I Just Attended the World’s Largest Frat Party

Community makes life especially sweet. Many will experience it next weekend when the Seahawks win their first Super Bowl. Others by attending religious services or participating in festivals, parades, parties, or running races. The problem with the Super Bowl is now we know the violent hits come with severe health consequences. Another problem is a lot of young people feel they need alcohol and/or drugs to have a good time with others. Exhibit A, the world’s largest frat party that I attended Saturday.

With the NSA hot on my trails, I can’t say where it was exactly, but as alluded to previously, I have recently switched coasts. Suffice to say it’s an annual party, this was the 99th version. It starts with a huge pirate invasion and then continues for hours with beer drinking; floats; beer drinking; thumping music; beer drinking; non-stop bead throwing, catching, and collecting; and beer drinking. There may have been 100k people and 1m beaded necklaces.

Yes, I probably was the oldest person there. And since my green tea latte had worn off an hour beforehand, I was definitely the most sober. It was fun because it was a spectacle and so atypical of me. And it was a window into a different region of the country and into youth culture. About 80% of the people there were in their 20’s. It’s one thing to read a lot about college students abusing alcohol and altogether different to see it up close and personal.

Everyone seemingly had the same philosophy of life—hedonism—if it feels good, do it. I tried to get some discussions going about Stoicism, but was unsuccessful. “Hey, Seneca and Epictetus didn’t need Bud Light to have a good time.” I just walked around self conscious about being old, sober, and alone. Eventually I sat down and leaned back against a palm tree to people watch. Shortly afterwards, a woman sat down right next to me. She was a local who was with four friends whom she pointed out and described to me, including her sister who was a middle school teacher from Miami.

To borrow from an especially outgoing student of mine this fall, my new friend was a “raging extrovert”. Thirty-four, with a tiny nose-ring, she was a very successful hairstylist who enjoyed traveling the world. Here was the most depressing part of our conversation. First, you have to understand that like 90% of the people there, she “started drinking at 7:30a.m.” She wasn’t nearly as drunk as her younger counterparts, but definitely buzzed. (My “friends” will challenge this description. They’ll say the only way she would have voluntarily sat down next to me is if she was over-the-top inebriated. I stand by my description.)

“I just barely know you, but what the fuck. Last year I took two months off and made six figures. I pay for my sister to travel with me. $1,500 fuckin’ bucks for airfare to Dublin. But I don’t mind because I love her.” The hairstylist makes double the school teacher. Fuck. Oh sorry, it’s her fault for setting the bad example.

It would’ve been easy to pre-judge her based on her f-bombs and cigarette smoking, but I liked her. She praised her friend who was drug and alcohol free. And she was critical of the excesses of the event and “fuckin’ embarrassed to admit she was a letter writer”. The city had actually taken some of her (and others I’m sure) suggestions for improving the event to heart and added porta-pots, positioned them better, and provided more police on bicycles.

Sometimes raging introverts like me need raging extroverts. As my mother likes to say, “Diversity is the spice of life.” All of us need community. I prefer Olympia’s Procession of the Species, or a group bike ride, or dinner with a few friends, but the pirate invasion made for a spicy Saturday afternoon indeed.

More proof women dig horses.

More proof women dig horses.

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This was the female uni of choice, kinda short shorts, fishnet, high leather boots.

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Bead throwing and catching. For hours and hours.

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I decided not to take my shirt off or rock the pants down low.

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I didn’t think to bring the dog.

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My daughter says I never smile in selfies. How do you like me now?

Derek Jeter

From Buster Olney’s ESPN blog:

“The Yankees’ belief is that their current three-year, $45 million offer is fair, and that by offering arbitration to Jeter, they essentially would bail him out after a down year. The Yankees feel that in the past, Jeter has fairly negotiated from his standing in the marketplace — when he went to arbitration in 1999, when he negotiated a 10-year, $189 million deal in 2001. And now the Yankees feel these talks should reflect Jeter’s place in the market; they also believe that no other team would be willing to pay him what they have offered. Here’s one big factor working against Jeter in this negotiation: While the Yankees want him and are offering him above what his market value is, they operate in the knowledge that if Jeter doesn’t re-sign — if he actually walks away — then his departure would not be a mortal blow to their pennant hopes in 2011. If Jeter walked away in 2001, that would have been different; he was an exceptional player then. Now he is a good player, but far from irreplaceable.”

I’m concerned for DJ. He’s building the largest, most expensive home on the water in Tampa a few miles from my mom’s pad. How’s he supposed to finish it and furnish it with a best-case scenario pay cut of $3.9m/year ($15m versus $18.9)? Last time I cycled by his crib there was a Porsche Panamera parked out front. Next time I ride by it will probably be a Toyota Highlander.

Sports analysts refer to DJ’s value to the Yankees in terms of his personal brand and argue it contributes to the team’s brand. In essence, approximately half of the proposed contract is a bonus for distinguishing himself from the other knuckleheads in the same locker room. Don’t mistake this for Yankee bashing, it’s pro athlete bashing more generally. It’s a sign of the sorry state of pro sports that Jeter has separated himself from the vast majority of ball players by doing what should be the norm, chasing foul balls into the stands, passing on p.e.d.s, and living within the laws of the land. In short, be a good citizen and we’ll pay you extra.

What intrigues me the most about these negotiations is the relative discipline of the SOS’s, “Sons of Steinbrenner.” A lot of financial analysts that study the wealthy predict that the vast majority of young adults of extremely wealthy parents will blow through their inherited wealth given their sense of entitlement and anemic work ethic. My guess is Steinbrenner would have signed DJ by now for more than is on the table. Props to the sons for their surprising, relative fiscal discipline.

Here’s what DJ should do. Sign the contract and say, “I’m well aware that functional unemployment is 17%. That awareness makes me even more appreciative of this contract which enables me to continue making a very good living playing a child’s game for the best franchise in professional sports. This is not a ceremonial signing. I will continue to work hard day in and day out to bring Yankee fans more joy over the next three seasons.”

“I’ll figure out,” he might add once the microphones and cameras are flipped off, “how to cut some costs on the new spread.”

Yankees daring Jeter to look elsewhere?

Class Differences in Tampa

The scene. Having coffee and toast at a Cuban diner in the Ybor City section of Tampa Florida Saturday with my mom and three of her friends. Wonderful Saturday ritual. The topic, class differences in Tampa. One friend, a former nun for 11 years, and now a kindergarten teacher smiles and says to me, “Since you’re staying in South Tampa, you may have noticed your shit doesn’t stink.”

At least on the surface, there’s lots of well-to-do people in South Tampa, Derek Jeter among them. I work out at a swanky athletic club with unlimited shaving cream, razors, shampoo, towels, mouthwash, and q-tips. The car of choice appears to be a Lexus, Porsche, or BMW.

Walking into the club Monday morning I overheard (remember I’m eavesdropping on you) a woman in tennis whites tell her friends, “I don’t get down here (Tampa) very often, but for tax purposes it’s where they think I live. It’s the only address I have.”

No one chats me up (maybe because I look like death warmed over having just run in the Dante’s Inferno that is Tampa’s August weather). Are wealthy people less friendly?

In the four lane pool, one is marked “open swim” and three “lap swimming”. I’m the only one lap swimming, but that doesn’t keep a few of the four kids playing in the pool from jumping into my lane two and a half times while their parents silently watch. What the hell? They leave with their noodles all over the place, but why should that be a surprise when adults walk away from their ellipticals without wiping them down and the showers are strewn with wet towels. Guess that’s what the workers are for.

I confess, I’m a bit conflicted. I like the plushness, the outdoor 25m pool, the carpeted locker room, the showers that stay on all by themselves (at my “Y” you have to punch a knob every minute), and of course the q-tips, but really dislike the general unfriendly/entitled/disconnected vibe.

Yet, I have to guard against painting with too broad a brush. My mom is a member and she is extremely friendly, appreciative of everything she has, and socially aware. I’m sure there’s at least one other member like her.