Thursday, April 28, 2011

Jim Tressel, televangelists, and Barney Fife

What's the difference between Jim Tressel, the head football coach at Ohio State, and a typical televangelist?

Maybe a few things. I can't remember seeing JT in a suit, much less flowing robes, but I can't remember a televangelist ever wearing a dopey red sweater-vest either. One typically has a booming voice, while the other is soft-spoken -- at least in public.There's that little matter of make-up for TV, but I'm not so sure they don't grade out about the same on that. A preacher typically wears a lot of goop on his face to appear perfect for the cameras. Jimbo has cute little ruddy cheeks that match his vest. Buckeye fans would say it's a result of brisk weather. Yours truly thinks he wears more rouge than Betty Boop.

Televangelists say "PRAISE THE LORD". Tressel says, "PRAISE THE WINS".

Televangelists typically have a live audience in attendance that was carefully selected to make sure only people with the brains of a turnip are present. Tressel has the "horseshoe" at the stadium in Columbus.

Televangelists prey on stupid people to give them money. Tressel? Draw your own conclusions.

Some televangelists have eventually been exposed as frauds. They've been defrocked and even sent to prison. With Tressel, the NCAA investigation is on-going.

Televangelists write books and idiots stand in line to pay exorbitant prices for autographed copies. Tressel wrote a book. Since his recent notoriety, chances are it's flying off the shelves. Autographs are probably worth even more. Did I mention idiots?

Televangelists reach out and try to touch the minds of young people, so they can have them in their flock. The preachers understand that enlisting such vulnerable minds will pay dividends later. Tressel has allegedly recruited at the junior high school level.

Televangelists hate smart, objective reporters, that aren't swayed by the BS. These days, Tressel hates press conferences, where those same pesky folks have a bad habit of showing up.

At that, televangelists are a slick bunch. They don't sweat being caught in lies, because they're very adept at changing the subject, shifting blame, and moving on to something else. After a couple news cycles, things will die down and it will be business as usual. Politicians are masters of this, but that's a story for another day. Tressel? He gets it.

In the end, what's the main difference between a televangelist and Jim Tressel?

The preachers are smart enough never to sign anything that might be incriminating later.

Bad move, Jimbo.

And I wish he'd quit with the camo garb. First, Jimmie Johnson and his Miami Hurricanes patented that bit a couple decades ago. Second, a dweeby little nerd will never be mistaken for Rambo. It looks more like Barney Fife in fatigues. And for crying out loud, lose the rouge. Even Barney had more self-respect than that.

Friday, April 22, 2011

NASCAR. Forget the rules. Let em race.

What used to be the most exciting races in NASCAR are no fun anymore. Sure, they run short and medium length tracks, where they tear up a lot of sheet metal and tires, but not that long ago superspeedways like Daytona and Talladega got everybody, from the drivers and crews, to the fans, juiced. Not any more.

The drivers look for the fastest way around the track and they figured out it was in 2-car tandems. To me, the way they pair up and bump each other looks like some sort of mating season. Put another way, if one car can't find a willing partner, it will be frustrated, while watching everybody else do their thing. This is not my idea of racing. How to make it better?

First, NASCAR should have listened to the drivers. Those guys know more than anybody else what's going on. They didn't like restrictor plates at the superspeedways, which slow them down, and bunch them up, in the first place. They said it took the "racing" out of it, and was a recipe for disaster. They were right. Ever since restrictor plates came about, supposedly to make things safer, there's always a couple of massive pile-ups during the course of these races. Everybody knows the "big one" is going to happen.

Faster speeds? Actually, the drivers preferred it. The teams that had the superior cars could get away from the also-rans, instead of being stuck amongst them. If a team couldn't build a car fast enough to compete, and have a good enough driver to pilot it -- that's their problem. Maybe they should look for another line of work, instead of getting in the way.

And they should stop with so many nit-picky rules. Do the "suits" in NASCAR really think the average fan cares about a quarter inch here or there on the construction of the cars, how many cubic inches the motor is, what kind of gas mileage it gets, or whether a shock absorber passes inspection?  We don't. The "SC" in NASCAR stands for "stock car", which is a joke. There's nothing on those cars anymore that is "stock". So let them build whatever they want to. Between the owners, the crews, and the drivers, they'll figure out what works best. Let them run with it.

They wonder why their attendance has taken such a nose dive? The economy has something to do with it, of course, because a lot of people don't have the "recreational" bucks they used to, but when the powers that be try to create parity and micro-manage everything to the point of sterilization, they're shooting themselves in the foot.

Let these guys go back to REAL racing, no holds barred, where it gets interesting again, and those empty seats will have bodies in them. It all depends on what they want. Slowing everything down and supposedly making things safer might be a good thing, but it's also become boring.

If they want to put excitement back into it, turn them loose and let's see what happens. Somebody might get killed, you say?  This isn't a quilting bee. When cars are in close quarters at high speeds, and something goes wrong, or somebody makes a mistake -- things happen.  Nobody makes these guys do what they do. High risk and high reward goes with the territory. If they want to do this, then let them do it their way.

In the end, shouldn't the NASCAR drivers be the ones making such decisions? They say they want to race.

I say -- let them.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Barry, OJ, and Roger. Is it over?

The Barry Bonds' trial recently concluded and nobody seemed to win. BB wasn't totally vindicated, but after spending millions of tax-payer dollars, the prosecution only has a conviction on obstruction of justice -- which will likely result in probation. It seems the jury couldn't decide on the perjury counts. That could mean the feds might come back yet again for another trial, only to spend more of our money to prove a point.

My question is -- exactly what is that point? That he lied? Everybody has lied. Priests, pastors, rabbis, judges, prosecutors, defense attorneys, politicians (oh boy), business people, parents, kids, grandmas, your best friend -- you name it -- they've told some lies somewhere along the line. And so have you and I. Anyone that says they haven't just made themself a liar -- again. Does that make it right? No, but it happens. The trick is to distinguish between those that cause harm to others, and those that don't. The former might rightfully be taken up in a court of law, while the latter -- well -- something about people who live in glass houses.....

In the Bonds' case, even if he lied about taking steroids, I have yet to understand how that caused harm to others, besides ruffling the feathers of the feds. They ruffle ours enough, so who cares? The only damage I've seen done was to Bonds' wallet for his legal fees, and Greg Anderson, his former "trainer", who's spent months in jail because he won't talk. Something seems very perverse about a person, not currently accused of a crime, by the way, going to jail for being silent, while prosecutors and defense attorneys rack up millions of dollars and, in the end, pretty much accomplish nothing. How can that be right? Problem is -- there's no definitive set of rules.

Take the OJ case, for instance. Think what you will, and I'd probably agree, but the jury said he didn't commit murder. They supposedly heard all the evidence, and what we got to see and hear was filtered through the media. What we may think doesn't matter. The jury said "not guilty". It should have been over. But no, there was another trial, where he was found guilty of "wrongful death", and another jury said he owed 30-some million bucks to the families of the deceased. If the original jury said he didn't do it in the first place, then how can he be held accountable for "wrongful death"? I don't want to hear about the differences between "beyond reasonable doubt", and a "preponderance of the evidence". Either a defendant did it or didn't. Like it or not, the original jury said he didn't.

Speaking of which, what ever happened to "innocent"? If everyone's "innocent until proven guilty" going in, but they're not convicted, then why are they either "not guilty" or "acquitted" coming out? Shouldn't they go back to being "innocent"? Thing is, once one is accused, they are no longer "innocent", regardless of the verdict..They could have been 1000 miles away when the crime happened, and proved it, but they will never be innocent again. They now have a rap sheet. Think that's nuts? It gets worse.

Even after that verdict, OJ moved to Florida. So first he was not guilty, then he was guilty, after which he went to a place where the judgment didn't seem to apply anyway --  all in the same country. Now THAT'S nuts. Evidently, something came over him and he got caught up in some mischief in Las Vegas, so he's now in jail, probably for whatever the maximum sentence is, because for some reason, staying in Florida playing golf and living the high life wasn't good enough. That was REALLY nuts.

Somehow I don't think we've heard the last of Barry and OJ.

Roger Clemens is on deck. He should know how to handle this. They'll give him a couple "high hard ones" to rattle him. Then one down the middle to make him think they have control. After that, he'll see nothing but junk pitches. If he keeps his head, and is patient, chances are, after he coughs up a pile of money for his defense team, and the feds blow a few more million of our tax dollars, they'll issue him a "walk" too.

Again, what's the point?

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Dirty little secrets about the Oakland Press sports dept.

There's a few rumors that need to be cleared up, once and for all. A reliable source that wished to remain anonymous (how many times have you heard that?) has provided the following information.

Some people wonder whether Paul Kampe, of the Oakland Press, and a graduate of Oakland University, is related to Greg Kampe, the basketball coach. After all, Paul covers the Grizzlies for the paper, and this might be seen as a conflict of interest. Here's what you don't know. Paul wears several hats for the paper. Besides covering that basketball team, he does a lot of editing cleaning up grammatical errors and misspellings people like me make, writes a couple blogs himself, and is highly involved with the OP morphing into the on-line age.
Paul's into page design, graphics, and a lot of other things.

Back to the original question. Paul's last name has a silent "e". It's "camp". Greg's last name is pronounced "campy". So are they related? Of course. Paul is Greg's grandfather. When you're done reading this nonsense, scroll up a couple blogs and check out Paul's pic. Can you believe that dude's almost 90 years old? But he's in charge of the photos and is a computer wizard. I wish while he was shaving 60 years off his own age, he'd get rid of that puffiness around the eyes in my own pic.
Actually, Paul and Greg are no relation whatsoever, but it was a fun story to tell, and Paul's probably not quite THAT old. Yeah, that's the ticket.

Paula Pasche covers the Detroit Lions. Is it pronounced Pash, or Pashee? My source says it rhymes with "crash", but like her age, weight, true hair color, and how she really feels about going into the Lions' locker room to interview male athletes in various stages of undress, nobody knows for sure. There's classified, there's top secret, there's eyes only, and then there's that woman thing. Good luck with that.

Then there's the boss, sports editor Jeff Kuehn. First, it's not "keen", or "koon", it's "kyoo-in", and there's a lot of things you don't know about him. He ran track and cross-country in high school. Even finished a couple marathons along the way. Impressive stuff. Says he once dunked on Pat Caputo in a basketball game, but never did say how high the rim was. Maybe not so impressive. Jeff once drank beer for 16 straight years while playing a little hockey on the side. Or maybe it was the other way around. Details remain unclear.
At that, the sports thing evidently runs in the family. A son that played hockey for Team USA at two World University Games, a daughter that captained the swim team at Northern Michigan, and another son that was a starting offensive lineman for Birmingham Seaholm for 2 years. That all sounds great, but Jeff has his secrets too, that he doesn't want anybody else to know about, and it's time they were exposed.

That pic you see of him in the Sunday OP sports section? He hasn't looked like that for quite a while. "The Portrait of Dorian Gray" comes to mind.  Jeff's kind of a backwards version of that. The pic stays the same, while the real guy -- well, let's just say he's not getting any younger. Beats me why he doesn't update it. Even if the pic was current, Kampe works for him, and he could probably nip-tuck it.

Yet there's a deeper secret about him. Perhaps it's left over from his days of running marathons. People that do that typically carbo-load before the race for lasting nourishment to get them through 26.2 miles of running. Put another way, they scarf down a bunch of food in a short period of time. I suspect Jeff has never quite got past that mentality. Ever hear of Joey Chestnut? He's the guy at the annual 4th of July Nathan's Coney Island hot dog eating contest that can put away about 60 hot dogs, with buns, in 12 minutes. The first 6 or 8 or them last merely seconds, until they're "down the hatch". Jeff's a lot like that with omelets. Put one in front of him, glance at something else, then turn your eyes back, and -- poof -- it's gone. Incredible. Further, it's been rumored that Jeff has been banned from every all-you-can-eat establishment in the tri-county area, because of this reputation, though that's never been substantiated.

For now, hopefully that clears up a few mysteries for you involving the sports staff at the OP, and this is your trusty correspondent signing off.

I have to go find Dick Cheney and see if he'll let me borrow one of his bunkers for a while.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

What Tom Gores can do that matters

Tom Gores, a billionaire, bought the Pistons, the Palace, DTE Theatre, and Meadowbrook. So who is this guy anyway?

They say he's from Flint, and now operating out of California. That makes sense. You don't get to be a billionaire in Flint. Hell, for a billion bucks, you could probably buy that whole city, houses, businesses, dogs, cats, and all, and still have some serious change left over. So he didn't get the money there. Gores runs some outfit named Platinum Equity. Usually companies with names like that swap money around, and buy and sell things for a tidy profit. (Note to Tom -- they do that in Flint too these days. They're called pawn shops, but I don't think there's a whole lot of platinum involved.)

Nevertheless, he's the new sheriff in town in charge of Bill Davidson's old empire. Now that he's the boss, he can pretty much do whatever he wants. That likely means bringing his own people in to run things. This is what new owners do. In which case, Joe Dumars will probably be out a job when the Pistons' season mercifully ends. Joe's a good dude, and he's got enough dough for life, so he'll be alright. The head coach and his staff? They can kiss their Kuesters good-bye too. Chances are they'll land somewhere else as assistants on the never-ending merry-go-round of pro sports.

Everybody wants to talk about the impact Gores will have on the Pistons, but there are more important issues for him to address.

Despite his Flint roots, he'll be perceived as a California pretty boy. He has to change his image. I saw his picture on the front page of the Oakland Press. Nobody around here dresses like that. This is blue-collar territory, not blazerland. We're working stiffs. Well, we used to be before the jobs disappeared, but the attitude's still there. And that hankie in the pocket? Uh-uh. Hankies are only good for one thing, and I'm fairly certain if he uses it for that purpose, he won't want to put it back in his pocket. The dry cleaner would not be amused, and we're not either, so that's gotta go.

If Gores wants to be welcomed with open arms, he might consider issuing executive orders that have nothing to do with the Pistons.

First, considering spring is upon us and outdoor music venues will be starting up soon, lose the DTE Energy bit. Their job is to keep the lights on, not run a theater. So what if they're paying a few bucks for naming rights? Gores's a billionaire and can afford it. Get rid of them and change it back to Pine Knob. He'd be a hero.

Second, go back to the old ways and let the people that either can't afford or get pavillion seats, or maybe just prefer the lawn, bring their own coolers in again. These are the true fans. They'll sit out there on their blankets, even in the rain, so let them bring in their own munchies and beverages. Lost revenue in concessions? Maybe, but not that much. I've been there a lot, and not too many people on the "hill" will walk all the way down just to stand in line for $6 hot dogs, or $8 beers. They have their own ways -- trust me.
Let the coolers come back and the PR would be priceless.

Without getting into detail, the people on the hill, that can barely even see the stage, have occasional "needs". If they're not going to navigate down the mountain for overpriced concessions, should it come as any surprise that they won't make the same trek only to stand in long lines for restrooms? Things happen up there. Trust me on that too.
Throw in a few port-a-johns here and there and he'd be on his way to being a legend before he even hit town.

(Another note to Tom. I wish you good luck. There's a couple other billionaire team owners around. One guy sells a lot of pizza, and he's won a few championships. The other guy?  He inherited. Ever hear of the Edsel? It was a car a long time ago. It was ugly, nobody wanted to buy it and, roughly a half-century later, it's considered the epitome of failure. His team is sort of like that.)

Mr. Gores doesn't need platinum around here, but if he wants to build some equity in this community, then he needs to start off on the right foot. Can I load up my cooler and go to Pine Knob again?

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Barry Bonds, the feds, and a bunch of lies

Barry Bonds is on trial right now for allegedly lying to a grand jury about his possible steroid use. Did he use them? It doesn't matter. Did he know what they were at the time? Maybe. Was it legal then? Absolutely. The only crime in question is whether he lied about it.

In case you lost track of time, like I often do, this happened in 2003, eight years ago. To put that in perspective, that was the same year we invaded Iraq. Seems like a long time ago, doesn't it? Our troops are still there, the feds are still after Bonds, and you, as a taxpayer, are still paying for all of it. Some things never seem to go away.

Bonds will be eligible for the Hall of Fame soon, as will Roger Clemens, another guy the feds are trying to nail on similar charges. Alex Rodriguez, now of the Yankees, and also somewhat implicated in the steroids snafu, might have a shot at passing Bonds' all-time home run record if he plays for a few more years. But you will never again see a pitcher amass 354 wins like Clemens did. So should they be voted in?

The purists would say not because they "cheated". Maybe, but Gaylord Perry was famous for his "spitball", and he's in. Want to talk about bad guys?  Without getting into the injuries he caused with his sharpened spikes, and being a major league racist, Ty Cobb allegedly killed a man -- but he's there. Alcoholics and adulterers? They abound in Cooperstown. Pete Rose is the all-time hit leader in the game -- a record likely never to be surpassed, but he gambled, so he's out -- for now. Throw in corked bats and juiced balls, and how are we supposed to know where to draw the line?

Yours truly says the first step is for the government to butt out. Given wars, the economy, poverty, immigration issues, foreign policy, and cleaning up their own act, I find it somewhere between comical and insulting that our elected representatives at the highest level have nothing better to do than convene Congressional hearings on these matters, much less turn their prosecutors loose with an unlimited budget that, again, we are paying for.

Secret grand juries nowadays are a draconian abuse of government power anyway. These were started back when people had a legitimate fear of retaliation from certain defendants, should their identities become known. Those days are long gone. Watch all the old Godfather movies or episodes of the Sopranos you want, but nobody gets "whacked" anymore. Yet they still go behind closed doors where the prosecutor, but not the defense attorney is allowed. The judge is typically a former prosecutor him/herself, and the jurors are selectively culled to make sure the case moves on. A defendant has no chance in that room.

Even if Bonds, Clemens, and others are lying, I find it difficult to blame them too much. After all, the feds lie a lot, even at the highest level. "Read my lips, no new taxes", or "I did not have sexual relations with that woman", come to mind. They didn't get prosecuted, and that's not even counting the thousands of lies told by other feds in various entrapments, interrogations, other shenanigans, and even political promises. If you're questioned by a federal agent, they can lie to you to get what they want, and that's OK. If you lie to them back, it's a crime. Something is very wrong with that picture. At that, the Mafioso of the old days confined their whacking to rival gangsters. With the exception of Jimmy Hoffa (36 years ago!), that was done brazenly. Nowadays, if some faceless federal bureaucrat deems you an "enemy combatant", presto, you get "disappeared", and nobody knows anything. So who do we need protection from, indeed?

Personally, I think it's highly likely Bonds took steroids back in the day. But again, it's not about that. It's about whether he lied to an outdated secretive panel in an inquiry led by people that have been known to lie themselves -- 8 years ago. Further, Bonds may be a lot of things but he's certainly no menace to society that should warrant this much prosecutorial attention. How much is enough, already?

Barring an all-out revolution, such as those going on elsewhere in the world, change has to come from the top in this country, and until the people that make and enforce the rules start abiding by them themselves, why should they expect the average citizen to act any differently?

They wouldn't want me on that jury. Anymore, it's getting very difficult for me to tell the difference between the good guys and the bad guys. While there's no love lost here for Bonds, perhaps it would be only fitting that, if he's convicted, the prosecutors had to serve the same sentence handed down.

Oh, that's right. They can lie, cheat, and manipulate all they want, because they have immunity.

To everything except your tax dollars. No wonder they want to keep it secret.