Monday, December 12, 2011

The Miserly Bengals

I can confirm that the Cincinnati Bengals give the families and friends of opposing players horrible seats. One year when I was in grad school at Ohio and my friend Ethan Brooks was still playing for the Atlanta Falcons early in his NFL career I went to see him play against the Bengals in Cinci. He had gotten me a ticket from the player allotment and those tickets were horrible. But I was surrounded by families and friends and girlfriends and wives of other Falcons players way up in nosebleed land.

Now, I suppose there is logic to not wanting to give choice seats to what amounts to opposing fans. But the numbers we are talking about are relatively small -- there were not two dozen of us there with Falcons ducats on that drizzly day in Cincinnati -- and it would seem to me to be simply a courtesy to give the players decent tickets to the game in which they are playing. Then again, the Bengals are run by legendary cheapskates, so I guess no one should be surprised that they'd nickel-and-dime any time they get the opportunity.

Friday, December 02, 2011

At the FPA Africa Blog

In the long process of restoring normalcy to my parambulating life I am back to regular posting at the Foreign Policy Association's Africa blog. Today I put up two posts. One on the passing of South African cricket legend Basil D'Oliviera, the other on the elections in the Democratic Republic of Congo. I thank you for checking them both out.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Me in ESPN the Mag (Self Indulgence Alert)

A while back something I wrote a few years ago was quoted in an ESPN the Magazine article on stadium security in the 9/11 commemorative issue. I had been quoted in an AP story on the same topic that got pretty wide distribution so I missed this one until recently.

Monday, November 21, 2011

On Events in Egypt (Self Indulgence Alert)

Five weeks of pretty much nonstop travel has taken its toll on, among other things, my posting here at dcat. I was interviewed by The Christian Post on recent events in Egypt and you can see the resulting article here.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Malema and the ANC

I have a longish post, written at 35,000 feet over the heartland on the way to Godless Washington, DC, on the ANC's suspension of ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema over at the FPA's Africa Blog.

Meanwhile next week, on Tuesday and Wednesday I'll be at the Sport and the Global South Conference at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia where I will be on the program. If you are in the greater DC area, swing on by.

Monday, November 07, 2011

Come Fill Your Glasses Up, To Williams! To Williams! To Williams!

The latest issue of Sports Illustrated has a fine article on Mike Reilly, a Williams football star from the early 1960s who tragically succumbed to Hodgkins disease just weeks after he graduated in 1964. Thus during the Homecoming game against Amherst Williams will honor Reilly, whose #50, while never officially retired, has never been worn since. (Williams has never retired a player's number.)

I'll be at Homecoming this weekend, so if you'll be there let me know, and we'll check out the new Purple Pub.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

The Travel itinerary

I have lots of travel ahead in the weeks to come with little rest in between. Today I depart for New England. I'll arrive in Boston, drive north, take a quick overnight stop in the old home town to stay with my Dad, and early tomorrow morning will head to Burlington, Vermont where I am on the program for the Northeast Workshop in Southern African Studies.

I get home late Tuesday night and the next day head to Chapel Hill, where I will be giving a talk at the Wilson Special Collections Library in a program titled "The Long Road to Parchman: North Carolina and the Desegregation of Interstate Busing." I'll be discussing the Journey of Reconciliation and the Freedom Rides in North Carolina. From there I'll fly straight to the Southern Historical Association's annual meeting in Baltimore.

I'll return from Baltimore for just a few days before heading on to the Association for the Study of the Middle East and Africa (ASMEA) meeting, where I am giving a paper on the 2010 World Cup. Then it's back for a few days before one last trip to Washington, where I am giving a paper on gender, race and South African track and field at the Sport and the Global South Conference at George Mason University. I'll also squeeze a quick trip up to Williams for Homecoming while I'm at it. And it all ends with a socer tournament in Austin.

I've somehow even managed to avoid canceling any classes during this crazy month or so.

Posting will be light, it goes without saying, but I leave you with this assessment of Liberia's fascinating but fraught presidential election.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The FPA Great Decisions National Opinion Ballot: On Somalia

Over at the Foreign Policy Association I assess the Somalia-related questions in this year's FPA Great Decisions National Opinion Ballot.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

South Africa Sport Report

Over at the FPA I have written a postmortem on the Springboks and Bafana Bafana. The Boks lost 11-9 to Australia in the quarterfinals of the Rugby World Cup in a game they absolutely dominated in every way but the scoreboard. Bafana crapped out of the African Cup of Nations in a way that boggles the imagination with the sort of coaching decision you'd expect from Andy Reid.

Jack White Does U2

You can access an awesome Jack White cover of U2's "Love is Blindness" via Spin here.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

San Angelo

Recently a Washington Post travel writer traveled back to his home town of San Angelo, Texas, not so far from Odessa (by Texas standards) to discover What Makes San Angelo Distinctive. More to the point, he was curious about why the National Trust for Historic Preservation this year ranked San Angelo among its dozen distinctive destinations. Like so many people he left his hometown without thinking there was much special about it, was happy to leave, and other than to see family is rarely in any haste to return.

I've spent a little bit of time in San Angelo -- Mrs. Dcat and I have enjoyed the old downtown area, a little strip with an old whorehouse and nifty boutiques and some good restaurants and bars. And I am a mamber of the Texas State Historical Commission's Board of Review, so I have some affinity for the National Trust. I'm not sure if I'd make a special trip from out of state just to see San Angelo on its own, but if you get anywhere near West Texas it is certainly worth a visit.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Red Sox Post-Mortem

You know, I really did think the days of epic collapses and thus mourning were behind Red Sox fans. I assumed that 2004 cleansed those sins and put us in a different world. I also assumed that the Red Sox existed in a world where they simply could not collapse like that. With the ability to spend money, if not at a Yankees-esque pace at least at a rate that is the envy of the majority of the sport, I thought we might be collapse-proof.

Well, I was wrong. Now, 2004 and 2007 have changed many things. Had this past month or six weeks taken place in the absence of those two titles I may well have been looking for a tall building. But those titles really did change so much. We might have just experienced an epic collapse, and we still have a long and let's say problematic history as Red Sox fans. But there is nothing particularly special about this sort of suffering. I don't think what I am experiencing is dissimilar to what a Braves fan of similar passion has been going through over the last few weeks. Well, ok. Maybe it's a little worse.

And the repercussions are beginning to hit and to hit hard. Terry Francona moved on to other opportunities, which is to say he was fired but no one wanted to be accountable for it. And frankly reading between the lines it seems that Tito was frustrated by what he perceived as a lack of management support and by something perhaps more frustrating and worrisome -- a potentially divided locker room. There is lots of room to speculate as to who might or might not be poisoning the well and without substantiation I have no interest in repeating what rumors I've read and heard. But it seems quite possible that a new manager will be stepping into a situation in which he will have to clean things up a bit in the clubhouse. I worry that we are going to realize just how good a job Tito did in managing egos and personalities these past eight years and how tough that is to replicate.

Meanwhile it looks very much like Theo Epstein could be on his way out. The way I am reading things is that he may want more power, which would come at Larry Lucchino's expense. Let's keep in mind that while Theo is a local boy, I think that actually adds to the pressure. He bagged out once, in bizarre circumstances involving a gorilla suit after 2005, and maybe he looks at that Cubs job and sees a real opportunity. I think it's safe to say that if he could bring the Cubs to a World Series as GM and head of baseball operations he would become one of the most legendary front office figures in the history of the sport.

Of course it's not necessarily that easy. I don't want to lose Theo and I did not want to lose Tito, so I am a bit concerned with the direction of the franchise right now. Our money actually adds pressure inasmuch as this team should never, ever be in a rebuilding phase. Yet when I look at that roster I see an awful lot of missing pieces and to make matters worse I hear all of these rumors about a really ugly, selfish locker room that reminds me of nothing so much as the 1980s Red Sox and I cringe. Despite what many of us thought after their offseason last year the Rays are not going away. And the Yankees are even better positioned to reload every year than we are. Of course I also hope we are not rash. Don't start thinking about how to unload Crawford. Don't start having a fire sale. Don't start thinking that we cannot possibly re-sign any of these guys. In a way if we do lose Theo I hope we hire from within because the last thing you want is some new guy coming in and thinking he has to overhaul the whole damned team.

So baseball is done. Call me provincial, but I won't be watching much of these playoffs. Sure, I'll peek in to see if the Yankees lose. But the flipside of paying attention to baseball enough to see if the Yankees lose is that sometimes those bastards don't lose. I'll be damned if I can figure out how they did it this year. I still look at that roster and I do not necessarily even see a playoff team, never mind a division winner or World Series contender. But credit where credit is due. They got it done when it counted and the Red Sox are watching at home. Wait 'til next year . . .

Saturday, October 01, 2011

Julius Malema: Supernova?

Posting has been light lately. Yes there will be a Red Sox postmortem.

In the meantime, I wrote a bit about South Africa's volatile ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema at the Foreign Policy Association today. Go read that.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Rugby World Cup is Underway

I've written a somewhat lengthy post over at the Foreign Policy Association Blogs about the early days of the IRB Rugby World Cup which is underway in New Zealand. In keeping with my work at the FPA, the focus of my piece is predominantly on the two African teams, Namibia and South Africa, with particular focus on the latter. And in keeping with the history and politics of sport and especially rugby in that country, I talk a bit about the issue of race and transformation and how that issue will linger for some time even if right now the focus should be on the Springboks.

Monday, September 12, 2011

9/11 Ten Years On

I was sleeping in my apartment in Falls Church, Virginia when I was awoken by a phone call. It was my ex-girlfriend who had moved out recently enough that the scars were still fresh. A phone call like that is rarely a good sign.

Had I been looking out the window just minutes earlier I might have been able to see the plane heading on its death trajectory toward the Pentagon. I spent the day out at the ex girlfriend's apartment further out on I-66 from my relatively inner suburb. The highway was quiet though there was a lot of talk about whether or not more attacks were to come, talk that would continue for days and weeks and months and years.

It is too easy to say that 9/11 changed everything but it surely changed a lot. And I avoided most of the televised commemorations during the football games today because it seems that in too many quarters bombast has become confused with remembrance and people too often try to play a game of more-maudlin-than-thou, a form of showy commemoration theater that is really about the person doing the showing.

I think about 9/11 sometimes when I hear the Sarah Palins dividing the country along the lines of real Americans and whoever their implied opposite is. New York City, and greater Washington, DC were the targets on 9/11. The east coast. More than 2900 Americans, the overwhelming majority of whom lived their lives in the America that Sarah Palin scorns for ratings, perished on that horrible Tuesday morning. It's useful to say that we were all victims on that day but of course some paid a far greater price than others.

9/11 became politicized as so much has in the past decade or so. I suppose I'm doing so now. President Bush handled those first few days when we were scared and angry and confused as well as anyone could have and there seemed to be a time when a terrible event might have united us as a country for the long run. Politics could have gone on but without quite the edge and without the implication that the person who thinks differently from you is somehow an enemy. That new era of consensus politics never came to pass and if anything things got more poisonous as 9/11 receded into the stuff of commemoration.

We all hope that we never experience an event of that magnitude again. But even as people blurt out or remind us on bumper stickers never to forget we seem to have forgotten much of the essence of what it is that we are not to forget. No one who lived through it will ever forget 9/11 and those who have tried to claim that day for their own agenda tend to be the most convinced that they need to remind us. I just wish we could do a better job of remembering exactly what we are not supposed to forget.

Sunday, September 04, 2011

In Rotation

Thoughts about music I've been listening to of late.

Danger Mouse and Daniele Luppi Present Rome Starring Jack White and Norah Jones: One of my favorite albums of all time is A Fistful Of Film Music: The Ennio Morricone Anthology (which warrants a slam dunk A+). Morricone is best known for scoring Sergio Leone's spaghetti westerns, most notably Clint Eastwood's "Man With No Name" series. That album also has the benefit of receiving the Mrs. Dcat seal of approval for what she calls "sleepytime music," which is to say music we can listen to at night while we sleep, and so we listen to it all the time. This collaboration between the producer Danger Mouse, who is fast achieving the status as a modern legend, and Italian composer, film soundtrack producer, and musician Daniele Luppi intentionally evokes Morricone's body of work with a contemporary spin. Adding Jack White and Norah Jones to the mix is just the cherry on the gelato. Grade: A-

Death Cab For Cutie -- Something About Airplanes and Codes and Keys: DCfC just rereleased Something About Airplanes, their first album, because, well, any band of note re-releases their albums these days, usually with just enough added material to make the upgrade worth making, at least for fetishists of completism like myself. And the re-release is worth it for me if only because it includes an extra batch of live songs from one of their earliest shows -- on at least two occasions they pimp that they are selling a cassette at the show for $3 (which I assume was You Can Play These Songs With Chords, their first ep, later issued on cd). The most amazing element of both the first album and the live show that preceded it is the fact that the essential elements of the Death Cab for Cutie sound are already established. A slight quiver in Ben Gibbard's tenor vocals, shimmery, jangly guitars, rich production that manages nonetheless to reveal a fondness for lo-fi, smart and visually-oriented lyrics that create an atmosphere. Earlier this year, meanwhile, Gibbard and company released Codes and Keys, their latest album. It is excellent, because just about everything Death Cab for Cutie does is excellent. The band is now on Atlantic (they spent the first half of their career on the indie label Barsuk) and have weathered the storm to a major label with no apparent issues. Somewhat quietly Death Cab has entered that realm of great bands that pretty much places them above their label as they clearly bring more to Atlantic than Atlantic offers them. An added biographical element: I have twice been to Bellingham, Washington, Death Cab for Cutie's home base (they came together at Western Washington University and especially in their early albums there is a lot of Bellingham-centric biography in the songs). The first time was for a conference at WWU in, I believe, 1998. The other was on my honeymoon with Mrs. Dcat in 2007. We flew to Seattle, rented a car, and spent three weeks cruising the Pacific Northwest with the vast majority of the time in the vast expanses of British Columbia. We stopped for a seafood lunch in Bellingham on the drive between Seattle and Vancouver. Something About Airplanes (Limited Edition Re-release) A- Codes and Keys A

Deerhunter -- Halcyon Days: Doesn't the name "Deerhunter" make you think that these guys are going to be some sort of country-metal hybrid, maybe Molly Hatchet moved inland a couple hundred miles? Yeah, well, this ain't that band. This is lo-fi indie sludge for the bed and breakfast set more likely to appeal to wannabe writers in Williamsburg, Brooklyn than wannabe big-game hunters in Williamsburg, Georgia (Yeah, I did the Google legwork just to create a syllogism that works. That's value added!) And Deerhunter is, in fact, from Atlanta (Circle: squared!) even if they sound like they could be from Britain. B+

Roky Erickson With Okkervil River -- True Love Cast Out All Evil:
Roky Erickson's autobiography is in many ways a classic tragedy. He was a pioneer of psychadelic rock as a co-founder of the 13th Floor Elevators in the 1960s. But he suffered from mental illness, was diagnosed with schizophrenia, was arrested in his home state of Texas for possession of a single joint and because the politics of Texas sucked even worse then than they do now, he was subject to a decade in prison. Instead he was placed in mental hospitals where he was subjected to various forms of electroshock and drug therapy, including a forced regimen of Thorazine. This album, with Austin's outstanding Okkervil River serving as his backup band, represents Erickson's first new recorded music in nearly a decade-and-a-half. Far from his psychadelic roots, Erickson explores various versions of country and western, gospel, and other roots music. Don't buy the album because of the biography. Buy the album because of the way the biography informs the music. B+

Fleet Foxes -- Helplessness Blues: This is the second album by beard-rock revivalists Fleet Foxes, a (rightfully) critically lauded band from Seattle whose sound somehow reminds us that people in the northern US have always worn flannel as a practical matter and that it wasn't just a grunge fashion statement (which was not, until the zeitgeist got hold of it, a fashion statement at all -- for once in my life some of the most worn shirts in my closet were cool without effort or expense. But I digress.) It's lush and beautiful and shows that these guys were not just one-album wonders. This is the perfect music for a giant party in the woods and in the listening you would not be at all surprised if wood nymphs and sprites came out of the darkness for a pull at the keg or at something a little more herbal. A-

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Me on African Politics (Or: There is No Love Like Self Love)

It's been a while since I posted. All of the usual excuses hold: Travel, family in town, laziness, the new semester is underway. Plus a new one: I am now President of the UTPB Faculty Senate, which has occupied an enormous amount of time already.

In any case, believe it or not I have been using my brain here and there. For example, I am quoted at length in an article in today's Christian Post about the Libya situation. Short version: we need to wait and see before we really know what it all means.

And ISN Insights has published my latest piece, "The ANC: Historical Irony on the Horizon?" In it I explore the current state of South African politics while wondering if President Jacob Zuma is going to face a bum's rush akin to the one that Thabo Mbeki faced in 2007-2008. Zuma was the greatest beneficiary of those events. Will he now find his presidency in jeopardy based on a similar wave of discontent?

Happy reading.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Presidents and Their Debts (dcat Mentors Watch)

A while back The New York Times' periodic "Room for Debate" feature addressed "Presidents and Their Debts: FDR to Bush," and of the eight featured debaters, two were my grad school professors at Ohio University, including Joan Hoff and my friend and mentor Lon Hamby.

Friday, August 05, 2011

We're Number One! (Work Hard, Play Hard Edition)

Well, dcat's alma maters have been on a roll lately. A hard working, hard drinking roll.

Forbes just released its college rankings list, which rates all colleges and universities in America irrespective of classification (ie: liberal arts, research university, Masters comprehensive, etc.) and the number one college in all of the land? That would be Williams College. Suck it Amherst (and Harvard, and Princeton, and Yale, and UT Austin!)

Meanwhile, Princeton Review has released its list of the top 20 party schools. Number One? Ohio University. Court Street is going to drink like, well, like it's a Friday night on Court Street.

The Little Team

You probably saw this on Deadspin, but if you didn't, watch it. It is just excellent.

Friday Sox Talk: AL East Battle For Supremacy

I suppose there is something apt about the Red Sox and Yankees being tied for first place on a weekend when the Yankees arrive in Fenway for a three-game series. Heading into these games that will decide first place, at least for the time being, in the American League East the Yankees have been absolutely mashing the ball. It seems like every time I look at the scores New York has put up a dozen runs on some hapless pitching staff. Meanwhile, the Red Sox have been stumbling a little bit and are coming off of a split against the Indians in which scoring was a chore.

But I'm not convinced that form going into these series really makes much of a difference to either team. The Sox in particular tend to play to the level of their competition and almost always rise to the occasion of a series against the Yankees or most any other good team. Plus they get Lester and Beckett in this series, which represents about as good as it gets for a pitching staff that has been blasted by injury. The trade deadline brought Eric Bedard who went last night and did not set the earth on fire on the Fenway mound. But Bedard's arrival is perhaps overshadowed by Buchholz going on the 60-day disabled list and quite possibly being done for the season.

I suppose that in the eyes of some the playoff format diminishes the meaning of these games to some extent. After all, barring meltdown both the Sox and the Yanks are going to the playoffs. But I doubt you'll be able to convince the fans of either team or the players on either roster that these games do not matter. The rest of the country can claim to be sick of Red Sox-Yankees. And then more of them will tune in to these games than to any other up to now this season. Because with first place on the line, and the Red Sox against New York, these games matter.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Hypocrisy Watch

Here is how it apparently works among the new wave of GOP debt-busters, with their supposedly fierce anti-earmark bona fides: If you do it, it's pork. If I do it, it's a project of vital importance.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

AP & Me on Stadium Security Post-9/11 (Self-Indulgence Alert!)

I was interviewed by a writer from the Associated Press on the issue of stadium security ten years after 9/11 largely on the basis of this piece for The Public Sphere that I wrote about three years ago. And when you get quoted in a story by AP it ends up appearing everywhere. (My personal favorite is Sports Illustrated via SI.com).

Saturday, July 23, 2011

In Heavy Rotation: Was "In the Changer"

It's been a while since I have written about whatever it is that I have been listening to. I used to call this "in the changer," and now I really do not have a clever name for it. "In Heavy Rotation" is what I'm going to roll with now, at least until the next time, when I forget this name.

By the way, even though all of my music does end up on my iTunes, I still actually buy most of my music (though not all) on cd if only for the dual virtues of permanence (I always want a hard copy of music and documents -- call me paranoid) and sound quality. The actual sound of downloads kind of sucks. Plus, while I have satellite radio, I have to move the little gizmo from house to car and so except for long trips I use my cd player in my car to listen to new cds. So I still do actually listen to a large percentage of music in that dead tree format.

Arctic Monkeys -- Suck it and See: So, the group almost always referred to at some point in any review or feature as "Sheffield lads" has produced their most mature album yet, which they obscure with their most juvenile album title to date. In addition to building on their own growing body of work it seems that Arctic Monkeys must have holed themselves up in a room and listened to a lot of Kiss at some point, because there are a couple of songs here that seem to be aiming directly for denizens of Detroit Rock City (see "Brick by Brick" in particular). Ok, so maybe maturing upward to Kiss is a sign of incrementalism rather than evolution, but just how much evolution do we want in most of our rock music anyway? Grade: B

Beastie Boys -- Hot Sauce Committee Part Two: This is a good Beastie Boys album. They manage to build on what they have done in the past without repeating themselves. Their delivery is as good as ever, maybe better. I have enjoyed listening to it. So why do I get the sneaking suspicion that other than when a song appears on random shuffle I will never listen to this album in its entirety again? B

Best Coast -- Crazy For You: This is excellent indie pop music redolent of girl groups and sunsets over California surf and Phil Spector's Wall of Sound and chewy, confectionary goodness. In a just world, this is what mainstream radio would sound like. In this world, we get Lady GaGa and I don't listen to mainstream radio. A-

Broken Bells -- Meyrin Fields EP: This is the second production from Danger Mouse (nee Brian Burton) and James Mercer, the songwriter, lead singer and guitarist for the Shins (I really want them to release a new Shins album, by the way). It's an ep, so it only consists of four songs, all building on Broken Bells' eponymous lp. It's just as good but too short. Have I mentioned how much I hope the Shins put out a new album? A-

David Byrne & Brian Eno -- Everything That Happens Will Happen Today: New wave gets mature? Postpunk reflects on its post-postpunk years? Brian Eno helps Talking Heads lead singer find a sport coat that fits? Grownups on parade? Whatever it is, I hope I age this well. A-

Cut Copy -- Zonoscope: A little dance-y, a little trance-y, a little indie rock. And probably a little emo because I really don't know what the fuck emo is and yet everything these days is emo because 20 year olds apparently always think they invented bringing emotion to music. And I swear they stole some riffs from Fleetwood Mac, which is a pretty good source to steal from if you can get away with it. B

[Saturday] Sox Talk: Is It Hot in Here, Or Is It Them? And: Steroids, Jeter, and Thome

Now some of the rest of you get to experience weather that is de riguer for summer in Texas. It seems like the entire country is in the grip of 100+ degree temperatures.

But the Red Sox, about whom I have not written of late, are also pretty damned hot. They are 8-2 in their last ten games, have the second best record in baseball, and have hit the 60 win mark faster than at any point since the Fred Lynn-Jim Rice "Gold Dust Twins" era. And they have been doing it all with a depleted roster that has been beleaguered by injuries -- 60% of the starting rotation is on the disabled list and Carl Crawford just returned.

I'd like to think that all of this means that this team is not even close to peaking. Which is good for at least two reasons. For all of their accomplishments just past the midway point the Sox are still only two games clear of the Yankees, who are the only team with an even better run differential than the Yankees, which is the key factor in figuring out Pythag projections. And if we are willing to project to the end game I hope happens, the likely National League champion right now seems to be a Phillies team that looks even better than the Sox do and that has what is clearly one of the better rotations in a generation or more, surpassed only by the 1990s Braves in my memory.

The Sox just started a twenty game stretch of games that should help clarify things. They host Seattle now, facing a wretched Mariners team and will follow that up with a Kansas City visit in which the away team's rallying cry is "we're not quite the worst team in the AL!" From there they get a three game trip to Chicago to face a White Sox team whose most interesting element their cumbustible manager but who are probably still in the running for a mediocre AL Central. Then it is back home to face Cleveland, which had every sign of a team ready to fold it in after setting the world on fire in April and then collapsing soon after but that is back in the running of the aforesaid Central. Three games in Fenway against the Yankees should give us a really good sense of the direction the divisional race will take, though that is likely not to be the last clash between these two teams, and then the Twins meet up with the Sox in Fenway before the Sox get their next off day.

A few words on Derek Jeter and Jim Thome. Both have hit or are about to reach monumental landmarks, Jeter becoming the first Yankee to reach 3000 hits and Thome about to surpass 600 home runs. Jeter is surely a great player even if he is simultaneously a vastly overrated player. Thome is probably rated right about where he should be given that we do not really know what power numbers mean anymore even for those of us who think the steroid scandals, while bad for the sport, created ginned up outrage among the media that did not really reflect fan outrage to the same degree. But while we are on the steroids thing, let's just keep in mind that a lot of those same media members are now saying that Jeter and Thome have never been tainted by steroids. And it would be unfair to do so without evidence (not that lack of evidence has stopped the speculation before, but the media loves Jeter in a way that they never loved other guys). But one of the forms of circumstantial evidence that people happily used against, say, Barry Bonds was that OMG Look How Big He Got. And his head grew!!! Ok.

Jeter as a rookie:




And Jeter more recently:



All I'm saying is that using the head growth argument as a form of evidence brings us down a slippery slope because, and I want to be nice here, Jeter's current head appears to have swallowed his rookie head and left room for seconds.

And Jim Thome:

Rookie:



And now:



(Please do your own Google image searches because obviously this is an imperfect measurement -- which is, of course, my point).

See, when journalists say that an athlete "has not been tainted" the passive construction masks who tends to do the tainting, which is, of course, that selfsame media. Now, before anyone goes crazy, I do not have any reason to believe that Jeter or Thome (or for that matter Cal Ripken, who also got a lot bigger over his career, and whose longevity streak happens to coincide with the one thing that we know that steroids do even more than increasing power, which is increase the ability to fend off and recover from injury) ever took steroids. I'm just saying what I'm saying, which is that there was always an asymmetrical approach to steroids (by a media that managed to miss almost the entirety of the steroid era while it was happening, by the way, and yet managed to be the most outraged constituency of all once they caught up to the story) that was based as much on personality as it was on concerns about journalism.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Quotation of the Week, Possibly the Year

I'm not certain if truer words have ever been spoken:

"One of the things you learn as a college president is that if an undergraduate is wearing a tie and jacket on Thursday afternoon at three o'clock, there are two possibilities. One is that they're looking for a job and have an interview; the other is that they are an asshole. This was the latter case," - Larry Summers on the Winklevoss twins.

Big Tip of the Hat.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Rock is Dead. Long Live Rock!

It is likely the most evergreen of all tropes about rock and roll. I swear I read something about it once a year, once a month, maybe once a week and have done so for my entire life as a fan of music. And that's the "rock is dead" proclamations (and its counter-genre, which includes this post, the "rock is not dead" rejoinder.) But news of rock's death is always premature.

Look, no matter what your particular preferences, the best time to be a fan of rock music (or for that matter hip hop or soul or anything else -- let's just subsume it all under the category of "pop" and not be too snobbish about it, eh?) is right now. Right this very minute. And if you are reading this tomorrow at 12:52, then the answer is "right this very minute." And the answer is so not because the music coming out now is better than the music coming out at any other time, but because that music does not disappear and there is always something worthwhile now. There is more moment at this instant than at any point in human history until the next moment, which will supplant this one.

Don't look at the charts. The best stuff rarely makes the top 40 or top 100 or this or that countdown. In fact, what tops the charts often sucks, is insipid pap that makes you lament the very state of the republic, indeed the planet. But the charts not only don't tell the whole story, they tell very little of the story at all. So ignore the cottage industry pronouncing "rock is dead" and the folks telling you that this band, this album, this movement, is going to save rock.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

On FPA Blogging (Self Indulgence and All That)

Ok, after a couple of rough weeks I think I am back up and running and blogging at the FPA's Blogs, which, you'll note, have undergone a quite radical format change. I still oversee all of the Africa-related blogging, including writing regularly on African Affairs. But the format is geared toward feeding into one master blog that you can break down into constituent areas rather than emphasizing the constituent areas that can be compiled into a master blog, if that makes sense.

In any case, my meatiest post in a while is up. In it I use the current wave of strikes to explore the state of South African politics and especially the relationship between COSATU and the ANC.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Friday Fun

Dan Drezner (a Williams alum, by the way) imagines the lead paragraphs of prominent world affairs pundits if they covered the Women's World Cup.

Freedom Riders, Emmys, and IMDB (Self Indulgence Alert)

Well, I've made the big time. As a result of my role in Freedom Riders, I now have an IMDB page. A barren, consequenceless IMDB page, but an IMDB page nonetheless.

But I've buried the lede. Freedom Riders has been nominated for three Primetime Emmy Awards, including "Exceptional Merit in Nonfiction Filmmaking," "Writing for Nonfiction Programming," and "Picture Editing for Nonfiction Programming."

And a reminder that Freedom's Main Line is available in paperback.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Dealing With Drought



Much of the country is dealing with drought conditions but nowhere has been hit worse than right here in West Texas. In all of 2011 Odessa has received .16 of an inch of rain -- yes, 16 100ths of an inch of rain in seven months (and we had not gotten much precipitation before that -- 13 or so inches in 2010, which was not an outlier one way or the other). The fact that it has been over 100 degrees virtually every day for weeks on end has not helped. The region is parched. Lawns, if they still exist, are beyond relief for anyone adhering to the watering restrictions (many, many people are not adhering to those restrictions because people are selfish pricks).

This is the real danger of the potential devastation of climate change. It also reveals the possibilities of a serious resource scarcity that has the capacity to undermine not only American, but global stability. If you want to imagine a war of all against all, imagine if most of Texas finds that its access to water has been severely restricted.

There will be a certain irony in Texas scrambling to access potable water given that folks in this state have often been fond of festooning their vehicles with bumper stickers reading "Burn more oil and freeze a Yankee." Well, Tex, northerners can use electric heat or fire up the wood stoves. Good luck drinking your precious unrefined oil. Of course then I remember: I live in Texas now.

In any case, it's hot as hell and dry as a bone in Odessa. And while there have been hints of relief coming -- it was banner news in the Odessa American when West Odessa, but not the rest of the city, got rain last night -- we will believe it when we're wet.

Friday, July 08, 2011

Back in the USA

After 48 or so hours of traveling, I'm back in Odessa. The reasons for my early return are pretty horrible, related to deaths in my wife's family, and I certainly wish I could have stayed in South Africa. But it's always nice to be home. Hopefully I'll be back to regular blogging soon.

Monday, July 04, 2011

Happy 4th of July

Happy 4th of July everyone!

Over the past fifteen years or so I have almost certainly spent more Independence Days abroad than in the United States. This year is no exception, as I arrived in East London late this morning. I spent the night in Mthatha in a B&B whose second B gave me killer food poisoning this morning. I decided not to head on to Alice after driving some 200km on a very delicate stomach to get here. So I'll move on to Fort Hare for research tomorrow instead.

By the way, for bizarre reasons the blog was down for at least a while today/last night. I have no idea why. Hopefully there are no further issues.

Now go eat something grilled and drink something fermented.

Saturday, July 02, 2011

Boston Sports From a Distance

I may be thousands of miles away from the United States. And my mind might be primarily occupied by South African sport (namely the Super Rugby semifinals today in which the Western Cape Stormers are South Africa's hope for a title). But I can still very much enjoy this.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Friday Sox Talk: Travel Edition

It's been some time since I provided a Friday Sox Report, largely because I have been in Los Angeles and now South Africa and as a result have not been able to write.

Let's get to the brunt of the matter: interleague play is not working out well for the Sox, who have lost every series in this leg against the National League and might be on the verge of getting swept by a Phillies team most people expect to be a potential World Series foe for the Sox. It all comes back to what I've said before and will play again. This team as not as bad as they looked in April and we not as good as they seemed at the beginning of June. They are better than they have played of late. It's pretty clear that this is not a 105-win Sox team. But they have to be better than this. The division still seems to be theirs to claim, but they do have to claim it. I'm tired of checking in only to find another loss to a National League team.

I'm now at Durban's beachfront, having moved on to the Garden Court Marine Parade. I plan to spend the weekend decompressing, catching up on some work and digging into South African life and politics and generally enjoying is country I love so much. You can check out more extensive updates, including on my conference, at the FPA Africa Blog.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Back to South Africa - No Thanks to Delta

Oh, Delta Airline – is there no way you won’t abuse and screw over your passengers? The Atlanta to Joburg flight last night was delayed multiple times totaling nearly six hours. Throughout the communication was dubious, but once we finally we prepared to get off the ground Delta officials insisted that we would all be taken care of upon arrival, an important factor since just about anyone with a connecting flight was certain to miss it.

Fast forward to a few hours ago. We land at a quiet O.R. Tambo Airport at nearly midnight. Now keep in mind that every element of the delay has to do with issues in the United States and not in South Africa, yet the South African staff was left to deal with dozens of customers who had been made promises. Instead, we find out that only those with connect owns booked directly through Delta would be addressed. And given that Delta has almost no partnerships with South African carriers, that effectively took them off the hook in their mind not only for addressing those connections but for providing lodging. Keep in mind also that many of those stranded in Joburg are not especially familiar with either e country or the city and yet are essentially being told that on their own they have to book a room on their own aft midnight in a strange (and sprawling) city.

I advocated for Delta at least minimally helping people arrange for hotels that we would have to pay for on our own and an understanding agent did do that after 1:00 this morning. I got into a guest house in Edendale at nearly 2 and of course am now having trouble sleeping. And I have no idea what to expect when I get to South African Airways tomorrow to ask them to rebook me for my missed flight to Durban tonight. I expect that there will be a few headaches. But (and take note, Delta) ultimately SAA is aware that you don’t abuse your customer base and I suspect that at some point tomorrow I’ll be in Durban, enjoying far more temperate climes than those here in Joburg. I’ll arrive at the South African Historical Society conference really late, but better late than never.

(Cross posted at the FPA Africa Blog)

Friday, June 17, 2011

Red Sox Report: Airport iPad Edition

OK, so I have an iPad now, which I guess means I'm now one of those guys who always lets you know that he has an iPad. I tend to have a steep learning curve on these things, and so expect glitches with this, my first dcat post on my new toy.

The Red Sox have, in a word, been awesome of late, sweeping away just about everything in their path, with the closest call in the last couple of weeks being a loss to open the recent series against the Rays, and even then they came back to win the next two and take the series.

We are in a nice part of the sports year. There is time to breathe after the Bruins' glorious run to the Stanley Cup and the NBA is a feint memory (though I almost wish I had a class this summer term if only to see West Texans discover that there are NBA teams in Texas in the same way that they discovered that Dallas-Fort Worth had a baseball team last fall. And so barring a few intermittent events (soccer here and there - I am writing this on my way to California whe I have tickets to the finals of the CONCACAF Gold Cup in the Rose Bowl in addition to seats at a Dodgers-Angels game and U2 in Angels Stadium - the US track championships and subsequent world championships) baseball takes center stage.

The Red Sox are in a position to take the East and possibly to do so in dominant fashion. Injuries are always a possibility (Clay Buchholz has a worrying back issue and we've already lost DiceK for the season) and we've seen this team struggle with slumps this season already. But as of right now the Sox look set to shine in a period when baseball can dominate the sporting calendar.

As I said, I am en route to California for about ten days and then from LA I'll be flying straight to my annual South Africa trip. Oh, and have I mentioned that I got an iPad?

On Heroes and Heroism

This post from the "At War" Blog of The New York Times has revived some thoughts that I've been having over the last decade. These two paragraphs get at the gist of the argument:

I understand the sentiment, and I trust that there are those who truly believe that all service members are heroes, simply for signing up. But I can’t help think that for some, “hero” is a throw-away word, designed to demonstrate a “support the troops” position or guarantee applause at an event.

and
I don’t feel comfortable being called a hero. In fact, my brow furrows and my mind sharpens when I hear it. Words matter, and “hero” is so loaded and used so frequently that it stands to lose its meaning altogether. Maybe this is just New York cynicism, but I know I’m not the only veteran who feels skeptical when he or she is placed in the hero bin along with every other service member from the past 10 years. I admire the fact that men and women with whom I served chose a dangerous profession for their country – often making the decision after 9/11. But, these are soldiers. Soldiers are human beings. There are good ones and bad ones. A few do amazing, heroic things. The rest do their jobs – incredible, unique jobs – but jobs, nonetheless. Some perform happily, others grudgingly. And I argue that most feel embarrassed when lauded as heroes.

I have also felt the same about the profligate use of the word "hero" to describe every single police officer or firefighter after 9/11. Of course to say as juch seems like an implicit criticism -- to say that they are not all heroes is to say something dark and nefarious rather than to make a statement of interpretation. Is eery single person who has served in the military a hero? If so, don't we need another word to describe the valour above and beyond simple service that so many engage in? And doesn't that then devalue the word to begin with?

This "hero dilemma" strikes me as a function of two issues. The first stems from Vietnam, when the treatment of many vets ranged from indifference to hostility, neither of which was justifiable and both of which we as a society have studiously tried to avoid.

The second issue ties into cultural politics, however. For to question anything about the military, which includes not granting the highest possible form of praise at every turn, has become a reflection on one's patriotism. This leads to a knee-jerk politics about issues that ought to require more seriousness.

It is a good and sometimes great thing when men and women join the service. But it is also a good and sometimes great thing when men and women go to universities, or enter the work force, or engage in some other form of service. It seems to me to cheapen a word we ought to take at great value to toss it around for everyone who fits into a certain category. I simply do not believe that every cop in New York is a hero. It ought to be not only ok, but perfectly unobjectionable, to say as much.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Freedom's Main Line in Paperback! (Self Indulgence Alert!)

Freedom's Main Line is now available in paperback (or will be very, very soon). Order your copy today!

New Coldplay

I know a lot of people have an unreasonable antipathy toward Coldplay. Despite the backlash, I will risk my rock fan credentials by admitting that I'm still a pretty big fan. You can go here to access YouTube videos of five new songs they performed at last weekend's Rock am Ring Festival in Nurburgring, Germany.

Monday, June 06, 2011

Friday Night Lights v. Glee

In this past weekend's New York Times Magazine Heather Havrilesky tries to explain why Glee has become a phenomenon and Friday Night Lights struggled to find an audience despite FNL being a vastly superior show.

I like Glee (hey, I was a music nerd in high school, college, and beyond). But Friday Night Lights is one of the greatest shows ever to grace the small screen. In my ranking it trails only The Wire, and in many ways Friday Night Lights is as powerful and sometimes moreso.

The 75 Books Every Man Should Read

Esquire has a slideshow of "The 75 Books Every Man Should Read." How many have you read? I'm not proud to say that a quick accounting has me at only about 26.

Plessy and Ferguson

Two descendants of the named parties in the infamous 1896 Supreme Court case Plessy v. Ferguson have gotten together to form the Plessy & Ferguson Foundation. The goal of the organization is "to highlight the historic moments in New Orleans’s struggle for racial equality and [. . .] to remind the public of the story behind the famous case."

Saturday, June 04, 2011

Golden Ages of the Bruins

As you wait for tonight's vital Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Finals you must, must, must go read Leigh Montville's fantastic article in Sports Illustrated connecting the Golden Age of Bruins hockey in the 70s to today's incarnation through threads of torment.

Friday, June 03, 2011

Friday Red Sox Report: Back on the Skids

Following up a five-game winning streak with a four-game losing streak is not the sort of thing that inspires confidence. For all of the hope that the two previous weeks inspired, this week has been a grim reminder of this season's struggles. But with a twist -- the injury bug that destroyed this team's legitimate hopes last year has struck the pitching staff yet again. And so the Red Sox are now going with a patchwork rotation that serves as validation of my longstanding belief: Even when we seem to have plenty of starting pitching we do not have enough starting pitching.

What to make of DiceK needing Tommy John surgery? Well, first, if he needs it he needs it. There was apparently a dispute as to whether he should go under the knife or simply let rest work its magic, but that had to be an effort at magical thinking. Guys who need Tommy John surgery actually need the surgery. Hoping that it will heal given time is a recipe for, well, for eventually needing surgery when rest fails as a medical option. Dicek came in with such high hopes and objectively he has not met those expectations. But one of the benefits of having a solid revenue stream (and let's not pretend that the Red Sox are simply one of a fortunate few -- it is the work the organization has done to make sure the team is competitive year-in and year-out that has put them in this position) is that they can afford to take risks like winning the bidding for DiceK and then rolling the dice (ha!) on signing him to a long-term deal. He still contributed to a World Series win, and that makes it worth it for just about any team, none moreso that a Red Sox fan base that should well recall the pre-2004 mindset.

So I suppose that we can look at this little bad streak as an adjustment. As I said last week, this team was never as bad as they seemed in April. They are not as good as they seemed for most of May. But I am going to continue to bet going forward on more of the latter and less of the former as baseball takes center stage in the summer months.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Good Things are Bruin

The Bruins are on their way back to the Stanley Cup Finals. It hasn't happened since 1990 and they have not won since 1972 (Bobby Orr's iconic leap across the goal mouth), so they remain the gaping hole in my sports fan's scrap book.

I've covered some of this before, but I grew up watching the Bruins and am named after one of the 60s-70s legends, Derek Sanderson, since my Mom apparently found him to be dreamy. When I was a kid and spent tons of time at my grandparents' farm I used to watch Bruins games all the time in their bedroom, where I also watched the killer afternoon lineup of Banana Splits, Caspar, Woody Woodpecker, Tom & Jerry, Flintstones, Brady Bunch. That might give some chronological perspective.

I vividly remember the Petr Klima 3-OT nightmare in 1990 but can only vaguely remember the infamous Too-Many-Men-On-The-Ice call against evil Montreal (which came in the same era as the infamous roughing call against the Pats' Sugar Bear Hamilton. Jesus, the 70s were awful). I saw Ray Bourque have to go elsewhere to win a Cup not long after seeing Cam Neely's thigh calcify much like Bo Jackson's.

When I was just a little guy my aunt Joan, who lived what seemed then to be the good life in Boston (she was what was once called a spinster and I'd bet that her distant view over the Monster at Fenway was something she would have traded for more amorous, lasting happiness) bought me a Bruins jersey that was way too big for me. But that proved to be fortuitous, as I was able to wear it for several years.

The B's are one series away. They will face Vancouver, which will have all of Canada (or as I call it, North-North Dakota) behind it. Tampa was tenacious as hell. But the Canucks won this year's President's Trophy for the most points in the NHL regular season. At this point none of that matters. The Bruins are knocking on the door. Let's see if they can knock it down.

Just Pure Self Indulgence

I'm not posting a ton here, and I'm not great at Twitter, but you might want to follow me there as well @dcatafrica

And of course there is always the FPA Africa Blog where you can see smart dcat.

Friday Red Sox Report: Two Weeks of Bliss

If there is a lesson for fans of contenders (this, sadly, does not apply to fans of, say, the Pirates) it is that it is never smart to get too high or too low over the course of a season where all is transient until the cumulative effect kicks in. This year's Red Sox were never as bad as their start (or as mediocre as the weeks that followed). And they probably are not as good as they are playing right now.

Still: Fuck yeah!

This is more like it. They are banging the piss out of the ball and preventing the other guys from doing the same. And the rising tide has elevated nearly every boat. Carl Crawford's slow start is giving way to him showing major flashes of being the guy who signed a monster contract in the offseason. Consecutive four-hit games will do something for a struggling man's numbers, and his .244/.277/.368 is merely bad, not wretched, and those numbers are on an upward trajectory. The same can be said for the team as a whole, which had been mired in the middle of the league in the various offensive measurements, crude and otherwise. They now rank 3rd in batting average (crude!) 4th in runs, and second in both on base percentage and slugging (otherwise!)

The pitching has not been quite as glorious in the aggregate, but the Sox are missing 40% of their starters and the 1-2 punch of Josh Beckett (I have no answer to it either) and Jon Lester is getting support from Buchholz and others. The ageless Tim Wakefield had a marvelous start last weekend and Alfredo Aceves has done well after being thrust into the starting rotation, something all the more gratifying because he was plucked off the scrap heap of the Yankees.

Suddenly the Sox are in a virtual tie with the Yankees for first place, with Tampa 1.5 back (and the O's at .500 and Blue Jays only two under) and they have the third best record in the American League. This is what I think we all expected. And this is what we'd love to see going forward.

Now, since last I wrote (I was in San Antonio last weekend, thus the absence) the Sox have gone 11-2, a pace I'd love for them to continue, but let's be realistic. But this is the team I think we all hoped to see. The AL East is going to go down to the wire, and that's as it should be. But there is ample reason to believe that when it all shakes out, Boston will be looking at another postseason berth and another shot at October Glory.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Brushes With Quasi-Fame (Self Indulgence Alert)

My Miller Center lecture is now available for viewing (or listening to) here.

The Newshour with Jim Lehrer also featured Freedom Riders on Monday (you can access the video and transcript through that link), and the clip they featured the other day included one of my appearances in the film (I'm in the documentary a dozen or so times total.)

Texas' Priorities

Jesus. So we're looking at draconian cuts in higher education, secondary education, human services, and just about every sector of the Texas economy. yet somehow the state of Texas can afford $250 million over ten years to support Formula One racing, which may be the world's premiere form of driving in a pattern but does not even register? And to top it off, we are lining the pockets of billionaires AND we are bidding against ourselves?

Yep.

Monday, May 16, 2011

UPDATED!! "Freedom Riders" Tonight

Don't Forget, you can see me on The American Experience: Freedom Riders on PBS tonight. It's on at 9 Eastern, 8 central in most markets. As they say, check your local listings for the original broadcast and re-showings.

Freedom's Main Line is out in paperback soon. Order your copy now!

Update: You should also check out this feature in The New York Times on the film's director, Stanley Nelson (not only a world-class documentarian, but a great man as well) and this piece on CNN exploring how the Freedom Riders might have influenced the new generation of Arab protest leaders.

The reviews have been pouring in as well. Yours truly gets mentioned in the San Antonio Express News and Popmatters.

[Crossposted]

Sunday, May 15, 2011

"I Am A Man!"

This Thomas Friedman column this morning evoked a historical image that Friedman should have caught. In discussing the Libyan uprisings, he used his typical anecdotal reportage*:
A Libyan friend remarked to me the other day that he was watching Arab satellite TV out of Benghazi, Libya, and a sign held aloft at one demonstration caught his eye. It said in Arabic: “Ana Rajul” — which translates to “I am a man.” If there is one sign that sums up the whole Arab uprising, it’s that one.
Indeed the title of the column is "I Am a Man!"

I am a bit surprised and disappointed that an American columnist would not recognize that during the Memphis Sanitation Workers' strike in 1968 (it was in Memphis during the strike that Martin Luther King, Jr, was assassinated) strikers wore sandwich boards reading in big block print: "I AM A MAN!"



Beyond any gendered interpretation the Memphis campaign embodied the kind of movement that Friedman intends to identify, and while he invokes Albert Camus and Che Guevara he misses perhaps the most salient historical resonance. Now, whether the movement in Libya bears the characteristics of that in Memphis is an entirely different question, but the assertion "I am a man!" should have set off some historical analogies in Friedman's mind.

* I do not intend this characterization as criticism. Friedman's detractors -- and he has many -- are usually not willing to grant just how good he is at this kind of writing. They see his work as shallow and impressionistic. And it may be. But in terms of trying to bring complex issues to a general audience, Friedman is very good, and the closer he stays to the Middle East beat, the more valuable he is. I have found his "The World is Flat" pop sociology-economics commentary to be facile and self generating, but I maintain that From Beirut to Jerusalem is as good an introduction to the Israel-Palestine question as one is likely to find.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Friday Red Sox Report: New Verse, Same as the First

Since my last Sox Report the Red Sox went 3-3. Blah. Blah blahbity blah blah.

Mediocrity is in some ways even more frustrating than abject badness. They win a couple, they lose a couple, each winning streak yin met with a losing streak yang, every sign of hope dampened by worrisome trends. .500 becomes the top of the hill, each new opposing team Sisyphus' rock.

Tonight the second season series with the Yankees kicks off in the New Toilet Bowl in the Bronx. I have a nice bet with Holmes this year -- every year we have different stakes, sometimes tied to sauces from our respective barbecue hotbeds, sometimes requiring the loser to buy the winner a hat or tee or shorts from a local sports team, or the other's favorite sports teams. This year's bet has an air of the philanthropic about it, as for each win equals five dollars for the charity of the winner's choice. The Sox are up 2-1 early on, so $10 is allocated to the Jimmy Fund, and I believe I am at $5 and counting for Children's Hospital. There are no losers in this one, though I hope my side wins a lot more.

This would be a great time to get rolling on the winning streak that we Sox fans have been counting on. The Yankees lead the way in the East but are themselves vulnerable. Someone will distinguish themselves in the division this year. Now would be a good time for the Sox to do so. I'd as soon not be reflecting on another .500 week seven days from now.

The Yankees Suck.

Big Daddy Drew Channels Rick Reilly

This is just about pitch perfect. You have to know the target, but if you do it is spectacular.

Monday, May 09, 2011

The Oatmeal

You should occasionally go read The Oatmeal. It's funny.

Or maybe you already read it and I'm just behind the coolness curve. Either way, thanks to my friend Bill (my longest standing friendship -- we grew up down a very rural road from one another and have been friends since nursery school!) for giving me the heads up when I stayed at his place in Northern Virginia last week.

Friday, May 06, 2011

Friday Red Sox Report: Can't Anybody Here Play This Game?

I've been up to my neck in Freedom Rides-related events this week, which may be good for a number of reasons, not the least of which being that I have largely missed most of the Red Sox games from the last eight or ten days. Because while it's easy to look at the 0-7 and 2-10 start and pinpoint that as this team's sole problem, the reality is that they are 4-6 in the last ten games. When they hit they don't seem to pitch and when they pitch they don't seem to hit and even while the Yankees have struggles of their own the Sox have not made up ground, a trend they may well lament when August and September roll around.

At a certain point seemingly unlimited promise does not get the job done. Indeed there is nothing more disappointing than when promise fails to fulfill itself. Realistically, everyone thought the Indians would be wretched, so their performance is especially welcome for Cleveland fans. Or alternatively, baseball fans in Kansas City cannot possibly enter any given season with especially high hopes. But Red Sox fans? Well, our expectations are simply higher, and everything fuels those expectations, including management that knows it can get away with the highest ticket prices in baseball because the seemingly inexorable march through the Fenway turnstiles continues apace.

That said, it is still nearly impossible for me to imagine that this team will not start hitting in particular. Carl Crawford reminds me a lot of Edgar Renteria in 2005. It's easy (and self congratulatory) for Sox fans simply to chalk some players' inability to perform to the heightened expectations, knowledge, and intensity of the fan base. My guess is that most of the pressure Crawford is feeling comes from within. But whatever the circumstances, new guys tend to feel disproportionate heat when things go awry. All know is that a .515 OPS isn't going to get it done. Not in Fenway, but realistically, not anywhere. He's shown signs of life the last week or so, and that has to continue. But the rest of the lineup needs to produce as well. They rank 17th in runs and 19th in slugging percentage. That is, to be blunt, horrid.

The Sox have four games against an even more struggling Minnesota team and then two games against the Blue Jays, a team that probably is beginning to think it has a chance in the AL East. Then a week from today commences the second series of the season with the Yanks. It would be nice to be closer to first than to last when that happens. But it's not going to happen if they do not start putting the wood on the ball and keeping the other guys from doing the same.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

I Was on Oprah Today (Kind Of)

Well, I would imagine most of you did not see it (I am out of town and so I didn't see it) but this morning Oprah's show featured the Freedom Riders. One of the clips she showed from Stanley Nelson's Freedom Riders documentary apparently featured yours truly.

Thanks to all of you who emailed and texted and Facebooked and Tweeted to let me know.