Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Brawl, Redux

Well, I thought I was done with the Indiana/Detroit nonsense, but just when I thought I was out, ESPN's Skip Bayless pulls me back in.

This is just half-witted on so many levels. We'll take it in order:

1. He thinks we're overreacting. "It's not the end of sports as we know it," is his attitude. Well, that's the whole point: what if this is the beginning, the tip of an ugly iceberg? "Nobody died," he says. Should we wait until someone does, sir? Oh - TOO LATE. (Maybe Skip should read his own employer's website?)

2. "Artest's restraint." Oh, puh-leeze. "It clearly wasn't worth it" to trade blows with the much larger Ben Wallace. No kidding. I don't care much to know that Ron Artest's dad was a Golden Gloves champ who taught him to box. If anything, that means that Ron can accurately size up a potential foe and decide that, uh-uh, this isn't a good idea. Foul the guy from behind with a 15-point lead? Sure! Actually fight him? Ooops, better chase down some paunchy insurance salesman instead!

2-A. "Though Artest pushed the innocent fan, HE DID NOT STRIKE HIM." The emphasis is Skip's, as is the idiocy. In other words, the result of Artest's famed restraint is to charge the stands and manhandle the wrong guy. Then, Stephen Jackson has to come to his aid, all justified in Skip's mind because "What if a fan had pulled a knife or gun? Don't tell me some Artest-hater at the Palace wasn't armed."

First of all, assuming some hypothetical armed person is a bogus line of reasoning. If there were armed fans, they stayed uninvolved. Second, that slim possibility is one of the prime reasons that Artest should NOT charge the stands! The surest way to get a shooting or stabbing is to provoke the mysterious Armed Fan by physical assault. But no, "you couldn't condemn [Jackson] for rushing to his rescue." Again, Skip - he never should have needed it - he NEVER SHOULD HAVE LEFT THE COURT. But if all of that had come to pass and either Artest or Jackson were in a hospital (or worse) then what would you be saying?

3. Finally we reach an actual punch by Artest, which Skip assured us was "a tentative, downward jab. ... Artest's body language said, 'I know I shouldn't be up here and that I definitely shouldn't be throwing a punch at a fan.'" But golly, that thought didn't stop him, did it?

I guess that this divination of Artest's inner landscape jibes with Skip's advice at the top of the column: "Just this once, try watching the riot video with your brain instead of just your wide eyes." I'm sorry, but I can't help it, Skip - I see what's actually there. I can't emanate a penumbra from this sort of behavior.

4. Now we return to the court - and fans are there, following the players. "Fair game," Skip says, deadpan.

Let me wrap my brain around this, Skip: athletes in the stands are just protecting themselves from the armed hordes, but fans on the field of play are fair game? Have they paid for the privilege of being good little targets? You just can't have this both ways - that's why all the other major sports have walls between the talent and the paying customers.

4-a. Which reminds me - in Skip's words, "the most amazing part" of the brawl is when Artest slugs the fan and the fan doesn't go down. Everything else he apparently passed over as unremarkable, but wow, Artest couldn't cold-cock the guy with one shot! Disgusting attitude.

5. About the only thing Skip gets right is: "The Pistons should be ashamed." Darn tooting. And as I said below, there ought to be a stiff sanction to the Detroit franchise - I stick by my suggestion of barring them from national TV for the rest of the regular season. But instead of offering something substantive, Skip stops with his tsk-tsk. Maybe he should charge the owner's box or something.

6. At the end, Skip gets snooty, recalling sepearate incidents in Chicago.

First, Wrigley Field - a fan steals a Los Angeles Dodger's cap. Said Dodger goes after the fan to retrieve it, leading to a brawl in the stands. Second, Comiskey Park, where two thugs charged one of the Kansas City Royals' coaches. One was actually armed, but never gets the chance to use his weapon before being overwhelmed by players and security.

Those were worse, he says. "Please don't let any of these facts ruin your riot video," he sniffs.

Stuff it, Skippy. It's all of a piece. Fans don't belong on the field of play. Players don't belong in the stands. But there are two notable differences from the NBA incident, and those baseball fights: first, the baseball stadia had security on the scene quickly to break things up. Second, Major League Baseball does not embrace or incorporate gangsta thug image into its marketing strategies.

Besides, who said we ENJOYED any of those scenes?

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

But he be dissin' me!

That brawl on Friday was quite a mouthful. Now that I've digested it, I think I have a take, seasoned by the reasoned opinions of others.

First off, ESPN's Tim Keown has the goods on the motivation of the brawl. Just as loyalty to a gang unit is a mockery of the loyalty of family members (or fellow soldiers in a platoon), so is rampant ego a mockery of self-respect. There are other ways to stand up for yourself than to strike out indiscriminately.

Second, some good stuff on National Review Online on a self-regulating society. (Start here and scroll down; then check this article.) One thing that I hadn't seen mentioned (at least as recently as 1:00 EST) is that the first step to regulating society is to police one's own behavior. I'd have been furious to be doused with someone's warm, tasteless beer. It's just short of someone spitting at you. But I wouldn't have been lying on the scorer's table either. For that matter, I don't think I'd have hammered Big Ben Wallace like that, and then retreated behind a wall of teammates to lounge out. And you don't go into the stands. Ever. (And, in direct corellation, fans don't go onto the court. Ever. The worst sports fight I ever saw firsthand was at our roller hockey rink, started by a previously-ejected player rushing the court. Predictably, nearly everyone rushed after him, only half of those actually players. The end result was a double-forfiet and a permanent suspension for the instigator.)

Third - no mention at all of what ought to happen to Detroit. My initial reaction, seeing the brawl and not the game itself, was that the game should have been forfieted to Indiana. Of course, there was only one minute left, and Indiana already had a comfortable lead, so moot point; but there still ought to be a sanction. The most fitting punishment that occurs to me is that Detroit ought to be banned from television appearances for the remainder of the regular season.

The league will obviously never do this. Detroit is the defending champion of the NBA. They make money for the broadcasters and the league (which means that every team has a stake in this). I say, all the better - it means the punishment has teeth. The league and its teams will take a hit short-term, in the wallet. The broadcasters and the Detroit Pistons take much the larger hit - and that will force changes in how teams approach security and fan relations. Better than that, it will show the league is serious about its image and about a safe and enjoyable experience for fans and their families, as well as the players' ultimate safety.

It was bad enough that the brawl happened on the court; the Detroit organization's failure to rein in the fans turned it into a mainstream news story. Even after the first beer sailed and the players were pulled back onto the court - how on earth do you let the fans follow them out there? How do you allow all the fans lining the tunnel to the locker rooms shower the exiting Indiana Pacers will all manner of debris?

Besides, discipline, even painful in the short-term, can have long-term gain. The NCAA tends to get this wrong, which is why this story is as surprising as it is inspirational. Paging David Stern...

Thursday, November 18, 2004

from the Mobile Command Unit

Item - Amidst the front page news of today's Wall Street Journal (featured above the fold: the proposed merger of Sears and K-Mart) was a small item from North Korea: "Dear Leader" Kim is now no longer being referred to as "Dear Leader." The country has been run so far into the ground that even the state press can't ignore it. (I link for you, but be advised that most of the content on is subscriber-only.)

Update - Your path to the Dissident Frogman's dacha is now repaired below, thanks to next-day feedback. Of course, you may be tired; your scroll wheel may be stuck; you may have only the scant energy required for one last mouse click. I am at your service: click here and enjoy the bilingual smackdown.

Item - Here in Crappy New Jersey™, the latest thing in South Orange/Maplewood schools is a tightening of the restriction of religious-themed music at Christmas. The policy was adopted last decade as part of the ever-widening restriction of religious-themed anything, anytime. Now that policy has been "clarified" - even instrumental versions of innocuous songs about Santa Claus are verboten.

But never fear: "On October 29, Nicholas Santoro, the chair of the district's Fine Arts Department, issued a memo ... suggesting that songs such as 'Winter Wonderland' or 'Frosty the Snowman' are acceptable. 'Music centered on peace is also a nice touch,' he wrote."

Perhaps these lyrics, Mr. Santoro?

Said the King to the people everywhere
'Listen to what I say!
Pray for peace, people everywhere!'

Leave aside, for the moment, the Blinding Flash of the Obvious - that this absolutely alienates everyone whose faith matters to him. I'd like to know exactly when the Lords of Education decided that high school was NOT the place for young adults to prepare to encounter a world full of competing ideas.

Really - from 13-18 years of age, these kids ought to be getting as many facts as possible and learning how to critically analyze them and draw their own conclusions. By the end of this time one hopes to see young adults prepared to lay out a position coherently, based on something less ephemeral than feelings. But, no: "Ellen Relkin, a Maplewood resident and parent of three children in the district, said she supports the ban. ... 'To have it as a school activity for people who don't observe Christmas, whether they're Jewish or Hindu, they feel out of it,' she said." [empahsis mine]

Oh, by all means, let's make sure that the kids are so paralyzed by their feelings that they can't think straight. Let's keep the widdle bittums so isolated from foreign concepts that their own minds and hearts grow brittle, unable to withstand the slightest brush with reality. We see how well it's worked so far.

And these collective heads of knuckle call us narrow-minded and intolerant?

Monday, November 15, 2004

Well, I was outvoted

Movie night has come and gone - and no Incredibles.

I had two options - accept and move on, or therapy, as some of the recently-outvoted have sought out. (Kudos to The Barking Spider for the link.)

The movie only cost nine bucks, so I went ahead and saw The Polar Express with the crew, and had a fine time. It's a charmer. I'm sure the book didn't have so much derring-do, but it didn't seem overly padded to me, and the voice acting was great (save one character - but don't let that stop you).

Those among us who have chosen option two should know that the poor man who killed himself at Ground Zero turns out not to have done it over politics, after all. (Michelle Malkin first posted this link - go read her site, often.) Don't let it get to you! Politics is means, not ends, and we should never let such a thing so totally consume and disrupt our peace of mind.

That's why I didn't post a "Free the Frogman" counter or some such. And behold, shortly after the election, he re-emerged. (Full Disclosure - he's higher proof than you get around here, so click responsibly.) Neither will I post a "We Miss Mark" counter while he's away, mostly as he has such small chance of seeing it here. But I do pray that he and his family are well and happy, and that he's soon free to renew his truly prodigious supply of great work.

UPDATE - I had a wonky link to the Dissident Frogman, spotted by a sharp-eyed visitor to the Hive. Your clicks shall now succeed!

Friday, November 12, 2004

Now, back to our show

Or, back to our commercials. I mocked Excessive Blade Mania in disposable razors a few posts back; this time, a slightly more serious grumble about Toyota.

The truck commercials are mildly clever - I don't mind so much that they made "more versatile" into "versatilier" for the one spot. That was intentional, made to play off the regular forms "brawnier" and "roomier." Forgiven. But, no, sorry - "adrenalitis" is right out.

"-itis" means inflamation or excess, as in "appendicitis." Adrenalitis would then mean an excess of adrenaline, not a lack - and our poor patient, suffering from the malady, would explode if given a truck which increased his already surging supply. It wouldn't have been hard to look it up on WebMD, right?

On a better note, Lileks' book is fantastic. Those of you who did not see the 70's firsthand are invited to partake. Be warned, however, that everyone suffered from aestheticosis. Oh, Lord, how we suffered.

(Yes, -osis can also mean excess, but is usually meant for abnormal conditions. So there.)

And a final note - the Man in the Tablecloth has passed. Mostly objective accounts in the media I saw, though naturally everyone tried to bend over backwards to find something nice to say of the departed. The furthest bend was Thursday's USA Today, which called Arafat "a man of courage and conviction," which made me ill. He was a despicable murderous bunghole, end of story. His "convictions" just made him more horrible.

And on that delightful note - off I go to the movies! I'm pushing for the Incredibles, and hope I don't get outvoted.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Good morning!

And it certainly is. Nobody's calling Ohio, yet. Maybe I'm naive - it's one thing for the candidates (however foolishly) choosing to wait until the bitter end; it's another for all the major media outlets to sit on their hands about it. (What liberal bias?)

Ohio is +136,000 votes for W. I've heard conflicting counts of the provisionals there, as high as a quarter million. Best-case, Kerry needs 77% of that 250,000 to force a tie - a margin he did not attain in any single county of Ohio, including its largest, Cuyahoga (from whence came Cleveland). Bush is closer in Pennsylvania, which is larger, but nobody has a problem calling that for Kerry (rightly enough).

I'm going to work. I fully expect to hear from the strongly-Kerry contingent. I'm tempted to put out a huge pile of red, white, and blue M&Ms, and tell everyone to eat them upside-down.

Checking out

I'm cooked like Christmas ham, kids.

I can't believe I stayed up refreshing electoral maps all night. In 2000, I had roller hockey on Tuesday, so my team hung out at the front counter after our game, watching returns, laughing at Tim Russert's dry-erase board, and generally rooting for Bush. (He had yet to attain single-letter status.)

Now I spent about four hours IM-ing with a friend and watching graphic representations of states move this way and that. Pathetically, I began to chant to myself, "O-hi-o! O-hi-o!" as the state crawled closer to W's column. Then I started chanting "I-o-wa! I-o-wa!" when Yahoo's
composite map swung from pink to pale blue. It looks like both are solidly for GWB, though naturally the JK/JE ticket is playing the Galaxy Quest card - Never give up, never surrender.

I applaud the sentiment, being one who enjoys stern defiance, but if these guys had even half this stubborn resolve against the country's actual enemies, I'd sleep easier at night.

As of 2:52 am, EDT, only five states are in play. Bush is holding 52% of NM, 99% counted (not called yet!), and 51.2% of OH (98% counted). Countrywide, the President has nearly a 4 million vote lead. Refreshing at 3:00 sharp, Nevada was just called for W. His margins in the other states are wider, with more votes counted, excepting Wisconsin, which Kerry leads by about 19K. According to the county map, that's about the best news the challenger has - very few Ohio precincts are left to report, and nearly all are in W's wheelhouse. Blue Ohio - Cuyahoga, Franklin, Lorain, Mahoning, Stark, Summit, Trumbull - are all in. Red Ohio has nearly all the remaining 236 unreporting precincts, with 150 of those in Hamilton, currently running 53% for W (188,000 votes and counting!).

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

One voter's story

I haven't pulled the lever in a while, and moving in recently complicated things. I registered with the New Jersey DMV when I changed my address a few months ago.

Of course, my name wasn't there (DMV efficiency). I needed a provisional ballot. The campaign worker rang out with it, actually - "This man has got to vote!" It was as if John Wayne rolled up on a horse, in black and white, while we all hummed "the Battle Hymn of the Republic." I absolutely loved it.

So I filled out my ballot (which hopefully will count) and was on my way, thanks to the helpful folks in New Brunswick, NJ. Good experience.

And for whom did I vote? You can probably guess by now. I really can't stomach being used, and the distinguished senator from Massachusetts has been trying it for months, now. George Bush, remember, is supposed to be the theocrat, the throat-crammer, the man forcing women to have babies by gunpoint (in more than one country). Yet John Kerry is the one equating a vote for him as
a vote for God:

"As the scripture teaches us, those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength, and they will soar on wings like eagles, and they will run and not grow weary, and they will walk and not grow faint," Kerry said, whipping up cheers from the congregation.
"That's what we are going to do over these next two days and once we have done that job, for the next four years we are going to work out what we need to do to heal the wounds of this country, to be one America," Kerry said.
"We are going to get this done, let's make it happen, let's walk in the footsteps of the Lord."

Apparently, none of these steps carry him any closer to any sort of opposition to untrammeled abortion on demand; the great Christian feels no mandate to correct (or even curtail) one of the grave injustices of our day. Nor does he seem especially happy that millions of people in Afghanistan and Iraq now breathe free air.

Ah, yes, the war. "Wrong war, wrong place, wrong time," as we've heard, and yet he's recently been pledging to finish the job, not cut and run. I've never before heard someone vow to complete a terrible mistake.

In this regard, the recent Osama-rama (if it is, indeed, he, as I've questioned below) claimed that if we would only let him alone, he'd let us alone. Of course, that's not how it worked first time around - we did next-to-nothing in reply to several years of terrorist atrocities, leading him to direct the attacks on Washington and New York. This leads me to assume that the Faux bin Laden is following the hoary maxim: "Diplomacy is the art of saying 'Nice doggy' until you find a stick."

I note that with our current approach, he has no sticks and is reduced to groveling on Al Jazeera, possibly by proxy. The boys in post-production could have at least Photoshopped the poor guy a current edition of the Times. (Savor the irony of Falsama brandishing the discredited missing weapons story whilst moaning "No más" in Arabic.)

Through it all, I'm content. My long-time theory is that politics is only important in the impact it has on people. Voter apathy isn't always a bad thing; if the average joe can say, "Heck with this, I've got important things to do," it means that he's free to live his life unhindered (OK, mildly hindered) by the machinery of state. This one is more important, and accordingly, turnout is higher. And despite the rancor of things I find that friends of opposite voting trends are still my friends today, and will be tomorrow. We have more important things in common than party.