Questionable Calls in the Sports Department

by Walter Brasch

With the opening of the high school football season, local newspapers and TV stations have again been running lists of what they believe are the top teams.

Most lists rank teams in the “top 10.” One Pennsylvania TV station, whose on-air number is 16, runs the “Top 16.”

There are several problems with these lists. First, we don’t know how they got those rankings. We don’t know who makes up those lists or what criteria were used. It could be a sports editor and her grandfather. It could be a bunch of station personnel sitting at a bar, throwing back vodka slammers and team names.

Even if we know how the lists are compiled, a second major question arises. Why? Yes, why? Why does it matter? Aren’t won-loss records good enough? Shouldn’t the only rankings that matter be who enters and wins in the playoffs?

Some newspapers have a half-dozen staffers and a couple of subscribers make predictions of the upcoming high school, college, and pro football games. Winners get prestige and, sometimes, gift cards from local advertisers.

Some newspapers run the odds on upcoming games, apparently so their subscribers have basic, although seldom accurate, information to assist them with bets. While betting on college and pro games is fairly common, and mostly illegal, should anyone be betting on high school games?

Several sites rank teams from throughout the country. USAToday runs a pre-season ranking of the Top 25 football teams. With one million boys playing football on 14,000 teams, does anyone think anyone, even those with access to a super-Cray computer, can accurately define the “top 25.” USAToday during mid-summer also does a composite score of four national sites which determine the “Top High School Prospects.” These are, supposedly, the “top 100” high school players, and top recruits for a college football scholarship.

The rankings don’t stop with football. USAToday also ranks the “top 25” teams in almost every sport, including girls lacrosse and boys soccer.

Do these rankings and predictions give the sports departments something to fill time and space? Do they make the sports editor appear to be powerful or intelligent? Are the lists something to allow fans to believe their team is good enough to be ranked? Or to complain that their team was cheated and should be ranked No. 3, instead of No. 17?

Related to rankings are the persistent countdowns of the “Best Play of the Week” and “Athlete of the Week.” These TV clips are loaded in favor of quarterbacks throwing balls to receivers or running backs sidestepping two tackles to score from 20 yards out. Usually overlooked is a great block that springs the running back loose. Or, maybe a quarterback sack that stops the other team’s momentum. But, every week there’s some play that someone-we don’t know who-and we certainly don’t know the criteria-decides for the rest of us.

On Saturdays, we shouldn’t care who was ranked or what the best play was from the night before. We should care that the teenage boys did their best, played hard, and enjoyed their time on the field.

After all, it’s only a game.

[Dr. Brasch began his journalism career as a sports writer and then as a sports editor before turning to public affairs/investigative reporting and in-depth feature writing. He is the author of 20 books. His latest is the critically-acclaimed Fracking Pennsylvania: Flirting With Disaster.]

 

Pawlowski Should Resign

Yesterday’s plead agreement in which Bethlehem developer Ramzi Haddad pled guilty to charges of bribing Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski illustrate a corrupt city Administration in denial.  The FBI raided city halls in Allentown and Reading this summer and the dominoes are beginning to fall.  The DOJ will take down several of the players in each city before going after Mayors Pawlowski and Vaughn Spencer.  After they have enough cooperating witnesses the charges will fall on both of them for corrupt activities.

Ed Pawlowski should not wait to vacate the office of Mayor.  Yesterday’s information shows a Mayor who was clearly on the take for his U.S. Senate run and we should all be grateful his campaign never really got off the ground.  Agreeing to accept $25,000 in campaign contributions in exchange for lenient City oversight of Haddad properties not only violated ethics but may have put Allentown residents at risk.  It’s time for Ed to go gracefully.

As for Spencer the Reading Mayor has already been implicated in making an $1800 bribe to City Council President Francis Acosta to waive inconvenient campaign finance ethics laws.  Acosta also pled guilty and resigned his seat.  Spencer needs to resign so Reading can get past this scandal.

News & Notes September 8, 2015

U.S. Senator Tom Cotton has committed treason yet again pledging fealty to a foreign leader while undermining his own.  It’s time for the DOJ to file charges.  Imagine the field day the DSCC will have when he runs for re-election.

Kathleen Kane has protested the actions taken against her by the state Supreme Court to strip her of her law license.  That would force her out of office before any possible impeachment or criminal conviction would.  Her argument is that doing this now deprives her of her due process rights.  For once I agree with Kane.  Let’s allow the legal and political processes to proceed before taking this action.  Yes, she’s completely incompetent, a vindictive pathological liar whose faults have landed her in deep hot water.  Her AG’s office is totally dysfunctional but she was elected to office and the proper channels must be followed in removing her from that office.  This is about the rule of law.

The situation in Rowan County Kentucky is also about the rule of law.  Kim Davis swore an oath as a public official to uphold the law and she refused to do so.  Now it’s landed her in federal prison for contempt of court.  This is about the rule of law.  We are not a theocracy.  If Davis wishes to live and work in one she should move to Iran.

Most of the GOP presidential field has rushed to her side supporting her patently illegal actions. How can one credibly run for President and swear to uphold the constitution after openly opposing the rule of law?  After all, the President’s job is enforcing and upholding the laws of the land.

Donald Trump’s racism is creating a divide in this country between morality and immorality.  While we sit and watch European nations openly welcoming refugees from Syria Trump and his allies would be there burning them at the stake.  These aren’t Christian people and we aren’t a Christian nation according to our words and deeds.

The Boss Who Fought for the Working Class

by Walter Brasch

He was born into poverty in New Hampshire in 1811.

His father was a struggling farmer. His mother did most of the other chores.

He was a brilliant student, but the family often moved, looking for a better life-a couple of times so the father could avoid being put into debtor’s prison.

At the age of 15, he dropped out of school and became a printer’s apprentice, sending much of his wages to help his family.

For several years, he worked as an apprentice and then as a printer, his hands covered by ink, his body ingesting the chemicals of that ink.

He worked hard, saved money, helped others achieve their political dreams, became the editor of newspapers, and soon became an owner.

In the two decades leading to the Civil War, Horace Greeley had become one of the most powerful and influential men in America. His newspaper, the New York Tribune, was the nation’s largest circulation newspaper.

But instead of becoming even richer, he used his newspaper as a call for social action. For social justice.

In 1848, as a congressman fulfilling the last three months of the term of an incumbent who was removed from office, Greeley introduced legislation to end flogging in the Navy, argued for a transcontinental railroad, and introduced legislation to allow citizens to purchase at a reduced price land in unsettled territories as long as they weren’t speculators and promised to develop the land.

The Homestead Act, which Congress finally passed 13 years later, helped the indigent, unemployed, and others to help settle the American west and Midwest.

But in his three months in office he also became universally hated by almost everyone elected to Congress. The social reformer in his soul had pointed out numerous ethical and criminal abuses by members of Congress; his party didn’t ask him to run for a full term.

He called for all American citizens-Blacks and women included-to be given the rights of the vote.

In 1854, Greeley became one of the founders of the Republican party. For more than two decades, he had been a strong abolitionist and now the new political party would make the end of slavery one of its founding principles. He was one of the main reasons why his friend, Abraham Lincoln, whom he helped become president, finally relented and two years after the civil war began, finally issued the Emancipation Proclamation.

More than 225,000 Americans (of a nation of about 35 million) bought his relatively objective and powerful history of the civil war, making the book one of the best-sellers in the nation’s nine decade history. In today’s sales, that would be about two million copies.

Unlike some editors who pandered to the readers and advertisers, he maintained a separation of editorial and advertising departments, and demanded the best writers and reporters, no matter what their personal opinions were. Among those he hired were Mark Twain, Henry David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Karl Marx. And at a time when newsrooms were restricted to men, he hired Margaret Fuller to be his literary editor.

He believed in a utopian socialism, where all people helped each other, and where even the most unskilled were given the opportunity to earn a living wage.

He demanded that all workers be treated fairly and with respect. In 1851, he founded a union for printers.

When his employees said they didn’t need a union because their boss paid them well and treated them fairly, he told them that only in a union could the workers continue to be treated decently, that they had no assurances that some day he might not be as decent and generous as he was that day. The union was for their benefit, the benefit of their families, and their profession, he told them.

In 1872, Horace Greeley ran for the presidency, nominated on both the Democrat and Liberal Republican tickets. But, his opposition was U.S. Grant, the war hero running for re-election on an establishment Republican ticket.

Weeks before the electoral college met, Horace Greeley, who lost the popular vote, died, not long after his wife.

The printers, the working class, erected monuments in his honor.

And everyone knew that the man with a slight limp, who usually dressed not as a rich man but as a farmer coming into town to buy goods, who greeted everyone as a friend, who could have interesting conversations with everyone from the illiterate to the elite, was a man worthy of respect, even if they disagreed with his views. For most, Horace Greeley was just a bit too eccentric, his ideas just too many decades ahead of their time.

On this Labor Day weekend, when not one Republican candidate for president believes in unions, when CEOs often make more than 100 times what their workers earn, when millionaires and billionaires running for office pretend they are populists, when even many in the working class seem more comfortable supporting the policies and political beliefs of the elite, the nation needs to reflect upon the man who knew that without the workers, there would be no capitalism.

[Dr. Brasch has been a member of several crafts, arts, and trade labor unions. He proudly sees himself not as among the elite but as a part of the working class. His latest book is Fracking Pennsylvania: Flirting With Disaster]

 

Blog Update

My host company Soapblox is shutting down effective October 15th.  They are migrating all of us to WordPress and I’ll be setting the blog up there via a new host.  if you’re using www.thepennsylvaniaprogressive.com to visit here nothing will change except the appearance of the blog.  Wordpress doesn’t support all of the features of Soapblox so diaries will be a thing of the past.  No one has used that feature here for two years though so I doubt we’ll miss it.

This may have some growing pains so please bear with us as we make the transition.