God, Guns And Gold!

I haven’t honestly watched so much as a second of the Olympics – any Olympics – since watching the biking events in 2012 while I was stuck sick in a hotel room.

The current Tokyo games have been marred by Covid hysteria and parts of the US Team mistaking their celebrity for a social mandate.

But there are still some reasons to cheer. The US shooting team is not only taking home the jewelry…

….but got a surprisingly evenhanded treatment from the left-leaning Guardian:

…marksmanship aficionados were treated to the slightly less refined spectacle of Piers Morgan sniping on Twitter as an American won the first gold medal of the Rio Games and USA Shooting, the governing body, firing back by accusing the gun-control advocate of trolling.

Morgan’s facile argument: it is no wonder that a country of 330 million people with an estimated 400 million guns in circulation and a serious homicide problem is good at shooting. “What we do out here on the skeet fields and on the rifle range has nothing to do with crime and violence,” Matt Suggs, the chief executive of USA Shooting, said.

The US is indeed the all-time medal leader, with roughly as many gold medals as the next three countries (China, Russia and Italy) combined. But Ginny Thrasher’s first-day success in the 10-metre air rifle was the US’s only shooting gold of the 2016 Games, while top-ranked Italy won four. Though the US has a large number of competitive shooters, they are not necessarily taking aim in the international disciplines featured in the Olympics.

Because street criminals are the ones moving up to the Olympic team. And to think we accuse leftists of being bovine intellectual herd animals.

Having just shot skeet for the first time earlier this month, I’m a little in awe of my nephews’ facility at blasting clays – and a lot in awe of the kind of shooting the serious competitors do.

A Big Ol’ Slug From The Poisoned Chalice

Kareem and the Big O in 1971

On April 30, 1971, the Milwaukee Bucks defeated the Baltimore Bullets 118-106 to win their first NBA championship. The team had won the equivalent of a Powerball jackpot the previous year, when a coin flip gave the team the first pick in the 1969 draft. The Bucks drafted Lou Alcindor, the dominating center from UCLA, then added the great Oscar Robertson, an equally dominating guard who had played for terrible teams for a decade. The early good fortune lead to glory as the Bucks franchise won its first title in only the third year of its existence. 

At the time, I was a second grader at St. Therese School in Appleton, Wisconsin. While I didn’t follow the NBA that closely at first, I knew this championship was a big deal. Shortly after the Bucks won the championship, Alcindor changed his name to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, which confused me a bit, but second graders are easily confused. As we grew older, we would try to imitate Abdul-Jabbar’s famous sky hook on the school playground, ineffectively of course. We would cheer our Bucks and curse the mighty Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers, who would stand in the way of our team’s glory. The Bucks made it back to the finals in 1974, but lost to the Celtics in 7 games, including the finale on the floor of the Milwaukee Arena.

As time went on, Abdul-Jabbar decided that he no longer wanted to live in Milwaukee, which did not fit his cultural needs. The Bucks traded Abdul-Jabbar and the players the team received in return formed the nucleus of a consistent contender for the league championship, but a team that never could get past the hated Celtics and the equally despised Philadelphia 76ers. This went on for over a decade, but by the early 90s Michael Jordan ruled the league and the Bucks became a footwipe. I continued to follow the Bucks throughout my adolescence and into adulthood, but there wasn’t much joy in it. 

In 2013, the Bucks finally found the man who would replace Abdul-Jabbar, a Greek citizen of Nigerian descent named Giannis Antetokounmpo. He was 18 years old and while his talent was recognized, he was not invited to hang out in the green room with the other top prospects of that year. When his name was called, he came up on stage from the stands at Barclays Center, a face in the crowd. Over the following eight seasons, he transformed himself from a skinny refugee kid into the most imposing and relentless basketball player on the planet, earning the nickname “The Greek Freak.”  On Tuesday evening, Antetokounmpo led the Bucks to their first championship in 50 years, scoring 50 points in a 105-98 clincher against the Phoenix Suns. For his part, Antetokounmpo is a thoroughly likable young man with a big smile and a spectacular game, and his teammates are equally talented and amiable. And after a 50-year wait, my childhood team had finally returned to the summit.

It’s a great story, but only if you accept the narrative that the NBA still means something. In the 50 years between championships, much has changed. The games in 1971 were played in darkened arenas with less than 13,000 people in attendance. The owners were local businessmen and the coachers were guys like Red Auerbach, the curmudgeonly cigar chomping leader of the Celtics. Over the course of 50 years, the NBA engaged in relentless marketing, leveraging the genuine star power of Abdul-Jabbar, Julius Erving, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, and Michael Jordan to transform the league into an international entertainment. The money flowed and the movie stars and beautiful people were sitting courtside, especially in Los Angeles.

This went on for a long time, but in recent years the dominant player and personality has been LeBron James, immensely talented but a man with a perpetual scowl on his face. His preferred nickname is “King James,” and he has been an imperious monarch for nearly 20 seasons. He indulges in woke social commentary and turns a blind eye to the NBA’s sordid relationship with the Chinese government, claiming that critics of the tyrannical regime are not sufficiently informed. James is a tremendous talent, but he’s utterly detestable.

So after 50 years, how much joy is there in winning a championship of a league full of vipers and hypocrites? For me, more than is justified. The fan in me wants to get a championship cap that matches those the Bucks wore as they accepted the trophy in Milwaukee, but let’s face it, it’s likely that hat probably comes from a crappy Chinese factory and the profits would land in the coffers of some woke conglomerate.

But still, but still, I want to believe the Bucks have accomplished something noble and that my years of fandom are now being rewarded. My head says it’s a lie, but my heart says something else.

 

 

Truth = Sexist

The women weren’t really trying, that’s the only reason they lost. Otherwise, they’d totes have dominated the field.  For sure.

Because if the professional women athletes really were trying but still got beaten this badly by a bunch of high school boys, we’d have to admit there truly is a physical difference between the sexes and that’s simply Unacceptable.

Joe Doakes

2+2=Women Can Literally Do Anything As Well As Men, Winston.

Shot In The Dark: Today’s News, Delivered In 2013. As Usual.

Remember when “Electronic Pull Tabs” were going to get the taxpayer off the hook for paying for Zygi Wilf’s big real-estate upgrade? Yeah, someone pointed out that that was baked monkey doodle, and it wasn’t someone with a tin “Journalist” badge.

Of course, Minneapolis and Minnesota government has been busy rationalizing riots and carnage in nursing homes lately, so the ongoing – and utterly predictable disaster – of the Vikings Stadium has slipped from the headlines.

But, as predicted, Minneapolis is going to be going to the state taxpayer because it just can’t afford to pay for Helga Braid Nation’s entertainment anymore.

However, now that the city’s first debt payment of $17 million is about to be due, DFL state Rep. Mohamud Noor says his city can’t pay, according to the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal.

Noor, who was recently appointed chair of the House Workforce and Business Development Committee, said the coronavirus pandemic makes it impossible for his city to afford the stadium.

That was then,” he said, speaking on the payment deal Minneapolis signed eight years ago, “this is now. We’ve got a global pandemic.”

If you recall, the city was on the hook forl about 13% of the cost of the stadium – about $150 million (emphasis added by me):

Who’s got two thumbs, writes a blog and hosts a weeken talk show and predicted this about the time the stadium opened?

“I’m just kind of surprised that they’re taking this approach,” remarked Republican state Sen. Julie Rosen, according to the Star Tribune. “It [the original agreement] was a very good deal for Minneapolis.”

Arguing economics, finance or logic with the Minneapolis City Council is a little like arguing hip-hop technique with Mitch McConnell. Neither party is equipped to play the game.

Maybe It Was Considered A Peaceful Demonstration?

A friend of the blog emails:

Wow! Think the media will report Covid19 at our military academies in the coming weeks. No distancing, many with masks not covering their faces. 
Nothing to see here, right?

Another friend of the blog pointed out that the cadets and midshipmen were all parts of training cohorts that were pretty much together all the time anyway. Which to me introduced the question – if we take the information civilians in GenPop are given, doesn’t that still mean that the service academies are “superspreaders?”

That being said, I wasn’t too concerned, given that everyone involved is young, healthy, selected in part for a lack of pre-existing conditions, largely sequestered away from those that aren’t, and part of a demographic cohort with roughly a 100% survival rate.

And as neither was the NDSU Bison, it didn’t rise to the level of a priority for me anyway.

RIP Sid Hartman

Sometimes it seems like everyone in the Twin Cties has a Sid Hartman story.

I had one – 34 years ago. And I can’t believe I never wrote about it in my “Twenty Years Ago Today” series.

I was working as a stringer – an ad-hoc freelance reporter – for WGN in Chicago. My job was to send reports on the game back to WGN – actually, to the show that Dana Carvey, Mike Meyers, John Goodman and Chris Farley lampooned a few years later, in the immortal “Da Bearss” bit – at halftime and at the end of the game.

This game happened to be Tommy Kramer’s best throwing game ever – five touchdowns against Forrest Gregg’s hapless ’86 Packers.

After the game, I walked down into the locker room and was interviewing Kramer, when I saw a mike creep up in front of the quarterback’s face. It was Sid. And he was bogarting the answer to my question.

And I felt a little flattered.

There are other, better Sid stories. This one may be my favorite

The Customer Is Always Evil

Fans booed the players in the Kansas City – Texas NFL game [a week or so back – Ed].  Players, announcers, coaches and owners insist the fans are wrong.  No live anthem, anti-racism messages on the scoreboard, players kneeling instead of standing for the flag, banning fans from cheering with the tomahawk chop and war paint, NFL allowing “victim” names on helmets . . . it’s all justified and necessary and the fans should just get over it.

The NFL is already worried about losing billions of dollars if the fans can’t attend because of Covid.  But what happens if the fans won’t attend because they’re insulted?

What’s that saying again?  The customer is always . . . racist?  The customer is always . . . wrong?  The customer is always . . . it’ll come to me.  It’s on the tip of my tongue.  Gimme a minute.

Joe Doakes

The customer, whatever their politics, is always conservative – at least when it comes to spending their entertainment dollar.

Which the NFL is.

Well, used to be.

Scouting For Opportunity

This is the job I want.  Quoting from the court’s opinion:

“Howard Norsetter, a United States citizen who has maintained permanent residence in Australia since 1984, began working as a scout for Minnesota Twins LLC, in 1990 . . . Norsetter’s scouting duties included evaluating athletes and making recommendations on whether the team should sign them. He developed relationships with players, parents, coaches, and agents, and he established contacts worldwide. He scouted in Australia and also regularly traveled to different countries to evaluate athletes, including Japan, Korea, Taiwan, South Africa, and all over Europe . . . Norsetter also served as the team’s minor-league international supervisor.”

Living in Aussie-land, jetting around the world watching baseball games . . . I wonder what that pays?  Have the Twins EVER signed a player from Down Under?  Is it possible he’s been scouting for 30 years and NEVER found a prospect, but still got paid for it? 

I want that job.

Joe Doakes

Almost like a public union job.

With a garbage hauler.

In New Jersey.

The Governor We Really Need

Bud Grant – the last person in public life who ever managed to portray Minnesotans as “tough”, with his bans on gloves and heaters on the sidelines at Vikings games in frigid Met Stadium in the dead of winter – is still at it.

Asked whether Covid gives him pause at 93, he responded:

“I’ve been through the polio epidemic … I was in the service during the War. All of those things have happened in my life, so I’m not quite as paranoid as some people might be.”

Heh.  

I’m more a George Halas guy – but Minnesota needs more Bud Grant.  

(Via regular commenter BossHoss)

Negotiation

If women’s soccer players don’t get equal pay, they’ll quit playing.  Then people who don’t watch womens soccer won’t be able to watch womens soccer.  That will show them!!

Joe Doakes

It’s fascinating, to me, watching people who clearly have no idea how the free market works, trying to engage in the free market.

This is a battle the women should be winning – or, perhaps, already are.

I’m starting to think it’s not about money,

An Intellectual 0-0 Tie

It’s the aftermath of the Independence Day weekend. It’s July, and the Twins are seriously in contention.

We shouldn’t HAVE to think about Soccer. I’d hope that we are better, as a society, than that. Our forefathers fought and died so that we’d be *free* of things like Eurovision, parliamentary government, and soccer. And this time of year, I like to honor and respect their sacrifice.
But I’m genuinely curious about something, and would love to find some genuine answers.
With the US Women’s Soccer team winning their fourth World Cup, they’ve proven themselves to be the most successful soccer team in the US. Which is a little like being “the best funk band in Sweden”, but certainly deserves respect.

But now, the news is full of their next story – going to court for “equal pay”. The US Men’s soccer team – which qualifies for the World Cup about as often as Swedish funk groups got on Soul Train – gets paid more, for fewer games, and enjoys much less success than the women. They enjoy other benefits – like better hotels, better facilities, better travel arrangements, and not being identifiable as “soccer players” by most Americans. The women play more, are more successful – and, some say, should be paid much better for their time.
I don’t have a problem with that, as far as it goes; also, I don’t care ,because again, it’s only soccer.

Men’s World Cup soccer is, of course, the most popular athletic spectacle in the world. There’s an insane amount of money changing hands due to that Godforsaken sport.
Does anyone know if the US women generate more money than the men do? Or that women’s World Cup, worldwide, generates as much / more money than the men’s sport?
I’ve heard various reporters and opinion-mongers say it’s only be “Fair” for the women to get paid more – but on economic matters, most journos are…well, we’re back to “Swedish Funk Band” analogies again.

Does anyone know how the numbers – all of ’em, not just the cherrypicked ones – break out?

How ‘Bout Them Twins?

As the Twins continue what is so far a stellar season – winning .678 as this is written, which is the best in the majors, still, by .001 point – I find myself in the painful position of reminding people about the law.

Berg’s Law.

The local media is starting to talk with a straight face about the Twins and post-season. Maybe even the World Series.

A reminder, Twin Cities media; it’s called “Berg’s Law”, not “Berg’s Suggestion”, for a reason. And Berg’s Fourth Law of Media/Sports Inversion is in full effect, and no less binding than Berg’s Seventh.

To wit: “Minnesota sports team may be a contender until the moment the local media actually believes they will be contenders. At that moment – be it spring training, late November in the NFL season, or week 72 of the NHL playoffs – the season will fall irredeemably apart.”

It’s iron-clad. It’s immutable. And it’s the law.

Sprinting To Confusion

I’m a User Experience Architect.

If for some reason I decided to take two years to become an abstract sculptor – well, Mazel Tov for me, but barring some pretty significant Contract-Fu on my part, I’m not going to get paid to be a User Experience Architect.  Or sculptor, to be honest, but that’s skirting the point.

If you’re not doing the thing that you’re supposedly getting paid for, unless your potential services are so valuable that the client is willing to pay to keep that potential on tap, you might need another source of income.

National Public Radio seems to have taken up the “cause” of female athletes – Olympians, mind you – whose athletic sponsorships are jeopardized by taking time off from their sports to have kids.   NPR’s Michel Martin talked with runner Alysia Montano about the way she was thrown out on the street after becoming pregnant:

And so in that off-year, I’d hoped that we would conceive and be able to have our daughter and return to the sport. And I did conceive. I did have my daughter. And my daughter was two months old. And I got a phone call that said, I want to talk about your contracts in regard to your performance this year – which means – you mean the year that I’ve been with child? And then I was – my payment was reduced.

Wait.

Back up.

Her payment – for running – was reduced, not eliminated, during a year in which her running was eliminated?

OK, surely she suffered grievously in other ways:

MARTIN: And what about your health benefits? I mean, that was another thing that emerged in the reporting on this is that there are athletes whose health insurance was terminated. And I can’t think a very thing – many things more frightening than either being pregnant or having a child or having a newborn with no health insurance – summarily terminated. So what about you? Did you at least have health insurance to cover the delivery or the postpartum period?

MONTANO: Yes. So the way that it works is a tier system. The luck that I did have with my daughter was I fell within the tier system because I made the Olympic team in 2012, and the protection was there for me. Now, if I didn’t make the Olympic team in 2012 and I became pregnant, I would lose my health insurance.

So let me get this straight – Nike is paying you to…run.  Something that, all due respect, is the nich-iest of niche sports – a sport that literally nobody ever in history has gone into thinking of making a living at.  And when you’re running, albeit not an Olympic level for a year, due to a personal (albeit blessed) choice that biology has pretty much limited to you, you still got paid.

Could there be a more first world problem?

Well, I suppose when you’re talking about “elite” athletes…:

My point and my stance is this should not be because I am an Olympian. This needs to be something that is in place for women athletes regardless.

“Regardless” of what?  Level?  Sport?

If I’m a company selling – let me stress this – sneakers, and I’m paying someone to…run, am I bound to support them unto death, regardless?

And am I the only one frantically and vainly combing their memory right now looking for a male athlete with an endorsement contract that included years of…well, not using the product?

Apparently when I call this a First World Problem, I’m only off by magnitude:

MARTIN: There are other women in this fight with you. We saw Alysia Montano and Kara Goucher share similar stories. What does it mean to have them alongside you?

Montano later notes the real problem:

She says she wants to make sure Nike writes this protection into the contracts of new and current female athletes because, she says, track and field athletes tend to sign contracts before they are the age in which women typically start thinking about having families, and by the time they do, they are locked into contracts without protections for maternity leave.

So it’s a matter of business education, as opposed to rampant sexism.

Inexorable

When John McEnroe recoils at Venus Williams’ behavior, you know someone really uncorked it.

Men don’t have the right to break rules without repercussion. John McEnroe was getting penalized for his nasty behavior in 1981. Jeff Tarango was banned from Wimbledon for abusing an umpire in 1995. Now Williams lost a match because of her penalizations for her abusive behavior. She’s joining a club filled with men who have suffered as she did for similar behavior.

The “rights” Williams is fighting for seem to be the ability to be free from the same rules men have to follow in order to be equal with them. That’s not equality, that’s asking for special treatment.

Yet we’re being lead to believe that Williams is bravely standing up against an unfair system of men that punishes women unjustly. While there are a few ridiculous calls out there made against women in the past (Alizé Cornet’s code violation for fixing her shirt while men are known to go topless on the court being a glaring one) what Williams did was childish, abusive, and just plain mean. Not only did it paint an innocent man doing his job as a villain, her attitude stole a moment of pure glory away from another woman who even looked up to her.

And it’s not as if Williams hasn’t been down this road before. In 2009, Williams lost a match after having a point deducted after she abused an umpire, and that umpire was a female. This entire debacle isn’t a story of Williams facing sexism, it’s a story of Williams lack of control over her temper.

And, from what I’ve seen, about a lot of middle-aged women who are upset thatthe “powerful middle-aged woman on her inexorable comeback” narrative has been sidelined.

Unintended Consequences

Minnesota has a miniimum wage of $9 an hour.

Minor league baseball players, working on a (very low) salary and putting in long hours, frequently earn less than that.

Saint Paul is about to phase its minimum wage up to $15 an hour.  That’s pretty much more than anyone on a Single-A team makes.

And so the Saint Paul Saints – after wheedling a stadium out of the city’s taxpayers – say they may have to shut down if they don’t get an exemption:

Noting league rules limit the baseball team’s payroll, the Saints say without the exemption they could possibly be forced to cease operations.

“We’re in a league that has a salary cap,” Saints Executive Vice President and General Manager Derek Sharrer told state lawmakers earlier this week. “So … if minimum wage and overtime laws were to impact us, then we may be in a position to not be able to abide by our league bylaws, which would force us not to be able to operate.”

The issue comes just three years after the Saints moved into their new home, CHS Field, in downtown St. Paul. Public funds contributed $51.4 million to the ballpark’s construction.

They’ll get it.  Lawmakers love sports teams.

All the businesses in Saint Paul without the same level of political clout?

Let’s just watch the implosion.