Thursday, March 29, 2012


Some years ago, a co-worker of mine said that just about everyone could be found on the Internet. A search at the time found little trace of my mother. Every Mom should have a tribute on line, and this is hers.

Natalie Jane Bailey, who died on March 28 at the age of 85, was -- in the words of one friend -- "one of a kind." A social worker recently asked my sister Jane and me to describe her, and I jumped back more than 40 years to borrow a quotation. Jane's high school friend, Anne Frederick, described Mom in the late 1960's, as "the most liberated woman I know," an unusual way to summarize a housewife. Indeed, this was a woman who was determined to live life the way she damn well pleased, and then went about the business of doing it.

She had a great role model for that in a number of ways. Her mother, Mercedes, was a 4-foot-11 force of nature. Her nickname was "The Battleship Massachusetts," and with good reason. Once Merc (she hated the word Grandma, as in "no one is going to call me Grandma") pointed herself in a certain direction, it was nearly impossible to change her course.

Mom grew up in Brockton, Massachusetts, where her father, Wendell, had a real estate and insurance company. After attending Thayer Academy and LaSalle Junior College, Mom worked in a bank. At one point in the late 1940's, she and date Stewie Brown went out for an evening with Stewie's best friend, Linc Bailey, and his date, Shirley Backstrom. Before the night was over, Linc had fallen asleep in the back seat of a car, leaving Shirley rather bored. As fate worked out, Mom wound up marrying Linc in 1950. Whenever he started bragging about his abilities as a ladies' man, she brought that story up.

Married life became quite a ride. Dad moved into the sales field in a variety of industries over the next several years, and Dad and Mom moved into a variety of homes as they moved around the Eastern half of the country for the next two decades. It was, in a sense, a classic post-war story: Dad on the road, trying to make a living, while Mom was busy raising an eventual total of two children. That meant Mom had to be Dad quite often, especially when the kids were young -- never an easy task.

If the kids needed a lift somewhere, Mom went behind the wheel of the station wagon. If the kids needed help on some of their homework, Mom was willing to do what she could to assist. If the kids got hungry, Mom was ready to ... um, drive to the nearest burger stand. She always said cooking wasn't her strong point, although she was better than she thought.

Mom was put in charge of the checkbook somewhere along the way, which probably was unusual for a housewife at that time. The joke was that she signed Dad's name to so many checks that the bank wouldn't recognize his own signature. Jane remembers that Mom used to talk to her mother for hours, resulting in a long distance phone bill of hundreds of dollars. How to hide that from Dad? Write "New York State Electric and Gas" in the checkbook, of course. Then Mom pleaded ignorance when Dad wondered why the heating bill was so high.

Along the way, Mom became a football fan -- the biggest in the family. The Baileys had season tickets to the New York Giants in 1962 and 1963. It started a love affair with the sport that lasted 40 years, even if the object of her affection switched to the Bills when the family moved to Buffalo in 1970. This is a woman who paid to see exhibition games. That's a fan.

Life settled down after the move to Buffalo. The kids were on their way toward adulthood (notice that the word "maturity" wasn't used), leaving Mom and Dad more free to take some fabulous trips. Indeed they went to some spectacular places in the years ahead. For the record, Singapore was the most beautiful place on Mom's list of destinations, but England was her favorite.

Dad retired early in 1988, and the couple headed to Florida for what they hoped was a long and happy retirement. Fate got in the way, though, when Dad died suddenly in December 1988. Mom simply went about the business of putting together a new life in a new part of the world. Again, that's not easy. But she was happy to stay in one place for once in her life, and resisted offers of moving closer to her children with "Why would I want to leave here?" Mom could make casual friends easily, but some might be surprised to know that she had few truly close friends over the years. Those special ones, though, were cherished.

Eventually, her health problems started to mount. They started with kidney, diabetes and cholesterol issues. Then Mom had a heart attack in the emergency room of a hospital in 2001. If it had been anywhere else, her life probably would have been over right there. Mom started to slow down after that, preferring to watch the Bills on television at home instead of going to a sports bar. Most weeks, she reviewed the game with me the next day on the phone. Aren't all mother-son relationships like that?

Three years ago or so, she developed kidney failure that sentenced her to dialysis for the rest of her life. More health obstacles came up in the years ahead, but she still managed to live at home (with an aide) where she was happiest. When she came home from yet another rehab session in February, she was weakening but it was still easy to wonder if anything could completely stop her.

We eventually found out the answer to that. Earlier this month, she was hospitalized with another problem, a blood clot. Mom looked at her situation objectively, believed her quality of life was poor with a total dependence on others and no chance of improvement, and decided to make one last independent action. She signed a do not resuscitate order, refused food and water, and stopped answering the phone. It wasn't the coward's way out, but was certainly in character. After one last good chat with her children, with equal parts love and laughter, and calls from her two grandchildren, she lapsed into unconsciousness and died peacefully two days later.

Mom used to say that she thought death would merely bring eternal sleep, which was her idea of heaven. In that case, her children can only say what she used to tell them every night: "Sweet dreams."

(In lieu of flowers, etc., donations can be sent to the Lincoln C. Bailey Scholarship Fund, Industrial Safety Equipment Association, 1901 N. Moore St. Suite 808, Arlington, Va., 22209)

Thursday, March 22, 2012


I must be missing something here.

If I'm not, the Denver Broncos' trade of Tim Tebow to the New York Jets doesn't make much sense.

Let's review. The Broncos earlier this week signed Peyton Manning, one of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history. Practically any team in the league would like to have him around. OK, maybe not New England, Green Bay and a couple of others, but the rest of the league would be thrilled to get a #18 out for him.

But ... Manning turns 36 on Saturday. He also missed all of 2011 with a neck injury. I suppose a concussion might be equally scary as these things go, but neck problems for someone who has been playing for years certainly puts out the caution flag. The Broncos apparently have put some salary guarantees in their contract with Manning so that the risk is more shared, which is a fine idea.

Still, the situation screams out "have a backup quarterback ready." Someone is going to have to explain why Tebow couldn't be that player.

He's obviously a work in progress as a passer. But, he did lead the Broncos to the playoffs last season. If Manning goes down in Week One, it wouldn't be a disaster with Tebow around. I can't say there's a better fit out there in the free agent market; Vince Young hasn't done much in a while.

Then there's the "return on investment" part of the argument. Tebow was a first-round draft choice. The Broncos knew he was a project when they drafted him. Today they traded him for a fourth-round pick and a sixth-round pick, giving up a seventh as well. Would you trade a first and a seventh for a fourth and a sixth? Probably not, unless you used that first-rounder on someone like Aaron Maybin. (Dear Bills Fans: Sorry I brought that up.)

What's more, Tebow isn't likely to put out at the thought of being a backup. Because that's what he'll probably be doing in New York with the Jets. Where is Tebow more likely to play, all things considered -- Denver or New York? The Jets have Mark Sanchez, who is no Peyton Manning. He's also 25 and has a new rich contract extension. Quarterbacks can get hurt anytime, but I like Sanchez's chances of staying healthy better than Manning's.

Tebow was asked about the Manning signing when it was in the works, and he replied that he's paid a lot of money to play a game. How could he complain about his life? That doesn't sound like a potential cancer on the roster. Tebow might learn a thing or three from Manning too, and perhaps get to the point where a trade elsewhere would work better for all concerned down the road.

It sure sounds like John Elway was a little spooked about having both Manning and Tebow on the roster. Maybe it was because of the fan pressure in the past two years to play Tebow in the first place, or maybe it was because the two aren't exactly interchangeable when it comes to offensive schemes. Still, the Broncos did OK with switching to Tebow in midseason last year.

When I was looking around the Internet for background information once I had come up with my original thoughts, I found this old blog by Denver columnist Terry Frei. It sounds like I have company here, which is good to know.

Maybe Manning will stay healthy, and the Broncos will be off to the Super Bowl. But the second step of the transformation of the Broncos' quarterback position strikes me as unnecessary.

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Monday, March 19, 2012

On television

Sometimes inspiration for a blog strikes in odd locations ... like a doctor's office.

I spent an hour in the waiting room today with a comfy chair and a good book as Mrs. Inquisitive Mind got checked out. The television in the room was on and set to Fox News. It's somewhat interesting that doctor's offices often are tuned to that particular channel. I suppose news channels can serve as decent background noise, but Fox does have bigger ratings than CNN or MSNBC.

Still, who makes such decisions? Do doctors put the channel on figuring that views against socialized medicine will receive preferential treatment? I bring it up because some people would prefer to have an operation without an anesthetic rather than be forced to watch Fox News.

But I digress. During my hour, Fox came on with one of those news alerts designed to keep viewers from switching channels. (They all do it in one form or another.) The big story in this case was that a poll indicates that 49 percent of the population expects the Supreme Court to overturn the law allowing President Obama's health care reform to stand. Approval was under 30, while "don't know" was a bit above 20. That was followed by the usual partisan discussion by a representative of both sides that was predictable, as usual.

OK, this raises two issues. One -- is this news? Hard to say so. It's merely an odd poll that was authorized by someone with time and money. Naturally, the cynics out there will ask if Fox would have dedicated that sort of time to the story had the poll numbers been reversed. It's at least a fair question, although you can find such cases all over the dial. Gotta feed the news machine, as we used to say in all-news radio.

A bigger question -- what does a poll like this prove? I'd guess nothing. If you want to ask if people support the concept of "Obama-care," then that might be worth hearing. But, realistically, how many people are remotely qualified to judge whether a law like this is constitutional and thus will stand?

It reminds me of a poll taken a short time ago about whether the recession is over. A majority of people said it wasn't. That's in spite of the fact that by definition, the recession has been over for some time because the economy has been growing for some time. All the poll proved was that people don't know what a recession is.

I quickly went back to Tim Wendel's new baseball book. Sure glad I brought it.

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Monday, March 12, 2012

Rest stop

I stopped for something to eat on the Thruway the other day, and found myself at something of a loss for words while talking to a stranger. It was an odd enough conversation to recount here.

Another guy and I were waiting for the Arby's staff to fill our orders. The cashier had that bored teenager look that we all know so well, and the other guy asked her about being thrilled to be at work on a Saturday night instead of being out. I said something clever along the lines of "At least she has a job."

Then my new pal mentioned that he didn't have a job at the moment (I think he'd been looking for some weeks), for essentially the first time in about 20 years. What's more, his wife -- waiting at a nearby booth for dinner -- wasn't working either. The guy went on to say that his wife's position at a calling center had been eliminated, and that while she had been offered a job and a $2 per hour raise in Albany, she didn't really want to go there. It was, he concluded, a long commute. No argument there.

Then it turned interesting. The wife in question had taken part of her severence check from the company, headed for the casino, and won something like $2,000 more. Not satisfied with that, she went back a couple of nights later and lost $600 back. And they were headed there again that night.

That's where I was at a loss for words. I had the urge to butt into this guy's life and say, "Are you crazy? You and your wife are both out of work, and she is betting enough to win or lose hundreds of dollars a night?"

After a little thought, I mumbled, "That's playing with fire." His response was, "Yeah, but that's where she wants to go." Dinner was served, and they ate and headed for the slot machines or wherever.

It's sometimes difficult to remember to let people make their own mistakes in life. It's less difficult to remember that common sense sometimes isn't so common.

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Thursday, March 08, 2012


Another Super Tuesday has come and gone in the world of politics. It sure won't replace "Super Sunday," which is what we called the day that featured the Super Bowl when the game was first created in 1967.

Those who follow such things (in politics, not football) notice that the three major candidates (sorry, Ron Paul, but you really need to have won something at this point to qualify) all got at least one win on Super Tuesday. Mitt Romney won the most delegates, which is the idea of the process. He's slogging away toward the nomination.

Even so, no one outside of a few Wall Street types and the immediate Romney family seems too enthusiastic about the possibility of a Mitt nomination. As commentator Jeff Greenfield more or less put it, Romney's bumper sticker slogan could be "I guess I'm for Mitt." Not exactly "I like Ike," although a little less prone to irony than "Nixon's the One."

The Tea Party set looks more and more as if it will be stuck with a Republican nominee who practically invented universal health care in this country and who used to be more or less pro-choice. Before we get to the point where those people will have to decide whether to swallow hard and vote for Romney in November or simply stay home, there's basically one last chance to change the course of the election.

Someone has to drop out, and soon.

That someone probably is Newt Gingrich, who seems to have run out of comebacks despite his win in Georgia. Rick Santorum's only chance, and it's a small one, is to get Romney one-on-one and hope that Gingrich's supporters jump to him. It still might be late for that in terms of the delegate race, but it's probably Santorum's only path to a possible nomination.

The Republicans have primaries coming up in Alabama and Mississippi, and they would seem to be Gingrich's last stand. If he wins, he'll be encouraged to hang around long enough so that Romney's nomination is a done deal. Gingrich clearly doesn't need much encouragement to carry on, since he is running more of a Crusade than a campaign. After all, this is someone who told staff members while Speaker of the House that his goal was merely to save Western civilization.

We all more or less figured that the nomination process would have to come down to two finalists, and that Romney -- a relative liberal by the standards of the field -- would be one of them. But which candidate would do best as the other finalist?

The answer seems almost comical at this point. It's Rick Perry. You do remember the Governor of Texas, don't you?

Perry came in with lots of money, credibility for the far right on social issues, and an economic program of pro-business and anti-regulation that had a chance of making a sale with a cross-section of voters. The problem was that once Perry actually announced his candidacy, he had to actually campaign for the office and take part in debates. If you recall, he essentially poured lighter fluid all over his chances, and then lit up his own victory cigar. Poof.

This all remains a fascinating process. Can't wait to see what happens next.

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Monday, March 05, 2012

Two interesting guys talking

Here's a small part of a recent conversation beteween Bill Simmons and Bill James:

Saturday, March 03, 2012

An unlikely source

I finally have heard a good description of Rush Limbaugh. It came from Peter Gammons.

Yes, THAT Peter Gammons, the baseball writer and broadcaster.

Gammons on Friday said on a Tweet, "Amazing that Rush Limbaugh is so good at upsetting the middle/left. He's a great Shock Jock, the Bubba the Love Sponge of medieval politics."

OK, I don't get the Bubba the Love Sponge reference. But "shock jock" is absolutely on target.

The term refers to those DJ's who have pushed the envelope over the years, whether it be locally or nationally. Howard Stern and Don Imus usually get credit for if not inventing the format, at least "perfecting" it. They like to say outrageous things not usually heard on broadcast dial. There's obviously a market for that approach, because they have become rich, rich, rich ... no matter what your opinion of the approach is.

(By the way, one of the problems with my hours is that morning-drive radio doesn't exist in my world. Who is hosting the Today Show these days anyway?)

The problem with Shock Jocks is sometimes they have to keep upping the outrageous ante in order to get attention. Stern and Imus have danced around the FCC and some public problems along those lines over the years, as the Rutgers basketball team can attest.

That brings us to Limbaugh. No one can doubt his communication skills; anyone who can talk that long without interruption from a broadcast partner gets credit for that. He also at times displays something of a sense of humor, which makes three hours of political talk a lot less dry for his followers.

Limbaugh's success, though, mostly is due to the way he invented a barter system with radio stations. He sold some of the ads on the program, and offered the program and the rest of the ads to the local stations for free. They jumped on the offer -- cheap, moneymaking programming is always welcome -- and it established a listenership base.

You can say whatever you want about the quality of that program. But the tone of it can be off-putting, if that's a word. Limbaugh obviously has a stake at demonizing the opposition, and has done so when Democratic administrations (Clinton, Obama) have been in power. No one in his audience wants him to say, "I'm not a big fan of Obama, but we really need to do something about health care in this country. Maybe this middle-of-the-road approach really works."

And every so often, Limbaugh goes over the line. The biggest firestorm in the past had come, oddly, during his brief tenure on ESPN when he commented on the media supporting African American quarterbacks. Now, comes a much bigger test -- his attack this past week on a female college student who testified in Congress over contraception issues.

Instantly, a huge boycott of Limbaugh's advertisers appeared out of nowhere, and it had an impact. Some of them quickly bailed on the program. It's rather interesting that Limbaugh didn't immediately backtrack on the statements, and piled on a little more. Then he apologized for his actions on Saturday, a day after those cancellations took place.

It will be interesting to see if that's enough. Will it cut the steam out of the boycott, or will it go on and grow? There's still some outrage over the hatred spewed on the airwaves at times. It will be fascinating to see if there's any long-term effects from the latest example of stretching the envelope.

Thanks, Peter.

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