Random Thoughts on Random 2012 Events

31 Dec

A little peek at how the hotdog of this blog is made:  often something will catch my eye – a newspaper article, something on the radio, a viral video, etc – and I’ll start a post with my thoughts, observations, and (hopefully) unique spin on things.  For examples of what I mean, I’ll refer you to my posts on Google Goggles, the Penn State scandal, and the alternate uniforms worn by the Nebraska football team.

But sometimes those posts don’t get published.  Sometimes life (work, family, sleep, etc) takes priority, and by the time I get back to it, the moment has passed.  Or I’ll stop working on it because I don’t like where its going or I feel like I don’t have an interesting enough point of view.  At that point, it lingers out in my Drafts folder on the remote chance that I’ll eventually complete it or salvage it for scrap.

However, in light of my all-out, everything must go blitz today, this is a good opportunity for me to clean out some of the stuff I have lingering in my Drafts.  So let’s take a trip back through the year that was 2012, and I’ll quickly give my two cents which will seem oddly out of place several months later (especially where I incorrectly predict that Jon Bruning wins Ben Nelson’s Senate seat).

Fat News Anchor
Recap:  Some guy thinks the local news lady doing the morning show is setting a bad example because she’s on TV, overweight, and has not made any obvious changes in several years.  The anchor (Jennifer Livingston) responds on air, and the video ends up being a virally shared “I wish I’d said that” rallying cry for anybody who has ever felt bullied.  (More info here)

My take:  Maybe I’m calloused by years of reading online comments, but I didn’t really see the “bullying” in the original email.  The worst thing he says to her is that she is that her “physical condition has not improved” over the course of a few years – which she freely admits.  He does not call her fat, obese, or any other nasty playground name, nor is he (in my opinion) mean spirited in his comments.  I didn’t read where he says she needs to be an overly tanned, 110 pound stick with fake breasts to be on TV.  To me, it sure looks like he is saying “You have a great opportunity to use your platform as a TV host to promote a healthy lifestyle, and I wish you’d take advantage of it”.  Maybe he could have provided more suggestions like how the she (and her station) would benefit from chronicling her weight loss journey on air, as it would likely motivate many viewers to do the same, but again – it’s not like his email was cruel, mean, or full of hurtful words.

NFL Replacement Refs
Recap:  The NFL locked out the regular refs for the first weeks of the season, replacing them with guys who were officiating D-II and D-III colleges.  This let to numerous screw-ups, culminating in a botched call on Monday Night Football that cost the Green Bay Packers a win.

My take:

I’ll get the disclaimers out of the way right up front:  I’m not a huge NFL guy.  I don’t watch a ton of NFL games (and what I do watch is more in the form of background noise while I’m doing other things).  Since I haven’t been in a fantasy league for a few years, my knowledge of the game is fairly low – which is to say that it’s probably on par with most Americans.

But this week it has been impossible to not be aware of the controversy and chaos caused by the replacement refs working NFL games.  This week’s Monday Night Football game was (incorrectly) decided on a last second pass that appeared to be intercepted, but was ruled as a touchdown.  Since then, the outrage from fans, players, even the President, has reached a fever pitch.  At last count, SportsCenter had shown the play 12,753 times, completely wearing out two digital copies of the play.

Here are some thoughts I have on the replacement refs:

  • It will be awesome when the “real” refs come back, as they have never done anything controversial, or had high-profile blown calls that impacted the outcome of a game (cough, cough, Phil Luckett*, cough, cough)
  • With the poor way the lockout has been handled, and the negative impact it has had on the league, could it possibly be true that sports’ favorite scapegoat (MLB commissioner Bud Selig) is now ahead of Roger Goddell in popularity and public perception?
  • When the real refs come back, what sort of grace period will they get from fans and the media where mistakes and miscues are forgiven?  I’ll set the over/under at two games (and would likely take the under).
  • Listening to the MNF game, I’m surprised ESPN commentator Mike Tirico didn’t reference the 2006 Alamo Bowl (Nebraska v. Michigan) that was worked by officials from the Sun Belt conference.  In that game, the refs made several questionable calls, and appeared lost on some of the reviews.  Tirico could not stop talking about how the officials from a lower conference were not equipped to deal with the speed of a bowl game featuring BCS conference teams.  Definitely an easy parallel to the replacement refs moving from D-III to the NFL.
  • Ironically, that Michigan-Nebraska Alamo Bowl came down to a crazy, bizarre, rarely before seen, last second play where a number of obvious penalties were missed.

*I had initially planned to just drop in the Wikipedia link for Phil Luckett, but when I googled him to find the URL, I saw this article – Luckett was in the replay booth for the ill-fated MNF game as a league supervisor for the officiating crew.  Geez, this guy has a Forrest Gump-ian way of showing up for controversial moments.  If he ever gets on your flight, I’d suggest walking.

Worseminton
Recap:  In the Sumner Olympics, eight players from four different badminton teams (South Korea, China, and Indonesia) were tossed out of the Olympics for intentionally trying to lose their matches.  And I mean intentionally.  Here is a video of one of the matches where some of the greatest badminton players in the world can’t (won’t) hit the shuttlecock over the net.  When we played badminton in junior high P.E., we were better than these Olympians – of course, we were actually trying.

My Take:  A few days before this happened, I posted a list of Rejected Olympic Events.  One of the events I listed was “worseminton”, which was a punny (and hopefully funny) play on badminton.

I did not think anybody would take it seriously.

Why would anybody try to lose at the Olympics?  Because of how the badminton tournament is set up.  Basically (as I understand it) in the early rounds, teams play a sort of round-robin style.  These teams had already qualified for the next round, and the outcome of these matches would determine who they played in the quarterfinals.  Apparently, the teams figured out that losing would be advantageous to their medal chances.  The event organizers should have been aware of this loophole and should work to ensure the best way to win is by winning, not losing.

And that is why I don’t really have a problem with them trying to lose.  These people train hours a day for four years for the chance to win an Olympic medal.  Twenty years from now, nobody will care if the Indonesian B Team won their 3rd match in pool play.  They’ll care if Indonesia won a medal or not (as much as folks will care about badminton results in 20 years).  So if these teams figured out a (legal) loophole to improve their chances at that medal, good for them.

Where they screwed up is by sucking so badly.  It’s too bad that in all that training, they could not have found time to practice losing in a plausible manner.

MLB Home Run Derby
Recap:  The 2012 Major League Baseball All-Star Game was held in Kansas City.  Robinson Cano of the New York Yankees (a team Royals fans love to hate) initially said that he would consider picking hometown slugger Billy Butler for the Home Run Derby, but then left him off the team.  Cano was booed loudly during his HR Derby at-bats, and exited the competition quickly.

My Take:  KC fans were justified to boo Robinson Cano.  Consider:

I guarantee that if Cano does not say anything about including a representative from the Royals, he does not get booed (or at least not that loudly – he is a Yankee, after all).  But Cano opened himself for the abuse by opening the door and then slamming it in the face of the Royals fans.

There was a ton of criticism for how the KC fans reacted which bothered me too.  If this happened in New York, Boston, or Philly, not as much would be made of it, but the media couldn’t understand how the normally charming Midwesterners could do this.  As a Midwesterner, I’ll tell you:  treat us with respect and we’ll return it tenfold.  Treat us like fools and suffer the consequences.

Finally, with this being MLB, there must be criticism for Bud Selig and the commissioner’s office.  One of two things needs to happen.  Either 1) Always include a roster spot for a hometown guy, or don’t put the pressure of picking teams on one of the players.  Take the defending champ, the leaders from each league, and any other blatantly obvious choices (i.e. Prince Fielder, Jose Bautista, etc) who might be left out.

Obama Slow Jams the News
Recap:  President Obama went on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon and took part in a bit where he discussed policy (the cost of higher education, in this case) while The Roots and Fallon provided a background of a smooth R&B jam and backing vocals (“He’s the POTUS with the most-us!”).

My Take:  This is an interesting way to take his message to the audience (Fallon was taping at the University of North Carolina that week) that would love it and respond accordingly (instead of CNN, C-SPAN, or some speech).  I like how Obama embraced this and was able to pull it off looking smooth and cool, which is not something you’d see out of pretty much any Republican nominee (save, maybe, Bush Jr.)  Could you imagine Romney, McCain, Dole, Bush Sr, or Reagan trying it?  That would be a different kind of hilarious.

But ultimately, how does Obama benefit?  Sure, he locks up a good chunk of the youth and “hip” vote, but I’m guessing Romney would much rather have the old and “un-hip” vote, as they, you know, tend to actually vote.

Bob Kerrey Runs For Senate
Recap:  When Ben Nelson chooses to retire from the Senate instead of seeking reelection, Nebraska Democrats recruit former Senator and Governor Bob Kerrey to come back from New York City to run.  Why?  Because it is widely believed that Kerrey gave Democrats the best chance to retain Nelson’s seat.

My take:  Politics in Nebraska is kind of like a Harlem Globetrotters game.

The Republicans are the Globetrotters, the seemingly unbeatable team dressed up in red, white, and blue.  The Democrats are the Washington Generals, the hapless team that feigns resistance while the Globetrotters do whatever they please to keep the people happy.  In Nebraska, the Governor, all three U.S. Representatives, and one Senator are all Republicans.  So are Attorney General, Secretary of State, and the majority of state senators.

So Kerrey announcing that he’s going to come back and run for the Senate is both good and bad.

It is good because it means the Senate seat won’t be decided in the primary election.  The Democrats have a candidate with name recognition, experience, and serious potential to win the election.

But it is bad because the best candidate* the Democrats could find to replace the soon-to-be 71-year-old Ben Nelson is a 69-year-old who has been living in New York since 2001.

*No disrespect to University of Nebraska regent Chuck Hassebrook, who decided to run after Kerrey initially declined to join the race, but you were going to join Stormy Dean, David Hahn, Mike Meister, and others in the category of “Sacrificial Democrat Lambs in Nebraska Elections.”

And that is the sad part.

It is sad and pathetic that the Democratic Party has so completely and utterly failed in developing viable, state-wide candidates that Kerrey is the best (if not only) option to have a shot in November.

Look at the Republican Party:  you have some rather established names in the big offices (Heineman, Johanns, Fortenberry, Terry, Smith).  But it is the depth that helps to make them a political juggernaut.  Bruning, Sheehy, Flood, Foley, Fischer, and a couple of other state senators whom I’m blanking on at the moment.  One goes down, two more step in.

This isn’t to say that there is nobody in the Democratic line-up.  On the contrary, there are some very good state senators (Bill Avery, Danielle Conrad, Amanda McGill, and my fellow Gretna Dragon, Heath Mello).  All are doing good things in the Unicameral, and making names for themselves.  Unfortunately, none of them are truly ready for a statewide or national election.  And that failure is squarely on the shoulders of party leadership.

And so I will be voting for Kerrey (mainly because Jon Bruning is a sweater vest away from being Rick Santorum), but I hope the Democrats know and understand that after this election, there will be no more white knights riding in to save the day.

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