Friday, October 31, 2008

Attention: Philadelphia

Bill Simmons of ESPN recently wrote about a relatively unknown event in sports fandom: the buying binge. (Last item in this article.)

When your favorite team wins a championship, you feel the need to celebrate. It's very easy to either go down to the mall, if the team is in your area, or visit an on-line spot, if it isn't, and go shopping. The longer the wait has been for a championship, the more you want to buy. Simmons pulled eight t-shirts out of his closet that related to the 2004 Boston Red Sox.

I've been there. You see, my name is Budd, and I am a championship shopaholic.

Syracuse had never won a basketball title before doing so in 2003, and my credit card was ready. Official CBS video of the Final Four? Check. Syracuse's DVD review of the season? Check. Final Four sweatshirt? Check. Final Four gym bag and program? Yup and yup. Championship golf shirt when visiting the bookstore? Who could resist? You know those special magazines Sports Illustrated produces for champions? Always wanted to buy one of those, so I did.

A year and a half later, the Red Sox finally won a championship after 86 years. I wasn't a fan for all 86 years, but for a big part of it. The damage was considerable: the official World Series video, the local NESN DVD, the DVD of the ring ceremony the next spring, a program from the World Series, an ALCS t-shirt, a championship sweatshirt, a mug, and the commemorative book from the Boston Globe. Yes, there was another SI commemorative issue. Then someone gave me a clock with "World Series Champions 2004" on the face, and a World Series hat. I got the yearbook in the spring too.

Then four years later, as in last week, I saw a DVD version of HBO's "Curse of the Bambino," which I had seen in 2005, on sale at Big Lots for $3. That one always gets me weepy, especially when they show the sign in the parade that says "our parents and g-parents thank you." Sold.

I was much better in 2007. I won friendly wagers for a sweatshirt and t-shirt from Boulder, Colo., friends when the Rockies lost to the Red Sox in the Series. OK, there was a golf shirt and a yearbook and a DVD (but only one), and I got a glass for Christmas. But the financial rubble wasn't too extensive.

So Phillies' fans, I know what you are feeling. Philadelphia hadn't won a World Series since 1980, and the city hadn't won any sort of title in a quarter-century. Please -- remember that your 401K plan is now a 301K plan. Hold down your spending to only, oh, 12 or 14 items. You'll thank me ... not today, not tomorrow, not next month, but maybe by 2012.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Jobs by the dozens

Who says unemployment is up in America right now? There's one profession that seems to be growing exponentially.

Political strategist.

They are just about everywhere.

Turn on one of the all-news stations, particularly during the day, and you'll find a couple of them (they seem to come in pairs). One for McCain, one for Obama. They spout their respective party lines, go back and forth for five minutes or so, and then are sent to where political strategists go when they aren't on TV. Personally, I think they just switch channels for their next engagement, one station after another.

The two questions that comes to mind are:

1. Do these guys have any background or references? There's never any listing of their qualifications. (Note: This does not include the Bob Shrums or Karl Roves of the world, who actually have worked for Presidential candidates.) Did they ever do more than make phone calls for the Town Council candidates of Hulett, Wyoming? (Assuming Hulett has one.)

2. Do these guys ever say anything interesting? Either Obama's got it all locked up, or McCain is closing fast. Their fax machines must be humming with stuff from the campaign headquarters.

I suppose MSNBC, CNN and FNC have to show something during the day besides the candidates' speeches -- which, by the way, consists of roughtly the same material day after day, hour after hour (although it is fun to count up the number of false charges that Gov. Palin seems to make in a given speech) -- and this kills part of the time.

But, jeez, what are these media outlets going to do on ... Wednesday?!?

Monday, October 27, 2008

Incident at a bookstore

The other day I was visiting one of the area's Barnes and Noble stores, hanging around a display about the upcoming Presidential election. I'd lie and say I stopped briefly on my way to the philosophy department or Greek history section, but you know better.

Anyway, two men in their early 20's passed by the display. One stopped at the display and noticed a biography of Sarah Palin that was there.

"Hey, it's the hockey mom," one of them said. Then after a pause, he said with equal parts sarcasm and disgust, "I've never known a hockey mom to spend $150-thousand on her clothes." His friend chuckled and agreed with him as they moved on.

Governor, based on that incident I'd say it's going to tough for you to shake that image off for a while.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Here's to tolerance...

We'll see if this Friday night article from the Associated Press gets much play:

Terrorist strikes on four American cities. Russia rolling into Eastern Europe. Israel hit by a nuclear bomb. Gay marriage in every state. The end of the Boy Scouts. All are plausible scenarios if Democrat Barack Obama is elected president, according to a new addition to the campaign conversation called "Letter from 2012 in Obama's America," produced by the conservative Christian group Focus on the Family Action.

The imagined look into the future is part of an escalation in rhetoric from Christian right activists who are trying to paint Obama in the worst possible terms as the campaign heads into the final stretch and polls show the Democrat ahead.

Although hard-edge attacks are common late in campaigns, the tenor of the strikes against Obama illustrate just how worried conservative Christian activists are about what should happen to their causes and influence if Democrats seize control of both Congress and the White House.

"It looks like, walks like, talks like and smells like desperation to me," said the Rev. Kirbyjon Caldwell of Houston, an Obama supporter who backed President Bush in the past two elections. The Methodist pastor called the 2012 letter "false and ridiculous." He said it showed that some Christian conservative leaders fear that Obama's faith-based appeals to voters are working.

The story goes on to say:

But the tone this election year is sharper than usual and the volume has turned up as Nov. 4 nears.

Steve Strang, publisher of Charisma magazine, a Pentecostal publication, titled one of his recent weekly e-mails to readers, "Life As We Know It Will End If Obama is Elected."

Strang said gay rights and abortion rights would be strengthened in an Obama administration, taxes would rise and "people who hate Christianity will be emboldened to attack our freedoms."

Separately, a group called the Christian Anti-Defamation Commission has posted a series of videos on its site and on YouTube called "7 Reasons Barack Obama is not a Christian."

The commission accuses Obama of "subtle diabolical deceit" in saying he is Christian, while he believes that people can be saved through other faiths.

Focus on the Family Action is legally separated (but obviously connected) from Focus on the Family, Rev. James Dodson's group. Dr. Dodson, you might remember, urged prayers for heavy rain during Barack Obama's convention acceptance speech in Denver. Sean Hannity once said on air that it was "an honor" to talk to Dr. Dodson in an interview.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The Elmira Express

A movie about someone who moved to Elmira as a child and then went to Syracuse University? What, did someone film my life story?

Not quite. "The Express" is about football great Ernie Davis, and any comparison between the two of us would stop if anyone remembers my feeble attempts to play football. But it certainly was a must-see for me under the circumstances.

It was indeed funny to see scenes filmed at Syracuse, especially ones with the old stadium drawn in my computers. The campus sure looked good, though, as did the clipping of the Syracuse Daily Orange. I don't think any scenes were actually filmed in Elmira. I did, however, get a kick out of the point when the movie's author used the real name of the sports editor of the Elmira newspaper (Al Mallette) in a scene set in that town.

The movie is based on a nine-year-old book called "Ernie Davis : The Elmira Express." I read it a few years ago and remember thinking that it had more typographical errors than any professionally published book I had ever seen. (I hope the new edition, put out for the movie, did some cleaning.) When I heard about the plans for a movie, I wonder where the story would go. After all, Davis was the first African American to win the Heisman Trophy, but died before he could ever play a down in the National Football League. No chance at a happy ending there.

"The Express" concentrates on Davis' sophomore season, when Syracuse won the national championship. He wins over his teammates with his talent and decency as the victories pile up on the field. The centerpiece is the Cotton Bowl against Texas, and Davis battles racial prejudice in emerging victorious. That feels like the emotional highpoint, but the movie still has 20 minutes left. So it's not "Brian's Song" or "Hoosiers."

Still, it's a pretty exciting movie. Directors seem to love football movies, if only to show hard hits in slow motion from three angles. Davis seemed to get the ball on every play and run for at least a first down, but that's Hollywood. Dennis Quaid (as coach Ben Schwartzwalder) and Rob Brown (as Davis) are fine in the lead roles, and some of the dialogue is smart and snappy.

Sports fans always get picky about their films; it's easy to forget that it's not a documentary. Still, it's easy to point out that a game in which Syracuse plays at West Virginia and confronts the racist fans down there was in real life played in Syracuse. The Redskins are shown to want to trade Davis to the Browns because owner George Preston Marshall supposedly didn't want a black player on his roster. Well, Davis was traded to Cleveland for Bobby Mitchell, the first African American in Redskins' history and a future Hall of Famer in his own right.

Oh well. "The Express" still has some lessons to teach about the era that we should remember today, and Davis should never be forgotten. You could do far worse on a chilly fall day for entertainment, particularly if you are a football fan.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Summer's over

There is something sad about the end of your favorite baseball team's season.

Spring training marks the annual renewal of life, summer features warm days and good times, and fall seems compressed as we try to get everything done before the first snow, at least in the Northeast.

So it goes for the Red Sox fans, whose season ended Sunday night with a loss in Game Seven to the Tampa Bay Rays, those 1969 Mets impersonators. Fittingly, the high temperature Tuesday in Buffalo is scheduled to be in the low 40's, which isn't exactly baseball weather. Ever hit a baseball in cold weather? It's like a swarm of bees attacking your hands; it left me close to tears once, and it was warmer than that.

Boston's season raises an interesting question. In an age when you only hear chants of "we're number one," can you have a satisfying sports season when your team doesn't win it all? I'd like to think so, but it's tough ... and that's particularly true after a couple of instances of ultimate success, like the Red Sox have had lately.

It wasn't a great year in Red Sox Nation, but it was a pretty good one. The team's young talent continued to develop, ensuring a good future. Dustin Pedroia, Kevin Youkilis and Jon Lester look like stars. Boston made the playoffs despite a sideshow involving Manny Ramirez, who might have been useful in a Game Seven but the team probably wouldn't have gotten there with the distraction he represents. The Red Sox gave it all they had, beating a good Angels team and avoiding elimination for as long as possible in spite of a lineup that looked spent at time because of injuries. Mike Lowell would have been helpful in the playoffs, while Josh Beckett and David Ortiz were obviously hurting.

But the offseason brings time for contemplation, and it's easy to wonder about how some old friends will fare. Tim Wakefield, Jason Varitek and Mike Timlin were all big parts of the 2004 team, and all are facing serious questions about their baseball futures. If they all depart for one reason or another (not to say that they will, but they might), that would leave Ortiz as the only full-time player left from the magical 2004 season. Time waits for no one, particularly in baseball.

The offseason is also a time for action, as the team tries to readjust and get better for 2009. Trades? Free agents? Who knows? We only know that the Red Sox have resources and are willing to use them creatively. It's easy to feel much better about next year's baseball in Boston than in, say, Pittsburgh.

In the meantime, the New York Yankees haven't played baseball in three weeks. This was better.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

For those in Minnesota...

You might remember the scary video of the scary people filing into a McCain rally a couple of posts ago.

One of them may be in Congress.

Chris Matthews of MSNBC recently interviewed Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota. Here's a transcript of how the interview ended:

MR. MATTHEWS: How many Congress people, members of Congress, do you think are in that anti-American crowd you described? How many Congress people do you serve with? I mean, it's 435 members of Congress.

REP. BACHMANN: Right now --

MR. MATTHEWS: How many are anti-American in the Congress right now that you serve with?

REP. BACHMANN: You'd have to ask them, Chris. I'm focusing on Barack Obama and the people that he's been associating with. And I'm very worried about --

MR. MATTHEWS: But do you suspect that a lot of people you serve with --

REP. BACHMANN: -- their anti-American nature.

MR. MATTHEWS: Well, he's a United States senator from Illinois. He's one of the people you suspect as being anti-American. How many people in the Congress of the United States do you think are anti- American? You've already suspected Barack Obama. Is he alone, or are there others? How many do you suspect of your colleagues as being anti-American?

REP. BACHMANN: What I would say -- what I would say is that the news media should do a penetrating expose and take a look. I wish they would. I wish the American media would take a great look at the views of the people in Congress and find out, are they pro-America or anti-America? I think people would love to see an expose like that.

The complete interview can be found here. It would be interesting to know what the Congresswoman's definition of "pro-America" is.

FOOTNOTE: Since this was written, Bachmann's opponent received $700,000 in three days in campaign contributions. The Congresswoman is also the target of a censure petition, in which the rolls have gone past 50,000.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Take Five, 19-days-to-go edition

1. It's tough to know for sure, but according to TV By the Numbers, it looks like all the commercial networks had better individual ratings for the debate than Fox did for the Phillies-Dodgers Wednesday night. The baseball game wasn't broken into hourly breakdowns. Either politics is now the "national pastime," or a lot of people are still angry with Manny Ramirez for sulking in Boston.

2. Right after the debate, Fox had its usual 87-11 or so result for McCain when its viewers were told to text in the winner's name. Then I went to CBS News' Web site (have I mentioned lately that CBS isn't available in Buffalo?), and saw its on-line poll, and Obama was ahead by about the same margin. So I can only conclude that all of the conservatives were watching Fox, and all of the liberals were watching CBS. And speaking of Fox, it was interesting that it went looking for Democratic commentators after the debate, and came up with Geraldine Ferraro. That must have been quite a search.

3. You may have heard that there's been some controversy about Obama's place of birth, even though he has posted his birth certificate on a Web site for all to see. I heard a radio commentator today say that Obama's alleged trip to Pakistan on an Indonesian passport was a "vital issue." Tell that to my 401K plan, sir.

4. Funny how several commentators right after the debate said that McCain had done really well, and then seemed to change their tune quite a bit when the polls results, indicating a public preference for Obama's performance, came in. David Gergen of CNN had the line of the night, when he was asked what he would tell John McCain to do next. "I wouldn't know what the hell to say," Gergen replied, bringing the group conversation to a halt with laughter.

5. Two remarks stuck with me by Senator McCain from Wednesday's debate. He said he'd balance the federal budget by the end of his first term (a claim repeated this morning by Gov. Palin), which strikes me as a neat trick considering he wants to cut taxes across the board and is facing billions of more expenditures in the light of our economic problems. And remember, we're not exactly balanced now. Math wasn't my best subject in school, but anyone will have trouble making these figures add up to zero.

The other was that McCain said he was proud of each and every person who came to one of his rallies. Better take a look at the video on my previous blog, Senator.

Monday, October 13, 2008

The dark side

Here's a thought about the upcoming election, delivered in a roundabout way:

Sometimes I like to jump on to Yahoo Answers! People leave all sorts of questions in a variety of categories, and other people try to answer them. Sometimes this comes out of genuine curiosity, or out of a need for someone else to do a homework assignment, or to advance a particular viewpoint.

The latter has come out in the last few months in political season. Granted, the questions and answers are anonymous, so it's easy to get nasty. And Yahoo Answers! is no place for thin-skinned supporters of Senator Obama.

For example, that site is where I first learned that a few people were comparing Obama to the Anti-Christ. Here's the lead-in to a question posted today: "According to The Book of Revelations the anti-Christ is: The anti-Christ will be a man in his 40's, of MUSLIM descent, who will deceive the nations with persuasive language, and have a massive Christ-like appeal, prophecy says that people will flock to him and he will promise false hope and world peace when he is in power and will destroy everything. So do we recognize this description?? I strongly urge each one of you to examine this 'Obama.'"

Here are some examples of some of the questions posted lately:

"If Obama does not like being called Hussein, why has he not changed his name again? I mean, he's already changed it several times."

"If elected, will Obama be impeached? Ties to felon Tony Rezko. Ties to criminal organization ACORN. Ties to domestic terrorist Bill Ayers. Which will it be?"

"Why has Obama Thrown his Grandma & Muslims 'Under the Bus'?"

"Did Bill Ayers actually write Obama's book DREAMS FROM MY FATHER?"

"Why do Democrats throw anyone out of the party who votes against abortion?"

"Is there a coming, Liberal Thug-ocracy?"

Now, McCain has gotten a few slings and arrows on the site too ("Does McCain have one of those blue handicap parking stickers?"), but he's getting a more polite treatment overall.

I used to wonder what these people who are so dreadfully ill-informed and impolite looked like. However, the organization called Keystone Progress (which in fairness is quite public in its support of Obama) brought some cameras to a McCain rally in Bethlehem, Pa., recently, and shot some footage. I got the impression some of Yahoo people were there. You don't have to watch all 5:10 to get the idea, the first few minutes will more than do:

(And thanks to Buffalo Pundit for the link.)

I'm not sure if McCain and Palin knew what they were unleashing when they stepped up their personal attacks 10 days ago. I just hope they can get some of that hate back in the bottle.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Worst shot ever

I have plenty of friends who follow soccer, so they should be interested in this video of the Scotland-Norway World Cup qualifier on Saturday. One play is being called the worst shot in soccer history, which is saying something. It comes about 35 seconds into the video below:

Ouch. Thanks to SportsbyBrooks for the link.

Mischief in the air

The other day, I looked through the mail and noticed that a big envelope had come for me from John McCain.

"How nice of him to write," I thought as I opened up the package. "You'd think John would be too busy to send something to me." McCain and my family go way back, since he met my parents at a wedding in the early 1970's.

Inside was a note from the Senator, saying that he needed financial help to win the election and he needed it fast. To that end, he had enclosed a FedEx billing form and an envelope so that I could send a check to his headquarters, post-haste.

And the thought struck me, what a great chance for some mischief -- particularly if I were a strong Obama supporter.

For starters, I could send the envelope back with nothing in it. That would cost the McCain campaign some money just for the postage. Or I could send a note explaining that I was supporting Obama, and appreciated this chance to drain the opposing campaign of resources. Or, I could say that the economic crisis caused by President Bush's policies have left me too poor to contribute anything at this time. Or, I could say I had spent all my money "palling around" with questionable friends from my youth in Chicago. Or, I could send a picture of Obama, and ask to get it autographed when the Illinois Senator takes office in the White House on January 20. Or, I could put something else in the envelope, something that could stink up the entire building when opened.

I could have done any of those. But instead, I did the right thing. I put it in the recycling bin, so that the material at least will be used again in another form.

But, boy, it was tempting.

Friday, October 10, 2008

In less than 90 seconds...

I just stumbled on a Web site called 23/6, which says it has "some of the news, most of the time." It leans to the left, but is pretty funny. For example, here's the last Presidential debate in a little more than a minute:

Get the latest news satire and funny videos at

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Letting Boras be Boras

I once said a book by Bill Simmons of "could be considered the first post-modernist book of its kind." He's a guy who adapted to the Internet before most and has more or less thrived. Simmons is not for every taste, but generally is pretty entertaining. And not just because he's a member of Red Sox Nation.

I was alerted to a story Simmons recently wrote on Manny Ramirez. You can find it by going here. I'm not sure I buy the theory that Manny was a little more faultless than most believe, but Simmons makes it interesting.

Besides, he writes the best footnotes in the sportswriting business.

Thanks to the well-read Kevin Chase for the tip.

Take Five, post-latest-crucial-but-not-game-changing debate edition

1. To get this out of the way, both Senator Obama and Senator McCain seemed to defend their positions pretty well and scored debating points. Which means, in this climate, that the loosely-defined tie (I'm a little confused by McCain's new mortgage-buying plan that could cost billions more, but we'll see if it's an issue) goes to the guy in front. And that's Obama.

2. While moderator Tom Brokaw had control of the questions, it is interesting that no one brought up William Ayers or Charles Keating tonight. Do you think that could mean that most people are more interested with their shrinking 401K plans and possible job loss than they are with some associations from the last century?

3. Could the CNN analysis team get any closer together, or did the network just not have a bigger table? And all those laptops in front of the analysts make it seem more claustrophobic. Luckily, most of them are smart enough to defer to David Gergen for intelligent, even-handed analysis. He's the best in the business right now, although I can't see what the brilliant Jeff Greenfield is saying on CBS these days because Time Warner Cable isn't showing WIVB-TV right now. (Yeah, that was the last blog subject, but you can't blast those two sides enough.)

4. Time to give Pat Buchanan a little credit. He's a little outnumbered by liberals at MSNBC. OK, a lot outnumbered by liberals. But he defends his positions with humor and zest. It's hard not to like him on a personal level. And speaking of conservatives, for a guy who seemed to spend almost eight years in the shadows of the White House, the face and words of Karl Rove seem to be everywhere I look these days.

5. One interesting note after the debate: CNN used the space at the bottom of the screen to show results of scientific polls about the debate. Meanwhile over at Fox, it used the results of a texting poll in which viewers were invited to send in a letter of who they thought won the debate. The numbers when I saw them -- 86-12 for McCain, with 1 percent undecided. I would guess that's a little more reflective of the Fox audience than of actual public perception. But there's one bigger issue here, and it's that 1 percent of the population spent their money on a text message to vote for "undecided." The economy is in better shape than I thought.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Dumb and dumber

On Sunday afternoon, I returned home from vacation. I flipped on the television to see what NFL games were on and catch up on some scores while unpacking. When I went to Channel 4, I was greeted with a broadcast of an SMU soccer game.

I had heard that soccer was the sport of the future in America. Had it arrived while I was away?

Not quite. I then said, "Oh, right. Time Warner Cable and WIVB still hadn't agreed on a deal to allow the cable outlet to show the TV channel's programming." A CBS college sports channel was put on WIVB's spot in the meantime.

This was a battle that was taking place before I left. The folks that own WIVB and its sister station wanted money if the two outlets were going to be carried on cable. Time Warner had different ideas.

Such battles have gotten fairly routine over the last few years, but viewers expect a settlement close to the deadline. The only case where a local station didn't make a deal was when the NFL Network was kicked off basic cable and up to a digital tier in order to make room for Sportsnet New York, thus infuriating those who were glued to their sets when the NFL Network broadcast live from the offseason combine in Indianapolis.

Surely, though, a deal would be reached before -- gasp! -- the 4-0 Bills played at Arizona on a Sunday afternoon. Right? Right?

Wrong. I read that Time Warner had handed out rabbit ears to interested customers, thus throwing us back to the 1970's before cable had arrived in Buffalo. As I understand it, the ratings were down quite a bit from the usual near-Super Bowl proportions.

This is the type of dispute that angers me the most. Picture a room with a table in the middle, with representatives of two sides on, well, two sides. There's a big pile of money in the middle, and the referee says those two sides have to figure out a way to split it up. Otherwise, he'll start taking portions away. Tick, tick, tick.

You always think that they'll figure out a way to divide the money, but once in a while they don't. Remember how the NHL missed an entire season that way?

The Bills' game wasn't too exciting, and the team is coming up on a bye week, so that takes a little of the pressure off -- at least from a sports fan's perspective. But the talks drag on, and both sides have been blanketing the media with attempted explanations of their positions -- convincing no one that they both aren't bums. In the meantime, I'm probably not the only one who has flipped to the six o'clock news or David Letterman or The Price is Right or CSI: Clarence (just kidding about that last one, I think) only to see CBS' College Sports channel.

And as each hour goes by, more money disappears into the mist -- money that according to the news reports has been getting harder and harder to obtain these days. Something about an economic crisis.

Good move, guys.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Take five, post-VP debate edition

1. Is there any reason why Joe Biden kept referring to his running mate as "Barack"? Senator is a very impressive title, and you'd think Biden would want to use it as often as possible to give the relatively inexperienced Obama a bit more stature at no cost.

2. Can't say I've ever heard a debate participant say she wasn't going to answer the questions asked by the moderator, and I'm a little surprised Sarah Palin didn't take more heat for it. I had visions of John McEnroe taking over the session and yelling out along the lines of his famous sound bite, "ANSWER THE QUESTION!!!"

3. Congratulations to Biden for not saying, "Governor, I knew Dan Quayle. Dan Quayle is a friend of mine. And you, Governor...." I think we set a record for low expectations in this debate, and Palin did get over that bar.

4. Wouldn't you have liked to hear a totally honest comment about this election? I'd frame it something like this: "We all know that no one is coming back from Iraq anytime soon, and we all know we're not going to have any money for discretionary spending thanks to the recession. So neither of us are going to be able to do much on Jan. 20. But we will be able to appoint a bunch of Supreme Court justices in the next four years..."

5. When Wall Street's collapse and the government's takeovers took place, I said that barring something unexpected, Obama had this election won. The Bush Administration has had to act like socialists in taking over bad debts, flying in the face of years of support by Republicans for free markets and cutbacks on regulations. How do you square those two positions? Then throw in the standard line in such situations, "Are you better off today than you were four years ago?" and I'd say I haven't seen anything to change my mind yet from that original prediction.