Monday, December 31, 2012

Bears finally sack Lovie The Genius

Here's my favorite story from my five years covering Lovie Smith:

During the postgame press conference that followed a particularly horrific performance by the often-horrible Rex Grossman, the media found four different ways to ask Smith why he didn't switch to Brian Griese, the high-priced QB the Bears had acquired just in case Rex got hurt or got bad.

Four times, Lovie dismissed the questions: Rex was his quarterback; the Bears were 10-2; we were morons.

This is what happened next, as chronicled in my Dec. 7, 2006 column:

My brain was about ready to explode. Because I need my brain to think about food, Jack Bauer's plight on "24," golf, Scarlett Johansson and other worthwhile subjects, I could sit silently no longer.

Me: "You did win 10 games with (Kyle) Orton as your quarterback last year and made a change. So, I mean, it's not unprecedented ... "

Lovie, interrupting: "This year ... "

Me, interrupting right back: "I understand that. I understand. It's not an unprecedented thought, that's all. We're not coming out of thin air with this thought."

Lovie: "That doesn't mean a lot to me, though. I'm telling you what I'm going to do. Right now, we're 10-2 with Rex as our quarterback. THAT's not unprecedented."

So there!

He might as well have come back with: "Your momma's not unprecedented!" That would have made as much sense.

Too funny, eh?

I rarely had public debates with those I covered, but that day, I simply couldn't take Lovie's crapola any more.

Tom Landry and Chuck Noll and Bill Parcells and John Madden and countless other championship coaches throughout the years had benched ineffective quarterbacks.

Don Shula benched Earl Morrall at halftime of the 1972 AFC title game -- even though the score was tied and even though Morrall had led the Dolphins to 11 straight wins in place of an injured Bob Griese during the team's perfect season.

Nevertheless, Lovie had so little respect for the media -- not to mention the millions of fans who were clamoring for a QB change -- that he considered us idiots for suggesting Lovie The Genius even consider removing Rex The Unbenchable during a bad performance.

Well, Lovie is now the ex-coach of the Bears.

His dwindling ranks of supporters say he didn't deserve to be canned because the team had played mostly decent football during his time in Chicago and because he led the Bears to only their second Super Bowl appearance ever -- a game they lost to the Colts partly because of the frighteningly bad play of Rex The Unbenchable.

The facts, however, sealed Lovie's fate.

Smith's team reached the playoffs only three times in nine seasons -- and only once in the past six years. Since losing to the Colts in the '07 Super Bowl, Lovie's lads won one division title while finishing third three times and last once.

Lovie always said beating the Packers was No. 1 on the list of things the Bears had to do. Since Jan. 2, 2011, the Bears were 0-6 against the Packers, including a loss in last year's playoffs.

The Bears opened this season 7-1 but folded as soon as the schedule turned tough, dropping five of their next six games. What seemed a sure playoff berth was gone, and even wins in their last two games couldn't save Smith's Bears ... or Smith's job.

Like Rex in the Super Bowl, Lovie couldn't deliver.

Unlike Rex in the Super Bowl, Lovie got benched.


There will be much debate about which players deserve which awards in the NFL, but one thing is obvious:

John Elway is the Executive of the Year.

Despite immense public pressure to build around the inexplicably popular Tim Tebow, Elway traded the most overhyped player in recent NFL history to the Jets and brought in Peyton Manning.

Manning threw for 37 TDs and the Broncos ended up with the NFL's best record at 13-3. Tebow couldn't even get on the field for the Jets.

Elway, one of the 10 best QBs ever to lace up cleats, knows Manning belongs on that list, too. Elway also knows Tebow is a train wreck of a quarterback, with neither the physical ability nor mental acumen to play the most important position at the highest level.

Meanwhile, were there an award for Incompetent Executive of the Year, it would go to the Jets brain trust of owner Woody Johnson and GM Mike Tannenbaum.

After signing overrated Mark Sanchez to a contract extension, they wasted a fourth-round draft pick to bring the distracting Tebow Circus to New York. Sanchez fell apart, Jets coach Rex Ryan realized in training camp that Tebow couldn't play and never used him during the season, and what was supposed to be a contending team finished 6-10.

Tannenbaum was fired Monday, in part because the owner couldn't fire himself.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Hall Call: 4 get my vote; most big names don't

Being a Hall of Fame voter is never easy for anybody who takes the task seriously. And I do. 

Still, some years are more difficult than others, and this probably was the most challenging -- and most interesting -- ballot I've encountered in my nearly two decades as a BBWAA vote-caster. Between the steroid allegations and the sheer number of qualified first-year candidates, there were numerous tough calls.

Here's how I reasoned with myself as I first eliminated my non-candidates and then ultimately filled out my ballot. 


SANDY ALOMAR JR. … Highly intelligent future manager, only decent numbers.
JEFF CIRILLO … Solid role player.
ROYCE CLAYTON … Good-fielding shortstop but soft hitter.
JEFF CONINE … Solid player but stats fall short.
SHAWN GREEN … 2,003 hits and 328 HR but lacking run production.
ROBERTO HERNANDEZ … 326 saves but not dominant enough.
RYAN KLESKO … Valuable role player but only decent stats.
JOSE MESA … 321 saves but hardly dominant.
REGGIE SANDERS … Above-average player but only 983 RBI.
AARON SELE … Only 10 W per season and 4.61 ERA.
MIKE STANTON … Mostly a middle reliever and set-up man.
TODD WALKER … Defensive shortcomings and only OK numbers.
RONDELL WHITE … Proved that steroids don't help everybody.
WOODY WILLIAMS … Solid starter but mediocre record and ERA.


STEVE FINLEY … Outstanding outfielder with 2,548 hits, 304 HR and 320 SB but only 2-time All-Star and one top-10 MVP.

JULIO FRANCO … .298 hitter over 23 seasons with 2,586 career hits, but not nearly enough run production.

KENNY LOFTON … One of the best leadoff hitters in recent history but well behind Raines in most categories. 

EDGAR MARTINEZ … Possibly the best DH ever but his career HR (309), RBI (1,261) and slugging (.515) were hardly eye-popping.

DON MATTINGLY … Outstanding player but injuries and lack of run-production during the second half of his career derails his candidacy.

FRED McGRIFF … Hard to argue with most of his numbers, including 493 HR, 1,550 RBI, eight 100 RBI seasons. But only one top-5 MVP vote (and no top-3) and no truly “magic” numbers (2,490 hits, 493 HR, .509 slugging). Also, one of the worst-fielding first basemen I’ve ever seen. Sorry, Crime Dog fans, but I can’t shake the image of so many horrific plays when I covered his time with the Cubs.

LARRY WALKER … He’s close in many categories, and had a strong .965 OPS, but he was not quite dominant enough among his peers. Plus, his huge production at Coors Field skews all of his numbers.

DAVID WELLS … A fat man’s Curt Schilling: good clutch pitcher with a high career winning percentage. But his high ERA, pedestrian WHIP figure and low K total put him behind Schilling and Morris.

BERNIE WILLIAMS … Fine contributor to winning teams but quite short in major statistical categories.

That leaves the following 14 for serious consideration:

Jeff Bagwell
Craig Biggio
Barry Bonds
Roger Clemens
Mark McGwire
Jack Morris
Dale Murphy
Rafael Palmeiro
Mike Piazza
Tim Raines
Curt Schilling
Lee Smith
Sammy Sosa
Alan Trammell


JEFF BAGWELL … Outstanding career numbers but behind Fred McGriff in most categories. His HR total, 449, is not extraordinary for a first baseman. There is steroid talk but no proof, so my decision on this borderline case was tipped by his poor postseason numbers for a Houston team that desperately needed more from its leader to win pennants. The one year the Astros finally made the World Series, they did it without an injured Bagwell. The fact that he got his numbers in 15 seasons (McGriff needed 19), that he played much of his career in the Astrodome (a pitcher’s park) and that he finished in the top-5 of MVP voting three times puts him very close. I could consider him in the future.

DALE MURPHY … One of the great guys and honorable competitors. That his final year on the ballot coincides with the first year of so many infamous juicers, it is very, very tempting to give him a symbolic vote. And he certainly has some impressive accomplishments, including consecutive MVP awards. But his numbers simply fall short in so many areas, including batting average, hits, HR, RBI, OBP and slugging. The clincher: He ranks in the top 50 in only one major statistical category -- strikeouts.

LEE SMITH … He retired as MLB's all-time saves leader (since eclipsed), and that alone warrants serious consideration. However, he benefited greatly from the relatively recent trend in which closers became one-inning specialists. Closers are so specialized, I need a guy to be flat-out dominating in the vein of Rich Gossage, Rollie Fingers or Mariano Rivera to give him my vote.

ALAN TRAMMELL … A super-solid player who helped usher in the era of shortstops making major offensive contributions. Regardless of position, however, I have trouble voting for a guy who had only one 100 RBI season, one 200-hit season and two 20 HR seasons. Not a single one of his career numbers screams “Hall of Fame.” Super-solid is admirable but doesn’t equate to an all-time great.


BARRY BONDS … Statistical no-brainer but steroid use had a major impact on his numbers in the latter third of his career. Game of Shadows, the book that is considered the definitive chronicle of his juicing, said he began using in 1999 after he was jealous of the attention Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire received the year before. If that is true, and there is no reason to believe otherwise, Bonds already had incredible career numbers and was well on his way to a Hall of Fame career. Given all that, I almost surely will vote for him … just not this year. I never have been a voter who emphasized “first-ballot Hall of Famer” as being special, but I will in this kind of case.

ROGER CLEMENS … See my Bonds explanation regarding Hall of Fame numbers before he allegedly started juicing. Unlike Bonds, Clemens was completely cleared by a jury. Still, I’m guessing the true Clemens story has not been told yet, so I’m also going to deny him first-ballot Hall status. As an aside, one could argue that all the talk about him making a comeback next season is another reason to delay his Hall entrance.

MARK McGWIRE … He’s kind of the anti-Bonds/Clemens. His numbers were nowhere near Hall worthy until he started using his keister as a pin-cushion. An amazing 42 percent of his career HRs came during the four-year stretch when he was cheating and lying his head off. Given his one-dimensional skill set, it’s not especially difficult to leave the box next to his name unchecked. He’ll never get my vote, and it’s not just because of the cheating.

RAFAEL PALMEIRO … Although I try not to let steroid allegations alone overwhelm my ballot, I am quite convinced that pretty much his entire career was a fraud. So it’s easy for me to focus on his unimpressive OPS, WAR, slugging and postseason numbers and deny him my vote.

MIKE PIAZZA … For now, I’m going to hold off. There are enough steroid questions -- combined with a WAR ranked 179th all-time and a five-year fade at the end of his career – to make him less than a first-ballot Hall of Famer in my eyes.

SAMMY SOSA … That he was outed as a steroid cheat by the New York Times probably is damning enough in the eyes of most voters. Even if he never had put needles in his rump, however, the fact that he was caught using a corked bat suggests there is nothing he wouldn’t do to gain an unfair advantage. He was a horrible teammate, too. The juicing puts his career accomplishments in doubt and his lack of character clinches it for me: He’s not deserving of enshrinement, 600-plus homers or not.


CRAIG BIGGIO … The steroid whispers are barely audible and not a good enough reason to overlook the rest of his accomplishments. He has the fifth-most doubles ever (No. 1 among right-handed hitters), and also ranks in the top 21 in runs and hits. A multiple-threat player who had 291 HR and 414 SB. Unlike Bagwell, he was the spark plug of Houston’s drive to its only pennant. A multiple Gold Glover at second base who moved to other positions when the Astros had the need. Numbers are almost identical to those of Robin Yount, a first-ballot choice (albeit just barely).

JACK MORRIS … His stats – 254 wins, .577 winning percentage, 3.90 ERA – make him a borderline case. But he was a workhorse for the Tigers, Twins and Blue Jays, was one of the winningest pitchers in an increasingly hitter-friendly era and had some memorable clutch performances. I unashamedly admit that his 10-inning shutout of Atlanta in Game 7 of the 1991 World Series – probably the most exciting event I ever covered – has influenced my vote. 

CURT SCHILLING … Like Morris, not a slam-dunk choice. Given that he posted only 216 regular-season wins, I wish his ERA had been lower than 3.46. Still, his strikeout total (15th all-time) and K-to-BB ratio (second ever) are impressive. As fewer and fewer pitchers worked deep into games, his nine seasons of 200-plus innings and 83 complete games also deserve mention. Finally, there was his incredible postseason success: an 11-2 record, the third-best postseason winning percentage ever, a 2.23 ERA and a crucial role on three World Series winners. In five postseason elimination games, he went 4-0 with a 1.37 ERA. How am I supposed to ignore those clutch numbers? I’m not, and I didn't.

TIM RAINES … In a team photo of best leadoff men ever, Raines would be featured prominently. His career numbers generally were more impressive than those of Lou Brock. Reached base more in his career than Tony Gwynn did and had an almost identical OBP. As ESPN’s Jayson Stark pointed out, every eligible player who reached base as many times as Raines did and had as high an OBP is in the Hall. Throw in his base-stealing – fifth ever with 808 and second all-time with a .847 success rate -- and he gets my vote.

So there you have it ...

Biggio, Morris, Schilling and Raines get my check marks; Bonds, Clemens and Sosa don't (though Bonds and Clemens might as early as next year).

Phew! That was exhausting!

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Hall ballot is all the (roid) rage

Just got my Baseball Hall of Fame ballot in the mail.

This is The Big One:

Bonds, Sosa, Clemens and Piazza joining McGwire and Palmeiro in the first real Juicer Central Ballot.

Biggio, Schilling, Bagwell, Morris, Raines are among those also on a ballot packed with legitimate candidates.

I always take this seriously, as it's both a responsibility and a privilege, but will be extra diligent this time around. This is probably the most anticipated ballot in the nearly 20 years I've been a voting BBWAA member.

I'll post again after I've made my decisions.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Marquette, Big East, swept up in "Conferences Gone Wild"

Having my alma mater in the nation's best basketball conference has been a blast.

When you win a Big East game, you know you've earned a victory. When you lose one, especially on the road, you usually can accept that you've fallen to a quality opponent. Come the NCAA tournament, you know your team has been tested in battle.

When I attended Marquette eons ago, we were an independent. Then we bounced around from the Midwestern Collegiate Conference to the Great Midwest to Conference USA ... before finally, gloriously, landing in the Big East in 2005.

Notre Dame, our old rival, was there waiting for us. New rivalries would be forged against the likes of Louisville, Syracuse, West Virginia and Pitt.

Oh well ...

Notre Dame is leaving, taking all of its sports except football to the ACC. Syracuse, Pitt and Louisville also are ACC bound. West Virginia already is in the Big 12. And the carnage is nowhere near complete, as UConn and Cincinnati are desperate to join top football conferences -- something the Big East never was.

No, the Big East was born as a basketball league in 1979, with charter members Georgetown, Syracuse, St. John's, Providence, Boston College, UConn and Seton Hall. Villanova joined a year later and Pitt came along in 1982 -- the same year the conference actually rejected Penn State's application for membership.

The conference came into power as Georgetown, Syracuse and St. John's fielded superior teams and ESPN became a media force.

There would be more expansion as football money grew, with Rutgers, Miami, Virginia Tech and West Virginia coming in. By the middle of last decade, however, a tug-of-war between football schools and basketball-only schools resulted in a big shakeup.

Out went Virginia Tech, Boston College and Miami. In came Louisville, South Florida, Cincinnati, DePaul and Marquette. About half the conference members fielded football teams and half didn't. Notre Dame, meanwhile, famously remains independent in football.

Football never really took root in the conference, and the fact that the basketball has been consistently sublime carried the day only so long. Football money just became to great to ignore, and Big East schools got swept up in the ongoing farce I call Conferences Gone Wild.

Trying to fill its many holes, the Big East has been signing up the likes of Boise State, San Diego State, SMU, Houston, Memphis, Temple, Navy and Central Florida. Just this week, Tulane and East Carolina were added. Some of those schools will be football-only members; some will compete in all sports. There already is talk that Boise State and San Diego State want to quit on the Big East before they even start playing conference games.

What a mess.

When everything shakes out in a year or two, the Big East will be an awful football conference with no chance of being in the national championship picture.

Sadly, it also will be only mediocre in basketball.

The only real hope for my beloved alma mater is that we team up with the Georgetowns, Villanovas and St. John'ses to form a good basketball-only league. Maybe it will have to merge with the Atlantic 10, which has bulked up with the likes of Xavier and Butler in recent years. Maybe it will have to steal a school like Creighton from the Missouri Valley.

In today's landscape, TV money doesn't follow basketball the same way it follows football, but a basketball superconference like that would be hard to ignore.

Whatever happens, I'm going to enjoy the last year or two of being in a great basketball conference. It's been a hell of a fun ride.


Sunday, November 25, 2012

Notre Dame isn't great but it's good enough to play for pretend title

Nobody has ever accused me of being a Notre Dame homer. In fact, I'd never hide the fact that, as a Marquette guy, I'd just as soon the Irish lose every basketball game they play. And, unlike some of my fellow Warriors, I didn't root for ND football just because that was the big Catholic school.

Having said all that, I'll say this: Notre Dame, as much as any team can, "deserves" to play in the mythical national championship game.

Notre Dame plays a national schedule, which is more than Alabama, Georgia, Florida, Oregon, Kansas State, Ohio State and any other team can say.

Are there cupcakes on the ND schedule? Sure. Name a school that doesn't play a bunch of those. Did ND have to squeak out victories over a few mediocre teams? Sure. Name a team that didn't have some close calls against inferior opposition.

Notre Dame played road games against Michigan State, Oklahoma and USC as well as home games against Michigan and Stanford. All were ranked in somebody's top 10 at some point this season. Each team fell to the Irish.

Notre Dame isn't one of the great teams of all time. Nor is it even one of the great teams of recent vintage. I'm guessing that the Irish will be underdogs against either Alabama or Georgia in the pretend title game. But for the first time in years, Touchdown Jesus didn't have to cover his eyes when the home team was playing.

The Irish did everything they had to do to be ranked No. 1 in the ridiculous, convoluted, unsatisfying system college football uses to crown its make-believe champion.

The sport is better when Notre Dame matters. It will be even better if the Irish are playing for a real championship in a few years after the BCS goes bye-bye.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Stuff yourself silly with the 2012 Turkeys of the Year

It's that time of the year, when thoughts turn to the turkey on our plates and the Turkeys who inhabit the sportosphere.

My tradition of choosing a Turkey of the Year goes back to my first year as Copley Newspapers' Chicago columnist, 1998, when Bears president Michael McCaskey was so inept that his mommy fired him.

Since then, it's been a parade of clowns, cads, chokers and chumps: Jerry Krause (1999); Bobby Knight (2000); David Wells & Frank Thomas (2001); Dick Jauron (2002); Sammy Sosa (2003 and 2004); Andy MacPhail, Jim Hendry & Dusty Baker (2005); Aramis Ramirez (2006); Charlie Weis (2007); Choking Cubbies (2008); Milton Bradley (2009); Mark McGwire (2010); Joe Paterno & Penn State Enablers (2011).

(You'll notice that from 1998-2009, most Turkeys of the Year had Chicago and/or Midwest connections because of where I lived and columnized. Now in my second full year as a Southern boy, the Turkey Countdown has a different flavor.)

As always, I dedicate this tradition to my absent friend, Gene Seymour, my Copley columnist predecessor, the founder of Copley's sports turkey awards and one of the great guys journalism has ever known.

10. RYAN KALIL: The Panthers center took out a full-page newspaper ad before the season promising Carolina fans that the team would win the Super Bowl. By the time the Panthers reached their bye week, they were 1-4 and Kalil was done for the season with a foot injury. Great. Now nobody will take out full-page newspaper ads. As if the business isn't in bad enough shape.

9. JEFFREY LORIA: The Marlins owner got taxpayers to foot the bill for a new ballpark and then filled it with expensive players ... for about half a season. When the team stunk, he dumped just about every player who made more than 12 cents and fired Ozzie Guillen for being what Ozzie Guillen always has been. And hey, even Loria's ballpark is ugly.

8. LANCE ARMSTRONG: Yeah ... I know ... it's only really a headline if a cyclist doesn't dope. Still ... this was Lance Freakin' Armstrong, all-American hero, who spent most of a decade cheating and lying.

7. BOBBY VALENTINE: The biggest Boston disaster since Cheers went off the air.

6. NHL OWNERS, PLAYERS & COMMISH GARY BETTMAN: Working together marvelously to keep hockey an irrelevant, niche sport.
5. REX RYAN: The Jets had just signed Mark Sanchez to a huge, long-term deal when Ryan traded for Tim Tebow -- ensuring that ever-patient New York fans would be calling for Tebow to play every time Sanchez threw an incomplete pass. Even Jets players know Tebow is terrible, but why should that stop fans from praying for a Tebow miracle?

4. MELKY CABRERA: He was All-Star Game MVP for the winning NL team, thereby giving his Giants homefield advantage in the World Series. Cabrera wasn't there to see the Series, though, having been suspended for juicing. The cool thing is that the Giants won without him. I wonder if he'll get a championship ring?

3. KANSAS CITY CHIEFS FANS: By cheering when QB Matt Cassel got hurt, these yahoos proved that they belong in a second-rate sports town

2. ALEX RODRIGUEZ: Followed a bad season with an almost surreal postseason. The richest man in baseball history was benched for three playoff games and pinch-hit for six times. The good news for A-Dud is that the $114 million left on his Yankees contract can buy lots of HGH and plenty of masking agents.

And now, the 2012 Turkeys of the Year:


There are chokes, there are Cubbie chokes and then there was this, arguably the most complete choke-job in the history of professional sports.

The chokiest of chokers was Jim Furyk. His collapse in his pivotal match capped a year in which he also frittered away the U.S. Open and two PGA Tour events.

This result hardly could be pinned on Furyk alone, however. Tiger Woods didn't record a single point in the entire event. Neither did Steve Stricker, who was joined by Furyk, Bubba Watson, Keegan Bradley and Phil Mickelson on the list of Americans who wet themselves down the stretch.

Holy Heimlich, Batman ... talk about a total team effort.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Petraeus' affair was so gay (not)


Had General Petraeus been caught having an affair with a male biographer, it would have set the LGBT movement back a half-century. 

Thank goodness that didn't happen. Now he and Paula Broadwell can go back to preserving the sanctity of their wonderful heterosexual marriages.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Today's High 5: From pigskin to politics

5. On the 40th anniversary season of the undefeated Dolphins, it's cork-popping time again for Larry Csonka, Bob Griese, Don Shula, Nick Buoniconti & Co.: The last unbeaten team, Atlanta, fell to the Saints.

I was pretty sure the Falcons weren't about to go 19-0 when they needed about 10 lucky plays to beat "my" Carolina Panthers a few weeks back.

4. Time again for the annual debate about which college football teams get to play for the mythical national championship.

Wake me when the BCS is over.

3. Haven't posted lately because I've been doing other stuff, some of which I actually get paid for.

2. The college-basketball-on-an-aircraft-carrier experiment already has run its course.

There were supposed to be three such games over the weekend. Marquette vs. Ohio State had to be canceled because the court was too slippery. Georgetown and Florida managed to play a half before condensation on the court prematurely ended the game. And the Syracuse-San Diego State game that was postponed by rain Friday finally was played Sunday despite a broken shot clock, messed-up scoreboards, a defective court and windy conditions that barely made the game resemble basketball.

In all three cases, athletes, coaches and fans traveled a long way only to be disappointed.

I get it. We want to honor veterans and we want to create cool, interesting experiences.

There are ways to do that without putting athletes at danger and making a mockery of the game.

If the NCAA really wants to help those who have served our country, hold these games in large indoor facilities and donate all proceeds to veterans' causes.

1. I just can't get enough of Fox News these days.

It was my main source of Election Night coverage, and I have thoroughly enjoyed watching the Fair & Balanced Network since then. It's funnier than Saturday Night Live ... and its stars are better actors.

As if listening to Dick Morris explaining why he was slightly off on his prediction of a Mitt Romney landslide wasn't enough entertainment, there's been: Karl Rove blaming the Obama campaign for suppressing the vote; Rick Santorum saying the GOP's failing was not being extreme enough on social issues; Sean Hannity suddenly deciding Latino-friendly immigration reform would be a good thing; and various bloviators saying Barack Obama retained the presidency due to SuperStorm Sandy, the liberal media's Benghazi coverup, the one Black Panther who stood outside one polling place, broken voting machines, etc., etc., etc.

You know, maybe if the Republicans had put up a candidate who could carry the state where he was governor, the state where his dad was a popular governor, the state where he has his newest mansion and the state his running mate calls home, the election wouldn't have come down to conspiracies.

It's been quite an election season. I miss the fun GOP primaries. I miss crazy Michele "Vaccines Make Retards" Bachmann, Herman "9-9-9" Cain, Rick "Oops" Perry, Rick "What A Snob!" Santorum, Newt "Moon Colony" Gingrich and the rest of the gang.

Mitt Romney? I already don't miss him. 

The Best Liar Money Could Buy was a terrible candidate and he would have been a terrible president.

To this day, I can see why sane people would have voted against the very flawed Obama ... but I cannot for the life of me see why anybody not named Romney would have been excited to vote for Mitt, a man who believes in nothing and everything all at the same time.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Today's High 5: Frisco is Ex-Cubbie heaven!

5. Mike Fontenot and Mark DeRosa won World Series rings with the 2010 San Francisco Giants. Two years later, Ryan Theriot opened the 10th inning with a single and scored the championship-winning run.

If I'm Starlin Castro, Darwin Barney or any other Cubbie infielder, I want to be traded to the Giants pronto!

4. Jets players and coaches were ticked off that the home crowd was chanting for Tim Tebow to replace godawful Mark Sanchez during Sunday's lopsided loss to the Dolphins.

This is the price any team -- especially a New York team -- pays for acquiring the most popular backup quarterback in recent football history.

Never mind that Tebow has trouble completing routine passes. The circus is just beginning.

3. Three cheers for my Carolina Panthers, the best darn 1-6 team in football!

2. CEOs from more than 80 major U.S. corporations endorse raising taxes and reducing spending as part of a balanced deficit-reduction plan. In other words, they support the Simpson-Bowles commission's recommendation. (And psssst ... they ain't liberals!)

That support sets them apart from Barack Obama, who appointed the commission and then promptly rejected its findings. And it also sets them apart from Mitt Romney, who instead favors cutting taxes by trillions of dollars without detailing how our debt-crushed nation will pay for those cuts.

Is it too late to get a candidate do-over?

1. Just saw this headline: "Hurricane Sandy wreaks havoc on presidential race."

As somebody with two brothers living in Philly and lots of friends and relatives residing in the D.C.-to-Boston corridor, the absolute least of my concerns is how the storm will affect the campaign schedules of Obama and Romney.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Romney takes bayonet to his head, but will it matter? Also: The World Series

I kept waiting for Mitt Romney to lower the boom about the Obama Administration's seemingly clueless handling of the Benghazi terrorist attacks.

I kept waiting for Barack Obama to blast his opponent for using more than a dozen of Dubya's foreign policy advisers.

I kept waiting for the president to remind voters that Romney was caught on tape telling his rich constituents that it's not even worth trying for peace in the Middle East.

I'm still waiting.

The third and final debate has come and gone -- mercifully, many will say -- and there were few things voters could sink their teeth into.

In general, Romney was passive. Not as passive as Obama in Debate I, but mostly unwilling to engage for whatever reason. He pretty much let Obama get away with portraying him as lacking knowledge and experience in foreign-policy matters. When Obama tore into him for investing in companies that do business with China even as Romney was talking tough against China, Romney didn't deny the charge. Instead, he tried to portray the president as a bully who was "attacking" him. Romney also kept talking about all the ways he agreed with Obama on foreign policy.

Quite often, the subject turned back to the U.S. economy. Surprisingly, it was Obama who mentioned that first -- a strategic mistake that let Romney recite all the familiar unemployment, welfare and poverty numbers that do Obama no favors.

My lovely and observant wife, Roberta, called my attention to the sweat over Romney's upper lip later in the debate. She was right ... and it got worse as Obama nailed Romney on his willingness to abandon the U.S. automotive industry.

As for truly memorable moments, there was exactly one ... and it belonged to Obama: He said the out-of-touch Romney's insistence on increasing the deficit by buying ships the Navy no longer needs in the 21st century was akin to spending taxpayer money on "horses and bayonets." 

By my score, it was a solid win for the president. Still, most Americans care little about foreign affairs that don't involve British royalty.

Moreover, Obama's two debate victories -- even when coupled with Joe Biden's trashing of Paul Ryan in the VP debate -- probably didn't undo the damage done to the president in his pathetic performance in Debate I.

Obama probably could have clinched the election by performing as well in I as he did in II and III. Instead, it's a neck-and-neck race that will be decided by a few factory workers in Ohio, a handful of geezers in Florida and a carpool of soccer moms in Virginia.

Democracy at its finest.


Meanwhile, in sports ...

How 'bout the Giants dismantling the Cardinals in Games 5, 6 and 7 to set up what figures to be a Pitching Extravaganza of a World Series against the Tigers?

The Giants have homefield advantage because Melky Cabrera led the NL to victory in the All-Star Game. Weeks later, Cabrera was suspended for being a juicer.

So Bud Selig's folly -- making the All-Star exhibition "matter" -- looks even more ridiculous than ever.

Prediction: Tigers in 5, with Justin Verlander winning Games 1 and 5.

In other words, given my recent track record, bet the house on the Giants.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Panthers bite ... but it's sunny and 72!

This was supposed to be a big year for the NFL team in my adopted hometown, Charlotte. The Panthers improved from dregs of the league in 2010 to 6-10 last season, and looked especially good down the stretch. With young QB stud Cam Newton, a supposed genius of an offensive coordinator named Rob Chudzinski, a star receiver in Steve Smith and plenty of good (or at least decent) role players, 10 wins and a playoff berth seemed likely.

A Charlotte newspaper columnist who picked the Panthers to go 8-8 was ripped for being too negative. One of the team's best players, center Ryan Kalil, took out a full-page newspaper advertisement to all but guarantee the team would win the Super Bowl.

As Rick Perry would say ...


Or as Emily Litella (Google her, kids) would say:

Never mind.

The Panthers are a mess. They are 1-5. They have found painful, last-minute ways to lose their last three games. Their young QB stud and genius offensive coordinator have been considerably less studly and geniusly this season. In each of the aforementioned three losses, they failed to pick up 1 yard at a key juncture, pretty amazing in that they have the best running QB in the league, two tailbacks with eight-figure contracts and a guy who was the most sought-after fullback on the free-agent market.

And as if all that isn't bad enough, Kalil is injured and done for the season.

On a positive note, today was another in a long string of absolutely beautiful autumn days in North Carolina, and this week is supposed to be filled with sunny, 70-something weather.

Take that, Chicago!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Sandbagging Obama finally scores some birdies

In golf, the term is "sandbagging."

That's what Barack Obama must have been doing in the first debate. I mean, there's no way he could have been that bad unless he was trying to be that bad, right?

So yeah, that's the ticket. He sandbagged. He carded double-bogeys, couldn't get out of bunkers, chunked chips and got a terrible case of the shanks. He got Mitt Romney overconfident, gave the Republicans hope and lowered expectations on himself.

Then, just when people were starting to bet on the other guy, though, President Obama showed up for Mitt vs. Barack II and started raining birdies.

Nice strategy, chief!

This time, Obama wouldn't let Romney get away with blatant lies. Obama got the last, best word on oil production, on the auto bailout, on tax policy and on Libya. Not that politicians even seem to care anymore, but the fact-checkers generally confirmed that Romney had less truthiness (how's that for a word?) than Obama.

And the president brilliantly used his closing statement to condemn Romney for his infamous 47 percent of the country is not worthy comments, thereby preventing Romney from defending himself. The challenger didn't have the chance to blame everybody else for the true feelings he had shared with his audience of gazillionaires.

One final birdie in the heart of the cup for the sandbagger.

Had this Jack Nicklaus Obama showed up for the first debate -- instead of Judge Smails Obama -- the election already would be over. But he didn't and it isn't.

The temptation now is to say that the debate score is 1-1. Or maybe that the Obama ticket is even slightly ahead when factoring in Joe Biden's takedown of Paul Ryan in the VP debate. That, however, is not the case.

Obama's victory last night was not nearly as lopsided as Romney's was last time. Plus, by mopping the floor with the president in the first debate, Romney was able to get out from under having called nearly half the country victims, leeches and losers.

Romney completely stole the momentum during No. 1. Obama merely stemmed the tide in No. 2, showing America he was willing to fight.

I'm already looking forward to No. 3. It's been pretty darn good television theater.


In much more important news, Blue Thunder, our geezer-league softball team, reached a new high last night. We won 30-5 in a game that was even more decisive than the score might suggest.

In an effort to prevent runaways, the league has a rule that caps scoring in any one inning at 5 runs.  Well, we had six offensive innings last night. And in each of those innings, we scored 5 runs. Our opponent wasn't very good and gave us extra chances, but the fact is that we were smacking line drive after line drive after line drive.

Our leadoff guy, Wheels, went 5-for-5 with four singles and a double -- every time delivering a clean hit, as if he were some kind of line-drive machine. Several players had four hits. I went 3-for-3 with a walk, including my first triple of the season.

All of this happened after one of our core players, our pitcher Pat, got bloodied in the first inning when hit in the face by a hard shot. Pat had to go to the hospital to get a few stitches, but the good news is that he is fine and should be back next week -- when we'll be trying to wrap up a perfect 9-0 regular season!


If you are going to ever read one of my personal finance articles at the Seeking Alpha web site, make it  my most recent entry about Roth IRAs. Everybody who can have a Roth should have one, and I give the hows and whys in this article.

Plus, I get paid per page-view. So hey, everybody who clicks can help me fund my own Roth!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

A-Rod sits, Ibanez hits, and sports remains the best reality TV

Impressed with Joe Girardi, who had the guts to pinch-hit for Alex Rodriguez.

Impressed with A-Rod, who at least outwardly cheered on his teammate.

And really, really, really impressed with Raul Ibanez, who took A-Rod's place, delivered the game-tying homer in the ninth and followed with the winning shot in the 12th as the Yankees beat the Orioles to take control of their AL playoff series.

It couldn't have been an easy decision for Girardi, who had stuck by the struggling A-Rod through thin and thinner.

Despite some of the most incredible stats in history, Rodriguez probably isn't going to be a Hall of Famer because the majority of voters simply won't check the box next to the name of any juicer. Already fighting a reputation as a choker, it had to be tough to be lifted for a pinch-hitter in the ninth inning of a playoff game. A-Rod no doubt sees himself as an all-time great, but let me tell you ... nobody ever pinch-hit for DiMaggio, Gehrig, Ruth or Mantle in a postseason game.

Oh well, he'll have to make do with his $275 million consolation prize.

As for Ibanez ... he sure made Girardi look like a genius, didn't he? Those were the most impressive hits for an over-the-hill bald guy since, well, since my last softball game.

Actually, I wasn't much of a hitting stud in Tuesday's game. But I didn't embarrass myself much as the mighty Blue Thunder won again.

We're now 7-0, everybody contributes every game, we like each other and it's great fun.

The only downer: I failed to accomplish my main goal of getting through the entire season without any medical issues. Going from first to third on a teammate's hit, I tweaked my right hamstring. Though I stayed in the game, I was hobbled. 

But don't worry, everybody. Seriously, DO NOT WORRY. I mean it. Stop worrying, will ya?

A few Advil later, I'm doing much better. I even spent about an hour at the driving range today and didn't card a single bogey.


For those interested in personal finance or my writing -- in other words, for those who are really bored -- check out my latest article at Seeking Alpha: READ IT.

I get dough for each page view, so help me raise money to aid Jewish nuns.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

One of these years, I'll wisen up and stop picking against the Cardinals! (And stop picking the Braves, period.)

Both of my wonderful wild-card predictions were wonderfully wrong. The Orioles are even more mystifying than the Cards ... but we do have to thank them for guaranteeing we won't have to watch the Rangers lose the World Series again. As for the Rangers, what an epic fold down the stretch. In order, they frittered away the AL's best overall record, the West lead and their one playoff game.

At least I'm up in both division series. The Tigers, however, simply had to win. They lose Game 1 at home with Justin Verlander on the mound and they're toast. They have to consider it a positive sign to have won despite getting zip from Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder.

The Reds were more impressive, overcoming the early departure of Johnny Cueto to win in San Fran. Revenge of Dusty!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

With Albert Pujols pressing and failing early on, the zillion-dollar Angels were going nowhere. Then they called up Mike Trout and -- WOW! His hitting and running and energy almost carried the Angels into the playoffs.

The fact that he's a superb fielder at a difficult positon (CF) also should count for something in the AL MVP voting. His only real competition, Miguel Cabrera, is pretty much a hack at 3B for the Tigers.

But ...

Come on.

Cabrera won the freakin' Triple Crown, something that only 14 other players in the history of baseball have done. He led his league in batting and home runs and RBIs while striking out fewer than 100 times, which in today's baseball is almost miraculous. He hit all those HRs despite playing in one of the majors' most pitcher-friendly ballparks; Prince Fielder, as powerful as he is, managed only 18 HRs at Comerica Park. Think about that.

Oh, and unlike Trout's Angels, Cabrera's Tigers won their division, rallying from a 3-game deficit with two weeks to go.

So while some of the sabermetricians might be rattling their sabres on Trout's behalf, bringing up statistics both great and silly, I don't know how any voter can choose any guy who didn't become the first Triple Crown winner in nearly half a century.

Meanwhile, in the NL ...

There seem to be more guys who could make a legitimate MVP claim.

Ryan Braun, the controversial winner over L.A.'s Matt Kemp last year, actually had better stats for the Brewers this season. And you know what? He won't (and shouldn't) be MVP for the same reason Kemp wasn't (and shouldn't have been) last year. Even with their late-season rally, the Brewers were never really serious contenders, just as Kemp's Dodgers didn't contend in 2011. That means something.

Andrew McCutchen had a breakout season for the Pirates, but he wasn't great in September as Pittsburgh limped home to a 20th straight losing campaign.

For me, it comes down to one of two catchers, San Fran's Buster Posey or St. Louie's Yadier Molina.

Should Posey get the award, good for him, he's very worthy. He hit for power, drove in 100+ runs and carried the Giants offensively to the NL West title after Melky Cabrera got suspended for juicing.

Having said that, I'd vote for Molina. The best defensive catcher since Pudge Rodriguez's heyday -- and nobody else is really even in the picture, folks -- how many runs does he save over the course of a season? I'd guess dozens. He also guided an injury-filled pitching staff to a season that led to a playoff berth. And now he can really hit, as his .315 - 22 - 76 line demonstrates.

Yes, Posey has better offensive numbers across the board. As I said, he'd be a great choice. I fully admit my vote would be kind of a Career Achievement Award.


AL Cy Young: David Price, Rays. The whole package.

NL Cy Young: R.A. Dickey, Mets. Back to back 1-hitters part of an amazing, knuckleballing story.

AL Rookie: Mike Trout, Angels. Duh!

NL Rookie: Todd Frazier, Reds. More RBIs, higher OPS than Bryce Harper.

AL Manager: Bob Melvin, A's. With all due respect to Buck Showalter, at least I could have named three Baltimore players before the season began.

NL Manager: Davey Johnson, Nationals. Young team arrived at least a year earlier than most expected.

Special Award For Handling Young Pitcher Coming Off Tommy John Surgery: Atlanta Braves. Because they let Kris Medlen spend the first half of the season in the bullpen, the Braves are going to have their young ace (10-1, 1.57 ERA) available for the playoffs. The Nationals, meanwhile, burned out Stephen Strasburg, and go into the postseason without their stud.

Special Commissioner's Award For Keeping Lots Of Baseball Towns Excited All Season: Bud Selig. Yes, the commissioner's award goes to the Commish himself for the excitement that the second wild-card team brought. It also made winning a division title hugely important. I admit I was skeptical at first, but if I'm going to bash him when he does something silly, gotta give him credit for a great idea.


AL Wild Card

Rangers over Orioles. Purely a choice of Yu Darvish over Joe Saunders. Joe Saunders? Really, Buck?

NL Wild Card

Braves over Cardinals. Going with Medlen in great matchup vs. Kyle Lohse. Call it payback for the way last year's regular season ended.

AL Divisional

Yankees over Rangers. Should be a slugfest, with the Yankees having the final slug thanks to homefield advantage.

Tigers over A's. Not saying I don't believe in the A's, but I don't believe in Justin Verlander letting the Tigers lose to the A's.

NL Divisional

Reds over Giants. I at first wrote Giants over Reds. That's how close I think this series will be. Reds have edge in offense and bullpen, and I think that will be enough.

Braves over Nationals. Sure would be nice to have one more arm, Nats. Chipper isn't ready for career to end.

AL Championship

Yankees over Tigers. Because Verlander can't pitch 3 times and the Yankees have a much more balanced lineup.

NL Championship

Reds over Braves. One more crack at the title for Dusty Baker.


Yankees over Reds. It's not 1976 anymore, and the Reds don't have Johnny Bench. But Yankee fans shouldn't get too excited because I can't remember the last time I got the World Series winner right!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Romney 1, Obama 0

Insomuch as presidential debates have winners and losers, the challenger prevailed in Mitt vs. Barack I.

I kept waiting for Barack Obama to throw Mitt Romney's words about the 47 percent right back in Mitt's face. I kept waiting for the president to remind Romney that his own party-mates, Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry, ripped Mitt for being a "vulture capitalist" during his time at Bain Capital. I kept waiting for Obama to remind Romney of the many stances he changed in kowtowing to the far right, signs that Mitt isn't his own man but a puppet of the extreme GOP fringe.

But no.

A subdued Obama seemed content to defend his own record and take mostly small pokes at Romney's  policies (or lack thereof). Incredibly, in a 90-minute debate about the U.S. economy, Bain never was mentioned. Romney sure was smart to not bring it up.

It was Romney who made the best points of the night, wondering why the president used so much political capital on Obamacare when jobs clearly should have been the main focus in the first two years in office. After Obama called for more teachers to be hired, it was Romney who very cleverly said that Obama could have hired 2 million more teachers with the money he used on green energy projects, many of which failed. Romney simply appeared sharper.

Immediately after the debate, I told my wife Roberta that it was as if it had been the first quarter of a football game and Obama wanted to save the best part of his game-plan for later.

After thinking about it a little more, though, Obama actually reminded me of a football coach who thought his lead was so safe that he decided to play prevent defense.

As most fans know, however, a coach who plays prevent defense often prevents his team from winning.

If I saw all of that, I'm guessing that most media mopes did. And that will be reflected in the polls, where Romney no doubt will get a bump, perhaps even a significant one.

Two new articles and one old winner

Are you better off than you were four years ago? Roberta and I are, and I tell why in my latest article for the investing Web site, Seeking Alpha. I guess it struck a nerve with lots of people; as of this moment, it has received more than 200 comments. READ IT!

In a far less provocative piece, here is a feature story I wrote for the American Heart Association site: READ IT!

And in totally unrelated news ...

Another big win for Blue Thunder, our old dude's softball team. We beat one of the better teams in our 45-and-over league and did so with authority: 25-9.

We are 6-0 and just thumping the ball. Even yours truly, who has had a few nice games in a row after snapping out of a month-long slump.

We're playing so well that some of my teammates are worried about overconfidence. In the realm of worries, that's my favorite one to have!

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Today's High 5: Choker Edition

5. I'm trying to figure out which team delivered the bigger choke: the White Sox, the Panthers or the U.S. Ryder Cup team. Eenie ... meenie ... miney ... choke!

4. After beating the Tigers on Sept. 17, the White Sox were 3 games up in the AL Central. They won only 3 times since and now trail Detroit by 3 games with 3 games to play. That's a lot of 3's, and this particular 4-of-a-kind is a losing hand. After all these years, the White Sox are still an all-or-nothing, swing-for-the-fences group. And sometimes the home runs just don't come. Adam Dunn has gone deep plenty this season, but his 0-for-13 (with 7 Ks) over the weekend, as Chicago lost 3 of 4 at home to the Rays, is a nice reflection of who the Sox are. Paraphrasing the great Gary Gaetti: It's hard to hit the baseball when you have both hands wrapped around your throat.

3. The Panthers led 28-27 at Atlanta with 69 seconds to go, and the Falcons had the ball at their own 1-yard line with no timeouts left. It's hard to choke that kind of situation away, but choke the Panthers did. I'd like to give a big thumbs up to Matt Ryan for the miracle comeback, but his 59-yard lob wedge to set up the winning field goal never should have worked. I'm still wondering what the defensive backfield of my adopted team was thinking on that one. The Panthers actually could have put the game away without Atlanta even getting one last chance but Cam Newton, who otherwise had an outstanding game, fumbled on what would have been a clinching run. So now the Panthers are 1-3, a promising season ready to going down the drain. Heimlich maneuver, please!

2. Somehow, the U.S. Ryder Cup team managed to cough up a 10-6 lead going into the final day at Medinah. Although lots of credit has to go to the Europeans, who made incredible shot after incredible shot, the fact is that several top U.S. players simply fell apart. Jim Furyk followed his U.S. Open choke job with a hackathon of equal chokiness Sunday. And what can you say about Tiger Woods and Steve Stricker, who combined to lose 7 1/2 of 8 possible points over the weekend? Stricker looked especially hopeless, which helps explain why a player of such talent just about never even contends in the majors. You have to wonder why U.S. captain Davis Love III put Stricker in the critical 11th position on Sunday. Hey, maybe captains choke, too.

1. OK, the results have been tabulated. And the Choke of the Month -- make that Choke of the Year -- goes pretty handily to ...

The U.S. Ryder Cup Team.

Congratulations, boys! While the other contenders merely choked, you found a way to pull off a historic collapse of Cubbian proportions!!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Rolling Thunder strikes again!

Blue Thunder? We should be called the Rolling Thunder!

It's the Fall League for Charlotte old dude softball (45 and older), and our squad just won again. We're 5-0 with four weeks left in the regular season.

As usual, we pounded the ball and made enough good defensive plays to win, 17-13. What was unique about this latest victory was that we were missing five of our best players but we just kept rolling. (Ed, Wheels, Ronnie, Donnie, Jim ... we really do still need you!!)

There were a few unique things involving yours truly, too. First, I batted fifth. I'm pretty sure I hadn't hit in the middle of the order since I was occasionally smashing the longball for my Madison Newspaper Co. team in 1984. Second, I had my first three-RBI day of the season, with two hits and a sac fly as I continue to battle out of the slump that plagued me in August.

And third? I was intentionally walked.

Yes, that's right. The opponent intentionally walked a slug like me to load the bases and set up the force play. The really cool thing is that the guy who followed me in the order -- our 75-year-old living legend named O.K. -- delivered a line-drive into the gap!

Softball already had been fun because this is a great group of guys, but I must admit it's even more fun when everybody's hitting ... and the Thunder keeps rolling.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Flag NFL for ruining the product

The scab refs just handed a final-play victory to the Seahawks, who beat the Packers thanks to an absolutely awful call on what should have been a game-ending interception.

Were this an aberration, it would have been bad enough. But it keeps happening -- two, four, six, 10 times a game. And now it's happened at the end of a Monday Night Football game, with every intelligent observer (including millions watching at home) knowing what the call should have been.

Roger Goodell, the self-styled Mr. Integrity, and the NFL's skinflint owners should be ashamed of the product they are foisting upon the viewing public -- not to mention the hard-working players and coaches whose livelihoods are being adversely affected by a bunch of gazillionaires who are too cheap to pay relative peanuts to the regular refs.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Baseball's enduring steroid stain

Lots of people claim to be "old school," but they're not. I am.

Need proof? I get the newspaper every day. Need more proof? I read it, front to back. Need still more proof? I even read the agate pages in Sports!

For all you kids out there, the agate pages are those filled will bits of stats and facts and other minutiae and the print usually is really small. So small that us old-schoolers need good reading glasses.

Oh, and for all you kids out there, a newspaper is ... oh, forget it.

Anyway, something in the bottom right corner of the baseball agate page in today's Charlotte Observer caught my eye. It was a string of items in the This Date In Baseball feature that AP makes available daily. Here is the string:

1988 - Jose Canseco became the first major leaguer to hit 40 homers and steal 40 bases in one season.

2000 - Rafael Palmeiro became the 32nd player to hit 400 home runs.

2001 - Alex Rodriguez hit his 48th home run, breaking the major league record for shortstops.

2001 - Sammy Sosa became the first player to hit three home runs in a game three times in a season.

2006 - Barry Bonds hit his 734th career home run, an NL record.

Yep, in baseball's last quarter century, Sept. 23 was a big day for juicers.

Going forward, it's going to be interesting how the game deals with its history concerning this period.

It's difficult for the game to be proud of its heritage when so many of its major milestones were established by guys who got where they were by jabbing themselves in their keisters with syringes.

I mean, how many records and notable achievements involving home runs from 1985-2005 weren't influenced by steroids?

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Romney: I ain't worried about "those people"

Oh no he didn't.

In an amazing video obtained by Mother Jones magazine and released today, Mitt Romney told a group of wealthy GOP supporters this last spring:

There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it. That that's an entitlement. And the government should give it to them. And they will vote for this president no matter what. ... These are people who pay no income tax. My job is is not to worry about those people. I'll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.

Wow. Just wow.

One of the two men vying to lead our nation actually accused nearly half of the nation's residents of  being slackers and mooches who aren't worthy of his attention or support.

Hmmm. Who knew that the CEOs of Berkshire Hathaway, Costco and Carmax were such irresponsible losers?

I could go on and on ... about the irony of a guy who shields hundreds of millions of dollars from income tax calling out others for being too poor to pay income tax ... about the utter lack of compassion for those less fortunate ... about his use of the kind of class warfare he blames on the other side.

I could talk about the facts: The 40-some percent of voters he so callously rips for paying no taxes includes millions of seniors on Social Security, students, lower-middle class families who receive earned-income and child credits, veterans who return from battle and need job programs, young people just trying to start their professional lives, folks who recently lost their jobs through no fault of their own, etc. (I know facts are annoying to politicians, but Romney might want to check this out:

But do I really have to talk about any of that stuff? Romney's comments stand as an apt representation of the man. They need no further embellishment.

For his part, when called on the comments, Romney doubled down. Of course he did. He thinks it's unmanly ever to admit mistakes.

He admitted only that his comments weren't "elegantly stated," but otherwise stood by what he said.

Given the number of Independent voters who fall into Romney's "leech class," it's a hell of a way to try to win an election.

I am a registered Independent. At the start of the whole process, I had hoped the Republicans would produce a great candidate, one who would elevate the discourse and give me and my fellow Independents a viable alternative to Barack Obama.

Instead, we got this social clod, this soulless corporate weasel who brazenly admits to only wanting to represent the nation's haves.

What a disappointment.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Lyin' Ryan runs circles around truth-challenged pols

Bees buzz, the moon orbits Earth, coaches yell, parents embarrass their kids ...

And politicians lie.

It's what they do. Oh, more genteel people call it "exaggerating" or "couching the truth" or "taking things out of context."

In other words, they lie.

The presidential campaign has been one lie after another. From what I have heard so far, Republicans have been quite a bit more truth-challenged, but the Dems are working hard at their convention this week to give the GOP a run for its money.

Bill Clinton's speech last night was masterful: a point-by-point, detail-filled refutation of the Republican case against Barack Obama. It was entertaining, too. He didn't need an empty chair to keep his audience enthralled for 45 minutes.

Clinton acted the part of the Myth Buster when it came to Republican lies about welfare, Obamacare, Medicare and the stimulus. It was a sensational performance.

Yet he lied, too. I couldn't believe it when he suggested that Obama embraced the Simpson-Bowles deficit plan ... because that simply isn't true. It was kind of like Paul "Lyin'" Ryan a week earlier blaming Obama for America getting its credit rating downgraded -- even though Congressional Republicans, egged on by tea-partiers, were the ones who refused to raise the debt ceiling, leading directly to the downgrade.

My former employer, AP, got criticized for including the Monica Lewinsky affair in its fact-checking story about Clinton's speech. It was in response to Clinton accusing Republicans of lying. And it was perfectly fair territory. Clinton has become something of a hero these days, even to some GOPers, but history knows he lied and lied and lied and lied as president.

Yep, they're all liars. And here's a new low ... or is it a new high? (I don't know how to score these things.)

Lyin' Ryan claimed his best marathon time was "two hours and fifty something." When I heard that, I thought, "Wow, that's really fast!"

Fast, yes. And loose with the facts, too.

According to Runner's World magazine, which keeps track of such things, Ryan only ran one marathon, in 1990. He completed the 26.2 miles in 4 hours, 1 minute, 25 seconds. Which is pretty close, a mere 1 hour-plus off his claim.

A few things:

1. I guess this means Runner's World now must be part of the mainstream liberal media.

2. How pathetic that he felt a need to lie about something as unimportant as his marathon time. I thought Mitt Romney was the big liar on that ticket, but it's obvious Ryan is pathological.

3. Ryan isn't even the fastest recent GOP vice presidential candidate. Sarah Palin once ran a 3:59:36 marathon. I'm sure she could see Russia during her entire run.

4. My wife ran the Chicago marathon in 2003. Roberta's time was 3:59:35 -- exactly 1 second faster than Palin and nearly 2 minutes faster than Lyin' Ryan.

Maybe Roberta should be a vice presidential candidate in 2016!

Nah ... she's far too honest for that.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

2 years in N.C., y'all!

Sunday marks our second anniversary as North Carolinians (and ex-Chicagoans).

Love the weather in the winter, spring and fall; miss seeing all those sailboats on Lake Michigan in the summer.

Love the year-round golf; miss teeing it up with the Chicago buddies who used to take my money on the course.

Love getting away from Chicago and Illinois politics; hate North Carolina politics.

Love hearing folks say "y'all"; miss hearing folks say "da boata dem."

Love having an affordable house on a quiet cul de sac; miss living in an apartment in the heart of Lakeview with lake and city views.

Love having gotten in with some local Marquette alums; miss being close enough to Milwaukee to go to games.

Love that a 30-minute rush-hour commute is considered "long"; hate that we pretty much have to drive everywhere in a pedestrian-unfriendly city with lousy public transportation.

Love playing 12-inch softball again; miss covering big-league baseball.

Love the cheesy grits; miss the pizza -- and most other Chicago foods.

Love the friends we have made here; miss the friends we left behind there (and really miss Ben and Katie there).

Will we spend the rest of our lives in the Charlotte area? Who knows? Will we ever move back to Chicago? Who knows?

Life is an adventure, and our journey has taken us here. Why fight it, y'all?

Monday, August 20, 2012

500 HR = HoF? Hardly!

For years and years and years, it was accepted that any player with 500 or more career home runs deserved Hall of Fame enshrinement.

That unwritten rule was busted into a zillion little pieces by the Steroid Era. Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro have been shunned decisively by BBWAA voters. And there's a better than good chance that all-time longball leader Barry Bonds, as well as Sammy Sosa (whose bat-corking episode represents a second strike against him), will be blanked in this year's balloting.

But what about those who haven't been suspected of juicing? Well, 500 home runs isn't automatic for them, either.

Example: Adam Dunn.

The White Sox whiffer just became the 50th player in big-league history to hit career HR No. 400. He's only 32 years old, he goes for the fences with every swing and he's about the size of the Trump Tower (though not as big as the Trump Ego).

I'll be shocked if he doesn't finish his career with well over 500 home runs.

Unless he suddenly becomes more than a one-tool ballplayer, however, Adam Dunn will not get my Hall vote no matter how many HRs he ends up with. I'm guessing the vast majority of my fellow voters also will reject his candidacy.

He was an embarrassingly bad outfielder in the National League before becoming a DH in Chicago. He lumbers around the bases. He is a strikeout machine. In 2011, he had arguably the worst offensive season in baseball history. He is only a two-time All-Star, with one selection coming despite a batting average near .200. He hasn't been a big-time run-producer. He has never played on a playoff team, a fact he hopes to help change this season.

Only his wife and son believe this to be the resume of a Hall of Famer.

Yep, if unwritten rules actually meant something, they'd be written!

Monday, August 13, 2012

Olympic cheer: London's still in one piece!

The Games of the XXX Olympiad are over, having ended without terrorist attacks, without international incidents, without massive violence.


I was on vacation the past week and was busy pretty much all the time, so I barely noticed the Olympics even were taking place. Over their 17 days, I'd be surprised if I watched much more than an hour and 17 minutes of action. I didn't see one second of basketball, which used to be my favorite Olympic sport, and saw precious little swimming, diving, tennis, volleyball and others I enjoy watching, playing or both.

Even though I don't care for hype and national jingoism, I really have nothing against the Olympics. My daughter Katie loves 'em to death, my wife Roberta was a casual observer, and lots of friends spent hour after hour in front of their TV sets, riveted by the action. It's just that after covering five Olympics over 10 years during my AP writing career (1988 Calgary, 1992 Albertville, 1994 Lillehammer, 1996 Atlanta, 1998 Nagano), I kind of got Olympic-ed out.

The fact that I was able to pay so little attention to what was taking place across the pond was wonderful, because it meant there was no world-changing bad news.

The Olympics provide all kinds of zealots and wackos the perfect forum for their views, and there was legitimate concern that there could be some kind of major-scale violence in England. As spread out as the event is, it's pretty much impossible to have tight enough security. Mitt Romney was roasted for expressing his concern -- the one time it would have been OK for Mr. Truth-Stretcher to fib, he declined to do so -- but he was right.

So to have the games end Sunday, with a spectacular closing ceremony (or so I've been told) but without any bad news, well, that's a giant achievement.

A giant relief, too.