Archive for September, 2012

Redskins and Nationals: Crass vs Class

September 24, 2012 Leave a comment

The Redskins remind me of a 3-year old with a shiny new toy who plays with it so obsessively, the thing is broken and doesn’t work anymore after a few weeks.

It could be worst, though.  If they could figure out how to do it, RGIII would also catch passes, block and play in the secondary.

Unfortunately for the kid, he ended up with the Washington Redskins; a team that is proof that no matter what apparent good fortune has landed in their laps, crap still travels downhill, directly from owner, Daniel Snyder and the Father-Son Shanahan coaching duo.   The Rebuilding Century continues.   Except, of course, these are the Redskins.  They have nothing to rebuild with til the year after next with no 1st round draft picks next season (traded for RGIII).  They will continue to be in the 2nd year of an $18 million reduction in their salary cap for violating the NFL’s rules on signing free agents during the lock-out last year.

Last week, receiver, Josh Morgan, drew a personal foul to end the Skins chances at a comeback in St. Louis.   And this past Sunday…a late personal foul cost them again…this one apparently incurred by Redskins offensive coordinator, Kyle Shanahan.   Unlike Morgan who at least faced the music after the game and talked to reporters, the Redskins did not make Kyle Shanahan available to the press after the contest.  Here’s the message this sends to the team.  The players are accountable.  The coaching staff is not.

Starting at his own 2-yard line, RGIII had driven the Skins to the  Bengals 19 yard line with enough time left for several shots at the end zone.  They ended up losing 36 yards.  How do you accomplish such a thing?  Here’s how:  a 15-yard sack, a 5-yard off-sides penalty and young Kyle’s personal foul.  On their last play of the game, RG faced a 3rd and 45.

Contemplate that for a moment.  3rd and 45.

“Daddy, please don’t make me go out there and talk to those mean reporters.”

There is no doubt the Redskins picked up a franchise player in RGIII.  If he physically survives the beatings he will be taking week after week, he will have been worth every one of those #1 draft picks.   The Skins are now averaging over 30 points on offense every game.   At quarterback- mission accomplished.

I do find it striking how differently the Redskins treat their star player than, say, how the Washington Nationals protect Stephen Strasburg.  The Nationals are guarding their investment by ending his season early, convinced their long-range planning will yield a bounty of future stellar seasons from Strasburg.  The Redskins?  With the Shanahan family clinging to dear life for their jobs if they have another abysmal season- Sunday showed how much they care about RGIII.   They will keep running him out there until he ends up in the ER.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the difference between long range and short range planning, between Ted Lerner and Daniel Snyder- between class and crass.



Double-Down Mania

September 18, 2012 Leave a comment

What is it with this “double-down” culture?  Nobody seems to apologize for anything anymore.  Nobody admits they simply messed up.  They always have to fold their arms and stubbornly shout their offending words even louder.

Take Iowa Republican Congressman, Steve King, for example.  At a town hall event back in May, the topic of immigration came up and King compared immigrants to dogs when he said we should only allow the best of the litter into America.  From

King brought up his experience raising bird dogs to explain how the immigrant-dog metaphor works: “You want a good bird dog? You want one that’s going to be aggressive? Pick the one that’s the friskiest, the one that’s engaged the most, and not the one that’s over there sleeping in the corner.”

And this is how you end up with terrific bird dogs and productive immigrants.

Later at a debate with his opponent, he did not back down, admit using awkward wording, or in any way concede anything inappropriate about the remarks.  In fact, he said he was actually complimenting immigrants saying that we get the cream of the crop of any donor civilization on the planet and wondered how anyone could possibly misconstrue his words.

Oh, I don’t know, as the son of two parents who immigrated legally, I wonder which of the two my mother and father were.  Would he have considered them frisky bird dogs, or the lazy ones that sleep in the corner?

Former Democratic congressman, Barney Frank, recently called the Log Cabin Republican pro-gay advocacy group, “Uncle Toms.”  When the Log Cabin group accused Frank of going over the top Frank, of course, doubled-down.

Some have complained that in comparing the Log Cabin Republicans to Uncle Tom, I was ignoring the fact that they are nice. I accept the fact that many of them are nice — so was Uncle Tom — but in both cases, they’ve been nice to the wrong people.

Comparing immigrants to dogs and throwing racist insults at gay Republicans is cool now in our “double-down” world.

This has become our politics and our culture.  There is no grace, no moderation, no introspection, no recognition of fault or weakness and there will be no apology of any kind for anything ever said, no matter how idiotic, incendiary or offensive.

You double-down in black jack.  It means that looking at the cards you’ve been dealt, you decide to take a big risk and double your bet but can only take one more card.  Big bet- big risk. The probability of success does not increase and the odds, in fact, are now really stacked against you, but you’ve bravely gone with your gut.

It looks admirable, but those who double-down with increasing frequency should note- most lose double what they started out betting.   In blackjack, you lose money.  In life, you risk losing respect and credibility.

RGIII Joins Strasburg and Harper as Once in a Lifetime Talents

September 10, 2012 1 comment

It was the football version of Stephen Strasburg striking out 14 in his major league debut.  Of watching a 19 year-old eclipse just about all records for any teenager in baseball history.

Those who wondered if the Washington Redskins had lost their marbles by trading away three 1st round draft picks for Robert Griffin III are wondering no more.

While several other rookie quarterbacks looked very much like rookies in the first Sunday of football action this season (including #1 pick, Andrew Luck, who threw three interceptions and fumbled once), RGIII left a dizzying legacy after just his first game.

He completed his first 8 passes in a row, including an 88-yard touchdown.  He finished the first half with a perfect passer rating- a feat never before accomplished by any first-year player in the history of the NFL.  He is one of only four rookies to debut with more than 300 yards passing.  And his team won in a huge upset.

He accomplished this on foreign turf, against a New Orleans Saints team that didn’t lose a single regular-season home game last year.  RGIII managed to outplay Drew Brees, who set an all-time NFL record for passing yards in 2011.

Beyond the stats, RGIII was cool, calm and collected- displaying a maturity way beyond his 22 years.  This kid is the real deal.  And he makes those around him play better.

History is replete with Heisman Trophy winners who are total busts in the NFL.  Traditionally, it takes a young quarterback about three years to get into the groove of things.  And again, history shows the teams they play for take awhile to get in gear too.

But this Washington team may be different.

For one thing, in Mike Shanahan they have a coach who is famous for his work with quarterbacks.  He certainly did pretty well with one John Elway.  His son Kyle, who when he had some talent to work with in Houston, became one of the top offensive coordinators in the league.  The father-son duo are known for their x’s and o’s offensive savvy.  They just haven’t had any talent to work with in Washington over their first couple of years.

But boy, do they now.  And they are smart enough to build their offense around RGIII’s considerable skills.  Watching what the Kid can do with his canon arm, his speed and agility and his smarts and composure- the Shanihan’s may be in for a whole lot of redemption in the years ahead after two disappointing seasons in Washington.

The Redskins are also now in their 3rd year of their 3-4 defense and finally have the personnel to pull it off.  They way they handled the Saint’s high-powered offense and future hall-of-fame  quarterback was truly impressive.

The team’s success is not all about RGIII.   But no matter what side of the ball you play on, it is impossible not to feel good about yourself and your team, when you know you have a guy like that calling the signals and leading your club.

Three 1st round draft picks for Robert Griffin III?  A friggin’ bargain.   Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper for the Nationals.  And RGIII for the Skins.  Can we handle all this lightening in a bottle here in the nation’s capital?

Uh, Yes We Can.

Clinton’s Speech and Obama’s Messaging

September 6, 2012 Leave a comment

It is rare to see such unanimity in the pundit-sphere.  But Bill Clinton managed to unite liberal and conservative commentators last night all of whom acknowledged the nation had just seen probably the single most effective politician in modern American history.

There wasn’t a topic Bubba didn’t address without wonky detail and that aw-shucks “I’m-just-a-country-boy” charm.  There wasn’t a Republican charge he didn’t rebut with specificity and a smile.  And just when you thought he was heading too far into the policy weeds, he’d pause for a second: “Now listen to this part- this is really important.”

The only common criticism heard afterward is that he may have gone on too long.  But this has always been a Clinton trademark that has confounded political analysts for years.  There’s an automatic assumption that the American public has the attention span of a gnat and no appetite for detail.  This is manifestly untrue.  People have always listened to Bill Clinton because he dresses up his wonky statistics and political arguments in masterful story-telling and infectious enthusiasm.

As more than one commentator mentioned in the wake of the Clinton speech, he described the Obama administration’s policies and achievements about a hundred times better than Obama himself ever has.

And the President knows this.  In a recent interview this year he admitted his biggest failure in his first term was his inability to communicate effectively to the American people on issues like health care.

In their riveting speeches this week, Obama has two great examples to go by- Clinton and his own wife, Michelle.   Some are even voicing concerns that the dynamic duo have set a bar impossible for the President to reach in his own acceptance speech.   That’s nonsense.  Barack Obama is one of the most gifted orators in American history.  The communication he needs to work on is not a 40-minute speech on special occasions.  His political challenge is the constant day-to-day  messaging.

I have been stunned sometimes to hear some of my friends and colleagues talk about health care.  They are convinced it’s a government takeover of the health care system.  Republican anti-Obamacare messaging has been sheer genius over the years.   They took all the arguments used against Canadian-style single-payer health insurance plans like Hillary Clinton proposed and failed to win on in the 1990’s and just copy and pasted the government “takeover” charges onto the Obama/Romney style of health care.

Republicans succeeded beyond their wildest dreams attaching socialist and government overreach insinuations to a health care plan that was actually first devised and proposed in the 1980’s by the conservative Heritage Foundation and later emulated in Massachusetts by Mitt Romney and that is entirely based on private-sector not government-delivered insurance.

But after the signing of the Affordable Care Act, the President, his work done, failed to understand he still needed to sell it to the nation at large.  So he stopped talking about how kids aged 19-26 can stay insured on their parent’s plan.  He stopped mentioning that insurance companies could no longer refuse to cover Americans with pre-existing conditions.  He never talked about the fact that annual physicals would now be free- a preventative approach to health care that heads off expensive medical problems down the road.  He stopped explaining why uninsured Americans would have to pay a penalty for not getting coverage- because if you didn’t incent them to get insurance, it wouldn’t be fair for the rest of us who have coverage to watch our health care expenses go up while the uninsured drive up costs by making emergency room visits for routine or minor ailments.

It is widely accepted by now that Obama’s failure to make these kinds of arguments after he had won passage of the health reform bill, was a key factor in the massive Democratic congressional election losses in 2010 that gave footing to the Tea Party movement and control of the House to Republicans.

Obama’s challenge is not in the delivery of soaring oratory.  I have little doubt he’ll probably give the speech of his life tonight.  The real challenge is maintaining his message and pounding away at his vision for the nation- even after he wins re-election- should the American people decide to keep him in the job.

Michelle Obama and Bill Clinton are not on the ballot this November.  Barack Obama is.  Now he has to realize constant messaging and framing of his vision and values and what he sees as his successes on behalf of the public, are the only way his arguments and his policies won’t be framed for him.