Monday, September 29, 2008

Any Given Sunday

Chiefs pound Broncos

Avid readers waiting for me to comment on the “progress” of the K.C. Chiefs have been sorely disappointed so far this season.

Not surprising really after starting the season with three embarrassing defeats there was not much to write about. The manner of the defeats promised that a long and unfruitful season was likely to ensue.

The coaches and the management had already prepared the fans by “announcing” that this was a rebuilding year and a very much “a work in progress”. But, they didn't prepare the fans to be embarrassed or embittered. So after a respectable showing against New England the Chiefs sank without a trace against Oakland and Atlanta to move to 0-3. Carelessly they managed to lose a bunch of quarterbacks in the process. Heir apparent Brodie Croyle proved too fragile and was injured in game one. He may be back – but when is anyone's guess. Damon Huard started game two, got hurt, got his “head wrong” and refused to get back in the game – leaving rookie Tyler Thigpen to take the rap. Thigpen's reward? He got to start game three and was soon shown to be alarmingly frail and clearly not up to the job.

For game four, against the rampant Denver Broncos, it was back to Huard – with no real alternative. Denver were 3-0 and looking like sure-fire play-off contenders. The Chiefs had hit rock bottom and doubts were being expressed by the local media about Head Coach Herm Edwards' future prospects for employment Would the media and fans support him through an 0-16 season? Or, would his head have to roll to restore some credibility to the organisation?

In the event, neither scenario was needed.

The Chiefs discovered that Denver could neither run the ball or stop their opponents from doing so. They say stats don't lie and Denver were giving up shed-loads of yardage and first downs. Only their high-powered offence was prospering. Still, the supposedly infallible pundits on NFL Game Day were all in agreement – the Chiefs had no chance.

On game day the Chiefs gave the ball to running back Larry Johnson and he piled up nearly 200 yards. The defence, for once playing with the lead instead of catch-up, forced fumbles and intercepted passes. Special teams provided some field goals and respectable field position. In short, everything that had been going all wrong suddenly went all right.

From the Chiefs website:And D.J.L.J. was dancing in September thanks to his 198 yards rushing. Combined with a defensive effort that forced four turnovers and allowed the Denver offence just a single touchdown, the long nasty 12-game losing streak of the Chiefs came to an end.

The old adage, any given Sunday was proved right again.

Will the Chiefs go on to make the playoffs and post a winning season? Probably not, but in future years their resurgence will, no doubt, be clearly shown to have begun last Sunday at Arrowhead against the Broncos. We hope.

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Sunday, September 28, 2008

Cross of Gold

Our brows are being well and truly pressed!

I have mentioned three time very recently to some supposedly educated folks the famous “Cross of Gold” speech. I thought everyone knew about it.

As usual, I was wrong.

I am indebted to Andrew Sullivan, writing in the Sunday Times for reminding the rest of the illiterati about this most famous expression of the Populist movement in early 20th century America.

From the Sunday Times:

The result has been one of the most emphatic populist reactions in recent history. Not since the 1890s tub-thumper William Jennings Bryan have the “little people” expressed themselves so forcefully against what Bryan derided as “the few financial magnates who, in a back room, corner the money of the world”. In e-mails, faxes and phone calls, they too have told their congressmen: “You shall not press down upon the brow of labour this crown of thorns; you shall not crucify mankind upon a cross of gold.”

It is worthwhile quoting Bryan more fully:

There are two ideas of government. There are those who believe that if you just legislate to make the well-to-do prosperous, that their prosperity will leak through on those below. The Democratic idea has been that if you legislate to make the masses prosperous their prosperity will find its way up and through every class that rests upon it.

You come to us and tell us that the great cities are in favor of the gold standard. I tell you that the great cities rest upon these broad and fertile prairies. Burn down your cities and leave our farms, and your cities will spring up again as if by magic. But destroy our farms and the grass will grow in the streets of every city in the country.

My friends, we shall declare that this nation is able to legislate for its own people on every question without waiting for the aid or consent of any other nation on earth, and upon that issue we expect to carry every single state in the Union.

I shall not slander the fair state of Massachusetts nor the state of New York by saying that when citizens are confronted with the proposition, “Is this nation able to attend to its own business?”—I will not slander either one by saying that the people of those states will declare our helpless impotency as a nation to attend to our own business. It is the issue of 1776 over again. Our ancestors, when but 3 million, had the courage to declare their political independence of every other nation upon earth. Shall we, their descendants, when we have grown to 70 million, declare that we are less independent than our forefathers? No, my friends, it will never be the judgment of this people. Therefore, we care not upon what lines the battle is fought. If they say bimetallism is good but we cannot have it till some nation helps us, we reply that, instead of having a gold standard because England has, we shall restore bimetallism, and then let England have bimetallism because the United States have.

If they dare to come out in the open field and defend the gold standard as a good thing, we shall fight them to the uttermost, having behind us the producing masses of the nation and the world. Having behind us the commercial interests and the laboring interests and all the toiling masses, we shall answer their demands for a gold standard by saying to them, you shall not press down upon the brow of labor this crown of thorns. You shall not crucify mankind upon a cross of gold.

Gosh, thanks – I never knew that. I'm just so glad you told me. Honest, I can hear you, dear reader, eulogising as you sip your pint.

What's this got to do with us?

Pretty much everything.

What Bryan was moaning about a hundred years ago is pretty much what the credit crunch is all about today. A bunch of merchant bankers ( and you may substitute the rhyming slang if you feel so inclined ) have stupidly, immorally, greedily and selfishly hijacked the banking system, got themselves in so deep they are having to suck air through straws and are desperate for the government, any government, to bail them out; and, preferably, in such a way so as they can keep their immoral earnings and their yachts

Now you understand the credit crunch, at least as well as most of the bankers do anyway.

Where this analysis falls down is in believing that it could be any other way. Bankers, like the rest of us, are greedy and amoral. To expect them to act like virtuous public servants in the face of massive bonus promises is like expecting St Joan to prostitute herself to hordes of English soldiers in the market place at Rouen. It just ain't going to happen and never was.

What is most refreshing is to hear the common folk of the USA berating their government for even considering a bail-out. Let them rot, or let them eat cake seems to be the vox populi.

Contrast this neatly with the spineless surrender of Gordo in dealing with the Bradford and Bingley fiasco and you have neatly added a codicil to Shaw's “two peoples divided by a common language” paradigm. My monies on the USA.

Unfortunately, the populists never win. Bryan was a serial candidate for President, but he never won and was reduced to pleading for a rejection of Evolution in the famous Scopes trial.

Likely the credit crunch will see Ol Dubbya slink off to his Presidential library having bankrupted the nation both in war and peace. Quite an achievement.

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Friday, September 12, 2008

Donnie Hartman


Cyberspace is a strange world filled with unexpected and unknown thrills, excitement and, in many cases, disappointments.

I'm not a great surfer, either on the board, on the skate or on the net. I usually have a good idea of what I'm looking for and how to find it. Occasionally Google will throw up something unexpected, but I seldom flit about from site to site in classic surfing style.

I like to keep in touch with the home folks in Independence, Missouri by checking in on the Independence Examiner web site every so often. It's usually a five minute visit and a quick trawl through whatever seems interesting.

So, I was snooping about the other day and I saw one of their internet polls – you know the type – vote for your favourite local personality, singer, sports person. The Examiner were trying to find the most famous/best sports person ever from their readership. There were some nominations for professional baseball, football and other high-profile sports.

What caught my eye was the “blog” section at the bottom which asked readers to submit nominations. Someone had nominated Donald Hartman, who played basketball for Truman High School in the 1960's. I thought it odd at first that an “unknown” high school basketball player from the distant past would merit a mention in the most exalted company the Examiner readers could think of.

Then I remembered. I saw Donnie Hartman play basketball. I didn't know him personally, but we were only one year apart at school. He played basketball for Truman H.S. the year after the reorganisation of the Independence schools. He was,simply, one the best high school basketball players I ever saw.

Another light went on upstairs. I remembered that someone told me he was killed in Vietnam. Sure enough, if you Google “Donnie Hartman Vietnam “you will get:

There is a very nice tribute there from a pal who knew him in the Army. It's what you'd expect. What struck me was the unexpected.

He was in the 101st Airborne, and he was AUS. What that means is he was drafted. AUS stands for Army of the United States. If he was a volunteer, he would be RA (Regular Army) and not AUS. So, how did he get into the Airborne, which I believe was all volunteer? And, how did he get in the Army so soon? He was only 21. A note from his friend on his memorial page alludes to his basketball ability and tells that he went to college. Where? Why did he drop out? How did he end up in the Airborne? Who was his pal, Cliff? Who else remembers Donnie as an outstanding basketball player? Who, after all this time, remembered his talent so well as to nominate him as the best all-time Independence Examiner sports person? Does he still have family in Independence?

More questions that answers.

I remember Donnie Hartman. I wish I had known him better. Google can make you sad, though it is unintentional.

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Thursday, September 04, 2008


Get Real Sports Reporting

Two days in a row this week the front page of the EDP has been taken up entirely with the saga that is the Norwich City football club.

Never mind the stories themselves. What has me wondering is how the rest of the world copes without such riveting stuff to chew over.

And, it's not just the EDP. One night this week the lead story on the 6 o'clock News was the impending departure, or otherwise, of Kevin Keegan from Newcastle United.

What I wondered was this: are there no other stories which should be front page items? Is this really such a slow news week? Or, are the media just so lazy and ill-informed as to make real reporting too difficult and too time-consuming?

This week we have seen another hurricane hit the New Orleans area; the continuing Russian/Georgian conflict in that well-known flashpoint - the Balkans, the opening of the Republican National Convention in Minneapolis; the continuing credit crunch and any number of stories about the difficulties Gordon Brown and Alastair Darling are facing over the economy. All these have appeared in the news.

What I am asking is how can the comings and goings of football managers and the financial strength of Norwich City be front page news?

I had a quick check at the local media in Kansas City. The start of the NFL season is upon us. The sports page is full of news of the Chiefs. The front page is empty of idle, gormless speculation about who's in – who's out or who's up and who's down in the Chiefs' organisation.

Why should this be so? If you listen to the average man in the street they will gleefully assert that the Americans over-hype their sport. All the razzmatazz is across the pond. I've news. The UK media have overcome our trans-Atlantic cousins in the OTT stakes, by a long margin.

It's time that we gained some perspective in what's important and what's not. Sports fans should get to read about their team. It's on the back page.

Tomorrow's headline is already written. Delia has put another 2 million into the club to cover a (perceived) shortfall caused by the departure of the Turner money. That will make three days in a week when the EDP front page consists only of NCFC stories.

No, I have no inside info. But, remember, you heard it here first.

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