Two fond farewells as 2012 closes

December 31, 2012

Farewell Lovey Smith.

Lovey Smith was not the perfect coach.  He still had issues with getting clock management under control, and I wonder if at least 1 or 2 close games might have gone the Bears way if there was more time or an extra time out.

That said, I think Lovey is getting the bums rush.  True, the offense has sucked, but for most of Lovey’s tenure, he had nothing to work with.

Bears offense under Lovey Smith (pictured)

The offensive line was a sieve.  Until this year, there were no big play receivers.  Matt Forte was good the last two years, but he was good because that was all there was.  Other teams were content to let him run and contain him on an as needed basis.

Even when Jay Cutler arrived … Cutler is an above average quarterback, with moments of brilliance (and is already the greatest quarterback in Bears history).  But he is very particular.  If things around him aren’t going nearly 100% right, it is difficult for him to operate.  The offensive line alone was sure that this wouldn’t happen.

Coaching is the coach’s job, but getting the personnel is not.  With an aging defense and a tissue paper offensive line, disaster was waiting to happen.  So the Bears missed the playoffs last year?  Their stellar QB was injured for a large part of it.  What about this year?  The Bears nearly beat the Seahawks without Cutler in for the end, and played the Vikings close, again with a battered and bruised team (two teams that are becoming fashionable Super Bowl picks).  Heck, I give credit for the coach for keeping things together.  It was like being handed a broken Indy car, and after leading 250 laps of the Indy 500, the car breaks down, you are given a ’75 Ford Pinto to go the rest of the race and you barely lose the race … then blaming it on the driver.

Lovey Smith maybe lacked the charisma and firebrand attitude of a Mike Ditka, or maybe even a Jar Jar Binks … but as far as I am concerned, he demonstrated that he could take even mediocre teams to heights few predicted them to reach.

If the Bears management plays to their history, be prepared to see an untested offensive coordinator brought in (because hiring a rested Jon Gruden would be all too predictable/expensive) to handle a continually aging defense and and offensive line that couldn’t block out a half time show … leaving our QB and his one good wide receiver to contemplate their futures as tackling dummies for the rest of the NFL.

Also lost in the end of the school/Christmas rush … a very fond farewell to A.J. Pierzynski.

Champions need a character.  With the Bulls, it was Dennis Rodman.  With the White Sox, it was Ozzie Guillen, but to be fair, on the field they had A.J. Pierzynski.  While offensively, he did not deliver as well as he had in Minnesota (though 2012 was a wasted great year for him).  Pierzynski did many things that helped the team outside the stat column.  He had swagger and poise.  Despite being controversial and having a seat right in front of the home plate umpire for most of the game, he rarely got ejected, even when the umpires descended into batshittery that would send Hawk Harrelson into a caniption fit.  Example (note that this was seen by the umpire as a retaliation for Pierzynski getting hit earlier, but Pierzynski knows to let the manager handle this battle):

So for all of the WWF antics during the off season, and antagonizing the opposition during the season, AJ was a pretty stand up guy, and a strong field general, which is the most important job of the catcher.  In 2005, a lot of people forget that he was a critical spark plug in the ALDS, batting 0.444 with 2 home runs and 4 RBI against the defending World Series champion Red Sawx.

While with the Sox, he finished top five in catching assists five times, and top 5 for fielding percentage as a catcher 7 times.  Three times he ranked in the top six in the league in at-bats/K, which is valuable for a position that is not known for hitting prowess.

It is safe to say that AJ was a fan favorite, and he will be missed.

I would post the video of AJ slapping home plate and the coward Michael Barrett sucker-punching him, but I cannot find the video anywhere.

His 10 post-season runs scored is the most of any Sox player in history, and he was the fifth catcher to log 1000 games behind the place for the Sox behind Billy Sullivan, Carlton Fisk, Sherm Lollar, and Ray Schalk.  He was also the first Sox catcher in 24 years to win a Silver Slugger Award.


December 29, 2012

Just two days ago, I posted about a rather dangerous game of cat and mouse between local journalists in New York and gun owners.  A local newspaper is publishing the names and addresses of gun owners in part of their reading area.  I retaliation, a concerned reader published the names and addresses of the staff members of the newspaper.

The point of my post is that this is more evidence that we are no longer interested n talking about issues … we want publicity stunts and one-liners to serve as our evidence.  Proving my point, the editors of the paper announced that they will be publishing a new list of gun owners in another part of their readership range.

There is a point made by a journalism professor in the article:

Some critics retaliated by posting reporters’ and editors’ addresses and other personal information online.

Howard Good, a journalism professor at the State University of New York at New Paltz, called the critics’ response childish and petulant.

“It doesn’t move the issue of gun control to the level of intelligent public discussion,” he said. “Instead, it transforms what should be a rational public debate on a contentious issue into ugly gutter fighting.”

Is the professor right?  yes!  However, what the professor fails to acknowledge is that it is no more childish than what the publishers are doing.  Publishing this list was in no way going to start a rational debate.  It absolutely was going to get the newspaper a lot of publicity, and absolutely was going to trigger an emotional response but both the far right and fairly sensible gun owners;  both of whom now feel attacked.

The article also presents two arguments against why this information should have been released.  A private citizen noted in a comment that publishing these addresses also alerts criminals to homes that are far less likely to own guns.  (From my point of view, it also alerts criminals as to which homes guns may be stolen from … given that a large percentage of crimes committed with guns seem to use stolen guns).

Another critic notes that there is already new legislation about to move through the legislature that would keep certain public records more private … and that publications like this will increase public support for laws of this nature.

I find it sad when our press … one of the single most important aspects of a free society, becomes so beholden to commercial interests that there become too many questions as to how “free” they actually are … that rather than report important news in a manner that will spark a rational debate, they report news in such a way that feeds fear and anger, essentially voiding the possibility of a rational public debate on an issue.  As I said earlier, both sides of this particular debate are wrong.  The difference is, I expect people (plural) to act irrationally.  I expect the press to behave far better.  To expand on the point of the critic quoted in the article even further, events like this can easily sway the public against the press, and if the public and the press are at odds, then where have we gone to as a society?

The solution to everything (not a GUT)

December 27, 2012

Teachers certainly don’t exist in shooting galleries, and while psychotics are always branching out, schools still do seem to rank up there among the targets of choice.  Why?  I dunno.

Since Newtown, there has been some talk of arming teachers, because if there is anything the conservatives hate more than an overpaid lazy public servant, its one that isn’t armed (small joke).

But seriously.  There have been some isolated instances of towns and schools coming forward and authorizing armed teachers … not security guards or police liaisons … actual armed teachers in the classroom.

Let me explain why this is not a good idea.  In truth:  I grew up around guns.  Dad even had an AR-15.  They are cool to have around, and I have fired pistols and rifles before.  I have no problem with responsible folks owning guns for collecting, hunting, or self-defense.

If the teacher obeys their training, this means that the gun needs to be stored in a lock box, which only they have the key for.  This creates a problem if the sub is in the room the day it is needed, or if the teacher is in the teachers lounge, or like in my school, teachers routinely don’t teach in the same room all day.  Not to mention, if a gunman enters your room, there isn’t much time to get the gun out before it is too late.  The position among supporters is that one classroom might end up killed, but the other teachers would get ot their guns, and while attempting to use a gun in a highly tense situation, likely surrounded by kids, the teachers with a basic handgun safety class are going to win the day.  In seriousness, they might.

In reality, I doubt that this will end well.  The more responsible thing to do would be to hire on a police officer to spend some time around the school.  Of course, this costs money, and it would be cheaper for the overpaid teacher to buy their own gun … that and it takes responsibility away from the school if something flubs up.  I know that teachers’ cabinets are extremely easy to break into.  Now we are putting a gun more easily in range of a kid who likely will know where it is.  Kids are not idiots.  Some can pick locks, and some teachers leave doors unlocked on occasion.  This is attempting to solve a problem by inadvertently creating new ones.

I just don’t see the plusses outweighing the potential minuses.

A (dangerous?) game of Cat and Mouse

December 27, 2012

The right of a free press … the watchdog of the people … is one of our fundamentally most important rights.

Unfortunately, I agree with those that our press has been largely corrupted by business and politics.  In some ways, this is nothing new.  Yellow journalism is well over a century old.  The problem, from my perspective, is that you would think things would change in a century.  They largely haven’t.

A few days ago, as a part of the larger debate over gun ownership, gun violence, and such, the Journal-News of Westchester County, New York obtained the names of the gun owners in the county, and published their names along with an interactive map.

The records were legally obtained, and are a matter of the public record (kind of like the salaries of public employees).  The outcry was instant, obvious, and largely justified.

If the point was “there are a lot of gun owners in Westchester County”, the newspaper could have published facts and figures.  While it is questionable as to whether this violated a the by Hoyle definition of “privacy”, given that the information could be legally obtained, the mass publication was seen as a broadside;  a direct attack on gun owners and gun ownership.  The blogger pointed out in an interview that one particular group he was concerned with were victims of domestic abuse who had licenses to own guns for self-defense … and now have their names and addresses published, perhaps making their names and locations public to people they were hiding from.

The other shoe dropped yesterday.  A blogger obtained the names of the staff of the Journal-News, and has published their names and home addresses on a blog.

This is an example, IMO, of bad journalism.  It was not so much journalism as it was a publicity stunt to sell papers or garner advertising for the paper’s website.  Maybe one of the reporters or editors thought it would be an excellent way to spark a conversation.  Unfortunately, the response was not conversation, it was retaliation.

I highly doubt that this will lead to physical violence, however I have no doubt that the staff are going to be subject to some harassment.  I don’t endorse that.  But I am concerned that in a nation that really needs more actual dialogue, we see an example of a lost opportunity to engage in conversation rather than some kind of stunt to appease one side of the political spectrum.

Dave Brubeck, RIP

December 5, 2012

One of my all-time favorite pieces of music ….

Drop everything … this is important

December 3, 2012

Star Trek Into Darkness

The person in the poster is notably not any of the crew, and is suspected to be the villain … a character as yet unidentified.  Some speculation is that they are wasting no time, and that Khan will be the villain.  Another suggestion is that the next film will be based on the second pilot episode (“Where No Man Has Gone Before“), and that the antagonist will be Gary Mitchell, a Starfleet officer and close friend of Kirk’s who develops godlike powers while losing touch with his humanity (an even more dangerous and more clothed version of Dr. Manhattan).  Kirk is then forced to find a way to kill his friend;  a friend who is becoming more and more difficult to actually kill.

Two photos released from the set:

Benedict Cumberbatch and Zoe Saldana

Benedict Cumberbatch and Zachary Quinto

At least you know where I will be on May 17!