Friday, October 9, 2015

The Job Nobody Wants

What if you had a House of Representatives--and nobody wanted to lead it?  That is the scenario shaping up in Congress this week as the assumed front-runners for Speaker of the House drop out of the race--and the most-qualified candidates refuse to get in the running.  If this keep up, Mike Rowe will end up as Speaker as part of his new TV series Somebody's Gotta Do it.

I can see why anyone with serious political aspirations wants to stay as far away from being Speaker as possible.  Just look at the last few holders of the position.  John Boehner has become the scourge of his own party and his portrayed as a wimp.  Nancy Pelosi coined the phrase "We need to pass the bill to find out what's in it" and is generally considered to be a fruitcake.  Dennis Hastert has been indicted on Federal fraud charges not to mention he has been accused of molesting boys and paying them to stay quiet.  And Newt Gingrich is still one of the most reviled people in American politics.  Who wants to join that "Pantheon of Greatness"?

What really concerns me is the full-court press being put on by some in the Republican Party to "draft" Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan to be the next speaker--despite his repeated and emphatic statements that he has no interest in the position.  Ryan says he can do more good for the country heading up the Ways and Means Committee and controlling the Congressional purse strings.  But the main reason is more likely that Ryan knows that he is far too young to head to the political graveyard already.

Nonetheless, Ryan and those who think they are doing him a favor by demanding that he run will be in the A-segments of all of the Sunday talk shows--right after the hosts tell us about the "crisis in Congress" and the "civil war tearing the GOP apart".  I'm putting the over/under on the number of times being Speaker is compared to "herding cats" at 2.5.

And that is the real problem here.  Right now, you cannot get Republicans to agree on anything.  And it is why--despite all of her problems with trustworthiness, honesty and likeability--Hillary Clinton continues to lead all of the Republican Presidential candidates in head-to-head polling.  Maybe the Republicans in the house could put a scare into those who can't get on the same page by backing a bi-partisan return to Nancy Pelosi as Speaker (there is no law saying a member of the majority has to be Speaker) and remind everyone of what the stakes are in the 2016 elections.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Just Chillax, People

Sometimes I'm a bit embarrassed by what we have to report as "news".  One example the past few days has been the near panicked response of people here in the Fox Valley to routine flights of military aircraft over our cities.

Last Sunday's flyover of four F-16 fighters in Appleton was a pretty cool tribute to a World War II veteran who flew hundreds of missions in the Pacific Theater.  But instead of everyone asking "Wow, who was that guy and what kind of experiences did he have in the war?"  The only question everybody had was "WHY WASN'T I TOLD THIS WAS GOING TO HAPPEN?!?!?!"  To be frank, you weren't told because it's really none of you business.

And then you get Outagamie County Exectutive Tom Nelson jumping in saying that he and all law enforcement must be informed of any such flyovers in the future.  Why?  So they can send out press releases on their official letterhead "warning" people about something that poses no threat to public safety and will not inconvenience them in any way?  For me, the heads up would only be needed to let me know what time to be outside to watch that fantastic tribute.

And then--as luck would have it--the Air National Guard was back a few days later for a training exercise over the Fox Valley--and the phone lines lit up again.  "WHY ARE THERE FIGHTER JETS IN THE SKY?  ARE WE BEING ATTACKED?!?!?!?!"  And again, public safety officials and we in the media have to explain something that is routine.  Air National Guard pilots need to train in their aircraft the techniques that they will use in a real-world threat situation.  And they have been granted permission to use the skies above our cities to do that.  I can still remember the Oshkosh Common Council meeting where the Guard was given permission to use the city as "target practice" for simulated bombing runs.  If you may need to bomb a city somewhere else some day--you need to practice on the cities closer to home.

Let me assure you that if something is happening that would require our military fighters and bombers to be used in a live-fire defensive--or heaven forbid, offensive--situation, we here on the radio and the TV stations will almost certainly have information on what's going on.  So you can turn us on before going to the phone to call 911 because there are planes in the air.  If all you hear is routine talk radio or Big Bang Theory reruns, you can probably rest assured that missles will not be raining down upon your city anytime soon.  And you can save your calls for real emergencies--like they got your order wrong in the drive-thru at McDonalds.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Exquisite Torture

Some call it the "Last Great Story In Sports"--the Chicago Cubs ending more than 100-years of futility and finally winning a World Series.  There is great optimism among Cubs fans that this could be the year that the team finally ends all of the curses and gives them their long awaited title.  But all of that optimism is hedged by the knowledge that the more likely result will be yet another post-season collapse and an extension of the agony.

The Cubs have had their chances before.  In 1945 they denied entrance to Billy Sianis and his billy goat to enter Wrigley Field for a Series game--and he put the "Curse of the Billy Goat" upon them.  In 1969 the Cubs had a big lead in the standings in mid-August--but a black cat ran in front of their dugout at Shea Stadium and the team collapsed down the stretch--allowing the Miracle Mets to win it all.  In 1984 they won the first two games of the National League Championship Series at Wrigley and appeared to be on their way to the World Series when Leon Durham allowed a ground ball to go through his legs in Game 5 and San Diego went on to get pounded by Detroit instead.  In 1989, my favorite player--Will Clark--single-handedly destroyed the Cubs in the NLCS--hitting a grand slam off Greg Maddux in Game 1 and driving in the series winning runs against Mitch "Wild Thing" Williams in Game 4.

And then, of course, there is the 2003 National League Championship Series--what I would consider the greatest moment in Cubdom history--as Steve Bartman, a Chicago area little league coach, knocked a foul ball away from Moises Alou in left field (and shortstop Alex Gonzalez booted a routine ground ball) allowing the Florida Marlins to pull off a miracle rally to keep the series alive.  The Marlins pulled off another big rally in Game 7 at Wrigley to win the series the next night.

So it is not so much a question of if the Cubs are going to lose in these playoffs--but how will they lose.  And like the millions of others that revel in the agony of Cubs fans, I hope that it is in a new and particularly soul-crushing fashion.

It might be fun to see Jake Arrietta--who was nearly unhittable for most of the season--give up about eight runs in the first inning against Pittsburgh tonight and have to come out with the bases loaded and nobody out--and then have the Pirates cruise to a 14-3 win.

Or would it be better to have Arrietta be unhittable again tonight and to have the Cubs build a 3-0 lead--despite stranding 12 runners--but then tire late and need to be pulled in the 9th--and then to have the bullpen get two outs before a walk, an error and a broken bat infield single loads the bases for a Pirates pinch hitter that had only two homers all season goes deep for the first walk-off grand slam in post-season baseball history!!

Or should the Cubs win tonight in order to face their hated rivals the St Louis Cardinals in the Division Series--and then curb-stomped in three straight games?  (By the way, Cubs-Cardinals, Dodgers-Mets in the NLDS?  Everyone loses with those fan base matchups.)  Or would it be more frustrating to have the Cubs blow leads in all three losses and the Cardinals grind out those wins like they always do (except against the Giants). Or maybe it would be better to give Cubs fans the thrill of beating their bitter rivals this time only to get four hits total in four losses to the Dodgers and Zach Grienke and Clayton Kershaw? 

I'd come up with some kind of World Series losing scenario for the Cubs--but this isn't fairy tale.  Anyway, if any Cubs fans need a little pick-me-up following the inevitable letdown in the next few days or weeks, I've got 3 San Francisco Giants World Series Championship videos from the past five years you can watch.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

The Worst of the Worst

In "honor" of Matt Williams being fired by the Washington Nationals--and Joe Philbin being let go by the Miami Dolphins--yesterday, The Sporting News posted a list of the worst managers in the history of each Major League Baseball Franchise.  I thought it would be kind of fun to do that for each of the major sports here in Wisconsin.


Let's just say there are plenty of candidates to choose from here.  The Sporting News selected Phil Garner based on the continuous decline the franchise saw during his tenure.  Most of the Wisconsin media folks discussing this on-line last night voted for Davey Lopes.  There were a few nominations for Ken Macha as well.  But for me the worst Brewers Manager of all time is Rene Lachemann.  Lachemann succeeded Harvey Kuenn in 1984 and I can still remember my mother telling me about his hiring when I got home from school one day and thinking "Isn't he the guy that hasn't won anything in Seattle?"  It turned out he didn't win anything in Milwaukee either, being fired with three games left in his only season and losing 94 games.


Bart Starr the coach was always sabotaged by Bart Starr the General Manager.  The Packers under Forrest Gregg were just a bunch of talentless thugs.  Ray Rhodes was one of the least likeable guys in NFL history and Lindy Infante won less than 38% of his games.  But the worst coach in Green Bay history was also a one-year wonder--Ray "Scooter" McLean.  How anyone could think a guy with the nickname "Scooter" was going to lead a franchise to glory is beyond me--but is was 1958.  McLean went 1-10-1 in his only season--and the Packers weren't even competitive in most of those games.  Of course, that disaster led to the hiring of Vince Lombardi the next season--and he won Coach of the Year with many of the same players.


Now this is a dumpster fire of bad coaches.  Frank Hamblen, Mike Dunleavy, Chris Ford, Terry Porter, Terry Stotts, Larry Krystkowiak, and Jim Boylen are among those who were very, very bad on the Milwaukee bench.  But the worst of all-time--so far--has to be Larry Drew, who went an astoundingly pathetic 15-67 in his one season. 


This is the easiest selection on the list: Don Morton.  Most of us Badgers' fans old enough to remember his usually drop the "T" from his last name to make it more accurate (Moron).  Some claim Morton was ahead of his time--as elements of his "Veer" offense are now used in today's Read-Option schemes.  But at the time in the late 80's all the Badgers did was "Veer" into the ditch.  Fortunately, Morton's debacle led to the hiring of Barry Alvarez and like they say--the rest is history.


This is another easy selection: Steve Yoder.  The Badgers never finished higher than tied for sixth in the Big Ten under Yoder and never made the NCAA Tournament--even though it had expanded to 64-teams by that time.  The real frustration was that most of his teams didn't even have real Division I talent most years.  Remind me to tell you about how I helped get Yoder fired--setting the Badgers Basketball program on its way to the heights it enjoyed under Dick Bennett and Bo Ryan.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Think Pink....OR ELSE!!

You may have noticed during the NFL games on Sunday that the league is in its annual "Pink Out" for breast cancer awareness.  Players are wearing pink gloves, pink sweatbands, pink towels and even pink shoes.  There are pink ribbons stamped on the balls and painted on the fields.  National anthems are being sung by breast cancer survivors and banners along the field tell you how you can donate to help the cause.  It is an impressive league-wide effort to benefit a worthy cause.

But what if you are a player who lost someone special to you to prostate cancer?  Or you have a parent or grandparent dealing with Alzheimers Disease?  Or you have a child that has been diagnosed with autism?  How do you show your support on the huge stage provided by the NFL?  You don't--that's how.  While the Green and Gold of the Packers can be "highlighted" by pink this month--any other week anything outside of the standard issue uniform is strictly prohibited.  This is a league that has fined players for writing a friend's initials or uniform number on their ankle tape or gloves.  It's also a league that once barred Peyton Manning from wearing high-top black shoes on the field as a tribute following the death of the greatest quarterback of all time--Johnny Unitas--because they did not fit the approved uniform policy.

The tie to breast cancer awareness benefits the NFL more than any of those other causes.  The growth of male fans for professional football is very limited--so a big push to promote prostate cancer awareness wouldn't drive any extra interest in the game.  (And let's be honest, the last thing guys want to be reminded of when they are watching sports is a prostate exam.)  But there are still a lot of women who don't follow the sport.  If putting some pink on the players and making it look like you are a big backer of women's issues gets a few more eyes on the game--that makes good business sense.  Plus, every team has a full selection of pink apparel stocked in their pro shop and on-line for you to order while you watch!

I would just like to see the NFL use its enormous marketing power to benefit a wider range of causes.  How about all of the teams wear their throwback jerseys for a month to raise money and promote awareness of all of the NFL Alumni who are physically or mentally crippled due to the "entertainment" they provided the fans for all of those years.  Or perhaps all of the players arrested and convicted on domestic violence, child abuse, sexual assault and weapons charges could don orange jumpsuits with prisoner numbers for a game to promote anti-crime and anti-violence programs.  It wouldn't be as cute as pink shoes--but it would sure make a heck of a statement.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Will This Be the One?

The question many were asking following yesterday's incident in Oregon was "Will this finally be the mass shooting that leads to meaningful gun control legislation?"  It's actually the same question that was asked after the previous mass shooting and the mass shooting before that and the mass shooting before that.  And as always, the answer is: It depends.  It depends on what we learn about the shooter in the Oregon incident and how he acquired the weapons that were used--and how the same old gun control proposals that get rolled out after these incidents would have actually prevented what happened.

Will this finally be the shooting where the gunman would have failed a mandatory background check?  We don't know much about the Oregon shooter yet--but no one is reporting that he was a convicted felon.  There is no information that he was convicted of any previous gun crimes--or domestic violence incidents--or that he was ever committed to a mental institution.  There is no information to lead us to believe that a background check would have prevented him from securing the weapons that he had.

Will this finally be the shooting where the gunman bought all of his weapons at a gun show--where no background check was conducted?  No one has come forward to say that they recall the Oregon suspect going from table to table at a firearms show purchasing all the weapons he could afford--and asking the sellers if they were going to do a check on him.  And remember, even if they had been doing checks at the show, he likely would have passed.

Will this finally be the shooting where the gunman bought all of his weapons from a private seller?  Again, no one is coming out to say that they sold the guns involved on Craigslist or some other personal ad without conducting a background check on the shooter--which again, he likely would have passed.

Will this finally be the shooting where the gunman bought the weapons on the way to the site itself because there was no waiting period?  No gun shop owner has said he saw the Oregon suspect making his purchase a half-hour before the shots started on campus--or the day before or even three days before.  Odds are, this suspect had every one of the weapons involved for some time and had been practicing using them for some time as well so that he would know how they worked and how he should aim and reload them.

Will this finally be the mass shooting that leads to gun control legislation?  Maybe it will.  But it's not going to stop what happened yesterday--no matter how much better it might make us all feel to finally "do something".

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Pawn Sacrifice

The next time members of the Oshkosh Common Council want to go on a diatribe about big box retailers and other corporations (and then spend 15-minutes at their next meeting backtracking from those comments by saying that phrases like "they are like boa constrictors" and "I would never do business with Time Warner Cable" were "taken out of context") they could add that those evil businesses have treated the poor people of Oshkosh as pawns in a chess game over market share.

I've had several people ask me why Sam's Club would make an announcement that they planned to build a warehouse store in Oshkosh--but then never even submit a site plan to the city before abandoning the project.  Sports Authority went so far as to accept on-line job application before deciding to back out of their agreement to rent space on Koeller Street.  Residents are now left to wonder "Why wasn't Oshkosh good enough" for these retailers?

When it comes to Sam's Club, I doubt there were ever any plans to build a store in Oshkosh.  The announcement from WalMart came right around the time Costco started snooping around Grand Chute for one of their stores.  Sam's Club knows how many of its members come from Oshkosh--and they can probably figure out how many of those they would lose to the much-better shopping experience at Costco--and how many people in Oshkosh would never buy a Sam's Club membership (like me) but would be more than happy to shop at Costco if it was close enough (again, like me).  So they decided to bluff--with the Oshkosh market being the chips they pushed into the pot.  Fortunately for consumers, Costco called Sam's bluff and WalMart folded.  They may have cut their losses some by suckering some of those Oshkosh area members to renew their memberships for another year on the hope that they would have a much shorter trip to a local store.

As for Sports Authority, it was likely all a matter of timing.  Somewhere there is a market study that found Oshkosh was underserved when it came to sporting goods stores.  That study likely ended up in the hands of executives at both Dick's and Sports Authority and both sets of executives decided to meet that demand by bringing one of their stores to Oshkosh.  But that same study likely found Oshkosh was only going to be able to support one such big box sporting goods store--not two.  It just so happened that Dick's ended up with the better location (right on an Interstate 41 interchange--and next to two of the most popular stores in town)--and they were in the ground with a brand-spanking-new building as well.  Sports Authority was going to end up in a re-purposed building that would require shoppers to backtrack some from the interchange--making it a less desirable location.  Facing the likelihood of being the second choice of shoppers, they decided to drop Oshkosh.

So my tip to Oshkosh consumers is that you probably shouldn't start working on your shopping lists until the doors actually open.