Monday, October 29, 2007

Monday 10-29

Beware Packers fans: the NFL and Commissioner Roger Goodell is looking to take away one of your beloved home games at Lambeau Field. I'm not talking about one of those meaningless pre-season games that you are required to pay regular season prices for--but one of the games that counts in the standings and toward the Brett Favre record book.

This weekend, the NFL played its first regular season game in London--and officials say it was a huge success. The 90-thousand tickets sold out and there was demand for another 200-thousand after that. Several NFL owners--with dollar signs in their eyes--now want these overseas games to be a more regular occurance. Some think every team should take a turn giving up a home game to play an international contest.

The Packers would be a perfect candidate for the next round of games. I've been to Europe and people there have heard of the Packers--most think Vince Lombardi is still the coach--but there is some interest in the franchise. And if Number Four announces its his last season--it would be a huge additional draw. We ended up with Beckham after he was old and washed up--why not give the Euros a past his prime Brett. I'm guessing the French could even find a way to make him a citizen.

The Packers would also be most vulnerable to having the decision thrust upon them. With no money-grubbing owner raising a fuss at league meetings, the Pack would be a bit under-represented. And we know what a company man Bob Harlan is. The green and gold may actually have an unusual ally in Cowboys owner Jerry Jones--who is building a one billion (that's bilion with a "b") stadium outside of Dallas--which will be about half luxury boxes. He has no intentions of giving up a single cent of that revenue--which he does not have to share with other teams.

The ultimate goal of the league is not so much to establish a franchise in Europe or the far east--but rather to have the threat of moving a team there in the future. The league is big on having that "alternate" location available when teams go looking for public funding for new football-only stadiums. Outside of Los Angeles--which would already have a team if it wanted one--and Las Vegas--which the league that posts injury reports to help set point spreads thinks is too tied to gambling--are the only viable sites in the US.

First we exported all of the production work nobody wanted to do for low wage. Now we are exporting the entertainment we have to pay to much to enjoy.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Thursday 10-25

Not to sound like an old man, but can we please move up the start times for these World Series games? I almost made it to the third inning last night before having to go to bed. Now I get up at 3:30 in the morning--so I may not be the best example--but I don't know how Major League Baseball expects anyone living east of the Mississippi to stay up on a weeknight to catch the end of these games.

I realize MLB needs to have all of the games in prime time due to the huge contract they have with Fox but I can't believe that many fewer people would tune in if the games started earlier. Even with an 8:30 eastern start time the start time on the west coast is 5:30--not in prime time anyway.

Why doesn't the "next generation" care about baseball? Probably because they haven't seen the end of a dramatic playoff game because they were ushered off to bed by the fourth inning. There was some talk about having at least one day game during the Series starting next year--but that's not a done deal yet.

Adding to the problem, the drag-out pace of play employed by the Red Sox and the Yankees. I won't get into the specifics of "Sabre-metrics" but both teams are loaded with hitters that take a lot of pitches and foul off a lot of good pitches--while their pitchers nibble on the corners and take the full 30-seconds between every pitch. So not only are you struggling to stay awake because the game is running so late--but you are also struggling to keep focused on the 28th pitch of every inning. During the ALCS I was able to watch two plays of a college football game BETWEEN TWO PITCHES in the Indians-Bosox game!

I want sports to become more fan-focused again, instead of kowtowing to almighty TV dollars. Earlier start times for big games, Big Ten football games on over-the-air or "regular" cable, hockey on a cable station people have actually heard of. It's the least they can do for a fan base that YAWN, ZZZZZzzzzzzzz.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Tuesday 10-23

Some random thoughts today:

Why does anyone want to live in California? Earthquakes, wildfires, hardly anyone speaks English anymore, Nancy Pelosi. What is the draw anymore? Is the possibility of having Britney Spears or Lindsey Lohan crashing into you that exciting.

When a haunted house advertises "evil clowns", isn't that being redundant?

When everyone stops smoking, where will the state get all of the money it plans to spend from the higher cigarette tax? Even if everyone kicks the habit, we aren't going to get any healthier as a society--since baby boomers are getting into that age group where nothing works right unless you are taking some kind of pill.

If Oshkosh North wins a state title at Division Two, will it be dismissed because they didn't have to beat the biggest schools in the state to take it? Will that D-2 designation spur further attendance area changes to make sure the Spartans play in D-1?

I'd be willing to bet that if the Otter Street Fishing Club wanted to build a lighthouse on the end of its fishing pier, everyone would be jumping for joy. For some reason, lighthouses are beautiful and attract tourists--but docks are ugly and only attract vandals and litterers.

Why are we even playing the NFL regular season? Let's just have New England and Indianapolis play for the Lombardi Trophy and save fans of any NFC teams the embarrassment of seeing their team destroyed in the Super Bowl.

Why is the Appleton School District considering renting out houses it will buy to make way for a sports complex at West High School? School districts exist to educate children--not own and rent housing units. Tear them down or don't buy them until you are ready to start building the new football field.

We have a three month delay in reaching a state budget agreement and we still have a structural deficit of a billion dollars? During the delay, somebody should have sharpened their pencils to make sure we aren't borrowing against our future to pay for programs today.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Friday 10-19

The WIAA football playoff pairings come out later today. 224 teams make the post-season--and half of them shouldn't be in. Don't get me wrong, I'm not against kids getting to experience the playoffs, its just that so many teams mean too many games to determine state champions.

Because so many teams make the playoffs, the WIAA has to play first round games on a Tuesday night--just five days after the completion of the regular season--with second round games just four days later. And that is where I have a problem. Three games in ten days puts kids at risk for injuries when it really isn't that necessary.

Sports like basketball, soccer, and softball include every school in the playoffs--but those sports aren't nearly as physically demanding as football. There is a reason we play just one game a week at every level of football--the body needs the time to recover properly.

While they won't say so publicly, many coaches have told me off the record they don't like the Tuesday night first round game for many the same reasons. Not enough turnaround time for the kids and not enough time for them to prepare for two opponents in one week.

While including every team in the basketball playoffs gives also-rans hope to catch lightning in a bottle and make a Cinderella run to Madison, the football playoffs hardly ever play out like that. Often times there are reasons that some teams lose only once a season and others barely break .500. When you look at the state champs crowned since the field expanded to include all five-win teams the most losses suffered by a state champion at any level is two.

I certainly hope the driving force behind the ever expanding playoffs isn't money. An extra home game might mean a few more pieces of new equipment for some teams--but that doesn't justify overworking the kids. I would also hope that coaches don't think limping into the playoffs equals job security. Let's trim things back to the top 16-teams in each division--with seven wins being the automatic qualifier--with just one game a week on the road to Madison. I think it will make for better and safer competition.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Thursday 10-18

US Magistrate Judge William Callahan should be hailed as a hero. This week he may have done more to lower gas prices in Wisconsin than any politician will ever be able to do. Judge Callahan ruled that the state's minimum mark up law is unconstitutional. The judge believes that requiring gas stations to increase the price of gas by 9.18 percent from what they pay the wholesaler is an inaccurate estimate of the cost of doing business.

The ruling creates a very difficult position for Governor Jim Doyle. The past few summers, Doyle has held press conferences standing in front of gas station signs showing prices at three dollars a gallong telling us that the evil big oil companies are gouging us and it is time for the federal government to do something about it. Every time he held one of those dog and pony shows I would ask why the gov didn't repeal the minimum markup law--since that would save us as much as nine percent per gallon. The governor's pat answer: "that wouldn't save that much--and don't forget the oil companies are making record profits!!"

Let me whip out the calculator here Governor. Nine percent of three dollars a gallon is 27-cents...times 18-gallons per fillup...that's $4.86 I just saved at the pump...times two fillups a month--that's about ten bucks...times twelve months a year...that's 120-dollars annually. For the Governor, whose investment portfolio includes sizeable stock holdings in evil big oil companies 120-bucks probably isn't that much--but to me thats a few extra date nights with the wife.

I can't wait to see if Doyle orders the Attorney General to appeal this ruling. The state actually wasn't a party to the federal suit--as two gas station owners were fighting over fair pricing. Will the gov be able to make political hay if prices drop by twenty-some cents a gallon when stations decide they won't live in fear of state prosecution and price gas at what they want to. Will we see old-fashioned price wars--with stations competing to build customer base with prices that might (for a short time) actually be a loss leader.

Another thing to keep an eye on: how soon after the state decides to drop the law the backhoe is out in the Wal-Mart parking lot breaking ground for their new self-service pumps. Yes, Wal-Mart does sell gas--in states where minimum markup laws do not exist. To some gas station owners that might sound like the death toll--we all know how Wal-Mart destroys all local retailers--but I don't think that will happen. I've been filling up at stations with prices five cents a gallon less than the station across the street and seen the same number of people at the more expensive pumps.

So let's plan the parade for US Magistrate Judge William Callahan--the man who may have brought sanity back to gasoline pricing.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Wednesday 10-17

The state Public Service Commission holds a hearing in Oshkosh today on plans to add a new area code to the Fox Valley. The PSC says we will "run out" of phone numbers to use in this area by the end of the decade--and they need to open up more numbers by using the new area code.

It's amazing what a sensative issue this is for people. I lived in the Twin Cities when they had to split into different area codes. You would have thought they were annexing St. Paul into Canada the way some people reacted. And remember the Seinfeld episode where Elaine changed her phone number and ended up with a new area code--so no one wanted to call her anymore?

First of all, we are not "running out" of numbers. Just do the math. With seven digits in every phone number (minus prefixes you can't use like 911 or anything starting with zero or one) you still have more than SEVEN MILLION permutations. That is at least three numbers for each and every person and business in the area.

The real problem is cell phone and internet providers--who have tied up hundreds of thousands of numbers they hope to someday assigne to customers. Force those companies to give up their numbers and we would have several more years worth of numbers.

Anyway, I doubt the PSC would do that so let's look at the alternatives. The first is breaking up the current 920 area code. This is my preferred option. Businesses will complain the most--as their business cards, letterhead and receipts all become obsolete. And I think it should be the eastern half of the current area code that should have to change. Let Brown, Outagamie and Winnebago counties keep their area code--everybody else...tough beans. This is where the majority of people in the area code live and that's the way democracy works.

The other (less attractive) option is the area code overlay. In this scenario, the new area code is used for new numbers within the old area code. While it may sound attractive--everyone keeps their current number--it creates dialing nightmares for the rest of time. Imaging the person living down the street having a different area code than you. Every time you call somewhere--even right here in town--you have to remember if they are 920 or 363? The only person who wins in this option is the woman who records the "you must first dial a one and an area code before making this call" message.

I encourage you to attend tonight's hearing at City Hall and let them know what you prefer in person. Odds are you won't be able to figure out the area code to call the PSC in the future.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Wednesday 10-10

We're going to find out what members of the Oshkosh School Board are made of this month. The board starts debate tonight on its controversial attendance area plan--which will shift kids from the Lakeside elementary area (on the far south end of the district) to Merrill Middle School and North High School--in order to balance enrollments in the future.

We already know that parents of Lakeside students are very upset with the plan. They have printed up buttons with "Merrill" and "North" crossed out by a big red "X" and they will be out in force the next few Wednesdays as the school board considers the plan. I can guarantee there will be tears shed, angry diatribes and some threats made. Some parents may even exploit their kids by propping them up to read statements before the board saying how their lives will be shattered by having to ride the bus two more minutes to attend a northside school.

And that is where we will find out who has "onions" on the school board. In the past, some members have caved to such limited public pressure--acting as though hurting even three people's feelings makes them a bad politician. Or perhaps they think they are being shrewd politicians. "If I don't make these people happy they are going to work against me in the next election and I will lose and I don't want to lose because then how am I going to impose my will on the community?"

The current plan was put together by the board itself during a daylong retreat with a consensus of members supporting it. But will that support remain strong now that the board is out of its protected cocoon and are under the bright lights of a more open meeting format. If they believe this is the best solution for the district, the kids and the taxpayers then they need to stick to their guns. Don't bow to what is really limited pressure and put the plan in place.

Will all of the boardmembers really stick with it. I doubt it. In fact, I'm waiting for the John Kerry moment during the next school board election cycle. You know--"I voted for the attendance area plan before I voted against it."

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Wednesday 10-03

I hope you were listening to Rush Limbaugh yesterday--because he was in world-class form. If you haven't heard, the US Senate drafted a resolution this week condemning Rush for using the term "phony soldiers" to describe some of those criticizing the war in Iraq. The website posted Rush's comments last week--and Democrats have decided to jump on it, making it sound like Rush was denegrating the troops.

Nevermind that Media Matters--which Rush is quick to point out was founded by Hillary Clinton--took the quote out of context. Rush was referring to a Washington man who claimed to have taken part in atrocities while serving in Iraq. The only problem--the guy had never been in Iraq--and is now facing federal charges. But Rush had both guns blazing yesterday--ripping any Democrat (and a few Republicans)--who either supported the resolution or haven't supported the war.

My question is: "Is talk radio the only thing Congress has to worry about right now?" A resolution discrediting a talk-show host is the biggest issue the Senate needed to take up on Monday? And it is not just the Rush Resolution. Congress is also holding hearings on a bill dubbed the "Fairness Doctrine"--which would require talk radio to present "equal time" for all political views.

Democrats seem to think there is too much conservative talk on the radio--and that there supporters should be getting more air time. Well there is a reason most talk shows are conservative--conservatives listen to talk radio. Conservatives tend to watch more 24-hour news channels--hence the ratings of Fox News compared to CNN and MSNBC. Conservatives like to know what's going on in a format more trustworthy than blogs on the internet.

So under the "Fairness Doctrine" we here at WOSH would be required to run three hours of liberal talk after the Rush hours from 11 to two weekdays here on News-Talk 1490. A show of hands please from those who would tune in to hear three hours of say Rosie O'Donnell flapping her gums--or Jesse Jackson.

As with any reactionary law, we would also have to deal with the law of unintended consequences. Once the conservatives and the liberals got their three hours--the libertarians would be at the door demanding their three hours--followed by the environmentalists, the white supremecists, the religious right and the militant Islamists.

The "Fairness Doctrine" would be the death of talk radio--and maybe that is the goal of the Democrats.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Monday 10-1

The Oshkosh School Board will spend its day trying to come up with a new attendance area plan. All I can say is "Good luck." A body with a track record of backing away from any change that upsets more than three parents will take it upon themselves to craft a map that will spread the pain to as many people as possible.

We'll hear this morning on our newscasts how everyone is going in with an open mind and how they are willing to compromise in order to reach consensus on one plan. That would be a refreshing change in politics--as compromise has become a lost art.

I have a new idea for them to consider: Change the name of Oshkosh North to Oshkosh East. Then draw a diagonal line from the northwest corner of the district to the Southeast corner and divide all attendance areas as close to that line as possible. How can people living along the lake complain about having to attend East High School--they live on the eastside of town. Sure, you'd have to change a lot of logos and sports jerseys--but that's a small price to pay for applying a little logic to the problem.

I doubt my plan will get any discussion today. It doesn't address socio-economic problems--the highest priority for at least three members of the board--and it may not save the absolute most money possible--the main point for several others. But to me it makes the most sense geographically.