Monday, December 31, 2012

Biden 2016 - or not

These days, presidential politics never take a break. The instant Barack Obama won a second term to office, Campaign 2016 kicked off. And Vice President Joe Biden has hinted pretty openly that he's considering running for president.

On the last day of the year, Vice President Biden swooped in and took control of the "fiscal cliff" negotiations, and he bargained with Republicans in Congress to strike what seems to be a fairly good compromise for all sides. As President Obama's terrible swift sword, Biden shined tonight, and this will certainly be a boost to his presidential chances.

I'm not so sure that's a good thing.

Let me say this: I'm biased. I love Joe Biden. He's one of my favorite politicians, and probably the most likable politician of my generation. He's a working class guy who can connect with people, and he's the kind of guy who has the right character to be president.

And, I happen to agree with him on almost every issue.

Friday, December 28, 2012

More guns

John's recent pieces on the raging gun control debate in the aftermath of the Newtown massacre have been spot-on. I can't improve on it one iota.

I'll only add this telling joke, culled from Facebook:

How many NRA executives does it take to screw in a lightbulb?

More guns.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

The discussion of limits on guns gets more convoluted every day -- guns don't kill people... people kill people with guns; and, as Tony Botello points out, they do it every day

The conversation this society has engaged about controlling the possession and use of guns, especially assault weapons, has been loud and clamorous -- but absolutely welcome.

Any conversation about this topic is a step in the right direction. Any serious conversation would be an even bigger step.

Alas, as I pointed out on Christmas Eve, having a serious conversation is difficult because the absolutists of the NRA are backed into a logical corner. They are stuck defending the indefensible  The idea that a society cannot exercise any control over the weapons its citizens brandish is impossible to rationally defend.

As a result, the argument has to pivot on a single point. The Constitution grants the right of private citizens to arm themselves. This, of course, is not an argument. It doesn't argue why armed citizens are good for society. It doesn't argue why no strictures should be placed on which weapons citizens should be allowed to arm themselves with. It doesn't account for modern firepower. It doesn't even attempt to interpret or otherwise understand the sentence. It just says, 'The constitutions guarantees this right.'

Monday, December 24, 2012

Wrong about the NRA... the response was anything but masterful. fact... well, it's Christmas Eve... time to be charitable, let's just say they've got a tough row to hoe

I was wrong.

I was wrong last week when I predicted the NRA response to the tsunami of talk about controlling the possession and use of guns would be a masterful stroke of public relations, a case study for the ages. It was, instead, the worst case of public relations in recent memory.

It was, in fact, so bad I started trying to figure out why. I offer four possibilities:

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Off the map

Fascinating article in the Wall Street Journal Weekend Edition this morning about how the tradition of maps and mapmaking (like so much in our lives) has been obliterated by digital technology. The most poignant passage:

...Each of us now stands as an individual at the center of our own map worlds. On our computers and phones, we plot a route not from A to B but from ourselves ("Allow current location") to anywhere of our choosing. Technology has enabled us to forget all about way-finding and geography. This is some change, and some loss.

The great part of each of us being in the center of our own personal map - and by extension, the center of the universe - is that it's easy to find wherever we're going. The terrible part is that it's becoming more and more difficult to find ourselves.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

The Mighty NRA warned us -- Friday they take off the gloves -- if you study the arts of public reations you will want to take notes -- this will be one for the ages

The National Rifle Association did warn us. We have until Friday to finish mourning the children.

“Out of respect for the families,” they cooed in a press release, “and as a matter of common decency, we have given time for mourning, prayer and a full investigation of the facts before commenting.”

I felt like throwing up.

I could parse this piece of sophism until the cows came home. But here's a start:

  • Notice, “respect” is for the families, not the children or their teachers. No mention of death here. No mention of the dead. No mention of children anywhere in the press release. This is not an oversight; this is by design.
  • Notice the word “common” next to “decency”? What, then, is un-common decency? Does this mean they’ve waited as long as they – The Mighty NRA – should be asked to wait?
  • And, well, what were they hoping would emerge from a “full investigation” of the facts? Involvement of the Taliban?
  • Yes, and talk about tone deaf. This dreadful sentence pronounced the exact length of time the NRA believes to be adequate for the families to mourn and pray. Could anything be more arrogant?

Monday, December 17, 2012

They gave their lives for the children

They teach Secret Service agents to protect the President with their bodies.

Nobody has to teach teachers to shield their students with their bodies. They just do. Even when they know they are about to die.


Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Romney's analysis of defeat is a perfect example of why he lost -- he doesn't even understand democracy

This is almost too easy.

But here goes...

Do you want to know one reason Mitt Romney failed to connect with enough voters to win the presidency? All you have to do is read his analysis of the election today -- a week later -- in the New York Times. Speaking to his campaign staff he said:

“You can imagine for somebody making $25,000 or $30,000 or $35,000 a year, being told you’re now going to get free health care, particularly if you don’t have it, getting free health care worth, what, $10,000 per family, in perpetuity, I mean, this is huge,” he said. “Likewise with Hispanic voters, free health care was a big plus. But in addition with regards to Hispanic voters, the amnesty for children of illegals, the so-called Dream Act kids, was a huge plus for that voting group.”

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

In victory Obama signals a new start -- let's hope, anyway. He needs to take his show on the road, everyday, and stay out of the fog of Washington. He needs to get that stockpot of public opinion boiling...

It is a good thing for all of us the 2012 presidential election is over.  I’m quite sure the madness of campaign advertising and cable news blitzkrieg would have driven us over the cliff if the campaign had gone on another week.  It was a relief this morning to be free – free at last – of the lunacy of never ending conspiracy theory alternative universes.

Freshly re-elected President Barack Obama offered one ray of legitimate hope in his stirring after midnight acceptance speech.  He signaled a new direction for his presidency.  It was, in some respects, a throwaway line… so you have to hope it has both substance and meaning.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Hurricane Sandy blows hard against the big government campaign line... ideology meets its match -- Conservatives to the East Coast: "Man up... do it yourself!"

As the sun rises on the East Coast, you have to wonder how those vocal legions of small government people will feel today about the use of federal dollars to rebuild their homes, neighborhoods, cities and states.

Millions without power, subway system flooded with salt water, debris everywhere, weeks of economic lethargy in the offing, the purpose of government -- big shouldered capable government -- has never been more clear.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Eight-plex protest draws at least one reporter -- alas not one from the city's daily newspaper... Guess neighborhood protest isn't newsworthy when you've got the Chiefs to cover

Residents in my neighborhood took to the streets, literally, Sunday to protest the construction of an 8-plex ‘condo’ the city zoning commission has apparently approved. The complex would sit on a busy street in the century-old Volker community.

I’m hazy on the details at this point because the newspaper I rely on apparently couldn’t bestir itself to cover the protest. The only ‘print’ report I could find came from Tony Botelo at Tony’s Kansas City. I searched the Kansas City Star Web site and came up empty. And why not? After all, the three stories in the Star which received the most comments were two about the Chiefs and one about Missouri football. Those three vital reports had garnered 947 comments by 11:26 a.m. Monday.

I guess there’s nothing particularly sexy about a group of citizens with placards standing in the street hoping to maintain the integrity of their neighborhood.

And, surprise, Botello actually showed up for the protest. That’s news. Botello is essentially and aggregator. His publication is fueled by the reporting of other people and a cadre of tipsters. It certainly serves a purpose for readers. But, if Botello’s favorite straw men, the Dead Tree Media, finally went under, it’s hard to imagine what he’d have to fill his site.

He’d have to do what he did Sunday and burn up a little old school shoe leather. And, you know what? He’s pretty good at it. The piece he wrote had information, but, more importantly, life. It gave his readers a genuine sense of the moment, of people standing up for their neighborhood in the middle of a narrow Kansas City street. It captured their argument… and their passion.

I’m not neutral on this. While I subscribe to Jane Jacobs’ prescient theory of urban planning – she rightly argued neighborhoods with the most diversity of use will be the healthiest -- I also think the issue of density weighs heavily on those neighborhoods. Too much density is just plain dangerous. Especially, in my opinion, too much density caused and maintained by people who do not live in the neighborhood.

Eight groups of people living in a space formerly occupied by two, can’t be good for any urban neighborhood. Imagine the hue and cry, the protestors chaining themselves to mailboxes and light poles, if this eight-plex was planned for Leawood South. No question the Star would be on that scene. As Botello argued, this can’t be the primary criterion of the Kansas City, Mo., zoning commission. If it was, the bulldozers wouldn’t already be at work.


Saturday, October 6, 2012

Who won the first Romney/Obama debate? Not you... Was this Obama's rope-a-dope?

Obama almost roped-a-dope
Mitt Romney won the debate.

This is wrong on several levels, none of which is liberal or conservative, Democrat or Republican.

What the challenger won was praise from those who chattered about the debate on television or wrote about it in print. Winning their approval may have some short term effect on people who pay attention to the media.

Allow me to deconstruct this idea.

Nobody actually wins a debate on substance because no one evaluates a debate on substance. Debates are evaluated on how the candidates appear. Are they confident in their facts? Do they seem to be in control? Are they aggressive? Are they combative? Do they seem to have the killer instinct? Do they appear presidential?

Certainly you’ve just recognized the majority of the reporting about this presidential debate. Yet nothing in those questions is particular to Romney / Obama. In a world dominated by entertainment, entertainment values are how a debate is judged.

Ask yourself what you know now -- that you didn't know before -- about the policies these men will follow in the presidency.

I rest my case.

Now, since we know 'won' mean’s 'performed better,' we need to ask performance questions. Why was Obama panned by the critics in the media? Because, simply put, he was too cool.

To argue against cool, is a fundamental misunderstanding of the nature of television. In television, cool wins. There is a reason Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck – or, if your memory is long, Joe Pine – are not on primetime television.

If you want to understand how to use a medium, you first have to understand where people partake of it. What people will tolerate coming through the radio speakers in their cars during their commute is a lot different from what they will tolerate in their living rooms.

Here’s an illustration. Your preacher may be all fire and brimstone from the pulpit on Sunday morning. But if you invite him home to Sunday dinner and after he reaches for another piece of fried chicken he goes fire and brimstone on you, pounding his fist on the table and shouting to the rafters about sin and damnation, well, that’s the last fried chicken he’ll get at your house.

When we watch a debate from the couch in our living room, we invite these people to sit on the rug in front of us and argue nicely. If they go fire and brimstone, they will not be invited back. Let me say it again: On television, cool always wins.

What President Obama had in mind was a sort of theatrical rope-a-dope, and it almost worked. He hung out cool on the ropes hoping Governor Romney would start throwing haymakers. Romney almost took the bait, but pulled back just in time. I’d call the fight a draw. When Steve Kraske said the same thing in the Kansas City Star, a storm of abuse nearly blew down the telephone lines at 18th and Grand.

Which is the final point. For Obama supporters, the debate was – at worst -- a draw. For Romney supporters, Romney won big, and -- if you read the Public Editor's column in the Star, you know they were enraged that the Lamestream media didn't recognize such. For those with minds made up, nothing changed. The question is not who won. It’s who managed to move the few people who aren’t already inoculated against anything that challenges their man. And those two or three percent of potential voters were either watching the Yankees demolish Boston or asleep. They won’t tune in, if at all, until much later in the campaign.

So, who won the first debate and who lost? Nobody won… and anybody who wanted to know what the candidates will do in office definitely lost.


Sunday, September 16, 2012

From the Angels and the Royals, The Book snatches defeat from the jaws of victory, Bill Clinton's arithmetic strikes again in baseball

Close to a laugh as you'll find from Mr. Gibson
who must be laughing now at the antics
of the Angels and Royals brain trust

Let’s talk baseball this Sunday morning.

It’s not quite time for hot stove talk, though after our sauna summer the morning has just enough chill to warrant it.

Last night Angels’ manager Mike Scioscia, managed himself out of a crucial victory. Friday night Ned Yost managed himself out of a meaningless victory. And both snatched defeat from the jaws of victory for the same reason.

The Book.

Baseball is played more by The Book than any human endeavor except, perhaps, running for president. And in baseball, The Book of the age of specialization says a starting pitcher works between five and seven innings, an eighth inning specialist pitches the eighth inning and a closer closes.

No doubt a crafty Sabermagician can produce a graph showing us why this is the least risky course of action. You have to respect the power of numbers, or, as Bill Clinton prefers, arithmetic.

But baseball players aren’t machines, so sometimes a manager has to use his head. Slavish adherence to the low risk option might make you wealthy, might win you games, but isn’t much fun. And sometimes it is just plain wrong, as the numbers also show.

Add to The Book, the prevailing notion in modern baseball that unless the pitcher is Justin Verlander, he’s delicate as a flower. He’s an orchid out there on the mound, who must be cared for with utmost tenderness. He must not be exposed to excessive heat, unnecessary baserunning, dangerous use of a baseball bat, the seventh, eighth or ninth innings, or, worst of all, defeat.

The thunder you just heard was Bob Gibson laughing. Gibson's leg was broken by a line drive off the bat of Roberto Clemente on July 15, 1967. He walked the next hitter, retired the next and dropped to the ground after throwing a ball on a three-two pitch to the third hitter.

OK, Friday night gets a bit complicated. Try to follow baseball logic here as the home manager Yost tries to follow The Book.

It’s the eighth inning of a see-saw battle. The Royals are ahead seven runs to five. Yost goes to the mound and takes the ball away from Aaron Crow who has induced a ground out, given up a single through the middle and struck out Alberto Callaspo. Yost gives the ball to Tim Collins because the numbers in The Book say to. You see, the switch-hitting pinch hitter, Kendrys Morales, the arithmetic says, hits less right-handed than left-handed. Rule: In such a situation, the manager must replace the right-handed pitcher with a left-handed pitcher to turn the switch-hitter around to his weaker side.

Morales promptly deposited this wise decision over the centerfield fence. A couple of singles, a hit batsman and a walk later, the home nine were losers.

Last night was much less complicated. In fact, what happened was shockingly simple.

Mike Scioscia, having learned nothing from watching the Friday night giveaway, turned to the same page in The Book. He watched Zack Greinke throttle the Kansas City club for eight innings then, courageously and against The Book, sent his fragile young charge back out for the ninth with plenty left in the tank and a 20-mile-per-hour difference between his fastest and his slowest pitches.

But then, with one out and one on, he lost faith in himself and in Greinke and went to The Book. Greinke had not yet reached the showers when the Lost Angel’s specialist coughed up the lead on four pitches. The culprit was, once again, the centerfield fence, followed by the pesky left field foul pole.

Denny Matthews pointed this out on radio as the fireworks began to arch over the stadium. When you’re a Ford C. Frick Award winner, you can say such things on the air. And Ryan Lefebvre, his sidekick who is also growing some brass, added his two-bits about coddling pitchers. They were right, and a lot of old schoolers listening to their radios were nodding their heads in silent agreement.


Baseball card image courtesy:

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Slick Willie rocked the Casbah last night

I hate to admit this but I love Bill Clinton. I think he is the best theater American politics has to offer. Only the law could prevent him from being elected president again this year if he wanted to run.

Heck, I even voted for him once. That was after James Brown was accused of domestic violence, which meant I couldn't write him in yet again.

In retrospect I was happier with my votes for James Brown. I always said a man who will lie to his wife -- and an affair is nothing but a lie -- will lie even easier to the country. But his presidency had some moments that look a lot better to me now than they did then. We got through his presidency without being engaged in a shooting war of any magnitude. That's saying something if you think about all the presidencies since Ronald Reagan.

And, from this perspective, his balanced budgets seem almost Herculean.

But his speech last night was just pretty damned good. His technique was nearly flawless. The language might have been more salty over a pile of ribs, but it wouldn't have been more warm, more homespun, more friendly. That is part of his charm. When he asks: "Now, why do I think that?" then he delivers the answer, he reminds me of an old boy at the local bar holding forth with whoever will listen. It is hard to hate that guy, even if sometimes you feel sorry for him because you know he's been there all afternoon and you know he's going home alone.

Bill -- I'm sure he wouldn't mind if I called him 'Bill' -- demonstrated a Rooseveltian ability to simplify complex issues without appearing to condescend. This is a gift of great magnitude. Roosevelt said something like, "Now let me talk about banking..." in his radio addresses in the same way, almost the same tone of voice, that Bill Clinton asks, "Now, why do I think that?"

My favorite device was this: "I know you're laughing now but you won't be laughing when I tell you this." Or, "Now listen to this because it is important." Who can tune out a man who implores you with such language?

And, of course, the line about vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan's "brass" was beautiful. "It takes a lot of brass to criticize a man for doing what you did." Man, that line had everything and it had several meanings. It was just slightly obscene, just skirting the edge, which is a dangerous key to Willie's charm. It had the ring of truth, if not the precision. It reduced the other side to just a couple of other good old boys who had maybe been talking too big a game for their britches. And it was personal, dontchaknow. How many Republican congressmen was he speaking to with that phrase. It takes a lot of brass to go after me for doing the same thing "with that woman" that youall have been doing in the sanctity of your offices all along.

Nobody in American politics has Bill Clinton's brass. The beating he took in the media over his sexual stupidity was huge. But you can kick him in the brass 'til the cows come home and he always seems to smile and go on. That's just who he is.

And, charm? Well, the salacious side of that comment is a perfect example of why women just seem to melt in his presence. He's still got the juice. Just below the surface, just somewhere inside that grin, you can see a boy with a red convertible parked on the asphalt behind the junior high, heat lightning on the horizon, and your virtue in grave danger. Women with PhD's and lot of savvy tell their husbands they'd never go for him, but betray their true feelings with the way their voices get all girlish when they say the words.

Ok, so what happens when he addresses the Democrat National Convention? Same thing. Red convertible. Probably a 65 Mustang. Big ocean of asphalt out behind the junior high. Rock 'n roll playing softly on the am radio. Heat lightning over the trees to the west. The seduction is irresistible.

Unless, of course, you're a died-in-the-wool Republican. But, by then, you'd no doubt turned off the telly and gone to bed. I mean, you know, you've got to be up early in the morning.


Monday, August 27, 2012

On eve of the Republican National Convention. a question... Is voting for president worth your time? Heresy here, but don't just vote on reflex. It may make just as much sense to vote on "America's Got Talent..."


That’s the mantra of newspaper editors, civics teachers, and politicians… if they think they have a majority.

To say otherwise is heresy.

A colleague who always has an eye out of good stuff to share sent me an interesting call for ideas from teachers about how to build the presidential election into their classes and particularly how to get past the “reflex cynicism” of students to voting.

The only problem is, I’m the one with reflex cynicism.

So, here is the heresy. I’m not sure it makes sense to vote for president. Vote for the school board. Vote for bond issues and on referendum questions, for councilmen and mayor, and for governor. Those votes, the “lower” they get, will have the most to do with the quality of your life. Those are important votes and to stay home from those votes is irresponsible.

But investing a lot of time and energy in following a presidential election may not be as valuable. This is coming from a guy who has written James Brown into the slot for president more than once rather than vote for one of the two major party contenders.

The irony here is uncomfortably deep. With a great friend and colleague,  I’m in the midst of teaching a course on this presidential election in real time. What’s funky is that our own reflex to cynicism is exactly what he and I spent the first day talking with students about in class. We just told them that together we're not sure any of this really matters. We raised our own doubts.

I mean, think about it. We've been at war now through two presidencies, two election cycles. If you go back to Bush I, we've had four elections cycles and we were at war in three of the four. That's what? 24 years? And the polls don't show overwhelming support among the electorate for all that warfare. It’s apparent the forces that compel us to war have little to do with who is president. I seem to remember Lyndon Johnson handing off the war in Vietnam flawlessly to Richard Nixon. Perhaps Ike was onto something.

In class that first day we focused on an important understanding in political science. The American system is designed not for radical change, or even steady change, but for incremental change at best and maintenance of the status-quo at worst. Presidential elections don't really change much. They tend to put on a great show, but when they're over, it's really "meet the new boss same as the old boss..." except for elections in a few really dramatic times.

This is complicated by what Theodore Lowi described three decades ago as "The End of Liberalism." Part of his argument was that Congress discovered how to be reelected without voting on policy or taking much more than symbolic stands on issues. They figured out the mechanisms of constituent service and public relations. Ask this... When was the last great outpouring of legislation from the American congress? The Great Society of the 1960s. Theory suggested we could expect another great legislative upheaval around 1984, then again around 2000, because major legislative upheaval had historically occurred in roughly 16-year increments.  That’s how long it took the pot to boil and the lid to finally explode. Now, we seem to be locked into a stalemate that may have little to do with party allegiance or boiling pots.

In fact, parties seem to have little to do with elections or governing and may have outlived their usefulness in their current form, anyway. They're more public relations shells than functioning units. They don't raise the money and they don't deliver voters. Candidates do those things. That is way different from parties doing them. When parties held those functions, they could bully winners into doing what the party needed done to support its base. Parties, and their ideologies meant something.

But, on the other hand, my colleague points out that party platforms are actually the best way to predict what winners will do in office. Something on the nature of 90 % of party planks receive action after the election, most becoming law or policy. Yet, how much do voters know about party platforms? Even less now that conventions are scripted and all the platform work is accomplished in obscurity before it happens. This is exacerbated by the diminution of convention coverage to just a few MTV hours.

My wife tells me “America’s Got Talent” won’t even be pre-empted for the Republican National Convention Tuesday. Which is fitting because “America’s Got Talent” will be vastly more suspenseful than the Republican National Convention.

What that means, I'm afraid, is this: All that passes for a presidential election contest will be decent theater and great exercise in the arts of public relations, and make civics teachers and newspaper editors happy beyond words, but have very little to do with a consequential vote on the issues that many will live and die on after the balloons have been set loose on the convention floor this week or in the victorious hotel ballroom Nov. 6.

Friday, August 10, 2012

A million questions about sport and the Olympics, like, do swimmers ever urinate in the water?

With the Olympics concluding and Matt’s last entry on my mind, I’ve been thinking about the nature of sport in our times.

Why not cooking? Or travel? Or gardening? Or cat rearing?

Why sport? Why does sport occupy our minds and our times? Why is it so compelling that we chatter about it all day, listen to other folks chatter about it all day on the radio, listen and watch it all evening on the radio and television, bet on it, collect it, use it as metaphor to explain about every human endeavor?

Why do old farts like me go out to dusty ball fields and play doubleheaders when the temperature is peaking at 103 degrees?

The cat I played third base next to this week illustrated sports' poignancy for me on the bench between innings. He was remembering a father’s day a lifetime ago when he suggested he and his dad celebrate by taking in a Met’s game. His dad said, why don’t we just stay home, put our feet up, listen to the game on the radio and keep a book?

 If you’re a lifelong baseball fan, that story sends a chill up your spine.

My wife, Kathy, who is not a sporting person by any measure, has been glued to the Olympic spectacle. I come in from playing ball evenings and she fills me in on what I’ve missed, complete with absolutely unexpected nuance. Bolt ran well, but he almost shut it down too soon. The divers are missing their entries. When this one archer cocks his brow (not his bow, she says, emphatically when I suggest she might have the wrong word) you know it’s a 10. Too much drama among the gymnasts tonight, had to take a break.

But she also has questions to which I have no answers. Why don’t women compete on the pommel horse? Why is beach volleyball on the screen every 15 minutes? Why aren’t rings part of the men’s all around?

This last is a loaded question which makes me jealous. She finds men on the rings quite compelling in ways I really try not to speculate. Something about the muscles, about being suspended in air…

But then, I’m less adverse to beach volleyball than she is.

She wants to know about those bright track shoes and whether the pool has chlorine like the pools of our childhoods. She wants to know how in the world a person learns to do tricks on the uneven bars in the first place. Like, what happens the first time? How do horses get across the ocean to the Olympics? Do swimmers ever urinate in the pool? What the heck is water polo? Why is basketball a summer Olympic sport?

The answer is that basketball is no longer a winter sport just for gym rats. The NBA season never ends. The NBA now aspires to be the sport for all seasons.

She wants to know why they don’t pole vault indoors where the wind won’t spoil the jumps. And she wants to know why some hurdlers knock down the hurdles but keep running to the finish line while others just limp off the track. She wants to know how a small, gentle looking guy like Rowdy got his name. She wants to know why the women swimmers smile and laugh before their events and the men snarl and pose. She wants to know why Paul McCartney didn’t sing “Imagine” instead of “Hey Jude.”

Of course, I cannot answer even one of those questions. And the main question I can’t answer is why we find sport so compelling. I mean… think about all we have to worry about in this world.

Oops… I think I just answered the question.


Photograph courtesy:  Unfortunately, they don't tell us where they got it so we can properly credit the fine photographer who created the image...

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Sporting notes

While I'm still struggling with the motivation to write - as evidenced by my lack of posts on this blog recently - I thought one potential way to jump-start my creative flow was to jot down a few thoughts I've had about recent sporting news. No rhyme or reason here. Just word salad. The only thing that ties these thoughts together is that they pertain to sports.

* I'm a bit of an Olympics junkie, and I'm definitely getting my fix this week with numerous NBC-family channels dedicated to the games as well as a tablet app where I can watch all the events live. While I'm in sports heaven, my wife's frustration continues to grow. She hates the Olympics, and although the best events are on in the evenings when we're both together, I try to mix in some cooking shows to keep her engaged. However, she even caught the Team USA bug the other day, and even admitted she enjoyed watching swimming and cheering for Michael Phelps.

* Speaking of Phelps, congratulations to the greatest Olympic athlete of all time.

* Speaking of greatness, congratulations to Serena Williams, this year's tennis singles gold medalist. I have no doubt Serena will be remembered as the greatest, most dominating female athlete of this era.

* I normally don't watch basketball, but it's been awfully fun watching Team USA play. Saturday's 99-94 victory over Lithuania was an old-fashioned nail-biter. And before that, Thursday's record-setting blowout 156-73 win against Nigeria was incredible to see. Earlier in these games, I enjoyed seeing First Lady Michelle Obama congratulate the team after a big win. But my favorite Team USA moment was Tuesday's 110-63 win over Tunisia. You don't see athletes have fun very often, especially in the Olympics. But the Team USA men, each of them millionaires or soon-to-be millionaires, looked like kids at a rec league game on Tuesday. They smiled, clapped and cheered at each big play. And after the game was over, each player gave warm hugs to the completely over-matched opponents from Tunisia, who seemed to revel in defeat at the hands of one of the greatest teams ever assembled. Kobe Bryant even graciously signed an autograph for one of the Tunisian players. That was cool.

* I've heard the commentators mention the upcoming Winter Olympics in Sochi in 2014. Although I'm an even bigger fan of the Winter Olympics than the summer games, I have to admit... I had to Google "Sochi" to  figure out it was in Russia. In 2014, prepare yourself for two weeks' worth of Yakov Smirnoff-inspired "In Russia, bobsled rides you!" humor.

* Now to some decidedly non-Olympic athletes: the Kansas City Royals. It's been a rough few weeks for the home team, and it's been hard to cheer for them. But I have to applaud general manager Dayton Moore for the trade that sent Jonathan Broxton to the Reds for minor-league pitchers J.C. Sularban and Donnie Joseph. Broxton put up good numbers for the Royals as the team's closer, but anybody who watched any of those games knows numbers can be deceiving. In exchange for Broxton, the Royals received a Triple A-level relief pitcher and a Double-A starter. Hanley Ramirez, one of the most talented young players in the game (who has, admittedly, underachieved recently), was traded - along with a major league relief pitcher - from the Marlins to the Dodgers for what? A Single-A reliever and a starting pitcher who just broke into the majors this year. By comparison, the haul for Broxton seems downright bountiful.