Friday, April 21, 2017

We're Done Here

Anyone who purchased tickets for the US Open at Erin Hills here in Wisconsin thinking that they would get to see Tiger Woods' triumphant return to major golf are in for some major disappointment.  Through social media on Thursday, Tiger announced that he has undergone a fourth "successful" back surgery--and will not play for the rest of this golf season.  Given that Woods has undergone three previous "successful" back surgeries--none of which allowed him to play golf without debilitating pain--you have to wonder what the definition of "successful" really is.  It must mean it didn't leave him paralyzed from the waist down.

The announcement of the surgery came just two days after Tiger appeared at a press event in Missouri for a new public golf course that he is designing.  He hit a couple of balls (poorly) and then told the media that he was "progressing well" and "expected to return to golf soon".  Less than 48-hours later, he's had another surgery and is done for the year.

Or is it time to say that he is done for good?  Each surgery and procedure that Tiger undergoes is more invasive than the one before.  A doctor on Golf Channel last night talked about how surgeons would have had to move around a few internal organs to reach the part of the spine that was operated on this time.  What's more, it involved some spinal fusion--which all but guarantees some loss of motion and flexibility in the back.

The talking heads all agreed that if Woods is not able to come back at a physical level where he can win--not just make cuts and get a few top ten finishes, he wasn't coming back at all.  Tiger had just one stated career goal: to break Jack Nicklaus' record of 18 major victories in a career.  When he reached 14 nine years ago by winning the US Open on a broken leg, it seemed to many to be a foregone conclusion.  But then came the incident with his wife and a series of career-threatening injuries that have all but snuffed out the likelihood of Woods even winning one more major--much less four or five.

And what this also means is that Tiger--and his fans--won't have those final moments of glory that only golf can provide.  There will be no shocking Masters win at the age of 46 like Nicklaus scored in 1986.  There will be no final walks up 18 at Augusta National, no posing on the Swilcan Bridge at Saint Andrews in a final British Open.  There won't even be appearances on the Champions Tour at Steve Stricker's event.  Tiger's career will have come to an end more like a fiery car crash than a slow ride into the sunset.

Of course, Tiger won't be the first athlete to go out that way.  Gayle Sayers, Sandy Koufax and Bobby Orr all saw transcendent careers cut short at relatively young ages by injury--leaving fans to always wonder "What if...."  Those three would also tell you that it was incredibly difficult to reach that decision to quit--something I think Tiger Woods is finding out right now.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Smells Like Teen Spirit

Yesterday, I mocked the concert lineup at the Resch Center in Green Bay that featured '80's Hair Metal acts Def Leppard, Poison and Tesla.  I used the term "MulletFest" to describe not only the music--but the fans that would be in attendance.  Sadly, there were pictures on my Facebook feed posted by friends that may have cut off the mullets they had in the late 1980's of people at the show who refused to give up on the "business in the front, party in the back" look.

Rather than bring back the bad memories of high school, the pictures and videos of the aged rockers trying to relive their glory days actually took me back to September 29th, 1991.  That is the day that Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit" premiered on MTV's 120 Minutes.  For us Generation X'ers, this was our "Beatles on Ed Sullivan" moment.  I remember a bunch of us that always watched 120 in our dorm lounge at UW Madison looking at each other like "Who are these guys, and where can I get this album?"  (Remember, this was before ITunes, digital downloads and videos streaming on YouTube).  Several of us were at the Exclusive Company on State Street the next day to get Nevermind on cassette so we could listen to all of it over and over and over again.

But the best part of that day was that it marked the beginning of the end for lame Hair Metal.  Suddenly, bands full of guys wearing leopard print spandex tights, scarves, silk shirts with the sleeves cut off, eye liner, blush and long, tousled hair became ridiculous.  Stage shows with constant fireworks and a drum kit that levitated above the crowd and that could be played upside down were seen as clownish.  Songs were no longer just about having sex, how good you are at having sex, and what kind of woman you would like to have sex with.  Videos weren't filled with scantily-clad, large-breasted blonde women.

Nirvana slaying the hair bands was really inevitable.  Much like Elvis supplanted the crooners, the Beatles knocked off the manufactured teen idols of the early '60's and the Sex Pistols and the Ramones mercifully brought an end to the Disco Era.  The music had just become so terrible that something great and new just had to bubble up and save the art form.  As for those who had built the hair metal industry, many of them moved over to country music--laying the groundwork for today's Bro Country movement--which has about as much to do with Country music as Hair Metal did with Rock.

So I hope those that fired up the Camaros and El Caminos and headed out to the Resch Center last night enjoyed their step back in time.  I made sure to put on some Chuck Taylors and a flannel shirt while listening to Nirvana, Social Distortion and Pearl Jam to relive the real glory days of our generation.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Chicken City

Round Three of the Great Appleton Chicken Fight is on tap tonight.  The City Council will vote for a third time on allowing people to raise a select number of hens in their backyards.  It's the latest in a trend that is seeing the city look more like "the country"--while the "the country" is made to be more like the city.

Those pushing for urban chicken keeping are the same folks vehemently opposed to large scale agricultural operations.  Better to have coops in every backyard in Appleton than to have one facility isolated from most all other people raising chickens and harvesting eggs.  That type of operation is "cruel" and "environmentally insensitive"--even though it keeps the price of eggs (and most of our processed food products) incredibly low.  And it allows millions more people to eat those foods than the 'sustainable' urban chicken keeper ever could.

These are also the same folks who want "community gardens" in urban neighborhoods so people can grow their own vegetables and fruits--while protesting the well permits for rural farms that grow billions of potatoes, beans and bushels of corn that feed not just Americans--but those living around the world.  They are also the ones that when they move to rural areas, want dairy farms shut down because they "stink".  Or they crusade against large-scale operations that produce more milk and dairy products than the entire "family farm" system could have ever hoped to--again, keeping food prices down and allowing billions more people around the world to eat.

And these are the people that want urban beekeeping to pollinate their flowers and community gardens--but who oppose development of new strains of plants that are drought and disease resistant, that produce higher yields and can grow in areas that were considered untillable in the past.  Not to mention, genetically modified crops can be developed to combat weeds and pests--meaning less use of chemicals that may be killing off their beloved bees.  But they would rather we return to a time when blight and pestilence were constant threats to our food supplies.

 There is a reason why cities had bans on chickens and bees and ducks in your yard.  It wasn't like city council members of the past woke up one day and said "I don't like having farm animals in the city--let's ban them".  But that was so long ago, that we have forgotten why they were banned in the first place--and why we don't have farms in the middle of cities. 

It's not like the State of Wisconsin or the United States as a whole doesn't have plenty of places where you can raise chickens and bees or have ducks as "emotional support animals".  Zoning laws in townships just a few miles away are set up specifically for such a way of living.  Yes, they don't have walking trails, bike paths or public transportation out there--but you can't always get everything you want.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Just Keep Hammering Us

No generation of Americans has had a more detrimental impact on our nation as the Baby Boomers.  They are the reason school districts like Oshkosh have too many school buildings--with so many being built to handle their burgeoning numbers in the 50's and '60's.  They started American families on the path to so much student debt today by first enrolling in large numbers in the '60's and '70's--fueling the growth of campuses, programs and faculty across the country--and then failing to save for their own children's higher education--causing a boom in student loan borrowing in the '90's and 2000's.

The Boomers opened the door to America's drug problem--doing any and all drugs they could get their hands on in the '60's and '70's--then demanding that the Government do something about drugs when gangs got involved in the trade and turned violent in the '90's, with junkies committing crimes to get their next fix--creating the "mass incarceration crisis".  And then they contributed to the latest heroin epidemic by demanding that they never be in pain--so doctors freely prescribed highly-addictive painkillers to everyone.

And speaking of medicine, Baby Boomers are the main driving force behind the skyrocketing cost of health care with their demands to have every malady and discomfort treated with the latest medicine--from chronic dry eye to low testosterone to toenail fungus.  And don't forget the "elective surgeries", multiple diagnostic tests "just to make sure" and rehab programs that added to the cost as well.

Now the Baby Boomers--who enjoyed the most robust American economy ever for their entire lives--want the younger generations to take care of all their needs in retirement as well.  AARP is out promoting what they call the "Senior Dividend".  "If you would just pay more for programs that provide seniors aid in staying in their homes instead of going to nursing facilities now, you will save money in the long run".  If this were true--and I believe that long-term care costs for Baby Boomers will crush the Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security systems before those of us in Generation X can even consider retirement--it would be the first time that Baby Boomers have saved America any money.

What is ironic is that the Boomers were more than happy to put their parents--The Greatest Generation--into nursing homes.  There was an explosion of such facilities in the 90's and early 2000's--because Boomers were too busy with yoga and vacations and taking the boat out on the lake to take care of their parents in their own homes.  But now that it is their time to struggle to live alone--suddenly it's "society's responsibility" to pick up the tab. 

So AARP can try to sell us all the "Silver Dividends" they want--it won't come close to covering the "Baby Boomer Bills" that have been paid by other generations for seventy years.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Tardy to the Party

My biggest pet peeve is being late.  I hate when something happens that makes me late for something.  I hate when other people show up late for appointments or events.  And I really detest people who don't care that they are late--as to me, it is the ultimate show of disrespect.  Obviously, they think your time has no value.  So that is why the recent crackdown on tardiness at Oshkosh West High School catches my attention.

Kids are finding themselves locked out of rooms if they try to come in after the bell.  And those who are habitually tardy are being issued citations.  Those of us out here in the "real world" who have to deal with the future graduates of West--and all schools--are likely nodding our heads in agreement with the crackdown and thinking "They need to learn a valuable life lesson.  Show up late for work every day and you get fired".

But the problem with tardiness is more an indication of the general decline in what most of us would consider to be "professionalism" in schools.  I haven't been inside West High during the school day for awhile, but I was in Neenah High School just last week--and for anyone beyond their 20-year class reunion, you probably wouldn't recognize what is going on.

In one classroom, you had no desks.  The kids were sitting in a circle with the teacher leading the discussion while sitting amongst the students.  In the neighboring classroom, the kids were sitting at tables arranged in a square around the room--with the only light coming from a table lamp on the teacher's desk in the corner.  A study area looked like a coffee bar with high top tables and chairs.  In the library, there were beanbag chairs and (I'm hoping) faux leather armchairs.  Just off the library was the "Lit Lounge" with (again) mood lighting, kids drinking coffee or soda and everyone with earbuds in listening to music.

The teachers that accompanied the students to the presentation with the Governor looked like they had just come from Saturday morning grocery shopping.  One had on a college hoodie sweatshirt and jeans.  Another had a thin t-shirt emblazoned with "DUDE, be nice to people" in big red letters.  Some of the kids were wearing flip-flops.  And this was to meet the Governor.

If this is the atmosphere that we provide for our kids in schools now, how can we be surprised that they show up late-- a lot of the time.  Yes, some kids "don't learn well in a highly structured environment"--but does that mean you throw out all structure for all kids?  And how does this "casual cool" atmosphere prepare kids for the "buttoned up, on-time" professional world they will be entering a few years from now? 

Maybe us "old farts" should just get ready to pull up a beanbag chair and enjoy the dim lighting when we meet our young, new investment advisor--or doctor.  When he or she decides to show up 15-minutes late.

Friday, April 14, 2017

The Next Lambeau Experience

If increasing ticket prices every year, raising parking rates, inflated concession prices, a share of the largest TV rights package on the planet, licensing of the name and logo, renting property to brewpubs, upscale hotels and sporting goods stores, and operating the most-successful team owned pro shop in the league isn't enough to "keep the Green Bay Packers financially competitive in the NFL" I have a potential new revenue source for them--and it comes from, of all places, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.

For the first time in more than a decade the Edmonton Oilers have made the Stanley Cup Playoffs.  Demand for tickets to the potential four first-round home games was so great that they sold out immediately.  That's when team officials got the brilliant idea to sell "Concourse Passes"--which would get several thousand more fans in the arena. 

Don't confuse a "concourse pass" with a "Standing Room Only" ticket.  With SRO, you actually get into the seating bowl and are allowed to stand behind the last row of seats in some sections, or maybe in an obstructed viewing area.  But with a "concourse pass" all you get to do is wander around the concourse outside the seating bowl--watching the game on tv screens set up every fifty feet or so--and drinking beer from the concession stands.  You are not allowed to stand in the walkways to the seating bowl (that's a safety hazard) where you might actually see the ice.

And amazingly, the Oilers sold several hundred of these "concourse passes" for the unbelievable price of $80 Canadian (about $60 US).  Again, these people could not see the game--except on the TV's.  Of course, When you live on the Canadian Plains in Edmonton, you are probably willing to do anything just to get out of the cold during the winter and early spring.

Now if Oilers fans are willing to shell out good money just to be inside Rogers Arena for a game,  think of how many Packers fans would willingly fork over big bucks "just to be part of the Lambeau Field Gameday Experience"!  You already have people that will line up for an hour every Sunday to be one of the first in the parking lot--paying a jacked up price--just to tailgate....and they don't even have tickets to the game.  They watch the game on a tv by their car and just keep eating and drinking.

The Packers could run cool commercials telling fans they can stand in the same spot where their grandparents stood to get out of the wind at halftime and not freeze to death at the Ice Bowl.  Or you could share the experience your uncle had when he started heading back to the car to beat the traffic and Brett Favre threw his first TD pass to Kitrick Taylor to beat the Bengals at the last second--and he missed it.  Heck, the Packers wouldn't even put the game on any screens in the concourse--you are there just to experience the "Lambeau Mystique".

Considering that Lambeau is twice the size as Rogers Arena, the Pack could easily sell four times as many "concourse passes" as Edmonton.  And $60 for no view of the game sounds like the kind of cash Packers fans would be willing to pay.  Like Terrance Mann told Ray Kinsela in Field of Dreams "They will pass over the money without even thinking about it". 

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Function Over Form

Pop quiz: What does the Congress Avenue bridge in Oshkosh look like?  I don't mean the four lanes of pavement you drive on, I mean the structure underneath.  What does it look like?  How about the Main Street bridge or the Wisconsin Avenue bridge.  What color are they?

Unless you are a boater, you probably wouldn't know, because everyone else only drives on top of the bridges.  You may notice that one has different street light designs or that the width of the sidewalks may be more narrow or wider than the other.  But for the most part, our view of the bridges is four lanes of concrete with a drawbridge deck in the middle.

Now, the Oshkosh Common Council is grappling with what the proposed new Jackson/Oregon Street bridge should look like.  Their first determination is whether or not there should be an entirely new bridge, or just replacement of old parts of the current bridge.  If a new bridge is built, it will then fall upon the City to maintain it for the rest of its life (a cost-savings measure for the state DOT).  But if the old bridge is just rehabbed, the State will continue to foot the bill for its future upkeep.

If the Council goes with the entirely new bridge--taking on all future maintenance costs--the next decision is whether to build another new drawbridge or a "flyover" bridge that would be high enough over the water to no longer necessitate opening the bridge for boat traffic underneath.  While that may sound awesome, it is also more expensive--as the approaches on both ends would also have to be rebuilt and raised as well--making access to some businesses on the north end of the bridge more difficult.

And then, the Council will have to decide how "nice" to make the bridge look.  Mayor Steve Cummings warned that if the DOT is allowed to design the bridge we will get a "Plain Jane, functional bridge"--but any amenities that the Council might want to add--like room for the Riverwalk underneath, decorative lighting and special paint colors and such--would be done at a cost exclusively to Oshkosh taxpayers.

So we, those taxpayers, should also be thinking about what that bridge should "look like".  Me, I don't mind "Plain Jane and functional"--since the main use of the Jackson/Oregon Street bridge is to get my vehicle from one side of the river to the other--not to impress me with "architectural lines" or how it "plays against the water".  And since I would be the one paying for the "amenities" that I would hardly ever see, it's not really worth the cost.  Sort of like the "fish paintings" under the new Butte des Morts Causeway that you can only see from a boat.

And if you think "I'll just leave it up to the Council to decide", keep in mind, several of the current members wanted to paint the new railroad trestle bridge (at city taxpayer cost) because they thought it was "ugly"--even though painting it would have decreased its rust-inhibiting properties and shortened the life of the span.