Sunday, September 30, 2007
Jake Helpern, meanwhile, effectively shows that a good hunk of the new generation of recent college graduates are narcissistic jerks. That's right, sports fans: The Baby-Boomers produced self-absorbed offspring. But before we get too smug: I'm considered part of this generation, and odds are, so are you. (One expert pegs anyone born after 1970 as part of this "entitlement generation.") But it's not all bad news -- come to find out, this generation also carries with it strengths. That narcissism might be a source of strength, not merely annoyance. So just read the piece, you selfish jerk.
Saturday, September 29, 2007
Whenever we are compelled to partake in one of these education department-sponsored shell games I want to make a simple request of those who have taken it upon themselves to be our teaching betters: Could I please see your teaching evaluations? I have always believed evals to be a blunt instrument rather than a sharp tool, but it's the most obvious measure we have. I have always assumed, and believe that my suspisions would be borne out were I ever to have access to the evidence, that education professors don't actually perform any better than the rest of us. So why is it that they get to impose their pedagogical norms on content, writing, and analysis related fields?
And don't get me started on interference from state legislatures. Even when well meaning, their demands end up being so catastrophically foolish and shortsighted as to defy reality. If any of this sounds familiar to you, read Schwyzer's self-described "polemic."
Friday, September 28, 2007
Thursday, September 27, 2007
Wednesday, September 26, 2007
Ostensibly, the [thousands of emails he has received about the case] are about Vick, about what he did and what he did not do. But they are really about us. Go beyond Vick. He doesn't matter anymore. They are about the intractability of race. They reveal the faces behind the American mask, the black and the white at stubborn impasse. Vick has provided us an unwelcome mirror, shown us who we are when we're held up close to the light, what we are really thinking when we walk past each other every day, each wearing the same uniform that says "America" across the chest. The uniform is the same, but clearly, after he exposed the raw nerves of race and class and privilege, Vick has shown us we are not all playing on the same team. We've always known this. But maybe we thought that by living better than our parents, at a greater distance from the bloody collisions that pockmarked their lives, we had made progress.
Vick shattered that illusion, telling us that despite undeniable progress in rights and opportunities, we don't understand each other at all.
Ultimately it does not matter that it is hard for many of us to find a serious racial component in the Michael Vick dogfighting nightmare or in the latest OJ Simpson revelations. The racial perceptions exist. And if they exist, if people's perceptions are so reliant on their ethnic background, then those racial components are real. It does not take much serious thought about race in America to realize just how far we've come. But we are not at that promised land yet.
Monday, September 24, 2007
I've "tagged" you in a "blog meme." This means you have to write a post about your earliest political memory - I'm not sure what the penalty for ignoring this is, but it's bound to be something terrible.
[Here's his.] Well, far be it from me to risk something terrible happening to me. Especially when the threat comes in a British accent, which, when not foppish and fey, can be quite sinister!
My earliest political memories come in montage version. I cannot claim to remember anything from Nixon's America, and I am not certain anyone remembers anything of the Ford experience. But I do recall bits and pieces from the Carter years. And I certainly remember seeing episodes of All in the Family, which probably introduced me to political culture as much as anything else in those days. I remember Mrs. Carter coming to my home town when she was First Lady and my little brother being excited to meet "Mrs. Washington" (he was about four as I recall). I remember the hostage crisis vividly, most notably my Mom owning a t-shirt depicting Mickey Mouse flipping the bird with the caption: "Hey, Iran!", which naturally was the greatest thing I had ever seen.
By the 1980 I was nine and can clearly remember wanting Carter to lose and supporting Reagan, to the point where I was a budding political cartoonist and could do a pretty mean Reagan, usually involving him threatening to bomb someone and asking for jellybeans, both proclivities I supported at the time. Within a year of his election, however, I came to my senses. I was a liberal Democrat by 1982. I was eleven.
So my earliest memories come from the Carter years, but my political awareness emerged with the Hostage Crisis. I was eight when this played out on my little tv screen in our house on a cable-free dirt road in Newport, New Hampshire, so by my own recollection I was not especially politically precocious. I do have clear memories of sports, and especially baseball and the Red Sox that antedate my political memories or concerns, so I guess that particular path was already cleared even when I was young.
And if Giuliani does not have terrorism, no matter how desperately he claims it, what, exactly, does he have? He has claimed to have cleaned up crime in New York City, and for this he deserves some credit, though crime dropped in cities across America during the exact same time period, and one suspects that William Bratton, Giuliani's police commissioner, deserves the lion's share of the credit given that crime rates similarly dropped in Boston (before his tenure in NYC) and Los Angeles (since) after Bratton and his seemingly magic touch swept into those cities. What beyond crime? Race relations arguably took a turn for the worse during the Giuliani years as the direct result of his policies. Many of the rescue workers from 9/11 loathe the man. His highest level of government is Mayor of New York City, a fine achievement, but hardly the sort of platform to give one credentials to lead the United States. So what is it? Could someone please explain the Rudy appeal?
Sunday, September 23, 2007
The season was tinged with tragedy, as Tony C had his legend foreshortened by a Jack Hamilton fastball to the eye, but the Sox still scripted what will forever be known as the Impossible Dream, one of the great slogans ever to be attached to a sports team. The Red Sox lost the World Series in seven games to the Cardinals and their incomparable Bob Gibson, but in reviving the Red Sox they also revived Boston's commitment to being a baseball city.
2004 obviously stands as the franchise high point, but without 1967 none of it may have mattered quite as much. With their win and a Tigers loss yesterday, the Red Sox again qualified for the postseason, though they have much bigger goals in mind for the next week and the next month-and-a-half. The fortieth anniversary of the Sox' Quixotean quest for a title seems as good a time as any for another magical run.
Friday, September 21, 2007
Eels: Blinking Lights and Other Revelations: Mark Oliver Everett is the genius behind the almost criminally overlooked band Eels. The driving force behind this melodically orchestrated pop is Everett's (or "E's") raspy voice, which has an atonal loveliness that captures more emotional range than it at first appears possible to do. This is a double-album set, and as I've argued so often over the years, artists sometimes confuse volume with value. I dig these songs, but am not convinced that trimming wouldn't strengthen the offerings. In any case, Eels come through with lots of piano and lush orchestration. The lyrics are contemplative, occasionally acid, sometimes world weary. This is probably the band's most complete effort and like so much that I listen to I believe that it would have gone platinum in a better world than this one. Grade: A-
Eminem: Curtain Call: The Hits: Eminem is a force of nature. He promised that he was going to retire, or at least take a long break, from putting out albums to spend more time with his daughter, who is familiar to any of his fans. No one believed him. Which is weird. The guy never showed himself to be a liar or hypocrite -- it's his relentless honesty that makes him so compelling. Hiding a serious demeanor beneath a cartoon character, Eminem is so much smarter, more adroit, deeper, than his critics that by the end of listening to this collection of a prematurely abbreviated performing career (that we all hope will resume aside from appearances on the tracks of other rappers, most recently Akon) one comes to realize that he was not only the best rapper of his generation but that he had the opportunity, much like Dave Chappelle in another context, to transform the nature of his genre only to choose personal integrity and trueness to self over filthy lucre. In both cases, we can only yearn for more, knowing that both are young enough to return triumphantly, which makes their absence all the more frustrating. If there was any doubt about Eminem's willingness to turn his persona on his head they were erased with "Stan," in which Eminem speaks through the letters of a disturbed fan who doesn't grasp the difference between Slim Shady the character and Marshall Mathers the man behind the curtain. Brilliantly (and unexpectedly) sampling Dido and the sound of falling rain in the background, "Stan's" pacing is worthy of David Mamet, Eminem's appropriation of Stan's internal descent delivers chills, his use of his own voice providing the perfect embodiment of the artist independent of his persona. The other song that stands out even among the standout body of work of Eminem's thus far truncated career is "Lose Yourself," the feature track from Eminem's largely autobiographical "8 Miles." This might be the best song about the desperate desire for fame, or at least success, that's ever been put through speakers. I wish it had been released back in my days as an athlete when I would undoubtedly have put it on a mix intended for gameday consumption. By song's end I'd have been willing to run through walls. Oh -- and did I mention the dude's funny? Eminem is not without his controversies, but in the end when we trust the art and not always the artist, we're left only with the hopes that the rumors that Eminem is in the studio with plans to release an album sometime next year are true. A
The 5. 6. 7. 8's: Bomb the Twist: Take three Japanese chicks, give them an intense love for sixties girl groups, surf music, and a copy of one of the Nuggets compilations, send them off to a few weeks worth of English lessons (which they apparently skipped with fair regularity), arm them with a couple of amps, and my guess is that you'd get the 5. 6. 7. 8's. You've heard them too, though you probably don't know it. For a brief time a year or two ago "Woo Hoo" provided the backdrop to two or three commercials and they appeared in Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill, so you just know they are too cool for school. This six song EP is like an unearthed time capsule from a nonexistent past. B+
The Flaming Lips: At War With the Mystics: The glorious weirdoes from Flaming Lips, with lead freakazoid Wayne Coyne in the lead, have been providing songs about space aliens and robots and chicks who don't use jelly for a decade and a half now. A casual listener might categorize them as a novelty act, but that would be like calling the Beatles a band about entomology. Not only would it be wrong, it would miss the point entirely. At War With the Mystics is not the best album from these Oklahomans, who, by the way, apparently put on a legendary live show, but it is still better than most of what you are listening to right now. B+
Foo Fighters: In Your Honour: The Foo Fighters' new album, Echoes, Silence, patience, & Grace, which comes out on Tuesday, is receiving incredible buzz. This double album -- with one rockin' disc and one acoustic, both very good -- shows the Foos at their underappreciated (I'm sensing a theme in these reviews) best. They are simply a damned good rock band, but will forever be shadowed by Dave Grohl's affiliation with another, somewhat more famous, and legendarily defunct band. Which makes me ask a couple of questions: Do you think Dave Grohl ever stops in his tracks and says "I was in fucking Nirvana!" As significantly, do you think Foo Fighter drummer Taylor Hawkins ever has moments of existential crisis on stage in which he says to himself, "that guy was the drummer in fucking Nirvana?" Probably. B+
Franz Ferdinand: You Could Have It So Much Better: You Could Have Had It . . . represents the follow-up to their acclaimed eponymously-named first album. The Ferdinands are at the forefront the new wave of Britpop (or in this case Scotpop, as they are from Glasgow)which, if it can take on a certain level of saminess, especially for the uninitiated, still kicks the snot out of the parallel American movement, which everyone calls emo, and which suffers from a comparable saminess, but sucks. B+
Thursday, September 20, 2007
Wednesday, September 19, 2007
Tellingly enough, I saw references to this piece today on at least a couple of blogs -- Andrew Sullivan and TNR, as I recall -- and ignored it because I assumed that an article on why Bob Herbert is boring would be, well, boring. Instead Frank provides one of the most insightful pieces on the naval gazing journalistic subculture that I've read in a long time. (By the way, can you tell that I've been shopping a submission of an article to that same journalistic subculture with no luck so far? Am I really that transparent?)
The Guardian is running a series of great interviews of the twentieth century. Yesterday the paper reproduced an edited version of a 1936 New York Post interview with a dissolute F. Scott Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald is one of my favorite writers, and it is difficult to separate him from his era, both for good and ill. For all the glamour and glitz of his 1920s incarnation the Fitzgerald of the 1930s was a seedy and pathetic character whose talent shone only intermittently. This interview captures that version of the man who embodied one normative, if not normal, slice of the 1920s.
USA Today gives props to the University of New Hampshire's quarterback, Ricky Santos. Despite its long-standing excellence in hockey and recent successes on the gridiron, UNH has never been able to win a national championship in any sport. Santos, who has led the Wildcats to victory over IA teams in each of the last three seasons, hopes this will be the year, though sitting at the top of the rankings is an Appalachian State team that has managed to garner a few votes in the IA polls after its upset victory over Michigan. (Hat Tip to the Thunderstick, reporting from the southern edges of the Granite State.)
Pool play in the Rugby World Cup in France is well underway and as of now South Africa, New Zealand, and Australia, the SANZAR/Tri-Nations powers, look like potential champions. The Washington Post travel section has a feature on the scene in France as one of the world's greatest and most popular sporting events works its way toward the awarding of the William Webb Ellis Cup. I have but two words: Go Amobokoboko!
Also from the Post is this article on Virginia's Civil Rights in Education Heritage Trail. I have more than a passing interest in this subject, having been a fellow with both the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities and the Virginia Historical Society, and I would like to see the trail expanded to include many of the locations in Virginia where blacks and their white allies challenged arenas other than education. We have a tendency to compartmentalize aspects of the Movement that to my mind need merging into a narrative whole. Nonetheless, it is nice to see Virginia, too often overlooked in favor of the hot spots in Mississippi and Alabama, getting its due as an important theater of struggle during the Civil Rights era.
If you see issues of gay rights as fundamentally questions of civil rights, as I do, the decision of Maryland's highest court to uphold the state's ban on gay rights will serve as a reminder of how far we have to go. The case cannot be appealed to the Supreme Court, though the judges did not rule out political action to remove the law in question.
Charles Pierce at Slate has as good an argument as any for why all of the hoopla over the Patriots in the last week may simply drive them to dominate the NFL this season. I hope so.
Finally, and most self-indulgently, I've been busy over at the South Africa Blog, where I have lots on Zimbabwe and a whole host of other topics related to South Africa and the region. Enjoy!
Tuesday, September 18, 2007
These must be exhausting times for the President. His popularity has sustained lows like no other in history. His Iraq War has foundered on the shores of incompetence and mismanagement. His approach to the war on terrorism has been characterized by cynical political machinations, his own party keeps him at arms length. It is widely presumed that in January 2009 the government will be firmly back in the hands of the Democrats, an outcome that is almost wholly attributable to his administration's incompetence on a host of issues, and thus to him.
Almost all of this is President Bush's own fault, and more than six years of smugness and arrogance mean that almost no one will sympathize with him. But surely it is not good for America when presidents leave office broken men. The two most recent examples, Nixon and Carter, found redemption in their post-presidential lives, but the America they left was almost inarguably worse than the one they inherited even if the fault was not always theirs entirely. Democrats have much reason for optimism within the party. But the reason for the party's ascent should give all of us, including and maybe especially those of us who live in a Blue State of mind, pause. These are times of great opportunity for those of us on the left side of the American political spectrum. These are not, however, good times for America. I hope that my party is able to recognize the difference.
Monday, September 17, 2007
From here on out, Sox Talk With the Thunderstick will be "Sox and Pats Talk With the Thunderstick." You love it and you know it. Here we go:
Thunderstick: First off, the Sox: Strangely I feel better about the Sox than I did about 10-14 days ago. I know they lost 2 of 3 to the Yanks, but I was actually encouraged by what I saw. It was a bummer to see Okie and Pap blow things on Friday night, but we can't expect them to always win and we can't get off their bandwagon because of this. Rivera's safe conversion percetage against the Sox is like 75%--but do we expect the Sox to beat him every time he comes out? Of course not, so I'm willing to write off the bullpen meltdown on Friday night as a case of one of those things that happens when the Sox and Yanks play from time to time. What I did like this weekend is that Beckett looked awesome. Schill looked great through 7 innings and never should have pitched to Jeter (better for Francona to learn that lesson now than in the playoffs) and Dice, while throwing a lot of pitches, showed some spunk in getting through as many innings as he did. And with one win this weekend and the lead at 4.5 (we'll assume it's 4 since the Yanks have one more game to play than the Sox) with only 12 games left, I think it's just a matter of time before it's sewn up--especially since those 12 games I believe break down as 3 against TB, 3 against Bal, 2 against Oakland and 4 against Minny. I don't even worry about the offense because Manny is supposed to be back on Wed and that'll help things a lot. We need to wrap things up here quickly and get some of these arms some rest through. That's priority #1.
As for the Pats--damn! That's all we can really say. That was an asskicking from kickoff to final gun and it couldn't have felt better. As you texted last night, the simple message for this team is that they are really good. I mean, there's not a weak spot on the field. And they not only beat, but they dismantled what is supposed to be one of the top 3 teams in football and they did it during a week of distractions and with Seymour and Harrison out. We're not even at full strength. This team is ridiculous and while I don't think the Colts have been as impressive, that's the only team that can stop us. I'd like to think the Pats won't trip up somewhere, but I'm sure they will. But at this point, I'm looking at one thing--that Pats/Colts game and
who is going to get homefield advantage.
Couple other points from this game though--obviously the taping thing brought this team together. Was listening to Mike and Mike in the morning this morning and Greenberg (who I really like) said this morning that by Belichick not addressing this to the media and stonewalling it, he's left the players holding the bag and they should be livid at him for doing things that call into the question the validity of their dominance. I don't know if that's true or not, but what I do know is true is that after the game it was clear that the players love this coach (suck it Tom Jackson and your whole "the new England Patriots hate their coach" even if it is 5 years old now). They outpouring of happiness for him after that game and the comments made to the media showed that they weren't mad at him and that they had his back. And as we talked about last week and that the national media picked up on later in the week, it was going to be tough for this team to find something to give them the "us against the world" mentality but they found it and because this video deal will linger for a while, it's going to be easy to keep summoning it up. And I think if I'm a player on an opposing team, after what I saw last night, I just shut the fuck up about the whole thing. All those guys on the Chargers better shut their yap and those guys on the Steelers running their mouths and McNabb and his whole "maybe we can get our rings back" thing (yeah McNabb--first off you never had a ring to get back and second, maybe you would have if you could have controlled your on field vomiting when the game was on the line)-they had their week of fun, they got to take their shots and now they should realize, best not give any bulletin board material.
God I love this team.
dcat: Sox: While I loathe losing to the Yankees (and have lost yet another bet to Holmes, who managed to avoid bets early in the season but has taken it to me the last couple of series) the reality is that we will clinch this thing within a week or so, which will give us time to get the rotation set, rest some guys, but still play trough the finish. It was a great series and the Yankees showed why they will be dangerous. That ninth inning last night brought my first stomach churning of 2007, so I know that the postseason is nigh and I think we can expect that we will run into the Yankees again.
The key is to avoid a letdown. We have twelve games left. Go 9-3 and we do not have to worry about New York. Anything less and we are looking over our shoulders. Tonight in Toronto will be big. Flying there late will probably effect us, but this is a pennant race. Got to deal with what we got.
Pats: I feel that my argument about them has been consistent for a week, no matter how much some might brand me an apologist: They broke the rules. They got caught. They paid a stiff penalty. It's disappointing. But the overwrought hand wringing is just really annoying. We have allegations from two games, one in Green Bay last year and one in New York this year, which was caught well before we opened up the floodgates on them. The idea that this all somehow goes back to the Super Bowl years simply baffles the imagination. That is quite an intuitive leap. And if it is true, aren't folks like Mangini implicated anyway? As Sean Salisbury has said, anyone who tries to make this more than it is to discredit the run this team has had is simply an idiot. It was probably worth a week's coverage. It should be done now. It won't be, but it should be.
Why should it be? because it is evident that the last week's activities proved much more of a distraction to San Diego than to the Pats. The fact that they spent all sorts of time hermetically sealing themselves off from the rest of the world to avoid Patriot spies was great news for the Pats. And then when all the talk was done (well, the Chargers barked all game), when the rubber met the road and the cleats hit the turf, the Patriots absolutely dominated what by all accounts is a team that has realistic Super Bowl aspirations. What's your excuse now, Chargers? What excuse are you going to give for getting crushed on Sunday night on national television after not only a week of chatter but after an entire offseason? Shut. The. Hell. Up. Oh -- and play better.
Right now the Patriots look like the dominant force in the NFL, though as we always say: defending champs hold the reins until someone knocks them off. So I am happy to let the Colts be the number one team in football -- they've earned it -- and to hear our footsteps. Looking at the schedule, I don't see many games we should not win, but the NFL always throws challenges at even the best teams. We may stumble. But I think last night should reveal once and for all that when the whistle blows, the Pats are going to be there. As you say, the rest of the league has made what appears to be a huge mistake. They fueled the us-against-the-world mentality that has served New England so well. The Bills are in trouble this weekend. And the rest of the league should really just pipe down.
Oh -- and on December 16 the Patriots play the Jets at home. That one is going to be a bloodbath. Thank you, Eric Mangini.
Thursday, September 13, 2007
The trip to Kansas has been great.
Fort Leavenworth is like a big, attractive campus of a good state university. If you are a civilian it cannot help but seem (and rightfully so) that everyone in uniform is in the cool fraternity while you are decidedly on the outside looking in.
The conference has been impressive, though at least for now I cannot speak much to it, as all of the events are not for attribution. But there has been some informative stuff, a mix of everything from tactical and operational to strategic and policy discussions blending the work of scholars, military personnel, and in most cases, both.
Tom and his family are well. His boys serve as my alarm clock (someone apparently mis-set it yesterday, much to Tom's consternation, but it worked just fine this morning as five years worth of boys ended up on my head at 6:15). There are a couple of other members of the former OU mafia that have come to occupy sacred space at the Combat Studies Institute and Command General Staff College, but fortunately there are enough fellas with khaki tucked into boots to keep them in line. Last night we had incredible barbecue. And we bought books.
I'll be back in Texas on Saturday. Until then, don't worry yourselves over this patriots folderol. It is much ado about very little. Enjoy the first couple of games of the Sox-Yanks series.
Monday, September 10, 2007
Let's just say that yes, I am rather invigorated by the Patriots' performance against a Jets team that has playoff hopes. And I'm more convinced than ever, after Randy Moss' performance, that the preseason is way too long and for veterans guaranteed of a roster spot, largely superfluous. Bring on the Chargers!
Saturday, September 08, 2007
In this week's New York Times Sunday Book Review the Pulitzer Prize winning historian David Oshinsky has a wonderful essay based on his poring through the reports in the massive collection from publishing powerhouse Knopf that is located at the University of Texas' Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center. That hostile letter you just received via your editor? After reading this essay you can take some solace in the fact that you are not alone. In fact you join a rather long and distinguished list. Congratulations!
Thursday, September 06, 2007
First I am going to start off with an aside that he makes in an argument about expanding the NFL Hall of Fame -- an argument that I fundamentally buy, but the aside embodies the Easterbrook style:
Comparisons of Canton to baseball's Cooperstown, which only admits a few per year, aren't valid owing to the larger number of players involved in football and to its status as the quintessential team sport. (Teammates matter more in football than baseball, thus more should be honored.)
Note the ipse dixit assertion: "Teammates matter more in football than baseball." Do they? In baseball, every single player is going to have his one-on-one moment where he is fully responsible for his teammates. On any given play, the ball can go anywhere on the field where the fielder will be responsible for making a play. Football players work together as units in a way that baseball players do not, to be sure. But I'm not certain how that means that teammates somehow don't matter as much in baseball. Unless, of course, easterbrook knows of a way in which it would be possible for either, say, a pitcher or catcher to function without the other. And I would never argue something so ultimately impossible to prove as that teammates matter more in baseball than in football. Doing so either way is silly, and to simply assert it as fact is fairly representative of Easterbrook's occasional assert-don't-prove writing style.
The second example reveals one of Easterbrook's other signature moves -- mocking those who disagree with one of his assertions even when his own internal logic dictates that maybe those assertions are not all that he believes that they are. In the midst of an argument that itself is full of inconsistencies and dubious assertions, Easterbrook writes the following:
At this point Appalachian State of beautifully rustic Boone, N.C., is not only good, it's the hottest team in college football at any level. Stretching back to last season, Appalachian State has won three consecutive do-or-die playoff games, then won a championship game, then defeated the nation's No. 5 team on its own turf. Short-term, no football factory school has done anything so impressive. BCS defending champion Florida beat Ohio State, but then wimped out by next scheduling Western Kentucky, a cupcake. Preseason No. 1 USC's short-term performance isn't even close to the Appalachian State run: in their three most recent outings the Trojans lost to UCLA, then won a bowl game, then faced a second-echelon team in Idaho. Appalachian State has won five consecutive max-pressure contests – the Mountaineers are the hottest team south of the NFL. And should New Orleans upset the Colts in the NFL opener, Appalachian State would become the hottest team in football, anywhere, period.
Now note that Easterbrook is celebrating Appalachian State's victory over Michigan. And yet in the same paragraph he argues that Florida "wimped out" by scheduling "Western Kentucky, a cupcake." And so on he goes, insulting the teams that the major programs schedule even while celebrating a win by Appalachian State in a game that beforehand had equal "cupcake" implications. Easterbrook clearly loves that Michigan lost a game that he believes they should never have scheduled even though without scheduling them they could have never lost.
The reality, which the Appalachian State win shows, is that the lines between the levels of college football are more blurred than most people would imagine. Appalachian State is a multi-time Division IAA national champion. In any given year I would strongly press the case that qualitatively the IAA National Champion (and a handful of other elite programs at that level) is easily as good as a large number, quite likely a majority, of IA programs (and yes, I realize the NCAA recognizes a far more cumbersome title for the former IA and IAA schools but let's stick with the old titles for simplicity's and sanity's sake). When all is said and done, Michigan may well end up as a top-25 team, probably far more than that. They have a lot less to be ashamed of than most of the college football experts would have you believe. It is possible for Michigan to be a very good football team that just happened to lose to a very good team in a lower division.
And here is another pretty important point: These small schools line up to get a shot at playing the big guys. Sometime David throws a scare into Goliath. And while this past weekend's game in the Big House marks the biggest upset, it was not the only time in recent history when a IAA team knocked off a IA team, or even a BCS conference IA team. (New Hampshire beat Northwestern a year ago, for example.)
To be sure, football probably has the biggest disparity between divisions because of the size-strength-speed-numbers factor, which creates a multiplier effect. But at all levels and across sports the little guys beat the bigger guys, and that includes DIII upstarts occasionally taking down the DI guys, especially in sports such as track and swimming, but also including basketball.
Finally, as long as there is an incentive for the big time programs to keep a pristine record for the purpose of the BCS, these seemingly lopsided matchups will characterize the early stages of the college football season. There is only one solution: A playoff system in which enough teams and conferences are represented that it does not pay off to schedule true cupcakes, but in which the little guys in the IA ranks are not kept out by virtue of the current BCS conferences refusing to play them. Make it a 16 or more team playoff in which every conference gets at least one representative, in which there will be no allowance for IA independents (join a damned conference, Notre Dame!), and that would allow for five at-large berths that would presumably go to schools from the major conferences. Until that happens, the highest level of college football, for all of its pageantry and wonder and greatness, will never really be a sport we can take fully seriously.
All that said, I love seeing TMQ if for no other reason than that it means the NFL season is upon us.
Five years ago, the American public was asked to support the invasion of Iraq based on the false claim that Saddam Hussein was somehow linked to al-Qaeda. Today, the erroneous belief that al-Qaeda's franchise in Iraq is a driving force behind the chaos in that country may be setting us up for a similar mistake.
I have tended to be wary about underestimating al Qaeda's will to do the liberal west harm even if the organization does not have the capacity to carry out its most ardent desires. But I think we do need an honest an open debate about causation and correlation in Iraq, about al Qaeda's real role throughout the conflict there, and about the various options and consequences for each of them. There is no ideal result about to spring forth like a mirage from the desert sands. But there surely are better options, and those are what we have to seek.
Thunderstick: We're into the first week of September so we're into the final stretch and done with what was an up and down week. We start off by getting beat in three pretty exciting game against the Yanks. Those games were tough to watch as the difference between the teams was the Yanks' ability to get hits when they had an opportunity to score and to play clean, error-free (or at least more error-free than the Sox) baseball. Basically the Yanks played the way that championship teams play while the Sox played like a bunch of pretenders. Fortunately, we were able to cleanse our palates with 3 against Baltimore and the Labor Day game against Toronto where we went 3-1 while the Yanks were going 1-3 against Tampa and Seattle and all of a sudden that sweep NY needed to get to stay in things last week doesn't look as meaningful.
Bottom line is that there just doesn't look to be enough games for NY to catch us at this point. As we've emailed a hundred times, there's 24 games left. Even if the Sox go 12-12, the Yanks will need to go 18-6 just to catch us and given our schedule I have a hard time seeing us go 12-12 over these last 24. But the most important thing now is to get this done as quickly as possible. We've got Manny ailing, Dice looking like he's tired and general nicks and bruises that result from a long season. The sooner the Sox clinch this thing, the sooner guys can start getting rest to get ready for the playoffs. That's really all it comes down to now. Hopefully, unlike in the last three series with the Yanks, this team can finally show some killer instinct and get it done.
dcat: It's tough for Sox fans to shake off the past and make bold calls. At least it is for those Sox fans who have been around long enough to know better. The bandwagon folks tend to be louder and brasher and generally make the rest of us look even worse than we can already be. But the sweep against the Yanks last week looks more and more like the last gasp of a desperate team. They had to win those games. It would have been nice for us to win those games. And from outside appearances, anyway, the teams played in ways that reflected their sense of necessity. I think it is pretty safe to say that we are going to the postseason and that we are almost certainly going in as the Americal League East Champion and the team with the best record in the Majors.
As you noted, we have recovered pretty well, going 5-2 since that series ended and putting the Magic Number at what is now 16 after tonight's win against the O's. The Yanks were off, and any time we have a chance to gain a game when they are sitting we need to take advantage of it. You are right that the best thing we can do is put ourselves in a situation where the games at the end of the month are not must-wins so that we can set up the rotation, get some guys a bit of rest while playing some of the younger players on the 40-man roster. We are seeing Dice-K's rough adjustment to the longer and more intense season on this side of the Pacific, for example. And there is little doubt that if we are in a position to do so, Tito will give him rest in hopes that doing so will rejuvenate his arm. We need Manny back. Youks could use some time off. Basically, it would be nice not to be the team clawing to the end just to secure a berth in the postseason.
By the way, is there any doubt that September is one of the best months on the sports calendar when your baseball team is in contention? You get baseball that matters, the kickoff of the NFL and college football, and hell, even some significant tennis and golf, and perhaps somewhat more esoterically, at least for Americans, the Rugby World Cup, which kicks off tomorrow. Glory be.
I'll try to pen an NFL preview tomorrow, but as far as tonight's game goes, let's assume that both the Saints and Colts will be good this season and that both are playoff bound and that whatever happens, barring a catastrophic injury for either team tonight. In other words, tonight's outcome won't much effect my inevitably daft predictions.
Hat tip to friend, colleague, and fan of lousy pro teams, BriBra.
Wednesday, September 05, 2007
Tuesday, September 04, 2007
Sunday, September 02, 2007
We all have our personal favorites, of course. In the two years after I graduated from Williams I took to the road for Mardi Gras, picking friends up along the way until the car was chock full. The stories that make up the memories of that trip are not suitable for a family audience by and large, but we lived all of the hallmarks, or perhaps cliches, of the genre: Excess, way too little money for way too many people, sleeping in accomodations that today seem frankly impossible, dangerously little formal planning, and more excess. There are countless other trips as well -- track trips in college, road trips that required me to cover lots of milage in little time and those that allowed me to stretch my legs, road trips that were the result of moving to another part of the country and those that allowed me to meet up with friends coming to a different part of the state, road trips for research and road trips for conferences. Whatever the cause of my various long car trips, my capacity for adventurous international travel probably began with a willingness to jump in the car on a moment's notice and drive wherever a few friends could convince me was worth going.
Today's New York Times has two reminders of how universal the lure of the open road has been for Americans. Matt Gross provides the tale of his frugal road trip, as if there is any other kind. Holland Cotter, meanwhile, has the compelling reminiscence of a 1964 road trip that he took by Grayhound that was inspired by a friend's incarceration in a juvie home and his own reading of On The Road. Race plays a big role in his story.
As for the source material itself, I have always found On the Road to be somewhat lacking as literature. But a recent discussion with dcat's friend Jaime (who was reading On the Road) reminded me that Kerouac's most lasting work is important for reasons beyond its mere literary value. Kerouac captured a segment of American youth at a particular time in US history that may never be recaptured but that nonetheless carries with it a universal resonance. A lot of my readers probably reject Kerouac's (and his cast of characters') proto-beat approach to the world, but I find value in the idea of trying to find options outside of those imposed by the mainstream. The 1950s could not have been the easiest time to be the sort of kid who challenged the status quo. In a sense, the great American road trip is a reminder of the possibility that America offers to evade that status quo, if only for a little while.
Next week I'll be traveling to Kansas (albeit by plane) where I'll spend a week, and in October I'll be driving to Dallas to meet some friends for a road trip weekend. Those days on the road are not entirely in the past tense, I guess, and as long as there is a highway and a full tank of gas, not to mention the prospect of an adult-version of a little excess, it will always be possible to go out on the open road to see what is out there over the horizon and in the great beyond.