Friday, November 27, 2015

You Can Come Down Off the Ledge

It's a good thing last night's Packers game was held on a holiday, as many fans were with family and friends that could talk them out of committing some rash act because the team lost their fourth game out of the last five.  Face it, Green Bay fans, your team is just as mediocre as the rest of the league.

There used to be a joke that former Commissioner "Parity" Pete Rozelle hoped that one year every team in the NFL would finish 8-8.  The way things are going this season, it's possible we could have two 16-0 teams--and a bunch of 7-9 or 6-10- teams--with a couple of those actually winning divisions and making the playoffs.

The NFL is a mess.  There are only four or five guys that are any good at the quarterback position--and a couple of those are getting hurt all the time.  Few teams make any effort to run the football anymore--choosing instead to place a greater burden on their under-talented, over-hyped quarterbacks to complete passes to move the ball at all.  Off-the-field issues continue to crop up--with admitted alcoholics posting videos of themselves partying, guys who beat up women and threaten them with guns getting big, new contracts and being described as "a great team leader" and a player already on suspension getting shot in the head.

And don't even get me started on the officiating.  When the TV networks have to employ "rules experts" to explain calls--or to offer an opinion on a call that invariably is not the ruling ultimately made by the officials on the field despite the aid of replay--you know you've got a problem.

But, ratings are up again this year--and sponsors keep beating a path to the door waving cash--so what is there for Commissioner "Rollin' in the Dough" Roger Goodell to worry about?  And that is why you Packers fans shouldn't worry either.  Just because your receivers can't get open--and then don't catch the ball when they do--doesn't mean you are any worse than the collection of sad sack teams in the league.  Do you really think Teddy Bridgewater is going to lead the Vikings to a division title?  And besides, as I predicted at the start of the season, you weren't going to beat the Arizona Cardinals in the NFC Playoffs anyway.  So just r-e-l-a-x and "enjoy" the decidedly average football that will be played out the rest of the season. 

Besides, everybody's just playing for the Fan Duel and Draft Kings points.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Saluting Green Bay's Greatest....And That Other Guy

Tomorrow night, Packers fans will welcome back their greatest player ever.  And then they will retire Brett Favre's number.  I'm of course, talking about Bart Starr's planned participation in the Favre number retirement ceremony--which had been in doubt, as Starr has struggled to recover from multiple strokes, a heart attack and a lung infection that all nearly killed him.  And it is that uncertainty that I hope fuels Packers fans to give Starr the one final salute that he certainly deserves.

The contrast between the two quarterbacks that will be on the field Thursday night could not be any greater.  Starr went 5-1 in NFL Championship Games and a perfect 2-0 in Super Bowls.  Favre went 2-3 in NFC Championship Games (including one loss with Minnesota) and 1-1 in the Super Bowl. 
For decades, Starr held the NFL record for most consecutive passes without an interception.  Favre still holds the NFL record for most interceptions thrown in a career. 

Starr worked hard to earn the respect of the legendary Vince Lombardi.  I believe Favre truly respected Mike Holmgren--but did nothing to hide his disdain for Ray Rhodes and treated Mike Sherman like a puppet. 

In all of the time I lived in Green Bay, I never heard anyone tell a story about how they hung out with Bart Starr in a bar all night.  During that same time in Green Bay, I could have told you the bar and the nights when you could find Brett Favre hanging out. 

Bart Starr never sent a picture of his "junk" to another team employee. 

In one of the coldest games ever played, Starr led the Packers down the field in the final minutes of the Ice Bowl with precision passing before taking the ball into the end zone himself for the game-winning touchdown.  In the equally frigid 2007 NFC Championship game, Favre threw the interception that set up the New York Football Giants game-winning field goal in overtime.

And when he realized that he no longer had the skills necessary to compete in the NFL, Starr quietly announced his retirement--capping a career spent exclusively in Green Bay.  Favre kept the organization hanging for a couple of off-seasons before holding a tear-filled press conference to say he was done--only to follow that a couple of weeks later with an announcement that he was un-retiring (even though the organization had taken steps to move on) and then demanding a trade.  Which was followed by another retirement announcement and then another un-retirement announcement and open courting of division-rival Minnesota so he could "stick it" to the Packers twice a year.

Now don't get me wrong, I certainly believe Brett Favre deserves to have his number retired and to be part of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.  I just hope the longest and the loudest ovation tomorrow night comes for the man who wore the already-retired number 15 as he comes onto the Frozen Tundra for what will likely be the final time in his life.  Just to remind the Ol' Gunslinger who is still the Sheriff around these parts.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

The New Republicans

Political analysts on the Left often wonder how some of the poorest areas of the country vote Republican in nearly every election.  The prevailing thought is that there is racism at play--or that those folks are voting with their Bibles.  Liberals like to say those people are "voting against their own self-interests" by supporting candidates that openly call for trimming public entitlement programs.

An article in the New York Times looked into this phenomenon and discovered that the political analysts are getting it all wrong.  There are actually two factors deciding those elections.  One--those who are on the dole tend not to vote at all--thus not taking the one action they have that would "preserve" their benefits.  And two--those who have just worked their way out of the "Social Safety Net" are the ones who support its trimming the most.

The Republican voters quoted in the story were people who had fallen upon hard times--due in large part to the economic downtown at the end of the last decade.  They entered into the programs like Unemployment, Food Stamps, WIC, free job training, free child care, etc.  And while they were trying to work their way out of "the system", they became familiar with those who are making no effort to get out of "the system".  Those who are turning the "Social Safety Net" into a "Social Safety Hammock".  And those trying hard to make it on their own don't take too kindly to those sponging off of them.

It is those voters who don't buy the favorite phrase of the Left: "through no fault of their own" to describe those who have, in fact, made a number of choices that first put them into social programs and who continue to make choices that keep them there.  Like the Republicans they now vote for, those working their way back up don't want to eliminate public entitlements--but they want to spend only what is necessary to provide help to those that truly need it.  They don't define "success" as how many people can we give money to--even if they could be earning it themselves.

And as for those who are making no effort to get to the polls.  That says a lot about how much they really "appreciate" our help.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Go Before You Go

It looks like us guys are going to lose the bathroom advantage that evolution gave us.  The days of gender-specific bathrooms may be coming to an end.  An increase in legal challenges by those who identify as transgender are putting both public institutions and private businesses in the incredibly awkward position of having to provide facilities that meet standards that federal agencies have yet to actually detail--while preventing incidents that would rise to cases of indecent exposure to a child.

In listening to our interview with Oshkosh School Superinendent Stan Mack last week, you could hear the frustration in his voice as he and the School Board try to come up with a solution that satisfies the handful of transgender students in the district--while not leading to hundreds--if not thousands--of complaints from parents who don't want their daughters to share facilities with people who have penises.  Mack is of the opinion--due to a ruling in an Illinois lawsuit--that installing a unisex bathroom and retaining existing gender-specific facilities will not be good enough for the Federal Government.  That is apparently seen as "separate but not equal".

That leaves two options: Existing bathrooms that feature all stalls with doors that lock--meaning an end to the "urinal era" in men's bathrooms--or a series of unisex facilities with separate entrances and locking doors.  Either way, it's an expensive solution.

Small private business will likely avoid lawsuits from both sides by removing the men's and women's signs and having locking doors.  Malls, larger employers and places like Lambeau Field and Miller Park will dump the urinal and go to all stalls.  Which means us guys can no longer stroll right past the long line to use the ladies' room--do our business in 30-seconds--and stroll right back out without missing any of the action.  They might want to relocate the concession stands adjacent to the bathrooms from now on--you're going to be there awhile.

Now, will this assuage the concerns of parents sending children into public bathrooms?  We already have news stories of peeping toms (and worse) hiding in gender specific restrooms.  How would you feel about having all gender designations removed--and everyone having a "right" to be in there?  And we are just talking about bathrooms right now.  What do you do when a transgender student wants to play sports on the team he or she "identifies" with?  Will locker room facilities have to be individualized or partitioned?  And how do health clubs plan to deal with such situations?

My suggestion is very low-cost.  Let's all just go before we go out--you know, empty the tank--and conversely, hold it until we get home again.

Friday, November 20, 2015

The End of a Very Boring Era

On Sunday, Jeff Gordon will participate in his final NASCAR race before heading into retirement.  Some are calling it the "end of an era".  Well if that is true, it will be the end of a very boring era.

Gordon was the first great "tactical" racer in NASCAR.  Unlike his legendary predecessors--Dale Earnhardt, Richard Petty and Cale Yarborough--Jeff Gordon did not bring a "checkers or wreckers" mentality to the track.  If he had a great car, he made sure not to use it up, stayed out of trouble and brought home a win or a top five finish.  If he didn't have a great car that day, Gordon was content to hang back and pick up as many points as possible toward the Winston/Nextel/Sprint Cup title.  Announcers came to call the strategy "big picture racing".

But I would challenge the biggest Jeff Gordon fan to list the most exciting victory in his career.  I mean a race that had you talking the next day about spectacular passes or door-banging action.  As a fan of the late Dale Earnhardt, I could spend an hour recapping such races--like the Pass On the Grass in Charlotte, the Spin To Win at Bristol or going from 18th to 1st in two laps to capture his last career win at Talledega.  A "great" Jeff Gordon victory involves discussion of the time he stayed out when all the other leaders pitted to get gas and he had just enough fuel to make it to the finish--or that time he was fifth heading into the final pit stop and the "Rainbow Warriors" got him out in first and he held on to win--or the really thrilling time he got a great set of sticker tires and a wedge adjustment and was able to run the low groove to pull away late.

I'll admit Gordon was a trendsetter.  He begat his even more boring Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jimmy Johnson--who has taken "staying out of trouble and taking care of your equipment" to six Cup titles--most of them in years that he did not win the most races on the circuit.  Gordon is also responsible for the "nervous driver wife" cutaway that has become a staple of NASCAR broadcasts.  His former wife Brooke was a model and made for good TV as she watched with crossed fingers in the pits.  I did warm a bit to Gordon after she took him to the cleaners in their subsequent divorce.

Dale Earnhardt gave Jeff Gordon his nickname of "Wonderboy" and once toasted him at the NASCAR awards banquet with a glass of milk to poke fun at the success he enjoyed at an early age.  But Dale, Sr also gave Wonderboy grudging respect for what he was able to accomplish--even if it was more technical and tactical than bold and fearless.  And that is what most NASCAR fans will give Gordon on Sunday--even if he were to win at Homestead and capture an unexpected 5th Cup title--grudging respect.  Just don't expect a lot of tears.

Oh, and hopefully Gordon fans can put away those ridiculous-looking rainbow pit crew jackets too.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

What's the Holdup?

Back in the halcyon days of summer--when he was drawing huge crowds of young people and celebrities were tweeting their support for him every day--Bernie Sanders promised a "major speech" on how he envisioned Democratic Socialism to work in the United States.  That speech was promised in a "couple of weeks" back in July--along with Sanders introducing a single-payer medical system bill he likes to call "Medicare For All".  But here we are in mid-November and there has been no "major speech" and no "Medicare For All" bill.

The folks at noticed the same thing this week and asked the Sanders campaign staff about that.  The staffers claim the speech is "almost ready to go"--but Bernie is still working on it.  In last Saturday's debate, Sanders could provide no specifics as to his tax plan--joking top end rates would be less than those under "Socialist President Eisenhower".  Politico believes that Sanders is getting cold feet about laying bare all that he believes in.  But I think the delay is due to a much simpler--and less emotional--reason: They can't get the numbers to add up.

Remember a couple of months ago when the Wall Street Journal ran an article claiming that Sanders' campaign proposals would cost $18-TRILLION?  All of his supporters immediately dismissed the figures as "scare tactics".  But what if in putting the pen to paper, those in the campaign realized that the Journal was correct--and may have actually been conservative in their cost estimates?

Keep in mind that Bernie Sanders wants the Federal Government to take on the costs of all medical care for 360-MILLION residents ($3.8-TRILLION annually), the entire cost of college tuition for all students ($62.6-BILLION annually), forgive all of the current student loan debt ($1.2-TRILLION), and provide free child care ($18,000 per child annually).  And that is before increasing the payments for Social Security, unemployment insurance and food stamps and committing to rebuild the nation's infrastructure, building high speed rail and increasing local transit.

The non-specific plan calls for all of that spending to be balanced out by hyper-taxing the rich and corporations and ending subsidies for everything from oil drilling and ethanol production to milk pricing.  But what if the 90% tax bracket and the penny-per-financial trade "fee" on Wall Street aren't going to be enough--or even close to enough?  How then do you sell this Socialist plan to people when you already have an $18-TRILLION budget deficit?  I guess you could always have Bernie Sanders' "major speech" followed by a two-hour lecture from Keynsian Economist Paul Krugman about how government debt doesn't matter--because you can always just print more money (although that devalues the currency and defeats the purpose of a $15 an hour minimum wage by reducing buying power and really just keeping the poor, poor).

So until they suspend the laws of mathematics and economics, we will probably be waiting awhile on Bernie Sanders' "vision" for a Democratic Socialist America.  Of course, I'm sure the Brothers Grimm took awhile to write their fairy tales too.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

The New Know Nothings

Those of us lucky enough to study pre-revisionist US History are familiar with the Know Nothing Party of the mid-1800's.  The party sprung up among Protestants in the East in response to an influx of European immigrants coming to America and concerns that they would "fundamentally change the country".  Kind of sounds familiar doesn't it?  As members of Congress and governors across the US can't get in front of microphones fast enough to denounce plans to settle legal refugees from Syria here.

On the face of it, a desire to keep out potential ISIS operatives hiding amongst the refugees is a valid argument.  But perhaps House Speaker Paul Ryan--who wants a "pause" in the Syrian refugee resettlement program--should consider that the Know Nothings wanted to keep his Irish ancestors out of the country out of fear their Catholicism would lead to greater Papal influence over the US.  Congressman Glenn Grotheman--who wonders why people seeking peace and freedom "would even want to come here"--should recall that his German ancestors who came over in the 19th Century contained more than a few Marxists.  So many, in fact, that the Mecca of German-American culture, Milwaukee, elected Socialists to City Hall for nearly 70-years.  New Jersey Governor Chris Christie's Italian ancestors likely came over with mafiosos.  The Jewish ancestors of Senator Dianne Feinstein and former Senator Russ Feingold were feared to be Communists and Bolsheviks.  All "concerns" that gave rise to the Know Nothings and their anti-immigrant platform.

What is being lost in all of the post-Paris-attacks hysteria is that the Syrian refugees--and really all Muslims that come to the US to escape the barbarism of ISIS, ISIL, Boko Haram, Al Qaeda, Hezbollah and the Taliban--could be very valuable allies in the fight against those same enemies.  Those groups recruit on the "the West hates us" mentality.  What would make us look less hateful than actually opening our arms to those who turn their back on radicalism?  And if those refugees eventually return home--or at least stay in contact with families in their homelands--they can tell everyone over there that we Americans aren't that bad.

If anything, Republicans should be embracing Muslim refugees like Democrats have embraced the illegal immigrants coming from Mexico and Central America--as they share some of the same cultural values.  Muslims do not go into debt.  They would be horribly offended by the Kardashians and Miley Cyrus.  And Liberal heads would probably explode when faced with the quandary of Muslim families coming to local school boards to complain about their daughters having to use bathrooms with people that have penises--but say they are actually women.  Which "persecuted" people do you side with on that one?

If we are going to go back to our high school American History days, perhaps a field trip to the Statue of Liberty--that wonderful gift from France--is in order for everyone forming the New Know Nothing Party so we can read Emma Lazarus's poem at the base:

"Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”