Sunday, January 29, 2012

Fantasy and reality

It seems that the afterglow from Green Bay free agent quarterback Matt Flynn’s team record-setting performance against Detroit has faded somewhat, if one listens to the “experts” and “insiders.” Teams in need of a quarterback, like Washington, Cleveland, Miami and Seattle (although you wouldn’t know it to hear Pete Carroll talk) would seem to be naturals in the Flynn sweepstakes. But at least two of these teams—Washington and Miami—are said to be caught-up in the fantasy that a Peyton Manning who will be completely healed is going to be released by Indianapolis, and they want to be those kids waving their hands in front of the class. Why Manning would want to go to a dysfunctional organization like the Redskins (or a dysfunctional team, like the Jets) is a point of debate, but the question remains whether Manning will recover enough to ever throw another pass in a live game. Manning may decide he doesn’t want to play for another team, especially if it doesn’t cater to his “routine”; he has stated that if he had a choice, he would prefer to play for the same team his entire career. And truth to tell, he really doesn’t have much to complain about if he doesn’t get that $28 million payment due in March, since he was paid his roster bonus and full salary in 2011 despite never setting foot on the playing field—not to mention his likely enormous medical bills.

On the other hand, Manning is reportedly upset by all the changes in Indianapolis, not just in management but the team facilities, which he claims is not conducive to his rehabilitation process. Manning’s situation seems not unlike that of Sterling Sharpe, who after a serious neck injury was cut by the Packers, apparently for fear that allowing him to play with the possibility of re-injury to his vertebrae—with the full knowledge of its potential to leave him paralyzed—would leave the team exposed to costly civil damages. Sharpe had bitter feelings toward the team for years afterward. If Manning should decide he can still play but not as a Colt, the “frontrunner” appears to be Miami. There has been talk that the hiring of Packers offensive coordinator Joe Philbin as the Dolphin’s new head coach signaled that the team sees Flynn as part of a “package deal,” but the Miami Herald reported that there is as yet little or no apparent interest in acquiring Flynn. A “team source” claims that Manning is the “priority,” and even if the Dolphins fail to acquire him, the hiring of Mike Sherman as offensive coordinator may be a signal that the team is interested in Ryan Tannehill, who was coached by Sherman at Texas A&M.

Of the other teams said to be “interested” in Flynn, most of this interest has been generated by fans and local sports radio. For example, while there is buzz in Seattle concerning Flynn, local print journalists have noted that they perceive no indication from team sources that it has any enthusiasm for Flynn, despite his connection with general manager John Schneider. John Clayton is of the opinion that Brandon Weeden is a possible draft target for the Seahawks, but his performance in the Senior Bowl was not impressive. There has certainly been buzz in Washington concerning acquiring Flynn, but there is wide disagreement if he would be a “fit” in Mike Shanahan’s offence. For every observer who thought that Flynn passed with flying colors in two pressure-packed starts against New England and Detroit, there are those, if one listens to Mel Kiper Jr., who don’t have a “high opinion” of him at all, or think he is merely the product of a system (the counter to that is “then we need to get that ‘system’”). Cleveland also allegedly has an interest in Flynn, but for every observer like Dan Shonka—a former NFL scout who thinks Flynn would be a perfect fit—there are those who think his price tag is just too high for an “unknown” quantity, especially since the team has other “needs.” This theory, however, is at odds with Kiper’s claim that Cleveland will likely try to trade up for Robert Griffin III, which will mean a large contract and surrendering draft picks.

This is all “speculation” at this point; teams are banned from displaying “formal” interest in free agents before the team of origin has first crack at them. But while there seems little doubt that wherever Flynn lands he is likely to get a shot at the starting job, the question is where. If Manning turns out to be a pipe dream, the aforementioned suitors will all be in play—or not at all. Flynn may land somewhere completely unforeseen; after all, who had any inkling that Prince Fielder was going to be signed by the Detroit Tigers before that deal was announced?

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Make-believe time at the Kent Public Library

On Wednesday I found myself in the Kent Public Library, to write and print out a letter. Kent, if you didn't already know, is one of those Republican outposts in "progressive" King County. While there, I observed something that caused me to remember an incident that occurred several years ago. Before the library’s remodeling, the lobby had a bench and public phones. Because the librarians never enforced the “Quiet Area” rules or became annoyed when you asked them too, I sometimes sat in the lobby to conduct my work. One day I was typing away on my laptop when a Kent cop came in and stood directly opposite of me; he stared at me with this sneering expression, apparently his pose of “intimidation.” I don’t know what it is about me that makes people behave in this fashion; maybe it is because they sense that my comportment and attitude suggests fearlessness and perhaps disdain. He needed to show me that he wasn’t just some high school-educated thug, but that his badge and gun gave him the “authority” to force me to feel fear of him. He just stood there for what seemed like an eternity, and finally I asked him why he was staring at me.

Naturally, all I had to do was open my mouth to give him the “excuse” he needed; he advanced toward me the several feet between us and demanded to know what my “problem” was. When I feel I am completely in the “right,” I can become quite animated in standing up for my civil rights; a librarian, a white female with short gray-blonde hair and an judgmental look about her, observed the goings-on and without inquiring what the issue was told me to leave; apparently I was just some “Mexican” who if you took your eye off of him, he was bound to be up to no good. I was not a human being with “normal” human feelings, but some “vermin” who could be shooed away like any old “pest.” But I was a sergeant in the Army, I have a college degree, and worked most every day for the past 20 years I’ve lived in Washington. I never sat around collecting unemployment checks or plotting how I was going to obtain money by illegal means—I went down to the temp agency and found some way to earn money until I obtained a full-time job. But people on the street don’t know any of that; they just go on the basis of their prejudices, like this cop and librarian.

After that incident, I emailed a complaint to the King County Public Library, and received the predictable apologia for the behavior I was obliged to endure. So I didn’t return to the library for long time; I only go there now if I need to print a letter, because the paper is free (unlike the Seattle Library). But on this day I was conducting my usual business when I observed that in the meeting room there was a group session involving a Kent police officer, mothers and their pre-school children; all were white save one or two who appeared to be Southeast Asian. The officer was showing them the hardware he wore around his rotund midsection (I supposed he was selected for this “duty” because wasn’t particularly intimidating), which, of course, wasn’t supposed to scare them. They were a little young to understand that when they got older, they ought to be careful about any “furtive” movements they might make, because it might be construed as an excuse for the officer to use his hardware on them. The officer did the standard speech, telling the kids to avoid strangers and not go into any strange cars. I’m fairly certain that the officer couldn’t recall right-off any recent incident of this type, although a more common scenario would be some vindictive parent, unhappy that her ex-spouse was awarded visitation rights, kidnapping the kids.

When he was done, a librarian stepped in and told the kids “Remember, the police are your friends.” I suppose it didn’t surprise me one bit that she was the very same woman who ordered me to leave the library just because a Kent cop (and probably herself as well) saw me not as a human being but some shifty-looking “Mexican” who was guilty of just being. The truth is that the police are your “friends” until you are old enough to understand that they are capable of doing “unfriendly” things to you. And not everyone is so sanguine as that white librarian. On Firesign Theatre’s “Shoes for Industry” compilation of skits from their 1960s and 70s comedy albums, there is a skit called “Deputy Dan Has No Friends.” A man is describing the contents of a Spanish-language coloring book for children, which features a Deputy Dan, who works for the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department (apparently similar to the Joe Arpaio-run Maricopa County, AZ department). The book has a much different message for Latino children:

“Don’t get into any strange cars with Deputy Dan.”

“Deputy Dan will walk small Chinese children across the street,” but when you see him, “Run like hell when you cross the street, because Deputy Dan is after you.”

“Deputy Dan will knock us down when we are injured by a car.”

“Never open the door for Deputy Dan; he’s on the other side.”

This was 40 years ago. Of course this was meant as social satire, but there must have been reasons why many in the Latino community might hold viewpoints like this, and I don’t think the atmosphere in which such attitudes could flourish has changed much—perhaps have only become worse. And why should it have? Take for instance the “Get to know your local cop” events in Bellevue’s Crossroads neighborhood, where the police gather-up swat team gear and armor-plated assault vehicles. Why do they need this in Republican Bellevue? Because Crossroads is where Bellevue’s small minority and immigrant population is likely to be found; the “natives”—moneyed paranoids and racial bigots—want to “impress,” or rather intimidate, them with the city’s military-style firepower, just in case they get “out of line.” I recall that the city tried to “reach out” to the minority and immigrant community in other ways, by hiring an artist to design “multicultural” metallic sculptures to place at bus stops in the neighborhood. The designs were shown to “community leaders” for their approval, but the project was halted because the “natives” didn’t like them. Frankly, my impression was that they were too abstract to tell exactly what they signified, but apparently for the “natives” anything that they couldn’t understand was too “multicultural” for their narrow minds to accept—like that Kent librarian’s. I'm afraid I just have to call it as I see--and experience--it.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Sports notes

There are three NFL teams I have developed a deep resentment toward over the past decade—the New England Patriots, the (Peyton Manning-led) Indianapolis Colts, and the New York Giants. The former two because they are (or were) generally expected to win every time out, especially against your team; as for the latter, it is because they’re not all that great a team, but seem to win at the most inopportune times against better teams. Thus it was a frustrating Sunday of football, when that kicker who doesn’t even deserve a name shanked a chip-shot field goal that would have sent the Baltimore Ravens into overtime against the Patriots, and on a day that Joe Flacco out-performed Tom Brady. In the NFC championship game, it was déjà vu again; like in 2007, a shaky Giants team that got “hot” at the end of the season forced the second-seeded team into overtime, and won. This time, it wasn’t an interception in OT, but a muffed punt in the fourth quarter by someone who doesn’t deserve a name that blew it for the 49ers, the only turnover during regulation. Naturally, it was another turnover in OT that gift-wrapped the Super Bowl slot for the despised Eli Manning and the Giants.

So there are two teams I despise who are Super Bowl bound. Normally I couldn’t care less who wins, but this year I have a particular grudge against the Giants, so I’d like to see Eli with a Super Bowl loss on his ledger in order to put his career in its proper perspective; I mean, a 9-7 team just doesn’t deserve to be that fortunate.


There seems to be some uncertainty amongst the local media about what exactly Pete Carroll and John Schneider are conjuring up for the future of the Seattle Seahawks quarterback position. Most commentators find it difficult to judge the veracity of Carroll’s apparent love of Tarvaris Jackson, which is at odds with most fans, who find it extremely difficult to envision T-Jack as their quarterback for more than two excruciating years. That belief is not universal, of course; Warren Moon seems to think that T-Jack can still improve, but he likes to root for “underdogs” like Tim Tebow, and himself. Frankly, T-Jack might be better than Tebow, but he will never be a Warren Moon. I was listening to John Clayton’s Saturday show (he was fretting about Fedex delivering his press credentials before he had to catch a flight to Boston), and some local guy (probably for the sake of brotherly solidarity) stood steadfast in T-Jack’s corner. When Clayton asked him if he really thought that T-Jack was the “answer,” the caller withheld his judgment until after all the mini-camps and OTAs were over—as if these would turn T-Jack into a superstar. One assumes that T-Jack also attended mini-camps and OTAs during the five years he was in Minnesota when he was “groomed” to be a starter, but at least one of his teammates (I wrote about this before) criticized his work ethic, such as not showing-up to camp in shape, or spending more time studying game film.

If we take Carroll at his word (and if we don’t, it isn’t exactly appropriate for him to inflate T-Jack more than necessary, is it?), it means that he isn’t looking for a quarterback in the draft who can start right away, but one he can mold in his own vision over time. It also means that Matt Flynn may not be in the picture at all, unless Carroll and Schneider do an abrupt about face and fool us all. If Flynn is signed, he isn’t coming in to “compete” with T-Jack for the starting position—in fact it would be rather insulting to him if the starting job wasn’t his to lose. Some people may have felt ill when three Vikings went down to Mississippi to retrieve Brett Favre in 2010, but it was symptomatic of the fact that the majority of team had no faith in putting their fate in T-Jack's hands after coming so close in 2009.


Joe Paterno’s sudden passing makes the actions of Penn State’s administrators against him seem rather callous in retrospect. Some people believe that his cancer was treatable, but he simply lost the will to live. According to a story in the Washington Post, Paterno’ s son Scott says his father has been largely “shunned” by the university, and his name removed on campus wherever possible. The Joseph V. Paterno Award, given to coaches who have made a positive impact on society, has been discontinued, and his nomination for the Presidential Medal of Freedom similarly discarded. There is no question that Penn State’s past handling of the abuse allegations, and allowing the abuse to continue, was damning both from a societal and criminal perspective. Anyone and everyone who knew something and did nothing deserves to be jailed, or at the very least censured. But everything is relative; Paterno expressed confusion over the assumption that he was a virtual dictator at Penn State. “Whether it’s fair I don’t know, but they do it,” he said about the school’s dumping him on the street. “You would think I ran the show here.”

Before he died he gave an interview about the Sandusky case, also reported in the Post; he pointed out that his relationship with Sandusky was professional—not personal, or so he said. He had not had a working relationship with Sandusky for several years before the 2002 allegations. The allegations (such as they were communicated to him) came as shock to him, and he didn’t know to respond to them, and left others to deal with it. Paterno said that the Sandusky’s “retirement” from coaching had nothing to do with any knowledge of wrong-doing (he claimed to know nothing of the 1998 incident), but due to frustration that Sandusky was spending too much time at his “ranch” and not enough on football. And Mike McQueary, who witnessed the 2002 incident, admitted that he didn’t go into detail with Paterno, for fear of putting too much strain on the 75-year-old coach.

The media, of course, is primarily responsible for hyperventilating the situation to the extent that a good man was convicted and sentenced before all the facts were in. It remains to be seen if anything of substance emerges that Paterno was more involved than he or others claims, but for the present, it is clear he deserved better than what his last memories were. It may take some years, but I have no doubt that Paterno’s reputation, if not fully restored, will be accorded its proper balance. Plenty of morally and ethically corrupt politicians—like Newt Gingrich—have been accorded as much.


This is not a football note, or even a sports note, but I just have put in my two bit. Vanessa Bryant, wife of Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant, filed for divorce, supposedly due to “irreconcilable differences,” even though the couple were photographed together as late as last year all smiles and lovey-dovey. Although there was the rape allegation against Kobe, everything seemed set to rights with his wife after he gave a humiliating public apology, and his wife a $4 million rock. She is receiving three mansions worth $18.8 million, half of Bryant’s $150 million in community property along with alimony payment, and her mother gets to keep her $2.65 million home. The ten-year length of their marriage seemed to be all too convenient, according to Kobe’s stepmom’s ex-husband, who pays her $1,800 a month in alimony—despite her living in grand style without it.

“Her mother taught her (Vanessa Bryant) well to wait for the ten-year mark [before divorcing]. In California … it’s considered a long term marriage and then she gets paid for life or until she remarries … just like her mother is doing to me.”

Vanessa Bryant, who has two children with Kobe, is set for life. Her “occupation,” such as it was before she met Kobe, was “dancer,” and frankly she might be good for nothing else but collecting money and looking beautiful—although I don’t know where it is written that just because you give yourself more credit than you deserve, it doesn’t mean you don’t have to use all that time you had on your hands to learn a trade. Frankly, I think divorce law in this country is an unjust joke; all over the world, civilized countries have a more balanced view of relative input. Paul McCartney’s ex-wife received “only” $33 million of his $800 million net worth after 4 years of marriage; the judge was frankly unimpressed by her claim that she required an extra $100,000 a month to keep herself supplied in wine.

It was said that Kobe’s parents were unhappy that he married someone who was not African-American. I won’t comment on that issue, but I might add one small observation. If I had a lot of money, I wouldn’t marry a self-absorbed Latina with visions of grandeur, especially with only matters of superficiality (as opposed to substance) to back it up. Her next “job” is likely to be some white man’s strumpet; I know, I’ve seen this. Some people will sacrifice self-respect for a little bought social status. If Vanessa Bryant wasn’t Kobe’s ex-wife, she would probably still be trying to shake down some fool and his money with her “measurables.”

Friday, January 20, 2012

Republican mud fight

I happened to be surfing the AM radio dial recently when purely by chance I encountered the voice of an older woman engaged in heated conversation with a certain Rush Limbaugh. Limbaugh seemed to be having some trouble maintaining control of the direction of the discussion, since this wasn’t some “commie socialist liberal” he could degrade for a few moments before hitting the delete button without ever troubling himself or his listeners by addressing the caller’s point. No, this was a caller who was incensed that Limbaugh was supporting Newt Gingrich as the Republican nominee for president in 2012. Gingrich was unfit to be the Republican nominee because of his moral lapses, particularly in regard to his attitude about the sanctity of marriage vows. His first marriage appears (one suspects) to have been the product of an “inappropriate” affair between a teenage student (Gingrich) and his high school geometry teacher. Gingrich then divorced his first wife (seven years his senior) and married his younger mistress, who he subsequently cheated on as well, hoping that she would understand his concept of “open” marriage. Engaging in carnal knowledge with a staffer 23 years his junior was merely one of the “perks” of being Speaker of the House; she would also become his third wife.

It was outrageous that Limbaugh could support such a morally corrupt man, when there was an alternative with pure conservative values untainted by the sin of foul lust. Who could this be? Certainly not Mitt Romney, who Limbaugh accused of not having the “personality”—meaning that he didn’t have the gonads to defend himself against, say, the vicious attacks of Gingrich. Would he wilt before the withering assault of truth that the “radical” left has hiding in ambush? Not Ron Paul, because the Right doesn’t believe such nonsense as “freedom” being a “right” every citizen ought to expect; “freedom” to whatever one wishes is something the wealthy can get away with. It isn’t Rick Perry or Michelle Bachmann, either; both dropped out. No, this caller views Rick Santorum as the bearer of the true cross of Republican moral and spiritual idealism. And she isn’t alone. Limbaugh may be a fat blowhard, but he’s not a complete fool; he knows that Santorum has no chance once his relatively extreme views become common knowledge amongst the voting public. He is, however, was not up to the task of defending Gingrich against the questions of character; Limbaugh meekly pointed to other examples of “open” marriages in the White House, like that practiced by JFK and Bill Clinton. But the feisty caller was having none of that, and Limbaugh wasted away as quickly as a twig in a bonfire before the evidence of fraud. Limbaugh was exposed as a gasbag without principles, just sarcastic, self-congratulatory hot air.

The Republican primaries have been an embarrassment of mortification, proof that the party is devoid of the ideas, vision or principles needed to adapt to changing realities. They’d rather sing the same old tune of tax cuts and deregulation (which is the same as doing nothing), play the paranoia, fear, ignorance, intolerance and bigotry cards that work wonderfully well with paranoid, fearful, ignorant, intolerant and bigoted. Everything from domestic to foreign policy is run through the prism of “us” vs. “them.” The stench of unabashed mendacity lies everywhere. Republicans and their PAC henchpersons are known to concoct the vilest of misinformation in their attacks against their opponents, yet when a CNN moderator at a recent Republican debate had the audacity to question Gingrich about his ex-wife’s charge that he desired an “open” marriage in which he could commit serial adultery, he accused the moderator "as close to despicable as anything I can imagine" and this was evidence that the media was "destructive, vicious and negative." Of course, this could also describe the majority of Republican attack ads and Sean Hannity. There were other tidbits that the moderator didn’t mention, like the 84 counts of ethics violations against Gingrich while he was Speaker of the House, which I’m sure is an old story that he’s rather people forget. Or his own commentary might be sufficient to indict himself of said fault, such as the following: “What if Obama is so outside our comprehension, that only if you understand Kenyan, anti-colonial behavior, can you begin to piece together his actions? That is the most accurate, predictive model for his behavior,” not to mention hysterical hyperbole like "(Obama’s) secular socialist machine represents as great a threat to America as Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union once did.” But Gingrich need not fret needlessly; after all Fox News, which is little more than a propaganda organ for the Republican Party.

Propaganda and paranoia doesn’t always work; sometimes enough people say this is enough. Santorum was defeated for re-election to the U.S. Senate in 2006 by the widest margin ever for an incumbent—59 to 41 percent—after a particularly vicious campaign in which Santorum worked overtime demonizing Latino immigrants. Santorum’s racism got the better of his tongue in a more recent episode, when he criticized suggestions to expand Medicare as a “plot” to make “black people’s lives better by giving them other people’s money. I want to give them the opportunity to go out and earn their money and provide for themselves and their families.” This illogical bit of twisted race paranoia goes hand-in-fist with another of Santorum’s dictums, that America was “great” before 1965—that is before the Civil Rights and Voting Rights acts, which obliged white folks to at least pretend that “colored” folks had rights they were bound to respect; nor was his “mistaken” assertion that Latino voters are “illegal” a slip of the tongue. This is a man who yearns for a segregated past where he does not need concern himself about the well-being of all Americans, not just those of his own race.

There are other reasons why someone of Santorum’s “caliber” shouldn’t be allowed to set foot in the White House—such as his reputation as the most corrupt politician in Congress; until his re-election defeat in 2006, Santorum took so much lobbyist money that some people believed that he represented everyone but his own constituents. Like Gingrich and his fascination with his version of “civilization,” Santorum lives in a world that no longer exists, one where privileged, “entitled” races such as the one he fancies he belongs to believes that “civilization” can exist protective cocoon, oblivious to the suffering they themselves helped establish the parameters of.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

It's a pigeon life

There are more than a few pigeons hanging around the airport, some even finding time to breed in some cubby-hole in a gateway. I’ve seen several dead pigeons, and I wondered how they died; they didn’t appear to have been killed by a sea gull competing for food, which would have the closest thing to a predator on the ramp. A week ago I was confronted by a curious sight: A pigeon crouched and ruffled in an aspect of sleep on the ground, oblivious to everything that was going on around it. I approached closed to it to see if it was actually alive; but other than the fact it acknowledged my presence by an eye movement, it otherwise didn’t move muscle. Normally a feral pigeon would not allow itself to be vulnerable in this fashion, but something was clearly wrong. Presently I went about my work-a-day business, but when I came back I noticed that the pigeon was sprawled out on the concrete, its wings spread out. It was still alive, but I didn’t hold out much hope for it. The next morning I checked on it and none to my surprised it had passed on to the next world. It had somehow known that its time was up, and just wanted to find a quiet place to die. It may have died from Salmonella, which in birds has no obvious symptoms; in the airport environment it is easy to contract such a disease, with the various contaminating agents available.

People are accustomed to seeing street pigeons, and sometimes take pleasure in feeding them. What an easy life they lead, or so people think. I once saw a pigeon that was acting quite bizarrely; it was trying to eat seed, but seemed to have considerable trouble doing so. Something seemed to be wrong with eyes, and it kept pecking at and missing its target. When it did by chance snare a morsel in its beak, it could not easily swallow it; it kept twisting its head backward in an effort to force the seed to fall down its throat by gravity. Most of the time it failed, the seed being tossed aside; it was a sad, pathetic sight. I observed it become weaker and weaker over the next two weeks, and then not at all. I did some research and discovered that the symptoms that I observed correlated with a disease called Pigeon Paramyxovirus. Mortality in moderate cases is 10 percent, but obviously a feral bird like this has even less chance of survival. In order for “domestic” pigeon to survive, it usually has to be hand fed, with the food pushed inside its throat.

I have also seen pigeons with foot deformities. One such bird had one toe on each foot. This is often caused by an infection called Staphylococcus, more commonly referred to as “bumble-foot.” Bacteria—often from tramping in pigeon droppings—gets inside cracks in the foot and causes various problems that lead to the destruction of foot tissue. In feral pigeons, bumble-foot cannot be reversed. However, these pigeons actually have a better chance of survival than birds whose toes were amputated after getting caught in stray wire, because of the more rapid progress of infection. Pigeons with bumble-foot can not only survive if food is plentiful, but be capable of breeding (I know; I’ve seen it).

I used to have very friendly relations with the pigeons at work, but not anymore; feeding them is discouraged. But I still find that there is something to be learned from them about life, and death. Here I’ve seen the fight for survival, battling against the odds, living with disabilities, and dying with dignity. I have even learned compassion, as in regard to this one-toed bird which has managed with some surreptitious assistance.

Twinkie economics

The recent news that Hostess is back in bankruptcy court for the second time in a decade does not come as a surprise to me; I haven’t purchased a Hostess product in twenty years. This isn’t because I no longer have the same affinity for Twinkies, Ding Dongs and Suzy Qs as I did when I was kid, or because I am more health conscious as been blamed for decreasing sales. The real problem is that because as an adult I had to take greater care in my spending habits; there just isn’t the bang-for-the-buck. A pair of Twinkies might cost 15 cents when I was kid, but today it might be $1.09 to $1.69, depending on where you find them. It doesn’t help that they also seem to be rather smaller than when I remember. Hostess is blaming labor and pension costs, and by filing for this bankruptcy it hopes to “address” these issues.

Hostess isn’t the only junk food supplier that has had issues with remaining competitive with its pricing. In 1968, a Hershey Bar cost 5 cents. In 1970, it cost 10 cents; in 1974 it rose to 15 cents, and in 1977 it was 20 cents. The price went up every few years by 5 cents. Between 1986 and 1991 the average price stayed steady at 40 cents. In 1995 it was still “just” 50 cents. Those days seem a lifetime ago; Depending on where you buy it, a candy bar at 1.55 ounces can cost anywhere from 99 cents to $1.19. Over in the fast food business, in 1974, a McDonald’s hamburger cost 30 cents. In 1991, a “value priced” hamburger cost 59 cents, an attempt for the chain to win back customers from competitors; I recall that a Burger King Whopper was selling for $1 in the early in the early 1990s. Today a “value” hamburger only costs $1.09—still a “bargain” when the standard entrée burger costs $4 or more.

But surely these are only details; after all wages have increased proportionately with inflation over the years. Take for example that in 1978, a job in a small sheet metal fabricating factory in small town Wisconsin paid $6.25 an hour to start, about $13,000 a year. In 2010 that same job—provided it wasn’t exported to China—would have, according to a calculator devised by the creators of an Internet site called “,” the purchasing power of $43,550 in 2010. However, if you could find a similar operation in some industrial park, the starting wage would likely be no more than $10 an hour, or $20,800 a year—constituting less than half the purchasing power of 1978 levels had wages kept pace with the Consumer Price Index. Just to bring the point home in an even more blunt terms, the 1978 wage as a percentage of GDP would be worth $82,333 today. What that tells us is that workers’ wages have been depressed as a percentage of GDP to one-quarter of what they were in 1978. It also tells us that someone else has been profiting rather handsomely in the past 30 years, and it hasn’t been the middle and working class.

Thus the price of a candy bar rose at least 500 percent from its 1978 price. Those Twinkies rose 700 percent, while the McDonald’s “value” hamburger rose a “modest” 350 percent; people may have also noticed that the price of snack chips have also increased dramatically in recent months. Of course it goes without saying that the price of real food, like fresh meat, fruits and vegetables, have increased in three digit increments. But actual wages for that sheet metal job increased only 60 percent. But millionaires and billionaires have made out like bandits. According to one source I found on the subject, there were 10 billionaires in the U.S. when Ronald Reagan took office; when he left office, there were 52--and this in spite of the loss numerous manufacturing industries. Most of these billionaires made their money from "unearned" wealth. Today there are nearly 8 million people in the U.S. classified as millionaires. That is 1-in-30 adults. Yet the median income in the U.S. is $33,000; this means that half of all working Americans--who are the real creators of wealth--make less than that amount.

Chocoholics not quite in paradise yet

“Sleeper” is the only Woody Allen movie that to my taste qualifies as “great,” and some recent news brings an early scene from that film to mind. After Allen’s character has been revived from cryogenic slumber, two scientists are discussing what they regard as unusual requests for his morning meal:

“Yes, this morning for breakfast he requested something called wheat germ, organic honey and tiger’s milk (laughter).”

“Oh, yes. Those were the charmed substances that some years ago were felt to contain life-preserving properties.”

“You mean there was no deep fat? No steak or cream pies or hot fudge?”

“Those were thought to be unhealthy, precisely the opposite of what we now know to be true.”


The recent news, of course, is that chocolate has “life-preserving” properties that only a few years ago would have induced laughter from the scientific and medical community. A Swedish study apparently has “good news” for chocoholic women; since they are the highest chocolate consumption group, they are more likely to “benefit” than men who (apparently established by the usual female myths rather than actual fact), ate less chocolate. Consuming a 1.6 ounce Hershey’s Bar or two every day can reduce the risk of stroke by 14 percent, believed to be due to chocolate’s assumed antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. This follows up a British Medical Journal report that claims that dark chocolate can reduce blood pressure. The caveat to the BMJ findings is that noticeable blood pressure improvement was seen only in people who already had hypertension issues. Also, chocolate that is rich in flavanol, an organic compound in plants and lauded for numerous medicinal benefits, has little actual effect on blood pressure.

Other researchers still caution that the unhealthy side effects of high-fat content milk chocolate may still outweigh its “benefits”—particularly candy bars whose only chocolate content is the covering of high-fat fillings. The milk in milk chocolate tends to inhibit the metabolizing of its medicinal properties, and the effectiveness of dark chocolate is reduced when the elements that contribute to its bitter taste are removed; unsweetened baking chocolate is likely the most “healthy” version. It would appear, unfortunately, that science still has a lot catching-up to do before the health food militant is proven wrong.

Right and wrong--or lack therof

On the front page of last Saturday’s paper was the news that there would be no federal civil rights charges pressed against Ian Birk, the former Seattle police officer who shot to death Native American woodcarver John T. Williams in broad daylight in downtown Seattle. This surprising decision was at odds with the determination of an inquest jury; inquest juries are notorious for finding police “justified” for killing even unarmed citizens, but in a rare turnabout all but one jurors found Birk’s actions unjustified. It was clearly an example of police officer creating a dangerous character out of his own paranoid fantasy world, literally within seconds losing all grasp of reality and judgment, and killing a man who was merely walking down a sidewalk, minding his own business, and posing no threat to anyone. But while it can be expected that the city attorney would do nothing, it is disheartening that the Feds refused to take action against Birk, particularly because there are more than a few officers like him roaming free and armed on the streets.

The Feds claimed that they could not make civil rights charges “stick” because the Justice Department’s investigation of the SPD found that the department’s “training” in the use of lethal force was lacking; thus it wasn’t Birk’s “fault” that he acted the way he did. If you feel an unhealthy sensation churning inside your stomach, I share your disgust. Is it current police training for an officer to see a man walking past on the crosswalk right in front of his squad car, formulate without the slightest evidence that he is violent menace—probably because he is a racial minority—jump out of his cruiser and begin shooting without taking in one moment to ascertain the true nature of what he was dealing with? If this is the case, then the SPD has far bigger problems than the even the Justice Department’s investigation found. Lax training wasn’t Birk’s problem; his problem was that he was psychologically unfit to carry a badge and a gun, and there are likely many more like him.

In the same newspaper edition there was a story about a Federal Way cop who heading to her coffee break at Starbucks at 1 pm, claimed to observe what she thought was a “hand-to-hand” drug transaction inside a car outside the coffee shop. She claimed that she communicated a verbal command to the occupants to stop what they were doing. She also claimed that she saw one of the men reaching for something under a seat. She further claimed that she yelled at them to get out of the car. When the man continued reaching under the seat, according to the officer, she started firing her weapon, upon which the car sped off (gosh, I wonder why?). The suspects’ vehicle was found a few blocks away, with the passenger dead and the driver missing. Maybe there is something to the officer’s story, maybe not. Take for instance Birk’s initial story, in which he claimed he saw Williams perched on a wall, and when Birk approached him, Williams jumped off the wall and advanced toward him menacingly with open knife. Even his police guild handlers couldn’t let him get away with this bald lie; police officers teach each other how to concoct such “likely” stories, but in this case, there was obvious evidence (like his dash cam), and three witnesses to contradict his initial tale. If this shooting had occurred in the wee hours of the morning with no witnesses, the lie would have become truth. Civil rights be damned.

Since the Feds refused to prosecute Birk, what motivation does the SPD have to change its “training” methods? None whatever.


Meanwhile, it was reported on NPR recently that the Obama administration successfully petitioned the FBI to expand its definition of rape in crime statistic reports, hoping to inflate the numbers, so long as local law enforcement cooperates. This is an example of how gender politics and victim mythology becomes intertwined with crime statistics, leading to wild but unsubstantiated claims in regard to such things as human trafficking and child prostitution. Still, it is unlikely that changes in the definitions that the FBI uses will be sufficient to satisfy the victim lust of activists and advocates, since the FBI relies on reported incidents, not assumptions, ratios and guesswork. The CDC report I commented on a few weeks ago, with its own expanded definitions, is likely to suggest an upper-limit on the prevalence of sexual crimes and domestic violence. But the curious thing remains that the focus is on women as victims, since the media and the activists studiously avoid the implications of the CDC findings on domestic violence. The fact that 25 percent more males than females report being victims of domestic violence in the previous 12 months of the survey suggests that while men have become more conscious of the fact that they can be arrested, charged and imprisoned for domestic violence, women apparently know no such restraint on their own actions.

One advocate quoted in the NPR report used the term an “incredibly violent crime” in reference to rape; it was not necessarily over the top, but in relation to what? Taking your small children out into the backyard and taking a large stone and crushing their heads in, or, like Andrea Yates, filling a bathtub with water, taking your five children one-by-one and holding them in the water while they struggle for life, until they drown? The Seattle P-I wrote an editorial praising the “justice” of the not guilty for reasons of insanity verdict in Yates' second trial. I wondered who inspired this horrific, hypocritical opinion; I know that Susan Paynter was still employed by the P-I at the time (she bailed shortly before the paper folded); I’m certain she had her fans—people I would have no commonality with—but I remember Paynter as a nauseating amalgamation of victim feminism, racial insensitivity, police abuse apologias and personal arrogance. Funny how radical feminism mixes so easily with such lesser pursuits; it probably has something to with the tyranny of it.

The insanity claim seems particularly popular in Texas in defense of women who commit, well, incredibly violent acts against children. Such was that case in 2003, when Deanna LaJune Laney took her three sons—including a toddler—out in the back yard, sat on the two older boys (6 and 8) and beat on their heads with a rock. The toddler was found in critical condition. In 2006, Dena Schlosser was charged with murder when her baby daughter bled to death after her arms were cut off. The judge in the case ruled that she was legally insane. Interestingly, all of these cases were blamed on the killer’s religious beliefs; but nowhere in the Bible does it say that parents (let alone mothers) are justified in killing their children. In Genesis, God commanded Abraham to sacrifice his son as a test of his faith; having been satisfied that Abraham was prepared to do this, God stopped him at the last moment and accepted a ram as a substitute (frankly, people should start paying more attention to the New Testament's version of God). On the other hand, the killing of these children was due entirely to murderers’ obsession with self and their own perceived “victimization.”

Sometimes I get the impression that a certain demographic is so wrapped-up in its “victimization” that some of its components have no sense of right and wrong. Some of you might remember the case of Mary Winkler, the Tennessee woman who murdered her preacher husband, shooting him in the back with a shotgun. Winkler claimed that she suffered years of sexual and psychological abuse, that no one else apparently saw. Two witnesses at her trial claimed that they saw her “cower” on one or two occasions in his presence, but this may well have been an act. It certainly contradicted her initial statement to police—and before she talked to her attorney—that her husband had not abused her “in any way.” Surprisingly, the prosecution did not press this contradiction at trial. It was, however, revealed that Winkler was a poor manager of money behind her husband’s back, engaging in check-writing fraud worth $5,000—something which did apparently cause considerable friction between them. Winkler was eventually convicted of voluntary manslaughter, but was set free for time served. This wasn’t a surprise to foreman Bill Berry, one of only two men sitting on the jury. Berry told Court TV that the 10 female jurors were “heavily” in favor of Winkler, and nine were ready to acquit her of all charges immediately. According to Berry, "I don't think justice was done. It's the times we're living in. People are getting away with murder today." He and the other male juror refused to countenance Winkler getting away scot-free, and the voluntary manslaughter conviction was a “compromise.”

Later, in an anecdote Ann Rule noted in her book "Smoke, Mirrors and Murder"--in which she admitted that despite the courtroom theatrics, her own research assistant in Tennessee could find almost no evidence to substantiate Winkler's claims--the "demure" Winkler, encountered in a bar drinking a beer, responded to the query "Are you the preacher-killer" by laughing and retorting “Yeah. You want to be next?”

A summary of the case on Trutv’s website included public comment. A Lisa Oglesby-Liljander said “I'm glad she got off..Im so sick of men abusing their wives and getting away with it. I don't think they deseve to be killed but sometimes they just push their wives too far. I hope Mary and her girls are living a wondreful peaceful life!” People like this are speaking for their own victim “entitlement,” not from knowable facts—particularly when it isn’t men who are necessarily “getting away with it.” Such people should be the last on the list passing themselves off as moral paladins. Mrs. Rule also included a brief discussion of that incident on New Year’s Eve when Mary was photographed in a bar with a beer, and holding a cigarette. The man who snapped the picture with his cell phone camera subsequently asked Mary: “Are you the preacher-killer?” Reportedly, Mary laughed, and said: “Yeah. You want to be next?”

No more Capital One in my wallet

Capital One Bank—best known for those credit card commercials with the tagline “What’s in your wallet?”—was one of those financial institutions that received federal bailout assistance to save it from itself, as one of many financial institutions involved in the home mortgage bumble. The federal government “purchased” $3.5 billion in Capital One stocks, which the bank “bought” back with remarkable haste, apparently with profits that makes one wonder why they needed bailout money to begin with. One thing for certain was that they continued to milk little people like me who honored their debts as a reliable “cash cows.”

It goes something like this: What they mean by what’s-in-your-wallet is a line of credit that represents money borrowed by the holder from the bank, usually at a higher interest rate than a normal bank loan. Since a normal bank loan requires that the borrower provide sufficient equity that can used as collateral in case the borrower defaults, there are checks and balances to the process; potential borrowers who do not have sufficient assets are (supposedly) prevented from making decisions they will regret later. Holders of credit cards, however, have only credit limits standing in the way of their own foolishness. Banks are at least partially protected from foolish lending by often exorbitant finance charges; if a borrower pays only the finance charge on a balance, it may take only a few years to pay off the amount of the original “loan,” but the original amount will still exist as a base, and continue to generate finance charges, which essentially become an indefinite source “profit” for the lender, unless the latter eventually declares bankruptcy—in which case the bank really hasn’t lost anything.

Over the past decade I held three Capital One cards and three others; being of very modest means to begin with, I fell into the trap, and one day I found myself unemployed. I could have filed for bankruptcy, but instead I contacted a debt consolidation intermediary, which was probably a mistake because the banks kept ignoring their “proposals” over a six-month period, allowing for the accumulation of late fees and over-limit charges. I finally sent a barrage of letters and e-mails threatening bankruptcy or payment refusals. Capital One eventually sent me a letter announcing that they had agreed to my “terms.” Three weeks later, the debt consolidation company sent me a self-congratulatory message alleging that the banks had accepted “their” proposals. I did some belated studying-up, and discovered that the financial experts council against dealing with debt consolidation firms, since they are little more than tools of credit card companies, to get them the best “deal”—such as allowing for the inflation of as much debt as credit card companies can create before letting their foot off the gas. The debt consolidation company who “worked” with me charged $40 a month as a fee for their “service,” which amounted to little more than facilitating an electronic transfer, which I could have used my own bank for a fee of $5.

It took me 50 months to pay off the Capital One cards, which constituted ¾ of my debt load—which in total ate-up forty percent of my take home pay. The credit limit of the COB cards totaled $11,700—upon which I paid $6,000 in finance charges to these pirates. Since I wasn’t making much to begin with, obviously I had to make some rather considerable compromises in my living arrangements. There was, however, some positives to glean from this experience: I learn to live within my meager means without resort to credit at all. I didn’t contribute much to the economy as a consumer because of my rather slim bottom line, but the fact that I learned a valuable life lesson while at the same allowing me to save money in the future without even thinking about it. Taking responsibility for paying my debts somehow moved my Fox News-fan dad (because it’s “fair and balanced”) to send me money to soften the landing in the past year. Although it is difficult for me to mentally accept help after all these decades of going it alone, I must accept it in the spirit it was given.


It retrospect, my situation could have been much worse. In 2002, I was hired by this sports apparel company (that has since gone mostly broke); but before my health insurance kicked in there developed a swelling under the left side of my jaw. It kept grower bigger and bigger, but I thought that I’d wait a week until I the insurance kicked-in. Unfortunately, it became harder and harder for me to open my mouth, and finally I couldn’t even fit a straw in it. I found myself sitting in the emergency room of Harborview, waiting for an hour before the check-in nurse called my number. She looked at me with disgust, asked me if someone had slugged me, and sent me sitting in the lobby again for another hour before I was called into a cubicle. The first doctor who looked at me was completely befuddled, but a second doctor looked into the narrow slit where my mouth used to be and determined that I had a very serious cavity, and had developed an abscess of rather considerable size. To make a short story shorter, I was operated on the next morning to remove the abscess, and spent the next four days hooked-up to a steady flow of antibiotics. When I was told I could leave, I discovered that an orderly had mislaid my shoes. I ended up scrounging around the hallways for a plastic garbage bag and cardboard to wrap around my feet. A couple weeks later I received the bill: $11,000—which of course the insurance company was not going to pay one penny, because it was a “pre-existing” condition. Because my income and expenses would not immediately cover that bill, the payment processors actually expected me to put its entirety on my credit cards, which of course was impossible. After some wrangling over a few weeks, my bill was reduced to 10 percent of the total, probably because the length of time it would take to complete the payments would not be worth the time and expense of keeping track of it; as a payment processor told me, getting something was better than nothing at all.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Packers' season ends with a not-so-surprising thud

I have been a Green Bay Packer fan since I could formulate a thought, although baseball and basketball were initially one and two in my affections because of the bigger-than-life radio personalities of Bob Uecker and Eddie Doucette. Football is far ahead of those sports now; a large part of the reason for this is because neither the Brewers nor the Bucks have had a “face of the franchise” for a very long time, someone whose success you could feel a vicarious connection to. Ryan Braun may turn out to be that player for the Brewers, depending upon his possible dependency on PEDs; but the Packers, mired in irrelevancy and mediocrity throughout the 70s and 80s, took the pedestal thanks to Brett Favre’s emergence. Favre arrived at an opportune time, on the heels of Robin Yount’s retirement, and he became the number one attraction in the state of Wisconsin, someone you could proudly say was your guy and no one else’s. This is why it was such a bitter pill of some of us to swallow when Ted Thompson and Co. shoved him out the door. I had a great deal of emotional capital invested in Favre as a Packer, far less than in Aaron Rodgers.

Thus I was not crushed when the Packers played a brutal game against the New York Giants, which could have been even more humbling had the team gone undefeated in the regular season. I wrote a month ago that the Packers, having escaped by the same 38-35 score over the New York Giants as the New England Patriots in 2007, ought hope they avoid seeing them again in the playoffs. Instead, it was déjà vu; like the Patriots that year—not to mention the Favre-led Packers in the NFC title game—their season was ruined. In 2007, the 10-6 Giants humiliated a 16-0 Patriots team, while this season a 9-7 Giants team did the same to a 15-1 squad. How could this happen? The fact is that many observers had the sneaky suspicion that the Packers were a bit of a fraud this year. They didn’t beat teams so much as outscore them, and when the offense couldn’t gather sufficient steam, you knew that it was only a matter of time before the defense blew apart. Too often the difference between winning and losing was who won turnover battle; the Packers had the best turnover ratio in the league during the regular season. But against the Giants, not only for the first time all season did the Packers had more turnovers than their opponent, but did so in dramatically disastrous fashion.

Unlike Tom Brady, Peyton Manning or Drew Brees, Rodgers was always capable of an absolute stinker of a performance where you were never under the impression that he was capable of saving the day. I don't buy the argument that he was rusty against the Giants; his back-up had a team record-setting performance after having thrown just 3 passes all season. I compiled in a previous post Rodgers’ Tim Tebow-like numbers from the second half of the Oakland game and the following week in Kansas City, where he seemed to be inert; perhaps some of this had to do with his receivers dropping balls as if they had grease on their hands, or an offensive line that seemed particularly porous against the Giants. Nevertheless, I never for a moment sensed that Rodgers would regain control of the situation against the Chiefs or the Giants as perhaps the true "elite" quarterbacks could. Many people criticized Favre's "gunslinger" mentality, but as he drolly observed after throwing a playoff record six INTs in a loss against the St. Louis Rams, "No risk, no reward." Rodgers, on the other hand, is a quarterback who thrives in good times, and appears lost in bad times.

I watched some of the game in the break room at work, and in the second quarter I found myself musing out loud that they should bench Rodgers and put Matt Flynn in the game. This won’t go down as the Packers best team after all, but it may be memorable for another reason: The year when another star quarterback in the making was revealed to the world.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

The quest for that elusive New Year's resolution

It’s been a week now, and I’ve given it up. No, it’s not trying to convince a local sports radio personality that Matt Flynn is the Seattle Seahawks answer at quarterback, but deciding on a New Year’s resolution. It seems like every year I resolve to save some money this time, but I never do. It’s an unrealistic resolution anyways; I’ll probably have to work until the day I die, for all the loose change that I earn. So what else could I do? I could resolve to rein in my impatience with people and be nice, but I don’t think so; I’ve tried that, and it doesn’t work for long. People are who they are; why should I change if they don’t? I sit here staring out a window with my fingers scratching my chin; it’s no good. I need help. Then something perfectly inane pops into my skull: What better place to find such assistance than from a fortune cookie? Those little missives have to be good for something, like some little nugget of inspiration. I have a small collection of these little strips of parchment. I don’t know why I kept them; maybe it is because some of them might come true—if I wait long enough. Well, actually, I kept them because I thought that they would be an interesting excuse to write a post like this:

“Now is the time to set your sights high and go for it.”

I’m not sure what “high” means at this point in my life, particularly given the current state of the economy and international affairs. People think things are bad today, but the world was going to hell in a hand basket when I was a kid many, many moons ago; in fact somebody in my family (my mother, I think) insisted that we all move to the country to have a plot of land to keep an overlarge garden to grow our own food, just in case of the collapse of civilization as we knew it. I seem to remember spending a lot of time on my knees pulling weeds, mostly because I was kind of the black sheep of the family (which also explained why it was me who had to wake-up an hour early to feed and water my sister’s horse before school; I think that horse knew I hated having to do it, because it always behaved with malicious rudeness when I appeared each morning). Not surprisingly, my principle ambition as a kid was to run away into the woods and create my own personal empire lording over the minions of nature; when I became older, I wanted -- like Thoreau -- to find my pond and spend my days pondering and writing. Good thing for me I can’t tell the difference between a low and a high sight; they’re both hard to reach.

“This week your lucky day is Saturday. Enjoy the fun.”

I’ve worked every Saturday for the past 4+ years. I wake up in the morning at 2 AM, and if I’m lucky, I arrive home at 6 PM. I suppose that it is possible for me to have “fun” Saturday night, except that I work Sunday, too. What passes for “lucky” on a Saturday these days is if I find a dollar on the sidewalk.

“You will benefit by stretching your mind. Study a foreign language.”

I “studied” French for a year when I was in college, because it was a requirement to take at least one year of foreign language study in order to graduate. I really had to “stretch” my mind to memorize enough of that nonsense that I was never going to use to pass those classes. The only useful phrase I learned was “Parlez-vous anglais?” I was, admittedly in Paris once, while I was on leave in the Army; I recall finding myself under the Eifel Tower where there was a food stand which offered a hamburger-looking item identified as a “Whopper.” I thought to myself, “Now here is something I can ask for that I can pronounce without one of these arrogant bastards looking at me as if I’m a talking monkey.” So I pointed at the sign and said “Un Whopper.” The proprietor looked at me as if I was a talking monkey. I repeated my request, and with a sneer the proprietor “corrected” my pronunciation: “Whop-pare.” Huh??? What an illiterate. If these people are going to steal the name of an iconic American fast food item, they can at least get the frigging pronunciation right.

“You are competent, creative and careful. Use your talents.”

Al Franken, who is currently a U.S. senator from Minnesota—a rather large leap from being a skit writer for Saturday Night Live—appeared on his own skit called “Daily Affirmations with Stuart Smalley.” He’d look at himself in the mirror and say "I'm good enough. I'm smart enough. And doggone it, people like me." Frankly, every time I look in the mirror, I’m reminded of the fact that it doesn’t matter what I think, it is what other people see.

“Three times a week, treat yourself to dessert.”

Just three times a week? This makes it sound like it’s hard. When I was in the Army, there was dessert set out for lunch and dinner every day. I never missed even one.

“You are often unaware of the effect you have on others.”

Well, I have this suspicion of the effect I have on others—like when I’m followed by a security guard in a store, or when someone runs back to make sure their car doors are locked when they see me walking down the sidewalk, or when a cop gives me the eye, or when a glorified airline waitress asks me if I have the swine flu, and then pretends it was supposed to be a “joke.”

“Success will come to your plans. Are politics in your future?”

I can’t wait until I think of that plan now. And, well, no. Can you think of a more decrepit, disgraceful occupation these days (I’m talking mainly Republicans, of course)?
“Prepare today for the demands of tomorrow. Plan your move.”

The demands of tomorrow are the same as ones today, and yesterday. Work, eat, sleep. I can’t plan anything until I know that my next paycheck actually has the correct amount, which I will touch on later.

“The world needs your positive energy. Go out and conquer.”

Thanks to the miracle of the modern dictionary, “positive” does not necessarily mean something that has to be “optimistic”; it can also mean forward movement, or an opinion confidently and unwaveringly expressed—even if another person finds it appalling. Fox News funny farm escapee Sean Hannity has “positive” energy, and he has had amazing success conquering people with political and social IQs of 10.

“An interesting musical opportunity is in you near future.”

I figure that people either ignore these things if they don’t apply—or if they do, are willing to suspend reality and fantasize what the word “interesting” signifies in this context. Not me. Twenty years ago I was possessed by some demon that told me I could learn to play the harmonica, and I now I own a half-dozen of these instruments, all of which are currently gathering some strange-looking green material. The last thing (or one of the last things, anyways) I’m “interested” in is the “opportunity” to have anyone hear me playing one of them.

“You will bring sunshine into someone’s life this week.”

I’m not sure it is possible for me to do that, not being the sunshiny type. Maybe the next time I’m at the 7-Eleven, I’ll note the name tag of the cashier and say “Have a good night (cashier’s name).” People actually appreciate it when you recognize their individuality, and not some nameless, faceless cog in the wheel of commerce. But only if the cashier is nice to me, and my standards are pretty high.

“Keep in mind that it’s the journey and the destination that counts.”

Where do they come-up with this crazy crap? For 99 percent of the people in this country, the “journey” is a slog through the morass of living to work, or working to live. All this to occasionally “treat” oneself to going out to eat, bar-hopping, going to a movie, wandering around a mall with friends or watching TV. Snore. How you get there is totally irrelevant. “Flowers would brighten the day of your close friend.”

Depends upon who that close friend is; that “friend” might regard you as someone they don’t want anyone to know that they know you. Fortunately, I don’t know anyone who would appreciate getting flowers from me, so I don’t need to bother.

“You will enjoy doing something different this coming weekend.”

No good. Since I work weekends, it is easy to imagine enjoying doing something different—like sleeping all day.

“Your personality is fueled by the fascination you feel for life.”

You got that right, for once.

“An unexpected payment is coming your way!”

Some rich guy writing me a check for a million dollars out of the goodness of his heart would be unexpected, but I’ll settle for my next paycheck not getting fouled-up, like my last two.

Alright, so I can’t expect someone else, especially a fortune cookie composer, to help me formulate a New Year’s resolution. Conveniently, I have all the rest of the year to think of one.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Cowards and bullies

The day began with KOMO radio commentator Ken Schram—the one who is just slightly “left” of right-wing extremist John Carlson on this “news” station that allegedly reflects the prevailing attitudes of “progressive” Seattle—scapegoated the one or two “illegal students” who may have received college scholarships in someone’s racist fantasy as the people responsible for this state’s pathetic support of higher education. It ended with revelations that “anonymous” New York Jets players—“well respected,” according to a New York Daily News story—were defecating on quarterback Mark Sanchez, supposedly for being “lazy” in practice and not having a rapport with his receivers—presumably head cases like Santonio Holmes and Plaxico Burress.

On the possibility that the Jets could dump Sanchez and trade for Peyton Manning, a “Jets source” told the newspaper that “Come on. That's a no-brainer. If you have a chance to get a healthy 36-year-old Peyton Manning and you don't do it, then you're stupid. If I could get a healthy 36-year-old Peyton Manning, then, hell yeah, I would trade Sanchez." One of the “anonymous” players who criticized Sanchez asserted "How can we when he's not improving at all? He thinks he is, but he's not. He has shown us what he's capable of."

However, this same player unwittingly indicted the whole team’s incompetence by claiming that if Manning were the “field general,” everyone would be certain to be “lined up” where they were supposed to be. Some people suspect that this “player” who was trying to pass blame is Santonio Holmes, who was released by the Pittsburgh Steelers for just this kind of locker room gangsterism—and may not be long for the Jets after his antics on the field against the Dolphins in week 17.

The whole thing had the stincture of hypocrites when there was plenty of blame to go around for the Jets’ sad season, and Jets fanatic Mike Greenberg ripped the anonymous players and sources as classless, gutless and pathetic. After spending all year pushing each other over to get in front of a microphone, “Look how small they look” now. Offensive linemen Nick Mangold and Wayne Hunter also took exception to the anonymous commentary; talking to ESPN, Mangold disputed the claim that Sanchez did not practice hard, and "If there's really a problem, if there is something wrong, you should man up and own up to what you're going to say. When no one has their name attached to it, I think it's kind of an easy way out to air your personal grievances that should be kept in the locker room." He also “vowed to take care of that problem.” Hunter also said he would back Sanchez. “The whole offense is at fault. I need to get better at my craft and I will. Players need to be held accountable. Play calling can only go so far without execution. For our own teammates to call out Mark in the media is selfish and to remain unnamed is cowardly." Another “source” admitted that Sanchez "didn't have much confidence in what he was about to go do. You could tell throughout the week in practice. He never felt comfortable with some of the things we were doing."

After ESPN posted the report on its website, the comments from readers came fast and furious—some of them immediately deleted. “Racism is not cool people okay” wrote the ESPN moderator. Some questionable comments, however, that did get through:

“Time to swim back across the Rio.”

“I have hemorhoid right now, it has a better arm than Sanchez.”

“Well Dirty comes from a long line of proud mexican-americans with a background in recycling.”

“Sanchez's mouthpiece makes me want to punch him in the face, your name is sanchez we know you're a mexican.”

“Of course he's lazy. He can fail at his job and get paid millions. If real workers had that chance.....”

“Hes Lazy and getting paid bank at the same time.... Good for Sanchez..... Not all of us can be lazy at work and still get paid millions...”

“Hey Sanchez! When the NFL doesn't work out. You an always come trim my shrubs.”

Not all the commentary resorted to racist stereotypes; after all, Sanchez has acted with more class in the face of all the criticism than you would expect from your every day prima donna. And he has not acted like a despicable heel, like another diva wide receiver did when viewing a catered locker room buffet: "What the [expletive]? Who ordered this crap? I wouldn't feed this to my dog":

“I think the ‘some players’ are one player and it's Santonio Holmes. I'm not a Sanchez fan but he had a reputation at USC as being a very hard worker and highly motivated. Could be wrong but doesn't sound like him.”

“While this may shine a light on how Sanchez is viewed by his teammates, it reveals more on what kind of ship Rex Ryan is steering in NY. Players shouldn't go to the papers to badmouth a player. No matter how he acts. That's something an 18 yr old girl would do to try to win Prom Queen.”

“Sanchez almost took Jets to promised land as a rookie. You gotta surround Sanchez with positive players, not the plague like those making these comments then hiding.”

There were others who didn’t understand what the fuss was all about:

“Why does this mediocre, irrelevant team who hasn't won anything in over 40 years still hog up so much gosh darn ESPN programming time?!!!!”

Johnette Howard of ESPN New York also derided the notion that Peyton Manning would want to play for the same franchise that Brett Favre was unwillingly traded to, and faked retirement (again) so that he get on another team:

“Just forget it. Wipe it out of your mind. He's not coming to New York, and the fact that it's even being treated as a realistic possibility is just one last desperate gasp of Jets hubris playing out from muscle memory before everyone snaps back to reality and admits the obvious. Any NFL player with attractive options -- which Manning will surely have if he's given a clean bill of health -- would be nuts to come to the mess that is the Jets' franchise right now.”

Football notes

Alabama’s total domination of LSU in the BCS title game only confirms my personal belief that there should be a rule that prevents two teams from the same conference from playing for the national championship. I support this notion for two reasons: One, these teams already played against each other, and familiarity with the opponent allows for greater specificity in game planning against the strengths and weaknesses of the other team. Whether Alabama was the better team all along, or LSU didn’t prepare for the game with any diligence, doesn’t change my opinion. If Alabama or LSU was obliged to prepare for a team with a scheme that it had not seen all season, the game might have been more entertaining.

The second reason for opposing two teams from the same conference in the championship game is because the assumption that the SEC has the best collection of teams is a matter of opinion, not necessarily of fact. Against non-conference opponents this season from the Big Ten, ACC, Big East, Pac 12, Big 12 and two other notable teams, BYU and Boise State, the SEC was 10-7. A winning record, but not the label of complete domination over other conferences that the sports media has tended to bestow upon the SEC. LSU beat Oregon and West Virgina, but Georgia lost to Boise State and Michigan State. The only non-conference opponent that Alabama played of note all year was Penn State. This may not necessarily be evidence that there is a bias in how the conferences are stacked up, but it would have been more informative if the SEC had the guts to play more than one Pac 12 or Big 12 team and their run and gun offenses.


I don’t mind local sports commentators making merry at Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger expense as an injury diva, since it is not without cause. The broadcast of the game against Denver did so many close-ups of his injured foot that even Tim Tebow would get envious of all that attention. But the attention was unwarranted; if he wanted to play with that foot, then it was his problem, and the team’s. As one may recall, Jay Cutler took himself out of the NFC championship game last year, apparently because he thought he was “hurting” the team. If Roethlisberger was hurting the team, then it is the coach’s fault he stayed in the game. Or if he wasn’t hurting the team, then maybe his injury wasn’t as serious as all that.

Some people, while acknowledging that he was a tough guy, claim that Brett Favre was an injury diva, but people really don’t know the kind of injuries and their severity that he played with over the course of 297 straight career starts; most people do not know this, but Favre suffers from the same degenerative hip disease that ended Bo Jackson’s career. I did some research, and I found this fascinating article by Patrick Hruby of ESPN Page 2 after Favre’s consecutive start streak ended. The following is an edited version of the post, with additional odds and ends:

In his first season with Green Bay in 1992, Favre suffered a first-degree shoulder separation in a game against Chicago. Symptoms: “Soreness of movement when lifting your arm above your head.” Usual recovery time: 2 to 4 weeks. After work difficulties: Sleeping and getting dressed.

In 1993, Favre suffered a deep-thigh bruise against Tampa Bay. Functional issues: “Potentially very painful -- think the worst charley horse of all time. Standing, walking, using stairs and even sitting can be brutal, in part because sufferers can't always straighten their knees.” Usual recovery time: 1 to 6 weeks.

In 1994, Favre sustained a severely bruised left hip, or hip pointer. “‘It's very painful due to all the nerves that cross the hip ridge,’ says Dr. Cindy Trowbridge, clinical education director for the Athletic Training Education Program at the University of Texas at Arlington. ‘It hurts to breathe, laugh and even sit up.’” Usual recovery time: 1 to 6 weeks.

In week 9 of the 1995 season, Favre incurred a severely sprained left ankle in a game against Minnesota. Such a sprain “indicates complete tearing of the ligaments on the outside of the ankle, which swells badly and can no longer bear weight.” Usual recovery time: 2 to 3 months. The following week, Favre threw 5 touchdown passes against Chicago. In the season finale against Pittsburgh, Favre coughed up blood after a particularly brutal hit; Green Bay would, however, advance to the NFC title game, losing to Dallas.

In a preseason game in 1999, Favre sustained a sprained right thumb, which he played with the rest of the season. For normal people, the usual recovery period is 4 to 6 weeks.

In 2000, and again in his final season, Favre suffered from tendinitis in his right elbow. Its effect: “Reduced grip and wrist strength. Typically mild to moderate pain; the more you use the elbow joint -- practically speaking, the more you use your afflicted arm -- the more painful it becomes.” Usual recovery time: 4 to 12 weeks. The 2000 injury occurred in training camp, so Favre presumably played with this injury the entire season. Added to this, Favre played with a left foot sprain for much of the season.

In 2002, a week after the Packers defeated the defending Super Bowl champion New England 28-10 in the midst of a seven-game winning streak, Favre sustained a sprained lateral collateral ligament in his left knee against Washington. Usual recovery time is 6 to 12 weeks, but Favre maintained wearing a knee brace the rest of the year.

2003: Favre broke his right thumb against St. Louis in week 7. For normal people, the average recovery time is 6 weeks to 4 months. Typical treatment: “Arm placed in a cast for four to six weeks, followed by a splint for a few additional weeks. Next comes rehab to improve range of motion and strength.” Again, we are talking about normal human beings.

The never-ending cycle: In 2004, in Favre’s only memorable passing duel with Peyton Manning, the two combined for 753 yards passing and 9 TD passes. In that game Favre sustained a left hamstring bruise the size of a softball. "Normally, it starts as black and blue from bleeding within the muscle. Then it will turn yellow and green. What freaks most people out is that gravity starts pulling the blood down towards the feet, and bruising starts to occur in areas lower than where the injury occurred. That means there is some good muscle tearing happening." Usual recovery time is 6 weeks or more. Then against Dallas in week 7, Favre sprained his throwing hand; the usual procedure is to spend two weeks wearing a brace. Favre, of course, didn’t miss a beat.

In 2006, Favre injured his ulnar nerve in his right elbow. A severe injury of this nature can cause permanent paralysis of the hand. That Favre began suffering from bone spurs in his left ankle—a chronic condition that would plague him for the rest of his career.

A 2007 contest against Dallas featured two 10-1 teams; it also found Favre knocked out with a forearm injury, which affected his play the remainder of the year. This game is most notable for being the only “meaningful” playing time that Aaron Rodgers saw before 2008.

In 2008 as quarterback of the New York Jets, Favre tore his right biceps, which turned out to be the cause of his lackluster play the final five weeks of the season. Favre could still throw the ball, but the pain was enormous. He would eventually have a procedure done on his arm before he joined the Vikings in 2009.

In 2009, Favre pulled a groin preparing for his “return” to Lambeau Field, where he threw 4 TD passes in a 38-26 victory over the Packers. Later in the NFC Championship game, Favre suffered a brutal over-and-under hit that should have flagged, causing a stress fracture to his left ankle and fractured heel. Favre had off-season surgery on the ankle, but it was reinjured in 2010 against Green Bay in week 7. Favre continued to play with the injury.

The injury that finally ended Favre’s consecutive start streak in 2010 was a sprained sternoclavicular joint in his right shoulder. The effects of such and injury: “Very, very painful. Swelling and tenderness in the front of the chest. The SC joint attaches the collarbone to the breastbone -- in essence, the arm to the body -- which means most upper-body motions are affected. Worst case scenario: An unstable collarbone can compress major blood vessels, including the jugular vein and aorta.”

People don’t know half of what they think they know. Although Favre was paid $16 million to come back for another try in 2010, his “reluctance” could easily be misunderstood as something else.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

The "elite" quarterback question aka can Falcons pass "go" with Ryan?

Does a quarterback necessarily have to be “elite” to win a Super Bowl? And what exactly is an “elite” quarterback? In regard to the first question, we can answer in the affirmative since at least 1999, when Kurt Warner, Mike Martz and the St. Louis Rams ushered in the current NFL era, where a pass-first offense could roll over teams coached by men who were weaned on the ground-and-pound offenses of the 1960s and 70s. There were a few holdovers from the old days who managed a last gasp, like the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Baltimore Ravens who relied on the run and a potent defense to overcome their deficiencies in the passing game; the 2007 New York Giants fit somewhere in the middle, with the Giants grinding through the playoffs almost in spite of Eli Manning. But they have been the exceptions. Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Ben Roethlisberger, Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers are considered “elite” quarterbacks not because they can “manage” games, but because they can slice opposing defenses almost at will with their arms. With a few exceptions, every NFL team wants a quarterback who, when called upon, can overcome all obstacles when the matters look most dire, and nothing else seems to work. The Packers and the Patriots have lived almost exclusively on the pass this season; it takes an elite-level quarterback to run such offenses to overcome defensive schemes that target their one-dimensional nature.

But the problem is that quarterbacks who perform “elite” on a regular basis are rare. The 1991 draft demonstrated just how rare such quarterbacks are; that draft was so horrible that the one quarterback who amounted to anything in the NFL, Brett Favre, produced three-quarters of entire the statistical output of the combined class. However, sometimes a quarterback only has to be “elite” for a year, a maybe even a game—and sometimes only for a play. I have a hard time regarding Eli Manning as an “elite” quarterback, but in between the mostly pedestrian performances he can light it up the scoreboard at the most opportune times, and sometimes only a few plays are necessary, like the occasional long-distance hook-ups with Victor Cruz this year and that seem to arrive like a bolt of lightning and deflate the opposing team.

Other quarterbacks, who are considered on the “cusp,” just don’t seem to be able make that next leap, and there is a question if they ever will. I’m not talking about Mark Sanchez, who was saddled with a running game that produced 40 fewer yards per game than last year, one wide receiver who is a diva head case who dogged routes if he thought he wasn’t “involved,” and another one who after two years out of the league was too slow to get open or make plays on the ball; unlike some “better” quarterbacks, Sanchez actually stepped-up his performances in the playoffs, with a QB rating 20 points higher than the regular season, and 9 TD passes to 3 INTs in 6 games. Rather, the quarterbacks I am talking about are “franchise” players like Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco. On Sunday, Ryan again dudded-out, falling to 0-3 in playoff starts. To begin with, I’m not sure Ryan is as good as billed. I see him as someone who seldom throws the ball downfield willingly, preferring the “safe” dink-and-dunk passes. Atlanta has a better-than-average running game, but does Ryan “step-up” when the running game is ineffective? There is little evidence of that. Against the Giants, as was apparent in his previous two playoff starts, Ryan could barely function; yes, he was harassed most of the game, but he seldom seemed able to make that rapid, decisive action, repeatedly dumping the ball off for little gain. Ryan’s passer rating in the playoffs is a mere 71.2, a stat that hardly indicates his true ineffectiveness—only 584 yards on 70 pass completions; these are hardly what you want from a “franchise” quarterback.

The same goes for Flacco. Although Flacco is 4-3 in the playoffs, this is largely due to the defense holding opponents to an average of 10 points per game in those victories. Flacco himself has been more or less miserable: 61.6 passer rating , 4TDs to 7 INTS. Frankly, I don’t expect next week’s game against banged-up Houston to be instructive as to Flacco’s progress, but if Baltimore actually loses that game, I don’t think there should be any question that Flacco is an average quarterback who does just enough in the regular season, but simply doesn’t have the consistency or intangibles to beat the better teams that prepare for him. Another quarterback whose been receiving a great many accolades is Andy Dalton; but he remains a question mark, with a 1-7 record against teams with winning records.


I want to take the time now to weigh-in on the Tim Tebow story. There is a lot of talk of his passing mechanics or lack therof, but there is a difference between throwing balls in traffic on short and medium routes, and throwing long balls to receivers who have separated themselves and nobody is likely to catch them except the receiver. Even if you complete only one-third of those passes, the chances that they will be converted into points is sometimes worth that risk. There was no way the Broncos were going to beat the Steelers unless Tebow could convert an occasional huge play, because he couldn’t convert on short passes on anything like a consistent basis. Most quarterbacks require 25 completions to reach 316 yards; Tebow needed only 10 pass completions (Think that’s impressive? In a game against the Colts in 1972, Joe Namath threw for 496 yards on just 15 pass completions—including TD passes of 80,79,67 and 65 yards). This can be a handicap if you are trying to eat-up clock, but the big play has the greater probability of a big pay-off, like the receiver getting behind the secondary and running 80 yards for a winning score. Tebow made relatively few plays against the Steelers, but the ones that he did make broke the back of the Steeler defense because of their deflating nature.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Shawn Kemp's "know-nothing" party

I happened to be listening to a sports radio program yesterday afternoon which featured retired Seattle Supersonics forward Shawn Kemp as a “guest” to contribute his own unique take on the topics of the day. After contributing a few lame clichés, Kemp became animated when hosts “Bob and Groz,” brought-up the topic of free agent first baseman Prince Fielder, and the likelihood he could wind-up in Seattle. Kemp was all for it, his reasoning that the team has too many foreign players and needed more “Americans” that “Americans” can identify with. I have to admit that this statement hit me like a bucket of ice water. What was he was referring to, and who were the people he thought shared his view? Was he talking about Latinos like Felix Hernandez and Michael Pineda? Ichiro? There were 41 players who played at some point on the Mariner roster in 2011; seven were from Latin America (Jason Vargas is from California), one from Japan and one player from Canada. There were 32 “Americans” on the roster to “identify” with, if they were any good.

So what is Kemp talking about? I suspect that as a black man he is conscience of the fact that there hasn’t been a black American on the team who has been a local hero for at least a decade; and Kemp is certainly aware of complaints about the declining numbers of black American representation in baseball, a state of affairs that some players—like Torii Hunter—have scapegoated Latinos as the “cause” of. There are reasons for the declining interest in baseball by blacks, and none of them have anything to do with “foreign” players; but it is easier to blame someone else—and this is built into the new guidelines governing the recruitment of “foreign” players in the recently signed collective bargaining agreement. Are we allowed then to suspect that it is Kemp and the people he hangs out with that have this racial hang-up about Latinos? I once overheard this black Metro bus driver complain to one of his “brothers” that Latinos think that they are “on top” now because the most recent Census numbers indicate that there are more Latinos than blacks in the country. I mused to myself if he meant “on top” of the social dung heap.

There was no doubt Kemp’s statement had a racial, xenophobic element, and there was a noticeable silence before “Groz” finally offered that he was probably “right.” I’ll give “Groz” the benefit of the doubt; either he didn’t have time to process fully Kemp’s statement, or he didn’t want to embarrass Kemp by pointing out that some people might interpret his statement as racist. Or perhaps I shouldn’t even allow that; after Kemp left the set, there followed a brief discussion concerning Boomer Esiason’s “Chihuahua” comment concerning Mark Sanchez (who is Mexican-American), but then ensued the kind of debased commentary we’ve been hearing directed at Sanchez all year that commentators wouldn’t dare apply to another player for fear of being accused of some “ism.” It is interesting to note that Esiason is a frequent guest on Sean Hannity's Fox News show; most non-Fox News fans regard Hannity as a serial liar and bigot.

And since we are this subject, I might as well relate a discovery I made on the Internet. There was a video posted about a week ago on the Oshkosh (WI) Northwestern website. It featured a pale, blonde female named Brianne Lund, a student at UW-Green Bay and the current Miss Green Bay Area. She had something important on her mind that she just had to tell us, dripping with a tone of narcissistic vanity:

“This is me. I am who I am. I’m comfortable in my own skin, and I’m proud of my fair skin.”

She wasn’t auditioning for a face cream commercial, she was telling you matter-of-factly that was white, and she was wasn’t going to apologize for it. So why did she feel she had to defend her pale whiteness? Because she was, well, a racist and she didn't want to feel bad about it? I doubt that Lund actually posted this herself on the website; somebody probably discovered it somewhere and thought a person like her should be publicly exposed (there was another video of a Tea Party bus tour stop in Green Bay, apparently intended to make the participants look ridiculous). It reminded me of what I heard from this very pale, very blonde female student in a classroom at the southern university I attended. Right out of the blue and without any relation to what was being discussed in class, she blurted out that she wasn’t a racist, but she would never marry a black man. She just wouldn’t; but she wasn’t a racist. There room was silent. OK. And your point is??? I’m certain there are many people, particularly in the South, who feel the same way she did, but you don’t talk about it—it is just the way it is. But don’t tell us it has nothing to do with race; there is a very thin line between making decisions based on race, and racism, and she was trying to straddle that line to ease her conscience.

At any rate, Miss Green Bay Area’s hometown was Berlin, which like many small towns in Wisconsin was founded by German and Scandinavian immigrants; I spent my high school years in a town like this, which was as about as lily-white as they come, although in recent years there has been some slight demographic changes due mainly to Latino immigration. Berlin is 90 percent white, and like Lund of mostly of German extraction. Three-quarters of its non-white population is Latino. Having had to listen to the things I have just described, I can’t say I’m surprised by the racial attitude expressed by Ms. Lund.

Quarterback go-round

The problem with the arguments of some people in regard the Seattle Seahawks’ quarterback options is that if you are going to take Matt Flynn off the table merely because someone “Trent Dilfer) says he needs to be on a “throw first” team, you are also including Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and Drew Brees in that group. And might as well include Andrew Luck as well. Luck doesn’t want to go to a place like Seattle where the “system,” if played according to Pete Carroll’s plan, will require him to hand the ball off two out of every three plays. Luck will have visions in his mind of being an “elite”-level quarterback—meaning the Manning, Rodgers, Brees and Brady numbers. If we believe Carroll, he will not be the “focus” of the offense, let alone the team. Anything else will be a waste of his talent—and may lead to a regression in his play.

I did find interesting that Mike Salk was talking-up Russell Wilson as a possible Seahawk, likely as an alternative to Flynn if Luck and Robert Griffin III are unattainable. I grew-up in Wisconsin and I remain a Big Ten guy, and I pay attention to what’s going on with the Badgers. I recall all the buzz around Wilson when he arrived in Madison this past summer, and how high expectations were—that Badgers now had that quarterback who was going to lead them to a national championship. I admit I was wondering who this guy was that I had never heard of, and who the locals were making out to be another Cam Newton (in spirit if not in size). But Wilson impressed early, and unlike last year, the Badgers played at a consistently high level on offense. Wilson wound-up having statistically the best season ever for a Badger quarterback. There were two disappointing losses in conference play against Michigan State and Ohio State, in which Wilson almost pulled victories out of a hat in fourth quarter comebacks after sluggish play for three quarters; a lot of people, however, questioned coach Bret Bielema's clock management and use of timeouts—especially in the Rose Bowl when two timeouts were wasted early in the third quarter, which turned out to be critical mistakes. Would I be interested to see Wilson in Seattle? Why not as a mid-round pick? He’s not likely to go higher than that. There is a fifty-fifty chance that a player with his poise, movement and arm could make him quarterback material in the NFl, but more likely his size (“officially” 5-11) will destine him to back-up status; I also see him as a step or two below Flynn as starter material.

Another thing that should be looked at before drafting a quarterback like, say, Robert Griffin III (who is the kind that always looks good in college) is whether you are getting a quarterback whose instinct after the first read is to run with the ball. There is a fascinating book, “Strong Arm Tactics: A Historical and Statistical Analysis of the Professional Quarterback” by John Maxymuk, which tells us that teams with running quarterbacks are less likely to go to the playoffs, and when they do, less likely to advance past the divisional round. Running quarterbacks are also injury prone, and worse, resistant to coaching. Cam Newton may be that exceptional talent where these debits have minimal impact, insofar that his size and athleticism allows him to out-physical any opponent, or so he believes. Other quarterbacks with reputations as runners, like John Elway and Steve Young, eventually won Super Bowls, but that came long after their best running days were behind them.

What about Griffin? I’ve done my research, and I discovered that Griffin liked to run as much as pass coming out of high school. As a freshman at Baylor, he threw for 2000 yards and led the team in rush attempts and rushing yards. Since then his ratio of passing yards to rushing yards has gone up. The reason for this appears to be because he was forced to change his style. Why? Because early in his sophomore year he tore an ACL, and he sat out most of the year; of course few people seem to know this because he’s only appeared in the public consciousness since this past October. Perhaps fear of reinjuring the knee (a second torn ACL on the same knee often ends a player's career) led to more work on Griffin’s passing skills and less on the running, and there has been obvious improvement in that area. If Griffin thinks he is a one-man playmaker like Newton, the question is how long can he last against NFL defenses, since he is not the same physical specimen. As I suggested the other day, he might not be someone Carroll wants to waste draft picks on to get, if indeed he is looking for a quarterback (like Flynn) who has the intangibles and has shown an ability to perform against top NFL teams—and is still at a point where he is not the headcase who can’t be “molded” to fit into another “system.” Flynn has shown that he is highly coachable and has obviously shown the ability to absorb and excel in a “system” markedly different than the one he played in college. This should only be the more obvious when one realizes that Flynn’s predecessor at LSU—JaMarcus Russell—was one of the biggest busts in NFL history, unable to absorb and adapt to a pro-style offense.

Another tiresome excuse for not seriously considering Flynn is he is still an “unknown,” as if people don’t want to believe their own eyes. The same thing could be said about any quarterback coming out of college, but at least there is a sample of NFL play from to extrapolate from. I mentioned once before that I watched Tarvaris Jackson in a late season game against the Packers in 2006, and wondering if the Vikings could possibly be serious about this guy; the Packers were unable to move the ball most of the game, yet T-Jack kept them in the game with inept play until the Packers finally put together a drive at the end that led to a game-winning field goal. In 2011 Jackson is still in the league, so his “unknowns” is known to everyone but the Seahawks. While he has shown improvement of a sort, Jackson has never approached having the kind of performances that Flynn has had in just two starts. Numbers like 480 yards and 6 TDs in a game are real and tangible evidence that Flynn has top-end talent if utilized correctly.

NFL history has been littered with examples of other “unknown” quantities at quarterback. Kurt Warner was 28 years old when after a career in the Arena league and sitting on the bench as a third-stringer for a year before coming out of nowhere to set the NFL aflame and win a Super Bowl. Steve Young started out with Tampa Bay in unimpressive fashion before his HOF career, waiting out Montana for years before he got his chance in San Francisco. As a rookie, Johnny Unitas was cut by the Steelers because the coach thought he we wasn't "smart enough." Jerry Kramer remarked on how in the beginning Bart Starr reminded him of methane gas, because he was "colorless, odorless and tasteless--virtually invisible." That was before Lombardi arrived to revive a 1-10 team. Starr was an example of how a coach like McCarthy can mold a player like Flynn who exists in the shadows, who draft scouts downgraded because he didn't play in a pro-style offense at LSU. I kind of laugh at people who compare him to Kolb and Cassell, when a more apt comparison is to Rodgers and his situation, when he had no starts and one meaningful appearance in three years.