Sunday, August 29, 2010
Saturday, August 28, 2010
Friday, August 27, 2010
Thursday, August 26, 2010
For years there has been speculation that Jordan "retired" when he did because he had actually been forced to do so by NBA Commissioner David Stern over Jordan's increasingly reckless penchant for gambling. I don't happen to buy this theory inasmuch as there is no actual evidence for it, and I'm quaint about requiring evidence to prove assertions, not least of all those that are damning. But no matter the flaws in the theory, the following argument still does not work:
"It's just nothing more than crackpot theory," he says, sounding exasperated. "Every journalist I talked to said, 'Don't you realize, Ron?' — Every Chicago sports journalist, every national journalist — 'We went down there, we spent a year looking for the smoking gun! We would have won the Pulitzer! If we had gotten it, we would have been spurred!'"
There are at least two major flaws with this argument:
This generation of sports journalists is the same one that managed to miss steroid use in baseball until well after the story developed. And sports journalists have long had an interesting and conflicted relationship with the athletes they have covered. The argument that it did not exist simply because journalists were looking for it is barely an argument at all, never mind being a good one.
Furthermore, and more importantly, it's not as if there had to be a large number of participants in a coverup. If Stern felt like he had the goods on Jordan (and again -- I don't think there were any goods to be had) he could have simply said "Michael, take some time off and this does not become a Pete Rose situation. Fight me and it does." Only two people had to know about this arrangement, two people who both would have had every interest not to talk. There would not have to be a smoking gun at all if these are the only two people who knew about it.
Think of an imperfect but not inapt analogy: Deep Throat's identity. As high as sports journalists might think the stakes are in what they do, political journalism covers a world where the stakes are much higher and the participants have actual power. And yet for three decades no one was able to uncover the identity of Deep Throat despite the fact that more people of necessity had to know about Mark Felt than would have needed to know about a Jordan suspension (at minimum Felt, Woodward, Bernstein, and Ben Bradlee -- and that is a bare and implausible minimum. Forget for now that most of Woodward and Bernstein's historical role is the stuff of myth -- they became cultural icons despite not actually getting most of the story right.)
I don't buy the whole "Jordan on secret suspension for gambling" conspiracy theory. But its plausibility does not rest on the mighty investigative acumen of sports journalists, most of whom only popped in for a Jordan story here or there simply because the whole thing was so surreal and not because they were deeply engaged in debunking the retirement story.
Sunday, August 22, 2010
[Oxford's Square Books on Courthouse Square. Washington Post.]
Thursday, August 19, 2010
[Hat Tip. Ralph Luker and I both have had some connection with VQR -- his more significant than mine, as I mostly got to know it through my affiliation with the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities and have written a couple of short reviews for them -- and I think we are both mystified by the recent events.]
The Foreign Policy Association University provides internationally minded individuals with the tools they need to realize successful careers in global affairs.
Established by the renowned Foreign Policy Association, FPA U offers specialized courses, networking opportunities and invaluable access to insider information for the next generation of global professionals.
FPAU will provide a host of seminars on topics ranging from landing jobs in various areas tied to international affairs to pursuing opportunities abroad that will best position you for success in working and learning abroad.
Monday, August 16, 2010
Sunday, August 15, 2010
I am still catching up on magazines that amassed while I was out of the country (and have continued to pile up relentlessly since I returned). But this morning I just discovered Anthony Lane's glorious article on the Eurovision song contest from the June 28 issue, "Only Mr. God Knows Why." You can access the abstract here (and if you are a subscriber can download the digital edition). But if you cannot get past the firewall, get thee to a library. Lane's article takes the perfect approach to the indescribably awful yet simultaneously mesmerizing carnival of kitsch and crap that is Eurovision.
(And after Lane amuses you, you may as well go and stew in fury and frustration while reading George Packer's August 9 article on the Senate, which carries the apt title "The Broken Chamber.")
Friday, August 13, 2010
Wednesday, August 11, 2010
Put it this way: If I am Tiger's agent and I know Woods wants to play for the US and I know that Captain Corey Pavin is on the fence I make a phone call, and my pitch goes something like this:
"How much money have you made since 1997, Corey? How much money do you think the eleven other members of the Ryder Cup team have made since 1997? We can quibble about it -- but without Tiger you can cut those numbers somewhere between 40% and 60%. Don't you think Tiger has earned you all enough to get a shot at this year's Ryder Cup?"
I'm not saying Tiger should pursue this line. But I am saying that if he chooses to, his colleagues owe most of what they now have to his successes in the past decade-and-a-half.
Tuesday, August 10, 2010
Here is a view of the cover:
Order a copy. Or get your college library to subscribe!
Thursday, August 05, 2010
Wednesday, August 04, 2010
The imbroglio over the Muslim cultural center-cum-mosque a couple of blocks from ground Zero is driven by two interrelated factors: Pure bigotry and rank political opportunism. There is no excuse for trying to exclude any particular religious group from building in the area, never mind one that has long had a presence there. People don't have a right not to be offended or to be made to feel uncomfortable. But beyond that, feeling uncomfortable just by the very presence of Muslims is pretty strong evidence of pretty vile prejudice. I know, I know -- conservatives have tried to turn the tables on those who accuse them of bigotry, making the accusation somehow as bad as the actual act of being a bigot. But that's nonsense, and we need to keep pointing it out at every turn. Oh: and the critics are playing right into the actual extremists' hands. (There has been tons of commentary on this. Almost literally to pick two at random, see Richard Cohen at the WaPo and William Saletan at Slate.)
The 1980 Olympic boycott was a terrible thing, especially for its victims, the athletes who never got to compete. But that does not make the decision wrong or bad. It may well have been the best option in a scenario where there were few good options. Let's dispense with the pablum that sports and politics should never mix. Virtually the entire history of the Olympics (or for that matter sport) is inseparable from politics. Was it really a better option to go to Moscow, providing legitimacy, exposure, and financial support (directly and indirectly) to what was still at the time our enemy -- so much so that Ronald Reagan would soon after label the Soviets the "Evil Empire"? Once the Soviets invaded Afghanistan, there were no good options and considerable bad ones for President Carter when it came to the Moscow Olympics.
The senate recently unanimously (you read that right) passed a bill that, in the words of a New York Times editorial, "protects Americans from the whims of foreign libel judgments." This is important. A while back I was working with an editor on something about Zimbabwe that I was working on. I had written something pointed about Robert Mugabe and he pretty much told me that my commentary on Mugabe would likely lead us both into a potential libel suit. I thought at the time that he was overreacting (and refused to temper my writing, and so we parted ways) but I also knew that the British court system has often been used for libel fishing expeditions. And as someone who often writes for audiences outside of the United States it would be nice to know that the next David Irving won't be able to take me for all I'm worth. (Note to potential litigants: remember Steve Dallas' first law of being a lawyer: never, ever sue poor people.)
Not that we really needed studies to confirm it, but sports are good for girls.
A trifecta from The Chronicle of Higher Education: The New York Times recently stacked the decks in a forum discussion about university tenure (against tenure, I should add). Conservatives recently selectively used or plain misrepresented the arguments of a book on elite college admissions. And UT-Austin will be the focal point of the latest court action over affirmative action.
Finally, Charles Pierce wonders if the Jets, everyone's preseason favorites, are not in for a mighty disappointment. Amen. It's not like there is anyone else in the Jets' division that has had any success over the last decade or so.