Sunday, July 29, 2012

My Sunday Feeling

Last Friday I had the privilege of judging a debate at the local university.  My friend Pam, who invited me, is part of the English as Second Language (ESL) Department over there and the debaters were all foreign kids, mostly African and Middle Eastern to my eye and ear.  I suppose the idea of having them debate is to make them use their new language skills to argue their respective points before an audience while under time pressure.  Good idea.  This is hard enough to do when English is your first language.

The format was the British debating style.  In the one I judged, one team (or House) had the position that censorship of the media was crucial to society and national security.  The other House argued that censorship was a violation of the 1st Amendment and always impermissible.  And off they went. 

As was to be expected, some of the debaters were better than others.  But both Houses were well prepared and earnestly went about their work.  As the debate went on it became pretty clear that neither side had a real good grasp on what the 1st Amendment really is or does.  For instance, one of the 1st Amendment debaters pointed out that both journalist Daniel Pearl and Martin Luther King died in places where governments were trying to suppress their views. 

Now this was a false equivalence of the highest order and I was disappointed that nobody on (in?) the other House didn't knock it out of the park.  But you also got the impression upon occasion as they went at it that both Houses thought that the 1st Amendment governs speech between individuals.  Which it does not.

As I told the group in my remarks afterwards, the 1st Amendment only concerns itself with action by the government.  As I told them, "If I am typing a letter to the editor about why I hate the Governor of Arkansas, and Pam (she was handy) kicks my door in and grabs my laptop, she is being mean and maybe I need to quit being friends with her.  But she's not violating my rights.  If the cops do it, they are violating my rights under the 1st Amendment.  Because under the 1st Amendment I have the right to send a letter to the editor expressing my opinion, whatever it may be, about the Governor of Arkansas.  And nobody in the government can stop me."

But the young debaters shouldn't feel badly on this score.  Lots of folks get this wrong.  Like some people who support the position of Chick Fil-A's CEO against gay marriage. As Gentle Reader may know, folks in the LBGT community (look it up as you really should know what this means by now) have organized a boycott of Chick Fil-A because of its stance on the issue. This has resonated with many people.   Indeed, the mayors of the cities of Boston and Chicago have told CFA to take its business elsewhere.

And some folks on the Christian right have come to Chick Fil-A's defense in response to the boycott.  Indeed, on August 1st our own Mike Huckabee and Billy Graham will go get some chicken during "Support Chick Fil-A Day."  Or something.  Which is fine.

What isn't fine, are some of the comments I have seen that equate the boycott of the business with "intolerance" or with a violation of the CEO's rights under the 1st Amendment.

Which is, of course, complete and utter nonsense.

As I have said before, I am free to spend my money whenever and wherever I choose.  For whatever reason I choose to do it.  The fact that I tend not to patronize businesses whose stated corporate values I do not share is not intolerance on my part.  It's how I choose to spend my money.  If I go into the local Chick Fil-A with an assault rifle and light the place up, that's an act of intolerance.  If I stand across the street with a bullhorn and hurl vile epithets at its customers, that's an act of intolerance.  Where I choose to spend my money is my business and my business alone.  And besides, it's pretty damn hard to commit an act of intolerance if nobody knows about it.  At least it's not a very effective one.

Secondly, the notion that Chick Fil-A is some kind of victim here is laughable.  If they are they did it to themselves.  When companies take polarizing stances, there is always some kind of response from consumers and interest groups.  At least in the short haul.  They didn't see this coming?  If they didn't they are idiots.

Finally, as demonstrated above, the boycott violates nobodies constitutional rights.  Nobody in the government has forced the CEO to retract his remarks.  He is still free to stick to his guns.  Folks are free to continue to get their yardbird at Chick Fil-A 7 days a week if they like.  Wait.  Make that 6.  They are closed on Sundays. 

And I am free to spend my money as I see fit.  Because it's my money And if I choose not to patronize a certain business it's not because I am intolerant.  It's my money.  It's my business. 

It's really not much more complicated or sinister than that.  Really it's not.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Today's Wally About the Absence of Bobby Petrino from the SEC Media Day

Upon keeping things in perspective: "His crime last spring doesn't compare to Joe Paterno's or even Jim Tressel's" 

Upon making stuff up I," Petrino is in the process of picking up the pieces of his life and putting them back together."

Upon "Hey! Thanks for sharing" : "Reportedly( Yes.  "Reportedly")  he and his wife are together, living in an apartment on a golf course in Rogers,  They apparently (Yes. "Apparently.) are seen at Mass every Sunday." 

Upon making stuff up II while musing on the limits of humility: " Probably what Petrino needed even more than a dose of humbleness (Yes.  "Humbleness")  was good old fashioned family time. "

Upon making stuff up III:  " Most likely, Petrino will have to take a step back, maybe go out West, back to his roots." 

The sports zeitgeist has suggested that Bobby Petrino may be back at Arkansas after a sufficient display of humbleness.  And maybe Wally has his finger in the wind after completely blowing this story.  I don't know.  I am just speculating.  Which is different from making stuff up. 

In closing, let's keep things in perspective. 

Petrino's "crime last spring doesn't compare to Joe Paterno's or even Jim Tressel's."

Or even Jim Tressel's. 

There you have it.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Same As The Old Boss

"If you find yourself in a situation where the athletic culture is taking precedence over the academic culture than a variety of bad things can occur." 
                                                                              NCAA President Mark Emmert

OK.  Penn State had it comin'.  I think most folks can agree to that.  At least most folks not in State College, Pennsylvania where there are still those trapped in the mystical tug of Nittany Lion football.  But as we gaze over the smoking rubble that is Penn State football in the wake of the bomb that the NCAA dropped on it yesterday, it is only fitting that we consider the larger implications of the sanctions for Division I athletics. 

And the immediate conclusion is "not much."

The NCAA's Executive Committee clearly intended these sanctions to be a shot across the bow.  As Oregon State's Ed Ray said at yesterday's press conference concerning the Penn State sanctions, " The message is the presidents and the chancellors are in charge."


Don't look now gentlemen, but down heah in the SEC football is driving the culture everywhere but Vanderbilt and Kentucky.  Has been for years.  And the Commodores, after an unexpected brush with competence last season, are getting itchy.  And things aren't that much different on some campuses in the Big 10, Big 12 and PAC whatever the hell it is now.

Frank Zappa once said something along the lines of "World War III will never start in Los Angeles.  There's too much real estate involved." 

Same here with DI football.  If they think what they did to Penn State is going to change the culture of big time football, they're on crack.  There's too much real estate involved.  The dreaded "lack of institutional control" is going on at more "member institutions" than they even know or want to know.  Now, to be sure such lack of institutional control is not covering up horrific criminal behavior as was the case at Penn State.  Penn State was the problem from hell.  And still there are those in State College who disbelieve the Freeh report, who still defend Joe Paterno. 

The tail has wagged the dog far too long at some places.  And now they are going to a playoff system.  Why?  Money.  Pure and simple. 

The presidents and chancellors are in charge?  Yeah right.

I can think of one probable effect of this whole stinking mess. 

Betcha nobody erects another statue to honor a living football coach anytime soon.  Depending on the scale of the piece, it can be a bitch to find a place to store the damn thing if you have to tear it down. 

Sunday, July 22, 2012

My Sunday Feeling

Caroline McCormick and I didn't get off to the greatest start in the world.  I had gone to visit Don and Karin at the old house in Birmingham.  I slept on a hide-a-bed in the living room.  I had just awakened when I heard the sound of tiny feet coming down the staircase.  Little Caroline saw me as I sat up in the bed. 

She ran away screaming. 

We got past it. 

Caroline and her husband Reese Ornellas were in town Friday and Saturday.  They left San Francisco en route to our Nation's Capitol where Caroline will start medical school at Georgetown in a couple of weeks.  Reese, whom I met for the first time is an earnest sort who will teach literacy to 3rd graders at a charter school there.  He clearly dotes on Caroline.  I approve. 

Caroline texted me last week and told me that they were coming through town and said they wanted to see me.  She calls me Arthur Paul.  Mr. Erxleben used to address me thusly as well as some of the guys at Wright, Lindsey and Jennings.  Caroline's old man called me and said that they had been camping their way across the country from San Francisco and could they crash over here.  Absolutely. 

I guess I hadn't seen Caroline in 10 years.  Neither one of us could really remember.  But as you can see, she's all grown up now, boy.

I remember her parent's wedding in Birmingham.  I drove the Impala that I had bought for 300 bucks from Uncle Howard  to Jackson to pick up Hugh.  We stopped for lunch at a pizza joint in Meridian.  I bought the Pizza and Hugh popped for the pitcher of beer.  Neither one of us had a net worth of more than 50 bucks back in those days.

That was a long time ago.  Hugh's dead.  I'm semi-retired. 

And Caroline is going to med school. 

Caroline wanted to see Hillcrest because Don had said how much he liked it here.  We would have walked but it was 108.  People from San Francisco aren't wired for 108.  Hell, I'm not sure that I am.  Anyway, we went down Kavanaugh, through Stift Station on Downtown.  We drove past the Federal Building.  Caroline asked me to point out my window to her.  Nobody has ever asked me to do that before.

We went to the Clinton Library, through the River Market, and into Argenta.  Little Rock seemed "cool" to them.  I told Caroline that when her Dad first visited me around 1986 or so there wasn't a damn thing to do in this town.  Other than to go out and get into trouble.  Which we did.  You can still get into trouble around here.  But it is no longer your best option.  Unless you are a knucklehead.

I showed them the Miracle League field.  They were impressed by the swing for the wheelchair kids and the special slide with rollers.  Never seen anything like that.  And that was the grand tour.

Caroline is a vegan. So I scouted ahead for sustenance before they got here. Turns out that the Brazilian place down the road has a good selection of vegan entrees as well as sensible fare for people like Reese and myself.  She was pleasantly surprised and grateful that she didn't have to "mix and match" as she put it.  My friend Carrey from Catholic High came over and introduced herself.  Buzz, one of my little lawyer friends, did likewise. 

"That's the guy you were telling us about?" Caroline asked. "The guy down the street from you who practices law out of his house?"

"That's him."



I found vegan cupcakes of all damn things on my scouting trip earlier in the week.  They make the icing out of tofu.  Son of a bitch.  I love the girl but eating this kinda crap just ain't right.  Be that as it may, off to Rosalia's bakery we went for breakfast on Saturday. 

"Is this your daughter?" the girl behind the counter asked.

"Might as well be," I replied. 

They met my friend Susie who introduced them to the dog she found at a truck stop and named "Good Buddy."  She told Caroline his birthday is "10-4." At the Farmer's Market they met my Baptist preacher golfing buddy Randy, associate minister Carolyn and the Mayor of Little Rock. 

"Guys, meet the Mayor of Little Rock," I said for the first time in my life. It sounded funny coming out of my mouth.  I guess I never thought that a guy like me would be personally acquainted with the mayor of any place bigger than Bixby, Oklahoma. 

All of the folks at the Farmers Market spoke highly of me.  Or as honestly of me as they could in the shadow of Pulaski Heights Baptist Church. 

I was surprised to feel something like sadness as Reese packed up the Prius as they prepared to get back on the road.  I'm not around young people much anymore and I enjoyed their energy and perspective.  I enjoyed paying for everything.  I enjoyed seeing my buddy Don in his daughter's face.  I enjoyed talking about baseball with Reese.  I enjoyed showing them around and introducing them to my friends.  It was weird.  I didn't want them to go.

"You have water?"

"Thanks, but we have plenty of bottled water in the car," Reese said.  We shook hands. 

Caroline hugged me.

"Now you call me if y'all run into a jam out there.  I mean it."

"We will," she said. 

"Text me when you get to your mom's."

"I will. I promise."

"I love you, Honey"

"I love you too," she said as I kissed her scalp.

"You take of yourself, Arthur Paul."

"I will.  I promise."

They hung a right on Van Buren and soon California tags were receding South in search of the interstate. 

I'll take care of myself, Honey.  I will. I promise. 

Sunday, July 15, 2012

My Sunday Feeling

I ran into my friend Patty at the Farmer's Market in front of Pulaski Heights Baptist Church this morning.  Patty teaches Gifted and Talented in a local Junior High.  Hadn't seen her in awhile.  She is from Philadelphia where her 94 year old Mom still lives.  94.  God bless her.

Naturally, the Penn State story had been much on her mind, especially since she thought for awhile that she had grown up with Tim Curley, the Athletic Director that got canned and indicted.  Wrong Tim Curley.  She actually follows this blog and has followed the posts about the horrorshow in the place formerly known as Happy Valley.  She was particularly intrigued by my suggestion that Penn State might have taken a different path if there had been more women in authority there.  We stood underneath the entrance of the old church and talked while we watched it rain.

"I think you may be on to something there," she said. "Men just don't get it.  Or, rather some men don't."

"What's there not to get?" I said.  " I mean, even if there's no sexual assault going on, there's something just really squirrelly about a grown man being in a shower with a little boy after hours. Hell, I will not touch a child outside of the presence of an adult.  He was in a shower with a kid."

" I know.  Any woman would have been horrified by this news and heads would have rolled.  But here's another take on it."


"You know, I'll bet none of these guys ever taught school."

"Not following."

" When you're a schoolteacher you are trained not to touch a kid, not to be behind closed doors with a kid.  Stuff like that.  Now I can't help giving hugs even though I'm not supposed to do it but that's just me.  But when you teach at the secondary level you have to know the rules and you develop a radar about this stuff that obviously nobody had at Penn State."

She looked out at the rain for a moment.

"Can you imagine what those poor boys..." she said.

"No," I said cutting her off. "No frame of reference for it.  Biggest lie in the world is contained in the phrase 'I know how you feel' unless you really do."

"Ya know," she said. " I had one of my former students come see me last Spring.  She had just graduated from Fayetteville and moved back to Little Rock."


"She's a writer.  She wanted to show me a story that she had written.  It was about a girl who was a victim of date rape."

"I hope it wasn't autobiographical."

"I'm afraid it was.  She told me about how the experience caused her to plunge into a severe depression.  She couldn't sleep.  She almost had to drop out of school."

"That's just awful."

" Yeah, she couldn't even bring herself to tell her mother about it until fairly recently.  And it happened over 2 years ago."

"Wow.  Poor kid."

"Think of those poor boys.  What must have been going through their minds at the time? This has got to still impact their lives.  It has to."

"I can't imagine."

"Neither can I."

"And here's something else," I said. "Where the hell was Mrs. Sandusky all this time?  What would your response be if I told you that I'm going to make our basement a playroom and invite kids from the foundation..."

"Most of which were already troubled," she said.

"For sleepovers and stuff.  You would be good with that, right?"

"Of course not!  And about that time I would be thinking I was married to a lunatic.  Although it sounds like she had a screw loose as well. And here's another thing.  Guys like Sandusky makes it harder for people like us who like working with kids."

"One of the questions on cross was 'How's your hearing Mrs. Sandusky?'"

She let that sink in.

"This is making me ill.  I need to buy some stuff and get back home. Need to quit thinking about this stuff.  Which is gonna be hard to do back when I go home to see Mom Monday morning."

Patty's mom is still pretty sharp. Still lives in the home.  Still pretty self sufficient.  She writes a poem every Christmas.  It is a cherished tradition for their family.  This year's poem came early to Patty's mom this year.  Woke her up at 2 in the morning the other night.

94.  God bless her.

My advise to Patty?  Don't look at a sports page while you're in Philly.  Don't listen to sports radio.  

Give yourself over instead to your Mom and this year's Christmas poem.

Give yourself over to love.  And to being safe.  Because safety is an illusion in some places. 

Friday, July 13, 2012

The Worst Thing Ever

"It is more reasonable to conclude that, in order to avoid the consequence of bad publicity, the most powerful leaders at the university-Spanier, Schulz, Paterno and Curley-repeatedly concealed critical facts relating to Sandusky's child abuse from authorities, the university's board of trustees, the Penn State community and the community at large."

                           Hon. Louis Freeh in the press conference about his report on the Penn State scandal

Bad publicity.  They failed to turn over a child molester because they feared bad pub.  All those little boys, most of them from troubled backgrounds to begin with, were violated because those who knew failed to turn Jerry Sandusky over to law enforcement before the turn of the century.   

Last night I ran into one of my Miracle League kids and her Dad at the store.  K gave me a big hug around my waist.  K has a communication disorder.  She would make the perfect victim as would many of those kids.  And I am ever mindful of the almost sacred trust that is reposed in me by the parents, the League and the system every Saturday that I go out to Miracle League field.

So, here is the the thing that I cannot reconcile, that I cannot wrap my mind around. 

Why, for Christ's sake, did nobody report seeing Jerry Sandusky after hours in the shower with a child?  On what planet in the known universe is this behavior not excruciatingly suspicious? 

They were afraid of bad publicity.  All those poor little terrified boys. 

I'm going to go out on a limb here.  But it's my limb.  It is my guess that the child abuse scandals at both Penn State and in the Roman Catholic Church would have been less likely if there had been women in positions of power in both institutions.  If for no other reason than women have the babies around here.  I don't know of any woman in my life that would not have thrown herself between Sandusky and that little boy in the shower.  And if a woman had been in charge at Penn State when the news of his squirrelly behavior hit her desk, my best guess is that the sounds of sirens would have followed shortly thereafter.

Bad publicity.  All those poor little boys.

Joe Paterno wrote a letter that was not published until recently.  He said that the scandal is not properly understood as a "football scandal."  To which I say, "Stay dead, Joe."

Here is a simple way to look at it.  If the coach is running the Athletic Department and/or the school it is what the NCAA refers to as a "lack of institutional control."  We do not know but we may strongly infer that the Athletic Director decided not to turn Sandusky over @ 2003 or so after speaking to Joe Paterno.  And they failed to follow the law and conspired to keep these criminal acts quiet for fear of bad publicity which we may also infer would work a disadvantage in recruiting. 

"You sure you want to go play there Son? Kids get fucked in the shower there.  We don't allow that kinda shit here at Northwestern."

Yeah. I can totally see that.

But you know what?  It doesn't matter. 

The men mention in Judge Freeh's report, men at the highest level of authority at Penn State, suborned criminal acts despicably committed upon innocent children to save the program.  No, it's not Dave Bliss paying players at Baylor.  It's not Jim Tressel looking the other way at Ohio State's players were selling memorabilia.  It's not Miami and Oklahoma being, well, Miami and Oklahoma.  It is not the usual violations that the NCAA selectively enforces. 

This one is off the charts.  It is the worst thing ever in the long and occasionally tawdry history of Division I football.  It is beyond the patina of hypocrisy that allows those who know better to suspend disbelief on Saturday in order to pretend that most of these guys are really student-athletes. 

It is the Worst. Thing. Ever.  And it was allowed to happen due to a lack of institutional control.  Seems pretty simple to my admittedly simple mind.

All of those poor little boys.  Sacrificed because powerful men thought bad PR was even worse than the rape of a child.  Penn State has forfeited the right to participate in football for the foreseeable future.

And if the NCAA, or the Big Ten, or both, don't step in, then we really will know what's more important.

Won't we?

Sunday, July 08, 2012

My Sunday Feeling

Jimmy Connors had not been retired for very long when he called his first Wimbledon for NBC.  Sitting at Centre Court on that day, wrapped in a blanket, was the extremely elderly British tennis legend Fred Perry.  Dick Engberg, I believe it was, pointed out that Mr. Perry was the greatest British player in history. 

To which Jimbo helpfully replied, "He's still the best one they've got."  For which he caught unshirted hell from the British press. 

On Friday, Scotsman Andy Murray managed to make what passes for British tennis history by being the first male subject of the Crown to make the Gentleman's Final at Wimbledon since Mr. Perry did it in 1936.  Up until then the burden of ending this Cubsian draught fell upon English serve and volleyer Tim Henman who managed to reach the semi-finals in 2001 and 2002.  It is for him that "Henman Hill," the grassy hill outside the stadium upon which thousands sit and watch the matches  onscreen, is named.  "Gentleman Tim" was a gamer but he was too slight a figure to consistently impose his will at the net. 

As for Murray, he has always had plenty of game.  He just had something of a reputation as a mama's boy and a head case.  Prior to this year's Wimbledon, he hired Ivan Lendl as his coach.  Lendl, who had something of a reputation for being being pretty much evil seemed to me to be a curious choice at first. Ivan Lendl was noticably inept on grass during his playing career.  Wimbledon was the only one of the Grand Slams that he did not win.  Indeed, he famously remarked that he was "allergic" to grass despite being an avid golfer.  Which is played on, well, you know.  To me hiring Ivan Lendl to coach grass court tennis is like unto hiring Shaquille O'Neal to teach free throw shooting.

But maybe that is not what Lendl is imparting to the hot-headed young Scot.  Lendl has been quoted as saying something along the lines of, " It is better to be happy after you are a champion.  It is hard to be a champion when you are happy first."  And Lendl always played as if he had a mad on.  He never shied away from trying to hit his opponents that dared to come in on his buggy whip forehand or tarried too long at the net when he hit an overhead.  He wasn't as hated as Jimbo or Junior but he was right up there.

You now hear commentators talk about Murray's "focus" and "demeanor" two words that you rarely heard mentioned in the same sentence as the phrase "Andy Murray."  And it was that focus and intensity that got him through a scary quarter-final against Spanish grinder David Ferrer.  And for his trouble he gets to play 6 time Wimbledon champ Roger Federer, who completely dismantled Novac Djokovic in his semifinals. 

And I wouldn't miss it for the world.  This is why we watch sports.

There will be Union Jacks waved by the fans at Centre Court.  You will hear drunks singing "God Save the Queen" and bagpipers playing "Scotland the Brave" out on Henman's Hill.  Hell, if I was Elizabeth Rex I think I would make myself available for this one.  The Emerald Isle can run itself for a day, Ma'am. 

Ivan Lendl has put some steel in his boy's spine.  Will that and the full throated support of the UK be enough to beat Federer?  Doubtful.  Murray will be a tough out under the circumstances but Federer may be the greatest grass court player in the history of the game.  Murray's got a puncher's chance but that's about it.

Which is almost beside the point. I'm a Cubs fan.  I enjoy a close walk with utter futility.   A British subject is playing for the Gentlemen's Championship for the first time since 1936.

Like I said, I wouldn't miss this for the world.  This is why we watch sports.