Saturday, January 26, 2008

Stay out of it

Recently a host on the golf network suggested jokingly that the only way to stop Tiger Woods from dominating the golf world would be to take him out back and lynch him. These ill fated words led to her public apology and subsequent suspension by the network. Tiger Woods made a brief statement that he accepted her apology and that should have been the end of the story. Unfortunately, there are trouble makers that do not want the story to go away.

Enter Jim Brown, former star football and lacrosse player. In an interview this week he suggested that Tiger should have used this incident to make a "statement" but instead shirked his responsibility. What kind of statement does he want Tiger to make? Have her fired, sue the network? Complain about racism? How would any of that help race relations in this country. Instead, Tiger took the high road and his classy, gracious response was the correct statement. Jim Brown and other instigators want to turn her words into societal debate over race rather that what it was; a matter between two individuals. Tiger understood that. I wish others did as well.

Jim Brown grew up in an era when racism was thriving. But that is a long time ago, especially in the sports world. No longer are black people discriminated against but they are coveted because of their skills abilities and marketing opportunities. My guess is that Jim Brown is jealous of Tiger's success and fame. That's why he feels the need to interject himself into a debate that has nothing to do with him. He should just keep his mouth shut and let Tiger handle his own affairs.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

An Old Friend and a Blanket

A couple weeks ago my friend Don came to Lansing for a short visit. He lives in NY now with his wife but he is from Michigan and still makes the occasional trek back here to visit family or for work. Don and I go back a long time. I met him 6th grade and we became friends almost immediately. He was much bigger than I was at the time so I would often use him as a body guard when I would get mouthy with others which happened a lot during my Jr. high days.

As we became closer friends, I recall my Mom being concerned that he might be a bad influence on me. I'm not sure why but the irony is that over our many years of friendship my Mom became quite fond of Don and welcomed into the family. In fact, a running joke was that she would often meet his girlfriends before I would.
While he was visiting this past time, we had a good time
playing race for the whitehouse, scrabble and even Talking Clue. It was fun to have someone over who appreciates games as much as I do. And like always he allowed me to win for which I am thankful.

But the best moment came as I was getting a blanket for his bed. Don recognized the blanket because I had bought it in high school while he and I were a missions trip to South Dakota. This incident may sound trivial but when he noticed the blanket it dawned on me just how far back our relationship went. Nobody else I know would recognize that blanket but Don did and that said something about our friendship. It revealed a shared history that was unique to us. To others it was just a blanket. To Don it was a reminder of our youth and the experiences we shared together.

As I get older my circle of friends continues to expand and sometimes it would be easy to shirk some old relationships. They often change and take work. But the reality is that you can never replace the depth of friendship that is forged over many years and many memories. Don's visit reminded me just fortunate I am to have such a long and enduring friendship.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

The Gilmore Girls

Ok. I admit it. I am addicted to the Gilmore Girls. I started catching the occasional episode a year or two ago after I saw Lauren Graham on celebrity poker. But over Christmas break I began watching the reruns everyday and I am hooked. In fact, I rush home after work to catch the 5 O'clock airing. It reminds me of racing home from elementary school to watch Star Blazers with Ryan Boeskool.

I realize that the show is supposed to appeal to women. I can't help enjoying it. My Step dad thinks I am crazy and told me he couldn't watch it because the over acting irritates him. And while they do overact, that is part of the show's charm. I like the fast paced, witty dialogue and the endearing honesty in their relationships. No other show approaches their level in terms of addressing family dynamics. I especially appreciate Loralai's relationship with her mother. I am sure a lot of women can relate. And lately, I am enjoying Lane and how she balances her rebellious youth while still respecting her repressive mother.

Throw in all the quirky side-characters in town and it adds up to a very fun hour of TV. And unlike all my other re-run favorites, I haven't seen every episode several times. My only regret is that I never really watched it when it was on prime time. But good news; I hear they may make a movie based on the show.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Huck Yeah!

I attended the Mike Huckabee rally in Grand Rapids over the weekend. I took my friend Jen to the event. She had read his website and was intrigued by him because of his support for music education (She is a music teacher). It was a nice size crowd of about 800 people or so. Not bad for a campaign with zero organization in the state. In fact, we got there a little late and had to stand in the balcony with only one spot where you could actually view him speaking. The crowd was mostly homeschoolers, evangelicals, fair tax people and a smattering of environmentalists.

He gave a good speech hitting all the Republican talking points but he was definitely at his best when he focused on the working class, blue collar issues. I am not sure exactly what his plan is to help the middle class but he has an ability to connect with that group. I think this is because he comes from the working class and not from wealth like many of the other candidates do. I did have to laugh when he started mentioning his union endorsements. The Republican crowd wasn't really sure if they were supposed to cheer or not and they settled on polite applause. At the end he grabbed the guitar and played with mustang sally with a local band was fun and roused the crowd.

I would say the enthusiasm level of the crowd overall was about 8. It was good but wasn't quite like the McCain crowds in 2000 when you could feel the enormous energy. Although I don't think even McCain is generating the enthusiasm he had last time around. A lot of people at the Huckabee rally were just curious to see who he was and what he had to say. And I would guess that most people left with their mind made up to vote for him.

I keep hearing through the grapevine, that he is having big turnouts in other parts of the state as well. That's a very good sign. Tuesday could be a big day for Huckabee and if he wins Michigan it will definitely be because of the grass roots.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

10 year anniversary

Today marks 10 years since my Dad passed away. Yesterday was the 10th anniversary of my Grandma's death. I will never forget that time in my life. It is hard to believe it has been 10 years already. Some days it feels like just yesterday. Other times, it seems like a completely different lifetime. But even today, the first weeks of January still haunt me and cast a dark shadow over each new year as I remember 1998.

It started just before Christmas when I got a call from my Mom that Grandma was in the hospital. I wasn't worried until I arrived in Pittsburgh a few days later and saw that she was already in bad shape. When I left to head back to Michigan, I recall the uneasy thought that I wasn't going to see her again. The day I got back, I called my Dad to let him know I was in town for Christmas. His phone rang and rang and I remember finding it odd that the answering machine did not pick up. That night I received a call from the hospital and learning that Dad was in a house fire and was in the burn unit. It was quite a shock. My Step dad took me to hospital and I had no idea at the time just how bad he was. Although my body must have known deep down as I threw up in the parking lot on my way to see him. By the time I arrived, he was already unconscious. I like to think he knew I was there but I'll never know.

Both Dad and Grandma were both remarkable fighters and both held out as long as possible. My Mom spent time in Pittsburgh along with my Aunts and Grandpa. Meanwhile my brother and I along with Dad's side of the family stayed in Michigan. I have vivid memory of their last days as my Mom called Friday evening to tell me that Grandma had passed away and then less than 12 hours later Dad finally gave up. It was a remarkable shaking to lose two people I loved within hours of each other.

I do miss both of them. I thought of my Grandma quite a bit during my cousin Brie's wedding this past fall. She would have loved the wedding because Grandma had a great appreciation for the beach. Brie was also her favorite as she was the only granddaughter. I am thankful that my last memory with Grandma before she got sick was sitting by the pool in Margate NJ. She was vacationing there as she did most years and I made a weekend trip up from DC to visit. We had a really good talk about her time living in Washington and I enjoyed hearing her stories. It was a good way to end my time with her.

I don't have quite the same happy ending with Dad. I never got to say goodbye and my last phone call a few months prior was filled with mostly superficial small talk and I remember thinking afterwards that he didn't really get me. I had hoped to talk more to him when I got up to Michigan for Christmas but I never got the chance. I still think of him often. I cannot watch a Maryland game or hear about Robert Kennedy (his political hero) without feeling like he's somehow with me in spirit. I usually cry when I hear the Neal Young song that Uncle Brian played at his funeral.

Over the past 10 years, I am realizing just how much of my life both Dad and Grandma have already missed. They'll never know that I moved back to Michigan or ran a winning political campaign or any of my girlfriends or that I am finally a home owner. Most days this doesn't matter but today I really wish I could share these past experiences with them. I hope to use this feeling to ensure that I share my present and future experiences with my family and friends who are still with me.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Last Night

The debates were finally interesting. Getting rid of the also rans and letting the candidates actually speak for more than 30 seconds helped. Since Romney is fond of the olympics, he must have felt like Nancy Kerrigan being taken out at the knees by Tonia Harding. It was obvious that all the candidates took personal pleasure from attacking Romney. It makes me wonder why he is so disliked? Regardless, it doesn't really matter because no way does he survive the attacks last night. McCain is looking better and better and even Thompson had a good night.

On the Democratic side, Clinton showed her ugly side after getting ripped by both Obama and Edwards. Watching her I thought she was going to have an aneurysm. So much for her likability. Obama came across very confident and level headed. The only questions left are the margin of victory for Obama and will Edwards beat her for second.

Meanwhile my Steelers disappointed me again. Their offensive line was awful and Ben played his worst half of the season. But as always, they teased me by taking the lead late only to give away the game. Coach Tomlin definitely coached like a rookie. He should have never gone for 2 especially after the 10 yard penalty. He also was way too conservative when they got the ball back with the lead. Oh well, they were only going to lose to the Patriots next week anyway.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Big wins for Obama and Huckabee

Well my predictions were not too far off except I underestimated my man Huckabee or more likely overestimated Romney's vaunted organization. I guess it goes to show you that even the best campaign strategy and execution can't overcompensate a weak candidate. It is surprising though how well Huckabee did without a lot of paid staffers on the ground in Iowa and with the barage of negative ads run against him. Chalk it up to the power of personality.

Romney is finished. He may hang around for a while but McCain will win New Hamsphire and probably Michigan and Huckabee will win South Carolina. I am surprised Thompson hasn't dropped out already but he will shortly and most likely throw his support behind McCain. The wildcard is Giuliani. He needs to keep relevant and hold on until Florida and then pull off the upset over Huckabee. That would set him up for Feb 5th but I don't think he can do it. I suspect the race is down to Huckabee and McCain and that the establishment that fled McCain this summer will rally around him to stop Huckabee.

Obama's win is even bigger than Huckabee's. Does anybody else find it odd that a black man won in Iowa where there are like maybe a dozen black voters? I still think he'll face racism along the campaign trail but last night should help alleviate at least some of those fears. Edwards is finished and would do best if he quickly dropped out and then cut a deal with Obama to be VP again. I don't think he'll do it but he has no shot at winning. Hillary could still make a comeback but to do so is going to be very ugly. Obama is going to feel the full force of the Clinton hit machine over the next couple weeks. There is still a lot we don't know about Obama but we will most certainly find out soon.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Today is the day

For all us political junkies, the real action has finally arrived. Today is the Iowa Caucuses. And for the first time I can remember, neither party has any idea who is going to win Iowa yet alone the nomination. This uncertainty makes for great entertainment. I heard this morning that they are expecting record high turnouts for the Democrats and record low turnouts for the Republican. This tracks with the same level of enthusiasm that has appeared at campaign events and fundraisers. Needless to say this is not a good sign for Republicans.

Let's start with the Republican side. The race is very very close. I suspect Romney has a slight lead going into tonight. Probably about 1 percent. When you consider they expect about 90,000 voters that amounts to only about 900 voters. The interesting thing about Romney is that he should be running away with the race. He has business and government experience, is a good speaker, has tons of money and has run a very smart, traditional campaign. Contrast this with Huckabee who is flying by the seat of his pants, has virtually no money and no staff on the ground and you wonder how he is keeping up with Romney. So why are they so close? Mostly, because Romney has a hard time relating and connecting to the average voter. He does and says all the right things but people either don't believe him or don't like him. That's a bad combination. He brought most of this on himself by trying to remake himself into a down the line conservative when he is most likely a northeast moderate. Most people can see through that phoniness.

Huckabee on the other hand is nowhere near as polished or disciplined as Romney but his pastoral skills help him connect with the average voter. And while much is being made of his evangelical base, I believe his blue collar, working class message is what separates him from the rest of the field. Plus his humor and guitar playing supplement his politics making him the "fun" candidate. I mean would you rather listen to Romney's powerpoint or Huckabee's guitar rift? But some people are beginning to question if the fun candidate will make a competent president and that is a troubling question for Huckabee. It appears more and more that the safe choice is Romney and then maybe McCain.

Here is what I expect tonight. Due to Romney's stronger campaign structure, he should out perform the polls and win by a couple percentage points over Huckabee. Huckabee will come in a close second but not close enough to give him the national momentum he needs. Thompson is going to cut into his evangelical base and that will push him into third place just ahead of McCain. Paul will be a respectable 5th place and Giuliani will be lucky to break 5 percent. The stories of the night will be Romney surviving and Thompson coming in third and both getting a bounce out of the evening.

On the Democrat side all three top candidates are in a statistical dead heat. Having said that, I think a large turnout helps Obama. I also think the way the Democrats do things by eliminating all candidate below 15 percent helps him as well because it consolidates the anti-Hillary vote. If turnout ends up being lower than expected then Edwards has a chance to pull the upset. This is secretly what Hillary wants because she now knows she has no chance of winning and she'd rather see Edwards with momentum than Obama because Edwards doesn't have the money and structure to take on Hillary in all fifty states. Hillary is already downplaying the results and trying to lower expectations. My prediction is Obama narrowly over Edwards and Hillary a distant third.

Romney 30
Huckabee 27
Thompson 15
McCain 13
Paul 10
Giuliani 4
Hunter 1

Obama 34
Edwards 32
Clinton 24
Richardson 5
Biden 4
Dodd 1