Saturday, October 07, 2017

On Museums and Deaccessioning Collections

After reading Charles Giuliano’s piece, found here:

A few (hah! You should know me better!) thoughts I have, on reading this piece. I’d have submitted the list to the Eagle’s “Letters to the Editor” section but it’s too long to publish. Anyway, here they are:

I grew up in Pittsfield and have been following this story pretty closely for several months. As a kid, I eagerly looked forward to Friday’s and my after school art classes at the Berkshire Museum. And I still think of myself as an artist. Actually, I like to refer to myself as an illustrator, as I once heard Norman Rockwell define himself. And I am concerned about the outcome of the current controversy surrounding the Museum. I think, as you clearly do, the recent article in The New Yorker was a good piece and representative of the quality I expect to see on their pages. But, damn, man! I had to read this piece twice, I was so distracted by the errors in grammar, basic punctuation, and syntax! After graduating from Pittsfield’s now closed Sacred Heart Elementary and St Joe’s High schools, my guess is you attended public schools. (The teaching that we parochial school kids were somehow superior to public schoolers still courses through my veins.) The good Sisters Of St. Joseph would never have allowed this to see the light of day! Or go unpunished! Surely they would have required heavy editing on your part, which they would gladly not assign until ten minutes before the last bell rang. On a Friday. Before a long weekend.

Seriously, though, this is a pretty good analysis of not only what HAS happened but continues to happen in what appears to be one man’s attempt to see his own distorted vision come to fruition, consequences be damned. (Sorry, Sisters. If you hadn’t scared the Catholic out of me I would surely be atoning for that cussing.) I am left wondering if ol’ Van Shields is trying to compensate for something. A failed career as an artist? A continued inability to color between the lines? A mother’s refusal to display his “artwork” on the family fridge? Something must be driving this man to push through his agenda, again, consequences be damned. (That reiteration would likely have earned me at least another ten Hail Marys and an Our Father.)

I can only hope that enough people, both in and from Berkshire County, feel as you, 
my family and friends, and I do about this attempt at an end run around everyone except, it seems, the Board Of Trustees. As you wrote, at least two of the members seem to have resigned in protest, though, at least in my opinion, it seems a stronger stance would have had them vote AGAINST the plan rather than abstain, and perhaps remain on the board to continue to represent our interests. That’s their call, though. I, we, have no idea the toll that might have taken on their personal or professional lives. Even so, I respect their decisions and am grateful they had the good conscience to make them.

I guess the deaccession IS a foregone conclusion, unless somebody is able to get some kind of last-minute reprieve, an injunction preventing the sale. I have no idea if that is even possible. At the least such an act might see the museum being sued by Sotheby’s for unrealized commissions. At worst, the injunction could be denied only to be appealed at great cost to whoever petitioned for it, and a final loss, allowing the deaccessioning to go forward. BTW, am I the only one who had never heard the word “deaccession” before? I feel I have been seeing it rather too much as I follow this story. I tend toward writing in a conversational style, though I’m mixing that with my “scholar’s voice” here, and would love to see a few “sell off”, “dumping works on the market”, and “eradicate the collection” phrases thrown in there, if just to stanch the monotony of repetition. (Again, the influence of the good Sisters at work!) Deaccessioning seems to sanitize the whole affair, and place it out of the realm of “all us regular folk” in whose hearts the museum holds a special place. I sometimes feel Like I am intruding far too much into the world of museum professionals or benefactors, as if I’m eavesdropping on conversations I am not supposed to hear, or accessing sites not intended for me, a mere museum-goer. I mean, if writers of the many articles I’ve read intended to reach people like me, who prefer to just enjoy museums rather than get involved in the goings-on behind the scenes (or full-scale diorama, as it were) of any museum, than using plain-speak would seem the better route. And I think we are an important audience. A target market as, together, we have the ability to spread the word and build an army of support. Perhaps that could influence members of the board to reconsider their position. It may be too late to stop the selling off of these important works, but that doesn’t mean we can’t band together and try. We may not succeed but our efforts could cause other museums to sit up and take note. And we could serve as a lesson to all the other museum patrons across the country to take more notice of what the people entrusted with the care and oversight of THEIR “little” 
museums are doing; to be aware that some nefarious activities are afoot when their own boards fire a director or curator who has shown they have not just the museum but the community’s best interests in mind, even if their well-intentioned actions have unintended consequences. 

Let me use this last paragraph to introduce two more angles from which to view this debacle - I mean, issue-
First, I honestly don’t see WHY the museum needs to be torn apart and rebuilt to make it “interactive”. After all, isn’t a museum supposed to be a testament to the history of some thing, or person, or region? Would it not be more appropriate to redesign existing exhibits, if bringing the museum into the 21st century was truly the intent? (This early in the millennium makes the term 21st century museum seem like an oxymoron!) That would leave the existing collection to do as intended, to honor its existence, its creators, and its donors (especially the world-renowned and beloved Norman Rockwell, illustrator of mid-twentieth century America, in all its faults and glory), and to share it with generations to come, so that they may enjoy and learn from it just as many of us have. Adding newer items to the collection makes sense. Showing those by way of interactive exhibits makes sense if that is what’s necessary to capture the minds and hearts of our children, and theirs. If feasible, adding on to the existing structure makes sense. Even adding a secondary site to house new acquisitions, and to exhibit items from the collection now in storage, like The Smithsonian’s Air and Space Museum has done, to great success, makes sense. 

Second, how would selling these valuable pieces affect future fundraising efforts? I have seen the possible effect on future donations of museum-worthy collections addressed. But what about monetary donations? Not just endowments from benefactors but federal, state, and municipal funding? Not to mention responses from the general population during fundraising drives? I don’t think PBS would raise much money during its telethons if it “deaccessioned” shows like Sesame Street, Antiques Roadshow, or Julia Child’s iconic shows. And what of people drawn to the Berkshire Museum BECAUSE OF some of the many works it seeks to dump on the open market? With the Norman Rockwell Museum so close by, one can’t help but think people who tour it would also make a stop in Pittsfield to see the very paintings the director now wants to get rid of. Not only could that be a source of many, albeit smaller: monetary donations but those people might then make a weekend of their visit, contributing to the Pittsfield and Berkshire economies. 

Lastly, here’s where I come from, what forms my opinion on the matter: I’m not a museum professional. I’m not an accountant. I’m not even very good at math. But what I AM pretty good at is problem solving by way of looking at a challenge from many angles. I don’t pretend to cover all of them. I am what you might call a jack of all trades but master of none. I have eclectic interests. I am a “Renaissance Man” wannabe. And I’m pretty logical. I approach each situation trying to understand different people’s motives, their opinions, their intent. Much like the Supreme Court considers the intent of our Founding Fathers when deciding the Constitutionality of laws and judgements, so should we consider the intent of those who donated valuable works to the good people of Berkshire County, while trusting all directors, curators, and trustees, past, present, and future, to honor those intentions. We would dishonor them by not fighting for them. 

Barb Wallace
Sacred Heart Elementary School, class of 1970
St. Joseph High School, class of 1974

Monday, September 04, 2017

Can't We Just All Get Along?

  An open letter to American Nazis, White Supremacists, the Ku Klux Klan, anti-semites, racists, misogynists, and all you other losers devoid of compassion and respect for minority groups. I don't hate you, but I hate what you represent. And I hate that you are passing YOUR hate for other people to your kids or grandkids. 

   I need your help. I need you to explain to me why you are willing to hate other people. Because I don't get it. Why are you passing that hate on to your kids? I don't even understand why YOU hate people. Why you think your "white privilege" is something to be proud of. So for sure I can't understand why you're doing this to your child.
   Children learn what they live. And if they live hate, they learn to hate. How do you explain to a child that they should HATE, not just dislike, HATE, another human being for ANY reason? How? How do you have a conversation with a 3-yr-old, or your kid who is 6, or 9, that teaches them they SHOULD hate people who are different? When everybody else they know, the kids they go to school with, their friends, their soccer or hockey or tee ball teammates, are being taught by their parents they SHOULD NOT hate anybody? 3-, 6-, and 9-yr-olds should be hating things, not people: Brussels sprouts and homework and going to bed early on school nights. That's what kids should "hate". They shouldn't be faced with the struggle of applying your ideology when deciding if they should like or hate a classmate or teammate or playground pal because of some "difference" between them that they shouldn't even recognize or have to deal with.
   You are supposed to teach your child GOOD values. Hate is not even in the realm of good values. Hate is the opposite of good values. Yet people DO teach their young children, including, yes, toddlers, that they should hate "others". You do it at home. You do it in the car. You do it when you taker her to your meetings. You do it when she goes with you to a rally. Or a march. Not only is that abhorrent, aberrant, and appalling behavior, you are setting your child up for failure. Because those you are teaching him to hate? Those who aren't able-bodied, those who don't have white skin, those who go to a different church, those whose ancestors aren't all Europeans, those who have developmental disabilities or mental illness, those who aren't straight, or who are being raised by two moms or two dads? Those who don't hate others, who were raised and TAUGHT not to hate others? Those kids will be part of the majority of the people in this country. Those are the people your kid is going to interact with every day of his or her life. Every day. 
   From day care to pre-K to kindergarten, through elementary, middle, and high school, your child will be expected to get along with the other children. He will have to work together on a school project with a Jewish kid and a black kid and a gay kid and a kid who's on the autism spectrum. It won't go well for him or her if he was raised to hate every kid in his group. It won't help later on when he's told the other employees he'll be working with on a group presentation are all people he was taught to hate. 
   So, please explain to me, help me understand, why you think it's a GOOD thing to HATE other people? And why you choose to teach an innocent child the concept of hate. Please explain how this will help your child in any way. Please explain how that will help him succeed in life. Because, isn't that kinda your job? To teach your child good morals, ethics, citizenship? Isn't it kinda your job to help your child be prepared to navigate the world  on his own once he reaches adulthood? 
   You don't have to teach your child to be best friends with every kid he knows. Just teach them to treat others the way he wants to be treated. Teach her, by example, to respect others, to not bully or otherwise discriminate. Let him learn how to make friends with kids he likes. Let him choose for himself. Then respect his choices. Unless, maybe you just want your child to go through her childhood and adolescence without friends except those she hangs out with at your rallies. Because if your kid brings that hate with him when he goes to day care and pre-K and kindergarten and elementary, middle, and high schools, he's going to be a loner since he will have alienated pretty much everyone in his sphere. This is the kind of life that ends after your kid becomes a mass shooter at school or at work and kills himself to avoid arrest, or refuses to obey police orders, forcing them to shoot him. Or her. If that's not the way you want your child's life to end, it's pretty simple. Teach him to NOT hate. 
   Teach your child to be open about others. Do it by example. Leave those white supremacists groups. Change your attitude. Learn, yourself, to stop hating and start ACCEPTING people for who or what they are, whatever makes them different than you. If you can't do it for yourself, do it for your kid. Don't teach him to hate. If you do continue on the path you have chosen, be prepared for the consequences. Be prepared to tell your kid the real reason the other kids want nothing to do with him. Explain to your five year old child why he's the only kid in the class who wasn't invited to Mohammed's birthday party. Be prepared to tell your daughter why she wasn't invited to the sleep-over at Mindy's house. And when your kid gets to high school, be prepared to explain to him WHY you chose to TEACH him to HATE all those kids. Because he WILL start questioning you. He'll be questioning himself. Adolescence is hard enough to go through, but it's made easier when you have friends going through the same thing. Imagine how much worse it would be if you're a loner and not by choice. Not really. At least not because of any conscious choice he made by himself; for himself. He'll suffer because of a choice you made even before he was born. 
   On second thought, forget explaining it to me. Explain it to your kid.

Sunday, September 25, 2016


Finally getting back on the blog. Posting part of some thoughts I wanted to share with someone on Twitter, but you know me. 140 characters doesn't cut it.

Even after viewing both PD vids of Scott, too many questions. Why did cops draw their weapons? Are they claiming they saw a gun in the car? Why didn't one LEO go to wife, vet her ID, and let her get close enough to talk to him? Yelling just distracts everybody, both cops AND her husband. What were effects of his TBI? Was he easily confused? Could that have been a factor? Why didn't he just roll his window down and talk to officer, show his hands? It was clear there were cops aiming guns at him. Very confusing behavior!
      Also, it looked to me, on the dashcam vid, that he opened the right door with his left hand, BACKED out of the vehicle with right hand kinda in front of something, like he didn't want them to see it.  My assumption would be it's likely a weapon Then as he backs away, with arms down, it's even more confusing behavior. Now maybe his right arm had issues, either from his TBI or other injury. That would explain a lot of that behavior, and maybe if cops had talked to wife, she could have given them that information. That would give her more credibility than just shouting from the sidelines. Cops can't rely on that info as fact. Too dangerous to do so. Anybody in a crowd can shout that info. You must have seen other videos where the crowd is yelling at the cops. The cops have to tune them out so they can focus on what's happening, what they're saying to each other, what the suspect might be saying, what's coming over the radio. And if there is a gun, officers have to make split-second decision as soon as suspect begins to move his hand or arm. If he wants to turn his weapon over to cops, he needs to verbally make that clear, wait til the cops acknowledge they understand what he wants to do, then he needs to move v-e-r-y slowly, because any quick movement and shots will be fired.
      This was a tragic shooting. Even if he had a gun, there are questions about the cops procedures. Whether those issues contributed to the shooting - I dunno.
      But as it stands, it looks to me like there isn't enough evidence to charge any of the cops with wrongdoing. But, again, we don't have all the facts. And just because I couldn't, now, convict anybody if I was on the jury, that doesn't mean they didn't do anything wrong, or couldn't have done things differently. Because I think in this and the Tulsa shooting of Mr. Crutcher, poor procedure contributed to both shootings. The difference in the two was that Mr Crutcher had his hands up. Lots of ?s there, too. Like why was he walking toward HIS car? If cop thought situation called for gun, he shouldn't have been moving away from them. Justas he was being shot, after he turned toward car, it looked like he dropped one arm. Whether he was going to mopen the door or the Taser made him drop his arm, you can't tell. 

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Going to The Wells Once Too Often

I began this post as a response to a report on ESPNBoston related to the release of the Wells report. I have read the report and have several issues with some of its conclusions, as well as with the League's activities in response to concerns lodged by the Indianapolis Colts prior to the January 2015 AFC Championship game. The way the League's executives handled the situation, coupled with some inexplicable behavior from the Officiating crew, taints this investigation. This is a separate issue from whether the Patriots were (are) guilty of misconduct, but it further adds to the impression that there are foxes guarding the hen houses even as roosters are allowed to run amok. I have yet to read any statements issued by anybody involved since the release of the Wells report, including those from NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell or Patriots owner Robert Kraft. So, for what it's worth, here's Part 1. I will follow up with my thoughts on the main players in this comedy -can't decide if it's an episode of The Keystone Cops starring NFL and Colts executives and the Officials' Walt Anderson as the cops or if it's more like The Dukes of Hazzard. At any rate, it's a comedy of errors.

First of all, saying "I'm not for sure (x will happen)" makes you sound "ignunt!" Just say I'm not sure. Second, if the NFL looks at the Colts game, and it's the only game in question, it's pretty obvious the balls were not a factor in the drubbing the Colts took. The Patriots scored half again as many points AFTER the ball issue was addressed. Thirdly, the NFL needs to revisit their own procedures; it's obvious that their own rules were inadequately enforced. And not just BEFORE the game but also when the balls were checked AFTER THE COMPLAINT. If the rules spell out exact PSI, that should be the standard, not "ticks" under or over. Chalk that up to the NFL and the officials. Fourth, be real. Deflating the balls may be against the rules but comparing it to BOUNTYGATE? Seriously? That's like comparing running a red light to hiring a hitman. Well, that's kind of an exaggeration but the point is valid. Certainly this taints Brady's image. (I don't think anybody's worried about Belichik's image! LOL) And it may bring into question Kraft's propensity to turn a blind eye (the man is too successful to think he's as unaware as he seems to want people to believe) to possible character flaws in his stars. (Aaron Hernandez, anyone?) 

All that said, as a die hard Pats fan, I'm really wary of all the "it's more probable than not" and "likely generally aware" phrases littered in Wells' report. While I'm open to the possibility -okay, probability- that the balls may not have fit the strict PSI range, I'm not convinced without a doubt that they were DEflated after being approved. If Brady wanted a certain PSI it would seem to me they'd be more likely to UNDERinflate the balls BEFORE submission, knowing the officials were likely just giving them a "feel" test rather than using any scientific method to check and record each test. You know, like using a cheapo air guage from Modell's and a notebook from Staples. Cuz that would be hard. (Speaking of hard, let us not forget the other great quarterback currently active, Aaron Rodgers, who admitted he has his guys OVERinflate the balls, because harder footballs are his preference, and apparently it's common knowledge that with some officiating crews the balls wouldn't be accurately tested. Oh, and remember the former Super Bowl QB who paid thousands of dollars to guys to adjust the balls' pressure. Obviously the NFL has a problem.) 

At first consideration one has to give Wells credit for being willing to release a report unfavorable to the Pats but also to the NFL. If anything it brings into the forefront the point that the NFL has some serious problems with how it enforces its own rules. Public relations continues to be a nightmare for the NFL, not just because of this but because this is just another black mark against its image. It seems the NFL is incapable of corporate responsibility, of enforcing its own policies, in a fair manner, and of controlling players' behavior. That doesn't excuse those committing violations, but it does prove that in the National Football League, a conglomerate worth TENS of BILLIONS of dollars (two major under-performers of 32 franchises each sold in the past couple of years for an average of $1B - do the math), nobody has complete control of the reins.

Those of us who are Patriots fans have to question how much we are willing to accept certain behaviors before withdrawing our support. For me, at least, Deflategate isn't enough. I see it as breaking the rules but, in the parlance of basketball, I see it as a violation rather than a foul. (Bountygate would be a flagrant foul, cause for ejection.) In football terms, I can't even compare it to an unintentional vs intentional facemask penalty. In my mind it just doesn't meet that level of misconduct. I don't see it as an advantage except as a a psychological advantage to the quarterback. 

Those who are what Pats fans lovingly call "haters" will ignore all the "more probable than not" qualifiers in the report and just see the incident as "more proof the Patriots are cheaters." Many will claim the Pats should be stripped of the Super Bowl Championship and that it should be awarded to the Seattle Seahawks. That would be a penultimate example of "cruel and unusual punishment not befitting the crime." There are many reasons why this would be the wrong thing to do, not the least of which is the fact ball pressure was not an issue in the Super Bowl. Also, that would unjustly reward the Seahawks, who were not affected by the incident in question. So, then, would the Super Bowl be replayed, between the Seahawks and the Indianapolis Colts, the team who lost to the Patriots? That wouldn't really be appropriate. Many Colts players were quoted acknowledging that the Patriots were the better team that day and that ball inflation was not a factor in the pounding they took. So if the game was replayed and the Colts somehow beat the Seahawks, the Colts would be unjustly rewarded because even they knew they hadn't earned a trip to the Super Bowl. It's all moot, anyway, because obviously the game cannot be replayed months later. Not only are teams not ready, they aren't even the same teams, as the make-up of players and coaches has changed with trades, retirements, etc. And the lowest level of haters, those who would force the Patriots to vacate all their titles, from division to Super Bowl championships, are just downright delusional. There are those who say the first instance of cheating can be traced to the "Tuck Rule" game, that neither Belichick nor Brady would have seen the success they've had if not for that one play. I'm almost even embarrassed to address that, but there are enough people who make that claim that it bears mentioning. And ridicule. Because it IS ridiculous. Enough on that.

Those who are neither fanatics nor haters of the Patriots and can look at this issue objectively will see that there is a problem with the Patriots system, and that cannot be denied. Their MO seems to be to constantly be pushing the boundaries to see what kind of advantages they can gain, whether it's a direct advantage over an opponent or a psychological advantage for their own players, they obviously aren't afraid to walk a tightrope, even if they sometimes fall off. They aren't afraid to get caught crossing the line, but the lines they've crossed have, really, only been minor infractions. 

Every "cheating" accusation leveled at the Patriots has been the result of activity practiced by most all other teams. That doesn't excuse it. Not at all. But it points to an institutionalized problem that goes along with any high stakes venture, and the big business that professional sports has become ranks right up there with any other high stakes venture that tempts and causes corporations to "cheat," to take short-cuts, to skirt or even break laws and regulations. In elite professional sports the financial rewards for teams and individual athletes are so high that it's almost natural that they would give in, at some level, to the temptation to gain whatever advantage they could, to get an edge over a competitor, or the clock, or whatever obstacle lays between them and success. The Patriots just happen to have a target on their back. There's no question they need to take responsibility for their own actions but it's obvious they have received special attention. 

Why does a billion dollar company dance around the rules? The rewards seem to be worth the risk. The level of risk seems to define one's character. Why else would an elite player like Tom Brady allegedly conspire with an equipment manager to violate the NFL's regs on ball pressure? Would such a minor change make that much difference in ball handling that it would affect the outcome of a game? Of a season full of games? Does it? It seems like a very small risk, relative to the big picture. And by small I mean not really much of a risk because it's not much of a violation. Not contrasted to the use of Performance Enhancing Drugs, like the Yankees' Alexander Rodriguez was suspended for. And certainly not on the level of violating the rules that Lance Armstrong took the use of PEDs and doping to, for which he was stripped of most of his cycling victories, including an unprecedented number of Tour de France wins. 

As for the Wells Report, it almost raises more questions than it gives answers. A couple stand out. Reportedly there had been talk all season amongst other teams that the Patriots were taking air out of the footballs, and the Colts filed a specific (if unofficial) complaint making the League aware of the possibility the balls used in the Championship game would be tampered with. That information was made available to Walt Anderson, the game's referee, and he assured League management he would follow his own established procedures that included taking responsibility for the balls and overseeing their delivery to the field of play at game time, directly from the Officials' locker room, where supposedly there were kept under watch after having been tested and approved for use.

At half-time, when 23 of the 24 game balls were re-submitted for measurement to two alternate game officials, it was determined that every one of the remaining 11 balls being used by Brady and the Patriots offense registered less than the minimum PSI, as had the intercepted ball. (That ball, which triggered the official Colts complaint that  ic cRemember that those balls had all been measured before the game and, after two were adjusted by Anderson, every one met or slightly exceeded the 12.5 psi minimum. Interestingly, citing a time crunch, the officials rechecked only FOUR of the twelve Colts footballs. EVERY one of those balls, originally measured at or near (under and over)  13 psi, the middle of the allowable range, had lost pressure. Of even more interest, though, is that when the two officials rechecked the pressure on the Pats balls, the first official's measurements, without exception, were LOWER by an average of 0.4 psi. This is important for two reasons. First, it shows that the balls were under-inflated at half-time. BUT while it's likely the balls were under the 12.5 psi minimum that doesn't mean the under-inflation rate was 0.4 psi at the BEGINNING of the game. Second, it shows that the measurement varies depending either on who is checking the pressure or by the gauge being used. Oh, and the variance allowed by Rule 2 is ONLY 1 psi! Yet the DIFFERENCE between the half-time measurements is 0.4 (four/tenths) of that allowance. That means there is a 40% margin of error! That's huge! 

There's another issue raised by the official re-measurement of air pressure. Remembering that the first official's measurements were forty percent lower than the second officials when measuring all the footballs used by the Patriots offense, when checking only one-third of the balls used by the Colts the difference in measurements was THE OPPOSITE! The SECOND official's measurements were lower, again by 0.4 psi. So while the difference RATE was consistent at 40% of the allowable range, it's obvious that there is a human factor at play. In most comparisons a 40% margin of error would be considered unacceptable. This is especially important when it comes to applying specifications governing equipment used in a high-stakes competition in a business governed by rules. Yet a footnote (41) in the report states that one of the gauges used CONSISTENTLY registers a pressure "0.3-0.45  higher" than the other. Interestingly, when recording the measurements during three separate testings, before the game, at half-time, and immediately following the game, it was NOT noted which official used which gauge. This seems important because, again, the allowable range is only 1 psi yet, using those gauges, one official's measurement was destined to be off by 30-45% of the allowable margin. 

Lastly, the League, through the investigators, had hired a specialized scientific testing company to examine the evidence and simulate game-day conditions to determine if the balls had been tampered with. Much emphasis was placed on the temperature and humidity levels during the game. Less attention seemed to be paid to the actual USE of the balls. This factor was briefly mentioned and ruled out as having much, if any, impact on the loss of pressure. Now, I'm not a scientist and my experience with air pressure in sports equipment is limited to recreational use. And I've never inhaled the air from a football! But it seems to me that a ball that gets more use would lose pressure faster than one that "rides the bench." In this game the Patriots' time of possession, the amount of TIME their footballs were in use, was much greater than the Colts' TOP. In fact, at 37:49 - 22:11, in a sixty-minute game, the Patriots' 16:38 greater time of possession was half again longer than Indianapolis'. This is significant because, again, of the differences in the environment the balls were kept in, how much handling they received, how long they were exposed to the weather. When the charges were initially announced the internet community responded with a meme, an image coupled with a sarcastic caption, that showed Patriots very large tight end Rob "Gronk" Gronkowski spiking a football after executing a great play. The various captions alluded to the effect of "Gronking" on the ball's air pressure. That is, when Gronk used his might to spike the ball it would impact the ground with such force that it must have released some of the air! The Wells investigation concluded that such activity would not affect the air pressure, but I'm guessing nobody volunteered to be Gronked to actually test the theory.

The NFL needs to re-visit its own pollicies and procedures and those followed by officials. Since the League put the Patriots on notice in 2004 that their game day ball protocols were poorly executed it would seem the officials would have known to take more care in checking those balls in subsequent games. The head official during the Championship game is a 19-yr veteran and it's "more probable than not" that he would know about that incident. As well, that official, Walt Anderson, had been put on notice that there was speculation throughout the league and serious concern by the Colts that the Patriots tampered with the footballs to reduce the pressure, supposedly making the ball easier to grip. Yet Anderson, who specifically assured NFL executives, who had shared those concerns with him, that he would follow his customary procedures to ensure all balls used met League regulations, failed in those duties. This is significant because the Wells report, in describing Anderson, his experience and his work ethic, states that he "is widely recognized as exceedingly meticulous, diligent and careful." Except on this day he wasn't.

Indeed, according to Anderson, the Patriots balls were checked and a couple were under-inflated. Those were re-inflated and met the required 12.5-13.5 range when marked as approved for use. However, part of Anderson's routine was to have whoever was transporting the balls from the officials' locker room to the field to wait either for permission to transport the ball bag or for an official to oversee the transport. Despite the officials having been put on notice regarding the concerns of the Colts and the League about a potential tampering issue, McNally somehow removed the bag from the locker room and brought it to the field while unsupervised and without permission. Anderson was aware of that fact, yet did not question it despite admitting later that it was the first time in his career that he remembers that happening. Of course that can't be argued as contributing to the Patriots' actions. That would be akin to a burglar caught in the act blaming a security guard who altered his schedule of rounds for letting the burglary take place. The guard would have to answer to his employer, who might then alter its procedures, but the burglar must answer for his own actions. So in this case it appears that Anderson bears responsibility for not following established procedure and his own routine even after being told by League officials that a Patriots violation of League rules was "more probable than not." In this case both the official(s) and the League failed to prevent the alleged violation from taking place. One could argue that it's not their responsibility to PREVENT violations but only to act in response. If so, the officials could, should, have checked the air pressure on the first ball put into play by the Patriots. There was obviously credible suspicion that the pressure would be altered. It seems that the officials DO bear a responsibility to assure all game balls used by the Patriots were sufficiently inflated, and should not have put the onus on the Colts to lodge a complaint. The Colts were well within their rights to complain, especially given that the ball they took possession of as a result of an interception was reportedly under-inflated. That specific ball, however, was not re-tested at half-time because it has to be considered that the Colts equipment manager had ample opportunity to deflate the ball before submitting it for inspection. As well, that ball was not going to be used in the second half as the defensive player who intercepted it was going to keep it. (One of the reasons each team submits 12 balls for their offense to use is because balls used in memorable plays are often removed from play and given to players.) None of this excuses the fact the Patriots' game balls failed the half-time pressure check. 

Back to the previously mentioned warning issued to the Patriots: in 2004 there was an investigation of the Patriots oversight of game balls because one or more "practice balls" had been used during the game, having been given to the officials between downs by a one or more ball boys. McNally was in charge of the ball boys and getting the game balls to the field, as he was during the Colts game. There was no disciplinary action taken after that incident, though the Patriots were warned that a future incident could be deemed "a competitive violation." The Wells report specifically states that this reprimand and warning were NOT factors in their conclusions but mentioned in the report "for background and completeness." It seems that that means they mention it just to make it clear they were aware of it, but even so, that can be compared to a witness or attorney at trial making a statement they know is objectionable and the judge will rule it be disregarded. A classic example of not being able to "unring the bell." Despite the assertion that the use of practice balls was unintentional, and that the league did not take real action against the team, in the court of public opinion this will, of course, be used by Patriots detractors as "proof positive" the Patriots are cheaters and have been for many years. 

Okay, this is a decent stopping off point. Check back for Part 2 of the investigation into The Wells Report, to be followed by a response to the punishments announced by the League, Robert Kraft's answer to that, and chatter about the reactions from others.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Sometimes a crime is a crime is a crime

Craig Stephen Hicks is in jail under charges of murdering three residents of the apartment complex where he lives. The victims,  Deah Shaddy Barakat, 23, a dental student at UNC, his 21 yr. old recent graduate wife, Yusor Mohammad, and her 19 yr. old sister, N.C. State student Razan Mohammad Abu-Salhaare Americans of Syrian ancestry and followers of Islam. Immediately people hearing of the killing of the defenseless young adults decried it as the act of an anti-Muslim. Then came word that Hicks is "an atheist" who hates all religion. And that is a problem because atheists don't "hate religion." They don't believe in a god. They don't hate that others do believe in gods, nor do they deny (or wish to deny) others that right. The fact is Hicks describes himself as an anti-theist. And there-in lies the difference. And a huge difference it is. Like the difference between John Smith not caring if you are a Catholic, or a Jew, or a Muslim, and John Smith HATING that about you to the point he is anti-Catholic, anti-Semitic, or anti-Muslim and lets that color how he treats (or mistreats) you, whether he patronizes your business, whether he bullies you, or worse. So taken at face value it would seem that Hicks is likely anti-Muslim. But that doesn't appear to be what triggered his rage. According to a report in the LA Times (and multiple other sources): 

"Karen Hicks said she had been married to the suspect for seven years and denied that he had acted out of hatred.
“He believes everyone is equal,” she said at a televised news conference. “ It doesn’t matter what the person looks like.”
"I can say that it is my absolute belief that this incident had nothing to do with religion or the victim’s faith, but in fact was related to long-standing parking disputes my husband had with various neighbords(sic) regardless of their race, religion or creed,” she saiid."
Oh, that should make the victims' families feel much better. It wasn't that he was anti-Muslim (or any other faith, which though still murder at least makes it somewhat easier to understand, historically speaking) or anti-Syrian-American (again, historically speaking...), it was that they PARKED in HIS SPACE. Is that not part of a man's right to stand his ground? Is that not a legitimate defense of THREE POIINT-BLANK SHOTS TO THE HEAD KILLING THREE PEOPLE?
”He was very disgruntled, very aggressive. He would scream at people,’’ said Samantha Maness, 25, (neighbor) ... He made everyone feel uncomfortable and unsafe, ..."

Maness said she never heard Hicks refer to anyone’s religion or race.
“He had equal opportunity anger toward all the residents," she said.
Well, it's good to know he believes in equality. Now let's see if he believes in the death penalty.

Thursday, January 08, 2015

Je Suis Charlie

  There are a lot of people writing critical essays denouncing the outpouring of support for the cartoonists and staff of Paris' Charlie Hebdo magazine by citizens around the world, in the wake of yesterday's terrorist massacre in their offices. These writers are saying, essentially, that the cartoonists and editors at Charlie Hebdo were a bunch of privileged, white, male, racists who hated Islam. Some are claiming they were talentless hacks whose humor was sophomoric at best; that they hid behind free speech to promote hate and discrimination, especially towards France's fairly large (>8%) population of Muslims. I think these people are entirely missing the point of the rallies of support. The magazine's content is not the issue here: free speech is. Freedom of speech is a basic human right provided for in virtually every democratic and republican country. There are exceptions in some countries where certain speech is not allowed. Those exceptions mostly address words used to incite or create violence, physical threat, or terror. As well, certain criticisms and untruths, obscenity and child pornography are not protected as free speech. But as distasteful and offensive as some of Charlie Hebdo's work seemed to be, as risky as it was for them to publish that work under the threat of a violent response from extremist Muslims, one has to respect their willingness to exercise their basic rights of free speech and freedom of the press.
  I first heard of Charlie Hebdo a few years ago when their offices were firebombed. At that time they were publishing an issue that showed Muhammad on its cover. The editors of Charlie Hebdo were fully aware of one of the basic tenets of Islam, aniconism, the prohibition of presenting an image of Muhammad. A few years earlier a Danish magazine had sparked violent protests around the world when it published a series of cartoons depicting Muhammad and criticizing fundamentalist Islam. 
  Today, these writers are criticizing the masses for "standing with Charlie," for supporting everything ever printed in Charlie Hebdo, no matter its creativity, accuracy or intent. I think these writers are missing the point. Which is truly unfortunate because this point is the entire raison d'être of free speech. The point is to support free speech, whether you agree with what's being said, whether you agree with the speaker's ideologies, whether you agree with their attitude, their choice of words, their tone. The point is to respect EVERY speaker's (or cartoonist, or filmmaker, or artist) right to speak freely. That is a responsibility one must accept if one is to enjoy and exercise one's own right of freedom to speak openly and honestly without the fear of penalty or suppression. That is, of course, a simplistic legal definition of free speech. The official protections afforded by the state allow a good deal of leeway in the types of speech that are protected. Yet even then there are restrictions, exceptions made to protect the lives of others. Certain forms of hate speech are prohibited. In some countries it is illegal to criticize government or religious leaders. But this is not so in most democratic countries. And this is why controversy swirled around Charlie Hebdo. It seems they were on a mission to see how far they could overstep a line in the sands of the Middle East, purposely offending Muslims, especially extreme fundamentalist Muslims, by exploiting the taboo of presenting an image of the Prophet of Islam, Muhammad, in any graphic form. By frequently including editorial caricatures of Muhammad, even using those images as the magazine's covers, they pushed and pushed at the deeply held Muslim beliefs until, in 2011, Muslim terrorists pushed back, fire-bombing the Paris offices of Charlie Hedbo. The magazine's owners and staff vowed to regroup, to not be cowered by threats of violence. One of the owner/cartoonists, Stéphane Charbonnier, known to most as Charb, iterated his intent to continue exercising his right to criticize extremist Islamic fundamentalists through his cartooning. "i'd rather die standing than live on my knees." Such is how Charb saw not only his right but his responsibility to pursue his passion (some may describe it as obsession) for free speech and to expose terrorists even as he lived under police protection because of constant threats on his life. 
  And so the irony is that Charb's death came just as Charlie Hebdo was putting together its next issue. Charb and the other editors/owners, cartoonists and staff members were massacred  as they were "standing" for their rights. They refused to kowtow to the attempts of terrorists to silence them. They DIED because they believed in free speech. They WILLINGLY risked their lives by exercising that right. And so millions of us around the world have shown support and respect for their sacrifice. We are not championing the cartoons. The mere thought that that is the reason for a world-wide outpouring of support is offensive. No, what is being supported is a centuries-old tradition of men and women who so strongly believe in human rights that they are willing to put their lives on the line to protect those rights.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Political cartoons

Here's the cartoon that triggered these thoughts. And like a lot of my stuff, it's just stream of consciousness. Some is based on my upbringing, my personal observations and interactions with others. Some of my thoughts are influenced on reading, studying, researching over many years, both self-educating and academically. I have always had an eclectic interest in reading materials so some times I'm kinda all over the place. Maybe this introductory paragraph should be part of an About Me section so that's a thought. But for right now it's here. 
 So I've seen this political cartoon on a couple of people's pages. I started commenting and realized how much it made me think, how many questions it was triggering, and how freaking long my comment was getting. That's been happening a lot, lately. My posts and comments being freakishly long for Facebook. To the point where another person responded "Somebody needs a blog." And I thought, well, I HAVE one. Maybe it's time to get back to it. So, yeah. Here I am. What I don't understand is that I don't remember specific instances of being told how to behave around the police, just that I knew how. I understand the existence of systemic and institutionalized racism. But I'm always taken aback when I hear black parents saying "THIS is what we must teach our sons!" as if we all hadn't learned the same lessons at some point. I'm not trying to be disingenuous but if a lot of people (of any race) just actually behaved that way, many problem scenarios could be avoided. Maybe then the REAL problems would be glaringly exposed and more easily addressed. Because when I look at most confrontations between citizens and police, I first see SUSPECT vs COP unless there is some specific information that says it's racism, i.e. if a cop had a history of targeting blacks, or if racial slurs were used, or if reference was made to race or obvious bias, like asking what a black guy is doing in a white neighborhood. Though, nearly every time I've been stopped by police (admittedly all traffic related) I have been questioned as to where I was coming from and headed to, and had my vehicle searched from the outside. So what I'm struggling with is why I see that as normal but blacks see it as harassment. Can it be just because the numbers of incidents are skewed relative to demographics? Or because my mindset is just do what I'm supposed to do, sign the citation and be on my way rather than approaching any interaction with fear? Is it because I'm pretty secure in the knowledge that I'll just be on my way? Because I know that is likely what the end result will be? Is that white privilege? Or is that just being treated reasonably because I've shown respect? And II've been stopped by black, white, and Hispanic cops. Usually because I've deserved it. know when I see those flashing lights in my mirror and hear that pull-it-over whup whup of the siren, my palms get sweaty, my heart races, my stomach gets queasy. But I remind myself to just stay focused and not do anything stupid. I guess my mindset is that when you want a positive outcome, you try not to rock the boat. Sometimes the boat needs a good crashing wave, which it seems like it's getting now. But I don't want to see too many people focusing on small issues, bailing the boat out with Dixie cups, when what we really need to work on is the ballast.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Questions about Michael Brown's history

Sorry for such a long time since I've posted. There's been a lot going on and I've been spending most of my online time in discussions with others about the recent elections, politics in general, and current events. But I'm going to try to get back here as often as possible. One of the blogs I've been following closely is by a law enforcement officer involved in the events surrounding the protests and rioting in Ferguson, MO following the shooting death of black Michael Brown by white Officer Darren Wilson. It's a very well written blog from a great perspective. You can read it here: 

So my latest post to him was full of questions on Michael Brown's background. He's been described repeatedly as a "gentle giant" but the gentle side of him seemed to be missing the day of his death. Both during a strong-arm robbery committed just before the interaction with Wilson and during that interaction, Brown was very aggressive, using his size to his advantage (6'5" and 290-300 lbs.) It just occurred to me that, even given all the news reports and social media I have been reading, I haven' t seen anything that goes into depth about his background. That triggers a lot of questions. So I'm asking them. Following is my post on the officer's blog.
 You can find it under realBKW:

"This question has naught to do with this particular post, but it’s something I’m curious about. I know it’s been reported Michael Brown and Dorian Johnson were headed to the home of Michael’s grandmother, because he was living with her. Any confirmation on that? Is that truly where they were headed and did he really live there? If he did live with her, does anybody know why? Both of his parents are alive and involved in the activities following his death, so why wasn’t their son living with one of them? Being familiar with the area, do you know if there is a difference between where their homes are located and where the grandmother lives? Is one neighborhood “better” than the others? I’m wondering if, as in some cases, Brown had had some problems with his parents and been sent to the grandmother, or if he’d been sent there to be of help to her, or if his parents “abandoned him” to his grandmother. Also, if he did live with her, any idea how long he was there? How old was he when he went to her? I suppose it’s possible he’d just moved in to be closer to the tech school he was allegedly going to begin attending “that Monday.” Has anybody confirmed that he WAS going to start school? Hopefully you or someone else can shed light on this background info. I know it’s not uncommon in cases where there’s just a single mother and she has problems with addiction or finances or child neglect and the grandparent(s) raise the child(ren.) This happens in white families but I think moreso in black families. Or maybe the grandmother just lived in a better school district. Oh, that creates the question of where the parents live. Does either, or do both, live in Ferguson? Okay, that’s it. For now! Thanks to anybody who can help satisfy my curiosity!"

Sunday, September 21, 2014

NFL Bad Boy in the Making

The New York Times' Marc Tracy reported on the actions of the youngest Heisman Trophy winner, Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston, which triggered a recent one-game suspension. Allegedly Winston stood atop a table in the student union and shouted an obscene, vulgar phrase several times. It is a phrase that is especially offensive to women. Originally the school was going to sit Winston for only half the game because, well, it was an IMPORTANT game. Later somebody with a bit of a conscience decided the suspension be changed to a full game.

As Tracy writes,"Myron Rolle, a former Florida State safety who is now a member of the Knight Commission, which works to ensure that athletics programs operate within the educational mission of their universities, said he understood that Winston was held to a higher standard than the average student but added that there should be wider awareness that life can in some ways be more difficult for prominent student-athletes.

“This pressure and movement toward proper conduct and properly comporting himself has been thrust on him immediately, quickly, vigorously and with some serious voracity,” Rolle said of Winston, a friend."

Well, of course it would be more difficult for good, even great, student athletes (using the term student loosely in many cases) to lead perfect lives, as they are constantly under scrutiny. But those factors are part and parcel of the deal they make with the school. The athlete promises to play his best and to follow the rules, ALL the rules, of the school, the team, the NCAA and society in general. In return the athlete gets an (often free) education, the opportunity to play for a successful program and a path to a potentially VERY lucrative position in pro sports. Asking the athlete to be a good person shouldn't even be required, it should just be expected. Perhaps that's a big part of the problem. As we're seeing in the NFL, not for the first time but more at the forefront than before, athletes are not always good citizens. Some aren't even good people. Apparently they were not expected to be well behaved when they were younger, as Rolle points out that, at least in Winston's case, the expectation of "proper conduct and properly comporting himself has been thrust on him immediately..." When I was in elementary school we actually got grades in both conduct and comportment. Poor, fair, satisfactory or good, your parents were made aware of how you behaved at school. Very few scored a grade of poor or fair. And even then it likely only happened during one grading period because parents would take corrective action. Parents would take RESPONSIBILITY and teach their children to do so as well. Inferring that a twenty-year old college sophomore is not capable of proper behavior is an insult to young adults everywhere. Set aside the argument that there are 18-. 19-, and 20-year old young men and women with the maturity to go to war, or even to manage shifts at the local Starbucks. Consider the fact that, as a quarterback, Winston is expected to be a team leader. He's consistently shown he is not cut out for that role. He has a history of charges including vandalism, theft, and sexual assault. This is not a good kid. He's not a choirboy. And he's not learning any lessons from these experiences. After being lambasted on social media he issued an apology. Not to those he offended in person. Not to women he offended everywhere. To his teammates. Because he had the arrogance to think winning a football game was more important than his bad behavior. He then, after his suspension was extended from the first half to the entire game, had the audacity to dress for the game and participate in pre-game warm-ups. Like he couldn't believe the school would actually keep him out of the game. Especially if they were losing. He would be at the ready to jump in and save the game, suspension be damned. Because nobody puts Jameis in the corner.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The NFL: Are these guys for real?

So the NFL has announced it has hired four -count 'em. FOUR!- women to help it try and salvage what little it can of its highly self-proclaimed, self-polished, and self-promoted reputation for being in the forefront of welcoming women into the previously (mostly) male bastion of professional sports spectatorship. I know, I was snickering, too, as I wrote this. 

That reputation has recently been sullied by very public stories of domestic violence involving players' interaction with women and children. Well, two players, one woman and one child. Wait, make that two children. You can't even finish writing about one incident before another pops up. Now the NFL is trying to make us believe that it is going to start getting serious -no, seriously, we MEAN IT this time. Seriously serious.- about developing conduct codes and programs, and schedules of punishments and fines, to help its players and staff members be law abiding citizens when it comes to interpersonal relationships. Never mind they already have all those resources in place. This time they're going to have WOMEN make the rules. Cuz nothing makes a wife abuser more remorseful than being told how to behave by a woman. Yeah, they'll be open to that now. Because it will be oh so different with women making the decisions. (I'm not questioning these women's abilities or qualifications AT ALL. This is more about the NFL's poorly disguised attempt to make us believe they have women's and children's best interests in mind because, you know, women are women AND they are children's moms. And it's about how players will react to having women in charge.)

Is this supposed to placate women fans? Cuz, it ain't gonna work. We can see right through it. What they're really saying is that men can't figure this shit out so we had to go get a binder full of women to get us out of this cluster fuck. It's not that these women aren't qualified, it's that the NFL is using reverse discrimination, which is as bad as regular discrimination, to right a wrong involving the abuse of women. I hope they at least CONSIDERED some male candidates. There are plenty of men out there who know how to treat women and children with respect, who are civilized in dealing with issues in relationships without resorting to violence that knocks a woman's lights out with one punch or sends a four year old boy to the doctor with "lacerations" all over his thighs, and welts and bruises to his legs and hand because "that's how I was raised and look how well I turned out!" There is none so blind as s/he who will not see. 

In a couple of weeks the NFL will break out their pink accessories to show support for women with breast cancer. How about they drop that charade, which probably makes more money for the NFL through licensing and sales of pink jerseys and thongs (yes, America's professional football league sells thong underwear, and they name them! Bliss, Insider, Sublime! For the more prudish you can get panties with the same names and designs) than it generates for cancer research. What they SHOULD do is declare "Stop Violence Against Women and Children" month with players wearing purple accents and shoes, and instead of selling thong underwear they should hand out educational literature from the Coaching Boys Into Men program ( to every adult attending games that month. Do PSAs. Sell alternate jerseys and other gear in purple instead of pink and donate the proceeds to domestic violence programs and shelters. Breast cancer awareness gets enough attention without the "help" of the National Football League. The NFL needs to start getting real about a different kind of cancer that seems to have metastasized throughout the league, and that is the cancer of violent behavior exhibited by athletes. The current focus is on domestic violence but it's not the only violence some NFL players have been accused of. But that discussion is for another time. And this cancer starts in the lower leagues where it goes untreated because athletes are heroes and we can't punish them because if they have to sit out a game or we kick them off the team we might lose. And they're just boys. They'll grow out of it. Only they don't grow "out of it," the just grow. They grow bigger. They grow stronger. They grow bolder. They grow more entitled. They grow more violent.

By partnering with the Coaching Boys Into Men program the NFL can show it is serious about educating players. They can start earlier in players' lives. Just like the PP&K programs, the Play 60 and Take A (hopefully non-violent) Player To School programs, the NFL can start educating child players about domestic violence. They can reach kids who are possibly being abused, who statistically will grow to be adult abusers. They can help children who may be witnesses of abuse at home or on the streets. They can show them where and how to get the help they need, especially if they are victims. And they can teach them not to victimize others.

As they get older, players need to learn to leave the physical confrontations on the field where they're part of the game, and don't bring that shit into their home lives. The NFL needs to get serious about ADEQUATELY punishing players who are convicted of violence against others. These players taint the reputation of the league, they cause distractions (and people thought a gay player would be a distraction?) and they foment anger and dissension among fans of a team dealing with a player suspected, accused, or convicted of violence against women or children, or in any other situation. Oh, BTW, does anybody else find it ironic that purple is the color used by anti-violence organizations in their ribbon and other promotional/educational campaigns, and the two players currently embroiled in this NFL/domestic violence debacle both play for teams whose main uniform color is PURPLE? What the WHAT?

The NFL holds seminars and teach-ins to help rookies adjust to life as a professional athlete. They learn about league and team codes of conduct, financing and wealth management issues, adapting to sudden fame and avoidance of hangers-on and money grabbers. According to one report, "The players won't be allowed to leave the premises without permission. They cannot have guests or drink alcohol. In addition, cellphones and pagers, as well as do-rags, bandannas and sunglasses are banned from the proceedings. The League is working hard to breed the thug life out of any rookie so inclined. From 8 a.m. until 10 p.m., the players must sit through lectures about the pitfalls that await the unwary: paternity suits and domestic-abuse charges, bar fights and drug stings, crooked financial advisers and greedy hangers-on." ( ) The wording of this suggests the players be aware of and prepared for FALSE "domestic abuse charges" when, in fact, they should be learning about how to deal with all these new situations without COMMITTING domestic violence.

The NFL should focus more on things like anger management, mental health, dealing with the pressures of living an abnormal life schedule while trying to be a family man. These should be ongoing seminars and attendance should be required of all players, not just rookies. 

In fact, all professional sports leagues would benefit from instituting these kinds of programs. Too many professional athletes have difficulties trying to live their lives well while dealing with the pressures and distractions that come the job and with new found riches and fame. The leagues use these players as tools of the trade, to be bought and sold to other teams or simply discarded when their production falters. They encourage them to be monsters in the arena. But the leagues need to become more socially responsible. They need to realize their obligations to their players don't end at the out of bounds markers or at the sound of the game-ending horn. They need to be aware of how players are coping with being part of the league and how that affects their behavior. They need to teach players to be good people off the field. Most players already know and live these truths. But enough don't that it's a problem. It's not necessarily a growing problem because there have always been bad boys in every league. Some players are even hired because they ARE bad boys, they have mean streaks and the attitude and size to punish people on the field. The problem is when that extends off the field. These incidents are now being brought into the open and society is demanding these off-field incidents be dealt with more harshly than in the past, that they be dealt with in a more serious we-will-not-tolerate-this manner rather than the old boys-will-be-boys attitude with its brief time outs where a player misses a start but jumps in on the next play, or maybe misses a full period of play and gets hit with a token fine that is not much more than his per-diem check.

On the surface, at least, the NFL does seem to now be getting it that they need to make some changes. Hiring all women to oversee these changes may turn out to be more than a publicity ploy or a bread-and-circus approach meant to appease detractors pointing out the NFL's willingness to take money from female fans while not taking seriously the safety of its own players' wives and girlfriends and children. They could help us believe in their recognition and acceptance of the gravity of the situation if they also hired a new commissioner and cleaned house of the men who still insist they had no idea how Janay Palmer was able to walk into an elevator unassisted but seconds later was dragged unceremoniously out of that same elevator car because she somehow became unconscious while in the company of her fiancé. They had no idea, until after seeing a security video showing how it only took one punch, in one second, to put her lights out, that any violent act had been perpetrated by Ray Rice. No idea. Not a clue. Pics or it didn't happen, as the kids say. Those guys are either incredibly stupid and delusional or they're arrogant and deceitful. They're either ignorant or they're outright liars. Whatever the case may be, they need to be gone. Every last one of them who had any part in reviewing this incident and deciding how it would be handled. Right up to the commissioner, who needs to do the right and honorable thing. Step aside and let a REAL man have that job. Even if that "man" is a woman, if that's what it takes, and she's qualified. 

The NFL is not the only sports league dealing with these issues. It just happens to be football season, and they "just happen" to have a couple of players currently under investigation in highly publicized cases as alleged perpetrators of domestic violence against women and children. Every year NFL players are arrested on charges involving violent behavior, or drunk driving, possession and use of illegal drugs. As a group, players are their own microcosm of society, so it's understandable that there will be a segment of their society that behaves thusly. Just as there is a segment in our greater society guilty of the same behaviors. It's just that the society these players belong to has the wherewithal to control those behaviors, to cleanse their society of illegal activity, to employ citizens who represent the wholesome image the heads of that society want to project. And most players DO. The MAJORITY of the players and coaches and owners of the NFL, and of all the other leagues, DO represent that image, both on and off the playing fields, in public and in private. The very reason these incidents make the headlines is BECAUSE they are NOT the norm. People don't need to read that Peyton Manning drove home safely from practice and later that evening played tickle monster with his little kids before dressing their unscathed, innocent toddler bodies in Disney Princess and Pixar Cars pajamas, reading them bedtime stories and planting wet kisses on their foreheads as he tucked them into bed. We EXPECT him to do that. It's what most of us do. That is normal behavior. TMZ is not going to show teasers about that. There will be no film at 11 of Peyton Manning's private life. 

Let's hope we can get to a point where the only highlights shown of professional athletes are of spectacular plays they've made on the field. Maybe four new NFL hires, all women, can get us here. Maybe the NFL is truly taking these problems seriously and hired capable women who have the ability to develop and oversee programs that help not only the NFL's image but help the players who need it the most. Maybe it's not a ploy, a publicity stunt, lipstick on a pig. I have a feeling these women are not the type to be complicit in that kind of self-serving activity. I think they mean to really turn things around. I think they know it's going to take more than some Campbell's Chunky Soup to get this train wreck fixed and back on track.

Disclaimer: I am a life long, die hard fan of the New England Patriots, back before the dynasty days of the 2000s, back to the colonial Pat the Patriot days of the Boston Patriots, before the young-Elvis New England Patriot was adopted. 

I know people may think me a hypocrite for now criticizing the NFL for allowing players suspected or guilty of violence off the field to continue to play ON the field. I now know the Patriots had a player who has a reputation for violence. I know that player now sits in a solitary cell awaiting separate trials for three murders. I know I unwittingly cheered that player enthusiastically because he excelled on the field. He was exciting. He played hard, he hit hard. But too I know I was clueless about his past run-ins with the law, the fights in bars and locker rooms, the threats of violence. Most of us were. Because that stuff is usually kept private and dealt with quietly. Especially with a team like the Patriots that controls access to players, controls what players are allowed to talk about publicly. It's a team in a league that likes to take care of matters in house. Except when it can't. And lately the league can't. So as a former Aaron Hernandez fan I am as guilty as anyone for supporting a player capable of unimaginable violent acts towards others. The key word in that sentence is FORMER. I learned of Hernandez's alleged acts and immediately decided he was no longer one of my favorite players. I hoped the Patriots would release him so I wouldn't be put in a position to want him to be a successful player who would help my team while knowing what a jerk he is. I am on the side of "let's get these guys off the field and get them help." I argue with people who say it's not our business. That what a player does off the field should not affect his right to play. I say playing pro sports is not a right and that a team or league can decide not to employ someone who creates bad publicity and tarnishes the team/league's public image. But I also think players should be given the opportunity to redeem themselves and earn their way back onto a team, into a league DEPENDING on what their bad behavior was. A player who grew up in an abusive home and is continuing that cycle of abuse can be helped. He can learn to break that cycle. A player with a substance abuse problem can be helped. A player with anger management issues can be helped. These are the kinds of players who can earn second chances and work to regain the trust of their owners, coaches, teammates, and fans. They can earn back their spot on a team. But there are players who should only ever again be allowed in a stadium if they have a game ticket. Whether convicted of a crime in criminal court or just in the court of public opinion, some players just do not belong. The only uniform an Aaron Hernandez-like player should wear is a prison uniform, the numbers printed in small type identifying him as a prisoner, the name on the uniform identifying the prison that now owns him. His newest contract would be a judicial decree that specifies how many years the corrections department gets him. There is no signing bonus. There is not a number followed by six zeroes guaranteeing fat pay checks. He might be released after doing his time while still young and healthy enough to play again, but he should not be allowed to do so. Some acts are unforgivable. Some men do not deserve the chance to bask in the glory of a sports victory; some men have given up that right. They cannot be allowed to enjoy "The Thrill of Victory" after causing someone else "The Agony of Defeat."

Friday, September 05, 2014

Good-bye, Derek Jeter. Red Sox Nation will miss you

Every once in awhile the sports world is blessed by the presence of a true sportsman. A true role model. Sometimes these players are champions. Sometimes they are journeyman who toil away at their sport, day in and day out, game after game after game. Derek Jeter, SS, number 2 in your New York Yankees' scorecard, is such a player. He's heading into the last couple of weeks of the season. He's heading into the last weeks of his career. Watching him over the years has been quite a treat, even for those of us who are not exactly Yankees fans.  No, he hasn't been great. But yes, he's been that special.

He isn't the best player to ever play the game. He's not even the best player to ever play as a Yankee. But what he is, WHO he is, is one of the best MEN to play the game. With a guy like Jeter it's not just what he does on the field or in the batter's box that makes him a joy to watch. That's athletic ability: raw talent and hard work. Jeter's career relied on both. Many do. What put him over the top, though, what makes him the Yankee whom Yankees haters everywhere love, is "The Complete Package." It's that special ingredient a guy like Jeter brings to the mix; that secret ingredient that makes the biscuits rise a little fluffier, keeps the steak juicy, the fruit salad sweet. It's whatever it is that makes a game time hot dog taste like actual food!

Derek Jeter is the anti-A-Rod. He is what we fans, true fans, of sport like to call a Class Player. He's the kind of player who quietly gives everything he has to the game, and when the game is over he digs down deep and finds something more to give to the community. There can't be a baseball fan in America who doesn't know who Derek Jeter is. There may be a couple who don't particularly like him. MAY be. Those are usually pseudo-fans who take it personally when a player like Jeter quietly destroys their favorite team's playoff hopes. They are the pseudo-fans who don't care about the game, whose only concern is that night's box score. They don't care about career numbers. They don't care that the guy who loses a bit of speed, a couple of inches of field coverage, makes up for it with courage and grit and experience. They don't care about a player with heart. A player who maybe contributes more to his team in the locker room, on the practice field, in the dugout day in and day out. No, they care only about stats. True fans care about stats, too. But we also care about heart. We respect the player who quietly shows up at the park and BOOM! Let's his play do the talking. We go to watch those players, we cheer for them, we feel for them, whether they play for our team or our rivals. *Disclaimer: I am a lifelong, die-hard, Red Sox Nation card carrying member of the other side in one of the most heated rivalries in sport. Yes, I like Derek Jeter as a player. I love what he has brought to the game. I respect him as a man. BUT I AM A RED SOX FAN. I HATE THE YANKEES! But I am also a true fan of sports, and I appreciate players more than teams. I won't change team affiliations when a player is traded. But I'll still follow that player and cheer for him, even if he plays against "my" team. I think that's why I like and respect Derek Jeter so much. If the opposing team makes a great play, I will stand and cheer because their play is just as important to the outcome of the game, and I am there to see a good game. I don't live or die by wins and losses. And that's what I see in No. 2. He comes to play his best, to give the fans his best performance. And he appreciates it when opposing players do the same. On any given day they may play better but still,a Derek Jeter does his best.

Yes, Derek Jeter is this era's face of the Yankees, and ladies, he ain't been hard to look at! He's greatly respected by coaches, teammates, opponents, and fans sitting behind both dugouts. He's greatly respected by sports writers and play-by-play announcers. He's greatly respected by The Game. Because he's shown, through the years, how a real player respects The Game.

Thank you, Derek Jeter. Thank you for sharing your talent, your drive, your heart with us. May you enjoy the rest of your life in peace.

Friday, November 08, 2013

Everybody Have Fun Tonight! Everybody Wang Chun Tonight!

 Does anybody know a good party planner? A really good one who's willing to work online. I'd look for a local party-planner but I need to plan a pity party, and a local Cleveland-area party-planner would probably allow their own yeah-I-live-in-Cleveland self-pity influence his or her choices for MY party. See, that's the thing about a pity party. You don't wanna be bothered trying to dredge up pity or empathy for SOMEBODY ELSE! This is MY pity party. The focus needs to be on me. All of the focus. Only on me. Besides, if you started telling some bullshit story, real or imagined, to try and elicit sympathy from me or to draw attention away from my plight and onto yours, I GUARANTEE I can top whatever story you come up with. Complete with x-rays to back it up. Don't even try. You'll be pitied... For all the wrong reasons.

The party planner will have to have some decent connections to make this party a success. For instance, sourcing the Coke. It has to be really good shit. None of that Coke cut with powders like aspartame. In fact, for a really good buzz you gotta get the Coke from the Mexican Coke dealers. It's not that hard to get it into the country. It has a reputation for being some of the best Coke out there. It's the real deal, made with real sugar. No high fructose corn syrup. Not in the good Coke. And none of that "gold" Coke, either; that stuff with no caffeine in it is pointless. Especially the Diet Caffeine Free Coke. WTF is that, anyway? No caffeine, no sugar? Where is the love, baby?

If you can't find good Mexican Coke, try and score some Throwback Pepsi which also has real sugar. But it's bottled in America and just not quite as good as the Mexican shit.

For food, there MUST be chocolate. And cupcakes. In fact, you really can't go wrong with chocolate cupcakes. Balanced by something salty, like Ruffles potato chips with California French Onion Dip. Yeah, that crap you make with a packet of Lipton onion soup mix and a pint of full-fat sour cream. You might be able to get by with a good low-fat sour cream. But try sneaking some of that dip made with yogurt past me and you'll be planning your own pity party. The same goes for baked potato chips. Those are not potato chips, they are potato snacks made from potato powder. Why do you think they're all the same shape and size and come in a can? Yeah, you probably think McNuggets are real parts of a chicken, with real chicken meat. Maybe you SHOULD be pitied. But not at my party. Seriously, don't try and pull that shit on me.

Following are the information essentials a good party planner will find a way to share with the guests:

Dress code - definitely needs to be casual. Not casual like Casual Friday and you work at the freakin' White House so wingtips but no tie. Casual like t-shirts with rock stars or profound sayings on them or, even better, t-shirts with profound witticisms spoken by rock stars. From a tour at least five years ago or before the lead guitarist OD'd, whichever came first. No long pants. Just shorts. Casual like gym or hiking shorts, not the Bermuda shorts with the knife-sharp crease down the legs your mom irons for you. Docker shorts are fine IF they are appropriately faded and washed out, bonus if they are frayed. No cut-off jeans. It is, after all, a respectable party for grown-ups. Women can wear a tee without profound sayings but they must not have animals on them. Exception, an alligator over the left breast is acceptable. As is a bear in the case of an authentic Boston Bruins tee. But not cutesy cat shit, or dogs in stupid outfits. Those animals would be pitied more than me and they should have their own damn party.

Footwear- the preferred footwear is sneakers with or without white socks. White ankle socks. No peds with cute little balls hanging off he back. That goes for the ladies, too. No tube socks leftover from the Jimmy Carter era. Jimmy Carter is a wonderful man who doesn't get the credit or respect he deserves for his presidency but who never should have worn tube socks. Neither should you. And no colored socks. I'm not racist. I just don't think there's a place at my party for colored socks. Colored socks are for geeks, nerds, and people who wear long pants to the beach while trolling for lost costume jewelry and Spanish doubloons with a metal detector. You can wear boat shoes or flip flops but then the socks are definitely out. Again, no drawing pity attention to yourself and away from the pitiful guest of honor. That would be me. But if you do the flip flops, make sure those nails are trimmed and free of fungi. Otherwise pretend you're Gisele Bundchen or Tom Brady and cover those bad boys up with UGG boots. 

Any half-decent party planner knows how critical music is. For a good pity party there needs to be a mix of upbeat surfing ditties and not-quite-country "somebody stole my pick-up with my dog and my best friend passed out in the back" ballads. Music from the 60's to the 90's. The NINETEEN 60's. None of that classical waltz stuff from the 1860's. This is a pity party, not some bitchy princess' debutante ball. The only waltzing acceptable at this party would be by Matilda dancing with Crocodile Dundee. Or Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. I don't care, as long as there's a dancing Kangaroo.

Gifts: that "The best present is your presence" request for no gifts is bullshit. Anybody who tries to pull that lame ass stunt will immediately go on the party planner's email list to be bombarded with offers from the party planner to help you plan your own pity party. That's how sad it is for you to try and get away without springing for a gift. This is a pity party and nothing lifts the spirits of the pitied better than free crap. The more expensive, the higher the lift! Yes, there is a definite correlation between how cool and expensive your gift is and how happy you will make me for that fleeting moment between the time I open the gift and the instant reality bites and I realize how much my life sucks that I need material things to make me happy. Lots of material things. Or chocolate. 

So keep your eye out for your own special e-vite. The first one will be a save-the-date request. The second will be an announcement of the time and place. The third, fourth, and fifth emails will be reminders to go online and order that honking big and/or expensive gift that will make you so happy because we all know it is better to give than receive. And if it needs batteries or a charger, don't be a tight-wad and pretend you didn't know. And don't go in on a gift, letting a buddy give the battery/charger. No. That is ONE complete gift, from one person. Unless you are a couple; it's okay for couples to give a gift together. A bigger, more expensive gift.