Sports: it’s how America deals with big social issues

SEC-football-modern-plantation-systemAhhhh sports. For whatever reason, we’ve decided that the best way to deal with our most pressing national issues isn’t directly through our elected representatives, but metaphorically, through sports.

Guns, drugs, income inequality, violence against women, gender identification, homosexual rights—you name it, our sports venues are where those issues are debated.

This week end was a big one on the metaphorical battlefront. Continue reading


America, refugees and assimilation

twelve-syrians-drown-heading-from-turkey-to-greek-island-1441235628-2607Jeb Bush has proposed only admitting Christian Syrian refugees. On the face of it, it’s an obnoxious, bigoted suggestion, a clear violation of the fundamental principle of separation of church and state, and flies in the face of all this country stands for. But what if he’s right?

The problem is not so much that some of the refugees could be terrorists, although that’s certainly a possibility, e.g., the Tsarnaev brothers, as it is that they could form a potential breeding ground for future terrorists. The risk is second-generation terrorists. Continue reading

CATEGORY: WarSecurity

The human detritus of war

After the U.S. Civil War, the violence didn’t stop. Numerous gangs of bandits continued to fight on for almost thirty years after the war was officially over. The most famous of course was the James-Younger Gang, but there were also the Daltons and the Doolins, Henry Berry Lowrie and the Swamp Outlaws in North Carolina, the Baldknobbers in Arkansas and the Klan. Some of these are purely for-profit initiatives, but as often as not, they have a political bent. They are, along with the maimed, widowed and orphaned, and dislocated and impoverished, the human detritus of war.

Some wars produce more. The Hundred Years War in Europe produced so many companies of bandits that various popes proposed Crusades in an attempt to siphon them off into hopefully deadly wars, just as the French would later enlist SS into the Foreign Legion after WWII and sent them to Indochina. Others produce only a few. The Vietnam War contributed a member of the Symbionese Liberation Army and the Gulf War Timothy McVeigh. Sometimes so many are produced that they destroy entire countries, as the Liberia Civil War ended up ravaging Sierra Leone.

Regardless of nuance, the basic formula is the same. Angry young men, trained in the art of war, who come back disaffected and often with limited prospects. So they do what they know how to do—blow shit up and kill people.

Now we’re seeing the same thing in the recent wave of terrorism. New York, Madrid, London, Mumbai, Boston, and now Paris, again. We don’t know all the details yet, but what we do know suggests military grade weapons handled with military-level expertise in a military-like operation.

It’s not really about Islam or a reaction to the devastation created by the foolish adventuring of the Bushes and Cheney. It’s much simpler than that. They’re young, impassioned, angry and deadly and there are simply too many of them.


Donald Trump

For Democrats, Donald Trump is a godsend

Donald Trump

Cartoon by Paul Szep

To paraphrase the Bad Bard himself, Billy Shakes, “I come to praise Trump, not to bury him.”

That is, those of us on the non-conservative side of the aisle should be enjoying Donald Trump, not fretting over him. He’s a win-win for our side, no matter what happens.

He won’t win. But as a thought experiment, let’s assume he does.

  1. Nothing much will happen (although it will not happen LOUDLY). He has no real party and no machine to get things done. Other celebrity candidates like Reagan and Schwarzenegger had spent enough time in the political boiler room to understand which valves to turn and which pipes to hit with the wrench. Trump hasn’t. He’s far more akin to Ventura or even Palin, empty candidates who get elected and then find themselves like the dog that caught the car: Now what do I do with the damn thing?

Continue reading


Deflategate: what was REALLY on Tom Brady’s cell phone?

OK, let’s get this out of the way first. Did Patriots quarterback Tom Brady cheat by having his footballs deflated? Of course he did. And nobody cares.

This is pro sports. Everybody cheats all the time. Ask old-time golfers about the grooves on Lee Trevino’s wedges back in the day. Or ask coaches about flops in soccer and basketball. Or ask linemen what happens in the trenches in the NFL. Or ask baseball players about foreign substances on baseballs or corked bats. Or ask anybody about PEDs in just about every sport imaginable, from cycling to track to baseball to archery to biathlon.

Neither athletes nor fans care. Andy Pettite shot up PEDs with Roger Clemens, admitted it, and still got his old job back with the Yankees. Barry Bonds did enough ‘roids to put himself on the pole at the Kentucky Derby and got a standing ovation when he returned to throw out the first pitch at last year’s NLCS game. Admitted cheat Mark McGwire actually teaches hitting for the Dodgers now. (Hitting tip: “OK guys, it’s really important that you tap the syringe to get the air bubbles out.”) Continue reading


Endurance sports – what is “epic”? The SufferQuest Diaries, vol. 2

In search of epicness—whatever that is. (And if it’s organized, it’s probably isn’t epic.)

sufferquestPart 2 in a series.

SufferQuest is in some ways a misnomer. What endurance athletes are really chasing is epicness.

But what, pray tell, is epicness?

Hmmmm. That’s a tough one. It’s easy enough to list some of my epic experiences.

  • Hitchhiking across the States solo when I was seventeen.
  • Visiting a village in West Africa that was so remote the villagers had to ferry our motorcycles across a huge wetland in canoes was epic.
  • As were many of the times in Louisiana where I worked pipeline construction to earn money for college… Continue reading

Marathons, triathlons, centuries – Sufferquest Diaries Volume 1: Why get off the couch unless you need to pee?

Part 1 in a series.

Each year, over a half million people run marathons and another half million do triathlons of various lengths. Hundreds of thousands more run mini-marathons or bike centuries (100 miles in a day.) We’re not talking about the neighborhood July 4th 5K or cycling down the trail at the park, we’re talking about events that take from two to seventeen hours to complete, where the risk of injury is significant, and that require hundreds of hours of preparation.

And the question, of course, is “why?”

In the spirit of full disclosure, let me confess that I’m one of those people. Continue reading


Geeks, freaks and cable TV

Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose. 

We humans are what we are, even if some parts of our nature aren’t always what we wish they were—our attitudes toward race, sex, and sexual orientation, our propensity for violence, our gawping at car wrecks, and our desire to stare at, and in some cases mock, those who are different.

A hundred years ago human oddities were collected in traveling freak shows. Monkey-boys, half-man/half-woman, fat ladies, dwarves, the tattooed and pierced, fire-eaters, sword swallowers, and people who bit the heads off live animals. Some became famous, like the dwarf Tom Thumb, who was billed as an adult when still a child and started drinking and smoking cigars at seven to support the illusion, or John Merrick, the Elephant Man, a beautiful man trapped in a horribly deformed body, and Grady Stiles, a horribly nasty man trapped in a horribly nasty body. Continue reading

Boston Marathon

Personal record: a participant’s view of the Boston Marathon

Boston MarathonHow was Boston?

Not what I expected.

I  didn’t expect the intensity. The marathon is on the front of every newspaper, all over television, on banners on the street, and literally a hundred thousand people—runners, their entourages, and volunteers, all wear Boston gear. Everyone, from cabbies to hotel clerks to passersby’s, asks if you’re running. It’s as if the entire world has collapsed inward like a blue-white dwarf, and everything that matters is within a one mile space stretching from Boston Common down Boylston Street to the Finish Line. Continue reading


Obama is wrong: Islamic beliefs are incompatible with the modern world

Islamic terrorists aren’t attacking churches, they’re attacking schools and newspapers.

Ipoint-counterpointn 2001, Bush called for a “crusade” against Islamic terrorists. His choice of words caused many to cringe, although as it turned out he was on the money. The last thirteen years have been a never-ending battle between Judeo-Christians and Muslims that has destroyed much of the Mideast, just like Crusades 1.0. Also just like the original crusades, this latest effort has been a colossal rort, rife with waste, chicanery, profiteering and downright theft. Bush said “crusade,” and by golly, he meant it. (In fact, you could probably argue that most wars we fought in the 20th Century were crusades, from WWII to Vietnam, where the uber-Catholic Dulles brothers supported the Catholic Diem against Ho Chi Minh, to our cold war on “godless Communism.”) Continue reading

southern avenger

Hey Bubba! Three GOP candidates with serious YouTube potential

What are a redneck’s last words?

“Hey, Bubba, watch this!” Those are immediately followed by something involving guns, gasoline, fireworks, water, motorized vehicles or alligators, and a few weeks later by a check from the Southern version of the lottery, the life insurance company.

Usually nations are too smart to play “Hey, Bubba.” Instead, nations fantasize about doing something crazy, like electing Sarah Palin or Jean-Marie Le Pen, but they seldom do unless they’re Russia or some whacked-out place in Africa. Countries usually end up choosing someone who is one inch to the left or right of the middle of the road, whatever that is for them. Continue reading

Is it time for drone coaching in the NBA and MLB?

The New York Knicks are one of the worst teams in the NBA. They’re in desperate need of many things, including a great coach who can successfully explain the complex offensive system they’ve tried (without success) to implement. The good news is they have the greatest coach in NBA history on the payroll. The bad news is he doesn’t coach, because he doesn’t want the wear and tear associated with an NBA travel schedule. In August 2010, baseball’s Chicago Cubs had a similar problem with Lou Piniella, who resigned to take care of his 90 year-old mother.

Pro sports are a grind. Continue reading

By Otherwise Posted in Sports

Book Review: Sean McFate’s The Modern Mercenary

The Modern Mercenary—Private Armies and What They Mean for World Order, Sean McFate, Oxford University Press, 2014.

George Orwell is often credited with the quote, “People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf.” He didn’t say it of course. Famous people almost never said the things that are attributed to them, but the quote resonates because of its fundamental truth: Most of us cannot protect ourselves and depend on a network of rough men—police, military, etc.—to allow us to sleep soundly.

One particular group of rough men, mercenaries, occupy an outsized place in our mythology. Whether it’s Kurosawa’s ronin or Sturges’s Magnificent Seven or Forsyth’s Dogs of War, the less violent among us cling to the idea that when all else fails we can call on the services of a group of hard but principled men who will step in and save us from those who would do us harm. Interestingly, based on the number of Web sites and periodicals devoted to becoming a mercenary, it appears that almost as many dream of being those rough men. Continue reading


Humbug: the US has too much philanthropy

We currently have an epidemic of philanthropy in the U.S., and that’s a very bad thing.

Giving-USA-2014-chartPhilanthropy is everywhere. Good luck finding a 5K race or golf tournament or box of cookies that doesn’t have an affiliation with a not for profit. Companies have replaced annual executive golf outings with days of painting walls and digging ditches at inner city neighborhood centers. And there has emerged an entirely new industry, what professional aid workers disdainfully call “poverty tourism,” where wealthy Americans spend a week or two each year somewhere in the Third World “giving back.” Philanthropy has exploded, and now exceeds $300 billion dollars each year.

Here’s why it’s a bad thing. Continue reading

CATEGORY: ScienceTechnology

Rosetta: why aren’t we more amazed by the most amazing achievement in space travel history?

European Space Agency lands a washing machine on a rock 317 million miles away and moving at 83,000 mph. Oh the MATH!

I am in awe of today’s landing of a spacecraft on a comet and spent much of the day jumping up and down and emailing friends.

None of them understood my excitement, even when I explained it’s all about the math involved. So I tried this, “Hey, guys, it’s like you had to make a THOUSAND-foot putt going up and over a mountain, across a green full of bumps and undulations, on a windy day during an earthquake, and the ball fell into the cup with its final rotation.”

They sort of got that, but my example wasn’t very accurate, because what the European Space Agency did was in fact much harder. The comet is tiny, about 2.5 miles in diameter or about the size of midtown Manhattan. It’s 310 million miles away and is moving through space at 80,000 mph. The spacecraft is even tinier, about the size of a washing machine and had to travel 6.4 billion miles in ten years to reach the comet. Continue reading

In the NFL, cheating pays

We Americans are an inconsistent lot, and nowhere is that more exposed than in our views on cheating. Sometimes we hold our heroes to the letter of the law, and excoriate them when they break the rules. Other times we just shrug it away, e.g., Ronald Reagan in the debates and later with Contra-Iran or Bill Clinton with his philandering bordering on sexual predation.

Nowhere are our conflicted views more visible than in sports. (That’s not really surprising. We use sports as a laboratory to examine the most critical issues in society—gay equality, equal pay for equal work, violence against women, marijuana legalization, etc.) Sometimes we publicly humiliate sports heroes for cheating and come after them with flaming faggots and pitchforks like a mob storming the castle, e.g., A-Rod, Pete Rose, Sammy Sosa, etc. Other times, we just sort of shrug and wink, e.g., Maradona, Roger Clemens, Gaylord Perry, and Manny Ramirez.

More often than not, though, we come down on the side of cheaters. Continue reading


Big 10 makes good on threat: moves football to DIII

In 2013, Jim Delaney, commissioner of the Big 10 (which of course has fourteen teams, which says plenty about the tenuous link between academic integrity and athletics) said that if the O’Bannon lawsuit prevailed, the Big 10 would consider moving to Division III.

Several alternatives to a ‘pay for play’ model exist, such as the Division III model, which does not offer any athletics-based grants-in-aid, and, among others, a need-based financial model. These alternatives would, in my view, be more consistent with The Big Ten’s philosophy that the educational and lifetime economic benefits associated with a university education are the appropriate quid pro quo for its student athletes.

On August 8, a judge ruled against the Big 10 in the O’Bannon case.

Now, one month later, it appears Delaney wasn’t kidding. Continue reading

By Otherwise Posted in Sports
Jesus Tebow

Johnny Manziel: he’s the new Tim Tebow

Johnny Football is probably a bigger douchebag than St. Timmy, but they’re more alike than they are different.

I’m going to miss Tim Tebow.

He was a blogger’s dream.

First, his situation represented an unambiguous wrong, the perfect high horse upon which to climb. He was given an opportunity he did not deserve because of racial and religious bias. Period. No ifs, ands or buts. If he’d been the same white quarterback, only not as overtly religious, he’d have been drafted in the umpteenth round like A.J. McCarron, who has similar stats to Tebow. If he’d been the same religious quarterback with mediocre skills, only not white, he would never have been drafted in the first place. There was no need for nuance when writing about the Tebow situation because there was no nuance involved. WYSIWYG. Some poor schmuck had his opportunity to play in the NFL taken away because of religious zealotry run amok.  Continue reading

Mark Jackson needs self-awareness counseling

Fired Golden State head coach preaches the virtues of paying your dues, even though he never paid any himself.

Mark Jackson, until recently coach of the Golden State Warriors, was fired for clashing with, well, just about everyone in Golden State who wasn’t as evangelically zealous as himself.

That included one of his bosses, board member Jerry West, a highly rated former assistant who’s now a head coach, Michael Malone, and two of his assistants this past season, Brian “White Mamba” Scalabrine and Darren Erman. Jackson tried to fire Scalabrine in front of the team and did fire Erman, who promptly was hired by the Celtics. In a recent radio interview, Jackson makes it clear why Scalabrine and Erman simply had to go: They weren’t willing to pay their dues. Continue reading

Is Charlie Strong a Satanist?

Seven reasons Charlie Strong should not be coach at Texas

Red McCombs, a noted football expert, is right. Strong doesn’t, you know, “belong.” Also, he’s a socialist fascist Satanist.

Charlie Strong

Charlie Strong and his white wife.

This week Texas AD Steve Patterson stunned college athletics by announcing the hire of Charlie Strong as coach at the University of Texas, replacing legend Mack Brown. Most pundits had argued the influential boosters of the Texas program would not allow a candidate of color to be named to the position. Now one of those, “megabooster” Red McCombs, has come forward criticizing the hire.

Despite Strong’s record as a coach, 37-15, three bowl wins in four years and two top 15 finishes in the polls, McCombs said that “Charlie” would be a fine position coach or coordinator, but was simply not up to the Texas job.

Here are the top seven reasons Charlie Strong should not be coach at Texas. Continue reading