1st and Ten: The Weekly Tendown: May 23-29 2010

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Dear Internet:
Welcome to Issue 28 of the Tendown; my look at the top cultural happenings of the previous 7 days.  The conceit, for you new readers, is I start with an expansive thought, labeling it First - and then I countdown, nominally in order of importance, the next ten items, some of which draw more discussion than others; usually related to the amount of time in which I have to write. Probably, there's something in here which you will find of interest; probably, there's something in here which won't mean anything at all to you; the calculus is less "what is of most interesting to the interwebs this week" and more "what's in my brain".

And what's in my brain this week is the brain.

First: I don't watch The Curiously Obscure Adventures of Old Christine which may not be the actual title of the show, but Saturday I watched a recent episode of The Curiously Obscure Adventures of Old Christine which contained the following premise, Julia Louis Dreyfus (who will hereafter be referred to as Elaine; she says here that she has not had plastic surgery; and while this seems implausible I will decide to accept it as truth) is engaged to Eric McCormack (who we'll now call Will - the thought about Will is that he's got an Uncle Miltie/Ed Begley situation going on below the waist, also, presumably not surgically enhanced - the Elaine/Will hookup is good fantasy booking on the part of the show; like when Noel dated Monica on Cougar Town for a handful of episodes this season) but is threatened by Will's too-friendly relationship with his ex Beth Littleford (who I occasionally confuse, for no good reason, with Alexandra Wentworth - so we're going to refer to her as the woman not lucky enough to have married George Stephanopolis; like - you know who I think of when I see Brad Garrett?  Marc Curry.  Giant, largely unfunny comics from the same era.  But Garrett's got retirement money from Raymond and Marc Curry would kill to get a MyNetwork TV sitcom with Ray J.  Just goes that way sometimes.  Julia Louis Dreyfus used to battle for sketch time on SNL with Mary Gross.  Now she has 8 figures in the bank and is on the tv making out with mighty donged Will; while Mary Gross, you know, isn't.  When I was 10, I looked a lot like Jason Bateman.  Now, not so much, to the detriment of my Lady Type Friend.  It isn't the life that we have chosen, but it's the one we have). Specifically, Elaine thinks (with good reason) that she isn't as smart as Will and Not Mrs. Stephanopolous; the comedic part of this manifests itself when Will and Not Mrs. Stephanopolous are having what we, the everyman audience, is supposed to recognize as generic, placeholder braniac talk - having a debate if the physical composition of the brain itself changes as a result of psychotherapy, and Elaine responds first with a not particularly timely but a well executed reference to that Miss Teen Whatever from a few years ago "the Iraq, and such as" who finished third on the most recent Amazing Race  (I didn't like any of the final 3 teams; I may never get another Tammy and Victor for whom I can unabashedly cheer.  Tammy and Victor were bad ass; I don't have the sort of encyclopedic knowledge of the Race that I have over the two other CBS reality competition series such that I can qualitatively place them in a list of best Racers ever, but I rooted hard for them.  Tammy and Victor!) and then Elaine showed that her level of sophistication was simpler by trying to engage them in analysis of Russell's mastery of locating hidden immunity idols on Survivor 19.  My Tendown thought is I try to do both here; sometimes within the same paragraph - as I've already talked about the Race and now I get to why this is first on my list this week -- this article from Wired which presents evidence that there are physical changes in the brain - not during psychotherapy, but from spending time online.

Like when writing (or reading) Tendown, for example. 

And those physical changes (spoiler alert) are not for the better. 

I've thought a lot about, for example, what the loss of a tactile relationship with the written word will mean - when magzines and books and newspapers are largely consumed through electronic means; I've thought about how far away we are from simply being able to upload content information into our brains - to consume a book and the analysis thereof as opposed to working our way through the material - it could be democratizing; if Elaine doesn't understand brain plasticity she could just upload a couple of textbooks into the chips implanted in her hand and she'd be, more or less, on a playing field equivalent to Not Mrs. Stephanopolous as they fought to enjoy the genetic bounty in Will Truman's pants.  Or there will be a commodification of knowledge to a more extreme extent - the quality of medical care is vastly, vastly, vastly different in the US depending upon your bank account; Brad Garrett, Mrs. Stephanopolous, and Jason Bateman have, if you're playing the odds, a significantly better chance to live longer, healthier lives than do Marc Curry, Not Mrs. Stephanopolous, and me - one assumes that as advanced medical treatment begins to regularly consist of a master race of neuroenhancers, the distance between the blessings given to haves and have nots will include, even more than it does today, access to all the knowledge that man possesses. 

Much like with the Hollywood Walk of Fame misspelling her name on the star and CBS cancelling her show - it looks like Elaine's going come up short one more time. 

That's the best thing this week.  After the jump, the rest of the Tendown.

TBOR Athlete of the Month - May, 2010. (plus 1994 recap)

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Rajon Rondo. Runners-up: Floyd Mayweather, Dallas Braden, Roy Halladay

He joins the First Four Athletes of the Month in the race for TBOR Athlete of 2010. 

I've also been recapping my pre-blog athletes of the year, beginning in 1990.  I'm up to '94.

1994 Athlete of the Year - George Foreman
-Foreman also won the AP award, in retrospect, it's not a particularly strong choice; and I think who got screwed was my own guy - if I were to re-award this, it would go to Steve Young (or maybe Bonnie Blair).

January - Charlie Ward (Sterling Sharpe, Ricky Watters, Emmitt Smith)
February - Bonnie Blair (Johnny Miller, Tommy Moe, Oksana Baiul)
March - Wayne Gretzky (David Robinson, Glenn Robinson, Corliss Williamson)
April - Michael Moorer (Jose Maria Olazabal, Ryan Klesko, Joe Carter)
May - Hakeem Olajuwon (Charles Barkley, Ken Griffey, Mike Richter)
June - Brian Leetch (Patrick Ewing, Hakeem Olajuwon, Ken Griffey)
July - Romario (Martina Navratilova, Leroy Burrell, Kenny Rogers)
August - Nick Price (Geoff Bodine, Tiger Woods, Dan Marino)
September - Jerry Rice (Steve McNair, Kordell Stewart, Rashan Salaam)
October - Natrone Means (Patrick Nix, Joe Montana, Brook Berenger)
November - George Foreman (Barry Sanders, Roy Jones, Steve Young)
December - Steve Young (Barry Sanders, Marcus Allen, John Walsh)

1st and Five: The Weekly Tendown, May 16-22 2010 Special Halfdown!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Dear Internet:

I'm so high right now.  Wooooooooo.

My brain, which even in good stretches of my life where I'm not bombarded with monumental events, seemingly one on top of the other until I'm buried under crashing waves of pressure, generally feels like a clenched fist.

Today it is unclenched.  'Cause of drugs.  I'm on Drugs!  Wooooooo!

Granted, it's literally the lowest possible dosage of the weakest possible legally prescribed mood elevator, which given my size shouldn't have much physiological impact on me at all - but nonetheless, I'm trippin' balls, son.  Woooooooo!

See, the thing of it is this - I've had maybe five drinks in the past dozen years and I've never inhaled, not even as a troubled teen or an artistic youth so this really is my virgin experience with better living through chemistry, and I have to tell you, I'm never going back.  As with all matters, there is, presumably, a tradeoff which has not yet revealed itself to me (perhaps through magiks?  Is that my next thing?  Will there be chanting and bloodletting and Pink Floyd records?  How does this work?) but presently, I cannot think of a reason not to spend whatever days I have remaining totally stoned out of my mind. 

Legally prescribed drugs!  Woooooooo!

I've always been a free to be you and me sort of a cat, so even in school I didn't hold myself up as some sort of boy scout while others were passing the dutchie from the left hand side, but I just wasn't down; first and foremost because I had work to do.  I took the LSAT at 20, started law school at 21, passed the California Bar at 24; I'm a churner - I was not the guy in college in a dorm room hanging out to three in the morning, I was by myself waking up at 7 to go read in the library.  I've written before about my coin flip belief that I have an undiagnosed Aspberger's Syndrome; and maybe it's that or maybe it's something else, but no one would have had the vocabulary to uncover that when I was young.  I was a kid in the 70s, let's say when those traits would have been apparent is...1979, the distance between now and then is the same as the distance between then and Truman desegregating the military; in Chuck Klosterman's recent book he premised that the distance between past and present is shortening...can I use shortening like that or am I just talking about Crisco right now - and that I've gone only two steps between Aspberger's and Crisco is either evidence that I'm so high right now or evidence, perhaps of an undiagnosed link between the two!  I've cracked the reason for the rise in autism!  Call Jenny McCarthy!  Seriously, google "autism" + "Crisco" and see if there are hits.  Klosterman, in a footnote, talked about the distance between Back to the Future and now being the same as the distance between the fictional Enchantment Under the Sea dance that Marty McFly went back in time to attend, powered by the 1.21 gigowatts necessary to fuel the flux capacitor - and his argument was back then, back in 1985 when he and I both went to the theater as tender teens, him probably high, me, only interested in the giant tub of popcorn and Lea Thompson, that the 1950s felt as far removed from our experience as the 1850s - but if you were 14 years old today and you were watching Back to the Future on HBO7 at one in the afternoon, it would not seem nearly as distant as The Enchantment Under the Sea Dance seemed to us.  I think that's probably a middle aged man's lament, coming from the same place that that inspid phrase "40 is the new 30" designed to pacify us as we slide into cultural irrelevance.  I'd argue a 14 year old watching St. Elmo's Fire, which I saw at the theater the very same day I saw Back to the Future, would think it as ridiculous as a 14 year old Jim Jividen would have found Rin Tin Tin.  Objects in Chuck Klosterman's rear view mirror may appear closer than they are.  No one in 1979 would have ever looked at me, reading at a half dozen grade levels above my station and thought "his brain feels like a clenched fist inside his head" anymore than anyone in Truman's inner circle in the late 40s would have looked at his desegregating the military and said "this is a quarter measure, unless we go the next step and get legislation passed to end discrimination in private businesses, we really aren't sufficiently impacting American life."  The wheel of time must be allowed to turn.

So, when others may have been dabbling in Big Lebowski like recreation, I was reading.  Reading about Truman.  Reading about race.  Reading about how we get from Truman desegregating the military to LBJ signing the law which ended discrimination by business. 

That law - the Civil Rights Act of 1964. 

Which, curiously enough, leads to the most interesting thing that happened this week. 

It's Tendown 27.  Let's get it poppin'!

First:  Thank You Rand Paul

INTERVIEWER: But under your philosophy, it would be okay for Dr. King not to be served at the counter at Woolworths?

PAUL: I would not go to that Woolworths, and I would stand up in my community and say that it is abhorrent, um, but, the hard part—and this is the hard part about believing in freedom—is, if you believe in the First Amendment, for example—you have too, for example, most good defenders of the First Amendment will believe in abhorrent groups standing up and saying awful things. . . . It’s the same way with other behaviors. In a free society, we will tolerate boorish people, who have abhorrent behavior.

That's the Republican nominee for US Senate in Kentucky coming out against the Civil Rights Act of 1964 in an interview with the Louisville newspaper.  And here's Paul on Rachel Maddow doing all he can to avoid saying that, while still, eventually, saying that. 

This is really the only thing that mattered to me this week, the rest of the Tendown will just be links, I want to talk about this, because, while to most of the country, this discussion of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 in connection with the Tea Party movement of 2010 came out of nowhere - you who regularly read my stuff have heard me make this connection over and over again. 

Here's me from August, 2009.

I just finished teaching the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and it's hard to express to students that federal laws prohibiting racial discrimination by business were enormously controversial, that they sparked protest - that they drove the southern Democrats to switch political parties (and become the backbone of the modern day Republicans, the reason why the south is politically awash in red for the past 40 years, why we've gotten to this place in our history where people think Obama must be a secret terrorist). But really they just have to watch the news today. If the Civil Rights Act of 2009 came up for a vote - with exactly the same language that passed 45 years ago, what would be the reaction?

My money says this - right wing talk radio and Fox News (and Michele Bachmann and Sarah Palin) would say it was a plan to give black people your business. "This bill will establish Obama/Acorn style affirmative action panels where your business can be seized by the federal government if you don't employ a sufficient percentage (except they'd use the word quota) of blacks or women or Hispanics. The appointment of Justice Sotomayor is a way to get the Supreme Court to go along. If you don't have enough blacks in management, your business will be foreclosed and it will be turned over to "the community". Vote no on the Civil Rights Act of It's a Nazi Bill! Read your Bible!"

And here I was later that month.

Further, over the weekend, the Washington Post picked up on my contextualizing this debate with previous conservative blockades to social justice, such as the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The right wing position on social security, on unions, on the minimum wage, on civil rights has long been relegated to the dustbin of history - we don't look at George Wallace standing in the schoolhouse door in 1963 and think he was one side of a vibrant debate over federalism. If we had cable news when Wallace tried to stop the desegregation of elementary schools or had his candidacy for President supported by the John Birch society, or became Alabama's governor while saying "segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever" the take would be about how passionate the opposition to civil rights is and how the Democrats needed to abandon their liberal base and reach across the Mason-Dixon line to accomodate the very understandable fears of the south. Too much change after all. Why does it need to happen so fast? It took LBJ 6 months to pick out a dog but yet he has to rush civil rights legislation?

I'm going to assume the very best of intentions about Rand Paul, that he is being intellectually honest.

When Rand Paul says he opposes government discrimination based on race, he means he believes Brown v. Board of Ed. was correctly decided - that the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment must be read as prohibiting Jim Crow like policies by state governments.  There are those principled conservatives who disagree with Paul - including the former Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court, William Rehnquist, who as a Supreme Court law clerk argued that Plessy v. Ferguson should be affirmed.

I realize that it is an unpopular and unhumanitarian position, for which I have been excoriated by my 'liberal' colleagues, but I think Plessy v. Ferguson was right and should be reaffirmed.

Consider that memo, by the way, by a former Chief Justice written while he was a Supreme Court law clerk when a Republican brings up Elena Kagan's undergraduate thesis about the history of American socialism as evidence she's unfit to join the Court.  Rehnquist also had never been a judge before joining the Court, by the way. 

Rehnquist was making a state's rights argument.  If the democratically elected legislature in the state of Kansas believed that elementary schools should be segregated in the basis of race, then the federal courts should not, in an activist way, substitute their judgment for the legislature.  The proper remedy should be the ballot box. 

This was accepted conservative (not solely Republican, but solely conservative) dogma at the time. 

Rehqnuist lost that fight.  Conservatives lost that fight.  And the liberal position that an appropriate use of the federal government was to remedy social injustices such as this won and became accepted not only by the vast, vast majority of Americans, but the vast, vast majority of the advanced world.  Literacy tests, poll taxes, grandfather clauses, separate but equal, all wrong - all illegal - all unconstitutional - even when supported by the majority. 

In another memo, Rehnquist wrote this.

I take a dim view of this pathological search for discrimination. . . and as a result I now have a mental block against the case." In a second memo he wrote: "The Constitution does not prevent the majority from banding together, nor does it attaint success in the effort. It is about time the Court faced the fact that the white people of the south don't like the colored people: the constitution restrains them from effecting thru (sic) state action but it most assuredly did not appoint the Court as a sociological watchdog to rear up every time private discrimination raises its admittedly ugly head.

And that's where we were this week.

Because once we decided that government couldn't discriminate based on race, the next step was the decision that business could not either, the important legislation codifying that value being the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Rehnquist's argument was accepted conservative (not solely Republican, but conservative) dogma at the time.  It was Goldwater's position.  It is Rand Paul's position.  Or was at the beginning of the week.  Racism is wrong, but a person's business belongs to him, and if he wants to discriminate in that business, he should be permitted to do so. 

That argument lost.  Lost to the liberal position that the federal government was the appropriate tool to deal with even private discrimination by business.  That just as a previous generation had found the federal government was the appropriate tool to require private business to pay a minimum wage, to negotiate with unionized workers, to contribute to unemployment insurance and workman's compensation pools, to install in their places and business and guarantee in their products a minimum level of health and safety protections - that now, the federal government was also the appropriate mechanism to tell the owner of an Atlanta motel that although he was the owner of a business, and although he was not the government and therefore not subject to the 14th Amendment's Equal Protection Clause, that his business was not the equivalent of a private home - and therefore he could not refuse to serve African-American patrons (or refuse to hire African- Americans).  And it was that liberal position which Lyndon Johnson recognized was so unpopular among conservative southern Democrats that it was going to cost the Democrats electorally for generations.

Here's Nixon strategist Kevin Phillips in 1970:

From now on, the Republicans are never going to get more than 10 to 20 percent of the Negro vote and they don't need any more than that ... but Republicans would be shortsighted if they weakened enforcement of the Voting Rights Act. The more Negroes who register as Democrats in the South, the sooner the Negrophobe whites will quit the Democrats and become Republicans. That's where the votes are. Without that prodding from the blacks, the whites will backslide into their old comfortable arrangement with the local Democrats.

It's the Southern Strategy and here's what it led to.

From 1932-1968 - that's 36 years, there was one Republican elected President.  And that Republican was Eisenhower, who not only had the benefit of being a war hero, his creation of the term "military industrial complex" would have him branded as a communist by Fox News today. 

But from '68-2008, the next 40 years - there were only two Democrats elected President.  And they were both from the south, and therefore able to help mitigate against the "southern strategy" with their regional popularity.

Barack Obama's the first northern Democrat elected President since the passage of the Civil Rights Act.

And 40 years from now, the viciousness of the reaction to him will entirely - and I mean entirely be understood through the prism of America's historic racial struggle.  40 years from now, the claims by Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh that the first African-American President in US history was, in amazing twist of fate - a "racist" will seem as ridiculous and outdated as an '85 Delorean.


Okay, the DeLorean was sort of cool, but you get my point.

I'll take Rand Paul at his word, he's not a racist. 

But this view that the marketplace would have, somehow, magically, fixed the problem of institutional racism in southern businesses, a view that had seemingly been relegated to the dustbin of history until re-argued this week by Paul and then by John Stossel is a view that not only has seemingly been disproven but, among virtually - among virtually everyone along the political spectrum of the entire western world had been abandoned.

Except that it hasn't.  Because ideas have consequences.  The reason I talked about the Civil Rights Act last year because it was in context to opposition to health care reform.  Conservatives, loudly and angrily, said "it's not the role of the federal government to involve itself in health care"  And as opposed to putting that argument in the context of the exact same argument conservatives had made on the Civil Rights Act (and all the rest) media treated it as a vibrant, living debate.  The idea of damage caps (how's that 75 million dollar cap of BP's liability working out) the idea of tort reform pushed by conservatives (including John Stossel, who has made it the focus of his journalistic career) for decades is that we don't need some type of intervention by the force of government into business - that market forces will take care of it.

They're wrong.  They keep making the same arguments.  On social security, on health and safety regulations, on race, on health care - the essential conservative argument - that government should allow business full freedom to make these decisions - that the federal government is overstepping in areas of the marketplace - that essential conservative argument has been proven wrong time and time and time again. 

And this week, we got to go Back to the Future, back to the 1960s, to once again re-learn how wrong they always are. 

Thanks, Rand Paul. 

After the jump - the rest of the Tendown

At the Quarter Pole - 2010 MLB All Star Ballot

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

We're about 40 games into the baseball season - this is really the first time I look at individual baseball statistics outside of a fantasy context.  This year the All Star rosters have 21 position players and 13 pitchers each - here, based largely on WARP3, are the players currently having the best seasons.  I'll do this again at the 60 game mark and then one last time at the 80 game mark.  I normally make sure each team is represented, 'cause that's fun to do, but haven't had time to consider it for this post (edit - upon a quick look, I think I'm just missing the Fish, I'll find a Marlin and make a switch. Second edit.  Done.)  If I get a second I'll see if I have any holes.  I'm not naming a specific DH, but the new rules have one being used every year now.  It's early enough, even at 40 games in, that there are some odd results (like backup catchers making the all star team, and the NL has middle relievers but no closers) but most of that will be sorted out by the 60 game mark.

American League:
C J. Mauer, F. Cervelli, J. Posada
1B J. Morneau, M. Caberera, K. Youkilis
2B R. Cano (MVP), D. Pedroia, T. Wigginton
SS E. Andrus, C. Pennington, A. Gonzalez
3B E. Longoria, A. Rodriguez, T. Bautista
OF C. Crawford, A. Jackson, A. Kearns
      SS Choo, V. Wells, N. Cruz
P J. Danks (Cy)
   D. Fister
   J. Pineiro
   Z. Greinke
   D. Price
   S. Marcum
   F. Liriano
   R. Romero
   A. Pettitte
   M. Garza
   J. Valverde
   J. Rauch
   R. Soriano

National League
C M. Olivo, H. Blanco, C. Ruiz
1B A. Pujols, J. Votto, A. Gonzalez
2B C. Utley (MVP)  M. Prado, D. Uggla
SS T. Tulowitzki, S. Drew, D. Eckstein
3B D. Wright, D. Freese, R. Zimmerman
OF J. Werth, A. Ethier, J. Willingham
      R. Braun, M. Byrd, M. Holliday
P U. Jimenez (Cy)
   R. Oswalt
   L. Hernandez
   R. Dempster
   R. Halladay
   Y. Gallardo
   J. Garcia
   T. Hudson
   M. Pelfrey
   A. Wainright
   T. Lincecum
   T. Clippard
   E. Meek

NBA Playoffs - Consider the Following Investment Possibility

Monday, May 17, 2010

Phoenix +280 to win the series.

Bynum's hurt.  Kobe's hurt.  Phoenix played better down the stretch than the Lakers by a half dozen games.  Phoenix had a larger points scored/points allowed margin than did the Lakers; Phoenix's playoff scoring margin is far above the Lakers during this year's postseason. 

I picked Phoenix to win this exact series, in this exact scenario at the top of the playoffs - it's not a strong pick, but I do believe they are more likely than not to win. 

And when you see a +280 dog who you believe is better, not a lot better, but right now, for the next couple of weeks, just a little better - that's an investment opportunity.

Just throwing it out there.

1st and Ten: The Weekly Tendown, May 9-15 2010

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Dear Internet:

My mom asked who the Countess's date, Courte, from this week's Real Housewives of New York reminded me of (actually, I think the way she put it was "who does this remind me of" - which would save all of us time; I've found this in my teaching as well; I'm teaching US History this quarter, and what I'd really prefer pedagogically is to expose students to multiple historical interpretations - for example, the dominant historical view of the Spanish-American War is it was an imperialist break with the isolationist tradition of US foreign policy; in contrast with the more radical view that it represented an unbroken line of expansionism best understood in the generations spanning Native American cleansing; in contrast with the view held by most Americans in 2010 which would be "what's the Spanish American War" - and while that's kidding on the square, the only view of US history available politically to everyone on the right and a healthy majority of those who are nominally considered on the left is that the US has been an unadulterated force for good throughout its history and anyone who would claim otherwise is insufficiently patriotic and hates the troops and the Baby Jesus.  I'd like to be able to consider the nuances of all of those positions, evaluating the evidentiary support for all and the current political realities which shape our views of the past - but I'm 39 years old and teaching 7 courses and my house doesn't have air conditioning, what I have energy to do is say "here's what you should believe, write it down" and then move to the next thing).

So, who Courte from this week's Real Housewives of New York reminds my mom of is a cross between Jackie Rogers, Jr. and Greg Norman

It's Tendown 26.  Let's Get it Poppin'!

First: The Middle

Eventually, this will be about LeBron James.  I don't know how long it will take to get there.

I don't fetishize the middle of the country; I live in South Florida, I grew up in Northern California, I went to school in Ohio - people are people wherever you go; there is good and bad, in everyone, but if we learn to live, learn to give each other what we need to survive, together ali-i-ive.

What?  A Martin Short picture and an Ebony and Ivory reference before the jump?  Apparently it's Hot Tub Time Machine Tendown.  Modern Family ended this week's Hawaii epside with a wedding vow renewal set to a ukelele version of Eye of the Tiger - which saved that scene from shark jumping; as a trope, the wedding vow renewal has worn me to the bone; there's one on deck for the New York Housewives finale (Ramona has taken the curious posture that 17 years is the longest imaginable time any two people could be married) and I'm only willing to watch if it includes someone playing I Love Rock-n-Roll on the spoons. 

I don't think the people in the flyover states are any more or less American than the people on the coasts; whenever I see a Republican give a speech in Topeka with the theme being "you are the real heart of this country; the true, real Americans and you want your country back" - I hope they see the pandering the same way I did in high school every time someone unleashed a "you are the future of the country; this is your time to shine" on me.  I have rhetorical strengths and weaknesses as someone whose most marketable professional skill is standing in front of a room of people and talking, but one easy place I don't ever rest is the "hey, give yourselves a round of applause" line of bullshit.  A club teachers of all levels and disciplines like to pull out is "I learn so much from my students every day" - which is good egalitarian/we're all just in a community of learning, I'm no different from the kid in the 4th row stuff, but almost entirely meaningless; I've got X minutes to give that student enough information about Mark Twain's reaction to the Filipino resistance to US occupation that he's got a fighting chance on my midterm; I don't have time to slather him in my recognition of his personal struggle.  If I'm working in a grocery store in Des Moines, I'd much rather have a politician tell me he's in favor of a constitutional amendment requiring a living wage so I don't need to keep ever increasing credit card balances just to cover my montly nut than bathe me in platitudes about how my morality is the one true morality.  But that's why he says it, of course.  Sarah Palin doesn't want to cut into the profits of her corporate paymasters so she pacifies me with a strawman of some socialist in Washington DC or a homosexual in New York City or a deceitful immigrant from Mexico - in the way American colonial leaders looked to pit the interests of poor white farmers against Native Americans or the way the slaveholding planation class looked to pit house slaves against field slaves - Republicans today are operating from a playbook even older than the republic - marginalize fringe groups, keep "out" groups in constant animosity toward each other - distract with intangible puffery about an imaginary afterlife where the goodhearted people who have to toil in this world will be rewarded - anything to keep her audience not focused on the economic truth of the United States - that our society is deliberately structured to serve the interest of the wealthiest few - that the role of virtually all of us is to spend the only life we will ever have working constantly to produce wealth for others.  We can read all the books we want, get all the degrees we like, devote our lives to work and service and still wind up in foreclosure - still wind up just a breath away from the dustbin - still wind up just chum in the oil soaked waters of the plutocratic states of America.

I am defeated.  I have, to use Mike Leach's line from this week's Friday Night Lights, lost my inner pirate.

I don't think it's projecting to say that's the look I saw on LeBron James's face this week. 

It's almost always error to attribute character failings to sports losses, particularly when it involves existential talents like James - but it was hard to watch Game 5 this week and not wonder if he was okay.  By the advanced metrics, LeBron James has just put up the two greatest regular NBA seasons since Jordan's prime - and it's not just that the Cavaliers didn't win the title (I did pick them to win each of the last two years, you can see my playoff picks here; the two points in my own defense are these - one, I got the other 3 teams remaining in the playoffs right - and Phoenix was not exactly a popular choice to be the Lakers opponent in the Western Conference Finals a month ago; and two, I did offer a "as long as James doesn't get hurt" caveat. Now the Cavs are gone - I'm picking Orlando to win the whole thing.) it's the seeming listlessness involved throughout game 5 and portions of game 6.  I think it has to be injury; that 2 months from now LeBron has surgery and historically this becomes the postseason about his elbow and not one that revealed some sort of lack of killer instinct fundamental deficiency like we enjoy putting on superstars like Peyton Manning and Alex Rodriguez, right up until the second they win, and then we decide they've grown up, somehow ratifying all of our previous character critique.  So, I'm choosing not to believe any sort of emotional flaw was revealed this week - that instead it was an injury that manifested as a lack of, almost a lack of interest seemingly in being LeBron James this week, but it's a take that I understand.  I'm worn out too; the metaphorical Rajon Rondo is slicing past me for another layup, and I don't have a whole lot of intensity left to stop him. 

And who I felt badly for is Cleveland.  I assume there is a Cavs/Indians/Browns fan of the same level of tenacity as my Warriors/Giants/Niners interest; and that's a town that hasn't won a title since somewhere approximating Jim Brown's first day shooting the Dirty Dozen.  When you consider all three of those organizations as a quixotic combination of awful and heartbreaking, that is just a challenging sports fan life.  I'm sure there were those watching Game 5 and seeing this chance drip away who were just crushed - that Cleveland sports fan, clinging to his guns and his god and his games to escape confronting the structural inequities in his life - the society of which he is a part and probably believes in to a far greater extent than a professor who teaches we invaded Cuba in order to create a market friendly to United Fruit, has no interest in his life except as an entirely disposible unit of production, and the place where he's chosen to escape provides him years and years of endless empty - a Byner fumble, a Jose Mesa meltdown, and the best player in basketball about to leave town - about to leave flyover country - for a bluer coast.

Or maybe he'll go to Chicago.

After the jump - the rest of the Tendown.

1st and Ten - The Weekly Tendown, May 2-8 2010

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Dear Internet:

I have no air conditioning.  Had no air conditioning for about a month.  I live in South Florida.  Yesterday it was 88 degrees.

I want you to know that's my circumstance.  The AC is beyond repair, but I'm moving soon; just as my car finally stopped running literally as I was about to trade it in; my air conditioner, which has limped along for the past half dozen years spurted out its last breath of cool juice a month ago.  Had my house not lost 75% of its value in the past 3 years, I assume I'd dip into my retirement fund (jokes, I tell the jokes; I'll never be able to retire) and pop down a few grrrrr on a new system (my AC was triple old). But as, one way or the other, I won't be the owner of this house by July, that's not an investment that makes a lot of sense.

So, I've just been sweating it out.  Yes, I'm miserable.  Yes, this is my life.  Yes, yes, that's how it is.  Everything's comin' up Milhouse.

But we got Tendown 25 today!  And this train don't pull no sleepers.  Let's get it poppin'!

First:  By the Time I Get to Arizona

Back in Tendown 24, I talked about the Show Your Papers immigration statute passed in Arizona, specifically casting it in a Tendown meme - the distance between right wing/Tea Bag rhetoric about the need to keep government small and to oppose tyranny with violence if needed and the reality of their support for the two decade long middle eastern wars and their worship of whatever type of skull cracking police procedure is in vogue. 

It's not exactly a conundrum worthy of great minds..  Government power is a problem if its intruding on your life.  But someone else's life?  Especially if that someone has a darker complexion than you?  Absolutely.  That's what government's proper role is.  When middle aged white guys want to load up their guns and go to a health care debate - that's the proper exercise of the 2nd Amendment.  But if police, based solely on their judgment, want to pull someone over in Arizona and demand papers, then the 4th Amendment takes a back seat.  After all, there are plenty of white people in Arizona who want to bring their guns to Starbucks without worrying about a brown skinned person ahead of them in line. 

But the story was advanced this week - this week, the Phoenix Suns wore their alternative uniform, Los Suns in a playoff game, expressly in protest of the new Arizona state law.

And that, I have to tell you, is amazing.

In grad school, one of my primary research interests (enough that had I decided to pursue a PhD, I would have made it the focus of my dissertation) was anti-establishment speech in sporting venues.  The examples, beyond Smith and Carlos in '68 are small.  The occasional flag salute protest by athletes (which never turns out well in the court of public opinion); the even more rare fan generated activism, and not much beyond that.  As a venue - the systemic pressure on all who enter it maintain a border between sports and state (despite the allowance of any form of establishment speech, pro-war, pro-military, pro-church, pro-government, pro-status quo, and the most obvious - pro-corporate, so pervasive it goes without political analysis) almost always serves to chill. 

But not this week.  With thousands outside the arena protesting against the anti-4th amendment law, with fans inside the arena making similar statements:

...the Phoenix Suns made an historic statement in opposition to a law of their own state this week.

The TNT pre-game show, as noted by lefty sportswriter (I bet he has air conditioning) Dave Zirin was filled with similar sentiments, with Barkley and Kenny Smith supporting the Suns choice of protest and Chris Webber referencing Arizona's previous refusal to recognize Martin Luther King Day as a historic analogue. 

It was exciting.  The most exciting sporting event of the year. 

After the jump - the rest of the Tendown.

That Dad

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Mom, That Dad, Me, Dude giving me something:
                                                                                                               almost exactly 20 years ago today 

You know what I'm really getting into?

Fifteen days ago from a hospital he'd never leave, my dad posed that question. 

I didn't know the answer. 
I didn't know the answer because, well, it could have been anything. 

Ten years ago my mother and I were at Publix; the context has been lost, but mom said "that dad has more admirable qualities than anyone I've ever met."

We called him That Dad.  I've forgotten why that is also, other than it just suited him somehow.

Among those admirable qualities wasn't necessarily his joketelling, but he had a way with non sequiturs that my mom and I would retell for years.  It was not long after some procedure over the past decade that the three of us ordered pizza; he was taking some type of prescribed pain medication and was silent even more than usual - it had been, easily 15 minutes since he had spoken when the pizza arrived, and in a very matter of fact way as I brought it into the room he said, "Freak Out."

Funny to me.

You know what I'm really getting into?

Hell, I don't know.  Banjos?  The bankruptcy code?  Brutus the Barber Beefcake?  It could be anything.

I didn't know because I didn't know him that well.  I knew dad liked God and string theory and Tiger Woods and my mom, but beyond that, I didn't know him that well.

We were different; our interests, our passions, our ways of looking at the world - we were different; he was That Dad, private and solid and quiet and contemplative in that way that men can be, and I'm almost entirely locked inside my own head in a world that only tangentially has ever included people who are not me; we weren't a good bet for long talks about our insides.  We were neither close nor distant; I don't have a Great Santini story that has informed my character.  If we had an argument more recently than 1986 I can't recall it.  We were fine.  That doesn't have a lyrical quality, I recognize.   No sturm.  No drang.  No hurly. No burly.

My brothers are not me and they may have different stories to tell.  But they wouldn't have too many jagged edges.  I was describing that dad to my lady type friend at his service, and the best way I could do it was that there wouldn't possibly be any reason for anyone to dislike him.

I mean - I dig me, but others do not, and some for perfectly understandable reasons, and I recognized that when I was about eleven.  My lady type friend is my very favorite thing, but she's told me of prior co-workers who didn't like her and I saw how that could be.  They suck, obviously, and more likely than not could have benefited from better pre-natal nutrition.  But I get it.  I'll fight you with my fists if you say something bad about my mother, but I can absolutely see how, in a workplace setting, you could get on her bad side and get taken apart and leave that encounter muttering unkind things.  You should mutter them quietly and perhaps take it as a learning moment to improve at your job, but I could see how it might happen.  The qualities that I like, you do not.  Horses for courses, as they say. 

But that dad was just kind.  I mean, motivated by kindness.  He would give the last twenty in his wallet to the homeless and spent the last decade of his life ministering to prisoners.  He genuinely wanted good for people. There'd be literally no circumstance where anyone would ever say "what a jerkoff that guy is" - he just treated people the way he would want to be treated.  He didn't aspire to it - that's who he was.  He genuinely wished for you good things.

And for me too.  He liked when I won stuff or was otherwise recognized publicly.  He was glad that I found someone to spend my life with.  We didn't discuss any of that; I'm me and he was that dad and that's not how it worked.  But I knew.  I went away to college when I was 17; I take pride on paying for law school and grad school by myself, through a combination of loans and academic scholarships - but my parents covered the vast majority of my undergraduate degree; I don't get to have the life that I've had without his waking up at five AM to drive an hour to work every morning for a decade.  Neither of my parents had the luxury of spending their young adulthood on a campus; and the rural Ohio high school to which I went didn't place too many of its students in four year universities; that was not the culture in which I existed - but it literally never crossed my mind, even one time, that I wouldn't be going directly to college.  It was just assumed in my house, from as long as I could recall, that of course, I'd go from high school to college and of course I would do well.  I didn't have a thought contrary to that. 

That doesn't happen without that dad.  I don't get my life without him.  And we didn't discuss it.  And I hope he knew that I understood all of that and I was grateful.

My dad's been dead 15 days, and I'm teaching 7 classes and trying to find a house to move into before the bank takes the one into which I've sunk every penny I have; I'm busy every minute of every day except when I'm not and when I'm not it's just a crashing wave of sad.  He was 62 and there and now he's not and I have nothing of value to say.  It's crummy.  It's not redeeming or illuminating or prosaic.  It's crummy. 

You know what I'm really getting into?

My mom and I looked at each other.  'Cause it could have been anything.


And that was my dad.  He was just like that.

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