Public Figure Punishment and Race


As you may have heard, Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who helped his team win the Super Bowl a couple times, will be suspended the first six games of the 16-game season for “violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy.” The punishment, handed down by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, involved “a 20-year-old college student who accused him of sexually assaulting her in a Georgia nightclub in March.” The district attorney declined to prosecute, fearing he could not make his case, but he spoke in rather damning terms at a press conference HERE and HERE and HERE and HERE. I didn’t to the whole thing, maybe 10 of the 40 minutes, but it was enough. This is not the first time allegations about Ben’s sexual improprieties have surfaced.

What surprised me, but should not have, is this barrage of comments suggesting that he fared better or fared worse because he is white. Just Google Roethlisberger race. Some people complained that Michael Vick, dog killer, got only a two-game suspension; however, he also went to jail.

1. Is the punishment adequate, too much or too little?
2. What does race have to do with it, if anything?
3. Should Ben get traded to another team? CAN he get traded?
4. Does the NFL Commissioner have too much authority as “judge, jury and executioner”, as one pundit called it? In other sports, there is an appeals process, but the only appeal to the NFL Commissioner is to the NFL Commissioner.

My thoughts: it’s a judgment call, it got the QB’s attention, but I wish action had been taken on some of these earlier incidents; much ado about not much, but race still gets infused in EVERYTHING; another team would be crazy to take him; yes.

–ROG

Sports and Weather

I understand why people don’t care about sports, I really do. There are lots of particular sports I don’t care much about myself. What I don’t get is this antipathy towards the things that others happen to enjoy. The Super Bowl, which had the highest ratings ever of any US TV show, apparently dethroning the M*A*S*H finale of 1983, is such an example. Don’t want to watch it? Fine. But there’s no reason to suck the joy out of other people’s pleasure.

I was rooting for the New Orleans Saints, and even predicted that they’d win. Some are puzzled about how important the Saints’ victory would be for the city of New Orleans. One pundit sniffed that if the victory would help New Orleans get over Hurricane Katrina, wouldn’t a Jets victory have done the same for New York City after 9/11? Well, no.

Anyone watching the aftermath of the August 2005 devastation will recall that the Superdome, home of the Saints, was at the epicenter of the disaster. Thousands of people lived there for days. The roof collapsed. The team ended up playing its home games elsewhere for a time, including San Antonio, Texas. The refurbishing of the Superdome and the win by the Saints, who had never even GOTTEN to a Super Bowl, let alone won one, was a fitting climax for both the team and the city that embraced each other in a most profound manner.

Of course, the real reason for watching the Super Bowl: the commercials, which you can see here or here. My favorite was the Betty White/Abe Vigoda Snickers commercial. While Betty White has been a regular working actress (the movie The Proposal and the TV show Boston Legal, e.g.), now at the age of 88, there’s been a running gag whether Abe Vigoda, a star on Barney Miller, was even still alive. I also liked the Dave Letterman ad; yes, late night TV rivals Letterman and Jay Leno were actually in the same room at the same time; see this. I liked the Simpsons ad for Coca-Cola; reminds me of an ad with MC Hammer losing all his bling AND the ad with Mean Joe Greene being offered a Coke. I enjoyed the Google ad. I’ve long admitted my thing about chickens, so a couple of Denny’s ads – for a promotion that’s now over – stick in my head.

Whereas I’ve long tired of the E*Trade babies. Even the sweet Clydesdale commercial for Budweiser has become predictable. I can’t imagine wanting to see ANY of the movies advertised. The commercials Casual Friday and I Wear No Pants were so close to each other, I thought they were for the same product; they weren’t. The Tim Tebow ad, with his mother, the reportedly anti-abortion message from Focus on the Family, was mostly, “Is that all there is?” And, most unfortunately, I thought the Census ad was an ineffective use of taxpayer money.

As for the music, Queen Latifah’s America the Beautiful was a bit wobbly and flat in the beginning, but Carrie Underwood’s a capella rendition of The Star Spangled Banner was OK, but the last note was painful. I love the band, The Who’s halftime show seemed off. The harmonies didn’t work, and the medley segues were clunky. But the drummer Zak Starkey (Ringo Starr’s son) was energetic, and they finished strong with Won’t Get Fooled Again.

Meanwhile, it’s been cold in Albany, but all the snow that has been hitting the Delmarva peninsula, Philadelphia (32.3 inches in 2010) and up the coast, repeatedly this winter, has so far missed Albany. Likewise, whatever snow off the Great Lakes may have affected Buffalo, Rochester, and Syracuse, but Albany has been so far immune. Baltimore has been hammered; 41 inches this calendar year through February 8, more than Buffalo (36.1). All my NYC friends have made snarky remarks about Albany winters, but Albany has had only 8.3 inches of snow since January 1, the most 2.4 inches on January 3.

ANOTHER storm’s coming up the coast yesterday and today. Again the mid-Atlantic will get pummeled. What Albany gets will depend on the track of the storm, from an inch or two to six or eight. And it’ll still pale in comparison with what NYC’s going to suffer today; expect massive airline delays and cancellations.
ROG

Super Bowl QUESTIONS


1. Do you watch the Super Bowl? (That’s American football, BTW.) If so, is it for the commercials, the game or the halftime entertainment? Do you have special food for the occasion?

And speaking of halftime, don’t you find it interesting that it is The Who performing when the game is on CBS, since The Who provide the theme songs for all those CSI shows on CBS, such as CSI: Las Vegas, CSI: Miami, CSI: New York, CSI: Kalamazoo, and CSI: Portland (both the Oregon AND the Maine shows).

If you don’t watch the game, do you have a ritual for that? I had friends who always went to the movies on Super Bowl Sunday.

And those of you outside the United States: can you even access the Super Bowl?

2. Do you know how to write 44 in Roman numerals?

3. Do you have a rooting interest? I’m pulling for the New Orleans Saints, who have NEVER won a Super Bowl, and I can imagine would be a psychological boost to the city post-Katrina. I wouldn’t be devastated if the Indianapolis Colts won, and they are rightly favored.

4. What do think of the Pro Bowl, the all-star game of the NFL, being played the week before the Super Bowl (i.e., today), instead of the week after? Strategically, it makes sense to have an all-star game during the season, as it takes place in most other sports. On the other hand, since the players from the Super bowl won’t be playing the game, and they were the best two teams all year, it’s a bit of a lesser product.

Football 101.
***
A couple Who covers – Betty LaVette and the Ukulele Orchestra.


ROG

MOVIE REVIEW: The Blind Side


Seems that I either don’t see films, or I do see films and don’t seem to have time to actually review them.

Way back on New Years Day weekend, the wife and I got a babysitter and went to see The Blind Side, written and directed by John Lee Hancock, based on the Michael Lewis book I did not read. I HAD been getting a lot of information about this film quite a bit, though as much in Sports Illustrated as I did in Entertainment Weekly. Incidentally, The Blind Side refers to a quarterback getting hit while he’s not looking and the import of an offensive tackle protecting the QB’s vulnerability.

The movie tells the true story of Michael Oher (pronounced like ‘oar’, played by Quinton Aaron), a large, undereducated and mostly homeless black young man. He gets taken in by the Tuohy family, who are white, specifically by Leigh Anne Tuohy (Sandra Bullock), with her husband Sean, a successful restaurateur (played by an almost unrecognizable Tim McGraw) succumbing to his spouse’s single-minded compassion. Their two kids, the boy S.J (Jae Head) and the girl Collins (Lily Collins, who looks amazingly like the young woman she portrayed) go along with the mom’s mission, S.J. quite enthusiastically.

The family, and some insightful teachers, help Michael fulfill his potential, both in class and on the football field. Michael also helps the Tuohys to learn about themselves. Oher eventually becomes an All-American offensive left tackle at Ole Miss and a first round draft choice with the Baltimore Ravens.

I liked it. Indeed, both my wife and I enjoyed it more than some critics (70% positive on Rotten Tomatoes), who used terms like “utterly unsurprising, unchallenging feel-good flick mostly ignores larger social concerns in telling its implausible tale.” Even some positive reviews suggest that it’s a predictable “feel-good sports/biographical drama…by-the-numbers. Yet for the most part, this cinematic ‘comfort food’ goes down pretty well.”

There was also criticism from more than one corner of the “institutional racism” in the film, that it is “rich white folks with big heart save poor black kid” that “needed to be more sociably responsible in its portrayal of blacks,” and that “all black people are not ghetto waiting to be saved.” I’m rather torn on this point. It’s true that most of the black people in this movie were poor and from the ghetto- Michael’s birth mother was a drug addict – and that the major black character, other than Michael, was a particularly obnoxious dude. All of this is true, yet I don’t know how much responsibility a single film is supposed to balance the portrayal of black people. My sense is that, prior to Michael, the Tuohy’s didn’t KNOW black people, so the folks they DID see fit the stereotype. Was the writer suppose to inject an upwardly-mobile black person, other than the woman from the NCAA?

Interesting note: many of the recruiting coaches, such as Phillip Fulmer, Lou Holtz and Nick Saban, play themselves, and I read in SI that not one of them is still with that program, noting the rapid turnover of college football head coaches. The real S.J. Tuohy, who’s now 16, has been razzed by opponents of his basketball team that his daddy needs to adopt someone for his team because “You suck!” And Michael Oher has been hazed by his Ravens’ teammates over the sentimentality of the film; I was pleased that in his last game of this season, he was getting kudos from the commentators for his play.

In any case, this movie lives or dies largely on Sandra Bullock’s portrayal of Leigh Anne Tuohy and she’s totally convincing in the role. Ms. Tuohy also liked it, commenting that she was pleased that Ms. Bullock had “nice ta-tas.”

ROG

Football/Baseball QUESTIONS

Football season begins today. (This is American football, not what we heathens call soccer.) All that other stuff for 17 weeks is merely prologue.

I need to rank the teams in the order I WANT them to win, not who I think WILL win. Right now, I think San Diego beats Minnesota in the Super Bowl, because the Chargers played their starters maybe a third of the time last week and STILL beat Washington. OK, it WAS a lousy team, but Indianapolis lost to Buffalo, FCOL.

1. *New York Jets (A) – I seriously thought they were toast after losing 10-7 to Atlanta at home a couple weeks ago. then they beat/were allowed to beat the 14-0 Colts and division-leading Bengals so they can play the Bengals AGAIN this weekend.
2. New Orleans Saints (N) – it’d be good for the city. Losing their last three makes me nervous about their chances.
3. *Philadelphia Eagles (N) – call it mid-Atlantic bias.
4. San Diego Chargers (A) – my sister lives in SD, I’ve seen them play. what can I
say?
5. Indianapolis Colts (A) – if only for the favor they gave the Jets.
6. *Arizona Cardinals (N) – still think it’s unnatural playing football in the desert, but like Mary Richards in the premiere episode of the Mary Tyler Moore Show, they got spunk.
7. *Green Bay Packers (N) – they’re GREEN, which IS a plus.
8. Minnesota Vikings (N) – always liked the Vikings. Why could Favre played like this LAST year with the Jets? Oh, because this is a better team.
9. *Baltimore Ravens (A) – eh.
10. *New England Patriots (A) – they’ve won too often this century.
11. *Cincinnati Bengals (A) – have a history of being thugs.
12. *Dallas Cowboys – when did they have an election and pick the Cowboys “America’s Team”? I sure didn’t vote.

Meanwhile in the Baseball Hall of Fame voting, Andre Dawson FINALLY made it in. “The Hawk” I’d have picked for sure. But there were FIVE BLANK ballots? Ticks me off.
Though in fact, without the five blanks, Bert Blyleven would have ended up with 74.9% (400/534) of the vote, with 75% needed, and no, they don’t round up. Now THAT would have hurt. And tell me, why doesn’t Lee Smith get more love? I also would have voted for Roberto Alomar, and yes, Mark McGwire.

QUESTIONS:
1. Who do you want to win the Super Bowl? Who do you THINK will win?
2. What did you think of the HoF balloting?
ROG