Wednesday, November 11, 2015

And Where a Salon Scribe Gets a Tad Out of His Swim Lane

Over the weekend, Salon writer, DAVID MASCIOTRA, caused quite a dust-up on social media with his own “salute to the troops” ahead of Veteran’s Day . Here is the headline, followed by the sub-headline and then followed by the first paragraph of the piece:

You don’t protect my freedom: Our childish insistence on calling soldiers heroes deadens real democracy

It's been 70 years since we fought a war about freedom. Forced troop worship and compulsory patriotism must end

Put a man in uniform, preferably a white man, give him a gun, and Americans will worship him. It is a particularly childish trait, of a childlike culture, that insists on anointing all active military members and police officers as “heroes

If you desire, you can read it in its entirety, here.

The first thing that jumped out at us was the use of “forced” and “compulsory”. His definition of those words would be greatly at odds with ours and yours, we suppose, but if you are going to pen this on the weekend prior to Veteran’s Day, you’d be well-served to go big on hyperbole. And what we’ve seen on T.V. this weekend, mostly at sporting events, were expressions of thankfulness and gratitude, not worship. With respect to his definition of the word "worship", your mileage may vary. But, again, if you are going to go there, go big... and, of course, play the race card. Always play the race card.

So, let’s put semantics aside and dig right into this with a critique angle that originates from the American left, Saul Alinsky specifically, and which is rooted in using one’s own rules against them. Are you familiar with the term “mansplaining”? Wiki has got it covered here, but in short it is: "a man condescendingly explain[ing] something to female listeners".

And more expansively, it is the phenomena of the explainer knowing less about the subject than the explainee. Narrowing it down again, we’ve seen the term used most consistently in the abortion argument where men have no right to an opinion on the matter since they are biologically incapable of having one. OK, then. So, what say you, Mr. Masciotra? Oh, wait. Who cares what this guy has to say? He is the ideological heir of those who mocked and ridiculed the G.I.s and Marines returning home from Vietnam. The man despises the military as an institution so WTF right does he have on opining on the subject? By the rules of the left, his arguments are null and void from the start. See how that works?

But shutting down dissent is no fun, right? Especially, when we can have more fun deconstructing his argument.

Maybe ol’ boy is pitching such a fit because he’s jealous. That’s right, jealous. Gallup has been tracking respect in/confidence in various American institutions for decades. Follow the link here and you’ll see the military has, over the years, been the most respected institution in America. And where would Masciotra’s profession(s) be? Newspapers, Television news, internet news, i.e., the mainstream media, are towards or right at the bottom of the heap.

Scroll down to the performances of the individual institutions over the years and you’ll see that the military’s numbers have remained steady where the public’s confidence in the media has eroded over time. So, perhaps having a 4th estate, the watchdog of democracy, that is so un-respected because the public lacks confidence they are doing their job is more deadening to real democracy than “worshipping” the troops.

The definition of “hero” is very much open to interpretation as it should be. One man’s hero may not be another’s and that’s completely fine. But here’s the thing Masciotra and his ilk don’t understand: Members of the most respected institution in the country will get the benefit of the doubt in this country’s cultural lexicon. And members of the least respected institutions in this country, the media hackeratti, of which he is a member, will not. Sorry, Dave, no one likes you.

Ancient societies passed along history and the pillars of that particular culture through story-telling and myth-making. The warriors of those societies were held up as models of physical bravery, courage and honor. There is a positive aspect to mythologizing the favorable aspects of society be they soldiers or not. Characters in our country’s past like, Paul Bunyan, Johnny Appleseed and John Henry have been mythologized and made figuratively larger-than-life in an effort to strengthen a shared American cultural experience and to perhaps serve as an analogy to vastness of our country.

The vet = hero narrative is really no different. We’ve seen it a couple of times when we are out with my little brother and his family where he will have his 3 young children approach members of the Huntington Beach Fire Department to express their gratitude and thanks for the work they do that if it hasn’t already, may certainly in the future, put their limb and life in harm’s way. My little brother is mythologizing (having his children look up to) the best aspects of our culture through these men: sacrifice, courage and bravery being among them.

And almost identically, the vet = hero narrative mythologizes and makes larger-than-life its subject because a huge swath of the country of which Masciotra finds foreign, still believe these traits found in the men and women of the United States military, to be important to our country.

Let’s leave with this: Guys: when you were growing up, what did you play? “Army” or “crap-weasel columnist at a lefty rag”? Ladies: “Into whose arms do you wish to fall? A fireman’s (mustachio and all), or David Masciotra?

A special Veterans’ Day shoutout to my two older brothers who also happen to be two of my favorite Cold War warriors who served with distinction and honor in this country’s nuclear sub fleet and the U.S. Army’s vaunted 82nd Airborne Division, respectively.

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Football rules changes...? You've come to the right place

There’s no denying that over the last few decades most all on-field rules changes made by the NFL have been exercises in increasing offense and scoring. This has created an arms race in a sense where the pendulum swings back and forth between the NFL offenses and NFL defenses whereby the offenses get aided by rules changes and the defenses counter with a combination of innovative schemes and superior athletes. To wit, for years, it’s been conventional wisdom that the best athletes in the world were in the NBA. Now days, we would add NFL defensive backs and possibly outside linebackers/rush ends into that mix (you don’t think dudes like Richard Sherman, Darrelle Revis and J.J. Watt can ball a little?).

But to the rule changes…. They’ve become ridiculous. In addition to wanting to increase offensive excitement in the game, the competition committee (the group within the NFL responsible for on-field rules changes) now must address the issues of concussions when tweaking the rules of the game. This has resulted in, quite literally, a hands-off approach to defending receivers downfield and rushing the quarterback to the point that were an NFL fan from 1980 transported forward in time 35 years, he would scarcely recognize the game. And to be sure, this is not necessarily all bad: we understand the need to protect the players while they become bigger and faster as the game’s evolution demands it. And it’s also understandable that as NFL viewers/consumers, we, all bitching and grousing aside, adjust our expectations to what is and isn’t a penalty accordingly (i.e., do we watch any less football because you can’t lay a hand on the quarterback, anymore?).

There are, however, a few rule changes that we would like to see made that would, simultaneously, increase offense/scoring and/or offensive plays without having direct adverse impact on the defenses and defensive personnel.

They are as follows:

1) Decrease the width of the goal post: At this year’s Pro Bowl, it was decided that the width of the goal post would be decreased by 4 ft. and which resulted in Adam Vinatieri missing 2 35 yard extra points and 1 38 yard field goal. This is a good thing. Let’s face it: Place kickers are just too good. Hell, by their appearances these days, lots of them actually look like athletes and inclement weather aside, anything inside 45-50 yards is pretty much automatic. We actually think it should be decreased by 6 ft. but we’ll settle for 4 ft., for now. And do you know why? Do you know what’s fun? 4th downs. 4th downs are fun. Do you know what’s not? Field goals. Field goals suck. Let’s force head coaches and offensive coordinators to make the tough call and keep their offense on the field for a 4th and 2 from the 32 yard line going in instead of picking up the perfunctory 3 points.

2) One foot instead of two inbounds: Why this has not happened by now absolutely baffles us. One foot inbounds while possessing the ball has been the rule at the college level for as longs as we can remember and if you want to increase offense at the pro level without putting the defense at a distinct disadvantage, why must you have two feet inbounds? This is such a no-brainer. C’mon, guys. Hit the Easy Button – make this happen!

3) The Calvin Johnson Rule: Now known as the Dez Bryant Rule. Let’s face it. We were robbed of one of the greatest moments in NFL Playoff history in the divisional playoff game a few weeks back between the Packers and Cowboys because the referees made the, we guess, correct ruling on an NFL rule that no one really understands. Sorry, any rule that contains the verbage “…and then makes a move consistent with the game…” is a bad rule. If the receiver comes down with two feet (one foot? Please see above) and possession of the ball and is downed by contact… it’s a catch. Or as one wag put it: “If 25 drunk guys at the bar think it’s a catch… it’s a catch.”

4) Football inflation: We won’t bother re-hashing any of the controversy surrounding an issue that has garnered more attention than perhaps it has deserved other than to say that both Peyton Manning and Tom Brady, about 10 years ago, lobbied to have control of the footballs they were using for that particular game. As they were granted this concession, why not take it to the logical conclusion that they should be able to inflate/deflate the balls to whatever psi they desire? Honestly, does anyone really care to what pressure the footballs are inflated? We think not. And remember, this rule change does not put the defense at any specific disadvantage. This isn’t baseball where in a mano a mano matchup between the pitcher and the batter, the pitcher is at a significant advantage by “doctoring” the baseball. Besides, defensive backs have hands like snakes so it’s not going to matter anyway.

This simply makes it easier for the quarterback to throw the ball and for the receivers to catch it and for the running backs and receivers to hold on to it. Or does it? Ahhh… therein lies the rub: the quarterback will have to take into consideration the preferences of his receivers and backs… or… he doesn’t. All in all, if this rule change goes through, we don’t foresee the psi of the football moving much out of the league-mandated range of 12.5 – 13.5 psi as it is now. Just let the QBs do with their footballs what they want so we can eliminate silly controversies like DeflateGate.

We have some other proposed rules changes but we wanted to keep this list specific to increasing offense and excitement while not putting the defense at a specific disadvantage.

There you have it gang. Let us know what you think.

Monday, January 5, 2015

If we are going to get ahead of ourselves...


You’re loving this 4-team college football playoff format, aren’t you? You’ve been loving the weekly unveiling of the top 4 teams every Tuesday night that was must-see T.V. for East Coasters and must-listen radio/must-interwebbing for us work-a-daddies on the West Coast, yeah? And you totally ate-up those semi-final games on New Year’s Day, didn’t you? But you’re a greedy one, right? We know what you’re thinking, you dirty bird: Now, that you’ve wet your beak on this particular playoff format, you’re of the mind that if 4 teams are good, 8 is better. Did we feel you on that?

Well, pump the breaks, there, champ.

There are certain logistical details within an 8-team format that need to be overcome, the chief amongst those being asking a college program’s fanbase to make plans for possibly 3 different road trips in a 2-3 week time span.

A quick aside on the weekly unveiling show: face it, the real excitement isn’t who’s going to be #3, #2 or even who will be #1. The real excitement that kept you on edge every Tuesday afternoon/evening was who was going to be last one it at #4 and who was going to be first one out at #5. You think that same level of anticipation, that same level of buzz is going to carry over to finding out who is in at #8 and who is out at… #9? Just something to think about, there, oh greedy one.

This isn’t realistic and simply geometrically expanding the current format whereby the 2 semi-final games are played at a traditional bowl venue isn’t going to work. 1st round half-full or even three-quarters-full stadiums because fan bases aren’t willing to travel, possibly, coast-to-coast one week with the possibility of another road trip the following week is not going to fly with college and university big-wigs.

Not-at-capacity stadiums will suggest a lack of buzz and juice with the general public when, overall, momentum and the overall popularity of college football is undeniably on the upswing.

So, here’s what needs to happen in order to make the 8-team format work: First off, first round games will be played on the home turf of the higher seeds. So, the top 4 seeds will host the first round games against the 5-8 seeds. This guarantees sell-outs and gets things kicked off in front of rowdy partisan crowds. If you are worried about the lower-seeded team being at a disadvantage, well, yes, they are the lower seeded team and that’s pretty much how it works in every other sport. The moment the “playoff” button was hit, that ship set sail and non-traditional tweeks to the system will have to be made in order for an 8-team playoff to be sustainable. Trust us, a sold out game at the Coliseum or down south “between the hedges” will be great television.

OK, now for some normalcy or rather "new normalcy": the two semi-final games will be played at 2 of the 6 rotating bowl sites on New Year’s Day just as it is now. Just as it is, now. Perfect. This keeps everyone who matters on board and minimizes disruption to the current system that everyone, thus far, is pretty excited about.

Lastly, as we understand it, the national championship game goes to the highest bidder and as it stands, naturally, this year’s game will be played at Jerry’s World (Jerry Jones, owner of the Dallas Cowboys) there in Arlington, Texas outside of Dallas. Short of having it there every year (which would not be a bad thing – we’ll explain later), the college big-wigs would be well-served to keep the games at domes in the middle of the country, again, for travel/logistical reasons. We’re looking at you, Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis and Ford Field in Detroit.

Back to our modest proposal of a semi-permanent home in Arlington/Dallas for the national championship game: in expanding to an 8-team format before we've even finished up the inaugural 4-team playoff format, we are looking into the unknown and some assumptions need to be made and, again, as we see it, maximizing partisan crowd attendance has to be top priority. That’s why we went with home-field first round and Dallas for national championship game. Dallas provides a central location on the U.S. map that is not-too-far for any one particular program’s fan base and here is perhaps the best part: Dallas is pretty much the geographic center of America's college football fan base; it’s in the heart of Big 12 country, a reasonable drive west down Interstate 20 from SEC country and a 3-hour plane ride from much of an ascendant PAC-12 territory. What this means is you will be guaranteed a sell-out of college football fans that will create the right atmosphere for college football’s national championship game.

Of course, it probably already is a Super Bowl-like corporate junket, but boys can dream, can’t they?

We welcome any and all critiques and alternatives.

* Heisman Trophy winner and Oregon Duck QB, Marcus Mariota who will be taking on Ohio State on January 12 for the college football national championship.