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Off-Key

By Bob Frederickson

From Panhandling Retooled to a New Five Second Rule

Truth in Advertising?

“Willing to Work,” “God-Bless,” “Disabled Vet,” “Anything Will Help.”

We’ve all seen the predictable signs held up by homeless folks looking for handouts as they work the major intersections around town.

So it was a welcome surprise to see a break from the ordinary in a message displayed by the guy working the Fruitville Road/North Washington Boulevard intersection one day last week just as folks were getting off work. It read:

“Why Lie? I Need a Beer!”

Don Draper couldn’t have distinguished himself any better from the desultory, lockstep messaging of his Madison Avenue cohorts than this guy did with his refreshingly honest sign last week. He could probably make a fortune as a consultant helping his brethren sharpen their marketing skills.

Venice on Major Win Streak

Remember President Trump saying on the campaign trail that if he won the election there would be so much winning we’d all get tired of it? Well, if such a thing is possible, folks in Venice may be able to describe the experience for the rest of us.

First, the Venice High Indians football squad won a state championship last fall. Then one of the school’s alum, Trey Burton, tossed a touchdown pass for the Philadelphia Eagles in the Super Bowl and later returned home to share the experience with a public appearance in his hometown.

Then this spring Venice High added two more trophies to their display case, with state championships in volleyball and baseball.

There was a bump in the road recently when – as reported in this space last month – football Coach John Peacock was removed from his head-coaching position over a Facebook post he ‘liked.’ That post commented on the complexion of a rival coach, Curt Bradley of Braden River High School. Bradley is multi-racial and some saw the post coach Peacock liked as racially insensitive, including coach Bradley, who called out his rival’s behavior in a public letter on the matter.

Peacock responded by saying he had no idea Bradley was multi-racial and no apology was forthcoming in a letter he wrote in response to Bradley’s. In it, he went on offense by saying this:

“I’m appalled at Coach Bradley’s desperate attempt to exploit today’s racial tension to distract from the disgrace he has brought to his program. This has happened because I was the coach that finally stood up and exposed Coach Bradley for cheating in order to protect the integrity of high school football. I knew this could be an outcome of that decision, and I was willing to accept that. As sad and unfortunate as it is, it was the right thing to do and I would do it again.”

The ‘cheating’ mentioned by Peacock reportedly concerned non-sanctioned practices conducted by the Braden River coach before last year’s football season got underway.

What a mess. But cooler heads eventually prevailed.

Peacock did finally offer up a public apology and members of the community – including at least one high profile business sponsor of the Venice football program – rallied in support of his reinstatement.

Principal Eric Jackson reconsidered his original decision, and Coach Peacock will return to the Venice gridiron this fall, albeit after serving a three game suspension.

Even More ‘Winning’ in Venice…

Another accolade for Venice: it’s officially home of the state’s ‘Best Beach Bar.’

No surprise. It’s Sharky’s on the Pier, a second time win for the restaurant (which also won the top spot in 2013). The ranking is the result of an annual contest conducted by the website floridabeachbar.com.

Now some of our readers may question the need to head ‘off-key’ to find a great beach bar, but there’s no denying Sharky’s creds in this regard, with its location directly on the gulf, proximity to the Venice Pier, relative lack of encroaching development, along with great food and live music.

If you’re headed off key, all-in-all, not a bad place to be…

Bumper Sticker of the Day…

Control Your Kids…Not My Guns.

Which got me thinking…

It seems obvious, but when I was growing up we of course had schools (I’m not that old, after all). We also had guns… just as many on a per capita basis as we have today.

What we didn’t have: monthly instances of mass shootings at schools.

So what’s changed?

Equally obvious: the culture.

But of course, few in the media want to broach that subject, perhaps because of the outsized influence that same media has had on its dissolution.

Lowering the Bar on Employee Harassment?

NetFlix has banned employees from looking at each other for more than five seconds, according to a story in the UK Sun. It’s part of a corporate effort to reduce cases of workplace harassment…sexual or otherwise.

No Joke.

As someone who met his future bride at a newspaper where we both worked, this strikes me as equal parts sad and misguided.

Throughout most of human history, face-to-face communication has been the gold standard. It still is, despite its increasing devaluation by Facebook and other forms of so-called social media.

There are so many non-verbal cues that inform our views of those around us…gleaned from watching others speak…observing their eyes, their lips, their gestures.

And there is so much misunderstanding today based on people’s ham-handed efforts to share their feelings in e-mails, or on facebook where there is no visual feedback to guide us in how our messages are being received (witness the Coach Peacock item above).

There’s a reason our justice system guarantees as a foundational principle defendants’ rights   to face their accusers – so judges and jurors can size up witnesses in person and thereby determine for themselves their integrity.

Even the giants of literature can at best create a pale reflection of the wealth of insight gleaned from a smile, a frown or an anxious glance…

Have you ever read a description of Mona Lisa’s smile that came close to expressing what you see and feel when you look at it?

We think we’re so brilliant with out modern forms of communication…But hundreds of thousands of years of human evolution – from the savannas of Africa to the halls of modern power – have honed our interpersonal skills in ways we barely understand, equipping us with skills that allow us to intuitively ‘read’ one another. And those skills have had much to do with our success as a species.

Banning human beings from staring into each other’s eyes for more than five seconds? As well to count the angels dancing on a pin…

As Shakespeare’s tragedies reveal time and again, when human nature is denied, devalued, ignored…trouble is dead ahead.

International House of…Burgers?

Geez, I had no idea pancakes had fallen so far out of favor. But how else to explain IHOP’s decision to change the ‘p’ in its logo to a “b” signifying a switch from pancakes to the more ubiquitous (and apparently lucrative) fast food niche of burgers.

I think the Tampa Bay Times – in a nod to pancake lovers everywhere – got it right when they called out the restaurant chain for the change, saying what the ‘b’ actually stands for – at least to many of the chain’s customers – is betrayal.