Monday, February 22, 2010

This is Not a Miracle

As you might expect, I am jacked up over Team USA's hockey win over Canada last night. To paraphrase Badger Bob Johnson, "It was a great day for hockey."

You had all of the 30-year anniversary retrospectives on the Miracle on Ice from the 1980 Games--just to get you in the mood for another huge Olympic match up. The NHL Network (perhaps in a stunning bit of foreshadowing) aired Game Three of the 1996 World Cup of Hockey when Team USA upset Canada in Montreal to capture its first "open" hockey tournament title ever. After watching all of that, I was all set for another great effort from the Red, White and Blue--and boy did they deliver.

I know some pundits will try to compare this win to the historic victory over the Soviets at Lake Placid--but that comparison would be unfair. Everyone on the ice in Vancouver last night was a paid professional. And let's be honest, while their fans may be unbelievably smug and pompous, it's kind of hard to hate the Canadians like we hated and feared the Russians. Now if Al Qaeda would just field a hockey team. And as bad as things are economically and socially right now--it still pales in comparison to the "malaise" that hung over the US in 1980.

Last night's victory should instead stand as a tribute to everyone who has worked to bring the United States to the same level as the Hockey Superpowers of Canada and Russia. The win justifies all the hard work put in by Badger Bob and Herb Brooks and all of the executives at USA Hockey over the years that worked to build the lower levels of the sport everywhere around the country--even places where Al Michaels so cleverly put it "they don't know the difference between a blue line and a clothesline."

The win is also a tribute to all of those hockey parents who buy or bought all of the expensive equipment, the ice time and tournament entries just so their kids can play the sport...who sat through games where players spent more time on their butts than handling the puck...and the kids for realizing that actually going out and playing the game is far more satisfying than just playing EA Sports NHL 2010 or Wii Hockey...not to mention the volunteer coaches who could only get practice time at six a.m. or ten at night...and all of the officials needed to make sure the kids learn the proper rules.

Last night was also a tribute to the fans of hockey here "below the border". It's the payoff for years of being relegated to "secondary" channels during the Olympics--so we don't miss ice dancing. The years of not being able to even watch the NHL because it was on a cable network that you could see in only about 20-percent of the country. Labor strikes that almost cancelled the playoffs one year and the domination of the European-dominated Detroit Red Wings.

This is no miracle that the US has joined the elite in international hockey. It's the result of decades of hard work and passion by hundreds of thousands of people at every level. Good job everyone--you deserve this.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Books and Kooks

I'm glad to hear that the Fond du Lac School District's Reconsideration Committee has rejected an attempt to remove a book from the middle school libraries. One parent complained about the content of of Sonya Sones' "One Of Those Hideous Books Where the Mother Dies" (Sounds like a real uplifting story doesn't it?) and wanted it banned from the library.

As a staunch defender of the First Amendment, I'm always turned off by the effort to "ban" anything related to freedom of expression or thought. And so too apparently is Ms. Sones, who wrote to the district herself in defense of her book. "If Ms. Wentworth thinks the book is inappropriate for her own child, then by all means she should not allow her child to read it. But it would be unfair and inappropriate for her to try to force her own personal beliefs on every family with children attending Theisen Middle School, or any other school in the district."
As Clare Booth Luce so eloquently put it, 'Censorship, like charity, should begin at home; but unlike charity, it should end there.'"

I should also point out that Fondy schools have a system in place whereby parents can block their child's access to any piece in the library they deem "objectionable". Those same parents should also know that their TV's have settings that will block shows of a questionable or mature nature if they don't want their kids watching such fare. I find it ironic in a society where kids are running around and annoying everyone in a restaurant or a store--we have so many parents who want to tell others how to raise their kids.

On a totally different matter.........

I hope no one tries to portray the guy who flew a plane into the IRS building in Austin, Texas as a member of the Tea Party Movement or as some "right winger who just got fed up with Government." Newly-elected Massachussetts Senator Scott Brown goes on Fox News yesterday afternoon and compares the suicide attack to the "frustration that people are feeling about how government operates". Senator Brown may have broken the record for shortest time in public office before making a stupid comment--previously held by several members of the Obama administration.

Joe Stack was a sick man with obviously no regard for human life. He in no way represents the "frustration" of most Americans with the way the government is operating--and his actions are in no way defensible. Like the Unabomer before him, he is nothing more than a domestic terrorist who can only blame others for problems he created for himself--and he in no way should be a hero to anyone.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

A Developing Story

Let me be among the first to welcome Allen Davis as the new Oshkosh Community Development Director. Now get to work.

Get to work building the same record of development success that has marked the growth of your soon-to-be-former employer: the Town of Grand Chute. Feel free to bring along many of the businesses that have grown up around the Fox River Mall over the last ten years--starting with my personal favorite: Golf Galaxy.

You can follow that up with Fuddruckers, Half-Price Books, the Wire Whisk, Dick's Sporting Goods and Texas Roadhouse. My wife would also like you to relocate Ulta and to finally convince Kohl's to stop teasing Oshkosh and actually build a store here along Highway 41. I'm supposed to ask for an IKEA as well (but don't take that one seriously). A Costco would be nice as well--NOT SAM'S CLUB!!!

Allen, please bring development ideas other than the overblown "Mixed use residential/commerical" for every project in the city. Something other than "senior living condos" would be nice as well. Don't be afraid to think outside the box and propose selling riverfront property to single-family home builders--a development idea that seems to work well in Allouez, De Pere and Green Bay. Those kinds of projects tend to be built quickly, don't require TIF districts and homeowners who can afford to live on the river usually pay their property taxes on time too.

Feel free to remove the decorative elements of the Main Street reconstruction project and make the street actually driveable after the rebuild is done. And JUST SAY "NO" TO ROUNDABOUTS AT BUSY INTERSECTIONS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Mr. Davis, you are being hired to bring a "fresh start" to a department that had become so detached from the people it was supposed to serve that it seriously handicapped the growth of the city--the exact opposite of it's intended purpose. Please deliver on that promise of "change" better than a certain-someone-else-we-all-know who campaigned on that same platform.

Friday, February 12, 2010

The Case For Curling

The Winter Olympics begin tonight--so it is time for my quadrennial plea to NBC to show us something other than figure skating in prime time. I'm not going to get into the debate as to whether figure skating is a sport or performance art (the latter) but can we please give the US audience a chance to enjoy some of the much better events.

We can start with ice hockey. There will be no need for an NHL All-Star Game this year--because the Olympic Hockey Tournament will be four or five All-Star Games--except the guys will actually try hard and hit somebody on defense. The ultimate game will be when Canada and Russia face off for the Gold Medal in front of 20-thousand insane Canadian fans. I cannot wait to see the Penguins' Sidney Crosby continue his blood fued with the Capitals' Alexander Ovechkin. Unless of course, Team USA crashes the party behind the red-hot goaltending of the Sabres' Ryan Miller.

I know the network executives say hockey just doesn't work on TV. But high-def and widescreen formats make the action easier to follow now--and international hockey doesn't feature the fighting that some believe turns off most casual fans. You fight in the Olympics and you are done for the game--and the next game too. So what you end up with is a wide-open style of offensive hockey--further boosted by the larger ice surface of international rules. As much as this "dump and chase, old-time-hockey" guy hates to admit it--Olympic hockey is actually better than NHL playoff hockey.

And don't be afraid to show the ladies hockey teams as well. The US and Canada are miles ahead of the rest of the world in this sport--but their meeting for the gold medal will be just as competitive as the men's game. And don't forget, Team USA's Head Coach is Wisconsin's very own Mark Johnson--he of the 1980 Miracle on Ice team. Isn't funny that if you ask any sports fan over the age of 30 what's the greatest moment in Olympic (or all sports for that matter) history they will likely tell you the Miracle on Ice? If you give us hockey--we will love hockey.

My other request again this olympiad is more curling. Yes, curling. The sport has gained a cult following the last two Winter Games thanks to late-night coverage on CNBC. Now it is time to give the game the prime time coverage it deserves.

I like curling because of the interesting blend of strategy and finesse. I know we Americans don't always appreciate the sublime (hence the popularity of WWE Raw)--but like chess, curling usually plays itself out many steps in advance with positioning and execution determining who wins. Plus, curling is probably the closest thing to an "everyman sport" in the winter games. The competitors don't wear special wind-reduction suits or sequined costumes. It's usually simple sweats. And the oldest Olympic competitors are usually curlers--since the touch and strategy needed to succeed comes only with experience. Curling is the second most popular sport in Canada--meaning Vancouver will provide great support for the tournament--and that should transfer through on the telecast as well.

So what do you say NBC? Dump the tired cliche of the "beauty and grace" of figure skating and give us the best events of the Games....for a change.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Super Bold Predictions

Let's wrap up Super Hype Week with some bold predictions for the Big Game:

--I predict that by the end of it's eight and a half hour pre-game show, the NFL Network will have interviewed every player, coach, and team employee of both the Saints and the Colts--along with every fan attending the game, all of the players that ever played in a Super Bowl and at least 100 celebrities who don't know anything about football.

--Even though he isn't even on TV Sunday, Fox Sports' Jay Glazer will hi-jack the pre-game festivitites by posting on his website that he "just talked to Brett Favre--and he says he will retire." CBS, ESPN and NFL Network will completely ignore the Super Bowl the rest of the afternoon and will dedicate their programming to confirming Glazer's report and to get the "reaction" of every player, coach, and team employee of both the Saints and the Colts--along with every member of the media covering the game.

--I predict that after Carrie Underwood lip-synchs the Super Bowl, Simon Cowell will appear on camera saying "That was a terrible choice of song for you."

--I see the Saints getting off to a quick start in the game--building a 10-point lead early on. But Peyton Manning will close the gap with another two minute drive at the end of the first half to cut the lead to just three at the break.

--Abbott and Costello will rejoice from beyond the grave as millions of women ask "Who's playing the halftime show?" and their husbands answer "That's right."

--There will be more than a few chuckles after Roger Daltrey sings "I hope I die before I get old" in "My Generation".

--Even though he isn't on TV, Chris Mortensen will hi-jack the halftime show by posting on that he just got an email from Brett Favre saying that he has changed his mind since kickoff--and that he will be back for another season in Minnesota. CBS will immediately dump out of the Who concert to get the reaction of players in the locker room to the news that Brett will return.

--I predict the Tim Tebow/Focus On the Family pro-life ad will win the USA Today "Ad Meter" competition for Super Bowl commercials--further confounding "pro-choice" groups who oppose any discussion of "choices" other than abortion.

--Peyton Manning and Drew Brees both throw for five touchdowns against beleagured defenses who don't get close to putting any pressure on them during the game.

--As Saints kicker Garrett Hartley lines up for a 50-yard field goal to tie the game with :05 left, Brett Favre hi-jacks the drama by text messaging Jim Nantz in the booth that he has changed his mind since halftime and will once again retire. Billions of viewers never see Hartley miss the kick as CBS chooses to air a "career tribute" feature for Favre. The Colts' 45-42 win is forever "tainted" by the end of Favre's career.

--As he hands the Vince Lombardi Trophy to game MVP Peyton Manning, James Brown asks what he thinks about Brett Favre's decision to retire.

--Come Monday morning, half of the people who "watched" the game won't even remember who won.

Monday, February 1, 2010

A Special Invitation

Regular listeners/readers of My Two Cents know that I am helping facilitate Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University at Community Church in Oshkosh this winter. Tonight (Monday), the topic will be getting out of debt--and staying out of debt. The church is inviting FPU members to bring friends to this meeting--and I am extending the same invitation to my listeners/readers.

Tonight, you will learn about how debt affects your life--by keeping you from achieving all of your goals, by causing you to live in fear and by preventing you from making maximum use of the revenue that you will generate throughout your life.

You will also learn about Dave's proven methods for paying off debt. It won't be a get out of debt quickly presentation. You won't learn how to get a new social security number, how to bankrupt all your debt or how to get some kind of government help to bail you out. You won't be sold a debt consolidation loan or a software that "magically" helps you pay off your debts sooner than making the minimum payments.

You will learn how to take responsibility for the promises you made--and how to pay off each and every last cent that you owe. My wife and I have done it. Some of our friends and co-workers have done it--and you can do it too.

In addition, you will likely see some people take the steps necessary to avoid going back into debt. I have a feeling that more than a few credit cards will meet their overdue demises tonight--perhaps in some very creative ways.

So again, I invite you to join us for Financial Peace University at Community Church on Ryf Road in Oshkosh tonight for a discussion on getting--and staying--out of debt. It's free and you don't even have to talk to anyone. The presentation starts at 6:00 sharp and runs about two hours. Afterwards, there will be a social event with treats (my wife made brownies!!) in their cafe. You can also talk with the folks at the church about possibly joining their next session of FPU.

Now if I could just get our Congressional delegation and the entire State Legislature to show up.......