Failure, The Hells Angels, and Jim Harbaugh’s Insane Decision

Last month of the year – the home stretch. It has been a doozy. October and November kicked my backside. I entered a couple of songwriting contests and failed to even place, and my “November Novel” is mired at 27,000 words and in complete mediocrity. Failure, failure, failure. But time marches on, I don’t take these things as seriously as I once might have, and I’ve even learned to start looking at the positive aspects of these brutal beat-downs. For the novel, I realize hell, I have 27,000 words I didn’t have last month; and in regards to the songwriting contest, well honestly I just figure that the judges have no taste.

Hell on Wheels

I’m reading an autobiography right now written by Ralph “Sonny” Barger, the notorious ringleader and founder of the Oakland Hells Angels motorcycle club. In addition to the descriptions of various parties, fistfights, and other nefarious activities, there are a couple of aspects of Barger’s story I find fascinating.

The first has to do with the mentality of people who join clubs. Barger describes an almost desperate longing to be part of a group, and the Hells Angels afford that opportunity. It’s a weird instinct to me, though I can understand the practical benefits to surrounding yourself with a group of, if not like-minded individuals, people who are willing to stand up and fight beside you. I’ve always been more of the loner type though.

Second, and really the more important take-away, is Barger’s first-hand account of the growing networks of laws and law enforcement agents. Because the Hells Angels were involved in plenty of legally questionable, or downright illegal activity, Barger developed a deep understanding of the legal system. Laws change, and law enforcement is always actively looking for additional tools they can use to get the “criminal element” off of the streets. Sometimes the laws go too far.

Barger’s biography takes us through the more free-wheeling 50’s and 60’s, and then, during President Nixon’s rule and beyond, things start to change radically. Prison sentences are dramatically lengthened, and suddenly there are all sorts of charges the police can utilize that simply didn’t exist before. A loosening of the definition of conspiracy means that anyone who is in the same motorcycle club as someone who commits a criminal act can be charged. It’s a field day for prosecutors, but a sad era for defendants and defense attorneys, and it continues to this day.

The Lunatic is on the Sideline

Since no one else seems willing to go on record I’ll say it – Jim Harbaugh is insane. I like Colin Kaepernick, and I have no doubt he is the quarterback of the future for the San Francisco Forty Niners, but the kid isn’t ready right now. Changing quarterbacks in the middle of a SuperBowl run is nuts; particularly when the guy you are putting on the bench holds the team record for consecutive passes without an interception, and is ranked in the top 5 of active starting quarterbacks in the NFL.

The Niners have the best defense in the league, and a brutal running game. What they need right now is not flash and mobility, or even a downfield threat. They need a quarterback who holds onto the ball, moves the chains, and keeps the other team’s offense off the field. They need a quarterback who doesn’t score points for the opposing team. This is Alex Smith. Unfortunately at this point I think Harbaugh is committed to the kid. If he changes his mind now he throws everything into even more chaos. He let his ego get the best of him, and went with his gut, instead of his brains. His decision to replace #1 with #2 may has turned a potential Superbowl season into yet another “rebuilding year.”

I hope he proves me wrong.

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Bob Howard has been living, working, and writing in Northern Califonria since he moved to Chico in early 2000. In January 2011, he and his wife Trish relocated to Los Molinos, 30 minutes north of Chico, where they are the proud proprietors of the Double Happiness Farm. There they grow organic food, ornamental plants and trees, and generally work to enjoy the beauty of this great region.