Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Now Batting for the Red Sox, Number 2, Derek Jeter?

There is no way Derek Jeter could sign with the Red Sox. Is there?

This is nothing more than idle speculation as far as I can tell. Jeter's prime is long past, and so the Red Sox should not want him for anything more than a cost-contained option to tweak the Yankees and then only if Jeter is willing to move to third (even if they ultimately use him as a shortstop -- I still hope they re-sign Beltre).

But can you imagine the reaction? Just for that reason (and because the Sox have plenty of money) I'd love to see them offer Jeter, say, four years and $64 million or even three years and $57 million. Stoke the bidding process, stoke the rivalry, and maybe acquire a stopgap shortstop.

I respect Jeter even if he is one of the most overrated players in the history of sports. But just from a brinksmanship angle this makes some sense. The Yankees almost certainly won't let him go to the Red Sox, certainly not over a few million dollars or an extra contract year. But can you imagine if they did? Criminy.

I's not going to happen. But this is a nice palate cleanser between hideous Monday Night games matching Arizona and San Francisco and the nightmare that is the BCS. Plus, it provides a nice lead-in to Pats-Jets on Monday night.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Well, That Sucks

Yeay! The Free Market is Awesome!

Oh, wait, depending on whose definition we are using the free market can be awful?

Oh, dammit. The world is complex and sloganeering does not actually help describe the world?

But I was reassured by a sloganeering and bumper stickering world.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Motor Trend KO's Limbaugh

Todd Lassa at Motor Trend kicks the living shit out of Rush Limbaugh's (and to a somewhat lesser extent George Will's) ill-informed (imagine that!) tirades against the Chevy Volt. It is glorious to behold.

[Hat Tip.]

Friday, November 19, 2010

NHS -- 2010 New Hampshire State Football Champions! (With A Hint of Melancholy)

I never got to play for a state championship when I played football for Newport High School. My sophomore year we lost in the first round of the playoffs to a team we had beaten just a few weeks earlier. My junior year Newport began an ill-fated experiment in playing in a league of Vermont and New Hampshire teams, the Connecticut Valley League, that made total sense geographically (I don't think we had a road trip of any more than an hour in two seasons). But the New Hampshire Interscholastic Athletic Association was not a fan of our trans-state machinations, and so for two years we were ineligible to play for any sort of postseason berth. Both years we had winning records against teams from schools that were at least twice as big as we were and in some cases four times as big -- each of the New Hampshire schools in the conference would later play in conferences two or more divisions above Newport.

The next year, when I was a freshman in college, Newport went back to the NHIAA with its tail between its legs, entered the normal divisional system (which has changed at least five times in the last three decades) and won a state championship in a tiny division of the state's tiniest football playing schools, and between then and 1995 won at least two other championships. After something of a dry spell (brought about at least in part because Newport continues to be one of the smallest, if the the smallest, football-playing high school in New Hampshire) Newport again emerged as state champions last weekend after crushing a team from Gilford that had defeated my Tigers by twenty points two weeks earlier. The final score was 35-0, all the more impressive because it took place on Gilford's home field. And in typical Newport fashion, residents of the Sunshine Town traveled well -- we likely outnumbered the home crowd by a substantial margin. My junior year we played a pivotal conference game against Lebanon, 45 minutes up the road, and Newport, a town of 6,000 people then as now, had fans numbering in the thousands on the sidelines. (For posterity's sake I should note that I made the first tackle in that game against Labanon's All State kick returner and running back. Yeay me!).

My uncles won a couple of state championships back in the 1970s and Newport won another a few years before I got to the varsity. But because of the CVL experiment I never got particularly close to a state championship in football despite playing for teams that had a record of something like 18-7 in my three years. And while I am proud of my individual track state championships, it's just not the same thing inasmuch as no one actually gives a shit.

I certainly have not long lamented not winning a state championship in high school. I was always better at track than football, and while I was recruited by a few small colleges to play football, once I got into Williams I banished any of those ideas, though I have long regretted not even trying to "walk on" for the Ephs. But Newport winning brought back a bit of melancholy.

Newport is a small high school in a small town. The connection that one has to a school such as NHS is deeply personal, made all the more so by the intimacy of a community such as NHS. I would guess that there have been fewer graduates of Newport High School since I left for Williams than walk the halls of Permian High School this morning. I know the head coach (who was one of my high school teachers, who was then the baseball coach who had been passed over for the head coaching job, who some of the town idiots -- including the AD -- tried to remove a few years ago after his only losing season in nearly two decades, and who is by just about any measure the most successful football coach in Newport's pretty solid football history) and talked to him on Sunday. Most of the players have names I recognize -- I played with their fathers or uncles or brothers. And now they are New Hampshire Division VI State Champions.

Glory To Newport . . .

Friday, November 12, 2010

Students, Writing, and E-mail

It seems that I am constantly having to explain to my students why writing matters. There is nothing more annoying than reading teaching evaluations at the end of a semester and seeing "This is not an English class -- why did he grade only based on how good we wrote?" (QED)

It is idiocy to believe that only English professors should be encouraging writing skills, so in order to pre-empt this blood-boiling criticism I address it headlong (I relish pointing out that our history department has published more books than our English department). And one of the ways I do this is to argue that in nearly every career that they choose they will have to write and that a huge percentage of that writing will come in the form of emails.

It might seem odd to equate writing a college essay with constructing an email. But the two really are not all that different. In both you are trying to make a point and eventually accomplish some goal. To be effective both must be clear, well organized, and well thought out. And in both cases the audience matters.

At his fine blog that is otherwise devoted to "research, international development, foreign policy, and violent conflict," Chris Blattman has a nice post that I hope gets as much attention as possible: "Students: How to Email to your Professor, employer, and professional peers." Students, and all of us, really, should commit his twelve rules to memory.

Goodnight Consensus

In today's Boston Globe Joan Wickersham uses Amazon reader responses to the venerable children's classic Goodnight Moon as something of a metaphor for our times.

(By the way, put me in the column of those who loathe the so-called "democracy" of anonymous, unfiltered Amazon reviews. Yeah, yeah, I'm an elitist. Since when is "elite" a bad thing?)

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Herf at a Celebratory TNR

Over at TNR's The Book, friend of dcat Jeffrey Herf has a review of Gilbert Achkar's book The Arabs and the Holocaust. The closing paragraph:
The Arabs and the Holocaust has elements of candor and courage. It is a salutary development that someone with Achcar’s political views acknowledges the realities of the Nazi-Islamist wartime collaboration. It is important to be reminded of the history of a secular Arab leftism and liberalism that opposed fascism, Nazism, as well as Zionism. Yet Achcar undermines these virtues of his book with superficial, unfair, and unreliable readings of those with whom he disagrees, above all those who fought fascism and Nazism on the basis of secular, liberal, and even leftist values yet still support Zionism. His attack on these scholars is neither a contribution to scholarship nor a contribution to moderation.
Speaking of TNR, the venerable bastion of center liberalism is celebrating its 96th birthday.

Monday, November 08, 2010

Impumelelo on the World Cup (Self Indulgence Alert x2)

The latest issue of Impumelelo: The Interdisciplinary Electronic Journal of African Sports is now available. It includes a group of brief articles on "FIFA World Cup 2010 Reflections," including my contribution, "Ayoba!: Reflections From South Africa's World Cup. " (As long as I'm engaging in self indulgence anyway, the last issue of Impumelelo included my much lengthier "Stopped at the Try Line?: Rugby, Race, and Nationalism in Post-Apartheid South Africa.")

[Crossposted at the FPA Africa Blog.]

Pardon Our Interruption . . .

My US Sports History and Society class had a project whereby they put together an episide of Pardon the Interruption. Their YouTube trailer is brilliant and is destined to go viral.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

ISN Insights: The ANC (Self Indulgence Alert)

I am pleased to announce that I have begun a new regular gig writing about African affairs for the Zurich-based International Relations and Security Network (ISN). I will be contributing to their ISN Insights. My first piece for them, which is on the state of the African National Congress, has been posted.

[Crossposted at the FPA Africa Blog.]

And Now To Charlotte

I am heading to one of my old stomping grounds, Charlotte, for this year's Southern Historical Association annual meeting. If you're going to be there we'll inevitably cross paths in the book exhibit.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Back From Israel/Death Cab For Cutie: Oddest dcat Juxtaposition Ever?

I'm back from Israel and am trying to pull my life back to some semblance of normalcy. There is always something strange about going abroad during the semester. You return and jump right back into the routine and it's as if the travel never happened. The conference was great, I was pleased with my paper, and naturally returning to Israel was great but raised myriad questions and thoughts. I'll be writing about the political situation in the next few days and will keep you posted when I do.

In the meantime, rejoice that the spring will see the release of a new Death Cab for Cutie album. They promise a wholly new departure. Because bands always promise wholly new departures and are conflicted about their last album. It's the oldest rock star trick in the book. Well, after banging groupies by the handful, doing lots and lots of drugs, and drinking Jack Daniels straight from the bottle. Usually at the same time.