Monday, November 22, 2004

So Long, Pacers

Man, I love David Stern. Just when I think he's losing his mojo, he comes out and lays down the law against the idiots involved in the Pacers-Pistons disaster.

You never, ever, ever, ever go into the stands. Ron Artest isn't the first athlete to have beer thrown at him, nor will he be the last. Well, check that, maybe he will be the last; after watching The Certifiably Insane Ron Arest (TCIRA for short) go nuts like that (beating up the wrong guy, no less), beer-throwing morons the world over ought to be discouraged from doing that again. David Stern was absolutely right to come down hard on the Pacers for their actions. With any luck at all, ESPN will fire The Certifably Brain Dead Tim Legler for his shameless defense of the Pacers. "There's not a player in the NBA who wouldn't react the same way in that situation." Uh, really? You mean aside from the other 9 Pacers that DIDN'T go into the crowd, despite getting stuff thrown at them? How hard is it for TCIRA to do this:

TCIRA: Hey ref, that fan just threw a beer at me.
Ref: Which one?
TCIRA: That one, right there, in the black shirt.
Ref: Security, please escort that fan out of the building.

Problem solved.

I don't buy this "he was defending himself" nonsense in the least. It was a plastic cup of beer. It wasn't a metal cup, nor a heavy glass cup. And it didn't contain anthrax or some other biotoxin (jokes about American beer notwithstanding). If it was a knife that was thrown at him, Artest would have a fabulous argument for self-defense. Of course, like almost any other person, he would have been too busy running out of there like his shorts were on fire to defend himself.

The union will appeal, and they'll lose, like they should. They probably know it, but they feel they need to put on a good show. Personally, I'd like to see them draw the line here. "You know what, Ron? This behavior crosses such a thick, black line that we can't even defend you here." And yes, I'm living in a fantasy land with this. It's the same fantasy land that makes me believe people will soon tire of the "well, at least he's got plenty of time to promote his rap album" joke, which has quickly become a crutch for hack writers the world over.

I saw excerpts from The Brawl on TV Friday night out at a bar. I thought to myself, "well, Artest has finally lost it." It's fitting that he should go out with a bang in what's almost certainly his last game as an Indiana Pacer. It's funny; as recently as Thursday, they probably could have gotten Peja Stojakovic straight up, in what would have been a great deal for both sides. Now, if they're lucky, they'll get 30 cents on the dollar this summer in a trade. More likely, they'll work out a contract buyout or an outright release.

Jermaine O'Neal, the second best big man in the East, gone for 25 games.
Stephen Jackson, sixth man extraordinaire, gone for 30 games.
The Certifiably Insane Ron Artest, gone for the year.

Couldn't happen to a nicer bunch of guys.

Friday, November 19, 2004

Get Off My Money!

There's a movement afoot to place Ronald Reagan on our currency. I think this is a marvelous idea. However, what has me perturbed is the fact that the talk is over replacing Alexander Hamilton on the $10 bill.

There's a time and place for debating the appropriateness of putting Reagan on our currency, and it's not here or now. The bigger issue is who he (or anyone) would be replacing. Alexander Hamilton was a financial genius without whose help the fledgling United States might easily have collapsed.

There is, however, a man on our currency who accomplished all of the following dubious achievements:
* Shut down the Bank of the United States.
* Broke various and sundry treaties with the Indian tribes.
* Put forth a concept of states' rights that was so reactionary that it emboldened the South to revolt years later.
* Was the first and, thankfully, only President to openly and brazenly defy an order of the Supreme Court.
* Refused to enforce federal law when it suited him.
* As a general, achieved his most notable victory in a war a mere 6 weeks AFTER a peace treaty had been signed, thus ending said war.

Will someone please explain to me why it is that Andrew Jackson remains on our currency?

According to noted hole-digger Alex Miller, archaeologists frequently learn a great deal about civilizations based upon the currency they produce. 10,000 years from now (or whatever), I'm not entirely sure I want Andrew Jackson held up as a model representative of our country. Jackson consistently gets credit for being one of the great early leaders of our country. Why? I've yet to hear this question answered in a satisfactory manner.

Lest you believe this is some pro-Reagan crusade, I'm willing to be bipartisan about this. U.S. Grant was a great general, but more or less a disaster as President. Put Reagan on the $50, and put Franklin Roosevelt on the $20. Sure, his ideas about governmental spending helped get us the dependency system we have today, but he did accomplish a lot of very valuable things and all but the most rock-ribbed conservative would acknowledge him as one of our greatest presidents. If not Roosevelt, then Cleveland, or Wilson, or Truman. Heck, I'm willing to give Thomas Jefferson back to the Democrats for this purpose. Whatever it takes to get some bipartisanship on this issue.


Peter Lynch, a man who has more financial acumen in his pinky finger than most of us have in our entire bodies, had a term called "diworseification". It went something like this: when companies begin to do something that's way outside their core business, they like to call it "diversifying". This is all well and good, except when you haven't the faintest idea what you're doing. Then, you usually screw it up, and make your business worse in the process. Quaker Oats' purchase of Snapple was a great example of "diworseifying".

It would be nearly impossible to think of a better recent example of diworseification than the monstrosity that ESPN has become. The Worldwide Leader has gone from being a sports news and information hub to becoming some sort of multimedia extravaganza. TV movies, reality shows, musical guests galore and an increasing attempt to involve the hardcore sports nut in "SportsNation". Following the example of the folks at Moron Television, hereinafter "MTV", they set up a separate channel (ESPNEWS) just so you could watch the original content they promised without any nonsense. ESPN continues to blur the lines between sports and entertainment in a manner so shameless that Vince McMahon would blush.

Of course, there's the old saw, "well, if you don't like it, just stick to the stuff you enjoy." Too true, except that ESPN continues to marginalize the very things that brought it into prominence in the first place. I can't read anything without getting blitzed by an ad for the "Progressive vs. Purist debate", a "debate" between members of SportsNation, focusing on whether the newfangled way is better than the old-fashioned way. If that sounds vague, well, it's meant to be. This was arguably the dumbest idea I've ever heard from a company that's churning out dumb ideas at a record pace.

But we always had Bill Simmons, right? No matter how crappy the rest of ESPN might get, our old buddy The Sports Guy could always be counted on to save the day with a great article. Except that ESPN, after getting Our Hero back from his run on Jimmy Kimmel's writing crew, seems to be working feverishly to overexpose him. Giving him a home page on Page 2 was a good thing. "The Intern", a feeble copy of The Sports Guy, and a regular feature on said home page, was less good (how they didn't pick my buddy Nick for that job, by the way, is beyond me, but never mind). The Cold Pizza run was a disaster. And now, well, they've had a new brainfart.

Writing witty, entertaining and (sometimes) insightful articles was what made Simmons wildly popular, right? And ESPN wants to make money off his work, right? Let's take a brief quiz for the folks at home. You're ESPN, how do you handle this?

A. Commit Simmons to a daily article, thus guaranteeing a heavy flow of traffic to the site.
B. Commit Simmons to a daily article, but put some of his work in ESPN Insider, thus increasing revenues for that premium product.
C. Commit Simmons to numerous side projects, thus cutting into his writing time, decreasing the quality and quantity of his work, and have him do a cartoon mini-series, ignoring the complete lack of success in that media by anyone but FOX.

If you said C., please send your resume to Bristol, CT. Because, from the same company that gave you "I'd Do Anything" and "Dream Job", comes the Sports Guy cartoon.

The diworseification continues.

Sunday, November 14, 2004

Shameless Pimping

One of the best up-and-coming political blogs on the net merits your attention.

Of course, it's entirely possible that the editorial staff of BSR comprises a huge chunk of my readership. Still, check it out.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

So Long, Wanny.

Don't let the door hit ya where the good Lord split ya.

It's hard to say where the Wannstedt Era will go down in the annals of NFL history, but it's easily the worst period in Dolphin history. At least the George Wilson Era had the upside of leading to the entry of The Greatest Coach in NFL History. As a coach, Wanny was mediocre at best. You can get by with that. But as a talent evaluator (only this year did someone else have the final call over personnel), he was woefully inept. Such brilliant decisions as drafting Jamar Fletcher over Drew Brees and drafting Eddie Moore over Anquan Boldin, in both cases overriding every front office guy on the team, will be remembered. Wannstedt's terrible eye for personnel wasted the best years of the core players that Jimmy Johnson brought in, like Zach Thomas, Jason Taylor and Sam Madison. The offense was neglected, the defense got older. Unless the team catches lightning in a bottle this offseason, the defensive stars will be too old by the time the offense is any good.

Anyway, it sounds like Steve Spurrier is out, but that rumor has the lifespan of Rasputin, and I won't completely buy its demise until the Phins hire someone else. If we're lucky, it will be Nick Saban.

Good luck at U of Pittsburgh, Wannstedt. Please don't ever come back to the pros.

Monday, November 08, 2004

Why do the Democrats Keep Losing?

If the Democrats want to know why they keep losing elections, look no further than this article:

No, Jane Smiley's article doesn't offer any particularly instructive advice. However, it's the tone that gives her away. When you hear the word "ignorant", you can be relatively sure you're hearing a big-city liberal talk about a small-town voter. THIS is why the Democrats keep losing: because small-town voters are tired of big-city liberals looking down their collective noses at them.

Make no mistake, the American people were ready to send George Bush back to Crawford, TX. If the Democrats had adopted even a hint of populism; if they had made any attempt at all to reach out to Middle America (literally AND figuratively: Kerry was strong in the northeast and the west coast, and got killed almost everywhere else), they likely would have won. Maybe that meant a candidate other than John Kerry, but then, George Bush was also born with a silver spoon in his mouth.

For all his flaws (and there are plenty), Bill Clinton was a brilliant politician, and the ideal choice for the Democratic Party. Clinton DID have credibility with Middle America, and for good reason. He probably grew up in the most impoverished background of any American president in history; the son of an abusive dad and a dirt-poor mother who worked his ass off to become an attorney and a scholar. As a human being he's largely a failure, but his ability to make the best of a lousy situation is admirable. Clinton didn't talk down to people in poor, rural states because he was one of them. He didn't surround himself with limosuine liberals who were largely focused on preaching to the choir. Who's going to take Michael Moore's politics seriously other than people that already dislike George Bush? This guy plays so fast and loose with the truth that he makes "Mein Kampf" look like The Farmer's Almanac.

I'm not sure who the Dems plan to run in 2008. John Edwards is a possibility, in that he's a southerner who has a whole lot more people skills than Kerry or Ernest, Al Gore. However, I think he might be too tarred with the brush of failure. Hillary Clinton? She doesn't exactly address the issue of losing touch with Middle America, and would almost certainly be the most polarizing major party candidate since Goldwater. Barack Obama? Get back to me in 2012, but he's interesting from an electoral POV: if he could generate enough turnout among blacks, that might be enough to pick off some southern states. Evan Bayh comes up a lot because he's a popular Democrat from a GOP bastion.

Any of those four candidates, however, need to actually win a few states between Ohio and Nevada.

It's the Steak, not the Sizzle

Is anyone else as pissed off at the handling of the Jim McGreevey debacle as I am?

Somehow, this man is lionized by the national media for coming out of the closet. In reality, the fact that he is gay is completely irrelevant to the actual story: as governor, McGreevey hired an unqualified lover to be New Jersey's Director of Homeland Security (or whatever they call that department). Whether the lover is male or female is not important; what's important is that Gov. McGreevey placed people's lives in jeopardy in a state at high risk for a terrorist attack. They are, in effect, telling us all about the sizzle, and nothing at all about the steak.

Had Condoleeza Rice been President Bush's unqualified lover, I suspect we'd be hearing about the steak, not the sizzle.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

The Most Important Election of WHOSE Lifetime?

My parents? Not likely.

Mine? I think not.

My cat, Phoebe? Okay, sure. But then, she's only four years old.

I'm gutsick of this "most important election of our lifetime" nonsense. To my conservative friends, take note: if John Kerry wins, terrorists will not come flooding over the borders, raping and pillaging as they go. To my liberal friends, take note: if George Bush wins, we will not install a fascist autocracy, murdering millions on the basis of race and national origin. If you listened to the rhetoric being thrown back and forth, you'd swear this was a choice between Abraham Lincoln and Joseph Stalin, with Bush and Kerry alternating roles, depending on the speaker.

What we have is a choice between (for Republicans) a marginally acceptable Republican, and an unacceptable Democrat. For Democrats, vice versa.

I don't care much for John Kerry. And yes, I think that, on balance, George Bush is doing a competent job. However, I also don't think chaos and mayhem will reign in a Kerry Administration. I don't actually believe that Kerry will insist on consulting Chirac and Schroeder every time we're considering our military budget, or buildup, or dress code.

So how can this be the "most important election of our lifetimes"? Four years of more of the same, versus four years of...what? Is John Kerry seriously going to allow terrorism to go unchecked? Pull out of Iraq in the gloom of night, leaving thousands of soldiers to fend for themselves?

Sorry friends, the most important election of my lifetime has already taken place. Any true conservative marks Election Day 1980 as the great sea change of modern American history. Without the rise to power of Ronald Reagan, I shudder to think how differently things may have turned out.