The Weekly Tendown June 5-11 2011

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Dear Internet:

Here's Tendown 80.

1. 3-2
My favorite athletes, common for people of my age (488 months) are athletes who used to play for my teams. Whenever the NFL playoffs roll around, I'll say something about how my rooting preferences (since my team doesn't get to go to the playoffs, I assume as part of the hegemony of the eastern sports intelligentsia) are driven by my being in the Joe Montana legacy protection business.  Gotta root against the Patriots, they've won too many Super Bowls.  Gotta root against Elway, against Favre, against Manning, against Roethlisberger, as additional titles might cause shifts in public opinion away from viewing my guy as the greatest ever.  There's an enshrining that sports fans do of the past, largely as a way to preserve their youthful memories, to keep objects in the rear view mirror closer than they are, to stave off death.

Its the hidden premise in most sports debates, I'm almost finished with Those Guys Have All the Fun: Inside the World of ESPN, which you can read, but you don't need to, and was reminded of the tremendous amount of coverage given to Mickey Mantle's death.  The youthful affection of sports media decision makers drove the extent to which Mantle's death was a news story, and drove the framing of Mantle's life as good ole' boy whose career (and then life) was cut short, partially by drinking.  A fun loving and somewhat tragic figure, beloved in life and death.

I mean, he could have been cast as a scumbag.  You know how many stories there are about drug addict Mickey Mantle flipping off kids?  Spitting toward fans?  Mickey Mantle took speed; Mickey Mantle got benched for loafing.  Mickey Mantle's drinking kept him off the field.  Mickey Mantle infected by a dirty needle from a steroid injection.

This is more than "athletes are covered differently today than yesterday " (although that's true; Babe Ruth chasing hookers on trains, Joe DiMaggio slapping around Marilyn Monroe, Michael Jordan cheating on his wife - that's all pre-TMZ, pre-camera phone, pre-Deadspin) our need to keep safe those memories shapes our view of today.  Listen to congressmen from those steroid hearings talk about how the memories of Maris and Aaron are what is at stake; listen to Bob Costas talk about how he still considers 61 the home run record, about how its wrong to think of Bonds as an inner circle Hall of Famer.  I would submit to you the willingness by sports opinion makers to accept and then argue to the public that PED use invalidated baseball records was driven by the same type of legacy protection impulse that causes me to root against Peyton Manning.  We try to shape the present to suit the needs of the past.

There are multiple elements leading the public to, pretty universally, root against LeBron James tonight (or failing tonight, then Tuesday)  none of which I share, and the totality of which leads me to root for him with full throat (because, my third favorite types of athletes - after those who used to play on my teams and those who currently play on my teams, are athletes who others do not like, and my 4th favorite types of athletes are great players who haven't won titles, about whom the sports opinion makers argue that their not having won titles reflects some deep psychological failing - and LeBron James checks the third and the fourth boxes); one of those was reflected in Joe Posnanski's SI piece this week.  Posnanski isn't a Rick Reilly level hack, not a "in my day, these punks knew how to respect their elders" embarrassment like Murray Chass - Posnanski's one of the good guys, and there's a certain amount of self awareness in his piece - which argues that there's essentially nothing LeBron James could ever do that would permit him to be compared to Michael Jordan.  The piece compares the view that people of my generation (as now we're the sports opinion makers; if Dallas wins tonight or Tuesday, Bill Simmons will pretty quickly write a "Dirk's still not as good as Bird" column) have about Jordan to the argument a previous generation made about Jim Brown:

Nobody could be Jim Brown. Sure, Brown had numbers and highlights and testimony to back up the argument, but the crucial fact was that there was no argument. Jim Brown was the greatest because Jim Brown was the greatest. To argue was blasphemous.

It's not just a need to protect Jim Brown (who retired really early and just didn't have the career that Emmitt or Payton had) it's a need to privilege their youth that drove that argument.  It's "my music is better than your music" - and when there are statistics to demonstrate otherwise; we look to invalidate the statistics - if they are advanced metrics, like the ones that would argue Dirk has had a better career than Bird, for example, we look to deny the value of those metrics - and if its a home run record that we previously revered, that we defined as what baseball greatness was - we say that PED use means those home runs did not happen.

I'm about to post a list of the 100 best basketball players who ever lived, as determined by Win Shares, a value aggregate statistic; I've added regular season  and playoff Win Shares together to create the list, which I don't think is replicated anywhere.  Of every NBA player I looked at - and I looked, I think, at the careers of every NBA player who might be implicated - only 4 players in league history ever had more than one season with 20+ Win Shares; when you add up all the value they created during a season including the playoffs - just four players have ever been responsible for more than 20 wins in two separate years.  

LeBron James.

Now, Jordan did it 9 times and James just twice - but LeBron's played about 600 fewer games than Jordan did.

And when looking at the total number of Win Shares created in their careers - three of those guys are in the top 4 of all time, but the fourth guy is right about #30, and he's the only one with Win Shares in front of him.

Part of the mobilization against LeBron James comes from people in the Michael Jordan legacy protection business; it's people 488 months old wrapping their arms around their youth; holding onto 16 as long as they can.  They don't want LeBron to win one title.  Because one can turn into two.  And two can turn into six.  And six is Michael, and they just can't have that.  It's not about Jordan; it's about them. I was 16 in 1987.  I started my senior year of high school.  My Giants won the pennant.  The Niners were about to win Super Bowls 3 and 4.  My head was thick with hair and my future all in front.

Today, I'm a middle aged, overweight, balding man with 3 jobs whose retirement plan is to die at work, preferably while I still have life insurance.  When Miley Cyrus sings "it's about the climb", I anger, "you don't know what it's about; you're a teenager with a hundred million in the bank."  I see the resentment that yesterday has for today; I hear the criticism that Barkley or Magic had about LeBron and Wade deciding to play together, when I watched Barkley play with Erving and then with Olajuwon and Drexler and Magic with Kareem and Worthy, and I see yesterday crawling from the grave.

3 games to 2.  Go Heat. (edit - ah hell.  Who did I pick again?  Good on Dirk; congratulations to the Mavs)

2. What Was That Thing I Just Said About Shaping the Present to Suit the Past?
We do it the other way too.

Here's what actually happened on Paul Revere's ride.

I don't much care that Sarah Palin doesn't know about this; hers was a C student's answer; I'd rather C student intellect + not being wholly unattractive for a woman of her age wasn't sufficient qualification to be President, but I don't particularly see Palin as any less intellectually capable than the guy who just did 8 years in the job (I assume Bush's Paul Revere essay wouldn't have been any better).  Her Fox News follow up "I know my American history" - grates in a Dunning-Kruger sort of a way, "what do you mean that's a C answer - that was an A answer, any other answer is wrong and probably part of some left wing conspiracy".  (Stewart had the best take on this; particularly good is that the "gotcha" question that Palin was responding to was something to the effect of, "hey, what have you learned on your tour?")

But the part that I had to reference this week was this, when the Palin-ites took to Wikipedia this week to edit the Paul Revere page.  The past has to be shaped to suit the needs of the present.  Perhaps it's because we've de-emphasized the teaching of US history under No Child Left Behind at the expense of tested material, or its the result of a few decades of right wingers controlling school boards, but the ability of the right to shape the past to suit their current needs is one of the drivers of contemporary political understanding.  What is the idea of a "tea party movement" if not an appropriation of the past - "these historical figures support my view, this old document supports my view - I'm right and look, the evidence is right here in Wikipedia."

Right Wing pseudo-historian David Barton , who previously said Jesus was opposed to the minimum wage and net neutrality, this week said the founding fathers didn't believe in teaching evolution, and the revolutionary war was really about ending slavery.

It doesn't matter that Darwin was almost a century later, doesn't matter that slavery wasn't made illegal for almost another century - there is a shaping of history that the right wing depends on to facilitate its world view - and here its this: Christians coming to the United States to create a free, Christian nation as embodied in the secular Bible, the Constitution, creating a marriage of the free market and Biblical principles that we only began to move away from in the beginning of the 20th century when we began to pass workplace health and safety regulations - ramping up with the minimum wage and social security - reaching an anti-Christian crescendo with civil libertarian Supreme Court decisions that ended compulsory school prayer, articulated a right to privacy, and formulated the exclusionary rule - and exploded in a Satanic spasm with the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell, with legislation to reduce the number of Americans without health insurance, with the election of a non-white President whose name sounds foreign, sounds non-Christian.

The past had to have happened the way they say it did, or else what they say today doesn't make a damn bit of sense.  Tim Pawlenty said this week that tax cuts always increase revenues.  Here are economists from the Bush Administration saying that he is wrong.

The peak - that's revenue before the Bush tax cuts.  See where we are now?

You can hold the position that we should cut taxes on the wealthiest Americans and corporations.  It isn't my position, but you can hold it.  You cant hold the position that those tax cuts always produce government revenue.  It's a demonstrated falsehood.

4. Pawlenty's plan:

Here's Pawlenty's plan, incidentally:

– Taxpayers with incomes in excess of $1 million would enjoy an average cut in personal income taxes of $288,822, a 41.4 percent cut.
– Taxpayers with incomes in excess of $10 million would enjoy an average cut in personal income taxes of $2.4 million, a 46.3 percent cut.
The cost of the personal income tax cuts just for taxpayers with incomes in excess of $1 million would be $141.8 billion.
          And that’s just for Pawlenty’s income tax plan. He has also proposed eliminating the capital gains and estate taxes entirely, two moves which would overwhelmingly benefit the very richest Americans

5. But That's Not Enough for Michele Bachmann
She wants to add a tax increase for the working poor.

6. Or, We Could Have Done This...
Instead of the Bush tax cuts, we could have taken that money and purchased any of the following.

- Give 122.7 Million Children Low-Income Health Care Every Year For Ten Years
- Give 49.2 Million People Access To Low-Income Healthcare Every Year For Ten Years
- Provide 43.1 Million Students With Pell Grants Worth $5,500 Every Year For Ten Years
- Provide 31.5 Million Head Start Slots For Children Every Year For Ten Years
- Provide VA Care For 30.7 Million Military Veterans Every Year For Ten Years
- Provide 30.4 Million Scholarships For University Students Every Year For Ten Years
- Hire 4.19 Million Firefighters Every Year For Ten Years
- Hire 3.67 Million Elementary School Teachers Every Year For Ten Years
- Hire 3.6 Million Police Officers Every Year For Ten Years
- Retrofit 144.6 Million Households For Wind Power Every Year For Ten Years
- Retrofit 54.2 Million Households For Solar Photovoltaic Energy Every Year For Ten Years

Or, millionaires could have gotten that money.  Which is the choice we made.  And then the economy collapsed.  And the response from the right wing is to double down.

Here's the full look at the catastrophe that has been the Bush tax cuts.

7. The Best Wrestling Match You'll See All Year

I watched wrestling this week.  10 matches at 4 stars or better; including a 5 star match, and there simply won't be a better one all year, Kotaro v. Nakajima from March.

DGUSA Pac/Yoshino v. Taylor/Gargano 4 1/4 (March)
AJ - Minoru v. Kondo 4 3/4 (March)
Noah - Nakajima v. Kotaro 5 (March)
Noah - Kotaro v. Ishimori 4 3/4 (March)
WXW Kotaro v. Generico 4 (March)
ROH - Edwards v. Strong 4 1/2 (March)
AJ  - Yuji v. Suwama 4 1/2 (April)
NJ - Yuji v. Tanahashi 4 1/2 (April)
NJ - Yuji v. Nakamura 4 1/4 (April)
PWG Low Ki v. Tozawa 4 1/4 (April)

I also wrote this week; here is my current all star ballot, and here you can get to the two all time NFL rosters I posted this week.

8. Ohio St. is Screwed and Tattooed.
My Trojans got smashed by the NCAA cops; what Ohio St. did is worse.

9. Kinect's First Person Shooter
I have a Kinect; I like it, I use it; it's good times.

I'm not much interested in a Kinect first person shooter game, but the creation of which isn't surprising and I'd be disinclined to mention it.  Except...

That it's Blackwater.  Blackwater!  From the press release:

Blackwater is an intense, cinematic shooter experience unlike anything you’ve ever played before. Lead a team of Blackwater Operators protecting a fictional North African town, battling dangerous warlords and fighting back two opposing militia forces. Using the motion-sensing Kinect controller players can do everything from moving their character to aiming and firing a weapon as you work your way through pressure-filled missions. The game is also playable with a standard controller.

Consider, before buying the kids the Blackwater kinect game, reading this book by Jeremy Scahill.

Few Americans had even heard of Blackwater before March 31, 2004, when four of its contractors were ambushed and brutally killed in Falluja, and days later, a US siege of the region began. It was "what would be one of the most brutal and sustained US operations of the occupation," explains Scahill, who believes the US Military response to the killings sets a dangerous precedent.
Before the September 16, 2007 confrontation, Blackwater employees had been implicated in similar incidents involving questionable force, including in December 2006, when a drunk Blackwater contractor allegedly shot and killed a bodyguard for Iraqi Vice President Adel Abdul Mahdi. The contractor was subsequently fired by Blackwater, yet was sent back in the region with another private firm. 

That book was written in 2007.  Here's 2008.

Here's 2009.

More from 2009.

And here's 2011.

If you told me the KKK had a video game, I wouldn't find it more offensive than this.

10. Moratorium!
I need the following to go away.  Not forever, but certainly the remainder of the decade.

-Critical analysis that includes the word "love" - as in "I can really taste the love you put in your chicken" or "the problem with this song is you don't have the love for performing" or, "the problem with the expediting in your kitchen is there's not enough love."

If the best you can do is talk about love, you don't know enough about the subject you are analyzing to give an informed criticism.  Tell me the chicken is too salty, not that it doesn't have enough love.

-"I could tell you, but then I'd have to kill you."  Just stop.  You say it like I didn't say it back in 1985.  There's a gleam in your eye, "look how edgy I am."  It's over.  Stop.

-"We're taking it to the next level."  Unless there is literally a next level, moratorium.  "Next level" as a metaphor needs to stop.

"In my mouth" - not in every usage, just when referencing food.  The number of times on a food related television show I will hear something like "it's like a party in my mouth"...yeah, they all need to stop.  It's food, of course it's in your mouth.

"Stand by Me".  The song.  I don't want to hear it the rest of the decade.  Not a single version.  You can't make it your own.  I need it to go away.

And it's time for this week's Tendown to go away.  I'll be back next time, if there is a next time...

Your pal,


1 comment

Blog said...

If hating LeBron is wrong, then I don't wanna be right. :)

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