April 2011: Destination Unknown Indiana Pacers blog with Mark Boyle

Journey's End

April 27, 2011

Regular consumers of these occasionally misguided ramblings will recall that before the Pacers-Bulls playoff series began, I opined that the Pacers had a 50-50 chance to win a game and predicted that Chicago would move on, 4-1. So when Mr. Rose and his associates sent the boys packing last night, I can’t say I was surprised.

But I was disappointed, though maybe not for the reasons you might think. True enough, I had hoped that the Pacers – who had unveiled previously unseen levels of grit, determination, and spirit – would prolong the series and send it back to Conseco, but I’m encouraged by what we saw in this series and am optimistically looking ahead to next season.

No, the real reason for my disappointment was the same as it is every season, whether that season ends in mid-April following a desultory trip through an 82-game minefield or in June at the end of an exhausting trek to the NBA Finals.

I love this job and almost everything that goes with it.

Just like you, I have things I don’t particularly like about my job. In my 23 years, the NBA has become more corporate, and I could live without almost everything that entails. When I started with the Pacers, we had a handful of employees and a small office on West Washington and wondered from time to time how long the franchise would stay in Indianapolis. Now, we have hundreds of employees and a boatload of vice-presidents, and the environment is totally different. I wouldn’t presume to say whether it’s better or worse, but it’s definitely not the same as it was when I was a rookie.

But from October to whenever, the job is virtually the same as it ever was. There are only 30 of these jobs, to have one is a responsibility that I take seriously, and my goal every season is to be able to say that I did a better job than I did the previous season. I haven’t always met that goal, but the enjoyment is in the journey, and every year the journey is different. The Association is a transient world, and the cast of characters is continually changing. Today, for example, I’ll head for The Fieldhouse to touch base with some of these people for the last time. Some will be traded, others will leave of their own volition, and some will fade from the game altogether. I’m old enough now that I’m not as close to as many of these guys as I was when I came into the league and was the same age (or even younger, in some cases) as the players, but I still like most of them and find it sad to know that some of them will not find a seat on the bus next season and will be forced to move into a real world that not all of them are ready to deal with.

Kierkegaard once said the geniuses are like thunderstorms. They go against the wind, terrify people, and cleanse the air. Many of the people I see on a daily basis during the season are among the best in the world in their chosen fields, which I consider to be a form of genius, but very few of them are what I would consider normal. It’s stimulating to be around this type of person, and it creates memories that make me laugh, cringe, drop my jaw in amazement, seethe, and shake my head in wonderment, sometimes all in the same day. When you throw such a mix of people together in an environment where they’re together almost every day on buses or planes, in hotels and arenas, usually working together (though occasionally at cross purposes), you wind up with a never ending supply of stories that would fill a book two or three times over. I’ve given some thought to writing that book, but that’s a project for another day.

I tend to remember each season as a series of indelible snap shots that are permanently stored in my cranial album. I will never forget the frightening heroics of Carl Eaton and Josh Corbeil as they fought frantically and successfully to save Slick’s life on a cool night in March outside of Madison Square Garden. The day to day professionalism of Jeff Foster, a man who never put in less than a full days work despite a body that continually threatened to betray him, was inspiring. Seeing young men like Paul George, Tyler Hansbrough, and Darren Collison grow as they embraced the responsibility of becoming focal points for the hopes of Indiana’s basketball community was fascinating. Watching Frank Vogel, a genuinely good man that I will always root for, rise from his days as a video at the University of Kentucky to an NBA head coach was one of the highlights of a season that wasn’t always smooth or pleasant.

I will always regard having this job as a privilege, but if I didn’t have people I enjoyed traveling with it would be far less enjoyable. Men like David Benner, Shawn Windle, the aforementioned Mr. Eaton and Mr. Corbeil, and the legendary Jarl, sat with me in the front of the bus and shared their views of the world. That those views were often limited to which cartoon characters – Betty Rubble? Wilma Flintstone? Jane Jetson? – would make the best, um, dates does not, at least in my view, make those conversations any less pertinent.

Summer vacation is here, and I’ll find something to do. I always do. One year it’s schlepping across the country, another year it’s trudging 500 miles across Indiana to raise money for charity. Those things are fun and rewarding, but in reality they’re just something to do until it’s time to get back on the bus again. Today, I’m tired and look forward to a few days to rest and recharge, but by the weekend, I’ll start to get just a little restless.

Any chance we could start training camp Monday?

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Roone Arledge II

April 25, 2011

Over the course of the regular season, I rarely watched televised basketball. On occasion, I’ll take look at something involving a team the Pacers will see soon, but generally speaking I have other things I’d rather do when I’m not broadcasting a game.

The playoffs, though, are different. I find post-season play captivating, and I’ve seen several games in their entirety, or close to it, since Emperor Stern’s Tournament commenced earlier this month. I’ve watched games on TNT, ESPN, and various local outlets, and I’ve noticed something that I wasn’t aware of previously.

The people televising these games need my help.

Oh, there are things to like about these presentations. The technology is spectacular, which is a double-edged sword for The Association, because with things like HD and the level of intimacy television can now provide, there are increasingly fewer reasons to actually attend a game. But the presentation could be even better if these TV types would follow some of my guidelines.

In no particular order:

  • Cut down on the replays. Show me only the spectacular or the controversial, and let the game flow. I don’t need five slow motion replays of a simple layup.

  • Get rid of the sideline reporters. With rare exception, they add nothing. Use the money saved to increase the radio guy’s salary.

  • No crowd shots. I want to watch the game. I don’t care who else is watching the game, and I certainly do not want them beamed into my living room at The Fortress of Solitude. Oh, and for the love of God, no more wife, girlfriend, or parent shots. Ever. I beseech you.

  • No more three-man booths. Too much clutter. Give me Mike Breen, Marv Albert, or Ian Eagle with Hubie Brown, Jeff Van Gundy, or Bill Walton and I’m happy.

  • Speaking of which, where is Bill? Isn’t he working anymore? This is a travesty. I know the man has back issues, but if necessary wheel in a gurney and put it courtside so he can contribute his unique brand of hoopology. Who cares if it means a few fat cats in the front row need to be dislodged?

  • I understand that the networks need to promote their other programming, but could we quell the hyperbole? I know most of the guys doing these games, and I promise you that they aren’t watching Dancing with the Stars. Tell me when it’s on, if you must, but please stop drooling all over yourselves trying to convince me that you set aside time to watch such drivel. I know you don’t, and so does the rest of the viewing audience.

  • Use this simple rule when it comes to using graphics. If it doesn’t meet the “Hey, that’s really interesting. I’m glad I know that” test, don’t use it. This will cut the clutter on my screen by at least 90%. Thank you.

  • No more in game coaches interviews. They add nothing. To replace that useless element of the broadcast, give an inactive guy from each team a microphone and allow him to critique things out of each timeout. Nothing better than giving a disgruntled player a chance to stab his coach in the back.

I have other ideas, but let’s start with these. I really don’t understand why I wasn’t consulted before this, but it’s not too late to save television. And if we can’t, well, no need to worry.

There’s always radio.

Playoff tickets for the NBA First Round match-up between the Indiana Pacers and Chicago Bulls are available by clicking here. The 2011 Pacers Playoffs are proudly presented by Indiana University Health, Kroger, Stanley Security Solutions and XFINITY®.

Stuffing the Ballot Box

April 21, 2011

I’m a bit late with this, as a couple of the awards have already been handed out, but – unlike those who determine who gets in the Basketball Hall of Fame - I’ve always believed in making my ballots for the various honors in The Association public. You might think I’m ill-informed or logically impaired, but at least you will know what I think.

The Defensive Player of the Year (Dwight Howard) and Sixth Man of the Year (Lamar Odom-Kardashian) have already been named. I did vote for Howard (duh), but I had a problem with Odom-Kardashian’s candidacy. By rules, he qualified, but in my estimation someone that starts almost half (35) of his team’s games is not a true sixth man. My vote went to Jason (No longer the Jet but still pretty good) Terry of Dallas.

Here is the rest of my ballot, with a stray comment or two for good measure.

MOST VALUABLE PLAYER: If you had any doubts about Chicago’s Derrick (Ramblin’) Rose, I’m assuming they’re gone now that you’ve seen him go about his business in the first two games of this series with the Pacers.

FIRST TEAM ALL NBA: Rose and Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers are the guards, Howard gets my vote in the middle, with Dirk Nowitzki of Dallas and Miami’s LeBron (Wants to Be King) James are the forwards. As an aside, I would like to see the NBA change the criteria here, if only slightly. We are asked to vote for three all league teams, and with the relative dearth of quality centers in the game today, I think it would be more appropriate to vote for two back court slots and three front court positions, regardless of position.

ROOKIE OF THE YEAR: Washington’s John Wall was exceptional, but that wasn’t good enough this year. Blake Griffin of the Clippers should win this award unanimously, though I suspect there will be some that don’t vote for him because he was with the Clippers all of last season but didn’t play because of injury.

COACH OF THE YEAR: I thought George Karl did a magnificent job in Denver, first keeping his team in the middle of the highway through the Diva Anthony drama, then prodding them to a strong stretch run after they fleeced Dumbo Dolan in the Anthony deal at the trade deadline.

MOST IMPROVED PLAYER: Kevin (Beach Nephew) Love was the lone bright spot in a long, cold winter in Minnesota.

Playoff tickets for the NBA First Round match-up between the Indiana Pacers and Chicago Bulls are available by clicking here. The 2011 Pacers Playoffs are proudly presented by Indiana University Health, Kroger, Stanley Security Solutions and XFINITY®.

It's Not Family Guy, but...

April 20, 2011

When Conrad Brunner approached me about writing a blog for Pacers.com last fall, I initially declined. I reminded Mr. Brunner that when I had written a column for this website a few years back, he and I had found ourselves on the wrong side of our marketing gurus on more than one occasion. Seems they occasionally disapproved of what they perceived to be my overly candid observations regarding the NBA and our heroes in blue and yellow.

Imagine that.

So Mr. Brunner suggested that I take a different tact, staying away from basketball musings and instead writing about other topics that tend to reside in my perpetually scrambled psyche. This appealed to me, so I agreed to participate. Generally speaking, I’ve followed that blueprint, I’ve had fun with it, and I hope you’ve enjoyed these scribblings.

Today, though, I am going to deviate from form and share some thoughts on The Blue and Yellow Menace. I hadn’t planned on writing anything about this series with Chicago, primarily because I didn’t expect there to be anything to write about. The way I figured it, the Bulls were the superior team, they would control the series for long stretches, and although I thought that the Pacers had a 50/50 chance of winning a game, I didn’t expect Chicago to have any appreciable difficulty in advancing.

I haven’t necessarily seen anything that would make me think my initial assessment was off target, but the tenor of the series and Indiana’s performance in Chicago has surprised and impressed me. The Pacers did lose both games, letting the first one slip through their fingers because of an inability to close, but that’s not what caught my eye. This group showed a tenacity and grit that I didn’t know they possessed. The young guys that figure to be the cornerstones for future successful teams, particularly Employees #2 , #24, and #50, appeared to be completely at home in the tense and high pressured environment that comes with post-season play. Defensively erratic all season long, the Pacers turned in two defensive efforts in Chicago that any team in The Association would have been pleased to claim as their own. They made the league’s best regular season bunch sweat and huff and puff for 48 minutes, and in the end the only real difference between these teams was that Chicago has Derrick Rose and Indiana doesn’t.

I’ve been here a long time, and those that have followed our broadcasts, my occasional comments on talk shows, and my various writings know that I am not a cheerleader. I will never blow smoke in your direction, nor will I insult your intelligence by throwing hosannas toward the undeserving. Consequently, I am not going to tell you this is an excellent team that has turned the corner and will now surprise everyone by dismissing Chicago from Emperor Stern’s Tournament. The Pacers are not there yet, though I am becoming increasingly convinced that the future is bright and that they are headed in that direction. Nor do I expect them to eliminate Chicago, though I do think they will continue to compete with a level of verve and commitment that will force Chicago to either counter or face turbulent water, and I’m certain that this will be an invaluable and positive experience for all concerned.

But I will tell you this.

This team has earned your support. They’ve gotten better as the season has progressed, to the point where they’ve become a team worth watching, their best players are young and improving, and there is significant salary cap room to add to that core this summer. Thursday night, the Pacers will play their first home playoff game in five years, and I’m excited about it. I don’t get excited very often; in fact, the last time I recall being this energized was when I discovered that Family Guy episodes were available on iTunes, and that was at least two years ago. This team may not be all the way back just yet, but it’s getting closer every day, and the ride is just beginning.

Don’t miss it.

Playoff tickets for the NBA First Round match-up between the Indiana Pacers and Chicago Bulls are available by clicking here. The 2011 Pacers Playoffs are proudly presented by Indiana University Health, Kroger, Stanley Security Solutions and XFINITY®.

The Anti-Boyle?

April 18, 2011

Over the years, I’ve called this man Jack Armstrong (he’s an All American Boy), Mr. Rogers (it’s always a beautiful day in his neighborhood), Seacrest (he’s never seen an opportunity to speak in public that he didn’t love), and CMo (private joke, explanation best not shared).

You know him as Chris Denari, and if you’re a Pacers fan that follows the team on television, you should feel lucky to have him.

I’ve known Chris since my early days with the team over 20 years ago, and at first I was suspicious of him. Part of that was the fact that I’m suspicious of everyone – scientists are going to have a field day with my brain once I get through the check out line – and part of it was that I just couldn’t imagine that anyone so relentlessly positive wasn’t at least a bit of a phony.

But what you see with Chris is what you get. In a profession where almost all of us are narcissistic, ego driven, insecure, backbiting, jealous, or, in many cases, all of the above, Chris is none of those things. He’s just a genuinely nice guy. I’ve seen him have a beer or two over the years, but I’ve never seen him lose control of his faculties. I’ve never heard him curse, I’ve rarely heard him criticize anyone, he appears genuinely appreciative of his good fortune, and he treats everyone with respect and dignity. This makes him, according to multiple members of our group (none of whom, it should be noted, possess any of the above attributes), the anti-Boyle - an allegation that I vigorously dispute.

He and I are on the job at the same time, so I’m not all that familiar with his work. But I can tell you that he’s meticulously prepared and is what we call a pro’s pro. Unlike a lot of these TV types that think preparation consists of making sure that their makeup is properly applied and their hair is styled (and if you have NBA League Pass, you know who I’m talking about), Chris is exhaustive in his approach and is never caught off guard. Plus, he’s been a Pacers fan his entire life, and I can’t imagine that his passion for the team isn’t obvious in every telecast.

In short, this guy is an employer’s dream. He represents the franchise with enthusiasm, he never has a bad word to say about anyone, and he’s excited to come to work every day. As far as I can see, there’s only one thing wrong with him.

He’s making me look bad.

Playoff tickets for the NBA First Round match-up between the Indiana Pacers and Chicago Bulls are available by clicking here. The 2011 Pacers Playoffs are proudly presented by Indiana University Health, Kroger, Stanley Security Solutions and XFINITY®.

Nostradamus? Maybe Not

April 15, 2011

Under normal circumstances, I don’t write much about basketball on this blog, primarily because I’m a big believer in sticking with topics I know something about. Still, the playoffs are an exciting time, and being aware that you probably will lose sleep until you know what I think about the post-season, I’m going to venture off course a little bit and weigh in on things.

The Pacers are involved in Emperor Stern’s Tournament for the first time since 2006. Their goal, as it should be, is to beat Chicago. But that doesn’t mean that this can’t be a positive experience if they fall short. Playoff success is almost always a process in the NBA; you might remember that the powerhouse Pacer teams of the ‘90’s lost in the first round four years in a row before breaking through to the Eastern Conference Finals in 1994. If these Pacers can win a game or two while forcing the Bulls to exert themselves over the course of the five or six game journey, this should be a positive experience for all concerned.

I see the Western Conference as a far more compelling story than the East. The depth is greater, they have more good teams out there, and it wouldn’t shock me to see any of the favorites sent packing. Here in the East, I see an entirely different scenario. I would be very surprised if any of the higher seeds lost, and I don’t expect any of those matchups to last any more than six games.

#1 Chicago over #8 Indiana (4-1): Everyone is focused on Rose, but the fact that Chicago defends the basket the way a mother grizzly protects her cubs will turn out to be Indiana’s main problem.

#2 Miami over #7 Philadelphia (4-1). Doug Collins did a terrific job with the Sixers in his first season, but he doesn’t have the personnel to get the job done against the Heat.

#3 Boston over #6 New York (4-1). New York can score, but they are frighteningly inept defensively, and this is always fatal in the playoffs.

#4 Orlando over #5 Atlanta (4-0). The 4-5 matchup is usually the best in the opening round, but Orlando is focused and Atlanta appears to be a mess.

#1 San Antonio over #8 Memphis (4-2): Memphis has never won a playoff game (0-12 in three previous trips). They’ll get a couple here, and might even push it to seven if Ginobili is out for an extended period.

#2 Los Angeles Lakers over #7 New Orleans (4-1). Bynum is hobbled, but West is out. Game, set, and match Los Angeles

#3 Dallas over #6 Portland (4-3). This should be good. Dallas always seems to find a way to underachieve in the playoffs, and Portland is dangerous.

#4 Oklahoma City over #5 Denver (4-3). This is the best matchup of the first round. I really like Denver, but I think Oklahoma City has a legitimate chance to win the whole thing. If you only have time to watch one series, this is it.

Playoff tickets for the NBA First Round match-up between the Indiana Pacers and Chicago Bulls are available by clicking here. The 2011 Pacers Playoffs are proudly presented by Indiana University Health, Kroger, Stanley Security Solutions and XFINITY®.

Chef Boyle Ar Dee

April 14, 2011

I am not a chef. I can barely manage to prepare a frozen pizza without incident, though I am proficient on the grill. Still, in our climate that only gets me through the summer; if not for restaurants, I would slowly and certainly die of starvation.

This explains why I was slightly apprehensive when I agreed to participate in the Get Pacers Fit program Monday afternoon at the Hard Rock Café downtown. My angst diminished a bit when, upon arriving, I discovered that there would be a chef and his assistant involved, which meant that all I really had to do was avoid burning down the building.

We ended up tossing together some sort of a salad. There was chicken, which I’m familiar with, and fruit which I’m not, as I get my daily quota of Vitamin C from Starburst. The whole thing took about five minutes, and you can check out my culinary adventure at pacers.com.

Now I can get back to fatty meats, candy, French fries, and ice cream. Don’t tell anyone.

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April 13, 2011

Joe Tait broadcasts his final NBA game tonight.

Joe has been the play-by-play voice of the Cleveland Cavaliers for 39 of their 41 years of existence, but for guys like me he’s more than that. When I was still in junior high school, I used to spend more than a few evenings sequestered in my bedroom with my transistor radio – even then I was a lone wolf - listening to sporting events from all across the country. In Minneapolis, where I grew up, we were fortunate to have men like Herb Carneal broadcasting Minnesota Twins games and Al Shaver handling play-by-play for the NHL’s Minnesota North Stars, but it was pulling in games from far away that fascinated me. At night, I could listen to Jack Buck doing St. Louis Cardinals games and Dan Kelly calling St. Louis Blues games on KMOX in St. Louis, and if I got tired of that I might switch over to Lloyd Petit calling a Black Hawks game out of Chicago. Those guys, and others like them, were artists. They spoke with authority, they were brilliant – all of the aforementioned are in the Hall of Fame for their sports – and they were captivating.

But they were not Joe Tait.

I first heard Joe calling Cavs games on WWWE in Cleveland back in the early ‘70’s, and right away I could tell he was special. Listening to him, I could almost see the vivid colors of the uniforms and the facial expressions on the faces of the players. With Joe’s call to guide me, I sometimes felt like I could smell the popcorn in the concourse, and it became my goal to someday be as good as Joe was. By the time I got to the NBA, Joe was an elder statesman with no reason to go out of his way to make a newcomer feel welcome, but he greeted me as though I were an equal, which is something I now try to do with the young guys that come into the league.

Joe has been an inspiration to me. We’re not especially close, though I always enjoy seeing him and would like to think he feels the same about me, but it’s hard to stay in touch when he doesn’t do e-mail or texting and I don’t do the phone - yes, our world is populated by eccentrics of every stripe - and I will profoundly miss seeing him the four times that the Pacers and Cavs get together every season.

A long time ago, I had hoped to someday be as good as Joe Tait. I’ve been broadcasting NBA games for 23 seasons, I’m proud of that longevity, and all modesty aside, I think I’m pretty good. But I’m not as good as Joe Tait.

Nobody is.

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I never engage in conversation

April 10, 2011

I consider myself a pretty good neighbor, though I suspect my definition may be a little bit different than yours – or most everyone else’s, for that matter.

I try and treat my neighbors respectfully, which is to say I treat them the same way I want them to treat me. The Golden Rule, right? You know, do unto others and all of that. So I never, ever bother them. I would never, unless I saw one of their homes on fire and felt responsible for helping them escape, cross into their yards. I do wave if I see one of them, but I never engage them in conversation. Who would want to hear what I have to say, anyway? I keep my yard neat, so as not to embarrass the rest of the neighborhood, and I don’t have loud parties. Still, I have a sneaking suspicion that my neighbors consider me less than a warm, hospitable presence.

Maybe it’s the sentry I have posted on my front porch.

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He's Baaaaaaaack

April 8, 2011

Slick Leonard returns to work tonight, less than a month after suffering a heart attack following a game in New York. The man missed just 13 games, which is remarkable when you consider that it was his second such episode and he had two stents implanted into his heart. I could mention that we’ve had players here during my time – I won’t name names, but if you scan the Boston Celtics roster you’ll get a hint - that would have missed more time than that with a hang nail, but I won’t. That would be a cheap shot, and everyone knows that’s not my style.

Austin Croshere stepped in when Slick went down, and it was really a treat to work with him. He approached broadcasting much the same way that he approached his playing career. He comes to work prepared, he wants to learn, he’s extremely receptive to coaching, and he wants to be successful. You’d be surprised how many former players and coaches make the transition from being active participants to observers thinking that all they need to do is show up and start yakking, and it’s been refreshing to work with someone who regards the profession as a challenge and not just a way to stay around the game and cash a check.

Austin can work with me any time. If such an opportunity were to ever come up, I just hope he’ll let me work with him.

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Where Was the Media on This Story?

April 4, 2011

Though I would never claim to be a theologian, I do have what I would call a passing acquaintance with the bible. I am familiar, for example, with the story of Noah and the critters, and I’ve always been amazed by Moses and his knack for parting the Red Sea. Nice party trick. And how about Jesus and his ability to take a few fish and a loaf or two of Wonder Bread and feed the masses? If I had those skills, I would have opened a restaurant, but that’s just me.

Those that believe in the bible look forward with great anticipation to the day Jesus rises again. That would be an enormous story, would it not? This is why I was amazed to come across this business establishment in New Orleans yesterday. Did I miss something? If Jesus returned, how is it that I didn’t hear anything about it? I know I can be hopelessly out of the loop – I have met Justin Timberlake and Ludacris and had no idea who either one was – but Jesus is big time. Yet I didn’t read anything about this in the New Orleans Times-Picayune or USA Today, I saw nothing about this story on CNN or Fox News, and as far as I can tell, it even slipped past TMZ.

Maybe it was in the New York Post.

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Couple of loose ends

April 3, 2011

Things are back to normal now that my 2,000th NBA broadcast has past, but there are a couple of loose ends that I need help with.

Somebody drew this caricature of me and left it on the desk of Media Relations Mastermind David Benner. As you can see, there’s a name on the bottom, but it’s not one that familiar to me. If Josh Smart is reading this, then he knows I am grateful for his effort and the fact that he made me look better than I do in real life; if not, and any of you know him, please let him know that I appreciate his work

I was also taken by the enormous plant/flower arrangement I found outside my door the other day. Not being well versed in horticulture, I don’t know whether to water it, plant it, or build a tree house in it. It was sent by the Pacers, and I suppose I could just ask them what it is, but I don’t want them to think I’m more ignorant than they already do. It sure is nice, though.

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I'm Not Dead. Yet.

April 1, 2011

Ever since I turned 50, I’ve been getting periodic invitations to join AARP (American Association of Retired Persons). If anyone representing that organization is reading this, I have a respectful request.

Please stop.

First of all, I’m not retired. Secondly, I refuse to even acknowledge to concept of aging. I realize that this is unprecedented, but I am planning to become the first person that never dies. And while I’m on the subject, I don’t really understand this organization. It appears that one of the benefits of joining is that I get discounts on stuff just because I’m supposed to be waiting in life’s checkout line. Why? In theory, I’ve made my money by now and should be able to afford things. Shouldn’t these discounts go to young people just starting out that have no money?

Anyway, AARP isn’t the real reason I’m ruminating on the subject of aging and death. I have recently become aware that funeral homes and cemeteries are now advertising, and it offends me. Who needs to get a letter – as I did recently – reminding them that the clock is ticking and that The Grim Reaper has pitched a tent in the back yard? And as part of the pitch, I get “a special COMPLIMENTARY Gift” for filling out the survey form they sent. Not to nitpick, but aren’t all gifts by definition complimentary? At the very least, the people reminding me that I’m in the two-minute warning stage of my life should understand the language well enough to write a better letter than that. And what is this complimentary gift, anyway? Haven’t they just sent me a letter telling me I’m about to die? Under those circumstances, what gift could possibly be of benefit to me? A cyanide pill, maybe, just in case my suffering is so unbearable that I might want to pull the plug early?

So, please. AARP, stop writing. And funeral homes of America, unite. Take me of your mailing list. I already told you that I don’t plan to die, and if by some chance I do, my final act is designed just to spite you.

I’m getting buried in my back yard.

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