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Athletes and Religion: Seems to be Working for the Broncos

November 30, 2011 1 comment


Retired NFL quarterback, Kurt Warner, an active, devout and prominent Christian, recently advised Bronco quarterback sensation Tim Tebow to cool it with the religious rhetoric he uses quite publicly. I think this is a dangerous piece of advice that threatens Denver’s football season.

Why would you want to anger God when he has clearly climbed aboard your bandwagon and is actively rooting for you to get to the Super Bowl? Oh, there are lots of athletes who, after scoring a touchdown or making an interception, point their fingers toward the sky and thank God. But unless they play for the Denver Broncos, they are all sadly mistaken. Their particular great play was just coincidence.

As everyone knows, God became a fan of the Denver Broncos earlier in the season- in fact, six weeks ago. I have the press release:

PR Newswire
From: Heaven

Dear Media,

Having watched the young man when he played at the University of Florida, God noticed that Tim Tebow wore eye black referencing a passage from the Gospel of John from the New Testament. While God has never been fond of humans wearing religion on their sleeve, he is actually intrigued with the notion of wearing religion as eye black. Heaven is thusly, herewith announcing that the professional football team called the Denver Broncos, which has chosen Mr. Tebow to lead their offense, is God’s favorite football team for the 2011 season.

Kurt Warner argues that religion and faith in God is something you practice in daily life and that public pronouncements about it in connection with success on the football field alienates some fans and is something better kept in private. Please. When God officially endorses your team, I say you flaunt it.

If you were a political candidate and God came out in favor of you, would you not buy full-page ads in even godless publications like the New York Times? Of course you would.

It was Abraham Lincoln who once uttered the famous phrase: “I hope to have God on my side, but I must have Kentucky.” A fine piece of electoral humor, but seriously misguided. When you pass only 20 times a game and your completion percentage is less than 50%, clearly, God is all that is necessary to go 5-1 in your first six starts.

And if any further proof was necessary, have you checked out the Indianapolis Colts this year? They are 0-11. On their helmets, a horse shoe. That’s right- an advertisement for hooves. I think we know who’s rooting for those guys.

Black Friday: Blood Sport

November 28, 2011 Leave a comment


On one hand, I want people to shop. Consumer spending boosts the economy and helps create jobs. On the other hand, the materialism is just so disturbing on so many levels. On the third hand- who’s to begrudge folks down on their luck looking to find stuff they can actually afford? I am obviously conflicted.

I have a view of a Pentagon City Mall from my apartment balcony. On Thanksgiving morning I noticed tents had been pitched outside the closed doors to said mall. Could these be Black Friday maniacs? So I took a walk and confirmed my suspicions. Some folks had, indeed, chosen to spend their entire Thanksgiving Day waiting for Best Buy to open at midnight. The line kept growing throughout the day. People were festive. I realized this had become some sort of deranged sport.

Because my son visited me for Thanksgiving and as a starving college student, needed a couple pairs of shoes, we braved the throngs and actually went into the even larger Pentagon City Fashion Mall- a gigantic five-story complex about three city blocks wide. I hate shopping so much- on a normal day, much less BLACK FRIDAY. It was every bit the crowded, aggressive experience I imagined. Except I forgot about the tedium and boredom of the long lines, the unpleasantness of surly customers like me. My son, I must admit, is much more mature and patient than I. Then again, he was the one getting the free shoes.

————————————————————————————————————

So now it’s the Cyber Monday after Black Friday and I have just scoured the World Wide Web for interesting, violent shopping stories to validate my intense dislike of crass commercialism.

Found some!

From Yelp.com, two interesting accounts of a Black Friday shopping experience from, apparently, the same Best Buy mob scene at the same California mall. The first one from Chris “Chrispy” B:

About thirty minutes before opening time everyone became one huge mob around the front door. They tried to limit the number of people allowed in at once but the mob just pushed through. My chair got bent in half somehow, still not really sure how. Probably has something to do with my swollen knee.

Apparently, he’d run into Joe the Wizard “K” :

Someone hit me so hard with a chair that he nearly bent it in half. Enjoy your television.

Then there’s the story of 61 year-old, Walter Vance, a pharmacist with a heart condition who collapsed in a West Virginia Target store. Shoppers reportedly stepped over him to get to their sale items.

And my personal favorite: Turns out the woman who pepper-sprayed fellow shoppers at a California Wall Mart in order to clear a path to a crate of X-Box video game players- has turned herself in. But according to police, the moment she walked into the precinct she invoked her 5th amendment right against self-incrimination.

I’m not sure exactly how this conversation went but it could have been something like this:

Pepper-Spraying Shopper: I’m turning myself in.
Cops: What for, lady?
Pepper-Spraying Shopper: I can’t say.

?????????

Remembering Stan Case

November 23, 2011 15 comments


Life can change in a split second. A horrendous car accident near Birmingham, Alabama, claimed the life of Stan Case last night. Stan was an anchor for the CNN Radio network in Atlanta and I had the honor of being his boss for nearly 8 years.

You couldn’t ask for a more reliable, dependable pro to be anchoring your national newscasts. And when he wasn’t anchoring flawless broadcasts, he was out getting a law degree. But there was so much more to this man than what he did professionally so well and so admirably for so many years.

He was an absolute, true gentleman. Kind, gracious, with a wonderfully wicked sense of humor; a 1st class prankster. One of the nicest, sweetest, warmest weddings I ever attended was the ceremony that united Stan with his CNN colleague, Angela Stiepel Case- Angi. Took her on a date to an Atlanta Braves baseball game once and they never looked back.

Angi is hospitalized today, a passenger in the car Stan was driving on a stormy Tuesday night as they made their way to see Stan’s family in Oklahoma for Thanksgiving. There are no words to describe the loss she is feeling today. There are just some couples you know are just perfect for each other. That was Stan and Angi.

People- it’s Thanksgiving. A time for appreciation. Hug your kids. Make a call to an old friend you haven’t reached out to in awhile. I’d lost touch with Stan over the years though I often thought of him and missed him. I really, really regret not having taken one damn minute to pick up a phone and hear his voice again.

I will remember and miss him forever.

Congress: Where Failure is Always an Option

November 21, 2011 Leave a comment

Chart courtesy of the office of Senator Michael Bennet


Already less popular than Venezuelan dictator, Hugo Chavez, BP during the oil spill, Nixon during Watergate, lawyers, the IRS and Paris Hilton, Congress seems intent on finding a new bottom in the hearts of the public. The so-called congressional Super Committee’s failure to find even modest savings and revenues to address the federal deficit is just one more example why people seem to really despise Congress.

There is plenty of blame to go around on both sides and this is not an opinion forged out of a need to sound non-partisan. The combination of cowardice and partisanship is very, very powerful and both Democrats and Republicans are proving that, in this Congress, playing politics trumps national interest every time.

Democrats have not been serious about addressing the cause of much of our deficit-spending- entitlement programs like Social Security and Medicare. Why? Because the choices are painful and politically unpopular. Republicans, to their credit, finally gave in a tiny little bit and for the first time in recent memory, agreed to a modest rise in tax revenues but then sabotaged the whole thing by demanding that the Bush tax cuts not be allowed to expire at the end of the year- without identifying ways to pay for them.

With this failure, Congress has now opened the door to more failures over the next couple of months. Extended unemployment benefits may not happen. Keeping payroll tax cuts going into next year are, inexplicably, at risk.

Worst of all, Congress is expected to debate over the weeks ahead, whether to water down, delay or eliminate the triggered cuts that were supposed to take place if the Super Committee failed to do its job. The idea was that these cuts, many of them amounting to deep slashes in Pentagon spending, would surely pressure lawmakers into making a deficit deal. After all, who wants to be blamed for weakening America’s military?

If they try to weasel out of those triggered cuts, you can kiss even our AA+ S&P rating goodbye.

Clearly, no one cares up there on Capitol Hill. They don’t care if America is downgraded by credit agencies. They don’t care about endangering national defense. They don’t care about the unemployed. They don’t really care about reducing deficits. They give all the above considerable lip service- but the results tell the real story about the priorities of our politicians. They care about only two things; immediate political survival and getting on the gravy train when they leave Congress so they can continue to enrich themselves.

Representatives from both sides took to the Sunday talking-head shows to blame each other and finger point. No last-minute emergency negotiations. No burning the midnight oil. No college try. Nothing.

They are, however, working on the statement expected today- describing their failure to reach a deal. Maybe they won’t find a way to agree on that either.

The Media’s Penn State “Exclusives”

November 16, 2011 Leave a comment

NBC News had a legitimate exclusive this week when Bob Costas conducted that riveting, uncomfortable but fascinating phone interview with accused Penn State child molester, Jerry Sandusky. Costas had the perfect demeanor and asked all the right questions and had about 15 minutes notice. A masterful job by Costas.

CBS News, meantime, claimed an exclusive with Penn State Assistant Coach, Mike McQueary that lasted all of 20 seconds and in which he refused to talk about the case. The great headline was that McQueary described his emotions as “shaken” and that he felt like a “snowglobe.”

Yes, as CBS breathlessly touted in marketing its “exclusive,” these were McQueary’s first comments since the abuse scandal broke. That’s technically correct. They also said a window had been opened into his emotions. I’m sorry, but claiming an exclusive because a guy talked into your microphone for less than half a minute and said he felt like a snow globe is not in any way, shape or form- an exclusive. Calling it that is marketing and possibly journalistic malpractice.

Rush to Judgment?

McQueary, of course, is said in the grand jury report, to have witnessed the rape of a young boy by Sandusky in the Penn State football team’s showers ten years ago and then told his father about it before contacting head coach, Joe Paterno. He has been vilified in the media for not having taken action to stop the alleged assault. He has received death threats and was placed on administrative leave and did not roam the sidelines for last Saturday’s Penn State-Nebraska game.

It has since been revealed that McQueary sent an e-mail to a friend in which he says, that though he did not take physical action to stop the assault he witnessed, he did take measures that stopped the incident. He also said he had discussions with police and with the university official in charge of the police.

Everyone is understandably shocked at the vile nature of the allegations against Sandusky. There is much justifiable outrage aimed at a lot of people. But a grand jury indictment contains allegations that have not been challenged by defense attorneys and does not convict anyone- it only provides cause for charges to be filed.

It might be wise to put our pitch forks and torches away for awhile and wait for more facts to become established. The place for that is Sandusky’s trial. And until it delivers a verdict based on facts and witnesses and cross-examination, even Mr. Sandusky is considered innocent.

Until then, we can provide our sympathy for the victims and do things like bemoan the state of college athletics. But it really would be wise to be patient and prudent. And that especially goes for hungry media organizations falling all over themselves for “exclusives” on this story.

There really has been some great investigative journalism, especially by local newspapers like the Patriot-News in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania whose crime reporter, Sara Ganim published the first accounts of the scandal in late March, well before the grand jury’s indictment was handed up. But CBS’ overhyped “exclusive” reporting this week is not even remotely in that same neighborhood.

Herman Cain’s Libel and Defamation Lawyer

November 11, 2011 1 comment

Lin Wood will be watching very carefully. Every word they say, every charge they make, every news conference they hold. Not to intimidate but to “monitor the accusations…and respond accordingly,” according to the Reuters news service.

As if it were not already a gut-wrenching decision that opens you up to scrutiny, notoriety and the surrender of all personal privacy, if you are one of the women who swear Herman Cain once acted inappropriately and crossed the line in regard to workplace behavior, you can now add the risk of financial ruin by lawsuit to your list of concerns for going public.

Coincidently, the news conference that had been planned by Cain’s accusers is now off.

I don’t doubt that Atlanta attorney Lin Wood feels very strongly about false accusations against anybody. I do too. He’s worked for a number of folks who were absolutely falsely accused, like Richard Jewel, the poor fellow who was connected by many media organizations to the Olympic Park bombing in Atlanta in 1996 that he had nothing to do with.

And though he has represented many other clients, the Jewel case is instructive. The guy was no public figure. He was a security guard living a normal, anonymous life. Herman Cain, however, is quite the public figure.

Surely, Mr. Wood is well aware of the incredibly high bar American law has set for successfully pressing a defamation suit against someone who exercises their 1st Amendment rights to write or make a claim about a public figure. There must be “actual malice” to the accusation. It has to be knowingly false and show a reckless disregard for the truth.

Lin Wood knows all this. Perhaps, more importantly, anyone contemplating going public in regard to Mr. Cain, should also know this. If your accusations are true, you are safe. If they’re not and you’re lying to bring someone down, then you deserve whatever you get.

I am not advocating anybody hold a news conference. It’s none of my business. But just as I abhorred the actions of Redskins owner, Daniel Snyder, when he demanded a retraction of a critical article from a small, local newspaper threatening litigation that could bankrupt them, Lin Wood seems to be walking a very fine line between sage counselor and 1st Amendment bully.

The threat of litigation to silence free expression against public figures seems antithetical both to American values and to existing law. Wood says his hiring by Herman Cain is not meant to “scare, intimidate or threaten anyone from making statements.”

But he also says this in regard to making public accusations:

Anyone should think twice before you take that type of action. And I think it’s particularly true when you are making serious accusations against someone running for president of the United States, but I think it’s equally true if you are making those accusations against your next door neighbor.

You be the judge whether his “think twice” statement is meant to scare, intimidate or threaten.

From a purely legal standpoint he has a strong case to make against those who would publicly accuse their “next door neighbor.” He has an exceptionally weak case for taking legal action against those who speak or write about someone, especially someone who is running for president of the United States.

Rick Perry’s Nightmare Debate

November 10, 2011 4 comments

I’m going to have nightmares about this, I just know it. I’m standing on a stage bathed in hot television lights with 2 million people watching me when all of a sudden, the words just stop coming out. People start giggling. Next thing I know I’m standing in my underwear. I wake up in a cold sweat.

Oh, thank God, I’m just some anonymous journalist guy, not a politician who just watched his entire political career flash before his eyes. Oh Rick. Rick, Rick, Rick.

In case you missed it last night or haven’t seen it yet on YouTube, here’s the Washington Post’s take on The Gaffe:

In easily the most painful moment of an already uneven set of debate performances, the Texas governor on Wednesday night fumbled badly when describing how he would cut government in the CNBC Republican debate.

Perry’s lack of knowledge about his own political platform was awkward on the stage and immediately raised eyebrows in the Twitterverse, and could possibly be a pivot point in his campaign with longer-lasting implications for the race.

It went down like this. Perry began by saying “ I will tell you, it is three agencies of government when I get there that are gone. Commerce, Education, and the — what’s the third one there? Let’s see.”

After struggling for a while, Mitt Romney attempted to throw Perry a bone and volunteered “EPA” — the Environmental Protection Agency. But it wasn’t the EPA, so Perry struggled on to hit on the right answer.

“The third agency of government I would — I would do away with, Education, the…,” Perry continued to try and find his answer.

“Commerce,” an unknown voice volunteered, according to the debate transcript.

“Commerce and, let’s see,” Perry answered. “I can’t. The third one, I can’t. Sorry. Oops.”

The next time he was asked a question, Perry said the Department of Energy was the third agency he would eliminate.

The audience applauded politely.

Hey, I’ve done it. I’ve lost my train of thought before. I’ve seen the train careen off the tracks and tumble six times down a ravine before coming to rest in a fiery explosion. It’s happened once or twice. I think I was tired. Or maybe a little tipsy.

I’m going to say it just once. When a presidential candidate forgets one of the three government agencies he wants to abolish; forgets which set of 30,000 federal workers he’s going to lay off; forgets it’s the Department of Energy, which you’d think might be the agency most top of mind to the Governor of oil-rich Texas- it’s not a good thing.

Even Rick Perry’s supporters were sending out dispirited and demoralized tweets. “The campaign just ended,” said one of them. The folks who put odds on these things downgraded Perry’s chances of getting the nomination by about 30% by the time the debate came to an end.

For those Republicans concerned with winning the general election, all they saw last night in that one mortifying minute of debate history was the debate 10 months from now with President Barack Obama behind one lectern and a deer standing at the other. With bright headlights shining into its eyes.

One could go on but what’s the use?

I will say this- in all sincerity- about Rick Perry. In the spin room afterward, where representatives of the presidential hopefuls show up to tout their candidates fabulous night, Perry did the right and honorable thing. He came out to face the reporters himself.

He said he was grateful he was wearing boots, because he had really stepped in it. Kind of like an NFL quarterback who’s just lost the game after 5 interceptions and still goes out to the press room to face the music. I rather admire the character and humility he displayed with that move in the spin room. It may have been the most honest thing said there the whole night.

I think I now actually really like Rick Perry. I certainly feel for him. Unfortunately for his presidential aspirations, this was the sort of gaffe that goes down in political and television history and is open-and-shut unrecoverable. But I like how he manned up with the reporters afterward.

I’d like to have a drink with the guy. And if it turns out we have a couple too many, we’ll help finish up each others sentences.

Like I said, I’ve been there.