrant has more ice than last year despite the surges from the south. However, though I hadn’t named Ralph “Ralph” yet, the interesting pattern was already starting to manifest last year. As I recall, I first noted it around Christmas, 2015. So if I had the time to study last years post’s, I might well see there were southern surges then as well, which might explain the lower levels last year.
The Greenland quadrant shows more thick ice along the coast than last year, and a particularly large blob of ice currently coming through Fram Strait, during the current break in the activity of Ralph, which has allowed the cold to build at the Pole and north winds in Fram Strait.
When the cold is held up at the Pole it often allows us to thaw, where I live far further south, (though home-grown cold can be created over the extensive snow-cover of Canada, even when the Arctic is stingy and won’t share). We are currently experiencing a nice midwinter thaw, after three feet of snow last week, here in New Hampshire in the USA. However the quietude makes me a little nervous. To have all that cold building up there is like winter inhaling deeply, before a big blow. Or like a boxer rearing back before delivering a hay-maker.
Also I noticed that a lot of the Atlantic feeder-bands that fed Ralph could be traced back to pleasant Gulf-of-Mexico air coming up the east coast of the USA. As it passed over New Hampshire we’d get some thawing and kindly, above-normal temperatures, and then I’d read of Iceland getting above-normal temperatures, and then Svalbard, and then I’d see Ralph swirling again, at the Pole, as our heat was squandered to the darkness of outer space.
I wondered if squandering our heat in this manner might make the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic-off-the-USA colder, but there is no sign of such a chilling. Such waters are usually chilled by cold winds pouring off the mainland, but they were protected from that, by being in the middle of a mild river of moist air heading north. However “mild” is a subjective term, and the air gets colder and colder as it heads north. Fifteen degrees above normal is a thaw, here in New Hampshire, but nothing thaws in Svalbard when air is fifteen degrees above normal. The air is losing heat all the way north, and any remaining heat is lost when it gets there. I’m not sure where and when this loss will manifest, but it is happening, even though the Gulf of Mexico and nearby Atlantic haven’t chilled as much as they usually do.
In any case, the mild river seems to be starting north again, judging from conditions here, and I would not at all be surprised to see Ralph reappear in a week or so.
Due to being so busy removing three feet of snow, and then being out of town three days, I tried a new way of saving the DMI maps, using my cell phone. FAIL. In any case, here are the maps I managed to save.
When I last posted Ralph was enjoying his most recent come-back at the Pole. The temperature map showed Ralph’s “signature”, a hook of milder temperatures poking a triangle towards the Pole. The was a thaw as far north as Svalbard, and the “mild” -10°C isotherm daggered deep into the Arctic Basin. But watch, in following maps, how this heat simply fades. Is isn’t shifted south; nor is cold air brought north from tundra. The air-mass simply cools down, like a piece of hot iron in snow.
It is possible to envision the triangular signature of Ralph as the warm sector of a storm, with a cold front on its western side, and a secondary, Ralph Jr., forming on that front.
Ralph Jr. can’t really be called a true “Ralph”, as he doesn’t head up to the Pole, but rather slumps down towards Russia and takes a more usual route east along the Siberian coast. However, even as he fades along with his father, the duo create a cross-polar-flow that sucks air from Canada towards Norway. (Norway can have that cold; our ski-areas already have enough snow, here in New Hampshire; IE: Any cold sucked out of northern Canada is cold that won’t be heading down here.) As Ralph Jr. proceeds east he cuts the feeder band of Atlantic air both to himself and to Ralph, and both weaken. The air around them steadily chills.
On February 16 a tertiary grandson of Ralph appears, Ralph the Third, but he takes the eastern route, and his small signature-hook of Atlantic air is steered east, and doesn’t penetrate north. Unfed, poor old Ralph is fading away.
Three days are missing here. Ralph the Third faded down into Russia, taking any weak isobar-remnant of Ralph with him. The actual air in Ralph has gotten so cold it no longer rises, creating a low beneath, but instead sinks, pumping high pressure beneath. The high pressure over the Canadian Archipelago will have to be watched, for if such high pressures get strong enough, they create the gales I mentioned earlier, which rip the ice away from shore and create a polynya off the Mackenzie Delta. So far the winds are weak on that side of the high, only 5-10 mph. It is the other side that has gales, and this may prove interesting, as cold air is being sucked from Siberia towards Greenland. The freezing isotherm remains south of Svalbard, and Barents Sea may form more sea-ice.
The situation doesn’t look likely to drastically change in the near future. The new low north of Norway is a garden-variety North Atlantic low performing the typical loop-de-loop, and is basically stalled. The high will persist towards the Pacific side.
In the longer range, even only a week in the future, the models begin producing a great variety of solutions, and in 14 days they range from a strongly positive AO to a strongly negative one, and this means that, if we are honest, we haven’t a clue whether Ralph will reappear or not.
The only way to know for sure is to watch, wait, and stay tuned.
The phenomenon of low pressure that I dubbed “Ralph” appearing over the Pole, fed by “feeder bands” of air from the south (usually the Atlantic), is persisting, creating a dichotomy of above-normal temperatures to the north, and cold to the south. The media tends to blare headlines about the mild Pole, and ignore the people shuddering to the south. For example, this picture below is not of Arctic tundra.
The above picture is from the United Arab Emirates, on the Arabian Peninsula jutting out into the warm Persian Gulf. At the start of the month some Siberian “backwash” rode southwest and crossed over Iran and managed to cross the Persian Gulf without being heated enough to cause rain, and the Arab population of the Emirates was shocked by extreme cold (for them) and wind-driven snow they had never experienced before. Apparently some experienced emotions more akin to panic, than bemusement over a novelty.
Meanwhile the northern element of the dichotomy went right on sucking southern heat to the constant dark of arctic winter, and losing that heat to outer space. When you combine the heat lost in this manner, with the heat lost when an ordinarily absorbent desert landscape abruptly has the albedo of freshly fallen snow (at more southern latitudes where the sun actually does shine), the conclusion should be that our planet seems to be being very efficient about cooling.
When we last looked at maps a Pacific feeder-band was fading, along with a Pacific “Hula-Ralph”, as gales stalling down by Iceland were creating a new southern flow on their east sides, and creating a new-feeder band aiming north in the Atlantic.
By February third we see a new Ralph at the Pole, and in the temperature map Ralph’s “signature”, a distinct hook of milder temperatures. (There is some Pacific inflow but it is unable to progress to the Pole).
By February 6th high pressure is starting to build strongly over Scandinavia, and the flow between it and the Icelandic low is perpetuating the feeder-bands north. This situation has persisted to today.
Ralph’s “signature” is again obvious in the temperature map on the ninth.
Here is the current UK Met map of the huge high pressure over Scandinavia, with lows either forced up the east coast of Greenland, or suppressed down in the Mediterranean.
The temperature anomaly map (Produced by Dr, Ryan Maue at the Weatherbell site) shows above-normal temperatures in the Arctic, and the cold backwash over Europe. The Mideast has temporarily gotten a break, and warmed.
However all the relatively mild air pumped to the arctic will fuel low pressure up there, which will push the high pressure south from Scandinavia, and the Mideast will experience the backwash’s chill again. Here the anomaly map’s prediction of the situation four days from now, with temperatures well above normal to the north, and perhaps more snow in the high ground, in the southern deserts.
Just in case you doubt the heat brought up to the Pole is lost, I’ll include the next four days of anomaly maps for the Pole. It begins with temperatures far above normal in a blob of mild air north of Greenland, but as that air is swirled into Ralph’s signature hook, it becomes less and less above normal, until it is nearly normal. (Greenland to upper right in these maps).
Not only is the transported-north heat lost, but there is latent heat released as the moisture brought north is snowed out, and that released heat is also lost.
It may be above normal at the Pole, but it is -1°F (-18°C) down here at 42.7° north Latitude, in southern New Hampshire, and we have to clean up after a blizzard that just gave us 18 inches of fluffy snow (46 cm). I’ll update this post with the current sea-ice maps once I am done the chores.
Yowza. I ache all over and have a face made ruddy by windburn and a nose purpled by frostbite. People probably think I’ve been hitting the gin. (I wish). The high temperature here was 19°F (-7°C), and we are back down to 9°F (-13°C) shortly after nightfall. The wind was cruel this morning, but now things are settling to a calm, before the next surge of southern air rushes north towards Labrador, Iceland, and the North Pole. With the season advanced and the Atlantic colder (though still above normal) this surge will give us snow and partially be deflected out to sea on its way north, and then another blizzard may form on the trailing cold front and clobber us on Sunday. So forgive me if I’m slow on posting about both “Sea Ice” and “Local Views”.
There hasn’t seemed to be much notice about the connection between warm air surging north from our south, over us, and the mildness at the Pole. But I’ve noticed.
One thing these surges do at the top if the North Atlantic is to push the sea-ice north, especially around Svalbard, which is about as far north as people live, and can notice. The NRL Concentration map shows that once again the surge has pushed the sea-ice away from the north coast of Svalbard.
The problem with the concentration map is that it doesn’t tell you if the ice is an inch thick or twelve feet thick. However, neither does the Sea-Ice extent graph, that people like to fuss about. It has shown a couple of dips recently, largely due to “feeder-bands” coming north through Bering Strait (on the Pacific side) and past Svalbard (on the Atlantic side) and pushing the sea-ice back north. (Also a gale howled east winds in the Sea of Okhotsk on the Pacific coast of Russia, crushing all that sea-ice west and shrinking the “extent” there for a week or so, before it promptly grew back).
One can expect uproars during the next two months about the quirks in the above extent graph, although it is largely much ado about nothing, involving advances and retreats at the very periphery of the sea-ice, often outside the Arctic Sea, (for example in the north of the Baltic Sea, the Sea of Okhotsk, the Gulf of St Lawrence, or south of Bering Strait; I don’t think the Yellow Sea or the bays in the east of the USA are included.) Such sea-ice is always ephemeral, gone by May, and is largely dependent on the weather patterns.
In fact the weather patterns during the winter are more interesting to study, and the movement of the sea’s ice is largely dependent on such patterns. Therefore the edge of the sea-ice is also dependent on such patterns. Also, because the edge of the ice has a lot to do with “extent”, “extent” can have more to do with whether the winter pattern is zonal or meridional than with the temperature of the water or air, and most especially with whether there is a slightest variation of CO2 in the atmosphere.
So far the past winter’s pattern has reversed the “normal flow”, (which I suppose is called “normal” because it was the pattern of the recent past). The so-called “normal” is shown in the illustration below:
It can be seen that “normally” the Transpolar Drift would export a lot of sea-ice from the Laptev and East Siberian Seas and move it towards the north coast of Svalbard. But this winter the “surges” of mild air have often reversed the flow, and the winds have often been west along the Siberian coast, and rather than south-to-north the Laptev sea-ice (and also the Kara sea-ice and East-Siberian sea-ice) has been shoved west to east. This is especially seen in the NRL thickness map. In each of the three Siberian marginal seas the ice has been moved from west to east, with thin baby-ice on the western side and sea-ice piled up on the eastern side. Of especial interest is the east of Kara Sea, for the piled-up sea-ice was able to squeeze through Vilkitsky Strait (which separates Severnaya Zemlya from the Russian mainland), and this sea-ice has continued east, forming a clearly defined stripe of thicker ice between the Laptev Sea and the Pole.
Although this west-to-east movement of sea-ice does create polynyas and thin baby-ice on the west side of the Siberian marginal seas, the net result is more ice has remained towards Siberia, and the west sides of the seas contain such masses of ice that they were able to trap two icebreakers escorting two tankers.
It should be noted that this build-up has little to do with temperatures, which remain above normal, and are showing yet another upward spike as the latest feeder-band refuels “Ralph”.
Instead the build up of sea-ice has everything to do with changing weather patterns. Below is a comparison of the thickness this year with the thickness last year. 2016 to the left, 2017 to the right.
It can be seen there is more ice this year in the Siberian quadrant and less ice in the Canadian quadrant. (Alarmists will focus on Canada and Skeptics on Siberia.) In actual fact next summer’s minimum likely depends most upon the temperature of the water under the ice (and whether that water was cooled by being more open last fall, or warmed by infusions of Atlantic water brought north by the “surges”.)
What has caused the change in the pattern? Below are two possible causes. To the left is our enormous sun, and to the right is a representative of 2500 tiny molecules. Both include tiny spots. To the left is a new sunspot, after five days when the Quiet Sun was again spotless. To the right is a single red spot, representing one molecule of CO2 per 2500.
Decide for yourself, and stay tuned.
SECOND UPDATE; SUNDAY AFTERNOON
I could not park this post in the archives without a mention, in closing, of the newest incarnation of “Ralph”, with his signature. It’s a big one.
The spike in polar temperatures is also large:
This just perpetuates conditions described earlier in this post. The Transpolar Drift is impeded and strong west winds will blow along the Siberian Coast. Models suggest Ralph will grow a sort of secondary down towards Barents Sea which will sink into Russia, and high pressure will build back north over Scandinavia.
I’ll have to visit the “Ice Age Now” site to keep an eye out for cold events at more southerly latitudes, if I can find the time. At my southerly latitude of 42.7°N we had three inches of fluff yesterday as a warm front tried, and failed, to press north. Last night the high to our north pressed south, the sky cleared, and the full moon was brilliant on the new fallen snow, but by dawn it was gray again, light snow began falling by midmorning, and now we are expecting another foot of snow, as a second storm hits. Gale force gusts by Monday morning. Sigh. Another mess to clean up. It may be a while before I can post again. Global Warming? Humbug!
I’m not sure the Saudi camels approve.
And all the mild air of each Atlantic “feeder-band” is cold enough by the time it reaches Greenland to fall as snow, adding to the record dump and amazing increase in “mass balance”. It has nearly reached its yearly high four months early.
The Monday morning after the Superbowl the parents dropped off their kids at our Farm-childcare looking haggard, and no, I’m not from Atlanta. New England fans were seemingly in a state of serious shock, as not even they expected the come-back they had witnessed. In a dazed way, with stunned expressions, they were replaying the entire game over and over, like the above clip.
In a reply to a friend I gave my view:
“I’ve heard a lot of Monday-morning-quarterbacks say what Atlanta “should have done”, but such 20-20 hindsight is not there, in the heat of the moment. I think a sort of “fog of war” sets in during an actual game, and that is where Belichick is best, because he makes the right choices during crazy-time, when you are not given time to think. Belichick likely would have burned up the clock and run the ball, if in Atlanta’s shoes, but Atlanta was seemingly stuck in the habit of using what had worked before, thinking it would continue to work. It didn’t. They didn’t adjust but Belichick had adjusted. (One of my favorite camera shots was of Belichick jotting notes in a old-fashioned notebook with an old-fashioned pen; [he smashed his newfangled tablet-computer in the middle of a game, two months ago]; he looked as detached as a coach jotting notes in a practice session. Wouldn’t it be fun to get a peek at that notebook?)
Atlanta’s defense was utterly exhausted (or “gassed”, as the player’s say), by the end, as the Patriots had that defense on the field for 40:31 and they were off the field for only 23:27. I don’t think this is an “accident of fate”, because when Belicheck was defensive coordinator of the Giants, and they were up against the high powered offence of Kelly and the Buffalo Bills during the 1990 Superbowl, the Bill’s defense was on the field over 40 minutes. Can it be that Belichick actually plans that, if the opponent is going to score, they will do so swiftly, and their defense will get no rest before it is back on the field?
At the end of the game it looked like Atlanta was still in that “score fast” mode, because it had been easy earlier. They were lured into using the obsolete.
Sort of a strategy similar to “rope-a-dope.”
This sort of post-game analysis, back in my boyhood, was called “the hot stove league”, and was mostly about baseball when there was no baseball to be played due to deep snow, and old geezers were looking forward to the next baseball season, during New England’s interminable winters. Such blather was conducted around hot wood stoves, often in small stores or at the local post office, and likely drove some wive’s mad, as they likely felt husbands could be making better use of their time, (even as some husbands felt their wive’s could cut their phone-calls short.) In any case, since those long-ago days football has stepped in, during December and January at least, and usurped the position of baseball.
The approval or disapproval of spouses does not matter as much as the approval of God, and violent sports like football make me a bit nervous. A person, who I respect greatly, once informed me God really enjoys the sport of cricket. However, once the violence of football is over, I think God likely approves of people sitting about talking about what they have witnessed. Why?
I suppose it is because it is good to appreciate the efforts of others.
I’ve worked well over a hundred different jobs in my time, and you’d be amazed how often the work goes completely unappreciated. For example, next time you hold a bottle of ketchup, look at the label. I was the guy making such labels for ketchup, (and a hundred other bottled things), for all of two weeks one winter. (Yes, I got fired.) It was a horrible, miserable job, for minimum wage, and required a sort of heroism on my part to endure it, (and required heroism on the part of my wife to endure me), but, were there any cheering crowds as I (and my wife) heroically managed to scrape together the funds to feed my children? Nooooooo….
Look around yourself. You are surrounded by things you take for granted, made possible by people you fail to appreciate. The lights you click on, the toilets you flush, the bread and the butter you eat, all involve toiling people you take for granted. If we had the slightest idea of how beholden we are to others we’d be flush with thankfulness, and far more loving than we actually are. But the thing of it is, we ourselves are too darn busy toiling to appreciate the toil of others, and, if we lift eyes from toil to think at all, it is of how we are the ones who deserves more credit. We are all too often too busy playing the wailing violins of our own self pity. We are as dependent on others as oldsters in wheelchairs, crabbing that the ride is too rough.
Considering this unflattering portrait is how God likely sees us, I imagine he likes how we become utterly and amazingly different, regarding sports. Suddenly we appreciate the smallest details of other’s efforts. We see the nuances, the quick reactions, and the uncanny element of luck.
The exact same things we obsess about on football fields occur in our own lives. When the cook at our local diner cracks open a bad egg in the middle of the morning rush, it involves all the swift shifts of an athlete in a sporting event. There may be no cheering, and in fact there may be some grousing because orders are temporarily filled more slowly, but the swift recovery rivals the efforts of an athlete. There may be fewer tips, down here in earth, but up in heaven the angels are cheering wildly for the cook.
Remember that, when you next trudge through the drudgery of your day, largely unappreciated. Even if you don’t believe in angels, if you imagine that you are doing your unseen deeds in a stadium, with millions of cheering spectators watching, it has a way of making you, if not feel better, perform better.
As a young artist I used to trick myself in this manner all the time. I might be washing dishes in some slummy dive, but I figured a million were watching me. How? Well, I figured it was only a matter of weeks before I’d be “discovered”, and my poems would sell a million copies, and all of a sudden many, many fans would want to know about my past life. Therefore, as I washed dishes, a million fans were watching me. And I tell you, few have ever washed dishes as I did, with such flair and pizzazz, flipping plates like pancakes and singing odd opera. (If nothing else, it made a dull job far more fun, and made me a fun fellow to work with.)
In the case of the Superbowl, there actually are millions watching, and appreciating every move, not only during the event, but afterwards. In some cases the efforts are appreciated decades afterwards. The nuances of fate, uncovered and discovered long afterwards, are all the more fascinating when the internet allows the “hot stove league” to involve a heck of a lot more people than, in the old days, you could fit in a post office or hardware store.
For example, regarding the Superbowl of a few days ago, I heard, during discussion of Belichick in the 1990 Superbowl which pitted the Giants against the Bills, that Belichick was the defensive coordinator, but the offence wide-receiver coach was Tom Coughlin, who later became the head coach of the New York Giants, and is the only coach to ever defeat Belichick in a Superbowl (twice).
The fact that the coach of that 1990 New York Giants team, Bill Parcells, was able to recognize the genius of two young assistant coaches, could be the subject of a long, long article in a sports-section written by sports fanatics for sports fanatics. Me? I’ll cut things short, and just say Bill Parcells, when at the height of his powers, was able to do the thing this post is about: Appreciate.
One thing I appreciate about modern times is what I spoke of before: The “hot stove league” has become enormous. One thing I investigated, on my computer, was “fan reaction”. You likely could spend hours just watching video of fans experiencing the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat, and in some cases it is hard to tell the difference. New England fans collapse to the floor sobbing in victory, as Altlanta fans go insane with hysterical laughter.
Then you can likely spend days watching the “experts”, both on high-powered network sites and on small-time individual sites, indulge in post-game analysis, reexamining every play in minute detail.
The first is emotion and the second is intellect, but both appreciate.
Me? I must be getting old, for I don’t care so much about winning as I used to. I’m more interested in the sport than who wins, and also sometimes more interested in the fans than the players.
Because I run a Farm-childcare, some of the fans I deal with are very young. The children who are under five could care less about sports, but around age five kids become fans, in a very unrealistic, dreamy way. For example, they think their Dad could outrun any player in the NFL. There is no cotton-picking way I am going to disillusion them. However they also seem to think I myself am nearly as amazing as their Dad, and that I myself could also play in the NFL, and I need to find some gentle way of disillusioning them.
In the world of Childcare and so-called Childcare Professionals, 97% of the people children meet are women. Therefore, as a male, I need only to walk in the door and I am immediately as welcome as a rock star. Because, even in nature, baby gorillas want to romp with a mean-looking daddy gorilla, if I so much as stoop to tie a child’s shoe I may get blind-sided by a kid who wants to tackle a daddy, for I am a temporary father-figure, and romping with daddy is natural. If I crouch down on creaking 63-year-old knees to help a kid with a puzzle, it is not unusual to immediately feel two or three kids climbing on my back. I feel like a quarterback in a blitz, and Freud would likely be cross-eyed about the physical contact involved. But, because I am hale and hearty for my age, I arise undamaged by the attention, and the children think I am a NFL star.
Over the years I’ve developed a way of entertaining children’s hero-worship, while deflating it with a dose of reality. For example, I may say that Tolkien stated certain trees are “Ents,” and that a maple over there used to stand over here, and that, if they don’t believe me, they should ask their Dad. Then the child returns to tell me, “My Dad says there is no such thing as walking trees!” I figures this teaches them to double check their teachers, and also to go to their fathers for advice.
By the time a child goes to kindergarten at age five they have learned to laugh at some of my tall tales. For example, I tell them, “Me and George Washington used to chop down cherry trees together, and, back when we went to school, school buses hadn’t been invented, and me and George had to ride to school on the back of a yellow dinosaur.” I always add that, if they don’t believe me, they should ask their Mom and Dad. I figure that, if nothing else, parents get a laugh.
It was in this spirit that my most recent tall tale involved Belichick using me, as number 99, on his kick-off team, in the upcoming Superbowl. I told the kids to look for the old 63-year-old guy with the gray beard sticking out from his helmet, running down the field. For some reason not a child doubted this was possible. After all, it is their experience that they can’t tackle me, so how could they know I’d be less in a Superbowl?
I waited expectantly for a laughing parent to tell me his child had asked if I was going to be in the Superbowl, but life got hectic, and it never happened.
After the Superbowl the parents were arriving late, so utterly drained by the unbelievable game they we in no condition to drive, let alone go to work, so I did not bring up the subject of whether or not I played in the Superbowl. But, with the kids, I asked, “So, did you see me?”
I let on that it “might” have been in the third quarter that the genius of Belichick had me out there on the field, gray beard sticking out from my helmet, as a “trick play”, and that I was so upsetting to the Atlanta Falcons that they couldn’t score again, adding, “If you don’t believe me, ask your father.”
I’m still awaiting feedback, with my tongue planted firmly in my cheek. My aim is to make the parents enjoy a good laugh.
On a more serious note, I’d like to remind people that, as incredible and superb as the athletes in the Superbowl are, (and they are superb beyond belief), they are but adults playing a child’s game. The adult game adults play is far more serious, and the players deserve far more appreciation. And if you do not believe me, ask the “Father” who is not your physical father, but the One called the “Truth”.
Well, it is the time of year time to hate excellence, once again. Once again the New England Patriots have made it to the Superbowl.
Some players sweat and strain, and labor long and hard, and never make the playoffs even once, in their entire National Football League careers. The Patriots, however, make the playoffs nearly every year, and this will be their seventh Superbowl since Brady and Belichick and Kraft teamed up. Obviously they are excellent at what they do, and deserve respect and admiration, but just as obviously the human traits of jealousy, envy, and poor-sportsmanship will rear their heads, and they will be loathed.
I can understand this loathing, for during my boyhood in the last century New England did not have successful sports teams, with the exception of basketball’s Celtics. (But, as a child who hated being stuck indoors, the Celtics didn’t really count, because basketball was an indoor winter sport, invented in Canada, which Springfield College then usurped, making basketball American. It was sort of like New England couldn’t win at outdoor sports because we were incarcerated indoors by long winters. The exception should have been ice hockey, but the Canadians, who were incarcerated indoors even more than we were, were foolishly allowed into the National Hockey League, so Montreal or Toronto usually won at that sport. Therefore New England took basketball, because we needed to win at something. The Celtics won nearly every year, but, to me as a boy, basketball didn’t really count.)
As a boy, baseball was king. But the Red Sox had fallen into doldrums, despite having perhaps the best hitter ever, Ted Williams. (He might have had as many home runs as Babe Ruth, but spent World War Two and the Korean War flying fighter airplanes and jets, serving his county.) As a small boy with a consciousness just awaking to the intricacies of sport, I was barely aware what a sports-hero was, yet was strangely moved, listening to Ted William’s last time at bat, on the radio in 1960.
It was an exercise in futility. 1960 was a losing season; the game meant nothing. However the roar of the crowd was different. I suppose the crowd was thanking Ted Williams for all his effort, though the Red Sox hadn’t made it to the World Series since the year Williams returned from the Army Air Force in 1946. Now it was 14 years later, and he had been a failure. The Red Sox had never won a World Series, (not even in 1946.) But rather than booing, the crowd was cheering. And then, at his final at-bat, he hit a home run. The announcer was practically sobbing, as Ted Williams trotted across home plate a final time.
This introduced me into the joys of being a loser, and supporting a superstar who never won. It should have made me a good loser, but I was not.
I wrote a post called “Bad Losers” about many of the aspects involved, (which was even published on WUWT) .
An important thought was expressed in that post as follows: “It wasn’t fun being a bad sport. I couldn’t lose a game of checkers without my rage uplifting me and sending me stomping about the room, wildly thrashing and accusing the other person of cheating. The only one who would play checkers with me was a special sort of person who was able to say, “You’re right. I cheated. You win. Want to play again?” (He did this so he could beat me again.)”
Therefore I can safely say I know all about the mentality that hates winners. I understand and commiserate with those who loathe Brady and Belichick, because I loathed Roger Maris and Micky Mantle and Whitey Ford, and the amazing organization called the “New York Yankees.”
They had such a great system of scouts and minor league teams, and such a fat wallet, that some of their minor league teams could have beaten major league teams. They had, on the major league level, the best of the best. During my boyhood, in any four game series with the Yankees, the Red Sox might hope to win one game, only because the Red Sox had a single great pitcher named Bill Mombouquette. After Momboquette’s wins I swaggered about, a boy full of victory, for we had defeated the Yankees!
Others could not find such satisfaction from losing 75% of the time, and one aspect of my boyhood was being able to walk into Fenway Park when there were only 4000 fans in a stadium built to hold 32,000. The Yankees were just too good, and were killing baseball. Therefore steps were taken to break their monopoly of good players. Baseball made a comeback, once other teams became competitive.
Not that the Yankees did anything wrong, in paying the best prospects to join the best minor league system that had the best coaches that could train the best to be superb. It was just that others couldn’t afford such talent. Therefore a “draft” was instituted that allowed other teams to get good prospects, and the Yankee dynasty briefly crashed to ruin. They finished 9th in 1967, a glorious season that awoke interest in, (and may have even saved), baseball.
During the spring and summer of 1967 five teams battled for first place in the American League through August, and then the California Angels slumped, (in part due to being swept when the Red Sox visited), but in September an amazing four teams were still in the race, separated by as little as a half-game in the standings. My beloved Red Sox, (who had finished 9th the year before, and had lost 100 games the year before that), were in the fight. In the last week of the season the Chicago White Sox faded, but on the very last day of the season three teams still had a chance. The Detroit Tigers and Red Sox were a game behind the Minnisota Twins, and Detroit had a doubleheader to play with the California Angels, as the Red Sox had a doubleheader to play with the Twins. To win the pennant, the Red Sox had to win both of their games, and Detroit had to lose at least one game. And that is exactly what came to pass.
As a fifteen-year-old youth who had long supported 9th place losers, this sporting event was a sort of epiphany: Impossible dreams could come true.
One thing I remember about that September is that teachers didn’t hassle me as much about not getting my homework done, and that a TV was rolled into the high-school cafeteria for World Series day-games, and everyone skipped classes to watch the start of those games, and then rushed home to watch the final innings, with the school-bus-driver running his transistor radio up at top volume, so we could hear the middle innings.
As I sat in the school cafeteria at the start of the first game of the World Series, and heard ordinarily staid, stuffy, and snobby teachers and students dissolve into raucous cheers over a first-inning hit, I recall sitting up and wondering to myself, “What the heck is happening here?” After all, a year before, I was something of an odd ball, to care a hoot about the Red Sox.
The same thing was happening in Boston’s ice hockey world. An amazing hockey player named Bobby Orr was changing the Boston Bruins from perpetual losers, who hadn’t won a Stanley Cup since 1941, to a team capturing the imagination of New England, and when the Bruins won the championship in 1970 as Orr scored the winning goal in overtime, a sizable percentage of the population of New England all stood up at once and yelled.
This moment is now captured, in bronze, by a horizontal statue in Boston, (which will make archaeologists a thousand years in the future wonder what sort of weird religion we followed). And I must admit that, at the time, I was again wondering, “What the heck is happening here?” After all, not long before I was an oddball, for rooting for the loser Bruins.
Winning attracts people like honey attracts flies. Around here (and likely in many other places), the old joke goes: When the team wins people say, “WE won”, but when they lose people say, “THEY lost.”
The days of glory were all too brief. All too soon a new season started, and the winners became ordinary and mortal, and the fair weather friends drifted away.
Me? As a boy, I wasn’t like the others. My loyalty was fierce, and when my team lost I suffered like a dagger was thrust into my stomach. It seems downright masochistic, looking back, because most of the time my faithfulness brought me pain. The Bruins had two shining years, 1970 and 1972, and the Red Sox reached two World Series (and lost both) in 1967 and 1975, and beyond that I suffered the way one suffers, when one loves a loser.
Eventually I had to change my attitude, or else being a sports-fan would have killed me. I think it was football that really brought this home to me.
Boston was such a loser it had even lost its National Football League franchise, (the Boston Braves, [later Redskins], who moved to Washington). Because loyalty meant a lot to me as a boy, the betrayal of Boston by the NFL caused a simmering resentment, (even though it happened before I was born), especially because we were expected to root for the New York Giants, which was the most nearby team.
As a boy, New York could be nothing but the enemy. It’s lucky the NFL never met me face to face when I was aged nine, because I sure would have told them exactly where to go. I was totally sold on a better sort of football, played by a better sort of league, the new American Football League. It had appeared out of thin air when I was seven, and they had the wisdom, the decency, and the obvious spiritual superiority, to locate a team in Boston, (even though the team didn’t have a stadium, and for years played on rented fields.)
The Patriots of my boyhood were deemed by many to be upstarts, far beneath the notice of the pompous, high-nosed dignity of the NFL. This did not lessen my loyalty in the slightest, and I was sure “my” team was the cream of the cream. After all, the quarterback was named “Babe”, and, to a boy, that is scientific proof of superiority.
They also possessed a superstar athlete named Gino Capelletti, who could do it all. He played offence and defense and kicked field goals. He might intercept three passes in a single game on defense, while catching touchdown passes on offence, and even threw a touchdown pass at least once. Then he would kick extra points and field goals. I doubt we will ever see such a versatile player again, yet some said he was only a midget player in a weakling league. I was, of course, extremely indignant when I heard such suggestions.
Only once did the Patriots rise to a degree where they were in the championship game, of the young American Football League, (which the NFL said didn’t matter). They got clobbered, and lost 51-10. I was ten years old, and can still recall how I paced around my boyhood bedroom, listening to the slaughter on my crackling radio, sick to my stomach. I was not a good sport. I wanted the entire city of San Diego to be nuked.
When I was fourteen the young AFL challenged the haughty NFL to a fight between the champions of each league, and got trashed. (They were taking on Vince Lombardi.) Undeterred, they challenged Lombardi again the following year, and got whupped again. (This did not convince me the NFL was better. I was fairly certain my beloved Patriots could have humbled Vince Lombardi, had they been allowed to play. They could have clobbered Lombardi’s snide, superior Green Bay Packers. Gino Capelletti and Babe Parilli would have showed those bums a thing or two. It didn’t matter much to me that the Patriots had only won three and four games, those two respective seasons. My fierce loyalty trumped reality.) However the AFL’s losses were a knife to my gut.
The only balm to my pain was that these were the impossible-dream-years, when underdogs could accomplish miracles. And the following year, (when the fight between the NFL and the AFL was first officially dubbed the “Superbowl”), the eccentric quarterback Joe Namath and the New York Jets shocked the smug fossils of the NFL, by beating them in the third duel between best-teams.
This affirmed what I already knew: My league was the best. However I didn’t like New York getting the glory. I would have preferred it to have been the Patriots, and Gino Capelletti, that taught the NFL to be humble. New York already had had enough of success, with their Damn Yankees, and it didn’t seem right to me for any New York team to be dubbed an “underdog”.
An odd aspect of my boyhood was that New Yorkers themselves seemingly got tired of the New York Yankee’s unending success. The Yankees were so great they drove the two national league franchises from their city (the Giants and Dodgers), and then, when the national league expanded in 1962, a new team, called the New York Mets, came to town. They were the complete antithesis of the World Champion Yankees, winning only 40 games while losing 120 in their first season, yet drew enormous crowds, crowds even greater than the Yankees could draw. Perhaps this suggests New Yorkers love comedy. (One ballplayer explained he dropped an easy pop-up because, “The moon got in my eyes.”) However perhaps even New Yorkers also love an underdog. The lowly Mets slowly improved, striving and struggling, but remained a 9th place team.
During the time when impossible-dreams happened, these same lousy, underdog, New York Mets unexpectedly rose from the depths and became world champions in 1969. I did not approve. If there were to be true underdogs, they could not be a New York team. It must be a New England team, like my Patriots.
That wasn’t to be. In fact New England’s Patriots, after the fleeting glory when I was ten, simply never made the play-offs until the mid 1970’s, when my attitude towards sports was undergoing a radical change.
I had been struck by how fleeting victory was, and how it could not be clung to without turning into a tarnishing trophy. Victory was like trying to grip a cloud; it was something that slipped away.
I think the worst part of seeing winners become losers was when it involved the aging of an superb athlete. Bobby Orr was completely wonderful to watch skate, amazingly graceful, but opponents brutally checked him, intentionally aiming at his knees, until his knee injuries started to make it painful to watch him skate.
Mohammed Ali had been a great boxer, so smart he made brutality like chess, but he got old, and it became painful to watch his final fights, which one person described as “like watching an autopsy be performed on a living man.”
I think the most jarring event, to my twenty-five year old sensibilities, was when a great wide receiver of the Patriots, Darrel Stingley, was paralyzed by a tackle that is now illegal, but was legal back then, where a vicious opponent’s helmet drove into the base of his neck.
To see a gifted athlete made old in a flash capsulized the mental pictures of many old athletes past their prime, with bodies and brains battered, made more crippled at age forty-five than forty-five year old weaklings, weaklings who dared not step on the same star’s shadows, back when they were twenty-five.
I found myself contemplating old age, and even death. This may seem a silly thing for a guy aged only twenty-five to contemplate, and more like the business of the old and doddering, but I took my retirement when I was young and could enjoy it. I avoided getting a real job, for I deemed myself an “artist”, and sat around like a retired person, contemplating life I hadn’t really even experienced yet.
Many poets contemplate the fleeting nature of victory. Robert Frost is superb:
Nature’s first green is gold, Her hardest hue to hold. Her early leaf’s a flower; But only so an hour. Then leaf subsides to leaf, So Eden sank to grief, So dawn goes down to day Nothing gold can stay.
Simon and Garfunkle put it to music in the song, “The Boxer”,
I have squandered my resistance For a pocketful of mumbles Such are promises
The poet John Keats wrote an ode to the let-down that follows the thrill of victory, that he called “Ode To Melancholy”.
She dwells with Beauty—Beauty that must die;
And Joy, whose hand is ever at his lips
Bidding adieu; and aching Pleasure nigh,
Turning to poison while the bee-mouth sips:
All this contemplation is depressing, and makes winning seem a sort of exercise in futility. I found myself turning away from sports, in a sense recoiling from the pain of human imperfection. The triumphs seemed too few and too far between, and triumph was too short-lived, for a new day would always dawn, and you’d have get up and do it all over again, and maybe you’d be too old, and couldn’t repeat what you’d done at age twenty-five. Lastly, there was a factor involving the fact most victory makes someone else a loser, and there existed a lurking potential for feeling guilty, about that.
When I turned away from sports I discovered sports was actually like an addiction. When I was passing through a room that had a boxing match or hockey game or Superbowl on the screen, I had to grit my teeth to keep walking. If I even paused, it would be like the bit of rum in a sponge-cake that sends an alcoholic off on a bender. I’d be drawn into the sport, and find myself rooting for “my team”, and a knife would stab my stomach if “my” team lost, and I’d want “the other team’s” home city nuked.
For the most part I stayed “on the wagon” for nearly a quarter century. I didn’t need to avoid sports on TV for I was often an artist too poor to own a TV set, and often I was sleeping in my car and too poor to buy a newspaper, so I didn’t need to worry about the enticements of sports-sections. I will confess I did sneak a peek, if I found a newspaper sitting on a park bench, to see how my beloved Red Sox were doing that summer, but largely I lived a sports-free existence.
There is much to be said for such an existence. You hardly ever want to nuke entire cities, and can hear a person comes from New York without automatically hating them. However you also learn there is no real escape from phenomenon of winners and losers. They continue to exist, even if all sports are outlawed.
Outside of sports, when two men woo the same woman, one or both will experience losing. When two businessmen pursue the same customer, only one can win. In power politics there are winners and losers. If a local newspaper offers a $15.00 poetry award, they will receive 286 awful submissions, and only one will win. 285 will lose.
My life devoid-of-sports convinced me life cannot help but involve losing. I could not avoid the pain of losing simply by shutting off the TV. After all, even the most victorious life is terminated by the loss of death. Even the most beautiful marriage owns the clause, “Until in death do we part.”
In other words, life involves loss. If you attempt to remove loss from life, you lessen life.
That is a darned profound thing I just wrote. It is something all too many of my generation lack the wits to grasp. They hate losing with such a passion they want every child to get a trophy, whether they win or lose. A child who utterly hates football, disdainfully ignores his coach, sits backwards on the bench focusing on cheerleaders, and is utterly flattened the one time the coach thinks he is doing the kid a favor by putting him into a game, still gets a “participation trophy”. For what?
In like manner, those who love football, heed their coach, focus on the game and not the cheerleaders, and are involved in exceptional plays, can wind up damned. For what?
Also in like manner, the (thankfully now) ex-president of the United States snubbed our forefathers and Constitution, because they and It brought about victory and winners, which involved others who were losers. Our former president apparently felt such overpowering guilt for winning that he fawned and bowed and gave trophies to losers who did not deserve praise. For what?
I can only assume that my generation is downright neurotic about winning. Many, myself included, were spoiled, overly blessed by prosperity brought about by the preceding generation; a generation that knew all too much about losing and loss, due to the Great Depression and World War Two. They, out of the softness of their hearts, were too permissive, wanting to spare my generation the hardships oldsters had experienced, but inadvertently denying us the very things most vital to appreciating joy: The agony of defeats.
You have to pay the dues if you want to sing the blues.
I tried to avoid ever losing by avoiding sports, and many other things. In a sense my avoidance was spiritual, for I was seeking Something that is lasting. Unfortunately there is nothing in creation that is lasting. The only Thing that really is lasting is something many are uncertain even exists, a Thing that exists outside of all creation, and outside space and time, called the Creator.
In another sense my detachment from caring about victory and losing was not spiritual, and was a form of cowardice. I was simply a wimp, and couldn’t stand the pain of being a New England sports fan any more. I was rather clever, if I do say so myself, when it came to avoiding pain (and responsibility), but eventually you must pay the dues. Sleeping in your car is one example of the dues you must pay. If you don’t always win, you sin, and if you lose, you bruise.
The cool thing is that, (if you can avoid the maximum cowardice of suicide), paying the dues, bruise after bruise, does allow you to start hearing a beautiful music. Some call it “the blues”, but it is full of joy, and Beethoven could hear it although he lost even his hearing. It enables you to take a different attitude towards losing and being a loser, and it even, (and this is coolest and oddest of all), makes you a winner.
There are all sorts of platitudes that lamely attempt to describe this stunning revelation, the lamest being, “It is not whether you win or lose, but how you play the game.” Such platitudes are easily checkmated by the platitudes of the cynical.
In actual fact I think it (whatever “it” is), is a thing a person needs to experience for themselves. No amount of blather can communicate it. A thousand sermons cannot transfer what someone gains from a single glance from beaming eyes.
During the time I was renouncing sports I did occasionally fall off the wagon. The temptation was usually the chance to be a fair-weather fan, and to rush and see a New England team actually be a champion. This involved considerable work, back in the day when I lived in the Four-Corners Area, sometimes without electricity, let alone a TV.
One job I worked was at a remote gas station off Interstate 40, where I lived without electricity or a radio. I’d get my information from people passing through. Occasionally the information seemed worth driving a half hour to Gallup, New Mexico, where I could watch TV with my own eyes. For example, when I first heard of the Space Shuttle Challenger exploding, I held out hope of survivors, until I drove to Gallup and saw a replay of the event on TV at the El Rancho cocktail lounge. After seeing, I turned around and somberly drove home.
It was in the same lounge that I sat down to watch the Patriots at their first Superbowl, in 1985. The Patriots were huge underdogs. They were a lowly “wildcard” team that had made it to the Superbowl by defeating three superior teams, while the Chicago Bears were a powerhouse. No one had scored a single point against them so far, during the entire play-offs.
New England actually did score against the Bear’s awesome defense, (losing yardage as they did so), and was actually ahead 3-0, early in the game, but when I left in disgust during the third quarter the score was 44-3. What I noticed was that the knife in my stomach hardly hurt at all any more. At age 32 my heart was hardened, and I’d lost the sensitivity I’d once owned, at age ten.
The next year I headed back to Gallup to see if the Red Sox might win their first World Series since 1918, against a nemesis New York team, the Mets. Due to some strange twist of fate I found myself watching the game next to a New York fan, in a desert barroom in the west side of Gallup, and the poor fellow was sobbing into his seventh beer as the Mets teetered on the verge of defeat. The Red Sox were one out away from victory. For some reason I turned to the man and said, “Come on, brother! Keep the faith! Don’t you know New York always wins? Boston will find a way to lose.” And it was exactly then the following happened:
I wish I could describe the look on the tear-stained face of the Met’s fan. It was hope dawning at midnight.
Of course, for New England fans, it was midnight descending upon noon, but back then we were a tougher sort and were used to it. Only the younger and more immature fans made Bill Buckner’s life absolutely miserable, after the ball went through his legs. The rest of us New Englander’s became a superior and highly spiritual people, like iron annealed red hot and hammered on an anvil and tempered in ice water and then buffeted into burnished steel.
One thing did bother me, and make me a bit bitter, but it wasn’t that the Red Sox lost. I barely felt that sword in my gut at all. Rather it was that the Met’s fan had nothing to offer me in return. Here I’d been so nice when he was weeping, but when I had cause for weeping, was he nice in return? The least he could have done is to buy me a beer, but he didn’t, and, as I had spent my last cent, there was no reason to stay at that bar, so I staggered out the door into the desert night.
Because it took me three tries to put the key into the ignition I decided it would be unwise to drive on Interstate 40, where other cars and State Police might be encountered, and instead headed home on old route 66, which was basically an abandoned frontage road with a few crumbling ghost-motels along its edges, (which the Interstate had put out of business). It wandered through the sagebrush without the fences the Interstate had along its edges, to keep herds of cows and horses off the road, so I suppose I should have driven more slowly, and also should have been thinking about livestock, and not the travails of New England Sports fans. Then I suddenly saw a herd of horses straight ahead…but that is a story for another night.
(Purely as an aside, I will mention that, whereas in football a running back eludes tacklers with millions watching and cheering, under bright lights, an obscure poet in tiny Toyota can speed into a herd of huge horses, and nobody sees the desperate, amazing swerving, the glancing collision, or the car flying backwards out of bounds into sagebrush and darkness, and nobody cheers.)
The important thing is that I survived. Few New England fans thought they could live it down, when the ball went through Buckner’s legs, but most survived, and grew stronger through the experience. Not that a few didn’t become embittered and nasty, but the majority became amazing. Amazing? Yes, because it didn’t matter that they were mocked as losers by haughty people from New York, who always made more money, and always won, and were always bigger, and could write musicals about people who write musicals, glorifying their music. The more amazing music was Boston’s. Why? Because Boston, back then, appreciated sports without needing any stupid trophy.
How amazing is this? It is so amazing that I think the Creator himself took note. Of course that is sheer speculation on my part, and attempts to explain how New Englanders were such losers and failures that they even failed to lose and fail, which ruined their reputation as the epitome of losers. However I humbly concede that some readers do not believe there is any such thing as as a Creator, and therefore I grant such readers licence to skip the next five paragraphs.
It seems to me that an aspect of Infinity involves the Creator watching us, his creation, like a sports fan. Some might think there could be no reason for Him to do this, for He knows the ending already, but I like to think the Creator does get pleasure from our silly efforts and antics.
I feel this way because, in a small way, I too am a creator. When I am writing this essay I am too hard at work to appreciate it, but when the work is done, and I sit back to reread, I am too tired to rewrite or be an editor. That first rereading is bliss, because the work is done.
Later I see all the flaws, but during the first rereading I am god, with a small “g”, who knows the entire creation from beginning to end, watching his creation unfold, like a sport’s fan watching a game, and, because I have the “inside scoop”, I see things in the plot of my story no other reader will see.
In like manner, I think God, with a capital “G”, gets pleasure rereading his work. Even though He knows the ending, (a happy one), He likes seeing all the characters He has created do their thing. He is like a fan in the stands, but he appreciates both teams, and therefore He is always cheering. The bliss he gets rereading his work is infinitely greater than my bliss, when I am done my essays and my sonnets.
Too many so-called “religious authorities” have an attitude that suggests that we characters in the Creator’s creation are sinful, and a royal pain. Yes, we must be a royal pain, for the Creator Himself must be crucified just to fix us. But I beg to differ on one point, and that is that some suggest we are nothing but a pain. I think that, instead of purely a pain, we fools are aqlso the Creator’s Superbowl, and the Creator is the one Man crowd. He thinks so much of watching us play that he will pay a high price for a ticket. “Religious authorities” tell us that the price the Creator paid included Crucifixion, as if we should all be ashamed, but I like to think that, if He would pay such a high price to scalp a ticket, we ought to give Him a Superbowl worth watching.
As the twentieth century dwindled to its end there were signs the long travail of New England football fans as perpetual losers might also end, partly because the Patriots themselves might leave their crumbling stadium. (You can’t be a loser if you don’t have a team.) The NFL was preparing to ditch New England a second time. They were planning to move the Patriots to Jacksonville, in the deep south, which might have restarted the Civil War. Boston fans were incredulous. The Jacksonville Patriots? Shouldn’t they be “The Rebels?”
I was watching all this from afar, but not because I was physically distant. I’d returned to New England like a bit of refuse brought in by the tide, in 1988, originally for two weeks, but one thing led to another, and in 1990 I married a woman with three small children. We had two more, and I, soon enough, found myself coaching teams of small boys, as a dad around twenty years older than the other fathers.
The younger fathers lacked my silver hair and hoary wisdom and, too be honest, were in some ways completely insane. There should be some phrase like “Road Rage” that describes young fathers coaching sons. (My wife suggests “Daddy Drama”). I realized I was far more removed and detached than they were. I owned an objectivity that may have made me in some ways dull and boring and less passionate, but also made me a better sport, and even more able to enjoy sports.
To my own astonishment I found myself reminding myself of my own stepfather, though I was not even close to being the fossil he was.
(Flashback to 1968) Initially I resented my stepfather deeply for making my mother a “trophy wife”, for she was 27 years younger than he was. As years passed the old man charmed my socks off, and I came to respect him, as he loved sports and had played semi-pro ball as a young man. There was only one thing I found hard to forgive: He had been a teenager at Fenway Park when the Red Sox last won a World Series in 1918. I figured that was why he could be so calm and contemplative when the Red Sox lost the Series in 1975. He’d experienced being a winner, but me? Never, never, never would I ever experience that brief pinnacle of pleasure.
(Flash-forward to 1998) Now that I was thirty years older, it occurred to me that, when the old man died in 1978, he had been a loser for sixty straight years, yet seemingly never let it get to him. What’s more, now that I had past age forty I myself was seemingly changed, and losing didn’t get to me, or make me foam at the mouth as much, either.
As I dealt with the emotional young Dads, who were all convinced their sons were the next Babe Ruth, and felt anything short of a starring role for their sons was nipping the buds of genius, I became aware that, besides geezers like myself who were attempting to bring sanity to the situation, there was a sleazy sort who hoped to make money off the situation.
Examples of such sleaze are countless, and include many teachers who think they can parent better than parents, at a price (while parents work for free), but my favorite examples were shoe salesman. They spent large amounts of money pressuring parents, insisting footwear that cost $150.00 would make overworked parents be better parents than footwear the parents could afford, that cost only $25.00.
So effective were footwear advertisements that, in my little town, the autumn of 1995 saw thirteen-year-old girls clumping around in “fashionable” army boots, until the first snow fell, when the fashion took a bizarre twist to ballet slippers, and thirteen-year-old girls refused to wear the very boots they had nagged parents for, sixty days earlier, and instead painfully picked their way to school in the ruts cars made in the deep snow, wearing slippers. It slowed traffic, because the girls couldn’t step from the ruts and allow the cars to pass, and why? Because the people selling shoes didn’t care if parents were late to work.
I was deemed a cruel and insensitive stepfather, because when wind-chills were at minus twenty and the powder snow drifted, I not only said my daughters should wear army boots, but also that my son should wear a hat, despite the fact a woolen hat messed up his “spike” hairstyle. Furthermore I refused to buy my son $150.00 “Michael Jordan” basketball sneakers, despite the fact it ruined his future in the NBA. I muttered something along the lines of, “When I was young we played basketball in wooden shoes, and had to carve them ourselves.” Younger fathers were not as tough as me, and caved, and bought the $150.00 sneakers they could ill afford, and not only saw that their sons failed to make the NBA, but saw the sneakers failed to fit their sons in only two months, as feet grew.
I got fed up with the ludicrous social pressures of that time. The so-called “Massachusetts Miracle” had collapsed into a so-called “economic downturn”, and young fathers were unable to make mortgage payments, and lost their homes. One reason I kept my home was because I hadn’t fallen for footwear commercials. Another reason was that I worked three jobs. One late-night job was to clean up foreclosed houses, for a bank. They were houses littered with expensive toys and outgrown $150.00 sneakers. It was obvious the young parents had been fools with their money.
My response was to scorn social norms. This was not all that difficult, because I’d scorned social norms back when I was an artist sleeping in my car. However it tweaked my pride a little, because before I had been called a “liberal”, but now I was abruptly labeled a “conservative”, when I yanked my children from the nonsense they were being subjected to, and went through the trouble of home-schooling them.
Because I was so scornful of all the hoopla the media and Madison Avenue blared, my interest in sports hit rock bottom. I cared about my kids, not some absurdly overpaid athlete who was busy being a terrible example, and incapable of any Real Job, and who instead was infatuated with some silly ball or puck. However, like a king peering over ramparts to see what the enemy was up to, I did still occasionally check the sports section of newspapers, and the standings. I did know the Patriots might move to Jacksonville, and was surprised I cared, for I felt I was beyond caring for a bunch of overpaid idiots.
I told myself I didn’t really care, and was only spying out the strategy of the enemy, but maybe there was still a little boy in me that didn’t want my beloved Patriots leaving town. In any case, despite being overworked I was a sleuth, when it came to seeking out the reasons that the team could never finalize the deals, and ditch New England.
The wrench in the works of the team leaving town for Jacksonville, (or later Saint Louis), was a fanatical New England Patriots fan, named Robert Kraft. A season-ticket-holder, he’d been a fan since back before the AFL merged with the NFL, and he was determined to keep the team in town. For most fans that desire would have been merely an infantile delusion-of-grandeur, but Robert Kraft was no ordinary fan. He knew how to wheel and deal, and how to utilize delusions-of-grandeur in the high art of salesmanship, and how to play a sort of organized sport called, “big business”.
Basically Robert Kraft sold paper, but paper includes wrappers, and it is amazing how he convinced people his paper was the perfect paper to wrap their produce in, and even to wrap products you would not normally think needed a wrapper. Why the military would think its missiles needed wrappers I can’t say, but Robert Kraft sold them the wrappers. (I suppose it was a bit like selling schoolgirls army boots; some sort of delusion is involved in the salesmanship.)
Robert Kraft knew all the ins and outs of wheeling and dealing, and for the most part was extremely practical. His only impractical investment was in a losing football team it seemed impossible he could buy. However he was tricky and bought property abutting the New England Patriots’ stadium, even when he couldn’t buy the crumbling concrete itself. It turned out owning this abutting property included certain clauses involving the Patriots, and enabled Kraft to get in the way, when the team wanted to flee New England. He wouldn’t let the team off long-term leases, so they couldn’t escape to Jacksonville. Finally, when the team was basically bankrupt, he became very unbusinesslike and impractical, and offered more money than had ever been paid before, for a NFL team, to buy the team. The offer was too good to refuse.
Suddenly an actual fan, who cared more for sports than for investing wisely, became the owner of the loser team. New England breathed a sigh of relief. (Oddly, as if Robert Kraft’s infectious enthusiasm caught on, the stadium was immediately sold out, even for practice games.)
Some of the enthusiasm was because the new coach of the Patriots, Bill Parcells, had a reputation for taking broken teams and making them into champions. He’d turned the loser New York giants into Superbowl champions in 1986 and 1990, before health concerns caused him to retire. When he recovered and returned to coaching he returned to coach New England. The loser team immediately began improving, hope awoke among the fans, and when they reached the Superbowl for only the second time in their history in 1996 hope was peaking, though New England fans, being New England fans, feared some unforeseen disaster might occur. And they were correct to fear, the worst did occur, albeit in a new and fascinating way.
There had been disagreement between Bill Parcells and Robert Kraft about who to draft, (a defensive end or an offensive end), and this ego-struggle led Parcells to reject Kraft and to seek a coaching job where he would have the powers of a general manager. The dreaded nemesis of New England, New York, then appeared to “steal” Parcells ( the same way New York had “stolen” Babe Ruth and Roger Clemens). What was completely inconceivable to the New England fans was that Parcells’s desertion was worked out and leaked out to the press during the two week lead-up to the Superbowl. (His assistant coach, Bill Belichick, later suggested Parcells should have put off the negotiations until after the Superbowl, and that his attention was not fully on the game.)
In any case confusion and dismay reigned before the Superbowl, which some suggest was the reason New England lost. (Then, perhaps to accentuate his disdain towards Robert Kraft, Parcells ditched his own players after the defeat, and let them fly home alone on the team jet, as he flew to his new job in New York on a different jet. Even if this gesture was aimed at Robert Kraft, players never forgot it. Parcells could never regain the player-loyalty he once felt was his to utilize, and never reached a Superbowl again.)
To me this was just the same old stuff. One way or another, New England always finds a way to lose. Selfishness and egotism always triumphed over gifts and talent. Some other team wins, and gets to see how gifts and talent can work in harmony and lead to triumph, but the people of New England learn the same lesson from the other side. After all, the sun shines on the rich and poor alike, and the same law of gravity applies to both, and therefore the same higher truths can be learned from all experiences, whether they are experiences of winning or the experiences of losing.
This returns me to the subject of some people who “appreciated sports without needing any stupid trophy”, which was something literally brought home to me, because my home seldom included the things Madison Avenue claims are vital to happiness. It was not only my children who didn’t get the $150.00 footwear they desired; my truck was always a rust-bucket and a clunker, and often the only way it could pass inspection was for me to go to a neighboring small town where a small garage was operated by the local police chief, dubbed “the quicker sticker licker.” However despite the fact nothing in my life could be called a “trophy” (except perhaps my wife) my home was a happy home.
It was all to easy to contrast my happiness as a “Have not” with the lot of those who seemingly “Had it made”, and to see they suffered alcoholism, drug addiction, divorce, and various forms of abuse. One does not have to be particularly smart to see Madison Avenue is full of bleep, and what they claim is “vital to happiness” is an empty promise, a pig in a poke, complete con-artistry, and likely countless other expressions that imply the buyer should beware.
In the 1800’s the American government was far more frugal than it has become, and to save money the mint used the same mold to make both the nickle and the five-dollar coin. The coins looked exactly the same, but one was made of cheap metal and one was solid gold. So, of course, tricksters gilded the five-cent-piece with gold leaf and tried to pass them as five-dollar-coins. This led to the more careful sorts biting gold coins, to make sure they were soft gold that could be dented by teeth, and not gilded nickles.
This is an excellent symbol for the testing one learns to do in life, to determine whether various things have deep and meaningful value, or only the most superficial veneer of value.
In terms of footwear in January, slippers may own the superficial value of being fashionable, but after a few toes are amputated due to frostbite, boots may seem to have a deeper and more lasting value. However it depends on what matters most to you. Some care so much for fashion that the loss of a few toes seems a small thing.
In like manner, some men care so much for the love of a woman that the complete shambles such love makes of the rest of their life seems a small thing. This complication to the excellent business sense of Harry Frazee likely led his to divorce and remarriage.
The gentleman pictured above sold Babe Ruth to the New York Yankees. (I urge all to study him further, to understand the complexities, for he was in some ways like a modern owner battling a NFL commissioner.)
Harry Frazee had been on a businessman’s winning-streak, when it came to sponsoring winning Broadway plays, and also the (then) small-potatoes investments in things like heavyweight boxing championships, and champion professional baseball teams. This businessman’s winning-streak came to an end right when his first marriage hit its reef, which I suggest indicates his values were stressed, and he experienced a “disturbance in the Force.” In any case, he sold Babe Ruth to the Yankees. In the superstitions of athletes and sports fans, that choice cursed New England.
Superstition is silly, but the bad luck of New England became such a neurosis that a road sign reading “Reverse Curve”, when marred by graffiti to read “Reverse the Curse”, was left besmirched and became a landmark.
As the twentieth century ended it seemed nothing could succeed in reversing the curse, but as the twenty-first century began something very odd happened. The fanatic fan and owner of the New England Patriots, Robert Kraft, turned the tables on New York, and convinced them to trade a Babe Ruth to New England, and the name of this Babe Ruth was Bill Belicheck.
There is some debate as to whether the twenty-first century ended with the year 1999 or the year 2000, and the 2000 season was not great, as Belichick began his work on the team of football losers. However Parcells’ first season of rebuilding was not the greatest. New England fans had been through it before, and enjoyed the 2001 season, where Tom Brady first rose from the bench to lead the team when the star quarterback Drew Bledsoe was hurt. Brady’s success was enjoyed with the expectation that, in the end, losing would be the result. Or, I should say, that was how I felt.
The team showed sterling qualities, but I fully expected some fiasco to descend and snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Rather than letting the eventual doom depress me, I just enjoyed the sterling displayed by men who were half my age, when I could watch the games at all, with my old TV that had bad reception, until I strung not sterling, but old copper wire in the back yard, and attached it to the “rabbit ears” atop the set.
I didn’t catch all the games, as I had to work hard and grab work when I could find it, even when it was during games, but I did enjoy the class displayed by the young players, when I had a chance to watch it. (I was particularly impressed by Drew Bledsoe, for when he had recovered from his injury he didn’t make a stink about Brady still playing, and instead publicly seemed to put the team ahead of his own status, as star quarterback.)
The inevitable doom came when the Patriots played the Raiders in a play-off game in a snowstorm. After leading a heroic comeback, Brady appeared to fumble the ball, and the game was lost. As I walked to the TV to shut it off I felt no knife in my gut about the loss, but was feeling very sad for younger New England fans who I knew were suffering the way I once suffered, before I learned to be a better sport. And then, just before I turned the set off, the referee appeared on the screen and stated the fumble was not a fumble, but a incomplete pass. The “tuck rule” was evoked
I was incredulous. To me it looked all the world like Brady was not going to pass; he had decided to check that impulse. If the tackler had hit his arm a quarter second later, his choice to hold the ball would have been clear, and it would have been a fumble. However he was hit when he was in the process of making that choice, when his arm was slowing but still going forward. It is a hair’s-breadth distinction, and it had always been my experience that such judgments went against New England. However luck had changed like a tide. As I returned to the couch to watch the rest of the game I had the sense the World, even the Universe, had been altered.
The rest is history. The team continued to be a team. When Brady was hurt Drew Bledsoe arose from the bench to win a crucial game, and then sat back down without the egotistical whining I fully expected. Finally, when it came time to introduce the players in the Superbowl they set aside individual egotism, and insisted on being introduced “as a team”. And they won, though 14 points underdogs, against “The Greatest Show On Turf.”
Ever since then New England fans have had to endure something they never expected: Being the new winners, the new New York Yankees; being the team that crushes the hopes of out-of-town fans, and of earning the hate of small, loyal boys who now want, en mass, to see New England nuked.
I don’t much want to be nuked, but it would be worth it, just to have lived through this remarkable start to the twenty-first century, in New England. I have seen remarkable things I never expected to see, (including the Red Sox be behind the Yankees 3 games to none in the 2004 7-game-series, and trail 4-3 in the bottom of the 9th, in game 4, yet go on to win four straight games, and then go on to win the Red Sox first World Series in 86 years.) The Bruins have been champions as well, in hockey, and the Celtics, in basketball, but the the Patriots have been most steadfast and dependable of all.
To be young in New England the past fifteen years is to have grown up spoiled rotten, and the young likely miss what I glimpse, due to my long experience of being a loser. And what is it that I glimpse? It is that to be a true champion you must be a bad winner.
To be a good winner you must put your fat ego first, and concentrate on your own success. Yet what I have noticed about the great New England teams of the past fifteen years is that the ego is put aside for the “team”. For example, back in 2001 Drew Bledsoe didn’t make a stink about being benched, and didn’t put his own status as “star” first, and thus earned himself a Superbowl ring, (and hopefully status as a legend.) However it takes more than a single individual agreeing to lose, to make a great team. In a sense the entire team must agree to lose, (also called “sacrifice”), and out of such loss comes a championship.
I am not sure how or why or what has made the New England Patriots so much fun to watch the past fifteen years, but it is obvious it is a glimpse of greatness. Likely success is due to no single individual, and rather a fortuitous combination of owner, coach, quarterback and many, many players.
Such combinations are rare, and the current combination is getting old. Robert Kraft is old, Bill Belicheck is old, and Tom Brady is old for a quarterback, at age 39. The current Superbowl may be the last time we see the magic manifested.
What is obvious? What is obvious is that those who only care about “winning” are seeing only the superficial surface. They wind up with the eggshell, and miss the egg. They wind up hurt, and hateful, and want entire cities nuked. They are fooled like I was, as a boyish sports fan, or wind up like schoolgirls wearing fashionable slippers in deep snow.
When you get old and wise like me, you could care less about being a good winner, or fashionable, and would rather be a bad winner. And let that be a lesson to you, this Superbowl Sunday.
January is completed, and though the heart of the winter has past, and the days are getting longer in a way one can notice (as opposed the dark days when they only seem to be getting longer in theory), winter grows grimmer. The blows have had their effect. It is like the late rounds of a brutal boxing match. Early on, the champion laughed at the jabs, and mocked, “Is that the best you’ve got?” Now those same jabs are starting to make the champ’s head spin, and he staggers.
The lakes that once remembered summer’s warmth have frozen over, and the snow sifts over thick ice. The Arctic Sea is choked with thick floes, squealing and grinding and piling up in the stormy darkness. To the south the open seas, lashed by bitter winds, are far colder.
I have to remind myself that the SST anomaly maps show cherry red even when sea temperatures are steadily sinking. It is helpful to compare the current map with the map of last July. (July to left, January to right.)
It is not only that the sea-ice has expanded in places like Hudson Bay, Baffin Bay, Bering Straight, and down the east coast of Greenland. The northern waters are far colder, especially in the North Pacific, but also in the Atlantic. Even the Gulf Stream off the east coast of the USA has been reduced from a tendril colored tangerine to a shadow of its summer self, colored lime-yellow.
The north has lost all the strength summer imparted, and is being turned from an entity that remembers summer to an entity that knows the power of cold, like a boxer in the 15th round.
In the clearing stands a boxer And a fighter by his trade And he carries the reminders Of every glove that laid him down Or cut him till he cried out In his anger and his shame “I am leaving, I am leaving” But the fighter still remains,
In a sense the north has been converted. It has turned from an entity that resisted the onslaught of winter into an entity that resists the return of spring.
I try to keep this in mind, when I turn to the SST anomaly maps, to note where waters are above normal. For example, when I notice the waters have “warmed” (in terms of anomalies) off the east coast of the USA in the past month, I keep in mind they are actually cooler, (in terms of actual temperatures.) (January 2 to left, January 30 to right)
There have been a series of warm blobs or surges of air transported up from the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico clear past Iceland and Svalbard to the North Pole, interfering with the chilling of the Gulf Stream, giving Greenland unprecedented snows, and the Pole subfreezing temperatures far less cold than normal.
At the same time the above-normal water is fading in Bering Strait and along the south coast of Alaska, as the so-called “Warm Blob” fades, and the cold PDO struggles to reestablish itself. I say “struggles” because I hypothesize the “Quiet Sun” is slowing the Trade Winds, and henceforth the northern part of the cold PDO can’t link up with a strong La Nina (which I was expecting) for the La Nina looks like it is fading and another El Nino may be attempting to form (which one might expect, with weaker Trade Winds, but I failed to foresee it).
In any case, we are arriving at a sort of lull of ebb-tide between the onrush of winter and the onrush of spring. Down where I live in New Hampshire the temperatures bottom out around January 19, but further north it is later, as the sunless dark lasts longer. In the upper atmosphere I recall reading temperatures tend to bottom out in early February, but down on the sea-ice it isn’t until the end of the month. (Green line in Graph below.)
The red line shows temperatures remain well above normal, as the meridional pattern sends milder air north to be squandered to the depths of dark outer space. It demonstrates that all the sub-freezing “mildness” of the last Atlantic surge was just as swiftly “disappeared.” A new surge is now developing, less impressive as it had to squeeze through Bering Strait and is largely Pacific in origin, (And Pacific waters are colder, as we’ve seen.)
When I last posted on January 20 a huge surge had come north right over Greenland, giving them amazing snows, and fueled the phenomenon of low pressure I call “Ralph” at the Pole. Ralph was a sub 960 mb storm, but looked like he was fading, as a sort of secondary stole his energy and collapsed south towards Russia.
Some maps are missing here, as I was busy at work, and when I returned to look I was surprised to see Ralph had retained his identity, and was even strengthening. I cursed the fact I was too busy to see how this happened. It seemed that Ralph’s secondary, even while sinking and fading into western Siberia, still fed his father. Also a high built over Scandinavia in that low’s wake, and the west side of that high began a new feed of Atlantic air north.
That new feed of Altantic air sent a new series of blobs of low pressure north to Ralph
I was busy at work again, and missed saving the maps that show how this new feed blew up into yet another sub-960 mb gale. The winds were so strong on the south side of this gale that a lot of sea-ice was not only crushed to the east side of the Kara Sea, but squeezed between the islands and the mainland, as a streamer of thick sea ice crossing the thin ice skimming the polynya the powerful winds created on the west side of the Laptev Sea.
The flow of these winds, Which Ralph had earlier curved north and pushed from Siberia to Canada, now curved around further. past the Pole towards Svalbard, which saw colder temperatures. The mildest Atlantic air was deflected south to the Siberian coast rather than to the Pole.
As the new Ralph faded, following lows took a more southern route along the arctic coast of Europe, as high pressure built in Canada, creating a sort of Pacific to Atlantic cross-polar flow. A storm stalled in Bering Strait pumped milder air towards the Pole over Alaska.
At this point the flow from the Pacific is clearly seen in the temperature maps. The weakening Aleutian low is pushing north through Bering Strait to become a new Hula-Ralph. The sub-960 mb gale smashing up the ice in the Kara Sea is too far south, (I as boss arbitrarily decide), to count as a “Ralph”, and rather is a north Atlantic low taking a southern route, representing milder air that never made it north.
The situation now looks a bit confusing. The west side of the high over Alaska looks likely to attempt a new Pacific surge, while the west side of the high building over Scandinavia looks likely to bring Atlantic air north. Usually the Atlantic wins out, in these situations, but the models show a confused situation at the Pole for a while.
“Extent graphs” don’t mean much this time of year, as most of the growth and shrinkage is occurring outside the Arctic Sea. The ice that will matter next September has already formed and is being battered, crunched, and moved hundreds of miles in the winter dark, and its shifts and changes seldom show on the extent graph at all. But, just to keep some happy, I’ll include the extent graph.
The current dip is largely due to the gale milling about in Bering Strait.
Work is keeping me more busy than usual, but if I get time I’ll update tomorrow with the Navy maps of concentration and thickness.
Here is the Navy Research Lab concentration map:
Here is the thickness map.
What is most interesting to me is how the ice has been pushed east in both the Kara and Laptev Seas, with thinly skimmed polynyas to the west and ice piled up against the eastern boundaries, (and the stripe of Kara Sea ice squeezed between islands and the mainland, making a blue stripe across the northern part of the Laptev Sea.) This shows how “Ralph’s” counterclockwise wind is moving ice the “wrong way”, because the more typical Beaufort Gyre is clockwise. More cause for confusion!