Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The Only Golf That Matters

I'll be gone the rest of the week--as I attend the Ryder Cup Matches at Medinah Country Club in Chicago.  I've had this weekend circled on the calendar for at least six or seven years now--ever since Medinah was announced as the host site of the matches.  In my sports world, the Ryder Cup is second only to Olympic Hockey in terms of importance--and a Team USA victory is ALL that matters.

The Ryder Cup combines two of my favorite things: Match play golf and Team USA vs everybody else.  Match play is the purest form of competition.  None of this "the leader is 6-under after three rounds" stuff.  It is just you and your opponent for 18-holes--may the better man win.  And it has led to some classic forms of gamesmanship over the years, bad blood between individuals and even accusations of flat-out cheating.  And I admit that I am jingoistic--so you put the Stars and Stripes on golf bags, shirts and caps, I'm rooting big time for the Red, White and Blue.

Over the years, the Ryder Cup has produced such emotional highs and lows.  I pointed at the tv and taunted
Bernhard Langer as he missed a five foot putt that would have retained the Cup for the Euros in 1991.  I wanted to run around the Lambeau Field press box just like Justin Leonard and his teammates ran around the green after his incredible putt capped off a miraculous comeback on the final day by the US in 1999 (I was covering the Packers-Seahawks Sunday night game at Lambeau that day--Mike Holmgren's return to Green Bay as you recall--and they were nice enough to put the Ryder Cup on one of the tv's for me to watch).  And I guffawed when Boo Weekley rode his driver like it was a horse galloping down the fairway during the rout of 2008.

On the other hand, I wanted to punch the tv after Curtis Strange collapsed down the stretch to blow the Cup in 1995.  I wanted to strangle Captain Hal Sutton when he paired Tiger Woods and Phil Mickleson--who had ZERO interest in playing together--during the debacle that was the 2004 matches.  And I'm man enough to admit that I cried right along with Hunter Mahan when he broke down during the post-match press conference two years ago after chili-dipping a chip on the last hole to lose the Cup.

There are some in the golfing community who think my passion for the Ryder Cup is misplaced.  None other than Jack Nicklaus thinks it's only an "exhibition" and that it really shouldn't matter who wins or loses (ironic for a guy who played on USA teams that won every time).  The Europeans think US fans "celebrate too much"--while people like me will never forget the Euros dancing on the 18th green after clinching the 1987 Cup.  My point is, if you are going to have a sporting competition, then everybody may as well play to win.  Otherwise, we should hand out participation ribbons at the end, instead of a gold trophy.

So, I'll be on the course for the next few days--living and dying with every shot and every putt--whooping it up for every hole and match won by the US--and cursing under my breath every European success.  And win or lose, on Sunday night I'll be looking forward to September 26th thru the 28th of 2014--when the matches are contested again in Scotland.  And I will already be planning for Ryder Cup 2020 at Whistling Straits.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

What They Are Thinking At NFL Headquarters This Morning

Not being a Packers fan, I'm not nearly as broken up as everyone else around here about what happened in Seattle last night.  As far as I'm concerned, the NHL lockout of the players is far worse than the lockout of the NFL officials--at least you get to watch your favorite team play.  But since that's all anyone will be talking about today, I may as well throw in My Two Cents again.

Checking my Twitter timeline from overnight, the assumption is that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell will be holding emergency meetings this morning and that the "regular" refs and there representatives will be getting a call with a new contract giving them everything they want.  Those Twitter-ers apparently don't know anything about The Commish--or how the NFL works.  Here's what I think they will be thinking about at NFL Headquarters today:

"How do the television ratings look?" TV is the lifeblood of the NFL now.  Without the billions gladly forked over by networks desperate to get the ratings and ad revenue generated by the league NFL owners would still be running car dealerships and the players would be working second jobs in the offseason.  By all accounts, the ratings have not been affected by the replacement ref situation.  And the controversy of several endings may actually boost ratings as people not normally interested in games may tune in to see what debacle might unfold in the next broadcast.

"Are we losing any sponsors?"  There's a reason why there is an "official" beer, delivery service, pain reliever, ball cap, pickup truck, sports drink, lawn implement, shoe supplier, cell phone provider, fast food restaurant, pizza place, car battery camera and high definition television of the NFL.  Companies love being tied to league and believe its fans are that brand loyal.  I'm yet to hear anything about any sponsors saying they want to cut those ties.

"Are we being sued?"  Did you notice how quickly the league moved to "enhance player safety" after a group of former players sued the league over the lifelong effects of head injuries?  There was a big-money attorney that had to tell Commissioner Goodell that the league was leaving itself legally liable to similar suits in the future if at least some action was taken now.  Who is going to sue over bad calls by replacement refs?  And what damages could you actually claim?  I lost to my co-worker in fantasy league because Golden Tate got that second touchdown?

"Are people cancelling their season tickets and demanding refunds?"  A vast majority of seats for NFL games are sold on a season ticket basis--including full price for meaningless pre-season games--so teams have all that money in the bank and it is collecting interest.  Even if every Packers fan dumped their season tickets as a sign of protest--there are an equal number of people who have been waiting for decades to get those tix--and they would gladly scoop them up, keeping the revenue flowing at 1265 Lombardi Avenue.

So you can call for your NFL boycotts, and boo the replacement refs and start all of the "Bring Back The Real Refs" Facebook pages you want, until Roger Goodell and the 32 team owners he serves start feeling it in the wallet, they aren't going to budge.

I'd invite you to join me on the NHL bandwagon--but that's in even sadder shape right now.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Sport Shorts

Much was made earlier this month when economists predicted a one to two percent increase in the Gross Domestic Product numbers due almost exclusively to Apple rolling out its new iPhone 5.  Unfortunately, another technological advancement announced last week is going to offset that expected growth in productivity.  I'm talking about Time Warner Cable adding the NFL Network to its sports package.  Now millions of men wil have access to 24/7/365 coverage of the National Football Leauge--including injury updates, fantasy football projections, replays of all of last Sunday's games in there entirety, and of course the classic NFL Films library.  And the best part, unlike ESPN, NFL Network actually features coverage of teams other than the New England Patriots and whatever team Tim Tebow plays for.

Speaking of the NFL, sports fans got a glimpse of the future of the game Sunday during the Saints-Chiefs matchup at the SuperDome.  A Saints player made a diving catch of a pass, got up and ran into the end zone for what appeared to be a touchdown.  The officials (yes, I know, replacement refs, if I never hear that term again it will be the happiest day of my life) made absolutely no call.  No signal of a good catch and a touchdown.  No signal of a good catch but down by contact.  No signal of an incomplete pass.  Just seven guys in striped shirts looking at each other like "I didn't make a call, did you make a call?"  Under a new rule in the NFL this year, all scoring plays are automatically reviewed by replay--so the ref just announced "The previous play is under review" and ran off to take a look under the hood. 

And that is probably going to just be the procedure in the future.  No need for the officials to make a call on a close, controversial call.  We'll just go to replay automatically.  The refs will have a new hand signal for such instances.  They can all just extend their arms by their sides--palms up--in the classic "I have no idea what just happened" pose.  Then its time to watch the replay and make a call.

And when you watch the Packers game tonight, look for guys on each sideline in NFL caps and jackets with headsets on.  These "mystery men" will be shown talking to the refs after controversial plays--then going over to talk to (or be yelled at) by both of the coaches.  The league isn't letting us know who these guys are, but based on what you see on TV, they must be the "Replacement Ref Explainers".  They are the go between between league officials watching the games on TV back in New York or up in one of the boxes at the stadium--relaying to the new guys correct application of NFL rules, spotting of the ball and even if a call needs to be reversed--without actually costing a team a replay challenge on obviously blown calls.

And while Twitter blows up after every one of these debacles, and coaches throw down their headsets, and fans boo every poorly explained call--the ratings continue to climb for the NFL.  And Roger Goodell realizes that they can put any product he wants on the field--so long as people can bet on it--or play fantasy games with it. 

Friday, September 21, 2012

Failed Policies of the Past

If the political polls are to be believed, more Americans are buying President Obama's contention that Mitt Romney's campaign represents a "return to the failed policies of the past." However, the latest economic report shows those same Americans are more than happy to return to the same "failed policies of the past" when it comes to their personal finances.

I'm referring to the report from the Federal Reserve on Thursday showing household debt increased in the second quarter of the year--after several quarters of reduction.

In fact, the debt load increased by the greatest amount--39.4 BILLION dollars--since the middle of 2008.  Isn't that right around the time the economy entered the "Great Recession"?  And wasn't that recession triggered by the bursting of the housing bubble because Americans couldn't afford to pay their bloated mortgage payments because they owed too much money on their credit cards and their student loans and their vehicle leases?

Of course, Keynsian economists are ecstatic over this development. "It's encouraging news. With credit growth, one would expect to see an increase in spending" said one senior economist.  Doesn't it depress you that the only way we can keep the US economy afloat is by burying ourselves in more and more debt--instead of by growing real incomes and net value?

This same report finds that over the last few years, debt payments fell from 105-percent of disposable income to "only" 103-percent.  That means the average American is still falling three-percent farther into debt every year--just by paying off the debt they accumulated in past.  Does that sound like a "sustainable economic model" to you?  Yet the folks at the Fed will tout this report as proof that their policy of "promote debt and punish savings"--by keeping interest rates artificially low for an extended period--will continue into the foreseeable future.

If political science scholars are baffled as to how a President with such a dismal fiscal record can be poised to win re-election, they just need to take a look at the work of their peers in the economics department to understand the mindset of the voters.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

My Call Is Important To Them

To all of the politicians promising to create millions of jobs in their next terms in office: could you please make sure that most of those positions are in the Customer Service departments and Call Centers of businesses across this country?

The sudden passing of my mother-in-law last week has me on the phone this week with utilities, credit card issuers, insurance companies, self-storage places, moving truck rentals and several other types of businesses.  My wife works a "real job" and can't make calls to all of these places during "regular business hours", so my afternoons have been spent in continuous cycle of call menus and hold music.

The most egregious example of my call NOT being important to a business came from the Green Bay Press Gazette.  Of course, in their phone menu, "Cancel Your Subscription" is not one of the options--so I had to "wait for the next available customer service representative".  Now, I didn't have a stop watch going on the call, but I was able to watch nearly an entire half-hour TV show while on hold (all the while being told that the Green Bay Press Gazette brings you the "latest in news, sports and community events"--even though it isn't delivered until 24-hours after most of that stuff happened).

And then there was the "USA Prime Credit, this is Peggy" experience I had with Bank of America.  I was obviously dealing with a call center in India--and "Ashley" was the one who took my call.  Now I'll admit that at the age of 40, I probably don't hear as well as I used to--but I could not understand a single thing "Ashley" was saying--forcing her to repeat everything at least three times.  And instead of slowing down and enunciating every word properly, "Ashley" figured I would be able to understand her better if she just kept TALKING LOUDER AND LOUDER!!!!!!

As you would expect, the good old Government is making things more difficult to accomplish as well.  To complete a Transfer by Affidavit of the estate, my wife needs to know the value of the assets left behind by her mother--including the amount in her bank accounts.  But under all of the new privacy laws, the financial institutions aren't allowed to give us that information until we COMPLETE THE TRANSFER BY AFFIDAVIT!!  And when you explain the conundrum created by that situation, the bankers can only say, "I know--but that is the way the law is written."

I'd add more to this "Two Cents" but it sounds like Capital One has figured out which of the four departments I've already been transferred to that I actually need to talk to--so I have to get back on the phone.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Hope For the Next Generation

For those of you concerned that we are raising a generation of mindless future Americans who will be willing to accept Government control of their lives, a ray of hope is shining through the gathering clouds.  And it's coming from an unexpected place: the school lunchroom.

This week, students at Mukwonago High School and Middle School are boycotting the hot lunch program because they are not being given enough to eat.  As I covered in a previous "My Two Cents", the Federal Government has set new standards for school lunch programs--and those standards include a caloric limit on what kids can eat.  As I predicted, kids involved in sports are hardest hit by the limit--as they burn far more calories during the day than they can replace in the lunch line.  Meaning the "healthier" hot lunch standards actually make them unhealthier.

The Mukwonago boycott is one of many reported across the country as kids (and parents) come to realize that they are going to be underfed for 180-days a year--and that there is nothing they can do about it.  Well, as long as Michelle Obama is serving as the nation's unofficial Dietician-In-Chief.

So as our children are going hungy at school, they are learning a very important lesson: that Government doesn't always know what's best for you.  Kids quoted in a Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel article on the boycott already get it, as they point out the 250-pound senior lineman shouldn't be treated the same as a 100-pound freshman girl.  Hopefully, as their stomachs growl in seventh period Algebra, these kids will form the life-long belief that Washington shouldn't tell us what we should eat, or what kind of cars we should drive, or how much we should be allowed to make in income or what kind of health care coverage we should have.

Consider it Hope and Change for personal responsibility.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Don't Back Down

I really hope Mitt Romney doesn't back down from the comments secretly recorded at a closed-door fundraiser this week.  In case you missed it, the on-line magazine Mother Jones has released secretly recorded video of the event in which Romney tells donors that "47% of Americans believe they are victims and that they are entitled to government help."  He added that some of those folks "need to take responsiblity for their own lives" as well.

I hope Romney doesn't back away from his statements (and the backtracking has already started this morning with a hastily arranged conference call with campaign staffers saying Romney's points were "inelegantly stated") because for the most part, they are spot on--and summarize what this election is going to be all about: Is this going to be a country where people determine their own fate in life--and live with the consequences of their actions?  Or are we going to be a country where the government tries to solve everyone's problems--and nothing is ever your fault?

Politicos like to use the term "national discussion" when talking about things like this.  But the "discussion" is actually one each of us Americans have to have with ourselves.

It's time for the high school dropout to look in the mirror and wonder why he can't find a good-paying job.  Is it really because CEO's get big bonuses?

It's time for the former owners of the foreclosed "McMansions" to wonder why they defaulted on the mortgage.  Is it really because the lender "robo-filed" their paperwork?

It's time for the couple who always had money for the time share vacation home, the lawn service and the collector cars to wonder why they now face a shortage of money in retirement.  Is it really because Wall Street banks stole their money?

It's time for the life-long couch potato with coronary artery disease to wonder why his health insurance is so expensive.  Is it really because insruance companies are greedy?

And it's time for the single woman with three kids by three different men to wonder why she can't afford to properly care for her children.  Is it really because birth control pills weren't available for free?

The political consultants might cringe at what Mitt Romney says in the secret video because it actually makes people think before they vote (it's much easier to just have them react to talking points and attacks).  But maybe it's time people do put some thought into their selections at the ballot box.

Monday, September 17, 2012

The Root of Failure

I'll give credit to the Oshkosh Northwestern for their in-depth examination Sunday of the efforts undertaken by the Oshkosh School District to lower the freshman failure rate at its two high schools.

The lengthy article details the added staff, intervention programs and general babysitting techniques being employed by high school staff to try and get kids to pass all their classes.  Unfortunately, the entire article really could have been about two paragraphs long.  Specifically, the two paragraphs where students admit that they failed their classes because they "found them boring" and that "it's more imporant to fit in at school than to do well in classes". 

And there is your root of the so-called "decline" of the American education system.  Children no longer come to school in anticipation of learning--but instead  they come expecting to be "entertained".  Like kindergarten teachers should be Elmo or Dora the Explorer, elementary school teachers should be Spongebob Squarepants, middle school teachers should be iCarly and high school instructors should be Snooki and The Situation from The Jersey Shore.

Maybe teachers should forget about dry erase boards and just "tweet" or text their information to the kids in their classrooms.  Longer items can be posted on their Facebook walls or their Instagram pages.  That seems to be the only thing that can hold a teenager's attention nowadays.  Or, maybe lectures should be videotaped and streamed on YouTube, so the kids can watch on their tablets--rather than having to watch a real person standing in front of them in the classroom.  And everyone will have to listen on their individual Beats Audio headpones or iPod earbuds.

The Northwestern article could have added a few paragraphs featuring comments from the parents of failing students as well.  I'd love to hear about their reaction when they found out their child was falling behind.  Did they ask to see completed homework?  Did they require their kids to read their textbooks every night before logging onto the computer or plopping down in front of the video games?  Did they make sure the kids were getting to bed early enough so they weren't tired for that first class of the day?  For some reason, I doubt they did.  It's much easier to blame the teachers and the school for "not helping their child enough".

So what can we--the educated taxpayers picking up the tab for this major effort--learn from this article?  That we face a simnple choice: hold students and parents more accountable for their education and success in the classroom--or continue to dump more and more money into an effort that is proving to be fruitless.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

No B1G Deal

ESPN broke the news yesterday that Notre Dame is joining the Atlantic Coast Conference for all sports except for football starting next year.  That got some here in the Midwest gnashing their teeth and wailing because the Golden Domers have rejected the Big Ten yet again.  "Why won't Notre Dame play with the Big Ten?" they ask.  "The rivalries are already established, it would be a perfect fit!" declare others.  But as far as I'm concerned, Notre Dame could never play another game against a Big Ten team and I wouldn't care a lick.

It is time for those of us over the age of 30 to accept the fact that Notre Dame (once referred to as the University of College Football in America) is next to meaningless in the world of sports now.  Sure, they have their own TV contract--but that's only due to an amazing sales job by university officials, and desperation by NBC to have some football presence back when it was shut out of the NFL.  When was the last time a Notre Dame game was "appointment viewing" for even the most die-hard college pigskin fan?

I mentioned the age of 30 before because anyone under that age will wonder what's the big deal about Notre Dame football?  Those fans have never seen Touchdown Jesus celebrate a national championship--or anything more than 2 BCS bowl games.  Notre Dame is nothing more than the school that is always ranked in the top 10 or 15--and then loses early to fall out of the rankings for the rest of the season.

Long gone are the days when every Catholic High School Football star was destined to head to South Bend.  And the chances that the best prep players in Florida, Texas and California are going to Indiana to play in the cold at a religious university with higher academic standards is even less likely in today's recruiting atmosphere.  Plus, as far as every other sport is concerned, Women's basketball has made title runs in recent years--but there are no other Notre Dame powerhouses to boost a conference's profile.  So let the Fighting Irish play Duke in hoops twice a year.  Believe me, there are no winners in that game.

Would it be nice to watch the Badgers pound the Irish into the turf every year?  You bet.  But my brother-in-law went to Brigham Young--and Wisconsin just added them to the schedule for the next two seasons--so I can get my secular ground and pound bragging rights that way. 

Wednesday, September 12, 2012


Our family is dealing with a loss this week, as my mother-in-law passed away suddenly over the weekend.  We are now left with the difficult task of sorting through the belongings and papers that were left behind.  My wife and I got a start on that yesterday--and it got me to thinking about where some of us place our priorities.

The late comedian George Carlin had a great bit about "stuff".  He talked about taking a trip to Hawaii and how much "stuff" he had to take along.  Then when he was invited to stay with friends on another island he had to leave behind "stuff" at his hotel to take more "stuff" to the other island and pretty soon he had "stuff all over the bleeping place".

I used to be a "stuff" person.  Designer label clothes, high-end electronics, all of the latest music releases and more baseball caps than I could wear in a year.  But now (thanks to Dave Ramsey and the economic realities of middle age), I'm more of an "experiences" person.  If I'm going to spend money now, I want a memorable experience to come with it.

I drive a Jeep Wrangler not because I off-road every weekend--but because those summer days when I can have the top down and wind blowing and the sun shining on me make me feel better than driving in a regular car with the window rolled up and the air conditioner on full blast.  I would much rather spend my money on golf rounds with good friends at difficult, beautiful courses like Whistling Straits and Kapalua Plantation, or having fun with my wife at a Disney World park, or being able to say that I saw Sir Paul McCartney and U2 and Nirvana and REM in concert multiple times than have a boat or snowmobile sitting in my garage gathering dust for months at a time.

I don't know who said it first, but whoever it was was 100% correct in saying that you never see a U-Haul behind a hearse.  Because in the end, it's not the "stuff" you accumulated during your life--but rather the experiences shared with others that truly define your life.

Monday, September 10, 2012

How President Obama Has "Failed" Liberals

It's the kind of headline designed to drive traffic to a website: "14 Things President Obama Doesn't Want You To Know".  The fact that it was posted by a liberal website like The Huffington Post makes it even more interesting--and I admit when I saw it on Twitter I clicked through to read more.

The headline makes it sound like we were going to learn about ways the President has "failed" his liberal supporters--but when you read further into it, you find out it's actually about the ways Obama has succeeded in advancing the liberal agenda.  Here's what I mean:

Supposed "Failures": Prosecutions for financial fraud hit a 20-year low during the Obama Administration, Goldman and other Wall St firms have largely escaped punishment for their roles in the financial crisis, and "Too Big To Fail" banks have grown under Obama.

Actual Liberal "Successes":  It's easy to say that "Wall Street Fat Cats and Greedy Bankers stole Americans money"--but it's much more difficult to prove it.  And if you go ahead and try to bring charges and don't get prosecutions, there goes your biggest economic talking point.  Besides, liberals always need someone else to blame for your problems--so the "Fat Cats" need to stay in place to serve that purpose.

Supposed "Failures": Obama wants to lower the corporate tax rate, Many top Obama donors are employees of major corporations, Democrats received a lot of money from Bain and The revolving is alive and well under Obama.

Actual Liberal "Successes":  Here's a shocker, there are liberal rich people as well.  And there are corporations that will benefit greatly from increased government spending. And if Cabinet and White House staff members are going right into lobbying positions--won't they be advancing the agenda--in an even more influential role?  And while liberals may be offended that corporations might pay less than the highest tax rates in the Western World currently require, they can rest assured that many of the nation's biggest employers will still be taking it in the shorts thanks to the Affordable Health Care Act.  Sky rocketing health insurance premiums will require some form of relief somewhere else--just to keep the Stock Market from tanking--which has been the one decent part of the so called "recovery" the past two years.

Which brings us to our next Supposed "Failure":  Health care reform won't make health care cheaper for Americans.

Actual Liberal "Success":  Let's be honest, liberals won't be happy until their is a single-payer, government-funded health care system in the US.  While ObamaCare doesn't get us to that point, it does set the groundwork for failure of the current private health insurance industry.  Not allowing insurance firms to limit risk to the pool by requiring coverage of pre-existing conditions, considering people "minors" up to the age of 26 and requiring nearly all employers to provide health insurance is guaranteed to jack up the cost for everyone involved in the process--all but ensuring the failure of private carriers, or adding to the frustration of most voters to the point where they will accept a government takeover of health care with few complaints.

Supposed "Failures":  Income inequality is worse under Obaman than under Bush, The US has gained a lot of low wage jobs during the recovery and Incomes declined more during the recovery than during the recession.

Actual Liberal "Successes":  In the Reagan Recovery of the early '80's, millions of Americans went back to work at major factories with huge "Carbon Footprints" fueled by cheap gas and inexpensive coal-produced electricity.  In the attempted "Obama Recovery", those plants are gone--driven off by "Cap and Trade" limitations on emissions and more expensive electricity coming from utilities that must meet arbitrary percentages of renewable energy required by governments.  What's more, generations of Americans being told that menial labor is "below them" and how they should strive only for higher education has left us with a workforce unqualified to handle the manufacturing jobs that tend to pay more. 

As we mentioned with the Wall Street "failures", the libs need to keep their red herring "enemies"--and if the rich aren't getting richer and the poor aren't getting poorer, who should be taking the blame for our economic problems.  And let's not forget, the more poor people there are (or those getting closer to poor), the more the demand for public assistance programs that get Democrats elected.

So before we start calling President Obama a "failure"--let's consider what he actually has "succeeded" in doing the last four years.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Bold Packers Predictions

Last week I gave you my Badgers Football picks for the year--today, we look at the Packers' upcoming schedule:

Week 1--vs San Francisco--I love the way the Niners play--running the ball and playing defense.  It's a quaint throwback to the NFL I enjoyed as a kid--before Fantasy Football stats became the most important thing at League offices.  I think Jim Harbaugh has his team ready, and San Fran upsets the Pack at Lambeau 28-27.

Week 2--at Chicago--It's a tough turnaround for the Pack, as they go from a late Sunday game to one of those stupid Thursday night NFL Network games--but the last time I checked, Jay Cutler is still the Bears starting quarterback, so Green Bay should be okay.  Packers win 31-10.

Week 3--at Seattle--It will be entertaining to watch former Badgers QB Russell Wilson pick apart the pathetic Packers secondary.  But the Seahawks defense is just as bad.  The Packers win a shootout 41-34.

Week 4--vs New Orleans--Everyone seems to think the Saints are going to rally around the BountyGate suspension and still compete for a title this year.  I doubt it.  Packers run it up at home 38-28.

Week 5--at Indianapolis--It will be entertaining to watch former rookie QB Andrew Luck pick apart the pathetic Packers secondary. But the Colts just don't have the horses to hang with Aaron Rodgers. The Packers win a shootout 41-24.

Week 6--at Houston--The Texans are the "sexy" Super Bowl pick in the AFC this year.  Former Badger JJ Watt will harass A Rod all day--but the Packers get a big road win 30-17.

Week 7--at St Louis--The Rams are pathetic.  Packers cruise to a third straight road win 40-14.

Week 8--vs Jacksonville--The Pack continues to roll through the easy part of its schedule, 42-0.

Week 9--vs Arizona--The Pack continues to roll through the easy part of its schedule, 33-7.

Week 10--BYE WEEK--I predict Fox Valley malls are packed on that Sunday as everyone gets their XMas shopping done when there is no game on.

Week 11--at Detroit--The Lions proved last year, they weren't as good (or disciplined) to hang with the Pack.  A well rested Green Bay wins on the road 24-17.

Week 12--at the New York Football Giants--Sweet revenge for the NFC Divisional playoff loss at Lambeau last season?  Nope, the G-men win again 30-27.

Week 13--vs Minnesota--The Vikes are worse than bad--especially since Adrian Peterson will be hurt again by this point of the season.  Green Bay wins 34-10.

Week 14--vs Detroit--Expect the Lions to talk big about fixing the mistakes they made in the first matchup.  Same result though, Packers 24-17 again.

Week 15--at Chicago--Is Jay Cutler still at Quarterback?  Packers 26-12.

Week 16--vs Tennessee--Packers win easily again, 33-10.

Week 17--at Minnesota--This will probably be a meaningless game, with the Pack having clinched the division and the number two seed in the NFC.  But Mike McCarthy won't take his foot off the gas this year--blowing out the Vikes 35-7.

After a 14-2 regular season, the Packers get a first round bye--then face the Wild Card Dallas Cowboys in the Divisional Playoffs.  This kills me, but Tony Romo stinks up Lambeau and the Packers win 27-20.

The NFC Championship game features a rematch of Week 1--as the Pack heads to San Francisco.  Amazingly, defense and a running game beats throwing the ball on every down again!  The 49ers go to the Super Bowl with a 24-21 win.

Of course, if Aaron Rodgers gets hurt at any point this season--all of the predicted wins will be switched to losses--based on the clueless performances we've seen so far from backup QB Graham Harrell.

Enjoy the pigskin!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

In Memorium

In case you missed it during the WOSH Morning News Focus on Wednesday, our old friend and colleague, JT Vogt passed away yesterday morning.  JT had been battling cancer for the past few years--and had really been in great discomfort for some time.

The one thing I will always remember about JT is his passion for life.  With the nickname "The Computer Guy", he was passionate about technology.  JT was a LINUX guy--hating Microsoft and Apple.  He also loved letting our listeners know about the newest tech toys, helpful websites and things to avoid on-line.

JT was passionate about his dogs.  He and his wife bred and raised German Shepards and the rare Japanese breed--the Shiba Inu.  They took preserving the health of the breeds very seriously--and helped out Shepard and Shiba rescue operations as well.

JT was a proud German.  He spoke the language.  He loved the food.  He and his wife traveled to the Old Country to trace back his family heritage.  They even dropped a couple thousand dollars to buy a custom-made cuckoo clock delivered to their home (which, believe it or not, was serviced here in Oshkosh).

JT was passionate about politics and the rights of Americans.  He loved to own and shoot guns.  If the cancer hadn't taken him yesterday morning--Bill Clinton's speech last night probably would have killed him.

JT was passionate about aviation.  As a licensed pilot he flew often. The week of EAA Airventure made JT like a kid in a candy store.  Like myself, JT loved the Warbirds--and loved to hear the old World War Two pilots discuss their experiences.  JT also was a huge space nut--and always wanted to hear from any Astronauts that visited Oshkosh as well.  Our coverage of Airventure will never be the same without him.

JT was also incredibly proud of his father.  Herr Vogt stormed the beaches in Normandy--and fought all the way into Germany at the end of the war. 

And JT was incredibly giving.  Many of my own electronic items--at home and here in the Newsroom--had been fixed or upgraded thanks to JT.  And I mentioned the efforts he made to help his beloved dogs.

But one of the neatest things that JT did every year was to host an event for those manning the Federal Pavilion at Airventure every year.  "Meadowfest" as he liked to call it, featured food, drink, live music, target shooting, and fireworks (set off by JT himself).  It was just a chance for these people who were away from home for more than a week to get away from EAA and their hotels--and enjoy a bit of good old-fashioned Wisconsin Gemutlichkeit.

The world is a better place because of JT Vogt--and my life is better for having known him.  He will be missed.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Math Wins Again

In my 12-years covering it, the Winnebago County Board had never been asked to approve a health insurance carrier contract.  And last night's meeting (along with the two or three other times the issue was address that preceded it) showed why.

Thanks to Act 10, the county no longer has to negotiate with all of its employee unions on changing health insurance plans.  That allowed County Executive Mark Harris and the folks in Human Resources to consolidate a myriad of plans and options into a single carrier--and to put that package out for competitive bids.  That led to a recommendation to go with Network Health Plan--which will offer employees options common in the private sector: a low-deductible plan featuring higher premiums and co-pays and a high deductible health savings account plan with much lower premiums.  Most importantly, the change will save the county (and us taxpayers) more than $1.2 Million next year.

That's big, as the County will be seeing a decrease in its tax levy next year due to declining property values plus, there will be less money coming from the State.  And what's more, in 2014, the plan previously in place would fall under the "Cadillac Plan Penalty--er, I mean Tax" included in President Obama's Affordable Care Act--meaning it would have cost the County ANOTHER mllion dollars--on top of the annual rate increase.  So making a change would seem to make good economic sense.

But a number of Supervisors didn't want to hear that math last night.  The only thing they cared about was the handful of employees that will have to change their doctors under the new plan, because Aurora doesn't want to do business with Network.  What followed was a perfect example of why the County Executive alone was the one who signed off on those contracts in the past.  There were proposals to add options to the plan, demands to go back out for bid for other plans, or returning to the previous plan (despite the multi-million dollar extra expense)--all of which would leave the very employees they claim to care most about without ANY health insurance coverage after September 30th--because as anyone who does HR in the private sector will tell you, carriers don't just have a menu of prices and options that you can choose from on a whim like the drive-thru at McDonalds.

In the end, logic and math won out and the Network Plan contract was approved--albeit with an added-on Point of Service option that employees will find nearly impossible to afford (at which point, keeping the same doctor won't seem so important).  And fortunately, we won't have to watch the Winnebago County Board try to negotiate health insurance coverage ever again.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Head Games

While sports fans celebrate the start of the NFL, College and High School Football seasons, they should probably know they are watching a sport on its way to a slow and painful death.  ESPN and Sports Illustrated both floated this warning right after last year's Super Bowl--saying the sport was in danger due to lawsuits filed by former players seeking billions in settlements over concussions suffered during their careers--but not diagnosed properly.  While that is certainly an economic threat to the sport at the highest level, the greatest danger comes from the sport's base feeder program--high school football--being banned across the country.

Last week, The Chicago Tribune published an op-ed piece from a "sports policy director" for the "League of Fans" laying out the argument that will be used to bring down football--"it's a threat to public health and safety".,0,7016716.story?track=ctiphoneapp

These self-appointed "health and safety advocates" are already armed with statistics showing the "shocking" number of high school players who suffer concussions every year.  And if the numbers don't add up enough to prove their point--they will conduct their own self-funded studies that will give them what they want.  The internet has plenty of videos of kids from Pee Wee to Pop Warner to all levels of high school getting "blown up" on hard tackles--while the fans whoop it up from the sidelines. 

Now before you laugh at the idea of high school football being banned, consider the success rate of such "public health advocates".  Why do you have to wear a seat belt, even it you are only driving to the gas station around the corner?  Why do motorcyclists in most states have to wear helmets?  Why can't you smoke in public anymore?  Why can't a 20-year old soldier entrusted with the maintenance of billion-dollar military equipment buy a beer after he or she steps off base?  And why can't New Yorkers buy a Big Gulp soda?

And these worryworts will find sympthetic ears in their quest to ban high school football.  It certainly won't be from fathers who take great pride in watching their sons follow in their cleat-steps.  And it certainly won't come from coaches or athletic directors.  But, it will come from "progressive" school boards around the country (especially those dominated by academics and bleeding hearts like the one here in Oshkosh)--who detest the influence that sports have on high schools and communities.  They will nod their heads in agreement at statements like "even one child suffering  permanent brain injury is one too many".  And never having played the game, they will demand that coaches and AD's offer them some guarantee that no player is ever going to get hurt if the sport is allowed to continue--or if perhaps there is some way to make sure players "don't hit each other so hard".

It won't be tomorrow or even this decade--but football (at least in the form that we enjoy it so much in this country) will be dead.  If you're in a Fantasy Football keeper league--you may want to start scouting guys that will go a good job of making sure the defense can't grab their flags.