Tuesday, September 30, 2014

A Couple of Minutes of Zen

During last Saturday's Badgers game at Camp Randall Stadium, there was a play that saw quarterback Tanner McEvoy flushed out of the pocket and forced to scramble.  As McAvoy turned the corner, one of his receivers held a defender drawing a flag.  Then as McAvoy went out of bounds, he was hit by a defender--too late in the judgement of the side judge (a bad call by the way).  Because that same official had already thrown his flag for the holding penalty, he had to throw his hat in the air to signify that he was also calling a late hit out of bounds.

The play made me smile--not because the Badgers were going to get an automatic first down on the dead-ball penalty--but rather because I could imagine what John Madden would have had to say about the play if he was doing the game.  Most younger people know John Madden as the "Guy with the awesome football video game" or as the bumbling idiot that comedian Frank Caliendo portrays him to be in his impersonation.  But back in the day, Madden and his play-by-play man, Pat Summerall were actually entertaining.

Here's how I think that play would have gone if Pat and John were calling the Badger game:

Madden--Uh-oh, the official threw his hat!

Summerall--I think we're going to get a late hit penalty here.

Madden (as a replay of the play airs on the screen)--"Yeah, you see the official calls holding on the wide receiver as the quarterback runs past and throws his flag right here--but then the quarterback gets to the sideline and he's going out right here but then BOOM he gets hit by the linebacker too late and the official has to throw his hat because he already threw his flag and he doesn't have anything else to throw there.  It's a good thing there wasn't another penalty on the play or he probably would have had to throw something else--like his shoe. Ha ha ha."  (All the while furiously marking up the Telestrator with circles and arrows around the flag, the hat and the ref's shoe.)

Summerall--"He would have thrown his shoe?

Madden--"Yeah, cuz he wouldn't have had anything else that wasn't, you know, attached.  So he would have had to throw his shoe.  And you never want a ref to throw his shoe because you know it's going to be a fifteen yard penalty.  A ref will never throw his shoe for a false start or a holding penalty--it's always going to be for, like, a late hit out of bounds or unnecessary roughness or something like that."

Summerall--"Did you ever have an official throw a shoe on you?"

Madden--"No. But I think Lyle Alzado once tackled a guy and took off the guy's shoe and threw it off the field so he couldn't be in on the next play.  But Lyle Alzado was crazy."

Summerall--"On first and ten the give is to Gordon for six."

I miss that kind of "analysis".  It's better than breaking down the "double cross, backside stunt blitz" and the "poor pursuit angle" that today's color guys think they have to use to prove they are "football geniuses".



Monday, September 29, 2014

Single-Mindedness

Remember when the Obama Administration rolled out that ad in 2008 featuring "Julia", the fictional woman who never needed parents or a husband because "The Government" was there at every stage of her life to provide her with her every need?  Apparently, a growing number of women (and men) are saying "Hey, that sounds pretty good to me!  I want to be like Julia too!"  That's because getting married is going the way of removing your hat when you are indoors and eating dinner at a table with the rest of your family as traditions fewer people are following nowadays.  A report over the weekend in the Washington Post cites census data showing the number of people over the age of 25 who have never married has grown from just 10% in 1960 to more than 20% last year.  And that is expected to grow to 25% over the next two decades.

The article quotes several people who have absolutely no interest in marrying. Among them are a couple who have kids together, have lived together for years but just don't want to make the "official" commitment to each other.  That lack of commitment really shouldn't come as a surprise in a culture where the main selling point of new cellphones is that the carrier will pay off the penalty for early termination of your previous wireless contract that you signed less than two years ago.  Marriage is not easy.  It takes hard work sometimes to get through some situations as a couple.  And breaking up that union is costly and complicated--so you tend to make a better effort to fix what is wrong.  But if there are no "legal" ties binding you--quitting when the going gets tough is a whole lot easier.  The only complicating factor might be who needs to move out of the apartment and who gets to keep the dog and the cat.

One thing that the report misses out on, however, is the role that the growth of Big Government and the increasing dependency on its programs have had in reducing the "need" to get married.  No longer are two low-income people better off marrying and combining their assets when all that does is put your eligibility for food stamps, WIC, the Earned Income Tax Credit, and housing subsidies in jeopardy.  The only welfare fraud cases that I can remember reporting on in my 16-years in the business are single mothers who failed to report that they were living with guys who were bringing in income above the eligibility limits.

Having a mother and a dad in the home used to be the only way to raise a child.  But with government subsidized day care, Early Childhood, 4-year old kindergarten, all-day kindergarten, before school programs and after school programs, who needs to have parents around to watch their kids?  And the financial security later in age created by having two long-term, shared incomes is replaced by Social Security, subsidized senior living and Medicare.


If this keeps up--and Big Government grows from the "Nanny State" to the "Spousal State"--same sex couples might be the only Americans getting married in the future.

Friday, September 26, 2014

My Biennial Obsession

If I seem a bit distracted this morning it's because my biennial obsession--the Ryder Cup--is underway already this morning in Scotland.  I live and breathe the Ryder Cup.  It has everything that I love in golf: The United States versus Europe--so you've got that jingoistic angle going...it's match play--the best way to play golf--just you versus your opponent, par doesn't matter...and it has Foursomes--or alternate shot format--which is completely foreign to most Americans, but is a fast, frustrating and fun way to play.

I started looking forward to this edition of the Ryder Cup about two minutes after leaving the 2012 Ryder cup at Medinah outside of Chicago.  You may recall, the US blew a huge 10-4 lead on Saturday afternoon to lose 14 1/2 to 13 1/2.  I looked back on My Two Cents from the Monday after the Meltdown at Medinah and wow, was I an angry man.  I hoped that perennial losers like Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Jim Furyk and Steve Stricker would never make another Ryder Cup team again.

Well here we are two years along and I got half of my wish granted.  Tiger is not on the team due to his back injury--and horrible play most of the year--and Steve Stricker is just an Assistant Captain.  Phil and Furyk are back which causes me some concern.  But like the eternal optimist, I still have a good feeling about this year's American team.  There is a new wave of young players at Gleneagles.  Young players who don't have the scars of getting drubbed by the Euros in six of the last eight matches.  Guys like Jordan Spieth, Rickie Fowler and Patrick Reed--who play aggressive fearless golf and fit perfectly with match play golf.  And what's more, they want to win.  They've got the fire inside--the fire that so many of us US fans have as well--and are so frustrated not to see in the previous generation of players who have let us down so often.
And sure enough, Spieth and Reed are dominating in their Fourball match already this morning--while the Ryder Cup washouts Webb Simpson and Bubba Watson are getting their butts handed to them--again. 

So I will be up at 2:00 am again tomorrow and about 4:00 on Sunday--jacked up without any coffee necessary--to watch the Red, White and Blue try to shut up the chanting and singing of the equally passionate Euro fans.  And if I get disappointed again Sunday afternoon, it's just one-year, 11-months, 27-days, 15-hours, 29-minutes and 30-seconds until the 2016 Ryder Cup at Hazeltine in the Twin Cities.  I'm already looking forward to being there.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

No Real Allies

While President Obama heralds the five Arab countries that are taking part in the air strikes against ISIS (or ISIL as the President insists on calling them) he has to know in the back of his mind that we are going into this fight with no real backup.  The only reason those countries are on-board with the effort is because they are Shia Muslims--and ISIS are Sunni Muslims.  And the two sides see each other as almost as great a threat to their power in the region as they do the United States.  Right now, the use of our military might helps the Shias keep the Sunnis "in their place".

The original plan in Iraq was to leave behind a fledgling democracy with Shias, Sunnis and the Christian Kurds all sharing power under a model of "seperation of church and state" that has made democracy in the US such a success.  But that concept is--and likely always will remain--a foreign idea and an impossible goal in the Arab world.  When the Founding Fathers gathered in Philadelphia, Ben Franklin's cousin's brother's cousin hadn't killed Thomas Jefferson's mother's brother's son sparking a blood feud between the families that could only be satisfied by more killing.  And there weren't any fanatics at Independence Hall demanding that all of the Jews be driven off of the North American continent--or who wanted all of the Lutherans to be kept in a lower social status than the rest of the Protestants.

To get a true understanding of the situation in which we have been dragged (both on the humanitarian and the economic front) check out an article from Politico.com this week by Hisham Melhem entitled "The Barbarians Within Our Gates".  It details in painful reality the absolute collapse of Arab culture and politics into a doomed religious battle that pre-dates "American interference" in the region.  It also shows the fallacy of those who demand that the US have a "clear exit strategy" before comitting any additional forces to the fight against ISIS or Al Qaeda or the suddenly-deadly Khorasan group.  We will likely be there for an extended period of time--veering back and forth between the religious sects depending on who is committing the greater humanitarian atrocities that year--and who might send their suicide bombers to this country first.

History has shown it's a lot easier to bomb political beliefs out of people than it is their religious beliefs.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

The Power of Pot

One of the "selling points" that proponents of legalized, recreational marijuana use like to trumpet is that it "isn't addictive like harder drugs"--usually meaning cocaine or heroin.  Well if it isn't addictive, please explain to me the life choices people are making just so that they can continue to get high.

Cleveland Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon is currently on the sidelines for the first ten games of the season because he violated the NFL Substance Abuse policy for about the fifth time.  The suspension was handed down after Gordon tested positive for marijuana use--again.  It will cost him $800,000 in salary and the stats his agent could use to parlay his next contract into a major payday (Gordon led the league in receiving in 2013).  All of that down the drain just to smoke pot.

At least Gordon still wants to try and balance his career with his desire to get baked.  Heisman Trophy winner and former NFL player Ricky Williams flat out walked away from the sport (and a huge contract) because he too wanted to smoke pot--without fear of drug testing.  He tried to comeback a year later--but by that time, teams and coaches had to wonder about his level of commitment.

Guys I play basketball and golf with work in several fields of industry and they tell me all the time that one of the biggest hurdles they face in filling available positions is that so many people can't pass simple drug tests--usually coming up positive for pot.  And these are applicants who are warned that they will be peeing in a cup--and what day said testing will take place--and they still can't lay off the joints long enough to land a steady job.

And our latest example comes from an Alaska TV station last week, where reporter Charlo Green first outed herself as the owner of a medicinal marijuana business and then quit her job on the air by saying "eff it" and walking off.  Her reason for this incredibly unprofessional and juvenile stunt?  She wants to commit herself to the legalized use of weed.  I'm sure her act of stupidity will rally many pot-heads to her cause--but as for those who aren't under the magical spell the magic herb will see it for what it is--yet another example of the power pot has over its clueless users.


Tuesday, September 23, 2014

The Power of One

We hear a lot today how the "power of the individual" has been eroded in American society--about how "big corporations and special interests" run everything.  But the friends of a drunk driving victim in Sun Prairie are finding out that one person can still wield a great deal of power.  More 29-hundred people have now signed an on-line petition demanding that the DOT allow a memorial to the woman (who was run over while jogging) to remain near the spot where she was killed.  The Department has ordered its removal because one person complained--and their policy is to remove such memorials from the public right of way if just one person complains.  (The irony here is that the policy was adopted to avoid lawsuits from atheists over having those white crosses on public property.  But in this case, the complainer was likely a friend of the drunk driver--who just happened to be a Lutheran Bishop.)

But that being in Dane County, I wonder how many of those signing the petition to save the memorial and who are upset that one person can be responsible for its removal supported the State's policy under Governor Jim Doyle giving the Department of Public Instruction the power to order school districts to drop high school mascots like Indians, Braves, Warriors, Chiefs and Black Hawks if just one person filed a complaint.  And it didn't even have to be one person who actually lives in the school district.  It could have been a person who doesn't even live in Wisconsin--but is making a career out of forcing schools to drop their mascots.

One person--with public policy on their side--can dictate many things to the majority in today's society.  Think of the one child with peanut, or gluten, or fruit allergies that causes schools to adopt "no birthday treats" policies--for fear of "embarrassing" someone who may not be able to eat the treat.  Or the hundreds of thousands of dollars that school districts must spend--by law--to accomodate special needs students whose parents want them "mainstreamed" and not grouped with other students of similar disability at a central location in the district.

Our currency features the Latin phrase "E pluribus unum"--meaning "From many, one".  Perhaps we should consider changing it to fit our modern "nobody can be offended or excluded at any cost" society to "Positus in multis" or "One controls the many".

Monday, September 22, 2014

Cut and Paste Politics

Everyone can stop with the manufactured outrage that Mary Burke's job plan was basically copied from platforms put forth by other Democratic candidates across the country in the past.  Was anyone really expecting new ideas from a politician in this day and age?  And was there anyone who thought that Mary Burke spent a couple of days hammering out a thirty-plus page document on Macro-economics?  Here's what most likely happened:

A group of Burke campaign and Democratic party staffers were probably on a conference call one day when someone said "If we're going to attack Scott Walker on job creation, we should probably have a jobs plan of our own."  To which someone else replied, "Great idea, but all of us have only ever worked in the public sector, so how do you actually create jobs?"  And then someone else said "Like we've always proposed: with lots of new government programs and spending."  And then somebody said "Well, we should probably promise more money for education so that the teachers unions and the college faculty get on board with it."  And then another person said, "And we should propose a bunch of street and bridge projects so the public works unions support it."  And someone else said, "Don't forget renewable energy projects so the environmental groups get all excited."  And then somebody suggested, "And let's talk about providing a bunch of grants for urban renewal so the black leaders think they are getting something too!"

After a few minutes of backslapping and self-congratulating on what a great jobs plan they had just developed, somebody had to ask "Okay, so who's going to write this all up?"  To which one of the Democratic Party folks said, "Don't worry, I know this guy--Eric Schnurer--who has written a bunch of jobs plans for other candidates around the country.  He can just substitute "Wisconsin" for the names of the other state's plans and we'll be good to go."

So Mr Schnurer cuts and pastes the "Mary Burke Invest for Sucess" plan together and emails it back to the Campaign folks--who give in the cursory once over and release it to the press.  Mr. Schnurer even provides a talking points summary page for the candidate to memorize and it's time to go out and give speeches about how "I have developed a plan to create jobs."  It's all as original as "I plan to fix the state's problems by raising taxes on the rich."  When is someone going to be accused of plagiarism for that?