Sunday, December 31, 2006

New England 40, Tennessee 23

The New England Patriots closed out their regular season today with a 40-23 win over the Tennessee Titans. They had clinched their 4th consecutive AFC East title last week, and were playing for, possibly, the chance to move into the 3rd seed in the East. Whether they'll get it depends on an unlikely victory by Miami in Indianapolis later this afternoon. As I write this, it's likely that the Patriots will be the 4th seed in the AFC, hosting the Jets next weekend.

But there are a couple of things that warrant comment.

  • The Patriots' win brought their record for the regular season to 12-4. It's important to get some perspective on that. New England went 14-2 in both 2003 and 2004. Other than those 2 seasons, the Patriots have never won more than 11 games in a season, until now. I mention that because there's been a feeling in some quarters that the 2006 season has been a disappointment. Many Patriots fans got spoiled during that 28-4 run (34-4 counting post-season) and feel that any loss is a loss that they shouldn't have. This is one of the best seasons in Patriots history, whatever happens next, and it would be a mistake to overlook it.

  • The Patriots, inside the 2-minute warning, with a 10-point lead and Tennessee out of timeouts, threw a touchdown pass. It was a risky thing to do, and one wouldn't blame the Titans for being ... upset about it. But there was a specific thing that the Patriots were trying to accomplish, and the situation allowed them to do it. Vinny Testaverde, whom the Patriots had signed as a 3rd-string quarterback in the middle of the year, finished 2005 with at least one touchdown pass thrown in 19 consecutive seasons, which was an NFL record. When he connected with Troy Brown in the back of the end-zone, it gave him at least one TD pass in his 20th consecutive season.

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Wednesday, December 27, 2006

R.I.P. Gerald Ford

From the death of Lyndon Johnson in January of 1973, until Richard Nixon's resignation from office in August of 1974, there were no living former Presidents of the United States. When George W. Bush was sworn into office in January of 2001, there were 5 (Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush and Clinton). With the passing of Gerald Ford, there are now 3.

Ford was, of course, the man who became President without ever being elected to an office in the executive branch of the government. A (de mortuis nil nisi bonum, but let's speak truth) squishy moderate, he was the minority leader in the House of Representatives in 1973 when Richard Nixon chose him to replace the disgraced-and-resigning Spiro Agnew in the Vice-Presidency. When Nixon himself was forced to resign a mere 10 months later, Ford ascended to the Presidency without ever having run on a national ticket, the first, and still only, man to do so.

Ford Trivia:
  • Considered by many to be the best athlete to have held the presidency, Ford developed a reputation as a physical klutz, a reputation that was greatly exacerbated by Chevy Chase's portrayal of him on the at-the-time brand-new Saturday Night Live.

  • Ford actually could have been the first American King, as his name at birth was Leslie King, but he was adopted when he was young, and given the name Ford.

  • Ford surpassed Ronald Reagan as the longest-living President just over a month ago. His death at age 93 years, 5 months and 12 days, is a new record for Presidents to shoot for.

He didn't serve long enough to have left a significant presidential legacy, at least not a legacy that was independent of the scandal that brought him into office. The major political decision of his brief term in office was his decision to pardon Nixon for any and all crimes that may have been committed during the Watergate affair. Opinions vary on whether that was a good decision for the country or not. One can argue that it saved the country much additional trauma - one can also argue that the healing would have been faster and stronger had Nixon faced a jury. I incline to the former position, but whichever position one takes, it seems likely that the pardon cost him many potential votes in his campaign against Jimmy Carter two years later.

Ford will, I believe, be remembered as a good and decent man. Not a special President, but one who stabilized the office, and the country, at a difficult and trying time.

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Wednesday, December 20, 2006

News of the day

From the Presidential news conference this morning:
President George W. Bush said on Wednesday that he supports a Democratic proposal to increase the U.S. minimum wage but said it should be coupled with tax and regulatory relief for small businesses.

The other news of the day is that I'm going to be joining my Democratic brethren in their calls for impeachment...

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Monday, December 18, 2006

Peter King needs a lesson in cause/effect...

From Peter King's MMQB:
"8. New England (10-4). A 40-7 win would imply all is well in Patland. All is better. But 230 yards of offense? Against the league's 28th defense? Good thing the Pats had incredible field position all day."

Uh, Peter? That incredible field position is the reason that they only had 230 yards of offense. As soon as they started a drive, they scored (and once, they scored without even starting a drive, as Hobbs ran a kick-off back for a touchdown). They were in run-out-the-clock mode from the middle of the 2nd quarter...

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Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Red Sox (reportedly) reach agreement with Matsuzaka

According to SI's John Heyman, with "escalator clauses that could bring it up to $60 million."

If so, then we're looking at a total acquisition cost of 6 years, $102.1 - $111.1 million, or, amortized, $17.0 to $18.5 million dollars. Jason Schmidt, by comparison, just got 3 years at $15.67 million from the Dodgers.

Obviously, there are differences in the situations. Matsuzaka is getting only slightly more guaranteed money during 3 extra years, but he wasn't a free agent. The Red Sox are paying more than the Dodgers did, but not a lot more on a yearly basis, and 40-50% of it doesn't count as payroll for luxury tax purposes, and it also opens (presumably) marketing opportunities that the Dodgers' outlay doesn't. It will be interesting to see what Zito ends up getting, and for how long.

The bottom line is this: The Red Sox made a huge financial commitment to bring Daisuke Matsuzaka to Boston. If he's in the top 5 of the Cy Young balloting in the AL for 4-5 of the next 6 years, it was worth every penny, and they got a bargain. They've taken a risk, but it seems like a risk with a tremendous upside and good odds of at least breaking even, and those are the kinds of risks that you want to be taking...

As of right now, based on what I know (which is not much, never having seen this guy pitch), I think it was a good deal for the Sox.

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Free agents by EWSL

The Baseball Crank has compiled an interesting chart on the current crop of baseball free agent signings here. It's worth looking at, with a lot of information. I may get a chance to play with it later, but if you're curious about what people are paying for past performance, it's a good collection of data...

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Friday, December 01, 2006

The abolition of man continues apace...

Fantastic article in yesterday's Boston Globe by Elizabeth Kantor on the way that too many College and University students are learning contempt for western civilization as opposed to patriotism and traditional morality.
But too many of today's politically correct college professors aren't interested in persuading young Americans to adopt any such traditional attitudes as patriotism, civic responsibility, or traditional morality. In fact, many American colleges seem to be teaching students to spurn the very things that students used to learn to love and delight in.


To a lot of professors, Western culture is something students need to be liberated from. It is not something to pass on and preserve.

What a pity. Especially now, when we're under attack from enemies who want to replace our civilization with a very different kind of culture.

Western culture isn't in our genes. It's learned. And despite what the typical 21st-century college professor may believe, Western civilization has conferred enormous benefits on the human race: extraordinary freedom and respect for women, workable self-government, freedom of speech and the press.

In 1943, C.S. Lewis published a book entitled "The Abolition of Man," which contained 3 lectures that he'd given on the way that society and the educational system were turning away from the traditional, away from what he considered the inherent and fundamental virtues that all civilizations had recognized, and were moving towards a world in which there was no recognition of objective reality, a world which would be run by "planners." He foresaw a quest for utopia which led directly towards dystopia. And he was very concerned that we were raising a generation in such a way as to make them unfit for the very challenges we'd require them to meet.
The operation of The Green Book and its kind is to produce what may be called Men without Chests. It is an outrage that they should be commonly spoken of as Intellectuals. This gives them the chance to say that he who attacks them attacks Intelligence. It is not so. They are not distinguished from other men by any unusual skill in finding truth nor any virginal ardour to pursue her. Indeed it would be strange if they were: a persevering devotion to truth, a nice sense of intellectual honour, cannot be long maintained without the aid of a sentiment which Gaius and Titius could debunk as easily as any other. It is not excess of thought but defect of fertile and generous emotion that marks them out. Their heads are no bigger than the ordinary: it is the atrophy of the chest beneath that makes them seem so.

And all the time—such is the tragi-comedy of our situation—we continue to clamour for those very qualities we are rendering impossible. You can hardly open a periodical without coming across the statement that what our civilization needs is more 'drive', or dynamism, or self-sacrifice, or 'creativity'. In a sort of ghastly simplicity we remove the organ and demand the function. We make men without chests and expect of them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honour and are shocked to find traitors in our midst. We castrate and bid the geldings be fruitful.

Kantor is seeing it, today, in the colleges and universities. Lewis saw it, in 1943, in a grammar-school textbook.

I agree with them both, and recommend both Kantor's article, and Lewis' The Abolition Of Man...

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