1st and Ten: The Weekly Tendown October 17-23 2010

Sunday, October 24, 2010

So, what's new?

Here's Tendown 49.

First:  The Giants Win the Pennant.

The worst day of my life, to that point, was in September of 1989.  I had two lifelong goals - to go to USC to study broadcasting and to become the play by play announcer for the San Francisco Giants.  Were you to have asked me, really from the age of 8, but certainly since junior high, what I wanted to do when I grew up, I would have given you those twin answers.

I was able to transfer to USC after my freshman year of college in Ohio; I started college when I was 17, and my process of selection left a little to be desired.  But by Christmas I had applied to USC and was on my way out the door by spring.  I burned as many bridges on my way out as a person who had told everyone he met since moving to Ohio when he was 11 that he was getting the hell out of there at his soonest opportunity would.  I packed everything I was taking with me in a couple of bags and set off across the country for the start of my real life. 

I was only there a week.  I lost my scholarship in some type of snafu that I'm not sure I still entirely understand; I think I missed a deadline somehow.  It was one of a handful of glaring examples of a "really not all that I thought I was" narrative the could be constructed about my young life.  I came back home, tail  tucked between my legs, firm in the belief that I had blown both halves of that dream.

A month later, the San Francisco Giants won the pennant for the first time in my life.  I was at the very lowest point in my life to that date and the Giants won the pennant.  It felt very real to me, in a way that it could only feel to a solipsistic 19 year old, that my baseball team was helping me through.  I'm not proud of that level of magical thinking, but I was only four years removed from wearing parachute pants, so I cut myself a bit of a break.

In July of 2002 I lost my job.  It was a crummy job, teaching for virtually no money and literally no benefits at a small private high school in south Florida.  But I was really good at it.  At least from my perspective I was really good at it.  I had a "pressure turns coal into diamonds" type of teaching demeanor then, and while the evidence for its success was real - it was easy for me to ignore the counter-evidence of students who had left the school unable to handle my courses.  The school was always on a tight financial edge, and losing student tuition because of my teaching style was unacceptable in a way that I did not sufficiently appreciate.  The part of the job that particularly worked for me was the complete level of academic freedom, but after 9-11 my Howard Zinn reading of US History and my critical legal studies approach to my legal courses drew almost constant scrutiny.  When the school year ended and I was told the budget wouldn't permit my continuing full time, it was not a surprise, I had been contemplating an avenue to not return for months - but it was a little traumatizing.  That job was my identity and I was a little lost. 

Two months later, the San Francisco Giants won the pennant for the second time in my life.  I was now 32 and didn't think of it as related to me in any way - but I was energized by it nonethless.  A couple years previous, I was in a tremendous financial hole, really without any hope of emerging, and my knowledge of the Giants won me some television money that gave my life a foothold - it wasn't magic, I caught a break and was prepared to take advantage of it - but to win money because of the Giants, the study of which had occupied so much of my life, was doubly nourishing.  That the Giants provided me some joy at a very difficult time just two years removed from that really filled me with a sense of optimism for the future. 

It's 2010.  I've had a hard year.  I've lost every dollar I had in the financial crisis; I've spent most of the year negotiating a sale of my house back to the bank.  My workload has risen exponentially, partially by need (I've had to add more classes to pay my bills) and partially because I live in the United States in 2010, and those of us lucky enough to have work have found the conditions at our jobs stretched beyond previous recognition.  I need to work every day of every month to pay the bills, and there is no visible end to that circumstance. 

And my dad died a few months ago, right at the beginning of the season, actually.  It feels a little greasy to mention it here.  I don't want it to be part of any narrative; it's not a device to tell this baseball story; it's my dad and I tear up every time I think about him.  But it's true; it just is.  The last time the Giants won a World Series game was Game 5 against the Angels - 8 years ago to this very day - we won 16-4 in just the most delirious explosion of "we're gonna win the by god World Series" you could ever imagine.  I watched the game alone with my dad; it was the last baseball game we ever watched alone together; it was the only Giants playoff game we ever watched alone together.  I'm not gonna tell you a Field of Dreams story; it doesn't fit my life particularly neatly and more than that, I just don't want to.  My dad is bigger than my blog, bigger than my lifelong devotion to this baseball team. 

But it's been a hard, hard year. 

And for the third time in my life - we're going to the World Series.  When Brian Wilson struck out Ryan Howard last night, I burst into tears.  The Giants aren't magically related to me in any way; their winning their third pennant of my lifetime doesn't really make my life better in any tangible way, and were we, almost inexplicably, to be able to win 4 more games, it wouldn't in any way foreshadow my prospects of future success.  It's just a game and not my life, despite my having spent the better part of that life devoted to that game.

But I'm grateful nonetheless.

The Giants won the pennant.  In 2010 of all things.  Who could have seen that coming?

After the jump - the rest of the Tendown:

1. The San Francisco Chronicle

2. The San Jose Mercury News

3. The Stockton Record

4. I Make Predictions

I made about a dozen blog posts last week - NBA starts this week, my picks are here. My look at the top 100 players in NFL history is nearing a close, the most recent entry is here. I'll have a World Series post that mimics my NLCS post which was here. And over the summer, I did an exhaustive history of the San Francisco Giants based on WAR and WARP that you can get to here.

5. And I Read Books

I read Sam Harris's new book this week The Moral Landscape: How Science Can Determine Human Values.  I've been teaching undergraduate Ethics for six years, and using as the premise for the course the idea the idea that morality perhaps can be reached through mechanisms other than religion (to be fair, it's not my premise - but nor is it Harris's - it's Immanuel Kant's, or, at least, his is the premise from which I start my course.)  It's really a book just for people who have never taken a moral philosophy course, people who haven't been exposed to the idea that anyone could think that there's a third option in the Jesus v. Relativism debate.

I also saw some four star wrestling matches - Guns v. Bucks was 4 1/4 stars from the most recent TNA PPV; Tyler's last ROH match, a loss to Davey, was 4 stars from ROH TV this week, and I saw two four star Go Shiozaki matches from earlier in the year, a NOAH match against Kotaro, and a New Japan match against Nakamura.

I also watched some television - The League has perhaps passed Sunny in Philadelphia as the best FX sitcom and this week, it coined the phrase "deep googler" to refer to someone who does a little too much online research about the people she is meeting "that's some page five shit."

6. Thanks Simple Jack.
  Just a week ago, in Tendown 48, I did a rap about how every conversation you ever have with a right winger should begin with "do you believe that evolution is real" - because that has to be the minimum bar to engage in political discussion.  When a candidate passionately argues about death panels in the health care legislation or that continuing the Bush tax cuts for the weathliest Americans won't impact the deficit - you should recognize that has exactly the same connection with a factual understanding of the world as disbelieving evolution.  Someone who disbelieves evolution just does not operate from a reality based playbook.

This week - guess who said evolution was "ridiculous."

7. This is Virginia Thomas

I assume Lillian McEwen should expect a voice mail from Clarence Thomas's wife some Saturday morning in 2029.

8. Don't Ask Joe Miller Any Questions.

Joe Miller was asked questions by a reporter last weekend.

So - his private security handcuffed him.

And that's where we are in 2010.  Republicans refuse to talk to any media that isn't Fox and when some slip in to penetrate the fact free bubble in which they live - they get arrested.

9. The Establishment Clause
Christine O'Donnell knows the establishment clause is in the first amendment.  She just doesn't care.

The fact free right wingers have created an entirely false historical narrative that the framers of the constitution did not intend to separate church and state.  I just want you to take a moment and consider this. 

The Constitution doesn't mention Jesus.  Doesn't mention any god.  And it could have.  There was no force stopping the "founding fathers" from putting right there in Article I, "the legislative branch of the federal government will be divided into two houses - both serving the glory of our lord and savior Jesus, from which all of the following laws eminate."

The first amdendment could have said - "Congress shall make no law respecting the free exericise of any American to worship Jesus."  The Premable could have said "we the people, in order to form a more perfect union to serve the King of Kings, Jesus".

It just doesn't.  It just isn't there.  Instead - the very first clause of the very first amendment to the constition is the Establishment Clause.  Before speech.  Before free exercise.  Before all of them.  Establishment.

That's because for most of our colonial history the religious majorities (Christians) had used the mechanism of government to persecute religious minorities (Christians).  Colonies had the type of official marriage to particular Christian sects which had existed between church and state in Europe - what the establishment clause explicitly recognizes is the degree to which state supported religion is harmful to a country and contrary to the language of freedom to which today's right wingers pay lip service.  Thomas Jefferson was a man of the Enlightenment - and as much as the right wing hates it as a matter of factual reality - the United States was born not from religion but from Enlightenment principles designed to free us from the reliance on state sanctioned superstition.

10. The New CPR

The rules for CPR changed this week.  Seems like something good to know.

That's this week.  Next week is Tendown 50 - my plan is no new content, instead, a post with links to the previous 49 issues (and maybe paragraph long recaps) so my year of work can all be in one place.

See you next time.  If there is a next time...

Your pal,


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