Friday, February 27, 2015

Just because - shocking!

Back when he had hair and was good - it's the delightfully alt hit "Shock the Monkey," by Peter Gabriel.

(An occasional series on the music I hear during the drive home - mostly to fill space!)

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Throwback Thursday: Jackie Stewart on leadership

Many leaders operate in a comfort zone, where mediocrity is concealed by the size, prominence or wealth of the organization. Sometimes the mere fact of being president, chairman or CEO of a major international company, or being a cabinet minister, or a general or even an archbishop can be enough for you to be recognized as a giant in your field, almost irrespective of how well or how ineffectively you are doing the job. Such people can become over-protected by the infrastructure they inherit. They become self-important and distracted by their title, the acreage of their office, the private elevator, the prominence of their parking space and the sycophancy of their advisers. The endless courtesies and privileges are often highly intoxicating, not just for them but also for their spouses and even for their secretaries, yet they serve only to distract the leader from the key elements of what he or she is supposed to be doing. Power and influence can be destructive and dangerous commodities, and it is therefore not surprising that, when problems arise, many of these people prove unable to deal with them.

Sir Jackie Stewart, Winning Is Not Enough

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

How can Mayweather earn more than Pacquiao? Seriously, the winner should win more than the loser

The NFL Media Guide notes winners in Super Bowl XLIX win $97,000, while losers earn $49,000.  Winning players in the Pro Bowl earn $55,000, while losers earn $28,000.

Major League Baseball splits postseason money by teams, with each team splitting the money the way they desire – $22.33 million for the World Series winner, $14.89 million for the loser, $7.44 million for League Championship losers, $2.02 million for second-round losers, and $930,396.93 for first-round losers.  (In 2007, after a Colorado Rockies minor league coach was killed, the team voted one playoff share for his widow;  in 1920, the Cleveland Indians gave the family of a player killed by a pitch a full playoff share.)

The stories came to my attention this week when details of the May 2 Floyd Mayweather vs Manny Pacquiao boxing match were released.  Mr. Mayweather would receive $120 million, and Mr. Pacquiao would receive $80 million should the match be conducted as scheduled, based on the live gate and pay-per-view receipts.  Why are boxers paid a guaranteed amount, regardless of winning or losing?  25 years ago, Mike Tyson received six million dollars and James Douglas only received $1.3 million for the famous Tokyo Dome match that Mr. Douglas won after nine rounds and part of the tenth when the referee reached the count of ten upon Mr. Tyson being knocked out.

When professional athletes in most sports are paid based on their performance with the winner receiving more than the loser, why does boxing differ?  Why is the boxer's winnings fixed, regardless of result?  Should the loser earn more money than the winner?  How much sense is there when the winnings are already set before the match, when the match should be first, then the winner and loser's shares be set, not be set per fighter?  The only instances where the loser's share of winnings would be greater than the winner (not bonuses) would probably be in Jeopardy!, if the winner's score is less than $2,000.  (The second place contestant wins $2,000, and the third place contestant wins $1,000.)  Last year at the first Pocono NASCAR race, Brad Keselowski (second) earned more than winner Dale Earnhardt, Jr., but that was a byproduct of the Penske driver leading more laps (lap leader money at many levels of motorsport pay money to lead each lap), and bonus plan money (which he was eligible;  then Hendrick #88 was not eligible for the bonus plan in question);  the first-place prize was greater than the second-place prize.  A similar rule exists in INDYCAR with the Leader's Circle.  The game show and motorsport situations are special instances caused by special circumstances.

Should the $100 million be split instead with each boxer winning $30 million, and the remaining $40 million split determined by the result -- $20m million each for a draw or no contest (such as a fight stopped for a clash of heads before halfway or rare glitch), $25 million for the winner and $15 million for the loser in a split or majority decision, $30 million for the winner and $10 million for a unanimous decision, or the winner receiving all $40 million in bonus money for a knockout?

Is it fair to make boxing payouts performance-based only and not guaranteed?  You would not pay a golfer who wins less than one who finished second.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Man or Supeman - or mortal?

I was never a fan of Mike Tyson, back when I used to follow boxing, although I'll admit that the idea of Tyson playing himself as an animated character in Mike Tyson Mysteries is just short of very, very cool.  What Tyson was good at was being a villain, and having a villain around always makes drama, whether of the sporting kind or not, more compelling.

I've never been a fan of Tiger Woods either, not once I came to know more about it.  His first major victory, at the Masters, was awesome, at least in the sporting sense (and that's not a word I use lightly), and while there were other golfers I preferred, I could at least appreciate his talent. However, the more I got to know about him, the less I thought of him.  While I don't rejoice in his current tribulations, I do often think that what goes around comes around.

And that's the most I would have thought of either Mike Tyson or Tiger Woods, but in this column Joe Posnanski draws some real parallels between the careers of the two men, and in the process takes a look at how we regard greatness; I think it tells us a lot about how we look at our own mortality as well.  The punch line:

Call it Tysonography, our refusal to believe that even the most extraordinary talents fade quicker than we expect. There are a lot of “What’s wrong with Tiger Woods” stories out there right now, and some of them are interesting, but I still suspect they miss the point. Nothing’s wrong with Tiger Woods except that he’s human and he’s fading and it’s the most obvious thing in the world but, like with Mike Tyson, we willfully refuse to accept it.

Very true.  Some people just refuse to believe that Woods can't win it all again.  Hey, maybe they're right.  But if they are, it's not because they have the odds in their favor.

But doesn't this speak to our views on our own mortality as well?  I don't mean the "invincible" stage that teens go through when they think there isn't anything in the world that can hurt them, although that certainly is a part of it.  No, I think it's the way we look at life in general - unable to believe that we aren't the people that we used to be.  That's why we buy Viagra, and color our hair to get the grey out (or buy new hair, which is even better).  It's why we gravitate towards fast cars and trophy spouses, why we dress and talk and act like we're decades younger than we really are.  A perpetual adolescence, some call it, an unwillingness to accept the responsibilities of adulthood.  And that's true, but I think it's also our unwillingness to accept mortality, to think about what happens on judgment day.  There's a lot of whistling past the graveyard going on nowadays, but as Harry Reasoner once said, no matter what man does, no matter what he gives up or avoids, "he may get one day extra or none; he never gets eternity."  Not on this earth, at least.

Anyway, read Poz's column.  It's really good, and not nearly as heavy as I make it out to be.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Throwback Thursday: It's tough being President

Obama’s Approval of Public Continues to Drop

(WASHINGTON, D.C. – April 1) In an exclusive interview today with ABC’s Good Morning America, U.S. President Barack Obama said he does not approve of the job the American public is doing.

“These are difficult times for us all,” Obama told correspondent George Stephanopoulos during the interview, “and we all have to do our part. I’m doing my share, but I don’t see you people out there pitching in.”

Obama told Stephanopoulos that he gave the public an overall 57% - 43% disapproval rating, the first time during Obama’s presidency that the approval rating had fallen that low. “I give them high marks for having elected me to office,” he said, but added that “people can only live off past glories for so long. Many of the same voters who basked in my spotlight on Election Night are now failing to deliver on their campaign promises to me.”

The President singled out voters in Massachusetts, New Jersey and Virginia for particular disappointment. “You were with me in 2008,” he said, “helping Keep Hope Alive. But where is that hope now? You elect Republicans like Christie and Brown, and expect me to understand that? This is not the public that I came here to lead. How can a politician respect a voting public that says one thing and does another?”

Other areas in which the public failed to measure up include tax policy, deficit spending and healthcare reform. “The landmark affordable healthcare legislation, for example, is a historic moment in our nation. It’s the first time [Congress] passed something I can say I am really proud of. The fact that so many people are upset about it shows a definite lack of understanding on their part. We should expect more from our voting public than what we’re getting.”

Obama warned there could be dire consequences for the public if their approval rating continues to drop. “Immigration reform is just around the corner,” he said sternly, pointing a finger at the camera. “If you folks are not careful, I’ll just replace you with a different group of voters who understand what our mood here in Washington is.”

The news was not all bad for the public in this latest poll. “I know that it’s only a small number of people who are responsible for this overall low rating,” Obama said, “but it only takes a few influential voices to spoil it for all voters. Now, if you show more responsiveness to my legislative agenda, then I’ll be willing to give you the benefit of the doubt. For now.”

Asked if there was one thing he would say to the voters if he could talk to them face-to-face, Obama paused for a moment before answering. “I have already pledged several times that I would not rest until the health care plan was passed, the economy improved, unemployment reduced, and our troops home. You try doing all that with a demanding wife and two daughters on your back all the time, not to mention a mother-in-law living under your roof. Give me a break, people. I need that rest.”

Originally published April 1, 2010

Friday, February 13, 2015

Just because

Heard on the way home last night:  "Voices Carry" by 'Til Tuesday.

(A new series on the music I hear during the drive home - mostly to fill space!)

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Throwback Thursday: Oprah™'s Last Show

Oprah™ to Create New Life Form on Show Finale

(CHICAGO -- September 15)--Oprah™ Winfrey, America's talk show goddess for the last quarter century, has something very big up her sleeve for her show's finale in this her 25th, and final, season on the air.

Oprah™ began the season in September by telling 300 members of her studio audience that she would be taking them on an eight-day, all-expenses paid trip to Australia.

How she would end her daytime talkfest reign was a mystery, until now.

Oprah™'s producers have revealed that on the final show, to be aired in the spring of 2011, Oprah™ will create a new life form.

"Giving away cars was big, going to Australia was even bigger," says Jaqui Lacquey, a producer of the Oprah™ show. "But for the finale, after all this woman has done, and who she is, after all, we really needed a topper. And I think we've done it. Or, should I say, she will do it."

The exact nature of the life form that Oprah™ will create is a closely guarded secret. “Animal, vegetable, human, extra-terrestrial, we're just not going to reveal that right now," said Lacquey. "But it will definitely be new and extraordinary and mind-blowing, and we'll have all the details about it on Oprah™.com and a full color-spread in Oprah™, The Magazine, and a special will be prepared for the Oprah™ channel. This will be beyond big."

As to the identity of the final guest on the final show, that too, is a mystery, but some definite hints are being dropped. "Oprah™ certainly wants someone of enormous significance and fame as her final guest," said Lacquey. "She's already had presidents and queens and every A-List celebrity you can think of. Let's just say that we are in negotiations with the people of the only other entity known to have created life-forms. That's all we can say right now."

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Some days I just shake my head...

The University of Michigan - a state-run institution, of course, spending tax dollars with the utmost wisdom:

The University of Michigan reportedly spent $16,000 plastering its walls with posters telling students they shouldn’t use “offensive” language such as “crazy,” “insane,” and “gypped.”

The posters are part of the school’s new Inclusive Language Campaign, which “aims to encourage the campus community to consider the impact of their word choices on others,” according to the official college website.

An advocate says it's a great idea, because it's “helping individuals understand that their words can impact someone.”

Do I need to tell you this is crazy and insane, and that taxpayers in the Great Lakes State ought to feel gypped?  Or is that like fishing in a barrel?  I hope those words do impact someone, at least someone who can stop it.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Wish I'd said that

I've got to get rid of that club foot and get the ballerina shoe on and I'll be fine."

- Marcos Ambrose, #17 DJR Team Penske Xbox Ford Falcon FG X driver, during a V8 Supercars test day at Sydney Motorsports Park, on the transition between a Sprint Cup Mondeo* and a V8 Supercar Falcon.

*The Mondeo is known as the Fusion in North America only.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Biblical definition of "Hell" not acceptable? (C-SPAN censorship of it)

The seven words you cannot say on television have become commonplace.  But we know there is a hatred of God in today's society.  It reminded me of a turn of the century pop song made famous by the "Gold City" quartet (now this was pre-LaRoche era, folks!) that at the end said, "I got saved because of what the old time, hell fire, brimstone preacher said![1]"

The last line I quoted mattered when I observed C-SPAN's video from the National Prayer Breakfast. Fox broadcaster Darrell Waltrip was making his speech at the event, which was attended by the President and Dalai Lama among others, when during his speech, he referenced the 1983 Daytona 500 crash that he admits changed his life.  During that portion of his speech, the Nashville-area businessman who owns auto dealerships representing Honda, Fuji Heavy Industries, Geely, and General Motors went to the classic "fire and brimstone" that C-SPAN cameras decided to censor.

"If you don’t know Jesus Christ as your Lord and Saviour, if you don’t have a relationship, if he’s not the master of your life, if you’ve never gotten on your knees and asked him to forgive you of your sins, or if you are just a pretty good guy or a pretty good gal, you’re going to go to hell.”

For simply saying those who are not saved will be sent to the Lake of Fire, C-SPAN decided to censor him.  So you can air obscene language on television, you can air raunchy content, but if you say Biblical truth and go fire and brimstone, that's worth censoring.  Go figure.  The incident takes place at the 17-minute mark of the speech.  Rob (No Hell) Bell and his minions would praise the censoring, but there is hell, and there is a place for punishment.  Why can a television broadcaster censored for saying the Biblical truth?

1.  "He Said," Dianne Wilkinson.  Centergy Music, 1999.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

The glory and the burden of democracy

William F. Buckley Jr. once famously said that he'd rather be governed by names selected at random from the phone book than by the faculty of Harvard.  To the faculty, he could have added former professional wrestlers:

Former Minnesota governor and pro wrestler Jesse Ventura took a vicious swipe at Chris Kyle on Tuesday, comparing the deceased SEAL sniper to a Nazi soldier in World War II.

Ventura spoke Tuesday evening on “The Alan Colmes Show,” blasting public support for Kyle in the wake of the blockbuster hit American Sniper and accusing the decorated sniper of being a tool of a war-mongering United States in Iraq.

“A hero should have honor,” he said. “A hero is not how many people you’ve killed. You know he was obviously a great sniper. He’s obviously a great shot. He obviously did his job correctly. Alan, let me fire this one at you: Do you think the Nazis have heroes?”

“When they invaded a country,” Ventura continued, ”when they invaded Poland, when they invaded France, and if a Nazi soldier killed a hundred people that had lived there, would he be classified a hero in Germany?”

“But are you comparing what the Nazi mission was versus what our mission is in war as a country?” Colmes asked. “Are we analogous to the Nazis?”

“Well, and the Communists, yeah,” Ventura said

This really goes beyond being embarrassed to be from Minnesota; it's almost bad enough that you're embarrassed to be an American, or a member of the human race for that matter.  That a fool like this could have been elected dog catcher, let alone governor of a sovereign state, speaks to the shortcomings of democracy.  For as stupid, as offensive, as loathsome as Ventura is - and in all cases that is considerable - we have to remember that he didn't get there alone.

One recalls the great Simpsons episode where Montgomery Burns launches an unsuccessful campaign for governor.  Referring to the voters afterward, he says, "Look at them, Smithers.  This anonymous clan of slack-jawed troglodytes has cost me the election, and yet if I were to have them killed, I would be the one to go to jail. That's democracy for you."  I prefer to remember my own words when I lost my race for the state legislator: "The people have spoken, the bastards."

The glory of democracy, at least in the abstract, is that the people rule.  That is also its burden.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Farewell, Mr. Cub - and Thank You

Ernie Banks, the Chicago Cubs baseball star, was buried today in Chicago. His performance on the field was spectacular—19 seasons, an 11-time All-Star, the first National Leaguer to win back-to-back Most Valuable Player trophies, a total of 512 home runs, Hall of Fame first ballot in 1977. His character off the field was even more exemplary—a spirit of joy, optimism and enthusiasm that was contagious way beyond the friendly confines of Wrigley Field.

Yes, Ernie Banks certainly was, for all the right reasons, Mr. Cub.

There were times, many probably, when that spirit was tested. Banks was the first African-American player on the Cubs when he joined them in 1953. Even as tributes flowed at the news of his passing last week at age 83 from a heart attack, references were also made to early ‘50s encounters that hadn’t been so welcoming. “People said terrible, racist things to him,” one long-time Cub fan recalled. “But Ernie just smiled right through it.”

And then there was the losing. The Cubs have become the longest-running “lovable losers” in major league baseball, if not in all of pro sports. They haven’t been in a World Series since 1945. They haven’t won one since 1908. In Ernie’s first 14 years as a Cub, they only had one winning season. Ernie played 2,528 major league games. None were in the post-season. (That futility is summed up in a riddle. “What did Jesus say to the Chicago Cubs?” Answer: “Don’t do anything until I get back.”)

Losing didn’t dampen Ernie’s spirit, though. “Let’s play two!” became his well-quoted catchphrase. He loved playing the game, it was all about the game, win, lose, whatever. It was the friendly, positive spirit of competition that he most enjoyed. That spirit infused Cub fans, it seems. It lingers at Wrigley, and perhaps in a few other, sadly vanishing, ball fields today.

I wasn’t a natural Ernie Banks fan. Growing up near San Francisco, I was a Willie Mays guy. I resented anyone crowding Willie’s spotlight. (With some justification. In 1958, when Banks became the first player on a losing team to win an MVP, he hit .313. Willie hit .347 that year. Just saying). But I always respected Ernie Banks and enjoyed watching Cubs games on TV, amazed at this slim shortstop who could pretty much do it all.

I realized in a new way this week how much I admired, and will miss, Ernie Banks. It took a Super Bowl to do it.

First it was the sports media machine pumping out endless, rancorous stories about possible cheating in the NFL, in what’s being called “DeflateGate.” Then it was the Super Bowl media day circus where one player in particular—Seattle’s Marshawn Lynch—became the poster-child for today’s arrogant, self-obsessed, pampered, obscenely overpaid, and repugnant professional athletes by ignoring reporters’ questions by smugly repeating  just one phrase (“I’m just here so I won’t get fined”) for nearly five minutes.

Apparently for Mr. Lynch, and many other pro athletes today, the joy has gone out of the game. They put up with it, grab their paychecks, and fly off to the Bahamas or Vegas or wherever they go to spend that money. They certainly don’t want to play two.

So, thank you, Ernie Banks, Mr. Cub, for doing what you did. And more important, for being who you were. Thank you for leaving a legacy that hopefully will not diminish with your passing. We need people like you today. More than we know.

[Mitchell here - Steve had this very funny article about Ernie Banks a few years ago - would that it were true!]
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