Category Archives: sports

America gets a real-time IQ test

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I’m going to assume that some moderate percentage of the US population could either describe an oligarchy or identify one if they saw one. I don’t think it is anywhere near 50%, but let’s say it is greater than 25%. (But read the Wiki. It’s a good primer on what tipping-point we just crossed)

Now what percentage of them could identify an emerging oligarchy? It would be like saying you can ID an oak tree, but not an oak sapling. Lots of people fall into that category.

What just happened in the US is that an oligarchy sapling just broke through the forest floor, is getting lots of nutrients and sunlight, and before you know it, son, you got yourself a mature oligarchy growing right there in the front lawn. And the bigger it gets the harder it will be to get rid of. How do we know if we have a real oligarchy, and not just a playboy-type with delusions of grandeur? The dichotomous key to political systems will get you close:

You have a billionaire as president-elect. He became a billionaire by extracting moderate sums of money from thousands of people at a time, and then doing it again, and again. What billionaires care about it not whether the Dallas Cowboys are looking good (That’s Jerry Jones’ issue, and he is “special”), or whether their bills are getting paid. They mainly care about other billionaires, their money, and how they stack up against them. So we can check that box. They play “Fantasy Billionaire” the way Joe Six Pack plays Fantasy Football. But with piles of other people’s money. No other billionaires have been elected to the presidency of the US. That is a big bragging point right there. That goes over real big when he gets on the phone with other billionaires AND with other heads-of-state. It’s a win-win. And don’t he know it? It’s Trump, Putin, and a few guys in the UAE. That, as they say, is the list of billionaire heads-of-state. Don’t go looking for their free press or their sterling record on human rights.

And in the case of our current president-elect, Donald Trump, he is demonstrating his incuriosity, thin skin, and sub-par intellect at every damn turn. We don’t have a super-genius billionaire, or even a really smart billionaire. We have a whiny douche from Queens who inherited more money from his daddy than the average American makes in a lifetime. He is accustomed to outsourcing virtually everything. He hires “the best”. (More on that, and how he only hires the best for himself and hires the worst when it comes to protecting the American citizenry, later.) How does a guy like this plan to run a country?

Glad I asked! First, you put military lifers in positions where you want chain-of-command respected, not a bunch of smart-ass sass-back. You only want to hear “how high?” when you yell “Jump”. So you stock Defense, Homeland Security, and Intel with guys who will throw their mother in front of the L-train in the name of chain-of-command. It helps if you have conspiracy theorists with itchy trigger-fingers and an axe to grind. Less motivational work and coercion to waste Trump’s time.

Next, you recruit fellow billionaires who you know will put other billionaires (like the president-elect. just sayin’) first, and pretty much fuck the little guy all day long. That is how they got there. When you find anyone who ever called Rex Tillerson “human rights champion” please let me know. Trump himself has *never* gone on the record regarding human rights (I looked, and if you find something I am all ears). It is safe to say he has never though about the concept other than as a way to tar a “loser” who put humanity over making a dollar. Go find the country that Rex Tillerson has staked out where you have a thriving middle class, lots of manufacturing jobs, cheap top-flight health care… Good luck. If that model was successful they would be like Johnny Appleseed, as opposed to Joey Goebbels.

And Trump has Bannon, who jerks off to photos of Goebbels, so another base covered. This guy is a “strategist” in only the broadest way. He seems to be the worst kind of political apparatchik. The kind who will never be seen in public, or grant interviews, or take any real responsibility. He has his hand up Trump’s ass and it looks like Trump is talking, but you are really hearing Bannon throwing his voice. THAT is this dude’s “strategy”. And as usual, when “strategy” is next separated from “propaganda” it will be the first time.

Next, Lackeys. You cannot have a functioning oligarchy without lackeys. You need dopes who are so far over their skis that they will take whatever direction they get because what the fuck does Rick “Dancing with the Stars” Perry know about nuclear warheads? Nothing. And he ain’t gonna learn anytime soon. The steady stream of agency heads who are incompetent or outright hostile to the charters of the agencies they are being tapped to head is not a coincidence. You want a nice mix of incompetence and hostility. Both is nice.

Like an exterminator examining the mud casings in the footings of your democracy, I hate to tell you this, friend: you got a colony of oligarchs, military stooges and lackeys setting up shop in your house. The fix is to get at it early and maybe in short order you’ll have a problem you can fix with a can of RAID. But for now you gotta be ready to do the hard work to knock this oligarch colony down to size.

 

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Organized Labor goes Bananas…

A few points of interest for those of us who follow the trials and tribulations of organized labor…

The participants in the Republican Presidential Debates, or whatev’ they are calling that clown show these days, pulled off a major coup by engaging in a work stoppage, a mutual agreement on contract terms, and a negotiation session regarding working conditions. There is no other way to describe their actions that I can think of. These candidates now have *zero* anti-union credibility.

It brought a chuckle and a tear to my eye to see how they wilted under the brutal white-hot pressure of a televised debate and demanded that they be involved in setting terms and conditions for their working environment. As President Obama has pointed out, Putin is waiting for you in the green room, bitches.

In another shocking turn of events, football players at Mizzou organized a work stoppage in support of a hunger-striking classmate, forcing the resignation of their University President. The headline is Players Wage Power Play. They used the leverage of college football economics to enact change. I applaud them and their efforts. I hope it bears fruit in the form of real social change and not just an administrative change.

The subtext that I immediate saw was this: If NCAA athletes ever unionize, they will do so under a no-strike structure. In organized labor there are contracts that allow the workers to strike (work stoppage) and contracts that don’t (binding arbitration). The Mizzou action may have a side-effect of greasing the rails toward unionized NCAA athletics, with the caveat that they will concede the right to do what the football players at Mizzou just did.

The financial calculus has not changed. The universities and television networks reap enormous profits from big-time NCAA athletics, and the athletes see a tiny fraction of that cash-flow. The imbalance was exploited by the Mizzou athletes with a reversal of the “Right Stuff” axiom… No Buck Rogers, No Bucks. The football coach at Mizzou, Gary Pinkel, makes over $4 million per year. His support of the athlete’s actions, probably more then those actions themselves, sealed the deal for president Tim Wolfe.

I admit that the no-strike wrinkle is a bit of organized-labor wonkery, but I am sure that I am not alone. The athletes may get stipends, health care, guaranteed scholarships (no take-back in the case of injury), and so on. But they will probably have to hand over the right to strike in order to get that. And if so, it would mean that Mizzou may have been the event that won a battle but lost a larger tactical war.

Hot Stove Jets Rant

In a very odd turn of events the ex-General Manager of the New York Jets is a guest analyst on the NFL network. Mike Tannenbaum wasn’t the worst GM, but he drew the short straw at the end of the 2012 season and is out of a job. Meanwhile, Rex Ryan still has the head coaching job. That’s a real shame. Tannenbaum made some really good moves, but he also took the heat for some lazy teambuilding. Hell, he may have masterminded the lazy teambuilding. But I doubt he acted alone.

I just saw him discussing the trade with the Browns that landed them Mark Sanchez in the 2009 draft. They had a decent team, with a good mix of talent at both the rookie and veteran level. They have Nick Mangold, and they had some good linemen with him. They patched their linebacker corps with Bart Scott, one of Rex’s players from Baltimore. They had a good but undersized safety in Jim Leonhard. Again, an ex-Raven. And they had a combination of size and speed at Wide Receiver. They also had one of the best special-teamers in the league in Leon Washington.

What has happened to the Jets since 2010, where they had been to two straight AFC Championship games, and 2013 where they are at the bottom of the league, is both easy to diagram and difficult to explain. They have lost a lot of talent, and failed to replace that talent. That is the easy part. Why they have continued to overrate bad players and undervalue good ones is the real mystery. Instead of looking at film of their loss to Tim Tebow and the Broncos in 2011 and seeing safety Eric Smith out of position, again, and unable to make the play, again, and then deciding to upgrade Eric Smith…. they trade for Tim Tebow. Classic Jets move. Overrate the competition. Instead of continuing to improve their offensive line and receivers, giving their franchise quarterback better tools to facilitate his progression… they release his best possession receiver, Jericho Cotchery, fail to replace him. They compound that by failing to replace a pro-bowler Damien Woddy, and sticking with a scout-team guy at right tackle. That guy was Wayne Hunter, and I am sure he is a good man and a good team mate. However, he couldn’t block a grocery cart, and as a result of him feeding Mark Sanchez to the wolves about twelve times a game his QB may have caught a permanent case of the “yips”.

When I see clips of Mark Sanchez I keep thinking of another talented kid, David Carr, who got was hit more times in a single season than any QB ever and has been on clipboard duty ever since. So the Jets can’t block, can’t catch, and can’t stop anyone from scoring… Do they upgrade their offensive line? No. They bring in a lightning rod in Tim Tebow, and talk about what a great asset he will be to the team, and don’t have the sack to play him. So while he was worth trading for he wasn’t worth playing. He also can’t block, catch, or run while he sits on the bench and watches his career spiral down the shitter. By the way, Tebow’s game was on display all over the NFL in 2012, where the playoffs were thick with eager, mobile QBs with a head for the game. The problem was that Tebow wasn’t one of them. I’m not a huge Tebow fan, but I have become so sympathetic to his plight, another good player rotting on a dysfunctional trainwreck of a team, that I am now in his corner.

Meanwhile Rex Ryan has proven himself to be something worse than incompetent: he is a pathological liar. He told the public that Wayne Hunter was “the guy” when everyone knew he was not able to protect the franchise (huge understatement). He has talked up players like receiver Stephen Hill, who have produced nothing. And I won’t belabor the point, but if it makes the fans seasick I can only imagine what it does to morale on the team. Imagine being a talented professional in any field and watching the boss tell the press that some guy who is on the brink of being fired is “all world”. It is a horrible way to act in any organization. It crushes morale and breaks the chain of command.

So while I know it won’t happen I can hope that someone on NFL Network has the balls to ask “Mr. T” what the hell is going on with the Jets. Because he is one of the few people who actually knows the answer.

YAPP – Yet Another PED Post…

I have written a few posts about Performance Enhancing Drugs (PEDs) here on the blog, and I am pretty sure this won’t be my last. I find it fascinating that major media outlets like ESPN seem to completely miss the reality of the story despite the constant attempts of the story to explain it to them.

The fundamental premise I work under is that PED use is ALL about recovery (with an asterisk for endurance sports). The prevailing theme is that it is all about MUSCLES, like some deranged Popeye comic strip. But little by little the inescapable thrust of PED news is all about recovery from injury. A-Rod, or as uber-mensch Steve Somers would say, A-Roid, gets identified as a possible user of Deer Antler Extract! Fucking “deer antler extract” is where these people are willing to go to enhance their ability to recover from injury and surgery. Alex Rodriguez is, in my opinion incredibly gifted as an athlete, and a complete tool in his interaction with the public. He is also enduring the derailing of his top-flight, top-paying career by injury. He isn’t getting body slammed by linebackers, or enduring the physical grind of hockey. He plays third base for the New York Yankees. Not exactly the decathlon, but they play a 162 game regular season. As I previously opinionated with respect to Barry Bonds, these players have the physical tools, but they have to be able to recover from the constant onslaught of games, batting practice, and conditioning work.

My point here: is it really fair to keep upping the ante in team sports, and not give players tools to recover? Equipment gets more specialized, playing surfaces become more specialized, training diets become honed to a razor edge… but when a player takes a ligament strain, repetitive motion injury, contusion, bone break, etc… we basically tell them to use 1968 technology for recovery. I am well aware of the need for continuity in the record books, but that doesn’t mean that Jacoby Ellsbury has to play in 1940’s footwear. Nobody is telling Vince Wilfork to strap on the leather helmet.

While it may seem like I am promoting the opening of the PED floodgates, I am actually saying the opposite. I believe that the floodgates are open NOW, and that many athletes know what and when and how to dope, and most do not get caught. They use facilities like anti-aging clinics and overseas blood-therapy clinics, and they are not going to stop. They have too much riding on it. IT WORKS, for one thing. They have to negotiate ridiculously short recovery times after surgery or injury in order to stay on the field. And if you can take something to prevent injury, well that is just a whole lot easier and any sane person would go that route.

Back to the centerline of the sports-media depiction of PED’s: They are not looking for better controls on use, or better research, or better testing. The real story is the interaction of sports culture, sports technology, and sports medicine, and the disconnects in that network. As the sports fan (and media) becomes more accustomed to the television revenue, salary cap and team payroll issues, the entertainment factor, and the business factor, should they not also acclimate themselves to the medical realities of sport?

One of the biggest sports stories of 2012 was the recognition by the NFL that brain injuries were becoming a factor in both current players, as well as retired players. Several high profile suicides, and a general easing of a taboo on talking about mental health and brain function issues by NFL players, brought the issue to the fore. Simultaneously there was an eruption of PED-related news, including the spectre of PED’s influencing baseball Hall of Fame voting to Lance Armstrong confessing to Oprah about PED use. (Egad! is that what it comes to? Oprah as Confessor? No wonder the sports media are so thoroughly screwed.) The facts were there for anyone who was interested. Yes, Lance Armstrong is an endurance athlete (asterisk mentioned above), and his PEDs were more in line with oxygen management drugs, but I feel reasonably sure that enhancing recovery from both daily stages, races, and training was part of his regimen as well. I think an honest assessment would indicate that recovery in multi-day events was Job One.

Just like A-Rod and Bonds, and most of the NFL from what I can tell, Lance has some amazing natural abilities when it comes to human strength and endurance (if only I could endure him as well… he has become the Ray Lewis of the bike, simply unwatchable). But as you might expect, so are many of his competitors. Pro-level athletes are both self-selecting and benefit from sport-specific training. Anyone who thinks that a doughy, pot-smoking couch potato is dropping some HGH and running a 4.2sec 40 yard dash should stick to comic books. But if you are watching a 325pound NFL lineman run a 4.6 40, consider that he might be able to handle that kind of exertion, plus the exertion of four months-plus of benchpressing his opponents if he has a pharmaceutical tailwind. You should be OK with that, within reason and out in the open.

As I have already gasbagged it enough here, I’ll just say that i think it is time for the sports fan, the sports media, the sports industry, et. al. to grow up and realize that their ravenous demand for more, bigger, faster, stronger, ouchier sports is not fed by faceless laborers on some distant planet. Real doctors working within a real testing program can keep those highly paid athletes healthy longer, both on the field and and beyond their playing days. You just need to stop pretending that Tinkerbell is the ideal sports league commissioner.

 

Why you should ignore Lance Armstrong

There is a habit among many in the mainstream media, and an outright addiction in sports journalism: “pacing the story”

If you go to the heart of the matter up front you undercut your ability to milk a story using incremental updates over a week or more, filling a lot of column inches or hours of talking-head TV and radio programming.  I hate that, which is one of many reasons I am a bad candidate for conventional journalism.

So I’ll condense Lance-gate: The people who want to use the legal system to recover money from Lance can’t get their money if he is prevented from being Lance Armstrong, Inc.  So get off his back and let him earn a living, and then US Postal and the Times of London and all the other people whinging about how they were “taken” can find some meat on the bones if they win in court.  Otherwise they get symbolic victories, and no actual cash.

Got it?  Good.  Now we can all avoid being taken for a ride on the Lance-coaster, and not have to watch him tightrope his way through his half-assed “confession” with Oprah.

This whole Lance-charade is a personal-scale take on “too big to fail”.  Remember that if I owe you a few hundred dollars you might just have me whacked and cut your losses.  If I owe you a million(s) you are going to to put much more value on my continued well being.  Consider it “Citizens United” through the looking glass. Personal Corporate-hood.

You can read all about it next week after the requisite media buffet-line has been satisfied.

Jets Corner – 2 December 2012

The NY Jets  won in the most depressing way possible: with a combination of false hope and a slab of raw meat for the New York media.

First, Congrats to Greg McElroy for a successful relief appearance.  Mark Sanchez wasn’t the problem and McElroy isn’t the solution, but it was a better outcome than having the kid melt down.  The Jets have major structural problems and it isn’t out of the question that putting a fresh set of eyes in the backfield will yield short term results.  It is likely that Sanchez is just plain burnt out on the crapola play-calling and the sub-par offensive talent he has been subjected to for two years now.  OTOH, McElroy is not much more than pancake makeup on a nasty bruise… the damage is still there.

The deal with the Media Frenzy that started immediately upon McElroy walking onto the field is this: If you wished that the brain-dead chatter of the “fiscal cliff” had a sports-based doppelganger, you are in luck!  Prepare to hear the same dopes who couldn’t be bothered to do any actual reporting on the NFL get a free pass and not bother to do any actual reporting on this mess.  Right about the time that fans started to connect the dots between Woody Johnson‘s massive IRS debt and the regression in the quality of his NFL team’s personnel, you now have a shiny new distraction to blind you.

In short, this is a great example of how nothing important can happen, but the news media gets to turn it into miles of junk-news.

JETS Corner!

Before I start in on an Election Eve blog post, I’d like to get something out in the open about the New York Jets of the National Foosball League:

They have been worse each successive year under coach Rex Ryan and GM Mike Tannenbaum. Sure they had playoff wins in years 1 and 2, but year 3 was a disaster, and this year looks to be worse. Maybe, just maybe, that is because Rex Ryan is yet another example of a very good coordinator who is useless as a head coach. Cue up Norv Turner footage here. I would also accept Romeo Crennel as a valid example.

Even the casual fan knows that the Jets went cheap on players, left gaping holes in personnel on both sides of the ball (including special teams) and can’t seem to find a way to integrate this newfangled thing they call the “forward pass” into their offensive playbook. That’s OK. It’s probably just a fad. What did they acquire? A passive aggressive media hog named Tim Tebow, who despite being “a hell of a football player” can’t get on the field. You would think that when your team is being embarrassed, at home, facing a second divisional loss in as many weeks, against your offensive coordinator’s ex-team, you might hand the “kid” the ball for 15 minutes and see what he can do. No. You would take the loos with stoic resolve, and promise to eat extra spinach for two weeks. Oh, you play the Seahawks in Seattle… and damn if they don’t look just like the playoff Jets teams of 2009-10! Right down to a running back and special-teamer named Leon Washington. Oh, and that guy who had a cup of coffee as Jets coach? Pete Whasshizzname? Yeah, he can actually coach. Prediction: Jets 10, Seahawks 38.

[11/11/12 Update… actual score: Jets 7, Seahawks 28. I’ll take credit for getting this one right. ]

Before the trading deadline, the decision looked easy: Trade Tebow and Sanchez for picks. Good Picks. Mr. T gets one chance to role-play as Scoot Pioli, and attempt to bring actual football players to the Jets franchise. Rex Ryan gets the keys to the street, and people who actually have talent an ability compete for his job. Now, that is off the board.

Time to go back into hiding and wait to see if the Jets see their shadow on draft day. If not, Jet-Winter can be safely predicted to last another decade.