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(This article was originally posted on Salon Magazine as part of its “Year in Sanity” series)

The Year in Sanity: Robert Sarver

The Suns owner spoke out against Arizona’s immigration law and had his team pay tribute to the state’s Latinos

By Nikki Stern

    The Year in Sanity: Robert Sarver

    AP
    Phoenix Suns owner Robert Sarver, left, and Amare Stoudemire’s “Los Suns” jersey during an NBA playoff game on May 5.
    This nomination for The Year in Sanity originally appeared on Nikki Stern’s Open Salon blog. Write up or send in your own nominations!

    Last April, if you will recall, the Arizona Legislature passed an immigration bill that allows state and local police to demand documentation of those who are suspected of being in the United States illegally and then to arrest those who fail to provide it. Described as a necessarily tough measure by its advocates, including Governor Jan Brewer, the bill was widely supported by Arizona residents. However, passage of the law set off a spate of protests by opponents nationally who feared “racial profiling” specifically targeted at Arizona’s Latino community.

    Enter Robert Sarver, banker, entrepreneur and majority owner of the Phoenix Suns, Arizona’s basketball franchise. Sarver’s team was playing in the Western Conference semi-finals, and Game 2 happened to coincide with Cinco de Mayo this year. Following passage of the immigration bil, Sarver announced the team would wear special “Los Suns” jerseys “to honor our Latino community and the diversity of our league, the state of Arizona and our nation.”

    Sarver went further, acknowledging Arizona’s frustration with the failure of federal immigration laws but describing the legislation as “flawed,” adding: “However intended, the result of passing the law is that our basic principles of equal rights and protection under the law are being called into question … ”

    The Suns — or rather Los Suns — went on to win Game 2 against the San Antonio Spurs 111-102.

    In a year when most of the attention was directed at a far more flamboyant owner — Yankees chief George Steinbrenner — whose death recalled a lifetime of temper tantrums, let’s give a big cheer to a level-headed and gutsy owner  who used his high profile to support not only his team, but a much wider cause.

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    One of my favorite Saturday Night Live characters was Tommy Flanagan, Pathological Liar. Flanagan, created and played with gusto by Jon Lovitz during SNL’s late-eighties seasons, never Lovitz met a fact he couldn’t embellish, exaggerate and outright twist. He’d start small (“I belong to Pathological Liars anonymous; in fact, I’m the president. Yeah, that’s right.”) and build up steam  by piling on lie after lie, interrupting himself as he came up with new outlandish claims, until he’d topped himself by throwing out the biggest whopper imaginable: he’d come back from the dead to meet his wife Morgan Fairchild and was now on the cover of Newsweek Magazine every day.) Satisfied, he’d rub his hands together and declare, “Yeah, that’s the ticket.”

    Of course no one is likely to be quite so obvious but we’ve had some truth issues hit the news lately in spectacular fashion. At four-liars first there was a great deal of denial, from John Edwards denying adultery to Floyd Landis denying drug use. Now it’s commission, not omission; the addition of military service to the resume,  Dick Blumenthal and Mark Kirk being the latest twin online obsessions.

    Lying isn’t exactly new to our culture; it’s been the default position of corporations and politicians for some time now. But the liars are being taken to task, thanks to the ubiquitous online “checkers” who thrive on outing them. Knowing how relentless bloggers can be and thus how tough-minded mainstream media is forced to be, why would anyone take a chance on lying? We can all check on each other online. Why pad the resume, fib to the significant other, make false claims to clients, or forge a document? Your chances of getting caught are pretty high even without hiring a private detective.

    And yet we all lie: we obscure, omit, embellish, exaggerate, fib, fudge, add, subtract and otherwise modify the outlines of our personal and professional lives in ways large and small. Lies seem to roll so much more easily off the tongue. Storytellers arefingerscrossed aware that what a story might lose in “truthiness” it could gain in entertainment value if just one little fact is obscured or slightly altered. There are the small lies we think will harm no one: “I can’t imagine how that taillight got broken.” “No, I don’t know where that last piece of cake went.” There are the big lies, too, about weapons of mass destruction or having sex with that woman or never, ever cutting corners when it comes to drilling for oil or supporting our troops.

    Maybe we just can’t handle the truth. Even as we’ve become superficially more self-righteous about Truth, with many of us insisting on our version as without a doubt the right one; we’ve also become artful, one might say dodgy, in the ways in which we communicate who we are and what we’re doing.

    Chronic liars, it seems to me, are oblivious to the possibility of being caught; others are oblivious to the possibility that the lies can do so much damage. Still others may have negotiated forpinnochio themselves a separate moral contract, wherein whatever they’re claiming ought to be theirs to claim. Most of us have probably been caught up in the lies of a close friend or relative. I have, more that once; the mortification I felt–not only because I was unprepared to go along with an altered truth, but also because I was so profoundly embarrassed for the liar–was excruciating.

    Setting aside the notion that we are a nation of Tommy Flanagans (I don’t believe we are), the truth is: most of us want to look good or at least not look bad. We want to puff ourselves up, win the admiration of a would-be friend, impress the boss, ease the spouse’s worries, get the job; get the girl. Right now, looking good for politicians seems to be all about identifying with the vets. Maybe Mr. Blumenthal and Mr. Kirk got swept up in the moment; maybe (as one of them claimed) they almost believed they had served.  I don’t know that most vets have asked or expected every supportive politician to have faced combat; what they want is the support and the clout it means in terms of attention and resources focused on their needs. As one vet told me, “If you direct money to us, I don’t care if you’re a pacifist.”

    That last line, by the way, is untrue; that is, no vet ever spoke those words to me, although it sounds plausible and makes for an excellent closer to the paragraph. Journalists and citizen reporters alike are constantly tempted to inject a little “I was there” or “I knew him personally” into their reports because it seems to add credibility to their words. And after all, what’s the harm? Without editorial insight, as the retired deputy editor of the Providence Journal pointed out in a letter to the New York Times, any blogger can claim to be a reporter. May he’s recycling another’s reporting and claiming it as his own; maybe she’s adding the personal touch by “remembering” an encounter with the subject that never took place. Either way, it’s false.

    That doesn’t mean I believe in so-called brutal honesty.  Nothing ticks me off more than meanness masquerading as truth-telling; it cheapens the very idea of truthfulness. “I’ve just trying to be honest” too often follows an unnecessarily cruel statement: “Look Rose, the truth is; I never loved you;” “Honey, face facts: you’re just not as smart as the other kids;” “You’re likely to be alone for a long time.”

    On the other hand, some sort of up front honesty, some admission that you were the one who screwed up the [take your pick: marriage/war/negotiation/test/project/child-rearing/accounting/sentencing/oil spill, some offer to make it right pronounced right up front could save us all a lot of money, heartache, humiliation and time. The only problem is, we might not have the series, “The Good Wife.” Then again, we can alwaysGoodWife make something up; let’s see: a fictitious situation in which a woman whose husband cheated may have told her the truth about some of his escapades but not others and she’s meanwhile lying to herself about her feelings for her boss. Maybe we’ll call it “The Great Wife.” Yeah, that’s the ticket.

    Image credits: SNL archives, TPMDC, aupairmom, Disney, Inc, CBS Television

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    It’s official. New York/New Jersey will host the February 2014 Super Bowl in the new Meadowlands outdoor arena. Yes, it’s the first time a Super Bowl will be hosted in an outdoor stadium in the middle of winter but we New York and New Jersey people are a hardy bunch. Actually, we’re delirious about hosting the Super Bowl. We’ll be there, whether or not our beloved Giants and/or Jets are playing.

     fans   (Image courtesy NY Daily News)

    Given the stadium cost a sweet 1.6 billion, I think more than a few of us might want to see where our money went. Yeah, I know it was mostly privately financed but enough of the cost came out of our pockets.  I’m just sayin’.

     global warming It’d be nice to imagine the 2013-29014 season will prove to be unusually temperate, thanks to global warming. Of course as those  very few who understand the concept realize, “global warming” doesn’t mean that each year the winters are necessarily warmer, although the average temperature is rising a few degrees each year. No, global warming simply means that whatever you’ve grown accustomed to in terms of weather, fuggettabout it! 

    (image at http://science.howstuffworks.com/global-warming2.htm)

    Like I said, we New Yorkers will be there come hell or high water–or several other possible weather scenarios–but for the other folks we might have to let into our stadium, here are some suggestions:

    ·         Snow: Stay warm with a smart Giants parka

    GiantsCoat  

    ·         Rain: Don’t forget your Jets umbrellaumbrella

    • Ice: Have your ice scraper ready  

     

     ice scraper

    •   Hale:  You’ll feel like a real New York construction Yorker in these smart hats images
    • High winds: smart winter fans use bungee cords to stay in place: available in your team’s colors

     

    bungee cords
    •   Tornadoes: this will involve a little setup, so leave yourself plenty of time before the game

     

      tornadoshelter

    •  Hurricanes: bring your own shutters to the game and hang on! (sorry, ours blew away)

     

    stadium

    • Earthquakes: these are notoriously hard to predict in advance but if you have Super Bowl tickets, you probably have lots of   connections. Rent a blimp and get a bird’s eye view of the action

     

    • Volcanic  ash: breath easy with a simple face mask; available in Giants blue and Jets green. Also available with oxygen hookup

    mask 

    • Locusts:  It’s an off year. You’ll be fine 

     

    We hope these tips will help would be travels to the greatest stadium just outside the greatest city in the world in 2014. But know this: no matter what the weather, we’ll be there. You know what I’m talking about. 

    Product information /image credits below   

    http://www.womenswintercoats.org

      http://www.footballfanatics.com/NFL_New_York_Jets_Gameday_And_Tailgate_Rainwear http://www.products.sellstrom.comhttp://www.phoenixrope.com/elastic.html www.ingroundtornadoshelter.com/features.htmlhttp://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://www.rollingshuttershouston.com/images/hurricane.jpg&imgrefurl=http://www.rollingshuttershouston.com/Service.html&usg=__qz3w2CCfwVKA5D-1xI27JZ4S0PI=&h=267&w=400&sz=23&hl=en&start=13&um=1&itbs=1&tbnid=DdmKFGkEPKTTbM:&tbnh=83&tbnw=124&prev=/images%3Fq%3Dhurricane%2Bprotection%26um%3D1%26hl%3Den%26sa%3DG%26rlz%3D1G1GGLQ_ENUS358%26tbs%3Disch:1http://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://graphics8.nytimes.com/images/2007/09/05/sports/05stadium.1.600.jpg&imgrefurl=http://forum.skyscraperpage.com/showthread.php%3Ft%3D137381&usg=__GSB30oMCkbfybgwCI6Or2lcLkGQ=&h=369&w=600&sz=163&hl=en&start=4&um=1&itbs=1&tbnid=cemSWIvZaQwAZM:&tbnh=83&tbnw=135&prev=/images%3Fq%3Dmeadowlands%2Bstadium%26um%3D1%26hl%3Den%26rlz%3D1G1GGLQ_ENUS358%26tbs%3Disch:1

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    I’ve gotten increasingly interested lately in how people are getting their news: where they’re looking, what they’re reading, and who they’re listening to, sharing with, and commenting on.

    012309NewMediaMonitorThe Project for Excellence in Journalism (PEJ) tracks weekly the most and least-discussed topics by citizen bloggers as well as by mainstream media. Its “New Media Index” for June 29th to July 5th  revealed a schism between mainstream media and the blogosphere. Few of the online commentators were talking about Michael Jackson’s death Michael-Jackson-9_580189awithin a few days of that event (this was before the service), but instead had focused on the death of ubiquitous pitchman Billy Mays, billy-maysalong with marking the thirtieth birthday of the Sony Walkman. Meanwhile, mainstream press devoted 17% (17 percent!) of its content  to the Jackson story over the course of the week. Events in Iraq and Afghanistan (the pullout in Iraq and the launch of a major new offensive in Afghanistan) accounted for about 5-6% of mainstream content and didn’t show up significantly on the blogosphere, although bloggers were discussing Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor that week.

     

    I don’t have PEJ’s figures for the past week yet, but I’ve made some anecdotal observations about stories that dominated and those with staying power. I’d guess the numbers will reflect activity on the pre-Independence resignation by Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, sarah-palin-fishalthough interest waned as it became apparent there are only so many ways to keep speculating as to what she’s going to do next. 

    Of course, as anyone within spitting distance of a switched-on television knows, Tuesday, July 7th was all about Michael Jackson’s all-day memorial service, what with anchors installed in LA as if it were a state funeral and reporters (including the Wall Street Journal, for chrissakes!) blogging in real time about what was going on every single minute.

    Meanwhile, other underemployed reporters rushed to Nashville in order to figure out how many details they could wring out of the sad story of NFL quarterback Steve McNair’s shooting death by his unhappy McNairgirlfriend, who then killed herself.  I did notice, on several news aggregates  a few scattered stories on the economy, focused on the reluctance of bailed-out banks to lend money, although they have no problem raising bank fees. GM caused a little flurry of blog excitement over its plans to release a plug-in SUV

    Comcast, my current Internet provider, redid its home page. Now, in keeping with many other major server home pages, you can catch up on this week’s important stories and assume it’s all about whether Lindsay Lohan’s career is over. Good luck locating anything about President Obama’s African trip. It’s there, but not exactly prominently placed.President_Barack_Ob_588023a

    Why do particular stories seem to rate endless coverage? Mainstream media curates the news; the editors and producers presumably try to give readers/viewers what they thinks that audience wants. Are these outlets off-base? On-target? Did we ask for or indicate we wanted so much attention paid to celebrity and so little paid to, say, international news or even the economy? Online, we have access to more information.  And yes, we consumers presumably do the selecting. But is the blogosphere an improvement? If you look at consumer news aggregates – Digitt  and Reddit and Topix and such – you see stories categorized as to what’s controversial and what’s hot, which may involve a story about renewed violence in Iraq or Britney Spears’ supposed disappearance. It’s not really  equivalent – or is it to most news consumers? What makes the front pages of these news aggregates is what the readers say they like and the more they say they like or are interested in a story, the more they’ll see it featured. The favorites become more favorite; the other news may languish. 

    A close friend is concerned that access to information falsely gives us the sense of being informed; that is, we’re not making distinctions between what’s important for us to know and what’s just distracting. True enough: The only way we’ll get exposed to a variety of stories if we make the effort to cast our gaze wide and deep.  It’s our responsibility to stay informed; in fact, it’s on us to understand why it’s critical.

    20090707_mjmemorial_190x190On the other hand, Michael Jackson’s memorial service was a once-in-a-lifetime event, whereas certain stories, like plans to overhaul the health care system or try to resolve Mid-East problems, seem to be ongoing and without end.

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    “April 30, 2009 (YORKVILLE, Ill.) (WLS) — The World Health Organization announced Thursday it will no longer refer to the virus as the ‘swine flu.’ The agency say the term is misleading consumers and causing some countries to ban pork products needlessly, because there is no evidence of infection in pigs, or of humans getting the infection directly from pigs. This has also had an effect on those who make a living breeding, raising and selling pork. ” (from ABC local affiliate 7 in Chicago)
    All I can say is: it’s about time. Sure, economic considerations are behind this latest adjustment. It’s not as if too many people were stepping up to defend the reputation of the poor pig, what with unfair accusations, cruel jokes and the wholesale shunning by their barnyard bretheren (like chickens have so much to brag about).
    In this rush to blame the porcine community, old friends have turned on each other. I  was deeply disappointed to learn the Winnie the Pooh was ready to drop a dime on his old friend Piglet. 

    “April 30, 2009 (YORKVILLE, Ill.) (WLS) — The World Health Organization announced Thursday it will no longer refer to the virus as the ‘swine flu.’ The agency say the term is misleading consumers and causing some countries to ban pork products needlessly, because there is no evidence of infection in pigs, or of humans getting the infection directly from pigs. This has also had an effect on those who make a living breeding, raising and selling pork. ” (from ABC local affiliate 7 in Chicago)

    All I can say is: it’s about time. Sure, economic considerations are behind this latest adjustment. It’s not as if too many people were stepping up to defend the reputation of the poor pig, what with unfair accusations, cruel jokes and the wholesale shunning by their barnyard bretheren (like chickens have so much to brag about).

    In this rush to blame the porcine community, old friends have turned on each other. I  was deeply disappointed to learn the Winnie the Pooh was ready to drop a dime on his old friend Piglet. 

     poohpiglet

     

    “As the two friends wandered through the snow on their way home, Piglet grinned to himself, thinking how lucky he was to have a best friend like Pooh.

     

    Pooh thought to himself: ‘If the pig sneezes, he’s fucken [sic] dead’ “

     

     

     

     

    piggy_bars

     And who alerted the border patrol in Mexico that Miss Piggy was vacationing there, resulting in her detention for several hours? 

     

     

     6a00d8341c858253ef00e54f7feb728833-640wi

    This picture of a young boy and his best friend bonding was subject to scurrilous rumors about how swine flu was spread, not to mention gossip as to the true nature of their relationship.

     

    Frankly, the entire thing has been overkill and it’s time to end it. 

     

     

     

     The fact is, pigs are smart, gentle, cleaner than many animals, loveable and loyal to a fault. They work well with others and make great pets. babe3   ca91e6o6ca7kfiszcaubsj5xcas1shfzca4ki6g0ca3fztpeca78orjacacxkws1cacfae3ucasixsw2calyvbccca8bfwqacahhav3zcamu41n4calavnv0ca9n8g5cca0cn3qucapvlj6vca9fj3bkcapv3vdu    potbellied

     

     

     

    This hasn’t protected them from being stereotyped by humans, i.e.”Your room is a pigsty” or “You eat like a pig” or “Don’t hog the remote control” or “All men are swine.” It’s unfair to pigs everywhere. In fact, it’s what Fern, the human heroine of “Charlotte’s Web” and Wilbur’s mistress, says is “the most terrible case of injustice I ever heard of.”

    Though falsely linked to various viruses, pigs remain easy-going, affectionate and generally ready to sacrifice themselves for our well-being. They don’t deserve blame for famine, pestilence or the price of a hot dog at the new Yankee Stadium. wilbur

     

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    Okay, I’ve had a rotten couple of weeks; who hasn’t? Yes, I’ve been tempted to access my inner Lewis Black. But except for some venti-sized venting to trusted family and friends (you know who you are and I’m really sorry), I’ve tried to keep my crabbiness to myself or at least not extend it outward towards others. Sure I’m ticked off about the state of affairs, but unlike apparently many, many others, I’m trying to avoid trash talking.

    There’s a whole lot of anger streaming through my inbox, passed along from friends to the left and right of me. Some of it is amusing; lots of it is just rank. Unless my friends have been injected with a mean virus, they’re probably expressing their mass anxiety by spewing venom in the form of very personalized jokes about people in the news. Okay, kids: stop it. It may feel good but it solves nothing.

    I’ve obviously joined the ranks of the insane when I expect or at least hope my Representatives will stop pontificating and “serious” journalists will stick to serious reporting and analyzing instead of high drama and not-so-subtle low blows. I grant you a little snarkiness can be fun, especially when it rises to the level of clever satire (which, as we all know, it rarely does). But doomsday business reporting laced with panic or political grandstanding masquerading as faux populism by our Congresspeople is poisoning our collective spirit, especially in concert with the ever-present talk radio bloviators, whose sole mission in life seems to be to get everyone worked up. Finger-pointing is not a form of exercise, except as an exercise in futility.

    In the manner of another favorite humorist of mine, John Cleese, I am going to issue a proclamation. I expect you few loyal minions who visit my blog regularly to pass the word throughout the land: a moratorium on trash talk for a period of one week on the following subjects:  Bank of America, Citibank, any bank, GM, GE, Wall Street, Wall Street-types, anyone who works in finance, people who give out mortgages, people who can’t pay their mortgages, socialists, economists, Democrats, Republicans, including but not limited to: Barak Obama, Michell Obama, Michelle Obama’s arms, George Bush (either one), Rush Limbaugh, Michael Steele, Karl Rove, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, Bobby Jindal, Alan Keyes (I know – who?), Democrats, Republicans, liberals, conservatives, evangelicals, Jim Cramer or any other business news anchor (it’s jsut for a week), members of old media, new media or amateur media, global warming, Octo-mom, Chris Brown, Rhianna, Oprah, Britney, Siegfried and Roy, gay people, anti-gay people, A-Rod, Jews, Christians, Muslims, spiritual not religious, atheists, secularists, and anyone living in California, as if they don’t have enough trouble already. I realize I’ve left out a few topics and I welcome your input, dear readers. Please note I’m giving a pass to reality TV-bashing because I’ve had it up to here with reality TV but no trash talking about individual contestants or judges. I’m exempting all comedians – they’re paid to trash talk. Finally, I didn’t include Hillary Clinton, Bill Clinton, or Madonna because, unfairly or not, these people are going to have to put up with trash talk for the rest of their lives, through good economies and bad and even if we suddenly become more civilized, an unlikely occurrence.

    For further enlightenment on the subject of incivility, please read: “Uncivil Society”  and don’t forget: add your verboten subjects in the comments section. Sky’s the limit; we can dream, can’t we?

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    I’ve finished my book. Yea! Now for the hard part: marketing it – and me. This will apparently involve branding myself (sounds painful), identifying the niche audience and then developing an expandable platform.  I’ve got to admit; I’m not looking forward to accessing my inner pushiness. On the other hand, being assertive is pretty much a condition for survival.Besides, given the competition for public attention these days, it makes sense to learn the ins and outs of mass marketing. I figured I’d start with some examples of what not  to do and was pleased to find this week’s news stories have yielded a bumper crop of marketing  no-nos:

    • DO NOT market yourself as a thoroughly untainted candidate from Illinois  if you’re going to have to retract, alter and otherwise adjust your recollections about how many calls you took from ex-Governor Blagojevitch’s brother.
    • DO NOT market yourself as California’s all-powerful non-partisan savior if you’re going to have to cede all power to a centrist broccoli farmer to prevent California from a budget end-of-days .
    • DO NOT market yourself as a baseball icon and potential Hall of Famer if you’re going to be caught  injecting yourself with suspicious substances provided by your cousin (PS: you don’t need a college education to know the difference between right and wrong and being 21 means you’re not a child in most cultures).
    • DO NOT market yourself (or let yourself be marketed) as NBC’s new late-night king until we see whether, as your mentor takes over the prime-time slot just ahead of you, 10 PM is the new 11:30 PM
    • DO NOT market yourself as an appropriate mate for a lonely widow if, in fact, you are a 200-pound chimpanzee.

    Another one, not limited to this week, bears repeating: DO NOT market your book as a memoir if in fact part or all of it is made-up. Publishers also don’t have to tell me twice.

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