Friday, November 13, 2015

It's time to act on NFL's black eye

One thing I truly dread about the end of baseball season is that our TV seems to host an hours-long and seemingly never-ending football game on Sunday afternoons and evenings. I will watch the Patriots but usually spend the rest of the evening mocking the commentators or “the waitin’ on waitin’ on Sunday night” dance that Carrie Underwood does every week in a shrinking sparkly dress. This past week’s featured late game was the Dallas Cowboys v. Denver Broncos and one of the commentators read an awkward statement at the beginning of the program about how the new details that have emerged from Dallas player Greg Hardy’s assault on his girlfriend. Long story short, he beat her up and then paid her off so even with a mountain of evidence against him that included graphic photos and several witness statements, his suspension was reduced to a measly four games and he’s once again making millions of dollars to play a game.
Sadly, Greg Hardy is just the latest in a long line of professional athletes who brutally assault their partners and are not behind bars. Ray Rice, last year’s poster child for assault and battery, was seemingly blacklisted from the NFL after the film of him dragging his unconscious fiancĂ© by her hair became widely available but he has actually been using the media spotlight around Hardy to let people know that he is ready to play in 2015(!). The NFL and the various teams that have been involved with these issues have been complicit in protecting these players and seem intent to ride out the scandal rather than get out in front of the issue and say “no more.” While I am sure that their existing contracts protect these players, now would be a good time for the NFL to issue a policy that does not tolerate domestic abuse from its players. By not taking a strong stand, they are not only setting a precedent for future cases but telling a generation of young men that they can get away with whacking someone if they can afford pay them off.
In the absence of a zero tolerance policy on domestic abuse, I think that fans of football should show their disgust by making a different choice when tempted by NFL merchandise. A piece of every dollar spent on that jersey supports policies that are rewarding and protecting violent men. Unless the league feels a tremendous amount of pressure from fans and their bottom line, they have no real impetus to change their behavior and next season we’ll have another Ray Rice or Greg Hardy to talk about.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Campaign 2016: a game that’s hard to get into

I have a hard time being excited about the Kansas City Royals as World Series Champions. I am sure their fans are thrilled, and super-nice folks, so I’m glad they won, but I will admit that I can’t remember a time when I was less interested in watching the World Series. I am beginning to feel the same way about the presidential race.

I’m not sure if it’s the intensity of the 24/7 news cycle, or the fact that the leading candidates are unappealing, but I think my current disinterest and revulsion around the race centers on the fact that Donald Trump appears to be the current choice of many Americans who lean republican.  Although Ben Carson has been gaining ground, polls have shown Trump ahead in the critical early primary states — the last New Hampshire poll had him up by 26 points. If Halloween costumes were any indication, Trump is clearly the leading candidate — along with a guy from Minecraft and a zombie. Surprisingly, Elsa and Olaf wouldn’t even make the stage in the next debate. The republican race is like watching a predictable horror movie where the characters make all the wrong choices — splitting up, not checking the backseat — you know how this is going to end. Trump is going to flame out and so he’s just not worth watching.

For what it’s worth, the likelihood of a Trump or Carson presidency is slim anyway. It is somewhat reassuring to know that Americans have not elected anyone to the office of president without some prior public service. Dwight D. Eisenhower was the last president elected without any elective experience but since he was a five-star general and the Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces in Europe during World War II, there was little concern that he would choke when making an important decision.

On the Democratic side, there’s another snoozefest. Hillary Clinton isn’t terribly appealing, but there’s no alternative. I am not sure if it’s the fact that she has been in the spotlight for more than twenty years or that there are just too many questions about her trustworthiness, but at a time when the country seems to be in need of fresh leadership, she seems dated. Having said that, with Linc Chafee and Jim Webb out of the Democratic race (after splitting somewhere between 1-2% of the electorate) and Joe Biden taking a pass, Bernie Sanders is the only Democratic candidate that stands between Clinton and the nomination. While he’s clearly the choice of the “anyone but Hillary” camp on the Democratic side, his positions are too far to the left for most Americans, making him about as electable as Trump and making Clinton a total lock for the nomination.

I am sure that the race is an exciting one if you live in Iowa or New Hampshire — or Kansas City — since it’s an exciting week there. But living in a state that never matters in presidential politics makes this race even less compelling. Let’s hope that as things shake out, an inspiring leader emerges. In the meantime, I’ll just wait for spring training and the Red Sox’ return.