Monday, October 16, 2017

Time for memory lane for Packer fans who have fogotten the pre-Favre/Rodgers era?

Fresh off a last minute drive to victory last week against the Dallas Cowboys and a victory over Seattle already in the books, the Green Bay Packers seemed poised to make a strong claim to be Super Bowl favorites. Due to an incomplete knowledge of history, “America’s Team” has the reputation by being the New York Yankees of the NFL, but that simply is not true. They haven’t been to a Super Bowl in over two decades, and outside the Troy Aikman era when the Packers lost eight straight to the Cowboys, the Packers have actually been the dominant team in their “rivalry.” 

A more important rivalry game is that between the Packers and the Minnesota Vikings; those with memories of the Vikings teams that went to 4 four Super Bowls in the Seventies (and suffered humiliating losses in all of them), may believe that the Vikings also have an advantage over the Packers, but Packers rather surprisingly dominated the Vikings in the 1980s as much as the Vikings did the Packers in the 1970s, and in winning at one point 10 of 11 games since 2010, the Packers hold a comfortable advantage over the Vikings in the win-loss column. Entering into this past Sunday’s game against the Vikings, there was reason to be optimistic about the future. The Vikings have a good defense, but the Packers scored 35 points in back-to-back games in which Aaron Rodgers was not required to light up the skies, and the Vikings were still starting a backup quarterback. 

But that was then; it took only a quarter for Packer fans to face the hard reality that they are going to have to live with the fact the season may be irreparably lost. When Brett Favre was dumped in favor of Rodgers, one of my objections to this move was that Rodgers seemed to me to be injury prone. In 2006, I found it rather amusing how he broke his foot in junk time and was lost for the season, and in 2007 a hamstring injury undid what positive vibe he engendered in good play in relief of Favre when the latter was injured against the Cowboys in a battle between two 10-1 teams. Rodgers missed games due to injury in 2010 and more significantly in 2013, when he broke his non-throwing collar bone. A hamstring "problem" arguably was what prevented the Packers from nailing down a return trip to the Super Bowl in 2014. And now Rodgers may be out for the season with a broken collarbone, this time on his throwing shoulder. 

This time there is no Flynn to bring in as a competent placeholder capable of winning half the games remaining on the schedule (remember that this was the guy who in 2013 overcame a 26-3 halftime deficit in Dallas and won it 37-36) and insuring a playoff appearance. Brett Hundley may be a preseason “stud,” but I doubt the Packers saw him as anything other than a junk-time option, and his regular season play prior to his first meaningful time was certainly “junk”: 3 for 11 passing for 17 yards and an interception. With 3 minutes to play against Minnesota, coach Mike McCarthy didn’t allow Hundley to throw the ball downfield in an attempt for a quick score and try to win the game, and the Vikings knew their two-touchdown lead was safe. McCarthy just wanted to see if Hundley could move the ball without pressure, and as the seconds ticked away Hundley completed 8 of 10 for 72 yards. But with the pressure on to finish, he succumbed. Outside what the Vikings’ defense allowed him to have on that last drive, Hundley completed just 10 of 23 passes for 85 yards and three interceptions. The Packers did score 10 points, but only on short fields following Viking turnovers, including a 63-yard fumble return; the final score could easily have been 30-0 instead of 23-10. 

So now what? Well, it was Hundley’s first meaningful play, and maybe a full week of practice with the starting unit will turn him at least as good as Dak Prescott—or as bad as Geno Smith. Being a Packer fan, I just want the team to win, with or without him. Personally, I would feel more comfortable with Joe Callahan as a longer-term back-up solution. Like Flynn (who hasn’t been in the league since 2014), he isn’t “flashy,” doesn’t have particularly impressive physical skills or a strong arm, but he is “steady” and can play well within his limitations (like Alex Smith). But the Packers have boxed themselves into a corner with Hundley, so they will have to start him for at least another game or two.

If neither Hundley or Callahan make the grade, then what? There has been talk that the Packers might consider Colin Kaepernick, but while I wouldn’t be opposed to bringing him in as a slap to that idiot we have to call “president,” I don’t think he is a good fit for this offense, particularly for the short-term. Tony Romo’s name has come-up as well, and he might still be fit enough to play, but he is also injury-prone and it might not be worth the roll-of-the-dice. Whatever transpires, Packers fans will not have seen the likes of this in over a quarter-century.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

The fool Trump has re-opened this country’s Pandora’s Box

Barack Obama did not “divide” the country when he was president, his policies were meant to benefit all people, whether some chose to understand that or not; he was only a “divider: to those wanted to be divided, those who reacted to him viscerally for–let’s be honest—their own private racial animus. On the other hand, Donald Trump has gone out of his way to divide people, playing on this racial animus for support. In Alabama, the epicenter of racial bigotry then and now (sorry, but Neil Young was right about you), Trump still had the gall to claim that he has “strongly condemned” white supremacists, but we should take white supremacists and neo-Nazis like David Duke and Richard Spencer at their word: Trump’s actions in support of white nationalism and racism speaks far louder than his tepid acknowledgement of said groups. 

And now Trump, after threatening to “destroy” North Korea—proving himself no “bigger” a man than that country’s dangerous buffoon of a dictator—is making ridiculous noises about NFL players who have not stood during the National Anthem, in protest of real or perceived slights by society. Black athletes are not sufficiently appreciative  of the privilege of being paid millions to play football, and should be “fired.” Modern day gladiators who put their bodies and brains on the line for the amusement of the masses for a relatively few years have no right to make political or social statements, according to Trump. They should take even more beatings on the field; there’s too much legislation against “hard hits” that is “killing” the game, says Trump—and this from a man who is the poster child for being thin-skinned. Trump said all this before that crowd of white Alabamans, and they all cheered lustily. They don’t believe black athletes who make more money than they do are “real Americans,” but they don’t like to be called racists either, even if they are. 

This is, if course, just the latest in Trump--and Republican's in general--giving a racist minority in this country a far larger and more powerful voice than they either warrant or deserve. Their racial animus informs their attitudes on a number of issues, like taxes, healthcare, law enforcement, immigration and equal opportunity. It is already disgusting that the person driving this is a white man born with a silver spoon thrust firmly down his throat who makes his current living preying on the worst impulses in human nature, but this is also a man who is after all at once a supreme narcissist and a man wallowing in self-pity. All the slings and arrows he has received are well-deserved, because his “ideology” is based on nothing but personal whim and supreme ignorance of the world outside Trump Tower. Civil rights laws have attempted to box-in the worst of human nature which he embodies, and it is his stupidity that has re-opened that Pandora’s Box that laws were supposed to "throw away" the key for.  But Trump has shown no respect for laws (only for more abusive law "enforcers"), and he has unleashed all the evil within that box, and it is unclear if this country will have the moral fortitude to re-box that evil again.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Packers-Seahawks "rivalry" game: a test of strength or just exposing their respective myths?

No weekly NFL Notes this year, since my work hours are not conducive to such output, and something just seems amiss about this season; maybe it’s too much “more of the same,” or too much is different, I can’t tell which. Anyways, I will say thank god that football season is upon us to help us forget for a day or two about “real life,” as tweeted through prism of the world of unreality that has been foisted on us by this person we are forced to call “president,” that is then funneled through Jeff Sessions’ vision of hate, with the aid of his slimy worm in Trump’s ear, Stephen Miller. 

And there is no better way to forget for a few hours this reality than living in the Seattle area and being a Green Bay Packer fan, and least for this past Sunday after a 17-9 victory over the Seahawks. No gunshots or fireworks after the game from Seahawk fans, just mind-numbness after a loss which of course was not Russell Wilson’s “fault.”  I know how bad things can be; I remember Bart Starr’s final season, and the 20 years it took to find another quarterback to lead the team out of the NFL outhouse. When the Packers acquired John Hadl, I thought he would light up the passing stat sheet; he didn’t. Lynn Dickey was exciting to watch, and he was a tad more accurate than his idle, Joe Namath. But like Namath he was constantly injured, and had only one great season in 1983, in which he threw for a team record 4,458 yards, which stood for almost 30 years until broken by Aaron Rodgers in 2011. And I still remember that exciting MNF game that season (also available for viewing on the Packers “Greatest Games” DVD set) between the Packers and the defending Super Bowl champion Redskins in which both teams’ defense took the night off in a 48-47 thriller that wasn’t decided until a partially blocked field goal attempt on the final play preserved the Packer victory.

But that is old history and Packers have had the benefit of two Hall of Fame quarterbacks back-to-back and a generally unbroken string of regular season success since 1992, although only two Super Bowl titles to show for it. Will this year be any different? Difficult to say, given what we saw on Sunday. Heading into the game, many NFL “experts” gushed on the Seahawks, especially concerning their defense, and sine defense wins Super Bowls, they were the “favorite” to be the NFC representative. On the other hand, the Packers were supposed to have an “unstoppable” offense, which I personally did not get a sense of during the preseason. The Packers were shutout in the first half of Sunday’s game, with Rodgers throwing his first interception in 251 regular season pass attempts. The Packers failed to move on the opening drive in the second half, but a Wilson strip fumble led to a short field touchdown and a 7-3 lead, and afterwards the Packers did only what they needed to do, which was score a few more points while the defense continued to exploit the Seahawks’ offensive weaknesses, which isn’t just the offensive line. 

Wilson is good, but he is not Tom Brady or Rodgers; he can’t make those quick reads in which the ball just darts out of his hand before defenders can block his vision. But I did not see what I needed to see: Rodgers and his supposed great core of receivers wearing down and imposing their will on the Seahawk secondary. Rodgers did throw for 311 yards, but they were essentially just random points on a graph, as the offense only produced 10 legitimate points. This is disturbing, as was Rodgers limping around late in the game. A victory, yes; and impressive one? Well, that depends on what kind of team you think the Seahawks are. 

If you live in Seahawk country, you know the drill: it either the fault of the offensive coordinator, Darrell Bevell, or the offensive line. Why don’t the Seahawks run the “hurry-up” offense all the time, which seems to be the only time the offense is able to make forward progress? Hell, Wilson wants to know too, or at least that is his excuse after the game. But then again, wasn’t that the concept that Chip Kelly tried to develop on the NFL level, and it simply did not work? Look, I don’t dislike Wilson, who played one great year at Wisconsin. But a poor offensive line and running game can be overcome with quick short passes (see the Patriots), and as noted before, that is not Wilson’s game, albeit for reasons that have more to do with physical rather than mental limitations. I don’t buy the excuses anymore, and Seahawk should stop doing so as well.

In the meantime, the Packers face a tough test at Atlanta next week, and in my mind that will be a truer test as to where the team is at than this past game was. As for the Seahawks, they play the 49ers, the worst team in their division, perhaps what they need now to impress the "experts" and believe in their own myth.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

It isn't just the Catholic Church that needs to come to grips with priest misconduct

With millions (maybe billions) of people around the globe under threat by that nut-job that millions of other nut-jobs elected president, this past weekend's USA Today saw fit to print on its front page yet another "expose" of the sex abuse issue in the Roman Catholic Church's priesthood, reporting that

In May 2003, Thomas O’Brien, then bishop of the Diocese of Phoenix, admitted to sheltering at least 50 priests accused of sexual abuse, often shuffling them around to parishes across the state.

O'Brien's admission, released under an agreement with the county attorney, acknowledged he "allowed Roman Catholic priests under my supervision to work with minors after becoming aware of allegations of sexual misconduct."

Now, there are several facts about this that seems to have become lost in the blanket condemnation of the Church. One is that most (if not nearly all) of the victims of this “misconduct” are young males. Another is that despite the fact that priests are supposed to take a vow of celibacy, priests die at twice the rate from AIDS than the males in general, which of course brings into question the practice of “celibacy.” According to a story this very year in Slate, the priesthood is an attractive occupation for some gay men who otherwise feel alienated by the Church’s official stance on their lifestyle, since

Sexual sublimation is by far the most common theory in the literature as to why there are so many gay priests. There has also been speculation that as a discriminated-against minority group, gay men may be more sensitive to empathize with people—a strong desire to help others leads some of these men to the altruistic priesthood. Another common theme is that clerical celibacy is good cover for gay people wanting to hide their orientation.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ National Review Board reported that “certain homosexual men appear to have been attracted to the priesthood because they mistakenly viewed the requirement of celibacy as a means of avoiding struggles with their sexual identities.” As gay former-priest Christopher Schiavone put it, “I thought I would never need to tell another person my secret, because celibacy would make it irrelevant.”

The upper echelons of the Church hierarchy are of course concerned that in time the Catholic priesthood will be seen wholly as a sanctuary for gay men, but this should hardly be an issue of concern so long as these priests legitimately believe in what the represent. But as by the media in general, Slate fails to speak to the uncomfortable fact that especially the “liberal” media finds too hot to the touch: that a few priests have found “celibacy” difficult, and have succumbed to unholy desire—and the victims of this “misconduct (mainly in the form of pedophilia),” and the perpetrators—are almost wholly of the same gender, and what that means. 

Most in the media fear to discuss the obvious, since the LGBTQ community is seen as “victim” class and it is feared to perpetrate negative stereotypes. Yet if sexual misconduct in the priesthood is in the “epidemic” stage, then it is irresponsible on the part of the media not to discuss the link, and it is equally irresponsible of the LGBTQ community to pretend it doesn’t exist and how to bring it under control. The Church also must come to grips with the fact that if an estimated 28 percent of priests are gay, it cannot simply pretend that they don’t have the potential for “problems” and not attempt to weed-out candidates for the priesthood who may not be able to “adjust” to the celibacy.  Just as in the issue of domestic violence, the problem won’t go away if you ignore the other side of the equation, just because if doing so “harms” the politically-correct narrative of victimhood that will not abide “company.”

Monday, August 14, 2017

The true measure of the man

While Donald Trump’s mindless rhetoric and threats in regard to North Korea and Venezuela reminds one of Greg Stillson from the Stephen King novel The Dead Zone and the horrific future that would-be president promised unless he was stopped, on the domestic front we have to come to grips with the fact that Trump and crew’s white nationalism is white supremacy, and we shouldn’t mistake it for anything else. Unless one is a white supremacist or just doesn’t give a damn about what is happening in this country, it is clear that something very bad has been occurring since the rise of the so-called “Tea Party,” outraged by the election of a black president in 2008, and the subsequent election of a unabashed white nationalist in 2016 feeding off white racial animus. If hypocritical CNN and the like had been honest about exposing the racist element behind far-right groups like the Tea Party since the beginning instead of giving them a “mainstream” platform, we might not be where we are now in this poisonous atmosphere of hate and paranoia. 

So Trump has finally bowed under pressure from his new chief of staff and from numerous Republican senators and issued a “forceful” denunciation of the white hate groups involved in the violence in Charlottesville, VA. But let us remember that he only did this under pressure; his initial reaction was the true measure of the man. John Oliver on HBO pointed out that it is the easiest thing in the world to denounce Nazis, but shockingly Trump could not bring himself to do even that at his press conference on Saturday. He did not want to antagonize the base of support that he knows very well is largely responsible for him being elected because they knew that he himself is a white nationalist and self-identifies with the white “victimhood.” Why else would they parade about shouting "Hail Trump"?

I felt little but disgust with Trump’s hypocrisy today, calling for “love” and “equality” when his own Justice Department is in the midst of using its civil rights division to attack policies that “victimize” privileged whites. When Attorney General Jeff Sessions appeared on NBC’s Today show to defend Trump’s initial reactions, the utter visage of race hate was clearly to be seen when the black host pointed out the hypocrisy of Sessions’ defense of Trump after the neo-Nazi website The Daily Stormer praised Trump’s statement as a sign of support; the plantation master Sessions clearly hates to be “scolded” for his racial hypocrisy by black commentators.

One should feel not only disgust at the spectacle of neo-Nazis, the KKK and assorted Caucasian domestic terrorists on parade in Charlottesville—during which a white supremacist drove a vehicle into a crowd of anti-fascist protesters, killing one and injuring 19—but of our so-called president’s response to it. The Race Baiter-in-Chief, who consistently uses racist “dog whistle” tweets and commentary to “reassure” his base on his faithfulness to the “cause” of white nationalism and “victimhood” is, as his chief “strategist” Steve Bannon has said, the alt-right’s “blunt instrument” to carry out their racist agenda on behalf of whites who believe “their” country is being “stolen” from them by blacks, Hispanics and Jews.

Trump, no doubt under the spell of white nationalists like Bannon, Sessions, Steven Miller and the unabashedly fascist Sebastian Gorka, is loath to offend his racist base, which he managed to do anyways with his weak-kneed “many sides” were to blame statement; KKK leader David Duke—who as a student at LSU was often seen parading about in a Nazi storm trooper outfit passing out the party’s propaganda—was apparently incensed that Trump would even hint that maybe those purveyors of race hate parading about with torches, guns and combat shields could possibly be faulted. Trump needed to look in the mirror, said Duke, see that pallid face and realize who put him in office in the first place. 

But who ever accused Trump of having any shame? Not to worry; The Daily Stormer declared that “When asked to condemn, he (Trump) just walked out of the room. Really, really good. God bless him.” The mother of the man who police say clearly deliberately tried to run over and kill as many anti-fascist protesters as he could falsely claimed that her son was not a white supremacist, but merely a Trump “supporter”; The question is: “What’s the difference?”  And then Homeland Security adviser Tom Bosser refused to call the man what he was, a domestic terrorist, instead referring to him as merely a “murderer.” And finally the Justice Department bowed to criticism, issuing a statement that it will “investigate” the violence in Charlottesville; that’s right, you’ll have Jim Crow himself (Sessions) overseeing the goings-on at the plantation. The “fix” is in. 

Many Democrats and some Republicans with varying degrees of credibility decried the violence and Trump’s initial refusal to call things as they were. But why would he? Every time he claims that he “loves” everyone, and claims he believes that he represents “all” American regardless of race, creed or color,  we have to remember that he was elected on precisely the opposite view, and continues to hold those views. After all, he incited violent reaction by his supporters against lone protesters at his various campaign rallies, and demeaned and dehumanized whole groups of non-white people on a regular basis because he knew that is what his most strenuous supporters wanted hear and be acted upon, and past evidence suggests that Trump believes it too, even if it is lies; when Bill O’Reilly challenged him about his campaign claim that blacks are responsible for 81 percent of whites murdered, Trump merely noted that it was the information he was given, suggesting that if something sounded bad against a minority group it must be true, like “all Mexicans are criminals and rapists.” 

Meanwhile, emboldened losers from the white trash front are coming forward to add their own special aroma to the already foul atmosphere. For example, a few days ago police arrested a neo-Nazi cell consisting of three men and two women in the town of New Port Richey in Florida, apparently attempting to fund their activities through identity theft and bank fraud; according to the local newspaper,

Deputies served the warrant at a home in the 9200 block of Kiowa Drive around 7 a.m. Aug. 8. Once inside the home, deputies say they came across “hundreds of pages worth of (miscellaneous) bank account and additional personal identification information.” They also found credit cards, military and state IDs, insurance cards and other items. About 12 grams of meth, several gun holsters, ammunition, drug paraphernalia, three firearms and a rifle were also seized, according to an email from the sheriff’s office.

In addition, deputies found “hundreds of pages of American Nazi Family propaganda (rules, hierarchy, oaths, etc.)" in the home, the email added. The American Nazi Family is associated with the Aryan Brotherhood, the sheriff’s office said.

White racist domestic terrorists are out there and emboldened by the current administration, so we are to expect Trump and his racist advisers and attorney general to do something meaningful about it? Who is kidding who?

Postscript: It only took Trump a day to rediscover his true self, if he had ever lost in the first place. Not only did Trump in a shocking stream-of-conscious press conference (not to be mistaken for "conscience") fully backtrack on his teleprompter-guided script from the previous day, he claimed that some of those people who stood shoulder-to-shoulder with the neo-Nazis were "good" people, and that many of the protesters against the hate they represented were "violent" people. He went on to make assertions that made it clear that he is no historian; statues of Confederate generals--most of which were built in response to either a resurgence of the Klan during the 1920s, or as a reaction against the civil rights movement in the 1950s and 60s--represent one thing, and one thing only: the defense of the "states' right" of maintaining the institution of slavery, and this is not the "culture" anyone should be "celebrating."

Afterwards, Trump seemed extremely pleased with himself; at least people like Duke, white nationalist Richard Spencer and (not leaving the ladies out) former Arizona governor and the very visage of death itself, Jan Brewer, as well as far-right commentator Ann Coulter, who insists that racism doesn't exist in this country--al expressed deep satisfaction with Trump's reverting to his natural state. What is certain is that Trump has no moral or ethical credibility left; he is firmly on the side of race hate, and it is far too late for anyone to make a credible defense that he is not. Any hope that this so-called man will evolve from his primitive state is of course gone, because he chooses to exist in a state that is not conducive to moral or ethical growth. He should no longer be regarded as "president," but a man playing the role in his own television reality show, and the "joke" is on the American people.