Thursday, February 14

Chin Music

"You know, Roger Clemens, unless it's proven that he used steroids, and so far, I haven't seen anything like -- if he did, he ought to be held accountable -- but Roger Clemens is a baseball -- he's a titan in baseball."
Rep. Dan Burton, noted civil libertarian

(It ought to be noted that even in Indiana, even in his gerrymandered expanse of caucasoid utopia, there are Republicans trying to defeat him in the May primary by running an actual sane person.)

OH, of course I jinxed it, and the broadband connection died like moth in a bug zapper sometime in the early afternoon, the good news being that six hours later it reset itself for the first time in four days, plus two more AT&Ters offered to provide me with excellent service. The reset lasted two hours, then two subsequent outages also righted themselves. Then it went out for good, and another tech showed up to tell me what the others had already told me, and now another pole climber is on his way. The happy frame is that whatever service I do get I'm not paying for.

The timing of the first was fortuitous, since it prevented me from breaking a rule about commenting on other people's comments about my comments on someone else's blog's comments, unless I've been wildly unclear about something, since there's little I hate more about Blogtopia than one of those cascading A-list threads with seven different personal arguments going on at once, and going on at length.

Fortunately this blog has no such rule. So the only thing which prevents me from mentioning that some of  the fine folks at If I Ran The Zoo, whose work and wit I esteem, nevertheless exhibit the occasional symptoms of a thin-skinnedness which must make strong sunlight an ordeal, is my better judgment.  Like I have better judgment.

We begin with the effervescent Tom Hilton, whose sprightly comments around town had led me to his blog in the first place. Tom proves to be a man with an admirable willingness to jump into a thread where a lesser man might've hesitated due to complete lack of interest or knowledge of the topic. Like a fireman who braves the burning building, caring nothing for his own skin, in order to save a foundling, Tom heard one of my pitiful internet cries for help and sprang to the rescue:
Doghouse Riley: if you're one of the sad, deluded people who actually give a shit about sports, then within your frame of reference you have a point.

Leave us back up for a moment. The thread, at LG&M, began with D's brief post about Tom Davis calling the hearings "a new definition of the word 'lynching' ". By the time I got to the comments, four hours later, they comprised about six versions of "Why is Congress bothering with this shit?" The comments, by the way, came from dedicated sports fans, not from people who share Mr. Hilton's low opinion of people who enjoy watching children's games played by adults for money, and this on a blog which regularly discusses sports.

Now, as it happens, I do believe Congress should care about this shit, which had led me to reply:
Am I the only one who believes that, in a time when pandemic cheating has led to even innocent Americans being forced to return Olympic medals, when a mundane match leads to all of professional tennis residing under a cloud that will not blow away, when America's Cycling Hero can't get away from accusations of doping, when professional baseball, football, and basketball are under suspicion, if not actually convicted, when the only sport left untainted, golf, is not actually a sport, that this whole "Why doesn't the Congress worry about important stuff" bit is a little past its shelf date?

Just for the record, I was also informed that there was a war on in Iraq which Congress could be doing something about. By someone who had commented twice that afternoon to a thread about sports, and who apparently believes the reason the Democratic-controlled Congress has for the last two years continued to sign blank checks for the war's prosecution, rather than cutting off the spigot, was that they've been too busy with mundanities to really take a look at it.

So it seems necessary to point out that what my post actually says is that what we see, clearly, in both amateur and professional sport is a rather accurate reflection of the whole libertarian-Republican ethos run amok, with cheating that used to constitute a once in a generation, if not century, scale now little more than an open secret or a scandale du jour.   And it was tolerated in the name of sport; small wonder the Republican party felt no compunction about cheating to win elections, government contracts, public opinion, or really important matters. Our colleges and universities tolerate and defend a system so unethical as to be a national disgrace, for the simple reason that it brings in money. No, I don't think sports matter much beyond the people who play them--though obviously millions of Americans disagree---but I do think that honesty does.

(Here's another thing that bothers me about these periodic "Why don't they find something important to do?" deals, which are powered by sports radio: it's the inevitable crap-hurling at legislators for being boring, obtuse, preening, self-important camera-hogs. Which may well be true in far too many cases. My one retort, though, is to ask whether you imagine they're any better discussing appropriations or tax law or laser-guided anti-satellite systems. Maybe if people watched this stuff with some regularity, rather than simply to take offense that some childhood idol who turned out to be a cheating greedhead gets exposed, we could avoid all sorts of government excesses, not just those involving future VH-1 Celebrity Fat Camp contestants.)

Meanwhile, there's the matter of how the same brogan fits the other foot, as aimai, an incisive commenter whose addition to the masthead made me a daily reader over there, took offense at a reply I made to her comment at Roy's. Riley, once again, was reluctant to use someone else's forum to try to explain that what he said wasn't exactly what was imagined he'd said, a process that always takes eight paragraphs and never works. He tried and failed to find an email address to do this personally. He's a sensitive lad at heart, and he doesn't like being misunderstood.

So what happened is this: there was a long series of mock-Swiftboating of John McCain in progress, and Riley was not the only one who found it distasteful to the point of distress, and, worse, not funny. Scrolling eventually brought him to aimai's comments, which he always looks forward to. And they conclude:
The trick is to say "yes, wonderful that he once served his country so honorably. Its time he stepped aside and retired and let younger people take up the burden. Old men are not suited to new realities. You'll piss off some older voters, but not many if you are demonizing him at the same time, and you will thrill younger voters.

Now, before I mention my response, let me remind you, and aimai, that I was already dyspepsic from swallowing all that tainted water on the way down, and that my stated position is that "thrilling younger voters" ranks up there with "galvanizing Civil War re-enactors" as a sound political maneuver, doubly so when it involves casting aside the Enlarged Prostate and Hip Replacement vote as irredeemably, even terminally, unfashionable. And so I said:
Fer cryin' out loud, aimai. We're not electing a new CEO of Apple.

Which she seems to have taken as my suggestion she'd drunk deep of Obama's Cheery Cherry, Now With 10% Real Fruit Juice.

And for which I apologize, since I know, and assumed she knew I know, that she's a nuanced Obama voter, and, besides, I'm not even running around poking the real choir members with a stick anymore.  Gave me tennis elbow. 

I was unhappy with the personal attacks on McCain. I'm unhappy with the selling of the notion that people over 65 can't understand "the new realities". Like the man said, they've been your age. You've never been theirs.

And here's the thing: with his most recent round of ascendancy there's suddenly this weird confluence of Obama support grafted onto attack-dog approach to campaigning. There're any number of Democrats out there screaming for blood, and voting for bloodlessness. It makes no sense. Nuanced support is still support; if your man is wrong in the particulars you ought to demand an accounting. Obama has touted Dick Lugar as the sort of man he'd work with. Lugar's voting record is not that much different from McCain's, except he didn't object to our failed military operations in Iraq after they were under way; McCain did, but then backtracked. The "new reality" is the old reality with an iPhone. As always, much will be determined by the makeup of the next Congress. There's twice as many Republican seats up this fall, but nearly half of those are in the Confederacy. If Senator Obama has coattails that reach into Dixie he may be in a position to effect Change, circumstances permitting. No one knows at this point, and those of us who have volunteered to act as designated driver and help sweep up any of the giddy revelers now so thrilled by primary turnouts ought not to face abuse for it.  Otherwise, he has a honeymoon, and it will last until he proffers his first budget.

I do not expect racism to become a part of the real campaign; I remain agnostic on the shocking news that John Derbyshire is a bigot or that the rest of the gang at the Corner will fling shit for the amusement of the people peering into their cage. I do not believe this represents a new reality, but an old one: it would hand Obama a potent weapon he could use later. The people who actually operate such things are not the silly Corner gang. If they can't find exploitable weakness they'll take their lumps in November and attack the execution of our new post-partisanship. Republicans aren't afraid to act like an opposition party, and they will cling to their belief that one terrorist-related headline puts them back on top.  

Meanwhile, I agree with Paul Krugman, to some extent at least, that candidate Obama has left fingerprints that President Obama will find difficult to remove. His supporters keep referring me to his actual position statements, which, in fact, I'd already consumed. We're going to finish the fight in Afghanistan? Chase al-Qaeda into Pakistan? Rebuild the military? Fully fund No Child Left Behind (which will somehow keep teachers from teaching the test)? And "practice fiscal restraint"? Good-we're gonna need a trillion dollars worth in the next couple of years alone. Or we could raise that much in postpartisan tax increases.

That ain't cynicism; it's a healthy if flinty skepticism, which may be as out of fashion these days as Grandpa's union suit, but which similarly covers a lot of things that ought to be covered.


Kathy said...

I don't like to see my 2 favorite bloggers, You and aimai, quarrel, tho I know it would be a magnificent quarrel. So maybe I would enjoy it after all!
I guess my dislike of Congress investigating professional sports cheating is the fact that they are so dishonest and sleazy themselves. They haven't the moral authority to pronounce on other's misdeeds. But who (in professional life) does these days?

Tom Hilton said...

Thanks for the link the compliments, Mr. Riley, and thanks for taking my little grenade in good humor. In my defense, I would just say that only someone who has no interest in sports (and yes, for whom PE was torture) can fully appreciate how maddeningly sport-saturated our culture is; under the circumstances, the occasional dyspeptic swipe at sport in general is hardly unreasonable.

That said, I would still disagree with you about the importance of the steroid scandal as such; the fact that it is analogous to Republican corruption makes it illustrative, but not necessarily important.

Scott C. said...

Oh, fine! Now you're dissing my iPhone!

Harry Cheddar said...

My new catch phrase is,"President Obama will fix that". I use it whenever someone has a general complaint, whether its on local traffic, the economy, or the failure of toilet paper to be sufficiently soft and absorbent.

*My old catch phrase was, "How about a big steaming pile of Who-Gives-A-Shit?" And no, I don't get invited to many social gatherings. Why do you ask?

wufnik said...

It's all just a long, slow cry of despair at the Republican despoilation of everything. Sports, the budget, justice, the military, dentistry--they've all been compromised, perhaps irrevocably. All true. But there is a certain element of displacement behavior here as well. Not that I would expect the folks who can't run an investigation into steroids to be able to run an investigatino into Iraq. I'm not sure I would even want them to at th is point. We're just now getting contempt citations out of Congess against the White House? That should have been the order of business in week one.

scott said...

This entire post was worth it simply because of the phrase "...even in his gerrymandered expanse of caucasoid utopia..."

DBK said...

with cheating that used to constitute a once in a generation, if not century, scale now little more than an open secret or a scandale du jour.

That's way too naive for you, Doghouse. Football reds don't carry little yellow handkerchiefs because they're the most fashionable material with which to wipe one's nose. "Are greenies fabulous?" asked the Roman governor, and washed his hands.

DBK said...

That should read "football refs", but my fingers cheated me.

Anonymous said...

Since most everything decent in this country has been ruined, I have no problem comparing my beloved sport to the WWF.

Wny George Mitchell stooped to the embarrasing task of making Bud Selig look presentable to the crowd is beyond me. Apparently taking responsiblity for destroying the national pastime involves insuring the commissioner a contract extension and appropriate pay hike. God forbid someone would be fired - but how could an owner fire himself? The feet don't kick the head.

The best part of the Clemens testimony was lost on everyone. Roger was asked by the Congressman from Missouri why Andy Pettite testified that Roger told him he had taken steriods. Roger's answer to the Congressman: "Andy must have misheard me". Congressman: "What did you say?"

Roger, he tossed you a softball and you whiffed - if a Congressman can't hear what is said directly into a microphone while paying rapt attention...anyway, at least we know you're not a vegan. And you should have answered Waxman "well, when IS my time to argue with you?"

Should Congress give a shit? If they want to actually do something productive for baseball/sports, they could: 1) revoke the antitrust exemption, 2) require the owners to take drug tests (and the managers and trainers and sports writers) - after all, think of the kids, 3) revoke federal funds from colleges/universities where steriods are used (something Congress actually has the power to do). But at least grandstanding demonstates the impotence of our democracy - it's much better to look mad than to exercise power - I wonder how much longer we can tolerate this.

Shay said...

"(It ought to be noted that even in Indiana, even in his gerrymandered expanse of caucasoid utopia, there are Republicans trying to defeat him in the May primary by running an actual sane person.)"

A sane person who speaks English, one hopes.