Thursday, September 29, 2011

Loyal - or not?

Reports in the public prints and media indicate Coach Bielema and his minions are disenchanted with Badgers fans who’ve sold their tickets to Saturday night’s game to Nebraska fans.  Something like “loyal Badgers fans wouldn’t do that”.


At this writing, Thursday noon, according to StubHub, nosebleed seats are going for around 200 bucks; good seats are ranging from 300 to 700 bucks; all the way up to 4 seats at Varsity Club Level 1 going for a cool 1200 bucks apiece. 

The UW Football brain trust is implying (if not outright saying) that selling your tickets to a Nebraska fan is disloyal.

Commentators are saying this would NEVER happen in places like Alabama, Florida, Oklahoma, and Texas, where football is more religion than sport.

Many years ago, I decided the best seat in the house for the “big game”, no matter what the sport, is in my huge overstuffed recliner in the media room of our home, watching in hi-def on the 65-inch screen and listening through a 300-watt 5.1 sound system which can create sound so massive I alert the US Geological Survey’s National Earthquake Information Center when I’m going to move the volume past “5” on the indicator. 

So I have no issue with those Badgers fans who’ve decided to trade in their game tickets for a mortgage payment.

Loyalty, schmoyalty.  It’s the free market in action.

Monday, September 26, 2011

And This Is News Because.......?

Every time the Football Badgers play at Camp Randall Stadium, the local media – print and electronic – report the exact number of people who were ejected or arrested at the game.  The number is usually around 25 or 30.  The media don’t report this number for Badger Basketball games or Hockey matches at the Kohl Center; nor for the UW womens’ softball games at Goodman Field on the UW Campus; or, for that matter, the intercollegiate golf matches at University Ridge or the volleyball matches at the old Field House.

But, like clockwork, the morning after the football game, the news radio station in town and the local TV news stations parrot the numbers, taken from the official news release of the UW Police, I’m sure.  The Wisconsin State Journal ran about two column inches on the official drunken/disorderly count on page 5 of this morning’s paper.

For the mathematically challenged (certainly including me), let’s use easy-to-work-with numbers, and assume that 40 people were ejected or arrested at a typical football game.  Since Camp Randall holds about 80 thousand people, the total number arrested/detained/ejected/taken to detox is 0.05%.  In other words, not statistically significant.

99.95% of the fans at Camp Randall were NOT arrested/ejected/taken to detox.  And the actual percentage is lower, if you add in the thousands who just mill around the stadium, and the hundreds of ushers, security personnel, concessions stand workers, and media types who infest the area on game-day.

Do the statewide media report such a figure after every Packers or Brewers or Bucks game?  Of course not, but I’ll bet a week’s pay that the Green Bay and Ashwaubenon Police and the Brown County Sheriff’s Department would tell you the percentages are similar at a typical Packers game at Lambeau Field.

I think the reason(s) the local media report this figure as if it were news is simply that years ago, when the Badgers Football team sucked and lost all the time, it was more entertaining to report the number or arrests than the number of points scored – and the “tradition” has continued.

Why the University Police continue to provide this number to the media is a deeper mystery; if I were Barry Alvarez, I’d have coffee with Chief Riseling and ask her nicely to discontinue the practice.  Of course they have to keep official records, but spoon-feeding them to the media is another thing.  (Here come the e-mails and comments from my many newsie friends yelling “freedom of information”.)

When/if the number exceeds the norm (as it well may next Saturday when Nebraska comes for its first game at Camp Randall, and it’s A NIGHT GAME which means all-day-all-night drinking), it may qualify as news.

But to merely parrot the number after every home game seems pointless, and, well, not “newsy”, even if it is “truthy”.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Who's Afraid of the "New" Facebook?

Not me.  There’s a reason Facebook has outlived similar sites like MySpace and why Facebook dominates social media.  It keeps reinventing itself, and making improvements.

Do I have to repeat the old saw that most people hate change?

I can still see everything I want on Facebook.  It’s just laid out differently.  It’s like the grocery store – once you get used to a particular layout, they change everything around.  But like the “new” Facebook, the basics are still in place after they change the store layout….the milk and eggs are still way at the end of the store, and the high-markup impulse purchase items are still prominent.  The can of beans that you’d find in Aisle 7 last week is now in Aisle 11, but it’s still there.

My “news feed” on Facebook is now a running display on the right margin of the page, and status updates and pictures posted by my friends are still on the “center aisle” of my Facebook display.

Early this past summer I was forced to make some huge changes and adaptations when my trusty 2005 Compaq desktop computer (which has been fully updated twice since I bought it) started to crap out.  I’ve got a venerable HP (circa 1999) in storage “just in case”, but my computer guys told me it was time to upgrade.  That meant switching from Windows XP to Windows 7. I had about a week to worry about it, because my computer guys custom-ordered a new desktop for me (a high-end Dell Vostro), so it took a few days for the Dell folks to build it to spec and ship it.  I wrung my hands.

My friends and business colleagues kept telling me “no sweat, you’ll pick up Windows 7 with no problem”….and I kept thinking “I learned on Windows 3.0 and was always happy with Windows 98 – why do I have to go to Windows 7 on this new machine?”.  As everybody found out, Windows 7 looks and runs a little differently, but it IS better than XP; and Office 2010 is better than Office 2007; and, in my particular case, because I record and edit a lot of digital audio for my “day” job, Adobe Audition 3.0 really is better than Adobe Audition 1.5. 

The “new” Facebook is just fine.  And I have no doubt that it will keep changing and morphing and developing and reinventing itself.  The day I can’t keep up with it is the day I’m officially “old”.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

V A (o) R

VAoR: Voluntary Assumption of Risk.  Also, for you pilot types, a play on VOR, which stands for VHF Omnidirectional Range, or VHF Omni-Range.

I suspect the legal world will have something to say about voluntary assumption of risk, in what is certain to be a flood of lawsuits following last week’s crash at the Reno Air Races.  The concept is simple.  If you go to a baseball game and sit halfway down the third base line, there’s a chance that a foul ball will head right at you.  Most people are aware of this, unless you’ve never been to or watched a baseball game.  The ticket you buy to get into the game probably says somewhere in fine print that the team isn’t liable if you get conked on the noggin by a foul ball.

When you go to an air race….not an air SHOW, and there’s a huge difference…you may or may not know that there is a chance something horrid will happen, as it did last week.  I have every confidence the lawyers will clear this all up for us.  (Sarcasm is dripping off that last sentence, but it sometimes doesn’t reproduce well on the internet.)

Both air shows and air races are regulated by the FAA, but there’s a major difference.  In an air show, the pilots keep their planes parallel to the flight line and grandstand or seating area, and perform their maneuvers in a way that’s designed to never aim the plane toward the spectators.  This minimizes the chances a plane in trouble will go down into the crowd.  In an air race, there’s a point in the course where the planes turn right toward the spectators.  As they round the pylon for the home stretch, for a short time they’re essentially aimed at the spectators.

And if something goes wrong at that point…as it did in Reno last week….a lot of things can happen, and very few of them are good.

That’s the most significant difference between and air show and an air race.  Someone should explain to the TV nooz geeks that the two terms are decidedly not interchangeable.

I love aircraft and aviation, and have been a member of the EAA for decades.  I’m not a licensed pilot, but years ago in my broadcasting career, as architect of the formats run on the AM radio stations in a broadcast group I was once affiliated with, I had to do a lot of flying with our CEO in the business twin (a Piper Aztec – the Navy calls them U-11A’s) that the company leased.  It was the only way we could spend a full day at one of the other operating companies and be home to sleep in our own beds that night.  Efficiency.  The CEO was many years my senior, and he asked me to fly right-seat with him no matter how many people were on board (the plane carried as many as 5), and he taught me how to land the plane in case some horrible medical situation befell him in the sky.

What happened in Reno was a tragic accident.  I’m not looking forward to how the legal eagles will compound it.
(Photo at top copyright Associated Press.)

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Upon Further Review...

I may have been wrong about the “Curse of SI” when I wrote about it a few weeks ago.  Note the late-August date on the cover above (Copyright Sports Illustrated).

The Brew-crew did well for a few days after the magazine cover came out, but then….

Watching them struggle to hit Phillies’ pitching was one thing; though that voice in the back of my head kept saying “they can’t do this if they meet the Phils in the playoffs”….but now, to watch them struggle against Rockies’ pitching….ugggh.

And the cherry on the cake is Prince Fielder’s interview with Brian Anderson, done Tuesday and leaked this morning, to run this weekend…..that Prince is apparently “going to take his talents elsewhere” next season; at least, that’s what one concludes when Prince tells BA that it’s been fun being the one-two punch with Ryan Braun, but those days are numbered.

When you’re in a pennant race, particularly when you’re slowly losing traction, the ONLY appropriate answer to a question about free agency is “let’s wait till after the season to talk about it.  Right now I’m focused on winning the NL Central and moving forward into the playoffs”, or some variation of that idea.

Curse of SI or whatever, I have an uneasy feeling.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Who Sets The Quotas?

Not surprisingly, the assertion by an outside entity (the Center for Educational Opportunity) that the UW-Madison is admitting Blacks and Hispanics with lower qualifications than White and Asian kids is creating a medium-sized stir in the City of the Perpetually Offended.

And rightly so.

I’ve often wondered what sort of arcane formulations, algorithms, and weightings are used to decide who gets admitted to the big UW, and who doesn’t.  Both our kids got admitted (and graduated), when an awful lot of their friends at Madison’s LaFollette High who had credentials just as strong, did not get admitted.  I’ll always wonder how much my alumni status affected the decision.

Or was it the “political connections” my wife and I have that tipped the scale?  We are pretty well acquainted (as in invited-into-the-home-for-Saturday-night-dinner) with more than one of the UW Regents.  Or was it “media fame” – I was on a #1-rated morning radio program and my wife was on a #1-rated local TV news broadcast.

Regardless, both of our kids had the kind of academic credentials that would have gotten them accepted at just about any college or university in the nation.  But – so did several of their friends, who were not accepted.

What I’d like to know is who sets the quotas – who makes the rules – what sort of criteria are involved – and how much of a factor is race, in the UW admissions process.  To me there’s no question that it’s desirable to have some diversity on campus, and I’m a believer in affirmative action.  Growing up in Hortonville, the only black people I knew anything about played for the Packers or Braves.  My first personal experience with a black person was as a freshman in the dorms, and a young fellow from Milwaukee named Theophilus R. Hawkins.  Theo and I hit it off right away.  We were both big fellows, loved music and fast cars, and through Theo I got to meet a number of other young black kids and form solid friendships.

But that was back in the mid-60’s.  My kids grew up in Madison and have plenty of black and Hispanic friends – kids they’ve known since middle school, many of whom they still pal around with.  They didn’t need the freshman dorm experience to meet and get to know kids who don’t look like them.

I think it’s time to let a lot more sunshine into the admissions process at the UW.  If I were a black or Hispanic kid, I’d want to know that it wasn’t just “affirmative action” or some quota that got me accepted – that my hard work and academic record had more to do with it than some committee’s ideas about what diversity is.

Discussions about race are always difficult in Madison, but the one about admissions standards at the UW is one that needs to happen here, and in the rest of the state.

(The University of Wisconsin owns the copyright on the image above.)

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The Football Lexicon

Pictured above (copyright ESPN) is “The Boomer”, who began as a pretty good TV sports host and has morphed into a loudmouth caricature, who has apparently ruined his voice from years of yelling (to bring more “excitement” to the sports event?).  Just listen to him the next time you see him.  He’s constantly trying to do something with his voice…I’m just not sure what.  He certainly doesn’t sound like Chris Berman did a decade ago.

But my rant is focused not on those who report sports, but on what they say.  Here are a few of my long list of pet peeves.

“Offsides”.  Nope.  Offside.  Look it up.  You can’t be across the line that demarcates your side until after the ball is snapped.  (See also “Onsides kick” – nope.  Onside kick. )
“Play-action pass”.  Everybody says it (except Ron Jaworski, who only says it half the time) but it’s inane.  It’s a RUN-action pass.  Every time they snap the ball it’s a play, whether it’s a run, pass, punt, or kick from placement.  What makes this play special is the run action.  It looks like a run to the defense, then turns into a pass. 
“Former walk-on”.  College football broadcasters say this all the time.  Once you’re a walk-on, you’re a walk-on forever – that status will NEVER change.  Walk-on.  It means the player tried out for the team without a scholarship or formal invitation.  Just walked into camp and said he wanted to play.  Sports guys love to put “former” in front of everything…”former Cy Young winner” and “former Gold Glove winner” are just a couple examples.  Once you win the award, you get to keep it.  Once a Cy Young winner, always a Cy Young winner.  (Note: this is getting dicey with the use of “former Heisman Trophy winner” – there are 76 Heisman Trophy winners, and the Pack faces one this weekend – but Reggie Bush’s situation calls for an asterisk or something.)
“Welcome in.”  This is just plain stupid.  Nobody says “welcome in” except sportscasters, as in “Welcome in to Sports Center.”  They all do it.
Confusing a “reverse” with an “end-around”.  This is quite common.  In a “reverse”, the ball actually changes direction – the play starts with the ball moving one direction (left) and then when handed off it moves the other way (right).  In an end-around, the end involved moves from whatever side of the formation he’s on, takes the handoff, and then runs around the other side of the formation.  This is not rocket science, but the majority of football broadcasters get it wrong.
“Prolific”, “Proficient”, “Prodigous.”  Each has a separate and distinct meaning and they are not interchangeable.  Sports folks often say “prolific” when they mean “proficient.”  Last week, Michelle Tafoya of NBC said “The Saints’ offense is very prolific.”  Huh?  But they all seem to do it.
“Icing the Kicker.”  Nothing at all wrong with this phrase, except it’s possibly the most stupid thing done in football.  Coaches think if they call a time out before a placement kick, it will make the kicker “think” too much about the kick.  What it does (ask any kicker, center, or holder) is give them time to make sure everything is optimal.  Who wants to be rushed or hurried when attempting a precision play that requires exquisite teamwork and timing?  Yet coaches still do this stupid “icing” thing, and give the opposing team’s field goal unit plenty of time to make sure everybody’s on the same page.

Oh, there are many more….I could go on for hours…..but that’s enough for this time.  I’m sure I’ll be reminded of a few more Sunday afternoon when the Packers play the team with the Former Heisman Trophy Winner at quarterback.  I hear he’s a very prolific guy.

Monday, September 12, 2011

9-11-01 Redux

No, I haven’t forgotten; and I never will.  I was anchoring news for a group of five Madison radio stations that fated September morning ten years ago, and I have a CD of our coverage in case I ever want to live it again.  But I don’t.

I guess I’m not an overtly sentimental person about death; I’ve told my wife that when I kick the bucket she should just chop me up into pieces and throw me in a (big) hole in the ground in the huge raspberry patch along our southern fenceline, somewhere near the two pet cats we placed at rest there after they passed on.

I will never forget, and I doubt any American over the age of 10 who was alive that day will forget. That date is as burned in as December 7th, 1941 was to the prior generation, and as the murder of JFK is, to my generation.  (November 22nd, 1963 – but most of us don’t remember the date, just where we were and what we were doing when we got the news.)

In my opinion, the vast coverage of the tenth anniversary (or, as far too many network dweebs said, “ten-year anniversary”) lacked one critical element.  I’ll get to that in a moment.

I knew Sunday’s coverage, no matter which network or cable news outlet you watched, would be over the top with sentimentality and that even our sporting events that day would be interlaced with maudlin references to the day and all the innocent and unsuspecting – and all the incredibly brave – Americans who died that day.  That was to be expected.  It’s the way the TV folks are.  Excess is the default position.

But, as far as I’m concerned, one of the most important elements of the 9-11 story was missing in all the coverage on all the stations I saw yesterday.  The missing element was the capture and killing of Usama bin Laden, which we found out about Sunday night May 1st.

To me, you can’t tell the story of 9-11 without telling the part about how our brave and dedicated military and intelligence community tracked down that bastard, and how a phenomenally intrepid US Navy Seal Team stormed his compound, ended bin Laden’s life, AND were able to get away safely after their duty had been done.

The story of 9-11 is far from over, but – to me – you can’t tell the story without saying we got the bastard who was behind it and arranged for him to meet Allah.

It would be fitting to honor our military – those who have served in Afghanistan and Iraq, regardless of your feelings about those missions – to acknowledge their contributions, right along with the brave firefighters and police officers who gave their lives trying to help their fellow Americans on 9-11.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Losing The Base

I’m pretty sure no matter what President Obama says in his “Jobs Speech” tomorrow (Thursday) evening, he’s pretty much toast.  It’s already been spun as a “campaign speech” and even though the Republicans are smart enough not to extend the event into NFL Football by giving a formal rebuttal, you know they’ll pick his “plan” apart, no matter what it is.

In my opinion, he’s pretty much lost his hard-core base here in the most liberal county of this purple state.

Why do I say that?

Not just because the TV stations which can (in Green Bay and Milwaukee) have already decided to put the speech on one of their auxiliary channels, and run their local news at 6 followed by the NFL Pre-Game show.  (In the arcane thinking of the NFL, Milwaukee is still the only other “home” market for the Packers other than Green Bay, though they haven’t played a game in Milwaukee for years.) 

I say he’s lost the base because when our former mayor, Dave Cieslewicz, posted a link to his weekly Isthmus column/blog on Facebook Wednesday, a rant which says he’s disappointed that President Obama didn’t stick to his guns regarding fuel economy standards for American cars and trucks, the comment stream was brutal.

Here’s a sample of the comments:
“he seems to be a man who fears fighting more than capitulation and what we need right now is a fighter.”
“it stinks that we get promises and no action.”
“he is the only man I’ve ever gone door-to-door for, NEVER will I do that for him again! He has betrayed everything that I thought he stood for.”
“what he needs to do is grow a pair”.  (This, from a female commenter.)
“Start fighting harder? I want to see him START.  I’m fed up with him telling us that we have to all suck it up together.  All of us except the super-wealthy.  When does he get sick of living with himself?”

And this is a representative sample; not many kind words for the President from the locals.

He’s toast.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The Game-Day Experience

One of the blogs I enjoy reading did a bang-up job of chronicling the Badger game-day experience for the UNLV game last Thursday night.  Well, half of the experience, as the blogger’s smart phone, with which he was keeping a video chronicle of the game, died.

My conclusion, even though the blogger was only able to take us to half-time: the best seat for a Badgers game is in front of my big-screen hi-def TV at home.

The post about his game-day experience is a wry look at the hoops through which one must jump just to make it to your (entirely too small) assigned space in Camp Randall Stadium, from the challenge of parking within reasonable walking distance of the stadium, through the assembled multitudes and vendors-of-things-deep-fried-in-hot-grease, to negotiating through the warrens in the bowels of the stadium, and then cramming yourself into the small bit of real estate you’ve paid so dearly to rent.

The pomp of the Division 1-A college football pre-game is chronicled, along with a gallery of still pictures of some of the more colorful individuals who attend these contests.

Big-time college football is a huge financial undertaking, and, as the old saying goes, to run with the big dogs, you need to bring a very large wallet.  It takes a lot of grease to wedge 87 thousand fannies into those expensive seats, and I’m not talking about just paying your athletic director and head coach a million bucks a year or more.

But here’s the subtle point I took away from the post: the Badgers’ goal is to make it to the Rose Bowl.  Not to win the national championship, but to make it to the Rose Bowl.  That’s why they continue to schedule patsies like UNLV (the Badgers won in a rout, 51-17) and Northern Illinois and Saint Rita’s School for the Blind – so they can get the six wins necessary to be “bowl-eligible” and set their sights on Pasadena New Year’s Day.

Scheduling patsies in the pre-season as the Badgers have for decades insures that they will never qualify for the national championship.  The fans by and large seem to be OK with this practice of spending a month playing games where the outcome is never seriously in doubt.  There's only a bit of grousing about it.

But these are tougher times.  Even the corpuscles…the old white guys in the cardinal red jackets…will at some point balk in paying the exorbitant “licensing fees” and “mandatory contributions” necessary to maintain a position in the “good seats” in the stadium.

The Badgers may find themselves in a position where they’re going to have to set their sights higher than the Rose Bowl if they’re going to keep feeding the beast that is NCAA Division 1-A football.

Friday, September 2, 2011


A week of craziness, that’s what it was.

President Obama wants to give his big jobs speech the night of the Tea Party “debate”; and then gets totally bi#ch-slapped by John Boehner, who tells the Pres to f-off; they re-schedule the big jobs speech for Thursday night, and both sides seem unaware that it’s the NFL opener – and that for 97.21 percent of Americans, watching the Pack and the Saints is vastly preferable to watching another political speech.

Then, the clueless White House has to reaffirm that the speech will start early enough that it won’t bump into the NFL game.

Used to be that when the leader of the free world asked to speak, NOBODY said “no”…..

A kid gets clobbered over the head with a brick in a mugging downtown, involving a gang of seven thugs and losers, and it gets buried in the middle of the newscast.  We’ve accepted this behavior now, after a summer of muggings downtown?

Some dweeb politician lady was on the TV news explaining to me that the Republicans want to force women to have an ultrasound before an abortion, because the legislature recognizes that abortion is a “dangerous procedure” and they want to make sure it’s “safer”?  And yet the same right-wing extremists want to make sure no UW Med-school students learn this “dangerous procedure” by getting training at Planned Parenthood. 

As my friend GH used to say, “HDDTTWA”.  (How dumb do they think we are.)

State Supreme Court Justice David "Just a reaction" Prosser has to be shamed into recusing himself from a case where he has direct personal involvement.  State Supreme Court = Insane Clown Posse.

And try as they might, no national news reporter or anchor could get any east-coast governor to throw FEMA under the bus post-Irene.  Everybody said they were getting the help they requested in a timely fashion. 

Oh yes..I almost forgot.  I'm supposed to boycott Dancing With the Stars because they have a transgendered person this season.  Sonny and Cher's child.  Part of ABC's agenda to "push" transgenderism.  Yah, I'll get right on that.
A crazy week indeed.

(Image above copyright Sukiki Chan.  That's an anteater.)

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Thugs and Losers

These things seem to go in cycles.  Thugs and losers invade Madison’s downtown and roam the streets in the early hours of the morning, looking for trouble and victims.  We seem to be in such a period again.

The latest incident involves a couple of young men who were walking on the UW campus around bar time a couple days ago.  They tell the cops they were accosted and then assaulted by a gang of seven young men, who clobbered one of the two over the head with a brick.  He’s still hospitalized, and we don’t know much more about it than that.

Had the victims been two young coeds, this incident would have ranked higher than the middle of the stack, which is where most of the local electronic media ran it.

We don’t have a description of any members of this gang of seven who apparently were after money.

We won’t draw any conclusions about their race or ethnicity, because it does not make one iota of difference.  They are thugs and losers, and I’m thinking it’s about time we had another crackdown on these low-lifes.

It’s a matter of priorities.  I know these extra patrols the cops put on from time to time cost money. Probably not as much as it will cost to police the Badgers/UNLV game at Camp Randall tonight; but serious money nonetheless.

But really, it’s just a matter of priorities.  And will.  This latest incident of the brick-to-head bashing is the most recent in a summer filled with incidents, granted not as violent, of people being attacked and mugged downtown around bar time.

It's time to spend the money again, and put a bunch of these thugs and losers out of business again.