Claiming Space

By the time I came to bed, a furry mountain range had already seized most of the acreage.


Big Blake, the Clydesdale Canine, remained motionless, the dark fur of his muscular body almost invisible in the night. He may not have known the principle about possession being nine-tenths of the law. But he certainly knew how to sprawl across nine-tenths of the bed, leaving only the space my wife Heather was sleeping in, and a small corner of empty mattress that might fit an adult hobbit.


“Come on, Blake.”

Even appealing to Blake’s bottomless stomach won’t always move him off the bed at times like this. And since my own back isn’t up to lifting 80-plus pounds of sleepy dog, what usually follows is half negotiation and half dance, until the thought finally penetrates his mind. “Oh. I am not a Chihuahua. Perhaps I should move over a bit.”

And with great reluctance – and no small amount of nudging – the mountain finally moves.

What makes it frustrating sometimes is that Blake is not a bad dog. Not really. Sure, he’s a klutz who tends to think with his belly instead of his mind, like many a rescue dog before him. But he loves deeply and is loved dearly, an enthusiastic member of the family who practically flies over Pikes Peak when one of his people comes home.

But when he takes up more than his share of space, it still gets on your nerves.

For football fans, that might sound familiar.

The first direct exposure many of us had to Richard Sherman, a cornerback in the Seattle Seahawks “Legion of Boom” was last Sunday. Over the last couple of days, I’ve heard a lot about what a decent guy he actually is, and his background seems to bear it out – the guy who got out of Compton and into Stanford; the guy who, off the field, usually has time to spare if someone else needs it.

But all that got shoved into the background after the NFC championship game, where his game-sealing interception in the end zone was followed by a quick round of trash talk. “Well, I’m the best corner in the game! When you try me with a sorry receiver like (Michael) Crabtree, that’s the result you gonna get! Don’t you EVER talk about me.”

Now, this is sports. A certain amount of braggadocio comes with the game. To compete before a crowd requires supreme confidence, whether it’s the quiet certainty of a Champ Bailey or the flamboyance of a Muhammad Ali. Most fans know that.

But when someone seems to take up more space than he should, when the interior monologue becomes too exterior, especially in an unguarded moment – that’s when it’s going to rub the wrong way.

And that’s why Sherman made a lot of Bronco fans on Sunday.

For that moment – a moment, admittedly, with his “game face” still on and his adrenaline soaring – he came across as rude, obnoxious and willing to put himself before and above the team.

It only takes one of those moments to obscure a lot of nice.

To his credit, Sherman seems to recognize that. When he apologized at a recent news conference, it was for pulling focus from his teammates. Not for believing himself great (or Crabtree mediocre), but for letting his passion push the rest of the team off the stage.

I’m not a mind-reader, so I can’t tell you how sincere he was. Only those who watch him carefully will be able to say for sure which is the posturing, the behavior on the field or the apology off it. But at the least, he understood what it was that had pushed the button and sent things over the edge.

That’s a start.

(It’s also starting from a better place than the Seahawks fans who threw food at an injured San Francisco player, but that’s another story.)

I’ll give the guy a chance. After all, I give Blake plenty of opportunities to clear some space, too.

But if the “best corner in the game” gets beaten a few times by Denver’s high-flying receivers – well, I won’t be terribly disappointed, either.

Now, let’s put this whole thing to bed.


It’s official. Canada is discarding all common cents.

No, that’s not a typo. Our neighbors to the north recently announced that they’re getting rid of all pennies in circulation. Any spent will get sent off to be melted down; once they’re gone, prices will be adjusted up or down to the nearest five cents to compensate.

“It’s a piece of currency that lacks currency,” Finance Minister Jim Flaherty said during hearings, noting that each one-cent coin costs 1.6 cents to make.

It’s not a bad idea. It’ll save a little in the budget and probably some pocket linings, too.

And if history’s any guide, it will never, ever catch on here.

It’s not that there aren’t people here who want to see the penny go (and occasionally, the dollar bill as well). When I worked the cash register at City News, it was easily the most annoying coin to keep track of. Like most businesses, we scattered the copper-colored coins into a “take a penny, leave a penny” jar to even out the change, effectively rounding prices up or down anyway.

And these days, there aren’t that many people who use cash, period. When even a pizza delivery can be put on a credit card, you know that bills and coins have pretty much fled the battlefield except for vending machines and dancers named Passion Flower.

Even so, trust me on this. Little Lincoln’s got some staying power.

There’s two reasons. The smaller one is that there just isn’t a lot of need. Sure, pennies cost more to make than their face value, and nickels are even worse. But dimes and quarters more than absorb that cost, and coins re-circulate enough times to make that a moot issue, anyway.

The bigger reason? Simple. When it comes to money, Americans are downright stodgy.

You know what I mean.

Remember the jokes and the head-shaking when the redesigned bills came out? (I still think Andrew Jackson looks like he lost a battle with a hair dryer, personally.)

Remember the cold reception to the Sacajawea dollar coin, and the Susan B. Anthony before it?

Frankly, the only alteration to the currency that I can remember drawing a smile was the state quarter series. And most people I knew viewed those as collectibles rather than currency – at least, until their next Diet Coke fix came calling.

But at least we have changed the currency before, if slowly. Now imagine the reaction to withdrawing it.

No one wants to to be the politician that killed Lincoln a second time.

Nonsensical? Maybe. But legitimate. In a weird way, the currency’s become a touchstone, something that rarely changes in a world that changes constantly. It’s familiar enough to inspire trivia or even tasteless jokes. (“Why does Lincoln on the penny face right when all other coins face left? You let a crazy actor get behind you just once and you never get over it .”) It’s even enduring enough to be a minor history project – my sisters used to tape pennies to a sheet of paper, one for each year they could find, going back decades.

Yes, that was one heavy sheet of paper. Thanks for asking.

Maybe touchstones like that aren’t such a bad thing. Think of the orange Broncos jersey that just got put back into circulation. Gaudy? Maybe. But it was also unmistakeably, uniquely us. Lacking it was like missing a tooth. Bringing it back just felt right.

And maybe that’s all the defense a penny coin or a dollar bill needs. It just feels right. When the feeling stops, then maybe we’ll be ready to change our tune.

Or at least to tune our change.